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I’ve been extremely honest about my bumpy entry into Motherhood.  To the point that I’ve had some people ask, “Don’t you worry that your boys will read it and think you didn’t want them?”  No.  I’ve never said that.  Not even close.

Want me to rehash it?  Here are the bullet points:

  • Motherhood was never a burning desire as a kid.
  • I married a man who wanted kids and after a few years, so did I.
  • I never felt that ooey-gooey bond during pregnancy or even immediately after birth.
  • I didn’t have PPD, I just wasn’t Hallmarky Mommy.  But it came and when it did, it was strong and deep.
  • Around age 2 with my last son, I had a crisis.  Who the fuck was I?  Was this new Mom Identity enough?

Hell no, Mom Identity wasn’t enough!  I found photography and writing.  I was more than just a mom and a wife.  I felt like a whole person again because I found MYself.  I knew who I was again!  I was more and accepted the possibility.  I was confident with this  new found identity.

I found my new suit and I looked really hot in it.

Until it didn’t fit.

I naively believed that once you found your new clothes, they always fit.

It wasn’t fitting.

The entire thing was so hot and scratchy, I wanted to rip it off.  My old Identity wasn’t fitting anymore.  And I had no clue how to make it fit again.  I told Mark after a big Adult moment (needed a new furnace), “I just want to run away.”  “Honey you can’t run away.  You can go lay down, but you’ll have to get back up and get ready for the party.”  And that’s what I did.

  • My job has changed in the past three years so many times that I felt uneasy with work.
  • Where photography and writing gave me purpose the first time, these hobbies weren’t new.  I felt like I said everything I could and everything was already seen through my eyes.
  • My boys have gotten older and need so much less from me.  This is exactly as it should be.  This is the life of a Mother.   Knowing it was coming and being at the true start of this path is a different story.  And I looked around and wondered, “What’s next?!  What am I supposed to do now?”
  • Because they’ve aged, so have I.  And so has my relationship with my husband and most people.  Not for the worse, it’s just different. Our entire lives have changed and I unknowingly clung to the past.

When I finally got off the couch, I realized that, yes, I’ve been here before.  I’ve been at the mirror trying to decide how to make this Life fit.  I knew it was possible, but I was going to have to work.  This outfit isn’t made by my Motherhood, by my Work life, or my status as a Wife/Sister/Daughter.  This outfit is made by my choices around all of it.  I have to craft it into something that fits me perfectly.  Fits my legs, my arms, my thumb prints, and expands with my heartbeat.  Something so perfect and unique NO ONE can define it or steal it from me.  Because it fits only one person.  Me.

Who you are will change a dozen times through your life and maybe you don’t notice.  But when you do, it’s uncomfortable.  I’m no longer that 18-year-old running off to college alone.  I’m no longer the 23-year-old hoping she doesn’t get lost driving to Cleveland.  I’m no longer the 29-year-old begging her newborn, “Please Baby Boy, nurse, quit crying and sleep.”  I’m no longer the 32-year-old frazzled mother of two young boys wondering if life was endless loads of laundry and uneaten lunches.  All of those suits came with trends that worked at the time, but also had some classic details that built a foundation for the next phase.

One day I won’t be an almost 40-year-old with two growing boys who are interested in video games and who still occasionally snuggle with me.  I’ll be someone slightly different.  Someone better built for the next round.

So it’s time for Round 2.  Or Round 15…  Who knows what Round I’m actually on?  It feels like Round 2.  All I know is it’s time to tailor to this new suit.  It’s time to look hot all over again.

I can’t run away.  It’s time to get to work.


  • Helene - I can totally relate to every word you’ve said. I’m not sure what ’round’ I’m in right now but, going it alone has often been a trial. And I’m certain you’ve worn several suits during each round…right now I’m wearing the grandma suit, the working girl suit, the mom suit, and the mother in law suit…the closet is full. Soon I’ll be in the retirement round so I should find room in the closet to store more camera equipment. Love this post! Bravo!November 17, 2015 – 9:36 amReplyCancel

    • Erika - Clean out that closet!! More camera equipment is always pretty sweet!

