Artists Inspired Blog Circle: June | Turquoise

Thalassophile (n.):  A lover of the sea; someone who loves the sea, ocean.  THAT’S ME!  It’s possible that I love the ocean more than I love pizza (which is a LOT).  There are loads (loads!!!!) of articles online about the psychology of color (feel free to Google it, AFTER you read my blog). But, I don’t need to read any of them to know how this month’s color, our final color in the Artists Inspired Blog Circle Color Series, affects my mood. Turquoise makes me calm and happy all in one fell swoop. It’s the color of my favorite parts of the ocean, it’s the color that comforts my soul when we live too far from the sea.  It’s summertime, it’s vacation, it’s a mental-escape.  Turquoise represents communication, clarity of thought, balance & harmony, calmness, idealism, creativity, compassion, healing & self-sufficiency.   In fact, if a soul can be defined in color, mine is the same color as the Caribbean, the tropical Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico.  My soul is turquoise.

Rather than going on and on and on (and on and on and on) about how much I love this color, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite images and quotes instead and a heart-felt thank you for reading this series each month!  We’ll pick this blog circle back up in the fall with a new inspiration theme!

PS. All images were taken on Anna Maria Island, a glorious little hide-away located just south of Tampa, FL.

 

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“The sea always filled her with longing, though for what she was never sure.” ~Cornelia Funke, Inkheart
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“The ocean is everything I want to be.  Beautiful, wild, mysterious and free.”  ~Unknown
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“I just want to live happily ever after, every now and then.”  ~Jimmy Buffett
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“I go to the ocean to calm down, to reconnect with the creator, to just be happy.” ~Nnedi Okorafor
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“It takes no more time to see the good side of life than to see the bad”  ~Jimmy Buffett
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“To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude.” ~Jeanne Moreau

 

Now that you’ve finished reading my take on this month’s theme, click here to make your way to Elizabeth Willson’s blog to see her interpretation of the color Turquoise.  Once you’re done, continue around the circle to see how other artists’ have been inspired by this color!

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The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.

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Artists Inspired Blog Circle April | Black

There’s a simple black fence surrounding the perimeter of the backyard at my new house.  At first glance, it’s nothing special–just a tool to keep the children & pets corralled in one space where they can play and run a little more freely than they were used to.   Truly, when we knew we were going to move into this house, it’s the only consideration I gave this fence.

As it turns out, there’s a lot more to that simple black fence.  A. LOT.  In the chaos of moving in, we were far too busy to pay much attention to the backyard, other than to acknowledge that it was certainly larger than what we’d previously had (to call our former yard “small” would be deeply generous).  But, once all the boxes were unpacked and all the furniture was arranged, our backyard beckoned and we answered the call.  Soccer balls were spread out for the girls to run and kick, tennis balls tossed around for the pups to play fetch, sprinklers and bubble machines set out for everyone.  A picnic table for family dinners on the patio was set up and pots and pots of flowers, that would hopefully entice bees & butterflies, were planted.  Spring was returning to Northeast Florida and, with it, a feathered friend here and there would land on that boring black fence that was meant to contain children and pets.  Their visits didn’t go unnoticed and, soon, at the urging of my children, up went a bird feeder and with it, more and more and MORE birds came.

I never really intended to become a bird watcher; while I enjoy nature, birds never really piqued my interest until we lived in this house, with it’s, as it turns out, not-so-boring black fence.  To my great surprise, it’s equal parts calming and entertaining.  I have no idea what species of bird I’m looking at most of the time (save for the obvious bluebirds, cardinals and, yes, ducks who squeeze their plump bodies through the fence to rest in my grass), and they don’t need me to know what they are, either.  They’re not here for me.  They’re there for each other and for themselves (and for the food).  They’re there to chatter, to eat, to fight, to sing, to mate, to rest, to play.  And, as much as I’m enjoying watching the cacophony of activity, my children and pets are enjoying it even more and watching them watch it gives me the biggest thrill.  My cat, who has absolutely no use for the outdoors what-so-ever, watches the backyard with a newfound and laser-focused interest.  My eldest comes home from school and eagerly checks to see if the feeder has plenty of food for our evening visitors.  My youngest rushes to the fence-line in the mornings to check on the ducks, egrets, herons and cormorants in the pond just behind the fence, as her ever-loyal pup follows by her side.  My husband lingers on the patio, checking to see what kind of activity is happening at any given time along the fence and I, armed with my camera, sneak out into the yard and hope that they all ignore me and my constant click-click-clicking as I document it all.  And, whether we’re home or not, throughout the day, that black fence serves as a meeting place, or a resting spot, for which ever feathered friend stops by for a visit.

