Personal

Some Days are Better Than Others

SamApril2019-1024.jpg

Today was one of the ‘Others’

I had a rough night last night. Couldn’t sleep for anything, was having a pain flareup, had the start of a wicked headache (plus cramps, because being a lady is rad); you get the picture.

After clocking tops three hours of sleep combined, I decided to take the day to rest, and unsurprisingly felt incredibly guilty. Guilty for missing out on work I felt I should be doing, guilty for taking a day to not be productive (though I still watched some tutorials from bed and did dishes, so… Not entirely unproductive). The point is, I took a rare rest day, and felt so bad about it the entire time I basically ruined it.

All these thoughts go through my head in times like this. Thoughts that I’m a failure (for needing the rest) that I’m lazy (for not being productive enough), or that I’m a fundamentally bad person in some deep, intrinsic and ill-defined way. I enumerated in my head the ways in which I’m a bad mom, a bad wife, a bad business owner, a bad worker, a bad friend, and used my need for rest as yet another stick to beat myself with.

It can be so. damn. hard. to get out of that shame cycle once you’re deep in it, right? It always reminds me of this song by Emmylou Harris, Red Dirt Girl. There’s a line in the song that goes like this; “One thing they don’t tell you ‘bout the blues when you got ‘em, you keep on fallin’, cuz there ain’t no bottom, there ain’t no end.” It speaks so much to how I feel when I’m in the middle of one of these episodes.

I’ve been reading a lot of about self-compassion lately, and it just so happens that I was finishing a chapter on it while I was deep in my feels (you know, all the “you suck and you’re letting everyone down” feels), and I took a breath, and decided to ride it out. Decided I didn’t have to go deeper into Pit ‘O Shame, but could call it what it was, which is fundamentally untrue, while still honoring that I was feeling depressed about it. I did a sit (which is what we call meditating at my house, and I actually do it lying down because my back is so bad), hugged my husband and my kid, pet my kitty as much as she would let me, and just tried to recognize that this too shall pass.

The concept (and practice) of self-compassion is very new to me. I’m hard on myself as a general rule, and learning to give myself grace and the room to have, oh I don’t know, human needs and flaws and things, has been really difficult and really slow going.

I don’t have a snappy ending for this post, or even a point really, other than that depression and shame are hard, but wanted to get it out there in case anyone else is struggling too. You’re not alone, this being a human being shit is not for the faint of heart, and even when it feels like you couldn’t possibly, I hope that you can find just a teeeeeeeny bit of self-compassion within you, and use that to start to work your way back up out of that dark place. Start small, remind yourself you’re a human being and you’re doing the best you can, and let’s see where we both go from there.

-Sam

9 Things that Drive Wedding Photographers Crazy

SamJune2017-1003.jpg

Let's get real here...

Photographers, even the super nice and helpful ones, are still human, and we have some shit that bothers us a little, or worse, makes our jobs harder. Read on to find out what those things are! 

1. Not padding your wedding day timeline 

We totally get it! There's so much you want to fit into your wedding day, and so many moments you want your photographer to capture, but not padding your wedding timeline enough will leave you, your wedding party, and your photographer(s) feeling stressed. If your photographer is a pro, they won't show it, but I guarantee that everyone will feel better and have a nicer time if you don't try to pack too much into the wedding day timeline! 

2. Aunt Judy's ipad

Okay, so maybe your Aunt's name isn't Judy, but if you're like most couples, I am positive that you have at least one Aunt or extended family member who will definitely show up with a giant iPad pro and want to use it to take photos during the ceremony. Any other time, we'd say knock yourself out, but we really recommend an unplugged ceremony so that your guests can focus on what's important (the wedding!) and avoid stepping immediately in front of the photographer(s) you're paying to be there while they're trying to photograph your wedding. Let the professionals be the folks with the cameras during the ceremony and you won't regret it. 

