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I posted this quote on my page roughly a week ago.  I have spent some time thinking about my past and my “mistakes,” if you will.  But are these things really mistakes or were they destined in the grand scheme of the universe to teach me a lesson?…

 

“Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.”

 

What if you spent not only a lot of time, but a whole lot of money?

 

Well, that’s exactly how I felt about the major I chose in college.  I like music & I sang quite well (I’m SO out of vocal shape right now!).  Back then at the wise old age of 18, I thought naturally, I should become a music teacher.  Music is a REALLY hard major, by the way, with so many classes that gave so little college credit and demanded a great deal of time.  Example:  Ear Training was twice a week for 1 credit.  We had to listen to intervals on the piano and identify them – up a third, down a fifth, etc.  Our tests involved listening to a tune played on the piano and we had to write it on a staff.

 

When did I know, in my heart, this wasn’t the right career for me?  Halfway through my senior year of college.  That’s a really, REALLY bad time to come to that conclusion.  I taught for one year when Al began medical school.  The job and the experience both were not good for me.   It was at that point I acknowledged my “mistake” and walked away.

 

But was this a mistake?  Were there some other reasons that I chose this path?  I look back on that time in life and remember the significant moments I experienced because of this major.  I made some wonderful friends!  I was a part of one of the most amazing choirs, Nordic Choir, for three years.  Our conductor, Weston Noble, was also one of my professors.  Being in his presence was a wonderful experience!  Because of this major, I was required to have a vocal recital.  On the day of my junior recital, my husband, Al, asked me out for the first time and he attended my recital that evening.  Did he begin to fall in love with me that night?  Honestly, I don’t know.  I’ll have to ask him.  But it certainly didn’t hurt anything.  🙂

 

In retrospect, I believe I struggled in this profession because I simply wasn’t meant to be teaching music.  I was meant to contribute to another area of the arts.  I was meant to be a photographer.  On a bad day, I still kick myself that I didn’t choose business or marketing or another major.  But I know I am where I am meant to be.

 

Another of my mistakes?  Breaking up with my husband.

 

After we had dated a few months our junior year, it was summertime.  And the longer I was away from Al, the more I wondered if we should be dating.  Was he more serious than me?  I got scared.  When he came to visit me, where I was working at Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp, I broke up with him.  He drove all the way back to Wisconsin with a broken heart.  Within a few months, after we were back at Luther College, I began to think I’d made a mistake.  I did not cling to my decision to split up.  I took him by surprise when I went to see him at his house one night and talk.  By February, we were engaged.  I believe that this break was necessary for me, though.  Because after some time to think, I knew that I would never want to leave this man again.

 

When it comes relationships, any relationship, I believe time is of the essence when realizing a mistake or a misunderstanding.  The sooner we make things “right,” the better.  What if he had met someone else?  I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without my husband or our children.  This kind of goes along with what I have said to my kids from a young age, ALWAYS trust your instincts.  They are God’s voice inside of you and will always guide you in the right direction.

 

I won’t say that my career with Longaberger many years ago was a mistake.  It ended up being a huge learning experience.   I loved the products!  I so enjoyed meeting new people at home shows.  I learned a variety of responsibilities when I was a branch advisor.  I left this job when Longaberger baskets and pottery were at their height of popularity.    I spent 8 years building and creating a career with this company.  But when I realized that the stress was too great, I walked away even after investing a lot of time and money.

 

I don’t believe that any of my photography has been a mistake.  Every life that I captured has immense value!  I have decided not to continue to put my energy into newborn photography.  Of course, I’m holding on to a few things for our future grandchildren way, WAY down the road.  🙂

 

Keep your eyes open for some new kinds of portraiture from this studio.  You’ve had a little sneak peek with pet portraits.  These will join my senior and family portrait business.

 

With the exception of the weighted blanket I purchased (I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breath, and it cost $80 shipping to return), I don’t believe that there are mistakes.  There is only life lessons to guide in the direction of your purpose.

 

 

Warm Is Sexy

April 19th, 2019

Several years ago, I had a blog post on here after cleaning my kitchen cabinets.  At that time, I was feeling overwhelmed.  I was very busy with my photography business, which was great!  And at the same time, I was crazy busy with my kids’ sports activities.  One day, as I was tackling a cabinet which was driving me nuts because it was so full (by the way, it’s time to hit those cabinets again), I found a a great moment of clarity.  I needed to cut back on my photography sessions.  I have always considered myself a mom first, secondarily someone who also liked to throw in some photography.  I didn’t want to miss any of the moments I needed to be there for my children as they grew up.  I don’t regret that decision in any way, shape, or form.