Not too long ago, someone mentioned to me that my new interest in birds made me weird.  But, truth be told, it all seems pretty normal to me.  A normal that I never really knew existed before since we’ve never really had this kind of access to nature, but a normal that I would sorely miss now.  What’s really happened is that, in the middle of a busy life, we’ve slowed down and looked around.  This plain, boring black fence is the backdrop for something wonderful and beautiful and fun.  My backyard is alive with nature now, and every single person in my house benefits from that and my heart is happy as a result.

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The sun rising over our simple black fence.
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Morning ritual.  Off to check on the birds, and maybe telling a story or two on the way.
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I *do* know what kind of bird this is.  And I’m thrilled with his visits!
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Ok, so we didn’t expect ducks.  But, nonetheless, they’re welcome.
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No idea what this is.  But, it’s cute!  And, more importantly, it tolerated me and my camera.
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A sweet little bluebird, hard at work preparing for a new family.
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My eldest, making her afternoon trip to the bird feeder to make sure it’s fully stocked.

 

PS.  Should I decide to dress up as an old lady, adopt a British accent, make my way into the backyard with a bag of seed and start to sing “Feed the birds” from Mary Poppins, we can happily revisit the discussion of what may or may not be weird where birds are concerned.

Now that you’ve finished reading my take on this month’s theme, click here to make your way to Elizabeth Willson’s blog to see her interpretation of the color Black.  Once you’re done, continue around the circle to see how other artists’ have been inspired by this color!

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The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.

Artists Inspired Blog Circle~March | Green

So after all that delicious pizza from last month, now we’re back to colors that aren’t inspiring to me.  haha!  At least, not initially inspirational.   This month, I knew that I didn’t want to write about spring (#alltheallergies #passthekleenex #somuchpollen), and I definitely didn’t want to write about St. Patrick’s Day (#notirish #oradrinker #itsthehangover #imreallyoldforhangovers), so….green was proving tough.  So tough, in fact, that this blog got written 8 hrs before it was set to publish.  Talk about last minute.

Which begs the question….what exactly was I gonna write about this month?  Well, the answer was waiting for me in a folder of images that I took a couple of weeks ago.  Images that I was initially really stoked about, but had forgotten about because life just got in the way, as it tends to do.

Last month, I turned 40 and, I just really didn’t want a party.  At ALL. I’m one of those in-my-pajamas-by-7pm kind of people sooooooo…..yeah.  No party.  What I did want was an adventure.  I love adventure and, as a busy mom to two VERY active kids, that opportunity doesn’t exactly come around that often.  So, I left it up to my husband to plan it and was game for whatever he came up with.  What he came up with took my breath away.  A day on Cumberland Island, in the southeast corner of Georgia was exactly the adventure I needed.  This quiet, minimally developed, oak tree-covered barrier island was, unquestionably, paradise.  Folks, I don’t use this word lightly because, my idea of paradise generally leans toward tropical islands covered with palm trees, not buggy islands covered with oak trees.  Nevertheless, the peace here, the tranquility here, the untouched BEAUTY here all equaled paradise in my book.  Time sort of stands still, there’s no hurry to be anywhere or do anything, noise pollution (if you can even call it that) comes from the rustle of the palmettos as an animal scampers through the woods or from the birds chirping in the branches, or from the wind blowing through the trees or from one of the nearly 300 wild horses, neighing in the distance.  Not from cars, or planes, or trains or from people and, best of all, not from cell phones.  Paradise, unplugged.

