We laid out on a blue blanket under a patchwork quilting of stars. We had found our way there through the darkness, guided only by the strings of a melody. It had danced up beside us, tapped us on each shoulder, and then floated away on the wings of a sweet salty breeze. My head felt heavy in the sand, full of the challenges and discomfort of what would be required next. But my heart stretched up toward heaven unafraid. Reeling in the possibility of what could be. Of...What If.
We were the last to arrive that night on the beach. And songs had already been sung. While melodies turned into harmonies, we had been camped out in the lobby on the phone with airlines and hotel reservation desks getting our flights changed. We had been set to leave early the next morning, but that would require us missing the last few hours of what we were there for. And I guess we just never counted on how much these three days on the beaches of Mexico would change us. Challenge us. Connect us forever. And when you feel that much a part of something, you just have to stay and see it through.
I pressed my shoulders into the sun-fired sand and felt the warmth rising all around me from the ground up. But somehow the laughter on the breeze of a group of strangers turned friends felt even warmer. And lying there in the darkness surrounded by the collective promise of boundless possibility, I could swear that even the stars themselves bowed in humbled reverence to a light on the beach... they knew shined brighter.
I sat in our room and stared wide eyed at the lap top.
Scrolling through the keynote, I glanced over slide after slide of brand new material. I felt my palms go sweaty, and then I looked up at the ceiling and said out loud and to no one in particular, I can't do this. Yes, the slides were mine. And yes, I basically knew what I wanted to say about each one. But every word had not been scripted. Every transition was far from smooth. And being a girl who takes comfort in knowing exactly what's coming next, I was reeling in that slow motion feeling of falling. Right before you land on your face.
I stood at the front of the room while our friend Russ Caron introduced us, and quietly asked Justin for the laptop remote. It was right about then that it was his eyes going wide. He whispered back that we didn't have it. In swapping out our suitcases from Mexico to Maine it had been left behind. And just as this was registering, I had the terrifying realization that every eye in the room was on us. I stumbled through an introduction and then pressed play on our video. That's it, a two minute reprieve. Two minutes to get. it. TO-getherrrrrr. I started doing my own made up version of lamaze breathing... until I realized that I was only breathing in. And as I heard the last words of the video winding down, I realized I had a choice.
I could spend my whole life putting off doing something until it was perfect... or I could take a chance on myself right now.
I could stay on the sidelines and never once risk the pain of falling....but only at the cost of never ever getting the chance to shine.
I could list all the reasons why I don't have it in me to do the thing I most need to do....or I could just go out and do it.
I could wait on perfection and perfect timing and never once see those come around....or I could just go out on faith that passion and heart and really, really meaning it are enough.
Yesterday I chose the latter. And today, that's what I hope for you too.
HUGE thanks to Russ and the entire board of the MPPA for inviting us to speak and making us feel so welcome! You guys are amazing!
Pancake Session: Karen Stott on Marriage & Business
I don't know if I can pinpoint the exact moment Karen Stott (founder of Pursuit 31, which in case you haven't heard about it is absolutely BLOWING up) came into my life. In a strange way, it kind of feels like she's always been there. Because she's the type of person that you can meet twice and feel like you have confidant and a best friend for life. She's the kind of person that you can look in the eye, tell your deepest struggles to, and not only know that she'll take them to the grave with her....she'll have a way of feeling exactly what you're feeling, of putting herself so much in your shoes that she can somehow help you find the answer. She's a true friend. And together with her husband Isaac, they are two of the most integrity-filled people of character I have ever met. They are shining a light in this industry. They represent everything about the change that's coming. Where authenticity and heart, not swagger, rule the day. And I am so, so honored to have them here today...so they can shine some of that light into all of us as well.
Hey lovelies! So I must start by saying that I am kinda having one of those “pinch me” moments. I’m certain it’s the same way that aspiring actors feel when they finally watch themselves on television – yet this is my television. Getting an email from Mary, inviting me to share with all of you, is an honor that I can’t even put into words (and believe me, being speechless is completely uncharacteristic of me!).
