iphone

Free to float

waters edge

I have been standing at the water’s edge for a long time, watching the waves lap against the Lowcountry shore in wonder of what’s out there. I have been afraid to jump in and swim around in the salty waters because of the dangers that lurk beneath the surface.

What was I missing out on by letting fear drive the ship? Was there something bad under the surface? Or just stories or random encounters I let take over?

When fear drives, we believe things that might be untrue. We believe if our friend gets bitten by a crab in the water, we will too. We believe that sharks lurk below waiting to attack us for their next meal because someone 3 beaches away had that happen and we saw it on the news. We believe in box jellyfish and man of wars and things that we have actually never seen ourselves. We believe in the worst.

But what happens when you release and dive in? You float. You surf. You bob around in the warm waters and find your way. You feel free and untethered. There are no crabs nibbling on your toes, no sharks looking for a meal. It’s just you falling into what is.

Let fear go. Stop standing on the edge and watching the fearless live your beautiful, unencumbered life. You will float. You will be fine. There is nothing lurking in the deep, dark corners this time.

You are free to float.

The Sacredness of Food.

tomatoes

I am one of those weird people who finds cooking therapeutic and relaxing. When I tell this to people, they often stare through me, as though I am speaking another language of sorts. Sometimes people mumble back to me, “how do you have time for all that?” or “I just can’t be bothered…too much work!”

I get it. I really do…there are many days that I feel like take out is the best option. But there is something so mystical that I get lost in during the cooking process. Somewhere in the rhythm of chopping, mincing, and mixing, I get a little lost from the thoughts that plague the reality of my life. I get lost in the sacred ritual of it all.

For me, cooking is very definitive. It has a beginning, a middle and an end that usually happen in hours - as opposed to the days or weeks some projects can take. Whether you are baking a chicken or making a cake, the results are instantaneous and tangible. While I can make a cake in an afternoon, it could take days - even weeks and yes, sometimes months - for me to plan, shoot, edit, and deliver photos to a client.

Mostly though, it’s the end result. Feeding someone is giving them a gift you made yourself. When I cook, there is a sacredness to making the meal…I think about what people love, what they need…what they crave. I put energy into sourcing ingredients - where can I get the most delicious produce? Who has the best meats? Who has the “right” food for the meal at hand? The mere process of combining flavors, textures, and smells together makes it feel like art - like a painting coming together in all it’s vibrancy. It’s carefully crafted and created just for them.

So next time you sit down to a meal that someone has made, give pause and think of what went into making it. Or, when you endeavor to make your next meal for someone, think of the gift in the creation of it all. There is a sacredness in the food itself. There is a sacredness in the presentation and the process.

And then, after you think about all of that, dive in with love.

My world in a seashell

shell

I have many memories of my father. He was a passionate and sensitive man who was raised in a time where it wasn’t really accepted to be a sensitive man. But it was always within him, even if it was stuffed down and suffocated by the masculinity and machismo that ruled the world at that time. Whenever we visited the beach - or the seashore, as he called it - he would marvel at the colors of the seashells. “Just look at the colors,” was a perpetual exclamation as we strolled along the seashore, picking up tiny shells along the way, gazing at the rainbow sherbet sunsets of Kiawah Island, where he retired long before I graduated from high school.

He didn’t grow up embracing the loveliness of the little things in life because his siblings wouldn’t have stood for it. Led by fear (and maybe a little ignorance), they would have given him a proper bashing for it, I am sure. But in his distance from his family and surrounded by people who made him feel safe, he was allowed the space to marvel at some of the most magnificent creations on this planet. Moreover, he was allowed to be more who he wanted to be.

My dad recreated himself over the course of his life. He came from very little, and left behind his upbringing in the East Midlands of Post-war England to start over in the USA - the land of opportunity. In his early days here, he worked hard all day, saving money to make a difference for the future of him and his family. Each night, he would go home to his quarters at the local YMCA, dreaming of his future, scheming of how to get there. He feared nothing, often standing bravely in the face of so things that would many of us crumble and give up. The man NEVER.GAVE.UP. He was resilient, resourceful and had a blind faith in life. Most of all, he was always there for us as a family, holding us both emotionally and physically up when whenever we needed it.

