-Erika Ray

Writing is easy for me.  I sort of just spew whatever I’m feeling onto the screen.  It’s always full of typos, but it’s always easy.  Writing is a delicious and therapeutic hobby.  But this hobby’s well is taped out, Folks.  I’ve been writing a lot these days to promote this breakout session and it’s drained my word well.  But I’ll take the drought.  The session is jammed packed with an empowering message for photographers, especially Moms who sometimes get lost in Mommyhood.  If I didn’t believe in it, I’d be pissy with the drought.  But this drought is clearing the way for a new lush garden of words.  Instead of me making up crap to fill this page, enjoy the quilt pictures.  I’m working on a quilt for a friend who sent me a card full of money and said, “I value your time.”  Right now that’s the hobby that I value because it’s letting the writing hobby sit and the new words are just starting to form new roots.

If you’re a photographer and you really want to embrace your rawness, get over here and sign up.

Yes, I’m pimping the shit out of it.

Almost done if that annoys you…

I’m a really good salesman, huh?

20130411-_ELR2698 20130411-_ELR2699


by Jill Greenwood

Yup, we’re a little late getting the month started on O + U. Could be the nice weather, but it only became nice in the past few days in my region. Might be all that time I’m spending taking photographs. Only problem? I can’t find the time to process a damn thing without a small “beagleador” on my lap. So it must be all my hobbies, right? Possibly but not really. Turns out I’ve been reveling in being lazy and doing nothing except for reading the occasional book.

Even while I’m reading or falling asleep, the nagging feeling that I should be doing something else keeps pricking at my brain. What’s missing is knitting. Lucy, the aforementioned “beagleador,” doesn’t really like to share my lap. And it turns out that she’s kind of picky about wanting to play since she’s a puppy and all. Knitting, sadly, has taken a seat on the back burner, and it’s a shame considering I have enough yarn to choke a small family. You want silk? Come on over, my love . . . I have mulberry and raw. Merino? Want that blended or pure? Could I tempt you with a little qiviut? Rub it on your wrist . . . or some place else. Tell you what I’ll do. First skein is free. It’s all yours. But the next one? Well, the next one you’ll have to pay for. Sure, with knitting, you’ll start with some lovely Red Heart (and there are some lovely Red Heart varieties) and think, “This sweater will be perfect!” However, you’ll figure out quickly that you can’t block anything because it’s acrylic. So you’ll buy a nice, reasonably priced wool. Later, a friend will show you some cashmere blend, and that’s it. You’re in for the good stuff from then on. You’ll stalk certain indie dyers to try and score just a skein of the goodness. The same friend will send you links on Ravelry for another indie dyer. You’ll go into your attic to retrieve two balls of yarn and realize that you have not one, not two, but six (yes, six) separate sweaters in yarn form just waiting to be knit.


But admit you have a problem? Screw that. Because eventually, you’ll have a sweater. Or a sock (probably not its mate). Could be a scarf. All that yarn? It has potential. There is possibility in a skein. The colors meld with a stitch, and you’ve created something magical. Twist your stitches this way . . . nothing. But twist the other way, and it all pops. Maybe you’ll get ballsy and throw a sweater that’s too big and shrink it a little (I would caution you on this; it often leads to tears and sobbing and hyperventilating and booze . . . lots and lots of booze). Save the big one – cutting your sweater – for last. Because after you do that, it’s all downhill from there.


So why knit? It can be a relatively cheap craft. You can get wool sweaters at most thrift stores and unravel them if you like. There are plenty of small projects out there that take a small amount of yarn. A skein of sock yarn can go pretty far if you’re creative. And if you’re not creative . . . buy a pattern and get to it. Knitting will keep you focused, for the most part. You focus on the stitches and let the rest of your thoughts melt away. Nothing will destress me faster than the garter stitch. Knit a row. Turn it around. Knit another row. Repeat. But if I need to stop from thinking of anything, give me a complicated lace pattern. Because if I have to think about a pattern, chances are I can’t think about anything else. Sometimes, that’s the best part.

