Camping with family

For months now our nephews have been begging for us to take them camping. We couldn’t wait to share the great outdoors with these boys and their parents. We love being out in nature and to share that with our favorite people was a joy! We did a one night campout in Shelby Forest this past week and had such an amazing time! While we were on a hike Caden, who is 4, yelled out “This is the best hike ever!” Nothing makes us happier than sharing what we love with others. We knew that the whole camping trip would be an adventure and thankfully everyone was a great sport about forgetting the hot dogs, waking up to raccoons, rain, hail, thunder, lightening, and getting completely drenched while packing up camp. We spent most of the trip laughing and just enjoying the time with family. Games and s’mores by the fire pretty much are the best things in the world. Hope we have many many more family camping trips in the future!!

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Escape

 

For years I’ve been telling Philip about how much I love the beach. I grew up spending summer family vacations at the beach and it was my happy place. Sitting in the sand with the surf hitting my feet while reading a good book was heaven for me. I love adventuring and exploring but sometimes my soul and body just need to escape and rest and the beach is my resting spot. This summer I convinced Philip to give the beach a try and boy did he fall in love with the peace that comes from sitting by the ocean hearing the waves crashing. We spent the days beach side, the evenings eating amazing seafood, and staying up late talking until the wee mornings. It was so fun to be kids again and feel like we were young newlyweds without a care in the world. This was one of the few trips we’ve taken since we got married that was strictly pleasure and had no business agenda. We get to spend every day together (and LOVE it!) but a whole week with no business talk was heaven! I have a feeling these get aways will be happening a lot more frequently.

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A few thoughts on marriage

 

Over the years I’ve read numerous books, blogs, and posts about what it means to be a good wife or have a successful marriage. And, frankly, I have yet to find one that seems applicable to me.

Before I got married I genuinely thought marriage would be the hardest thing I ever had to do; that’s what all the literature told me. I thought I would struggle to honestly communicate with my husband, have a hard time “respecting” him, feel like I would constantly need to fill his unending sexual desire, have a hard time balancing work and marriage, and never have a perfectly clean house…

That’s what the books told me to expect. But you know what? We really didn’t struggle much with any of those issues. At first, it made me feel like something was wrong or that a big jolt was going to come after the honeymoon period was over. The word out there was that marriage is really hard and it takes a lot of work to make it good. But that has not been my experience.

Before anyone gets their panties in a wad let me state my personal belief on the issue: Life is hard, but marriage can be easy.

Philip and I have been married for almost five and a half years, been together for almost ten years and known each other since middle school. We both went from living with our parents to being married. We also began working together as business partners and were together every day, all day overnight. I thought there would be a huge culture shock but in reality it was a pretty natural transition and only a few conflicts ever arose. Having known and dated Philip for so long I knew his personality extremely well and also knew most of his habits. It wasn’t until we had been married for some time that I also realized that we had a jump start on our communication skills. We talk a lot. If we have a thought or idea, we tell one another. If we are bothered by something the other did, we talk about it as soon as we can (never bringing up issues in public). If we want to make plans with friends, we mention it to the other (not to get permission, to simply check and see if they had plans first). If we want to make a purchase over a certain amount (predetermined by our specific budget), we talk about it. In general, we are 100% open with one another and talk about anything that might effect the other.

But this isn’t the whole story. There was a reason that we decided to get married: we deeply wanted to do life together. And, as I said, life is hard. Many nights have been spent in each others arms in tears because we are overwhelmed with life’s mountains. But when we encounter a mountain in life (such as infertility, renovating a house, running and growing a business, watching all our friends have kids and forget about us, etc) we climb that mountain together, instead of climbing over one another. Doing life together only works when you support one another instead of yourself. This simple, yet profound choice to support one another does not make life easy, but it can make marriage much easier.

Occasionally, we get asked how we are so happy. How around each other 24/7 as both business partners and spouses and still love, let alone like, one another? Simple: we make it a priority to communicate and fully support one another.

