Year of the Girl: Peyton McDaniel

Year of the Girl, a personal project I've embarked upon seeking out girls making a difference in the community, doing what they love.  I interview them for tidbits of wisdom that only they have, and then I make portraits of them to share with them and with all of you.  At it's core, "Year of the Girl" is a human interest project which seeks to empower young girls, their voices, their desires/dreams for the future, their unique qualities in order to offer other girls (and women alike) role models, inspiration, motivation, strength.  

I met Peyton McDaniel, a 15-year-old sophomore, who maintains a 4.3 GPA, student athlete, attending Twin Valley High School in Elverson, PA on a crisp Saturday morning in February in her high school gymnasium.  Her mom, Holly Hubert and one of Peyton's coaches, Nate Mensak, were also in attendance for our interview/shoot.  I brought my middle daughter, Alanna along as well.  Even some of her teammates made an appearance to cheer Peyton on!  Here are excerpts from the interview, peeks into Peyton's life, I was so warmly granted...

BL:  How do you balance your school work during a busy basketball season?

PM:  It’s not that hard.  I just try and get my homework done before practice, so I stay after school everyday and then have like 3 hours before practice, that’s when I do all my homework.  

BL:  How often do you practice [basketball]? 

PM:  Everyday.

BL:  When did you start playing basketball?

PM:  I was five.

BL:  Five?!! 

HH:  It was through the YMCA’s program at Robeson Elementary.  Mrs. Davanzati and I were the coaches.  We’d have games on Friday nights and [the kids] were good. 

PM:  We were good. (smiling)

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BL:  Do you do anything special before a big game?  Rituals?  Superstitions?  Prayer?  Mindset to help prepare you?

PM:  Yea, I eat before a game (laughs).  I always put my hair in a ponytail.  And Heihei (the beloved rooster from the film, Moana) is always at all of our games.  Me and Ava always split half of a pretzel before a game.  That always works out.  Shoot.  Start shooting.  (laughing)  Oh yea, and when we go to tournaments and we win a game.  Well, when my mom always tries to wash the uniform, but you can’t wash the success out of it (laughs).  So, I don’t like it when she washes my uniform, so I just wear it again.  It’s good defense.  

BL:  That’s right!  Then they stay clear away.  (laughing). 

PM:  These ones are clean though (pointing to her uniform, laughing). 

BL:  When you traveled [overseas with the Student Athlete World Organization] last summer to compete in the United World Games, what parts of Europe did you visit?

PM:  Austria, Italy, and Germany.  We flew into Germany and then traveled to the other parts.  All the games were played in Austria.  

BL:  And you played with other Americans from around the country?  

PM:  Yes, there was a girl from California, Oklahoma, Florida, West Virginia, Texas.   

BL:  How did you become chosen for that special honor?  Did you have to apply for it?

PM:  It was a long process.  

HH:  It took about 2 to 3 months. She just got an email invitation to apply.  She had to submit her initial information and once that goes through, she had to write a bio about yourself explaining why she wanted to be a part of this, and if that’s accepted than you submit school transcripts to make sure you’re an honorable student.  And if that’s accepted, than she had to go get letters of recommendation from different coaches and teachers.  And if that’s accepted than she had to go through an interview on the phone.  So, out of 13,000 [Student Athlete World Team USA] applicants [Peyton] was the 2nd to be chosen  They take eight girls.

BL:  Wow.  That's amazing!

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BL:  Speaking of your Europe trip, what most impressed you about that experience?

PM:  Probably the connections that you make because I’m still in touch with all of the girls I played with.  That was really fun.  

HH:  I think it makes you appreciate America too.  Because every morning she woke up and cried “I just need Chick-fil-A!” 

PM:  Oh my gosh, yea. It’s just like crazy.  They don’t put ice in their water.  They have still water and gassed water.  Gassed water is just like carbonated flavored water like we have, but it’s not flavored, so all you taste is bubbles.  It’s so disgusting.  It’s so bad.  I ate corn flakes and pineapple every morning.  Corn flakes and pineapple.  Dry, no milk.  (we’re all laughing).  We won seven games with that, [coach] Nate.  

