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Friday, May 18, 2018

3 Men

Written a couple days ago. I'm home now.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Hospital food
This is what one eats when confined to a hospital
for days on end. I didn't starve but...
Evidently one takes photos of hospital food
when confined to a hospital for days on end too! 
I've been at the hospital for days now. I need to get home to my brood and check on them. I need to give Papa some relief and tell him he's awesome again. Until then I've been reflecting about family, specifically my family and how I'm so crazy blessed to have the one I have. I think the ICU and hospitals in general have a way of doing that to people, making them reflect and showing them what's truly important and worthy of investing their time and energy in. And usually that's family. At least it is for me. My family. The words fail me.
I am blessed.

There has been a consistent thread in my life: wonderful, strong, hard-working, nurturing and caring men. I've been blessed to have the most amazing men in my life from the time I was born. And not just one or 2, but more! How lucky am I?!

Papa. My man. My main squeeze and my hunk of burning love. My other half.
Divinely matched and shared.
Papa has made it so easy for me to be here here with my family in the hospital, guilt free. I love him for that. Taking care of our brood isn't easy. It's time consuming and much like juggling cats. But in these last few days, every time we talk he says, We're all good! Don't worry! Do what you need to do! Be there for them! Then my heart relaxes, and it feels so good. Papa is getting the kids to and from school, and baseball games and meals. He's waking the kids up each day, teaching Boo how to drive and cooking them breakfast and dinner. Every day. And he's doing it alone since the best-big-sisters-in-the-world are both away. Papa is my hero, because really this minutia is the work that real heroes do. How lucky am I to have this man as my other half.

And while I'm away remembering my man at home, I spend my days with 2 other amazing men. My dad is the rock of the family. I was raised by my a single father. My mom came into our lives a little later, on but I've always thought this paternal-lead upbringing made me a bit different that other women. I've always admired my dad so much for saying yes to parenting a daughter all by himself when he was a very young man himself, and saying yes to all the things that comes that, and thus having to say no to many other young-man pursuits. My father is a teacher deep inside. He taught me in very tangible ways how to see what in life is truly important and prioritize accordingly. He taught me the world is beautiful, amazing and worth the challenges. He taught me that few things are as important as family.

My uncle, my dad's little brother by 5 years is my uncle's watch-over-er during this stressful season... and actually for always since that's the stuff big brothers do for little brothers their whole lives. My uncle taught me the worth of art and joy of laughter. He taught me how to see beauty in different ways. He taught me that things that are different are not just worthy but often treasures.

So here we are in the ICU, and my heart breaks yet simultaneously swells. To witness to one man take care of another is...
I think it has been life changing for me, or at a minimum soul shifting. As a woman I don't often have the privilege to see the souls of men at their most vulnerable, to see how they tick and what makes them the men they are at their core. I witness one man that takes another's hand and reassures him that he's not just there now but for always. I watch the wheels or a care giver as he thinks 3 steps ahead. I witness care to the unconscious, and fear in both of their faces. These last few days have been filled with these opportunities, and I am all the better for witnessing it and being a part of it. Especially because these are the same men that shaped and molded who I am.

I'm not sure how to end this post.
I'm gonna stop writing, stop looking for an ending since it's yet to be written and just click publish.
I think lots of folks love their family like this.
What a treasure that is.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

it is my privilege

As is the case with families, big or small, plans can change. Sometimes we drop the plans we had and come together as a family and rally for someone  who needs it. Such is the case now. In the middle of what was already shaping up to be a reason busy season for me, life became a little busier. Currently, right now, I'm sitting in a hospital's waiting room area while a dear family member, my favorite uncle in the whole wide world, is in surgery. It's gonna be a long night and a much longer recovery. And yet I remind myself that 1st world medical care is a blessing that not everyone has.

I am reminded that this is what families do. They rearrange their lives so they can come together when need be. So they can take care of each other. And even when they don't need to, and just want to.

