Year In Review 2015 | I'm Kristen Photography

2015 was a wonderful year behind my camera! I enjoyed shooting 15 weddings, plus second shot five weddings, and then three proposals and a couple dozen portrait sessions. This post is just a review of all the weddings I haven't blogged yet this year (Neill and Kate's wedding is here!). While some of my favorite pictures are certainly included, many of these represent favorite memories and moments of each wedding day. As I went through each day start to finish it warmed my heart to re-see the faces.

Pulling a segment from my website: "I don't take and present photographs because it's cute, but because I am a Note Taker, a Story Teller. You are the sonnet, you are a part of the play, and the times of your life matter. It is sincere delight for me to be allowed to walk into the doors of your world, tap into my heart, and let your joy become mine -- whether it be a wedding, a birth, a high school graduation, or a Christmas card portrait.  I know our sessions together aren't the whole story -- the nights without sleep, the gulp in your throat, the lost ones you miss, the insecurities, the numbness -- but I know our sessions are a real, that we are here logging history with a black box and light. It's magic.  I believe in family, marriage, parenthood, new starts, figuring it out, I believe in wholehearted relationship, I believe in lasting love and I know awfully sad things happen in those places. But I believe in fighting for the good, fighting to believe that the best is yet to come, that the struggle is worth it, that being known and loved -- and knowing and loving -- are what give us life and bring us the greatest joy. So, here's to the grand adventure and all the stories, and hope beyond tomorrow! *clink*" Happy Days Gone By, everyone, and thank you for letting me live parts of my life alongside yours.


| The Preparations |

| The Ceremony |

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| The Newlyweds |

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| The Celebrating |

A special thank you to all my second-shooters this year! Ellie Be, Elizabeth Baxter, Caroline Ruth, Elise Benjamin, Dom, Ally Michelle and the Mr. Morris himself. Thank you for working hard for my clients and me, for keeping track of the family shot lists, for keeping me hydrated, and for doing such beautiful work! 

Harper Joy | Nashville Newborn Photography

"Ohh, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can't contain your joy inside
Then dance for Jesus."

Chris Rice - Untitled Hymn

I love pictures of babies in the first week of life (it's just such a tiny, fast, final stage) but I don't know if it gets much cuter than the "chub up" part. Miss Harper is the sixth daughter of dear friends. I think it's a little bit of magic to have half-a-dozen little girls. I met the family after their third, Alivia, passed away and I've been so in love with them ever since. Not everyone has to face the "hell" parts of life, but those who do often seem to have a special 'substance' to them. Each one of the kids and both parents have such strong, distinct and lovable personalities. I can't wait to see their family evolve over the years. I'm especially excited for the mom of this brood and her new instagram feed and online shop, Vintage Farmhouse Interiors. She has incredible taste and makes such a warm, happy home! I love love you all! Thanks for letting me squish your newest baby, and for all the bowls of soup and slices of bread. You are favorites forever.

Elijah + Savannah | Oklahoma Engagement Photography

"I promise to sing to you
When all the music dies."

Train | Marry Me

They've lived a few miles from each other their whole lives -- and in a small town, especially, that's noteable. They weren't each other's first crushes, or high school sweetheart, or even long time best friend who is "just like a sibling." They never actually crossed paths until they were in their twenties. But even then, it was merely a crossing. She worked at the coffee shop he stopped into nearly every day. They went with a group from Guthrie on a Caribbean cruise, but hardly talked to each other all trip. There was no unrequited love or secret flicker one of them was harboring for years (though, admittedly, they both thought the other was a cutie). There was just nothing... until there was something. And all of a sudden "here you are, standing here, loving me."

A friendly hello at the gym (one of dozens throughout the years) turned into nice chit-chat and then into a few texts. Those texts turned into hanging out a couple of times which turned into... forever. They started dating in June and were engaged in October. We (the family) love to think about the fact that Elijah was completely single at Daniel and Erin's wedding last May and this coming May he'll already have been married a month. Lightning strikes fast, hard, and strong. 

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It's awfully fun to watch each other be each other's answered prayers. This relationship is redemption, sweetness and joy come to life. And since they've both always lived in Guthrie, met in Guthrie, fell in love in Guthrie, got engaged in Guthrie, will marry in Guthrie, and share their first house in Guthrie... It was only fitting we do their engagement session on the orange-gold, historic, cobbled streets of Guthrie. 

Happy love, you two! We're so happy for you and can't wait to officially welcome another "Morris" to the gang! Hurry up, April!

Neill + Kate | California Stagecoach Inn Wedding

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"
W. Shakespeare

My mom's sister married into the Borden family.  The Borden family is a huge, tight-knit, mostly-female, FUN crew.  When the first cousin, Kate, got engaged everyone was thrilled. She and her twin sister Beth are so close to the rest of the cousins, and the love the between all the Bordens was noisy and strong all wedding day!

Kate is an elementary school teacher, who has a bit of musical theater in her soul. The entire day was filled with songs, performances and "ta-da's!"  These folks know how to make a memory, and how to make you feel like family.  Neill is a warm, joyous man who appreciates the good things in life and doesn't take what he has for granted. He is a perfect addition to the new big family, and he's going to have a creative, memory-filled life with spunky Kate by his side!

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Congratulations, Neill and Kate! Your wedding was one of my favorites of all-time!

ย 

Reception Venue / Stagecoach Inn
Wedding Cakes / Nothing Bundt Cake

Middle US Part 1 | Trip to Minneapolis

So, funny story. In this two-month-trip of 20 total flights, 16 days of rental cars, 12 Megabus tickets, nine nights in hotels, seven weddings, five sessions, and 14 cities, I missed a few logistics. And for me, only missing a few is pretty great. And having one of the main mishaps involve a best friend... well, it makes it easy. 48 hours before we were set to fly into Minneapolis Lyd texted and said "I'm so excited to see you guys! Where are you staying?" Oh no. I thought for sure I had touched base beyond a casual conversation six months ago saying I booked a wedding in Minne. But. Nope. Never did.

