Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nicki + Rob: A Patapsco State Park Engagement Session

 I met up with Nicki and Rob at one of my favorite summertime locations - Patapsco State Park just south of Baltimore. Honestly, this was the first time I'd ever been there when it wasn't summer! But of course it's still beautiful! I loved the row of bare trees that made it seem like we were miles away from any other people, when really we were just a few yards away from the parking lot. I loved the untrimmed wheat brimming with golden sunlight. I loved the bridges, the rock walls, and of course...I loved the couple! Rob and Nicki are obviously so in love and ready to be married! It already is only 2 weeks away from their wedding day and I can't wait to see them again so soon.

I think one of my favorite moments from their engagement shoot was when we were crossing a road back to our cars. Nicki was walking next to me, and Rob was just behind us. She mentioned that Rob always walks behind her, and Rob said something along the lines of, "That's so I know where you are and can see that you're safe." It was one of those sentiments that may seem small on the outside, but actually tell a really beautiful - and bigger - part of their story. I already know that Nicki is a truly sweet woman with a genuine and kind heart and I can tell she has found the man that she deserves to be with for the rest of her life! Thank you for letting me capture your love story.


Friday, March 6, 2015

On Turning 25 and Embracing Growing Up

It's impossible for me to pinpoint the moment I became a woman. Even typing that, just now, makes me stop. "Wait, aren't I still just a teenage girl, lost in hormonal angst and parental battles, trying to figure out who I am?" For some, perhaps it's the moment they become a mother. They've created life, grown them into a human being, using their body to house and support them. For others, maybe it's obtaining their dream job, or a less-than-dreamy full-time position that simply pays the bills. Of course it's a journey, whatever the path we've led. We don't turn into The Person We've Always Wanted to Be overnight - perhaps we will never achieve exactly the person-hood we want ourselves to be. 

This week is my birthday week. As I've mentioned before, I treasure symbolic chances to reflect on life (New Year's, for example). I'm turning 25 on Friday. A quarter of a century, people like to remind me. A quarter of a life lived (presuming I live to be exactly 100 years old!). Questions like, "What do I want out of my life? What am I doing to achieve that? What is really most important to me? How do I prioritize my time?" constantly abound in my brain. But lately, my source of turmoil has stemmed from....my closet. 

It's not meant to be superficial, though I realize how much it sounds that way. So, honestly, just hear me out. I grew up with a mother (I love you!) who has multiple closets full of clothes. Shoes, accessories, winter gear, summer attire and bathing suits. Tubs of clothing hiding under the bed and sentimental sweatshirts folded neatly in drawers. I was always borrowing from her throughout high school. She had every shade of every color and a pair of shoes to match it all. I don't mean to set a bad impression of her - she's quite thrifty in her shopping, and is happy to purchase from local second-hand stores. She taught me to look for good deals and to repair clothes rather than tossing them out. 

Since high school, I've maintained a color-coordinated closet. I'm not an overly-organized person so the reasons for this were simply to show me which colors were lacking in my wardrobe. Only three hangers with yellow shirts? The next time I went shopping, I would only allow myself to purchase yellow shirts. That was my system. To spread out my wardrobe along every shade of the rainbow. If I found I had several stripey shirts, I would not allow myself to buy ANYMORE STRIPEY SHIRTS for fear that someone would notice that I only wear stripes. I would have a top to match every bottom, a shade to coordinate with every occasion. Sometimes things were loud and obnoxious, but I'd feel the need to wear it anyway, "since I bought it!" I've continued this habit ever since, and now here I was, at 25 years old, staring at a closet made for a high-schooler. I used to pride myself on pieces I've had since SEVENTH GRADE that still fit me. I had one pair of capris I used to think were so bomb-diggity. So hot stuff on me. I'm sure when I bought them at 12 years old, they really were all that and a bag of chips on my pre-baby body. But then one day I caught a glimpse of myself in them, 12 years and two babies later, and I almost gagged on my own spit. What was that saggy material barely hanging on to my hips and why was I subjecting everyone around me to this??

So for the last month I've been standing in front of my closet staring at everything in it, thinking, "How did I get here? I don't even like this stuff. Why did I buy it?"

