morgantown

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.



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! 

How Not To Lose Your Shit When You Lose Your Wedding Venue: 9 Easy Steps

"Venues book fast," they said. "Book your venue first," they said. "Once you have your venue, everything will fall into place," they said. 

Okay, great. Done. You got that venue. So you merrily skip through all of your other big wedding decisions like a freaking vendor-booking machine.

Then your venue gets pulled out from under you like the goddamn tablecloth trick five months before your wedding.

And when someone attempts the tablecloth trick, what usually happens? 

ALL THE SHIT ON THE TABLE CRASHES INTO A SHARP, STICKY, WET, TEAR INDUCING MESS.

So what do you do? Panic? Cry? Scream & curse at the heartless soul responsible for this?

Or do you take a deep breath, kiss your fiance, and get to work?

Yes. The answer is yes, you do all of that. 

Because losing your venue is one of the most disruptive things that can happen to wedding planning, I've taken the liberty of designing an easy 9-step process to help get you through it without rashly booking your tickets to elope in Cancun. 


 

HOW NOT TO LOSE YOUR SHIT WHEN YOU

LOSE YOUR WEDDING VENUE

 

1. Cry It Out

It feels like a breakup for a reason. You dated tons of other venues, but this one stole your heart. You moved fast. You started picturing your future together, making plans, finding yourself wanting to see it every day. Then BOOM. Ghosted. It just disappeared with little to no explanation. Allow yourself to grieve that loss.

2. Hold The Phone

You and your fiancé need time just the two of you to feel this together. Resist the urge to call in reinforcements right away. Take the evening, turn off your phones, have a nice dinner and just be together. Take a moment to remember that you still get to marry the wonderful human across from you, so where EVER that happens, it's still great news. Wine helps, which brings me to

3. Get Drunk on a Tuesday

It's totally acceptable to get drunk the night you find out. A little (read: a lot of) booze can really clear your head and empty your heart. Which is just what you need when your wedding gets a shakeup like this. Get tipsy and let loose. Let your emotions run wild. Just make sure your phone is nowhere near you so you don't send any messages you'll regret in the morning. 

4. Once You've Completed Steps 1-3, ABSOLUTELY CALL IN REINFORCEMENTS

Start with those closest to you. It helps if you have a baller fucking fiancé and maid of honor. Then when you're ready, take to the internet.

Facebook is a beautiful beast, full of people who can help you. I know you don't want to talk about it, but it is in your best interest to reach out and ask for help on this one. Not only could they have ideas you wouldn't have thought of, but just seeing all your friends and family rallying and supporting you can get you through this crazy time.

BONUS TIP: Write down the names of people who went above and beyond to help you. Make a note to send them a thank you note once the dust settles.

5. The Dishes Will Get Done...After You Find a Venue

Don't worry about letting a few things slip to the back burner. This is kind of a big deal, and people will understand if you need a few days to get your shit together. 

6. Don't Be Afraid to Use Your "I Lost My Venue" Card

You never know when your sob story will come in handy. You should totally include it in all your emails to new venues. People will pull strings for jilted brides. (If strings are pulled for you, be sure to write that name down for thank you notes, too.)

7. You CAN Put Lipstick on a Pig

As you're shopping for new venues, you're going to get a lot of No's, which might lead you to booking a less than ideal space. This is when you need to channel your inner Joanna Gaines and see the potential in places you might not immediately fall in love with. (You KNOW you wanted a reason to troll Pinterest again anyway!) White lights and candles go A LONG way in transforming a space.

BONUS TIP:  Your guests are going to remember how your wedding made them FEEL, not what color the walls were in the reception hall. 

8. #blessed

At this point, it could really do you some good to take a beat and make a list of all the things you DO still have. Your fiance, for starters. Your amazing wedding party, wonderful vendors, friends and family who are still super stoked for your wedding. Focusing on all that goodness is key.

