It’s no secret that I had a fantastic day with these two people on their lovely wedding day. Their zest and love for life and each other was palpable in the air around us, and there wasn’t one unsmiling face in the crowd to celebrate it all. It’s an honor to be a part of every special day that my client’s bring me in for, and this one was no different. Here’s a slideshow of my faves from the day. Thank you Ian and Jen, I can’t wait to capture more of your beautiful love story!
Early last year, when I embarked on a brand new project with my new friend, I felt like one long, lost soul. Life was chaotic and crazy for me, a mom of three young, hysterical, energetic, strong-willed ladies (read: stubborn, hard-headed, doggedly determined). I was trying with all my might to home school them, run my house, and a fledgling small business all at the same time. Oh, and also treat myself like a human being (as opposed to my self-martyring mom role I sometimes can play when I’m overwhelmed). Oh, and be a good wife! And friend! The time for me seemed nowhere to be found, and I was slowly folding inward with my introverted self wishing for more ways to express myself, my darkness. I was feeling trapped, claustrophobic, like I was keeping a part of myself locked up. “How can I get out of here?!?” I thought. The restlessness of my brain was just too much, and I just had no idea how to calm the beast. Do you ever feel that?
Anyhow, as most lost souls are found, I just kept walking the path of life, doing my best to navigate with the life skills that I had, and adding more in as I learned them. Thanks to said friend, I stumbled across some books by Brene Brown (if you haven’t read them, DO), and wow did she add to my skill set! I learned so much about vulnerability and courage and bravery and honesty, and I also learned painfully honest truths about my worthiness and self-esteem. After a great deal of reading and discussing with my esteemed friend, and several vulnerable interviews into our project, I was finally inspired to try a different form of creativity from my photography. I knew it had been brewing inside me. I knew I wasn’t doing enough, creating enough. I heart photography, believe me I do, but I also love to create in other ways; physical, hands covered in paint and glue and glitter that you can’t get off kind of creating, and I was missing out on that. Like my soul was craving it. My darkness wanted to be unleashed! Explored! It wanted me! We interviewed this watercolor and illustration artist, Jenna, from Mon Voir, and my mind was blown. (That’s her messy watercolor pallet up at the top.) I so much appreciated her vulnerability and courage to be so honest with us about the process of art and what it means to her. That the process of art, and what you learn about yourself during the process is what matters, not the outcome. She was incredible and inspiring. Thank you, Jenna! From there I dove in, and haven’t looked back.
After some research and getting involved in the creative community more, I found this really great community online called Get Messy Art Journal, and it’s been just incredible. The support of the creativity, and the process, and everything that goes on in between beginning a project to the final product, being an artist can feel like a lonely road sometimes, and they make it so much more fun. They also encourage you to art journal every day, or as often as you can manage. Which sounds impossible, and has been for me so far. It’s been really hard to fit it into my schedule, and I’ve really learned a lot about carving out art time for myself. Especially in this latest season of prompts they came out with, the Season of Lists! If you know me, you know that I am a lover of lists. I will spend my downtime making lists. It’s relaxing and fun for me. It helps me to feel prepared and organized and in the know. So when I found out that they were doing a season of lists, 30 Days of Lists over 6 weeks, I was so stoked! I was in for the challenge. And it was super difficult for me to keep up. I didn’t get to art journal every day, I would do a bunch of a week’s worth of work in one or two days after spending the week writing out the lists. But I gave myself grace, and tried my best to keep up, and get the most out of the process as possible. And it was wonderful, and I’m so proud of myself for finishing. And really, only a few days after the season has ended, so I wasn’t so behind after all! The process of making my beautiful, messy, tiny art journal was as freeing and cathartic as I thought it could be, and my darkness is pleased to be expressed in the process, not the outcome.
In the spirit of lists, and because I just got off of 6 weeks of writing the best lists ever, I thought I’d share my pearls of wisdom that I learned during the Season of Lists…in a list! Here it is:
I can create art purely for myself, without care of external input.
