Marie’s 2018 Reflection, Noteworthy Memories, & 2019 Intentions

At the time of writing this, the End of Year reflection emails are pouring in. I always feel a little tug to participate too: Top 9 on IG, write what worked / what didn’t, share our highlight reel in pictures… SOMETHING.

Yet, I’m never prepared and every year, I tell myself, “Next year, I’ll do better.” 

What’s weighed on me most: At first thought of “2018”, I’d forgotten most of the earlier part of the year! Initially, I came up with an emotionless list surely missing important elements.

Worse, the list is just a list of words + phrases. It doesn’t imply my felt gratitude for the experiences – good and bad.

It’s a lifeless list of FACTS.

So essentially, this is me doing better. 🙂 I want to FEEL the year when I reflect on it. Frankly, I don’t want to look back on my life and have it all be a big blur. I want to treat the experiences + the people as if they’re valued, because they are.

It’s time to ACT like it all matters.

Being here, on this earth, is a miracle and tomorrow is never guaranteed, after all.

So, I’m publicly committing to walk the documentary walk better than before.

I absolutely do not mean taking more pictures or documenting EVERYTHING. Documenting goes beyond photography and we can be more purposeful, but more on that in January.

As I sat down to lightly plan 2019, I reflected on 2018.

What DIDN’T work in 2018:

Neglecting the rest of my business from too much focus on TPP, the Podcast, and more time off in 2018 than ever before. #debt

My audience wasn’t ready for TPP and, yet, I went all-in. It’s where my heart is. I took A LOT of time off and when I worked, it was all TPP + the podcast. My other income streams were totally neglected: broken links, not offering them at all, etc. For the first time ever with F&F, I accrued *some* debt along the way in 2018. Enough to cause some what the hell am I doing? thoughts. The wonderful thing: I was able to pay most of it off by the end of the year from F&F revenue! #beingboss

No internet on Masse Mountain. Enough said. We work off our hot spots or at places like Starbucks, because there’s no internet providers where I am, except satellite. (Does that even work?) So, I experienced major internet restrictions and am considering a co-working space in 2019, but haven’t decided yet.

Not actively growing my email list. My email list grows usually by 100 – 300 monthly without any effort (because SYSTEMS). The problem is, my visibility and PR department was down most of 2018, so I lacked in expanding my audience. That said, we’ve proven that a small, highly engaged list is powerful.

Too many interruptions. School breaks, visitors, sick days (though drastically reduced since moving), my surgery, traveling (for fun)… Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I felt THANKFUL for time off without “job” and “boss” consequences. F&F has long reached a point where it brings in revenue when I’m *not* working. That said, my creative + visibility growth suffered a bit.

Not keeping up with my bookkeeping. This year, I’m literally wasting HOURS at the end of the year playing catch up – which isn’t fun when your months-ago financial transactions are no longer top of mind.

Not exercising + eating clean(er) regularly. My body FEELS it. My mood feels it. I feel bad for my family most of all.

What DID work in 2018:

Letting go of being a “documentary family photographer”: Do you have *any* idea how freeing this was?! Before, I felt like I had to “keep up” with everyone and constantly prove myself. I was running a 24/7 shoot & share factory, barely appreciated a photograph before I was onto the next, and judged my pictures constantly – a total killjoy – on a mission to be better. ALL FOR WHAT?! When I remembered why I (me… Marie) love this medium, I let the label go.

From about 2014 – 2017, I LIVED through a lens of what looks good + reads as a compelling story in pictures, causing the HEART of my life to slip through the documentary cracks all because it wasn’t award-winning worthy. As I let go of the constant growth-mindset, it changed everything. I started to SEE again (and teach you to here).

Life became about FEELING the moment first, not auto-reacting by running for the camera.

(Note: there was a time when running for the camera IS what lit me up and I was all shades of fierce working for clients. If that’s you, keep doing you. Need a pick me up in getting documentary clients? Try this.)

So yeah… I’m an ex-documentary family photographer who intentionally documents her family life in mixed formats, including photography, who confidently has mad marketing communication skills… and loves helping people with both.

Moving to Masse Mountain + exploring. I’m in Blue Ridge Mountain heaven. BONUS: I had bad environmental allergies my whole life when I lived in Michigan. I came here and it’s like the sinus misery switch has delightfully turned OFF. They’re gone!

