the art of resuming

March 6, 2011

Oh my poor blog, do I have some ‘splaining to do to you or what? So much so that I’ve decided I’m just not going to do it. Rather, I’ll just carry on here as though we haven’t missed a beat. Will that annoy you infernally? Do you demand to know just where I’ve gone off to this whole time and and why on earth I think I can just waltz back in here as though it’s nothing at all? Well then I’ll say this much: it has something to do with grand commitments gone awry and a self-defeating impulse, one that makes it hard to come out of hiding, among other things. So there. It’s all you’ll get out of me la ti da la ti da.

If, however, I had been true to plan, you would know that the whole of our December and a little of our January looked metaphorically like this:

Since, things have been looking up.

But more on that later. Promise.

{wink wink}


ikea is burning my retinas

December 10, 2010

i hate ikea. when we moved to brooklyn almost a year ago, I made so many soul-sucking trips back and forth to that place that the workers recognized me.

in brooklyn.

a borough of over 2.5 million people. true story.

It is with no small bit of chagrin, then, that I find myself on the website tonight, looking for a bed for Andy and I upon our arrival in Ottawa. That part is nice–the having-my-own-bed part and the not-sharing-a-single-sized-mattress-with-another-human-being-anymore part–it’s just the knowledge that I’m going to inevitably have to put the damn thing together that really puts a damper on a consumer’s pleasure.

Oh, Ikea, you with your do-it-yourself labor intensive house stuff, how you mock me! You know I’ll inevitably buy the wrong sized slatted something or other, and I’ll have to go back and stand in the world’s longest return/exchange line, wishing I’d had the sense and foresight to get a sticky bun and coffee first but now it’s too late.

Ikea won’t be happy until it has my blood.

Oh, wait…. It already does. At furniture assembly time.


December 9, 2010

Wanna know one thing i’m really looking forward to about living somewhere else?

I imagine that I won’t feel like such an anomaly for having three children elsewhere. When I tell people here that I’ve got three kids, I tend to get a whole lot of sympathy: “That must be so [hard/taxing/exhausting/time consuming/difficult/unmanageable]!” and “Wow, you have your hands full!” and “I don’t know how you do it!” New York City is somewhat adverse to bigger families, and by big I mean more than two children. And rightfully so, it’s a really crowded place. And unless you are onto big bucks, the living quarters are tight. Take us–right now Andy and I sleep on the pull-out couch in our living room. Every night! It’s like being in college again except there’s no sleeping in.

Anyway, it’s awful to admit but I, myself, tend to elicit and respond to remarks about my large brood in kind:  “I have THREE kids,” I’ll say and quickly addend it with, “It’s crazy!” or “We are DONE having kids!” as though I’m apologetic about it or worse, embarrassed.

And I don’t know why I’m compelled to do it, because the truth is that–while, yes, it’s tough and yes, I’m so incredibly busy with these children–this is the most precious time of my life.

I am bleary-eyed and haggard, but I get up multiple times in the middle of the night to nurse my baby back to sleep and it’s nothing but peace, pure and simple. And when my boys are jumping off the couch and chasing each other around and laughing…when they are laughing, I would rattle the chandeliers off the ceiling of our super grumpy neighbors below every single night to hear the sound of it.  Every single night.

Maybe it’s not New York as much as it is me.  Okay, it’s a little bit New York. But it’s me too. I don’t want to be anyone’s cliche and maybe I’ve been more concerned about that than about what it means to be a mother to these three perfect people. I’m using this move to start a clean slate when it comes to talking about my children–no more qualifications, no more jokes about how many of them there are. Just joy for each day with them, and profound gratitude that they are mine.

I’ve been here before.

Standing at the crossroad of Dissertation and Life, or what I imagine life to look like, anyway, when unsaddled by a dissertation.

I’m leaving! I proclaim victoriously. I’m free! I’m happy! I’m never looking back! ….HA! HA! HeeeeeYAAAAAAA!

[And so I start packing my moving boxes. And there, on the shelves, are so many books that I'll no longer need. No longer any need to pack them up and bring them along. But....what to do with them then? Give them away? Sell them? Throw them out?]

