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Monday, December 30, 2013

MY BONNIE


Have you ever witnessed a small child grab tightly onto a special toy or doll and say, "MY BABY!" ? Yes? Then you must know, that's exactly how I feel whenever I get to hang out with Bonnie. Although Bonnie likes her space (IE: the feeling isn't totally mutual), I do my best to get to inch my way closer to this ball of wonderful Maggie and RB get to call their daughter. Now, before I get any creepier...

Maggie shared with me that she wanted to have some photos of B. in her mother's home, as this was the last year she was able to decorate. Although such circumstances are heartbreaking, it prompted my thinking about traditional Christmas portraits; how stuffy they can be, and how most these days are akin to the cringe-worthy "Christmas letter"... (You and your family are the most fabulous bunch of humans to ever exist. GOT IT!!!) 

To my family and I, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is so important because it's when we spend a few extra-special weeks basking in the glow of togetherness. Traditions are created and held year after year. Growing up, I always, always decorated the Christmas tree with my mother, listening to Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's Once Upon a Christmas. (I now own this on vinyl and play it each year while decorating the tree with my boys). As a grown up, it isn't Christmas until The Snowman is watched, and Logan starts cringing to my version of "Christmastime is Here".  

For some, baking cookies is an event! How much more special would a holiday session be if it were to have personal meaning?! Imagine gorgeous portraits of you and your siblings in your annual pajamas, laughing, joking, wrapped in the warmth of a full kitchen; delirious with good tidings. 

What about your annual trip to the Christmas tree farm, or the night you all sit together and watch Home Alone, build a gingerbread house, or make new ornaments? Those are the moments I cherish the most with my family, the ones I hold dear. I want to be the photographer that brings you those moments from the outside. 

I love these portraits of Bonnie in her grandmother's home. The decorations will be passed on, but the way they were displayed this year and the years before now take on much more meaning. Small, beautiful touches are no longer unnoticed, taken for granted. They began to spin into a brilliant new life: The After. 












           




I enjoyed so much the time I spent with Maggie, RB, and Bonnie. We sat and talked a bit before I began snapping Bonnie up, which made me realize just how much I enjoy the relationships I've nurtured throughout this photography journey. Since taking time off from my photography as a business, I've really considered what I love to shoot. That's the advice so many other photographers offer--shoot what you love! I realized it's not a genre. 

I'm not interested in shooting only weddings, only maternity, only newborn. I'm interested in shooting everything so long as I'm invested in it. I want lasting relationships with my clients. Clients who value my aesthetic, love their lives, and want to showcase that light. I cannot wait to bring those clients into my life and behind my camera for 2014! I also cannot wait to revisit my previous clients friends, to show how their love has grown!



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

IN MEMORY

Quite honestly, this is a post I don't want to compose.

In September, a friend/former classmate/client sent me a message inquiring about my taking photos at her mother's surprise 65th birthday party. I happened to be free, so I happily agreed. You see, my friend/former classmate/client--Maggie--has the most precious little girl who makes THE BEST faces ever, and I was dying to meet her! (I was not disappointed. She's pretty much the best baby ever). What I was not prepared for was a surprise 65th birthday that touched my soul.

The party was held in Newport News, at a cute Italian restaurant, decorated with autumnal touches--pumpkin centerpieces, apple butter favors. When I arrived, it was packed full of friends and family of Katherine Bowden, Maggie's cherished mother. I was immediately swept up in the buzz; so many people were brimming with excitement. I myself couldn't help but begin to feel anxious about Katherine's arrival! (Would she know something was amiss? Will she be late, and somehow we miss it when she does arrive? If she isn't surprised, will I still get awesome photos?) My anxiety quickly dissipated upon her arrival--it went off without a hitch! Mrs. Bowden was welcomed into the room with open arms, the brightest smiles, and a tear here and there.

As I made my way around the room, and spent time amongst Mrs. Bowden's friends and family, it was obvious just how loved this woman was. As a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, guidance counselor--she wore so many hats, and so very well. When it was my time to chat with her, Maggie reintroduced us (in high school, Mrs. Bowden's home was an open, welcome hub of class activity; a meeting place before dances, or homecoming get-togethers), and although I'm not quite sure if she did remember me, she made me feel like she had never forgotten me. That's just the type of person Mrs. Bowden was. I left her party that afternoon feeling that I wanted to be a woman of her caliber.

On November 29, just two months after her 65th birthday party, Mrs. Bowden suffered a serious brain hemorrhage. On December 9, 2013, after days of fighting her good fight, her sweet soul left this Earth. While I can't pretend to understand the loss Maggie and her family are feeling, I know from my small experiences that she was a comforting presence, an olive branch in a world of thorn bushes. (She wouldn't have thought that; it's my understanding that Mrs. Bowden viewed everyone as a rose). 

