Life Lately

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“It turns out that bliss—a second-by-second joy + gratitude at the gift of being alive conscious—lies on the other side
of crushing, crushing boredom… Constant bliss in every atom.”

~David Foster Wallace
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Earlier today, I read the quote above. I thought it sort of fitting for these Life Lately photos I’ve been wanting to post, because there’s been a part of me that did not want to post them. I love the photos and the people/things in them. But at times I thought, how boring and uneventful a picture these photos paint of life lately.

When I read the quote, though, the photos seemed worth putting out here. It’s my son that I most hope will come back to this place {my blog} when he’s older, whether I’m still blogging or too old to blog… or even gone. When he does, I want him to know that life was sometimes terribly mundane because, realistically, his too will be mundane at times… or filled with crushing boredom. And I want him to know that’s okay. Right now, there isn’t a whole lot we can offer our son… at least not in ways that many media and social-media outlets would have us believe regarding what we should be offering him. But given the context where I found this quote, it’s probably the things we think he’d be better off receiving that aren’t the things he’d be better off for… but rather, all the things we are able to give him {and already are giving him} that are. So I hope he’ll find that message here and can look back and remember being given what was important… or better yet, that he’ll grow with that sense and know it even without reading so.

Anyway, as mundane as life is lately, it’s where we are, so it’s what I treasure. If my choices are to treasure or not treasure, it’s an easy choice to make. Unnaturally, but intently, I treasure the mundane. Not to paint a picture quite as bad as something like me at home all day drinking Tab sodas while he’s locked outside to fend for himself {borrowed from this “nailed-it” article I read shortly after writing my first draft of this post}, but it’s not all that amazing {whatever that means}, either.

I know this is only for a season. It was not that long ago that we moved into this house. Life was busy then, and somewhat exciting because we were doing something new. It was also tiring and difficult. But it was anything but mundane. Even through our second pregnancy/birth and the loss afterward, though depleting, it still wasn’t mundane… and in so many ways, a much more fulfilling time than now. So, I have to believe this won’t last forever. It just seems like it.

I’m old enough to know that crazy beautiful isn’t only found in amazing, though. Sometimes it’s in the ordinary or even the dreaded parts of living, maybe even more often than not.

Good thing, too… ’cause motherhood is just soooo very ordinary for me these days. I’m not a well-dressed mom with a better-than-before-I-had-kids body or that influential mom who’s out volunteering at her child’s school. Whoa… talk about crushing boredom. My wardrobe is the picture of crushing boredom {which is hard to believe when I remember how much I once enjoyed fashion and the outlet of creative expression it gave me}. Chasing after a three-year-old and his daily messes in the same four walls every day… crushing boredom. Home-bound without a car most days. Crushing. Boredom. What I wouldn’t give for a different outlook than what I see most days. And that’s just the perspective from my point of view. I still have my child’s perspective to think about, praying he has all he needs and that I can give/be even beyond just what he needs, considering his wants, too. And I do worry, or tend to. Yikes, if he held me up to the moms who are worshipped on television and online as a measure for what his own mom should be, he’d surely think I’m failing him.

But my son knows he is loved and safe, and we have each other to begin with {what greater gift could I ask for?}. While I long to go elsewhere to make a difference, I need only remember I am called to make a difference here, for right now, anyway. I need only look to my Bible as the measure if I’m to be reminded how I fall short {and am justified}… and not to the latest how-to post of any one lifestyle-and-living site that the average person is bound to fall short of living up to.

So I’m resisting any kind of made-up stress about what motherhood and my son’s childhood should look like right now… a stress I’m not strong enough for these days and that feeds me the lie that it needs to be better than this.

Can be better than this is okay {and true}.

Will be better than this… I like to think so. So, also okay.

But needs to be better? Not true. Not okay.

It’s the message that won’t do me well right now, and maybe what’s been behind my choice to go on a hiatus from most of cyberspace for a while… not to mention a weariness borne out of a constant bombardment of other similar messages… You need to be eating this, watching that. You should be wearing this to stay on trend, and your kids should look like so ‘n’ so’s kids. If you make your home like this and this and this, you’ve arrived. Read this, follow that. Make this. Buy that. Take these kind of pictures. Live here, travel there. I’m weary of a constant flow of buzz words. Weary of endless curating and of being spoon-fed more suggestions about what to eat, drink, read, write, believe, follow, watch, wear and create than we’re meant {or able} to process, to the point where it seems we’ve lost all ability to be creative on our own. Weary of the game and race of following or being associated with Who’s Who. Needing a break from all these things, none of which are new, all of which existed even before the internet did, but nowhere near the level it is heaped on us now by logging on to whatever device we’re attached to today.

