Hate-Fueled, Lovingly Crafted Christmas Cards.

A couple of weeks ago I got served some sponsored posts that made me very angry.

It was an illogical anger – holiday-induced-insanity even – but it happened.

The first one occurred on Instagram.

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First let me say that I do not follow Melissa Joan Hart. I do not follow any celebrities (with the exception of The Big Bang Theory Cast because they’re funny and I do not really know why I follow them but I do.) The fact that I was getting sponsored posts not from brands but from celebrities really irritated me. At first I didn’t know why it angered me so intensely, until I got the second one – this time on Facebook.

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I don’t follow Melissa Joan Hart at all but I don’t follow Tori Spelling even harder.

Getting two in a row, from different social platforms, really helped clarify what I hated about these ads. Even more helpful was discussing them with Not-Crazy-Renee. Being each other’s Spirit Animal often enables us to articulate the whats and whys behind what the other one is currently hating, even when it’s petty and ludicrous.

So let’s bullet journal the reasons my heart was overflowing with holiday hate.

● I have enough angst and guilt over my short-lived season of family photo Christmas card making (was it 2012 and 2013? Or maybe 2011-2013?) that I do not need celebrities I don’t even like showing up in my feed to humble brag about theirs and remind me that I don’t have it together enough to make that happen.

● Really, Tori? You’re unveiling your holiday card? As though there is a crowd gathered around you with bated breath, just dying to see your Christmas card? Oh wait – I guess since you sponsored the post, that answers the question. You’re going to force us to attend your unveiling whether we want to or not.

● The name of the company that is underwriting these ads – Simply to Impress. Yes, that’s the holiday spirit we’re all trying to get back to. That’s why we send Christmas cards. That’s the Reason for the Season.

● The leather-couch-outside thing is so 2013, Tori. Everyone knows that leather couches do not belong in the grass, especially when accompanied by perfectly coiffed humans in formal wear. And if you’re going to do the leather couch thing, at least do it in a large field, the place where leather couches seem to be indigenous (at least that’s what cultural anthropologists will think when they study their excavated collection of 2013 Christmas cards.)

● And Melissa – it’s super obnoxiously cute that your friends and family know you’re actually Melissa Wilkerson and not Melissa Joan Hart. It’s a good way to show that you’re totally a real person, and not a celebrity bot living a perfect life and sending out Christmas cards simply to impress.

● Tori, how embarrassing was it for you to have to go into your Facebook and BUY a sponsored ad? Isn’t the point of being a B-List celebrity that you have the world’s attention? I mean sure, Simply To Impress reimbursed you for your social media sell-outedness, but tell me – was it worth it? Did that little paycheck really make an even more lavish-on-the-leather-couch-outside lifestyle that much more attainable?

● I love how you both sound exactly alike in your accompanying flowery descriptions. I wonder which lucky intern got to write the copy for both of your posts. (“All you have to do, Tori, is copy my email, hit CTRL-C, and then go to Facebook and hit CTRL-V.”) (“Hey Tori, can you go in and edit your post and take my email address off the very beginning of it? That’d be great.”)

● Who, exactly, are you trying to reach? Are their people out there that will go buy the identical Christmas Card design so they can tell their friends “Oh yes, I have the same Christmas Cards as Tori McDermott. That’s Tori Spelling, for those of you who don’t know her legal name. #SimplyToImpress”

I spent a week hating on these posts in the darkest, least Holiday-Spiritest parts of my soul, then another week hating on myself for not winning at Christmas enough to send out my own Christmas cards. Also because I really LOVE to address Christmas cards all fancy-like. It’s a favorite holiday tradition.

And then, in a flurry of inspiration and dark-mindedness and manic preparation and fancy writing, I decided that I would, indeed, send out a small batch of Christmas cards.

I took my list from the previous years and pared it down a good bit, then asked my blog readers if they would like a Christmas-Ish card. Because really, these Christmas Cards had to be wantedthey best arrived anticipated, not out of the blue and unexpectedly.

I hurriedly ordered a new batch of my favorite creation of 2016 and then ran over to Hobby Lobby and bought decorative stickers.

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Then, attempting to make each of the cards unique, Noah and I set out on a holiday deco-fest, while Ali preferred to watch in wonder.

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Sloppy the Squirrel and Crunchy the ‘Possum were redeemed, one by one, into a beautiful celebration of the holiday season.

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Because nothing says Jolly like a ‘Possum and her oils.

