Friday, April 20, 2012

Coming Home

{my grandmother holding Vesper a couple of months ago}
I’m heading home this weekend. Not my current home- real home. Where I grew up and people know me and my family waits with open arms. I get to sleep in my old bedroom and stay up late chatting with my mother. I get to give great big hugs to my dad and brother and hold the sweet hand of my grandmother. It makes my spirit swell that I get to take my daughter along with me so that she can experience all of these things too- all of these people and places and intangible things that I hold so tightly in my heart- things that have shaped the woman that I am today.

When I was a little girl we had plenty of wide open space to run and play and we ran wild all over every single inch of country that we could reach. Sometimes we would get too far away to hear my mother yell for us to come in for supper. So instead, she would take this old iron bell and stand on the front porch and ring it as loud as she could. We would hear that bell from our perch in a tree or our rustic fort in the woods and we would sprint home. It called us. We knew that wherever we were, that bell meant one thing: Home. Comfort. (FOOD!)

Now, as an adult, I still feel something calling me home every now and then. Sometimes I just get too far away and I need to turn back and make my way home.

It’s funny how we spend so much of our lives aching to leave the arms of our parents- to be free and make our own way. But then one day we wake up and realize we’ve been doing this “grown up” thing on our own for far too long. We have jobs and kids and spouses and responsibilities just like we wanted, right? And when did that happen anyway? Weren’t we just yesterday running through fields and forests and waiting to hear that bell call us home- praying it won’t sound too soon? Surely it happened while we were sleeping… all the things we wanted and held in such high esteem seem to have become obligations instead. Somewhere along the way we just… lost our way… we misprioritized and things got turned around… and sometimes it takes a trip home to put things back into perspective.

I’m blessed to say that I can go home because at home, I’m not anyone else but me. I’m my mother’s daughter and the sister to three rowdy boys and the granddaughter of a woman who has more love and kindness in her heart than anyone I’ve ever met. I am the very core of me- the foundation of who I have now become. I’m nobody’s boss or employee or maid or nurse or go-to gal… I’m back at the start- back where things still made sense. I’m just me- the wide-eyed, strawberry-blonde girl who hasn’t got it all figured out- not yet- sprinting toward the sound of that bell that calls me home.

I hope your weekend is extra lovely.



Friday, April 13, 2012

On Becoming a Photographer... A Response

I know, I know. If you’re in the industry, you’ve seen 18 posts like this already. There’s the “Be Nice Campaign” on one end of the spectrum and “You Are Not A Photographer” on the other. But all of this has come from the perspective of seasoned photogs. What about hearing from the little guy? What about hearing from a newbie like myself? Why don’t I take a moment to speak- not for all of us- but for myself at least- Still very much in the learning process, still on the outside looking in… because I think that if you get a say, so do I.

Don’t think that I haven’t noticed. Don’t think I’m oblivious of the bandwagon that photography is becoming. I see it at least once a month. One of my acquaintances upgrades from a point and shoot to a prosumer and all of a sudden thinks “hey, I’m pretty good at this! Look how much I’ve improved!” and conjures up a facebook fan page to start recruiting clients. Photo shoots for $50 bucks a pop? Sure why not!

I get it. You’re horrified. You’re annoyed that people are swooping in and producing mediocre, amateur work and making it look like sessions should always be priced that way- cheap. You’re afraid that when you tell people, “I’m a photographer,” they will have the audacity to think that YOU are one of those bandwagon jumpers. I know that, because even though I’m only a little over a year into this journey and YOU think I’m a bandwagon jumper, I have that same worry: That people won’t take me seriously because I have a small portfolio and I’m still learning, and I don’t have the fanciest equipment and I only offer CDs right now and because of all of that I can’t charge what I honestly think my talent will someday be worth. But all of that is hinged on one little word… YET…

I feel your pain because it’s my pain too. Some of your concerns are valid. But I think you’re worried about the wrong people. The folks who are starting up a business using their iPhones, editing in picnik, over-softening skin, and over-using spot color and vignettes probably aren’t going to last long anyway once they realize the real work that goes into managing a legitimate business- because from what I can tell, being a professional photographer is about 40% talent and 60% business management- much like any other business. No, those folks will be long gone when they start to lose sleep over correct exposure, filing taxes, branding, and establishing an online presence. Don’t even think twice about them. The people you really need to be worried about are newbies like me who WANT to put in the hard work and late nights to become a professional.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think of myself as a bandwagon jumper because I don’t plan to jump off once the road starts to get rocky. Personally, I waited six months before agreeing to do a shoot for a coworker’s daughter (seen here) and then another four or five before actually starting a fan page. I still don’t have a website, and I still offer only one very basic package at which I’m sure established photographers gasp in horror. I’m an amateur. For now, I charge amateur prices, but I work my tail off to offer professional work for those prices. And you know what? I really, honestly, from the bottom of my heart love photography and what it does for my soul and I want to learn as much as possible so that someday, I CAN charge what I’m worth.