Creating something every day helps me to feel more human.
If I don’t create every day, I feel like I am missing a part of myself.
The world needs me to create my art. No one can create my art but ME.
I am unique.
My voice matters.
I will never be perfect, I will just be me.
I enjoy spending time exploring my darkness while creating.
Grace is very important to have for yourself so that you can give it to others.
Healthy self talk leads to better results than negative self talk.
Being a part of a community of people who also feel the need to create every day is inspiring and life altering.
When I create, I am a better person.
Without further ado, here is a Flip-a-gram of my little, mini-messy art journal for the Season of Lists…
I’ve been going through an artist’s struggle the past couple of years. And if you’re any kind of creative (you should be, we all are!), you know what I mean. I’ve been going through that constant cycle of “This is awesome. This is tricky. This is crap. I am crap. This might be ok. This is awesome.” And so it goes, round and round, each new cycle teaching me something more about my craft, my creativity, my darkness, my need to create. There’s this really great quote from Ira Glass that you can watch/listen to here that describes that artists struggle to a T for me. And so I keep on trucking. Every time I feel like my art is crap, I know growth is right around the corner. And I keep wading through the crap until I get to that feeling of “This is awesome!” once again. Because the artist’s journey is never over. There is always more story to be told. And I’m determined to be the author of that story.
The Lewis Family is a very special family in my life. They are, by and large, just like any other average American family, trying to live the dream. But they have something that sets them slightly apart from many families, and that is that they are all choosing to be a Forever Family, together. I think that is something incredible and amazing. This session came up for me when I was deep in my funk. Not feeling the flow of my art. But when I found out that they were finalizing their adoption, I couldn’t think of anything more joyful to capture. This family, for me, embodies grace, joy, patience and gratefulness. I think there is something very profound about intentionally choosing to be a parent, intentionally choosing to love unconditionally. It truly touches my soul, and I feel so grateful myself to have them in my life. We were able to meet for a very quick session before they headed out to the courthouse to finalize the adoption, and make these amazing kids officially a LEWIS! It was truly an honor to be a part of this day with them, and to be able to capture memories that I know will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Here’s an overview of our short, but extremely joyful morning together. One of my favorite parts was when they first got there, and Michael RAN into my arms and hugged me, and I could feel his excitement and joy exuding from his little body. I don’t know if my heart could have withstood any more joy and gratefulness than I felt in this morning. Thank you Lewis Family for sharing it with me, and allowing me to tell this part of your story…
A new forever family jumping for joy! Congratulations, Lewis Family!
I never knew how much the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” was true until I had a few of those children myself. I’m three kids into this parenting game, and some (read: most) days I’m ready to scream out for my village (or whoever is wiling) to come and save me from the insanity that can be my chaotic house. Other days, I’m reaching out to my village to share in the joys and triumphs of my children, who make my heart so full I feel like it could literally burst sometimes. The village is important. Everyone needs one. When you become a parent, you’ll likely seek one out if you don’t already have one.
This particular village was a spectacular village. There was so much love and laughter and support, you could feel it surrounding you. See it sparking in their eyes as they looked at each other. It was quite a privilege to be let in to tell this part of their beautiful story. Best friends often go through everything together. Breakups, breakouts, bad clothes, bad relationships, bad jobs, college, roommates, more boyfriends, graduation, marriage, babies, the works! These best friends are no different. In fact, I got to photograph FIVE best friends, experiencing one of the best milestones you could ask for in life, having babies!! Ok, only 2 of those friends were actually pregnant, but those babies have a LOT of love coming their way. It was truly such a joy to spend time with these guys and capture this amazing time in their life.
Not so true to California weather, mother nature had us going for this shoot. It was POURING rain the morning of our first scheduled shoot day. It was less than ideal settings. As in, usually I’d cancel! But knowing this would be the only day we could have them all together for some group shots, we just went with it anyway. I’m so glad we did. We ended up doing 3 separate sessions, with 3 separate groupings of people. Enjoy a rather long photo montage (and commentary) on our time together!