Over the years I’ve observed countless marriages. I’ve noticed one undergirding fact with all these marriages: each marriage is 100% unique to the couple. I’ve never once seen a marriage that was like another one. Each couple has their unique way of communicating with one another. Each couple has their specific needs and wants. Each couple has their own set of mountains that they must face. We understand that we have an advantage that most couples don’t have in that we spend almost all of our time together. When life is hard or an issue comes up we get to tackle it right away instead of having to wait (we all know how time can let things fester as well as calm us down). Our marriage is not your marriage. All marriages can’t be lumped together as the same. No marriage book (or blog post) will tell you exactly how it will be for you as a couple. The only thing that is true for all couples is this: you chose to go through life together, life will throw you curve balls and struggles, and you can go through it full of happiness, together.

A couple of months ago we had one of our friends document us in our newly renovated house. With this post I wanted to share these with the world. Five and a half years into marriage and we couldn’t be happier together. This past year threw us some curve balls and it brought us closer than we ever thought possible. We wanted to forever have a record of this specific stage of our lives, simply happy.  We live a very simple life but it is a good life, a very good life.  We aren’t perfect but we are happy and that’s all I could ever hope for. Life is hard, but this relationship called marriage is a lot easier than I thought it would be.

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Savannah

 

(all images by our dear friend Joey Miller)

Snow Days

 

This past winter all I wanted was snow. Living in Memphis we rarely get good snow, actually we really only get ice that looks ugly and it dangerous. I have friends who live all over the country and via social media I kept seeing their pictures of beautiful, fluffy snow and I got really jealous. I love snow and the magic that it brings when it is falling. Our bedroom has a huge balcony window that faces out into our backyard and from the warmth of our bed we can lay in each others arms and watch the snow falling. I especially love night time snows; the whole world is quiet and at peace as the flakes make their way silently to the earth. I probably have this dreamlike perception of snow because we so rarely get more than just flurries. But Sunday night as the snow started to fall I felt giddy. While we didn’t wake up to a snowy wonderland we did find a nice covering on the ground, just enough to make it feel worthwhile. The sun came out and started to shine through the ice crystals and I stood in awe for a while as I saw the ground sparkle. The wind stirred up the snow and ice crystals and as the sun hit them it looked like glitter was filling the air… yep just magical if you ask me.

We took a short walk with Amydog (short because the wind chill was zero. Yes, as in no numbers) so that she could enjoy the glorious snow. This dog is hilarious. When it is storming or even sprinkling rain she is terrified! Nothing will get her to leave my side during storms. But snow, good gravy this dog loves the snow! She runs and dives head first into the snow and scoops it up with her nose. She’ll roll onto her back and wiggle like crazy trying to get covered in snow. Watching her excitement for the snow makes me fill with joy and laughter. She runs and leaps and prances and does circles and it is the best things ever to watch. I was extra happy that the snow fell when it did because today Amydog had to go in for a small surgery to have several fatty tumors removed. The tumors so far are not dangerous, just in the way, but knowing that they could possibly lead to something else makes me nervous. Amydog has become like a child to us and I can’t imagine what life would be like without her. This March actually marks five years since we adopted her and I’m so glad that we found that precious dog at the shelter. A day playing in the snow was just what she (and this crazy dog momma) needed before a week of surgery recovery.

As for Troubadour the cat, well she didn’t like the snow so much and you can clearly see her hatred of the cold in the image above. Amydog looks sad here too but only because we made her pose and stop rolling in her beloved snow. 🙂

Now that we have had our snow for the year I give the weather full permission to warm up and stay warm! No more of these silly single digit temperatures!

A long story about finding my voice.

“Ignoring your passion is slow suicide. Never ignore what your heart pumps for.”

-unknown-

When I started photography I was shooting 100% for myself; even when I was in school studying photography I got to shoot for myself within the assignments. For my senior thesis I combined my love of women studies and photography and did a project on women and their perception of their body image. Looking back on those images I see them as total crap that lacked any skill and creativity but I remember the feelings I had when I was working on them, I was alive and feeling truly inspired. I adored photographing women and wanted to do it full time… but that wasn’t going to allow me to provide for our family so we opened a wedding studio.

