Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month

 Photo by the fabulous Krista @ Hove Photography! 

Photo by the fabulous Krista @ Hove Photography! 

Getting Used to a New Normal...

I'm late to the game this year. May is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month, and even though it's my first year with an official diagnosis, I've found myself without much time to sit down and think about what I wanted to write to help bring awareness to this rare (or at least rarely diagnosed) genetic condition. 

First, let me start by saying that, broadly, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a group of inherited connective tissue disorders that impacts skin, joints, blood vessel walls, the digestive system, and basically most every other part of the body as well. The defining characteristic of all types of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a genetic defect in how our bodies produce and repair collagen. Which, before knowing what I know now, wouldn't have sounded like that big of a deal really. And I would have been very wrong. 

Collagen is found everywhere in the body, and therefore, nearly every system of the body is impacted in some way. And because of the wide variety of systems that are impacted, no two people with EDS have exactly the same symptoms, making the syndrome incredibly hard to diagnose. The average amount of time for a person to be diagnosed with EDS from the time they first begin discussing the seemingly unrelated symptoms with their doctor(s) is twelve years. Let me repeat; TWELVE YEARS. I've been lucky in that way. While I've had many (many!) years of odd and uncomfortable symptoms, from the time my health started to nosedive a little more drastically to the time I was diagnosed was less than a year. So in that respect, I feel very fortunate. I certainly went through many years though where I was essentially told that there was nothing wrong with me, or that perhaps I was just tired because I was a mom (*insert giant eye roll cuz overt sexism*). Having a diagnosis now at least allows me to plan, as best I can. 

There are currently 13 known sub-types of EDS. I have been diagnosed with the most common sub-type; EDS Hypermobility type (or hEDS). Common symptoms of this particular sub-type of EDS include extreme joint hypermobility (and here I thought being flexible was a good thing), chronic joint pain, chronic fatigue, frequent dislocations and partial dislocations, easy scarring, easy skin tearing, poor wound healing, digestive issues (I'll leave that broad, but it's rough), and a whole host of other things, including comorbidities such as Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Postural Orthostatic Tachychardia Syndrome (which is super fun, let me tell you). 

Now for the bad news. This is a genetic condition. There is no cure (no seriously). Taking collagen supplements won't help because my body produces faulty collagen. Eating a different diet might be good for me, but it won't cure EDS. Exercising, in some cases, can be downright harmful, so I have to be very careful how I get my physical activity, and really listen to my body. More bad news... This is a degenerative condition. While no two individuals with EDS have the same journey, it's not being negative or overly pessimistic to say that, over time, my health will continue to get worse. My best hope is to use the best practices currently available (physical therapy, occupational therapy, regular massage, regular low to no impact exercise, knowing my limitations with physical activity, etc.) to slow the decline as much as possible, and do what I can to maintain as good of a quality of life as I can, for as long as I can. I'm really working hard on it (which in and of itself is exhausting). 

I don't say any of this to get sympathy, and DEFINITELY don't mistake this for an invitation to give me suggestions on what herbs I should be taking (my treatment plan is something my doctors and I work hard on together, and I'm not inviting anyone else to the party), but I want to spread the word about this rare and often misunderstood condition, because the more I learn about EDS, the more I think it's not quite as rare as it seems, and it could be just that it's rarely diagnosed. Awareness is key to more research, and better outcomes for those of us living with EDS. 

If you'd like to learn more about EDS, here are some excellent resources: 

  • Hands-down, THE best explanation of EDS I've found that's in plain language. This is something I've sent family and friends to help them get a better understanding of what EDS is and the impact that it has: https://slingsandarrowsofoutrageousfortune.wordpress.com/eds101/
  • The Ehlers-Danlos Society, which provides a wealth of resources for both patients and their doctors and other providers: https://www.ehlers-danlos.com/awareness-2018/
  • The Facebook support group. Which I know sounds weird, but let me tell you, there are SOOOOO many weird things that happen to your body when you have EDS that it can be immensely helpful to talk with folks who really get what you're going through: https://www.facebook.com/groups/152615741473177/

If this is something you too are living with, just know that there are people out there going through the same thing. Find those people, because we help each other get through the really tough days. If a loved one of yours has EDS, do everything you can to educate yourself about this condition, so that you can be a loving support for them, and make sure you have someone to talk with as well!

