Q&A: Just For Fun

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

1. Monica asks: "Why do you live where you do and where else have you lived. Oh and a question I ask all the time, people don't realize how high the number is, how many houses have you lived in?"

A: So we are currently living in my in-laws' house, in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. We've landed here a little by accident, a little by Providence. We're not yet in a position to buy an house of our own, as Joe finishes a graduate degree that will take him 2-3 more years. We are so completely grateful that instead of squeezing into the size of apartment/townhome we could probably afford right now, we are allowed to spread out a LOT more in a full house for a reduced rent price tag. It's humbling, but such a blessing. And we've worked hard since moving here last summer to make it our own--- to make it feel like HOME. 

In my 36 years, I've also lived: In the University City suburb of STL, in the Central West End neighborhood of STL, in Salt Lake City, UT for a couple of months, in Provo,Orem, and American Fork, UT, in Columbia, MO (four different homes). And I've lived in Woodbridge, VA and back in UT a few different places. 

So let me count: STL (4), UT (7), CoMo (4), VA (1), UT (3)-- 19 total houses, I guess!

2. Jenn asks, "You have become the example of "in the moment" motherhood that I look up to. How do you make sure you don't lose yourself in the day to day, and stay present enough to savor these precious, fleeting baby/toddler/boy moments that are gone in an instant?

Also- can I have Quinn? ;)"

A: Oh, that's tough, sweet Jenn. Well, first, thank you for your amazing compliment! You should know that the flip side of being so "in the moment" is that I kind of lose my mind in many of those "moments". I've always been a hothead-- quick-to-flare, but just as quick to get over it. So as much as I wish I was super ZEN, I'm really not-- I just wing it and feel things deeply on both sides every single day. 

So. Back to your question. I am, by nature, pretty constantly self-aware: so as I'm passing through a day, I CAN'T lose myself because my SELF won't shut up. If things are going well, I'm noticing and patting myself on the back. If things are derailing, I'm watching myself get more frazzled and can't talk myself down with logic. So I am ALWAYS there. But how do I not lose "EMILY" over the days and weeks and months of giving it all up to parent? I think I just try to tap into the things I've always loved, even if it is only a little bit (far less than I used to be able to do)--- creative projects, bluegrass music, solo outings to refill my own well... 

And as for staying present when I'm in the middle of the crazy little-kid world life i lead? I honestly think my iPhoto habit helps a LOT. I'm so deeply sentimental that when a moment happens that I cherish, I mourn the loss of it--- so I grab a photo. I hold onto that moment by doing so. Which turns into NOTICING moments more and more, which turns into appreciating them more and more. Which cycles back into wanting another photo to preserve it all. It's a circle of sentimentality and mindfulness, I guess. :)

Also, you are WELCOME to Quinn for a day at a time, whenever you need him. I just need him back by bedtime. ♥

3. Carrie asks: "If you could have a conversation with one person (dead or alive) who would it be? And where would you like to have this conversation?"

A: This one is HARD. Would I just choose someone funny so I could laugh for a few hours? Would I choose someone wise but potentially intimidating, making it not as fun?  I'm currently so enjoying the words of Katrina Kenison, memoir writer of mothering and post-mothering things.... And I used to devour the words of SARK (boy, she'd be a hoot to hang out with!).... Steve Martin, both of us with our banjos? Yeah. Maybe one of those three. And I'd like to have that convo somewhere comfy, outdoors, in lovely perfect temps... with appetizers. Maybe like one of those outdoor "living rooms" they're always setting up on "The Bachelor". And if it was with SARK, we'd each need a couch, and a pillow and quilt, because I GUARANTEE we'd be taking a nap somewhere in our afternoon together. 

4. Danielle asks: "How did you build up your confidence as a photographer? Are you still afraid you won't get great photos for clients? What about your editing process? Did it take you forever to learn the ins and outs of Photoshop? Do you still love photography as much as you did in the beginning? Sorry, I'm full of questions tonight :)"

A1. Oh friend.... Confidence is about 50% faking it, not even kidding. Then about 25% preparation beforehand (lots of reviewing the ideas I want to try that day, checking my equipment and being ready with plenty of wiggle room), and then 25% just being an extrovert-- small talk and banter come easily to me. That's the short-term answer. In the long term, just practice, practice, practice. Every successful session you have will give you more and more confidence. And being brave enough to ask for constructive criticism, which will SHATTER you, but will, in the long run, teach you and build you until you KNOW you're doing it "right". 

