A space for calm

Apparently, I work best when there’s just enough work that it must get done now, but not so much that the stress of it all paralyzes me. Or, maybe I just work well when I learn to practice that oh-so-elusive act: balancing. In fact, I know this to be true.

For me, balance looks like this: plenty of time off away from my computer, from social media, from things related to “work”. It’s starting my day sitting in silence. It’s the practice of breathing and smiling and being aware of that. It’s lots of naps under the tree. It’s planning meals, preparing them, and enjoying them with James, friends, family (and preferably all three at the same time). It’s creating a beautiful home, filled with memories and the right amount of “things” that don’t represent material wealth, but experiential wealth. It’s making time for me (weather that’s to work out, get my hair did, to read a book, or even finding the perfect new pair of shoes) and feeling great that I did so!

I’m in that space today. Tons of emails have been sent, plans made, house cleaned, meals prepped. This is the space I strive to live in. Free from distractions, free from comparison, free to live in my own head and simultaneously connected to the people that matter the most to me. Summer is almost here, and man it feels good to live in this space for a while…The trick is…when there’s more work than time, when the house isn’t just so, when I get an email that throws me for a loop–those are the times where I must MAKE time to get into this space. To make life, this very present moment, feel GREAT! To create that space for peace and calm and breathing and smiling!

Do you have advice for me on this? How do you get into that space?

{♥ ♥ ♥}

Kathryn

 

Here’s to the Dreamers…

 

Oh yeah, this video has probably been seen by all y’all out there, but I just saw it again for the first time. And this time, Steve Jobs isn’t talking about everyone else. He’s talking about me. He’s talking about you…if you let him. Have you ever thought of yourself as an “Amelia Earhart”? A Ghandi? A Steve Jobs? No? Why not?

I know for myself, I’ve always put people in categories, and ranked them. This is what we do, evolutionarily, to keep ourselves safe, but what it has done for me is put me in a teeny tiny box that has essentially immobilized me my entire life.

When I watch this video now, I see people who DARED to dream, then DARED to do. Thus far, I have dared to dream…I let myself live there, but I never let myself live in a place where DOING was a reality. Why? Well, the usual suspects, of course, fear, doubt, laziness ruled my mind. They kept me in my place. “You’re just not smart enough, Kathryn, to learn about things like that, so why pick up that book…” “You’re just the type of person who will never really thrive at any one thing…you’re a Jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” … “With success comes too much responsibility and you’re not very responsible”. These are seriously the things that travel through my head on a regular basis. The mantras I’ve told myself for years. I didn’t intentionally try to sabotage myself. I just didn’t realize how much these thoughts had a grip on my entire way of being!

I’ve begun to realize that, I too, am a big dreamer…I am a round peg…and at one time I was trying to fit into that square hole. Now though, I’m not seeking to fit in at all…I’m seeking to be whatever shape I take next, sharing my talents, expanding them in all directions and DARING to DO the BIG things I find meaningful and fascinating along the way!

Speaking of dreamers though…here’s to my favorite among them…

{♥♥♥}

Kathryn

Nothing’s Changed…

Except my perspective…which is to say, everything has changed.

This blog post has been excruciatingly difficult to write. I’ve been trying, in my head, since I returned from the What If Conference in the Dominican Republic over a week now to actually begin to explain what all has transpired for me in the past two weeks. I don’t want to get it wrong…lest you, the reader, misunderstand any of it. Though, maybe the harder part of this (and quite possibly the more important part) is, I don’t want to misunderstand it either. And, in the future, I don’t want to look back upon this log and be mislead or have it cause me to misremember.

Already in the past two weeks, I feel as if my memory of it all has faded too quickly for comfort. There are days when I discount the entire experience as “a nice little time away and nothing more”. In fact, I know it was anything but that…

 

We sat in a circle on wicker furniture, the yellow-painted patio still slick from the mid-morning downpour. I couldn’t shake that feeling…it was just stuck there…in my chest…a tightness. No matter how deeply I tried to breathe, I couldn’t seem to get a full breath. It’s been like this for ages now. An anxious feeling that just remains. It remains, it burns, it takes over and fills me with doubt, fear, jealousy, unhappiness. Why? My life is AMAZING! I get to do what I want, when I want almost without limit…

Yet. It remains.

