Spring cleaning...out with the old, in with the LOVE.

 Brittaney "Britt", Amanda "Manda", Brandi "Sis"(me)

Brittaney "Britt", Amanda "Manda", Brandi "Sis"(me)

Ya-ya’s: A group of three or more women, whose hearts and souls are joined together by laughter and tears shared through the glorious journey of life.

In this life I have been blessed with two amazing sisters-in-law.  I am more than a decade older than my “sisters” and yet we fit together like peanut butter and jelly.   Not only are they beautiful, talented and excellent at loving my brothers, but they show me what it means to have “sisters”. 

And that’s when it hit me…every girl needs a SISTER!!  I need to share mine with all of you!  So with that revelation, this month I will begin infusing bits and pieces from us three twisted sisters into my blog posts.  My hope is that something resonates with you, touches your spirit or simply lets you know you are not alone…you’ve got sisters!

 

Well, happy March everybody!  Isn’t it crazy how fast time flies whether you are having fun or not?!  And with all this fast paced living, how’s that “self love” thing coming along?  Hmmm….yep, don’t worry, we’re all struggling.  I mean, who’s got the time!  Especially for us ladies, am I right?  Can I get an “Amen Sister”?! 

Ok, I’ll be fair here and say I have no clue how stressful it must be to be a man, but that’s because I ain’t one!  Let’s focus on what we do know, ok.  As a woman myself (yep, that was intended to be smart ass), I’ll tell you what I do know about living fast, loving yourself last and slow learning…I know that the more I do fast, the more I put others before myself, the slower I am to learn that this is the most bassackwards approach known to woman!  So let’s turn the tables.  Let’s slow it down a bit shall we. 

This month we’ll unpack some techniques, truths and a few questions about LOVE.  Love for yourself, love for others, love for life.  So grab a cup of tea (if that’s your thing…for me if it’s not coffee, black and strong, It’s not worthy), take a deep breath and ahhhh…that’s better. Now let’s get started…

MORNING RITUALS: 

How do you start your day?  If you are like me, it’s with a strong cup of coffee, some news and a shower that I should have jumped into an hour earlier than I did simply for the fact that I am procrastinating the start of yet another day filled with to-do’s for everyone but me.  Am I right?  One tip my sister, Britt, passed along to me recently, is morning meditation.  She suggested this lovely little app called “Insight Timer”.  There are hundreds of instructor’s to choose from as well as different types and topics of meditation to meet anyone’s needs.  I tell you “sisters”, this app is changing my life!  

  Finding my woo-saaahhhhh......

Finding my woo-saaahhhhh......

So let this be a shout out to all of my bipolar, depressed, anxious, broken, hurting, confused and fear-laden friends...I love you!  Now let’s start loving ourselves. Ten minutes is all you need.  In ten minutes time, if I can start my day at a place of peace and love, I know everyone around me is going to benefit too, right?  If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!  Love others better when you first love yourself.

ALONE TIME: 

Learning how to love yourself requires some hard work.  Sure there is physical work, exercise, eating healthy and now meditation.  But what about the hard stuff that no one can see?  What about taking time to get to know YOU.  I mean, how do you love someone that you don’t even know anymore?  Pondering this I flashed back (not that kind of flash back *wink, wink) to a time when I thought I was pretty hot shit!  I loved me!  I loved being with me, talking to me (some of the best conversations I’ve ever had hahaha!), and just being with the person that came naturally out of me from sunup to sundown.  As a kid I could play alone for hours and never grow bored or lonely.  I wasn’t afraid to do anything by myself...except maybe walk to the bathroom at night, full disclosure.  What happened to that girl? 

Now, as an adult I find that I have to give myself a pep talk to be alone. It’s a fearful thing for me.  Even though I am alone often (enter constant anxiety!), I find that it’s rare I actually take the time to be present in these moments.  Sure I’m alone, but I’m rushing through each minute in my mind, hurrying the time so I can get back to the comfortable chaos of social interaction.  Why?!  And then it hit me…I don’t even like “me” anymore, so how am I supposed to LOVE me?

