Taking Stock

I’m not one to choose a word-of-the-year (I think I’ve mentioned that before), but if I had to choose one for this year, it would have to be “incredible”, and this is why:

1: I’ve journeyed so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t even see it anymore.

2: I’ve learned to take a deep breath, plunge in and swim for the deep end.

3: I’ve decided upon my goals, wrote them out on a pretty piece of note paper and thumbtacked them front and center on my bulletin board above my desk for me to see every morning.

4: I’m slowly allowing myself to believe that I am good, damn good, at photography.

5: I hit upon my “style” this year and the things I love to shoot: bright colors, joyful scenes and people, deep shadows, negative space, and a clean edit.

6: Mountain bikers are some of the coolest and happiest and most encouraging people I’ve ever met.

7: MY HUSBAND PUBLISHED A BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

8: When I’ve felt overwhelmed and pressured by commitments, I’ve learned to ask for help. Nothing wrong with leaning on family and friends for an assist.

9: It’s also okay to say no if I simply can’t (or don’t want to) do something.

10: I’ve begun to stop worrying about the “what-ifs” . Those only get in the way and cause me to lose track of my end goal. In fact, I’ve begun calling the “what-ifs” “The Middle Man”, the guy that stands between you and what you want. I have to remind myself daily to not focus on The Middle Man, and I’m slowly beginning to listen to myself.

11: I’ve discovered that I love to photograph Life - - - my kids (when I can), scenes around town, the camaraderie of bike festivals, local parades, the girls at the sorority house and so much more. All those bring me such joy and lift up my spirits.

12. The thing I learned the most this year is that the only person holding me back is myself. Once I figured that out, everything got a little easier, still scary, but easier to walk into a business and leave my card, easier to write those “cold call” emails to race directors, easier to walk up to strangers at a photo session, smile and introduce myself.

13: On December 31, 2018, for the first time in my life, I’ll be able to look back over the year and say that I finally accomplished what I set out to do. And that’s a pretty incredible feeling.

I can only wonder what 2019 holds for me, but whatever it is, I’m ready to take it up a notch and swim even deeper into this wonderful life I’ve been granted.

Wishing you all the Merriest of Christmases and the Jolliest of New Years!




dear joe

Dear Joe,

Today is your birthday. Today you turn 19.

Nineteen. That sounds so old, yet at the same time it sounds so young. One minute you were swaddled in my arms, winking up at me, the next, you’re driving yourself to work and running errands. You like “dropping some knowledge” on me, showing me that you still love to learn and that your curiosity about the world around you hasn’t stopped just because you’re out of high school.

This year has been a transition year for all of us, a year that has perhaps drawn us closer to each other than any other year. I’m not sure why that is, but Dad and I are beginning to see you as an adult, an equal. I mean, you will forever be my Joey/Just Joe/Joey Joe/ Joe Joe/Great Big Huge Boy/take your pick of nicknames, but you’re learning to take care of adult things now, enrolling yourself in your survival EMT course and applying to be a wildfire firefighter. You even ‘fessed up to having a girlfriend because keeping a secret and not telling us the truth about where you go on the occasional weekends that you venture out, keeping that a secret was eating you up.

You’re learning to take care of things on your own.

I see in you a jokester, a listener, a calmness. You still are amused by life around you, I think you always will be amused and laugh at the silliness that Life presents. You know when to be serious, but also when to not take yourself seriously. You are decisive and confident in your decisions. You’re ready to try new things (baking your first loaf of bread and cooking me supper one night while Dad was traveling!) and if you mess up, you keep trying till you get it right.

There are a million things I could tell you about what it’s like to get to be your momma, what a true gift you are to us all, but I think you already know that and that you will only become embarrassed.

Today is your birthday, and you are nineteen. Thank you so much for being my sidekick, my buddy, my helper, my “sunny, sunny boy”, my friend, my Great Big Huge Boy.

I love you,

MomMom

plain and simple

Whenever I think about re-designing my blog’s look, I think the deeper question I need to ask myself, besides new template design or font, is why I’m wanting a new look: is it because I ‘m tired of the old look, or is it that I’m just tired and finished with writing?

I began blogging 15 years ago, starting out on Live Journal (remember that platform?) then switching over to Typepad before struggling with the years-long decision of Blogger vs. Wordpress, finally landing on Squarespace where I’ve been since 2015. Over the years, I’ve written thousands of words, posted thousands of random snippets of my days and logged hundreds of stories. I’ve posted just as many pictures; it was blogging really that spurred on my journey to become a better photographer: I wanted my blogging pictures to look like all the other beautiful images I came across as I read various websites and blogs.  I’ve used single column templates, double column and even triple column templates. For a few years, I was under the thrall of widgets and used all sorts of them on my blogs (my favorite was the “Log Your Run” widget where I could show how many miles I’d run per week with the times. It made me feel cool and slightly badass.).

I don’t really blog to gather new readers (although that’s a lovely added bonus). I blog because I have words that need to get out of my head and flow through my fingers and out to the universe. I believe that words can take a moment and make it last an eternity much better than a click of a camera’s shutter. I do like to share my pictures, too, but with Instagram and Facebook, I can share my photos and the stories that go along with them in five minutes and go about my day. A written story or poem calls for time to slow down to let the words sink in and be digested. In this day and age where everything is swiped though and liked in nano seconds, don’t we all need an excuse to slow down?