All that is important and significant to who he was as a person....

But along with that, he was vulnerably sensitive. He felt deeper than he would ever have admitted…. perhaps more than he even intellectually understood. He saw colors in seashells and vulnerability in animals. He loved flowers and sunsets and babies and puppies and sent me more cat litter advertisements than I would really admit to most people (“now this is a good ad, love…” was something he said often to my young, art director self). He loved us with silence and strength. His heart was kind, but it showed mostly when he felt safe to show it to you - like a dog that had been beaten down, you had to win his trust and affection. He was a dichotomy of fierce love, strong will, and a gentle sensitivity that is unmatched in most humans.

So each time I walk down the beach, this is what replays in my mind like a broken record: “Just look at the colors.”

I see him, walking next to me, bent over to pick up the nearest shell and marvel at it, like countless others before it. Warm corals. Bright yellows. Creamy pinks. Cerulean Blues. Vibrant purples. He’d look to the sunset and telling me to see as many as I could in my life, reminding me that - like snowflakes - no 2 sunsets are the same. It’s like an old movie in my head, flickering quietly to the background soundtrack of Charleston’s warm ocean waves lapping gently against my feet.

I see him in the seashells and the sunrises. I see him in the babies splashing in the surf and the sandpipers running along the shoreline. And if I silence my mind, I can feel him - his gentle and strong arm, leading me just to where I need to be.

Oh, Joy.

mumford and sons

About a month ago, I found myself smack dab in the center of Joy. I didn’t navigate my way there. I just stumbled upon it, like a secret garden or a hidden hot spring that nobody can quite tell you how to get to. It happened right here, at a Mumford & Sons concert.

It sort of snuck up on me. It tapped me on the shoulder a few times, but I ignored it - chalking it up to a song or the energy of the room that night. It was, after all, a great concert. But at the end of the last song, I stepped back, away from the crowd, and I just took a breath. It was in that moment of space that I gave myself that I recognized where I was. Smack dab in the middle of Joy.

It was bound to happen. I had been denying myself Joy for so long….pretending like it didn’t even exist. Maybe I just didn’t recognize it because it had been gone for so long. So each time I saw it, I looked away, seeking it in some other format. Or maybe not at all.

Depriving ourselves of joy is not new. We do it for many reasons. I think mine was a sort of self-flagulation, as if I didn’t deserve a relationship with Joy….as if I wasn’t meant to live side by side in the presence of something so simple and true to our well being. I wish I had a better explanation of why I have left Joy behind in a dustcloud - shame, guilt and fear all vying for shotgun in my life, but I don’t. It’s silly and ridiculous and I wish I didn’t feel this way. But the fact is that I do. Or at least I did.

After I snuck away from the mosh pit of humans that night, I squared myself up center to the stage - iPhone in hand to take a shot. I took a deep breath in and smiled, just lingering in the moment a little. That’s when I realized Joy was back. And there we were… face-to-face, hand-in-hand with all the other couples in the back of the room. We cozied up and renewed our long lost commitment to one another, dancing under the confetti like we had just renewed our holy vows.

And if you, too, are seeking Joy in your life, I think you can find it tucked away at the crossroads of love and gratitude. Just make sure you don’t bypass it as you take a direct route on the superhighway to where you think it should be. It’s not clearly marked on that map someone tricked you into believing. There are no shortcuts. No direct routes. No signs pointing to a singular destination. It’s tricky to find and even harder to recognize. But once you arrive, you’ll know it.

Tiny Changes

These little flowers changed my day in a big way today.

These little flowers changed my day in a big way today.

This morning I sat waiting for a client in a sweet, local cafe. It’s raining and the temperature has dropped a good 20 degrees over the past 24-hours. It’s gloomy, grey and wet… a mirror of my heavy heart these days. Between saying goodbye to our family dog a few short weeks ago and dealing with the rest of regular life like taxes, prom planning, bills and laundry, I just feel like I am moored to Life.