We were in a small circle, sharing how we were feeling right then and there. We went around the circle and I told them that the first thing I had written in my notes at the beginning of the conference was that I am seeking “freedom”. What I meant when I wrote it was, “financial freedom” so that I could then do passion projects and give freely without want. The conversation moved toward what we were feeling. Tamara asked us specifically, “Where, in your body, do you feel?…When you’re stressed or frustrated or angry, where is it that you feel this?” It was like she just knew…my chest has been tight since who knows when…It’s causing me to feel sick, I feel it so deeply. She asked us to think about a specific occasion where this feeling was really pervasive and to write about it. We did. I won’t talk about what I wrote about here, but it was an instance where I felt dejected, frustrated, guilty, unsure. Needless to say, that tightness in my chest was even tighter.

We were then asked to think about the situation again, only this time, imagine it going perfectly….what would you do differently? I imagined the scenario again and tears washed down my face…I breathed deeply…maybe for the first time in months, my shoulders relaxed, I felt open…and in that moment, I thought to myself, “I feel free”…and it hit me so so strongly in that instant: THIS IS FREEDOM. AND FREEDOM IS A CHOICE. MY CHOICE. As that thought entered my mind, something truly beautiful happened. A sharp wind swept across the courtyard from left to right, moving the palm fronds as it passed. The sun shown brighter than ever, the sky bluer than ever. The greens, the yellows, the red…truer than ever. It was so clear to me: Every moment of every day we make a choice to listen to the voices in our head, to give into the doubt, to compare and wallow. OR, to breathe in, acknowledge that voice, the feeling in our body, then breathe out…and let go. Let go. It is my choice. It is just that simple. And yet, that complex.

I now know this. And this has lead me to is a place I never knew I could reach! It is a place that has allowed me to let go of so many feelings (voices): “I am not good enough.” “I am not smart enough.” ” I don’t deserve it.” “I will never be successful.”

Oh yeah…those voices are still there…big time…HUGELY in my ears. But, this exercise of simply noticing these voices or thoughts, has given me the ability to move past them and see who I, Kathryn Denelle Stevens, truly am…and what I can truly achieve in this life! No more comparing. No more caring about what others think of me. No more belief that success is for others, not myself!

As I write this, I imagine some of you are thinking, “Sure, okay…good for her…we’ll see how long that lasts.” Or whatever judgements you may have of me…in times past I would have been exceedingly concerned that people would judge me. This has stopped me from doing SO much in my life…it’s insane! In fact, as much as this new perspective feels like it’s a 180 degree departure from reality, it’s the most sane feeling I’ve ever had!

This new place is allowing me so much more than peace-of-mind or contentment…I now see things more clearly. I am aware and listening to conversations around me. I see moments, beautiful, tragic, tender moments happening all around me now. I know it sounds super crazy, but I can even smell better (there are studies that show stress causing our sense of smell to diminish, so maybe?) For so long I’ve been consumed by this self-doubt, fear..blocking me from my authentic experience of life. I (sometimes purposefully, sometimes subconsciously) deadened myself to a situation, a conversation, friendships, the food I was eating…and the images presenting themselves all around me…My creativity stifled. As I write this, it brings tears to my eyes to think about living this way. In fact, this is not living. This is just waiting to die.

There is so much more to be said about my experience, and I will share it another day, but for now… know that things are different from here on out. My choices are mine…I must own them, but I do not need to hold onto them. In this moment…right now, I have the ability to start new. To breathe in…acknowledge the judgements, the frustration, the stress, breathe out…and let go…

It may seem as if nothing has changed…but know, because my perspective, my reality has wholly been altered, truly everything EVERYTHING has changed.

SOOO, I realize these images may seem to be trite after that long and heavy blog…but to me they represent something…I took these images the first day I arrived at the Melia Caribe Tropical in Punta Cana…these images to me are superficial, artificial. They’re funny too, and they still make me laugh. I guess it’s more difficult to explain than I thought, but what I mean to say is…. if all I ever accept in people are the masks and plumes they present, and I never even attempt to see people for who they really are, how can I create my true vision of life in my work? The reality…with all of the beauty and pain that that entails? How? I must be willing to go deeper…I owe it to everyone. I owe it to myself.