And, so, my ode to green this month as a part of the Artists Inspired Blog Circle is just a small glimpse into a wildly peaceful, beautifully rugged adventure that my soul had been craving for far too long.

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The main road (called Main Road) on the west side of the island.  A Robert Frost poem come to life.  
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Our mode of transportation around the island.  Equal parts romantic….and exhausting (peddling through soft sand for hours on end is no joke!)
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The Dungeness ruins.  Eerie and captivating, it made for a SUPER fun backdrop for a picnic.  Hit Google to see what this place looked like in it’s hey-day.  It was spectacular.
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One of the locals.
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A pretty dapple enjoying a mid-day snack.

Now that you’ve seen a bit of my birthday adventure tinged in green, click here to follow this circle on to see how the wonderfully talented Elizabeth Willson, of It’s Still Life Photography, has interpreted this month’s theme.

 

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The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.

 

Artists Inspired Blog Circle: February | Red

Welcome to my monthly, color-inspired, entry as a part of the Artists Inspired Blog Circle.  FINALLY, a color that was easy for me!!!  With this blog being published on Valentine’s Day, and then shared to social media shortly thereafter, it was pretty clear that I should dedicate it to my one true love.  The one who makes my heart go pitter-patter.  The one who is the subject of at least 75 of my thoughts on a daily basis.  The one for whom my heart (and stomach) hungers.

PIZZA!

Don’t worry–my husband and children are a close second, but what can I say?  The stomach wants want the stomach wants, and mine wants pizza.  All. The. Time.  For my birthday later this month, my family knows what’s up.  Don’t bother with a cake.  Just bring me a pizza with 40 candles on top.  I’m a purist and pepperoni owns my heart so, today, I give you my photographic love letter to the most perfect & delicious food in the universe:  Pizza (featuring the AMAZING pizza at Via Napoli at EPCOT.  Yeah, you read that right–EPCOT serves up some of the best pizza in Orlando, folks.)

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Ain’t nobody got time for this.  Bring out the star of the show.  (Just kidding, it was a delicious salad.)
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I’d *planned* to get a shot of the whole pizza, but we ALL love the pizza at Via Napoli so we dug in first.  My youngest’s face sums up my feelings.  Laser focus on the task at hand.
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Get. In. My. Belly.
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Hello lover.
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Utter sadness as the last piece slides off of the plate.
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We don’t fool around with crusts.  That just takes up valuable real estate in the tummy that pizza could occupy.
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I’m a proud member of the Clean Plate Pizza Club.  Every time.  And, as for salad, well….I do my best.  But it’s not pizza.

Now that you’ve read about my deep and abiding love for this incredibly delicious, wonderfully perfect food, and before you go order some, head on over to my friend Elizabeth Willson’s blog at It’s Still Life Photography and see how she’s interpreted this month’s theme!

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The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.

Making Change

It comes in all forms, big and small.  Change your hair, change your clothes, change your address, change your life, etc. Some people love it.  Some people loathe it.  Some people live somewhere in between the two.  It’s the change your address one that I’m most familiar with.  Change is part and parcel of being a member of this family since we move, on average, every 2.5 years.  A new home, city, state, and, maybe even a new country.  If I’m an expert at anything in this life, it’s change.  Generally, I embrace it.   Generally.  Quite unexpectedly, change has happened again.  But, this time, it’s off schedule and out of sync with our “norm.”  Through various circumstances, we’ve moved—again—and this time, not because my husband’s job dictated it, but because our rental home situation, with very little warning, changed.  It’s the change-your-address kind of change all over again, but with a twist.

