Blog : Personal

Spinning, and Finding My Way Upright Again

Spinning, and Finding My Way Upright Again

Spinning - Galveston 2013, Painted in WaterlogueAfter the past several years of coaching others and being coached, I’m a pretty self-aware person. So when the spinning starts happening, I know. I can feel it. Every cell in my body seems to become involved in it.

I dive in to starting things head first without any questions, and at the same time I don’t like change. I’m happy charging ahead and discovering new things; I hate leaving old things behind.

Pretty consistently for me, letting go of something is a 4-6 month process, until one day I suddenly am ready to let go. I’m still learning why I do this; probably because I feel like I am the sum of everything I’ve ever done before. Cliche? Maybe. But cliches exist for a reason.

I know it happens though, and I work my way through it.

Looking back to several years ago, I chose to stop photographing weddings because I wanted to focus on photographing moms. Empowering them. Changing their lives. As much as I loved weddings, I knew I could not keep doing both at the same time because my focus was too divided to market or work on either business effectively. I anguished over it for months.

Then one day I woke up and my first thought was, “I don’t want to market weddings anymore.”

Like a figure skater who had been spinning in a sit-spin on the ice for a long time, I finally just stopped. I broke out of the spin.

That was back in 2011, yet ever since? Part of me has missed photographing weddings. I don’t like to let go, and so I second shoot weddings with other photographers up to this year. I have taken on weddings for friends.

I didn’t talk about them here though, because I have this need to sort things. That leaves me feeling like I’m putting pieces of myself in to boxes that I can only take off the shelf from time to time. I miss parts of me when I do that though. I have a hard time letting go of things that I love, even when I’m clearing the way for what is next.

You know what happens when you put things in boxes? They aren’t gone. They are just in a box, out of the way – but they are still there. You are still carrying them around.

I thought this box here, my blog, could only be about one thing. How crazy is that?! It is my name. It is me. I am not one dimensional by any means. So my name shouldn’t be about just one piece of me – it should be all about me. ALL of me.

Intention

My word for 2014 was “Intention”. Heading in to the last month of the year, I feel like it has been full of intention in a number of great ways. It has also been full of quite a lot of spinning.

The spinning has left me feeling dizzy.

It is time for it to stop.

Fear

I’m afraid that if things change for me again, it will just leave everyone confused. If I change what I share here, if it isn’t clear what my purpose or my mission is, you won’t be happy about it.

The thing is? It is time to stop spinning. It is time to be ME.

The reality is, nothing is changing. Even when it looks that way from the outside. I’m actually becoming more clear on what I want to do. What I want the world to know. The impact I want to have on the world? That has been the same for years now. As far back as high school if I’m honest with myself.

Yet I’m still afraid of what you will think.

There is one thing I know for sure – I love to help people. I am a connector. If I know something or someone and you need to? I want to share it with you. That is my natural instinct. I realized 4 years ago when I first met my business coach, Jeff Jochum, that that is what I go and do, time & time again. Any time I start a business, I find my peers, my community, my tribe, whatever you want to call it, and I share the knowledge that I have as I soak up even more. I am naturally a coach, a mentor, a teacher, a confidant, whatever you want to call it. I’ll bend over backwards to help people.

The spin finally feels like it is slowing. The dizziness is subsiding.

I’ve felt divided for months, trying to reconcile that I truly want to teach photographers about business. I want to work with creative women. I want to write books. I want to coach people. I want to help people love themselves and their bodies. I am the Avenger of Sexiness. I want more than anything to help you rediscover that You Are Enough.

But how does it all fit together? How does it make sense?

My friend Tara reminded me a week ago that there is, in fact, one common bond to all of those things… ME.

To be honest, she didn’t just say that. We had a 5 or 6 hour conversation. About me. About her. We both gave and received a lot of wisdom that night. It was amazing.

The spinning started to slow, and I could see a new path ahead of me. One that ties it all together, somehow.

All of the things I mentioned are me – a coach, a mentor, a photographer, an advocate. A writer, a dreamer, a creative. I don’t have to choose to be just one of them. Instead, I’m going to try for awhile just specializing in being ME.

I’m going to read my own handwriting tattooed on my wrist. You Are Enough.

