Sunday, September 12, 2010

This Blog is Not My Home

But this one is!

That's right, I'm rolling out the red carpet in my new space.

You won't find me blogging in this space anymore, but you will find me at where I'll be dancing at the intersection of life, love and photography.

Can't wait to see you there!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

My recent whereabouts...

I'll be posting more here soon, I promise! As you can see, I've altered my layout a bit, and am working on updating my (terribly outdated!) links. I really do intend to keep this ol' girl going. Not just going, but going strong!

But in the meantime, and in case you weren't aware...

I wanted to let you know that I've got a series going over on my photography blog right now and I think that you should check it out! In addition to posting "sneak peeks" of recent client sessions, I've started posting more personal photos under the heading "Snapshots of a Summer," in order to chronicle my life through the lens of my camera.

You should start here with the first post, and then subscribe to follow along!

For the sake of playing catch up (if you're so inclined), I'm linking below to the photos I've posted so far (in chronological order).
I hope you'll come along for the ride!!!

That's My Daughter In the Water
No Way José
Swollen in the Woods
Damp Throats of Flowers
There Is A Season
Wordless Wednesday
I Wanna Hold Your Hand
Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me

Sunday, July 04, 2010


I've not been super active as of late, as a blogger, or as a reader of/commenter on blogs. The current of 'real life' has swept me under, and I've just come up for a bit of 'virtual air' in the past week or so.

In doing so, I came upon a lil' tribute to this here blog, and realized that I myself now have a duty to perform. Amy, thanks for the honor. You're sweet to attempt to draw me out of my blog drought. And against all odds, it may have actually worked ;)

In order to "claim" my award, I must now share 7 facts about myself, and then share with you my own choices for the "Versatile Blogger" award.

So, without further ado, I begin with 7 facts about myself:

1- In all 18 of my growing up years, I lived in one town, in one state, on one street, in one house. In the ensuing 13 years, I have lived in 7 cities and towns, in 5 states, in a grand total of 9 different residences. Is your head spinning yet? Mine is!

2- Technically, I am an introvert. I straddle the line on this one, and as such, it took me 20-some odd years to come to this realization. I actually love people, and socializing. (Although I do tend to prefer my socialization in small groups, in low key settings.) But, by God, after a long day of social interaction, nothing sounds more appealing than crawling into a little hole (actually, a deep, soft sofa will suffice) in my jammies, and reading books all day long. BY. MY. SELF. (Alas, as a mother of a young child, you can probably guess how often this actually happens ;) )

3- As much as I love the fact that my hubby cooks (and cooks extremely well, I might add), and serves up about 99% of what we eat around here, I must admit that it has made me lazy in the kitchen. And said laziness in the kitchen has led to a drastic degradation of my actual skills when I do step back in to what has arguably become, "Robert's domain." As a result, I often daydream (usually while ripping out recipes for Robert to prepare) about enrolling in cooking classes, and brushing up on some skills with which I would re-enter the kitchen with confidence and flair. Only time will tell...

4- I have honestly not been able to decide or decipher whether I am more truly a city girl or a country girl. I love the sophistication, the culture, the diversity, and the instant accessibility of city life. (I'm also not big on yard work, so the idea of a postage stamp yard, is comforting to me in a way.) Alternately, the slower pace of country life- the stillness, the opportunities to get lost in nature, the more ready connection to the land and stronger dependence on your neighbors...these are all like lifeblood to me. Do you see my dilemma? Not sure where this leaves me...

5- I am a hopeless idealist, trying to learn to live in "the real." As such, I can make myself bat-shit crazy, expecting perfection in every endeavor I undertake. I'm trying to learn to chill out, cut myself (and others) some slack, and revel in the peace of mind that accompanies lower expectations. I have a feeling this one is going to be a life-long work-in-progress.

6- I once entertained grand illusions about what motherhood would be like. (See #5) Those illusions have been sufficiently shattered over the past 5 1/2 years. But, as I've begun to open my hands and release my previously held (naive & neurotic) expectations, I'm being rewarded by snapshots of breathtaking beauty, that I missed out on when trying so hard to control the outcome. Parenthood = lessons in letting go.

