I am not just a photographer.

I am not even primarily a photographer.

A few years ago someone introduced me by saying, “She really cares about people.” Despite the fact that this person disagrees with me politically and stealth un-friended me on Facebook, I thought, “He gets it.”

Someone who cares about people. That’s one thing.

To make a blog (or an Instagram or a Facebook page or whatever) all about one thing is anathema to me. I care about a LOT of things and I care about them all a LOT.

People. Animals. The environment. Families. Poverty. Justice. Running. Nature. Spirituality. Worship. God.

What’s more, I can’t separate any of those things from the other. In my writing, trust me, I will visit every single one of these topics and more. As I detailed in my first post of the “new blog,” I’m done tiptoeing around.

So a quick rundown of a few of the things I care about below.

Families

I’m a mom. I became a mom later in life, in my late 30s. I don’t take it for granted. Every moment of my kids’ life is precious … and yet even knowing this it seems like I miss so much!

I’m no longer married to the kids’ dad. I care a ton about relationships, and appreciating one another, and working on relationships, but it takes two people.

I bring all that experience, good and bad, to my couples’ shoots and my family shoots. Example: one thing we do in every family shoot is a quick “connection moment” with the couple, to create photos of their connection and how much they care about each other. This isn’t an afterthought for me. I go into every family session with the intention of creating something that will help this couple realize how much they love each other. I think once kids come along, couples can get distracted from the core of the family, which is the love they share. That love matters a LOT to me. If I can do nothing else, I want to create a few minutes for each family of putting the focus on that romance that got everything started!

Animals

We are a kind society to the extent that we offer kind treatment to those who cannot speak for themselves.

Here’s a story from my journalism days: Starting out at my hometown paper, it was my job to call the first responders every morning. One morning I called our big burly fire chief, and he was in tears telling me about an incident that had happened the night before. It seems that they had been called out to a leaf fire, which turned out to be much worse. In fact, someone had doused a cat in gasoline and set the poor baby on fire, and it had then run, terrified, into a pile of leaves.

As if that wasn’t terrifying enough, the fire chief told me, and his brother the police officer backed him up, that “This is how it starts.” They said, almost always, when a violent criminal starts behaving violently, they start by being cruel to animals.

Valuing animals is not just important for individuals, it’s important for society.

It’s important not only to protect our pets, but to honor them for what they give to us. I find that many people are a little embarrassed by how very much they love and depend on their pets. But you can’t overstate the value of those fur babies in our lives. They love us, completely, unconditionally, until they cross over the rainbow bridge. They deserve our gratitude.

Running and Fitness

I’ve always loved running, ever since I was a teenager going for runs up and down the country roads near my parents’ house.

I started running marathons with the very first Little Rock Marathon, and went on to do Pike’s Peak Marathon three times before my kids were born.

But by 2015, I was 60 pounds overweight — in fact, what doctors refer to as “obese” — tired all the time, very unhealthy, and extremely depressed. I was in a relationship that was slowly destroying me. You know what they say: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Well, it’s true. My kids picked up on my distress all the time. I couldn’t do the things I wanted to with them. I was always sad. Even worse: my dad passed away in January of 2015, from a heart attack. With heart disease on both sides of my family, as well as diabetes and high blood pressure in my family history, the writing seemed to be on the wall for me.

Came a watershed moment for me in August 2015, when I saw how my brother had already lost 80 pounds since my dad passed away. I thought, “I can do that too.” At that point, I wasn’t running or even doing much of anything. I had to change my diet.

But I did. I started watching what I ate, which was something I had never been willing to do before. As I got more energy, I started to exercise more. I started to enjoy exercise, too. In fact, I started to really find joy in running. Encouraged by my wonderful running friends, I started trying to qualify for Pike’s Peak Marathon again, and I surprised myself by actually doing it.

After setting a PR (personal record) at Pike’s Peak in 2016, I started looking at longer races. I paced a friend for Arkansas Traveler 100 mile race in October 2016. Watching her cross the finish line, I got bitten by the ultra running bug in a big way. I had found a fantastic community of people who spanned a surprising range of abilities and backgrounds. However, we all have one thing in common: we love getting outdoors and MOVING!

I’m all for moving, for fitness, for doing what you can. Recently I have realized that I have a frustrated (until now) passion for helping inspire people to get moving. For helping people make the life-changing decisions that can alter not only their fitness, but their relationships with each other and the world around them.

Poverty

I grew up poor.