So things might get messy here for awhile. That is what happens when you spin for too long. One day I might talk about running a photography business. I might post photographs that I’ve taken and tell a story about them. One day I might talk about body image and loving yourself. One day it might be something else.

I can only promise you one thing. It will all be genuinely ME.

As I always do, I’m just going to start. I will figure it out along the way. I always do, and it always works out. Mike says I’m like the cat with 900 lives. Drop me off the roof, I always land on my feet. He’s right, it is true.

I’m vivacious, adventurous and intimate – and it is time to bring all of those to the table here. It is time to stop spinning.

I have a feeling it is going to be a wild ride. I can’t wait.

My only wish is that in it all, you find something that helps you too. Reach out, share, ask questions. If you’re spinning and you want it to stop? I hope that you give me a chance to help you with that, just like others have helped me.

You’re not alone. All of your pieces are needed to make the whole complete. You deserve nice things.

You Are Enough.

Inukshuk, Moraine Lake, 2014
Inukshuk, Moraine Lake, 2014
The Epic Amazing Adventure Road Trip

The Epic Amazing Adventure Road Trip

It started as a simple road trip. Head from Houston to Portland, Oregon. Attend the World Domination Summit. Visit family in Seattle, then head to Denver to drop off my car, fly to Chicago to speak at BlogHer, back to Denver to help teach at the Team-X Fight Club, and then head home.

Then while on the road to Portland, I discovered that Crater Lake is in Oregon, and we were going to be there just in time for there to be no moon. PERFECT for night photography of the Milky Way. A long time item on my Life List.

I had to make it happen. We purchased camping gear in Portland. Before I knew it, everything changed. Including all of my plans.

I ended up being gone from Houston for over 4 months. I drove over 19,000 miles. I visited 15 states, plus 2 Canadian provinces. 12 National Parks. People ask me where all I went, and I joke that it might be easier to list off where all I didn’t go. I did not go to the Grand Canyon. Or the National Parks in Utah. Next time. Yes, there will be a next time.

Mike, my husband, was with me for portions of the journey. The first two & a half weeks up until Seattle. Again for a week in North Dakota, where my son & my parents were with us as well. A week in Calgary (the photo above is from our trip to Moraine Lake in Banff while we were there). Another week for my birthday at Grand Teton & Yellowstone.

I learned a lot about myself in the thousands of miles that I drove alone. Camping at the various National Parks. Visiting friends across the country. Photography sessions with many fantastic women. Most of all as my BFF Stephanie & I worked together while I was in Calgary and launched Vivid & Brave, a coaching program for creative women who want to rediscover their voice. Our first round of graduates from the group coaching program just wrapped up today, and it was nothing short of incredible. AMAZING.

I’ve chronicled some of the journey on my personal blog, Avenger of Sexiness, in case you are interested. I will be writing more as I make my way through the thousands and thousands of photos that I took.

I hit the ground running when I returned to Houston with a number of boudoir sessions. I can’t wait for Christmas to come and go so I can share some of the amazingness with you!

Now it is time to prepare for the new year ahead, and the new adventures that await. I’d like to invite you to join Stephanie & I as we share our Countdown to 2014 journal prompts to help you get ready for the year ahead. You can find the whole series on the Vivid & Brave blog. Be sure to enter to win our favorite journaling things as well!

You May Have Noticed Some Changes Here?

All day today, I’ve been thinking that I need to write a post here to explain why there have been so many changes to this site and the story behind them. But I put it off, doing other work. Things that needed to be done, orders that needed to be prepped, the house that needed to be clean. Wondering at the same time what it was I was going to say. Then the meandering trail of the internet lead me to this post (on a blog appropriately named “Creative Thursday”), and the video below, and I knew it was time to write.

The post has been brewing in my mind for awhile. How do you explain something so personal as a major shift in your dreams? A complete change within YOU that is bigger than something you can even put in to words?

I guess you start at the beginning.

Grab a drink & relax, this is going to be an incredibly long one!

