Monday, May 28, 2018

8th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge Information!

It's the 8th 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.

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 2nd and run for one week.
  10. Prize 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!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Birthday on Borrowed Time

Dear Oldest,

I have been trying to write this birthday letter for weeks now. I know that you still want me to do it, and I know that I need to do it, but I've sat and stared at this flashing cursor a few times now, then pushed myself away from the computer and vowed to try again later.

At State. Hair in the air. Heart in the sky.
 Just makes sense, I guess.
It isn't that I don't know what to say to you this year, it's that there is so much inside my head and my heart and I'm afraid that if I start to let it out even a little, the floodgates will open and devour me whole.

This parenting thing, man. It's rough sometimes.

There is a part of me that still sees the little boy getting on the bus for his first day in kindergarten when you look at me. There is a part of me that still sees you running around the house in your Buzz Lightyear costume instead of drumline t-shirts. There is a part of me that still instinctively wants to swoop in and scoop you up and shield you from all the things in the world that are unfair and will harm you.

I'm already crying, by the way. I just figured you'd want to know how far I got into this before the sobbing began. You always have liked to keep track of my sentimental tears, like that time you and I went to see Toy Story 3 in the theater and I sobbed through damn near all of that movie. And not the quiet subdued sobs, either. The loud gaspy ones, bad enough that you had to check on me a few times to make sure I was alright.

I was. I just saw my future on the screen. You've always been Andy.

And back then it was just a preview of that future. We're here now.

As of yesterday, you are officially a Senior in high school, and I don't know for the life of me how we got here. I really don't.

The days seem relentlessly long sometimes, but the years have flown by so fast that I cannot even try and capture how unreliable time is once you have kids. Someday, if you have children of your own, you'll know what I mean when I say this. Time isn't linear, not in any discernible way that makes sense.

As I wrote on my Facebook page this week, if you'd have told me ten years ago that this kid would finish his Eagle, that he'd be drum major his Senior year, that he'd be volunteering at the hospital, that he'd be kicking ass in school, that he'd be using everything in the house as a practice pad, that he'd already be making plans for independent drum corps after graduation, that he'd already know where he wants to go to school, that he wants to someday become a high school music teacher, I am not honestly sure that I would have believed you.

I didn't know who you'd grow up to be yet. I had no idea that you'd turn into this amazing human. I had hopes, sure, all parents do. We all want more for our kids than we had.

My life has been full of potential unfulfilled. Things I should have done and didn't for a million reasons that aren't really relevant for you. I've had lofty ambitions and big goals and huge dreams...I just didn't often make good on them.

I wanted better for you.

I fought like hell to make things better for you.

And now we are here.

And you've done so many of those things already.

You've sacrificed, you've worked hard, you've stayed up late at night finishing work so that you could fit everything else in, you've dropped EVERYTHING when someone needed you to be there. This year has been especially difficult in terms of that stuff. The people needing you thing. It's been a lot.

A ton, actually.

When your family needed you, when your friends needed you, you were always there. Maybe you didn't understand what was going on, maybe it didn't make sense to you, but it never mattered. You never needed an explanation to be there for someone else. You were the quiet support that people have come to rely on. You have learned to check on your friends, your siblings. You observe and pay attention to the nuances and the things they aren't saying. You know already that most of the things that people are preoccupied with aren't really what is important.

You've had to learn those lessons so much younger than I wish you'd had to learn them, and yet, now you have that experience and are armed with the knowledge and power to be a better support for others going forward in your life.

You've dealt with worrying about things out of your control. You've dealt with loving people through traumas. You've dealt with diffusing situations no 17 year old should have to understand. You've been an extension of my eyes and ears and heart every single day.

You've had your heart broken, and rather than opt for anger and sadness, you instead went to compassion and understanding. You allowed other people the space they needed and didn't make it about you. You could comprehend that even if you were hurt, it wasn't about you. It never was. That doesn't make it hurt less, no. I won't lie to you and tell that it is ever easier to be someone else's collateral isn't. But you had a choice in how you handled it all, and you did so with grace and kindness.

You are a good friend. Truly, a good friend. And this isn't just me saying this because I am your mom and I am supposed to. You have figured out how to give to others without sacrificing yourself in the process, which is something I still haven't learned.

You were put here on this planet to make a difference in the lives of other people, and you have. You do. Every day. You are a joy bringer. You are a breath of fresh air in a world full of negativity. You are an unyielding optimist. You always have a joke or a meme queued up, ready to show someone.

I hear there's an award for that.

You are resilient. You don't let disappointments shape your choices. If you want something badly enough, you hang out there in the sadness for only a moment, then you start taking inventory. What can I do better? What can I learn from this failure? How can I improve for the next time?

You've also learned to walk away from the people and the things that aren't meant for you. Already.

It took me until well into my 30s to have any grasp on those realities.

This morning as you were getting ready to play in the band at the last high school graduation you'll ever play at, you excitedly started sharing details about Battalion for next summer. You think you might be able to make it in with your audition, travel the country playing with drum corps. And you just might be right.

You can do just about anything you want enough.

And it is amazing to watch. Truly.

