An Alternative to S.M.A.R.T. Goals (which can suck sometimes)

Sixteen hours ago my sister, Lucia, posted these words to Facebook: "I am overcome with love and grief."

She was writing sweaty, dusty, tired, living out of a van for a week on the road following a team of cyclists who are racing across the U.S.A. Two days ago on her 30th birthday she woke up in a Wal-Mart parking lot. What a celebration.


She is crewing for a team of racers with the goal of raising $50,000 for brain cancer. 

They are failing at this S.M.A.R.T. goal.



They are almost completely finished with the journey but they are only half way to their fundraising goal. 

They could seem like losers -- dirty, tired, drifters hanging on to their sanity by a thread as they pursue a goal that they likely won't achieve. 

This is the fifth time Lucia has volunteered for team 3000 Miles to a Cure's Race Across America. She's in a peak emotional state  -- that is, fully alive, feeling all the love and grief and depth of human experience that we all long to feel. She's using her natural talents in service to a world-changing goal. She's connecting with people who, like her, have lost a loved-one to brain cancer and she's actively doing something important that is making a positive difference. She is winning at life. So is her team of cyclists. This is not just something that happened by fluke this week. This is how her life works.

I'm a big fan of the self-help genre and the business advice genre, both of which are really into a certain type of goal-setting. If you've ever looked up goal-setting advice, you'll have come across SMART goals (an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).

The problem with SMART goals is that they are better for team projects in service to VALUES than they are to guide the overall trajectory of your life. When you use SMART goals to measure the value of your life or to decide whether or not to pursue an unexpected opportunity, they can can get you off-track. They can keep you playing small, saying "yes" to things that should be "no" and "no" to things that should be "yes." They can discourage you. They can become the be-all, end-all when they should be one tool in your arsenal. Achieving SMART goals won't make you happy in the long-term.

Living from well-examined and consciously chosen values brings lasting joy.

My sister Lucia is clearly not stuck in the S.M.A.R.T. goals framework. I've known her for her entire life.

She didn't dream of growing up to crew for a team of country-crossing bicyclists. She didn't set out to be a fundraiser for brain cancer researchers.  If someone had asked her ten years ago to write out SMART goals for the decade they wouldn't have included either of those things. Her steps are guided not strictly by goals, but by her values. 

My mom started 3000 Miles to a Cure almost five years ago with the goal of raising one million dollars for brain cancer research. She still hasn't reached that goal and doesn't know when she will. It's not a S.M.A.R.T. goal in that way. It motivates her, but it could also discourage her since she's been working on it for so long and making "slow" progress. The goal may change since it hasn't been achieved. After all, the larger mission is to cure brain cancer. 

I made up an acronym that is more useful than S.M.A.R.T. goals for making life-altering decisions and confronting opportunities. It fits the way life works more than S.M.A.R.T. goals. After all, life isn't a blank slate you fill with goals. It's a riot of opportunities you must navigate. In this culture of FOMO, (Fear Of Missing Out) you want to make sure you aren't missing out on great opportunities. Openness to what the universe has to offer you is important. On the other hand, you don't want to become trapped in "shiny object syndrome" -- chasing whim after whim based in dubious values without ever achieving something truly meaningful.

Enter M.A.V.E.N.

It's a useful framework for examining your values and making decisions. If your life feels "off," lacking in meaning, or somehow out of alignment, you may want to consciously choose M.A.V.E.N. values and allow your choices to serve what you really stand for.

M.A.V.E.N. stands for:

MEANINGFUL - I start from the why and embrace my reasons behind why this matters to me. What's the deep meaning that will keep me going.

ACTION-ORIENTED - I can identify small actions that will get me started living this value out right away. Like, right now. These actions will lead to motivation and more action. I am flexible and open to taking different actions that support my true values.

VERIFIED - I am honest with myself about my values (even if previously chosen unconsciously) and take full responsibility for the values that have gotten me to where I am in life right now. I confirm that my values are in my domain of responsibility -- they are about my choices, not those of other people. I may not be able to control what happens to me, but I can control my response.

