Monday, August 31, 2009

21 months and some-odd days

Dear Alli,

I know I normally write you a letter each month, but our morning was so adventurous, I wanted to preserve the memory for you.

As my business has grown, we've been taking regular walks to the bank and post office. It has gotten so frequent that you know the routine. At first, I would push the buttons that open the doors at both locations, but eventually, you asked to push them yourself.

Down?
Bank?
Door?
Push?

So now when we approach, I get you out of your seat and hold you up to push the buttons. Then I carry you inside and allow you to open the next door. You're very good at staying with me while I fill out a deposit slip and ask to hold my hand when we walk to the teller.

Hand?

You like to be a helper by handing over the checks, then you immediately start asking for "some," meaning a lollipop from a basket that isn't even in sight.

Usually we go before your morning nap, so a stick of sugar is the last thing I want you to have at 9 a.m. I explain that we can have "some" after lunch, and that usually is an agreeable arrangement.

After the teller hands you the slip, you put it in my purse and we repeat the steps with the buttons on the way out. Today I even had to politely decline passage from a woman who was holding the door for us. The buttons are just too good to pass up.

Then I strap you back into your stroller, and we walk a few more blocks to the post office. I'm thrilled to say we've mailed out a lot the past few weeks.

Today there was a long line, so when you asked to get down, I knew it would be a heck of a lot easier allowing you to roam than listening to your whine echo off the high ceilings. You were very good exploring the space, sitting on the steps and saying hello to everyone.

Eventually you discovered the rack with decorative envelopes and screamed "MICKEY! MICKEY! MICKEY!" when you got to a Disney-themed one. Oh my eardrums. And I had been worried about the whining.

You carried that MICKEY! around as we waited, showing off what you thought was your new toy by declaring it MYYY!

Yes, mine. Everything is MYYYY!

But we waived goodbye to Mickey after I explained that he lived there and had to stay. Then we walked out, pushing the buttons as we went. I asked if you wanted to get back in your seat, and you very clearly demanded to WALK, so I figured I'd try it and see how you'd do.

It has never taken longer to get back home, but I had a blast watching you. You aren't scared of much, but the trucks passing by with their revving engines had you running as fast as you could to catch up, arms wide, yelling "HONEY, HONEY, HONEY."

That's what you say when you need comforting. I think you picked it up because that's what I say to you when I hold you tight: "It's alright, honey." It's one of my favorite things you do right now. HONEY. HONEY. HONEY.

Adorable.

I'd comfort you and tell you that you're safe when you're on the sidewalk with me. And that trucks are only dangerous if you're in the street. But we repeated the process a few times. You'd inevitably get distracted by something at your feet -- a bug, a leaf, a neat brick -- and I'd continue slowly, telling you to catch up. Then, when a truck passed, you'd run to me. HONEY. HONEY. HONEY.

We made a few stops along the way, including to put your hands in the water fountain downtown. You also had to press your nose to the candy store window to check out the stuffed horses on display, which have become a favorite thanks to the hand-carved carousel at the amusement park. And one lucky bug found its way to the grass before you were able to pick it up.

But you did make a few collections. You found a small wooden dowel of some sorts and flashed me the biggest grin as you held it up. It might as well have been a new baby doll. You were so excited over that piece of wood. Then, a few steps later, you found a dandelion and stopped to pick it.

Quandary.

You now had two things and only two hands -- one of which needed to be in mine. I watched as you assessed the situation and came up with a solution. You shoved the wood under your armpit, put the flower in your right hand, and held mine with your left.

Genuinely impressed, I praised you for figuring it out on your own.

When we got home, you showed Toby your finds and we placed your flower in water before a little juice and a nap.

Lady, there are a lot of days like this that come and go that I don't write about or take pictures. In fact, one of the downsides of starting this business is that I have less time to invest into capturing your everyday moments. I can't allow myself to dwell on it, though, because in the long run, I'm doing this for us. And that will pay off with a few sacrifices.

But just because I don't have as much time to write, doesn't mean I'm not appreciating every moment. In fact, I may even appreciate them more. It's a completely different experience going somewhere with you without my camera. I can focus on being in the moment instead of documenting it.

I guess all I want to say is that I love our mornings together. Most of the time it's nothing out of the ordinary, but you bring such a joy to things I haven't paid attention to in years.

Like a dandelion.

Thanks for being you.

Love,
Mama

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The result of two weeks dedicated to a five-hour event

Wow. The past two weeks have been a whirlwind. I sort of knew what I was getting into with the expo, but I had no idea that my booth would be such a hit. As my sister-in-law put it later, "When I saw the line from the escalator, I thought, 'Woah!'"