3. Not having seats at the reception 

Of course your photographer isn't going to be seated for your entire reception, but we do have an awful lot of equipment generally, and it's nice to have a designated place to set it down, as well as a 'touchdown' station for super important things like water and dinner rolls to help us keep up our energy and hydration during the reception. It's also very helpful if the seat is near the head table when possible, so we can capture those impromptu kisses and things, even while we're eating fast enough to break the speed of light. Also, even if you don't plan on doing 'assigned seats', it's a great idea to reserve a few spots that are specifically for your close family members (parents generally) and for your vendors. Trust me, your photographer(s) will thank you! 

4.overly restrictive photo rules at venues

There are some venues, largely of the more religious variety, that have some really restrictive rules around photography, including significant restrictions on where photographers can stand, and even what they can take photos of. No joke, we've done weddings where we actually weren't allowed to photograph the first kiss. Now, if the couple knows this about their chosen venue and is cool with it, great! But we find these rules and restrictions are normally communicated only to the photographer(s) and only on the day of, not in advance. For that reason, we strongly recommend that couples check with their venue about photography rules ahead of time, to avoid any unpleasant surprises on the big day! 

5. Pinterest 

Okay, I like Pinterest as much as the next person. That said, most photographers will cringe inwardly (sometimes outwardly) if you say something like "I'm going to send you my wedding photography Pinterest board!" Here's why; you very likely hired your wedding photographer because you like his or her style, and not because you want them to recreate another photographers images frame for frame. It's totally fine to have ideas of stuff you'd like to have photographed, but it's a really good rule of thumb to try not to recreate something you've seen on Pinterest (or Facebook, or Instagram, etc.) and instead work with your photographer to get your own unique photos that are representative of you and your partner! 

6. Creepy or Rude wedding guests 

Okay, I hate that this is true, but it is. Sometimes guests (or wedding party members) can get a little creepy. It can be inappropriate comments,  unwanted touching (seriously Dad of the Bride, I don't need a back rub), or any number of other creepy-dude type things. Also, sometimes guests can get a little rude, even if they're not being creepy. This includes things like touching our photography equipment without permission (seriously, just don't), making out loud derogatory comments about us 'taking up table space' or 'eating' (I don't know why some guests really struggle with thinking it's weird to feed your vendors or rude of vendors to take you up on the offer of food during a long day), or just generally being jerky. Normally, your photographer(s) can handle themselves and are super used to this kind of behavior, so you should know that if it rises to the level that your photographer has to say something to you about it, it's a big deal, and should be taken very seriously. You should also know that most photographers/vendors have clauses in their contracts about a zero-tolerance policy on harassment. If your photographer (or any vendor), lets you know about a creepy or crappy situation, please take that seriously and assign someone to talk with the offending party about the importance of good behavior. 

7. Overly complex Formal Shot Lists

I'm all for folks getting the formal photos that they want to have, but sometimes, in an effort to make sure they didn't miss anything, couples can go a teeeeennnnyyyy bit overboard by building in every conceivable combination of the same 20 people into their formal shot list. Now, this is an interesting pet peeve because the photographer really doesn't care, it's more of an issue because the more combinations and more extended family being worked into the formal shot list, the longer the formal photos take, and the less time there is for things like fun couple's photos, candid shots, etc. (you know, the stuff you'll actually be excited to look at later) AND the more likely it is that family members will start getting cranky or hangry or both (and not just the children) because photos are taking forever. Always do a once-over on your formal shot list to examine whether there are any photos that are essentially duplicates and that you could pare down to make the experience faster and better for everyone (yourselves included!) 

8. "We're just going to Wing it" 

You should never use this phrase in relation to your wedding day. No seriously. All photographers who hear any version of "We're just going to wing it!" come out of couple's mouths want to run for the hills (but we won't, we'll just stay and watch the train wreck happen, unable to look away). The truth is that weddings are a big deal, and there is a LOT of planning that goes into them, so it's best to either take the time to plan out the details (break it into chunks to make it easier or hire a wedding planner) or to decide that if something is too stressful to plan, you will just leave that thing out of your wedding day entirely. 'Winging it' normally means timelines that don't work, cranky and confused guests and wedding party members, and a couple that's actually more stressed out than if they had just planned ahead or hired a professional to do that bit of planning. Trust us, preparedness is key to things going smoothly! 