If you know me even a little bit you may know that I am the queen of shoving my foot in my mouth. I say what I feel, and Isaac, my husband of 11 years, often takes on the role of my personal filter. In the words of Jerry Macguire, he absolutely, 100 percent “completes me.” I can honestly say that I don’t know what I would do without him in my life, and that I am a better person because of him. It’s this doe- eyed, almost sickening love for each other that somehow gets people curious wondering how we do it. So, at the risk of repeating myself, here’s our story.
Being only 19 at our wedding, I knew nothing of marriage, or life, or hardships. All I knew was love. I loved Isaac with my whole heart and I knew that it would get us through anything we faced. Boy oh BOY was I in for a surprise. It didn’t take long to realize that life isn’t just butterflies and roses all the time. Marriage was hard work. And if we weren’t proactive in fighting for it, a life spent as glorified roommates would most certainly become our reality. Throwing kids and running a business into the mix, and you might as well just tag chauffer, office manager, housekeeper, mediator and lunch-maker on to your perfect storm. Who has time to worry about marriage? It’s hard enough just to figure out how to juggle everything else every day.
But in reality, who can afford not to?
I can tell you this. Six years into our marriage we started letting life take over. Having a new baby and running a business brought challenges that we never saw coming, and we almost lost it all. At that point, we weren’t even glorified roommates. We were roommates. We each did our thing and stayed out of each other’s way. That love feeling that I thought would get us through everything had become a very faint memory. My smile disappeared and I couldn’t even remember why I had started a photography business in the first place. I wanted to quit and I begged for him to let me. But Isaac is a fighter and he wouldn’t give up, even when I wanted to.
This is when our love became real. When we were forced to walk it out through thousands of tiny choices, with no promise that it would ever get better. But we knew we had to try.
So we set out to make some changes….
First, we got in UNITY ~ One of the main things that was tearing us apart was my workaholic tendencies. I am such a passionate person that sometimes I get tunnel vision, and everything else falls to the wayside. Back then, the “everything else” was my family. I had a tendency to devote more time to work than my family, which left them hurt and resentful. When we pressed the reset button, we went back to square one. We put it all out there and figured out where we wanted to go and how much time we had to commit to it. We got on the same page. We were committed to not letting the work-horse back into the barn. So getting our vision and our work hours nailed down was one of the biggest game changers for us.
We learned to COVER EACH OTHER ~ I cannot tell you how much this revolutionized our home. Isaac and I are POLAR OPPOSITES. I can guarantee you that if he prefers one thing, I prefer the opposite. We think different, like different things and operate differently. It’s not bad, it just is. This used to be a massive point of contention and our battles back then could’ve won competitions. It got bad, ya’ll. Really. Until the day we realized that we were actually fighting what we were created for. Neither one of us was right or wrong, we were just created differently. I wasn’t made to succeed in the areas that he was, and visa versa. We were made to cover each other. In other words, where I lack, Isaac steps in. Where he has trouble, I step up and help. Instead of focusing on what each of us fail at, we each try and bring our strengths to the table.
Differentiated LOVE and RESPECT ~ As a woman I always thought that I needed to show Isaac I LOOOVEEED him. So I would always dote on him and make sure to give him lots of hugs and kisses and write him little notes. You know… the things that “I” would appreciate. I felt like a fish out of water one day when he told me that without feeling respected, all of those things didn’t really matter. Say What????? Instantly I thought… “But honey… don’t you just love the puppy card covered in glitter that I got you???” Well, it turns out that yes, he appreciated the card, but it didn’t speak love to him like I thought. Oftentimes, men receive love through feeling respected, which is definitely something I wasn’t showing him enough. That day, I began a silent mission to always talk to him and treat him with respect. When I made that decision, the entire atmosphere of our home drastically changed. Our once stressful, anxiety-filled house was now a place of rest and peace.