"Uh, at your house hopefully!" Lyd was a gem and classic best friend. Jumped into action and gave us such a welcoming, easy two nights in her world (complete with goldfish crackers for Roo in the kitchen and other treats for us, enormous fresh flowers, a fun itinerary, and being a mama-hen by tucking us into bed and charging our phones when we crashed the last night. She even set her alarm and woke us up on time so we wouldn't miss our flights. Best friends, I tell ya.) Though, to be fair, I gave her much more notice than the first visit: we just showed up in Minneapolis (Stefan knew) and surprised her at her front door! That was fun. Both trips were. Thank you for being the kind of buddy who knows me, gets me, "compliments me," teases me, and loves me ;) And for welcoming my brood and I at the drop of a hat. We love you so! And we can't wait to come back again! #twoweeksnotice 

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Each meal, sight, memory, and hour was wonderful. We'll be back Minneapolis! You rock! And take good care of our Lyd and Stefan <3

Lydia + Stefan | Minneapolis Portraits

"I'd take care of you,
Take care of you.
That's true."
Beach House

Lydia and I have been real friends (not "Oh, yeah, I know that girl! We're friends!" but see-or-talk-to-each-other-almost-daily-definitley-weekly friends) for coming up on 15 years.  And though I'm married and experienced the normalcy with which a new best friend can join the mix, it's still hard to imagine until it happens. And its definitely happened with Stefan. He's the "new" best friend in our friendship, and he's made everything better.  As a couple they have a "spiritual gift" of bringing laughter.  Don't get me wrong they - Lydia especially - is the first to get choked up and empathize during serious sadness. But they can come into rooms where tiredness, heaviness and numbness reign and shine little happy lanterns... and before long the room is crying in joyous, tight-stomached, light-headed pleasure. There's nothing like a Stefan or Lydia Story.

I'm still hoping that we'll all live in the same place someday. But few things have made me happier as a friend than when Lydia decided to move to Minneapolis to be with the person she loves. (Because, lawd, those long distance good-byes were miserable... and I wasn't even the one saying them! Props to all those in the LD Club. You guys should have team patches and golden trophies.) This was our second time visiting them in Minne, and it kind of feels like all this time Lydia has been misplaced. Like the way Corduroy looked on the department store shelf compared to the little girl's bedroom. It's so good here, they're so good here. And by "here," as great as the city is, I definitely mean "together." Thanks for crashing our bestie party, Stefan. We love you as much as we love her! And that's a fricken lot. 

East Coast Part 2 | Trip to Cape May

"Rest is not idleness,
and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day,
listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky,
is by no means a waste of time."
John Lubbock

As I mentioned in my last post, traveling is hard work... but man: when it just "works out" without much effort, it's fantastic.  My friend Janet and her family were taking a trip to Cape May with her mom right while we were in the general eastern seaboard area. Last minute her mom wasn't able to make it (we missed you G-ma!) but we were able to stop in for a 48 hours and take a bed.  

One of my favorite parts of the east coast is how much there is to it. I've lived here for over two decades, and grew up going to the teacher three hours away, but somehow this little gem of a town never made it into my life. Bethany and Fenwick and Rehobeth are magical in their own right, but Cape May just captured my heart.  We can't wait to go back again! (Ps. If you ever do end up that way The Blue Pig Tavern (for breakfast, especially), Peace Pie (get either the coffee toffee caramel sandwich or the strawberry shortcake sandwich), Hot Dog Tommy's (their hot-dogs are wonderful, but I enjoyed the potato chip pepper tuna salad just as much) and The Red Store (farm to table and the bacon is literally called "bacon steak." It's so good.) are where you need to feed your body and soul.)

A few iPhone pictures because it's just so much easier to plop in your pocket...

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East Coast Part 1 | Trip to NYC

"What I can do is offer myself,
wholehearted and present,
to walk with the people I love..."

Shauna Niequist

We are in Part 1 of three weeks on the road. It's nearly all for my work. Caleb took off work and he and Rowdy are my sidekicks. We drove from Maryland to West Chester, PA for a mentor session, then to Dewey Beach, DE for a wedding the next day, we finished around midnight and drove through the night to Newburyport, Massachusetts for a wedding. The next day we visited Boston for our first time (and we adored it). We woke up and drove to New York City for a fast and crazy day in NYC with some of our favorite friends. Now we're nestled in Cape May, New Jersey before the next round of weddings this weekend.  

I often tell Caleb "Travel isn't the pictures people post. Travel is hard work." I love change and feel constrained and panicky in 'routine' (but I have a head-knowledge of its great effects, especially long term). But I love it. I love going, driving, packing, unpacking, packing, unpacking, checking schedules, meeting up with people, the memories. And it's so wonderful when it just works out: when you ask some friends if they can meet you in NYC for the day and they can. And they want to eat what you like to eat. And they have little boys too, so they know. And they can laugh at the stressful parts and you don't have to be as careful when you talk to them. It's the sighs of relief in life.  Thank you for making it happen Shorey/Baxter people! We love you!

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"It seems like just about every day, I send a text that starts with those four words. To Annette: 'Wish we were neighbors so you could tell me if I should keep these shoes.' Earlier this week to Laura: 'Wish we were neighbors so you could come over for coffee to discuss last nightโ€™s episode of Girls.' This morning to my dear college friends Kirsten & Monica: 'Wish we were neighbors so you could talk me down from my mounting book-release-related crazy.' Last week to Emily in Kalamazoo: 'Wish we were neighbors so we could take a dance class together. Wouldnโ€™t that be fun?' Sometimes I find myself thinking about the people I love, all spread out all over the country, and I think: why are we so far apart? Would it be insane to move houses or cities or states because of friendship? Doesnโ€™t it sort of make sense?

