Fifty Three

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A Portrait of my family, once a week, most weeks, in 2015

Willy: Finally emptied his suitcase from Cuba. I’d like to think it was an attempt to hold onto memories he didn’t want to forget, but it’s pretty consistent with his track record. In fact, the majority of the days of the year you’ll find a half filled suitcase next to his bedside.

Hooper: Requires a napkin with nearly every meal for even the slightest bit of yogurt or sauce that lands outside the perimeters of his mouth. Quite contrary to Van who sits across the table using his strawberry yogurt to make a red nose, “wyke roodof”.

Van: Used my belly as a pseudo ski jump for his army man. Apparently my boobs are too saggy to be considered good jumping off points.

Me: Neck pain. That’s all I can say about myself and the last week or so. As a side note, I love that the setting for our family portrait is flipped… a mirror image, if you will, offering just the hint of foreshadowing needed to end the year (we switched things around in this room to allow for a more inviting space for the new baby’s crib).

Jimmie: Seems to have transitioned from sleeping the first few hours of the night on our bed to sleeping the entire night (and most of the day, really) on our bed. In the beginning, he was quick to move with a little nudge but lately it’s like moving a boulder. My feet are extra warm and my legs, extra cramped. But look at him… always with his family… perhaps the only member that never needed a formal invitation to show up to one of these family portraits.

Weekly (errr, not really though) recap: This is my third consecutive year doing a weekly portrait of some kind. I held myself to no true commitment in terms of it being weekly or monthly and I think that helped save some sanity for all of us. I’m happy to have completed the year and to have stuck with it. We dropped the weekly resolutions that started along with this project at some point, I suspect out of fear of pulling that ever-looming “no TV for a week” written note from the jar. The moral of the story is this: sure, there are things we could improve upon… having our bed made daily, for example, would be phenomenal. But all in all, we’re happy and in the end having our bed made or not made doesn’t really have any hindrance on that. So ba humbug to resolutions.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Years. And if you care to check out this series in it’s entirety, you can click on the icon below. Not sure I’ll be doing a 52 week project for 2016 as I’m prepping to lessen some loads 😉52weekproject-b

Thank You cards, via Artifact Uprising

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The Stork & The Beanstalk Photography-13 The Stork & The Beanstalk Photography-4 The Stork & The Beanstalk Photography-10 The Stork & The Beanstalk Photography-25Each December I utilize Artifact Uprising to make an album of all of my favorite images from the year. While I was able to finish books for several family members, I have yet to complete our own family’s album but have plans to do so in the coming days, as looking at “finish AU book” on my to-do list is beginning to haunt me. In any event, I’ll try to share a few pages once I have it in hand. Until then, I have these adorable thank you cards to send out. They have so many beautiful designs to chose from… it was hard to chose just one, but I’m so happy with my selection. Makes saying thank you even better than receiving the gift in the first place. Don’t you agree?

 

Pain

San Clemente Family Photographer-60It’s funny how life throws you a curve ball just when you convinced yourself that you might make it to the league’s home run derby. The last few weeks had been so productive; so much checked off our to-do list… both bathroom renovations complete, closet doors and front door renovations too, along with piles donated and listed for sale (the biggest being the sale of our 68′ Jeep Wagoneer which was bitter sweet but more sweet), furniture moved around, closets cleaned out… what I’m saying is that you’d think it were spring around here.

And then it hit me like an old ex that shows up unexpected at your front door. I’m talking about pain. In my neck, to be exact.

It’s been an on and off part of my life since my back surgery, though more recently stemming from a car accident I was involved in in March that resulted in three cars all being completely totaled on the freeway.

I’ve had a few hiccups here and there, with most weeks built around physical therapy appointments… but the pain I’m experiencing this week is less like a hiccup and more like a tidal wave; meaning that I have been unable to do anything. And when you’re unable to do anything, you’re suddenly reminded of everything you’d like to be doing and, dammit, need to be doing.

