Sarah Lehberger | Portrait Photographer | Fairfield County, CT » Celebrating the Dreamers and the Doers of the World

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Life Lessons Before Kindergarten

I remember feeling like I was holding my breath, which seems crazy because he was the one struggling to breathe. We had many a sleepless night where I’d be sleeping with one eye open and ready to jump from bed so I could reach him in time. I’d grab him and we’d run outside into the frigid 20 degree temps of winter and pray that his lungs would fill with air and the barking or gasping would stop. Other times he’d throw himself against the side of the bed or couch hoping he could give his chest some relief until we’d end up driving to the ER again. I don’t miss those nights. Not for one second.

We’ve had our share of ups and downs, immense joys and fears, and we’ve finally made it. To this stage or “the other side” that I like to call it. You know, where he’s a big kid now and no longer a sick baby or toddler. This stage of independence and exploration that now only occasionally involves holding my hand. This stage of vibrant imagination and dreaming of his future. He declared just last week that he wants to be a magician in front of an audience of parents at preschool graduation, and that’s just when he isn’t busy being a “dolphin saver” or “rescue hero” on the side.

It’s bittersweet, because every step of the way (since he was born) we’ve had some obstacle to overcome. A struggle that I never could have anticipated and yet we’d have to persevere… together. And through each hurdle he remained a happy baby, the silliest toddler and my smiling little man who’s spirit would lift mine… and especially when he would ask for my “famous grilled cheese”. :-)

You see, I had no idea that he would get RSV as a 6 week old and that I would have to get an emergency surgery just weeks after my c-section recovery, and that it would throw me into this vicious ride of postpartum depression. I also had no idea that he would be sick with respiratory issues every single month for the next four years of his life. I was clueless. Somehow my gassy and reflux 1st born seemed easy. There is nothing that anyone could have said that would have prepared me for any of it. I just had to go through it for myself.

I am grateful that I wasn’t prepared for all the lessons we would learn (as a team) in the last five years to prep us for Kindergarten (and life).

Together we have learned that…

  • no matter how hard of a day we are having, we’ve got to keep swinging!
  • we are connected and each of us is important to our team (or family)
  • our true character is often revealed in defeat, it’s where we get the chance to get back up, to stand tall and to try harder the next time

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  • using our imagination means we get to dream beyond the bounds of our reality and be extraordinary!
  • siblings are a gift, because with them we don’t have to be scared of the dark and we are never alone… no matter how old we get
  • and sometimes it’s good to keep your head above the clouds and your feet off the ground
  • we will make a mess of things (milk + cereal included), and by learning to improve we accept grace into our lives

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  • smiling doesn’t mean things are perfect… but it does mean that we have hope, strength and we choose happiness even when things are scary
  • if we believe in ourselves and keep moving forward we can accomplish anything (magicians and dolphin savers included!)
  • when all else fails, sing really loud and if possible have an impromptu dance party showing your best moves
  • it’s not about the destination, it’s about the ride with our spunky and brave passengers on this journey called life

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So before my baby enters Kindergarten this fall, I am looking back nostalgically (like I always do) and smiling at how far we have come. I am so honored to be his Mommy and I’m watching him spread his wings and fly… and my heart is soaring for him!

If any of you are reading this and want me to spend a few hours with your family before your child goes off to Kindergarten or Middle School, and you long to capture this stage with YOU in the photos – please don’t hesitate to reach out here. Families experience so many trials together. Some of them are unspoken and they don’t need to be. It’s time for us to let go of the shame and to realize that we aren’t alone in our struggles. Let’s celebrate your journey and small victories too! It would be my honor to help tell your story, and there are only a few weeks in the summer before we are packing lunches and sending them off again!

Also, a really BIG THANK YOU to all of the people who have been there (had empathy, helped us through the nebulizer treatments, or brought wine!) during this chapter of our lives. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t perfect, but it was ours. Some might call it our “beautiful mess”. All I know is… we are finally on the “other side”!!!