      Thanks for the kind words which I take as encouragement.November 17, 2015 – 8:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Alisha (@Coily_Locks) - Love this!!! Sometimes I think we are just being human when we want to quit “adulting” because that ish is hard!November 17, 2015 – 11:46 amReplyCancel

    • Erika - Adulting is can be so damn hard… But I guess it’s also pretty fun too!November 17, 2015 – 8:29 pmReplyCancel

  • Jackie - Always on point! I’ve been there many times and find myself looking for a new suit yet again. Thanks for sharing these words.November 17, 2015 – 9:04 pmReplyCancel

  • Erin Perry - so ttimely, and thank you. xNovember 18, 2015 – 7:35 pmReplyCancel

Sometimes life is wonky.

Sometimes life is boring.

Sometimes it’s shitty.

That’s when a 365 gets challenging.  During those moments I begrudgingly find my camera and snap a photo.  Sometimes it’s a nondescript scene.  The kids are easy targets.  But it’s always done without passion and always half-assed.  Half-assed is being generous.  Most of my life is done half-assedly.  I snap the picture only because I’m supposed to snap one frame a day.

Sometimes I even think, “Fuck it.  Just quit the project.  No one would care.  You wouldn’t even care!  Just fucking stop and lay on the couch.  What’s the point?”

Good question.  Right now, there is no point.  Just some stupid promise I made to myself.

But a few weeks from now there will be a point.  A few years from now there will be a point.  Just because I don’t understand the point right now doesn’t mean it isn’t valid.

The point is my days seen with my eyes.  Sometimes it’s shitty.  Sometimes it’s happy.  But it’s always full of life: good, bad, shit, ease, difficulties, half-assed, full-on boogie, laughter, tears, love.  It’s all there.  And when I can’t fully see the beauty, my camera always shoves it in my face when I’m ready.  “Look what you were missing, Dummy.”  My camera can be a bitch.

So I keep shooting and try to crawl out.

  • Heather Burrell - You never fail to make me smile.October 30, 2015 – 10:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Carol Klein Ray - I care.November 2, 2015 – 2:22 pmReplyCancel

  • Cath Britton - so relatable. did you know you had a twin? 😉November 17, 2015 – 2:54 pmReplyCancel

A very very long time ago, I was a highschool student doing highschool student things.  We had a friend that always had pot and my sister and I figured we’d see what all the hype was about.  That’s what high schooler’s do and believe me when I tell you we were VERY good highschoolers.  For example, once we pushed our car a block down the road past curfew.  My parents were out-of-town and our curfew was 11 p.m., but we really wanted Taco Bell and were feeling rebellious.  We were so sure that our 80 year-old neighbor was awake at 10:37 p.m.  So we pushed an enormous Bonneville a block out of her sight.  We were home by 11:17 p.m. with giant Diet Cokes and Mexican Pizzas.  Yes, we were good kids.

Anyways…  We decided to get high.  Someone was driving (because we weren’t really stupid), so we lit up in the car.  First times are never fantastic, but it was what it was.

My sister decided to write about it in her diary because she wasn’t that smart (Sorry, Sis.  I love you).  I learned a long time prior that Ma read our diaries because they were in her house and we were her kids.  I kept no evidence of my minor grievances or grade school crushes.  My sister wrote all about our night and my parents found it.

They came up with an elaborate story. They had to confront her alone because I’d lie and they’d have to come clean about their snooping.   Told her that my dad was dropping off chickens (I’ve NEVER known my dad to deliver chickens) with one of the farmers who happened to be an undercover DEA prior to donning overalls covered in chicken shit.*  She fell for this story hard.  And ran to warn me at work.  “They made me swear on the nieces’ lives!!” she cried in the chain restaurant’s lobby.  “That doesn’t really mean anything?!  It didn’t even smell.  WHY would you admit it?!” I plead as I peeled off my apron ready to take my punishment.