You haven't just grown older and taller. You've grown up. You've really found what brings you joy. Music. Maybe I knew it all those years ago when I found that drum kit on clearance. I think you were five years old. Your father thought I was crazy. (He's not wrong, by the way.)

That same kit is the one you refinished last year. The one that you've taped together and added rice cooker bowls to and hauled in the back of your car to fundraisers and played and played and played to work out your stress and your frustration and your sadness. You've broken drum heads and sticks, played until you had blisters on your fingers. Literally.

I'm sure that even if you add more drums eventually, that first one will go with you everywhere. It's basically become an extension of you.

When you were talking about Battalion this morning, I smiled on the outside. Asked questions. Encouraged you. All that. The things supportive parents do.

On the inside, though, my heart and my soul were breaking a little bit, knowing that I'm on borrowed time with you. One more year and you'll be off, out in the world, chasing those dreams. We may not even get next summer with you, not if you manage to make it into Battalion.

I know that I don't have much time left with you here.

And I know that all the parents of grown children out there will tell me that you'll still be around, and that things will be fine...I do know that, but it won't be the same. You won't be here anymore.

You won't be throat singing in the bathroom (that's where the good acoustics are). You won't be drumming in the basement. You won't be eating everything in the house. You won't be here to take your baby brother to the park when he gets extra spicy and needs to run. You won't be here for a lot of stuff. It won't be the same, even when you are home.

I know I am on borrowed time.

The truest element of parenting I have learned, though, is this: it's all borrowed time.

From the moment you were born, you weren't mine. I was just lucky enough to get to keep you around for a while. Kids don't belong to parents, not in the way that most people think. You've always belonged to you, I just was gifted the opportunity to watch you grow up.

And it has been an honor.

So, go easy on your old mom this next year. She's going to be weepier than normal. She's going to hug you a lot. A. LOT. Be prepared for that. She'll be around, doing all the things, watching from the corner like she usually is, watching time flash before her eyes.

I'm proud of you, sweetheart, even if you still need to sometimes find a bird statue.


p.s. the video is so getting played at your graduation party next year

Friday, May 11, 2018

Could we just not do this anymore?

Posts like this one always get me a decent amount of hate mail, and I prepare myself for that ahead of time. I know what is going to happen when I sit down to write them. I know.

I know that there will inevitably be a friend or two who sends me a message if they're feeling considerate, who leaves an obnoxious comment if they're feeling spicy, who tells me just how wrong I am, and that what I've said is irrelevant in their lives and inappropriate, usually because whatever I say about my experience and the experiences of so many other people is only supposed to be mentioned aloud if it pertains to their lives as well.

The internet. So fun sometimes.

The privilege inherent in online commentary...

And yet, I'm here, writing this post that I don't really want to write about a made up holiday that I'd rather just erase from the calendar.

From the outside, most people are surprised to learn that I loathe mother's day. After all, I have a house full of kids who mostly don't hate me, at least not yet anyway. They have a long list of achievements and accomplishments and things they love and I'm supposed to have endless gratitude for the honor of being their mother.

And I do, but that isn't what this post is about. And, let's be honest. If you think anything in this post is about me somehow not appreciating what I DO have in this life, then we probably shouldn't be friends in the first place. Move along. This isn't for you.

I know that there will always be people who read what I write and accuse me of being negative, pessimistic, of only focusing on the bad things in life when I'm really supposed to be posting #blessed and humblebragging about how amazing everything is. Social media sure has fucked with our perceptions of ourselves and other people.

While we're at just not doing things anymore, could we never use that horrid hashtag anymore too? It really is the grossest one out there. This idea that you're somehow lucky because some higher power told your family to give you jewelry for a made up holiday, or that you've got good health, or whatever....ugh.

The vast majority of life is boring and monotonous, and for most people the days that are beautiful and perfect and worthy of happy hashtags are usually outnumbered by the awful days. But I digress. We are here to talk about mother's day, and before I go on some long winded rant about the artificiality of internet happiness, I should try and focus.

Hello, ADHD. Nice to see you. I've been seeing a lot of you lately.

So. Mother's day. Let's talk about it.

For me personally, it has always been an emotionally loaded holiday. For my childhood and adolescence, first years of adulthood, it was a day full of obligation. Where I bought the cards and the flowers and made the phone calls professing love and gratitude as I was expected to do based on what all those stupid commercials and ads said. It didn't really hold much meaning to me, aside from the fact that we were all supposed to stop and be grateful for the mothers in our lives for long enough to make that phone call, then go on with whatever else we were doing that day.

Then my husband got cancer and we found out we might never have kids. Then I got pregnant against all the odds in the world before radiation started. Then that baby died. And mother's day went from being about other people to being a day full of reminding me of this thing I was supposed to have and then didn't have and might never have and that so many other people had.

And really, it wasn't just a day, was it?

Mother's day isn't a day. It's an entire month of reminders and card aisles and constant commercials. In the day of social media now, it is a month of memes and posts telling everyone to call their mother and be thankful for their mother and forgive their mother. It is a month of celebrating the people who have normal stable relationships. It is a month of ignoring and shaming and marginalizing literally everyone else.

