Defining Personal Success

Wow. A lot has changed since I last blogged way back in February. Three months ago, I left my job and took the plunge to become a full-time photographer. Ever since then, I have been so. happy. Like dancing-around-in-my-barefeet-while-humming-to-Macklemore-and-Ryan-Lewis happy. I feel so grateful for my steadily growing career, my amazingly supportive husband, our always-a-work-in-progress home, and our family of four-legged critters. Life is good.

Now that I’m self-employed, I’ve been making sure that my days are full and structured. I’m blogging on a regular basis. I’m going on shoots every week. I’ve been drawing and painting more. I go to the gym at least three times a week. I’m eating healthy. I’m networking with peers and professionals I respect. I’m strengthening my approach to branding, marketing, and my overall value proposition as a photographer. I’m making authentic connections with clients. I’m focusing more on how I define personal success.

Before, “success” meant a lot of things to me. Having loads of Canon equipment. Being spotlighted on the most popular wedding blogs. Getting tons of “likes” on Facebook. Filling our home with furnishings from places like West Elm. Having clear skin and a smaller pant size.

Now that I’ve had time to think about my goals, I realized that I was reaching for someone else’s definition of success. I sat down and thought about what is important to me at the end of the day. Love, strength, family, and health are what made the list. Ok, so maybe I’d still like some West Elm furniture. As far as professional success goes, I am focused on running a sustainable business by working with people who appreciate and like what I do and understand the value that I offer.

I can’t thank my husband enough for his support and encouragement, which allows me to have a life I love.

So how do you define success and what impact does it have on your personal life?

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13 Goals for 2013

A preview sketch of comics to come.

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. They’re the reason my Body Works Plus Abs class was filled with two dozen more wide-eyed, sports-bra wearing women than usual tonight. Despite having to illegally park in L.A. Fitness’ full lot in order to burn 440 calories, I still couldn’t shake the urge to create a list of to-do’s for the year ahead.

Plus, that darn husband of mine motivated me to share a few goals, so here goes:

Professional

•  Launch the redesign and rebranding of my photography business in the next few months (thanks to the hubs’ help).
•  Book more weddings for 2013 and starting filling up the 2014 season.
•  Try to blog weekly here or here.
•  Draw one page of comics every week for the entire year and share them on my new comics Tumblr.
•  Research [self]publishing my comics into a book, with possible funding through a Kickstarter project at the end of the year.
•  Start a graphic novel/underground comic meetup in Philadelphia to swap books and geek the eff out.
•  Expand Generocity.org’s freelance team and daily content, while further developing our content strategy and strengthening relationships in the community.

Personal

•  Go to the gym at least two times a week.
•  Finally prime and paint the 2nd floor of our house.
•  Go on a proper American road trip with the hubs.
•  Be a better wife (i.e.: make dinner once in a while, try to not take up the entire bed while sleeping, watch disturbing Cronenberg movies every now and again if it’ll make him happy).
•  Be the best pet mom ever (i.e.: pay attention to the bunnies and chinchilla more, give our dogs the endless attention they seem to require, and try to brush the dogs’ teeth every damn day).
•  Be a better daughter (i.e.: call my parents more so my dad doesn’t have a conniption every time I see him, respond to my mom’s novel-sized emails faster, and document my admiration for their neurotic habits in my comics).
•  Be a better friend. Yeah, I want to do all of this stuff, but it doesn’t mean not meeting up with friends for coffee (or in my case, hot chocolate) to discuss what books we’re reading or to how old we feel when #PrettyLittleLiars is trending on Twitter.

I’m exhausted just writing this list, so I’ll stop there, especially since I’m still six episodes behind this season of Downton Abbey and need to know what the hell happens next. Anyway, thanks for reading this and holding me to it!

2012 in 12 Photos

In the spirit of being nostalgic on the first day of a new year, I wanted to take a step back and look at 12 photos that sum up 2012 for me. Many bloggers are already sharing their goals for the year ahead, but I’m a bit behind around these parts. As always, expect a great deal of dog photos.

JANUARY: Although I’m the first to admit that our guest bedroom is pretty hideous (stupid impulsive HomeGoods purchases), we painted the room and got a guest bed like grown-ups. Baby steps.

FEBRUARY: We fostered Donald Sutherland, who we affectionally referred to as “wart” since he was full of them. I still miss the little emo bugger.

MARCH: Wedding crafting went into high gear as Pete encouraged my need to attack Pinterest-inspired projects head on. They usually didn’t come out very well, but at least we were occupied during the cold months.

APRIL: My parents and grandma visited for Easter. My brother and sister-in-law hid in our sunroom while I distracted my parents with an egg hunt outside. My parents’ blubbery, surprised reactions when they opened the sunroom door to find my brother and his wife were pretty priceless.

