Wednesday, January 17, 2018


It's a blustery, Dorothy-blown-out-of-Kansas, kind of day.  As the wind blows, I sit here eating some leftover pizza, Charlie sits watching the back yard, chickens huddled up away from the wind.

There's so much I want to write about.  Musings of my soul.  It's just a matter of getting what's inside out, and that's like fitting a camel through the eye of a needle.

It does seem that each week of this new year has given me a new lesson.  I began with gratitude in place of complaint.  Building on that, I purposed to be aware.  This week I'm learning all about authenticity.  I wasn't really given the choice, it was more a matter of soul survival that led me to this realization that I must approach the things I'm doing with utmost authenticity.

Here's what authenticity looks like:  showing up and being real, allowing yourself vulnerability to be seen as who you are.  And the thing is, this is really hard to do.  A person spends so much of their life living up to expectations, trying to be perfect, to maintain an image that somewhere in the middle of it all they forget what is even real.

For me, this has become evident in my art.  Ok, I'm not an artist.  I don't paint or draw, not really.  I don't have a studio with palettes and easels and brushes in water.  But I do create.  Since I was a kid I've been stringing together words in meaningful and powerful ways.  When I was 11, I picked up a violin for the first time and it is one of my greatest joys.  As I sit at my piano and play, I feel the music deep in my soul.  For years I have been capturing pictures of things that make my heart skip a beat, the first I remember when I was teenager and I caught my dad in his signature overalls sitting and talking with his little grandson, my nephew, in a glow of sunshine.

These things have been a part of me all along but it has only been just recently that I learned how authenticity fits in amongst it all.

This past year I set out with purpose to turn the things I love into the things I do.  Photography, I love.  Thus, a business was born.  And here is a glimpse of raw authenticity, I have no idea what I'm doing.  But each day, one foot in front of the other, I build a business.

Here's the thing, when you start a photography business you learn how many other people are out there doing the exact.same.thing.  And these people, they get out on mountaintops and shoot amazing images of goats standing on ledges in the glow of a perfect pink sunrise.  And suddenly, my simple flower shot seems, well, simple.

So, I change.  I frame my shots with these professional photographers in mind, hoping to measure up.  I try to capture things I think others would like.  I compare and compete.  I scramble to make what I'm doing worthy.  And just like that, I've lost my authenticity.  I've lost the eye that saw beauty in that moment between my dad and my nephew.

And, really, this realization came to me in a moment, a lightbulb moment I suppose.  I just decided, no more.  I decided that my photography needed to come from the deepest part of me, it needed to be raw and authentic if nothing else.  I would rather take beautiful pictures that no one sees than create some cookie-cutter images that mean nothing.

Every time I put pen to paper, or sit at an instrument and make music, or lift my camera to my eye I have a choice to expose my inner self, to be vulnerable and real.  Whatever I create is a reflection of my heart.  If not, what is the purpose?

This is my lesson.  Be authentic. 

This is, perhaps, the greatest risk that any of us would take: to be seen as we truly are.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


It is a Wednesday afternoon.  The dishwasher is running.  There is a cup of Roobios Chocolate tea next to me.  And I'm in need of a little distraction after a couple of hours of adulting.  I came across this little ditty on FB the other day.

Favorite smell:  used books, fresh baked bread, spring, the Plumeria on Kauai

Last time I cried:  I choked back tears in a movie we watched last night as the yellow lab in the movie reminded me of our Gracie and I was just kind of overcome with missing her.  She was a good one.

Favorite pizza:  pepperoni but I love a lot of varieties, equal opportunity

Favorite flower:  Iris

Favorite dog breed:  I'm smitten with Dachshunds.  I do believe Weimaraners are the most beautiful.

Image result for weimaraner

Untie laces before shoes come off:  sometimes? You know if I'm not in a hurry or they are my best shoes I'm untying.  If they are just my beat up hikers you better believe I'm kicking them off.

Roller coaster:  Probably.  I'm not sure.  It's been a long time.

Favorite ice cream:  Chocolate chip mint, but it has to be the green kind, not the white kind.

Pet peeve: those who make conversation just for the sake of talking without actually caring to hear your heart

Shorts or jeans:  Both.  I'm an equal opportunity wearer.  I'll wear jeans, jeggings, shorts, yoga pants, skirts, whatever fits the situation and weather.

