Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Behind the scenes

Paul and I have been talking a lot about our family values and what are our priorities are.  We have needs as a family as a couple and as individuals and we want to maximize the richness of those relationships.

As we talk about the kind of family we want to create, time together is at the top of our list.  Time to talk, to play, to teach, to encourage.  We want to pass on our living and active faith to our children.  We want them to see by our actions and how we spend our time that they and the Lord are important to our family's foundation.  You need time to create that understanding.

So one of the first things we did was evaluate our time and careers.  How can we maximize our work effort with increasing our family time?  We are both very aware of how quickly our children are growing up, and neither one of us wants to miss it.  These next 10-12 years are going to fly by and we have agreed that we want to be as present and wholeheartedly there for our children as possible.

The only way though to decrease Paul's work load is to increase mine.  I have been a stay at home for the last six years and it is both of our intentions to keep it that way, even with the children in school.  I do however have a passion and small career in traveling every couple months to go speak at conferences and retreats.  It's perfect because it keeps me at home, but allows me a weekend away every once in awhile.  Well, to increase my job means to get more gigs and travel more.  That, however goes against our priority and value of family.

So...what to do.

After taking much prayer time and vision planning, I came up with a plan.  If I am going to speak, than I would prefer it to be while Paul is at work and the kids are at school.  This means local gigs in schools, churches and mom groups.  These are usually simple and no more than 30 min.  They would take up limited time and if my goal was to do one a week, that would increase my work load by 100%.  So the goal is twice a month to start out.  I even hired a gal to help me with the booking so that my time would still be free to write and develop the quality of talks I want to deliver.  This and spend time doing my family responsibilities.

Doing local gigs while not taking away family time is step one.

The other piece is that while I love to travel and will continue to do it on a limited basis, I do want my ministry to extend past the Twin Cities.  This is where the book comes in.  The book is a beautiful way to get my heart on paper and put into the hands of people who need it.  It is the beginning step.  I like to write but really wasn't sure I was capable of a book.  Now I have ideas for the next three I want to write.  Ha, crazy right?  There is also dreams of some other great ideas that keep me at home, but put my ministry out there for others.

I felt like things were coming together.  I was excited about the way I could continue to do my ministry, while really not taking time away from the kids.  It means I manage my time a bit more, and right now its all still a theory, because nothing has changed, but it gives me a goal and vision.

It also allowed me to own my ministry and take responsibility for it.  For the last few years I just kind of let it happen.  If people call me, I take a gig.  I have a website, but its my transitional website till I took the time to develop it.  I didn't seek out gigs.  I didn't know how to talk about my ministry because it was always an after thought.

Then Paul challenged me to step up to the plate.  He is my biggest supporter and was sad to see me not developing my heart for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So in order to branch out and get new gigs, I need the marketing materials and the language to talk about who I am.  The last few months have been quite the identity crisis.  Much of my ministry has been me praying about who I am on stage, what is it that I want to say to people and how do present myself to potential clients and my audience?  It's been hard long hours of research, journaling, and discovery.

So I had a meeting with Guy from Vision Van Gogh, who specializes in helping artists develop who they are. He met with me and we talked about the importance of the professionalism of your website and press kit.  It is the first thing people see about you.  It is how they determine if you are capable to be hired by them.  What do I want them to know about me?  And a lot of that is based on photo's.  A website is built around photo's as well as your press kit.

So now I sat with all this information.  I now understood that I need great photo's that will allow people to connect with me, create professional materials that will allow me to get new gigs with new clients locally while my kids are in school, to help make that little bit of extra money for our family, to keep Paul from working three jobs, so we can all spend more time together building a family based on faith and trust and love.

If we connect the dots, the first step is pictures.

I have a really hard time designing a website for myself.  I understand that people need to see me on my website so they know a little about me and it creates a connection. Connection is the base of what I do. But I don't want a website that just has photo's of me.  I think it's weird.  So I need a photo where I am a part of a picture, and the picture communicates to you, who I am, but it's not me all over the place.

One photo that tells you who I am.  That doesn't sound hard?  Ha!

It took me a couple months looking through band photo's, actor's photo's, singers, performers, it didn't matter.  I was researching websites and head shots and press kits, all trying to see what others were doing to find my own way.  I couldn't find a location that I liked, or an idea for a photo that felt like me.

And what I realized is that I don't want a website that is just for my speaking.  I want a place where my blog can fit, where people can find out about the book, where I can start an Etsy account for the art I make.  So now, my website is not just for my speaking career, but its also for me.  All the ideas for locations for a photo shoot seemed like they were only a part of me.  I didn't want a city landscape because even though we live in the city, it is only a part of us.  I didn't want a family photo, because even though they are the biggest thing in my life, I am someone outside of them.  I didn't want to be out in a barn or country scape or railroad crossing, or brick wall.  All those things didn't feel right.

