I met Mary several years ago through a few military functions, and we connected then through Facebook. I haven't actually spent a ton of face-to-face time with her, but I have kept up with her pretty closely via social media for the last 5 or 6 years. If you know Mary at all, you know that she is passionate about a few things. She loves her son, Nick, more than anything. She loves teaching fitness [barre & yoga] classes at her studio, The Barre and Yoga Room. She is a phenomenally talented seamstress. And she hasn't met a challenge that she hasn't kicked its ass. Basically, she's awesome and I want to be just like her when I grow up.
I was SO excited when she asked me if I'd be interested in a sunrise session [uh, duh] at Tybee Island
when I was home in April. Then she said the words, "candid" and "unposed," and I was pretty sure I had died and gone to photographer heaven. The bond she and Nick have is just palpable. I love that they let me hang out with them for a little time on my last morning in Savannah.
Jared and I moved from Savannah, Georgia to Oregon the last week of July, and moved into our rental home the first day of September. Our house is a 1926 craftsman, that we believe used to be an old farm house (it's about 30 years older than any other houses on our block, has a lot of fruit trees in the back yard, and would have been on the edge of Eugene). It has original windows and window latches, original doors and door knobs, and original floors - which, in true rental fashion, are covered up by ugly carpet. At some point, the home was turned into a rental, and the upstairs turned into a studio apartment (with the original claw foot tub that they stole from downstairs)- Jared and I live downstairs. It's very cozy, but has so much character.
I've spent most of my life collecting furniture (thank you, Mom!), so I had a good many pieces already, but found the coolest farm table made in the late 1800s at an antique store in Oregon. I'm using an antique vanity (with the mirror removed) that I got for my 14th Birthday as the table by the front door, my great-grandmother's kitchen table with antique chairs that my mom used for years, a mid-century sofa that we recently had recovered, a bookshelf that was left in our last home, an antique bed that was given to me by my grandparents for my 8th Birthday, and several other thrift-store finds that I've been accumulating for the last few years. Virtually everything I bought new was destroyed in the move - all of the antiques survived - so I guess the quality of the antiques speaks for itself.
I've had to be pretty creative with the decorating, because I want to do the least amount of repair work possible when we prepare to move (whenever that may be). Basically, I haven't hung many frames, nor painted the walls anything other than white. I feel like the house is a good bit more cluttered than I like, but I also thought there needed to be more visual interest on the horizontal surfaces (bookshelf, dresser, desk, countertops) because I can't do much to the vertical surfaces (walls). It's been a challenge, but I was excited to see if I could help this home's character speak for itself.
I'm sure I'll change my mind 1573 more times before I'm happy with how everything looks, but it's a good start. Now, to see if it's livable!
Every night before bed, my mom and dad used to tell me a bedtime story about a kind and loving lady who had a baby girl, but knew that she could not give her baby the life that she wanted her to have. So, that lady did the most selfless thing, and gave that baby girl up for adoption. She didn't do it because she didn't want her baby, she did it because she wanted her baby to have everything the world could offer.
Meanwhile, there was a young couple who wanted very badly to have a baby, but they couldn't. They prayed and prayed for a baby, and one day the lady at An Open Door Adoption Agency called and told them a baby girl had been born, and they could come pick her up! They gave her every opportunity they could give her, but always reminding her of the sacrifice that her birth mother had made for her.
Fast forward 24 years; this weekend I had the privilege of thanking my birth mother for her decision to not only give me life, but to give me a life that she could not, in person. I was able to meet a truly beautiful woman [inside and out], and to fill her in on the last few years. I was able to tell her about how I have been cared for by two wonderful parents [and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins], who have loved me, and my sister, as if we were their own flesh and blood.
I feel like I say this all the time, but I am so very blessed to have experienced all of this love from so many different people - who have loved me not because they had to, but because they wanted to. This is a true picture of how beautiful adoption can be.
I have had the opportunity of shooting many different events over the last few years, but this was one of the most special. Afton asked me several weeks ago if I would be willing to photograph her husband's first homecoming ceremony, and I thought it would be a really great opportunity, so I said 'yes.' I was not at all prepared for the impact that this event would have on me.
My husband's unit does not have any ceremonies when they leave or come home from a deployment, so even though we have gone through quite a few deployments together, I have never gotten to see something like this. I also have never before been in a situation where you can physically feel the excitement that these families are exuding, but I ended up feeling more and more excited as we waited for the hanger doors to open to all of the arriving loved ones - even though my husband is already home, and I wasn't waiting on anyone special to me.
Perhaps it was getting to see so many families reunited - mothers and fathers seeing their children for the first time in 9 months, fathers getting to meet their new babies for the first time, parents welcoming their children home, or parents seeing how much their families had changed in their absence - or perhaps it was seeing months of selflessness, both on the part of the soldiers and on the part of the families left behind, all being made 'worth it.' Whatever it was, I had a very difficult time not getting teary.
If you ever have the chance to see a homecoming like this one, you should definitely go - even though you're not going to see anyone in particular. This is an experience everyone should have.
Watching the hanger doors open to the arriving soldiers
I first started using Instagram shortly after I got Gracie in January of 2012, and I quickly started following several other Goldendoodle owners - one of whom [Elizabeth Ward, @ElizabethNWard on Instagram] is also a photographer, in her early 20s, and is married to someone who is in the Army Reserves - but they live in Bristol, TN, so not quite close enough for playdates. I had a feeling just from looking at Elizabeth's Instagrams that she & I would get along really well - and I KNEW Gracie would love their 9month old doodle, Murphy. [#murphypup for all you Instagrammers].
Anyway, I noticed one day last weekend that Elizabeth, her husband [Chris], and Murphy were at Hilton Head Island for the week, and that just happens to only be about an hour from us! I sent her a message asking if she would like to get our dogs together for a little beach playtime, and they were able to work us into their schedule.
Just like I knew they would, Murphy and Gracie got along wonderfully! They ran on the beach together, rested together, Murphy did lots of sand rolling, and they met another [teeny] Goldendoodle named Callie. After the beach, we had dinner at a dog-friendly restaurant [by dog friendly, I mean they have a doggy menu] called Skillets Cafe & Grill. The puppies shared their turkey & beef dishes, and the humans had a great time talking and getting to know each other. It felt very much like we had known each other for years; I love it when that happens!
If you're in the Bristol/Kingsport/Johnson City area, you should definitely check out Elizabeth Large Photography. She is so talented, and has a love for what she does.
Here are just a few shots from Gracie & Murphy's playdate on the beach.
One of the many things I love about my husband is how much he loves God's creation. There aren't many people who enjoy observing nature more than me, but he is one of those people. I don't think we have ever taken a trip anywhere that we have not visited a zoo or aquarium. Not only is his love for all things living extremely attractive, but the way he handles the camera is just pretty darn sexy. Yep, I love this man - and these photos of this toad.