Friday, November 21, 2014

picture imperfect

I bring my camera with me almost everywhere.

There have been many times I've actually forgotten my purse or a fresh diaper- but I remembered my camera. I love the way the world looks through a lens. A way that perspective doesn't provide me with in the moment. Time stands still. Babies don't grow. Beauty rises to the top while hard and comparison and guilt and fear and imperfect truly fade away.

I was desperate to learn photography because Greyson was drifting away. The pictures I took of him didn't look like him. His eyes looked vacant. Some of the pictures actually scared me because I didn't even recognize the boy looking back at me. And then I found out why. And I was willing to make a pact with the devil. Please. I will do anything. There is a light in my son so bright that some people can't see it. It flashes for a second and knocks me to my knees while I am left begging for it to come stay. I needed to capture that light and say- See. It exists. It is real. 

I pulled an old DSLR Canon camera I bought Michael the Christmas before that was still in the box. I shot on the automatic setting and it wasn't good enough. I found out in order to take quick and amazing photos I needed to be shooting in the camera's manual mode. I started reading everything I could at night and practicing during the day. ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed became my new language. It was so confusing. It involved numbers and inverse relationships that I kept flipping. It was the second thing I was inherently BAD at that I wanted to KEEP doing in my life in order to get better. (Mothering was first). At first my pictures were so bad. Blurry, overexposed- but mostly they didn't make me FEEL. They didn't tell my story. I wanted my photos to tell the same story my mind saw. 

And one day Grey looked and I was quick enough to snap my shutter and I finally caught it. I was high. And I started to learn how to catch it again and again. I had to let him lead. I couldn't say sit here or look here or do this. I just had to let him be Greyson. And I kept at it until finally one day- the images in my camera started to line up with the image in my eyes.

That was three years ago now. Our life is so different. But (for today at least) it feels like it was always meant to be mine just the way it is. Life wants to be loved unconditionally and I am trying to do just that. To celebrate the things I love and to handle the things I don't love with grace. And if autism has to be present in my life, I will learn to at least be grateful for the other gifts it brings. Autism and photography changes the way I feel about everything. The way I look at everything. I am raw to everything in the world now. Suffering, pain, beauty.

And sometimes I wish my heart wasn't such a sponge, absorbing everything in it's wake. But it also helps me find beauty in everything simple. Perfect posed pictures will never tell our story. And I'm more than okay with that. I love our story. Who cares about a happy ending? I want a happy today.

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Grey made this owl at school and something about it made me cry. Maybe it was the wonky overglued right eye. Maybe it was the fact that I'm sure he had help and it took him ten times longer than the rest of the kids.

We went out front and played in the leaves. The colors were so vibrant I felt like we were in a painting.

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Let me get this leaf out brother.

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If you ever have any questions or want me to share any info on taking pictures, feel free to ask away. To get amazing pictures you must do three things:

  • Purchase a DSLR camera (I started with a Canon Rebel and a $100 50 mm lens)
  • Be willing to take a ton of crappy pictures
  • Love your life unconditionally. That love shines through in your imperfect images.

Happy Friday,


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

lovers gonna love


Why is the Lifetime Movie Network already playing Christmas movies? Ewww.

Better question: WHY am I watching the (second in a row) aforementioned Christmas movie in the first place?!!! 

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But speaking of Christmas - How adorable is this cutie?! I am officially retired from photography for now, but if you are my friend and you come over to hang out and you have the world's cutest baby like Matthew, I WILL take their picture whether you like it or not.

Why do I go into the kitchen for ONE single thing, repeating the thing I am getting the whole time so I don't forget: pen, pen, pen...and then stand in the kitchen...pause...and can't remember what I came in for. So then I grab something from the pantry that I don't need like a mini Kit Kat (WHY ARE THEY SO FRICKING DELICIOUS?!) And then I go ALLLLLL the way back upstairs and then BAM- remember the pen. I blame forgetfulness for obesity in America. It's just people going into the kitchen too often and grabbing Kit Kats instead of pens.

Also- Why do I always let me phone and computer get to 1% battery before I run around like an INSANE person on fire looking for the charger? Why, why, why?!!! 

Are you like me too? 

I feel the solid weight of Parker in my arms while rocking him goodnight. 

