Monday, January 28, 2013

Chuck and Ike

For now, Isaac is content to play the straight man to Charlie's goofball. However, there was a time when Charlie was mellow, too, so it remains to be seen whether they will remain such polar opposites over time.

There's a lot of love and a lot of fun between these two. Charlie approaches big brotherhood with the same enthusiasm he gives to everything else, and no one makes Isaac laugh the way Charlie does. Yesterday, Charlie jumped out at Isaac and screamed trying to scare him. We all held our breath and waited to see if the look of surprise on Isaac's face would turn to tears. Instead, a huge belly laugh ensued, and they did it over and over again - Charlie jumping and screaming and Isaac laughing harder than he ever had before.
I enjoy being the audience as their sibling relationship develops on a daily basis. It reminds me of the long days spent with my sister when we were little - the funny things we said, the games we played, the things we made. I wish that our relationship had been protected and nurtured by adults who appreciated the sweetness and value of who we were together. Without that, we struggled as we got older to maintain the love we had for each other when we were little girls. I know enough as mother to these two how important it is that their friendship continues to grow.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nine Months Old

This month he's beginning to show real purpose in his physical movements. His favorite game is to dump over his basket of toys and pick which ones to play with. His second favorite game is when you hold him belly-down on top of your head and say, "Baby Hat!" This is always good for a laugh. His third favorite game is jumping up and down in his johnny-jump-up. The whole time, he babbles, squeals and clicks his tongue.
In the last week, he started using his fingers to feed himself little squares of every kind of soft food imaginable. He eats with gusto considering that he still has no teeth. Through all of this, he remains thoughtful and amused by the whirl of activity that constantly goes on around him.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

This Week (365 Photos)

I resolved to take pictures every day this year. My plan is to share them in groups weekly on this blog.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013


Ellis, age four (2007)

In many ways, my relationship with Ellis is marked by separation. We only lived together in the same house seven days a week for the first twenty-one months of his life. Before he turned two, my relationship with his dad had fallen apart and we made the arrangement of sharing our boy back and forth each week. Ellis has said that he thought it was weird when he first found out that many of his friends only have one house. It is the rhythm of his life and our relationship, and while time and routine have created a callous to protect my heart from our weekly separation, at times I feel like Demeter yearning for her Persephone during the months she is mandated to stay in Hades.

A few months ago, he started phoning me on the days he is with his dad. It started out with a simple short call one evening to say that he missed me and wanted to hear my voice. Soon we developed a habit of evening phone calls, much longer and full of interesting stories, reflections, and sharing our days. I don't ever call him because I don't want to disturb his life with my needs, but I am always grateful to receive his call.

Ellis has matured a lot in the past year, and I think the calls are another indicator of how his brain has developed. He is trying to learn how to have grown-up conversations with people, and I'm honored that he has chosen me to be the person who teaches him how to do that. Say what you will about the mixed bag that is Freud and his Oedipal complex, but I do think it's true that our mothers are our first girlfriends (for children of both sexes, actually) and that our parents are the first to teach us about intimate relationships, whether they are aware of what they are teaching or not. I take this responsibility seriously because I want my boys to have great capacity to give love to others and to have high expectations for the love they receive. I want them to know the power that words have to connect us and the importance of being real in our communication.