No. Way.

Can’t do it.

And just like that, I know I’ve got to pack them. And I know what it means.

It’s an albatross, this dissertation, but it’s MY albatross, you know? I mean, really, what am I gonna do without my albatross? Everyone needs one; who am I to let mine go? Would I end up being some uncomplicated, carefree, joyful sprite of a girl without it? From whence would my dark, brooding soul spring? Gotta see it through gotta see it through gotta see it through. [Jo, I hear you groaning...]

The truth is that the crossroad of Dss and Life is really more of a two-lane highway which allows for occasional passing in the oncoming lane. I rarely pick up my own camera without thinking about the documentary photography of 1930s and 40s America I’ve been working on for years now. In a library, pouring over Walker Evans’s negatives for “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” I first started to think seriously about technique and effect of image-making. If I am going to abandon a life of the mind for a life of the still frame, I kind of owe it to my dissertation to see it through.

So I guess all I really need to keep motivating myself to finish the project is just to keep on quitting it every now and then.

Updated Angstometer reads: the dss is still on.


December 7, 2010

the number of boxes we have packed thus far.

the number of weeks minus four days that we have left to pack boxes.

the number of copies of the detailed, itemized list of everything that will eventually go into said  boxes in order to cross the border.

the number of boys who were as excited by the empty boxes in the living room as they were when we went to Disney Land last year.

the number of mattresses we have to get rid of, because you can’t bring mattresses into Canada.

the number of words I’ve had a chance to say to Andy this evening amidst all the non-packing going on.

the number of hours between nursing intervals that I’m able to sleep throughout the night. still. three months in.

the number of years on a boy who had his first haircut last night, despite the immense agony it caused his mother to chop the curls.

the number of eyes on a two-year-old boy that were barred from vision by the immensity of said curls prior to aforementioned haircut.


now your turn: give me your two. i’d love to hear them. in an exchange for an image how ’bout? here’s one for you: I like to caption it “Ninja Parenting.”

two seconds after I shot this, Juniper launched her head back in an ear-curdling scream. No wonder.


the year of wishful thinking

December 6, 2010


I am the only one awake.  Got in late after an evening out with friends–don’t find myself in too many pubs these days but when I do, I take. it. in. Shared bottles of wine, homemade cupcakes by the lovely Jo, a little Paul Westerberg playing in the background which will always make me think of Erin whenever I hear it, no matter how long it’s been.

Tony said, “You are running toward something; not running away, and that’s the difference.” And I hope he’s right; sometimes I feel like that’s right. The problem with decisions though is that when you’ve got to make them, you never quite know exactly how you feel, because you can feel contradictory and conflicted and want exactly opposite things at the same time. You can know going one way is a good choice, but also know that going the other way would be equally plausible. You can talk yourself into believing that you are making the best decision for yourself at this time, because the decision must be made after all. But the truth is that there is no *best* decision here. There is just a choice. And it has to be made because NOT making one is getting you nowhere. You just hope the choice doesn’t find you living a life years from now that has you wishing it differently.


One windy afternoon, not so very long ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Roseanne and Daniel and their gorgeous children for a photo shoot in Central Park. Dan is a photographer himself with a careful eye for detail {Dan, I admit it, I totally googled you before our shoot…Okay, you too Roseanne!} and so I was a bundle of jittery nerves as I waited to meet them near Bethesda Fountain.  They called me to tell me they had arrived, and I had a moment to find them in the park before they saw me. I watched for just a second (not stalker-ish, I promise)–Dan was gently setting his boy on the bench, Roseanne was bent over her little girl, pushing her hair off her forehead–and I was immediately at ease. This, I knew, was going to be a great shoot with a great family. And it was.

Here, I want to share some of my favorites from the session.

