All The Answers: Staring at my Innards.

You guys have so many questions. Good questions. Piercing questions. Fun questions. Thank God not a single political question. Let’s continue where we left off yesterday, and be sure to hang around until the end of the post to see visual evidence of my shortcomings.

Aadrw (Darcy) asked,

Are blog conferences worth attending?

It totally depends on your personality and what you want out of it. I never got too much out of the sessions, so was really going for the relationships. I attended BlogHer for four years in a row and struggled to interact, but did gain a handful of new friends. I went to a local conference, Y’all Connect, for the next two years and highly enjoyed interacting. Turns out, I’m more outgoing when engaging with local people than I am with national people that I’m not connected to on an ongoing basis. At the national conference, there were just too many people, and of those people, very few that I was already connected to. At the local one, we all knew who each other were so it was like a big party.

But if you’re the rare unicorn that is an Extroverted Blogger, by all means go to a national conference – you’ll have the time of your life.

You’ve done wonderful work with your local ministry via photography – any updates on how all that’s going in Birmingham?

Thanks! It’s going well. Picture Birmingham has been able to donate over $8,000 to The WellHouse, along with another $1,200 to Mission Birmingham through our joint calendar project (2016 calendars are newly available, by the way.) I would LOVE to be able to donate more and am working on different angles and products so that I can raise more money to rescue victims of human trafficking.

The WellHouse is growing tremendously and can now house more women than ever. They have rescued over 40 young ladies this year, and have assisted law enforcement officials in arresting at least three of the traffickers. They have helped these women regain their identification, get health care, spiritual and emotional healing, GED and college educations, and job and life skills training. They also rescue women nationally – not just locally. They have a hotline 800 number that they spread far and wide, and have rescued as far away as Washington.

The trafficking industry is a 32 BILLION dollar industry, and is staggering in its reach and deceptiveness – especially to our children and teens. There is so much more fighting that needs to be done. But every woman that The WellHouse rescues is one person’s horror story that is finally over.

The current products I’m offering are Prints, Calendars, Note Cards, Postcards, curated collections, a black and white collection, and gallery wrap canvases. I can also do privately labeled note cards or postcards for businesses (or individuals), and am always willing to get by-request photographs of specific places, along with helping to create advertising products for corporations. My products are for sale online at my website, along with several stores in town – Naked Art Gallery, Urban Standard, Smith’s Variety, and Alabama Goods. I would also love to get my products into more stores to continue spreading the opportunities to provide hope for the women that The WellHouse rescues. As always, 100% of Picture Birmingham profits go to The WellHouse.

Jen asked,

What does your average day look like? Seriously, how do you get so much done? (Please don’t answer that parenting/wifing (I’m pretty sure that’s a word), running crazy mileage, blogging, photography, and homeschooling are so effortless for you, you wish you had more accounting clients to fill the gaps.)

Uh, NO. I typically exist in a panic because of all of the things I’m not getting done that desperately need to get done. I also ignore many things that shouldn’t be ignored, like cooking regularly and dishes and decluttering and not letting my children leave crap all over the house and the car and the front yard. My life is a mess. I promise. Sometimes I clean up that mess, sometimes I don’t. Most of the time I don’t.

But, my typical day, on a school day:

– Ali wakes me up at 8am, then wakes up her brother (I am blessed with children that sleep late and I never squander that blessing by rising early.)

– Ali helps me get breakfast together (maybe my secret is that Ali does all the work. SHE’S the efficient one. She typically has already read two books and written in her diary before she wakes me up.)

– At about 9am, we start school. And surprise, Ali is efficient and gets her school done very quickly. We’re usually done by noon. I do school with Noah intermittently while Ali is doing independent work.

– After lunch, we sometimes go on a hike or errands, depending on if we’re feeling like it and what we need to get done.We also have several neighbors that we’re close to and often play with.

– Historically, we’ve started nap and quiet time around 2pm, and it lasts till 4:30 or 5. Noah is newly no longer napping and isn’t great at quiet time (Ali adores her quiet time, being the truest introvert), so I’m looking into possibly restructuring this, but it hurts me to think about. Between 2-5 is my time to blog, answer emails (also terrible at that lately), get Chris’ company’s accounting done (there’s really not much), and update Picture Birmingham. I prefer these activities to be quiet and uninterrupted. Noah does not.

– Chris comes home around 5:30-6pm, and we eat at home or go out to eat. He also often sends me to run or catch a sunset before dinner.

– The kids go to bed around 8:30.

