A Father's Day Tribute

My crazy, mixed up, loving crew.

My crazy, mixed up, loving crew.

By all accounts, this shouldn't work.

We are the most unlikely family, filled to the brim with our own set of colossally hard issues and significant problems. Together, through this thing called parenting, we have raced against a losing current and hurdled over more obstacles than an Olympic horse jumping event. 

Yet, somehow...

Somehow, against all odds, the better advice of therapists, friends and our families, with a lot of time, effort and communication, something sticks us together like bonding glue. Through it all, we have we cobbled together a family and a history that normal people wouldn't stand a chance with. Some days I am surprised we are still standing here in the middle of this life together.

But that's us. Against all odds. Different. Like a mix of ingredients for a dish that sounds really bad on paper... until suddenly you taste it and you are transported to a new world, full of flavor, character and spice. We are an unusual blend of flavors that somehow fits together.

So now we stand, shoulder to shoulder, 15 years into this game changing thing called parenting. It's been back breaking work together and apart. (Or at the very least, wine glass breaking). Some days, I really don't know how we have made it this far.

What I do know is that listening has worked. Hard work has worked. Bloody, sweaty, tear-filled hard work. Gut-wrenching hard work.

But mostly, Love has worked. Unlikely, unconventional, unrelenting Love.

Happy Father's Day.

 

Summer Benchmarks

sleep

It's always been strange to me that we live in a world that values busyness over self care. We boast about work hours, job accomplishments and GPAs only to ignore the fact that we are simply undernourished and exhausted.

For me, summertime is the best time to actually allow yourself to unplug. It's the perfect time to let your body wake up when it needs to, eat what you hunger for, and really get some good quality soul time in. It's a perfect time to reset your self care routine and start fresh. Take a vacation. Start an exercise program. Cook fresh foods. Read a new book. And, of course, sleep in until mid morning (or, as in the example above, very late morning).

For me, summer is about changing those benchmarks you have been trying to accomplish. It's not about hours worked or grades made....it's about how you feel. Are you recharged? Rested? Refreshed? Do you feel healthy? Did you exercise you mind, body and soul today? These are my benchmarks of successful summer.

And by the looks of things, I think we are well on our way there!

 

Fly your own plane.

When I was a little girl, the only religious teachings I can remember were those from the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull that my mom used to read to me at bedtime. At that time in my life,  the book felt mind-numbingly boring to me - a then 4 or 5 year old little girl. But try as she might to give us some spiritual guidance, it just wasn't getting in.

Or at least so I thought.

Honestly, the book is a really interesting fable of a seagull bored by life's conformity and the daily grind of finding food. He needed more out of life and for him, flying was his passion. Unlike the others scrounging for food, all he wanted to do was to soar easefully above the clouds. He was a different soul - an outcast in a world that just didn't fit him.

As this little seagull soars to new heights, he transcends some of these earthly ideals and finds himself in a higher level of existence. As he climbs higher in the book, he climbs closer to his true self, and closer to his purpose.

My mom and I rarely spoke of religion or God. We didn't speak of setting goals or moving into a higher level of anything. But somehow, this book - despite my toddler sized boredom with hearing her reading it each night at bedtime - is something I have returned to in my life over and over again. Maybe it made an impression on mebecause it was so significant to her. Or maybe it's message of pushing boundaries somehow seeped into my being. Regardless of how it got there, somehow it got in. And to this day, this book something I refer to time and time again.

Out of anyone in our little family, I veered off all the prescribed paths. I did the unexpected. I kept trying to be the person the world expected me to be, but it never quite fit - like a pair of tight underwear, it just wasn't comfortable on me.

So away I fly (in my own plane, as my brother-in-law says to me all the time). Up in the sky. Working hard each day at being the person nobody expects me to be. But just seeing the world below from this deep and endless blue sky.

"You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way."

 

Sunrise, Sunset.

summer sunset

Letting go of a sunset is a little like saying goodbye to something you love. It's bittersweet - painful and a little beautiful all at the same time.

