"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dear Photograph

To me, nothing can tell a story like a photograph. In a split second, life is trapped—a bit of history is captured, time stops, and the moment lives forever. A video almost tells too much—with a photograph, there is a little mystery.

For years I collected old photographs I found at various antique shops, flea markets or yard sales. I first started collecting vintage wedding photos, but then others would grab my attention for no other reason than a sentimental tug at my heart because of one of the subject’s expression or a scene in a photo that struck a chord with me. I always felt sad seeing a stack of photos on a shelf in a store, miles away from family members, seemingly untethered from all the connections, lost in time. How did a beautiful wedding photo of someone beloved get completely lost from everyone within the branches of that family tree? With no names on the photos, and no way to trace the time or place, the faces staring back at me remained a permanent mystery.
This week on Facebook, a new site popped up for me to view, referred to me by etsy.com. The name of the site is Dear Photograph, and shows old photos superimposed in the same locations in present time. Readers are asked to submit photos and take a step back in time and remember. It is such a simple, beautiful, nostalgic idea. Just like all the old photographs I love-- my own and those I have purchased-- the moments captured are priceless and haunting.
The site is getting some well-deserved attention and press this week, and I cannot wait to see it grow. My husband and I have both shared some photos we want to revisit, and plan to go back to the beach where we had our wedding photos each year and find the same spot and get a photo taken so we can celebrate each new year together. I know this site will inspire more things like this from all the readers. What a fantastic, simple idea.
Visit Dear Photograph by clicking here.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

This Day

For years,
I stood in front of
racks of paper sentiments-
trying to make them ring true;
trying to find you and me.

I read each word
hoping somehow
this day would change everything-
I would wake to find
wise words, devotion…love.

I waited
Year after year…
buying gifts with all my hope

all my heart, and the last of my worth—
Costing me everything.

I sealed my heart
in each envelope
along with a card I didn’t believe...

someone else’s words
that I knew you wouldn’t even read.

The waiting
took its toll.
I lost myself more
and more of myself
each moment, each year, on this day.

So this year
On this day
I won’t stand in front of
an array of meaningless cards
and someone else’s prose.

I will stand
on my own
waiting for nothing from you
as I finally know--
you aren’t there.

You are
like this day-
just another Sunday
in a sea of Sundays
made special in name only.

My waiting
has been my burden.

Not yours, just mine.
And I let go, finally...

On this day.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Choice

From the time I could sit up and hold a baby doll, I wanted to be a mom. It was almost a fantasy for me, a place I would go to escape and dream about my husband, my home, my children…all seemingly a certainty for my future.

For that feeling of certainty, I blame all those Disney books and their princesses bound by destiny, staring at me with their perfect blue eyes from the pages of my nighttime storybooks. Even though I knew they were stories—fairytales and fantasy—during that time in the early 70’s, as a little girl, you were basically told that it would all happen. The only things that seemed like a fantasy or fiction were the ball gowns sparkling with stars from the nighttime sky, pieced together by singing mice and a fairy godmother’s magic. The rest seemed plausible and promised: there was one man out there just waiting to meet you. The only thing you didn’t know was the date and time. But, I was assured by my mother that it would happen before I reached the age of 20.
I banked on that. I was so afraid of not finding it, that I tried to turn every toad I kissed into a prince. I wanted the wait to be over. I wanted to start my fairytale. I wanted to be loved and to love someone forever.

It was hard as all my girlfriends got married, and I was literally the only one in my circle of friends who was single. I became godmother to some of my friends kids, a volunteer babysitter, and hopefully the cool, fun visiting friend who got down on the floor or in the sandbox and really played for hours, honoring all requests for silly songs and faces. I loved picking out birthday gifts and clothes in kids stores I would never otherwise get to frequent. As the years passed, I worried and stressed about my biological clock ticking away, and even looked into having a child on my own.

The reality was, during all those years I longed to be a mom, I was not ready at all. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to raise a child (who does until you have one?) or that I wasn’t making enough money, or the other normal concerns. I was still struggling with the depression that had plagued me most of my adult life. Looking back, although I genuinely wanted to be a mom, I think a lot of the emptiness and worry I felt was more about wanting so badly to be loved unconditionally.

