A few years ago, Sean and I hopped in the car for a last minute candy run. It was early in the day and we still had massive amounts of decorating to do before Halloween night. We, meaning mostly my husband, always go all out for Halloween. We have large tombstones dotting the front yard, a fog machine that makes everything difficult to see, giant sprawling cob webs and equally large spiders. We dress up, start a fire and then we, and again…I mean mostly Sean dare kids to come up onto our front porch. Of course we go easy on the bitty ones, but we really go all out mostly for the parents and the high schooler that dares not dress up.
Upon our return home, we saw a Stormtrooper going door to door with his trick-or-treat bag. It was around 4PM at this point and definitely pushing the “early” trick-or-treating hour. He seemed about 7 and he slowly walked from door to door while his mom parked in the car on the street. Sean and I looked at each other and thought, “This kid is really being greedy.”
As we drove further down the street we realized hardly anyone was opening the door, leaving the child to hang his helmet clad head and move on to the next house. We grabbed our bags out of the car and headed up to our porch watching the little Stormtrooper out of the corner of our eyes.
As we were getting the last load out of the car, suddenly, the mother drove up to our house and asked if we had candy. I fumbled with my words as I looked down at the large amounts under my arms… “Yes”. “Could you please give some to my son? I have to work and have nobody to take him trick-or-treating so I am trying to make his Halloween,” I felt the frog in my throat grow; I had judged so quickly and I had been so wrong.
We had a few doors before the Stormtrooper arrived at our door. Sean tore up our porch steps, through open the door and immediately started digging through the Halloween boxes for his costume. I grabbed the phone and told our neighbors next door the situation.
By the time the Stormtrooper knocked on our door we were in full Halloween mode, complete with masks and a giant bowl of candy for him to choose from. Being polite, he only took one piece, but we made sure he didn’t leave our house with a light load.
As we peered out our window to see him greet our neighbors, we could see he already had more excitement in his little step. As a very happy Stormtrooper hopped into the passenger side of her car, the mom told us over and over again how grateful she was. And as they rode off, I wanted to tell her how grateful I was.
Tonight children will come to your door from all walks of life. Some will be in costume, some will not. Some will seem greedy, some will be afraid to take a single piece. Your job tonight is to open your door and to be on the look out for the one who is a Stormtrooper just looking for some Halloween magic.
I tucked Adalynn into bed tonight. Nothing unusual or out of the ordinary. I pulled up the blankets, asked her if she wanted any music (she always says no) and then gave her a thumbs up and kiss good night. I closed the door and walked into the living room. Toys were everywhere, laundry was on the couch and dishes from dinner were sitting with what was left of eggplant parmesan on the dinner table. One by one I started picking up the toys; tossing them into baskets I once thought would stay perfectly organized. I loaded the dishwasher and moved the laundry from the couch to the bed. (Hey that counts.) My mind was racing through the 100 things I didn’t do today. I am behind in work, behind in work outs, laundry, summer goals and loads of other things.
My mind then drifted to these moments above. Minutes before Adalynn’s preschool orientation; Tomorrow we start a new chapter as a family…with an official preschooler… and those toys and dishes and to-do list will get a tad lighter as a little time itself opens up. Insert heavy heart of a mommy moment.
Our little family has spent the better half of the past two and a half years as a unit. We have help from family members, but for the most part we manage two businesses and a toddler doing our own little dance. It can be frustrating and overwhelming and down right hard. We shuffle schedules daily to accommodate meetings and gymnastics and just answering emails. It is a constant learning process. I have spent the past two years being wife, momma and photographer and expert schedule dancer, but the one thing I am not behind on is this kid. <– Worth it.
I know our schedules will be jammed with new activities in the chapter ahead and a new dance will begin, but we are excited and proud. So tonight cheers to new friends, new schedules and a whole new chapter for our little family.
The air just seems crisper…can you feel it? It is a sweet reminder that the heat doesn’t last forever. I am not complaining, our windows have been open all week, but it is a sobering reminder that the summer doesn’t last forever either.
This past spring season was not an easy season for my family. It was saturated with health issues and disappointments. I remember sitting in a hospital bed and crying out that I just wanted to be home with my family enjoying my porch. I wasn’t dying to get to work…or read Facebook…or sit at my desk. I wanted to be enjoying my home, my daughter, my friends and giving of myself as much as possible. So when I was back in action, at the beginning of June, I set goals for the summer season. I wanted to dig deep and feel the sticky sand of summer squeeze through my fingers. Sure I had business goals, with six weeks of sickness I was certainly behind, but more importantly I wanted to soak in as much sun as possible, spend time with friends and family and take in those long sweaty little kid hugs as much as possible.