I spent every available minute the last seven days toning photos and uploading them to my website, which ended up with about 350 in all. But the effort has already been well worth it. The exposure was enough in itself.

I can honestly say that I love it. I had a blast with all the kids and just kept thinking to myself how beautiful little faces are while I was going through them. It was nearly impossible to choose a few favorites, but here is a sample of the adorableness I'd like to share.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Newspaper column

“It only takes 17 seconds for a thought to manifest and have other, similar thoughts join it,” she said, scribbling small circles on a piece of notebook paper to illustrate her point. “And those thoughts create an energy.”

It seemed reasonable enough. I tried to keep an open mind and listen.

“That energy is a living force. If you think something bad is going to happen, it probably will. If you surround yourself with negative energy, more gets drawn to it,” she continued. “On the other hand, if you think positively, it can change your life.”

I wasn’t sure what to ex­pect when I made an appointment with a life coach. The session was free, so I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. At worst, I blew an hour or so of my time. At best, I would come out rejuvenated.

Kim and I opted to meet in a cafe, and I liked her immediately. She had a very confident and welcoming vibe about her, which I found comforting. We stuck to small talk while we ordered drinks and picked out a table, but before long, we were tackling deeper topics.

“Everyone in your life was meant to be,” she said. “Before you took on this form, you all agreed which roles you would play in each other’s lives. And the ones who are the hardest on you; the ones who are mean and inspire you to be a better person — they’re the ones who love you the most.”

I had a hard time envisioning that my pseudo step-mother who never misses an opportunity to put me down might be someone who loves me the most. 

But I tried not to dismiss anything and at least let the thoughts rattle around for a while. Because I’m sure Columbus had a hard time convincing people the world was round.

Some of her ideas were tough to grasp, but at the heart of it all, she had a very simple message: Positive things happen to positive people.

When I got in my car to leave, I was shocked to see that it had been more than two hours. I called my mom to tell her how it went, and I found myself thinking that I’d at least give Kim’s ideas a go. I consider myself to be an incredibly positive person as it is, but I can let negativity take over sometimes.

Oddly enough, later that week, I stumbled upon an article about the book “A Complaint Free World” by Missouri minister Will Bowen, who believes complaining only exacerbates problems. He says by re­framing thoughts to more positive ones, “you’ll be happier, healthier and wealthier.”

It sounded a lot like what Kim had said. Bowen, however, takes it a step further. He sells bracelets at www.acomplaintfreeworld.org and advises his followers to switch the bracelet from arm to arm every time they internalize a complaint. He says recognizing them is the first step. Then you can learn to think differently.

If thoughts count, I’d end up with bruises from having to swap the bracelet too many times. Trying to see things with the proverbial “glass half full” is one thing. Giving up complaining entirely is another.

I’m sure there’s a happy medium to happiness in there somewhere. But it’ll take me more than 17 seconds to figure it out.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Phew!

Only have a minute, but the expo was a huge success. I booked a session, took photos for over 100 kids, had at least five senior portrait requests, more for holiday prints and got amazing feedback all around.

What a rush!

I'll post photos soon.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Immortalizing my two-toned hair

So I thought it was about damn time I changed my profile picture. How long have I been blogging? Almost five years?

And I've had the same photo almost the entire time.

Jerry had been telling me I could talk him through taking my portrait, but I was hesitant.

"You set everything up. Put the lights in the right places, get your camera on all the right settings and tell me how to do it."

I thought it was going to be more work than it was worth. But with the Expo coming up and hopefully increased site traffic, I wanted to update my outdated photo on my clients' proof page, too. That photo was taken before I got married. I look like a kid.

So when we put Allison down for a nap this afternoon, I did my hair, picked out a top I thought would go well with my skin tone and grabbed some earrings -- a rarity these days thanks to Allison's grabby fingers.

I did as Jerry suggested. I got everything the way I wanted it and tested the lighting on Jer. Then I handed over my camera with explicit instructions to go slow, hand it back to me every few shots so I could see what the results looked like and decide whether I needed to adjust anything.

And, you know what? It worked really well. He did an awesome job.

He laughed because I kept moving a little after each flash, but I told him I wouldn't have myself telling me what to adjust, so I just went with it.

I'm really happy with the result. Here's my pseudo self-portrait:

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I hope you like it. Because it'll probably stick around until 2013.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Seeking suggestions

I just decided to take part in an expo at a mall aimed toward moms -- one of my core demographics for my photography business. Now I have FOUR DAYS to get ready.