And lastly, if you've made it to the end, thank you. This is a tough journey to be on, and the more awareness we can raise, the better. Please share, and get the word out, both in Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month, and any month of the year. 

--Sam 

The Rad Photographers Retreat 2018

 
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My second year attending the rad retreat

After attending the 2017 Rad Retreat, I COULD NOT WAIT to go back in 2018, and I couldn't have been happier I did! First, let's talk details... 

WHAT IS THE RAD PHOTOGRAPHERS RETREAT? 

The Rad Photographers Retreat is a ladies only retreat for super kickass photographers, organized by the lovely Christine Dopp from Natural Intuition Photography. Christine, along with some rad co-conspirators, puts together a retreat (now 3 years running) that includes opportunities to connect and relax with other creatives, guest speakers and mentors from the photography (and related) industries, morning yoga, chair massages, professional hair & makeup (which this year we used for some fun bathtub boudoir photos!), a personal chef cooking us A-M-A-Z-I-N-G meals every day, and to top it all off, the most gorgeous styled shoot anyone ever did see! Plus a comfort package giveaway, some bubbly (or a Montana Mule or two), and the best company a girl could ask for! 

So how was attending the rad retreat for the second year in a row? 

Before I dive in, if you'd like to check out my post on last year's retreat, here it is! 

Okay, so last year when I attended the retreat for the first time, I was in a place of deep, DEEP stress and a crippling lack of self-care. I was working myself to death (nearly literally), wasn't appropriately balancing my time with family, and was honestly pretty freaking depressed (can't imagine why). I really credit last year's retreat with helping to snap me out of that pattern of behavior, and for being the first step towards taking better care of myself emotionally, scheduling in valuable rest time, and for making it abundantly clear how much I need a community of creative women in my life. Nothing wrong with dudes, I'm pretty fond of them in fact, but I firmly believe that no one lifts women up like other women or makes you feel sane and supported like other women. 

I was in a much different (better!) place for this year's retreat, and it worked out well that there were so many lady photographers there who are also moms, and many who also have full-time jobs, because it really felt great to be with a group of people who just GET IT. Like really get it. They get the struggle to balance conflicting priorities. They get the desire to continue to show commitment to your full-time job (if you have one) and the desire to continue to be World's Best Mom (even though none of us really can be). And it was also lovely to get the perspective of so many photographers who are doing photography full-time, and to have that reminder that every full-time job, whether you work for yourself or someone else, comes with unique challenges and opportunities, and that even being a full-time photographer does not suddenly make working for a living this magical, easy thing to do. (Capitalism, man... The struggle is real.)

It was also really awesome to see the contrast between last year and this year. For one, I was in a much different mental space between the two years, but for two, the group dynamics were different, in ways that just made me so appreciative of both groups of ladies! The first year, I felt like the group opened up to each other pretty much immediately. We cracked jokes, we laughed until we cried, we legit actually cried (whew, some of those 'face your fears' Q&A sessions are TOUGH you guys, but in the best of ways) and we played Cards Against Humanity until midnight on our last night. Now, this year, it took the group a little longer to open up, we were all feeling pretty shy to begin with, but as we got to know each other, there were so many opportunities for truly deep connection, reflection, and conversation. The group dynamic was a little quieter this year, but I felt like we really connected, and the trust and camaraderie that was established over just a few days was so amazing! Our last day there, after we finished headshots, we even ended up doing boudoir bathtub photo shoots for each other (because when there is a bathtub that amazing, you MUST find a good photo op - oh, and I'll be posting most of those photos in a separate blog post, since I'm having a hard time narrowing down my favorites!) 

The most amazing thing about both years is the open sharing of ideas, techniques, and best practices between everyone, and how that helps each attendee learn, grow, and evolve in their business, and with their passion for photography (which you really see come to life during the styled shoot, which I will post in more detail in a separate blog entry!). That and all of the time for self-care, reflection, and joy that is hard to come by back in the 'real world'. 

