Monday, May 22, 2017

7th Annual 30 Day Photography Challenge - June 1-30, 2017

It's the 7th year of this challenge!!!

Let's do this, people.

Here are the prompts for this year, in the image below. Each day of the challenge corresponds with the date in June. For example, Day 1 is for June 1st, and pictures should be posted on the 1st. Ideally, you will add the picture directly into the album designated for each day in the challenge. Please try to get them into the correct albums. With this many people, it's going to be impossible for me to move all the pictures that aren't put in the right place.

All pictures are going to be shared in the group on Facebook. If you aren't a member yet, please request to be added to it here. It is DeBie Hive's Project 52+ Photo Group.

Note: There aren't two day #29, those are the options you have to choose from for that day.

When you post a picture, please be sure to tag it with the number of the day in the challenge and any pertinent information you'd like us to know about the picture.

We will be utilizing the hashtag #30dayphoto this year. Please add it to the images you post so that they will all be searchable with the hashtag.

Please remember that the group is a public group on Facebook. All images posted will be viewable by anyone.

The Rules

  1. One picture per day per person. Please stick to this rule during the 30 day challenge. There are hundreds of people in the group now. Thanks in advance.
  2. Please try to add the pictures directly to the albums that will be set up for each day. If you can't add them to the album, no biggie, but it would be preferred.
  3. There is no requirement that you participate every day to be eligible for the contest.
  4. You MUST email me your pictures to have them considered for the contest. There is a strict limit of 5 entries per person, and the pictures MUST be sent to me at by midnight on June 30th. There will be a release you must sign in order to enter the contest. More information on this later.
  5. What is chosen for the contest is entirely at my discretion.
  6. I will remove photos I deem offensive, and reserve the right to do so.
  7. Only post pictures of people you have permission to post images of.
  8. The idea is to take NEW pictures. You may not re-use pictures submitted in past years.
  9. The contest runs after the challenge ends, hosted on my blog, for seven days. It will start July 5th and run for one week.
  10. THE PRIZES ARE AMAZING THIS YEAR. More details to come!
  11. HAVE FUN!!!! I love photography and started doing these to get people out there experimenting with their cameras.
Tips for taking self-portraits

1. Pay attention to the lighting. Avoid using the flash whenever possible
2. Decide what your best angle is - makes faces at yourself in the mirror if you don't already know.
3. Look just up and to the side of the lens, not directly at it.
4. If you have double chins that you'd like to pretend don't exist (not that you do, of course LOL), look slightly up to take the picture, hold the camera a tiny bit higher than you normally would.
5. Make sure there isn't anything messing up your background, or giving you bunny ears, or growing out of the top of your head.
6. Take more than one picture, with slightly different expressions. Then you can pick the best one.
7. Try to laugh naturally so your smile doesn't look forced.
8. Remember you can always zoom in, but you can't zoom out once the picture is taken.

I will not be posting blog posts with the prompt each day this year. I will post each day's picture in the group and on my Facebook page. They will all be posted to Instagram and Twitter as well. If you aren't following me there, Twitter and Instagram are FAR better at showing people the things I post.

My Instagram profile can be found here. 

My Twitter profile can be found here. 

Finally, if you would like to offer up a prize for the contest, please let me know ASAP. Your link and a picture of the item submitted will be added to the contest post, which is seen by thousands of people each year. My email is

Have fun with it!

Friday, May 19, 2017

I blinked and then you were 16

Dear Oldest,

I started thinking about writing this a few weeks ago. I've been putting it off in a sort of denial that if I don't write your birthday letter, then maybe I can will time to slow down a little bit. Maybe this time I can finally make it stop, push the pause button.

I know I can't, of course, but it was a nice thought.

I won't tell anyone you borrowed this medal for a picture...
I went through and re-read some of the old birthday letters, looked through old pictures of you, and I'm still completely at a loss about how we got here already. How are you going to be 16 already?

I wasn't joking when I told you that time doesn't truly seem linear once you have kids. I know that to you it was some silly philosophical conversation, but it was me really trying to communicate the detachment with time that seems to happen once you become a parent. You don't know because you just don't know, but you probably will someday.

Or maybe you do.

It wasn't so long ago when you woke up one morning with the realization that you were getting older, when you climbed into my bed upset with the knowledge that you weren't going to be a kid forever. I couldn't make it stop then and I can't make it stop now, and even if I could, I suspect you wouldn't really want that anyway. You're already looking forward to the next phase of your life, planning for those last two years of high school, weighing the options for what comes next. 

And you should be. You've got some amazing ideas for who you want to be when you grow up.

You've already grown up so much. These past few months, it seems especially true. There are days that you inexplicably just age before my eyes. It used to be more gradual, your transitions, but now it's as if you wake up dramatically different some mornings. The physical changes have been remarkable, sure, but it isn't just that. It's your demeanor. Your outlook on the world. Your maturity. Your level of responsibility, one that society likes to tell us teenagers simply cannot possess. And yet, here you are, defying the conventional wisdom. 