– Chris and I sit together like slugs, talking, watching TV, listening to podcasts, and looking at our phones until nearly midnight. Unless Chris has work to do, we rarely do anything industrious after the children are in bed.

(Notice there’s really just no time for chores.)

aroe02 asked,

What does your husband do for work? I need to send mine back to school, eventually, and it appears (through blog-land eyes) that it was a good career choice. Not his company/salary, but more like what was his degree in, and did he stay in that field kind of info. Thanks :)

He has a degree in Civil Engineering and does Structural Steel Detailing. But for the record, Birmingham is one of the top most affordable cities to live in (and most beautiful and wonderful all the way around), and we live in the county (outside of “good” school districts), so we’re able to be efficient with our resources.

Kyla asked,

How do you find the time to blog? I recently had my 3rd kid and can’t imagine a day when the laundry and dishes were all done and I had time to sit and write. I am not efficient apparently.

It has become much, much harder over the past couple of years. My brain doesn’t work as efficiently or creatively as it used to (thanks, Dysautonomia), and life is just busier. The best moments of blogging for me is when I have a great story to tell and it just flows. I am able to write and edit very quickly. But other times it’s like pulling glue out of my brain to type a single word. And also, as stated before, laundry and dishes get the boot so that I have time to write.

While I’m on the subject of my housekeeping failures, Sarah asked as a follow-up question on the first questions post for a house tour. After chuckling to myself how my house tour would look compared to most blogger’s house tours, I snapped a couple pictures for her – #nofilter, y’all.

Here’s my office. Epicenter of blogging, Picture Birmingham, random kid’s art projects, and voluminous amounts of crap.


My kitchen table has the remains of some random craft project Ali embarked on and either didn’t finish or clean up after herself or both.


The “catch-all” counter in my kitchen – a stack of magazines I’ll probably never read, a few butt-ends of bread loaves, apples, finger paints my kids have been begging me to let them use, and iPhone chargers – of course. Oh and a completely well-placed beach shovel. Because why not.


And the dining room table is the school table. Sometimes I clean it off for the weekend. But definitely not during the week.


So now you know from where I steal all my time. From being a responsible, neat adult.

I have one more day of questions left to answer, so if you want anything added to the last post of ever-unimportant opinions, ask quickly.

All the Answers: Planes, Texting, Guilt, and Harry.

Answers Three Header

Here we go again. I’m really enjoying writing daily again – it’s been a while. Don’t get used to it. Unless y’all just keep asking questions endlessly, which I suppose I’ll find myself writing daily for the rest of time.

Sheri asked,

Have you ever travelled outside of the U.S.? Where?

Yes, twice – once when I was nine years old – my Dad and I went to Toronto together (which I mentioned briefly here), and once when I was 16 years old – I went on a six week missions trip to Cyprus where I administratively helped a missionary (that had formerly been my pastor) set up his new office. Flying to Cyprus was my first time to ever be in an airplane. I flew there with the missionary, and our plane to New York had such an equipment failure scare that they had at least 50 ambulances, lights flashing, lining our runway. My dad later called Delta to ask what had happened, and they denied the whole thing (because 1998 was before Twitter or smart phones – Delta can’t deny anything anymore.)

Ironically, I still love flying.

For my second time to fly, I flew home by myself, and had an overnight layover in Athens. My dad had a Greek friend that had agreed many weeks earlier to pick me up from the airport, but he wasn’t returning calls or emails when it was time for my return flight. So when I left Cyprus, I thought I would be getting off the plane in a foreign country and trying to figure out how to find transportation and a hotel room as a minor who didn’t speak the language (despite going to Greek School as a kid.) But, when I arrived, my dad’s friend (whom I had never met and had no idea what he looked like) was waiting for me. Later, he and his wife took me to dinner at midnight (as one does in Athens) and fed me raw Octopus (as one does in Athens) and took me back to their flat full of marble floors and busts (as one has in Athens.) The next day, I continued my journey home alone.

Which of the following book series have you read? Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, Hunger Games.

Harry Potter – Yes and it’s my favorite book series ever written. I get violently ranty when someone tells me that they’ve seen the movies but haven’t read the books. READ THE BOOKS, people. The movies don’t even fully make sense without the books. <Deep Breaths> I currently spend way more time than is necessary trying to figure out the perfect age to start letting Ali read them. She insists that the age has not arrived yet – they sound way too scary to her.