7- We don't have TV. Well, scratch that- we do own a television set. However, we have no cable service. Not even one of those freely available set-top boxes, for tuning into network stations. We sometimes haul that big sucker downstairs to watch a movie (he is a total old-school relic, complete with built-in VHS & DVD players, measuring in at an atrocious 21"x 19"x 21"), and we occasionally tune into a favorite show via the internet. So, what I'm supposed to say next is that we don't feel like we're missing anything. And the God honest truth is, Robert probably *can* say that. (And after several months of this set up, Ella rarely ever expresses an interest in TV either.) I, on the other hand, will admit that I miss being able to tune into Oprah on a lazy afternoon. I reeeaaaally miss HGTV. And now and again, I really just want the luxury of spending the day being a couch potato. There, I said it. So sue me :P

And now, the more important part- the bestowing of honors!

For the "Versatile Blogger" award, I've chosen:

Christine over at Dreams of Simple Life. Christine has been a friend of mine for 10 years now! I can't even tell you how hard it is for me to believe that it has been a decade since we first met in the offices of Grassroots Music, in Houston, TX. Christine is one of my friends who manages to regularly update her blog with the most beautiful content- nothing there ever feels as if it's been slapped up haphazardly. From whimsical photo accounts of her day-to-day life to drool-worthy design projects, from mouthwatering recipes to "happy lists", from poignant quotes to poetry, from books reviews and recommendations to travelogue entries, from gardening goodness to life-altering journeys, Christine's blog entries are consistently beautiful, insightful, thoughtful and inspirational, and hers is hands-down my favorite blog on the famed interwebs. You should definitely check it out, post haste!

Next up is Mollie at Fresh Milk Delivered Daily. Mollie is a homeschooling mom to 3 precious and precocious kiddos, an extremely accomplished artist and shop owner, a dreamer and a master of lyrical prose, who possesses a keen eye and strong knack for photography, to boot! She and I met online, some 7 years ago, in the context of motherhood and message boards. She remains to this day one of my favorite list-makers, creators, poetic observers, and fleeting moment capturers on the planet, let alone the web. Creative souls, take note. Bookmark. Read daily. Thank me later ;)

And finally, on a local note, Jo-Lynn at Musings of a Housewife gets props for versatility as well. I first discovered Jo-Lynn's blog in Main Line Today's 2009 "Best of the Main Line" issue. On the one hand, Jo-Lynn posts about eating whole foods, supporting local farmers and cooking simple, healthy food for the whole family. These shared passions are what drew me in, and keep me coming back to her blog on a near daily basis. Not only does she share my ideals about buying local, organically grown food, she's in close enough proximity to share her sources as well. Score! On the other hand, Jo-Lynn is a prolific blogger, and one topic of conversation (as interesting as it may be) does not a "post-a-day blog" make. Jo-Lynn posts voraciously on a whole host of topics, including fashion, reality TV and parenting, and she hosts some really spiffy giveaways as well. Eat local. Shop local. Read local blogs!

Friday, July 02, 2010

A Severe Mercy

The past several weeks around here have been all topsy turvy- defined by nearly equal doses of joy and grief, celebration and sadness, new beginnings and premature endings. We've experienced sickness, danced to great music, witnessed decay, watched new doors swing open, been bowled over by death, overwhelmed with peace, and all of it in roller-coaster-ride fashion.

One of the two biggest touchstones of this time was my Pop Pop's passing. I've since struggled with how to properly memorialize a man who meant so much to me, and exhibited such a depth and breadth of love and integrity over the course of a lifetime. What I know for certain, is that when he exited this earth and his light was extinguished, our world was left a little more replete with shadow, less resplendent with light.

Below are the words, inadequate at best, that I wove together to pay tribute to my beloved Pop Pop. In honor of him, I share them with you:

To anyone who knows us well, the phrase ‘a severe mercy’ is a familiar one. It is the title of a well-loved and oft-referenced book, but also the inscription on our wedding bands.

When we chose to incorporate the phrase into our wedding ceremony, and our marriage, it was because we felt that our love- a compassionate gift to us, unearned, but gratefully received, was larger-than-life, unique, especially extraordinary. What we had was not just love, but exceptional love. A severe mercy.

For the second time in my adult life, I feel like I have been witness to a severe mercy.

Over the past 6 weeks, our routine took shape. Rise on Saturday (or sometimes Sunday), eat breakfast, cube watermelon. Set Ella loose with crayons, colored pencils, watercolor paints and paper. Select and snip flowers from our backyard garden, and balance the vase between our knees for the 30 minute ride from Phoenixville to Blue Bell.