9. When One Door Closes, Another One Opens to the Whitewashed Warehouse of Your Dreams

There is a solid chance that you will find an even better venue. It might not seem like it right now, but remember how you thought you'd be with your high school boo forever? How'd that work out? Chances are, you found someone way more awesome. If you're open to the possibility of finding something better, you will.


As you research and contact new venues, it's okay if you feel the tears and/or rage well up. Let them. But keep referring to Step #8 as often as you need to, and your wedding day will be even better than you'd imagined with that punk ass venue that cancelled on you.


Check back next week for Part 2: What the 3 Days After Losing Our Venue Actually Looked (and Felt) Like

Making a Good Thing Great: Thoughts on Couples Therapy // WV Boudoir Photographer

Ricky and I are going to pre-marital counseling. Our officiant isn't making us, and we're not getting married in a church, so it isn't a requirement. We are voluntarily participating. I think Ricky and I are a pretty solid couple; obviously we aren't perfect. But you don't have to be broken to attend therapy. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," doesn't really apply here.

I say, why not make a good thing great.

And that's exactly what is happening. Ricky and I are learning so much about each other and feeling closer after every session. We're collecting tools for our marriage toolbox, so to speak, so that when something does need repaired, we have what we need to fix it. 

I'm a pretty therapy-positive person anyway, but I know not everyone is. I'm not the boss of you, and I probably shouldn't tell you what to do, but I'm going to.

Go to therapy. 

You don't have to go forever, and you don't have to go alone. You decide what you need. You don't even need to have a blaring problem to go. 

Something I've found super valuable about counseling is the chance to just. talk. In therapy, it's okay to go off on tangents, it's okay to meander with your thoughts. Sometimes, that's where the epiphanies are. Hidden in the weeds of subconsciousness. 

Likewise, it's been wonderful to watch Ricky open up about things he finds difficult to talk about. With a third party present, asking questions I might not think to ask, going down paths we might not go down on our own, he feels freer to explore his ideas. And I love it. 

Have you attended therapy either independently or as a couple? What has your experience been? How do you think it improved you and/or your relationship? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

 

Photo by the super talented and wonderful Lauren Webster Photography


DISCLAIMER: I know therapy isn't cheap. I know we are so fortunate. But there are lots and lots of resources, financial aid, payment plans, online options, etc. to make therapy more accessible.  

I Did Wedding Dress Shopping Wrong

I did wedding dress shopping wrong.

Which is funny, because my maid of honor, bridesmaids and mother did it exactly right. My MOH planned and scheduled an amazing day of appointments, complete with time for a nice long lunch (and beer!). My bridesmaids brought healthy snacks and all the encouragement without any of the opinions you see on "Say Yes to the Dress." My mother was a quiet light of love and support the whole day.

But I definitely did it wrong.

I started to worry in the days leading up to dress shopping when I wasn't feeling as excited as I thought I'd be to put on the dresses. Don't get me wrong; I was over the moon about a weekend in the 'Burgh with most of my girls. But I wasn't, like, giddy about trying on dresses. 

So the day comes, we're having a blast, but when I was putting on dresses, none of them made me FEEL all the FEELS everyone tells you you're going to FEEL. I started to get a little frustrated/exhausted/worried and even cried at our last appointment because my head and my heart were just so tired. (Shout out to Glitter & Grit in Pittsburgh for sweetly allowing me to take a beat for some deep breaths and refreshing. Erin even suggested I put on the dress I tried on right after I cried one more time at the end to make sure the tears weren't blurring my dress vision.)

So we didn't get a dress. Because I liked everything and LOVED nothing. 

We all decided it would be best to take some time, maybe go shopping again later with a little less pomp and circumstance.

Well, here we are three weeks later, and I haven't so much as LOOKED at other shops I'd like to go to. Why wasn't I jumping on this? Why wasn't I excited and determined to find THE DRESS?

And then it hit me. 

I wasn't driven to find the dress for two reasons.

1. I'd already found it.

2. I just don't give as much of a shit about the dress as I thought I'd be. And THAT'S OKAY.

The more I thought about the dress I liked the most (we all affectionately refer to it as Air Dress), the clearer my reasons for liking it became.

