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Defining Personal Success

Wow. A lot has changed since I last blogged way back in February. Three months ago, I left my job and took the plunge to become a full-time photographer. Ever since then, I have been so. happy. Like dancing-around-in-my-barefeet-while-humming-to-Macklemore-and-Ryan-Lewis happy. I feel so grateful for my steadily growing career, my amazingly supportive husband, our always-a-work-in-progress home, and our family of four-legged critters. Life is good.

Now that I’m self-employed, I’ve been making sure that my days are full and structured. I’m blogging on a regular basis. I’m going on shoots every week. I’ve been drawing and painting more. I go to the gym at least three times a week. I’m eating healthy. I’m networking with peers and professionals I respect. I’m strengthening my approach to branding, marketing, and my overall value proposition as a photographer. I’m making authentic connections with clients. I’m focusing more on how I define personal success.

Before, “success” meant a lot of things to me. Having loads of Canon equipment. Being spotlighted on the most popular wedding blogs. Getting tons of “likes” on Facebook. Filling our home with furnishings from places like West Elm. Having clear skin and a smaller pant size.

Now that I’ve had time to think about my goals, I realized that I was reaching for someone else’s definition of success. I sat down and thought about what is important to me at the end of the day. Love, strength, family, and health are what made the list. Ok, so maybe I’d still like some West Elm furniture. As far as professional success goes, I am focused on running a sustainable business by working with people who appreciate and like what I do and understand the value that I offer.

I can’t thank my husband enough for his support and encouragement, which allows me to have a life I love.

So how do you define success and what impact does it have on your personal life?

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    {Book Reviews} January Reading Roundup

    Now that I’m commuting nearly an hour to and from work, I’ve been reading more than ever. I figured I’d start sharing book reviews on my blog every month, recapping the previous month’s reads. I’m getting a late start this month, but here are the books and graphic novels that kept me company on the train in January:


    1. The Walking Dead: Compendium One
    Lugging around the 5+ lbs of the Walking Dead: Compendium One while commuting was well worth the temporary weightlifting. The first eight volumes span 1,088 pages written by Robert Kirkman, covering the terror of zombies, but more importantly, the brutality of its characters, which was a lot harder to stomach. The stark black and white illustrations by Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn, and Tony Moore beautifully highlight the post-apocalyptic horror of a zombie outbreak in some of the most memorable panels I’ve ever seen. Being able to tell a compelling story with short and concise dialogue through carefully organized panels is a sign of a skilled team. While the TV show has a flowing storyline with easy-to-follow scenes, the graphic novel tends to jump from perspectives much quicker (which I prefer). Despite being rendered in black and white and not having the opportunity to take advantage of the shock and awe of full-color drama, the book’s storytelling is far more dark and addictive than the AMC series. That being said, I do love me some Daryl. 5/5 ★★★★★


    Walking Dead: Compendium Two
    2. The Walking Dead: Compendium Two
    Although the second batch of volumes of The Walking Dead were less action-packed than the first, the sequel ends up being more story-driven. There were still times during my commute when my jaw dropped and I burst with expletives while on the quiet ride car. In this set of issues, Charlie Adlard takes over for Tony Moore as the series’ primary artist, and under his pen, Rick is a much grittier character — with a scraggly beard, grunge, and crazy eyes. Moore’s drawing style was much more cartoony, with smoother, less realistic depictions of the characters. Adlard relies on heavy black shadows and fine, unvaried linework, making his work instantly dramatic. As a result of Adlard’s artwork and maybe Kirkman’s lack of characterization, I sometimes had trouble distinguishing certain zombie-fodder in Rick’s expanding group. At times, the characters would blur together and I’d have to flip back a few pages to figure out the difference between Hershel’s daughters. Regardless, I love the full and double-page splashes and ended up reading this compendium even quicker than the first. 5/5 ★★★★★