NM:  (laughing) Hey, if it worked for ya. 

PM:  It did. 

HH:  After they won the first, then again, if you’re winning.  Like the last 2 weeks of the season, I had to get a Weaver’s sandwich for her every single game before they played because once she had it and they won, than you have to do it again and again.  God bless Weaver’s. 

NM:  They make great sandwiches.  

BL:  Yes, they do. 

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BL:  What would you have changed about the Europe trip?  

PM:  Put Chick-fil-A there. (everyone’s laughing) I mean, they have McDonald’s, but… no.  [The trip] was good just the way it was. 

BL:  What did you like best? 

PM:  Probably just being with my team and experiencing the people there, ‘cause some of them really don’t like Americans and it’s really funny.  (laughing)  We would always try and speak German to them and they would just look at us.  There were many [characters].

BL:  So, when you’re not playing ball or working on your school studies, what do you enjoy doing?  

PM:  Hanging out with the other girls on my team ‘cause I’m always [in the gym at school].  When I’m not here I’m with them.

HH:  When you’re not here (at school) you’re begging to be here. 

PM:  Ah, yea.  Or I’m texting Nate!  Shooting machine!! 

NM:  (Laughing)

PM:  Shooting machine.  I love that thing.

BL:  What do you do to relax? 

PM:  Shooting machine.  Yea, definitely the shooting machine. 

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BL:  What does teamwork mean to you? 

PM:  You know, always having each other’s backs and working together.  Because I feel like our team really had that this year.  I mean, we wouldn’t have been able to win 22 games without it.  Always have your teammates back.

BL:  Who has most influenced you? 

PM:  This is hard.  Umm..  Okay, I have a lot of people.  Can I say multiple people? 

BL:  Of course!  Yes, please.

PM:  Definitely my parents, then Coach Morrow and Nate, and then, my teammates because they always push me in practice

BL:  Do you have anyone in particular that you admire, like another athlete?

PM:  Like famous? 

BL:  Yea.

PM:  Definitely Steph Curry because I love Steph Curry.  (smiling) Definitely. 

HH:  How about Ashley Hoffman? 

PM:  Oh, yea, definitely Ashley Hoffman.  I’ve known her for a really long time.  She used to babysit me at my mom’s school and I’ve always kind of looked up to her. 

BL:  Is she an athlete?  

PM:  Yes, she goes to UNC and plays field hockey.  

HH:  She was on a U21 USA team. She’ll probably be in the next set of Olympics. 

PM:  She’s really good.  Yea, so I’ve always kind of looked up to her.  She’s the nicest person you’ll ever meet. 

BL:  My 8 year-old, Emilia, wants to know:  What’s your favorite food?  

PM:  Tacos.  I love tacos. Oh my gosh. 

BL:  Emilia loves tacos too.  She’s going to love that answer. 

PM:  I love tacos. 

BL:  Emilia’s question: What’s your favorite class? 

PM:  Umm, okay, well I don’t know.  Lunch.  

BL:  Lunch?  (everyone’s laughing)  That’s not a class!  

PM:  Umm, well, I can count that because I eat in every block, like I don’t stop eating throughout the day.  I’m always hungry.  But, if it’s like a fun class it’s definitely gym, but if it’s a serious class than it’s probably math. I like math better than anything else because I hate English, really bad.  I don’t like that class at all, like, it’s awful.  It shouldn’t be allowed. It should be illegal. 

BL:  Aww, why?  What don’t you like about it?

PM:  I don’t like writing essays and I hate reading.  I really do.  

BL:  It’s hard for you to concentrate?  Or sit still? 

PM:  I can’t just like sit there and read words.  Like, I don’t see how people think that’s fun.  I need to be doing something. 

