Nomadic Friends

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In a way I was born to be a nomad. I’m a second generation military brat and we moved every two to three years. Like other military brats, I never knew how to answer the question, “where are you from?” That is until about 5 few years ago when I moved from Virginia to Kuwait.

After a stint of almost 8 years in Virginia, (literally the longest I have ever lived in one place), where I graduated from college, met my husband, and had my babies; our little family of four left home and moved to Kuwait. I was confident that we would love this adventurous life and that raising citizens of the world would be amazing, but I had forgotten one lesson I had been taught all those years as a military brat: how to “bloom where I was planted.” I convinced myself that it was about this family I was building and that I didn’t need any new friends. I had “my people” back home. I could make it on my own until our next trip home.

Who was I kidding? I’m an extrovert! Within a week of settling in I dropped my proverbial basket and had a complete meltdown about how lonely I was. Life in a foreign country is hard enough. You need people who understand  just how foreign and often times frustrating a place/people can be, to support you and help you laugh your way through it.

A few weeks later, at pickup from Montessori school, I saw this mom and thought, “I’m going to be her friend.” It took a few more chit chats at pickup to find my way in, and I pretty much forced a coffee/play date on her. Love you Liz!

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Although she was my first real friend in Kuwait, she was just the beginning of our crew that we now call the ABCDGs. Five families (including Lindy-Ann’s) that became each other’s village. Our kids grew up together for a time, our husbands teased each other endlessly (still do), and we kept each other sane living the desert life. Even though a couple of us have moved away, we’re still connected and share our lives with each other thanks to technology. However, the best thing is when we get the chance to travel together or to visit each other. It’s in those times that we continue making memories, laughing, and bonding.

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Over this past spring break, the ABCDGs ladies met up in London, prompting my family’s latest adventure to the UK. Sadly, Lindy-Ann couldn’t join us, but she was definitely there in spirit! It was such a fab time to be with 3 of my 4 buddies and I will cherish those moments until we are together again!

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No matter where you are in your journey, whether an expat or in the same town for decades, don’t close your heart to new people. You never know how they may change you forever. Thank you, Kate, Lindy-Ann, Liz, and Michelle for being a part of my life – you and your families mean so much to us! Until the next ABCDG adventure…

With Love,

kdg

A morning at Egaila Beach

I must have jinxed myself in my New Years resolution post where I set a goal to be super healthy and reduce my medication. I have had a really tough 6 weeks with my health and it overflows into other areas of the life. I’m tired. So very tired.

As I find my way back to good health, I am so thankful for the encouragement of friends. Jillian suggested that we head out to Egaila beach, here in Kuwait, for an early morning photography exploration walkabout and it was just what the doctor ordered.

Here is a little video clip and a few photos of the morning out. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me, and I encourage you to get out and explore your surroundings too. Sometimes all we need to get us up and on our feet again is a little love and encouragement and I hope this post can be that for you.

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Cheers.

la

For the Love of Israeli Food

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Last month, while my folks were visiting, we took them to all of our favorite restaurants and introduced them to some fantastic Israeli cuisine. My mom was overwhelmed by the combinations of spices and flavors, so much so, that she was determined we should take an Israeli cooking class. Now I love to eat, but cooking is definitely not my love language, that said any new experience I can photograph is a WIN for me.

One of our lovely Israeli friends, Shani, offered to look into an instructor for us and came up with the best solution ever…her husband, Shai.

Shai is an amazing chef with several years of experience in the restaurant industry, however he had only done cooking classes for his close friends before our group. We were honored that he was willing to plan and execute such an amazing event! For three hours he awed us with his skillZ in the kitchen. Seriously, in three hours he prepared 16 different menu items to serve 8-10 people! Ah-mazing!

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He had purchased all the groceries at his favorite local markets and shops, each item was fresh including fish, beef, lamb, fruit, veggies, and spices. Shai even said he could offer classes at the markets and teach people how to shop the markets, especially for spices.

