Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thrive Thursday: The in between.

I was thinking I would end up blogging everyday this week and I would be so proud of myself. And I have been most excited about #ThriveThursdays and yet haven't posted one.
Then I was really tired, had a full day and didn't get to writing. And I didn't feel very thrive-y today.
Then my husband asked if I had blogged today. And I said "no". I don't really have anything to say. And then he reminded me that even if I didn't post/share it, I should write. And even if I didn't feel super creative or in thrive mode today, I should write. Because that is the reality. No one feels awesome/creative/on top of life all the time. And if you say you do, I won't believe you. Or we won't really get along.

Today I was really tired from a long Wednesday and not enough sleep.
Today at work was pretty boring (which typically drains me).
This afternoon had some mundane annoying things squeezed in before heading out to the next commitment. 

Charles came home and I wasn't in the best mood. When he asked why, I didn't really have a reason other then feeling "meh" and like nothing particularly good happened in my day. Nothing super life giving. Nothing thrive like. Today just was.

And after I processed that a little, I sit here thinking about how lame my bad mood was.
I am trying really hard in this season to not neglect my passions but "meh" days (or maybe they are just "normal" days) are ok.

Real is found in the normal.
Everyday life is lived in the normal.
People that deserve to be noticed are in the normal around us.
Presence is lived in the normal.

If we're only in it for the high points, the mountain tops and the success,
we miss out on the everyday.  

What is in the everyday normal that allows us to thrive?

Sometimes it feels like good news, accomplishment, being sought after for a skill, successfully helping someone overcome something, getting lots of likes on a new post...

But in the everyday I think it looks more like:
  • Sharing my day with my husband
  • Being present with the people in my path
  • Sharing life intentionally with those in my circle
  • Being fully me as a wife, friend, home maker, encourager, leader
  • Trusting God's leading
  • Hearing part of someone's story
  • Finding beauty in photography, creating something
  • Growing my porch garden
  • Enjoying simple things like my morning coffee, windows down and music up, a good book
I am all about the BE YOU BOLDLY, go after your dreams, live passionately stuff. But I don't want to miss out on the normal, consistent, valuable parts where life is lived.

Today was not a bad day. I have a lot to be grateful for in today. Today is a small part of a much bigger journey.

When the super exciting happens, I'll be stoked. But in the in between I want to live a life of gratitude, presence and with perspective beyond the "meh" moments.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Work it Wednesday: 20 hour work week?

My husband send me this CNN article today about the 20 hour work week. I am sure he sent it to me because I regularly challenge the 40 hour work week, the 9-5, the must sit at a cubicle but be really productive mindset.

I challenge those work norms because I have a strong dislike for them (and because I don't think they are always actually good). Yet I've spent most of my 20s working at a desk, clocking in for a 9-5. I've had some creative room, some freedom; but most of the time has been under the mindset of work gets done between certain hours, in a certain windowless room. Not my thing.

I've always asked, "If I can get work done in less time at the same quality (or better) do I have to work until 5?" or "If I work best and find the ability to be creative by breaking up my day or working different hours, is that ok?" I get it, that has been the way things get done. But maybe it isn't anymore. Maybe it isn't the best for everyone. Obviously some positions require it - working a front desk, answering a phone during open hours, etc. But many don't. So why is it often a must?

All that to say, I loved the article and think there are some great things to pull from it.

"Strictly adhering to the new routine -- observing technology fasts and ignoring out-of-hours emails -- recharged the New Yorker's frazzled psyche as he was able to spend time with his family, get out of the city, and eat well, but also ensured that his reduced working hours were put to good use."

In this season there are some challenging parts to my schedule but I have the freedom to set my own pace for about 1/2 of my work week. I have a new space at home to work that has lots of natural light and good vibes. I can get so much done when I write out my list and knock things out. And it gives me more energy. Less time - more accomplished - more life giving.

"In the U.S. our identities are shaped around two things; being workers and consumers. It's about opening up little spaces for creativity and free time that will help you to go in a new direction."


  Beyond my ideals for a creative conducive work week that allows long weekends, flexibility, less stress and more joy; this is a good reminder to evaluate why we do what we do and if it's working. My husband and I do this a lot. Questions like:
What is a healthy rhythm? 
When do we need to disconnect? 
Where do we want to live where cost of living and lifestyle align with our desires? 
How do we make the most with what we've got to live a healthy life that speaks of our values? 
Is our identity rooted in the right things/where we want it to be?

We have to ask these, and ask them often. 

