McDonalds & Smiles | Nashville Photographer

When I tell most people that I have worked at McDonalds, they tend to not believe me.  But it's true.  I worked at Mcdonalds in Clearwater, Fl in the summer between my sophmore & junior year of college while on a summer project with Campus Crusade.  I was able to work with several friends but also made a lot of new friends as well.  One was nicknamed "Shorty" and we started out as the "hospitality" staff, aka janitors.  The manager took one look at me and my little silver Mazda Mx-6 in the parking lot and put me in charge of cleaning the restrooms.  To this day, every time I walk into a McDonalds bathroom it takes me back to that summer.  The all smell exactly the same.  Unfortunately Shorty did not stay the entire summer due to a police car pulling up and taking him away in the middle of our work day.  I stood there crying knowing that I would probably never see him again.  I then convinced my manager, Lori, that I was ready to work the drive through.  Now Lori was not the typical McDonalds manager- she ran this place like a tight ship.  It was one of the busiest McDonalds in the south and she had us on timers.  So when a car would pull up in the window she would yell, HBO, HBO!!!  I was like "we don't have TV here, Lori!"  Then she explained that it meant, "Hand Bag Out the Window!"  So literally my hand would have the bag out the window as the car pulled through.  It was quite fun.  She saw my potential so eventually moved me to the first window where I was able to take orders and receive money.  I made up a little song for our customers that I am glad I can't sing to you but just imagine: "welcome to McDonalds, can I take your order pleeeeeease?"  Most customers loved it but a few just rolled their eyes at me.  Oh well.  The one thing I was terrible at was dropping change as they handed it to me.  Thankfully there was a really tall guy that worked with me and he would grab me by my feet and drop me out the window so I could get the dropped change as the blood rushed to my head.  

So, yes, that is a lot of stories.  But I have a point.  The other day I was driving through McDonalds with my 3 year old.  YES I go to McDonalds, Go ahead, call DCS.  But I still love their fries.  And if you don't then who are you?  Anyways, every single time I drive through McDonalds, I look right into the workers eyes and smile with a big thank you.  Why?  Because there is a small part of me that knows how they feel behind that window.  It's hard being stuck behind a window while watching everyone else enjoy their so called freedom in their car.  I would look at those people and just want to jump in.  And some people were just down right mean.  So even though I can't identify fully with the person behind the window, I have stood where they stand.  I know what it feels like to have someone smile at me and say thank you.  It changes things.  Those little things make a difference in your day when you are doing something so mundane and at times, really smelly.  

I guess what I am trying to say is that we really can't fully identify with anyone but there are ways we can feel a bit of their story.  I am thankful that I had the chance to work at McDonalds coming from my life of privilege.  Honestly I think it changes me more now than it did then.  Though I will say putting on that turquoise hat and pleated black pants was definitely a bit humbling at the time.  And my kids are really going to hate me when I make them go work somewhere that is out of their comfort zone.  But I still have the nametag so I have proof that if I can do it, so can they.  And just maybe it will make them smile at someone and really mean it too.  

Refugees Are Welcome | Nashville Photographer

I have always considered myself a person with a big heart, the gift of mercy.  I can remember one of my dreams in college (along with a good friend) was to run an orphanage.  We dreamt of a huge, white columned house filled with children who needed love.  With the recent turmoil in Syria, my heart has broken for the refugees fleeing the only home they have known.  I gave what I could to Preemptive Love but wanted to give more.  So I did what I know to do, take photographs.  I had the idea for the children to write notes to the children of Syria- I did not direct, just wanted it to come straight from their heart.  Of course, it was beautiful and real.  Just as children always are.  Then one night lying in bed after a really hard day as Mom, I decided to ask my daughter, Bella, to write a note.  And in her big hearted way she said: We will take good care of you.  

The next day, the kids and I, along with a few friends took some gifts to a refugee family who recently fled here from the Congo.  As most of you know, I asked you for help.  And you showed up in big ways.  The need was bigger than I originally thought and knew I couldn't do it on my own.  And I didn't have to.  Friends, near and far, came to give.  I was truly astounded by the generosity.  

Ok, so you know I tend to be quite honest, sometimes to my vulnerable detriment.  So here comes my honesty, once again.  I got a lot of praise for my actions.  People were like, "you are amazing."  "Your heart is so beautiful."  etc, etc.  And I liked it.  It made me feel good, like I was a better person than I really was.  So the van was packed to the max with groceries, gifts, clothes, etc.  And I FELT LIKE A HERO.  So, in my imaginary superwoman cape, I walked in with my 3 children and guess what?  My cape didn't work.  There was no one to save.  I was no hero.  Yes, we brought food and necessary things for them to live but they were happy and alive.  They didn't need Misty Trone to come rescue them from their tiny apartment packed with people.  

