Halloween in the Wimer House

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I'm a sucker for Hocus Pocus and my hubby loves munchin' on mini candy bars (yesterday was a mini Snickers), but today, as I come off of a 5 day illness and we move into Allhallowtide, I find my mind wondering away from the glorious kiddiness of this holiday to the ever present (and likely relatable) thoughts of those who've left us at times that may make sense and the many times that don't. A few weeks from now, it'll be a year that has passed since I received the phone call that my mother-in-law had died incredibly unexpectedly. Last year saw many beings leave, actually, and I'm sure it's the same for many of you, too. Cyber hugs to all who may be carrying grief.

So today, I keep this short. Instead of writing something lengthy, I'll head back into my work, but with a candle lit in memory of those I've lost, you've lost, and the world continues to lose as we navigate these weird times of darkness. Leave a candle lit yourselves over this Allhallowtide. All those extra lights will create warmth in this chill, too, so...super bonus. Love to you all this Halloween! Be safe.

Do Excuses Repress Clarity?

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This morning while journaling, I looked down at the little nugget of wisdom at the bottom of my Desire Map planner and read, Excuses repress clarity. For a minute, I really had to think about it.

Do excuses really repress clarity? Yeah...actually, I can see how they do.

My body tells me it needs to move, run, dance, walk, and then I say, "Yeah, but...I'm tired."

My mind tells me it needs silence because its overwhelmed by work or nagging tasks/chores (or for you moms out there, maybe your kids!), and then I say, "Yeah, but...sitting in silence is boring or a waste of time."

My spirit tells me it needs to connect with my lover or my grandma or a trusted friend, and then I say, "Yeah, but...I don't really have time."

How many times have you said: 

  • "I don't have time."
  • "I don't have enough money."
  • "I don't know enough yet."
  • "I don't have the necessary supplies/tools."
  • "I'm not ____ enough yet."

We all have these excuses. And they are starving us of the clarity we seek.

Think about it.

Dancing could help you sweat out all the pent up frustrations you have toward your job or relationship and lead you to a place of greater compassion, understanding, and acceptance.

Taking a few minutes of silence to rest your mind could lead you to the sudden realization that you are in fact unfairly overworked or that you could actually hire a babysitter every Friday to take time for yourself or your relationship or that silence is uncomfortable because it makes you remember you feel shitty and just need to do something about it.

Connecting with a loved one could provide you advice you seek for a nagging problem or heal any wounds between you and that other person that may be lingering.

The reason we make up excuses is because it's easier than clarity. Clarity sometimes brings with it more work. It means we actually need to show up, 100%, for ourselves or another person or our job. It means we might need to admit something about ourselves we don't feel like admitting. It means we may have realizations that hurt...like how it's time to let go of that friend who hasn't been kind or that the intimacy in your relationship is lacking and it's because you pulled away or that it's challenging for you to be the sole caretaker of the home and you wish you had more help.

But guess what? Growth isn't easy. You know the whole idea about the seed that has to crack its shell, force its way through the soil, and then fight the elements as it settles and strengthens its roots and grows through it all? That's you. That's the only way you'll grow...when you're uncomfortable and working through the shell, dirt, wind, and rain around you. 

Do it. Reach for clarity. And then hold tight. You'll thank yourself.

5 Ways That We Hide

Last week Thursday, two friends and I attended a presentation in Madison, WI about beauty called Dream Big: You Are Beautiful and It's Time for You to Believe It. First of all, the woman who did the presentation, Kyira Hauer, totally fucking rocked it. She is the founder of #ReclaimBeauty and an advocate of embracing ones authenticity. After telling her amazing story, she dug into the five ways that we hide our true selves. And they took me back because some of these five things were unexpected.

5 Ways of Hiding

  • Over-perfecting: trying to maintain a specific order; rigidity; not starting things until everything is perfect.
  • Over-spending: trying to keep up with the "extras" you need to keep up appearances. 
  • Over-analyzing: worrying too much about outcomes you have no control over the what-ifs
  • Over-caring: caring too much about what others think or how you fit in
  • Over-comparing: building yourself up or tearing yourself down based on subjective experience of others

I've definitely found myself hiding behind a number of these, but the biggest one is over-perfecting. Sometimes, I won't start things until conditions are right or I won't finish things until everything is up to my expectations. Sometimes, I'll adjust a piece of furniture in my house because it's askew! I can drive myself crazy with my rigidities and have even found myself blocking intimacy in times of deep rigidity and not wanting to break from my order of things. 

So, how can we see/show ourselves and see each other more?

Maybe it starts with acknowledging how we hide, and then we dig our way out of hiding by being vulnerable. That's what I did in today's video.

Okay. Talk to me.

Did one of those ways of hiding hit you? How do you hide? And how do you (or do you want to) dig your way out of hiding? Share with me in the comments. I'd love to hear from you.

 

JOIN OUR TRIBE to continue having these conversations. We have lots to discuss and share!

What Does Getting Your Story Told Entail?

In this recent post by Nicole, someone asked: "What does getting your story told entail?" 

Which is an amazing question because I realized I've never fully shared with you all why I love Creative Story Projects and why you should too.

When Nicole and I attended the lovely Lacey Reichwald's Social Media Strategy Masterclass a few weeks ago, Lacey got everyone in the room brainstorming what the core values of our businesses are. We decided that katy daixon photography values love, creative expression, and deep connection, the three things that drive my Creative Story Projects.

Think The Body Project or Helane's Sound Goddess Project or Erin's Pregnancy Project or the one I'm currently working on with a woman journeying through life after bariatric surgery. And that's just the beginning. There are so many more in the vault. I'm even kicking around the idea of a Day In The Life series. Shhh...don't tell that I spilled the beans on that one...