This is probably the most important component, now that I think about it. Look at your life. If you think you value honesty, but find yourself lying, you don't value honesty. Identify what your true value is and try to change it to a more meaningful one. Values are hard to change, but it is possible, and I've seen it happen in the lives of the people I most admire. Believe it or not, changing values starts with taking a small action, usually an experiment, like telling the truth where you would normally tell a lie.

EMOTION / ENERGY - My values and choices today support my core target emotions -- how I want to feel in body, mind, and spirit.

NATURAL - I'm not developing my weak areas, but instead, am going with the flow and ease of my natural strengths as much as possible. There are always many paths to choose from -- I choose the one that aligns with my natural abilities and sensibilities. What I focus on grows, so I focus on serving, giving, creating, building, solving, or leading from my innate talents. When I develop my strengths I naturally excel.

One simple way to test MAVEN for yourself right now is to respond to an opportunity. Right now I'm inviting you to give money to 3000 Miles to a cure. 100% of your donation goes straight to fund cancer research. (Operating expenses are covered by earmarked donations).

Donate $50 here!

MEANING: Cure brain cancer (take a step to relieve global suffering and help scientists understand the human brain.) Honor the memory of a loved one or honor a friend fighting cancer.
ACTION: Click below and put in your credit card information.
VERIFY: If you value giving, connection, healing, and science, this is an opportunity to prove it. If you don't regularly give money or time to a cause like this or similar, you probably don't value these things. And that's okay -- I'm not here to judge your values.
EMOTION: This gift can help you feel generous, loving, connected, euphoric, and powerful.
NATURAL: If it feels natural to give, then this is a no-brainer.

I invite you to donate to help cure brain cancer today! Click here.
 

Your Particular Ray of Light

Why are you questioning yourself? I know you are deeply creative. So what's holding you back from unlocking the deeper joy that comes from a rich and gutsy creative life?

Maybe you're a closet creative. You're sitting in your room alone making things that no one will ever see. It's for your benefit only. Hey, there's nothing wrong with that. Except, well, it's not as fun and fulfilling as sharing. You were created to share. It's a biological, emotional, and spiritual drive. Plus, to share is to love.

You've listened to me. You've cleared out your closet. You've decluttered toxic influences. And now you have space to create. What will you make? 

I want you to feel joyful, friend. Fulfilled. Challenged. Healthy and wealthy and loving your life. If you're there already, you probably don't need a coach (or more likely, you already have a coach and support system).

If you aren't there right now, what's getting in the way of your freedom? What obstacle stands between you and designing the creative life of your wildest dreams?

I bet it's fear. It always comes down to fear. 

  • Fear of criticism
  • Fear people won't like you
  • Fear of looking like a fool
  • Fear that someone will steal your identity, stalk you, or kill you.

If you shine your own unique light, some people will criticize you. Some won't like you. You'll look like a fool sometimes. People will certainly try to steal from you.  And yes, it's even possible that a deranged soul may stalk you or try to kill you. Just ask anyone who ever wrote something world-changing, tried to lead a revolution, or performed on a global stage. It's fucking scary to step into your calling. 

But you must. You must. The world needs your particular ray of light. Turned on. Bright as possible. You are not a coward. You know what courage is and you wield it daily. Nancy Anderson writes, "Courage is not the absence of fear; rather it is the ability to take action in the face of fear."  I know you are courageous. So why do I get the feeling that you are shrinking away from a wealthy creative life? Please tell me, friend. Email Genevievewrites@gmail.com.

Boring indoor workouts because you are old? No, I don't think so!

So I was watching TV and an infomercial came on for a workout video. The woman selling it said something like "As a woman approaching age 50 I wanted a workout that was low-impact, that doesn't pound on my joints."

And she goes on to explain how this indoor TV workout was low-impact and could help her get into shape. It was this boring-looking workout where you stand in one place in your living room and sort of flail your limbs around -- not even dancing -- but sort of like dancing without the grace and breath work. Basically soft-land aerobics for Baby Boomers.