In this past year, you've accomplished so much. Completed so many goals. Achieved so many things in so many different facets of your life. You've put yourself out there, taken risks, done the things that scared you, not sure how it all would go. You didn't let the fear hold you back. And when things didn't work out the way you'd hoped, you sat with the disappointment, but only for a moment...then shrugged it off, moved on to Plan B, and set about how you could make yourself a more appealing candidate the next time.

You finished your Eagle rank, which would be a huge accomplishment alone if it was all you'd done this year. I told you a story about how I recently got into a heated online argument with someone who insisted that it is impossible to achieve that rank prior to the age of 16. I'll never understand why some people are so committed to the things they believe when the evidence - in this case your very existence - to the contrary is so obvious. I suppose, though, that is a conversation for another day. 

We still haven't had your Court of Honor since you've been so busy with everything else, but we'll get there. Eventually. The hard part is over, the rest is just gravy.

You took on a challenging course load at school and have thrived. Long gone are the days when I'd have to check your grade book online to make sure that you were turning everything in. You, as I knew you someday would, finally figured that out. So much success in life really just comes from showing up, and you've learned that already. I won't go into a lengthy list of your academic successes, but I don't need to anyway - you still insist on hanging all those certificates on the fridge or displaying them on the mantle. Just make sure you scoot over and let your siblings have a chunk of the mantle from time to time.

You have volunteered to help your father and brother with the Cub Scout den, you have volunteered at the hospital, you have volunteered teaching younger kids how to play shiny new instruments in summer band. You help me around the house and with your younger siblings. You help. You were just born to help. Sometimes you need to find a bird statue first, but you always do it. (Inside joke)

You went on your first real trip without us this year to NYC. Band has opened so many doors for you and will continue to do so. You came back home from that trip so much more mature that it defies explanation. You.were.just.older. In four days. Drumline won state this year with you leading the bass line, but what mattered to me more than the medal in the end was the look on your face when you were performing out there during finals. I posted a picture of you in that moment, one that was blurry and so far away, but one that showed the pure joy on your face. I want you to remember how you felt that night and never let it go. Hang on to those moments forever.

Life isn't really about the pursuit of happiness in general, because no one can be happy all the time, even if we tell people that lie in our society all the time. You know me...I'm not going to lie to you. Life isn't always great, but you will find those moments of joy. Oh, those moments. Keep them. Tuck them into your pocket. Pull them out when you need them most. 

You think you know what you want to do after high school, you've been set on a certain school for a while now, but I know that is all subject to change. You've shifted that eventual career path already, currently in love with higher mathematics for reasons that mystify me. You're good at it, damned good at it, and you've started talking about the beauty of math, which to me sounds like a nightmare. But do you. The world needs nerds that love math, which means the world needs people like you.

When you're messing with my emotions, you like to say things like, "Two more years, and I'll be gone...", but lately, I've started turning it around on you. That oppressive weight of time, the gift that keeps on giving. It'll be hard for you to leave, I know. It'll be hard on me and it will be hard on you, and it will be devastating for your siblings (that's payback for the feelings, kid...), but I'll pack your bags and slow down enough to kick you out the door before I drive away sobbing. Because that's what I do.

It's not my job to keep you little. I couldn't even if I tried. It's my job to get you as ready as I can for that great big world out there, then like the mama bird building her nest out front, it'll be my job to shove you out and teach you to fly. You can't fly if I'm hanging on, so I won't.

I'm teaching and pushing and nudging, reminding you that you can do it every step of the way.

And I'm proud of you. I'm so proud of you. Of who you will one day become, of who you already are. 

The certificates and awards and grades and accomplishments are amazing, sure, but what matters more than any of that every will or could is that you are kind. You are humble. You are considerate. You look around you to see who is watching. You make the choices not because of what the consequences to you might be, but because they are the right choices to make. 

You aren't a kid anymore, you're a young man...even if you still call me mama. 

(Seriously, never stop doing that.)

I don't know what this next year holds, but I can't wait to see what you come up with. 

Keep working hard, keep managing your time, keep finding friends that love the same things you love. Keep setting goals, keep putting yourself out there, keep dusting yourself off and trying again when it doesn't work out the way you had hoped. Keep pushing yourself for bigger and better. Keep balancing all of that work with play. Make sure you take care of yourself in all this. Don't ever lose sight of who you are, because you're pretty spectacular.

While you're at it, stay weird. Stay goofy. Keep laughing at those terrible jokes. Never stop singing and dancing and squatting in front of things. 

I love you, sweetheart. 

Happy birthday.


p.s. the video still lives. Ho Ho Ho.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

I wasn't going to write about it this time...

I wasn't. I wasn't going to write about Mother's Day this year, and yet here we are.

The times that I want to believe that I have some control over when and how and what I write often are the times that I realize just how delusional I can sometimes be.

I write because I require writing. Without it, these thoughts stay locked in the confines of my head, and there they fester and do their bidding and battle with my common sense and my joy until I give in and find myself here. Pecking away at the keys.

I wasn't going to write about it this year because I spent most of the week working on a book submission, one that isn't even really about my mother, but is completely about her in a tangential way that almost everything was for so long. For better or for worse, who she was and the relationship we had have defined so much of who I once was and who I am today.

