Personal branding in bite-size chunks. This is a great option to get you started or for fresh content throughout the year. Branding shorts will be offered quarterly at different locations. This is the best deal for personal branding! You’ll come visit me at a studio space in Dallas or Plano. I’ll be all set up with a lounge space (think couch or sweet chair), work space (think desk/table for you to set up your computer or whatever you use to get work done) and standing and seated posing areas. Plan two to three outfits. You’ll get a questionnaire and homework to plan your props–even a packing list to be sure you bring everything you need. We will hit the ground running when you arrive so that you get the most bang for your buck at this 30 minute session. You’ll receive 15 images for $450. I can’t wait to start planning your session.
Or book 4 sessions throughout the year (once a quarter) for $1200. This is the best deal! You’ll also have some perks like additional images and a say in some of the decision process for locations!
Have two or more people? Want additional outfits? Reach out with questions and we’ll work together to come up with a great strategy for you. firstname.lastname@example.org
Hero sessions are my favorite way to honor local heroes and one way I love to give back in my community. Fire, police, first responders, and active duty military personnel are eligible for a free mini session with Meredith Joyce Photography. Please provide appropriate ID at your session. Mini sessions will be held in Rockwall, TX at Harry Myers Park on Wednesday, September 11 and include a 15 minute session and 5 digital images. Book your session here or forward this link to a friend who could benefit.
I’ve partnered with a group of photographers all over DFW, so if you are from a different area, visit our group page www.911heroesportraits.com for a listing of different photographers in different areas.
It’s back to school season! I love this time of year and have for my whole life. Shopping for new school supplies, getting my new backpack all ready for the first day, and labeling all of my supplies with my own special stickers or markers were all a part of the fun. With my own children, I still love it, just in different ways. And with three of them, I have had to come up with some hacks for getting out the door with my sanity by the first day of school.
My top 5 tips
Documenting their milestones is a ‘must’ for me! I wanted to share my top 5 tips for back to school photos to help you find the joy in what can be a slightly hectic season.
My top tip is to do it before the first day! The first day will be hectic as you adjust to new schedules. If you want to do it at the school, there will be 100 other mothers there doing the same thing. Save yourself here. On the first day, you can still snap a pic with your phone, but won’t have to worry about a 10 minute photography session before the bell rings!
Gather all of the items that document this time in their lives. Does he or she have a lovey/favorite outfit/favorite notebook? Bring it along. When my youngest was in preschool, he wanted to wear a pair of yellow rainboots all of the time. You can bet he wore them for his session. Be sure to bring this year’s backpack, lunchbox, nap mat, even a new folder that shows their favorite character on it! You will be glad to have this memory, and they will be excited to show off their prized possessions in the photo.
Speaking of milestones: include a writing sample. I have some old-fashioned personal chalkboards that I love to let them write their own names with chalk.
Head out to the school. I love to document kids at their own schools. Most schools have some great architectural features such as columns, brick, maybe stone or concrete steps that make for great photographic elements. Bonus tip: Go during golden hour for great lighting (an hour before sunset)!
And last, this tip could apply to all photography sessions with kiddos, a couple of cute props can be a sure fire way to engage shy or disinterested little ones. My chalkboard, standard #2 pencils, notebook paper, even an apple or two give little ones something to concentrate on instead of just looking and smiling. This will give you just a moment or two longer to document them than you may otherwise have. I also love to incorporate movement such as walking, jumping, even ‘running as though they are late for school’ to hold their attention and give some perspective to the shoot.
Documenting their lives is a beautiful way to freeze moments and memories each year.
This is the final post in a series that I’ve worked through on my favorite thoughts from Laura Vanderkam’s book, Off the Clock, which I found particularly pertinent to my life as a wife, mom to three, business owner, school volunteer, church member, friend, daughter, sister, and the list goes on. And I know that many of you wear those same hats.
First We Decide
If our goal is to attain that ‘off the clock’ feeling of time slowing, space to breath and seemingly all the time for what matters most to us, then it would follow the people closest to us are a great use of our time. We see that this meaningful interaction requires decidingto give someone attention—without thought of what you may be missing or what else you could be doing.
