The Seven Day Full-Color Photo Challenge

A recent trend on Facebook has been to nominate friends to the seven day Black and White Photo Challenge. If you’re nominated, you post a black and white photo a day that has no people and contains no explanation. When my friend, Staci, nominated me, I chose to rebel. I’ve been reading and resonating with Lidia Yuknavitch’s book, The Misfit’s Manifesto, so this rebelling fit in perfectly. I’ve compiled my posts from Facebook in one blog post here.

I give you my Full-color Photo Challenge responses with plenty of people and tons of description.

If you are so moved, tag a friend for their own full-color challenge. #FullColorPhotoChallenge

Day 1

Here's Day 1 of 7 of my full-color life. Plenty of people and tons of description.

Full Color Photo Challenge Charlotte Kaufman (1).jpg

In Young Women (the Sunday school for female teenagers in a Mormon church) I raised my hand again and asked, "Why can't women hold the priesthood?" I had been asking this Sunday after Sunday and no one had given me a reply that made a lick of sense.

"Women are already spiritual enough. They don't need that blessing."

"But men do?"

"That's right, it's a blessing and a gift to them and then we can follow their spiritual leadership."

"So we're already so spiritual that we don't need the Priesthood, but the guys who have to have it bestowed on them are leading? Why aren't women the leaders in the first place? I mean, if we're so spiritual?"

"That's not how the Lord set things up."

"So we're already good to go, spiritually, and we need to listen to those who are just now getting the 'spiritual-ness' given to them. Do I have that right?"

"Charlotte I think it's time for you to step outside for awhile. Please leave the room."

I was 14. I gathered my things with my cheeks burning. Not with shame, but with fury. 'Sure,' I thought, I'll leave the room and enter the rest of my life.'

Photo info: Acting in a variety show with my father (at left). Me (at right), after my father had abused me, but still being silent about it under the erroneous belief that my silence would save my siblings. I'm standing in the full knowledge that everything I'd been taught about the world was a lie.

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

Day 2

Day 2 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

Full Color Photo Challenge Charlotte Kaufman (2).jpg

I learned how to ride my bike when I was 5 or 6. I still remember duck-waddling my feet and doing that fast enough until I could push off and start coasting. First my feet trailed, skimming across the concrete, because I didn't trust the mechanics of the motion. Then the sudden thrill of realizing how the bike worked, how it stayed up even if my feet rested on the pedals, just as long as I kept it moving. I had done it! I'd discovered a truth about the world that had been hidden from me until that moment. What else, I wondered would I discover that day? I was filled with possibilities.

Over the next few weeks I kept riding. I learned how to catch myself to one side or the other as the bike slowed down. I figured out how I only needed to push a tiny bit and start pedaling to gain the miraculous ability that is balancing and moving on two wheels.

I became so confident that I started to venture further away from my house. First just down the street, then I'd cross over and ride the other side of the street; I could always see where I lived. After enough of those rotations, I branched out, cruising down a side street, then coming back to the intersection where, if I craned my neck, my house was still in sight.

Finally, I started to fly down other streets, doing big loops, first one block away, then two, then three. One day I tore around a corner of a new street and into a patch of gravel. I'd never ridden on gravel before and my rear tire skidded out throwing me down. My right knee and both my hands landed hard as I was dragged across the ground. When I finally came to a stop, I started howling. It hurt so badly. Tiny pieces of gravel were embedded in my palms along with long scratches on my knee that bled. After several moments of wailing like a wounded animal I cleared my head enough to look around. I'd been waiting for an adult to run up and help me. Surely, someone would hear me crying and come to my aide; that's what adults did. Or maybe a neighborhood kid would see me and then go get their mom. I continued sobbing and glancing in disbelief at my bleeding palms and my torn up knee. There were chunks of gravel dug into the skin of my leg.

I looked around again, still crying. Cars drove by but no one stopped. The houses looked still and no kids were outside. A flash of realization hit me: no one was coming to help. No one knew where I was. I was going to have to get back home on my own. I couldn't believe it.

