Still Shining.

So, today’s blog post is going to be a bit emotional.

Three years ago, today, my brother lost his battle against cancer. He married the love of his life (a truly amazing woman that I will forever call my sister) in September 2009, and was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer four months later. His attitude was incredible throughout all of the surgeries and treatments, but his body took a serious beating with all the chemotherapy. Three years later his body gave. It was a really hard time for our family and all of Matt’s friends.

For those of you who never met Matt, he was the kind of guy who could make you laugh even when you felt like crap. Even when he got out of his first surgery, heavily sedated (and we were all super anxious and emotional), Matt decides to start quoting Napoleon Dynamite: “But my lips hurt real bad!”, “Just borrow some from the school nurse. I know she has like five sticks in her drawer”. It took us about five minutes to figure out WHAT he was saying, and then make sense of it (when I say he was heavily sedated, I mean SERIOUSLY. Slur city and sometimes he fell asleep mid-sentence. )

Growing up with him (5 & 1/2 years older than me), we didn’t always get along. He “beat me up” a lot… (a punch in the arm here or there.. Normal sibling stuff) I was that “annoying younger sister”. And he would even make be be the goalie for hockey practice (and he wouldn’t give me padding to protect myself). But once we both got a little older, he started being nice to me, and then he moved to Maine. That was hard for me… My sister already moved to North Carolina years before, and I was left in Delaware without my siblings. But we actually grew closer then. I remember one particular late night phone conversation.. Where I had to sneak down in the basement because I didn’t want to wake up my dad. It was the best conversation ever. Somehow, we really opened up with each other, then learned that we actually thought really similarly about a lot of things. I joked and said “OMG, you’re like the male version of me!”

I love hearing stories about how he made other people laugh… Or feel good about themselves. He was really good at that.
The one thing I regret.. Is I wish we had more pictures together before he got sick. As a photographer, that’s the kind of thing I hear all the time from people who have gone through similar situations. We are never guaranteed tomorrow… But we often make excuses about why we don’t want to be in a picture today (hair, weight, etc). I wish that we had gotten professional pictures done as a family (both before our mom passed, and even after, too). I love the snapshots that I do have of him, but we were really little in most, and I took a lot of them when we were older so I’m not in most of those!

Anyway, I wanted to take this blog post as an opportunity to open up conversation… I don’t want you to feel sorry for my loss.. Loss is something that we all (unfortunately) have to deal with at some point in life. I know you feel for me, so instead of condolences (I, of course, appreciate them, but I don’t feel they need to be put into words.) I’d much rather hear happy things. If you knew Matt, tell me one of your favorite memories of him. If you didn’t know my brother, tell me a favorite memory of your sibling or someone close to you (whether they passed or are still alive)! I just want to hear some happy memories.. Something that makes YOU smile & laugh, since that was the kind of spirit that shined so brightly in my brother. Let’s keep his flame shining with stories of love and laughter.

What’s Next?

Well, we’re only four weeks into my blog challenge and this week I’m a few days late… Better late than never, though… RIGHT?! I swear it’s with good reason that I’m so late with posting this week.

I graduated!! WOO HOO!!! And then I promptly went over to Stratosphere in Wilmington, and jumped on trampolines… got stuck to a velcro wall.. etc. It was a blast. But.. it was also VERY exhausting (who knew a graduation ceremony was so stressful? 😛 ) plus the acting like a child for a couple hours.. yea.. My legs are sore. Hah!

Anyway, since graduation, I’ve been asked a few times “What’s next?”. Well, what a loaded question!! If you had asked my 18 year-old self what I planned to do after college, I would have probably responded with a generic “well I’ll find a good job (if I don’t have one already), then probably get married and start a family.” My college degree has always been on my “bucket list” of things I want to achieve. I always hoped that I would be able to do so before settling down to start a family so that I would be able to find a job that would allow me to contribute to my family and do so while staying (mostly) at home raising my children.

Well, fast forward 10 years and here we are. I finally have my fancy Bachelor of Science in Photography, and my OWN business where I can work from home! So next is marriage and babies, right?? Hah! Clearly I didn’t read the manual on what it takes to run a business when I started this five years ago. I probably have another year or two of growing my business to where it will be able to adequately contribute to a family. However, if I’ve learned anything over the last ten years, it’s this: LIFE is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. (isn’t that a John Lennon quote?) So I can’t tell you what’s next, because I simply have no way of knowing!

I do, however, have another big “dream” that I’ve been contemplating for some time.. but I’m not quite ready to share that one with the world just yet. I still need to do some research to see if my dream is feasible, and analyze what steps I need to take to reach it. When I am ready to announce that one, you’ll be the first to know. 😉

So what big dreams do you have? Tweet one! @katyrosephoto #dreams

How did I get here?

So one week from today (actually, yesterday… I wrote most of this last night..), I will be walking at my Wilmington University graduation ceremony. The funny thing is, I’ve had not one, but TWO dreams that I arrived to the ceremony only to realize I had forgotten my cap and gown. I’m not sure why my sub-conscience is so concerned about that.. But I sure have gotten a few laughs about it.

Coming to the end of my college career (finally) has obviously inspired some reflection on the last 10 years, and my journey to a bachelors in media design and photography.

Did you know that I had four different majors in the last 10 years? Yep. FOUR! When I graduated high school, I really wasn’t sure about what I wanted. I knew I like to help people.. And I knew I love kids. So I figured, okay.. I can become a nurse and work in labor and delivery. So for my first year of college (at DelTech), I was an allied health major. I quickly realized that memorization is not my strong suit… And also, dissecting things is really gross (sometimes fascinating, but always gross). So I moved on to my second choice: kindergarten teacher! I switched my major to early childhood education, and suddenly was acing all my classes. It was awesome. Until I realized the politics behind teaching.