To all of you who are still in the thick of it, there is hope for you too! Cheers to weekend BBQs and making S’mores over the fire, sand in your toes, catching lightning bugs, the sweet smell of sunscreen, sun-kissed skin, and summer memory making!

SarahXOXO

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I Don’t Like Being a Housewife

This week wasn’t too unlike all the others except a few of my dreams were crushed. Dreaming, after all, keeps my life from feeling so very ordinary. I’ll get over it and create something far better to place my hopes and bets on, but for now I am back to reality and my housewife duties. Ugh.

I was never one of those girls who dreamed about becoming a wife or a mother. I was the kind who always dreamed about her career ambitions, travel and life adventures. I wasn’t one of those girls who went to college to find her husband or to get her degree so she would look good on paper (but never have to use said degree). Nope, that wasn’t me. You know you can name a few of those women and I always pitied them as (to me) it seemed they didn’t know their own worth or value in this world. I have always been a little different. I didn’t take my education or my experiences lightly as each was earned not given.

So there I was minding my own business, and working my tail off in the news and photo industry in NYC, and then BAM! Life happened. I married my husband and I had kids a few years later. Say what? How did that even happen? Don’t get me wrong, I love them all to pieces and I am grateful for each one of them (even if they do drive me crazy). And yet somehow, I could never shake this feeling that…

and it doesn’t involve being the best homemaker, or an ordinary or desperate housewife. Someone’s gonna hate me for saying that. But it’s true. Am I completely alone in feeling this way?

I have a hard time believing that women can be 100% content cleaning their homes, planning their gourmet meals, wiping their kids’ butts and being taxi drivers all day long. It just isn’t me or my kind of satisfaction. It bores me. I tried it, and after a year or two of being a stay-at-home mom… I knew I was done. I didn’t entirely enjoy living in my yoga pants, having irrational beings run our home, feeling like my brain cells died, and dealing with the “perfectly” happy women around me who spent a good portion of their days with their personal trainers or getting their Botox or self-medicating or planning Pinterest inspired meals or parties. I just couldn’t do it any longer so I quickly went back to work. I needed to be surrounded by inspirational, innovative and ambitious women like me.

It’s been 8 years of motherhood and going on 11 years of marriage, and I still get little or no fulfillment from picking up the stinky socks, feeding tiny people who don’t appreciate my efforts, and then having to repeat my duties day in and day out. The difference is that now I don’t feel guilty about it and I have something of my own (a career) to focus on.

And this week, it really hit me. The reason I don’t like being a housewife is not just because it makes me feel ordinary or desperate. It is because it doesn’t allow me to be SPONTANEOUS. When I am stuck at home and doing my housewife duties (rather than Sarah duties) I start to loose a little bit of myself in all of the planned and monotonous tasks. It means I need a serious break (or vacation). I need to escape the boredom and find my mojo again.

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Thank goodness spring has sprung and I can get back to my photography which is where I find my mojo, motivation and much needed creativity. It allows me to be Sarah… and not MoMMMYYYYYYYY or the housewife in an endless cycle of meals, dishes and laundry.

So, I’m curious. How do you break free of the mundane housewife duties in your home? If I could outsource them all — I would! What are some of the tips or tools that allow you to be more spontaneous in your everyday life with a family? I want us all to enjoy more FREE-SPIRITED days and NOT feel like we are always stuck on an endless hamster wheel called life. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and ideas!

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Easing Her Fears of Moving

The “For Sale” sign went up, and the packing and showings have already rocked our world. It was only a matter of time before she would “crack” and crumble to pieces in my arms. My oldest cried a river onto my shoulder this past weekend and I tried to reassure her that everything was going to be okay.

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She is afraid of moving, and leaving the comfort and safety of this home. This is her first home and the place where she’s lived since she was 6 months old. It’s the place where all of her toddler playdates and each milestone has been. Now, at 8 years old, she has finally discovered her strengths, confidence and her gifts. She has made her childhood friends and has found her place in this world. And here I am about to ruin it all.

