From the car window | {the serenity project}

That morning, there was fog,  frost in the trees and snow on the ground. The fog makes the world quiet and calm, and even the golf course has a nice atmosphere. I snapped this image from the car  passenger seat as we headed downtown. Fog is fleeting; it was gone by the time we got home. But it was so beautiful while it lasted.

 The Serenity Project is a  monthly group photography project. The photographers who participate aim to bring a sense of peace and calm through their photography. Please continue the circle to my good friend, the talented Iris Nelson- Metro Phoenix Photographer  to see what brought her some serenity this month.

Frosty Mornings | {The Serenity Project}

It seems we had a very short fall and then went straight into winter! The seasonal weather has been a nice change for us.

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The frosty mornings are beautiful, and very fun to photograph.

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Mostly it’s just frosty in the mornings, but we did have one ice storm. Beautiful but a little scary to drive in. Fortunately, the roads were cleared quickly.

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We haven’t seen any real snow yet, but maybe by next month’s Serenity Project there will be.

The Serenity Project is a collaborative photography project featuring photographers who aim to bring a sense of peace and calm to their imagery. Please continue the circle to Amy L Smith Photography To see what brought her some serenity this month.

Our New Home | {The Serenity Project}

 

The question I get asked often these days is “are you feeling settled in your new home?” The answer is, happily, YES.

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My husband and I like to make our houses feel like “home” as quickly as possible. Typically we get out of boxes and everything put away within two to three days. While this process is hardly serene (and is exhausting and perhaps slightly insane), it is good to have the house organized quickly so we can get on with our lives!

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And normal life has resumed. We are really enjoying this area so far. We aren’t used to so much greenery and flowers. Luckily there are plenty of beautiful parks to explore and enjoy. It’s also a nice perk to be outside in the middle of summer! While it has been surprisingly hot (surprising to me, anyway), it’s cooler by a good 20 or 30 degrees than what we were used to in Phoenix and San Antonio. I’ll take it!

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I’m pleasantly surprised how fast this area is feeling like “home”. That wasn’t our experience during our time in Texas unfortunately; it took at least a month for our space to feel like ours. We haven’t yet been here a month and already it feels pretty normal. I’m still learning my way around of course, but getting lost less and less each day!

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With the return of school this week, we will start to get into more of a routine. There will still be plenty of time to get out on the weekends and hike, bike, walk, and photograph!

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I so enjoy these times with my family. Moving often is inconvenient but I do love that it gives us the opportunity to discover new places.

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(All images taken with Lensbaby Velvet 56, at the Cox Arboretum, Dayton, Ohio)

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The Serenity Project is a collaborative photography project. The women who participate in this project aim to bring a sense of peace and calmness to their imagery. Please continue the circle to Wendy May to see what brought her some serenity this month.

November in South Carolina | {The Serenity Project}

We spend a week in South Carolina with my in-laws every November.

My mother- and father-in-law live in a quiet rural town outside of Columbia. One of my favorite things to do while there is to take photowalks, either with my husband in their neighborhood or just by myself in their backyard. The light there is so beautiful, and very different from what I am used to in the sunny Southwest.

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Life is just a little slower there. It’s great to have some time to take a walk, read a bit, spend some time outdoors in the cool air, make s’mores and drink mulled wine by the fire after dinner.

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I enjoy taking time to slow down and take in nature through my lens.

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I know my daughter will look back on these trips from her childhood with fondness and warm memories. I’m so thankful we have the opportunity to spend some time with family at this time of year.

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(all images taken with Velvet 56)

 

The Serenity Project is an ongoing, monthly collaborative photography project. The participating photographers wish to capture a sense of peace and calm in their imagery. Please head over to the talented Wendy May – Scottish Photographer to see what brought her a little serenity this month.

Books of the Month | August 2017

August was a month where I put too many books on hold at the library, only to have them all appear at once (as I type this, I just got another notification that yet another one is ready for pickup! Guess I have my September, and perhaps beyond, reading lined up for me). I started one and didn’t finish it (Yesterday by Felicia Yap), which put me behind in my reading (I generally give a book 50-100 pages and if I’m not into it by then, I put it down. Life is too short to read books you just aren’t into). Hopefully I will finish the stack of library books I now have on my nightstand before they are due in September.

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radke – Another graphic book, only this is a memoir. This book is kind of about the heart condition that runs in the author’s family which killed her uncle… kind of about abandoned cities and buildings and the temporary nature of it all… kind of a memoir about her early 20s and finding her way.. it kind of rambled. I expected more from it based on the reviews I had read; it wasn’t as good as the graphic novel I read last month.

