Photos are powerful memory keepers

December is always such a hectic time, it seems, no matter what precautions I put in place to prevent it.  It has seemed like life is always a blur from Buddy's birthday at the end of October all the way to New Years.  I make notes in my planner about how to start things earlier the next year - little reminders of how to ease it when it comes this time next year.  Despite the effort, it never feels much less hectic.

In this last year I have made a very concerted effort to use the word "no".  Strange how difficult that can be.  Strange how hard it is to tell someone else that no, you won't do this little thing for them.  Even knowing that saying no to one thing is saying yes to something else that you feel, deep down in your heart, is more important.  Even knowing that after you say that 'no', that it really does feel so good to not have yet another burden lying on your to do list, owing someone something else.  It's hard.  And despite so carefully trying to pare down my obligations and commitments, it feels as busy as ever, if not more so.

December is half over already.  It's going so swiftly.

Life at Christmas by Carey Pace

Basketball season has resumed. I confess that although I adored every moment of spring and fall baseball, I really enjoyed a down time break during our week days.  The return of several evenings a week obligated out is both annoying and welcome.  Buddy LOVES basketball and is in heaven.  But it throws a wrench in our normal and makes things seem more rushed.

I hate rushing.  Rushing makes me a ugly person.

That is not really true.  It doesn't make me an ugly person.  It merely reveals the ugly person that comes out when I'm pushed beyond ease.  That ugly person is always there, only masked behind a more pleasant facade.  Rushing is an opportunity to grow, change, improve, and allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in my heart and guide my actions, responses, and attitudes.

As I said, December is half gone.  Being without my camera for a month really taught me how much life is documented when I have it.  I know that some of it is due to the lack of light in the short days of December, and some of it is due to the downright dreary weather we've had most of this 12th month which left me uninspired, but I've just not photographed much life these last 17 days.

It's a short window.  Christmas the year that they are 6 and 8.  I won't get it back.  They are at the cusp of remembrance.  They'll remember this Christmas.  They'll remember the decorations unique to our family.  They'll remember where things were placed.  They'll remember the way the light reflected here or there.  How this sweet treat or hot cocoa tasted.  They'll remember how I woke them for school singing carols at the top of my lungs.  They'll remember whether I wrapped the packages with elaborate ribbons or just threw plain boxes under the tree.  They'll remember whether I stopped what I was doing to enjoy something Christmasy with them.

For various reasons, I've had to enter the recesses of older photo folders several times of late.  And it has been fascinating to me how things that seemed so wholly forgotten come rushing back with the mere glimpse of a photo.  Everything about the moment floods me.  How I felt.  How the sun felt.  How it smelled.  The texture.  All of it.  Something completely forgotten moments prior is now just as clear as if it had just occurred.

Photos are powerful memory keepers.

Perhaps my mid thirties is bringing me to an acceptance of the escaping of time and I'm grasping for any way to halt it.  My children are growing up and a season of our life is over.  My photos at least let me return to a time I cannot re live.  They give me back the feeling, which is really want we want to experience again.   We want to FEEL what it felt like just one more time.

I want to do a better job with these remaining December days of 2014.  Photograph what life in our family is during the time we celebrate Christmas.  Both for me and the days I'll want to immerse myself in in the attempt to remember, and for them -- to have photos to go with their own memories and mental images.  To have something to look at to remember just how wonderful it was to have Christmas at home.

Christmas life by Carey Pace
I shot these with my Nikon D800 , Sigma 35mm f1.4 , Nikon 85mm f1.8, Nikon 50mm 1.4D

how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire

Hot tears streamed down my face in a torrent. 

It was March of 2010. Almost five years ago now. I sat in an enormous auditorium, alone yet surrounded by thousands of strangers, listening to Nichole Johnson perform her piece “Playing with Fire.”

piece on motherhood and anger by Carey Pace

She shouted. She yelled. She screamed with narrowed eyes and hatred in her voice. She said the same things in the same tones I’d heard all my growing up life. The echoes of that former time were eerie in that she, too, knew what I'd heard behind closed doors. But worse, I heard myself. I heard myself, not quite two years in to parenting my more challenging second child, on the verge of emotional collapse, relying not on what I knew to be right but what came out on instinct from years of being shouted, yelled, and screamed at myself.

"I … am…. an…. arsonist" she slowly said.

"I have set fires in my own home. I’ve been as careless with my words as others have been with cigarette butts that they just flick away in a dry forest."

Pierced. My heart was pierced right through and the pain was nearly overwhelming. Not being a public cryer, I couldn’t have been more thankful to be at that conference alone so that I could indulge those tears. Allow them to fall, streaming one right after the other as if they were releasing, and forgiving, every harsh and thoughtless word I’d allowed to erupt in selfish fury.

I knew in my core that God had made all this possible. It had all led to here. God had woven a tapestry, as He so often does if we only look. 

  • He’d orchestrated the family that spent a short period of time at our church before moving on to somewhere else. 
  • He’d orchestrated her hosting a moms get together in her home one day in 2007. 
  • He’d orchestrated that I was brave enough to go, just the once, and ventured out with my 3 month old first born son. 
  • He’d orchestrated that she’d mention a book to me, Professionalizing Motherhood, that I’d balk at because of the title. Having loathed the corporate world, I wanted nothing to do with “professionalizing" anything. 
  • He would orchestrate that title continued to pop up in my mind over time until I ordered it in September of 2009. 
  • He orchestrated that I’d discover the Hearts at Home organization through that book.
  • And He orchestrated me being able to attend the national conference in Illinois - many many many hours from Tennessee - the following March.  

