The Secret to a “Good” Life.

As I turn another year older and, hopefully, wiser, I think about what makes life “good”. Is it the big stuff; where you live, who you married, what you do for a living? Or is it a cluster of little things; the car you drive, your cup of coffee in the morning, lunch with a friend? What I am coming to believe is that it is neither. I see people around me married to lovely people, with great homes, gourmet coffee, great friends . . . and still they don’t seem “happy”. Yet I can turn and see someone with so much less and instead of disappointment their lives radiate with joy. How can this be?

Many years ago a friend of mine told me that after her baby died her pastor told her, as she grappled with her grief, to write down five things every day that she was grateful for. Just five things. That’s not as easy as it sounds when your heart is broken. But she did and it changed her. Instead of thinking “How can God take my baby away, but not hers?” she began to think “I have three beautiful, healthy children.” I was amazed by her. It was a beautiful transformation.

Inspired, I began my own Daily Five. At the time, although I was not dealing with anything as earth shattering as my friend’s loss, I was miserable in my life. I hated my travel schedule, I felt trapped in my marriage, one of my children was not thriving and was driving us crazy, I was constantly overwhelmed and I felt like we would never get our feet under us financially.

At first it was really difficult. You’d think it would be easy; who doesn’t have five great things to be thankful for every day? But after months, maybe even years, of dwelling on what wasn’t right with my life I struggled to see what was. Slowly the joy became easier to see, the gratefulness began to flow. Before I even realized what had happened my life began to change. Yes, good things happened that lightened my burdens, but more importantly, I began to see what had been there all along.

I like to think that even though I don’t continue to practice my Daily Five in a tangible way, it has become a part of me on a deeper level. I look around me and see the good, the gifts, the joy. Not every day. I have my moments of despair, like everyone. But I always try to stop and look around and say “What is good about my life today? What gifts have I been given?” Without fail I find myself just a little bit “happier”.

So, what do I believe makes life “good”?

That’s easy; it’s what you see.

This is just a litte 15 second moment in my day, but one of the moments I most love. My morning coffee with my sweetheart, my record player playing music that stirs the soul …
A Little Morning Coffee Music from Anna Mayer on Vimeo.

My awesome office art. Vintage cameras.

Check out the awesomeness of my new wall art. I know I am biased, but my son Tyler, 21 years old, created these posters for me and I think they are beyond cool. Don’t you? They all have a special meaning for me. The Rolleiflex is the camera my grandfather used in his studio, the Super8 is the video camera my dad captured my childhood with, the 110 is the first camera I ever had, the Polaroid represents the coolest photo thing I’d ever seen as a child, the Minolta was my very first camera of any quality, handed down to me by my mom and it began my photography career and finally, the Canon EOS represents the 5 different Canon cameras I’ve owned as a professional photographer and now filmmaker. I am giddy over these! milwaukee videographer

Check out Tyler’s other work here.  And the handsome schoolboy below is my other son, just fyi, not a 21 year old that looks 12 (just a 15 year old that looks 12).

48 years of marriage and this couple has found the secret to lasting love.

keeping the love aliveWhat is the secret to lasting love? The list of possible answers could go on and on. For one Northern California couple the secret was so simple it took me by surprise. When they contacted me last year to photograph the two of them at home I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. As a family photographer with a bent toward wild and crazy kids I struggled to imagine filling an entire album with photos of one older couple. I was delighted, though, to learn their vision for the shoot; to capture their relationship throughout a typical day, from their morning tea on the balcony to the kiss he gently plants on her sleeping cheek every night. Their love just shines through this unique and special gallery of the everyday.

So, their secret to lasting love? It’s in finding joy and beauty in one another, not just on a fancy date (although that is certainly a part of their strategy) but in the little moments that happen each day.  How he makes her tea in the morning and how she fills their home with fresh flowers from the garden and the flavor and aroma of homemade soup. How they both dress up to go out on the town and how he carefully removes her glasses when she’s fallen asleep reading, again. Seems pretty simple, right? It is profound in it’s simplicity. It might be hard to achieve in our busy world of go go go, but after seeing this couple’s simple, beautiful daily-love, I for one (along with the love of my life) will be finding the beauty in the everyday. 

Our Theo and Beau footage is on National Geographic Wild!

We are so excited to announce that our video footage from the Theo and Beau movie is a big part of an episode of Unlikely Animal Friends on Nat Geo Wild channel. I mean, how cool is that? We think it’s pretty cool. You can tune in on Friday at 1pm to catch it live (it was originally aired on primetime but we didn’t get this post up in time, sorry) or if you have cable you can view it here (Note that the title of the episode is “The Tale of the Cockatoo and the Kitty Cat). If you don’t have cable you can still see some of the story here.  Fun!

national geographic theo and beau

*”Theo and Beau” is a registered trademark (pending) of Jessica Shyba. The video footage licensed by Nat Geo is the registered copyright of Anna Mayer Studios.

Project 365. Getting my camera out for MY family.

I feel so very lucky to be a photographer (and filmmaker).  I remember when Tyler was 2 years old; I didn’t even own a camera (my sister accidentally threw mine down the basement stairs with some dirty laundry). A college classmate was in a photo class and took some really heartfelt photos of him blowing bubbles. They were, and still are, prized possessions of mine. I remember thinking “If only I was a photographer, I could take photos like that of him, photos that capture not just his likeness but his essence, everyday“.  That was 20 years ago (eep!). Now I am a photographer and a filmmaker and the truth is,  I don’t always take advantage of that. It saddens me when I look through my photos from some seasons of life when I was too busy or distracted to capture my kids. I am sure you can relate. 

I want to encourage all the parents out there, whether a photographer or just a parent lucky enough to have a good camera (heck, even a phone), to remember to use what you have; your heart, your eye, your iphone or your dusty DSLR, because it’s a gift to have these memories and it’s a gift you’ll only receive if you pick up your camera and shoot. 
san jose family photographer

This year I endevoured to take 365 photos, one each day, with my DSLR (you can see them all and follow along here). I made it 2.5 months before I succumbed to insane busyness (we landed two big film jobs that took up incredible time). Despite my setbacks, I am continuing on with the project, even if it means shooting 3-4 photos one day and nothing the day or two after that. I WILL photograph my everyday life this year, my heartfelt moments, because I am no longer that 19 year old single mother with no camera (and of course, no iphone!) and a growing child. I have the tools. We all do.
project life 365

And I am so glad used them here. Bug is looking at her big sister; a sister who was being unusually nice to her. I love that little-sister face, her dirty arms and legs covered in bruises, Brian’s vintage car . . . everything. Grateful. What if I  hadn’t paused to capture? Sigh.

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