Books for the New Year

The other day I shared my resolutions for 2018. Thankfully I have some help achieve those goals. Cue the books! 

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The Art of Confession by Paul Wilkes
I thought it was pretty fitting that I ended 2017 and started 2018 with this book, as it helped me reflect on the previous year and how I could change for the better for the upcoming year. A large part of my resolutions every year involves becoming a better person, and I think this book is great tool to achieve that.  It's a mere 133 pages, but every page packs a punch, full of insights to mull over.  

The basic premise of this book is how confession betters your life, and the author, in my opinion, does a great job pulling from religious and historical sources to explain the idea of confession and how it can be practically mplemented in your life, whether you're a religious person or not.  The word, "confession", may have a different connotation for different readers, but Wilkes argues if you think of confession as more of transparency, vulnerability, and honesty you'll be able to utilize the art of confession to live a better life, cultivate better relationships, and really, overall, have a better of quality of life... just the things I'd like to have!

A takeaway I received from the book was the idea of "happy guilt", which hinges on the idea that while we need to take responsibility for our actions, we have to forgive ourselves and allow ourself to move forward. A great quote from Paul Tillich speaks to this as being "struck by grace":

"We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by the stroke of grace... [I]t does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a shaft of life breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying, "You are accepted You are accepted." ... Do not try to do anything now... [D]o not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted. If that happens to us, we experience graces... But sometimes it happens that we receive the power to say "yes" to ourselves, that peace enters into us and makes us whole, that self-hatred and self-contempt disappear, and that our self is reunited with itself. I wish you that grace. that you might be reunited with yourself."

I'd recommend this book to anyone wanting to do some soul-searching or seeking freedom from stress or anxiety in their life. 

House Jungle by Annie Dornan-Smith
My sister-in-law and brother gifted me this book for Christmas, and I'm so excited to reference it for my resolution to be a good plant mom. It's chock-full of information about plants as well as specific information about how to take care of plants. There's even a chapter called "house plants that can take abuse".  If you've already mastered the taking care of plants part, there's a chapter on how to use plants to decorate your home.  As an added bonus, the book is filled with pretty illustrations of the different plants you might have in your home. I absolutely love this book.

I'd recommend this to anyone who, like me, loves plants but has a black thumb. 

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I tried to read this book for over a year. Every time I tried to read it, it felt so forced and bland. A lot of my friends loved it and it had great reviews, so when it came up on my library queue I thought I'd give it one last chance. Finally I was able to get through it and loved it. You could say I experienced "Big Magic" with this book; it came to me right when I needed it and spoke to me how I needed it most. 

The basics of this book is that things happen for a reason, especially with regards to creativity, you just have to be open to let and see magical things happen. I'm not really explaining it well. (That's why you should totally read the book.) But this book was completely a completely inspiring way to start 2018. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who could use some inspiration in their lives. 

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Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton. 
When Workman Publishers asked me what books I wanted Atlas Obscura immediately caught my eye. As someone who loves to travel, this book intrigued me. It's basically an encyclopedia of obscure things around the world; it even includes some random attractions in Alabama, which was perfect for my "explore" resolution! I loved that this book is huge and full of pictures and fun facts. When I told Lance about the book, he was so excited because he'd already been eyeing it on his own, having read glowing reviews of it online. And, not only that, Atlas Obscura was a featured book at Church Street Coffee & Books, our local coffee shop/bookstore; and they have highly curated, impeccable taste. So remember that, I'm not the only person who thinks this book is awesome. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves to travel off the beaten path. 

* This blog post was written in partnership with Workman Publishing, who generously provided me with the books The Art of Confession and Atlas Obscura, which I chose from their catalogs. These are my honest, unbiased reviews. 

Check out all the books I've read over the years here.

My 18 in 18

I started 2018 a bit unexpectedly, joining that big movement we've all been hearing about called influenza, then subsequently passing it on to Lance. Whoops. So alas, here I am in mid-January, but I suppose it's better late than never to share my resolutions for the new year.  

