The Only Things I’m Certain About

I’m certain about death and taxes, love and life, rainbow sprinkles and mashed potatoes.

I’m certain about death and taxes, love and life, rainbow sprinkles and mashed potatoes, and that I was handmade and homemade and home-grown to be a mama, writer, photographer. And I’m certain I’m even-tempered, but only as even-tempered as someone who is HIGHLY sensitive to the changes and the shifts, the tastes and the smells, the FEELS… oh, the FEELS – like fingernails lightly down your back, or staring into space for five minutes after an evocative episode of This is Us.

Ok, they’re ALL evocative. For me, it’s the doctor character. And William. Sweet, sweet William.


I’m certain about legacies.

Sometimes I feel it coming – these changing tides – even while they’re still being born and unfolding, and I have to type fast before they implode. Or I have to race to a computer or phone before I explode. Today is a mix, like sun and clouds.

I’m certain about loss and grief, but not about the paths they take. I’m certain we have to rise up to move through paths and waves, and probably not as seamlessly as we’d like. Life’s greatest challenge. I once wrote a piece about grief that has since disappeared, but I think of it every now and then. Since I can’t get it back, I can rewrite it and give it to you right here and now. So let’s ride the waves together. FTSF Topic: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes ..”

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I once wrote that grief is like “the princess is in another castle” theme from Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. games.

grief

Just when you have confronted demons, fought valiantly, been sucked through warp zones, and fought on in endless pursuit of fireballs, feathers, mushrooms, and frog suits, you arrive at the castle level to fight the next big bad buy. And you do it, and you do it in style. You fight so hard and so well, only to be rewarded with a simple message printed across the screen.

Super Mario Brothers

So then you leave to enter a brand new world – full of brand new demons, and one brand new big bad guy at the end of the castle at the end of this world. You defeat the brand new bad guy, only to be greeted with the same disappointing message.

When does it end? Where is your reward? Where is your princess?

personal blogging

Eventually in the game, you get to the real end, you defeat the final bad guy, and you get your princess. For keeps, this time. It doesn’t work that way in real life, although we certainly do have our rewards – like learning to unlock new layers and worlds within your own heart and mind. And finding yourself to be stronger and smarter than you ever thought possible.

The problem is that grief doesn’t have a set endpoint – there is no final big bad guy you can defeat, and then expect to never be challenged again. You will most likely continue to unlock new levels and worlds – through warp zones and not – collecting gold coins and stars, new weapons and new rewards, only to find yourself once again at the doors of a gated fortress.

It’s disorienting, isn’t it?

grief

My life has been full of such fortresses. After my father passed away suddenly from a heart attack when I was just about four-years-old, there was that first night without him. And then there were subsequent nights of resisting but having to let my sister and my mom out of my sight during day to day life. There were the weekdays that I waited for him to come home from work. There was the year following his death which I have mostly blacked out from memory. Therapy. A fear of loud noises.

A new home, a new dad and new siblings. A new school – the start of kindergarten.

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When I thought I was past a lot of my anxiety and grief, there were new challenges in young adulthood – going to college and falling in love. Moving several times. Becoming a mom to a girl who looked like me. And to a boy who reminded me of me.

A challenging time for me was being pregnant with Des – a baby due right around my father’s birthday. It wasn’t until Scarlet approached her fourth birthday that I began a new grieving process. My father had passed away three weeks before my fourth birthday, so I breathed a huge sigh of relief when that day passed, and we sailed through her fourth birthday party happily and whole. I then had a calmness I hadn’t thought possible, until a new trigger revealed itself – signing her up for kindergarten. I showed up on the first day of registration, as the first parent there, and my heart was pounding in my throat and my chest was constricting. How could I be back here – so far and so grown, but still shaking at the thoughts of change?

We defeated that bad guy, and now it’s Des’ turn for kindergarten.

Where is my next castle/challenge/bad guy? I don’t know what it will be and how it will hit me. I know I will probably live my life with challenges, but hopefully with gaining new skills, weapons and tools too. Moving through, as I also move on.

I’ll live my life fully and effectively, until I get the next message – “Great job, but your princess is still in another castle, and probably always will be.” And then I’ll stop, reassess my tool belt, add new weapons, and learn to move through.

This brand new world, until the next one comes along.

This week’s Finish the Sentence Friday topic is “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Come link up with your spin on the matter: HERE.

What are you certain about?

Somebody That I Met Changed My Life

This post has been reworked and refitted from a piece of writing from four years ago to take on more of a current shape.

