I’m sitting here enjoying yet another morning on the porch with my coffee looking at the ocean thinking how grateful I am that we get to do this. And it’s not a gratitude that has me needing to thank someone for providing it. It’s a gratitude for the life we have built that allows us to do this. 

Henny and I first started dreaming about this over the winter. Making a big summer change. Our kids have been on the swim team for 4 years and have loved it. The pool is our summer family. Hell, I’m even on the Board. But we couldn’t let it go. Knowing that the older they get, the busier their summers will be. He’s a baseball dude, she’s a lacrosse lover and they both really enjoy swim.  So our opportunities to drop off are numbered, for certain. 

So we researched and it was daunting. The money was bigger than we were prepared for but I couldn’t stop wanting it. Determined to make this a reality, I told Henny that I would pay for it. Now, there’s no “I” in our marriage or in how we manage our money. But I said that I would work for the money to pay for this time away. It would come straight from the Kelly Hennigan Photography bank account. And it did.

Through months of some lull in the pipeline (happens every year) to the months spent working through the pain from a herniated disk and a stress fracture in my hip. My doctor, and dear friend Trina, got very tired of hearing me say “you have to heal me. I have work I can’t miss.” And no matter how badly I felt, I didn’t miss any of it. Because I had a goal.

So…I’m grateful. For the life we have built. For the hard work that has paid off. And for the people who have trusted me to capture the images for their businesses and the memories for the families. Because without them, I wouldn’t be able to make these memories for mine.

Sunkissed and Stargazing

“Do you think the stars are out yet, Daddy?” When I heard those words, I knew we’d done the right thing coming here for so long. Sunkissed faces, outside showers and pajamas on the deck for dog play and stargazing. I couldn’t want more out of this summer getaway.  

I haven’t used a blow dryer or a stitch of makeup since we arrived Saturday afternoon. It’s liberating. Ponytails and trucker hats are all that is needed. We’ve spent long days on the beach, until the lifeguards are gone and boogie boarding can be done anywhere. We’ve walked to Nickelby’s for donuts and coffee in the morning and to Scoops for ice cream at night. And there is lot of chatting, Dude Perfect and DIY videos, Ipad games and the occasional outburst of laughter from their respective spots in their bunk bed room.

The surf lesson on Sunday from Avalon Surf Camp in preparation for their upcoming camp week was a success. My little parkour buddy used all of his training and ridiculous core strength to pop up and ride his very first wave and the many that followed. Can’t wait to see what they do in camp.

And we’ve only just begun.

I’m not stupid. I know not everyday will be bliss and the kids will fight and we’ll all get tired and cranky. But I know, for certain, that tired and cranky here at the beach, beats tired and cranky at home every time.

I just read a perfectly timed article about how our kids are overscheduled and need time for free play. Well kids, free play away…

Going Away for Awhile

I can’t believe I have not posted since last October. Or I guess I can, given that I just wasn’t ready to write anything down for awhile. So I’m excited to be back on the blog and hope to be making more visits. Work has been wonderful and I’ve been busy doing what I love and giving everything else I have to my family. But I’m happy to come back to my other passion. 

Like the words in a Brett Eldredge song, “I’m going away for awhile. But I’ll come back with a smile.” I’m leaving with one too. My family and I are dropping out for awhile this summer. We are putting the brakes on what is typically a fast paced summer full of swim and dive team practices and meets, me being on the Board at the Swim Club, tournament lacrosse, baseball and sports camps. We need it, we want it and we’re taking it.

The time between last summer and this summer was challenging for all of us. I have been dealing with multiple muscle and bone injuries that I’m still working through with a fair amount of pain. Casey battled migraines and all of the anxiety and treatments that accompanied those. She was brave through it all and gratefully, she’s done very well since a chiropractic adjustment to her neck. And Henny and I spent a lot of time working closely with Ryan to help him cope with anxieties and worries that were way too big for a 7 year old. And I’m thrilled to say that right now, he’s thriving. He’s happier and lighter and much less fearful. Safe to say he’s crushing his 8 year-old life. Stronger and more resilient than I ever imagined possible. 

