I'll be honest. Just the sheer enormity of taking on a post of this epic nature scared me.
Which is really fitting when you think about it. Because just the sheer enormity of taking on something like all that we had planned going in to this year's WPPI terrified me to my very core.
I've been thinking a lot about the best way to go about explaining to you what this past week was like. How all the parts had to fit together just right. How at any moment, any combination of a million different tiny problems could have reared their ugly heads and had the whole thing come crashing down.
And how....it never did.
To say we were audacious may be the understatement of the year. With all the things we were hoping would come together literally down to the wire, foolhardy might be more accurate. After all, who were we to hope for so many big, BIG things in the space of just one week? But like we said in the talk, who are we (who are any of us)... not to? I believe in miracles. With my whole heart I believe in them. Not just the big, grand walk on water kind. But the million tiny little ones that make up each and every day. The ones that most of the time go unnoticed. Yet but for them, none of the big ones would ever get a chance to matter.
A shipment that was delayed indefinitely showed up inexplicably at our hotel room door right on time. A keynote that was crashing every two minutes just decided to start working and never crash again. A voice that was lost, returned. A computer that had completely died, came back to life. Friends stepped in at the last minute. And mountains of work divided up among their six steady hands, suddenly seemed more like mole hills. Prayers were said. Deep breaths and hugs were given. Faith was restored.
This past week was not a miracle my friends, make no mistake about it. It was a million of them.
And I am grateful for each and every one.
I guess it's best to begin at the beginning, which for us really got started on Monday night with our J&M Walk Through Alum Mix & Mingle. We had everyone meet up with us at Centrifuge, and somewhere around 9:30pm I looked up and we were suddenly surrounded by 40 friendly faces. People we have just met over the past year or two, but when I look at them all I see are friends. Allies. People I feel grateful to have standing in our corner. And as I took a step back to take it all in, I have to admit a few tears got away from me. To each and every one of you, I am so lucky to call you friends! And I am so, SO proud of all that you are doing. And just so you know, Justin & I are already planning next year's party....I'm thinking this time we may have to take over a whole suite!!
Huge thanks to Christy Tyler for the two pictures above and all of the production stills from the shootout!
The next morning around 4am on three hours of sleep or so, my alarm went off so we could get ready for our Sunrise Shoot Out. Liz & Ryan would be at our door around 5:30am for Liz to put on the Chaviano Couture dress, and to finalize hair & makeup. And from there we headed down to the lobby, where 20 bright eyed photographers (who are all total troopers by the way!) were ready to get their shoot on. As soon as we got down to the lobby, we were met with some crazy exciting news....but that's a different post entirely. So stay tuned tomorrow afternoon for that. :)
From there we went out into the frozen tundra of Las Vegas before the sun was fully up, and through chattering teeth Justin & I talked about The Why and redefining the word "posing" to mean something more.
Justin, aka the light whisperer :)
Yea, it was early. I was loopy.
And hilarious. Clearly, clearly hilarious.
Work it. Lemme work it.
Our GORGEOUS models Liz & Ryan working it like nobody's business. Honestly, with these two there....we were pretty much cheating.
This is most of the crew, but we did miss the first few people who had to tag out for their next class. To each and every one of you, I want to thank you for signing up, for showing up, and bringing hearts so willing to learn. You rocked my world. Through and through. And just so you never forget, you & you alone made it possible for what's coming next. I adore you for that.
Tuesday night was a bit of a blur. But the one thing that I will always remember is sitting on the floor with Liz & Ryan and Alicia tying bows for about 5 hours straight.....and talking about life. About what's next for this industry. About what it really is to be a leader. And Ke$ha....I'm pretty sure there was discussion of Ke$ha. :)
The next morning, like clockwork, I woke up at 4:30am and began the long wait to that afternoon and our platform. Around 11am, Still Motion came by to shoot some getting ready footage for their video, and then it was time to go sound check. Justin takes charge of making sure all the light & sound is just where it needs to be, so I had some time to just sit & breathe.
During the talk, there were actually going to be TWO film crews recording: Still Motion & Jeremy Mitchell (more on that to come in a second!). So yea, there were a few cameras running around. :) Which means, had I literally gotten up & fallen on my face....there would have been ample evidence of it!! Noooooo pressure!!
About an hour before the talk, Liz, Ryan, Emilia, Alicia & Stephane came to help us put everything out on the seats, bag up the gifts, and be on hand to help hand out the surprise we had put together for all of our pre-boarders: J&M custom tins of Thinking Putty since the talk was called "The Big Think." Boom. :)
After that, we gathered in the back for a quick prayer, Alicia walked me through some deep breathing, we left a few extra minutes for them to get the sound working again :), and then it was GO time!! Whew. Here we go.
I'm not going to lie, that room was big and scary. And I was really, really grateful for the bright lights so I didn't have to look at everyone right off the bat. :)
It made it a lot easier to find a groove.
These next few pictures are of people's faces during the first video we showed of Mary Ann. But that story *really* deserves a post all to itself. So for now I'm just going to bracket it, and say stay tuned tomorrow morning for a whole post devoted just to her!
Raise your hands if you hate The Office w/o Michael Scott. Thought so!
Ok, here we go!! Now it starts to get really good! :) Here is where we unveiled what that "good cause" was that we put on the Sunrise Shoot Out for. We told the story of First Lieutenant of the Marine Corps Steven Verblaauw & his wife Sonya. Steven actually got deployed when Sonya was 7 months pregnant with their first child, and stayed in Afghanistan during the first 6 months of their daughter, Grace's life. Only ever meeting her over Skype.
And at the end of it, we got to surprise everyone by revealing that Steven, Sonya & Grace were actually on hand in the room and we got to bring them up on stage to a standing ovation....
....where once they were up there, we got to tell them that not only were they there to surprise everyone else, we also had a lil' surprise up our sleeves for them. :)
....that since they had lost some of the magic of those first few months of bringing Grace home together, we thought what better way to return some of that magic than by sending them to the most magical, the happiest place on earth. Disney World, of course!! Where Justin & I will be flying down to join them and do a shoot of them there.
By the way, NONE of which would've been possible without the photographers who took a leap and signed up for the Sunrise Shoot Out. So, so much of the credit belongs right with them! Thank you guys again!
I ended talking about my Grandma Goldie. About losing her this past September. And about the scars that we bear. About how short & precious this life is. But how it is the scars that make us stronger. And how we can't waste a minute of the time that we've been given. This one wild & precious life is far too important for that. And standing on that stage, for just that moment right there, it finally felt like I wasn't.
We were so, SO unbelievably blessed & lucky to have the incredible team of Jeremy Mitchell & Nick along with us all week at the mix & mingle, the sunrise shoot out, the pre-board meet & greet, and the talk itself documenting how it all unfolded together. To be there to tell our story. And what they've created for us, the story that they've told for us, is something that I can tell you I will cherish the rest of my life. I want to be 90 years old showing this to my great-grandchildren...Justin & Mary, Jr. :) If ANYONE in the DC/Virginia area (or anywhere else in the world for that matter) is in need of a filmmaker for your wedding or a promo video, I can't recommend these two incredible people enough!! Without further ado... this is our story.
And fiinally, finally, finally... to every single person who was in that room with us, who took a chance in grabbing a seat.....thank you. Thank you for dreaming & doing bigger, thank you for being there, thank you for always choosing heart over swagger. And for leading the brand new era in this industry. It is because of you and what you do, that we get to chase these dreams.
And just so you know, when I count my miracles...I count each of you among them.