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The goal of Creative Story Projects (and what I love and want you to love about these) is not only for you and me to creatively express ourselves together, but for us to share your story with others who may have gone or may be going through the same thing. It fosters deeper connections. It allows us to support one another. It allows us to be seen and heard. In a society so rich with hustling and grinding all day to show success, we forget that there are other things that matter and show success! 

In short, it means a great deal to me when you entrust me with your journeys, struggles, and triumphs. And I know for a fact that it means the world to others to know they're not alone and that we're all human with lives chock full of lows and highs.

Here's a nugget of my story from The Body Project. It feels dated now. I'm in such a different place than that Katy was and I even look different, but the end goal is still the same which is why I share it with you. Some day soon, I'll share an updated version of my journey. 

Here's to being vulnerable and continuing to connect! It's challenging and so so so precious and illuminating, and we're all about the light over here and love and creative expression and deep connections. 

Want to share your story? I want to tell it. Let's chat.

Spunky Kiddos = Playful Photos

The Schucht family has been with me since the very beginning of katy daixon photography, and I am filled with tremendous gratitude that they've stuck by me through all my shifting, growing, and changing, both in the business itself and in my craft. Documenting their growing family since their engagement photos way back when is such an honor, and I love each and every session's unique spirit.

Their kiddos are now 2 and 4, and boy are they feisty, spunky, and filled with so much love for each other. Elyse loves to watch big brother Griffen to see what he's up to and if she should do the same things he's doing. The challenge of capturing people's essences is fun for me, and these two make it even more of a spontaneous capture! I would have to say that their spirits were certainly caught on camera, and I couldn't stop smiling (or laughing!) while looking through their photos to grab some teasers.

Enjoy! 

All the love and affection. <3

Playground fun in their superhero costumes!

Lacey and Brad, much love to you guys! Thanks, again, and I look forward to years of capturing your family.

 

Want to capture the spunk of your family? Let's chat!

I Have A New Nephew!

Nothing fills me with more joy than when people I love grow their family. I was giddy with excitement waiting for little Malcolm's arrival so we could tackle some adorable newborn portraits. I anticipated trying my hand at some of the stereotypical poses you see small babies in, like resting their head on their hands. 

All was peaceful when I showed up at my brother and sister-in-law's house. My sister was nursing and Malcolm's big sister Elena was playing quietly in her room. My brother took me into their room where I decided, "Let's just start casual!" These are always my favorite moments: mom breast feeding baby while dad and sister are chillin' with mom. Best. Ever.

From that point forward, we attempted all the usual cute newborn portraits while big sister played with toys near the baby and the baby (who decided he wanted to be awake for the whole session) peed during his nudie shot (not the first time in my career!). It was all classic family life and while some photographers might be frustrated with things not going "smoothly," I decided we'd swaddle that little dude and get different cute shots! Like Malcolm making pucker lips like his dad when he kissed him! 

I love you, Roy and Jess! So happy for you guys! <3

 

Have a new addition (puppies or kittens included!) to your family that you want cutie patootie pics of? Let's chat!

How A Random Act of Kindness Taught Me A Lesson

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Picture this: Me in my car, coming off of a bitch fest (to my patient husband) about my hard week ahead, and a little old lady, about 5ft tall, with a bit of a hunch to her shoulders and wearing a bedazzled baseball cap slowly but surely filling around FORTY 1 gallon jugs of water at the local flowing well. 

And there I sit, waiting, because she didn't want my help...

at first. 

This is where I think two things: Oh my god. We're going to be here forever, but then, Way to do it to it, lady!

Because I realize that she's actually filling those jugs herself, and probably has for quite some time. 

After about twenty minutes, I see that she's finished and now struggling to affix plastic bags newspapers come in to the mouths of the jugs missing caps, which is almost all of them. So I step in and help (along with a friend who happened to pull in at the same time as us) without permission this time, because FORTY jugs and an EIGHTY-some year old woman. 

She's beside herself with gratitude and proceeds to tell us her story.

Since her husband passed a few years ago, she's been coming to the well alone and filling these jugs herself because, "What else are you going to do? Drink Beloit's water?" There's a pause for laughter, and then she starts telling us about her bike that got stolen "by some punk kid" the other night and how she hopes insurance will cover it because she was just going to start riding again... AGAIN! She has photos to show us and details to describe the gloriousness that is this bike, which is pretty freaking awesome complete with three wheels and a basket. I tell her I hope that she finds her bike, or that she gets insurance to cover a new one so she can get out there and ride again, when she notices her suddenly organized trunk full of water jugs covered tightly with plastic bags. "Well that's the best organization I've ever seen! Thank you all so much for your help!"

As she fills up her McDonalds cup with water "for the ride home" while my husband pulls our 50 gallon jugs out of the car, she says, "I just love this water. It's worth the drive up here to get it. Next, I'll work up to getting those big jugs!"

I wave bye as she drives off and realize that I've forgotten about everything that frustrated me that morning. I love how I thought I was helping someone out that day only to be helped in return. I want to be that resilient, and not just when I'm eighty. Right now. This moment. Because it's literally all we have.

Have you had to practice resilience in your life? If so, what was your greatest challenge? Head down to the comments and share with us.

Little Maggie's 1yr Portrait Session Adventure

Guys, I have to tell you, I have stalked Emily's Instagram page watching Maggie blossom from a teeny tiny newborn that I photographed a year ago into the beautiful one year old she is now.

Maggie about a month and a half old: November 2016.

Maggie about a month and a half old: November 2016.

I kept my fingers crossed hoping Emily would ask me to do her one year portraits. Lol! I just needed to capture her preciousness, especially those eyes!