A few years ago, I gave up on the whole picture- the whole fantasy. I knew there would be no husband, no kids, no house with the picket fence. There were days I imagined myself as the crazy lady who lived on the corner shaking her broom at passersby on the street, with a hundred cats scattering underfoot. It didn’t seem like a big stretch from where I was at the time, and that in itself was frightening.
Instead, I did find my prince charming—although about 20 years later than I had planned. When I first met Shea, we had an immediate click that went beyond chemistry and attraction. In odd ways, we had gone down similar paths with our careers and life plans. We had both never been married, and we both were extremely close to a small group of friends, and were truly involved in their lives and the lives of their children. After a few dates, and watching Shea with some of those kids, I turned to mush. His obvious ease and love of these kids and the way he so effortlessly drew them to him was magnetic. I remember thinking—he is going to want to have children. Perfect, right?

Without talking to him, (it was still early in our relationship), I started thinking about a possible future with him. I knew he would want kids, and I suddenly found I wasn’t so sure that I did. It shocked me. When unexpectedly faced with the real prospect of being a mom- I had doubts. I think everyone does, but this time it was nagging and deeper than the general worries. I just didn’t feel that pull to do it. It wasn’t about not loving kids, or not seeing the amazing love and beauty they brought to my friend’s lives. I saw it, and at times, I envied it. I knew in my heart that if it was 10 years earlier, I would probably feel differently. I also knew that I worried about any part of my father’s parenting becoming part of mine. Even though I know better, it has always worried me that somewhere down the line as a mother, I would suddenly morph into my father. Or even 1/100th of my father. And I wouldn’t want to do that to anyone else, especially a child.
But, falling in love can also make you believe in the things the other person wants enough to want them yourself.

So as Shea and I got closer, and when we both seemed to know this was serious, we started talking about a future. During the time leading up to this conversation, I had readied myself for Shea to say he wanted children. And when he did, I was going to be ready to do that. I would not deny him his one chance to have children and a family, and I knew that he would be a wonderful father, and I would adore being a mom to his kids.

Then, a funny thing happened. Shea felt exactly the same way I did. Exactly. Neither one of us was unsure--we didn’t want kids. We both would sacrifice those feelings for the other if it was truly important, but we didn’t have to. That moment probably cemented things with both of us—there was a very real sense of us being right for each other- meant to be.
When I was younger, I always viewed people that said they didn’t want children as almost soulless. They had to be callous, selfish people to say that and believe it. Some people do make that choice because they truly don’t like kids, and that is hard for me to understand.

But now I know there is an in-between. Shea and I both love children-- adore them. We both reach out to kids when we are out and about and love watching them toddle on the beach or seeing teenagers at the local attractions, embarrassed by their parents. We love all of it. We just know that the timing isn’t good for us, and that age has definitely played a role in that decision. We look forward to living in a place that the kids we love can come and stay as they get older- and we can be a part of their lives. Maybe even the cool aunt and uncle that you can talk to about anything.
It’s hard sometimes as we are talking to friends and family and they all have automatically assumed we will be having kids. They are in shock when we share our decision, and everyone questions if we are sure—won’t we regret it? I understand that thinking because of who Shea and I are. But I hate almost feeling guilty about it. I don’t want anyone to judge us or think we are selfish for a decision we know is right for us and our life.

I can’t deny that in those fantasies of mine as I grew up are a little sad to let go of. I always imagined that moment in the hospital delivery room, my husband holding my hand as we brought a life we created into the world. I don’t think there is anything more magic than that moment; and I have mourned a little knowing we won’t have it. But, realistically, I know that the moments and years after that aren’t what we want.
There are fairytales that come true without magic wands, glass slippers, and certain pathways. For me, it has definitely been an “off the beaten path” kind of story. More like Cinderella leaving her bad situation—then backpacking through the countryside, finding odd jobs and then really finding herself along the way. Then, at age 40, she finds her perfect soulmate and settles down near the beach, nowhere near a castle. More like home.
Dear Disney- that’s a happy ending too.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Alice's Bucket List

I got a little jolt of perspective this morning when this appeared on my Facebook wall. Meet Alice. She is 15 years old and has terminal cancer. After her latest test results, it became apparent that the cancer is winning, and there is little else that can be done.

As a friend of mine said this morning, can you imagine being 15 years old and knowing you are going to die?

Reading Alice's words, though, you only hear the voice of someone who is grateful for the unknown people who have written her to send their support, or try to make some of her wishes come true. She expresses gratitude for the time she has left with her family and how she is going to spend it.

So much strength from someone so young, facing a battle and a reality bigger than I can imagine.

Reach out to her if you can, join the bone marrow registry, and most of all give thanks today for the good things in your life and the promise of tomorrow.

Click here to visit Alice's blog.

