We've made a committment to gather more often, these women who populate my life. I can't express what that means to me. I sound like the dippy one. But when we can't go out, like your average mom, we improvise. Gathering around the kitchen island with dips and Chick-fil-A nuggets (I just can't believe they don't have them in Australia!).
When this week's homework for the Blogging Your Way E-course included suggestions for blog posts, how could I not jump at Idea #1: Shop Around? I'll use any excuse to invite you back into this delightful place.
It's been almost a year since Meg, Marianne and April took over ownership of Simply Selma's (new website coming soon), and the place feels alight with all of their great energy while still capturing the spirit of Kathy Axelrod, the founder and original owner.
These are the lovelies who take care of you when you come to Selma's. Each and every one of them can make you feel like you've stepped into their home...but unlike when you come to my house - and I haven't swept up the dog hair - they're glad to have you!
When I was last in taking photos for these guys, Christmas was just the merest hint about the place. Since then they've pulled their annual all-nighter+ and be-dazzled the store in the best of ways. I haven't seen it yet, but I can't wait to swing in and take in the Christmas glory. They make it a show-stopper every year.
I've been starting some exciting collaborations with these guys over the past weeks, and I hope we can continue them. It's not just the work I do with the Selma's gals that makes me feel good; it's how I feel when I'm in there too. Welcomed. Part of things. But it's not just me. They're that way with everyone. I can walk in with my gi-normous camera bag and tripod and find that they're talking with a customer about shoes while helping her find the perfect wedding gift. Or telling another that her favorite jewelry vendor is coming out with a new line. They're good at taking care of things. People too.
If you have any interest in shopping local, this is an awesome and easy way to do it. It's half and hour door to door for me to get there, and the distance is nothing when such a warm welcome is waiting. I'd go every day if I could.
On my last stop in I took photos of all the gals...look for those shots on the blog next week!
The wind is blowing fiercely today. It started around Callum's bedtime last night (It always seems to start around Callum's bedtime, rattling his shutters and making for restless sleep.) and seemed to pick up as the night went on. Each fall the acorns hit the house and sound (quite literally) like gunshots. Last night that sound woke us up over and over.
We're all feeling a bit fractious today.
Unexpectedly, I had the chance to catch up with two dear, but far away friends yesterday. (Look at me, all phone-talkey and social.) Despite the delightful conversations, they are both hemmed in by worry and sadness. And late last night, an email from my mom about her sister, my only aunt, dealing with her own health worries. (I'll email you later today, Mom.)
It's a lot. All around us. I had been thinking a good bit, even before a class started making me more reflective, about changes I've been wanting to make for our family. I'm not going to lie. It's been a rocky autumn around here. Windy and fractious. Those changes, mostly little but for a greater good, seem terribly necessary. But what days like yesterday remind me is that the most important work I can do is to be still and listen. To try to hold the worry lightly, both for myself and others. And to pay attention. Both inside my house and out.
I took a personality test this week as part of my Blogging Your Way e-course. Turns out, I'm an ESFJ. Neel really got a kick out of the "J" (Judging) part, let me tell you. I imagine Mark will too. I bet his "J" part comes in BOLD.
I think part of why I've been feeling blue lately is because I'm a more social animal than that.
The first time we gathered, we moved from coffee shop to front yard. We had a lot of talking to do. Not everyone can make it every time, but the commitment is there. The commitment to reconnect with each other whenever we can. For me, there's the commitment to finding balance too. Between my social and solitary selves.
You know, I really put my camera down this summer. I guess I needed to. It chafed at me though. My camera bag, sitting on the shelf, staring me down. I was equal parts need to breathe without its weight in my hand and restless agitation without it. It's not the best of places to be. It's hard to remember that there's much to learn in the in-between spaces. It's easy to be revved up. Teaming with thoughts and ideas and filled with abundant creativity. Learning in leaps and reveling in bounds. Those are the thoughtless, easy times. When the ideas fly in and the work flies out. But there's value in that space between. And it's easier to remember that value, when you're feeling good, I suppose. Not so much when you're in it. I'm realizing now, that I learned a lot this summer when my camera fell silent.
