April 3, 2014

Dear Gwyneth Paltrow

Dear Gwyneth,

(and all women everywhere)

Woman to woman.  Mom to mom.

I want to say, I know you’re doing what you think is best.  I know it takes guts to make hard decisions.  And I know it takes courage to say it to the entire world.

As women we expect a lot of ourselves and a lot of others.  We hear conflicting messages and perhaps even send confusing messages to friends and loved ones, too…

do what you love but don’t love it so much you’re not a good mom

be a great mother but don’t be obsessive

take time for yourself but don’t miss any of your kids’ performances or games

be a working mom but don’t make dumb choices with your family

be real about what motherhood is like for you but don’t say anything that will make the rest of us mad or uncomfortable

tell us what your life is really like but if you say something we don’t like we’re not likely to let you forget it

Motherhood and parenting and work and home can feel like such a mine field, bombs waiting to explode with one wrong step.

I want you to know, I get that you’ve had to make some really difficult decisions.  Recently, I shared something that was not easy to share.  I shared it with the whole world.  Thankfully, I had people who rallied around me and told me they know what it’s like to let words hold them back.  They reminded me that I was a good person.  They told me their stories and they told me of how I had made a difference in their lives.  I felt supported and understood.  I want that for you, too.

I want you to know, I think it’s important for us to be there for each other as moms and women…no matter how much or little money we make, no matter what our careers look like or how many hours we spend creating them.  I believe we are here to support each other.  And I’m here for you.

I want you to know, I’ve said things before that were taken out of context, misconstrued, and given meaning that was never intended.  I know I’ve also done the same thing to other people.  I wish I hadn’t but I’m human.  It happens.  We’ve all done it. You’re not alone. I believe we’ve all been on both sides of this story.

I want you to know, you’re not the only one who has looked at someone else’s life and thought: she must have it easier because she’s making it look so much simpler.  You’re not the only one who has felt like they were going through hell and looked around and seen what someone else has and thought: I’ll take that, please.

I’ve done it too.

I want you to know, I get it.  It’s tough and sad to see a relationship you’ve put time and effort and love and care into come to an end.

I want you to know, I know what it’s like to give up something you love and adore for people you love and adore.  You wonder if it’s the right decision and you see others managing the same type of career and family and they seem to be doing it so flawlessly.  And you wish that could be you.  You wish you could do all of that, too.  But when you’re honest, you know that something had to take a backseat, something had to give, if you’re going to raise your kids with the kind of schedule and life you think will bless their lives the most.

I want you to know, I think you’re brave to stand up and say that you’re going to do this motherhood thing differently than you’ve been doing it.

I want you to know, I get it.  You’re not alone.

I’m here for you.


bedtime_davinafear_2Davina Fear is a Familyness Adventurer.  She believes it adds magic to the everyday to dine by the light of  candles and and read bedtime stories to her teenagers.

She blogs at davinafear.com and created a free book just for you that helps you create awesome family photo stories, make sure to get it here.

March 27, 2014

What happened 4 years ago


what happened 4 years ago.

BSC-Before South Carolina I was becoming well know in the photography industry.  I spoke at conferences, was co-creator of the hugely popular Love Affair Workshop that sold out in minutes, and created the mentoring fundraiser for Thirst Relief International that consistently brings in a huge amount of donations for the organization every year.

I was out in the world making things happen.  Good things.  I was helping people.  I was photographing amazing couples and creating great relationships with my clients.  It was fun.  I loved my work and I loved photography and I loved my couples.

When I moved to South Carolina, I took a year sabbatical as my youngest child transitioned into kindergarten.  The sabbatical turned into 18 months and finally I was ready to re-enter the industry. Around that time a couple from Utah hired me to photograph their wedding.  We scheduled the get to know you shoot (engagement) to be photographed in SLC, Utah.  It had been almost 2 years since I’d been back to Utah.  I decided to add a couple of days to the trip and offer some sessions to my former clients and friends since I was already going to be in town. I offered a $500 session and included a DVD of images from the shoot.

Within a few minutes, of sending the email with the offer, I received an embittered, angry email, filled with name calling, from a photographer I thought was my friend.  At first I thought it was a joke.  Until I started receiving emails a couple of times an hour from them.  The emails kept coming, relentlessly, through out the entire day.  Each email getting worse, telling me that I was a disgrace to the industry, calling me names I won’t repeat, and telling me they were going to out me for the fraud I was to every photographer they knew.  In one email they said that they had just been talking to a photographer about what a complete joke I was.