“if we don’t change we don’t grow. if we don’t grow, we aren’t really living” -gail sheehy

i admit, i am a lover of routine. i snuggle up in predictability. there are many reasons why i think i have become this person, but really we do not have the time for that psychoanalysis in this post. 🙂
one thing is certain, change can be a difficult for me to embrace.

having kids provides an ever constant state of change. “in your face!”, “take that!”, kinds of changes that can be shocking to someone like me. they force me to face the discomfort of change without even trying.

they go from swaddled – to crawling – to running – to driving a car  in lightning speed.
they grow hair, inches, and new teeth seemingly overnight.

we are having that sort of big change right now. our youngest fell flat on her face at the age of one.  no hands to break the fall, instead her face stopped her fall and her little baby chicklet front tooth broke in 2.  the remaining piece eventually abscessed and needed to be pulled.  she has been our gap-toothed, pirate smile, girl for 6 years now.  that missing tooth has been a constant in our every day life. her gap toothed grin and wrinkled up nose was just so “her”. i knew eventually a big tooth would grow in and fill that hole we all came to love so much, but time kept passing and the gap remained.  a few weeks ago her gum became swollen, the tooth was coming. she walks around singing, “all i want for my birthday is my big front tooth.” (sung to the tune of “all i want for christmas is my 2 front teeth”)

this coming monday she turns 7. will she get her wish? …



right this moment,
same wrinkled up nose,
brand new tooth.

casey new tooth
happy soon-to-be-7 to my april fool baby, whose smile lights up my every day.

by Jill Greenwood

Years ago – 1992 to be exact – I graduated from college with a degree in professional writing. Back then professional writing encompassed all the components of technical writing and was pretty much as dry and boring as it sounds. For a while after the girls were born, I did a bit of freelance work, creating newsletters for a few alumni groups in my area and the occasional editing job for some articles. I thought for a while about applying to work at our local newspaper, but after looking over the front pages, it was clear they needed an editor and not another reporter. By then, the girls were getting older and in school, and I decided to go back to school and become a teacher. Writing, it seemed, was going to take a back seat to education, but as luck would have it, I channeled my efforts towards becoming a middle school English teacher. Even though I get to pass on my love of writing to seventh graders who, let’s face it, probably don’t love it quite as much as I do, I still don’t get to write very creatively. Blogging allows me to write from a personal point of view but not creatively.


About three or four years ago, I was struck by how each of Laura’s street photos formed an almost perfect story. She had the ability to hone in on something special with the people she photographed. Before we really knew each other, I commented on a photo she posted on Flickr that I wanted to write a story about the image. A few weeks later, Laura tagged me in a photo and said she couldn’t wait to see what I wrote. I tried . . . so many attempts . . . but nothing ever really came of it. That nagging bit of doubt kept bubbling to the surface. You’re not a writer. Not a real one, at least. Eventually I gave in and stopped trying.

But now, there’s a change coming. Laura and I have decided to give it a whirl. She’s supplying the images, and I’m trying to do them justice with some short stories. Some of the images lend themselves to a longer narrative with characters coming and going. Others are one shot deals, nothing more than a few paragraphs to describe the scene. I’m still not convinced I’m a writer, but I’m willing to try. Come on and join us at Les Bruyants!

-Erika “starting early” Ray

My parents made sure we could handle change.  No we didn’t move a hundred times during our childhood.  They didn’t swap partners a million times either.  We were just given change and didn’t have any other choice but to accept it.  They rarely ever softened it either.  It was change.  Pure and simple.  And one occasion my parents gave me the line that literally made me accept, deal, and welcome change.

I was young, but old enough.  I was the normal sixth graders age, but almost a year younger than most.  I had a summer birthday, so I had always been the youngest and the kid who never got to celebrate her birthday at school lunch.  I remember they sat me down and explained that I was going to do sixth grade again at a different Catholic school.  WHAT?  Again.  I failed?  “No, we’re going to hold you back,” they said.  Silly parents, that’s code for failed.  That’s code for You Are Stupid.  Especially to a SIXTH grader.  Especially to all the sixth graders in my class.  How was I going to go around to each one and explain that I’m not a dumb-dumb.  That my parents truly care about my emotional maturity.  While they were giving me the “emotional maturity” speech that’s the only question I was thinking about.