9. Ghosting your photographer 

Okay, so like, I know that your relationship with your photographer(s) isn't really something you think about much after the wedding day, but for photographers who love wedding photography, and are super invested in the couples they work with, I can't tell you how disheartening it is finish editing a couple's wedding, be SOOOOOOO excited for them to see it, hit that send button, and then.... nothing. *crickets* Like... you literally never hear from this couple again. I also can't even begin to describe the crippling self-doubt that sets in. "Do they hate the photos? Do they hate me? Did they get in some sort of horrible car accident? Are they literally in a coma right now?!" I've learned over time that it's normally just because the couple got busy, and kind of forgot to say thanks or provide feedback, and not because they didn't love the photos. They viewed the whole thing as more of a transaction than a relationship, which is also okay, but dude, we're begging you, at least say you got the album! I'd also wager a bet that these are normally the couples that never quite get around to sending their thank you cards either. Don't be that couple. 

 

Hopefully this has been insightful, and allows you to avoid some of these pitfalls when planning your own weddings! ;) 

--Sam 

 

 

Representation Matters, Especially in the Wedding Industry

Ann-Marie_Yasmine_Blog-1030.jpg

Why it's important to represent more than just straight white couples 

Don't get me wrong, we love straight white couples! But if there is one type of couple that the wedding industry loves to represent, almost exclusively, it's straight, able-bodied, thin and conventionally attractive white couples. 

Here's the problem with that... When you only represent one type of couple, you leave so many other types of couples feeling left out and undervalued. I remember talking with a friend, who is also in the wedding industry, about her experience planning her own wedding and how as an African American woman getting married to a white man, she had a really hard time finding any wedding magazines, blogs, etc. that had any couples that looked like her and her fiancé. I've heard the same thing from countless couples we've worked with, and that fucking sucks. 

So, while checking my Instagram insights recently (I know, I live a very exciting life), I was overjoyed to see that out of my top 6 most liked photos ever on Instagram, 4 of them were of LGBTQ+ couples and 2 included people of color. This tells me two things... 1) That I have the right audience on Instagram for the type of work I want us to be doing (yay!) and 2) That people are thirsty for wedding photos and inspiration that aren't just straight, white, able-bodied, thin and conventionally attractive couples. People want to see wedding inspiration and wedding photos that look like them, and surprise, people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and orientations and gender expressions!  

We've had couples hire us because not all of the weddings we blog are of super skinny people. We've had couples choose us because we're so vocal about how much we love LGBTQ+ weddings, and so they felt very valued by us. We've had other couples hire us because we understand some of the unique challenges of a wedding day when one or both people in the couple suffer from a chronic, debilitating illness. We've had couples hire us because we have experience taking beautiful photographs of folks with darker skin tones. Other folks have hired us because of our work with Our Lives magazine or the fact that we're super cool working with non-binary and trans clients or because we're cool with poly or ethically non-monogamous couples. Ultimately, people want to know that a wedding vendor, particularly a photographer, is excited to work with them specifically. 

Recently, clients of ours shared a really powerful story with us. This couple has a family friend whose child came out as non-binary. They showed this friend and their child the blog post about Miles + Daniel's non-binary, queer as hell wedding (check out the photos here) and seeing a non-binary person (Miles) so happy and supported, celebrating a wedding, was really powerful for this kid. They said that it helped them see how they could live authentically as themselves, and gave them hope for what an adult life could look like as a non-binary person. I was brought to tears when our clients shared this story with me. Representation matters. It can make such a difference in ways you can't even recognize right away. 