 

This past year was my first as an empty-nester.  There are things I am starting to get used to, some things I even enjoy about this stage, and of course there are things that I miss.

 

I have had a good 8 months now to figure out the next stages of my business and my life. But honestly, I think I was still kind of sad and maybe feeling a little sorry for myself….  until now.

 

So once again, I am tackling my home and cleaning the areas that have been hidden behind doors, cabinets, shelves, and drawers.  It seems it is during these menial tasks that I do the best thinking.  When there is less clutter around me, there is less clutter in my head.

 

Tonight (yes, TONIGHT, as in after we got home from a movie TONIGHT), I was determined to get started.  The coat closet in our laundry room was driving me crazy!  I had way more coats than I wear and I was bound and determined to find my North Face hat which had been missing for months.  But in order to clean it, I really had to have Al go through his things, too.  (I have such a good guy!)  And when 2 people conquer such a task, it really doesn’t take very long.  But I read in a book, the key to start decluttering is simply to MOVE.  And tonight, I knew I just had to move in order get in the mood to make to improvements over these next weeks before the kids are home for the summer.

 

As I was going through my hats (found my North Face hat!), I found some rather boring hats that I wanted to get rid of.  Al, my practical guy, said “These are good for Packer games.  You need to keep these.  They are very utilitarian.”  I thought about it a few minutes and said, “But I don’t want to look utilitarian.  I want to look cute.”  His response?  “Warm is sexy….  warm people don’t whine!”  Sigh…  after 30 years, he knows me so well!

 

So, anyway…  one closet down.  I’m on my way!

Ruff Day?

April 10th, 2019

Sweet little Franny and Fergi were subjects in this studio yesterday.  I had never photographed two dogs together before.  In an ideal world, my first image would just “happen.”  However, I gave this some thought in advance.  Both of these pups were pretty young.  I knew that they would be full of energy and they most definitely were!  🙂  So how was an image like this created?

 

The mom of these “girls” 🙂 helped with the session.  I shot each dog individually and then I photographed the background and props alone, making sure to straighten out floor of the backdrop.  There was no “cutting and pasting” in creating the final picture.  This portrait was created by a careful combination of blending images together in order to create the “perfect” shot.

 

Why reveal my secret?

 

These are some skills that took a while to perfect, but after these many years in business I’m pretty darn good at combining images.  I wanted people to know that even if a session seems a little crazy (and it was 🙂 ) and if you leave thinking, “I don’t think she could have captured anything,” I usually can.  🙂  It needs to look totally seamless, like it came out of the camera that way, in order to pass my seal of approval.

 

If you are looking to create something amazing for your pet or family (these same techniques work great with people  🙂  ), I look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

 

Doctor’s Day

March 31st, 2019

I have been thinking about Doctor’s Day quite a bit today, my husband’s journey into this field, and the impact this job has on family.  It is probably because as I write this, I have too much time to think,  as he is doing what he is committed to doing, taking care of the people of this community.

 

Al’s education was 11 years in the making.  I came into the picture in his 3rd year of reaching his goal.  Being a doctor was on Al’s radar since he was young.  When his baby sister was born, he asked his dad about his mom’s blood pressure.  He never really veered into considering another field, except maybe while experiencing the stress of the first 2 years of medical school, but by then we were too far in to look back.

 

We married in August of 1989, 2 weeks before medical school started.  To say that this time was stressful is an understatement.  He was committed to studying in an area of our apartment.   Being newly married,  it was hard being in the next room and feeling like I couldn’t talk to him.  I would try to keep myself occupied with cross-stitch, reading, exercising, or watching t.v. on a 13″ screen with no cable.  I kept myself busy working 2 jobs.  We had no money, a load of debt, no family, and few friends in town.

 

I remember one day about halfway through medical school, I was thinking about the responsibility of being the wife of a doctor.  I was already struggling with all of the times I was by myself.   I said to Al, “I don’t know if I can do this.”  He looked at me fearfully and said, “But this is what I am going to be…”  That was a wake-up moment for me.  I loved this man more than anything.  I knew I wanted to spend my life with him.  And that meant I was going to have to learn to manage everything his career would entail.

