Wanderlust

My Love Affair with Paris | Paris, France | April, 2017 |Travel Photography

Whoever said happiness isn't a place is an idiot. Happiness is sitting along the side of the Seine River, devouring the savory remnants of a fresh quiche, pressing my finger into the buttery flakes so as not to miss out on any of it. Happiness is carelessly watching my feet dangle over an ancient cobblestone wall as I spend a lazy afternoon drinking in the view of the Eiffel Tower from my lunch spot and watching the beautiful Parisians walk by. Happiness is sitting on a park bench at magic hour in a Parisian garden and ravaging a warm baguette, letting the crumbs fall all over my lap and not giving one last shit who sees me. Happiness is walking aimlessly along the streets of Paris and stopping to look up. Happiness is picnicking in the French countryside with the echo of chirping birds and ancient church bells in the distance as your soundtrack. Whoever said happiness isn't a place hasn't been to Paris. 

I try to set an intention for each trip I go on. It is my belief that every place holds a lesson. For me, Paris was my lesson in self-love. I took myself on dates and indulged in wine and beautiful dinners. I wandered the city in a dream and enjoyed my own company and the company of dear friends. I admired the couples as they strolled by and smiled with a warm heart at love's purity. I walked through a park and watched a child twirl under the petals of the cherry blossoms as they danced from their branches in the soft breeze. There were many times I was brought to tears in private moments, not from sadness, but from the pure joy attained in the realization of life's magic. 

Photos of me taken by Sarah Zimmer and/or Margot Landen. 

When She Goes

It was January of last year and I had just moved into a new apartment. Buried under the emotional weight of purging through and unpacking all of my boxes, I was perfectly content with the state of how things were looking when my mother arrived for a visit. There was still a lot of progress to be made but I was actually really proud of how my place looked and couldn't wait to show her my mad decorating skills. We sat and chatted for awhile about how everything was going and I described all the things I still needed to do to make my new apartment feel like "home." There was a light fixture that needed to be replaced. The hot water wasn't working in the kitchen sink. The landscaping on the grounds was less than desirable. But, I would get to it all...at some point.

"Do you have gloves?"...my mother asked casually, trying to hide her agenda.

"Mom," I groaned. "I don't feel like doing that right now." I was probably rolling my eyes.

"Come on," she said with a cheery disposition. "It'll make you feel so much better when we're all done."

We spent the remainder of the day raking, pruning bushes, and generally tidying up the forgotten state of my backyard. I dragged my feet every step of the way. My back killed me by the end of the day and I found myself wishing we had just gone to a movie or done something fun together instead.

I have since thought back about this story and realized that my mother has always done this. She comes into my home and rearranges things or makes me work on my "to do" list. It's the most annoying thing ever and it drives me absolutely insane. On her weekend visits, I will wake up to find her in the kitchen having reorganized my cabinets or moved a lamp to another place in the room. One time, she even redecorated my fireplace mantel because she didn't like the way I had done it. When I asked her what the heck she thought she was doing, she shrugged as if to say, "It just wasn't working for me."

When she comes for her visits I have started mentally prepping myself to accept the fact that my mom will probably rearrange my entire apartment. She'll move pillows and blankets to better suit her personal aesthetic and I'll sit there and let her do it, knowing I will just move them back the way they were when she goes.

But that's not the most annoying part. The most annoying part is that, when she goes I realize she was right. The lamp actually looks better at the other corner of the room and the fireplace mantel feels more symmetrical now. Every time I enter my apartment I admire how much better my plants and flowers look after our hard days work in the yard and I remember her words...I do feel better now that that's all done. Because my mom has an annoying habit of leaving everything better than the way it was before she touched it. Because my mom has an annoying habit of pushing me to be better. Because my mom makes everything better.

Last week I had the worst migraine of my entire life. It hit me like a truck and, after lying in agony for several hours, I grew desperate for anything that would help my head feel relief from the overwhelming sensation of my brain swelling out of my skull. So I decided to forget the fact that I'm a grown ass woman and called my mom for help.

The phone rang. "Hi honey!"

Prior to this I thought I had my shit under control but hearing the sound of my mom's familiar voice made my eyes swell up with tears of relief. She would know what to do.

