As a human behavior phycologist at heart, I find great satisfaction in learning about people. My husband at the top of the list. The fascination cherry on top of getting to know my husband has been the fact that he has a twin. Of course I didn't think they had the same personality and souls, but I've always been extremely curious as to how they are different. In basic conversation before I knew either of them well, I heard word-for-word same answers to questions. They played matching instruments, worked matching construction jobs, were building ICF houses side-by-side. Same hair-cuts, same North Face jackets, same computer passwords, same exclamations when they were embarrassed or disgusted.
But four years later not only do I know them better, they know them better. Caleb and Daniel shared extreme twin-telepathy and connection. They play music with very little verbal communication, and it's been described to me that sometimes they each forget which instrument or part they are playing, because they know exactly what the other is going to do -- in their brains two different pieces are one in the same. They were both eager to get married and have kids, but Caleb went off without Daniel for the first time. While we were annoyingly busy falling in love and laying the rebar for our impending life. We got engaged, were married, announced pregnancy, had our firstborn, and became pregnant again a second time while Daniel was quite single.
Those years were an intense transition for their relationship. Through them were severe depression, mania, overseas trips, moves to new states, career changes, out-of-the-blue large bills, soul-searching and wandering. It broke our hearts, but it was a needed process. Last fall he really seemed to be finding a place of clarity and peace. He was the most "himself" we had ever seen, with focus on his dreams. He declared himself "wild and free!" (which he was, er, is.) but he was growing up, and becoming so confident in the man God made him to be.
We were seeing the eccentric, busy, man made of music, whose heart beats on chords and harmonies, express himself. He was actually pretty weird and far less "tame" than he perhaps once tried to be. He's a feeler and a go-er and thinks in sounds and experiences and lights. He's a zebra in a field of horses, and a brilliant colorful mind full of possibilities.
So when someone tagged Erin on instagram, suggesting that she might be a good match for Daniel, it took us all a grand total of two minutes to know he was going to marry her. His mom had that "mama hunch" immediately, and when she showed Caleb and I on her iPhone we agreed completely. She is his matching mitten, his reflection in the water, his tail on a kite. They are one of the most "Made For Each Other" couples I've ever known. It's a little scary, actually. His weirdness is only beat by hers, their sense of humor is cheesy and 'only them,' they wear their hearts on their sleeves, want an untraditional family lifestyle (not tied down by usual constraints), their skin and hair is the same color, they are full of spirit and energy, ready for adventure and change and discovery. We couldn't be more thrilled that they have fallen so deeply in love, and that they are promising their love forever. Welcome to the family, Erin! You're an answer to many prayers, and have a way with our brother that no one else in the world does.
We did this shoot at a local shopping-center tourist-area (called "The Rio"). It was so fitting because Daniel has spent the last two years playing his violin on the street corners to make a living. He spent night after night after night after night, week after week after week, month after month after month, out there alone. At the end of the night he'd collect his cash, deposit it in the bank, chip away at his debts, and go back at it again. It was a slow, exhausting process. But he did it. He not only paid off every penny he owed, he supported himself independently through those years. Seeing him walk around in a suit, with a beautiful woman in a gown, snapping engagement pictures, gave me a catch in my throat. The lessons of life have only just begun, but what a sweet thing it is to watch you both learn together. Go knock 'em dead, you two. We'll be cheering in the crowd while you're on stage someday.
Photography, especially the kind of near-and-dear, interspatial, blood-of-my-blood photography that happens when a mother makes her child the subject, is a rich form of story. We walked through the gift our children's childhood is not just to them, but to us as well. It's a thing we can take, as they give; know as they tell. It's also a time where we build into their souls their place in history -- vastness of this world years and years before but also the unquestionable singularity of their importance in this song. It's the time where we live before them what we want them to be (scary), and also get to show them what it means to have somebody know and love you. The difference between fitting in and belonging. Grafting their roots into the solid family tree of time and generation.
As a mother you are part co-character, part narrator, part author, part illustrator, part editor, part reader. Photography, I believe, is more than just satisfying mommy-guilt or storing memories. It is a foundational gift and capability that can have the power to affirm or deny some of the greatest truths in this life. I've gotten to know and re-know my own mother all over again as I study the images I have of her as a college student, and Army Captain, and mother. In some ways I see her strength in images better than I ever did live. I am re-told my place and potential and value when I look at pictures of mom firing off rounds and looking at toddler-me.
We also learned about those beautiful black boxes called "camera" and how to use the buttons and numbers to tell our stories better. We learned about light, composition; crying in a room full of near-strangers, laughing over meals, exchanging labor -- war -- stories. These women have face infertility, miscarriage, longing, waiting, incision, blood, and the power of little children in our world.
I hope all of your emotional and "living" skills were increased, as well as your photographer and technical skills. I left the day full of dancing memories and I felt a tight sense of camaraderie in my heart. Thank you, each of you, for being a part of this new experiment and passion of mine. All of my love, and some of my deepest memories, were yours for a day. Thank you for walking sacred places with me.
Also! A huge thank you to the slew of sponsors and companies who made this event possible! Learn more about them below.
We took a family trip to Butler's Orchard and picked fresh flowers and raspberries in the rain. It was an exhilarating, funny memory and I felt very "heart all in" the workshop. And maybe a little OCD (which is not like me. "Not the red ones, only the pink hued ones!")
Each mama walked away with a bundle of treats. I wanted them to have some pretty things they may want if they saw it in a store, but wouldn't necessarily go ahead and spend on themselves. Erin James from Graceful Magazine provided beautiful watercolor notecards. Her online magazine has so much in store -- enjoy browsing around! Each lady also walked away with a brand new Baggu Bag (I feel just a little more put together when I shop with a Baggu. It almost had the effect of a pair of pearl earrings on my spirits -- almost.)
I fell in love with the hand-painted art given by our sponsor Victory Day & Co. You simply must add some of her heartfelt pieces to your wishlist, and get them on your walls. The artist and owner is a sweet mama of three (two 'here' and one on the way!) I love being able to support and work with fellow mamas.
Husband and wife team, Chris and Carly, are the delightful founders of Hand Lettering Co. I've probably bought close to 20 pieces from them this past year. They were even kind enough to create a custom pink piece for me to give to my mama last Christmas. It was the last Christmas gift I gave her, and will be a part of our family treasury forever. Check them out!
Takeya is the ultimate for cool, modern, glass water bottles (in my completely biased opinion). The women loved their grown-up containers and I may have had to get an extra one for myself!
The motto journals came from Compendium... and someone needs to stop me before I buy a bookcase' worth!
The workbooks were provided by MyPublisher and are the perfect, budget-friendly, little option for tiny photo albums. Just Knotted killed it with the bright, whimsy-full hair ties! SmugMug also had 20% off for them! Online back-up, baby!
“One morning as I was leaving, the director said I didn't have to leave the set anymore.
What happened? Why did they change their ways of treating me?
I came to the realization that it was because I had a mother. My mother spoke highly of me, and to me. But more important, whether they met her or simply heard about her, she was there with me. She had my back, supported me.
This is the role of the mother, and in that visit I really saw clearly, and for the first time, why a mother is really important. Not just because she feeds and also loves and cuddles and even mollycoddles a child, but because in an interesting and maybe an eerie and unworldly way, she stands in the gap. She stands between the unknown and the known.
In Stockholm, my mother shed her protective love down around me and without knowing why people sensed that I had value.”
And if you are interested in having a workshop in your area, please let me know in the comments or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If there is enough interest in your part of the world, I would eagerly spend the weekend with lovely new mama friends!