Adventures Await

I am at that half-way point I suppose. between looking back on the moment I ventured out into the adult world to find my own way, and seeing a future in which it is my own daughter stepping out into her own life. As I got to know Sydney, I can see why her mother gets a little teary as they near this new phase of life. There is so much to be proud of, so many joys to come, and at the same time so much to miss. Sydney has such amazing wisdom and insight, it is clear that she is ready to take on the adventures that she has planned. She knows how to work hard for the things that matter, how to appreciate the simple moments, and already has the vision to know that the things to strive for in this life are much bigger than dollar signs.

One of my greatest hopes for my children is to instill a wholehearted self-acceptance. In a culture so pressured to be somebody else's version of perfect, I see so many women wanting to be something "more" than what we are. When I asked Sydney what her greatest accomplishment is, she gave the most beautiful response:

Just being where I am as of today feels like a pretty good accomplishment to me. Sometimes I wish I could change something about myself and I then realize that even the smallest change could completely effect who I am as of today, and in general I do like who I am as a whole, and if a little change would change who I was then I wouldn't want it at all. Its hard to explain but I think that even the smallest changes can have a large impact on a person.

Our weaknesses and failings are not what define us, but the beauty in the best parts of ourselves would not be possible without those lesser parts. We are complex and innately beautiful creatures, and we cannot love ourselves without accepting our entire being. To have found and embraced this truth so early in her journey leaves no doubt that Sydney is headed to a full and wondrous life.

Sydney, I wish you the most daring adventures led by your confident spontaneity!

Natural Beauty Maternity - Marian

Marian was the first courageous beauty to work her way through my new self-connection workbook, and her openness to the process of self-reflection and shining a light on the beauty of knowing ourselves deeply is what made these deeply connected images possible.

Much like so many of us, she has never done something quite so "self-indulgent" as having images created of just her. It is so easy to put ourselves in that just box, but the reality is that we are just as vital to this earth as every other human. Just as entitled to love, to a sense of our own selves, and to JOY. It is just as vital to feel pride in our own accomplishments as it is to express our pride in the accomplishments of those we love. With baby #5 on the way, I am so happy to have created this quiet space for Marian, a space to acknowledge the beauty in her authenticity, and to celebrate all that she has created in this life. These images are more than just pretty portraits, they are mementos of this experience, and a reminder to take that time to reflect and to celebrate.

Marian, I am so grateful for your vulnerability, honesty, and authenticity.

10 Ways to Love Yourself First

In the spirit of the new year, this January I have been putting my focus toward the theme of loving yourself first. So many women (and people in general) struggle with self-esteem; fight a battle within themselves every day. Even those of us who have come to self-acceptance often struggle with being okay with putting ourselves on the priority list.

As a mother, particularly a mother of small children, I have often found my 'self' disappearing. So many days have passed where I haven't actually seen myself, despite washing up directly in front of a mirror at least 20 times (you know, potty training...). Whole days where I forget to drink water, or get too busy to remember that I needed to pee about two hours ago (surely I am not the only one that does that??). While I am eternally grateful for the perspective that motherhood has given me; to see that the world does not revolve around my own problems, sometimes I miss feeling like a person of my own.

As much as we are all reminded that we should not rely on our lovers to define our sense of self and worth, equally we cannot place that weight on our children. We are more than just mothers, lovers, friends, employees and entrepreneurs, no matter how beautiful and fulfilling any of those roles may be. When all these things are gone, what will remain? Who will remain?

To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.
— Oscar Wilde

The one person you are guaranteed to always have a relationship with, for better or worse, is yourself. It is vitally important that we give ourselves time and space to cultivate that critical relationship. How can we bring our best selves to each of those important roles without being our best selves?

But saying "just love yourself already" isn't exactly a solution, is it? An attitude realignment like that is really a new habit, an instinctive response to the ups and downs of daily life. Like any new habit that we wish to develop, it will require intentional practice. I have pulled together 10 activities that you can interject into your routine to create a time and space to be with your own thoughts and nurture your relationship with your self.