Fantasies of adventures with the boys over their break from school have been haunting my thoughts. As have the completion of what’s left on that ever-lengthy to-do-around-the-home list. I have nothing but time, with only one photo session scheduled before the New Year as well as one shift left in the hospital, but am by no means able to turn this time I have into anything productive. It’s frustrating to say the least.

And yet each time I’m in one of these dire states, I’m reminded how fortunate I am to be healthy… I spend my time in bed trying to relax with a household below me that sounds as if it’s about to unravel at the seams without me. A baby kicking away in my belly, making me thankful that I have time to heal before the physicality of an impending natural birth that causes me to giggle at my current state of pain and discomfort.

With all the heartache that has taken place as of late – both in Paris and San Bernardino – my piddly pain in my neck is simply a drop of water in the ocean. Nevertheless perhaps it’s the reminder I needed – and maybe we all need – that the holidays ought not to be about gift giving but instead about counting the many blessings already present in our lives.

Wishing everyone a festive week, filled with laughter and happiness, and thanks.

Making a list

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For all the years I’ve been a mother I’ve felt that the holidays have got the better of me. In fact, it was during my last family session (that included a 2 year old and a 5-month-old) that it dawned on me that I’m (I feel like it’s only safe to say what I’m about to say in a wee whisper) out of the, um, danger zone (side note / hashtag: not for long). Meaning, shit has been hard for the past few years. And by past I mean 5 years and by hard I mean two babies relatively back to back followed by a thirteen level spinal fusion that pretty much erased nearly an entire year of my existence. I remember the one year I never got around to baking Christmas cookies feeling like some kind of colossal defeat. Well, the other day, we made those damn cookies and it wasn’t even the center-focus of the day.

Perhaps it was the two days I had all to myself while Willy took the boys out early to Arizona the week of Thanksgiving that allowed me to get a good jump on things; the boys returned home to stockings already hung, a small tree in their room already decorated, and scented candles filling the rooms with an aroma only the holidays can bring.

We’ve baked cookies (and even have plans to bake more so that Santa can have ‘fresh’ cookies), I’ve ordered all the gifts that I needed to allow enough time to receive, I’ve addressed the holiday cards and even thought ahead to pick up some Christmas stamps the last time I was at the post office (I take no responsibility for the fact they were all out), and I’ve even managed to pull the handful of children’s Christmas books from their bookshelf to have on hand to actually, well, read (what a concept, I know). I have some eucalyptus that I bought at the local florists in a vase, for goodness sakes. Who am I?

There’s no doubt I’ll be bit in the ass at some point. There’s still plenty that needs to be done and plenty that I know I’m forgetting all together. But the fact anything is done or remembered at all has me feeling a little jollier this season; it’s a nice breath of fresher air before things start spinning out of control once again (side note / hashtag: baby on the way).

A reminder that the boys are getting older (and easier-ish) and that while there is plenty that makes you want to turn back the clock, there is also plenty in the here-and-now to celebrate.

An interview with Dori Varga, builder of Tribe de Mama

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Some time ago, I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing Dori Varga, the beauty behind Tribe de Mama. I have been meaning to interview her here every since. Sometimes I get bored with the monotony that seems to have claimed much of social media and the blog world today; but there’s always a silver lining and Tribe de Mama, for me, is part of that silver lining. I love the sense of community and support that flows from Dori’s personal feed as well as from the Tribe de Mama feed; a place where women, all women, can go and feel united and invited. In any event, I thought some of you might be interested in learning more about Tribe de Mama. I’m also stoked to be able to share some more images from our shoot way back when because, well, it’s one of my all time favorites. With no further adieu, here’s Dori…TheStork&TheBeanstalkPhotography-4 TheStork&TheBeanstalkPhotography-6

What prompted you to start TRIBE de MAMA and how did it come about?

The creation and birth of Noah inspired me to get deeper, to dig deeper. Inside me, and outside me. Not a shock as I was doing all I could to prepare for an unmedicated birth, I had to tear all the walls and bullshit down that I had built up ever since childhood.

