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Checking In: Real Life

Friday, March 23, 2018

I'm sitting at my desktop on a grey Friday afternoon after sluggishly napping next to Quinn as he watched a movie. It took Lucy getting home from school, trying not to cry because her bus friend accidentally scratched her face, to rouse me from the nap stupor and spur me back to MomLife. Poor kiddo--- her friend really didn't mean to, but she dealt Lucy a pretty rough scratch, right under her eye and across her cheek. So I made her stand still for some Neosporin, convinced her that bandaids wouldn't do much good and would only annoy her every time she blinked, and then plyed her with her daily screentime as a way to forget her troubles... so now she and Quinn are happily playing Terraria on the couch and I am on the computer, trying to blog. After so much time away from writing blog posts, I am rusty and sheepish; eager, yet hesitant. I have some SleepMusic  (a really chill mix of indie rock/folk music on YouTube) playing in the background while stray ants march across my desk, from left to right, every couple of minutes, despite the peppermint essential oil and vinegar I keep wiping the desk down with. I should probably find the source of their entry and give them a Terro trap. 

So this is me right now- this is real life. This is Friday, before the baby wakes from her nap, before Noah comes home from his Friday CCL program. Before Joe walks in the door. 

It's quiet. And my previous lethargy makes me feel a little melancholy now. The grey skies and the constant list of things still undone... it all contributes. But it's also peaceful. And I feel calm. Unlonely. Capable. I am fine. 

Yesterday, I tried to grab a couple of "big camera" photos of Larkin while she sat in the corner chair, because she is always SO CUTE. She mostly wasn't having it, but I grabbed a couple. And then my camera was out and I decided I'd shoot some photos around the house, so I could come here to share some of my daily SURFACES. Random, I know... but just.... it seemed like a good a thing as any to document the dailiness of the places we stash stuff here. The orderly places and the places that are NEVER under control. I know it will be fascinating, if only to me, several years from now, to look at the tiny details here.... what we decorated with, what the kids were into, what piles never go away.... Details of a life being lived. 

** A testament to the Universe being in alignment-- after shooting these photos and planning a blog post, I was scrolling through one of my recent hashtags on Instagram and found an old "mom confessionals" with a fisheye photo of this very same spot you're about to see, with the caption beginning "Real life:", then going into minute detail about the clutter, and ending with the profound conclusion (which I clearly need to remember more often so I don't feel as bad): "This is real life, and while I dream of clean, I'm trying to remember to be glad we have so much active LIFE happening here and so many anthropological artifacts that testify to a pretty sweet little life together." **


1. My peninsula yesterday, with notes added. It's.... It's just always a morphing version of this. Sometimes I get it 90% cleared, but that only lasts for a day or two, and then more life comes along to refill it in a slightly different configuration. It is what it is. But not all my home surfaces have this problem. I do have a few that I can keep relatively orderly:

2. Perpendicular to the peninsula is this charging station/storage counter. Never mind the spare pancake just hanging out there and a few other things that need to be put away, I am generally able to keep this spot pretty tidy. now, I am the *only* one keeping it tidy, so I am often battling the four other people in this house who like to set things here... but it's small and I am generally victorious.


3. And this area across from the peninsula, right by the laundry room and back door--- It bears the hefty burden of our 100+ Chatbooks, leaving little room for much else, so this spot is pretty cute, most of the time. What I love right now: My Rifle Paper Co. "Happy" print from my BFF Genny-- the colors are pure joy!! And the stack of Rifle Paper Co. Chatbooks in front, a special series they offered that I jumped on because, can you tell?, I love Rifle Paper Co. (I am not getting paid to type their name thrice.) And I love the Borax crystal "geodes" the kids and I made over Spring Break last week, sitting atop the stack of books. Want a closer look?

4. How cool is that?? We used the Dollarstorecrafts.com tutorial on Borax crystal geodes, and it worked fabulously. We are already wanting to try it again!  

