Needs Must

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The British have a saying (at least I think it’s British – I never heard it before I moved here): “Needs must.”

You use it the same way you’d use, “Gotta do what you gotta do.”

Like, “I’d really like to buy a new dress for that party, but my kid needs new school shoes. Needs must.”

Or, “I’d love to go see Beyoncé next weekend, but I promised my in-laws I’d come round for dinner. Needs must.”

I was the daughter of a small-town Baptist preacher and a stay-at-home mom. I don’t remember ever going hungry, but I wore the discount store version of every trend that surfaced from 1992-1999.

Adidas Sambas? K-Mart special.

Abercrombie jeans? Faded Glory.

Keds? “Treds”.

In every one of my elementary school pictures, I’m wearing a homemade dress. And I don’t begrudge my mom one thread of it, because she took what she had and made the best of it. I got your “Make it work” right here, Tim Gunn.

Needs must, but wants rarely did.

When Simon and I first got married, I used to trawl the grocery store for deals. 60 pence for day-after-its-use-by-date lettuce? SCORE! Slightly green steaks for £2? I’ll take ‘em!

When I’d bring home my sad bag of groceries, Simon would frown as he unloaded them into the fridge. “Faith,” he’d say. “We’re on two incomes. It’s good to save money, but we can find a better way to do it.”

Over the years, I’ve gotten a bit better at spending money when it’s okay to, and saving where we can. But over and over, I keep coming back to that part of me that panics about buying anything that’s not a necessity. Yes, we only have two tiny saucepans, and none big enough to cook enough pasta for our whole family in, but do we really need a big saucepan? Do we need pasta? No we do not. We can eat rice. It’s tiny.

Sure, a cat weed on our welcome mat and I had to throw it away, and now we track dirt and leaves through our front door five times a day, but do we need a welcome mat? No, we do not. I will just Hoover more often. It’s not like I have anything else to do.

Let me tell you something about being a parent: you will do anything to make sure your kids have everything they need. You will hand-sew them dresses for school pictures. You will eat carrot sticks for lunch so they can have the leftover spaghetti because they need the protein. And sometimes, if they are desperate for a Woody doll, you will use baking soda for deodorant and shampoo and kitchen cleaner for a month just so you can see their squishy little face light up when they see Woody’s hat poking out of their Christmas stocking. Because it makes you happy to see them happy.

And that is what I can’t quite get my head around when it comes to my Father. Needs must. Daily bread. I get it. But wants? Adidas Sambas? Four-litre saucepans?

Good dads provide for their children. They meet their needs. And sometimes, they show up with a shiny new football or a chocolate bar, or an ugly-as-sin 1988 Mazda 323 with no radio or side mirror, but gosh dangit if it is not the best thing your 16-year-old self has ever seen.

So I guess that’s where I am right now. Knowing what it looks like to be a parent, and trying to wrap my head around a Father who cares about the needs of all His children, and still has time to pick out a welcome mat.

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Know how you want to change the world?

You can start right now.

Give what you can to a cause that needs you & win a one-on-one consulting session with me.

Everyone has heard of the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Even if you’re like me and don’t watch the nightly news religiously, you can’t miss it on Facebook or twitter. If you need to catch up, I suggest you read this.

Ebola is spreading at an alarming rate and terrorising entire African communities.

The Raining Season is a group who has been serving the orphans of Sierra Leone for years. And now that Ebola has hit they are continuing to serve the community there and are on the ground providing real-time help.

I’m a dreamer, and so are you. But even though we believe the world can be better, we sometimes get overwhelmed with just what to do. Here’s the answer: we can give ourselves to something bigger. Would you consider donating to The Raining Season as they are working directly with this issue? Even $5 can make a difference.

Every person who donates to Help Stop Ebola can enter for a chance to win a Storm Session with me valued at $100. Just leave me a comment or tell me on social media that you donated and I will enter you into the drawing that will happen Tuesday, October 7th.

Every donation helps – small or large. I’m glad we’re partnering to change the world – we can do so much more together than we can do alone.

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When Your Invitation Gets Lost in the Mail

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In high school, there was an abandoned school bus in the woods where kids would go to party.

Apparently.

I tell my friends in England about it because they can’t believe how American it is. A school bus! In the woods! Did people drink from red plastic cups? Did the cheerleaders wear their uniforms and make out with the football players like in the movies?

This is the part where I’m forced to admit that I don’t know.

My Monday mornings in high school looked a lot like this: I sat down at my desk in Mrs. Cannady’s homeroom, pulled out the homework I was supposed to have done over the weekend, and scribbled down answers as I eavesdropped on the kids behind me talking about The Bus.

