More on the subject of truth

After I wrote the last six people twelve times post, I immediately wanted to delete it.

It was incredibly hard for me to write, and also incredibly hard for me to allow others to read how I feel. How I truly, deeply feel about a subject. Especially about a subject as emotionally charged as parenthood. I am scared that when I truly share how I feel, no one will understand, and I will be alone.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a very private person. I am an open book. In person, I have no problem sharing personal anecdotes even with a stranger. I don’t take myself very seriously. I rarely get embarrassed. I have nothing to hide. I operate below the surface, meaning I don’t want to bother with small talk. I want to dig in and talk about THINGS. Too Much Information? Never. Not with me. I want to really know the people that come into my life. I want to be a safe place for them, so that they allow me in. And I am a lot of the time, and they do a lot of the time. I think it is what allows me to take the photographs I take.

A lot of people just feel safe with me.

The problem is, I don’t often give myself the same safety net of myself. I have operated most of my life perpetually worried about how I come across. How others see me. I have obsessed for hours after a party about the things I have said or not said. I have chosen not to walk on a busy street alone, for fear of the eyes on me as I cross a busy intersection, and what they may sum up about me from a split second. I have chosen not to stand up for myself or my children, at times, to different authorities (medical, educational, etc), because I want to believe in them, I want to belong, and because I doubt myself. I have put others over myself and my own opinions and thoughts more times than I can count. I have held back on my opinions on politics, religion, child rearing, family, alternative medicine, organic food, vaccinations, the list goes on. Personal anecdotes are one thing – personal opinions and feelings are something entirely different.

I have always tragically walked the line of being extremely confident in who I am, to doubting every single little thing I have ever thought. I remember going into ninth grade, and after having to wear glasses since the third grade, finally being old enough to try contacts. Back then, kids in glasses were teased or bullied. I was teased and bullied. Mercilessly, almost every day of my school education up to that point. Not just about the glasses, but they certainly didn’t help my situation. When my Mom offered the contact route, I remember saying, “No, I don’t need contacts. I like how I look in glasses. If anyone thinks I look like a dork, I don’t care.” Well, I desperately didn’t want to care, but of course I did. The only way I could gain some control was by saying “I’m choosing to wear these stupid glasses dammit! So screw you if you don’t like it!” The only way I could make myself feel better was to fake that confidence. I fully bought into the adage: Fake It Until You Make It. I just thought someday I would make it!

The tag line I chose for my business, “Just Be You”, is so much more than a tag line. It came to me in the middle of the night, many many years ago. It is a flashlight through the dark into the deepest part of my soul – it is me telling me, “It is okay Tara – just to be. Just be whoever you are. The important people won’t care about the messy bits, the ugly bits, the opinions that differ from theirs – they will love you anyway.” It is my mantra, my meditation, my mission statement. But often, it eludes me.

Here on my blog, I talk specifically about a lot in my life. Like I said, I am an open book. A lot of beautiful personal anecdotes are written here. A lot of talking about the other five people who live in my house. But not a lot of talking about me. About my personal opinions. My personal feelings. Also, here on my blog, I have always limited my focus to one thing: Happiness With A Capital H.

When I started this blog, I was being treated for depression. I started it for two reasons. One was to keep in touch and share photos of my children to our far away family and friends. The other was to help me focus on the good in my life. To try and help me realize I had a reason to live, and exactly what those reasons were. It worked. I started seeing things I hadn’t noticed before. I started writing about things I hadn’t noticed before. I started photographing things I hadn’t noticed before. And many of you reading this now were here, reading then.

It has been five and a half years since I started writing and focusing on all the good in my life. I am no longer being treated for depression. I have fought hard and won that battle. To those of you still in it, my heart goes out to you with deep empathy. My specific depression had a lot to do with the choices I made early in my adult life, and why I made them, and on the slow steady drain of mothering four small children all at once. Three years ago I decided I was done with medication and the side effects. After six plus years on and off anti-depressants, I wanted to see what my new baseline was. I slowly, sickly, painfully weaned off with the help of a chiropractor. She helped my body come off the drugs and she continues to help me stay healthy and balanced. That was enough for awhile, but soon the depression and hopelessness began creeping back in. So, I began going to therapy. And my life changed. She helped me realize the why of my depression. And how to move forward with all of the pain and knowledge that comes along with that.