As I sat there, I looked down at the clean, marbled table and paused to notice this tiny vase and these little perfect flowers curling and weaving around each other. I was baffled at their delicate strength. I was consumed by their simplicity for a moment. I became curious about their unassuming gentleness and forgiving nature. They made me stop my train of though for a brief a minute…to pause, to breathe. To remember to forget and to let go.

Life can be altered in these little moments. They are the moments that encourage us to lean in. They are the moments that encourage us to breath, pause, remember or forget. They can be transitional and transformative. But mostly, they are when we can learn to tolerate ourselves, our stories, our lives, and all the things that wait for us beyond their delicate and perfect features.

Changes usually come to us when we are ready. But sometimes, I think the biggest changes can come to us in the tiniest moments, bravely weaving and curling their way gently into our tender, aching hearts.

Loss

charleston harbor

I’ve been looking for that sliver of blue sky lately - the tiny slice of hope that keeps us going through the dark and stormy times - wondering if the sun was going to ever shine back down on my heavy heart again.

I am in a stage of loss right now – something all too familiar to me. I have experienced loss before… Parents. A sister. Aunts and uncles. Friends. Pets. To be honest, loss never gets easier. And it doesn’t diminish at any stage. The overall feeling is still the same.

Loss comes in many forms. And so does the grieving. It doesn’t have to be traditional - like a death. It can happen when a friend leaves your life or you have a relationship-altering disagreement with a family member. The loss of a loved one can have a ripple effect, too. Breaking up with a boyfriend or divorcing a spouse can lead to losing extended family that you thought you would be with forever.

A few years ago, I had some friends move back home to Europe. I remember the grief I felt when they were gone. It was a loss in it’s own way. I also remember having to hide it - stuff it down like it didn’t exist. They were, after all, not gone…or so everyone kept trying to remind me. But with kids in schools, different schedules, different time zones and expensive plane rides, the likelihood of us seeing one another often seemed like a fleeting hope as I watched them drive away that last time, my battered heart trailing behind them in the dust. I felt heart broken. I felt loss.

I feel it each time I drive by their street. I feel it on Saturday afternoons when we would be making plans for the an evening of dinner and conversations together that lasted late into the evening. I feel it when the weather warms up and we head to the beach, picnic in tow, empty chairs beside us. The pangs of loss can linger for a while.

But, as I sit there on the beach on these cloudy days with my picnic in tow, I just look for that sliver of blue over head. Because it’s always there… peeking through just to remind us that above all, this, too, shall pass and that that big, bright, beautiful, warming sun is always shining above those heavy clouds.

Finding Grace.

sauna

This week was hard.

In the midst of all the missed deadlines, forgotten appointments, back to school schedules, financial disarray and angry clients, I had a brief personal training session (brief because I was late because I had the wrong time written down…I told you, not my best week). I was down… and my young, and too-wise-for-her-own-good trainer knew it. We worked hard for 20 minutes, and then she looked at me and said this: “I want you to go into the sauna for 5 minutes and close your eyes and just… be.”

It was a pass. A free ticket. A permission slip.

It was permission to be – to be still, to be quiet, to be imperfect. It was a pass to slip away from my life for a moment in time. It was my ticket back to me. It was permission.

I feel like we all need something like this…someone to occasionally, out-of-the-blue, step in and say “I GIVE YOU PERMISSION…” on those days when we maybe forget to have the grace ourselves to give us a much needed break. We are not supposed to go hard all the time - and it’s particularly difficult to be mindful of this during the time of year where everyone looks like they are cramming for life’s finals with resolutions and magical words of empowerment. January can be hard when you feel like you aren’t on top of your game. Social media makes it look like I am surrounded by people that are literally conquering mountains. (You know who you are.)

So I went in the sauna. I fidgeted. I looked at my phone. I fought and wrestled with the stillness until I gave. I knew it needed to come. It always needs to come. When I finally closed my eyes and leaned into everything, there it was…Tears. Sweat…. Release. Every glorious moment of being in that space was exactly what I needed to momentarily let go my imperfections and move on. Every second I spent in there with the discomfort of sweating and crying and being present with my emotions was a direct deposit into my soul. Building that account to be stronger so I can face the tolls of life on the rocky road ahead.