While in the middle of a lot of that crap, we decided that the four of us needed to be just the four of us. Fast forward to the end of June, when we will head out on a month+ away at the beach. Just us. Henny will do a lot of back and forth from the office and I will work down there when I’m able, with a few beach shoots already on the books. We have room for visitors and will happily welcome them. But I am really looking forward to long, lazy mornings and days that turn to nights on the beach. Bike rides to get donuts and ice cream and introducing our puppy to the sand and salt water. Nights spent reading books (and enjoying a few cocktails) on the deck and doing puzzles at the kitchen table. The kids are going to do a surf camp and I hope they love every minute of doing something Mom and Dad cannot teach them. 

I hope to absorb and suck up every minute of this time away and I want all of us to remember every bit of it. So, I’m going to do my best to document it with my camera and write about it here on the blog. I’m not stupid. I know that it won’t all be roses. Raising two kids will never be that and we’ll have our moments. But those are part of it, too. To expect anything different is setting dangerous expectations. I also know they will only have each other. And often when that’s the case, they genuinely enjoy each other. They will sleep in bunk beds in the same room, as they’ve always done when we are away from our home. I anticipate lots of giggles before bed and a definite night visitor in our room from time to time. And I will do my best to enjoy all of it. 

“We will miss you,” has come up a lot from our great friends and neighbors and I know I will miss them too. But this is likely the last chance we’ll have to do something like this before the kids’ summer schedules get crazier and they are pulled in various directions. So for now, I’m pulling them in tight and I’m not letting go for a wonderfully long summer as Just Us. 

Believing Your Own Awesome

At what point do you let yourself believe your own Awesome? I had two clients pay me very big compliments over the course of the last 24 hours. And in both instances, my initial thought was “phew. Pulled that one off!” Really? What is that? Why not let myself believe I am exactly what I am to them and what I’ve been to countless clients over the last 7 years? I have two theories on that. The second is probably the most likely. So let’s start with the first. The first is if I let myself believe my own awesome, then I’ve got an ego. And having an ego means I’m a full of myself, class A jerk. It could also mean I stop working to learn and challenge myself. I lose my hunger and my edge. I also realize most of that is likely complete lies I tell myself. Like I said, it’s a theory.

So onto theory #2. If I believe it my own awesome, then it’s real. And that is scarier than any ego I’ve ever come up against. It means I am truly as good as they say I am. And that means I can go as big as I’ve ever wanted to go. I think that’s been true for a long time. But it’s easier to stay small. To quietly make enough money to contribute to my household, pay for the extras, take my family on vacation. But going bigger (which I really do want), means really going bigger. Saying out loud what my clients say to me. That I really am awesome at what I do and how I do it. That those ideal clients are truly attainable. On a consistent basis. I know that because they are happening.

I pour my true heart into my craft. I light up when I do it. If you’ve worked with me, you’ve seen the pure joy I do not hide when I glance at the back of my camera. Like a little girl.

So, there it is. Plain and simple. We are our own roadblock to believing our awesome. It’s easier to be “good.” Great is overwhelming. I’ve told many people in my life, I am painfully self-aware. I know my potential and I know what keeps me from achieving it. Stupid self-awareness.

And by the way, if you’re waiting for me to provide an all-encompassing answer to get past this, I don’t have it. But I’m certain I’m not the only person who feels this way, so I’m sharing. I will figure it out, in time, as I’m a constant work in progress. 

Been Sitting on This One.

It happened. I had my first down year. I knew it was coming but it wasn’t until I wrapped up the taxes that it became real. I have no problem admitting it. No one wants to have it, but I was told by so many who came before me that it was inevitable. In all honesty, I kinda feel like it’s a right of passage as a business owner. I’m established enough after 7 years that I’m not afraid of it. In fact, it’s had several rather positive effects on me.

The first is one that reminds me, time and again, that things happen for a reason. My family needed my attention a little extra over the last 6 months and I was able to give more of myself than I usually am able over the Fall/Winter. Things could be different for my son right now if I had not been able to be present enough to see what he needed and have the time to give it to him. And as a result, our daughter needed even more reassurance that she’s just as important to us as he is, even though it seems he’s getting a lot of us lately. Basically, the extra time I had made me recognize things I may have missed in my usual Fall state of hysteria.