In 2006, after years of taking photographs for myself, I decided I wanted to take photographs “for a living”. Forget the American dream, I wanted THAT. I didn’t know yet what that would even look like, I just knew more than anything I wanted to do it. So I did. I’m a jump in the water and learn how to swim type of person. On a phone call with Elaine, I told her I wanted to photograph weddings and I wanted her to photograph them with me. She laughed and replied that we didn’t even photograph people. I told her that was ok, we knew how to photograph them. She is the yin to my yang, and has been excellent at making me stop and question things. I still charged ahead. I had gone back to school in 2005 to finish that degree that I thought I HAD to have, but the fall semester of 2006 was the last semester I attended. I dropped my scholarship I had received for pursuing a medical field degree (pharmacy) and walked away. One of the many reasons I love my husband is how incredibly supportive he is – I told him (while on the phone long-distance to him in The Hague for work, having a nervous breakdown over Organic Chemistry, which I actually enjoy, and my horrific instructor that was hindering my learning) that “All I wanted to do was take pretty pictures!!!” and he said that I should go and do it. School would always be there if I wanted to go back. Go and follow the dream now. And I did.

Elaine & I photographed well over 100 weddings together since 2007, and some more on our own or assisting other photographers. Our first clients are all having their 5 year anniversaries this year. Many of them have families now. Some have several children. Others are pregnant as I type this with their first child. Only one couple that I know of is divorced. I’ve stayed in touch with many of them thanks to Facebook and Twitter. It has been an amazing journey.

I love being invited to be a part of such an intimate experience as a wedding day, of watching it all unfold and documenting it for them to relive.

In 2008, my friend Mitch called me and told me about a space for rent in the Heights – and it was the exact same building I had spotted as I pulled out of a parking lot 5 months earlier and thought “I want that to be my studio someday.” When I was meeting with the owner about renting it, I opted to add a second room to the “meeting room” I was going to rent. Again, spur of the moment. The light in that room was amazing. I had to have it. And I declared that day that I was going to start taking boudoir photographs.

My experience with boudoir up to that point had been the Polaroids I had taken for a friend to give to her boyfriend 10 or more years earlier.

Initially, boudoir seemed to be a natural extension of my wedding brand. I expected that couples would hire me to photograph their weddings, and the bride would add on boudoir photography as a gift for the groom, right? Wrong. It never did work out that way. Instead, I’ve photographed over 100 boudoir clients, many of them were brides who wanted a gift for their groom, but out of all of those, only four of them hired me to photograph their wedding plus their boudoir session. On the flip side, three of them hired me a year or two after their boudoir sessions to document their weddings – two of those weddings are coming up this year.

I discovered something in those early boudoir sessions — I discovered that I could be a champion for women. I can cheer them on. I can help them see their own beauty. I could help them peel back the layers of the years of society telling them that they aren’t “ENOUGH”. Whatever “ENOUGH” meant for them, our sessions were almost always caused a crack in that and helped them turn it around. They always ended their sessions saying how it was supposed to be a gift for someone else, but it ended up being the best thing for themselves.

But it wasn’t just them. Working with them helped ME heal too. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Keep on reading.

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New Orleans, Las Vegas & Austin – Travel Update!

New Orleans, Las Vegas & Austin – Travel Update!

August is normally the quiet month for us. There aren’t a lot of weddings – it is just too hot in Houston this time of year. If you had asked me back in July, the only thing on my calendar for August was a trip to New Orleans for a photographer’s meet-up that I was helping to coordinate for a group on Flickr. It was otherwise going to be a fairly quiet month. Or so I thought…

Then the opportunity to go to Las Vegas for Skip’s Summer School came up. It was just too good to pass up, and so even though it followed right on the heels of my trip to New Orleans (I was home for 36 hours inbetween the two), I am SO glad I went! I met the most AMAZING people this summer, and it has been a HUGE inspiration! Thank you to everyone that made that happen!

The trip to New Orleans was the perfect kick-off to the trip to Las Vegas. I joked that it was like I was in training. In Vegas, the Fast Track Photographer community was on fire! We kicked it all off with a fantastic meetup that my friend Lain from Lubbock put together. You can see a bit of it in the video below that Ray Pryor of Emotia in Chicago created. Can’t you just feel the buzz? It was so awesome! From there it was two solid days of school, where I got to learn from some of the best leaders this industry has to offer. As a bonus, there were only 360 or so people there – so everyone was so accessible!

