hello. i’m still figuring this out.

lanisplants-1And by this, I mean life. motherhood. business. health. homeschooling. marriage. everything. For some reason today I felt the need to start with a blank slate, and for some reason that took the form of a blog post in my mind and here I am in this sorely neglected little space, full already with thoughts from former versions of myself. I felt like coming back to it, making it new again. what will this be? where will it lead? is blogging dead, irrelevant, obsolete? why do I need this when I can just post all my thoughts all the time on instagram? I honestly have no idea. But I feel inspired to be here, and to start, and to write for myself at the very least.

If you’re reading this, welcome, and thank you. I’ll be back soon.

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Explorations in Nature Journaling

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When we started homeschooling and began to research the Charlotte Mason approach, I knew that nature study and nature journaling were going to be a big part of our homeschool life. Spending time outdoors, paying close attention to the amazing beauty around us and learning the names of our finds, and using art to record it all while also practicing handwriting… it seemed a perfect and important part of the experiential, hands-on curriculum I was forming.

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I gave Seth a small notebook to record his finds and we began paying more attention to the world around us. I was so excited for all that he’d learn from these experiences, but I had absolutely no idea how much I would get from it myself. I always loved art, and used to spend a significant amount of my free time as a child and teen painting and drawing. But along the way I got busy, and often frustrated by my efforts. I turned to the camera as my primary means of artistic expression. So when I pulled out my watercolors and purchased a little watercolor journal, I was mostly doing so to encourage Seth and sketch alongside him. But I fell in love. My prior frustration and perfectionism fell away because it was simply a field journal and didn’t have to be perfect. I was reminded why I’ve always loved to paint, and got excited about learning about the amazing creatures and plants surrounding us. The process of documenting our outdoor adventures has become so therapeutic for me and I look forward to that time spent with my paints and field guides and this little book. I’m doing it regardless of whether Seth is in the mood or not (because, as a five year old boy, he’s definitely not always in the mood), but I’m certain that my passion for it will rub off on him and his brother at least a bit. Already, they are asking for their paints and art supplies more frequently.

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My Materials

My sketchbook of choice: Strathmore Visual Journal 140lb
For more official paintings (which I’m doing much more of as a result of this love ignited by nature journaling), I love Arches Aquarelle blocks
I have been using the same very inexpensive set of tube walercolors that I’ve had since college, but I’m so excited to have just purchased this simple set from Winsor Newton. Learning to mix any color from just a few is one of the most important skills in watercolor. This set is wonderful because it’s small enough to go with me anywhere.
My brushes are a mix- some were my mom’s and could easily be older than me. When I purchase a new brush I like to do so in person rather than ordering online so I can see and feel it. My most-used brush at the moment is a size 3 round brush made by Grumbacher.
My pencils are all Faber-Castle but I’m really not very picky- any art pencils will do. My favorite pens are Micron- they are really amazing. I use the tiny 005 for details and fine lines, the 01 for slightly heavier lines, and the 03 for writing.
Field Guides: I love the laminated pocket guides made by Quick Reference Publishing (I found many at Barnes & Noble that are specific to our area.) We also have and love the Audubon Guide to Florida.

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My Process

I only sometimes sketch right there on the spot. I’d really like to do so more often, but my current season of life involves chasing a 2 year old, so I usually snap photos with my phone of things I want to journal later—along with collecting things like leaves, rocks, shells, and flowers to press.

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I start by sketching with pencil, getting the basic lines and shapes. I usually have a basic rough idea in my mind of how my page will end up, which items I want to draw, etc. I cross-reference my phone images with my field guides and often the internet as well, and in the process I learn interesting facts about each thing, it’s scientific name and common name, and those things go into the journal as well. When everything is done in pencil, I go over it with my micron pens and erase the pencil lines. Once in a while I’ll paint first and add in details with the pens later, but usually I prefer the prior method. When I’m painting, I begin with the lightest colors and then layer in the deeper ones.

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While at Wild & Free recently, one mama mentioned that her boys don’t have the patience for very much art journaling, but they love to recreate some of their nature finds with clay. I thought it was such a great idea, and definitely one I’d like to try!

We’ve been incorporating art in other ways as well, and my goal is to weave it into many different subjects. There are so many ways to tie art into science, geography, history, literature, and the list goes on. I really believe that they’ll learn more and internalize what they’re learning better if they exercise creativity while learning it. Seth always seems much more interested when we do. When we were discussing the the axial skeleton in science, he drew a skeleton (looking at a library book for reference) and labeled the bones we’d been talking about.