Ug. This makes me sad and a little mad that people think because you are "older" you have to do a boring workout to save your joints. That you have to workout inside. That you have to work out while watching a screen -- something most Americans already do hours of every day.

Hello. It is never interesting to workout inside to a DVD unless you have a CONSTANT, EVER-CHANGING stream of workout DVDs. Which is expensive, wasteful, and is basically the business model of a large fitness company that shall go unnamed for the time being. Also, don't you want to leave your living room once in a while?

There's a simple workout that gets you outside, that is low impact, and that dramatically increases your mobility, cardio fitness, balance, and strength. It's ideal for men and women who don't want the pounding on their joints that comes with many exercise activities. What's more, it's fun for all ages.

This workout helps you:

  • Get your vitamin D
  • Experience nature
  • Save your joints

It's called riding a bike. But not an old-fashioned bicycle. A new bicycle designed to be easy on the joints, pain-free, and made for joy cycling: A Cruzbike.

On Cruzbike: I sell very few products (I'm a minimalist after all) but Cruzbikes are one of those things set to change the world.  It take these things to change the world:

  • Imagination
  • Creativity
  • Partnership
  • Gratitude
  • Confidence

Especially if you want to change the world while feeling joyful and whole. And Cruzbike as a company has applied all of the above and more. 

Remember this today: With gratitude, you can create beyond what you can imagine.

Cruzbike's Kickstarter Campaign raising over $100,000 in 48 hours was beyond what I imagined. And we are still raising money to change the world through pain-free cycling. I went for a bike ride yesterday on my Cruzbike T50 (production model) and it was such a pleasure to ride. Never before has exercise been so fun and so helpful in terms of meeting my many other goals. I explored our new town, got my vitamin D/sunshine dose, rode to a coffee shop and got some work done, and visited a nail salon. Oh, and I got a workout in that burned calories and made my muscles lean and strong. Each time I ride I feel stronger and healthier. I make better choices about how I treat my body including what I eat.

It's not every day something comes along that can so clearly help you be #simplyhealthy. It's so important to discover what is essential for you to be healthy and feel whole and content. For me, finding a low-impact, fun, easy, healthy workout that doubles as a way to run errands, sunbathe, and explore new places? Amazing. It's like checking off my whole to-do list with one bike.

You're invited to check out the Cruzbike T50 Kickstarter campaign here. Go ahead and join the #Cruzbiketribe. We'd love to have you!
 

Packing Lust and Nesting

tools I skipped posting on the last full moon -- the first one of 2016. Why? -- a combination of forgetting and then feeling too busy to post. Last year it was fun to post on or before the full moon -- at least once a month. That was less frequently than I was posting when I started Packing Lust in June 2012, when we were just starting off on our adventure of living overseas. Around once a month felt about right for last year, the big year of being a new parent.

After moving to Los Angeles just a few days before Christmas 2015, there's been a lot going on. We lived in a temporary furnished apartment near the La Brea Tar Pits (which was awesome -- not the pits at all) for a few weeks before finding a charming apartment mere feet from the spot Prince Charming and I met in 2010. We couldn't resist living in and around the same apartment complex where we fell in love, not to mention the fact that we have dear friends who live walking distance away. This building is almost 100 years old and the place itself has needed a bit more work to make it clean and functional than a newer place would.

There's more too. With every move, I've handled the instability and unknown somewhat well. But this last move has been harder than the little temporary moves before it that helped us to adjust to life back in the states. Since I know we're going to be here for at least a year, I have plans. I've been nesting. And I've put a lot of pressure on myself to get and keep my home cleaned, childproofed, painted, decorated, etc. And it's still not done... even though we've been here for almost a month. Which is pretty normal, except that I feel like I've dropped my writing, this blog, and everything else to work on it. I definitely overestimated the amount of projects I could get done while also making sure my 14-month-old isn't running around with scissors in one hand and a knife in the other. And while making sure that I don't miss his adorable smiles, games of peekaboo, and delightful discoveries.