Yes, over these past weeks, our visits to Pop Pop took on a shape and a life of their own. If he must move from his apartment to a bed in the medical unit, then come hell or high water, he would have his great granddaughter’s artwork and freshly cut flowers to brighten the space. He would have watermelon (and mom’s Russian tea cake cookies) to satiate his sweet tooth. And he would have company, family, by his side. But these visits, and the simple pleasures that populated them, were far from one-sided. We may have brought artwork to adorn the walls, but Pop Pop supplied the colorful stories that lit the corridors of the past, and allowed us entry to worlds that only he had inhabited. Our hands may have sliced fruit and arranged flowers, but his soft, strong hands held ours, with resolve and reassurance, as we watched our loved one begin to slip away.

Last Sunday we arrived as usual, not knowing quite what to expect. The week before we’d had a lovely time together, full of conversation, nostalgia, watermelon juice and palpable hope. This week we’d been warned that Pop Pop’s decline over the past 7 days had been steady and stunning. I entered the room ahead of Robert and Ella, just as the nurse was exiting. Pop Pop was dressed and upright in the bed, and his eyes lit up when he saw me. As I sat on the edge of the bed, my heart leapt into my throat, and when I opened my mouth, it came pouring out. Much more important to me than standing here and telling you these things today, is the fact that I got to tell my Pop Pop what he meant to me. How fortunate I felt to be his granddaughter. How grateful to have had the honor of watching my daughter and my husband form individual, loving relationships with him. And to tell him all of this, as he looked into my eyes (tear-soaked as they may have been), and gently stroked my arm. To say to him, “I’m so glad that you’re my Pop Pop.” And for him to say back to me, “I’m so glad too.”

For the next two hours, we simply sat together, in the calm confidence of Pop Pop’s presence. I held his right hand, and Robert held his left, and I felt the wordless proclamations of deep and abiding love, each time Pop Pop squeezed my hand, tight within his grip, over and over and over again. I read to Pop Pop from Samuel Johnson’s “Prayers & Meditations.”

“Let the Holy Spirit comfort and guide me, that in
my passage throughthe pains or pleasures of the
present state, I may never be tempted to
forgetfulness of Thee. Let my life be useful and
my death be happy;let me live according to Thy laws,
and die with just confidence in Thy mercy, for the sake
of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Pop Pop relished the roasted tomatoes that Robert had prepared for him, and we all laughed over the glaring omission of the “stinky cheese.”

Ella gave him a sprig of mint that she’d plucked from the garden, and as he inhaled its scent, he declared, “Beautiful mint.” He blew weak kisses across the expanse of the bed. He closed his eyes, breathed long and deep, then opened them again, and looked into mine long and deep. And as we sat there, I felt a knowing.

When the diagnosis was in, and the prognosis delivered, we all knew that death from this cancer could be painful and arduous. And out of love for Pop Pop, we hoped and we prayed that it wouldn’t be. That instead of a painstaking journey, Pop Pop’s passage could be paved with peace, and marked by mercy. That Pop Pop would receive his very own ‘severe mercy.’ And 15 minutes later, after another round of goodbyes had been said, after hugs, and kisses had been exchanged, hands clasped together one final, fierce time, he did. Just as Sheldon Van Auken had described it, in this book that first changed my life and molded my marriage, my Pop Pop was ushered away by “a mercy that was as severe as death, a death that was as merciful as love.”

In addition to all of the roles that my Pop Pop filled with such love and loyalty- father, husband, uncle, grandfather, great-grandfather, “Odd Fellow”, he also displayed a great affection and aptitude for the written word, and in particular- poetry. And so today, I can think of no more fitting way to bid him goodbye, to honor his memory, and to articulate my own loss than through the words of Mary Oliver’s poem, “In Blackwater Woods:”

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,

whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Butternut Squash Flat Bread with Cheddar and Pine Nuts


Oh. my. goodness!!

The truth is- we've really not been able to go wrong with any of the recipes we've whipped up lately in which butternut squash plays a starring role. But this not-quite-a-pizza pizza was FABULOUS! So fabulous, in fact, that we repeated the recipe twice this past week. Full disclosure would lead me to tell you that we had lots of leftover squash from the first go 'round (have you tried to find a 1lb butternut?!?), so it was a choice fueled as much by practicality as it was by culinary delight. But let me assure you- there was no shortage of culinary delight!

So, for those who asked, here is the recipe, along with our humble suggestions for some specific ingredients, which we think "made the meal."

