In My Shoes – State Fair Bound

“Fear has two meanings; ‘Forget Everything and Run’ or ‘Face Everything and Rise.’ The choice is yours.” Zig Ziglar

On Saturday, June 16th of this year, wearing my favorite shoes (see previous post) I took a step towards my fears. I entered four photos into the Iowa State Fair Salon. Standing in line, white knuckles hesitating to hand over the work that represented hundreds of miles of gravel roads and hours of preparing not just the photographs but also myself, I was just excited to be facing my fear of simply entering. Seeing the stacks of pictures already dropped off by hopeful artists, I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. I appreciated the simplicity of the process at that moment. Already past the first check point, there was no turning back. I handed over the four prints, paid my fee and walked out congratulating myself on doing what I had set out to do.

To some, it may seem like no big thing, entering photos in a local photography contest. Big deal. Yes, for someone who often finds themselves paralyzed by her own fears, it really is a big deal. For someone who struggled for years to even share my photos with family and friends for fear of being laughed at, it’s a big deal. For me, it’s not just about the contest, it’s a step forward towards a dream I’ve had for years. It’s a chance to really put myself out there and win or lose, learn from the experience. And maybe even more important, right now, in this moment, as I sit here looking at the postcard that just arrived in the mail, telling me that one of my “photos has been accepted for display”, it’s a big deal to just be excited. To be proud of the work I’ve done and allow myself to celebrate a goal achieved. Every journey begins with a single step, right?

In My Shoes

 

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So…I just finished a book. I read lots of books but…as corny as it may sound…this book was different. This book felt as though it could have been written by me. It could have been written by my best friend. It could have been written by so many women that I know. It resonated with me so much that I often found myself cheering out loud at particular paragraphs and statements. Thankfully no one was around in those moments, but even if they had been, I don’t know that it would have stopped me.

Now that I have finished it and because it so plainly was exactly what I needed to hear I cannot help but follow through on her advice. The first of which is to write down my dream. More specifically she says…”Before you continue reading, take a few moments to focus on a specific dream. Get out a piece of paper and write it down…Come on, girl-no one is watching. There’s nobody here to judge.”** Yikes!! I had intended to write it out on paper because writing things down helps you remember and gives your conscience connection to what is being said. Though possibly foolish, I have decided to take it one step further and type it out for anyone to see. Here goes nothing.

It is my dream to wake up every morning grateful for the blessings in my life and go to bed each night knowing that I have lived my day as authentically as I can. Two things I cannot say that I have ever done, at least not for a long time. I get caught up in the everyday and forget or take for granted all the wonderful in my life. I live afraid of not being good enough, and so sure that I’m going to fail that I don’t even try. I’m a perfectionist and since I am far from perfect I’m always afraid to allow the real me to be seen. The real me is…broken but fighting. I am good enough and I know that I no longer need to depend on other people’s opinions to define my self-esteem. (Thank you Will Smith!)***

I recently completed a mid-year review of the goals I started in January for 2018. Call it what you will but me finding this book and witnessing some amazing changes of a close friend, and so many other little things have culminated to bring me to this place. I finally feel like I’m finding my own way.

I have a dream beyond just the things I mentioned here but that one I’m not quite ready share. That one I do need to write on paper and sit with awhile. These shoes pictured above are a symbol, of sorts. I’m not a shoe person but I adore these shoes. I am looking forward to all the places they are going to take me and I cannot wait to share that journey with you.

** © 2018 by Rachel Hollis – Girl, Wash Your Face    I highly recommend this book to anyone  needing encouragement and inspiration to follow your dreams.

*** @willsmith SELF-Esteem. Instagram post.

My Photography

Fountain of Tears

I don’t have a bucket list. In the back of my mind I have a list of things I think I would like to do in this lifetime but I’ve had enough experiences to know that plenty of those things just simply will never happen, not because I don’t believe they can but because…well…life. I’m okay with that, most days. What I seem to struggle with most are the moments and experiences that I didn’t realize I wanted until it was too late. I was always busy rushing about life hyper-focused on what needs to be done and how others might feel or think about what wasn’t perfect. I seldom took the time to slow down and really pay attention to what I thought or felt or wanted.