So I came up with something that felt natural, real, comforting.  I want to create an inviting and creative space.  I wanted a nook of trees that had elements of our home in them.  I love the unexpected, and little surprises.  So I brought our antique rug outside under the trees to create warmth.  I love details that add a little flair of fun and drama, and so I draped the trees in all my scarves tied together and spent time cutting my old crafting paper and stapling them into rings.  I didn't need Christmas lights because we did the shoot in the evening when the sun is low and magical and adds the effect that was perfect.  So if I was going to spend time out in the wood, I want this magical little reading corner.  Since it doesn't exist, I created it myself.

But then what to wear?

Again, if this is a place that I wished existed, then I would be wearing what I wanted.  Since I can't find it anywhere, I decided to make a very natural makeshift skirt that resembles the drama of a time piece skirt with my kind of twist.  One that is homespun and tacked together full of different textures and fabrics.  There are flowers hidden in the skirt and fabrics only I could see.  I love adding those little surprises.  The color scheme fits me.  I sewed on a little star on my plain old tank top to tie it in to the skirt.

Every little detail was thought through and intentional.  Every little thing was planned there for a purpose.  I even had a little fairy tucked into my old wooden book box.

So, here is the result of my photo shoot.  The photo shoot that was needed to start creating marketing pieces for my ministry to help my husband and family so that we could spend more time together.

See in my world, everything has a purpose and serves our goal.

Everything comes back to my faith, my family and growing our children into strong men and women of God.

Even this.

* A business side note: I used Katrina with Studio Laguna Photography and Brett Dorrian for hair and makeup to make sure I got the dream I wanted.  My vision could only go so far and I would only trust this idea to these two women.  They took my idea and Brett turned my face and hair into a work of art that was perfect for this shoot.  Katrina used her very honed talent and captured exactly what I wanted.  She has this beautiful eye and helped me by finding the dream in my head and making it a reality by capturing it with her camera.  She helped guide me and pose me so that everything was perfect.  I knew I could trust these ladies, I just didn't realize how dramatic and beautiful their art was when it was all said and done.  I love working with these ladies, and I would suggest using them for any of your family or wedding or business needs.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

New Head shots from Studio Laguna

I am blogging light today after yesterdays heavy unpacking.  So...

I got new head shots today!

As a professional speaker and soon to be published author (I hope!) I need photo's for people to use in their publications and promotional materials.  I have had shots taken here and there, but never the soul focus on getting the head shot.  I thought it was time and they need updated.

I am putting together a new website and my photo shoot for the cover of that is next week.  It's probably going to be a bit over the top, and so I wanted something simple, and down to earth for my head shot.

What I would like to stress is I have never worked with anyone as amazing as Katrina Hannemann from Studio Laguna.  Her and her husband Jon are without any sugar added, the BEST to work with.  Katrina is so personable and friendly.  When you meet with her, you feel as if you have been friends forever.  She is kind and witty and so creative.  She has this extensive knowledge of putting together shots with people and props in locations that are perfect for them.  It is such a joy to work with her.

As seen below, she has the ability to bring beauty out in everything.  We laughed a lot in our brief photo shoot.  We talked and shared pieces of life together.  She is so professional, and yet it didn't feel like work.

If ever you are in need of a photographer, I wouldn't go to anyone else, and she does travel.  She has been taking our family photo's for years and does one mean wedding shoot.

Anyway, today I got some work done, if you can call it that.

And my one take away from this photo shoot?  My hair is crazy out of control.  Seriously.  And yet I still don't want to cut it.

And yes this is a sweater and pants in June.  Welcome to the spring that never came to MN.

And then she just kept shooting while we were sharing a laugh in an "off camera" moment.

Katrina, thank you for giving me something so beautiful and something to be so proud of.  Thank you for your eye and your direction and your amazing talent.  I just think you are simply wonderful and you are my girl for life.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The art of Collaboration

Some day I am going to craft a talk around collaboration.

There is something profound about working with someone and working to create something completely new out of who you are and who they are.  It isn't compromise where you each give up something to find a peaceful way.  Collaboration is about two people, giving 100% of who they are, doing the hard work of communicating to discover where their two thoughts and ideas come together to forge a new language.  That language for Henry and I is our speaking and writing together.  For others it can be music, spoken word, body art, dancing, gardening, cooking, community living, photography, leading an organization, it doesn't matter.

Collaboration is different than compromise.

What Henry and I strive to do in our work is absolute collaboration.  It is what I love and hate about our work.

(If you are new to my little world in blogsphere, then I should tell you that I am a stay at home mom who travels the country very part time as an inspirational speaker and am currently working on my first book with my speaking partner, Pastor Henry Graf.  Henry and I have been friends for a long time, and as two seasoned speakers, we wondered what having a conversational type presentation would look like from the stage.  This gives the audience a more authentic and personal interaction with the speakers and topic of discussion.  We have spoken together for years, and are currently trying our hand at moving what we do on stage, to the written word.  To say the very least, we are in a very steep learning curve.)

When we started working together, Henry and I were both professional speakers.  We were comfortable on stage and speaking in public.  We spent time crafting our work to be dynamic presenters.  Coming from a place of always taking the stage alone, it was so refreshing to share the responsibility with someone else.  Someone I trusted to fill in the blanks where I missed my mark, or read the audience and take our conversation where it needed to go to reach them where they were at.  I was no longer alone, and it felt very cool.