Digging the gravel out of the skin was excruciating, but it's what was hurting me the most. Tears plopped down on my skinny legs as I plucked each piece out. Shaking, I stood up, picked up my bike, and lifted my leg over it. I pushed off, crying, and the motion of pedaling seemed to tear the skin on my knee more and more. My palms left blood on the handles, but I rode that bike home.

I dreamed of the reception I'd receive once I got home, the hugs, the 'oh-my-goodnesses,' the 'I'm so sorry you were all alone!' After biking through the pain for two blocks I knew I was close to my own street but as I neared my yard a new feeling was welling up inside of me: pride. I was so proud of myself for figuring that moment out. I had gotten home on my own, even in great pain. There had been no one there for me, but I hadn't needed anyone after all; I had only needed me.

I'd discovered a truth about the world that had been hidden from me until that moment: I was enough. What else, I wondered would I discover that day? I was filled with possibilities.

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

Day 3

Day 3 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

"Ruth Bader Ginsburg is my hero because she was the first Jewish, female, Supreme Court justice and even as a girl, she cared about equality." ~ Cora, age 7

Originally appeared on Facebook here

Day 4

Day 4 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

"Mama, thanks for getting the candy from the scary clown for me."

"Sure thing, baby, but what about that giant cat? That didn't scare you too?"

"Oh no, that kitty was my friend."

Lyra, age 4, dressed as Baby Jaguar from Go, Diego, Go.

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

Day 5

Day 5 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

I recently did genetic testing with 23andMe and one of the traits they reported on said I was 'more likely to consume caffeine than the average person.' I present this photo as early photographic evidence of my need for the drink.

Originally posted on Facebook here.

Day 6

Day 6 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

We bought Rebel Heart in 2005, just 10 months into dating each other. We moved aboard her full-time in June of 2007. Until we lost her in the spring of 2014, we lived the glorious minimalist lifestyle that comes with residing in 36' feet of sailboat.

People would ask me how I could do it, how I could live with so few possessions and I always answered honestly, I loved it. There were a few things I missed about land life. I missed having a couch. A really comfortable couch. The kind you can lie next to your partner on, snuggle up and watch a movie together. 

I missed Le Creuset cookware. I missed house plants, in particular, succulents (cue all the sailors who are going to say, 'I have plants onboard!' If you have a catamaran, don't even go there you multi-huller, you. And if you are a mono-huller with houseplants, then you are wayyyy coooler than we were.) 

I envied very little about landlubber's amenities, save for their comfy couches and for their ability to store away beautiful things, like cake stands. I secretly lusted after cake stands while living aboard a sailboat. I wanted a magic drawer in my galley that held all the pretty accoutrements that land people could pull out to dazzle and entertain guests with. 

For the first two years after losing her, we thought we'd probably buy another boat, so we didn't acquire land-based life things, like an 8.5" Turquoise Glass Pedestal Cake Stand with Knob Handle Domes. And for the past year living in the mountains I haven't bought pretty things quite yet. Partly because minimalism gets into your bones. But it's really that I've had a hard time allowing myself to fall in love with another home. What if we lost her again? Could I love another home the way I loved Rebel Heart? A year of Sierra sunlight has finally convinced me. I think I can love again, and I'm ready to buy a cake stand.

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

Day 7

Day 7 of 7 of the full-color photo challenge. Plenty of people and tons of description.

I went to Tucson to visit my grandparents when I was 25. Their son (my dad) was the first in their family to complete college (I was the first on my mom's side.) My grandfather, we called him Papa, was a recovering alcoholic who always smelled like coffee and kept little bowls of dinner mints around the house.

He was sitting out on the porch one afternoon. A man of few words, he didn't say anything when I first sat down but he eventually turned to me and asked, "Charlotte, do you like men?"

I furrowed my eyebrows not understanding but then I rolled with it. "Sometimes I do. Men do awful things, ya know? The good ones I like."

"But you're attracted to them?"

I wasn't sure I understood what he was asking.

"Yes?"

"You're not a lesbian?"

"Hahaha, why do you ask? Does it matter?"

"How old are you now?" He seemed so serious.

"I'm 25."

"Don't you want to get married? Have kids?"