See, some of us aren’t so bad. We’re doing our research on insurance and taxes and establishing a business the correct way. We’re learning our stuff so that eventually we can be actual competitors with the rest of you. Maybe part of the annoyance is actually the feeling of being threatened? I’m not sure… all I know that as an outsider stepping into this wildly exciting industry I saw a whole lot of mud-slinging and crawling all over each other to get to the top or tear someone else down. Lucky for me, I know a handful of extremely talented photogs who have been generous in their offers to help me learn the ropes. This has been absolutely invaluable in my photography journey and it’s something that I will never take for granted and I will never forget. In fact, when I finally learn enough that I think I actually might know a few things, I hope that I will have a chance to share the same knowledge.

I know, I know. I need to learn to crawl before I can walk and walk before I can run. And I’m trying. So never fear, my dear professionals. I’m not here to cheapen your industry. I’m here to learn it inside and out. I’m here to uphold the standards of artistry for which you have laid the foundation. I’m learning from YOU… but sometimes you’re not being very good examples.


Jessi & Derek | Love


Jessi and Derek are such a sweet and funny couple! We had a great time running around downtown Oklahoma City and talking to STRANGErs. Jessi never get any bridal portraits done when they were married in 2010, so I had her slip it one for a few shots. Wonderful location and fun shoot!




Thursday, April 12, 2012

Stephanie | Maternity

Stephanie Blair Maternity Shoot 033-2

Ryan and Stephanie are very dear friends of ours! They’re the first friends we made at our church and I can’t wait to meet their little girl, Rylan this May!  We had pretty great sunset lighting for this shoot. In fact, the weather was great except for the WIND! But what are ya gonna do, right? It’s Oklahoma. The color of her turquoise dress was the perfect touch of juuuust enough color. All around a fabulous shoot!


Stephanie Blair Maternity Shoot 096Stephanie Blair Maternity Shoot 052Stephanie Blair Maternity Shoot 260-2

Congratulations, Ryan and Steph! We love you and baby Rylan!



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

There's Your Sign....

I won’t say that I’m Mother of The Year (yet) but I like to think that I’ve gotten pretty good at reading my little girl’s cues in the past four and-a-half months. That high-pitched squeal coupled with chewing on her clenched hands and tossing her head back and forth means she’s hungry. “aaahhhhhs” mean she’s listening to the sound of her own voice. “mmmmmms” mean she’s tired and getting a little frustrated. And that pause along with a red face and grunting during her first feeding of the day means she’s about to drop a bomb. But this weekend, my usually consistent baby threw us for a loop.

“She’s constipated” said her sitter last Friday. She said that giving her water or some diluted apple juice might loosen things up. As she was still throwing regular pants parties (i.e. pooping), we didn’t think much of it until Easter Sunday when all she could do was scream and grunt with giant tears in her eyes. It was absolutely pitiful. She wanted to be held all the time, but not on her back. She wanted to be sitting upright with her head on my chest. If she was awake, she was screaming.

So we did what any newbie parents would do. I sent Ryan to the store to buy apple juice, prune juice, gripe water, and karo syrup. We then proceeded to put our child through the gamut of supposed bm-inducing remedies, including the temp-in-the-tush method, to no avail. “It says to do it every 30 minutes until she goes” I told Ryan. So we greased up the thermometer again. Nothin. She wouldn’t even drink anything, so we had to syringe a bit of diluted apple juice into her little mouth in between shrieks of pain.

Finally, we got her comfortable and sleepy enough to go down for the night. She slept normally and seemed happy the next morning. I warned daycare of her- ahem- “issues” and they didn’t seem worried… until the new girl at the daycare called me a few hours later to tell me she had basically been screaming since about ten minutes after I dropped her off.

“Has she pooped? I really think she’s just constipated. Maybe try putting some of the syrup in her bottle.”

“No ma’am, but she feels like she has a slight temperature.”

I rolled my eyes. This new lady obviously didn’t know my child. The kid was constipated. Reluctantly, I agreed to come get her. I then made a doctor’s appointment for her even though I knew that I was going to walk in there and the pediatrician was going to say “She’s constipated. Give her some karo syrup” and send us on our way.