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Now I'm feeling overwhelmed and sort of stagnant at the same time. I need to give us more time to settle in and find more patience with the process.

Missing my normal full moon post last month made me realize I needed to think about when and what I want to post on Packing Lust in 2016. So I'm going to keep thinking about what I want to make of this blog in this new year. Until then, Packing Lust will be on hiatus.

I like having this blog as a way to share photos and stories in packing, travel, and adventures. It's been a sort of family photo album, a way to stay in touch with anyone who wants to, and place to practice writing. But I'm not sure that with everything already on my plate there's room for it right now. We'll see.

I'm hoping to continue to share some of our adventures and simple living toolkit stuff on social media, so make sure you're following me on Instagram if you want to keep in touch for right now.

2015 in Review (and Favorite Books)

It's time to sum up the year on Packing Lust! This is my fourth year doing this, and it's one of my favorite ways to get the big picture and remember the year as a whole. In 2015, we didn't travel outside of the U.S., however we certainly did some significant traveling and moving within the states. It was a family-focused year as we learned to parent and watch Bump thrive over the course of his first year of life. Our doggie, Jelly Bean, spent a few months living with my parents and then reunited with us in Washington, D.C. in October. At the end of the year we moved again (yes, just a couple days ago) and we're having fun in our new city.

Favorite Books

Of the dozens of books I read this year, my top three favorites were:

      1. Dying to Be Me -- A kind of spiritual-health memoir by Anita Moorjani about her near death experience and subsequent speedy healing from cancer. She shares her unusual experience in vivid and convincing detail and what she learned about the importance of living fearlessly and as true to her self as possible.

2. Me Before You: a Novel -- I've read two Jojo Moyes books and both placed one of their main characters in the type of ethical quandary that most of us will never have to experience. This one is about the relationship between a paralyzed man with a death wish and one of his caretakers. I loved the masterful storytelling and the way it helped me see the central question from several perspectives.

3. Life in Motion: an Unlikely Ballerina -- Misty Copeland's memoir reveals her journey to become the first African-American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre.  I loved the window into the life of an elite dancer driven by the pursuit of excellence. Most of us will never experience being a prodigy in anything; this books lets you share the excitement of being 14 and discovering that you are one of the world's most naturally talented ballerinas. I was also impressed with the storytelling; it manages to be a page-turner even though we already know the happy ending to the story. I laughed; I cried. At one point I had to put the book down and dance alone in the room just to express the triumph I shared with her. This book is for anyone who ever worked hard on a dream and had to overcome unexpected obstacles to achieve excellence.

By Month

January

Having had baby boy Bump in late November 2014, I was two things: A) tired and B) excited to maintain my writing habit and keep the creative juices flowing.

To help out with A) I featured a guest post on creating a digital vision board to inspire your travel dreams and B) I did a 7-day blogging challenge.

February

My only post for February was a 2014 year in review piece. I guess I was still sleep-deprived from those early months as a new parent.

March

This month I launched SimpleLivingToolkit.com where I help people to declutter and join the simple living movement. I kept getting advice to narrow down/focus what I do to help people with my business (it's so hard when I do a variety of things, both to help people and just to express my creativity) so this new website was my answer. Join other simple living enthusiasts by signing up here.

April

This month I felt that it was time to share what I'd learned about about two things. One: self-publishing. Two: keeping things simple (stuff-wise) when you have a baby. Check out the very shareable "Minimalist Baby" list.

MINI BABY

May

This month we took a romantic-foodie trip to Myrtle Beach while my parents took care of Bump. Fun and yummy. 2015-05-22 10.44.53Another fun outing was the Dance of the Spring Moon powwow.

Also this month I launched my "Start a Daily Writing Habit" email coaching series. It's awesome and a great way to kick start yourself if you want to write more in 2016.

June

I posted my first and only packing related piece this year in June. It's about how you pack differently when you become a mommy and how certain things are less glamorous than... I thought they would be. I also blogged about a couple trips I took to Charleston, South Carolina.