I recognize this weariness in others, too. Even as I was composing this post over these last couple of days, a post came across my feed from a blog I admire {one of the few I have not unsubscribed from, because the content posted there every once in a while is centered around the theme of minimalism}, expressing similar sentiment… how it seems there is always something to buy at the end of every link in every article. The sentiment that inspiration {and nothing more} is a lost art that seems to be getting replaced with more and more advertising or “What to…” lists.

Even when reading news sites to stay abreast of all that’s happening around the world, information gets smothered under—almost lost in—advertisements for things that the people written about in the articles {like the one I just opened to find out more about the Nepal earth quake} probably care nothing about.

Of course, I read two insightful articles with a related message lately, and found a great quote in another… all via the internet. So I can’t entirely dis it. But I can clean some serious house and take a minimalist approach in all things… not just inside my literal house, but in all the other homes that contain all other parts of my life as well… and I have. It’s what’s left after doing so that I am learning to embrace… what’s here and now… my reality, glamorous or not.

That’s life lately.

So, pinterest-worthy time capsules my son can open on his 18th birthday?… not going to happen. But a few photos, taken every so often, of what actually {and sometimes repetitively} happens around here… that I can do.

While I gave up on the idea of doing another year-long Project52 for 2015 a while ago, I’ve still managed to get some photos of this kid from time to time.

It’s the end of April and I’m catching up, so everything below is more than just my lately. It’s more like these last four months…

Starting with a mini trip during a couple of un-ordinary days we recently had.
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We took the train to the city… just Izzy and me. He hasn’t been to many places in his life. There’s been little travel. But that’s doesn’t matter so much to him. In his eyes, he thought he saw the world that day, excitedly giving me a play-by-play of every single thing he saw through that green-tinted window, with more enthusiasm than I’ve ever heard him express before in the space of one hour. “Mama, there’s a white pick-up truck! And it just turned right onto that street!… Look at that orange garbage truck! That’s the kind of garbage truck you would want to drive, isn’t it? ‘Cause orange is your favorite color!… There’s another train track down there. Oh, and look, Mama…another train!… I can see the road from the train, and all the cars going that way and that way and that way and that way!… Mama, every train station we stop at has ‘park’ in the name!”

I thought he might not even stop chatting for one second except to breathe. But there were some quiet moments, too, as he simply stared out in silence… likely lost in thought at all he was taking in, or perhaps about what was to come in the big city.
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We were on our way to the city to see my sister and help get her home ready for an event she was hosting. While not really a typical weekend for us {so I guess not really mundane}, the weather was misty and grey, and it blanketed the city in a hush of mundane… in a good way.
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Before getting to my sister’s home, we had to make a stop. I snapped a rare glance of myself through the lens in the mirrored elevator at this residential building {one of the many my sister manages}… far enough away, hopefully, that it disguises what I’m not very quick to reveal. Ha… even during a rare get-away to the city, I’ve got on my same old green head scarf… talk about mundane. I was there to work, though… so being fashionable wasn’t high on my agenda.
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When we arrived at her place, we found two very content cats… being very cat-like. How rough they have it, napping all day. Laying there next to my sister’s boots, it was a scene I couldn’t resist photographing. And any photographer would be a fool not to take advantage of the delicious light she has in her place… windows everywhere. Perfect for cats and their sun-basking ways.
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It’s a beautiful space… and if it looks this lovely before tidying up and giving it a makeover, imagine how lovely it was afterward. I worked up to the very minute that we needed to leave to catch the train home… so I have no “after photos” this time. Maybe next time.

