surround yourself

friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.- author unknown

i feel so blessed to be surrounded by such amazing, inspiring, encouraging, supportive people.  the kind of people who i can openly share with, get me thinking and keep me on my toes.  today, i messaged with a friend for hours. this was a bit of our conversation... did i get here. how am i living my dream. how are people buying my vision? how am i an artist-- exactly as i wanted to be... and having done nothing to be that. how long can i keep this up? how the fuck do i do this seriously and be serious about it, without it eating me up and shrinking me away. how do i deal with the anxiety of not being able to say no, and always feeling the stress of fear of disappointing people.

learning. each and every time. amazing people surrounding me. amazing clients...


how do i deal with the anxiety of...can i keep producing? what happens if the magic just stops happening? if it stops coming my way? because clearly this is all magic? because it just happened. i mean i had to work hard but how did i end up here? it was just a dream. but now it's here and i don't want to wake up. how far will this take me? is it to a place that's even bigger than i ever dreamt?

no matter what though, i will embrace each and every opportunity that comes my way. i will never forget to be grateful. i will never forget to give back.

because in the end, this is a dream come true...something i will never take it for granted. i am truly and deeply blessed in so many ways and this wouldn't be possible without my family. yes...grateful and blessed!!

learning...always. growing. believing. facing fears. moving forward. loving those who surround me and encourage me. amazing. amazing journey for sure!!

i can't even begin to tell you how much her conversation meant to me today. how much i cherish each and every conversation with my friends.

we all have a choice of who surround us.  i hope you choose to be surrounded by those who inspire, support and encourage you. because when you surround yourself with authentic, honest friendships, it's a truly, truly beautiful...and powerful thing!!

photo from when i first began studying photography (early 2006).  kiele and her best friend, natalie.  it's probably the toughest thing about being a military family...having to watch your children say good-bye to their best friend(s) over and over again.  however, i'm so grateful for phone, email, facebook, skype, etc., which allows them to easily keep in touch. hoping kiele and nat will see each other again soon.

how things work(ed)

meet my dear friend, heather, and her two boys (ages 3 years and 8 months). her husband isn't in the photographs because he's currently deployed in iraq and has been for the past six months. yes, he deployed when the baby was only a couple months old and the baby hasn't been the easiest baby in the sleeping department. we're hoping heather's husband is home in time for christmas. fingers crossed!! heather absolutely amazes me -- her strength, kindness, patience and generosity -- to mention just a few of the amazing qualities this woman possesses. i've known heather as long as i've known steve. you see...heather was actually the mastermind behind steve and i meeting one another in destin, florida, at AJ's. heather reminded me of the story yesterday, which goes something like this...

some guy spilling his beer on me. me getting mad, having had a beer or two myself. guy's friend, heather, intercepting by sending a cute guy over to create a distraction. enters cute guy...steve!!

steve and i saw one another every day from that day forward (until he had to move to WA and i had to stay as an air force nurse in FL). that was back in fall 2001.

and heather just happens to be married to one of steve's best friends, brian (he and steve went to EOD school together). so after not seeing one another for almost nine years, our families now live 40 minutes apart. how lucky are we?!! funny how things work sometimes. actually, it's amazing how things work sometimes. and it all brings me back to how very blessed i am!!

thank you heather for being you -- for your friendship and for your never ending support, encouragement and inspiration (oh...and for introducing me to my husband :-) ). adore you and your family and am so excited to share our next three years together! soon, we will celebrate and do photos of your complete family. can't wait!! xoxo.

time and distance

alex and skyler.  they met in 2005...2-years-old and next door neighbors in san diego.  it was during our unfortunate military housing situation and it was our temporary house (while our unfortunate house was being repaired).  our temporary house ended up being our home, next to the B family, for about five months.  we joked that sky and alex were the yin and yang of friendship -- so different and yet complementing one another so perfectly --creating a magical friendship, even at such a young age. when we moved, we didn't move far (around the corner and a few blocks down) so the kids continued to see each other once a week or so, over the next couple years.

in 2007, just shy their 4th birthdays, the B family moved to pennsylvania.  sky had a photo of the two of them (see below) on her dresser.  alex had hers on her wall.  we never stopped talking about alex through the years.  and occasionally, we'd get an email from the B family with photos and updates.  we never doubted that one day we'd see the B family again...and sky would see alex.

lucky for us, alex's grandpa lives in orlando.  lucky for us, their annual florida trip took place a couple weeks ago. :-) it was so awesome seeing the girls together again -- as if they were never apart.

i really do feel blessed to be a military family and i share with my kids often, how very lucky we are.

love you B family!! so excited to see  you over the next three years.  © deb schwedhelm | tampa children's photographer

april 2007 (one of their last photos together) & august 2010

a few from our trip a couple weeks ago

i just love them sitting together on this bench outside our orlando condo.  i can't help but envision them 60, 70, 80 years from now, sitting together.  in a similar manner. on a similar bench.

and the whole gang, minus kiele because she was at her dad's.


i believe in choosing our family of intention - our friends, our tribe, our soul sisters. for me, this all started when i was 12 years old, when i met gina, when i began to understand that friendship had the ability to make us feel settled and at home in our spirits no matter what else was happening in our lives. and that our friendships - the people we choose to surround ourselves with - gracefully hold the divide between all the experiences we travel through in our lives.- kelly rae roberts

oh these words of kelly's... they resonate in my soul.  deep to the core. i can't even begin to share how important my friends are to me and how much i cherish my amazing friendships. as one of my best friend's steph says, my childhood was rather "unconventional"...i no longer talk to my sister or my dad. and i talk to my mom on rare occasion. it's not something i'm proud of; it actually makes me sad, but it's the way it has come to be. but i think that is the reason why my friendships mean even that much more...they truly are, as kelly describes it, my family of intention.  i hold them close. and tight. they are part of me. they are my family!


when we lived in san diego, we lived next to the hasson family, for about six months. during the time, kiele and nat, developed a friendship that was beyond special--deeper and more mature than most eight- and ten-year-old friendships.  the hasson family ended up moving to FL and then to HI...and through the distance and their time apart, kiele and nat continue as BFFs, stronger than ever. if you saw this post, you know that one of the things kiele wants for christmas is to see natalie (they haven't seen each other since mid-2007). it was in 2007 that i took these photos of kiele and nat--a storyboard which still graces kiele's book case, front and center.

if you haven't seen kelly rae's artwork, you must check it out. she offers the most incredible and inspiring products--necklaces, prints, stationery, books, and original artwork. you can find it all here. and you can read more about kelly's post on her BFF and friendship here.

to my friends, my tribe, my soul sisters... i love you. i adore you. and i will forever be grateful for you.

this made me cry today...

that's what the subject of the email was, when she emailed me this.  leah is one of the greatest friends a girl could ask for--someone who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.  beautiful to the core.

i hope that you will take a few minutes to read the women's stories in this article.  each is beautiful.  truly and deeply beautiful...and inspirational. i have no doubt that you will relate to at least one of the stories...or at a minimum, it will pull at your heart strings.

in closing, i leave you with this question... what honestly makes you feel beautiful?

i'll be sharing some of my thoughts on beauty, in a post next week.

p.s. the photographs in the article are by a woman and photographer i so admire--the amazing mary ellen mark.  i attended a mary ellen mark workshop the beginning of this year, which was awesome.  and i was so fortunate to have been able to have breakfast and dinner (and incredible conversations) with her each day.  she really is an incredible woman.  and as leah said, the photos in the article are absolutely lovely.