Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Strolling Through My Hood....

For those of you who know me, it'll be of no surprise to you that I decided to 
take a leisurely stroll through our neighborhood tonight.
I decided that I was going to go out and take a little jog through the 'hood 
but then I realized that meant that I'd have to move at a pace faster than 
a crawl and that the response time of our paramedics hadn't been tested so
I opted to keep on my flip flops and wander no farther than three 
houses away in any one direction.
It didn't take walking too far before I realized that I'm surrounded by some really pretty sights that I've taken for granted over the past few years. I think that you just get so used to the things that you see every day that you forget to stop and take it all in sometimes. Today was a good reminder that I really should do that more often. 
It's pretty cool to me that every single one of these pictures was taken no more than three houses away and I can pretty much enjoy these sights any time that I want to. 
This stroll was a good reminder that we need to kick it up a few notches in our own yard! Thank you to our sweet friends and neighbors for making our neighborhood a nice place to call home. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What a Wonderful World....

"The depths of the human condition should not dim our view of the heights of the human spirit."

--Fred Smith, Jr. 

I sat down on Friday evening to write a blog post and my heart was so heavy that the words wouldn't come. I kept trying to redirect my thoughts and I'd find myself wondering back to the senseless tragedy of the day. I watched the news and the multiple Facebook posts and I found myself getting so caught up in the darkness of it all! There were posts about gun control and God not being welcome in our society and it just went on and on from there. I think that we all need to share our thoughts and feel like the world is listening because you just feel powerless sometimes. It's almost like releasing those thoughts somehow put things into place. 

But, thankfully, in the midst of all of this someone posted something funny that their child had done that day. It wasn't anything hysterical but it was sweet and such a kind reminder of the wonderful spirit of a child. I loved that post and I re-read it probably 10 times. I noticed my focus start to shift to happy things and it reminded me what a blessing that they are. I decided then to celebrate the little lives that were lost instead of focusing on the person that chose to end them. In the multiple online tributes, family members and friends had offered sweet comments or shared a funny story about the children. It was still met with a heavy heart to know that their lives had ended so soon but it was my choice to focus on the joy that they shared while they were here. It seems kind of senseless to not honor that in the only way that we can now. 

I think that we're fooled too often. We're bombarded with how bad the world is and it's a scam. The world isn't bad at all. The world is wonderful and it's absolutely running over with the most awesome people! People who will buy shoes for a random stranger. People who will donate organs to save the life of a person that they've never met. People who will run toward a burning building and not walk out until they know that there's no one else left inside. People who will put their hearts into teaching a child to read or sending a meal home with them because they know that's the only way that they will eat. These are the people that I know. THESE are the people that I see in my day and am blessed for the encounter. It's because there are so many people like this that the random idiot sticks out and becomes "newsworthy" because THAT is the person who is so outside the norm that we all try to understand just exactly how someone gets there. 

When you start to buy into the whole notion of how awful this world is, just look around or ask for help. Watch how many people willingly come to your aid with no questions asked. Open your mailbox that's running over with cards and letters from friends---old and new---who just want to wish you happy holidays. Walk into an animal shelter and watch the volunteers give their time to an abandoned animal. Read the stories of kindnesses given to random strangers whether it's paying for their meal or putting a diamond ring into the Salvation Army collection bucket. Look at the members of our military who put themselves in harm's way every day for our freedom. Think of the families of those military members who sacrifice so that their loved one can serve their country. 

So, the choice is yours regarding the attitude with which you'll see the world or how you'll live your life. Bad things will still happen. You can either focus on the random deviant who hurts people or you can focus on the the wonderful friends, neighbors and smiling strangers that you see every day. There's a story that circulates online that is credited as an old Cherokee legend. It speaks of two wolves that symbolize the conflicted spirit of a child. One wolf symbolizes hate, greed, anger, wrath, etc and one symbolizes goodness, forgiveness, and kindness. When the young child asks the grandfather which wolf will win the struggle, the grandfather tells him that it will be the one that he feeds. The awesome part in this story is that the power is 100% ours regarding which wolf will win for us, too. 