The next day all I could think of was Bella holding that sign: We will take good care of you.  And all I could think of was: You will take good care of us.  I didn't want to leave that apartment because even though we brought material goods (in a way sort of Americanizing way too much goods), they gave me so much more.  Their smiles and love in the midst of all they had lost was balm to my American soul.  I wanted to curl up in a ball in the corner of their couch and just stay.  Let those kids bring me their smiles hiding behind foreign words and let it soak up my egotistic, American way of being.  

I walked away feeling like a bit of a failure.  But not in a completely bad way.  Just in a way that humbled me and gave me eyes to see my motives behind my actions. And also to ask these people who have lost their homes along with their homeland what they really need.  Because when we were leaving, one followed us to our car.  She was trying to speak but we did not understand.  Finally my friend who spoke Swahili said that she was trying to ask the girls names and wanted them to know hers.  And then she pointed back and forth saying "friends."  Maybe that is all we really need in the end, is friendship among us all.  Needing each other instead of them just needing us.  I hope to make it back to that apartment soon with an open heart and open hands ready to receive instead of just give.  And bring my gift of friendship instead of a car full of things.  

Love | Nashville Photographer

"love is not a victory march, its a cold and broken hallelujah." 

I found out that Leonard Cohen died last night while arriving at a friends house.  We immediately broke out the music and listened to his haunting voice.  I had never heard the original recording and was a bit surprised at how different it sounded.  I mean in all reality Jeff Buckley put that song on the map and it is pretty hard to be beat him.  But the words came out of the mind of Cohen.  And anyone that can create words that poetic and yet true will always be tops to me.  

And I think this is where we are as a people today.  Or at least this is where I am as an individual.  I have tried to win at love.  I have fought hard, given it all I had.  But I failed.  Or at least I thought I failed.  But as this song reminds us, love is not about winning.  It is about failing.  Love is about breaking open parts of yourself and allowing it to be seen.  Falling on the floor realizing that you have nothing left to give.  Crying yourself to sleep because you feel so alone in the world.  Watching your Muslim neighbors begin to have fear in their eyes as it breaks your heart wide open.  Seeing your child hurt when there is nothing you can do to help.  Cold envelopes, there is no warmth.  Brokenness seeps through the very inner parts of your being and makes you believe that you will never be whole again.  

Yet somehow (somehow!) in the midst of all these broken, bone-chilling places a light shines through illuminating what you know is true (in the words of gabe dixon).   And what I know is true is that even though love is not a victory march, it does remain.  It stays with you as a humble, thoughtful presence.  In the end, love does win.  But sometimes it is a win that no one sees.  It comes in quietly and takes up residence in those broken places.  Just as Leonard Cohen also once said: "there are cracks in everything, thats how the light gets through."  

Thank you Leonard for showing us beauty in words all these years.  Your words will remain with us forever.  

And this photo made me think of love as being broken and humble... This is Trent Dabbs, an amazing singer-songwriter in Nashville.  If you have not checked out his music, do so now!

America

Well the last few days have been rough for many of us.  My heart is so heavy for so many reasons.  For the ones who feel like they have no place in this country.  For the ones who feel unknown and unloved.  For the born and the unborn who are not treated as human beings.  I don't want to talk about my personal political opinions here because I just don't feel like it is the place.  I just know that I am for love, kindness, justice, peace and the respect of every human being regardless of what religion, race or sexual preference.  

So here we are as a country with a slogan placed upon us: Make America Great Again.  I have been thinking a lot about what that says and doesn't say.  First, I have thought a lot about who America is to me.  I see America as a collective person.  Maybe I see her more as a woman, especially since the symbol of our country is the beautiful, strong woman: the Statue of Liberty.  So when I hear "Make America Great Again", I hear it as someone saying "Make (Misty) great again."  Put in any woman's name there that you would like.  Who wants to be told that they need to be great again?  If someone told me that, I would probably laugh and walk away thinking they need to look at their own shit.  And maybe its also because I don't like to be told what to do.  But I don't know many who do like to be told what to do.  So there's that.  

Second, the idea of making America great again just sends me the wrong message.  Like I said above I don't know many people who want to be made to do something.  I like the idea of inviting instead of making.  Invite America to be great again sounds a bit better.  Though it still just doesn't ring true to me.  

