Uncategorized, writing

Don’t Sell Your Saddle

Graphic.jpgEarlier this month, I went legit and officially created my own business, Dirt Road Wife Photography LLC.  I have an tax ID number, official looking paperwork from the Secretary of State and a business checking account.  Heck, I’ve even got business cards.

Except sometimes I don’t feel legit as a photographer.

I will encounter a new situation and don’t know exactly how to tackle it in the moment.  Or I get home, start editing my images and am crestfallen because what felt good in the moment and looked good on my LCD screen isn’t wowing me after the fact.

Sometimes, it’s other photographers who undermine my self-confidence.  Long-time pros who make snarky remarks about all the wannabe mom-tographers devaluing the industry and undermine their pricing.

“Is that what I’m doing?” I ask myself.  “Pretending to be a photographer?  Am I a joke?”

I compare my work to the work of the professionals I admire and it feels woefully inadequate.  Tara Bolgiano, Janelle Rose, Cassie Madden…real women, wonderful people and phenomenal photographers who seem to ooze beautiful images and confidence out their pores.  And I work and practice and study, but I still can’t quite get there…

Those are the days I think about selling my saddle.

It would be easy to quit.  Walk away.  I’ve had different offers for work, who’s to know I chose it over my secret goal of being a professional photographer?

I would.  I would know that I took the easy way out.  That I was afraid to grow, to risk.  And I would regret it.

So I’m going to tackle this new goal like the others I’ve set for myself.  I’m going to continue to work and study and practice.  I’m going to hustle.  Maybe I’ll get there, maybe I won’t.  But I do know I’ll never ride that horse to the finish line if I sell my saddle now.

 

Teresa

*”Don’t Sell Your Saddle” is a poem written by Don Bilup.  The above photo is mine, copyright Dirt Road Wife Photography LLC.

agriculture, photography, Uncategorized

Branding

Smith Branding 2017-48

As spring winds down and summer begins, ranchers in Wyoming begin the time-tested tradition of branding their cattle.  Branding predates our state, and is still the most reliable method of marking cattle for identification.

How a cattleman organizes his branding is as unique as the actual brand itself.  Some families choose the traditional route of roping calves out of a herd with horses and cowboys.  Others choose to use a chute and table, eliminating the need for horses.  Some features are a matter of necessity, others of tradition.  Some ranch branding probably don’t look all that different than they might have 100 years ago, save for a iron heated by propane instead of a wood fire.

But some things don’t change.  No matter where you go, you’ll find neighbors helping neighbors.  Kids work side-by-side with their parents, learning how to brand, rope and even castrate the bull calves.  Socializing with friends and family.  Earthy smells.  Petty squabbles.  Cussing.  Laughter.  And food.  Lots and lots of homemade, delicious food.

Joining the Smith family and their crew is quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of the year.

Teresa

nature, photography, Uncategorized, Wyoming

Northern Lights

Night Photos-1 drw

For years, I’ve watched nature shows about the Northern Lights and longed to see them.  I figured it would involve a trip somewhere, well…north!  But last night, Outdoor Guy saw an anomaly in our night sky as he went to check the chick hatcher one last time before bed.

“Hey, come see this,” he called.  I slid the computer off my lap, shoved my feet in shoes and walked outside to join him.

To the northwest of the property was a weird streak of light rising from the horizon into the night sky.  My first thoughts were moon dog or someone with a bonfire and the smoke and light were playing tricks on our eyes.  But the conditions weren’t right for either of those.

“I gotta get my camera,” I said and dashed into the house.

I spent the next thirty minutes playing with long exposures and light painting.  I went to bed happy with the performance of my new camera and pretty satisfied with the image I managed to build.  I woke up to others’ photos of these same lights, folks who lived hundreds of miles from my house.  The consensus was the same.

Well I’ll be damned.

Last night, standing behind our house in south eastern Wyoming, accompanied by a background soundtrack of owls and frogs, of  I witnessed the Northern Lights.  Hats off to Mother Nature, that was quite a performance.

Teresa

family, Uncategorized, writing

What’s In a Name

Zoo Trip-1-2.JPG

To all the little kids in Wyokiddo’s preschool, my name is Emily’s Mom.

“Hi Emily’s mom!”

“Emily’s Mom, come sit by me!”

“Mrs. Emily’s Mom, can you help me with  my juice box?”

