My Journey Before + After Starting My Blog 4 Years Ago

Not only did I update my blog design last week, but I also updated my story, too.   It's now something that means a lot to me because it truly showcases my journey to where I currently am today in my life.

This is a great story that now, visually reminds me, of what I've already accomplished in my life.  Something that I can tend to think, hasn't been much. But now, after writing my story in this photographic way, I can see, that it has been a lot with plenty more to come!  Woohoo to that!


Hi. I'm Renée! 

I'm the founder, creator, writer, photographer, doodler, cook and baker for this blogsitethat I like to call Renée Yemma | savoring love through the lens.  I'm a mama to two kiddos, a big sis and lil' bro, and a wife to my college sweetheart, Coast Guard lawyer, husband.

I'm SO happy to connect with you here and I SO appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to visit me.

I've had quite the journey before (and after!) starting my blog 4 years ago.  Lemme tell ya about it...

I grew up in West Palm Beach, FL.  I definitely appreciate it more now than I ever did since moving away 10 years ago.  I always wanted to experience winter...well, not anymore. ;)

I mean, really, how could I not appreciate beautiful blue skies, ocean breezes and palm tree's everywhere I looked?  What was I thinking!?!?  Crazy how that works, right?

After graduating high school, I moved to Gainesville, FL where I received my Journalism degree from the University of Florida. (GO GATORS!)  During my time at the J-school, I had the opportunity to write for INsite Magazine, where I interviewed local bands and sometimes took their pictures.

This one was a write up I did for the band, Loyal Frisby.  Did you spend time in the Gainesville area? Remember them? Gosh, I loved them SO much! Such a fun band!

It was great, because it was also during this time, that I had a dream of working for Rolling Stone Magazine.   That didn't pan out, but my love for music is still strong as ever.  Although, I did get offered an internship at Fitness Magazine, but, I turned it down because it was right after 9/11 and I was pretty scared to go up to NYC all by myself.

I'm so fond of my college years because, not only did I grow on a personal and academic level, but I also met some awesome friends.

Especially this guy!

We parted ways after graduating, but we always kept in touch.  He went right into the military and I moved back home to my parents house to try to find a Journalism job.

I had a few interviews to write/design newspapers, but I wasn't having any luck.  And, honestly, newspapers were never my thing.  Especially when I heard over the loud speaker the details of an auto accident that had just happened while drafting up a newspaper design layout page during my interview.

I left thinking, "Yeah, NOT for me."  And, they knew that too, because they specifically asked me, which would you prefer, a newspaper or a magazine?  I told them, a magazine, since that was my specialization in Journalism school and they nodded their heads in agreement.

While still trying to find a job, I visited my friend from college one weekend.  I visited her first grade classroom. It was so much fun and I left thinking, "Maybe I'll be a teacher.  I love kids.  I can teach them writing!"

Soon later, I graduated from Florida Atlantic University with my Elementary Educationdegree with ESOL endorsement.

I didn't get a job right after, because I flew halfway across the world, to be with the love of my life on Guam.  He'd been out there for a year already being an officer in the Coast Guard.  We legally married and we spent an entire year having lots of island fun while I substitute taught for the schools on the military base.

We went to Hawaii for Thanksgiving, traveled to Palau and swam with jellyfish (the coolest thing we've done so far!) and relaxed every night on our balcony while watching the sunset.  Total bliss.

We moved back to south Florida, had our wedding with family and friends and I was hired to teach third grade.

My second year of teaching, I was moved to another school and taught 2nd grade. This was also the year I began to feel even more stressed out than ever.  I loved my students and fellow co-teachers, but I didn't love the politics that came with public education.  My husband got accepted to law school at William and Mary in Virginia and I started to search for another career.

I found the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City and it felt like the perfect fit for me. With the support of my husband, I registered to start my year long journey to becoming a Certified Holistic Health Coach while tutoring K-12 ESOL students in the Virginia public school system.

It was such an awesome experience. I met so many great people, learned from the most inspiring people, ate LOTS of AMAZING food and grew SO, SO much on a personal level.  It was an amazing life changer!

I was so proud of myself for facing my fears and traveling to New York City all by myself.  Something I wasn't ready for when Fitness magazine called back then.

With confidence, I quit teaching altogether and I moved forward with my Health Coaching business. I was SO ready to inspire others to nourish themselves with whole foods and to easily add in more self-care to their schedules.  Woohoo!