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I will rock him until he's forty if he lets me. I place my nose at the top of his head and I breathe so deep I can feel it in my toes. He always smells just like Parker, one of my favorite scents on earth. Sometimes he smells clean like the bath and light like hope. Sometimes he smells like dirt and rosemary-- he plays IN a rosemary bush we have outside and it smells awful to me now. Like old man and B.O. But still- it's my Parker so it's just perfect. But I will NEVER order rosemary ANYTHING at a restaurant. Oh man, it's my favorite part of the day and lucky, lucky, lucky runs on a loop in my mind. Not because he's finally going to bed and I get alone time (but me-oh-my thank gosh for that). But it's the part of the day where time slows down like I often beg it to- a time where chaos and calm collide and explode and the calm is all that survives. Life seems to make the most sense then. 

All we can do is keep breathing. Hard, easy, hard, easy. Life.

In therapy I was talking about a situation in which my feelings were hurt and I was left feeling shamed with others around. A situation in which I felt put down and then felt sad and then felt angry. What did I do in the moment? I shut down. I didn't retaliate. I stayed quiet. I took deep breaths. I'm a lover not a fighter and conflict is never my first choice. 

Cause the players gonna play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate
Baby I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake

Shake it off

And where did all that shame and anger go? The therapist asked. And with no warning I started to sob. I grabbed tight to the scarf I was wearing and burrowed into it like a little girl with her woobie while my shoulders and my heart shook. I didn't understand why I was crying so hard and then I did. Because it's all in there still. The pain. The fear. The anger. Shame. Inadequacy. Sadness. Life. There's a vast room of it hidden deep inside the basement of me and I don't know how to get to it to get it out. I stay far away from there so I don't get lost down there and get stuck inside that room forever. I always feel like I am dealing and letting go- and then BOOM. A moment like that happens and I feel the weight of that pent up room. 

I used to eat it out. Get fast food or go to the grocery store and buy all the things I deprived myself of and eat. And eat and eat. And all those feelings grew too big for my skin and I couldn't rip it off so I would throw it up. And those bad feelings got flushed down the toilet. But that is no way to deal with feelings. So immediately after I graduated college I started therapy for an eating disorder. Then I would run my feelings out because I couldn't throw them up. And with each pounding of the pavement those awful feelings would release. Out. Out. Out. All the anger and fear and inadequacy of life. There were days I don't think I would have survived without a run. And then a year and a half ago my knee blew out. The cartilage is gone. And with twice yearly injections the pain is gone but running is out of the question.

Which leads me to now on a therapists couch. Sobbing. I guess writing is my new running. But it isn't enough. I need to learn how to speak what is on my mind in the moment without stuffing it down. And it's easy to yell at someone who is awful. Or turn the other cheek if someone is just ignorant or not worth my time or I know won't change. But it's hard to speak up when my feelings are hurt in my own personal relationships. When I am disappointed. When I really need someone to be there for me. I get disappointed and let down and I stuff that inside too. I have no problem sharing when I am sad or happy. Why is it so hard to be honest when there is conflict? Can't lovers ALSO be truth telllers as opposed to fighters? Even if the truth isn't sparkly and shiny? And when we do get our feelings hurt and don't say anything- where do all those unhappy feelings go? 

How do you release them?

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Time with Friends always fills me up. Parker brought a book outside with him and he gave it to Frank to read.

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Do you know how sometimes we are in a tough moment and we think our whole life is awful- not just that moment? Maybe that room inside me isn't nearly as big as I think it is. At least that how I feel now that you and I are here chatting. Maybe writing is the new running.

(or maybe not and I'm just as screwed up as I initially thought. Everything doesn't always have to have a happy ending to be okay.) 


One last thing! What was it. I can't remember. Why did I come back here again?
OH YES!!! I want to share this piece I wrote for Autism Speaks on 5 Ways to Take Care of You! The tips work are even good for Moms (and Dads) who aren't affected by autism).

Monday, November 17, 2014

another day in paradise

I went to bed last night at 9:30pm. That's the earliest I've gone to bed since I was probably eight years old. My eyelids were drooping and Greyson had just fallen asleep on my shoulder. {heaven}. The air outside was cold and under the covers was so so warm. But I desperately need time alone.

Are you going to sleep now? Michael asked.
No, I replied half steam.
Why not? He asked.
Because I don't want to miss out on everything. I realized how silly it sounded after I said it.
Like what? he asked confused.
Reading. Or watching TV. Or just simply being alone, I said.
You can do all of those things tomorrow he said. He was right- so off I went to sleepy town.

Ahhhh, alone time is my soul mate. I want to marry it. I need it to refuel. A couple of months ago I was reading something about introvert/extroverts. It said introverts need alone time to refuel and extroverts need the company of other people to refuel. Until that moment I have ALWAYS thought of myself as an extrovert. I was in sales. I like talking to people. I'm loud. I have no problem sharing all my secrets (duh).

