Seeing What’s Left

It’s interesting what happens when you edit something out of your life. Whether it’s a habit, an item or an idea, you’re left with something. You definitely gain a new perspective and can sometimes make better choices when you sit in discontentment for a while. That was my thought when I sold my big camera. I’ve also done that with coffee, tv and marriage among other things. It has to be a conscious choice though, you can’t just let your camera sit unused for example, you have to actually sell it. Which I did.

I’m no longer in photography class where I need a camera to complete assignments and I found that my d500 was too good of a camera to justify daily snapshots with, but not good enough for commercial use. I love taking pictures, but for what end? For my personal pleasure? Am I gonna have a business? Am I gonna market myself for a specific purpose? I wasn’t sure, so I decided to sell it and see what was left. What desire was left? What yearning was left that I could not ignore? One thing I have found, I have no desire to use my d3400, so that’s on the chopping block next. If I purchase a camera, it will definitely be a full frame. That’s about all I can nail down. I’ve been using my phone for my daily picture practice and seeing the pattern of what I actually take pictures of or want to take pictures of in my daily life. I’ve only said, “man I wish I had my good camera” once and that was for a night shot, my true picture love. One picture is not enough reason to drop, at minimum, $1000 on a camera. Unless we happen to have $1000 burning a hole in our pocket (spoiler alert: we don’t). So, I’m sitting in discontentment which isn’t as disconcerting as I thought it might be, although I do feel that creativity deep inside boiling up and not being used or accessed.

Like I’ve said before, I’m in transition. It feels necessary to switch from being a student photographer to a photographer with a degree before I can move forward. But, will that be with a Nikon d610 and nifty fifty, Nikon d810 and accompanying computer upgrade, a canon 6d, canon 5d mark iii, or do I go mirrorless which is the way of the future? I don’t know, I’m not there yet, but I think I’m getting closer.

Follow my daily pictures on fb and ig @dgrebphotography

Makeup in your 30’s

I’ve been wearing makeup since I was a teenager. My mom started me off right, coincidentally, by getting into Mary Kay right around that time. I got to play with her samples and attend a few of her first classes learning how to take care of my skin as well as what colors work for my coloring.

Putting on makeup as a young girl, or even taking care of your skin when you are younger is so easy! Pick a bottle any bottle, pick a color any color for the most part. You’re not usually hiding imperfections or “saying” anything with your application process, you’re just playing. That’s where Nora is at in the process. She has been wearing makeup for a couple of years now (she’s 11). She was very interested in it and would go to friend’s houses and come back with some godawful colored lipstick and I was like- no. Here is some pale, neutral colors, perfect your age and simple to apply. Here is a flattering nude pink lipstick that doesn’t make you look like a whore. Because whether we like it or not, there is still a stigma about makeup and the impression you are giving to society. She has since gotten a little more bold with her choices, with the help of her father and Christmas presents, but she makes good choices. We’ve had some lessons on makeup applications and she knows what’s acceptable for day and night. A lot of that is probably preference, but you don’t wear a cocktail dress to lunch, just like you don’t do dark makeup for a day trip.

I went through a relearning process after I had Henry. I didn’t quite know who I was anymore, thank you pregnancy, so I went through my wardrobe and learned some new makeup techniques that better fit who I was at that time. The kids are older now, I’m different now and older as well. I’m on the downhill slide to 40 and my face shows it, thank you stress and gravity.

At this point, I’m watching tutorials again, I’m buying different products especially if they say something like, anti-aging or fine lines on them. I’m super getting into masks. I think all of that goes along with my word for the year; self-care.

The biggest change I’ve made is lipstick. I have never really worn it, though I love chapstick. I didn’t believe that my lips are my best feature, so I didn’t bother. However, as you age, you lose pigmentation in your lips and ya need a little help. I follow a chick on ig that LOVES lipstick. She obviously believes that her lips are her best feature and is always sharing new colors, so I thought, perhaps it’s time to go down this rabbit hole.

I’m definitely a more natural product user, but green beauty is expensive and I didn’t want to blow money on something without a little research first. I picked out three colors at Walmart in a brand I like and tried them out. I picked a safe neutral, a cool, bold, pink and a warm, bold pink.