While there are some things we wish were different, I am thankful for this season. I am thankful for my custom desk to fit our small home (thanks to my handy husband). I am thankful for the ability, financial margin, encouragement and space to pursue creativity, leadership alongside my husband with our Young Adult Ministry and a different pace. But now the choice is more so on me to not work when I shouldn't and stick to my pace! This is definitely an identity struggle for me. I am working at that piece of me in this season. God keeps, continually, nudging me back when I get off track and fret over what I "should" be doing, what looks "important" and what is "enough".

So.. most of us have some level of "have to" with our work. Whatever freedom or seemingly lack there of you have, find room for: passion, health, joy and what matters most. We can all make shifts. 

Dream, get creative,  live the life you are made for!

It is worth it. 
I don't know what lies ahead for me but I am saying yes in the present, fighting my identity struggle and making sure I'm not all about the "shoulds".

Oh, here's my new work space!

I don't have a dog.. I was dog sitting. But I wish I had a work buddy like London. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Real Talk Tuesday: Opt Out(side).

Did you hear what REI is doing on Black Friday? THEY ARE CLOSED.

Yes, closed. On Black Friday... only one of the biggest shopping days of the year. AND they are paying their employees to GO OUTSIDE. They are closing ALL 143 stores and freeing their people to do what they are all about, the great outdoors.

When I received this email yesterday I was so stoked for a few reasons. I am not a black friday shopper. Actually, I am not much of a shopper in itself so add crazy lines, psycho people fighting over a deal and manufactured consumerism and I am out. I just can't hang. So I think it is awesome. Another reason I am stoked is because of the bold move a company is making to choose a different value. Amazing! This big move from REI speaks so loudly in many ways beyond shopping. 

Black Friday has become a holiday. Forget Thanksgiving. Let's make stores open on Thanksgiving and be open 24 hours while were at it. Let's promote crazy deals so people think they can't possibly miss out on this occasion. Forget a day with family. Forget going out of town. Forget a day off work to connect with nature. Forget shopping any of the other days available. CONSUME as much as you can, as quick as you can. It is stressful and you might get trampled but hey, it's fun!

It didn't start this way. Stores weren't always open. Stores weren't always open crazy hours. But each year had to top the one prior. Deals were added. Hours were even crazier. More and more people have to work this over the top occasion. And more and more people consume for themselves in unnecessary ways because "I can't miss this great deal."

Ok, so what am I getting at? I think REI's choice to say that their passion for people to experience what happens when you spend time in nature matters more than making a ton of money on Black Friday is a good slap in the face for us. I don't blame them for being on board with black friday in the past but I commend them for evaluating and choosing something different now. Little by little culture has created a phenomenon in black friday and maybe we need to make a big choice to value differently. This is a call to evaluate, ask questions and maybe choose better.

This just makes me think about other areas in our lives.

Where have we let small things creep in and eventually take over?

Are the things I say I value evident in the way I live my life?

What incremental changes have slowly become a new way of life? Maybe a not so good one?
For me/us it is things like:
  • Passively choosing experiences via social media versus being engaged in real life and with the people that matter most
  • Allowing a harsh tone and not so nice words to be regular in our marriage
  • Having less and less room for God in our lives with all the distractions we place value on
  • Moving from being content with our small home to feeling like I "need" more like other people have
There are so many things I could list about how I think our culture/generation needs a wake up a call, but I'll leave it at things I know for myself. I think REI's choice to do something drastic and in stark contrast of the expected for a large retail company is challenging us where we need to do the same.

"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home." -John Muir

This quote speaks to me and an ongoing desire to have more access to the mountains. Maybe it isn't the mountains for you. What does going home feel like for you? Where might you need to return to this comforting, valuable state?

Maybe it is picking up the phone to connect with a long time friend.
Maybe it is choosing to leave your phone in the other room while you share quality time with someone.
Maybe it is choosing to engage your hobby/passion in your free time.
Maybe it is being willing to dream. And pursue that dream.
Maybe it is choosing to seek help in an area of life that is occupied by a struggle, grief or addiction.
Or maybe it is making time for something/someone you love despite how busy life is.

Whatever it might be, I am reminded we have a choice. If an important area has lost value in your life, make a shift. If something is missing, pursue it.

Sometimes we have to challenge the things that have become normal and seem good.
Choosing something crazy like closing your retail stores on black friday is risky (All good things are, right?). You might lose profit. You might disappoint. You might get ridiculed. BUT you might find peace. You might reconnect with something so valuable to you. You might challenge others to return to something so good. You just might win.