But while each sunset can feel like a goodbye, each sunrise can be a fresh start...a hello all over again. It's a reminder that the circle continues, and life just continues to renew itself over and over again. Each day brings something a little new, a little different and something to look forward to all over again.

The faith comes in the letting go...in the sunset. And the affirmation comes with each new day.

 

 

On Saying Yes.

I confess...I say YES to this a lot.

I confess...I say YES to this a lot.

I have spent the past month or so angsting over a fairly large decision for myself. I have wrestled with it, turned it over and examined it until I can't even stand it or myself anymore. I was relaying this to a friend of mine and told her the pros and cons and ins and outs of every minute detail. She listened...patiently. And watched as a squirmed around in my own self trying to convince myself that YES was the thing to say.

She was quiet and then from the clear blue said these words to me: "Just because the word "yes" is a positive word doesn't always mean it's the right answer for you."

LIGHTENING BOLT.

It was as though someone gave me permission to say no to something – even though the best and most logical answer would be a resounding "YES." But sometimes, just because it's right on paper, doesn't mean it's right for your life.

We often should ourselves right out of the things we really want to do because the world does it that way. I am, by all accounts, the most unconventional soul on the planet. I am a single mother. An artist. I work for myself. None of these things compute on paper. Yet somehow, I am still here. Standing on my own two feet and doing just fine.

If I had always listened to the shoulds, I would be married to someone I didn't love, working in a job I didn't want to be in, and just not taking any chances on myself. And isn't that part of life? Taking chances on yourself? Saying yes when you should say no and no when you should say yes?

I haven't made any decision yet, but now I know when I do, I will make if from a place of authenticity rather than obligation. I will decide from a place of freedom rather than ownership... love rather than fear.

So next time your YES rolls around, make sure to gut check yourself on it. Listen to what's inside. And do what's right for you. Because sometimes your YES looks like a NO.

Ten.

mom

Ten Years.

A decade has passed since you left us...a decade since our little party ended too early for my liking.

Ten years is a long time to love something you can't see or feel or touch or hear or talk to. It's a long time to love something that is no longer tangible. I can look at these pictures and try to remember what is was like to walk down that sunny street with you on that crisp fall day, or what it was like to eat chocolate together, or play Yatzee before bedtime, or just melt into the the comfort of your soothing, strong voice on the phone.

But it's not the same, is it? Memories always feel like they become more translucent as time goes on until suddenly and without warning, you can't see them anymore.

In ten years, I have become a pro at living around the hole you left behind. I did my fair share of falling into it's clutches in the early days. But now I know how to co-exist with it – dodging it's jagged edges and walking around it's stony cliffs. Sometimes I stand on the edge of it, just looking in... just remembering. But I know now how to climb out and dust myself off. I know where it is. And I know how to live with it.

Death changes the landscape of your life. Grief and sorrow become the pit you live around. You lose your way. You lose your sight. You lose your sense. It's disorienting and all-consuming – like being in a storm at sea without a mast to your sails or oars to a boat. And through it all, you still have to pretend like you have some semblance of control.

After ten years now, I have figured out that this landscape that I got used to in my early days will keep changing. Life will continue to shift things, so we can't get too attached to the view. Babies will be born. Children will graduate and become adults. Family members will pass on. Relationships will fail. Trust will be lost and found again. Friendships will be made. Love will be had. It's all part of the landscape of life: it's ever-changing. 

So I will just strap on those hiking boots and keep learning how to make it through the dry, harsh deserts and deep, musty caves. I will swim and sail through dark, stormy seas and slink through the wild, sticky heat. In the end, I hope see it all and witness the brilliant spectacle that is life.

In the meantime Mom, just keep being that shiny star, helping me navigate this ever changing terrain. I still need you.

With love,
Libby

 

Getting Balance

My awesome spring break view.

My awesome spring break view.

I had a shitty "spring break."

Let me explain...