I can’t help but wonder if she will recover from this? She is our timid and anxious child. She always has been. So asking her to trust me and to be brave right now feels like I am asking her to walk through fire. To her young mind this is going to be the scariest thing she has ever done in her life and I am feeling the gravity of that. I want to honor her fears and feelings. I keep reminding myself that children are resilient, and we can handle this challenge. I just pray that she finds her confidence again and I see that glimmer in her eyes like I do now.

I remember being her age or a little older, and wishing my parents would move to a bigger city or somewhere that had a better musical theater program – or just be adventurous and take us kids out West! So now, here I am (the parent) and I can see how hard it is to uproot your children. Easier said than done. Even if it is for the best and if it means you will be following your dreams.

We are moving to find a little more space and (hopefully) a studio/office area where I can do client consultations from my home. I am excited and ready for this next chapter. This is the right time and I feel it with every inch of my being. My babies aren’t babies anymore and we can finally manage a move. We don’t have a place to go just yet and this house still needs to sell, so in the weeks ahead I have some important work to do in teaching a certain little girl about embracing her fears.

And I’ll tell her that when we face our fears, we allow ourselves to experience some of the greatest joys or adventures in life. And I just know that she is going to do well at her new elementary school. She will make new friends who appreciate her generous heart. She will find her place among the others (like her) who are dangling from the monkey bars. She will gain new insights and learn more about her strengths. She will develop new life skills by stepping outside of her comfort zone. And most importantly (for this short window of time), she will learn that as long as we are together… she will always be safe and she will be in the comfort of our “home”.

Have you recently made a move with your school-aged child(ren)? Do you have any tips for making the transition easier? I’d like to ease the stress that we all may feel by embracing this change (or challenge) as our great, big, family adventure! Wishful thinking maybe? Who cares. I’m going to need it… and wine. Lots and lots of wine. ;-)

SarahXOXO

 

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She’s a Champion and a Survivor. Meet Olympic Medalist, Shannon Miller

I grew up watching the female gymnasts and ice skaters during each Olympic year. Those were my favorites to watch and it’s most likely because I was an avid dancer back in my day. So the rhythmic moves of the athletes would leave me spellbound by their performances.

So naturally, when I was asked to photograph 7-time Olympic medalist and America’s most decorated gymnast, Shannon Miller, I was thrilled beyond belief!

Shannon Miller graced my television during the 1992 Olympics and again in the 1996 games. We’re the same age, and to watch her accomplish some of the most incredible feats as a young, female athlete was so very inspiring to me. I remember her fall on the balance beam and how she had to get back up with all of those eyes on her. Amazingly, that fall  did not define her and instead I think it fueled her to keep going and to fight harder. I would soon learn that it wasn’t until her ovarian cancer diagnosis at age 33 that her real fight began, and she would need to summon all of her strength and champion spirit in order to fight for her life.

It was upon her recent travel to Fairfield, CT that I would photograph her for the CT Challenge Speaker Series to help motivate and empower those touched by cancer and to share Shannon’s career and cancer experiences. CT Challenge is a wonderful nonprofit organization dedicated to helping cancer survivors rebuild their lives. It was a pleasure collaborating with them on this day.

One of my favorite moments from our afternoon together was when 11 year old Maya (also a gymnast) came to meet Shannon. This brave and inspiring young girl had always dreamed of becoming an Olympic gymnast, and just two years ago she was faced with the devastating news of having an osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in her leg. She went from qualifying for states to sudden chemotherapy treatments and eventually amputation surgery.

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Her new prosthetic leg will allow her to return to gymnastics as long as she is in remission and in good health. Maya has a long road ahead yet she hasn’t stopped dreaming. You’ll see in these photos that she is just as determined as ever to continue her favorite sport! Maya’s new goal is to become a Paralympian and she wants others to know that,

As I listened to Shannon’s keynote presentation, I couldn’t help but feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude for getting to share in this experience with all of the survivors and warriors in the audience. Shannon shared so much of herself. She was vulnerable with us all and she made sure the audience knew that they weren’t alone in their struggles.

