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Category Archives: six people twelve times

personal project \ six people twelve times \12.10

December 2010.


Guess what? I made it through an entire year of a project.

I say that with some disbelief. Okay, not some. A lot. A lot of disbelief. I know most of you understand. Most of us are typical creative types with a lot of good intentions and a lot of half finished projects lying around. Lots of ideas, very little follow through.

So I am pretty happy about this. Happy I have this record of our life. Happy to have inspired some of you to do the same.

I also have the support from the other five Whitneys (four really, but Mckenna says no to everything) to keep up with this project into 2011. The images came easy – it was the words that were hard for me at times. I am not sure if the words will continue in the same fashion, but I will have to see how it all plays out.

Thank you for being here this year, and for inspiring me to keep going.

In December, if you can believe it, the pox on our house CONTINUED. Oh yes it did. Our downstairs toilet had cracked and because we were unaware, it slowly leaked onto our wood floor. It must have been happening for months when we discovered the rotten wood behind the toilet. We had to have the floor in the bathroom replaced, and the toilet repaired. We all took turns with some pesky health problems that dampened a lot of our plans.

Jeff turned one of our problems into a surprise. I came home one day from running errands to find a brand new dishwasher had been installed while I was out. He had even put a red bow on it! An even bigger gift than the new dishwasher was not having to research or purchase it on my own time. He handled everything and it was exactly what I needed. That was when things started to turn around.

Because of everything that happened over the last few months, I wasn’t as prepared for Christmas. Mentally or in any other way. I decided that Bernard wasn’t going to be able to happen this year. I had to give myself a break somewhere. But oh, that was such a hard decision. I had made preparations but I didn’t have the energy to deal with it. We were still shopping the day before Christmas Eve, which is so totally not how I like to do things. We managed, even in a rush, to bring some meaning to Christmas Eve. Shane and Rachel came over and we made a steak and lobster feast, then stayed up late wrapping and playing Santa. I love that tradition, and I am so grateful to them for wanting to do it with us. I love love LOVE filling the stockings and deciding which things will be popping out of the top for them to see when they race downstairs, and what will be all the way down in the toe. Love designing how the presents will lay under the tree. Love that last moment before heading up to bed, when Jeff and I sit in cahoots and look at all that work, all that preparation, all that sweetness under the sparkly tree.

Christmas morning came bright and early as it always does. It was quiet and special, with Perry Como and Bing Crosby on the record player. A cup of hot milky coffee in my hands. Among other things, the boys got a new TV for their room, for video gaming. Mckenna got a new iPod and a footsie pajama that is pink polka dotted like Uniqua. Anna got cowboy boots and toys. Jeff and I have wanted to start a garden in the backyard and he had a bunch of supplies under the tree for me, including a compost bin. I love Christmas morning – I love the settling down of the hustle and bustle. We spent the rest of the day visiting family and at the end of the evening drove home in the rain. I felt like I was in a warm cocoon in my car. I didn’t really want to reach our destination and get the sleepy kids into bed. It would mean it was all over, for good. But we did and it was, and the next day we cleaned up.

On New Years Eve, when we took the above photos, we had some friends over. I made red and green enchiladas and Roquamole. Jeff created a shot list – his six drinks of the night. They included a buttery nipple, a scooby snack, a duck fart, a surfer on acid, a kamikaze, a screaming orgasm, and a 4th of July. Every hour from 6pm to midnight, the brave (or stupid) of us met in the kitchen for the “Shot Of The Hour”. Mckenna laughed every time someone said duck fart. If you say it to her today, she will still laugh. Brett and Billie brought the materials to tie dye, and we spent the 10 o clock hour at the kitchen table with the kids, rubber banding and mixing. We all made it to midnight and it was the first time the kids stayed up. The next morning I woke up to a mess and my first thought was that I was grateful to have it. My heart felt so full. It was just lovely to have everyone over. You know you had fun when you leave a mess behind.

This morning Jeff and I seemed to wake up needing to talk. We were lying in bed, legs intertwined, trying to keep our feet warm. We started talking about life. About what changes we wanted to make. Where we wanted to take our family, our health, our business, our time. We talked about how hard this year was for us, and how different it was from 2009. In 2009 we made huge leaps of progression. It was the year I began to understand where my depression came from, and what to do about it. It was the year we changed our focus as a family, back to each other. To being content. We each lost 40 pounds and I started my journey with making healthy food. We felt power in making those changes. We gained self respect. In 2009 our attitudes completely shifted and we grew as a family.

Looking back on 2010, it seems like a bit of a disappointment. Instead of progressing, we were really just holding on. Treading water. And in some ways regressing. We never let go of the rope completely, but a few times it was really close. I gained back 20 pounds of the forty that I lost, and have struggled to try and get back to where I was. In fact, I am still struggling. I look at the jeans that WERE falling off me – the jeans I can’t even button now – and I hate myself for getting here again. I know what I need to do to be successful at weight loss, but this year I just couldn’t do it.

