Out Here


This is my happy place. Out here…camera in the passenger seat…very little traffic…the sun as my watch and the radio tuned to whatever music inspires me in the moment.

This past weekend I attended the Professional Photographers of Iowa Winter Conference. It was three days of eating, breathing and sleeping photography. Surrounded by some of the most talented photographers in the state and even in the country, it’s a dream. From the speakers to the entertainment to the wonderful group of ladies I had the privilege of sharing the experience with, it was an amazing weekend for me.  I have wonderful family and friends who support me but being surrounded by so much talent and the chance to really talk about something I’m passionate about with those who share and understand that love is just too good. These people have lived or are living the struggle if starting their own photography business and their willingness to share their wisdom and encouragement is motivating and inspiring. The mass of information, tips and tricks, do’s and don’ts, can all be very overwhelming but in the midst of it I also know they appreciate that everyone’s journey is not going to be like theirs. There’s space in the middle for my own successes and failures, highs and lows, twists and turns.

On the last night of the conference I was sitting at a table with the three women that I have come to call friends and four sweet young ladies who recently graduated from college. As the awards began I felt so privileged to be a part of something that can land me in the middle of so many different and amazing creative people. People of varying backgrounds, beliefs, ages and strengths…so many collections of ideas, dreams and talents. In my photography I am often ‘out here’, alone in my happy place. I love it. I know exactly who I am when I’m behind my camera. Sitting at that table, laughing, talking and sharing the moment, I’m reminded that it’s okay to be out there. To not conform but to contribute. To step outside my fears and share my perspective the best way I know how.


Winter White Adventure

Winter White

Shortly after we moved to Missouri in 2006, Chris started hauling cattle over-the-road. This meant that he would be gone for one or two weeks at a time. It was a huge adjustment for our family but as we settled in and we began to find ways to keep occupied and entertained. In the summer and on weekends when Chris was gone the kids and I would load up in the car and head out on an “adventure”. We became frequent open house visitors and when we could no longer drag Jake to those we started finding more adventurous locations; hiking trails, parks and forts became our escape of choice.

These days, Amannda is living on her own and spottings of her are few and far between. Jake is long past pretending to hunt bad guys in the trees of the local arboretum but he’s still up for a little adventure from time to time. Yes, it often includes a little bribe, like the promise of a stop at Quik Trip to grab a slushy but it’s a small price for a little time away from devices, video games and TV. Today, due to some bad weather, Jake was dismissed from school early and I desperately wanted to take pictures of something other than my home office, so we decided a short drive through the beautiful snow was in order.

It’s obvious that Iowa, or at least this part of Iowa, has not seen large snowfalls in the past few years and not surprisingly some drivers may have forgotten how to handle it and younger drivers simply have not had the privilege of the experience yet. We drove a couple miles behind a girl who was so scared she barely made it up to 10 miles an hour and nearly stopped my heart when she started driving on the wrong side of the road.  Thankfully we didn’t have to go far before we came across this barn surrounded by what I like to call it’s friends and what others lovely refer to as junk. Just off the main highway, these untouched roads looked so serene covered in the light, white blanket of snow. Shifting into four-wheel drive we took our time and took it in, stopping long enough to capture just a few shots of this barn and it’s neighbor, a really cool corn bin, on the same property (I’ll share that one later).

It was only about an hour but it was the best hour of my day. Getting to photograph barns always lifts me up but spending time chatting with my kiddo, that is priceless.



I have lived in many houses but few ever really felt like home. They were always just a temporary place to sleep and keep the few belongings that I had. Then, in the summer of 1981, under unlikely circumstances, I found home, only it wasn’t a house in the traditional sense. I was 11-years-old and despite my most sincere objections at the beginning, I was attending Sunday services here with my family.

Shy and extremely introverted I was not initially interested in leaving the church we had been attending for four years. Fortunately, God knows better than I and I was soon befriended by a couple of the older girls from the youth group and found myself begging to attend Sunday evening and Wednesday services. Weekends were no longer spent sitting in my room reading books alone. Whenever possible I was out with the youth playing wiffle ball, going to Ev’s for ice cream, attending high school football games or just hanging out at the church.