That’s one of the things I love about photography. For a few moments I get to really stop and focus in on one thing and in that moment I get to pay attention to what I think and how I feel about it. How does what I’m seeing affect me? Does it affect me? I sincerely appreciate when my photos catch other people’s attention but it starts with just me and my point of view. I get to decide what I like, what I appreciate, what I keep and what I crop. When I’m in that zone I get to appreciate my own unique perspective and it has taught me that I have worth and that I am capable of having and sharing my own vision.

Of course life isn’t exactly the same. I can’t go back and crop back in the parts I thought I could live without. No, I have to accept what has passed though the lens of my life. I can however take a lesson from my photography and apply it to my life. I can learn to slow down and pay closer attention, not just to those I care about around me but also to myself. I can zoom in and focus on the parts that really matter to me. I can learn to value myself and the gifts and blessings I have been given. I can embrace the imperfections and see that by trying to edit or cover them up I lose the true beauty in the pictures of my life.

 

Comfortable Frustration

Slowing Down and Letting Go

Some days I wish I could just turn off the constant whirring in my own head. Just a quick little flip of a switch and all the to-do’s, plans and random musings could be replaced with…quiet, peaceful nothingness.

At the beginning of the year I started working on a process of setting specific goals. With larger dreams and plans in mind, I set monthly, weekly and daily steps to help me work towards those bigger dreams and plans. Oddly, or at least to me, I like organization but have never really been one to plan. Even when I worked as an event planner, my own life was lived pretty wide open. I just went with whatever needed to be done, when it needed to be done, which admittedly, sometimes led to things not being done and an overall feeling of discontent and frustration.

Now, after 6 months of trying to be more focused and intentional about my life and the days and minutes that make it up, I still find that I’m just as frustrated. In May I found myself so disheartened that decided to take a little break. I still set goals, I still practiced my photography a bit but I didn’t make any of it a priority. I reverted back a bit to just living each day with whatever it brought. It also helped that I work full-time at a garden center and with the late spring May was incredibly busy.

My PowerSheets that I use for goal setting has you do a review at the end of each month, so at the end of May I took a little extra time to evaluate my attitude towards the whole process and how I wanted to proceed. While it has been frustrating to be reminded each month, in my own handwriting, how many goals have gone unmet, I focused on the positive and I discovered a few things about myself. I love the process. I love thinking about and planning and writing…the process. When it comes to putting it into practice, I freeze up and avoid. I sabotage. I have become so comfortable with frustration that I actually fear accomplishing my own goals.

May was a blur of work and little sleep and quite honestly, completing only one goal on my list but May also brought some answered prayers and what I’m hoping is a more grateful attitude towards the life that I have been blessed with. I want to accomplish my goals and I want to break some long learned habits that are keeping me stuck in this comfortable frustration but I also know that I can only take one step at a time and that I need to be present and not take what I have done and do have for granted.

Beaderstadt/Kilts Reception

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When I married my husband I knew I had found a great guy. Stable, capable and funny…I really felt blessed. Then I met his friends and I knew I must be the luckiest woman in the world. A lot like Chris himself, his friends are an amazing collection of big hearts, loyalty and character.

So it was a huge privilege to be asked to photograph the wedding reception of our good friends son and daughter-in-law. Unlike the weather that weekend, the Beaderstadts are just good, fun people. With ready smiles they brighten any gathering and are never short of hilarious stories. The newlyweds, Brett and Ashley, are slightly more reserved and were so sweet, graciously meeting and mingling with their guests.

The reception was a perfect representation of the couple and their families. Held at the Copper Creek Golf Club in Pleasant Hill, the decorations were beautiful and understated. It was a perfect evening spent doing what I love and hanging out with people I feel blessed to call friends.

Head Table

Small Things

Looking for a Place to Land

With the crazy weather we’ve had this spring I’m dying to get out and practice all the wonderful lessons I’ve taken in over the winter. Unable to do that as quickly as I would like, I decided that the birds who visit the feeders outside our living room window might make for some interesting opportunities. So…I removed the screen from the window and at least once a day I camp out there with my camera. The crazy thing is that with the screen gone, suddenly the birds seem to have no qualms about just flying right up to, and in a couple of unfortunate incidents, smack into the window. A woodpecker has taken to clinging to the window frame and ever not-so-gently pecking at the glass. And not to be outdone, our cat has taken to tapping on the window to signal his return and “could you please let me in to eat?”