Our one hour session was quite the adventure, as they often are with kiddos who've just learned to walk. :) Maggie ran the shoot and I happily tagged along. ;) Come with us as we journey about Edgewater Park in Williams Bay! Brace yourselves for cute.

Got an adventurous one year old you want to capture in action? Let's chat!

Remembering to Pause

Sunset over Rice Lake in Whitewater, WI

If you're from southern Wisconsin, then you know that yesterday was immaculate. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the breeze was subtle. There was very little stirring except birds and katydids. I decided to take a breather from my busy day of editing and running errands at my favorite corner of the world: Dr. O.R. Rice Picnic Area in Whitewater, or as I like to call it, the Rice Lake peninsula.

While relaxing in the sun, I realized that I've been craving that stillness for months. I've spent the last year grieving the loss of six beings (I say beings because one of the six was my first kitty) and the last few weeks trying to figure out what to do with the energy happening in the world. And the world isn't even still right now! There are fires ablaze on the west coast and hurricanes hitting the east. The winds have been ripe with upheaval, shifts, and changes that haven't felt particularly good. But moving from summer to autumn isn't always the easiest transition, especially if natural disasters are occurring, because we're forced into a slower pace that makes us look inward.

I carry heaviness that begs to be let out, and I'm not really sure what to do about it. Detox? Retreat for a week? Stop working for a month? Some days, I feel like I could run until my feet bleed. But on days like yesterday, I could lay still forever. I devour the light every moment I get, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how to give the light back.

Why do I tell you all of this? Because I think it's important to recognize when we feel low and give ourselves the space to feel that. But I also want to know how you're dealing with the heaviness in your life. Do you leave room to pause? What do you do when you take a breather? If you feel like sharing what lifts you up on a particularly heavy day, drop a comment below. I'd love to learn your tricks.

Cudzewicz Maternity Portraits

There is something so special about documenting a baby's life before they're in this world. When Kristin wrote me to tell me she was pregnant and wanted to plan on maternity and newborn portraits, I did a mini happy dance in my living room. It's my favorite to be with a couple pre and post baby. Especially when the location is the Milwaukee Art Museum! Kristin prepped me for their day by running dress and accessory ideas by me (another favorite thing of mine!). I love the outfit she chose because she was so happy and confident in it. Win!

Larry and Kristin are so chill about the idea of soon being a trio that their session was relaxed and gentle despite them saying, "We're not very good at this...LOL!" as I made them walk and talk to capture those delicious candids. They were of course good at it! Because they love each other and their soon-to-be baby girl. <3

Can't wait to meet baby girl!

 

Want to document your belly bump? Let's chat!

Sam + Aaron

Sam and Aaron are the kind of couple you lean on. Their strength as a duo is evident by the way they so humbly and calmly stand together and exchange so much thought through gaze and not words. Their strength was further proven by the fantastically hilarious yet tear-jerking Best Man and Maid of Honor speeches that were filled with so much gratitude and respect for them.

The hubby and I traveled to southwest Ohio to photograph Sam and Aaron's wedding, making it an excuse for a longer roadtrip leading up to the solar eclipse. That energy was already potent, but then throw this freaking awesome wedding in the mix and we had ourselves electricity. I don't think I've ever seen so many people on one dance floor so quickly after dinner. Nor have I seen anyone's grandma love dancing more than some of the kiddos! The family and friends of these two cuties know how to laugh hard, love hard, and party hard.

Sam and Aaron, we cannot thank you enough for such an amazing night. Now devour the deliciousness of your wedding teasers. I hope they bring you joy today.

I hope you have a beautiful two week anniversary tomorrow, Mr. and Mrs. Ward! <3

Emily + Zac

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of photographing Emily and Zac's wedding at the always beautiful Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Delavan, WI and their reception at Evergreen Country Club in Elkhorn, WI. They are one of the sweetest couples I know who shine brighter in one another's presence. While we caught some amazing laughs with their wedding party, some of my favorite moments were when it was just us (along with their awesome wedding assistant, pictured laughing below) capturing their love (and laughter) under the evening sun. 

Happy two weeks, Emily and Zac! Congrats, again!

Unbecoming

My head is spinning. It has been spinning for two weeks. Buzzing might actually be a more accurate description. Spinning suggests confusion, overwhelm, dizziness from fatigue. Buzzing is energy, powerful transformative energy, aligning with the whole of me. I've read that body buzzes signal a connection to your truth or Spirit or Source or your God, whatever works for your beliefs. True or not? Don't care. It sits right with me! 

This entire year, primarily this summer, I was pushing myself (hard, as I always fucking do) to move my business in a different direction. I started resenting most of my photography work and yearned for something "more spiritual" or "more healing" or "more significant." I frantically sought out people, places, and things that aligned with the vision of what and who I wanted to be. And I constantly ran into disappointment. This was too expensive. That was too far away. Those people are too far ahead of me or too established. Too this and too that. My brain was exhausted and my spirit was seriously crushed. How will I ever become what I want if I can't get there to those people, places, and things? 

And then I surrendered. I said, Screw this. I'm tired and I have work to do. Unfinished business to finish. Without realizing it, I let go. I let go of the idea that I would be so inspirational Oprah would notice me. I let go of the belief that spiritual, healing work is another type of work and not the work I currently do. I let go of the self-criticism and belief that where I am right now isn't good enough or true enough. I let go of the fear of being the me I am right now. I paid attention to my surroundings. I accidentally typed surrendings just now. New word? Surrendering in your surroundings becomes your surrendings? Anyway, I paid attention to my surroundings, to my people, to my work (my established work!), and to myself. Hello, Self. I've missed you. 

