Thinking About Life & Oliver’s 1st Birthday

Last week I had the pleasure of photographing my cousin Oliver’s 1st Birthday photos.  I have sat down to write this blog many times and each time I wanted to give Jami (his momma) a shout out but told myself “this Oliver’s post keep sappy families to yourself.”  Well I am ignoring that crazy thought, more on his session shortly.

I once heard the saying that your cousin is your 1st friend you’ll have. I never came to understand that phrase until adulthood.  Jami and I are 5 years apart, total opposites in so many ways, yet so alike in others.  When we were small we used to spend every Sunday at our Papaw and Mamaw’s house for Sunday dinner and playing outside, spend nights at each others houses, we went to Disney together once and a few trips to the beach.  Then tragedy struck our family and took loved ones away and with that took away our Sunday dinner’s & playing in mamaw’s giant yard.  We grew, I don’t want to say grew apart because that sounds harsh, our interests just seemed so opposite and the 5 yr age difference seemed to be obvious for a few years.  Adulthood came upon us, Marriage’s & Babies.  Jami became a momma to her sweet boy. Oliver has brought my bond with his momma back to light for me and makes me think of those childhood memories more often.  I am so thankful for those memories she and I share from our younger years and no one can take those memories away.

I can’t believe that Oliver is ONE!!!!  It seems like yesterday I was driving back and forth from the hospital to my house to take care of my kids and yet not miss his delivery!  Click the colored link to see the photos from his hospital session, Oliver’s Arrival & from his Newborn Session here  Oliver’s Newborn

Last week Jami brought Oliver up for some photos to remember his first birthday.  He wasn’t feeling very good and was not interested in his cake at all.  He gets his dislike of cake from his daddy.  I mean who doesn’t like cake!?!

You can view all of the photos from Oliver Finn’s 1st Birthday session by clicking here

Thank you for bearing with me this morning on my trip down memory lane.

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ps  There will be a BIG Announcement about my business within the next week!!!!!

Mr & Mrs Miller

My internet has given me fits this week.  I really wanted to post about these love birds on Valentines Day but technology just wasn’t having it.

Jason & Catherine were married in beautiful warmly lit ceremony last October in Eleanor.  Catherine was a very hands on bride & left no detail undone.  She made the centerpieces, the arch, dried the flowers, gathered up family quilts and oil lamps for the tables, made a cute barbecue sign for the food and Jason made the perfect cake stand.   The details were so  beautiful, warm and cozy.

Catherine was a bride after my heart!  She wanted a “first look” & she had an “unplugged wedding”!!!   I believe first looks are great for taking off pressure from the bride and groom on the wedding day.  It’s gives them a chance to be alone, well as alone as you can be with me snapping your reactions, and take in the moments about to happen and shed a few tears if you wish without being in front of your guests.  I think I could & I might, do a whole blog about unplugged weddings.  Bride and Grooms have put so much in to planning their special day that they want you to be in the moment with them!  Not on your phone trying to take photos.  That’s what they pay me for.   When they look back at their photos they want to see your faces watching them take this step in life, not your phone or iPad hiding it.

Catherine’s son gave her hand in marriage, and they said their vows while each of their children smiled with pride as the two families became one.

The guests dined on freshly made pulled pork barbecue from Jason’s business, Mountain Que.  It was de-lish ya’ll need to stop and try it sometime!

It was a great wedding day and I was so happy to capture it for them.  You can view all of their photos by clicking their name, Mr & Mrs Miller  & a few of my favorites are below.

Are you newly engaged?   Still searching for your wedding photographer?  I would love to chat with you!

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Bringing on Business Changes…

Picking up from my blog last week, Long Weekend in Charleston SC… Part One, and still reminiscing about my time in Charleston with women who literally have changed my life.

You see, running a small business from home while juggling all of the other responsibilities of everyday life can become overwhelming trying to differentiate home life from work life.  Most days my “office” is my couch; trying to blog, edit pictures, market, answer messages, all the while the laundry is running, the cats are sitting there staring me down to pet or play with them, I get frustrated if the house is messy and torn between putting business aside to clean, if the kids are home it gets crazy too, while they truly are really great kids, it seems the minute I get on the phone or laptop they argue with each other which leads to me yelling at them which I really hate doing.  This is my first really busy summer since I became a legit business owner so my juggling act looked like a cheap circus side show!

