Notes from the Middle


It’s 6:33.  In the morning, not the evening.  And I’m sitting at my computer.  I’m not usually up this early by choice, but it’s the first morning after camp and something is different.  I’m different.  That’s the wonderful thing about experiences like this.  They change you.  They make you jump out of bed by choice at an ungodly (to me) hour of the morning to write things down, because you don’t want to forget…  

Most mornings, I hear the door of the boys’ room open and realize it’s still dark outside.   My first thought of the day is “It’s time to get up already?  Why couldn’t they sleep just a little longer so mommy could get a little more rest?”  Then comes the part where they climb into the bed, get under the covers, all poky knees and sharp elbows.  The bed immediately shrinks to the size of a postage stamp.  They cuddle close, searching for my body heat because the trek from their bed to mine has left their feet cold (very, very cold) and my skin is oh, so warm.  As they get comfortable, I feel the taking of me begin.  The taking that happens when you’re a parent to young children and your needs don’t come first anymore.  I guess this is what they meant when they said “parenting is the most self-less act in the world.  Don’t do it until you’re ready to give all of you to your kids”.

But today.  Today is different.  I’ve been away from them for 3 mornings. I’ve been inspired by the amazing women at Camp and their practice of shooting through gratitude, shooting with intention and shooting what you love.  I’ve been thinking about my passion for shooting life as it is right now, in this very moment.  I’ve been thinking about story and how even that seems too big for me.  Stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.  But that is too long for me, too drawn out.  Because sometimes, when I think about the whole story, it overwhelms me.  It reminds me that the BEGINNING of the week started off frenzied, with too many things on my to do list.  And I immediately just want to get to the END so that I can finally exhale.  What I’m finally realizing (thank you camp sisters) is that I leave no room in my life for the MIDDLE.  The right here, the right now.  When I’m focused on the END and just want to get there, I miss everything in the MIDDLE.  It’s all a chore and I just want to get it over with so I can get to the END, to my prize.  I know in my heart that the END never really comes.  There’s always a new BEGINNING, and a new END.  But isn’t the MIDDLE where the good stuff happens?  Where the joy is?  What am I missing by ignoring the MIDDLE?

Making this connection, right now at 7:07 in the morning, is blowing my mind.  My Mind = Blown.

This morning, when I heard the boys’ door open, a small smile crept onto my face.  I heard their quick, heavy footsteps and felt warm.  Warmer than my blankets could ever make me feel.  When they cuddled into me, I reached out and pulled them even closer.  I welcomed the feel of their skin against mine, regardless of how cold it was.  I listened as their breathing became rhythmic.  I breathed them in and wondered how I could capture this moment with my camera.  How I could remember that this morning, instead of thinking about how tired I was from getting to bed late and how many things there were on my to do list, I thought only about the good in that single moment in time.  And how blissful it felt.  How grateful I felt for my life.  For that moment.  In the MIDDLE.  

That is my passion.  Capturing the stuff in the MIDDLE.  The stuff that gets lost when you think about the BEGINNING and the END of the story.

That is what I learned at Camp and I don’t want to forget.

What about you? Share a glimpse of what it looks like to be present and content in the middle?

Image and post Camp Shutter Sisters story courtesy of the awesome Wendy Tienken.


  1. says

    I've been ill recently so I've begun to start focusing on making to the end, the end of another week. Thanks for reminding me to find pleasure in the middle . . . . I know it's there, I just have to look for it.

  2. says

    oh wendy. this is so perfect. so so perfect. and your beautiful face with my morning coffee right now, so good.
    "the taking of me begins" gah! goosebumps to those words. that is exactly it isn't it.

    or to capture some of my 'middle" today just for you.

  3. says

    Wow! Talk about timely! This week has been more hectic, even frantic, than usual! And the weekend, which usually offers a respite, holds no such hope this weekend. I needed this message! Thank you!

    My mantra: Think middle. Think middle. Think middle.

  4. says

    yeah — "the taking of me" totally gave me goose bumps too! it is EXACTLY how it feels at times. although returning from camp did really help me see my kids differently, to drink them in and let go of all the to-dos, at least for a little while. i'm still processing the whole camp experience (both emotionally, and hopefully image-wise soon). I'm still searching for words. Today I'll try to catch the middle for you Wendy. Today.