Things are clearer now for me that weren't before.
My friend Marianne has asked me to come in and take some more pictures of her store. I can't tell you how excited I am about this. You may remember when we did this before. Simply Selma's is a wonderful place, and I love being there. They need photos for a new website, and I'm beyond thrilled that they've asked me to take them. One of the things I realized this summer is that this kind of photography, still life, is among my favorite.
One of the things that Marianne asked me to photograph was a trunk show of Alberto Parada Jewelry they were having this weekend (before she was one of the owners, she was the jewelry buyer for the store...let me just say, you feel good knowing your jewelry options are in her hands!). Alberto Parada's work is stunning, and it's sustainable, which is pretty important in my book. I got to meet this special man, and see a lot of his jewelry. Not bad for a Saturday morning.
I don't get out much. That's not a slam on Marianne or Meg and April (the other owners) and especially not Alberto and his wife Ashley, who were absolutely delightful. It's just that my work is mainly solitary, and I do it from home. So to spend the day with these lovely people surrounded by their laughter and their vibrant personalities was pretty much heaven to me. Oh, all that jewelry. And take pictures of it all? For me, it just doesn't get much better.
I'm still editing like crazy, and the photos are really Selma's to share once the web site launches. I may post a few more here though, if they let me.
I left feeling like I still have so much to learn, you know? But that's okay. I also left feeling a lot of gratitude for such an amazing opportunity. And with the feeling that I really could do this thing. I know Alberto is the one smiling in the photo here, but there I am in the reflection. Can you tell how happy I am?
I've been thinking about my friend Megan a lot lately, and when Callum asked for chicken pot pie, I knew I had to make hers. I've had my share of pot pie disasters, such as this one, but the one I made last night has always been successful for us.
Remember this baby? She turned one this month! A whole year on the planet!
My friend Ben got marriend this weekend. It was a perfect, unexpectedly lovely summer weekend here in the Tidewater of Virginia. Temperatures in the low 80s with low humidity. Unheard of in the middle of July. Perfect for a ceremony on the beach.
For the years that I worked at Callum's school (the old school), Ben and I worked together. He was the Athletic Director, and our offices were next to each other. We talked sports (even though he's Big Ten and I'm SEC), swapped stories and commiserated daily. When it got rough, our offices, which were removed from the rest of the campus, were an oasis of sorts. It was still fun down there. My office bordered the gym, and when I had migraines, Ben would tell his classes to be quiet. We were buds. We left our jobs there at the same time, and even now, a year later, I miss hanging with him every day.
Ben met Amy at the same school where she was a teacher; Callum's teacher at the time! Their first date was our annual holiday party! You can imagine how much fun we all had with that! Here she is walking toward the ceremony tent with her dad. She looked beautiful. Everybody did. And so happy too. Halfway through the ceremony her dad started to cry...it was such a sweet moment.
They shared the ceremony with their son, Jacob (Of course Callum had to ask if I was crying! Thank goodness for sunglasses!), and that was the most moving part. I guess you could say technically Ben is Jacob's step-father, but not really. When he fell for Amy, he fell for Jacob too, and this ceremony only made official what I know was already deeply true for them. (And believe me, I know Ben will roll his eyes at these sentimental words. I do know him pretty well, after all. I'm allowed to be sentimental though. It's how I feel, and even if he won't say it, I bet it's how he feels too...)
It was a perfect beachy wedding for this beach-loving family. Casual and fun from the minute you walked in the door. The invitations called it "Beach Chic," describing the dress code as "shorts, barefeet and flip flops are okay."
After the ceremony we celebrated with a beach party: rafts in the water, kids swimming, folks playing cornhole in the sand. All that with great food and music. Like I said, a perfect celebration that suited this family perfectly.
