To West Virginia, With Love, From Paris | WV Boudoir Photographer

This is where everything changed. At sunset, on a rooftop bar in Paris, the first night of our honeymoon. We were the only people in the place drinking whiskey; everyone else held drinks that matched the sky that night--an aperitif called the Aperol spritz. It sounded more like a dance than a drink. Later in the week, I developed quite an affinity for the bright orange libation. 

We were surprised at how quickly we felt homesick in Paris. As a first time international traveler, I hadn't anticipated the loneliness that came with not speaking the language by which you're surrounded. 

This loneliness prompted the choice of whiskey which prompted the conversation which changed everything.


A few blogs back I spoke about our decision to have a year of fun in a bigger city. Specific plans were put on hold to focus on the wedding, but other than that, we were full speed ahead to make the move this fall. We were excited to see where Ricky could go professionally, if I could successfully move my business to a larger city, and to meet new people we hoped would remain lifelong friends. 

Then we saw a group of jovial people on our hotel rooftop in Paris. They seemed to be celebrating something. The gregarious gentleman in the straw fedora had command of the crowd, perhaps he accomplished something. Or maybe this was a welcome home party. He moved through his crew with confidence and ease, readily doling out hugs, laughs and kisses. 

"They look like they're having a good time," I said, a bit wistfully.

"I bet people look at us with our friends at home like we're looking at them," Ricky observed.

We both got quiet for a bit, taking in the sun setting over our home for a week. We could see Sacre Coeur and got our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower from where we sat. The heft of the moment brought tears to my eyes.

"What if we didn't move?" I pierced our silence with my broken voice.

"I'm not sure that's a decision we should make on the first night of our honeymoon on a rooftop in Paris," my continually left-brained husband tightened the reins on the conversation.

Then he added, "I wonder if we're so determined to leave because we're afraid to stay, because we think we're supposed to leave."

We got quiet again. A burst of collective laughter drew my attention to the group of celebrating friends. 

"I love our life in Morgantown. I kind of want to watch it grow, see what it can become, see what WE can build there," I touched Ricky's knee as I presented my case.

"I love it, too." Ricky swings from being a man of too many words to a man of too few, but I let it slide this time. We had a honeymoon to enjoy.


We didn't talk much more about the move while we were in Paris. In fact, we didn't talk much more about it at all until we were having dinner out weeks later at one of our favorite restaurants in Morgantown. 

"We should probably make a decision," one of us, I can't remember who, said. 

I cut to the chase and said, "We aren't moving, are we?" 

"No, I don't believe we are," Ricky simply concurred. 


And that was that. Our decision to stay. It took looking at our beautiful life in West Virginia from a rooftop in Paris to realize we already have everything we're searching for.

When she moved to West Virginia, a friend's mother told her, "bloom where you're planted, darling."

That's what we're doing. Ricky and I have big, beautiful dreams for ourselves, our family and our state, and we want to make them real HERE, where we are proud to say we were born and raised. We have skills and talents that we think West Virginia deserves to have here. We love our home state, and want to be small part of its bright future. 

Happy West Virginia Day! We are so happy to be--and remain--West Virginians. 


An Apology // WV Boudoir Photographer

Dear As You Are Friends & Followers,

I owe you an apology. 

The entire time I’ve been championing body positivity and self love and acceptance, it never once occurred to me that you might not be ready to be positive about your body yet, and I’m sorry.

It isn’t my place to rush you or convince you that you’re perfect as you are. Because I don’t get to decide that. It isn’t my job to define beauty or perfection for you. Only you can do that. 

I listened to a podcast yesterday that flipped my world around a little bit. It was an episode of Dear Sugars (highly recommend it) called Trust Your Body, and it completely rearranged the body positive dictionary in my brain. 

First of all, I truly do believe that all bodies are beautiful, including my own. And that’s where I get blinded. It’s easy for me to love bodies and think they’re beautiful, because it’s the only emotion I’ve ever felt towards a body as an adult. I started loving my body early in my life, and when I started discovering & experiencing other bodies, that love only grew. Which is a gift, and I want you to know that I never ever take it for granted. 

But my body love isn’t really fair to you. Because you might not be there yet. Or maybe you were once in a place of self love, but got away from it. 

While listening to this podcast, I remembered that we have been force fed a definition of beauty that is not only unfair to women (and men, but sit down boys, I’m talking to the girls right now), but it’s just totally fucking false. 

From the time we are CHILDREN, society/media/adults in our lives start teaching us that beauty is this one thing, and they sell it and sell it until we believe it, and we don’t even realize we’ve bought into it. They teach us that a woman’s body needs controlling to fit into the mold that was invented without our consent. And we believe it, because what other message do we have? I’m guilty of it, too. I’m buying into it when I over Photoshop a client. I’m buying into it when I don’t wear a top I love because it makes me look “bigger.” 