So that leads me to my third point: when did America become not so great?  The America I live in is far from perfect but I am so grateful to live here and to be born into such a beautiful, free country.  What are we telling our children to give them the idea that America is not great?  I don't believe that is what we should focus our time, energy and money on - greatness seems individualistic.  I want to live towards something bigger than myself.  

So I propose a new slogan for our country.  Yeah, I know, maybe just a few people actually have read this far down but, hey, a girl can dream, right?  My proposal for America's slogan is (drumroll please).... Invite America to Love Again.  If someone asked me to love them again, it would soften me, give me hope, propel me towards them.  I am more and more convinced that love and kindness really can change our world.  Not greatness.  Not power.  Not riches.  Just pure and simple love towards our fellow humans.  

Today I am hopeful.  I see those around me that desire to change our country for the better.  That want to rid ourselves of the dirtiness in politics.  I believe that our generation will rise up and there will be a new kind of America.  This is not the end.  Sometimes it takes hitting the bottom to realize what is needed.  So I stand with all of you and continue the fight towards love for ALL mankind.  And I am still proud to be an American.  

Fall | Nashville Photography

I've been thinking a lot about seasons lately.  Honestly, I have always hated it when someone told that it was "just a season."  Especially when it came to my babies not sleeping.  It just seemed to diminish my painful sick exhaustion to mere seasonal allergies.  But the word "seasons" has been coming to me in a new way lately.  Fall has always been such a beautiful, yet also strangely aching time for me.  There is so much beauty in the smell and feel of the air yet there is so much loss experienced as the colorful leaves slowly fall to the ground leaving bareness all around.  

And my life seems to be in the midst of Fall itself.  Letting go of what I have held on to for so long through the Spring and Summer of my life.  Yet in the midst of the letting go, I am also learning to hope.  Knowing that Winter is coming and that the bareness will soon turn to beauty once again.  And isn't there some sort of odd beauty in the bareness as well?  You can see a bit more, right?  I am always amazed at being able to see things that I didn't see when the leaves hung on the trees: a neighbors house, the trail wrapping around the river, the sunset, the moon appearing a bit earlier through the bare branches.  And in this falling away of what I have known and held on to for so long, I am slowly learning to see a bit more.  More of myself.  More of my family.  More of God.  And the seeing isn't always pleasant or easy but it only gives way to growth.  And growth always leads to beauty.  Always.  

So, here I am on this path towards Winter and longing for Spring.  Yet I will stay in the falling away with my hands open knowing that this is where I am suppose to be and that soon my hands will be filled once again.  But I must keep them open and ready to hold whatever comes.  For it is in the openness that I can blossom.  

May wherever you are give you peace today.... 

The photo below is from one of my favorite places on earth, Onsite in Cumberland Furnace, TN.  If you are at a place that you feel like you need to hit a reset button on life, I would strongly suggest you looking into going here for a week.  It changed me and continues to change me today.  I am also happy to talk with anyone about my experience there as well.  Feel free to reach out.  

Blackbird | Nashville Photographer

[i needed to give a preface to this blog post.  this feels very vulnerable and scary for me to share but i am finding that writing lately is therapy for me.  so i am putting myself out there in this weird online world to be judged or to be loved.  if you don't enjoy vulnerability and realness then maybe just stop reading now.  otherwise, read on and hopefully you will find some sort of companionship in your own story as well.]

The last 10 years Halloween has mainly been about making sure the kids had the right costumes and then raiding their candy after they go to bed.  I will usually put on some cat ears and call it a night.  But this year some friends and I decided to dress up and go to an actual adult party.  After changing my mind about 4 times, I finally settled on being a blackbird.  My kind friends at Fruition Salon wanted to help me with my hair and makeup so we spent the afternoon gluing on feather lashes and creating my bird-like hair.   Because, truth is, if I was left to my own devices then I would have looked like a bird nest instead of a bird.  So I was very grateful for their help.  

I want to say that I chose to be a blackbird for some deep, meaningful reason but honestly it was because I absolutely HATE birds.  I mean I like to watch them but if they get near me, I FREAK out.  So I couldn't think of anything more frightening to be than a black bird.  And Halloween is all about being scary, right?  So I head out feeling great looking forward to a night out with some of my closest friends.

I felt so happy that night, sitting around the fire with some truly kind, generous, thoughtful people.  All was right in my world.  And then it hit like a ton of bricks while sitting in a room with a handful of dear friends that are loving me so well these days.  My happiness turned to weeping.  I have been finding lately that when I find myself truly happy then a deep sense of sadness also rushes through me as well.  So I sat there and wept.  And I was loved.  And held.  Then one grabbed a guitar and started strumming "blackbird."  I didn't really understand the significance at the time because I was just in the midst of releasing so much feeling.  And the releasing was not just sadness and pain but also my happiness.  It was a cleansing, holy moment as the party thundered on downstairs.   And both of those were with me- the thundering happiness and the gentle sadness.  