I will have to post an update soon, because already I’m seeing our methods shifting into something much more experiential and less workbook-based. And as a result, we’re both enjoying homeschool so much more!

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Battling anxiety with hope and oils

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I haven’t talked about it here yet, but if you follow me on instagram or are friends with me in person, you know that in June of this year—after over a year and a half of trying—I was pregnant. And then by the first week of July, I wasn’t. Losing a baby was something that I never expected. Always knew it to be a possibility, yes, but it’s something that can’t feel close and real until it actually happens to you. I always trusted my body completely in pregnancy and birth, and had very little fear surrounding that stage of life. So when I was hit so suddenly with the loss of our tiny baby at 8 weeks, it was a shock I could never have been prepared for. The emotional and physical pain was greater than I ever would have thought. Over the weeks that followed, the most intense pain of it dulled gradually. I stopped crying during diaper commercials (well, for the most part at least). But in place of that pain, anxiety had entered. I was on edge all the time. The boys would climb onto me and I felt like I couldn’t breathe; any type of crowd made me want to run far and fast; I worried over every little thing and couldn’t sleep at night—everything in life felt magnified and too heavy. It took me a while to realize that it had been spurred by my miscarriage. Through a conversation in a friend’s kitchen, it dawned on me how freaked out I was by the thought of getting pregnant again, while simultaneously wanting it more than anything. And so I began the work of trusting God and accepting that it’s out of my hands and in much more capable ones.

Around that time we received our starter kit of essential oils from Young Living. After hearing them recommended time after time for anxiety and depression, I decided to start using Valor and Joy daily- I dilute them 1:1 with a carrier oil in a little roller bottle, and roll just a little on my wrists, heart, and behind my ears once or twice a day. The difference I’ve felt has been amazing. The best way to explain it is that I feel balanced, and more grounded. I can breathe again, and life is still life, but I don’t constantly feel like it’s more than I can bear.

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So I’m clinging to hope, trusting in things I can’t see, and so thankful to have these wonderful, completely natural tools to help me heal. I will never stop being sad when I think about the baby we lost, but I know that we are okay, and that we’ll have another baby when we’re meant to. For now, I am feeling better, and that feels freakin awesome.

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There is No Line

I started blogging when I was sixteen. I had just started college, and I met a few people who had Xanga sites. I liked the idea, and started one for myself. I wrote about my life, my spiritual journey, some poetry of sorts. I enjoyed sharing bits and pieces of my life with whoever might be interested. Eventually I stopped posting there. Soon after Manny and I got married, I started a little Blogger blog, which later became Seeking Equipoise. I blogged about my first pregnancy and my journey into motherhood, my reflections on balancing family and business… and now there is what you see before you.

During the last few years, I’ve also had a separate blog for my business. I didn’t necessarily keep them separate on purpose. I knew I should have one connected to my work, and I just continued to post here as I’d always done. But somewhere along the way, the lines began to blur. My work is my life is my work, and so on. It all gets photographed. But what gets posted where? Just because it of my own children rather than someone else’s doesn’t necessarily make it less professional. My hope is that there will be no difference in quality between my personal images and my client ones. They are all my work. And why shouldn’t my clients get to know me, and see my everyday life and read my random thoughts, if they wish to? In fact, I want to my clients to see all that, because I am my business. This is a one-woman operation, and as much as I am hired for my work and my style, I am hired for me. The personal connection with each person I photograph is so incredibly important. The personal aspect isn’t a lack of professionalism- it’s an acknowledgment that the only thing that makes my business unique from any other photographer is me. The way I see things, my vision and voice, and my personality. Who I am as person and how I see the world are inseparable from who I am as a photographer and how I run my business, tell peoples stories, and interact with my clients.

In short, it no longer feels right to separate “personal” and “business” on my blogs when there is no true separation in reality. So this week I migrated all of this year’s Seeking Equipoise posts to my photoblog, and from now on all new posts will be there. I’ll admit that I feel a bit of nostalgia about leaving Seeking Equipoise. It’s been like a comfortable old friend for so long. (Silly? I know.) Anywhere I’m posting will undoubtedly be mine in the same way this has been. I’m planning to keep this site up for archive’s sake. If you’re a regular reader I do you hope you’ll follow me over to the HMP blog (and add it to your feedreader, etc.) Much love, and see you over there!