Mrs. Bowden touched many lives. Her presence will be missed immensely. My favorite moment of my time at her party was during her husband's toast. Mr. Bowden spoke many beautiful words about Mrs. Bowden, but the most touching of all, was when he began to sing to her. It was perhaps one of the most beautiful moments I've had as a photographer. More than any wedding, I cried at the true romance of a life and love, lived. 




Upon hearing the news of Mrs. Bowden's passing, I contacted Maggie to express my condolences. In speaking to her in the days after, we expressed a mutual feeling of gratitude for the photos taken at the party. 

During the event, I asked if I could steal the family for a few moments to take some shots of Mrs. Bowden with her grandbabies--her heart. As a photographer, I wanted to give a little something extra special, even though it was unplanned. We went behind the restaurant to a random field, and I was able to take a few beautiful portraits of this beautiful woman.







The gift of photography is one people often take for granted. The time and investment in photography most always becomes invaluable. Whether it's in your own equipment, time, and talent or someone else's--invest in those moments. I'm so pleased that Mrs. Bowden's memory can live on in these portraits. I'm so happy to have captured her spirit. 

May those I've loved through all the year
Have memories now they'll e'er recall;
So fill me to the parting glass, Goodnight, and joy be with you all

--excerpt from  "The Parting Glass"

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Hardest Words I've Ever Written


I remember the first time I heard the name Diana Nyad. I was listening to NPR. Her story was riveting. This was a woman who was attempting to swim from Cuba to Florida. Havana to Key West. 110 miles. Nonstop. Unassisted. Without a shark cage. In waters with some of the most dangerous animals in the world. 

Since I first heard her story, I have been a fan of this incredible woman. When she didn't complete her third and fourth swims, I felt frustrated. When she did complete the swim--on September 2, 2013--I was jubilant. I cried. HARD. I felt so proud of her/for her! I wished more than anything that I could have been on the beach at 1:55PM when, on the shakiest of legs, Diana Nyad walked onshore after her epic 53 hour journey. 

...

Earlier this year, I decided to walk away from a photography business I had been trying to build for four years. I just couldn't take it anymore. I was exhausted, angry, and so very, very broken. 

Instead of giving up photography completely, I began shooting for free, when I felt like it. I wasn't trying to garner more interest for my business. (I took down my Facebook business page) I wasn't doing it for recognition. I was doing it because I genuinely wanted to shoot for others; to make them happy, which in turn made me happy. Then August came. With it, the immeasurable pain of my father telling me he no longer wanted to be in my life. I cried. HARD.

For years, I had attempted to create a relationship with my father. A man who repeatedly physically abused me with not only his words, but with his hands. For years, I tried to avoid the memories of my father repeatedly lashing me with a belt, choking me, throwing dishes at me, screaming in my face; calling me an animal.  For years, I tried to reconcile the fact that both of my parents told me it was my fault that this happened to me. That I deserved all of it. 

While it hurt to know that my father didn't want to be in my life any longer (and it really, truly hurt despite everything that had happened), one morning I woke up and realized I was OK. I was more than OK. I was happy. I felt as if I had thrown off my suit of darkness and changed into a glorious gown of light. I'm not quite sure why or how it happened, but it did, and it has been the most powerful life experience I have ever encountered. 

I realized that I had worth

 I thought I had done the "right" thing by forgiving my father of his physical/verbal abuse, and attempting to repair our lost relationship. I felt that I had to, as he was my family, and I had been taught that family is what is most important. I carried the secrets of my personal hell for years because I was told over and over again that it was a private matter, and besides, I was responsible for it happening. 

How could I expect to be successful when I was repeating the words of my father in my mind over and over again, day in and day out, even on the days when I was seemingly fine? 

How could I expect to accomplish anything without understanding that I was capable everything?

How could I believe in myself when I bought into the idea that there was nothing to believe in?

I had been sucked into a vortex of anger, pain, and negativity. I allowed other people/photographers to use me, take advantage of my generosity, and believed them when they told me I was no good. I thought that being kind would make everything okay, and that if I were as nice as I possibly could be, nothing would bad would happen again. I withdrew further into myself and my home: feeling very afraid and so desperately lonely. 

...

Diana Nyad didn't make it to Florida on her first try. She didn't make it to Florida on her second try. Nor on her third or fourth try. It wasn't until her fifth attempt that she reached that shore. She didn't allow the pain of her own past (sexual abuse, which she openly discusses) or the discouraging words of others to deter her from her dream. She didn't allow the possible to be impossible. 

I realized that I don't have to turn away from my own dream. Just because I took time off doesn't mean that I am unable to return and try again. It may take me five tries, it may take me twenty. It will happen. I will be successful in this. It may not match up with everyone else's idea of success, but it will be all the more sweeter for myself. I feel that I am already successful in that I can hold my head up high and [finally] shout I AM WORTHY!!! 

