Where Does Your True Happiness Lie?

Tell me all the things that make you smile! I mean really smile. The kind that you feel growing from within, finding its way to the corners of your mouth blooming like a flower upon your face. Bringing with it joy and usually, if not always, love.
It’s that in which our happiness lies. And isn’t it what we are all chasing? Happiness is a moment and not a destination. With the understanding of this statement I began to see the importance of these seemingly small moments of finding a smile creep across my face. Not small at all. Huge, grand, beautiful moments that make up a happy life. A life worth living. A life of smiles.

I find myself smiling with the warmth from a sunrise coming through my studio windows. In the thrill of creating something from nothing. With the infectious laugh from my son that fills a room. When the arms of my daughter wrapped around my neck from an unexpected hug while she tells me I’m the best mom ever. I smile from the nourishment of a meal lovingly cooked after a long day. In the excitement of bringing someone joy with an act of kindness. I love making the world a better place just by sharing the talents I am blessed with. Chasing a stunning sunset until all color has left the sky with stars in my eyes. Not a day passes that I do not find something within it that makes me truly smile. And with that I have to say that I have a happy life. Moment by moment is where my happiness lies. not a destination that is one day reached but, instead happiness in moments throughout the journey that make me smile the most.

I’ve found if it doesn’t raise a smile within you leave it. Life is too short. Life is too precious to spend it on things that aren’t meant for you. With that being said I also believe you should never regret things that make you smile, even if it no longer does. If for a blink of your eye you let something touch your soul enough to bring a smile to your face it was worth the thought and energy you put forth.

Chase all those smile things. Follow the sun. Cherish and give to the people you love. Happiness comes with the way you look at life. We all have sorrows that are deep and burdens to bear. We all have regrets and hardships that need dealt with but, in letting it fill your heart and weight you down you’ll never find yourself smiling at the things you love. Let things go and smile a bit more and in these moments you will find happiness.

A Life Lesson Still Being Learned

My sensitive and introverted soul falls into a trap at times. My momma always told me, from a young age, that I am too tenderhearted.

I come across as quiet, easy going, caring, or too “soft.” Seemingly easy targets for those who feel empowered by belittling others. Relishing in the fact that their words can have power over me.

And because I internalize negativity more often than not, those demeaning comments can sink in deeply. If not careful, I can easily turn someone’s degrading remarks into manifested truths.

In the past, my intuition would tell me not to trust the words I heard, but I allowed these remarks to affect my self worth anyway. My soul would ache with shame and insecurity. Without consciously realizing, I’d eventually accept the words I heard as true. Making me feel unworthy of being happy. And what you accept as true, you live out.

After so many experiences of being put down and letting it fill my heart, I realized that this was unacceptable. My self-esteem is worth fighting for. I have the power to choose the words in which I live in. I will not allow it to change my soft heart or the way I show my love. I will still be one that cares too deeply and loves with all I have. Some people will say anything to feel less insecure about themselves. Always try your best to take something positive from it. Let it help you grow.

You know how damaging those words are if you’ve ever fallen prey to those who belittle and have allowed their harsh words to penetrate the vulnerable parts of your mind and heart. The next time you’re on the receiving end just know people project their insecurites onto you. It is not a reflection of who you are. And remember when you throw out harsh words it should be a moment of an inward contemplation. Why are you lashing out?? Are the hurtful things you say going to make you or them feel any better?

Besides, ain’t no body got time for negativity! 😉 onward and upward is the way I will always go.

Bentonville + ART + Waltons = Change

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“You don’t need to go to New York or Europe to see great art! I’ve tried to tell my friends for ages that Bentonville, Arkansas is where a serious art movement is happening! And your art is crazy inspiring!” As I heard this over last weekend I couldn’t help but have the biggest goofy smile plastered on my face! Being considered “inspiring” is the best thing an artist hears! It roots my love for art and is my fuel to continue.

I had the honor of participating in the 2018 Art Market in Downtown Bentonville on June 2nd. It was such an amazing experience! What a great event for our community to host. Letting local artists shine!

I must start by saying, there aren’t many people who love this beautiful little town as much as I do. I am born and raised in the perfect little bubble of NWA. I spent my childhood growing up in downtown Bentonville. Even now, as an adult, I work downtown and love seeing how much things have evolved and grown! What I especially love seeing is the growth of the art community! The increasing interest in our area brings more than 1000 people moving to Northwest Arkansas every month! I couldn’t imagine a better place to call home, along with loads of other people! They must see what I see. 😉

Obviously, you can’t talk about how great Bentonville is without giving credit to the Walton Family! The opportunities the Walton’s have given our community has increased our quality of life 10 fold. For me personally, the greatest impact has been in the introduction to fine art. I remember being 11 years old going to the Bentonville Public Library and seeing a model of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I was in complete awe! I just starting to draw and it was such an inspiration. I thought to myself if Bentonville gets an amazing art museum I must become good enough to have my art there! Always Dreaming Big!!!

