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Nine

This year our birthdays feel different.  Becks’ jump to six felt huge; an official See Ya Later to baby years.  And Coop’s bounce from eight to nine feels similar.  But I can’t put my finger on it.   He’s not change like a baby to boy or boy to tween.  He still simply a boy.  But Nine feels different.  

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Maybe it’s the first time that a birthday mades me feel older.  How has it been nine years?  How have I been doing this for nine year?  It feels like Motherhood has always been me and yet I know this is undeniably false.

Nine years ago my life changed in ways I wasn’t prepared to handle.  Every mother attempts to prepare for Motherhood, but we fail.  And that’s ok because it’s impossible to prepare for this journey.  The first baby is rattled with uncertainty and trial/error decisions.   I choose Motherhood with his pregnancy and I jumped into the decision with so much fear it could be viewed as Insanity.  I wish I could say, I became confident enough that the fear slid away.  But I’ve become wise enough to know the fear will never subside.  There will always be questions cloaked in fear:  will he be bullied, will he make good choices, will he be healthy, will he be a good friend, will he get into an accident, will he be able to handle stress, etc.  That fear is a constant hum because the love is so strong.

For nine years, I’ve been doing my best every single day with a “Manual” that changes rapidly, missing pages, and clueless authors.  I had to trust my instincts which were honed on non-baby experiences.  My instincts got stronger and I gained some confidence, but there’s still fear, chaos, and uncertainty that resembles madness.

But he makes it doable.

He’s my adventure.  He’s my compass.  He’s one of the reasons I roll out of bed.  He’s the reason life is better.  He’s the reason I’m better.  

He’s simply my reason for everything.

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I Got Cocky

Photography has taught me to stay in the moment more than any book or child or guru or<insert Stay in the Moment thingy-ding>.  Once I started to pay attention to my life, things unfolded in an easier and more beautiful manner.  I started to notice details and stopped living in my head so much.  One thing I began to pick up on is the Crap Ass Funk I got into every change from Winter to Spring.

Yep, Crap Ass Funks.  Not Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but CAF.  I don’t need a lamp or pills, I just realize that for the last two weeks of February, I’m in a Crap Ass Funk.  It just is what it is: crappy. It usually takes a couple days before I realize what hit me.  And then I feel the hard smack of CAF.  I know that I need to ride it out.  Like a bear who hibernates during the winter, I hibernate for about two weeks.  And then CAF slips away and the world is right again.

Mid-Febuary hit and I didn’t feel CAF-y.  I knew it was time, but I wasn’t feeling it.  And after this Winter, I should have been deep into my CAF.  But I wasn’t.  I got cocky.  Maybe I licked it!  Maybe I was CAF-free.  I was going into an office.  Seeing the same people everyday.  That surely is better than being stuck in my house working alone for months.  No more CAF for me!!

God, I’m a ridiculous little girl.

The office just starved off my CAF for a little longer.  But when CAF hit, it hit hard.  And I was unaware which makes any funk worse.  I was confused and pissed.  All I could do was work, stew on what I expected from a normal life (a.k.a. non-CAF life), relived conversations in my head, barely parented (I didn’t cook a meal for about two weeks, but I’d count heating from the freeze a meal. My husband doesn’t.  We ate cereal and a lot of eggs; not prepared by me), housework fell until the weekend, I didn’t return phone calls, didn’t call friends and my creativity was in the crapper.  Yep, I was in an awful and scary  mood.  When it finally dawned on me that it was simply a delayed and deeper CAF, I knew I  could do nothing but wait.

And just like all my funks, it slowly disappeared without any warning.  My seasonal CAF’s are never true depressions because they’re clockwork. Every year, my body says, “Slow down. Prep for the next season.”  But they end like any bout of depression: without warning.  They end like a gentle Mother who wakes her babies by slowly lifting the shade for the sun.  She quietly enters the room and whispers, “Wake up, honey.  The day is yours.”  That’s how my depression always ends.  Never like the loud Mom who’s heavy footsteps breaks the silence before she barges into the room singing/screaming “WAKE UP, Sleepy Head!”

Depression slowly lifts for me.

And I’m grateful that the day is slowly becoming mine again.

