Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ivy and Dan

It's in those soft, still moments.
Don't get me wrong, their laughter is contagious. And genuine. They're hilarious.
But it's in those slower moments. Those moments where their love is just so deep it drowns out everything else. And they share that smile. And that glance. And that kiss.
These two will be declaring to their friends and family in a few months that they will continue to share those smiles and those glances for a lifetime. They are committing themselves to seeing past the mundane, the ways we all hurt each other and remembering what a gift it is to hold hands and walk through this life with someone so wonderful.
And I couldn't be more excited for them.
Ivy and Dan, there aren't enough words to describe how awesome you are. Thank you for the ways you care for those around you. For dropping your plans to watch our children when we had no other way to go out for our anniversary. For going out of your way to make us feel like family and to find ways to remind us of how beautiful life is. You guys rock.

* And though I would love to keep her a secret, I owe it to any of you around the Chicago area... Ivy is one of the best hair-stylists in the entire world. Seriously. You don't even understand the amazing things that lady can do with hair color and her scissors. So, go check out her website here. You owe it to yourself to go see her. And if you want to hear more, email me ANYTIME.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


He was giddy.
All day.
This doesn't happen often. Laughing? Yes. Giddy? No.
He told me there was a package coming.
I knew. I knew exactly what it was. Because he gets this way when he's done something like this... And I couldn't begin to find words. Because he was giddy. And I was humbled and in shock.
When it arrived, he opened the door and started to perform surgery on the box.
And there it was.
A flash. And not just any flash, a Canon Speedlite 580.
(If you're reading this and you are confused, you should probably read this post from a few weeks back)
I couldn't say anything. I sat there dumbfounded. Humbled. Loved. In disbelief.
I now have a flash, world.
Why? Because my husband found ways to cut our budget and took the money he earned from speaking this month (yep, he's a rock awesome speaker as well) and he then found a used one.
This is where thank you doesn't quite seem to cut it...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's hard - that's all

Tonight I was going to post a "sweet little ditty" about cleaning my house. It was cute. But that's all it was.
The truth is, in this moment, I just want to cry. The past few days have been rough.
Right now my mind is flooded with all the things I need to do. All the emails to write, the floors to clean, the pictures to post, that husband I want to spend time with, the website to design and I want to crawl in a hole until I can possibly figure out how to do this business while being a wife and mom and currently unable to afford a babysitter to come and help out a couple of times a week.
Hello, world. I'm a mess.
But I swear this is what I'm supposed to do. And this is loving my family and a photography business. But tonight the process brings tears.
There should be some wrapped up, hopeful thing to insert here. But that would be annoying of me. So...world. It hurts. It's hard. And somehow I know God is in this and He'll show me where to put my foot. But right now, when it hurts, I may cry. So there...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My latest project...

Dear Little Ones,

There are days when I swear you stayed up all night and formed a conspiracy to see if you can break me down.
I know it's not true. The truth is you are little people discovering this world. And sometimes that's hard. And sometimes you are willing to do whatever it takes to be swept up in my arms. Not because my arms have much to offer, but because my arms hold, they protect and they are familiar in this unfamiliar world.
No matter what you give me to work with, know this: I will always love you. Always.
And though some days I may have to walk away for a second, and sometimes I lose sight of what life is like as you're discovering this great big world, and my adult frame of reference gets frustrated with your take on life, I will come back to this... Each day with you is a gift. It is an honor that I don't deserve and yet there are parts of me that I didn't know existed before you two that cherish every giggle. You two are joy in human form. You are beautiful and lovely in every way and the fact that you would share your life with me thrills my soul.
So, I've started a little project. A little project to help me to see the beauty in the messiness. To remember that hugs will always be more important than a clean house (although, I swear, one day it will be clean and we can have both...), that books with ripped pages will not matter so much to me in a few years, but "freeze" dance parties will and that one day I will love the fact that the two of you stayed awake and made each other giggle at night when I really just wanted you to go to bed.
So here are some pictures that remind me of how great it is to be your mom. I love you. Ridiculously so...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

