Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Documenting Your Everyday - Step 2

Hi friends!  Last post, I gave you your first step to becoming a better documenter of your everyday lives during this crisis.  How's that been going?  I remember starting at that step (unknowingly) and finding myself STRUGGLING to overcome my previous habits and really do that step well.  It took some time, and honestly, I still struggle sometimes, so if you have had a hard time making the transition, have heart.  It gets better, just keep practicing.  If you missed it, make sure you go check it out because it really is the foundation of being able to do this well.  And leave me a comment on that post to let me know how it helped you.

Step 2 is very reliant on whether or not you have been successfully working on step 1.  When I work with clients, I always have a sit down meeting with them to learn what I call the "insider secrets" about their people.  It's one of my favorite parts of this style of photography!  I love to sit and listen to a parent start to spill all these beautiful details about their family members.  Since YOU are the actual insider though, you likely already KNOW all of that knowledge that I have to go collect.  The one thing is, you probably haven't ever really paid attention and made a list of it all.  So, that is step 2 - (silent) Observing and Noting.  In addition to our quarantine images, I am going to pull from my archives too, so you can have a better understanding on this one.

What you will note for each person will be different, and it will very much be a reflection of how you see them.  Here's a VERY short list for the people in my house and images that I feel like show that piece.  My husband: his hard work / serious looks, his baby blues, his lightheartedness and silliness, especially as he plays with the kids, his multiple unique smiles.

My son: his kindheartedness, his goofiness, how he behaves when he is uncomfortable, his serious face.

My daughter: her infectious laugh / smile, her care and love for others, her more serious side, her openness (with us) to dance / sing with shows or play pretend.

The most important piece here is to really be observant and start writing things down - and this list can collect for a while.  In fact, when we finally get out of this isolation thing, if you and I get to work together, this will be a big help when we sit down to talk about your session and family.  More importantly though, it will be a huge blessing as we all continue to spend tons of time in our homes together. 

So remember, (1) be present by single tasking, and (2) be observing and taking notes.  Recognize that when observing, it's important that you not be directing or controlling people or a situation.  Your main objective is to be watching people for who they are naturally, not who you tell them to be.  And be watching for the beauty God has designed in them, even in their PJ's and messy hair.

Until next time,

Monday, March 30, 2020

Documenting Your Everyday - Step 1

      I don't know where you are right now, as we begin week 3 of the US shut down.  Perhaps you have been counting down the days until day 15 was done, excited to socially reengage, only to feel defeated to find out that day 15 was not the end.  Perhaps you haven't seen much of a difference in your everyday because you typically work from home and don't really spend a ton of time out and about.  Or maybe you are somewhere in the middle, like I think so many of us are.  Where ever you are right now, it's likely that you have had time to do many of the things you always find yourself saying you wish you had more time for - like having family meals and spending family time together.  Extra time on your hands may have even led to a list of things you seem to never have the time - or maybe energy /desire - to tackle.  {Unless, of course, you are one of the countless of essential workers that are literally the heartbeat of our country right now.  If you are, there are simply not enough words and ways to tell you how much the people of this country appreciate all you are doing and sacrificing for us all.  My family is so very grateful to you as we have been as isolated as possible for the last two and half weeks because of and for you.}

     While you have had the opportunity to spend some extra quality time with your peeps, I encouraged my FB followers to be documenting their days in the ways I would, were I to be with you.  In case you missed it, here were my exact words: "What a beautiful time to be engaging as a family, building both memories and wonderful habits of spending quality time together. As you start making time for just living plain old life together, with no busy schedule, hear me cheering you on and being stupid excited for you. How I would love to be taking beautiful pictures of your lives right now, so make sure to take pictures yourselves. This is a historic time in our world and lives and you'll be so thankful for pictures of it later."  Now that the time has been extended, I wanted to do something more than just cheer you on.  I wanted to help you make the most of this time and give you some tips that might make your photo journal more meaningful, and more beautiful because of that.

     Enter in this series, "Documenting Your Everyday".  I have made a short list of the things I believe will be most powerful to you as you go about being immersed in living everyday life to help you see the beauty of it all.  I am going to break this down into separate posts, using images from our quarantine time, in hopes that it will give you a chance to practice that skill before the next step comes.  SO, I'm going to start with one of the steps I think is not just a necessary step for being a better documenter, but for improving lots of things in life.  I believe it can improve our relationships, our attitudes, and our lives overall.  What's this magic step?

Learning to be present.

Now, before you blow right over this step, I want to tell you something critical about this one.  Without it, your documenting may lose a lot of its meaning, and the rest of the steps really don't work.  Also, that's kind of the point of this thing we call life - having meaning in what we do.  You will miss what is going on under the surface when it comes to your kids, your spouse, your friends, your co-workers, and so much more.  Missing that will mean that your relationships will suffer.  Trust me on this one - it is a must.

