life

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.

 

Venti Nonfat Extra Ice Double Blended 3 Pump White Mocha, 5 Pump Mocha Frappuccino for Thought

I saw you at Starbucks the other day. You were still the same, but I'm different.

Last time you saw me, I was on the other side of the counter, obligated to satisfy your every outrageous desire. This time, I'm working FROM Starbucks, hustling for myself.

I'm happier. Are you?

Did it make you happy to order that obnoxious drink? Did it fill your soul with joy when you sent it back because it was darker in color than usual? How about when you walked in, pointed at me and announced to the entire café that I'm never "allowed" to make your drink?

Because you don't seem any happier now than you were then. I heard you order. I heard the way you spoke to the people behind the counter. And your eyes are darker. And the wrinkles around your downturned mouth are deeper.

So maybe it's not the drink.

Maybe it's you.

Maybe being demanding and rude to people behind the counter isn't the answer. Maybe it's not about them. Maybe it's about you taking responsibility for your own happiness. Maybe it's time to stop blaming everyone around you for your unhappiness. Maybe, instead of pointing your bitterness outward, you should look inward. Take stock. What's wrong? What's hurting you? What is it that makes you so unhappy that you feel entitled to punish strangers for your misery?

That's how I got here, out from behind the counter that gave people permission to be rude to me. I looked inside, and I reevaluated. I acknowledged that I'm the only person who can make me happier. So I did the work. Now I'm here, doing work I love. Work that promotes love and joy. 

Do the work, Venti Nonfat Extra Ice Double Blended 3 Pump White Mocha, 5 Pump Mocha Frappuccino. Find what's causing your sadness. Because it's probably not anybody behind a counter.

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?


 

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

20180112-IMG_4719-2.jpg

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.

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

IMG_9165-2.jpg

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

 

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. 

 

 

 

That Time Ricky Was Right and it Made Me Mad(ly in Love with Him) // WV Boudoir Photographer

8 months into wedding planning

Running a busy business

Progressing through a transition at work

Oh and life--family, exercise, friends, housekeeping, etc.  

Every Sunday, Ricky and I would take some time to compare schedules and for MONTHS we'd have something every. evening. and every. weekend. 

It was exhausting to say the least, and if I'm honest, we aren't out of the woods yet.

One of these Sundays, I was coming to the end of my mental and emotional reserves, and I exasperatedly said, "God. We are SO BUSY. Like, crazy busy."

To which Ricky replied, "Yeah, I'm done with saying we're busy."

Yeah, well, Mr. 9-5, must be nice to be so ABOVE being busy.

But once he explained his comment, my agitation turned into a deeper love for the man I get to marry.

He went on and said that we might not ever be not busy. This is just life for us. So let's just do it, take it one day at a time, and enjoy it. 

I fought my natural inclination to argue, as Ricky basically gave me a huge and heavy, "YOU'RE WRONG," which I don't take very well. Instead, I was quiet for a moment, looking at my man, and allowed what he said to soak in.

He was right. We are both ambitious, social people, and that means a busy life for us to be happy. We want busy. We thrive on busy. Busy means there's so much LIFE in our life together. That's how we like it, even when every evening and every weekend is booked.

Ever since Ricky slammed the brakes on our "We're so Busy" train, our packed schedules haven't gotten me down. We're just as busy as we were before his comment, but the shift in perspective completely rearranged my mindset on the matter.

Deep breaths of gratitude have replaced sighs of exhaustion. 

Note. Busy is not the same as nonstop. We take breaks. We steal moments away for cocktails just the two of us. We partake in our share of Netflix...and chilling. 

We're still learning not to balance, because I'm not sure I even know what that means, but to prioritize. Making sure we're putting first things first. I imagine we'll be learning how to do that the rest of our lives.

How do you deal with a busy schedule? How do you say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things? Do you enjoy being busy, or are you a slower life kind of pal? 

Xo

Jodi

From Barista to Boss // West Virginia Boudoir Photographer

If you'd told me four years ago that I'd be lying in the plush ass bed of a swank ass hotel, blogging for my bad ass business after a fabulous dinner with my fabulous friend, I would have said, 

 "Well, yeah. Of course I will."

Because those were things I wanted. And things I was willing to work for.  

Tomorrow I'm going to wake up in a luxe hotel room to coffee that my fiancè brought upstairs for me from the Starbucks in the lobby. I'm going to drink that coffee while we laugh in our bathrobes and share what we'd like to get done. Then, we're going to take our laptops and sit in the lobby/gorgeous Starbucks and do our jobs. 

I'm able to enjoy all of this because I took one step at a time to change my life. It didn't happen overnight, and it isn't always this glamorous.

This won't be the first time Ricky and I have worked at Starbucks at the same time. But five years ago, when we met, I was on the other side of the counter serving him coffee while he did freelance work from my Starbucks. I was nearing the end of my time there, because I was becoming unhappy with the job. I wanted more. And I knew I was capable of it. So I fucking did it.

I'm telling you to dream bigger. No, bigger. What do you want? What do you want your life to look like? 

Here's some homework for you.

Write down 5 things about the life you want to have, but don't yet. Don't be cynical about this. Of course we'd all like a million dollars and two more days in the week. Dream realistically big. Different job? Different town? More exercise? Better food? More connection? 

Now the hard part. 

Write down 3 things you can DO for each of the 5 ways you'd like your life to be different. Small steps first. You want to make a career change? Polish up that CV. You want to eat better? Hop on Pinterest and make a meal plan and a grocery list.

Now...

Go do it.  

This is National Bosses Day, and you, my friend are the boss of your own life. Go get the life you want, tiger.