I am so thankful to have been able to attend this awesome retreat two years running, and am really looking forward to returning next year!  

WHAT freaking awesome PEOPLE WERE INVOLVED IN making THE RAD RETREAT 2018 so MAGICal? 

OMG, so many! 

First, hats off to Christine Dopp, of Natural Intuition Photography, for birthing this idea and bringing it into being 3 years running! She did such an amazing job on this! 

Second, here is a list of the vendors involved that all pitched in to rock this retreat like no one's business! 

Guest Speakers: 

  • Laura from Laura Zastrow Photography discussed the client experience, as well as finding the light in any situation and off-camera flash techniques 
  • Ren from Studio 29 Photography discussed Instagram strategy and getting published 
  • Angela Scheffer-Mondloch from Saffron Avenue Design discussed brand style, defining your brand style, and how to keep your style on-brand to attract your ideal clients 
  • Ashley from Midwestern Bride discussed planning styled shoots, and what collaborating vendors look for when working with a photographer on a styled shoot, as well as how to approach vendors to collaborate

Breakfast & Lunch: 

Dinners: 

Styled Shoot: 

Goodie Boxes: 

AND IT WOULDN'T BE A BLOG POST WITHOUT SHARING SOME PICS... 

So here you are; Enjoy! And if you're a lady photographer, definitely go to this retreat next year!  

--Sam 

 

A Trip to Portland, OR

 
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An excellent choice for my first full week vacation in more than six years...

Seriously, SIX years since I last took a full week off. I'd ask what's wrong with me, but I already know the answer, I'm a bit of a workaholic. <insert shocked face emoji here>

But... Nonetheless, I could not be more thrilled with our choice of city for my first vacation longer than a weekend in forever! We went to Portland, OR and stayed in the most amazingly gorgeous AirBnB (thanks Mike + Felicity!) We walked around downtown, went to Powell's and browsed the books, checked out the Portland Art Museum (who had an AWESOME Laika exhibit on claymation!), and visited the Planetarium at OMSI! 

We also had plenty of time for relaxing and reading and drawing, which was pretty freakin' sweet. 

Also, So. Much. Food. 

Enjoy the photos! 

--Sam 

 

Winter Mix Tape: 2017-2018 Edition

 
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A little mix to get you through the winter...

  1. Guided by Voices: Things I will Keep
  2. Rogue Wave: Bird on a Wire
  3. Joni Mitchell: Come in From the Cold
  4. Jagwar Ma: Uncertainty
  5. Stereo MC's: Connected
  6. Wolf Parade: Shine a Light
  7. Laura Veirs: Secret Someones
  8. Iron & Wine: Cinder and Smoke
  9. Sea Wolf: Whirlpool
  10. Broken Social Scene: Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl
  11. OK Go: I Want You So Bad I Can't Breathe
  12. Say Hi: November Was White, December Was Grey
  13. Lord Huron: Meet Me in the Woods
  14. The Black Keys: Everlasting Light
  15. Wintersleep: Laser Beams
  16. Pete Yorn: Strange Condition
  17. The National: Anyone's Ghost
  18. Fleet Foxes: White Winter Hymnal
  19. Nada Surf: Icebox

Play Time: 1 hour, 17 minutes 

 

Stranger Things and Childhood Memories

 
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Working out the puzzle of creating lasting childhood memories 

As a mom who not only runs a small business, but also has a full time (okay, more than full time) day job, it can be an uphill battle to make sure I'm spending enough quality time with Ben. Not just movies and meals (though those things are fun and important too), but really creating some good childhood memories for him. 

I was talking with my Dad about this the other day, and it seems to me that the childhood memories that really stand out for me, the good ones anyway, are the things that were out of the ordinary. The strange but harmless situations in childhood that seemed so special that they've always held a place in my heart and in my mind. 

Like the times my Mom and I drove cross-country to the Teton mountains each summer for a retreat and stopped at every roadside attraction along the way. Or the time my Dad and Stepmom decided on a whim to take my Stepbrother and I for a walk to the park, at midnight, in the rain, in downtown Dayton, OH, and let us play in the mud and on the park for 30 minutes or so and then walked us back home. Or holding a 'seance' with pre-teen friends at a sleepover with a ouija board  and some candles after watching 'Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II', a most ridiculous horror movie. Or the time Dad spent a spring break with me in my senior year driving around to different historical sites and museums in Ohio and reading (re-reading for him) and comparing notes on The Frontiersman. 