{♥♥♥}

Kathryn

What IF… we went to the Dominican Republic?!!

Soooo…exciting news… I’m going to be heading to the Dominican Republic for the entire week for the What IF Conference!!! !!! (Just had to add those extra exclamation marks for good measure!)

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that winning a seat the the What IF Conference in Portland last July was nothing short of life-changing for me…sooooo, I decided I HAD to attend the next one! Just like last time, I am nervous for it because I don’t know what to expect. I mean, I know it will make me dig deep and really think BIG about business and life…I KNOW this to be true…but to see what will come of that is what I’m nervous for. After I went to Portland last July, I was deeply affected by the speakers, the organizers (Jen and Steve Bebb), the attendees…they created a space where I could push my mind to think beyond just being a creative…and toward a life that is more focused, productive, balanced, free!

Most importantly, I came away with a better understanding of myself. I realized the ways I was sabotaging myself and my work. These past six months since that conference, I’ve failed, I’ve tried again. I’ve learned, I’ve regressed. I’ve been dedicated. I’ve been over-bearing. I’ve been quiet. I’ve been inward. I’ve been bold. I’ve reached and shrunk, then stretched and been moved. It has made me realize that life is one big, long growing experience…if you let it be so.

(below are some photos from the previous What If)

(This guy was not an attendee..but a member of a band that played at our hotel, The Jupiter)

(Tim Fair playing some pool with somma the guyzz)

(Jim Cool of SheHeWe Photography)

(Mary of Justin & Mary)

The Group, out and about shooting Richelle and Eric! (Who, btw, are now engaged!)

(Shooting in front of a strip club in Portland…not that weird for this group…or Portland)

(Marsais of Marsais Photographie!!

(Susannah of Unveil By Alumbra!)

(Shooting on the backside of a billboard on Burnside…whatevs)

 (Fer!!! Teaching us his skills!)

(This is Fer Juaristi, aka “The Mexican Monkey” aka “The Magic Maker”)

(Fer taught us many things, including the term “visbons” #visbons…look it up)

(Here’s some visbons for you!)

Anne Sage (The City Sage) and Caroline (of Woodnote Photography), Richelle and Eric!

(Steve Bebb, telling a story you’ll never forget…or possibly just giving directions.)

(The Joel and Mary, Mary and The Joel, giving the impromptu presentation of their life!!!)

(I’m certainly not done stretching, not done reaching, not done growing…so next week I am putting out my branches once again…toward the sun light…but maybe more importantly digging my roots, yet again, into the soil…drinking deep, preparing again, for another year of reaching new heights.

I will be away from all work, including this blog, but be sure I will be back the following week…refreshed and renewed…ready to breathe in all that life has to offer!!!

{♥♥♥}
Kathryn

Tuesday | ToDoDay | Taxes

Today? Today, I have to get started on my TAXES!!! Just writing the word gives me heart palpitations! Oh goodness me, when it comes to this part of my business, I am DIS.OR.GAN.IZED! So, really, today I start taking my scraps of paper and online records to a bookkeeper who will start me on the right path to start my taxes.

So, because I am getting all queasy having to think about money and (if you’re at all like me) would like a small distraction from reality…here’s a HILARIOUS video that a friend shared on Facebook yesterday… seriously, this kid is too cute and (almost) made me forget about icky business-y stuff for a moment!

“Not cool, Robert Frost!!”

{♥♥♥}

Kathryn

The happiness list…

Today, I laid on the floor (something that makes me happy) and I wrote and wrote and wrote. The heading at the top of the page: “What Makes Me Happy”.

Nothing on this list is extravagant. Everything on this list is within reach, on a regular basis. These are things, or people or actions I choose to include or exclude from my life. These little things truly are what make up life and contribute to my happiness…

What’s on your happiness list?

{♥♥♥}

Kathryn

 

Let Go.

Let go of fear.

Let go of anger.

Let go of ego.

Let go.

Let go of pain.

Let go of jealousy.

Let go of consuming.

Let go.

Let go of power.

Let go of me vs. you.

Let go of want.

Let go.

Let go of sickness

of emptiness.

of holding it in…

Let go let go let go…

{♥♥♥}

Kathryn

 

Goals for 2013

Well, Goal Party 2013 is a wrap! My friends and I got together Saturday night (after watching what I must say was a shocking and devastating loss to Butler) to commit to our goals for 2013 and to review how we all did in 2012.

