27 February 2010

Friday Night Reflections: Saturday Edition

What opportunities do you have?

What could you be doing?

What do you wish you were doing?

I had a recent comment from someone who wanted to start writing again. To that I say, start writing. In a journal. On a blog. In a notebook or pieces of scrap paper. But just make sure you are writing. Everyday. Even for a few minutes, but practice your craft.

The same thing goes for photography. If you have a camera, learn how to use it. Practice. Practice. Practice. Share photos with others.

Or for music or singing. Do it. And do some more.

I think sometimes the hardest part is doing it. Doing whatever it is that we want to do. For fear of criticism. For fear of being questioned. For fear of not being supported in your endeavors.

Trust me, I know there's nothing scarier than speaking your dreams out loud. It's almost as if saying it out loud makes it real. But it's true. And I think that the more you make it known (even if it's only to your inner circle) what you want to do or be doing, it will make it easier to get there.

So, what's your opportunity to do what you want to be doing?

Bon week-end!

24 February 2010

Be Open to Opportunity

Does the thought, "I could never do that" ever cross your mind?

Or,  "Am I good enough?"

Or perhaps, "Why me?"

This has often crossed my mind. I got into the mindset of thinking that I couldn't before I even tried. In high school, I was often timid about trying things - trying out for basketball, trying out for a part in the musical (as dance ensemble), or running for student government. Often, my mind what wrapped around these questions.

"Why would anyone pick me?"

It held me back in so many ways. I actually closed myself off from these opportunities, and now that I think back, I'm wondering what life would be like if I was more open to opportunity. If I had had more confidence in myself back then.

But confidence is half the battle.

And even though I had a strong support system at home, with a family of personal cheerleaders, it was my personal confidence that was shaky.

I think it was when I embarked on my own in a foreign country that I figured out that I had to suck it up and just do it. If I was ever going to do anything, I just had to do it. Be open to opportunity.

It was slow going at first. Some friends planned a trip to the Czech Republic and the little voices in my head somehow held me back. I gave myself reasons why I shouldn't go. I gave myself excuses. And instead of going to Prague (granted it was a coooold winter), I stayed in town and explored two smaller cities alone. I kind of wish that I had gone.

But as the year went on, I learned to be more open to opportunity. I took some karate lessons and quickly learned that I felt totally ridiculous doing karate. In other words, I learned that it was not my forte.

I took a trip with friends to Vienna. We decided since we were already in Vienna (after a 21-hour bus trip!) we should go see Budapest. So we did. And we found a family that rented out rooms as a mini hostel and on top of that, we sneaked into the orchestra pit of the Budapest National Opera House. I'm not even kidding. Part of me was paranoid that the guards were going to get us (they had big guns, and by guns I mean things that shoot bullets), but I followed my fearless friend Elana, and we looked out into the Opera House. It was an amazing ten seconds.

And all this was possible because I became more open to opportunity.

So what if you turned those earlier questions upside down and said, "Why not me?"

I could.

I can.

Why not try?

Since moving to Dallas, I've let this become my motto. I've had to build an entirely new base of friends and colleagues from scratch. Without knowing a soul. And it wouldn't be possible if I wasn't open to new opportunities. Open to meeting people. Open to chances.

I'm not saying jump blindly into opportunities. But I am saying to consider them. Think about it. Will it cause any harm? Or will it add good to your life?

You never know what opportunity may change your life.

Help you find your joie de vivre.

Be bold. Be brave.

Try new things.

Meet new people.

Be open.

Merci a tous,

22 February 2010

Joyeux Anniversaire!

Tomorrow is my birthday.

I'm not one of those people who necessarily dreads their birthday. I actually enjoy celebrating. However, I do kind of cringe at the idea of getting older.

Not because it's scary.

Or because I haven't accomplished everything that I wanted to by this time.

Or because I'm afraid of aging.

But simply because I can't believe that hitting the age that I only ever imagined being.