10 Habits to Loving Yourself First

1. Set a weekly coffee date with yourself

Get out of the house, out of the office, and sit somewhere cozy, alone, with an indulgent beverage and your own thoughts. Breathe deeply, journal, read, create, or just close your eyes and sip. Have you been up to Marty's Cafe in Fort Assiniboine yet? It is my favourite local cozy coffee getaway with a relaxing fire, some cozy chairs, staff that remember that I like my cappuccino dry, and so close to home!

2. Practice yoga

Yoga has so many benefits for your physical and mental well being, but mostly, I just love being somewhere quiet for an entire hour! It is so much easier to feel at ease when your body isn't aching, reminding you how tired you are, and of how you "slept" half the night in a rocking chair with a baby hanging off your boob all week. A little stretch and quiet time and you feel lighter for days. I am dying to try the warm candlelight yoga Tuesday evenings at Barrhead Yoga, but even setting up a mat and an aromatherapy candle in the quietest part of the house while the kids play with dad or sleep is a much appreciated moment of quiet thought and physical restoration.

3. Meditate

Please don't roll your eyes. I mean it! I did a little meditation as a teen, but was drawn back to it during pregnancy. It was a big part of my mental preparation for labour, and was also a great way to deal with difficulty falling asleep. Once you have used guided meditations (you can even find free ones in your podcasting app of choice), you can apply the techniques yourself using your favourite music, white noise, or in a quiet space. It is basically mental yoga, with the bonus of being able to drift off to sleep if you so desire!

4. Start colouring again

Adult colouring books are a huge trend at the moment, and after colouring alongside my girls, I totally get it. If you aren't ready for meditation, colouring is a great alternative. The soft, repetitive motions, and the relatively mindless nature can lull you into a meditative state and allow your mind to flow freely without your conscious interjections. Pair it with some aromatherapy, good music, and a bold cappuccino or full bodied red and you have a perfect date night with yourself. The Flower Shoppe had a few beautiful ones the last time I was in.

5. Start reading again

I am very guilty of "not having time" for reading anymore. Let's face it, the 15-40 minutes we spend reviewing our Facebook and Instagram feeds one last time before bed could just as easily be spent with a book, and we would be far more likely to fall asleep well when we were finished. When I do read, I have restricted myself to non-fiction so that I can enjoy smaller chunks should I be interrupted by a crying babe. Now that the little ones are a bit less dependent, I have a goal of adding fiction back into my repertoire. Reading gives us a chance to challenge our own viewpoints and ideas, and to expand our understanding of ourselves and our place in this world.

6. Get a massage

I admit, I haven't made time for a massage since I was pregnant with my first baby, but I haven't forgotten how healing that time was. Sensing a theme here yet? Quiet time to yourself, with the bonus of great physical relief.

7. Get outside

Any time spent outside is healing, but again, I am going to suggest making time to do this alone, or pull the kids in a sled because then you may as well be alone, in 10 minutes they will surely be asleep ;) This time of year I love to get out cross-country skiing, but with as little snow as we have this year, you can trek out pretty much anywhere you like in your Sorels. If you haven't gotten into XC skiing yet, I must recommend it. Once you get past the initial awkward stage using muscles you don't normally use and getting your timing down, it is so easy and relaxing, and trust me, I sort of despise physical exertion.

8. Make something

Let your mind wander, follow your instincts, and just play. The satisfaction of creating cannot be denied. Paint, sew, knit, draw, build, code, distress, bead, bake... My own personal project of late is learning hand lettering, maybe it will correct my terrible penmanship as a bonus. I am going to go against the trend here and suggest that doing this one with friends is equally effective. Whatever you do, don't worry about perfection. Take a class, or make a date. If you are interested in joining a local crafting night, get in touch or sign up for my email list, I am hoping to set something up soon, and I would love to hear your ideas.