As a small business owner, and as a human, it is so important to me that, to the best of our ability, we're representing those who are traditionally underrepresented in the wedding industry. That's why our focus has long been on diverse and offbeat couples. In particular, serving the LGBTQ+ community is important to me as a person who identifies as queer. That's also why we love the Offbeat Bride site so much! They do a great job of representing a wide variety of folks who don't get much love in the more traditional wedding industry. I want our business to be like that, but specific to photography. I want people to come to our website or social media pages, and be able to really see themselves in the images and stories they find here. 

I want to give so much gratitude to our amazing clients, and thank all of you for putting your faith in us to tell your story in a way that is authentic to you. (I'm not crying, you're crying). 

-- Sam 

p.s. If you have any suggestions for us on how we can continue to strive for that goal, please drop us a line!

The Rad Photographers Retreat 2018

 
DutcherPhotography_RR2018_Day1-1008.jpg

My second year attending the rad retreat

After attending the 2017 Rad Retreat, I COULD NOT WAIT to go back in 2018, and I couldn't have been happier I did! First, let's talk details... 

WHAT IS THE RAD PHOTOGRAPHERS RETREAT? 

The Rad Photographers Retreat is a ladies only retreat for super kickass photographers, organized by the lovely Christine Dopp from Natural Intuition Photography. Christine, along with some rad co-conspirators, puts together a retreat (now 3 years running) that includes opportunities to connect and relax with other creatives, guest speakers and mentors from the photography (and related) industries, morning yoga, chair massages, professional hair & makeup (which this year we used for some fun bathtub boudoir photos!), a personal chef cooking us A-M-A-Z-I-N-G meals every day, and to top it all off, the most gorgeous styled shoot anyone ever did see! Plus a comfort package giveaway, some bubbly (or a Montana Mule or two), and the best company a girl could ask for! 

So how was attending the rad retreat for the second year in a row? 

Before I dive in, if you'd like to check out my post on last year's retreat, here it is! 

Okay, so last year when I attended the retreat for the first time, I was in a place of deep, DEEP stress and a crippling lack of self-care. I was working myself to death (nearly literally), wasn't appropriately balancing my time with family, and was honestly pretty freaking depressed (can't imagine why). I really credit last year's retreat with helping to snap me out of that pattern of behavior, and for being the first step towards taking better care of myself emotionally, scheduling in valuable rest time, and for making it abundantly clear how much I need a community of creative women in my life. Nothing wrong with dudes, I'm pretty fond of them in fact, but I firmly believe that no one lifts women up like other women or makes you feel sane and supported like other women. 

I was in a much different (better!) place for this year's retreat, and it worked out well that there were so many lady photographers there who are also moms, and many who also have full-time jobs, because it really felt great to be with a group of people who just GET IT. Like really get it. They get the struggle to balance conflicting priorities. They get the desire to continue to show commitment to your full-time job (if you have one) and the desire to continue to be World's Best Mom (even though none of us really can be). And it was also lovely to get the perspective of so many photographers who are doing photography full-time, and to have that reminder that every full-time job, whether you work for yourself or someone else, comes with unique challenges and opportunities, and that even being a full-time photographer does not suddenly make working for a living this magical, easy thing to do. (Capitalism, man... The struggle is real.)

It was also really awesome to see the contrast between last year and this year. For one, I was in a much different mental space between the two years, but for two, the group dynamics were different, in ways that just made me so appreciative of both groups of ladies! The first year, I felt like the group opened up to each other pretty much immediately. We cracked jokes, we laughed until we cried, we legit actually cried (whew, some of those 'face your fears' Q&A sessions are TOUGH you guys, but in the best of ways) and we played Cards Against Humanity until midnight on our last night. Now, this year, it took the group a little longer to open up, we were all feeling pretty shy to begin with, but as we got to know each other, there were so many opportunities for truly deep connection, reflection, and conversation. The group dynamic was a little quieter this year, but I felt like we really connected, and the trust and camaraderie that was established over just a few days was so amazing! Our last day there, after we finished headshots, we even ended up doing boudoir bathtub photo shoots for each other (because when there is a bathtub that amazing, you MUST find a good photo op - oh, and I'll be posting most of those photos in a separate blog post, since I'm having a hard time narrowing down my favorites!) 