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus who displays the ultimate act of forgiveness. Throughout the Bible, he offers grace to those around him and loves without limits. In honor of the precious lives that were lost last Friday, make a choice to live your life the same way. Love without judgement or limits. Forgive easily. Pray for everybody. See everyone with the same worth that Jesus sees them and not with the criteria that we use to judge. Let's open our hearts. Let's close our mouths unless our words can be used not for gossip but to lift someone up. Opportunities are around us every day to perform a small act of kindness so do them in remembrance of someone that's done an act of kindness for you. I'd be willing to bet that you won't have to think very hard to bring an instance to mind where you've been shown grace. Show grace to someone else. When you hear the inevitable comments that come after a tragedy regarding how someone doesn't want to bring a child into "this world", remind them of the beauty and goodness of "this world". Don't resign yourself to buying into the notion that this world isn't good. When we adopt this attitude of thankfulness, gratefulness and remembrance, we make sure that evil doesn't win. 

I'm not known for my seriousness and you can rest assured that the more lighthearted posts will follow but I decided to share these thoughts in honor of all of the victims of the Connecticut tragedy. May we all work to continue to spread the joy that these little souls freely offered and may God bless and comfort their family and friends. 

Merry Christmas! 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Kaysee - Senior 2013---Northside High School, Columbus, GA

Kaysee--Senior 2013

We first met Kaysee on the day of her session. Her family had found our work through some pictures that we'd done for mutual friends so we all met up in Alpharetta on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I was nervous about Kaysee meeting us, what with me being so beautiful and all and I didn't want my personal beauty to overshadow what was to be an afternoon that was all about her.
When I saw her, I was really thankful that I dressed down because it was painfully obvious that she was no match for my natural beauty and winning style.
I could tell that she needed my fashion advice and I was happy to share. It appeared that she was going to be hardheaded because even though I suggested that she wear cargo shorts and a t-shirt, she opted for these just so-so outfits that you see in the pictures. I am not one to embarrass anyone but I think that we all know who'd come out the winner if she and I went head-to-head on America's Next Top Model.
I was even going to offer to let her borrow my Nascar hat but then she came walking out with this little number on so I didn't say anything. Remember what I've always said about not wanting to embarrass anyone. What? You don't remember that quote? Me either but I'm pretty sure that it was something selfless and nice because that, my friends, is how I roll.
See the picture above? Yep, the one where she's obviously foregone any fashion advice that I gave her and opted for an outfit like this instead? I've been so proud of people for trying to be nice and make her feel better by commenting about how pretty it looks. I know that they were just trying to make her feel better and I appreciate everyone going out of their way to help a young girl who hasn't been able to master the sense of style that just comes natural to people like me. See, people really are good when you give them the opportunity to show it.
We strolled around the area...or frolicked as I like to call it. Anyone who is a regular follower of my blog knows that I'm a fool when it comes to frolicking. We tried to steer her into some of the areas with less traffic because the cat calls and whistles coming from people who were admiring my beauty had become a bit distracting. Beauty....it's a blessing and a curse!
Kaysee didn't want a run-of-the-mill senior session. She wanted something different and we loved being able to exchange ideas and come up with some really cool places to shoot. I gave her a hard time for as much of the session as I possibly could and she was a trooper through the entire thing!
She has a wicked sense of humor, a beautiful smile, a really quick wit and she's just about as sweet as they come. Not what you're expecting when you see a teenage girl who is as beautiful as she is, huh?
Kaysee, you managed to TOTALLY rock out your senior session AND become one of my most favoritest people in the world all in one day! Tanya and I love that you chose us to work with and there's no doubt in my mind that the sky is the limit for you in life.
I'm proud of you for not letting my rock hard abs and supermodel good looks intimidate you. And, even more than that, I'm proud to have had the opportunity to get to know you!

Congratulations on becoming a senior and we hope that your senior year is everything that you could wish for and more!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jefferson, GA Engagement Session

It's disgustingly obvious when people are in love. No matter what one says, the other one smiles or laughs like they've heard the funniest joke in the world. There's a smile that they reserve just for each other. You know how you and your friends would make up a modified version of pig latin when you were in grade school and no one else could follow what you were saying but they still were intrigued by the conversation? It's the same with people who are in love.
I liked Hillary from the first text message. It was obvious that she shared my offbeat sense of humor and I realllllly appreciate that in a person. She told me how she and Jay were looking forward to having their engagement pictures done and I immediately thought, "poor girl....men don't enjoy having pictures taken" and I mentally questioned how well she knew this man who she was marrying. Still...me being the reserved person that I am, I withheld my opinion and decided to schedule the session anyway. I knew that she was going to see just how "sweet" Jay really was when he found out an engagement session is not over in 12 minutes. She was going to learn a hard lesson but it's better that she know this now than later.