A2. I do still get nervous or anxious before about 85% of my sessions. I think having SOME nerves is good--- it keeps you sharp. If we were all really blase about it all, we'd get lazy and stop thinking of new ideas. 

A3. My editing process is about 80% Lightroom (I do all my culling, color correcting, exposure and contrast fixes here) and 20% Photoshop (I do all my fine-tuning of color and "pop" here, do my B&W conversions here, and do detail work like blemishes and cloning and cleaning up of unwanted things.). I use a few actions, but most of what I do is stuff I've learned over time and have made my own actions to simplify the process. My goal, always, is CLEAN edits, timeless. Nothing too corny that will look dated in just 5 years.

A4. Learning Lightroom and Photoshop has been a work in progress--- I continue to learn. I google a lot, I use my online photography communities a lot. I ask questions, I watch tutorials, I try new things when I have time.... I've come a LONG way, and it's all been self-taught, over a great deal of time. Remember your senior photos? I would edit them totally differently today if I could. Example:

I'm always striving for more and more "classic".... Less and less "gimmicky". Also, you were such a gorgeous model for those photos, they barely needed ANYTHING. :) 

A5. I do still love photography as much as I always have. I feel a little BLAH and uninspired of late, but that is a winter thing, I think, and I have been through it enough times to trust that usually right after a long stretch of "blahs", some BIG growth and progress ends up happening. SO I'm just waiting. haha. 

I'm excited for your journey--- just stay humble, be willing to be broken down so you can rebuild stronger.... and try to be honest and try to be respectful of the legal ramifications of taking money for photos, as well as pricing in a way that doesn't hurt other photographers or yourself in the long run. I recommend practicing for free a LOT until you DO feel confident enough to provide a consistent result. You're on your way, sweet girl!!

5. Tania asks, "I want to know...what was your inspiration for starting your blog?"

A: I love this question. My blog is actually a bit of a relic. Long story: When Joe and I first got married in 2004, we didn't get internet for our new home together. We managed to hold off until 2006. We were relics! So then the end of 2006 came along, and we took the leap. Got REAL LIVE INTERNET in our house. And one of the first things I did? Got hooked on all of my friends' blogs. And decided I wanted one of my own. (My very first post, August 2006:

I was already a journaler by nature, as well as someone who had always loved online communities. The two things meshed and VOILA, blog. Yes.

I didn't begin it with intention. I didn't have a "theme". I didn't think for a second about monetizing it. I didn't write with an outside readership in mind. Were I to start one NOW-- I'd probably consider all of the above. I think I could be very good at blogging for money. Blogging for audience. 

But that sentimental side of me keeps this just the way it's always been... a journal. My own journey, my little epiphanies, and the things I love.... And I DO have a little readership now, so I do keep that in mind now as I write.... But for the most part, even that doesn't really change what I say. Or how I say it. This is me, transparent, real.... And I love that it's been almost 8 years since I began it. :)

6. Beckie asks: "What is one personality trait you quid hope your friends use to describe you? What is the trait you hope is never used to describe you?"

A: Ah. Interesting. I'll start with the second half. I hope I'm never thought of as a  B****. Honestly. I feel like I work hard to be a peacemaker and a diplomat.... to empathize or sympathize and to try to see things from multiple sides. I don't like the idea of someone being bitchy just to be bitchy, so it would KILL me if I came across that way to anyone. I want to just get wiser and more peaceful as I age.... two things I see as the opposite of bitchiness. 

So how do I hope I AM described? Currently? Gosh. I want to be thought of as funny. I don't know if I am anymore.... too tired to be funny.... Maybe as caring? Though even that makes me look back on this last year of my life and begin to sweat a little: have I even made TIME to be caring to anyone this last year? Am I falling short? I think so. I need to re-strive for more, I think.... Gah!! 

7. Tiffany asks: "What an awesome idea!?! did you meet Joe? I haven't heard that story yet! What did you do before you were a momma? How many kids do you want or are you done? How did you just become so awesome? We need to get together soon. I need someone to quilt with!"