And you know what happened? The buzzing. I saw a fucking door open so wide you'd think the heat from the other side would hit me hard enough to make me realize it was warm and cozy and full of life in there.

Buzzing. Because dialogues began between me and women interested in sharing their stories.

Buzzing. Because my name was being hashtagged on Instagram by a girl embracing her body for the first time.

Buzzing. Because grad students are writing papers about me and my photography.

Buzzing. Because I realized I don't need to become a life coach or a yoga instructor or an essential oils guru or a holistic doctor or a nutritionist. The world has enough of those. I am Katy the photographer and writer, carving my own path with my own kind of personal and social healing developing along the way.

Buzzing. Because I remembered that what makes you feel on fire and lit up is exactly where you need to be.

Buzzing. Because Glennon Doyle Melton's Love Warrior (Buy it. I'm not kidding.) made me feel more tender, more honest, more forgiving, more loving, more understanding, more compassionate, and more aware that trying too hard to become is trying to escape yourself. She suggests unbecoming. I like this. My first step to unbecoming is to remind myself that life and ones footprint take hard work and a whole lotta love for yourself, your place in the world, and your tribe while you do it. And if my footprint is really just a fingerprint or a traceless print because I was wearing leather gloves the entire time, fine, because I know that I lived and lived well, through the rising, falling, and the clambering about.

How will you unbecome?

Muddy Morning Introspection

Today is gray and sleepy and slow. I didn't want to wake, but I rose to Dale's gentle tickle and soft voice. It's easiest to rise with or shortly after him. I am much less delicate and more ready to put my feet up in the bay window and begin. My world has no order when I wake past nine or ten a.m. I'm often confused and heavy and could break at any random moment. Funny how I never saw myself as a morning person, but I've grown quite in love. Its sweet and light, and if you listen closely, you'll hear Mother whisper that all is well.

Some mornings, I believe her. Others, I sit in utter disbelief that x amount of time has passed and that x problem has yet to be ironed out. And sometimes, I wonder if there ever comes a point where one thinks, "Yes. I've arrived." I do believe that if you remain open, those moments happen frequently in your journey, but what if there's one particular feeling or goal at which you never find yourself arriving? What then? Do you finally step back and realize it's not the path you really want to be following? Or perhaps you understand what kind of work that feeling or goal requires and realize you're too lazy. Or hell...you fear you aren't capable.

At this very moment in my life, I feel disjointed. I feel my spirit moving quickly as the rest of me lingers behind not ready or not willing. I envision such a different space for myself. I desire that wild connection to Source. I see a woman creating in abundance, crafting poetry and projects in line with her spirit. Open. Whole-hearted. Spiritual. Wild. Inspiring. I don't know how to take what I have in my brain and make it lucrative or desired or known or fucking tangible. My creative genius is clawing at the back of my sternum, pleading with me to let her out. When I get to this point and realize why I've felt uncomfortable and borderline ill for a month, I know exactly what I need to do: have sex, take an adventure, tune out to tune in, paint my toenails, write a poem, do an hour of yoga, and stop the mind chatter.

Instead, my ego says, "Guess what, bitch. You're two weeks behind on your work because your hard drive crashed. You need to finish all of that, do data entry for the year so far, pay your quarterly tax, call about that dead tree in your yard, call about getting your septic pumped, and sit and worry about how you don't have enough money for a few hours even though that never solves anything, but you do it anyway."

The difference between those two lists is astounding!

Then, when I sigh about my first list while laughing at my sassy ego, I bring myself back to breath and birds and the beads of rain on my newly stained deck and this warm cup of coffee. As I drink down half of my water, a cool curtain rises behind my morning-crusted eyes and I'm suddenly aware of my aliveness and its truth that change is inevitable and that I should and always will be a witness to my presence on earth.

The Return to Now: How I Created Shifts Within - Part 3

I almost put this post off until next Saturday since I've had a lot of screen time this week finishing up sessions for clients, but today is the New Moon, which is a time to ask yourself, Where am I right now? What do I need around me? How should I move forward, and in what spirit, and I thought this would be the perfect day to share all those gems and jewels from the past year that have ignited fire in my belly and pulled me up from the yuck in case you want to put any of these beauties around you to help you move forward. 

For those who may not have read Part 1 and Part 2, this list of powerful books, videos, podcasts, and people walked (and still are walking) beside me as I navigated my way out of a rough year (2015). I say "walked beside me" because I consider these to be perfect guides while still listening to my own inner voice.

Without further ado, in no particular order, here are my guides and loves: 

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Osho Zen Tarot Card Deck

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

Brené Brown's TED Talk on vulnerability (something which I am still strengthening)

Marie Forleo's Everything is Figureoutable

The Spotify playlists I created for relaxation and meditation/chakra balancing: Within and Meditate 

The Blue Dress by Alison Townsend

Any and all albums by Lana Del Rey. Don't ask me why. I'm obsessed. 

Free online yoga from Brett Larkin. Amazing. She has made playlists to better find what you're looking for. You can search low back pain, yoga for shoulders, stress, grounding, and there are even beginner to advanced playlists. Sessions last anywhere between 10-90min. She's a beautiful soul doing wonderful things for people.

Danielle LaPorte. Good woman. Beautiful thoughts. Inspiring blog posts, books and products. Seriously cool chick.

@happysleepyfolks on Instagram for her gorgeous photos and raw honesty about the ebb and flow of her life. 

JOURNALING! Giving your own brain the time of day to sort out what's floating around is therapeutic. I cannot say this enough. Write. It. Out. Or more importantly, if you're feeling incredibly, deeply low, write gratitude lists daily so that you're not perpetuating the negative crap nagging you. Please. Trust me.