This year I'm doing my resolutions a little differently. I wrote out the things I wanted to work on, keeping in mind that I wanted to cultivate more balance in my life. Coincidentally the results were eighteen resolutions that fit almost neatly in three different categories ( "working on my website" didn't fit into any category, so I just put it one. whoops). Without further ado here are some things I want to focus in on for 2018

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For me. Much of the resolutions in this category were major focuses in my life when I was at my best. So for 2018 I want to work my way back to my best self. In the past three years since moving to Alabama, I feel like I was constantly swimming up stream. I moved here not knowing a single person besides Lance, having to restart my business, trying to navigate how to be married, and trying, with much difficulty, to understand the culture here. It was a lot for me experience all at once, and many times I felt like I just was trying to keep up. But now I feel like I'm finally getting my bearings and in a place to do more for myself, and I think these six resolutions will help me get there. 

1.   Read
2.  Write
3.  Be curious
4.  Be brave
5.  Say yes
6.  Say no

Reading always centered me, but this year I want to especially focus on reading for myself as I manage some book sponsorships and reach my goodreads goal. I want to savor and enjoy reading, not just as a means to an end. As for writing, whether  it was in my blog, in my journal, or to friends, I always felt a sense of calm and self-renewal when I wrote. And since I've not written at all in the past year, I'd love to get back to it. 

I love structure and consistency in my life, but recently I've felt a little stagnant. I think leading this year with curiosity will refocus myself on seeing the world and people with new eyes. With that, I'll need a bit of bravery to break out of my comfort zone and overcome the fears that have kept me from being my true self. 

Finally with being brave comes saying yes to those things that scare me. Maybe it's joining that book club I've been meaning to join or getting out of my comfort zone to pursue more connections or becoming more vulnerable with people. Whatever it is, I want to approach opportunities with open eyes and an open heart. But with "saying yes" needs to come balance. I often find myself saying yes to things only out of obligation or because I'd feel guilty if I'd said no. So I want to work on saying no to things to maintain some of my boundaries. 

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For fun. When making new year's resolutions, I feel it's necessary to throw in some low-commitment, all-fun resolutions for myself. You need to throw in things that would be great to focus on, but if you can't, there's no sense of failure, since they were all in fun after all. This set of resolutions are purely for my enjoyment. 

7.  Take more personal pictures
8.  Print my pictures and scan my instant film
9.  Get outside
10.  Explore
11.  Be a good plant mom
12.  Work on my website

Lance and I are at a really fun part in our life together, and I want to be able to look back on this part of our life and not just have the memories, but also the pictures. I want those pictures of us cooking in our kitchen, playing board games, going to the grocery store...etc.  But being a photographer and having the social media envy seriously prevents me from taking pictures of our "ordinary" life because I'm only taking pictures in those perfect, perfectly-lit moments. It's really hard to get over. I want to remember to take pictures of our life whether it's a "bad" or "good" picture opportunity. 

Also, I must admit I'm that photographer who doesn't print her pictures. In fact, I've only printed about three photos from my wedding. Eeeek. I swear I meant to; I just haven't gotten around to doing it. So I definitely need to get out and print my pictures. With that, I'd also love to get all my instant film scanned. I literally have hundreds of polaroids and instax minis just lying around. 

Getting outside and exploring kind of go hand in hand, but I want to hike/walk more as well as try the different adorable places in Homewood and the surrounding areas. For example, the Alabama Booksmith's only a couple miles from my house, yet I've never gone, even though it's a bookstore of signed editions of books. How crazy am I that as a booklover I've never gone to this little gem in my own town?! I need to get exploring! 

Finally I'd just love to keep all my plants alive and work on my website. I think that's manageable, right? 

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For life. If you've gotten this far in this blog post, thanks so much for reading; I know it's been long. My last group of resolutions are things I want to work on for just an overall better quality of life. 

13. Be kind
14.  Venture off my island
15.  Work on my friendships
16.  Finish
17.  Minimize
18.  Think big and long term

Choosing kindness is a sort of beacon for me. I admit I have a mean streak in me that I've spent my whole life trying to combat. I've come a long way in overcoming it, but when I want to react to situations, thinking of how I can be kind put me on that road to becoming a better person. I want to continue to work on choosing kindness whenever I can. 

