wedding planning

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

 

Hollingshead Was Not My Maiden Name // WV Boudoir Photographer

By next Christmas, I will be a Hussmann. By the Christmas after that, we might have a child I’ll one day tell that Hollingshead was my maiden name. 

Hollingshead was my maiden name?

That doesn’t seem quite right. 

 

I became the woman I am today with that name.

I attended and dropped out of college with that name.

I started a thriving business with $100 in my bank account with that name.

I fell in love, soooo many times, with that name.

I made terrible, life-altering decisions that I then rose from the ashes of with that name.

I introduced myself to the love of my life with that name.

I was surprised by visits from my brothers with that name.

I worked behind counters until I could start my own business with that name.

I made the hardest decision of my life with that name.

I learned how to love and please my body with that name.

I drove so many miles and booked so many trips with that name.

I rejected men that didn’t treat me the way my mother taught me I should be treated with that name.

I created hundreds of thousands of images of beautiful, incredible women, with that name. 

I voted for the first black President of the United States with that name. 

I removed my toxic father from my life with that name.

I giggled at 31 years worth of twinkling Christmas lights with that name. 

I adopted my beloved Astrid kitty with that name.

I got laughed at countless times with that name. 

I discovered what singing does for my soul with that name. 

I held my mother’s hand in the hospital more than once with that name.

I showed my work on gallery walls for the first time with that name.

I said “yes” to a lifetime of happiness with that name. 

 

My dear future child, Hollingshead was not my maiden name. 

Hollingshead was my warrior name.

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