boudoir inspiration

Even My Gorgeous, Wonderful Husband Doesn't Get It // WV Boudoir Photographer

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Last night, Ricky and I started watching a show called “Workin’ Moms.” It’s a delightfully honest sitcom about, you guessed it, mothers who work. It’s a goddamn work of art, actually. I’ve seen only two episodes, and during both of them I have laughed out loud many times and cried at least once per episode. It goes deep in a way that most pieces of film are afraid to. Deep in a way that, apparently, only women will understand.


One of the mothers in the show is struggling to produce enough milk via breastfeeding. At the end of an episode, after a long, difficult day of “having it all” (read: working in an office full of men and getting mocked and dismissed for being a MOTHER), her baby fights feeding, but does eventually give in and latches. Her entire body relaxes as she lets out whimpering versions of “thank god.”


The credits rolled, along with the tears down my face. I looked over at my progressive, amazing, understanding husband and said, “do you see? Do you see how much more we have to deal with? Do you see how much harder women have to work just to live a life?” And I was met with a blank stare. Nothing. No words. No emotion. He just stared at me.


To his credit, we were watching a sitcom on Netflix when his wife turned around with a face full of tears, asking him to explain himself and the patriarchy. Maybe he was just stunned. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t even all that surprised. Women have been alone in this fight forever.

I guess deep down, I’ve known that he doesn’t get it, or I wouldn’t have asked those hypothetical questions of him. We are approaching the years in which we’ll grow our family, and it brings a lot of questions to the surface. Problems that are easy to delay solving now, but won’t be for much longer.


These questions are easy to ignore because my husband IS one of the good ones. He does basically all of our dishes. He does laundry, including my Thinx. He takes care of the cats, the bills, yard, the cars. He understands what emotional labor is, and often verbally acknowledges how much of it he sees me doing. He doesn’t talk over me. He doesn’t talk down to me. As men go, he’s pretty great.

So I forget sometimes, that although he IS incredible, he’s still not a woman.


He still doesn’t understand why I prefer to take the elevator in a parking garage.


He doesn’t know that in the winter, I ran home from my job that was 30 yards away, door to door, in the evenings.


He doesn’t understand how terrifying it is to have an irregular period as a 32 year old woman who wants children.

He doesn’t understand why I’m in such a damn hurry to buy a house.


He doesn’t see other men not making eye contact with me in a group conversation.


He doesn’t know why I hate it when he says he hasn’t noticed the several pounds I’ve put on.


He doesn’t understand why it’s such a goddamn relief that I’ve decided not to breastfeed.


He doesn’t mind, but doesn’t know the power I’ve found in keeping my last name for now.


He doesn’t feel the weight of the government using women’s bodies as pawns in a power game.

He doesn’t, and won’t truly understand any of this. Because he can’t. We can have all of the conversations in the world. He can see me screaming, crying, heartbroken, livid, but he’ll never really know any of it.

I can tell him and teach him how to support women, but the fact is, this will always be a space between my husband and me. This will be something we never have in common.

Computer science

Transformers

Musicals

Understanding life as a woman.



Great Expectations: Holiday Edition // WV Boudoir Photographer

As a kid, I knew my Christmases didn’t look like the ones in the movies. Our house was smaller. Our family was broken and spread out. And our budget was definitely smaller. (Who can afford to fly their entire family across the country a la Home Alone?)

It never bothered me, though. If anything, I thought I had it better than other kids. I effectively got three Christmases. Christmas Eve at my dad’s, Christmas Day at mom’s, and then a few days after Christmas we’d make the trek to my mother’s side of the family and have our third and final Christmas before the New Year came. It was great! So many people, and yeah, plenty of presents. It just didn’t look like a Christmas movie Christmas.

By the time I was nine years old, both of my older brothers were out of the house. They came home for a lot of Christmases after that, but as years went on, their holiday visits became less predictable. I’d also ceased communications with my father, and our extended family visits became less frequent. And then, about 6 years ago, it was just mom and me on Christmas morning.

It was a lovely morning, but it felt like there were several missing pieces.

A few years into the Mommy & Me Christmases, I decided to take matters into my own hands. My mother had put together over 40 Christmases for the boys and me, so the least I could do was cook a couple meals and plan a few crafts.

But that didn’t feel quite right either. I didn’t understand it. I was checking all of the Christmas boxes:

  • Christmas Eve dinner

  • Christmas Eve mass

  • Christmas morning breakfast

  • plenty of packages for mom to open

  • our favorite Christmas album on repeat

I still felt a heavy weight on my heart.

I wish I could say it was a crystal clear Hallmark movie moment when I realized it, but that’s just not how it went. It was more of a slow awakening.

