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When I started 365 Round 4, I gave myself a few goals.   But a list is only a simple map.

Births, vacations, portraits, try to finish…  

Smoosed in between each Goal are the moments that string life together.  Here are a few of my favorite strings.

Family events held birthday wishes, traditions, fun sideways glances, and competitive game nights.


Our year was full of friends.  Simple moments shared: dinner, drinks, laughter, and mischief.


Each year has many special events.  Some are annual: first day of school, Father’s day, Halloween costumes, and camping.  And others happen a few times in your life: new American citizens, the birth of a first child, the birth of a third, National championship, and first birthdays.


Round 4 365 was a really good for births.  I’ve photographed repeat clients and men catching their babies.  I’ve cried at a birth, photographed HBACs and two hospital births.  Every time I’m still humbled and in awe of these women.

365 :: 4

I’m not the greatest portrait photographer.  Most people find it awkward to stand for one and I find it awkward to ask.  But this year, I learned that it’s ok to slow down and ask for some to look into my camera.  It’s ok to get that smile.  It’s ok to capture their gaze.  That kind of presence is a beautiful thing.

portraitsRound 4 had a few vacations.  We brought our boys to a spot we’ve been camping with our friends for over a decade.  It felt like a tiny full-circle moment.  Disney was a big one.  Airports, hotels, and Disney was a highlight in the 365 and in 2015.
vacationI’m guessing if I scroll through my previous 365’s, you might see me once.  That’s not fair.  I play a pretty damn important role in my life.  So I told myself, “Show up, Kid.”  And so I did by passing my camera to someone or by setting the self-timer.  In albums, the boys will see and say, “That was Ma when she was 38.”  Show up.  It’s not that difficult.spCheers, Round 4.  I loved you.

Round 5?  Give me a little while…

I’ll offer some 365 tips very soon.  If you have any specific questions, just ask.

Once again, a year of seconds proves to be my most rewarding project.  It forces me to appreciate what’s within my arm’s length every single day.

The past year has given me seconds full of:

  • laughter
  • smiles
  • dance moves
  • a kid who hates pants
  • another kid who’s sly/goofy/beautiful smile is 50% mine and still shocks me with it’s sweetness
  • a husband who loves me enough to shake it on command
  • school first days, concerts, family events, and graduations
  • a sister who let me keep the second she was on the toilet
  • a another sister who’s laugh I hear repeatedly when her second pops up
  • a brother’s graduation from law school
  • holidays
  • colleagues who have become friends
  • a superhero onesie
  • Disney and camping
  • SIL’s and BIL’s who love me as if we were true siblings (which would be weird and illegal, but you get what I’m saying)
  • two sets of parents who cherish me as their “baby” and respect me as their adult child
  • the first hour of two new lives
  • baby swaying
  • pizza dough
  • friends at our table when we’ve consumed more laughs than actual food
  • game nights
  • friends’ kids that I would protect as if they were my own children
  • happy hours
  • friends that I no longer consider “close”, but  I consider family
  • lots of tv time and a few finished books
  • jokes
  • simple and ordinary junk
  • football and soccer games
  • a trip home from a surgery
  • places where I’m a Regular
  • unconditional love


This is my arm’s length.

I’m so grateful for every second because it’s a damn good life.

But I’m not special.  This is your arm’s length too.  Maybe you’ve got more or fewer players.  Maybe a bigger house or smaller couch.  Maybe you don’t have as many dancers or you’ve got kids who always wear pants.  But trust me, it’s there.  It just looks different.

Stop life for one second and watch your beautiful life unfold too.

May 2014 – May 2015 One Second Every Day from Erika Ray on Vimeo.

psst…  The boys’ picked the last song, but I think it works.

  • skeller - a year of booty shaking!!!! I can be in depressed-ennui-place, and I swear watching 1SEs makes everything better … LOVE this, Erika. Maybe even more for the gaps in days, ’cause it totally proves it’s ok to miss and keep going anyway.May 21, 2015 – 10:34 amReplyCancel

  • Janet Vorst Dyer - Really good and entertaining. Well done.May 21, 2015 – 12:54 pmReplyCancel

As a woman, you tend to think you’re pretty hot when you’ve waxed, plucked, smooshed, smeared, pushed up, shed five pounds, glittered, sheened, shaved, and puckered.  Whenever I go from my Before (jeans, t-shirt, and Chucks) to my After (nice shirt, clean hair, and a little more makeup), I think: I clean up well.  But do I feel hot Hot?  Nope.

A few nights back I had a funny moment.  It’s one I’ve had hundreds of times.  But this time it registered in my head: This is when I’m hot.

I feel especially hot the second I get off a plane.  Music from this playlist is blaring in my ears (I need something to wake me up as my flights always get in near midnight) and I’m stomping towards my car.  Gracefully and expertly maneuvering my roller bag past lagging passengers.  The airport is empty so there’s plenty of space for a long stride.  I’m guessing it’s how Giselle feels working the runway.  Fucking hot.

