friendsgiving 2018 by Haley Russell

You guys, this year, I made a turkey. For someone who has seen flames while making spaghetti and opts to bring ice cream to potlucks, I went big this Thanksgiving. I mean, 18 pounds of big. After my first apartment, I was determined to make this one feel like home and be more intentional about hospitality. I tend to be a bit of a hermit and really just would rather be at home on my couch by myself (or with, like, one friend) watching Parks and Rec (the best, honestly). But, this year, I’ve been working really hard about opening my home. I have a sweet little welcome mat that says “all are welcome here” that reminds me we’re all in this together.

So this year, I decided to host Friendsgiving. When my sisters and I all lived at home, we really just ordered pizza and called it a day, so we’ve been hosting for years. But, this year I wanted to do a more traditional Thanksgiving meal, potluck style!

friendsgiving 2018

Some things on Friends + Thanksgiving

There’s always something to be thankful for.

Keeping this mindset has been really tough for me over the last few years. I’ve been in a weird limbo in several areas of my life, and so it’s been difficult to remember thankfulness. This year, though, so many things seem to be changing in my life and my friends’ lives. We didn’t play any games, nor did we sign a sheet that said what we’re thankful for, but I was glad to just be near them all. Simplicity in the madness. It was beautiful, guys. At first, I was really nervous to host almost eighteen people in my one-bedroom apartment, but we made it work. We covered the coffee table with a tablecloth and ate on the floor. And we loved it.

carry your traditions

On my mom’s side, my grandma has always been the one to make the turkey. She preps it, while we stand in the corner cowering and gagging at the sight of turkey insides. When I told her I wanted to make a turkey, she was so excited. We talked for DAYS about this plan. She walked me through every. single. step. of the process. And when I finally got the dang bird made, we FaceTimed. These traditions are so fun and becoming even sweeter as my sisters and I are all getting older and able to participate even more.

less is more - and better

I love to plan a good party. I’ve done so much event planning in my professional life, that the details and pretty things make my heart pitter patter. When planning, I had grandiose ideas of buying tables and chairs, updating my sliding glass door, and buying all kinds of extras we didn’t really, well, need. Finally, I just decided I wasn’t going to buy anything I wouldn’t continue to use. No pillar candles, no new curtains. We spent a few dollars on a table runner I knew I wanted for everyday, cloth napkins we’ll use forever, some eucalyptus from Trader Joes that’s currently hanging in my shower, and dug in our party boxes for tea lights. It was literally perfect. It’s also amazing what you can do with a good charcuterie. Inspo from Gathered Living + Pinterest (pinned allll the party ideas here). Everything on the board was from Trader Joes except the apple butter my uncle makes. :)

Friendsgiving 2018

Love the planet.

I’m slowly but surely trying to eliminate plastic in my life. Literally, it’s so dang hard. But, these sweet little bamboo plates, forks, and knives are 100% biodegradable and compostable. Hellooooo.

There’s a lot coming up in my life - I just got butterflies thinking about it. It’s so easy to forget to love on your people. But I’m super glad we didn’t this year.

friendsgiving inspiration
friendsgiving 2018

This is also one of my favorite photos from the night. Summer suggested taking the photo from another angle so we didn’t show the rings on the table, but I loved it. This table was my grandmothers, who later gave it to my mom, who later gave it to me. It’s been in our family for more than fifty years. These circles represent use, family meetings, laughter, and memories. I wouldn’t trade it.

I hope you guys had the best Thanksgiving ever. :)

PS - I relied heavily on A Beautiful Mess for inspo and recipes (here is their Friendsgiving archive - they’ve been hosting for something like seven years). I’ve followed them for so, so many years and their Friendsgivings are always swoon-worthy. I also fell on Rebekah Lyons’s Friendsgiving guide (free download here!), which was a literal lifesaver and so. dang. cute. I used her turkey recipe, and it turned out SO well!

PPS - Summer took all of these photos, which makes me love them even more.

on doing all the things by Haley Russell

choosing creativity over business

I don't literally mean all the things. That's dangerous. If you're doing all the things, stop. Trust me, being a "yes man" is not good, regardless of what the world says. 

I've always been indecisive on things that matter. I can tell you definitively where I'd like to go to dinner, and what I'd like to wear. But when it comes to life decisions, I'm paralyzed. When I was younger, a teacher assigned a portfolio project designed to encourage us to think of our futures. We were to write several things about ourselves then -- in seventh grade -- and plan for our future. What, she wanted to know, did we want to be when we grew up? I labored over this question. An astronaut seemed exciting; not a lot of people were astronauts, and I've always had a love affair with the stars. Teaching seemed like a lot of fun, too, though. I loved writing on dry erase boards, and that's all teaching is, right? (And all the teachers said "Ha!" together.) Still mulling my decision over, I thought of the one thing I always wanted to do: A familiar itch crawled its way into my fingertips and stories raced around my brain. I wanted to be a writer most of all. 