The people closest to us are worth the bother! And they don’t just help us pass the time, but they can make the hours spent together that much sweeter. This is such an important thing for me to remember when I get caught up in my daily grind of three children at home for the summer; with inevitable arguments, messy bedrooms,and all the rest that comes with raising three kids. The best I can do is focus on the relationships I am building with each one.
Then Create Space
So the question remains: how do we create this space for relationships? If the past is any indication, I know that waiting for the time to come when I’ll be completely finished working or cleaning up the house, or be otherwise completely relieved of all outside tasks is never coming. If I waited for that to happen before I had quality time with each child or a date night with my husband, I’d be waiting forever. I know I have to prioritize those times ahead of at least some of my work and all of my household chores.
If you’ve been following this series, you know I am a fan of the bullet journal and in addition to daily planning, it helps me keep yearly and monthly goals. I plan in three categories: Personal, Professional, and Relationships. Setting some kind of intention at each juncture helps me at least become aware of the time I am or am not spending on each of my most important relationships: my marriage, with each of my children, and then with various friends and extended family members.
At the beginning of this year, my husband and I set a goal to have a date with each child, alone, once a month–so each quarter we’d see all three of our children in this one on two format. After just a couple of months, we realized that is just not feasible and changed the goal to have a date with one child every other month and a family date with everyone in the other months.
The basic point is that planning in this time is important. Whether you have time to devote a whole day to a relationship or just a few minutes at bedtime, they can both be beneficial. Vanderkam quips that you would not show up at work at 9 am with no plans until 1 pm, and when you arrive home at 6 pm with no plan or structure, that time can get sucked away with Netflix instead of dedicated, meaningful interaction with your children, spouse or friends. Planning well means we prioritize these tasks.
Vanderkam references Reach Out, by Molly Beck, which I promptly purchased and have almost finished. She encourages ‘reaching out’ to colleagues, friends and acquaintances on most days of the week to increase your professional network. I was struck by her message but want to take it further to my family ties. I have grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other more distant family members who I have seen more regularly in the past, who have become distances due to proximity and time, but want to rekindle some of those connections. And I love the discipline of sending one note or call per day. Building a routine to stay accountable to myself and reach my goals.
This chapter prompted me to reach out to a group of moms in my neighborhood and church that all met up last summer for a discussion of a Christian podcast (Don’t Mom Alone is still fabulous if you want to check it out!) that we all listened to. This summer I didn’t get started as early as I wanted to, but didn’t give up and we finally started getting together last week for a new study of Bob Goff’s, Love Does.
Take a moment to consider your relationship goals for the rest of the year. What will you prioritize? How will you create memories with the people that you care about? What will you gain from giving the gift of time?
Have you read “Off the Clock”? What were your favorite takeaways? I just lent my copy to a friend, but when it is returned to me, I’d love to lend it to you! Reach out and let’s keep in touch! Because you are a great use of my time.
This is the third post in a series of four where I’m sharing my favorite highlights of the book, Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam. We’ve already discussed how to become more mindful of time here and how to create beautiful moments worth remembering here. Now we can figure out how to appreciate these beautiful moments.
Rush, Rush, Rush
I am chronically late. I don’t want to be late, I don’t want people to have to wait on me. I read somewhere that one should look at the drive time to get to an event and then double it and plan to get in the car at that time. I attempt to do this and then somehow I end up realizing I was going to start the dishwasher and Roomba before I get in the car–that’ll only take 10 minutes–and now my youngest can’t find one of his shoes–a quick 3 minute run upstairs yields the shoe–now I’ve just realized my daughter’s hair still hasn’t been fixed–5 more minutes in the bathroom. And now we are in the car, just running 5 minutes behind the original drive time, which wouldn’t be all that bad by my usual standards, except that there is construction on the road and we end up waiting 10 minutes at a road closure. All of this is a daily occurrence for me. I arrive at most destinations with my hands tightly gripping the wheel, my neck and jaw tense, barking at everyone to get out quickly, apologizing profusely to the others involved for our tardiness. Vanderkam recounts a story of one of the subjects of this chapter, but she could have told almost the exact one about me. The subject in this chapter realized the error of her ways and began to build extra time into her life. She says “Late is not taking into account the thing you know they’re going to do”–referring to the things her children will do such as running to the bathroom at the last minute as they load the car and in the process forget a crucial piece of sports equipment for the event they must attend. Such is life with children. This permanent setting of rush, rush, rushing around is a recipe for running through the day and getting to the end of the day, the week, and the year and wondering where the time went, and what the heck did I do? All while experiencing unnecessary stress.