DATE All Over Again ~ By this I don’t mean start up another weekly date night routine. If you are anything like us, this turns into a bland cycle of dinner & shopping at the same exact places. What I mean is to actively pursue each other again… woo each other. Yes, I said woo… go ahead and laugh it up. Find out what really speaks to your spouse and set out to knock their socks off! We used to have date night competitions and they were so much fun. Each week we would rotate whose turn it was to plan a date night and it quickly became the battle of who could out romance who…. Not a bad competition huh?!? If you are curious how your spouse receives love, I HIGHLY recommend the book The 5 Love Languages. It revolutionized how we communicate with each other and even how we make decisions on a daily basis. It’s AMAZING!
Okay, okay…. Reign. It. In. Karen…. I realize that I’ve jabbered on and on about things to do in your marriage, but not a ton about building your business at the same time. Well, here’s why. When our marriage was a mess, our business was a JUNK yard. No exaggeration. Once we stepped back, reprioritized and implemented the things I mentioned above, not only did our marriage start to thrive, but our photography business naturally followed suit. I’m not promising that if you follow these four steps the sun will shine brighter and everything will be perfect. But what I can do is share our story and tell you that it worked for us. And we would love NOTHING more than to see it work for you, too.
*****Together with Karen, I am SO-O-O-O excited to announce that I have just joined on to speak alongside an incredible group of ladies & leaders, led by Karen, at the Pursuit31 conference in Georgia on October 1-4th of this year. This looks to be an amazing, heart-filling, challenging, inspiring four days and I for one can't wait to get there and soak in everything. If you're ready for a real change in your life, we hope to see you there too.
Ever since we started doing our Walk Through a Wedding Workshops we've been getting a slew of questions about how we plan and implement our styled shoots. So while Justin & Mary are off in Cabo for a conference (lucky, lucky!!) :) I thought I would kick start your morning with a "little" short stack of workshop planning goodness! :)
Before you start planning a styled shoot, there is one thing, I would suggest you go out and get. A notebook (preferably a cute one!). My workshop notebook, is my lifeline! I carry it everywhere! To the grocery store, to the bank, to the mall, and especially to bed. Inspiration will strike at the oddest times and you want to be prepared. Carrying a notebook, ensures that all of your ideas and inspiration are in one place, I've tried the sporadic method: email myself an idea today, jot a note down on an old napkin tomorrow, and make an iphone note the day after that. But that just creates massive confusion, and I tend to lose the napkins :) Nothing compares to having your train of thought documented as the ideas come. Seriously! Try it! :)
Ok, so you have a notebook (and hopefully a pen!) now what?
Stage 1: I know I want to put together a styled shoot, but how do I start? It seems simple, but the first thing you have to do, is decide on a concise theme. It can start anywhere, song lyrics, a movie title, or even with a color. After you have a basic idea in mind, start jotting stuff down- anything and everything that comes to mind. We often do this as a team exercise- we sit down together and start throwing ideas out into the air or if I'm working from home, Mary will shoot me an email with some of her ideas. Once the theme starts to come alive, then it's time to hit the internet! Start pulling images (Pinterest is a great resource!) for your design board. When we are putting together a design board for a styled shoot, we try to put it together just as if we are planning a real wedding, so we make sure to include: a bridal gown, grooms attire, a dessert, flowers, a signature drink, a maids dress and some details that can easily be translated into place cards, favors, and decor. We've found that a second opinion on the design board is almost a necessity, so as soon as I have one ready to go, I shoot it over to Mary for her opinion! Sometimes the design board is right on the money and sometimes it needs a few rounds to really make it pop. If you work by yourself, send the design board to a friend or family member who has an artistic eye- just to get a second opinion on how all of the details are coming together!
