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Cindy Elwood

More power to the messy girls!!!! No need for meds!

Melissa Cummings

I'm not sure I've ever commented before. I've admired your photos and read your blog for years. For some reason, this post must have hit me just right. By the end of it, I'd burst into tears. Are you in my head? Because I'm pretty sure you've just described me to a T. Not sure what else to say except that I hope we both can overcome these thought someday.

Kim H.

I think you are awesome and I get you! I admire what a hard worker you are and how you strive to be the best at what you do. I get that you also "hide" behind that hard working face, but I think it's cool that you are the "best" at whatever you are doing in your life. I don't think that is messed up at all.


I just had to comment too Karen. Just to send my love and a hug and a thanks for taking time and effort to post with such honesty. x


Wow. Are you sure I didn't write this? It seems like maybe you broke into my brain somehow and stole my most secret thoughts. I am tired of not being good photography, as a mom, a wife...anything. Thanks for posting this.

Paula S.

We could so be friends! Thank you for this post. I get it. Lots of love for the messy girls (and boys).


Hugs to you- from one messy girl to another ;)

Rachelle S

Messy girl waving her hand high here. Such a great, honest post. And I too hope that Annie and Courtney (and my Peyton) will be able to understand that "not perfect" is okay.... and I guess me (and you) too :) Hugs.


Oh . . . my friend (that I've never met, but love just the same) . . . I'm sitting here at work, and I'm crying. Because, I completely understand what you're saying. I'm that girl, too. The one who has her very own voice calling her a fraud, with regularity. Everyone else can see the beauty, while I'm too busy picking out the flaws. *sigh* Sending love. Maybe, in numbers, we can embrace our wabi sabi lives, embrace the imperfection, and someday realize that we're perfect as is. (((HUGS)))


I always knew I loved reading your blog. I'm not a photographer just a scrapbooker. I don't have kids but your stories crack me up. But today I have truley figured out what I absolutely live about reading your blog. It's the amazing connection you have ith people. As a certified clean freak and work-a-holic that has refused to take meds to make herself feel better; thanks so much for helping get off the couch and remember how awesome I really am even with all my messiness.


thank you. thank you. thank you. my thoughts exactly. in fact, not minutes before i read this post, i had those exact same thoughts about just keeping up the picture that i am doing a great job, all the while buying myself some time to be that perfect version of myself. anything else right now, is failure to me. and i always feel so very alone in that. it's good to know I'm not. thanks for having the courage to write that. thanks for your blog. i don't know you, but reading this and all the comments makes me believe that I'm definitely not the only one out there.


Posts like this....make me happy. Thank you for saying what you did. You are enough. I am enough. And God thinks so too. He sent his one and only Son for us...even the messy ones.


It is so ironic that you posted this, because today, on my walk I was looking at ALL the beautiful things in Nature, the pretty light, and all of God's goodness and I actually thought to myself..."I wish I was Karen, so that I could capture this on my camera"..........and I realize that I am in the comparison game and whenever I am in that game...I will never win. Looking back on parenting, teaching, and life....I find that I feel like the best thing to pass on to others is that "I am enough".....just the way God made me. But is hard to accept. Yes, remember to be as compassionate with yourself as you are with others....and encouraging. It reminds me of the parable of the cracked is through the cracks that the light is seen.
I bet you know the author Brene Brown....she's a must read, and a re-read that addresses all those "messy"issues. Sending good loving thoughts to you! Remember....Mr. Roger's.."I like you just the way you are"!


I just don't see the same imperfections in your photography that you see. I LOVE your photography style and wish I were as good. I don't and won't put nearly the time you have put into learning and improving your skill. I just wish I could "buy" it and be

Thank You, Jesus for second chances--more like countless chances--to get things right in our lives. We are never failures with Him in our hearts because every day in Him is a new day. I don't and won't ever see you as a fake or a phony because proof is in the pictures!

You are the perfect/imperfect "Nellie Olsen Russell Downs" and I/WE love you for that! :)

p.s. They call me "Dory" at work....enough said.