Lord of the Rings – No. I tried reading The Hobbit when I was a kid but couldn’t get into it. I did go to the midnight showing of the first LOTR movie with my LOTR-obsessed friends and brand new husband. I got very angry at the end when there was zero closure, and didn’t sleep all night because you shouldn’t watch movies with unfamiliar monsters at midnight. After that I swore I’d never watch or read any of them, although I did catch the last ten minutes of the last movie once while Chris was watching it, which gave me the closure I needed. Feel free to get violently ranty on me. I know I deserve it.

Twilight – Nope. Just nope.

Hunger Games – Yes – I was late to the Hunger Games party and read them last summer. I really enjoyed it, and the movies are good as well, although I’m waiting on the fourth one to come out before I watch the third because as we’ve already established, I’m not a fan of movies with no closure.

If you could have dinner with anyone throughout history, who would it be?

I’m really terrible at questions like this. They freak me out because if I pick someone, then everyone will be all like “THAT’S the person you’d pick in all of history??” – but also because I have no idea. And I don’t love eating in front of strangers. What if I get something stuck in my teeth? Or a bit of butter on my chin? No thank you.

I’d rather text with people throughout history.

I like texting with sarcastic, witty people who don’t mind a biting comeback in an all-in-fun spat. So I’d pick Mark Twain, Paul The Apostle, Shakespeare, Marie Antoinette (I didn’t say I had to like the people, but tell me she wouldn’t have a delightfully sarcastic text stream), Jane Austen, a group text with Buttercup and Westley (I get fictional characters too, right?), Anthony Bourdain (history includes people who are still alive, obviously), Tim Gunn, and the creators of VeggieTales Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki (I’ve actually met Mr. Gunn and Mike, but sadly, we don’t have a textual relationship.)

I’m sure I’m leaving out at least a person or two that would be absolutely delightful to text with, so go ahead and say “THOSE are the people you would pick in all of history?!”

What’s your favorite book of the Bible?

Psalms. I find it encouraging, exhorting, and applicable to my life all the time. I also enjoy James because he was a super blunt guy. There’s really no need to soften the blows.

What’s your favorite verse or verses?

Psalm 37:3-8

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.

I really like the ending – worrying only leads to evil, people. It’s good to remember.

Aadrw asked,

Which blogs are you reading? What blogs are no longer active but you wish were still around?

So you’ve hit on one of the most guilt-filled facets of the internet for me. When I started blogging, I vowed to be the nicest, most interactive, most relationally in tune blogger out there. I loved blogging because I enjoyed the relationships, and I wanted to fully get to know all of my readers. I’ve met readers along the way on vacations and have even driven to both Mississippi and Georgia for the sole purpose of meeting readers. (Besides the fact that I’ve had a reader and her kid come from another continent and stay in my house for five days.) So for the first four years of blogging, literally read every one of my reader’s blogs (that I knew about) – and commented on them regularly.

(I did not, however, read any other blogs or “famous” blogs – only people I had relationships with. I’ve never been a blog consumer – always a writer and relationship-builder.)

Then a bunch of stuff happened that took great amounts of my time – in 2012, we started homeschooling for real and my jeans posts went viral and increased my readership by a multiple of ten; in 2013 I got dysautonomia; and in 2014 I started Picture Birmingham. I literally could no longer find or make the time for reading everyone’s blogs. And for the past four years, I’ve felt great guilt over not reading my internet friend’s blogs anymore. GREAT, HEAPING, SEARING GUILT. Because I really do love you all and consider you real live friends and enjoy getting to know you better (and still try to do so via comment replies, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram), and I hate that I don’t have a few (hundred) more hours every week to read about your lives.

But when I do read, I read some of my closest internet/IRL friend’s blogs (who are incredible writers because I have impeccable taste in friends) – Katherine at Grass Stains, Lora Lynn at Vitafamiliae, and Carla Jean at Inkstained Life (and formerly Jamie at Jamie’s Rabbits but now she’s moved over to podcasting which is the next question), and a few other friend’s blogs who probably wouldn’t want them publicized.

But yes. Guilt. I told you I had great angst. I wasn’t lying.

What are your favorite podcasts?

I don’t listen to many, but running has allowed me to start listening to more than I used to. I’ve listened to This American Life for years with Chris, adored Serial last year (I need to know if Adnan is innocent!), and I religiously listen to my friend Jamie’s now-famous and absolutely fantastic podcast, The Popcast (PLEASE go listen to their Urban Dictionary episodes right now. Your life will never be the same. In both fantastic and horrific ways. Then come back and let’s talk about what we’ve learned. Or not, if you’re my Dad.) I’ve also dabbled in Off Camera with Sam Jones and Invisibilia.

More answers…tomorrow. Who would you text with in all of history?