Like many of you, I have a school-aged son that was on spring break last week. We don't have a lot of spare cash these days, so a trip was not happening. Instead, I thought of the bright idea of camping for a few days in the mountains (something I have actually only done once in my life...smart thinking.). We set our plans and started the wheels of our camping trip in motion.

Of course, life being what it is, the universe had some other plans for me. Or maybe I wasn't fully committed in the first place. But my plans changed course somewhere the week before. Some great, unexpected work came up. My teenager had some specific ideas about his social plans. And then I slipped into saying yes to far too many things I didn't want to do. So our camping trip got cancelled, I worked a lot, and then became an unpaid Uber driver for my son in my spare time.

As the week progressed, I started to get increasingly more frustrated. I was mad at life...mad at myself. I felt trapped and owned by some imaginary rules I had set up for a life that I was supposed to live. And it only got worse as I scrolled through social media to see friends enjoying Caribbean vacations, European adventures, and good old US road trips. What's worse was that I knew in the truest part of myself that I was the one responsible for the way this week was panning out.

When I started to reconcile what was happening and got real with myself, I realized a few things.
1. I was in desperate need of a break.  I work weekends a lot. And when the typical work week rolls around, I am usually still working. While I do set my own schedule and have lots of freedom to make appointments and go grocery shopping at odd times, I tend to still feel like I need to be getting work done during the Monday-Friday, 9-5 hours as well. To top it off, I was going on weeks of constant work without a break. I needed a change. 
2. I was telling myself a story that wasn't real. Not everyone I knew was on a spring break vacation. In fact, I knew more people that had to work than those that did not. Spring break trips are a luxury, not a right. And I needed to hip check myself on that.
3. I was feeling sorry for myself. And that wasn't allowing me to live on a higher "vibe" - if you will. I was sulking and wallowing in self pity instead of changing my reality. Once you change that, everything changes. Literally...everything.
4. I wasn't seeing the amazing opportunity around me. I live in a place with abundant beauty. I am 15 minutes from the beach on a good day (5 minutes from one of the most gorgeous parks in the world). I have gift certificates to 5 local restaurants. I have a sister with a pool in her very own backyard. Enough said.
5. I wasn't saying "NO" enough. Not to my son. Not to his dad. Not to friends or neighbors. I was doing things I didn't want to be doing. I was creating my own misery and my own sense of disappointment.

Once I started seeing all these things, I began changing my story. I planned an Easter Brunch to see family I hadn't seen in months. I went to the beach. I watched the sunset. I played with the dogs. I went for a walk with a friend and talked about some amazing topics like meditation, family, and life changes that we are both on the precipice of making. Once I took the wheel back, I lived in the presence of joy and gratitude instead of wallowing around in my own self pity.

The best part of this shift is that it only takes a moment to change your mindset. For me, it finally happened when I got real with myself and realized I wasn't listening to my inner voice saying - SAY NO...YOU NEED A BREAK! I was trying to please too many people - clients, family, friends, neighbors. I wasn't voicing what I wanted to do. But once I finally followed through for myself (albeit with begrudging sighs and protesting from my teenager), everything shifted. In that simple moment of saying "This is what I want," I stopped being a victim of my circumstances and started taking care of myself. I started enjoying where I was in the moment.

Squad. Goals.

Squad. Goals.

My heart and soul got some much needed beach time too!

My heart and soul got some much needed beach time too!

Beach time with friends where I mixed in a little work with a little pleasure.

Beach time with friends where I mixed in a little work with a little pleasure.

Looks like they #brunchedtoohard.

Looks like they #brunchedtoohard.

 

Sometimes saying what you want isn't about being selfish or narcissistic...it's just about taking care of yourself. Simple, kind gestures that say "Hey wait...I'm important too!" Make yourself answer the call to do more for you. You know when the teeter totter of balance of your life looks like a chunky kid from gym class is sitting on one end with sandwich and a Snickers bar laughing at you for being trapped way up there. Take control back. He's not in charge.

Just get some balance.

