Everyone wants to know what the key to happiness is or how we live the best lives possible. I’ve been on this Earth long enough to know that I’ll never know the complete answer to that question. But I can tell you this, gratitude makes everything brighter.

I’m a color girl. I have bright orange glasses and more crazy, colorful leggings than I care to admit. Making life brighter is in my nature. I want to make life brighter for my husband and kids, for my friends and family, for strangers, and for myself. I’ve been on a mission of sorts to figure how to do exactly this. I’ve come across so many incredible ideas and thoughts on this and they all seem to boil down to gratitude.

Choosing to be grateful, choosing to find the joys in the everyday, choosing to see the gifts we are given on a regular basis… even if they seem small or trite. Especially when they seem small or trite.

I decided I was going to start a gratitude project for myself. To help me to find the joys in the small things and live a life of gratitude so I could make the world a little brighter. At first, this was just for me… I wasn’t necessarily planning on sharing it, but I decided that if I can help just one person be reminded that there is good in the world, it was worth it to share. I’m calling it “A Gratitude Story | Mar’s Gratitude Project.” Only those who know me well call me Mar, and this is such a personal project I’m sharing, I felt like that was appropriate. My heart also talks through photographs, so for me, my gratitude project is done through photos. Each photo tells the story of something I am grateful for – some stories will be clearly evident (Frosted Sugar Cookie Creamer, you are the best seasonal item ever!), while others have so much more of a story behind them. Some photos are taken with my camera, while others are taken with my phone. This is about choosing to see the good and being thankful for it every single day.

What it comes down to is that (in the words of my favorite author of all time, Brene Brown) “we are wired for story.” And this story is one I want to live day in and day out. A gratitude story.

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  • October 10, 2016 - 7:19 pm

    Janie - You are on my gratitude list today! ReplyCancel

  • October 23, 2016 - 7:58 am

    wilmacobb - So many to thank on my list. My life is filled with family and friends who keep me going and make my life worthwhile.ReplyCancel

Stories are my favorite.

I love to ask about stories – whether I’m with friends, family, clients, whoever it may be, I want to hear your story. What is it that makes you you? What makes your heart go pitter-patter? What makes you laugh? What brings you to your knees? And my favorite thing about stories is that everyone’s is different. Shoot, even the same story told from different points of view is going to be different.

That is what gets my heart going crazy — telling stories. Whether they are big deal stories like a wedding, or smaller (but still oh, so wonderful) stories like a day in the life… I love to grab them, to freeze them, and to share them.

Here are some of my personal favorites from the sweet story of the day Jessie and Garrett got married.

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Second Shooter: Lea Ann Byrne Photography

Venue: Brookside Gardens

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“You are my today and all of my tomorrows.”
~Leo Christopher

Engagement sessions are always so inspiring to me because people in love are just the best. These two were no exception. To top it off, they were so excited to do a Day in the Life Engagement session, which had me jumping for joy. If you’re a reader of my blog, you know my heart and soul is in Day in the Life sessions, so this was so fantastic. When I chatted with Matt & Molly about why they love each other and what they wanted to do for the shoot, everything was just so smooth and natural. One of my favorite questions to ask couples is what silly little quirks about their partner do they find most endearing and Matt talked about Molly’s lip-syncing abilities (which I was so happy to witness!), while Molly talked about Matt’s movie quoting. Everything with these two was just so easy. The way they work together, laugh together, and just be together. And the way Matt looks at Molly just slays me. Love is so awesome.

Matt and Molly wanted to cook together and it ended up working out that a lot of family was able to join them, which was so fabulous. They cooked, hung out, took a walk together, and then even had a little private concert on the deck by their brother-in-law. What a perfect summer evening.

Meet Matt & Molly:

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  • June 30, 2016 - 2:09 pm

    Jamie Fischer - These are way too good Maren! I love how honest they are. <3ReplyCancel

  • July 1, 2016 - 1:23 am

    Molly - Maren! Thank you so much for capturing the day for us – as little Ally would say, “I don’t like these photos… I LOVE these photos!!” You pretty dang good with a camera!!