For some of you, this will be so much easier than others.  I admit, depending on what is going on, this can be tricky for me.  I want to take pictures of all the beauty I see, which tends to be allll the things.  And I want to be able to show people how their everyday can be just as beautiful.  But that doesn't really allow me to be present, so there are times that I just have to put the camera down.  God has made us all uniquely different, but whether you are a do-er whose task list never seems to dwindle, or a natural social distance-r who gets drained by engaging, it's important to be present so you can actually see the story as it unfolds.

So, what does this look like?  Simply put, it means single tasking.  If your family is playing a game or taking a walk or having dinner or watching a movie, that is the only thing you are doing.  You are not on your phone or laptop.  You are not on social media or doing chores.  You are not listening to music or texting with a friend.  You are simply present and engaged fully in what's going on.  (But, Melissa, how will I take pictures?  Cool your jets.  You aren't there yet.  We'll get there.)  In the beginning, this may be difficult.  You will want to be constantly multitasking, but resist that urge and learn to be present.  And resist your need to control and direct things.  (More on that next time.)  Your goal is to be able to SEE what is happening, by focusing on just one thing.  I know you can do it!  I would love to hear how this goes for you over the next week.  I know it isn't going to be easy, because it isn't going to be your default move, but then again, neither was cancelling all your plans for three weeks, and social distancing, but you did it - or at least did your best, so, give this one a shot.

Until next time,

Thursday, February 6, 2020

When Change Is Needed

Having a second child is likely one of the biggest growth areas I have had in life.  My first born was easy.  Not only do I know I was a tougher parent, I know he responded to it.  My second?  Well, let's just say she didn't respond the same way.  I knew that I would need to pivot, and thanks to a lovely friend and author, I read a book that helped me to see the struggles we had between us and adjust my parenting to fit her needs.  I continue to learn more and more each day about how those adjustments will keep coming.

When kindergarten started for our girl last school year, it was a HARD transition.  We had nightly melt downs and the need for naps several days a week.  Since the beginning, her attitude about school hasn't been what I expected.  I knew we would need time to adjust, but as we continued on in the year, not much changed.  Kindergarten and First grade should be the years that kids still like school because learning can be fun.  There shouldn't be complaints about it being boring or long.  As a parent, and previous teacher, it concerned me that day after day, my daughter almost dreaded going to school, and rarely had exciting things to say about what she was learning.  Even friendships were difficult, and we started seeing more emotional struggles and holes starting to surface in her learning.  I began to ask questions and learned about the changes our district had made and realized that how they were teaching in elementary school just wasn't the right fit for us anymore.

So two weeks ago, our family made what I would consider a drastic change.  We had learned about a program in our area called University Model Schooling that was structured with 2 days of traditional classroom learning and 3 days of satellite / home schooling.  After a day long visit, lots of praying, applying, and testing, we took the plunge and started the new program.

Our first few days were ROUGH.  School was great.  For once, my girl was telling me how much she liked learning.  She wasn't complaining about sitting on the carpet all day or telling me stories about friends that did something mean or inappropriate at school.  (Which is not to say those won't ever happen, but right now, they seem to be less.)  At home, we started filling in holes and working on things that had been neglected in her two short years at school.  We used manipulatives (an abacus - what, you don't have one in your living room?) to work through math facts she hadn't started memorizing yet, and my girl loved the idea that she could practice her spelling words (something she hasn't had so far) by painting.

As a previous teacher, it was hard for me to let go of the idea that everything I had learned about traditional learning wasn't true.  The world has preached that successful schooling really only looks one way - a classroom.  It looks like straight lines and students working hard in seats fitting the mold and being in the box.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized how silly it is to think that learning can only happen in a classroom with a certified teacher.  Learning can happen literally anywhere and by anyone who knows about something you don't.  It can even be self learning through examination, which happened quite a bit when I taught because I knew that kind of learning stuck way longer than just reading or listening.

The benefit of schooling on a more flexible schedule was that we did some of our Monday work over the weekend so we could have a morning off and head to the Zoo when the weather was predicted to be beautiful.

We enjoyed lots of physical activity and certainly could have made a field trip out of it, but we just enjoyed our morning together instead, returning home to finish up school work and get ready for a new week.

So far, the change has been a bit of a roller coaster.  Seeing first hand the ways her learning has been impacted has been eye opening to me.  Of course, this means she is working harder to catch up for now, which can sometimes be overwhelming.  I am seeing though, how flexibility has been so good for us both and how she is picking up on things quickly and able to move forward to the next thing.  This model has already shown that it is a much better fit for us than our local school.  And for what it's worth, if you think it might be a better fit for your family too, don't hesitate to reach out and ask me more about it.  I am happy to tell you about our experience of learning to make ourselves a new mold.

Until next time,