Wherever it is, let's go home.

I am totally in for the REI get outside campaign. The Friday after Thanksgiving usually looks like Thanksgiving with the Stoicu side and some time near the Kern River. This is good for our souls.

(Make your own OptOut image here)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Marriage Monday: Traditions

I am a big fan of traditions. Maybe part of this is my love for documenting moments through photography. I love to look back and reminisce on a season, a moment, a feeling. But it's also the festive decorations, new seasons, holiday activities, seasonal food/drinks and opportunity to get friends together, whatever the occasion!

Charles and I started dating just after Thanksgiving so many of our first memories "officially together" were shaped around the holidays. I am so thankful he gets fully into festivities and traditions with me. It's that time of year and I love it! Sometimes we're so tired, life is full and we have to find time to squeeze in our traditions but you gotta work with what you got. That's when traditions are so good.. they remind us to slow down and embrace these special moments. If they weren't traditions we'd probably blow them off easily but as traditions they have such value. We get that extra push to make them a priority and carry on the memory making!

Some things I love about traditions:

  1. You can start new ones at any time. It's never too late to say "I want to try that", "Let's make this annual" or "
  2. You can switch them up. Example: maybe a tradition is an anniversary brunch at your favorite place but you move or the place closes.. the tradition is about brunch/a fond place so pick a new one and keep going!
  3. Memories are created consistently but in new ways. We have so many memories that have already been created in different seasons.. traditions while dating, including other friends, as engaged people, as a married couple and hopefully someday in new ways with kids or maybe in a new city. As I look back on past years of our Oak Glen tradition (see below), I remember the different joys, challenges, new learnings and adventures that came with each visit. This is so special and fun.
  4. There is anticipation and excitement to experience the familiar in a new way. 
  5. You can share them with others and adopt new ones you see others practice. It's fun to see what others have loved and grab on to what feels like a fit in your own life.

Here's some of our favorite traditions: 

  1. Finding the best coffee shop in new towns
  2. Pumpkin Carving
  3. Picking out our Christmas Tree/Decorating
  4. Trips to the Pacific Northwest 
  5. Trips to the Cabin in Arrowhead (where we got engaged, celebrated Charles' birthday, where we go for rest, where we enjoy time with friends)
  6. Pumpkin Blendeds from The Coffee Bean, our favorite pumpkin beer, etc.
  7. Using airbnb when we travel to new places (If you haven't.. do it! and let me give you a code for $20 your first stay). We love finding an interesting part of town and soaking it up
  8. Stopping at Flying J truck stop on roadtrips to see family/friends to grab coffee, donettes and a bathroom break 
  9. Walking to our favorite local places downtown for dinner/date night
  10. Oak Glen trip to find Fall

Today we took our annual Oak Glen trip. 

Last year we missed our annual trip. There was a lot going on so we went to a local pumpkin patch and called it good. But we made it today! It feels like more work than it should be (3 hours in the car) to find some fall leaves, apple picking and temperatures below 80 (on a good day) but it is worth it.  We've discovered we LOVE going on a weekday. We had most of the place to ourselves and enjoyed apple cinnamon donuts, coffee and the quiet outdoors. We also make a stop to take a picture in front of the "Oak Glen" sign at the venue we got married at. This brings up such fun memories!

A bonus for traditions... I see that my husband brings out the best in me through things like this. He encourages me to bring my "big camera/tripod" and enjoy taking quality photos, encourages me to be silly and makes the little things matter when I start to say, "it's ok, we can skip the ________".

Here's a look back...

2011: Introducing him to a tradition that has existed with friends.. alongside friends.


2013: The year we got married!

2015: This year!

So, let's hear it.. Do you have any favorite traditions? I want to hear them, big or small! What do YOU love about traditions? Or do you hate them?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Work it Wednesday: A well curated life?

Curate: Select, organize, and present (online content, merchandise, information, etc.)

 In the photography world there is much talk swirling around about how you "Curate" your brand.. It's often talked about in the realm of an Instagram feed (define your look, style, vibe). I am not a  marketing expert but I do understand you want to represent your style well, have a cohesive look and draw in your ideal following. I see the need and the good in this.

However, I think there is a part of this well curated feed that begins to influence a mindset of a well curated life. I think we've begun to see that as a "flawless presentation" and I am not sure that is a good thing.