 A1: I met Joe in the Chesterfield, MO Singles Ward, right here where we now attend church again. He was living right here in the house we live in now.... so we've come full-circle. So weird! I was friends with his sister, and he had been dating someone, so I never even looked twice at him. But when he became single, he asked for advice on who to date, and I was on his sister's list of recommendations.... and the rest is history. 

A2: Before I was a mama, I was a high school English teacher. I taught in the Hazelwood School District for 3 years only.... then left teaching to be a stay-at-home-mom and portrait photographer. At the time, it felt like a huge part of my life, so now that it's been 6 years since I taught, it is weird to see that small number--3-- and realize I didn't really do it very long. Kind of makes me sad. (But not sad enough to go back!)

A3: We would love four kids! Stay tuned. (But not any time soon! I'm just getting my footing with three!!)

A4: I am just so awesome because I take Awesome Pills every day. Just kidding. Let's quilt ASAP. :)

8. Julia asks: "Have you ever thought of writing a book? What would your book be like? Does the idea make you excited or terrified?"

A: Oh man. In my dream future, yes. I'd be writing. I love the idea of being in my quiet little farmhouse, the kids either at school or already grown, and me partaking of a daily morning ritual that culminates in sitting at my desk to hammer out some writing. I'd love to write memoir. I'm not a fiction writer: this I know. I am not a poet. But I'd love to tell stories from life... I'd love it. And I don't know if I'd write to be published, or just write to get better as I also tell my own story for posterity. But yes. I'd love to write a book. And yes, actually, though it is completely part of my vision of the future, it absolutely TERRIFIES me. I'm not very disciplined, so the "now me" would be TERRIBLE at the craft of intentional writing. Not sure how I'll shift into a more disciplined, intentional me.  I'll tuck that away for a time I can face that fear. 

9. Peeser(Elise) asks: "Why do you and Joe have apples on your heads? That's just silly.

Also, why DO you use so many ellipses? Why do I use so many ellipses? Why do WE use so many ellipses? What is the appeal of the ellipsis?

Finally, why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?"

A: I guess we just felt comfortable enough with Katie to let our true, apple-y selves shine through. The kids were fascinated. 

A2: Ellipses: I just love them. They signify conversational speech, and I feel more comfortable writing in a stream-of-consciousness, conversational style. It probably drives people batty. Ah well. 

A3: Probably because the babies I'm holding are covered in graham cracker crumbs. 

10. Stefanie asks: "Why (or how) are you such an amazing person? You are like the candle to so many little moths... And how to you juggle all the friendships that you've made along the way and still managed to make everyone feel as special as if they're your only friends? You're a special lady, I hope you realize that!"

A: Heart melted, sweet friend. I just read an article about how we need to be better at just accepting compliments-- to teach our children to do the same... without that added, "Thanks, but".... So I will fight that terrible urge to say, "Oh but I'm NOT......" and just say, THANK YOU. It means the world to me that you see me in this light. It gives me peace to think I'm doing some things right. Thank you. And you ARE special, Stef. So so important to me. 

11. Sarah asks: "how much time do you allot per day for screen time / social media? I only ask because I have a hard time with balance."

A: This is a good one, and tough. Because I am as guilty as most women of being too attached to my iPhone/iPad/computer. I am yearning to follow in the HandsFree Mama's footsteps...And over the last year I have gotten better (and then back to worse) at putting the toys down and demonstrating hands-free parenting and living and enjoying of life--- setting an example for my kids I can live with. But the screens are always there, on the periphery, and balance is ALWAYS work. So. Here is what my screen life looks like currently:
I scan the internets first thing in the morning... check email, Instagram, weather, Facebook, texts. Then I put it away and concentrate fully on Noah's prep for school and my morning tasks with the littles--- getting Lucy and Quinn ready and fed. When Quinn goes down for a morning nap, I almost always put on a cartoon for Lucy and get onto the computer or iPad to do work, surf, say hi, etc. Ideally, I'd do something un-screeny WITH Lucy at this time. But realistically, this is rare. Something to work on.... 
I put away the screens when Noah gets home for school and we work on lunch and playtime. Then it is kids' quiet time and I get a stretch of time to get online to work/play/decompress. Some days I forgo this and just take my own nap. Noah gets 1 hour of screen time after his Quiet Time (though it's closer to 2 hours, to be honest.) and I continue to work online. So this stretch, from 1:30pm-4:30pm, is pretty consistently screen time for me if I'm not napping. (I should clarify: for me, screen time and social media time go hand in hand. I flip between work and play the whole time. I almost never dedicate time to only one or the other in once chunk of time.) Then when kids are up from naps and its time to make dinner, I have my phone or iPad handy for recipe referral, which means I'll still check in and read Facebook or whatever at that time. Kids will be playing or watching a cartoon, and Dad comes home to join in whatever they're doing. I keep a "no phones at the table" rule for all meals, and also try to keep screens at bay for the bedtime routines... But after kid bedtimes, it is WORK TIME, and I am on the computer from 8:30pm-midnight almost every night.