Charleston (34)

July

We moved from Lumberton, NC, to Arlington, VA and I wrote about the ups and downs of big city life with a baby.

I reflected on how simple living lets me enjoy textures and details.

August

Though my book on habits to help you make money from your creativity is very behind schedule, I did work on it this year with additional research. I posted this month and later in the year when I found articles about creativity and about the changing landscape of making money as a creative.

Don't worry ; I didn't let the year go by without publishing. Prince Charming and I co-wrote a book called Simple Kitchen and published it this month to Amazon Kindle and Audible. It's a quick read you'll want to check out if you like keeping things simple in the kitchen without sacrificing the cooking experience.

After moving to the Washington, D.C. area last month, we enjoyed exploring our new city including a trip to Teddy Island.

At the end of the month, Bump (his nickname on the blog) turned 9 months old and we took photos in a park in our Rosslyn neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia. I shot more people too.

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September

We explored the Washington, D.C. area. You know us; it was all about the food.

pickles Creative types may enjoy my notes on an interview that Elizabeth Gilbert gave in which she talked about fear and creativity and being a grown-up.

October

We moved within the D.C. metro area from Arlington, Virginia to the Columbia Heights area of Washington.

I traveled to Black Mountain, North Carolina, reuniting with a bunch of family on my mom's side to celebrate my grandmother's 80th's birthday.

sunshine

November

We enjoyed exploring our neighborhood of Washington (Columbia Heights) on foot and living car-free. On the blog, I wrote about a memory of a snow ball fight I had back in Palestine in 2013. Bump turned one this month and started walking just before he hit that milestone birthday.

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December

We moved to Los Angeles on the eve of Christmas Eve. Now, rather unexpectedly, but very happily, we're back in the city where Prince Charming and I met over five and a half years ago. I'm looking forward to what life in this city over the next year brings.

Union Market DC, a Foodie Oasis in a Forlorn Area

pickles Obviously, someone has a plan.

The renewed Union Market in DC is the beginning of a plan to revitalize the surrounding historic area, a thriving market for most of the 1900's, fallen since the 1980's into a state of sad dilapidation.

It's the sparkling, almost-trying-too-hard-to be-cool center of an area filled with falling down warehouses, their alleys perfumed with urine. The site, UnionMarketDC.com says the plan is that the area "surrounding the market will be a vibrant mix of retail, restaurants, hotel, entertainment, incubator space for new food concepts as well as retail and wholesale space."

It hasn't happened yet, though that didn't stop us from pushing the baby stroller through rather pedestrian-unfriendly streets to enjoy the delicious offerings of the restaurants and shops inside on two occasions  - once in August and once in September.

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All the beautiful food inspired a brief but shining period that had me baking bread daily for almost a week and enjoying it like this:

bread

That looks good. Maybe I'll bake bread today. It's been a while.

 

Elizabeth Gilbert on Fear, Paradox, and Being a Grown Up

I listened to every heart-grabbing minute of this interview. It hits the bullseye of what I believe about creativity and fear and taking smart, measured risks with your creativity.

If you don't want to watch all 47 minutes, 57 seconds of this interview and you'd rather read my notes, this is for you.

Why You Aren't Moving Ahead on Your Creative Project

  • People come up with all sorts of rationalizations
  • These reasons for not doing it all sound so logical and reasonable
  • The underlying reason you aren't moving ahead with your book/painting/etc., according to Elizabeth Gilbert's vast experience of deep conversations with creatives, is fear.
  • Some people are afraid that it's all been done before and they want to be original.
  • It HAS all been done before. But it's never been done by you.
  • Marie Forleo: "Everything is a Remix," I think it's a book to check out.
  • There is nothing truly original because we are creative creatures, there are billions of us, and we've been creating for millenia.
  • Do it anyway because, paradoxically, since you are unique, you can make something original. It will, however, always be a twist on, or at least contain references to something else.

