I'm not going to lie. My life is pretty freaking awesome. I get to play with hair, makeup and costumes all day with super fun people. I get to help women feel beautiful. I get to create romantic, stunning images in my beautiful studio.
BUT. There it is. The big "B" word. BUT...
Sometimes owning your own business means dealing with what I've affectionately dubbed the "onslaught". The wave after wave of things that keep coming and coming as you are desperately attempting to catch a breath. The waves that leave you sputtering, disoriented and feeling like you've made a terrible mistake. Cue Chandler Bing's, "this parachute is a knapsack!" For me, the past two months have represented such an onslaught. It's been the type of situation that I haven't even posted too much on Facebook about simply because it's been that overwhelming. The hilarious irony of it all was that my next blog post was going to actually be about rest and balance. How important it is for you to make finding that line a priority...lolololololololololol. Maybe I can learn that in Quarter 3...?
June 24th, I came skipping into work, excited for the two viewings I had that day. Both women's images came out beautifully and my favorite part is when they come back in to see the pics. It seriously makes me giddy. Unfortunately, I go skipping right through a huge pool of water on my lobby floor. I try to figure out where the water is coming from and find that upstairs in my makeup area, there is a huge water stain and water is actively running down my walls in multiple streams. Y'all, it was like some sort of horror movie about a tsunami or something. For real. It takes 8 hours to finally get ahold of someone/cut open my ceiling to find out where it's coming from. In the meantime, that water is soaking multiple walls, floors and ceilings.
We discover that it is coming from the back unit above me where, surprise of surprises, the unit owner has completely gutted her unit and been doing un-permitted construction (like plumbing!) for about 6 months.
We begin the drying out process and realize some pretty crazy things. Like, how they didn't put down a sub floor in the unit above me where all the un-permitted construction was happening. Which means when my drying guys opened my ceiling we were met with a random construction dude staring down at us.
They also dropped random things that looked like torture devices. Yeah. That fell out of my ceiling and almost bludgeoned one of the drying guys in the face.
Then we started to realize some even crazier things. Like, they'd have to rip up both my upstairs and downstairs floor. Now, I've always considered myself good in crisis. Great, even. I don't usually wallow in emotion, I move into "go mode" and start putting stuff back together! Y'all. When I walked in and saw my ripped up floor, I boo-hooed like someone had stolen my dog. It was so devastating to see my beautiful studio that I've poured countless hours into planning, painting, cleaning, decorating, and creating in, ripped up like that. All the beautiful furniture and props piled haphazardly into the corner. My canvases off the walls and shoved in a closet. It got me. I basically just held onto my husband until I thought I could talk to the drying guys without embarrassing myself.
Then the bomb was dropped that I was going to be out of the studio for a minimum of 3-4 weeks. 3-4 WEEKS?! The horrible (and wonderful) part about that is I was completely booked out. July and August were already full. My heart sank. I did secure a pretty sweet temporary space, but I was terrified that my women simply wouldn't feel comfortable shooting somewhere other than the studio. I sat down and called each client I had scheduled to see if they were ok with shooting somewhere else-all the while offering them their deposit back along with a list of other awesome photographers they could go to if they wanted. That may sound weird and dramatic, but boudoir photography already has a certain "creep factor" built in right? I mean I'm basically asking women to come to my studio, take off their clothes and let me take naked pics of them. It's easy for that scenario to shift from fine art beauty to downright creepy. That's why it's always been so important to me to keep the studio perfect. So they feel safe and comfortable and enjoy the experience. But a last minute switch in venue? Well...I worried that would make them even more nervous. Here's the thing: not one client rescheduled. Instead, I was met with them saying things like "I don't care where we shoot! I'm just thankful you're still going to shoot me at all! I've been so looking forward to this!" Words can't express how much this bolstered my spirit and helped me realize that I really can get through this.
The next few weeks were a blur of activity. My unit owner left for Africa for 5 weeks where she was going to have limited (if any) access to wifi. The chick upstairs left the country without giving any one her insurance information-which was awesome *dripping sarcasm*. I spoke to no less (seriously-I have a list!) than 18 different insurance dudes with 5 different insurance companies. So many Bobs, Carls, Genes and Debbies...spending an average of 6-7 hours on the phone & emailing per day and 2-3 hours per day going back and forth to the studio to try to keep the contractors moving and everything on track. I hauled six suitcases of stuff up two flights of stairs to the temporary space multiple times per week for every shoot I had booked. We get everything together, the repairs scheduled to take place and...wait for it...
The studio floods again. AGAIN. The DAY we were supposed to start repairs. And not just once. TWICE.
It was flooded by the same chick upstairs (who coincidentally had returned from being out of the country that day). In the same area of the studio. Once we diagnosed that flood, it happen for the second time that day a few hours later. Each of the three floods were from completely different sources. Although, all three floods resulted because of the negligence of the chick upstairs and her dudes. I can't explain in words how furious I was that day. I sat outside on the curb with my 4 floor contractors and 2 sheet rock contractors (who were by now soaking wet), awaiting our general contractor and the 2nd round of drying guys to get there and plan our next steps. All the while, chick upstairs just keeps on with her construction. While her Land Rover sits parked illegally in the street for hours. It's fine...I'm not bitter...Thank the Lord I married an amazing man who made me cheese dip and margaritas that night!
So. It started all over again. A song and dance I never wanted to sing or dance again. Another round of insurance companies, another 9 adjusters to add to the 18. Meetings with my lawyer. Cease and desist letters. So many things I never thought I'd ever have to deal with or do or say. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I don't call the city and code enforcement on a bi-weekly basis. I don't threaten to take people to court. I don't cry daily. I'm proud of my ability to handle the situation well in the moment, but I was not emotionally built to stay in that space for too long.
Luckily, that was our last big snag. Add a few more weeks (45 days from the first flood to be exact) and I'm back in the studio. I'm back to my business, filling my calendar with more amazing women to shoot and focused on growth and not on walls, ceilings, water or the chick upstairs...
I'm a silver lining girl-always have been. Here are the things I learned and am beyond thankful for...
1.) I have the best clients ON THE PLANET!!!!!!! They truly made me feel supported through this entire ordeal and they are the reason I didn't just light a match to the whole thing. They're incredible.
2.) There is a way to be a professional and love people, but not be a doormat. I am much better at this now than I was two months ago.
3.) Even though I've seen people do some pretty heinous and selfish things during this process, God also sent me angels who didn't have to care or work as hard as they did for me and my business. There were a lot of amazing people who came out of the woodwork to encourage me, let me vent, build the studio back up, or go above and beyond in their jobs. Without them, I'd still be floor-less.
3.) This man. My love. My husband has literally walked hand-in-hand with me through this entire hellish process. He has stood up to people for me and stood by me as I tried to put one foot in front of the other. He has held me when I cried and been patient with me when I took all the stress out on him. He has done laundry, made sure I've eaten, sent funny texts, made dinners, taken me to get out of the house. He has been my rock. Without him, I'd most likely be a hermit rocking on the floor of our condo amidst empty wine bottles and little debbie wrappers. Or I'd be in jail...one of the two.
God really knew what He was doing when He brought Matt into my life. He truly is my better half.
Here's to a drama-free rest of 2015!!!!!