I think more of us suffer from this than care to admit, well, because that would mean letting our guard down and then possibly being the brunt of a joke. Every photograph I take I wish were as good as yours. You capture the moments of life so well.
You made me realize today what I have been doing for years, avoiding...
Thanks for this post, for making many of us realize we are not alone.

Nicole Prather

I always think in my mind it is the work of the Devil that causes our minds to go to the darkest of thoughts.
I struggle with severe anxiety. No one would know it because I'm this outgoing person but in my darkness I am so insecure.
The past weeks I have been listening to Joyce Meyer on podcast and her raw real words have resignated deep down. They have actually made me believe their is "hope" no matter how long your thoughts have been with you.
You are my Favorite blog ever !!! And keep me inspired to shoot and find out who I really am as a photographer and mom.
Thank you for your words and being brave to say the truth.
As they say " the truth will make you free"


Thank you for this! I really needed it today!


Thank you for sharing and being honest. I'm there. Surrendering and not living to please others is hard. I quit my teaching job one year ago because I am learning to surrender control and that I am "enough as I am". My kids need me more than I need to be busy or "look" important. My whole family has been so much better for it, not perfect by any means but much more peaceful and fun! You are my favorite photographer, not because you always nail a shot, but because you shoot real life in action and you give great advice. Keep fighting the good fight and thanks again for sharing. :)


Me too. Kudos to you for putting it All out there. Thanks for always Keeping it real right here in your blog!


Hey BFFO.....I never thought I was a perfectionist, or whatever...but I always just thought of myself as being a hard worker at everything I did. "A for effort" that's me. I also really tried hard to be a good mother, great wife, and all of the great things I could be. I didn't think I cared what people thought of me, because I was so "real". Then some other occurances found me in counseling. And I learned something amazing....I kept saying my life was "SO hard" but the only one making it "hard" was me....trying to be good or great at everything and using best effort in order to just never relax and be. Not realizing that me 'be-ing' was enough for me to be loveable. Ah...ha. The gal said to me, "don't YOU deserve a little grace?" That has been my biggest realization. I do deserve a little grace. I am a good person. That's enough. YOU are a good person. That IS ENOUGH. Sit with that thought for a few. You are a good person. And you deserve grace. Your journey brought you where you are today. It's not regrettable, because now is awesome. You deserve grace. XOXOXO


I just read your post and to be honest the photo was a beautiful photo of a moment of your daughter quietly in her room drawing. Forget about what happened shortly after about "messing it up" but it was a beautiful moment captured. It may not have been what you were seeing with your eyes but the fact that you noticed the moment is what the stand out message is. You were in awe at the sight of Annie drawing with light streaming in the window. When she is 15 and looking at that photo she will be remembering sitting on her floor colouring in and how much she loved to do it. She will not be thinking my Mum is a great photographer so how come this photo is not technically perfect, the ISO, the aperture and the shutter speed....she will be remembering her Mum capturing this moment in time when she was 7.

We (as in women) are all hard on ourselves and expectations of ourselves and sometimes we have to be okay with life or photos that don't live up to our technical expectations. Just like the cake issue sometimes we eat cake and it tastes good, sometimes we eat cake and it's not what we expected but at the end of the day it was still cake. A moment captured and that's the important thing.

What about instead of photos of the kids if you don't have your mojo (which I totally disagree with) you take "grateful photos" and see little things and photograph them. See this website and there is a little book which I ordered and arrived in the mail.

Treat yourself with as much respect as you treat others and vice versa.

You have been a great help to me when I first discovered your blog years ago when I was going through a difficult marriage and divorce and my photography and your classes were the "happy" I looked forward to every day (well apart from my beautiful kids that is).

It's okay to feel not okay but also you don't have to be too hard on yourself (as I used to always say "you don't have to put yourself down because there are plenty of not so nice people out there that will do that for you".