So what is it that I want to do here? Do I want to keep this site generic, meaning that I use it as a way to report about the races Dave and I shoot, portraits I take and the like, keeping my emotions and personal thoughts to myself? Do I make this site a place where I only post photos without the stories to go along with them? Do I make my corner of the web impersonal and safe?

Or do I want this place to be like it was way back when, a place where I wrote to write, to share stories of growing up, stories I remember my dad telling us of growing up on a rural farm in the Arkansas Ozarks? Ive tried my hand at writing Deep Meaningful posts, flirted with how-to-behind-the-scenes posts, Why I Do What I Do posts, passionate posts about what it is to Make Photographs, but with all the other sites out there telling you how to do such and such, Why I Make Photographs and Not Just Take Photographs, how to attract more followers (write/share more meaningful content), how to do you better, everything just got so noisy and exhausting that I don’t really read blogs anymore. They don’t mean anything to me like they once did.

What happened to the virtual “bookshops” that you can just go to and relax without being hit over the head with Authentic & Passionate & All The Other Hip catch phrases of the year? Where are all the good story telling blogs and websites, where I can go and put up my feet and be entertained for a few minutes? Not think or ponder Life’s meaning?

I think that I’m going to return to what I love doing best, telling stories and random moments of my life. I’ll probably throw in a few race recaps and portrait sessions, but I love telling stories. Writing was my first creative outlet long before I ever dreamed of photography. I still get such a rush when Back-To-School season rolls around and I can stock up on spiral notebooks, pencils and pens. I had stacks and stacks of notebooks growing up filled with poems and stories and (not very good) sketches of horses and landscapes. Writing helped me grow up.

I want this place to be relaxing and fun, a place where you feel like you’re having coffee with a good friend and having a good catch up, sharing bits and pieces of your life with each other.

A place to relax and let your imagination color in the word pictures I write.  

Plain and simple. 

the in between

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A NICA race.

First trail run of the season.

Portraits and bread baking.

Little discoveries along the bike trails.

Spending time with my boys.

The in between moments of my life.

stepping forward while looking back

School began this week in Arkansas, the local news running photos of kids big and small on their first day back to school sent in by their proud parents. All the shiny new backpacks and lunchboxes and supplies proudly held up by first time kindergarteners, grinning from ear-to-ear coupled with high schoolers wearing those all too familiar, "Come on, Mom! Enough already!" looks on their faces.

I remember looking out our apartment window when Meghan was just a toddler and watching kids line up for the bus on their first day of school and thinking, "Wow! That seems so far away!"

Twenty years later and two grade schools, a middle school, a junior high, high school and Meghan a college graduate behind us, I find myself wondering what's next and where do I fit in in this new life that's ahead of me?

Joe is taking a gap year this year and spent the summer working at a national park just north of here, his last day being a week ago. He's volunteering for local mountain bike organizations this fall, helping them maintain the trails while he waits to begin a wilderness EMT course this January in Wyoming. He's also going to be helping me around the house, installing much needed new screens for our windows, hauling stuff to the dump and painting my office (well, I can dream). 

In general, he'll be looking for a job, volunteering and being our Man Friday until January.

But this is where I'm having trouble. For the past twenty years, I've been responsible for school breakfasts, packing lunches, taking the kids to and from school (Dave and I both agreed that we'd much rather drive the kids to and fro and have that extra car time with them. That was actually my favorite parts of the day and the kids and I had some of our best discussions during those rides.). I made sure I had all the housework and errands finished in time so I could score a prime spot in the after school pick up lines. I listened to the stories, took part in the field trips, served on the PTA, helped out in the classrooms, bought homecoming and prom dresses and attended school concerts and homecoming parades. I shot junior high sports when Joe was in junior high, and that was how I got into sports photography. My life revolved around getting the kids through school healthy, happy and in one piece.

Now that's all done with the coming of this new school year. While I was working my way through the trenches of the past school years, I dreamed of this day, the day that was free from routine and school nights, homework and early risings. Now that it's finally here, I feel myself at loose ends. I have too much freedom, too much time, too much "oh yeah, I don't have to be at the high school this afternoon by 3:45." I know, I could fill all those free hours taking pictures, working on lighting, working on getting Kate Austin Photography up and running and begin hustling for business (yes, I've decided to go into business finally!!), but I don't know quite how to begin. 

I feel as if I'm on the cusp of something big lately, bigger than me that will lead me to the next chapter, the next adventure, around the next corner of my life. I'm on the edge of it, my right foot up in the air ready to take that first step, but I don't know where my foot is going to land, and that scares me. I want to take that step, I want to pick up my feet and stride (shuffle) forward, but where will my feet take me? I'm excited, scared, nervous, anxious, willing, curious, exhausted, dreaming of what's ahead, but I also want to cling to the familiar life I just recently left behind, that life where I knew what to expect and what to do, the life that was governed by early morning showers and bedhead, breakfasts eaten before the sun came up and drives to school, sealed with kisses and "See you after school! I love you" 's. 

That life is over now, I know. All I need to do now is find the courage to complete that first step, to let my foot fall forward and see where it lands.