I was devastated.

And that would be a massive understatement.

I deleted the emails and blocked the person from my inbox and removed them from my newsletter.

But the damage had been done.

I didn’t send any more emails for the offer.  I hesitantly took only the sessions that booked me from that first initial email.

The next day the couple, who had hired me for their wedding in Utah, wrote me an email and said they wanted to cancel because they thought it was unprofessional for me to take additional work while I was in town for their engagement session.

It felt like a 1-2 punch and I went down for the count.

A few weeks later, I headed for the SLC airport-hoping, that when I touched down and walked toward the baggage claim, there wouldn’t be a huge mob of angry and disgruntled photographers waiting for me. (I know that sounds crazy but it really was my fear.)

In the months previous I had been so excited to return to Utah and look up old friends both in and outside the photography community.  I was looking forward to seeing people I hadn’t seen in 2 years.

Instead, I called no one.  I hoped no one would discover I was in Utah.  I went to my scheduled photo shoots and stayed in my hotel.  Quietly, I slipped in and out of town.

I went back to SLC last year.  Again, I came and went as quietly as possible; convinced that no one would want to see me and if they did it would only be to say they were disgusted that I would only charge $500 a session and give away negatives, too…and they would mention what a joke I was to the industry now.

I stayed away.

After that day, I heard all of those words ring in my head every time I’ve tried to make a business decision, with each email I sent out, and with every interaction.  I still pushed forward but those words would make me doubt. It’s felt like I’ve been trying to move against a tide of molasses.

Until this past November I hadn’t been to a single conference, WPPI, workshop, etc.  Nothing.

I know that this one experience shouldn’t have stopped me.  I should have been able to shrug it off.  It shouldn’t have mattered like it did.  It shouldn’t have set me back so dramatically.  But it did.

I’m owning the experience here so I can officially move on.  I’m owning that it happened.  And that it hurt me deeply.  And that 4 years is enough of my life to give to this part of my story.

Because what I’m doing now is really important.  I believe in what I’m creating.  I’ve seen it change people’s lives.  I’m inspired and excited about what I’ve been putting out into the world.  But I’m living it small.  I’m tired of letting someone else’s words hold me hostage.  I didn’t mean to let it happen but those words from all those years ago have made me afraid.  I’ve allowed that experience to keep me playing small and worried and hoping that no one will call me out again.  I’ve given those words too much power.

They’ve made me fearful of big crowds of photographers and all people who may figure out that I’m teaching myself.  I’m learning as I go.  I’m doing the best I can.  That I’m part of you.

I’ve given enough of my life away to this moment that hurt me.

I’m telling this story here because I’ve been hiding and I’ve been scared.  And I’ve been doubting myself since that day.

And I need you to know.

I need you to know so I can move on and do important work.

So I can go back to not being so scared.  So I can go back to being the girl that doesn’t hide, the girl that doesn’t live small.

I want to be me again.

I’m not writing this so you’ll tell me I was right and the client was wrong or I was wrong and the client was right.

I’m not writing this so you’ll ask me who the photographer was that wrote me these emails so we can talk about what a jerk they were.

I’m writing this because I need it.

I’m writing this because I’m ready to come out of hiding.

I’m writing this because I want to trust myself again.


Davina Fear is a Familyness Adventurer.

She blogs at davinafear.com.





March 20, 2014

Fighting kids: what they really want


It’s Sunday night.

We are sitting in our fort all nestled on the couches with blankets and pillows.  Emmett and Miriam are sitting next to each other.  We’ve all just been to church (and so you’d think what happened there would have sunk in).

Unexpected sucker punch

Suddenly, from nowhere, one of them has said something that may or may not have been innocent.  Immediately cutting digs are thrown back and forth.

The two of them are expert at knowing just how to throw a word-filled jab to the soft and tender places of the other.  It usually happens late at night or after a long and difficult day.  Either way…they both know far to well what will hurt.

Why do they think they can do that?

In our house we’ve told our kids they are welcome to speak their minds.  They can say what they think.  Throwing word daggers out just to see if they will land somewhere soft and tender, though, isn’t okay.

They can tell someone they don’t like how they were treated or the way they are doing something.  But the backhanded rudeness and under the breath words that bite and words like always and never just aren’t fighting fairly.