As a mom of two girls who are 10 years apart in age, change seems to affect my kids in drastically different ways, and yet, if I really look at it, they’re actually worried about the same thing.  To my 13-year-old, change means leaving friends, school, social activities…..everything she knows and loves in this stage of her life.  Usually, she rolls with it really well (to her credit, MUCH better than I would have at that age!) but this time, the idea of moving away from her friends and her school, yet staying in the same general area, broke her heart.  To my 3-year-old, change means the possibility of leaving stuffed animals and toys behind in the old house (despite the fact that I reassured her, at least 48 times a day, that we would pack every single one of them).   When I stop and really listen, though, they’re both worried about the same thing.  Will their “normal” come with us?  That’s a tall order for a mom to answer sometimes, since I don’t always know the answer myself.  This time, I was able to say, without question, that it would.  I was able to say this with such certainty because this time we, quite literally, moved into the home next door, thanks to a little bit of serendipity and some truly wonderful *neighbors who intervened on our behalf in order to keep us in the neighborhood.

So, this time around, our normal just shifted to the left (or the right, depending on which way you’re looking at the houses!).  A literal laundry-basket move; it was exhausting.  My eyeballs hurt at the end of it and my in-laws and I made so many trips back and forth between homes, we wore a path in the grass.  Though everything we own is finally inside the new house, things aren’t quite in all their places yet and everything is waiting (and waiting….and waiting) to be hung on the walls.  Furniture is in different places, rooms are in different locations, nothing is the same but our normal is here.  Nothing changed with my 13 year old’s social life and every single stuffed animal made its way to my 3 year old’s new bedroom and, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters to both of them.  We’re still sitting down for dinner as a family at night and waking up as a family in the mornings, which is all that matters to me.  And, really, it’s what I want to give them:  A soft place to land in the midst of uncertainty and a life that feels “normal,” even if it’s really not.

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Playing amidst the chaos of packing up the old house.
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Moving into her new room
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Enjoying a little bit of playtime during a break
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A long, empty room with a hardwood floor is a HARD thing to pass up

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Work, work, work, work, work
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Making sure the beds are set up properly
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Reclaiming a sense of normal and baking a birthday cake for their dad
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Back to a routine….

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Nap-approved
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A new yard to play in has been a definite perk!
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Work space:  Check!

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The attack cat, standing watch.
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Yep.  Back to “normal.”

Change is a great way to have your life turned upside down.  It’s a great teacher, too, and I find that I always learn something from our change-your-address kinds of change—even one where we didn’t really go very far at all.  So here is what I’ve learned this time:  My kids are more alike than they realize.  Having great neighbors who want to go to bat for you is priceless.  The house that we called home for our first 2 years here was not feeding the soul of my family.  A home filled with sunshine & light, both figurative and literal, is a wonderful place to live.   And, though I learned this a long time ago, it reveals itself to me with each and every move:  A house and a home are not the same things.

*Side note:  That part about my neighbors working to keep us in the neighborhood is kind of huge.  When you move as much as we do, you don’t often feel embraced as a part of a community.  More often than not, people don’t go out of their way to get to know you because they know you’re temporary and, if I’m being honest, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not getting to know neighbors for the exact same reason.  To be embraced by a group of neighbors as we have here has been one of the greatest gifts, and experiences, of living in this area.

Artists Inspired Blog Circle: January | Grey

Hello, dear reader!  Every month (as you’ve likely noticed), I write a blog as a part of a broader blog circle and, each month, we share our take on a different color.  When I started this blog as a whole, I planned to write MORE than once a month.  Then….well, you know the saying.  You make plans, God laughs.  Boy, did he laugh.  I must be a straight up comedy routine at this point.  Life has, more or less, kicked me in the teeth for the better part of 5 months and I’m *still* trying to sort out what His plan is in all of this.  It must be good….or, that’s what I keep telling myself.  So, here we are–a once a month entry (if that!), hoping for something better (more prolific, more profound, even?) in the months ahead.

Grey is a very appropriate color for me these days.  If I could apply a color to how I feel, grey would most definitely be it.  You know that part in Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy steps out of her house when she lands in Munchkinland and the world goes from black & white to glorious color?  Well, that’s me, but the opposite.  Way back in August, I was caught up in a proverbial (and seemingly non-stop) tornado and my world went from color to black & white for a bit. Much like another very famous saying, $hit happens.  And, it kept happening.  “Overwhelmed” might be a good word to use for it, if one were to need a label.  Originally, I’d planned for that to be the focus of this month’s blog (I know it seems like it probably is already!), but, considering that *I* am still trying to figure out what the big-picture plan is here, it didn’t make much sense to try to rationalize it in blog-form just yet, with pictures attached, no less!,when I’m still sitting and waiting and looking and hoping that all the color will soon return.