Also, I should note that this recipe originated in the pages of Real Simple Magazine.


1 lb. store-bought pizza dough (thawed if frozen) - *we heartily endorse and happily recommend the refrigerated whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe's, which rings in at the rather unbelievable price of 99¢*

1 lb. butternut squash peeled, seeded & sliced to 1/4 thick (Robert uses his mad skills with his chef's knife, while I prefer to bust out the Swissmar Borner V-Slicer Plus Mandoline )

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. kosher salt & 1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (We bought ours from Whole Foods, and the flavor was to die for! So again, I would highly recommend springing for a specific ingredient- the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, produced in partnership with the Cellars at Jasper Hill.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out your dough into a large oval, then place it onto a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet.

Use a large bowl to toss the squash, onion, pine nuts, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper together. Spread mixture across the dough, and top with grated cheese.

Bake for approx. 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.

ENJOY! And be sure to let me know (in the comments) if you end up making this delectable dish. (And if it pleases your palate as much as it did ours!)

**One more bit of disclosure. I am an Amazon affiliate- so if you happen to click on one of the imbedded links in this post, and then actually purchase the item in question, I will make a small commission, paid in Amazon gift cards.**

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Grandma's Hands
photo credit: Jim McConnell on Flickr

Today my Grammy would have been 99 years old. On this day, especially, I've been thinking of her fondly, remembering her lovingly, and silently mourning the fact that my daughter was not afforded the rich and glorious privlege of knowing her.

And in the spirit of telling stories that empower women, I thought I'd share with you a small piece of Grammy's story. And my story. How our stories and our hands and our lives intertwined...for not nearly long enough.

How does one stand up on a day such as this and attempt to capture in words the entire essence of a person’s life? How can one possibly do justice to the contents of 94 years and 51 days in a few moments or a handful of sentences?

My memories of Grammy are overwhelmingly defined by my childhood. Growing up as a Martin kid, I rarely knew the presence of a “babysitter.” What I had, instead, was a Grammy. Many of my most vivid memories of childhood took place in her home on Beverly Road.

I remember countless sleepovers, and being rocked to sleep in the green upholstered rocking chair. I remember distinctly the way her voice rose and fell as she sang songs into my ear and I drifted into a hazy slumber. I remember the warmth and softness of her lap, and her arms around me.

I remember baking cookies. Not Grammy baking cookies…but all of us baking cookies. The whole ragamuffin bunch of us. Little hands stirring the cookie dough with big wooden spoons. Little tongues licking those spoons…(and bowls, and anything else she would let us get our mouths on!)

I remember her expansive backyard. I recall picking clover on the hill that sloped down from the neighbor’s yard, and picking strawberries from the small patch that ran alongside the house. I remember how Grammy would receive the clover as if they were a dozen red roses, and display them with honor in a vase. I remember plucking mint leaves from the backyard bush, and depositing them into pitchers of iced tea.

I remember sitting outside on lawn chairs, husking corn with Grammy and snapping the ends off of green beans. I remember tossing the beans into the same big pot they’d be boiled in later. And I remember eating the fruit of our labor for dinner.

I remember hauling laundry baskets out the back door, and the lost art of hanging clothes to dry in the sun.

I remember getting down on our knees in the dirt, and planting flowers in the yard. I will never see a daffodil or catch the scent of hyacinths without my mind turning to Grammy.

I remember hours spent reading together and playing together. I remember the corner in the family room crammed with toys and books for the grandkids. I remember dressing up and parading around in Grammy’s clothes.

I remember trips to Friendly’s. And I remember that if she wasn’t taking us out for ice cream she was serving it up Turkey Hill style at home.

These cherished memories, however, don’t end in my early childhood. I recall with great fondness a grandmother who remained an active and involved figure in my life long into her eighties. I remember a grandmother who attended every concert, every play and performance. I remember a grandmother who sang loud in church and laughed hard at home. I remember a grandmother who dried my teenage tears in the same way that she’d dried those of my childhood.

The time that Grammy spent with us, and the joy that she took in those moments, were evidence of the great worth and value that she placed on children. I believe my Grammy took seriously the words and actions of Jesus regarding children. When His disciples quarreled as to who was the greatest, He put a child in their midst and said, “Unless you become like one of these little ones you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” From those childhood hours spent at my Grammy’s side I learned the value of children. My value, as a child. It is a lesson that gave me a strong sense of security as a child, that has aided me as a mother, and that will shape who I one day hope to become as a grandmother.