I'm sure like me, you now have silly little tear soaked cheeks and you are wondering why....
Why is it SO hard to actually love ourselves?  I’ve been doing a LOT of hard mental work lately, but this “self-love” thing is a serious ball buster man! (Sorry, had to throw in some humor to counteract the dam busting of tears) I never realized how damaging my own words and thoughts have been to myself for so long. And honestly, I’m finding it extremely difficult to write this love letter! Why is that? Why is it so hard to love the one person we are with 100% of the time, but so easy to love everyone else around? We take more time and consideration for the feelings of complete strangers than we ever do of our own.

Since around age 13, I can remember regular occurrences of staring at myself in the mirror, crying my eyes out and literally screaming at myself “I hate you! Why are you so annoying and loud and obnoxious? You always have to be the center of attention! You’re a terrible person!” Would I ever talk like that to another living being?! Hell no! At least I hope I never would or never have! Then why am I so careless with myself?  This stops NOW.  This love letter to myself is the hardest letter I have ever written.  It's even harder putting it out there for others.  But I am.  Not because I need attention, not to toot my own horn.  I am putting it out there because I want YOU to be brave...and I can't ask something of you that I would not do myself...
 


My love letter to me:

Dear Brandi,
Here are a few things I like about you.  You truly love with all your heart.
You live out the concept of, “do it right or don’t do it at all.”
You are agreeable and easy to get along with.
Quite honestly Brandi, I believe you can do anything. Even when you get scared in the midst of doing things, I really believe you can do them. And I support you 100% in everything you want to do. And when you are trying new things, just know I’m always behind you pushing for you to try it because I believe in you! 
I forgive you Brandi. I forgive you for all the things you ever did or said or thought that weren’t becoming of you. I totally forgive you; I don’t hold any of it against you anymore. I give you permission to stop feeling guilty. I give you permission to set down your shame and never pick it up again. You have nothing to be ashamed of in your life.  You have overcome some big obstacles and I am so proud of you.  I love your sobriety but I am not disappointed in you for all the years when you weren’t sober.  I forgive you.
I love your free spirit. I love that you truly see a friend first in everyone you meet. I love how you choose love first. I love your hugs, you are a great hugger. I love that you want to share your life experiences, your faith and your struggles with others, hoping to help them in some way.  I love that you are not afraid to be vulnerable.  
I love that your heart physically hurts when you sense someone feels left out or alone.  I love that you are more comfortable with broken people than you are with people who act like they have it all together.  I love that you are loyal and honest. I love that when someone tells you something, they can trust that you will keep it in confidence. That you truly live out, “If it ain’t yours to tell, keep it to yourself.”
And lastly, I am sorry.  I am sorry for saying such hurtful things to you for so many years.  
I love you Brandi, just as you are.
 
 
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MOMMA’S CORNER:

Ok Sister Mommas, let’s get real.  You’ve been doing this Mom thing for awhile now.  Baby number two or three or seven is on the way, and then one morning an unfamiliar question creeps into your thoughts.  Somewhere between wiping butts and story time you wonder how many other Mom’s have been right where you are…

  This is life.

This is life.

  Amanda & Cam (can you say mini-me?)

Amanda & Cam (can you say mini-me?)

Musings from "Manda"

“I’m sitting here with my coffee waiting to wake Cambell, my three year old daughter, up for church (RARITY). The sermon in church has been about being a better lover, how to love and be loved. Obviously, my initial thoughts for this go straight towards my husband Ryan and Cambell. I mean I LOVE these two humans more than I ever thought possible. I mean my heart could explode!  Did I also mention I’m 21 weeks pregnant? (Don’t even mom shame me about the coffee, i usually limit myself to one cup a day). So this morning, drinking my coffee, I had an anxious realization that my heart has to make room for this little fella growing inside me. I love him so much already, me and him have been through some shit together.  You see he’s my rainbow baby and he’s gotten to feel my fears, sadness, happiness from the inside. I know my love for him will only intensify when I get to see and hold him though.

