Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Brave questions

Some days I feel very, very brave. I've got it all under control. I'm handling everything, getting things done, being the person I want to be. Some days I feel not so brave. Things are starting to slip, I can't get anything done, and I'm not at all who I feel like being.

Isn't that life, though? Isn't part of living experiencing the ups and downs, and learning to navigate through both?

Overall, things are going remarkably well. My problems, such as they are, are pretty much exclusively first-world problems and I am very much aware of that, and of how fortunate I am. So I try to not complain too much when I feel things starting to crash a bit, or when I let my emotions go unchecked, or when five bad things happen in a row that nearly send me off the edge of Shitsville. I'm usually pretty good at this, and when I do slip, I pride myself on bouncing back quickly and moving on.

I'm writing this mostly to serve as a reminder the next time I feel like griping about something. It's a "note to self," so to speak.

I'm shooting a lot these days. The past week a little less so just because of being busy with work and it being dark when I get home. But the iPhone has been invaluable in keeping me connected to my art. I'm learning to say, "Yes, yes I am a photographer" when people ask. While I'm not a professional in the true sense of the word (I don't get paid to make images...well, not regularly anyway), I am still a photographer. Why I stumble over this I don't know. I make images every day. I share them with people. I'm half offended, half amused when people see my photographs and say, "Wow, you must have a really nice camera."

Why can I easily say, "These are my photographs," but I stumble over, "I'm a photographer." Ridiculous.

I'm trying to get over it, though. Slowly.

In the last week, I've had two people ask me to photograph their kids/family. I've had another ask, after viewing not only the kindergarten soccer images on my Flickr page but all my other (non-soccer) shots, "Holy cow...are all those yours?" And then upon receiving affirmation, espousing how much talent I appear to have. Several have asked if I'm a "professional." I got my Moo cards. People in my photography circles are posting all over the place about chasing dreams and doing what you love, etc. The Camp Shutter Sisters experience lingers, and pulses, barely below the surface.

And it feels like it's all adding up to a big sign, a big push from the universe, to maybe consider myself, and my work, in a different light. And see if I can do more with it, share it more, make it an even larger portion of my life.

I don't know. I've gone down this path before, and ran out of steam. Part of it has to do with fear. "Am I good enough?" is a biggie. Okay, it's more than big...it's f*cking huge. Part of it has to do with a sense of obligation to be a good corporate worker bee and use the MBA and continue making good money to provide for my child, my family, so we can live the wonderful life to which we've become quite accustomed. I toy with the idea of doing both. Working the corporate gig and dabbling in pro photography on the side. And then I think about how at the end of most work days I'm exhausted despite the personal to-do list that is never-ending, and how weekends seem to be jam-packed with social obligations and running my kid everywhere (I so love that she has such an active life, filled with friends and play dates and fun) and getting the damn house clean. Again. And I think, "No f*cking way can I take on anything else."

Don't get me wrong...I am in no way complaining about the lifestyle we have. It is so full and vibrant and filled with loving, nurturing relationships that half the time I want to pinch myself to see if it's all real. Most days I simply cannot believe I have built all this.

So I guess the question I'm really asking is, "Why do I feel like taking on something else?" Why do I think there might be more out there?

The only thing I'm really sure of is that I don't have any answers now, but I'm grateful that I'm at least asking the questions. One of these days/years/decades I'm bound to come up with something. Right?

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Monday, November 07, 2011

1 & 2 of 30 (Gratitude Project)

Day 2
Every morning I walk my daughter to school, and then I walk home. It's not far, but it's just long enough for me to walk past the huge line of cars and be thankful that I don't have to sit in it.

Day 1
I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to design and build my dream home, and with my best friend to boot. We are in the design stage and while I realize that the road ahead will be fraught with stress and detours and speed bumps and even a fender-bender or two, I'm looking forward to growing and learning and loving and creating the life I want to live.

(The image that went with this is the one of the house plans below. I just wanted to be sure I captured the text from the 30 Days of Gratitude submission on Flickr, to go with the others I'm posting here.)

