Going back to work…

I have been out of the workforce for a mere three years but it might as well be a decade- the job search is still ongoing.  Early on, I didn’t have a strict idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist, until my cousin wisely pointed out that marine biology was not the study of swimming with dolphins.  As an adult I can understand that that kind of job goal is problematic on several fronts.

When I was 17, my mom gave me her Pentax K1000. It came with a fixed 50mm lens, a 70-300mm lens and a basic flash. The K1000 is an entirely manual 35mm film camera. IMG_7680Today it would be considered a fossil in this rich landscape of DSLRs and fancy smartphone cameras and apps.  It had a light meter in the viewfinder that helped teach me about aperture and shutter speed. I spent the summer clicking away while camping with my family.

Beginning in my senior year of high school, I started taking any photography class I could and had my first glimmer of a career goal- a surf photographer. I had recently discovered Gidget and surfing and my head was full of Moondoggie, tans, bikinis and tropical destinations.

It was naive of me to think that it would be that simple.  Not only is it just not realistic of a profession for a non surfer who lived in a desert- I just had no idea what it took to build your own business.

On some counts, being a successful professional photographer has nothing to do with the actual photography part and everything to do with your business management and marketing skills. Social Media has revolutionized the ability for an artist to reach their target audience. Creativity has crept into almost all aspects of the business marketing model. I went to school for Art History, knowing I wanted to do something creative professionally just not sure how it would manifest itself.  Part of me wishes I had been a tad more realistic and minored in business or marketing.

Like a lot of my generation, we were told to go to college, get our degrees, and the jobs would just fall in our laps if we were willing to work hard for it. I graduated during the recession and no dream jobs materialized. Didn’t mean that I got discouraged- I just got a job. I found something to be motivated about in a place that hired me. I was passionate about the hats at the hat shop I worked at- despite not really being a hat wearer myself. I was passionate about opening at Starbucks (430am comes very quickly) despite not being remotely a morning person. I was passionate about helping my bosses create a social media presence for their restaurant and I definitely was passionate about their menu.

Almost 10 years later, I am in this unique position. I have my personal life in better order, but my work resume is a mess. I get to find my dream job, but it needs to now fit into a life where priorities have shifted.  And I’m learning how to tailor my resume to represent what I have to offer as a well rounded employee.

There are plenty of moms who love being a stay at home mom. There are moms who wish they could be stay at home moms. I think life as a mom should be about balance. I need to feel like I am engaging with my kids and be there to see them grow and develop. I also want to be fulfilled outside of motherhood, contribute financially to the future of my family while also stretching my creative chops and jumping into challenges head on. I’d like to not only be “Mommy” but also, “professional photographer and writer”.


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How my post partum depression led to a fit second pregnancy

There are a lot of super slender ladies with belly bumps and advice on how to have a fit pregnancy. The mom who at six months pregnant just looks like she had a large burrito is especially mind boggling to me. Each body is different and if you already had a good exercise routine before your pregnancy, chances are, you know what you need to do to stay healthy throughout your 9 months and recover after baby is born. 

I was not that mom. 6 months before my wedding I tore my ACL and meniscus in an indoor soccer game, putting me on the couch until I could get the opinion of an orthopedic doctor regarding surgery. I was lucky and determined to stay in shape for the wedding. Instead of surgery I got physical therapy and worked my butt off for 4 months to be able to walk down the aisle and enjoy our Aruban honeymoon. 

A month after the wedding, a thin blue line appeared on a pregnancy test and I was faced with a whole new challenge. My first pregnancy was tough. I was nauseous, dizzy, in danger of fainting and  incredibly depressed. I abandoned workouts because I was struggling and decided to eat my way through my pregnancy once the constant nausea passed. 

My last trimester

In my last trimester I must’ve gained 40 or 50 pounds. All these other moms were discussing losing their baby weight by breastfeeding and here I was, experiencing supply issues, still struggling with depression, and continuing to gain weight. I remember having a breakdown at Chico’s when the sales associate was trying to help me find something- anything- that I would like to wear. New clothes weren’t the answer, even though I fit into nothing in my closet. 

When Obi was 3 months I made it back to the soccer field but my knees weren’t used to so much weight and the pain was excruciating. A month went by and the pain subsided. Breastfeeding got easier but the depression got worse and the anxiety led to panic attacks and complete breakdowns at pumpkin patches and ramen restaurants. 

At 4 and a half months, Obi decided he wanted formula instead of breastmilk and  I was relieved. And ashamed. But I went to see my doctor and discussed my emotional issues and he diagnosed me with post partum depression. Things changed drastically after I started taking anti depressants and Xanax for the anxiety. I had control of my emotions and with regular soccer games, a Y membership and better grasp on my own abilities as a mom, I started to feel better and more in control of my emotions. 

