Wednesday, February 24, 2010

There are not words

Quite honestly, I had grandiose vision for how I would begin this entry. I wanted you (this is me hoping someone is reading...) to be riveted. My words were going to draw you into my story so that you could see how extravagant, how unbelievable, how amazing this dive into photography has been.
But my words felt more like wet noodles without any salt. The longer I sat, the more upset I became and the more I wondered if English was, in fact, my first language.
The truth is, I don't have words to put around all that's been going on. I'm still blown away. I'm still on the verge of tears throughout the day when I take a second to realize all that has transpired. All that God has done. And all the ways I've doubted, questioned, kicked my heels, become all kinds of selfish, refused to listen, begged for reminders and basically acted like a 2-year old. And yet, He has still been faithful.
This morning I filled out a form. It doesn't sound glamorous or intriguing at the onset, but for me it is reason to break out in acrobatics. The form was of the registration persuasion. This form was placed in my (computer's) hands by the incredible company Shootsac who gave me a free registration to the WPPI convention. (If you're not in the photography world, basically this is a huge convention where I can learn so much and meet a lot of people) I giggled as I read the question "How long have you been in the photography business?" The first option was 1-5 years. I've been in this business for 7 months...
So instead of writing something, I'm just going to share with you my conversation with God from 7 months ago. That night I was riding via train into the city for a Smugmug photographer's meeting, feeling all kinds of inadequate and out of place. Here is my conversation with God that night...

I'm so nervous, I feel like a chihuahua on speed. I'm terrified. I feel exposed. I still can't believe I'm on the train headed to this thing. And yes, I have sized up my exits, but there's no real point - it wold be a long walk home.
I am admitting to the world that this is what I want to do. And I do. But what if I look like a fool? What if I embarrass myself? What if I look stupid? What if I mess up? What if I have one of those epic fail moments?
I guess I'll still be Yours. I'll potentially have a good story to tell one day. I might get that much closer to my dreams. I'll still have a husband who love me a ton and still somehow believes in me even after he knows who I really am and how I really am. And my friends will still be my friends. And Hannah and Jayden won't notice or care and they'll still love me.
This is crazy and great. And You're with me. Somehow, You've brought me here and You'll be there no matter what happens. Thank You.
Please keep me aware of how much You're with me - every step - even if I tank. And I'm scared, yet excited to be stepping into this. As crazy as it all is. This should be interesting. Keep teaching me . I guess I'll never grow if I don't step out and take Your hand.

After that I paused to give space to listen. Because that's what great conversations are made of: listening. And in that quiet moment, this is what He said, and I happened to write it down. Oh that I would remember this every day...

I love you. Relax. Enjoy. Take it all in. Dream big. And vivid. And embrace it all.

Here's to you chasing the dreams He gives you...

Monday, February 22, 2010


Oh, dear 28. You greeted me this morning far too early with the precious face of a little lady who couldn't sleep. You left heaping mounds of snow on my doorstep and you painted the trees white that initially made me sad and as I gazed a little longer, I was realized it was truly beautiful. You were filled with snuggles, kisses, chocolate chip pancakes, far too gracious friends and yet hard moments of how I can possibly survive more winter in a house that seems a little small for 2 little people and a husband who works from home...
I'm excited to see what you bring. Well, actually, at this moment, I'm not. But I realize there is hope. I realize winter ends. And then, I will be excited for what you will bring.
So here's some pictures from my day. Because when life hands you make...

Snow angels

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Dora bag that changed my life...