Sure, you remember the really bad stuff, and the normal nice stuff is there too (like hugs and lunches and such), but some of my absolutely favorite childhood memories are special things like that, and I want to give Ben those types of memories too, so this past Saturday, on a whim, I took him to House on the Rock (which was also my first time visiting even though I've lived in Madison 11 years now). I took him to a special place for lunch, and then we went and explored the House on the Rock attraction (the whole 9 yards, all of the exhibits, the gardens, etc.) It was weird as hell. If you haven't been there, and you live in Wisconsin, you should check it out, if for no other reason than to experience the weirdness.

Strange things make for strong memories, and I think Ben is going to remember touring this weird place with me when he's older. Maybe he'll think of it fondly, the way I think of visiting weird or unique places with my parents. I hope I can help him create some lasting memories, the kind you speak of with happiness (and not in a therapy session, though I'm sure he'll have some of those too because being a parent doesn't come with a manual and we're all screwing it up sometimes). 

What sorts of memories do you really want to make with your kids? Are there any special locations or experiences you really want them to have? Books you really want them to read? Music you'd love for them to listen to? Go out and make it happen, one experience at a time, and I'm going to try and do the same. 

--Sam 

 

 

I'm So Tired...

 
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...I haven't slept a wink

I used to listen to the Beatles' song "I'm so tired" on repeat when I was up with Ben (3-7 times a night) for the first two years of his life. It was oddly comforting. 

I go through periods in my life where I experience fairly extreme fatigue. In fact, I don't think I've felt "well-rested" since before Y2K. Now is one of those periods. I've been so exhausted lately, it's hard to keep my eyes open even while I'm walking, and it takes real effort not to fall asleep in the middle of conversations. Hence why I missed a blog post last week, and have been MIA on Instagram.

Being this tired has me musing about how it can be so easy, particularly on Social Media, to pretend like life is really glamorous, and that we're all really successful and happy and awesome all of the time. Well, I just want to be honest with you all and say that, just like every other human on the planet, life is not always easy or glamorous in my experience. It's hard, messy, complicated, weird, beautiful, fierce, and delicate, all at once, and I don't always feel successful or happy even. It's a white-flag-waving kind of week (or month or whatever), the kind that makes you say "Enough! Enough!" and maybe cry a little (and maybe eat too much chocolate, I dunno, you do you), and so it's time to just be real. 

So, with that in mind, here I am. Life is not glamorous or easy, and I'm not feeling particularly successful right in this moment. I'm breaking out, I'm exhausted, my health is not amazing at the present time, and I feel vulnerable and on edge. 

Life isn't a perfect 280 characters on Twitter, it's not an amazingly curated snapshot on Instagram, it's not a well-liked post on Facebook; It just is what it is, and the best thing, I think, we can do for one another, besides the basics like being kind, not murdering people, and disavowing racists and nazis, is to be honest when things are hard instead of always feeling the need to pretend they're perfect. They're not perfect. I'm letting you off the hook, blog readers. My life isn't perfect, yours isn't either, and it's totally okay to be honest about that.  

Go forth, my friends, and let someone else off the hook today by being real, and imperfect. I bet they need it. 

--Sam 

 

Annual Forever in Our Hearts Remembrance Day

 
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For Parents who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and early infant loss

Each year in October (National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month), local charity, Mikayla's Grace, hosts the Forever in Our Hearts Remembrance Day event. This event is a time for bereaved parents and families to come together and honor their babies, while supporting one another, and the community. The event includes a guest speaker and dove release, as well as a remembrance walk. 

Rob and I first began photographing this event in 2013, as a way to help support other parents who had experienced loss. During the time we were married, we lost 3 babies prior to having our son, Ben. These were devastating losses, and the loneliness I remember experiencing at the time was palpable. I remember feeling so isolated, and as though I have no one to talk to about my grief, and it wasn't until I was referred to a support group for parents who had lost babies to miscarriage, stillbirth, and early infant loss that I started to be able to put my life back together, and hope for the future. 