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Baby Girl

Ever think some people were born to be Girl Mommas or Boy Mommas?  I was born to be a Boy Momma.  When I have to put up my own ponytail, the slightest tilt ruins my morning because I’m certain that I don’t have the Ponytail gene.  Sure, I could have parented a Girl and done our gender proud.  But I’m so happy I don’t have to prove shit to any gender.

After our longer than normal “In Person” meeting, I knew Melanie was going to be an amazing pure Girl Momma (it’s her second girl).  There’s something all Girl Momma’s have that I just don’t.  That something is a mystery quality that I admire and wish I had as a woman.  I instantly developed a Momma Crush (she’s a writer, photographer, good talker) and begged for the “Birth Photographer As a Second Job” stars to align.

They did.

I’m so grateful for strangers who let me into their homes.  I’m able to watch them without an ounce of reservation: it’s like the most perfect reality show.  And I’m blessed to be part of a very small audience.  From the beginning, Ross and Melanie were communicating without words.  He saw her and knew to check the contraction app.  There were tender parenting moments with their first-born.  During contractions, Melanie would reach for Emi’s hand and Emi knew the right time to touch her Mom.   Melaine would breathe through pain with grace, even though she knew it was going to get worse.  She gathered every ounce of strength to birth their second child.  And then there’s that moment.  God I love that moment…

The room shifts.  All the power goes to her.  For a split second, birth seems so easy.  And it’s always the most beautiful thing I ever get to witness: she becomes a Mother again.

I’ve never been at a Girl birth.  Ella was my first.  Her Momma is so damn amazing that I already know she and her sister are going to be badass women.  There’s no denying it.  They are being raised by a woman who knows what needs to be done and does it.  Their father never had to be asked for anything and just showed up with the solution (I’ve never seen a birth pool emptied.  Down before I left.  And did skin to skin.  That’s something, Folks.  Trust me. ).  These girls are lucky.  And I’m incredibly proud to have witnessed it for a couple of hours on a random Tuesday.

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  • Danielle Maxwell - <3March 6, 2014 – 10:38 amReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - This brought tears to my eyes, remembering that moment. Wonderfully written.March 6, 2014 – 12:10 pmReplyCancel

  • Ross Sonnier - Great post. AmazingMarch 6, 2014 – 7:56 pmReplyCancel

  • Nikki - It is SO momentous. Love the pictures of Mom and first child holding hands-and the look on the dog’s face…he/she knew something big was brewing. Great photos-and very cool that they let you in to do that!March 6, 2014 – 9:13 pmReplyCancel

One Second :: February to March

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I’m down to one project which means two things:

  • I’m kind of happy.
  • I have less photos to edit.  Which sometimes makes me sad.

I’m sweet and sour.  Hot and cold.  Yin and Yang.  Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins.

Bittersweet, Folks.

But the One Second gets me through junk to the gold.  <—- enough, Erika.  Enough.

February :: March from Erika Ray on Vimeo.

 

 

My 365′s Lesson

Every 365 has a lesson.  Round 3′s lesson:

I’ve said the following phrase a few times over the past 6 months:

I’m either incredibly loyal or extremely lazy.

When someone forces me out (job), I come back.  Not with the feeling of being burnt or hopelessness, but because it feels like home.  But really? Who wants to look for a new job?  A week of doing that was exhausting, not exhilarating.  My core group of friends have been supporting and cracking me up for decades now.  It takes repeated quiet bouts shittiness for me to cut ties which I’ve rarely done.  Mark had to become extremely vocal for me to move.  I knew the neighborhood was a bad fit for our family, but the thought of moving/starting over was horrifying me.  What’s even worse for my case to stay?  We weren’t moving miles away.  We were moving to a neighborhood we had been using for a decade.  Still the thought of packing and saying “good-bye” was daunting.  I needed to be ready, but his anger and mood was forcing my readiness.

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I’ve never felt the reason to move on in life.  I linger around like cough that eventually turns into pneumonia.

So what am I?  Loyal or Lazy?

