There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise--and motherhood is a challenge that requires repeated waves of encouragement, a village of love and a superhuman ability to accomplish multiple tasks using only one hand.
The P.S. I Love You Project is a photography project with a mission to encourage and inspire an intentional, heart centered approach to discovering the many sides of who we are as a means of compassion and self-care. The P.S. I Love You Project is a tangible way to connect with other women in your community and reconnect with yourself allowing you to see and honor that beautiful light within.
The pride of being a 4th generation Skipper runs deep at our next door neighbor's house. There might even be a tie between bleeding purple or bleeding royal blue (depending on how tonight's play-off game against the Philadelphia Eagles goes).
This was my first year at the North American Pond Hockey Championship on Lake Minnetonka. Admittedly, I am not a hockey fan by nature, but I have become a fan of the experience of being around hockey since moving to Excelsior and I was excited to take my little guy out on a beautiful day to go explore the Minnesota pastime and watch our best little buddy play some outdoor hockey.
Dedicated hockey families put so much work and time into taking care of their ice and sharpening their game. In our neighborhood, ice rinks line the lakeshore and as a kid, it isn't a question of if you will learn to skate, it's a question of when. It's exciting to be a part of a community with so much passion no matter what the weather.
However, when temps rise to the upper 30's in January, you will always find me drawn to any outdoor activity where I can enjoy a beer on a patio in the sunshine with friends—so this was a no brainer. After his morning game, and before his afternoon practice, our best buddy and neighbor gave us a tour around the event. I could not resist capturing the cuteness.
If you'd like to capture your own winter story—give me a call and lets get outside! Follow me on Instagram to see more!
I will happily admit it—I can waste a lot of time swiping my way down inspiring Pinterest rabbit holes of creative kid spaces, organizational hacks, gallery walls and 11-piece capsule wardrobes. Like most moms, I have used Pinterest to search for decoration ideas, create lists to mix up my kids’ daily lunch box menu and find printable visuals to help survive the bedtime and morning routines. As a marketer and a parent, I am always curious to see what is making waves in the annual Pinterest 100 — a list organized by category of the top ideas currently gaining momentum and on track to become big trends in 2018. I have compiled a list of 10 trends that resonated with me.
Decades ending in zero are the new sweet 16
My family and friends must be pinning their hearts out already in preparation for my 40th birthday in September 2018. According to global Pinterest data, saves for “milestone birthdays” are up 154%, proving that birthdays ending in zero are a reason to celebrate "000h" so-big.
Global awareness is warming up
An interest in clothes made of planet-friendly or recycled materials (eco-friendly diapers, up-cycled yoga pants etc...) as well as ethically-made clothing, fashion, and products is clearly not just a concept "created by and for the Chinese.” Pinning for "eco-friendly clothing” is up %750!
All tied up with a...pom-pom?
Clearly, if you want to make a statement this holiday season, you should finish off your Christmas wrapping with a hand-made pom-pom. The trend seems to be on the rise with an increase of 444%, acording to Pinterest. Yarn pom-pom pillows and blanket tassels, colorful baby mobiles, adorable knit baby hats and decorative pom-pom garlands all bring a new dimension to trendy adornment and accessories.
Weighing the benefits of “putting on some extra pounds"
My son has been lulled to sleep during nap time at school for over a year now by the gentile pressure and input of a weighted blanket (and sometimes by a weighted lap blanket or lap turtle). We are fortunate to attend a school which is aware of the calming effect these blankets have on kids (and adults!) with sensory issues, and which has them available for he and his teachers to experiment with. I am sure I make up some of the recent increase in Pinterest saves for "weighted blankets” (up 259%), as that was a must-have item on our Christmas list this year. I am happy to hear they are gaining popularity—hopefully that will make them more accessable to more families.
There is no boo-hooing the Boho
All of us who identify with the free-spirited boho-chic florals, exotic faded antique rugs and colorful bohemiean throw pillows will want to raise a toast with our mason jar glasses to all of the kindred-spirit pinners out there. Unconvintional is the buzzword for baby showers this coming year. A touch of vintage color and flowy, flowery hippy-vibes are quickly replacing the standard pinks and blues. Pinterest says that "boho shower" saves are up 306%!