Money and The Law of Attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks. I'm particularly drawn to their ideas of the energy of our thoughts.

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

Danielle LaPorte and Linda Sivertsen's Beautiful Writers Podcast for those who love to write and want to learn more about the writing world.

The yummy, uplifting, thought-provoking women and their posts over at The Body Project Facebook group.

I will likely add to this list because I feel like I've forgotten some. Please know that I am not claiming any of these will dramatically change your life (though, for some, they might), but that utilizing their guidance can only stretch the limits of your mind and open your heart to new ways of seeing your Self and your life and how you operate in it. Gather tools. Listen to your gut. Walk gently. Never give up. Have patience.

Love and light. 

The Return to Now: How I Created Shifts Within - Part 2

My home. Spring 2016. Coming soon: red-stained deck!

This morning, I wrote: "Is it possible to love life more than I have lately? I wake up daily and instantly tell myself it's going to be a good day. I smile. I stretch. I walk gently and listen closely to the world in the hopes that I will learn something new. The precious morning hours are filled with everything you could ever need."

Last year, hell, most years, it was work to get out of bed. And what I just shared above is not to brag, it's to tell you that I worked hard to get here. I made it a priority to live in joy and practiced doing so. Will it always be like this? Maybe not, but it doesn't hurt to share how I did it.

I wrote an entire post on May 14th about the first nine days of my trip in California (making me realize I would have to have to do a "The Return to Now: How I Created Shifts Within Part 3") and never posted it because I started listening to an audio version of Money and The Law of Attraction (because it was a free download if you signed up for the Audible app and also because money matters are a theme in my life this year). Something that stood out to me was their advice on "telling it like it is" and the retelling of stories that inevitably end up aligning your spirit with those energies again and how detrimental that can be for ones health (if the stories harbor negativity, of course). Now, this is not about denial, this is about retelling the story based on what you want out of it. 

So, here is what I want out of my (first ever) solo trip to California: it challenged me and pushed me beyond my limits. It showed me the difference between loneliness and aloneness discovered only through tears, lucid dreams, letting go, illness, and knowing when enough is enough. It taught me to be vulnerable. It surprised and excited me in ways only new experiences can. It taught me deep forgiveness and gave me immense beauty. 

In a span of two weeks, I:

  • had a discussion about consuming things without respect for its spirit (or energy if that's what works in your brain). 
  • experienced cold sweats as I detoxed from sugar (yes, that's how much sugar I eat).
  • sat through a psychic reading in Ojai that touched on one or two deeply rooted fears/insecurities that I had never shared with anyone.
  • soaked in hot springs and bathed myself in the sulphury mud.

Hot springs in Ojai, CA

  • attended a sound bath that brought up nothing but darkness and ego.
  • enjoyed eleven hour sleeps.
  • journaled in an orange grove.

Orange grove of the Pepper Tree Retreat Center in Ojai, CA

  • practiced mindfulness and doing and saying things with the right intentions.
  • realized that I spend far too much time in other peoples' head spaces (by choice...I place no blame).
  • stayed in a guesthouse on someone's ranch in the middle of the desert (half hour drive on dirt roads) filled with vintage things and no heat on a 30 degree night while listening to Hawaiian melodies on vinyl and woke up to the rising sun through the sliding glass doors.

Desert sunrise in Joshua Tree, CA

  • purchased an olivewood mortar and pestle (my first) and squealed with joy when I found out the spiritual significance of olivewood: it's sacred, brings peace and light, and is from a tree of highest endurance.
  • drank mushroom tea on New Year's Eve in a space-themed airstream in the desert that brought no hallucinations, but a whole lot of life is beautiful thoughts.

Space-themed airstream in Joshua Tree, CA

  • hiked around Joshua Tree National Park on larger than life rocks under a bright sun with frigid wind temps, still pausing to do impromptu singing and chanting with my cousin. 
  • suffered a heavy bout of homesickness while simultaneously suffering from a terrible head cold that came on suddenly the day before our return to Culver City from the desert and resisting the urge to call Dale.
  • saw an amazing Cirque du Soleil performance that ignited passions and emotions of creativity and joy and reminded me how much I adore creating.
  • attended a few sound baths led by my cousin and received some craniosacral work that reset and recharged me.
  • marveled at the beauty of strangers.
  • bawled as ocean waves crashed against rocks
  •  

Listening to the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean on the shore in Pacific Grove, CA

  • and fell in love with jellyfish.

Jellyfish exhibit in the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA

This trip taught me that setting intentions helps manifest both negative and positive outcomes. Simply put, I created shifts because I asked for them and remained open to all the joy and pain those shifts would bring. I learned through the trip and until this very moment, that

  • the power of our thoughts is so much greater than many of us realize
  • sitting with oneself through every kind of moment is the ONLY way you can hear your inner guide
  • "everything is figureoutable"
  • I MUST celebrate my Self, my friendships, my relationships, and my accomplishments more
  • it's okay to stop
  • now is all there is...ever
  • aligning yourself energetically with what you want can only help bring what you want into your life
  • reaching out to our spirit brothers and sisters is necessary 
  • it's okay to tune out so you can tune in, in other words, get the fuck off of social media briefly (or forever if you're so inclined!) so you can think only your own thoughts and not the thoughts of millions of others
  • being uncomfortable creates growth
  • I take advantage of my life and need to be so much more grateful of it and those in it
  • tarot cards or oracle decks are incredible INCREDIBLE tools for self-reflection, trust me. I'm pretty much in love with the Osho Zen Tarot deck.
  • vulnerability is vital to healthy relationships
  • it's SO important to ask for help

If you want to create major or minor shifts in your life, just do it. Pay attention to yourself. Reach out... to me, to that one friend who listens well, to your mom or dad or grandparent or godparent, to a therapist or life coach, because you're worth it. Seriously. 

