Minnesota is nice.


Well, it’s not very nice right now with the threat of snow, chapped lips, little sunlight, and chilly temperatures. But the people are nice. They are kind. They are generous. They make you smile.

Sometimes I forget about how nice it is to meet new people. As a mom who stays home the majority of the week with her two young children, I don’t often have the opportunity to meet new people. Usually I am okay with this since meeting new people triggers all sorts of anxiety, but other times, I start to feel quite lonely. I begin to feel like I live in a bubble –the parenting bubble. Parenting is always on mind; I will never stop being a parent. But I am also more than a mother. I forget this sometimes.

Meeting new people makes my palms sweaty. I trip over my words. My face blushes. I make really strange comments. Sometimes I barely say anything in order to avoid making really strange comments. My cheeks get really warm like I have just chugged a glass of red wine. It puts me way out of my comfort zone. In these instances, I count on my kids bailing me out. Oh, sorry, gotta go, my son’s trying to pee behind the tree over there. Oh, I’d love to hang out with you at this birthday party, but there goes my daughter throwing a tantrum. It’s been one of those rough days with no nap and we better just leave. But in those rare cases when I am in public alone, I am forced to become more than a mother –it’s terrifying.

To be honest, I almost didn’t attend the Minnesota Blogger Conference this year because I didn’t know anyone who was going. Sure, I had met a few other bloggers before, but we had only shared brief conversations. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable enough finding them in a crowd and saying, “Hi, remember me?” Well, I survived. As difficult as it was, I forced myself to go. I knew that if I didn’t go, I would miss an opportunity to meet other people who care about writing. I would miss an opportunity to learn about something new. I would miss an opportunity to grow and to learn how to become more confident in myself. I would miss an opportunity because of fear. And that’s not what living the superhero life is all about. So I went. And I met some really nice people. We talked about why we were at the conference and what we had hoped to learn. We talked about our interests and goals. We even talked about parenting.

I survived. In fact, I felt very much alive. It was a good feeling to awaken other parts of me that I often allow to keep snoozing. It was a good feeling to do something out of the norm and to force myself to take on a new challenge. It was a good feeling to focus on myself for eight hours. I grew from that experience. Most importantly, I met others who were there to do the same thing, and they were so nice. They were happy to be there. They were excited and nervous to meet new people. And they were interested in blogging!

Minnesota is nice. When you get out and put yourself out there, you will meet people who are kind. You will meet people who are generous. You will meet people who can make you smile. Let me introduce you to one of these nice people.

Meet Allyson from Allyson Wonderland Photography:


{Photo of Allyson by Hollywould Designs}

I had the pleasure of meeting Allyson at the Minnesota Blogger Conference after she had kindly offered to take a picture of me and two other awesome ladies at the conference. She broke the ice, and I worked up the courage to make small talk with her. I learned that she is a social worker and photographer. While speaking with her, she made a comment that really caught my attention. She had mentioned that she started pursuing photography because she wanted to be able to think about something more than her day job in the middle of the night. I love that. While she enjoys the challenges of her career in social work, she also enjoys being able to give people moments they can remember and cherish forever through a photograph. Last weekend, Allyson did just that for me.


{Photo of Allyson by Hollywould Designs}

After the Minnesota Blogger Conference, I discovered that I had won a free mini photo session with Allyson. We met at Cherokee Heights Park last weekend, and for thirty minutes she quietly and thoughtfully took pictures of me with my husband and kids. I was nervous because my kids (and husband) are not at all interested in sitting still for pictures, but Allyson made us all feel relaxed and comfortable. We played at the playground. We threw leaves at each other. We played in the dirt. And we had fun on the swings. My kids didn’t sit still at all, but Allyson didn’t mind. She played along. She smiled. And she allowed my family to be. There was no pressure to be anyone but ourselves. And you know what, she captured some moments that I will cherish forever. I told my family that all I wanted was to be in a picture with them, but Allyson captured something much greater than a picture. She captured us.


My son, he is always up for an adventure. My husband, he knows he’s in for a crazy ride.


Me, my heart is full of joy to be with these three. And my daughter, well, she is her own woman, but she sure loves the comfort of her family too.