Am I’m Runway ready?   Hell no!  I’ve got a full day of travel stench wafting off me.  My face probably has the imprint of my zipper on it.  My neck is killing me because I’m too vain to buy a travel pillow.  If I have my contacts in, my eyes are scratchy and full of goo and crust nuggets.  My clothes are wrinkly and my belly is full of crap-ass airport food.  Not a pillar of beauty.  But I still feel incredibly hot in that moment.


Maybe it’s because:

  • I’ve got Wake up Music blaring in my ears and no one else can hear it.  It’s usually a badass tune which makes me feel badass.
  • I’m alone in an airport and it fuels my deep desire of  independence.   I’ve always been pretty independent and my need for it is growing as I age.  Airports yank that out of me.  I’m alone in a city and no one can do a thing about it.
  • It always reminds me of the 23-year-old who still got lost in her tiny hometown neighborhood.  I’d get off the plane knowing that I successfully navigated through Chicago, LA, Dallas, etc.  All alone and before Google maps or cell phones.
  • And when I’m in Columbus, it means I’m home.  Soon I’ll see my family and get to snuggle with my beloved pillow.

Getting dressed up is lovely, but doesn’t leave me feeling the same as the airport does.   You can’t get it from a smoky eye or a new bra.  No new cleavage deep shirt or smooth legs have that power.  There’s no fancy media airbrushing to create this kind of strength.  No celebrity has the power to make me believe in myself.  Nope.  It’s simple: strutting through the airport makes me feel unstoppable, unwavering, confident, and fucking hot.

As women we shouldn’t rely on products or celebrities to fuel our self-confidence.  We should rely on creating it for ourselves.  Some think self confidence is difficult to achieve or spend thousands trying to grasp it.    We need to turn off the shitty voices in our heads, recognize when we’re fabulous and embrace it.  Maybe it’s when you changed an outlet.  Or told the salesman, “NO!  I don’t want that car.  I want THIS ONE!”  Maybe it’s when you caught your kid’s puke in your hands and didn’t freak out.  It’s in that moment when you realize you’re pretty damn amazing.  You’ve got the kind of self-confidence people hope little girls will cultivate for adulthood.   It’s the kind of self confidence that allows you to stand strong during difficult times.  It’s the kind of self-confidence that bubbles in your core and will explode if you let it.  Only you can create this kind of everlasting self-confidence.  It’s that kind of self-confidence that let’s you believe, “Yep, I’m hot.”  And mine shows up in the airport.

When do you feel hot?  Tell me and own it all day long.


Picture explanation:

  • No one likes a blog post without a picture.  
  • Proof I was in an airport.  
  • Why else would they put full-length mirrors if they didn’t want you to photograph in them?  
  • You can’t see anything, Ma!
  • Why do they have ashtrays in airplane bathrooms if you haven’t been allowed to smoke FOREVER!  That freaks me out.
  • It takes me a while to pee on a plane.  I got bored.
  • Michelle McDaid - Yes! We should meet at an airport someday for a glass of wine because airports do the same thing for me.May 15, 2015 – 6:30 pmReplyCancel

One more month and I’ve got almost two years of Smooshed seconds.

I’m ready for a break.  I’m ready for something new.
But really? I’m ready to watch a full year of seconds.

One Second a Day :: March – April from Erika Ray on Vimeo.

I went into the holiday season knowing that I wouldn’t catch a break until March.  I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t catch a break until April.  Silly me, I’m only beginning to breathe and it’s almost May.

So let’s catch up fast and dirty style.  Y’all like it fast and dirty?  Here we go:

  • Finished one of my favorite quilts (I know I say that about all of them, but I mean it this time.  I think).  I filled it with boy themes and did some hand-stitching.  It belongs to one of our favorite families (scroll down to see him with his adoring sister) who welcomed a boy into their all-girl clan.  I think he deserved the most boy heavy prints I could dig up and he got them.


  • Took the boys to their first big event: WWE Raw.  Who knew so many grown men really love wrestling?  Who knew so many grown men believe it’s real Real?  Who knew the event would have a smell: gunpowder and thick BO?  Who knew I’d have as much fun as the boys?  (psst… Me.)


  • My parents gave us their pool table.  I’m awful at it.  Always have been.  I blame my long legs.  They hit the table at a weird spot and it clearly throws off my aim…  Clearly.  But every now and then I win. My celebration dance is disgusting even to me.  Each time, I swear it’s the last time I’ll ever get to do the Winner’s Dance, so I do it louder than the last Dance.  And I promise to win gracefully next time.  But I’ll do it again.  And again.  I’m an awful winner.


  • We finally made it to Disney.  Fast and dirty recap: Boys hated anything princess related ( see below right) which worked in our favor.  They would only walk directly in front of us and at varied paces.  This awkward walking style resulted in 3 “gentle” shoves.  I didn’t have to kill or even threaten to kill anyone.  We discovered Becks hates roller coasters and we only “forced” him on two. 3 out of the 4 parks serve beer.  I didn’t care how much it cost.  And Disney is gorgeous at night.