How to Conquer Fear

  • Don't try.
  • Treat fear as a respected friend whose job it is to keep you safe.
  • Bring fear along for the ride but don't let fear make any decisions about what you create.
  • Fear thinks uncertainty will be the death of you, and it's job is to prevent your death.
  • Creativity is all about uncertainty, so that's why fear speaks. Say, "thank you for protecting me but I'm just writing a poem. It's not going to kill me."

On Creativity

What it Takes to Live an Enduringly Creative Life

  • Even your dream career comes with "shit sandwiches," (i.e., rejection letters and mean comments on social media) so get ready to eat some. If you're unwilling to eat the shit sandwiches that come with your dream, then you probably haven't picked the right dream because you will happily eat the shit sandwiches if you really love the creative work.
  • Following our creative bliss promises joy and fun, not financial gain
  • We're all grownups here, so let's talk about this:
  • Take big risks (sell the farm, quit your job) for your creativity only to the point where if you fail totally and lose it all, you won't be embittered or so broken you won't be able to try again in the near future. Throw yourself into your creativity without risking so much (time, money, relationships) that failure breaks your spirit.
  • This conversation about going for it - within limits specific to your life -  doesn't happen enough.
  • Failure is part of it and shouldn't be shameful.
  • Most life coaches, etc, just say "go for it!"  But inspiration never promises to pay our bills. Inspiration promises us the wild ride of our lives. The results MIGHT pay the bills sometimes but don't quit if it doesn't.
  • Elizabeth wants to change the bumper sticker from "Leap and the net will catch you, to "Leap and the net MIGHT catch you."
  • Leap any way. Just be happy to pick yourself back up and dust yourself off.
  • Marie Forleo worked "day jobs" (bartending, etc.) for seven years before her creativity-based business could support her. Now it brings in millions annually. She kept taking the right kind of risk, which is the one that lets you keep risking even if (when) you fail and fail.
  • I'm good at doing this and love coaching creatives to walk this line.

How to Beat Perfectionism

As my mother always taught me, done is better than good.

Elizabeth Gilbert

  • Yet again it all comes down to fear.
  • Often perfectionists don't finish things. Worse, they often don't start them for fear of making crap.
  • Self-forgiveness is what will get you to finish your creative project, not rigor. (SO TRUE!)
  • We all think that first day of writing, that first novel, whatever, is crap, something to be ashamed of when we look back from the perspective of writing on day two or the second novel.
  • "You forgive yourself for disappointing yourself... and you go and you do more. And that's it." - Elizabeth Gilbert

Play with Paradox

  • The paradox of creating is that you love your work and think it's precious, but simultaneously you must be able to be cavalier toward it. Trash a beautiful sentence you wrote if it's not working for the whole paragraph.
  • Once a book is published, let it go. It is not you. It's not your baby. It's out there in the world. Move on. Paradox: it totally is your baby, of course.
  • Another paradox is around helping people. Do your work if it brings you joy. It's great if it ends up helping people, but don't set out to serve.  (Note from me: serve by teaching if you have students, but when you create, just do it for fun.)
  • Eat, Pray, Love, was written for fun at a time when her life was a "hot mess." It ended up helping people but she certainly didn't write it from a desire to serve.

I have paid hundreds -- probably thousands -- of dollars for seminars on writing and creativity that don't do as good a job dealing with the voices of fear and inspiration in your head, so if this interview seems up your alley, you'll love watching the full video. There was also a section around minute 25 on the interview where they go fairly deep about preparing to for a public speaking gig (with Oprah). That's worth a listen if you are a speaker or performer.