    Can’t wait for October and the big day! ❤️ReplyCancel

  • August 28, 2016 - 6:28 pm

    Cathy Donahue - Molly, these pictures are wonderful? Looking forward to meeting “Mr. Matt”ReplyCancel

Tomorrow I will have a 10 year old. TEN. Double digits, people. I woke up this morning with this crazy feeling that today is her last day of being 9. Tomorrow she will have been on this spinning, crazy Earth for an entire decade. Now, I’m normally not one to get super mushy or sad over these things, but seriously?! Time, please slow down.

I’ve been thinking about this blog for awhile now, wanting to write it because it’s something we all think about and sometimes wish to do (while, sometimes I just want time to hurry the crap up — like sometimes bedtime, if we’re being honest here). I couldn’t find the motivation to just sit down and write until this morning and the thought of EmJ’s birthday tomorrow smacking me right in the face. As the brain often does, I think it’s been writing this blog in my head for awhile and now my little fingers are just rushing across this keyboard. So, here we go…

I’m going to tell you just how the heck to slow down time.

Some of this may seem backwards or even contradictory… but it’s not. So, read on (or don’t, whateva) and let’s do this.

1. STOP WISHING FOR THE FUTURE

It’s so easy to look ahead and waaaaant this or that. It’s so easy to get caught up in the, “5 years down the road” ideas, but we’ve got to chill that out. Of course get out and dream and be excited about the future, but we have to quit wishing it here already.

A single woman in her 20s is sitting right now wondering why the freak she isn’t dating someone amazing as all her friends are getting married and even having babies. But girl, you have right now to do whatever you want. Live in that! Enjoy the today and go move to New Zealand for a year.

An engaged couple is planning, planning, planning for their big day and YES, please be excited about that day! But, remember today too. Leave the phones at home and go on a date with your fiancé! It’s a small window of time that you have a fiancé… and it’s super cool.

A married couple is wondering what the freak is next. What if they aren’t ready for kids? Or they really want them, but things aren’t panning out how they planned? Stop and go play some mini golf and head to a brewery. Or take a coffee tour of Seattle. Or spend a lazy weekend watching movies. Remember that tomorrow will take care of itself and have fun today.

New parents are exhausted because babies… and are wishing this kid would just sit up already or sleep already (can I get an amen?!) or walk already or be ok away from mom for 7 seconds already. I get it. I really do. But, once they are doing those things, you’ll miss this time. So take a break from wishing for that future and enjoy this moment right now and smell that newborn head as much as possible because soon it’ll smell like stinky kid.

Parents of toddlers are hiding in the laundry room eating chocolate (keep doing that, it helps with your sanity) wishing their kid would just play by himself for 4 minutes. But relish that sweet toddler voice, the wobbly running, the silly words they have that you can’t dream of correcting because it’s so freaking cute. Soon they’ll figure it out and a regular “no, thank you” isn’t nearly as adorable as “nee-naw-nuuu.”

Parents of kiddos are tired of breaking up fights between siblings and arguing about emptying the dishwasher. Go play some Candy Land or Guess Who and look at that sweet smile. Wrestle Mania in the living room and dance party in the kitchen. Soon, they’ll be teenagers and that stuff won’t be so cool.

Parents of teenagers, well, ’nuff said. You just want the hormones to balance the heck out. But listen, yes, the angst, the tears, the mood swings.. and also the freakin coolest kids around. They are so fun at this age. Go shopping, just chat, make a pie together, shoot some hoops, go to Water World. They may pretend they don’t want you around, but they do. And watching them grow into who they are supposed to be is pretty freakin rad.

I could go on, but for real. Stop wishing for the future and remember the now is pretty great (mostly).

2. BE PRESENT IN THE NOW

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
~Annie Dillard

I feel like this is one of those things we all strive to do, but if I’m being real, it’s hard. After hearing “Mom” 87 times or having your text bing 36 times in a row or hearing that email notification pop up again or… we get overwhelmed. Sometimes we think we have to just do-all-the-things-right-now-or-we-will-spontaneously-combust. But really, we won’t.

Do you know what an internet minute is? It’s that, “just let me check Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Google/SnapChat/What the Freak Ever is Next real quick” and that “real quick” turns into an hour and a half. That’s an internet minute. And I hate to admit that I am so guilty of taking those… a lot. But guess what? All that stuff will be there later (maybe when you’re getting 3 minutes of real peace on the toilet… wishful thinking?), including the housework and the weeds that need to be picked. But your girlfriend who really needs to have coffee with you might not be so ready to open and share her heart tomorrow. Your husband might be sad you didn’t watch that movie with him. Your kids might not want to color with sidewalk chalk later. But now, they do. So be present.

