Learning to fly

beach boy

I recently posted this photo of my boy on my personal Facebook page. It got some unusual attention from friends and family alike - not because it's a particularly good photograph, but perhaps because of the caption I wrote with it:

"My heart. Just roaming this planet. All exposed to the elements and the cruelty and the joys of life. With no protective gear. Just some love from his momma. I do love him ever so much."

I think this resonates with all of us, doesn't it.

To me, parenting is a lot like watching my heart roam naked around the planet. All the vulnerability we have is exposed to the elements - joy, pain, fear, frustration, love -  walking around with nothing to protect them. That's how it feels to be this person's mother.

When they are little it's easier. They stay closer. And the problems are more clear cut: I'm hungry. I'm tired. I'm wet. I'm frustrated. But as they grow and learn and start to spread their wings and fly, the issues life deals them aren't so black and white. Problems become more complicated. The topography of life changes - the dips in the road, the twists and turns, the mountains to climb...they are all there. And all you can do for them is sit and watch and hope you have done a good job at giving them a half-way decent road map to all of it.

As my son ages, the complexity of parenthood becomes more and more apparent. Gone are the days of kissing boo boos away, wiping the tears and giving him a Popsicle to forget his troubles. There are no more easy distractions from frustrations, pain or hurt. He is just there. Exposed to it all.

And learning to fly on his own.




Part of the Journey


Check the map. Check it twice. Know where you are headed. Not specifically, but generally. Know the direction. REALLY know it. Know the pit stops and time it takes. Just move in the general direction of your dreams.  Point your compass and go.

And don't worry. You will get there. Just know there will be bumps in the road. And detours along the way. It's all good. It's all just part of the journey.


From a recent shoot at Ashley Hall School in Charleston, SC.

From a recent shoot at Ashley Hall School in Charleston, SC.

Never lose your sense of wonder, little one. Don't stop learning or dreaming or thinking about things - little bugs and big trees. Never forget to be curious about life, about the stars, about how this world actually goes on - day after day, year after year, producing more life and more variety than we can even imagine or see with our own eyes.

But, little one... never be the person who has to know all the answers. You don't. You don't have to know everything. Nobody does. After all, there is a freedom to not knowing things.

There is freedom in the wonder of it all.

Aiming true


I just wrapped up a 3 day small towns tour of South Carolina and Georgia for a very special client of mine. We went to 7 smaller towns in the region and explored all of what makes those towns special in their own way. I loved every moment of exploring those authentic little corners of our the region.

Not surprisingly, this trip didn't feel like work at all. And if I had to be fully honest here - I have always wanted to do this on my own time. I felt an overwhelming amount of gratitude on this business trip. I am making money doing something I really have always wanted to do.

Work hasn't just come to me because I had a dream though. Hard work, determination, defining what you want and remaining true to that are really the biggest keys in creating your joy. You have to have a dream. But your dream doesn't just fall into your lap because you declare it to be your dream. You have to do the legwork to make it happen. 

I really have put some time and effort into my career as a photographer. I work hard every day. I hear the word "no" a lot. My ego has been deflated many times and I have made a boatload of mistakes.  But in the end, I think that is what lays the foundation for growing gratitude. It's even sweeter when you finally land in the spot you were aiming for in the first place.

As we were driving through the back roads of Georgia, I realized that in life you are always right where you are supposed to be at any given moment - regardless of whether it's good or bad or boring or indifferent. I took a deep breath, smiled and gave thanks for right where I was...lost in the middle of pastures and farms, between small towns and little lakes. Pointed right in the direction of all my dreams. 

And finally aiming true to myself.




Welcome Back Summer


There is that one day for me every year that it suddenly feels like summer. The weather is warmer. The days are longer. And everyone's mood is lighter by far.

The day isn't marked on a calendar. It isn't circled in red marker with a highlighter over the word "Summer!" It just has a feel - sort of like I have crossed some invisible threshold to a space that allows me to linger a little longer and relax a little more. A place where I don't have to rush or wake up early or set a rigid schedule.

A day where we can all just say for a moment "Welcome back summer. Let's linger a while."

Tiny Squares

A recent snapshot from my Instagram feed.