I can still remember my favorite birthday celebration. It was my twenty first birthday that was celebrated in Lyon, France while I was studying abroad. My wonderful posse of friends planned an amazing surprise scavenger hunt that involved bar hopping. And when you turn twenty-one in a country with a drinking age of eighteen, and grew up in a country with a drinking age of twenty-one, it was a treat to ring in the milestone birthday!

And it wasn't because I got to drink all night. Because quite frankly, that night I spent hugging la toilette.

It was the thought and the care put into the evening. It was all the careful and meticulous planning by my friends. It was the amazing surprise and that everyone was able to keep secret. It was spending a wonderful evening with wonderful people, eating yummy food and getting adventurous with different kinds of drinks. It was about having fun with people I loved being with. It was the celebration. The jubilation. The feeling.

For the longest time, I had always dreamed of having a surprise birthday party. And for my milestone birthday, I received my wish!

I hope that I can bring that kind of celebration to my loved ones for years to come. Make it special. Make it memorable. Make it fun. It's part of my joie de vivre. Celebrating and expressing love to everyone who is meaningful in my life.

And tomorrow is my birthday.

I can't believe that epic anniversaire in France was six years ago. Sometimes I can remember it like it was just weeks ago.

And now I'm an adult. With a husband. And a house. And a fledgling small business. And a passion for helping others live the life they were meant to live. Little by little, inspiring others to discover what they love, and how they can make it happen.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Joie de vivre. The joy of living.

This is my joy.

Merci a tous,

19 February 2010

Friday Night Reflections: Step 5

Yay, this blog is just over a month old! And it's been a fun journey so far.

So for today's Friday Night Reflection, I'm piggybacking off of yesterday's post on "Pursue Happiness" and thinking about what makes me happy.

What makes you happy? What/who do you love?

I love simple things.

My husband.

My family.

My friends.



Red Velvet Cake.

Beignets from Cafe du Monde.



La vie francaise. The French life.

Salade Lyonnaise. Specialty salad with bacon, poached egg, and vinaigrette from Lyon, France. My favorite salad on earth!

Crepes. Crepes with Nutella and bananas. Mmmm.

The metro. Or the subway in New York.


Photography. Photographing people.


Deep conversations.


What do you love?

Write it down. Let stream of consciousness flow. You might be surprised what you come up with. And maybe a step closer to your joie de vivre.

Bon week-end!

18 February 2010

Pursue Happiness

I think this should be a motto.


Pursue Happiness.

Go in the directions of the life you've always wanted, even if the steps are little. I was talking to a new friend today about this. She just finished her residency for medical school, but also loves photography. She's decided to pursue happiness and only work part time as a doctor, and go towards building a photography business.

I commended her choices. She made a decision. One that I'm sure was not made lightly.

She chose happiness.

And in a world where it's so easy to choose money, notoriety, status (or whatever you want to call it), it can be hard to see why anyone would let go of a "set" life.

She has tapped into her joie de vvire. It's not necessarily medicine. But she is a doctor.

Pursue happiness.

I'm not saying to shirk responsibilities - bills, mortgages, jobs, etc. But find what it is that makes you excited and start taking the steps to dig deeper. Explore it. Does it make you happy? What can you do to add happiness to your life?

Because sometimes, I think while we may be running around trying to get our lives and our money straight, it's easy to neglect our spirits. Are we happy with what we're doing? If not, what can you do to make it better?

How can you get to your joie de vvire?

Pursue it. Find happy.

Merci a tous,

15 February 2010

On Encouragement

One of the most powerful things that we can give to others is encouragement.

Encouragement can change the world. One person at a time.

When I decided that I wanted to study abroad in France, I had the wholehearted encouragement from my family. They assured me that it would be an amazing time. While I had no doubts about this at all, it was so nice to have that kind of back up support, cheering me on my way.