She also helped me to realize that I am doing myself a disservice by only focusing on the good.

I want and need to focus on the truth of my life.

Meaning, I don’t have to change what I am doing – I just need to round it out with a good dose of reality. I need to be able to look and ponder over the good and the bad. The happy and the sad.

I do not want this blog to be a place where people come and then leave, feeling depressed over my ‘fantastic life’. Possibly thinking that I have no suffering. That I make no mistakes. That I have no bad days. That I don’t fail. That I’m not a jerk sometimes. That I look cute every day. That my family is perfect. I only recently came to realize that this could be the case. And if this sounds familiar to you, let me just say to you: I AM SORRY. I am sorry I haven’t realized that it is equally beneficial to show you both sides of my life.

All of my focusing on the good, the happy, the sunshine moments – what I did to make myself feel better – was actually a fantasy I was clinging to, and I was leading other people to believe was my only reality. The fact is, I do focus on those moments. They are truthful. I have never made anything up. I do tend to “look on the bright side”, “see the silver lining in every cloud”, and “drink from my half full cup”. But when that is all you, my reader, gets to see – you never get the full picture. And when that is all I, the person living it, choose to see, I can’t see my whole life the way it actually is. I can’t make changes or see problems. I can’t help someone like Mckenna. The day after I posted a truth like the one I am currently struggling with in regards to Mckenna, I could see that. You got a bigger picture of my life. *I* got a bigger picture of my life. A more truthful picture. We all have our unique struggles. We aren’t alone. And that was a big exhale.

I have felt a shift occurring within me for some time, of me not wanting to sit on the fence of who I am any longer. I have made a lot of changes since I started this blog. And yet, I have kept what I write here pretty static. Pretty generic. Pretty focused on the good. The Happy With A Capital H. Today I hope to give you a much more full picture of who I actually am, right now.

So – here is where I slap down some truth. I think I do have a pretty fantastic life. The life Jeff and I have made has a lot of good. And I write enough about that, that I don’t need to get specific about it now. But I also have a lot of suffering, I have a lot of bad days, I constantly make mistakes, I am totally a jerk to people sometimes, and a lot of days I don’t even shower or brush my teeth. I forget things often. I have a double chin and large pores. I get really sweaty when I am shooting. (One of the only things that actually does embarrass me about myself.) I am sixty pounds overweight. Mckenna has visually disturbing scars on 20% of her body, caused by catching on fire in 2005, and caring for them, and her, takes a lot of work. Some days I wish my kids would disappear so that my house would stay clean and I could have a break. My house is almost always messy. I don’t really have many local friends. I feel lonely a lot. But I am learning to like that loneliness, and learning what to fill it up with that is good for me. I wish I had paid more attention in all of my History classes, Geography, and Economics, because I am a dolt when it comes to those subjects. I make up for it now by being extremely curious and learning as much as I can about the past, and the history we are making today. I voted for Obama, although I don’t think he is the cure for all of our problems. In person, I curse like a sailor and have quite the naughty sense of humor. I just don’t necessarily feel that the internet is the place for me to express that. I cringe inside when I hear the name George W. Bush. I support gay marriage, and feel that the LGBT person is equal to me in every way. I am not religious. After having been kind of “half-religious” most of my life, (Episcopalian, then Christian, then Mormon), my belief system is best understood by reading this, from the American Humanist Association.

If any of those things surprise you, or make you no longer want to read my blog, I understand. And not in a glasses versus contacts way. I really and truly understand because it means you have the full picture of who I am, and you are free to make a choice. I respect your choice. I would hope that this wouldn’t change how you feel about me. But I understand if it does.