Acceptance of school interruptions. My ambition tends to get the best of me. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s often made me bitter or resentful of when the kids have time off, because I feel like I don’t have a choice, but to shut down shop… which translates to dismissing ME + my creativity. I’m happy to report: THIS YEAR was better. I even volunteered to take the whole summer off, for example, and enjoyed my time with them.

Consistently added 10% of revenue into savings. So that debt I mentioned? Through it, I continued to add to my savings, which maintained my sanity and feels SO DAMN GOOD to have a growing nest egg. It feels safer than ever to step away from work, when needed.

Hiring Bench. That bookkeeping problem? I’m not repeating that. I tried Bench for November and I’m hooked. 2019 is covered and I think you’ll love it too. Get 1 month of free bookkeeping from Bench here.

Starting a Roth IRA. I discovered Swell and really loved how all the investments go to social and environmentally conscious causes.

Learning The Preservation Project from your POV: Rather than shouting from my mountain on how transformative TPP is, I started listening. I learned so much from our audience, participants, and especially from getting on the phone with some TPP participants. This fine-tunes how to communicate its value.

Automated systems for revenue: Within the last couple of months, I paid better attention to my existing revenue systems. One, in particular, I softly launched twice in 2018 on autopilot and it brought in 5-figures BECAUSE OF my timeless content (that I teach you to write here).

Working with Kyla again: Kyla and I re-connected to work on The Preservation Project in June, then again this fall. Focusing on ONE project (as opposed to my whole business) has super-charged my progress with perspective that only comes from outside eyes. If you need help on marketing from the ground up, Kyla’s your girl.

The Intentional Documentary podcast!! Fave. This project feels like an absolute treat to work on and allowed me to practice my voice + expression on this documentary stuff with a warm audience. The IDP will be around awhile!

Rev Transcription: Never will I spend HOURS transcribing my videos again or over-paying VA’s. Rev Transcription is legit, fast, and truly blew me away 🙂

Going LEAN with my business model: 4 offers only moving forward. Retired the F&F shop. Feels simple.

ASKING for the sale: Sometimes I get too story centered and need to cut to the chase to ASK for the sale already. After a successful November and December asking for the sale, I’ll strategically do this better in 2019.

Tailwind: Pinterest was my #1 traffic generator before Tailwind, but now it’s even better! I love their SmartLoops, so that I don’t have to be ON Pinterest all the time to keep the traffic flowing. This link gives you a free month to play with.

Asked for help. 2018 was HARD in the parenting department. Though we’re still on the hard road, it’s a little less lonely now. I have a hunch some readers are going through something tough and can benefit from finding someone to talk to about it. Keep talking + asking until you find the right support.

Intentions for 2019:

Word of the year: PEACE

  • Clean up, then rinse & repeat our business systems. Go LEAN. 
  • Use my podcast, publishing stories, guest posting + appearing, Pinterest, and my newsletter to drive traffic.
  • Document and TRACK my efforts better
  • Write lots!
  • Hike at least 4x per week when it’s 60 degrees and warmer (I’m a BIG baby in the cold)
  • 1-2 MARIE days monthly – float spa, hair, visit local shops + sights, NOTHING
  • Ramp up our story publishing (wanna be published?)
  • Bi-Monthly dates with Dave
  • Take one step forward in church if / when it feels right
  • Quarterly 1:1 (or 1:2 with David) dates with each kiddo
  • Step into my best self: exercise, less junky snacking, connection, health checks
  • Explode TPP as our core offering: goal 40 new participants monthly
  • Vacation to the Gulf
  • Try Kayaking
  • Try Horseback riding on mountain trails
  • Take the kids camping
  • Visit the Cabin
  • Feel GOOD in our home (picked up, clean, family effort)
  • Practice kindness
  • Document well for mindfulness + connection, not for awesomeness to show off
  • Make progress on the kids’ Legacy Boxes
  • Weekly(ish) connection with people who matter
  • Focus on the good (daily: write the good of the day. Get on my list for fun updates!)
  • Debt free – hospital bills, solar panels, etc.
  • Do the Breast Cancer walk

How will I accomplish these things? Glad you asked…

Marie’s Intention + Goal Tracking:

Each month, right here on F&F’s journal, I’ll share my:

  • intentions + goals for the month ahead
  • what worked + didn’t in the last month
  • PLUS a sprinkling of my favorite memories along the way
  • and how I’m using them to serve my life + business.

Be on my list and I’ll send you January & beyond.