Color of your vehicle: white

Color of eyes: blue

Favorite food:  carne asada tacos

Favorite holiday:  Christmas

Night owl or morning person:  I'm more of a mid-day kind of gal.

Favorite day of the week: um, Tuesday?  I feel like I'm at my best on Tuesdays.

Do you have a nickname:  my name IS my nickname but I also respond to El, or Sis, or Babygirl (my mom and my husband only!!)

Favorite music:  probably cello music in all it's forms.  I like the lonely cello, haunting in it's refrain.  I like the upbeat cello playing a cover of some well-known pop tune.  I like classical cello.  I like when cellos are featured in songs.

Favorite grocery store:  I shop Haggen a lot because my son works there so I get a discount.  Our little town only has 3 groceries stores to choose from and I do use each one for different things.

So, there you go.  All the things you didn't ask and didn't really need to know about me.
Until next time!

Monday, January 8, 2018

grateful, aware, and eating soup

It is midwinter.  Holidays are past.  And we settle in to the next few months.
I set some intentions at the beginning, one of which I shared here.  To complain less and be grateful more.  Perhaps it is shameful how often I have caught myself mid-thought or mid-sentence and had to backtrack to find the good. 
Crummy things happen.  People don't measure up to what we feel they ought to be.  We can't control situations or people but we can control how we react or don't react.  I choose to not complain because what does that even accomplish but to make me feel worse and spread that negativity on to whomever I'm speaking with.
Another intention that is closely related is to be aware.  Just be aware.  In awareness we can almost step back from a situation and see it from all angles without coming to any conclusions or responding in any way.  That doesn't mean that we won't ever respond but it allows for a time of reflection outside of our preconceived notions.  Approach a moment in time without any thought of how or why and just see it.  Be aware of the people around you without placing any expectation on them.  Be aware of yourself without expectation.
To live in this practice of awareness is to let go of control.  Did you know that we don't have to control every little thing?  We don't have to control the people in our lives.  We don't have to control our every second.  We don't have to control the world. 
Maybe you've realized that even if you try to control, it is impossible.  That lack of control can often lead to anger because things aren't going the way you think they should.  But be aware.  In a conversation you don't have to have all the answers.  Slow down and just be aware of the other person, what they are actually saying, rather than how you are going to respond.  In a situation, slow down, step back, and just notice the details instead of reacting.
Be grateful and be aware.
If you need something yummy and warm to make this week, please make this soup.  I have eaten it three days in a row and I'm not sorry.  It is vegan, if you care about that.
Mexican Lentil Soup
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped (I used sweet)
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 T. cumin
1/4 t. smoked paprika
1 t. oregano
1/2 t. pepper
2 c. diced tomatoes (I used canned)
4 oz. can diced green chilies
2 c. green lentils (green lentils have a firmer texture and don't get mushy)
8 c. vegetable broth (I made my own)
cilantro and avocado for serving
Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add onion, carrots, celery and jalapeno.  Saute for 5 minutes.  Add garlic, zucchini, cumin, paprika, oregano, and pepper.  Saute for 3 minutes.
Add tomatoes, chilies, lentils, and broth.  Bring to a simmer.  Simmer, covered for 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
Serve topped with chopped cilantro and avocado.
You can also serve this with corn chips, sour cream, and cheese but of course, it would no longer be vegan (if that matters).
Do you follow my photography Facebook page?
Or my photography Instagram?
Have you seen my website?
I'm doing things and creating things and sharing things and I really want you to be a part of it. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

highlights and page 1

We had a really monumental year in 2017.

A few of the highlights:

Austin traveled to Alabama and competed in the NJROTC Nationals, with his team taking 8th place.

Blake wrestled at the State Tournament earning 6th.

Austin was invited back to shoot at the Junior Olympics and made the trip to Colorado with his dad.

Blake turned 16 and got his drivers license.

Austin turned 18 and graduated high school.

Blake got his first job and bought his first car.

We traveled to Kauai as a family and had an amazing experience.

We stayed with family at a cabin near Mt. Rainier.

I began building my photography business.

We celebrated our 20th anniversary in Astoria, Oregon: the place where our story began.

Aaron reached 40 and we celebrated with dinner and bowling.

Blake was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome and we walked that road together.

That was our 2017.  I'm thankful for all of it and all the things in between.

Of course 2018 holds so much promise. 

There are big things happening this year. 