All are welcome here
If the gypsy lifestyle is not your calling, however, there is a more low-key alternative beginning to emerge for those who prefer something with a little less fringe. Saves for "sprinkle baby shower" are up 180% and might just rain on the parade of the more traditional gender-neutral sunshine-yellow in 2018.
Mom's jewelry never tasted so good!
I haven't worn jewelry in years (almost 5 to be exact)—except for the rare oportunities I have to dress up and leave the house without a kid or two in tow. It's not worth sacrificing an ear-lobe to the monkey-strength grip of an infant—or worse—watching in slow motion as pieces of beads and metal plummet to the ground and you pray that none of the tiny pieces made their way into your little one's mouth. It's inevitable—if you wear jewelry as a mom of young kids, you might as well be a sample booth in a grocery store. I know I am not alone when Pinterest tells me that saves for "teething necklaces" are up 146%.
Words and images that stick
There is nothing I love more than inpermanence—especially when it comes to decorating a space. When we found out we were expecting baby #2 on the day we moved into our new home with only two rooms on the main floor, we decorated the boys' room for them both. Because I am a photographer and not a skilled painter, a removable wall decal was totally the way to go for me when I decided on a theme and envisioned an expansive mountain range that extended across the south wall of their room. Pinners must agree that having the option to re-invent a space later on in order to accomodate growing kids and changes in interests is a huge plus, because saves for "wall decals" was up 219%. Although I will warn you...decals come in lots of pieces and require a bit of creative problem solving. There were many deep breaths and time-outs needed to complete this two-person project and still finish with a smile.
I have a small wooden Melissa & Doug mailbox that sits on his dresser. On the long stretches over the weekends when my son and I are not together, I write him a short note and raise the little red flag that signals “you’ve got mail,” so he sees it when he comes home from school. I began to sign all of my letters with this phrase. It’s become etched into both of our hearts and has quickly become our own personal “love you to the moon and back."
Babies don't stay babies (no matter how hard we try to freeze the clock!)
Pinterest data also shows that decorating a nursery for a baby doesn't mean you can't incorporate wall art and family memories that are not necessarily baby-ish. Saves for “mature nursery” and “modern nursery” are on the rise and have increased 85%. Using large framed photographs from your own travels, for example, means that you have an ongoing story to share with your kids as they grow about a time and a place that holds meaning to you and your family. And when it comes time for your kids to veto your decorating ideas—because they will, you can easily relocate your wall art to other parts of your home and continue to enjoy your investment. Who knows, maybe one day in the future when the superheros, Legos and sports themes have exceeded their life-cycle and your kids have ventured out to make a home for themselves, they might find comfort and a sense of home by having something on display that holds memories that they grew up with.
Your walls are a BIG blank canvas
If you read my recent blog post on the 5 compelling reasons why documenting your family's story is important for your kids, this final BIG trend might just leave you inspired to refresh your walls and get creative. Pinterest saves for "big wall art" are up a whopping 637%!!! Large posters, gallery walls curated with framed works of art and photography prints are where it's at. The phrase "home is where the heart is" certianly rings true when the art on your walls holds meaning and tells a story that inspires your family and visitors to want to learn more.
You can check out all 100 of the Top Pinterest Trends to Try in 2018 for yourself and head down a rabbit hole of your own as you discover the "5th wall," "statement doors" and learn what all the fuss is about over "hot air frying."
There is something about the Christmas tradition of watching It’s a Wonderful Life on TV that brings out all of the warm and fuzzy feelings of the holiday season. I envision a modern-day family of 4 all snuggled on the couch together next to a cozy fire, decked out in matching green, plaid Hearth & Hand pajamas, sipping hot cocoa out of chunky mugs wrapped in woven "ugly-sweater" cozies while eating Christmas cookies from holiday-themed Fiestaware.
Then there is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, the version of Christmas that rings much truer to many families’ real lives and the one that highlights the inevitable obstacles that can present themselves when we hold on to idealistic images of family gatherings from our childhood and try to re-create them for our kids—or more honestly—for ourselves.
