MTH 1 Year Check Up

Categories: Business & Photography, Personal.

I really and truly cannot believe it’s been a year since Making Things Happen in Chapel Hill. Wow, the places you go and the things that change in a year. Life is amazing and I still stand by Making Things Happen as a real turning point for me. You can read my Review here and my 6 Month Check Up here. They just opened registration for October, so I encourage you to head over and check it out!

The conference and the ladies who run it have this way of rooting these wisdoms in you that are awesome. Making Things Happen was more about focus, direction, and confidence for me than it was about finding the surge to take a big leap of faith to start something new, like it was for many. I think everyone’s journey is different, and for me, I did not leave there some entirely changed person. You have to DO the work. But what I’ve realized so clearly in the last year is that life is all one big chain of habits. And it takes a long time to change habits and to instill new, more positive habits in your daily life. I still have so much I want to change, but the habits that I have changed and the way my mind has been re-wired over the last year has been so great and it’s really so remarkable to me how much I can so tangibly see the differences.

Like I mentioned at the 6 month mark, one of the biggest things that changed for me was how I used social media. You see, the root of the issues here are all about confidence and comparison. So changing this has made all of the difference. My list of people I follow on Instagram actually gets smaller each week rather than larger. Please don’t be offended if you’re not included. I am just feeling more and more mindful about the information I allow into my mind on a daily basis. I have continued social media free weekends and come Monday, I actually don’t even want to check Instagram…it’s amazing :) I am still only using Facebook for my business and it’s been wonderful like that. And since these changes, I’ve realized how much more I’m growing to value my privacy. I really don’t want people knowing what I am doing all the time. My thoughts. What my daily life is like. Life is good…life is actually great and I feel so daggone fortunate, but I’m finding that there is SO much satisfaction in knowing that for myself and not needing to show it to the world or hear praise, compliments, or criticism. Because quite honestly, I live my life for myself and for my family and closest friends and I am perfectly content this way. There are certain things that are meant to be sacred and the world has become so accustomed to putting it all out there, so I get that it’s a bit unusual now. I also get and understand that not everyone feels this way and that is totally okay :) I still stand by social media being such a positive business tool and for that I’m so grateful and I’m always learning how to use it to apply more and more to my business, but personally I am so much happier with more boundaries. This is one place where I believe less is not more. More boundaries = less distraction, negativity, self-comparison, etc.

“Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside.”

An area I am still struggling with is staying on task and making the most of my time in the office. I think this is something any self-employed person who works alone and from home is challenged with, though. I’m getting better about this little by little, but it is still challenging for me to actually log out of email so that I’m not checking it as soon as I hit a wall in whatever I’m working on at the moment. So that’s an area I still need to improve on, and I’m open to suggestions. I’ve heard doing focused work for periods of 90 minutes and then taking a break is the way to go, but does anything else work for anyone? I still get most everything I need to get done each day and I feel like I’m always busy, but, I know especially with it getting warmer, getting my work done sooner means more time I can spend outside doing the stuff that really fires me up or dreaming about/working toward some other exciting projects.

However, on the whole I feel so much more at peace with my focus and direction both in my personal life and my business. I feel more and more like my business is serving my personal life and not the other way around. My family and quality time with them grows exponentially more important every year, and I feel like I’m continuing to lay a slow and steady foundation that is keeping that balance in check. So now the goal is to just maintain and continue to grow as an artist and in terms of quality, not in the way of quantity. The amazing thing about MTH last year, too, was that it was the first year that the second day was all about business, and that was seriously so priceless. I feel like it’s really changed the way I think about my clients, my brand, my core, and I consistently see the fruits of that labor on so many different occasions and in many different ways.

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

My Making Things Happen Pinterest board is always a constant area of inspiration for me, and I really like having certain quotes in the back of my mind to keep me motivated and on the right track. I am just always so grateful that I took the leap and made the investment to attend MTH, and I’m so, so appreciative of the ways Lara, Gina, Emily, and the other guest speakers so candidly shared about their journeys. If you’re ever feeling stuck, like your day-to-day is not serving your life the way you want it to be, or that you’re just mulling along without purpose, I highly encourage you to read up more on MTH and the ladies involved. And of course, I’m always open to chatting more about my experience or answering questions about what MTH is about :)


An Update on the “Project House”

Categories: Personal.