I am blessed and privileged to be a part of a family who taught me how to love deeply and fully.
PS - Sometimes there are long stretches of doing nothing at all in a hospital but waiting. And waiting.
In order to occupy myself and mostly my mind, I've decided I'm going to try edit and post my recent photos of Seattle. Bare with me.
Photography is therapeutic yet again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

first born

Did I tell you she's back?
I don't think I did. She's home. We've been keeping Sunny all to ourselves while we have her. And it's like there's a light that's been turned off for far too long that is suddenly on.

Sunny is home. At least momentarily.
It's never long enough.
Her story is not mine to tell. That happens when you have big kids. You can't go blabbing all over your blog about what they're doing... or so the teens tell me each in succession as they reach teenager-dom. So as the kiddos get older, we give them more space and breathing room, and I promise you they don't fall off the face of the planet when you stop hearing about them, but I do stop spotlighting them here on the blog as much as I did when they were littler.

So she's off. On a whole new adventure and a whole new season of life. She's on the thresh hold of new chapter yet to be written. And I'm ridiculously excited for her. Really I am. (She says through tears flowing.) I'm so proud of her. And we're continually amazed by her determination, bravery and independence. She's always been brave. Some people just coming in to the world like that. But when did she grow up? When did she go from girl to young lady to woman? Was it a specific moment? Did I miss it?
Yet it's here.
We're not sure what the next few years will be like for her, (or for us without her) but let's just say that she's gonna stick out like a 5'7" long-blond-haired thumb in Asia, where she'll continue to saves lives like nurses do. Yeah, we raised a person that literally saves lives. Even without this, she's amazing.
We do know we won't be seeing as much of her in these next few years. Well, there is video calls and continual texting of course, but you mamas that have kiddos that have left the nest know what it means to have a child return your arms after they's been gone. Video calls just don't hack it sometimes. She's not even gone yet, and my heart is already missing my first born again, my daughter, and now, genuinely, my dear friend.

I wish she'd do all this closer to home. I wish her dreams were at least driving distance. But in the big ways that count, I don't. It's her dream after all. Not mine. All this means we've done our job as parents well, right? Please remind me of this later. This independence. This following of dreams! This means she's grown up to all we had dreamed for her. And I will try to remember this as I put her on a plane, with all she owns in 2 boxes, a suit case and her sweet fur-baby at the end of a leash.

When I say goodbye in just a bit, after I hug my last hug and watch her walk away and feel that void in my heart when she's not here, I will remember this. I wouldn't change this huge hole in my heart for anything.

She is amazing.
She is brave.
She is independent.
She is my first born.
Fly, Sunny girl!
Follow your dreams!
We wouldn't have it any other way.

Love, Mama

Thursday, May 3, 2018

an ordinary miracle

The Arizona teachers are on the 6th day of their walk out. I will gladly support them for as long as it takes, but I say this easily since I've really been enjoying my extra time with the kiddos.

Yesterday was get-out-of-the-house-and-enjoy-the-ridiculously-amazing-weather day while we practiced our cart wheels and hand stands. And by "we" and "our" I mean "they." I'd surely break if I even attempted a cart wheel.

Then I took this pic.
I didn't think much of it.

Then as it often happens, I stumbled across this frame in editing and loved it so so much more. It just made me smile. It made me happy! You can't even see his face and yet one knows that there's likely a huge grin on his face at he's trying. I even love the fact that you can see one of his big scars since it's one of the things that makes him so brave! This is what I had in mind way back when... this joy, these moments. 

A student and now friend, Jamie, commented when I showed her this image
I wouldn't have looked for the scar without you mentioning it, but I love how it captures pieces of his past and juxtaposes them against the sheer joy of this moment. 

And with that she put into words the amazingness of the moment, another little ordinary miracles that I've been blessed to be a part of in the right here and right now. 
Thank you, Jamie. Thank you for reminding me of why photography is so important in my life and how it continually remind me of what is truly important in my life.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


I'm coming to the end of a class right now and I'm loving this class so much. But I'm also looking forward to the next class, Beyond Manual, and so it's time to giveaway a FREE seat in this upcoming class that starts in a couple weeks.