One time a friend asked, "How long could you be in a cabin in the woods completely cut off from the rest of the world." My immediate answer was two months. (Hers was one day.) Admittedly I've always been an introvert, gaining my energy from being alone, but over the years of working from home that's just gone to the extreme. I'm super introverted now, and as a result that's made me content to be an island. I want to venture off that island of solitude and cultivate my friendships and relationships with people. I want to be accessible to people who need my help or want to get to know me better. I want to be more available and open in my relationships. 

My theme for the past couple of years was fear, and it's fear that kept me from finishing many of my big and small projects, like keeping up this blog or updating this website or even putting up my pictures in my living room. It was fear of what other people thought, of not doing the job well enough, of making mistakes, of failure.... you name it. But this year I hope to finish projects however small. After all what use is it to want something to be great, if you never finish it. 

Minimizing is an ongoing battle as I swear that I'm a hoarder. I want to minimize most everything in my life from spending, to screen time to, of course, my possessions. I have plenty of clutter in my life that I would live much more happily without. To tackle this task I'll need to be more conscious of how I spend my time, money, and attention as well as pare down the unnecessary. 

Finally, I want to think big and long term.  Almost a decade ago during the recesssion when I was laid off from my job, I basically abandoned all my long term goals. At the time I think that was the right thing for me. I needed to seek out and depend on God's plans for my life instead of leaning on my own ideas of how my life should be. Seeking God's plans brought me to my career as a photographer, to my marriage to Lance, and to this wonderful life we have here in Alabama. However, recently I've felt like God speaking to me, encouraging me to continue to trusting in Him, but also asking me what my dreams and long term goals were. I don't know what 2018 or my future hold, but I think it's time to think big and long term. What do I want my life to look like five years from now? Ten years from now? Fifty years from now? What are some big crazy dreams I can concoct? The possibilities for 2018 and beyond are endless, and I can't wait see what comes. 

If you've made it all the way to the end, bless you. Thank you for reading about my resolutions. I'd love to hear your resolutions or if you'd like to join me for any of mine, so let me know! 

(And just in case you were curious, here are my seventeen resolutions in 2017. )


Baxley, Georgia, November 24, 2017 | Canon Rebel XSN. Kodak Colorplus 200 developed and scanned by Indie Film Lab

Winslet & Rhys

I forget how I came across Winslet and Rhys, but I'd been following them on instagram for a while before I got a chance to visit their store. It opened fairly recently near the main drag of the Avondale neighborhood, about two miles from downtown Birmingham. It was opened by Brittany Baker, who just also happens a letterpress artist, and Mallory Collier. On one of my visits to the store I had the pleasure of chatting with Brittany, who is super sweet by the way, and learned that the name Winslet and Rhys was inspired by each of their maiden names, Winslett and Rice, respectively. How fun, right?!

Unlike a lot of stores in California with a similar aesthetic, Winslet & Rhys offer a good range of price points for their pieces, many of which are made by local or independent artists. A necklace I've been eye-ing is about $40, which is quite affordable considering it's handmade by an artist here in town. It was the perfect store to buy my sister-in-law her Christmas present, a simple cuff from Maslo Jewelry, based in Richmond, VA. Mallory and Brittany do a really great job curating beautiful and unique items for whatever you're looking for whether that's home goods, jewelry, clothing, or cute, little baby things. They have a little bit of everything. 

If you're ever visiting me or local, Winslet and Rhys is definitely a place to buy something for yourself and a friend. Speaking of which, since it's Valentine's Day, you could definitely pick up a last minute gift for your honey at Winslet and Rhys. (They have stuff for guys, too!) 

Anyway, I hope your day is filled with lots of love. Check out Winslet & Rhys and Happy Valentine's Day!

Oh, and how lovely is their store? Don't you just wish this was how your home looked?


Winslet & Rhys, 4000 3rd Avenue South, Suite 105, BIrmingham, AL. January 27, 2017 | Fuji x100s

My 5 Takeaways from Teaching at Alt Summit

The Saguaro Hotel Palm Springs

Alt is where it all started for me.

Somehow two years ago I got it in my head to apply to be a speaker at Alt. I pitched a bunch of different ideas and was chosen (woot) to speak on editing, specifically "How to Develop a Consistent Style". I prepared for weeks and the classed turned out pretty good (although it could have used some finessing).  Since then I've found the courage to pitch different classes at other conferences and even hosted my own workshop, each time honing in what works and what doesn't work. 