After discovering I had no inclination or ability in sciences or math, we confidently crossed astronomy off my list. The stars and I would rendezvous every night, but I would never study them critically. Teaching became a legitimate and viable option. My desire to write still burned in my bones. But, new desires flooded my heart. I wanted to learn to paint, but thought I wasn't good at it (more on this later). In college, graphic design called to me. Web design made sense for my future. My dad -- always helpful and my forever business coach -- pushes me to learn to code, which sounds vaguely interesting. 

You get the point. 

I've always wanted to do all of the things. 

A few months ago, I launched Haley Danielle Creative, an outpour of my heart for storytelling. In that venture, I wanted to combine my love of writing with photography. My heart was for those who had a phenomenal story to tell. I wanted to walk alongside people and help them tell it. I believe in the power of a story -- big and small.

But, now, if you search for Haley Danielle Creative, the Internet directs you here. It's not an accident. I didn't publicly announce my switch to my old domain, nor do I plan to (although this may serve that But, here's why I did. 

Though I still have a passion for storytelling, a business run excluding the rest of my life didn't make sense to me. 

When I began HDC, I shoved everything else out of my head. I worked on my Instagram grid and labored over my website. I sent dozens of emails to small companies and large businesses asking to help freelance. I took photos of friends, sisters, and flowers. I still have a heart for storytelling. But what I also have is a heart for authenticity. 

And so, I am back here. I chose creativity and self expression over business. I'm still open to working with you (if you're interested in that, click here and if you want to see some of my work, click here), but I'm okay with those relationships growing organically. I still think about my Instagram feed (because who doesn't?) and check my analytics (I unhealthily love analytics). But, what I want more than anything is to be myself. I want to sit down at the computer and write about my faith because Leviticus is rocking my world (for real, guys). And I want to do that without feeling like I'm sabotaging my "brand" or "business." I want to talk about the two jobs I have and the Sunday school class I teach. I want to do all of those things, because they are me. 

I want to do all of it not because I want to hear myself talk, but because my fingertips itch and stories swirl in my soul. I want to hear from you, and consider hard things. I want to love loud, without feeling worried over an algorithm or upsetting some kind of Internet-established status quo someone has coined for their weekly webinar (that I'll probably watch because I love webinars). 

So, friend. Welcome to this new space. Make yourself at home and introduce yourself in the comments, will you? I'd love to know you! 

walking with you, 

on makeup by Haley Russell

me, very tired, in colorado. with altitude sickness. and approx 2 hours of sleep. 

me, very tired, in colorado. with altitude sickness. and approx 2 hours of sleep. 

I've gone almost a month only wearing make up about once a week. And even then, I hardly swipe mascara on my lashes. Guys, this is HUGE for me. 

In high school, I was on terrible acne medication which followed the "get worse before it gets better" method, which is the worst method for anything, ever. I hardly felt confident in the way I looked because of the whole 60-degree spinal curve thing, but the acne was just too much. I spent hours caking foundation on my poor pores trying to cover up my blemishes. 

As I got older, I cared less, but I still hardly ever left the house without makeup. And then one day, I got out of bed and the thought crossed my mind: No one is making you wear this, Haley. I stood, looking in the mirror for a while and thought about it. This was my face. My face. Nobody else has my face. So, I pulled my hair up in my usual bun and flew to school. After that, it just seemed natural. My skin needed a break. I needed a break. I don't even know what contouring means, you guys. But here's what I learned. 

People told me I looked pretty regardless of if I wore makeup. Of course, we should feel awesome regardless of if other people think we are. My point is, I didn't have to suddenly make a public service announcement to people that I was maybe giving my skin a makeup break. Even my students -- who are my harshest critics -- didn't once say, "Miss Russell, you look...tired" as they so often do when you least need to hear it. 

I found I didn't hate what I was looking at in the mirror. Of course, I feel super awesome when I have mascara on. It's my thing. I love a good lash. But, even without it, it was like rediscovering myself. I actually knew what I looked like without makeup on and felt okay about it. 

Life got a lot simpler. On Sundays, I still try and wear makeup to church. It doesn't always happen, and some days during the week I'll find that I have time or the inclination to slap some on before work. But on the mornings I'm not feeling it, I've got one less thing to stress about. And let me tell you, that is life changing for this night owl. 