And something I didn’t go into on that last post. I didn’t get specific enough about what I was dealing with. My daughter Mckenna has an undiagnosed neurological disorder that causes her to have major agitation over simple household noise, major issues transitioning from one thing to another, (even something as simple as getting out of the car), and obsessive compulsive tendencies. She is unpredictable in when she will melt down, but melt down she does. And often. In a meltdown she screams, she will try to take off her clothes, she will lay down on the ground. Often in public, right where people have to walk around her. She will stop everything she is doing, like a stubborn horse you can’t get to move an inch. You pull and yank on the reigns and plead and beg and they just dig in their heels. So does she. She will yell curse words. This started in middle school – she doesn’t know when not to curse like the rest of the kids. (Around teachers and parents.) She has zero social or safety awareness. She has no idea people like their space, and will walk up to someone and touch them inappropriately as she says ‘hello’, or ‘hi, dude!’ She has no idea that she could get hit by a car in a parking lot. In 2006 she left our house unannounced twice, and took off on foot. One time before 6am, when everyone else was asleep, the other time when the kids were playing outside and I was upstairs folding laundry and didn’t realize she had left. Both times we were frantic to find her, and were lucky we did. After her second attempt, we purchased a $300 personal GPS system that she had to wear for months. If she got more than 10 feet away from the base, her bracelet would ring an alarm. A lot of the time, her safety is out of my control, and I live in fear of what may happen to her next. She is intellectually disabled with some autistic like symptoms. We don’t know why and we probably never will. It isn’t for a lack of trying. She is fourteen years old and we have taken her to the doctor to try and figure her out countless times.

One of my friends emailed me something that I thought was so poignant, and I want to share what she said here:

“I think what I love most about this post is that it rips away the curtain.  This fancy curtain that is put up for everyone to see how perfect and beautiful it is on the outside, but if you push back the curtain you get to see what’s real, what’s raw.  You get to see the truth.  And guess what…the truth isn’t all that and a bag of chips sometimes.  And I think it is in these moments of complete honesty that humans can truly relate to one another.  Perfection is an illusion….And the sooner we as parents push back the curtain, the better off we’ll all be.  Because there is comfort in knowing that we are not alone in this situation, that people can relate in some fashion.”

I am so ready to rip away the curtain, and in doing so my hope is that I find even more people that I can relate to, as well as that can relate to me.

Just be.



Join the Conversation


  1. God bless you, Tara. You are a remarkable woman! Thank you for being honest and real and not afraid of what others may think. I find many of your statements/beliefs to be very much in line with mine. I am a special education teacher and appreciate your honesty in describing day to day life with your daughter. I am in awe of the parents I serve for what they endure, and you are no exception. Sending much love and support to you.

  2. {{{hugs}}} I know writing these posts was difficult but necessary for you. Thank you for your courage and honesty in sharing the messy side of your life with us. Life is messy, there’s no escaping that. You’re not the only one who worries about what others will think if you don’t show your sunny side all the time. I, too, care too much about what people think about me – even obsessing because nobody sat at my table at a PTO meeting! Of course, even that minor worry isn’t easy to share. It’s tough being vulnerable. Thank you for trusting us enough to share your life with us. You really are an inspiration – imperfect life and all!

  3. Your post about how hard it is to be together as a family, and why it’s so important to you…..all I can say is WOW. I have a 11 year old daughter with a neurological disorder. Different than your daughter, but the same in so many ways. and how you feel and were able to write is SO ON. THank you!! It’s what’s in my head, I feel like just printing it out and showing it to all my friends and saying, this is what I mean!! so true, you’re definitly not alone.