She sat on the phone with me for an hour and a half while we waited for my medicine to kick in.  I began to sob from the pain and asked her just to talk to me to keep me from thinking about how much my head hurt. Lying there in the dark with a cold washcloth over my eyes, I let the sound of her voice sooth me. Time went on and I began to feel the tension lifting from my forehead. I was starting to feel better.

"Thanks mom." I said with sincere gratitude. "I just didn't know what to do."

It felt as though she had gotten me through the storm.

"I'll always be here for you honey." There was a pause. "Even when I go."

There was another thoughtful pause. "Except I promise I won't come back as a ghost and scare you or visit you when you're naked."

We both erupted in laughter at how dark her sense of humor is and said goodnight. There, in the silence of the lightless room, I felt a wave of sadness rest upon my heart at the thought of a world without her.

Even when she goes, I will long for the days she would push me to do the things I didn't want to do. I will appreciate the way she helped me to recognize strengths in myself that only she could see...and even the way she forced me to deal with the weaknesses I didn't want to see.

When she goes I hope I will be able to bring her light to my own child's life, the way she has brought it to mine. I will laugh at the way my stubborn nature has always resisted her help, forgetting that her help was always her biggest gift to me.

But most of all, when she goes I will miss the way her loving presence made everything around her better than the way it started.

But, until she goes, I will still find it completely annoying when she questions my furniture placement or forces me into involuntary household chores. Even if she's right.

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When She Goes

It was January of last year and I had just moved into a new apartment. Buried under the emotional weight of purging through and unpacking all of my boxes, I was perfectly content with the state of how things were looking when my mother arrived for a visit. There was still a lot of progress to be made but I was actually really proud of how my place looked and couldn’t wait to show her my mad decorating skills.

We sat and chatted for awhile about how everything was going and I described all the things I still needed to do to make my new apartment feel like “home.” There was a light fixture that needed to be replaced. The hot water wasn’t working in the kitchen sink. The landscaping on the grounds was less than desirable. But, I would get to it all…at some point.

“Do you have gloves?”…my mother asked casually, trying to hide her agenda.

“Mom,” I groaned. “I don’t feel like doing that right now.” I was probably rolling my eyes.

“Come on,” she said with a cheery disposition. “It’ll make you feel so much better when we’re all done.”

We spent the remainder of the day raking, pruning bushes, and generally tidying up the forgotten state of my backyard. I dragged my feet every step of the way. My back killed me by the end of the day and I found myself wishing we had just gone to a movie or done something fun together instead.

I have since thought back about this story and realized that my mother has always done this. She comes into my home and rearranges things or makes me work on my “to do” list. It’s the most annoying thing ever and it drives me absolutely insane. On her weekend visits, I will wake up to find her in the kitchen having reorganized my cabinets or moved a lamp to another place in the room. One time, she even redecorated my fireplace mantel because she didn’t like the way I had done it. When I asked her what the heck she thought she was doing, she shrugged as if to say, “It just wasn’t working for me.”

When she comes for her visits I have started mentally prepping myself to accept the fact that my mom will probably rearrange my entire apartment. She’ll move pillows and blankets to better suit her personal aesthetic and I’ll sit there and let her do it, knowing I will just move them back the way they were when she goes.

But that’s not the most annoying part. The most annoying part is that, when she goes I realize she was right. The lamp actually looks better at the other corner of the room and the fireplace mantel feels more symmetrical now. Every time I enter my apartment I admire how much better my plants and flowers look after our hard days work in the yard and I remember her words…I do feel better now that that’s all done. Because my mom has an annoying habit of leaving everything better than the way it was before she touched it. Because my mom has an annoying habit of pushing me to be better. Because my mom makes everything better.

Last week I had the worst migraine of my entire life. It hit me like a truck and, after lying in agony for several hours, I grew desperate for anything that would help my head feel relief from the overwhelming sensation of my brain swelling out of my skull. So I decided to forget the fact that I’m a grown ass woman and called my mom for help.

The phone rang. “Hi honey!”

Prior to this I thought I had my shit under control but hearing the sound of my mom’s familiar voice made my eyes swell up with tears of relief. She would know what to do.

