i'm kristen

Styled Shoot | Pioneer Woman Oklahoma Wedding Inspired

“'Well, first of all,' he began, 'I really…I really like you.'
He looked into my eyes in a seeming effort to transmit
the true meaning of each word straight into my psyche.
All muscle tone disappeared from my body.
Marlboro Man was so willing to put himself out there,
so unafraid to put forth his true feelings.
I simply wasn’t used to this.
I was used to head games, tactics, apathy, aloofness.
When it came to love and romance,
I’d developed a rock-solid tolerance for mediocrity.
And here, in two short weeks, Marlboro Man had blown it all to kingdom come."

 (Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels)

You know I love a good story. This is a fine story. But it was *this close* to being a good story. For the sake of my family it's probably for the best; had this become a good story the bragging would have. never. stopped.

A couple years ago Caleb and I were living in Oklahoma, working slowly on finishing our house, and expecting to settle there for the near (maybe long!) future (life plans changed haha). I was working on making connections with photography in the area, trying to re-build a base. I decided to do an Oklahoma Inspired Styled Session with Ree & Ladd Drummond's story as the theme. Better know was "Pioneer Woman and Marlboro Man," I came to love their romance at the perfect timing. Ree's book "High Heels To Tractor Wheels" was released just as Caleb and I started talking. I won't lie, I craved that kind of romance and (what appeared to be) beautiful, happy marriage it led to. 

When looking for models I asked my brother-in-law, Micah, if he wouldn't mind playing the groom. And I asked a cute girl who grew up in town, Savannah Crockett, if she would model as Ree. "I'll need to spray your hair red... is that fine?" We staged the shoot in the cow pasture on the Morris property, Shekinah Springs Farm, and the whole family was so sweet to help me set-up, make food, and hold props. It was a really fun afternoon!

At one point we staged a service and my father-in-law, Terry, pretended to officiate. He couldn't help himself with the obvious for a father. "Now, why aren't one of my single boys actually interested in this wonderful woman?! I think I should be out here marrying one of you for real!" Elijah raced off on a four-wheeler in a cut-off t-shirt in the background.

But less than a year later... ELIJAH REALLY MARRIED SAVANNAH. Ugh. I was one brother-model away from being the best match-maker, with a staged wedding blind date to show for it!!

Anyways, this shoot was such colorful, floral, food-focused fun. And I'm still so happy Elijah and Savannah realized they wanted to love each other forever. Micah, thanks for pretending to marry your brother's future wife for your crazy sister-in-law ;)

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Ken + Allie | Dulaneys Overlook Wedding Frederick MD

"It felt very good to have him walking beside her."
Marilynne Robinson

"I feel like we are rather un-quirky. Like, so much so that when we first met, I literally thought 'I feel like he’s the one, but he’s so much like me. Can that work?'  We are both pretty independent people, and we would both say we are introverts." I loved reading these lines when Allison sent over the questionnaire part of the contract. Finding a real "match" not just a complement is special.

Allison's mom, Tracy, was my mom's best friend. They met while they were pregnant with their first children, born about a month apart. Sam in July, me in August. A large hunk of my childhood memories include riddles with Mr. Branchaw, losing at Battleship, playing Sardines and man-hunt in the neighborhood of Waring Station, hearing stories about secret Polish family recipes, getting another pretzel out of the giant pretzel bins, and being blissfully happy (and occasionally sneaky) with the Branchaw family. Once I asked my mom if she had any life advice for me and she said to find a friend like Tracy. "She's put up with a lot from me, and I've had to bite my tongue with her, but more than anything she has been loyal and with me. I know Tracy has my back. I can laugh with her, cry with her, tell her the truth, be told the truth by her, and we usually laugh again. You need friends like this to get through life." Tracy wasn't just this way to my mom... she's been "this friend" to dozens if not hundreds.

Tracy brought us dinner a few nights after Summer was born. It meant very much seeing as mom wasn't there to share this part of my life with me. Tracy showed up; was with me. I remember bringing her dinner with my mom when her babies were born. I also remember how she was on-call to have the Snyder kids when my mom was in labor. 

The wedding of these two similar, introverted, Maine-loving lovers was of gold; the finest quality of sweet joy. Tracy, and John, have spent their lives being faithfully, consistently, and eagerly "there" for their kids, friends, family (and "new friends," too!). Almost all the vendors at the wedding were family friends. The ones who weren't felt like it. Resplendent joy. Decades of friendships coming together to lavish on a pair who would never ask for all this attention. A teary-eyed daddy (who home-brewed all the beer for the wedding) and couldn't have been more proud of his daughter and new husband. Chatter creating an energy throughout the venue. Sniffles and dabs during toasts, uproarious laughter during the jokes, and a packed dance floor all night.