Mikayla's Grace is a charitable organization that strives to provide comfort and support to parents during one of the hardest things a parent can go through; the loss of a child. They have donated 525 Angel memory boxes, 575 NICU care packages, 130 Christmas NICU care packages, 500 Baby Loss Comfort Packages (for early pregnancy loss less than 16 weeks), 550 baby blankets, and 500 gowns with matching booties and hats to hospitals in Wisconsin.

The Annual Forever in Our Hearts Remembrance Day event in 2017 will be held this Saturday! 

Date: Saturday, October 7th, 2017
Time: 9:00 AM - 12: 00 PM
Location: BTC Events/BioPharmaceutical Technology Center
               5445 East Cheryl Parkway
               Madison, WI 53711

Itinerary:

9:00 Check-in registration begins
9:00 – 9:45 Pre-ceremony activities (Memorial areas, Food, Children’s face painting and crafts)
10:00 Remembrance Ceremony begins
Inspirational speaker  
Reading of babies names
11:00 Dove Release followed by Remembrance Walk

This event is so close to my heart, and if you or someone you love has experienced the loss of a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant loss, I would encourage you to attend the event this year. We'll be walking around taking photos, and also available for family portraits in front of the memorial wall. Please stop by and say hi. 

--Sam 

 

Taking the Training Wheels Off

 
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Ben learns to ride his bike 

So, my son hates doing anything he's not already good at. (I can't imagine where he gets it from...) Which is probably why he's been so loathe to learn how to ride his bike, and has barely ridden the thing (with training wheels) more than a handful of times in the last few years. This Labor Day, we finally said enough was enough, and took the training wheels off his bike, and went outside to help Ben learn how to ride his bike! Boy was he mad at us, but ultimately, our plan worked. Adam was showing him bicycle riding technique, and we spent the next hour outside. By the end, Ben was able to ride down the block (albeit a little wobbly) and we have some pretty sweet first bike ride photos to show for it. Good job, kiddo! 

--Sam 

 

A Trip To Nebraska

 
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A long weekend in the big om'

I know no one really calls it that. Let me have this. 

We took a trip to Omaha, NE a few weeks ago for some much needed rest and a nice change of scenery. We rented the world's most awesome but still affordable AirBnB and bummed around the Henry Doorly Zoo (objectively rated as the World's Best Zoo) for hours, watched movies, ate pizza, and goofed off in our host's yard. It was so nice just to BE for a bit. I didn't answer (or even check) a single email while we were away, didn't even bring my laptop, and while I was sadly still pretty under the weather during this trip, it was great to really take some time to put aside work.

Ben even got to practice photographing moving objects, and took some great photos of Adam and I, plus the cartwheel pic! (Takes after his parents *so proud*) 

If you're looking for a neat place to visit within a day's drive (6.5 - 7 hours), Omaha is a great place to check out both for families and adults. 

--Sam 

 

Bad feelings are a feature, not a bug

 
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Why positive thinking isn't always helpful or necessary

Anyone else get annoyed when someone tells you to "cheer up" when you're feeling down, or going through a rough time? 

Stop me if you've heard these ones before (or said them, we're not judging here): 

  • "There's always a silver lining"
  • "Everything happens for a reason"
  • "It could always be worse"
  • "Snap out of it" 
  • "You'd feel better if you just exercised/meditated/did yoga/ate better/prayed/etc."

It can be frustrating to hear these things even if some of them may be kind of true, because it feels like the person saying them is minimizing whatever it is you're feeling. Whether that's grief, sadness, anxiety, illness, you name it. When the folks you love (or random people who talk to you at Target) tell you some version of "Think positively!" it can be hard not to roll your eyes or maybe cry a little because all you want is for someone to really get what you're going through, or at least give you the space you need to feel the f*ck out of your feelings. 