I lean hard on the lessons that I gained from my Grammy as a child. Lessons of love, patience, faith and kindness. But I also believe that it was in Grammy’s last years and moments of life that she taught us her biggest lessons. For in the same way that Christ extended His hand and His heart to children, He was also always reaching out to the marginalized and the forgotten. The orphan. The widow. The prisoner. The sick and the lonely.

For a woman who maintained her independence for such a long time, the last years of Grammy’s life stood out in stark contrast. She got sick. She got weak. And it had to have made her lonely. She could no longer walk alone without falling. She could no longer talk with clarity and coherence. She needed the same kind of help we’d needed as children- someone to bandage her wounds, to bathe her, to help her to the bathroom. Someone to listen patiently as she tried to express herself. Someone to read to her. Someone to dry her tears.

Just as she’d patiently performed these tasks for us so many times, we learned to gently, patiently, humbly meet her most basic of needs. And in doing so we learned that just as Jesus is especially attuned to the heart of a child, He is also attuned to those whose voices are drowned out by the bustling noise of this busy world. He is concerned with those that the world forgets. And as Christ turns his eyes toward the least of these, so must we.

May we all go back to our lives this night, not grieving, but inspired. Inspired by the loving example of my Grammy. May we go back to our homes and hug our children a little more tightly. Listen to them a little more closely. Love them memorably. And may we similarly seek out others who need our love, our time, our energy and our efforts. The least of these. Because of the example of Christ and of his daughter, Margaret Martin, may no one in our lives go to bed tonight unaware of their value and worth. May no one in our lives spend the night lonely, pushed aside, silenced or forgotten. I know that the voice of my Grammy’s life rings out unsilenced, and Grammy, I will never forget you.

Eulogy written for my Grammy- Clara "Margaret" Eaton Martin

Disclaimer (because for some, it is apparently more important to haggle over such details, than to focus on the intent of this tribute):
**This post was written yesterday (March 3rd), and posted today (March 4th)**

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Slices of Life

Kitchen Counter,Coffee Press,Orange Juice,Utensils,Vegetarian Times
The Morning Frenzy

The Morning Feast

Blue Sky,Tree,Orange Light
Evening's Golden Glow

Vintage Clock,Diner,Greasy Spoon
Everyday Scrapbook

Red Wine
Our Evening Companion

Tea Party,Breakfast
The Best Kind of Breakfast

The Second Best Kind (served up by the Birthday Boy, aka- my handsome Lumberjack ;) )

Dessert,Bistro on the Brandywine
With Abandon

Restaurant, Bistro on the Brandywine
A Pretty Good Way to Wrap Up the Weekend

Friday, February 26, 2010

World-Splitting Words

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” – Muriel Rukeyser

I can already feel the hairline cracks and silent fissures taking form. The perilous quake has begun- my legs shudder beneath me, knees gently knocking, as the ground threatens (promises?) to open up beneath me.

A mere three days ago I took my first leap. For years leading up to that, I had remained relatively silent- peering frantically about, and hoping desperately to find some other woman’s voice to speak for me. I was looking for the companionship of like minds- women who would make me feel less alone, by using their words to express my agony. I longed for women who would name the struggles, expose the lies, ask the difficult (even reckless) questions, and be brave enough to settle in comfortably with radical and unconventional answers. Answers that challenged the prevailing notions about God and humanity, motherhood and marriage, power, prosperity and success. I thought that if I could just find others who had mustered the courage to speak up, if I could watch them walk through the fire and emerge on the other side- stronger and unscarred, then perhaps I could follow in their footsteps, and my own world wouldn’t implode. I was so afraid that if I spoke up myself (and similarly, spoke up for myself), that when I looked out around me, I would find that I was standing all alone. I was literally paralyzed by the fear that I would not only scare off everyone already in my life, but that no one else would show up to stand in the gaps. I suppose that deep down the real fear was that I was unlovable- that my questions were too big, my ideas too startling, and that ,as my friend Ronna would put it, all in all I was just “too much.”