So, neither myself nor my mess of a life are the subject of this particular blog (because, frankly, that’s just me whining and that’s kind of boring.).  Instead, I did a u-turn and chose to focus on something I love:  the beach.  Which, as it so happens, can be a pretty freaking awesome metaphor for life kicking the crap out of you.

I love (LOVE) a good beach day and I’ll take it any way I can get it.  Of course, most people assume that a “good” beach day is warm and sunny and those are great!  I do so love laying on the sand and soaking up the rays in the warm, warm sun. Ha.  Just kidding.  I’m a mom–I never get to lay on the sand and soak up rays, but you know what I mean.  Good beach day = postcard weather.  To a crazy person (me) with a camera (still me), though, a good beach day means big waves and a moody sky.  There’s a peacefulness that comes with watching the tide ebb and flow, the waves crash on the sand, and the clouds swirl above as they morph into a new shape in the blink of an eye.  There’s also that metaphor:  a day can start out calm enough–a greyish sky, some gentle waves–and before you know it, you’re out in the water, caught in the swell with the clouds deepening and the wind picking up.  You pretend you’re ok, even though it feels a little bit like you might drown.  But, if you’re lucky, you get your feet back on shore and you see that the wind has calmed, the clouds are parting and the sun is returning again.  That’s where I am right now (I think).  Back on the shore.  Taking a breath.  Ready to turn my face to the sun again.

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PS.  I’m aware that I referenced God & swore all in the same blog post.  I’m imperfect.  He loves me anyway.  ❤

Next up in the blog circle is the incomparably talented Elizabeth Willson of It’s Still Life Photography.  Click here to see her take on this month’s theme and then make your way around the circle to see how each of our talented artists tackled this challenge!

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The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.

Artists Inspired Blog Circle || December || White

Well, hey there!  Have you missed me?  It’s been a minute and, this time, NOT because of writer’s block (trust me, I’ve had plenty to say).  Instead, my long absence from blogging has been much more to do with a whirlwind schedule of a life these past few weeks (months!).  I won’t bore you with the details, especially since some of them are pretty boring.  Nevertheless, I’m back just in time to write for this months Artists Inspired Blog Circle!

This month, our color inspiration is white and if I lived in the northern states, this theme would be super easy and I’d be blogging photos of snow (duh!).  If I lived on the Gulf Coast of Florida, it would *also* be super easy, because I’d tell you alllllllllll about that beautiful sugar-white sand and would have found every excuse in the world to take my camera to the beach.  However, in this corner of Northeast Florida, where it does not snow and the sand is not white, you have to get a little creative when you’re looking for something white AND seasonal to write about (yes, white sand is, in fact, always seasonal, in my opinion).

So, with the absence of white snow and white sand, what’s a girl to do?  The answer was a lot easier than I thought–there’s a whole lot of white associated with Christmas, so I decided to document how much my littlest is enjoying the holiday season, from trips to her favorite candy store, Sweet Pete’s, to a trip to visit Jolly Old Saint Nick where, for the first time, she finally worked up the nerve to talk to him and ask for a bike.  I hope you’re doing the same for your family!  Capture those memories!!

This time of year truly is magical and from me & mine to you & yours, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.  Please click HERE to continue on through the circle and see how the lovely and talented Elizabeth Willson from It’s Still Life Photography interpreted this month’s theme.  ❤

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I Love To Tell The Story

Sigh. There’s just no way around it any longer.  Change is happening here at Nikki Smith Photography.  Actually, it’s been trying to happen for a while now and I’ve been trying my Olympic-level best to ignore it.  I’ve been brushing off that persistent whisper in the back of my mind, thinking it would just go away if I didn’t pay attention to it……but, it hasn’t.  Quite the opposite, actually.