I knew it wasn’t because of my grades as I was in the higher learning classes.  But I didn’t understand the maturity part.  I don’t remember not being able to handle things as well as my other classmates.  But maybe if I were more mature, I’d be able to see my flaws…  They told me, I’d be the oldest in the class.  Big deal.  They told me, I’d get my license first when I got to high school.  Who cares?  I didn’t figure my parents were going to let me joyride with “babies”.  But more importantly, I’d be able to make better tough decisions when they popped up throughout my entire life.  I’d be older and wiser.  Even at my young age, I didn’t figure a slightly older 15 year-old’s dumbass decision was any better than a younger 15 year-old’s decision.

I heard them, but didn’t understand.  Imagine telling your 11-year-old girl, “You’re doing 6th grade again.  At a new school.”  I’m guessing even in your imagination, someone flipped out on you.  Maybe even tossed a shoe (I didn’t).  Now imagine that you live in a small town and you’re in Catholic school.  That there are three Catholic schools, you’re at your second one (my parents hated the first one and we were only there a year), and you’ll start the third a year behind your friends.  Catholic school are incestuous.  Everyone knew everyone and you saw everyone on the bus, at sporting events, and fish fry’s.  Me being an older sixth grader wasn’t going to make me more mature.  Dealing with that fall-out of being held back in this small fish bowl would.  I’d have to accept it and deal with it.  Because as a 11-year-old, there would be fall-out my parents wouldn’t have to deal with.  Of course I cried and didn’t get it, but there was no talking them out of it.

They ended the conversation with:  Erika, life is about change.  The sooner you learn how to handle it the easier your life will be.

Yes, wise words.  Words I haven’t forgotten.  Words that some people would read as harsh and absolutely were for a young girl to hear.  But they’re true.  Truth is rarely fluffy and pretty.  Truth is raw.  Like change, it is what it is.  You can’t sugar-coat change with white lies.  The truth of change was given to me early and that was probably better for my emotional maturity than learning about pre-Algebra again.

I started sixth grade again in the Fall.  I had a few asshole boys ask why I was still in the sixth grade.  I told them about emotional maturity and they said, “So you’re stupid?”  I’m not sure if this is when my “I Could Give a Fuck” attitude popped up or when my Father’s “I Could Give a Fuck About Your Opinion” gene switched on.  I didn’t say “Hi” to my old friends because I didn’t want to discuss it.  I remember my Mom saying, “Oh there’s so-and-so.  Say hi.  Erika, say HI!”  I didn’t.  I couldn’t.  But in the new school, I developed close friendships and very quickly it didn’t matter.

I can’t say if I handled my adolescence better because I was older than most kids.  I think my parents’ guidance, rules, and love helped me handle things better.  But what do I know?  I was just a baby of a sixth grader…  My parents made that decisions for a child who already had a healthy self-esteem.  I’m not sure most kids would react the same.  I’m not sure most kids would say it was the best decision their parents made.  Maybe my parents knew I’d handle it well or maybe they just hoped for the best.  For them it turned out well and taught their daughter a valuable lesson.  Would I recommend holding back a sixth grader?  Depends on the kid and probably not.  Now it would be incredibly difficult for a child as the internet allows for less privacy.  But I am a strong supporter of starting kids later.  Being older can’t hurt.  I do say that if you’re concerned, do it sooner than the sixth grade.

But their advice on change was spot-on.  Learn to deal with it.  You don’t have to relish and celebrate every Change that comes your way.  Some changes are Assholes and Dickheads.  But change is change.  You can’t change it.  Once it rolls in, things will be different.  So learn how to deal with it.  Look it in the eye.  Say “What’s up.” And start to dance with it.  Make it love you because you have no other choice.

20130315-ELR_1353Becks is holding his daycare blanket with his home blanket.  They’ve met and it’s a huge change we’re all dealing with.  One I didn’t count on, but we’re dancing with it.  I’ve stepped on his toes a few times and he’s off beat.  But we’re shaking it down.

by Carmen Farrell

o+u change

I’m headed into a new phase.  A really exciting phase.  A phase where I focus on healing myself.

It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve felt vital and energetic.  That’s more than half my life.  20 years of extreme fatigue and exhaustion, a face full of acne, mental disturbances like anxiety and depression,  and stomach pain accompanied by horrible digestion.

