As the World Shrinks

Oh Facebook…How I love thee, let me count the ways! Where else, WHERE ELSE, I say, can you gather a group of past and present acquaintances so diverse that it’s rivaled only by your own funeral? Where else can you find your entire Kindergarten class in one place 25 years later, and at 1am no less (because that’s the only time you have now that your OWN Kindergarteners aren’t vying for your attention)? How else could you possibly wait around the clock…smiling, hair perfect, laughing, showing off your beautiful children…for your ex’s to stumble across you and melt in regret at losing the best thing that ever happened to them? Where else can you muster up the gumption to finally release that confrontational load you’ve always needed to get off your chest…FACEbook to FACEbook? Where else, I ask, WHERE ELSE? It’s like an interactive yearbook, but not just for school, for your entire LIFE!!! Ahhh, yes. It is such a grand technological world we live in! This Christmas season I have enjoyed reuniting with several old friends! Every time that happens, I feel as if a small part of the 5 million piece jigsaw puzzle that is me is locked into place…it’s so cool to step back and see the whole picture of my life until now forming before my eyes. Memories that I had forgotten come flooding back. Some good, some bad, but it’s all part of who I am. How did people survive in a pre-facebook world, so disconnected on a big planet? Facebook has made the world feel smaller. And I have to admit, I like it.

On a more serious note, however…so many of the simple things we enjoy here every day are things that others will never experience for one day in their entire lives. As I sift through my photos trying to dredge up my favorites for a “best of the best” post on New Year’s Eve, I see faces that take me back a few months to the reality of the Romanian Gypsies. I wonder how they’re doing right now…the winter climate is very similar to my own here in the Midwest, but their homes are made of riff-raff, thin rugs, broken windows, and fabric doors. Winter is very hard for them and some don’t survive the harsh conditions. I wish connecting with them was as easy as typing their name in a search bar and clicking “Go.” I wish bringing them home with me was as easy as taking them by the hand, walking through an airport and boarding a plane. My thoughts stray…and glide across land and sea, landing on a bumpy, teeth-jarring, pot-holed dirt road outside Oradea…all too often. And when my thoughts meander, I pray. Not because it’s all I can do, but because there is a network far superior and oh-so-very-much more connected than Facebook or Myspace. God’s love reaches to every corner of the earth and He knows not only the number of hairs on their heads but the needs of their souls as well. My God does amazing and wonderful things. In a country where it’s easy to feel as if we don’t NEED any help to survive day-to-day, it’s healthy to experience first hand how helpless humanity really is…we really have NO control over how others treat us or what we can accomplish in our own lives. We Americans have been blessed in excess…and we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that we deserve it. My prayer for this coming year is not for equality or world peace or the end of hunger (although those things are all worthy causes), but simply for an expanded God-awareness in my own life that is evident and notable. For the more aware we become of God, the more we contribute to the proper balance of EVERYTHING.

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Wrapping up Christmas…

It was my good friend, Josef Samuel who presented me with the idea about a year ago…the idea that ended up changing photographic life as I know it. The first day we met he shared with me his vision of gathering local photographers together in a friendly, non-competitive group to learn and grow together. Joe’s an idea guy and I’m a get-it-done girl, so between the two of us things quickly started to happen. Another talented friend, Andrew Conrad, balanced us out with his organizational skills and knowledge, and we are now very close to seeing the birth of this new idea!! A few final steps will make it official! But we didn’t wait for it to be official…we’ve developed a plan, named ourselves the X/Stop Project, rounded up about 15 local photographers, had meetings, started a forum, had about 6-7 fun/educational group photo shoots, and MOST excitingly, we’ve taken on our FIRST community project!!

One of our members, Bruce Weeks had some experience working with autistic children and knew of a specific need in a local elementary classroom. He explained to us that autistic children have trouble transitioning from one activity to the other because their minds are so focused on what is right in front of them. So the teachers have made some basic visual aides that can be presented to them prior to relocating to the next room or task. They report that these have REALLY helped ease everyone’s frustration! Their visual aides are very basic, but they’re doing the job. The children’s parents, however, have none of those visual aides and were still having trouble at home, with one task in particular…going to the GROCERY STORE. Time after time the parents could be heard saying that trips to the grocery store were nightmarish, overwhelming, and they simply dreaded it. Kate, a teacher with whom Bruce worked at Darden Elementary, thought that having a book at home about going to the grocery store would really help these kids know what was about to happen and how they should act. She had written the text, but illustrating the book was proving to be a bigger project than she could take on. When Bruce presented us with the idea, we were so excited…ideas just started popping up all over the place! We decided this could be the first in a series of “LET’S GO” books, designed especially for autistic kids and their life activities. All of us had a crazy busy wedding season, so the project was put on hold until winter. But last month we finally had everything in place and Bruce was able to connect all the dots for us. He got permission from Martin’s Supermarket to use their store and everyone there was AMAZINGLY helpful and excited about our project too. Joe did the shooting, Bruce pulled all the strings, and I did the book design…it was such a great group effort! After Kate’s approval, we’ll be sending it off for printing and soon every child in the SNAP Program at Darden Elementary will receive a free copy to take home to their parents. I’m so excited!