I step into it with all gratitude and joy, looking forward to the changes, looking forward to what is planned, looking forward to living and growing and being.

This is page 1 of 365.  Isn't that a fantastic thought?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

resolutions or not

I chuckled a bit as I slid some peanut butter cookie dough into the refrigerator to chill.  It took a place right next to my probiotic drink and the green smoothie I had just made.  Maybe I'm working on balance.  Balancing my butter and sugar intake with my probiotics. 
For reals though, if it's not for legitimate dietary restrictions, I think people think about food way too much.  What they can eat, what they can't, how many points, how many sit-ups...  It's easy to get caught up.  Especially now, with the new year and the new resolutions. 
If anything, resolve to not resolve to lose weight and work out!  Instead, eat quality and stay active.  For me, I'm eating peanut butter cookies and drinking green smoothies and walking my dog.  Can we just live life instead of living in slavery to a diet or a program?
As December comes to a close I looked through my pictures from the month and came up with a few to share here.
The first is my really rad and amazing Adidas shoes that I adore.  The picture was taken while I was sitting in the bleachers at a high school and my Blake was warming up with his team.  I've been in the stands watching wrestling for 8 years now and I really kind of enjoy it.  Except when my Blake is on the mat, then I get so nervous and anxious.

Sometimes I take myself out for coffee.  I'll get a scone or a cookie or a muffin and when I do I always dip it in the foam of the coffee.  The foam has just a hint of coffee flavor and is firm enough to sit on the cookie like whipped cream.  Ah.  So good.  This picture is of a caramel latte and a molasses cookie.  A very good pairing.

My Charlie dog is the highlight of every day.  He is so warm and genuine and honest.  His only desire is to be close to me or to chase squirrels or to nap.  One morning as I was doing my yoga, and because he always insists on being on my mat with me and sprawling out and licking my face, I put his bed on the couch and plopped him in it.  When I was finished with yoga this was what I found, fast asleep.

Winter is wrestling season.  Blake usually has two competitions a week.  Saturdays are tournament days which his dad always goes to but I can't make as I work on the weekends at the restaurant.  But during the week when he has a match, Aaron and I drive to whatever school (usually within an hour drive) and watch our boy.  It's so fun and I usually get popcorn and we sit with whatever parents also made the drive and we cheer and we yell.  There's a lot of yelling at wrestling matches.
Here's the guys warming up...

We had my work Christmas party at the bowling alley this year.  I don't know how many of you have worked at a restaurant but sometimes, it's really hard.  I feel like I've been in the trenches with these people.  They've seen me on the days where I've had enough.  We share mistakes and stories of crazy customers.  We make each other laugh and really support each other through the hard shifts.  I probably wouldn't know most of these people if it weren't for work but I am glad I know them.  By the way, I'm a terrible bowler but my husband is pretty good (he's in the red chair in the pic, just right of center).

Storm Duals in Bellingham.  Eight teams, four mats.  Everyone wrestles four matches.  Blake won all four of his.  We had Panda Express after this.  That boy can eat!  He finished his then he finished mine. 

Christmas Eve it began snowing.  Within just two hours the roads were covered.  Thankfully Blake was let off work an hour early and despite some sliding around, he made it home safely (parents of 16 year olds understand).  Austin didn't work that day so we were all home and safe and together.
We always open our stockings on Christmas Eve.  We watched A Christmas Story.  Thankfully, we woke up to a white Christmas which is pretty rare here at sea level.
The next day the snow was still here.  This is our town's waterfront...

That same day after Christmas, Aaron and I went on a hike.  I caught an unwilling picture of him and just love his face.  One of his son's bought him that Adidas jacket for Christmas.  Stylin'.

The snow glittered in the sunlight like gemstones...

As 2017 fades into 2018 I have set some goals.  Perhaps I'll share some here another time.  For now I'll tell you a big one because I want for YOU to do it too.  Ok?  Will you purpose to achieve this goal along with me?  Here we go:

Complain less and be grateful more.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

early December

Monday evening...

Two loaves of bread are baking.  Homemade barbeque baked beans in the crockpot.  There is a dog in a too-small sweater vest at my feet.  The Christmas tree stands tall in the corner, bedazzled in 61 feet of multicolored lights.  Hopefully we'll get the ornaments on tonight.