Put three teenagers in a room

Emotions run really high at our house.  We have three teenagers and they are quickly learning the fine art of teasing as they fumble through the landmine of knowing what to do with all of that over-the-top expression of every feeling they have.

How parenting toddlers and teenagers is so different and so the same

I have talked with so many parents about the physical exhaustion that comes with raising little kids and the emotional/mental exhaustion that accompanies raising teenagers.  Both parts of parenting are so different and both of them do the same thing…drive us to the edge of exhaustion to a place that sometimes leaves you wondering what is left to do with them and with yourself.

What I did while they fought

Last night-at at time when I wanted to give into the emotional crisis and lose it too-I stepped back from the situation and attempted to get my bearing.  Instead of getting bugged about the way my kids were acting, I asked myself about the way I would like them to act.  Immediately, I know that I have begun to feel better by being grateful through my instagram project.  I also knew that I wanted my kids to see what they loved and admired about each other (because I knew it was in there somewhere).

The inspiration that came

Instead of trying to breakup the fight I told them they could say what they were saying but it would need to be followed up by saying 2 reasons they were grateful for each other.  And it couldn’t have anything to do with looks and it had to be specific.  (They couldn’t say, “I like your hair”  or “You’re cool.”)

Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, they came up with ideas that immediately diffused the mean words and feelings of angry-ness that had been filling the room.  They said things like, “I like the way you are thoughtful of other people when they’ve had a bad day.” and “I like it when you take me for rides in the car and it’s just you and me and we talk about stuff.”

Most of the time, in so many situations , we are angry or frustrated or sad because we feel like we haven’t been seen, that we aren’t measuring up to someone elses’s ideals or, more likely, our own.  We feel like we aren’t enough…just the way we are.  And we aren’t the only ones…our kids are feeling it, too.

Having those feelings replaced with gratitude and a quick reminder from those we love most, admire most, the ones that we most want to be seen and appreciated by, can fill us up and remind us that we do, indeed, have awesomeness to give the world.

If you like this story, here are some steps that might inspire your familyness…

How to create less fighting and more gratitude

Let them know ahead of time that they will be balancing their perfecting nature with gratitude

Allow your kids to say their words with out biting commentary

Once they’ve said (or when they say biting commentary) ask them to share 2 specific reasons they are grateful for the person they’ve given perfecting instructions to

Notice more getting along

Express your gratitude for them being brave, let them know that you notice the change and the feeling of love in your home (even if it’s a miniscule change!!)


What surprised me most

I’ve been feeling like my kids have been getting under each other’s skin quite a bit lately.  And ,instead of being a mom, I’ve become referee. Stepping between acts of aggression and words spears flying across the room.  On Sunday, I made a mental note to make sure my gratitude idea was instituted every time aggression and/or biting daggers flew.

It’s Thursday, and I kid you not, I’ve yet to tell someone that they need to say why they are grateful because of mean words or attempts at strangling.

Being seen.  Being acknowledged.  It matters.  Being told that what you give to the world has not fallen on deaf ears or gone unseen changes the dynamics of a family.

It’s so simple.




davina_selfie_squareDavina Fear is a Familyness Adventurer. She is expert at building forts and enjoys the challenge of seeing, what appears to be a lame situation, as an unexpected opportunity.

She blogs at davinafear.com and believes in the non-cheesy smile.





March 13, 2014

Q&A: The Power of Books

The Power of Books

This week’s question maybe something that you’ve always longed to incorporate into your familyness but just haven’t been sure how to or you may be a pro and have ideas for the rest of us…

Either way, I have an answer below and I hope everyone will chime in with your own ideas and thoughts in the comments!


I’m really interested in your reading aloud ritual. How did you start? How do you involve different ages of kids or find something that they are collectively interested in? Do you read, even on school nights? Do you discuss issues from the book? How young can you start reading books that are chapter oriented? I really really want to have this tradition! Reading aloud is a lost art and I think it is sooo cool that you do this! -Brooke

Thank you for this great series of questions for our first Q&A, Brooke!

The Studies

There is great value in reading aloud to your kids.  Many studies have shown that reading aloud to your child improves their vocabulary and literacy skills and has been linked to children achieving more and staying in school longer.

Research smesearch

However, those are not my reasons for reading to my kids!  I love to read to them because it creates a magic feeling in our house almost anytime we read aloud.  There’s a bonding that happens over reading a book together that stays with you forever (and doesn’t cost a dime).

When did I first start reading to my kids?

