Friday, August 2, 2013


Just two pics this time. There are more, and so much to say about the amazing Lausters. But I'm struck today by the contrasts in parenting and our kids growing up. I recently read, as I'm sure most of you did, Julianna Miner's Huffington Post article on the Sweet Spot. The call and charge for all of us to stop and savor those precious middle years when the kids are grown enough to be self-sufficient but still like us and want and need our hugs and guidance. I am currently sitting smack dab in the middle of the sweet spot with my own kids and, because I have a difficult time with presence, I'm already grieving its end. Anticipating that heartache I'll feel when they no longer need a hug before bed or want to crawl in mine in the morning.

But then I spent a week in Hot Springs, Arkansas with a family who has an actual teenager. A high schooler even. And it dawned on me that maybe it won't be so bad. I saw the joys and benefits or having a teenager around. Cheap babysitting was the first thing that came to mind of course. More subtly and far more rewarding is that you're ever closer to seeing who they will become. Don't get me wrong there's a lot of growth left to do (although at 6'5" I really hope there's not much more physical growth for Eamon). We spend so much time dreaming about our kids as grown ups. From the time they are little babies preferring one toy over another, to the sports and activities they pursue in grade school. It's a fascinating way to occupy the imagination. Wonder is one of the great parts of parenting.

Teenagers are so close. They have their own thoughts and ideas, ways of talking, wit, maturity. It's still too early to tell if they'll be bankers or doctors, but they are actual people in a way younger kids just don't seem to be. And it is a time to marvel at the culmination of your influence and DNA. It can be a time of great pride. There is also this:

 A side effect of those independent thoughts and feelings is a mild and loving contempt for adults. Which, having spent a week with this behavior, (granted I'm not his parents and I'm sure they have much more to say on the subject) is more amusing than hurtful. All those eye rolls and condescension are just more examples of them defining themselves. It's a way of saying I do not like this, not I do not like you. An important distinction. This is quite easy to see from the outside. It's charming even. I must remember this when I'm in the middle of it and wishing my kids could just be nice to me for one day. (That's one of my simpler teenager fears.)

By contrast they still have a kid sitting smack in the middle of the sweet spot. He still needs his parents for comfort and identity. Sure he has desires and interests and a very clear personality, but he's still unabashedly devoted to his parents and to his family. His world is secure and he's thriving inside it, not yet stretching his neck out to the future. Why do that when everything he needs is right here?

Again, the gift of looking from the outside is that it helps me see my own life more clearly. I worry, I ruminate, I get lost in minutia, I don't always see them without judgement or realize my impact. But seeing this sweet spot from the outside I see the way Eliot looks adoringly at his parents, or tries to keep step, or feels so much pride to be attached, to be one of them. And they take him lovingly in stride and it is so sacred. Their wise mother told me, "You have to look beyond words for I love yous." It reminds me of Momestary's blog post on Kairos time. It's so hard to see our importance when we're on the inside of our bubble. But it is as simple as this - they need us, they love us, and they, at this sweet age, want to be like us. It is both an intimidating responsibility and an enormous privilege.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Savoring Sierra

Hello blog! It's been a long cold winter. And since I shoot outside in natural light there hasn't been much to do here in Chicago. But I've been busy taking classes and experimenting with things (which you'll see below) and am very excited about what this year holds for Clark Street Photography.

I was lucky enough last month to make my annual pilgrimage to Texas for spring break. While I do tend to go every year, this year I was invited to take senior portraits for my cousin's daughter who is graduating in just 47 days. And will be attending....

....St. Edward's University in the fall. Majoring in some combination of Psychology and Theatre. Which, I can speak from personal experience, is about the same thing.

Sierra comes from a pretty awesome family. She's chill like her Dad, funny like her Mom, but has her own rockin' style. She somehow managed to transcend that whole member of the herd mentality that high school breeds. She is very much her own person. This alone elevates her to rock-star status in my book.

Spicy. Sweet. Silly. Self-assured.

And flat out freaking gorgeous.

She is frequently smiling and laughing and encouraging and inspiring others to do the same. She's easy to be with, can't ruffle her feathers too much. But still waters run deep. And she definitely has a depth about her. She's complex and mature beyond her years.

And she's graduating from high school. And embarking on the adventure of growing up. And it's exciting and scary both for her and her parents who love her so much and have done an amazing job parenting her. She has everything she needs to soar on her own. To blossom and develop into the person she is meant to become. It's significant, this passage of time. It's a huge milestone. And for me, to remember so vividly holding her just hours after her birth, it is so bittersweet. The bottom line is - kids grow up. They do. And as parents it's hard to let them go. But Sierra's parents can have confidence in knowing she will make great choices for herself. That even her mistakes will be meaningful in some way. And that because they have loved her so well, she'll always be their little girl. Even when she's busy growing into womanhood.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2010 - the Adjustment Year

And boy am I glad it's over. Not that I expect to be magically well adjusted on January 1st. But I feel certain there's significant and much needed stability coming my way.