We live in a world of encouraged art, Etsy accounts everywhere, entrepreneurs/start ups, Facebook pages for those becoming famous and a world of Instagram relationships through following. There are endless amounts of "The 10 steps to marketing yourself", "The top ways to get discovered" and talks of becoming "Insta-famous". We all have a platform (or many). I don't know if you fall into this trap but the comparison game is real and we often don't even see it. We become so influenced by what others are doing that we can lose sight of what is real, our own style, what we like and even who we are.

I think even businesses have to evaluate this process to represent something that is genuine, authentic and sustainable. But, I am not a pro business owner/marketing specialist and to each there own.. However, I think the challenge is when the marketing wisdom of our culture bleeds from business to our personal life. And while I am not an expert on that either, I have my own thoughts..

So how do we pay attention, reflect authenticity, connect deeply and remain content within all the subtle and not so subtle expectations of a well curated feed and life?

  1. To Curate or not? Maybe we have to ask ourselves if presenting only the best is what we desire? If I am having a super fun evening enjoying a new restaurant with a friend and want to share that with the world but the lighting sucks and my photo isn't awesome, can I still post it? YES. Will I get as many likes as if it we're a flawless photo? NO. Many people will scroll right past it. But for me, that is ok. I enjoy presenting things well to tell a story but think the way I curate should reflect authenticity, not perfection.
  2. Define your values. What matters most to you in regards to your representation in the social media world? Is it posts that generate the most likes/excitement? Is it a real representation of you/your life? Is it a depth of interaction or a widespread following? Is it offering the world what you like or representing what the world likes? Once we define this we have a foundation for how we interact in the virtual world. We know what matters to us and can offer that knowing our why.
  3. Remember your why is not their why. What matters to someone else might not be what matters to me. Therefore the choices I make and the responses I get will be different. Remember your why when you get different results. 
  4. What is your life about? So much of what we know of a person is what we know through Instagram. Our culture has shifted from calling each other to check in, to checking out someone's Instagram feed to see how they're doing. I think we could step up our real connection in that area but that is a whole other blog post. If that reality means that my feed is a representation of me, I want it to reflect a real side... mundane moments, a messy dinner table with delicious food and good company, things I am excited about and challenging parts of life too. 
  5. Disconnect. Sometimes we don't even realize how over-saturated we are in our virtual worlds. I am guilty and thoughts creep in. I might miss someone's major life update. I might miss a cool giveaway. I might be out of the loop. I might miss out on connection. However, I don't want to look back on this season of life and realize I had shallow investments with the people I love, that I ignored important areas in my life to scroll, that I misplaced my worth and that I let everyone else define what I like. Create a healthy disconnect. Unplug for a day a week, don't take your phone to bed, call that friend your curious about, go outside! 
  6. The world needs more real. People long for authenticity - for someone to say, "Me too, I feel you." We want to know were not alone. We want to know someone else struggles with the things we do. We want to know we're not the only ones who don't have it all together. When we present only the best, we mislead. You may sit somewhere else with this but I feel strongly that people need to know we're human and with most of our connections happening digitally, that element can get lost. 
  7. Share the depth of who you are in real life. I love authenticity on Instagram but social media isn't a safe/healthy place for every area of our life. We need real connection to navigate the messy, broken, hard parts of life. And people need to experience that side of us. Please don't trade a close person relating and offering encouragement for 1,000 comments from people saying, "Oh my gosh me too thank you for sharing this." The word needs both but we must have deep, intimate connection where we are truly known and know someone in return.
My husband and I we're talking last night about how cultural things like social media have such destroying power because in themselves they are not bad. Connecting with people virtually can be awesome. Enjoying beautiful feeds is fun. BUT when little by little were less present, less honest with those in our life, less free, less content with who we are/how we look and have less margin; we're paying a high price.

Where ever you land on how you represent yourself in the virtual world is totally your choice, but...

It is my hope we choose NOT to live a flawlessly curated life. 

But rather a genuinely experienced and shared life. Let your life be one that is known deeply, loved deeply, experiences depths of real/good/hard and shares genuinely along the way. The worlds needs the real you. And you need (and deserve) the real you to be experienced.

To go with a less flawless and more real curate of photos, here are some mediocre ones that represent great parts of my week..
Pumpkin cookies & my favorite pumpkin beer

Great friends with whom we get to share real life with

WINTER CHEER from Stumptown is back (I let myself selfie with it cause it is that happy!) featuring the pallet we picked up to make a table out of but haven't taken out of the car yet..

A meal that was thrown together but felt all Fall-y and delicious (including apple juice)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Marriage Mondays: The best & the worst

Marriage is such a gift and such an interesting journey.