Earlier this week, I took the afternoon off and headed to Matapeake Beach with my family. We crammed the days necessities into the car and headed to the bay. Within minutes of our arrival Adalynn tiptoed on the hot sand and walked into the bay without hesitation. She was so proud of herself and so was I. We found sea glass, had a picnic with her GG and later headed to a pier to stuff ourselves with seafood. We returned that night with sandy toes and happy hearts.
The following day my sweet friend Nicolle brought her dumplings over for an impromtu dip in the pool. It was 5:00 and we were chatting on the phone about work and life and I thought…this is silly…let’s let the kids play and we can catch up in person. By the end of the night, the kids were soaked to the bone, overly tired, and snuggling on the couch together with popsicles while watching movies. And I caught myself wondering again why this week hadn’t happened every week this summer. I wasn’t missing work, I wasn’t missing anything. And to just say that time was flying was clearly just an excuse.
So this morning, when I came across that list I had compiled with such clarity in June and looked at the calendar I could barely catch my breath that it read August. And I was ashamed to see I have far more business goals achieved than personal. It literally made my heart sad. That crisp air is the feeling of time flying by me, of not the present and purposeful living of what makes life life.
I don’t buy the whole time flies when you are having fun. I think back to my own childhood and remember long and I mean really long summer days. Time did not fly. Those days where my sister and I were packed into a car for a road trip with a bag of candy courtesy of our grandfather. Those were the nights where we would sit under the stars with our best friends and did that…just sit. And time did not fly this week either. It stood still. On this Friday I can look back at a truly full week. And I am convinced it is because I was present, intentional and putting the stuff that matters at the forefront.
How do we I find so much clarity on what is important in a hospital bed, but not while looking at my own family? I don’t get it, but I don’t want to do it any more. I want those long summer days and I am set on finding them regardless of never-ending goals and to-do lists. I want to breathe in that humid air, listen to those sweet giggles and splashing in the pool and not be itching to “accomplish” one more thing. I want to stop saying and stop using the excuse that “time is flying”.
So here is my challenge to myself…and a challenge for you as well. I am making 5 goals for August to make those long, meaningful and purposeful summer days.
Take REAL Time Off- We actually have TWO beach trips planned for this month It will be our longest family vacation time ever and it is much needed. I plan on leaving my phone at the beach house reading books, napping, star gazing and staying up late with family. Time off is key to recharge and get my head out of the to-do list swamp.
Take our morning and evening routine outside and away- When you sleep and live in the same place you work, your world can seem very small, so I am going to take my family outside and away from that aforementioned swamp… Skeeters..please stay away.
Have a porch party- Wine, friends and cramming on the porch for games, laughs and long conversation. Need I say more.
Go on a date with my hubby on the bay with LOTS of crabs. We typically do this for my birthday, and it always kicks off the summer, but this year, it fell by the wayside for not so great reasons. As much as I need to soak in summer…our marriage needs that rest and attention too and a day with my hubby and Old Bay covered fingers sounds delightful.
Learn five constellations- This sounds silly, but as much stargazing as I have done, I have never actually known but maybe one constellation. So I am going to learn five. And I can’t wait.
And there it is. I encourage you to make the most out of this month too. Stop using the “time is flying” excuse; it is just waiting for you to give it a reason to slow down…now go and make it.
Earlier this year I was selected to sponsor a teenager, Alex, through the Confirmation process at our church. This was a 6 month process that involved church meetings, bible studies and service projects. It was one of the very best experiences of my church journey. I had never learned much about the history of my faith. I had the privilege of listening to our Pastor, Pastor Rick, patiently and carefully tell the story of who we are. And among a group of teenagers…let me tell you…this is no easy feat. Not only did I grow closer to Alex, but over the months I grew in my own faith and had a new found respect for the man who was a leader of our church.
I was so excited about the culmination of this six month process that I had to take photos. Admittedly, I often hesitate to pull out my camera during personal events. The stigma of being the photographer with the “hulkin” camera, the need to be perfect, to edit every photo, to find time to work on a photo during the busy wedding season; it seems daunting.
Now, just barely a month later, I find myself looking at every detail of these photos with a different perspective. I received a call last Wednesday that Pastor Rick had died suddenly. Now I look at these photos and I am so thankful that I took them. They will become a part of our church’s story, but more important part of a story a man that impacted so many lives. Knowing it was Pastor Rick’s last Confirmation and last Communion I find myself ignoring my own photography to focus on what really matters.
