When I was twelve, I got a perm. It seemed like a stellar idea at the time. My stylist warned me not to brush my hair after I had showered and scrunched it. I heard: don't brush your hair ever. EVER. Four months later that same stylist chopped all my hair to my chin because she couldn't save the rat's nest of tangles it had become. In case you're wondering, braces and short hair and a 5' 11" height simply made middle school a delight. My wish for Baby Emma's beautiful hair is that it never knows a perm.
Target has had school supplies lining its shelves since the fifth of July. My sparklers were barely burnt out and the hot dogs were barely eaten before the backpacks, pencils, and notebooks started appearing at my favorite store. It was difficult to feel that summer wasn’t already over. But then there was a glorious August summer morning complete with muggy, mosquitoey weather for this beautiful family’s session and it inspired me to write down my wish list for the remaining days of summer: kayak, go to a drive-in movie, flow during rooftop yoga, and eat everything in sight at the Minnesota State Fair.
After spending a sunny afternoon in Emily and Mitch’s home to meet their newest family member, I wanted to stay forever in the cozy calm. It felt so nice in my overly scheduled life to pause and soak in the moment. Begrudgingly as I handed Cal back to his parents, packed up my camera, and drove to the next thing to cross it off my to do list, I realized that there wasn’t any reason I couldn’t have more of those quiet moments in my life and immediately began reshaping the way I thought about my schedule. As Shauna Niequist says in Present Over Perfect, “But you can’t have yes without no. If you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it. In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to groundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection, built over years instead of moments.”
When Kieran arrived, her big sister showered her with panda stickers. She wanted to let her new sister know that she was officially part of her tribe. I don’t always do this enough; letting the people I love best know that I do. I’m busy! I’m running late to yoga! I have a project deadline due Thursday! (Don’t we all?) They already know that I love them! (What if they don’t?) So while I’m not running out to a craft store this moment to purchase reams of stickers, I am slowing down to really ask (and listen to) how friends and family are doing and what they need. Turns out there are opportunities daily to place the proverbial panda sticker on someone to say “I see you, I love you, I’m in your corner.”
Transitions – woof. Am I right? One of the things elementary school didn’t prepare me for - among other things – is how to be and feel when I am the only one moving on. After a lifetime of transitioning in step with my peers from kindergarten to first grade, from t-ball to softball, from high school to college (you get the idea), it has been an interesting few weeks as I moved on alone from my first post-college company to a new one. It’s been freeing, challenging, terrifying, and fascinating all at once. But then I realized that my entire experience with clients depends on transition. I am invited to preserve moments of change in their lives from new members joining the family to children growing older to seniors graduating high school. And so while I'm not inviting someone in to photograph my first few days at a new company, it's amidst this quiet fear of the unknown that there is still also grace, excitement, and joy just like there is for my clients.
Who run the world? Barbara for one. We met while working on the same team at a previous company, and she hasn’t stopped being a mover and a shaker since. I often find myself hoping to snag a bit of her time just to soak up her undeniable energy. Her curiosity about the world and desire to curate meaningful and beautiful products means she always has a new project up her sleeve. This session happened during the ten minute break between her work and kettlebell training because she has a life to live. Need new head shots? Let’s do a fast professional session that lets you get back to what really matters: shaping the world with your unique voice.
Is it weird that seeing Lucas's devotion to his dinosaurs made me think of Barbies and Nazis? Wait - it is weird? Are you sure? Okay, then I suppose I should explain myself. Because my mom was able to be home with us when we were young, my sisters and I grew up with our days tumbling into one another. It was a seamless transition of snacks, books, trips to the zoo or the pool, and "creative, unstructured play." Our toy collection had a healthy dose of Barbies and when you have hours of unfettered play looming before you, you tend to branch out in your narrative. Naturally (WHY is this weird?) after watching The Sound of Music for the first time, we created a world in which our Barbies regularly ran away from the Nazis. We would pack their families, food, and extra outfits (duh) into mini Radio Flyer wagons and hit the road. In case you are wondering, most children don't play this way which we quickly found out once we tried to bring this game to our friends' homes. Also please note, so that she is not appalled when she reads this, that my mom had no idea we played this and would have insisted we pick a new Barbie backstory had she been aware.