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Speaking of spices, Shai had prepared a packet describing each spice we would be using. The biggest surprise for me was sumac, this beautiful garnet colored spice can be sprinkled on anything from meat to focaccia bread. Shani told us her boys request it on everything, ha!

We learned a lot about food, Israeli culture, and where they intersect. When we all sat down to eat it was quiet with the exception of the sound of “mmmmms” from around the table. It was truly a perfect and memorable day.

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Of course, the entrepeur in me couldn’t help but suggest Shai do this more often. I know the expat community is literally hungry (pun intended) for great experiences like this. He agreed to think about it, so if you are in the Tel Aviv area and you’d be interested let me know!

L’chaim {cheers in Hebrew},

kdg

Special thanks to Shai for teaching & feeding us, to Shani for setting it up, to Vienna for hosting, and to my clever momma for the fabulous idea!!


PS – Don’t forget to join us for the L O V E Photo Challenge this month!

#IACWLOVE2018 – Shot 4 – Pink or Red….RED, of course!

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Strength and Beauty

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I have this friend, Vienna. She is strong. I mean physical strength combined with an inner fortitude that makes her a true force to be reckoned with. She personifies strength to me.

In the year that I have known her, she has shared her strength with me and come to my rescue more than a few times, whether it’s babysitting my boys, letting me cry it out in her van, or editing blog posts.  I can lean on her and know that my load will not break her.  She is strong enough to take it.

In the past two weekends I have watched, cheered, and photographed her as she displayed her physical prowess at the Israeli Ready For Action (RFA) CrossFit competition and participating in the Memorial Day Murph Challenge. This girl is amazing and definitely inspiring.

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We joke that she is not my first CrossFit friend {Love you, Drennans!}, but this was my first CrossFit competition and I left the stadium in awe of her dedication and her never-quit attitude. Five weeks prior to the RFA Vienna participated in the CrossFit open. Only 2 weeks into the open she contracted an insane eye infection that made light intolerable, and yet she persevered and finished 2nd in the Masters Woman division, over all of Israel, qualifying her for the RAF.

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She killed the first event of the RAF and finished first in her division and 2nd over all the woman. To be clear, she beat out women half her age! Seriously, incredible! Friday’s events proved to be a bit tougher for V, as she struggled to scale the rope with a 20lb vest, which cut into the time she had finish the other elements of the event, particularly the things she is better at; lifting heavy things. The suspense of that rope climb was so intense and she shared afterward that, when she finally hit the top, she felt the stadium shake with our cheers! Even though Friday was not as successful as Thursday had been, she was in great spirits, showing everyone that inner strength to keep moving forward.

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Saturday was full of life lessons and impactful moments as well, especially because her kids were in the crowd with us. As a mom watching a daughter cheer for her mom, I was struck with what V was teaching her children; moms are strong, do your best, and if you fail it’s going to be ok, failures are opportunities to get better, never give up, sportsmanship, and, of course, keep smiling! At four, seven, and nine, they may not see of that right now, but I have a feeling those were ideals imprinted on their little hearts.

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She ended up qualifying for the finals and obliterating the event! It was a fantastic way to end the RFA!

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Those of us that had the pleasure of cheering on our friend from the stands were in awe.

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A week later, she put herself to the test again to join thousands of other athletes around the world in honoring our fallen on Memorial Day with a CrossFit Hero WOD ‘MURPH’. Named for fallen seal, LT. Michael P. Murphy. The challenge consisted of 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups 300 squats, followed by another mile run; all done in a weighted vest. Her personal goal was to stay under 50 minutes and she finished with a 48:54. Another life lesson: set goals and reach for them with all your heart!

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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t inspired to work out after all this, I may not be jumping on the CrossFit train, but I’m ready for {a little more} action. We can call it the RFalmA for short.

More than that, I proud of my friend, for pursing her passion for fitness, for facing her fears of failing, and for preserving. Thank you Vienna for your strength in my life, in all its beauty.