The Job by Steve Osborne –  The author of this book was “discovered” after an appearance on The Moth, where he told a story about his time as a NYC police officer. He served on the force for 20 years. I listened to this book, and I’m glad I did because I am not sure I would have enjoyed  reading it. Listening to it in the car as I ran errands was OK. I found some of the stories interesting, but a lot of his comments became a bit tiresome. I enjoy memoirs and learning about other people’s life experiences through books.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti – The title of this book implies a book that involves something supernatural, à la The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, The Confessions of Max Tifoli or Replay (that last one is the best of that lot, in my opinion, if you are looking for something along those lines). But this book is not that! It’s about a single man raising his daughter and the stories of his past are interwoven in the book. I liked it OK, didn’t love it.  Much of it dragged for me and I wasn’t really pulled in, but I did finish it so that’s something.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery- I became interested in reading this book after I saw a video online of a large octopus squeezing through a tiny hole on a boat. Apparently there are some theories out there that octopuses (I’m assuming this is the correct plural form, as that is what she uses throughout this book) are actually aliens living among us. That’s not addressed in this book. An interesting theory, but not one I subscribe to. Parts of this book I found really interesting, and some of it I really didn’t. One criticism that comes up in reviews of it is that she talks too much about scuba diving. While that didn’t bother me per se, it is a hefty portion of the book. It’s a book about octopuses, but it also is about empathy and consciousness (and scuba diving). If you are interested in learning more about octopuses, it’s probably a good book to pick up. If not, skip it.

 

Unfortunately, I didn’t read any books that really blew me away this month. But, I have a stack of potentially amazing books on my nightstand. Better get started!

 

The Unknown

When my daughter was a toddler, she would say “I can’t know they names” instead of “I don’t know their names”. “I can’t know” has become one of our family phrases now. I’m sure all families who have had young children in their home have these quotes from children that become part of the family lexicon.

This phrase has become more than just a funny memory to us though. Often a situation will come up and my husband or I will say “We can’t know”. There is so much we can’t know in life. We can’t know if the decisions we are making are the right ones. We can’t know what kind of year we are going to have. We can’t know how things are going to go. I’ve started thinking about all the things we can’t know, and how there is nothing we can do about the things we can’t know. All we can do is live through it, try to make the right choices, hope for the best, and have faith that the universe will take care of us. If you’re a planner like me, it’s hard not to worry about things that are out of our control. Living a mindful life takes constant practice.

My daughter is starting at her new school today. I would be lying if I told you that I was not at all nervous about this. The truth is, I have a lot of anxiety about it. She was doing well and really happy at her school in Phoenix; it is a wonderful school. How will things go today and this year? What will happen next year? We can’t know. She might be at this school a year, she might be there less than a year. She might be there three years, she might be there until she graduates from high school.

But, we can be optimistic and hope for the best. We can (and have) tried to prepare for her first day by getting together with other families who will have children at this school, putting her in summer camp for a week at the school,  and  attending orientation and meet-the-teacher night. I’m trying to teach her to have an open mind, to live a life of gratitude, and to have a positive attitude. Change is hard, but  I know that I am making the very best choice for her education that I can right now, with the information that I have. I can send her off to third grade confident that she will have a fun and successful year. I can put my trust in her and in her school.

I can have faith.

So, that’s what I am going to do.

And I’m going to miss her.

Final Summer Days

Summer is quickly winding down and with it, so are my lazy mornings and afternoons alone with my daughter.  For the first time in her life, my daughter is sleeping in. I swear she is still on Arizona time, as she is running consistently two hours behind what she has been running for the past several years both in the morning (which is kind of nice) and at bedtime (not as nice). It’s going to be a difficult transition next Monday!

She has had a long summer. Arizona schools start summer break earlier and Texas schools start school later. Therefore, she has had almost a full month of summer longer than her peers. Of course it’s been busy with moving, but we have also found plenty of time for fun and exploring.

One thing I’ve been focusing on these past few weeks is some quieter time together in the afternoon. We have been doing a lot of coloring and drawing.  Although I am not a talented artist by any means, I do enjoy drawing, doodling and coloring with her. It gives us a chance to talk or just be together quietly. It can be almost meditative.

 

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Our other favorite quiet activity right now is playing games. Her favorites are Clue and Scrabble. She can’t get enough Scrabble. As I write this, in fact, I just promised her another game this afternoon. I look forward to playing the “grown up” version with her one day soon.