  4. There is so much I want to write and say to you! You have been on my mind alot and although I know that you are not religous I hope that it is okay to say I have been praying for you. I think it is interesting to say that you hope people wont stop reading your blog because of your beliefs…but you understand if they do. I will out myself as one of the “Christians” that reads your blogs. Maybe it’s just me…but it would never cross my mind to do that. The Jesus that I read about was called the friend of sinners and hung out with the worst people of his day…taxe collectors (well maybe we still agree that paying taxes are no fun :) I think that is why He wants to be a friend of me. I dont have everything together…I take lexapro daily and I am not afriad to say it…I have panic attacks and I hate them…I am not the best mom…sometimes I don’t want to check my biz email and I dont want to book more shoots…sometimes I just want to stay in my house and clean like crazy. I guess I rambled all of that off just to say that I feel broken often and that doesnt change because I call myself a Christian and I read my Bible daily. What I do feel like though is that I want to run into God’s arms and trust that He will comfort me and use my life. Not in that weird standing on a street corner holding signs kind of way. I guess I just want to love people the way I think Jesus would. With all of that said I hope that was not offensive. I am humble and honored that I get to read and be part of your blogging life :) One of these days I would love to meet you…and I really want to see your kitchen because I still want to paint my cabinets with chalk paint :)

  5. wow Tara…just wow wow wow. I’m sure you’re probably not reading this far down, and if you are the comments are all just blurring together! I have always been a fan, and now I just feel like you are so much more real. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll still admire you like crazy…and wish I was you – but, it is nice to know that you cuss & sweat like the rest of us! I have always wondered exactly what was wrong with your daughter – at first, I thought it was caused by the fire. It’s so interesting to find out more about her condition…thank you so much for sharing her and your whole family with us all. You are really a super amazing person…I would love to cross paths with you one day in my life!

  6. Thank you so much for this post. I’m always comparing myself. Why can’t I be like… Why can’t I see the silver lining like… Why am I not as… The perfection I see everywhere except when it comes to me, really is an illusion I guess. So thank you.

  7. Hi Tara,
    I haven’t left a comment before, even though I’ve been reading your blog for many years. I just had to comment now to let you know that no way would I stop reading your blog because of what you have written. I totally understand that we don’t always know what goes on beyond closed doors. I recently told a friend something about myself that she would never have believed, but it helped her in a situation she was going through, and I reminded her that you ‘never know what goes on behind closed doors’. You’ve opened your door so we can peep inside, and it does help us to connect with you so much more. I connect with many things you’ve written in this post and it helps me feel better about myself because I think I’m glad I’m not the only one!
    Much love.

  8. Oh, your post is potent. The truth of it made my knees buckle. AS do a lot of people I am sure, I relate to you on so many levels. I am going to re-read this post a million times and forward it to people who will heal from reading it as well. You’re an amazingly strong woman Tara, and you just helped a bazillion people.

    Thank you.

  9. amen, sister. beautiful, honest and vulnerable post. i was a fan before, and will absolutely continue to be a fan. thanks for sharing the contents of your heart with us.

    I applaud your guts.
    I appreciate your honesty.
    I am happy you are human.
    I love that you gave yourself permision to tell the rest of us it’s OK to live a life that is “off” a bit.
    My life is off.
    blogging has turned into a fantasty life that probably doesnt exist in the real world.
    YOU are REAL.

  11. Thank you for sharing this.
    I heard somewhere that the things we feel the most deeply are universal truths for all people.
    It’s funny that most of us aren’t brave enough to share these things if this is true.
    Thanks for being brave.

  12. you just say what others feel, often. truth & honest are sometimes painful. apparently 390 comments above prove that these things, although sometimes terrifying, can help so many others feel that they are not in vain.
    you rock!

  13. Finally! Now i feel like I actually KNOW you! I’ve always loved reading your blog and your photos, but I loved these last 2 posts best be/c they are YOU. You have just described what I wish my 3 closest girlfriends and I would do with one another…rip away the curtain. One of them says she wants us to tell each other everything, but the curtain is still very much present. I find it so frustrating! I think we all suffer from the same issue – thinking other people won’t like what they see behind that curtain so we keep everything so neat and tidy in front of each other. Ripping away the curtain would feel like lifting off a heavy, burdensome weight. Thank you for sharing the girl inside the curtain! Love you even more than before.