It’s hard to express how horrible I felt.  And truth be told, I hid it from most people – even my family.  I was still functioning.  I got up, went to work, ran errands.  But it was a struggle.  I had no energy.  I felt like a 65 year old trapped in a 25 year old’s body.  Doctor’s weren’t helpful either.  I was told repeatedly that perhaps I just needed to exercise more, or was blown off and made to feel like a hypochondriac.

Then I started having babies, and strangely, my symptoms went into remission while pregnant.  Once the baby arrived they’d come back but were masked by the exhaustion of parenting a newborn and then a toddler, and then another, and another.  About 6 years ago, after consulting with a naturopath, I found out that I was allergic to gluten – which was a life changer.  I started to cut back on gluten and immediately felt a difference in my energy levels.  But I also started to feel a lot of shame.  I could not stay away from gluten completely.  It was like a drug.  I could go a few days, start to feel fantastic, and then not be able to control myself and gorge (sometimes in secret).  It was a vicious cycle.  I felt like I knew what I had to do to start getting better, but didn’t have the willpower.

So things are changing and I’m finally feeling in control.  Firstly, my youngest is 3 and a half.  I no longer have a baby who’s completely dependant on me.  He’s still a little guy, but I have a lot more freedom since he has 2 big brothers who help him out when he needs it and entertain him when he’s bored.  I’m not  always needed.  Which has given me more time to focus on myself.

Secondly, I’ve put more pieces of the puzzle together.  Turns out, I have an autoimmune condition – which one isn’t clear yet – but my symptoms are very much like those associated with lupus.   I also have leaky gut which means that my digestive tract is badly damaged and is allowing foreign substances into my bloodstream and causing inflammation.  Inflammation = real bad news.

So, armed with more time for myself and new information regarding what needs to be “fixed”, the changes are a-coming!

I recently completed a Whole 30 which allowed me to reset my body’s cravings for the crap that has made me sick.  I’m eating paleo which means no grains, legumes, dairy or processed foods.  It means a lot of cooking and prep.  It means bringing my own snacks when heading to a friend’s house to hang out.  It means limiting some of what my kids eat so that I can keep the house a “temptation-free” zone.  All these things may sound restricting, but in actuality, I’m feeling an incredible sense of freedom.  I’m eating an insane amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, lots of yummy meat and tons of good fat.   My face is clearing up, I’m digesting better and my vitality is returning in full force.   Plus I’m not a raging bitch most of the time.  Win!

I remember the day I turned 30.  I was having a conversation with friends wherein I mentioned that I felt shitty a lot of the time (hello, newborn and undiagnosed medical problems) and that my goal was to feel and look amazing by my 40th birthday.  I wanted to enter into that new phase of my life with a new-found love for myself, my body and my strength.

That birthday is still 3 years away, and I’m positive that I’m going to get there, and then some.


Cleaning.  Deep cleaning.  The kind of cleaning normally attributed to a pregnant woman two weeks out from her due date.  Top to bottom.  Every room, closet, drawer, and shelf purged with great intensity.  I’m not preggers…just a woman transforming.
_MG_0021Truthfully, it began a few weeks ago.  With the exception of my iPhone, I stopped shooting.  No digital.  No film.  Nada.  No desire to lift a camera.  That’s when I knew something was shifting within me….changing.  Glancing at my film camera, I honestly couldn’t recall what I’d loaded.  Portra or Fuji?  Hmm….  I almost never leave the house without a camera.  More often than not, I have two cameras with me in addition to the iPhone because …why not?  More options people!

I’ve felt quiet lately.  Still.  Maybe a little lost.  Inspired by others, but no urge to hold a camera in my hands.  A handful of project ideas, but nothing from the soul.  Years ago, I would have forced it.  I would have obsessed.  I would have searched for a deeper meaning.  Not this time around.  No, this time I stayed with the silence.  This time I let go.  I let my mind wander.   ….And then came the overwhelming urge to clean and organize every square inch of our home.  A turning point.  Change.  For me, it always begins like this…transforming a physical space.  And then the answers gradually surface….slowly….