The most amazing thing about both years is the open sharing of ideas, techniques, and best practices between everyone, and how that helps each attendee learn, grow, and evolve in their business, and with their passion for photography (which you really see come to life during the styled shoot, which I will post in more detail in a separate blog entry!). That and all of the time for self-care, reflection, and joy that is hard to come by back in the 'real world'. 

I am so thankful to have been able to attend this awesome retreat two years running, and am really looking forward to returning next year!  

WHAT freaking awesome PEOPLE WERE INVOLVED IN making THE RAD RETREAT 2018 so MAGICal? 

OMG, so many! 

First, hats off to Christine Dopp, of Natural Intuition Photography, for birthing this idea and bringing it into being 3 years running! She did such an amazing job on this! 

Second, here is a list of the vendors involved that all pitched in to rock this retreat like no one's business! 

Guest Speakers: 

  • Laura from Laura Zastrow Photography discussed the client experience, as well as finding the light in any situation and off-camera flash techniques 
  • Ren from Studio 29 Photography discussed Instagram strategy and getting published 
  • Angela Scheffer-Mondloch from Saffron Avenue Design discussed brand style, defining your brand style, and how to keep your style on-brand to attract your ideal clients 
  • Ashley from Midwestern Bride discussed planning styled shoots, and what collaborating vendors look for when working with a photographer on a styled shoot, as well as how to approach vendors to collaborate

Breakfast & Lunch: 

Dinners: 

Styled Shoot: 

Goodie Boxes: 

AND IT WOULDN'T BE A BLOG POST WITHOUT SHARING SOME PICS... 

So here you are; Enjoy! And if you're a lady photographer, definitely go to this retreat next year!  

--Sam 

 

A Trip to Portland, OR

 
PortlandDay4-1037.jpg

An excellent choice for my first full week vacation in more than six years...

Seriously, SIX years since I last took a full week off. I'd ask what's wrong with me, but I already know the answer, I'm a bit of a workaholic. <insert shocked face emoji here>

But... Nonetheless, I could not be more thrilled with our choice of city for my first vacation longer than a weekend in forever! We went to Portland, OR and stayed in the most amazingly gorgeous AirBnB (thanks Mike + Felicity!) We walked around downtown, went to Powell's and browsed the books, checked out the Portland Art Museum (who had an AWESOME Laika exhibit on claymation!), and visited the Planetarium at OMSI! 

We also had plenty of time for relaxing and reading and drawing, which was pretty freakin' sweet. 

Also, So. Much. Food. 

Enjoy the photos! 

--Sam 

 

Winter Mix Tape: 2017-2018 Edition

 
WinterMixTape-1002.jpg

A little mix to get you through the winter...

  1. Guided by Voices: Things I will Keep
  2. Rogue Wave: Bird on a Wire
  3. Joni Mitchell: Come in From the Cold
  4. Jagwar Ma: Uncertainty
  5. Stereo MC's: Connected
  6. Wolf Parade: Shine a Light
  7. Laura Veirs: Secret Someones
  8. Iron & Wine: Cinder and Smoke
  9. Sea Wolf: Whirlpool
  10. Broken Social Scene: Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl
  11. OK Go: I Want You So Bad I Can't Breathe
  12. Say Hi: November Was White, December Was Grey
  13. Lord Huron: Meet Me in the Woods
  14. The Black Keys: Everlasting Light
  15. Wintersleep: Laser Beams
  16. Pete Yorn: Strange Condition
  17. The National: Anyone's Ghost
  18. Fleet Foxes: White Winter Hymnal
  19. Nada Surf: Icebox

Play Time: 1 hour, 17 minutes 

 

Stranger Things and Childhood Memories

 
BenHeadphones-1004.jpg

Working out the puzzle of creating lasting childhood memories 

As a mom who not only runs a small business, but also has a full time (okay, more than full time) day job, it can be an uphill battle to make sure I'm spending enough quality time with Ben. Not just movies and meals (though those things are fun and important too), but really creating some good childhood memories for him. 