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Loyal is more polite and honorable.  I love the people I hang with and they love me.  There is literally very little I wouldn’t do for these folks.  I adored the walls that created a family.  They were important, not the neighborhood.  I believe in doing your best at work and I work to live, not live to work.  My old job fulfilled that on many levels (I never would have been able to pursue photography and writing with another job).  Why move on?

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But Lazy is good for acceptance without risk.  My friends are there and I’m at an age where making new ones isn’t easy.  We hadn’t really outgrown the house.  A few more years would have been ok…  There had been no advancement with my old position from day one.  And during year 4, I probably should have realized the dead-end wouldn’t lead to a door of Better Opportunity.

Again, what am I?  Loyal or Lazy?

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I’ll be honest, LAZY is probably the wrong word. CONTENT is better, but I’m also self-deprecating so deal with it.  I don’t bitterly complain of my lack of travel plans (of course I can’t wait to travel, but that will happen).  I don’t fantasize or mull over the risks to start a new job.  Does that make me lazy or safe?  Maybe both.  But I’ve learned this year through my 365 project that I’m a perfect blend of both:

I’m loyally content with my life.

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I’m grateful for how my life has unfolded and regret nothing.  I was forced to not be 100% lazy this year.  Packed up and entered the next phase. Explored a new neighborhood with fantastic guides.  Leaned on those old friends and accepted their hands when they reached down.  Went back to the old company, but entered a completely new workplace.  I found new friends that I adore and wondered how I worked alone for so long.  All of this made life a little spicier and helped brighten the mundane side of life.

There’s a sweet spot with accepting life as is.  An ease and comfortable laziness for the soul.  But I understand that life doesn’t float by without bumps.  And Loyalty is the perfect captain for rough seas.  The constant love and acceptance from friends and family spawns my loyalty.  Life isn’t easy and when loyal people show up, you should return the favor and bring them your best.

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Round 3 of 365′s is about to wrap up.  Typing that made me tearful.  Just like the first one, this version was meaningful and powerful for me.  It proved once again that my life is pretty damn good.  Even with all the boring bits and normal  bumps and bruises, life is swell.  The 365 squeezed every drop of gratitude from a period most would ask, “What’s so special normal life?”  I would throw all 365 pictures in their face and scream:

“Everything, you ungrateful idiot!  All you have to do is accept it and watch the beauty grab you.  Asshole…”

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If you’re growing bored or are discontent with your life, start a 365.  It isn’t about talent.  It’s about showing up every day.  Be gentle with yourself, but use it to push you.  Use the 365 as an excuse to do random beautiful things: we should camp more.  Use it to be selfish: a glass of wine would make a nice photo.  Use it to break you down: I guess a hamster might be fun to photograph.  Use it to see what you’ve been ignoring.  Use it because life isn’t overtly glorious and it’s really easy to wallow in shit.  Use it to love what you’ve got.  Or use it to give you the courage and power to change it.

It’s that simple.

And I’m lazy…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Kayla - This post touched me in ways I can’t even describe. My husband and I are about to move 2,600 miles from New York to Texas, and it is scary. Planning to move was fun, actually moving is scary. All of our family and friends live in NY and leaving them behind is feeling daunting. We’re selling the home we got engaged in, and where we first brought our dog home too. I’m also a lazy person, who is currently being forced to be productive. It’s hard. I appreciate your candidness and your honesty. As always, you have touched me with your words and your photos and I am grateful.February 17, 2014 – 12:12 pmReplyCancel

  • Marisa - I’m loyally content (and lazy), too. I’m realizing adult life is not at all what I thought it would be, and that’s ok. I love the special moments in the every day and feel so lucky that I get to see them. We have big travel plans in the near future, and I’m not excited about them because we’ll be having the same special every day moments, just in a different place, sandwiched by two horrifically un-special travel days.

    You’re making me want to start another 365. Stop that.February 17, 2014 – 5:53 pmReplyCancel

  • Katie Zurawski - Great post – loved every word of it.February 18, 2014 – 12:43 pmReplyCancel

  • A 365 Project for my 30th Year | Endlessly Creating Myself - […] photo by me, day 1. A shout out to Erika Ray, who I follow on Flickr and who just finished her third 365 project. While I am neither bored nor discontent right now, I loved this quote from her blog: […]March 5, 2014 – 12:27 amReplyCancel