Some of you who know me may be snickering. Others of you may simply be thinking- I’ve never thought of Lauren as someone who lurked in silence. On the contrary, I’ve always heard her speak her mind, have her say, articulate her opinions. And, in a sense, you would be correct. I have always been a passionate person, and will usually let you know my thoughts on a given subject. Sometimes, whether you’ve asked or not. But in the face of opposition, ultimately, I tend to back down. Shut up. Hold my position in private, while smiling agreeably in public. What I’d learned through voicing my truth in the past, was that when I spoke out my convictions, without apology, exception or a slew of accompanying disclaimers, doing so threatened my relationships.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. How we as women are relational beings, down to our very core. And how, so often, relationship is the currency that is used to quiet us down and stifle the sound of our voices.

“What?! You don’t think women were created to submit to a man? Your marriage is on the line!”

“You’re kidding, right?! You think it’s time we started referring to God as “She” and tipping the scales back into balance? You obviously don’t know the one true God, and you’ll be separated from
Him for eternity!”

“Are you serious?! You want to work outside of the home, while your child is cared for by someone else? You’re risking the integrity of your relationship with her!”

“You should reconsider!! You want to say out loud, once and for all, what your uncle did to those little boys, so that he never has the access or ability to hurt children again? Why, you’ll tear apart the fabric of your entire family!”

Whether explicitly or implicitly, we are told again and again, day in and day out that if we dare to raise our voice, we risk destroying our relationships. We’ll lose friends. Piss off and push away our families. We’ll be excommunicated from our churches. We’ll separate ourselves from “the one true” God. We’ll end up all alone.

“Step out of line little lady, and you won’t just lose something, you’ll inevitably lose someone.”

But as I’ve set my eyes on the horizon in search of these kindred spirits who would “tell my story,” do you know what I’ve found? A much bigger world than most people wanted me to see. I’ve found a whole chorus of voices that sound like my own. And I’ve subsequently found both the good sense to stop expecting my voice to materialize outside of myself, and the courage to unleash my own truth with tenacity and vigor. I’m not buying the lie anymore. I will not be alone!

Will I lose some “friends” by standing tall and speaking my truth, come what may? Yes. Will my failure to back down, my refusal to slump over so that I’m just small enough to keep the people in my life comfortable, mean that some people will decide that I’m “too much” and abandon me? Yup. There will most certainly be painful relational fractures that threaten to break my heart in half, and leave it with a limp. These are scary and threatening realities that I do not take lightly.

But, ultimately I take comfort. Will new, vital and resilient relationships grow up out of the fertile soil of my authenticity? I can finally say with confidence and conviction- Yes!

photo credit: madebyhank @ Flickr

Will the authentic me attract more substantial and soul-nurturing friendships with staying power? You’d better believe it! Will unleashing my voice set it free to find other women who are struggling in the wilderness, and ultimately help us all to build a healing, vibrant and thriving tribe? HECK YEAH! And it is with those revolutionary certainties tucked inside my pocket, that I can step forward with grace, confidence and the volume turned up on my voice.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lenten Reflection

"Weeping Nude" by Edvard Munch

Yesterday, I linked to this Lenten Reflection from my Facebook page. Perhaps if I had merely posted the link, and left my ‘commentary’ out of it, it would have been a virtual non-event, quickly and unceremoniously buried in what is the swift-moving stream of the Facebook News Feed. Instead, I prefaced the link with these words: “The only kind of Lent I can conceive of or practice right now…” and thus began a firestorm of sorts. Now, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the comments that followed on my Facebook wall. Less than a handful of friends responded publicly, and those who did were either empathetic or, seemingly, on the same page.

It was the private response my words elicited that planted the seeds that blossomed into this post.

On the one hand, I both understood and appreciated the motive of the people who began addressing me privately. As a culture, we have been trained to protect the ones we love by keeping their personal business private. And for God’s sake, there are still plenty of private details I’d prefer to keep under lock and key, thank you very much. But, I have to admit that I was struck, in this particular instance, by the immediate instinct of others to move the conversation behind closed doors. Perhaps my confusion stems from the fact that I had already willingly posted those words way out in the open, for my nearly 700 Facebook friends to see. Transparency was not exactly something I was running from, if my medium was any indication.

But then it occurred to me. The folks who engaged me outside the realm of Facebook did so using a very particular type of language. They used words like “dark,” “disturbing” and “desperate.” And as I examined the way they addressed me (privately), and the words they used in doing so (words we tend to associate with socially unacceptable emotions), I began to understand their attempts at engaging me via a different forum. I began to imagine that perhaps, in addition to feeling concern for me, they may have also been embarrassed for me. They might have concluded that I’d be less likely to publicly humiliate myself (any further) if they quickly pulled me aside, and offered me a more private audience for my melancholy. Perhaps they felt it safest for me to air my “desperation” (their words, not mine) in a setting more akin to a therapist’s couch, rather than from the much more public podium I’d utilized. I think they may have even hoped to shield me from appearing hysterical. IN. PUBLIC.

