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When I die there should be no sad songs for me…

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In September of 2017, on the cusp of my fortieth birthday, I set a new decade resolution to spend more time with my ninety-three year old grandfather. As a documentary photographer, with an interest in communities, I asked my grandfather if he’d like to do a portrait and interview project in his retirement community. My grandfather said, “yes.”

My goals for this project were simple. I wanted to have quality time with my grandfather, I wanted to honor and appreciate this last chapter of his life and the community that he chose to spend it with. When I asked him who he wanted to focus on for the project, my grandfather chose the coffee group that he religiously meets with every morning except for Sunday.

The result of that project was a book of portraits and interview excerpts called The Coffee Group that I shared with my grandfather’s community in summer of 2018.

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On March 19th, 2019, my grandfather, Robert Harper, passed away at 5:30am. He was the foundation of our family and he will be greatly missed. I will be forever grateful for the time I had working with him on this project, and his words are a comfort as we figure out how to recalibrate our family without our navigator. Here is my grandfather’s portrait and interview from the book:

Robert Harper, Geography Professor/ Author

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Sally and I met working on the high school paper. Working on the paper was really the first time that boys and girls had a chance to work together. Everything was separated, so none of us had any experience with the other sex in a social way. At Christmas that first semester Sally and I were working together, she invited me to go on a hayride sponsored by her club. Well, we went on the hayride and I was thrilled with her. But I was shy around girls, and really, adults too.

Afterward I was afraid if I called to ask her out she might say, “no,” or I might have to talk to her parents, and I didn’t want to do that. So I put it off and put it off. That’s when my best friend, George McCoy, locked me in the basement and said he wouldn’t let me out until I called her. But once that happened the dam broke and we were dating all the time.

I thought she was great. She was prickly, but we got along and I just liked being with her. She was my best friend. I was really thrilled when she put on a card one time, “The best thing I ever did was say, ‘I do.'”

My life was serendipity. It all just bubbled along. A wartime wedding and the GI Bill changed my life path. I enjoyed writing the textbooks. I enjoyed teaching. I enjoyed some of the work with organizations. I didn’t always succeed at stuff when I tried, but generally I did. I didn’t plan my life, but my life couldn’t have come out better, except that I wish Sally had lived longer, and I had lived not so long.

I was always kidding her, saying that I’d die and she’d marry some other guy. She pooh-poohed that. I certainly didn’t expect to be the one to live the longest. I don’t want to share my life anymore with anybody except her. I’m a one-woman man.

I don’t dream much, but when I dream I have almost never seen her in a dream. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss her, but I’m a pragmatist. My feeling is that when something happens, it happens. And when it’s over, it’s over, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So there’s no sense mourning about it all. You just have to go onto the next chapter.

I always was afraid of death because I didn’t think there was life after death, but now I’m to a point where it really doesn’t matter to me. When I die there should be no sad songs for me. I have had a good life. But I don’t want anybody trying to extend my life. There’s a difference between living and existing, and I don’t want to just exist.

I grew up in a religious, Republican family. Very traditional. Very conservative. Sally did too. But I think the University of Chicago changed our perspective. There was a lot of social concern and discussion of issues like that. Sally always was afraid she’d become a communist going to that school. But it changed our perspective on life. So once we rejected that old system, it was a matter of learning a new system.

I certainly have shifted from traditional Christianity to feeling that some kind of world religion will ultimately come out of this, and that a lot of religion is just superstition. When you think about how poorly most of the people have lived on the Earth, they were certainly looking for a world that was better than their lot. The poorer you were, the more you wanted.

I don’t really think that there’s life after death, but if there is, I hope they let us look down to see what’s going on in the world, because I think we’re at the beginning of a revolution that is going to change life as much as the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution. I think this information data revolution is going to revolutionize your lives and the lives of your kids. It’s going to be a whole different ballgame.