When the idea came to me I was already in the transition from an art blog to a blog which features artist women, with a specific focus on interviewing mothers who create art. I was, and am still, fascinated by the transformation of the feminine creativity when the mind and soul goes from maiden to mother. Such a special exploration!

Once Noah was born it was clear that I was on a mission, and that is to help to empower women, to inspire women, to help those looking for sisterhood, and to be a bridge between healers and those who seek healing. The rest organically flowed, and is still evolving.

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I’ve noticed gatherings taking place all around the world. Do you have a hand in organizing each of these gatherings? Where have you held gatherings thus far?

Yes, we indeed have events around the world; we have had women come together as TRIBE de MAMA in Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and Hungary, but our main playground still remains within the US.
Anyone can become an organizer, once they agree to follow our core values; creating a judgment free, safe space, where a loving and empathic sisterhood is gathered.

We make a difference between three types of events an organizer is able to create: gatherings, workshops, and women’s circles. For the latter we are currently creating the protocol.

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What are the gatherings like? What takes place at each gathering?

It depends on what kind of event we are talking about. A gathering can be a picnic, an organized hike, a class or lecture, a movie screening; really the list is infinite. What defines them all is that these events are free for anyone to attend and that they are all infused with our core values.

Can you speak to the power of women coming together? I think it’s such a beautiful thing, something our society really needs more of.

I absolutely agree.

I first felt the undeniable “girl power” while becoming a big Spice Girls fan when I was a young girl. My main attraction to this group was the way they celebrated unity in diversity. Five ladies, all very different, yet equal, best friends, creating sisterhood. Each of them representing an aspect of the woman, the goddess. I always thought whoever created that idea was a fucking genius! They must have had very similar ideas about women and ‘the future is feminine’ movement, as so many of us today.

Since then just the representation has changed, the main feelings stayed in me. I am obsessed with the empowerment and connecting of women. I believe that when we come together to celebrate life, to support one another, to inspire and uplift each other, we are raising the vibration of humanity and the entire planet. Through putting our hearts and minds together in a circle of trust and consciousness, we are creating a better future for our children. All you have to do is focus on your closest connections; your mother, your sister, your daughter, your daughter’s friends, your neighbor, her sister and friends, and so on. Your local village is the most important place for the work. Truly living the love, and fully embracing mindfulness and a generally peaceful lifestyle while nurturing our local, conscious, sisterhood is first. A sisterhood of equality and free of judgment.
I understand that not everyone has the opportunity to connect with likeminded women in real life, and for those sisters we created TRIBE de MAMA. To be all that I mentioned already: support, encouragement, inspiration, a safe place to turn to.

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Are most of the participants in TRIBE de MAMA mothers?

Mmm… Good question. I know that the word ‘mama’ confuses some, but we are not only for mothers. This expression is a hint for the nurturing aspect of the woman. This community is a place for anyone who identifies as a woman.

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Where do you see TRIBE de MAMA headed in the next 5 years?

You are not the first one to ask me this… I have no idea. Truly. Just in the first year we have built so much! But things seem to be slowing down a bit. I like to let the community lead the way, and organically set us up for what is to come. Let the ladies decide what they need most, and serve them. I am here to serve.

I look at TRIBE de MAMA as community first, then as a magazine. The community building part is what stands closer to my heart. I have been dreaming of working together with women on a global level for a long time.

Currently we are putting together the protocol needed to initiate official facilitators to hold space for TRIBE de MAMA. I am just starting to work together with Alison Love, shamanic healer, artist, and practiced women’s circle facilitator. She is one of my main co-creators who is helping me create a fresh system, proper guidelines, and a badass marketing and action plan to reach and help as many sisters as we can through our events.