When Sean and I first started attending Mill Creek we were welcomed with open arms. Churches are supposed to be that way, but our church really embraces the open door mentality in a way that makes me so proud to be a member. Upon our first communion at Mill Creek, Pastor Rick addressed me by name “Brittany this is the body broken for you.” It was the first time a Pastor had addressed me by name during Communion. It resonated in such a different way…”This is the body broken for you?” For me?? For little old me? It is something that has never left me.
When this past Sunday’s service came, with heavy hearts and burning eyes, people stood up to tell stories of Pastor Rick. Stories of quiet kindness, gentle leadership, a giving heart and a loving father and husband. I know, the weeks ahead of us will certainly be packed with more stories of Pastor Rick. After all, in the week that he died, he led a work camp in Appalachia with our teens, presided over a wedding and a memorial service, hosted our church at his home and died planting Black-eyed Susan’s for his wife Susan. What a story! The stories we will hear will make us laugh, they will make us cry and they will make us grateful to know such a wonderful man.
The stories we tell through our lives, with photos, with words are the stories that shape us. Those are the stories our kids will tell their kids. They are the stories that will heal our hearts when they are sad and make us pause in the middle of a busy day. So today… please tell stories of those you love, tell people that their story matters and make your own worthy of being told.
On Monday, Adalynn’s first birthday party was featured on Grey Likes Baby. Hard to believe we are already planning birthday number two!! Thanks to the Grey Likes team for loving this little bunny bash as much as we did. See the full feature HERE. xoxo
“I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want myeveryday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.”
I have read this hundreds of times in the past two years and today it still gives me goosebumps. If an author was the narrator for my life and I was able to hand pick a narrator…I would have to pick Shauna Niequist. From the moment, a good friend handed me her first book, Cold Tangerines I swear her voice has been echoing in my head.
When I first read Cold Tangerines, I had just switched jobs so I could pursue my photography , my husband and I found out we were expecting our first baby and I had my hands up in the air asking God where the heck our little adventure in life was headed. The book, and Shauna’s honesty and zest for life reinvigorated my love for reading, for writing and for taking in the little moments. I savored each chapter I read not wanting it to end. Through bed rest and labor and a new baby, I slowly turned each page. I sent it to friends, and if you came into my home and even mentioned a book…I would send you home with it. Long after I finished the final page, I would still hear parts echoing in my head describing moments in my own life and wanting more out of it.
Fast forward to now… A full-time professional photographer, planning a second year old’s birthday party and looking for a new house on the horizon…life is certainly different and hopefully making God belly laugh.
I have been eagerly anticipating Shauna’s newest book Bread & Wine. I have followed it’s progression on the blog for the past two years. From the release of the title, to discovering that sweet and oober talented Lindsay Letters was penning the gorgeous calligraphy on the cover (she did Nicolle from Libby Lane Press’s logo) to the call for people to review the book…I feel like I have seen this book evolve along with my life. And wouldn’t you know it…I received an advanced copy.
If I am being honest, I still have a few chapters remaining. I have read it slowly, carefully swallowing and internalizing each little chunk of goodness…And yes…I have read it with bread and wine. My favorite bookmark is carefully tucked inside and the cover and pages are already curled. Each chapter is full of imagery and love and sincerity and followed by a recipe which adds to the ability for it to literally come to life in your kitchen. If you loved Cold Tangerines… if you love food…or family or you just love life…you are probably going to love this book too.
Bread and Wine challenges the audience to nourish each other, both with food and with love. It encourages people to open the door…for our neighbors…our friends…our families…to invite people in…and to invite them around the table. And never more has the need for that spoken to my life.
When my husband and I were first engaged we went to the store for thank you cards and came home with an over-sized dining room table (Note: no thank you cards were purchased that night). We didn’t even have a house yet and honestly…no budget for a new table, but we purchased it anyways and stored it in my mother-in-laws basement and by far it has been one of the best decisions we have made.
Our house is 100 years old and only has a few bedrooms. The house is what many would describe as a “starter” house and with two dogs, a two year old and two businesses running out of it, it is literally bursting at its seams. I must add that it has a pool and a nice porch and a half basketball court in the backyard which certainly makes it appealing for guests, but it doesn’t make the family room larger or it any easier for packing in the people we love. To even get into the kitchen you have to squeeze around our table which is by far one of the largest pieces of furniture in our house. Since we moved in on our wedding night I have envied people with large kitchens and perfect places for entertaining and I have apologized profusely for the small space or the need for people to sit on the floor. But the reality is that our tiny 100 year old house and the giant table have become a place of celebration and refuge and a place where the door is always open.
