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Summer Beach Mini Sessions!

I decided to add a few beach mini sessions to the summer schedule!  They will take place at the Daytona Beach Pier on Sunday, June 12th and Monday, June 13th with two slots each day, at 7pm and 7:30pm.  Please see the details below as to what is included.  Email me at info@rebeccajillphotography.com to book!  RJP Beach Minis 2016

Pieces of Me, Angela Z.

What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day, than to post my first Pieces of Me portrait series, celebrating the women who have inspired me and impacted my life.  A process and expression of gratitude, as well as a dialogue between me and these women and the world, about what it means to be live a meaningful life that impacts others.

Before I get into it and introduce my first subject, I want to take a minute and thank everyone who read my original post, shared their thoughts and responses on the topic, and offered their own take on some of the questions that I posed.  It means so much to me to know that I am not alone in this process and that you took the time to read and share with me.  As I stated before, sharing online does not come without it’s slight moments of fear and hesitation.  After pressing “publish,” I often take a deep breath, my eyes getting bigger while I think, “should I be sharing this?!”  I write because it clarifies how I feel about something.  The thoughts are a mish-mosh in my head until I spew them out and get them down on paper.  So, thank you.  I hope you stick around because there are some fabulous ladies coming your way that will inspire you to be more, to do more, to strive to make a positive impact on others.  <3

So let’s get to it.

When I was thinking about this project originally, I thought of all the successful women that have made an impact in my life along the way.  There are many of them, but this lady jumped out at me, without hesitation.  I knew immediately I wanted to photograph her and include her in this project.

Almost 7 years ago this May, I planned to have a natural birth at a birth center with my first child.  Long story short (I am sparing you the details), after an early water breaking at 38 weeks, many (many) long hours laboring followed by many hours of pushing, I was transferred to the hospital because even though the baby nor I was in distress, I was exhausted and could not push him out, he was stuck.  After all of that effort, Coen was born via c-section.  My recovery from such a long labor and pushing, followed by major abdominal surgery, was rough to say the least.  I was traumatized and disappointed and felt like I was broken.  This is what my body was made for, giving birth.  For as long as humans have been on earth, women have given birth all naturally, without medication and surgery.  Why could I not do what billions of women have done before me?  {Side Note: I realize there is a time and place for medical interventions, and that many moms and babies have been saved and birthed safely due to that intervention, so please spare me any negation of my feelings based on this!}  For months, I could not shake the feelings.  I expressed my sadness to my doula who suggested I attend an ICAN meeting.  I had never heard of ICAN, which is the International Cesarean Awareness Network, but they so happened to be meeting THAT night at a restaurant in MY neighborhood.  All signs pointed to yes, so I went.  A group of women surrounded multiple tables pushed together in the front of the restaurant, some pregnant and some holding babies, women I had not known before that day.  I sat down quietly and listened as the leader of the group started the meeting, followed by introductions around the table.  It was then time for discussion.  I raised my hand and began to speak.  I told my story, my desires and intentions, the details of the labor and the c-section, how I felt the days and weeks following, how I felt like my body didn’t work right, like I failed, like I was broken, like I let Coen down, like I was forever changed by the puffy pink scar on my belly.  Disappointed.  Sad.  The tears streamed down my face. When I was done, I lifted my head to see that these women, these strangers, were crying with me.  They knew my pain, they took it as their own and grieved with me.  They created a safe space to be vulnerable and did not say to me “at least your baby is healthy.”  They said, that sucks, and I’m so sorry that happened, that you feel that way.  I left feeling better, feeling lifted, and surrounded with love and support.  I attended monthly meetings and continued to feel nothing but loved and supported.  I learned many things, including how to cope, how to come together and connect with women, lifting each other up, how to heal, how to take control of my health and have a voice in the medical decisions that affect me.  I received strength and was inspired by their enduring and never-ending capacity to stand up for themselves and for their rights and for the rights of all women.  I stopped going to meetings for a long time until I got pregnant with my second.  I was scared, I wanted to attempt a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), but was worried about so many things.  Will my body work right this time?  Will I fail again?  Will I give up?  What are the risks with a repeat c-section?  Again, nothing but love, support, and education so that I could make the decisions that were best for me, my body, and my baby, and not being dictated by doctor’s schedules, fear of liability, and insurance.  In the end, I had a home VBAC with my daughter, Arden, that was nothing short of amazing.  To this day, I have not felt elation like I felt when Arden was placed on my chest.  Pure joy.  Pure love.  Pure strength.  Pure empowerment.  I received that strength from the women at ICAN.  I would not have been able to have the birth that was right for Arden and me without ICAN.  Over time, I became stronger in my conviction that women know what is best for them and their bodies and became less and less afraid to speak up for what I believe in.  I came to believe that I am strong and can rise to meet the most demanding of physical, emotional, and mental challenges.  I learned to believe in myself, my instincts, and my body.  I learned that women are amazing and that I, for the first time in my life, truly appreciated what it meant to be a woman, what a true gift and blessing it was to be a woman.  I was and am proud to be a woman.  I am forever changed from the women at ICAN, and one in particular, the one who was the local Central Florida chapter leader for many years.