When I discovered that I was pregnant again, I knew that I couldn’t let things deteriorate. I have a toddler relying on me and couldn’t allow my depression to get the better of me. Since I didn’t want to risk the health of Baby #2 I decided that eating right and regular exercise would have to be my anti depressant, until I could discuss my options with my doctor. 

The YMCA offers a free program called Kickstarter that allows you to meet with a trainer to set an exercise plan. Although I played soccer through my first trimester, I knew that I would have to stop. So I met with Dale at the Toby Wells Y and we set an exercise plan I could do throughout the pregnancy. 

Weight Room at the Toby Wells Y

After 20-60 minutes of cardio, I do 3 sets of 10-15 reps on each of these machines:

  • Chest press
  • Shoulder press
  • Lat pull down
  • Lat row
  • Pectoral Fly
  • Deltoid Fly
  • Squats on a Total Gym incline machine
  • Adductor (inner thigh)
  • Abductor (outer quad/hips

the abductor machine
my workout worksheet

Additionally, I add leg lifts and planks at home when I have time. I have also added lap swimming if my knees or back are hurting too much. 

Now, my OB/gyn isn’t fixated on my weight, although I felt I was overweight, and he is supportive of my exercise routine. And I have seen results: I have lost 20lbs in 5 months. The baby is healthy, with a strong heartbeat and growing on track. 

Post partum depression is a serious issue though, and I plan to go to the group support that is offered through my hospital, and will breastfeed as long as I can before I go back on my medications. At the end of the day I need to be healthy and happy as much as my kids need to be, right? 

The New Tupperware Party

Being a stay at home mom sometimes means no personal income to speak of and that can be frustrating. Luckily, with the versatility of Facebook, a new trend of businesses have cropped up that has allowed a lot of moms to stay at home and continue to earn a living, or at least make some extra cash. They come in the form of online (Facebook hosted) parties. Some of these businesses are well known: Jamberry nail wraps, Origami Owl jewelry, LulaRoe clothing, Scentsy, and 31 bags and totes. These companies require an initial start up investment cost and then each independent sales consultant  earns a percentage of their sales. 

The ladies who “host” these parties receive a hostess gift at either a fraction of the cost or for free at the end of the party. I have been lucky enough to win a mystery hostess gift through Origami Owl.  The parties are fun, usually invoking participation with games, survey posts and general social media interaction between the sales consultant  and party attendees. The best part? You can attend these parties without leaving your home. 

I am hosting a 31 Party this week and wanted to get to know my consultant and the company 31 a little more.  

Leah Hunter has been selling with 31 for almost 3 years now. She got involved with the company during her husband’s second deployment. She had a part time job but wanted another way to earn an income while spending time with her kids. 

What is 31? 

Thirty-One is a faith based company that focuses on celebrating, encouraging and rewarding women. We offer products such as our famous Large Utility Tote and Lunch Break Thermal to our recently launched jewelry line, JK by Thirty-One, and our purse line, Jewell by Thirty-One.

​In addition to celebrating and empowering women, Thirty-One supports girls and families through Thirty-One Gives. We have partnered with Charities such as Girl Talk, Ronald McDonald House and just this year we will be working with Children’s Network Hospitals.

The name Thirty-One is based off Proverbs Chapter 31. When Thirty-One was formed, the goal was to help women by providing them with an opportunity to run their own business. Thirty-One is committed to providing women with a fulfilling, enjoyable and rewarding experience – one person, one party, one encounter at a time. It’s about building relationships – the products speak for themselves.

What are the top selling items? 

Some of our top selling items are the Large Utility Tote, Thermal Tote, Family Fun Thermal, Fold N’ File, Hanging All About the Benjamins wallet, Everything Crossbody, Traveler Case, Oh-Snap Bin, and our Zip-Top Organizing Utility Tote. Our new canvas wall art is sure to be a big hit this fall!

 How does it all work? 

Thirty-One is simple. Once you sign up to become a consultant, you are part of the Thirty-One family. As a consultant you are not required to have inventory on hand and many people have a successful, online party only business. It is your business so you are able to make it what you want – a full time career or a hobby to get out of the house a couple nights a week.

​As an Independent Consultant you earn 25% of your personal volume. In other words, any product you sell (hostess benefits not included) you will earn 25% off of it. As you build your team and support others in owning their own business, your earnings will change.  

What’s your favorite product? 