We got engaged 3 years ago today. We're only 2.5 years into marriage (as of today) and yet we've faced big decisions, ongoing challenges, tensions, new personal struggles, surfacing of old junk and more. I am not sure that is not everyone's story and I don't say that to be a downer. It is just a reality of life. 
On the flip side we've shared such rich intimacy, awesome travel adventures, the joy of everyday life things together (groceries, car repairs), personal learnings through each other, much needed support and more.

It's been an interesting week for us. We've done a lot of processing, disagreeing, sharing and feeling. It's been heavy. But it has also been really good. Sometimes there's just a lot of life to process. The challenge is that we do that very differently. But it is a beautiful things when there is space, freedom and support to let each other do that in our own way. And then meet in the middle.

So today I am thinking about how marriage is full of BEST & WORST. Here's a little of what that can look like: 
  1. You have someone who knows you deeply. When this looks like inside jokes, love, support and shared joys; it's the best. When this looks like calling out the ugly, challenging, pushing each others buttons; it can feel like the worst. With the deepest level of knowing someone comes the greatest ability to build up or tear down.
  2. Your spouse is a mirror. This is so good when you can reflect love, goodness and your spouses amazing qualities. For example: I see the generous grace Charles offers and I am challenged to learn more of that for myself. But, this is rough when your spouse reflects the areas that are broken and need improvement in your life. Hello well lit magnification of ugly pimples kinda mirror. 
  3. Your spouse is your best friend. This is the best when it is all the fun, share everything with and go on adventures together. This is the worst when it involves taking things out on them cause they are the easiest person to dump your bad day, bad mood, bad habits on. 
  4. Your spouse is always there. Ok not always, but you don't have the same space you had when single or dating. I love this! You've got someone to hand you a new role of TP, process daily decisions with, go to sleep with, tell you when you have food in your teeth... But sometimes you realize you don't make the best time for yourself.. to be alone, free of expectations, to simply have space. We've had moments of feeling this tension (like, currently) and having to learn what balance looks like so we can offer our best selves to each other. Learning sacrifice yet self care.
I think we often move from dating to engaged to married because of all the BEST things.. All of the shared joy, adventure, cured loneliness,  attractive qualities in our spouse and ideals. And when we experience some of the WORST things it feels off track, not worth it, not as planned.

I am challenging myself (and maybe you need to hear this too) to remain committed in the BEST and the WORST. To remember that sometimes the things that feel the worst, lead to the best. To choose respect, love, to believe and to uplift. I wont be perfect at this but I need the perspective and the reminder. To not be easily offended. To give grace, allow new struggles and fears, and to choose to draw closer...  to as gracefully as possible ride the wave of good and bad, easy and hard, familiar and unknown.

Because this was 3 years ago today and I am feeling so grateful for this beautiful occasion and what has come since, here are some photos from our engagement night (photos thanks to Kyle White, favorite cabin spot thanks to The Swaneys, all possible thanks to our dear friends):

Thanks for reading.
Here is to growing, new seasons and a life full of learning. Let's keep choosing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Work it Wednesday: Baby McAllen

Welcome to the world, Everett McAllen!
Last week I had such a fun morning shooting with the McAllen Family.

I can imagine that on the morning of a photo shoot with my newborn I would be frantic, freaking out about my weird hair and nervously hoping everyone is behaved for good photos. But the whole McAllen family was such a delight. I loved the peaceful, emotion filled, natural presence they brought. Plus, baby Everett was perfect the whole time. He rocked the session with his most smile filled day and didn't cry a bit.

From a behind the scenes prospective: I love the super dreamy baby photos that are popular right now. The baby is propped on a comfy covered bucket or similar item while dreaming peacefully. However, that just isn't my style. It's easy for me to compare and wish it was since they are so lovely. But, I am much more of a natural, true to life scenery person. I know this doesn't fit everyone's preference but I loved the real beauty that was brought out at this session. I hope these pictures are future reminders of this new season, this home they brought their first child into and all the special moments they are experiencing.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Marriage Mondays: Who is in your tribe?

Alright... This is the first blog in the Marriage Monday series. This will have little editing (mostly rolling thoughts). I am pretty passionate about people having healthy marriages and relationships so read on if you'd like and hopefully there is something for you to glean.

One of my favorites parts of a wedding is when the pastor asks the couple to look at the crowd. He (or she) illustrates that these people are here to witness, support and celebrate but also to journey with them. That they are committing to these elements of life on their wedding day and moving forward. What a beautiful picture of community, love and commitment!

Last night Charles and I (and so many people we love) attended the wedding of two very sweet people: James & Shelby (now) Alley. Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Alley!