(Obviously the above photo, from a recent beach visit, is unrelated to this post. I just can’t stand to blog without at least one image in the post.)

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This Year.

It’s the evening of the very first day of this new year, and as I sit here typing I can hear leftover fireworks being set off not far away. Last night they went on for hours. My own celebration was simple and quiet, which was just fine with me as I enter the eighth month of my pregnancy.

I have always loved New Year’s Eve. It’s the welcoming of something fresh- three hundred and sixty-five days, yet to be written and full of promise. This year I’m anticipating so much change as our family grows by one. There will adjustments and challenges, and the complete joy that a new baby brings. There will be the continuation of my constant search for balance in life as I must learn all over again to simultaneously be wife and mama, photographer and entrepreneur, and still just me- all in a new way.

There will be some frustration (I already feel it) in finding that balance. Even now my body tells me to slow down and I’m not yet ready to. I have set the start of my maternity leave for mid-February, when I’ll be full term. I have much to do between now and then, but I really want to get to a place where I can turn off my business mind for a few months and focus completely on my family. I want to give them all of me in that time- I need to.
I want to focus my lens on them as well, and get back to that place where each expression and sweet moment makes me reach for a camera. I want to document us– our life as family- because as much as I love doing this for my clients and I am incredibly thankful that this is my job, this gift I’ve been given must be used for my family. Looking back at the folders of images I’ve taken over the last few years I noticed a trend in my work that bothered me a lot– as my business became busier, the number of pictures I took of Seth decreased. During his first year, during which I worked very little, I was always photographing him- sleeping, eating, smiling, playing. The following two years I still brought my camera out with us from time to time and I still took pictures of Seth, but not nearly as many, and often hardly any of the everyday life stuff- the details I’ll want to look back on and share with him later. It would simply not be okay with me if one day my grown boys ask me why there weren’t so many photos of them over the years as my career grew. They are truly my most important subjects. So I am going to start a habit- I guess you could call it one of my New Year’s goals- of documenting the lives of those I love the most. I know that artistically it will do nothing but sharpen me as well.

Last year, I chose the word thrive for 2011. It turned out to be quite fitting, though there were so many times in the last year when I didn’t really feel like I was thriving. But spending more than half the year growing a baby inside, and growing personally and spiritually in ways my soul desperately needed, definitely made it an appropriate word for the year.

In 2012, it is not one word but two:

be present.

This is one thing I have never been particularly good at, and yet I know so many areas of my life need it, and will more so than ever this year. Mentally, I am so often everywhere but the current moment, and I know it contributes to so much worry and mental chaos.
I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on that here soon… but for now, happy new year!

{Do you like our fun with sparklers from last night? I’ve been wanting to play with light and long exposure for several fireworks-type holidays in a row now, and this time I finally had a decent tripod. So when Manny got home from work yesterday I dragged him outside and had him do some light-writing for me. :) Seth absolutely loves them too, as you can see. I’m so glad, because I was inexplicably terrified to go near them when I was little.}

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Adventure, etc.

I want to be honest for a moment, and I’m hoping I can express all this in a way that doesn’t sound horrible or whiney or ungrateful, etc.
Sometimes I get antsy. I feel too domestic for my own personality. If you’d asked me when I was 18 what I imagined my life would be like at 24, the words travel, spontaneity, and well, adventure would likely have been involved. I think at that point I pictured myself globe-hopping for my fabulous work as a successful documentary photographer, not really tied down, just being young and free. I thought I’d wait a while to have kids, even to get married.
Now, I want to be completely clear that I have zero regret over the path my life has taken. I met my husband when I was 18, graduated from college at 19, got married right before my 20th birthday, started my business at 20, and at 21 I became a mother. Now, at 24, I’ll be a mom of two boys and building my own business doing something I love. It has been a whirlwind and truly an adventure in its own amazing way. And I love it all. I’ll bet that my 18 year old self couldn’t have dreamed all that up for anything.
Still there is part of me that sometimes feels like I’ve become boring. I haven’t been outside the country in six years, and haven’t even been on plane in almost two. I don’t get out as much as the average 20-something, and really would usually rather get a bit of extra sleep. I keep a budget and get excited over saving $31.86 at the grocery store, and feel pretty accomplished if the house is clean by the time I go to bed at night. I love my work, but right now it is very local and does not grace the pages of major magazines. It is humble and small. Sometimes I look at other photographers, and other people, who are constantly jetting off to this awesome city and that beautiful country, who wear really awesome clothes and hang out with really awesome people all the time and generally seem so glamourous, and I feel a bit lame and domestic in my normal everyday existence and ache for more adventure.
But then I have to remind myself to stop comparing and embrace my own story. Raising young kids is for sure far less glamourous, but it is not less. It is the adventure I’m meant to be living at this point in time. It is an awesome gift, and a weighty, important responsibility that I don’t take lightly. I am also so thankful that I can have a career simultaneously, even if it has to be limited for a while. And thankful that I’m actually still young, and my kids will only be little for a while. They will grow, and my work and life will change yet again. I’ll be able to travel and take bigger jobs eventually, and do more of the things I used to dream of doing. Maybe I’ll get to share some of those adventures with my family. And I know for sure that I’ll miss this time when they’re tiny and need me all the time.
But now, if I can see my current everyday life for the beautiful adventure that it is, maybe I can be a model for my kids of living fully exactly where you are, and of looking inwardly rather than comparing oneself to everyone else. That is one of the greatest gifts I can give them, because one thing I have learned (and continue to re-learn) is that happiness is in the state of your mind and heart, not your outward situation.