All the Answers: Notes on Choosing a Camera.

In my recent round of Ask Me Anything, Sheri asked what kind of camera I use. Since I was planning on blogging about this soon anyway, I decided to give this question its own post.

So you remember a couple of months ago at the beach, I broke my camera. Or rather, the most evil humidity broke my camera.

And since I run a ministry based on my photography, I had to replace said camera as soon as possible.

I spent several days angsting over what camera to buy, and how much it was going to cost, and the fact that I’d need all new lenses if I bought certain cameras, and HOW MUCH IT WAS GOING TO COST.

But. It had to be done. And I’d been wanting an upgrade anyway, and now was clearly the time to swat the Accountant Conscience off of my shoulder and just do it.

So then it was down to which one. I’m a Canon girl, so that narrowed it down. I wanted to move to the professional line and I didn’t want a used camera, so that narrowed it down to three. The 7D Mark ii, the 6D, or the 5D Mark iii (In cost order from least to most expensive.)

I then marked the 7D Mark ii off the list because it wasn’t full frame, and if I’m moving up I might as well do it right. Even though that meant (whimper) buying all new lenses (slowly. Over time.)

So then it was between the 6D and the 5D Mark iii, of which there was a $1,000 price difference. I didn’t want to pay more, but at the same time, again, if I was buying, I wanted to buy what I needed. The deciding factor came down to actually holding the cameras. Thankfully, that made it really easy: the 5D Mark iii was FREAKISHLY heavy and so wide that it was very uncomfortable to grip in my dainty lady hands. I did not need a camera that would knock me off the hill I was shooting from.

This was quite relieving, because it saved me $1,000.

So ultimately, I went with the 6D with an L lens – my first in Canon’s upper echelon series of lenses. I also used some credit card points and a buyback of my broken camera to also get a wide angle L lens, which is the most necessary extra lens for the kind of shooting I do.

(For reference, my old camera was the Canon T4i, which was in the upper end of their consumer DSLR line.)

I was pretty excited to try out my new camera, but also very, very scared.

Because you know what all the people say…`

“It’s not about the camera – it’s about the photographer. A good photographer can take great pictures with any camera.”

What if I’d just paid a ridiculous sum of money to take the same quality of photos that I’ve always taken? It was a fear worth fearing.

I put it up to my face with much fear and trembling. I shot. And shot some more. And realized that I was going to have to relearn all my normal settings for this new full frame deal. And I shot some more.

And from the second I zoomed in on my first picture, I knew.

All those people who say “The camera doesn’t matter”? THEY ARE LYING.



My old test of “is this picture clear or not” was “can I read Wells Fargo?”. With the new camera, not only could I read Wells Fargo, but now I could see the individual panes of glass behind Wells Fargo, which stunned me, considering how greatly I had to zoom in to see it.

For perspective, here’s a shot from my normal perch,

And here’s the Wells Fargo building zoomed all the way in:


And the new photos print crisp and gorgeously.

I was now able to get night shots like I’d never dreamed of getting (without a tripod),




I also managed to grab my first ever lightning picture on the first attempt (I have taken thousands of pictures in the past trying to capture lightning),


And the level of detail I could get was just thrilling.


Everything about the new camera has made me very, very happy.


And of course I love how I can capture the children with it, as well (whether they love it or not is not important.)





The best new feature of the 6D, though, was a feature that was a complete surprise to me, as it wasn’t explained very well in the specs. The 6D can create its own wi-fi network, meaning that I can easily download pictures from my camera to my phone. This is game-changing for me, since I’m usually taking sunset pictures and sharing them immediately. My previous strategy had been to share my iPhone pictures immediately, then edit my real pictures and post them later on my website. Now I can post my real pictures immediately, and I’ve found myself not even taking iPhone pictures when I’m shooting for Picture Birmingham.

Also cool, the app that connects the camera with my phone allows me to see the screen of my camera, adjust all the settings, and remote shoot from my camera using my phone.


In this family shot, I’m holding my phone behind Ali’s head to remote adjust and shoot the photo with my 6D.


If I had realized the 6D had this feature, it would have been hands down the obvious choice for me (the 5D mark iii does not have it, as it is an older model of camera). The ability to download instantaneously from my camera to my phone is infinitely valuable, besides the remote shooting capabilities (which is just added fun.)

Needless to say, I am beyond thrilled with the 6D, and I’m excited to see what all I can do with it through Picture Birmingham to further support The WellHouse.


More answers coming tomorrow…feel free to ask follow-up or completely random questions!