Mckenna. Everything changed with her this year. She went from being a mentally and emotionally disabled child to a mentally and emotionally disabled teenager. This is a whole new ballgame. Her behavior isn’t “cute” anymore. It was easier when she was little. Her delays and lack of development still kind of fit in for her age and size. She was just a toddler for many many years. Now, she still acts like a toddler but has the body and the hormones of a 14 year old girl. There isn’t any more hiding from it, in my hopes and dreams. Now it just IS. Now, it is just very very real. The things I hoped might happen aren’t going to happen. I have had to make a lot of concessions this year. I have had to let a lot of my hopes and dreams for her die this year.

I guess this is me choosing to live my life based in reality instead of fantasy. I see reality now, I can’t really hide from it no matter how hard I try. No matter how much I want to.

But this year reality kicked my ass.

I am glad that I didn’t gain back all forty pounds. I am glad that I have my family and we are all alive and healthy. I am glad that although our home seemed to be falling apart, we have one. I am glad that we didn’t let go of the rope entirely and give up.

Most of all, I am glad for another chance.

I am going to take it.



personal project \\ six people twelve times \\ 11.10


This family image was taken in San Francisco right after ingesting a whole crab and bowls of clam chowder and pasta and long island’s and cherry cokes. I remember the light outside being soft pink. I was in love with that light, I wanted to eat it. We were walking, and I saw this building and the light on the windows, and I asked if we were feeling up to a self timer shot. We were.

Progress is being made in the front room. My plan for this space is to get all large pieces second hand. (Side note: Jeff would like me to stop using words like “space” and “piece”.) I don’t want to spend a lot of money. I LOVE the hunt and the thrill of the find. I want the character of something old and loved. I have been searching Craigslist since the summer for a sofa. I have discovered that I am a couch snob, okay? Also that I think couches are ugly. And that people on Craigslist lie, lie, lie. Ugh, what to do? I was about to give up, disheartened with the amount of couches listed as “beautiful vintage in great condition” only to click on the link to see “90′s floral Ethan Allen with matching curtains and a stain”. Newsflash: the 90′s are vintage you guys. And I have clicked on so many ugly couches you guys. (Suburban housewife problem.) I was moments away from shooting nasty, disgruntled emails off to those types of sellers when I came across the one. The. One. THE ONE. She was true vintage. Living with her second owner. The exact ugly green of my dreams. A sectional. The perfect dimensions for our oddly sized room. She also had a chair that came along with her. I saw her picture and I knew she was mine because my blood pressure spiked. I played it cool, knowing she would go fast at this price, knowing how slim the pickings are for this type of piece. They were asking $500, I got her for $250, delivered. She has some water damage, but that part goes against the wall. She has adorable little teak legs. She turns gold in the afternoon sun, and beckons to be lounged on. And a lot like my record player, I have become very attached.

Around the same time that she came home to me, friends of ours remodeled their living room. Friends whose living room housed the most perfect coffee table. I have literally coveted/had my eye on this coffee table for many years. I jokingly called dibs on it the last time I was at their house. Well, I got so lucky because I had just brought my new couch home when they emailed to let me know they had a new coffee table, and that I could come get the old one. It’s this big wooden square and it fits perfectly in the corner of the new couch. It warms up the room with it’s worn out rounded corners that aren’t supposed to be rounded.

There is still much to do in the front room: a book shelf or piano perhaps, art for the walls, rug, lighting, and something to fill up the awkward corner, but for now I am just so grateful to have made this progress. Record player, couch, coffee table. Trifecta of Tara happiness.

Of note: we took Drew to a high school preview day. Pick me up off the floor.

We had photo shoots, art classes, haircuts, guitar lessons, musical performances, and basketball camp.

We flew up to San Francisco for the thanksgiving break. It is becoming a tradition for us to go away together for Thanksgiving and I hope to be able to continue it. I have visions/daydreams of keeping up with it into the adulthood of our children, and meeting everyone in exotic and interesting locations every year. Friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, grandchildren. Who knows? I think traveling makes Thanksgiving even more cool than it already is. I did miss smelling/eating turkey and stuffing though, so when we got back into town I made my own, for the very first time. I was hoping to be at least 50 before having to do my own bird, but now that I’ve done it I don’t know what I was afraid of. Actually I do know what I was afraid of, so Jeff cleaned the bird for me. I made my mom’s stuffing recipe, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberries. The six of us had the most cozy day, watching old movies downstairs as the oven chugged. (Miracle on 34th street and the original Superman were a couple of the ones we picked.) One of my memories will be me in the kitchen with an apron on over my pajamas, my hair tied on top of my head in a knot. Another one will be of Jeff across the table, candles flickering, smiling at me. This day was a treasure.