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24.

So first I must tell you, yesterday we finally found out that baby #2 is a…

BOY!

I’ll have to share  some pictures from our reveal party, which proved to be such a fun way to find out with our family and friends. It’s still sinking in- I’m mom to two boys! Seth is going to have a little brother. I know it’s going to be amazing. Now we’re starting to discuss names, which is always interesting. At this point we seem far from any decisions.

In the midst of party preparations over the last few days, I never got around to finishing and posting my annual list on my birthday. Last year, I made a list and posted it here – things I wanted to do in the year to come.

Friday I turned 24, and as I looked back on that list I realized that one thing I’ve learned thus far in life is that flexibility is key. Plans changes, situations change, and rolling with it- allowing myself to be molded by change rather than resisting it- is a good idea.

So, here’s what happened with my list last year– 24 before 24:

1. Have a balanced and successful business — Well, I’m getting there. I feel like I’m definitely doing better than I was one year ago.
2. Go on a weekend getaway alone with my husband — Check! Some pictures here.
3. Take a family vacation somewhere cool — We had an amazing time in Key West in June. I shot it all on film. See here and here.
4. Make cardio exercise and yoga regular parts of my schedule again — I have been working on this, and getting back into now that a lot of the early-pregnancy sickness is over.
5. Take more pictures of the people I love — I have been, though I do want to be better about bringing my camera along when we go out.
6. Be a better friend — I hope so. So thankful for my friends.
7. Be more selfless and generous — A lifelong goal and learning process.
8. Grow technically and artistically as a photographer — I can definitely say I have this year. I feel good looking at work from a year ago and knowing I can do better now and that my vision is more refined.
9. Make Seth’s birthday cake from scratch — Well, it wasn’t totally from scratch, but I did make it. The cake part was from a box. Sometimes compromise is necessary :)
10. Get published — Yes indeed, in Palm Beach Woman Magazine. See here.
11. Travel to shoot a wedding — I didn’t. I’ve shifted focus to mostly portraiture. When I do shoot weddings they will be local for now, for the sake of my family.
12. Learn to make good bread from scratch — Going to have to move this one to my new list… :) I bought the book Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day– now I just have to try it out.
13. Bring Seth to the beach more often — Sure did! We’ve been loving it too.
14. Paint a mural on the wall of Seth’s room — Decided not to, but I do want to do some art for the kids’ room. See below.
15. Finally get Seth’s room all set up — We did, and now we’re doing an overhaul soon to make room for his brother or sister. I can’t wait to get it finished, with a crib and things on the walls.
16. Create a nice outdoor living area in our back yard — That is always a work in progress. We have twinkle lights on the fence now, and they make me smile.
17. Have friends over for dinner more often — We have a standing bi-weekly dinner date with a couple friends, and it’s been great.
18. Have more date nights with Manny — We try. Date days too.
19. Journal more consistently, on paper, just for me — Yes, and I’ve come to really need that again.
20. Take a dance class again — Hmm, someday I will.
21. Learn more Spanish and work on it with Seth too — I still want to, but it is so hard to find time devote to learning a language.
22. Read some of the books I’ve been meaning to get to — I did read more this year. It is such great stress relief/escape.
23. Start over with my garden and maintain it this time — Started over, yes. Maintained… well, can I blame it on 4 months of headaches and morning sickness? My basil is still doing great though! I think right now in my life, fairly low maintenance herbs are the way to go.
24. Use up some of my yarn stash with some fun crochet projects — I did a few projects, and I have plans for more as Christmas gifts.

