For the first 50 years of my life, my perfectionist self mistakenly believed it was all about knowing more, getting it right, planning, attempting to prevent bad things from happening, and keeping all of my chicks in a row. It took me this long to discover that the JOURNEY is all that matters. This quote from Gilda Radner sums it all up:

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The "Botton" Line

I've been doing a lot of soul-searching lately.  I wrote last week about decisions I am trying to make about the course of my life from this point on.  (click here to read)  Whenever I have a decision to make, whether it's choosing a cooktop for my kitchen, a book for my reading list, or what to do with the rest of my life  - I do a lot of research.  This week, I stumbled upon a TED talk by Alain de Botton called "A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success".  I really liked it.  So I googled his name and discovered that he is a French philosopher.  I didn't even realize being a philosopher was a career possibility in this day and age.  I always envision them being ancient and mostly Greek.  Anyways, I downloaded one of his books, "Status Anxiety" because I suspected this was the reason for my difficulty making a decision about the course of my life.

"Status anxiety", he explains, is "the feeling that we might, under different circumstances, be something other than what we are - a feeling inspired by exposure to the superior achievements of those whom we take to be our equals - that generates anxiety..."

Who are my "equals"?  Other mothers in my age group.

When my children were young, I knew many moms who had left their jobs to be stay-at-home moms.  Now, however, most/all moms that I know with children in college are back in the workforce, contributing financially to the household.

We are also surrounded by what Botton calls "snobs".  He defines a snob as "anybody who takes a small part of you and uses that to come to a complete picture of who you are".  Your answer to their question "What do you do?" defines your entire worth to them.

What does it mean to be "successful" in the world today?  Many would say someone is successful if they make a lot of money, are renown in some field, or have acquired a lot of material things.

Botton stresses that "our goals should dictate what we interpret as a triumph and what must count as a catastrophe".  Being truly wealthy doesn't require you to have many things.  Rather, it requires having what you long for.

When I left the workforce, my husband and I made this decision together.  We are a team.  His major role was to be the bread-winner.  My major role was to be the care-giver.  We feel it's important in our family to have someone who is not tied down by business, deadlines, and schedules to be able to respond to all of the little things (and big) that life throws at us.

What are my goals?   

My goals don't involve money, renown, or material things.  I have everything I want.

My goals are:

- do all I can to create a close, loving family

- teach, support and comfort my children as they face new challenges in their lives

- make our home a warm and welcoming place to be

- continue to have my own passions, both intellectually and creatively, to fill the gap that naturally comes when children grow up and begin to lead their own lives.

 In his TED talk, Botton emphasized that in any vision of success, you can't be successful at everything.  You can't have it all.  There has to be an element of loss.

This element of loss is exactly what I was feeling over the last few years as I was establishing a photography business.  
In order to do one really well, the other suffered. 

As of this moment,  I am officially putting this issue to rest.  
I will not continue my Senior photography business as I have for the past two years.   I will take jobs on a limited basis as they fit into my life if I want to.  

I love photography and feel that there is something else I was meant to do with my skills.  I just don't know what that something is - yet.
But I don't need to know that now.
I am at peace.
I am enough.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Birthday Wishes!

I woke up this morning with anticipation for an exciting day ahead of me!  A flight to Nashville with my daughter, Kerry, and a fun day exploring a place I've never visited.  Kerry has a job interview tomorrow morning and I decided to go with her for moral support (and enjoyment too).

As I was getting ready this morning, I smelled a familiar scent.  I recognized it immediately, without wondering even for a millisecond its origin.  Due to my apprehension about flying, I thought for a second it could be an omen or warning of some sort.    But I was in a hurry to get to the airport and refused to indulge my paranoia any further.

I was meeting up with Kerry in Philadelphia to continue on the same flight into Nashville.  My first flight was smooth and easy.  Once I'm actually in the air, my fears seem to go away.  After we began the descent into Philly, I put away my book and closed my eyes.  It was then that I noticed the same scent as earlier.  Hmmmm.  I paid more attention to it this time. I breathed it in,  a warm, comfortable feeling enveloping me.  I didn't know why it was happening, but I knew it had nothing to do with any kind of omen.  There was also a feeling of warmth on my left shoulder.

The plane landed and I turned my cell phone back on. In the next second, it buzzed.  Kerry was calling me.  As I looked at my phone to answer her call, I noticed the date.  March 23.  NOW I understood! 

Today is my dad's birthday!

He's been gone almost 5 years.  

His scent is a mixture of his after-shave and his sweat - at least that's what I think.  It's unmistakeable. And unforgettable.

Maybe, while you're here, Dad, you can share some of your never-ending confidence and support with Kerry!  And Lori. And Adam, Annie, Mikey, Emily and Hali.  You are needed and you are missed!

Happy birthday, Dad!  I love you!  

On this day when we should be honoring YOU with presents, you have given me the greatest gift of all!

Friday, March 14, 2014


Choices are funny things.  

We all feel fortunate when we have them, but often we agonize over them.  I find it's especially difficult to make choices when it affects the direction of my life.

I've been grappling with life choices over the last few months.  I realize I am so fortunate to even have these choices at all.  Nonetheless, I'm torn.

After a successful career as a computer analyst,  my husband and I decided that it would be best for our family if I left my job to stay at home to raise our children. I was 35 years old at the time.  I've never regretted that decision. 

I will be 55 years old in May.  My youngest is in college now.  For the past three years, I have built a photography business from scratch.  For the last two years, I've had to turn people away because I've been so busy.  That's great, right?

That's where I'm torn.  I don't really know.