Muddling through

This new momma has got this motherhood thing down.

This new momma has got this motherhood thing down.

We all want to look like pros at whatever task we are handling - work, make up, dinner, motherhood. But in reality, most of us are faking it along the way - sort of like we do those first few weeks with our brand new baby. It's excited, exhausting, and exhilarating, but in reality, we are just winging it all hoping for the best outcome. Even though it all looks happy and easy on the outside, we are still on shaky feet behind closed doors.

Truly, I think it mostly works when we "fake it 'til we make it"... that is until something big comes along and gently reminds us that, in truth, it's all overwhelming. 

Just remember...the moment you feel like you are out of your league, stop, look around, and remember that you've already gotten this far in life and done just fine. All you have to do now is keep going. And truly, while it may not always look like this on the outside, nobody else really knows what they are doing either. Take comfort in knowing you have muddled your way through more than one time in your life and I am certain you can do it again.

 

Born to Feel

Holly McGetrick, of Dandy Boutique, totally keeping her cool backstage at Charleston Fashion Week 2017.

Holly McGetrick, of Dandy Boutique, totally keeping her cool backstage at Charleston Fashion Week 2017.

"Chill out." "Keep your cool." "Stay calm." "Easy does it."

These are all things we hear when under pressure, on fire, jazzed up, or completely stretched.

But why? Staying even in a sea of waves is virtually impossible unless you are a sociopath. When the waves of depression, frustration or fear crash over your head, it's perfectly acceptable to lose it once in a while. The key is not directing that energy to the nearest innocent bystander. But I think sometimes losing your cool is okay.

When you are in panic mode, stop yourself and ask yourself this simple question: will this matter in 5 minutes? 5 days? 5 years? If the answer is a resounding "NO!", then take a deep breath and try go about your business keeping your focus on the big picture. If the answer is "YES!", by all means proceed to lose it. Because I stifling it ain't gonna do you any good, sister.

We were meant to have emotions. We were created as sentient beings. It's normal to feel anxiety, panic, anger, hurt and frustration. As a matter of fact, it's tied to our basic survival insincts. The only difference is now, the threats aren't saving your life against a saber-toothed tiger. We have adapted since surviving wildebeests and other creatures. But the instincts are still there. Our perceived threats are very different now than they were 1 billion years ago.

So next time someone tells you to calm down, smile to yourself and do your thing. Because baby...you were born to feel.

 

Lessons in less

From brunch at The Darling Oyster Bar where upon I couldn't finish all the food we were given. A nice problem to have.

From brunch at The Darling Oyster Bar where upon I couldn't finish all the food we were given. A nice problem to have.

I often get caught up in the "I don't have enoughs" when in reality, everything I really need is right in front of me. I am clothed, have clean water, have a lovely roof over my head, power to my home, relatively good health and even extra food in the refrigerator and pantry...just in case. And often times, I can't eat all the food that is given to me because, you know what...it's just TOO MUCH.

I try to stop myself there, but in this privileged society, it's hard for me to say I don't need a haircut, some new clothes and perhaps that awesome new iPhone 7 Plus with it's sweet portrait setting that makes a cell phone camera look a little dreamy. (I mean, it IS my job after all).

Sometimes, I even make myself believe I don't have enough to do the things I need to do. I need a better camera, better lenses and a new computer for my job. I need a new pot to properly cook that coq au vin perfectly. And I could definitely use that special, fancy sea salt we ran out of to make that dish taste extra perfect.

If we balance out the "nice to haves" (new haircut, new shoes, new camera) more realistically with the "need to haves" (power, water, warm clothing), we suddenly start to see the shift happen. We start to feel the gratitude for what we have instead of what we don't have. Instead of seeing this lack as punishment, maybe see this as a gift.

I found this paragraph from a photographer I follow (stalk?) today and it really brought this concept I've been mulling over for weeks into fine-tuned focus.