Thanks Roseanne and Dan for sharing your family with me. You are my kind of people, and those kids…oh boy those children! A camera’s dream, yes? Sweet little L loves her big brother so much. She watched him carefully–running after him with a pinwheel, blowing her pinwheel when he did, waving it in the wind along with him. At one point she saw that he had put down his beloved train, and when she snatched it up without being seen, her face lit up with delight. And that boy had my heart from the start–smart, funny, so very very sweet. He loves trains and pirates, just like my Jack, and the best part about him is that when you get him to smile–and he makes you work for it–it’s a full-force, from the gut, absolutely contagious ear-to-ear grin (usually accompanied by giggles and squeals) and he was just infectious, that boy.

I was so glad to meet them and play. That was, for me, a really fun afternoon.

growing up in South Dakota

December 2, 2010

means never having to worry about cold weather elsewhere.

So that’s a plus about South Dakota.

These are the photos of our place that are currently gracing the NYTimes Real Estate Section:

If you look really close, you can see Juniper hanging out in the back of this one. Woops! Sorry NYTimes!

And this is the boys’ room. We painted it “kiwi” and that’s a pretty awesome shade of green.

Juniper, by the way, has started rolling over by herself. No more leaving her on the stove top unattended, I guess!

Here are the mug shots we had to get done today for our Temporary Work Permit Applications:

A motley crew, eh? Guess which two of us haven’t slept or showered in four days! Guess whose new nickname is Thugsy Malone!

Andy has his interview with the Canadian Consulate tomorrow. The deal is done–he’ll be working for a new company in Ottawa, Canada and the rest of us will be learning how to ice skate on the Rideau Canal. Though between Arlo’s Fro up there, Juniper’s Gangsta and Jack and my identical hairdos, we might be stuck in the States after all.

So there you have it. We are emigrating to the Great White North in as few as three weeks. It’s cold up there. But I’m from the High Plains myself, and I can handle the cold….right?

More soon! Sxx

I’m going to miss New York.

November 30, 2010

Do they have Thanksgiving too, Mama, where we are going?

No baby, they don’t. But you’ll get to live in a real house! And I promise we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving anyway. And you can have a yard to yourself where you’ll build snow forts and climb trees and run through a sprinkler in the summer. And if we want we can barbeque outside every day when its nice. And we can throw Halloween bashes and birthday parties and we won’t have to change the dates if it starts to rain.

Will you miss New York, Jack?

Nah…can I live in the attic?!


In less than five days, everything is changed. The apartment is on the market; boxes are being packed. My heart is heavy because I love this place, this city. We started our family here. Our kids are New Yorkers through and through and that is some serious street credit, right? We haven’t needed a car in eight years; it’s been such a relief. We walk and walk and walk and there is not another place in the world that has a pedestrian culture like New York. There isn’t another place in the world like New York.

But, the reasons for going are necessary, compelling, exciting. I can’t tell you where yet, but soon. I can say that we are packing up our life and chasing down a dream, all in the hopes that it finds us back here in a few years. We are going so that we can come back and do it right for our little ones.

But of course, you never do know when you first set out on the journey how it will end up.

I know that much by now. That’s why it’s especially hard to go.

{please please please Andy let this be right for them.

deep breath.


when we were young

November 29, 2010

You said that Led Zeppelin was the greatest band of all time; I laughed about your botched Zeppelin tattoo a lot.

I ate an entire cheesecake sitting on your kitchen floor. I wanted to stop, but I just couldn’t. It was also your birthday cake. I cried from guilt and self-disgust. You still like to tell that story.

You said you wanted to be a fireman, and so you walked up to a fire station, knocked on the red door, and asked a fireman how to become a fireman. I like telling that story.

I walked across the tops of train cars stalled in the quarry to impress you. I jumped from rock to rock over the rushing falls, trying to act as though I did it all the time.

I wanted four kids; you wanted two;. we both wanted redheads.

We wrote each other letters, the pen-and-ink kind, in lieu of gifts. I want to do more of that again.

We lived in the upper half of a house and payed $120 a month for rent. Then, we lived in a loft downtown and payed $600 in rent. We never ever ever imagined we’d be paying what we are currently paying in rent.

We spent a summer apart–you in Alaska, me in Vermillion–and we promised each other never ever ever to be apart like that again.

I loved you the most in all the world.

Still do.

That’s all.