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Living Out Loud

Live Out Loud is a movement created to inspire people world wide to honor Kellie’s Memory in conquering their fears, following their hearts, and making their dreams come true. This is how I’m doing it.

Living Out LoudMy Sister Kellie

Thirteen Years.

Butterfly

13 Years ago this morning, we were all in very different places. And in the hours and days and months that followed 8:25 on the morning of April 10, 2004 – I heard a lot of “She’s in a better place” and “Time heals all wounds.”

The things people say when they aren’t yet aware that they can simply remain silent, and that works just as well for people who are getting aquatinted with grief.

I’m no expert on this, but I can tell you that I never ever thought this was a bad place… to be, and time can go and fuck itself for all I care – because, if anything…Time has a way of (sometimes) making it worse. There have been 13 years of missed memories and ones I know we have still yet to live without her physically being here. We’re not healed, not really.

We’ve just found incredibly beautiful ways to live this new life. We’ve found beauty in pain and tears, and we’ve grown stronger through laughter and all those memories we’ve gone on to create – because she has lived on in our hearts. We’re a mosaic of broken pieces, 13 years later. Beautiful, but still broken.

I hate that we have had to live without her, but I love that people have come to trust us in being some of the first they run to when grief has come to meet them. I am proud that we’ve gone on to hold their hands, help them through, and that we’ve endured by giving back. It’s a part of the process I think Kellie knew we would come to own, and I know she’s proud of us.

From those moments in the hospital, I knew. And while I realize this could all just be my own way of “making it easier” – It always felt like she got to see the future she would’ve had, the one that would’ve likely rendered her unable to do the things 18 year old kids want to do. I think she knew the conversations that were happening around her, and I think she got a glimpse of this new life we’d all be living too. That she got to see all the years after that week…and I think she made a choice. Either way, life after that week was going to be different…

So, it wasn’t that she was leaving, because we all know she hasn’t. It was just that she wanted us to know the life she saw. The paths we possibly would’ve never known…if not for her.

There are plenty of moments in life where we get to choose. We get to choose each morning to be happy, for example. And we get to choose, quite frequently, the path to wander down – from our careers to our relationships – we have a say. Death leaves you with very few choices, but life…that’s the part where we get to create our own adventure.

13 years ago we were all in different places, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind…that Kellie helped get us to here & now. Today has been about celebrating her life for 13 years now, that’ll never change…but, I also think…it’s a good day to celebrate how far we’ve come…and the beautiful lives we’re living thanks to a kid who gave us our heartbeat. https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v8/fbb/1/16/1f98b.png#LiveOutLoud 💙

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*Favorite Posts*Living Out Loud

I Used To Do That.

UsedToDoThat

The post on why I’m no longer in the business of photography.

On April 10, 2004 my younger sister Kellie died unexpectedly.  It changed my life, and even though we were a family who grew up with plenty of photographs – it suddenly seemed like there would never be enough of those moments frozen in time.  So on the day I picked up my camera again, I knew I’d never put it down.  I’d put money on the simple fact that I may have never been without a camera since.

My family does not have a family portrait of the five of us. We were supposed to get one taken the November before, but there I sat – holding the hand of my dying sister – knowing we’d never have that photograph because six months prior life was just too busy for us all to freeze time for even thirty seconds.  I knew I could help prevent that from happening in other families, whether it was professionally or simply stepping in and asking a father if he’d like to join his family for a picture while at the theme parks.

Photography is an art which deserves to be prioritized in your life, and quite frankly – if it isn’t?  Then I wan’t little to no part in being the person you choose behind a camera to preserve these moments for your family.

But as these past few years have flown right by, something else started to change in me too.  I won’t say that I woke up one morning with the sudden realization that I no longer wanted any part of being in the business of photography — that the very thought of it left me feeling, genuinely, ill — but that was more or less exactly what happened.

Of course, a lot of other little happenings lead up to that ‘catastrophic’ moment in time.  And while a few tried to convince me otherwise — I knew in my heart that it was over.  It was not a dream I wanted any longer.

It was okay with me, I was at ease with it – many others, I felt, put me in a place of being undefined.  If I wasn’t a photographer –  then who was I?

Why they had to know is beyond me.

I didn’t dare to utter the words to most people in my life for well over a year; afraid that most would try to talk me out of a decision I had already made.  For many, it took them coming directly to me — “Are you still doing photography?”

I think I needed a full year just to figure out a way to answer, but the answer wound up being, “I’m no longer in the business of photography, no.”

The second I left the business, was the second I got myself back.  It was the same second I felt as if I could breathe properly for the first time in years.  It was the same second I knew I could LOVE photography again.

Since that second there have been requests to capture weddings and families.  Something I only ever entertain the idea of for close friends, but – even then – more often than not, I refer them to other friends who are every bit of the photographer I dreamed of being.

It isn’t to say that I’m not a photographer anymore – it took me a while to realize that, in fact, I’ll NEVER stop being a photographer. Ever.

I just found a new way of being the photographer I never knew I always wanted to be.

In December of 2014, I sold all of my Canon equipment.  Every last piece.  The second I shipped the last item off, a literal weight was lifted off of me.  For close to a year I had HATED watching the gear just sit, stored, under my desk.  It wasn’t a camera I ever brought out for traveling, I’d never dare to bring it to the theme parks with us, and I rarely had it out around the house.  It was a ton hanging from my shoulders and neck.  It wore on me in more ways than one.