My parents were so proud that they went to her first.  When I walked in the door, they smugly said “We knew we had to go to her first.  You would have sworn all over everyone’s life.”  Please understand if I lied about anything prior it was very innocent things (cleaning up dog poop, not doing the dishes because of XYZ, etc).  Twenty years later, they still take a special delight in their triumph.  Fine…  They can have it.  Because I would have lied and gotten away with it.**

Funny thing is I’m still lying.  Most photographers do.  Anyone that ever tells you, “I ONLY shoot real scenes.  I ONLY create authentic images” is lying through their smug little creative teeth.  It’s impossible.  There’s always a tweak.  A nudge.  A bribe.  A color correction and cloning job.  A setup.  A toy flung out of the frame.  An exasperated, “I guess that will do…”

Trust me.  I’ve created a following on “Being Real” and “Being Honest”  Yup, for the most part y’all get me: hairy legs, words like: Twat and Cunt roll off my tongue without a worry of offense taken, depression, funks, cereal for dinner, non-maternal feeling rants…  Have I told you that most of my underwear is full of holes?  Not lace holes.  Cotton holes.

Most of my images are from real events.  I’m not specializing in portraits or fine art set-ups.  I specialize in real life.  But I tweak it when I need to.  Sometimes I ask for them to do it again.  Turn towards the light.  Sit and pretend like you love your brother.  Reach a little higher and move your chin towards the milk gallon.  It’s not always organic.  Especially when you’re kids are old enough to take queues and you know what makes a decent image.

He’s a slow eater, so it was just us at the table.  He had a logo shirt on, so I asked him to get low.  Becks hates taking direction, so I knew his face would read disgusted.  “Scooch down in your chair.” I told him because I thought: Maybe Stock wants a picture of a kid upset with his dinner?  ***


I lied to you.  If I wouldn’t have written the above and shared the photo, you would have believed that my kid just like your kid hates certain dinners.  We could have bonded over that.  Trust me, I’ve had plenty of uneaten dinners and grumpy kids.  We can bond.  But tonight, he liked the Honey Curried Pork.

But you know what?  I hate when people don’t admit that they lie**** in photography.  Lots of people talk about lifestyle and real authentic images.  It’s buzzy right now.  It’s also my favorite style of photography.  Most of my best photography friends do it and I’m not bashing any of them.  But it’s not always really Real.  And when we think it’s 100% Real, that’s bad because it makes people feel shitty.  I hate when people feel shitty about themselves.  Especially over lies.  We start to hear and believe the Asshole head voice:  Why can’t my images look like that?  Why can’t I grab those moments?  They know their kids better than I know mine.  It must be their faster camera.  She’s just a really good mom and photographer at the SAME time!  Fuck I’m a mess but my mess isn’t even good enough for my albums.

Sometimes the images are faked and that’s ok as long as we all recognize it.  It isn’t easy to create authentic moments that feel real.  It takes practice.  And some skill earned in living through those moments.

We all occasionally do it.  Just rarely fess up.  Tonight’s my night.  I faked the first image and I don’t feel bad.  I love Editing Before and After’s. But tonight I shared a Scenario Before and After: Real Life vs. Photographed Life.

Sometimes we lie so we can recreate a moment we’ve already lived through.  And through the lens we can feel the need to relive that moment when our kids are lanky and have facial hair.  So we create and snap.  We lie-ish.

And sometimes there’s no need.  Sometimes we just capture a simple moment as is.


*My sister swears he wasn’t a farmer and they weren’t dropping off chickens.  She swears it was pies.  Either way, my dad never dropped off pies or chickens before.  I told her, “I swear it was chickens!  I’m going with that, it’s funnier.”  I’m still lying…

**If she wants to tell you why we didn’t get punished, she can.  Which is probably as funny as the Chicken Farmer.  I don’t own all stories.