A big part of our community building is the TRIBE FAMILY GATHERING, which we held for the first time in Joshua Tree last Halloween weekend. It was a powerful three days of about 60 men, women, and children. We held workshops, different healing circles, had the most talented holistic chef cook for us, built bonfires, played music, created art. Involving the partners of the TRIBE de MAMA girls was epic. From what I heard, saw, and felt, these men were changed and have been ever since. The brother circle and its work is just as important as the women’s; there is a deep need coming from men to gather and connect on the soul level at this time of life. My lover, Adam, heard this calling, and said yes to it. I am so proud of him for creating such magic for others to heal and grow. The entire weekend was just an amazing and profound experience for all of us that we decided to gather the tribe twice a year. Our next TRIBE FAMILY GATHERING will be in late September. This time we will open the doors for up to 120 sisters and brothers, and from now on we will be keeping to this number. Our aim is to keep the intimacy of the gathering, to truly recreate the feeling of the village.

On the other end, there is our magazine.  We are currently moving from a monthly to a seasonal format, as well as a professional online magazine layout. The website is being renewed as well; so we will be back online with our first seasonal issue, REBIRTH, being released at the end of January.
Since the start I have been aiming for a platform where the movers and makers of the feminine power can join forces and spread their wisdom and message. After a year, I finally feel like we have the team we have been looking for to make this dream come true.
My main assistants are Kristen Coleford, as Production Manager and Creative Co-Creator and Alison Love as Creative Co-Creator. Vanessa Perger as Editor in Chief is an amazing expert of written words, while Erin Erickson is helping her as Editor, and has been one of the main tribe girls ever since the beginning.
We are creating a lifestyle magazine for women of all ages, colors, cultures, and sexual orientations. Our mission is to bring a mindful, holistic, and spiritual approach into the everyday life through these pages, offering suggestions for our rituals in all aspects of life. You will find health and wellness pieces, as well as travel, fiction, interviews, photo journals, storytelling, empowering, informative, and other narrative articles. Our contributor group is also growing; currently we are working with about 60 women globally on the written content. There are another 30 women internationally who create art for us, to make the magazine an artistically valuable platform as well. Alexa Pique is my Art Curator with an amazing taste and voice, which keeps the creative juice flowing. We are co creating TRIBE de MAMA’s side project Kunstblitz together where we explore “Consciously Curated Art to Inspire the Feminine Heart”. Art is still a passion of mine, and I wouldn’t be able to give it up for a second. Connecting with people through paintings and photographs is such a deep way of learning of one another’s soul. I found some of the closest sisters around me through connecting through sharing art with each other.

Besides these parts, we have opened our own BooKlub as well on Facebook, led by beautiful sister KC Brezina, and which will be holding virtual meetings over the phone starting in the new year. The books KC has in mind for our community are truly beautiful readings to inspire the feminine mind and soul.

Lastly, we are also about to launch the TRIBE de MAMA Fundraising Collective with the lead of Ines Tucakovic and Stepha Lawson. Our mission is to support different organizations helping women, mothers, expecting women, or young girls in need, and to raise awareness within our community of the difficult situations of the woman living on our planet. My longterm plan is to build our TdM Fundraising Collective into a legit fundraiser organization, which will be able to co create with volunteer workers and serve the women in need. My biggest dream will come true when this happens.

My hope is that in the upcoming years we will truly be able to create a more diverse community, not only for ourselves but for the world. Each part of TRIBE de MAMA is serving this idea. My continuous aim is for us to clearly communicate that we are open to anyone, and to create an inviting and comforting space for women to join us from all around the globe.