She stopped

"It's time to go."
We had approximately 15 minutes left before Jayden's stomach would remind him that his belly was on the verge of empty and my little man would basically lose all sense of self control. I was a woman on a mission. Pick them up from the gym's childcare center and hightail it back to the house to appease their growling tummies.
As I headed out of the toddler area, I looked over and saw a little boy who was having an extremely hard time handling life. His cry had moved to the soprano range to help all those around know that he wasn't kidding. And his nose decided to join in unison with the tears pouring forth from his eyes. I said, "Hi, buddy. Awww." and gave him some sort of short-versioned empathetic face as I bolted for the door.
My daughter was approximately three seconds behind prancing toward us probably pretending that she was "Penny" from the movie "Bolt." But what did she do mid-prance? Her bounding little self stopped completely. She surely saw the snot and heard the wails like I did. And she turned to him, put her hands on his shoulders, looked him in the eyes and said, "Oh, buddy. I'm so sorry." She leaned in closer and whispered, "You're going to be okay. I promise."
I stood there simultaneously humbled and equal parts inspired by my daughter. And I whispered a grateful prayer, "Oh, God, thank you for her. I wanna be like that..." May we all live like that. No matter where we're headed or what's going on.

And because pictures are fun, here ya go...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Amy Wenzel Workshop

Amy Wenzel, you rock. Thank you for doing such a gracious thing and for prompting us to ask the deeper questions about life and really think about the story we're living. And iheartfaces, thanks for putting this together.

For nearly two weeks, you have haunted me. My life has taken this shift to being viewed by one of those out of control, extreme mirrors that successfully enables you to see every pore you’ve ever had. EVER. I’ve asked those deeper questions, avoided it, thought for hours about what I would say and felt like I absolutely had nothing to say.

So here I am.

The truth is, I’m a mess. And I don’t have it together. At all.
I took 8 years to graduate college.
When I first found out that I was pregnant with my first child, I cried. Hard. And I was certain I would accidentally misplace my child.
I wore sweat pants at least 4 out of 7 days a week for nearly a year. And when I originally constructed that sentence, I wanted to write “running” pants because it sounded more humane.
I one time bumped into the metal ledge of a dry erase board and proceeded to rip my pants in front of 20 camp counselors while performing a skit. (Inspiring moment – I FINISHED the skit while holding my pants together and covering my exposed bum as I watched people on the verge of passing out from laughing so hard)
I told my fellow 5-year old kindergarten classmate that she was going to hell in hopes that I could then tell her about Jesus. I made her cry and I have suspicions that she could be in counseling today. And the sad part is, I’m scared I was motivated because I was afraid God would hate me if I didn’t tell her – not because I wanted her to know how much He loves her.

And yet in my messiness, there are some things that are beautiful and I hope inspiring.
I care. Deeply.
Whenever I go to a Starbucks, a store or even the airport, I try to genuinely ask the person how they are doing. Because it matters. They matter. And because one time, a Subway employee was precious enough to share her painful story through tears while constructing my tuna sub. And surprisingly or not, I have a lot of those stories.
I hug my children. A lot. Sometimes I squeeze them for so long squirming is induced. But I try to daily remind myself that you never know how long you get to hold them and no matter how many poopy diapers I’ve changed or tantrums I’ve endured, sharing life with them is a gift
Financially, we’re in a painful place. And last month when a good friend’s tires needed to be replaced and my husband looked at me and said we should take care of it, I said you’re right. And after we prayed that even while we don’t have much, we’d still give.