A recent snapshot from my Instagram feed.

In many ways, this is what my Spring has looked like. And at the very same time, this is also not at all how my Spring has looked. Sure, I have seen my fair share of new life, beautiful landscapes and miles of gorgeous green. But there are a lot of gaps that are here that you can't see at all. There have been spaces filled with heartbreak and hard times. Love and loss. And moments where tears filled my eyes and my days. But these moments were in there too. These were the snapshots of my days that I clung to in between those other - and often unbearable - times.

My reason for posting this is not to tell you I have had a hard spring. Nor is it to tell you I had an easy spring (which I did not). It wasn't written to share all too intimate and unnecessary details of my life (keeping things professional here). It's actually to remind us of something important.

We all know that Instagram and Facebook make everyone's lives look envious at best. But those are simply moments - snapshots in between the other parts. Everyone is carrying their burdens. Lots of people have laundry and chores and days filled with nothing but work and computers. Some people have crosses to bear that most often we cannot see - heartbreak, stress, struggles that don't appear in those tiny squares next to their napping cat or the pie theu just made from scratch. But we fill their gaps with a story that we are telling about them. We are filling the gaps with our story. However, that's not our job. Our job is to tell our story.

Whatever your story is on the inside is okay. Whatever story you are telling on the outside is okay too. It's all okay. Because it's your story. Some people want to only hear the good. And others want to hear the real parts - the meat and the details. (Those are special people. Keep them close. They will support you through the details.)  Just remember, you have to keep telling your story however you want to remember it, not how the rest of the world wants to see it. It is your story after all.

If I told you my story over the past 10 years - mostly it's been good. It has looked like this photo in my heart. But truthfully, I could tell you they have been the most formative and difficult 10 years of my life. I lost 2 parents. I said goodbye to countless aunts and uncles. And I even buried one of my sisters. I have raised a boy from toddlerhood to a blossoming teenager and bought a house. I took myself half way around the world, been on some fantastic trips, and loved many people. I have even shifted careers. But what I will most remember about these years is not the trial and tribulation. It's moments like the ones you see here...these snapshots of my life. They represent it all - new and old, big and small, bold and fragile, cloudy and bright.

It's all there looking back at me in those tiny squares. 

Whispers of Summer


Summer is on the way. She is whispering to us in the first blooms of the season. She is calling gently through her longer, lingering days. She is beckoning us with raising temperatures and promises of beaches and sand and salty, sun bleached hair.

Oh summer, you are coming back again....with your bounty and blooms and sun-kissed cheeks and everything that is good about you. I can hardly wait to float around in your wake right now.

Hurry up summer. We are waiting.

Windy Day


Let the wind carry you away. Let it move through you. Let it move the dust and move the debris you are carrying. Let it mess everything up. Let it blow up your skirt and mess up your hair. 

Let it uncover you. Let it expose those parts of you that felt uncomfortable and scary. Just so you can really see those parts you were hiding from all along.

Inner peas.


I have often talked about the joys of my simple attempts at starting a garden. They go far beyond nutrition and digging in the dirt. They seem almost spiritual and tie my love of all things food and farms into my own little homegrown version of gratitude. Each moment around my little raised bed yields some peace in my heart. And I have been aware for most of my life that I wanted some form of massive garden and to work with my hand in the dirt. I was always messy. I was always wandering around my friend's back yard gardens. But lately, the pull has been much greater.

When I harvest my little pea crop from the vines elegantly curling and reaching up to the sky, I am always reminded at the joy of simply growing something you can eat every day right in your own backyard. With pretty minimal effort and not much time, I am yielding a handful of peas to enhance our humble home cooked meals. This is my first experience with peas, but I  already know these little green guys are going to be put into a regular crop rotation. These peas are full and plump and as sweet as the sunshine that helped them grow. They taste like Mother Nature's candy. And the reward of picking them straight from the vine in my yard is beyond measure for me.

So for now, I will plan on my next crop of peas or carrots or beets or Spinach. I will work with a bigger plan to expand what I am currently growing in my humble backyard raised bed. Maybe I'll even plan on a few chickens to wander around back here. whatever the path, I am excited to get my hands dirty again doing it all.  And I am happy to find a little inner peace through peas.

