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{i wrote the following words last night...}

I’m pretty new to the Instagram world, but I guess there is a term, a verb, for Instagramming too often: Overgramming. And I’m afraid I may be guilty of this offense. Truth be told, I haven’t done any research on what counts as appropriate gramming and what veers into the overgramming territory and I probably won’t do this research. I won’t do it because I’m lazy and overwhelmed with the kids’ summer stuff and, most importantly, because I don’t really care. I like sharing pictures of my life and I’m not really concerned whether sharing only one or two per day is kosher, whether the four to five I’ve been doing is a bit overboard or not, etc, etc.

I’m not sure why, but I’m totally smitten with Instagram. I was late to the game, but my friend and fellow author Claire Bidwell Smith encouraged me to join last March when she and her family were here visiting us. I can’t remember the details of her IG Argument, but it had something to do with it being a nice community of individuals of who share images. She showed me a few of her own beautiful pictures, colorful shots of beaches and palm trees and her sweet, toe-headed girls and I thought, hey, why not? I set up an account that very night and took a picture of my white cat snoozing atop a pizza box. I added a filter that made it all look kind of snazzy.

That was it. Sold.

These days, I share several pictures per day. Five max. Sometimes, I add words. Sometimes, not. Some pictures are of New York City. Some pictures are of my three little ladies. Some pictures are just of me. Yes, the notorious Selfie. Another term I’ve learned. Each time I post one of these solo shots, I feel a bit sheepish and embarrassed and worry that I might have an overgrown ego after all or perhaps that I might be in the midst of some sneaky mid-life crisis of which I’m only subtly aware. But I don’t think that’s it.

Until now, I wasn’t sure what it was. What it was that has compelled me to snap so many pictures of my life, my world, my creatures, my Self. But I think I’ve figured it out.

Five years ago, I lost my father. Dad. He was pretty young – 66 – and he died of stomach cancer. His diagnosis came October 5th, 2007, the day after my 29th birthday, and on July 12th, 2008, he turfed it. This was his preferred terminology. Dad had a keen and contagious sense of humor to the end. He referred to the cancer cells that ravaged his core as “yapping puppies” and when his last PETscan confirmed that the cancer had spread, Dad said something about the puppies escaping the kennel. I can’t remember his exact words. Oh how I wish I could. Anyway, when he died on Gray Tutu Day, I was six months pregnant with my second girl, a girl who would arrive in October, almost exactly one year after the news of his disease. I would give her his name as a middle name: Strachan. She has his eyes.

Anyway, I could go on and on about the ruthless symbolism of this all – that cells in Dad’s belly killed him at the exact moment that cells in my body created life, a little life I love dearly, and I will at some point. The book that I don’t yet have the strength or distance to write already has a name and my agent knows all about it, but first things first. What matters is that this event, this loss, changed everything for me.

What I realize in this moment as I sit alone in my beautiful garden with a glass of white wine and my computer and my two cats dancing around me while my husband attends a work event and my girls sleep is this: I write words and share them and take photos and share them because they are evidence that I am here, alive in the world, in love with the world. Every word I write and every picture I take is proof of breath and gratitude for being here. Because of what I have been through, because of the loss I have weathered, I do not take these things for granted. Not for a single minute.

Instead, I see each day as something to honor, to record. I amass evidence of this life that I have created and this life that I love. It is a life that is not perfect, that has never been perfect and will never be perfect, but a life I cherish with every bit of my being. That’s all.

Another friend of mine, another fellow writer, Allison Slater Tate, wrote a piece months ago, a piece that rightly went super-viral, about how we should make the effort to get in pictures with our kids even if we don’t always feel gorgeous or worthy of doing so. Her words were simple and powerful and I continue to think about them. It is vital for us to be part of the memories that will be had. Writing words and taking pictures of self and life and world; these things are about doing just that, right?

If Dad were alive today, I have no doubt he would deplore Instagram and all of the other modern technology with which I’ve fallen in love. Dad was old school, a real-deal thinker and had no time for buttons and screens. He was about pen and paper and soil and air and wind and water and creatures. But if he were here, I would sit him down and I would explain something to him. I would explain to him that we are creatures, too. That these are our things, our trappings, emblems of our hopes and desires and longings and loves. I would remind him of that conversation Dad and I had when I was only ten and we flew together on an airplane. Per Dad’s recollection, we were both nodding off midair when I turned to him and tapped him on the shoulder, looked up, and asked: Dad, What is self?

I can only imagine his smile when I said this. Dad lived for questions like this.

But now he is gone. And it is my job to do the living, and the living for questions like this. And that is what I am doing every single day, what I am so grateful to be doing. Overgramming or no, that’s what I’m doing and I make no apologies. Perhaps a morbid thought, or maybe just the thought of a self-aware mom who has lost her dad, but I like the idea that one day my girls might hack into my Instagram account and see a patchwork of pictures. Of them. Of me. Of this gorgeous, gritty, challenging, privileged, complex life it is an abiding privilege to live.

It is my biggest wish that I am always at the heart of their lives and mind just as he continues to be at the heart of mine.

Now, I am off to Instagram an image of this moment. Of these black words on this white screen. Of this fancy computer that’s lost its mojo and is on its last legs. Of this garden Dad would have loved. Of this blue plastic wineglass.

Of this fine night in July where I’m just another girl missing her father.

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Feel free to follow me on Instagram. I am still on a Summer Sabbatical from this blog, but I promise to post glimpses of these sticky and sweet Popsicle Days of summer...

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