I have to pick just 1 product?! My favorite would have to be the Large Utility Tote. It can be used for SO many things! I have one for our pool items, one for grocery shopping, one to hold miscellaneous items in my truck, one for taking multiple items back and forth to work. The list could go on and on.

How do you become an independent consultant? 

Joining the Thirty-One family is easy. Find the consultant you would like to sign up under, if you had one, by going to their website. For example, my website is http://www.mythirtyone.com/leahhunter. You would scroll down to the bottom of the web page and click on ‘Join My Team’. From there it’s entering all the information needed to set up your account and personal webpage. The cost of the enrollment kit is $99.00 (US) plus tax and shipping and handling. The enrollment kit features over $400.00 worth of products and contains everything you will need to start your own business. The support provided by Thirty-One’s Home Office and other Thirty-One women is something I have never experienced. Joining the ThirtyOne family has been one of the best decisions I have made and would encourage anyone who is thinking about it to take the next step.

So check out the products and see if you can find that tote you need for your kids or yourself, and consider whether becoming an independent consultant is right for you! 

A Day at the Santee Y

IMG_4549In the summer months, finding activities that don’t overheat both me or Obi are a challenge. No one is happy being sweaty and hot.  So today we decided to venture out to East County Santee to check out the YMCA there. They have an aquatics center that is amazing with a 1ft 6 in deep wading pool, water park style playground complete with mini water slides just tame enough for Obi to go down with adult assistance.

We haven’t scheduled swim lessons yet because Obi still isn’t sure about pools and places where he can’t touch the bottom. I would hate to spend the money and have an uncooperative toddler that wouldn’t end up learning anything anyways. Anyone experience this first hand?

So with a backpack full of snacks, swim diapers and other “necessary” items, we headed east into warmer territory to check out this mini aquatic park.  If you are a member of the YMCA in San Diego, this qualifies you to entry at all San Diego YMCAs. I love the Y. The one time initiation fee is $50 and for a Family 1 memebership its $65 per month, which is automatically deducted on the 15th or 16th of each month.

This includes childcare for up to 2 hours while you work out- or just go take a shower without phantom baby cries.   At most of the Ys in San Diego, they offer a baby room for kiddos 0-12 months. This is nice because it’s quieter, the ratio of caregiver to child is much more ideal (think 2:2 or 2:3) and they will call you if your child requires your attention (diaper change or will not stop crying). They will feed your child if you provide a pre-mixed or pre-pumped bottle of formula or breastmilk.  Once your child is a solid walker, they move into the Kids Place, a wild raucous room of children of all ages and toys for all ages.  YMCA official website Each Y has their own ChildWatch hours so make sure you check your local Y.

This was my main motivation for joining. As a stay at home mom, I rarely get time to myself to use the restroom, much less time to go workout and/or shower. I struggled to get back into shape and in addition, struggled with post partum depression and anxiety. The Y gave me a place to go to work off my panic attacks or inexplicable sadness.

Today, the Y gave me and my crazy toddler a place to go and cool off in water that was not too deep and fun enough that he didn’t want to leave.  There are two lines into the Aquatic center. One for non-members where you pay a fee of $20, sign a waiver for children under 18 and receive a magenta wristband (I’m sure the colors change every season). And a second for members where they scan your membership and give you orange wristbands. It was a nonexistant line really, so we walked right in.

The best advice I can give you is to arrive right when it opens to snag a lounge chair in the shade. The interactive pool area is open 9am-11:55am, 12:30pm-3:25pm, and 4pm-6:55pm. Always check their calendar or call before you go in case there is a swim event going and you get turned away or it is too crowded. Click the link to the schedule valid thru September 5th, 2016.

Aquatics Schedule for the Cameron Family YMCA

10123 Riverwalk Dr. Santee, CA 92071



Second Pregnancy Challenges

IMG_4328          Surprise! We are pregnant again. It’s been awhile since I last wrote but I have been trying to wrap my head around two kids under 2 as a stay at home mom. Among other challenges of having a toddler, this pregnancy the second time around is so different from my first. For one thing, I can’t tell you just how far along I am. But I do know my due date- December 25, 2016.  Second of all, I am so determined to stay fit and healthy this time around so I am equal parts sore and exhausted for both weight lifting reasons and just not being able to do as much as I had been able to the last 5 or 6 months before the second baby became a reality.

The challenges of a second pregnancy are multiple, as so many other moms of multiple kids are familiar with. I struggle with trying to figure out what we’ll need for this second baby- since I still have so many things from the first time around. Last time, Obi Wan decided to stop nursing very early on (4 months) and we drowned in the cost of formula for those last 8 months. So I want to be sure I nurse as long as I can this time around.