I did not put "getting a concussion" on our list of things to do this summer. Turns out I should have. Yesterday, in our familiar flurry to get out the door (Callum has tennis camp at his school this week), I slipped on some water on a tile floor and hit my head on a brick wall going down. As you can see, I hit some other things too. (That's an ice pack on the huge lump on my shin, by the way.)
Everything went dark for a second, and Callum tells me I said, "whoa." My immediate thought when I realized what happened was that somehow I needed to get Callum to camp. It was time to leave right now. Funny how your mind shifts to the important stuff, hmm? Poor Callum called Neel and helped me get upstairs to change clothes (I'd landed in the dogs' water dish) before cleaning up the mess, and I learned yet again that sometimes what is planned is not what is meant to be.
Neel got Callum off to camp, and I spent the day hunkered down, feeling queasy and sore. And still it was a good day. I was well tended to. My friend Jean, who had been outside when Neel came to get Callum, called to check in on me and brought me Tylenol for all my aches and pains. (Apparently ibuprofin, which my scientist husband had suggested I take, could cause bleeding in my brain...) I checked in with Catherine, whose baby I was supposed to watch for a bit yesterday, and she promptly hugged me and sent me back to bed. I called my friend Beck to ask the favor which we'd jovially declared we'd never need. Could she pick Callum up from camp for me? Sure enough, even though she wasn't feeling great herself, she was right there. Later that afternoon, at Callum's request, Nurse Rebecca came by with the diagnosis, advice and sweet concern.
So really, what more could a woman ask for (besides not to have a big lump on her head or the lingering headache)? When I needed it, everyone around me, all my dear dear loved ones stepped in...all I had to do was ask. I'm not good at the asking part. I don't like to do it one bit. But any and all of these things I'd do ten million times over for any of these guys, and there's no greater gift than knowing that they'd do and have done the same for me.
In the car to get Callum (I rode along; I just didn't want to drive.), I said to Beck, "Thank you SO much for helping me out today."
"It's no problem," she told me.
"I know it's not," I said, "but that doesn't mean I'm not grateful."
So here we are, sore as all heck, but not as queasy. Neel woke me (per Rebecca's instruction) a few times last night, and I think I'll live. Feeling luckier than before.
We spent a couple days in Williamsburg with some dear friends a weekend or so ago. It's the weekend that prompted me to say several cryptic things here like, "I'm looking so forward to seeing some friends this weekend that I can't contain myself." and "I think sometimes it's okay to put the camera down and just live life." That last sentence is tinged with regret, because I wish we had more pictures of all of us.
And that was just the first day!
We had a great dinner that first night at one of my favorite places in the world where for the first time I tried and very much liked a French 75. And after breakfast the next day, the boys and girls split up. One set of us going to Busch Gardens and the other set to the Williamsburg Spa. See if you can guess who went where.
At Busch Gardens, we the guys rode every ride, many times over. At the Spa, we had scrubs and massages and lunch and pedicures. And when we weren't separated by treatments, we talked and talked and talked. Afterward, Seamane and I had a cocktail at the Williamsburg Inn, and sitting on their gorgeous terrace, we talked some more. People, we had years to catch up on. I can't even tell you.
We regrouped for dinner at a restaurant that has been recommended to us many times over. I tried to get reservations on Open Table, and the site said no times were available for the next eight weeks! At dinner that first night, Neel stopped in and got reservations for 6:30 the next night, just like that! No problem.
Appetizers (tuna), the most scrumptious fish for dinner...I had scallops, Neel had grouper and Seamane and Rob had melt-in-your-mouth salmon. Callum was polite and pleasant and earned high marks from our server. It was a near-perfect dinner.