Hans Zimmer, in the mood of Pirates of The Caribbean streams through my earbuds.  It's my study/work music as I sit here editing today's photography work.  I took my little sweater clad puppy along for the ride but he stayed in the car while I worked my session.  He got a nice walk out of the deal so no worries.

I'm heading to an evening yoga class here in bit, after my bread is done.  One son is at wrestling practice and the other son took off with his bass guitar to jam with a friend who has drums.  Aaron is working on hanging the lights on the outside of the house.

Did I ever mention that I only have three chickens left?  Five was whittled to four by a raccoon.  Four was whittled to three by a neighbor's dog.  My beautiful Golden Laced Wyandotte has a terrible case of molting.  She's lost all of her luster and scurries about the yard nervously.

Tuesday noonish...

The morning was frosty and cold.  The house was chilly and I sat for awhile with my puppy dog under a blanket.  He snuggled his body up close and rested his head on my leg.  Dogs are the best.

It is already noon and I'm just sitting down to breakfast.  Two fried eggs, some ham, and two pieces of homemade bread, toasted with butter and blackberry jam.  I joked with someone the other day that my body is instinctively putting on it's winter coat.  You know, that little bit of insulation to survive a cold winter?  Thus, the craving for fried eggs and toast with butter.  All the good things.

After cuddles with my pup, we braved the morning chill and ventured outside.  He smelled all the smells and I split some larger pieces of firewood, cut kindling, and cleaned the chicken coop.  Loaded the firewood inside and filled the space under the hearth.  Now there is a roaring fire and the house is warm.

I finished editing the images from yesterday's session and got those sent over to the client.  After a couple weeks of living distracted by hospital visits with my youngest son, it feels good to be back to business.

Other than me and the dog, the house is empty today.  I took advantage of the quiet and sat down at my piano.  I began playing 10 years ago and have been self-taught the whole way.  A few months ago I bought some practice books at thrift stores and have been honing in on proper hand positioning, technique, and really focusing on what my left hand is up to.  It's been fun and challenging at the same time.

My violin has seen more practice as well.  Playing Disney tunes.  Playing fiddle tunes.  It's been about working the skills I have.  Strengthening the quality of what I do, in all I do.

Find what sets your soul on fire and do more of that.  Am I right?  It's taken me a lot of years to get to the point where I could recognize and honor that.

Until next time!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017



This is my boy.  My Blake.  He is 16 years old, an athlete, a student, an employee, a friend and 4 weeks ago he passed out at school.  This was not an isolated incident so I made an appointment with his doctor. 

We went into the appointment with the idea that maybe it was diet related or an iron deficiency, something we just wanted to pinpoint and rectify.  His pediatrician ruled out our ideas and basically chalked it up to a normal side effect of rapid growth.  He suggested an EKG to rule out any unforeseen things but highly doubted there would be anything.

Leaving the pediatrician we drove directly to the hospital to get the EKG done.  It was a Friday.

Monday afternoon I got a voicemail.  "This is Dr. X and I wanted to let you know we did see a delta wave on Blake's EKG and I've been in touch with Seattle Children's Hospital and they want to see him."

Crushing weight.  Confusion.  I listened to the voicemail probably 4 times.  Trying to let it sink in.  I googled the terms he used so I would know better what we were looking at.  Then I told Blake.  He was in disbelief but, as most teenage boys, he stuffed the information deep within and went about as normal.

It wasn't really normal.  He admitted that.  Later.  He was worried.  He felt different.  He felt every beat of his heart.

Four days later we were in Children's Hospital.  He underwent another EKG that showed the same delta wave.  He had an echocardiogram to take images of his heart.  We met with a cardiologist and were given the name Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome.  This is a congenital heart condition that Blake has unknowingly lived with for all of his 16 years.

WPW is an extra electrical pathway within the heart that can cause irregularly fast heartbeat and could cause cardiac arrest.

We received this information on a Friday.  Wrestling was to start on the following Monday.  Blake is a returning State placer, heading into his Junior year as team captain.  This kid eats, sleeps, and lives to wrestle and he's been looking forward to the season since about one week after the last season ended.  Faced with the prognosis we had, the cardiologist recommended that he not wrestle until we had some more tests done.  This was not an option for Blake.  For reals.  He told the doctor that he was going to continue to wrestle.  And we sat in that little room and supported our son.  And that was one of the hardest decisions a parent can make.