Not welfare poor. Not homeless poor. But that kind of poor that is by far the most common kind among Americans: respectable poor. The kind where you don’t want to accept a handout. Where you work for what you get. Where you take the best job you can get and do your best at that job. And yet, this is the kind of poor that certain sectors of the American economy have set themselves to prey upon.

From payday lending to “emergency” loan checks in the mail, the working poor can be victims precisely because they DO want to be self-sufficient. With so much confusion surrounding money and lending, it’s hard to be an expert on everything that could happen to you, when you’re just trying to live your life and get by.

Money can be a tough subject in a luxury business like photography. I want to help people get what they want, and I never assume someone doesn’t have the means to do so (because that’s really insulting). Here’s how I integrate my caring about YOUR finances into MY business:

1. I respect your purchase and the fact that you’ve chosen to invest in artwork. My paying customers come first in my business.

2. I provide payment plans that let you split your payments into manageable portions.

3. If you do choose financing, I will always be as upfront as possible about the repayment arrangements. I’ve had the good fortune to find lending institutions locally who have great rates — far better than you will usually get from your credit card company!

4. I have a variety of products available, with no minimum purchase and no packages. Why no packages? Because packages are designed to upsell you by bundling things together whether you really need them or not. Packages provide “perceived value,” which is a totally different thing than ACTUAL value. All my products are curated, beautiful, top-quality products. You CAN have nice things — really, you can.

5. I support local economic development, especially in the Little Rock Downtown area. A rising tide lifts all boats, and when we work together we will see more opportunity for everyone!

The Environment

I’ve always loved trees.

I grew up surrounded by nature. The thing that made me happiest (and the place I still return to mentally when I need a boost) is the creek that runs below my parents’ house. It was, and is, pristine: a spring-fed creek that originates on our private property, that is, for the most part, untouched. You can wade barefoot there. Growing up, we drank the water with no ill effects.

I’m not a nature photographer because I don’t seem to be skilled in seeing that way — maybe because I’m too busy being absorbed in nature to really photograph it. But I do feel I have a contribution, and it comes from my overall business philosophy.

You see, we value the wrong things. Oh, I know we SAY we value our family, our relationships — yet most often we put our money towards useless crap, throwaway bids at happiness that only make us happy for a little while. We buy a TV that shows us shows we like, but also ads that stress us out and make us want to buy more useless crap. Even the TV itself only satisfies us until something bigger and better comes out. Same with phones, electronic devices. We get a great car that makes us happy until the “new car smell” wears off — or until a friend or neighbor gets a better car.

The truth is, everything we are sold these days is designed to make us just a little dissatisfied. That’s so we will feel restless enough to come back and buy the next thing, and the next, and so on …

Well, ALMOST everything. The photographic artwork you choose, designed from photos that are planned and created with the things you value most in mind — those are designed to make you completely, highly satisfied. You will keep them for a lifetime. You will add to them, sure, but you won’t get rid of them. They are heirlooms, treasures that you will past on to your children, that will be treasured and appreciated by your children’s children.

My dream is that you will find yourself satisfied for just a few minutes each day, and that feeling this way will leave you less tempted to buy things that really aren’t wanted or needed. That you can awake every day to artwork that makes you feel gratitude for what you have already, and joy that pushes out the feelings of inadequacy that advertisers love to exploit.

God

Religion isn’t a subject we talk about much these days, but at least around here, it’s one we think about.

Especially in business, we tend to steer clear of potentially offending people.

I don’t believe an open discussion of God is offensive. If you try to make me believe what you believe, yes, that’s offensive. But valuing someone’s faith and deep-seated belief? Not offensive.

When I say I value God and religion, don’t take that to mean, ever, at all, that I want you to think like me. In fact, the opposite: I want to know what you think! I know that’s unusual, and hard to get used to. You’re probably used to people inviting you to church, telling you how to “get saved,” or assuring you that you’re going to hell, or telling you why something you care about is wrong.

I don’t want to tell … I want to know. What’s meaningful to you? What values do you want your children to grow up with? What symbols hold power for you?

I’ve talked to Hindu families, attended the Islamic Center of Little Rock, celebrated with (and had a wonderful lunch with) Buddhists from Southeast Asia, participated in a Native American spiritual gathering, and spoken with pagans and Pentecostals. I’ve been deeply moved at unexpected times. If there’s one thing I know about God, it’s that God is much bigger than the little boxes we construct to try to define the Divine for our own limited understandings.

I’m not out to convince anyone of anything. I want to hear you. Maybe I’ll expand my own understanding in the process.