The warm, bold pink turned out to be my favorite. It was the one my gut told me to pick. (you get a terrible ig pic because apparently my phone hasn’t uploaded any pictures to the cloud since August and I deleted the other pics from my camera card without uploading them *facepalm*) The cool pink is still a fun color, but definitely out of my comfort zone.

What’s even more interesting is the reactions I’ve gotten from other women. I’m not good at reading people, but they glance at my lips a few times and seem confused, or constipated I really don’t know. A lot of women my age or older seem a little uncomfortable that I’m wearing lipstick. It definitely screams “I tried today”. I took that extra step to not only put on makeup, but to put on lipstick. It could be that they’ve never seen me in lipstick, so it’s weird? Idk. I’ve had compliments on that bold, cool pink color, which is fun because it’s the scary one to wear in public. I have started noticing when other people wear lipstick too. There was a girl at school and her choice of color was so pretty, but I didn’t say anything. I wonder if we should? Should we compliment lip colors? Is that too intimate an item to compliment? Wearing lipstick definitely feels like a conscious choice still and I can’t handle it all day, but I like it. The colors are pretty and it does make me feel a little more put together.

I wanted to continue my makeup journey, so I bought some new makeup brushes and a small eye palette of different neutrals. The brushes do make a difference. I have regular brushes that suffice for putting on some eye color and blush and whatnot, but the two eyeshadow brushes I purchased are different, one has an angle and the other is more bushy for blending, so I’m able to explore different ways of applying eye color. It’s fun!

Since I’ve been on the skincare kick and doing masks and stuff, I decided to try a green beauty concealer and a cleanser that is supposed to be amazing. I’ll let you know how that goes… It’s coming in the mail.

So, the yoga is going well, the makeup stuff is going, well I’m moming and schooling to the best of my ability and we finally bought this house. Self-care check.

Here’s a list of the items I’m loving currently and the two that I’ve tried and loved or have heard great things about. Some are natural and some are not.
Charcoal mask
Kiwi Sugar Scrub
Clay Mask (This one I don’t love as much, the smell is different and it’s a little too gentle)
One Love Organics cleanser
Well People concealer The concealer I’ve been using is the Almay smart shade concealer and I like it, but I need something better.

I am obviously not a beauty blogger and my choices are likely not your choices, but I thought I’d share in case you’re looking for some stuff to try. Choosing to take 15 minutes in the evening a couple nights a week to mask has been a tangible exercise in choosing to take care of myself. It’s a nice easy goal for those of us that take care of everyone first as a rule.


I had intended to write about how we finally bought the house we’ve been living in for more than three years, but I just feel so yuck today I thought I’d vomit here for the world to read instead.

We’ve been on a specific course for the last couple of years and it’s been slowly harder and harder until a month or two ago when all that energy dissipated. Jason had been in school and I had been going to school full-time and that’s all our brains could handle besides raising four kids and trying to keep our marriage healthy. Now, however, he’s done with school and I’m half-time with zero art classes. Who the fuck are we? I’m so serious.

We now have evenings where we can spend time together. We don’t because I’m watching Big Bang Theory and he’s piddledinking in his office, but not doing school. We do watch a movie some nights, but it’s not like we can go party or have the energy to have actual conversations after yelling at kids to go to bed for two hours after their bedtime. Henry is still in Preschool getting ready for Kindergarten in August, so I have ample time during the day to get things done, those things I’ve been ignoring because school, and what am I doing? I’m watching TV. I’m living vicariously through doctor’s residencies and sibling rivalries and totally do not enjoy when the kids come home because it is just so hard with them right now. So much attitude from tiny bodies! I’m uncomfortable in my own house because I haven’t spent much time there and have yet to develop a good routine.

I am complaining, but I know that this feeling is temporary. Much like that first week or two of Summer break where you’re relearning how to be with your kids 24/7. It’s just such an unsettling feeling to be out of place, but still in the same environment. I went to Bardo today (the art department) and saw friends and it just wasn’t the same. I’m not making anything there or entranced in the art world and no longer truly belong. The people in my Spanish class are *imitate raspberry sound here* and super adorable with their shiny knowledge of one semester of Spanish and 2-3 years left at WCU.

