Brick & Mortar Breakthrough: A Tribute to My Husband to Be & the Dreams He Lets Me Dream


This morning at 12:48am, I fell even more in love with Ricky Hussmann. 

Ricky was seconds from sleep, I was miles from it, as per usual, when I got a new business idea.

This is not a unique occurrence by any means. Entrepreneurial ideas come to me as quickly and as often as sneezes do to a supremely unfortunate cartoon bee. And I act on them as often as a--well, as often as a bride to be with two full time jobs and a penchant for long showers. But Ricky always takes each idea as seriously as the first one he heard. He believes in them and wants them to become reality as much as I do. He takes note of the underlying passions and desires, provides feedback and always suggests “thought exercises” to really work through the nooks and crannies of the idea.


When I get these ideas, my mind moves so fast I can hardly make sense as I try communicating them to Ricky. Words tumble out of my mouth as my hands flit around the air in front of me. I feel glittery, vibrant. Oftentimes, the ideas come while we’re in the car, or on a walk or watching TV, and I talk and talk and talk while Ricky intently listens.

 

This one hit at 12:48am, when my poor fiance’s eyelids were drooping like next-day party streamers. But I can’t help the outpouring of words when these ideas hit. The fire I feel when I get them is so addictive, and if I don’t tell someone the idea, that fire fades. So I talk, and talk.

 

Not only did this saint of a man listen to my new idea despite the hour, but he sat up in bed so that he would not fall asleep while I share the puzzle pieces of the idea with him. He perked up a little as I talked and went through his usual series of questions to lightly test the bones of the idea.

"Is this something you see yourself doing for 5, 10, or 20 years?"

"How many employees would you ideally have?"

"Where would you like this idea to manifest?"

He even suggested his trademark “thought exercise” to ponder while I stretch the muscles of the idea.


Thanks to Ricky's reliable validation of all the ideas I've spewed at him over the last five years, I arrived at a realization in the first couple hours of this day. 

When I flip through the pages of my journals, scroll through my Google Keep notes, think back to conversations with Ricky, nearly every idea had one thing in common. 

 

It was a brick & mortar business. 

It was a charming shop on a busy little street with an inviting sign and even more inviting staff. It was bright walls and wooden floors, exposed shelves holding products & ideas that mean something to people. It was a place to go each morning, to start the music and turn on the lights, coffee in hand. It was a place where I'd greet my customers with exuberance and gratefulness that I get to be a part of their day. It was special events that locals would be excited to attend. It was a place I could bring my babies to work. It was a place my babies would someday work. 

I've had this dream for a long time now, and I have kept shutting it down.

This town's too small.

The start up cost is too high.

It would take so long to grow.

But now that I have started a business, I see that truly anything is possible. More than that, 

I CAN DO ANYTHING.

So stay tuned, friends. It might not be for years, but one day I will have that shop on that street with those walls and those floors, and I can't wait to see you there.


What dreams have you put off pursuing? What excuses have you made? Are they valid or fear-based? What will you do this week to take a step toward your dream?


 

The Wedding Traditions We Are and Are Not Doing & Why

Tradition. Beliefs or behavior that is passed down through generations. 

Ricky and I appreciate and respect tradition. We love the idea of a shared, repeated action, particularly with regard to family. In fact, we feel a strong responsibility to fulfill many annual traditions and do our best to do so. 

But when we began to consider conventional wedding traditions, we felt less obligated to participate in them. 

Maybe it's because both of our parents are divorced (more on this later). Maybe it's because we're older than the average engaged couple. Maybe it's because we're paying for the whole damn thing ourselves, but we felt very free to pick and choose traditions as we please. Our families, while curious about some of our choices, were very supportive of our decisions.

Whether we participated in them or not, it was important to us for these choices to be intentional. Not just, "eh I don't feel like cutting the cake." We had a reason for just about everything we are or aren't doing at the wedding.

So here it is. The Big Bad List of wedding traditions and why we are or are not doing them at our wedding.