*** I thought this even though I knew the curtain was wonky and the napkin was too distracting for Stock.  And maybe the plate would be licensed.  And the scene wasn’t centered.  But you never know with stock.  So you shoot.

****Lie might be a strong word.  Maybe fess up…  Maybe craft a scene would be better.


  • Jill - Pies…it was Pies. The passenger was the ex-DEA agentSeptember 29, 2015 – 10:32 amReplyCancel

  • Heather - Oh, how I want to bring you a box of red wine and laugh at the ridiculouness of it all.September 29, 2015 – 3:45 pmReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Heydt - I really wish that you were my next door neighbor. I love this confession. Too much bs in the photography circles lately. (Ok, well not just lately–always.)September 30, 2015 – 12:53 amReplyCancel

  • Darcy Troutman - YES!!!!September 30, 2015 – 4:10 amReplyCancel

  • Erica Caligiuri - Another big YES!!! I’m kinda over people being perfect in their freaking imperfection.November 13, 2015 – 7:30 pmReplyCancel

…I’m a creature of habit.

…I’ve got nothing to lose.

…even if I don’t make it through all 365 days, I’ll still have some pretty good photos of my life.

…I need to fill my stock photography portfolio.

…I got tired of not taking photos.

…I’m good at these projects.

… I’ve got issues.

…I’m afraid I’ll stop needing photography.

…I’ve lost my timing already and I want it back.

…I miss this place and a 365 makes me show up.

… I know myself.

…I value creativity, but I need to cultivate it every day.

… I’m an idiot.

…time has a funny way of speeding by.

…I’m bored.

… really?  Why not?  dayone

Why the fuck not?

  • Suki - Let’s become accountability partners? Will you drag me through a year?September 22, 2015 – 1:59 pmReplyCancel

    • erika - Come on! You can do it! Pick up your camera and start snapping.September 24, 2015 – 9:16 amReplyCancel

  • Lashawn - Yaaaay! Maybe you will motivate me to pick up my real camera Instead of just my phoneSeptember 22, 2015 – 3:25 pmReplyCancel

    • erika - I got a little excited when I read the reviews for the new iPhone. I need an upgrade and might MIGHT rely on it if I miss some days… Might. :)September 24, 2015 – 9:17 amReplyCancel

  • Heather Burrell - Oh Erika, how I could have written this very post.September 22, 2015 – 11:54 pmReplyCancel

I’m not a fan of Summer.  The heat, bugs, lack of schedule all send me tumbling towards insanity.  This Summer was different from any other Summer I’ve experienced.  My children have been in daycare from the ages of 12 and 6 weeks.  When school began, they went to camp every day.  This year we switched things up.  I worked out a deal with our neighbors and agreed to split some of the weeks: two weeks off and one week with four boys.  That one week made it intense.  The week was filled with noise, laughter, wrestling, potty humor, and pure boyness.  We also filled the rest of Summer with music, camping and lots of family and friends.  The Summer of 2015 felt exactly what I’ve imagined Summer would feel like: fun and exhausting.

The video is also bittersweet.  It shows the last two visits with a friend who is no longer with us.  Those two seconds hurt, but it’s a good reminder to not let the Fun only remain in the Summer.  I want to take these laughs and spread them through the rest of the year.  I’m going to take these seconds as a reminder to visit/hug/laugh and love my friends and family as deeply as possible.


Hey Fall!  You’ve got a lot to live up to.  You’d better bring your A game…

One Second a Day :: Summer 2015 from Erika Ray on Vimeo.


It’s that time again!  Back to School otherwise known as Adult Christmas.

See ya, Champs.  Get out.  Hit the sidewalk your teachers are waiting and I’m five seconds from starting my Party.

I’ve given you the big main points for the past two years.  I’m not sure there’s anything else I could add to those lists.  You don’t have a tolerance for my preaches anyways.  The main points boiled down:

  • Be kind.
  • Ask questions.
  • We’ve got your back.
  • Doodle.  Read.  Try not to talk.
  • Be you.  Always be you.
  • Stand up for those who can’t.
  • Be kind.