I was talking with my Dad about this the other day, and it seems to me that the childhood memories that really stand out for me, the good ones anyway, are the things that were out of the ordinary. The strange but harmless situations in childhood that seemed so special that they've always held a place in my heart and in my mind. 

Like the times my Mom and I drove cross-country to the Teton mountains each summer for a retreat and stopped at every roadside attraction along the way. Or the time my Dad and Stepmom decided on a whim to take my Stepbrother and I for a walk to the park, at midnight, in the rain, in downtown Dayton, OH, and let us play in the mud and on the park for 30 minutes or so and then walked us back home. Or holding a 'seance' with pre-teen friends at a sleepover with a ouija board  and some candles after watching 'Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II', a most ridiculous horror movie. Or the time Dad spent a spring break with me in my senior year driving around to different historical sites and museums in Ohio and reading (re-reading for him) and comparing notes on The Frontiersman. 

Sure, you remember the really bad stuff, and the normal nice stuff is there too (like hugs and lunches and such), but some of my absolutely favorite childhood memories are special things like that, and I want to give Ben those types of memories too, so this past Saturday, on a whim, I took him to House on the Rock (which was also my first time visiting even though I've lived in Madison 11 years now). I took him to a special place for lunch, and then we went and explored the House on the Rock attraction (the whole 9 yards, all of the exhibits, the gardens, etc.) It was weird as hell. If you haven't been there, and you live in Wisconsin, you should check it out, if for no other reason than to experience the weirdness.

Strange things make for strong memories, and I think Ben is going to remember touring this weird place with me when he's older. Maybe he'll think of it fondly, the way I think of visiting weird or unique places with my parents. I hope I can help him create some lasting memories, the kind you speak of with happiness (and not in a therapy session, though I'm sure he'll have some of those too because being a parent doesn't come with a manual and we're all screwing it up sometimes). 

What sorts of memories do you really want to make with your kids? Are there any special locations or experiences you really want them to have? Books you really want them to read? Music you'd love for them to listen to? Go out and make it happen, one experience at a time, and I'm going to try and do the same. 

--Sam 

 

 

I'm So Tired...

 
OmahaBlog-1025.jpg

...I haven't slept a wink

I used to listen to the Beatles' song "I'm so tired" on repeat when I was up with Ben (3-7 times a night) for the first two years of his life. It was oddly comforting. 

I go through periods in my life where I experience fairly extreme fatigue. In fact, I don't think I've felt "well-rested" since before Y2K. Now is one of those periods. I've been so exhausted lately, it's hard to keep my eyes open even while I'm walking, and it takes real effort not to fall asleep in the middle of conversations. Hence why I missed a blog post last week, and have been MIA on Instagram.

Being this tired has me musing about how it can be so easy, particularly on Social Media, to pretend like life is really glamorous, and that we're all really successful and happy and awesome all of the time. Well, I just want to be honest with you all and say that, just like every other human on the planet, life is not always easy or glamorous in my experience. It's hard, messy, complicated, weird, beautiful, fierce, and delicate, all at once, and I don't always feel successful or happy even. It's a white-flag-waving kind of week (or month or whatever), the kind that makes you say "Enough! Enough!" and maybe cry a little (and maybe eat too much chocolate, I dunno, you do you), and so it's time to just be real. 

So, with that in mind, here I am. Life is not glamorous or easy, and I'm not feeling particularly successful right in this moment. I'm breaking out, I'm exhausted, my health is not amazing at the present time, and I feel vulnerable and on edge. 