HH:  Now mind you, she’s never gotten a “B.”  She’ll do it.  She’ll push through. 

PM:  Ah, yea.  But it’s torture.  (everyone’s laughing) 

BL:  Emilia wants to know what is your favorite holiday? 

PM:  Ooo, my favorite holiday?  Christmas.  Definitely Christmas. 

BL:  I think she would agree with you there too. 

PM:  I love Christmas music. 

BL:  Do you feel that there’s any challenges that may be met differently being a girl?  Are there any specific challenges you might have being a girl in high school? 

HH:  As a student athlete.  

PM:  I don’t know how to answer this one (laughs).  I don’t have any challenges.  Not like that at least.  Not at school.  I mean I just talk to basketball people.  Like some people are crazy, they try to do this, that and the other, trying to be popular and I, I could care less.  I really could.  Just chill.  Go to class.  Go to basketball.  Do some homework.  Eat some food.  Seems to be working out for me (laughing).  

BL:  Well, you’re happy.  You’ve found your niche so that probably helps a tremendous amount.  I’m sure.

PM:  Yea.

BL:  What’s your best advice to young girls? 

PM:  Definitely, just follow your dreams.  If you, like have always had a dream of doing something, like I mean, I’ve not always, but when I started watching basketball, I kind of always had the dream to go Pro.  Or to do something like that.  Never give up because there’s always going to be times where you’re like “oh my gosh, this is awful,” but you just have to push through because you find that awful door it opens a new door and you find something even better and you’re like, “Wow, I’m glad that I didn’t stop.”  You know, because even at the beginning of this season, like, the first loss we had that was awful, but you can say if we hadn’t had that first loss we would have had a bigger loss later.  Now, we’ve won 22 straight.  You’re like “whoa, that meant something.”  You’ll get frustrated, a lot, like I’ve been frustrated plenty of times.  A lot.  A lot.  But it’s definitely worth it. 

Mrs. Hubert reminded me in a follow up email -- last summer's United World Games was the first time in World Games history that US 16U Girls team won the gold.  CONGRATULATIONS, TEAM USA!!!  Way to go GIRLS!!!  

Special, humble thanks to Mrs. Holly Hubert for supporting me in this project - for jumping on board without hesitation, exhibiting your full trust in me.  I couldn't be more grateful.  

And thanks to Coach Nate Mensak for your leadership, your calming spirit throughout the interview, knowing how nervous we all were.  And for sharing your laughter and good nature.

Most especially, heartfelt gratitude to you, Peyton McDaniel.  I am in complete awe of your strength, your commitment to the game and your beloved teammates and to your family and school.  You were such a joy to photograph and get to know better.  I can't thank you enough for this glimpse into a champion mindset.  You shine brightly!!    

P.s.  If you know of a girl that would be a good fit for Year of the Girl, please get in contact with me!  I'm open to your suggestions, friends.  We need to hear from more high-achieving girls driven for success.  Thanks! 

P.p.s.  In hindsight, Peyton wants her English teacher to know "no hard feelings and no offense is meant to you and your teaching skills." :)  

Eighteen for 2018

Diving in head first, friends...  So, here it is: 

My list of eighteen for 2018.

1.  Take more long walks.  In the woods, and otherwise.  Get up off my cushion and get moving!  I walked my neighborhood 3 mile loop 2 days ago and my shins are still screaming at me.  I guess I should be happy that's all that's aching!  Must make walking a priority, again.   

2.  Meditate everyday.  Find at minimum 5 - 10 minutes everyday to notice the breath, just be, listen inward.  

3.  Open an Etsy shop.  Whoops.  Scratch that!  I did!!  I opened an Etsy Shop!!!  Come see me!  :) This is sooo exciting!  I'm offering custom, hand-painted watercolor logo design, branding work!  Calligraphy, too!  Plus, vintage goodies + collectible items.  Shop often!  :)  

4.  Clean out the attic of the clutter!  I am so ashamed, friends.  If you saw my attic, you'd be appalled and probably rush to call the fire department to alert them of my mayhem.  Pack rat, am I.  Having the Etsy shop now will hopefully help to inspire me to clean house.  It's time.  