She sat on the phone with me for an hour and a half while we waited for my medicine to kick in.  I began to sob from the pain and asked her just to talk to me to keep me from thinking about how much my head hurt. Lying there in the dark with a cold washcloth over my eyes, I let the sound of her voice sooth me. Time went on and I began to feel the tension lifting from my forehead. I was starting to feel better.

“Thanks mom.” I said with sincere gratitude. “I just didn’t know what to do.”

It felt as though she had gotten me through the storm.

“I’ll always be here for you honey.” There was a pause. “Even when I go.”

There was another thoughtful pause. “Except I promise I won’t come back as a ghost and scare you or visit you when you’re naked.”

We both erupted in laughter at how dark her sense of humor is and said goodnight. There, in the silence of the lightless room, I felt a wave of sadness rest upon my heart at the thought of a world without her.

Even when she goes, I will long for the days she would push me to do the things I didn’t want to do. I will appreciate the way she helped me to recognize strengths in myself that only she could see…and even the way she forced me to deal with the weaknesses I didn’t want to see.

When she goes I hope I will be able to bring her light to my own child’s life, the way she has brought it to mine. I will laugh at the way my stubborn nature has always resisted her help, forgetting that her help was always her biggest gift to me.

But most of all, when she goes I will miss the way her loving presence made everything around her better than the way it started.

But, until she goes, I will still find it completely annoying when she questions my furniture placement or forces me into involuntary household chores. Even if she’s right.

Adventures in Bali

How strange it is to be stagnant in stillness for 18 hours all the while watching the world fall behind. You peer through a tiny window as you punch through the sky, forward in time, anticipating memories you’ve yet to make. I’ve always been one to look forward. Always sitting still, but never being here. I do not travel seeking stillness, but rather to satiate the sweet addiction to finally feeling that the daydreams in my mind are in alignment with reality. I had been dreaming of Bali. There is a line from a movie called Hector and the Search for Happiness that says, “There is a big difference between being here, and being here to be photographed being here.” On the second day of our trip, my camera wouldn’t turn on. I had spent months planning the kinds of images I hoped to get on this trip. In all honesty, I had initially planned this trip for the sole purpose of taking pictures. After trying everything I could think of to bring my baby back to life, I eventually came to the realization that I may need to continue the rest of the trip without being able to take photos. Although I tried to hide it, my heart was completely broken. Little did I know I would learn a very important lessons from this.

The day went on without my camera by my side and I continued to endure the torture of letting moments slip away. It seemed that, unless captured in my camera, they were moments wasted. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I took a deep breath and let it go. I wish I could remember what it was, but something cool was happening outside the car window as we were driving and I missed the shot because my camera wasn’t working. I contently smiled and said, “Some moments aren’t meant to be captured.”

My camera started working again the next day, but for the rest of the trip I didn’t feel as dependent on it. In fact, there were a lot of moments that escaped my viewfinder. Instead of being sad I “missed the shot”, I simply reveled in knowing that particular moment was a gift just for me…not to be shared with anyone else’s eyes. Because sometimes capturing a feeling with your heart is more important than having the photo of it.

There are so many moments from this trip you will not see captured in my photographs. How do you capture the introduction to the feeling of driving in a country with no stop lights? The responsibility of allowing someone to trust you with their deepest secrets? The freedom in napping on a lounge chair under the stars in the middle of a crowded room? The thick, sticky air and how alive I felt to be swimming in it? The way your heart races when a wild animal allows you to see into its soul? The warmth of watching the reflection of the moonlight on a rice field? The gratitude you feel for people you don't even know? The connection you build with friends you spontaneously got your first tattoo with? I can do my best to try, but no matter how great my camera is, a photograph can never compare to being there. In it. Present in the deliciousness of feeling the energy of life's magic.

We went to Bali searching for answers to questions we could not find within ourselves. Hoping for some strange enlightenment that can only be discovered somewhere between the depths of a stranger’s smile and roads leading to deep, dark jungles. We ventured to the island of love, hoping to purify our bleeding hearts in the holy waters but were met with an uninvited truth. Our pain is not something that is meant to be cleansed. No, our pain is what makes us divine…beautifully broken masterpieces. We went to Bali to find direction and were met with the path towards the courage to keep our hearts open to love. We went to Bali in search of ourselves, but ended up finding each other.

