Farm Sunset October 2016

Being Here, in 2017

Friends! It’s the start of a new year…and honestly, it’s a time where I can get easily overwhelmed. In the past I’ve written about lofty goals and ideas I want to tackle in the next 350+ days, but this year feels different. I have been struggling to wrap my head around last year and plan what comes next in several facets of my life. But after a chat with a good friend I realized something really important:

I’m already here.

The last three years or so have been a crash course in goals, resolutions and overcoming obstacles. Almost every facet of my life has gone through a fairly extreme overhaul…from my marriage to my career to my parenting status to my family. Illness and health have been a huge factor in the past few years, both for myself and for those I love the most. After really taking a look back on last year and everything I went through, I felt a sense of calm. Did I accomplish every goal I set out for myself last January? No. Not even close. But I learned so much and one of the biggest lessons was that I don’t have to wait until January 1 to decide to change my life for the better. I make that choice on a daily basis.

Farm Sunset October 2016

Last year was a big one for my business. I completely overhauled my pricing and the way I sell my photography. I created and facilitated the 30 Days of Summer Photo Challenge, which had hundreds of participants. I did a dozen television segments. I went to Greece to photograph a refugee camp. And I photographed dozens of families, newborns, children and couples…it was a fantastic year! Personally, I went through many (MANY) challenges, but I’m very proud of how I came through it all, even though there is MUCH to improve upon. One of the biggest personal goals last year was getting fit, slowly and surely, over about nine months of hard work, exercise and nutritional changes. I feel better physically today than I did in my 20s, which is saying something! I am officially in my mid-30s now and I feel stronger than I ever have. I also started working to find ways to make an impact as an activist in my community. This is something I didn’t plan on when 2016 began, but now I’m grateful for the opportunity.

In 2017, I’m looking forward to some more changes in how I do business, with a focus on continuing to be profitable while also serving my family, friends and community. There will hopefully be a few more writing and blogging projects (which took a backseat last year) and maybe even a new creative endeavor or two! I want to create more than I consume, and make the world a little more joyful every day. I am excited to reach out and work with even more creatives and amazing people doing wonderful work in my community.

If you’re interested in working with me in 2017, or you have an awesome project you want to chat about, send me a note at Let’s make this the best year yet!

What Dreams May Come…

Today’s the day, and I should be frantically running around, trying to do all the things and check items off my list. But instead I’m sitting in bed with my laptop and the sleeping kitten. I feel oddly calm, which is so unlike me when I’m preparing for travel. Maybe it’s just because this trip is so different from any I’ve ever taken? Maybe it’s because I’m in denial this is actually happening? Maybe I just need more coffee?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always told stories. I tell them through my writing and my photography, and most of the time they are meaningless to anyone else. But that’s okay, because they mean a lot to me. I am made of that stuff that just inherently NEEDS to share, or else my head and my heart might explode.

We talk a lot in our home about using our talents to help others. I may not be perfect or famous or have a million dollars, but I can share my gifts in a way that lifts others up. I’m a storyteller, and my life’s goal is to tell stories for good. To tell the stories that need to be heard. Sometimes those stories are mundane and sometimes they are magnificent.

I met my best friend and chosen sister, Theresa, when I was 8-years-old. In the past few years she has grown so much, and these days I’m the one who looks up to her. She has risen in the academic ranks at her job and in the past year she has begun a very intense research project, which is focused on education rights for Syrian refugee children who have been displaced due to the civil war there.

This summer she reached out and asked if I’d be interested in traveling with her to Greece to photograph the refugees and refugee camps there in conjunction with the United Nations. I couldn’t believe it. This is a dream opportunity for me! Our goal is to learn more about the current state of primary education for refugees in Greece. We want to heighten awareness for support needed for further development of access to education, and the bigger picture for the Syrians, Afghans and other nationalities of refugee children residing there.

I fly to New York today. Tomorrow we leave for Greece.

I am in awe of this opportunity. I know I can’t even fathom yet how this will change me. I think that’s why I’m still laying in my bed, instead of frantically running around. I am preparing, in the only way I know how.

Be still. Be still. Be still.

I will be off the grid while I’m away, but I hope to keep updating social media when I have internet access. I would assume the best bet for photos is to follow my Instagram and for video content to follow me on Snapchat under the name “crazeebananaz” (I love Instagram stories, but it’s still a bit glitchy for me, so I’m going to plan on snapping most things and then uploading to Instagram stories if I can). If you’re able, send some good vibes or prayers or juju or whatever into the universe for us, as we embark on this journey. We can use all the encouragement we can get…

How to Scrap Your Day Job and Pursue Your Passion

Last week I was so excited to be asked to come back to Better Kansas City and talk about how I transitioned from being a work-out-of-the-home mom to an entrepreneur with her own business. I was planning on sharing some of my tips on steps I took early on, but we ended up chatting more about my story and how I finally made the decision to make the switch! You can watch the video below…

Here area a few of my tips for anyone considering starting their own business, especially moms who are managing a household as well:

  • Find for Your Community: Small business associations, creative groups, collaborative relationships…reach out! It can be lonely doing it all by yourself, but finding your community will help.
  • Get the Legal and Financial Stuff Done Upfront: Talk to lawyers, accountants and insurance companies to make sure you’re all set BEFORE you start charging people. Reach out to your community to get recommendations for your specific line of work.
  • Be Prepared for a Bit of an Identity Change: I very strongly self-identified with being a full-time, working out of the home mom, so when my situation changed, I was surprised at all the emotions I felt. I was of course thrilled, but it was also very challenging to relearn who I was and how I fit into my family dynamic.
  • Organization is Key: Even though I love the work I’m doing, and I love being able to be there more for my kids, it can be hard some days to find the time for everything. Without a steady line between work and home, things can get a little murky. Making sure I’m as organized as possible helps keep everything in check!