I see this dichotomy play out a lot in family photography too. There is the Wonderful Life version of a family photograph and the Christmas Vacation version of a family session—both of which hold a place and a significance in our lives. We all try to shove enormous trees into too-small living rooms at times—and that's when nothing seems to go as planned, people don't cooperate and things—and kids— just simply fall apart (AKA trying to get a 4-year-old boy—or even a 10-year-old boy—to wear jeans for your family photo). You might as well prepare now for an inevitable meltdown or an utter rebellion.
It's very easy to slip into a crazed quest to recreate the family Christmas (or a particular family photo) we remember from our childhood, have seen on Pinterest, or have received in our mailbox during the weeks leading up to the holidays.
But is that what your family really feels like in your day-to-day? —Probably not.
Some of my favorite images from my family sessions or of my own kids, are the ones where the shit hits the fan, the silliness erupts and the big emotions start to emerge. Those are memories that can quickly be wiped away with cheesy smiles and matching PJ's. I want to remember how quickly they grew and how hard it was to keep up. I want to remember them in high-water knit pijama pants with mismatch, mid-drift tops with their bellies hanging out because they grew out of them overnight and we were nowhere near a holiday or birthday to take advantage of a re-stock from the grandparents.
It's ok if there are tears, signs of annoyance, families joking and having fun together, kids picking noses and making silly, laughter-inducing faces in our photographs. I mean—I don't know about you, but that pretty much sums up life at my house these days with two young boys. The only thing missing would be conversations and jokes with Siri and Alexa about poop.
On that note... I will leave you with this series of out-takes from this season's family sessions (set to the tune of Christmas Vacation quotes, of course). These are the images that made me chuckle as I edited them and gave me—and the families these moments belong to—all the warm and fuzzy feels of this crazy and wonderful life we live with kids.
Clark: "Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere, leave you for dead?"
Eddie: "Naw, I'm doing just fine, Clark."
Art: "The little lights aren't twinkling."
Clark: "I know, Art. And thanks for noticing."
Real change is accomplished in small steps—but it doesn’t always look like that from the outside. When we see change happening, we usually see it at the culmination of a lengthy and sometimes difficult—or even painful—journey. The part of change we “see" out in the world around us is usually only a small part of the actual changes that took place before the fireworks of the grand finale became visible over the horizon.
I believe change is hard because it is so powerful.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Denver, CO and capture some amazing personalty portraits (aka Headshots, only better!) of my lifelong friend, and Executive Coach, Katy Flatau of Mindful-U.
The week I took these photos, she was physically in the process of executing a dream—and I love how you can see that shining through in these images. She had just sold her condo in Chicago, packed up her life into two containers and loaded up her car with “the important stuff.” After 10 years in a huge metropolis jam-packed with people and traffic, she has traded in the lake (Michigan) and headed for the mountains.
What I was seeing through the viewfinder as I captured her images in the Colorado foothills was the manifestation of real change and a true sense of freedom unfolding before me.
Katy has always been a person who has walked her talk, so being there to support this dream was really important to me. In fact—I would not have been capturing this moment for her if it weren't for the experience of her strategic and thoughtful approach to choosing and making change happen in my own life a year ago.
The camera I was holding in my hand as we hiked through the woods was a tangible reminder of the support she's provided me recently, as a friend and as a coach, as I navigate through finding my purpose, taking hold of my passion and following my colorful dreams of living a more fulfilling and flexible life while doing something I love—documenting people’s lives and telling their story.
Some of what I have learned about change over the course of the last year as a new entrepreneur, boss-lady and artist is that change is often the ignition switch I need to start making the magic happen. My neurobiological makeup CRAVES change. I have an ADHD brain, and unlike people who are met with fear around a major change in their life, the only thing that frightens me about change is its absence in my life. Here are 6 steps toward real change that I have both lived and witnessed as I reflect on and think about the many courageous and inspiring lives I have had the honor of learning from over the past year.
6 Steps Toward Real Change
1) Don’t wait to be happy (This is my favorite coaching wisdom from Katy). Actually making the changes your body and soul ask for is what helps you to feel more fulfilled and happier. Too much talking about change can actually lead to inaction and the energy it takes to desire a life you are not in is almost as much as it takes to make that life possible. So, be like Nike and “Just Do it".