 

The past years have included missed weddings, graduations, special occasions, and sporting events due to Al being on call.  We have spent holidays eating as a family at the hospital cafeteria when he had to work.  I have brought him dinner to KRHC when he was stuck at the hospital.  I thought if he doesn’t have time to take care of himself, how can he take care of others?  That was my responsibility to be there for him.  (Although, honestly that isn’t a whole lot different than when we took dinner to Dad in the field.)  I have taken my children for a break at the hospital when they were small and missed seeing him.  He has had so many nights with little or no sleep over the years and worked the next day.  I know that I am years ahead of him on sleep.  And because of sleep deprivation, I have seen him fall asleep at Christmas and birthday gatherings with family, even as gifts were being opened.  I hold my breath and pray whenever I hear an ambulance and I know that he is on call.  He has missed pivotal moments in my children’s sporting careers while he assisted another participant who was injured.  Fortunately, he had a wife who took pictures.  If he says he’s going to be home at 6:00, I can guarantee you it will be 6:40 because someone asked another medical question.

 

Neither one of us would ask for sympathy.  This is just the way it is.  This is the life of a physician.

 

Now on the flip side….  I have had people come up to me and tell me how my husband has saved their life.  He has held hands with a patient,  having to relay to them that they are sick.  He has comforted children who were getting their shots.  He has assisted in bringing new life into this world.  He has been present with families after the loss of a loved one.  He has stitched, set broken bones, removed lesions, rounded on patients, and performed a multitude of other medical tasks.  This job of his is truly a calling.

 

I signed up to support him with this career.  Our children did not.  But I believe… I hope… that they also learned some valuable lessons as they grew up.  They have truly witnessed us for better and for worse, in sickness and in health.  I know that on the day that each of them come home and say that they are getting married, the first question, even before the availability of the church, will be, “What’s my call schedule?”   I believe that my kids have had a solid education regarding the sacrifices that are involved in supporting your husband or wife.

 

Today, I honor not just my husband, but all of the doctors who have contributed so much to our communities.  May God continue to bless them in their professions!

 

The Power of a Letter

March 27th, 2019

Yesterday, someone told me about a card that they had received that touched their heart.  I have been thinking about that conversation ever since…

 

Do you remember the time when you were so excited to receive an email or a text because it was something so foreign and new to you?  That was the day when we tossed cards to the side that we received in the mail. We looked at them later in order to read a message on these new digital platforms first.

 

Well, times are reversed.  The notes we receive on our computers and phones are now common place and more rare and precious is the hand-written card or letter.

 

How amazing is the art of letter writing!

 

I have been blessed with a husband who has never been afraid to put his thoughts and feelings in writing to me, when we first dated and still today.  I receive the nicest, well-thought out sentiments from him on my birthday, our anniversary,  for Valentine’s Day, when I’ve had a bad day, and sometimes for no reason at all other than to tell me he loves me.

 

I believe that letters and notes to our friends and family are every bit as precious!  I have taken time to write a note of thanks after being invited to a gathering, having lunch with a friend, following a conversation that I enjoyed having with someone, or receiving a gift….  Do I always remember?  No.  But I am making it my mission to be even more consistent in this area of my life.

 

I once gave someone the advice that talking to a person was better than letter-writing.  I kind of wish I could take that back.  Talking is always great, but there is something very special about having something in your hand that can be treasured, to relive the words of appreciation, the special memories, the love… again and again.

 

If you don’t have any stationary or note cards, I encourage you to think about picking up some.  While a letter or note on a blank sheet of paper is every bit as precious, I think fun papers make the experience even more enjoyable for the writer.

 

And if you receive an unexpected note from me?  Well, don’t be surprised!  🙂

 

 

 

 

Me… Only Better

March 26th, 2019

Retouching – it’s one of the the not so little things that I pay particular attention to when creating a portrait.  A beautiful portrait starts with beautiful light.  Why not finesse it to create the very best version of yourself?

 

I make no apologizes for the amount of retouching I have put in an image.  I honestly believe that when we look at an image of someone we love, we already see exactly what I have retouched.  Life, stress, and gravity take its toll on our bodies.  My pictures depict my clients as they would look on their very best days.  I actually enhance an image with many little details.  I think it has made my work look distinctive.  I believe it’s the sum of all of these little things that create a final image with a bit of “wow.”  🙂

 

I took some time over this last week to create a few “selfies” in my studio for some before retouching and after images.  (By the way, I have come to the conclusion that the more selfies you take, the more critical you get of yourself.)

 

I chose this image for a couple of reasons.  I usually have an open smile, showing my teeth.  This is not my typical self-portrait.  I looked at this image and I saw my resemblance to my dad and I also saw my daughter who often smiles this way.