I’d like to say that I’ve been able to put all this pent up knowledge to good use, and honestly, I have actually found the exercise somewhat useful. I’m getting much better at anticipating crash landings. I’ve saved a couple small finches from death-by-cat and in all fairness, the birds are oddly entertaining. I often catch myself laughing out loud at their antics. I have been witness to what I can only describe as a nail-biting reenactment of David and Goliath when a small finch took on a bird twice its size.

I may not be perfecting my posing or exposure but I am being reminded every day that there is value in the moments of our lives when we choose to be present and appreciate even the small things.

Clear Your Mind

Clear Your Mind

For me, one of the best ways to cleanse your soul and clear your mind is to get a little dirty. Sitting here tonight I cannot describe how bone-aching weary I feel. Nor can I begin to relay the contentedness of my heart. I just spent the day heaving, lifting, sliding and pushing some of the prettiest potted trees and plants my eyes have seen. Now, that may seem an over exaggeration and I agree I might be looking through rose colored glasses, so to speak. Spring has not exactly made itself know yet around here, so its easy to get carried away when presented with cart after cart of beautiful, colorful plants and several hours of sunshine and a temperature that doesn’t make me want to jump into my sweats and back under the covers.

A year ago I made some huge decisions that quite honestly terrified me. I walked away from a job that offered definite financial benefits but left me drained and sad. I started my own business and took on a part-time job to help relieve some of the financial pressure. Today, that part-time job has turned into an enormous blessing and unexpected inspiration. When I made the choice to leave behind cubicle walls I promised myself that whatever else I did I would never compromise or settle. That I would be true to who I am and that my work, whether my photography or other employment,  would be a true and accurate representation of me and my values and my passions.

Today, standing amid an array of arborvitae, spruce and juniper, feeling the ache in the tips of my fingers and in my feet and back, I felt amazing. I know it isn’t always possible to do work that brings you joy and I am so completely grateful for all of the people in my life who have given me the encouragement and opportunities to do what I do. I know this would not be possible nor would it be the same without my family and friends and co-workers who inspire me every single day.

Now, a word of warning. Tomorrow morning if you see me and I don’t seem so…”joyful”…bear with me…my body likes to keep me humble and remind me that I’m not a kid anymore.

Did You Know?

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I am going to  just put this out there and say that even though I’m a photographer, I do not like having my picture taken. I often joke that I’m behind the camera for a reason. I do not think I’m photogenic in any way shape or form, and 99% of the time the pictures that I see of myself confirm that. So, last night when I finished my Marketing Jumpstart class by Katelyn James and realized the very first thing I really needed to do is take a more professional picture for my website and social media, I closed my browser and went to bed.

 

When I woke up this morning to another cloudy, cold day I was quick to make the excuse that I couldn’t possibly get the right picture on such a day! The minute I had the thought I heard a little inner voice challenge it…”Oh really?” So, I set out to prove my own self wrong! It needs a little work but honestly, if you could see my first attempt at a professional head shot about 6 years ago you’d understand just how far I’ve come. (Maybe I’ll get brave enough to share it sometime.) For now I think I’m going to take another one of Katelyn’s suggestions and share a few things you might not know about me.

I believe the smell of eucalyptus and spearmint is the bees knees. My mouth actually waters at the thought of QuikTrip ice with a little splash of pineapple papaya tea.  I have broken my right wrist twice; once when I was eleven and again when I was thirty-two, both times while rollerskating. My favorite city is Chicago but in the name of full disclosure, I have not been to many big cities. I adore the soft socks from Altr’d State. All-time favorite vacation…Niagara Falls. I hate horror movies or anything violent for that matter. Gilmore Girls will forever be my go-to series. I will never get tired of the sound of rain on a metal roof and my favorite form of escape is my camera, a gravel road and good music.

 

Practice Creative

Practice

April…why has thou forsaken me? Okay, so I’m being a tad dramatic. If we really take the time to remember back a little bit, this weather is not all that unusual. We’ve just been spoiled for a few years. So…I’m continuing to do my upmost to make the best of it.