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

6 of 30 (Gratitude Project)

Waiting for mass to start and we were both bored. I looked around at the architecture (we were not in our church so there were new things to observe) and whispered to my husband, "Do you think it'd be okay if I did some Instagrams while we're waiting?" He scowled a proper Catholic scowl and said, "You need to find something to keep yourself amused that isn't so obvious!" He looked away, Zoe and I looked at each other, and out came the iPhone. We used the front camera and held it down in our lap so no one could see. An unintended bonus was the flare we caught off the spotlights high above. I'm pretty sure we gave ourselves away after we started making funny faces and cracking ourselves up, which is when I got the sharp elbow from hubby. That only made us laugh harder.

Then the music began to play and the iPhone was tucked away and we snuggled, happy as two peas in a pod.

Today I'm grateful to have a partner in crime.

Note: Yeah, this is Day 6. I do have days 1-5, but I haven't gotten around to boosting them from Flickr to here. Hang tight...they're coming.

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Saturday, November 05, 2011

I'm not really gone, I'm just hanging out somewhere else

While it may seem as though I've been dormant (lazy) (absent) (quiet) (invisible), the truth is that I've only been those things here.

My on-line world has exploded since Camp, and I've been participating in a lot of other forums (fora?) with other photographers. Facebook (private group), Flickr, Instagram...

I've also been a shooting maniac, although mostly for others. I'm still capturing Zoe's soccer games, but I've also done a Halloween party, a play, and today, a football game. Most nights are spent editing, and it has been really, really great. I'm hanging out at Flickr a lot, so if you want to see more of my stuff you can check me out there (my username is the first letter of my first name, followed by my whole last name - yeah, I know, not so creative). All my work that involves children, or rather, other people's children, is marked as private, but I can send you a guest pass if you want. And if I know you and know you're not some pervy freak.

One of my groups on Flickr is a 30 Days of Gratitude project. Every day participants submit an image showing something for which we are grateful. It can be a new image shot that day, or an old one from your archives. You can write about it, or not. You can even skip a day if you want. In other words, there are no rules and that's appealing to someone who is living daily life under multiple deadlines. I've posted every day so far, and am using this as a trial run for a possible 365 in 2012. It takes a lot to commit to creating a photograph every day for a year, and I'm not entirely sure I'm up for it. Especially since we'll be doing things like moving out of our home, wrecking it, rebuilding it, then moving back. Then again, this might be the perfect year to document our daily life and the huge changes we're making.

Anyway, I've been thinking that perhaps I should share my 30 Days project here, and not just confine it to Flickr. I've been writing a graph or two for each one, which is what I typically do here, so I may as well kill two birds with one stone.

In other news, Zoe's soccer team won their game today, and her BFF scored their two goals. M has been hard at work on Christmas, and not only will this year completely blow everyone's minds, but it all seems to be going remarkably well (fingers crossed this continues after the multiple debacles of last year). Meeting with the architect again Tuesday afternoon. I've got a fire in the fireplace, two snoozing cats nearby, a husband with multiple hand tools and wires and other electrical paraphernalia hanging out on the other couch, a clean daughter sound asleep for the night, and a shitload of new images to edit.

Life. is. good.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Here we go...

Friday night, while watching Game 7 of the World Series at M's grandma's, I checked my phone for messages. There was an e-mail from our architect. With attachments. My heart started pounding...here were the first drafts of our new home's layout. I downloaded the PDFs and waited for them to load, then tried to read house plans for an approximately 2,500 sq ft residence on an iPhone screen. After I got a general idea, I silently handed the phone to M, who looked at me quizzically before squinting at the screen himself. "Oh!" His face lit up and we beamed at each other.

That night, or rather, early the next morning when we got home, we printed the plans and looked some more. Even though we were both exhausted, we couldn't help it. We batted around a few things, then set down the plans and went to sleep. Saturday and Sunday, we'd pick them up as we passed by, not spending too much time on any one thing but just letting them marinate. Since we had a meeting with the architect scheduled for Monday, Sunday night we sat down with the plans, a pencil, a tape measure and a calculator, and got to work. There wasn't much to do, but we jiggered around the pantry, guest bath, bill desk, shoe rack and coat closet, and made a small addition that attached my darkroom to the main portion of the house (the door had been located off the garage). We measured some furniture, re-mapped the finished basement, and wrote down our list of questions.

