An Open Heart

2009 was one of the wildest rides of my life. In 2005 we got married, in 2006 we got pregnant  for the first time, in 2007 Josiah was born, in 2008 Autumn was born and we both finished college. We thought we would go easy in 2009 and hopefully avoid too many more big life changes.

In the beginning of 2009 Brian took what we thought might be an answered prayer and his dream job. Turns out what looks fishy and sounds too good to be true really is, and after a very short period of time it was clear Brian could not stay where he was even if the money was good. With some freelance offers in hand we formed TacoLamp, LLC and made plans to build Brian’s videography business as he began planning on a feature length independent film. At that time we were certain of only a couple things, one was God was with us and had a plan, the second was that we were all together and the third was that God wanted Brian to go to Kenya on Share International’s annual STORM trip to film the trip and produce a high quality video for the organization.

By March I was doing more photography than I had ever done, and I decided it was time for a new website, a blog, and a logo (of which Brian made all three and knocked my socks off !). In April I committed to blogging 6 days a week for 2 months to bring you all fresh content, photos and news and to challenge myself to make photographs worth showing the world at every single shoot and to share a bit of who I am.

When Brian left for Africa in June for 16 days I I had gone from getting way under 50 unique hits a day on my blog to as many as 100 a day. I tried to take those two weeks off of shooting, but every day people called wanting maternity, birth or newborn pictures that couldn’t wait two weeks. By the time Brian came back from his trip I was shooting several times a weeks or more! At that time I began turning down anybody wanting engagements, weddings, seniors, school events, and any other random job I used to jump at just to make some extra spending money. If I didn’t have a passion for it, I wasn’t going to shoot it.

The bad news was that Brian was no longer getting video jobs and the more I worked the more he had to do the child care and the more no one cooked or cleaned. I would have never guessed I would be a working mother while my kids were young. Certainly, neither of us would have imagined that Brian would be the “mom” and I would be running the business that was paying the bills. We fought it (and each other at times) for a while, but by the fall I was turning away clients because I was WAY over booked.

Some where along the line I lost a sense of myself and who I wanted to be. There was a constant fear that if I didn’t take every booking we wouldn’t make enough money and we would loose everything. Half way through November I started to feel a lot of tension. Some of it came from the hopelessness we both felt that Brian would never work again, some came from the hopeless ness that we would never have a decently clean home and home cooked meals on a regular basis, and yet more came from the realization that my two precious babies now preferred Brian to me pretty much all the time because I was gone a lot and when I was home I was answering emails, phone call, editing, blogging, logging checks, paying bills, or falling asleep from sheer exhaustion.

A constant drive to be better in my business, a fear of not making enough or having too much taken away in taxes, coupled with a wariness from shooting every day of the week and editing from 8pm-1am (when the kids were asleep) each day and sadness from missing my kids loomed over me.  I just kept telling myself that I needed to make it past the holiday rush and then we would figure something else out so we could balance the business and our family.

Then one morning we were all sleeping in, I got a call from my oldest sister and my dad in Washington that the younger of my two older sisters had shot herself during the night and though she was rushed to the hospital immediately, she did not make it. It was the cinder block that broke the camel’s back so to speak. I wrestled with what part I played in Jennifer’s death and how someone I loved could feel so hopeless and empty. Then I immediately got back to work trying to move shoots around in the middle of the busiest and most rushed time of year, so that I could fly to Washington to be at the funeral and help with Jen’s kids and be with my other sister Yvonne.

What followed were some of the worst weeks of my entire life. Thankfully most of you were so sweet and understanding. I got so many encouraging FB messages, emails and and cards expressing your thoughts, prayers and compassion.

What I did not expect was a couple of direct emails that were just the opposite. People angry for not getting what they had asked for. None that had paid for something they had not received, just people who felt that in my turmoil I had been unprofessional in getting things done that I said I would do, and that of course I wished I could have done. They were angry emails with hurtful words. Others were upset I had not returned emails, messages or texts. I had not expected this and I was not prepared.  I walked away from the computer and the emails and quite answering the phone, utterly exhausted, having been on three flights with two kids just trying to get to Washington, I cried. I couldn’t stop crying.