It made me hate photography even more.

So I sold it. All of it. And I turned around and got myself a couple of new mirrorless lens cameras – a Fuji X100T and XT1.  And, again, I fell in love.

They’re cameras that could (and do!) keep up in the professional world — but, y’know…mostly I just use those guys for fun – theme parks, vacations, around the house & more! 🙂

Life is weird and quirky and interesting.  But I know this is where I was intended to be, and where I was meant to go.

So it took me a while, but there it is.  And now…here we go.

Hopefully you enjoy the adventure from here on out…

Need proof that I’m still capturing moments? Follow me on Instagram! 

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Living Out LoudMy Sister Kellie

Living Out Loud.

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What does Living Out Loud meant to me?

A letter to DJ Waldow.

– Living in the Now. Reveling in life’s moments – both big & small. 
– Choosing Happiness. Choosing Positivity. Knowing each day has a “win.”
– Living through Giving in Charity, Determination, Compassion, Love, Understanding & Acceptance. WHATEVER you can give – counts.
– Living through trust and transparency … Knowing that life isn’t all rainbows and Care Bears – but the sun still comes out tomorrow, and even when life is ugly – life can still be beautiful.
– Living with appreciation and gratitude. Telling people how you feel, when you feel it. Never losing your voice. 
– Living your Fears. Trusting yourself. Go diving with your shark.

 A lot of these qualities and thoughts were in the shadow of who I was, and who I was becoming, before we lost Kellie – most of it is hardcore in direct result from her death. 
After a week or two of delirious fog I woke up one more and knew I had a decision – life or death, happiness or mastering the art of being miserable, positivity and leading by example or using my situation as an excuse to be sad all the time.  
 
They were the thoughts and qualities that wouldn’t leave me alone late into the night when I missed her, or when I’d hit a wall and look for her — these were the things that made sense.
 
Needless to say, my sister was a firecracker and I KNEW if I had chosen any of those less than stellar options and lived a life SHE wouldn’t have been proud of?  I’d pay for it – someday.  So, since that morning – for me and many around me – it has been exclusively about Living Out Loud.  It may have started for Kellie, but it definitely turned in to a “for me” thing in time.  Now I let no one or no thing stand in my way — I’ve seen hell.  I’ve been there.  Held hands with it.  
 
If I live to see 100 life will still be too short to waste any time on mediocrity, sadness, negativity, or crappy people.
 

This went on to become a podcast for DJ Waldow’s Living Your Passion Podcast

Check it out HERE!

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Living Out LoudMy Sister Kellie

We Went to a Funeral.

30

Written August 6, 2015.

We went to a funeral tonight. For a beautiful woman in our community who gave so much – who taught so much.

I never had her class, but I can see exactly where it sits when I close my eyes.

And when I open them – I’m back there again.  My friends flowing through the doors to her English class and I’d head down the hallway, another direction.

The hallways fill me with anxiety. Not because it’s high school, because I know the year…and I know my sister still lives here within these hallways.  Her laughter fills the space between classrooms as lockers clang closed, and even in the crowd…I can always pick her out.

High school isn’t a place I remember easily, not since 2004. I feel most of my memories prior to that week died the day she did. Twenty years and I’m left with shattered fragments, whispers, and shadows.

It’s not uncommon for me to message friends who knew me back then to ask, “Do you remember…” because I sure as hell don’t. I can’t even begin to, it’s just a different life. Something I feel was barely mine; a movie I half-watched but once before the power went out.

And yet, here I am. At the crossroads of hallways. Boys are teasing, girls are giggling. Doors fly open only to slam shut. Groups of teens stampede to their next class. And as the next door flies open, she walks through like she never left. A light smile crosses her face as our blue eyes lock and she waves only enough for us both to know. She fades as she walks into the sea of faceless people I know I probably know, around the corner – I stretch up on to my tippy toes to see what I can see – and she’s gone. Again.

I shake it off and blink the years away to see another family, in another time, take the all too familiar spot at the front of a church. Floral arrangements and a pastor ahead of them, tears streaming. They’re hands are latched together, solidarity never seemed so necessary. I hate that they’re here, but I know they’ll be okay as they’ve found the key to life – and death – is in the celebrating.

The biggest rebellion against death is to live a life so beautiful that it supersedes the darkness that lurks.

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#SeanAndCasieLiving Out Loud

Happiness.

Happiness
The first completely CLEAR moment I had after Kellie’s death was the realization that I had a CHOICE to be happy. That while I was in a pain I could’ve never imagined, in a world I could not have dreamed up — where nothing seemed quite right — I had the power to CHOOSE.
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I know what the other side of happiness looks like, and I refuse to live there.  I fought really fucking hard to be as happy as I am today.
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If there was a job I hated – I worked my ass off to find a better job.
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If there was a situation or person that stole even an ounce of happiness from me — I took care of it.  Nothing gets to steal my happiness without my consent.
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If there was any level of toxicity in my life – I’d abandon it, not feeling at all like I owed anyone an explanation. Because I don’t.
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Happiness requires you to be selfish sometimes. They don’t tell you that — they make you think you’re an asshole if you even begin to think about yourself for a moment.
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But here’s the secret — if you don’t fight for yourself — for your own freakish level of happiness? No one else will.
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And the very happiness so much of the world lays awake at night trying to find – is actually entirely up to you to create, find, grow and protect.
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