In reality I know that Diana Nyad will probably never stumble across my blog, but I wanted to offer gratitude to her for being true to herself, and, perhaps inadvertently, a woman I look to for inspiration and strength. Due to her unending devotion to her goals, and a solid belief that she would achieve her dream, she did just that... and changed my life in the process. So, THANK YOU, Diana Nyad, for being the woman you were destined to be, and for helping me to realize than I can too. 


Friday, October 18, 2013

A Fall Weekend

Fall Weekend

Clockwise: The Kinfolk Table, Fresh candle in Cannabis Santal, Madewell jean jacket, Ray Ban original Wayfarers, J.Crew wool baseball cap, MAC Rebel lipstick, Minnetonka Cally slippers, Pendleton blanket, L.L. Bean Two-Layer Union Suit, The Avett Brothers' Magpie and the Dandelion


As September and most of October has passed me by, I can't help but be excited for this coming weekend. Since beginning homeschool in August, every day has been consumed with the boys. From meal and lesson planning to trips to the park, soccer practice, piano lessons, and everything in between, we're busy, busy, busy! This weekend I have the chance to settle in and take some time for myself.

Before I began homeschooling, my boys were off to public school by 6:50 most mornings (never later than 7:30AM), and wouldn't return until 2:30 or so. I had all of that time to do whatever I wanted--shower, listen to music at great volumes, dance around naked (I think everyone is happy I saved that for my 'me' time)... One of my biggest 'cons' to homeschooling was the lack of this time for myself.

The truth is, I love being by myself. A few weeks ago, when the whole Louis CK smart phone clip went viral (I say viral because, for someone like me, the idea of staying up to watch Conan on television is simply incomprehensible) I started banging out a post piggy-backing on that very subject. Although I never hit the publish button, writing my thoughts on the subject helped me realize just how formative being alone during my high school years were for me. I know exactly what it feels like to be overcome with the sadness that comes along with a simple chord or lyric, to allow those feelings to wash over you and take you hostage. I love being able to feel those emotions, regardless of whether or not it hurts. Needless to say, erasing that time I spent for myself was frightening. Still, my reasons to homeschool outweighed those not to, and I've only just begun to feel that absence. Perfect timing for my mother--in-law to take the boys for the day!

I've been fantasizing about this time; how I'll hole myself in the house with a special candle, my favorite thermals and slippers, new music, and new reading material. How, if I go out, I will carry my comfort wherever I roam, and take the time to enjoy what pleases me. I've been mapping out these hours knowing deep-down, I'll be considering the boys the entire time they're missing. Because as much as I adore time to myself, those boys are such of my self that it'll be hard not to.

I'll do my best.

Happy Weekending!








Thursday, September 5, 2013

8 LESSONS IN 8 YEARS


On September 2 of each year, Logan and I celebrate the day we decided to give "us" a go. It's pretty much a second anniversary for us on the calendar, but to me, it holds more meaning than even our wedding anniversary. It's the date my life changed forever. 

After going on our first date, I came home, fired up my old eMac, pulled up LiveJournal, and typed these words: I met the man I'm going to marry today. Five days after that first date, Logan and I had a chat and decided that we wanted to see where "we" were headed. The rest... well, you know. 

I've been reflecting on these last eight years. And just how much we've each changed. How much I've learned from simply being married.

There are dozens of cards from me to Logan, in a folder, tucked safely away, with messages I've furiously scribbled, all with the same theme: I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY LOVE YOU!!!  But I don't know if Logan knows what an impression he's had on me. What, if we were to walk away from our life together tomorrow, I would take with me (other than a broken heart). The gifts he's given to me. The life lessons he's shown me. And I couldn't have that. 

For the last two weeks, I've reflected on what those lessons are. I asked Logan what he thought of the idea, and he shared some incredibly insightful thoughts. So, I edited this from being all about what I've learned, to what we have learned. The eight most important love-nuggets we've acquired from being married to share with you. Writing this has made me laugh, cry, cringe, and scoot up closer to him. Most of all, it's just reaffirmed that my instinct didn't fail me all those years ago.


8 Lessons in 8 Years

1--Have a Slice of Humble Pie (Some of us need to eat the whole thing!)


You've got to get over yourself. Ha! But... really, you do. Shamefully, I  admit that when I came into my relationship with Logan, I was under the impression that I should be put on a pedestal. (Totally cringing).

Thankfully, Logan didn't agree with that sentiment. Instead, Logan taught me to consider how we're both equally important to our relationship; how, without each of our strengths, we couldn't be able to be strong together... and isn't that what being in a relationship is all about? Being one-half of a love machine? 

