January 11, 2015 § 1 Comment
TimeHop reminded me today that, on this day two years ago, I got fired.
My only firing ever and I am still not upset about it. Which makes today the beginning of year 3. My third year in business full time doing photography as the only gig. Crazy pants, right?!
Oh no, it’s definitely crazy pants. So, instead of a recap of my favorite images of 2014, I decided to do something a wee bit different (I know, you’re shocked).
Every entrepreneur I know has told me this is the year that things start to stabilize and I can totally see what they mean. My first year was pretty scary and my feet finally started to find themselves towards the end of it. This past year, however, I affectionately call “The School of Hard Knocks”. Just in case you are somehow under the delusion that I’m a magical person, my 2014 recap is the lessons I’ve learned. Ta daaaaaa.
Someone asked me recently, if I knew these lessons beforehand, would they have made a difference?
And I had to really think.
I honestly don’t know that I would have wanted to know them. Experience is the best teacher and, without the experiences, I don’t know that I would have the resolve and drive and backbone I grew out of this past long, hard, difficult year.
So, if you haven’t learned these yet as a small business owner, take away what you will. But, hear me well lovely, know that I will be *more than happy* to take you to coffee or stand next to you on a dock and hold your hand while you cry, just to remind you that you can do it.
It might not be as pretty or tied-up-with-string as you wanted it to be, but you can most certainly do it.
I promise you.
Stand up for yourself.
A good friend spoke the phrase through the phone that hit me like a sack of bricks. “Amaris, you aren’t a push over in real life, why are you a push over in your business? So you’ll get some less than stellar reviews why you figure it out. Stand up for yourself!”
Why was I not sleeping and letting people tromp on me in the name of customer satisfaction? There’s being driven. And then, there’s driving yourself into the ground.
Treat people as well as you possibly can. Forgive yourself when this isn’t enough.
There’s been so much groveling this year. If you can’t take criticism, don’t sign up for this. Seriously, do something mindless that involves no other humans. No, I don’t know what that is, either. Haha. But, honestly, your skin will triple in thickness after a year of being the person holding the bag. It’s part of the territory and this one, this is the one that I wish more people had told me about. I knew I wasn’t someone I would label a pushover, but dang.
People will take their perception of your life and judge you by it and hold it against you like *that*.
The flip side, though, is that some will take their perception of your life and love you lavishly for it. Which leads me to the next….
Take the high’s and hold on to them with everything you have.
Because the low’s will get ya. God, the low’s are so so so low. You want to go crawl into a cave low. Push you to drink at 9am on a Tuesday low. You will most certainly learn, dear one, alllll of the ways in which you suck. But, those highs? Sweet Mercy, the high’s are incredible. I don’t know how to properly put words to the high’s and the encouragement and the love you receive. The low’s try to make you think that they are the loudest, even when the high’s are louder by ten to one.
And they are. Pay attention to the sweetness. Because they might not be louder, but they are far greater in number.
Take the Rule Book and study it intently. Then throw that mother trucker to the bottom of the pile and ignore it.
I’ve heard this 187 times and I still didn’t listen. There are rules, you should follow them, at least a bit. Break the ones that are bullshit.
Stand up for yourself (part 2).
You thought I was done with that one? Oh no.
I put this underneath the Rule Book lesson because they are a bit related. Who decided that you have to be accessible all the time? Who said that if someone text messages at 1130pm at night, they should get an immediate answer? The word is *BOUNDARIES* and they are healthy. Not responding to someone isn’t rude, you have to take care of yourself. You cannot properly take care of others, if you’re a hot mess. And if your people don’t understand, maybe they aren’t really your people.
Find your people and cling to them. They will be your rock in the chaos.
I love weddings. I love them. My brain wakes me up before the alarm every single time and I go 98 miles an hour and I always put the camera down to dance for at least one song and I try really hard to dance with the bride at least once because I am so thrilled for her.
But, something no one talks about (seriously, I can’t find a blog post about it anywhere) is the emotional tax you are required to pay in order to have this job. Being the age I am and longing so desperately for a husband and a family makes doing my exact job really hard, sometimes. It’s tricky, to be happy for these amazing people you spend time with while trying to battle a piece of you that just can’t handle it. So now, I have my people. The week before a wedding, I send an email to a list of incredibly strong and sassy women. They send me encouragement and love and hilarious cat videos all weekend long. Because of my last lesson.
It is very easy to feel completely alone. You are not. Not for one minute.
When you have a path that is very unique – there’s no training class to attend with all the other new folks, no business computer waiting on you at your new office that someone else paid for – the voices like to scream at you that you are alone. No one understands. Fight it out all by yourself and asking for help is weak.