It was here behind these doors that I began let go of my difficult past and heal. For so long I had prayed to just be loved without condition but within these walls, where I have laughed till I cried and wept till the tears ran dry, I grew up and discovered that loving others unconditionally was far better. The people I met here became my extended family, riding the waves of the difficult teenage years together, sometimes fighting like brothers and sisters but always finding our way back on Sunday morning to line our favorite pew and share a few precious moments in prayer, song, sermon, and a laugh or two.

Today I still count many of them some of my dearest friends. They will never know just how grateful I am that God saw fit to send the kind pastor to our door many, many years ago. Or how glad I am that my grandma insisted against all my objections that we go. This would be the bright spot in my young life. This place…this faith…these people… would save me over and over again.



As I continue my series on The Town That Built Me, I am going to fast-forward just a bit. I hope to come back and share a couple places at a another time but for now I’m just not ready.

I want to pick-up my story in the summer of 1982. My brother, sister and I are all still together and living with my Grandmother, her sister Sally, our dogs Fifi and Lemon Drop and a stray cat or two. These days I was spending more and more of my time with my little sister playing house and dressing up barbies. In the winter we would spend entire weekends lost in our own little world, only coming to the surface of reality when school beckoned. Things are good. These are days I look back on with fondness and sometimes miss with my whole heart. We were kids and for maybe the first time in our lives we were getting to be just that. We road our bikes, played baseball with the neighborhood kids, in the summers windows were left open and we fell asleep to sound of crickets. I had a best friend that lived just down the street and we would have overnighters and listen to records of Rick Springfield and Blonde. For some reason I was obsessed with the idea that I would soon be turning 12, a number that I apparently thought was much more grown up than it actually was.

That summer brought about the great church standoff in our house. For a few years we had been attending a small church just outside of Marshalltown and I loved it. I had good friends there and even the adults had become dear to me. Living so far away, however, was taking a toll on my grandma and we were getting there less and less. When another pastor from a church in town happened to stop by and visit it was decided that we would attend services the following Sunday. I was having none of it! I already had a church. I was comfortable there and I didn’t want to make new friends, again. Being eleven did not carry much weight in these decisions so that Sunday I was there with the rest of my family, shyly hiding in the back pew and almost near tears the entire time. It would take a couple more visits and the persuasive befriending of a couple of the older girls from the youth group to finally bring me around. Turns out, it would be a change that would bring me more happiness and love than I could ever have believed. It would change everything.





2018 Plan

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I am an office supply junkie. I love paper, pens, notebooks and organizers. I have a bit of a fetish for planners and would probably have one for every aspect of my life if it wasn’t so expensive and time consuming. I have never taken to using calendars on the computer no matter how many times or different layouts I’ve tried. There is just something about pen on a page and getting to be creative when doing something as commonplace as making to-do lists.

As much as I like planners and the simple thrill of checking off another thing on the list, I still manage to waste a great deal of time and procrastinate with the best of them. When looking through planners for the umpteenth time I realized that it wasn’t a different planner that I needed. What I really needed was something that would help me use my planner to my advantage and curb my bad habits of daydreaming or just making lists that never really got done.  I needed something that gave me direction and helped me to dig beneath the surface and find out why I struggled so much to get to where I want to go. That’s when ironically enough I started seeing different planning options showing up in my Facebook feed and stumbled across Lara Casey’s Powersheets. What I love about it is that made me really focus on where I want to go and how best to get there but still understand that it’s okay to keep things simple and that the object is not perfection but progress.

Why do we find it so hard to spend time getting to know our own selves? Why are we so easily distracted and drawn away from thinking about and focusing on our purpose? A bit of an introvert, I never enjoy being in the spotlight, even when I’m the only one in the audience. So sitting down and writing about me, my failures and especially my successes was a great deal like white water rafting; both exhilarating and frightening while I hold tightly to the rope and hope I don’t get thrown in the drink. While I didn’t have any great epiphanies about myself I did find that I’m afraid of a great deal more than just spiders and that seeking others approval and permission limits me. When I was about 10 I had a boy tell me that I was homely. Thirty-seven years later I still think of myself as homely. Did he mean to hurt me in that way, of course not, and the reality is I’m the one who held on to that simple, hurtful moment and allowed it to become a part of my identity. A beauty queen I am not but letting a silly boys opinion determine my worth based on my looks will never allow me to see all the things I do have to offer.

