For months I've been sitting on this session coming back over and over again trying to find the right words. Because this family deserves them. Deserves words carefully chosen and polished to a tasteful shine.

This family deserves intentional, deliberate words because every single thing is their home, the way they love each other, the way they parent, it is all done with care. Nothing is slapdash. Nothing ill-considered. 

 I, on the other hand,  can be very slapdash. Most of my decisions feel ill-considered. 

Being around Sara felt like a behind the scenes peek on a parenting class I didn't know I needed. A gentle reminder to slow down and pay attention. To look left and then right.  To be fully in each moment.

Even allowing my memory to trail back to that slow Sunday morning I spent photographing them in their Capitol Hill rowhouse calms my nerves. Lowers my blood pressure. Gets me to stop and look around at each member of my family engaged in their own words. To memorize their noses and eyebrows and the way they misconjugate certain verbs. Inhale the smell of their heads and be here now.

knowing a place

When I was young, I thought I would see the world. I thought I would fill my passport with stamps and collect stories of adventure.

But that wasn't to be my story. 

I ended up back in my small town immediately after college graduation, and here I've stayed.

The stamps in the passport are few and the adventures are of a different variety. But what I've come to discover is that there is a beauty in learning a place well. Learning your home. Knowing it in and out.

The small stretch of beach a couple of hundred yards from my door has become my study. I have learned how the light works in each season. I watch the way the cliffs fall. I pay attention to what blooms and who lives there. I observe the tide and  notice the changes in the creek. 

I don't know many places. But this place, I know well. And the more I know it, the more I know there is to learn.

And now I get to bring new people there. I get to watch as they search for the teeth of ancient sharks. As they clammer over fallen logs and as they slip and slide on the wet clay . And sometimes, I know they see the murky magic in this place too. 

black sheep of many colors

As teenagers, she would drive us to Annapolis in whatever beat-up old car she was able to buy with money she earned from weekends bussing tables. And we would spend hours looking through CD's at Tower Records before we decided which ones to purchase, my choices leaning towards 60's folk, hers metal or punk.

We were different from each other but united in a sense of othernesss. We didn't want to be like other girls, like normal teenagers. We didn't dress like them or watch the same movies. We didn't want what they wanted, and we wanted everyone to know it.  I think all these years later we have both held on to that feeling, the feeling that we aren't like other moms, wives, women, but also the feeling that we don't want to be.

Back then, we spent untold hours sitting at the end of my parents' pier, drinking illegally procured Boone's Farm, imagining what our lives would look like one day. Jen's goals were art oriented, mine more academic. Both involved more exotic locals than the rural, turned suburban county our families were both from. I'm fairly certain neither of us ever imagined anything close to our current paths. 

Last week, I found myself semi-aimlessly driving country roads with her yet again. This time in a mini-van packed with kids. And we were still talking about what adventures await. Still taking pride in our perceived sense of otherness. But our conversations now don't take the same emotional stakes as they did 17 years ago. Now we have a better sense of the ending. We know that we both found happiness.

Jen has found her place in this world. She is living her truest life on a farm in the foothills with three kids, two dogs, two cats, ducks, chickens, a parrot, a big messy garden, and a greenhouse bursting with heirloom herbs. 

She has a "real" job to pay for health insurance and then comes home to make art before her kids get home from school. A few weeks ago her first children's book was published, and now she's saving money for her next dream: her very own gallery. A place where all the art pariahs can find a space to be. 

Jen has drive. She has determination. She finds the time for what she loves while mothering her kids with her whole damn heart. And if you're feeling sorry for yourself because you can't seem to manage to do whatever it is that you want to do, a conversation with her will remind you it's time to get to work. 

Go buy her book A Night Under the Circus Tent because it's equal parts sweet and weird, because your kids will love it and you'll be happy to read it over and over again. And buy it because you want to support dreams backed by hard work. Because you want to support a mom who is doing it all, and doing it all so well that it makes me ridiculously proud to call her my friend. 

Places to find Jen and her art:



Barnes and Nobel

Loathsome Lovelies



Oh, and if you do buy her book and you want to go a step or two further to help a sister out, tag pictures on the social medias with #jenpoteetcircusbook and give her a review on Amazon.