  14. Tara ,I hope you get to read this. I suffered with depression up until quite recently. I was also thrity pounds over weight ,I also had some other health problems which i can share with you if you want to email me about, anyway I found i had a thryoid issue and yes I had my thyroid tested and it always showed okay .I was one of those 30% percent that dont test well seems 70 % are okay .I cant tell you how getting my thyroid fixed has changed my life ,my depression has gone. Im telling you this because of some of the things youve posted, I know you obviously have some real stress in your life but just some of the things you are writing is sending out alarm bells about your health. I feel Im looking in a mirrior when you describe the sweating etc.
    Email me if you decide to look into this or you feel your health still isnt where you want it and I will help you with info to check it out. I know weve never met but thats what the internet is all about connecting people. have a good week Jacqui

  15. You know, you might not want to be friends with me! I voted for George W Bush (although I don’t think he was a perfect president) and there are lots of things about Barack Obama’s policies that make me cringe (although I was tempted to vote for him). I don’t support gay marriage although I do support civil unions for all. I absolutely value all people, including LGBT, and don’t consider myself to be “better” than anyone. I am deeply religious and consider that my faith in God has brought me through the most difficult trials of my life. Not brought me around them, but taken me through them. I very rarely swear. But you know what? I love other people’s points of view. I love ideas that challenge my own and make me think. I love women who are passionate about their work and their families and their lives and who don’t hide behind the “pretty.” I love honesty. I love little girls (and boys) with undiagnosed neurological disorders, mental retardation, and autistic-like symptoms and I’ve got some of them on my caseload (I’m an SLP). I love the families who love these kids and, I can’t help it and I know they don’t want pity, my heart bleeds for them even while it celebrates their strength and resilience. I love your blog, Tara. I’m gonna keep reading it and, from over here in another part of So Cal, loving you and your family. Thank you for your honesty. You are a star.

  16. Tara, I read often but have never responded to a blog, here or anywhere else. I just want to say thank you – for your honesty, for your courage, for being willing to share whether it’s to help others or to help yourself (hopefully it does both). Sending you good thoughts and wishing you a peaceful heart and spirit.

  17. yes! one of my biggest pet peeves is when people say, “just focus on the positive!” life is about more than positives, people! it’s about ups and downs, and lessons and experiences. it’s about other people raining on your joy parade and having to deal with setbacks and heartaches and pain. all of that doesn’t have to mean ugly, it is part of the transformative process that makes us beautiful.

    so what that I don’t agree with you on every point “behind the curtain”? your journey that is illustrated so poignantly through your words and pictures is a delight because of your realness, your relate-ability based on this gift of life.

    enjoying your story…

  18. You probably won’t get to my message, seeing you have almost 400 comments already, but I wanted to let you know there’s yet another person who admires your work, loves your blog, and couldn’t agree more with your post. Keep being you.


  19. I have been reading your blog forever. I like you so much more after reading it today. I understand where you are coming from on every level. It is hard to share the uncomfortable stuff, but I appreciate it so much that you did. Thank you.

  20. Tara,
    I haven’t been around much–but want you to know I have always admired you—you are so strong & have so much on your plate.

    You are a great mama too…Next time I head to the OC I wanna take you to lunch!!

    You are NOT alone


  21. Wow Tara, I can only imagine your struggle with your daughter. I can relate on so many levels with you. I am so glad you posted this, and honestly even though your blog was inspiring and cheery before, I didn’t come to see just how cheery your family was. I am aware that people live behind images, I do it to myself. What you have done now, is let it be okay to expose your troubles, and let people in. I grew up in a family that said keep your troubles to yourself, that it was shameful to say what’s really going on. Today you became the human we all seek to relate to. Like when we see celebrities and think they couldn’t possibly know our lives until they reveal their own truth’s and at that point we say they are just like us. Well you are just like us. Wondering how some-days we can get through our own pain. Thank you!!!

  22. Thank you Tara, thank you. Thank you for being real, being honest, being you. I have become somewhat of a blogging addict, always looking into other peoples lives because they seem to have it better than I do. You have just shown me that most people out there live behind curtains – I know I do. Thanks again Tara, I’ve been following your blog now for about four years and I will continue to do so, as they say “warts and all”… know I can’t help thinking about a song by Elbow “One day like this” – maybe it’s the curtains!!! Please listen, I do on those bad days.