If you use and follow me on Instagram, you may have seen images like these below, hashtagged #projectcroftfarmhouse.
What a project this house has been. I don’t think I’ve shared an update on the blog for almost a year, because the last year has been so many ups and downs and the progress has definitely been slow. If you want to learn more about the back story of our farm and the main house, I suggest you hope over here and take a quick read to get caught up. I think you’ll notice something seems wrong though…just a year ago we thought we’d be tearing the house down and starting over. Right before we were about to move ahead with that decision, we got a few more professional opinions and the general consensus was that there was too much house left to let go. Yes, it was kind of the cheapest part of the house and it would still be expensive to re-build back to a decent, livable state, but it would be more cost efficient to do that than build new. Close, but still a bit more feasible. So with more thought and consideration, we decided to re-build it as is.

Unfortunately it’s a BIG house…bigger than we really want, but at the same time, the house has SO much history, and for re-sale down the road we knew that it would be really special to have the original house still on the property. It’s a bit more traditional than our taste but we’ve really grown to love it and find a lot of joy in this insane process. Below are some pictures from how it looked from when we bought it in 2011 until early 2013.
So last year, knowing that we’d be starting the first big step of this multiple year project (doing bit by bit as we could afford), we met with a local roofer and moved forward to replace the roof, which was the first logical step toward re-building since all of the trusses were scorched and there was a giant hole in the roof. That hole and all of the moisture from our crazy rain-filled 2013 was doing more and more damage the longer it was there. Below are a few pictures of the initial new roof process, which started in May 2013.

Well, May came and went. And June. And July. And so did a LOT of rain. And a LOT of excuses from our “roofer.” To make a long story short, we got broken into this process real good right from the get-go. I’ll just say this: if you’re doing major home improvements or renovations, check with your state to make sure your contractor is licensed and in good standing. Check to see if they have any outstanding issues from past work. Ask for referrals. Go see their work in person and talk to the homeowners. Ask to see proof of insurance. And make sure you sign a really tight contract. A signed proposal is not a contract. Google one…there’s lots of information online about what a contract should include. Word of mouth is a great thing, but if you don’t do some work on your end, even working with someone who friends or family recommend can burn you. Just because they hadn’t been burnt doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you.

So our house sat open for weeks and weeks with absolutely no roof on it. And last spring we had the wettest spring on record in years. So that means that all of that pretty oak hardwood floor you saw in those pictures? Buckled. Moldy. Ruined. Done. Had to be ripped up. My poor husband spent a handful of weekends pulling up and cutting out hardwood floor while I was away shooting weddings (one of the pictures above, in the first handful of pictures with the blue tarp, is actually during that process). And guess what, even the sub-floor under neath needed to go too! And the walls that were built on top of the sub-floor! And then when the metal finally did go on the roof, it wasn’t right. In fact it was ALL wrong and would never pass code. To make it even better, it had to be taken off and completely re-built. Wow. What an experience we had as first-time home renovators.

Finally at the end of 2013 we hooked up with a REAL, legit contractor and home builder and signed a contract to have the roof removed and correctly re-built, and to have all of the walls and flooring removed. Having the flooring removed is probably what stung the most…since we believed we could have saved so much of what was already there had it never gotten wet and exposed to the elements for so long. But you just have to find a silver lining somewhere, so we told ourselves that even though it hurt and was expensive, we could rest easy always knowing the floor we stood on was brand new, properly laid, and we’d never have to worry. Turns out, even though we knew we’d need to replace the joists where the hole in the roof had been, we had no idea that even more joists were also rotten in another place in the house. Underneath where two bathrooms met back to back, a longtime leak had rotted those joists too. We could have re-built the house and eventually that area would have fallen apart anyways, putting a lot of money down the drain. So at least the silver lining of that extra work was knowing for 100% sure that ALL of the flooring and joists were either new or in great condition.

In February the roof and flooring was done, and look at the difference! It was probably one of the most exciting times for us seeing these changes come to life and seeing how new and awesome the house looks inside. We still have a good year plus of work ahead of us, but soon we hope to be replacing windows and doors, finishing a few more things on the exterior, and putting up walls. Working with an architect on the floor plan was both stressful and fun, but it will be so incredible seeing walls go up. It will finally look like a real house again! This photo below is taken in nearly the same spot 2.5 years later (Lexi looks so enthused lol).