I am excited about graduating and excited to be graduating with friends in May, but right now things feel out of sorts. The only way through it is through it and this too shall pass and all that goodness. Sometimes, you just gotta sit in it or blog about it and acknowledge that life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns right now. And I miss my dad today, which is so weird to miss someone you didn’t really know, but it is what it is.

This is us trying to figure out the new normal. I’m not upset about having more knitters in the house.

Wise Minded Parenting

Parenting teens and tweens is no joke. One of the books I’m reading this year is Wise Minded Parenting by Laura S. Kaster. At first I was like, um you gotta be a zen Buddhist to accomplish this, but so far she has some really good points. I’m making Jason read it too, so we can be on the same page.

In the beginning of the first chapter she talks about the attachment bond which secures in the first few years. Well, the first few years were pretty rough for Noah and Nora and in comparison to Lorelei and Henry, my younger two, we established a pretty weak bond. I was too busy trying to stay married to give much besides basic needs to Noah and Nora. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a better relationship now, just not a fundamental one. It makes it doubly hard when the other parent is a step parent and missed out entirely on those formative years.

The book shares ways to deal with the volatile creature that is your teen, but it goes against the rational parenting style that Jason and I have developed. Parenting is not for sissies, yo. It talks about teens being rude to just you, you lucky dog, because you are the safe home base for their riotous emotions. I’ve talked about confrontation and conflict before and how it’s something I don’t mind from my children, but Noah especially is quite angry and we are so very good at pushing his buttons unintentionally. I know, though, that my kids are awesome and one day will be great human beings not sheep, but man is it hard to see that light at the end of the tunnel.

With the bigs gone this week, we get a little reprieve to reevaluate the home situation. Lorelei now empties the dishwasher and Henry clears the table. I remember that Nora started doing dishes at 6 and Lorelei is almost 7. Now that we have more time at home with Jason being done with school and my two classes, we can concentrate more heavily on establishing that better bond and learning to be zen Buddhists apparently.

Some key points from that first chapter (which is hella long):
For a teenager, seif-centeredness is as normal as tripping and falling is for a toddler.

When implementing parenting policies; stay calm, be confident and collaborate, but implement anyway.

The goal is to maintain positive rapport and connectedness and limit the power struggles over little things.

Discipline is about learning and learning does not occur when emotions are running high.

We are all doing the best we can even the teenager. I’m hoping to implement some policies on how we treat eachother. Having a ten year difference between the first and last child makes for some fun challenges. Especially when the little one’s favorite past time is to taunt the teenager by calling him poopy-Noah. *insert giant eyeroll*. I would also like to schedule some family time. We’re together constantly, but are we having fun together? Family dates need to be as important as date night, and no, going to walmart does not count as family time. I may also make one of those get along jars. The get along jar has popsicle sticks in it and when you misbehave or violate a parent policy, you do the action on the popsicle stick. For example: 20 jumping jacks, write a poem about how much you love your siblings, a yard chore, etc.

We’ll see what real life looks like next week when the bigs transition home and we’re back to our regularly scheduled routine.

Losing my Father

It seems strange to think about losing someone that you really only spent a handful of years with, but the pain is the same…from my perspective anyway.

A little background: My mom and dad split up before I was born and my father was somewhat in my life until I was three (or so I’ve been told). He tried to get to know me when I was 11, but I was scared and after a period of time, I stopped seeing him and his wife, Bobbie, and kids. I was an emotional kid and I think too much time had passed for that to be an easy transition. After Noah was born, my aunt came across my father’s father’s obituary in the local newspaper and I decided to go see him at the funeral. I was young and bold and gave no fucks apparently. That began a year or so of healing. I realized that I would never get the childhood with my dad that my heart longed for and for whatever reason (likely his drinking) we didn’t fully connect. I was glad to meet him again and spend time with his wife and kids and catch-up. Shortly after that, my life blew up with the divorce and major changes and we didn’t speak until recently. Bobbie tracked down my mom and friended her on fb and eventually spoke with her on the phone. Bobbie informed my mother that my father was dying and likely wouldn’t make it to Christmas.