It was the beginning of my love for art. It fueled my drive to pursue it and always be striving for more. I watched as the museum slowly inserted itself into the stunning landscape of the Ozark Mountains, wrapped in a winding spring feed creek, hidden within the forest of Bentonville. During its construction, I took note of the meticulous care and preservation of the natural surroundings. They showcase all the beauty the Natural State has to offer in the softest and most inviting way.

Now 20 years later, Crystal Bridges is one of my happiest places! I go often for new exhibits, to view the permanent collections, attend special events, and just walk the beautiful trails. I’ve photographed many people within the grounds of the Museum, I never get tired of seeing this beautiful place. I take my kids quite often (giving my daughter Abby, especially, a growing fondness for fine art). When we visit I tell her that one day she will see mommy’s art there! She tried giving a greeter my business card! 😉 I don’t have any art hanging there…….yet! 😉 …. but, it will most likely be at the efforts of Abby Rain, who has all the confidence in her momma.

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So, my acceptance to take part in the Downtown Bentonville Art Market this year got me super excited! Bentonville + ART = all the love! Being part of both at such an exciting time for art and our community is an honor! I brought various examples of my work, set them up, and I was absolutely amazed at the reactions from people! Like, honestly blown away! The kind words and the look in people’s eyes as they viewed my art was truly heartwarming! Touching people’s hearts and making them feel something, that’s what art is all about. evoking emotion, whether good or bad or indifferent..it still says something about the person viewing it and less about the art. Art is all in the eye of the beholder. Each person has their own experience with it that is unique to them. I enjoyed watching people as they view it and conversing about their thoughts. It gives me insight to what it is that draws people in. What emotions does my art evoke? Is it what I intended? What does my art say about me?

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Recently, being inspired by the Walton family I am drawing a portrait of Sam Walton. I felt that I should honor such a great man who has influenced our community and lives in such a massive way. With this portrait, I wanted to evoke a warm friendliness that I knew he had. Let his kind heart and love for people shine through in my drawing. You can see it in his eyes and that is what I want this drawing to say. I never met Sam Walton. I was 5 when he passed but, I do know people who knew him, meet him, spent time with him and his family, worked for him, and I have never…not even once heard a bad word spoken about him.

I know that there is a divide when it comes to support for Wal-Mart. You either love it or you absolutely hate it!! I thought about this when I started the drawing and it made me want to do it more!! I knew that I would get a lot of support from locals! We have so much love for Sam!!!! We know of his philanthropy and kindness. His drive and charisma. We live it every day. We see and feel the efforts the Walton Family have given our community in such positive ways. I am grateful for having grown up here and to raise my children here. That being said though, not everyone across the world gets to see that side of the Walton family, or choose to see – I guess is more correct. The Walton Family is so much more than a WAL-MART SUPERCENTER.

If just in the small scheme of things, my love for art is forever growing because of the efforts of the Walton Family Foundation. Inspiring a young country girl to dream big! Any goal is reachable and Sam Walton proved just that. I LOVE being inspired by the local life and sharing it with people across the world is a blessing. I love Bentonville. I love creating art. I love Sam Walton. I love what he represents for our community and that it’s something that has changed the world forever. I felt compelled to draw his portrait and am proud to call NWA home.

Northwest Arkansas and the world for that matter would not be what it is without the Walton Family. Still today, even 26 years after Sam’s passing, people maintain their loyalty. Locals especially have a fondness for Sam Walton and what he stood for. What an impact to have!!! what a legacy to leave! What an honor it is being part of something bigger!!! I love being part of this culture that is continuously evolving. In the words of Sam Walton himself “You can’t just keep doing what works one time, everything around you is changing. To succeed, stay out in front of change.”

ROOTS

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I am very much someone who snaps as many photos as the device I am using allows, sometimes to the point that it begs me to STOP! My cameras SD card cannot process the images fast enough or the app on my phone just completely shuts down….at which point I curse the ‘faulty’ equipment and decide I need a faster, more capable device that can keep up!!……Of course, I realize I just need to chill…(something I tell myself way too often).