I thought maybe it was just me with this sense of entitlement. Maybe it was because I had dated a few guys who totally indulged my 'Princess Complex'. Maybe it was because I was raised by a dad who lavished me with jewelry for every holiday, or a mother who cut my meat for me until I was 17. (Yes, really). But, over the weekend, I found myself reading the September issue of Marie Claire, and came across a column called Single with Siggy, and discovered that there are people out there giving young women relationship advice such as, "That's the only time a relationship works--when a man adores you. A man should always love a woman just a little bit more." Seriously? I couldn't disagree more. Both Logan and I agree that the only time a relationship works is when it's rooted in deep love and mutual respect. Being focused only on yourself is not allowing yourself to focus on what's truly beautiful and, as Ru Paul so beautifully expressed, courageous about sharing a not only a life but your true self with someone else.

2--SHUT UP, ALREADY! 
Let's tip the scale for a moment here. Insecurities are the worst. They really are. For someone like me, who has trouble keeping my thoughts to myself, it's even worse because I vocalize these terrible feelings/thoughts. If it isn't bad enough to be married to someone who can't stand themselves and keeps you informed on just how much, imagine being married to someone who can't stand themselves, keeps you informed on just how much, and who whines to you with nasty comments such as "You should've married her." Better yet, don't. I'm guilty of those things, and, shamefully, more like it.

Words of self-empowerment aside, the person you married probably doesn't share those feelings with you. Chances are, your spouse probably hasn't noticed that little zit on the side of your nose that makes you feel like Rudolph, or the extra 5LBS you gained over holiday. What's more likely is that your spouse loves you and sees you through his/her Love Goggles. You're gorgeous. Ravishing. Interesting. At least to him. Why call attention to all of the things you view as subpar about yourself? 

The truth is, at least in our case, it's a painful experience for your spouse. Logan has told me in the past that it hurts him to see me hurt, and that it pushes him away emotionally when I say those things. I mean, how could it not? You're basically saying to your spouse: I'm hideous and awful, what's wrong with you for being with me? 

So don't do it. I know, I know: easier said than done. Believe me--I get it--because I struggle with this so very much even now. Find a mantra and repeat it every time you want to say something negative about yourself. (Mine is: I'm awesome and I don't give a shit). Sometimes I have to force my eyes closed, take a deep breath, and compulsively repeat that sentence. Sometimes I have to scream it. 

Bottom line: do whatever it is it takes to keep yourself from negatively influencing your spouse's thoughts about you. There's enough voices in the world to tell you how you don't measure up, but your own voice shouldn't be one of them. 

3--Letting Go
I came into my relationship with Logan very broken. Fifteen months prior, I had become a single mother at 19. I had been engaged to, and ended a relationship with, the father of my child. I was angry, bitter, and down-trodden. (A real catch!) In other words, I had baggage. Just like everyone else. 

I carried that baggage with me for a very long time. I still find pieces of it here and there. However, I quickly realized that I had to drop it and leave it right where it was if I wanted my marriage to reach it's full potential.

It wasn't easy. It probably won't be for you, either, if you decide to go through with the process of it all. And that's the ticket--it's a process. There may be some things you thought hurt you more than they really do, and once you confront them realize it wasn't much of a big deal to begin with. Other things may take a long, long time to reconcile. There may even be issues you never want to tackle head-on, and in my opinion that's okay, as long as you can keep it from seeping into your present. 

The point is to free yourself from whatever will keep you from being fully loved/giving your love fully.

4--Accept What You Cannot Change 
Guess what? You're not perfect. Don't expect your partner to be, either. If you've got high expectations for your spouse to be everything you imagine them to be, you need to come back down to Earth with the rest of us. They aren't the ones who need to work on themselves. It you. 

Confession: I wish so badly that my husband was a romantic! He's not. Like, at all. 

I've fought this for so long. I've bitched and whined and nagged about it. I've threatened to leave him over it. None of that has helped. In fact, many times it serves only to create more tension and distance between us. 

Cliché though it may be, taking time to remember what made you fall in love with your partner can really help to put things into perspective. I've realized that I didn't fall in love with "Romantic Logan". I fell in love with the guy who keeps me laughing and smiling each and every day, without fail.

It's easy to focus on what your partner isn't. When I feel sad or frustrated by the lack of champagne and roses, I step back and focus on the wonderful ways Logan blesses me daily. When tension is running high, we both try to remember The Big Picture.

5--"Panoramic Perseverance"
When Logan and I were talking about these "lessons", he threw this term at me and I was struck by how it perfect it is! It can be easy to get caught up in the drama of an argument for some. (Guilty). 