And while I can see how my status (and the blog entry that prompted it ), might seem desperate or disturbing to some- neither of those adjectives (nor the associated feelings) were what prompted me to link to the post. Nor were they foremost in my mind as I reflected upon it. You see, I don't believe that post, or the sentiments it contains, to be overwhelmingly depressing or dark. To the contrary, actually.

I think that our feelings- of loneliness, confusion, pain, and isolation, are given the most power to create desperation if and when we bottle them up or try to bear them alone. What Ronna and Anne Lamott are expressing, even advocating, (and that which I found myself drawn to and agreeing with) is the idea that being open and honest- not sugarcoating the hard stuff- is what makes it all bearable. It's what reminds us that we're not alone...that everyone has hurts and battles and scars that mirror our own- it's the universal human condition! And where we find release and relief from those hurts, those agonies, is in sharing them. I don't think it’s so much about issuing ear-shattering cries of desperation for their own sake. But when given an outlet, a voice, they are much more likely to live and die as struggles, perhaps even crises, rather than eating us alive from the inside out, harbored as smoldering secrets, individual shame, and singularly shouldered despair.

The articulation of such ideas is precisely why I've always been drawn to writers like Anne Lamott. (And Mary Karr. Sue Monk Kidd, and now, Ronna Detrick.) Because they're not likely to shy away from talking about the really shitty stuff. And precisely because of that, they seem to be able to get a handle on it. To bear up under it. Even to thrive in spite of it, while also finding the strength to help other people do the same.

I think we most often stay silent in our hurts and struggles and failures, because we are afraid that if we call them out into the world, that we will be shushed, shamed, or silenced. (Especially as women.) But I also think that the power that we (again, especially as women) possess is the tenderness and truthfulness that are necessary in order to carve out safe spaces in which unfiltered real life and gritty true stories can find expression. No matter how heartbreaking, life-altering, or power-structure-shaking they may be. It is precisely in the telling of our tales, the airing of our secrets, and the sharing of our former shame, that these shackles begin to loosen and relinquish their power over our lives. The hurt begins to dissipate, the wounds to heal, the shame to evaporate. And the Phoenix rises out of the ashes.

So, yes, when I posted what I did- I meant it. Wholeheartedly and unapologetically. I have struggles- sometimes it feels like more than my share. Big questions- the kind that overwhelm and, sometimes, even threaten to overtake me. There are days when I'd like to give in- to pound my fists and flail around on the ground throwing a hissy fit worthy of a 2 year old's reputation. (In it considered bad form to admit that occasionally my behavior is frighteningly similar to the aforementioned scene?)

I often wonder if casting my gaze downward, putting one foot in front of the other, and settling for contentment in the stead of joy isn't the most practical and reasonable concession I can make. There are hardships and hurts that I haven't finished grieving- and I certainly sense that the world's position on that is that I ought to gloss it over and just get on with it.

So I guess that my point in posting what I did, is to begin to free myself (and in the process, other people) to unleash our voices. To legitimize our collective hurts, as well as the pain that is uniquely ours, and in doing so to watch them begin to diminsh. (Although truth be told, I don’t believe that there’s a whole heckuva lot of unique pain out there. Take comfort, friends!)

I want to empower myself, my friends, and even complete strangers to ignore the societal pressures and protocols that tell us to shut up, get over ourselves, and file pain and heartache away as private matters. A one-woman load. I want to loudly challenge (and ultimately, convert) the voices that tell us we'd better stop being so messy in the public square. That we need to quiet down and fall into line. I want other women to quit trying to conform to the patriarchal constructs that insist that the deep throbbing language of our hearts, and the loud, prophetic echoes of our individual and collective voice are sentimental or silly.

Because I believe that the more often we say these difficult things out loud- these big, scary words and world-shifting ideas that challenge the prevailing notion of what is socially acceptable to 'put out there', the more likely we are to find truer paths to healing. To kindness and goodness. Toward community and compassion. In the direction of peace on earth, good will toward all women (and men).