Often, I think encouragement can be overlooked and taken for granted. Like when I get crazy busy or stressed out in my own life, I don't take the time to encourage those around me. Instead, I start looking for points of criticism. And this is where things can take a turn for the worst. I start to join others in speculating "why" something wouldn't work. How it could never happen. What a failure it may be.

Or perhaps, there are times when things aren't going quite as I planned, and I have friend who is experiencing amazing success. There are two paths to choose from.

To criticize. To be jealous. To get upset.


To encourage. To support. To celebrate.

It's all about perspective.

It's easy to criticize. To tear someone done. To look for flaws. To join the masses of people who exist merely to point out all that is less than perfect.

But imagine a world of encouragement. Where everyone was supportive of your success and choices. Where accomplishments are celebrated and dreams are realized. Because of a little encouragement.

In a world filled with doubt and anxiety, a little encouragement can go a long way. In the times when I feel that something just isn't going to work out, a word of encouragement can turn it around. In a moment when I feel like "I just can't anymore," an encouraging hug or sentiment can be just the push that I need to keep going.

It was tough for me to go out on a limb and decide to do what I love. And just go for it. To not have the "safety net" of a regular job and not necessarily knowing where the next paycheck is coming from. And I know that I would have never have done it without the encouragement of family and friends. The encouragement serves as huge source of support to move forward in the direction of my dreams. To find my joie de vivre.

So if you are chasing your dreams, I encourage you.

Go ahead. Reach for it. You will get there.

Encourage someone today. It may be just what they need.

Merci a tous,

12 February 2010

Friday Night Reflections: Step 4

It's said that we are the sum of the five people we surround ourselves with. So if you surround yourself with negative people, you'll undoubtedly be more negative. And if you surround yourself with positive people, you'll be more positive.

I've wondered if this was true.

And I can attest that it is.

I used to work in an office environment where I was very unhappy. And I was surrounded by other people who were unhappy in their jobs as well. We would commiserate about how much our jobs sucked and had a very cynical view of our place in the company.

However, as soon as I freed myself from that situation, I found myself to feel much happier. Freer. Able to be spirited and positive, which is more my nature.

And when I think about that it's astounding. Especially when my friends from my old job have commented about my demeanor. They were so used to me being cynical and frustrated, that when I started feeling more positive and happy in my life, it was strange to them. And that is pretty amazing.

So I ask you for tonight's Friday Night Reflection: Who are the five people you surround yourself with the most?

Do they feed your soul?

Do they suck your soul?

What kind of energy do they feed you? Are they helping you uncover your joie de vivre?

Bon week-end!

11 February 2010

Snowy Recharge

I've only ever experienced snow falling twice in my life. Once in France on my twenty-first birthday. And once today. I woke up to a blanket of snow.

Yes, I've played in snow. Yes, I've gone skiing. But, I've only witnessed snow actually falling twice. And today marks the second time.

I grew up almost my entire life in California. I'm a city girl by nature, and snow is pretty much foreign to me. I don't have an appropriate coat. I don't have waterproof gloves.

And it got me thinking.

What are some of life's little mysteries that you are thankful for?

Granted, it might not be snow for most people, especially with all of the snow dumping on the East Coast! However, I think it prompts a moment to consider what are the little things in life that you love and appreciate?

Is it having coffee and journaling?

Is it the ten minutes of peace and quiet in the morning?

Is it rain or a thunderstorm?

Is it your spouse or significant other looking out for you?

It doesn't matter what it is or how it's manifested, but it's important to think of those things. Take and moment, step back, and say thanks.

I remember the morning of my twenty-first birthday. I heard that it might be snowing. I didn't have class that day, so I bundled up in my "Siberia" coat (that's what my friends and I called our long, down-filled coats), boots, and gloves, and headed outside. I took the metro and the funiculaire up to Notre Dame de Fourviere (Our Lady of Fourviere), a huge cathedral in the hills of Lyon, overlooking the entire city.

It was beautiful.