People move for jobs, for love, to be near their parents or in a city they like. People move to be in good school systems for their kids or according to Godโ€™s call to a church or ministry. People move for houses they fall in love with and shorter commutes. Do people move for friendship? Have you? Would you? This is what I want, in my secret crazy heart: I want to pick a neighborhood and put out the call: letโ€™s do this! Letโ€™s stop texting and seeing each other twice a year, if that. Letโ€™s pick a neighborhood, and letโ€™s move there and raise our kids together and have dinner together twice a week and go running together and put our kids on the same bus in the morning.

When you have friendships that are so dear to you, when you feel so seen and loved and connected and thankful for what these amazing people bring you, why wouldnโ€™t we change our lives, or  at the very least, our location for them?"

Shauna Niequist -- Wish We Were Neighbors

Welcome | New Brand & Website GIVEAWAY

"The beauty of the world has two edges,
one of laughter, one of anguish,
cutting the heart asunder." 
 Virginia Woolf

pc / Ellie Be

Good day, and thank you for making a stop at my electronic screen door! Come in and I won't apologize for the mess because I won't apologize for doing my life -- but, actually, you've caught me at a great time and things are quite tidy and new right now. It seems most everyone has realized it's obnoxious to open sites with music automatically playing... but if you want to know what my heart hears as I present this place to you, listen to the Little Rascals Theme while you browse around.

What is life without "We gotta dollar, we gotta dollar, we gotta dollar, hey hey hey hey!" and a Delectable Darlooney? Without ZuZu's petals, Dennis the Menace, Woody, Buzz and the gang, that slobbery dog Beethoven, little orphan Annie and her persistent hope? Without magical castles, nonsense candy factories, and beautiful days in the neighborhood (beautiful days with our neighbor)? Without Timon and Elton John, spoonfuls of sugar, the yellow brick road, and all those pig movies? Without Annes in gables, children in boxcars, creatures in Hundred Acre Woods?  Without Narnia, Charlie Brown, and Calvin & Hobbes? Without the princesses and the witches? 

Before you knew your mom is going to die from cancer, before you find out adults aren't all happy, before you stay awake at night inside your brain, before depressions and mind games, before he broke up with you, before she abandoned you, before you saw him hit her, before you understood how much money provides for life, before understandable loss, before knowing the favorite food of that person - that body - in the grave, before life plans blew to... the stars, before you made that "mistake," before doing something with your life. What is life before then?

What is life without the imaginative innocence of childhood, the breaking of that naive freedom and your heart, then the fight fight fight to believe the stories were more important than any five year old could know? Disney stories, especially, resonate with me for their colorful, careful depiction of deep love, devastating loss, and the journey to be brave, keep joy today, and have hope tomorrow.  The more I'm aware of all the pain life has to offer me, the people I love, and everyone else who shares earth with us, the more I believe in battling to see the good.  Not to be in denial, or to be fake, or to put on a front, but to have honest proclamations about where your life, your day, your hour have been very good in the middle of large struggle. Because it's there, it can be found, and it changes everything.

I love that I get to be the Good Keeper, the one who can give you good memories and say "Here, keep these, remember them. Write them on your heart and don't forget the story. It wasn't always so lovely. Remember? And yet here you were on that beautiful day, living in such a good series of moments. Store them up in your soul."

May the feelings of whispy youth be found in you even now, may the experience of age make you gentler not brittler, may your relationships be real and trustworthy and open, may your body move about and do tasks that bring peace and happiness to your life -- even if they're hard, may you think sharply and be honest with yourself and others, may you come into your story and be ready to fight off the joy-thieves, may you rest and play and laugh and eat and graduate and work and love and marry and stay single and have babies and adopt and be alone and try and shower when you smell. May you care, and may you find shocking goodness along your journey. 

On that note! Someone needs a special treat to make their week a little sunnier. Giveaway time!

TO ENTER: THREE WAYS 
1) Leave a comment on this blog with an imaginary title for your book, if your life were turned into a novel. Be creative and fun! Feel free to explain your choice.

2) Tag up to five friends (each friend counts as a vote) on this post on Facebook, and share something particularly kind or true about each them that not everyone knows in your comment. Make them feel special! And alert them to the giveaway at the same time!

3) Tag up to five friends (each friend counts as a vote) on my post on Instagram, and share something particularly kind or true about each them that not everyone knows in your comment. Make them feel special! And alert them to the giveaway at the same time!

Each option counts as one vote, but feel free to do them all! There are eleven possible votes per person!

The giveaway will close on Friday, June 5 at 11:59 PST and the winner shall be announced with pomp and exclamations the following day. Winner may choose $250 to Anthropologie, $250 to Amazon, or $125 to Anthropologie and $125 to Amazon. Happy entering!

DANIEL + ERIN TEASERS

"And we tore our dresses and stained our shirts,
But it's nice today,
Oh the wait was so worth it"
Jason Mraz

It's probably cheating to post an almost 20-image "teaser" but the rules bend for family, and now both of these wonderful people are indeed my family.  If you've followed along online you might know the gist of the story: Big family on the farm in Oklahoma with eldest twin boys. First twin meets and marries... me! and leaves the middle of the country for the east coast. Second twin, through a half-humorous half-serious matchmaking instagram post, meets a girl on the west coast. And they, as of last week, have married!  

This was a large family event, and we all looked forward to this time with Dan for many years. After the wedding we all chit-chatted about and soaked up the day by remembering our favorite parts. The three memories that came up the most often were their First Look, the ceremony - particularly the way the stories were told and just watching Dan and Erin together, and the toasts at the reception.  Since Ally Michelle (the light of my photography world and all-around Best Person nominee) and I took over 8000 frames, I get a little stuck when I want to post a "quick sneak peek!" It all means so much to me and it's hard to not lay it our in order and tell it all right.