1. Having a Ceremony with Friends & Family Present

Yep! It was important to us to profess AND SHARE our love before loved ones. They are the reason we are the people we are. I am the person Ricky fell in love with because of my support system of amazing humans. Ricky also found meaning in making the lifetime commitment in front of friends and family to lock it in, so to speak.

2. Father Walking Bride Down the Aisle

Nope. My dad hasn’t earned a fatherly position in my life, and my brothers and mother have more than filled the void he left. My brothers will be walking me down the aisle, and my mother will give me away. Tissues, please.

3. Carrying a Bouquet

Yes. My wedding ensemble isn't conventionally BRIDAL, and one of the things that made me feel very much like a bride was holding a bouquet. It's important to me to feel a little different on my wedding day than I usually do, and since I feel extraordinary basically every day of my life, carrying flowers is a way to set this day apart. 

4. Tossing the Bouquet

No. It's archaic, demeaning, silly and a profound waste of time if you ask me. No offense to anyone who has or will toss the bouquet. I just don't feel the need to artificially charm one of my single friends into being the next person to get married. I'd rather just keep dancing with them.

5. Something Old/New/Borrowed/Blue

Yeah, why not. My mom got really excited about me wearing her mother's sapphire ring as my old, borrowed and blue. Seeing her so into the tradition made me want to do it for her. But having my grandmother's (whom I never got to meet) ring in our photos is pretty baller, regardless. Her ring covers everything but new, which my outfit is. So I kind of love that one super meaningful object encompasses this tradition.

6. Cutting the Cake

Nah. If we're all really honest with each other, this tends to be a forced, awkward moment at the reception. We aren't interested in spending that much time trying to herd everyone over to the cake to watch us pretend to smash it in each other's faces. Once again, we'd rather just keep dancing. We are instead supporting a friend's pie business which is way more awesome.

7. Toasts

Yes! Our marriage is a CELEBRATION! What's a celebration without a toast? (Yeah, okay, and I just really love champagne.) We can't WAIT to hear our nearest and dearest speak about us! Narcissistic? Maybe. But we're really proud of our relationship and are excited to toast our union with our loved ones. In fact, we're so jazzed about the toasts, that we are making a champagne toast our unity ceremony rather than a candle or sand pouring.

8. Rings

Hard yes. One could argue that rings are as antiquated as tossing the bouquet, but the feeling I get when I look down at my engagement ring is worth the risk of participating in a dated tradition. There is something about the visual symbolism Ricky and I both love. Placing this object upon each other's bodies in front of loved ones, to wear forever. It's beautiful. We are looking forward to glancing down at our rings for years to come, being reminded of the day we joined our lives together. 

9. Garter Toss

Hell no.

10. Dollar Dance

No thanks. Attending a wedding is expensive, and we are already so fortunate (thanks, Rupie). We also registered for a lot of honeymoon help, which is traditionally what the couple uses those dollars for. And who carries one dollar bills anymore anyway?

11. Family Dances

Yes, but in our own way. We're doing mother/son, mother/daughter, and brothers/sister dances. They're our favorite humans, and we want those couple of minutes with each of them.

12. The White Dress

Yeahhhhhhhh. I think anyone reading this knows I ain't no virgin bride, but did you know that white was associated with wealth rather than purity when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert? I'm into that.


What traditions did you or do you plan to have at your wedding? How do you feel about tradition in general? What's your favorite wedding tradition? 

 

My Favorite Podcasts! (Sex & Otherwise)

Hi, there! My name is Jodi, and I have writers' block. So here's a list of podcasts I love! 

1. Sex with Emily

Dr. Emily Morse is funny, sexy, and really great at conveying solid information in an entertaining, digestible way. It's an excellent podcast to listen to if you're looking to broaden your sexual horizons. I've learned about sex toys, how to start trying new things, and communication tips to get your partner on the same page. 

http://sexwithemily.com

2. Stuff You Should Know

Josh and Chuck (I have a crush on them both for different reasons) are freaking adorable together. They have such a delightful repartee that can make toilet paper interesting. You'll get several giggles and lots of knowledge from this 45 minute podcast.