Anyone have any ideas of places I can quickly print a 20 x 30 poster without spending a fortune?

Here's what I want to print:


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Any other ideas for my booth?

Here's what I have so far:

  • Register to win a free portrait session.
  • If you schedule a session at the event, you'll receive a free 5 x 7 print.
  • My laptop will be running on the table, continually scrolling through the homepage images.
  • I will be selling postcards of closeups I took -- 1 for $1 or all 6 for $5.
  • Jerry will be scheduling sessions and answering questions while I take free portraits for kids. The moms will get a slip of paper directing them to my website to find their photo, where they will have the option to buy.
  • Some sort of free snack. Although I haven't decided on what yet.

My to-do list is MASSIVE. I have so many things on my plate, I can't even see it anymore.

It's a good feeling, though.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

1 year, 9 months

Dear Alli,

I have often found myself through different stages of your development wishing for a pause button, but none more than this. Almost every day I comment about what an awesome little person you are right now. You're fun, you're agreeable, you know how to entertain yourself, you're constantly grasping new concepts and you can communicate very well.

If your great-great-grandma was still here, she would've told me to put a brick on your head to stop you from growing. And, believe me, I've thought about it.

Yesterday you and I took a trip to the grocery store. On the way home, I heard you repeating "wiggle toes, wiggle toes." When I looked in the rearview mirror, there you were, kicking your feet. It's a game we play from one of your favorite books where you do different dance steps. We hadn't read that particular book in weeks, but there you were recalling it, saying a new word for the first time and putting it together with the movement.

We spent the rest of the trip doing the dance steps -- wiggling toes, putting our arms in the air and clapping our hands. I can honestly say the drive home from the grocery store has never been more fun.

Then there are little moments like when you get it in your head that it might be fun to try to walk while looking up at the ceiling. Then you giggle to yourself as you attempt to make it to your destination that way.

I dreamed about these days when you were just a wrinkly newborn. I wondered and tried to imagine what you'd be like as a little girl.

You've exceeded all of my expectations.

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This month we went to Gamma and Campa's house for our summer vacation. Well, that's what you call them anyway. You had more requests for appearances than we had days to spend in Rochester, and you loved every minute of all the attention.

While we were there, you started talking in three-word phrases. "I see pool" while pointing and looking outside to the back yard. "Don't hit, Mommy" after we had driven home the point. "Yes, I do" in response to a question.

By the time we left, I was no longer surprised at you attempting to say anything and everything that came out of anyone's mouth in earshot. You love to mimic, which is how you learn.

Because you played particularly hard there, your legs ended up covered in scrapes and bruises, so we thought we'd make you feel better by introducing you to Band-Aids. Well, they were a huge hit. You proudly announced "Boo Boo" and pointed to your Band-Aids all day.

When we got home, I remembered that I got a box of Hello Kitty Band-Aids at one of my baby showers, so I thought I'd blow your mind by digging it out. The fact that they were pink and fun made them that much more irresistible. You asked for a new "Boo Boo Kitty" the second the old one fell off.

One afternoon right after we had finished lunch, your Band-Aid fell off and you started whining for its replacement. Choosing to pick my battles for the day, I yelled up to your father who was changing.

"Jer? When you come down, will you bring a Hello Kitty Band-Aid?"

Apparently you thought I hadn't stressed the urgency of the situation, so you marched over to where I was standing, stuck your head in the stairwell and yelled, "JER! GAACHA CAPY SCCH BOO BOO KITTY!"

I laughed so hard that I had to sit down.

You certainly have a way with words.

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One of the things I hadn't mentioned last month is that you have developed a massive shoe obsession. You are very concerned with the status of everyone's feet, want to take inventory of every pair of shoes in the house and NEED to have shoes on at all times.

Even over your footed pajamas.

Sometimes you bring me two pairs and get upset that you can't wear four shoes at once.

This obsession is actually quite handy at times. Like when we're trying to get everything together to get out the door and you excitedly bring everyone their shoes. But it can also be annoying as hell because it's hard to communicate that high heels aren't suited for Sunday mornings when I haven't showered yet. You don't care that I'd rather die than chase you around in my most uncomfortable pair. You brought them to me. I should show my gratitude by wearing them.

When you realize I won't budge, you ask to wear them. "On? ... Help? ... Wear?"

It is hilarious to watch you shuffle around in my huge flip flops or Dad's massive Homer Simpson slippers that Toby likes to dry hump. One always ends up sideways, but you ride it out to the bitter end until one falls off your foot or you fall down.