You got it?  Those are the main points you should always live by even when you leave the classroom.  Remember these and your life could be easier.

But you know I have a hard time not preaching.  Ask your father.  So do me a favor and tolerate these Back to School basics?

  • Clean out your bookbag at the end of the day.  I’m so sick of dealing with a week (two weeks worth of papers).
  • Do your best with homework and actually turn it in (Becks, I’m looking at you!)
  • Make good lunch choices when you buy or when you pack your own lunch (That’s right.  Ma’s done packing).  And for the love of all that is holy in this house, take your uneaten food out and put it in the trash!  I get it.  You don’t always eat your lunch, but finding two moldy sandwiches from last year really reflects poorly on my parenting.  I’ll take some heat on this one…  But just a little bit of heat because you’re old enough to find a trash can.  Reread the first point, please.
  • Get dressed for school prior to coming down in the morning.  Put on new shorts each day, please.  And feel free to wear shorts even when it’s snowing.  I’m not fighting you this year.  Your legs.  Your comfort, kid.
  • But always wear underwear.  You shouldn’t go commando at school.  You never know…
  • Don’t wait until the night before to tell me about a big project.  If you tell me as soon as you get the info, we’ll probably still wait to start until the night before it’s due.  We procrastinate.  But if you don’t tell me, I’ll get upset with you.  Do tell me with advance notice and I’ll get upset with myself.  Plus it’s your project.  How am I supposed to know something’s due?!
  • Using your slang…  Please avoid the school’s Drama Bombs.  It’s always drama and never goes in anyone’s favor.  Never.
  • There’s some new kids in each of your grades.   Please welcome them.  Make them feel included.  It’s good karma because one day you might be the new kid.  Plus it’s really nice to be kind to someone who might be feeling afraid and/or lonely.
  • You need to read something every day, Becks!  How about we make this year the year you fall in love with reading?  Humor me and say, “yes”.
  • Be a good example, Coop.  You’re part of the oldest class now.  Little ones will look up to you.  Be kind to them because next year you’ll be part of the youngest class.  It’s good karma, Kid.
  • Reread the above Main Points and really try to live by them.

Now go kill it, Boys.  The year is yours!

I can’t wait to hear about your first day, but right now you’ve got a desk to find and friends to greet.

And I’ve got a party to start!


Your very happy Mom


Want my mug?  I know you do…  Visit Brim Papery’s Etsy store on August 29 at 2 p.m. EST.

If you tell me that you’ve used a website to diagnose yourself, I’ll tell you how insane you are.  No punches.  You might be sick with something else, but Dr. Erika will definitely write you a script for Bat Shit Crazy pills.  I know this because I’m so smart

So smart that I’ve diagnosed myself.  No website necessary.

I don’t suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I suffer from the transition to every season.  Not the entire season, it’s only the transition period.  February is really bad because who fucking likes February into Spring?  Who?  No one.  So I openly wallow in my depression.  People understand this depression and they cut me slack.  But I also get it when Spring flips to Summer and when Summer flips to Fall.  And Fall to Winter.

The “Summer to Fall” flip feels extra icky.  You’re supposed to love Summer so there’s guilt in transition.  Guilt makes everything worse.  And I crave Fall.  I can wear hoodies every single day.  I don’t have to worry about my leg stubble.  I enjoy college football.  I can drink coffee at 3 p.m. because it’s chilly.  And SCHOOL IS IN SESSION.  I should love this transition.  But I still suffer.