Back when Emmett was a baby (I’m talking within a month of him being born) Mike and I began reading to him every night. By the time he was 4 years old we were already reading C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and he loved them. He was a very early reader and we were such proud parents!

Other kids mess up the reading routine

Flash forward 4 years. Miriam and Emma were 4 years old and the most we would ever read to them was a picture book. Once they were in bed, Mike would got to Emmett’s room and read him a chapter book.

When one child won’t sit still

We tried to read chapter books to Miriam and Emma but it felt like a lost cause. Reading to the two of them was like trying to tame a tornado. Emma rarely held still. She would distract Miriam and it just seemed like Emma wasn’t even listening anyway. With her attention span so short we just figured a picture book was about the right length.

What changed everything

We moved from Utah (hang in there with me…this is relevant! lol) when Grace was 4 years old and Miriam and Emma were 7 years old. We still weren’t reading chapter books to any of the girls.

While we waited for our house to be finished here in SC we stayed in an apartment. Everything we owned was in storage so there was very little to do but go on walks, go to the pool, or go to the bookstore. On one of those walking trips, we picked up Hugo Cabret, and brought it home.

I didn’t expect this

Within reading just a few pages everyone was hooked.  It was a HUGE book!  BUT it was filled with pictures and chapters.  We read it every evening before bed.  Often we would read during the day because we couldn’t wait until the next night.  Reading a big book like Hugo Cabret gave my kids and my family confidence that we could read not only chapter books but BIG books!  Yes, it had lots of pages of beautifully sketched illustrations…but the IDEA of reading a book like that made the transition to bigger chapter books a reality.

How the book sparked even more curiosity

About three quarters of the way through the book we discovered Georges Melies. We immediately looked up his film illusions on youtube. The kids laughed and to this day, they love Georges Melies and create their own video illusions.

The entire family was pulling to reading chapter books after that. And now, we read every night, including school nights.

My key tips from our experience:

*Remember that each of your children is different. They all bring different energy to bedtime. (If you’ve not gotten to take this free energy profile test, take it here.) Paying closer attention to and understanding each child with this tool has literally changed the way I parent and the way we see each other in our family.

Emma is high energy. She wasn’t ready to sit still for long periods of time and we didn’t push her or make her sit still. We read what she was ready for. At the time that Emma was 4-7 years old I didn’t have energy profiling to know that Emma was just living her true energy. Eventually, I discovered Emma is skilled at doing a project and listening at the same time.

*We found ways to make the nightly ritual fun. They might jump off a bed the way someone in the story jumped or wave their hands when they hear a particular word in the story. Sometimes they would pretend to be one of the characters.  We’ve also stopped reading and predicted what might happen or discussed issues that characters were facing.

*Letting our curiosity and imagination take over is also super fun. Exploring places or activities that the characters do in the book makes the book come alive even more. You could attend book signing events or book release parties. If you hear about the author being in town, try to visit. Research the author or characters online. While reading Hugo Cabret we researched the films of Georges Melies. The kids fell in love with black and white films. They couldn’t stop watching or laughing at The Black Imp.

*Choosing a book everyone will enjoy can be challenging. Typically, each of the kids gets to pick two books they’d like us to read.  This means we have 8 books to vote on.  For the first vote everyone gets to vote once.  This narrows it to our top two choices.  The winner of that vote is the book we read.  I also keep a list of books on my phone.  Sometimes, Mike or I will pick up a book at the bookstore and bring it home to read.

The biggest thing about this ritual, Brooke, is to keep trying until you find something that works for your familyness.  If reading aloud together is important to you then there are a variety of ways to make it happen!

It’s never too late

One thing to remember…it’s never too late and you haven’t completely missed your chance.  As you can see from our story…for Emmett, we started reading to him right when he was born.  We didn’t figure out how to read to the girls until Miriam and Emma were almost 8 years old.  At the time, I remember feeling, “Wow!  How did we fail the girls like this?”  There are always opportunities, though, to try something new with kids, whether they are 2 or 20 years old (or older).  It’s never too late to start reading and connecting with the people you love most.


Thank you!

Thank you so much for your question, Brooke!  I’m confident that there are others who have been wanting to know how to create a fun reading environment for their family.  And, I have a feeling, your great question has been just the spark they needed.

What’s YOUR story, Dear Readers?

Tell me what you’ve done to encourage reading in your home or share your ideas for creating a similar family reading routine.

We’ve got lots of awesome familyness out there!  Please share in the comments below, you never know if your idea or story is going to be the one that inspires someone else and gives them just the breakthrough they’ve been searching for!