Allyson took some other great photos of us, but these were some of my favorites. These pictures make my heart feel so full. These pictures have put a big grin on my face.

So who is Allyson? Well, besides amazing, I interviewed Allyson to get to know a little more about her story. Here’s what she has to share with you:

If you could go anywhere for a day just to take pictures, where would you go and why?

There are so many places I’d love to go! If we can assume for a minute that teleporting is a possibility, then I would make it a jam-packed day full of places I’ve never been. I’d start with a sunrise over the Grand Canyon, swing over to the Pacific Northwest for brunch and pit stops along the coast, and end my day in Canada with a picnic in Banff and the sunset from Jasper. It would be a crazy day, but can you imagine the photos?

At what moment did you realize or decide that you were ready to take the leap and start pursuing photography and your photography business?

Photography has never been my career — I work full time as a social worker, so photography has always been something I do on the side because I enjoy it. A few years ago, after years of enjoying photography, I thought it would be fun to take photos for friends & family. To be honest, I still have no idea why anyone let me behind a camera with no experience, but that’s why friends & family are so great — they trust you & are supportive of the things you love. I just started taking photos for free until eventually people I knew started offering to pay me, and then people who were acquaintances started asking me to take their photos, and when someone I’d never met asked me to do their photos for the first time, that’s when something changed. It didn’t feel like a business until then. I still haven’t taken “the leap” into making it strictly a business. I’d love to do photography more in the future, but for now, I love having a hobby that allows me to be creative & meet new people. 

Do you have a favorite local spot that you like to photograph, take pictures of others at, or go to for inspiration? 

If I had to pick one local spot, I’d say the Franconia Sculpture Park. It’s a little bit of a drive outside of the Cities, but I am never disappointed with a trip there & the installations change pretty frequently. If I need to get inspired, I usually find myself outside & exploring. Nature inspires me, so it’s great creative inspiration for photography or otherwise. 

What is one way in which photography feeds your soul?

I’d say anything creative fills me up. I’m one of those people who has a lot of creative outlets — too many, probably, because I’m not particularly great at any of them. I do love photography, but I also love crocheting, baking, trying to play guitar, blogging, painting, music, sewing, writing, etc. I think the rigidity of my full time job makes me appreciate having the ability to let loose in other areas in my free time. It’s all about the balance.

What did you enjoy most about the Minnesota Blogger Conference? Since attending, have you made any new commitments or goals as a blogger? 

This was my 2nd time at MN Blog Conference, and I always leave extra inspired & strive to be more intentional with my blog. I always think I should blog more, but I really just want to blog better & be more intentional about fostering community. I have a few goals that came out of the conference this year: 

  1. Only blog when I have something to say. I know I’m supposed to blog more consistently, but the pressure to churn out posts makes me feel less genuine & helpful. I’d rather spend two weeks writing a really killer post that I’m actually proud of than to have posted 6 times and no one cares because I didn’t, either. 
  2. Collaborate more. I love meeting people at the conference and get a lot of great ideas, but then I go home and forget all about it. I really want to be more involved with the blogging community outside of the conference once a year. 
  3. Chase big ideas. The conference this year gave me some big ideas — bigger than just my blog. I’m always a little nervous to put myself out there, but I really want to push myself to do something with those ideas. Here’s to accountability! Hopefully you’ll see more about this one on my blog soon.

If you are interested in learning more about Allyson and her photography, check out her blog and portfolio. Better yet, schedule a session with her so you can meet her in person and enjoy some beautiful, memorable photos of your own.


{Photo of Allyson by Hollywould Designs}

Minnesota is really nice. We have some great people living here. And they sure know how to make you smile.


6 thoughts on “Minnesota is nice.

  1. Yay! Love this post! your family photos were gorgeous, my family and I (I’m the kid, brother, parents) have talked about getting family photos, but can never decide what to wear. which is probably the silliest reason to not have a photo taken.

  2. what lovely photographs! i love the picture at the park with the big smile on the swing 🙂 i had lunch with allyson the other day, and she was telling me how much fun it was to meet you. we’re thinking we should all get together again soon (and talk about that amy poehler book, perhaps?)

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