  5. says

    what a beautiful written post. you express it so perfectly. I wish i could attend SS camp some day. It sounds like a wonderful experience. I've enjoyed seeing everyone's photos from camp of flickr.

    i try to be conscious of stopping and appreciating the moment, the middle, instead of looking ahead to the end. it truly is the middle that the memories are made, the joy is found. savor it.

  6. says

    Living in the MIDDLE is often hard… being a single mom for the past 2 days has forced me to focus on being present and content in the MIDDLE. Because the BEGINNING is often harder alone, and the END is still a few days away! :) Thank you for this lovely post!

  7. says

    This post is totally resonating w me right now. To the point of near tears here in Starbucks. I often feel like I'm just surviving through the week then cramming all I can into the weekend. My head is spinning and so is my son's by Sunday night. Thank you for sharing Your passion.

  8. says

    reading this actually made me cry… in a good way. i so get this. i have a four-month old at home, and i find myself missing the newborn stage or looking forward to the stage where he can sit up on his own so that i don't have to constantly tend to him and he can entertain himself a bit more… and i can take more photos of him just being. this stage is difficult, i find… plus, it pulls me away from all that i would like to do, especially in regards to photography… there's that "self-less" part you brought up.

    anyway, this is truly beautifully written. i love what you said. i am going to be more aware of the middle today… and celebrate it… maybe even take a picture of it.

    this is my little family of three "in the middle" last weekend…

    p.s… i am SO jealous of all who got to go to camp shutter sisters!! i wish i could have been there. maybe next year!

  9. says

    WOW. Wendy, you've left me speechless (and for me, that's pretty much impossible). You captured it. You lived it, and you've come out a whole new person. I was there with you and to know that it had this effect on you is so beautiful. You're beautiful. Thank you SO much for sharing this.

  10. says

    oh my god wendy, this is so beautiful and you totally rocked my world by putting into words what I'm feeling and how I want to look at life…through this lens of the middle being what is important. thank you for being there, thank you for showing up, thank you for being you and thank you for this.

  11. says

    Oh Wendy this is so lovely. Just what I need on these post-camp days, a reminder to stay present. I am all too often thinking too many steps ahead to simply appreciate where I'm standing. Thank you for this reminder. I'll be thinking of you and your beautiful words today.

  12. says

    so perfect indeed :) and a great reminder! full of wisdom and strenght. thank you for sharing. since I'm retired I guess I'm always in the middle, but had never thought about it this way, it's like a revelation to me. blessed post indeed :)

  13. Jen says

    Lovely. Not only do you have a gift with seeing through the lens, but you have a gift with words. I'm blessed to have met you at camp and to have your words to help remember the experience by…Thank you.

  14. -adriana says

    wendy – this photo, these words. so beautiful and courageous and wow. i was so happy to see this photo here today. Don't you feel like you are on the right path? what was on that permission card?! it's working, whatever you put out into the universe believe in it and don't let go!! know you are all kinds of awesome. love you!

  15. says

    You struck such a chord!

    I think every giving mother knows these feelings, and most won't give voice to them for fear of judgement (their own or of others). Which is such a shame, because, clearly there's power and acceptance and a great deal of joy to be found once you admit to these feelings, and realize that it's not just you – it's universal.

    I'm linking to one of my sps that explored similar sentiments. And before I rush off to share this post with a dear friend, who I think needs these words right. this. minute, I have to tell you how beautiful and soulful your sp is – the perfect accompaniment to these words.

  16. journeyswithasimplegirl says

    a friend, (dear damiec) shared this link with me, and I am so incredibly grateful…this is just what I needed.
    thank you so much for sharing your insights, they have gifted me with an beautiful exhale…and inspiration. xo

  17. says

    woo woo wendy! you've channeled some serious magic here. thank you for sharing it and i, too, will often return to this page for another dose. let's go middle together soon. xh

    you may have seen these already, but here are some of the lessons i learned at camp:

  18. says

    What a great reminder! Let's all enjoy life in the middle. As my babies are now approaching middle school, I can't even tell you how much this resonates with me. xoxo-

  19. says


    This is rely amazing and very wonderful.this is so perfect and amazing. Thank you for sharing it with all of us, especially as I'm trying to integrate the experience of camp and feeling in a state of suspended animation between There and Here.I want to remember this forever. The middle. To enjoy where I am as much as where I've been and where I'm going.eading this actually made me cry… in a good way. i so get this. i have a four-month old at home, and i find myself missing the newborn stage or looking forward to the stage where he can sit up on his own so that i don't have to constantly tend to him and he can entertain himself a bit more.thanks for sharing it.

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