I was never invited. Is it the kind of thing you get a formal invitation to? Either way, I never knew about it until Monday morning. And even though I wouldn’t have gone (probably), I would’ve liked to feel like I could have if I wanted to. I didn’t even know where The Bus was.

When I tell the story now, I mention that the fact that my dad was the preacher at the biggest church in town might have had something to do with it. That the reason my invitation got lost in the mail was that if the preacher’s daughter showed up, then the likelihood of everyone’s parents finding out what was going on in the woods increased by about 1000%. And maybe that was it.

Maybe.

But for 16-year-old me, sitting in that desk in Mrs. Cannady’s room, those overheard conversations might as well have been, “We didn’t tell Faith about it because she’s weird and fat and ugly, and we hate her.”

Fast-forward 16 years, and although nearly everything has changed, when I scroll through Instagram and land on a picture of girls I know at a party that I didn’t get invited to? I can hear those Bus stories all over again. Except now The Bus is The Pub or The Cinema or My 30th Birthday Party.

I think we think we should be invincible. We think that when we’re grown up and know who we are, it shouldn’t hurt anymore when we’re forgotten and uninvited. But it does. It still does.

It always does.

The difference is not that we suddenly don’t care whether we’re invited or not. It’s just that when the initial sting wears off, we know that our absence from The Bus says nothing about who we are. And that when we’re uninvited, we can throw our own freaking party.

 

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5 Things Not to Freak Out About When You Have Your Second Child

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I’ve been pretty open about the fact that the first six months of life with two kids were pretty challenging. If you’re in the trenches right now – or are about to be – there are a few things I want you not to freak out about. Ready? Here we go.

1. Your older child has turned into the spawn of Satan. 

Before I had Koa, everyone kept telling me that Adlai might be jealous at first. When Koa was born, Adlai LOVED him. I mean serious, intense, bone-crushing love. I was like, “No way this kid is jealous.”

But.

BUT.

As sweet as he was to Koa, he was meeeeannn to me. We were best friends before Koa was born, and I felt like I’d lost my best friend. It was honestly heartbreaking. I just kept thinking, “What has happened to my sweet boy?”

After a few weeks, Adlai returned to his normal sweet self. And a year and a half later, he’s had a few little blips, but he’s TOTALLY my sweet boy again. (And yours will be too.)

2. You’re not head-over-heels in love with your new baby.

I remember sitting in our living room chair when Koa was three days old while he laid swaddled on the ottoman. Simon was sitting on the couch and I was crying.

“I mean, I love him, I just…I don’t know if I love him.”

I wish someone had told me this was normal. I felt incredibly guilty and hopeless. But really, it makes sense. I’d had two years and four months to fall in love with Adlai, and here was this new squishy baby that was supposed to make me go all warm and gooey inside…except I couldn’t imagine how I could ever feel about him the way I felt about his brother.

But I do. Now, I look at them each several times a day, individually, and think my heart is going to explode out of my chest. It was a slow, gradual thing with Koa. And sometimes – like in the middle of his four-hour-long colic-induced screaming fits in the first few months – I was convinced it was never going to happen.

But it did. I totally love him.

3. You’re pretty sure you’re never going to work, or write, or sew, or cook, or clean the bathroom again.

Golly Pete. I get this one.

Here’s some advice someone gave me, that I’m giving you: Give yourself one goal every day.

ONE.

And don’t go crazy. Maybe it’s “Make dinner.” or “Get dressed.” or “Wash the dishes” (whoa! take it easy there, High Achiever!). And if you get that one thing done, reward yourself with a massive brownie or a glass of wine. Seriously. These first few weeks and months can be ridiculous, and the learning curve of life with one kid to life with two is a steep one. So give yourself so much grace, and listen to me:

IT WILL GET BETTER. I promise you. And not even that far from now (even though I know it feels like it).

4. You never get out of the house before lunchtime.

Who cares? Get out when you can. But do try to get out every once in a while, even if it’s just to walk around the block. It does wonders for your sanity.

5. Your big kid suddenly watches several hours of tv a day. 

A few days before Koa was born, one of my friends sent me a message that said, “Adlai will watch a LOT of CBeebies (the BBC’s kids’ channel, for you Americans) in the first few weeks. Don’t worry. He will be okay.”

Up until then, Adlai had been allowed about an hour of tv a day. Yeah…that went out the window pretty fast as I had to figure out how to keep him occupied while I paced around the house trying to get Koa to sleep, breastfed him every two hours, took a freaking shower.

