mindfulness

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.

 

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.

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.

Why I'm "Sex-Obsessed" and Why You Should Be, Too // WV Boudoir Photographer & Intimacy Advocate

If you're not familiar with my weekly "Frisky Fridays" feature (GO GET FAMILIAR, BB! @asyouareboudoir!), basically every week, I answer a sex question sent to me by a follower that I then take to my panel of "Sexperts" to help me answer. These questions range in sauciness from "How do we keep things interesting," to "I hate oral. Help!"

This feature prompted a comment within the family calling me "sex-obsessed."

As a whole, my family has been surprisingly supportive of my chosen photography genre. They're impressed by the images and proud of the work I've done to build the business.

But apparently, this Frisky Friday stuff crosses a line.

I was informed by my mother that a family member expressed disapproval of the weekly feature. Allow me to preface this by saying

1. My family is comprised of amazing humans, and I love all of them very, very much.

2. that anyone can feel how they want to feel. I am not under the delusion that all of my ideas, opinions and content will be loved by all people everywhere. 

But this struck a chord. 

Because this perspective is EXACTLY WHY SO MANY OF US ARE FUCKED UP SEXUALLY.

Shame.

Guilt.

Secrecy.

Disconnectedness.

We (especially women) are met with SO MUCH emotional opposition to a healthy sex life. Don't even get me started on how far back in history this goes. We're not allowed to surrender to pleasure. We're not allowed to aggressively SEEK pleasure. We're not allowed to talk about sex. We're not allowed to FEEL. We're not allowed to dress a certain way. We're not allowed to ask questions. 

All of this has resulted in a repressed, sex-negative culture that shames us for desiring sexual intimacy. 

Which happens to be something that we are ACTUALLY DESIGNED FOR. 


My emphasis on and advocacy of a healthy sex life is not just about pleasure, though. 

It's about the tools you learn and the power you collect on the way to a thriving intimate life. 

We are so disconnected. From each other, from the life things that matter, and especially from ourselves. And when you set out on the quest for great sex, you learn ways to reconnect with yourself. You learn ways to love yourself and your body.

When you're connected mentally and emotionally, you're able to invite your body to a higher level of existence and experience. 

We are capable of SO MUCH MORE than we're experiencing now. There is SO MUCH LIFE we're missing out on because we've been told not to seek pleasure.

The best part? You can take these lessons outside the bedroom. Breathing techniques, mental and emotional exercises, mindfulness, connectedness. All of this yummy stuff can be put to use at work, within your family and friendships, through particularly stressful times, to maximize your enjoyment of other things!


I also cannot ignore that every session, I watch my clients deeply connect to their sensuality and then walk out of my studio with their heads held higher, smiling wider, FEELING as beautiful as they are. When you're in touch with your body sexually, you're more confident, you show more self love, you invest in self care. There's science behind that, sugar babies, not just my observations. 

I started a business with the sole intent of making women feel beautiful. A healthy intimate life facilitates that.


So yeah, I'm pretty interested in what sex can do for our bodies, minds, relationships and souls. Can you blame me?

I just want to start conversations. I want to be a person who doesn't shy away from important things because it's uncomfortable. I want to facilitate communication between partners.  I want to give people hope. I want to help turn pages and start new chapters. I want to build bridges and create connections. 

I don't know if you were in the camp of people wondering what all this sex talk is about, but I hope this helps shed some light on why it's so important to me. And if any of the sexy sex content has helped you and/or your partner, don't be shy! Let me know! As always, if you have a question that my sexperts and I might be able to help you with, email me! 

XxXOoO,

Jodi

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

Living The Dream: When Sarcasm Becomes Your Truth // WV Boudoir Photographer

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"What are you up to today?" 

I get asked this a lot. I think because the opportunity to be asked this presents itself more often when you make your own work schedule. When I'll be spending my day working, I usually respond with a downcast and sarcastic

"Ohh, living the dream,"

And say I'll be editing or sending emails. Because that's what we do, right? We shrug off the obligatory necessity that is our work because it isn't common to love your job let alone express it.

I'm lucky. Work for me means interacting with interesting, creative people. It means encouraging women to treat themselves to an empowering experience. It means creating a memorable, rich experience that makes these women look and feel beautiful for maybe the first time in years. It means making photos, making art.

I love my job so much I created a business from nothing to be able to do it. I work really fucking hard to keep that business alive. I fight with myself on the reg to convince myself I am good enough to keep doing it. I am tired and hungry a lot. I yearn for Netflix nights instead of Photoshop 2am's. And I love it. 

I love being able to design my day. I love being my own boss. I love the ability to shift my schedule around to be there for friends and family. I love staying at nice hotels. I love getting to know my clients. I love making them sparkle. I love just being able to say, "I MADE THAT!" when I look at my photos and my business. I'm so fucking lucky.

And yet, when people ask what I'm up to, I give them a humdrum, disingenuous

"Living the dream."

The caustic response I curated to fit into the norm of hating your job started to sink into my blood, and eventually it hit my brain. I was dreading editing instead of looking forward to seeing the end result. I delayed sending emails instead of thinking of fun questions to ask my new clients. I hadn't blogged in weeks, because nothing about my business felt worthy of sharing. 

My automatic sarcasm became my truth. 

HOW UNGRATEFUL COULD I POSSIBLY BE?!

How ungracious of me to NOT express my love and passion for what I CHOSE and CREATED a business to do? Neglecting to express my excitement for my job was a total "fuck you" to all of the people who've had a hand in this establishment, including past Jodi who worked her ass off to make it exist. Not to mention the fact that my negative response just wasn't genuine. 

This is a cautionary tale, my friends. Your words have power. Not just over other people; they have power over you, too. Small words you may think are insignificant can have a tremendous influence over your thoughts, perceptions and actions. 

There's good news, though. Positive words have just as much if not more power than negative ones. Pay attention to your words. Make sure they honestly reflect your feelings. Especially if those feelings are positive ones! 

So the next time someone asks you, "what are you up to today," or "how's it going?" take a beat and consider your actual feelings before you give a meaningless stock answer. And who knows, you might get some good, hearty real talk back! How cool would it be to do away with small talk and have more big talk? 

But that's for another post...

Be Beautiful to Yourself,

Jodi