Lately, it’s become very obvious to me that I might be something other than a photographer.  Yeah, I have a camera and Photoshop.  Yeah, I know my gear.  Yeah, I love taking pictures.  But, I’m actually not just taking pictures.   I’m collecting memories.  I’m telling the stories around me.  I felt it when I wrote my blog about why I need to take pictures.  I’ve felt it over the past several weeks, sifting through my late grandmother’s picture boxes, reminiscing over the stories I knew, wondering about the ones I didn’t, mending my shattered heart with the past.  In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the enormous privilege of documenting not one, but two military deployment homecomings.  While capturing those moments and then editing those galleries, I really, really felt it.  The pull I’d been resisting for longer than I care to acknowledge was stronger than it’d ever been before.   My need to tell stories is a living, breathing part of me and I cannot ignore it any longer and I have to do something about it.

Which leads me to this change that I’m making. I believe SO strongly in this change, so strongly in how important it is to tell all the stories, that I’m going to do something crazy (it makes me get a little pit-sweaty when I say it out loud, truth be told). Ready?  Here it is. Now that my 2016 session calendar has officially closed for bookings, I will no longer be offering posed family sessions.  Holy crap, I said it.  Well, wrote, it, but whatever.  It’s official.  Nikki Smith Photography is going in a new direction.

Don’t get me wrong.  Posed family sessions are wonderful.  I’m not knocking them at all.  They are important and beautiful and have their place in the family album.  But, can I tell you something?  I have to force my own family to do them.  There it is, the truth.  Once a year, just in time for Christmas cards, family photos are forced in my house.  There are families who LOVE posed photography.  My family isn’t one of them.  My kids drag their feet about it, my husband huffs and puffs and rolls his eyes and smiles (kind of) but, only after I threaten to nag him for all of eternity if he doesn’t.  We collectively smile, through clenched teeth while telling each other to smile, for the camera, but no one really wants to be there (except for me, because I’m the mom who WANTS the pictures to be made).  Sound familiar?  Maybe just a little bit?  If you’re sitting here reading this, nodding along because my family sounds like your family—you’re my people!   We get one another.  We want family photos.  But getting them by way of threats is exhausting.  Instead, we want them to reflect who we really are.   We want the kind of photos that immediately spark a story that starts with, “Remember that time….”  We want MEMORIES!   It’s what I want for my family and it’s what I want for your family, too.

So, if I’m no longer offering posed family sessions, what exactly am I offering?  Well, I’m so glad you asked.  Starting in 2017, I’m beyond excited to introduce Family Story Sessions, where, together, we will tell the story of you.  What is YOUR story?  What do you love to do?  What makes your family’s heart sing?  Who is important to you?  Where is your heart the happiest?  Let’s go on an adventure or just hang out in your driveway for a family game of basketball.  Grand or small, let’s capture the memories that, one day, will be your family legacy!  Let’s tell your story. 

Ahhhh, if only it were as easy as that, right?  I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “I’ve got a camera on my phone.  I already take my own photos of us doing that stuff when we go do it.  Why do I need to hire someone?”  True, but……can I ask you a question?  How often are YOU in those photos with your family?  Letting someone else take control of the camera means you’re free to have fun, too!  And, wanna know a secret?  That person with the camera (ME!!!) sees things you don’t.  I can see the moments that make the memories while you’re busy making them.

For years I’ve only included posed photos for my own Christmas cards.  Here is just a glimpse of the things we’ll be including this year, because this is who we are.  We’re beach lovers who do family story-time, we love ice cream treats and jump on hotel beds, we learn to ride tricycles and play airplane-ballerina in the driveway on summer evenings and we’re the people who ride through Target in our Iron Man mask.  We’re those people and these are the memories that tell our story.

 

Of course, with a new direction comes a re-branding.  Introducing my new logo.  Nikki Smith, photographer | storyteller.  It just feels a little more…..me.