I'm not someone whose athleticism will lead a team to victory (yes, I'm looking at you, Holy Angels volleyball team). I battled through softball solely for the participation trophies. I quit basketball in ninth grade once girls started catching up to the 5' 11" height I had rocked since sixth grade. I twisted my ankle playing intramural badminton in college. I have never heard someone refer to me as coordinated or light on her feet. So it should come as no surprise that during Brady and Sheng's dreamy autumn engagement session I fell off the edge of the sidewalk dropping my camera and smashing my knee in the process. It probably wouldn't have been quite as dramatic had said sidewalk not been designed on a fairly steep hill, if I didn't faint when I see blood...and had I not just met this couple five minutes before this happened.
I wasn't planning on getting a cat. How many times have you heard that from someone? In truth, I was happily living the life of a 20s something when my friend found a kitten abandoned in a box in an alley. I made the mistake of looking into his wide blue eyes and was toast. On the plus side, Fitzgerald (named for one of my favorite writers) was a pet who wouldn't mess with my beloved happy hour schedule. He's been hanging around for nearly five years now and his lifestyle is the reason I can't quit my job; one of us has to pay the bills. He is difficult and fluffy. Half the time he wants my attention only to grumble at me when he finally gets it. I never tell men about him until at least our seventh date because #catlady. But Fitzgerald still snuggles with me each evening and is a bright spot in my life which is why I never object to furry buddies like Grace's sweet puppy attending sessions.
Twenty minutes into this session, it was pouring. And I'm not talking beautiful let's-frolic-in-the-woods type of rain; more like a torrential downpour. I had been hoping it would blow over and instead was reminded that the wet hair look isn't really something I can pull off; thanks universe. As we huddled under a tree we heard a woman yelling from a nearby house inviting us in to wait out the shower. Her home was filled to the brim with lovingly arranged photos and momentos and a general calm chaos. Letting three adults and a baby unexpectedly crash in your living room on a Monday night is radical hospitality. I usually am very guilty of not inviting anyone in unless I know them, have a clean house, managed to wash my hair that day and Fitz the Cat is mildly behaving. How often do we open up ourselves (let alone our homes) to complete strangers? And what wonderful moments can occur because we do?
I adored the outfits Anna selected for her session, to say nothing of how much I adored Anna herself. She floated into the studio with an effortless grace and easy smile. We had rescheduled her original session due to a sports injury (hers, not mine, as I don't have an athletic bone in my body) and it was another reminder of how grateful I am to have a space that allows for so much flexibility. Because this just in: LIFE HAPPENS. And plans are adjusted. And we all keep moving just fine.
I showed up for my first day of college sophomore year slightly wiser, with a bit more style and much more EasyMac than I had on my first day freshmen year. It was also the day I met this little boy’s mama who moved in across the hall from me on the floor they seemed to sequester all transfer students on. We immediately clicked and now she and her husband have their second beautiful baby and I’m a pile of mushy happy feelings who spent the day with James in all of his chunky, cheeky glory.
You guys. It's -300 degrees today. Okay, not quite. But it's the type of cold that causes your whole body to shrink when you step outside, your skin to fall off and grade school caliber chapped lips. Ergo, -300 degrees. Yay Minnesota. While I could spend more time examining why I stay here (and the reasons are many), I'd much rather focus on Helen and remember the golden warmth of her session. Quite simply: she's lovely. Kind, easy going, can rock any outfit - what more could a photographer want? She took a chance and moved half way across the country before her senior year of high school. Brave. And yet, something tells me she's going to be just fine, as long as she has an extra warm parka.
I used to nanny these girls. Maybe we clicked because I’m also one of three girls. Or because we grew up on the same street. Now that the youngest is halfway through high school – don’t mind me, I’ll just be sitting in the corner crying while mourning my lost youth – it was high time for updated family photos. These girls taught me valuable life lessons such as 1) you shouldn’t run your sister over with a vacuum cleaner when you’re mad at her 2) ramen noodles make the best lunches and 3) head wounds bleed more than regular wounds. Clearly I was a stellar nanny.