It doesn't get much better than nights like these.

It doesn't get much better than love like this. 

Ken wrote of Allie "She is a dream come true." Thank you for welcoming me into your dream for a few hours. I was filled with "the good stuff" by being able to simply observe the kindness and loyalty stretching back in history and launching into the future that your wedding day was.

You two have "a special something," bigger than yourselves and given to you for your joy. I hope that as the seasons of life bring what they may you'll never forget and always hold close the "not of this earth" happiness you've shared together! Thank you for having me there, it was a gift to me!

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(All these people. They probably don't know it to the extent that it's true... but if you're a part of the Branchaws, I'd go down for you. You all mean quite a lot to me.)

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Congratulations! What a perfect day, in every sense of the word!

Ps. Speaking of loyal... a HUGE shout-out to my friend, Ally, who came from California to shoot this wedding with me. Ally has made herself available for not just major moments of my life (like coming across the country alone for our wedding even though she didn't know anyone except me and helping host/decorate my little baby shower for Summer) but also taking on the major-parts of my friends' and my family's lives. She's photographed the other two Morris weddings with me, as well as a number of Morris engagement/baby shoots. She traveled to my best friend's wedding in Minnesota with me, helped pull off my friends' proposals (plural!), and sends sweet packages to us and even my friends' little kids in the mail. Heck, this year she HANDMADE FOUR MICKEY MOUSE STOCKINGS FOR US! Thank you for going out of your way to love on me, and anyone I love. So many of the best pictures of this wedding you took. One more "enormous life gift" you've given someone. Grateful for you, friend!

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.

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
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.  
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.  
"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


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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“One 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.” 

[Maya Angelou, Mom & Me & Mom]


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


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."
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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."

AJ's Birth Story | Maryland Birth Photography

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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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
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.
(I'm not sure what was more jaw-dropping at The Salamander Resort: the venue or the food!)
The Salamander's Ballroom is the perfect mix of romantic and modern.  Well done!
Happy first day of marriage!  Here's to many more!

--- + --- + --- + --- + --- + ---

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!)

Bobby's Balloons

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.

Hannah Nicole | Senior Portraits in "Paris"

"Maybe you should go to Paris. It helped me a lot."
 "Oh, but Paris isn't for changing planes, it's... it's for changing your outlook, 
for... for throwing open the windows and letting in... 
letting in la vie en rose." 
Sabrina [1954]
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"You've worked hard and you've been through a lot, it's time for you to spread your wings, to go to Paris."  My dad, ever the rom-com-lover, has a knack for making movie references at perfect times in real life (like when I draped onto his bedroom door, with a seven-page handwritten later from Caleb in hand, rocking back and forth with the hinges, asking his advice on what I should do:  "Who are you kidding, he had you from hello."  Or the day after Caleb proposed and I showed dad my ring "I cannot believe that anyone can deserve you, but it apppears I am overruled.")  He was talking to me as I approached my high-school graduation.  I knew he wasn't talking about literal Paris, but he called me Sabrina and thanked me for my years over the garage and wanted me to find myself as a woman.

You know when you meet someone during their years in Paris, and Hannah has just arrived, suitcase in hand.  La Vie en Rose means "the pink-tinged life" or "life in love."  I think in some ways once you go to "Paris" you never really leave, at least not in your heart, and you're always learning yourself.  She's off to Seattle and art school and wet, windy autumn.  It will throw open her windows.

In anticipation for this new 'country' of her life, I wanted to photograph Hannah in a way that she hasn't seen herself.  Hannah is most comfortable in soft, jammie-type clothes with messy hair and chapstick.  She loves cheese, but hates mac-and-cheese, and learned about poise-through-pain during ballet.  She has been writing indirectly about her ache, and recently shared more details of her reality.
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Dear Hannah, 

Oftentimes, in my short experience on earth, people need to think more and pay better attention.  Many use words that they don't know what they mean (I'm guilty of this, I've learned -- I try hard to speak accurately) and they create a life of fake happiness and pretend.  That isn't to say they don't have genuine joy or care about good things, but so often there is fear and even inability to be honest in their own brains and hearts.  Their is a flimsiness to their world.  You are unlike these people.  