Back to the women who changed my life… At Ashton Kelley Photography retreats, Ashton  ensures that in all of the awesome squad members presenting that there’s topics to interest all of the attendee’s.  Going into her workshops and retreats there is always that one person I am excited to hear from and take away valuable information and then there is always one who I am surprised by how much I connect with them.

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At the Charleston retreat, I was excited for everyone, but I was anxious to hear Amanda Hedgepeth speak.   I have followed her work and blog for a while.   Amanda is a married momma of 3 little girls and a successful photographer so I wanted to know her secret to balancing life and work from home!  I met this sweet tiny lady in person for the 1st time when she had me blocked in the parking lot and we had a quick chat about “mommy vans” and I let her know how excited I was for her talk the next day.

Forward to Friday, I’m taking notes, listening so intently to what she’s saying waiting to hear that big secret to her life balance and she says “I couldn’t remember the last time I talked to my daughter and looked her in the eye” and at least have the room breaks into tears.  You see over 1/2 of us in there were momma’s to little ones.  That hit me hard, so many thoughts came rushing through my head of things I have said to my kids “hold on, let mommy check this message”  “hold on, let mommy edit this picture” “maybe we can swim later, I need to finish this” “in a minute” “maybe tomorrow” and so many more excuses!!  Alligator Tears are rolling!!!

Ashton says “Sarah you will be talking more about work balance tomorrow but would you like to say anything today?”  So then Sarah Houston begins to speak briefly and she says what totally did us all in, she says… “My business ruined my life.  My husband looked at me one day and said you choose us or your business and I chose my business” (disclosure; they are back together and totally happy)  Oh Hunny, talk about tears!!!!  Big Ugly Crying!  I am texting Reg to tell him I love him, ladies are leaving the room to call husbands, tears are flowing.

Bethanne Arthur spoke the next day about business practices and legalities but she is a married sweet momma of 2 so she gave some insight on how she balances her juggling act.  A door on her office where she can disconnect and have her space, working when kids are sleeping, etc. More tears.  Bethanne came up to me on the way to lunch hugged me and said “I love your heart, you need to work smarter not harder, raise your prices, you can do all this.”  And we sat and cried and talked for 30 minutes just she and I.  She truly has no idea how much that hug and those words meant to me!

At the end of the retreat, we did leave with lots of wonderful information on how to better grow our businesses and serve our clients, but we all left with the goal of making it work better for our families and spouses and shaking that mommy and wife guilt that so many of us carried.

So on that note, here is one of the 1st things I am implementing into my business plan.  OFFICE HOURS!!!  I have been trying to train myself on this since coming home, and let me just say, my evenings with my kids move smoother and I feel like a better mom and wife.  I think back to an evening last week when my little girl got in the car from school and said “Momma what are we doing tonight, how much work do you have to do this evening?” to which I replied with my new plan, “Momma isn’t going to be working in the evenings anymore unless it’s to shoot a quick session.”  She got so excited that it made me sad, sad on how happy she was, because it had been so apparent to a 6 year old how non existent, even though I was present, I had been in the evenings.  Since then we have crafted, swam, actually read bedtime stories without hurrying through and just hung out together.  My sweet boy, even though is almost 11, still likes to cuddle at night sometimes, by taking time to do that and not rush him, we have had some precious conversations. I fall asleep with my husband more nights out of the week than not now rather than hurriedly tucking kids in bed and going downstairs to edit, make phone calls, etc.  He has a demanding job and many nights is asleep by 8, but I try to lay with him and wind down with our favorite shows or talk about our day when he is up later.  Our little family is happier and running smoother in the last 3 weeks than I feel like we have been in a long time.

So here it is…

My office hours for returning messages and phone calls will be Monday – Friday from 8:30-3.   I am sure there will be occasions where I may do office work late at night after everyone in my house is asleep but not often, and I am planning on setting up auto responding messages for those times.

Yes I will continue to shoot sessions in the evenings and weekends because I am human and understand that not everyone can have pictures taken in the middle of the day on a weekday.

I am excited for this and I think not only can I be physically and mentally present for my family more, but by being more relaxed and happier, I can serve my clients better!!

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Ellie’s New Family…

 

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“I Was Chosen, I Was Wanted, I Grew in Their Hearts, I was the Missing Piece, I was Loved, I AM ADOPTED”

This is New Miss Ellicyn Ruth Miller!!!

Today this sweet girl is officially part of the wonderful Miller family with whom she has been fostered with the last couple of years.  She has no idea how lucky she is to have been chosen by this family.