Meet Angela Z.

AngelaZRebeccaJillPhotography

She is bold.  She is fierce.  She is not afraid to stand up and speak her mind.  She fights for women’s rights.  She is fearless.  She is unwavering in her beliefs and does not back down when challenged.  She is also full of life with a sparkle in her eye.  Basically, I want to be her.  As I have said before, it took me a long time to come into my own skin, to not be afraid to share my thoughts and opinions, especially when those opinions may not be the most popular around, not mainstream and a bit on the crunchy, hippie-dippy side.  She inspired me and continues to inspire me to stand up for myself when something is important to me, to not back down from confrontation or adversarial situations just because they make me feel uncomfortable or out of fear of offending or upsetting someone.  My life has been touched by her life.  Her life story is now a part of my life story.  I am eternally grateful for the role she has played in my journey into motherhood, my journey into womanhood, my journey into my own skin.

When Angela came to my studio for her shoot, I hadn’t told her too much of what I was thinking, the reason for my request that she come in and be photographed.  Yet she was so willing to share with me, to be open and talk with me about my questions about living a meaningful life, about how her life was meaningful to me, and that I was grateful to her.  Tears were shed.  I can image it was a little like being on Oprah.  😉  She told me about the incredible challenges she faced as a child and how she overcame them to be the person she is today.  I loved her even more after our talk and her session.  I was so in the moment when we talked, that I did not remember the exact details enough to quote her here, so I asked her to answer some questions in writing and she graciously complied.  {Side note: Angela is a speech and language pathologist specializing in adult brain injury and stroke rehabilitation and pediatrics by day, the leader of the local ICAN chapter by night.  How amazing is she?!}

How do you define success?  

Being successful, in my eyes, means being the woman my daughters will look to for for guidance and advice as they grow into women. It means serving my clients and patients in a way that brings forth meaningful change and inspires them to realize their own strength and courage. It means being the best wife I can to my husband and being willing to work on all the sticky and challenging things that inevitably come up along the years. It means serving my community. It means being as much a sister as I am a friend to my friends. And then it all comes back to my daughters. I do it all for them in hopes that I can be they don’t have to work as hard as I have to be successful because a path has already been laid out for them.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date?

Finding my true self and learning to be unapologetic for being me. Without having built that foundation, none of what I have done would have been possible.

How do you believe you impact the people around you?

Every month when women and their partners show up for a support meeting, every time I have watched a woman birth herself into motherhood, every time I have helped a client find his or her voice, I know I have positively impacted the people around me. I impact those around me by holding their space. I impact those around me by believing in them and telling them as many times as it takes for them to believe me. I impact people around me by listening to their stories. I spend my time doing this because for a long long time so many people did this for me, during a period of time when I wrongly thought I didn’t have anything to offer to anyone, not even myself.

Do you believe you live your life with purpose and meaning?

The purpose and meaning I live with is to make life better for family and my community. In my day to day work with patients who have had strokes and brain injures, as well as kids who have trouble saying their R’s, to role playing with my kids when I hear them struggling as well as recognizing their ordinary successes, to making myself available to women in our community who need support and encouragement in finding their own voices, all the way to practicing profound self control and not skipping ahead to the next episode of Mad Men and saving it for my husband and I to watch together…..I want to hear all of their stories, I want to better understand their lives, and I strive to do what is in my power to make our collective lives better, if only by listening. That is how I strive to impact others through my life’s purpose and meaning.