MAY: I volunteered more than ever this year and enjoyed every second of it. The shot above was taken as part of the Schuylkill Banks’ annual “Art in the Open” event.

JUNE: I was lucky enough to capture a lot of beautiful weddings this year, making friends along the way. It looks like 2013 will be my busiest year yet, and I’m lucky to have my husband by my side as second shooter.

JULY: We said goodbye to our social lives this summer and said hello to endless yardwork to get ready for our backyard wedding. This included removing old fencing in preparation for a new fence install. Thank god for Twisted Tea.

AUGUST: Most of this month was spent pulling together last-minute wedding projects. Having our family over to help us make our backyard wedding a reality up until the wee hours of August 31st (the day before) meant a lot to us. Thanks to Morrissey Photo, we can relive the good times for many more years.

SEPTEMBER: After getting hitched, we went on our first overseas trip together to Italy. Hiking the six hour trek through the five towns of Cinque Terre was the highlight of our honeymoon, despite tonsillitis making the journey a bit difficult.

OCTOBER: We jumped back into fostering after returning from our honeymoon, which brought Dexter into our lives. He was rescued from a kill-shelter in Baltimore, where he would’ve been euthanized if a kind man hadn’t taken him to a local dachshund rescue. We fell hard for the little guy, who quickly became our first (and last) foster fail.

NOVEMBER: It’d be hard not to include Edgar (“the bean”) on this list. He’s our last foster dog, since we quickly discovered two dogs is our limit. He came into our home weighing 22 lbs, but is down to a much happier and healthier 16 lbs.

DECEMBER: Generocity’s office moved into Center City, where I can sneak peeks of the Dilworth Plaza construction from my desk. The hour-long commute by train has given me much-needed time to unwind and catch up on reading. Spending the past month in close proximity to my co-workers has been awesome, and I’m excited for what 2013 will bring for our team.

Thanks for reading, here’s hoping 2013 will be even more fantastic.

Our New Year’s Eve Adventures

To celebrate Pete’s birthday and New Year’s Eve, we headed to The Nest Bed in the Poconos for our first ever B&B experience. I chose this location in particular because it’s modern and surrounded by nature (plus there’s an irresistible golden-doodle named Tulo). I can’t recommend it enough to those of you who are looking for a weekend getaway to the Poconos.

Photo credit: The Nest Bed

The steam shower with subway and honeycomb tiles was my favorite, and the stained glass accents around the entire house were gorgeous.

Here’s a small glimpse into the room we passed through whenever we headed upstairs to our room. This is also where Tulo greeted us by running up to us with a magazine in his mouth in the morning.

Seriously, how cute is that face?

I loved all of the attention to detail at The Nest Bed. From the adorable napkins accessorizing the ah-mazing homemade breakfast and dinner to the artwork hanging on the walls, the B&B felt like home and was filled with warmth from the lovely owners, Marko and Sally. They even had some retro pinball machines in the basement (I finally found something I could beat Peter at), along with a ping pong and pool table. I want them to adopt me, please (sorry mom and dad).

Say hello to Tulo for us if you visit. He will steal your heart instantly.

Pete and I spent our New Year’s Eve night dining at a local cafe (chocolate cake noms!) and taking goober-y photos of each other, followed by watching awful infomercials in bed and falling asleep to The Big Bang Theory.

Since it was Pete’s birthday, I decided we should do something he enjoys, even if the mere thought terrified me. That’s what birthdays are for after all, right? Anyway, I volunteered to go skiing with him at Shawnee Mountain, even though I don’t have a single athletic bone in my body. Pete had gone skiing a couple of times before so I was fully prepared to get owned, which is certainly what happened.

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Here’s a video of Pete going down the bunny slope…which didn’t seem very “bunny”-ish to me at the time…but now looking back at the video, I suppose it’s a pretty skimpy hill.

Alright, so let me preface this next one by saying that the video below was my last attempt going down the hill. My first attempt was mere seconds after Pete slammed my ski boots on me. As a side note, for those of you who have never worn ski boots before, imagine clomp-clomp-clomping around like a deranged Frankenstein while the pro skiers gasp at how much you lack grace in your many layers. I wore 2 pairs of tights, two pairs of thigh high socks, jeans, a thermal, a t-shirt, a hoodie, a snowsuit, a giant puffy coat, waterproof gloves, and a helmet (oh, and underwear). It almost reached the 50s that day. Needless to say, I was a sweaty mess and my glasses kept fogging up while I was attempting to learn how to ski.

