What made my year

The year is almost over (seriously?!), but the memories of 2017 will stay with me far into the coming days. I try to make it a habit to look back at the good, the bad and the ugly of each year and make a Top 10 list of sorts. It is a blessing of an exercise just to sort through all the memories, acheivements, battles, failures and wins.

In compiling these lists, I came to the conclusion that anything that sounded good at the end of this sentence should make the cut:
“2017 was the year that such and such happened (Such and such of course being my memorable event).”

Please enjoy my Oh, That Was the Year [THAT] Happened List
(in no particular order):

#1:  My youngest child turned ONE. Cameron, aka Scooby, already lived one full year of her astonishing life. How could it have passed so quickly?

#2:  I became more church involved. I used to feel like such an outsider at my church, and I used to blame that feeling on my church community, staff, etc. I realized over time that it was me choosing to not connect that was causing the distance. I decided to commit more of myself through volunteering in the nursery, volunteering with church needs, teaching Sunday school, joining Women’s Bible Study, joining church-based Facebook groups, and taking road trips with other church moms. It has made all the difference. I now feel like it is MY church.

#3:  Hubby and I looked at one another and said, “Oh crap, we want another kid, don’t we?!” We decided to go crazy and attempt a fourth Busbee nugget. We got very, very lucky and were blessed with a beating heart growing in my belly. I want the world to know that I do not take this budding life lightly. The struggle that I know other hopeful parents face in trying to start a family is one I think about on a daily basis. I just try to do my very best to trust God’s plan for my life and be immensely grateful for it.

#4:  I lost my dearest kitty, Pinto. He was an indoor/outdoor kitty and he went on a hike one day and never came back. He was 15 years old and was notably sick. I think he made the process easy on me by not allowing me to see him suffer. Pinto just went away to rest peacefully, and that’s the best a cat mama can hope for.

#5:  I went surfing in Hawaii, crushing my fear of deep water. This was pretty huge for me. Okay, I was a really bad surfer. But the attempt was real!

#6:  Hubby and I put our faith to the test as I transitioned from the workforce into being a stay-at-home mom and full-time freelance photographer. It is terrifying to leave something comfortable, something that pays a consistent salary, something where I have adult coworkers. Part of that big change of course is living off one salary, giving up office benefits and healthcare, and paying for my own office supplies. It’s been an incredible adjustment!

#7:  We took a cruise with our closest friends. Six days at sea and island hopping. I honestly can’t even remember the destination. It’s the company that counts. We had an absolute blast traveling with our kiddos and the Bowen family.

#8:  I got a new job and I struggled with it. Staying at home full time with my children is hard work. I swear, there are times when I feel not nearly enough for them, like I’m just not built for this job. But I spent the past six months learning to balance life at home, learning to cook eggs to order, learning how to be the sole disciplinarian and home manager. Coupled with freelance, I feel as if I work double the hours as I did when I went to the office.

#9:  Both big kids went to elementary school. My two eldest kiddos are now in school, Caleb in third grade and Natalie in kindergarten. It feels immense. It feels like it all happened overnight.

#10:  We spent a bliss-filled weekend in a mountain cabin. I love the mountains and I love cozying up with family and friends. 

So that was my year. And how quickly it passed!

Pass the baton

Ages ago I was a runner. I ran track in middle school and probably high school too. I can’t even remember. It was not memorable, possibly because I was so mediocre.

One of my events was the 4 x 100 meter relay. In that event, you sprint with all your might for 100 meters before passing the baton off smoothly to the next sprinter. It was painful and nerve wracking. Again, I was not great at this running thing.

Moving on though…

Lately, the pangs and anxieties of that race have felt all too familiar.

My hubby Jed and I have entered a very exhausting phase of parenting/relationship that I’m going to call the “baton” phase. Daily, there are so many things to accomplish and so many voices talking – otherwise known as life – that Jed and I have to take turns at the helm. One of us flounders around as the parent while the other one recovers, and we pass the baton to one another as needed.

I can’t say that it’s this overt how it all happens, but surely enough, when one of us “can’t even,” the other one steps in. And we don’t necessarily transition the baton smoothly. It’s more like tapping out.

Last week I took “the baton” and traveled sans hubby with all three of my children out of town. I do realize that many moms might not struggle with such a trip at all. I am not one of those moms. Perhaps I am built differently, with different anxieties and capacities and weaknesses and strengths.

The trip included endless amazing experiences, and cherished time spent with my mom and dad. We went on hikes, we went rock hunting, we dined on fancy lunches and dinners, and we trekked through caverns. We had a blast!

Unfortunately, I was somewhat on edge the entire time, and left feeling a bit depleted. I wish that weren’t the case. These days in my kids’ lives are so short and I want to truly savor the moments, but I confess (is that even the right word?…confess) that I sometimes find it a challenge.

I took many pictures to capture the experiences, because I knew in hindsight it would all look pain free and magical, and I’d be better able to see the happiness of it all from a distance. That’s the way photos work. 

I’m not sharing these thoughts in order to gain sympathy. Jed and I chose to parent this many kids; we love having a big family. We are suckers for the pain, and a happy, beautiful, luxurious, blessed pain it is.

When the kids and I returned back home from our travels, I was eager to pass the baton to hubby. I may have even told my kids to not ask me for anything for an hour once we entered the house (and no, that didn’t work). I needed to tap out, to officially be “off the clock.” And hubby was there for me when I needed it. He grabbed the baton for the evening, bathed the kids and put them to bed. I escaped for a fun photo session the next morning, went to the gym and meandered around Target for an hour. It was the break I needed before picking back up the parenting baton.

“Baton parenting” is not perfect – or anything close to perfect, but it is where we are. At least at times.

One thing is certain – I don’t want to be a mediocre parent, like I was a runner. I want Jed and I to be the best parents that our family could have. I welcome insight from more seasoned parents, those long-distance runners out there. Because I recognize that we parents are in this race for the long haul.

A balancing act

Hope everyone is enjoying the first hot weeks of summer.  My husband and I kicked off the season by spending a relaxing long weekend away at Sunset Beach, NC with a couple of close friends.  The memories we made over those four blissful days are priceless.  We stayed at a gorgeous condo, awoke early for hot coffee and delicious breakfast, spent many hours poolside and at the beach, and kept evenings simple with card games, tunes from 10 years ago and a decent amount of cold beer.

When I travel and take time off, I am often torn between experiencing the moments and capturing the moments on film.

A few years ago I had a realization.  I spent a lot of money on some really great tickets for a concert by one of my favorite performers.  Instead of truly enjoying the show, I made the mistake of taking video and photo for the entire 3 hours.  So I ended up with great footage, but no real memory of the concert.  Sad indeed.

From that moment, I decided I would try to let “photographer Melanie” relax and just enjoy myself.  Believe me, I L.O.V.E. photographing all the time, but I needed to find a healthy balance.

This weekend at Sunset Beach I practiced that balance.  I snapped a lot of photos with the low-quality camera on my phone and with my pocket Canon, but I only pulled out my real camera once, at the beach, for this moment.

Throw
My husband Jed tossing our 2-year-old daughter Natalie into the air at Sunset Beach, May 2014.

I discovered that when I focus on enjoying myself instead of documenting every second of every minute of every day, the real, precious, perfect moments that matter most appear right in front of me.  And luckily my lens was there.