I've known Seamane since I was younger than Callum is now. Crazy isn't it? We were friends for a long time and then we grew up. I can't say we grew apart, exactly because we just grew up. College and life and now it's (ahem) twenty years (or so) later. But what a gift. I can't imagine anything more special than the fact that we loved each other before, as kids, and now that we've found each other again...well, as grown-ups I think we love each other even more. And the bonus? The sea salt on my brownie? Our families like each other too. Our husbands clicked, although, let's face it. Given both of these wonderful men, not hard to do. And Callum? Well, I think they like Callum! For his part, Callum has asked that Seamane and Rob be his honorary aunt and uncle. Since that christening last week, I get the sense that he's casting about for his own set of godparents. My cup is full.
We need to see them again, and soon. And next time, I'll take more pictures.
It was a wonderful day. Every minute of it. I felt so blessed to be included, not just in the day but as part of this wonderful family. The whole ceremony and service was so moving, really. A special way to kick off Father's Day.
...are the days that babies are born. I think that's a quote from Miss Melanie in Gone with the Wind. I'm too tired to go and look it up. Let me clarify. I did not have a baby. My friend Catherine did!
Many years ago, in another lifetime, I was a professional childbirth educator and doula. If you're not up to clicking on the link, doulas provide labor support services to couples during (and after) their birth experience. Neel and I had an amazing doula at Callum's birth (and an amazing birth, as well), and after that I was caught by the birthing bug. I like works in progress, and, let's face it, I like drama too. What can be more dramatic than the day that a little baby is born?
For various reasons, my life shifted away from labor support when we moved from California (where Callum was born), but I've been known to come out of retirement a time or two to do a brush-up childbirth class for some friends or stand by the side of a couple as their baby comes into the world.
Four years ago, when Tyler and Catherine had Elliot, they asked me to be with them for what turned out to be one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, and ever since then Catherine has said she wanted me "on the books" for when the time came around for the next one to arrive.
That time was yesterday.
If you're not so into birth and birth stories, you may want to skip this part, but I'll be brief. I understood what Catherine (and Tyler too, really) felt, about needing me there, because I've felt it too. That, "I couldn't have done it without you feeling." But truly, she did all of the work. I was just there to show her what a wonderful job she was doing. If I can get soapboxey for just a moment, I'll say that while I have opinions about ways in which the labor process just "works," and maybe even works better, unless it's actually my birth, it's not my birth. I have no right to impose my judgment on how any woman chooses to experience her child's labor and birth. As a doula, my role was to advocate for you. To support you and to create a safe and nurturing, intimate environment for a couple to go through the process of birthing their baby. Catherine wanted as little intervention as possible in her labor, and my role was to support her in getting that.
She'd done it before with Elliot, and, with me there or not, I had no doubt that she could do it again. Of course she did. She and Tyler make an amazing team. He may want to crack a joke, but he knows not to, and he'd do anything for her. You can just see how proud he is of her. He should be. I am.
Many times I've grown close to my clients. Sometimes in situations that were too tragic to comprehend. Sometimes I was lucky enough to be at the births of friends' children. Those are the best. But this? This was extra special. Catherine is right next door to me, and we've grown very close, especially in the four years since Elliot's birth. Especially in the last weeks of this pregancy. She may have felt like she needed me to do this thing, but I was so honored to have been asked to be there. This may be the last baby I see come into the world in such a way. I can't imagine a better way to do it.
And that little guy? Not so little! 9 pounds, 13 oz. Mom had no meds. She's a rockstar.
We celebrated St. Patrick's Day in the 'hood on Friday night. Aussie Paul made Irish Soda Bread, (and while the beef brisket was good, it's not so photogenic) and we had our first al fresco meal of the season on Tyler and Catherine's back patio. The kids rode bikes and kicked the soccer ball and we talked and laughed with the NCAA tournament on in the background (my bracket's totally busted, how about yours?). Guinness started the evening, but we finished up with cheese and dried fruit and Jameson under the stars and almost-super-full moon. It was a great start to the weekend and, I think, a harbinger of a great spring to come.
I think I mentioned that a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to take some photos in a gorgeous shop that is partly owned by a friend of mine. Yesterday I got even luckier and got to take some photos of the three gals who own Simply Selma's, and you'll see those here as soon as I have a chance to edit them.