Mostly I cried because I would never get to see Jennifer again, that my kids would not remember her and that her son will never have his mommy back and her daughter will not remember her at all.  I also cried because I wasn’t physically there for her and she was hurting from things that happened to her long ago that should never happen to a little girl and things that she did to herself as an adult. I cried because I was angry my dad had not fixed all her insecurities and mine for that matter like I always dreamed he could (a total other issue and story on dads and their daughters).  I cried because my kids weren’t sleeping on the trip and I cried because people back home were angry with me that I had failed them with my business. And lastly I cried because the world went on when all I wanted was for it to stop so I could catch my breath. In those next couple weeks, I doubted every thing about my ability to do anything that I do.

Our friend Mera Koh wrote the following that is totally how I feel: “And here is the biggest thing.  The more I cried, the more convinced I felt that I needed to walk away from all of this.  Can anyone relate?  The amount of tears must measure how I am not cut out to handle the criticism and disappointment.  I have noticed this last year that the bigger we grow, the more exposure we gain, the critics seem to be louder than ever.  It may be less than 5%, but I’ve never handled hurtful words well.”

The new year came at last and I have tried to do things different. Brian is handling a lot of the editing and he’s awesome at it. I am committed to NOT OVER BOOKING! It makes me less able to be creative and give each shoot my all when I am over booked and exhausted.

Since my sister’s death I have been taking longer than normal to reply to emails and phone calls because I have been depressed and have felt like quitting and I am sorry. I have procrastinated out of fear I cant do anything anymore (have you ever done that?). And mostly I have been afraid to be honest.

I am now back up and running and if you haven’t gotten a response from me please send me another email because I should have gone though all of them now. To counter act the communication issues that ensued in December, I am not going to answer emails and texts and phone calls 24/7 anymore. You are welcome to email me at any time of day; however I am going to be diligent to only take calls and respond to emails during normal business hours (9-5) so that when I am with my children I am really with them and not sitting them in front of Blues Clues while I sit in front of a computer screen.

We will keep our one week turn around on image processing like we always have and we are now fully utilizing an automated proofing system that handles all orders so that the moment you place them they will begin being processed and will ship directly to you. This is all so that I can take time for my family and be refreshed on a regular basis to continue the great communication, fast turn around, and fun, laid back creative sessions that you guys love.

So many of you have been emailing asking about my next camera class for moms to learn to take better pictures of your kids and I am hearing you!So I will teach another class on February 13th, and hubbys, this would be a great V-Day gift for your wife! Like before we will cover aperture, shutter and ISO and do some shooting together as well as look at my tips to get better pictures of your kids and what gear to put of your wish list! Email me to book your spot! Tuition is $150 and includes the slides from the presentations, the class and any questions you have during or after the class and critique and follow up by email on your images if you choose to send me pictures using your new skills! There are only 6 spots so let me know soon!

Also many of you women are running your own businesses, some full time, and some on the side. Especially in this economy there is an increasing need for us to do something to help our families. It might be an Etsy store, Creative Memories, wedding planning, party planning, child care, tutoring or something else entirely! But if you feel me on being a woman and an entrepreneur than let me know! I would love to hear what you do and maybe even share it with my readers! How fun would it be to get together and share and encourage one another?

Well this is the story of the past year in my life. It was long and sappy sometimes. Thanks for listening and begin a part of my life. You 100-200 people who show up on my Google Analytics each day to see what’s up are often what keeps me going and I can’t thank you enough. Here’s to a new year, a fresh start, lessons learned and another chance at being a beloved child of God, a wife to the most supportive and awesome man on earth, a crazy mother’s to 2 kids 2 and under, and a photographer who is afraid to call herself that most days.

Here is my new favorite picture of myself. It embodies who I am right now.