If there were points given for being obnoxious, I would have earned 20. At least. I was hinting in all those ridiculously obvious ways. Websites left up that happened to have an ad for the camera sale they were having. Random acts of conversation that went something like this…
“Did you know there are some really affordable D-SLR cameras now? Wow. I wonder what it would be like to get one of those on your birthday…”
Yep. Thank you Captain Obvious.
He knew. Anyone would have known. I wanted a D-SLR camera something fierce.
By the time the big day rolled around, I was ashamed. I was so disappointed that I had been so fixated on something we didn’t actually need. I felt completely and utterly selfish.
And then a big Dora the Explorer bag (picked out by my little lady) sat staring back at me when I turned around from assembling a chocolate chip pancake breakfast. (Our birthday tradition) I knew. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t, but I did.
I opened up a D-SLR camera. And at that moment, I wanted to take it back. I felt horrid for how much I had pushed – I felt like I’d asked for too much. I felt like a jerk for wanting something so badly. I mean, I wasn’t starting a business or anything.
My husband convinced me to keep it. He spoke kind words and reassured me that it was a good decision and he got a great deal.
And I vowed to bless people with the camera.
So I started taking pictures. Whenever, wherever. I scoured internet sites, I read books and I looked for any possible way to learn any possible thing about photography. And on July 4 of my 27th year of life, I woke up and I knew. This is exactly what I’m supposed to do.
And here I am. I still have a lot to learn. But in this past year, I realized that this life of capturing the beauty of others, of pressing pause on love, I have found something I did not know I could love so much. And I get to share this gift with the world.
I still can’t believe it. My camera bag now holds a different camera than one year ago, (that one is now in the hands of a very talented young lady that you’ll be seeing more from soon) but it is still filled with hope and joy and all sorts of awesomeness. And gratitude.
For a husband that believed in me. For a man who would give gifts that reach into your soul and say, “I believe in you.” For little children who doubled as my incredible models. For parents who would listen to my crazy dreams and help make them happen. For a brother-in-law and future sister-in-law who were willing to take a risk and let me take their engagement pictures. (Yep, I still tear up when I recall that conversation) For friends who would leave me comments on facebook and see something within me that I wanted to doubt. For the opportunity to chase dreams. For people to cry with you when you doubted them all. For friends that would agree to take over roles in your business. For old friends who became clients and became precious friends. For people who saw something in my pictures and took a risk to ask me to document their beauty. For people who proudly declare that one day you will have the amazing privilege of documenting the moments surrounding them pledging their lives to one another.
So today, even though the sky hovers in a gray that seems to infiltrate your very soul and my heart is saddened by some of our circumstances, and my mind is going slightly batty from a small-ish house that holds us captive during the illnesses that currently consume my family, I also have so much to be grateful for. And I am filled with a wonder to what God will so graciously do in this next year. I can’t believe He’d put me in something that taps into my heart and soul and is better than all I could have dreamed…

I'll end with a photo. Here's one from my time this weekend with a precious lady named Hilary, who is basically a part of our family and sees the world and captures it in a beautiful way. You'll hear more about her soon and you'll get to see more of her work... But on our photo-venture this weekend she caught a couple of me to practice her mad skills. So here's me, in classic form on one of my last days as a 27 year old... Laughing those grandiose laughs that typically make me double over.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What Freaks Me Out...

There are things in life that make you want to pee your pants on the spot. Your heart rate decides to kick it up a notch. Your blood kindly reminds you that it has, in fact, been present and doing it's thing by pumping so furiously that you begin to wonder if your heart might make an appearance on the outside of your body. (If blood were to talk, it would probably say it's just getting it's pump on. Or at least mine would...) And with each breath you take, the oxygen level around you seems to be depleting at a rapid rate, causing you to wonder how you can possibly get in enough air.
For me, this is usually the number one indicator that I have now found the exact next thing I should do.
You see, I'm trying something new. Every day I'm trying to do one thing that thoroughly freaks me out. One thing that initially send my heart into sprint mode; one thing that makes me wonder if I ate butterflies at my last meal.
A few days ago I was checking out the Shootsac blog (only the greatest camera bag EVER that I got for Christmas from my amazing sister-in-law and brother-in-law) and I saw it.
Heart rate elevated? Check. Breathing suddenly seeming like I just ran the 50 yard dash? You bet.
They were hosting a special competition for free passes to WPPI in Vegas this year. For those of you who are a little confused, it's this huge, learning, growing, business booming wedding photography gathering. Basically a little photographer's dream, especially when you desperately long to learn.
You've got to understand, I LONG to go to workshops. I want to soak up every great branding idea, photography technique, workflow and processing tool I can. I desperately want to learn. But our bank account currently doesn't allow for such things. And so I read blogs like Jasmine Star, the Pioneer Woman, Jessica Claire and Open Source Photo Forum almost every day, just to absorb anything I can... I read my camera manual over and over. And I dream of days when I can go to these kind of events and grow and learn.
So...I entered. I recruited my precious little lady, rewrote the lyrics to a song and put it out there. I don't know how we'd even come up with the money for airfare if I did win, but I knew that was the next right step...putting myself out there was that one thing that thoroughly freaked me out.
So here's the video we recorded. I hope you enjoy it. And yes, my little lady is that adorable.

Thanks for encouraging me to dream. And so things that freak me out. Because I'm not going to let fears hold me back anymore...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Auctions of the silent persuasion's happening. I get to be a part of something bigger. Something better. And something I'd love for you to check out as well. (Provided you live in the Chicago area)
There's an incredible organization called the Apparent Project. (To check them out, go here. Do it. Now.) Their work is based in Haiti and as you can guess, life's gotten even more interesting than it already was.
So, some people I know are doing something about it. And a pretty sweet something at that. This Saturday night out at the Arcedium in St. Charles, there's going to be a stellar Open Mic night and a silent auction. And every penny from the cover charge to the silent auction will be going directly to help provide relief in Haiti. For more details go here...
But there will be a lifestyle session at that auction with me and I'd be honored if someone made a bid. And made a difference. So come on out and check it out! And who knows, there might be a performance from yours truly... We'll just have to see.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