5.  Grow a sunflower patch - along with a wildflower, bee-thriving, butterfly-attracting, mower-detracting patch in our yard.  I am super stoked about this.  The hubby agreed to remove sod from about a 30' x 35' area (or maybe larger) in our backyard this spring and plant it!  Can't wait!  You know I'll be certain to keep you up-to-date on this progress, my friends.  :) 

6.  Photograph more high school seniors (wink, wink).  Hey, friends, that sunflower patch in late summer sure would be an ideal spot for some photos highlighting your senior!!  Just thought I'd throw that out there.  ;)  You in? 

7.  See a Broadway play.  I have never experienced one in my 48 young years.  Have you?  Do tell!  Either way, I'm ready to cross this off my bucket list.  

8.  Take the family to New York City for a weekend.  Hence, the above statement ^^ (ahem).  Family, are you in?!!  I know you are reading this.  

9.  Seek out wonder.  Let it nurture your inner child.  I do love her.  She's a gift.  Wonder is beautiful. 

10.  Remember that it's okay to say "no" to the things that do not sit well with your soul.  You won't be able to please everyone all of the time, but if you abide by your gut feelings, your truth, you may please the ones most worthy.  There.  I said it.  Out loud.  Feels good, too.     

11.  Detox.  Detox.  Detox.  Especially from social media on occasion.  As much as it has brought about such a positive force in my life, bringing me out of my cozy little shell and learning a great deal in the entire process, it also drains my energy.  Must restore a balance.  If you, my reader, have any tips I'd love to hear from you!  Do share how you find balance with all things social.  And if you are an introvert, such as myself, even better!  

12.  Speaking of introverts, I plan to read more books this year.  Any soulful novels worth mentioning?  Any good reads?  Do share!  My favorite books from 2017 were: Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird (on writing); Terry Tempest Williams'  When Women Were Birds (another great read on voice and writing); Linda Ly's The New Camp Cookbook (well, okay, it's a cookbook, but so much more!) and The Atlas of Beauty: women of the world in 500 portraits by photographer Mihaela Noroc (truly incredible lady).  There were more, but these were my top favorites.  Next up, Farley Mowat's Woman in the Mists: The Story of Dian Fossey and the Mountain Gorillas of Africa (thanks, Chelsea!).  :) 

13.  Lucky 13!  I just announced this week that we'll be running a 3rd year of Busy Bees Summer Camp for Girls!  Hooray!  Once a Busy Bee, always a Busy Bee.  I love teaching art to the girls and watching their imaginations take flight.  It is an honor and a special treat to be able to host this day camp for another year!  It's a 4 week program set to begin July 23.  I'm excited for it!   

14.  Speaking of summertime, I'd love to plan for and photograph more families - At the beach!!  I'll be offering summertime, sunset beach sessions (oy, say that ten times fast!) just for families!  My dear friend Jen has agreed to host me for weekend stays in New Jersey - so I'll be within a half hour drive from any and all of the Jersey shore points!  (Thanks, Jenny!).  I'm imagining relaxed, sun-kissed family time, beachside, pastel colors in the sky, wind gently playing with hair, the surf against the shore, exploring for sand crabs and sand castles and big, beautiful smiles!!  Who's in?  Send me a note once you book your beach stay for this summer - or if you already have and we'll start our plan of action!  :)  

15.  I have a personal project I've decided to take on and work towards this year titled, "The Year of the Girl."  My aim, intent is to connect with as many young girls as I possibly can, photograph and interview them, and then share them with the world!  Okay, on my blog. ;)  The world, too!  So, either check back often or get yourself subscribed to my blog to see all the girls I will be highlighting with this project.  My goal for this project is two-fold:  #1, seek out girls making a difference in the community, doing what they love, picking their brains for wisdom that only they have, and then #2, share them with you.  It's a human interest project which seeks to empower young girls, their voices, their desires/dreams for the future, their unique qualities in order to offer other girls (and women alike) role models, inspiration, motivation, strength.  My first shoot is this weekend and I can't wait to share with you all!  #YearoftheGirl #HereWeCome

16.  Collaborate with other artists, professionals, and photographers.  If you want to collaborate in some way, shape or form, please do reach out.  I'm all ears!!  