The tradition is to drink port wine and eat a very special cheese, called Stilton, which goes especially well with port (but is also especially stinky). As we (Karen, Dan, Jabez, James and I) went around the table reading our goals from last year and explaining if we reached the goal or not (and sometimes why), I couldn’t help but feeling incredibly proud of these people who I call my closest friends. Whether we failed or not at some things last year, the fact that we even sought to create a ritual like this and commit ourselves each year to be better, is really a wonderful thing…I LOVE that I have friends like this!

 

While last year, I really only had 1 goal, this year,  the pendulum swung the other way completely for me, and I filled an entire page pretty easily. As I described last week, my hope is to create goals that are timely, so my goals were written out quarterly. This will hopefully keep me on track and really striving to propel myself forward throughout the year, without dwelling on setbacks…always moving forward, forward.

I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a pretty exciting year (pay special attention to the 4th quarter of the year 😉

What did I tell you?! This year is going to be kind of epic in the Stevens’ house! (And no, this is not an official announcement of anything…just the hope for the future!) James made a short and sweet list of goals that he will totally make happen! Karen, as usual is working on goals that make her a better mother and educator and I have no doubt she will rock her goals out this year! Dan, whom I admire for so many reasons, has almost as long of a list of goals as I do, but he is crazy motivated this year! And Jabez is making things happen this year like nobodies business! This year is going to be GOOD…I can just feel it!

Thank you to everyone who shared their goals with me! I know each and every one of you can accomplish them! Let’s commit to commitment, shall we?! The winner of the giveaway is…

Megan Kathleen!!

 

Cheers to 2013, friends!!!

{♥♥♥}

Kathryn

I don’t want to work today, so let’s have a Dance Party!

Yesterday was filled with a bunch of tasks that I just didn’t want to do! So many times, I’ll set out to accomplish SO much in one day, only to find myself doing everything BUT those tasks! This wasn’t really an option though…I HAD to get things done. So, I needed to kick start my productivity…somehow…someway…and that’s when inspiration struck…

Time for a dance party!

And it totally worked!! I danced like a crazy person (seriously, if you haven’t watched the video, you are in for a treat…think Elaine on Seinfeld)! My dogs even got into the mix (Parker acted just like every other guy I’ve ever seen up in the club…bad dog…bad!) And Abbey showed off her mad skills! I got my heart rate up, just enough to be PUMPED to DO. THE. WORK!

What are your tricks for just getting shhhtuff done?

{♥♥♥}

Kathryn

TUESDAY | TODODAY

So it’s mid-January and I am JUST now beginning to reflect on what worked and what DID NOT work in 2012! First off, with almost 2 months left in 2012, I made a list of goals I was going to accomplish before the clock struck midnight on New Year’s 2013.

On that list were:

Ten: Create and order new sample albums (I ordered one version, I will be ordering the other in the next month)

Nine: Book flights for an international vacation (I didn’t quite make this one, but as of today, I did!)

Eight: Read 3 books, 2 non-fiction, 1 fiction (ohmygoodness, this was a major #fail!)

Seven: Take one frame per day, on film (ummmm…not even close)

Six: Re-work my blog (This is first up on the list this year)

Five: Book 1 (or more) destination weddings (Oh yes I did!)

Four: Submit to be published on a national wedding blog (Check…AND it was accepted!)