Stay tuned for Part 3 with a list of books, websites, spiritual gurus, and health and wellness awesomeness that lifted me from the deep, both before and during my return to now, in case you feel inspired to light a fire under your butt.

See the entirety of my trip here. Much love to you all. 

Wood-carved heart on the trail to the hot springs of Ojai, CA

The Return to Now: How I Created Shifts Within - Part 1

Wow. It's been almost a year since my last entry, Hulk Smash and Detox Baths, when I was in a weird space. Actually, that's being too gentle. I was scared shitless. I was stewing in dark yuck physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was stressed to the max regarding my business. I was truly just floating through my days trying to keep my eyes up and out toward the horizon, but it honestly didn't help. I felt detached from all emotions, others, and myself. I planned a trip to California late December through the first half of January as a way to stay focused on a future endeavor, to help pull me from the underworld.

I read a lot of brilliant novels by Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking and Play It As It Lays) and reread one of my favorite novels, White Oleander by Janet Fitch. All aligned properly with the beauty of my sunken spirit as I often like to read things that help me feel like I'm not alone. I wrote a few poems. I sat in the sun. I went for walks to release nervous energy. And I drifted. I can look back now and see that I had absolutely let go to the current. I picture myself on a makeshift raft floating in the ocean, letting life take me where it will.

I never did receive answers. My low white blood cell count was flagged as odd, and I was passed from one specialist to another to discuss my symptoms over and over again. I hated it. I hated the waiting room and being told over and over again that my veins are small and that they have to poke the other arm. The last straw was being told by a hematologist that he'd like to do a bone marrow biopsy to see if I have indicators of leukemia simply because nothing else he tested explained anything, so as a hematologist, his job is to rule out all things related to blood.

I checked out. Said no thanks. Booked appointments with a holistic doc and an acupuncturist and decided that I didn't want to associate with pain or illness any longer. The acupuncture succeeded in providing a space for calm contemplation and relaxation which I decided I could create on my own without having to spend the money I actually would need for my trip to California, and the holistic doc listened to me, counseled me, explained my blood work, and offered multiple remedies for various ailments, 90% of which helped. I'll create a post about those goodies later. <3 

Late summer brought about a new set of rules for my life: Quit reading about diseases. Quit obsessing over your ailments. Stop stressing about what you can't control. Express your gratitude. Focus on one thing at a time, right here, right now.

I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin that lit a fire under my ass to tackle anything left undone that I think doesn't bother me, but does when I really stop to think about it. Rubin calls them "nagging tasks." She also suggests writing your list of Adult Secrets: things learned up until the present moment. Mine surprised and satisfied me:

  1. Things are always in flux.
  2. Letting go is not failure.
  3. Reading pulls you out of your darkest places.
  4. Resistance is wasted energy. 
  5. Coffee is an incredible tool (when, the Katy today will add, used with purpose and good intentions) In other words, ENJOY IT and DON'T ABUSE IT THOUGHTLESSLY.
  6. Movement is a powerful key to unlocking physical, mental, and spiritual stagnation.
  7. Homemade meals are honestly the best meals.
  8. Nostalgia can be dangerous.
  9. Expectations often lead to disappointment.
  10. Laughing at yourself makes life easier.
  11. Writing is therapy.
  12. Always be drinking water.
  13. Loneliness is real.
  14. Honesty is difficult yet rewarding.
  15. Aside from the cyclical nature of nature, the only constant is being, and you can be afraid of that or find peace in it.
  16. Being vulnerable is a hard but necessary process for growth.
  17. Parties and events create mass amounts of joy.
  18. Tragedy carves a space in your bones and settles.
  19. You can't please everyone.
  20. Play is a requirement for sanity.

I expressed gratitude in my journal and out loud almost daily. I indulged, of course, in moments of intense joy and beauty and love and will never forget them: camping with family, long bike rides with best friends, an outdoor festival, rebuilding our deck, hikes, funny movies, and always so much delicious food. I wrote out snapshots of these joyous moments from my day to day life or weekend activities as a way to recenter myself and pull myself out of my old habit of settling on negative ramblings. 

Most importantly, I practiced what I preached. And I wasn't always totally successful, but I forgave myself and continued practicing the next day. 

As summer and fall wore off and Wisconsin settled into the usual dreariness of the start of winter and I into the lack of routine that comes without steady work, I turned resentful. I resented negative ramblings from others because I was practicing releasing negative energies. I resented people constantly on their phones instead of being present in the moment with me. I resented people working late and feeling exhausted daily.

On December 21st, I wrote:

This past week has truly prepared me for my trip. I couldn't be more ready to leave and for a number of reasons. The biggest is that I need to be away from this life--my house, Dale, his job, Ziggy with that fucking cone on his head to keep him from licking himself obsessively, doing dishes, making people make dinner with me, cleaning crumbs off the damn coffee table every. fucking. morning.

Honestly, I'm kind of tired of it all, and I know I can't change any of it, so I have to change myself. The only way I know how to do that is to do something out of my ordinary. I'm falling into my usual wintertime resentful state, likely because I'm not working as much. I have so much beauty, kindness, intimacy, and sexualness that I hold back because we have a roommate or the day has been too fucking long or I honestly can't get in that headspace because I take care of too. much. shit. Yesterday, I thought, "Man, these guys won't survive without me," and then I realized how ridiculous that was and how everything I do in the manner I do it is mostly for me. They're going to live how they like to live without me around. We like to think we're more important than we are, but it's not about how we do things, it's who we are as a person.