Uluwatu:

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It was so humid in Uluwatu it was nearly impossible to wear clothes without sweating through them. Here I am sitting at Kelly's Warung, a cute little cafe with a beach view that served the best Pitaya Bowls. 

Seminyak:

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One of my favorite parts of Bali was the beautiful alley ways leading to mysterious places.            Ketut posing by the art in our AirBnB in Seminyak.

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Ubud:

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Ketut: Thank you for showing me what a truly pure heart looks like. I have never in my life met a more kind and gentle soul than yours. You truly made this trip better for us than we could have ever imagined and we will be forever grateful that you were part of it.

Brandon: I so admire your courage, your sense of honor, and the way you constantly strive to be a better version of yourself. Thank you for teaching me how to receive help from others without feeling weak, or proud, or underserving.

Shaina: I love the way your heart light shines. Your inner strength and the depth to which you love is so inspiring to me. I'm so excited to witness the evolution of your purpose.

Anthony: I'm so proud of you. I am in awe of the way you set your mind to achieving the intentions you create for yourself and how you want to live your life. I can always count on some good belly laughs whenever we are together and I am so grateful for our years of friendship. Thank you for inspiring me to live with passion.

Watch until the end for bloopers.

https://youtu.be/RsYNNdzfhNk

Snowflakes Falling on Lashes

It was the kind of cold that makes you bury your face deep into your scarf. The kind of cold that, no matter how hard you jam your fists into your pockets, your fingers never seem to stay warm. It was December in Chicago and I was in love. Somehow the cold didn't seem to phase me. We walked idly in our winter coats along the sidewalks of Wicker Park. The neighborhood was aglow with Christmas and I could see warm embers of light emanating from the apartment windows off in the distant street corners. The whole world seemed to be safe inside and that single city street belonged to only us.

I looked up into the infinite lengths of the city rooftops and felt a flurry of snowfall lightly brush my cheeks as it rushed down from the sky. The snowflakes danced in waves and everything was quiet as they floated gracefully into their home atop the sea of untouched pure white heaven. We walked arm and arm, smiling silently as we listened to the glorious crunch of snow under our footsteps. I stepped off the sidewalk and into the street, turning around to grab his hand. A thin blanket of snowflakes had landed ever so delicately in his eyelashes and I smiled...because he was mine. There we were, the only two people left in the world, holding hands beneath the shelter of a solitary street light.

I did not think that one day the snow would melt away. I did not feel sad that soon it would all be gone. But rather, in that moment, I felt the miracle of two hearts blooming in the frozen depths of winter.

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An Education in Fire {Alaska Trip 2015}

We were tired after a long day of playing like children in the infinite Alaskan winter and the bite of the crisp air was beginning to wear on us. We quickly retreated to the cabin, seeking shelter and a place to thaw our souls.  It's warm window lights beckoned us inside with the promise of hot chocolate and lazy naps.  Ripping our snow boots off as we stomped through the doors, we hastily made our way to the loving embrace of the couches...falling into them like the arms of an old lover. Christine, covered head to toe in her striped onesie, melted off the couch and made her way to the stove. Her face wore a stubborn determination as she furrowed her brow and began to pick up logs of wood to place them in the stove. She was going to start a fire.

Mark and I looked on as she searched for a match, undoubtedly questioning if we were going to freeze to death that night. Finally, after a long period of watching Christine poke at the fireplace, Mark began boasting his prior experience as a Cub Scout and stepped in for assistance. She resisted him as he continued to voice his suggestions.

"You have to blow on it to give the fire oxygen," Mark urged. "This is an education in fire for you."

She turned and gave him an evil glare. I laughed at them from my little corner of the room. They were like siblings bickering in their pjs. Both stubborn. Both pushing one another to be better in their own way.

"An education in fire," I thought. "Beautiful."

After a bit of coaxing, the fire finally ignited with a brilliant glow. "Take that Mark Groves!" Christine shouted. She was satisfied with herself and walked away with a proud smirk.

It was New Year's Eve and we had yet to spot the Northern Lights. There was a lot of talk of a recent solar storm making for powerful Auroras but, so far, we had just seen a lot of cloud coverage. It was the reason we had come to Fairbanks and with the end of the trip drawing near, we began to fear we may not be able to check "See Northern Lights" off our Bucket List.

