What We Think Is Expected of Us

DSC_197547. I just had to turn off NPR mid-way through a story on eating disorders. It was killing my morning vibe. But it triggered a thought about self-perception and and fitting-in. Fitting in, what is that? Fitting into what? It’s a ridiculous trap. I know that it seems so simple to say, but at times in our lives it feels impossible to ignore.

To find true balance and happiness, is it possible that we can unlearn what is expected of us (perceived or real), and instead learn to tune in? Tune in to that quiet truth that knows what makes us feel whole. Tuning out the noise of “yes, that’s cool, but to be truly happy you have to do all of this other stuff first”.

I’m 5′ 1″. I blush easily. I’m a hard working space cadet. I don’t have children at 41. I uprooted my life and moved across the country and essentially started over. I am doing all of the things that I’m not supposed to do, I suppose. If I were 5’7″ and could fit into clothes designed for a 16-year-old high-fashion waif model, and had 1.5 children and a predictable career. Well, I don’t worry about any of those things any more. But I did. For a while there, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be sure to DO THINGS RIGHT because that would prevent me pain. It would prevent the worst from happening, it would assure my safety, security, success and happiness. And it was all a lie. The only thing thing that came of not challenging what I was expected to do was frustration. Tuning into who you are and what you want and need is not dangerous. It’s not scary. It’s following a true path that will become easier once you commit to it. The whole world will open up if you let the whole world be. And focus instead on just on being you.

This is my favorite image from a few weeks back. I’m in the backseat of my sisters car, on our way to do a family session at the beach. Her stepson Kyle is scrolling through Twitter next to me, and I glance through his bent arm to see the precious cheeks of her daughter. Without an ounce of fitting in energy having yet invaded her little spirit.

DCRA and Space and Inspiration


IMG_245246. I have written this blog for 46 mornings now, mainly about nature, beauty, and personal growth.

But this morning, yesterday, and for about 300 days before that, my accountant and I have been in a struggle with the DC Regulatory Affairs office over something so minor it is actually mind-numbing. Calling them again had to be the first task on my to-do list or I would not do it.

So sometimes you wake up to write. And that place in your brain that should be space and inspiration is instead filled with acronyms, forms and who you need to call next. There isn’t a creative drop available to lean on. In fact, creativity is taking a break while you get this junk sorted. But without her, my mind is a drag. My job is a drag. My days feel filled with mundane tasks that do not fill me.

So I’m making a commitment today to be my creative spirit’s best (and only, really) advocate. To give space and inspiration an actual place on the calendar. It now says “8 – 9am Space and Inspiration” and “2 – 3pm Space and Inspiration” and “5:00 – 5:30pm Space and Inspiration.” Who knows if I’ll use all of those slots. And what they’ll be filled with. I’ll let you know.

I think that this is what it’s all about. Whether your an artist, an entrepreneur, an accountant or a doctor – there is something that makes you see, makes you feel alive. How do we protect that very thing and give it priority seating throughout the day? Not when it’s convenient, but when we don’t seem to have anything left?

P.S. This is a photo from my solo cross country trip a few years back. Space and Inspiration every morning. Crawl out of tent, stretch, write, map the day on the road atlas. And repeat.

The Moon and our Lives

TheMoon45. I was sitting on our sailboat, engine off, floating in the Puget Sound with some good friends, as we watched it rise. The moon rose like opportunity. As a surprise. A rebirth, powerful in its potential and its beauty.

Coming Home

44. I’ve been in Hawaii for the last week, with a best friend who I met on the street in D.C. a decade and a half ago. She and I were among the rare few in a city to make eye contact, talk with strangers, and follow up. We both showed the vulnerability of wanting (and needing) friends, opened ourselves up to the possibility that meeting someone new might be awkward, and took those risks regardless. And man, was that risk worth it. Erin is a soul sister, she has been an honest witness to my life, and has said the hard things that needed to be said in moments where I was at an impasse. We have put in thousands of miles in our well worn sneakers, training for marathons and breathing in the air of Rock Creek Park (and Port Angeles, California, New Mexico and K’auai), filled with gratitude for natural beauty, especially in the season of falling leaves and rushing waters. Her husband took vacation and cared for their three boys so that she and I could take this last week to run, hike, get muddy, snorkle, yoga, read and talk. A reset for the both of us. I couldn’t be more grateful to a couple who always says “yes” instead of “maybe”. Love you girl.