You, young lady, have balanced the truth of your struggle with sincere respect to your family.  Life hasn't been "The Hannah Show," no, most of the times it's "The Make One More Peanut Butter Sandwich and Fold One More Towel and Tie One More Pair of Shoes Before Math Problems Show," which can be a very boring show some seasons.  But throughout the lonely homework nights, the upheaval, the not-traveling to exotic places, the responsibility, the break-downs, the photographs, the complicated emotions, you have been on a treasure hunt.  You have been unwilling to give-up on beauty and you crave the depth that only pain can teach.  Your self-awareness and kindness are moving.  The adjectives you use when you speak and write are accurate, not excessive or unnecessary (but, I mean, we both want to get better at describing with verbs, right? ;) 

Sometimes, if I can offer a word of advice, I think it's time to pause the search and settle in for an embrace.  There is much you will be, and there is more that you don't know than you do know, nevertheless you are not average nor are you dumb.  But it's okay to 'be' and stand up straight at times.  You have maturity greater than most I know (and I look up to you for that.)  You are more talented, more wise, more happy than I think you give yourself credit for.  I wanted to show you in images what I see in your heart: a knock-out, strong, canny, red woman and you do not fade into the background.  Looking under the couches and in the dirt has rewarded you with many gifts; don't hoard them away waiting for the perfect time, until you are all you want to be.  Pull them out and use with confidence.

God has made you to speak, sometimes with your fingers and sometimes with your pictures and sometimes with your mouth.  He will make others to listen and learn.  I love your easy sweetness and how you giggled with your hands over your mouth, shaking your head in disbelief, when you saw these pictures.  "I can't even look at them!" you said.  "It's...I.. I just look so beautiful."  You said it like you almost believed it, too.  You are Hannah.  You are beautiful.  

You are beautiful because you write me tear-jerking texts that I never respond to and you write again.  You are beautiful because you have laid in dark rooms on various couches, unable to sleep.  You are beautiful because you love your father and you love your mother and you love the family they've given to you.  You are beautiful because you enjoy comfort food, and you meet the Comforter in His meals.  You are beautiful because your eyes.  You are beautiful because you sat in my house, engaging my dad and my little sisters and my baby boy, with sincerity.  You are beautiful because laughing hard brings tears to your eyes and your desire is written all over your face:  You're looking forward to the next time that happens, hopefully in a couple minutes.  You are beautiful because you take the time to listen and take the time to write.  You are beautiful because you are generous.  You are beautiful because you're brave and you're beautiful because you're scared and you're especially beautiful because you know they go hand-in-hand.  You are beautiful because you savor mango salsa.  You are beautiful because you're peaceful. 

Go off to Seattle and be yourself and please keep sharing with us, because learning from you has been one of the most clear 'goods' of this year.  La Vie en Rose, my friend.


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--- + --- + --- + --- + --- + ---
to book your own i'm kristen family session, 
especially in the maryland/virginia/dc, or oklahoma to dallas areas

Mommy + Buddy Portraits | Maternity + Family

"She sings the tune without the words 
And never stops - at all."
Emily Dickinson
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Four Septembers ago I was figuring out airplane tickets to visit Oklahoma for the first time and Becca was pregnant.  I didn't know it.  I hadn't met Caleb yet.  I had some from friends in the middle of the country I wanted to visit.  Right before my trip I got an e-mail from Becca.  She and her husband were my small-group leaders at church and all of us young'ins' loved to inquire and tease about their someday-baby.  This potential child was affectionately named "Bacon" by us.  After four or five years of marriage, there was a Bacon.  And after all this time!  She was in Oklahoma!  And we weren't altogether to celebrate!  It had been a long haul, but a soul was made and lived inside the caves of my good friend.  But I didn't know any of this...  

...Until I got Becca's e-mail, right before my trip, after Bacon had already gone to heaven.  We hadn't really considered a miscarriage.  Somehow when it takes a "little longer" to get pregnant it doesn't seem fair that those mama's should miscarry.   (Of course it never seems "fair."  Souls and human life don't come and go like making a football team.)  She was sad, but gracious and full of Becca-kindness.  She said she was grateful a friend was coming to town so she and Dre wouldn't feel quite so alone.  He was their Apple Seed Baby, small and good.  He was and is missed.  

For Christmas that year I bought Becca a silver apple-necklace (the size of the fruit's seed).  The month that Caleb asked me to be his girlfriend was the month we found out about a Baby Bear, Apple Seed's little brother.  Caleb moved to Maryland and we helped assemble IKEA furniture and fold clothes for Baby Behr's nursery.  The night he was born Caleb and I slept on the hospital floor.  I was the second friend to meet and hold him.  On our wedding day Behr was a chubby, sweet ring-bearer.  10 months later Behr slept on the same hospital floor while Becca helped us through my labor with Rowdy.