Let me back up to this time last year. Mike, the soon to be ex-husband and I, had made the painful decision in therapy to preserve the relationship but end the marriage. But people didn't know yet. And we were working quietly behind the scenes to prepare ourselves and the children for our new reality. It was awful. So many things about divorce are painful. It seems a little ridiculous to point that out. Anyway, in February Mike moved into his own apartment near our home and the "forever house" went on the market. And I have spent this year pretty much in limbo. Deconstructing a well constructed very intentional life.

The worst parts? Becoming a single Mom with 85% custody of the kids = substantial reduction in free time + constant fatigue. Maintaining a nearly immaculate, show ready, depersonalized home for sale in a tough market. Adjusting to a new slimmer budget (that I thought was already frugal - ha!). Giving away or selling two thirds of my possessions. Packing up a 4 story 6 bedroom house and moving it to a 1 story 3 bedroom house. Moving and working over my 40th birthday weekend which I didn't have time to really celebrate or feel anything but lousy about. And I love birthdays! Selling a beautiful home I loved that I thought I would live in "forever". Learning a new job/career. Growing pains in therapy (who am I? what do I want? what do I need? how did I get here?). Taking my already semi-pro worrying about the kids to PROFESSIONAL heights.

But that's the lemons. And I'm a lemonade maker.

The best parts? The help and support I receive from friends and family and qualified professionals looking out for the best interests of our now re-organized family. The smooth and amicable environment of the collaborative divorce process. The lessons learned in therapy from all those growing pains. The knowledge that life isn't perfect, neither am I, and I can weather a storm. Grief comes in waves and never lasts too long. I no longer need to fear the sadness and the heartache - that too won't last forever. A new sense of self that is more realistic. A new view and pride in myself as a mother. A significantly enriched relationship with my kids. A new romance with an amazing man who was a friend for years.

I'm going to be OK. The kids are going to be OK. I will be "divorced" for the duration of my lifetime. And the kids will have "divorced parents" for the duration of theirs. I'd be a fool to suggest our learning is done. This is a journey with twists and turns and constant challenges changes and adjustments. But we're laying the foundation for emotional strength and endurance to make it through with grace, humor and as much joy as possible.

And of course we're still having fun in spite of it all. Just look at some snapshots from our year!

I am blessed to know and love and be loved by many wonderful people. And the support and encouragement I've received from friends far and wide has been profound. You can't imagine how much a "thinking of you" email, voicemail, text, or FB shout out keeps me afloat. Thank you to everyone, truly, but there are a few special people who deserve public recognition, for going above and beyond. My two therapists at The Family Institute - my own, Lisa Gordon, and the kid's, Aryn Froum. These two women are gentle and kind in nature and giants in their ability to help, encourage, nurture and instruct. Beth Fawver McCormack, my attorney, who guides me so reassuringly through this process. (Have you ever heard someone thank their lawyer in a Christmas letter? She's that wonderful!) Kim Tackitt Clark, my amazing and incredible sister-in-law who came to help me pack and move. It literally would not have happened without her. That she was also so sweet and fun and made the whole thing bearable is a gift I can't repay. Anne Ryan, my fellow carpool Mom, who makes sure the day to day operations run smoothly. And the patient listening ears and company of dear friends Mia McCullough, Molly Lyons, Sean Paraventi, Amelia Lorenz, Sarah Smyth, Lynn Thee, Amy Wells, Tracey Cobb, Kate Huston, Laura Grubb, Sammy Buck, Molly & Bill Kelly, Deborah Barr, Michelle Palumbo, my parents and the entire Clark family.

A HUGE amount of love to my Facebook community - Facebook has kept me sane and provided me with much needed diversion and delight on a daily basis. (What? Are you seriously not on Facebook yet? Join the party!)

Special recognition must be paid to The Betty. Who is available at a moment's notice whenever I need. Who fills in as the 4th when the Family of Three just feels too lonely and hard. Who loves and plays with my children as if they were her own. And loves and cares for me like a sister. And to the dreamy Dr. Andy who has always been there for me and my kids ever since I became a Mom. But is now a shining star in our personal lives. He's done a lot of the "boy jobs" around both houses. And has given me the courage to love again and to feel joy. I feed off his positive energy and enthusiasm and I'm grateful for him every day.

