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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.

 

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! 

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

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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

 

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.

Mini Sessions Are a Bitch: Why I Do Them Anyway // WV Boudoir Photographer

Ask any portrait photographer, and they'll tell you that they don't exactly look forward to mini sessions. 

If you've been a customer who has purchased a mini session, THANK YOU. But, step behind the curtain with me for a moment.

Mini Sessions, or miniature portrait photography sessions, usually take place over the course of one, or two if the photographer is batshit crazy, days. These days are generally 8-10 hours long. If the photographer has decided on 30 minute sessions, that's TWENTY families, people, couples, per day. Many of these people are relying on you to create THE MOST AMAZING CHRISTMAS CARD PHOTO ANYONE IN ANY FAMILY ANYWHERE HAS EVER SEEN. I don't care how much you love your job, that's A LOT of people to make/keep happy in a day or two. And don't even get me started on the money. 

That said, we continue to do them. You might ask why we continue to punish ourselves holiday after holiday with these chaotic carnivals of joy. 

I can't speak for any other photographers, but I have one irresistible, unavoidable reason to keep doing mini boudoir sessions. 

I want as many women as possible to experience all that boudoir has to offer.

When I started this business three years ago, I believed in boudoir. But now that I've had over 150 women trust me with these intimate images, I KNOW how powerful a boudoir session can be. 

 

I've seen women in the middle of a 150lb weight loss journey take everything off and dance between the sheets.

I've seen Cancer survivors reveal their scars to me.

I've heard women tell me that they've never believed they were beautiful until they saw their photos.

I've held women as they cried when the weight of the divorce hits them mid-session.

I've celebrated with women when they candidly tell me the best sex she and her husband ever had came after she showed him her photos.

I've high fived modest, shy women when they say YES to the implied nude "sheet shot."

I've listened as brides to be share all the details of the day they'll marry their best friend.

I've received texts just minutes after sessions thanking me for a confidence boost they didn't even know they needed.

I've smiled with mothers as they reclaim their baby body, watching as they become proud of the miracle they are.

 

Every woman has a damn good reason to do a shoot, but not every woman can afford it. 

While I still have to pay my bills, I price my mini sessions as low as I possibly can in the hopes that women who understandably can't swing our normal prices will give themselves this gift.

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.