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Shannon and Maya, if either of you happen to read this… thank you. For allowing us to witness your incredible strength. For never letting your dreams be easy to dismiss. For inspiring us all. For showing the world your compassion, resilient spirit and self-worth. For leading communities by your example. For giving us all hope. For reminding us that even when we fall, it will be okay. We just need to get back up and keep on fighting… like a champion and a survivor.

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If this Wife, Mother, Olympic Gold Medalist, Television & Radio Personality, Health & Fitness Advocate and Cancer Survivor motivates you or you’d like more info on her mission, please support her endeavors at the URLs below and feel free to share this article with someone who might need some encouragement on their cancer journey as well.

Shannon Miller Official Website / Shannon on Twitter / Shannon on Facebook

Thanks!

SarahXOXO

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Living the Dream: Women Leaders and Entrepreneurs

Did you know that women make up the majority population enrolled in higher ed? That must have jumped significantly since I was in college in the 90′s. So if more women than men earn college degrees, why do so many of them struggle to reach leadership roles? Is the transition to marriage or children the biggest factors at play here, or is it the corporate environment and it’s old school mentality? It’s likely a case of all of the above.

Rather than trying to compete in the corporate world or live by their rules, you’ve probably noticed that more and more women are starting their own businesses. Often times, she will launch a small business after she has started her family, and occasionally it’s the reverse and she bit the bullet long before her family planning even started. Either way, “women entrepreneurs lead one in five startups around the globe,” Forbes reports. “The ratio of female founders to male soared 30 percent over the last year and a half.” Ladies, this is worth celebrating! Have you noticed this trend near you?

“Millennial female entrepreneurs are disrupting industries, creating innovative products and ultimately, changing the world. The thing that I admire most about my fellow female entrepreneurs is that they are really doing it by their own rules”, says Rebekah Epstein via Entrepreneur. This sounds a lot like the passion behind the women’s liberation movement of the 1970′s, except now we actually have equal rights… and the movement has changed names. You’ve probably heard of this movement to Lean In, and I believe that us female entrepreneurs have been doing this for quite some time. The concept is being applauded by more than just working women. I happen to know quite a few stay-at-home-moms who have read the book and think that it is a wonderful concept, and they look forward to embracing it as they re-enter the work force in the future.

The questions still remain for these women who want to re-enter the working world…

1) How will it affect my family?
2) What will I find the level of flexibility and freedom that I need?
3) How will I combat “mommy guilt”?
4) Will I ever find balance?
5) Will I find my purpose or work that fulfills me and makes me happy?

The answers may vary and I will touch on them more throughout future posts here, but what I want you to think about is…

 What if flexibility and freedom truly exists? What if you faced your fears and found your most fulfilling work ever? What if you never tried? Would you regret it one day, that you never lived your dream?

Take a look at the Infographic below with The Top Cities for Female Entrepreneurs…

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Infographic via: Intuit

Women are living their dreams and embracing who they are. They are choosing to do business by being themselves, and in the process they get to celebrate the things that they are most passionate about. They are owning their success with confidence and pride, as they should!!

Do you ever wonder how you can get started? Is that yearning (inside of you) to do something creative propelling you forward? Are your business dreams extraordinary, adventurous and bold? If so, you might want to consider a mentor or business coach to help you in the development stage of this new journey. Their knowledge can be invaluable and I might just have the place that you are looking for!

Recently, with my trusted industry mentors and colleagues, I decided to take a leap of faith and start a new portion of my life’s work. I am now helping women, just like you and I, start the creative businesses of their dreams. If you are at all interested in learning more please visit TeamXBiz.com. I am confident that one of our creative business coaches or mentors can guide you in the right direction and help you discover the road that you are meant to travel, and how being you is the most important brand asset that you have.

And remember, you are not alone. There is a support network of encouraging and motivating women who will be cheering you on. It’s a sisterhood of fearless females and you are welcomed with open arms. We’re huggers. ;-)

Cheers to living the dream!
SarahXOXO

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