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I Had To Write You A Letter Because Last Night You Weren't Listening // WV Boudoir. Photographer

Dear Mr. B,

It was nice to meet you last night, but there are some things you need to learn before we speak again. You behaved badly, and unfortunately for you, I am in the process of learning how to take up space. My taking up space leaves less room for you, and you seemed to take issue with that. My presence, unless it was silent, clearly made you uncomfortable. And instead of sitting quietly with that, you got louder. I am too amazing to allow you or anyone like you continue to react to me in this way.

I have a lot to say, Mr. B. Big things, important things. But my body is small. And my voice is high pitched. And if I raise my voice, I’m a bitch. If I raise my voice just to be heard, I’m pushy. I’m bossy. I can’t take a joke. I’m obnoxious. I’m “a lot.”

But you have no idea what you’re missing. I have thoughts. I have ideas. I have knowledge that would blow your goddamn mind. I have questions you’d love to be asked, and I have inspiring answers to the questions you’d never even think to ask me.

I’d love to tell you how you can improve your behavior, but you’re probably not listening. All I can say is the next time we meet, prepared to feel uncomfortable with my volume, my words, my existence. And this time, I won’t let you get away with it.

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.

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.



Low Rise Jeans on a High Rise Body // WV Boudoir Photographer

Between the ages of 13 and 17, I must have spent what added up to hours pulling my shirts down and my jeans up. All of my shirts had little spots of stretched, puckered material at the bottoms where I'd compulsively pull them down to meet my low rise jeans.

I still cringe at the thought of that feeling--sitting down, feeling the cool air on what may or may not be your ass crack. You could never tell for sure, so you always assumed it was out. I walked through the hallways slumped over, even though I was a tiny 5'2". If I scrunched my body, you couldn't see my hips busting out of the top of my jeans. I can still remember the tightness of the "waist" band sinking down my hips as I sat on hard classroom chairs. And sitting on the ground was simply out of the question. So I'd stand and watch the game while my narrower-hipped friends sat criss cross apple sauce in the grass.

Shopping wasn't any fun. Shirts were too short, pants were too long. I remember wishing I could cut off the extra material at the bottoms of my jeans and put it on the top. Every pair of jeans I tried on stopped short of slipping over what I called my muffin top. I'd run the tests: sitting, squatting, bending over to see just how much of my ass crack you could see with each movement. We'd scour the mall searching for a different style in my size while my mother tried to help by saying things like, "honey, you're so thin!"

And I was. I was a size 4 until you got to my hips and ass. I had what all the women in my family referred to as "The Daugherty ASSet." All of the women in my family were curvy, especially in the tush area. Growing up, I'd always assumed that when I hit puberty, I'd start to look like them. At 13, my butt grew, but my stomach didn't. I'd never seen a shape like mine. Shopping trips only reinforced the idea that my body was weird, wrong with every pair of jeans that squeezed into my soft hips.

My whole life people told me I was pretty, but between 13 and 17 I hid behind scraggly hair and wrong-sized clothing because I felt abnormal. 


Fast forward a few years, 2005. I'm shopping in an Old Navy in Pittsburgh, and I see a sign I'd never seen before. Above the wall of denim were signs describing what style of jean was under it. 

boyfriend    cropped    skinny   CURVY

Curvy? Could this be me? Could these pants have been built for people shaped like me? Were there other people shaped like me?

 I snagged every wash, every color they had in my size and ran to the fitting room.

I remember closing my eyes as I pulled them OVER my hips, and fastening the button that hit at my belly button. I ran the tests: sitting, no ass crack. Squatting, NO ass crack! Bending over, NO ASS CRACK. I got brave and tried sitting criss cross apple sauce on the floor--no skin showing at all. 

Sitting on that fitting room floor, I had so many questions.

Where have these jeans been all my life?

Did they exist when I was in high school?

Am I shaped funny, or did low rise jeans lie to me?

My curvy jeans gave me glasses. I started to see that there are as many body shapes as there are women in this world. I felt a sense of relief. No one is weird when everyone is different.

I wore those jeans til my knees tore through. They weren't perfect, but for the first time in my life, I didn't have to reach back to make sure my ass crack wasn't out when I sat down, and that felt good.


I reclaimed my self esteem around age 20, but I was still dressing to downplay my "Daugherty ASSet" until a year or so ago. I was still following rules like

don't wear horizontal stripes on bottom

no skinny jeans

only a line dresses and definitely not pencil dresses

wear loud patterns and bright colors on top to distract the eye

Distract the eye?! From what? The horror that is my backside?!

Then I heard of a brand called Madewell that friends and bloggers said understands women. I looked them up online. I noticed that they have a fit called "high rise skinny." Skinny AND high waisted? This was unprecedented in my world.

The next time we were in Pittsburgh, Madewell was on my to do list. I told Ricky to go to the Apple Store, this might take a while.

I bared my soul to the kind young girl who asked I needed help. She chuckled at the TMI I served her, but loaded a fitting room with more options than I knew I had. 

I blew through them, giggling and doing happy dances behind my fitting room curtain.

"How's it going in there?"

"Oh my god. Oh my god!"

She laughed. "Okay, well let me know if you need another size or anything."


I wear my Madewells multiple times a week, and I just ordered my second pair. 

A well-fitting jean taught me that there are infinite body shapes. A perfect fitting jean taught me how to love mine. So much, that when I'm wearing them, I often tuck my shirts in, just so you can see my tush as I strut across a room.

More importantly, loving my own shape helps me love all the other shapes. Wearing these jeans helps me celebrate ALL the shapes. 

I never want you to feel wrong, weird or abnormal because of the clothes that are available to you. I only want you to feel beautiful and celebrated. Wear what you want; wear what feels good. Wear what makes you want to strut across a room. 

You are beautiful, just as you are my friend.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

350 Sets Of Stories // WV Boudoir Photographer

I have made boudoir photos for over 350 people.

350 bodies.

350 souls.

350 histories.


As you can imagine, the boudoir experience is a very revealing one. Not just skin, of course. It's a brand new experience for most, and new experiences tend to strip us down to our most vulnerable bones. We are childlike in these moments, hearts open to the newness, minds slightly hesitant of it. 

With every client I book, I am taken aback by the trust my clients place in me from the very start. Before I have written or spoken a word to them, they reveal a little bit about why they want to do a session. Some of them haven't felt beautiful in years. Some are on a wellness journey. Others have stories of abuse, medical issues, bad relationships, suppressive childhoods, struggles with motherhood. 350 unique stories to tell. 

I worked hard to curate the booking process so that my clients can get to know me, and hopefully trust me very early on. I want them to feel welcome, safe, and eventually excited for the experience they're about to have. 9 times out of 10, during the first phone call I can hear the nervousness in their voices fall away. Their language goes from, "I'm nervous," to "I'm excited" in just around 20 minutes. It's really beautiful, and I am honored and flattered every time it happens. 

Every so often I will receive an additional text or email after that first phone call. Having established a relationship, my clients seem to feel urged to share more with me after we speak. This is when I hear the real reasons they want to do a session. 

It's never just about looking and feeling sexy. 

It's about finding yourself again.

It's about healing.

It's about reclaiming something that was taken from you.

It's about celebration.

It's about acceptance.

It's about reconnecting with a part of yourself you thought might be gone.

It's about feeling desired.

It's about a new perspective.

It's about believing you are enough, dare I say, as you are.

I will never take for granted the honor it is to be invited on these journeys. 

To those of you who have shared your story with me, thank you. You fill my heart with love and purpose when you do.


What is your story? What is behind your boudoir session? What would this experience mean to 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! 

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.