There may not be someone to help you run your business, but you have a community. They believe in you and asking for help is far from weak. It shows you’re a human. The world needs more humans.
Ten years ago this month, I walked into a darkroom for the first time, with zero idea it would eventually become my future. A camera has been in my hands for a decade now. My first wedding was nearly six years ago and today begins the third year of full-time photography.
I also have zero idea how long I am on this path.
It’s been a wild ride ’til now, but I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.
Thank you for being here. Please let me bear hug you the next time we’re in the same town, mmk?
You are my people. :)
So much stinkin’ Love,
September 25, 2014 § 3 Comments
Wanna know a secret?
Of course you do, duh. Who doesn’t want to know secrets? We love secrets. :)
Folks like to say I “live out loud” and I will continue to do so until I stop having fun or receiving messages from others letting me know something I did was encouraging. Whichever comes first. But, I don’t show everything to everyone. You already don’t believe me. Whatever.
But, the secret? The secret is that a part of me is totally terrified.
Yep, afraid. And after a text message conversation I had this week, I’m still a wee bit afraid, but less so. It’s easier now to tell that voice to shut up. Be quiet. Have.a.seat.
Thing is, people can be cruel. Even when they think they’re being helpful, they can be cruel. So far, just this *month*, a person I respect told me that I need to have men in the online dating world think “Oh, she’s a bigger girl, but she’s got a great rack”. A man I was seeing for awhile sent me books on losing weight, unannounced. I’ve had another woman tell me that I need to wear clothing that is loose on my body. Um, no. That is called a poncho and I do not wear ponchos, thank you very much and amen.
And, as I have recently (again) started the online dating thing, which is exhausting given my very weird schedule, the part of me that’s afraid has only gotten louder with these interactions. Because, in the past, there have been times I’ve shown up for a date and you can hear the disappointment ALL OVER his face. “Oh, she really is 5’9″, she really isn’t tiny”. They put up with the dinner and then disappear. Or, like a couple of them, they walk me to my car and assume I’m only in it for the physical and push things WAY too far.
Online dating is kind of a nightmare.
However, my life is drop dead beautiful. Please hear that. People are broken and do jacked up things, but that’s because they are people. That’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation. So, in part of this beauty, I’m still friends with almost every man I’ve ever dated. I sent a message to one of them. He’s sincerely one of the best men walking this earth. I would have said that before this story and I feel like this will only prove that statement. He’s also really handsome. Ask any of my girlfriends. My message told him of my fear of wasting my time, of being ‘a disappointment’ and I asked him what he found so attractive about me. “The way we started was really really lovely,” I said. “And if something like that could happen again, which seems more and more rare, I would be more willing to put myself out there, I think.”
He was appalled that I was even having to consider being a disappointment or any of the related things. How does acknowledgement of a person’s pain bring tears? I don’t know, but it did. His response to that question was the longest, which speaks to his gentlemanly ways. And then, he replied to my second question.
“When we first met, I was attracted to you because you were super hot, full of life and had a great laugh. And that was before I even got to know you.”
Dear dating world,
Send me some of THAT.
Seriously, though. I about died. I’m not sure he had any idea how lovely that text was.
So, tell the voices that preach over you to shut the eff bomb up. You might have some jack wagons in your life who have no idea how to treat others and don’t let them get away with it. Just strive to be kind, but don’t let them have authority in your life. Laugh loud and long. Eat cookies. Be your radiant weird awesome self and shine.
If you’d like to shine with another person the general male population finds disappointing, come on over. We’ll talk shit together. Or go find an adventure.
It’ll be absolutely fantastic.
September 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
In high school, there was an abandoned school bus in the woods where kids would go to party.
I tell my friends in England about it because they can’t believe how American it is. A school bus! In the woods! Did people drink from red plastic cups? Did the cheerleaders wear their uniforms and make out with the football players like in the movies?
This is the part where I’m forced to admit that I don’t know.
My Monday mornings in high school looked a lot like this: I sat down at my desk in Mrs. Cannady’s homeroom, pulled out the homework I was supposed to have done over the weekend, and scribbled down answers as I eavesdropped on the kids behind me talking about The Bus.
I was never invited. Is it the kind of thing you get a formal invitation to? Either way, I never knew about it…
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August 29, 2014 § 3 Comments
When I was 23, I had never had the experience of walking into a restaurant and sitting at a table alone.