Sometimes we find grace in the strangest places. Sometimes it comes from unexpected people. But the times I am most surprised by grace is when I have found it fumbling around in my everyday life…all by myself.

After the Storm...

ACS_0084.JPG

And after the storm,
I run and run as the rains come
And I look up,
I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.

After The Storm, by Mumford + Sons

* I have posted the lyrics to this song before. It’s one of my most favorite ballads of all times by one of my most favorite bands ever. I listened to this music during a very hard time for me and remember feeling like it was a life jacket that some threw me in a wild, stormy sea. It still brings me to my knees when I hear it.

'Tis The Season

xmas-101-8.jpg

The holidays are here again. The picture-perfect life of candy canes and Christmas lights adorning every available surface are streaming through social media feeds and magazine covers. Happy faces anticipating romantic nights by the fire, cozied up with steaming cups of goodness and a mostly TV-less existence – except for a brief encounter with Elf or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Only that’s not totally true, is it?

Maybe this is true in moments. Or for a day here and there. But when you really boil it down, it’s about all of us working, folding laundry on partially decorated dining room tables and anxiously checking bank accounts to make sure there is going to be enough to see us through the season of spending. We are still living our lives…just with more to do now.

The truth is, the holidays can be hard. Being around family for days on end can be stressful. Cooking freaks a lot of people out. Gift giving can create a lot of anxiety. And lots of people are lonely or dealing with loss, change or pain.

But there is a happy medium…a place where fantasy and reality collide if only for a moment. Not every day is going to look festive and light. Some days are going to be regular… even hard. But it’s leaning into those sweet spots and silent nights where we can find some true holiday spirit and joy.

When I talked to my son on the way to school the other day, I asked him what he was most looking forward to this holiday. He said, without a beat, “decorating the tree with you and drinking eggnog.” In my mind, this activity is always a disaster. Broken lights. Trips to Walmart. Wrestling with the tree stand. It never feels perfect to me. But for him, it’s his favorite time. His memories are of the good parts. The parts that bring him complete joy and gratitude…a representation of the season at it’s best. He’s not focused on gifts or jobs or wrapping - just a nice moment with me, creating memories that will last longer than I am here on this planet.

So this year, I am going to lean in to those simple moments that he remembers forever. I am going to stop worrying if my food is good enough or the gifts were perfect or the house was decorated like a movie set. I am going to spend time making the magic in the best way I know how – together.

Silver linings

IMG_0419.jpg

I would have missed this sunset if life had been normal.

I would have been in my house, AC cranking, cooking dinner alone in the kitchen. I would have probably been listening to a podcast or book on tape or even watching some sit-com rerun for the umpeenth time, my son in the other room doing homework or playing guitar or a video game.

Instead, my life had been turned around in a first world kind of problem sort of way. We’ve been without AC for weeks. And I am on a cooking strike. So I piled my son and myself into the car and headed to get some form of take out. On the way, we saw this incredible sunset. We stopped in awe of mother nature, the universe and the power of serendipity.

Sometimes, life happen for us. Sometimes situations present themselves. Last night, as we sat around the table at the restaurant, we marveled at the fact that had it not been for the awful week we had, we would all be spearated ,living our own individual moments in front of one screen or another. Instead, we have explored forests, new restaurants, new cities, and even glorious sunsets with views for days right down the street from where we live.

So maybe the past few weeks weren’t really a crisis after all. Maybe it was the just the opposite - maybe past few weeks was the universe trying to break up our regular, safe, ordinary days with new adventures and some much needed fresh perspective.

If it comes with a silver lining like this, I’ll take it.

Weathering the Storms.

Before the storm

I have spent an unmeasured amount of my life running away from the approaching devastation of storms. Afraid of the turmoil and unknown elements they would bring, I tended to protect myself from what might be instead of just standing inside of what is.

Over the years, I have found the things we worry about happening rarely – if ever – come to fruition. In other words, I have spent a lot of time fussing about nothing. I attribute this to not listening to myself or trusting my gut and paying far too much attention to what others opinions are.

As I get older, I seem to get more sturdy with trusting my inner voice. It often whispers quietly and gently, and can be drowned out by the many other opinons, thoughts, and voices that surround me. But if I listen, it’s clear, persistent and confident in it’s conviction. I just have to listen and be still enough to hear it.