We have more Q&A coming up!  To submit your question click here.


Davina Fear is a Familyness Adventurer. She is expert at Nacho Libre parties and will never turn down a chocolate cupcake.

She blogs at davinafear.com and believes in the non-cheesy smile.



March 6, 2014

Survey Says: New Q&A Series!

Be part of the Familyness Fort!  Click the photo above!

Survey says!

Any time I hear the word _survey_ I automatically think of Richard Dawson, on Family Feud, dramatically calling out to the board above his head: SURVEY SAYS!  I loved comparing the silly and serious answers of the contestants to what that crazy board would say as each answer flipped to the front!

Over the past few months, as people have joined the Familyness Fort, I’ve been asking each person to fill out this survey (if you missed it, you can fill it out here).

I created the survey questionnaire because I wanted to know where you’re at in your familyness, what’s important to you,  and what you’re struggling with.

Guess what I found out?

I discovered that you and me and everyone else who filled out the survey are having days where we all fight the same battles.  It made me realize that we all need to know what real life looks like for each of us…not what the perfect home or family or child or mom or dad looks like…but what WE really look like.

Here are some of the results of surveys so far:

 85% of you want to feel less guilty** about what you’re not doing and be able to focus more on the awesome stuff you are doing
73% of you want to connect more deeply** with the people you love most
61% of you want more time with your spouse** in small ways
63% of you want realistic familyness ideas** that don’t seem unreal or fake
80% of you want to feel less guilt** and more happiness in your family and marriage
51% of you want to be your fun self** you used to be

What do these results mean?

So many of us are wanting to love what we’ve already got without feeling guilty.  For some reason we are feeling disconnected from the people we love most but it’s one of the things we long for most.  We also don’t want to see ideas that seem impossible to achieve or that are going to just end up on our already too long to-do-list.  And to top it all off…we just want to be fun and have fun.  These results mean that you are not alone!

You asked questions.  Thank you!

Along with these survey questions many of you asked me lots of questions about how I connect with my kids and husband, you wondered how I make the time to do what I do, along with so many other questions.

I want you to know that your questions and the way you’ve shared what is so tender to you means so much to me.  I know that opening up to me about your family and the daily struggles and joys you’re going through is an honor and gift to me.  Thank you!

What I think no names mean

Some of you included your names and many of you didn’t.  I think that the lack of names is a sign that it’s difficult to share the reality of our lives because of the possibility of judgement (it’s in the simple things like: being on your computer instead of being with your child that makes us feel terrible).  There’s embarrassment associated with not having the perfect family or being the perfect parent we envision in our heads.  I don’t want you to be embarrassed.  We are all going through all of this stuff.  We all see a perfect way we are supposed to be and fear putting out into the world our imperfect life.  I’d like to create something here that encourages us all to feel safe to share what’s really happening, in a hope filled way, that gives us strength, individually and as a community.

After reading your questionnaires I feel like know you so much more and my heart is opened wide to you.

This is what I want to do…

Next week I’m going to begin answering your questions.  The thing is…I know I don’t have all of the answers!  That’s where you come in.  I know some of us struggle with one thing while others of us have created a system or have natural abilities in that area (and vice versa).

Be a commenter

In the comments of each question asked I’d like for you to share your tips or your kind words or your similar experience to create a conversation that gives us all strength.

Because we need to know we are not alone in feeling that some days our family isn’t measuring up to our idea of perfection.  And that there is more to a beautiful life than the perfect picture that’s out there floating in the ether.

Resist being a bystander

Sometimes, when a question is asked or answered we stand by; hoping someone else will be the first to step forward.  I encourage you to the the first person to comment.  Be the person that gets the conversation started or the one that keeps it going.

What can you do right now?

**Survey:**  If you haven’t gotten to take part in the survey, please click here!
**Questions:**  Send your questions to me by replying to this email.  You can ask about familyness, marriage, something you’re struggling with as a parent, photographing your family, an issue you’re having with a child, ask questions about connecting, fun, schedules, fort building…anything goes!

What I want most?

I want this Q&A opportunity to be a place where you come and see that your familyness, just the way it is…is fantastic.  I’m hoping you’ll discover that your familyness doesn’t have to look like mine or anyone else’s.  I’m looking forward to us building a community together that supports each of us in our own familyness.

I’m super excited!


Be part of the Familyness Fort! Click the photo above.