Makeup had become such a part of my identity I wasn't quite sure where the real me really was anymore. It's kind of cool to see her staring back at me now and it's not too bad. What helps raise your confidence? 

on stretching by Haley Russell


I have a bad back. 

When I was 11, my doctor diagnosed me with scoliosis, which is a pretty normal thing. You may remember the somewhat humiliating (or was that just me?) in-school screenings when weird doctors made you bend over to see if you had a hunch in your back. I failed that test, hard. No biggie, though, scoliosis, we were told, isn't a big deal. Basically, you either deal with it or you're thrown in a brace and then -- viola! -- you're healed. But, sometimes, you get thrown in a brace and STILL don't get healed. Enter 11-year-old Haley. Not only was my spine crooked (think of an "s"), it was rotated. So, that's cool. Anyway, I ended up having spinal fusion surgery when I was 18 because of it. 

I recently went back to the doctor -- the same doctor who put rods in my back and grinned beneath a surgical mask as I made terrible (and drug-induced) jokes in post-op -- and he told me I needed to ~stretch~. I'd been complaining about feeling stiff (and I'm only 25! ugh) and he had a pretty simple response. He delivered the information as he always does, super calm and with a smile because he can always tell when he's going to deliver information I'm going to turn my nose at. 

"You've got to stretch, Haley." 

Um, no. 

"Pilates would be helpful." 

Um, hard no. 

I thought of that conversation with my beloved, sweet doctor when I was in Colorado last weekend. I was shooting an elopement and a lot still felt largely unknown to me. I love my camera, and I was working with my sister (who is so talented), but there were times throughout the day I looked around -- because Colorado is bring-you-to-your-knees beautiful -- and wanted to stop. I wanted to sit down, to read a book, do something comfortable. I wanted to not be in Birkenstocks, and to not be out of breath. I wanted so badly to have remembered my hammock, even though I never would have had the time to use it. Because, shooting isn't always easy. It's sometimes messy and weird and I am such a perfectionist when it comes to anything creative. 

But then, I remembered stretching. 

Stretching is terrible. I hate doing it. It seems somewhat unhelpful and weird to just, like, bend. But it's so important. And as I was walking around Turquoise Lake with severe altitude sickness and about five hours of sleep under my belt for the last 48 hours, I learned so much. I learned that the stretching is good for you. I learned that flying out to a new city and driving in a compact car on Colorado mountains is not a good idea. I delved into manual mode more than I ever have before (I always shoot manual, but I'm often terrified by it). I worked on composition and stretched myself -- quite literally -- by learning to use a new, wide-angle lens. If I would have stopped, ignored the stretching and admonished the hard, I wouldn't have grown. As a person, a photographer, a creative. 

So, I guess my question for you is pretty simple: What makes you stretch? Do you need to pick up a new hobby? Maybe you should learn to paint or draw. Maybe you need to finally look into film making. Or, cook or something. Whatever it is, maybe today's your day to stretch. Have so much fun and let me know how it goes. 

And, if you're into that sort of thing: here's the gallery from the elopement a few days ago

walking with you,

on thoughtfulness by Haley Russell

on thoughtfulness.jpg

I've been thinking a lot lately about thinking... Wow, what a statement. Let me explain. 

The last few months have been absolutely insane. For those of you who have followed my journey, you've seen me open and close a photography business, freelance, and quit my jobs to start working on my own creative pursuits. The problem was, I had no direction. I needed some stability. My heart has always yearned for the creative, the exciting, the beautiful, and the vulnerable. In January, instead of continuing working part time, I picked up two new classes and returned to full-time teaching. 

It wasn't a failure, but a giant learning experience. 

During my last semester of teaching, I struggled to stay present. Every day, for a different reason, felt like an absolute battle. I'd retreat home, bloodied, bruised, and licking my wounds. At 7 am the next day, I'd start again. There was no time to talk to kids going through crises -- I was barely standing up straight. To do lists completely killed my idea of community. 

And then, the summer came, as it often does. Illnesses have raged and surgeries abounded. I found rest, but in unexpected ways: I found it in my people. 

Instead of staying in bed, or reading (I mean, I have done quite a lot of that), I cleaned houses, made suppers, and booked trips. And instead of feeling burned out, I felt a strange mix of guilt and joy.

My priorities were so skewed, guys. It was so bad. My to do lists outweighed my people. I graded and graded, or I slept, or I just couldn't be around people anymore. Now that I've been less crazy, it's been apparent I've left friendships jilted and relationships undone. I haven't put in the work. 