I’m so glad that we have pictures to document this whole journey…both good and bad. The Instagram hashtag is one of my favorite things to look at…to see how far the house has come already…I can’t imagine what it will be like in a year. We’ve definitely learned a lot and there’s already some things I wish we’d done differently, like the metal color. I really miss a darker roof and wish we’d considered shingles more seriously or a darker metal (but we all know black metal in the South is probably not going to make the most energy efficient home, which is why we went lighter), but at the end of the day it’s such a learning experience and something we feel really grateful to be doing together. I’m hoping it won’t be as long until I get to share another update :)


A Legare Waring House Wedding

Categories: Weddings.

What a beautiful day these two had for their March wedding at the Legare Waring House in Charleston, South Carolina. As assistant to Paige Winn Photo for this wedding, I was able to finally experience the amazingness that is Legare. If I had to do my wedding over (which I wish so badly I could – what a few years in the industry teaches you!), I’d want mine to look almost exactly like this. Erin looked so effortlessly beautiful all evening, and the way Charlie looks at her is tangible. What wonderful family and friends, too :)


Spring is here!

Categories: Personal.

I’m not complaining; we’ve had a relatively mild winter. Besides one snow (which was fun!), and the ice storm that SC & GA are still cleaning up from (not so fun), it was definitely tolerable. I feel so bad for all of my friends and family in Maryland who have been pounded with more snow and outrageously cold temperatures than they have in a long time. They so deserve spring to come any day now! But still, I’m eagerly looking forward to things being green and warm again here in South Carolina…I love seeing everything become new in April each year. Until then, here’s a few pops of color and signs of spring (goose eggs!) I was able to find last week.


Friday Five: March

Categories: Personal.

Ahh!! It’s the end of March already! I have been big on being present this year and not wishing away the days, but I LOVE April, and I am SO happy to welcome it next week! To me April is the time that everything becomes new again outside. I LOVE the warm weather, longer days, and more opportunities to be and work outside. I’m so excited, can’t you tell?! :) So as March comes to an end, here’s 5 things on my mind, and 9 of my favorite Instagram images from the month. Enjoy!

1. Spring!: I’m a big seasons person…I feel like every 3 months whatever season it is makes it into a Friday Frive post. There is easily a lot of good things about all seasons, but spring is definitely my favorite. It’s more time outside, green grass (I love mowing grass! Weird? Maybe.), more riding, river/pool time, walks, sunshine, lunch outside, grilling, amazing temps before it gets too hot, no gnats yet, etc. Just so much happiness! The only downside is the insane amounts of pollen that pile up on everything. Yuck :( Today has been probably the worst day yet for my spring allergies! No fun! And also, I was looking back at pictures from 2012 today and realized how QUICKLY spring arrived that year…literally pictures from TODAY, our fields were green and there were SO many leaves on the trees! As I look outside, buds are just finally showing up…so it feels like spring is really taking it’s sweet time this year.

2. Weddings!: I feel like this one makes it onto my list every year too…soon starts my spring season and I’m SO refreshed and excited for what lays ahead!

3. 1 Year Since MTH: I’m thinking about doing a big 1 Year recap post in April, but I can’t believe March marked a year since I attended the Making Things Happen conference. What a game changer for me. I look back and see all that has changed within me, and that was exactly the goal of attending. It’s been slow yet steady, just like so many other things in life I have really been appreciating lately. Change is all about progress, and every day I feel myself moving more and more toward being that person that I really strive to be.

4. Purging/Spring Cleaning/Whatever you want to call it!: Another reason I love spring is because of that good ‘ole spring cleaning thing. Ever since the beginning of the year, I’ve been all about less is more. More aggressively than ever before haha. I have SO. MUCH. STUFF. set aside in our house/barn/storage to sell/donate/give away. Our current house is tiny so naturally that’s a big aid in making sure the only stuff we have is stuff we use or need, but still. I want even less. If I don’t use it, wear it, or wouldn’t buy it today, it needs to go. And as always, that parlays into social media as well. Every couple of months I go through my Instagram and unfollow a handful of users. Nothing personal, guys! But seriously, too much information or even too much of a good thing, is not really a good thing! I feel so much more clear-headed and focused when my space (mental and physical) is clear of clutter.

5. Spiffy Header Image: One of the changes that we made to the blog during the face lift was my header image up at the top. I am LOVING being able to update it whenever I please. This most recent update is probably my favorite yet. It feels fun, romantic, and so Lowcountry, and it just makes me happy :) If you want to see more of Bonnie and Jesse’s engagement session, you can click here.

Happy Friday guys! Have a great weekend! :) Oh and I’d also like to wish a happy 6th birthday to my Riley boy! Can’t believe he didn’t make it into a photo below, but check out my actual Instagram account for some yellow dog love :)