The subject in this section settled on the idea of building time to linger into her life. She no longer wanted to be late, running last minute and ragged at every turn. Instead she made a conscious choice to take her time. And to enjoy every minute–or, at least, the enjoyable ones. I love this idea of lingering. First, I love the sound of the word but more importantly the idea it invokes. The idea that when we find something enjoyable, we can just keep doing it. That we can build a life where we don’t have to run from one thing to the next as fast as we can. We can choose, at least occasionally, to simply revel in a moment, and to take as long as needed. I am constantly caught up in the thinking, what should I be doing next? What’s next on my list? What else to I need to accomplish today? But Vanderkam points out that the answer to these questions may simply be ‘to linger’ and that’s a worthwhile answer.
On a recent holiday where my family was all home on a Monday, I realized at the end of the day that I had a sneaking sense of dismay at what we had not accomplished during the day. I literally had nothing on the agenda–so it wasn’t as though I had failed to complete a task. We had done the laundry, and the basic daily chores, but otherwise had laid around watching a movie, napping, and just being together. So why was I disappointed at the end of the day? I’m still pondering this, why do I need a to-do list that I can check off to feel accomplished? But I have a suspicion that simply writing in “Linger” on the list might be a great exercise on a day like that day. I can remind myself to slow down and revel in a day where we had no other duties or work.
Vanderkam points out that lingering isn’t just about learning not to be late, but about learning how to appreciate the present and thus ‘stretching your experience of time’.
My favorite way to do this is with a gratitude practice. We can work to savor moments of pleasure, both so that we can appreciate the present and so that we can remember them later and appreciate them again. I discussed my bullet journal habit in this previous post, but my gratitude practice has been an important way for me to pay attention to the best parts of my day and dwell on them (instead of the least savory parts).
The Daily Vacation
My favorite part of this section is Vanderkam’s suggestion of what she calls a ‘daily vacation’. We can’t always linger over our morning cup of coffee, especially if we have to get the kids to the bus stop by 7:25 and then get to a meeting at 8:30. But we can build in time in the day when it is appropriate to linger. Maybe we watch a sunset, go for a run at lunch, or even take a few minutes for some deep breathing. Whatever you need, take just a minute at the end of the event to appreciate it. Take a moment at the end of the day to write it down. And take a minute once a week to think back to all 7 vacations from the previous week. This approach increases mindfulness and helps us really savor our time instead of letting pleasurable moments slip through our fingers to be forgotten in the slog of our everyday lives.
Stop right now and think of your future self this evening. What 3 things are you going to write on your gratitude list? Have they already happened today? Or do you still need to come up with some items that you truly appreciate to write down? Can you stop right now to do a meditation? Or do you need to plan in a few minutes of something wonderful this afternoon?
Vanderkam’s next lesson centers on creating moments that warrant great memories. This is my specialty. As a photographer, I’m constantly looking for ways to document my kids in a unique and beautiful way as a creative outlet. It brings me joy.
In recent years, I’ve heard some speak out against the curated versions of life people share on social media. I don’t subscribe to this belief, instead I believe that social media users who share the most beautiful parts of their lives are doing their part to commemorate the things they want to remember. I hope that seeing the images I share brings you joy and inspires you to create and document your life, but more importantly, I adore looking back at our posts from a year ago or more. Facebook has done an amazing job with its Timehop feature.
‘If it brings you joy, celebrate it!,’ is my motto. Upon reading this chapter of her book, it helped me voice my thoughts here a bit better.
