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...