Part of being a healthy person is learning to balance the tension between living our separate lives and living in connection with others. Due to my own childhood traumas, I developed abandonment issues. The nature of my relationship with Ellis could have exacerbated them, but instead, I have found great healing in the rhythm of separation and connection that we have. As a new parent, I made the observation that our children's job is to grow away from us, but there is another side of that, too. They grow, they individuate, but they also return, seeking us, seeking answers, finding themselves in us as we find ourselves in our connection with them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I have a partner in all the photography I have been doing this year. Charlie found an old 35mm film camera of mine and begged me to make it work so he could take pictures. The cost of a new battery and some film was a cheap price to pay for having a built-in photo buddy. Now he has moved onto our old point-and-shoot digital camera and continues to take pictures everyday, just like his mama. His vision and enthusiasm is inspiring mine.
We developed the first roll of film he shot and he cut and pasted most of them into a collage, but I held back some that were particularly beautiful. First, I forgot how wonderful film photography is since it has been so long since I've done any. Second, it is wonderful to see the world as Charlie sees it. In addition to inspiring my photography, the way he sees our world has encouraged me in another one of my goals: to be at peace with things as they are. Charlie sees beauty in many of the things I have looked at only with critical eyes. This has caused me to look again at the things of our everydays with a renewed love rooted in the knowledge that our life is beautiful to my little boys.
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Friday, January 18, 2013

This Week (365 Photos)

I resolved to take pictures every day this year. My plan is to share them in groups weekly on this blog.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Ellis is playing basketball in the St. Paul Parks and Recreation youth league for the first time this winter. He's having a great time, and the family is having fun watching basketball games every weekend.

I've unofficially named his team the "Future IT Professionals of America" because if any group of boys is likely to work in computer science, it's this one. They are classic nerds. Even their best player, who is quite athletic, sometimes hikes his shorts up a bit too high on his waist. Ellis often runs down the court flailing his long, thin arms like a Muppet, on purpose, because he likes to act like a goofball. Here is a sample conversation I overhead between Ellis and one of his teammates prior to a game:

Teammate: Do you like pickles?
Ellis: No.
Teammate (in robot voice): Then you have an anti-pickle brain.

A few weeks ago, Ellis said to me, "My skills are technology and sports." The technology thing is no surprise. The first time that kid used a computer, you could practically see the neurons firing in excitement in his brain. His dream job is designing video games. Identifying himself as someone who plays sports is a new thing, though, and it makes me so happy that he sees no conflict between the two things and actually has a whole group of kids with which he can play basketball on the court and talk about Minecraft on the sidelines.

It used to more typical for nerds and jocks to exist in separate worlds. One of the positive side-effects of the integration of technology into everything we do is that nerd culture, in many ways, has just become culture. That's a clear mark in the "W" column for my kid.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Be About Being the Thing That You Are

There was a time in my life that I desired to be completely original. As time went along, I realized the futility of that in a world of 7 billion people, plus everyone else that preceded us. There's always someone that is doing the same things you are doing and thinking the same thoughts that you are. Of course, in that realization, there is comfort to be found in identifying kindred spirits and feeling understood.

Despite the fact that originality is an illusion, it is useful to seek self-knowledge. It is a given that you will belong to some group or some community. Without careful consideration to your own identity, it is easy to be swept up in the habits and behaviors that are dominant in the moment and place you live. Just as if you close your eyes and walk through a field of snow, you find that your footsteps soon fall in line with the path already trodden by others, it is the way of least resistance. Later, you open your eyes and realize that you have spent considerable life energy seeking things that you don't really want.

Don't waste your time, keep your eyes open, walk with intention on a path that suits you, and be about being the thing that you are. Find the others like you who are doing those things, learn from them, and be bolstered in the dedication you have to your path. That way, when you are bombarded with marketing related to all the lives that others want you to seek for their own profit, you will not feel like you are lacking something, but can say boldly, "That is not for me. I am choosing to do something else."

Friday, January 11, 2013

This Week (365 Photos)

I resolved to take pictures every day this year. My plan is to share them in groups weekly on this blog.
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Friday, January 4, 2013

This Week (365 Photos)

I resolved to take pictures every day this year. My plan is to share them in groups weekly on this blog.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Small Failures