Logan has the ability to stay incredibly calm during even the toughest of situations. (99% of the time, it's a quality I admire and respect. The other 1% is reserved for my irrational, crazy self that gets really angry when he doesn't react to my provocation). He has the ability to think about the "ultimate goal" so to speak, which, in this situation, would be to stay together, because that's what he's committed to do. I have to admit that if it weren't for his "Panoramic Perseverance" we wouldn't be together today, and it's one of the ways Logan blesses our marriage.

Even outside of an argument, when life is just plain tough, we both keep our Ultimate Goal in mind, and resolve to continually work towards that. We try our best not to allow the world into Our World, which leads to the issue of guarding your heart and your marriage. 

6--"Detoxing Your Marriage"
I'm sure you've heard tons of girls say this before: "I don't have girl friends, I only hang out with guys." That was me. And that was a real problem when Logan and I first got married. I just couldn't get what the big deal was. Why only hanging out with guys wasn't healthy for our marriage, and why I had to give that up because it made Logan uncomfortable. I was only thinking about myself and my own feelings. Turns out, Logan knows a thing or two about guys. He was right about the guys I considered my "friends", and what their intentions really were. Logan too had to rethink some of the relationships in his life. 

Marriage is vulnerable. A glimpse into our society, and all of the destructive forces inside it can showcase just how easy it is to do what you want, when you want it, without a thought given to others. Sometimes the world seems to scream TAKE WHAT YOU WANT! from every possible angle. There is always someone or something waiting to be center stage in your life, when it shouldn't even be in the back of house. 

I mentioned the term 'Our World' in #5 because Logan and I really have built a fortress against the outside. Our marriage has been rocked and tested many times in our few short years together. Sometimes friends need to let go from your life. Sometimes it's certain activities or locations that you just avoid. For example, when Logan and I were dating I used to love dancing at a local Indie night. Every time I went, I would be face to face with exes and, on the one occasion Logan went with me, one of his exes literally threw herself on him. After that night we decided it wasn't worth the trouble of dealing with the drama, and we'd rather do go/do something together where we could focus on us. We began looking into activities we both enjoy, and also made it a point to hang out with other couples. 

Logan and I do what we can to ensure our marriage is prosperous, and we find this to be one of the most important lessons we've both learned. We value our marriage more than anything else, and that is what's the driving force behind our decisions, what keeps us healthy and free of "relationship toxins". 


7--It's OK to go to bed angry... sometimes.
Blasphemy! Right? I don't think so. Honestly, there's just some times when, at least for me, at the end of the day, I'm tired, grouchy, and downright emotional. This is a prime time for fissures to expand, and, unfortunately, the time I'm most likely spending with Logan. I'm not sure if Logan and I have ever had an argument during the day. 

We've had all-nighters. They've been awful. Most of the time, nothing is ever resolved, and Logan admits that staying up all night when he has to work in the morning only makes him angrier. He has said when he realizes how much time is being spent arguing into the wee hours instead of sleeping, he gets more and more unresponsive. I get it.  

Almost always, in the morning, we're over whatever it was we were arguing about. We forgive. It's almost certainly forgotten. He and I move on. 

My advice? Know when to let go of an argument and get some sleep. Chances are, when you wake up, you'll feel better and life can go on. Why draw it out? 


8--Make it Work! 
Probably the most important lesson we've learned in our eight years as a couple. No matter what, don't give up! But why? Why does it matter to stay together? For us, it's because we believe we are meant to be together. That we were designed to meet and create a life with one another. That there's no one that could complement each other the way we do. 

All of that may seem ridiculous and rather nutty to some. We're okay with that. Logan and I realized a while back that we are different from a lot of people, and that's partially why we get along so well. He and I share the same values, the same goals.

Reflecting on these last eight years Logan and I have spent together has opened my eyes to how much he and I have changed. Starting out so young (I was 22, Logan, 23) we've been able to grow together, and I pray each day that will continue. Marriage is tough. Most days are filled with the mundane bits that threaten to overtake our spirits. It's in between the mundane where I know I can say I've found true happiness. It's where I've become content in quiet. It's home. 




Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A VACATION STORY: WEEKI WACHEE, CENTRAL FLORIDA & COMING HOME

The last leg of our trip was set to a more relaxed pace. After visiting Gainesville, Logan, Gibson, and I, traveled a bit further south to visit my dad, who moved to Florida early last year with his dog Maynard. After spending a day and a half with him, we drove on a bit more to spend time with Logan's brother and his family.

Admittedly, around this time, both Logan and I were dragging. Since leaving Monday morning, we had been on the go nonstop. Being the homebodies that we are, it was Thursday we also began to get itchy to come home.

It was nice to be able to visit with my dad. We watched a movie together, went out to eat at our favorite spot, and were able to relax in a comfortable setting.

Not wanting to miss an afternoon, the three of us decided to travel to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. When I was very young (Gibson's age, actually), my parents took me to Weeki Wachee and I thought it was just the greatest place ever. (I mean, what six year old little girl in 1990 wouldn't love seeing dancing mermaids under water?)