But I'm settling for showing a few frames of some of our collective "family favorite" moments, and so much more is coming soon (including, hopefully, cousins for my son ;) Right guys?)

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We love you we love you we love you! And absurd amounts to follow shortly! Cousins!

Mama Bear's Memorial Slideshow

"she's somebody's hero."jamie o'neal

My mother died
in January 2014.  Arriving at January 2015 is strange.

An entire year without her.  Not a few weeks, or a summer.  One full calendar year.  A lot of life happens in twelve months.  As I've looked back, sat still and walked forward reflecting on her life and it's living impact on mine, one of the most important things I know today is that it matters.


What matters? It.  All of it.  Any of it. 

It matters.

The holiday traditions, the budget meal plans, the talks in the car while drinking milkshakes (okay, and french fries), the little notes and texts, the huge surprise parties, the late-nights, early-mornings, and all-days, the disagreeing and the understanding, the quiet things and the loud things, the soccer games, laundry loads, math help, electricity that turns on, the bedtime stories, the Disney-vacations that took two years and lots of eBay-ing to save up for, the potato chips and french onion dip, the tears during "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," the laughing to Seinfeld, the basketball games, the baseball games, the slumber games, the ABC-I-Spy-games in the car, the questions, the answers, the silence, the hugs, the sunshine, the rain, the mess, the order, the dirty barefeet and the brand-new 50% off shoes, the cheese in the pasta, the missing forks in the yard, the broken dishes, the softest kisses, the commitment to connection, the depression, the absolute honesty, the midnight home projects to catch a break, the stains in the carpet, the granola bar breakfasts and the bacon, eggs and french toast breakfasts, the minivan rides, the sideline, the bedroom, the toilets, the hospital floor, the birthdays and keep-them-alive-days, the moon, the pain, the crazy, the sane, the everything.  It all. 

She died on Wednesday and her memorial service was Saturday.  On Wednesday I didn't have a single picture scanned or sorted.  By Saturday there was a (woefully inadequate) 28-minute slideshow of her life.  Those three days were a blur of flipping through thousands of (our life) photographs, scanning them in, sorting them in folders, arranging them in a timeline, adding music, and trying to somehow give the dear folks sitting in the church an idea of all the "its." 

So many pictures and chunks of our life were missed.  And many of the images don't have her in them.  But it was so on purpose.  If she wasn't in the picture, she took the picture.  And it gives me her eyes.  Some little moment, on one day of her life -- maybe a lovely beach vacation day, or maybe regular living room day, meant enough to her to make the effort, to pull out the camera.  Maybe her quiet toddler boy was being especially chatty and he just looked too cute?  I don't know.  I know stories for many of the pictures, but not all of them.  And I'll never get the chance to ask (besides, she likely wouldn't have remembered all of them either), but I know it mattered.  I know it mattered enough to make sure film was in the slot, and batteries worked, and the camera was found and a picture was taken, developed, and picked up three days later.  It mattered enough. 

She told me that one of the best days of her life was my wedding.  "I just watched you all day.  You were so happy.  You didn't eat, even though you think you did.  You just smiled and talked and were... happy.  There isn't anything better to watch."  She let me be dumb and tell her about my wedding colors when I was in middle-school.  She would chime in about how she still loves the "Tahoe Blue" dresses her girls wore.  I don't know, she just didn't make me feel stupid.  My joy was hers, but it was never "about her."  She held me when I cried about the other boys, and this boy too at certain points, but let me go when it was his turn.  She taught us how to help our baby work through bad gas, and she gave him back to us to let us try.  The new boy and the wedding and the baby wouldn't have mattered very much if my favorite bedtime story, 42 questions about nothing, and "helpful" nights in the kitchen learning how to cook hadn't mattered as well. "How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time."  It all mattered to her, she noticed the itty bits, she as the definition of "present."

I wish I could have had more time, I wish I could have added more detail, shown more of the other kids, but this is my three-day-whole-hearted summary of the things, events and people my mom loved with her soul.  She would go back to any of these moments.  So we "go back" by remembering, by taking time to do it. (I'm not sure if it'd be boring to you.  It's everything to me.  And one of my favorite things to watch when I start to wonder "Am I making a difference? What's the point? Why am I here?")

Years In Review | I'm Kristen Photography 2014

โ€œtime was passing like a hand waving from a train i wanted to be on."
  jonathan safran foer
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In the way "When are you due!" is the question when you're pregnant, "Are you still doing photography!" is the question when, well, you disappear from the internet and stop posting any current photography. (Yes, I am still doing and have been doing photography. Just, differently.)

The last 18 months have, with no exaggeration, been the "most" times of my life.  It has been much -- from that day in June when our firstborn was delivered, to that day in January when my mom was delivered (from earth), to that day in April when blood on toilet paper met our second-born was no longer with us on earth, to all those days traveling (usually with at least one or two children) and living with other people constantly, to the long slow days spent in the heat and the ice building our home with our own two hands.

Despite what any marketing class or business principle might say, I've somehow shot dozens of weddings, and dozens of other sessions (and hosted a workshop!), while doing relatively no "promotional work."  Getting clients their images in a (mostly) timely manner is the most important, and after that, I simply haven't had more to give my business.  I blogged 27 times this year, and 28 times last year as opposed to 130 times in a year before.  My facebook page hasn't seen many more followers, my online hits have dropped (as is the case when sites are neglected), my e-mail isn't filled with inquiries, I have a blog but not a website.  Everything should be pointing to financial 'failure' and damaged business.

Yet, as always, things just kind of... fell into place. (Huge special thanks for the support and relationship with the folks at Strong Mansion.  More than half of the weddings were set there, with Twins + Violins playing music.  You'll recognize a certain set of steps very quickly ;) It's been great working together so often.) And such deeply beautiful clients have come my way, welcoming me into their holy days, and showing me the power of connection weekend after weekend.