But getting out of the sales environment, becoming a parent, and moving to a new town without knowing a soul has changed me deep in my fibers. I've started to discover who I am when I am absolutely myself. I started taking old myers-briggs personality tests and reading more about introverts. (If you want to take one CLICK HERE). Ah- ha! There were so many introverted qualities that described ME. Qualities I thought meant I was broken:  I frequently need alone time to reset. I find small talk cumbersome. Networking makes me feel like a phony. Downtime does NOT feel unproductive to me. I have a constant inner monologue.

The funny thing is- I also have many strong extroverted qualities and based on the day I've scored as both an introvert and an extrovert. I pivot right on the line of both. Today I am an ENFJ- you have to take the test to see what that means. It's helped me open my eyes to realize the importance of looking at myself without judgement. I'm so ready to label something I do as wrong or messed up instead of looking at myself with compassion and more importantly instead of focusing on what I'm good at- instead of looking at ways I am "flawed." So maybe I'm not comfortable in big groups of people- I am very comfortable in small intimate settings. There's always two sides to every situation. One doesn't have to be "good" while one is "bad." We are always looking to fix or change ourselves when we really are just right- exactly the way we are. 

Repeat after me: I am just perfect- exactly the way I am. 

Some scenes from today...

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These two have been inseparable lately. I used to chalk it up to that the times he was carrying food - but I noticed she's right by his side even when his hands are empty. She's my pain in the ass dog- but boy do I love her extra big when I see her right by his side.

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(Here they were over the weekend.)

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Smoothies before speech. Please note Parker's- "I haven't worn long pants since last Winter and my Mom is in denial that I grow so fast and didn't realize they were too short until they were already on so she rolled them up like this and now I look like a doofus" pants.

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My lunch today because of all the CRAP I ate over the weekend. Locals: Dog House Grill. Need I say more?

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Times two

ONE LAST THING. I received a message from Katie Driscoll asking for my and your help- She's Changing the Face of Beauty to include ALL people with Special Needs. Katie has already made huge strides but she won't settle until Special Needs advertising is main stream. She challenges all of us to make a video urging our favorite retailers to include people with all Super Powers. Check out our video! If you do one make sure you share and hashtag #changingthefaceofbeauty and #theellenshow 

Just another day in Paradise. Until we meet again my Friend. 

Much Love,

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

get away

One day.

Sometimes that's all it takes to get you out of your head...and into your life.

We rarely ever ever never go away over night. Parker has not been able to sleep outside of his own bed. I don't mean he has trouble sleeping. I mean- HE DOES NOT FRICKING SLEEP. Awake until 1am and then sleeping in two hour intervals in between blood curdling screaming. Like front desk of the hotel calling and politely saying, "Is everything okay in your room?" (because could you IMAGINE if they said- you need to shut your kid up?!). We've tried driving him around and pack and plays and cribs and him sleeping in the bed. Everything.

And I love sleep. More than Reality TV- which is A LOT. 

It's been over a year so we decided it was time to suck it up and get away. We joined my Annie at their friends beautiful cabin in the woods. 

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There were big spaces for the boys to run free in Avila Beach- a tiny little nook about 160 miles northwest of Los Angeles. We went to the most amazing place on earth called the Avila Valley Barn.  They had all the things that little boys like. A market and bakery and ice cream and hay rides and delicious food and animals and dirt and a million other things. It was a little island of magic free of everything that clutters your mind in the real world.

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Even little baby Adirondack chairs. And yes, I had to google how to spell Adirondack. And no I can never say it. Let's all just agree to call them wooden beach chair thingys. Deal?

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But the best, best part was the beach. That's one of the things I love so much about pictures. When I look at them -it's like I'm still there. I can almost hear the water slapping against the sand.

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The sky contained the setting sun and so many clouds you could barely see the sky at times. The air was crisp and wet and full of energy.

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Laughing, screaming, running, sandy, wet and freezing cold perfection.

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Don't you just love that feeling when the tide goes back to its Momma and it sucks your feet and tries to take it with you? Yep, Doodle did too.

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He is at peace there. More at peace than I have ever seen him in his life.

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Me too. I can't remember the last time I felt THIS alive. 


PS- Parker slept in a pack and play ALL NIGHT LONG. Amen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Happy like it's your job

I used to think happy was something we were entitled to. Once all the things lined up just right then poof- congratulations- Happy. I thought some people were lucky and happy came to them naturally. Or maybe they were just happy because they were rich or perfect or had one of everything in the world. I wanted to be happy so I sat and waited for my entitled dose to come along.