5. But then there is this spot-- the buffet sideboard in the dining room. YOU GUYS. No matter what I do (see the storage cubbies? See the shelf to the left side? Not shown: more storage baskets below), this is the catchall for the kids' MISCELLANY. Toys they've been playing with that are too tiny or intricate (read: LEGOS) to go in the other room's toy bin. Art supplies that didn't make it back to their homes. Party favors and Happy Meal toys. A stack of books. A stack of drawings. Card games. A random photo album. Just.... STUFF. Stuff that doesn't have a dedicated home, but is too "fresh" to just be tossed.... Stuff I cannot keep on top of, but that NO ONE ELSE here is even trying to help with. It's impossible. Four kids and one husband against me.... All of us sentimental and creative-- two things that add to the build-up of "stuff".... It's an impossible task, this sideboard area. I need to see it with grateful eyes like I mentioned above.... Grateful for all the LIFE happening here, and family togetherness that happens in this room that gets moved over here for more family togetherness in the form of meals together. It's okay. I guess. But man....

6. Let's cleanse our palates with the mantel over the fireplace, then, shall we? A favorite canvas print and Joe's Orpheus robot from Christmas. AND NOTHING ELSE. (well, also a tiny, mostly-hiding woodland cottage behind the robot. Trust me, it's cute.)  Ahhhh......

7. Back on the other side of the living room, right as you are about to reenter the kitchen (see the blurry clutter peninsula in the background?) is a set of shelves whose tops are usually more in control than this... but this is real life, so this week it has been a catchall of leftover toys and items I just need to put away. And the DVDs below, not really shown, are in constant disarray thanks to the 18-month old in the house who likes to take them off of the shelf and not put them back nicely. It is what it is. 

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It comes down to -- my world here is a constant study in contrasts. Opposition in all things. Right? For every clean area, there is a clutter spot. For every upbeat morning, there is a melancholy afternoon. For every talent, there is a weakness. For every moment I wish I could get a break from the constant-ness of motherhood, there is a moment of pure joy as I watch/listen to/interact with these kids and feel utter devotion. It is hard, and it is never ending, and it is so so beautiful. Even when it's messy. 

Writing about it... taking photos.... These things remind me to stop and really SEE, and it re-centers my gratitude. I should write more. 

And I should show you guys more of the photos I am always, always taking. Like these last three photos-- the ones I mentioned before, when Larkin was being cute in the corner chair, but not willing to be still for me to get that "perfect portrait". So photo #1: the only time she sat still, because her baby food pouch kept her busy. Photo #2: She is laughing because I'd tried for a good chunk of time to get her to sit still, and as soon as I'd move my hands away from placing her, she'd move away, and I'd laugh, and then she'd laugh, and it was totally a game to her, so then I just held her in place for this quick snap-- you can see my hand. And photo #3: when she finally tired of my attempts and still didn't want to pose. So then I knew it was time to put the camera away and just enjoy her.




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So that's all for today. A check-in after two months away from my blog. It feels good to stretch my fingers and type a little again. I need to try to do it more. For my own soul. For the exercise in seeing it all more clearly, and therefore with more gratitude. 

Until next time---
Me

2017 Year in Review for Emily Southerland Photography

Monday, January 22, 2018


































2017 was a wonderful year for Emily Southerland Photography. Always just the right amount of clients to keep me busy, but not overwhelm the tentative balance of my family's rhythm (usually). Always a steady stream of newborns to coo over and snuggle, between the families, the babies, the kids,  and the handful of incredibly awesome seniors I see each year. And always one or two weddings (usually of people I love enough to break my "I don't do weddings" rule for!). 

I'm grateful for my clients. For the ones who trust me the first time, and most especially for the ones who come back, time and again, and still find my work has value for them. I love my work of trying to draw out authentic smiles and real interactions. I love being able to help my clients tell a piece of their story through photographs. 

I'm not yet hungry for more. More acclaim, more recognition, more referrals, more work. I'm not yet itchy to change my path... my prices, my style, my equipment. Hopefully that doesn't feel stagnant to any of you out there... because for me, it feels like if I continue to do exactly what I've been doing for a while now, I still have so much room to grow and to learn and to listen to. I think there is still a place for me to find fulfillment, right where I'm at. I hope that rings true in the images I share. I hope my photos of other people bring as much joy to them as my own photos of my family bring to me. 

It is good work to be doing, and I am forever grateful that I get to continue along this path. 

Happy 2018! Will I be seeing your family this year?
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