Photographing a wedding has become a thing of healing for me.  Some days it was very, very hard to show up with my "game face" and be a sparkling professional woman.  Preparing my tools the night before, putting on make-up, doing my hair, sometimes pulling my bloody big-girl panties on (as I shot weddings one week after giving birth to Rowdy, and one week after miscarrying Ryan), sometimes crying or staring blankly in the car on my way too and from, sneaking off to empty my body of milk-filled pain, wearing a pretty outfit, feeling so strong and confident each time I finish, proud of my mind and body, grateful for my current ability and health, depositing checks in the bank and taking the money out to hang drywall or see the sea, letting myself get lost in the bliss of others, the weird and hard and thrilling work of creating, reviewing photographs, giving newlyweds the story of that day.  It is healing.  It is healing to be sensory -- to see, taste, touch, smell, hear -- when often I've had emptiness or "nothingness" this year.  It quickens me.  Being able to live, and move, and have my being, while working for, through and with God on these days of heaven-and-earth, keeps my eyes wide open when I can want to squish them shut.

I was often drawn to the middle-aged and turning-elderly women.  Sometimes it was the mother of the bride or groom, but other times it was just a group of guests or unruly aunts.  I watched them.  I watched them just be moms -- they worried, fussed, finagaled, cried, glowed, stared adoringly, got a little tipsy, kissed cheeks, choked on joy.  One dear mama carried down the aisle a photograph of she and her now-groom-then-toddler-son cut into a heart.  They fed me and, without a doubt, I would release that uncomfortable, nostalgic feeling with some tears.    One lovely friend told me my photographs were "a spiritual act."  Her sentiments blessed me.  Similar to the way that praying both honors God and brings me peace, photographing honors the stories of these people and brings me happy hope.

It is hard mental, emotional and physical work to be present and involved in the details.  I'm so honored that, again, someone, some people, trusted me to do that work.  And as all good hard work is, it is an actual joy to create for them.  Here is a (tough, tough, tough to narrow down) vault of the places I've been, flavors I've tasted, faces I've met, and souls I've linked hearts with this last year and a bit.  From Montreal to the eastern shore, from Texas to twenty-minutes down the road from home; the six-figure events and the four-figure events; the humid hot days and cold rainy days; the baby flower girls and the century-old grandparents; the mothers and the fathers; and everything in between.  Thank you, from the fragile places of this woman's heart.  The amount of intense (though sometimes teeny) human history I witnessed is nothing less than medicine.
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ps. Thank you to my second-shooters this year: the spunky Ellie Be, winsome Hannah Nicole, and baby-daddy Caleb.

Hannah + Mike | Charlottesville, VA Wedding Photography

โ€œAny time not spent on love is wasted.โ€
Torquato Tasso
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I'll never forget the effect Hannah and Mike had on me when I first met them for their engagement shoot.  Maybe it was part timing in my life, but it certainly was also part them.  Their "mushiness" wasn't annoying because something about they way they moved, talked and were together that was veritable.  I noticed their friendship more than anything.  It made me want to hang out with my husband, get back to him as soon as possible.  It's easy (and I would argue even good, when thoughtfully done) to compare and contrast yourself to the people and couples around you.  To feel like you have to prove something, to be affirmed outside about something inside, to tell others and yourself what you want life to be, not what it really is.  The effect of Hannah and Mike, however, was one where you left not really thinking about them but about the person you love. 
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On August 9, our two year wedding anniversary, I brought Caleb with me to shoot Hannah and Mike's wedding.  And we got to meet the reasons Hannah and Mike are who they are, and have what they have.  I was so moved from start to finish.  Hannah's sisters and best friends were draped on each other all day, and I caught a few of them on the back porch in tears, talking about all they loved about Hannah.  The ceremony worship was loud and booming, the affection in their faces, the rejoicing and random outbursts of dancing, cheering and clapping was simply overwhelming (in the best way).
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This wedding reminded me of videos of seen of old European celebrations.  The bride and groom are paraded through the streets with live music and hollering!  Townspeople close up shop and follow the parade in warm camaraderie!  It's about the couple and sharing in their joy, but it's about where they came from and where they're going and everything they together are being built into.  I felt the bonds of care and closeness between all these people, like I myself was a part of their heart.
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Thank you both for your high-energy kindness, bold tenderness and happy love.  I'm so glad you secretly crushed on each other for years and finally went to that diner to have a dinner that would change your lives.  You will probably bring more hope and good to this world than you know -- because you probably impacted me far more than you know.  And if it happened once, it'll likely happen again! 
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People feel like they lose something when they get married, but it doesn't have to be that way.
There is nothing more exciting than having a witness to your life
You know, everybody is not good at everything, it's okay to depend on someone -
it's actually what we are supposed to do, we are supposed to depend on each other.
And when you find the person that you trust and you love
and you feel is going to respect you, it feeds you.
It is the most powerful thing you can ever feel in your life."
Beyonce

Daniel + Erin | Engagement Photography

"there's no music, no confetti
crowds don't cheer, and bells don't ring.
but you'll know it, i can guarantee,
when the right one comes along."
claire bowen with sam palladio
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As a human behavior phycologist at heart, I find great satisfaction in learning about people.  My husband at the top of the list.  The fascination cherry on top of getting to know my husband has been the fact that he has a twin.  Of course I didn't think they had the same personality and souls, but I've always been extremely curious as to how they are different.  In basic conversation before I knew either of them well, I heard word-for-word same answers to questions.  They played matching instruments, worked matching construction jobs, were building ICF houses side-by-side.  Same hair-cuts, same North Face jackets, same computer passwords, same exclamations when they were embarrassed or disgusted. 

But four years later not only do I know them better, they know them better.  Caleb and Daniel shared extreme twin-telepathy and connection.  They play music with very little verbal communication, and it's been described to me that sometimes they each forget which instrument or part they are playing, because they know exactly what the other is going to do -- in their brains two different pieces are one in the same.  They were both eager to get married and have kids, but Caleb went off without Daniel for the first time.  While we were annoyingly busy falling in love and laying the rebar for our impending life.  We got engaged, were married, announced pregnancy, had our firstborn, and became pregnant again a second time while Daniel was quite single.  