Needless to say, it wasn't how I remembered it, as a great deal has changed in 23 years. (Imagine that!) Despite a thunderstorm that rolled in as we were waiting for our boat tour, the three of us made the most of our day and had fun.

Weeki Wachee is a natural spring, and it's in the spring itself that the mermaids perform underwater. (Viewers watch from an underwater theater). From the springs comes the Weeki Wachee river, which, like the springs, is absolutely gorgeous; crystal-clear water where you can see straight down and get a look at the plentiful Sheepshead, Mullets, and turtles.

The water temperature is  74°F year-round, and while that sounds pretty nice, 74°F is actually pretty dang cold. (The ocean temperature in Fernandina when we visited was 81°F!) Still, Logan, Gibson, and I, swam out to the floating dock in the river, held hands, and jumped off together into 12 feet of that crystal clear ice water. We swam while gulping in giant heaps of air because we couldn't catch our breath. We walked around and searched for lizards and birds. And we cruised the river, where we happened to catch a beautiful osprey swoop down and snatch fish from the water.










After saying goodbye to my father, Logan drove us to our final destination: his brother's home in Fruitland Park. We have never visited his family in Florida, so it was exciting to be able to see where they live and to spend time with my nieces and nephews. As I don't have little girls, I'm quite taken with my nieces Riley and Ashlyn. (They let me paints their nails! Eep!)

Our visit was short and sweet. Both Logan and I were torn on whether or not we would stay for a bit longer, but in the end decided to drive through the night to get home. It was a long, long drive--13 hours--and it was at this point we were desperate for our own bed. So, that's what we did, and even though it was a rough drive, we were so happy we left when we did. It gave us the opportunity to come home and settle in before the week began.

As our mini-vacation ended, I couldn't help but realize just how far I've come from the girl I once was. Traveling was such a part of me before I met Logan, who hasn't traveled very much, that I found it difficult to adjust early on in our marriage. I've been a worm in Logan's ear for years--"We've got to go here!" "You need to see this!" To find myself fiercely wishing to be back home was surprising for me. Upon more reflection, I realized that I was always searching for the bigger and better thing--whatever 'it' may have been. I don't search anymore. I'm grounded. My home is where my family is; truly where my heart is, and I couldn't be happier to be right where I am. (Cue Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros!)


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GIBSON REECE!


Today is a most special day! It's a day we celebrate our sweet, sweet boy Gibson Reece, who was born seven years ago today! I could lament on my pregnancy and birth, or how the toddler years passed in the blink of an eye. I could look back on the days that have led up to this one, and marvel at how far he's come. Instead, I'm focusing on the person he is today, turning seven, and how that's a Very Big Deal!





We're kicking off this year with Gibby's favorite treats and bowling with friends, a fine way to celebrate a birthday if I ever saw!

Monday, August 26, 2013

A VACATION STORY: FROM GAINESVILLE, WITH LOVE

I grew up visiting Florida, and have always considered it my second home. As a small child, my family visited my grandmother and her husband, who lived in a small retirement community near Ocala. I spent seventh grade at a Dunellon middle school, insisting that everyone call me "Bari". Most of the six months following high school I was in Jacksonville, and I started a family of my own in Ft. Lauderdale. But during my senior year of high school, and over the course of the summer months that followed, I was in Gainesville:

I spent my spring break there, with my boyfriend who lived in Gainesville. That was the first time I had ever spent Easter away from my family; my first Easter without sitting in a pew wearing my Sunday best. It was also the first time I had ever spent an extended amount of overnight time with any boy, and this made me feel so  grown up.  (I'm rolling my eyes as I type this...) 

It was there I celebrated my 18th birthday with friends new and old, a bottle of Captain Morgan. 

I left home in Virginia and moved myself into my first apartment off of 34th St. I'll never forget how it felt to be lying on my bed, smiling into the dark, in my own space, surrounded by my own things, blasting The Doors as loud as I could just because I could. I remember thinking to myself, This is happy. (So what if it lasted only two weeks?) 

The night I got my first tattoo, I went to a house party and realized what it was like to really be on my own.

After I had Justice, I returned to Gainesville as a single mother and, swinging on a tire, through a cloud of hazy sun and fuzzy reverb from the Pavement record I had just been listening to ringing in my ears, I again thought to myself, This is happy.

* * * 

I hadn't been back to Gainesville since then--2005--and when I realized that my little family would be passing through on our way to visit my father, I felt a pull to revisit a place that held so much to me in my previous life. So, again, I set to work figuring out what we would actually do once we got there.

I discovered the Florida Museum of Natural History, that it was free, and Logan, Gibson, and I  decided that's what we were going to do for the day. We were really hungry when we first arrived in town, so we hit up one of the only places I know where to eat: Burrito Brothers.