"There are so many challenges to living our dreams: not enough money, not enough time, not enough knowledge, etc…. But the truth is, those are all one kind of problem…a lack of RESOURCES. And if you’re putting off living your own dream because of a lack of resources, then I’ve got news for you. NOBODY has all the resources they need. In fact, the very nature of big dreams is striving for something that’s not yet within our reach…it’s ALL ABOUT A LACK OF RESOURCES. So what can we do with what we’ve got to get there? It’s simple: you need to be more RESOURCEFUL. There’s a big difference."  - Chase Jarvis

Well...ain't that a kick in the pants? Instead of stopping us in our tracks, maybe we could use our perceived lack as a way to be more creative. That lens I want only makes me work harder for the photo I need. That pot and finishing salt I don't have makes me work a little more creatively in the kitchen to come up with another way to cook. So in the "lack" is actually a life lesson. Creativity is equal to Resourcefulness and is extremely necessary when you are working towards ANY goal. 

And for that lesson today, I am grateful.

 

 

 

A Fresh Future

Fresh Future Farm event for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, 2017

Fresh Future Farm event for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, 2017

This past weekend, I got to attend 6 (or more...it's all a haze now) events for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival. One of my dream events was shooting at Fresh Future Farm – an urban farm created as a response to addressing food, health, economic, and environmental disparities. Fresh Future Farm is in the middle of what's known as a food desert in North Charleston - an area where grocery stores have pulled out of the area because these are unprofitable neighborhoods. And as you may well know, grocery stores equate to big business.

So there I was, shooting a farm to table dinner in the middle of a food desert on the cutest little farm I ever did see, with some of the top chefs in the country cooking over open flame and plating up one of the most spectacular meals I witnessed in all the events I attended... maybe even in my whole life. All of it was Inspired food from the region – some of it grown right here in Charleston.

As I stepped away from the event goers and party planners into the field of collards and cabbages, I took a moment to appreciate where I was and what this meant.... For me. For the community. It was all a little overwhelming to be honest. Not only am I doing PRECISELY what I loved (HELLLOOOOOO.... farm, food, & people are my intersectional bliss), but I was getting to witness it being done for a cause that mattered. I saw community coming together and chefs making magic.  Suddenly, my heart felt fuller than the bellies of those lucky little diners.

I am lucky to do what I do every day. It's not easy. It doesn't come with all these romantic notions of love and grandeur and cups that runneth over. Don't be deceived. This work is hard. It's relentless hustling and constant let down. It's time away on the weekends and tired muscles from walking with too much gear. But it's what fills my soul. Especially when it intersects with moments like this.

I am forever grateful for this job, this life, and this continuously unrelenting call that hasn't left me since I first picked up a camera at the age of 12. I love what I do. But today, I feel inspired and incredibly lucky to just be here...basking in the aftermath of it all.

Thanks CHSWFF2017. I can't wait to see what you cook up for next year!

 

This, too, shall pass.

We are taught that to be accepted in this world, we must be perfect. Complete. Put together. We are told that our wholeness is what makes us intrinsically good. To be anything else is to be cast aside like a flower that's finished blooming. There is no room in our technicolored dreamworld for imperfections.

We aren't always taught to pause and appreciate the beauty in the falling apart. There are no books written on existing inside that space. You get no medal for getting out of bed or putting on pants. We are taught to run from brokenness. Fear it. Get as far away from it as you humanly and possibly can because it's painful, hard and terrifying. We aren't shown that despite our fragility during this time, being broken is truly a privilege. And we aren't shown that sometimes, being in that space is hard to get out of. Buck up. Chin up. Onward and upward. It's like the world doesn't want being broken to exist.

My words to you are this: If you are in the broken place, take your time. Feel around a little. Hold the space. Look for the beauty within it (For example - I know if the lights are off, I look much better in the mirror). Surround yourself with people who can do the same thing. It takes patience, courage, love and - above all else - empathy. Sit. Be still. And love yourself. 

Because this, too, shall pass.

Up to the Top.

From our time in Texas last summer.