'Bad' feelings, like anger, sadness, anxiety, grief, etc. are all totally normal feelings, that serve an important purpose for human beings moving about in the world. One of the many important functions these feelings serve is as a contrast to what we think of as pleasant feelings like love, happiness, joy, and so on. You don't know how wonderful joy can be if you've never experienced sorrow. Negative feelings also allow us an important opportunity (should we choose to accept it) to really process what's going on in our heads and hearts, and work through some shit. Lord knows we all have some to work through. These feelings are a part of the human condition, not a hindrance to it. Stuffing those feelings down and pretending they don't exist, or someone asking you to do that, is not only unnecessary, but also unhelpful in the long run, and liable to backfire. 

So that's good news, but it's also a mixed bag (see me not putting a 100% positive spin on this?). It's a mixed bag because you can let yourself off the hook from basically just needing to pretend you're fine all the time (spoiler alert: you're not), but now what the heck are you supposed to do? You've been told since forever that to feel better, you needed to think positively, and eventually you'd be happier (magically, like you're a wizard). Sometimes it might have even worked. But if you know deep down it mostly doesn't work, and you're trying to be better about acknowledging and respecting your own feelings and working through them, now what are you supposed to do to feel better when you're having a tough time? 

Try gratitude and gentleness (with yourself). 

You know what's cool about being grateful? Gratitude doesn't require that you pretend everything is super great to be able to appreciate it. And no, you don't have to 'be grateful' for things like cancer (which should be a given but some people take even gratitude a bit too far), but you can choose small things to be grateful for, even on some pretty tough days. Sometimes it's just coffee. And sometimes it's that you have a roof over your head and a family who loves you. Sometimes it's how your dog always lets you snuggle with him and call him names other than his actual name. Could be anything. Start with just one thing, then see how many other things you can be grateful for. The nice thing about this approach is that there is no reason that bad feelings and gratitude can't co-exist! You can work through your not-so-great feels in your own time, while you give yourself the leeway to feel good about something. Something big, something small, doesn't matter. Gratitude helps to ground us when the bad seems to outweigh the good. While you're doing all that, be gentle with yourself, even when other people may not understand. Seek out those who are supportive of you and what you're going through.

And most importantly, don't let other people consciously or unconsciously bully you out of your feelings when they preach a 'positive thoughts only' approach. Negative feelings are part of the human experience as well (which is not always easy), and they're a feature, not a bug. 

--Sam

 

A Trip to Ohio and a Family Reunion

 

Going Back Doesn't Always Mean Going Home... And That's Okay. 

I have mixed feelings about Ohio. On the one hand, it's where I grew up, and I have a lot of great memories from some of my formative years and my very early adulthood. On the other hand... There are concrete reasons why I felt the need to move to Wisconsin in 2006, and those reasons persist (not that Wisconsin doesn't have its own share of issues). My hometown of Dayton, Ohio was an economically depressed area before it was cool, has an incredibly high crime rate (they go hand in hand really) and does not, or at least did not, really invest in education. Boarded up buildings and houses aren't an unusual sight and you always want to lock your car doors immediately when you get in a car (a habit that I've maintained even in Madison, Wisconsin). Beyond that, my most important life events, at least in my adulthood, have all occurred in Madison, and so, really, Dayton doesn't feel like home to me anymore. It feels like a place I'm remembering from a dream, or like a glimpse of another lifetime. Someone else's lifetime, since I don't really feel like the same person I was when I moved to Wisconsin at age 21. For all its faults, Ohio does have my family (my Mom's side, and Rob's family also lives there), Bill's Donuts, and a noticeable lack of mosquitoes going for it, all of which I enjoyed while I was in town recently. 

I drove into Ohio on my birthday, with Ben in tow, and arrived super late, after running into unexpected (but also kind of expected) construction on Interstate 70, and a particularly intense summer rainstorm. Friday morning, after I had slept off the drive, and eaten a celebratory cupcake, my Mom, Ben, and I drove to Yellow Springs, Ohio, one of my favorite places in the state! We took Ben around to the local shops, including Dark Star (my all-time favorite used comic and book store), and a number of little artist shops along the town's main drag. We ate at the iconic Ha-Ha's Pizza (known for their delicious whole wheat crust and unique toppings, like falafel), and then took Ben to Young's Jersey Dairy Farm, a childhood staple if ever there was one. Ben didn't have much of an interest in building magical childhood memories by petting the goats or cows, but he was very interested in the ice cream, so that's something. Then Ben and I visited with my best friend (friends since the ripe old age of 3) and her family, our kids staying up way past my bedtime playing video games and catching up. I don't get much sleep when I'm in Ohio, since everyone stays up so much later than me there! 