I received Bread and Wine in early February and since then we have celebrated my mom’s birthday with both sides of our family, hosted a Seder dinner for 20 adults and 3 children and have housed a neighbor who lost her house to a fire. At a women’s retreat for church we were asked to introduce ourselves and say something we liked to do and my friend said “Hi My name is Jill and I like to hang out at Brittany’s house”. And that’s when Shauna’s voice perfectly narrated my life yet again…
“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home. If you create a space of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small…”
It’s the truth.
People are craving love and God and being home and being nourished. And I want to be able to give that to people no matter how small my house is. And if you are craving those things too…then you need to go buy this book…or come over to my house because the door is certainly open…for a copy and some bread and wine.
A note about the photos: In true photographer fashion I enlisted Nicolle fromLibby Lane Press to help me with a shoot for this post. We clamored into her kitchen following a shoot one afternoon and put this together. It is Shauna’s mother’s blueberry crisp and it is delicious. The day we made it it was noisy and crazy and with her two kids running around we could barely hear each other over requests for more play-doh and the simmering of dinner on the stove. But we still read parts of the book aloud and again and again said “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Thank you Nicolle for your friendship and help and for always opening your home. xoxo
It’s a new year…in fact…it’s the second month of that new year.
The past month has been filled with lots of re-organizing, planning, goal setting…all things photography. Simultaneously, it has been filled with the flu, doctor’s appointments, a delay in the launch of my new site and all things you can not possibly plan for…aka life.
I know there are photographers who can still push through and triumphantly hit “publish” on their blogs every day. I applaud them…giant props to all yall.
I on the other hand… I have taken the past month to just focus on what’s ahead. I took a few weeks to stop “pushing through” the weeds of sickness and meetings and just step back and “get it all together”. Even as I sit here today…typically a day I devote to work…there are little feet running around upstairs. The little one is sick for the second time in a month…and my day of productivity will take a back seat to life.
I claim to not be a perfectionist…I say that because nothing I do is perfect. I know…go ahead and laugh out loud. I give you permission. But my grammar is far from perfect and I will tell you that I struggle to find the perfect balance between work and family each and every day.
I am literally on the edge of a release for my new “brand”. I know this is a really hot industry term, but I must admit that it really was time for me to partake in the whole rebranding process. I know so many of you have expressed that you love “SweetBee”, but the reality is…I have outgrown it…in a good way and it is just time.
Instead of blogging every day for the past month, I have been sitting down and pouring over my images from the past year, my goals for my business, new ventures and where my life will fit into all of that that.
But it’s time to get it together and honestly, it feels great to hit publish today. No matter how perfect or imperfect this new brand, today, this post or the new year is…it’s coming. It’s a work in progress…it always will be.
I can tell you that I am SO excited what this little work in progress will mean… for my life, my business, my clients and my readers. I am excited to “get it together” in new ways. In the important ways.
So stay tuned… 2013 is just getting started…even if it is February.
PS… I must say it has been rewarding looking through images from last year and realllllly looking through them. Like finding this little photo of gorgeous Lauren on her way to her wedding. Oh 2013… I’m coming for ya.
To summarize Making Things Happen is difficult. I mean…really difficult. I have struggled for the past two weeks to explain it to anyone. It was amazing…transformational…fantastic…eye-opening. I went knowing this was a crucial point in my business, knowing that I wanted to take it to the next level…and that I was going to make some big decisions. What I didn’t realize is that they (meaning Lara, Emily and Gina) could actually tell me nothing. I had the answers to those questions. I just needed to start realizing they were there and more than that…I needed to refocus on what matters.
My family and my daughter are my entire world. Spending time with them. Snuggling…Laughing…coloring…going on walks. This is what makes my days bright. THIS is what matters.
The past 3 months have been PACKED with sessions. We are talking two sessions a week and a wedding on the weekends. Everyone’s response to that is…”Wow that’s awesome!” I often smile and say yes. I mean…a year ago I was convinced I could never be a full-time photographer and here I am over-booked and I am SO grateful. But I am secretly saying in my head… Is it? Is it awesome? Is it awesome to drain yourself? It is awesome to chase after something when you aren’t sure what that something is?
The answer is clearly no. I have not been joyful these past few months. I have been over-working myself. Over-tired. Desperate to sneak in a nap. Short with my family. No time for my friends. And anything additional to work and mandatory family has just been too much. So despite one of my busiest seasons of my career…here I am…struggling to keep it all in balance and entirely empty.