If you're already shooting in Manual mode, but want to learn more about light and focus, this is a fabulous class for you. If you'd like to nail your focus and get crisp sharp photographs, this is the class for you. If you like to learn about light and how to use it to your advantage, this it the class for you! Beyond Manual is an intermediate class does not instruct students how to shoot in Manual mode or cover concepts relating to exposure. There are very few seats left in this class, and I do anticipate that it'll sell out quite soon. The details of the class are HERE, and if you have any questions about it, please don't hesitate to contact me!

I'll announce the winner on my Facebook and Instagram pages in a week's time.
Fingers are crossed for you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Are (((hugs))) important?

So how's it going? my friend asked me.

My friend is considering older child adoption. They asked how Ru and the family was doing, and I replied honestly that 1+ year since Ru came home to us, we are STILL figuring this thing out. Still finding our "normal." Still settling in. Still wingin' it. Still making it up as we go along. Still doubting. Still coming across surprises. Still simultaneously looking back and being amazed at how far we've come but realizing there's still a ways to go. And I think the person I was talking to was surprised. A year in? And you're still not there? No. We're not. But really, isn't the journey the destination after all?

It's all good, but honestly it's still all a work in progress.

We had a break through of sorts this week. And by we I think I primarily mean just me. It has been a biggie for me, as a mama. Much of this tough and longer-than-expected transition has been about me as a mother and what that means. Even more than it is about Ru and him being able to integrate into our family. And specifically in this instance the surprise and break through were about hugs.

Ru has always given hugs. He knows it's part of American family life. someone taught him that before we met him. He hugged us immediately as he met us that very first time in China! He's never shied away from them. But still, when you hug him, it's like hugging a board. It's stiff and unnatural. Bed time. When I pick them up from school. First thing in the morning. It's all the same. He comes at you head down first, like a ram rod into your chest. I've tried to "teach" him and role model how to "embrace" and not hurt the recipient as you're doing it. But still one, (Me really. See it's about me.) needs to be kinda be on guard yet embrace (both literally and figuratively) Ru's hugs at the same time. Because hugs are good, right? Touch is good, right? We're family, so this is what we do, right? We hug each other! A year later, these hugs had me pondering. The mere fact that I couldn't seem to embrace Ru's hugs as readily as I do hugs from my other children was a source of guilt.
Our first hug. I think we have know each other all of 2 seconds in this photo. Be still my heart. My son.
Someone taught him that giving a hug was a proper American family greeting. 

I was tucking him into bed a few nights ago, and I'm not sure why, but I was thinking about it. Maybe because I'd just gotten the head in the chest moments earlier. I asked him about hugs and his past. I asked him if he got hugs in China? Did people in China get and give hugs? Knowing full well that his answer would be colored by his personal experiences. And that's actually what I wanted. He explained that no, he didn't get hugs in China. Hugs were for babies. I asked him if during the short stint at his foster family is he got hugs. No. He went on to explain that hugs and kisses weren't part of his China life. And although I wasn't surprised by his answer, my heart sank for him.

A child who didn't get hugs...

Now, I'm not naive. None of this may even be true. Or maybe it is. It doesn't really matter. It's what's in Ru's heart. And we continued to discuss. We're family now, and hugs are a part of that. It's how we say I love you. And it how we say we're forever. And even if we get mad or sad, we're not going anywhere ever. Hugs say that kinda of stuff. And thinking I knew what his answer would be, because seriously who doesn't like hugs, especially children, especially in the constructs of family! I asked him if liked hugs.
He didn't. He didn't like hugs at all.

A child who didn't even like hugs because he never got them...

Quick, mama, think on your feet. Now what? 