Again, I share this post at the risk of sounding superficial. It's not meant that way. It's meant to be a questioning of something deeper. What were my clothes saying about me? How was I choosing to present myself to others, and how did I feel in my own clothes...in my own body? 

I reached a changing point when, one evening I was getting ready for an engagement session. I slapped something on quick, then I did my hair and makeup. I glanced in the mirror and again, I had the same reaction. What am I doing? Who is this person? This is not how I want to represent myself to my clients. They are paying me to be a professional, so why aren't I dressing like it? 

I decided then that I was going to do an experiment. I started researching a bit about starting over with your wardrobe and I happened to run into a project entitled a Capsule Wardrobe. It's meant to be a "minimalistic" approach to a wardrobe; pick an arbitrary number (hers was 37) and only allow yourself to have that many pieces of clothing and accessories in your closet at one time.  You get one set of clothing for each season, and you rotate through them every 3 months. This keeps your closet less cluttered, and you spend less time thinking about what to wear everyday, but you don't get sick of your clothes since you rotate every few months. One blogger, from Un-Fancy, wrote down her "Rules" to a capsule wardrobe. Something she mentioned resonated with me, something about What if every piece in my capsule wardrobe looks the same? To which her response was something along the lines of, That's obviously what you're happy with, so why fight it? 

Um, duh. Like, seriously. Why was I trying, all these years, to fight what felt right? Why was I trying to stretch myself across every fad, every color? Was I trying to fit in with every group? I little bit of me nestled in with every crowd? People-pleasing?

So I purged. I got rid of every thing I knew I've hated all along. The bright colors, the odd shaped tops, the too-low jeans, the much too-tight tops, the florescent green, the loudness....every thing that didn't feel like me. And then, I went shopping.

Again, I feel the need to say this - I know not everyone can just up and go shopping when they are having a quarter-life crisis. Most people do this virtually, via pinterest, but I just don't allow myself the time to spend figuring out MY style on pinterest. I needed to do it in person.

I left the kids home with Adam and I went to the mall. I had no pre-conceived ideas of what the evening would turn out to be like - if I would come home with a brand new wardrobe, or maybe a new bottle of Foam Soap (we were running low). I went into each store and grabbed whatever caught my eye. I took ginormous heaps of clothes into the dressing room and took my time with each piece. I threw everything I'd ever known about shopping out the window and only spent time on something that spoke to me.  Then, I gathered what I still liked and I brought it up to the counter. I asked them to save the items for me and told them I'd be back before they closed. Then I went to the next store and did the same thing. And after 4 stores, I knew.

I knew I was no longer a girl, or even a teenager, and I needed to stop pretending. I was a woman! (ROAR!) And it was time to embrace it. In one dressing room, I stared at myself in the mirror, wearing an outfit that I actually felt like myself in. It brought tears to my eyes! Yes, I thought, THIS is who I am! I found myself drawn to stores I previously thought were just for old ladies, and I avoided other, young, hip stores like the plague. By the end of the night, everything I was gathering from each store had similar qualities.


I was branding myself! Instead of saying NO MORE STRIPEY SHIRTS, I said, "Hey man, whatever you're drawn to. You want another white lacey shirt? Go for it!"

Whenever anyone asked me what my favorite color was, I'd tell them pink. And once I even added, "Because it's feminine and I find it comforting." What are the colors of my website? Pink and gray.
I am a soft person! I am emotional and delicate and am easily broken. I love to love and I love to be loved. And finally I found a way to translate that into my outward appearance! I can't properly express what this did to my self-esteem. Rather than fighting growing up, I am happy to claim a mature Meghan! One that knows who she is - flaws included! - and knows who I'm trying to impress.

Ultimately, there's only one person I'm trying to impress, and that's the Lord Himself. If I can make him proud to call me His daughter, that's all I care about. If potentially gain the respect and love of others along the way? Well, that's just a bonus. I realize clothing is just an outward show and it's my heart that matters, but this was more than a shopping trip. It was an exercise in figuring out who I am! And maybe it's not impossible to say when I became a woman..... Maybe twenty-five is the perfect age to become a woman.