To be honest, I hadn’t yet learned the value of quiet and stillness and solitude. More on that later. The closest I had come was sitting on the roof of the farmhouse I occupied in Canada. When you walked up the stairs, there was a small kitchenette at your feet, a bedroom to the left and a bedroom to the right. Straight ahead was this awkward common area and two more bedrooms. The place was massive – 6 bedrooms in all – and 13 of us lived under the one roof. It could be, well, stifling. When it got warm, I would sometimes crawl out the tiny window in that awkward common area and sit on the roof and just be still.
At 23, I felt this need to try to sit alone at lunch. So, I walked into The Olive Garden (judge away!) and asked for a table for one. As I’ve come to know is the norm, they confirmed “Just one?” Yep, just me. And let me tell you, it was the most difficult lunch I think I had ever eaten up until that point. This was before smart phones (I know – WHAT?!) and there was little distraction. I visibly squirmed the entire time.
But, a tiny little piece of me knew that was good for my soul. And so, I almost subconsciously tried to find moments to be alone. The invention of incredible earbuds helped this. I’m in line behind arguing families and piles of drama amongst a group of 12 year olds out for the movies? Lalala, earbuds in, problems out. Sometimes, it’s nice to get wrapped up in solitude. On the whole, I feel like not enough people know how to do this. And I don’t know why because it’s the most liberating thing EVER. Just today, as I’m hiding out at a friend’s beach house, I went to the store. In my basket was a malbec, great bread, brie cheese, two peaches, some hot tea and an entire bag of Chex Mix Muddy Buddies that I plan to eat as quickly as possible.
And NO ONE CAN STOP ME.
I know, amazing, right?
I came back to my home-for-the-week and went and had dinner with myself on the beach in a swimsuit. Then, I went swimming.
All of you Momma’s kind of hate me, I’m pretty sure. And that’s the rub.
Being a Momma is your lot.
It’s the rub because since I was 23, and for years before, I’ve longed to be called Momma. You can read about it all over this pretty well-worn blog. When I see you, it’s everything in me not to just take your babies out of your hands. There are times that I, literally, have to have an internal conversation to prevent this. I wrestled for years with the fact that I wasn’t yet holding wee ones of my own and I don’t ever talk about it in person because it overwhelms the outgoing facade you see every day.
It’s better now. My ovaries only come tromping up the stairs to yell at me occasionally. They like to holler the loudest when we see brilliant papa’s with their kids or a man with class throws us a really long glance. Let’s get real, occasionally I can get bitter and sad. I just try to not stay in that moment. Sometimes, me and the girls argue behind closed doors, but it’s rare.
Yes, I’m talking about myself and my ovaries in the third person. Don’t you judge me. ;)
I mean, seriously though, I would rock the baby selfie photo market.
For now, though, I’m okay by myself. Though I’ve felt like I was meant to be a Momma, my path is no less beautiful. My experience as a woman is no less valuable. I said about a year ago, I asked Jesus for babies and he brought me a business. And I adore it. :) This is my lot.
My path is my path and it doesn’t look like your path. It doesn’t make either one less beautiful. And until a husband and babies comes along on my path, I hope you’ll let me hold your babies and chase your toddlers and throw around the 4-year olds and help with homework and buy backpacks for those that are going off to college. Small acts that keep the ovaries from screaming. And I’ll use my gifts to show you that you’re beautiful. Please sit in front of my lens.
I will happily bring you coffee and let you visit parts of the world you wish you could see through pictures on a screen. Because while you’re here wishing you could go, I’m there, wishing you were standing next to me.
You women are gorgeous.
No matter your lot.
March 11, 2014 § 2 Comments
Wandering will teach you so much about yourself.
I can’t even begin to explain it.
Anything you struggle with is amplified when you leave your everyday surroundings. Do you talk down to customer service folks? It will be hard for you to wander, as you will have your entire route run by them – down to your morning cup of coffee. Are you always late? Ha. Good luck! If you have balance issues, you’re bound to eat some pavement (:raises hand: Guilty). And you’ll never be such a believer in foot inserts. Never ever evah.
How much STUFF you have.
There is no way on God’s earth that you can effectively wander with more than a backpack or suitcase full of stuff. It will bog you down and slow you down. You quickly learn what’s important. You learn who is important, too, but that’s a different blog post altogether. :)
Last fall, I moved out of my big gorgeous Casita Azul. Trying to run a house and a small business with this much traveling was just too difficult. Besides, I knew that I would be on the road until mid-February with the holidays and gigs, so it didn’t make sense to be the only resident and letting go of that house has been so incredibly freeing.
I’ve found this freeing thing to be true with letting go of stuff regularly.
As I have driven and flown all over the nation the past 12 weeks, it’s been no more than one checked bag, purse, camera bag. It’s felt like a lot to me – there’s all the cables and the filters and exactly HOW MANY TANK TOPS can one girl own? (A lot. It’s kind of sad, really.)