And of course, the kids.

Collin at age 8 is discovering his silly side. He's all about jokes and comics and attempting goofy tricks and making up funny songs. It's a fun age!

Sadie at age 5 is eating up school. Just loves to learn and read and write and draw. She continues to be a very passionate girl and I'm amazed at her beyond-her-years ability to know and name her feelings.

They've both been courageous and flexible. It's been an emotional time for all of us of course. But I'm buoyed by their resiliency and their sweet hearts. I have incredible kids. They have quirks, and they are challenging in their own ways, but they are extraordinary little people.

And my life is so blessed because I'm their Mom.

Many blessings to you and yours from the three of us.

Monday, October 11, 2010

No Tears Today

OK, maybe a few....

I couldn't resist showing a glimpse into capture on a shoot. And how hard these kids (and parents) work to get a good shot.

Things have been pretty serious on the blog lately. I'm happy to report that with holiday card season in full swing we'll be more jolly. But I also feel a little restricted in my photo selections. I want my families to be able to unveil that perfect shot on their holiday card. So my selections for the L family today tend toward the candid variety. No worries I got plenty of goodies.

Like this one: my new favorite shot ever!

I put this one on my Facebook page already (what? have you not Liked me yet? get on over there!) but I couldn't resist sharing again and with a broader audience. And look at this gem, so cute right? Love these little beauties.

The oldest is Grant. Responsible, confident, a natural leader, mature for his age. Dare I say Type A. I caught him here in a rare moment of silliness.

And then there's sweet Charlie. The middle child. A bright ray of sunshine and happiness. He's the snuggler, the lover, the poet.

Lastly we have Baby Caroline

Who isn't a baby anymore. Walking and exploring - Caroline definitely has opinions about how her world needs to be organized. And as the youngest she has the least amount of pictures in the family album. And that is a challenge I just can't resist.

Her Mom said she just had an intuitive sense after Charlie was born that she wasn't done and that she was meant to raise a daughter. And this beautiful girl is a reminder that when we listen to our gut, that whisper inside, it's always for good. Not necessarily easy, but definitely for good.

So the trio is complete. And there's a big world out there for them to explore. And Mom and Dad are just trying, like every parent, to hold on and remember as many of the details as they can. Cherishing the little moments. Because the cliche is true - it all goes by so quickly.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Happy Birthday

This is Betty. Or as she's often called in these parts - THE BETTY.

She is my local family. The fact that we're actually not related is a mere technicality. She, more than anyone else, shares the intimacies of my life. I call Betty on good days and bad days and she's always there for me. She is my rock and without her I'd be lost.

She's not only a rock for me, she's a rock for many. It's who she is. It's what she does. People are drawn to her vibrant light and supportive, safe, and encouraging nature.

Meet Bernadette and Alexa. Betty's actual relatives (well, 2 of several). The closest sister in age to her, her Irish twin, and soul sister. Alexa is Betty's niece, Bernadette's daughter. And they were here recently visiting from Betty's home state of Washington. Are you following along?


One of the things that makes Betty so special is her ability to feel deeply and truly adore her loved ones. She shares her heart abundantly. And she LOVES these two so much.

And thought it would be a nice birthday gift for Bernadette (and Alexa) to have a fun photo session.

I relished capturing them all together, having fun, enjoying each other, goofing off.

Alexa is 13. A teenager. And she's acting like a teenager. Her Mom is patient, forgiving, silly, sweet, and stern when she needs to be. She takes her parenting seriously and nothing in the world is more important than her daughter. Even if it's not obvious between them all the time (because that would be impossible) it's a truth that can't be denied or shaken.

The first time I met Bernadette she was on a trip by herself here in Chicago to see Betty. It was January 2009. We had this lovely dinner, her trip was almost over. And her heart was aching for Alexa. She was enjoying her time so much but saw Chicago through the eyes of someone who wishes she had her favorite person with her to share it. Later that night - thankfully safely in the care of her Betty - she got a call-in-the-middle-of-the-night. And journeyed home the next day hoping that no one would get to her daughter before she could, to tell Alexa her Daddy unexpectedly and suddenly died; he was gone and she'd never get to see him again. Hear him laugh. Have him hold her in his arms.

No young person should have their world so shaken. It just isn't right or fair.

But she's OK. She's a normal teenager. And she's been given the space to talk about her feelings and her Dad as often as she needs or wants to. And of course the little girl in her wishes she could bring him back even for just a moment.

But the strong young woman in her holds the key to wisdom some adults never learn, "Hey guess what life - you've shown me the worst and I didn't crumble. You.don'"