Why do I suffer when my favorite season is five sniffs away from pumpkin spice*?  Here’s five reasons I know I am suffering:

  • School isn’t in, but it’s so close that Target’s Back-to-School section is empty.  It mocks me and I’m angry.  I see the teachers’ cars in the parking lot.  Ring the bell already, Folks!  Mama needs her house back.  Mama needs her schedule.  We all do.  But really, it’s just me.  I need it.
  • My razor (fine, Mark’s) is dull and I don’t feel like replacing it for a few more leg strokes.
  • I only want to wear pants with elastic.  I bemoan the fact that I need to get dressed and apply make-up when the night before I bitched and was depressed about the fact that I never need to shower and apply make-up (yes, even though I’m not a huge make-up person).  My complicated side is in full effect…
  • I’m so tired of being uninterested in everything that brings me joy.  The worst part about having this sickness is that it robs me of my creativity.  I don’t want to look at my camera.  It taunts me.  I can’t stand my sewing machine.  Write?  Why would I?  Everything has been said already.
  • I look at at my knitting needles for happiness.  I start buying patterns and worse yet… I buy yarn for projects.  I’ve tossed enough 1/2130th of a project each Fall (after I’ve accepted the transition sadness) to realize this is a problem.

But I’m coming out of it.  I can feel it.  Proof?

  • I took one picture this past weekend while we camped.  I asked them to wait as I dug out my big camera.  But that one picture was a big deal to me.  I controlled the shutter.
  • I organized my photos and got them ready to be printed.  And I will add insert them into a yearly album.
  • I cleaned out my cabinets.  It’s like Seasonal nesting.  Each season a closet gets attacked.  This year it was the kitchen.  My oldest trash worthy item?  Lawry’s from 2010.  I hate Lawry’s so this tiny bottle mocked me.  But I showed it.  Tossed him in the garbage surround by raw chicken skin.  In four days, it will be covered in maggots.  Fuck you, Lawry’s.
  • I start rereading books that reminds me Art is important.  This time it’s Art and Fear.  If you haven’t read it, shame on you.  Pick it up.
  • I start cooking most nights for the family.  I need to fill my freezer even though I have plenty of time to cook fresh meals every night.  I got an Instant Pot and I want to make-out with it behind the bleachers.  My stove has been shoved aside for a hotter model.
  • I get giddy around the blank notebooks.  I smell sharpened pencils.  I want to snuggle with the unviolated pink erasers.  I plan on hugging the boys’ new teachers.  I’m fantasizing about school lunch recipes that I’ll never make.  I’m beyond ready for Back-to-School.
  • I’m writing this post.  A week ago I would have rather laid on my couch for hours rather than look at my laptop.  I’ve almost asked my Facebook readers for weeks, “What could I write about?”  But then I knew I would have to write.  I didn’t want to write.  So I kept my mouth shut.  Yesterday I wrote something.

So do I have SAD?  Nope.  I have Seasonal Transition Disorder.  I have STD.

Yes, it’s very unfortunate.  But I’m a strong woman, Folks.

Folks, I will survive this STD.  I do every single year.  My STD doesn’t define me. **

* I do hate pumpkin spice.  They put that fake scent in everything.  There has to be pumpkin spice dental dams at this point.  And that makes me want to vomit.

** I might not be thinking straight…



  • Tracey Morris - Not kidding…was just talking about this with my friend yesterday. She reminded me that every “inbetween seasons” I am sad and low and totally sluggish. I feel horrible about everything. I did not know that this was a real thing, like diagnosible. I just thought it was me. I have come to realize over the last year or so that I struggle with transitions. They are hard for me EVEN THOUGH I’m actually looking forward to the change. But I could never understand why I’d feel so crappy in the inbetween if I actually wanted Fall to be here, or Summer, etc. Haven’t been checking in on blogs for months and somehow came to Flickr (which I haven’t been on in ages) and saw your name there and realized I hadn’t visited your blog in a long time either. So I came over to check in. Here I am, blown away at how life brings you to places you need to be in at just the right moment. I’m sitting here in my pj’s unable to get up and go for that walk I know I should take, or take a shower, feeling crappy and now I’m off to go WebMD everything you just wrote about. Thanks for being here, E.August 21, 2015 – 6:36 pmReplyCancel

  • Tracey Morris - Also…can’t wait to tell my husband I have a STD.August 21, 2015 – 6:37 pmReplyCancel