There was this really beautiful dynamic shift as well.  When I take the stage alone, I can get really intense and loud and passionate and sometimes emotional.  It's just kind of what I do.  Sometimes it involves yelling.  However, when you are sitting on stage with someone else, that doesn't tend to happen.  We are talking, discussing, laughing, searching scripture together.  It's very different, but very cool.

It felt like to me that I had found the perfect partner in this journey.  We balance each other out because we are so different.  Yes one is a man and one is a woman.  One is a Pastor and one struggles with the institution of the church.  But really, it reaches into the way we do life, not what we represent.  Henry is very analytical and intellectual, and those are not words I would use to describe myself.  He teaches, and I tell stories.  He thinks, I feel.  He moves fast, I am think before I act.  And even though we are both intense, somehow we are intense in very different ways, and I don't know how to describe that.  We bring such different things to the table for discussion, approach scripture from very different places and come away with very different ideas of what it means.  It makes for great conversation.

So imagine my surprise when just months ago, I realized that Henry and I weren't collaborating at all, but I was letting him take the lead and backing out of my responsibility to my own place in our partnership.

It was hard for me to figure this out until Henry and I spoke together three months ago.  We took the stage on Friday night at the conference kick off.  I experienced being on stage with Henry and he wasn't in his usual "loud/big self".  He felt more responsive than usual instead of charging the way.  When we debriefed our talk, he simply said, "you were the big personality tonight, so I backed off.  You usually aren't that dynamic."

Huh.  I didn't ever really think that I backed off and tampered my personality with him.  We chatted a bit more through that and continued on with our weekend.

Then, the book happened.  The book started off as a T-shirt idea that for the life of us, we couldn't agree on.    Then Henry had a brilliant idea that worked for us both.

Parables.  Earthly stories with Heavenly meaning.

We discussed the concept of the book, "telling stories, but more than stories, finding heavenly meaning in our everyday experiences, etc."  I loved it.  I thought it was a perfect first book for us.  It penned out on paper what we do on stage.  But the more we unpacked the book and gave a structure to it, the more confusing it got for me.  The harder and more complicated it became.

Henry would pen a thesis, a promotional email, a chapter outline.  He was working at lightening speed and it was hard to keep up.  I would read it, tweak it, process it, edit it, and send it back.

And something always felt just a little bit off.  I was still a part of the process.  My opinion mattered, but somehow, I was just responding, not speaking up.

And then I was standing in my kitchen, just getting off the phone with Henry, and I saw the red flags.  I saw myself shrinking back in my insecurities.  I was allowing my respect and admiration for Henry to shrink me.  When I elevated him, I became less.  I gave him the power and authority in the relationship instead of being in a partnership.  I let my old demons speak into my ear.  Lies that said my voice wasn't as significant as Henry's.  That storytelling was silly compared to teaching deep theological ideas.

I realized I wasn't owning my part in our partnership  I wasn't taking responsibility for my thoughts, my ideas, my voice and opinion.  I got steamrolled.  Henry wasn't doing this to me, I just let it take over.

What I realized was sometimes when we think we have overcome a weakness, a sin, it only reappears when pushed from a new angle.

I have worked alone for seven years, and now having a partner in this, this was a new angle for me.  And so my weakness and insecurities came flooding out.  I hated it.  I didn't know what to do with it.  I had moved past this.  I had conquered it.  I had surrendered it.

Or so I thought.

And then it brings us to last week when Henry showed up for a week of writing.  A week that we were going to use to make great head way with the book.

But I couldn't move forward because I wasn't ever fully present.

And so I showed up.  I really showed up and owned my voice, my opinions, my questions and my process.

We talked and processed a lot last week.

After we  processed our book, our ideas, our theologies, we talked some more.

Henry would push me to finish my thoughts.  To think through all the things I was trying to say but having a hard time articulating.  We dissected words that meant different things to each of us so that we could come to some kind of understanding.

We put our expectations for the week aside.  We sat uncomfortably the across from each other at the coffee shop and wrestled through our thoughts and opinions.

And at the end of the week, we came away with a books that feels like a conversation.  A new language of Henry's ideas and my thoughts.

We collaborated and found a book that speaks a new language that we took the time to understand and create.

Collaboration is not just hard work, its uncomfortable.  It is looking at your partner in the project and realizing that for you to say what you really think, you run the risk of them leaving.  You run the risk of them leaving project because they are done doing the hard work to find a new way.

It's risky and scary and vulnerable.  It feels exposed and in the end, the risk is worth it.

Writing a book on my own will probably be easier.  However, Henry pushes me to find myself.  To learn my process and understand my thoughts.  I have discovered so much about myself in the last couple months.  I have learned what it means to not have a boss or work alone, but to partner with someone and have them stay because they value you.

At the very least, God is using this experience to shape me.  To shape Henry.  To shape a new idea within us.  It's exciting.

It's tiring.

It's totally worth it.

Collaboration.  You need to be 100% yourself in order to have the conversation to create a new way.  To acknowledge who you are in order to give yourself to the expression of art in a new way.