Upon hearing Alt Summit would be in Palm Springs, I applied again to be speaker at Alt and got those magic words from the Design Mom, Gabrielle Blair, in response, "Congratulations! You've been selected as a speaker for Alt Summit 2017." I would be teaching a photo editing workshop. I literally screamed when I got the email. 

Fast forward to Thursday morning of the conference, with my hair and makeup did, I taught photo editing to my cozy class of 25-30 attendees. The hour and fifteen minutes flew by, and I felt so completely happy with how it turned out. So I just wanted to shared some takeaways I learned from teaching at Alt this year. 

1. Unexpected challenges can foster creative problem solving and better results.  

In that same email congratulating me on being a speaker, Gabrielle snuck in a little fun surprise, "The room will not have a screen or projector. So please plan your class as a true, hands-on type workshop." Yikes. Those words haunted me. How do you teach a class about work done solely on a computer without a screen or projector? What does hands-on really mean?? Blerg. Can you feel how stressed I was?

So that was my challenge: how do I effectively teach a bunch of people "blindly"? I queried one of my handy facebook groups and got several helpful suggestions which eventually inspired my final solution. I ended up asking all the students to bring a laptop and gave them each a digital folder containing a pdf of the slides of my talking points and a Lightroom catalog for them to follow along with. I made sure my entire spiel was only twenty minutes so I could spend the rest of the time going around helping people one-on-one. Overall I think this workshop was more successful than any of my other talks, and I owe it to not having a projector. Had I had a projector and screen I imagine my workshop would have been pretty dry. The way I presented ended up being completely much more effective as I was forced to go table to table to help attendees individually and see what their specific needs were. 

2. Teaching will bring out the best or the worst of you. 

Teaching is no joke. It's not easy. It's stressful and challenging for someone like me. I honestly had to learn to be a better person while I was teaching my class. There were plenty of moments when I thought I was going to go crazy. I definitely had to exercise plenty of grace and patience, but it all worth it. 

3. Ask for help and accept it when it's offered. 

Like I mentioned before, in a facebook group I asked how I could teach an editing class without a screen or projector. The help and resources I received from that simple ask were invaluable to me. I really owe much of the success of the workshop to those who helped me in that group. So often someone else has already solved your problem, so why not take advantage of their knowledge and save yourself some of the legwork. I saved so much time figuring out my pickle by simply asking for help. You really have nothing to lose by asking for a little help. 

At my workshop I had an Alt representative. I wish I could remember his name because he was so incredibly helpful. While I was preparing to speak, my Alt rep went around helping people load the workshop material on their computers. That little bit of help was really loads and loads helpful to me. Part of my personality is to always turn away help--I never want to put someone out or inconvenience them, so over the years I've really had to learn to accept help when it's offered because utilizing the people around me is really such an invaluable asset. 

photo by justin hackworth

photo by justin hackworth

4. Trust yourself. 

When I was in college I presented a multi-million dollar housing project to Bank of America for a competition. I was super nervous, but I'll never forget what one of my teammates said to calm my nerves, "You know this material. Trust yourself." To this day her words have stuck with me. Even though I'm pretty snazzy at editing, I was scared about my workshop. What if no one learned anything? What if no one showed up? What if I didn't make sense? What if my screen/projector solution didn't work? But I knew the material backwards and forwards, so I trusted that. I trusted myself. In the end that's all I needed and everything worked out. A couple people might have even told me it was the best class they'd been to at the conference. (cue happy dance.)

5. Share knowledge generously. 

I once had a mentor who shared everything about his business with me from his business practices to his insurance agent. He was generous with his knowledge and I'm indebted to him for that, so I've always used that as a model in how I want to interact with other creatives. I tell my creative friends I have no secrets with regards to my business. And I really don't. If there's something you want to know about my business I'll share it with you. 

At my workshop I was so happy to see that the attendees were learning something. Even if it was just one small thing, I was happy I could share that with them. There's no reason for me to keep this editing knowledge to myself when I could instead be helping people with what I know. 

All in all I felt like my workshop was a total success. I'm so thankful for the people who attended my workshop, their patience with me, and the really, really good questions they asked. 


Saguaro Hotel, Palm Springs, CA. February 2, 2016 | Fuji x100s