I've felt a great sense of accomplishment.  I love taking pictures and having a creative outlet.  After 20 years, it's nice to make my own money once again, even if it isn't much compared to my earnings in the past.  I look at my work and I am so proud of myself!  I created these beautiful portraits!  Also, for some reason, it was important to me that my children see me as an intelligent, talented woman and not just a mom.

There are also frustrations:
1) The busy time of year for outdoor Senior portrait photography is when the weather is the nicest: July - December.  I've substituted time working in my garden for time working on the computer - long, bleary-eyed hours.  

2) The best light of the day for shooting flattering portraits outdoors is in the evening.  This is also when I want to be spending time with my husband and family. 

3) I didn't foresee the huge amount of time spent just running a business.  Besides the photo shoots and editing work,  sooo much time is spent answering emails, making phone calls, checking the weather forecast for rain/wind, meeting with clients to order pictures, placing the orders online, packaging orders when they arrive, submitting Senior photos to the yearbook, filing taxes, record keeping...

For the past twenty years, I never questioned my role in my family.  My husband was the bread-winner and I was the care-giver.  I knew I was contributing equally.

Now that my kids aren't living at home much of the year,  I feel like I'm a slacker if I don't do MORE than care-giving.  My husband is in no way making me feel this way.  It's just me and my pride.

What are my hopes? 

My hopes are to be able to continue to put my family first.  My hopes are to take care for my children, husband, and pets in ways that will ease their burdens and keep our family close.   My hopes are also to pursue my passion and use my talents.

Perhaps there is a 3rd choice that would better fit my life.
Perhaps I can use my photography skills in a different way.

I think I know which choice is best one day, and then I question it the next.
I think writing this has helped.
Maybe I'll make a decision - tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Comfort Zones

As I was nearing Rochester last Thursday night, this was what I saw - a beautiful sunset over the city.   Annie was waiting there to spend a little time with me in the middle of her busy evening as she prepared for her last mid-term exam.

I was feeling very comforted by the beauty in front of me
 and my daughter so excited to see me!

On Friday,  Annie could hardly contain herself!

They piled into the car and we headed home. 

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.   ~ Jane Austen

Sabrina was only staying with us for one night, but the 3 guys - Drew, Khahn and Lauritz - would be with us for 3 days.  Annie and the guys make up the Eastman freshman saxophone quartet "Astutia". 

They were all looking forward to spending some of their spring break together. 
 The quartet members have made it their goal to visit each other's homes before they graduate.  Drew lives in Rochester,  and they have spent many hours at his home already.  Khanh, however, lives in California and Lauritz lives in Denmark. 
 I guess a 5 hour drive to Connecticut was pretty easy compared to their next home visit!

Much of the conversation during the car ride revolved around music - things I couldn't even begin to understand.  But that's ok.  What I was interested in discovering had nothing to do with music.  It was very plain by the end of the ride home that their quartet had formed something very valuable in their short time together since September.  They were able to talk, be honest with each other, and disagree.  The could poke fun at each others idiosyncrasies and respect each other's strengths.  And there were no hard feelings and no egos.
That was comforting for me to witness.

On Saturday morning, they were introduced to small town America at our local eatery, 
Chuck Wagon.

They also went "frolicking" in the woods (Lauritz's Danish translation for "having fun").

They spent much of the afternoon practicing together - but that sounded more like fun than work!

Dinner on Saturday night lasted hours!  We were happy to provide good home-cooked meals that might have tasted a tad better than what they could get in the dining hall!

 Khanh really enjoys meat.  We think he might have consumed an entire cow at one sitting!

All food is comfort food. Maybe I just like to chew.  ~ Lewis Black

Vance and I were happy to get to know everyone better and glad they wanted to spend  time getting to know us too!

The more time we spent with them, the more we liked them. 

On Sunday morning, they came to our church and played an arrangement of hymns before the service began...

This was followed by more "frolicking" in the snow...

playing on the swings at the grammar school...

snowball fights...

sitting in the BIG chair together at Kloter Farms...

and blowing up tubes for sliding...

only to have them pop on the sliding hill...

By the end of the 2nd day,  they were at ease lounging in their "comfy" pants...

and snuggling together under some comfy blankets...

And each night, long after they supposedly were going to sleep, I would lay in bed listening to the sound of their laughter coming from down the hall as they gathered together in one of the bedrooms for some "pillow talk" that lasted long after I fell asleep!
That, too, was comforting!

This morning they woke up and went to perform for the band students at Annie's high school.  There was also another impressive musical performance at home:

The guys left this afternoon, taking the train back to Rochester to finish their week of Spring Break.  Annie was really sad to see them go and was missing them immediately.

Even on the train, they were keeping in touch!

This blog post is all about "comfort".  

I am so grateful for the comfort I feel, knowing Annie has these wonderful friends when she is away from home - friends she can really be herself with.  
This quartet is more than a group of aspiring musicians.
They are group of really good people who will be there for each other in ways that go far beyond music.  
I am convinced of that.

I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort where we overlap. ~ Ani DiFranco

Their backgrounds and personalities are so very different.  Before this weekend I would not have foreseen such unlikely friendships.

I just love expanding my horizons and growing as an artist.  The only way you get to do that is by doing something that scares you   or    takes you out of your comfort zone.                   ~ Vanessa Hudgens
I may not know a whole lot about music, but I predict these kids will go on to be a pretty amazing quartet over the next 3 years.  
They are each other's comfort zone away from home.
They are like a family.

And when you have such a solid base as they have already have built,
nothing can hold them back. 

(and I can't wait to have them back to visit whenever they want!)