Go to the markets get some fresh oranges, squeeze some juice, make a carrott cake for your family and take photos. Lots of love and hugs from Brisbane, Australia coming at you. Kathy A xxx 0000 xxxx 000 xxx 000 xxxx 0000 xxxx 0000


This was so honest and I can relate. I'm a messy girl, I come from a divorced family and it messes with you. It makes you think things you shouldn't, makes you hard on yourself and it's a struggle trying to overcome those feelings even as an adult. You don't need meds. Stay strong. Thanks for sharing.


I've been following you for years, ever since I met you at a Picture Perfect Scrapbook convention. I've watched your children grow, laughed, prayed, and cried at your stories. This is the first time I've commented. You could have been writing about me. The hardest thing is watching my daughter struggle with many of the same things. I hope she sees in me that it's ok to be herself. That she doesn't have to be perfect. That everything will be ok, and even if it's will still be ok. Thanks for sharing and being an inspiration!


Karen I've posted a little bit on my blog about 365Grateful by Hailey Bartholomew the girl from Brisbane. Thought you might like to check it out. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

mandy friend

<3 ya girl


I recommend reading So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore. It's definitely helping this messy girl be less messy.

Susan L.

That is one of my favorite quotes and it is so true..... It is funny how we see ourselves. There is so much about you that I admire. I wish you could see yourself the way we see you. Take care of yourself.

lea anne

I am in a book club that meets on Friday nights. It is a mod podge of women in different stages of their life. But we are all good workers and moms. The book is THE ARTISTS WAY. It walks you through your "censor" your negative voice and it walks you through how you got that voice. It talks about how everyone is creatively blocked and gives you excercises each chapter to help you reconnect with who you want to be. It might be a really good book for you to read to remind you how far you have come and how good you are. It has helped each one of us tremendously. Thank you for sharing your post today. It made me know that all levels of artists feel this way and that we each just have to work through it to get to where we need to be! Good luck!

Mary Ann Jenkins

Cheers for the messy girls!!

Nicky from Okotoks

Oh the messy girls are the most creative and colorful. You are so very hard on yourself and you shouldn't be. I have learned over the years to let some of the perfectionist in me go - one of my best friends was relaxed, less uptight and taught me what is important in life. I obsessed over the perfect house, the perfect weight, the perfect kids, and doing everything so perfectly. I had to be the best at everything. Now I try hard to enjoy those things that we sometimes forget in trying to be perfect - the baseball games, the swimming lessons, the walks outside together, a good movie and a bowl of popcorn vs. cleaning and being crazy. She taught me the most important thing, to enjoy the moment - and I do try hard to continue to do that. If I get razzed because my house is not cleaned perfectly by my hubby - I just tell him if he wants it done, then he can do it himself. He knows that I would much rather be quilting, or loving, or taking pictures and scrapbooking and it was a good life lesson. The dust will be there tomorrow, the memories won't be.
And I must tell you - I think the picture is perfect, and in the big scheme of things - you shouldn't worry about what other people think - find what makes you happy and carry on. Messy is good and colorful and full of life!!! You are amazing and don't forget that wonderful person inside even when things are tough.
Lots of love and hugs coming your way!!! We sometimes need that extra hug!!

Nicky from Okotoks

PS - you captured an amazing moment in time that you will never get back. Nothing is more perfect than that!!


thank you, from one messy girl to another :)


HI Karen,
It's been a long time but know that I have kept following you even though I've left the scrapbooking world.
I wanted to point you to three children's books by Peter Reynold's - Dot, Sky Color and Ish. Ish especially reminds me Annie and what you were saying regarding her pictures. Even though on the surface the books seem to be about how everyone is an artist, the underlying message is so much deeper. Truly great reads.

Keep being you, you have always been and continue to be truly amazing.


I get it. And, I'm messy. And, I love the quote. 'Nuff said... :)


I don't often comment but I always read your blogs -- I love the journey you are on and the honest way you live your faith -- keeping it real! Your post really hit a chord with me -- thanks for sharing!! xo

Sharon C.

Yep, you wrote this for me too. Thanks for your transparency. Sharing in the plight helps us all get through those things we often think we experience alone. Oh, can you babysit? ;-)


Messy is much more interesting than neat. The highs and lows add spice.