When I took the reigns of the holiday, I was doing everything I could to make ours look like the Christmases in Christmas movies.

But our Christmas has never looked like those! Not even the happiest of our holidays resembled the ones in the movies, so why would I try to force it to?

Our Christmas is quiet and messy. It’s silly and disjointed. It’s unpredictable, different from year to year. It’s relaxed and loose. It’s cozy and comforting. Our traditions might not look like the ones in the movies, but we do have them. And this year, instead of trying to make our Christmas something it’s not, I’m going to enjoy what it IS.

Not Every Good Deed Needs Done // WV Boudoir Photographer

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WARNING: If you don’t know me that well, this post is going to seem like a humble brag. If you know me, then you know that it’s just an upfront brag. I’M KIDDING.


Anyway, last week I did a last minute session for a friend who was due to have a baby ANY MINUTE. (This is not a photo of her.) We happened to run into each other after not seeing one another for a while, and she mentioned that she had wanted to do a session but time got away from her. So I asked if she had any time that week (the week the baby was due!), and she did! I was SO THRILLED that we were able to make it happen.


The session was magical. I knew it would be. That’s part of the reason I did it. Since I’ve known this woman, I’ve known her to be kind, warm, and full of a really wonderful innate joy. She is a woman who is in touch with her body and soul, and I knew this session would mean a lot to her and her husband. It just felt so right to do it. The universe gently dropped this session into my arms, much like you’d hand off a newborn baby.

My hour or so with her was lovely. She was not only so genuinely grateful, but she was so tightly embracing of the experience. She allowed herself to get a little lost in it. She immersed herself. That was such a joy to witness and photograph. It truly did my heart so much good to photograph her and her baby. It meant a lot to me to be able to document her body with child. I was so happy she’d have these photos forever.

Photography is an incredible gift to give someone. I obviously can’t do every kind thing I want to with my photography. But I think it’s important to listen to yourself and learn when it’s right to give the gift. It doesn’t just have to do with the recipient. It has to do with what this gift will do for your soul as well. I know that sounds selfish. But if it doesn’t sit right in your heart, then what kind of a gift is it anyway?

This is an important distinction for everyone to make, not just photographers. Unpopular opinion alert: Not every good deed needs done. It is only when the good deed feeds both souls: the giver AND the recipient that it does the world the most good. And in order for it to feed your soul, it’s gotta feel right to you. It’s gotta light you up a little. It’s gotta be an honor. It’s gotta make you sparkle, too.

Protect your gifts. They’ll mean even more when you give them if you do.



I See You // WV Boudoir Photographer

I can't remember the last time I woke up without pain.

It's rarely physically incapacitating pain, but when it's the first sensation you feel in a day, it incapacitates you mentally and emotionally. 

I'm not very good at sleep anyway, so when I open my eyes and become cognizant of the twinge in my neck or the ache in my hip, the last thing I want to do is get out of bed. I'm an optimist, so I stay in bed, hoping for a few more minutes of rest or respite. 

It's a terrible little fight I have with myself every morning. I know that if I get up, the pain will eventually subside slightly, or at the very least I'll distract myself from it. At that first pinch, though, I close my eyes tight and try to sink into a space where I can't feel it.


I have a really good life. Not only do I have the obvious American Dreamy type stuff like a husband I adore, a cool place to live and a family that still loves me. But my life is FUN and FULL. I get to experience awesome shit all the time. I've met hundreds of amazing humans. I can see, hear, taste and feel. 

So I don't talk about being in pain much. It seems ungrateful or unfair. 

What is more unfair, though, is that people with invisible pain aren't allowed to talk about it. If there isn't an obvious gaping wound, you are met with skepticism or simply a glazed lack of understanding.

People with invisible pain often live with that pain every day. And when I say live with, I mean LIVE their lives with. Everything is harder. Going to the post office, brushing your teeth, making a phone call, driving in the car, waiting in line, grocery shopping, sitting at your work computer, having breakfast, doing laundry, picking up your baby, receiving a hug, watching a movie...It's all harder.

That difficulty becomes exhausting. But we can't sleep because lying down hurts, too. 


As I write this, I'm still not sure I will post it, because I fear being seen as complaining or ungrateful for what I do have. But if I don't talk about it here, I'm perpetuating the invisibility of invisible pain. If I DO talk about it, though, maybe someone else will feel okay to talk about it, too. I don't know about you, but it's really cathartic when I'm "allowed" to cry about my pain. 