"Really, Papa? Because I'm 25 and I'm not married, I might be a lesbian?"

"Tell me then."

"I'm not a lesbian, but I assume it would be okay with you if I were." I glanced at him. He looked out at the yard.

"I like men. I'll get married one day, if I want. I'll have kids one day, if I want. Women are waiting longer to have kids nowadays, especially if they get an education. And lesbians can have kids."

He nodded and that was the end of it.

I started dating Eric a few months later. We got married when I was 29 and had our first kid when I was 30. I married him and had kids because I wanted to, not because Papa thought I might be a lesbian or that I was already an 'old maid.'

I tell both of our daughters that they can date men or women, or men AND women, or no one at all. That they can have kids, or not. And the best part is that now I can tell my kids they can marry who they want, if they are straight or lesbian, or somewhere in between.

#BeWhoYouWant #LoveWhoYouWant#MyFavoriteThingAboutPapaWasThoseDinnerMints

Originally appeared on Facebook here.

If you are so moved, tag a friend for their own full-color challenge. #FullColorPhotoChallenge

To Eric on his 39th Birthday

I keep choosing Eric and he keeps choosing me. That’s something new in my life. Before when relationships with men got weird or hard or boring, I’d just leave. Sayonara, I’d say. It’s over! It’s been swell. Sometimes, actually, not swell at all. For that it would be, ‘you suck, sucker’.

I’ve broken up with men on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, on their birthdays, once on New Year’s and TWICE on Valentine’s. When I’m done, I’m done. I have friends who have waited days, months, even years to find the ‘right time’ to break up with someone.

What?! I’ll gasp in my head. The right time is RIGHT NOW, sister. But hey, they gotta do them, and I had to break up with jerk faces when the mood struck.

Not with Eric.

Instead, we fought. In the beginning of our relationship we fought so hard. Eric and I both don’t give a fucking inch. And he’s incredibly intelligent, and just a little bit full of himself, and let’s be honest, I’m sort of exactly like him in this regard. We’d draw a line in the sand over something stupid that we had decided was important and we’d fight. We’d go Meta about it, or get down in the nitty gritty, usually both. It would go on for hours sometimes, neither of us wanting to concede, to admit the other was right, or that maybe we were the ones who had fucked up.

This was all new. I had never spent so much emotional energy on one man. I just knew, somewhere deep down, that he was worth it. Finally, I suggested we go to couples' therapy. We’d been together for about a year. I expected him to say no, just flat out. But he said yes immediately. And he googled around for someone and he made the appointment and all of that told me, he thinks I’m worth it too.

Sally saved us. She taught us how to fight nicer and how to fight better. She gave us the grown up tools that neither of us had received from our parents. These tools, how to respectfully disagree with someone you loved, were never modeled by our own parents, but Sally showed us how. Technically her title was therapist but really, she was the wise, loving, fair older family member that didn’t exist in either of our lives, the one who should have been showing us this stuff as we grew.

Eric and I are not perfect, neither as individuals, nor as a couple, but man, when I think about the type of home my daughters are being raised in, compared to the homes that Eric and I sprung from, I feel happy on a deep, deep inner level. I think, what will these children be able to accomplish in life growing up with humans who love them? Who respect them? And parents who love each other? Who show them that it is okay to disagree with, and be angry at each other, but who still work it out, and at the end of the day, or the end of the fight, come together in love. They are growing up watching people who say, ‘I fucked up, I’m sorry’, and, I forgive you, and I love you.’

I hope I live long enough to see the seeds of love we planted with our children and watch how they bloom.

Birth, 8, 18, 28, 38 | Reflections on Decades of Birthdays

On Tuesday I turned 38. It got me thinking about where I was a decade ago in life, and a decade before that and so on until soon enough I got out my old photos (all digitized prior to leaving for sailing around the world). I also dug through my journals and I reviewed. 

Birth

I was born on June 13, 1979 in Lackland Air Force Base (which is in San Antonio, Texas.)

My mother and her family are from Texas. My father was from Arizona and had joined the Air Force. He was stationed in Texas when he met my mother, a single, divorced woman with two sons. Rich and James are my half-brothers but in my family we don’t ever call each other half-brother or half-sister, everybody is just full sister & brother, 100%.