The best part for me was all the people I met, by far – and the fact that Dane Sanders helped in his own magical way to bring so many of us together. You can just feel the energy in that video – and that was within hours of arriving in Vegas. Just imagine how it was after we had two days to bond! It was so moving to help out with the table after Dane Sanders spoke and getting to hear from so many people such awesome feedback! Dane is the MAN! If you get a chance to attend one of his workshops, I can’t recommend it enough! (You can check out the upcoming dates and sign up here – and use the code Christine_Workshop_New to get $75 off of the price!)

I’ve been home for a few days now, and Elaine & I went down to Galveston on Saturday for Melissa & Brandon’s wedding reception — not only was it fantastic seeing their family that were in Belize in July, but to meet the rest of their family & friends *and* get to see Elizabeth & Michael, one of our May wedding couples! It was a happy coincidence that we discovered a few weeks beforehand that Elizabeth & Michael are friends with Melissa & Brandon – we had no idea about the connection, and they didn’t even realize until after the fact that we were working with both of them on their weddings!

I’m hitting the road one last time now in my crazy, crazy August – it is off to Austin, where I’m going to help out with Dane’s workshop! There are still seats available, and it doesn’t start until tomorrow, so get in while you can if you’re interested! If you’re in the Austin area (or willing to make the drive over) and you can’t do the workshop itself, join us *tonight* for Dane’s presentation on Standing Out in the Crowd – FREE! (RSVP here.) Hope to see you there!

Getting on Track

WPPI was AWESOME!!! I spent last Friday evening & all day Saturday at the Business Institute, where I learned a TON of new things. It was just incredible – I filled up about 1/3rd of my moleskin with notes from all of the Business Institute panels. This could have been a problem, as I only brought one notebook! But it worked out ok in the end. I think I most enjoyed hearing Robert T. Williams speak, which was ironic because I was so tired I almost didn’t return after dinner for his panel. Instead, at least initially, I think I got the most out of it. Interesting how that happens. Added bonus, he is an Aggie! So I made sure to get a photo so that we can send a press release to A&M about us.

On Friday night, I met up with Gustavo, who I knew already through the Fast Track Photographer forums (more on that below), and Danielle from Flickr. After the Friday panel with Jerry Ghionis (fascinating!), I went to introduce myself to the other people sitting on the other side of Gustavo — only to discover that Rachel & Jamie are the Girls With Pearls from right down the road here in Houston! I also met Nicole, who is such a beautiful woman. We went to the lounge afterwards for the special treat of the piano singer and her wee short dress. Good times with new friends! Elaine finally made it to Vegas well after 1am, instead of her scheduled flight time. We stayed up so late on Friday, I decided to stay in on Saturday after the Business Institute ended.

Dane SandersI spent Sunday at Dane Sander’s workshop for Fast Track Photographer. We talked about a lot of really great things, and then we did our pDNA – a personality test to help you learn about what type of person you are, how it ties into what sort of photographer you are, and how to make the most of your talents. It was a wonderful, intimate day with 20 or so other photographers, and I am so grateful for how everyone opened their hearts and minds and shared so much. So very, very moving.

Sunday night I got to meet up with Elizabeth Sullivan, another Houston photographer, and her now fiance, Gary! He proposed while in Vegas at the top of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel & Casino later in the week. We had fun chatting and catching up – it seems we’ve been too busy to get together back here in Houston, so we took advantage of talking there! Jennifer Wilson came and joined us for a bit. Eventually, we all went our separate ways, and as I was about to head up for the end of the Young Guns panel, I ran into the Tri-Coast guys and finally got to meet Suzy!

I eventually made my way up to the Young Guns session and met up with Regina, and had a whirlwind meet & great with a bunch of people while there. What a rush! Gene Higa was one of the featured Young Guns, and Ann Hamilton was there at the stage when I went to say hello. Regina, Corey Cagle & I headed out and went to the Pixel2Canvas Risque party and then over to the Sara France party. It was so great to catch up with people I already knew, and meet some brand new people – Jesse of Photographik.org, Steve DePino, Rachel & Andrew Niesen, [b]ecker, Tomas Flint, TimCo, Matthew, Anne Ruthmann … I’m sure I’m leaving people off the list, but I can’t think of everyone!

That is a good place to stop for now … more of an update to come!