I was Shelby's (and a whole crew of great ladies) youth leader for her 7th-12th grade years. These were some of the most amazing years. Here's a few reasons why:
  1. I co-lead with a very special woman, Joyce, who brought much love, growth and fun to my life. 
  2. The group of girls I got to know, share life deeply with and journey through good and bad with are so incredible. It really was/is an honor to have shared those years of multiple days a week together. 
  3. I still get to share life closely with many of these girls along with reconnecting throughout time. It's a joy to have these long term people in my life. 
 Ok, so what does this have to do with marriage besides the fact that we went to a wedding?

I love weddings. They are so pretty, special and fun. They are usually the biggest party of someone's life! But I love even more that they mark the beginning of a lifelong journey. This wedding and the crew of people we were surrounded by were such reminders of how important a tribe is.

Something I have always been passionate about and sold on is the idea of community. I can't do life without my people... my family, friends and friends who are family. I know I need the support, truth, love, grace, honesty and joy people provide. Life is richer. I am known. I get to know others. In years of watching people begin a journey of marriage and in my own few years of marriage, I know a group of close people is a non negotiable.

Isolation is a total tool of the enemy and I believe makes life much less rich.
So, today I am writing about my values in a tribe and why community is so, so important in marriage. Here's what I've got:
  1. Be known & Know: I desperately need people who truly know me and allow me to know them. This is so true in regards to my marriage. When we experience challenge, a new season with unknowns, deep joys, sorrows or just normal life; I need people who know me, know my marriage and can speak into both. I also need people who can share their past or current journey. Authenticity that allows full self creates space for truth. Truth is so needed to experience good and bring wisdom or accountability when needed.
  2. Rejoice & Morn. "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" Romans 12:15. If I am excited I definitely want my people to be excited with me. And when they know me, they know deeply why I am excited and can celebrate with me. And when I am sad, hurting or fearful they can relate, offer empathy and support me. If I am not known this effort feels like a pat on the back and less rich. 
  3. Create memories: Our communities change and not everyone is in our life forever. But, for whatever time they are, live life with people. Life is richer when shared. I love looking back on moments with people and reflecting on "how long ago that was". 
  4. Accountability: This goes along with number 1 but needs it's own point. We all need someone (or someones) who can call it like it is. These are safe, trusted people or someone invited into our process. Some people desire this more than others. For me, I want and expect this of my people. Lets not dance around stuff. If you see something that is not good, call it out. If I have a pattern that has led me to be a less that honorable wife, bring it to my attention. If I have something in my life that is unhealthy or concerning, tell me. For me, these people allow this to be a two way street. I want this but I also know I NEED this. We can't always see little habits were forming or patterns we've created that aren't good. Or sometimes we need helpful nudges to make needed change. I get pretty fired up about how much being known and accountability is needed for healthy marriages that thrive and last. 
 I've know some of these ladies since elementary school. I am so grateful for the longevity pictured here.

Overlook the poor quality of these instagram photos.. These are from a crew of friends that all got married the same year. Many of us get together every 6 weeks or so to share life and our journey intentionally. 

And this crew.. A photo from our wedding and two from yesterday. This crew of ladies (and gentleman) have been in my life richly for many years. It's crazy my little babies are getting married but such an honor to share life with them.

Missing a few but so thankful for this tribe.

So for marriage or any season of life, I hope you have a tribe.. be it one person or many. Sometimes we really have to seek out our tribe. Sometimes, they are so close and regular in our life.

Whatever the case, I encourage you to make the effort to have that person or people who know you and invite you to know them, who celebrate and empathize, who share life with you and who do the hard work of accountability.

Who is in your tribe? 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fun Friday: Pretend Fall

My Friday blogging theme is Fun Friday (basically, whatever I want). I had a lovely lunch with a friend, a coffee date with two other friends and some good work from home/clean the house time. So, today, inspired by how terribly hot it is, I'm writing about Fall.

I complain a lot about living in Southern California (mainly due to the weather). If you're reading this from the East Coast, I know what you are thinking.. "You have it good". Except I like winter, seasons, change, snow, variety. Anyway, this post isn't about complaining. It's about making the most of what I've got.

So, I indulged my Fall love at the Cost Plus 25% off sale today.

I hate this trend of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes being "Basic girl" things. Heck no. I love pumpkin. All forms. Pumpkin carving, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pasta (here's the best recipe - thanks Joyce!), pumpkin froyo, pumpkin beer and so on..