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This days are precious to me, although I know there is a time and a season for everything. It’s definitely time to head back to school for her, but it’s going to be an adjustment for both of us.

19 Memories

  1. Remember that day 19 years ago today? We got married in New Mexico, at the University of New Mexico Chapel, just steps away from where we first met. I remember looking out the bridal dressing room window and seeing you had arrived. I knew everything would be OK then. The organist was late and I was afraid we would have to walk down the aisle with our friends and family humming “Here Comes the Bride”, but she showed up finally and everything else went off as planned.
  2. Remember driving to our honeymoon? We were almost hit by a huge bighorn sheep as he darted across the highway. As we were driving back into Albuquerque a few nights later, the song “The Lights of Albuquerque” came on the radio. My mother made turkey sandwiches for us at 10 o’clock at night.
  3. Remember the long distance relationship we were in for 2 years prior to our wedding and for four long months after? That was no fun. You were in Washington, DC and I was living in Albuquerque. The letters you sent me were what kept me going. I still have them all.
  4. Do you remember that tiny apartment we lived in in Maryland, when we were finally able to be together? It was a one bedroom, and I can not imagine squeezing ourselves into something that small now. But at the time, it was perfect.
  5. Remember that first Christmas together as a married couple? We didn’t even have a tree. We had lights on a potted plant. The next year, we got a small table trop tree.
  6. Remember when my little Honda broke down in the middle of the Rockville Pike? I didn’t have a cell phone at the time and had to rely on the kindness of strangers. It led to us buying our first new car, a green Saturn. I thought it was the best car in the world.
  7. Remember Y2K? Everyone was freaking out over that. We spent that New Year’s Eve at one of your classmate’s parties. The location was changed last minute, and the world didn’t end.
  8. Remember September 11, 2001? I was working in the pharmacy in Maryland and you were at Andrews AFB. We had no internet access on our phones back then. I could not get in touch with you, but finally I did. That night you didn’t come home because you had to work all night. I went home by myself, sad and scared and alone.
  9. Remember that time we drove across the country? And that other time? And that other time? And that other time? We almost froze to death in Amarillo pumping gas. It rained really hard in Tupelo. We drove through an ice storm in Tennessee. I rode in the backseat with a cranky 4 month old for most of one trip.We drove through the worst rain and hail storm I have ever seen somewhere in nowhere Texas. We drove through Nowhere, Texas a lot actually. Satellite radio and audiobooks became our best friends.
  10. Remember all the food? We always have our favorite go to spots in each city. Tako Grill in DC, Timpano in Rockville, Copa in San Antonio, Garduños in Albuquerque, Brat Haus in Phoenix, The Yard House everywhere… to name a few.
  11. Remember the time we had the crazy idea to move and buy a house and then immediately turn around and go on vacation for two weeks to Germany? That was fun, but a little hectic. It worked out though. We went hiking in the alps, we rode bikes to the Austrian border, we ate way too much meat.
  12. Remember when I was put in the hospital at 32 weeks pregnant and called you at work crying? It all happened really suddenly, but when you showed up in my hospital room, I was so grateful to see you.  I don’t think I have ever been more happy to see another person before or since. You were such a huge advocate and support to me during my pregnancy.
  13. Remember our first night at home with a new baby? She slept in our room in a pack and play and every 10 minutes you would press the remote that rocked it so she would go back to sleep. Why was that timer so short?! It took us a long while to get the sleep thing down.
  14. Remember all the hikes? After we hiked the Grand Canyon, you came back to the hotel and watched a movie on your laptop. I had every intention of watching it with you, but fell asleep almost immediately instead. We’ve hiked as often as possible. Albuquerque, Arizona, Hawaii, Germany, Oregon, Colorado, California.. I can’t wait to do more.
  15. Remember the Hurrication? We drove inland to Richmond to get away from the coast and the storm, only to have the power in our hotel go out (it didn’t go out at our house). We had chips for dinner. The hotel was packed full of crazy people running wild down the hall. Our two-year-old woke up at 2 AM stating “But I have a bed at home, mama”.
  16. Remember the morning my dad died? How could you not, it was just a few months ago. You were on your way to work when I called and you turned around and met me at the school, where we had a parent-teacher conference, of all things, to attend. Afterwards we went to Starbucks.  You got thanked for your service and held my hand while I cried.
  17. Remember that time we stayed up way too late and we heard a really loud noise and then the squeal of tires? Someone had driven their car into the wall by the house next door. It was a Friday night. They drove away, and it looked like a bomb went off. Remember the weird noise in this house that we keep hearing? It makes us laugh because we can not figure out what it is. You told me the other day that one thing you would really like to do before we move out of this house is figure out what that noise is.
  18. Remember binge watching Breaking Bad and Dexter and Homeland and Game of Thrones? And now everything old is new again with ER in syndication.
  19. Please always remember that I have your back. I know you have mine. I am always on your side and so blessed and thankful we get to spend this life together. There is no one else I would rather spend it with. Most of these memories are good ones, and I know we have been incredibly lucky. I pray every day for that luck to hold.