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On a photography note: I was thrilled with how the images of the indoor stadium came out even with a high ISO. My only regret is not having had a telephoto lens since I did not have press access at the stadium and for when the runners were far off during the Murph. This was the first time since my yearbook days in college to shoot a sporting event. It was fun to step outside my portraiture comfort zone and challenge myself. I really liked it!

What inspires you to stay strong and work out? Share your secrets in the comments below!

In addition, to being a great friend, Vienna is also a personal trainer, so if you are in the Herzliya/Tel Aviv area and interested in getting fit with this superstar, email her at Rucksack Fitness.

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Thank you Adi Edri for capturing me getting my cheer on!

I’ll be here cheering you on too!

kdg

Dive deeper:

Rucksack Fitness

CrossFit

 The MURPH Challenge

Adi Edri Photographer

Here’s to the Volunteers

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This post is dedicated all those mamas and papas who volunteer on behalf of their children. To those of you coaching little league, helping in classrooms, volunteering with the PTA, and the other countless and thankless tasks, we salute you.

We are huge supporters of our children’s schools and both volunteered at many events thrown by our fearless parent associations. We know first hand how disheartening  negative people can be, especially those who also never seem to step up themselves to help. It can be defeating, frustrating, and just plain sad. It’s in the spirit of cultivating kindness that we had to write this post to say THANK YOU.

Thank you to all of you who have at some point borne the brunt of the naysayers and negative feedback. Who’s hard work and hours spent was ignored by the Monday morning quarterbacks and playground mom-squads.

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We also challenge those of you who have stayed on the sidelines thinking your positive thoughts were known, we encourage you to say something. Tell your people you appreciate them. A little goes a long way, and you never know who may need a little affirmation on the day you cross their path. Their hearts need to be filled up and appreciated and your words of kindness and encouragement will be welcomed!

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Anne Taintor

We also wanted to share our most recent experiences with our respective International Days. Expat communities really know how to host a good International Day! They are colourful, lively, and educational. It is a fantastic day for our kids to share in, and  learn to appreciate, other cultures and countries. It breeds tolerance and acceptance, which we all know this world could use a little more of.

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Funnily enough, we shared similar roles of logistics and graphic designers at our respective schools’ events merely a week apart. There was drama and unintentional hurt feelings, but, for the most part, both events were successful and the children, for which they are ultimately for, had a fantastic time and learned a great deal. That really is all that matters in the end, right? It’s why we volunteer for our little people. For them to have a good time, but also to show them how to serve.

International Day 2017 – Kuwait Style

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International Day 2017 – Tel Aviv Style

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We are all called to serve, in one place or another, and our children need to learn that lesson and look outside themselves, as well as recognize and appreciate the efforts of others. It would be amazing if we could teach our kids that it’s not always what we get out of this world, but it’s what we can give back to it, that matters most.

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So here’s to all of you volunteers.  We are cheering you on and supporting your efforts! A special shout out one of our favorite volunteers and crafty friends, Kate: as always, anything for you friend!

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In the spirit of John F. Kennedy’s famous words, the next time an opportunity to serve comes your way ask not what it can do for you, ask what YOU can do for your others.

Don’t forget to thank a volunteer today, they will really appreciate it!

xoxo,

la-kdg-signature

When Lexi turned 2

I would not call myself a “kids party” photographer, nor do I see myself going in that direction professionally. But for my dear friends, it’s a privilege to capture the freeze-frames of celebration, endless amounts of fun, contagious laughter and abundant love. Not to mention that kids parties are full of one of my favourite things to photograph, – no, not the kids….COLOUR!

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Two years ago, when my new friend at the time, Debbie, asked me to photograph her daughter Lexi’s 2nd birthday party, I was a little nervous. I had never photographed someone else’s kid’s party before. My own kid’s parties, yes. However the pressure another’s once off, no chance of a reshoot, precious memories in my hands, that was new. I swallowed the nervous lump in my throat and went for it.

When I arrived at the scene, it was clear that this mom was skilled. I mean the put-Martha-Stewart-to-shame kind of skilled. The happy scene was infectious. I was even able to have some photography fun of my own, and truly capture the memorable event.