Over the last few years I’ve done a lot of self-reflection and work digging out and shining light on the deep dark stuff and taking responsibility for my choices and ignorance. Learning that my father was dying was heartbreaking. It did not matter that I barely knew him. He was a beacon in my life. We weren’t close, but I knew he cared for me. I decided to go see him as soon as I was able. I don’t think I hesitated, there was no question that I wanted to see him one last time and say goodbye. I wanted him to know too, that I didn’t hate him or hold a grudge for how life worked out.

I took a trip to Florida the following week and I’m so glad I did. When I went to him after Noah was born, I was still a child. I was needy in every way and took whatever he would give me and left without caring about their feelings. Now, I’m grown, standing on my own two feet as healthy as I can be and wanting only to tell him I loved him face to face. I spent as much time with him as I could. He was in and out mentally, but we had a few good conversations and I met some of his siblings and got to talk with Bobbie and Lucas (my step-brother) again. It dawned on me after talking with Bobbie, that I had a stepmom. It gave me some new perspective on how the kids relate to Heather, their stepmom. They are a healing balm, for sure.

He passed away on New Year’s Eve, surrounded by family and hopefully at peace.

Grief is not logical. I’m so thankful that Bobbie reached out and did the work to find me, to give me time to see him again. It was precious.

I really don’t have any pictures of him, but my mom had an old photo album with a few from their time together many years ago. I like to think I was conceived in love, just as my children were, and life happened the way it was meant.

2018 Aspirations

I love January. I love the potential for a new start, a reboot, a change of mind and attitude. I’ve been choosing a word for the last few years instead of a resolution with intent on learning or becoming that one thing as a subconscious thought. 2016 was confidence, 2017 was responsible, and 2018 is self-care. 2015 had one, but I can’t for the life of me find that word!

I always make goals, but they aren’t usually specifically dated, more like what I want to accomplish that year. I do better with a list of possibilities. For example, I have nonfiction books I’d like to read, so I set a goal of one nonfiction book a month, but I haven’t chosen which book to read each month.

These are all books I own, that have been sitting on my bookshelf patiently waiting to be read or finished. I would also like to add a book on the Enneagram and a book entitled There is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate by Cheri Huber and June Shiver, which should be really interesting…

I also have some photography goals, like skills I want to learn or explore and I decided to do a 365 project this year. I’ve been wanting to do one for a couple of years, but wanted to start in January and wanted to have the right project. I decided to keep it simple. I plan to take and post a picture everyday to my dgrebphotography instagram. My hope is to take the pictures with my big camera, but in a pinch my iPhone will suffice. I’ve learned over the years to be kind instead of rigid with myself.

I definitely want to continue learning handlettering, chalklettering, calligraphy etc. I really enjoy it and want to get better. I’m hoping I’ll also create some art projects this year, but I have nothing specific planned as of yet. I have two classes left for my degree and neither of them are art studio classes.

Lastly, I want to get back into yoga. My local studio has a Yoga 101 program that I hope to complete. With Jason done with school and my lighter load, I feel like self-care will be an easier choice. This past year we were in survivor mode, it’s difficult to make time or actually take time from what needs to be done in order to keep functioning. Yoga got put on the back burner this past year and I need a reboot.

If I complete even half of what I hope to accomplish this year, I’ll be overjoyed at making strides in a positive direction. I’m sure we’ll get a few things thrown at us this year, but for now, I’m excited about the possibilities.

Christmas 2017

This year the kids were here for Christmas day. We switch back and forth with their father every year, so one of us usually gets the first week of winter break and the other gets the last.

I’m always surprised that each year Christmas looks a little different. The decorations change a little, the food isn’t always the same, but my aunt and uncle came to stay over the holiday, so that didn’t change. It was one of those years, though that everyone was a little on edge (mercury retrograde?) and there was quite a bit of bickering (teenager?). I think the highlights were Christmas morning with the kiddos, playing games with my family and Jason being home and present. He’s been taking 4-6 classes each semester for the last three years, but he graduated in December.