It's over 100 degrees here. I drove for about 10 minutes and my car couldn't put out even remotely cool air in defense to this heat. So, I am sitting here on my couch, right next to my window AC, with full on pretend it's remotely Fall like mode going on. Even sipping a homemade pumpkin spice chai (iced, duh).

So, just for something fun today, here's my effort to enjoy Fall (even though it doesn't feel like it):

My Cost Plus sale finds, yay!

Gotta have this Fall wreath to greet me (thanks Target $1 spot + added ribbon)

Added some pine cone garland (made by Laura Quines - thanks!) to my railing and some pumpkins

Fall photo art (thanks Artifact Uprising) and some chalk art (thanks for the board, Tracy!)

Happy weekending, friends!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Work it Wednesday: Do these business cards make me look legit?

First of all, my previous blog I prepared has disappeared. I don't know how. Anyway, now you're stuck with this. Hopefully I remembered something as I recap this...

So, I ordered business cards this week.
So what, right? Everyone has business cards.
Well, I don't. And I haven't. Here are a few reasons:
  1. As far as photography goes: I have mostly worked for a company or just done it on the side when people request and I can squeeze it in. Because I don't live in the constant world of "I am a professional photographer", I have downplayed my legitimacy to myself. Sure, I'll take your photos. Yes, I love it! But my full time job is: __________. 
  2. While there were many great things about the full time job I had the past 5 years, it wasn't very creative. It was very task driven, organizational and stressful. And it wasn't very people engaged. All those things sucked the inspiration and legitimacy out of me.
  3. At this point, photography isn't my full time sole focus. So, should I really spend money on business cards? Do people really want me to take their photos? Am I good enough? Etc.
But, my new business cards are on their way. Here's why this is a big deal:
  1. The Comparison Trap. Despite how easy it is to compare myself to others and feel less awesome, I have a skill and passion for this. I have something to offer. Am I the best photographer out there? No. Am I able to capture life and preserve memories for people in a way they (some people) will love? I think so!
  2. Full time = the real deal. I've told myself that since photography isn't my all out own goal in this stage of life, I shouldn't order cards or feel official. However, I've been doing this for a long time. I love it. And while I have some other avenues of passion, this one is a big one and I want to say yes fully, even though that doesn't mean full time. 
  3. Show up & Say yes. My passion and gift for photography really is a blessing to me. While I know I cannot always give it away, I know I can offer what I can. In this season I have set my prices lower than recommended after processing and encouragement from my husband. I am committed to people mattering and having the opportunity of beautiful portraits. I do not at all mean that expensive photographers don't feel this. This just means that for me personally, in this season of reengaging with creativity & people, I am open to where I can say yes and the opportunities provided. More on what this means and looks like in a future post..  
  4. Opportunity. This isn't just about photography. I have a lot of things I am passion about, dreaming about, exploring. I don't know where God will lead and what will rise to the top yet. But, I do know that I can keep denying myself the thought that I have something to offer OR I can see where opportunity leads. For me, that looks like allowing myself to know I have something to give. And while business cards by no means make me legit, they encourage me to stop denying and start saying yes. I struggle with this because I don't want this to sound like I think I am awesome or to encourage the need for people to "make something of themselves" because of the image of what "everyone" else does (hello truth behind socalitybarbie). But all that to say I am going to show up and see what happens. Little by little.
So, what have you been denying? Is there a nudge or a dream or even a small opportunity? What small yes allows you to show up in a small yet significant way?

Maybe it's not all or nothing. I am a fan of "Let's say yes fully and see what happens".

Maybe it's not fake it 'til you make it.  I am a fan of "Let's be real... it's a process."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Real Talk Tuesday: Justice, anger, forgiveness.

I don’t know if you relate to this, but I have this strong sense of justice in me. And I have a pretty good ability to read people. So that means I often times spot something unhealthy, deceptive or inauthentic and my strong sense of justice flairs up. Y’all, this often times comes out in anger. Especially when I see that a behavior is harmful (to that person or those around them).
I like to call this righteous anger. Ya know the, “But that is not ok and I am rightly mad about it” kind? The, “I need to speak up, defend, put a stop to this” kind.

Honestly, I love this about me. But it is a curse too. I am passionate, feisty, a fighter, intentional, willing to do what is hard when needed.. But often times those things that can be good come out in unhealthy anger, being upset over things that are not my battle, and resentment. Have you heard the phrase “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”? I get it. Staying upset, resenting someone and carrying around bitterness is not awesome. But we’ve all been hurt. Some of us, really deeply. Some hurts have been ongoing. Some hurts were sudden and detrimental. Some hurts are not fully recognized but rotting away at us.

