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.



Join the Conversation


  1. Goodness gracious you are one hell of a remarkable person. My life will be forever changed just from “knowing” you. Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of your heart for all that you do for so many just by being honest and just by being you. : )

  2. Tara, first of all, you are not alone! I “feel” you on so many levels. My 2009 was the worst year. For me, for my family, for my marriage. That was the year that my grip on the rope was slipping…I was grasping the ends with my fingernails. I love how you wrote the last paragraph. When things get so bad it helps our spirits to look for the positve. Even if it is “hey, we are still here!”. I wish you all the best for 2011. I hope for you that windows open and the sun shines on you!

  3. Oh, Tara. I love you for keeping up on this project, I love you for being REAL and telling us how it really is instead of keeping up this weird “It’s so easy for me” facade that so many people adopt. Thank you for your vulnerability and for sharing it with us. I hope that 2011 is much better for both–all!–of us. :)

  4. I can’t stop watching the top photo – I love it.

    I have really lobed your monthly updates and your honesty. I want to do the monthly family photo this year. I hope I can make if happen. Thanks for
    Being inspiring.

  5. wishing and hoping that 2011 is a wonderful year for you. Your ongoing (and COMPLETE!) project is an awesome inspiration for us all…one I hope to tackle this year. Sending (hugs) and love your way…

  6. I am so excited for you and your finished project. It is such an inspiration to me. Can’t wait to see how 2011 goes. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and things will be ok. That is my motto anyway.

  7. I heard a cool quote that went something like this. Creativity isn’t about doing something that has never been done before. It is about doing something that will inspire others. I immediately thought of you. You really do inspire others. That is reality. :)

  8. Some years are just like that! I love a fresh start as well and I think that the only time we truly fail at anything is when we give up, good job NOT giving up Tara! I love your project and you inspired my family of 6 to do this as well. We got in about 8 months worth of the 6 of us and I will try this again in 2011. I like that you are continuing this as well and I love your monthly recaps. That is something that I think I will try to add this year.

  9. one more thing for you to be glad about – that your words and your images reach out across the internet to inspire others, to make us smile, give us hope and move us to tears. thank you for sharing your beautiful, eloquent, loving, patient, wise self with us in 2010.

  10. I love it when the last thing I do before going to bed is to check my feeds and there is a new post from you. Life is hard. We’re *all* treading water. Many times I have wanted to chuck it all in. Then the sun breaks through and your heart rises and everything is so goddamned beautiful. And so you begin again.

  11. I love these photos. Actually, I’m a bit behind on my new years resolutions this year, and I’ve just decided this is going to be one. Although I am always (obsessively) taking photos, I’m never in them, and we rarely have pictures of the whole family. So here is to hoping I can work out how to do it this year.

    I don’t know you, but you sound SO strong in your writing, I have no doubt you are going to kiss 2011 ass.

  12. I’ve loved this project! I’ve thought about doing it with our family, and maybe this is the year I actually DO it instead of thinking about it! I totally relate to the weight issue, although I gained all of the weight lost plus some. I know what you mean about being so mad at yourself for getting back to the place where it’s an issue…again {at least for me}. Where is that motivation I had before? It seemed to come via divine intervention, lightning bolt style, and appears to be just as elusive. Anyway, Happy New Year to you and your beautiful family. I hope 2011 brings you all of your hopes and dreams :-)

  13. I love your honesty.
    I love your outlook and attitude.
    Thankyou for always being such a great inspiration, not just to those around you, but to so many of us who haven’t even met you!
    your family is a beautiful thing :)

  14. Tara – you are always so inspiring. I am striving to be as honest as you. Starting with myself, then with others. It is so easy to hide behind a face of “happy” instead of “real.” I am planning to do this project with my family. And I am VERY excited about it!

  15. your words are just as amazing as your images. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself here. You make the rest of us feel “normal” (cause we feel the same things you do) and you make us feel like we can do it too! Thanks T :) xoxo

  16. I just spent the past few hours looking at photographers blogs to get inspired, to figure out what should I be doing right now to move forward. We know as photographers all the things we should do, but being a mom and wife is always number one for me and I know you. Thank you for making me realize stop worrying about what I should do, some fancy post, what cool shoot to do, just be you! Reality happens. THANK YOU for your honesty!

  17. I found your blog when it was linked through Davina’s. I subscribed to your feed bc I’m a photographer and have 4 kids. I love your photography and I love your heart! I just want to move you in next door and become your best friend and pick your brain for photography inspiration and listen to your thoughts. (You want to move to CO, right!? It’s 6 degrees here! Your boogers freeze when you walk outside!!) I know that 2011 will be wonderful for you! Do keep up the 6 people in 12 months project. I love it. I actually want to steal it and may do so…if I can get my DH to stop acting like I’m killing him when I try to take a family picture :)

  18. You are an amazingly strong woman and it’s awesome that you are able to share your life with us. I love reading every blog and seeing every picture. It feels like I know you (though I know I don’t). 2011 should be awesome!

  19. oh my sweet love…LIFE!!!!!! i’m so glad you made it to the oter side of 2010 in 1 piece. 2011 better be amazing but if it’s not the good news you’ll still be. :)

  20. I find your honesty inspiring and real. True, there are so many blogs that are always happy and cheerful and make you smile, yours makes me cry, makes me feel and makes me believe. Believe that no matter how hard life gets, with kids and with marriage and with finances, we have to get to the basic of our needs, our family and our life, our ability to live. I would read your posts over one million times because they are real, and real is inspiring and thought provoking, not fake.

    Tara, I hope you know how many people you touch with your posts. You touch my life, when I read them and I don’t even know you. You are an amazing photographer but you are an even more amazing person for being about to tell about your personal struggles. You have inspired me to confide in a friend my difficulties in life and it has been uplifting to finally admit my life has cracks, and you know what, that is okay. No marriage is perfect, no kids are perfect, no life is perfect and sometimes it is so easy to believe that everyone has the perfect life except me. It is so not true. I believe by admitting to the cracks in my life it will make me happier because it will at least be real, not fake.

    Thank you for you. I truly mean it

  21. Life happens, but rarely in the way we plan or envision. What I appreciate most about your post is that despite all the problems you’ve faced over the past year your family looks so incredibly happy to just be together. Thanks for sharing, Tara.

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