Click here to join the Bone Marrow Registry.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Finding Home

Over the past few weeks, my husband and I have had to navigate more than a few twists and turns. He has started a new job- a new career path- and I am so proud as I watch him work outside of his comfort zones and find success, one step at a time. That is never easy at any age or stage in life.

We have been preparing for a move into a new place that we have been so excited about. When we first moved to the beach area where we live, we were in a mad rush. I had just gotten a new job and we literally had only a few days to find somewhere to live. We were so lucky to find a place close to my office, and only a few blocks from the beach—and also within our budget. To top it all off, the place was furnished (one of the benefits of moving to a vacation area). We signed the year lease and moved in and started a life here.
Within six months of moving here last year, we were married in a small local church with all of our family and friends. After the ceremony and reception, we went with our photographers to a quiet area of the beach for some photos by the ocean. It was November 13th and the day was spectacular. It was 70 degrees out and I didn’t see a cloud in the sky all day. That was unusual even for this area—and there wasn’t another day like it that fall. We both felt there was something magical and perfect about that day, and that we were meant to be together, and be married right then, right there, in that moment.
Then, last week, I got laid off from my job. We have had a few little bumps here and the days leading up to that, and I think both of us wondered if our luck was changing. Just a week before I found out I was getting laid off, we had bought some furniture for our new place (which is unfurnished), and recently had to buy a car, so our finances already felt tight. For a few days we both discussed quietly what we had to do to make things work, and what changes we needed to make.
We knew we needed to go forward with the move, and we had already signed one lease and ended the previous one. We had to have furniture, and had a ridiculously long time to pay off what we had purchased, without finance charges or fees. We made excel spreadsheets and budget plans. I have been down this road a few more times than my husband, and have been in some seriously dire financial straits. Even though you can’t help but worry, I have learned that these situations can cause you to sink—not feeling like getting out of bed or facing the world—and that is the last place you need to be when money is tight.
After a few days, we shook ourselves out of the funk we were in and rolled forward—giving thanks for what we DO have—that we can eat and pay the bills—and most of all- we can make each other laugh. I am so thankful for that part of our relationship. We laugh so much—even in tough times. We know each other’s funny bones so well, and there are times I almost can’t breathe when Shea says something too witty at just the right moment. There is a saving grace in that kind of laughter, a kind of safety net for when things seem too dark or serious.
So today, I stayed home and waited for the delivery of our furniture. I had a million thoughts in my head, thinking of where we are right now money-wise, and how excited I was to see how our place would look filled with the pieces we had chosen. The delivery men carted our living room pieces up flights of stairs and unwrapped each piece. Our bedroom furniture fit into the room as if I had planned and measured carefully (which I had not).
Gathering up the plastic wrap and moving blankets, the movers left and I walked back upstairs. I stood in my living room and took it all in. To me, this was not just furniture. This was a home I had been waiting for thirty-some odd years. This was the start of a life I had dreamed of for so long, and had given up on having a long time ago.
As dramatic and sappy as it sounds, I stood in this room, quiet with only the whir of the ceiling fan in the background. I closed my eyes and let a thousand scenes play in my head. I remembered walking to the end of the dirt road we lived on when I was 10 years old and staring into the field that spread out beyond our neighborhood. I remembered wishing out loud to just be on my way in the world and find to find love and hope and a good, happy life.
I remembered moments with my father that made me stop believing in myself—moments I wish I could forget.
I remembered nights during my college years, feeling like I was slipping into an abyss that would engulf me—out in the world on my own for the first time and having no family or support to tether me and wanting more than anything to feel better, feel happy, feel loved.
I remembered stupid choices, failed ventures, lost love, and battling depression for the better part of my life. I remembered finding a therapist who finally saw the truth behind everything and lit a path for me to follow and find my way back to the living.
Most of all, I remembered sitting in a parking lot in California over three years ago. A mixture of a toxic work environment, a huge heartbreak and betrayal and ongoing, painful family issues had overwhelmed me. I was out there by myself and had just had the final blow hit me. I remembered how absolutely alone I felt in the world and how hopeless. I remember vividly that I did not want to be here, there, or anywhere anymore.
More than anything, I remembered how much I believed, with all of my heart and soul, that things would not get any better.
And then, I opened my eyes in my home, our home. I looked around at the beautiful furniture, and the life we are building. And despite money worries, work stress, life changes and everything else, I am so grateful. So grateful, that somehow I made it through, that somehow Shea and I found each other and that somehow, today I can’t imagine being anywhere else but here.
The money will work itself out. We have everything we need.

The fabric collage featured here "My Home, My Heart" is by Marty Mason. Click here to see more of her beautiful work.



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