When Life Is Far From Rosy, We Choose...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Image by Karissa Nickish
There are seasons in our lives that seem hopeless, awkward, painful and just down-right difficult at the core. The list of descriptions can be exhaustive when we inspect the hard details of our lives. Yet, we are not guaranteed a life without trials, hardship, transitions, or pain. Nonetheless, we are promised a full life of joy and hope despite our circumstances. 

If you are in a season that is far from rosy, or perhaps know a friend in this season, here are six things we can actively choose to do in this period. That is the key -- it is a choice. We choose to not retreat from the problem but rather embrace this season with all the beauty it, too, has - a time of diving deep into growth. 

We Choose to Learn

Ah, learning. While looking at the situation through a more academic lens may initially cause the chills of a high school math class, it can allow us to see multiple perspectives of an issue. It is important to feel all the emotions in a circumstance, yet we should not let them rule our hearts. In practice, this could look like asking ourselves questions in our seemingly-hopeless circumstances: Why is this causing pain or hurt? What are specific ways to hold fast to hope? And, ultimately, how can this be used as an avenue of growth and learning? 

Note that choosing to learn does not simply mean "looking at the bright side of things" -- for, that solution is only a temporary fix. Let's look at all the sides of the circumstance to fully embrace and press on in and through the mess. 


Photo by Karissa Nickish
We Choose to Zoom Out

When I was purchasing items for my college dorm last year, I bought a magnifying mirror to use when I get ready in the morning. And, boy, let me tell you -- you see everything in this mirror. Your facial imperfections and morning bed head are even further emphasized making the thought "do I really look like this?" roam your mind too often. 
What this mirror is good for is a small list: plucking eyebrows, fixing stray hairs and perfecting my contour*. Yet, at last, it mostly just punctuates an issue I wouldn't focus on otherwise. Likewise, when we zoom too closely into a circumstance, we are only seeing a fraction of our condition and letting that define it in its entirety. So, let's take a large step back, shall we? This way, we are able to gain proper perspective and allow the little details to take the back seat.

*Who am I kidding? Contour?! You know this girl does not have even the slighted clue how to do that. 


We Choose to be OK with Imperfection

In these far-from-rosy times, we are tempted to want to fix and fix now. While recognizing a problem and choosing to move forward in some way from it is a wise step to take, let's give ourselves some grace. We do not have to formulate a 1-2-3 step action plan to get back on our feet or have it all figured out in a set number of days. It is in the valleys brimming with imperfection that we have the opportunity to realize our humanity in full. When recognized and felt, we can choose to just do our best with where we are at each day (even considering purchasing this shirt with the mantra). Grace  on grace on grace, friends. We are all just trying to figure out this doin' life thing, right?


Photo by Karissa Nickish
We Choose Vulnerability

Allowing people to be apart of your season of life that is painful is scary. Terrifying at times, even. Yet, the vulnerability of admitting your hurt or lack of hope to a friend reminds both of us that we need each other. We were not made to go through the hard times alone, for it is in community that we can experience the beauty of carrying one another's burdens.

Practically, this can appear as simply sending a text to a close friend or family member letting them know what you are walking through and inviting them to be apart of that. Or, this can look like sitting down with someone older and wiser than you over coffee to process your emotions. Whoever it may be, those who are deeply rooted in your life want to be apart of your mess to encourage and hold you.

We Choose to Surround Ourselves with Truth

It is easy for our heart + mind to get a little foggy in a cloud of emotions some days. We tend to forget the things we know to be true, thus leaving us to buy into falsehood left and right. Though it may take time to fully believe or feel, choosing to surround ourselves with truth is vital to maintaining our sense of worthiness. What we need to remind ourselves of in a situation can differ depending on circumstance & person, but here are few phrases I prompt myself of in the thick of it: 01) This is only temporary, 02) Community heals and 03) There is hope (even if I do not see it right now). Either it be a close friend who speaks truth often or simply a sticky note on your mirror, setting our minds on what is real and honest far outweighs any lies we can believe.

Photo by Karissa Nickish
We Choose to Love

When life does not seem to be going our way, it is only natural to let that consume us. Still, life somehow seems to continue for both ourselves and our community. Therefore, we are not alone in our struggle; actually, we are in great company. While we are limited people making our giving modified in times of sorrow, we can still love those around us. Whether that be through thanksgiving for our friend's support or listening to someone's struggle without the intention of pulling our own into the conversation, we can love.


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While not a perfect or complete list, I hope that we can be active participants in our lives and the lives of our friends + family in these far-from-rosy times. For in our mess and weakness, there is strength and beauty.


Join the conversation: What do you choose in times of struggle? How do you hold fast to hope despite your circumstance?

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Mastering Flat Lays Without a Studio

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


We live in a world of creatives with impressive studios, fancy lighting and expensive camera lenses. While this picture-perfect situation is fun to pin or spend time in a day dream, it often leaves us discouraged, making us wonder: Can we still create with quality without an abundance of resources? The answer: A sure and strong yes. We can and should create where we are & with what we have; it is in these limitations where true creativity takes place. And, you're in luck since flat lays, knolling and styled photos in general can be done well with very few materials.

This past year, I worked with my local Anthropologie to help develop creative content for social media. Specifically, I created artistic flat lays within different themes for the store's Instagram. Despite the advantage of having an abundance of beautiful items to style and curate together, it was a learning curve to master styling these products without a formal studio. However, through the process I discovered a few simple ways to work with whatcha got, as they say. 