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For more about my grandfather and how much he meant to our family:

https://paigegreenblog.com/2007/08/15/traditions/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2008/08/26/bathing-beauties/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2009/09/21/apple-dumplings-root-beer-saloon-my-grandparents-and-me/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2009/08/17/65-years-photos-for-my-blob-part-i/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2010/01/12/my-grandpa-will-always-be-my-favorite-santa/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2011/09/26/you-made-my-life/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2012/01/01/why-am-i-doing-this-again-best-of-2011/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2016/01/04/i-want-to-learn-how-to-drive-a-monster-truck-in-2016/

 

Zero to Two happened fast, too fast…

Two years ago, I started this blog post:

Welcome to the world baby, Alistair Henry Harris…

_44A0092We waited a long time for you to arrive.   000061900007A long, long time.

000061910012And you didn’t come how we expected…

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IMG_7027All whopping 10.2lbs of you.

IMG_7029Everyone was excited to meet you, but no one more excited than your big brother…

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And then, as it happens with the second child, I blinked (and didn’t finish this blog post) and suddenly TWO YEARS flew by…

Ally_44A9060-2And now you are a little boy who has become very serious about baseball…

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Ally_44A9139And dance parties…

But best of all, you have a relationship with your brother…boys14042016bwthat just keeps on getting better and better.

ally_44A9101Happy To You, Ally Boo Boo! To show you how much we love you, we are going to get you some shirts for your birthday, so you aren’t half naked in all the photos in your next birthday post.

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(MTV video footage by: Laura Schneider.)

thoughts from a house full of boys…

Once upon a time I believed gender was a social construct… but along came my two very adorable and completely truck, mud, ball and wrestling obsessed little boys. And I quickly learned that girls and boys are indeed different creatures, without any help from society.

After four years of living in my boy centered world, I find myself standing next to my sons, also staring at little girls like they are from another planet. A planet that I once belonged to and will happily jump at the opportunity to visit any chance I get…

Happy 2015: Once in a Lifetime…

Well, it’s that time of year again…paigegreen2014paigegreenAOCSF082014-017-1

Meaning it’s time to dig through the memories of last year…

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Pull out the highlights…

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And make big plans for the coming year…

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Thing is, I have been chasing big plans for the past 15 years…

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Finding a job turned into building a career…

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Six years of saying, “my boyfriend Arann,” turned into five years of saying, “my husband Arann…”

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One great dog love was lost and another amazing dog love was found…

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Paying the rent turned into paying the mortgage…

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And two people became four…

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So now that all the important life boxes have been checked…

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I have a lot of brain space that is available for rent…

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But instead of searching for the next big thing…

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I would rather slow life down…

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And celebrate how amazing things are right now…

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Because the most important lesson I learned from 2014…

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Is that life does not always go as you planned…

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And it all can change so fast without any warning

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So in 2015, I am looking for more of this…

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paigegreen2014paigegreenAnna110514-050And less of this…

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Because hopefully there will be more harvests…

paigegreen2014paigegreenDaVero92414-088More drinks…paigegreen2014Paige_Green_Peets_DUO_WIP2_v2_FINAL_Rd1(2)More cook books…breadrevolution2014

More clothes…

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And more weddings…paigepageDaniAdam092014-0579

 

But these two will only be like this…

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Once in a Lifetime.

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So Happy 2015 (five days late.) Here is to a year of no big plans.

 

 

 

 

Well, if we have to grow old…

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At least we get to grow old together…

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And at least we know we’ll have fun while we are doing it…

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Happy Birthday to my Favorite Chicken…

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I am so glad you are my person…

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And I look forward to seeing what happens…

5323990009Next…

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Day 26 – MAN-venture…

When I asked HAH if he wanted to go on an adventure today, he said, “A MAN-venture.” Lucky kid gets to spend a lot of time with his dad and his dad’s creative vocabulary.171-harper2yr But today was a family-venture day, which I documented with my Rolleiflex, a medium format film camera, so no photos to share of today, yet.

173-harper2yrFortunately I didn’t share any photos last year, so here are some film photos from our Wisconsin family-venture last summer.

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Because I am the photographer, it looks like all we ever have are MAN-ventures… but occasionally I can sweet talk Arann in to photographing me so I get to be in a couple of photos too…000076850006Although it is quite funny how miserable we seem in all of these photos… but that is what can happen with slow focusing cameras, just look at any photo of your great-great-grandparents as kids.