In the months leading up to the conference, anger was the theme I kept bumping into. It was everywhere I turned. Something about anger in the mom and how it affected the kids was unavoidable on every blog I read, every commercial I saw, every radio blip I heard. And then this performance. The culmination. I was broken.

Nichole Johnson’s piece on anger CHANGED me forever. I got home hoping so badly to find it on youtube to link and share with others. I couldn’t find it. I had hoped to watch it again, every year, to remind me how powerful our words and our anger are. The inspiration for the piece was James 3.

"Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!”

I promised myself I wouldn’t be the angry mom. I promised myself I’d break the cycle. I tried. Real hard. But I was trying in my own power, and our own power is never, ever enough.

Last March, I was reminded of Nichole Johnson’s piece and went to search again. I found it was available to purchase and download. I watched it then and was reminded of the POWER of our words, and our anger. Yet time took its toll, and now that December is upon us, my patience has worn thin. I’ve stepped back from THE source of power and started to rely, albeit unintentionally, on my own power to control my words, my tones, my body language — all the methods of communication — that can either give life or indicate anger. My own power will always, always fail. And anger and frustration have been saturating my communication with my children.

The first step is always to return to THE source of power, God’s Spirit inside of us, that can help us. The second step is to apologize to my children for my mistakes and ask for their forgiveness as I try with God’s help to do this better, daily.

I believe this isn’t something I can be healed from. This instinctual defense of anger will always be a thorn in my side. I can either humble myself before the Lord and allow Him to help me, I can try (and fail) to change it on my own, or I can give in to the temptation to spew hatred and fury when things don’t go my way. I will always need to choose to let God speak inside of me. It will be a daily choice.

I am thankful for God’s tapestry that brought me to this place. I am thankful for the opportunity to break the cycle. And I am thankful that despite my many, many mistakes in anger, these children forgive with loving hearts that give big and genuine smiles like these.

smiling eyes by Carey Pace smiling eyes by Carey Pace

I shot these with my Nikon D800 , Sigma 35mm f1.4 , Nikon 85mm f1.8, Nikon 50mm 1.4D

Elfing all the way!

I love the Elf on the Shelf.  I absolutely adore this tradition.  Christmas 2014 marks our SIXTH year doing it.  It has become more and more fun each year as my children have aged.  Their excitement this year is incredible.  If you need elf ideas, you've come to the right place!

When the Buddy was around 12 months old, we attended a church league basketball game of my husband's.  A family for the other team sat near us and was enchanted with one year old Buddy.  They told us all about a tradition they'd had in their family that totally trumped Santa, and succeeded in taking the emphasis off Santa and his gifts.  They were elves that made fun mischief each night and found themselves in different places daily.  This family told us how much fun their kids had with it and how excited they were each morning to look for their elf.  I made a mental note to investigate.

I remembered later in December 2008 and googled.  What this family had told me about in 2007 wasn't the currently marketed Elf on the Shelf, but that is what I came across first in my search.  I can't remember now what that other family's elf tradition was called.  But the EotS website said that a few stores in my small town actually carried them, and I was on the trek to find them!  Unfortunately, all the local stores were sold out that December. So I ordered online and saved the special box for a year until December 2009.  We never looked back.

I love that a mom did this with her children as they grew up.  I love that those grown up children thought so much of this tradition that it could be brought to other homes and set out to make that possible.  It's a wonderful American Dream success story.  And now my own children have benefitted and will likely continue on with the tradition when they have children of their own.

I don't understand all the elf hate - though I shouldn't be surprised.  Our society seems to be motivated by judging others and verbalizing their attitudes.  Why should the elf be any different than to fall prey to society's judgment at large?  Why should people be upset at the success of the original family?  I wish we could just encourage each other, however we see fit to celebrate in our individual families.

This year I shared Jolly's adventures in a six part series on Peanut Blossom.  Jolly has a little different look than the currently available elf, and I really like his face better than what you can buy now.  I hope you'll take a visit and see what Jolly got into last December.  Here's a preview of my favorite images of 2013.

Elf on the Shelf by Carey Pace 2013

I shot these with my Nikon D800 , Sigma 35mm f1.4 , Nikon 85mm f1.8, Nikon 50mm 1.4D

the margin to play

Back in October, before the horrible month of waiting for Nikon to return my broken camera to me, we enjoyed an afternoon in the backyard.  It is tempting to fill our days with scheduled activities.  Over thanksgiving I was asked when my kids would start piano lessons... and YES, this has been on my heart for six months.  I feel that music lessons are incredibly important for a multitude of reasons.  However, so far, we've indulged in more athletic endeavors... and that leaves less time... and TIME is the most important thing....

No matter what, we must retain margin so that we CAN spend a beautiful afternoon out playing.  JUST playing.

I fear that too many of us are swept away in the tide of activity... soccer, baseball, basketball, swimming, running club, gymnastics, piano lessons, voice lessons, guitar lessons, church groups, art lessons, the list runs on and on.  All of these are such wonderful things.  And yet, being involved in too much... stretched too thin... are we teaching our children that life is meant to be a constant blur of scheduled activity?  Constant stimulation?

Where do we leave room for the simple enjoyment of each other?

backyard play in fall by Carey Pace 2014

backyard play in fall by Carey Pace 2014

backyard play in fall by Carey Pace 2014

backyard play in fall by Carey Pace 2014

backyard play in fall by Carey Pace 2014

I shot these with my Nikon D800Sigma 35mm f1.4Nikon 85mm f1.8Nikon 50mm 1.4D