travel

A Tour of Our Living Room // WV Boudoir Photographer

The silver airplane bottle opener is from a delightful, expertly curated antique barware store on Tybee Island. We only got to enjoy that shop for one year before it closed. We knew they wouldn’t be open the next year, though, because we’d made friends with the owners and got a little back story. They moved back to D.C.

The white porcelain horse is from Target, the clearance end cap. I waited for him to be cheap enough to justify the purchase of a white porcelain horse. I’ve had him longer than Ricky and I have had each other. He’s got two chips on his elaborate bridle. I call him Conquistador Horse.

The macrame on the bedroom door is from a craft I attempted at a business owner’s meeting. I’m not very good at macrame.

The fiddle fig tree is from a friend. She thoughtfully brought it as a thank you gift for having her as an overnight guest.

The letterpress prints behind the bar are my brother’s gift for being in our wedding. They will be expensive and inconvenient to ship, so I have put that off. Ricky would like to do it before Christmas. I would like to wait until they drive up here again.

“Girls Named Penelope” is a piece of art by a lady called Leslie. I fell in love with it at Arts Walk, an annual event here in Morgantown. It is often crisp, cool and wet this night. It’s my favorite evening of the year.

The candle beside Alexa is made by a company that is based in Ohio. The candles are too expensive, and I have to go to this one store in the Strip in Pittsburgh to get them, but I always have a really pleasant interaction there. I’m kind of proud to be able to treat myself to these candles, and I enjoy visiting the store where I get them.

The blue velvet pillow is from Salvation Army. I got it at least 7 years ago. It used to have tassels on it, but I cut those off. I like the color a lot. It is luxurious and whimsical.

The other blue pillow in the room was accidentally stolen from the hotel where everyone stayed for our wedding. Our nephew thought it belonged to us and packed it with our things the morning after our wedding. We thought that was a funny story so we kept it.

The brass bar tools set is from a cool vintage shop in Pittsburgh. I was with my friend, and she really liked it too, but it was a lot of money for me to spend on something like that at the time. So I tried to send Ricky a picture, but I didn’t get very good service in the store, so I had to make the choice on my own. I’m really glad I got it.

The statue of a samurai was a gift from Ricky’s host family in Japan. They didn’t speak English, and he didn’t speak Japanese. He had a hell of a time getting in through customs. I think it’s hideous but is cool enough to keep around. I hope someday we have a perfect spot for it in our house. I know it means a lot to Ricky.

To West Virginia, With Love, From Paris | WV Boudoir Photographer

This is where everything changed. At sunset, on a rooftop bar in Paris, the first night of our honeymoon. We were the only people in the place drinking whiskey; everyone else held drinks that matched the sky that night--an aperitif called the Aperol spritz. It sounded more like a dance than a drink. Later in the week, I developed quite an affinity for the bright orange libation. 

We were surprised at how quickly we felt homesick in Paris. As a first time international traveler, I hadn't anticipated the loneliness that came with not speaking the language by which you're surrounded. 

This loneliness prompted the choice of whiskey which prompted the conversation which changed everything.


A few blogs back I spoke about our decision to have a year of fun in a bigger city. Specific plans were put on hold to focus on the wedding, but other than that, we were full speed ahead to make the move this fall. We were excited to see where Ricky could go professionally, if I could successfully move my business to a larger city, and to meet new people we hoped would remain lifelong friends. 

Then we saw a group of jovial people on our hotel rooftop in Paris. They seemed to be celebrating something. The gregarious gentleman in the straw fedora had command of the crowd, perhaps he accomplished something. Or maybe this was a welcome home party. He moved through his crew with confidence and ease, readily doling out hugs, laughs and kisses. 

"They look like they're having a good time," I said, a bit wistfully.

"I bet people look at us with our friends at home like we're looking at them," Ricky observed.

We both got quiet for a bit, taking in the sun setting over our home for a week. We could see Sacre Coeur and got our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower from where we sat. The heft of the moment brought tears to my eyes.

"What if we didn't move?" I pierced our silence with my broken voice.

"I'm not sure that's a decision we should make on the first night of our honeymoon on a rooftop in Paris," my continually left-brained husband tightened the reins on the conversation.

Then he added, "I wonder if we're so determined to leave because we're afraid to stay, because we think we're supposed to leave."

We got quiet again. A burst of collective laughter drew my attention to the group of celebrating friends. 

"I love our life in Morgantown. I kind of want to watch it grow, see what it can become, see what WE can build there," I touched Ricky's knee as I presented my case.

"I love it, too." Ricky swings from being a man of too many words to a man of too few, but I let it slide this time. We had a honeymoon to enjoy.


We didn't talk much more about the move while we were in Paris. In fact, we didn't talk much more about it at all until we were having dinner out weeks later at one of our favorite restaurants in Morgantown. 

"We should probably make a decision," one of us, I can't remember who, said. 

I cut to the chase and said, "We aren't moving, are we?" 

"No, I don't believe we are," Ricky simply concurred. 


And that was that. Our decision to stay. It took looking at our beautiful life in West Virginia from a rooftop in Paris to realize we already have everything we're searching for.

When she moved to West Virginia, a friend's mother told her, "bloom where you're planted, darling."

That's what we're doing. Ricky and I have big, beautiful dreams for ourselves, our family and our state, and we want to make them real HERE, where we are proud to say we were born and raised. We have skills and talents that we think West Virginia deserves to have here. We love our home state, and want to be small part of its bright future. 

Happy West Virginia Day! We are so happy to be--and remain--West Virginians. 


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.