Alas, I'm tired of being a "mom," but I think I act that way in an attempt to get these two to grow up. And what I really mean by that is, I'm tired of having a relationship with people addicted to the couch and devices. It's overwhelming me with sadness. I force living on others and am often given shit before agreeing to go live life with me. I can't accept this. I can't let it go. I can't be the only person who wants new experiences. I'm seeking inspiration and motivation and never receive them at home. Passionate people are important to me.

So let's conclude this lengthy rant with this: my frustrations lie in the fact that I have no idea how to express my passions of all kinds when I feel like I'm living in a vanilla world. It's bigger than the people around me, and it is, by no means, anyone's fault. I just wish people were as itchy as me. Once again, I feel alone. Once again, I feel restless. I'll work it out. I need space for my soul to breathe.

Fast forward to now, and I could point out all the moments I was projecting my own internal issues onto those around me and explain how everything happening around me was simply a mirror reflecting myself back at me. THAT realization is always fun.

The point of all of this: Let yourself feel and hash out and live and laugh and love even while simultaneously cringing and drying up inside, breathe into the ugliness and the beauty, the light and the darkness, the good and the bad, because the truth is, you can't have one without the other. Be gentle, dear soul, and know that you're right where you need to be.

As for California and the start of 2016...more on that to come...

 

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Hulk Smash and Detox Baths

The past seven days have been a challenge in the self-care department. It was a week where everything that could go wrong, did. A week where truly, one of the hardest things to do, was stay positive, no matter how much I tried to care for myself. On Monday, I had blood tests done (5 vials worth) to find out if I have indicators of an auto-immune disorder, thyroid problems, or Lyme disease.

They told me they'd have results in 3-5 days. I'll spare you the wait I endured. Indicators show I might possibly have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Turns out (I am told Mother's Day) that two people in my extended family history have had RA. This doesn't make me feel better, but it does. Now I wait a month to see a specialist to discuss the results further.

In the days of waiting for my results and post results...

I go back on my OTC, off brand allergy pill.

things I own break...like big things...my washer, and the stove is on its way out the door.

orders I made the previous week are incorrect so I have to reorder.

I develop a yeast infection (why I stopped taking the allergy pill to begin with) so I stop it. Sorry for TMI, but I'm practicing being an open book. Plus, it's a service announcement about cheap products.

I have lunch with family after hearing from the doctor and tear up at the table while on the phone with my husband who says everything's going to be okay.

I receive a care package from a friend that lifts me in a moment I'm falling.

I have a big hiccup in my business that I stress hardcore over fixing... because good business practice and customer service.

I manage to notice symptoms of and simultaneously eliminate a UTI (or bladder infection) by downing 8oz of water with thyme and lemon essential oils.

I spend a pleasant Mother's Day with family and good food...

...after which I return home and take a detox bath.

Late that night, I wake with a sinus infection (or a cold...with me, they pretty much go hand in hand nowadays...my third in the past two months) and chills. I sweat out a fever. I barely eat. My muscles turn to stone. My brain drains out my eyes. And I forget to breathe. This could all be a result of the detox bath (flu-like symptoms do happen if you have major yeast die off or other harsh toxins exiting your body) or I've really worked myself into sickness.

So now I'm angry. I want to HULK SMASH! until there's nothing left in me to Hulk smash anymore.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking, Yeah. This is exactly how you should treat your body if you possibly have an auto-immune disorder. I hear chronic tension and stress are super beneficial.

I remind myself that it's okay. Hulk smashing is a necessary step. Forgive yourself. Eat your greens, diffuse those essential oils, take your damn detox bath because holy shit you need it, word vomit into a journal, and write a list of a million things you're grateful for in the midst of all of the ugly.

Cry it out. Remember who loves you. And most importantly, remember it's only one week in a bajillion weeks. That little reminder can pull you out of Hell so fast you'll wonder why you even worried about anything in the first place.

Don't judge yourself. If you're trying, you're not failing.

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Healing the Self

I apologize for my absence, though I know it doesn't worry readers as much as it worries the writer. Simply, I've spent more time with pen and paper, journaling daily in my own private world. I only want to apologize because I honestly don't know what to do with this blog. Truthfully, I don't know where to go with The Body Project, if I'm going anywhere at all with it. I've questioned, since my last entry on February 27th about the mini gallery at UW-Waukesha, whether to end this blog and begin a new one centering around all thoughts, ideas, and projects rather than just The Body Project, maybe call it Love Body, Mind, and Spirit or Self-Love or Healing the Self. The Body Project brought me to a new place with myself and in life, which I expected (because everything always brings us somewhere), but didn't plan. It brought me deeper within myself and actually pulled me away from my shell, in a good way. To a certain extent, healing and self-love begins with accepting the skin you're in, but it's also about being aware of and present in the moment with who you are, what you are, the thoughts you do or don't have, the people to whom you're speaking and listening, and the way you treat yourself body, mind, and spirit.

As I stated in that last entry, being an advocate of love is difficult and doesn't come with an instruction booklet or a trainer. I'm left to my own devices to clamber about finding ways to advocate what I so strongly believe.

One thing I recently thought of is how stuck one can feel when they aren't wholly being themselves. So, I've decided to be myself with all of you, to let you know that:

1. I cry at anything having to do with love, especially if the music is moving.

2. I'm obsessed with murder mystery novels, particularly Tess Gerritsen's.

3. I write poetry mostly about quick glimpses into a person's suffering related to relationships, self-growth, and death.

 

Broken Strokes

 

She sweats paint

from wrinkled skin--

brush bristles frayed

like her split ends--

as she strokes the broken heart

on the empty canvas.