So that’s me. Probably not so much a contest winner.
But I’m committed to living a story worth telling. And that means risk and sacrifice and conflict and sacred and beauty, and sticking to the learning and doing what the Author of story showed us makes a good one.
And following dreams.
I have a lot of dreams. (I’m ADD. My mind is like a bouncy ball on steroids) But here’s my main ones: (oh dear, only 30 words left)
My dream: to share stories. To inspire families to love more deeply and laugh even harder by the way I capture their story through my lens. To help husbands and wives let go of the hurts and see each other anew.
To get people motivated to learn other’s stories. To ask questions. To care about the Starbucks employee and the person who doesn’t have access to clean water and cries as they watch their child suffer from dehydration. To help parents fall in love with their kids again and to help their family work to live a better story – one that gives back.
And I’d love to get a camera into the hands of people from different backgrounds and help them give us a real lens into their situation so that we can be moved and maybe find a way to do something.

I’d like to keep going. I’m over the word limit. And I have ten minutes to actually submit this to have a chance. So I’m going to truncate my dreams and leave them vague. But maybe that’s more inspiring… Because the truth is, I’m hoping the most inspiring thing is that I’m just a girl and any of us can live a story worth telling. We just have to choose to fight for it. And live out what the Author tells us makes a good story...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Are you for serious?

I was late. Again.
I have a knack for running late every time I'm supposed to help out at church. I'm not sure what it is. I don't know if Sundays are just a laid back day and I struggle to get anywhere fast or if I'm exhausted from the week. But it never seems to fail, I cannot seem to be on time.
On my way there, I realized I might as well talk to God...

I'm doing it again. Seriously. I'm so sorry. Here I am rushing around instead of taking in this moment with You.
I'm so sorry. I hate that I do this. I hate that my life has become a laundry list of my wants. I hate that I've given in to such a shallow dream. I hate that I'm so consumed with all things Amy. I mean, seriously, there's so much more out there. And just like Donald Miller's book talked about - I'm a tree in a forest and I've managed to think the story was about me, the tree, when it's always been about the forest. And besides - the story about the forest is better.
I'm so sorry. I don't want to settle for a shallow, lame-o story. I want a better story. A story that matters. A story that's connected with Yours.

I just wish I had something to give you. Something that mattered. Something big. Something that could say - I really mean this. Something to offer You.

Clear as day, I heard it. Not in some audible, Darth Vader type voice, but this my-insides-are-shouting-I-cannot-help-but-know-this kind of way.

You do. You can give me you.

My response? For a second, tears welled up within me. Feelings of being found valuable started to creep into my soul and I squelched them immediately. Yep. Cause that's the smart thing to do. Who wants to get all weepy.

So Amy says... But that's not enough. That's just so small. (Yes, you can laugh that I thought I was smarter than God and needed to advise Him on this whole deal...)

Did He let me keep going? NOPE.

You are what I want. Don't you get that? I want all of you. That is my prized treasure. That is what I want. That means the world to me.

Cue that achy, my throat now feels like it's on fire, and someone punched me in the gut at the same time, type feeling as I tried to choke back tears. The God of the universe wants me? I should know this. I know this for other people. I just thought I was too big of a screwball. I needed something more to give Him to make up for my messiness. And what did He want? Me. Just me. That's what meant the world to Him.

And I said...okay.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sweet Baby Blythe

Dear Sweet Baby Blythe,

Oh girl... You don't begin to understand how blessed you are. Or maybe you do and that's why you have this sweetness that seems to pour out of every portion of you. You have an incredible mommy and daddy. You've got grandparents who are smitten, a church family that is in LOVE with you and a line of Starbucks baristas ready and waiting to make any frappucino you heart desires.
And I'm sure your mommy and daddy are already telling you, but the One who created you loves you so much it's out of control. I wonder if you can already hear His voice. I wonder if He's already whispering into your ears those echos of "I love you, precious Blythe. I will never leave you. Never..." That's my prayer for you, precious lady. I'm praying that already you hear Him singing over you and that your life is defined by that. I'm praying that you always stay tuned to that voice. And I'm praying for you to feel that love for all the people you are going to meet.
You are precious. Thank you for hanging out with me. And quite honestly, my scarf never looked as good as when you were wearing it. Thank you for already inviting me over. I'm looking forward to hanging out again soon...