This ship – MY SHIP – is the one I have to steer through the stormy seas. So I do what’s best for me with each decision I make. I have to trust myself and know that, even if I am wrong, it’s all going to pass over eventually. Each “wrong” decision is just another opportunity to learn. Each storm I stand through, another lesson. And each time I listen to myself, another chance to build that relationship of trust with myself all over again.

Dear Little Girl.

Little girl

Dear Little Girl.

You. Are. Beautiful. You are braver than you think, kinder than you know, and smarter than you give yourself credit for. You have gifts inside that are just waiting to be uncovered and unearthed. But it's up to you to do it.  

I know you. And I know you are scared. I know you somehow took on the notion that you weren't good enough, smart enough, pretty enough... I understand that you don't feel right in your skin. Too big, too loud, too different than the others that seem to float together like a school of silvery little fish, floating in a rhythm that seems to sync up perfectly while you float alone, trapped in netting you are just too tired to try to escape from.

My whole life, I have been watching you...your strength and your whole-heartedness are unmatched. I have seen you do the impossible. Given these circumstances, who could possibly survive? Yet... still, I have seen you bravely carve the most unique life path - not knowing what's next, not knowing where it's leading. I have watched as this world stripped you shamefully bare and expected unrealistic things of you. And through your tenacity and utter heart, I have watched as you delivered every last one. 

It's not you who is failing. It's the world who has failed you. It has destroyed hope in all the places you were supposed to feel safe. But still, here you are. On the eve of your birthday, still smiling, still full of heart, still courageously standing in the storms of life.

You are mine. And I am yours. And I am here to guide you through the rest of this journey, full of love and void of fear. I am here to show you how to navigate the rest of this twisting, unchartered path of life. So take my hand. Don't be afraid. We have got this...together.

Love,
Me

 

The Island

island

I have been isolating myself like a little island drifting slowly form the coast for years now. Once attached and part of the world, trauma, insecurities, and the wear of the daily grind has brought me to my knees, making me withdraw from so many things. After a while, it's hard to see the shoreline. It's hard to feel attached.

Each time I experience something big that I can't explain or solve, I tend to withdraw. I am not sure why, but I usually make a deep dive inward to search for solutions - swimming around in muck and mire of it until it settles and I can see a little more clearly.

Talking things out when I am struggling is painful for me because it brings up the thing I am perhaps trying my hardest to avoid - answering the questions I don't yet have answers to. So I drift...away from the things that ground and attach me until I come out of it on the other side with all the right answers.  In the process, I become an island in a storm - sea pummeling my shores, wind wreaking havoc on my flora.

The thing I have come to find is that nobody has all the right answers. Ever. And you know what? That's okay. I am learning that daily. And practicing it even more frequently.

And until I perfect it, I will be here, building bridges back to that coastline.

Owning it

IMG_2384.JPG

Lately, I have been taking on too much.

Too many projects. Too much responsibility. Too much drama that doesn't belong to me. I am like a dry sponge just looking for something to soak up right now. And often, that means I am soaking in the wrong things...because to a dry sponge just wants something. Anything.

When I am in that dried up space, I try to pause for a second. Take a breath. And just be wherever I am. I quickly let go of what is not and hold on to what is – air...water...life...love...family..sunrises... sunset. These are the simple things. But they are the essentials that are as life affirming as they are neccessary.

We are all bombarded daily with stuff that doesn't belong to us, yet somehow tries to own us and take us down. Traffic. Deadlines. Money. And even just the simple, day to day activities like having food to eat, clothes to wear, and keeping a roof over your head are really stressful. But they don't have to own us. We have to learn how to own our own selves within this framework. The first place to start - every day for me is to take a simple breath and pause.

It's as easy and complicated as that.

Breathe.

reverb yoga

Working as a full time photographer is not for the faint of heart. With long (and very odd) hours of shooting and hauling gear around paired with even longer hours of sitting at a desk editing photos, it can be taxing on your body. Big meetings with board members, cancelled conference calls, and some seriously cut throat competition in the world can only add to the stress of an already taxing career.  On top of this, there is gear to keep up with, technology to sort through, and a craft that requires a lot of your heart and soul and energy.