Life isn't a perfect 280 characters on Twitter, it's not an amazingly curated snapshot on Instagram, it's not a well-liked post on Facebook; It just is what it is, and the best thing, I think, we can do for one another, besides the basics like being kind, not murdering people, and disavowing racists and nazis, is to be honest when things are hard instead of always feeling the need to pretend they're perfect. They're not perfect. I'm letting you off the hook, blog readers. My life isn't perfect, yours isn't either, and it's totally okay to be honest about that.  

Go forth, my friends, and let someone else off the hook today by being real, and imperfect. I bet they need it. 

--Sam 

 

Annual Forever in Our Hearts Remembrance Day

 
FIOH2016-1256.jpg

For Parents who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and early infant loss

Each year in October (National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month), local charity, Mikayla's Grace, hosts the Forever in Our Hearts Remembrance Day event. This event is a time for bereaved parents and families to come together and honor their babies, while supporting one another, and the community. The event includes a guest speaker and dove release, as well as a remembrance walk. 

Rob and I first began photographing this event in 2013, as a way to help support other parents who had experienced loss. During the time we were married, we lost 3 babies prior to having our son, Ben. These were devastating losses, and the loneliness I remember experiencing at the time was palpable. I remember feeling so isolated, and as though I have no one to talk to about my grief, and it wasn't until I was referred to a support group for parents who had lost babies to miscarriage, stillbirth, and early infant loss that I started to be able to put my life back together, and hope for the future. 

Mikayla's Grace is a charitable organization that strives to provide comfort and support to parents during one of the hardest things a parent can go through; the loss of a child. They have donated 525 Angel memory boxes, 575 NICU care packages, 130 Christmas NICU care packages, 500 Baby Loss Comfort Packages (for early pregnancy loss less than 16 weeks), 550 baby blankets, and 500 gowns with matching booties and hats to hospitals in Wisconsin.

The Annual Forever in Our Hearts Remembrance Day event in 2017 will be held this Saturday! 

Date: Saturday, October 7th, 2017
Time: 9:00 AM - 12: 00 PM
Location: BTC Events/BioPharmaceutical Technology Center
               5445 East Cheryl Parkway
               Madison, WI 53711

Itinerary:

9:00 Check-in registration begins
9:00 – 9:45 Pre-ceremony activities (Memorial areas, Food, Children’s face painting and crafts)
10:00 Remembrance Ceremony begins
Inspirational speaker  
Reading of babies names
11:00 Dove Release followed by Remembrance Walk

This event is so close to my heart, and if you or someone you love has experienced the loss of a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant loss, I would encourage you to attend the event this year. We'll be walking around taking photos, and also available for family portraits in front of the memorial wall. Please stop by and say hi. 

--Sam 

 

Taking the Training Wheels Off

 
BenBike-1029.jpg

Ben learns to ride his bike 

So, my son hates doing anything he's not already good at. (I can't imagine where he gets it from...) Which is probably why he's been so loathe to learn how to ride his bike, and has barely ridden the thing (with training wheels) more than a handful of times in the last few years. This Labor Day, we finally said enough was enough, and took the training wheels off his bike, and went outside to help Ben learn how to ride his bike! Boy was he mad at us, but ultimately, our plan worked. Adam was showing him bicycle riding technique, and we spent the next hour outside. By the end, Ben was able to ride down the block (albeit a little wobbly) and we have some pretty sweet first bike ride photos to show for it. Good job, kiddo! 

--Sam 

 

A Trip To Nebraska

 
OmahaBlog-1040.jpg

A long weekend in the big om'

I know no one really calls it that. Let me have this. 

We took a trip to Omaha, NE a few weeks ago for some much needed rest and a nice change of scenery. We rented the world's most awesome but still affordable AirBnB and bummed around the Henry Doorly Zoo (objectively rated as the World's Best Zoo) for hours, watched movies, ate pizza, and goofed off in our host's yard. It was so nice just to BE for a bit. I didn't answer (or even check) a single email while we were away, didn't even bring my laptop, and while I was sadly still pretty under the weather during this trip, it was great to really take some time to put aside work.