Invisible Mama:


Family portraits come in all shapes & sizes. Colors & emotions. Ages & faces. Expressions & moods. Temperatures & climates. I know this variety perhaps more than a non-photographer because I see it all. I photograph it all. And even though this term barely applies in the land of digital vs. film, sometimes I’m surprised by what develops from the negatives in the long run.

Sometimes I worry that my kids have an invisible mama.

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Someone had to take this photo. I’m glad it was me. The short story is that I was practicing for an upcoming gig and it was my first time using this portable umbrella lighting kit. Someone had to take this photo. I had to take this photo. I’m in it and around it behind the scenes. It’s my color. Totally my manual settings. It’s my timing. It’s my vision. On a good day, I see ME.

On a bad day, my invisibility is vastly obvious to me. The divide between my family and me is wide. On a bad day.

I’ve always struggled with invisibility. It’s no superpower. I grew up as one of five grieving kids in a blended family. My parents hand-drew a bedroom for me at the end of several winding hallways. It was like a treehouse, and large and quiet. I could disappear there whenever I wanted. Eventually I learned how to disappear in a crowd. Body language and voice tactics. Hair over my eyes. Shrinking into narrow shoulders. When I wanted to hide, I could hide. I could sneeze and no one would say “Bless you” because no one heard me. And if they did, they’d seem bewildered to discover that I was there.

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These are the words and stories of a bewildered, grieving, gawky kid. It is not necessarily fact, or anyone else’s version of events. In 8th grade, I confided my invisibility fears to a friend and she confirmed that she could see it, but she didn’t know why it was there. She said she thought I could shine. At times. And that somehow I had learned to shrink away and shut down.

It was my own doing. I did it so well, that eventually I couldn’t control it and I’d disappear even when I didn’t want to.

There are a lot of reasons I’m a photographer, other than art being in my bloodlines. The camera is a shield for me. I can wield control in the midst of chaos, sadness, birth and continuing life. I am also sensitive, internally and externally, so I see things a certain way. It’s a natural reflex I’ve been channeling for years. I started to see myself develop in the negatives.

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And it changed over time. I started to learn to channel the radiating joy and laughter. I learned to shine, maybe not on command, but I shined so often, that it would just happen to coincide with social events. It was convenient like that.

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Sometimes I see this. I am this. Not always, but a lot of the time:

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Sometimes I see that smiling face on myself when I parent. I know that in many ways parenthood has opened me up and lifted me up into love and heart territory I didn’t know was possible. Then there’s the other side – the “off” days or weeks. I used to call them “gone days.” Or “gone weekends”. With Des in the picture, I feel less invisible but I have often felt that the bond between Cassidy and Scarlet doesn’t always leave room for me. Do you ever feel that way with one or more of your kids?

Do you ever think it’s your own fault?

I know we have sacred time together five days a week but when the weekend hits, I start to disappear. And, I let it happen. I can’t control it. I never was a four-year-old girl with a live father. This is new territory to me. Surely had he survived, I would have thrown my arms around his neck and never let go. I remember how it felt to have him hold me – strong. When I’d wake up from various toddler-related nightmares, of rising trees and shaking earths, I was steady in his arms. I lost that steadiness.

She didn’t.

changed my life

changed my life

I don’t think of a second child as a do-over. Rather, I think there is ample opportunity for powerful relationships with both. I love and like them differently at different times, but at matching fierce levels. I ache for both. And I worry about both.

I marvel at the ways Des seems like me. I marvel even more at the ways he doesn’t. Will my kids learn to disappear or shine?

Somebody That I Met Changed.. My Life. This is the #blogging prompt for #FTST (Finish The Sentence Friday) this week. Link up with your own personal story!

I helped make this family, in a pretty major way. It would not exist without me. I invested all of my body and heart. So it’s strange that I feel it could go on without me sometimes. And I wonder how much of it is them, and how much of it is me?

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And the biggest part of my heart knows that my worst fears are not true. The family needs me as I need them. Every now and then I remember to put myself into the photo, fully, and make it so that you can see more than just my shadow. My blended background. We all hold each other up. We fill each other in too. And, we put back color when the others seem to disappear..

Here I am.

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Somebody that I married, and two people I created and helped shape – changed my life. So much so, that some of the words I wrote four years ago have already turned invisible. And I love seeing that past against this brilliantly colored present.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is “Somebody that I met changed..” And there’s still time to write yours. Come link up with your spin on the matter: HERE.