Be intentional with your time.

We all have stuff we need to do and saying no is ok! Please don’t get me wrong… but be intentional. If it’s time to work, set time aside to work. If you want 15 minutes to look online, take it. When you want to bake cookies with the kids, put the phone down and do it (and God bless you because flour and sugar and kids is messssy, but fun!). Date night with the spouse — leave the phone in your purse and just enjoy being together. And nights with your friends? Live it up, laugh til your stomach hurts, and be present.

3. GIVE YOURSELF SOME GRACE

The days are long, but the years are short.

This one I want to shout from the rooftops. Please, please, please be as gentle and kind to yourself as you are to others. This thing we call life isn’t a cake walk. Some days are amazing (laying on a floaty in the pool all day? Yes?) and some days we wonder how we even made it through.

That’s normal.

Realize that you will mess up. You are human. You won’t always live in the moment and you won’t always be the best you. But guess what? Choose to start over on those days. Don’t even wait until tomorrow to start over. Do it now. Go grab some ice cream or doughnuts or beer or whatever your vice is, indulge, and then pick yourself up by your boot straps and move on.

Relationships are hard work. I don’t care if it’s with your friends, your spouse, your boyfriend, your parents, your kids, whatever… they are ALL hard. And there will be days you don’t like anyone (including yourself, amiright?) — that is real life. But stop and remember we are all human. We all struggle and we all smile in the same language. Even you. Quit being so hard on yourself and quit the dang shame. Ain’t no shame.

You aren’t perfect… instead, you are enough and that is way better.

4. CAPTURE WHAT YOU LOVE

This isn’t some oh, look at me the photographer, now let me take your picture. I mean, duh, I would love to, but that’s not what I’m saying here.

Just capture your story. Use your phone, use a polaroid (THEY ARE BACK AND SO AWESOME!), use a fancy camera, whatever. But capture the story you are living cause it is super rad. And please don’t let that story live on your phone or computer… print those suckers. Did I mention the polaroid?!

Get in the photos too (I’m lookin at you). We all have things we don’t love about ourselves and especially women tend to ease away from the camera cause they don’t want this or that on film. Guess what? Your kids will see YOU holding their hand, kissing their cheek, running with them, laughing with them… they’ll see emotions and they’ll love it. Your man will see you looking at him in that way that just oozes the love and he’ll melt. Your friends will see you laughing and feel all the feelings. Get in the pictures.

And every once in awhile, have someone else take some for you — you’ll get to see your family, your interactions, your love in a different way. And you’ll love it.

Remember when I said print your photos? For real. Do it.

Life is crazy, but there are some real ways you can make time slow down. Try it.

And because my heart speaks in photographs much better than it does in words, a few recent photos of our almost 10 year old being exactly who she is right now.

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  • May 25, 2016 - 11:02 am

    Larissa - 10?!!!?!!!???? What the heck! But boy is she growing up!! Thank you for the reminders on how to slow things down… I have found my heart wanting to speed things up so I needed to hear this. You rock! Love you!!ReplyCancel

  • May 25, 2016 - 11:15 am

    Ashley - Web. Tears. This was beautiful and so true. Our children get one childhood. Yours are so blessed to call you mommy. Thanks for being real. I love you and all of yours!ReplyCancel

  • May 25, 2016 - 11:45 am

    Mandy - You are truly one of the sweetest humans on the planet. I love this post & your outlook on life! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • May 25, 2016 - 8:31 pm

    Kimmi - Love… Tears and all the feels. Love your heart, that girl, and this blog!ReplyCancel

  • May 25, 2016 - 8:46 pm

    Lindsey - Maren you are so wise. And funny. And eloquent. Happy 10th birthday to your MiniYou!
    This was a wonderful read and rings true no matter who you are! I have spent so many years being the “what’s next” girl. Too many. But that’s done with now, so it’s time to move on and resolve each new day to look to the future, yes, but also enjoy today. Thank you for that. Love you, friend!ReplyCancel

  • May 27, 2016 - 12:06 pm

    Marie Masse - Those works spoke right to my soul, Maren! I am 100% guilty looking to the future TOO much. Thanks for the reminder 🙂ReplyCancel