We moved to New Mexico (we were always moving because of being in the military.) In Alamogordo, my brother, Chad Michael was born. He is 364 days younger than me. They brought him home on my 1st birthday and that set the stage for all of our birthdays from there on out. We shared every birthday I think until our early 20s. As an adult, though I don’t mention it to most people, my birthday means a lot to me and I think it’s because I never got to have a party that was really just for me as a kid.

Cool baby, but it's my birthday, right?

Cool baby, but it's my birthday, right?

We moved to Tennessee next. That’s my sister Sariah wrapped up in a white blanket. She is 18 months younger than Chad Michael. We were stair steps: ages 2, 1, and newborn! 

So....you're telling me that's another baby?

So....you're telling me that's another baby?

I wasn’t a good big sister to Sariah. I wish I had been. Chad Michael and I often excluded her. I wish we’d been corrected on that. She always wanted to hang out, and I usually wanted to be left alone. I’m sorry about that, Sariah. I’m glad we’re friends now. I wish we had been closer when we were younger.

After Tennessee, we moved to North Dakota. There, my sister, Rose, was born.  Adorable kid, right? 

North Dakota is where I went to kindergarten. It’s where I learned that snow can blow so hard and so much that it covers your front door entirely. At five I didn’t know just how much snow life had in store for me; back then it was pure novelty.

This is my sister Sariah looking out at me, Chad Michael, and our grandfather, my father’s father who was visiting from Arizona.

Then we moved to Alaska. Yep. More snow. 

In Alaska, my youngest sister, and the last sibling, Phoebe, was born. That made a total of seven kids. We were a family of nine when you added the adults.

No, that is NOT Lyra (my daughter) in the photos below, that’s my sister Phoebe. Lyra’s looks, her gestures, and her mannerisms remind me all the time of my baby sister. I was so smitten with Phoebe when she was born. I was 8 and I thought she looked like an angel baby.

Eight

I was in 3rd grade when I was 8. I hated having my long hair combed as a kid but by age 8 I had learned that long hair was valued as a ‘feminine’ trait. I wanted the best of both worlds when it came to my hair so my mom told me about this haircut that was short in the front and long in the back. 

It was a mullet. 

She didn’t call it that and I didn’t know. 

I will tell you this: I LOVED MY HAIR STYLE. So easy. So great! Business in the front, party in the back.

I was raised Mormon (also called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). I’m no longer practicing. I’m a happy Atheist now. But at age 8 in the Mormon church you get baptized. It’s a big deal.

They call age eight the ‘age of accountability.’ You officially know right from wrong, according to them. And when you get baptized, any mistakes you make from there on out fall into the sin category and you have to get your repenting knee pads worn in because it’s all sinnin’ and repentin’ after they dip you in that water.

I couldn’t wait to get baptized. It meant I was part of the club! It meant people would take me and my actions seriously. I held my breath and was fully submersed and rose up anew, as a human who knew right from wrong. I felt powerful indeed. I also probably started sinning that same day. I’m pretty sure it didn’t take long.

I call this photo ‘POWER TO THE PATRIARCHY.’

Also, do you think they knew to line up in that V-shape formation? You think they’d done that before? Or maybe the picture-taker told them to do it? You think they just got into formation naturally like that? Maybe the baptism crew was all about the angles. We’ll never know.

I started keeping journals at age 8 and I have two giant bins now, full of years of writing.  We went panning for gold and since you know me already, you know we didn’t strike it rich.

I was in lots of plays. Here I’m dressed up as a royal messenger. Hey, I just worked with what I had in my closet. Me and my mullet and my costuming abilities. A year after this photo, at the end of 4th grade, I was at that boy on the right’s house with another friend of ours, also a boy. I’ll call the boy on the right, ‘Bob’ and the other boy who was with us, ‘Gabe.’ Bob had milk crates full of Archie comic books in his room. Gabe and I were reading them with him. I got up to go home and when I got to the foot of his bed, Bob said, “you should lift up your shirt, Charlotte.”