It’s music to my ears.

When I resigned from my professional position to marry Outdoor Guy, several of my colleagues didn’t hold back in criticizing my decision.  They said I was wasting my education.  I was crazy to walk away from such a successful career.  I could have it all.

They couldn’t understand that their goals for me weren’t my goals for me.

As much as I loved my job and was good at it, I knew in my heart I wanted a different future.  One where my title wasn’t assistant division chief but wife and mom.

One amazingly supportive husband, two miscarriages, four solid months of throwing up and 8 years later, I’m both.

So call me Mrs. Milner, call me Emily’s Mom, either way, I am blessed.

Teresa

family, photography, Uncategorized

Moms In The Picture

MomsinthePicture-1

A photography Facebook group that I follow posted a challenge to all the moms out there: get in the picture with your family.

I have tons of photos of my daughter, some of my husband and very few with me with them.  I’m usually the one taking the pictures.  And admittedly, I’m sometimes reluctant to get in the photo because I’m not happy with how I look at that given moment.  Or any moment, really.

But I rose to the challenge and set up some photos of Wyokiddo and I playing tonight.  And I need to rise to the challenge more often and take photos for her not just of her.  Because someday, Wyokiddo will want these photos of us together.

Here’s the thing…She’s not going to care that my hair isn’t fixed, or that my backside is bigger than I want it to be.  She won’t notice the patchy lighting or the horrible clutter in the background.  She’s going to see it sometime down the road and think “Oh!  Lincoln logs!  Mom and I would spend hours on the floor building houses only to knock them down and start all over.”

I’d even venture to guess that she’ll love these photos of us together, big butts and all.

Here’s to being one of the #momsinthepicture.

Teresa

Uncategorized, writing

Strong is the New Pretty

Grasshoppers-44I saw a book advertised on http://www.amightygirl.com today called “Strong is the New Pretty – A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves.”

Strong is the New Pretty.  What an awesome message to send little girls.  As I edited some photos from Wyokiddo’s final Pee Wee soccer game, I realized how far we’ve come, as women, in terms of how we view ourselves and how was ask others to view us.

I grew up a tomboy.  My favorite sport was soccer.  Across a league of more than 100 kids in my grade level, I’d say there were less than 10 girls in the league.  My best friend and I were two of them.  We played with boys and were coached by men.  Always men.  Same with baseball and basketball.  The girls were often treated as second-class citizens, usually plunked on the bench to wait for the boys to run up the score or shoved in the outfield because they boys had the infield covered.

I once asked a soccer coach if I could please play offense in one game.  He told me something like “I have to have girls on my team.  I don’t have to let you lose the game for us.”

Never mind that some of us were, GASP, actually talented, or HORROR OF HORRORS, actually better than the boys.

I knew I was facing an uphill battle.  I had wonderfully supportive parents that never forced their square peg daughter into the round mold society tried to dictate.  But my dad was upfront with me, telling me things like “A lot of men my age aren’t used to tough little girls that like sports.  They don’t think you can do it.  Keep working and prove them wrong.”

At first, the uphill battle didn’t bother me so much.  But after years of going to every practice, working my butt off and still not getting a chance, I sort of lost heart.  I knew I wasn’t as good as a lot of the boys.  But I also knew I was better than a lot of them, too.

Luckily, I found horses.  I had a strong, independent woman as a riding coach that didn’t take anybody’s grief.  In her and the other girls I rode with, I found my tribe.  I think that’s one of the reasons I loved riding and showing horses so much.  It didn’t matter if I was a girl.  I was judged on my abilities and performance, not my genes.  And everywhere I turned in the horse show world were encouraging, supportive, kind women and men.  We competed, but we were all a family, too.

Now, some thirty years later, Wyokiddo is playing soccer.  She has a team of six, and four of them are girls.  Her coach this year is a woman, and she is awesome.  Coach Kaitlyn has helped the kids improve some basic skills and introduced them to concepts like offense and defense and making stops.

I know there will come a point in time where Wyokiddo will be told “Girls can’t do that!” or not treated the same because she isn’t a boy.  But I love that her introduction to sports is filled with girls and women alike showing the world that yes, yes we can.  And that strong really is the new pretty.