2) Pay attention to the feelings around the "thing" you feel needs to change and remain open and compassionate as you work through the small changes needed to acomplish something bigger. Be kind to yourself—the awareness of a needed change already puts you ahead of the rest. You will feel like the ground is wobbly...just keep walking (or if you are a Finding Nemo fan, just keep swimming)!
3) Join groups and connect with people (virtually and in real life) who can help you achieve your desired change. Being a part of something that is related to where you want to go or what you want to do helps you gain confidence in an area that you may not be an “expert” in and puts you at an arms reach of new knowledge. This was probably the most eye opening element of change for me this year. Becoming a member of professional groups focused on my area of interest, gaining access to accountability groups, mentors, networking opportunities and working with certified coaches (shameless yet heartfelt plug for Katy), have all helped keep me on track when the seas got rocky.
4) Collect data. We all have changes we want to make, whether they are physical, emotional or spiritual. Even something as simple as deciding to buy a new car requires collecting information in order to decide on the best option for you and your family. Plus, collecting data isn’t scary—it’s often fun and energizing! Every data point helps you make a better decision and allows you to feel more confident in your decision because you are armed with knowledge.
5) Take small actionable steps. One of my very important teachers this year, Julie Christie of Togs in Business, is known for saying three very powerful words amidst a moment of panic in front of a long to do list, “action eliminates overwhelm.” I have this phrase in the same place on my wall as my core business values, because sometimes all it takes is moving forward an inch to get you going. The small reward is often satisfying enough to propel you onward, and before you know it you are making progress. Positive reinforcement (from yourself) is almost as motivating as cookies or wine....almost. Sometimes just the simple act of "checking the box" is all the boost you need to keep you on track. Bonus if your checkbox makes a "ding" when you complete the task (Wunderlist for the win)!
6) Celebrate your decision! Choosing to make a big change and living out that change is cause for celebration! A lot of times we find ourselves depleted after the process of making change happen and it’s important to look back at all that you did to move the needle. When we feel good about ourselves, we radiate from the inside out. This is a great time to invest in yourself and highlight your confidence and courage. It’s a great time to cut or color your hair, buy a new outfit, refresh your social and professional presence and capture images of yourslef that speak louder than words and resonate with the changes you will have just made in your life.
It’s important to be thoughtful in our approach to capturing our personality in images because of the impact and impression an image can have on others. After all, most of the time their first impression of us comes from that image. However, it’s equally as important to recognize and celebrate ourselves in these images and allow our passions, dreams and purpose to speak louder than our backdrop. Part of creating the change we want in our lives is showing up and taking that first step.
If you have changes you are working on you can download Katy’s free Jumpstart your Change Kit at Mindful-U.com. I can certainly vouch for the fact that she walks her talk—I was there when she signed her new lease in Denver!
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It Cultivates Gratitude
Your kids will learn to cherish the big & the small moments
When you document your family’s story through lifestyle photography, you’re cultivating a sense of gratitude for the big AND small moments in your life. A simple moment of making dinner together becomes as important and cherished as the day you learn to ride a bike or walk across the stage at graduation—because it is your story. When you display photos of these moments or create an album to keep forever, you are recognizing the immense blessings in your life and teaching your children to see the good, appreciate the present moment, and to spend more time doing what really matters; (things you love with those you love.)
It Satiates Curiosity
Seeing their story laid out in front of them fufills their desire for knowledge
Photographs help satisfy three basic human curiosities:
1.Where did I come from?
2.Why am I here?
3.What’s going to happen to me in the future?
If you have ever answered an eager 4-year old’s repetitive “why” more than a dozen times in a matter of minutes, you already know how important the roll of curiosity is in a child’s world. Curiosity is what sparks discovery, learning and exploration—and when we turn that investigative mirror back onto ourselves, the impact can be really powerful.
Looking back at photographs of daily life helps us to connect to our past, see who influenced our life and draw lines to who we are. Hearing and seeing stories of their early years as babies and toddlers allows young children to gain a sense of identity and better understand who they are. It also reinforces sibling connections, especially in a blended or non-traditional family system, like mine. Beyond just memories, photographs say to our children “you matter in this family—and in this world.”