On vacation, Gamma bought you a new pair of shoes for the fall. A beautiful pink pair that you were so excited about that you even let the salesgirl measure your feet. When you finally had both on with your new socks, you looked up at me, gasped and put both hands on your cheeks.

So I let you do something Gamma NEVER let me do when I was growing up.

I let you wear your new shoes out of the store.

Just remember that when you're older and you want to do something stupid like go to a co-ed sleepover. I'll say, "Absolutely not, but you can always wear your new shoes out of the store."

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One of the ongoing battles we're having right now is that you've pretty much stopped eating. It's not that you don't like food, I just think you're too busy. There are too many fun things to do in a day that you can't be bothered to sit at the table and do something as mundane as put a fork to your mouth.

Dad and I get a few moments to eat at a meal, then you announce, "All done," and start piling everything on your plate and handing it to one of us as if to signify that, "Hey, parental units, I have places to be."

For awhile, we tried everything. We tried the airplane game. We tried offering you stuff to dip it in. We tried presenting it different ways. Dad even pretends to hang it on the wall then zoom it into your mouth.

Then I realized that I don't want food to become a battle. When you're hungry, you'll eat. It's our job to provide you with nutritious food. It's your job to eat it.

If you don't? Well, you'll eat at the next meal.

And that's good enough for me.

There are a few foods you'll eat consistently, though. You love Jell-O, yogurt, cheese, every kind of fruit that exists and corn.

That's right. Take a minute to process that list. And remember that we're still changing your diapers.

THAT'S HOW MUCH WE LOVE YOU.

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There are so many other things that I could write on and on and on about, but because I need to sleep eventually, I'll just sum up a few more.

  • You've become an expert swimmer. You can easily swim on your own while wearing floaties and you're an amazing listener at the pool. You seem to grasp that you need to pay extra close attention to the rules when you're near the water. You never try to get in without our permission and you always wait for one of us to give you the okay. I'm so proud of you for this.
  • You adore our neighbors' son Nicholas. He turns 7 today, and you think he's just about the best thing alive. We can see his door from our back yard and you always point to his house and ask, "Nicky? Play?" When he's home, the two of you motor around playing hide and seek. Nicholas loves that he can point in a random direction, yell, "LOOK! SQUIRREL!" and trick you into looking every time while he makes a getaway to his next hiding spot. The two of you are such good buddies I love watching you play.
  • You've started calling me Mama again. You could call me anything. In your sweet little voice, it makes my heart burst.
  • There isn't much you fear, but when something startles you like our new landline, you run to me saying "Honey" over and over again. It's one of the sweetest things ever feeling you bury your head into my knees and wrap your arms around the back of my legs. It shows me that no matter how independent you get, you still need me sometimes. And for that, I'm grateful.

Because I'll always need you.

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Love,
Mama

Friday, August 14, 2009

The product of many, many, many long nights

My photography website is online. I could jump to Jupiter right now I'm so happy.

www.kellyvphotography.com

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The power of good thoughts

I went to see a life coach today. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect or even what her title means for that matter, but the session was free through Jerry's office, so I figured, why not?

Because we live about an hour apart, we agreed to meet somewhere in the middle at a Barnes & Noble. It occurred to me that I had no idea who to look for, but Kim instantly knew it was me when she walked in the door.

She had a very self-assured and confident vibe about her, and I liked that immediately. I like to think I give off that same feeling to people. Or at least that I'm approachable and easy to talk to.

Because it was hot and humid, we both purchased waters and picked an open table in the cafe area. Not being able to help myself, I started hitting her with questions. I guess it's still the reporter in me. When I don't understand something, I can't help but ask.

We talked a good bit about her business, her current projects and the background behind her work. I try to keep an open mind about anything new in life, even something I may not fully understand. Because what if all of her hard-to-grasp concepts about energy and thought manifestation are true? I'm sure Columbus had a hard time convincing people the world was round.

I opened up a little bit about my job at the paper, my relationship with Jerry and my photography business. She talked a lot about destiny and that my being has opened up because this project was something I was meant to do.

To be honest, I'm not sure it necessarily feels like this was my destiny, but it sure makes a lot of sense. It's like all of my work and past experiences fit perfectly into being a portrait photographer. My love for meeting new people, the attention to detail, using my creativity and turning it all into art. It just feels right. And I do feel more open and alive since taking on this project.

If I had to boil her advice down, it would be as simple as the old adage, "Positive things happen to positive people." She said it only takes 17 seconds for a thought to manifest and have other similar thoughts join it and create an energy. And, when I think about it, that makes sense. When I'm brainstorming ideas, they seem to build and pick up speed exponentially. On the other hand, when I'm upset about something, it can quickly turn into dwelling and ruin my day if I let those thoughts take over.