From our time in Texas last summer.

Some days, I feel like I am on top of the world, climbing towards infinite possibilty. The only thing between me and upward mobility is a little bit of air that I can effortlessly float on.

And then the other days come....the days when I feel like all I do is climb over treacherous obstacles and stumble over rocks and boulders. There are the days that feel like I am on a narrow pass on the edge of a 2000 foot drop with jagged edges underneath. And there are days where my feet feel stick in pluff mud that's thick and heavy and pulling me under the more I try to wiggle my way out. 

Those are the days it's hard to say to yourself "You've got this. You can make it!" Those days you stay frozen, laying on the ground and hoping you can figure a way out without getting sucked in again.

The key, I have found, is to tell yourself these words:

You have seen this cliff before.
You have been stuck in this mud already.
You have climbed these boulders time and time again.
You and you alone have freed yourself from this...You have got this.
Just keep going...inch by inch. You will make it.

And every time, just like that, I move slowly to the top of the mountain once again.

 

Forge Ahead

sky

When we are caught in a sea of uncertainty, the best thing to do is to find a spot on the horizon line to focus on and paddle towards it with all your might. The seas may get rough. The winds and currents may be unforgiving. But you will always end up at your destination if you keep focusing on where you are headed. 

So eyes forward. And forge ahead.

 

Cultivating faith

A shot from the newly cultivated crops out at Compost In My Shoe.

A shot from the newly cultivated crops out at Compost In My Shoe.

Cultivating a crop takes patience. It takes time and repetition. It takes weeding, observing, watering, and watching. And sometimes it doesn't go as your careful plan. Pests get in. Frosts hit. Rain washes away your hard work. It's a precarious game making you anticipate Mother Nature's next move.

This can be said for a lot of things, too. Raising children, starting a new job, or even creating something new... like art. It's a balance of patience and grit, of testing and trials. You await for the outside influences to come and hope that you have some semblance of a plan when it all hits. 

But after the battles and the hardships, you are left with new soil and a fresh, new place for seeds take root. New growth come. And the crops that were taken out during the heavy rains, pest invasion and frigid temperatures have made way for fertile ground to sprout new ideas. 

And along the way, you realize that ultimately it is all a test to cultivate a crop of faith in yourself to handle it all.

 

PORTRAIT SPECIAL

Hey friends...

So it's January and I can't think of a better time to freshen up things for yourself. There really is no better time than now to get some new, fresh portraits done for the new year - whether you are looking for professional shots to update your LinkedIn profile or you are looking to get some fresh shots for your social media accounts. Now is a great time for new photos for yourself!

 

ONE OUTFIT/LOCATION - $150*
Additional locations and outfits for an added fee of $50/change.
 

Let's get you on the books and give you a fresh look for 2017!

 

*Price includesa minimum of 5 final images in color or BW. Images are sized for online use only. Additional sizes can be purchased for a small fee. Price does not include travel outside the greater Charleston Area.

Lessons in the Blooms

These lovely Camellia's are happily blooming all around my yard right now, simply oblivious to the fact that it's the dead of winter in most areas. These plants enjoy coming to life in the cooler months and showing the world their magnificent colors and textures. They use the warmer months to go dormant, saving their energies for now when they really need it. It seems counter intuitive to what we understand plants to be, but this is how they are most comfortable. And we nurture them where they are planted and how they best thrive.

Wouldn't it be great if we gave our fellow humans that functioned like this a little more understanding? Wouldn't it be great if we just accepted that some of don't learn the same way the rest do and flourish under different circumstance? Wouldn't it be awesome if we accepted people as they are and understood that that mostly, everyone is doing the best they can?

If it weren't for the camellias blooming now, the landscape would be bleak with dormant trees and brown turf everywhere. But these happily blooming plants are there adding color to our lives when we least expect it.

Wouldn't it be great if we could see this same lesson in our partner, neighbor, or child? How can you accept their blooms where they have left them for you to see and not just where you expect them to be?