  23. Still inspired by you – in the good “perfection” and “behind the curtain” – continuing to keep it real, reminds me to do the same and focus on what really matters in my life. Hugs to you today – and still hoping I run into you someday since we are “local” to each other – and I just might HUG you on sight so watch out!!
    -megan from sc, ca

  24. I first found you through scrapbooking, and loved your work, then I found out you were a photographer, and loved your work even more..such emotion in each photograph….but after reading your last few posts, I love that you are just you. And I’ve been like you at times, scared to share things on my blog because I am afraid of what others will think, or think that it all needs to be happy…but our lives are not always Happy. I’m exactly the same way…always been an optimistic person, but everyone has issues that they deal with that makes them human. And it is so odd how I can relate to so many things you brought up in this post. You are a beautiful person, and this post is just amazing…thank you for sharing you with us!

  25. Tara,

    I have quietly followed you since Two Peas in a Bucket, I saw talent and a real person that I would love to be friends with years ago and what you have expressed here only makes me admire you more. You are amazingly brave for sharing the good, the bad and the ugly and all of the insecurities we all feel. You are a cyber star, friend, mentor, mother, wife, photographer….AMAZING even on your worst of days. Thanks for sharing your life and soul. All the best, Tamra

  26. Thank you, Tara. For sharing your edited life before and your truth now. Feeling connected to people, even strangers, makes us feel ALIVE. I mostly “fake it” in my public life too. It is lonely but safe.

  27. It is ok for you to just be you.
    We all are (and especially me…) guilty of just trying to show or paint a picture of all things positive like nothing is behind the curtain. I’m the worst at asking for help because I want to be able to do it all by myself and don’t want me kids to think they’re a challenge for me….I only have two….no special needs.

    Like I said with my last comment. I wish I could be there to offer resources…help with an understanding and loving heart!! (I’m sure there are more people than you could possibly imagine that wish the same :)

  28. Tara, I might suggest one of the reasons you weren’t open to sharing before is as part of your “protector” role or your own defense mechanism. This is very typical of a caregiver of special needs or terminally ill or depressed persons. It is a hard job and we sew a thin armor to protect us. And when we wear it, it fits closely and it is a little uncomfortable – feels like we ate too much like at Thanksgiving – so we are careful not let our tummy out so it doesn’t rip open. But at some point, we take on too much baggage, we get too heavy and it rips open and we are exposed. We can’t hide and protect ourselves forever. For you, it has obviously been building up and you needed to empty out. And yes, you need help. And it’s ok to get some help. My mom, my mother-in-law, and my step father were all special education teachers so I understand these kiddos need some extra attention. It benefits the child and the family when you get some help now and again. It’s no different than for any of the rest of us. We need experiences with people other than just our parents – we have friend, teachers, bosses, coworkers – it what makes us a well-rounded person. And getting help would give that to your girlie.

    Tara, thanks for sharing. The challenges are what make the good stuff so much sweeter. Take care of yourself and your family.

  29. Wow. I came to your blog several months ago through another great photographer’s blog and have been admiring your talent ever since then. I am always in awe of your creativity and the way you inspire people (myself included) through your words. I too, am that “silver lining girl.” Sometimes its exhausting being the cheerleader….and today I was having one of those days….and came to your blog. Thank you so much for your honesty and that big breath of fresh air. You are such brave and beautiful soul. I hope you feel all the good vibes people are sending your way:)

  30. Hi Tara! I’ve been following your blog for a long time. I’m a photographer in San Diego and have always admired and respected your honesty and truth on your blog. This post is no different. Though you and I have different beliefs and opinions (except for the GW part) :), I will never stop reading your blog. Our differences make us stronger as we are our own individuals in the way we were made (and in my belief, the way God made us). Thank you for your truth and I hope we can all learn from you in sharing what our heart is really saying without hiding it from others. Thank you!

  31. Tara, I have admired your photography for years and I live in Boston. Thank you for sharing this with us. It must be very cathartic. I will continue to read your blog! :)

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