Noteworthy 2018 Memories:

Know this: THIS – writing on this page – is a backup plan. Everything below is or will be part of our offline documenting (see The Preservation Project or What’s a Legacy Box?)

JANUARY:

Most of the month was spent looking forward to the weekends where we’d retreat to our empty, new home. We’d camp there, roam the property, and it felt like mini vacations. The challenge of the month was exiting our rental home. It felt so big at the time, because that company was horrible (literally, there’s a couple class action lawsuits against them). In hindsight, this was a blip in the map.

We also discovered the Poinsett Bridge. The kids thought crossing this swift, but shallow river was THE BEST ever. The bridge is gorgeous and was constructed in 1820 (now open only to foot traffic). This was my favorite picture that ties US to the spot:

documentary family photography

FEBRUARY:

Moving month!

We bought the home on December 28th, so we’d slowly moved our things with each visit. Early February we took residency.

Our last home was on its way to being decorated how we wanted (just a couple more rooms to go in my head) and spacious at 3200 square feet. Our new home is more like 2,000 square feet. Smaller, quaint, also a bit dated in decor… but PERFECT for us.

It’s funny, I had a “keeping up with the Jones'” mindset at our last house: always wanting to update and perfect the home. Here? I literally couldn’t care less.

  • Levi’s walls look like swiss cheese, because he’s made holes with handmade “tools.”
  • The wallpaper is something of my Grandparents area.
  • We don’t love the deck or porch.

And, I don’t care! I’d rather soak up all the area experiences than to spend my time painting and updating things I’m sure will need updating again in 20 years.

It’s also on 10 acres we lovingly call Masse Mountain. It’s a state of mind. 

Challenge of the month: Kendall, at this point, was still pretty upset with us for moving away from Michigan. She started a new school, for the second time, and had a rough start. I’m sure she was feeling a lot of scary, uncertain feelings! Today, she’d still rather be in Michigan, but is THRIVING at school.

MARCH:

Nope. Don’t remember a thing. But here’s a picture:

Environmental Portrait

Also, Levi’s gorgeous blonde locks were chopped off! See a before & after here.

APRIL: 

Yep, we’re HOOKED on this mild-winter thing. The hose in April?! Amazing.

Documentary Family Photographer

We also had our first visitors to the new home. I’ll never forget minding my business in the garage (working in my beach chair, while the kids played), hearing a strange noise to the left, and looking to this surprise.

My in-laws also visited and I loved taking them places we’ve explored and enjoying our own property. We discovered a roadside park that legit made me feel like a kid again! Pinch me, we LIVE here?!

Late in the month, I had a second surgery for my very unique Endometriosis. Fast forward to today, I’m healed. I’ve been pain-free since that surgery!

MAY:

I healed quickly from my surgery, so we explored another new (to us) place: the Pisgah National Forest. For the first time since moving here, I’m starting to FEEL at home rather than somewhere new. I was made for the woods and the mountains.

I don’t remember much else from May other than having my head down working, because I knew, the countdown was on for summer break…

I’d accepted and planned to take 7 weeks off.

JUNE:

Omgoodness. Best memory of the month was when my husband got this little, old quad running. It was a borrowed, broken toy that we only used for a day, well, like 30 minutes tops before deeming it totally unsafe. The brakes? Didn’t work. The throttle? Had a mind of its own. But man did it give us some laughs!!

I recorded some of this in video, but here’s one picture:

We also went to the beach, for the first time, and I had no idea what I was missing! I’d only ever been to the ocean when the water was cold (spring break, just after winter). We fell in love!

My challenge this month was reaching a state of panic over work. The kids and I were getting ready to leave for Michigan, so I wanted everything – the podcast, my newsletters, my revenue plans, social media, etc. all scheduled in advance, so I didn’t *have* to work during the trip. Well, I hit a major roadblock when our internet stopped working. Verizon blamed it on the trees.

It made me very thankful for my husband – my true PARTNER. He took a day off work – without pay – just so I could go to Starbucks for a full day’s work. I felt 1000x better about leaving for the trip after that.

JULY:

This month merits a whole story on its own, but I’ll maintain brevity here. The kids & I made it to Michigan. The return “home” to the Mitten State was eye-opening. On one hand, it was absolutely wonderful to see family, friends, and our old favorites: Mackinaw, Lake Michigan, the cabin, Crooked Creek Dairy farm, etc.

On the other, SC never felt more like HOME and where I wanted to stay long-term.