So my question is this. How do I love my kids the same? How do I love Cambell as much as I do now, AND love another child the same amount? Will I love the baby more? Less? This question gives me the mom sweats and that pit inside your stomach that makes you want to puke. Is my heart big enough? And then my poor hubby, always (unintentionally) getting the shaft. He’s my #1, and before we ever had kids, we knew our marriage had to come first so that we could parent the best way possible. But how easy is it to just go to bed after you put the kids to bed? It can be hard now getting a sitter for a date. And we’ll be adding a second kiddo to the mix...

Obviously I’ll be praying about this... but it never hurts to hear from some moms that have experienced this...” ~ Amanda

So whatchya got ladies?  Out of the “three twisted sisters”, only one of us has squeezed out a mini-me!  We could all use a little guidance on this one.  Some encouragement or experiences, a pointer or two or some cold-hard facts.  Give it to us straight ladies, we can take it! 

We look forward to you dropping your comments below.   Enjoy the rest of your month.  Take some time for yourself this month and let us know what you’ve been up to!  Also, pop on over and check out what my girlfriend Tanya Moon has been up to since we last blogged.   Keep smiling, keep loving and keep being YOU!

Discarded Treasure

 
...Her world is full of magic. Her world is both more beautiful and less than mine but for a trade off of reasons. I am her dream and she is mine. An intense sadness rushes over me as I feel that I have failed her...
— Sue Sonnenberg ~"Discarded"
 

     Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the little girl I used to be.  Working my way through Sue Sonnenberg’s book, Discarded: A Journal For The Creative Soul, I was stopped and stirred at the same time deep in my spirit.  Sue writes about “the little girl” in her…in all of us really, and wonders what that little girl thinks has become of her in her adult years…has the adult me let her down?  Instantly I wondered if she would be proud of me…

     Honestly, the thought brought me to my knees. A flood of memories. When I was little I was so imaginative. I could entertain myself for hours with the most creative plots and storylines in my mind. I didn’t need much to find joy. Give me a mirror or a broom and I was set for the day!  Judgement, social expectations, social acceptance, these were completely unknown to me.  Freedom and my imagination were all I had and all I needed.  Even the introduction of other children into the moment didn’t squash my free-spirited self! 

At that time in my life, I knew no stranger and I had no enemy.  I loved everything and everyone, and as far as I was concerned all loved me back just the same.  There was nothing I could not do or try or be.  I had the utmost faith in everything within me and everything around me.  Disappointment, fear, doubt, pride, envy, jealousy…non-existent in my world.  I’m pretty sure this is the definition of “child-like faith”.  We are all born with it…

The childlike faith that asks not sight, waits not for wonder or for sign, believes, because it loves, aright, shall see things greater, things divine.
— John Keble

All these emotions and memories sparked some deep thinking.  When is it that the veil of “child like faith” gets torn off?  And why?  Why is it that kids with free spirits, deep thoughts and wild imaginations, are generally discouraged?  We are the ones usually bullied.  Many times by those who love us the most.  Family and friends trying to save us from probable humiliation tell us the factual statistics of our likeliness to fail.  They chronologically list all the problems with our dream and all the harsh realities of life.  How logistically impossible our plan is and any move toward execution of it is ultimately committing social suicide!  Our reputation will never recover!  And we're only 7!  Ok, maybe a slight dramatization, but you get the point.  Moral of the story is that too many of us encounter this repetitive discouragement.  It stops us dead in our free-bird tracks.  Our creative spirit is paralyzed and begins playing it safe.  Too afraid or too exhausted to create from inner passions and ideas anymore, now we cower to fears and doubts.  It becomes more and more work to create freely from within.  Harder and harder to hear our own voice from all of society screaming louder than little, young, wild and free we..me..you..us.  Instead, we become passionate about outward people pleasing.  It has become easier and less strenuous than straining to hear our own inner voice.  We spend our lives treading safely around what makes the world comfy and cozy in our presence, all the while feeling totally out of place and lost in our own skin. 