    3. World War Z
    More like World War ZZZZ. Maybe it’s not fair that I read this right after finishing The Walking Dead graphic novels, but I just can’t jump on this bandwagon. It took a lot of aggravation and sighing for me to even finish the book. I would skim pages, sigh, try to reread them, and play with emojis on my phone to distract myself. I was really hoping to have some suspenseful reading for the train, but I found the way this book was written to be tedious and felt the format handicapped it in a lot of ways. There was no protagonist, no continuity, no story arc, no climax. The book is about the global zombie apocalypse as told by the survivors, with each one speaking to the interviewer. However the personality that comes through the strongest is the writer, Max Brooks’, whose tone is smug and whose characters had the same voice overall — whether male, female, soldier, civilian, or politician. 1/5 ★☆☆☆☆



    4. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
    After reading about zombies for weeks, this was a light, easy break. Mindy Kaling does a good job throughout most of her essays, but as the end of the book nears, it feels rushed and a bit obvious that she is trying to satisfy a respectable book length. If you’re looking for powerful insight on comedy writing, you should probably remind yourself that the cover is overwhelmingly pink and what you’ll end up with instead is a conversational memoir being chronicled in the voice of a friend. More of a blog-in-a-book than a poor man’s Bossypants, the book delves into Kaling’s hard-working, sweet personality. From her babysitting experiences to explaining karaoke etiquette, The Office writer covers a lot of ground by rambling all over the place. Perhaps most memorable for me is Kaling’s adamant crush on Amy Poehler, who I love even more now after reading this book. Now, if only Kristen Wiig would get a book deal. 3/5 ★★★☆☆



    5. Year One
    Upon moving to Philadelphia, Ramsey Beyer challenged herself to draw one page of comics every week for her entire first year in the city. She ended up drawing 2-3 pages a week, resulting in a self-published book about a twenty-something in a new place. As an autobiographical account, Beyer depicts everyday life — renovating her apartment, traveling on the weekends, going to punk shows, and working as a nanny — but the narrative revolves primarily around her love life and open relationship. A lot of the scenes are focused on getting the comics finished, which I could understand, but it doesn’t make for the most intriguing subject matter. I didn’t really relate to most of her weekly experiences (apart from dog spooning), but her variety of page compositions and simple drawing style kept me turning the page. While this isn’t the most amazing story, I think the amount of work Beyer produced in a single year is incredible and shows a great deal of devotion that inspired me to put pen to paper. 3/5 ★★★☆☆



    6. Chicken With Plums
    In her follow-up to Persepolis and Embroideries, Marjane Satrapi tells the quiet, heartwrenching story of her great-uncle — Nasser Ali Khan — a famous Iranian musician whose instrument is destroyed by his wife. After falling into a depression and deciding that he has nothing else to live for, he waits for death. Satrapi presents each day of his final week with melancholic flashbacks and flash-forwards from several perspectives. In a trip through Khan’s memories and dreams, readers gain more insight into the grand scheme of life and death, with humor inserted throughout to balance the heavy sadness of its protagonist. Only occasionally does Satrapi break out of her strict frame-to-frame design, but when she does, it’s deeply moving. In the end, it’s hard to sympathize with Satrapi’s uncle, a shallow man who shuts everyone out of his life, but the last bittersweet pages of the book make everything fall into place. 4/5 ★★★★☆



    7. It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken
    In his mock-autobiographical graphic novel, Seth (the pen name of Gregory Gallant), depicts an obsessive search for a fictional Canadian cartoonist named Kalo. The book was published in collected form by Drawn and Quarterly, originally serialized in single issues as Palookaville. The nostalgic style and simplicity of the hazy, blue-and-grey color palette mirrors Seth’s longing for a simpler time, paying homage to the “good-old days” of the Schultz era. The column strips are reminiscent of old black and white films, with a retro feel that deepens the narrative. It’s pretty incredible that it’s the artist’s first published graphic novel, however his unabashed “navel gazing” and overall angst can lead to some dull passages. Overall, the intrigue built around the search for Kalo builds up to moments of greatness surrounding a mostly uninteresting character. 3/5 ★★★☆☆

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      13 Goals for 2013

      A preview sketch of comics to come.