Her other half rots

beneath river bed rubble

as she glops moss

over rocks of unanswered prayers.

If only she could paint

the rabid bits of time

that devour her.

If only she could paint

the time he was red

and made her the moon.

 

4. I love astrology...a lot...and find it an incredible source for looking at people and situations in a way I may not have tried before for the sake of understanding more deeply.

5. I believe in the power of deep breathing and positive thinking because I am prone to anxiety.

6. I believe that honesty and communication are the two most important things to practice in every relationship, even if sometimes the truth hurts. Withholding truth hurts more.

7. Too many cloudy, rainy, or snowy days depress me, though I always try to find the beauty in them.

8. I am kind of a germaphobe, particularly when I know someone has had or was in contact with someone who had the stomach flu or even mentions that their stomach hurts.

9. I think making people work 8+ hours a day is bullshit.

10. I believe in the power of healthy food related to healing body, mind, and spirit.

11. I have wanderlust.

12. I wish getting high didn't make me anxious.

13. I am currently overcoming a fear of astral projecting after realizing that I was trying to do it without my conscious knowledge.

14. I believe that our thoughts are both our best friend and our worst enemy depending on how we respond to them.

15. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle tipped the awareness scale for me and opened my eyes to the power of presence in the now.

16. I believe that nature heals.

17. I like to swear.

18. I believe I once was or will come back as a cat.

19. I want to help others find peace within themselves.

20. I know that in the presence or absence of all these things, I'm still me.

 

So tell me, friends. What do I do with this?

 

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Advocate of Love & Co.

A little glimpse of The Body Project mini gallery setup at UW-Waukesha. Candids of this event by Kasey K. Photo.
A little glimpse of The Body Project mini gallery setup at UW-Waukesha. Candids of this event by Kasey K. Photo.

Confession

I struggle with labels, in the sense that I don't know how to use them or whether I want to use them.

Let me explain

When I went to UW-Waukesha to set up the mini gallery of The Body Project, I was greeted with such enthusiasm and kindness and felt a little overwhelmed, yet honored, by the special attention, which afterward, had me in a bit of a panic.

I'm not an expert on body advocacy. I'm not an expert on photography. I don't have all the answers nor do I feel comfortable being regarded as the only person in the room with the most knowledge about these two subjects.

Laughing with a couple of professors at The Body Project mini gallery in UW-Waukesha while a student checks out the book! Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.
Laughing with a couple of professors at The Body Project mini gallery in UW-Waukesha while a student checks out the book! Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.

Cue Freak Out

My brain ran through the gamut of questions I might receive and a few scenarios of me being completely struck speechless by a question I wouldn't be able to answer. And then, a few lovely people in my life said some beautiful things to me. These quotes are the gist of what they said:

"Regardless of what you know, you do know that you worked your ass off for an entire year on this project. That is a big deal, and that's what they want to know about. They want to know about these women and why you did this project."

And this piece of advice that made me laugh, because truth:

"It's not about you." Let that sink in. Lol! Then she furthered with, "It's about them and what they need to know and implement into their own lives. You're there to give them the tools so they can figure it out themselves, whatever it is."

Sharing one of the participant's stories with some students of UW-Waukesha at The Body Project mini gallery. Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.
Sharing one of the participant's stories with some students of UW-Waukesha at The Body Project mini gallery. Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.

The Challenge

And so I went, and it was perfect because it happened the way it needed to, regardless of my worry. But yesterday, this was my reflection in my journal:

Lately, it feels like I've reflected on many large topics: loneliness, love, friendships and their meaning, aging, spirituality, time, and connectedness, and I don't dwell or linger long. However, I seem to hold each of them and taste them for a moment to experience the energy each topic brings, if only momentarily, and I think it's increasing my compassion (one of my goals since starting The Body Project). People simply want to be loved, appreciated, acknowledged, heard, and supported. This is why I'm here. This is my advocacy.

And this is what I fear expressing because it's hard to express. People asked me at the gallery, "What is your next project?" or "What are your plans for the future?" and I never have any idea because #1. I don't believe in looking too far into the future because the present matters most and #2. I don't know how to explain what it is I'm doing in life. My next project may not be related to photography. My future plans may not involve being a photographer at all. The next thing I do could involve my writing skills (something in which I did happen to grab a degree). See, I'm caught up in the idea that I need to have a label or stick to an image of what I am and what I do in order to be taken seriously and respected, but what I want to advocate doesn't come with a degree. You don't major in love. No one gives you a signed paper for appreciating others. Jobs don't hire you because you like to hear people out or let them tell their stories. Okay...some do... but aren't they often for greed, advertising, or selfish purposes? When is it ever just for people?

UW-Waukesha students signing up for the raffle that included a copy of The Body Project book and looking through the copy I brought to share. Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.
UW-Waukesha students signing up for the raffle that included a copy of The Body Project book and looking through the copy I brought to share. Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.

Dreaming

My dream in life is simply to make sure people know they matter--whether through writing about, talking with, or photographing them. I will, no matter what, create space for their voices. This all sprouted from one conversation with a man named James who works in the Diversity Center of UW-Waukesha who asked, "What can we do with you, artistically, to show these students they matter?"

Anything, James. I'm ready for anything.

Me with the backers of The Body Project mini gallery at UW-Waukesha. From left to right: Elizabeth, Connie, and James. Awesome people that I plan to work with in the future! Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.
Me with the backers of The Body Project mini gallery at UW-Waukesha. From left to right: Elizabeth, Connie, and James. Awesome people that I plan to work with in the future! Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.

To see more images from The Body Project mini gallery at UW-Waukesha, click here.

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