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20. And PS- remember that amazing vacation you took us on for our 20th anniversary in 2018? Maybe it was a Mediterranean cruise or maybe Hawaii or maybe London and Paris or maybe New York. But wherever it was, I know it was a ton of fun and more memories were made.

Finding Light

This month I  have spent some time observing the light in our new home. I imagine most photographers do this when they move into a new house.  Some even keep light journals.

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Light changes throughout the day and throughout the year.  In this house, we are lucky to have a large loft. This space has become a place primarily for my daughter to hang out, watch movies, and do cartwheels.

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We also get a lot of nice light up there in the evening, thanks to the large windows. There are several big trees outside and they create some interesting patterns of dappled light.

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(I love the plantation shutters in our new house, however I don’t love the glare of light on the computer screen.)

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Practicing photography has given me the opportunity to observe light in new ways. I love seeing the different ways light can work for me in my imagery.

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An In Between Space

Leading up to our recent move, we were living a weird sort of limbo for months. Waiting, waiting, waiting for something to happen. And once it did, it happened fast. Packers and movers came, school ended, we left Arizona, we moved into our new house all within a matter of about 2 weeks, start to finish.

Then, my husband worked mostly part-time (in-processing) for the month of June. So we still had plenty of time for family adventures and getting settled into our new city.

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He started his job full-time in July. BUT my mom came out to visit for a week. We lost my dad earlier this year, and I really wanted to spend some time with my mom this summer. My daughter adores her. They played and drew and colored. Also, Grandma (my daughter calls her “Goma”) is hilarious.

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And now, my daughter and I find ourselves held in abeyance. One of my priorities is finding ways to keep her busy and get her around other kids as much as I can. We go to the gym and pool a lot, and she makes friends instantly, but these playdates (or whatever you would call them) are short-lived. And I feel like I’m striking out in other ways, right and left. We tried gymnastics because she enjoyed tumbling in Phoenix. She didn’t like gymnastics at all so that lasted all of two classes. We tried a Spanish tutor because she really wants to learn Spanish, but realized that wasn’t going to work out either, as having a Spanish tutor a few times a week wasn’t going to be practical in the long term and her new school teaches Mandarin rather than Spanish (don’t get me started on THAT!).

It’s challenging because my daughter really derives her energy from being around other people. While I am perfectly content to spend my afternoon reading or watching a movie, her heart and soul lies in being surrounded by others. So we have to find balance.

But, I’m a little stuck on how to do this. When she was younger we had MOMS Club and MOPS and other such sources of companionship. Now she’s at an in-between age– too old for playdates like that, too young for many camps and other activities.

So last night I decided to stop trying. One month of summer remains before she heads to her new school (a topic for a different day). The rest of summer for us is going to be movies and ice cream, the library and the pool, the children’s museum and the zoo, the park and backyard exploring.

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Lots and lots of mommy-daughter time.

This year is going to be a  year of waiting and surviving, pushing through it to see what happens next.

The story of our life in limbo.

A change of scenery

We recently moved from Arizona to Texas. This is our 7th move since we’ve been married.

We lived in Arizona for 5 years, which is a very long time for us.  We liked it there, and even thought for a time that would be “it” for us. Life had other plans as so often happens,  and my husband decided to take on a few more years with the Air Force. Long story short, here we are. Same life, different city.

Arizona and the desert had its own unique beauty that I was fascinated with when we first moved there. I took tons of photos of cacti and desert plants. I hiked often (in the WINTER, as it’s too hot to do much of anything in the summer!) and loved all the hiking trails that were available. I took plenty of photos of my daughter on those trails and watched her turn from a toddler to a school-aged girl.

 

One thing Arizona made me appreciate, though, is big trees and cloudy skies. We have those in Texas! A change of scenery is always good for inspiration and I’ve really been enjoying exploring (and photographing) our new town!

 

 

 

I’ve been meaning to start a blog/website for a while now and with this change in our lives, now seems as good a time as any. Hopefully I will make it a habit and stick with it. My hope is to post words and photos and use this as a spot to keep my personal projects.