By that Christmas there was a Tiny Baby, little brother to Apple Seed and Big Boy Behr.   Becca and Dre were back to Oklahoma for work.  Meanwhile my mom was closing her chapter in this world, and when she died a sick, pregnant Becca flew back to Maryland with Behr (who wore a dragon costume to my mom's funeral) to be there for me.  A few weeks later, in Oklahoma, Caleb and I found out there was a Baby Ryan.  I was so excited to be pregnant with my best friends (Janet was pregnant, too, with Bobby.)  We all three talked about being huge and bloated at the county fair, newborn Halloween costumes and "three little turkey's" at Thanksgiving.  But before our dreams had a chance to match reality, both Bobby Boy and Ryan Day went to heaven with their buddy, Apple Seed (all being dotingly cared for by Mama Bear, I'm sure).  We weren't pregnant together anymore.  There would be no "triplet" pictures during the holidays.  Now all three of us had babies in heaven.  

Caleb and I buried our baby in Oklahoma, a few nights ago we sent up balloons on Bobby's due date, and now we all wait.  We all wait to meet Tiny Baby.  He's shows us the stubbornness of hope, the gift of anticipation.  But any story points to the story behind it.  And the story behind Tiny Baby is a  big one.   Today I want to make a big deal about his mother.  

She's the Friend of Friends, Giver of Givers.  She has been juggling fire-pins and keeping more than one family going.  She works part-time on top of being a full-time supporter, break-giver, human-grower, wife, listening-ear, and mourner.  Her little Behr Boy loves her, and is an intelligent, creative, weird, chatty lovebug.   They have such a playful, strong relationship.  They really are friends.  In the middle of all the chaos this year has been, she methodically saved pennies and dreamed ideas to make her son a special new room before the baby comes.  There isn't a single item in his space that doesn't have meaning and heart behind it.  "I go to prepare a place for you."  (Oh.  And when I lived with Dre and Becca while Caleb and I were dating, this was my bedroom.  See?  Stories intersect everywhere.)

It was only right to do something a little different than formal maternity pictures.  Instead Dre wanted pictures of the special relationship and big love Becca and Behr share.  Here's to new stories, the thing with feathers, heritage, heaven, tear soup, outie-belly-buttons, hazelnut eyes, hazelnut coffee, bacon, washi tape and mama's with their little boys.

“Sometimes it doesn't occur to boys that their mother was ever young and pretty.  I couldn't stand it if you boys were inconsiderate, or thought of her as if she were just somebody who looked after you.  You see I was very much in love with your mother, and I know there's nobody like her...”
(Willa Cather, My Ántonia)
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"And sore must be the storm 
That could abash the little Bird 
That kept so many warm."

--- + --- + --- + --- + --- + ---
to book your own i'm kristen family session, 
especially in the maryland/virginia/dc, or oklahoma to dallas areas

The Little Ladies | Portraits

“behind every beautiful thing, there's some kind of pain.”  
bob dylan
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Just about two years ago I took my sisters out for portraits on the beach.  They moved away to Florida, so when I came to visit I couldn't help but to steep in their beautiful childhood.  Being away and then being with gave me artist's clarity and I wanted to photograph them "as they were."  Mom watched on glowingly.  We ran around the sand until the sun set and once it was dark we ate tacos and laughed.  They were free, funny, best of friends and shockingly engaging (I crave their social skills).   The setting of a twilight beach was utopian and timely.

But now, they are different.  They are older and they are wiser and they ever-more engaging and they watched their mother deteriorate before they're innocently round eyes at only ten and twelve years old.  As they traveled with us across the country on a recent road trip, I was able to "people watch" them in concentrated doses and I had the itch to document them again -- how they are now.  All trip I talked about doing a shoot but it was never 'right.'  As we drove through Wyoming, with it's hard, repetitive, self-shrinking constance, I knew it was time.  We had driven through the night and for 16+ hours, but as soon as we arrived to our hotel I threw them dresses and we ran out to the neighboring pastures.