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Brace yourselves, because there’s more (what?!).  To celebrate my new Family Story Sessions, I will be hosting an open model call after the first of the year.  ANYONE in my local area (St. Johns, St. Augustine, Greater Jacksonville) or, anyone who wants to travel to my local area, can apply.  All you’ll need to do is tell me what YOUR family loves to do together!  So, put your thinking caps on and keep an eye on my Facebook page (here) for the announcement.

If you’re sitting there thinking that THIS is the type of family session you’ve been waiting for but you aren’t quite sure what you’d like to go do, message me!  I’m keeping a list of great memory-making activities that I’m updating almost daily.  PS.  While I will no longer be offering posed family sessions of any kind, sessions for children, toddlers and high-school seniors are still available for booking (just a little more relaxed now).  But, couples??? Let’s go tell your story, too, in a Couples Story Session!

Love,

Nikki

Gather the Stories

A few weeks ago, I wrote about why I take pictures (all the pictures) and about one of the people who drove that need.  That person, my grandmother, passed away on September 19th and, while not wholly unexpected (her health had been slowly declining over the past couple of months), my heart is, nonetheless, shattered into a million pieces.

Loss is a funny thing.  The news came in the middle of the night (my phone rang at 12:32 am) and, immediately upon hearing what my heart already knew, I remembered………nothing.  Not one memory from my lifetime with her.  Instead, every unsaid thing that I yearned to say to her, and planned to say to her during a scheduled visit in a few weeks’ time, flooded my mind.  I wanted to thank her for loving me, to tell her that my life has been better because she was such a big part of it, that *I* have been better because of her influence, and a million other things that I hoped she already knew, but I never got the chance to say out loud.  It wasn’t until the following day, when I arrived in her hometown, that the memories came.  At first, they were just flickers and then it became a highlight reel, bombarding me left and right, and now, every time I close my eyes in a quiet moment, something new and specific and wonderful and, yes, heartbreaking greets me.  Maybe, by keeping those memories from me, my brain was protecting my heart in those first few hours in the middle of the dark night, but whatever the reason, I’m grateful that the memories took their time to find me so I can, in turn, take my time with them.

But, I don’t just have my memories.  Now, I’m the keeper of hers, too, by way of boxes and boxes of old photographs (it appears that my mission to document everything is an inherited trait).  She didn’t take them, but she sure collected them.  Print, by print, by print, by print.  I’ve known about her collection for years and my need to come home with it was palpable.  These pictures are my last remaining link to her and I need them almost as much as I need my next breath.  If you gave me a stack of gold, I’m not sure I’d find it to be more valuable than what I brought home with me in those boxes.

My grandmother’s early life was defined by significant amounts of sadness and tragedy.  Everyone (everyone) in her immediate family (father, mother, brothers and sister) passed away at a very early age.  Before she knew it, she was the only one left; all she had was her memories.  And pictures.  So. Many. Pictures.  My grandmother spent her life quietly keeping the memories alive of those who had gone before her with a story here, a reference there and, I listened.  I listened all the time.  I soaked it up like a sponge.  Much in the way that I feel like I could write a novel about my grandmother, I’m sure she felt like she could write a novel about all of those people who had long since passed.  Thanks to those stories and mentions, I know who most of these people in her pictures are.  I know her parents, her brothers (even the one who died at the young, young age of 19), her sister, her sisters-in-law and more.  I never met them, but feel like, on some level, I had.  But, there are so many other people that I don’t know.  My grandmother’s archives date back to the 1900s.  And, I don’t mean the 1910s or 1920s.  I literally mean 1900.  Brittle, yellowed and fragile, I’ve now inherited the road map to my family’s past.  Then, there are the pictures of my grandparents, my Mammaw & Pop.  Beautiful and handsome, young and happy.  In love, both with each other and their life together.   Yeah……I know the stories.  But I don’t know all of them and, as I sift through all of these photographs, I would give anything (anything) to hear her tell me just a few more.