https://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com

3. Modern Love

If you enjoy storytelling, this is a great one. It's short, moving, and never fails to get me thinking. Sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious, the essays always dive deep into the nooks and crannies of relationships--romantic, familial, platonic.

http://www.wbur.org/modernlove

4. Savage Lovecast

Dan Savage is known for speaking his mind, and the Lovecast is where he really lets loose. This sex and intimacy podcast covers a wide range of relationships in a question/answer format. The Lovecast also always begins with a mini political tirade from Dan, which I always enjoy and learn from. 

https://www.savagelovecast.com

5. Where Should We Begin?

I will never, EVER tire of singing the praises of Esther Perel. Her books center around the primary reasons for infidelity and how to navigate them. I was thrilled to hear of her series of podcasts in which she records an actual therapy session with a real life couple. Though you may not be experiencing their particular issue, Esther will definitely administer advice you'll find interesting and applicable to your life. 

https://www.estherperel.com/podcast

6. The Nod

I just started listening to The Nod, but I am really enjoying it so far. It talks about the stories of Black life that you don't hear anywhere else. It asks questions like "Who's Blacker, Oprah or Sojourner Truth?" "Is Bruno Mars Good for the Blacks?" and "Which Traditions Do We Keep?" I have learned so much about Black culture, history and traditions from this podcast. It's light but meaningful, sweet and funny. Hosts Brittany and Eric are perfect together as they get into some real shit.

https://www.gimletmedia.com/the-nod

7. Dear Sugars

Another Q&A podcast, Dear Sugars is more about relationships than sex, though it does tilt that way from time to time. Cheryl & Steve answer letters from people asking for advice about all kinds of relationships. Sugars has a calm, professional vibe, but also remains warm and entertaining. Each episode has a theme, but again, even if you can't relate with the theme, you'll find yourself with plenty of takeaways every time.

http://www.wbur.org/dearsugar

8. Death, Sex & Money

A WV girl's podcast! Anna Sale is just a really fucking good journalist. She asks such great questions revolving around, you guessed it, death, sex & money. Sometimes here guests are celebrities, sometimes they're people you've never heard of. Other episodes take on a more This American Life approach, tackling one issue through many different people. DSM can get you excited about something you're already passionate about as well as make you see things from a perspective you didn't think you could understand. An excellent road trip choice.

https://www.wnycstudios.org/shows/deathsexmoney

There you have it! What are your favorite podcasts? Do you think you'll give these a try? What are you looking for in a podcast? Let me know in the comments! 

Wonderful

Being single in New York City must be pretty wonderful.

There are so many places holding so many people drinking so many drinks getting all those people drunk enough to say what's on their mind. 

There are interesting events and gatherings where you can find someone new to think about all day. 

There are places to hide and places to be seen. And there are lots of ways to be romantic in a city like New York. You could just go for a well-timed walk, and knock your new someone off their feet and into your bed. 

There are so many people you can have in your bed. 

Falling in love in New York City must be pretty wonderful. 

There are so many movies to show you how its done. 

The city provides a soundtrack to your first three weeks montage, rhythmically filling out your laptops on the couch scene.

And there are so many people to show how in love you are. You don't have to tell anyone; your smile will be tell enough. 

There are so many people you can show.

Breaking up in New York City must be pretty wonderful.

The crowds of people can drown out your hurt if the bourbon doesn't work. 

There are enough streets in the city to avoid the streets you walked together often, often enough to avoid them now that you're alone.

And there are plenty of people you can put next to your body, if the feeling of no body next to you is too much to feel. 

Then, when you start to feel like you can breathe again, there are a few places where you can see the moon at night, and that you found them and went to them is enough to make you believe that it might be wonderful to be single in New York City again. 

Home is Where the Hard Is // West Virginia Boudoir Photographer

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West Virginia has been my home for 31 years, and for about 14 years of that, I've assumed it wouldn't be for forever. 

Being the youngest and the only girl of three children gave me big dreams. Dreams that West Virginia couldn't facilitate, no matter how much I wanted it to be able to. As I grew older, the dreams changed, but the mountain state's ability to accommodate them didn't. 