This interview was centered around Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book:

 

Painting Your Own Career

Come fly with me. What do you say? #escape #flying #soaring #GaryBaseman #Baseman #sketchbook #drawing

A photo posted by Gary Baseman (@garybaseman) on

It's such a good time to be a creative! I was so excited reading Steven Johnson's August 23rd NYT Magazine cover article "The New Making It," today because I have an upcoming book (long delayed) about making a living as a creative in the digital economy. Johnson looked into the numbers to tell us what has seemed apparent for a while now: The internet and digital economy makes it easier to build an artistic career (for those who are entrepreneurial and want to interact with fans/build an audience). And writers, musicians, and filmmakers are doing it successfully in greater numbers. "On the whole," he writes, "creators seem to be making slightly more money, while growing in number at a steady but not fast pace." And "[...] the trends are making creative livelihoods more achievable." The article focuses on musicians, opening with Lars Ulrich's fear in 2000 that Napster (and free music) would kill the music industry. It has dramatically reduced it. But it hasn't killed musicians. The actual creators (not the labels and executives) are thriving.

Now that it's easier than ever to create and get one's work out into the world, critics worry that the lowering of the barriers to entry also lowers the quality of the creative work, that the masses entering creative fields will generate work that appeals only to the masses - to some shared base human tendencies, like a fascination with Kim Kardashian. But Johnson lays out some evidence that this is not the case. He also includes one of my favorite definitions of quality in the cultural sphere that I've read, writing, "All these numbers, of course, only hint at whether our digital economy rewards quality. Or -- even better than that milquetoast word "quality" -- at whether it rewards experimentation, boundary-pushing, satire, the real drivers of new creative work."

The book I'm writing will focus on the principles and habits needed to succeed as a creative in the digital economy, something the article only touches on briefly. In short, artists have to  be willing to create their own path, to shape and form their career in the same way they shape and form a painting, book, or sculpture.

To find out more about my book and when it will be coming out, sign up for full moon updates.

Teddy Island

  3 larger than life 2

I love that we can be in a city that feels so urban with high rise buildings and a constant hum of activity, and then just a few minutes down the road feel like we are deep in the forest, complete with swamp bugs and a green canopy high above.  The green space I'm thinking of is Theodore Roosevelt Island, or Teddy Island as I now think of it, a memorial to our 26th president.

We visited on Saturday. A kind stranger took the top shot of our family gathered at the feet of the impressive statue of Teddy in an energetic pose, almost like he's dunking a basketball. Or preparing to kick a tourist.

statue

 

4 on the shoulders of giants

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The memorial area around the statue has these stone structures with quotes from Teddy on topics like MANHOOD, NATURE, and YOUTH.

 

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manhood

Crossing the Potomac via a pedestrian bridge on the way off the island, we paused to take more family photos.

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New Mama and Sleepy Baby

I took these newborn photos in July 2014, a week after my friend Liz became a mommy for the first time. It's hard to believe this adorable little guy is more than a year old now. When I took these, I was about five months pregnant, and seeing those little hands, lips, ears, and all that newborn perfection made me look forward to meeting our Bump even more.

Summer Family Portraits

I took these photos of family members over the past few months. I love shooting people, in a photographic sense that is. I've been practicing my portrait photography for years (and improving very slowly), especially focusing on these types of shoots:
  • couples
  • engagements
  • families
  • mamas and babies
  • birthdays
  • anniversaries

I love taking pictures to mark special moments, milestones, and celebrations. I love how an image can capture a fleeting expression, a laugh, a moment of delight, thoughtfulness, or mischief. Also, my mom always quotes my grammy as saying, "You'll always look back at photos and think you looked good." Or something like that. The idea being that even if the mirror isn't kind to you today, the passage of time will give you a new outlook on your past attractiveness.

There's also the fun and creativity of doing "just for fun," photo shoots, which I have done with many of my friends since college. It's the grown up equivalent of playing dress up. It is playing dress up, with the addition of photos to remember the fun. I did one of these shoots with my friend Leena, where we did dramatic makeup and tattoo shots. You can see those photos here.

Also, I personally believe there is a bit of magical power in these fun photo shoots. I think seeing beautiful photos of yourself and your family can help us remember and appreciate what is important.

I do love to imagine, whimsical though it may be, that the photos I take of friends, where we play and enjoy and act and pose and dress up, do have some life changing magical power. I think portrait photography can help you see yourself in a new way. You can see your soul when you look at your eyes in a photo in a way you can't when you look into the mirror.