Stage 2: I have an awesome design board- now how am I going to pull this off? After you have a good theme and your design board nailed down, it's time to start planning! Make a list of the type of partners you want to work with. I keep a google spreadsheet saved with all of the necessities so I don't forget anything! Here's a list of partners that we look for! A venue, a bridal salon (who can also provide accessories!), a florist, a baker, a planner, a paperie, a makeup artist (who also does hair!), a rental company, a vintage rental company, models and interns. That list looks pretty long, but keep in mind, this is a list of all of the potential partners you can work with. When we were out on tour we did a lot of these ourselves! We did most of our own planning, all of our own flowers, and usually found our desserts at a local bakery (or we made our own!). So if the list seems a little daunting, figure out which things you want to handle yourself, and which things you think you might need help with! And then go from there! :)
Once you have the list of partners you need to find, it can seem a little overwhelming to start looking for them. But my suggestion is to dive right in! Chances are, you know a bunch of really awesome professionals in your area, and if you don't, no worries! This is a great way to meet some! :) Since you already have a theme and design board, look for partners who might be drawn to your ideas. If you are planning a light and airy garden theme, look for a florist who loves to work with wildflowers and a makeup artist who rocks the natural look. If you are planning a super edgy urban editorial shoot, look for an ultra chic loungy venue and a rental company that provides things like leather couches and lucite furniture. When you call or email someone, make sure to tell them why you think they would be amazing to work with for this particular shoot and fill them in on some of the details you are planning. I'm a super shy person, so this was really hard for me in the beginning. But the more workshops we planned in different cities, the more I learned that asking doesn't hurt! The worst someone can say is no! And I learned that the people who say yes are just as excited for the shoot as you are- and that makes it even better!
After you have everyone lined up to help out, make sure to keep them in the loop as you continue to make plans for all of your details and solidify times! Professionals know their jobs inside and out, so be sure to ask a ton of questions and take all of their opinions into consideration!
Stage 3: OMG, I can't back out now! So, the design board has been posted to your blog, you've made contact with everyone who is going to help out with the shoot, and now, the shoot actually has to come together! This is where I start to panic! (but only just a little!) Once you have most of the major points down, whose helping, where you're getting the dress, etc. It's time to take it to the next level :) This is where all of your awesome ideas start to take definitive form! The idea that "I'm going to make some DIY shoes, that look kinda like the ones Kirsten Dunst wore in the Marie Antoinette movie" turns into full on hot glue gun mode and your vague idea about a chic head table turns into a rectangular table for eight, covered with a blue pintuck linen decorated with white china, white orchids and silver candlesticks.
This is when my notebook comes in super handy! (I also have a google document that I can email to anyone who is helping out). We have a list of details that we need to hit at every shoot and here they are! The head table, the welcome table, the favor table, the dessert table, a photo booth, and sometimes an extra table of props and cool details. I make sure that I plan out each table before hand so on the day of the shoot, there isn't much left up to chance.
For example: When I'm planning a head table, we need to figure out the size, shape, and type of table we want to use, what type of table cloth we are going to use, what type of chairs, what the place settings are going to look like (glasses, silverware, plates, napkins), the centerpieces, and any additional details we might want to add to the head table decor. Do we want to decorate the bride and grooms chair with an extra detail? Do we want to put a menu, or favor, or additional detail on each plate? I go through this process for each of our staples and start to make lists and draw pictures of what we have in mind. Usually I sit down again with Mary and go over everything and also each of our partners (either by phone or email) to make sure all of our plans can come to fruition!
We also try to include about 3 DIY projects per shoot- these need to be planned out and finished in time for the day of the shoot! So lists, pictures, and plans definitely come in handy! Especially when you are out running errands for the shoot!
Stage 4: It's really here- YAY! The day of the shoot is when you see all of your hard work and effort come to life and its absolutely amazing! If you have everything planned in advance, you just have to show up, bring whatever you need , and set it all up! It's always good to have at least one or two people on hand to help move furniture and set up. My notebook is essential on the day of, things can change depending upon light and space, but for the most part, the tables are planned ahead of time, so that the set up can go as quickly as possible. I can refer back to all of our ideas, lists, and drawings to make sure everything comes together the way we hoped!
And that, in a shortstack, is how we plan our styled shoots! :)
And just for fun, here's a little glimpse into the craziness that is my Walk Through a Wedding Notebook (check out my awesome drawing skills! LOL!). Can you guess which shoots the various lists/pictures go with? :)
I know I just covered a TON of stuff! So if you have any questions or need any clarification, just pop them in the comment section below and I'll try to answer them the best I can!! :)