The poor guy looks miserable here, doesn't he? Almost like he's completely repulsed by her. Wait, maybe he doesn't look that way right here but it's coming.
Yeah, this is the shot....the one where he's politely trying to get away from her......
I'm almost entertaining the thought that I could be wrong about Jay but I'm not one to give up easily. I just can't remember very many sessions when the guy was patient, sweet and totally ok doing most anything that we asked of him. I know that he will snap soon so we trudge on
 and mentally prepare ourselves to have to console Hillary when Jay's true side shows. 
It seems that these two may be the real deal. No matter what pose we ask for or how many fire ant beds we have to dodge, they never break. The smiles are constant and the sweetness is still there. These two just melt when they see each other.

Hillary can make Jay laugh with total ease and I don't know if he truly knows what to expect to come out of her mouth at any given time. Her comments never seem to be censored and I think that he loves that she keeps him on his toes. 

But, make no mistake about it, the adoration certainly isn't one sided. Hillary looks at Jay like she's found the person who makes her heart skip a beat. I'm pretty sure that she knows he's the kind of guy who will always have her back. I'd be willing to bet you that she knows with 100% certainty that she's going to marry her best friend. 
Hillary and Jay are one of the sweetest couples that we've ever met and I have a feeling that they are going to have one of those sweet, fun marriages that all of their friends will envy. 
Because of ungodly high winds, we actually had to do their engagement pictures in two sessions and it ended up being really nice. We ended up meeting clients that we now consider friends and we can only hope that they enjoy their pictures as much as we enjoyed taking them. 
Congratulations, Hillary and Jay!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Time Flies Whether You're Having Fun or Not...

I remember getting the baby shower invitation. I’d met Mark and David several years before and always loved hanging out with them, although it’d always been that it was long periods of time between gatherings so Tanya & I were excited to get to see them. The shower was beautiful and they were as fun as we remembered.

I remember when our mutual friend, Carla, told me that Lorelai was born. She said that she was a beautiful, healthy baby and that they guys were over the moon excited. Our intention was to plan a time to go and see her but, like it always does, time just got away from us and she was already almost a year old when we met her.

 She wasn’t walking or talking yet. Turns out, she didn’t need to do either one of those things because she had a way of getting exactly what she wanted with just cute little grunts and pointing. Mobility was never an issue because we were always running all over each other to hold her. We were feeding her cake batter and ice cream and making all kinds of noises just to make her laugh. She'd walk through the door and we'd go from TV watching zombies to a pack of performing monkeys. 

It soon became obvious that we weren’t dealing well with limited visits and we started having dinner together once a week (at least). We’d all sprint to the door when we’d hear the dogs barking to signal their car pulling up in the driveway. There was the preemptive argument over who was going to get to hold her first. I had no problem with cheating so that I would get her. In the animal kingdom, only the strong survive. If I had to push down a kid to get to her, I was only better preparing them for the brutality of the real world. Through no extra effort on her part, she’d completely wrapped all five of us around her little finger. She started being referred to as the kid’s “weekend sister”.

She started having overnight visits and our hearts would hurt when she’d go home. Finding her little left behind items after she was gone could reduce us to big puddles of weepy! Our cabinets became jammed with sippy cups and these itty bitty t-shirts were showing up in our drawers. 

I don’t know exactly what the point was when she stopped being our friend’s cute kid and became a child that we absolutely loved but it happened.  It’s not just liking her little (or should I say “BIG”) personality, it’s loving her sweet little soul!

All of our lives have gotten so much busier and we don’t see her even close to often enough now. Still, the sight of her just makes us happy. We still run to the window and try to race to the car to get her first and when she wraps her little arms around your neck, there’s a reassurance that all is right with the world.

She walks now. And talks. And runs. And skips. And sings. She has NO trouble communicating what she wants….or getting it for that matter! She’s funny and smart. She sees clouds that looks like T-Rex dinosaurs. 

She’s still got that baby sound in her voice and it hurts my heart to think that’ll be gone one day way too soon. I’m sure it’ll be less fun to come to our house and she’ll be busy with her friends one day but, in the meantime, we’re going to savor every minute of time with her.

Lorelai….one day you will read this and it’ll be a reminder that WE LOVE YOU!!

My friend, Amanda, tries to keep me motivated to set goals. She said that a teacher told her once that the time is going to pass no matter what you’re doing. In editing the last McClure-Wolfe session, I see just how fast the time really does fly.