It Creates Connection
Family photographs help children establish a deep and unshakable sense of belonging
One of the reasons that photography is so powerful is that as humans we are, by nature, a visual species. Ninety percent of the information in our brain is visual and we process that information much faster than text. If you frequent Instagram, Pinterest or YouTube you already know how much information you can consume visually in a relatively short amount of time.
Dr. David Walsh, esteemed author, educator and founder of Mind Positive Parenting, says that because we are so visual, “printed images are particularly powerful in reinforcing one’s sense of belonging.”
Every time I sit down on the couch with my now 5-year-old son and look through our photo books, the only question he wants answered on every page is “where am I?” He’s still in the egocentric "me" stage and still learning to gain an understanding of a "me" within the "us." Even if he is in four out of five images, he wants to know why his is not in them all.
Displaying family images in your home helps give your children a point of reference they can understand—“Look! This is me playing at the beach with my baby brother”—and this helps them establish connection and belonging—the foundation of self-esteem.
It Celebrates "You"
Your story is powerful
Everyone has a story that deserves to be told. No matter how mundane we can feel our lives are (especially with kids), we all hold immense value and who we are as individuals matters—Your family adventures matter, your game nights, conversations and art projects matter.
Your story has the power to influence others, inspire and even change lives. Your traditions have lives that live far beyond a Saturday morning at the Christmas Tree Farm or a summer weekend at the lake.
It Enriches Memories
Storytelling helps build important brain scaffolding
Woven throughout the history of every culture across the globe is the exchange of knowledge and life lessons through storytelling. Storytelling is a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and instilling values among a group of people. It’s the basis for the way we interact, innovate, communicate, how live our lives and where our dreams are born.
Storytelling is both an art and a science.
It is through talking and storytelling that our own personal memories and experience of how the world works begins to form as children and what educators in child development refer to as building “the scaffolding of our memories.” Our memories are recorded in segments in two different areas of the brain, the visual cortex (the image of a ball) and the language area (the word ball). Unlike replaying a video, the brain replays (remembers) by reassembling these segments via the intricate scaffolding. In an article about what memories are made of, written by Mind Positive Parenting, they state that "The more elaborate the scaffolding during the early years (1-5), the more brain locations a child has in the future to link new information and memories to.”
This is why as parents we are encouraged to talk out loud to our children from the day they are born. Sportscasting the act of changing a diaper 8 times a day or going into great detail about the shape, color and texture of the ball they are playing with only adds more scaffolding to their ripe little brains. We are building a mind one segment at a time. It’s said that that long term memory doesn’t start to form until we are around three years old. Until then, babies and toddlers are building intricate scaffolding to store these memory segments and it is through storytelling, reading and varied sensory experiences that our memory grows to be more robust.
Flipping through family photo albums before bed or pulling them out during special times like birthdays and holidays is a great way to tell stories and encourage kids to tell their own stories (if they are old enough) about what is happening in the pictures. This time together also gives you and your child an intimate moment to ask "who, what, when, where and why” questions about the people and things in the pictures. Looking at family photo books or albums or at photos displayed on your walls is a natural place for kids to make associations with what they already know and whats happening in the pictures and is a great way for parents and grandparents to learn more about a child’s interests. Additionally, it provides a wonderful opportunity to affirm your kiddo with a little positive language which boosts their self esteem and creates connection. (And here is a printable in Spanish and English, because praise in two languages is even better!)
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In today’s world, an online presence is a reality. Whether socially or professionally, we have all found ourselves at some point sitting in front of an empty avatar with the need to fill in a little box or circle with a headshot of ourselves.
Portraits tell others a lot more about us than we think—and that’s why it’s such a chore to fill that avatar! We all want to put our best “face” forward. Being thoughtful in our approach to capturing our personality in an image helps us connect with others, but it also helps us to recognize and appreciate parts of ourselves we tend to invest a lot of money in trying to find. I’ll dive into these in more detail in a later post, but for now, these are three gifts a quality personality portrait can give us that I see the most often as a photographer whose focus is capturing the essence of people.
So, what exactly is a Personality Portrait?