Three: No social media on the weekends! Except Instagram…;) (This one started off strong, but got difficult when I was working on the weekends…)
Two: Avoid ALL refined sugar for the rest of the year…whoa…yeah…this is happening. I’ve done it before and I will do it again. (I absolutely did this..though my end of the year was Christmas eve…that last week of the year was all down hill!)
One: Run that half marathon I’ve been talking about! (Done and done!)
All in all, I feel really good about this. I am pretty surprised with myself that I was able to do so much in such a short period of time. But, I believe this is why it worked for me.
SO, going forward this year, I plan to make SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) goals, just like the goals above were, and really focus on the “A” (Attainable) and  “T” (Timely).
The goals will be set for 2 months out, and then again two months out, and so on until the end of the year. And, if the goals need to be revised based on circumstances I hadn’t foreseen, or it just makes more sense to change to another time of year, or get rid of all together, I will definitely feel free to do so.
Overall, last year was an A-mazing year! I mean, honestly I couldn’t have asked for better clients for 2012! On top of that, I feel like last year was a huge learning curve for me when it came to my business, as well as my personal life. I think I grew a lot and I feel like I know who I am just a bit better going into this new year.
In general, here is my “What Worked and What Didn’t list”
What Worked:
1. Setting office hours (I worked from 7am to 6pm, Monday -Friday with lots of breaks for coffee, dog walking, and hanging out with friends) This has made me feel a little more in control of work.
2. James and I shooting weddings together! James just rocks and keeps me focused and prepared for the next thing…Go Team!
3. Moving out of an office into a home office. Working from an office was unnecessary and distracting, it turns out! I did enjoy having a place for clients to meet me, so I might work on something like this in the coming year, but in general, working from home has been more than fantastic for me!
4. In-person client meetings. I LOVE setting up for client meetings. I love choosing what we’ll eat, what images to display, whether we’ll have wine or bubbly 🙂 or coffee, what candle to burn, what music to play, etcetera! I also love just getting to know my couples well from the very first meeting. It is ultra-important to me that we really connect the first time we meet!
5. Wedding-Day Timelines (I am kind of staunch with my couples about the timelines! And, so far, people love it! I do too..having a playbook for the day is essential to keeping it stress-free and fun!
What Didn’t:
1. Sticking to my daily schedule (written on a mirror in my office, I have a schedule of what I should be working on throughout the day…I don’t think I’ve followed it once, which is definitely a problem…I’m going to fix this by changing the way I work all together!)
2. Trying to do everything myself! (This includes editing, office management, taxes, cleaning, branding, blogging, client care, vendor care…and the list goes on. So, this year, I have a few goals that relate to this!)
3. Skype/FaceTime meetings (These actually have worked WHEN I’ve had them. Trying to convince clients to meet with me this way for the first time, seems to be like pulling teeth. I am not sure if I’ll continue to make that offer. I might decide to offer to meet them in person OR on Skype, whichever they prefer.)
4. Creating systems that map out my workflow on all aspects of my business. I keep saying to myself, “I totally need to create a system for that” and then I continue to put it on the back-burner! If I had a system for everything, I practically wouldn’t have to think about it! Instead I would just DO IT! One of my major priorities for the year is to make my business work for me. This is probably the number one thing that will get me there. (Hold me to this, internets!)
5. My branding. My website, my blog, my logo, are all done by me, and it shows! Ick! Technically, I’ve only been in business for 1 year and a half, so I think it’s okay that I started out this way, but it’s time to put some effort, energy and MONEY into this really important aspect of my business!
As I said in this follow up post last November, the key to attaining the goals I set out, has been to work on them a little, daily, rather than procrastinating, and allowing myself to think I’ll change ALLATONCE, overnight, I’ll just BE the kind of person who “Doesn’t eat carbs” or the person who “Follows Through” or “Is on top of everything”…No, these are ways of being that take constant and consistant practice. These are choices, that turn into habits that turn you into the person you want to be.
I am SUPER excited for this weekend because we’re having our annual “Goal Party” with our good friends, where we will dedicate a night to writing out our big goals for the year. Last year, I had but one goal on the list. It was to shoot 15 weddings last year. Well, I failed. I only shot 11. But, at the beginning of last year, 15 was a HUGE goal…one I never thought I would even come close to. The point, of course, is to achieve the goal, but maybe more, it is to think BIGGER and reach HIGHER than you ever had thought of doing before. So this year, I plan to go BIG…real BIG!
And, I want to invite everyone, as I did last year, to come join the party! Okay, not in person. Afterall, it’s not even at my house! But, to virtually join the party! Tell me what your goals are for 2013!! Or, maybe even just the first 2 months of 2013.
Write in the comments below what you plan to accomplish this year! I will randomly pick one winner from the commenters who will win my very favorite (Voluspa Santiago Huckleberry) candle from Anthropologie (because amazing candles make goal setting just that much easier)! I will announce the winner next Tuesday when I will also share my goals for the year!!!
{♥♥♥}
Kathryn