I love still life photography. In a time that has been filled to the brim with relationships and capturing them with my camera, it was a breath of fresh air to take photos where I didn't have to worry about posing people or someone's eyes being closed or making someone laugh or even talking. I could be quiet and just take pictures. It was nice.
The store itself is a breath of fresh air too. That first day, when I went in to see my friend Marianne and nose around a bit, she gave me a complete tour, showing me all her favorite things. I tried to capture the details, but what I love about it are the layers of beautiful objects waiting to be discovered. Marianne talked about how they'll stand at the front of the store and figure out how the room will unfold for a customer. How a customer will walk through and experience each section, each surprising and delightful discovery. We're reading Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit for my photography class, and she talks about how when she's choreographing a dance piece, she pulls back. She moves so far that she becomes a "surrogate for the audience." If she could pull back further, she would.
I hope you enjoy the photos I took, and if you're in the 757, stop in sometime. You won't regret it. It takes every ounce of willpower I have to walk out with my wallet intact each time I'm there. (Last time I just locked it in the trunk of my car!)
When we went for lunch at the boulangerie (without poor Violet) last week, I relented and let Callum get a Coke. It's a rare treat for him. We don't keep it in the house, and he's rarely allowed to order it. This carmely brown elixir leads you down a dangerous path, trust me. I know whereof I speak. Coke and I go a long way back.
I couldn't look at that sweating cup without thinking back to all the Cokes of my childhood (My parents gave it to me before bed at night to ease colic when I was an infant (I know, right!?), so Coke and I go waaaay back.). And when it's a fountain Coke we're speaking of, I can't help but think of my friend Sarah. We haven't chatted in ages and I'm not even sure she checks in on this blog anymore, but memories of sharing secrets and laughs over Cokes with her are some of my clearest. It was comfort food for us. Fountain cokes with lots of ice. They were the best. Sarah would wrap a napkin around her glass when we were at her house, somehow making it fit perfectly... anthropologically, I guess it was an early koozie. I still can't manage to do it here. Not the right napkins, I suppose. We experimented with flavored Cokes, New York Seltzer and even diet, but always back to Coke we came. And it's Coke, by the way. Not Pepsi or anything else. I was so indoctrinated into the Coke culture that it was baffling for me to go to college (out of the south into the midwest) and hear people talk about things like "pop" or "soda." Hmmm. I'll have a Coke, please.
As my migraines increased, Coke became one of my comforts. Medicinal. Never as good out of the can, but when Callum was little, I'd buy two cases each week to keep in the fridge. I can't tell you how many I went through in a day. If my head started to hurt, I'd reach first for a Coke before any meds. I gained weight. I felt sluggish. But staying home with a toddler can do that to you too, I suppose.
I tried to quit. Lasted a few weeks and with one headache I would be back at it. Willpower? Not so much. Finally, in August of 2002, I gave it up. Went cold turkey, just like that. Bye-bye Coke. I didn't get the withdrawal headache and irritability as much as a longing for my friend. Pretty pathetic, huh? But this time it stuck. And I haven't had one since. I recognize that I was seriously addicted. Around the nine month point, I had a "using" dream. I woke up from dreams of drinking a Coke and thought, "What a stupid move, Lauren. You went nine whole months and had to go and have a stupid Coke." Guess what? It was just a dream. How crazy is that?
I've been clean almost nine years now!
It's recognizing the real hold that drink had over me that gives me caution with Callum's soda drinking. We were a no soda family for the longest time. Then we eased up and let him get a Sprite every so often when we go out to dinner. We still don't keep any in the house. And we won't. But you know what? He's eleven. He's a kid. He likes soda. And he's so sweet and conscientious. If he's offered a Coke at his friend's house, he'll call and ask for permission. Of course I say yes. I don't want it to become forbidden fruit. It isn't. Moderation is the name of the game for us.