Tanya makes fun of me all the time for holding Victoria whenever she wants me to. She asks me if I will be holding her when she’s 40 and I can’t honestly say that I won’t be. I have a feeling that she will be 40 giving her Presidential Address to the nation but in my head, she’ll always have that little voice that couldn’t pronounce her “L” or “R” sounds. It's going to be the same way with Lorelai. If she wants me to hold her so that she doesn't have to walk down the aisle on her wedding day, I'll do it. I ain't ashamed.

 Call us to take pictures for you or make sure that you take them yourself. I can assure you that the time is going to pass fast. Make sure that you have lots of pictures to look back on and remember that the teenager asking for your car keys is the same person that used to draw you pictures and sing songs about itsy bitsy spiders.

OH yeah, save up your energy, too. There will be grandkids one day and then the payback for ruined carpet, sleepless nights and stress will be unleashed. I, for one, will be stocking up on Pixie Stix, Mountain Dew, Play-Doh and Legos (the 31,000 piece set).

I giggle just thinking about it. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

I honestly don't think that Maggie has 
a clue how pretty she really is.
You'd think that there would be no way that she could miss it but if you spend a little time around her, you'll see that she so isn't wrapped up in herself! In fact, I don't think that her looks cross her mind at all. She's too busy being 14 and enjoying everything around her and doing everything that she possibly can to make everyone around her laugh.
She is one of those kids (excuse me, TEENAGERS) that you just like right off the bat. She steps out of the car talking about a mile a minute and it doesn't seem to cross her mind that she doesn't know you. She is full of mischief and fun and if you can be around her without smiling, more power to you! She and her friend Daisy made sure that the morning never even got close to approaching dull or quiet.
You'd almost stop and ask yourself if this was the same person because we'd get her all serious and she'd strike this gorgeous pose....
And somewhere around a millisecond later, you'd get this.....
What you quickly come to realize is that Maggie enjoys the dress up part of things but she also enjoys what it feels like to be 14. It pretty refreshing to meet someone her age who seems to have a good grip on the important stuff in life. I'm sure that she's thankful for her looks but I'd be willing to bet you most anything that she's even more thankful for her family and her friends. 
Maggie is sweet, fun, grounded, energetic, beautiful and just a sweetheart overall. She seems to have a knack for choosing friends who share the same qualities, too. Our morning with Maggie, her mom Debbie and her friend Daisy, was a complete joy! 

I'll leave you with a couple of other pictures of Maggie in "model mode"........
But if you want to know what personality you'll get if you meet her, 
look here.......

Maggie, Debbie, and Daisy....thank you all for a very fun day! 
You guys are the best!

Maggie....when you're famous one day, remember me if they need someone else to pose as 
a swimsuit model along with you. Photography or stand-in model, I'm here for you!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Power of a Laugh

The older I get, the more I have come to realize the true value of laughter.

Here I am getting closer and closer to 29 years old (to anyone who may say that this isn't the truth, I challenge you to keep your opinions, and possibly copies of my birth certificate, to yourself) and I realize that true, heartfelt laughter can move mountains!
I was blessed to have been raised in a home where we laughed. A lot. Maybe not always at the most appropriate times but there was never a short supply of laughs when we were all together. Tanya and I have continued that tradition in our own home and I don't know what families do if they can't laugh at and with each other.

When we started Sweet.Happy.Life, we quickly began to realize that the pictures that we fell in love with were the ones of people laughing and just being themselves. You can almost immediately tell the families who don't sweat the small stuff and the ones who have a little more trouble letting go. Not to say that one is necessarily better than the other, I just know that--for me--laughter has helped me in more ways than I can count and I love surrounding myself with wonderful people who feel the same way.
There's no way to spend time with all of these wonderful people and NOT laugh!
I was "attempting" to organize some files tonight and move a few to an external drive. For anyone who knows me, they will attest to the fact that I'm much better known for my astonishing beauty than I am for my organizational skills but tonight I was so glad that I am messy.
 Each folder was like a little walk down memory lane.

I remembered the jokes that brought on the smiles...Some may argue that they were dorky jokes but I, of course, would beg to differ!

You can't fake true, genuine laughter. All of the posed smiles in the world will never measure up to one smile that comes from the heart!
 I know that I've said "thank you" before to everyone in these shots but I truly can't thank you enough.
Australian photographer, Sue Bryce, posted a quote by Paul Caponigro on her Facebook page that said, "It's one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it's another thing to make a portrait of who they are". That's our goal---plain and simple. 
If laughter truly is the best medicine, all of you have brought me a step closer to immortality and I thank you again and again!  :o)