The pox continued. The boys broke Jeff’s $100 headphones. The smoke detectors all started chirping at once. My back molar cracked into pieces during the previews for Tangled, while eating popcorn, and the dentist almost had to pull my tooth. The kids bathroom light and fan stopped working. I ran over, and broke, a sprinkler in our front yard with my car. Our car’s programmed gate/garage buttons stopped opening both of those things. Jeff’s Prius keys died. The back burners on my stove decided to stop lighting. Nathan’s violin strings snapped. Mckenna broke the record player in record time, only a few weeks into owning it. Everything else I could handle with some kind of patience, but that felt like a final straw. I felt it’s absence so deeply for so many days that Jeff convinced me to go buy another one right away instead of waiting for the original to get fixed and shipped back to us in a month. (Once the original is fixed we will be giving one of them away. Or using it as a backup, which may be a smart idea with Mckenna the wrecking ball around.) Where is that bubble wrap?

On November 5th, Jeff and I tallied up fifteen years of marriage. Eighteen years as a couple. Neither of us are perfect, but oh how he charms me. I have known him since we were children, and it is a shock to realize it has been eighteen years. It seems like yesterday and like an eternity ago all at once. How can we have gone through everything we have and yet wasn’t it just yesterday that we were snogging in his Honda Prelude in my parent’s driveway? I feel young and I feel old. Sometimes I look at him and I am overcome with the knowledge that this is all temporary and yet I depend on it so much. This love that I have, this life that I love is always changing. Right now it feels very fragile to me. I have so much to lose.

Holding on with both hands,



personal project \\ six people twelve times \\ 10.10

(note from me: I have had the photos for October and November but not the words, until now. These are late, but that’ll do just fine.)


Here we are, on Halloween.

The boys: ketchup and mustard
Anna: afortunetellergypsywithabeautymark is how she would explain it allinonebreath.
Mckenna: Annie
Jeff and I: Mckenna and Uniqua

We gathered together on our back patio for a family photo before Drew headed off to trick or treat with his friends. It was the first time one of the kids left us for Halloween. When he asked me if it was okay, there was a part of me that wanted to say no. To make him stay with us. I’m a mama duck. I like my ducklings nearby, somewhat underfoot. But there was a bigger part of me that knew it was time, knew this is what happens, knew that it was just the beginning. I squeezed him in a hug before he left and joined the edge of the cliff all the other mothers of teenagers stand on, just waiting for their people to come home safe.

Drew turned 13 this month. He has crossed a threshold. I don’t see it in him quite yet though. I know I will soon.

I turned 34 this month. I didn’t want anything for my birthday, didn’t want to do anything special. I actually just wanted to skip it. I decided that all I wanted was to have a day where I could pretend to be a piece of furniture. I wanted my pillow to be the person who needed me most. So I spent the day lounging in bed. Snacks and yummy food were brought up to me. Kids flowed in and out of the room to see what I was up to. I read and watched TV and talked. I was serenaded by Drew. I had visitors who brought me flowers and stayed for drinks. Towards the end of the afternoon, Jeff plopped a box on my lap. I knew he had been up to something, but had no idea what. It was a record player. I have talked about wanting one for this house since we moved in seven years ago. We have a built in bookshelf under the stairs that I always thought a record player would be perfect for. I was right – it is perfect there. I have grown to love it so, so much – to be almost infatuated with it, because it adds something to our house that I didn’t know was missing. It makes the experience of listening to music something new for me. Slows things down, makes me stop and sit. You can find me many afternoons, listening to a record, staring at the sunlight on the couch as it moves up the cushions and onto the wall.

My first albums were also given to me and were: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Mumford & Sons, and A Perry Como Christmas.

It feels like we keep getting hit with one thing after another. Weird things that pop up out of the blue. Our roof sprung a leak and the dishwasher is on it’s last leg. Our toaster stopped toasting. The hard drive on my old and beloved classic iPod bit the dust. I loved that thing. It was practically vintage and as heavy as a brick. The kids keep dropping favorite glasses and bowls and vases. All of this equals suburban housewife problems and nothing too terrible, but I am at the point where I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. After almost losing my computer in September I feel like there must be some kind of pox on my house. I am starting to wonder what’s around the corner and if I need to pack my children in bubble wrap. It’s like the plot of a punchy sitcom around here, without the laugh track. One knee slapping mishap after another!

While in one way the house seems to be falling apart, in another way it is being put back together. I have actually been hanging photos on the walls. I have been re-arranging rooms. I have been cleaning things out. The joy for doing those kinds of things is coming back to me. (I honestly think it has something to do with the record player – that thing woke me up from a long slumber.) For many years I have not paid very much attention to the old dear, and instead put blinders on and piled my ideas in the garage. I feel awakened. I crave change. I care. I pore over design blogs. I obsessively check Craigslist. I have big plans. The front room of our house has been mostly a catch-all for the time we have lived here. A rather large walkway. I am on the hunt and I have a few leads. I hope, (oh I hope), that they will pan out so we can have a cooler, more usable space.

From the cliff with love,