I will admit to having a sip or two of Callum's Coke when we've been out. A sip or two won't kill me. (That day at lunch, I thought, "Oh, I'll have to ask Callum for a sip before it's gone." And by the time I remembered, he was down to the ice.) It tastes okay. Not nearly as good as my memory of how it tasted.
What do you call a person with whom you "chat with" regularly but have never actually met? You've probably seen Peter's name in the comments section on this blog, where he visits often (as I do his), and since there's never been a cross word between us, I'll choose to call him friend.
This is my friend Peter's soup. When I saw the recipe on his blog, I knew I had to make it. He does a regular feature called "Eat the Season" and this recipe features leeks. I sure do love leeks. And I knew that this particular soup would be right up Callum's alley. Brothy? Check. Meaty? Check. Filled with lots of tasty bits? Check and check.
So as you may have seen, my neighbor Catherine is expecting! I've been taking a lot of pictures of her lately. Since she wasn't having a proper shower with games and all, several of us on the block scheduled a lunch and connived to make it a celebration of mama and bubster.
I can't even count the emails that were involved in planning this realtively simple affair, but the celebration part was meant to be a surprise. And a large percentage of those emails were panicked when A) Catherine considered backing out because she was too busy, B) Catherine got sick, and C) Catherine decided to drive herself to lunch.
It all worked out in the end, and instead of lunching we had high tea (consisting of tea sandwiches, scones, petit fours and cupcakes)...it did occur to me to worry that she was disappointed that we didn't go out to lunch. (Don't worry, we made plans.)
Take note of the cupcakes. They're from Carolina Cupcakery. Hello. Rebecca, who was in charge of cupcakes said that they do one alcholic cupcake a day and you have to have an adult there with you to pick it up. Yesterday's cupcake was "pink champagne." Now why couldn't we have hosted a wedding shower? I kid! I kid!
It was a perfectly lovely afternoon. Poor Catherine didn't feel well, but we still managed to laugh and laugh and laugh. I hoped she felt a little better. And celebrated as the wonderful mama that she is. New babies are pretty special.
So. About that photography class. I'm not going to lie and say I'm not a little intimidated. The word "advanced" will do that to you. I don't feel advanced. I feel like a pretender. This is not a technique class. I need more of that too, though. This is a class about finding your photographic vision. Hmmm. The goal is that by the end we have a body of work (gulp) and in doing so, push our boundaries. Those things, I could use.
By the end of the first class, we needed to come up with an idea for the project we'd work on for the duration of the course. It took me through my drive home after class (I'm not so good at doing things on time, I guess.), but I landed on what I wanted to do. For the next seven weeks, I'm going to focus on photographing relationships. I feel comfortable catching spontaneous moments. I have no problem snapping a shot of some kids in our front yard and printing it off to give to a neighbor. I'm hoping to work toward more portrait work. That's a challenge to me. Not stiff, but what our teacher calls "planned spontaneity." Each week Jackie, (she's our teacher) will give us an assignment (this past week was "dramatic lighting," for example), but for me, the assignments will fall under the theme of photographing relationships.
You'll see some of those photos here, I imagine. And a lot you won't. I can't say I'm not a little nervous. But excited too. And how about that relationship in that picture up there? What more potent relationship than one that is just beginning, for everyone. Brother or sister, who knows?
One of the most lovely and decadent gifts I we were given this year was from my friend Seamane. (And no, I don't count the camera bag that Neel gave me that you see in Sunday's post as "decadent." I call that functional and necessary.) Totally out of the blue and quite ironically just after I wrote about this, the most wonderful package arrived in the mail.
Hello? Hot chocolate on a stick? And not just any hot chocolate, but just about the best hot chocolate you've ever tasted. A little glimpse of Paris from Petrossian, but right in my living room.
With great ceremony, we shared one with my dad on Christmas night. Neel doesn't have a sweet tooth, so the three of us (me, Callum and Alfie), dipped and stirred most impatiently, until our chocolate blocks were melted goodness.