If I could share one piece of advice from MTH it is this. If you are not living your BEST life then what are you doing? If you are not chasing after the things that make your heart happy with everything you have…then…you aren’t actually living. A year ago today I was terrified that if I left my job that I would lose everything. Well let’s think about that…what’s everything? Was I afraid nobody would book me? Yes. Was I afraid I would then become poor? Yes. Was I afraid I wouldn’t be able to take care of my child? Yes. Was I afraid I would not be able to balance it all? Yes. I was afraid of it all. But here I am…alive and well and living in fear and solving it by over-booking and working tirelessly. So if I step back…if I stop being afraid… what would happen if I just lost it all?? I would still be me. I would still have my family. I would still have what matters.
Since Atlanta, I have committed myself to joy. I want to be a joyful person in all of my roles in life…first wife…then mom…then photographer. And I can’t do that if I am focused on booking and THEN squeezing in family time. If I am living in fear. It doesn’t make me happy….it doesn’t make me grow… and it isn’twhat matters.
The changes I have made to my personal life and business since MTH are not easy ones, but they are on intent focusing on what matters. They include a new website, studio hours and a more specific focus on the services of my business. I can’t do it all. I can’t be an awesome kids/wedding/studio/on-location everything photographer and still be where I am happiest…with my family. Changes also include deleting facebook from my phone. Let’s be real here…Facebook and social media isn’t real life and we all fool ourselves to think it is. (I seriously challenge you to delete it from you phone today and think about how much it doesn’t matter.) Instead of reading my email every spare second I have…I check it twice all day and definitely not right before bed. It goes off at five and my phone is turned off entirely at 7. In the past two weeks, I joined a gym and I am getting up early to go. It is something I have been putting off, which now seems crazy because working out is something I love and it is worth making time for. Our family now has a set schedule to make sure both mom and dad have time for ourselves and each other. With two businesses in the home, discipline is a priority, but endless hours of work is not. And this…it’s only the beginning.
My life and business will have highs and lows. I knew that this wasn’t going to be an easy journey balancing being a wife, mom, business owner and photographer. But it was my dream…and it makes me happy and I am going to give it everything I have…but what I can not forget is that at the end of the day…I am me without my business and the “success” that comes with it.
And so are you.
Regardless of that you “do” at the end of the day…you are who you are. You are not defined by your business, or your success or your Facebook friends. You are defined by who you are at your core and the decisions you make to live the life you live. And I don’t know about you, but I would prefer that person to be a joyful, happy, kind person who focuses on what matters instead of an over-worked and tired momma who is living in terms of what the rest of the world and industry think is “successful”.
So what should you do today. After you read this…turn off Facebook. Dream really big and think about what makes you happy. Create a plan. Do those happy things. Face your fears….do what matters.
Make EVERY SINGLE DAY joyful. GO AFTER IT.
I will have big changes to my business in the coming weeks. I will also have more stories from MTH about joyful people that are going after what matters. They inspire me and I hope they will inspire you too.
My love for Lara, Gina and Emily and the MTH experience is only summarized in one word…thankful.
So here’s to new beginnings and a life jam-packed with joy and over-flowing with what matters.
A very joyful Brittany
A special thanks to Kathryn of Kathryn Croskey Photography. For making me be in the photos and for being just being her. xoxo
There comes a time when you just know something has to change. You need to do something different.
The past three years have certainly had a lot of change…I mean… A LOT. From logos…to websites…to deciding not to pursue a DC career…to becoming a mom…to going full-time as a photographer…to saying I am not a wedding photographer…to booking 20 weddings just this year. A LOT had changed. I know many of you have witnessed these changes…supported me…pushed me to get better…cheered for me. The thought of all of it makes my eyes blurry with tears. But the kind of change I am talking about is the one where you just decide what matters.
Tomorrow morning I will be en route to Making Things Happen 2012 in Atlanta. I received a tiny little invitation in my inbox two weeks ago. A tiny little invitation with what I hope are big implications.
So you are probably wondering…What exactly is Making Things Happen??… Well it’s a lot of things, but what you need to know most is that it’s where you decide to face fears, get specific with your dreams and set yourself on fire with a clear passion in mind. After the past six weeks in which I was overloaded personally and professionally…I realize friends…this is something I am long overdue for.
I know in the coming days I am going to to have to bare it all. I know that I will be pushed to make decisions about business, family and life. I will hopefully walk away a better wife, mother, photographer, friend.
In the next few days, I will not just have to wear my heart on my sleeve, but put it in my hand.