I am always working on balance, and trying to keep it to set windows of time.... But on those days when we're all barely managing, I forgive myself and put on another cartoon for the kids and let myself get lost in a jigsaw puzzle on the iPad and we all just let it go and let it be. 

12. Leslie asks: "I've been trying to launch a new business idea for "YEARS", dabbled in the photography craze with no luck but I'm interested to know what your "new business" is that I've read in a previous post."

A: Ooh, I've been planning a "coming out" post, and keep procrastinating it! Haha! So I'll tell you here, and I PROMISE I'll really write that post soon.... where I go into more detail about how I got started, why I got started, and why it is working in my life right now... But for the moment, I'll just answer your question. I am an independent consultant for Jamberry Nails,  a relatively new and really fun company that sells high-quality fingernail/toenail wraps in a million cute designs. I'm totally addicted, and it has been a shockingly unexpected blessing in my life. So there ya have it. I'm "out". I wish you luck as you search for a business that works in your life!!! If you are at all intrigued by this stuff, you can always email me to ask more! Plus, I really DO need to blog a real and comprehensive post about it all..... SOON. 

13. EllanieMae asks: "What got you interested in Jamberry nail products?"

A: Well booyah! Here we are. Okay, I'll tell more. Honestly, it was a fluke. A former photography client of mine was hosting an online Jamberry party, and I was actually bored and clicked the link, and it was like a moth to a flame. "What ARE these pretty things? I don't do manicures, but if they work for toes, I am IN." And the rest is history. I ordered some for my toes, fell in love. Randomly decided to put some on my fingers, fell in love even more, and here we are. 

14. Samantha asks via Instagram: "Ahhhhhhh, I'm late and super vague, but you know I'd love to hear about anything photography!!!!!"

A: Well, lady. I feel like I have nothing to teach you, grasshopper. You are wise beyond your perceived abilities, and could probably teach ME something. :) :) (Guys. You would LOVE this gal. Can I share your blog, Sam?)

But okay. Um. Kid tip: (needs a kind of close lens-- where you don't have to back up to take the photo) Have them give you five. Then shake your hand like it is burning, hurting from their strength, and say, "Oooooh! Ouchie! Ouchie! Ouchie!" 9 times out of ten, you will get the most genuine smiles. Repeat as necessary. If your kid is a gentle soul, don't be too loud or convincing the first couple of times. You will worry them. But get more dramatic once they know your game and trust you. Works on 2-8 year olds like magic. After 7 or 8, they are wise to it and will hide their smiling reaction like their life depended on it.  

(Below: all of these smiles came from this one trick. All within about 1-2 minutes of time with them. The end. Booyah. ) 


And DONE! First Q&A complete. Thank you for not leaving me hanging with, like, ONE question. I'm glad there were some of you willing to play along. If anyone feels like they still have a burning question, leave it in the comments and I can either tackle it right there in the comments, or if there are enough additional questions, I'll do this again soon. 

Til then.... Time to spell check this beast and go to bed! (Maybe do an iPad jigsaw puzzle first. My big current addiction.) 


  1. Excellent post! I love this idea and may just do this myself, although you have a more involved following than I do, honestly, so I may not get many questions! :) I agree that you would rock the craft/monetized blogging world, that you are VERY caring, and that you are NEVER a B! :) xoxo

  2. So, I tried to post a question from my phone and it clearly didn't post. Lame. So you'll have to do a sequel sometime and I'll save it in my pocket until then. :)


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