9. Get yourself a pretty reminder

A recent purchase of mine, despite it's small size and price tag, has been serving as a reminder to appreciate myself, especially in the trying moments. I feel that it is valuable to find something that you love, that you would use daily, and give it as a gift of appreciation to yourself. I have a pretty new mug that says "best mom EVER", and when I really need a coffee in the morning, it reminds me that in this house, I am the best mom ever, and that I deserve recognition for the little accomplishments of each day. I believe that a beautiful hand lettered inspirational print on the wall, or a dainty stacking ring on your finger would be perfect reminders of how beautiful your life is, and to look for those little moments of beauty.

10. Appreciate your own beauty

It is not self-centered to believe that you are beautiful. You are. I challenge you to show me a woman that is not beautiful to those who love her. Own your beauty. Choose your favourite photograph of yourself, print it, big enough to actually see it, frame it, and hang it... right where everyone can see it. I want you to walk past that image at least 5 times a day. Stop and take notice of it. Remember how it feels to be beautiful. Remember that those that love you see you like that every day. If you are having trouble seeing that beauty in yourself, call me. I am serious, I will do whatever it takes to find that for you. No woman should live without seeing herself through the eyes of love.


This month I am accepting 5 bookings for natural beauty and beauty of motherhood sessions. Each session includes a deep conversation to find the heart of your beauty, a wardrobe consultation to find the perfect style from your closet, from my collection of gowns, or from a local boutique, an intimate in-home session to capture your honest beauty, and a personal image selection appointment to help you see the beauty that motivated each of your images.

Do it for yourself, and if you like, throw in a Valentine's gift for your love...

In the end, I am the only one who can give my children a happy mother who loves life.
— Janene Wolsey Baadsgaard

finding meaning

Alright, today I am about to get deeply personal in here. You may notice a theme in my work, a theme of finding beauty in our love, recognizing our own beauty as it is seen by those who love us. There is a reason that this matters so much to me. I feel a little guilty "outing" my own mom in here, but I know that this is a battle that she shares with so many other women, and so many other mothers. The thing is, my mom has battled with self-image and self-worth her entire life. As a young girl, I was aware of the fact that she didn't consider herself beautiful, and that knowledge affected me in some undeniable ways. Thankfully (and certainly at least partly thanks to her), I didn't fight the same battles she fought, but I have always felt a certain pain that she could never see her beauty the way that I could.

When I see my mother I see a sweet dimple that reminds me of every happy moment that we have shared that made her smile. I see deep, multifaceted eyes that have given me strength in moments of pain.  I see the soft bosom that held me tight. I see quiet wisdom and a silly wit. I see a patience that I still aspire to attain. Sometimes I see the pain, but I also see the strength that has come from that pain. I see pure beauty, and it pains me to know that she struggles to see it in herself.

My daughters remind me often of the pure way in which children see beauty, complementing me on the beauty of the simplest things, like a plain jersey knit skirt that I have thrown on because I am out of clean pants. There was a phase when my eldest daughter emphasized realism in her drawings by including my acne in every illustration of me. It shook me a little to think that was such a defining feature. I came to realize that to her, they were marks of beauty, and it forced me to question my own self image and standards of beauty. This mother's day, in preschool, she answered a fill-in-the-blank about me, "My mom is as pretty as... sunflowers", not bad hey. You know what she calls sunflowers? Dandelions. And they are her favourite. I think that about sums it up.

What it all comes down to it, every standard that we place on beauty is something that we have been "taught". The changes in beauty standards throughout the years, and the differences between cultures make it clear that anything can be beautiful if we look at it as such. So what should we see as beautiful? What should we teach our children to see as beautiful (or allow them to teach us?)

I think that our first instincts of beauty are the most meaningful; simple joys and loving people. That is the beauty that I am reminded to find in every day. That is the beauty that I wish to convey in the art that I create of your lives.

Want to see what beauty your little ones see when you hold them close? Book your session today.