  • I had a little bit of time to hang out with my youngest friends.  Which translates from Mommy Speak to Adult: I got to hang out with their parents.  I also had a few opportunities to hang out and discuss photography.  This always results in a few things: I’m put in front of the camera, I realize that I do know what I’m talking about, I get to see others’ passion for the craft which always fuels my own, I get to hang out with my friends while talking photography, I get to hang out with friends because of photography, I get to share a few drinks with friends.  You can never type “friends” too often in a blog post.



  • I had the privilege of documenting this family’s second birth.  She was so strong and had the birth her way.  It was beautiful.


  • “What are you doing?!”  “Wait.  Let me get my camera…  O.K. Do it again.  One more time.  Shit.  Are you okay?!”


  • Finally replaced the front door.  She’s happy and so am I.  Yes, this sounds like an incredibly boring nugget to put in a blog post.  Unless you’ve waited 2 years to replace the piece of shit front door that came with the house.  Just indulge me, Folks.


  • Had a Spring Break that I will affectionately call Spring Boy Break.  It only took a couple of days to reinforce my belief that I was meant to be a Boy Mom.  My gut wasn’t wrong.  I was meant to be a parent of boys.  Noise levels were always high.  Fake wrestling matches were stopped in time and mud washes out of clothing.   It was good prep for summer.


  • Work tossed some surprise travel at me.  I miss the road, so I let the TSA agents frisk me a little longer than normal, brought the rental car employees gifts, and purposely made a mess in a few hotel rooms.  But I’m not a travel photographer.  These are the only frames from Portland, Austin, and Dallas.


  • My camera fell about 5 inches and the mirror box went to shit.  “So you can fix my box?” Some of you will understand why I enjoyed calling the repair shop to ask this juvenile question.  Two years ago being camera-less would have crushed me.  I would have felt incomplete, naked and confused.   Now?  It felt fine.  Not having the constant need to reach for it felt freeing.  I survived.  But by the fifth day, my finger was feeling itchy.


“C’mon.  Get out of the frame!  I’m NOT taking your picture.  I’m taking his!  Knock it off.  This is what I do…  Get out!!”


  • Our family has two birthdays in April.  Mark celebrated his 40th birthday (no big camera = no pictures  But I wouldn’t have used it anyways, we all know this) and Coop celebrated his.  Mark celebrated with a few close friends and won enough money to pay for the party, a round of drinks, and a few self-bought birthday gifts.  For Coop, we had a party where I didn’t need to clean or cook.  After a long couple of months, this was the best way to spend some cash.  Both Birthday Boys said this year’s birthday was their best yet.  I’m a happy Lady.  And ready for a birthday break…


Throw in some school events, a few loads of laundry, an almost finished quilt, freezer burritos, a couple awful periods, a stomach bug that camped out in Coop’s gut for a month and you’ve got the entire story.


There you’re.

All caught up fast and dirty style.

Hey Summer?!  You’re up.  Be kind to me this year, ok?

  • Janet Vorst Dyer - Great job, Erika.April 28, 2015 – 12:39 pmReplyCancel

  • Claire Tremeer - catching up after months where I didnt stalk any blogs. Loving the varietyMay 6, 2015 – 12:39 pmReplyCancel


Ten years ago, I held a 9 pound 1 ounce Teacher with a head full of dark hair and a really good lung capacity.

His first lesson was to teach me to be selfless.  Along the way he also taught me the power of being selfish.  He taught me patience and when to let go.  He proved that all of my laughs and smiles prior to his birth weren’t as full or as big as I had imagined.  He taught me that I didn’t know everything or that I even had a clue about most matters.  He gave me purpose.

He taught me that my heart was no longer protected by skin, bone, goo or even by my stubbornness.

Ten years ago, he placed my heart exactly where it should be.

Forever on my outside.

Unprotected from pain, but more capable of inhaling joy and love.

I’d never put it back even if I could.

Happy birthday, Kid.



This month was bittersweet for me.  I’m nearing the end of Round 2 and I really wanted a full month of clips.  But that didn’t happen.

Yes, a few missing days won’t matter when the entire year is smooshed.

Yes, I didn’t beat myself up over missing them.

Yes, this month has a lot of tv shots (that’s my height of laziness and forgetfulness).

But the month also had a vacation in it.

It had the first real thaw of the season.

The month had friends in it.

In the end, the month always feels like it has more good days than missing/lazy/forgetful days.


One Second a Day :: February – March from Erika Ray on Vimeo.

I’ve already said, “This is my last One Second project for a while.”  When the words slip out, I mean them.  I feel the conviction roll between the spaces and the vowels.

I’m done smooshing.

But every time I watch a month and see our days, I can hear a tiny whisper add a few more words to my conviction.

“…for a while.  I’m done smooshing for a little while.”

  • Kaci Broady Tellefsen - I absolutely love these. Don’t know how you do it.May 1, 2015 – 2:07 amReplyCancel