Teresa

country life, Uncategorized, writing, Wyoming

Snakebit

Puffy Roxy DogYesterday was a rough one for our household.  As the temperatures climbed to above 85 degrees, Wyokiddo and our dogs sought refuge in the water.  We headed to a local reservoir to play in the shallow water and enjoy the beautiful spring day.  We splashed, sang songs and even got to see our first painted turtle up close.

But when I went to unload the dogs from the covered bed of the pickup, I noticed something was wrong with Roxy, our 10-year old lab/German shepherd cross.  She didn’t want to get out of the pickup and was hanging her head to one side.  I reached for her and she snapped at me.  This is same dog who seeks out the preschooler to play dress up.

I looked her over and noticed her ear was bleeding and her face was starting to swell up.  A knot started to form in the pit of my stomach when I realized she’d likely been bitten by a rattlesnake.

Snakes are an unfortunate reality in our corner of the world.  We live with them, watch where we step and avoid the tall grass when it warms up each spring.  But in allowing the dogs to roam free as we played, I’d inadvertently put them at risk.

After a brief consultation with Outdoor Guy, Wyokiddo and I loaded back in the pickup and hauled into town to our local vet.  By the time we reached the vet 20 minutes later, the swelling had reached Roxy’s neck.   To my untrained eye, she acted as if she were in shock.

The wonderful vets at Goshen County Vet Clinic took care of us immediately.  They agreed with my snakebite assessment and took Roxy back for immediate treatment.  When the doctor told us Roxy would have to stay the weekend at the vet clinic, poor Wyokiddo welled up with tears.

Oh God.  This whole time, I’d been worrying about the dog and dealing with my fear over my dog.  I hadn’t stopped to consider all of it through 4-year old eyes.  The vet and vet tech gave us every reason to be hopeful, but warned that some dogs don’t make it.  We said goodbye to Roxy, just in case, and left the clinic in a somber mood.

I stopped at the soda shop thinking a cool treat would life our spirits.  As we waited in the drive-through, Wyokiddo asked “Mama, where is Roxy’s favorite place to be?”

“I don’t know kiddo.  I think anywhere we are is her favorite place.  Why?”

“In case she dies.  I want to put her ashes in her favorite place.”

I lost it.  Right there, in the AJ’s drive-through, tears spilling down on my waiting cash.  This poor kid has seen and processed too much death, I thought.  Her grandpa, two dogs and pet fish, all in less than 18 months.

“Please don’t let her lose this dog, too,” I prayed silently.  “This should not be how we have to say goodbye.”

So we talked some about how Roxy was in the best place she could be, being cared for by animal doctors who knew just what to do.  Wyokiddo settled into her drink.  I wiped away tears and tried to get it together for my kid.

When I laid Wyokiddo down for a nap, she asked if we could pray to God to keep Roxy safe and help her get better.  “Sometimes it helps to talk to God, Mama.  That’s what you told me.”

I stand in awe of this beautiful little soul.

Thankfully, when we called the clinic in the morning, they said our sweet old dog was up, wagging her tail and ready to come home.  Mama, Wyokiddo and even the stalwart Outdoor Guy were happy to greet her a few hours later.  Tonight, she’s resting comfortably but still a little swollen.  Wyokiddo is snuggled in next to her daddy, content and happy now that her best dog is home.  It’s a sight more beautiful than anything I could imagine.

Teresa

photography, sports, Uncategorized, Wyoming

Getting My Kicks

Emily

Last fall, Wyokiddo asked to play soccer.  Quite frankly, I was a bit stunned.  She isn’t a huge fan of sports and hasn’t really expressed an interest in them before.  But we signed her up.  She loved it so much, she’s playing again this spring.

I take photos at her games for a few reasons.  One, it’s good practice at some action photography shots.  And two, it keeps me from getting too intense.

Yes, I’m one of those parents.  Or I would be if I didn’t make a conscious effort to keep my nose out of her on-field business.  Every once in a while, I’ll slip and try to coach instead of encourage.  But if I put a camera in my hands, I’m paying more attention to it than worrying about the performance of my kid.  Which for this competitive mama, is a good thing.

Here’s hoping this technique lasts me for quite a while.  Lord help me if the kid is ever good enough to play varsity.

These action shots are also a great way to practice some graphic design skills.  I’m getting more experienced with Photoshop and the powers of digital design.  If only parenting were as easy as turning on or off the layers of ourselves we don’t really want.

Teresa