 

First I start lightening circles & wrinkles under the eyes.  I slightly lighten the whites of the eyes, enhance the color of the eyes, and darken eyelashes.  These are pretty much standard with all of my portraits.  As I have gotten older, I have noticed sometimes I have visible veins on my forehead, I lightened these.  I reduced the reds of some skin around my neck and hands and removed a few age spots.  I wasn’t real happy with my neckline looking a bit rumpled so I fixed it.  I’m an “80’s girl” and I still like slightly bigger hair.  I “pushed down” the height of my hair, the product of too much backcombing that day.  Can’t tell?  I still have to stay somewhat 80’s-like.  🙂  I have a crooked nose, just like my dad.   🙂  It actually doesn’t bother me much but for these purposes, I straightened the shadow on my nose just a bit.  I smoothed the skin a little and then I adjusted the levels of light on the image.

 

I do not think that the average person would look at the after image and think, “Michelle really changed that picture!”  I think that they would be more inclined to think that the after version just looks better than the before image for some reason.

 

I have not photographed many head shots in the past.  I have a bit more time these days, so if you are interested in having a “polished” headshot  🙂  in this studio, please let me know.  I am now offering a digital only version that is emailed.

 

 

 

 

I always strive to capture my images as close as possible in camera, except of course  retouching.  But sometimes an image involves a little more effort to create what I had envisioned.

 

This is one of my favorite senior pictures from last year!  It’s also very meaningful because this girl happens to be a good friend of my daughter and spent hours upon hours in our home through the years.  🙂

 

Hailey is an amazing runner!  I thought it would be so fun to have a running picture on our track in her prom dress.   (I mean, how often is a prom dress ever worn again?)

 

The day was so gray and humid.  Hailey curled her hair before the session, but with every passing minute, her hair fell just a little more.  She was such a sport!  I was having a hard time creating a capture where my off-camera flash caught her at just the right moment as she ran and looked back at me.  Some images had hair across the face.  She came back to our starting point several times and ran for me.

 

Finally, I had an image with the flash exactly where I wanted it.  Mission accomplished – almost.  I knew I could make this picture even better.  🙂

 

So, I took out the fence in the background that was going through her head.  I changed out her legs from another image where I liked the running position just a little better.  I added some pieces of hair with pretty light from another picture.  I dropped in a prettier sky – the sky we should have had at this time on a day with a perfect sunset.  Then, I added some light rays.

 

Did it take a little time?  Yes.  Was it totally worth it to me?  Yes!

 

I love capturing a stunning image, but I also very much enjoy creating one!

God Has Perfect Timing

February 19th, 2019

I have been reading the  New York Times #1 selling book “Girl, Wash Your Face:  Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Are Meant To Be”  by Rachel Hollis.

 

Last night’s reading was Chapter 10 – “The Lie:  I Should Be Further Along By Now.”  I have been thinking about a key phrase in this chapter today – God has perfect timing.

 

There are so many times in my life when I thought I knew what would be best for me and my life and God had other plans in store.

 

God has perfect timing.

 

When I was in high school, I didn’t have a boyfriend.  I thought I might meet a guy at college.  For some reason, I thought that this person would become obvious to me in the first year or two at my school, Luther College.  When I started my junior year, I came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t going to happen for me, at least not now, and I didn’t think about it anymore.  Halfway through that year, I met my husband.  There was a time when I wasn’t sure I would meet someone.  But, there was a reason that I didn’t fall for someone else or someone else didn’t fall for me earlier, because God had an ultimate plan.

 

God has perfect timing.

 

Two weeks after we were married, my husband started medical school.  It was such a stressful time in our lives.  We had to take out loans just to live, praying for a day when we would be able to pay them back.  During these years, I started to see our friends having children.  Other medical students were having kids.  It just didn’t seem fair that we had to struggle so hard daily that children weren’t even an option at that time.  But I also wondered, would I be able to have children if we waited?  Wasn’t it better, or more reliable, to have kids earlier than later?

 

God has perfect timing.

 

After 4 years, my husband’s family practice residency began in Mason City, IA.  Many other residents and their spouses were having babies at this time.  We still did not feel prepared.  In his second year of residency, we were ready to have a baby.  But, it didn’t happen according to our time table.  Month after month went by and we finally decided it was no longer a good time.  A due date around the time my husband would start a family practice position and we would be moving would be too hard.  And then, Surprise!  I was pregnant with our son, Bo.  And at 30 weeks, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma.

 

I was watching “The Talk”  today and one of the guests was Courteney Cox, who is hosting a series called “9 Months”, where women were followed through their pregnancy.  One woman was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks after she found out she was pregnant.  She was facing the decision of whether or not to have to have an abortion to save her life.