I like Air Dress because it will be SO EASY to DANCE in!

I like it because it's sophisticated, a little funky AND whimsical--just like I like to think I am.

I like how our photos will look with Air Dress in them.

I like how effortless Air Dress is.

I like that I've already found it which means I can turn my time and energy toward our guests' experience. Which is what I've cared as much about as I thought I was supposed to care about the dress.

I am way more excited about seeing our family and friends enjoy rooftop cocktails and live jazz. I am so much more excited about the photo booth with our sidecar in it. I can't wait to see people's faces when they come in for hugs and congratulations. 

I'm most excited about OUR wedding, not MY wedding dress.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a dress to order. ;)

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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

WTF Do I Do With My Photos: A PG-13 Answer to an FAQ

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I get this question a lot. I mean, obviously, or I wouldn’t be writing a post about it.

ANYWAY.

Let me start by saying that it almost doesn’t matter what you do with the photos, because SO MUCH OF THIS—I mean, like, 95% of this--- is about the EXPERIENCE and not the product. You WILL LOVE the photos; you have my word on that. But it’s so much more about giving yourself permission to feel hot. Doing something that makes you feel beautiful. Seeing yourself in a different way. And allowing yourself to believe that you are a sexy, desirable being. We all deserve to feel this way, and boudoir photography is an amazing way to achieve that.

“Okay, Jodi. Enough with the philosophy. WTF do I do with these pictures?”

Just a few ideas:

DISCLAIMER: I’ve been pretty transparent about how open I am about sexuality on this blog. This post is no different. If you have kids, read this after they go to bed. And remember: If you’re having sex, you should be talking about sex. One of these ideas seem intriguing to you but think your partner would never go for it? Just ask. I bet you’ll be surprised. Okay, here we go. (S.O.= Significant Other)

1. Make an album.

- Keep it in the nightstand.

- Leave it on the bed with rose petals and candles to get your S.O. excited about a night of passion.

- Let your S.O. look at your album while you please them in what ever way you choose.

- Traveling? Leave the album on the nightstand with a note suggesting that your S.O. use the book as eye candy to masturbate while you’re away.

- Make an Album Date with yourself—an monthly date with yourself during which you drink some bubbly, give yourself a mani-pedi and flip through those pages to remind yourself what a fox you are.

- Tell your S.O. to pick which photo is their favorite. Ask why. Get into that pose and start foreplay from there.

2. Make prints.

- Have some cute, retro 4x6’s made to stick in birthday, Christmas, anniversary, valentine’s cards.

- Leave a trail of prints leading to the bedroom from the door. Be lying on the bed wearing something you wore during your session, ready for fun.

- Is your S.O. going on a trip without you? Pack some prints in their suitcase to discover when they unpack.

-Frame them! There are lots of places you could put framed photos like these. In your bedroom, your master bath, your closet. If it's an abstract shot, the hallway.

-Mail them to your S.O., even if you live together.

3. Have a canvas made.

4. Make a locket or put a photo in a pocket watch.

5. Have the photo etched into a bracelet, money clip or tie clip.

6. MAKE A CUSTOM VIEW MASTER WITH JODI ;) ;) ;)

7. Have a sketch made of one of the photos.

8. Make your S.O.'s cell phone wallpaper one of your photos.

9. Text them to your S.O. when they least expect it.

10. Show your friends to convince them that they need to do a session, too. ;)

11. Hang one where you get ready to remind yourself how hot you are.

12. Keep a few in your purse just for fun and the occasional confidence boost.

13. Feeling brave? Use one as your IG or Facebook profile pic. (We always do a few G-Rated shots : ) )

14. Feeling even braver? Use one as your Tinder profile pic.

So there ya have it! Loads of things you can do with your photos, but with some wine and ingenuity, I bet we could come up with more.

I reiterate, though, this is SO MUCH MORE about the experience than it is the final product. You're going to love the way you look and feel after this session, and you're going to want to pull these photos out to look at them all the freakin time.

Don't forget to love on yourself a little today.

xo

Jodi