I was a freshman at the University of Arkansas when my interest in photography sparked. I started with nature photography. Being here in the south, specially in the natural state, it’s quite easy to understand why I was most drawn to it! This was before cell phones had state-of-the-art cameras and digital photography was not something I was able to afford. I wanted to take photographs to stop time, preserve a moment, an emotional connection that I could create within an image. Studying classical art as my major, photography allowed me to be creative and expressive in a more direct way.

I had a class in black and white film photography that required me to buy a 35mm film camera. I needed to understand the basics, be at the heart of where photography originated. I wanted to develop the film and understand every aspect of it. Every step must be executed perfectly or you ruin it…and I did many, many times. I learned to love the process and how important the details are in creating a beautiful photograph. It’s such a beautiful art form from start to finish.

Landscapes, architecture, and things that would not change in the blink of an eye were my initial interests. I focused on stillness, lighting conditions, and composition. I was not confident enough to photograph people. I was either too shy or too worried that they wouldn’t like it.  I have since gained the confidence to photograph people and learned that the photos I am most drawn are when the subject is most natural and candid. Capturing real moments and expressions in people’s lives, that is what I really love.

Now, nearly every person has access to a device that can immediately create gorgeous images and print them without a thought to how it works. Even with my love for film photography I take full advantage of this technology. I love that I can take as many photos of my children as I want and capture them perfectly, instantly sharing it! I don’t have to wait to finish a roll of film, go to the dark room, and spend hours developing the photos to see if what I captured was beautiful or not.

That being said, I know I would not be as good if I hadn’t started on that old 35mm. I do appreciate the history of photography and the process a great deal but, I also really REALLY love what it has become! I am a self-proclaimed photo hoarder! I always have a camera on me ready to snap a photo at any second. I take photos every day. I document most of my life. I love photographing my children. I love watching them grow. I love sharing. I love sunsets…sunrise…street photography. I love photographing beautiful food….mainly just to show the people who take blurry washed-out photos of their over-cooked dinner every night what a real photo of beautifully cooked food looks like! Lol! I love constantly becoming a better photographer and growing as an artist.

What got me thinking and made me want to share the why behind my love for photography is a photo contest I recently entered. All the photos must be taken on a mobile device and there are 3 categories. This contest comes with the chance to win a newer, more ‘capable’ phone, further continuing my obsession!! (as she says with an evil grin).

For me, having my camera out capturing what I find beautiful enhances my experience. It doesn’t take away from my ‘moments’ or distracts me from enjoying it. I love being able to share the beauty I see.  I can’t imagine it not being part of my everyday life. Being creative grounds me and lets me express myself.

As I began to look through all the photos I have stored on my phone I realized I have over 10,000 images…remembering that I’ve only had this phone for about a year, I panicked a little and though “Never-mind, maybe I don’t really want a new phone after all!”

Luckily, I have a folder of only the best photos coming to a grand total of 2307 images. A number that is a bit easier to manage scanning through than a staggering 10,000. I decided to delete the rest! I should only keep the best ones anyway, right!? Why keep the others…but, I must say it was hard!! When you have endless storage and countless memories it’s real damn hard! But, if I’m not even willing to go through them it’s a sign I never will and don’t need them. Remembering that editing down is good and you don’t have to keep every image. A lesson I am constantly reminding myself. In a world of excess I want to only keep the best – the rest can go! As for the massive amount of photos stored on my computer……one mountain at a time!!! 😉

I love how photography has grown by leaps and bounds and I can’t wait to see where it goes next! I can’t wait to discover new ways of expressing myself and sharing the beauty of my southern world with others!

 