First it was a healthy music scene that couldn't support my pop star dreams. Then it was speech writing I wanted to do, but not for any of West Virginia's politicians. After that, it was music again and then opening my own tea and stationery shop. Currently, it's my dream of running a wedding venue and growing my boudoir photography business that my mountain mama can't sustain.

Or can it?

Starting my own business has taught me a lot of lessons. Among them is that seemingly impossible things are actually probably really possible. When someone says something is unlikely or impossible, it's probably that they just don't want to do the hard work to make it possible. 

That might be the case for most things in West Virginia. 

The other night, on my third beer in a friend's bar, I looked at my world and mentally checked off things that I want for my/our life. Things I thought I couldn't get here. Things I thought I'd have to leave for.

A tight group of friends to grab drinks with periodically. Check.

A place to drink, a watering hole so to speak. Check.

A place to play music when the fancy strikes us. Check.

A charming neighborhood within walking distance of bars, restaurants and shops. Check.

A way to open a wedding venue. Check. 

A way to keep doing boudoir. Check. 

Check, check, check, check, check, check. 

So many West Virginia natives grow up hearing what West Virginia DOESN'T have, and what you CAN'T do here, and why you SHOULDN'T stay here that we forget to look for ways to stay.

It wasn't until I was a few brews in and surrounded by my crew that I stopped and really saw what West Virginia DOES have, what we CAN do here and why we SHOULD stay.

For those of you following along, we're still moving to Pittsburgh, but we've always thought about it as a trial period. It's something we need to do for ourselves before we "settle down" as the grown ups say, but there's a really good chance we'll be back. 

Because we CAN have everything we want here. We can have it somewhere else, too, sure. But why wouldn't we come home? Because it's harder? That's just not a good enough reason for us. We've never been afraid of a little hard work. Maybe that's the West Virginia in us.

The Most Wonderful Problem I've Ever Had

When we get back from Paris, my life will be very, very different.

I will be married.

I will not be nannying, the job I've had for the past four years.

I will not have sessions for a bit.

I will be preparing to move to Pittsburgh, farther from family and friends.

Not only will my life be quite different, I'll also have the time to think about it. I don't usually have the time to process things like this. Now, in perhaps the most transitional phase of my life thus far, I'll have all the time in the world to feel it.

I shared this realization with a friend, and she succinctly said, "Isn't it such a blessing and a curse to be so self-aware?"

That's exactly how I feel. On one hand, were I not so self aware, I'd just keep on going with life, taking it step by step as the changes roll out. Then again, the crushing realization of how different life is could hit me at any moment. 

As a self aware person with a touch of anxiety, though, I'm keenly aware of the possibility of falling into a deep, deep hole of depression when we get back from our honeymoon.

So here I am, four months pre-potential breakdown, brainstorming ways to either ward it off or let it happen and move on.

I might allow it to wash over me with a day of candles, sad music, writing and ice cream. 

I might plan friend dates for every day of the week we return.

I might sleep for two days because it's the first time I'll be experiencing jet lag. And jet lag + depression = temporary coma.

I might think of a project to dive into. 

I might jump headlong into the Pittsburgh move. 

I might take a week to do all the things I've said I've wanted to creatively for years.

How would you handle this kind of change? What would you do with this time of transition?

 

15 Things I Learned in 2017: A New Take on New Year's Resolutions // WV Boudoir Photographer

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New year’s resolutions are bullshit.

I appreciate the feeling of refresh that comes with a new year, but most of that has to do with reclaiming my apartment from the Christmas decorations and brisk walks in the cool temps. 

I’m not shitting on people who make, break or keep resolutions. I support any effort for healthy self improvement. I'm also not shitting on NYE as a holiday. In fact, it's one of my favorites. The sparkle, the champagne, the crowds of people celebrating together, it's right up my alley.

Realistic expectations are a problem for me, and new year's resolutions prey on that anxiety-inducing issue. I expect a lot from myself, others, events, vacations, movies, songs, everything. So making a resolution would mean starting the new year with one giant expectation, which doesn't seem fair to myself. 

