31 for 21: Day 1: It’s Down syndrome Awareness Month!

View More: http://mollyflanaganphotography.pass.us/starkey-family-2013

It’s Down syndrome Awareness Month! It’s a month where those of us in the community raise awareness and celebrate our loves that happened to be born with a little bit extra. One way I like to do this is to participate in our cyber-buddy Tricia, over at Unringing the Bell‘s creation 31 for 21. Currently this is hosted by Michelle with Big Blueberry Eyes.

Here’s the skinny- and hop over there to sign up if you would like to play along: You post every day, at least once day, for 31 days (each of them in the month of October, which is Down syndrome Awareness Month) on any topic, to raise awareness about Trisomy 21. 31 for 21! (Topics about Down syndrome are not necessary, though it’s encouraged that you mention why you are taking part in the challenge at some point during the 31 days.)

I’m taking part again for my fifth year because Disability Awareness and Acceptance has always been a part of my make-up. But in February 2009, it hit closer to my home and heart. When the Quail came to us in all her glory we learned after her birth about that little bit extra residing on her chromosomal pattern in every cell of her being. And we believe that about her with all of our hearts- she isn’t lacking a thing. She’s all there. And a little bit extra.

Just like her sisters, who very few, other than the geneticists in our lives; would describe as “typical.” She’s a wonder. We’re blessed to witness the growth of these sisters on a daily basis. That said, I don’t think I’m going to go on rants about stereotypes, or resource listings or basic Down syndrome information this year. That’s already out there. Check back in my archives to the month of October in 2009, 2010, 2011 for my versions of that. I would reckon they still hold water. Or for more up to date information go visit our cyber-pals who are also participating in 31 for 21 and get schooled by them with a personal touch. I know I plan to and Michelle will keep a list of where to find them!

Last year I did something more simple. I shared 31 ordinary things about my extraordinary girl. I had spent almost 4 years going on about what a wonder she is and decided that my contribution to Down syndrome Awareness efforts would be to show the beauty of how ordinary life continues when you have someone with a little something extra in your life. In January 2013 I changed my blog from The Tao of Tulips to Ordinary Afters. This change was significant, primarily to me. It represents a systemic shift in my heart, my mind, my focus. A shift to focus my documentation of our family life as a whole so that the other girls don’t feel diminished or unseen in my eyes or heart. Of course I’ll still note and advocate for those with disabilities and specifically Down syndrome and still talk about how it affects the Quail. Because it would be naïve to say it doesn’t. It does. What matters most to me though, is my continual search for our family’s ordinary afters. A way to show our children one day how beautiful their lives are because they are their lives. To train myself to look with gratitude on what I am blessed with rather than dwell on what others might see in our family as lacking or burdensome.

Life is what you make of it. Those happy, joy filled moments- they are just as real and authentic as the pain-riddled sad and chaotic-3-ring circus angry ones. Both pass in the blink of an eye. Some days there are more of one than of the other. Some days what we are grateful for is the fact that we get to wake up and try again.

Over the last year what I mostly want to write about is inspired by the images my camera shows me along with my addled thoughts that I nurse to in the middle of the night about the domestic scenes from earlier in the days and weeks. Most weeks on Fridays I have taken part in Lisa-Jo Baker’s five-minute Friday writing prompts. I fall in love with these writings as I often come back to them and see them as the momma diary of my heart.

These bits of prose coupled with our favorite family storytelling photographer- Ms. Molly–  coming to visit us this past year where she showed us what she sees in our life is what I want to share this month.

When I got my first glimpse of the session, I quickly wrote to Molly to tell her how with each photo, I could have written a narrative. The whole of them pulled together by Molly’s delicate eye and heart delighted me as much this time as the time she spent Saturday Morning with us a couple of years ago. Seeing these images that represent both a few moments as well as the whole of our family with all of its life and light and shadow and work and play- it makes me proud that I get to spend my days with this dear collection of people. Yesterday morning as I was uploading some pictures to the blog of the Quail from the last year I knew which one I wanted to start with. Molly took so many pictures- but one in particular, this one in particular, of the Quail shone through with the light of her spirit. As I was scrolling to it though, I kept stopping at other ones of her that I still felt that desire to tell a story about. And then it hit me. These images, the way they make me feel, this life that we have created; this is what I want to share this year for 31 for 21. So I’m going to use Lisa-Jo’s format to write for five minutes on one word that comes to mind on these individual images that dear Molly Flanagan* took.

Because this family and life- the ability to have it, to live it the way we choose- this is the gift of the advocates and families that have come before us. Because without them- if the Quail were born to another time and place- I might not have had the gift of her in my life. I might not have the privilege to both raise and be raised by her. I might not have the support and knowledge and confidence that those who have paved the way before me have gifted. I might have been forced into believing that giving her up at some stage along the way was the best thing for her, for myself, my family, my home, my community. I get to keep her though. I get to raise her where she belongs because of the hard work of those that came before her. And that, I can’t say it enough- that is an endless privilege and not one I take lightly- the gift of our family’s Ordinary Afters.