Those years were an intense transition for their relationship.  Through them were severe depression, mania, overseas trips, moves to new states, career changes, out-of-the-blue large bills, soul-searching and wandering.  It broke our hearts, but it was a needed process.  Last fall he really seemed to be finding a place of clarity and peace.  He was the most "himself" we had ever seen, with focus on his dreams.  He declared himself "wild and free!" (which he was, er, is.) but he was growing up, and becoming so confident in the man God made him to be.

We were seeing the eccentric, busy, man made of music, whose heart beats on chords and harmonies, express himself.  He was actually pretty weird and far less "tame" than he perhaps once tried to be.  He's a feeler and a go-er and thinks in sounds and experiences and lights.  He's a zebra in a field of horses, and a brilliant colorful mind full of possibilities.  

So when someone tagged Erin on instagram, suggesting that she might be a good match for Daniel, it took us all a grand total of two minutes to know he was going to marry her.  His mom had that "mama hunch" immediately, and when she showed Caleb and I on her iPhone we agreed completely.  She is his matching mitten, his reflection in the water, his tail on a kite.  They are one of the most "Made For Each Other" couples I've ever known.  It's a little scary, actually.  His weirdness is only beat by hers, their sense of humor is cheesy and 'only them,' they wear their hearts on their sleeves, want an untraditional family lifestyle (not tied down by usual constraints), their skin and hair is the same color, they are full of spirit and energy, ready for adventure and change and discovery.  We couldn't be more thrilled that they have fallen so deeply in love, and that they are promising their love forever.  Welcome to the family, Erin!  You're an answer to many prayers, and have a way with our brother that no one else in the world does.  
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We did this shoot at a local shopping-center tourist-area (called "The Rio").  It was so fitting because Daniel has spent the last two years playing his violin on the street corners to make a living.  He spent night after night after night after night, week after week after week, month after month after month, out there alone.  At the end of the night he'd collect his cash, deposit it in the bank, chip away at his debts, and go back at it again.  It was a slow, exhausting process.  But he did it.  He not only paid off every penny he owed, he supported himself independently through those years.  Seeing him walk around in a suit, with a beautiful woman in a gown, snapping engagement pictures, gave me a catch in my throat.  The lessons of life have only just begun, but what a sweet thing it is to watch you both learn together.  Go knock 'em dead, you two.  We'll be cheering in the crowd while you're on stage someday.  
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"Bad times make the good times better,
 Look in her eyes and you're gone forever."
Frankie Ballard

Babies Don't Keep Workshop | Photography Workshop For Mamas


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Last Saturday I hosted the first, but certainly not last, Babies Don't Keep Workshop in Maryland.  We spent the day learning from greats like Maya Angelou, Rachel Jankovic, Brene' Brown, Sarah Bessey,  Charles Dickens, Shauna Niequist, Tim Kimmel, Willa Cather, Trevor and Heidi Davis, and Suzanne Snyder (and more!).  Neatly enough, none of these people are photographers.  But each of these people have and have told stories to me in a way that has been earthquakes to my soul.  After I've experienced their stories, I have to pick-up the newly broken things, and take the insurance money to buy different things, and reassemble the house.  

Photography, especially the kind of near-and-dear, interspatial, blood-of-my-blood photography that happens when a mother makes her child the subject, is a rich form of story.  We walked through the gift our children's childhood is not just to them, but to us as well.  It's a thing we can take, as they give; know as they tell.  It's also a time where we build into their souls their place in history -- vastness of this world years and years before but also the unquestionable singularity of their importance in this song.  It's the time where we live before them what we want them to be (scary), and also get to show them what it means to have somebody know and love you.  The difference between fitting in and belonging. Grafting their roots into the solid family tree of time and generation.  

As a mother you are part co-character, part narrator, part author, part illustrator, part editor, part reader.  Photography, I believe, is more than just satisfying mommy-guilt or storing memories.  It is a foundational gift and capability that can have the power to affirm or deny some of the greatest truths in this life.  I've gotten to know and re-know my own mother all over again as I study the images I have of her as a college student, and Army Captain, and mother.  In some ways I see her strength in images better than I ever did live.  I am re-told my place and potential and value when I look at pictures of mom firing off rounds and looking at toddler-me.

We also learned about those beautiful black boxes called "camera" and how to use the buttons and numbers to tell our stories better.  We learned about light, composition; crying in a room full of near-strangers, laughing over meals, exchanging labor -- war -- stories.  These women have face infertility, miscarriage, longing, waiting, incision, blood, and the power of little children in our world.  

I hope all of your emotional and "living" skills were increased, as well as your photographer and technical skills.  I left the day full of dancing memories and I felt a tight sense of camaraderie in my heart.  Thank you, each of you, for being a part of this new experiment and passion of mine.  All of my love, and some of my deepest memories, were yours for a day.  Thank you for walking sacred places with me.  