I was surprised to find that the location had changed but relieved that the burritos still tasted (and smelled) the same. My guac was fresh and delicious, and Logan's chorizo burrito was spicy and filling. They hit the spot and we left for the museum.


I can't speak highly enough about our time at the Florida Museum of Natural History. It was full of interactive activities and loaded with information and fascinating, kid-friendly exhibits. The three of us easily passed over two hours, and could have stayed much longer were it not for the museum's closing. We did pay a small fee to explore the "Butterfly Rainforest", which, at the time, was highlighting Costa Rican butterflies. (Right now it's blue and orange butterflies, and if I lived closer I would totally go back. I'm double-bummed that we were a few days short on missing Surfing Florida: A Photographic History and Surf Science: Waves and Wildlife!) Logan and I did a similar butterfly activity at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, but truthfully, it didn't compare. I also appreciated so much the fact that the museum is free. Here in Hampton Roads, most everything is not free.





When I was searching for info on the Florida Museum of Natural History, I came across info on the University of Florida Bat House. After a little bit of poking around and reading reviews on TripAdvisor, I asked Logan if he would mind indulging me in staying the four extra hours until sunset, when the bats begin waking up for the evening. Blessedly, I married a fellow geek.


Since we had some time to kill before dusk, we scuttled about town in search of music stores. (If you're noticing a pattern, it's this: When we travel, I look into places or activities that will give us a proper feel of wherever we may be; monuments, museums, historic sites. Logan scouts out music and record stores). 

We had ice cream for dinner at a super cute shop called Sweet Dreams.  All of Sweet Dreams' ice cream is handmade in house, and they had some really fun flavors. I chose Vanilla Cherry, Honey Lavender, and Watermelon Sorbet. I'm still 
dreaming about the Vanilla Cherry. 

Logan drove us back to the bat houses after we doused ourselves with bug spray and grabbed our umbrella. Since we still had time before the sun went down, we took a walk around Lake Alice. We found two alligators and quite a few snapping turtles-- the lake itself was serene and beautiful. 

At this point I was geeking out pretty hard and just had to get to the fence in front of the bat houses. I waited  and waited and waited, and, just a few minutes after sunset, my patience (not a virtue I'm all too familiar with) was rewarded. At first just a few enterprising bats stretched their wings and came out, but, after a few moments, it was if a silent alarm went off and there they were. 

For over twenty minutes, the three of us
sat and watched as thousands upon thousands of Brazilian Free-Tailed and Southeastern Bats swooped down from their resting spots and feasted upon the buffet of mosquitoes and other insects that are plentiful in the area. It was one of my all-time favorite moments. Minus the smell. The smell was about as gross as you could get.

 I have (mostly) good memories of being young and having fun in Gainesville. While I am still (mostly) young, I can add my memories with my family to my Gainesville cache. I felt especially stoked that I was there with Logan. 

You see, in December 2001, I had planned on hitching a ride with a friend's band to Gainesville, where I would meet up with my boyfriend for a bit before coming back home with the band. I can't remember the reason now, but I was unable to go down to Gainesville that weekend, and my boyfriend came to Virginia instead. Had I gone on that trip, I would have met Logan... Unbeknownst to me, he was one of the guitar players in my friend's band. 

That story is one I think back on and just smile. It's one of the reasons that back up my claim that Logan and I were meant to be, because if we had met back then, I can say with confidence we just wouldn't have worked out. (Mostly because I was W-I-L-D). But really, I think back to all of my past experiences and see how they all led me to the life I have now; a life I lead where I feel secure, loved, and optimistic. So, in a way, Logan and I were making up for the trip we never took to Gainesville.



Maybe it's me being way too introspective, or just plain emotional, but our day in Gainesville was my favorite on our trip. It was a day where my face hurt from smiling, and my heart was light from the pleasure of spending the day with two people I love beyond reason.







Friday, August 23, 2013

A VACATION STORY: AMELIA ISLAND/FERNANDINA & JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA

 We've been home from our mini-vacation to Florida since Saturday, and I've been replaying some of my most favorite moments in my mind. What was slated as a work trip for Logan transformed into ten days off of work, and a short tour about north/central Florida! For me, it was the highlight of the summer!


One evening L. came home and announced that he would have to travel to Georgia for five days to work, and that Gibson and I would be able to travel with him if we wanted to. (Justice was spending five weeks with his father for summer visitation). Immediately my mind began whirring, thinking of all the spots I'd like to re/visit along the way--Raleigh, Charleston, Savannah--because that's just what I do. (In my mind, I was already fanning myself under the Spanish moss with a sweet tea in hand...) So I set to work: mapping routes, planning activities, and consulting Southern Living

Needless to say our plans changed, as they always seem to have a way of doing. Instead of staying in Georgia, we found out we could stay on Amelia Island, Florida, in a hotel within a block of the ocean! (!!!) So that's what we did. And believe me, the happiness I experienced after the ten hour drive (which I drove damn near all of thanks to L.'s uncanny inability to stay awake at the wheel for more than 45 minutes at a time... jokes, jokes) was virtually unparalleled. I literally jumped out of the car and bee-lined it to the shoreline before the sun sank for the evening. 