And as far as getting what you want in life? Believe it will happen. And it will.

Perhaps that's why our meeting didn't shake me to the core because I already live each day that way. In the past few years, probably since meeting Jerry if I had to put a time element to it, things have just sort of fallen into place for me. I have a comfort that I'm where I'm supposed to be. And anything is attainable if I set my mind to it.

I know my business won't fail because I won't allow it.

And after mentioning that my aura's seven entry points were spinning counterclockwise -- an indication of creativity if I remember correctly -- she said things are going to happen for me much more quickly than I even anticipate.

I laughed because that's already the case. I'm only a few months in, and it feels like I couldn't have gotten this far if I had wished for it. It just took off because I was welcoming it.

Kim does the same. At one point she assuredly said, "When I'm on Oprah," and it didn't sound strange. I didn't think, "Yeah, right." Instead, I envisioned it right along with her.

She did give me some things to think about and work on. I'm going to write a few things down. Not only to solidify some of my thoughts about the financial end of the business, but also to manifest them.

I'm also going to try to allow myself to give up some control in certain aspects of my life. This is something I've struggled with as far back as I can remember. I hated group projects in grade school because I felt the need to take over and fix what I viewed as everyone else's shortcomings.

I'm a natural leader, but that also comes with the fear of letting go of responsibility. I hate not knowing. Not having my hands in every detail. But she said I'll be happier if I can learn to accept that other people around me are capable, too.

And she's right.

I'm glad I scheduled the appointment if for nothing else than reaffirming a lot of my beliefs. And Kim was a really amazing person to be around -- I'd love to have a beer with her and really shoot the shit sometime. Strangely enough, when I got in my car, I felt a very heavy weight settle in my chest that took awhile to dissipate.

I'm not sure why, but I have two hypotheses:

She mentioned a few times how she personally doesn't use a camera because she doesn't need to. She collects the essense of people. If that's the case, I wonder if I noticed that part of me was missing. The other and probably more likely scenerio is that it's because her energy was missing. It had been so uplifting to be around.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Katie

I recently had a portrait session with Katie, who was so free with her smile that she seemed like an absolute natural at getting her photo taken.

I had been looking for someone I could use in my ads for senior portrait packages, and a friend suggested Katie, who actually works as a school-to-career student in my news room. I had edited her stories, but never actually met her.

And even though she graduated this year and is going to college in a few weeks, she was more than willing to be my test subject. Fortunately for me, she hated her senior photos and was excited to get another go at it.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

My creative juices have formed a hurricane

All of my online hours are being dedicated to my photography website at the moment, but it's going to be ah-may-zing!

Can't wait until it's ready to launch!

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's becoming one big blur

There is a lot of crazy going on around here these days. I'd love to be able to update about our vacation, how we spent our fourth wedding anniversary last week, and how Allison is talking in three-word phrases, but I can't.

The truth is, I'm so focused on my business, I don't have time for much else. Any spare ounce of energy goes to my family, my full-time job at the newspaper and maintaining our home. There is no free time these days -- even on the one full week off I get all year.

In addition to trying to juggle way more than I ever have before, Jerry is in the midst of a major transition, as well. I wasn't able to mention it up until now, but his company changed radio formats and got rid of their rock station. Jer was given his own morning show on an adult contemporary station aimed toward women, as well as the responsibility to help oversee two talk stations. He has spent weeks preparing for the transition, and did his first show on the new station this morning.

Needless to say, we've been going through some major life-changing events this summer.

I think it will lead to great things in the long run, but right now it feels like if we were cars, our tire rotation needles would be cranked to the red warning indicator.

I just have to keep reminding myself of something one of my professors said in college:

"Work hard while you're young."

I'm giving it all I've got.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tango Cafe Dance Studio

While I was in New York, I took photos for a constantly-on-the-go couple who own and operate their own dance studio downtown. They wanted new images for their company's website, so I got to walk around their gorgeous space.

As someone who loves architecture and historic buildings, I couldn't help but inquire about it -- the ballroom was that amazing. Kerri was happy to pass along as much as she knew. Apparently the third-floor space has only been used for dance since it was built in the late 1890s. The wood beams on the vaulted ceiling had been painted green, and the owner painstakingly stripped them back to natural wood.

It was worth it.

Later, Ruben and Kerri came to my studio for headshots, but I couldn't let two dancers leave without doing a few steps. They were so much fun to work with.


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