THOSE people

They are some of those people. You know them.
The people that waltz into your life and leave you unable to wrap words around your gratitude to God for their arrival. The people who somehow make that shift from friend to family. The people who you couldn't imagine your life without, nor would you ever want to. The people that illicit squeals upon sight, just because your heart leaps so loudly when you see them that your voice couldn't help but echo the feeling. They find their way into your favorite memories and always seem to make them better - whether it's the half-marathon from hell, (this may strike you as strong language, and it is, but this race deserved it) Starbucks dates where you just can't get over the fact that you get to live life with this amazing person, birthday parties for your little ones, late night talks complete with Chai and polka dot mugs or anything else quite honestly. Your heart gets all wrapped up in their lives and it's just the way you like it.
Yesterday these precious ladies went to a dance and I went all "obsessed picture-taking mother" on them. Why? Because I love them. Because if I could, I'd follow them around all the time preserving through pictures just how beautiful they are so that I wouldn't forget a moment and I could share it with the world and the world could be reminded of how beautiful life is - just by seeing them live life. (Yes, that does sound slightly creeper-ish...) And because I adore their friends. And their Elf parties...

So, here's a glimpse. Here's beauty. And hilarity. Mixed with pure awesomeness.

And yes, I do hair. Boo-yah. I learned a few things while soaking up the awesomeness of my friends at the spa... And Hilary, made props for catching me making this face. I cannot wait to see more of your work...

And these next few are courtesy of the AMAZING Hilary... And yes, she picked up my camera for the FIRST time and did this... Oh my word, girl, you've got made skills

My heart just melted. Two of my favorite people. EVER

Some seriously beautiful, AMAZING ladies. You girls rock...

These guys get at least 1,000 cool points

This is me...loving them

And this just made my day...

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I forget. It’s what I do.
My heart had been beating a little faster all morning. Somehow I had to cram in dressing the children, showering, drying and hot-rolling my hair (which is quite the long and involved process – just ask my incredible stylist), making heart-shaped chocolate chip pancakes to say “I love you” to my family, decorating the red velvet cupcakes we had made for some friends and preparing my little lady’s Valentine cards for her friends at church all before 10 am. (Yep, should have done some of this the night before…)
As we rushed out the door, I grabbed the cupcakes, the Valentines and shut myself in the car hoping to stuff 20 tattoos into the itty bitty slits (the Valentine card people must hate me) and trying to remember to take the hot-rollers out of my hair BEFORE we walked into church. (Yep, remembered those in the parking lot…) As we walked in, it hit me.
I forgot. But she can’t.
When she wakes up every morning, she can’t forget that this past year she was diagnosed with a disease that now dictates what she can and cannot eat. She can’t forget to take the pills that keep her body from fighting itself. And yet, I do.
And I hate it.
Because she wakes up every morning with this in her face.
She wakes up wondering if her body will cooperate and let her out of bed.
He lives with the fact that his parents are gone.
She negotiates life a continent away from her family.
And her? She keeps waking up to realize she wasn't dreaming, her dad is dead.
But me? I can forget.
It breaks my heart. Because I know what it’s like to be going through that and it feels like that has decided to sit on you and watch you squirm as you try to breathe. And you just long for someone to ache with you, sit with you, hurt with you and hold you. And it feels like no one remembers. They aren’t living with that. They can walk away. You can’t.
And it stings. It hurts. And you feel this lonely ache for someone to be with you. And sometimes you want someone to sit with you and forget that for a moment and enjoy a light-hearted exchange of laughter that declares your faith that God will not leave you even when you can’t utter those words.

So friends, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I so easily forget. I’m sorry that I forget all that you face. I’m glad that I know many of you know Jesus and you know He sits with you and aches with You and laughs with You and will never leave you nor forget your circumstances for a moment. And for those of you reading who don’t – oh how I pray that He’d help me or others in your life show you what that looks like. And that He’d give you the grace to forgive us when we epically fail.
I wish I had a good conclusion. I don’t. That’s it. I’m sorry. And I’m praying God will help me to slow down and remember. You’re worth it.