I have to find a way to make him understand how serious this is- how much pain she’s in! I thought. I do this. I always worry that I’m going to show up to the doctor and all of a sudden, my symptoms are going to disappear and the doctor is going to look at me sideways and think of how stupid and weak I must be for wasting his time on nothing. To make things worse, Vesper’s pediatrician is a really cool guy- like, he wears jeans to the office every day- and for some stupid reason, I care that Dr. Denim over there thinks that I am a capable mother. I chose my words carefully so that I was sure to communicate the severity of the situation.

As we entered the jungle-themed exam room, I was a bit put-off by my Vesper’s happy and playful demeanor. Wasn’t she JUST screaming like, five seconds ago? This doctor is going to think I’m completely overly-cautious. I can’t believe I came and picked her up from daycare and wasted my sick time at work so that I could be told that she just needs to poop. Sure enough, as Dr. Denim entered the room his first words were, “Well hi there! You certainly seem to be happy enough! What could possibly be the matter?”

Great. But I launched into my case anyway, being sure to tell him how she was miserable and wouldn’t eat and that even though we took her temperature IN HER BUTT she would NOT poop! But he still seemed skeptical.

“Can you turn her head towards me, please?”

I laid Vesper in my lap with her head on my knees so that he could examine her little tummy. Instead, my giggly little baby went from 0- FREAKING OUT in .7 seconds before he even touched her.

“Oookay...” said Dr. Denim “that’s a problem”

Finally. I wondered what he would prescribe. Medication? Enema? Surgery?

As she shrieked, he proceeded to search her ears with that little horn-faced tool. Why was he looking at her ears?

“She’s got an ear infection”

What the what? All I could say was “You think so?”

“I know so. She’ll need antibiotics and I want to see her back in ten days.”

Huh… well. Color me embarrassed. And probably my child, too considering the number of times she’d had her temperature taken last night... I called my mom from the pharmacy,

“All that time we kept taking her temperature in her little bottom and it turns out we were looking at the wrong end!” I said

“of the thermometer?” Mom asked

“No, of the baby… she has an ear infection.”

I felt pretty silly. I was so wrapped up in one thought that I completely missed the signs. She had been burying her little head in my chest and pulling at her ears and refusing to lie flat or swallow and basically telling me in the only ways she knew how that she had an ear infection. Somehow, I was so sure that I knew what was wrong and how to fix it that I totally overlooked these cues.

I wonder how many times I do this in my life without even realizing it. Things start going well and I start to think that I had something to do with it so I just say, “no no, God. I got this covered. The answer is _____” instead of letting Him take over. As if I know all the answers. As if I’m totally in control. As if I can even see past today, or this moment that I’m in. I wonder if sometimes the signs are all around me, and yet I’m still following that old faded, expired road map just because that’s what I want to do- because I’m so sure I know where I’m going. This is the short cut would probably be my excuse if questioned. I wonder if God just watches me wind around in circles before finally putting something in my path that I can’t ignore. Something humbling. Like He says, “Stop me if you’ve heard this one because I know how you know everything and all, but once upon a time, I formed the entire universe just by breathing it into existence. But feel free to keep sticking that thermometer in there instead of just reading the signs.”

Thank goodness for His grace (and the fact that infants don’t have the ability to develop long-term memories) because somehow, He leads me to the right place at the right time and holds me in the palm of His hand. More of You, less of me… that’s what we need.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Prudent Advice For My Daughter- V.1: Obligations

“Prudent Advice For My Daughter” is a series of pieces of advice taken from an ongoing list that I have developed for our little girl. Here, I elaborate on those pieces of advice. Maybe you could use the guidance, too. I know I can…

1. If you oblige to do something- anything- an event, attend a meeting, do a project, return a phone call, or go to a birthday party for someone’s kid- do it. It is very important in relationships- professional and personal- to follow through with your obligations.

Let me preface this by saying that you should never feel obligated to say “yes” to everything that you are asked to do. Use good judgment in determining for which things you have time and which are worth the time you have. However, if you say yes to something, do it. Even if you’re tired, or busy, or a Real Housewives marathon is on tv, do it. Trust isn’t something that is just handed to you- you have to earn it. The only way to earn trust is to follow through with your obligations. And you want to be trustworthy, believe me. Being reliable will earn you the respect and faith and hearts of those around you.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I'm your captain, baby...

Only two other people in the world will understand that title.

I’ve been married for nearly five years. In marriage, five years seems like just long enough to realize that we’re both sinners and have a million things wrong with us and we’re utterly hopeless when it comes to fixing those things in ourselves- and even more sinful and hopeless when it comes to trying to fix things in each other. We don’t have anything figured out. In fact, we’ve really just begun to scratch the surface of getting to know each other and learning how to minister to each other’s hearts. How to talk to one another- and I do mean literally how to say a certain phrase in a certain way so that the other person understands it in the intended way rather than misinterpreting it and turning it into a big ol’ mess (obviously I speak from experience). Timing is everything in marriage. That much I’ve learned.