Here's an article I wrote for Naturally Savvy called, Slow Down to Better Your Life, during my Holistic Health Coach days, which still applies to how I live my life to this day, except for the eating while sitting down part.  Yeah, that part ended once I started having toddler's in my house. ;)

It was also during this time when we decided to start our family.  Soon after, I became pregnant with our first baby.  We were so happy to find out that we were having a girl.  During pregnancy, gender day is the best day ever!

During my third trimester, I was starting to shift and wasn't feeling as aligned to my Health Coaching as I once did before my pregnancy.  I felt stuck and unsure of what to do next, since I didn't feel right inspiring others about the rules of food that I wasn't following or agreeing with anymore.

Soon after, while listening to a professional photographer talk on a business DVD that I was watching, I suddenly connected on a deeper, inner level with how much I've ALWAYS loved photography.  I thought, "Whoa! Photography totally connects with who I am; a lover of kids, food, nature, pets, life!! Yes! Photography! I LOVE taking pictures of everything!!  I ALWAYS have!! That's it!"

I even took a photo Journalism class while studying at UF and loved it, that is, until I finally figured out how to use the camera given to us in class.

To this day, I always say, my daughter is the reason for this connection.  I truly feel like, while she was in the womb, that she cleared my inner fog which allowed me to really SEE how much of a love I've ALWAYS had for photography and how its ALWAYS played a big part in my life.

Something I wasn't able to see and connect with while growing into my adult self.

Because my insides were jumping with glee when I started to pick up my camera more, I began to soak in everything I could about learning how to take pictures on manual mode.  I got my first DSLR (Nikon D3000...which I've since upgraded to Nikon D7000), read tons of photography books, articles, eBooks and blog posts, took some online photography courses, fell in love with learning over at CreativeLive and joined a few photography forums.

Once my daughter was born, I started taking 300 to 500 pictures of her in less than 5 minutes.  Ha!  No, seriously, I did!

Taking all those pictures, while continuing to learn, taught me that I absolutely LOVE taking pictures of WHO my kids are in their different stages of life.  I'm SO not good when I have to pose and force pictures.  I just don't click with forcing life.

It FEELS so GOOD when I just sit back, stand above, lay on the floor and follow my kids around with my camera in hand, while completely focused on them, in the moment, playing and doing their thing while I snap away, without them even knowing.

I'm very passionate about taking pictures of life as is.  Messy and all.

It also taught me that my camera is my tool that helps me get out of my to-do list head and just BE in the moment.  It slows me down and helps me focus on all the good that's in my life already.

And what it taught me most, is that I don't just take pictures to capture a memory for a lifetime.  I take pictures to SAVOR a JOYous, loving, FEELING for a lifetime.   

When I see something that makes me SMILE, I immediately STOP and my insides fill with happy tingles. I quickly grab my camera and I begin to focus, 100%, on the JOYous FEELING of what I'm seeing in front of me.  A FEELING that I always wanna remember when looking back at all my pictures years from now.

And not only that, I want my kids to remember (and stay connected) to WHO they are and how they FELT when they look back on all the pictures I've taken of them when they grow older.

Because there's nothing better than FEELING (and focusing on) joy, happiness and LOVE!

When my daughter was one, my love for photography shined brightly, but I started to feel an inner yearning to get even more creative. I had no idea what kind of creativity I was yearning for, but I knew it needed to be hands-on, simple and easy.

Out of the blue, I came across Whitney Freya and her Creativity Fit programs.As I listened to her creativity message, it immediately clicked and I signed up for one of her online programs. I finished with a brand new outlook on creativity....that we're all creative!

As I was reaping the benefits of how doing mindless, creative activity easily calmed my mindand helped me reconnect and stay connected to everything I love in life, especially photography, I knew right away that I had to become one of Whitney's Creatively Fit Coaches so I, too, could spread this creative inspiration to others.

Because ever since I entered the adult world, and stepped inside my classroom as an elementary teacher, I'd been wanting and NEEDING more calm in my life (and I was tired of feeling stuck in what my purpose in life was, too!).

I started yoga, sat in mediation, ate organic, local foods and swirled chinese meditation balls in my hands.

But, it was reconnecting with my inner, creative toddler again through crayons, colored pencils, markers and paints that stole the show (and connected me with my love for doodling).

It's the only thing I've CONSISTENTLY done to EASILY calm my mind and makes me feel like I just walked out of an entire day relaxing at the spa (for free! well, less than $100 for sure!) while sporting the biggest, happiest and most rejuvenating smile on my face. I'm not even kidding!

And, yes, I still get my yoga and meditation on, too. But what I've come to find is that the more I doodle, the more I do yoga, meditate, write, photograph and slow down and savor what I love and make time every day to focus on what matters most to my mama heart.