Also!  A huge thank you to the slew of sponsors and companies who made this event possible!  Learn more about them below.  
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We took a family trip to Butler's Orchard and picked fresh flowers and raspberries in the rain.  It was an exhilarating, funny memory and I felt very "heart all in" the workshop.  And maybe a little OCD (which is not like me.  "Not the red ones, only the pink hued ones!")
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Each mama walked away with a bundle of treats.  I wanted them to have some pretty things they may want if they saw it in a store, but wouldn't necessarily go ahead and spend on themselves.  Erin James from Graceful Magazine provided beautiful watercolor notecards.  Her online magazine has so much in store -- enjoy browsing around!  Each lady also walked away with a brand new Baggu Bag (I feel just a little more put together when I shop with a Baggu.  It almost had the effect of a pair of pearl earrings on my spirits -- almost.)
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I fell in love with the hand-painted art given by our sponsor Victory Day & Co.  You simply must add some of her heartfelt pieces to your wishlist, and get them on your walls.  The artist and owner is a sweet mama of three (two 'here' and one on the way!)  I love being able to support and work with fellow mamas.  
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Husband and wife team, Chris and Carly, are the delightful founders of Hand Lettering Co.  I've probably bought close to 20 pieces from them this past year.  They were even kind enough to create a custom pink piece for me to give to my mama last Christmas.  It was the last Christmas gift I gave her, and will be a part of our family treasury forever.  Check them out!
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Takeya is the ultimate for cool, modern, glass water bottles (in my completely biased opinion).  The women loved their grown-up containers and I may have had to get an extra one for myself!
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The motto journals came from Compendium... and someone needs to stop me before I buy a bookcase' worth!
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The workbooks were provided by MyPublisher and are the perfect, budget-friendly, little option for tiny photo albums.  Just Knotted killed it with the bright, whimsy-full hair ties!  SmugMug also had 20% off for them!  Online back-up, baby!
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โ€œOne morning as I was leaving, the director said I didn't have to leave the set anymore. 
What happened? Why did they change their ways of treating me? 

I came to the realization that it was because I had a mother. My mother spoke highly of me, and to me. But more important, whether they met her or simply heard about her, she was there with me. She had my back, supported me. 

This is the role of the mother, and in that visit I really saw clearly, and for the first time, why a mother is really important. Not just because she feeds and also loves and cuddles and even mollycoddles a child, but because in an interesting and maybe an eerie and unworldly way, she stands in the gap. She stands between the unknown and the known. 

In Stockholm, my mother shed her protective love down around me and without knowing why people sensed that I had value.โ€ 

[Maya Angelou, Mom & Me & Mom]

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Please consider joining us for the Oklahoma Workshop the first weekend in November ---> BABIES DON'T KEEP WORKSHOP to register 


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And if you are interested in having a workshop in your area, please let me know in the comments or e-mail me at kristen@babiesdontkeepworkshop.com.  If there is enough interest in your part of the world, I would eagerly spend the weekend with lovely new mama friends!


Mike + Hannah | Charlottesville, VA Engagement

"he feels like he's been there for hours, 
and i can tell that he'll be there for life."
adele
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She is a few years younger, and her immediate pit-crew of friends agreed: Mike is a dreamboat.  He was the standard, ("I want someone like Mike.") but obviously he wasn't a realistic future option.  In the same way being the next Rolling Stones big-star isn't a realistic career option.  Funny thing about those shot-in-the-dark dreams: sometimes they happen.  Unbeknownst to Young Hannah G, Mike thought she was the standard of smart, engaging, kind and lovely.  But she was young, and that's weird, and... and.  Funny thing about time and strolling into your twenties: age blends away a bit, like the spread of watercolor paints.  After years of secret mutual pining, travel, school, career and growing-into-themselves Hannah and Mike reconnected.  And at their first date, in a downtown diner, they talked until closing and came alive together, both knowing without a doubt that they were never parting ways.
These two are last-Adele-chorus hot.  The day we did this session was over 100 degrees and 80 percent humidity (steamy).  I joked with them that it's too bad they aren't into each other.  "Sorry if we kiss too much," as they'd go at it again.  It's special when people with so much outward obsession are more marked, more noticeable by their deep friendship.  Throughout our shoot we paused to talked multiple times, getting carried off by conversation.  They invited me to have guacamole and tacos before I headed home where they both asked me questions, shared their life passions and laughed.   Their hearts are big, and friendship-centered view of their future is delightful and serious.  They felt more like "a sweet old married couple" in the way they eased in and out of taking turns talking and communicating 'as a couple.'  It was refreshing (and made me want to call my husband just to talk the whole ride home!)  I am grateful for the cool things in life like passion, connection, long talks, lips, effort, favorite Mexican places, stories of old, and red nail polish. photo charlottesville_virginia_engagement_shoot_downtown_im_kristen_photography5of38.jpg
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God lit up my week when I got to meet you two!  Next up: their wedding! (I had tears streaming down my face during the ceremony.  Not "tearing up," but actual tear stains through my foundation.)
"I could hold you for a million years 
to make you feel my love."

Erin James | Portrait Session Part II

โ€œi was born with an enormous need for affection,  
and a terrible need to give it.โ€ 
[audrey hepburn]
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-- part one of erin's portrait sessions --

The tagline for Erin James' new online magazine is "Vintage values for elegant women, chasing the lost art of being a lady."  She has made references to Kate Middleton, June Cleaver, Grace Kelly and Jane Austen.  Her mind is a landing strip for the "beautiful little things that make life rich."  As Erin shared with me her hopes for this new career direction, I knew I wanted to photograph her with every bit of lady from a different generation.  Given that in her day-in, day-out life Erin's look is a bit more of a "Carrie Bradshaw"/Malibu Barbie/California Baby I want to display her inner Audrey.   These headshots and portraits are more practical and functional (than, say, a black tulle ball-gown), but I love seeing this part of Erin, too.  
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to book your own i'm kristen portrait session, 
especially in the maryland/virginia/dc, or oklahoma to dallas areas
E-MAIL ME HERE


AJ's Birth Story | Maryland Birth Photography

"I CAN SEE A LOT OF LIFE IN YOU,
I CAN SEE A LOT OF BRIGHT IN YOU."
sufjan stevens
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Ever since I got texts, a few weeks apart, that these two best friends were pregnant, I planned the following collage.  Two mamas, then two mamas and the first baby born, and then two mamas with the second baby born.  2, 2 + 1 = 3, 3 + 1 = 4.  In the picture of the four of them I wanted to have the babies in matching outfits.  But these pictures go 2, 3...3.  3 + 1 = 3.  No, that's not right.  But that's the point: it's wrong.  This place we breathe is wrong; death is wrong.  Families should never be pulled apart, tears should never fall.