And I sat and I sat and I sat and waited for a particular brand of happy that never came my way. Which made sense because I never found rich or flawless or finally collected one of all the things in the Universe. So I started to trek to find my own happiness, just in case it couldn't find me. 

And then life happened to me. Real life. Struggle. Fear. Hot searing pain that pierced into my heart. I was so sad, not only about the circumstances but about the fact that my now imperfect life would never know happy again. I mourned the death of happy like it was a person. Or oxygen. How in the world are you supposed to find happy when you know certain imperfect circumstances in your life are never ever going to change? I didn't think happiness was an option in a world so flawed. But I was wrong. 

Absolutely wrong.

Happiness is planting your feet firmly in the chaos of life and holding tight to a willingness to look for beauty. Happiness is not an absence of imperfection but the ability to overlook it in order to notice the good stuff. Look around - the formula for happiness is not all the riches in the world. It's not physical beauty or one of everything. It's not perfect health. It's not the things we buy or the way we look. Focusing on all of those things are actually distractions on the road to happy, and are unfortunately detours that some people never ever make it around. Don't let that happen to you. Choose happy. Be happy. Here are some simple ways to start. 

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Surround yourself with happy when you can. Happiness feeds (and therefore creates) more happy. Same with sadness. Pay attention to your focus. What and who are you filling yourself up with? Choose good things. Positive things. What are your triggers that bring you down? Maybe it's watching the News. Maybe it's Facebook or an energy sucking friend or family member. Stop doing things out of guilt or obligation with the people that make you feel bad. Take that happy back for yourself. Say no to the things that bring you down. When do you feel your best? Maybe it's while you are reading, or at church, or while running.

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For me it's while taking pictures. I'm grateful for the way it makes me notice the beauty of light. 

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The way it melted its golden goodness on Parker made me feel so at peace. I was so happy I couldn't wait to share it with my camera.

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Chasing light makes me so happy.

Spend HALF as much time taking care of yourself as you do bashing, second guessing, rushing, criticizing and cutting down. Organize your thoughts- challenge yourself into new ways of thinking. 

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When you start to ruminate or obsess- just think STOP. Refocus. Focus on solutions, not problems.  Psychologist David Lykken believes we can absolutely pursue happiness. We can do this by thwarting negative emotions such as pessimism, resentment, and anger. And we can foster positive emotions, such as empathy, serenity, and especially gratitude. We can do this every damn day from the moment we wake up. 

Make time for a hobby. If you don't have one try many on for size. If you have that figured out do something to contribute to it daily. Whether it's three minutes or thirty. Make time for you. Guilt free time. It's not selfish it's self preservation. It's a gorgeous reminder that life is not all obligation- it's also adventure. The more time you give to you the more it creates for others. Spend five extra minutes getting ready in the morning as an investment in you. Look around and practice grateful just for YOU. Not for Facebook. Not to show others: I'm so blessed. But just to FEEL. I read an article about a young woman with cystic fibrosis who was getting married. Life expectancy of those with this disease is improving, but many die in their 20's and 30's. Breathing is extremely difficult and often painful. They have to use oxygen. After I read this I just sat there in awe of the fact that I have working lungs. It's an amazing gift and one that I take for granted. Reading about other's struggles helps me remember how much I have to be grateful for.

Do things for other without expecting anything in return. Help people. A million different people in tiny different ways. I know, I know- you are busy. But we trick ourselves into thinking what we do must be big or expensive or elaborate and time consuming to make a difference. That's just not true. It can be tiny. Drag the neighbors trash cans up their curb on trash day. Wave cars in the lane in front of you and stop being in such a damn hurry, bring a teacher an apple, push someones grocery cart back to the store for them. Little. Tiny. Daily things. They are like prayers with legs ,trickling forward and changing the world.

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Go practice happy. Happy like it's your job and you are damned good at it. Don't sit and wait for it- go and create it now. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

unexpected expectations

I am on a self-proclaimed Mommy time out.

Monday whooped my ass and I am a grumpy dog. And then Daylight Savings time kicked me while I was down. I'm solar-powered and "dark" is a synonym for "pajamas". And "cold" is a synonym for "eat more carbs". Today is day one of candy detox. I had completely forgotten how much Reece's Peanut Butter cups completed me. Snickers too. And Kit Kats. 

So tonight is short and complainy (and whiny and annoying)--you know- instead of sweet. Perhaps you are sugar detoxing too.

