Dear 2020 Self: (At 13, A Letter to My Future Self)

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“You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.  And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” ~ Max Ehrmann

Eli

Portrait Series Documenting the Journey of a Group of Silicon Valley Teens to Graduation in 2020 (and Beyond)

Part 1: “At 13, A Letter to My Future Self”

I have been planning for this photo series for many years and could not wait until the magic number “13”. I wanted to make portraits of my daughter and a group of her peers at the age of 13 and ask them each to write a letter to their future 18 year old self; their 2020 self.  However, the project wouldn’t end there. Each participant has agreed to meet me again in 2020 for another portrait/letter session, and perhaps again in 2025.

I began this project last summer, during their 13th year and asked that they write their letter before turning 14.  I have known most of these kids since their pre and elementary school days.  And, while 7 middle schools, 9 towns, and a countless number of sports teams, music groups and art programs now separate them, they have all remained friends or have become acquaintances.  The kids of the Silicon Valley all seem to know one another.

I’m thrilled to introduce this group of teens, each of whom I will have the privilege of documenting with photographs on their journey to 2020.  After each child’s name I’ve included one word their parents were asked to use to describe them when they entered preschool.  I look forward to watching them grow and witnessing the young adults they will become.  Godspeed!

Tyler   ::EnthusiasticTyler

Ally   ::EmpatheticAlly

Eli   ::UndauntedEli

Ava   ::GregariousAva

Kiley   ::CreativeKiley

Matthew   ::CuriousMatthew

Meagan   ::ActiveMeagan

Jackson   ::InterestedJackson

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Faith in Humanity

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“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” ~
Dalai Lama

It’s been a long week.  Life can change on a dime.  All you can hope is that your faith in humanity will always maintain and hold you.  Twenty four hours ago I was losing some faith.  My child was on the receiving end of some very unkind and ugly behavior at school.  Behavior that, of course, had no merit, no foundation and that should never, ever have been tolerated.  But, ugliness happens….life happens.  Between the time of her explaining her heartbreak to Bryan and myself, and us sorting things out with teacher/parents/etc., we got a call that Aunt Re was failing.  Bryan had to catch the first flight to the East coast, immediately. He stopped by school at lunchtime today to tell the Bean he was leaving for a while.  He didn’t explain much and she didn’t ask.

As I sit here at 1:00 a.m. and wait to hear whatever news I can receive, my heart breaks for the journey that Bryan is taking with his/our beloved Aunt Re.  Prayers for a peaceful journey are all I can wish and hope for.  However, through this heartbreak, I must share that my faith in humanity has been restored.  This evening I have received an outpouring of e-mails from parents from the Bean’s class wanting to know if she is okay and if there is anything they can do to help.  Apparently, after Bryan left her at school, she had a difficult time masking her emotions from her classmates.  They all knew, immediately, something was wrong and surrounded her with hugs and kindness. She found comfort in her friends.  Many of them told their parents and the parents took the time to send me an e-mail.  It’s amazing to know that despite the road bumps and tragedies in life’s journey, humanity really does always prevail.

I dedicate Journey to 2020 to Re/Aunt Re/Sharon Frasier.  You have always been my biggest fan and cheerleader, and for that I am forever grateful.  You are kindness.  You are courage.  You are wisdom.  We love you are with you, hand in hand, on your journey.

Resilience

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“Resilience is rooted in a tenacity of spirit—a determination to embrace all that makes life worth living even in the face of overwhelming odds. When we have a clear sense of identity and purpose, we are more resilient, because we can hold fast to our vision of a better future.” ~ Author Unknown

I received a letter today from my oldest sister.  In this letter she reflects on how fortunate I was to inherit the gift of practicality and resilience from our late mother.  Our mother saw, in the first 25 years of her life, so much more than many of us have or will ever see in a lifetime.  She survived WWII leaving her homeland of Romania at the age of 18, never to return.  Bombings in Poland (where she fled a theater moments before a bomb wiped the building off the radar), raids in Austria, then moving throughout Europe until the war ended and she arrived safely in Trieste, Italy, with her younger sister in tow.  She fell in love with an American G.I.  They married and had a child (my oldest sister) in Italy.  The army sent my father home due to illness leaving my mother and sister alone in Trieste.  They joined him months later arriving by boat on Ellis Island in 1956.  I don’t know, but, it seems one might have no other choice than to become practical and resilient in times like those.

Being the youngest and most obnoxious child of the brood, I’m flattered and honored that I remind my sister so much of my mother.  I’m not sure if it was nature or nurture, but, somehow I do believe I took on my mother’s sense of practicality; but, more importantly her tolerance for life and people.  Resilient, I’m not so sure.

Fast forward to mid December….the last two weeks of 2011 brought brain cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and ovarian cancer affecting members of our family and close friends.   I’m still standing and, believe or not, smiling some times.  Am I super(wo)man?  No, not really.  I’m muddling through and being the person my mother taught me to be.  Optimistic, hopeful and helpful whenever possible.  Perhaps it is because I learned very early in life to embrace the good, turn away from the bad and try not to let the ugly get in the way.  Still, I find myself, sometimes, struggling with my own resilience to the hurt and pain caused by the insensitivity and mean spirited-ness of some people.  Insensitive, intolerant and, well, just plain mean people still exist.   Nine and a half years ago I got the gift of my mother’s spirit back.   This little being came to us with the most amazing spirit of kindness, understanding of tolerance with a keen sense of resilience.  Where this perspective and resilience comes from I do not know.  What I do know is that I am blessed to have her near me, to remind me of what is most important and often offer perspective that goes way beyond her nine little years.