This doodling stuff isn't just for me, either.  I make sure my kids get their mindless, creative fun on every day, too!

Because with my journey, and my newfound passion for keeping creativity alive, it's now my intention to make sure my kids stay connected to WHO they are and what they LOVE, calm their minds with some mindless, creative fun after a long day of rules to follow and subject matter to learn and, most important of all, to keep their unique, inner most creative skills confidently alive, nourished and beautifully blossomed.

Because, yes, that's what doodling does for ya!

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."

~ Pablo Picasso

(Although, I like to say creativity, rather than Art)

So yeah, the more my kids and I doodle, the more energized I am/they are to stay confidently connected to what I/they truly love in life.

Oh, and when it comes to food, I may not be spreading the whole foods message anymore through Holistic Health Coaching, but I still LOVE LOVE LOVE food.   The only food rules I now follow are; eat when I'm hungry, eat what I LOVE (if I don't love it, I don't eat it) and eat until I'm comfortably full.

And, of course, when I've eaten something yummy, I absolutely LOVE taking picture's of its beauty and sharing it with the world.

Life is definitely a journey.  I used to be SO upset with myself because I never seemed to have it figured out.

And believe me, if you've been following me here from the beginning, I've changed the purpose for my blog quite a bit.  First, I was Santé Living!, then Get Inner-gized, then The Calm Mama, then Renée Yemma Photography and then Renée Yemma,with a focus on doodling and creativity.

But now, after all these years and where I am now,  I know that...

  • if I didn't marry my college sweetheart
  • if I didn't listen to my inner, intuitive thoughts that there was something else out there for me beyond teaching elementary school
  • if I had let my fears stop me from traveling to NYC for a year
  • if I didn't listen to the deep, photography message coming from within while pregnant with my daughter
  • if I didn't pick up my crayons again because coloring like a child is not for adults and..
  • if I didn't put myself out there, grammar mistakes and all, here on my blog...

I would have NEVER grown and re-connected with WHO I truly am and what I LOVE.

Which is someone who LOVES to SLOW DOWN and SAVOR what she LOVES. Through photography, doodling, yummy food, nature's beauty, my kids, my family, my mama moments and just being ME!


If I don't SLOW DOWN, I'll never be able to FOCUS and SAVOR what I LOVE in life!

I know now, more than ever, thatI'm here to use my photography skills to make people smile and FEELjoyful, inspire them to use creativity to slow down, connect to themselves and focus more on what they love, with the help of saying hello to their inner, creative toddler again with crayons, colored pencils, paints and their camera's.

I finally "get it!" Life is meant to be lived slow so you can focus (and stay focused) on what you love, no matter how much older and stressful life becomes.

It's true...all you need is love!

And with that, I have one last thing to share.

It's easy to visit blogs and see fabulous work out there, but I want you to see my creative journey so far.  And, just a little background, I grew up NEVER, EVER thinking I was creative.  I owe it all to my Creatively Fit Coaching certification for helping me change this view about myself.

Here's a picture of my daughter, when I first started learning my camera, which was in Winter of 2010.

And then, this one of her lil' bro, our baby #2, 3 years later, in Spring of 2013.

Big difference, right?  And, I'm still learning every day!

And here, a picture of painting I did, just to calm my mind.  It had been months since I got my creative, painting calm on since having my son and transiting to be a mommy of two.  This wasn't for an outcome, just to calm my thoughts and to take a mental break.

A few weeks later, I did this one.  Again, for no outcome, just to calm my mind and get a nice, rejuvenating mental break.

Huge difference, right?

This is what happens when you reconnect with your inner, creative toddler again with crayons, markers or paints.  Your creative sparks are bumpy at first, because it's been awhile since you've nourished them, but, just like with everything in life, once you begin, they start to soar and blossom, and you're left looking down at what you created smiling and thinking, "Wow! That felt SO good and I just LOVE what I did!!"

As your inner, creative sparks start to soar again, so does your connection to what you LOVE! 

Deepak Chopra is so right on when he says...

"Who you are is what you love."

That's exactly why I'm here sharing what I love with you.  Because if you're like me, and have lost connection to who you are and what you love because the demands of life have taken over, then I hope I can inspire you to get that "what I love connection" back, so you, too, can SLOW DOWN and SAVOR what you LOVE, like I have.

Because it really is that simple.  Slow down, connect and stay connected to what you love.

Who knew, right?

Thanks for being here and connecting with me!

Until next time...

Life IS a journey...SAVOR it up!