As for your feelings of inadequacy, please remind yourself of how many photographers you have taught. Your gift is in your ability to teach. Not only are you a great photographer, but you are an amazing teacher. I have taken many workshops, online classes, etc and there are a lot of amazing photographers out there who can't teach! They are doing workshops, but I come away from their workshops with a ton of questions. When I took your class, I didn't leave with unanswered questions. I left with new skills and a zeal for photography. I have never regretted that initial investment in your class. It was worth every penny.

Joyce G

I'm a messy girl too ... we are our own worst enemies ...... Thanks for a great post - gave me a lot to think about .....


{{HUGS}} from one messy girl to another. Thanks for sharing.


Oh, I'm a messy girl too. I have lived my whole life trying to be perfect and failing miserably. I learned a great coping skill, don't even try. If I can't master a skill easily, then I quit. My house is spotless though!! LOL You have the courage to try and that means way more than perfect. Keep on doing sharing your gift, God gave you a blessing.

Stacey from Texas Panhandle

Amen Sista! I'm a very messy girl!!

YOU ROCK! Keeping it real so the rest of us know that we are not the only one in the world that thinks like that!


Love YA!

Kirsten J

Karen, I'm comment number forty-something chiming in to agree with everything you said. And "Ish" is the book I read to my students as art docent for their first lesson. And then we make "Ish" drawings. Love you, girl, you are one brave woman. to say this...?....I feel kinda guilty reading your blog, checking in day after day, expecting you to somehow fill me up....or entertain me, with your darling stories and photos. I don't know if that makes the right sense, but anyway....thank you for being so very real.


Thank you Karen from someone who feels like that every day! I am the person that comes to the "t" at the end of the road and doesn't choose right or left, as my Dad always told me "we do it the Martinez way" going straight forward! Thanks again for being so honest and sharing.


Ummmm...that's your idea of not being able to take a decent photo???? Seriously?!

Know that line from "The Prince of Egypt"? The one that goes.... Look at yourself through heavens eyes.Seriously...stop belittling who you are...your truly amazing!

Here you go...a new theme song for your life...


You are lovely. Through and through.

You made me cry....and that's not a bad thing at all.

Thank you for sharing your heart.


I certainly feel like that a lot of the time, too. I fill my day with doing things so I look busy and got something accomplished so that I hope people will think I am worth it and competent. But recently I also started doing things just for me!

I also have to tell you about a "God Winks" story that happened to me yesterday and has to do with you. I met a friend yesterday and afterward I ended up going to the Family Christian bookstore since it was right where I was. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but on an end-cap they had a bunch of women's books that were very interesting. I was torn between two books and I chose one to buy (and it turns out it was the best choice!) and I left the other even though it was good. The book was this one ( ) and I think that God showed me that one so I could share it with you! I think it speaks right about what you are feeling. Check it out & glad I could share. :)


Thank you for this. Just what I needed today. I've been a loyal follower for years...this has to be my favorite post. Ever.
-fellow messy


Thank you. I need this today. Lots of struggling with things. For me, it is often friendships that don't work out. I fear I am looking for a sister that my parents never gave me, and I am not sure she is out there.


HUGS!!!! I would have never seen this in you, and I know you've talked about it before in other situations, but I must tell you that you scream so much more from what I see in your pictures! you are amazing. beautiful. talented. EVERYTHING. I wish I could be half of what you are. I struggle with so many issues right now and I show it and not very good at hiding it, and i used to be like you and clean...but I don't even have that in me anymore. now i just struggle and pout. anyway, big HUGS to you....i admire you so much!!!!!


Thank you - for writing a post to all of us messies - but most of all - for inspiring me to go out today, and take that moment to focus on all the good and to let the bad float away. Authentically beautiful writing. You are AH, mazing!


SO with you on this...and i echo Hannah's response. I did a family shoot three weeks ago and when questioned why i didn't shoot in RAW, i instantly felt like you said 'ha - they've found you out, you're so dumb, you can't take photographs, blah, blah, blah.' Horrible thoughts, and the way the enemy tries to rob us of joy.

i'll try to not let it happen, and i'm hoping you will, too!!