Ben even got to practice photographing moving objects, and took some great photos of Adam and I, plus the cartwheel pic! (Takes after his parents *so proud*) 

If you're looking for a neat place to visit within a day's drive (6.5 - 7 hours), Omaha is a great place to check out both for families and adults. 

--Sam 

 

Bad feelings are a feature, not a bug

 
JulyYellowSprings2017-1021.jpg

Why positive thinking isn't always helpful or necessary

Anyone else get annoyed when someone tells you to "cheer up" when you're feeling down, or going through a rough time? 

Stop me if you've heard these ones before (or said them, we're not judging here): 

  • "There's always a silver lining"
  • "Everything happens for a reason"
  • "It could always be worse"
  • "Snap out of it" 
  • "You'd feel better if you just exercised/meditated/did yoga/ate better/prayed/etc."

It can be frustrating to hear these things even if some of them may be kind of true, because it feels like the person saying them is minimizing whatever it is you're feeling. Whether that's grief, sadness, anxiety, illness, you name it. When the folks you love (or random people who talk to you at Target) tell you some version of "Think positively!" it can be hard not to roll your eyes or maybe cry a little because all you want is for someone to really get what you're going through, or at least give you the space you need to feel the f*ck out of your feelings. 

'Bad' feelings, like anger, sadness, anxiety, grief, etc. are all totally normal feelings, that serve an important purpose for human beings moving about in the world. One of the many important functions these feelings serve is as a contrast to what we think of as pleasant feelings like love, happiness, joy, and so on. You don't know how wonderful joy can be if you've never experienced sorrow. Negative feelings also allow us an important opportunity (should we choose to accept it) to really process what's going on in our heads and hearts, and work through some shit. Lord knows we all have some to work through. These feelings are a part of the human condition, not a hindrance to it. Stuffing those feelings down and pretending they don't exist, or someone asking you to do that, is not only unnecessary, but also unhelpful in the long run, and liable to backfire. 

So that's good news, but it's also a mixed bag (see me not putting a 100% positive spin on this?). It's a mixed bag because you can let yourself off the hook from basically just needing to pretend you're fine all the time (spoiler alert: you're not), but now what the heck are you supposed to do? You've been told since forever that to feel better, you needed to think positively, and eventually you'd be happier (magically, like you're a wizard). Sometimes it might have even worked. But if you know deep down it mostly doesn't work, and you're trying to be better about acknowledging and respecting your own feelings and working through them, now what are you supposed to do to feel better when you're having a tough time? 

Try gratitude and gentleness (with yourself). 

You know what's cool about being grateful? Gratitude doesn't require that you pretend everything is super great to be able to appreciate it. And no, you don't have to 'be grateful' for things like cancer (which should be a given but some people take even gratitude a bit too far), but you can choose small things to be grateful for, even on some pretty tough days. Sometimes it's just coffee. And sometimes it's that you have a roof over your head and a family who loves you. Sometimes it's how your dog always lets you snuggle with him and call him names other than his actual name. Could be anything. Start with just one thing, then see how many other things you can be grateful for. The nice thing about this approach is that there is no reason that bad feelings and gratitude can't co-exist! You can work through your not-so-great feels in your own time, while you give yourself the leeway to feel good about something. Something big, something small, doesn't matter. Gratitude helps to ground us when the bad seems to outweigh the good. While you're doing all that, be gentle with yourself, even when other people may not understand. Seek out those who are supportive of you and what you're going through.

And most importantly, don't let other people consciously or unconsciously bully you out of your feelings when they preach a 'positive thoughts only' approach. Negative feelings are part of the human experience as well (which is not always easy), and they're a feature, not a bug. 

--Sam