Personality portraits go beyond the traditional headshot by showcasing who you are from the inside out. Stepping away from the marbled grey or blue backdrop of traditional headshots gives you an opportunity to tell the world more of your personal story and showcase more of who you are.
Capturing what you like or do best, or just candidly, is essential to capturing something unique. Not only does a natural pose create a story, it also brings magic and beauty to a still image. Personality portraits show the bigger picture behind an image using places, objects, color and light to help tell your personal story.
What’s in the background of your image can be just as important as what you’re doing. A lot can be said about a person by looking at the background of an image. Depending on the story you want your portrait to tell, choosing a location that fits your personality is almost as important as choosing what to wear.
Sometimes it isn’t the person that’s exuding a persona or mood, but rather an object or scene that surrounds them which enhances their personality. The addition of meaningful objects (not props) adds significance, draws analogies, and brings attention back to the person in the photo.
Light and color
Our Personality comes out visually in the way we dress and the colors we gravitate towards. On the other hand, taking away the color in an image is equally as impactful. It’s like taking away a thin mask by exposing textures, shapes and facial features without the distraction of color. Similarly, the natural lighting in an image can act as an additional element to enhance or represent a characteristic or a personality trait.
Intrigued yet? Check out my 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways for a chance to win this super fun experience and give yourself or someone special the gifts of confidence, Individuality and self-love this holiday season.
**2017 Holiday Gift Vouchers are now available until midnight on December, 24th!**
Give them as a gift or use them on yourself!
“I know this is going to be a long haul, but then again, races sometimes feel like they’re really long and you just keep pushing through because that’s what a runner does,” Miranda Mead said in an article written about her in Runners World back in January of 2016.
As a runner and a mom, I know first hand how the mental strategies I have learned through running have enabled me to power through other parts of life that require extreme mental toughness (like labor, for example). But cancer? At 16? I was blown away when I heard this now senior in high school's perspective on the cancer that literally stopped her in her tracks only a couple years ago.
I connected with this amazing spirit (and her incredible mom) from the moment I stood in front of them to capture a little bit of their story as advocates spreading awareness about childhood cancer alongside Children's Minnesota during the month of September (and every month, really).
Miranda is so strong. She emanates positive energy and empathy—and was incredibly fun (and easy) to photograph. She is an advocate for children with cancer and from the brief time I spent with her and her mom, I can see how she is going to greatly impact others with her optimistic approach to life and her drive to keep pushing through, even while faced with an experience most of us cannot even comprehend. It was inspiring to hear her joy for life and her light conversations around homecoming, weight lifting and her 18th birthday coming up in November—things a high school senior should be chatting about. She treats cancer as a part of her story, but fought hard and did not allow it to be her story. She welcomed it into her life with grace and poise, and knows it gave her strength and hope and an opportunity for purpose. As a survivor recently celebrating one year cancer-free, having been told at the start of her journey that her odds of beating it were only 30%, she and her mom know first hand that living and life are gifts and you can feel that when you are with them.
Miranda and her mom, Julie, were so warm and playful together—like best friends on a shopping date. It was perfectly fitting that we all gathered in the chic home office of Paisley + Sparrow founder,Jen's, home, surrounded by handcrafted handbags, scarves and accessories all created with purpose for a purpose—kind of like Miranda. The items that surrounded us in that cozy and bright office space are currently creating jobs for margenalized women all around the world. The handwoven, denim colored scarf casually draped around Miranda's neck will create sustainable business opportunities for women both locally and globally. The the long tassel necklace Miranda's mom tried on is empowering woman in Nairobi, Kenya through education, innovation and design.
It was a sunny morning of optimism and intention and a moment to pause and revisit one's approach to adversity. Even in this quote by Ariana Dancu from Miranda's Instagram page, she shares her ability to transform a sharp rock in her shoe into a beautiful garden path that is sure to lead her to an amazing future in spite of the emotional setback she and her family had to endure.
"She made broken look beautiful, strong look invincible. She walked with the universe on her shoulders & made it look like a pair of wings"
Join me and other local businesses like Paisley + Sparrow during the month of September and Shine Bright for Kids in support of the Kids Cancer Fund at Children's Minnesota. I will be donating $10.00 for each session booked during the month of September.