Sarah Carter Studio » artist | photographer | writer | advocate

Margaret is a treasure. I knew it the moment I met her, shortly after we moved to the suburbs of Chicago two years ago. She has that sort of familiarity that puts you at ease and makes you feel known right away (which was a very specifically appreciated gift to me, the new girl.) She’s smart and funny and writes absolutely beautiful things. She’s also mother to two gorgeous girls and wife to the equally charming Blaine Hogan. A few months ago I woke up to a snowy foggy enchantment and I knew I had to photograph someone in it. I couldn’t let that magic go to waste! So it texted M.

It went something like this: “Oh hey. See this fog? Crazy. Yeah. Totally. Also – wanna meet me at the meadow in 30 to shoot? ..Sure!

Haha. Something like that. You get the idea.

So we met and shot and it was so so magical to me. The wonderful precious thing about Margaret is that, without any notice or warning, she is up for anything. That is how she approaches life – so ready to say yes to it – the good and the hard and the adventure. She exudes a confidence that makes it really fun to capture on film. And little Eloise – well, she is a perfect mix of all the good things in both her mama and her daddy. Lucky girl!

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Last week I noticed dozens of tiny yellow flowers popping up all over our backyard. Spring had sprung, apparently, and so had the dandelions. Now, most people around here would suggest we pluck those little suckers up from the earth as quickly as we can before they multiply and take over, as they tend to do. I was telling my son about this and he said, “Mama! No! Those aren’t weeds, they are wishes!”

It was so simple, and so sweet – and also it has utterly wrecked me. It makes me ask some hard questions. It makes me wonder: Are there weeds in my life that are really just wishes in waiting? How many times have I removed something from my life because it’s considered a nuisance, only to be removing the chance to grow, to dream, or improve my future? 

One of the things I love most about living here are the wide open windows that stare out onto an almost magical, wild backyard space. Behind our home is a forest easement, which is basically a big open space cluttered with old oak trees and greenery of all kinds. Our backyard is pretty wild and unkept in all sorts of ways. I don’t think real grass has ever been planted, replaced instead with carpets of moss and patches of rogue grasses that snuck in from our neighbor’s yard.  Drippy, weeping willow trees and overgrown rosebushes sprawl out and crowd the edges of our old rusty fence. Honestly, I haven’t wanted to tame it too much for fear of losing the charm (though I know part of caring for these alive things is tending to them.)

Tending, yes, but eradicating the magic is just not going to happen. Not on Emerson’s watch. And not on mine, either. So instead of spending an afternoon pulling weeds, we bought big bags of wildflower seeds (which are, essentially – all sorts of flowering weeds, right?) We sprinkled them onto every square inch of earth we could find. In a few weeks, tiny buds will appear, and color and scents and butterflies and bees and all kinds of wild WISHES will sprout. We are eager for the wild. We wait anxiously for the wishes.

So much of what we do with what we are given is a matter of perspective. Today as those moments good and hard fall along your path – will you choose to see weeds? Or will you dare to see wishes?

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Talking clothes and shopping can feel indulgent and disconnected from real world problems. I get that. I use that as an excuse to keep me from self-care a lot, actually. What I am learning, though, is that taking care of myself means making sure I have what I need to thrive. Dressing myself in a way that speaks value and honor is a good thing. We shouldn’t overindulge, of course, but building a quality closet foundation is a great way to empower us to step into our full unique identities and potential. 

I remember the days when shopping for clothes was fun. When it was inspiring and interesting and I could take my time to wander from store to store, trying on dresses and tops and jeans with ease. With joy, even. HA. Two kids later those days are sooooo long gone. Shopping is what you would make me do if you wanted to torture me and watch me cry. Just the thought of trying to wrangle two children into a store – the toddler grabbing various things off hangers and throwing them on the floor, the grade schooler rolling his eyes and asking how much longer til we can go home –  it all makes me want to curl up and take a nap.

The real drama of a shopping outing these days happens in the dressing room, where the unforgiving mirrors are there to remind you that you have, indeed, had two children (incase you forgot about the screaming overtired, hungry toddler who is clinging to your legs.) It’s especially helpful when your older child chimes in with extra commentary such as, “That shirt really makes you look like you have a baby in your tummy, mom.” (I DO NOT.)

Halfway through the entire endeavor, you just give up. You give up, because the toddler is now kicking and punching her tiny fists on the dirty floor and your grade schooler is crawling under the door trying to escape and because all the things you brought to try on are very clearly made for people who really are forever 21, of which I am not. God bless the tiny sales girl who politely knocks on your door, as she will have a war zone of hangers and tops and graham cracker crumbs to manage once we leave this tiny room.

Of course, these are just a few hypothetical reasons why a person, like myself, might not want to spend her time shopping. The problem I run into, then, is that I shop online and hope for a good fit the first time (<– that right there does not exist, folks. It is the unicorn that online stores use to get you to click “add to cart”.)

I end up never shopping, and am stuck wearing the same things in my closet that I’ve owned since the last time I went shopping, in 2008.

I had no idea how to solve this problem. I would go to dress in the morning and feel sad about the dated, worn-out clothing options in my closet. It was like anything I put on made me feel as old and ragged as the clothes I was wearing. Perhaps that sounds dramatic, but I am a big believer in how our environments affect us.  I’ve tried some solutions to this – I did the Stitch Fix boxes for a few months. But to be honest, as much as I wanted to love it, most of the things they sent me ended up not being me.