The next morning I woke up with "blackbird" singing to me in the back of my mind.  And then it hit me.  My costume did mean something so much more than I realized.  And the words of that song could not say it any better...

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free

Blackbird fly
Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night

Blackbird fly
Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

And maybe next time when I see a black bird flying towards me, I won't be so afraid.  For it brought about my release and showed me the strength in my own brokenness.  

Happy Halloween to all of you friends.  

 

Finding the Light | Nashville Photography

I needed a bit of a break from my super intense personal blog posts so I thought I would start sharing with you all a few of my photography tricks.  If you follow me on instagram then you saw many of them in my video posts a few months ago.  I took them all down so thought I would write a lot of them out here so you can have them for reference if you want!

One of the first questions (besides what to wear) from my clients is usually, "where do we need to take the photos?"  In the beginning of my years as a photographer that was also a very important question to me.  I would spend hours scouting out the perfect locations and trying to find the exact right field or barn-like door.  Now I feel like I can go *almost anywhere and get the exact shot that I want.  How?  Looking for the light.  

The first thing I look at when I arrive at a location is where the sun is located in the sky and any area that is shaded in the vicinity.  Then I decide on which shaded area I want to try first.  I usually look for an area that has the sun behind it and is partially blocks out the sun if the sun is high in the sky.  If the sun is lower then I just find an open area and shoot with the sun behind me.  That gives my photos the dreamy, sun-washed look that you expect to see from me.  Now the one thing you must be careful of is the sun-rays can impact a photo by blocking out part of a head or an entire person.  So I always just move around until I get the exact right light that I want to fall on my subject.  MOVE AROUND- even with an iphone.  It makes such a difference!  

So next time you are taking photos with your camera or iphone, try looking for the light.  When I see beautiful light, I cannot help but take a photo.  Just ask my patient children!  Please feel free to ask any questions that you may have...

Here are a few photos that I took in the middle of Sevier Park with a tree and the sun behind my subjects.  There were many distractions behind the tree but the sun was able to wash those things out so the focus could fall on my subject and the beautiful light.

Selfie | Nashville Photographer

Now I love a good selfie.  GOOD is the key word here.  And, trust me, there are some really bad ones out there.  You know what I am talking about... The girl with the duck lips trying to be super sexy.  The guy at the gym with his shirt off.  But the worst of all to me is when someone can look so much better than they look in their selfie.  Bad light and bad angles are the major causes for bad selfies.  So we need to stop this unnecessary dilemma now.  Below are my favorite tips on how to take a good selfie.  

1)  As I always say: FIND THE RIGHT LIGHT.  And, yes, I just screamed at you but you need to get that in your amazingly smart brain of yours.  Look for shade as close to the sun as possible.  But never stand in direct sunlight- that will only cause unnecessary dark shadows on your face making you look so much uglier than you really are.  Because YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL so let your selfie show it!  

2) MOVE AROUND.  The best way to do this with your iphone is to turn the camera around to face the screen and literally move your body around to see where the light flatters you most.  Now I love backlight with my subjects because I can control so much more on my camera but with an iphone selfies usually don't work well with backlight.  The most flattering is usually with the sun hitting your eyes while you are in the shade.

3)  YOUR CAR!  Your car is an amazing place to take selfies.  That is why you see so many girls with their seatbelts on looking amazing.  The light filters in through the windows creating a soft light that flatters anyone.  Now make sure you have your sunroof closed if the light is too bright from above.  Or open it if there are a lot of clouds.  The only rule here is to only take selfies while parked (or at a stoplight while your neighbor car watches on and laughs).  Who doesn't laugh at someone taking a selfie?  And who hasn't been caught taking a selfie?  Of course not me.  

4)  Go easy on the filters.  This is HUGE.  Many of you just pop a filter on your selfie and don't ease up on the opacity.  Always make sure you put the opacity at least to 50% or less.  Because you don't want to look like an orange.  

So, there are my tips for making yourself as beautiful as you really are.  I really do love seeing photos of you all on my instagram and not just your kids or dog or grandma.  It makes me happy.  So please keep posting and try these tips!  If you do let me know.  I would love to see!  Have a great weekend friends!!!  

This is a selfie(s) with my youngest boy... Love him so.