Bucket List

IMG_9914.jpg43. Bucket lists. I don’t have one. I’m of the belief that today is the one day that we have for sure, and so if there’s a desire to do or see something, now is the time. We can balance responsible living with living with passion and exploration. It just takes a bit of practice, flexibility and imagination. And often another who reminds you that anything is possible. But Yosemite in the winter time, that had been on my list. I had lived aside the Merced River just outside the park for a summer after college. Three students and I were hired by the Department of the Interior to perform energy audits of park buildings. We lived in a double-wide trailer with a coin operated laundry machine, bears invading our dumpster each evening, and a view of the wild Merced and surrounding mountains that was jaw dropping. Yosemite feels so familiar, after seeing it from the bowels of the operations: the facilities department, the backs of kitchens, the stockrooms. Having spent that time, I always wondered how it would feel to walk through that sacred land on skis, after the hundreds of thousands of tourists had gone home for the harsh winters, planning their return for the following July. So a couple of winter seasons ago, as my partner and I drove home from LA to Seattle, we passed through the park. Our back country skis had been in the car, but in a just in case fashion. We had no plan. We had work and life to attend to back in Seattle. But in true serendipity, we snagged two last minute openings in a back country cabin, and hiked 12 miles on skis to paradise. A little cabin in a bowl of snow welcomed us after a grueling day of up and down. We entered to a warming fire, twenty cots, a giant farm table, a cookstove to prepare our simple meals, and two dedicated days to ski and unplug. We made some fast friends, and experienced true connection with others, ourselves, the brilliant night sky and the tremendous power of nature. Yosemite in the winter. Check, check and check. And yet another reminder to put yourself in the way of magic. To say yes, when it’s far easier to say “nah, I gotta get home to do the laundry.”

Look Around

FamilyPriority842. This is Annie, checking me out….using her own lens as I work with mine. It took me a minute to see her, as just Joey and Jimmy were in the frame to begin with. I think many photographers go into a session with an expectation of what will come out of it, if we control the scene. But after all of these years, the images that I love the most are when I let the the subjects drive the train. There’s a risk there – the risk of not knowing what the result will be, but, like life, taking risks pays off.

Life Design


41. Here, in Kaua’i. Working while looking out over the ocean, the crashing waves are waking my senses and reminding me that life is both ever changing and rhythmically the same. This contradiction lives within me, qualities I would prefer to change, the appreciation for who I am, the memory for who I was and the dream of who I want to be. All of this, and yet, it’s just life. It’s just today that I have tucked away for sure. It’s a pretty good day.

Coming of Age

000340. This was one of my favorite projects. Linda came to me and said something along the lines of: “My daughter is transitioning out of being an adolescent, and she’s becoming a women. She’s got this look that just strikes me sometime. It’s all hers, it’s sassy, it’s something that I never want to forget. I want to capture her as she is now so that she has an heirloom of herself that she’ll cherish in fifty years”. She sent me some images of classic, old Hollywood starlets to help define the posing and lighting styles. Then she and her daughter went vintage shopping, and found both a dress and a frame to hold the final image for all time. Seriously, collaborating with a client on a creative, important project such as this – man, what a treat.

A wedding for Two


38. Patrick and Elita got married. But they didn’t just do that. They were married – intentionally, wholly, and alone with the other. The officiant and I made four. Patrick, an artist and documentarian, is one of the most tranquil people you’ll ever meet. He found peace in Elita, and they had a beautiful wedding cake for two, gorgeous flowers, and a tranquil setting at a historic Virginia home. It was one of the most soulful experiences I’ve ever been part of. Patrick is an artist, a quiet and perceptive person, and filled with gratitude. For his wife, most of all, I’d imagine.

Beyond Happy

HeAteIt38. What’s that sound, what’s the word, for when you love something so much you just want to bite it? You know what I’m talking about. It’s snowing outside – 6 inches have fallen so uniquely here in Seattle – and I hear kids gleefully sliding/sledding/falling down the street outside of my window. They are SO PSYCHED. They’re out of school, they are with their friends, they are individuating themselves. This morning reminds me of one of my favorite interviews ever:

Terry Gross: Can you share some of your favorite comments from readers that you’ve gotten over the years?

Maurice Sendak: Oh, there’s so many. Can I give you just one that I really like? It was from a little boy. He sent me a charming card with a little drawing. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters – sometimes very hastily – but this one I lingered over. I sent him a postcard and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim, I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.