My friend was right. He watched a lot of CBeebies (thank you, CBeebies! I love you so much and you saved my life!). And he is still incredibly intelligent and funny and sociable and well-adjusted.

Finally, if you take nothing else away from this post, please take this:

IT GETS BETTER.

People told me this in those first few days. “Wait till he’s six months!” they said, and I literally thought, “I DON’T KNOW IF I’M GOING TO MAKE IT TO SIX MONTHS.”

But it did get a little easier at six months. And then it got a LOT easier at a year. And now, at almost 18 months later, it is so, so much easier. Fun, even. So hang in there. Don’t freak out.

It gets better.

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Jess & Molly | Best Friends Shoot

 

Remember Jess? When I took her portraits a couple of months ago, she mentioned really wanting some photos with her best friend, Molly. We finally got around to doing them last week, and it was so much fun because a) these girls are hilarious and up for anything, and b) they’re GREAT models.

Jess has a soft, ultra-feminine style, and Molly has a more edgy look. I called this our woodland fairy shoot.  Molly insisted she wasn’t fairy-like, but Jess and I assured her she’s a rock and roll fairy (which, let’s be honest, is an awesome kind to be).

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I won’t be ashamed of my story.

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Nearly five years ago, when Simon and I first moved back to England, we lived with his parents. It was supposed to be for a month, but it turned into five, as it took longer – a lot longer – than we’d expected for us to find proper jobs.

After a couple of months, when our savings account was empty and we were tired of watching daytime tv, we decided we needed to get jobs of any kind, just to give ourselves a reason to get out of bed every morning. Simon started working with a guy we knew who ran a landscaping business, and I got a job in Starbucks.

Sometimes, when people I knew came into the shop, I ducked into the kitchen. And I didn’t write much during those months. I certainly didn’t write about being a barista. And I want to kick myself about it now. Because why was I so ashamed?

In the four years since my Starbucks stint, I have been a communications officer for a non-profit, a stay-at-home mom, a freelance copywriter, and a self-employed photographer. Right now, I am sitting in a coffee shop writing this blog post. Last weekend, I was in France shooting a wedding. If you’d told that girl steaming milk in a green apron that she’d be shooting a wedding in France in four years, she would have laughed at you.

I wish I’d written more about those days in Starbucks, because they were part of my story. And although they didn’t feel very significant at the time, they do now. When I think about it, it only makes me feel grateful and happy that so much has happened in such a short number of years. That I’m in the process of being brave and living out a dream.

Maybe if I’d known what was coming, I could have enjoyed that season more.

Maybe.

But I want to make a promise here and now that I won’t be ashamed of where I am anymore. I want to do so much more than I’m doing now. To live out my dreams and make an impact and bring beauty and love to the world. It’d be easy to look at my work and my life now and, instead of seeing all the beauty that’s in it right this very moment, only see where it falls short.

Well, I won’t. I won’t be ashamed anymore. I’m living a life of Love, and Love writes a beautiful story.

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Easy, Healthy Chocolate

Before I start this, can I just talk about how hard it is to do food photography when you have two small children?

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Most of my attempts looked like this…with someone’s tiny limb in the frame. I know of food bloggers with small children, so I say hats off to you ladies.

Now…let’s get down to the business of CHOCOLATE.

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If you’re like me, you need something sweet after dinner. Problem is, we live way too close to the corner shop, and there is always some massive Cadbury bar on sale for £1. It is a dangerous situation. So, when I need a chocolate fix and I don’t want to throw all my healthy eating down the drain, I make up these little beauties.

You guys, they are easy. And healthy. Simon says they’re so healthy you get more healthy the more of them you eat, but I wouldn’t take it that far.

Here’s what you need:

Equal parts coconut oil, cocoa powder, and honey (raw is best, but normal will do). 

That’s it.

I use about 1/4 cup of each and that makes as many as you see in the photo.

Method

Heat the three ingredients on low, low, low heat in a saucepan. You’re not cooking it, you’re just combining it. So heat them while stirring until smooth, and then pour equal amounts into the cups of a silicon muffin pan. They’re pretty rich, so you don’t want to make them too big. Trust me.

Here’s the fun part – toppings! You can add just about anything you want, to your own taste. I’ve done coarse sea salt and chilli flakes, raisins and walnuts, dried coconut, rosemary and sea salt…the possibilities are endless!

Stick in the freezer, and they’ll be set in about an hour. Pop them out and enjoy! And if you want to eat all six, you know, that’s okay….they’ll probably make you skinny.

*If you don’t have a silicon muffin pan, you could pour the mixture out onto parchment paper on a baking pan, and then break it apart when it solidifies.

 

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