Camera – Nikon D90

Lens – Nikon 10-105MM f/3.5-5.6

Conditions – Indoor shoot, medium light with low light in places, shoe horn flash needed

Prep – To prep for this shoot I met with Debbie a few days before to have a conversation about what the job would entail, in this briefing we got to know each other better and laid out each others ideas and expectations. I then met with her at the venue the day before the party to take a good look at lighting and environment so there wouldn’t be any surprises on the day of the shoot.

I arrived early, brought a large water bottle, extra memory cards, extra batteries for both flash and camera, and wore comfortable clothing that did not attract attention. I was ready and settled with the decor shots out the way before the first guests even arrived.

Lessons learned – I only brought 1 set of extra flash batteries, it was about 3-4 hours total of shooting and I underestimated how much power the flash would use. Luckily when the flash batteries ran out for the second time it was at the end of the party and I was just getting a few extra shots here and there which I was still able to get with an adjusted higher ISO and a little extra love in Photoshop.

Top Tips – When photographing groups of children keep an eye on aperture – you don’t want the back row of kids in group shots to fall victim to depth of field blur, and Shutter Speed, kids move fast, enough said.

  • For anyone photographing kids indoor with a shoe horn flash or speedlight, you need to pay extra attention to your Shutter Speed. If you set it too fast you will essentially out shoot the speed of the flash and end up with half your image correctly exposed and half your image in black. So just keep that in mind.

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I went on to photograph two more events for Debbie and her amazing family before they moved on from Kuwait, but I will always hold this particular celebration close to my heart, as the first one.

Thank you Debbie for all your attention to detail and your impeccable style. Your love, joy, and friendship is a blessing to all who get a chance to know you.

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Her family really is every child photographer’s dream client.

Cheers,

la

Travel: Petra, Jordan

“As much as we like to think we can go it alone, we need friends.” – Emily Ley

When I arrived at our first posting abroad in Kuwait I was convinced I didn’t need to make any friends, I had people back home that cared about me and that was a enough. Wrong. So very wrong. When I opened myself up to the beautiful women around me, they changed my life. Although it is bittersweet to be a nomad and meet amazing people and then have to say goodbye to them, you end up making friends you just know you will see again.

This weekend after a year and a half of planning and strategizing, we met one of those cherished families from Kuwait for an adventure in Petra, Jordan. It has been amazing, if not surreal at times. We have literally picked up where we left off, especially two older children. The memories we are making now will be perfect for those bitter days when we are missing them again.

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Here is a little recap of our adventure and some thoughts to help you, if ever get the opportunity to take the trip.

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Named one of the new 7 wonders of the world a decade ago and an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Petra is an awe-inspiring place to explore, and photograph. It is commonly remembered from the scenes in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (definitely a classic), but to see it close up is just incredible. (wikipedia)

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The main entrance to Petra, where you can buy your entry tickets, souvenirs, water bottles and use the bathroom; was packed. My suggestion here is to pre-order your tickets, bypass all of the chaos and head straight to the ticketed entry gate. Once through the gate we still had a bit of a walk before the actual entrance to the Siq. The Siq “the shaft” is a 1.2 kilometers (0.75 mi) long gorge that winds it way to the famous Treasury carved into the sandstone. (wikipedia) It is simply unbelievable to think that someone climbed to those heights to carve such perfectly symmetrical and intricate lentils, columns, and sculptures. You can still make out what looks like carved ladders of foot and hand-holds on either side of the Treasury facade.

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Along the way be prepared to be bombarded by bedouin children selling postcards, jewelry, and the rides on horses, donkeys, and camels. I recommend you decide in advance whether or not you want to ride the animals, prep your kids for that decision, and have cash ready, we paid 5JD per donkey and horse one way each, plus tip. We did decide that the kids would walk to the end of the city, just before the hike up to the Monastery, and ride a donkey back, but that did not stop the begging or complaining, ha! The older ones did great walking for the most part, but my little guy rode on daddy’s shoulders for the majority of the trek. Another note for those with little ones: the Siq narrows down to 3 meters (9 feet) at times and, with the crowds of tour groups and horse drawn carts, keep them close so you can grab them if necessary.