Our Three Selves
One of her most poignant points for me was when Vanderkam outlined that we each have three ‘selves’: the past self (which we remember fondly with nostalgia), the present self (which for me is often running late and short on patience), and the future self (which I idealize as having more time and energy). She says, “Bliss is possible in the past and in the future, but seldom in the present.” This seems so basic and obvious when I read it, but again and again I plan events and then am disappointed by the outcome, hurt that my children didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought they would , annoyed that my husband would hardly try whatever new dish I’ve made, and frustrated at myself for ‘losing it’ over something that should not get the best of me. But this lesson reminds me to give myself grace. Give it time for the memory to form–for the very best of the moment to rise to the top and stay at the forefront of my mind. I try to find gratitude in the parts that went well and dwell on the positives. So the lesson, I’ve realized, it to go ahead and plan the event, load the kids up in the car, pack the snacks and the sunscreen and the towels and the water toys and the snacks and the water and the camera. Forgive yourself for yelling at the kid that forgot their shoes, and know that what you are doing is beautiful. Or will be one day when you look back and remember the warm sun on your body, you’ll laugh at the thought of a kid without shoes hopping around on the sand, you’ll remember cold watermelon and the sound of squeals and laughter and the rest will fade away.
I recently attended a discussion at our church with our youth pastor about raising great kids in society today and he lamented a recent lock-in at the church where he had to reprimand several junior high kids sternly. He remembered this moment at the event with frustration, but the kids recounted the lock-in as awesome and a highlight event of their time at church. We all frame and remember things differently. We get the opportunity to curate memories for ourselves and, to a certain extent, our children–through photography or scrapbooking or journaling or home videos–synthesizing down the hours of time that could be mundane into distinct points of memory. And I think we can help our children foster this skill with a gratitude practice. After most vacations, or even at random times during the summer, I have the kids draw or paint their favorite parts of a trip or an adventure we had. I include these drawings in our family yearbooks (note to self: add a photo of this to this post).
For some events that are traumatic or tragic, every detail may be seared into our memory forever. But for the things that we do have control over, we can choose to curate adventures and memories to build a life worth looking back on with gratitude and love.
Think back, what memories are most vivid for you? What events stand out about the last few weeks? Do you remember them fondly?
I’m on a constant journey to live my best life by balancing (is that even possible?) or at least having a peaceful coexistence between my job as a mom and my work in my photography business. Since both of these actually happen at my home during the summer, it has its challenges. I listened to “Off the Clock” by Laura Vanderkam via audiobook several weeks ago. I checked it out from our local library and listened to it twice in the two weeks I had it. I then went and purchased it because I just had to highlight it and note it up to read and reread again–I highly recommend you do the same. Time management books hold a special place in my heart. The overarching theme of the book is a directive on how to achieve those moments of freedom that you feel when all of your everyday responsibilities and obligations are otherwise taken care of or not present. One can simply enjoy the present and the peace–the wonderfully liberating feeling of being ‘off the clock’.
She outlines 7 key ideas to attain this feeling. I found four of them especially interesting and have been working to implement the principles into my life with intentionality. I’ve got a blog series planned for these four ideas. This is the first of four in the series.
In her first chapter which Vanderkam titles ‘tend your garden’, she explains how we can start by taking a mindful approach to our daily time. Mindfulness is a great way to talk about how we can stop allowing our days to ‘happen’ to us. We can take control of our days. My experience, when I started staying home, were full days where I could not remember sitting down the entire day, yet I’d fall into bed at night and wonder what I had done all day. This was juxtaposed with my life before stay-at-home-mom-life when I worked in an office, with schedules, deadlines, and a wonderful sense of accomplishment each day when I had met my own goals and those of my organization.
Michael Hyatt, another author, is one of my favorite resources for developing mindfulness in my professional and personal life. I listen to his podcasts, but he has also written several books and sells a line of planners targeted at no-nonsense professional types (which are right up my alley). I took a long hard look at using this type of planner, along with a number of others, but settled on a bullet journal. This habit alone has made me vastly more productive and mindful of my days and where my time goes. More on that below.
One of Hyatt’s main lessons is the Big 3. Choose only three things to focus on each day. When you put 27 things on your to-do list, you will never get them all done, and you’ll just feel defeated at the end of the day. I choose three items that can each tie back to my yearly big goals –and if I can’t relate something back to my yearly goals, then I really question whether I should be doing it or not.