I'll close with a picture. If you've read my blog, you've already seen it. But it still makes me smile. Every time. So I'll share it with you again. And I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

One picture

Today I hold a picture. And some memories. And that is all I have left of her.
I don't talk about it often. Partially because time has helped ease some of the pain. And because I know where she is. But as we closely approach her birthday in this wintery month, with everything laid bare, I sometimes open up the box that holds her picture there and I take time to let my heart miss her.
I think back to memories of "equal time", biscuits, hamburgers made in the skillet that truthfully, I did not love, but because of who she was, I wanted to love them, chocolate milkshakes that defined the epitome of awesomeness, hugs that were warm and a heart that was ready to serve.
And sometimes, my heart aches over the memories that are not there. She never knew Ted. She was not there when I walked across the stage at Louisville Gardens to be handed my high school diploma. She was not there to bake and craft and dream and watch as Ted and I started our life as one. And she does not know two of my favorite little people in the entire world, one of them bearing her beautiful name.
And on a day like today, I miss her. I wish I had her here. And yet, my heart is happy for all the times I had. For all the moments she graciously watch me clumsily, not really pull off a backward somersault and yet acted as if it was the greatest things she'd ever seen...for the 22nd time, for the times where she let my delicate little fingers join hers in making something that would have been far easier to bake on her own.
Oh that my kids would have known the joy that was my Grandma... But I will tell them stories. And I will hug them tightly and I will joyously recount a life that was beautiful, a life that mattered and a life that inspired many. I will tell them of a beautiful lady who convinced her husband to by a large van at the ripe old age of 60-something simply so she could take shut-ins out to church who would otherwise have felt abandoned. I will tell them of a lady who took people into her home and made them family, when because of the color of their skin at that time, she was doing what was socially unacceptable.
And I will hold them tightly and breathe in the fact that I have this moment with them. I have no guarantees of how long these moments will last, but I will drink them in, no matter how tiring, difficult or beautiful they may be, because I have this moment.
And today my heart grieves that I hold one picture. I wish there were more. I wish there were pictures of her that could capture the perfectly imperfect wonderful-ness that was her. But I hold one. And I hold it tightly. And I vow to take more of my family. And others' families. And special days. And details so that we can hold them tightly and breathe in the beauty, celebrate and sometimes even mourn if necessary. And we can go back out into the world and see more vividly, live more largely and embrace this life to the full as much as we possibly can.
Today I bear the tear-stained eyes of one who does not forget and yet puts one foot in front of the other and soaks up today.

So today, here is a picture of one who bears her memory and one who bears her name (Alyce...and oh how I love that she spelled it with a "y")

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Birthdays and Chipmunks

In life, there are THOSE people. You know them. The kind you meet and you can't begin to figure out how you lived a whole life before they joined you. The kind who you an think of mid-day and no matter how many times your kids have sung "the Hula Hoop" line in that Christmas song from Alvin and the Chipmunks, (which I'm convinced should be banned) you can think of them, and your heart still smiles - a big, toothy grin, too. The person who gets you and has seen the real you and doesn't want to turn around and sprint like it's their chance to join the Olympic team.
Somehow, God has given me five of these friends. I still can't believe it. And one of them had a birthday a month ago. And in classic Amy style, we celebrated this past weekend. Yep, that's month late. Because nothing says "surprise" like celebrating someone's birthday one month later.
Here's some pics of some of my favorite people. They make my life a whole lot brighter and I hope these pics will make yours brighter, too.

The Cake. This cake holds my mom's cream cheese frosting upon it's luscious layers. Try not to lick the screen. Because her frosting is that good, friends...

Either she's really excited about the cake or she's about to blow out the candles...I'll let you decide

Serving up some yumminess

LOVE LOVE LOVE. The picture and the awesome Jamie in it...

Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil...awesome style

In hindsight, it looks more like I'm trying to flex my muscles.

I love this girl. So much. Oh my goodness...

One of my favorite ladies, who also made the party happen and happens to be gorgeous - just see her pictures here

Monday, February 8, 2010

A few of my favorite things...

I never really liked The Sound of Music... And yes, I've been ridiculed for this. Something about those hills being alive just weirded me out. But one good thing did come out of it, or at least one haunting thing that is forever stuck in my mind...the song, "These are a Few of My Favorite Things." So as a Sound of Music throwback, today I'm going to share a few of my favorite things... (and one common theme - they all involve the gorgeous ladies that follow in pictures)

Starbucks dates...with them. And scones. Definitely scones...but only blueberry or pumpkin. None of the maple pecan nonsense.
Random acts of Ethel's Chocolates and fondue. My heart is still aching that it closed in Naperville...
Broomball, even though I have no skills in that game. Except the skill of falling. A lot. ("Not in my house...")
HoneyRock retreats
Hearing their stories, listening to their lives, learning about their hearts for their friends.
Short catch-ups on Sunday mornings.
Running into trees while tubing... Actually, running into one tree right between my legs and stopping 4 people. Okay, this is funny now...not so much then. Wait, it was funny then. But much more painful.

My list could keep going on, but let's get on to the pictures...

Maddie, Taylor and Raegan, thanks for being willing to be my models. You ladies are gorgeous. And it made my heart so happy to be able to spend time with you guys. You are so precious to me, it's out of control. Thanks for sharing life with me. I adore you ladies!

Oh yes...there's some serious gorgeous going on here...

Some sister pics...

If you guys ever have a girl band, this needs to be your album cover.

One of my favorites. Because I love laughing with them...