Work, Play, and Other Vacation Struggles | Thoughts from My Brief Journey to Minnesota

Something I'm growing in ferocity with is work-life balance. In fact, I'm beginning to think that living in and enforcing it is part of my calling. Freedom has come to me, because I've learned how to put healthy boundaries on my life (and get more work done than ever). However, this past season has been one of growth for my business, where I am sowing seeds and making room for new things to come along. With that has come a bit of an obsession with growth, and it has left me feeling considerably less than balanced. I've been over-worked, restless, and all but running on empty.

This April, my friend Shelley invited me to Minnesota to celebrate her birthday. She turned forty...something. Who's counting?! And I did not hesitate to book my ticket! Even though I was busy at home creating work for myself, spending time with her (and about a week away from the office), was an easy decision to make! Despite wanting to get a little work done while I was there, I made a point to keep laptop time to a minimum, as I was being to feel in my gut that so much work-focus was wearing me down.

 We got some cupcakes from the Mall of America to celebrate Shelley's birthday! Mine (the middle one that reads "Yay!") was vanilla filled with chocolate mousse. Heavenly!

We got some cupcakes from the Mall of America to celebrate Shelley's birthday! Mine (the middle one that reads "Yay!") was vanilla filled with chocolate mousse. Heavenly!

Apart from being an inspirational equine photographer and videographer, Shelley recently purchased a farm with her husband Tracy. For the first time ever she gets to live with all of the animals she loves: her two schnauzers Toby and Charley, her three barn cats Casey, Five, and Gale, and her gorgeous horses Maggie Sue and Fritzie. As you can imagine, being there was a very interactive experience: from early-morning animal feedings, to stall-mucking all with countless hours of furry snuggles!

 Shelley let me borrow her rain boots to wear in the barn. I made sure to get them nice and muddy for her!

Shelley let me borrow her rain boots to wear in the barn. I made sure to get them nice and muddy for her!

Their lifestyle required rest and healthy rhythms. Chores combined with sunrise chasing and the general sense of busyness that happens when you're visiting friends left me feeling more tired and hungry than normal. Because of that, I felt like I didn't have the usual energy to sit with my laptop. Even though I would naturally worked a lot more, I had to close my laptop and rest because of my lowered energy. It was the ultimate gift.

 An inception flatlay styling moment. Don't I made a great hand model?

An inception flatlay styling moment. Don't I made a great hand model?

In between shop-talk, YouTube watching, sight-seeing and photoshoots (from our model Olivia, to Shelley's headshot + animal photos, to practicing flatlay styling, and finally my own moments as Shelley photographed me with Maggie Sue), we managed to snack to our hearts content, delighting in homemade guac, charcuterie boards, Instant Pot meals, fresh berries, and so much La Croix. Even though we played hard; we rested well and fell into natural rhythms of work, play, hunger, and rest.

 Ah the joys of snack time and Instant Pot meals!

Ah the joys of snack time and Instant Pot meals!

Something that I noticed in Shelley the whole trip was her ability to stop and enjoy the moment. She adored watching her horses eat peppermints, reaching for them with their curly lips. When it was time to feed her dogs, she would tease them and build up the suspense as they got excited, jumping and dancing for their food. What I would have made into a mindless daily to-do, she made into an opportunity for enjoyment.

 Casey, the proud retriever of mice, and one of Shelley's adored cats!

Casey, the proud retriever of mice, and one of Shelley's adored cats!

When I got home, I hit the ground running and got straight to work the next morning. While at first it might have seemed like nothing changed, the most miraculous shift occurred: I wanted to read. Ok, so reading might not sound like a big deal, but as someone who defaults to Netflix to zone out and call it a night, I couldn't believe that I actually had a desire to read a book. My desire to read didn't feel like alternative entertainment either, but it instead felt like an uncanny desire for fruitful rest and mental growth.

Not only did traveling to Minnesota help to recalibrate me to do what gives me life (make room for slow conversations, cook delicious food, have less screen time), but Shelley helped me see the joy that can come from lingering in a moment and being just a little more present in the daily tasks. Even though I still feel a little work-worn and awfully task driven, I'm thankful to have been whisked up north to remember what it looks like to squeeze every drop out of this precious life I've been giving. What Shelley thought was a gift for herself was actually an unexpected gift for me, and for that gift I could not be more grateful!

See my video blog of the trip here:


Anna & Gabe | An Overcast Konza Prairie & Varsity Donuts Manhattan KS Engagement Session

"You better not propose to me in this outfit." She was wearing her scrubs right after she finished up a day at dental hygiene school, and he quite appropriately had her ring at the ready. Even though she might not have loved her outfit that day, Gabe knew that proposing to her in that moment, scrubs and all, was what he was supposed to do. After six years together, they were very ready to transition from dating to engaged, even if that meant she wasn't wearing her favorite jacket.