So overall I feel like I accomplished quite a bit. I’ve been jotting things down for a few weeks now for my new list…

………………………….

25 before 25

1. Have another beautiful, peaceful homebirth.
2. Continue to work our way though the Total Money Makeover plan to financial peace.
3. Learn to make great bread from scratch.
4. Continue to see growth in my business and perfect my practices as a business owner. {Including but not limited to: mastering in-person order sessions, refining my client experience, being more organized, and marketing better}
5. Continue to grow in my craft and become a more skilled photographer; continue to refine my unique vision and voice, and shoot with authenticity.
6. Find a balance and rhythm as a mom of two and family of four.
7. Go on a family trip, hopefully to Maine. {This is somewhere I have literally always dreamed of bringing my family– it is such a special place to me.}
8. Have our family captured by a photographer I truly admire. {I have someone specific in mind, but I don’t want to name names until I know it’s going to happen.}
9. Seriously declutter and organize our home.
10. Express gratitude for the specific gifts I am given each day.
11. Acquire and master some new photo gear. New lens(es), and a medium format film outfit I hope.
12. Spend more time outside, especially during the cooler months.
13. Make the majority of the Christmas gifts we give this year, and actually get them finished before Christmas.
14. Be more present for my family on a daily basis- learn to be less distracted when it’s time to focus on them.
15. Do art projects with Seth more often. So worth the mess :)
16. Make habits of the things that make me feel healthy, like being active and avoiding the foods that make me feel crappy.
17. Write more often.
18. Shoot for myself regularly. Document my family. Remind myself that photography was first my passion, then my job.
19. Overcome my intense shyness and fear of people, and make deeper connections.
20. Become more involved in our church and get to know some people there.
21. Relax more. Combat my tendency to worry and stress with the peace that’s already within me.
22. Go for more walks on the beach. Also downtown, at the park, etc. Just lots of nice walks :)
23. Go see a band/musician I like live. I seriously didn’t do that at all in the last year, which was the first concert-less year in my recent memory. Not acceptable.
24. Put together a sweet room for my kiddos to share. I never got to do any type of “nursery” for Seth since we lived in a little one-bedroom apartment for his first seven months. SO this time I’m looking forward to reveling in the creative nesting instinct :)
25. Waste less time online. Life is too short, too precious- I want to live it actively.

………………………….

My husband made sure my birthday was really special, with a surprise prenatal massage in the morning, a great lunch out, and then dinner at a fabulous Indian restaurant! It was so nice to spend a relaxing day with my boys (all three, it turns out!). I’ve also recieved some really special things from family, including a Nook reader from my parents and my dad’s vintage Nikonos underwater film camera. I’m definitely feel super blessed in so many ways.

Last, but not least, Happy Halloween! : ) Have a wonderful day, friends!

xoxo

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Community

Last Friday I spent the evening with an amazing bunch of artists and art lovers at a little coffeeshop in West Palm Beach (by the way if you are local and haven’t been to Harold’s, you’re missing out!) This gathering is called Lyrical, Ink. and it happens every month. I’ve known about it for a little while now, but last week was my first time going because getting away on a Friday night when you have a two year old is not quite easy. But now I’m determined to make it happen, every month if possible.

This night fed my soul in a way I needed so much more than I realized. The creative energy was palpable and alive- poets, musicians, actors, and visual artists- all in this safe environment trying out new material and sharing works in progress, and just sharing our love for the art and the process. I sat there surrounded by these people and just felt content, like I’d gotten back in touch with a part of myself that can be easy to forget in the midst of the million other things that life swirls around us every day. Oh yeah, while I adore my roles as mommy and wife and organizer of this home, etc., there is another part of me. And it is still there. It is the artist, the girl who is a creative being and has a need to connect with similar souls. We as humans have an intrinsic need for community, and I think we need it in different forms, too. For me, those forms are close family and friends, spiritual community (something I’m still kind of searching for), community with other moms (found in our great playgroup), and then last Friday night I found a piece that had been missing: creative community. I am so thankful.

I’ve posted more photos I took that night over on my photography blog, so do go check those out when you have a minute. Also, go like Lyrical, Ink.’s Facebook page, and if you’re in the area make plans to come to the next one, on October 21st!

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