I asked them what their fave pass time is with each other. They said singing. WHAT?? Please, serenade! And oh did they, with one of my favorite Journey songs!
As good women tend to do, they brought these two good man together. BFF’s.
Hold the baby, caress the baby…don’t drop the baby!! 😀 Dad’s having fun making some surprise pics for their ladies at the end of our rainy day!
So, it was so good that we immediately rescheduled the photos for the next weekend, because one mamma went into labor early! And baby boy Steck was born almost before I could even finish Mama Steck’s photos! These friends were entirely too adorable together. I couldn’t help but have a great time with them.
We were professionals at squeezing in as many shots as we could in this evening. We had some gorgeous light!
“…and she loved a little boy.” The Giving Tree. Love.
Several weeks later, we got the rest of the photos in! I couldn’t be happier that we were able to reschedule and get
all the photos in that these guys were hoping to get before their bundles arrived.
These love birds had some amazing chemistry!
Ahhhhh so much beauty with these ladies! A big thank you to Laurelyn, Tara, Greg, Josh, and Bria for allowing me to tell this part of your story. It was an honor. <3
I sat down to my computer this morning feeling very overwhelmed. Just with the usual things. Work, motherhood, homeschooling, responsibilities, life, not feeling like there are enough hours in the day to get it all done the way I want to get it done. My oldest daughter is still at her first slumber party, and I’m still grieving (since I dropped her off last night) over the little girl that she isn’t anymore, and the young lady that she is becoming. I even took a picture of her before we were in front of her friends so I could commemorate the event. She was still embarrassed. Where does time go?? There’s times I can barely remember what they were like as a baby, and then there are these stark moments of remembrance, and feeling like it was just yesterday that I held them in my arms for the first time, tears streaming down my face with joy and wonder at the life we would experience together. And now here we are, still in the young years, but feeling like we are on a freight train that is barreling through life, not slowing down for one moment. Thanks, John Mayer, for the metaphor.
It’s fitting that when I sat down, feeling all of these feelings, that I should look up the topic I scheduled for myself to write about for today. And low and behold, it says “Balancing work and motherhood, 365”. Well, I don’t feel like I’m balancing work and motherhood very well at all right now. And I have been royally failing at my 365. Like, King size royally failing. So, the first thing I did was get off of my computer, play a few games of Uno with my middle, get in a few minutes of snuggle time with my still sleeping hubby, enjoy a second cup of coffee whilst pondering the fun my oldest is having, and watch my youngest hang off my leg. I needed to just calm down, be all in with my family, and feel grateful for it all so that I could erase that yucky “I suck at balancing” feeling. Sometimes when I think I’m checking the block to overflow their cup with love, I realize that it’s really my cup being filled, too. Refreshing. Gave me such a new perspective for this blog post.
The morning reminded me of my very first (and still only) Connecting Things event I went to last November. It was a chilly morning, I was feeling so nervous I wanted to barf all over my carefully picked outfit and one of my only pairs of “business” shoes, as I call them. ( I own more “mom” shoes than “business” shoes these days). My friend tells me that my barfing feeling is really just living. So now I call them my barfy butterflies. Because that sounds more palatable to me. I’m barfing because I’m living! Anyway, I’m on my way to Connecting Things, feeling barfy/alive because I’m hugely stepping out of my comfort zone, and into the arena, to go put my introverted self into a situation in which I must be social, and represent myself as a business person. ACK! I feel afraid of that sometimes. People looking at me like I’m a business person, and then laughing hysterically at me, pointing and saying “Who do you think you are?!?” But I digress. I took the risk, and walked into the mob of people that come to these events. I only talked to the people sitting in front of me, but that’s okay. Baby steps, right?