Do you feel like you still have things you want to accomplish and do?

YES! Living without a plan is like living without air! Sometimes it drives my husband a little bonkers with how much I plan, but I know that he really does appreciate it. I have clear goals set for the next year and five years that I revisit every month or two to make sure that I am on track and actively working towards my vision.

How do you think you inspire others?

I believe I inspire others with my willingness to speak up when something is not right, my grit in overcoming personal challenges, and my ability to connect with other women. I truly believe in the saying “stand up for what is right, even if you stand alone”, and to be totally honest there have been times that standing up for what I believe is right has been at a high cost. Sometimes that cost has been incredibly painful for me, however, I am willing to make that stand if I truly believe in a cause.

I have overcome a lifetime of adversity to get to where I am today, and I am very much forging my own path. I am proud of that, and I am not afraid of talking with others about the hardships I have overcome. These challenges have made me who I am today, as painful as they might have been. And if by speaking out about my painful early years helps one woman to get the help she needs, to find a counselor, or to consider making serious changes in her life, then any backlash I have experience for being unafraid and unashamed has been worth it.

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After meeting with Angela, I was energized, uplifted, and felt alive and connected with myself and my world.  My heart was full knowing she felt loved and appreciated and that she knew that her life had impacted mine.  That she was important to me.  After my initial post, it has become clear to me that living a meaningful life does not need to be on a grand scale – you do not have to impact the entire world to live a meaningful life.  One of the most important things is to be true to yourself.  Be yourself, believe in the importance and relevance of your own voice.  There are SO many people on this earth and so many have walked before us – every single person is different.  Celebrating that difference by embracing yourself, your own thoughts and opinions, living the life you want for yourself, is the basic tenant of living a meaningful life.  And then, once you do that, you are free and open to impact others positively.  If Angela had not overcome adversity to find and embrace herself all those years ago, would she have been at that ICAN meeting that night?  Would our lives have ever crossed?  That is the beauty of life.  We do not know why or how our paths are the way they are or why they go where they go, but we can for sure as shit believe that there is a reason and that we can positively or negatively affect those around us, it’s our choice.

So go forth, and be like Angela.  I love her.

Thank you, Angela, for being YOU.  YOU are important.

xoxo,

Rebecca

END NOTES:

– There are MANY women that I met through ICAN that supported me, loved me, and empowered me.  Highlighting Angela in no way diminishes their roles.  I would guess that they feel the same way about Angela as I do 🙂

– ICAN is an amazing organization.  If you are trying to prevent a c-section, recover from a c-section, attempt a VBAC, or educate or empower yourself to make the best decisions that are right for you, your body, and your baby, please look them up and go to a meeting!

– If you want to read my first post that started this project, you can do so here.

– I have many photos of Angela smiling and laughing, but I picked this one because this is how I will remember her:  unapologetically fierce.  I love how she is coming out of the darkness, only one side of her face illuminated by the light, because it is reminiscent of her story, she overcame darkness to be the person she is today.  She came out of the darkness to be the best version of herself she could be, inspiring others with her strength, her grit and her light.  Out of the darkness and into the light that she shines on those around her.

 

 

Angela Ziegler -

I love you to, Rebecca. Thank you for being so brave and so creative in ways that complete you and inspire others, too.

Erin Monroe -

beautiful image of a beautiful heart

Why Turning 38 Scares Me {a rambling personal post about time and life}

(First off, to accompany this post and to commemorate my 38th birthday, I took some self portraits at the studio while trying out some new lighting techniques, to practice and learn.  Why?  Because I’m a photographer and this is a photography blog.  At first I thought, well this is weird, I guess I could have gotten a friend to model for me.  But really, shouldn’t we all have photos of ourselves?  If nothing else, to prove we were here to the people that follow?  I want to remember who I was at 38.  And I bet my kids will want to see it one day too. And maybe my grandkids too.  Oh and I had a fun vintage dress hanging out in my closet that wanted to feel meaningful. 😉 )

Hi.  This is me.

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I just turned 38.

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At a recent celebration for my 38th birthday, I was asked if I was “afraid of 40?”

 

40!? Forget 40! I’m afraid of 38!