Christine had brought a list of questions to help us reflect on our experiences in 2015 and to set our intentions for 2016. We sat around the kitchen table in our pajamas, sipping on moonshine and beer and opening our hearts to each other. I felt vulnerable and safe at the same time. We talked about the things we were most grateful for. We discovered that, sometimes, the things you are most grateful for in the end can be the very thing you feared would destroy you in the beginning. We talked about the people who had influenced us most over the course of the year and my heart felt overwhelmed. As I sat there with two of the most inspiring people in my life, it all suddenly made sense to me that my hurt was a gift.

We took a short break from our goal setting to peer out the window for a light check. THEY WERE OUT! We jolted up from our chair and threw our snow boots on, grabbing our cameras and scrambling outside in our pajamas. The cold could not pierce the excitement we felt in that moment.  We set up our cameras and began to take pictures. It was all happening, just as we'd imagined...only better.

"5-4-3-2-1! Happy New Year!" The clock struck midnight and a rush of fireworks filled the sky beside the Auroras. We popped our champagne and began to pass the bottle around, each taking a celebratory gulp. I stood there below the dancing curtain of neon mist and felt myself become part of something bigger. I could feel my face fill with wonder and all I could seem to whisper was "it's just too much." It was suddenly so clear to me that life can be this good. That living your life with passion can bring you to beautiful people. That life is meant to lead us to moments that make our hearts ignite.

This was my education in fire.

I put together a little video from our trip. Watch until the end for some funny outtakes of us being dorks. Song: "How Much Light" by Ryan Adams.

All photos are by me, Christine Chang, and/or Mark Groves.

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2015 {A Year in Pictures}

This year, what a year. 2015. You started off pretty rocky and showed me again and again the power of surrendering to what will be. You taught me that surrendering control of what I thought my life would be can only lead me to places I never had the courage to imagine for myself. You taught me that sometimes, even when things don't make sense, they always seem to come together in the beautiful tapestry of life's mystery. My 2015 was the year of "surrender." Over and over again, I surrendered. In that letting go, I was found. Looking back on the flurry of the last 12 months, I am filled with unbelievable gratitude for the gifts I've been given. I've had the opportunity to see the world doing what I love while also establishing some very cherished friendships along the way. This year has proven to me, more than anything, that the most important things in this life are the memories you create and the people you choose to surround yourself with. That, given a little time, everything works out the way it's supposed to. That this life is as grand, as wild, and as filled with wander as you can imagine. You are the architect of your own life. Build it big.

In March, I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica to second shoot a wedding with my dear friend, Christine. Intimate Destination Weddings are my favorite. Check out the blog post here.

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I met some awesome adventure buddies. I was lucky enough to travel to Maui to shoot a wedding in April. I still dream of the crystal waters and can't wait to return. I worked with some pretty cool people and hopefully got them excited about my passion, too. I was lucky enough to travel to Yosemite for a beautiful wedding nestled in the trees. Click here to see all the pretty.  Here I am in Joshua Tree shooting Scott and Hayley's wedding.

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Probably one of the most significant parts of my year was becoming a dog mom. This small furry creature is the love of my life. I can't image my life without her. 

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Finishing the year off with an Alaskan adventure. Life is magic.                                                                                                                                                                 Where to next 2016?

The Best Date I've Ever Had {Photos from my time in Maui}

Last year I went through a pretty devastating break up. Nearly 5 months post split, I was given the opportunity to travel to Maui to shoot a wedding. While I was thrilled to be adventuring to such a beautiful destination and pinching myself that my career dreams were finally coming true...there was part of my heart that still felt very empty. I was tired of feeling this way and decided that this trip would be different for me. I made the decision that, even though my heart was still healing, I could continue to remain open. I made the decision to say "yes." I feel the most inspired when I travel so I keep a journal on trips...perhaps it's my tendency towards wanderlust. The following is an entry straight out of my travel journal...along with some shots I took on my trip. I wrote it alone with a heart full of hope on a white, sandy beach in Maui. I hope it might inspire someone who has experienced hurt to make the choice to keep an open heart...