In order to show up for a demanding career (and let's face it...life as a full-time, single parent), I have learned over the years that I have to show up for myself first.

Let me be clear for a moment.

I have lived under the notion for years that the only way for me to be a successful photographer or designer (or anything, really) was for me to work so hard at it that I had no energy left for anything at the end of the day. I was collapse-into-bed-tired all the time. And for a long time, that worked...to a degree. For 15 years of a career on my own, I hustled and hid behind a shroud of what I like to call "bizzyness." During that time, I had a toddler to manage by myself, 2 dying parents to tend, and a sister who passed away somewhat unexpectedly. Needless to say, I crashed.

A few years after my sister died, I bottomed out. Around the time of her death, I hit an all time low. It crept in slowly at first, like a rising tide. And then suddenly and swiftly, I was pulled under. I was depressed, anxious, sad and suddenly - alone. And I didn't know how to fix it this time. I was left with no energy to face the dance of each day, let alone a career I had worked my ass off to establish.

My body, mind, and soul was forcing me into a stillness I hadn't known before. I had no energy for anything. So I listened by being still and listening. And in that space, all I kept hearing was "This plane is going down. Put your oxygen mask on first, Libby."

The interesting part is that the oxygen mask looks different for all of us. It's disguised a little. My mask won't fit you. It only fits me. It fits me in the shape of getting right with my body, mind and soul. It fits me by shedding layers that don't belong to me...they belong to someone else.

Truth be told, it simply boils down to the essential practice of self care, doesn't it? Practice....because it takes a lot of repetition before you actually see results. It's like weight loss and skin care and anything you do to shed the layers or transform yourself. It's a practice. A routine. And it's life saving.

So if you are bizzy, or busy, or anxious, or depressed, if you are looking for an answer or a way out of your current situation, or if you just need to regroup...Stop. Pause. And put your mask on first. Because truthfully, the main thing you need to do is to slowly catch your breath and pull that oxygen mask over your own face first... and breathe.

Just breathe.


If you need help, someone to talk to, or just have questions about what all this looks like for me, please feel free to reach out. I am not going to sell you a product or sign you up for anything. I am just here to share my story and journey with anyone who needs help.

Happy Birthday

Birthday cake

In honor of another year around the sun, I have a list of 47 things I learned at each stage in my life. Enjoy!

1. Take baby steps.  It's not worth worrying about the magnitude of what has to get done. Take it in all in little baby steps and before you know it, you'll be on the other side.

2. Throw a tantrum. Not really...but every now and again, it's okay to just blow off a little steam and tell the world how you really feel.

3. Find comfort in your momma... or anyone that you are close to.

4. Get dirty. Eat Mud pies (okay, maybe not really). But get dirty. It's the only way to experience life. Hands muddy. Face marred.

5. Never stop learning - Learning is key to growing. Always keep a wide open mind and learn to say "I don't know" more often than you feel comfortable with.

6. Keep showing up. Even when you don't want to. Whether it's in first grade or just being a parent, sometimes showing up is the hardest part.

7. Always try to create something. Being creative isn't just for kids. It's for everyone. Finger painting, drawing, getting messy are just a part of how we learn and open out minds.

8. Be kind. Compliment someone. Help people who aren't as fortunate. Stand up for someone being picked on. Help someone who is struggling. A little kindness goes a long way.

9. Don't always listen. Sometimes tuning out the world is the best thing you can do. Turn off the news. Tune out the bullies. And keep marching your little march.

10. Grow gracefully. Getting older is no joke. But relish in it. Stop worrying about the number and just be you!

11. Realize your strengths. You have your own set of gifts. Use them.

12. Don't abuse yourself. Don't say bad things about yourself. Don't mistreat your body. And don't let anyone else do either.

13. Change is inevitable. It's been proven. You will change. Your body will change. Don't fight it. Just roll with it.

14. Handle pitfalls with pride. Sure, sometimes you make a fool of yourself.

15. Change is good. Even when it doesn't seem like it, change is a good thing.

16. Fall recklessly in love. Trust me on this.

17. Understand your true beauty. Not physical, but the beauty that makes up the whole you. See the you your family and friends see.