This past year has actually been a great year for our wedding studio. I won second place in an international print competition (from WPPI), earned 7 Accolades of Excellence from WPPI, and was given two Fearless Awards for two of my images. By the industry’s standards that is pretty freaking good. I never dreamed that I could earn that many awards in one year. It thrills me and humbles me at the same time. Even with those awards I still felt like part of me was trying to break free and speak. For the past couple of years I’ve felt my inner creative side dying. I absolutely love photographing weddings and I’m so thrilled that I get to be an artist for a living! But at the same time part of me was not being fulfilled. On weddings days I have to shoot 100% for my clients, it is their day and they hired me to document it in the best way possible. When I’ve gotten all the “safe” shots at weddings, I try and get a few that push me as an artist but a lot of times we are really rushed with the timeline and I get about 3-4 minutes to push myself. And that is perfectly ok, I was hired to give my clients similar work that is in my portfolio. Over the past 5 years we got so busy with weddings that I forgot to shoot for myself.

I wanted to feel that rush again when I created photography. I wanted to go into a personal shoot and have inspiration and feel like my vision really came to life. I’ve been shooting women in a fine art form for a little over a year now and while I really love what I’ve been able to create for these women, it felt a little forced and not 100% me. I would get frustrated after each shoot as I looked through the images cause something just wasn’t right, even though my clients loved them and one image earned me an Accolade of Excellence. It made me want to stop shooting for myself. I wanted to just focus on weddings and forget about photographing women. This slow death of my creative side started to take over other parts of my life and I wasn’t aware of it until recently when I realized I was starting to struggle with depression. I had no clue how big an impact my art had on my every day life…

Last week I finally shot and felt alive again. I’ve been envisioning this shoot for some time now but I really didn’t believe in myself to make it happen. I felt like I was lacking the vision and skill to do it well. I put really high expectations on myself and I hate failing at things I try. I put this shoot off for a long time and last week I finished making the dress for the shoot and decided that I need to just bite the bullet and go shoot. Boy am I glad I did! The day of the shoot I was full of nerves and anxiety and almost backed out of it but I knew my model was spending time getting her hair and makeup done so I couldn’t let her down. We shot and honestly I left a little disappointed because I had envisioned the shoot with extremely moody skies and the day we shot it was full on sunny. I really felt like I hadn’t been able to capture the mood I wanted. I started editing the images and I loved the subject but I felt stuck with the overall feel of the images and started to hate them and myself. I mean, really? I wanted to cry. Like big baby tears. Philip and I had a really busy and rough month so this was just the icing on the cake and I had enough. So I pitched an internal fit and decided to give up. I went to bed that night and talked with Philip about my frustrations and desire to give up. Being who he is, he wasn’t about to let me give up and he promised to do whatever he needed to do to help me achieve my vision.

Philip does all our editing for our weddings and I was clueless to my lack of knowledge in the editing world. For a full day Philip sat down and worked with me on two images. As we worked together I saw my vision coming to life before my eyes. For the first time in a very long time I was able to finish an image like I wanted! What was in my head was now on a screen. And I felt the weight of my depression and frustrations start to lift a little off my shoulders. At the same time I felt extremely connected to my husband. We are together 24/7 since we work and live together. We collaborate on our business together but at the same time we have different roles within the business. This day we were working together and MY vision slowly became OUR vision as we worked. He is a very patient man and I saw his love for me in that he was so willing to give up his time to help me follow after my dreams. He has always been behind me 150% and once again he showed me how devoted he was to helping me. It might sound silly but getting past this creative block was liberating for me. I saw a little bit of old self coming back to life. As we worked on the following two images I saw my vision for this shoot come to life and at the same time I saw a bigger vision forming, a long term project that I can see myself getting excited about (more on that later)! I finally felt like I was getting my artistic voice back. It made me want to fight for my art again.

For this shoot I wanted to tell the story of a dark and stormy woman; a woman who is struggling to find the good within but her nature is rooted in evil. This quote was one that I was thinking about as I shot and we edited:

“What if they didn’t call me the evil queen, would you have thought me as an angel?”

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Savannah