I want to push it away at times, defiantly insist that I am my own individual person and that I've been shaped by my experiences, but not by people. It just isn't true.

She was my mother. The central figure in my life for so many years, far more than she should have been, and one who still shapes who I become with each passing day.

Her influence, the good and the bad, irreversibly changed who I might have otherwise been, creating, at least in part, the person sitting in front of this screen the day before this holiday not wanting to write but doing it anyway.

I learned in this past week that there is so much yet that I haven't processed, so many things that I pushed away from memory and buried, possibly believing that they would or could stay there forever. The problem with that strategy is that it's terribly effective for a while until it isn't, and until it piles up enough that it becomes unmanageable. I try not to do that to myself anymore, because I can promise you that once you've been through the hell of PTSD, you don't ever want to repeat the experience.

So, I wrote the story I was intending to write and things seeped out of me that I had forgotten. Moments in time where I questioned everything about who she was and what I thought I knew. Moments since when I've realized things about my childhood that probably looked nothing like I remember them. Times when I've had to come to grips with the fact that I can't even trust my own memories because my reality was manipulated.

This holiday, it stings.

It's been hard for different reasons, for combined reasons, for many years, from before society told me that I was a mother. Before then, there was the year that I was supposed to be a mother and then I wasn't and there's nothing that our society tells those women who've been there and are there now that their experience with mothering is valid.

We tell them that they aren't mothers at all.

We hang on to this one idea of what mothering is supposed to be, and in the process we shut out everyone who doesn't fit into that exceedingly tiny box.

There are the mothers who've never been able to conceive, though they've tried and wished and hoped for what seems like an eternity.

There are the mothers who never held their babies, but loved them anyway. Science now tells us that the DNA for every conception remains in the mother's body forever. A few months back, I mentioned this piece of trivia to a mother who'd lost a child in utero, who'd never felt vindicated in her emotions, in her connection, in her grief. And in that moment, she found it all. They stay with us forever, even if we never ever meet them.

It's a profound thing to think about on a weekend like this one.

There are all the mothers walking this planet without the children who should still be here.

There are the mothers sitting at the bottom of a deep, dark pit of despair right now, tossed in there by mothering itself. There are the mothers battling anxiety and depression and rage and numbness and fear. There are the mothers convinced that they will never be the right mother for their children, that those kids would be better off without them. Depression is such a convincing liar, and far too many of those mothers don't come forward and tell their stories and ask for help because they're afraid that people will judge them.

There are the mothers who gave their children to someone else, for whatever reasons they chose. For every joyful adoption that we see on the outside in those shared pictures on social media, there is a mother without a child, and perhaps a mother with a child who will someday ask questions, calling her identity as a mother into question. These are not easy places to exist in, and I don't pretend to understand them at all. I only extend love and strength and support to anyone who has been there and is there now.

There are the mothers who, for whatever reason, aren't with their children. Maybe the life they built with a partner was destroyed, maybe their vision of a happy family decimated, maybe they've lost custody, maybe they're stuck in an ongoing battle with someone they once loved over the children they had together.

There are the mothers without their kids because their children chose to move out, live with the other parent, live with someone else.

There are the mothers who struggle every day to do what is best for the child they struggle with the most, never sure they are making the right decision and agonizing at every step.

There are the mothers with children that have grown and left, that have enlisted and enrolled in schools far away, that have gone on with their lives as they've been raised to do. And still, the mother sits and waits and hopes and worries. Forever.

There are the mothers with children who've distanced themselves for their own sanity because their mothers were toxic and damaging and refused to see it. For every one of those mothers, there are the children who had to walk away and construct boundaries and make choices and cope with the lashing out from friends and family members committed to believing what they want.

There are the all the mothers who society says aren't mothers. Who limits their roles and titles, saving this day in the most selfish way for those who fit inside the tiny boxes. There are the stepparents and the foster parents and the teachers and the neighbors and the partners and the friends.

What is mothering, really? Everything in our world is a construct, and we've allowed this particular construct to be too narrowly defined for too long.

Mothering, simply put, is loving a child unconditionally. Teaching them, raising them, worrying about them. Mothering is spending hours on the floor braiding hair and hours on the phone arguing with insurance companies and hours in the car crying when you realize you've just figured out why this child struggles so much in school and then trying to forgive yourself for not knowing sooner. Mothering is nights spent watching them breathe in their sleep, rubbing their backs when they are feverish, pacing the hallways in the hospital. Mothering is guiding and shaping, and nothing about it requires a biologic connection between a cisgender woman and a child. Nothing.

Society. Relentlessly trying to shove us into tiny boxes, excluding everyone else, then telling us what to feel.

Mothering is so much more than that. And I see you, all you who are mothering.

I see you, those who society is shutting out.

I see you, those who don't know what to do with the emotions of this holiday because it is just too much, too many expectations.

I see you, all those who've lost your own mother.

I see you, all those who weren't given the mother you needed. I see you as you try to learn to do what you weren't taught.

I see you. And I love you all.

I'm lucky to share this world with each and every one of you.

I hope you all get mothered a little bit right now. xo

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