We can each be mindful to increase our awareness of time’s passage and our perception of it. Vanderkam refers to our ‘blind spots’. This is a nice way to say that, in general, humans lie to themselves about just how hard they work. She has researched extensively in this area and has found that for most people, even those that think they work 50 or 60 hours per week, work about 40-45. They may have had one week that required a much larger effort, and our brains single this week out and choose to remember it as the ‘norm’. Or our brains lump in our commute, the personal errands we ran at lunch, the call with your mom that you took in driveway when you arrived home all as part of our ‘workday’. Time tracking can help us realize just how much time we spend on each task. So how do we logistically track our time? Vanderkam promotes a system of tracking in an excel sheet in 30 minute increments. This is too much effort for me, so I sometimes use an app called Lifecycle. I’m sure they are collecting all sorts of data on me and selling it to an advertiser somewhere, but at least it automatically tracks my time with minimal input from me. Since I work from home, I do have to tell it when I am working, but for the most part, this makes my own time tracking much easier. It also makes me aware of how much sleep I’m getting (or not getting)–which I have to prioritize to avoid being a pretty cranky mom.
Make a Choice
Most importantly, one has to CHOOSE their priorities, set goals and then TAKE time to do those things. If you don’t make changes, nothing will change. I like to tell myself a story that I can’t grow my business in the summer because my kids are home. I have to actively tell myself this is not true each day as I make my to do list and concentrate on creating actionable goals at the beginning of each week. At the beginning of the summer I had planned to arrange childcare on Tuesday and Thursday each week in order to get uninterrupted work time, but so far that has proven ineffective and just not that realistic. When I only have care for my kids that sporadically, I end up making appointments on those days and there is not real time for deep work. Only upon thinking about this for this post have I come upon the idea that I should plan an hour into my early morning, before the kids are up, to do a bit of writing, reaching out and planning, in order to advance my business. I’ll let you know how that goes in a few weeks. The point however, is just that through mindful attention to my daily goals and time log, I have realized I’ve not been dedicating the time I want to dedicate to my business and want to find more time to do so.
How I bullet journal:
I’ve learned a lot about bullet journaling in the last year. The short version is that a bullet journal can really be whatever you want it to be–there are a million different variations. My daily ritual is to record the date, my water and food log (I make sure I get three big bottles of water and 3 servings of veggies and 2 fruits at a minimum), and then a list of daily tasks on the left with my schedule on the right column. At the end of the day, I write 3 things I’m grateful for and my prayer list. Most of this happens at night. In the morning, I take a few minutes to review this entry and my calendar–both my phone version and my printed one–yes, I keep both. I also cross off completed tasks from the previous day and copy down or plan for anything that I didn’t get to the day before.
As they come up, I add in lists and goal planning wherever they fall in my timeline. The first page of each journal is a table of contents. Truth be told, I’m not great at keeping up with the TOC. The magic of this type of journal, for me, is that at one time I would have had 6 different notebooks with a few pages used in each one. Now, I keep them all together and with me all of the time. I have my yearly goals (I recopy these on the first page of each new book). My monthly goals (which are the small parts of my yearly goals that I can reasonable accomplish in the shorter time frame) fall in line. I also keep lists such as upcoming blog ideas, books I’d like to read, and project plans–for me, my active ones right now are the VBS planning I used at church, an upcoming community camera class I’m planning and a women’s retreat I’m working on for my Sunday School class.
When I first made my website, I included ALL of this information on the ‘About’ page. I’m the type of person who wants to read a person’s whole story. When I visit a website for a new business, I go looking for how that person got there. But it turns out, not everyone is interested to read my life story. In fact, almost no one who comes to my site wants to know this much about me. I know this for a fact because of my google analytics. Most of you just breeze right by. But for anyone who wants to know a little more about me, this is the place to read the full bio. Get ready.
I went to college to be a structural engineer at Texas Tech. Go Tech (I’m a Red Raider through and through)! I then went down to Austin for graduate school at UT. I met my husband while living down there. We got married shortly after graduation and stayed in Austin. Within the year we were expecting our first child. And the second followed the next year. I went back to work as an engineer after each birth–because I enjoyed my work and we had amazing childcare. In 2014, when we were expecting our third child we decided to make a big change and take a chance at relocating to be much closer to my family near Dallas. We packed up and moved to Rockwall, TX. Though I found an engineering job and started working locally, all of it was just a little too much for our family, so we made the decision to slow down a little and for me to stay home with the kiddos. I’ve loved every minute. This window gave me a wonderful chance to connect more deeply with my children and also pursue another passion of mine: photography.