 

Because God has perfect timing…

 

…I didn’t get pregnant earlier, when I had hoped,  and when I might have had to face this same decision.  I was far enough along that we could have our baby at 35 weeks and I would be able to start treatment.  Both my son and I lived!

 

We did not know if after treatment we could have any more children.  And then with God’s perfect timing, we found out we were expecting another child, a girl, 3 years later.

 

Our children are the biggest blessings in our lives!  Because they were born when they were born, they had amazing friend groups in school, wonderful experiences,  and played sports with their incredible teammates.    With God’s perfect timing, I look forward to seeing who they will meet for their future spouses (who are, by the way, going to be SO LUCKY!), whom I pray for now daily, and their children.  Those families are going to be SO blessed!

 

My career in photography came with God’s perfect timing.  I went to college and acquired a degree in music education.  I knew in my heart that this was not the career for me halfway through my senior year.  In “Girl, Wash Your Face,” Hollis talks about “maybe a goal wasn’t ever meant to be yours.  Maybe you are destined for something so much cooler…  Nothing has been wasted.  Every single moment is preparing you for the next.”

 

I felt so bad about not using my education.  I was so incredibly hard on myself.  I did not treat me with the kindness that I would a stranger.  I called myself a loser, useless, a burden….

 

It wasn’t until 15 years later that photography, a life-long hobby, came into my life as a career.  I have had the opportunity to celebrate and capture lives, special occasions, and milestones.  I have recently been inspired to explore some other areas of photography.  I am still growing into the person I want to become.  I am looking forward to new experiences!  I know that they will be coming because…

 

God has perfect timing.

Even the Dog….

February 16th, 2019

Nobody is immune to retouching when it comes to my photographs.  Not even our dog.  🙂

 

When retouching clients, my family, or myself, my goal is to make everyone look like they do on their very best day.  Everyone looks a little “fresher” – eyes are a little whiter and a little less red, lashes are a little darker, circles under the eyes are lighter, wrinkles are softened…  I believe that this IS who they are!  This IS their spirit!

 

Here is a recent picture I took of our dog, Riley.  This is her soul, her beautiful spirit!   Her fur had a few spots that were uneven and there was spots with some separation.  Her eyes had “sleep” in them and some hairs across the pupils.  I saw the white underside of her bandanna, her ears didn’t appear as full as they usually do.

 

I started out with my color image, retouched the areas I just mentioned, converted the image to b&w, cropped it a square and extended the top of the photo, then added a great texture to the top.

 

This image is by no means competition-worthy, but I love it!   It  is priceless to me!  🙂

 

In the future, I will show a before and after of a person retouched – a picture of myself.

 

 

Following Through

February 8th, 2019

 

“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.”  Eleanor Roosevelt.

 

This year I made a commitment to consciously work at creating a life with no regrets.  Big goal.  But what is a goal without a plan?

 

Step 1 of creating a plan?  Getting physically stronger.

 

The last years have included problems with my knees and I’ve had ongoing back issues for many years.  After a 5-year break, we have a family vacation planned!  Actually we have a plan for the following summer, too.  🙂  I want to be stronger!  I want to fully enjoy these times with my loved ones and not worry about my back or pain.   I want to walk, to hike, to explore, and concentrate only on having fun!  Therefore, nearly every day has included exercise with the goal of building more muscle.

 

Step 2?  Writing daily goals.

 

Days seems to go by too easily when I don’t have a daily list of things I want to accomplish.  I have been writing my list of realistic expectations I have set for myself each day.

 

Step 3?  Have more fun!

 

This is a big one!  I have many friends that I would like to get together with more often.  I have been able to spend time with some of them.  I will continue to reach out to those I haven’t seen in a while.  My husband and I have made dinner and movie dates with friends.  We will have more people over to our home this year.  Just for fun, I am working on some music so I can perform a couple of songs with a 2nd grader.  It’s going to be a blast!  I’ve always wanted to go zip-lining and our family is doing just that this summer!

 

Step 4?  Work on new aspects of my business.

 

I have some personal goals.  I also intend to compete in competition again next year.  I took a 2-year break with the busyness of having a high school senior followed by health issues.  I can make time now.  I get excited by the process of bettering myself!  I’m happier when I feel I am moving forward and building my skills!

 

Step 5?  Better myself with reading.

 

I have a good friend with whom we’ve created our own little book club.  We are currently reading one together and discussing over lunch.  It keeps me motivated and accountable to read the assignments we have created for ourselves.

 

I will continue to work on the follow-through of my goals this year.  🙂  2019 is on a good start!

 


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