My highlight memory of the month was when I took the kids on a drive to look for deer. This was a long-time, favorite childhood memory of mine and I took them to the exact places my parents took my sister and I. The kids did NOT want to go. They were annoyed with me, but I made them go anyway. When we spotted deer – including baby fawns – up close, they were hooked.

Levi just brought up this memory the other day. My heart is still so full. This is the kids on the cabin’s dock:

Documentary Family Photographer

AUGUST: 

We went to the beach one more time, but most of the month was delightfully spent at home. The kids spent most of their time right here:

Family Documentary Photography - Summer

And the craziest thing happened:

We had our own, just-for-us rainbow here on Masse Mountain!

It was hard to get a good picture, because, of course, it moved when I moved, but it was crazy vivid in real life. The kids chased it down the hill (never actually “catching” it of course). The raindrops were giant and the sun was warm – an anchored memory for sure!

SEPTEMBER:

All through 7 weeks of no-work summer, I thought: September.

September, I’ll be back to work. I’ll rock the heck out of my pre-launch for The Preservation Project. I’d get back to recording the podcast. September will be GAME ON for all things F&F.

Ha! I laugh at the thought now.

Part of it was that I promised myself I’d no longer work from drop-off to pick-up (school days) as I had for years past. I started strong going on hikes 3 days a week while the kids were at school. This was a breath of fresh air, expanding on the feeling of HOME in this state. I’ll never forget my first, longer solo hike to Raven Cliff Falls.

It wasn’t the trail. It was the freedom given through entrepreneurship, reaching the school-age years of my kiddos, and making the CHOICE to leave a lifestyle we weren’t thriving in and stepping into the lifestyle we want.

I worked, but it was less, so that I could take care of my body… but then add in Labor Day weekend, 2 long weekends of visitors, 2 hurricanes (that didn’t affect us much), one kiddo sick day, one kiddo birthday + well visit. “Work” was at the bottom of the list, though I still made progress preparing for October.

That extra busyness wasn’t even our core challenge this month though. I’ve debated even sharing this and lean towards privacy, but I’ll tell you this: in September, we started getting sad notes home from school. This has kicked off a long string of seeking help for behavior that’s been very, very difficult. It still is as I write this in December.

The wonderful thing about visitors: free babysitters. Ha! In trade for being personal tour guides, of course (which I could do all day, every day around here). Dave and I got one day to ourselves and spent some of it here:

OCTOBER:

Finally, I got to work for a few weeks before more (welcomed) visitors arrived and another string of events pulled me away! Knowing what was ahead, my hikes started to taper off as I put work first. I launched The Preservation Project for the fourth time and started prep for another month (November) of barely working.

So my main “challenge” was that choice: work vs. taking care of my body + self love.

I hated the guilt on the days of not hiking, but my WORK is important + fun to me, and let’s face it: I’d barely been working most of 2018. I started to accrue debt because of it in earlier months, so it was important to me to DO THE WORK ALREADY.

Then, my childhood friend was here for a couple of days and we wrapped the month with another kiddo birthday, well visit, and trick-or-treating.

It also got cold this month! As a family, we hiked our property and built a new fire pit. I didn’t mention earlier, but Levi has been in his world most of 2018 in the woods: picking up big branches, sawing them, building fires (Dad starts the fire).

Though I look at this photo and think *amateur hour*, it feels like LEVI to me.

Family Documentary Photographer - in the woods

NOVEMBER:

More fun! Fall break, a weekend trip to Charleston (love!) to meet up with Michigan friends, then a trip north to Indiana for Thanksgiving with extended family. It was a total whirlwind, but also profitable month (thank you October Marie for DOING THE WORK that created financial peace of mind in November).

The challenge this month: a dreaded appointment for the behavior help. It wasn’t so bad. We took a step forward and that felt good.

This was a cell phone snap at Angel Oak Tree:

DECEMBER:

After Thanksgiving, I made strides in work! I went into holiday break totally ready for January (in terms of re-opening the 7 Day Storyteller’s Challenge and The Preservation Project). It’s felt so GOOD to be in my “Marie” zone again.

That said, we’ve had a rocky month with continued behavior challenges. The hard part isn’t the behavior itself or at home. It’s the outside world.

It’s how it’s affected other people and receiving constant messages (not as harsh in reality) that feel like, “Your kid is terrible! what’s wrong with you guys? get your parenting sh*t together.”