We took the kids to Georgia last Friday to meet up with their dad, so this next week we only have Lorelei and Henry at home. It always gives us a little time while they are away to reevaluate our routines and spend some time with the two quietest kids. We miss them, but it’s an interesting change in perspective and Noah and Nora get a break from their full-time siblings.

I’m pretty sure the winning gifts were the LEGOs. Although, I’m enjoying Nora’s karaoke machine while she’s away.


I always seem to have a couple of things going on, a couple of things that I enjoy doing in my free time. I read, definitely. I read mostly YA books that are sci-fi or fantasy based. I’m getting to a point where I feel like I’ve “read them all”, so I’m trying to get into adult fiction, but I’m disappointed for the most part. YA books are always so hopeful, the character grows and changes. In adult books, the main character is basically a stick in the mud who has a lot of sex. I will continue searching and if you have any recommendations please share. My favorite sci-fi or fantasy is female leads with powers of some sort. I’m not into space or robots. Although, I liked Across the Universe, but they were only technically in space.

Some of my favorite series:
Shatter Me series (powers)
Alpha Girl series (werewolves)
The Lunar Chronicles (futuristic)

I like to knit as well. I’ve been knitting for many years, but I’ve only recently finished my first garment. I’ve done a lot of hats, a couple scarves and cowls, but nothing with full sleeves. One day when I have $100 burning a hole in my pocket I’ll go get some great yarn and bust out a legit sweater. It will probably take me a couple of years, but I’m down with a long-term project.

My favorite knitter is Alana Dakos of Never Not Knitting. Her ig is especially inspiring.

My newest hobby is brush lettering and calligraphy. I started over the summer and even joined in on an instagram ABC challenge. The thing about starting something new is you have to be kind to yourself. You have to do it badly until you get good at it and that takes time. Sometimes you’re a natural and you pick up something quickly and easily, but sometimes not. Keep going if you enjoy it.

Pieces Calligraphy has excellent Youtube tutorials. I also enjoy The Pigeon letters on ig. I’ve learned a bit from Peggy Dean (The Pigeon Letters) on skillshare as well.

Lastly, I’ve started drawing. I began drawing for my intro class two semesters ago, but I really enjoy it and want to get better, so I’ve picked it back up again as a discipline. I’m not awesome at it, but from the research I’ve done, I know I’ll get better if I just practice. What I love about drawing is the determination it takes to continue refining the piece until you’re mostly happy with it. I didn’t love that during my 3 hour drawing classes, but now that it’s my choice it’s one of the aspects that I appreciate. Peggy Dean’s book Botanical Line Drawing is a fun and simple way to draw leaves and flowers and begin to see like an artist.

I dabble in other things of course, but those are my main hobbies. What are you into?

Conflict and Confrontation

Growing up I noticed tension in our household, but I knew that it wasn’t okay to say anything. The Phelps motto, when it comes to conflict, is don’t say anything and never apologize. Through my teen years I held tight to this belief, but it didn’t serve me well. Patrick and I married and joined a church that was very legalistic and confrontational. They believed that it was their right as a christian to rebuke you in the name of Jesus. If they saw “sin” or there was an issue of any sort, it was pointed out to you sometimes in front of other people and you were made to feel ashamed. Even with all of that practice, I still was terrible at confrontation and passive aggressive to boot. I sent some awesome emails to people since writing is easier for me which caused a lot of problems, hurt feelings and ultimately was brushed off as me just being a bitch or having misplaced anger. Both partly true.

Meeting Jason and having someone in my life who didn’t get offended by my frankness caused me to pause and reflect. We had a lot of long conversations that were mostly silent patience as we learned to navigate feelings and forgiveness in the early days. I learned the value of vulnerability and to wait until I wasn’t angry to breach a subject that needed mending. That man has taught me so much simply by loving me as I am and allowing me to figure things out myself rather than criticizing me.

One thing has stayed the same which is my ability to see when something is fundamentally wrong or broken and needs attention. I would still rather talk about something than ignore it. Ignoring it makes it worse. Most people don’t see it that way. In my experience, even when confrontation turned into a fight with hurt feelings, good came of it. I believe the road to peace is paved with confrontation.