17.  Maintain an open, hopeful heart and mind.  Stay curious.  Keep the creative juices flowing in all things.  

18.  Looking back at my list, Seventeen for 2017, so many wondrous, amazing things happened for me and my little family - this gives me such hope for this year.  A year does make all the difference and in the looking back allows us to see the proof of it.  I'm looking ahead now, full steam, ready for 2018 and all the glorious blessings that are already at work.  Do share some of your list, your wishes, goals for the year ahead.  You know I always love to hear from you!  Your comments brighten my day!  Keep shining your light out there, my friends.  Thank you for stopping by!!  Onward!!  

2017, Looking Back and Onward

2017!  What a year to recall!  I’ve found that in the looking back, taking stock, that I am granted a clearer vision and pathway to the “what’s next” and beyond.  You too?  I sat down and went through my calendar and the photo archives and found that much happened in our little family and in my business, mostly positive growth and changes, but we had some setbacks too.  The positives definitely outweigh the negatives and we learned much in the entire process of it all, the good, the bad and the not so beautiful days.  

2017, the highlights unfold…


A new year and a new word to guide me (and my girls).  Intention.  Grow.  Listen.  Those were our chosen words.  Intention did not disappoint!  I set out to make my intentions clear, obtainable and worthy of the necessary stretch to attain my goals.  It worked like a charm!  So much growth happened in just one year and listening to one another was not a lost art.  In fact, we learned to better listen and understand one another.  And we took chances, risks, in order to provide the fertile ground for personal and professional growth.  

We (the 4 of us) attended the Women’s Rally of Reading on the #GlobalDayofAction, January 21 (or the 3rd Saturday of January).  What an amazing event it was!  Our little community in Berks County came out in big numbers to attend.  The highlighted link will take you to view my photos from that important day.  Women’s rights are hugely important to me and I’m researching a personal project to give voice to the next generation of women.  More to come on that in the near future. 

Dare to Dream


I applied for Marie Forleo’s B-School Scholarship!  Ah!  Talk about reaching out of one’s comfort zone!!  That certainly did it for me!  I wasn’t chosen to win, but I found the exercise itself thoroughly provided me with inspiration and personal growth in and of itself.  Thanks, Marie and Team Forleo!!!  


Was an overwhelmingly wonderful month for us!  Kurt and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary; my 48th birthday; Alanna’s renewal of health and vitality by traveling to Florida:  Miami, Englewood and Kissimmee!  Loads of family time with some of our southern-loving family, Disney, and Universal Studios!  And I had the good fortune of a chance meeting with an artist I adore.  He smiled at me, too!!!  


We celebrated Emilia’s 8th birthday with a fairy-themed party with her friends from school.  We prepared for springtime with many house projects and spring clean-up.  I wrapped up portraits with my favorite local preschoolers and did some real estate photography work.

June 2017


Brought more celebrations for us to commemorate!  Kurt’s 50th birthday and a weekend away at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and Aquarium.  We also had a visit with our eldest, Chelsea, who is now living in Colorado and working full time as a manager for the largest ski-equipment rental outfit in the Denver area, putting that degree and her super-smarts to good use!  This mom is SO proud.  May is the second busiest month of the year next to December and 2017 did not disappoint!  We planted the garden and flowers and had some mature trees harvested/removed from our property.  Tree frogs love our pool and pond and decided to move in!  I held Mother’s Day mini portrait sessions (in my then outdoor studio) and offered my local preschool Mother’s Day portraits with their special tea events for the moms.   