So I’m sure you’re wondering WHY in the midst of such a fun, heart-warming project, I’m pictured here fighting with some guy in the line at Martin’s? Well, you see, there was ONE guy in the store who was just causing LOTS of trouble…heckling us and picking on our sweet little model…I had to pull out some SMACKDOWN and put him in his place!! OK..KIDDING! That’s me and Bruce taking our acting and modeling job too seriously. We have cameo appearances in the book and we thought cameo just wasn’t enough for our budding careers so we spontaneously added a page teaching children how to resolve unexpected outbursts in public. Orrrrrr…maybe we’ll save that for the next book in the series, “LET’S GO…to Anger Management Therapy!”

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Hope you all had a Merry Christmas! We were excited to be snug at home this year for Christmas day…that is we WERE until Jadon came down with the flu! Well, I guess we were glad we were home then too, but Christmas kind of took a nose-dive after that. Oh well…as my friend Anita said, it’ll be one of those “Remember when…” stories to pull out someday when the kids are older. It was still a beautiful day and there was plenty of love (and germs!) to go around. Here’s some pictures from our Christmas season and a few from our annual church Live Nativity.

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Swan Lake, anyone?

I am LAUGHING so HARD right now…I’ve seen some pretty kooky studio props before, but this one is honkin’ hilarious…pun fully intended! Anyone want your child’s picture taken in a swan…with a backdrop…and some fake flowers? OH MY! If you do, don’t come asking ME for photos cuz I do NOT roll like that! Oh, but the laughter that ensued when this popped up on my screen made for such a great ab work out! And lest you think I am mocking some poor photographer somewhere, this came to me from a company who sells backdrops and props. So I’m sure some photog somewhere did shoot it and may be offended if they find this post, but I don’t see them claiming the photo with any sort of proudly displayed branding, so I would venture to guess they’d prefer to remain nameless. As would I. If I ever took a photo like that. Ever. lol.

And can you believe it…you could own this graceful prop for only $139 (after $100 off)!!!

Oh, and the OTHER thing I’m laughing at…I can see the hit counter on this page rising, but I think everyone’s holding off commenting on my giveaway post because they think that there are only 2 comments and they want to wait till it’s closer…there are more! I’m not releasing comments until the next goal is reached so that no one knows how many there are…so you might as well leave a comment if you’re here!!! You never know how close you are!

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…

I bet all of you have a couple last minute Christmas gifts to pick up (I know I do!) Well, let me saddle up my reindeer and help you out! I’m cleaning house and in the process of moving into my new office space I realized I have WAAAAY too many pictures laying around here. I love them all, I really do. But they’re taking over and I’m having a minimalistic moment. I decided it’s time to have a contest to distribute a few of these on behalf of my loyal blog readers.

So here’s how it works…leave me a comment on this post…one per person! If you’re the 1st, 7th, 29th, or 57th commenter I will respond to you and ask you for the name and address of the person you’d like me to send the artwork to on your behalf! I’ll wrap it up nice and include a little note explaining that it’s a Christmas gift from you to them. I will only ship within the continental U.S. and you don’t get to choose which piece is sent (I will field suggestions). Some are framed and some are not, but all are guaranteed to be {smashing fabulous}. Last day for comments to count will be 12/31/08.

Here’s just a few of the pieces of artwork I’m retiring. There are CA countryside images and some sunsets…some random artistic tidbits representing places I’ve been. I will sign the back of each piece and indicate limited production.

P.S. If I can’t see who you are by clicking on your blogger profile, leave your email address…if I can’t get ahold of the person who comments, I won’t publish the comment and I’ll move on to the next person in line.