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"I'm sitting on the beach, focused on that beautiful feeling of the fine grains of sand between my toes, and I'm realizing, no matter how hard I try, my camera will never be able to accurately capture the magic in the crystal blue waters of Maui. There's something about this place that fills your heart with love. I stand at the shore and close my eyes as the water rushes over my feet. The ocean breeze blows my hair wildly like a tornado around my face and I can hear the wind whisper, "This is all that matters." Things are simple here. A place where beauty blankets your every bit of being and smiling is involuntary. My heart is carefree and my soul feels at rest.

I made it a priority to keep my heart open and say "yes" to all the opportunities that should present themselves to me on this trip. The Universe has beautiful things in store for you if you only have the courage to surrender.

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I met a man. His eyes were kind and his smile inviting. His aura was gentle and warm. We walked carefree in the grass along the cliffs; his pants rolled up and my hair wild and tangled from the wind. We sat and drank beers overlooking the vastness of the turquoise ocean. I was happy in the simplicity of the moment.

He opened his arms like a bird in flight and soared gracefully from the rocks into the infinite waters. He did not hesitate as I did when it came time for me to jump. My feet felt like they were glued to those black rocks. I was afraid. What if I get hurt? What if I look like an idiot? What if a shark emerges from the waves like that scene in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? What if?

What if I have fun?

I closed my eyes tight, held my breath, and pushed myself in one swift leap off the edge of the world. The air rushed past my ears and I was weightless. It seemed like I was falling for an eternity and no time at all. I felt peace, I felt young, I felt free.

I crashed into the sea with a cold and uninviting welcome. I thrashed around violently, fighting against the current and just trying to keep my head above water. Then suddenly he jumped in with me. I watched him swim and copied his ease. It didn't take long for me to realize... all I needed to do was float. I lay my head back and lazily waded underneath the open sky. I let the current take me soft and gentle along the waves and, in that moment, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

"I can't believe you LIVE here," I declared in disbelief.

He looked at me with the kind of smirk possessed by a person who knows something you don't know.

"Anyone can live here," he replied. "Most people are just afraid."

I thought to myself how ridiculous it sounded that people could be afraid to be happy.

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We spent the rest of the day together at his house, nestled in the depths of the jungle. I loved the way his eyes lit up as he proudly showed me the patch of land where he intended to grow his farm. I could see what he saw...his dreams sparkled in the reflection of his eyes as he stared out into the wild soil.

We made dinner together, both barefoot and content in our bathing suits from earlier. We talked about the Universe, about manifesting what you want and surrendering to things you cannot imagine for yourself. We shared our pain and talked about the importance of growing from it. We laughed. We talked. We connected. And, for the first time in a long time, my heart felt open.

Later that night we sat together while he played his guitar. I closed my eyes and listened intently as the notes floated off the strings like bubbles into the warm glow of the candlelight. I wanted this moment to last forever but I knew that it was not meant to be experienced longer than today. I was grateful for the experience, even in its brevity, yet sad because I could already feel it slipping away. Sometimes people are only meant to enter your life for a season. Sometimes longer if you're lucky. No matter the length of time,  everyone has something to teach you.

The music stopped. He pet my hair as he leaned in, lingering for a moment before he kissed me. He tasted like the ocean."

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My Road to Freedom

Today is a day we celebrate our freedom. We'll gather with friends and family to BBQ. We'll have one too many adult beverages. We'll stand in awe as we marvel at the brilliant colors dancing across the sky. We'll remember the brave men and women who gave their lives to protect the freedom of their families and the generations to come. To be free is to be American. But, to me, freedom contains a complexity of other meanings.

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Today marks exactly one year since I left my former career as a Casting Director. I spent my last 3 years at the company completely and utterly miserable. What may have seemed like a glamorous job on the outside, was eating away at my soul on the inside.  It was torture to wake up every morning knowing I had to survive through another day at work. It wasn't so much that the job itself was terrible, but rather, that I wasn't in alignment with my own heart. I wanted nothing more than to take pictures and travel.

Freedom means...being authentic to your heart.

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I had this vision of a life I didn't have to survive in. I wanted a life I could thrive in. I have distinct memories of sitting at my desk while staring longingly at the travel photos hanging in my cubicle and wishing I could be there, the echoes of my office phone taunting me as if to remind me of where I really was. In retrospect, it wasn't my cubicle walls I felt trapped by...it was my fear. I was afraid of leaving a secure job to pursue a passion without a certain future. More so than anything, I was afraid I wasn't good enough.