A few weeks ago, Ricky and I walked downtown to have drinks with a friend. We were out pretty late, and it had already been a pretty rough pain day. We walked in the door of our apartment, and I just laid down on our hardwood living room floor. Bourbon fueled tears sprung from my eyes as I told Ricky how much I was hurting. My eyes were closed, but I could hear Ricky getting me an ice water (that usually helps me calm down). When I opened my eyes, Ricky's face was right in front of mine. He'd laid down next to me and was just lightly brushing my hair out of my eyes, looking straight at me. 

I'd never felt so seen, so understood as someone with chronic pain. In that moment, Ricky just existed with me. He knew he couldn't fix anything, so he did what he could. He just listened and existed with me. He knows that I am not defined by my pain, but that it is absolutely part of my every day experience. 


So here I am, lying on the floor with you, looking you in your eyes, existing with you. You're allowed to feel your pain, and you're allowed to talk about it. You are more than your pain, but your pain is part of you, and that's okay. I see you.

 

350 Sets Of Stories // WV Boudoir Photographer

I have made boudoir photos for over 350 people.

350 bodies.

350 souls.

350 histories.


As you can imagine, the boudoir experience is a very revealing one. Not just skin, of course. It's a brand new experience for most, and new experiences tend to strip us down to our most vulnerable bones. We are childlike in these moments, hearts open to the newness, minds slightly hesitant of it. 

With every client I book, I am taken aback by the trust my clients place in me from the very start. Before I have written or spoken a word to them, they reveal a little bit about why they want to do a session. Some of them haven't felt beautiful in years. Some are on a wellness journey. Others have stories of abuse, medical issues, bad relationships, suppressive childhoods, struggles with motherhood. 350 unique stories to tell. 

I worked hard to curate the booking process so that my clients can get to know me, and hopefully trust me very early on. I want them to feel welcome, safe, and eventually excited for the experience they're about to have. 9 times out of 10, during the first phone call I can hear the nervousness in their voices fall away. Their language goes from, "I'm nervous," to "I'm excited" in just around 20 minutes. It's really beautiful, and I am honored and flattered every time it happens. 

Every so often I will receive an additional text or email after that first phone call. Having established a relationship, my clients seem to feel urged to share more with me after we speak. This is when I hear the real reasons they want to do a session. 

It's never just about looking and feeling sexy. 

It's about finding yourself again.

It's about healing.

It's about reclaiming something that was taken from you.

It's about celebration.

It's about acceptance.

It's about reconnecting with a part of yourself you thought might be gone.

It's about feeling desired.

It's about a new perspective.

It's about believing you are enough, dare I say, as you are.

I will never take for granted the honor it is to be invited on these journeys. 

To those of you who have shared your story with me, thank you. You fill my heart with love and purpose when you do.


What is your story? What is behind your boudoir session? What would this experience mean to you?

 

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?


 

Part 2: Okay, I Kind of Lost My Shit When I Lost My Wedding Venue // WV Boudoir Photographer

I think it's safe to say that I had less than 5 "Bridezilla" moments in the first 351 days of wedding planning. (Check my math with my bridesmaids and fiancé.)

Then we lost our venue and the number of Bridezilla moments at least quadrupled. 

I was messaging bridesmaids and family and friends at odd hours, delegating the venue search to as many people as possible, doubled down on bridal shower planning because it was the only thing I could control, and snapped at Ricky when our old venue recommended we get married in a fire hall. (For the record, there's nothing wrong with that, but it was not comparable venue to suggest to someone who'd planned to get married on a hotel rooftop.)

It wasn't just sass and cinnamon that came out, though. PLENTY of tears fell in the two weeks we were searching for a venue. Some of them were happy tears, in disbelief that I found such an amazing man to marry. But not all of the tears were joyous.

There was a moment I will never forget about 11 days into the search.

We'd gotten so many No's, so many too expensives, and if I had a dollar for every time I said in a saccharine voice, "well at least I still get to marry THIS guy!" I'd have enough money to buy out one of these damn venues so it could all be over. I was also eyes-deep in editing, freaking out about booking enough clients in the new year, and facing an inbox FULL of emails waiting for my reply.

I was working from our bed, because I was so mentally and emotionally exhausted I couldn't imagine doing anything else. But overall, I felt pretty on top of things. We'd gathered a short list of strong venue options, and things were looking up. 

Then we got one. more. no. 

It was from a venue I wasn't even in love with, but it didn't matter. 

I lost it. There I was, in our bed, in my pajamas at 2:30 in the afternoon, sobbing. Nothing made sense in my brain. I couldn't even get to my recent calls to call Ricky. My body went limp, and my sheets were getting soaked in my tears and slobber. I barely had the energy to let the cries out. So I just laid there and whimpered for minutes. 