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I have never in my life had so much fun with Christmas Cards, giggling as I created each one – especially when I realized that Crunchy was able to hold a small gift.

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My envelopes were just fancy enough to hopefully hide the unexpected turn of events that would be found within,

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And I knew that my goal was to add some levity amongst all the cards that my friends and blog readers would be receiving this season.

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Lest you miss the gravity of the moment, this is a story of redemption. Because just as Crunchy and Sloppy had been redeemed for the holidays, so had Melissa and Tori, along with my Happy Holiday Heart. Because yes, I despised them and their obnoxious sponsored posts, but ultimately they drove me to the cheeriest Christmas card making of my life.

So thank you, Melissa.

And thank you, Tori.

And even thank you, Simply to Impress.

I am certain that this outcome was your exact intention.

Editor’s Note: If you didn’t receive a card from me this year, I apologize. I sent out a much smaller batch than usual due to the labor-intensity, the limited number of cards on hand, and not wanting to cause any queasiness in those who hadn’t been slowly immunized to my sick sense of humor. If you would like to receive a card, albeit late, email or message me your mailing address. Maybe Crunchy and Sloppy can be repurposed for New Year’s, Valentine’s or Easter. If you would like your own set of non-holidayed Roadkill Note Cards to send out to your friends and family, they can be purchased here – with 100% of the profits being donated to The WellHouse.

All the Answers: Notes on Choosing a Camera.

In my recent round of Ask Me Anything, Sheri asked what kind of camera I use. Since I was planning on blogging about this soon anyway, I decided to give this question its own post.

So you remember a couple of months ago at the beach, I broke my camera. Or rather, the most evil humidity broke my camera.

And since I run a ministry based on my photography, I had to replace said camera as soon as possible.

I spent several days angsting over what camera to buy, and how much it was going to cost, and the fact that I’d need all new lenses if I bought certain cameras, and HOW MUCH IT WAS GOING TO COST.

But. It had to be done. And I’d been wanting an upgrade anyway, and now was clearly the time to swat the Accountant Conscience off of my shoulder and just do it.

So then it was down to which one. I’m a Canon girl, so that narrowed it down. I wanted to move to the professional line and I didn’t want a used camera, so that narrowed it down to three. The 7D Mark ii, the 6D, or the 5D Mark iii (In cost order from least to most expensive.)

I then marked the 7D Mark ii off the list because it wasn’t full frame, and if I’m moving up I might as well do it right. Even though that meant (whimper) buying all new lenses (slowly. Over time.)

So then it was between the 6D and the 5D Mark iii, of which there was a $1,000 price difference. I didn’t want to pay more, but at the same time, again, if I was buying, I wanted to buy what I needed. The deciding factor came down to actually holding the cameras. Thankfully, that made it really easy: the 5D Mark iii was FREAKISHLY heavy and so wide that it was very uncomfortable to grip in my dainty lady hands. I did not need a camera that would knock me off the hill I was shooting from.

This was quite relieving, because it saved me $1,000.

So ultimately, I went with the 6D with an L lens – my first in Canon’s upper echelon series of lenses. I also used some credit card points and a buyback of my broken camera to also get a wide angle L lens, which is the most necessary extra lens for the kind of shooting I do.

(For reference, my old camera was the Canon T4i, which was in the upper end of their consumer DSLR line.)

I was pretty excited to try out my new camera, but also very, very scared.

Because you know what all the people say…`

“It’s not about the camera – it’s about the photographer. A good photographer can take great pictures with any camera.”

What if I’d just paid a ridiculous sum of money to take the same quality of photos that I’ve always taken? It was a fear worth fearing.

I put it up to my face with much fear and trembling. I shot. And shot some more. And realized that I was going to have to relearn all my normal settings for this new full frame deal. And I shot some more.

And from the second I zoomed in on my first picture, I knew.

All those people who say “The camera doesn’t matter”? THEY ARE LYING.

OH MY GOODNESS AT THE DIFFERENCE.

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My old test of “is this picture clear or not” was “can I read Wells Fargo?”. With the new camera, not only could I read Wells Fargo, but now I could see the individual panes of glass behind Wells Fargo, which stunned me, considering how greatly I had to zoom in to see it.

For perspective, here’s a shot from my normal perch,
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And here’s the Wells Fargo building zoomed all the way in:

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And the new photos print crisp and gorgeously.

I was now able to get night shots like I’d never dreamed of getting (without a tripod),

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I also managed to grab my first ever lightning picture on the first attempt (I have taken thousands of pictures in the past trying to capture lightning),

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And the level of detail I could get was just thrilling.