I’m currently taking a class from Katelyn James. She along with her husband is a wonderful wedding photographer and she just has a beautiful spirit about her. I’m so excited about what I’m learning and since the weather is not offering much opportunity for outdoor practice I decided to spend some time at home today applying a few things I have been picking up. Lighting is something that I knew I wanted to work on and I have no issue geeking out about how much fun I had experimenting with difficult lighting situations.

I love our home but it is rather dark, especially on cold gray days like today. Normally I don’t mind turning on a lamp here and there and just enjoying the cozy feeling but when I’m trying to take photos the space can be very frustrating. Today, however, I felt like I was discovering my love for photography all over again. I felt like a kid playing around with ways to use what light I did have (no lamps, Katelyn’s orders). I have one window in my living room that, on days like this, affords me any usable light. So, I needed to find a secondary source or reflector and spent over an hour playing around with a piece of white backboard that I just happened to have in my craft closet. I do have an actual reflector but I love the creative aspect of photography and honestly, enjoyed the idea of thinking outside the box and coming up with other solutions.

This photo is far from perfect but I love it because when I look at it I know the effort and creativity involved in making it. And the impact the process will have on my skills and how that will translate to being a better photographer is priceless to me. So if this gloomy spring is getting you down, challenge yourself. Find a way to use it to your advantage. Get creative. I know, I hear people say all the time, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” Nonsense. Everyone is gifted in some way with creativity and no it is not always artsy in nature. Solving problems involves creative thinking. Planting gardens, building decks or any sort of building really, or even just planning your week can, and probably for many, involves a great deal of creative thinking and juggling. The weekend is here, why not find new and unexpected ways to enjoy it.

Happy Spring!!

Elusive Spring

Elusive Spring

April 3, 2018…it’s 27 degrees and feels about 19 with the wind. More than once I’ve looked out the window today to watch snow showers bathing the buds on our beautiful front yard maple tree. I’m almost positive my magnolia buds are burned by the cold but in an attempt to not let the weather turn me cynical I decided to throw on my coat and see if I can turn mother natures bitterness into something to smile about. I desperately want to be spending more time outdoors, putting into practice all the hours of webinars and online blog reads I’ve soaked up over winter.

Walking across the yard and under that wonderful maple I watch as several small birds and a couple blue jays scatter and then disappear into the brush that runs along the ditch next to our yard.  They seem to not mind the wet and cold at all as they chirp and flutter about and cheered a little, I follow. For a moment I’m mesmerized by a pair of chickadees as they fly about in an amazingly graceful dance through the thick branches. A sudden wind reminds me that while it’s spring on the calendar apparently not everyone has gotten the memo. A cold drip lands squarely on the middle of my neck and sends a shiver to my toes. Standing in the squishy grass that looks as desperate for warmth and sun as I do, I’m grateful to have put on my rain boots but know that the small nail-sized hole in my right boot will soon betray me and my sock. I glance up at the offending branch and decide I’ve found my subject for today.

Closing Doors

Closed Doors

I’m a photographer. I am a photographer. Hello, my name is Tina and I’m a professional photographer. I’d like to think that anyone who has started their own business, especially in a creative field, might understand why saying those words out loud…to people…can be daunting and at times terrifying. Why is that? When I turned sixteen and got my first job at Sonic, I was never nervous to tell people I was a carhop. When I was a secretary I had no issues with telling people what I did. Now, as a photographer, put me in a room with people and suddenly my voice gets shaky, my palms sweaty and I’m stammering something incoherently about taking pictures and then…clear as a bell…” and I also work at Earl May.” Sometimes I don’t even mention the photography, I just go straight to my day job and then, if conversation lends itself I may mention something about being a photographer. I love my job at Earl May but I know, deep down, my heart is behind the viewfinder of my camera.