Saturday was a day of rest, at least until the evening. My Mom, a licensed massage therapist, was nice enough to spend her weekend time giving me a massage, which I desperately needed (did you know driving for 9 hours is hard on your back?) and after that she and Ben and I watched Moana (I love that movie!) and then left for the little family reunion being hosted at my cousin's house. My Mom's brother, Denny, was also in town with his wife, which was great timing, since it's been 12+ years since I've seen then, and they had never met Ben, since they're in Georgia and we're in Wisconsin. It was wonderful to catch up with everyone. I went into picture-taking mode (because of who I am as a person), but luckily I eventually ran out of camera battery so I actually put the camera away and had some great catch-up conversations with family. Ben got to run around with his 2nd cousins (my cousin's kids), and we all had a rousing game of badminton (does anyone still play that? Just us?)

It was awesome to see everyone, and I simultaneously wish I could see my family more often and also have no desire to move out of Wisconsin (or back to Ohio). Kind of the catch 22 of leaving your home town or home state... You build a new home, and a new family (through marriage, birth, adoption, friends, etc.), and you get busy, and you live your life, and it gets weird, but still wonderful, to go back to your old state, your old life, every now and again. The saying you can't go home is true in a way, because it's your concept of what home is that changes. Wisconsin is home now, and I know that as much as I know anything. I love it here, and I love the life I've built. But even though Ohio isn't home anymore, it doesn't mean I can't go back, and enjoy a little time in that past life, with people I love very much. It means I'm lucky enough to have both a past I'd want to visit every now and again, and a future I'm looking forward to. 

--Sam 

 

 

 

Come In From The Cold

 

Do you ever feel like a tourist in your own life? 

And not in a fun "Oh isn't my life exciting?!" kind of way. More like a feeling of maybe not quite fitting in, or just being on the outside looking in. 

I have a particular affinity for a Joni Mitchell song called "Come in From the Cold", and of course the lyrics are amazing, because Joni Mitchell is a ridiculously talented artist, but also because a chorus proclaiming "All I ever wanted was just to come in from the cold..." really speaks to me in a way I can't quite put my finger on. 

This vague 'outside looking in' feeling persists in most situations, and has, for most of my life. Feeling like a guest instead of at ease when visiting family in states I no longer call home. Not feeling queer enough in LGBTQ spaces because I'm married to a man and so it isn't apparently obvious that I'm not straight. Feeling a little out of place in the leadership team at my 9-5 work because I don't have a college degree, don't own a single power suit, and am not particularly good at networking. Feeling like an outsider in creative circles because I get nervous around large groups of people, particularly people I feel are considerably more talented and successful than I am, and so have a hard time not just reverting to quiet observation instead of interaction.

I don't know what makes that feeling go away. I thought it would be achieving some measure of success, so I would feel "legitimate", but, unless I just haven't hit the right level of success yet, I don't think that's it. So, if it's not success that makes imposter syndrome go away, then how does one overcome that uncomfortable feeling of not belonging? Asking for a friend. (Just kidding, all my friends have their shit together way more than I do, or at least are very confident in not having their shit together). 

I wish I knew what the magic combination of success, confidence, talent, and stick-to-itiveness is that makes one feel like they have a definitive right to take up space in circles they would be otherwise welcome in, save for their own inhibitions and fears. Since I don't have that recipe yet, I'm just taking it one step at a time. I'm attending regular creative entrepreneur meetings, I'm having fun with our photography clients and continually learning better ways to serve them, I'm attending Pride parades and equality marches, I'm doing my best at my daytime work to not feel like a fraud, though I draw the line at purchasing un-ironic power suits. And what else can one do really, besides keep moving forward? 

What do you do that helps you when imposter syndrome comes on strong or when you feel like an outsider? If you do nothing else, just remember that you're not alone. 

--Sam