Just as it should be

Just two 12 year old boys, doing 12 year old boy things .

Just two 12 year old boys, doing 12 year old boy things.

I think we put a lot of pressure on kids these days. It seems to come from all directions too. There is pressure to get good grades, be great athletes, have loads of interests beyond the ordinary kids things, and be responsibly on their path to adulthood. It seems like we expect a great deal from them and leave little wiggle room for error from these learning, growing bodies and minds. They are expected to know so much at the young age of 12 and be able to self-regulate more than I ever remember doing at that age.

I have a very easy going boy who hasn't been hard to parent over these past 12 years. He hasn't needed much punishment. He follows most rules (I mean...he's 12...so, we are bound to break a few). And for the most part, he does what he is supposed to do.

When he has a misstep, I usually become overly frustrated with him. It's so out of character that I tend to probably react beyond what I should. I think this is in part to his easy nature coupled with the fact that he is physically larger than most children his age (he looks me eye to eye now and we haven't even started the real growing yet). I am always quick to assume he is beyond his years because of this, and as a result, typically forget in the moment that he is, after all, still just 12.

Twelve is a precarious age. His body is growing faster that you can say "GROWTH SPURT." But his mind is often still stuck in that little boy age - the age of nerf wars and yu-gi-oh card games. This age is a walking contradiction. The moodiness and boundary pushing are all part of the net result of the contrast between their growing bodies and their still underdeveloped little minds. Sure, hormones play a role in this, but I think this contrast and internal struggle are as much to blame for those epic moods I have been seeing these days.

While I am so excited to see what the world has to offer Graham and what Graham has to offer the world, I really still enjoy these moments that he is just a regular, ordinary, twelve year old boy - playing video games, making little inventions and having nerf wars with his buddies in the neighborhood.  I treasure this sweet time with him and never take these small moments for granted. There is a whole lifetime ahead of him to meet deadlines and worry about the future that I am happy to take that burden away from him for a little while. Don't get me wrong...I still am helping him become a responsible person - we meet school deadlines and requirements, have a black belt in karate and chores he tends to around the house. I just think for a while that he needs to just be here in this space.

March on

The well-worn, tree-lined path of McLeod Plantation.

The well-worn, tree-lined path of McLeod Plantation.

Sometimes the path is clear and open, lined with lovely oaks, dappled with clear sunshine leading to a clear destination on the other end. Other times the path you come across is overgrown and unclear. The uncharted territory ahead can make you confused and question whether or not you should follow that well traveled, worn path that so many have taken before you. Do they know something you don't? Or do they like knowing the outcome?

Me...well, I have always seemed to hike through the overgrown brush. I must like a good challenge. The outcome is never guaranteed and the direction can be confusing at times, but in the end I believe the destination and views will be well worth the effort. And even though all the other followers know where they are ending - somewhere safe, warm and dry - doesn't mean their ending will be any more gratifying or their views any more clear than where I find myself in the end.

So I will forge ahead - doing what I want and marching to my own drum. Because if nothing more, the small discoveries I make along the way will be worth all that hard work.

In your own time.


Many things in life are hard work. Blooming where you are planted takes effort and energy. It takes the proper balance of elements to thrive, yielding the gifts you were placed here to give. Gentle care balanced carefully with hard work give up the fruits of your labor to share with the world.

What we forget easily is this: just because we plant ourselves somewhere doesn't mean we will grow strong and bare fruit in that spot. We need to be careful to pick out the appropriate balance of light, water and care.  We need to look closely at the soil we are given and the climate in which we are planted. We need to examine the care and the strength it will take. And we can't just expect to grow with no solid foundation.

If you have ever had a garden, you know all plants fruit in their own time. Some do it quickly while others take great care and time in yielding a crop. Just because the tomato is ripe doesn't mean your peas will be ready too. Everything blossoms in it's own time.

One of my favorite expressions has always been "Grow where you are planted." But after spending some time thinking about this, I really think we need more than that. We need the proper elements to make it happen so we don't wither and die before getting the chance to bare the fruits of our labor to the world. And we need patience to grow as we need to....on our terms. 


look...and see.


Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity,
while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

—Mary Oliver