Vegas you stole my heart is all I can say!

Last summer I received a call from Shalonda from Chubby Cheeks Photography asking me about potentially being a part of her Business Blueprint Course and that she was still interviewing others but wanted to discuss it with me and where I am in life with my business. Truth be told I was a complete mess. Yes I was shooting a good bit of sessions and loving it, but I still wasn’t close to where I wanted to be or needed to be and honestly I was so exhausted by the thought of everything I should be doing I just did nothing.

I still remember being at the beach house on the patio overlooking the bay chatting with Shalonda and thinking gosh I would love to do this, but there were so many reasons to say no. After a few days of talking with her and thinking about it I thought what if I say yes. I always so no to everything and mostly out of fear or finances or not having enough time. But what if I said yes this one time. I wanted to from day one but all the reasons to say no were at the forefront of my thoughts. The last conversation I had with her though left me feeling so motivated, excited and it was like we had been friends forever and she understood where I was in business and life and when she spoke to me I could feel how genuine she was. Shalonda truly wanted me to be a part of this because she knew it was what I needed. So I said yes and honestly if I was going to do one thing that challenged me last year I am glad I said yes to this.

Then came the call in the winter of 2023 about a photo retreat in Vegas. First thought… Hell Yes! Second..oh I can’t do this. So I called Shalonda and she was like “girl you need this!” And I did, I knew I did, but I just had some of the hardest months of my life. If you have been following me you know my son was very sick and in Hopkins and only four weeks after he was admitted my daughter was rushed to the emergency room unresponsive and having seizures. Then my son was in the hospital again. It took a toll on me, one that I still am not recovered from so my first response was no I can not do this. My little ones though would be with their dad and I would not be able to be with them anyway. So after talking to literally everyone including their pediatrician I decided book my flight and tell Shalonda I was in. I felt like I was crazy for saying yes, but I was so excited about it. Nervous to leave but so dang excited. The thought of meeting Shalonda in real life, learning from her in person, photographing in Vegas and meeting the other amazing photographers going just brought me back to life and out of my funk and I was beyond excited for the first time in a long time.

I left a day before the retreat to stay with a friend I grew up with that lives in Vegas. He picked me up from the airport and right away began to show me around. We drove through the red rocks and a few other places and then relaxed by the pool. Later that night we met another friend we grew up with for dinner. It was so surreal being in Vegas with him and then knowing I was going to see all the girls the next day. I didn’t even realize how much I needed this trip until I was laying by the pool and for the first time in a long time I felt at peace and like I could breath.

The next day I got a text from another talented photographer Katelyn that she was driving in from Arizona and could pick me up to take me to our house we were staying out. Then we picked up two our our Texas photo besties Kristen and Jessica at the airport. Which we thought would be a quick thing and we drove in circles what felt like a thousand times. But we had a full car and full hearts and were just so pumped for the days ahead. Ah it was like being on a bachelorette party when we arrived. There were drinks and beautiful welcome gifts, girls getting ready and doing hair and make up and just so much fun. We spent the evening dining on the strip and getting to know each other and of course making a stop at the Las Vegas sign.

The next few days were beyond amazing. We learned a lot, laughed, cried and had absolute epic photo sessions from sunrise to sunset. We had our first shoot at Seven Magic Mountain at sunrise then a family session in the Redstone Dunes Trail at sunset. The next day we had a little fun, learned, saw some sights and took some photos of each other. Then we had a stunning family session at Bonnie Creek. We went home after had an amazing me, coffee and long talks. We laughed a lot and some of us enneagram 2s cried and hugged a lot. I can’t even put into words the impact this trip had on me. The photography part was a dream, but the connection made with these woman was unexpected, I mean we knew each other from zoom calls but being with them in real life I never expected to become so close to them and it was honestly life changing. To this day over a year later they have become such an important part of my life. We text and call and are just there for each other personally and professionally. A few of us have Wednesday morning zoom chats each week. And Shalonda….well there are not enough words to describe how amazing she is and how much she has supported me and taught me the last year and a half. Her support didn’t end with our trip to Vegas, her support and teaching us and helping in on going and I am so thankful for her. For all of these wonderful woman. This trip was pure magic!

That last night there was so hard. I know all of us missed our kiddos but we weren’t ready to leave. We all for the first time in a long time felt such connection and so inspired creatively. I can not stress the importance of having a tribe that understands you the way we all were able to understand each other. Shalonda had us play a game at the end of the night that was suppose to be basically writing a letter anonymous, but right after reading it my girl Brooke knew exactly who wrote hers. Kim had to leave after that and she text me about an hour after leaving the house saying how she was so happy to have met me in person and how she wanted to keep in touch and would be here for me and she is still. She is the one I went to New York to photograph. When it was over we said our goodbyes. Most left for the airport an I well I well I headed to the Belliago and checked in and had a day/night to myself.

I always imagined going to Vegas and staying at the Bellagio but I never I a million years thought I would be doing either of those things alone. But here I was in Sin City all alone. We now like to refer to it as a photographers playground. I was here though alone and even though it was very strange it was also incredibly freeing. I felt relaxed and carefree. I wandered around, ate dinner alone for probably the first time ever at a restaurant. I was going to order room service but my brother suggested a place that I had to go. Even though I was alone I didn’t feel all alone because I had all the retreat girls texting me and checking in with me and continuing conversations we never got finish. You never think at this age that you would meet people that you would build such a strong friendship with, especially people that live all over the country. And even though we are what seems like worlds apart we are making it work. We are cheering each other on, venting to each other, creating ideas with each other and just being there. I left Vegas with so much more then I ever could imagined I would on so many levels.

And I didn’t head home after that. I got even wilder and outside my comfort zone and flew from Vegas to LA. That is a story for another day.

Vegas I adored you and everyone that was there!

February 24, 2024




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