Anyway, Pete sent us right on our way to the weird treadmill thing that takes people up to the top of the hill if they want to avoid the ski lift (yes, please). That alone was terrifying. Having to shimmy out onto the hill made my heart drop. Pete made it look easy since he had done it before. He told me to follow behind him, so I tried and tumbled instantly. Meanwhile, Pete couldn’t stop himself, so he went all the way down to the bottom of the hill as I struggled to get back on my feet without sliding down. This went on for about 10 minutes until I unsnapped my boots and slowly walked down the hill like a defeated goober, with 3-year-olds whizzing past me and laughing at my blatant failure. I decided I was done trying until we had our group lesson an hour later.

During the lesson, I learned how to stop (or “make pizza,” as our instructor called it) and turn. Despite the class, I still managed to ski straight down the hill at a rapid speed (rather than zig-zagging) during my first post-lesson attempt down the bunny slope. I tried my best to dodge fallen snowboarders while screaming “PIZZA!” and other vulgarities not worth mentioning. Needless to say, I fell flat on my face.

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Like I said, this video was my last attempt before we left and I managed to not fall (although you’ll see I came very close several times). Note the little child skiing past me effortlessly as I celebrate my victory. So sad. By the end of the day, my body hated me and I was incredibly sore, but at least I can say I tried something new and had fun doing it (despite the look of pure terror on my face).

What did you guys do to celebrate the New Year festivities?

Happy Birthday, Pete: Our 2011 Year in Review!

Happy birthday, poops. Hope your 25th is just as good, if not better than your 24th. I still feel like a cougar, irregardless.

I know how much you love those “year in review” posts, so I thought it might be nice to highlight some of my favorite “before and after” projects we tackled together around the house in 2011. Can’t wait to see what we’ll be saying this time next year about our DIY accomplishments. Also can’t wait to be your Mrs. (Just sayin’.)

Let’s start with the outside, where two huge trees and endless hedges were blocking the view of our house, making us drive past it nearly every time (not that I don’t still do that). I think it looks a lot prettier now that you can actually see our front yard, where we hope to have raised beds once Spring rolls around.

Then there’s this situation, which I still have to resolve by laying my bricks straighter since I was rushing (Pete did a good job with his).

Tada! The brick paths looking a lot less sad

Our sunroom was looking a little unfortunate when we first moved in, since we used it mostly to store lawn equipment and trash bags. I think it’s looking a lot cozier these days:

The Rocking chair revamp might be one of my favorite furniture makeovers from this past year…I love seeing it so bright and cheerful on our sunroom porch.

Here’s a look at our living room when had our first walk-through of the house. I instantly wanted to paint the fireplace white, and although most of my family thought I was crazy for it, I think it turned out pretty nice:

I still can’t believe how much painting we tackled the month before moving in, I wish I still had that kind of energy now.

The dining room used to be a bit of a downer, but with a little love from the wallpaper steamer and a fresh coat of paint, it’s looking better already:

Mmm, yellow.

Remember how smoke-stained our kitchen looked when we had our first walk-through? It looks so much better now without that bunny wallpaper, the new checkered floors we installed, and the white painted cabinets, all of which we did on our own within the first few months of moving in.

This one is lacking a “before” photo, but here’s a glimpse at the chalkboard door in our kitchen, which we try to always update with a weekly menu to avoid endless “what do YOU want for dinner?” ramblings.

This is what our office/critter room looked like when we first moved in. Eek. It’s still a work in progress, and I keep forgetting to take a photo since we’ve added a desk and organized things, but here’s a look at the lack of wallpaper and avocado paint job:

That’s Willie Nelson, our pet bunny. You can’t tell from this photo, but there’s also two other bunnies (Applesauce and Cadbury) and a chinchilla (Maude) nearby.

Here’s our bedroom when we first moved in…we even inherited these curtains from the previous owner. We haven’t taken a recent photo of our bedroom with our new curtains and artwork, but here’s a look at the freshly-painted walls:

Yay, mustard and grey accents galore!

The upstairs bathroom before & after is a pretty simple one as of right now, but it still makes me happy not to see those butterflies when I shower.

These are just some of my favorite before & after photos from the past six months of living in our first house together. I can’t wait to spruce up the yard to make it nice for our wedding and to see how we change the upstairs, since we’ve barely touched it. Anyway, I hope you have an amazing 25th birthday and consider myself the luckiest for being able to share it with you.

Happy anniversary, love!

Dearest ginger,

Happy anniversary. I am pretty darn excited to be getting married in a little over 8 months so we’ll have a new anniversary to celebrate. Until then, I look forward to spending our time together making each other laugh at stupid things and dressing Betty White up in ugly outfits. No one gets my funny voices and weird jokes (if you can even call them that) quite like you. Looking forward to many more years of ginger-haired goodness (until you go grey, but I’m looking forward to that too so you’ll stop making fun of my gray hair so much).

Thanks for always giving me somethingone to look forward to.

Lurve,

Shannon