So, why the trepidation when I hear that question, “What do you do?” Is it fear? Insecurity? Lack of self-confidence? I know, to some extent it’s all those but more than that, for me anyway, it’s this overwhelming concern that the person or people I’m talking to hear me say, “I’m a photographer,” and they automatically start making judgments. ‘Oh, a photographer. So you just walk around and take pictures. Isn’t everyone a photographer these days? Huh…my aunt’s cousin and her sister are photographers and so is my neighbor, and my wife’s uncle Fred also takes pictures of squirrels and birds on their back deck.’  Now, do people really have these thoughts? Yes, I’m sure some do, maybe more than I really want to know but why is it that what someone may or may not be thinking has so much control over how I feel about my work? Honestly…I have no idea. Now, I have listened as people poked fun at the idea of taking pictures for a living and I was raised by a conservative grandmother who had strong opinions about what real work was but when my adult self is standing in front of someone, shaking at the knees and trying desperately to sound confident, I’m not thinking about my grandmother and her opinions. I’m thinking about the person in front of me and their opinion. Why?? They are not living my life. They do not have my dreams, my passions, my specific desires. Most of the time, they hardly know me at all, yet somehow they command a great deal of control over how I feel about what I do.

Here’s the thing. While people do matter to me, their opinions are just that…THEIR opinions. They are influenced by their own backgrounds, experiences, dreams and talents and unless they have my history, my talents and my specific point of view then their opinions about what I do are probably going to differ from mine and that’s okay. That’s okay because the only opinion I should be concerned with…is mine. Not the opinions of my loved ones, my friends, my acquaintances and certainly not the opinions of total strangers. I’m the one who should be commanding control over my own dreams. I think it’s wise to seek out advice and input from those I trust and, while I cannot say that I don’t value the opinions of those close to me, it is my humble opinion that when overcoming fears such as this, mine is the only opinion I should be focused on.

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

 

 

Dream Abandoned?

Abandoned Dream

In just a little over a month I will be celebrating the 1-year-anniversary of my fledgling photography business. I have had no regrets and no big surprises but I have struggled. While everything is going as I thought it might, I am being painstakingly honest when I say that there have been, and still are, moments when I feel completely and utterly lost and have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. It feels eerily similar to being blindfolded and trying to feel your way through a maze. Exhilarating when you find an opening and then painful when you run headlong into another wall.

Winter has been especially difficult as I wait out the weather and try to map out the next steps of my journey. (Not easy to do when you’re not exactly sure which direction you are suppose to be headed.) Sitting at my desk one night, staring at the blank pages of the next weeks calendar, pen poised inside the little box under the heading ‘Monday’, I broke. I had nothing. Nothing to write. No “next step”. Not one single thought about what I could, should or might do to get me any closer to my dream. And was it any wonder? I laid my pen down and starred at the neat little piles of unsorted papers, half read books.  Sticky notes of random thoughts, songs and recommended books to read, webinars to watch and YouTube videos that would spell it all out in six easy steps. My winter hibernation had brought me to information overload and what I really needed and wanted was to just take pictures.

Starting my own business, for me, means that I still have a day job so I don’t have the added pressure of money issues. For some people that’s a great motivator. For me, it’s a give me the paper bag, I’m going to heave. Anyway, the following day my prayers were answered in the form of a text giving me the option to have the day off. After a quick prayer of “Thank you’s and hallelujahs!!” I sent back a response of “thank you, I really could use the day.” Then I loaded up my camera and soon found myself lost on a gravel road, singing country songs at the top of my lungs and snapping pictures of anything that looked remotely interesting. I was a crazed photographer who had been cooped up for way too long and needed to just do. No more reading, planning, guessing, wondering…just letting myself remember exactly why I started this journey at all.

I had only been out for about an hour when I saw a cool mailbox that I wanted to get a picture of so I could show it my husband and see if it might be something we could put in our driveway. Trying to get turned around, I eased into a little grassy drive and forgot all about the mailbox when I spied this sweet little abandon camper. Looking though my camera lens I remembered comments from a conference I had attended about how pictures tell a story, or at least the good ones do. What story would this photo tell? The story of how someone had come there with the dreams to build a home only to have them dashed by money problems or the loss of a loved one? Or maybe it’s not a dream abandoned but a dream-in-waiting. Maybe it will become someone’s project, someone’s labor of love and it will be restored and given a new life.

That’s the joy I find in photography. It’s not about the planning and paperwork, though those things are obviously important. It’s about seeing beyond what is in plain site, (i.e. a home for raccoons and other unsavory characters) and daring to see more. It’s really about sharing the beauty that I see and letting the story be told or imagined through the eyes of those who are willing to look.