Freedom means...choosing love over fear. 

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My road to freedom was not easy. There were many nights I would come home to edit photos after working a 14 hour day, many weekends I dedicated my only days off to shooting weddings or portrait sessions. I knew with complete certainty taking pictures was my calling because it didn't feel like work. I ached for the moments I could create photographs.

Freedom means... living with passion.

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     I still remember the moment I walked out the doors of my office for the last time. My soul literally felt a lightness I can't explain. I could see my dream and it didn't feel so far away anymore. I made the choice to trust that the universe would provide me with what I needed to be successful as long as I worked hard. I closed my eyes and jumped into the great unknown. I felt free.

So far, the universe has delivered.

Freedom is...surrender. 

Finding Balance | Los Olivos, CA

The last several months have been kind of crazy for me. Good crazy! With the start of wedding season and the traveling I've been lucky enough to do, it feels as though I haven't really slowed down in months. Lately though, I've realized how tired I am. I've been doing too much. I've been trying to do everything. I haven't had balance in my life. This week I had a session scheduled in Los Olivos which is about a two hour drive north of me. Knowing I need some fun in my life, I decided to make a day of it. So my beautiful friend (and fellow photographer) and I took a road trip. We ate delicious food, we sampled some wine, we took in the sights. And, you know what? I felt totally recharged both spiritually and creatively. As much as I love my business and my clients, I have to remember my life comes first. I think, in the end, finding this balance to live a life I love helps me to give more of myself to the job that I love.

P.S. Thanks to Tiff for capturing some sweet photos of me and Gracie.

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Pura Vida | Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

   It's about one o'clock in the morning and I'm curled up across the cold leather seats of a shuttle van in a foreign country. Exhausted from our flight, I try to get some sleep but decide my back pack doesn't make a very good pillow. Looking out the window into the blackness of the jungle, I sway back and forth as we make our way across the windy roads to our hotel. I listen to the soft whisper of Spanish singers on the radio and try to decipher what they are singing about. Christine and I had realized at the airport when we arrived that neither of us spoke Spanish very well. We could only remember the important things like "Donde esta el bano?" and "Necessito cerveza y tacos,"  and figured the words would come back to us during our visit. Christine's Spanish came back rather quickly when she was hit with a sudden case of car sickness and screamed, "ALTO!" so she could run out of the van to puke. Welcome to Costa Rica! .......

   In March I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Costa Rica to photograph a destination wedding with my dear friend Christine Chang. Everything about Costa Rica is wild. From the moment we arrived, the gentle kiss of the thick, humid air made me feel alive. Our first night at Hotel Costa Verde in Manuel Antonio, I fell asleep smiling as I listened to the echo of  monkeys calling in the distance. When I woke the next morning I could feel the brush of the warm sun on my cheek. I opened my eyes and the entire room was glowing orange. I sat up in my bed and stopped breathing for a moment as I took in the amazing view from our hotel window. It was as if I could see the entire world.

   Traveling to a foreign place is like making a new friend. The relationship develops slowly as you open up to each other...revealing your secrets and offering the gift of discovery.  Our first day, we ventured to the beaches and were greeted by locals selling fresh coconuts and snow cones. I fell in love with the vibrant colors and slow paced attitude. We let the warm ocean waters wash up onto our feet as we walked along the beach. We rolled around like kids in the sand. We ate delicious, fresh fish and drank tropical cocktails with little umbrellas in them.  This, I decided, is how life is meant to be lived.

   The thing I loved most about Costa Rica was how free I felt to wander in my bikini. It became my uniform on the trip and eventually it felt unnatural to wear clothes. We are designed to be wild to our core.  If Costa Rica taught me anything, it is that we are meant to be free. It wasn't until I was shooting Ina and Tee's vows at their wedding ceremony that I truly realized this. I paused for a moment as I listened to them commit their lives to each other. I looked off into the overwhelming expansiveness of the horizon as the sun set and tears flooded my eyes. This moment in my career was what I had been dreaming of. We are meant to live a life of richness and wander. Life can be this good all the time. Pura vida!

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