A taxi driver. A lawyer. A singer. No, no – a chef. Maybe a teacher? The truth is that I wanted to be hundreds of different things while growing up. As I got older and my world expanded, the list of possibilities seemed endless. Around middle school I solidified my love of history and from the time I had my first set of braces until I was well into college, I wanted anything and everything to do with public history. It’s the type of history that focuses on archival work, exhibits, even the historical markers along freeways. I built a pre-Pinterest-era board in my imagination of what my life would be. I’d live in Washington D.C. and slowly but surely climb my way up the ranks to running the National Archives. In true bright-eyed, optimistic college student fashion, I wrote my senior thesis on how women in their early 20s who moved out west on their own to homestead in 1900 viewed their femininity. This was also around the time I wanted to name all my children after presidents. You get the picture. When I was about four months shy of getting my college degree, I spent a semester focusing on public history work. Newsflash: it wasn’t what I imagined. It was drafty and unglamorous. I saw way too many spiders. I spent hours combing through boxes of records in poorly lit government basements trying to find one small piece that could connect to another small piece to tell a quasi-interesting story. In a flash I understood that I could love history and that I didn't need to make it my career; which eventually led me down the path of a photographer and marketer who still scopes out each history museum at each new city she visits. High school seniors are in the thick of discerning their next adventure. Some will go on to do exactly what they think they’ve been wanting to do since they were small, and others will create a very different life. Both are wonderful; both are right. Hearing what each senior hopes for the future is still one of my favorite parts of working with them.
Books – just like brunch, yoga and farmers markets – take up a large portion of my heart. I can never seem to have enough of them. I chewed on them as a baby, flipped through them each night before bed, and remember The Boxcar Children being the first chapter book I finished on my own. After a hard day cruising around on my Huffy (complete with pompoms and spoke beads) or directing my sisters on the best way to play with Littlest Pet Shop toys (the adorable original kind, not the creepy new kind with abnormally large heads and eyes) I could be found sprawled in my bunk bed or on the family room floor with just the top of my head peeking up over a book cover. Moving from my parents’ house to college and back again and to my own apartments countless times, it was always the book boxes that took up the bulk of the backseat or the U-Haul. I seem drawn to historical fiction and memoirs, but have been known to dabble in each genre. As Miss Rowan turns one, I can’t help but like her even more because of her own love of books. And while she may prefer The Very Hungry Caterpillar while I’m currently racing through It’s Okay to Laugh, I look forward to seeing what her favorite books become; the ones that she reads so often that their worn pages and bent spines seem to open exactly to the best loved parts.
Sundays are my favorite. I used to dread them because it felt like I really only had a half day by the time the prep for week (laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping) was done. But then I started treating it like a full day and soaking up every moment. I had another cup of coffee at brunch, I went for longer walks, I spent extra time at my parents' house. The laundry and the grocery shopping and the cleaning moved to other days of the week. Changing the way I approach Sundays also lets sessions like this happen; meeting Eleanor was the perfect way to cap off a week. This gem laughed at my jokes (when they really aren't that funny) and climbed over everything and anything I asked her to in North Loop.
I love schedules because planning calms me. I like knowing exactly where I need to be when I need to be there, and what’s coming next. My little planner (yes, a real-live-carry-around-with-me-not-on-the –computer-planner) is my constant companion. Maybe photography and I get along well together though because it’s a break from structure when I need it most. When everything aligns just right, I stop thinking about schedules and time during a session (breaks from rigidity are always good, right?) and it becomes a chance to be in the moment and see what can happen when I’m not thinking about the next thing. Meghan is pure joy. It was easy to stay in the moment with her because of her kind grace. I could have spent hours with her, but all good things must come to an end. Now, I’m off to my 9:00am meeting; my planner says it’s time to go.
There are people you meet and you immediately try to figure out how soon you can ask them (without freaking them out) to share cocktails over happy hour. How soon is too soon? Will I come off as needy? Clingy? What if I just think they are a hoot and want to spend more time with them? Shawna and I laughed our way through her session and she's exactly the type of person I want to go to happy hour with and talk about life and careers. Now I just need to find a way to convince her that spending a Thursday after work with me is the best idea of the week. Luckily, happy hour specials in Minneapolis make that a very tempting offer indeed.
We rescheduled this session three - no, scratch that, four - times because of unpredictable Minnesota weather. It's hard not to get frustrated when the days of not too cold or not too windy or not too rainy are so few and far between. However, it was well worth the wait. I mean, just look at little Jack and his sweetness. And suddenly as I think about babies and growing families and real moments shared between people, the days of wind and rain and cold seem to matter the least. How lucky are we to live and grow with those we love?