      I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. They’re the reason my Body Works Plus Abs class was filled with two dozen more wide-eyed, sports-bra wearing women than usual tonight. Despite having to illegally park in L.A. Fitness’ full lot in order to burn 440 calories, I still couldn’t shake the urge to create a list of to-do’s for the year ahead.

      Plus, that darn husband of mine motivated me to share a few goals, so here goes:

      Professional

      •  Launch the redesign and rebranding of my photography business in the next few months (thanks to the hubs’ help).
      •  Book more weddings for 2013 and starting filling up the 2014 season.
      •  Try to blog weekly here or here.
      •  Draw one page of comics every week for the entire year and share them on my new comics Tumblr.
      •  Research [self]publishing my comics into a book, with possible funding through a Kickstarter project at the end of the year.
      •  Start a graphic novel/underground comic meetup in Philadelphia to swap books and geek the eff out.
      •  Expand Generocity.org’s freelance team and daily content, while further developing our content strategy and strengthening relationships in the community.

      Personal

      •  Go to the gym at least two times a week.
      •  Finally prime and paint the 2nd floor of our house.
      •  Go on a proper American road trip with the hubs.
      •  Be a better wife (i.e.: make dinner once in a while, try to not take up the entire bed while sleeping, watch disturbing Cronenberg movies every now and again if it’ll make him happy).
      •  Be the best pet mom ever (i.e.: pay attention to the bunnies and chinchilla more, give our dogs the endless attention they seem to require, and try to brush the dogs’ teeth every damn day).
      •  Be a better daughter (i.e.: call my parents more so my dad doesn’t have a conniption every time I see him, respond to my mom’s novel-sized emails faster, and document my admiration for their neurotic habits in my comics).
      •  Be a better friend. Yeah, I want to do all of this stuff, but it doesn’t mean not meeting up with friends for coffee (or in my case, hot chocolate) to discuss what books we’re reading or to how old we feel when #PrettyLittleLiars is trending on Twitter.

      I’m exhausted just writing this list, so I’ll stop there, especially since I’m still six episodes behind this season of Downton Abbey and need to know what the hell happens next. Anyway, thanks for reading this and holding me to it!

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        2012 in 12 Photos

        In the spirit of being nostalgic on the first day of a new year, I wanted to take a step back and look at 12 photos that sum up 2012 for me. Many bloggers are already sharing their goals for the year ahead, but I’m a bit behind around these parts. As always, expect a great deal of dog photos.

        JANUARY: Although I’m the first to admit that our guest bedroom is pretty hideous (stupid impulsive HomeGoods purchases), we painted the room and got a guest bed like grown-ups. Baby steps.

        FEBRUARY: We fostered Donald Sutherland, who we affectionally referred to as “wart” since he was full of them. I still miss the little emo bugger.

        MARCH: Wedding crafting went into high gear as Pete encouraged my need to attack Pinterest-inspired projects head on. They usually didn’t come out very well, but at least we were occupied during the cold months.

        APRIL: My parents and grandma visited for Easter. My brother and sister-in-law hid in our sunroom while I distracted my parents with an egg hunt outside. My parents’ blubbery, surprised reactions when they opened the sunroom door to find my brother and his wife were pretty priceless.

        MAY: I volunteered more than ever this year and enjoyed every second of it. The shot above was taken as part of the Schuylkill Banks’ annual “Art in the Open” event.

        JUNE: I was lucky enough to capture a lot of beautiful weddings this year, making friends along the way. It looks like 2013 will be my busiest year yet, and I’m lucky to have my husband by my side as second shooter.

        JULY: We said goodbye to our social lives this summer and said hello to endless yardwork to get ready for our backyard wedding. This included removing old fencing in preparation for a new fence install. Thank god for Twisted Tea.