At the end of the city we split up and the dads went on to hike to the Monastery and the moms returned with our little adventurers to the hotel for a relaxing late lunch. Friends that had gone before us had shared that the steep incline was a little scary with kids on donkeys and that there were no railings or guards at the top, so we were not going risk it. The dads returned sweaty, but happy, about two hours later with some fantastic photos of the incredible views from the top. Check out their awesome shots!

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Overall, I think we all appreciated the wonder of Petra and the fun excursion. Experiencing it with our long-distance friends made it all the more special. I even overheard the older ones telling each other that it was “the best day ever” and the other said it was “one of the best days of my life.” See we all need friends, if nothing else but to share our lives with them. {We love you, Drennans!}

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Wishing you a wonder-filled day!

kdg

PS – What a happy coincidence that the hues of Petra continued month’s study of the color orange! #itsanorangeworld

Mindful Friendship & Inspiration

I have this friend we will call her Ms. Stacy, like the kiddos do. She is a super talented and energetic. She is one of those friends you like to have around because their enthusiasm for life is infectious and encouraging, so much so, that she has the power to encourage you right into volunteering for the Parent Teacher Association (PTA),  (of which she is the president). Yup, she hooked me the first day I met her.

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In addition, to being the PTA president and a personal trainer, Ms, Stacy is a teacher. This year she started her journey into teaching a mindfulness class at the American International School here in Israel. If you haven’t heard of mindfulness yet, you will, it is reaching schools across the world now. It is a method of intentionality and meditation. In kids they are using it help them put words to their feelings, learn how to help themselves settle down, self-soothe, and a number of things I wish I had learned when I was little.

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In January, she asked me to assist her with branding her Mindfulness curriculum; of course, I was honored. Then in February she successfully launched her ‘Zen Den’ in the elementary school. Each class has a Zen Den sign to post on their door as they practice 5 minutes of mindfulness using videos she developed. The students love it! She has had parents telling her that their kids are coming home sharing what Ms. Stacy had taught them and the parents are trying it out too. I’m so proud of her; she is helping shape our kids into better, kinder, and more conscientious, intentional people.

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She is also helping and challenging me to be better. Like most moms, I am woken up in the middle of the night by children, to-do lists, or simply a sound in the house that might be the children.  In the past couple weeks I have been plagued by these wake-ups and and could not peacefully go back to sleep. When I shared this with her, she challenged me to use the mindfulness technique of equanimity. Equanimity is calmness and level-headedness. In practice it means that you allow each thought to have equal value- not right or wrong, good or bad, just all equal. She suggested that I let bombarding thoughts float like a cloud over me, to not attack them as wrong or praise them as right, but to let them be and float away. It worked. I peacefully drifted back to sleep.

The concept of mindfulness is natural for me, possibly due to my faith and prayer life, years of yoga practice, or maybe simply because I love a good visualization. For a visual person, like Lindy-Ann alluded to in her post about raising artbrains, we see everything. Providing us a description of something we can picture in our minds brings it to life in a new way. Growing up I was always told to “think before you speak” and “slow down,” but without these tools I didn’t know how to. Now in my thirties, it’s clicking and I can share these techniques with my kids establish these good foundations in their thought-life.

I asked her to share one of her Mindfulness videos with us. I hope you take a moment to try it and let us know what you think. Did it help? 

Mindful Script Credit: CounselorChelsey, TPT Photo credit: Lucinda Keeler Foster, Music credit: unknown

Namaste,

kdg

Thirty-four years young

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As I bid farewell to thirty-three I have been reflecting on how I have grown this past year. We alway track our children and their development and as they grow from year to year, but somewhere along the way we forget to track our personal development. Ok, we do have annual reviews that discuss our professional development and many of us take stock of our physical status and capabilities, but I am talking about our mental and spiritual growth.