What you need: An iPhone camera, natural light and some 
styling props you have on hand 
(This can look like tissue paper, beans, greenery, scrap fabric, washi tape, etc.)


01 | Creating the Right Backdrop 

One can never go wrong with a sleek, white backdrop. But, due to space or lack of access to an ideal situation, this is not always possible. A few solutions: 1) Want to fake it? Use a couple of white poster boards (one laid flat, the other standing up to create "L" shape) or a large piece of butcher paper (secure top of sheet about 3 feet up from bottom of a wall and let drape onto ground). 2) Or, keep an eye out for different spaces in your area that may have the ideal backdrop. Whether that be the wood table at your local coffee shop or a nice floor in a shop, use it! 3) Lastly, texture is key when creating a well-designed styled shot. Utilize materials you have on hand - whether that be a rug, blanket or table runner - to help add dimension to your shot. 

Lacking something? Ask a friend or neighbor! Sharing creates community, even in the simplest way of expressing and meeting a need. 


02 | Make it Individual to You

If you are styling for a brand or business, it is easy to just focus on the products chosen for the photo. Yet, creating your artistic style requires putting your own spin on the circumstance. Add personal details to the flay lay that would be relatable to your audience. Whether it be choosing to work in your favorite magazine or having your everyday sunnies stick out of a bag, these little details make the your work individual and unique to you. 


03 | Add Some Life!

Incorporate a small plant or greenery, include a cup of coffee or add in that last slice of cake on a plate. Overall, make the photo more than just lifeless objects. By adding a bit of soul to the shot, it allows the branded objects to take on more movement and personality than they could alone.

Tip: Grocery store flowers are usually no more than $10 -- not only do they look great within a styled shot, but add a little more joy to your home, too.


04 | Remember the Art of Play

Styling is an art. And, I think as we grow up and continue to create, we forget the carefree and playful aspect that art should obtain. Give yourself permission to mess up a shot. That idea that just popped in your head that could-or-could-not look really cool? Try it. Let's try not to get so caught up in the desire for efficiency and planning that we forget the wonder of creating.


05 | Don't Forget the Finishing Touches

For all of these shots, I just used my IPhone to both shoot and edit. As editing goes, I keep it simple and personal to my aesthetic. I use the app VSCO to crop & straighten, bump up the contrast, adjust exposure as needed and fix any temperature or coloration problem. Then, I will softly layer a couple of filters depending on the style of the image and how it will be used (favorites include: A6, J2, Q2, M5; available to purchase within app). These final touches make a world of difference by curating images that are both stylized and uniform.

Join the Conversation: What are your tips to style creative content in imperfect conditions? And, how can we use these limitations to boost and grow our creativity?

Your Softness, Celebrated

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Image via Karissa Nickish
Sensitivity, softness, tenderness, gentleness... these are words that are very near to my heart, for they compose a good amount of it. For so long, I believed the lie that these attributes are negative and should be avoided to live life well. Still, that is far from the truth, friends. Our softness is needed in this world. To mend and to grace and to love the brokenness that surrounds our lives and those around us. It is a gift that is lovely and beautiful. 

I could go on, but sometimes borrowed words say it far better than I ever could. Here are a few thoughts from some wise individuals who celebrate and encourage our softness amidst a rigid world. Without further ado,

"I'm sorry if anyone ever said you needed thicker skin. Or to toughen up, man up (ugh, I hate this one the most), or get it together. Your sensitivity is a gift the world is searching for. Where there is thin skin, there is tenderness. Where there is tenderness, there is empathy. Where there is empathy, there is love. Stay soft this week."

-Sammi Harvey, via @sammiharveyco


Image via Karissa Nickish
"There are so many people who believe it is one or the other, softness or strength, when the truth is there is so much strength in being soft. The ability to go through life without turning cold is tough, and it takes a lot of courage."

-Leslie Tulip, via Darling Magazine

"Being tender and open is beautiful. As a woman, I feel constantly shhh'ed. Too sensitive. Too mushy. Too wishy washy. Blah blah. Don't let someone steal your tenderness. Don't allow the coldness and fear of others to tarnish your perfectly vulnerable beating heart. Nothing is more powerful than allowing yourself to be truly affected by things."

-Zooey Deschanel


Image via Karissa Nickish
"I begin with an open heart, being honest about how I feel and what affects me, but then releasing it, handing it over to someone and something much bigger than me. This is both freeing and comforting. I wasn't made to carry too much weight, nor was I made to carry all the luggage alone. When I grab onto bitterness, it's as if I'm refusing to let someone else carry the bags for me; it creates more work and ultimately more pain. [...] There's a beauty in softness - a simple beauty that's both powerful and inviting. It's often the harder choice, but it's the wholehearted choice."

-Tori Schaulis, via torischaulis.com

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Oh, to be tender and soft and sensitive. I always have referred to it lovingly as a blessing and a curse, but learning that is more so the first. It is blessing to feel deeply, love deeply and be affected by life deeply. If you are are someone who resonates with this, a message from me to you: Keep being soft. Keep being tender. Keep being gentle and vulnerable and delicate. Here, you are celebrated.

Join the Conversation: Do you think of sensitivity and softness as a strength? And, how can we continue to show tenderness in the hard seasons of life?
by mlekoshi