The rest of our evening was spent under the stars. The three of us made our way to a restaurant on the beach for a late night supper and cold beer. We were able to sink our toes in the sand while we ate and drank, and took in the sounds of a man with his sweet voice and acoustic guitar playing Van Morrison covers. 

Tuesday morning at breakfast, we found out we were able to have the entire week to ourselves and do as we please. Naturally, we were on the beach, in the water, before 9AM! It was a gorgeous morning, and the three of us were able to body board together; precious moments I'll tuck away forever. The rest of the day was spent traipsing around my old haunts in Jacksonville, and discovering new ones. (If you're a guitar player, or just enjoy learning, you'll want to check Chip's out. We scored on two pairs of pickups and had an overall great experience).  Once back on Amelia Island, we went about having dinner at La Mancha, where I enjoyed a perfect glass of Sangria with our tapas and flan, before topping off the evening with a dip in the hotel's pool.  

Wednesday was our final morning in Fernandina. Logan and I surprised Gibson by waking up before him to watch the sunrise over the ocean. I felt so happy and at peace. After breakfast we had a bit of an adventure searching for the Amelia Island Lighthouse. (For those of you who love a bit of trivia or are just plain nerdy like myself, it's the oldest lighthouse in Florida!) We discovered it nestled in a residential neighborhood but were unable to tour due to it being closed for the day. 

In our searching we toured Downtown Fernandina: historic, charming, and incredibly pretty. A place to make you smile and want to dance. One aspect of Fernandina I loved is it's old-world charm and how it isn't yet inundated with chain/big box stores. It's virtually untouched by corporate USA, and is exactly the type of small town Bill Bryson seemed to be searching for in The Lost Continent... I fell in love. 

As I mentioned, our plans changed, so we were free to leave Fernandina. I could've stayed the rest of the week, but being in Florida, Logan and I decided to seize our free time and make it into a proper mini-half-family vacation. But. Fernandina. Amelia Island. A gem if there ever was. 

















































Monday, June 3, 2013

Set Me Free

All those weekend plans? Yeah, they were tossed out of the window Saturday morning! Ultimately, due to a mixup in plans, our peeling bodies (yuck), and Gibson's freshly-acquired cold, we decided the beach probably wasn't the best place for us this weekend. Logan decided that it was best we "stay home" as we had a ton of work to do. I hated the thought of this but knew it was the best decision also. It ended up being a blessedly peaceful, absolutely wonderful weekend!

My favorite moments I've tucked away are of sitting on the front porch with Logan as the sun set while Gibson played in the yard; waking up with the sun and sitting on the back porch, sipping coffee underneath an umbrella; taking walks around the block, all four of us; not waking up to an alarm, and being able to scoot up next to Logan for a few moments before the day begins; of cooking and grilling out; dining al fresco.

I barely took time to grab my camera. 

I savored each and every "small" moment, and enjoy being present in my life outside of the camera lens. I allowed myself to be swallowed up in the simple joys of my life that give me the greatest happiness. It was so worth it. 

Maybe not the best for keeping an active blog full of beautiful photos and relevant material, but it was essential for my soul.

 I did take the camera out to document the first bounty of spring radishes from my container garden!



After such a lovely weekend, I feel rejuvenated; ready to take on what this week has in store! My enthusiasm for a rainy, dreary Monday may have quite a lot to do with my going to see Best Coast  with Logan and B. this evening in Richmond. In fact, I'm sure of it!


I hope you all have a cheery Monday, and that your week is sweet; start to finish!







Friday, May 31, 2013

Weekend Tunes

It's Friday! Hooray for the weekend! The four of us have plans to enjoy the next two days as much as we possibly can--we're not supposed to have rain until Monday, and the temperatures are forecasted to be in the mid-to-high 80's. I'm looking forward to spending this time with Logan, the boys, and friends. With our first Sandbridge beach trip planned, and the Hampton Blackbeard Festival happening, there's no shortage of fun to get into.

These six songs have been my most played since last week. They're fun, summery tunes that you can dance or sway in a hammock to. (Ugh! I just love Beach House! I feel like I'm slow dancing on a carousel whenever I hear Victoria Legrand's organ and dreamy vocals).


Until Monday, friends, I wish you all a beautiful weekend!

   beachy by Lindsay Collette on Grooveshark

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