Tracy is one of the most caring Dad’s I have met!  He is truly smitten with each of his children.  Holli, well I could go on and on about her for days!  Not only is she one of my very great friends, she is an amazing Mother!!  I have no idea how she keeps it all together, track of everyone and manage to have the most stylishly decorated house and perfect hair and makeup each day.

Tracy and Holli give themselves selfishly to not only their own children, but to children in need of a safe, warm, loving home.   They also are fostering another child too!   Miss Ellie’s new life is going to be magical and she is going to have opportunities, because of the Millers, that she wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Ellie has a Dad & Mom now, a big sister to teach her all the girly things, and 3 Big Brothers to protect her!!  Plus lots of puppy dogs at home too!   Her life will be grand and I pray that someday she realizes what The Miller’s have given her.

 

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Strawberry Pie Week…its a Tradition

I know it has been what seems like forever since my last blog post and I am sorry and putting it out here for you that I will do better and get a blog schedule going.  But in a great news I haven’t blogged because I have been so busy with sessions!!!  Sessions that were referred to me by clients and friends.

There was a few things though that I did make time for in the last few weeks in between shooting and editing.  Those were Family, Friends and Strawberry Pie!!!

If you are from the Huntington, WV area all I have to say is “Strawberry Pie Week” and you know exactly what I am speaking of!

Every single year, the week after Mothers Day, is Strawberry Pie Week at Jim’s Steak & Spaghetti!!  Jim’s has been in the same location on 5th Ave since 1938.  The atmosphere at Jim’s is truly unlike any other restaurant I have been to.  The waitress’s wear white uniform dress’s with hose and white shoes.   You sit in pea green booths surrounded by photos and memorabilia of celebrities who have visited the diner, such as John F Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, and many other politicians and sports figures.  Or you can also take a seat at the counter and watch the hustle and bustle of the grill.

While they are of course known for their spaghetti, I personally love their cheeseburgers which come on toast and the crinkle cut fries!   I am not a cole slaw person at all but when you go to Jim’s you must order a scoop of it!!  It is the best!!!

Strawberry Pie Week is a race that I would compare to the best black friday sale!!  To get seated in the first round that week you need to be in line really by 10:30/40 ish otherwise you will find your self in the line that wraps through the restaurant and down the sidewalk.  Jim’s is open from 11-9 Tuesday – Saturday.

This year I was lucky enough to drive down for 2 Pie Days!!!

My 1st trip I came down for a Dr’s appointment, which I left and rescheduled because couldn’t wait!!   lol I needed to get in line for my pie, I picked up my cousin Mary Beth and went to lunch with her.   I dropped her off in front of the restaurant while I went to park at 10:50 and were #’s 46 & 47 in line!!  This was a much needed lunch for us, not only for the pie but to catch up on the happenings of our families.   Laughter and tears were both shared about the old times and missing the way some things used to be!!  Distance may get in between us but we are always both just a phone call away.   Family by blood, Friends By Choice!!

My 2nd trip down was to have lunch with my best friend Christina and her sweet little girl Olivia!!   Christina has been to Jim’s before but never for Strawberry Pie Week and it was Olivia’s first time for both!    We visited and caught up on everything going on with life and it was so nice slowing down for a bit to chat in person rather than our weekly texts.

I can say the Strawberry Pie is truly nothing special, but it really is.  Not only is is fresh strawberries tossed in powdered sugar, placed in a homemade pie crust and then topped with homemade whipped topping; this pie brings people together!!!  That week is like reunion week, not just for me, but for so many that make dates to go enjoy pie that week with family and friends.

fyi; I attempted to take my actual camera in to do photos because I knew I wanted to blog about this but it was so busy and crowded that I ended up using my phone.

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Life Advice…Date Your Spouse

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So this blog is 95% not photography related and No, we weren’t at the beach this weekend but we had a wonderful weekend and I feel the need to blog about it. And give some unsolicited advice.

Like many married couples with busy schedules and with children with busy schedules you put your relationship on the back burner to get everything else done with your career’s and with your children. My husband has a very demanding profession and his job requires long hours both at the office and away from the office. He is working 90% of his waking hours no matter where he is, because he is dedicated and well, when you are the only physician in a small town practice you have to. His dedication to his patients and his profession amaze me! I am a “Mom-preneuer” my job is to chase my dreams into full time photography while keeping the kids and pets alive, the house clean, cook dinner, do laundry, run errands, and give as much time as I can to my children’s school. Many nights he is so exhausted that he goes to bed when the kids go to bed, I end up staying up to edit photos, return messages to clients and make sure backpacks are ready for the dash out the door to school the next morning. You get the idea… everything else tends to come before our marriage.