It’s friends + fam who DON’T GET IT and offer uneducated advice and opinions that, frankly, hurt. But, I (try to) give them love and grace, because this isn’t their journey. They’re trying to care, love, and help. I see that. I’m grateful.

It’s been really, really hard on my momma heart and poor Dave receives my frequent dumping of stress & anxiety over the whole thing. I look at both of my kids and see more strengths than flaws. I’m committed to being a student of them in order to help them grow, but again, when this issue impacts time with friends & family, the classroom, the neighbors, and church negatively, it’s really, really hard and, frankly, a lonely road.

It feels like we’re a burden more than deserving of compassion. I want to pull away from those on high horses and set up a heavily gated, off-the-grid homestead here on Masse Mountain. Really, but not really.

I’m praying like hell for others to understand that behavior is sometimes more than a “bad” choice or “bad” parenting of today’s society – it’s uncontrolled reaction to certain sensitivities and unmet physiological needs sometimes too.

That’s our unsolved reality at the moment. We’re working on it and it’s hard.

I’m happy to document this time here, even if the brevity of it all is a bit open-ended for the sake of privacy. I hope next year when I read this upon reflecting on 2019, that we’re in a much better place.

Aside from the heavy, we experienced a really fun Christmas Light drive (I so love all the family fun Greenville has to offer!) and the kids are obsessed with Home Alone this year. We had an unexpected memory when a Winter Storm hit and took out our power for a day. The kids were ecstatic to have a little snow – even if only for a day – and to sled down Masse Mountain with their daddy!

When we’re not interacting with the outside world, we witness much love and compassion within our four walls. I couldn’t ask for a better way to close 2018.

For Fun:

5 years ago – December 2013 – We had a newborn and F&F wasn’t even born yet! We were in our first year in what we thought was our “forever home” without a dream to move south in sight!

 

10 years ago – December 2008 – I’d just left my condo and my pride in the U.S., moved in with Dave in Ontario, and was rocking my direct sales business. The road felt wide open as an early 20’s girl in love with little responsibilities.

 

My goodness much has changed! Where were you 5 & 10 years ago?

5 years from now – December 2023 (future pace writing):

We have a Jeep and are thriving here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The kids still love time with us, but have grown independently with more interest in being with friends. They have an abundance of friends and are known for their compassion and kindness. Levi is known for his humor and daring heart. He’s practically an outdoor guide by the age of 10 – not in a know-every-plant-and-tree knowledgable kind of way, but a brave wilderness kind of way. I see him handling snakes! Kendall is a creative artist and leans into her intuition + expression fearlessly. She’s involved in local art programs and is the friend her friends confide in. She’s health conscious in a healthy way. David and I have more opportunities for weekend getaways and our marriage has continued in beautiful partnership, friendship, and love like we’re teenagers ha 🙂 He’s content in his work doing something that fulfills him (teaching comes to mind). Most of my creative days are spent writing and serving by reflecting all the micro-values in peoples lives back to them, so they can FEEL + do something with them. I’ve hiked all the big hikes around, mostly solo, but with some memorable 1:1 trips with each family member too. It feels wonderful to visit Michigan, but upstate SC is totally HOME.

10 years from now – December 2028 (future pace writing):

Teenagers! One almost graduating! This is wild. I’m beyond thankful of the work 10-15 year ago Marie put into Fearless and Framed, because it’s allowed me to spend most of my time with my family. It feels like THIS TIME really counts as my kids are shaping into young adults. We’re their parents, certainly, but they love coming to us for just about anything on their mind. We’ve got open and loving relationships without any fear to be vulnerable. I spend most of my time in my oversized, dream, screened gazebo. We take more road trips and even occasional vacations to places abroad, but HOME truly feels like an unmatched vacation. We have visitors that come and go frequently, which we love, so we’ve even added a tiny home (or an Airstream) where the mobile home used to be on our property. We rent it out occasionally, but it also acts as a quiet, wooded sanctuary for me to escape to for writing. My body is healthier than it was 10 years ago and I FEEL good: clear head, strong body.

If you’re still with me, I’m truly impressed. You’ve just read (or skimmed) over 4,000 words ha! I’ll pack it in as I start these monthly reflection shares. Just in case you missed it above…

Each month, right here on F&F’s journal, I’ll share my:

  • intentions + goals for the month ahead
  • what worked + didn’t in the last month
  • PLUS a sprinkling of my favorite memories along the way
  • and how I’m using them to serve my life + business.

Be on my list and I’ll send you January & beyond.

Happy 2019!

Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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