Thank you, Dori, for your time. Again, you can find Dori & Tribe de Mama on instagram @dorideer | @tribedemama and on the web here.tribedemama

Visual Supplement: William Gedney

WilliamGedneyJournal entry by William Gedney, 1969…
There are two ways of looking at a thing.
Either you feel that a thing must be perfect before you present it to the public, or you are willing to let it go out even knowing that it is not perfect, because you are striving for something even beyond what you have achieved, but in struggling too hard for perfection you know that you may lose the very glimmer of life, the very spirit of the thing that you also know exists at a particular point in what you have done; and that to interfere with it would be to destroy that very living quality.
I am myself in favor of practising in public. There are, of course, those people who say, ‘But the public is not interested in watching people practice. It wants the finished thing or nothing.’ My answer is that if one does not practice in public in reality, then in nine cases out of ten the world will never see the finished product of one’s work. Some people go on the assumption that if a thing is not a hundred percent perfect it should not be given to the world, but I have seen too many things that were a hundred percent perfect that were spiritually dead, and then things that have been seemingly incomplete that have life and vitality, which I prefer by far to the other so-called perfect thing.
It is one thing to think about a piece of work as a scientific or objective entity that will stand up a hundred years hence, and another to think of a living quality of the person doing the thing and of his development. Is the thing felt – doesn’t it come out of an inner need – an inner must? Is one ready to die for it?… that is the only test…”
Alfred Stieglitz
Quoted by Dorothy Norman from America and Alfred Stieglitz, page 136-137, Doubleday, Doran + Company, 1934.

A Wedding, Bethany & Josiah

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Interested in hiring me to shoot your wedding, event, or family? Email me: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com.

Six Months

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I’m not completely sold on all the things people say about pregnancy. I mean take cravings for instance… can’t say I don’t ever not crave sweets. Pregnancy just gives me the extra push to indulge. I’m speaking for myself here, per usual, because I know some pregnant women crave weird things like rust and dirt, though I think that has some connection to an iron deficiency. Point being, I’m not sold on all the crazy things that people seem to only associate with pregnancy. Except… except when it comes to nesting. ‘Cuz, for me, that shit be real.

I’ve been hounding Willy to clear some space in the garage so I can get to sorting. I’m pretty sure he wants to kill me. I’m also pretty sure that every honey-do list I write is only read by me but somehow I can’t bring myself to stop writing those little weekly lists of tasks I so hope get completed; as if writing them allows for some degree of hope that they might get done… or even considered.

Over the past weekend, we finally made a dent in the pile of things that need to be done and I feel so much better… so-much-so that suddenly this whole pregnancy bit has come to a screeching halt; almost as if the more that gets done, the less I have to do, and the more time I have to just, well, wait.

Up until this point, time had been flying and I was feeling more than patient because with all that was needing to be done, the time I had left felt like a gift of the-more-the-merrier variety.

Looking at myself in the mirror hasn’t helped matters. Not that I don’t embrace what my body is doing, I do, but it seems like all of the sudden I’m full-blown-pregnant… as in someone soon will be asking me if I’m due tomorrow and I’ll have to go home and cry after I confess that my due date is in March… This baby is going to be big, I can tell already. I’m not quite sure how there’s even room for three more months (and then some, given my track record for blowing well past my due date) of expansion.

And so, for the first time during this pregnancy, I’m getting anxious to get to the end. The periodic jabs serving as a reminder of the life growing inside of me; the will to meet this little human growing with the strength of each kick, punch, and roll.

It feels much like Cuba, so near… yet so far.

Photos taken by Tish Carlson, who so generously came to spend some time with us in Arizona over the Thanksgiving holiday. For these images… and all the others she took which are sure to filter their way into this space… I’m beyond grateful. 

A Family Session, with The Foleys

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We had intentions of shooting first thing in the morning and as I drove across the Bay Bridge to their home in Alameda, I realized that the sun wasn’t even set to rise until 30 minutes into our shoot. I was immediately cursing myself for the extra 30 minutes I could have spent in bed because, ya know, who doesn’t like sleep? But as I drove along the water to their home and saw the first hint of light coming up beyond the palm trees, I called Stacey and suggested we flip flop our plans and start by shooting at the beach first. And so, pajamas n’ all, we headed to the beach to watch the sun grant us the light of day. Her husband Devin joined us for a bit before heading off to work and all in all it felt much like a true lifestyle session. My favorite.