Thank You.


Oh Karen...I feel your pain! And Amen to Valerie...I've been getting blurry shots from time to time and I just question myself all the time!! The enemy does try to rob us of joy...that is so TRUE!! Funny...I clicked on Cari's Amazon link and thought wow, that looks like an awesome book...HA! it was already in my wish list!!! I guess I really need to order it! I think you're awesome Karen...even the messy...I can totally relate to the messy! Love ya!!


loved everything about this post. You are so lovely. Thank you for sharing.


here's another messy girl chiming in. At work today one of my colleagues was commenting on "hiding at work" because we are good at work, got kudos for working hard and for DOING. But God is OK with us just BEING and that is the challenge. We who care are good at caring for others but not so good at caring and loving and being OK with ourselves. I just emailed you a while ago about the "glow" in your pictures that I hope I can capture. I cannot wait to meet you in person - two messy women who are learning and growing through the mess :) thanks for your blog and especially for your honesty. It is so wonderful to see the feelings I feel written on your page :)

Heather Moll

thank you. through the tears. :)


Thank you.

Holly P.

Once again, thank you Karen for being so open, so honest, so willing to bare your soul. I am so that girl, and I struggle with her all of the time, and I try to tell her to hit the road, but she just isn't ready to leave, not just yet. Sending a wink and a hug from another messy girl.


I am a Messy girl for sure but lately I'm okay with it...I've learned I can't make people like or love me and lately I haven't had time to care if they do or don't. I've also cut myself some slack lately and it feels good. I still feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water but it's all out of my control so I just keep trying to keep my head up. I love your blog,as much for the amazing photography as the genuine person you are, messy and all ;) I hope my girls are much kinder to themselves than I am to myself and I hope your girls are too. Hugs to you and thank you for writing this...makes me feel sane and not alone.

Melissa K.

Loved this post. I'm the same way. Thank you for your photos and words and honesty.


I am going to echo what others have said. I don't know if I have ever posted, but I have been reading here for a few years and your pictures and stories keep me coming back. Your photos are gorgeous...last June, you mentioned here that Erin Cobb had a sale going on for her "Clean Color" video. While I had admired Erin's work for some time, what earned her the sale that day is your mentioning that she taught you how to edit, and that you helped convince her to create the video.

Thank you.


I am messy! I think the same thoughts you do about so much!
I've made many mistakes, and learned from them, I hope. And I will make more mistakes, hopefully not any time soon.
I don't come to your blog because you are perfect. I come because you aren't. You never pretend to be. You are so real!


I just found your blog today and I subscribed after reading this post. I've read about your anniversary and now this one and I am blown away. I'm a messy girl too and although I'm not a clean-freak (but wish I was) I identified with everything you said. My husband has sat me down several times and spoken about my perfectionism and lack of confidence. I'm blessed to have his love and support. Can't wait to look at your photography!


I am a messy person too. Literally also (much to my husbands dismay) so I can relate to this. I start so many things, but never finish them because they (in my mind, cuz how would I know I never finish them) will never be good enough. Much admiration to you for making me (us) see all these things with such clear vision. So much of what you post hits home!


I grew up with a mom who is a great mom, but who was always between husbands (she's had five, not married at the moment, thankfully), we were always moving, always poor, always had issues. So I somehow internalized that and made myself crazy in the opposite way. Everything must be just so. Never be late, never make a mistake, never stop punishing myself when I fall short of my unrealistic expectations. I don't give myself any slack. Ever. At 36, I'm still trying to learn that perfect isn't really perfect at all. But I imagine this work will take me forever. That on my death bed I'll be worrying about having the perfect funeral! Give yourself a break. Women and mothers are so very hard on themselves and even harder on each other.

Carole R

Greetings from a messy one! And I'm on meds too! I even worry that because the meds are working and I am happy and content it is somehow "not real", like it doesnt count because the meds control my anxiety and deep depression! I also was a teenage mother and went on to become a college lecturer - but it always felt like at some point someone was going to turn up at work and expose me!! Way too hard on myself. I love your photos and your complete honesty - both are inspiring. Thank yu! Carole A


I don't comment often...I'm sure my comments aren't up to snuff (yep, messy genes here too). This post hit home. On probably every level of my life. I'll even be "enjoying" the coloring/working until that thought...pretty sure almost anybody could do this better. And while some things get better with age, aim less "fearless" and more messy as time goes on...