Our girls wrapped up the school year and summer vacation commenced along with my 5-week Busy Bees Summer Camp for Girls program (ages 6 - 12).  June brought on-location family photography sessions my way, and a host of thunderstorms to work around!  We did it!  And with beautiful results!  I worked with Little Mates Child Development Center to provide school portraits.  My friendly neighbor, Jo, my girls and I attended the summer solstice Bubble festivalSo much fun!       


We made our way north to Vermont to explore, relax and camp by Lake Champlain at Button Bay State Park.  We made new friends - most of whom did not go by the name of “Grilled Cheese!”  Such a beautiful state to explore!  Busy Bees day camp kept us moving and shaking as we enjoyed the hot summer days together, creating art, learning to meditate and playing as much as possible.  The gardens flourished!!  And there were sparklers, fireworks and fireflies!  Hooray for all things July!

4th of July 2017


Brought me high school senior and family portrait sessions!  Alanna’s most anticipated birthday ever - 11 3/4!  That phenomenal psychic, Madam Esmeralda certainly left us with so many fond memories along with that amazing cake and Quidditch match!  We wrapped up our second year of Busy Bees Summer Camp for Girls with a full roster in attendance and more hugs and memories than ever before!  Then the girls were back to school and routine set back in for us.  What an extraordinary summer we had!

August 2017
Busy Bees Summer Camp


Was full of highs and lows, a roller-coaster month!  I worked with high school seniors, a maternity session and family portrait sessions plus, school portraits for my favorite local preschool, Robeson Lutheran Preschool!  We were afforded yet another visit with Chelsea!  And we finally got the chance to meet Sara, her partner.  We miss you both!  I got on an airplane and headed to a remote camp in New Hampshire on Lake Squam to RETREAT!  I did not know a soul and traveled alone on a hunch that my gut told me would be good for me, soul-nourishing.  Guess what!  That hunch was absolutely correct, and I came away with new friends and so many fond memories of the wonderful folks that attended, the fabulous food, the sights & sounds, the restorative work and play and the lake.  I sang, danced, laughed, cried, wrote, photographed, taught, learned, and soaked in the creative juices of Squam Art Workshops Retreat!  Deliciously good for me!  Thank you, fellow Squammies!!!  Here's a where's Waldo shot for you.  Can you find me?  Ten points goes to the first person that comments with the color I'm wearing!  ;)  And GO!!   

Photo credit:  Tory Williams,

Photo credit:  Tory Williams,

September continued…

The low and unfortunate (although I’m still debating this to be true) setback was my husband’s almost company wide lay-off.  He had been traveling every week and we only had weekends together up to this point, so it was a welcome change to have him home every day and night.  We have endured lay-offs in the past, it is “nature of the beast” unfortunately for blue-collar, labor industry.  We managed to get through a 3 month rough spot and Kurt is now back to work, rehired by his former company and he’s home with his girls every night!  So that is a silver lining to report!!  

October, November, December

What a blur these past 3 months were!  All good, amazing blurs, too!  I shot more families and high school seniors and children combined than I think ever before in a 3 month stint of time.  I opened my in-home studio!!!  I still almost can’t believe we made that move!  All in all, this fall season of photography brought many blessings into my life, and carried us through a rough spot, financially speaking.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, the positives definitely outweigh any negative set backs we may have incurred.  The future is bright and I am an eternally hopeful person.  I know there’s more at work than meets the naked eye.  Things have a way of working out and I am grateful to that energy, that light, that which keeps us rising to reveal our full truth.  


My new word for 2018 is abide.  Abide kept finding me, again when in meditation or in print or in recording.  I noticed it one too many times to be able to disregard it.  This year I will myself to abide by my own truth, my family and their needs, and my business.  With an abiding heart full of gratitude for an utterly amazing year - thank you, friends & family, alike.  Onward we go!!