In a recent interview, I was asked to talk about what inspires me.  For one of the first times, I didn’t say my kids.  In fact, I didn’t even hesitate with my answer.  I said “Moms inspire me!”  At the Seattle CONFIDENCE Workshop this weekend, I was reminded of why this is so deeply true.

Twenty five women come together for a weekend of pursuing their passion.  They are nervous, a little scared, unsure of what to expect, but they bring their whole heart and soul.  And as the weekend unfolds, I watch them discover how deep their joy of photography really goes. They are risking, allowing themselves to be stretched, feeling awkward, but LOOK–joy is also everywhere!

I watch them step out on a limb, not once but several times, pushing their limitations.

I watch a soon-to-be grandma, who had no understanding of Aperture, fall in love with buttery, blurry backgrounds.

As the weekend unfolds, they produce photos that are raw, full of emotion, and beautiful!!  Even though every photo isn’t perfect, EVERY photo is full of passionate effort.  What does this have to do with jelly fish?

There is no proof of safety and security when you pursue your passion.  There is only possibility…and the reality that jelly fish lurk.

I watched Blaze stand on the beach, waves rolling up to meet his toes.  He was weighing the pros and cons.  The day before, he had been stung by a jelly fish.  The pink jelly fish in Thailand can be as big as my arms, circled in the shape of a letter “O”, floating silently along the water’s surface.  The motors of the long tail boats chop the jelly fish up, so that random tentacles are left to float (never losing their sting).  One of those tentacles wrapped around Blaze’s leg–twice–and oh, did it sting.

The locals taught us to grab a dozen green, heart shaped leaves, white vinegar and the mortar and pestle.

Mash the leaves up with the vinegar until you get a thick, green paste.

Pack it on the sting and wait for 30 minutes.  The vinegar helps bring relief to the sting, and the leaves help prevent scarring.

Blaze swears he is done swimming in the ocean for the rest of our trip.  After all, this is the second time he’s been stung.  He’s now one sting ahead of me and Pascaline, and two ahead of dad (of course).  But the next morning, I watch him from a distance.  As the waves roll in, I can see his mind mulling over the idea of risking it again.  Whether he likes it or not, swimming is his passion.  Does he risk it again?  Or does he give up swimming for the rest of the trip?

He whips around and comes running to me.  He just lost his front tooth a few days ago, his smile is wide and toothless.  There is a red line that still shows on his leg, wrapping twice above the knee.  “Can I go swimming this morning?!” he asks.  I smile.  He’s decided.  I know he is nervous, fully aware of the risk he’s taking, but he is still willing to risk again.  I’m so proud of him.  I’m inspired by him.  His passion for swimming is more powerful than the risk of being stung again.

There is no warning of a jellyfish coming your way.  Like unexpected criticism or momentary failures, they can surprise you when you least expect it–when you are swimming–laughing from a place that’s deep withing your belly.  The stings can happen at high tide or low tide.  They can happen whether you know how to swim in deep waters or shallow waters.  And it doesn’t have to be the whole jelly…often the small, unexpected jelly pieces hurt the most.  But, to swim in Thailand, you’ve got to step into the ocean.  You’ve go to risk being stung.  And once it happens to you, you are acutely aware of the fact that it can happen again.  But that’s not all you are aware of…you are also aware of the fact that you will survive another sting just fine–

and possibly love the thrill of swimming that much more.

It’s late Sunday night.  Brian is on his way to pick up the kids from Grammie and Papa’s house.  I change into my pj’s, and I can’t escape the smile I feel inside of me.  Yes, I’m tired after a full workshop weekend.  But I’m also deeply thankful.  I can’t believe that ten times a year, I get to spend the weekend with courageous women who inspire me more than they will ever know.  They are fully aware of the jelly fish lurking, and they still decide to jump in with both feet.  What a sight!  What an amazing sound of joy!  What an inspiration you ALL are to me.

Thank you for this last weekend and all the other weekends we have spent together!  Chicago, I can’t wait to see you end of this month!