Now, on the other side of all that digging I’m excited about the coming year and working to make progress on the goals that I’ve come up with. Part of the process included coming up with a word for the year. My word is: Intentreate. Yes, it’s completely made up. A combination of ‘create’ and ‘intentional’. The definition: Cause to happen on purpose as a result of one’s deliberate actions.

Here’s to a year full of cultivating what really matters!



This is an excerpt from a short story I wrote eons ago when I was in college. While it is just a story it is based on the first time I met and went to live my grandma in this house on May Street.

I was six-years-old when I met her. My brother, Ronnie, and I had somehow found ourselves standing in her living room on December 8, 1976. I only remember the date because it was my birthday.

Our mom had brought us there that early winter morning, leaving us with a hug and kiss and a promise to return as soon as she could. I didn’t believe her. Adults always seemed to be leaving us places, promising to come back, but they never did. Our dad had left us with our mom only a few months earlier saying he’d be back the next day. I had sat on the curb until midnight waiting for him and went in only when my mom threatened to beat me within an inch of my life. I believed she would. I had seen her do it to the dog once and since I was pretty sure she loved the dog more than me, I took her word for it. Dad…never did come back.

Now, here we were standing inside the front door where our mother had left us, staring at a woman we had never seen, or at least I couldn’t remember ever seeing her before and she’s really not the kind of person you would forget.

We were in her living room. A large space with more furniture than we had in our entire apartment. To my right was the funniest looking piano I had ever seen. It had two keyboards, one on top of the other and a long row of red and blue switches with letters on them. To our left, just on the other side of the door was a large pink birdcage with several small blue and yellow birds in constant motion and making such a fuss of twittering that I wished I had my ear muffs to block out the noise. In front of us was a long, ugly green rug with large red and orange flowers. She stood at the other end of the rug staring back at us, arms wrapped across her chest. She was so tall and she had red curly hair piled up like a bird nest accentuating her height and giving her an almost cartoonish look. She wore a bright red dress that matched her lipstick and high heals, and  it all seemed a little much for so early in the morning.

“Do you think she’s pretty?” I whispered in my brothers ear. He was a year older than me so I figured he knew what pretty was.

“Be quiet!” he hissed back and elbowed me in the ribs, nearly pushing me back out the door. Suddenly the woman began to move closer, stopping when I slid behind my brother.

“Well, I suppose I should introduce myself. I am your grandmother. Your mother brought you here because she can’t handle you two and thought maybe I could straighten you out.” She stopped and folded her arms across her stomach. She wore a ring on each finger and had long, painted nails that matched her lipstick.

“You don’t look like no grandma I’ve ever seen,” said Ronnie. The only other grandma we knew was plump, short and wore large housecoats and slippers most of the time. I looked at this grandmas hair. It looked like plastic and I wondered if it would crack if I touched it?

“What I look like doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am your grandma and you will be staying with me so you might as well get use to it.” She stepped closer. “You should also get use to the rules around here.” Kneeling down in front of us she began listing off several things: no running, no bouncing on the furniture and stay away from the birds. I slowly moved out from behind my brother and was reaching up to touch her hair when she grabbed my hand and began to squeeze. “And do not touch what is not yours.” She pushed my hand away and stood up.

“Breakfast is at 7:00am and supper is at 6:00pm. If you are not in your seats at those times, you will not eat. You will eat what I cook with no complaints. No snacking between meals and bedtime is at 7:30pm. Is that understood?” I decided that she wasn’t pretty at all and wanted to tell her so but she was standing straight up now with her hands on her hips glaring down at me, so I just shook my head yes…

Believe it or not the story goes on to share about how she was able to keep my brother and I, and our sister together. When we first moved into this home with our grandma she really did seem scary but it turned out she would be the one who stayed with us and never left.