On our third anniversary, my husband surprised me with a photo shoot. His teammate’s wife was just getting started in her photography business and offered to take pictures of us for free. I am not comfortable in front of a camera but Cat Watson, the photographer, made it really casual and fun. She picked out unique locations that fit our personalities and lifestyle right around our apartment complex.

When she finished taking the pictures that day, I told her that even if we got one good one (where I didn’t have a lazy eye), I’d be ecstatic.

Two weeks later, she dropped off our CD. I couldn’t believe the result of the photos. I loved them! From that moment on I wanted Cat to photograph every event in our lives. I imagined our amazing maternity, baby, family, and even retirement photos.

Photo by Cat Watson
Photo by Cat Watson
Photo by Cat Watson

But then the unthinkable happened.

She moved.

She didn’t just move to another part of town either.

She relocated to CANADA!

How dare she!? I was counting on her to document our lives! Apparently, she didn’t know that the aesthetic beauty of our future homes depended on her photos. How was I going to convince Mark that we needed to fly her back to Raleigh (or wherever we live) for each and every family milestone?

Eventually I got over it (barely). I’m just glad we are fortunate enough to have Alli and Nic in our lives. They don’t have a website for their photography (at least I don’t think they do), but they’re incredibly talented. Photography seems to be a hobby for them but they could easily do it as a profession. I’m excited for our next photo shoot coming soon. (Check out Nic’s twitter account @isnapfotos).

Photo by Nic and/or Alli
Photo by Nic and/or Alli

Honestly, I can’t believe I’m actually excited for someone to take my picture now. Yet, the anniversary photos that Cat took convinced me that images are important, especially ones that aren’t of us rigidly posing in a studio. When they capture real smiles, real hand holding, and real glances, they’re different.

After Cat left, I was constantly looking at my surroundings with photo shoots on the brain. Eventually I bought my own DSLR camera and I’ve fallen in love with this hobby. I know I’m an amateur and sometimes I look at a shot and wonder how Cat, Alli, or Nic would have framed it better.

But most of the time I’m simply enjoying this view of the world. Photography is a lot like writing for me.

Instead of a pen, I’m telling a story with a lens.

It’s become my second favorite pastime (or I should say “Evy’s naptime” activity). I love doing photo shoots of friends and family then working with the images in Photoshop and Lightroom. During high school and college, I did a lot of graphic design work while putting together projects and newspaper layouts. Photography has allowed me to resurrect these skills.

Since this blog is a creative outlet for me, I decided to add my photography to the line up. My photo blog is here or at the link on top of this page. If you’re bored one day, give it a scroll. Also, if you would allow me to practice on you and your family, I’d really appreciate the opportunity. You can think of it as giving a mom a much needed escape.

What I really want to say here is a big thank you to Cat for those anniversary photos that sparked this interest in me. Her writing and pictures are an inspiration, especially because she manages to capture beautiful images and write thoughtful prose while tending to three young children.

Check out Cat Watson’s blog and photo website. And if you’re in the Vancouver area, hire this woman. You won’t regret it!


Beauty at the Bottom

I’ve read a lot of blog posts lately warning mothers of the influence their self-image can have on their teenage daughters. Most of the bloggers say that mothers should exude a sense of confidence in their own beauty, instead of communicate words of insecurity. According to these authors, we should look our daughters in the eyes and say “I am beautiful, and so are you.”

If I heard my mom say this to me when I was in seventh grade, I would have first rolled my eyes and thought, “Mom, you’re old.” (Side note: my mom was the ripe old age of 29 when I was in seventh grade). My second thought would have been “Get over yourself lady.” And lastly, the words “She’s lying” would have gone through my mind.

The reality is that some of us are not genetically blessed according to societal standards. Before braces, I was renting out storage units in the spaces between my teeth. I had a permanent Purplesaurus Rex Kool-Aid stain on my upper lip. And the array of hair styles I sported, from mullet to boy cut, made for constant speculation into my gender.

When I looked in the mirror I knew I wasn’t beautiful compared to the blond, straight toothed, perfectly proportioned popular girls in school.

But instead of convincing a girl like me that all her so-called blemishes are beautiful, how about we give physical beauty the attention it deserves?

Absolutely none.

By saying “you are beautiful and so am I” to our daughters, we perpetuate the idea that a girl’s ultimate goal is to be attractive.

I realize that these well-intentioned bloggers want the same end result as I do. We all want our daughters to feel confident in the body they were given. Yet, doesn’t any focus on the empty quality of physical beauty lead to the very insecurity we are trying to dissuade?

My point is that every girl discovers what society considers attractive. They may or may not fit into that standard. Either way, if mothers made it a non-issue from the start, maybe girls wouldn’t care so much.

If mothers exuded a sense of confidence in things like their faith, brains, strength, creativity, and compassion, maybe our daughters would place appearance at the bottom of the list.

That’s where something that cannot be cultivated, earned or changed (without considerable costs) belongs.

So, while I wish that every mother would take this point of view regarding beauty, I know that’s not always the case. My daughter may face the same kind of judgement I did when she walks through those middle school doors. If she comes to me wondering why beauty seems to be so important, I hope I can communicate these truths (even though I’ll know she’ll be thinking, “You’re OLD mom!”):

1. A Compliment is Empty Unless it’s Attached to Something. Here are the type of compliments I will try to give that include the word beauty:

You have a beautiful heart for others.

Your faith is beautiful.

The way you encourage your teammates is beautiful.

The unique way you think about the world is beautiful.

You create beautiful paintings.

These compliments are specific and attached to something more than appearance. The words encourage them to grow and cultivate a skill, rather than admire themselves in the mirror.

2. Physical Beauty Fades.  For some women beauty becomes their identity, and when it starts to fade, which it always does, they can’t handle it. Sure, I’m only in my early 30’s so I can’t say how I’ll feel when things start to droop (more than they already have). I hope I accept that my body was not meant to last forever, and focus on the one thing that does – my soul.

3. Your Beauty Comes from Your Creator, Not What You Look Like. I admit there are times when I look at my daughter and think “you’re so beautiful”. But in my mind her beauty doesn’t come from high cheekbones, long lashes, or big eyes. It comes from who she is. The beauty of her existence. She was knit together perfectly and all the changes her form takes along the way are and will be perfect. The bruises, bumps, wrinkles, and asymmetries are all part of her path on this earth, and I hope she embraces them as marks of distinction.

But mostly, I pray that her physical attributes occupy the least of her thoughts.

Same goes for me.