This month is hell for lots and lots and lots of people.

The people who want to have kids, but cannot for one reason or another.

Those who don't want to have kids for reasons all their own, but something about all the forced gratitude of this month suddenly makes everyone else around them experts on how they should live their lives. Almost as if the pollen carries a confident self righteousness.

Those who have lost pregnancies, lost babies, lost children. And why do we say "lost"? Who decided that is how we refer to dead babies and kids??? They aren't misplaced. They are gone. And "lost" implies that someone is at fault, there is neglect or something else that caused them to go missing. We need to rethink our words, society.

Those who have abusive parents. Those who had parents that covered for abusers.

Those who have parents who don't accept them as they are, who want to shove them into the boxes of their own expectation, who will disown them or qualify their existence.

Those who have dead parents. Those whose parents are dead to them.

Those who have children with needs that are harder to cope with than the average family, whether those needs are physical, emotional, mental.

Those without partners to help.

Those who have partners who are unhelpful (and yeah, those are two very different things).

Those whose partners walked out on their families.

Those who have to negotiate custody for

Those without the necessary resources to support their families.

Those who have had to ask a system that detests their existence for help to survive. Don't ever tell me this political climate is a pro-life one. It is a pro-fetus one, but only superficially. Our system does not care for the health of those children when they are in the womb, and certainly not once they are born. Our system does not care for their stability or nutrition or education. Our system does not care for their families.

Those who have to live with the constant fear of being undocumented in a nation that suddenly believes they are all criminals here to steal jobs, not just parents trying to raise their children.

Those who struggle with what they have passed on to their children, whether through genetics or circumstance.

Those who have to sit their children down and teach them how to interact with a world that sees them as somehow threatening because of the color of their skin. A world that will treat them differently because of bias and hate and racism and indoctrinated fear.

Those who society pushes to the fringes even though they raise children, because let's be honest, this manufactured holiday only cares about cishet genetic mothers raising healthy kids in stable marriages with ample financial resources.

Those who are not with their children for reasons outside their control, or for reasons within their control.

Those who have had to draw firm boundaries with their mothers or children for their own well-being and safety.

Those who have lived their entire lives wishing for a normal relationship without even knowing what a normal relationship would look or feel like.

Those who have given birth to children then allowed someone else to raise that child, and those who have taken those children into their homes. Any degree of proximity to adoption is full of emotions that the rest of society cannot possibly comprehend.

Those who have had their children taken away.

Those battling mental health conditions in themselves, in their children, in their mothers. Shout out to the ones doing all three. I've been there. Got the t-shirt and everything.

There are so many people for whom this holiday is a reminder of the inherent unfairness and inequality of the world. There are so many people who go through the motions, giving gifts with empty meaning to people with whom they have shaky relationships simply because the date on the calendar says they are obligated. There are so many people for whom this day is a reminder of all we have lost, of who isn't here, of harms perpetrated.

Motherhood is loaded with expectation. With this entirely unsustainable idea that people are only fulfilled in life if they reproduce. With the belief that all who want children have them, and that all children are wanted and loved. With the false notion that anyone can ever have it all. We've had the idea that we are supposed to put our families first above ourselves at every opportunity shoved down our collective throats so much so that many of us have done it at our own expenses. We're expected to sacrifice ourselves, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and we're supposed to do it while balancing everything and bouncing back into those pre-pregnancy bodies.

And we fail. We all fail.

I don't want to be sold anything. I don't want to buy anything. There is no item that makes this day magically about me. There is no card that can give me a functional relationship with a living mother. There is nothing that can erase the fact that I lost my identity for many years at the feet of expectation, for the sake of the children I very much wanted, at the mercy of postpartum depression.

If we want to demonstrate that this society cares at all about motherhood and mothering and mothers, then we have to understand that one day isn't going to fix anything. Quite the opposite, it just serves to remind us of how much is broken.

We need to make sure there is access to health care, to mental health services, to food without shame, to education that isn't creatively tied to property values. We need to erase the stigma that keeps us from seeking mental health help in the first place. We need to understand that not everyone was given a functional mother. We need to understand the systemic biases that result in treating people differently, confront them, then work to dismantle them. We need to understand that parenting some children is heavier than we believed it would be. We need to know that we're all failing, and that all those images on social media are contrived and momentary.

Most of us who have kids are wondering all the time if we're forever screwing our children up.

We're crying in parking lots and showers and holding back tears in IEP meetings. We are frustrated and tired of navigating insurance companies and trying to find resources that don't exist. We are fighting for answers and reasons and help, and we're failing. Constantly.

The world is full of motherless children and childless mothers and a million other permutations that are consciously not being celebrated this weekend.

Will this post get me some hate mail? Yeah, probably.

Lucky for me, I can handle it. I'm a mother.


If this weekend brings you joy, my love.
If this weekend brings you pain, my love.

I'll see you all on the flip side.

p.s. this is exactly why I do the music marathons on my page...I ask people what they want me to play, then I schedule it and stay off the internet the whole damn day.

It'd be a whole lot easier if we could just not do this anymore.

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