Amy Paulson

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Struggle

This has been a week of tears. And not so much sad tears, but tears of joy, tears of "are you serious, God?", tears of longing, tears that come when you trust and yet everything just is uncertain.
I've learned incredibly valuable things. I've met incredible people. And I've managed to live off of one actual meal a day.
I still don't know how we'll pay for this. But this...this is worth fighting for. Because capturing the love of two people is worth it. Telling the stories of others is worth it. Telling the untold stories of the overlooked is worth it. Taking pictures that spark things deep within others is worth it. And I will fight and I will struggle and I will hopefully come out telling. And it will be worth the meals I missed, the tears I cried and the ache I've had for my husband and my beautiful kids. Somehow, I'm going to be a part of a revolution.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I miss them

The past two days have been surreal. Two days ago, a teary-eyed girl boarded a plane with a heart longing to be with her kids, dreams she wanted to question and no concept of what to expect.
Hours before, I looked over at Ted from the passenger seat of our "new to us" car and sighed. He knew. He told me I could do this. I looked at him and asked, "Are you sure I can do this?" He firmly said I could and I would.
I cried tears of pain, joy, fear and everything else in between. If I was wrong about my dream, this was one seriously expensive mistake.
My husband and kids are eating extremely cheap meals. I'm trying to live off the bagels I brought with me and any free food I happen to come across. Because we don't have the funds for me to be here. But we know for some reason I'm supposed to be.
I write this tonight unsure of the future. My heart aches as I think of the ways my family is sacrificing for me to be here. And truth be told, I'm scared. And yet, I think I'm supposed to be here. I think I'm really going to make it. I don't know why, but I feel like I will come out having a successful business and my hope is a business that matters. One that sees how beautiful people are and captures images that leave no question. One that tells stories of the overlooked. One that makes a difference.
I don't know how to get there. But I hope I'm on my way.
Here's to learning. Here's to dreaming. And here's to facing your fears.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Baby Blythe Sneak Peek

I'm about to get on a plane. My eyes have been on nonstop tear patrol all morning. I'm an absolute mess. I don't want to miss a day with my kids.
So to distract me, I'm posting a sneak peek of an adorable little lady that just entered a precious family. The cuteness is overwhelming, so prepare yourself... And there's a lot more to come.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oh Hannah...

Last night we were privileged to have some wonderful college students over for dinner. Our amazing friend, Remer, brought over some of his friends for a home-cooked meal. (He's one of our adopted college students)
We gathered around savoring each wonderful bite of red peppers, pineapple, and chicken with a delectable sauce my husband had kindly prepared when the conversation turned to where everyone was from. One of the guys was from Kenya. We told Hannah that was in Africa.
At that point, he asked her if she knew anyone from Africa.
Hannah's face was overcome with that twinkle that she oftentimes gets... The twinkle that tells you it's time to get out your pen, this next moment is going to change your life. She yelled out, "I SURE do. Alex... Gloria...Melmann..."
(Cue our giggles)
"Oh, and Alex the lion's mommy and daddy live there, too..."

Thank you, Hannah. I needed that.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The past month...