Nursing was one of my biggest challenges as a first time mom. Not because my nipples cracked and bled. I struggled with supply issues, the discomfort of engorgement, awkwardly nursing in public spaces, gaining weight when others were losing. The biggest challenge was that it gave me no joy. Just relief that I wasn’t disappointing anyone in deciding not to nurse. I was tied to Owen’s nursing schedule which ranged from every 20 minutes to every 2 hours. And I was filled with anxiety when he was hungry while we were out in public- that someone would confront me for daring to feed my kid when nothing else would make him happy.

Needing a bigger home is perhaps the biggest cost challenge. As a single income family, we are limited in what we can afford. With home prices as they are here in San Diego, it’s basically impossible to purchase a home on a single income. So renting a home isn’t much more affordable but we found an option that will probably work for us.

In the end, finding a balance between two children, and making time for myself and my fledgling photography business is maybe the most important challenge. And accepting that things will take a back seat at least at first. We found out that we are having a girl so the excitement of a girl baby and a new home to raise her and her big brother in occupy my thoughts as I go to my prenatal appointments and swim laps at the Y. I’ll update my progress as I go through my last 5 months- and promise to be more upbeat and positive about things as the due date gets closer. After all, negativity and constant stress aren’t good for anyone.




Baby’s First…Halloween

Its October and that means holiday season. I love holidays- I love the smells, decorations, and cooler weather.  This is Obi’s first season of cheer and I am so excited for his first Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. But what can you do with a baby that doesn’t walk or talk and probably won’t remember?  Basically, anything you want. At his age (6 months) everything is new and his little brain is picking up so many things at once. Obi especially is fascinated with the world around him so watching his little face  as he experiences the world is more fun for me. He’s less likely to remember anything he experiences this first holiday season.  That being said, here’s what I am planning on d0ing for the holidays.


October means adorable baby costumes and cute pumpkin patch photos. Obviously without teeth, trick or treating is not really a realistic activity for a baby who can’t even say “Trick or Treat.”  But there are a lot of fun activities to take Obi to.  

First, there’s Rise of the Jack O Lanterns at the San Diego Safari Park. 5,000 professionally carved pumpkins light up the parking lot of the Safari Park on a 1.3 mile walk.  Rise of the Jack O Lanterns is on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays after the park closes at 5pm.  The tickets are only available from http://therise.org/sdzweb . Tickets run $22-26 for adults, children ages 3-12 yrs old and seniors 65 and older.  Kiddos under 3 yrs old are free. Rise of the Jack O Lanterns has time slots beginning at 6:30 to 10:30pm.  We are taking Obi to the Rise of the Jack O Lanterns at Descanso Gardens in Los Angeles. 

Second there’s the pumpkin patch. There are a ton of places around San Diego for the pumpkin patch.  In the word’s of Linus of the Peanuts, which is the sincerest pumpkin patch?  SanDiegoFamily.com has a great list for the available pumpkin patches. Of course, Bates Nut Farm tops the list in Valley Center. Then there’s Pumpkin Station in Del Mar, El Cajon, Mission Valley and National City.  Carlsbad Pumpkin Patch in Carlsbad. Oma’s Pumpkin Patch in Lakeside, Peltzer Farms in Temecula, The Farm Stand West in Escondido, Suzie’s Farm in Imperial Beach and Summers Past Farms in El Cajon.  

For those with the cash, and maybe a couple of older kiddos, Halloween at Disneyland is very magical. The decorations are fantastic, The Haunted Mansion is suitably arrayed in Nightmare Before Christmas decor, the music is all Halloween themed and there are fun treats all throughout the park.  The cost of a ticket at Disneyland has gone up so much in the last few years that this is really a special treat. I think the main reason is that the park gets so crowded during the holidays so they raise the price as a way to control crowds. As a teenager, I had an annual pass for about 4 years and I loved being able to pop over to Disneyland for a few hours on the weekends. The annual pass prices have just recently been raised again and people are in an uproar because it’s just gotten so expensive. But a trip to Disneyland is worth it if your kids will remember it.

I have toyed with the idea of dressing Obi up in a cute Star Wars costume but I think I will wait until next year when he’s a little more aware of what’s going on. Costumes have become expensive and I still don’t know how to use my sewing machine- perhaps I will learn to make a costume for him next year. Part of the fun of Halloween for me as a kid was that my mom (or Grandma) made my costumes-  I had some custom made Disney princess dresses, a classic Leia costume and some others that I remember fondly. Most of that is my mom worked so hard for a costume I wore once- or a couple times while playing dress up. I want Obi to remember his Halloweens like I remember mine.  Happy Halloween Everyone!