It’s this archaic, patriarchal definition that unfairly distorts my message when I say things like, “you are beautiful, as you are,” I need to remember that it gets filtered through what beautiful means to you. 

There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of beauty. I’ve built an entire business around it. But I’d love for you to ask yourself, whose definition of beauty are you pursuing? 

I love it when my clients tell me that they felt beautiful during their session and in their photos, but I love it even more when they tell me that they felt sexy, powerful, and strong in them. 

You are a wonderful being full of magic and passion, interesting thoughts and ideas, who has lived and will endure incredible experiences. THIS is what makes your photos beautiful. Not your body. Not the makeup. Not even the lighting or lingerie. It’s your human experience and existence that makes your pictures beautiful. 

It is important to me to tell you all of this, because I am adjusting the way I move through my process. From my language on social media, to the way I photograph my clients, I will work harder to dig a bit deeper and help you really SEE yourself. Not help you see yourself as beautiful necessarily, but just truly SEE yourself. If even for the couple of hours you are with me, I want us both to be so fully connected to who you are that you can’t HELP but love your photos, because while we made them, you were purely YOU.

You ARE beautiful as you are, and I will never stop believing that or trying to show you that.

But it is more important to me that we honor who you are, and that you walk away from your session feeling important and necessary in this world, even as you change and grow in it.

I'm sorry that I hadn't considered your journey before, but I promise to respect and honor it from here on out. 

Love the shit out of you,

Jodi

Jodi FINALLY Answers: What to Wear For Your Boudoir Session! // WV Boudoir Photography

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NOTHING! Just kidding. You should bring something to wear to your session for sure. 

OKAY COOL JODI BUT WHAT THE HECK DO I BRING?!?!?!

Relax! I'm here to help. I get that wardrobe is one of the most stressful parts of a session. That and hoping I'm not a creeper (I'm not.)

I have been shooting boudoir for five years now, and I have collected a list of stores and pieces that rock any body. 

Before you start shopping, ask yourself, "what makes me feel sexy? when do I feel sexiest? what clothes do I already have that make me feel like a goddess?" Use your answers as a jumping off point, and HAVE FUN!

As you look over this list, keep in mind that your boudoir session is WAY MORE about

YOU

YOUR BODY

YOUR SENSUALITY 

YOUR CONFIDENCE

YOUR JOURNEY

YOUR EXPERIENCES

YOUR RELATIONSHIP W. YOUR PARTNER

than it is about what you wear. If you only brought worn out Hanes and a tank top, we'd still make gorgeous photos together. 

But, if you're interested in stepping outside of your comfort zone and purchasing some fun new pieces for your session, here's my list of Go To places and pieces!


 

PLACES & PIECES

1. ASOS.COM         

I love ASOS for their wide range of sizes and prices. Free shipping and free returns are icing on the retail cake. Here you can find beautiful bodysuits like these:

You can also find  matching sets, silky cami/short sets, adorable pajamas we can layer over your matching bra & panty set, and cute t shirts we can put with no bra and pretty undies.

2. rue21       

Rue21 is your go-to spot for SUPER affordable bras and bralettes. They usually have matching undies, too. We're talking $5 lacy, strappy bralettes! They may not be of the highest quality, but this is a great place to come for new lingerie for your shoot without breaking the bank.

3. Gabes & TJ Maxx

Because you never know!

4. Amazon.com    

There are 3 pieces I highly recommend shopping for at Amazon for selection and price.

First, kimono style robes. SO MUCH SELECTION. If you can dream up a print, it's probably on amazon. Check it:

Amazon is also a fantastic spot for garter belt sets. Many of them come with underwear and tights, but you'll probably want to get those elsewhere, as fit is tricky on Amazon. Basic black undies and thigh high hose can be found at Target. 

The third thing Amazon is great for is retro styles for a vintage pin up look! 

5. Charlotte Russe  

One word: HEELS! CR is great for hella high, hella sexy CHEAP heels. Because let's be honest, you're probably not wearing those things again, so they might as well be inexpensive. 

6. Your Closet!

I know, you're like, "Jodi, wuuuuuuut are you talking about?" But bear with me! You already have tons of pieces that are SO FUN to use for your boudoir session. Cardigans & sweaters, t-shirts & jerseys, button ups, jeans, your favorite sneakers and more! Get creative, bring it all! Here's some inspiration for you:


A boudoir session is a gift to your self. Treat it that way by scheduling time right after you book your session to do a little perusing and inspiration-gathering. Check out Pinterest, my Facebook page, and my Instagram feed for tons of images that will help you figure out your boudoir style.

And HAVE FUN! I promise you that what ever you bring will be perfect. I'm looking forward to making gorgeous photos with you! 


Did this post get you feeling ready & excited to book your session?!

HECK YEAH! Email me!

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! 

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?