18. You are always just beginning. That's the beauty of life.

19. Follow your drumbeat. This can be hard to do. Especially when it's out of rhythm with those around you. But listen closely to that beat. It's trying to tell you something.

20. Slow down. Seriously. Stop rushing life.

21. Party like it's 1999.

22. Be proud of your accomplishments. They are always bigger than you give yourself credit for.

23. Hard work pays off....most of the time. This isn't always true. But most of the time, hard work pays off. You will always feel better knowing you put in the effort.

24. Shed that which no longer serves you. Friendships. Relationships. Weight. Things. Get rid of it if it doesn't fit you.

25. Stand your ground. No matter what others say, think or feel, make sure you are unwavering in your beliefs.

26. Love deeply. Sometimes it won't be reciprocated. That's okay. Because even though deep, feeling, big love is scary, It's the only way.

27. Lose yourself for a while. Free fall. You never know what could come of it.

28. Find your tribe. This is important. Your people know you. They come in the strangest forms.

29. Live on your terms. It's gonna piss some people off. But do it. Trust me.

30. Try new things.

31. Be ready for unexpected magic. It comes when we least expect it.

32. Dig deep. Sometimes we have to dig deep... even during the best parts of life.

33. Love unconditionally.

34. Buckle your seat belt. Life is a bumpy ride. Make sure you are buckled up for all it's twists and turns.

35. You can do hard things. You can. You have. And you will.

36. Listen. The best thing you can do for yourself and others is to listen intently.

37. Don't be afraid of letting go. Everything comes to an end, whther we want it to or not. Seasons end. Life ends. It's all a cycle. Try to embrace it.

38. Give yourself some breathing room. We are not meant to push through with limitless energy. Take a step back. Catch your breath.

39. Get close to God. Or the universe. Or karma. Whatever it is you believe in.

40. Rest. Or pause. Or just watch Netflix. Just remember to recharge. 

41. Go back to your roots. Know where you come from. It will answer a multitude of questions. Trust me on this.

42. Travel. A lot. See the world. Experience as much newness as you can. It's the best part of life.

43. Nourish yourself. Eat well. Sleep. Move. Drink water.

44. Trust your gut.

45. Ask for help. There are people out there who want to help you. Just look around. They are so very close.

46. Understand what you suck at. And stop trying to do it.

47. Lean in.

 

Summer Storms

summer storm

When the storms roll around, what do you do? Do you hide in the corner shaking like a scared puppy? Do you retreat as far away as possible so you can get out of the path of destruction? Or are you a "wait it out and see what happens" kind of person?

The other day, when this storm rolled in, I was ready to retreat. I was done with storms (it's been a long, rainy summer) both literally and figuratively. But watching this spectacle change by the second was compelling me to stay. These quick storms that move through are firey and fast, but they can be some of the most beautiful things to witness with their continuously morphing clouds and their intense colors and shapes shifting right before you.

As the storm came through, we waited it out an watched the mesmerizing clouds. I could have watched all day until the threat of lightening became more real than imagined and we all packed up and headed for home - wet chicken packed tightly back into our coolers. I was happy to be in the car, headed safely home with all my people in check.

I learned something though as I watched this storm and the people around me navigate it's perceived threat. I am quick to flee any crisis. Maybe I have had enough of tempting fate in my life or maybe I am just a chicken, but this storm looked ominous and imposing, and frankly I have had enough of that to last a lifetime - emotionally speaking. Honestly, I have never liked storms. Thunder scared me as a little girl and the rain always makes me feel like something is going to need repairing (hazard of living in the south in the summer and through hurricane season).

But maybe the storms are really just what I need. A big, fat reminder. Something to shake me up...challenge me to think and stop running away from problems that will be there with or without the storm. Or maybe the storms are there to remind me that sometimes things blow through quicker and easier than we think. That it isn't always about destruction. That sometimes facing it all is really what we need, so we can be present and be witness to all of it.