I was by myself, with time to think, and reflect on my birthday, and it was wonderful.

I think sometimes we just need a little quiet time by ourselves. To reflect. To think freely. To recharge.

Life moves too quickly. With the constant barrage of information from social media, the Internet, television, from our friends and family, it can be hard to keep up. I know that I struggle with this. I'm constantly distracted by things that are online, following people on Twitter, reading blogs, a pinging iPhone, and everything in between It can be hard to focus on what makes us happy because we are so busy making others happy.

And while there's nothing wrong with that, it's wonderful to help others and make other happy, there will come a moment when we realize that we have to take care of ourselves too. In order to be able to fully serve others, we must attend to ourselves as well.

The other night I was totally exhausted. I spent the whole day at a workshop learning and improving my skills to build a great business. But at the end of the day, my brain was just friend. I wanted to catch up with all the things that I had missed during the day, such as emails and blogs, but I could hardly form a sentence. My husband looked at me and saw how tired I was, and suggested that I go to bed.

And with a little bit of resistance, I finally surrendered and headed to bed. Because I wasn't doing anyone, especially myself, any good. I had to take care of myself. And he recognized that. And that's why I love him.

With a fresh mind and a fresh perspective, I am better able to serve others. I am better able to blog here. I am able to refocus on my joie de vivre.

Do you need to recharge? Do you need to attend to yourself?

This will help you get clear on what your joie de vivre is.

Merci a tous,

08 February 2010

What do you love to do?

I was asked today what I enjoy doing in my spare time.

What do I love to do? And you know what? I totally struggled answering the question, which seemed strange to me. I know what I like to do, so why couldn't I answer the question succinctly?

Why was identifying what I love to do a difficult question?

Could you answer the question without hesitation?

The question stemmed from a conversation about how to start building a new network after having moved to a new location away from family and friends. Because that is the boat that I am in. I moved to Texas about six months ago from California. My husband has been living in Texas for the last three years and it was finally time to be int he same place at the same time after we got married in July. It was a huge move for me. Especially since I was moving away from everyone I knew to a place where I knew no one.

We brainstormed ways to meet new people.

So I was asked what I love to do.

Well, I love reading, but I know that a book club is just not for me. I enjoy reading for the love of reading and learning people's stories.

I love watching movies, but movie-watching isn't the most social activity. And I also would not be into a film club, analyzing movies and plots. I just like to watch movies for the entertainment factor.

I also love to write posts and read blogs, and are an AMAZING resource for meeting anywhere in the world. However, meeting people in person is more difficult through blogs, unless bloggers are upfront about their location.

After we hashed out some ideas, this question stuck with me.

Then I really thought about it. Like really thought out about. And it hit me.

One of my most favorite pastimes is simply spending time chatting and talking about life. Being social in a one-on-one setting. Learning someone's story and what drives them. Learning what they love and what inspires them. Evolving an acquaintance into a friend.

I remember when I was studying abroad in France, this was what I did all the time. And it's almost like France is totally designed for it--what with the outdoor cafes, park benches, and town squares--it's an amazing playground for talking and building relationships.

And if I was going to have any friends to hang out with that year, it was a must. I couldn't be shy. I couldn't be a recluse. I had to get to know people. And I learned that I loved it. I loved listening to all the stories. I love listening to everyone's experiences.

So what do you love to do?

What is it deep down that feeds your soul and gets you excited?

This is an important and necessary step in finding and identifying your joie de vivre.

The joy of living. What is it that you love?

If you don't know, or can't name it concretely, start thinking.

Merci a tous,

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05 February 2010

Friday Night Reflections: Step 3

I recently attended a "life" workshop presented by the awesome Justin & Mary Marantz from Connecticut. They really emphasized the importance of having a balanced life, if we're ever to enjoy our lives at all.

One of the things they touched upon was writing down goals. They included a shocking statistic that only 20% (I believe of Americans) have goals. In life. Period. And of that only 4% WRITE down their goals.