“What?” I asked, confused.

“Yeah. Lift up your shirt.”

I had zero in the way of boobs at that time. Not even breast buds. Hell, boobs weren’t even on my radar. The most awful, icky, uncomfortable feeling washed over me. The other boy, Gabe, who I had a crush on, just looked back and forth at us, also not sure what was happening. I exited stage right almost immediately but I still remember how violated I felt with just the way that prepubescent 4th grade boy was looking at me.

Not all men are creeps, but the ones who are, never leave you.

Life goal at age 8: to be a teacher when I grew up.

Eighteen

A decade later and so much had changed. (I’m starting to realize that that is what you can expect from 10 year time spans.) I moved out of the house at 16 and moved in to live with my oldest brother, Rich. Rich took care of me and for a short time, my younger brother Chad Michael, without any financial assistance from my parents.  You can read this post here where I exposed my father for sexually abusing me and my sister. Massive trigger warnings if you haven’t read it yet.

My brother Rich stepped in and he became the supportive father figure I needed during my later teens and early twenties. He is an amazing human being. We used to throw the most incredible costume parties. Life was good living with Rich.

At age 16 I got a job bussing tables after school and for my junior and senior years of high school I worked to help Rich pay the bills. I still graduated with a 4.3 GPA and got an academic scholarship to the University of San Diego where I majored in International Relations and double minored in French and Spanish. I was the first of my seven siblings to get a BA. My youngest sister, Phoebe, also got a BA and then went on to get her masters in Geography.

Me and Rich at my high school graduation, 1997

Me and Rich at my high school graduation, 1997

Despite those accomplishments, age 18 Charlotte is not someone I’m really impressed with, and that’s because I just re-read my journals. Yikes. Are all 18 year olds super myopic? My writing focuses on guys, sex, and physical appearances and I found it pretty nauseating to read. 

I struggled with eating disorders after being abused by my dad. First I didn’t eat for two years, then when I did, I obsessed with controlling what I did eat. I calorie counted and calorie restricted and used phen-phen (remember phen-phen? and Metabolife, aka Metabacrack). I occasionally purged and I exercised obsessively. I have never had an accurate image of my body. This all started wayyyy back when I was sitting on my dad’s lap and he patted my belly and told me I “was getting kinda big.” 

Still. Reading my journals, it’s hard to believe how vapid I was at 18. Geez Louise. For as much as I continue to deal with loving myself and my body the way I am, I’m very glad that years of therapy and work have gotten me away from where I was at that age.
   

Senior prom, 1997

Senior prom, 1997

I went onto have a successful first year of college. 

I worked two, sometimes three jobs during my four years at USD and graduated Magna Cum Laude. No sororities for me. I was not super connected to the students or culture of the campus. My life was off campus and while I loved my education, I was ready to move to the next parts of being a grown up.

Life goal at age 18: to work as an interpreter at the U.N.

Twenty Eight

June 2007. A decade after 18 year old Charlotte and I was finally starting to figure out who I really was. I had started blogging on Rebel Heart only a few months prior. I was documenting mine and Eric’s process of moving from land to our sailboat. A month after turning 28 we were officially liveaboards and Eric proposed to me.

In this photo, we were headed out for what I thought was a regular date night. Eric’s palms were sweating because about an hour later, he proposed.

One of the happiest moments of my life, just minutes after his proposal. He’s so handsome, isn’t he? I love, love, LOVE this man.

Twenty eight was a year of discovery. It was the fomenting of my life as a liveaboard and sailor. I spent a lot of time getting to know our vessel, and my sewing machine!

My mother taught me to sew as a child and I’d make my own patterns and clothing for dolls. It wasn’t until years later, and living on our boat, that I decided I needed to get out my machine and start sewing again. Eric eventually bought me a Sailrite and I learned how to sew boat interiors and exteriors, marine canvas, and sailcloth. I had a knack for making my own patterns and designs, a good thing too because all of boat work is custom work.