Halloween. The best one yet, Friends. There have been some doozies. A couple of ones that ended in tears- Greyson and mine. Dammit. It's not usually the circumstances that get us- it's our expectations of what we THOUGHT it was going to look like. Which is understandable because we paint beautiful pictures in our minds and sometimes reality just doesn't look like that. We may need and deserve time to mourn that. We need time to paint new beautiful pictures. Sometimes we just need a big old blank canvas and a willingness to let life paint it for us while we stand back prepared to admire the results.

At the last minute I decided I was going to dress up. It sounded really awful and I wasn't in the mood but I did it anyway. Do you know why? Because when I was a little girl that's what I expected I would do as a mom. I wanted to be the fun Mom. You see- sometimes our expectations DO come true.

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Happy Halloween from the witch, the Dragon who HATED standing still and Plex the robot.

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They were both happiest roaming.

They didn't really get the trick or treating thing. Come to think of it- I don't either. You know kids- I don't want you to go to people's homes if we don't know them. I also don't want you taking candy from strangers. But tonight - let's do both of those things- k?

We made it to at least 12 houses- which is like one million percent more than previous years combined. And the boys tried to go in every home- like in the back bedroom- not the foyer. And Grey screamed when we couldn't. And it was nothing like I expected and it was absolutely awesome. Pure sparkly giggling awesome.

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Go out into the world and paint that beautiful picture, Friends.

Off to Bravo TV and hopefully NOT eat chocolate.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

the beauty of time

It finally feels Fall-ish in the Central Valley of California. And by Fall I mean the daytime temps have at least dipped into the 70's. 

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As we prepare for Halloween I realize how so much of life is the same routine year after year marking the milestones of time. Many of us (ahem) scramble at the last minute to put everything together and are irked as we discover Christmas items already flooding our stores. Why does that make us SO MAD? Probably because so much of life already feels like it's on fast forward. So fast we get dizzy. We beg- Can't we just do one holiday at a time?! Our lives move forward with lightening speed and our babies grow even faster than that. We just want to be reminded of one holiday at a time because really that's all our heart can handle. Tonight I stopped by the mall and saw the North Pole set up ready to go for pictures with Santa. I took deep breaths and refused to get mad at "Retail America." I don't deserve to be mad, I deserve to be happy. So do you. Don't get mad- just don't buy yet. We will do one holiday at a time together, Friend. 

The other day I was telling one of our favorite babysitters about some frog I dated back in my single days in Los Angeles. He was kind but so so annoying. I can still hear the way he smacked his lips when he ate. And unfortunately once someone you are dating takes a turn onto annoying street suddenly EVERYTHING they do is annoying.

She looked him up his name on Facebook and showed me the picture. Is this him? She asked. I looked. WOAH. "WAIT- what?! I mean- that's him but he's like...'middle age'" I said the term in the tone you would reserve for some other disgusting word like 'panties' in shock. His hair used to be dark blond- and now it's totally gray. "Yes- that's him- but he's OLD" I said. "OHMYGOSH" I said realizing it out loud. "I'M OLD. We are the same age. You don't understand- I was JUST your age!!! I said gesturing to the young lady in front of me- "And now I'm old enough to be the same age as HIM'. It's funny because as human beings we are fascinated by time. You say or hear "it goes by so fast" at least once a day once you become a parent. We are so aware of time- and yet it still has the ability to knock us from our feet when we are confronted with it.

Time can shock us in many ways. For the past few years Halloween has been tricky. One part hope and one part heartbreak. Last year was more hope than heartbreak- a fact that flooded me with grateful. We have been very careful with Grey's costumes. No hats or masks or tight or itchy clothing. 

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This one was a fail.

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X's two

The other day we pulled out Parker's old dragon costume from last year. Parker saw it and lit up- "Dinosaur- roar!" he exclaimed. He was EXCITED. He wanted to wear it- the head covering and ALL! I can't wait to show you pictures. 

"DYE-SAUR". Greyson kept saying- pointing to Parker. "Yes! Parker is dressed like a dinosaur." "No- want dyesaur", Greyson repeated. "You want to wear it, Grey?" We asked in shock. "YES!" He answered. And he wore it the rest of the night. I came up with a plan. I texted my dear friend and asked her if she still had her Plex costume. 

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She brought it over and he hasn't taken it off since then. When he first put it on tears flooded my eyes and my throat got tight. Sometimes time is so incredibly kind.

If there is something you want...something you need from life-just wait. It will happen when time is ready.

So Much Love,