 

I have been referring to myself in my head as 38 for months now. I even once told someone I was 38 and quickly said “wait no!  I’m not 38 yet, I’m 37!”  This birthday is affecting me more than any other birthday ever has. It’s so close to 40, the proverbial “over the hill,” which I used to equate with “old,” as the jokes and the black birthday party decor with fake tombstones.  But it’s not old.  It’s half-life over.  For the past 40 years, you have been climbing the hill of life and you are now at the top, looking down over the other side is the rest of your life  (if you’re lucky enough to live to the average life expectancy for your gender).  But yet, I still feel so young. In my heart and in my head, I am still a young adult who is now somehow in charge of two human beings (?!), married and self employed. I don’t feel old, and even though I *know* 38 is not actually “old”, it USED to be old. In MY mind, it used to be 100% adult stage, 100% grown-up, nice savings-and-401k age, I-know-what-I’m-doing-with-my-life age. But now I’m here. Or at least, I’m almost there.  Very soon, I’ll be that age that used to be old in my own head.

 

And you know how I feel about it? I am scared. I am scared that my life may be more than half over already. There is still so much left to do, so many places to see, things to experience, and memories to make.  What if I never accomplish anything “great?” What if I never have a positive impact on the world?   What mark am I leaving? I am but a speck of dust in the history of time.  Once my life is over, the world keeps turning and memory fades and then there is nothing left, as if I wasn’t here at all.

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So yeah, 40 scares me.  38 scares me.  I am in a big hurry, I am frantic, I feel like time is running out. I am anxious that I will not do the things I want to do while I am alive.

 

Because how lucky am I to have lived to the age of 38 and be in good health (knock on wood)? We spend so much time planning for the future, what will I be when I grow up? What will my career be? How will I pay for housing, food, etc.?  Will I be successful?   And then you get to that point and you think, wow, this is it for the rest of my life, now what? And then “now what?” becomes the same thing every day, the routine. And then now becomes later. And then later becomes too late.

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I’ve been grappling with these thoughts for quite some time. How do you bring purpose into your life when life is filled with everyday mundane necessities? How do you make a positive impact around you? What does it mean to succeed and be successful? What is my greatest accomplishment to date? What would I like to accomplish by 40? By 50? By 60, and hopefully, 70 or 80? At what point does health start to decline so that it’s challenging to accomplish much of anything? How many years does that leave me? 10? 20? 30?

 

At the same time, is it selfish to think about MY productivity, MY accomplishments, MY impact? How privileged are these thoughts? That I even have the ability to have them. Because my survival is not at stake. My basic survival needs are easily met. Food, check. Shelter, check. Oxygen, check. Water, check. Once basic needs are met, one can relax and ask “ok, what do I worry about now?” I will worry about whether this life, that is easily sustained, is meaningful. I will worry about whether this life, that was given to me out of no urging of my own, has purpose. I will worry about whether I am successful. I will worry about hustling. I will worry about making a difference. Why? To feel good about myself? Does it mean that someone fighting for survival is not leading a meaningful life?

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At the same time as coming face to face with the BIG question, what is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of MY life?  I have decided that I am a late bloomer. It took me a long time to come into my own, into my own skin, into my own head. (Why? Because I’m a people pleaser – for so long I did what I thought others wanted of me. I didn’t want to rock the boat. I didn’t voice my opinions out of fear of ending up in a debate with someone as that terrified me, confrontation terrified me. Speaking my mind, terrified me.) And I have made a transition in the last year or so, as I go through the most challenging experience of my life. Isn’t it funny how that happens? Our most intense personal growth occurs as a result of intense hardship. I am a soft heart and deep conversation lover. A one-on-one connector and a feeler. I would much rather sit and talk about finding purpose in one’s life and following your own heart and dreams than be reading People magazine and caring about what someone I don’t even know wore to the grocery store.  It is so clear to me what matters and does not matter in life, of what matters and doesn’t matter to me.  But at the same time, should I just be leading a life that makes me happy, or should I try to do something greater, something that impacts others in a positive way?

 

So now, as I turn 38, I ask myself:  When I die, at whatever age, will I be happy with how I lived my life? Will I be happy with the choices I made? Will I be happy with how I defined success for myself?  Did I do enough to make a difference on the world around me or did I focus on meaningless stuff that fills every nook and cranny of society around us?