So often in conversations we discuss how life has changed or how we view situations differently than we did in our 20s or in college, but what has actually changed in us to make that true?

Reflecting on a few of my current feelings, I realize that last year I changed. The usual expat process of transition; saying see you later to family and friends and settling into your new routines is tough. We love this life, but it is not without heartache. Each move holds lessons that, if learned, will make us stronger and better at life.

Last year was especially bittersweet for our family as we had 6 months between posts abroad back home in Virginia. We cherished every moment with our family and friends, because we knew that season was short and may never happen exactly like that again. In the spirit treasuring that time with the people we love, I almost missed out on making a wonderful new friend. My parents live in a great neighborhood and my mom was convinced that one their neighbors would be the perfect friend for me. Thankfully it worked out and Kelly and I became friends and shared some fabulous times together before both of us moved away in the summer and I know we will see each other again. Lesson learned, keep your heart open to new friendships in all seasons.

In addition to the expat life lessons, parenting is one of the great refiners. Parenthood revealed to me that I don’t like to ask for help even if I am drowning. Receiving help is tough for me, because I grew up as a military brat and we pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and move on, as the saying goes, and I am stubborn. So this life lesson has been taken bit longer to learn than others. Thankfully I have been blessed with people who are stronger at saying “I will help you” than I am at saying “I’m ok.” In the past year, I literally had to go through situations where I need to ask and receive help at least once a month. Now I can truly say that I will accept help when it is offered and although I still struggle with it, I will ask for help. I also had an epiphany  about this that really made me get over myself. When we don’t let people to help us, because we think it selfish to ask, we are actually selfishly not allowing them to fulfill their calling and share their heart with us. 

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The other excruciating lesson that I am having to learn over and over is about overcommitting. It is like a compulsive disorder that makes me raise my hand when people ask for creative help! AHHH! I get involved and the perfectionist in me rears her ugly head, and there am at 2:00am working on my laptop, because a full night of sleep will come when my kids are raising my grandchildren and my to-do list is clear. Seriously, when I am in and I am all in, especially when it comes to photography and design. This last weekend of thirty-three however I made a decision to not put myself in this stress-filled space again. I am happy to report I just put my hand down, I’m actually sitting on it. I may actually be graduating from this course and moving on to conquer time management, ha!

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As you can see thirty-three was bittersweet and I grew up a little bit more. I learned to say no, and yes, to enjoy my people, to grow my circle of people, and learn from each experience good and bad. Now at thirty-four, I hope to be a better wife, mother, daughter, friend, puppy mom (eek!) creative, and entrepreneur. My birthday wish this year is for all of us to be more joyful and laugh often, even at ourselves.

Cheers,

kdg

Photographing Katie

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– written by Lindy-Ann

Periodically, on It’s A Colo{u}rful World we will feature our personal photography session recaps. Where we discuss our experiences and lessons learned.

To get stared we will be sharing the experience of shooting each other’s families. I had the absolute delight of photographing Katie, her husband and her two beautifully spirited boys back in December 2015. It is still one of my favourite family sessions to date.

Location: Al Shaheed Park, Kuwait City.

Date and time: December, 2015. 8:30am (1.5 hours)

Weather: Beautiful sunny winters morning. Slightly chilly but fresh and fun.

I dragged along a friend (thanks Sam!) to help carry bags and light reflectors for the morning. While hoping to teach her a few things along the way I made the rookie mistake of not emptying and reformatting my memory card before the session. We got to the last 10 minutes of the shoot and I found myself frantically deleting older photographs on the same card to make space for new ones. In my defence I really didn’t expect to shoot as much as I did, I just got totally caught up in the fun of it all and poor planning reared it’s ugly head. Thankfully my client was awesome and they were simply the most patient and wonderful family from which to learn this lesson! I have never made this mistake again.

Learn from me, reformat your cards, bring extras, and pick amazing clients!

 

Cheers,