So this year, I decided to do something a little different.  

I decided instead of focusing on an uncertain future, I'll make some time to focus on the lessons I learned this year and how I can apply them in the new year. 

So here we go.


What I Learned In 2017 (In no particular order because that's too much pressure)

1. Schedule family first.

Planning a wedding, 3 jobs, social engagements, travel, a relationship to foster—2017 was a very busy year for us. It was difficult to do the things we needed to do, let alone the things we wanted to do. But I found that if we schedule family first, everything else seemed a little less stressful. Family time created more joy in our lives, removed some guilt from the equation, and provided some much needed perspective in the busiest year we've had together thus far.

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: Do this even harder and more intentionally.

2. You’re allowed to flirt, then say f*ck off.

I’m fortunate. I have not had a catastrophic unwanted interaction with a person making sexual advances. So when the “Me Too” movement began, I slid back into the shadows a bit. More women had more important stories to tell, I told myself. It did, however, cause me to look at my own behavior. 

I’m a flirt, so most of the time, when a decently nice person approaches me, I respond positively. I play along, I flirt back a bit. It can be really fun. The problem is when I begin to realize this is not such a nice person, I didn’t remove myself from the situation soon enough. The moment they crossed a line and/or I felt uncomfortable, I should have said, “please excuse me,” or, “fuck off,” and walked away.

But society told me that if I flirt, then reject, I’m a tease, and that’s bullshit. We’re allowed to flirt. We’re allowed to talk to someone we find intriguing. And we’re super fucking allowed to stop talking to that person the moment we stop feeling comfortable. 

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: Stand up for myself and women I love the MOMENT I or they are uncomfortable.

3. I can wear what ever I want, when ever I want.

I’m 31. I am a woman. I’m small-breasted. I’m large hipped. I’m short. I have short hair. I live in a small town. AND NONE OF THIS IS RELEVANT TO MY FASHION CHOICES.

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: Leopard print. TONS of leopard print. 

4. The “Find Someone Who Makes You Laugh Every Day and Marry Them” thing is legit.

I wish joy were quantifiable so I could show you how much of it Ricky brings me on a daily fucking basis via laughter. He's so funny. We have fun doing the dishes, for god’s sake. This sense of humor of his, mine, and ours has gotten us through SO MUCH this year. Every time he makes me laugh is a burst of gratitude. We’re so lucky.

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: MARRY THE FUCK OUTTA HIM!

5. If it doesn’t harm you or others, it’s probably okay that you’re turned on by it.

OH MY GOD THIS COUNTRY IS SO MESSED UP SEXUALLY. This is probably fodder for another blog, but don’t be afraid of what turns you on if it doesn’t hurt you or others. Explore it, communicate with your partner(s) about it, and enjoy it. 

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: I will allow myself to be aroused by the things that arouse me without shame, guilt or embarrassment.

6. Take time to breathe and be present, especially when good things are happening right in front of you.

Being engaged helped me learn how to be more mindful. I’ve been trying for years, but 2017 was so saturated with good things, that I didn’t want to miss a thing. So when something wonderful was happening and I felt that twinge of joy, excitement, love, etc, I’d take a hot second to take a deep breath and REALLY REALIZE and FEEL how good life can be.

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: Be EVEN more mindful and present, especially in the days leading up to our wedding.

7. I’m still an OK writer.        

I used to write a lot, and I could use a lot more practice. I found a really true voice this year, though, and that makes me give a lot less of a damn how technically skilled I am.

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: Write every damn day.

8. Terrible, hateful people exist, but that doesn’t make the world a terrible, hateful place.

Having an asshole for a president brought some scary people out of the woodwork. People that, because of my privilege, I didn’t realize still existed. The horrific acts of hatred that occurred this year shook many people from a comfy little slumber. 

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: I will be the good I wish to see in this world.

9. Mentally and emotionally releasing matters out of your control is a real thing.

I can’t control others’ thoughts, actions or emotions, and I sure as hell shouldn’t try. So when something that I have no control over happens and could potentially harm my mental wellbeing, I’m allowed to release it. I’m allowed to DECIDE to stop feeling badly or guilty or sad about it. Breathwork, yoga, and bourbon help.

