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,



Join the Conversation


  1. Pretty please show photos of your progressing living room…I am such a home junkie (and craigslister too). Also,next year (in a few hours) I plan to TRULY follow your “six people twelve times” plan. I totally sucked it this year….

    much love, and happy New Year to one of my favorite families.

  2. What a beautiful post. That last paragraph made me tear up a bit. My husband and I just celebrated 10 years of marriage and with 6 years of dating (I was 16 when we met) we have grown up together. Crazy in this day and age to think 2 people can do that! I also completely understand that feeling of being young and old and feeling so in love with life and the people closest to you that it’s terrifying at times. You’re right, life is fragile and you seem to live it to the fullest. Thanks for sharing and being so honest.

  3. “overcome with the knowledge that this is all temporary and yet I depend on it so much . . . feels very fragile to me . . . so much to lose . . . holding on with both hands . . .” Craig’s convinced it’s just me. So glad that I’m not alone in my nervous/elated/grateful state. Love.

  4. Confession, I didn’t even make it passed…getting a second record player. If we are all about calling dibs over here then…I CALL DIBS ON THE EXTRA ONE!!! Haaa, just kidding around (kinda). I have been searching for ages for a good record player so that I can pull out my childhood book on record for my kids. Love the post. Love the picture. LOVE!!!!

  5. That last paragraph got me. That is exactly how I feel since the moment we had Scarlett. Have I told you Bret and I met when we I was 13 and started dating when I was 14? I sometimes wonder if my infatuation with him is something I will grow out of. If I’ll get to love him with such abandon always, of if it’s a naive phase. You guys make me smile :)

  6. i really love, love, love these posts. They always make me laugh, tear up, and feel all kinds of emotion. i hope you don’t stop. you need to do this for as long as you can–put them all in a notebook. what a treasure these will be years from now for all of you! heck, a YEAR from now (if your mind is anything like mine, you’ll have forgotten most or all of these little details of your months). your writing is heartfelt, real and wonderful. inspiring.
    i’m sorry about the pox on your house. i’m seriously amazed at how many things have broken or gone wrong. it must be a record.

  7. Oh, Tara!
    You’re blog is SO very inspiring. Your photos take my breath away and leave me with a feeling of love for my own family. I am so inspired by your 12 photos that I’ve decided that this is a MUST DO for the upcoming year. I can’t wait to get started and I know they will be a treasure for years to come. Thanks for sharing your family and your talent with all of us in “blog world”.

  8. Snogging in the prelude! We did that, only it was a little toyota pickup in the alley on Rosewood. 2011 will mark 15 years of marriage for us as well. I love your writing, it is always so vibrant and real, which is why when I saw this looooong post in my twitter feed I had to make it over to my computer to read it. Even at 11:23 on New Years Eve. Happy New Year adorable family, I hope that someday I will find myself in front of your lens, snogging with my hubs. Peace.

  9. awesome post Tara! Reading it sounds like my life…my younger one is the “destructor” my husband and I mutter quietly to ourselves.
    November 5th is my bday and my husband and I have been together 18 years, almost married 15.
    My husband and I were just discussing all the things wrong with this house, thankfully we have 24 days left in it before we move..not that I’m counting or anything…but there’s only 24 days left here….
    beautiful pictures as always!

  10. So love this series – wish I’d done something similar when my kiddies were still at home! Maybe I should start this month, since I took family pics at Christmas… Your words are truly the heart of the series – sure the photos are fab, but that extra effort you put into your monthly stories, that’s going to just be amazing years from now!
    P.S. shameless plug: come check out my website when you’re ready to shop for artwork!!

  11. you make me smile, giggle out loud, then choke up all in one post. just love you to pieces. adore your family photos…..I keep thinking I’ll grab the self-timer and do the same for my family. I should, really should because they’re so fun to see. thanks tara

  12. me again. after my comment….I thought more about this….and went to your first post (beginning the photos) about your personal project for your family and at the end you said “I hope you join me.” Yep, going to do it. making a promise to myself because we need it.
    do you think you’ll print & display those from this past year….compile them somehow?

  13. Wow – really loved reading this post! I felt really lucky being able to see in my mind and remember how it felt to be sitting in your new living area – so cozy and comfortable! We had such a great time hanging with you guys. That last paragraph really hit me – I too “feel so young and feel so old” at the same time! And it frightens me too a little bit how “the life I love is always changing.” I don’t really like change – so I’m trying to really hold on and enjoy the kids how they are now. Anyway, thanks for the post – it’s nice to know we are going through it together!

  14. T – You continue to inspire me, as you have for so many years now. There is no other like you on this planet, and you shine your light so brightly – even when you don’t realize it! I adore your family – Thank you for letting all of us get to know them thru your eyes. I am taking up the banner for this project with my own family and vowing to photograph the 3 of us 12 times in 2011 – I have commited to it here ( I wish so much I would have had the courage to do it in 2010 – but now I do, and that’s what matters, right?! THANK YOU for being who you are and for inspiring so many of us to be better people! Much love to you and yours in the new year.

  15. What a lovely post! Thank you for sharing. I was married to my sweet husband for 14 years, we were together for 17. He died in 2008 when we were both 39. When you wrote of Jeff smiling at you from across the table it brought tears to my eyes. I miss that so much. I hope the entire Whitney family has a wonderful 2011 filled with many good things and happy moments!

  16. Thank you for sharing the bits and pieces of your life with us throughout the year. I really enjoy checking in and reading the heartfelt, amusing and touching posts. Hope 2011 is a wonderful year for you & your family. Cheers!

  17. man oh man, you are a great writer! fabulous story, you should write a book. a beautiful picture book w/ words. your graphic designer friend who’s famous can design it. god, what is her name? short, spikey hair. anyway, you’ll make billions! i hope you’ve got that in the works!

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