Just today, I unpacked into the new digs. I’ll be here until the end of May and decided to actually hang things up. Hangers make a place feel like home. Some of my artwork is on the walls and my favorite Paige Puckett Pottery mug is on the counter, too. (The coffee grinder stays in the trunk.) (You call it an addiction, I call it I-hate-the-morning.)
And this wild thing happened.
Turns out, this is all I own.
We aren’t gonna talk about the fact that everything falls into four colors. Somewhere, my Momma is THRILLED that everything isn’t all black and that’s enough for me. Honestly though, except for the t-shirt and jeans I am wearing, this is it. And that’s during the winter!
Fans of simpler lives have already commented on how great this looks to them. If you’ll notice, five of my 29 items are jackets. In addition, there are two pullovers, a flannel, dress shirts, two dresses, two skirts, slacks, and my favorite GO PACK sweats way over there on the left (and all the tank tops) (shhhh).
I had to sneak in that NC State is wonderful and better than Carolina somehow, c’mon. ;)
Here’s the crazy part.
I sincerely had zero idea I was living on what most of us would call “so little”.
There hasn’t been any crazy frustration with what to wear and I even had a girl compliment me that I look really put together these past few months!
It wasn’t until today that I comprehended how little I owned. And it doesn’t upset me.
How big is *your* closet? Can you donate some of your unused items to amazing local non-profits?
In Raleigh, simply put your extra things in a new plastic bag to organizations like Interact or the Raleigh Rescue Mission. Nicer items on hangers are accepted by Dress for Success!
I think you’d be surprised by how little you’ll miss things.
And how much your generosity would help someone struggling feel valued.
*Organizations included here were mentioned without incentive or payment. They are merely a few of the incredible Raleigh area organizations helping love at-risk individuals.*
February 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
“I came out of the womb with the backside of Beyoncé”, she said.
“And most guys I knew didn’t go after girls like me. Or at least they didn’t try…confirming in my mind that I was too tall, too curvy or just too much altogether.”
These aren’t my words. They were thrown across the lips of a fellow girl over 5’8″ who also has never been able to fit in the plethora of size 6’s taunting us from the rack and dealt with the fall out as a result of her genetics. Our conversations had all started in the mutual bonding of recent dating experiences. We are both convinced that 30 and up is where it’s at and, if this isn’t your age bracket, just hang with me for a moment.
Since turning 30, it’s like I walked into a completely different singles party. And can I just say? It. Is. Amazing. This is where gentlemen hang out – the ones who are not short on their affection or their preferred wine list. They have some maturity, some experience, and have learned how to treat a woman, for the most part. The difference between sharing a table with a mature gentleman and a 20-something still-stuck-as-a-frat-kid guy is like night and freaking day.
And frankly, I don’t know if I’m ever going back. For like my beautiful friend, my height and body shape and body weight have been deemed Too Much by the 20-something crowd. And spending time with a man who appreciates curves and communicates that is just mother trucking incredible.
For though I have almost always been comfortable in my own skin, guys don’t even realize how much they trod over my emotions with a pair of soccer kleats, creating holes as if my feelings were something that needed aerating. If you’re a woman with more curves than a Gap ad, you know exactly what I mean.
Oh, there are the male best friends who can’t possibly ever “think of you in that way” and string you along forEVER. Or the guys who ask your friend out after befriending you to get an “in”. You’re wanted by men in secret, lest their friends ever find out they’re attracted to a “bigger girl”. And then, the guys who leave you standing at the bar completely alone because they ran into something prettier and flirtier. The worst is when they mistreat you, then label you crazy because you’re upset at their terrible behavior.
And each time the dejection came & I was sad. One night, after an absolute row done by an inconsiderate guy, I came home and sobbed on the kitchen floor with my dog.
We were besties after that.
(Me and the pup. Lest you think it was the guy.)
(Seriously, dogs help everything!)
I told my friend that I wish that someone, some tall girl would have grabbed me by the shoulders in the middle of a bar when I was 20-something and, in an incredibly loud British accent, said “Get out of here! This is awful and you know it. Once you’re out of this, just hang on, it gets so much better.
I don’t know that I would have listened, but I think it would have at least mildly helped.
Because let me just tell you, it most definitely gets better.
Men really do exist who really appreciate and value women. Some of you have found them and didn’t tell anyone because you kept them and now they’re your husband! I see you. :)
These are the men that don’t make condescending sarcastic jokes at your expense or talk crudely in public. They love height and curves and your loud laugh. (The laugh is one of their more favorite things, actually.) They love your independent spirit and make beautiful food from scratch and buy a bottle of wine with dinner just for FUN.