Friday, February 12, 2010

Home Sweet Home(bound)

Through her eyes:

It's hard to believe that we're now in our third day at home- school cancelled again, and the three of us bouncing around like pinballs inside these walls. Don't get me wrong...there's been plenty of outside time- including 3 trips to the school for sledding on the aptly named Shouting Hill. A little ironic, is it not, that while the school is closed for hazardous road conditions, each day of the closure finds a whole host of families on campus, taking advantage of the sledding hill? (Which, I might add, is just one of the thrills that a 400+ acre campus affords us.)

Last night, in one of my many attempts to ward off the 'stir crazies' that threaten to descend and take hold at any moment, I set Ella loose around the house with our Canon point-n-shoot. If her current obsession with the camera is any indication of things to come, she may end up making her living as a photographer, just like mama!

I enjoyed viewing our cozy little home through her eyes last night, and tend to think we could all benefit from trying to view things through our children's eyes and perspective more often than we do. Anyway, I thought I'd share the view around our little "igloo" as it looks from 3 feet 7 1/2 inches high:

Chalkboard Art:

Daddy's Inbox: (please disregard all the dust!)

Coat Closet:

Bits & Baubles:

Snuggle Spot:

Birds of Prey:

What's for dinner?

Look Up, Look Down:

Look All Around:



These last two are my favorites.

Not only did she catch her feet inadvertently in this picture, but in doing so she composed a shot reminiscent of some of my favorites out there on the web: (thanks, Stine!)

It took me awhile to figure out just what this one was. But ultimately, that's what I like most about it- it's dreamy, indecipherable "under water" quality.

Thanks for taking a peek! How about you? Any budding little artists running around your home? Care to share their most recent projects? How are you keeping the kids occupied inside during this record-breaking snowfall? (And if you're outside the reach of these crazy blizzards and icy roads, please, I beg of you, don't tell me! ::inserting fingers into ears:: )

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day

Right now I'm dancing (meditating?) to Alanis Morissette, painting the mantel, and looking out my (home) office window at this:

And this:

A bit of a departure from my header, no? Speaking of my header...any idea how to adjust things so that it is centered at the top there? I am admittedly not a techno/web-guru, but sure would like to invoke some of that genius now again ;)

So, yeah, I've been glaringly absent. And while there are about 57 good (or at the very least, valid) reasons for it, I'll spare you the sob story. Instead I'm just going to try much, much harder to make my best intentions line up with my daily routines and actions, with consistency. Also, I'll attempt to let go of the paralyzing perfectionism that often keeps me from posting- the whole, if I can't do it "right" than why do it at all? It's silly, and ultimately, its isolating. So I'm giving it up, one post at a time, folks. And we will see, I suppose, how that develops... But if you're willing to hang with me, I'll be willing to let a little more of the real me 'hang out', and in the process give you a little more pay-off for showing up ;)

Speaking of ditching perfection, in deference to real life...I recently stumbled upon the blog of Sarah Rust Sampedro (via a favorite of mine), who is another in a long line of mothers asking questions about how to be accomplished and intentional, creative and committed to both the work of raising children and the work of being an artist- consecutively. I mean, really, let's be honest- sometimes it's hard to do anything else at all (you know, use the bathroom, make a phone call, entertain one uninterrupted thought!) while balancing a babe on your hip, diffusing a toddler's tantrum, or trying to actively and effectively discipline your five year old. (Sunny and serene?!? Who are they KIDDING?!? Cue maniacal mama laughter.) So then how (and out of what reserve) does a mother summon the energy and focus required to make great art? This can be a truly heart-wrenching dilemma for those of us who feel the pull of a creative calling, but are also being pulled, pulled at and pulled on by the tiny, chubby, persistent hands of the little ones we love the most. Sarah is inspiring to me because she's biting the bullet. She's not allowing herself to be swallowed up in the question- she's just doing what she can, when she can, with what she's got. In her own words:

I am a person who, among many other things, happens to be both a photographer and a mother. I want to be successful at both without waiting until I’m fifty, have an empty nest and find myself at a community ed class saying “I used to really like photography and now I’d like to get back into it.”

I will make and post a photograph every day throughout 2010. If, for some reason, I travel somewhere that makes posting impossible, I will still make a daily photograph and post when I am able. This is a practice for me: a practice in creativity, a practice in discipline and a practice of commitment.

So, because I share her question and her longing, I'm hoping to also muster up the strength to mirror her discipline and commitment, as I stretch my own creative muscles, and work to write and photograph and create with intention and consistency.

See you back here (and here) soon...