So, the speaker at Connecting Things, Dane Sanders, wrote his speech to speak directly to me…and the hundreds of other creative entrepreneurs in the crowd. You can watch it here. It’s truly inspiring. He talked about what it means to decide to be a BUSINESS OWNER, and how it’s attitudinal, you have to choose it. I left owning my Business Owner title more proudly than I ever had. And have been working on owning that ever since. Dane said “Deciding to BE an owner is the most difficult part of becoming a creative entrepreneur.” And I would totally agree. The business end of this shindig has been at times excruciatingly painful, but it has also brought great joy and satisfaction. And I have to learn to take each in stride with grace and humility, and continue to walk the path I know is right, even when it’s difficult or painful. Because the joy and satisfaction always trumps the excruciating pain, if not makes it even more beautiful.
But my take away was this… BE ALL IN. In whatever you’re doing, in that moment. Be all in. Taking care of business? Be all in. Spending time with your kids? Be all in. Doing you? Be all in. Hanging with your man? Be all in. Barfy butterflies? Definitely be all in. And when you feel like you can’t be all in? Be all in. It’s worth it.
My even bigger takeaway was the note I wrote myself when Dane talked about being “all in”…
When I thought about why I’m really scared of being all in, I realized that when I’m not, I’m looking at everything from a birds eye view, making my lists of things I need to do to make myself feel like I accomplished something that makes me feel productive that day, or makes my life feel more organized and less chaotic. The people in my life are not productivity tasks, so we have a problem there. Furthermore, I shouldn’t be doing a bunch of things on a To Do list, just to feel productive, because truly at the end of the day, productivity doesn’t mean anything to me. I end up thinking about all of the missed opportunities with my kids because of what I felt I needed to do instead. Instead of just being ALL IN, wherever I’m at at the time, I spend time making lists so that I don’t have to be all in. So I can check boxes, and maybe not feel that fear that I am not being productive in life.
Dane talked about lists, and said “Don’t create a To Do list, create a To Be list.”
Be a kind and loving person, to others and to myself
Be authentic, courageous and honest
Be the mom and wife I want to be
Be a person who makes a difference in the world
Be a BUSINESS OWNER
Be an artist
Be a creator
Be a mover and a shaker
So, onward and upward. I stopped using the word “balance” in my life, and started practicing being all in, wherever I’m at. Being all in to me means just normal, authentic me, doing my best at whatever I’m doing at the time, and trying to put my heart and soul into it. Even when I don’t particularly enjoy what I’m doing. And giving myself grace when I fail. There’s growth in failure.
What’s YOUR To Be list?? I want to hear it!
I have to be honest, I had barfy butterflies about posting this blog post. Because it’s vulnerable and honest. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about being all in, it’s that you have to take risks, even when it feels uncomfortable (or barfy). Full photographer’s disclosure: No matter what you see displayed on websites or social media, it is not always possible to capture every meaningful moment in perfect lighting and composition. Those shots are almost always set up, or stumbled on by coincidence. Even photographers take photos that aren’t great in technique, but are still so meaningful! When I’m using my iPhone, my photos are often if not almost always imperfect. So to accompany a post of discomfort that is lacking in photos, here’s a real life look at some of my 365 photos I mentioned I’ve been failing at, sans any editing or filters, straight from the iPhone:
Sisters <3 I just love them
A little photo shoot set-up for Kaylan’s birthday. You will NOT want to miss that blog post 😛
She started her own business, Caring for Cleaning. Some days she shows me up and teaches me what it means to choose: BUSINESS OWNER!
Getting instructions from on of her customers…
Out on the job, making herself proud!
A little theater rehearsal…
Baby Hulk resides here…No really. She does.
If you’re wondering why some of my iPhone photos are smaller than others, I’ll be sharing some photo tips on the blog next week to help you with taking good quality photos from your phone! It is possible!
Thanks for reading along and joining on my vulnerable journey of trying to live all in. I’d love to hear about how you choose to live all in!
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