While I know that my value isn’t wrapped up in what men think of me (you think I get this confidence from them? Please.), spending time with gentlemen is so REFRESHING. The word use is intentional there. With someone who has a little bit of class and a proper serving of maturity, you are no longer too much.
So today, on Singles Awareness Day, I hope you know that I am standing beside you. Stand as tall as you would like, there’s no reason to stoop to hide your gorgeous height.
Know that you are beautiful. Your ‘weird’ smile, your double jointed shoulders, that big patch of freckles running down your arm all give you character. And if you need to lose 5lbs or 50, celebrate the body you’ve been given. Its quirky and mismatched and has that weird mole in that spot you hate and it is YOURS.
There is only one you.
And if there isn’t a man in the picture at the moment to remind you just how beautiful you really are, let *this* be enough.
You go dance in the kitchen by yourself and drink allllll the red wine.
It gets oh so much better.
January 27, 2014 § Leave a comment
Let’s start with Justin Brodie Clark.
You don’t know him? Well, we need to make that happen, first of all. Say hi.
This guy can make me laugh like I can’t even explain. He’s an incredibly generous person and despite some storms, he’s a really great friend. Currently, he’s on long term mission with a ministry in Romania called Caminul Felix. To learn more about them, feel free to click that pretty little link. Essentially, they are a Christian organization providing homes and care for orphaned and abandoned children within the country. Currently, they have over 200 kids! Want to say hi to some of them, too? :)
The organization is incredible and has a *lot* of things going for it. Having the ability to house, feed, clothe and assist so many children is amaziiiiiiiiing.
After being to eastern Europe in 2001, I was hooked. I returned to Prague to live for a few months in 2012 and learned…ha. Well, I learned a lot. I went again last fall and have plans to be in the area again this summer to capture a Prague wedding!
There is something about eastern Europe that pulls on all of my heartstrings. It’s a completely different culture, that is for sure, but the people are so incredibly beautiful. When Brodie began to prepare to go, the idea of visiting him to help somehow danced in my head. Just a few months later, in the midst of some of our many emails, the idea came to light:
“Amaris, you’re a photographer. You capture people. Portraits give love and worth, you say so yourself. Come use your gifts for these people.”
Oh my gosh, YES.
Turns out, digital media is something Caminul Felix completely lacks. They have incredibly limited resources for things like high quality videography and photography. In eastern Europe, DSLR’s are scarce and once broken, incredibly difficult to repair. After my time in both the former Yugoslavia and the Czech Republic, I have experienced this firsthand. Digital media simply is not a priority in the budget and especially not for an orphanage with so many mouths to feed. When we proposed our idea, their response was short and sweet:
“We need you.”
Ignite Student Ministries will be spearheading the trip and helping with virtually every facet. Ignite’s President, Jason Vana, travels to the Czech Republic every summer with teams to love on the people there and has for a decade. He understands how incredible eastern Europe really is.
I know, I know, you want to go and want details. Skimmers, pay attention here! ;)
Dates: July 26-Aug 5
Team members will travel round trip from their home city (no, you do not have to be in Chicago or RDU!) to Budapest, Hungary. Orientation and debrief for all team members will be here before we travel to Oradea, Romania by train.
People! We are hoping to have a two part team for our week in country. Another professional photographer and two videographers for the digital media portion of the trip. You will be using your own gear. In addition, Team 2 will have 7 team members to assist Caminul Felix with their ongoing activities. They host VBS camps, teach sports, have construction projects and even an auto shop! Medical needs are possible and we are still awaiting final word. If you’ve got two hands and any kind of skill, we want to chat with you!
Each team member is responsible for raising their own support and we definitely partner with you on this! This overall cost might be less, depending on airfare and some other factors we’re working out. Ignite is working to supply us with donor letters, cards and all donations are tax-exempt. In addition, donations may be made online as well as via check or certified funds. Such a great ministry – seriously!
I’m interested. How do we start this thing?!
I’d love to chat with you or your friend or your sister – whomever you think would want to go. There is an application process and, like anything great, things might change. But, seriously, if you’re interested, just reach out. I might be one of the most accessible people on earth. :)
Email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tweet at me here: @ahmareiss
Facebook me here: Amaris Hames
Call me here: 919.244.2234
They also do still have carrier pigeons in select cities.
In the meantime, if you pray, please do! This trip will be amazing and I’m so excited about working with both Ignite & Caminul Felix, even though J. Brodie won’t be able to join. If you’re interested in giving towards the trip, you can reach me any of the ways listed and I would be thrilled to talk to you about it.
With great affection,