So, how do we balance justice, anger and forgiveness?
Let’s break these down.

Justice: "a concern for justice, peace, and genuine respect for people”.
The next definition mentions Fairness. I am all about fair. My husband has heard me say, “It just isn’t fair” so many times. And I feel it deeply. When people are totally disrespectful to me or others, I get so frustrated. When I see people overlooked, treated poorly, taken advantage of, I can’t just stand by. When people see themselves as worthless it breaks my heart. My heart is for people and while I love young people and young women, I’ve never been able to totally narrow it down to a certain age or group. But I do know that when anyone needs defending, I am all in. When someone is isolated, abused, defeated, discouraged… I want to do what I can. I can’t tell you how many people I have seen crying and awkwardly approached to see if they are ok and if I can help.

But synonyms for Justice include: fair-mindedness, equity, evenhandedness, impartiality, objectivity, neutrality, disinterestedness, honesty, morality.

I often times give myself freedom to be angry, intense, irrational; all in the name of justice. Looking at what justice really looks like, I can’t help but think I’ve made it something of my own. Sometimes a whisper speaks louder than a shout. Calm, honest communication can be such a barrier remover. I am challenged in the way I defend. Right now, this looks a lot like how I defend myself... How I scream for justice when my husband hurts me. How I am processing some other hurts and lack of forgiveness towards some people/situations I’ve experienced recently. How I so easily get angered by injustices other people are facing. I want to take action! But maybe I need to step back and respond differently. Be objective, clear headed, neutral. This feels tough sometimes and please hear me that there are so many injustices that are UNACCEPTABLE. So many people I know have been deeply wounded in completely unfair ways. Life is hard and people make bad choices. I am not dismissing anyone’s pain, hurt or experience. But more so challenging myself to step back and pause before releasing my all out, “Oh HELL no!” side.

Anger: a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.
"Righteous anger is typically a reactive emotion of anger over perceived mistreatment, insult, or malice. It is akin to what is called the sense of injustice."
I see a small but defining difference. Righteous anger is rooted in defense for mistreatment. I see a desire for good. Anger speaks of hostility. I read something this morning that defined hate as "cherished animosity".
I allow myself to be hostile and annoyed. And I think there is an acceptable level of that. But there’s a line somewhere and I think it has to do with the condition of our heart. And therefor how we act.
Example: SoCal traffic. I very quickly can assume the worst about someone who has cut me off and is driving stupid. My tone changes, I say not nice words and speak fury about how unacceptable their behavior is. On the other hand, my husband dismisses it, moves on, gives grace, isn't angered. What is necessary? What is good? What is the heart beneath it?

: the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven; mercy, pardon. 
I don't believe in "Forgive and Forget." I believe in a process of release, healing and grace. But we are not called to bury, ignore, pretend we're fine and carry on.
A mentor recently shared a breakdown of forgiveness with me that was so helpful. It was so freeing to know forgiveness is beyond saying, "I forgive you" and everything being good again.

There are 3 parts to the process:
  1. Forgiveness: Between a person & God. A choice to not hold the person responsible. This doesn't mean we were not wronged or our pain is invalid. It just means it is not in our hands to punish them. We can hand the process over to God.
  2. Reconciliation: Two people agreeing on the offense. This isn't always possible. It might not be wise or healthy to engage this. Sometimes we do part 1 and move forward in healing. Sometimes this part can happen. And if so, we move onto part 3. 
  3. Trust: Two people agree + demonstrated change over time. This is where we can reenter into relationship with the offender. It's not always healthy to just forgive and go back to where the relationship was. But, it is possible. It is a process. And it takes two. 
I don't know about you but this was so healing for me. I often times feel I am in the wrong and think I haven't forgiven if I still don't trust someone and don't wish to reengage.  But now I can breakdown a situation and decide what process is possible, necessary, good. But, this is also removes my freedom to say I have forgiven but still hold the person responsible, talk poorly about them or hold a grudge. I have to hand it over to God and move forward. I can still have a boundary with a person, but the condition of my heart changes through forgiveness.

So, there's some real talk for you based on something that's been on my mind/heart, stuff Charles and I have been processing and just good old life lessons.

I don't know what helps you process anger or tough situations but for me it is usually solid time journaling with a good cup of coffee, long venting/talks with my husband or a trusted friend or time outside in nature.

Welcome to the process.

I hope you find relief, comfort and a sense of healing today.