And, so, here is my plea to you.  Get off of your devices (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, even this blog can wait) and go have a conversation.  Call or go visit the person or people who matter the most to you and gather the stories.  Know where they came from so you can know where you came from.  And, of course, take the pictures, but not just the posed, staged and perfect ones; the real memories, the ones that will sustain you for years to come, lie in the imperfect, spontaneous moments.  Then, for the love of God, print them.  PRINT THEM.  Actual, tangible prints that you can hold in your hands—not just the bound, pretty, easy-to-keep-stacked-and-stored photo books.  Because, one day, someone in your life will also be shattered and those prints will be their lifeline to you.

For 39 years, 6 months and 22 days, there was someone on this earth who loved me unconditionally, who was never angry with me (not once), who was never disappointed in me, who was never harsh with me.  She just loved me.  In her eulogy, the pastor at her funeral chose, rightfully so, to focus on the fact that my grandmother was a hard worker.  And she was.  But, I don’t think it was just a dedicated work ethic that drove her—at least not in the way it drives most people.  My grandmother was driven by love.  And, of all the lessons she taught me over the past 39 and a half years, love, faith, kindness, patience, forgiveness and perseverance were, without question, the most important.   I am the person that I am, in large part, because of the person she was and, for that, I will be eternally grateful.

I’ve been “okay” for the past several days.  Today is my day to not be okay, because I’m not.  I am devastated.  My heart is broken in a way that it never has been broken before.  But, I know I will be okay again, because she taught me how to be.

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A fraction of the bins of photographs from her collection
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One of the oldest albums in my grandmother’s collection
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My grandmother’s life as a small child
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My beautiful grandparents, enjoying a day on Pensacola Beach
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The last picture I have of my sweet grandmother & I

Give Me The Gold of the Setting Sun–Artists Inspired Blog Circle

Our blog circle theme for the month of September is Gold.  I’m not gonna lie, inspiration didn’t exactly wash over me.  It didn’t even trickle over me.  I had to wait.  And think.  And wait (and wait and wait and wait) some more.  “What. The. CRAP. am I gonna write about and how am I going to tie that to the color gold?” is basically what kept running through my mind.  (Incidentally, the possibility of running out of things to talk about is exactly why I was hesitant to start a blog to begin with.  And, look at me, writer’s block just 3 entries into it.  Impressive.)  So, I pushed this theme and project aside.  I got up from my computer (since it was being an uninspiring jerk, anyway) and I played with my kids.  I read a book, I watched some trashy TV, I went for a run (that I am definitely not in good enough shape to do), I decided to never go for another run again, I played with my kids some more and I watched some sunsets, which is just about my favorite way to end the day.  Hoooooo-leeeeeeeeeeee Crap.  The sunset is GOLD!  The angels sang & inspiration finally arrived!  I LOVE SUNSETS.  I am so fully mesmerized by the things that happen at sunset; the way the day eases it’s way into night, they way people on a beach, busy with everything, become silently captivated, the way backyards become more inviting, the way the neighbors meander out into their driveways so the kids can play, the way the neighborhood comes alive with conversation and laughter and fellowship….the way life becomes so, SO beautifully lit!  At the end of the day, give me the gold of the setting sun.

 

Give me the gold of the setting sun,

The sky on fire,

The horizon ablaze.

Give me the breathless moments,

The watching,

The waiting,

The anticipation of the day’s last gasp.

Give me the golden hours,

The golden days,

The golden moments,

The golden years that soon will pass.

And when it has finally set and gone,

Give me the glorious colors of the

Day that is done.

Give me the gold of the setting sun.

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Click on any (or all!) of the images above to see full-sized versions and then, once you’re done, click here to see how the wonderfully talented Elizabeth Willson of It’s Still Life Photography has interpreted this month’s theme.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month and this month’s theme was chosen specifically to support that initiative and if you continue far enough into this circle, you’ll see, through the eyes of a very brave Momma, what it’s like to watch your child fight through this battle.  Want to know more about ways you can help?  Click here.

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The Artists Inspired Blog Circle is made up of an exceptionally talented group of photographers from all walks of life, from all over the world. They are wives, mothers, friends, daughters and visual storytellers who draw from their own experiences to create art that is inspiring, unique, beautiful and thought-provoking.