Thanks for saying what's in my head.


Thanks for being YOU.


Oh this post got me. Im in tears. I too am one of those messy girls. And perfection does come along with that trait. I wonder if the messier we are on the inside, the more we need the outside to look perfect. Maybe it brings balance? All I know is I am so grateful for your honest, open heart. Because I know you would not have shared all this (us messy girls are also pros at keeping the emotional stuff hidden away) if you didnt hope your words wouldnt help someone else in the same position. AND they do. They truly do. Thank you for being who you really are. I think your pretty awesome! Im currently reading The Purpose Driven Life, for Bible study and its helping in so many ways for me to take baby steps away from my focus on me (and who I think I am suppose to be in my own eyes) to Gods plan and who He says I am. Would totally recommend this book if you havent already read it. And any books suggestions you might have as well would be apreciated!


My second grade teacher, Mrs. Feltnor, ratted me out to my mum, because I was using up too much paper trying to get everything just right. My mum took me to a fancy bakery here in LA, and got the best chocolate cake money could buy. We stopped at Trader Joe's got milk and made our way to the Griffith Observatory. She had me close my eyes then fed me a bite. It was delicious. When I opened my eyes I saw our beautiful cake was destroyed, apparently she had punched it. A darling couple who had just witnessed this crazy girl punching a seemingly innocent cake came by to inquire. My mum tried to explain that she was showing me that not everything has to be perfect for things to be good. Turns out he was a pastor celebrating his anniversary, and he told me that God created me in His likeness, and that my best was good enough. I'll never forget that day up above the city sharing an anniversary, chocolate cake, and a deep love for God.

When things become too much remember He loves you and appreciates that you try.


I sooooooo get this.


Totally get this. :)

Thank you Karen, for being you.


...definitely something I can relate to. I realized at a certain age that I was such a hard worker because I wanted people to tell me I was 'good'. Especially my mom. I wanted to so hard to impress her by my work, my parenting, my cooking, because I needed to have her tell me I was doing a good job. Growing up in 70's, my parents didn't offer lots of praise or I love you's. Not because they didn't feel that way, they just weren't that kind of people.
Now that I'm in my 40's with 3 kids (2 teen girls and 1 boy) I see that we all are doing the best we can and we all have our challenges. I'm trying hard to get out of myself and tell others that they are 'good'--to take what I've been trying to get from others and give it out freely. The pat on the back to the gal next to me at the gym that is struggling through, or acknowledging the cashier at the pharmacy who has a thankless job. We all want to be acknowledged and not judged.
Looking at Facebook, I see how hard everyone is trying to position themselves to show how great their lives are, but the reality is that we are all doing the best we can. I have a friend who's daughter is struggling with anorexia, their relationship is fractured and there's a whole lot of drama and stress in their house. And then the posts on FB are all about the 'perfect' family, the 'princess' daughter and the 'ideal' marriage. She is trying SO hard to compensate for reality that I fear she is going to have a breakdown. She just needs to be told she is 'good', that she's doing a great job and that she is loved, regardless. We all do :)


thank you Karen, for always keeping it real. Thank you for helping us all realize we are not alone :)




thanks for this - totally what this messy girl needed to hear today. xo


Oh, Karen. I don't really know what to write, but I wanted to comment all the same (I read all of your posts but I rarely comment, sorry). Your words totally got me, I'm one of the messy ones, too, I guess. Highest high and lowest lows. And I have that voice in my head as well and it makes life really hard sometimes. And other times I read stories like yours rendered with such honesty and openness that I cannot help but wonder why it is that we struggle so much. I recently saw a video that spoke to my heart and reading this I think it will speak to yours, too:

Love & hugs


I 'GET' this... In fact, I feel totally lost in it right now...

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