Do you like back rubs? Yes, he replied. He liked back rubs and instantly rolled over on the bed, his face away from mine, head in the pillow, assuming the position to receive the rubbing. And I did. And it was good. I noted that his body quickly relaxed and "gave in" like it never did with hugs. He melted into the bed as I rubbed his precious, wonderfully-made, little, scared, bronzed back. And I really felt like a mama in that moment. His mama.

Ru and I talked some more as I rubbed his back, and he explained that back rubs weren't a part of his life in China either. But he still likes them. And we decided right then and there that back rubs were gong to be our hugs. My back rub to him was my way of saying I love you. And that we're forever.  And we're not going anywhere ever.

This is all a little thing. And it's huge all at the same time. And we're still making it. And still it's not easy. But I wouldn't change any of it!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Beyond Manual ALMOST SOLD OUT!

Beyond Manual is my 4-week all-on-line photography class staring in late May. Specifically it runs 5/21-6/17/2018.

If you’re already shooting in manual mode and getting good exposure in the majority of photos, it’s time to move on! In this Beyond Manual we’ll learn all about focus and light. I want you to nail your focus in all your photos, and I’ll show you how! And I want you to learn how to "read" light and use it to your advantage! More details HERE

This class is currently registering, and there are very few seats left! So if you think you might want to take it, please don't wait too long to register! 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Last one. I promise.

1,266 frames later I am done editing the Amsterdam pics.
I hope I haven't bored you to death watching my vacation pics.
I do hope that I've inspired you to stop finding reasons to say no and start finding ways to say yes to do the things you've always wanted to do.
Life is short.
Time is precious.
The best memories are the ones we're making right this very minute.
Don't wait too long.

If you're planning a visit to Amsterdam or The Netherlands, I put together a Pinterest board for our trip with most of the places we went to, books I read, the hotel we stayed at, stuff we weren't able to squeeze in, must see's and just plain ol' good stuff.
Very early on in our trip, Melissa and I started planning where we were going next year. Finding someone that you travel well with isn't a given with your best friends or family for that matter. And I'm so so excited to look back and I think we both had a wonderful trip and traveled very well together. So I think I'm speaking for both of us when I say that we'd both very much like this to be an annual occurrence! Where to go next? I'm not sure. Way back in August of 2017,  I asked y'all on my Facebook page where we should go. You had some wonderful suggestions! I looked back, and it was actually Christina Ketchum Lindseth and Anita Troost-Bosboom that first recommended The Netherlands. I am so so so glad they did! Thank you, Christina and Anita! But I'm glad we didn't stop with recommendation and actually made it happen! And if Facebook friends aren't generous enough, Melissa and I actually met Anita, who is Dutch and lives outside Amsterdam, on our trip and spent the day with her! Really this world and the people in it are just so flippin' amazing! 
I'm sure we'll be looking for suggestions for next year too, and I can't wait to see where we end up in 2019! 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Let's talk photography! Any questions? (Balboa)

Do you want to talk photography? Lets! I'll grab my iced coffee and we can talk talk talk!
There's so much to learn by studying other's folk's photographs, especially if you have the stats available. So I'm inviting you to do that here!
Ask me anything!
50mm (Shot with Canon 50mm f/1.2)
1/2000th of a second, f/3.2, ISO 3200
So let's look at those stats more closely.

Focal length: 50mm. That's a great all around very versatile lens. It's one of the lenses that I recommend for beginners too but still used by pros. It's a small lens too and light weight. I like to travel with this lens! It also has the potential to bring lots of light in your camera!

Shutter speed: 1/2000. That's fast. Sure it could go faster, but it's already pretty quick! See the stopped motion of the little waves and water! That fast shutter speed was able to freeze the motion of the water, (not to mention to wiggly giggly kiddos!) and really stopping the movement of water is always pretty cool! Not to mention the movement of the seagulls which was kinda a fluke when they flew past! Kiddos never even noticed them!