*All images categorized with 31 for 21 this month are courtesy of the talented eye of Molly Flanagan.

corner view: home

Corner view is a weekly Wednesday gathering, originally hosted by Jane, now by Francesca. A topic is given and you can see impressions; be it photographic or writerly in form, from around the world. Come see the world’s corner view via the links on the sidebar- they have that magical ability to be fully here and simultaneously somewhere else all in the same moment!

There are so many things I can say about home- how it isn’t the four walls, or the location or how many earthly delights you acquire with your good fortune. How home is where your heart and soul are, where the people that fill you with the moments that make up your day. How home is full of the ordinary afters that you eventually notice have woven the crazy quilt of your life around you. But I think my friend Molly has lovingly illustrated our particular home the best.

My gift to myself upon the occasion of my 40th birthday this year, with my love of photography and desire to not just have been behind the camera  years from now when my children look back to their childhood, was a photo shoot with my favorite local photographer. Three years ago I met Molly Flanagan and was so incredibly moved by the deep soul and measure that she walks through her life with. Her stills and prose often inspire my own. When we had made it out of the scary winter of our Quail’s first year we wanted to document the light and shadow of our family and Miss Molly came to visit one Saturday morning. She stilled the motion, spirit and energy of these girls, albeit briefly. Over the next few years I kept wanting to bring her back and see our lives through her lens one more time. The arrival of our Sugarplum seemed to be what called us to finally make the arrangements. Molly’s style has definitely found it’s niche with the art of visual storytelling. She introduced our session to us with these words and this image:

“i dreamed of traveling to far off lands to tell stories of exotic tribes and wild beasts. yet life’s plans have kept me close to home. to my surprise, i found that tribes and beasts are found around every corner. exotic beauty and wild love are hidden in every home.”

View More: http://mollyflanaganphotography.pass.us/starkey-family-2013

Lovey and I were instantly grinning. Please go see the collection she put together of our Ordinary afters…as she named it- the “smoke & spice” of our story. To tempt you into an introduction to Miss Molly here are just a few of our home via her heart, her vision, her storytelling… as I told her- “I keep coming back to these and soaking them in Miss Molly. As I said on IG- seeing ourselves/our lives through your heart- is pure magic. I see so much in each shot- in the collection and then I marvel in the simplicity and the small details. I could write an essay- a story with each snap- your pictures of our lives- more than a thousand words- but I will give you a thousand thanks and pearls of gratitude. You know from my blog how important the ordinary afters of our life are to me- those fractions of time- those are the treasures. It’s so funny to have been watching you shoot and trying to see what you might be seeing- so the stills are so very familiar in some- and then in others it is like peering in to another lifetime. What a gift these are- you are. love you- xoox”

Enjoy your summer break friends and I can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to while away come September!

corner view: serendipity

Serendipity is a good name for my journey in photography right now. I’m still working on learning the mechanics or science of it while simultaneously still loving the art of what shows up on my screen, well, rather serendipitously!











Corner view is a weekly Wednesday date hosted originally hosted by Jane, currently by Francesca. A topic is given and you can see impressions; be it in photographic or writerly in form from around the world: Jane, Dana, Bonny, Joyce, Ian, Francesca, Theresa, Cate, Kasia, Otli, Trinsch, Isabelle, Janis, Kari, jgy, Lise, Dorte, McGillicutty, Sunnymama, Ibb, Kelleyn, Ninja, Sky, RosaMaria, Juniper, Valerie, Sammi, Cole, Don, WanderChow, FlowTops, Tania, Tzivia, Kristin, Laura, Guusje, Susanna, Juana, Elsa, Nadine, Annabel


It’s good to have friends. Particularly ones who let you practice on them! This sweet family asked me to take some shots of them this spring. We wandered through the butterfly path at our local botanical garden and these shots were a few of my favorites from the morning. Such sweet children…

corner view: organic form

I’ll be honest, I was a bit intimidated by this week’s theme and considered backing out. Then I thought about the thing that I love about corner view and keeps me coming back. For me the themes give me a new set of lenses to view my past work through. Sometimes I’ll go out and shoot the theme; but usually I go through my library and try to see it in a new way. Really it keeps my brain and eye fresh I think! So I decided to do a quick peruse of my photo library and see what I had. I’m not entirely sure that my choices meet the technical definition here, artistically speaking. What I was most drawn to after a quick reading of the definition was the flower middles I had shot. So for your orangically formed, nature-loving view:







Corner view is a weekly Wednesday post hosted originally hosted by Jane, currently by Theresa. A topic is given and you can see impressions; be it in photographic or poetic form from around the world.  See what’s going on around the world:

jane ianbonniejoycekimkaytrinschritvafrancescastate of bliss cabrizetteisabellejaniskarijgylisecateotlidortebsophiemcgillicuttysunnymamadaanibbkelleynninjasammitheresacherry bjulietteshokoofehcolegrey lemonlucylainelynnskywritingannadoritconnyl´atelierkamanaanne marierosamaríavictoriatikjewitjuniperannabelandrea valeriemerel soissesmlle paradiscacahuetewander chowbarbaraemilytallynadinedon flowtopssusannataniadanaingridtzivia lollipopmarimezza