Despite all my bucking of the never-ending online curation and barrage of constant feeds that “instruct” on who we should be and what our lives should look like, I have to admit that my sister has a home worthy of any magazine spread {or interiors blog}. What I love about it, though, is that it’s a beautiful mix of only what she’s found while searching, or what has crossed her path… and rarely is she influenced by popular trends. Long before internet came along, she had an instinct and an eye for finds and for making a home more than just a place to live, but something beautiful to look at as well. We both had a love for that for as long as I can remember. We used to rearrange and decorate our family’s common rooms as children. And that instinct never left. Now, she brings home {predominantly second-hand} whatever she sees that speaks to her. So her place was already filled with all the best pieces to work with. We merely had to set them up a bit more aesthetically, which she recruited me to help with {because she has a notion that I’m good at that part}, which I enjoy. The best change was that it looked more simplified when we were done. Yet, what I love about these photos is that they reveal the real scene where not everything is arranged as if a magazine stylist had been there shooting. It looks lived in. So I almost prefer them to any “after” photos I might have taken, even though we made sure to keep a lived-in feel for the re-do, too. I don’t think I can stomach one more photo on a web site or blog of a coffee table where every single item is strategically placed with extreme precision… aligned to perfection like it’s a store display, all the items stacked and displayed as though they’ve never been used. I’d like to see more scenes like the table above… show me it can still look lovely, even when a bit messy.

She’s asked me to return and capture her place after she’s been able to streamline, clean and redecorate every room. I would love to do that, so I agreed. But I may just show up unannounced to do it, because I’m convinced they’ll turn out best if it looks like someone has been living there.

Funny how that works… I can hardly bring myself to take a photo of my own home if in even the slightest disarray. But it’s how I prefer to photograph hers. It goes to show how we tend to be okay with other people’s messes while we have a hard time being okay with our own.
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Poor Izzy… I suppose hanging out at your aunt’s while your mom and aunt clean and your mom plays interior decorator is no fun for an almost-four-year-old who ventured out sans toys. Luckily, two friendly felines were there for him to chase, and they kept him company. Well, it was more like two days of him chasing and the cats running away. I suspect after one more day, all three would have come to an understanding. 1.5 days wasn’t enough time form them to all figure each other out. But the chase kept him busy. So there’s that.
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My sis snapped a pic of us while I took a needed rest off my feet. I have so few pictures of myself with Izzy that I didn’t mind her taking it… grubby in my work clothes and all.
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After a long day’s work, we all deserved an outing for some chocolate custard. To a child, custard in the big city was quite an exciting treat. Actually, it was exceptionally delicious custard, so I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t just as big a treat for me. Sitting on his aunt’s lap, Izzy was content to peer out the window at the city street’s night life. It was the perfect reward for a weekend of hard work before returning home.

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Back home… to the much more mundane side of life…

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Izzy and Mr. B were watching Star Wars clips when I took this. I only point that out because it means that dad was having just as much fun as child… maybe more. I noticed the arm go up around dad’s neck, and I had to get a shot of it, because it’s the visual description of the relationship these two have. I almost decided against taking a picture since this corner of our home tends to be the most untidy. But I realized that what I saw happening was way more important than the state of the environment in which it happened.

If we’re not doing something outside, the office is where we spend most of our time… so it’s usually the most messy room in the house, especially the floor, which is constantly {and currently} covered in Legos.
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I think playing with Legos is the one thing this kid does more than anything else… maybe even more than everything else put together. He seems at his happiest when he’s building something with them. Not only does he impress me with the “cree-rations” he builds, he also displays an ability to focus quite well when he’s playing Legos, which makes me a happy mama.
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I can’t wrap my head around how tall he is in these two photos. I keep thinking, when did this happen? And how? He’s loving this height thing… this new ability to reach into the kitchen sink and do “experiments”. I like that he can start helping with dishes. Not sure how I feel about his three-year-old experiments, though. As long as he’s happy, right? Right.
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It’s moments like this one I most like to capture… when he is completely unaware of my presence. They are the photos I treasure most. I don’t always manage to get a picture of him every time I notice him like this throughout the day, when I have to be doing my own thing, leaving him to his own. Especially lately, with my camera up on a shelf most of the time. I hope to get more shots like these, though. While I love the photos of him smiling and looking at the camera, these are the ones I’d like to remember him by… the way he is most often, lost in the imagination and world of a child.
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Besides… he’s getting to the age where it’s not cool to smile for the camera. It’s become a bit teeth-pulling, so just I give in to his too-cool-for-school attitude like he has in these sunglasses pics. I swear he’s a teenager at heart. I notice it more every day.
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Ah, but he’ll always be my little sweetie… my precious peanut… no matter how cool he gets. You just can’t fake cool when you’re asleep. So I suspect I’ll be taking pictures of him asleep until he moves out. Or until he says cut it out, Mom.