I was amazed at how much more confident I was at age 28. I felt more at ease in my own body and I felt very at home on the water. At last I’d found a place I felt I belonged. Living on a boat and being a sailor is like being in a very cool secret club. Not a lot of people know about the lifestyle and those who do are all members or former members of the club. There’s an incredible bond between sailors. I found this especially so between other female sailors.

At 28 I had no idea what the next decade had in store for me. We had a plan, sure, to leave in five years and sail around the world. We had agreed to have children, and raise them on the boat, and take them with us, but we didn’t know what that would be like. There was no way the Charlotte of 2007 could have envisioned all that would happen in the decade that would lead her to 2017. 

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life played out the way it did. As it does. As it should.

Life goal at age 28: to be the next Lin Pardey, but with kids.

Thirty Eight

Now we arrive at present day. I’m two years shy of 40. I am a landlubber. It is so bizarre to say that. You could call me a CLOD too, or a Cruiser Living on Dirt. 

I have two incredible children, ages 6 and 4. Really, these kids are rad and I’m truly lucky to have them in my life. 

After being raised as a military brat and never living anywhere long enough to have friends from childhood, I can finally say that I have some ‘old’ friends, or perhaps better stated, lifelong friends.

Me and Mele, Devil's Postpile, November 2016

Me and Mele, Devil's Postpile, November 2016

And I’m lucky enough to still be meeting new people and making new friends too.

Me and Rosanne, Speakeasy Gala, May 2017

Me and Rosanne, Speakeasy Gala, May 2017

While I may live on land, I’m deeply immersed in the elements living here in Mammoth. Just like living on a boat, when you walk out into the cockpit each morning, you are dealing directly with whatever Mother Nature is handing you, so too is life at 8,000ft altitude. Outside my door I have no choice but to deal with the elements too.

I learned how to ski this season. It felt really good to be 37 and learning something new. I’m not too old for this. I can do hard things. I can learn new skills. These were just some of the thoughts going through my head as I flew down the mountain on two sticks.

Couch-locked after day 3 of ski lessons.

Couch-locked after day 3 of ski lessons.

I also learned how to snowshoe. There’s not a lot to learning to snowshoe, not like there is with skiing, but it was still two new things in a season. You can teach a 38 year old new tricks!

Snowshoeing toward Mammoth Rock Trail

Snowshoeing toward Mammoth Rock Trail

Eric and I went on our first date in November 2004, so we're 12 1/2 years and running. I’m still totally into this guy. Hook, line, and sinker.

Together we have each broken cycles of abuse and we’ve forged a new path raising our children and creating our family unit. It has not been easy, but it has been worth it. May our children know love, support, encouragement, safety, and security throughout their entire childhoods.

Mammoth Town Clean Up Day, June 2017

Mammoth Town Clean Up Day, June 2017

At 38, I see the path that many women (and sometimes men) take when they have children, that of allowing their life to be subsumed by the raising of their offspring. For some, I believe this happens because they have never truly evaluated what they wanted for their own lives, so raising children becomes the role they slip into: a seemingly natural fit. For others, it becomes the path of least resistance, of not wanting to rock the boat.

But I also see what happens to those women (and sometimes men) who find themselves at the end of a long 18-25ish year time span of raising children, then entering middle age, and only just beginning to sort out who they are and what they finally want to do with their lives. I choose not to go that route. I choose to pursue my passions now, while my children are young. I choose to try to make sure I’m fulfilled as a human, independent of my role as a mother. I believe that if I’m happy as a whole person, I’ll be a better mother, and I’ll set a solid example for my children about how to stay true to themselves.

So I write. And sometimes I leave. I go on retreats. I travel without my kids. I focus on keeping myself healthy and whole, and for me, that means periodic breaks from parenting. 

Writing Retreat, San Miguel de Allende, May 2017

Writing Retreat, San Miguel de Allende, May 2017

I do so wonder what the next decade has in store. Some of my readers have now been reading my blog for TEN YEARS. First on Rebel Heart, and now here. Whether you've been with me from the very beginning, or you've just recently started following, I thank you for the support.

Life goal at age 38: to raise my kids the very best I can, to relish my relationship with my husband, to nourish and enjoy my friendships, and to write lots and lots of books.


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