One month ago, I learned that we were in a decent amount of debt.
Three weeks ago, two people came in and saved our lives. They gave us a no interest loan and helped us find a way to get back on our feet again.
Two weeks ago, I wondered if winter was literally sitting on my throat taunting me and telling me I am frail and might not make it another day.
One week ago, I won a free registration to WPPI, a huge photography convention from a crazy awesome company called Shootsac.
Six days ago, I wondered how on earth I would pay to get there. And I went with a friend to the doctor and teared up as I realized her current reality is filled with these. I left ridiculously thankful that my body is not warring against itself. And I prayed that God would heal her.
Five days ago, I had a flight booked, I found a place to stay on the cheap with someone I had actually already met and excitement started to overtake my heart.
Four days ago I dreamed big dreams.
Three days ago I went to my church and was reminded of what is beautiful in life. (Incredible interview with a founding member of the Apparent Project working in Haiti. Hearing about the earthquake and all that God did was so humbling) And dreamed even bigger dreams with a fresh sense of what really matters in life. I left wanting to live a life that mattered.
Two days ago, I watched my favorite doctor ever listen to my son’s heart and I was overcome with all the things God keeps going in my precious little people’s bodies. And I wondered why I worried about things when He keeps their body systems going.
Two days ago, I was driving to the gym and my engine light decided it wanted to bond with the letter “H” which I knew didn’t stand for Hannah.
Yesterday, my car informed our mechanic that its engine would cease to exist.
Yesterday, I asked friends to pray.
Yesterday, I realized I’m blessed that I even own a car. I’m not entitled to that.
Yesterday, I laughed as I realized God had me buy my plane tickets to the convention before this happened.
Yesterday, I called my parents 4 times.
Yesterday, I spent 3 hours mournfully cleaning out my car and praying blessing over the next person who would own it.
Yesterday, my husband researched, prayed and decided where he should drive the car on its last possible ride to try to sell it.
Yesterday, my husband negotiated with a man for 3 hours.
Yesterday, I sent my husband a text message while he sit with that Toyota car salesman he was negotiating with that said, “They will have to do at least a little better or I’ll gladly look into a chevy. After all, we’re there because THEIR flipping engine broke.”
18 hours ago, said salesman lowered it to the price I wanted.
16 hours ago, we bought a “new to us” car.
14 hours ago, my husband updated our budget on mint.com and informed me that now we will have $100 of wiggle room. We laughed. And we talked about how we still want to find ways to give, even if we don’t have much.
3 hours ago, I drove my daughter to preschool and I mourned the fact that I was no longer in my beloved white Toyota Highlander. I will miss the extra room. But most of all, I’m sad because I thought that’s the car we’d welcome Mia home in. (That’s what we’ve named the little girl that we want to adopt one day. It means “Mine” in Italian.) I cried because I felt like we took a big step backwards from finding her and adopting her.
1 hour ago, I cried as my husband held me. I cried because the birthday money I received and the money I had worked to earn for a flash for my camera was gone. It had to go to pay for a car since ours broke. I cried because I know deep within me this business is exactly what I’m supposed to do, and yet, my circumstances look as though it may never happen. I cried knowing God is with me and yet aching because though this makes a better story, it just hurts.
10 minutes ago, I got an unexpected phone call from my inspiration - the lady that inspired me to pursue this in the first place, our wedding photographer, Kiera. (I still adore her and consider her a friend. And she’s so talented.) She gave me hope and advice and offered to answer my questions about anything.
1 minute ago, I cried by myself because I know God will take care of me. And probably because I’m on my period and I’m emotional.
5 seconds ago, these pictures made me happy...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Random Thoughts...

The world is not ready for my little lady. Saturday we found ourselves lacing up pink Nike shoes (complete with Velcro) for the first time. She couldn't stop her legs from wiggling with excitement, which made the endeavor of getting into said shoes even better. An hour later we found ourselves amidst a gymnasium of other running-minded 4-6 year olds. The coach entered the scene, gathered the children, and that's when it began.
Yes, welcome to the Hannah show. Her team, the coach and the parents then received her entire life story, my entire life story (even how daddy broke his foot two days before our wedding) and pretty much anything else she thought of. (And just so you know, she thinks...a LOT)
The parents on the sidelines at first were very quiet, but as her 20 minute monologue continued, laughter started to break out. Because she is HILARIOUS. And the things she says? Out of control funny.
So...we will see what happens this next week. If nothing else, we could probably create a college fund for her by charging admission to her practices...