It’s still a little dark when I tiptoe into her room. Under the sounds of gentle instrumental music, I can hear her deep, even breathing, and even though I haven’t seen her, I’m almost in tears. I’ve missed her so much, and eight days away has been too long. There’s something about that “baby smell” that is intoxicating, and as I sneak over to the edge of her crib and peek down on her, I’ve never been so glad to be home.

Returning from my Vegas trip for WPPI and Showit United was bittersweet. I couldn’t wait to get home to Graham & Mia- my heart hurt from being without them for so long. Graham is truly my other half, and Mia is our heartbeat. She is such a little wonder and every time I look at her my heart melts and I love her a little more. As I stood in her room Friday night and watched her sleep, I was amazed at how much she had changed and grown even in the span of a week. It was SO HARD to be separated from her, but the trip has already paid off in so many ways for my business, and differently than I thought.

“Be who you are unapologetically, because when you do so it gives others permission to do the same.”
Mary Marantz

In thinking about what I’ve learned, the biggest thing that comes to mind is that I have to BE MYSELF. It was a reoccurring theme throughout both conferences, with all the speakers I enjoyed most. Mary Marantz said in her presentation “Be who you are unapologetically, because when you do so it gives others permission to do the same.” This is my year to do just that. I think sometimes I’m afraid to really let loose and show people who I am- I worry sometimes that it will be a little overwhelming for some. I love BIG, and 1000%. I can be a little crazy. I run my mouth constantly. I have a quick retort for every comment. I cackle when I laugh. Music and my baby girl make me cry. I’m finally starting to GET it- it’s ok to let people see you be vulnerable. It’s terrifying and liberating all at once. My friends and family already know & love me for who I am, but going to Vegas solidified my decision to really make things personal this year, and really get real with my clients.

Another quote that really touched my heart was from Julie Story- who, in a short period of time, has snuck into my heart the way I snuck into Mia’s room- on tiptoes, softly, and with love. During her presentation she said that being able to put her kids first is how she defines her success, and she asked us to think about what freedom looks like to us. Is being free and having success based on how much money you make, who knows you in your industry, or how many conferences you speak at?

When I first became a photographer, I thought that the best part of the job was being your own boss- deciding when and where to work, what clients to take, and how to spend your money- but now that I have a baby I agree with Julie. Being free to stay at home with Mia and really pour into her little life, being available to be a good friend, being able to cook Graham dinner every night and snuggle up with a good book afterwards- that’s freedom. That’s my success, regardless of how many weddings I book, or how many portraits I create. It’s hard to look at the numbers sometimes and feel like I’m successful. I always want to do better. I always want to make more money. I always want more people to know my name, and what I stand for. I always want to book more weddings and more boudoir sessions. I’m always looking for new clients, and LOVE it especially when past clients refer their friends to me, but is my success based on those figures alone?

“Focus not on other people’s love stories,
But the love stories in your life.”
Julie Story

No. It’s not. Thank God that my success is not based on others, but based on what I do best- Love. Success is fleeting, but love is priceless. Being able to love what I do, and be myself, all the while being a mom, friend, wife, sister, daughter & grandaughter… Those are my love stories, and although I’m thrilled to tell the love stories of others in my work, I flourish in the pages of my life.

When Mia woke up the following morning, I went into her room to get her. Her face blossomed into a huge ear to ear grin and when I scooped her into my arms, we just held each other for a really long time. I felt her little heart beating against my chest and thought, this is my freedom. This is why I do what I do, so that my daughter can have a mom during the week to love on her in a big way, and give her a life less ordinary.

She is my freedom- and photography gives me permission to be home with her where I belong.

PS:There were so many things that stood out to me when I think about Vegas…. and the Showiteers that I spent time with were honestly life-changing, and although we had never MET in person, there was no awkwardness or lulls in conversation. I was so sad to leave- it sort of felt like summer camp- you make lifelong friends over the course of a week, then have to go home, and even though it’s hard you know your life will never be the same. If you’re reading this… You know who you are, and how much I love you. THANK YOU for last week! Here’s a little video that Nicholas Williams of Handlebar Studios made from the conference- just a little snapshot of our lives last week. Miss you all already!