The other great effect my downtime had was that it forced me to take a step back and look at my business. Where it was, where it is now and where I really want it to go. After a highly concentrated two weeks of craziness, consisting of back-to-back weekends of roughly 25 mini sessions between Forrest River, IL and Haddonfield, NJ, I had a lull. A long one. In fact, if I’m going to truly share and be honest, I’ll have to admit that I had only had one full session this past Fall. ONE. I don’t mind saying it out loud. My prices are on the high-end and right where they should be. I never apologize for it as I believe you get what you pay for. But it happened, and it knocked me down a bit. However, it then forced me to pick myself back up and look inside.

A few weeks after the holidays, still unable to shake the crappy feeling from my Fall, I was scanning through old shoots looking for something funny to post on a Friday. I happened upon a full session from a few years ago with a family that, at the time, I hadn’t yet gotten to know really well. We had a great session with a lot of laughs and great results.  However, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized just how great. Over the years since the shoot, this family has become an extension of mine. We’ve grown very close and when I went back to look at that shoot, I saw the genuine interactions that I now get to see whenever we’re together. It brought me to tears because that’s what I love about my work and how I do it. Everything we captured that day was so truly the Bakers. From silly to happy and then back to super silly.  And right then, I knew why I was feeling unfulfilled.

There are reasons I only do one day of mini sessions locally and one time, per year in Chicago. And also reasons why I feel kind of like a jerk saying no when people ask me do a mini for them other times throughout the year.  So I want to be very clear in saying I am super grateful for everyone who uses me for these sessions. They’re a necessity for many reasons and if I didn’t want to do them, I wouldn’t.  To me, a mini session is meant to accomplish certain things, be that getting a few updated family shots or maybe just a couple holiday card photos. I’m good at what I do, so in 20 minutes, I know exactly which combinations of photos I need to capture to ensure each client gets both of those things. In fact, many of my mini session clients are past or regular full-session clients who don’t feel the need for a full session every year but want a few annual photos. Makes total sense.

This whole explanation about mini sessions leads me to the point about ME and the feelings I arrived at this past year. I have spent 7 years building a business doing what I love. I’ve been blessed enough to grow it from just a family and lifestyle offering into a thriving commercial photography business, as well. I know why people hire me and I know why they come back. I just needed a good look back to get a reminder. What families hire me for, and will end up with as a result, is a product of time, my desire and ability to connect with families, and my endless drive to give them exactly what they want, as well as things they never dreamed of having. I’m never content giving anyone the same thing they had a previous year or the same thing their neighbor got from me. I don’t churn out sessions quickly to get paid and move on. To me, that would signal the death of my creativity, and if churning becomes my thing, I will kindly kick own my ass.

I love having a parent say, “you really captured him/her/us.” And that’s not to say that cannot happen in a mini session but it’s much harder because the play time, chat time and interaction time isn’t always there. It’s not unheard of in a mini session but it’s rare and usually the product of an existing relationship. What I’m trying to say is that My ART, the one that lights me up, makes me continue to innovate and, in the end, draws clients to me, exists wholeheartedly in the time I get to spend with people and families.

Since all this has happened and I’ve had time to reflect, I’ve gone back to so many shoots where I found the magic and was so easily reminded why I can’t get enough of what I do and why it fulfills me so completely. And I got so reinvigorated. I’m pouring myself into a new personal project that is 100% for me. One that’s causing me to learn new things and be so proud of the fact that after 7 years, I’ve established myself enough to be able to put time and money into something personal. And I was able to realize that I can also have a down year and know, with zero doubt, that it won’t slow me down one bit. In fact, it’s caused me to hit the accelerator. Hard.

So, as I’ve poured over this post too many times, I really, really want to stress that I am so grateful for everyone who hires me for any type of session. And I respect that what is for one, may not be for another. That’s what makes the world go round. I just needed to find my craft again and know why I felt something was missing. All of these cycles make total sense to me. Like I said above, it’s like a right of passage. I arrived, crushed it and then stumbled a bit. All so I could re-examine and then arrive again.