Yesterday at our meeting, our architect seemed surprised that we had very few changes and even fewer questions. We believe this was a result of two things: 1.) he had actually listened to us at our first two meetings, and 2.) we have very firm ideas of what we want and don't want and were able to give pretty explicit directions. We were thrilled by solutions he offered. I feel that our choice to retain an architect, and especially this architect, was validated. It's nice to say, "We have this problem, this need...fix it." and have that actually happen. He also knows us well enough to suggest things we had never dreamed of, but after he proposes them they make so much sense we wonder how we never thought of it.

We busted through the floor plans, working room by room from North to South. Then we started talking about the roofline, and Mike (our architect, not to be confused with M, my hubby) said, "Oh, I have some rough sketches to show you." He rummaged through his portfolio and pulled out three papers with colored ink. My heart skipped a beat. This was our very first look at what our new home will look like, what others will see as they drive down our street, what our friends and family will see when they come to visit. What we will come home to after a hard day at work, a business trip, vacation, soccer games and school plays and birthday parties. He flipped through them, deciding which to show first, second and third. I jiggled impatiently. He decided to show us the options in the order in which he had created them.

The first went down on the table and I nearly leapt out of my chair with excitement. It was wonderful. He had added a feature that I had never thought of, but which replaced my original idea with more style, function and practicality. Unfortunately, it also had gables. M and I agree that we will not have gables on our dream home. We have them now, and we hate 'em. We didn't say anything at the time, reserving our opinions until all three were shown. Option 2 came out and it was even better. No gables, and a more distinctive design.

Option 3 went down. Holy crap. That was It. At least in my mind. "M will never go for it," I thought. "He won't like any of these rooflines as they are too radical, and we're gonna have to start over." Internally, I started talking myself into a traditional hip roof immediately. We moved the pages around so we could see all three options at the same time. M said, "I know which one I like, no doubts." I was surprised he had no real changes. We both immediately threw out Option 1 for the gables, and Mike looked at us in amazement again. I don't think he's used to working with clients who are both decisive and who agree with each other so readily. Then M said to me, "Which one do you like? I have my favorite, but I want to hear what you think." Deep breath.

"I love Option 3."
"Me, too."

Mike beamed. "Really? It's my favorite, too!"

It was reminiscent of the day Zoe was born, when we had decided to wait and meet her, see what she looked like, to choose her name. We had a couple names on the list and were keeping our options open beyond that, because we couldn't really settle until we met her. After the c-section, M was over with the nurses watching while they tended to her. I remember asking several times, "What does she look like? What's her name?!" M came back to me with a nurse holding Zoe all wrapped up. "I know what she looks like. I want to hear what you think." The nurse laid her on my chest and I looked down into her beautiful little face through eyes flooding with tears and whispered, "She looks like Zoe Grace." And M, with tears in his own eyes, said, "That's what I think, too."

These are the moments when I realize just how lucky I am to be married to my best friend. Someone so compatible that when it comes to the really big decisions in life, the really huge things, we always agree. (That is not to say we agree on everything - oh boy, do we not!) But when it comes to things that could end up being a real battle - things like what our new, custom home will look like - we are perfectly in sync.

We wrapped up our meeting by creating a list of things to get to Mike (mostly furniture dimensions) and things to research (what the hell is "cultured stone" anyway? and yes, we do prefer Roman brick) and agreed to meet again in about a week. It's time to get some general contractor rough bids, and start work on true building plans.

Mike left and we looked at each other. I can't speak for what M was feeling, only how I felt. Excited and anxious and pleased and nervous and grateful and scared. All in the best possible way. I think he felt the same, or close to it. He practically vibrated with energy, and I think he'd have taken a sledge to an interior wall to start the demo if I'd let him.

Lots to do in the months again, in addition to our normal holiday hustle and bustle. Cleaning out, organizing and packing. Selecting a general contractor and working on permits for demo and build. Making sure we have a place to live, and that all our belongings are there, before the wrecking ball comes to visit.

To quote an amazing woman I met in person recently, "I don't know what it's going to be, but I know it's going to be awesome." I am learning to trust the universe, that everything unfolds exactly as it should. I started thinking this way sometime last year, and I'll be darned if it isn't working. I know this process will be hard, but I also know we'll get through it and learn and grow and continue to love and create the life we want. And I really don't think it can get any more awesome than that.

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