My personal feelings on education are simple: as humans, I feel that we fear things we don’t know or understand, and fear breeds hate. So I was extremely disappointed to learn all the rules that limit teachers on what they are allowed to teach students, as to not offend someone or cross the barriers into what other cultures or religions believe or celebrate. After about a year of early childhood education classes, I realized I’d probably get fired as a teacher for not sticking to the “core” curriculum, or crossing some fine line into religion if a student asked. So I went looking for a new plan.

One of my favorite parts as an early childhood education major was designing games for kids, then actually getting to work with the preschoolers at the center on campus. So after looking into graphic design programs, I decided to take a little time off from school and just work full-time, as the graphic design program was only offered at DelTech in Dover, and was more expensive anywhere closer.

After two years off from school, working full-time in retail, I realized I had to finish my education if I didn’t want to get stuck in a job I didn’t love. So I found an office job that offered partial tuition reimbursement, and I applied to Wilmington University for the Media Design program. WU offered night and weekend classes which fit my schedule perfectly… And I was super excited to get back to school, learning about design.

In my first semester at WU, I took the basic photography class. Somewhere in those 7 weeks, I realized that I had found my passion, and ran over to the registration office and changed my major to photography, and added a minor in print media. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with those, but I knew I loved photography and all things related to art & design, and was going to find a way to make a living off of those things.

Fast forward five & a half years, and here we are. I started Katy Rose Photography & Design (probably way earlier than I should have) in May of 2010. In my first year of classes at WU, I had learned that I wanted to work for myself one day… And figured I should start right away, part-time, so I could apply the things I was learning and build my business on the best foundation I could manage.

Now, I have been self-employed (full-time) for over a year, and I’m finally getting that expensive piece of paper that signifies knowledge, persistence and accomplishment. I’ve never felt that a degree was necessary for me to be successful, but it is something that I’ve always wanted to complete, and once I found my calling, the journey was not only fun, but I met so many amazing like-minded individuals that continue to be a source of inspiration for me. I think I’m going to miss it…

What was your favorite thing about school (grade school or high education)? Let me know @katyrosephoto on Twitter, or on Facebook!

2015 Week 1: GRATITUDE

Look at this.. It’s only January 5th, and I’m already a day late on my 52 week blog challenge.. However, it’s not without good reason. I ended up having a couple last minute things to do yesterday, including seeing a wonderful friend who is in town from Texas.

A few things I want to point out, as I begin this blogging project.
I’m not an experienced blogger… Or writer. I obviously wrote a lot for school over the years, but I have always struggled with putting words down in a cohesive manner. This takes a lot of hard work, and writers, you really have my respect!
Secondly, I ramble a lot when I write. I’ll try to keep it under control, but I just wanted to apologize in advance.

Okay.. So on to what I decided my first blog of 2015 would be about: GRATITUDE.
Those of you who know me personally, Already know that I am an extremely positive person. I am often asked “How do you do it? How can you always find the good in every situation, even the worst ones?” Honestly, I can’t tell you for sure HOW I always manage to do it.. But I can tell you a few things I find myself doing on a regular basis that have to be a contributing factor to my perpetual positivity (have I told you how much I love alliteration?).

1. Every night I reflect on my day. I pick a few things (people, pets, opportunities, talents) that I am grateful for and I think about why those things mean so much to me. And I’ll give you a hint: they are almost never material items (except for essentials like my home, my car, etc. And I do occasionally mention the material things that I have been blessed with, but with the added understanding of how fortunate I am to have these things, even if they aren’t necessities.)

2. I surround myself with inspirational and encouraging quotes. Seriously I’m a quote junkie. For example, this is the quote on my lock screen on my phone. “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.” -Eckhart Tolle This is one of my favorite quotes because it is a constant reminder of how short and valuable our time here is. I use it as a reminder to not squander my life on negative thoughts, negative people or negative things.

3. I remind myself daily that I have a choice in every moment of every day. I have the choice about what emotions I want to dominate my day. Yes, I do get angry or sad or anxious… But I let that emotion pass over me and through my heart, I thank it for it’s lesson or message about whatever circumstance, and then I let it go and move on to a feeling of gratitude instead. Here is a very personal example of that emotional choice that I just explained:
My mom passed away when I was 17, and my brother passed almost three years ago. Losing them both was VERY hard. They had both been sick, so it wasn’t a suddenly thing, but it was still incredibly difficult with each death. However, although I did grieve, and cry, and feel angry that they were gone, I had to keep reminding myself to choose gratitude and happiness. I am so grateful I had as much time with each of them that I did. I am grateful for the love and laughter we shared over the years, and that they both are at peace now. I look at photographs from over the years and I’m able to smile and laugh at the funny moments we had together. This doesn’t mean I miss them any less, and that I don’t have waves of sadness that hit me like a ton of bricks, but I continuously and consciously make it my mission to let the sadness go and fill up with gratitude, happiness and love, especially because I know they would both rather that then see me sad.

So those are just a few of the most important things I do every day to help keep me positive… I hope they help you too!

Have any tips that you use to keep yourself positive? I’d love to hear them!
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*P.S. I’m copying these old blog posts over from my old blog.. so unfortunately a lot of them will be missing the pictures that were originally posted 😦 Sorry!*