I’ve been thinking about self portraits lately, which is really saying something because I loathe taking them.  I’ve been thinking about multiple exposures.  I’ve been thinking about the Lensbaby that’s buried deep in my photography bag.  I’ve been thinking about rigging some lighting in my basement to play with.  Change.  I can feel something beginning to bend and shift within…a transformation.  Stay tuned.

This past week I finished that roll of film in my Pentax.  I guessed Portra 400.  Turns out it was Fuji 200.  Somehow, I think it’ll be just fine.  It felt good to be shooting with it again.

By Jill Greenwood

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love music. With a passion. Like lots and lots and lots. That being said, I kinda suck at the lyrics. For the longest time, I thought that the final line of David Bowie’s “Changes” was “But I can’t change time;” turns out I was wrong . . . and really, I like my lyrics better than Bowie’s. Far be it from me to think that I’m a better lyricist than the Thin White Duke, but what the hell does tracing time even mean? Anyone? Thought so.

So what does this have to do with change? Not much other than every time someone says anything about change, I start to hum the song. We generally toss around our topics on a Facebook group that we started a while ago. Most times they are the result of the season, but this time it seemed that many of us were in a state of change. Me? Nothing major because I avoid change at all cost. Case in point: Friday nights. We’ve been having pizza every Friday night since we moved to the ‘Burg. And not just pizza. Frozen pizza. From a local grocery store. If we don’t have it, something is off for that week. Slightly obsessive-compulsive, but there you have it . . . frozen pizza, every Friday night from Weis.


Change – not something I like. I think I would even go so far as to say that I shy away from from it. But that all changed on January 28 this year because Dave and I decided to adopt a puppy. For some reason, it seemed like a good idea. After six weeks of having the lovely Lucy in our lives, I’d have to say that it was still a good idea, but fuck . . . I’m too old for a puppy. It’s like having another baby after raising two grown children. Am I equating having a puppy is exactly like having a baby? God, lord, no! I laugh when I hear couples say, “Well, first we’re going to start with a puppy because that will give us a good idea what raising a child will be like.” Ummm, no it won’t, dipshits. It will give you a good idea what raising a puppy will be be like. Because trust me, when your own spawn eats its shit, you might stop him or her faster than your puppy. At least for your child’s sake, I’d hope you do.

Back to the decision to adopt a puppy. The one change that I knew – knew – we had to make was training. With Livie, our first dog, we didn’t really do any training because I was lazy (but you figured that, right). She was sweet, good tempered. But ring a doorbell, and she would bark. My mom would get pissed because she couldn’t sit with a biscuit on her nose like my childhood dog. Granted, that was something to see, but then again, Livie never ate a) a 10-pound rump roast; b) $40 worth of fundraiser chocolate, or c) pounds of crayons either; and, yes, Schatzie, the childhood Lab, did that and more. I’m firmly convinced it was because of the endless biscuits on her nose. Puppy 2.0 was going to be trained. That change was a huge one for me because it means constant reinforcement of good habits and redirection for the bad habits. Trust me when I say that it would be a whole lot simpler to let Lucy jump up to say her hellos when you walk in the door rather than gently push her down and say, “Off.” Right now, she’s adorable and cute when she does it. But come three years down the road, I’m pretty sure that she’ll just be an annoyance with it.


There’s other change brewing in Chez Greenwood. My girls are graduating from college in a few months, and I have no idea what comes next for them. I’ve branched out and started reading good and proper grown-up novels (not giving up on YA though). We are finally joining the 20th century and will luxuriate in central air this summer. See? Going to Crazy Town with all this change. Maybe I won’t have frozen pizza tonight . . . who the hell am I kidding . . . that would be beyond crazy.

Spill it, people! If change scares you as much as it does me, what change do you think would be totally worth it? Pretend money and time are out of the equation . . . what change would you make right now if you could? I’ll mull them over with my third slice of Weis Magic Crust Frozen Pizza.

-Erika “Who the Hell is this” Ray


Hello, O+U readers, it’s me Erika.  I’m afraid to go back and see the last time I posted because I know it was forever ago.  Like last year kind of forever.  I had to take a break and I think you’ll understand.  If not, you just being a cheeky little asshole.