A Southern Momma on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day in the south is full of beautifully dressed ladies, perfect hair, delicious food, thoughtful gifts, and ornery little children doin’ the best they can to mind their P’s and Q’s! You DO NOT make momma raise her voice on Mother’s Day ya’ll!!!
Mother‘s Day always falls on the second Sunday in May and usually involves a church service full of motherly love and a feast afterwards! She should not have to lift a finger all day! She probably will because she can’t help it but, it’s your job to make sure she knows she doesn’t have to. A small token of appreciation showin’ your mama how absolutely amazing she is for putting up with your shenanigans all year-long!!
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In my 7 years as a mother to Abby and Asher, I have woken to flowers, breakfast, gifts and days full of love! Nothing is better than being surrounded by my beautiful babies excited to show me surprises they have been working on! Handmade gifts are my absolute favorite and I cherish them the most! Momma’s are always happy to receive flowers, yummy food, jewelry, cards, and anything crafted from the hands they helped create. What she wants most though, is acknowledgement. Acknowledgment of all the unspoken things she does for you that go un-noticed throughout the year. A simple heart-felt thank you, and a nice big hug will do just fine!
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I’m not only writing to talk about how you should shower your momma with gifts on Mother’s Day (Which you absolutely should!!!) but also to express all the reasons I am in love with being a mom. It is the most important part of who I am, sometimes to at the extent of wondering if I’m anything else.
Mom, mommy, mother, momma, ma, mum, mumsiethere are so many variations (more I’m sure I forgetting to mention) of the word that means the most to me. All of which, I will always answer to…despite sometimes wanting to drown it out after hearing it 500 times in a row!! I will never take being a mom for granted, always cherishing it more than any other word.
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Being a mother means so much more than just giving birth to a child. Caring for and loving another soul even before seeing their beautiful face is an indescribable feeling. Wanting to be there for every step, every new discovery, every triumph, and every fall, every heartbreak and moment of self doubt. Through the sadness and tears I want to be there to wipe them away and hold them tight. Being there to teach, discipline and encourage while filling their lives with laughter, huggles- a hug + a cuddle (a beautiful little word Asher decided is ours), and lots of kisses is just the beginning of what I want to give them.
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I am painfully aware I won’t be there for all life throws at them. My biggest job as a mother is to make sure that they are prepared for those moments. Hoping all the love, I have given them, whether it be caring or tough love has prepared them to be strong. I hope they learn how to overcome obstacles on their own. I want them to know I will be here to teach them respect, not just for others but for themselves.
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Remembering that my choices as a person are most evident in the reflection of my children. Revealing who I am in the moments that I think no one is looking. My children see me in all stages of motherhood, womanhood, and spend their lives watching me grow and evolve, just as I do with them. I know I won’t always do the right thing. I will fail and say the wrong thing at the wrong moment. I will make plenty of mistakes but I will apologize when I do. I will be unafraid to be imperfect.
Letting them see I am human, and don’t have all the answers. The way I handle myself and treat others in those moments is what matters most. Letting every experience, good or bad, be a stepping stone to being a better person. Not letting triumphs make me blind and failures drag me down. I will always be here for them with my whole heart. They come first. They mean the most. They are always the most loved. My world revolves around being the best Mom I know how to be and to understand this a process of learning as I go. I build on my success and failure. This it only a small part of what being a mother means to me. As I grow with my children my definition of being mom will continue to change and develop.
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The curious and adventurous people they have become inspire me every day. As an artist and photographer, I get so much joy using my art to capture every moment I can to express the beauty of their souls. It’s amazing to see so much of myself revealed in who they are, at the same time the uniqueness of their personalities shine through! Truly life’s greatest joy.
“Mama, I love you!”Mommy, watch what I can do!!!”I just need my mom.” Are the words I live for. The words I will never tire of hearing. I will cherish and honor being a mother every single day. I feel that Mother’s Day is not only about honoring your momma but, also acknowledging the gift of being a mother. What an amazing gift and truly incredible honor it is!

SPRING, SUNSHINE, & SWEET SOPHIA

My first spring photo session in 2018 and it was gorgeous! I got to meet the Natasha, Jacob, and adorable little Bentley at Orchard’s Park in Bentonville, Arkansas. I absolutely loved being able to document such a beautiful time in their lives, as they anticipate the arrival of baby sister Sophia! It would be an understatement to say that the Wright family is ready to meet her! 

Natasha told me that they’ve never had ‘real’ photos taken before and she was so excited! I asked her to send me a few idea of what she was looking for to make sure that they got exactly what they wanted. She sent me lots and lots of photo ideas! I always love when a client knows exactly what they want. Helps me give them the best photos possible and create photos they want to hang on their walls!

 

 

What is there not to love about pink flower crowns, a sweet boys givin’ momma kisses, and the yummy warmth of the spring sunshine?! Bentley was not shy about how excited he is to be a big brother! There is always so much fun to have when photographing kids. I just love it! You get realness from kiddos that you don’t usually get from adults. You get goofiness and laughs! I always take on the challenge of getting them to open up to me and get the real smiles. The first thing that parents worry about is their kids having that fake smiles but, I make sure we get the real ones!!! 

 

 

I asked Bentley if he had a girlfriend. He quickly told me “No, ma’am….(held up his fingers and said)….I have two!”, then gave me this sly little look! I couldn’t help but laugh! What a little heartbreaker!!! Those big baby blues and that adorable little smile, momma is gonna be fighting the girls off! 

 

 

This beautiful lady definitely has the pregnancy glow! S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G in pink! Natasha and Jacob had the same photo taken right in this spot the day they got married! I love that we were able to recreate it for them as they are growing to a family of four!! Sooo, full of kisses, smiles, and lots of LOVE!