If you’re thinking of making the switch, I’m so pumped for you! If I can do it, anyone can!

2016 Goals

Goals, Resolutions and the Recovering Perfectionist

It’s the beginning of January, so I’m gonna guess this isn’t the first post you’ve seen regarding “setting goals” or “resolutions” for the new year. Am I right? I thought so. Well, if you’re feeling over the whole thing, I hear you. I am not a natural goal-setter and honestly, the thought of making a list of things I want to do sort of makes me want to gag.

I wasn’t always this way. As a Type-A Supermom, I used to love writing down all of my resolutions and then checking them off, one by one. I got a strange satisfaction from looking at this yearly to-do list and feeling the superiority of completing it. On this very blog I hosted a bucket list of 100 things I wanted to do in my lifetime. But there was one problem. I wasn’t the best at failing. And when you’re trying new things, odds are high you’re going to fail once or twice (or a hundred times). For me, failure didn’t feel like an option, so often I’d push myself to complete tasks I’d lost passion for or didn’t make sense anymore, just to prove I could do them.

When my perfectionism came crashing down around me a few years ago, I swung in the other direction. I hated goals. The word “resolution” gave me chills. Any talk of pursuing anything new or scary was just not in the cards for me. This isn’t a healthy way to live either, because if you don’t strive for anything, how will you ever get anywhere?

So about two years ago I came to a balance that has worked well ever since. We decided to make goals and resolutions as a family, and work together to help each other and keep ourselves accountable. (You can read a post on our family goal setting night here) Shockingly, it worked! Does that mean I complete every resolution on my list? Nope, not even close, but that’s part of the process. Sometimes we think we want something (a thinner body, a new job, etc.) and find what we wanted isn’t exactly what we thought! Maybe we start out the year wanting to do more yoga, and realize we hate meditation and would rather run marathons instead. Does that mean we failed? Nope, if anything, we succeeded.

F.A.I.L. = First Attempt In Learning

I love this acronym. LOVE. Because that’s really what it’s all about, right? In the end, it’s not about checking items off a list, but using those items to learn about ourselves and the world around us. Having this mindset changed my whole perspective, and now I get a rush out of setting resolutions again. Not because I want to show how amazing I am, but because I start to imagine all I’m going to learn along the way, and that my friends, is pretty freaking exciting.

My personal goals this year are pretty tame. I want to do a project with my husband. I want to continue simplifying my life and my home (i.e. KonMari everything and get rid of all the “stuff”). I want to get back into the habit of daily journaling, something that fell by the wayside during my busy work season followed by the holidays.

My business goals are a little more lofty.

2016 Goals

Is it because I think I can really accomplish all of this in a year? Heck, I have no idea. And honestly, it really doesn’t matter. Because it’s not about getting it all done. It’s about the different paths and routes I will end up taking on the journey. And you know what, if I end up failing at all of them, it’s okay. There’s always next year.

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The Sunday Mornings Project

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Everyone knows I’m a huge fan of a good photo project. Sometimes when I’m feeling uninspired and find my creative self very far away, I turn to photo projects as a way to steer myself home. I’ve done a couple of collaborative ones in the past (like NYC + KC), but I felt like it was time I create something on my own. Something that is wholly made of that interesting stuff between my ears.

I’ve been pretty vocal about being in long term recovery, and what that means for me. But sometimes I think it’s difficult to explain how it affects my daily life. People understand I don’t drink alcohol anymore, but I think they just assume that only affects my nights. They think of the glasses of wine I won’t be sharing at happy hour or the social events I miss all together. Rarely do they ask about my mornings. Which is strange to me, because it is the days that are the most changed. Specifically, Sundays.

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Sunday mornings used to be a tortuous period in my week. Those were the mornings I’d wake up with a pounding headache, my heart racing, my stomach turning…my mouth would be dry and my teeth would feel slimy. But worst of all, I’d have a sinking feeling, deep down in my gut. For many, MANY years I’d wake up every Sunday full of so much shame and remorse. I’d push through the pain and get on with my day and my life, but it was never easy and always painful. Sunday was the day I felt the worst, and it was also usually the day I’d say to myself, “I can’t do this again. I’m done.”

But then it would be Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday and I’d find myself right back in it. I felt like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the mountain, just to have it roll back down…over and over and over. It was a battle in a seemingly endless war with myself. I feared it would never end. I assumed Sunday mornings would just always be the worst. That was my reality. That was my penance.

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Today, Sunday mornings are glorious. They are amazing in their simplicity and joy. They are easy, which may not seem like something to celebrate, but for someone who usually waged war on Sundays, easy is pretty wonderful. There was so much I missed out on before…not because things weren’t happening and not because I wasn’t there, but because no matter how “there” I was…I was never really, truly anywhere. I was always in my head, fighting the battle with myself, and never really in the present moment at all.

When I decided I wanted to start another photo project, Sunday morning jumped out at me. I knew I wanted to do a project about recovery for a long time, but I wasn’t sure how to make it work. My answer was Sunday mornings.

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Every Sunday morning I am trying to capture something simple. Something understated. Something that most people would see and say, “Huh, looks like a nice little Sunday.” But for those of us in recovery, and those of us still fighting the war in our own minds, seeing these images can give immense hope.

There are good Sundays out there. Sundays full of love and light. They are simple, but they are glorious. So for one year, I am going to do my best to capture my Sunday mornings. I want to look back and remember how I felt, just in case the dark thoughts come back. I need the light to fight them off. And if you’re struggling, I hope you can see these images every week, and remember there is a reason to keep fighting. The struggle is worth it. You are worth it.

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Follow the Sunday Mornings Project over on Instagram by following me @crazy_bananas or via the hashtag #cbsundaymornings

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