Before you start to feel too sad, know that this had to happen. It was A LOT for one person to handle, even with the assistance of some of the best humans in the world. It was a LOT, but I didn't even notice how much the situation was demanding of me, taking from me. I was on happy little auto pilot. I had a job to do, and when I've got a job to do, I fucking do it. I was moving too quickly and too optimistically to realize just how depleted I was. 

I needed this moment of sadness to sort of reset my heart and my brain. I needed to empty everything out and start over, from a more honest, realistic place. 

From the moment I received the message about our venue, I knew I needed to allow myself to feel the disappointment. I knew Ricky and I needed time to be sad together. I knew that it was permissible to feel overwhelmed and stressed.

I KNEW all of this, but I didn't give myself the time to FEEL all of this. 

Being emotionally intelligent is a little bit like being book-smart sometimes. You can know all the things your mind has to do to process something. (Hell, you can even write a blog about it.) But if you don't TAKE the time to allow it to actually happen, your knowledge means nothing. 

Two days after my mini breakdown, we received the news that one of our top venue choices was available, and we began the process of securing it for our wedding date. It IS better than our original plan. It DID work out in the end. And yes, I still get to marry THIS guy. 

 

 

 

Babes in TOYland: A Sexy Little Gift Guide // WV Boudoir Photographer

I received a delightful Frisky Friday question early on about my favorite sex toys, and I will be completely honest with you. There is a big, wide world of toys. It's intimidating. So I took it to our panel of Sexperts, and I did some serious research.

Just in time for the holidays, I've compiled a list of potential treat yo self gifts, presents for your partner, or even your girlfriends if you've got that kind of friendship.

Instead of ranking them, I've decided to do a kind of awards ceremony. Everyone is looking for something different in a toy, so "best" is super subjective. Below are my findings including links! These are primarily directed towards women, but many of them can be used for male stimulation as well. 

So without further ado, I present to you the 2017 AYA Boudoir Sex Toy Awards!

1. First up, the award for Most Likely To Get Mistaken for Cabinet Hardware

The NJoy Pure G Spot Metal Wand. This little momma is a great way to start exploring G spot stimulation if you're new to that playground. The ergonomic curve is easy on the wrist, and BONUS: this is a happy treat for men, too, if you're into perineum play. 

2. Next we have the award for The Most Underestimated Sex Toy

A blindfold. That's right. A good old fashioned sleep mask can heighten the rest of your senses like you wouldn't believe. And at less than $10, why wouldn't you try it? Bonus tip: pop some headphones in to deprive one more of your senses and see what happens. 

3. Best Conversation Starter goes to

The Crave Vesper. If you've ever wanted to feel like a Bond girl AND get great clitoral stimulation, and really who hasn't, this is your match. The short battery life is made up for by the fact that you CAN WEAR THE DAMN THING around your neck, and she's a beauty. I dare you to wear it out for drinks and NOT sneak off to the bathroom to play.

4. The Sex Toy Most Likely to Outlive You

is the Hitachi Magic Wand. You've probably seen it on an episode of Sex and the City. It's huge. But it's powerful. This vibrator has been raved about for actual decades. This is your choice if you need something you know is going to get you off every. time. Just make sure you turn on some music first--this baby's loud.

5. The award for Best Toy to Live Out Your 50 Shades Fantasies goes to

 Bed Restraints. Be sure to do your own homework on this one, as there are LOTS of variations, companies, materials and price points on these. I don't think I need to tell you why these are fun.

6. Chiropractor-Reccommended, Partner Approved

I love The Liberator Wedge for its versatility. It's a great choice for couples who aren't necessarily into using vibrators together but would like to spice things up and keep things interesting. Limitless position options, comfortable, approachable.

7. The Jill of All Trades

Okay, Stay with me. She isn't cheap, but she's a multitasker. The Intensity is not only a powerful vibrator with 5 speeds designed for G-spot AND clitoral stimulation, IT IS A KEGEL EXERCISER. That's right, it strengthens all of those yummy muscles that make pleasure possible, making even GREATER, more intense orgasms possible. Read the reviews on this thing. It's intense. (See what I did there?)

8. The Better Than A Diamond Ring Ring

The Jimmyjane Iconic Ring is a win/win situation. Easy to use, easy to clean. Features replaceable batteries (many rings do not), is shower safe, and is a great option to start off your adventures in Toyland.


So there you have it! A happy little list of pleasure-makers, vouched for by some of my favorite sex therapists, bloggers, and fun friends. 

If there's a toy you love that didn't make the list, don't be selfish! Leave it in the comments below! 

Happy Shopping!