This was not a haphazard decision.  We had been given all the facts.  We weighed all the information we had with the fact that Blake has been wrestling since he was 8, with WPW all along.  And we weren't even sure that his fainting episode at school had been caused by WPW.  We accepted the risks.

The following week on a Thursday (one week before Thanksgiving) we were back in Children's Hospital for more testing.  They wanted to see how the electrical pathway in Blake's heart would behave during exercise.  They attached monitors all over his chest, monitored his blood pressure, and had him jog on a treadmill under constant supervision.  The goal was to see the electrical pathway weaken and stop at a higher heart rate.  This would be a low risk pathway. 

The pathway didn't stop.  It continued to send electrical pulses.  At this point the cardiologist could not say whether Blake was high risk or low risk until further testing was done.

We stopped at Red Robin on the way home that night.  We ate burgers, bottomless fries, and shared a gigantic dessert.  We had good conversations, we had honesty.  We shared fears and optimism.  Basically, we put one foot in front of the other and carried on carrying on.

Monday morning, Thanksgiving week, we checked in at Children's Hospital.  Blake was admitted into the cath lab for preparations.  He changed into a hospital gown, grippy socks and waited.  Cath nurses came and talked to us.  Anesthesiologists came in and went over risks and worst case scenarios.  The cardiologist came in and went over what they were about to do.  Then my boy walked out of the prep room one way with the staff and we were sent out the other way with all of the risks and worst case scenarios heavy in the air.

I broke down.  Not even going to lie.  Heavy tears fell.  I was scared for my kid.  He didn't ask for any of this.  He should be focusing on being a teenager, being the best student he can, being the best athlete he can, being the best employee he can.  Not here, in this hospital facing the unknown.

We walked to the cafeteria and got some coffee to pass the time.  As we sat there a family came in.  Dad, Mom, son.  He was maybe 10 or 11.  His skin had an unhealthy pallor.  His head almost bald.  I watched as his parents tried to smile through weary eyes.  His dad held up a cup of water with a straw to his son who took a mouthful and swallowed with visible pain.  It broke me and I could only watch with tears in my eyes.  This same story plays out in this place day after day to family after family sometimes with happy endings and sometimes with sad.

Meanwhile my Blake was anesthetized and intubated.  He said later that this process was terrifying.  The bed he was on was too narrow  The room was too cold.  The nurses joked with him.  His body went numb.  The nurses began to talk to each other with medical terms he didn't understand.  His mind remained.  He held up a hand and snapped his fingers.  And that was the last he could remember.

They placed a catheter in his neck and down to his heart.  They sent his heart into an arrhythmia to determine if the electrical pathway would weaken and shut down or remain.  Basically they attempted to give a healthy 16 year old a heart attack.  Over and over and over again.  Later the cardiologist would tell us that this was a difficult task with him because his heart is so healthy and strong, it kept recovering itself.

There would be two options here

#1 the pathway weakens and stops sending electrical pulses, this would be low risk and no further action would be taken

#2 the pathway continues to send electrical pulses during the arrhythmia possibly causing cardiac arrest.  This would require two more catheters through the groin area into the heart.  They would determine where the pathway was located. They would remove the pathway permanently.

And we waited for what seemed a lifetime.

It was about 11:00 when the cardiologist came out to talk with us.  They were able to determine that the electrical pathway did shut down and they were not worried that it could cause a cardiac arrest.  The doctor was comfortable with leaving everything as is.  He was confident that Blake will not have any problems moving forward from here.

Relief.  Weight lifted.

The flip side of this is that Blake will always have a delta wave.  He will always have Wolff-Parkinson-White.  He faces a mental battle now of trusting his heart to carry him through.  As an athlete he pushes his body to physical limitations, he calls on it to perform.  He relies on it to be strong and predictable when required.  Up until now he's been invincible.  Now he understands that, just maybe, he isn't.

The other night the wrestling team had their inter-squad duals to kick off the season.  Blake and his friend Caleb are team captains and as such have quite a bit of leadership responsibility.  This was exactly one week after our last visit to Children's Hospital.  And I watched my Blake lead his team mates, encourage them, help them, direct them.  And he wrestled.  But, I didn't just see this talented wrestler out there on the mat, I saw everything he has struggled with over the last few weeks, the fear he has wrestled, the unknown that he has wrestled, and the awareness that he now carries.  This is his story now.  This is part of who he is, what builds him, what propels him.

To read more about Wolff Parkinson White syndrome click >>>> here.