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Weighing in…{Ayden}

I think I’ve pegged Ayden in past blog posts as being simply “squishable.” That’s a good term for him…it means you’re just so huggable that people can hardly stop squeezing you! Whatever makes a baby that way, Ayden’s got it in abundance! Even now, just looking at these pictures, I want to reach out and squish him! lol. And that’s not the ONLY reason I just can’t stop oogling over these pictures! I’m super excited…because they’re just EXACTLY what the new Rawsii artform is all about! When I got to Ayden’s house I saw this whole wall of windows I just about freaked out…but then I saw the old scale and my brain started flashing like Chuck Bartowski (oh come on…there have to be a few other Chuck fans out there). I looked at Ayden’s Mom in disbelief…”you’ve been holding out on me! This is AWESOME!!” And you know what she says??? “Yah, that was my Dad’s when he was a baby!” My mouth dropped open and I just stood there for a couple minutes processing. What? And you never mentioned this to me?? OK, this has SOOOOO got to go in Ayden’s baby pictures!! An adorable family heirloom sitting there just waiting for a baby to sit in it…in a room with gorgeous light? OVERLOAD! I was in heaven!

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Ayden’s always been expressive with his toes so I was excited to yet again capture a cute picture of this.

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Prime example of rockin’ portraiture without a studio.

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One of my FAV’s…look at him smile at his mama!

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Can you imagine a better Christmas gift? 🙂

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Another case of fun personalization…this is a dresser that’s been in the family for ahwhile and was repainted by Grandma just for Ayden. It incorporates his name, his nursery, and an heirloom piece of furniture all into one great piece of {smashing fabulous} artwork. Someday his Mommy will look at that dresser, maybe even in her grandbaby’s room, and remember when Ayden was tiny enough to fit (barely!) in that drawer. 🙂

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Before I left, I had to see the phenomenon…Ayden bounces himself to sleep in his little jumper swing…and then keeps jumping! His Mom says he actually keeps jumping in his sleep as she carries him all the way up the stairs to his crib! It’s true…I witnessed it with my own eyes! So funny.

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Being a model is tiring work, especially when you do it so well!! Thanks Ayden for really making my job SO fun!

Home Sessions {Reese}

From here on out, my photography business is hitting the road! Except for newborn sessions, I’ll be doing all photo shoots on location! And that doesn’t mean I’ll be haulling a backdrop everywhere…no, the new concept here is creating {smashing fabulous} art by capturing you in the real world you live in! This isn’t an entirely new concept, but I found that I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to center my entire business around it. And it’s going smashingly. I love it!

Reese’s Mama says her friends think she’s a blingaholic. Too many accessories? A ring too big? Too shiny? Unheard of! Lol. I think the apple falls NOT far from the tree…look how happy Reese is all decked out in her flashy bling! She sparkles far brighter than the sequins, which, I think, is exactly the type of personality that can pull off such a look! Perfect!

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Not convinced? Well, how about this…

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This is one of my favorite images of the entire session. I love the striped walls in her nursery and the very relaxed look on her face. She was just chillin’…it was so cute!

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Ok, no WAIT…I think THIS is my favorite image from the session! I can’t decide! I love them all. But this one just makes me all warm and fuzzy…such a happy family!

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Reese, thanks for being so cooperative and for loving to smile SO much! You’re absolutely precious!

Eliana, world. World, Eliana.

When I held Eliana for the first time, it was at a church function. I walked out with James and the boys to the van and I asked, “HOW can I get them to let me take her picture???” Well, God must have heard that request because not two days later Melissa called and said, “We’d REALLY love for you to take Eliana’s pictures!” YAY! I dropped everything and temporarily abandoned my holiday time-off policy for our dear friends. It was well worth it! Check these out:

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I love these! I’m so infatuated!

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My favorite part are the adorable wrinkles on her back…SO cute!

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Goodbye…Hello

Oh, I know, I’ve been STALLING. Hesitating. Mulling and debating. Should I taunt you all with a few more AMAZING studio posts even though I’ll only be doing NEWBORN sessions in the studio from this point on? That’s just WRONG of me! Dangling the carrot in front of you and then saying you can’t have it. But alas, I must. It’s simply unfair for these children’s beautiful pictures not to be seen. I will, however, condense the studio sessions I have left into one final post so you don’t have to be taunted with a new one every day for the next week. 🙂 I just don’t want anyone to lament that the studio pictures are a thing of the past because what’s ahead is JUST as cool and exciting. In the next week or so I’ll be posting some really AMAAAAZING at-home baby pictures that you just HAVE to see!! I’m so excited about the changes happening around here! You just wouldn’t believe what a ripple effect such a little decision has had on my life! My house has been rearranged so that now my children have a play room and we have a functional dining room that is convenient and accessible. My cool new high-tech office is SO cool, it’s inspiring just to SIT in it! I have a fresh new vision and artistic wings due to the new direction I’m going…so much excitement going on over here, I just can hardly sit still to tell you about it.

So I look back at these studio pictures with fondness, but mostly because of the friendships, the smiles, the children, and the families I’ve grown to love through it. I won’t miss the four walls and I can’t WAIT to begin creating personalized artwork on the backdrop of my customer’s lives. Wait till you see what’s coming…!