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"It is that simple...

...and yet it is all that much more complicated."

But then one day, after prayers and tears and freak-outs in plenty, screaming at God for a sign of purpose.  Begging for a roadmap to keep my creative self moving forward.  Any morsel of reason why I shouldn’t JUST QUIT!  He gave me….me.  You, me, our self.  Whatever your faith may be, the truth is, everything we need to navigate this life, to be happy in this life, to be whole in this life is already right there inside.  It’s that simple…and yet it is all that much more complicated.

Life has been so kind as to bruise, batter, scar and bloody every inch of our childlike spirits.  It is now up to us.  You, me.  It's time to do the “Hard Stuff”, as Sue Sonnenberg taught me, and free our spirits again!  We all feel “Discarded” from time to time, some of us have felt that way for a very long time.  What I’m learning is that we are not REQUIRED to stay there.  It’s not our calling!  It is simply part of our story.  I don’t want my creative story to be suffocated any more.  Instead, I am working through some “hard stuff” and using it to fuel my creative story. 

What do I know for sure?  Well, I know that these two images above need A LOT of work.  They were my first attempt at something new.  I know that I am in absolute love with them.  I know that they say more about me than all my words could in a lifetime and if creativity left me tomorrow, I would have no regrets.  For the first time in a long time, I am inspired.  Not only creatively, but personally.  I am excited each day to see what new challenges will arise.  Challenges testing my fears, my faith, my gifts and most of all my “give a damn”!  I pray it stays busted. 

I leave you with this little prayer...

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I pray you walk fearlessly into each new day...
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...dance in the presence of challenge and self-doubt...
…...above all, giving thanks and gratitude to the One who opens our eyes daily and loves us more, even in spite of ourselves.
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Thank you for stopping by my little blog.  Telling the story of my musings through photos is something I’ve set out to be more consistent with.  With the help of a kick-ass group of ladies and a project we are doing called “Share the Light-10 on 10”, I will be blogging monthly at the very least.  Expect something new on the 10th of each month from each of these encouraging and talented lovlies!  Want to see what talent this group has to offer?  I encourage you to hop on over and check out the latest blog post from my friend Tanya Moon!  Happy February y'all!

Art in sport

What I most like about photography is the moment that you can't anticipate; you have to be constantly watching for it, ready to welcome the unexpected. ~ Martine Franck
 

Indeed.  This is what I love about photography.  The watching, waiting, until just the right moment...SNAP!  MONEY!  But honestly, the unexpected welcoming for me comes not only from the discovery of that "money" shot, but also in the search through images, deciding on the blessing of edit each will receive...color or BLACK AND WHITE.  And then the rush with the discovery of the diamonds; those monochromatic gems just begging to be polished.  Oh how I love me some black and whites!!!

Likely, my favorite black and white images are those I get to create through the sport of wrestling.  I love the intensity and passion of this sport.  The shear punishment each athlete puts themselves through, not only body, but mind as well.  In the images below, I hope I have captured these athletes in a way that inspires; a way that makes you feel what I feel when I'm out there shooting them; the way that these athletes make me feel.  Intense, determined, vigilant, focused, passionate.  

Thank you for visiting my little blog!  One of my goals for 2018 is to blog more, and as the Big Man Upstairs would have it, I was invited into an amazing group of photographers to do exactly that!  There is so much talent in this group and I am honored to be part of their circle.  Though I am excited to be challenged and pushed by this fabulous group, I am utterly terrified as well....but what is a goal if it doesn't stretch you to the point of barfing, right?! 

Enough about me and my anxieties, I encourage you to check out more of this gifted group by popping over to my new friend, Cara Ann Mathis page!  Her style is beautifully composed with a light and airy feel...just yummy!  Enjoy and keep an eye out for next month's post of 10 on 10 (10 images on the 10th that is lol).  Peace out until then!