 

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It’s so easy to fall into the hustling, go go go, busy, more more more, goals, vision boards, life plans, planning, etc. But we are all going to die. You are going to die, and I am going to die, and you over there, and that person there. ALL of us. So why do we walk around acting like we’re not? Worrying about things that do. not. matter.  When the time comes – POOF – gone. Just gone in the blink of an eye. POOF and not even smoke is left. It will be all gone.

 

So here I am, 38. Thirty Eight. 3-8. Two years from FOUR decades old. What have I done? I have followed the path that I thought was right for me. I went to law school and then when I realized it wasn’t for me in the long run, that it wasn’t the best use of my personality and skills, I left to pursue creative endeavors.  And I got married and had two kids.  So . . .  so what?  What now for, hopefully, 40 more years?

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Last year I was checking out at the grocery store, when I saw this LIFE magazine – 100 Women who Changed the World. $14. $14 I paid for a magazine, insanity. But I needed to have it. I needed to know about these amazing women and I needed it for my daughter, and my son for that matter. I displayed it proudly on a side table in the front room of the house, because I wanted to advertise that I am woman, and I am proud, and I believe in the coexisting strength and softness of women, and that I believe women can accomplish anything and more. But I had yet to actually sit and read about these women. As my birthday drew near, I was drawn to the faces and stories of women that changed the world – in a world of 7 BILLION people. How does that happen? How do you live a life that so impacts the rest of the world?

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Then I started thinking about the people who have influenced ME, who have impacted MY WORLD.  Is it enough to make a positive impact on just ONE other person’s life to make your own life meaningful?

So with all of this thinking (seriously sometimes I wish I could turn it all off and be happy-go-lucky, but that is just not me), I’ve decided to interview and photograph women, strong women who are accomplished and who inspire ME – who have impacted MY life.  Because I want them to know that their life was meaningful to mine.  And I also want to have conversations with them, learn from them, and hear their thoughts on what it means to live a meaningful life that impacts others.

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I’m not sure what I’ll call this series yet, but when I post the first one, I’ll let you know.  And I’m not sure how often I’ll post, I’m sure it will be inconsistent as is the story of my life at the moment.  But when I am inspired, when I connect with these women, I will post and I will tell you about them, and they will share with us, and you will love them too.

There is so much more to say about all of this, but it will all come in time.

xoxo

Rebecca

Ps. If you think about this stuff too, you let me know, and we’ll chat. <3

Pps.  I must also add that I LOVE being a photographer – I find so much meaning in capturing such amazing moments in people’s lives, in creating images that clients will look at for years and pass on to the next generation.  I truly believe that photography plays an important role in our lives and I feel blessed to be able to provide beautiful images to clients <3

 

 

Camille Salangsang Morehen -

One word…ACCEPTANCE!!! No anxiety until you hit my age…my advice? Don’t have a bucket list!!

Jamie Suedkamp Hils -

LOVE this!!! I will be 38 this year & it too scares the hell out of me!!

Lorraine Reep -

I would guess that you are more of a “Live it!” List kind of woman. You’ve already begun to think about making your mark; having impact that will long outlive you. At almost 62 (I also tend to think of myself as my next age!) I can assure you that this urgency will increase as you realize that much of life is outside of your control, but you have amazing opportunity with the things you can! Happy birthday, beautiful!

Jessica Chapman -

Awesome article!! Very inspiring:).

Patty Suedkamp -

Oh, Rebecca, that was absolutely the most beautiful heartfelt post I’ve ever read. you are beautiful, strong, and an inspiration to all who know and love you. I feel sad for those who don’t. You have inspired me, that’s for sure!

Camille Salangsang Morehen -

Bucket list is your journey!

Monique Scollin Paroline -

Great read, as usual. I enjoy reading your thoughts. I’m 40 now and just so proud. I finally feel happy and fulfilled but still struggling with how to make my impact on the world.

Kelly Canova -

I love this! If you ever want to talk about turning 55, just let me know lol…Miss seeing you xo

Maggie McCarthy -

I love you, Rebecca. I love who you are, what you have become and I love your strength. Thank you for letting me be a wee part of your life’s journey! <3

Michelle Smith -

You still have a couple of years, but I can tell you that your 40s will be amazing. There is this wonderful freedom being 40 brings. You are doing great things that will have an even greater impact. : )