Photo taken yesterday to remind myself that sometimes what I do is going to be complete shit. (By the way, neighbors, is it too much to ask that you clean up after your dogs?)
Many of us start the new year ambitiously with big hopes and plans and then the strong forces of inertia set in and we find ourselves back where we started. We fail a little and are unable to cope with the loss of the perfection of our dream, so we double down on the failure and give up entirely. Others of us don't see the point in making resolutions or setting goals citing futility because "these things never work."
The question I have is what does it mean for something to "work"? What makes something worth doing? Does it have to be perfect? Aren't our lives just a big jumble of failures and successes creating a singular fabric with its own integrity? Sometimes the failures turn into something beautiful and sometimes they are just a humiliating oof face forward into the turf of life, but they abide, and life must go on.
This year I choose to fail and be at peace with it. My dreams are worth it.
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Resolved: Some Stuff I'd Like to Work on This Year

In the days leading up to the New Year, I thought a lot about things I'd like to work on in the coming year. Say what you will about New Year's resolutions, but it's as good a time as any to make a deposit into the "living intentionally" bank. I'm pretty happy with life as I live it, so I find that most of what I want to do this year doesn't represent a radical departure from what I normally do, but rather a desire to do more of the things that I love to do. I think that will make these resolutions easier to keep because I'm simply asking myself to focus more on the best things that I do, which by default should squeeze out the time (and money) I waste on fillers.
My resolutions fall into two general categories, and while I will be more specific about the activities I'll engage in as well, I like having these strategies spelled out, so that life outside of the activities highlighted in my resolutions can also be influenced by these two lenses:
  1. Nurture my creativity. The way I make art is a tangled mess of elation, struggle, pride, self-reproach, empowerment and avoidance. I want to spend my year submerged in all this and see what comes out the other side.
  2. Be satisfied with what I have. Years ago, a colleague of mine who was an immigrant from Cote d'Ivoire said to me, "Charlotte, there are no poor Americans." Without judging the circumstances of others, I have repeated this phrase often in my head to counteract my own feelings of deprivation. This year, rather than focusing on how things could be better, I want to embrace the beauty of making do and appreciating what is. While the specifics of this have a lot to do with the material, I also mean this to cover all of the areas where I dwell on dissatisfaction.
And now for the specifics. Thanks to the internet and the vast virtual community of ideas, many of the activities I want to do are not things I've invented. They represent ideas that I've found elsewhere that have made me think, "I'd like to do that." I've adapted them to my personal circumstances, thinking deeply about what commitments I am willing to make to myself, and thereby increasing the likelihood of success. I do well with a combination of structure and a built in mechanism to be free from that structure in any way I want to that doesn't defeat what I'm trying to accomplish. So, without further ado, here are my 2013 resolutions:
  1. Take a photo everyday. Some days I may produce a brilliant piece of work and other days I may snap a hasty picture with my cell phone. I hope to learn as much from the days I don't feel like doing this as the days I feel inspired.
  2. Write two pages a day, five days a week. Some of it may end up on this blog, some of it may turn into the book I've always wanted to write, some may be for my eyes only or complete crap I end up deleting. I want to be less editorial and more prolific because I function better when I write a lot.
  3. Go outside more. It was seven degrees today, and I bundled up the littlest boys and pulled them around the neighborhood in our rusty red wagon (satisfied with what we have). I would love to commit to going outside every day, but being more realistic, I'm settling for something more vague, knowing that thinking about this resolution will drive me out of the house on many a day I would prefer to stay inside.
  4. Cut $8,000 from our annual spending. Last year we cut out $5,000 without even thinking about it. Cutting $8,000 will have us living at the princely level of $10,000 a year per person in our family. It's another step along the way toward using fewer resources and hopefully eventually becoming financially independent.
  5. Make peace with the house we live in. Our house is my favorite thing on which to focus my dissatisfaction and insecurities. Yet, this house is one of the main reasons that we are secure. This year, I want to focus on what I love about the place I live and to share this place unapologetically with people who are important to me.
Do you have things you're going to work on this year? Do you think resolutions are stupid? What strategies do you find effective for making changes (big or small) in your life?
Welcome, 2013. Happy New Year, dear friends!
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