These two are my kind of people. They are easy-going, considerate, and obviously in love. Despite having threats of rain at their session, they were incredibly calm and flexible. While I was worried about her hair getting drenched while hiking the Konza Prairie, they couldn't have been more relaxed. Shortly into their session, we moved into the Manhattan city limits and made our way to Varsity Donuts in an attempt to stay dry should the weather get intense. Thankfully, we dodged the rain and managed to share more than a few beautiful moments together outside, even spying a lone blooming lilac bush at the end.

These two are calm in a storm, and can, I'm pretty sure, take whatever the skies may bring their way! After spending a little time with them, getting them used to being photographed by me and also giving them some photos while they're engaged, I'm confident that their wedding is going to be the peaceful, green vision she has dreamed about. No matter what that day may bring, I'm sure it will be filled with a relaxed assurance that all is well!

11 Things Most Photographers Won't Tell You (Aided by New Girl Memes)

As an avid watcher of New Girl (Nick and Jess... will they? Won't they?! COME ON!), I feel like one of the best ways to fully express my feelings in this situation is with memes from the show. If you're not a watcher, the show is currently available on Netflix. I suggest you do yourself a favor, and binge your face off.

Now, on to 11 things most photographers probably won't tell you---aided by New Girl memes!

1. They get really excited when you email them!

While you might just be casually hunting for prices, getting an inquiry for wedding photography from you can put a serious pep in their step! Learning about a new couple from their love story to their wedding day details is what drives many photographers and fuels their passion. Hence the cheering.


2. They get even more excited when you book. 

While this one is probably obvious, you probably don't realize just how excited photographers get when you book. They would probably freak you out with their unfiltered giddiness, so they play it cool. In truth though, a wedding booking can make their day, season, or year. Your actions at a future client likely have more power than you realize.

3. Consultations sometimes feel like a job interview. 

They're friendly; they're informative; and they feel like there's something on the line they care about: getting to photograph your wedding! Everything in them wants you to know they're the right person for the job, so don't be surprised when they show up in a blazer and pass you their proverbial resumé.

4. Engagement sessions are like wedding day training. 

Most photographers will tell you they want you to feel comfortable with one another before the wedding day. What they might not say is that because wedding day portrait times typically go very quickly (and can have unexpected delays because of things like weather), having experience with their posing and shooting style can make a potentially hectic wedding day experience feel like a walk in the park (but with fancier clothes).

5. The schedule is their baby!

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While photographers love to help you make a schedule that makes your wedding day go smoothly, they also know that it's crucial to making sure you get the photos you want and need. Deviating from the schedule could mean more stress and less photos. A little planning from your resident wedding expert (ahem... your photographer) can make all the difference.

6. They have a love/hate relationship with videographers.

While they try to get along with videographers, working with them can be something of a complicated dance! The pairing of video and photography is incomparable on a wedding day (and both are necessary parts of story-telling), but trying to juggle the space and time needed for both parties to get the shots they want is... tricky. Hence a Montague-Capulet-esque rivalry, until the end of time.

7. Your marriage means a lot to them. 

Even though weddings are something they see and attend considerably more than the average person, it doesn't mean that they are desensitized to the incredible covenant happening between you and your future spouse. They might be hiding their tears behind their camera as you exchange vows, but they certainly don't want people to catch them getting emotional while shooting. They are, more than you know, a cheerleader for your marriage, so naturally, cue the tears.

8. Seeing their photos printed through a sub-par lab is cringe-worthy.

Photographers understand that you want an affordable guest book at your wedding and you want to decorate your home with photos, but it can be rather painful for them to show up to a wedding and see that the images they worked so hard to edit to perfection were printed through a lab that doesn't calibrate their monitors or printers. Most photographers will gladly edit an album free of charge if you order them, saving you time and in essence money.

9. But they love it when they see their photos printed through a preferred lab!


On the flip side, when they their images printed through a professional grade lab, they freak out. Little will make your photographer happier than printing the images through a lab that will honor the beautiful edits, time, and energy they put into your imagery. They will give you the shiniest gold star for doing so!

10. They can't wait to know what you think of the photos they took. 

It's not uncommon for photographers to edit photos, deliver the gallery earlier than expected, and then hear nothing from the clients. Many photographers just want to know you liked what they photographed. Even though you are probably so excited to look at your gallery, a quick note to say you safely received (and loved) the images is more appreciated than you know (and avoids some major awkwardness).

11. At the end of the day, photographers just want you to be happy. 

All the scheduling, booking, nervous energy, and fancy details aside, photographers more than anything just want you to be happy! Little makes a photographer happier than knowing that you not only liked your images, but that your wedding day was made better by their presence. That's worthy of petal-throwing for sure!

For more thoughts on this topic,
and to learn my celebratory coffee beverage,