Aperture value (also called f-stop): f/3.2. That's kinda in the middle for aperture values, especially when taking "people pics." I usually have smaller aperture values than that and keeping it real I have no idea why I chose this specific aperture value. Sometimes it just gets stuck where I set it from the previous pics and I forget to change it! As long as the exposure is balanced that's okay to me.

ISO: 3200. Now that's getting kinda high. It's not super high but it's getting up there. That tells me that there wasn't a lot of light in this setting. And indeed it was getting darker and darker as the sun was setting. I wish I could have had a lower ISO but when the light is fading and I need a high ISO to let more light in, I use it! PS-Your specific camera has a lot to do with how different ISOs affect your photo.

If you're in my current photography class, I'd LOVE to see your thoughts of this!
Kinda like homework, but not really, because homework is yucky.
More like extra credit, because extra credit rocks! 

Any questions?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The perfect recipe to create a reader!

Or not.

Way back when, back before I had children and thought I knew everything about child rearing... back when I got a degree in psychology with a minor in child and family development, back when I had a little brother and equated baby sitting with parenting, back when I knew just how to do it "right" so all my kids would turn out to be the perfect little human beings that I was so positive I would raise, back before I appreciated the real and true impact of the nature component of the nature-nurture parenting debate... Way back then, I though for sure that I was gonna raise "readers." I thought, probably unknowingly, that surely it took just right recipe of 1 part role modeling, 2 parts oral reading, 1 part access to books, 1 part procurement and use of the local library card...  to instill a love of books and reading, and surely I'd be one of those moms that would need to say Hey there, Bobby! It's time to get your nose out of that book so we can play a game together/eat dinner/go to school... Or Gosh Sharon, Little Sally is always reading, and I'm worried that she isn't spending enough time in imaginative play with her friends. Whatever will I do? And by the way, just so we're clear those words, or words anything even close to them, were never never muttered by me. Young me would be disappointed by this. Old me, now me, current wise-test-and-true me knows better. We never ever did create such "a reader" in our family... until maybe now.
Okay let's be clear, I don't think we created a reader. I think there's far more to it than that. Or maybe less depending on how you look at it. I think I've learned over my 115 years of parenting... that all the planning and reading recipe following I thought was gonna work and attempted, and I now understand that one does not simply create a reader. Yes, there are wonderful and good things that a parent can do to nudge your child along the path to become a reader, but I now realize that there's a good deal of luck and DNA factored in to the equation too. Some kids just come out of the womb naturally wired to enjoy reading more than other kids do. And similar to having dark brown eyes or long fingers, there's really nothing I can do to change that. 8 kiddos later and decades of tweaking the recipe and I've learned that only by luck do I think we have our first reader! And it's Tess! The really crazy surprising part is that Tess is one of our kids that struggles the most with reading, (with the exception of Ru, but that's a horse of a different color!) and reading reading does not come easily for her. I'm not even really sure what changed for her, but sometime this last fall, Tess decided, again probably unknowingly, all on her own, that she was "a reader," put her nose in a book, (many many books at this point) and hasn't really taken in out yet! Very very often I'll find her holed up in some quiet corner flipping the pages. You probably know by now that Tess is far from a girly girl. She beats to the beat of her own drummer, and last summer I put some extra effort to have books around that she m. She might enjoy. A Little House of the Prairie girl she is not, so I was going to have to find reading material she was interested in. That turned out to be anything scary! Coraline was among her favorites, but she also read most of the Scary Stories books (even though I think they are crap reading) and other frightening books as well. She has since morphed into reading fantasy-scary-dragon-fighting books, but I still stay on the lookout for anything appropriate for younger reader that's on the scary side too.

I'm not sure how long Tess's reading phase of will last, and it may stop just as quickly as it started! But for now I'm loving seeing her read, although I've yet to complain that she's reading too much. We also love that it servers as another great role model for her younger brother an sister too! But if she does stop reading with such enthusiasm, I won't blame myself. I'll just be happy that this beautiful girl is anything other than who our gracious Lord created her to be! Reader or not!

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