And, the thing is, the people is what matters. That's why we teach -- for the kids. But, at the same time, we've got to translate that into our real lives. 

This week, I hope you hug your people's necks and tell them how awesome they are. A can of soup can go a long way. A trip to the grocery takes 10 minutes. Send some flowers and write a note. Let's do our parts this week. 

walking with you,

on sitting down and slowing down by Haley Russell

haley danielle

Something caught me by surprise today. It was a nasty thing, a product of our broken world. It grabbed me around the neck and forced the air out of me and left me sad and unsure. You see, every day, I leave school around 4. I love talking to students, but some days, I'm just ready to zip out of there because, you know, I've been standing and talking to people for, like, twenty-five thousand hours. And so, when a student asked me to hang out for a bit after school a few days ago, I flew in and out of the classrooms, finishing things up, not really listening. I shrugged: Whatever it was, could wait. Today, though, I finally stopped. We sat together and I heard her loud and clear. Some terrible things had happened in her life. 

Her story is not mine to tell, but as she was speaking of families ripping apart, painful disappointments, and raw wounds, my voice caught in my throat. I hurt for her, and I felt guilt rise from the pit of my stomach: I'd been too busy to see her for a whole week and this had been going on. This was what was pressing. And she'd waited, patient, and kind. She'd still hugged me, told me she'd catch me another time. She still told me she loved me, and gave me more grace when I allowed my busyness to take the driver's seat. I'd been around, sure. I'd been scratching papers with red pens and clicking away at emails rather than slowing down.

I hadn't stopped to listen. 

I was (am) heartbroken. Instead of doing my job (because teachers sign up for our jobs to educate, sure, but everyone knows we're in it for the kids), I'd allowed other, small things to get in the way of a conversation I should've been having. Instead of sitting down and slowing down, I waved my hand and swore I'd have time later.

Sister, maybe today is your later. Maybe today is the day you need to sit down, slow down, grab a drink and really listen. One of the biggest things teaching has taught me is that we're all carrying a lot of junk. People (read: teenagers) often seem frustrating until you know their full story. Every time I'm annoyed a kid is acting out, I almost always find out something is always going on at home. Something is going on with their health, their parents, or their siblings. Every. Single. Time. And, for some reason, I continue to learn this lesson -- giving more grace and opening my ears a little more. All it takes is sitting down and slowing down. Invite that friend to coffee. Buy hers. Don't say a lot. Just listen. Just be.

You are not to busy, and nor am I. 

I hope you have the greatest weekend ever. 

walking with you,

on sideways glancing + confidence by Haley Russell

The other day, in the grocery store, I saw a woman with a baby. I'm 25 and not married, so babies are so not in my plans right now. But, I saw this sweet woman, probably my age or a few years older, floating down the aisle. Her baby was sitting in the little seat calmly and was dressed beautifully. She'd bought one of those little drape things that go over the metal so your kid doesn't get Ebola or whatever the disease of the day is. I looked at her, and then I looked quickly back at the soup. Trying to avoid her eye, or really anyone's eye, I thought about my unwashed hair. I considered my face, which hadn't seen makeup in about a week. I thought about my teacher outfit -- the one I wear to be comfortable (leggings, a comfy dress/tunic, and Vans). My eyeballs seemed to also be upset and started to leak. 

I looked sideways. 

Man, I do this all the time. And it's so frustrating. I know Grocery Lady (who probably has an awesome name like Grace) has her fair share of problems. I know, too, that I didn't see the dark spaces in her day. But as I was looking extra hard at the soup, I began to think of all the times that insecurity turned into hate. I remember, as a teenager, hating the girls who'd somehow made it through high school without blemishes (I mean, how is that even possible?). I remember feeling my blood boil as a young adult at the thought of a woman marrying her college boyfriend and buying a sweet little house. But, Grocery Lady made me think differently. 

I know I'll probably never stop sideways glancing. I have an Instagram account, for heaven's sake. So, instead, I promised myself in the soup aisle that I would stop pitting Grocery Lady's awesome qualities against my bad ones. I would stop, right then and there, with the comparison game. Because, quite honestly, that's what the world wants from us. And I'm not going to give it to them anymore. Instead, I'm going to smile really big and hope my happiness translates into, "You're doing awesome and I'm proud of you!" Because that's really all we need to hear from each other. 

If you find yourself looking sideways, sister, just know you're not alone. And remember, just because your hair may be unwashed or your dude hasn't called today, or your boss is the literal worst, doesn't mean Grocery Lady's remembering to shower somehow makes her a better woman. We're in this together. Let's link arms and do this thing the right way. 

walking with you,