I first started a goals list in 2007 with a 101 in 1001 list. This is a list of 101 goals to accomplish in 1001 days (which is about 3 years and some change). It's a fun list to make if you've never actually written down your goals before. My list included learning to cook, traveling to New York City, and meeting some well-known photographers.

And something that I've been doing only since early 2008 has been writing down my goals. And not just a list, but SMART goals, meaning specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. So instead of just having a list floating out in the world, you have a specific list of things to accomplish, with milestones that will confirm you completed your goals.

There's a statistic that says that if you write down your goals, you are 80% more likely to achieve them. (Sorry, no sources...)

Writing them down is only the first part. You must also review your goals and reassess your progress. When I've done this, I've surprised myself with how much I have accomplished.

So go ahead. Start with a list of 10 SMART goals.

Maybe your joie de vivre is on that list.


PS, if you're wondering how to pronounce joie de vivre, it's [jwa deh vive-re].

03 February 2010

Don't wait for perfect

I think "perfect" is a myth. It doesn't really exist. Just ask a perfectionist. Nothing is ever perfect.

I was reading a post on Marc and Angel Hack Life, called "Less than Perfect is the Perfect Start." They talk about how there is no "perfect" time to start a project, so just start it. Waiting around until everything is set and ready and "doing it right" will just delay the start. Fear of failure paralyzes progress.

Marc says to his friend, “The only way you can fail is by not writing – by waiting around until you have the perfect plan before you start.  Because ‘perfect’ doesn’t exist.  It isn’t human.  It isn’t you."

This is so true.

I remember when I started my wedding photography blog. At first I had started a Blogger blog, but after some time I knew that if I wanted to really pursue it, I would have to buy my own domain name. The fear of messing up held me back. There was something about purchasing a domain name and hosting service that scared me. I know, they make it so easy nowadays, but I wanted to get it "right" and "perfect" which was just silly.

So I bought my domain name. I scoured the internet for how to redirect my domain name to my Blogger blog. And I did it. I was able to go to WPPI (huge convention and tradeshow for professional photographers) with my business card in hand with my own domain name on it. Woo hoo!

After returning from my first WPPI experience, I knew that I had to start hosting my own blog and make it look pretty. With some deep reflection, I knew that my Blogger blog just wasn't reflecting me quite right. I was trying to be who I thought others thought I should be. I got stuck in the "What should I be doing?" and "What is everyone else doing?"

So instead of waiting for the perfect moment to launch my new blog, I worked furiously over two weeks and pulled the trigger. Check it out. This was almost a year ago. And while it's still not "perfect" and I don't think it ever will be anywhere close to perfection, it's so much closer to who I am as a person and photographer. 

And I'll admit it. The same thing happened to me before I launched my website. I was waiting to get it "right" and "perfect" until I got the wake up call that it was a silly expectation to myself. I got it to where I needed it to be, and said "Let's do this!"

I think waiting for "perfect" is an easy way out of pursuing your dreams. There is no perfect. Accept the idea of "good enough" and strive for excellence. Something excellent may not be "perfect" but it's still excellent. And in school, getting an "A" stands for "Excellent"!

So if you've been dreaming about writing a blog, start writing.

If you've been thinking about photography, start taking photos.

If you've been wanting to read a new book, go pick it up from the library or bookstore.

There's no time like the present to start exploring your joie de vivre.

That's how I started this blog. At the encouragement of two amazing people, and support from seventeen others, I just started writing. I almost got caught up in trying to find a name for this project, but Lara Casey and Jeff Holt encouraged me to just start. Start it up and finding the name would be a part of the journey. That's how I came to "Project: Joie de Vivre". This is a work in progress that is just starting to unfold.

So what's holding you back?

Is it trying to to get something perfect before starting? Hey, failure happens. But then you'll be ten steps ahead to get to the next goal!

Don't wait for perfect.