Ayden’s 3 month pictures were taken, well sadly, about three months ago and I’m JUST now getting them posted!!! His 6 month pictures were just last week and those are some of the pictures I’m so excited to post, so I figured I BETTER get moving on his last set before they’re all out of order! Ayden’s got such great facial expressions…he cracks me up! He always takes a little time to warm up to me, but when he does, he’s got this great big warm smile that just melts my heart.

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Lily turned ONE already! I can’t believe it…it seems like just yesterday Lily was in here as a teeny little baby in a basket! *sigh* She’s been such a joy to work with. Always so willing to run around and grin and giggle. She’s got these great big blue eyes and bouncy curls that are seriously gonna keep Mommy and Daddy on their toes in a few years!

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This one makes me laugh so hard! Caption, anyone? I’m at a loss…

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Izabella lights up my life a little almost every weekend when I have the pleasure of seeing her at church! I’m so glad I get to see her so often and watch her grow up. She’s got a beautiful personality, very easy going, relaxed, happy…ALL the TIME! I’m amazed and just can’t stop talking about how adaptable she is whenever we do pictures. She’s going to make it far in life with the unique but well balanced combination of determination and agreeability.

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I know my watermark kind of goofs this one up a little, but I’m still going to post it because I love it so much!

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These five were SO well behaved! I was so proud of them! I could tell they wanted nothing more than to jump up in attack mode and plow me down for the snack in my hand. But they refrained! And I’m still alive to tell about it.

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Here’s just my very favorite from Simon’s session. I won’t post anymore because I don’t want to spoil their Christmas card surprise for anyone!

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To wrap up this five-gun salute to studio photography, I will introduce this lovely family. Alex and Melissa are some of the most relaxed parents I’ve ever seen. And their five happy children reflect that so beautifully. It’s a joy to see them interact and just enjoy each other peacefully. I love it. We’re proud to call them friends and I had a great time capturing their true personalities in this session!

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Meet Elizabeth! Until recently she was the only girl but that did NOT matter one bit. She keeps up with those boys like you would not believe! She can really take a punch, and throw one too when necessary!

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Jonathon…he’s a riot (if you can’t tell). I had a great time catching all these facial expressions. There are many more! But for sake of time and space:

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Nicholas has cool blue eyes, doesn’t he? I love studying eyes, and I have the opportunity to look at so many. Each is so different and unique. It always leaves me amazed at the detail in God’s intelligent design.

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Christopher is a cool dude. You can just tell he’s the class clown. There’s mischief in those eyes!

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I’ll save Eliana’s introduction for a separate post because sessions like hers I will still be doing. But for now I’m signing off with a fond farewell to studio photography. For now. 😉

The {Smashing Fabulous} Wedding Photography Giveaway

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Just a reminder…54 days left to nominate your favorite engaged couple for the Free Wedding Photography Giveaway! I’m looking for a couple who has a great story of love and hardship, or a couple who has surmounted the odds. Maybe a couple who can’t afford the type of photography that they’d really like. If you know someone like that, give them a gift they’ll never forget…a FREE wedding package worth over $5000! I’ll travel anywhere in the continental U.S. and cover my own travel expenses. Email nominations to weddingstories@rawsii.com until January 31, 2009. For a complete list of rules and regulations, click here.

Keeping the Desk Chair Cushy

As we plowed, almost literally, across several states for our family Thanksgiving celebration, I decided that instead of just holding my camera in my lap waiting for those crazy moments that only happen when you DON’T have it, I’d stretch my imagination a little bit and see what kind of artistic pictures I could take from the confines of my vehicle. Amongst my photographer friends we have a little thing we try to do called GOYA (Get-Off-Your-Arse) where we encourage each other to let the cushions on our desk chairs return to their original shapes while we go shoot…*gasp*… JUST for FUN! This is something we pros rarely get to do anymore! Of course, our jobs are TONS of fun, but the good ol days of just lazily wandering around shooting every little thing in sight and experimenting with new techniques is often traded in for the high-adreniline, fast paced world of shooting on demand. It was nice, for once, to just lazily shoot again and see what art I could make under no pressure at all. But can I count it as a GOYA…technically? Hmmmm…I’m gonna say yes. My desk chair feels a little more cushy now than before I left it.

Here’s my artistic representation of what the world REALLY looked like.

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And HERE is what the world looked like to my crazy little mind:

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And THIS is, of course, is the almost-five-year-old love of my life who, along with the almost-three-year-old joy of my soul, truly keeps my desk chair from any excessive overuse. 🙂

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