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Everything about the new camera has made me very, very happy.

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And of course I love how I can capture the children with it, as well (whether they love it or not is not important.)

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The best new feature of the 6D, though, was a feature that was a complete surprise to me, as it wasn’t explained very well in the specs. The 6D can create its own wi-fi network, meaning that I can easily download pictures from my camera to my phone. This is game-changing for me, since I’m usually taking sunset pictures and sharing them immediately. My previous strategy had been to share my iPhone pictures immediately, then edit my real pictures and post them later on my website. Now I can post my real pictures immediately, and I’ve found myself not even taking iPhone pictures when I’m shooting for Picture Birmingham.

Also cool, the app that connects the camera with my phone allows me to see the screen of my camera, adjust all the settings, and remote shoot from my camera using my phone.

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In this family shot, I’m holding my phone behind Ali’s head to remote adjust and shoot the photo with my 6D.

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If I had realized the 6D had this feature, it would have been hands down the obvious choice for me (the 5D mark iii does not have it, as it is an older model of camera). The ability to download instantaneously from my camera to my phone is infinitely valuable, besides the remote shooting capabilities (which is just added fun.)

Needless to say, I am beyond thrilled with the 6D, and I’m excited to see what all I can do with it through Picture Birmingham to further support The WellHouse.

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More answers coming tomorrow…feel free to ask follow-up or completely random questions!

Epic Camping: The Ups.

Everyone should go tent camping.

Everyone.

Unless you have children under four or you are pregnant or live in north Canada or have an aversion to bugs or can’t sleep to the sound of crickets or are addicted to your Sleep Number bed or don’t like peeing in bath houses while large spiders watch you or can’t handle your kids waking up at sunrise.

As I said, EVERYONE should go tent camping.

It really is a lovely experience, and an investment in getting to know nature.

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But more about that in the next post.

Our camping trip consisted of myself, my two children, my sister-in-law, her three children, and my parents.

(Don’t ever go camping without grandparents.)

Chris was in Dallas at the season opener football game, and my brother had to work, so the lack of Daddies just made it all the more adventurous.

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The five cousins in attendance were:

Ali, 8:

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Eli, 7:

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Tessa, 6:

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Noah, 4:MG_2068.jpg

And Andi, 4:MG_1895.jpg

Clearly, one of the benefits of the trip for me was getting to play with my new camera.MG_2045.jpg

It was even better to have kids around that weren’t my own, because mine might be a little tired of posing for photographs.

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But other people’s kids! They’re like fresh meat for my photographical needs!MG_2034.jpg

…Until you try to get them all in a group shot. Because that will never ever ever be successful.

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But this is about camping, not photography.

The trip was full of playing in hammocks,

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Sword fights,

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Glow sticks day and night,MG_2030.jpg

 

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Feeding, chasing, and yelling at the ducks,MG_2074.jpg

Tents accidentally and ridiculously too big,

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Pedal Boating,

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Perfect reflections,

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And a long hike.

The five mile hike, only for myself and the two oldest kids, included nature counts and a very intricate points system that kept changing in an endless string of excited conversation.

Butterflies are worth one point. Butterflies are worth two points. Frogs are worth two points. Frogs are worth 300 points! I see three frogs so that’s 5,000 points! If you see an Alligator it’s worth 500 points but only if he doesn’t eat you. If he eats you then you get zero points. Because you’re dead.

But points aside, we did find 22 frogs.

At least 10 of which Eli picked up,

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And exactly three of which peed on him – including this shirt-soaking gusher.

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I apologized for the frog’s bad manners, but he told me “Oh it’s okay. I get peed on by frogs all the time.”

Our hike led us to the dam,

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Where Ali placed her own form of rebellious graffiti – she wrote her name on a large leaf and left it behind, with the explanation “I’ll be famous now! Because people will see this and know my name!”

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So that’s how you get famous, people. In case you were wondering.

And then there was the sunset. THE sunset. One of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.

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The reflections were perfect, and the ducks were amenable to make beautiful synchronized swimming patterns.

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The skies morphed so many times over that 43 minutes that I could only capture all of its beauty by making a video. If you’ve never quite understood my obsession with sunsets, this should explain it.

So clearly, it was a beautiful trip. And everyone should go camping. EVERYONE.

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Be sure and remember I said that when you read tomorrow’s post. Because we’ll both need the reminder.