We headed the short block home after the beach. I fell in love pretty fast with Sadie, admitting that if the baby in my belly ends up being a girl that I’m not quite sure what to do… but a girl like Sadie? Let’s just say she’s equal parts sweet n’ kind and rock n’ roll.

We spent the rest of the morning coloring, horsing around, eating breakfast, and playing in the yard. A pretty typical morning in many homes made beautiful and unique by a family I’m now happy to say I know.

Interested in hiring me for a session? Email me: ashleyjennett @ gmail.com.

Childhood Unplugged | Cuba

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Delving into my images from Cuba feels like a daunting task given how many images I snapped while there. But starting here, with some childhood unplugged (the abroad edition) feels like a good start. In fact, this is the very reason taking the boys – despite the possibility they may never remember such a trip – was important to me.

An excerpt from Lonely Planet (my go-to guide book for all international travel — not sure how anyone functions without it): “Welcome to a culture where children still play freely in the street and wait staff unconsciously ruffle your toddler’s hair as they glide past your table on their way back to the kitchen. There’s something wonderfully old-fashioned about kids’ entertainment here, which is less about sophisticated computer games and more about messing around in the plaza with an improvised baseball bat and a rolled-up ball of plastic”.

Five years ago when Willy and I went to Cuba sans kids (well, Hooper was growing in my belly), we brought an assortment of baseball cards, balls, and t-shirts. We had less room to bring such niceties this time around, but we did manage to bring some coloring books and matchbox cars. Both kids were rather disgusted about giving away brand new cars, but Hooper quickly came around when he witnessed the joy it brought other little boys. Van… not so much. And that’s okay (he is 3, after all).

There is so much life and energy on the streets of Havana; women sitting in simple lounge chairs on the sidewalk, men playing dominos on the street corner, and kids – tons of kids – kicking soccer balls around or playing a game of stickball. It’s so different from the sterility that fills the majority of neighborhoods here in America and perhaps the number one thing that will always draw me to Cuba.

All groups of children were inviting and allowed the boys, despite the inability to speak the same language, to partake; the older boys actually bringing balls over to the boys to give them more of a fair chance at play.

I’m always amazed by the stray dogs and their ability to navigate the streets; their know-with-all and ability to survive the same streets that has me holding my boys’ hands a little tighter despite the fact I most always trust them to walk independently. The kids of Cuba are the same way — street smart; they’re little hearts don’t even seem to miss a beat as they hop barefoot over a pile of who-knows-what, collect their balls and their makeshift wooden goal posts, and move to the side to let some exhaust blowing classic car zoom by. No parents rushing to their rescue, no parents even overseeing the fairness of the game nor the safeness of the field.

The boys also had a blast with the kids that lived next door to the house we rented a room in… crazy, again, how not a word spoken is understood and yet they all run and slam their cars into one another the same. Those boys that lived next door were so warm and inviting and it was Hooper’s favorite pastime during the few hours when Van would nap. And, perhaps the part that warms my mama heart most, he was always invited. Always (as was I – and my camera, for that matter). And each time, the group of kids seemed to change… cousins or other neighborhood kids added in or taken away from the core few.

I’ve always more-or-less advocated for the free-range childhood movement and Cuba seems like the epitome of such; only without the stupid gimmicky title. Over there, it’s not some sort of renegade parenting cliche, it’s just the way.

I’m not sure what the boys will remember of Cuba years from now, but I hope images like these joggle memories and remind them that their parents put up with a lot of the hardships that come with traveling (do I even need to add “with children” because shit, traveling alone is hard) because we believe in it’s importance.

More from Cuba to come… no promises on how soon because, well, the house is an absolute disaster… we have construction that seems to start and stop whenever our super great (please read my sarcasm) contractor decides to start, stop, and restart again (I won’t even mention the fact that we had an upstairs bathtub leaking into our downstairs kitchen), piles and piles of laundry, a growing list of things that need to be sold / donated / thrown away, and the ever-present upkeep with The Bee & The Fox, which following the weekend holiday has me wondering if I can stay afloat.

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