So when my friend Annette mentioned that she was giving the whole Capsule trend a try, I was intrigued. It took me months after our talk to try it for myself, but recently after another morning of standing in my closet feeling like I had nothing to wear, I decided to get serious about changing the way I do it. I researched and found a great blog devoted to the Capsule. It explains what it is, how to do it, there are even print outs and pdfs to help you along. She also posts her outfits and links to sources where you can shop them. (If you are at all interested in doing this yourself, I highly recommend jumping over to her page!)

Basically, its this: for three months, you decide on 37 items of clothing that you will commit to wearing. Everything else gets cleared out and put away – out of sight and mind. You make a list of what you have, what you need, and you set up a budget to purchase items to fill in the gaps. Every three months, you do it again. Slowly you are building a solid foundation of clothing pieces that you really love and need and wear.

I loved the process of this because it forced me to be ruthless about editing my closet. No longer could I keep the things that lingered in the back because I like the idea of them, but not the item itself. Perhaps it didn’t fit right, or I like the cut but no the color, perhaps it used to fit or holds sentimental value to me. Fine. Box it up and store it in the basement. But don’t keep it in your closet. That space became reserved only for the items I will be wearing for the next 90 days.

I loved the process because it helped me identify what I have an abundance of, and what I need to invest in. Most of the time I get so overwhelmed trying to figure it out, I walk away and stay in my leggings and tshirt all day. And that’s fine, friends. Stay in your jams all day – if it makes you feel good. The problem for me, however, is that it didn’t make me feel good. I felt tired, and old, and boring. I wanted to feel awake, inspired, fresh and creative. Dressing is a great way to do that. It can be a powerful tool.

I loved the process because it taught me how to shop. No longer was I making a rush decision, or finding myself purchasing something because I was bored or to fill an emotional need. I had a list and a budget and a goal. It was refreshing and motivating.

I’m excited for this process, and who knows, I may even find myself enjoying shopping again (while the kids are with a sitter, of course!) Below is an inspiration board for my early spring/summer capsule:


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  • April 9, 2015 - 10:19 pm

    Heather Hammond - Love this post! I am in the same boat with little kids in tow and still wanting to feel put together. I agree that our environment affects us – and for me, this includes fashion, for sure. I have wanted to try the capsule wardrobe (feels like mornings would be easier) but felt stuck with the because I feel like I would need to start from scratch (and don’t have a budget for this) but I’m intrigued by this blog and the idea of focusing on 90 days at a time. That feels manageable.ReplyCancel


How this happened, I do not know. I’ve been quite clear about how I feel about this – which is basically very very badly. There shall be no growing up in this house. ETERNAL CHILDHOOD! WE WILL DANCE AND PLAY AND STAY LITTLE FOREVER! And yet, somehow, they keep finding ways to defy me. I tucked my baby into bed last night, scratching his back and twirling his curls through my fingers. I held his hand, which more resembles a puppy paw, all padded and too big for his body. I slipped the covers over his arms, laden with slightly more defined muscles he is oh so proud of. My baby went to bed and woke a seven year old.

And what a fantastic seven year old he is. I am so over the moon for this kid. There aren’t words for the way I feel about him – proud is too weak a word to describe the feelings that swell in my heart as I watch him trust his compassionate compass. There must be a better word out there for what a parent feels for their child – love doesn’t feel big enough.

Love is, of course. We tend to use it too much, so that it becomes commonplace and ordinary. But maybe that is part of what makes it so very beautiful. Love is tried and true. It is overused, under-appreciated, bumped and tossed around – we say “I love you” and “I love those shoes” in the same casual tone. Even so, love is the thing that remains when all else fails.

Through every up and down we’ve faced on this parenting journey so far, I’ve found love is also the deepest well we can draw from. There is no end to it. Only more. Abundance. I love my son with an abundance of gratitude and constant awe that he is mine to parent.

That is agape love right there. It requires sacrifice, a dying to self so that another may thrive. It is the love that comes from the source of love itself. That is the love God exudes toward all of creation, and it is the love a parent experiences for their children. It is a holy love.

He is the one who made me a mama – a title I’d dreamed of, fretted over, anticipated and revered. On that first warm spring day in the early morning light, I held my son and felt that agape love take over my heart, mind and spirit. I was forever deeper, wider, and more capable than before, because he was with me.

Today we celebrate him turning another year older (despite my pleas not to!) We cheer him on as he steps into a new season of discovery. We honor the years he has gathered so far in this life, all the memories and experiences having contributed to the person he is today. We humbly ask our Good Father for health and favor in the year ahead – but mostly we ask for God’s nearness. That God would be a familiarity for Emerson. That he would be so normal, so commonplace, so easily accessed that he even be taken for granted. Because that is what love does. It stands beside us and keeps on loving no matter what.

Happy Birthday, my boy. We love you with a God-sized love and pray you grow another year nearer to knowing that deep in your bones.


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  • April 5, 2015 - 8:24 pm

    » my baby is seven - […] How this happened, I do not know. I’ve been quite clear about how I feel about this – which is …read more       […]ReplyCancel

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