I was out with my sister in laws and daughter Black Friday Shopping in November and I was telling them how I just would love to have a night away with him. I missed him, yes I see him everyday but I just missed him, I missed us. Asking Reg, yes he likes time with me but he also misses our kids too, and I totally get that, however I am with them all of the time they are not in school and he isn’t. So he likes to go places as a family when given the chance. And that’s okay, we make wonderful family memories that we will all cherish forever. My sister in laws got us a couple nights at our favorite hotel and passes to COSI for Christmas so we could either turn into a night away with the kids or just us and take the kids a separate time.

Fast forward a month or so after the gift, my husband decides to sign up for a local CME conference 35 min from our home so he can still go, get his CME hours but commute each day and be home with us in the evenings. I get the idea to ask my Sister In Law to come down and watch the kids the last day of the conference and I will get a hotel room, and go surprise him for the evening. Take him to dinner, walk around downtown, just be together.

So this past weekend was it. My fear was he would leave early since it was a Saturday and I would pass him heading North on the highway while I was Southbound, so through the week I kept saying “well the kids and I will come meet you when you are done and we can all go do something after. That worked. Saturday morning came and I had booked myself full of photo sessions for the morning so in between shooting some precious babies, I was packing and making sure everything was ready to go. Finished my sessions and my sister & brother in law arrived about 15 min later. The kids were so surprised. They had no idea anything was going on either because you know they are kids, and kids tell almost everything they know.

To say my kids love their aunt and uncle is an understatement, the sun rises and sets with them in my kids eyes. My Sister in Law never hesitates to get down in the floor and roll around with them, let Alee paint her nails crazy colors, create fake food out of play dough for hours, etc. She is just the best and loves her niece and nephew unconditionally. My Brother in Law will talk with, well really just listen, if you have ever talked with Trey you know it’s hard to get a word in sometimes, about anything and everything Star Wars. The majority of their time this weekend was spent playing, watching or talking about Star Wars. Trey just thinks his Uncle Chris is the coolest. We couldn’t be more blessed to have them as our kids aunt and uncle!

I edited a few quick sneak peeks for my clients, ate 1/2 a salad super fast and then attempted the fun job of packing my husband for overnight. Remember, he doesn’t know. Those of you that really know him, know he is a particular guy. We played the game of “what of Reg’s am I forgetting?” before I left.

The weather the past few days has just been gorgeous! Sunny and Hot, not normal April weather, so the drive to Charleston was beautiful. I pulled into the hotel to check in and Reg had texted me about 5 min prior to see what we were all doing so I responded asking him if he was on a break and he was so I asked him to meet me in the lobby and told him what all was going on. He seemed happy. He went back to the meeting and I checked in, took my stuff upstairs, parked my car, then went and found his and moved it to the right lot.

After his conference was over we walked across the street to the mall and ate at one of the seafood restaurants there. It was just so nice to sit and have a drink and chat about things going on and not have to worry about making sure the kids were happy and content. The food was okay, not sure what type of review I would give that place. Then we walked around the mall and bought some goodies for the kids and back down the street to the hotel. Asleep by 9:15 and not having to worry about waking up at 6am! A dream! Although, as any mom can tell you, it’s hard to sleep at night because you are always waiting for a kid to wake up needing you.

Sunday morning we packed up and went to a little breakfast place, First Watch, a few streets over from the hotel. We got there at just the right time because as we left the line was out the door. The coffee was great and breakfast was delicious! We will most definitely go back. After that we went to the “Gucci Kroger” on Cor G to grab some groceries that our location does not carry and then home.

While I was sad to see our 20 hours together come to and end, I was really happy to see my kids and hear about their day. They had a wonderful time, both shed a few tears at bedtime last night because they missed their aunt and uncle. My sister in law and I decided that we are going to start doing this every other month. It is just good for all of us.

Reg is not only my husband but is truly my best friend! He has seen me at my worst, at my best, never hesitates to tell me his opinion when he knows I am in the wrong or the right, he works his ass off for us, and he encourages and enables me to follow my dreams! He is never in front of me, he is always right by my side! We needed this past weekend to slow down and reconnect, thank you Larae and Chris for keeping our kiddos so we could have that time.

PSA; Date Your Spouse!!!

 

Photo Credit to Tabi Donohew from our Beach Vaca a couple years ago. Greer113

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