"Yes, weep and grieve until the Spirit is poured down on us from above 
and the badlands desert grows crops, becoming fertile fields and forests. 
Justice will move into the desert.  

Right will build a home in the fertile field. 

And where there is Right, there will be Peace.  

And the promise of Right: joyous lives and endless trust. 
My people will live in a peaceful houses, in quiet gardens.  
You will enjoy a blessed life, planting well-watered fields and gardens."
Isaiah 32:15 The Message
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"I CAN SEE A BED AND MAKE IT, TOO.
I CAN SEE A FIRESIDE TURN BLUE."
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Soon and very soon even the sniffles and empty arms will be muffled and filled.  Until then, we have the shade of some sturdy, broad redwoods, covering us and giving us cool rest.  Sometimes Justice moves in the crook of your elbow -- "... loosing the pangs of death, giving back life, because it was not possible for him to be held down by the grave."  Life triumphs once again, little battles in this Earth War (spoiler alert: Life wins).  When a fertile field is a fertile woman, and a quiet garden is a 12x20 birth room at Shady Grove Hospital (where a Baby Fruit was ripe), you only look forward to the destruction of the badlands evermore.  Right will build a home, and no child shall be missing.

The look of compassion and care in one best friend to the other.  An unruly little tongue.  Laughter in between contractions.  Kisses on the head from a sensitive midwife.  The first push.  Grown adults weeping together.  Sleepy peepers (coming into this world is hard work, you know).  Labor being over.   Fat arms.  Being known.   A very fast labor (less than an hour after checking into the hospital we met a little boy).  Hospital ice chips.  Grandparents in the lobby.  Sharing our very selves.

"You will cry, but your grief will turn to joy.
A woman giving birth to a child has pain;
 but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that her child is here.

So with you: Now is your time of grief, 
but I will see you again and you will rejoice, 
and no one will take away your joy."

I'm grateful for all the things Baby AJ is to me, but especially how he gives me the gift of Safe Joy.  I see and hold him, think of him throughout the day, and clearly see his place in this story.  He has brought us so much happiness.  He's brought with him a bundle of heaven, a gift from Right.

(Becca: you are beyond strong and the definition of kindred love.  AJ has no idea what lot in life he got dealt by being able to be raised and loved by you.  I can see a lot of life in you.)

The Salamander Resort | Virginia Wedding Photography

"I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad."
Sound of Music
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A few months ago I had the delightful chance to second-shoot for Mona Botwick at the prestigious new five-star luxury resort in the DC area, the Salamander.   Since the resort opened barely a year ago, this is its first "wedding season" and wow -- they knocked it out of the park!  The entire day was dripping with beauty yet had such an intimate, family-style sincerity.  Mona is an absolute gem and she not only worked her tail off, but was notably kind and charming throughout the full day.  (I hope to get to work with you again sometime soon!  I thoroughly enjoyed myself! Ps. Kate Triano -- it was lovely to finally meet you.  You're a sweetheart too.)  I don't second shoot very often, but I found myself loving the nitty-gritty work.  When the "pressure" is off to capture the main moments, it's creatively freeing and eye-opening to sneak around being a detail-hunter.

Amanda and Bill were a class act, with hearts full of laughter and welcoming.  In my recent memory, I can't recall a group of friends laughing all day long as much as I noticed at this wedding.  Thank you for having me, Mona!  This wedding day was good for the soul.
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(I'm not sure what was more jaw-dropping at The Salamander Resort: the venue or the food!)
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The Salamander's Ballroom is the perfect mix of romantic and modern.  Well done!
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Happy first day of marriage!  Here's to many more!





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to contact i'm kristen
(especially in the maryland/virginia/dc, or oklahoma to dallas areas
... but anywhere in the world will do! i travel!)
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Bobby's Balloons

 "HELD ON TIGHTLY AS YOU HELD ONTO ME
AND I BUILT A HOME FOR YOU, FOR ME,   
UNTIL IT DISAPPEARED FROM ME FROM YOU."
the cinematic orchestra
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If you've been around the past few you months, you know the intersecting stories of Bobby, Ryan and TinyBaby.  Three best friends pregnant at the same time with three buddies.  Two gone before their time.  Janet's Bobby was due on August 20 (which happens to be my birthday -- weirdly enough my Ryan passed away on the day Bobby was delivered.  Dates are eerie sometimes.)  On his would-be birthday, we gathered together to send balloons to heaven.  Watching them wag away made me want to jump on top and take a ride.  Go a little higher.  Be a little nearer.  We sniffled as two parents with an extra spot on their laps soberly celebrated their son.  Caleb played violin and the light, bright with glory, appeared over the hill.
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Working through grief isn't something to get over, like a bridge.  It's a thing to get through, like a river.  You're in it forever, but this ain't no lazy-pool with an inner tube (those days are gone).  The swim is a fight, especially when your toes can't reach the bottom and it's so cold and you're already beat up.  Grief can make your heart feel like a juicy orange, peeled of it's flesh, torn at it's soft spots, left in the desert sun to crackle and dry up.  You can become crispy and weak, like burned food -- smoking in a demonstrative attempt to breathe.

But Keep Going sneaks up on you, and gives you some flippers.  It can't pull you out -- not yet, someday -- but it can help.  The golden cobblestone of heaven can be paved above your head, your very own eyeballs can witness a rose-colored world (without glasses) and the majesty can almost seem as cozy as a soft old blanket on the couch.  Hope has a way of finding us, and reminding "You are not forgotten.  Look, I'm writing it across the whole sky tonight.  I love you."
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It was as if we were getting a message from my Mama Bear that the blue and orange balloons had made it safe and sound, just as we will someday too.


I love you Janet, Seth, Audrey, Edith and Bobby Boy.  Each and every one.