Whatever the case, I am glad I watched this morph, shift and change my view. Because honestly, a little storm might be all I need to face the reality of life.

Fifteen.

Fifteen.

How did we get here?

You are now well into in high school. A full-blown teenager. A rising sophomore. You are a rugby player and really close to becoming a full blown adult black belt – a true testimony to your grit. You are almost driving now - which scares the heck out of me. You are 6 feet tall (or more) and truly more beautiful than anyone I know - inside and out. You are kind and compassionate. You are braver and far more daring than most people I know. You are more patient than anyone I know - despite what your last name indicates. And you are so gentle and sweet with animals that it truly melts me.

I can't believe what an amazing human being you are. As much as I hate the passage of time and mourn that little baby that grew up way too fast, I am inspired and full of awe at who you are becoming. It's such an incredible thing to witness from this side of life.

I don't worry now about the the things that regular parents think about – the trouble you'll get into and the mistakes you'll make. That's how we learn, grow, evolve and become. What keeps me up at night now is whether this world will break you. I worry that it will convince you to be something you are not, or stifle that which you are. Because what you are is truly one of the most beautiful spectacles I have ever witnessed.

Your gifts are great, Graham. Your heart is huge. On your birthday this year, all I wish for as you blow out the candles is that you keep that with you forever. Don't let this world break you. Don't let them take you over. Own YOU... because what you are is a beautiful soul.

Fifteen is big. Take precious care of this age. But mostly, enjoy every last second.

Love,
Momma

 

The summit

Raven Rock Falls. Lake Toxaway, NC

Raven Rock Falls. Lake Toxaway, NC

I just got back from a three week escape to the mountains of North Carolina, just off of Lake Toxaway in a cabin in the woods. While that may sound like a luxury to many people, I think it was completely necessary for me at this point in my life/career/year. I had reached the pinnacle of burnout. I was tired, cynical, doubtful and hurt. Being a photographer isn't for the faint of heart - especially in a market like Charleston where you can't swing a cat without hitting someone who carries the moniker around with them. It was time for a break. 

While I did break a little, I also did a lot of work. Not in the traditional sense of the word, but I did a lot of work on me...goals, dreams, values, and overall wellness. I meditated. I wrote. I thought. I slept...boy, did I sleep. And I challenged myself...physically, mentally and spiritually.

One of the most memorable moments on the trip for me was this hike to Raven Rock Falls on theToxaway River Trail. It's a special hike that takes you back and forth over the river to ultimately end up at this spectacular site - a towering 60+ foot waterfall that cascades and ends in a frigid pool by your feet. It wasn't my first time hiking this trail, but let's just say after 20 years, it felt like my first time hiking anything.

I expected to be challenged physically, but what I wasn't expecting is the emotional ways in which the hike would challenge me. I struggled, always last in line in the group. My footing was unsure. My body was cumbersome. I was sweaty and hot and hungry and nothing felt right. And to be honest, I felt downright mad about it all. I wanted to turn around and go home. I wanted to stop...to just sit there, like a stubborn mule on the rock, refusing to move forward. I felt as frustrated as a little child in my skin.  But the group pushed me to forge ahead to the final summit.

During the second half of our hike, I noticed something shifting. With each step forward, I saw us working together as a group. We looked out for each other. We took our time. We shared stories and laughter and our water rations. Suddenly, my perspective changed. Pushing through the hard parts encouraged me more. I wasn't thinking of how miserable I felt. I was thinking of how much fun I was having, how beautiful this was, how healthy and strong I felt. I stopped worrying and started just living in the reality of the moment. I stopped fighting the currents and let it take me where it was going to.

It is said that nothing good comes easefully. And I have to agree with that. Life's greatest moments are challenging - sometimes even when you are on vacation. While I took some time off this month from work, I was still working. My "work" became checking in with myself. My hike was a reminder that while there may be challenges and slippery rocks underfoot, you just have to keep on going. You may fall. You will stumble. You will sweat and maybe even cry a little. But you have to keep going. It doesn't have to be pretty. But you do have to finish what you started. 

So as I keep climbing through life - sweating on the path, slipping on the rocks - I will remember it's not always easy. But it is always worth it in the end.