Just start.

Merci a tous,

01 February 2010

Failure Happens

I know, I'll be the first to admit that I fear failure. In fact, I hate even thinking about failure. But, as anyone chasing after their dreams, whether it be a small business, blogging, traveling, or whatever your passion is, failure happens.

And, it's a necessary part of the process.

"QUOI?!" What? "Quel horreur!" The horror!

Let's keep it real folks. I'm not telling your that you are going to fail. But failure happens. And that's when you learn the most.

I distinctly remember the first time that I was at a cafe in Paris. I was freshly off the airplane, still jet lagged, feeling homesick, and around a bunch of strangers. I was vulnerable. I was weak. And I sure as heck didn't want to look like a fool.

I had a few Euros, but was still not too sure about the exchange rate. The typical Parisian cafe is NOT Starbucks. You order. Your order is brought to you. And then your bill. There's typically no physical menu (those that do are usually catering to tourists, and not necessarily a tourist trap), and you just order. So I took a cue from the girls that I was with. They were ordering cafe cremes (espresso with cream) and cafe (espresso straight up with a cube of sugar). I wasn't feeling so hot and just wanted water. But I also didn't want to look foolish/cheap and just ask for une carafe d'eau (a bottle of tap water). So I ordered what I thought was bottled water.

"Je voudrais un Vichy s'il vous plait."

Why I didn't just suck it up and order an Evian is beyond me. Maybe because I didn't want to look like a tourist who associated French water with Evian. I wanted to seem knowledgeable, so I ordered a Vichy. I could have just ordered a Coke too!

Note to readers: Vichy is a type of sparkling water. Which would be fine if I actually liked sparkling water.

So there I sat, in a Parisian cafe, with my overpriced drink, despising myself for ordering the wrong thing. Drink ordering: FAIL.

But that was a total lesson learned for 2 Euros and bubbly water. I figured out that day that I should have gone to the Monoprix (kind of like Target with food), and just bought bottled water sans gaz (without bubbles). Or, I should have just sucked it up and ordered the carafe d'eau, which I did every other time I was at a restaurant or at a cafe not ordering coffee.

Okay, I know, that's not something huge like a business failure. Or running out of money. Or sounding like a fool on the phone to a prospective client. Or screwing up an order and having to reassure your client you know what you are doing.

But failure is also a learning opportunity. Even the best business people weren't born with an innate sense of business. It's learned. Through trial and error. Through failures and successes. I heard the saying the other day that the definition of success is "Falling seven times and getting up eight." It makes sense right?

I think fear of failure is a normal thing. It starts from a young age, when we freak out about a test, and the potential of failure. Failure is constantly and consistently frowned upon from the time we start school through our professional lives with our managers. We are expected to succeed 101% of the time.

But all that success doesn't come without some stumbling here and there. It's not like you can press the "I want to succeed today" button and be done with it. Success comes with hard work, smart work, and lots of hustle.

It's not like your joie de vivre is going to be served up on a silver platter with a note that says, "Here you go, have a blast!" A real passion takes time to be discovered. It takes work. It takes endless nights of self introspection and asking yourself, "What lights a fire in my life?"

And it may take a couple of tries. It may take a couple of projects. Some may fail, but imagine what success could look like.

For someone like me, who has been paralyzed by the fear of failure, I'm taking a page from my dear friend, Lara Casey, "FEEL THE FEAR, and DO IT ANYWAY."

If you fail, you'll know what it looks like. You'll be able to know how not to do that again. You'll be able to know how to make it better. How to fix it. How to make progress.

Trust me, these are things I have to tell myself. All. the time. When I fail, I dust myself off, and figure it out. Try again. Do it again. Because I know that I'll be able to find a better solution. I will have learned from my mistakes to create something amazing.

Failure happens. It's okay to fail. Imagine all the lessons you can learn and become so much better for it.

Your joie de vivre will thank you for it.

Merci a tous,