How To: Plan a 10-Year High School Reunion

pva 03 reunion photobooth

Two Saturdays ago, I made my way back to my home city of Houston, TX to attend my high school ten-year reunion. I stopped at an IHOP in Cypress to wait out a giant, thrashing rainstorm on the way into Houston, and made conversation with my server. He was flabbergasted that I was old enough to go to a reunion. (The benefits of looking young, ladies and gentlemen.) Indeed, I almost didn’t believe that I’d been out of high school for a decade already.

I was actually the main organizer of this reunion! My high school was small; it had no real student government (or even a football team, which is unheard of in Texas). So it surprised even me that I, a nerdy art kid, was the one who stepped up to the plate and started organizing. Last year, I talked to some Class of 2002 friends who’d flown in for their reunion, and they acknowledged: “Someone just takes charge and starts organizing it. No one is appointed; it just happens.”

And I might have mused out loud, “I can do this! I can be the one!”

…While I don’t regret that decision, I wish I hadn’t taken it so lightly. The fact that I’d planned a wedding only a few years earlier didn’t deter me from this new project. A reunion is like a wedding, except the guests you’re inviting aren’t as excited about the purpose as you are. Me, I was pumped to see everyone again! Some others shared my sentiments. Still more others thought the entire idea was a waste of time.

If you’re thinking of planning a reunion, here are my tips (learn from my mistakes)… More after the jump.

[Read more…]

Book Review: At the Altar in Your Underwear

Every once in a blue moon, I get an email from someone who has found my site and wants me to check out a project, or a portfolio, or a product. When I received a request to review a wedding-planning book last week, I was very clear to the contact that I would read the free copy that they’d send to me, but if I hated it, I would not hesitate to blast it publicly here on the blog.

So here’s my disclaimer: Ally Asbe’s PR firm sent me a free copy of her wedding-planning book, At the Altar in Your Underwear: 40 Secrets to an Amazing Wedding and a Better You, and now I’m writing about it. If you follow that link above to Amazon and buy it, I’ll get a few pennies of the sale.

Onto my thoughts about the book…

alexis asbe novel

I really do pride myself on helping couples navigate the very convoluted road of wedding planning. A lot of the tips and tricks that I write about concern photography, since this is where most of my expertise lies, but on occasion I try to help folks with the bigger picture.

So I’m going to be completely honest: this book is decent. It’s helpful. But would I recommend it as required reading? No.

Read more after the jump:  [Read more…]

Working for Yourself: 1 Year

Yesterday evening, after I’d gotten home from a potential client meeting, Walt surprised me with three red-white-and-blue roses and a bar of dark chocolate. “Happy working-for-yourself-for-one-year, sweetie,” he said, as he handed me the gifts. Awww! I knew it was that anniversary, but earlier in the day I’d basically just given myself a pat on the back (and vegan ice cream) and I thought that was that. His surprise gesture was so sweet.

It’s been a year, you guys! A lot has happened in the past year. In the 365 days since hanging up my state agency lanyard, I’ve:

sweet ritual1sweet ritual2

* obviously, Sweet Ritual is an ice cream shop in Austin. It’s vegan (for my lactose-intolerant belly) and DELICIOUS.

But it hasn’t been all up-up-up. There have been a lot of down-times too. I think there’s a certain mythos of working for yourself — getting up when you want, doing what you want, working when you want — that makes you think that once you’ve gotten there, everything will be sunny-side-up, and that’s not the case. (I liken it to people who think “My life will be perfect once I lose 10 pounds”; then they lose the weight and realize that life deals curve balls to skinny people too.)

There are those wonderful days when you open your eyes, make a leisurely breakfast, get a bunch of happy emails, book a wedding, have a productive session (be it an actual shoot or making a giant dent in editing), and still have time to put your feet up on the couch that evening and watch an episode of your favorite TV show. But then there are also those mundane days where nothing seems to happen: your inbox is just spam, a couple tells you they’re choosing someone else, you realize that the toilet needs scrubbing and you really can’t put it off any more because the scuzz is growing more scuzz, and you just don’t want to do anything.

I’m going to be totally honest with you and say: there are more of those “blah” days than those awesome days. It’s been a year, and I still haven’t quite gotten into the right groove. Daily life is still an effort; bad habits are hard to break. And those bad habits of mine are: constant attachment to my inbox, neglecting to exercise consistently because I get caught up editing or designing something, and occupying my time dreaming up ways to make my business even better.

blue roses

The struggle is never over. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’ve become more concerned about the status of my business now than when I was working, because there are new things to worry about. Like, This is how much it costs to operate my business but people do not want to pay it, or I may have accidentally offended that vendor and that is bad for business relationships, or Am I spending too much time worrying about my work? my booking rate? my blogging schedule? Am I not spending enough time worrying about these things?

How can I get better?

It’s never-ending.

In fact, I think that this past year has been great in some ways, but in my personal life I haven’t seen much growth. The biggest reason why I wanted to leave the agency and work for myself was because I wanted more time to experience life. I don’t understand American work culture — all those waking hours pounding away at a desk under fluorescent light, with only a cumulative week off per year? It’s madness. And yet here I am, doing it to myself all over again. I’m a homebody by nature so there were few reasons why I would venture out of the house.

So now, now that there’s a year of self-employment behind me and another year stretches ahead, here are my New (Working For Myself) Year resolutions.

  • shooting for pleasure, not just for work!
  • committing to an actual date night with Walt where we go out, instead of our constant nights in!
  • having a dine-out meal once a week with a friend, be it a fellow photographer/creative or college friend or anyone else!
  • actually exercise consistently!
  • try to get out of the house by myself to do things; not just for errands, but, like… chill out in a coffee shop or something!
  • a day where I just unplug and actively ignore all online activity, and refresh!

Here’s to Year 2!