000076820006To prove that it was actually a fun trip… here is at least one happy smiling photo to help start Monday off right.

Day 3 – bribery for a good cause (picking just one photo a day is going to be hard…)

New Year’s Resolution #3: Hike up the hill behind our house once a day.

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Good thing I didn’t say we couldn’t bring cookies as motivation…

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Because hiking with a two-year-old kind of defeats the reason for the resolution.

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But five cookies, two tangerines, a handful of almonds and craisins later and…

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We finally made it to our goal.

paigegreen01032013-048Going home was a much easier sell. paigegreen01032013-052

Mabel Mai and The Big Flip are going on The Katie Couric Show!!!!

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It is an exciting time for the Wan-Rees family and for The Big Flip! On May 22nd, 2013, sweet Mabel Mai was born and we were lucky to have the opportunity to document what day 5 looked like for this family of 6…

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And now for the Katie Couric part…. on Tuesday, June 11th, Mabel Mai is going to New York, with her parents and The Big Flip, to tell Katie Couric what it is like to be in a modern family with a breadwinning mom and a stay-at-home dad. We are crazy excited for this amazing family and for the opportunity to share our documentary project with the Nation.

To find out how you can watch the Wan-Rees family on national television and to learn more about the The Big Flip click here: http://bigflipdocumentary.com/action

the most beautiful home birth I almost saw…

If you asked me how my home birth was, you would not hear me say, “My home birth was beautiful.”

Instead I very honestly would tell you, “It was extremely long, incredibly painful and very, very messy. I can understand why drugs were invented and why people take them.”

Between endless hours of back-breaking contractions, I kept repeating, “This is ridiculous. How can there be 7 billion people on the planet.”

I couldn’t see why anyone would voluntarily choose to do this more than once in their lifetime, let alone 7 billion times.

People told me eventually I would forget and the hormones would win again, but I refused to believe that I could ever forget what that day felt like. And I announced that I was quite happy with one.

Yet here I am, one year and 5 months later, just like everyone said, wondering… if, maybe, should we?

So I was excited when Rose sent me an email asking if I would photograph the birth of their second baby girl, who would be born at home some time in March. It would be a good test. How would it feel to see someone else go through labor? And what was a home birth like the second time around?

I was also excited because I have never seen a human being born. I have seen cows, sheep, and dogs… but not a human (I had my eyes closed the whole time during HAH’s birth.)

And I got a small taste of what it must feel like for doctors and midwives. For once in my life, I had my cell phone almost always charged and I almost always knew where it was. And at gatherings with friends, I would announce, “I can’t drink tonight, I’m on call.”

But then it didn’t happen. The due date came and went. I started filling up my calendar. I had photo shoots scheduled every day. Arann got sick, so I was working all day and on solo parenting duty at night. Until finally at the end of day two of photographing flowers in SF, I got the texts:

4:12pm “I think we are in early labor, midwife is coming over. Will text again.”

4:57 “Come now!!”

I was in San Francisco.

The family was in Oakland.

For those of you not from the Bay Area, 5pm on a Thursday means… Fat chance.

I only had to drive 10.5 miles.

It took me one hour.

When I finally arrived at the house, Rose’s mother let me in and said, “The baby was just born, come on in.”

And this is what I saw…

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While I was disappointed to have missed the birth, it was probably for the best because I got to experience all of the joy and none of the work. Which means I can confidently say that it was the most beautiful home birth, I almost saw.

Thank you, Rose and Jonathan, for inviting me to be a part of this amazing moment in your lives. It was such an incredible honor and I am so excited for your family. And, as Rose said to me after the birth of HAH, “Have fun falling in love.”

Wait for it…

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Seana first contacted me on November 10th about family photos. We had three or four scheduled dates to meet but each time it just didn’t work out… thanks to conflicting holiday schedules, bad weather, the flu, and even an epic battle with poison oak. But we didn’t give up. We waited until schedules calmed down, the weather was just right, the poison oak went away and everyone one was feeling healthy, relaxed and ready to play…

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Thank you for not giving up, Seana.

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It was so worth the wait.

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