Naps are becoming less and less frequent. So when he can’t resist the need to close his eyes {usually on days that he has preschool in the morning}, I’m quick to grab my camera. I wonder, will this be the last nap I can capture him in. He was sick and home from school for this nap. I set him up with some cartoons and then started my freelance work with my back to him. I had no idea he’d drifted off and expected to see him still watching cartoons when I finally did turn around.

I love that he’s almost four, and this Linus-blanket-like giraffe is still his little buddy… every day since his birth, except for one small period of time when he quit asking for it at night, during which I thought he’d grown out of it. I’m so glad his giraffe pal found a place in his heart again after that break. I can’t imagine him around here without that worn-out little creature. We’ve never figured out who gave him his giraffe {we only know it was someone at my baby shower}. Whoever it was, they probably had no idea what a friend that giraffe would become. Neither did we that first night we placed it beside him in his crib.
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Almost done. Here are just a couple more moments around the house in a handful more of images I treasure…
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Also… some of my recent {if a few months ago can be called recent} favorite photos while away from the house, taken during his first professional haircut…
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This might be my favorite photo of him ever. It’s just so full of joy, but I love how much he looks like his dad in it, too. We have a framed photo of Mr. B. hanging in Izzy’s room. He’s close to this age in it, and has a very similar haircut {though sitting at home, probably not long after a fresh cut, as opposed to in a salon chair while it’s happening}. But the smile in the photo of Mr. B. is exactly the same… squinty eyes and all. This one will be getting framed and hung, too… for sure.

He’s been back to the salon for a hair cut a few times since that first trip. So even adventures in hair cutting has become somewhat mundane. But he continues to be excited about going, because the ladies there take such great care of him and tell him how good he is at sitting still for them, and he always gets to pick out a sucker from the jar before we leave. He learned the hard way on his first visit… don’t start eating the sucker before the hair cut starts or during the hair cut while little hairs are flying around. =)

I like when we go for his haircuts, because I can finally see his eyes again, and because… well… just look at this face…
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I can see Summer up ahead, and with it, a much less mundane time of life… or so I’m praying for. Even Spring will hold some new sights and sounds. Izzy will get to fly in a plane for the first time as a kid {he doesn’t remember flying as a baby}, and we’ll all get to experience togetherness in someone else’s town, away from the monotonous scene of our town. We also plan to take a camping trip at some point… another first for Izzy. And there will be a day trip to a train museum and the dunes. Also, I look forward to when updates to our house will {hopefully} resume, now that time and weather once again permit. Even just those few blessings to look forward to are enough to blind us to how uneventful life can be.

What I’m not blind to is the fact that if we were given every resource in the world to do anything and everything we could ever want, we’d still taste sorrow, sensing this hole that can’t be filled… because we’ll always be given to feeling as though someone is missing from our togetherness.

If not intentional in loss, one can easily experience boredom, especially by this definition… the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest. Oh, how we know those words. Weary. Restless. But how we long to—and plan to—live with joy + gratitude, and while we may fail, keep looking for it in every atom… with whatever we have for as long as we have it. With what comes our way or what we discover along the way. And with whatever we make happen. I don’t think such a bliss will replace crushing boredom. I agree with Wallace’s take… it lives with crushing boredom… “on the other side” of it.

It turns out, the Wallace quote above also fits in quite well with the draft that has been sitting in my blog posts folder for several days… a post I can’t bring myself to sort out and complete, which may be a sign that I should split it up into two or three posts? Now the post will be even lengthier, because I’m sure I will tie it in again there. {It’s a post all about sorrow, joy and gratitude… and even the mundane… so how could I not re-use it?} With another fitting quote to bolster the point of my thoughts, maybe I will make an effort to finally finish what I started writing.

I suppose it would be a good idea to finish this first, though.

But one more thing about the quote. I think it says with words what was behind my reasoning in starting a series called my bliss is this a while ago on my old photography blog… a series I’m thinking of reviving, now that I’ve seen this quote, which is sort of a verbal equivalent to the message in photos that I hoped to convey in that series. So it seems like a good idea to start that series up again, although, the series I’m starting via the post {still in draft form} that I mentioned above will have a similar purpose. Either way, I’ll be pursuing this theme a lot more.

Incidentally, I am now very intrigued by David Foster Wallace, since reading the article in which I discovered his quote. To write honestly about life using a term like crushing boredom in the same sentence that mentions joy + gratitude… well, I don’t know how one couldn’t become intrigued about him if they didn’t already know more than I knew upon discovering him. I have this inkling I’ll be reading more about him in the near future, as well as reading some of his writing.

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