        AUGUST: Most of this month was spent pulling together last-minute wedding projects. Having our family over to help us make our backyard wedding a reality up until the wee hours of August 31st (the day before) meant a lot to us. Thanks to Morrissey Photo, we can relive the good times for many more years.

        SEPTEMBER: After getting hitched, we went on our first overseas trip together to Italy. Hiking the six hour trek through the five towns of Cinque Terre was the highlight of our honeymoon, despite tonsillitis making the journey a bit difficult.

        OCTOBER: We jumped back into fostering after returning from our honeymoon, which brought Dexter into our lives. He was rescued from a kill-shelter in Baltimore, where he would’ve been euthanized if a kind man hadn’t taken him to a local dachshund rescue. We fell hard for the little guy, who quickly became our first (and last) foster fail.

        NOVEMBER: It’d be hard not to include Edgar (“the bean”) on this list. He’s our last foster dog, since we quickly discovered two dogs is our limit. He came into our home weighing 22 lbs, but is down to a much happier and healthier 16 lbs.

        DECEMBER: Generocity’s office moved into Center City, where I can sneak peeks of the Dilworth Plaza construction from my desk. The hour-long commute by train has given me much-needed time to unwind and catch up on reading. Spending the past month in close proximity to my co-workers has been awesome, and I’m excited for what 2013 will bring for our team.

        Thanks for reading, here’s hoping 2013 will be even more fantastic.

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          Posted in blogging, everyday life, family

          On Comics, Slacking, and Stink Bugs

          This blog has been filled to the brim with photos of wedding plans, home renovations, and foster dogs for the past year, but I’ve been neglecting one of my main interests — illustration.

          With a full-time job that keeps me happily busy and a wedding photography business on the side, I’ve been struggling with the focus of this blog. Despite a closet full of art supplies, I haven’t drawn anything substantial in over a year, so I’m going to try to ease back into a routine and start sketching again. Baby steps.

          Since my job made the move to Center City, I’ve been enjoying running into some fascinating characters to and from the train station. There was the woman who pulled me aside a few steps away from my building’s front door to tell me to “stay sexy, scrumptious, and healthy” while blowing bubbles in my face. I liked her. There was the man leaning against the food cart who yelled, “Look at you in your tight tights, look at you jiggle.” I’m not sure how one can see any jiggling under a million layers and a winter coat, but I’ll assume he had some sort of x-ray glasses that I wasn’t privy to.

          Then there’s the 45-minute train ride. I fancy myself a QuietRide kind of girl, but I’m constantly amazed by how many people don’t obey the no-fuss conductor who yells “THIS IS THE QUIETRIDE CAR. IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BE QUIET (long pause), DON’T RIDE THE QUIET RIDE CAR,” repeatedly. My evening conductor always has a tie that lights up in some fashion, whether it’s snowmen or star-spangled banners. I like him too.

          Despite valiant efforts in train obedience, I have managed to make a fool of myself on a daily basis. Last week I was deeply reading my book when a stink bug scuttered across the page. I literally jumped out of my seat and shrieked, while almost smacking the poor woman next to me in the face with The Girl With Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. On the QuietRide car. I felt like a QuietRide failure. There was a lot of staring. I convinced myself that it was something that would have happened to Liz Lemon and got on with my day.

          My point is, life is much more entertaining now that I’m traveling to and fro and exchanging conversations (or embarrassed QuietRide glances) with actual human beings. Gone are the days of working from my couch in my pajamas and playing Dawson’s Creek in the background for company.

          Not to get all resolution-y on y’all, but a change is going to come…especially now that I’m out of new Boardwalk Empire episodes to watch with the hubs in the evenings. I’m going to start writing down any out-of-the-blue anecdotes that happen in my day-to-day, to turn them into sketches for a weekly web comic (it’s been a while). While I collect ideas and sketches, I’m going to save up for this bad boy. Once 2013 hits, I’d like to produce one comic a week with my Wacom tablet. I can’t promise they’ll be any good, but at least I’ll be trying.

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            Posted in illustration