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: I will work to be more aware of the things I need to emotionally release from my brain and heart space. 

10. When your car gets totaled by a utility truck and gives you 2 black eyes, slap on some concealer and go have a beer with your friends.

Okay, so this one’s pretty specific, and I have to credit my girl Stephanie for this one. A few days after I was in a car accident, the black eyes showed up and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. A few friends were getting together that night, and I had ruled out going because I didn’t want to make a big fuss over the accident, and I didn’t feel like answering questions about it. Texting with Stephanie, she simply said, “lady, you’ve got concealer. Use it! Get dressed and go out.” I did, and it was the best thing I could have done for myself. The whole thing seemed a lot more manageable after I spent some time with people who care about me. 

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: I will not allow something that happened to me keep me from having a hella good time.

11. I am super privileged. And super oppressed. 

They're not mutually exclusive. The best I can do is learn everything I can about both and respond accordingly and respectfully.

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: I will seek knowledge and information to be better at being an advocate, and I will work my ass off to make being a woman an advantage in this country.

12. The back burner is there for a reason.

Sometimes shit happens that is more important than other shit that was already happening. Know your priorities, and don’t be afraid to ask for some grace from people.

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: I'll be keeping that burner HOT!

 13. I might not grow out of being a giddy, easily excitable gal.

I will consider it an incredible gift if I retain this quality. And it does NOT make me less of a fierce fucking force of a woman. 

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: Ain't nothing I can do or not do about this. I am who I am.

14. Participate.

We knew about the solar eclipse, but we didn’t get the glasses. It just didn’t feel like a big deal. Until the day before. So we got out the cereal boxes and foil, and we made our own solar viewers. A friend, my mother and I went to Ricky’s workplace because someone was kind enough to purchase several sets of glasses to share. It was magical. It was truly incredible to witness not only the solar eclipse, but the generosity and awe of the people watching it. 

How I’ll Take This Into 2018: I'll be better about saying yes, even to things that might not interest me all that much.

15. Enjoy it all.

Some really, really REALLY wonderful things happened this year. And so did some really, really bad things. Feel it all. Find joy through it all. Really ENJOY it all. Because it’s all temporary.


I encourage you to make a list of lessons you learned this year, and consider how you can carry those lessons with you into the new year. I think you'll find it to be much more productive and meaningful than a new year's resolution. AND you don't have to give up soda or fight the crowds at the gym! ;P

Happy New Year, friends. I can't wait to see what magic you create in 2018.

Xo

Jodi

 

Hollingshead Was Not My Maiden Name // WV Boudoir Photographer

By next Christmas, I will be a Hussmann. By the Christmas after that, we might have a child I’ll one day tell that Hollingshead was my maiden name. 

Hollingshead was my maiden name?

That doesn’t seem quite right. 

 

I became the woman I am today with that name.

I attended and dropped out of college with that name.

I started a thriving business with $100 in my bank account with that name.

I fell in love, soooo many times, with that name.

I made terrible, life-altering decisions that I then rose from the ashes of with that name.

I introduced myself to the love of my life with that name.

I was surprised by visits from my brothers with that name.

I worked behind counters until I could start my own business with that name.

I made the hardest decision of my life with that name.

I learned how to love and please my body with that name.

I drove so many miles and booked so many trips with that name.

I rejected men that didn’t treat me the way my mother taught me I should be treated with that name.

I created hundreds of thousands of images of beautiful, incredible women, with that name. 

I voted for the first black President of the United States with that name. 

I removed my toxic father from my life with that name.

I giggled at 31 years worth of twinkling Christmas lights with that name. 

I adopted my beloved Astrid kitty with that name.

I got laughed at countless times with that name. 

I discovered what singing does for my soul with that name. 

I held my mother’s hand in the hospital more than once with that name.

I showed my work on gallery walls for the first time with that name.

I said “yes” to a lifetime of happiness with that name. 

 

My dear future child, Hollingshead was not my maiden name. 

Hollingshead was my warrior name.