My husband says that I have a tendency to snowball my issues.  I’ll take a tiny bump and then lump every annoyance in with it.  Creating a Snowball of Doom.  I’ll save the hassle of recreating that Snowball for you.  Just know that it starts with Moving.  Has some huge photo projects and the holidays surrounding the Move.  Packed down with the stress of owning your first home while paying on the second.  And then to round out and create a killer Snowball of Doom, you’ve got a Layoff and a house deal that almost went south.  Yes, I’ve been  dealing with an asshole of a Snowball.

But it’s starting to feel better.  The Snowball of Doom is starting to melt.  Or else I’m just sick of standing in its shadow.  Change is coming.  Another O+U-er and I were exchanging texts after the House meltdown and we thought Change would be a great subject for this month.

Some people handle it really well and others quake in its presence.  I’m in the first category.  That doesn’t mean all this change is welcomed or refreshing.  Change can kind of suck a fat one.  But you rarely get the chance to change Change.  You have to accept it and roll with it.  Dance with the little fucker or else you’ll wither on the wall.  It’s my turn to dance.  Later on in the month, I’ll talk about my first two-step with Change.  Today, I just wanted to apologize for my absence (did y’all care and miss me?) and announce the topic.

Because I’m in a flux of change, I’d really appreciate lots of comments on how you deal with it.  Do it all month-long and I’ll promise to be better about posting.  Give me some advice.  Some guidance.  Hold my hand.  Or bring me a drink.


By Carmen Farrell


I like sex.  I like it a lot.   I’ve been with my guy 19 years and we’ve been whooping it up for most of that time.  The beginning was exciting and animalistic.  A big chunk of the middle was taken up by creating, then caring for new life (…man, pregnancy sex is good.  Were it not for the tiny human you’re left with after 9 months, I’d consider being pregnant constantly).  And now we’re in a new phase.  He’s fixed…so no pink lines for us to worry about, there are no more small people wedged between us at 4 am, and my boobs are mine once again and not “family” property. So the sky’s the limit in the whoopee department, right?  Maybe.  You see, despite the fact that I like sex, sometimes it just feels like work.

You have to wind down from your day; turn off mommy mode, and get into sexy mode.  Push away any new to do list items that pop up randomly.  Stop worrying about whether that rustle you heard in the other room means a kid is awake and can hear you.  It was so much easier in my younger years to turn off my mind and just be in the moment.  Now it’s something I have to work at.  Us modern day chicas keep a lot of balls up in the air, don’t we?

So you know what really feels like the ultimate gift?  A good, old-fashioned wet dream.  It’s like you’re mind’s giving you a freebie.  “Hey girl, just lay there, sleeping peacefully, and I’ll rock your body like nobody’s business, and leave you to bask in the afterglow.”   It’s great.   You’re left feeling woozy and wonderful and you didn’t have to raise a finger…literally.

I knew that dudes had them.  As a kid, the boys in the schoolyard would toss around vague references, but I had no clue they were even a girly thing until my hormones began to rage and they started happening to me.  Man, was I glad they started happening to me!

Let me tell you about my most memorable weirdest wet dream.  Well, actually, I won’t really tell you about “it” because that would just be embarrassing – and this ain’t no 50 Shades novel, anyway.  I was probably 17.  I woke up mid-orgasm and quickly went from feeling like I was flying to feeling like I was going to barf. In that moment, my dream came at me in full HD….in my mind, I’d been doing “it” with Dom DeLuise.  Yup, what may have been one of the best orgasms of my life was brought on by a much older, overweight, often sweaty, bearded comedian who I’d seen peddling Ziploc bags on TV throughout my childhood.  It certainly wasn’t the Brad Pitt/Tom Cruise/Johnny Depp trifecta that  had starred in my fantasies previously.  Let me tell you, it was hard to get back to sleep after that.  To this day, the memory still brings a mixture of horror and excitement.  He may not have been my first pick, but he got the job done.

Nowadays, my wet dreams happen very infrequently (and they’ve never again starred Mr. DeLuise)….but when they do, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.

dom deluise

Anyone remember Dom’s Ziploc commercials from the 80s?  Give them a looksy and then see what kind of dreams you have tonight!