Fast forward to my time in Franklin. In the few years that we’ve been here, I’ve learned that people operate in denial and sometimes there is just absolutely nothing you can do about it. They live there, cozy and comfy in their lies to themselves and each other and if you try to uncover or bring to light any of these lies, they really don’t appreciate it. Some people enjoy being a victim. I’m still occasionally expected to pretend, but now I refuse. It drives me absolutely batty. I don’t pretend well. I can try, but I’m really bad at it. It comes out in my expressions and body language and I’m not interested in learning how to get better at pretending everything is fine when it clearly isn’t.

I’ve since learned the art of moderation, boundaries and tolerance. In short, I learned to be completely happy with myself, not needing everyone to like me and giving people space while they deal with their shit. Even though I see the problem and can offer them the solution, people need time, just like I did, to see things for themselves. We all grow at our own pace– if at all. Perhaps all those years ago I was projecting and trying to change things in other people because I wasn’t yet ready to deal with my own problems. That’s part of living in society, I guess. I love a quote I heard recently, “you don’t see thing how they are, you see things how you are”. I’ve also learned the art of gentle honesty with someone. The wording of sharing my observations, feelings and perspective doesn’t have to be harsh unless I choose it to be and sometimes I do.

The last thing I’m still learning is letting go. Not everyone wants to have hard conversations. Not everyone wants reconciliation. I’ll wait. What I won’t do is subject myself to hatred forever. What I won’t do is apologize repeatedly for being me. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, apparently, and that’s okay.

Gobble Gobble

This week is Thanksgiving and I’m ready for a break. I’m ready for yummy food and a couple of days of rest before the last few weeks of school. This semester has not been my favorite. I think it’s because it’s basically my semester. I have two classes left and they aren’t necessarily art classes. It’s hard to put in effort when you realize this won’t be your life next year and your classmates are just passing time. I have one final collaborative art show in a couple of weeks and then that will be it.

Some people probably wonder why I chose to do art in the first place. Besides the fact that I really enjoy art and wanted to learn more, it also fit with my narrow schedule. I came to WCU with an A.A. in Business Administration, but WCU has only four year programs for the most part. A lot of their business degrees are set up to be completed in four years including liberal arts classes. I found myself in a situation where I would take 2-3 classes for three years paying full-time tuition as a residential student. It wasn’t worth it to me. In the back of my mind my plan was to get the HR graduate degree, so I just needed a B.A. in order to do that. I like management, but the program was archaic, I felt that I had already learned what they would teach me getting my A.A., so I visited the Art program. I thought I might do Graphic Design, but it turns out that program’s classes are from 3-6p and I have to pick up the kiddos by 530p and WCU is 35 minutes away. There goes that plan, so I stuck with studio classes and will finish with my B.A. in Art and a minor in Business Administration. If I can pass Spanish. I have enjoyed my time in the art world, but find myself looking into the HR program again. It’s all online and can be done while I am working.

Art has taught me a lot. It has given me art skills obviously, but it also gave me confidence and a thicker skin. I had to listen to other people criticize my work and I was required to tell them what could have been done better with their work. I made friends with people I would otherwise never meet and got to know others with varying values and opinions. Art deals with political and controversial topics and for my brief time I got to see many different points of view and gave me the opportunity to develop my own. I am so glad I took this journey, albeit not a traditional route.

We are all a bit under the weather, but hopefully we’ll be ready for turkey come Thursday. Last year we went to Florida. I missed the big Thanksgivings we used to have and wanted to be around my family. We had a really great trip and I enjoyed getting to know everyone again and seeing my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. It was fun to see the kids play with cousins and figure out are they cousins if they’re kids of cousins?? As nice as it was to get together with everyone, it made me thankful for our small family traditions and gave me hope that as my kids grow, so will our Thanksgiving get togethers. I’m looking forward to what we’ve started calling pie day and picking up our tree on Saturday.

This is Jason’s last semester of school. He’ll graduate in December, though he refuses to walk or to let me throw him a party. He has worked long and hard for this and I am super proud of him. It has been difficult, especially this last semester with our terrible internet and because all of his classes are full of group assignments, but we see the light at the end of the tunnel. What will he do with free evenings and none of that school pressure occupying his brain??

I hope everyone has a great break and gets to spend time with family or friends this holiday.