Breastfeeding in Public

Originally published on skirtcollective.com

a statue of a breastfeeding primate, San DIego Zoo

Before my son was born, my mom told me this story about her nursing me (in 1984) at the San Diego Zoo, next to the orangutan enclosure. As she sat next to the glass, a momma orangutan and her baby came to sit on the other side, and nurse her baby as well. It’s a romantic story, and it’s what helped motivate me to keep nursing my son as my nipples grew sore and my breasts learned to regulate its milk supply. I had visions of me having a moment as magical as that one.

As a new mom, navigating the world of breastfeeding, my biggest source of anxiety was breastfeeding in public. Every so often, the media will report a story in which a breastfeeding mother is asked to leave a place of business. She’s humiliated and takes to social media to report her experience. Then an army of confrontational moms will respond with outrage and storm the gates, boobs out and babies suckling away. I am not a part of this group.  I just wanted to feed my son and get on with my day- without confrontation and if at all possible- avoid flashing my nipples to the world.

That’s not to say all moms who breastfeed are walking around topless and asking for negative attention. It’s also important to note that if you are breastfeeding in public, someone is going to notice. It’s what they notice that matters. There are a plethora of ways to do it discreetly. There are basic covers (the terribly named “udder covers”), pashminas, infinity scarves, baby slings, and ponchos all designed to give you and your baby the privacy to feed peacefully and without flashing a nipple.

I can personally testify, none of these covers are easy to set up when you first start out. They all require practice. Additionally, figuring out a way to hold your baby so they can latch properly and your arms aren’t burning from the effort is part of the challenge. I eventually figured it out.  Obi preferred to sit up while he nursed.  The older he got, the less tolerant of a cover he became.

One of the things that helped me is a lactation group. There are groups through the hospital, La Leche league, or private lactation consultants. I’m lucky to have a free group at my local yoga/Pilates studio. It’s the perfect forum to practice and still get advice from an expert. Part of the appeal of these groups is that all these women are just like me. They have their own questions, need some practice, or have issues that need addressing. It’s a sisterhood of sorts. And while it’s not exactly public, it’s still outside of the comfort of home, without a Boppy pillow, and in the company of others.

My experiences breastfeeding out and about varied. First, it was at the Little Italy Mercato, Mother’s Day weekend. I fumbled a bit, but no one even gave me a second glance as I perched on a wall, and my son happily nursed away beneath an Aden and Anais swaddle blanket. Then, it was at True Foods Kitchen with a girlfriend and her 3 month old daughter. We weren’t the only moms nursing at the restaurant- we all exchanged friendly glances and smiled- that sisterhood again.

I became more practiced with my method of cover and my hold. So I took my son to the San Diego Zoo. As moms walked by, we shared the sisterhood smile, exchanged knowing glances that said they had been there- and some part of them missed those days. I kept an eye out for disapproving glances and imagined what I would say if someone objected to my nursing there. And I fantasized about having my own back to nature bonding moment.  Eventually I discovered the Baby Care Center, next to the reptile house and the first aid office. There is a changing platform, a fan, and it is cool and private.

Unfortunately I did not get to have my magical orangutan moment. As I rode the Skyfari Aerial tram to the front entrance, I reflected on the fact that just being able to feed my son was magical enough, seeing him thrive and knowing I am responsible is the best reward. I figured I would have plenty of chances to bond with the primates another time- I have a zoo membership after all.

Conclusively, my fears seem largely imagined. These women in the news must be the exception. Perhaps they are foregoing a discreet cover, breasts akimbo, inciting anti-breastfeeding sentiments across the country. The bottom line is, my anxiety was for nothing.

I would like to note that after a few trips to the zoo, I discovered a Baby Care center. It is located next to the reptile house in the front of the zoo. The area is quiet, cool and private. There is a changing table, a fan and curtains so that more than one mama can breastfeed her child. This became a godsend when it was hotter and Obi would not tolerate a cover. For mamas who bottle feed ( with breastmilk or formula) the first aid station is right next to the center and you can take your bottles in there to be warmed. I recommend using this area as it is private and quiet. At a certain point it was less about not wanting to expose myself and more that I appreciated a quiet place for my curious little one to eat in peace.

At the San Diego Safari Park you can go to the First Aid center and they will provide you with a private air conditioned area to feed your child. After the summer we have been having this was amazing.  For more places to quietly and privately breastfeed your child, you can download the Feed Finder app and it will show you a database of places to breast feed.