Do not think that we are only here to teach our children.  We are also here to listen and learn from them.  I wish you all peace, love, happiness, tolerance; but, most of all, resilience in this new year.  Be safe. Be well!

Charming Life

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Quote of the Day:  It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves. 
William Shakespeare 

My daughter said to me a few weeks ago, “Mama, I’m so lucky”.  I couldn’t help but smile as she said this, because, at the time I agreed whole heartedly with her.   However, if you look at the definition, it will tell you that luck is a success (or failure) brought about by chance rather than through one’s own actions.  Lucky, yes she is; by chance or accident, I don’t think so.  I am a firm believer in karma.  The energy you put forth is the energy that will always come back and surround you.  Okay, perhaps I’m walking down my path of kooky, hippie ideology; however, it is such a privilege for me to watch and be a part of this small child’s life.  Her energy has such a positive and profound effect on me.  The child has a dream and passion that motivates and drives her.  She has a heart of gold that has not be affected by the negativity that life can sometimes throw your way.  She has a conscience in her soul and a kindness in her heart that I pray will stay with her as she continues on her journey.  Wherever you are and wherever you go you will take this energy, charm and light with you and it will be contagious.

It does not come as much of a surprise that the name of her new best friend and first horse is Charming.   Yes, my small child, you are lucky, however, it is the energy within you that brings such luck your way.  Stay true to yourself and to your dreams, and may you forever have a charming life!

Peace in Silence

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Quote of the Day:  “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” ~ Max Ehrmann

When I was eight years old, my oldest sister would play her 45 LP records on our little portable record player.  I realize “45 LP” and “record player” mean nothing to anyone born after 1980; however, 45 LP’s were to my generation what iPods and iTunes are to this generation of teeny boppers.

There was one record I adored.  It was mostly a man reciting words to a poem; but, then angelic voices would sing the chorus.  I loved to sing the chorus over and over.  It went like this, “You are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.  And whether or not, it is clear to you; no doubt the universe is unfolding as a should.”

As an eight year old, I had no idea that this was not just a popular song recorded by Les Crane in the 70’s.  It was a poem written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann.  It is a poem that has come back to me a various stages of my life and always holds great meaning.  I have carried the same copy of this poem with me from Ohio, to Washington, D.C and, here, to California.  Last year, when my daughter was eight, she found the copy of the poem in my desk.  I read it to her.  She liked it very much, so, I shared how I would listen to this song over and over when I was her age.  She googled it and found the song on YouTube.  She loved it and asked if I would put it on her iPod.   I can sometimes hear her singing, “you are a child of the universe.”   Children follow by example, so, teach your children well.  Oh, that’s a song for another day :).  Here is the poem.

DESIDERATA

— by Max Ehrmann–

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Thermal

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Quote of the Day:  “There is no end.  There is no beginning.  There is only the passion of life.”  Federico Fellini

Five years ago, almost to the day, my family went on a holiday that would forever change our lives.   We received an invitation from a family at our daughter’s preschool to join them at their vacation home in the California desert.  Little did I know that this journey would transform my life AND provide the most life altering additions to my soul.

The reason the family was in town on this particular trip that February was because the mother, Tarni, was competing at the HITS Desert Horse Show, which takes place annually in Thermal.  Thermal is a small, unincorporated community near Palm Springs, CA.  Equestrians simply refer to the show as “Thermal”.  We spent the day at the show grounds where Tarni introduced my daughter, Ally, to her beautiful horses.  She introduced us to riders, the grooms and trainers.  It was at the cafe where we met a trainer named Wendy.  She was very kind to take some time to chat with us.  On that day, Ally’s little life was forever changed; because on that day she fell in love with horses and began her journey on the path to discovering her true life passion.

Fast forward; it is now five years later, and, once again winter break is upon us.  As we ready our bags to head to our own little vacation home near Thermal, my mind goes back to that poetic February day so many years ago.  My cameras and lenses are packed, ready to take hundreds of photos of the little girl who fell in love with horses 5 years earlier.  Ally will be showing her pony, Paint by Numbers, for the first time at Thermal.  And, yes, as you probably guessed, she will be jumping her pony under the watchful eye of her amazing trainer, Wendy.

Thank you, Tarni, for the gift you brought to our family and the gift of your friendship.  Godspeed, little one, on your journey on this next big adventure.

The Mentor

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Quote of the Day:  “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”

He helped me buy my first digital camera and showed me how to use it.  He encourages me and inspires me daily.  Without my mentor, I don’t know if my photography would be what it is today.  While I still have quite a way to go, I am, undoubtedly, blessed to have this wonderful person in my life to help me on this fabulous journey.
I adore this photo of Joe at his ranch hanging with friends, however, this is not the photo I intended to post today.   The intended photo was of Joe taking a photo of my daughter with a pinhole camera he made while hanging out, sipping wine one afternoon on the mountain.  My photo, taken on automatic with my brand new Nikon D70, (and, sadly, stuck on a disk in my MacBook CD…which just at this moment conveniently decided to fail….Joe, HELP!!!), was not a masterpiece.   The photo Joe took with his handmade, pinhole camera was.  With his permission, I will add a link to his professional site that posts the shot.
I learned that day, that the best equipment in the world does not a great photographer make.  It comes from something within.  It is the vision of the artist.  My vision is becoming clearer each day.  Thank you, Joey, for all that you do for me. Happy Birthday, my friend! xo!