I’ve always been interested in photography. I loved taking pictures since my first toy camera when I was 6 years old. But the birth of each of my children brought a new sense of urgency to photograph them well and preserver each memory. My husband bought a ‘big camera’ shortly after we started dating and though I used it occasionally before kids, I became much more interested after they came along. While working full time with very small children, I didn’t have much extra time, but I took several photography classes through local camera shops and online. From there, I’ve just taken thousands of photos of friends, family and mostly my kids. Documenting their days has turned my interest into a passion. And now I’d love to do the same for you.
After almost four years in business, I’m as passionate as ever. When I show up at your session I am giddy with the anticipation of what we will capture, what we will encounter, and how your family will inspire and challenge me. I love all of it! And the feeling when I leave each session… my heart is full. I’ve just experienced magic with you, even in chaos, even when things seemed out of control (which they often do with small kids), I can’t thank you enough for sharing your precious treasures with me and my lens.
I can’t wait to meet you and hear your story!! Still have questions about your session? Contact me.
This gorgeous duo contacted me for a session in the lovely downtown Forney area. We started at home to get mom some headshots and then headed downtown to document their lives at this stage. This little one will be entering the teen years soon and I love documenting these ‘in-between’ years–when they have outgrown baby-hood, but haven’t lost all of their child-like features. My oldest is also this age and I ache as he grows and inches toward adulthood (quite literally, he is growing inches every month it seems). Check out this sneak peek–there’s more goodness where this came from. Stay tuned! Interested in booking your own session, customized to your family? Contact me here!
Every year, every week, and even at every single family photography session, I learn more about photography, business and myself. This fall has been wonderful and tough at the same time. I have met more families than ever before. I’ve enjoyed getting to meet each one of you and in our short time together boil down the essence of your family–to take the short course in your unique family dynamic and capture that with my camera in a still image. It makes my heart swell just writing that.
But this is the year that I said “no” to my Santa Sessions. I have LOVED doing Santa Sessions. Santa Emmett is the absolute BEST (he posts his schedule on his website so you can see when he has events with other photographer shoots and even free events like Bass Pro Shops around DFW if you want to go find him). And all of the precious kiddos that I meet are so much fun to capture as they meet and interact with Santa Claus.
Before I ever started a photography business, I was always struck by how time flew from mid-November through the end of the year. And now with three children AND a photography business, it flies from mid-September through the end of the year.
So this year, we’ve filled our schedule–and I know the time will still race by–but our greatest priorities are all spelled out. “Decorate the house” takes a prime spot the weekend after Thanksgiving (this is normally when I would have scheduled Santa)–right after the Christmas parade in our town. My husband and I actually get to take a little weekend getaway the second week in December, which I would not have been able to even consider in years past while I was buried under a pile of editing.
And saying “no” to Santa Sessions has allowed me to concentrate more fully on the family and newborn parts of my photography business, which have both grown this year.
I decided at the beginning of this season against doing Santa sessions for all of the reasons above, but I was running this morning and listening to The Happy Hour podcast with Jamie Ivey. Her guest was Myquillyn Smith (episode #218). The episode was actually about home decorating and cozy minimalism–and I could use more of both–but I was struck by a small part where they discussed how society usually doesn’t hear our “no”. It only sees our “yes”. You never hear about what events I (or anyone) DID NOT go to. You just see my posts on social media about where I did go. You don’t see the sessions that I turned down this season in my business, just the posts I make about the awesome clients that I did get to see.
So I wanted to share my “why” for saying “no” to Santa Sessions and “yes” to my family and other parts of my business.
If you’re looking for more information about contacting Santa Emmett, or finding another Rockwall photographer who is doing Santa mini sessions, reach out on my ‘Contact Me’ page.
If you’re interested in booking a family or newborn session this fall, it’s not too late, but it will be soon! Contact me now.