wedding

Even My Gorgeous, Wonderful Husband Doesn't Get It // WV Boudoir Photographer

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Last night, Ricky and I started watching a show called “Workin’ Moms.” It’s a delightfully honest sitcom about, you guessed it, mothers who work. It’s a goddamn work of art, actually. I’ve seen only two episodes, and during both of them I have laughed out loud many times and cried at least once per episode. It goes deep in a way that most pieces of film are afraid to. Deep in a way that, apparently, only women will understand.


One of the mothers in the show is struggling to produce enough milk via breastfeeding. At the end of an episode, after a long, difficult day of “having it all” (read: working in an office full of men and getting mocked and dismissed for being a MOTHER), her baby fights feeding, but does eventually give in and latches. Her entire body relaxes as she lets out whimpering versions of “thank god.”


The credits rolled, along with the tears down my face. I looked over at my progressive, amazing, understanding husband and said, “do you see? Do you see how much more we have to deal with? Do you see how much harder women have to work just to live a life?” And I was met with a blank stare. Nothing. No words. No emotion. He just stared at me.


To his credit, we were watching a sitcom on Netflix when his wife turned around with a face full of tears, asking him to explain himself and the patriarchy. Maybe he was just stunned. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t even all that surprised. Women have been alone in this fight forever.

I guess deep down, I’ve known that he doesn’t get it, or I wouldn’t have asked those hypothetical questions of him. We are approaching the years in which we’ll grow our family, and it brings a lot of questions to the surface. Problems that are easy to delay solving now, but won’t be for much longer.


These questions are easy to ignore because my husband IS one of the good ones. He does basically all of our dishes. He does laundry, including my Thinx. He takes care of the cats, the bills, yard, the cars. He understands what emotional labor is, and often verbally acknowledges how much of it he sees me doing. He doesn’t talk over me. He doesn’t talk down to me. As men go, he’s pretty great.

So I forget sometimes, that although he IS incredible, he’s still not a woman.


He still doesn’t understand why I prefer to take the elevator in a parking garage.


He doesn’t know that in the winter, I ran home from my job that was 30 yards away, door to door, in the evenings.


He doesn’t understand how terrifying it is to have an irregular period as a 32 year old woman who wants children.

He doesn’t understand why I’m in such a damn hurry to buy a house.


He doesn’t see other men not making eye contact with me in a group conversation.


He doesn’t know why I hate it when he says he hasn’t noticed the several pounds I’ve put on.


He doesn’t understand why it’s such a goddamn relief that I’ve decided not to breastfeed.


He doesn’t mind, but doesn’t know the power I’ve found in keeping my last name for now.


He doesn’t feel the weight of the government using women’s bodies as pawns in a power game.

He doesn’t, and won’t truly understand any of this. Because he can’t. We can have all of the conversations in the world. He can see me screaming, crying, heartbroken, livid, but he’ll never really know any of it.

I can tell him and teach him how to support women, but the fact is, this will always be a space between my husband and me. This will be something we never have in common.

Computer science

Transformers

Musicals

Understanding life as a woman.



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.

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

 

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.

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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