We’re such different people. That’s true of every marriage. You might have initially met your spouse because of a shared interest. Maybe you had mutual friends or you both liked movies or music or jogging (I hear those people exist somewhere). But you can’t base a marriage on those things, so somewhere along the way, you began to share your hearts with each other and develop a mutual respect for those things. Before you knew it, you were attending his company baseball games or he was antiquing with you. Not because you love those things personally, but because your spouse does. But Bear and I really are very different people. Very. You know that picture from the Vietnam war of some hippie student stuffing a flower into the end of a soldier’s rifle? Yeah. That.

Imagine me, a 21 year-old Music Theatre major with all my free-spirited, artsy ideals living la vie boheme with a houseful of other theatre majors. And one day I fall head over tap shoes for a conservative young soldier from Indiana. His family has a picture of Reagan in their home office. I mean… what are the odds? We only dated for four months before getting engaged- much to the horror of the protective men in my life (a father and three older brothers) and we married a mere five months later.

I remember everyone telling us how hard it would be- that in this day and age, marriage was uncertain especially when you had only dated a few months. I remember how discouraged I felt when people told us we were making the wrong decision. I remember how hurt I was that people couldn’t just be joyful for us during such a special time. Looking back, I realize that they were just scared. For me. For us. Don’t get me wrong, some people were purposefully trying to be hurtful. But, for the most part, people were genuinely concerned that we were asleep at the helm or headed straight for an ice berg. And I guess in some ways, we were. And we still are. And to their credit, I can’t think of a single thing that has been certain since the day we got married.

Ryan deployed three months after our wedding. I spent the majority of my first year of marriage forcing myself to stay busy with school and performing so that I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not my husband was going to be blown to bits today. Or tomorrow. Or the next day. He kept reminding me “it’s only temporary.” And he was right. That year that felt like it would never end, finally drew to a close. He made it home safely. I graduated and he left the military. And you know what happened after that? We entered an entirely new chapter of uncertainty. What should I do after graduation? Where should we go? What should Ryan do about school? We were changing our minds on a daily basis with no clear direction.

At one point, the plan was to move to Colorado, I would begin teaching, and Ryan would join the police force there. He even flew to Colorado to apply for jobs and look at apartments for us. When he came back and showed me apartment brochures, we made the decision to just stay here in Oklahoma. Why? No reason. Just felt like staying.

We’ve both been through several jobs in the past five years and when things would get tough I would just keep telling myself, “keep going. It’s only temporary,” without any real indication that it actually was. There was always this drive to move forward, to get out of whatever rough waters we were in at the time- to get where we wanted to be. But where was that? I don’t know. I still don’t know. I’ll be honest- we have so many options in front of us right now that I can’t even tell you where we’ll be living a year from now. After five years of pushing forward from job to job, place to place, we still don’t know our destination. Nothing is certain… except us. WE are certain about each other.

I may not know the right way to say every single thing to this man that I’ve married. I may not know where I’ll be living or working in the next year, but I do know for sure that I have confidence in him. I trust him without condition. I will go wherever he leads us. I am certain of him. And when I realize that, nothing else really matters. As long as we’re there together, we’ll be fine.

Those naysayers in the beginning of our relationship were wrong. Marriage isn’t hard and uncertain. LIFE is hard and uncertain. Our marriage just happens to be a part of life for us. And thank goodness, too, because I can’t imagine trying to navigate life alone. What a sight that would be. I’m picturing myself soaking wet with shivering, blue lips, huddled in the corner of a ship being tossed in giant waves. Probably wearing really cute shoes that are totally impractical for captaining a ship. Hopeless. I don’t even own any nautical-themed accessories. It would be pretty pitiful.

Luckily, as different as we are, I married a captain. Our differences have come in handy in our marriage because I married a man who leads- even into darkness and murky, unsure waters, he leads us. I don’t mean that he makes all of the decisions and I certainly don’t mean that he has made me a helpless, sniveling fool who can’t accomplish anything on her own. If anything, he’s done the opposite. He has empowered me to follow my dreams- however uncertain. He has encouraged me to pursue my passions with all my heart even when I get discouraged. When I am shaky, he stands strong… because as much as I am certain of him, he seems certain of me too. A captain has to be able to trust his First Mate, right? (seriously, I’m asking. I don’t actually know anything about boats…)

I’m pretty sure whatever boat we’re on, it’s headed for the right place- straight for the horizon and beyond… together.