These little girls have held cold, mottled feet and wept into the chest of an unresponsive mother.  They've caught the stomach bug and cleaned themselves up alone, wishing to crawl into bed with the best nurse of all.  They've witnessed the various outbreaks and processes of other grieving family members, which is sometimes scary.  And they sing along to "The Lonely Goatherd" like sparkling buffoons, purposely off-key and definitely amused.  And my goodness: do they know how to savor and dissect a delicious meal (especially Chicago deep-dish pizza.)  The mix of severe and whimsical I see in their faces, watch in their actions is powerful to me.  I am a proud big sister and I am moved to present my silly, smart, sad, strong, shockingly engaging, happy, all-too-grown-up sisters:
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(I think Mama Bear still looked on glowingly.)

--- + --- + --- + --- + --- + ---
to book your own i'm kristen family session, 
especially in the maryland/virginia/dc, or oklahoma to dallas areas

Lake Tahoe + My Family | Personal

"i can't help feeling, 
we could have had it all."
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It's no secret that we've had deep sadness in our family this year.  My mom left behind her seven kids and husband in January, and our second kid left behind his mom, dad and brother in May.  But it's also no secret: we have had a dream-like year.  Caleb, Rowdy and I eat all three meals together nearly every day.  We both have more steady work this year than we've both had in years.  We have traveled more this year (after having a baby) than we have any other year of our life.  We've made great progress on our home in Oklahoma.  We've spent significant months with both sides of the family, even though they live 1500 miles apart.  We've been able to enjoy our healthy, weird, sweet, curious son learn and develop a personality. We haven't been away from each other for a single night.  The blessing of these things is not missed on me, and I'm sure life will not continue to be quite like this.  In fact, it could be drastically different one day.  But today?  My whole self will sing a thankful song, and then we'll swim in the blue.
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(Lake Tahoe was my mother's childhood summer hang-out.  The house her parent's bought when she was two is about 45 minutes from the lake.  I heard stories and saw pictures of long, hot 1960's days, colorful umbrellas against the mountain horizon, and small blonde girls jumping off rocks.  Once my mom had children she brought us back as often as she could.  This trip was Rowdy's first time to this heritage-place.  We went with my two sisters, one brother, and Uncle Scott.  There is power in place.)
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“Every place is given its character by certain patterns of events that keep on happening there…
The more living patterns there are in a place - a room, a building, a lake, or a town -
 the more it comes to life as an entity, the more it glows, 
the more it has that self-maintaining fire which is the quality without a name.”  
Christopher Alexander -- The Timeless Way of Building

Mamas + Cubs | Portraits

inspired by huffington post's recent publishing of ken heyman's photographs of mothers.  an idea like this had been in my brain-idea-bin for a while, and this finally gave me the motivation to follow through with it.

Dear mama and mama-figures (whoever you may be),
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Thank you for your hips...
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... your cheeks,
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... your forearms and the crook above your elbow.
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Thank you for your time,
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... (your night-time
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... and your day-time) -- for a lifetime.
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Thank you for monster socks,
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for lots of yummy yogurt because it's my favorite and makes me nice and chubby,
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... and for your patience.
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Thank you for loving me even more now than you did then...
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Thank you for calm,
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and for your exhausted,
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for your proud,
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and for all that you've memorized; for all only you know.
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Thank you for confidence,
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thank you for fluffy towels,
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and thank you for being so brave.
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Thank you for sharing your house with me,
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...your humor with me,
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...your body with me.
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Thank you for helping me learn life basics,
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keeping me safe,
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and also clean (the best you can).
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You are comfort. photo mamas_and_cubs_im_kristen126of42.jpg
You are the last of the day.
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You are where I say good-bye.
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You are a queen without a crown.
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You are reinforcement, "You can do it!," and proof that: your joy is my joy.
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You make me feel like I am the apple of your eye.
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You are "I will never let you go"...
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... and a shoulder to rest on.
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All the "up-up!"s, "hold you?"s, "one more story?"...
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... and attention to little and long ideas don't go forgotten.  Maybe unnoticed, but never forgotten.
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You are beauty. (And a total weirdo)
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You are strong.  (And you cry the best sadness.)
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You are hope.  (Even when I'm not with you.) photo mamas_and_cubs_im_kristen114of42.jpg
Thank you for every wrinkle, ache, heartburn, cramp, nap, car ride, prenatal vitamin, hug, lunch, tear, vote of confidence, high-five, eye-contact, long night, laugh, iPhone picture, cheer from the stand, Christmas gift, stretch mark, sip of water after bedtime, coupon-cut, back rub, conversation and moment.
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With as much heart as you've given me,
Your cub.

--- + --- + --- + --- + --- + ---
to book your own i'm kristen family session, 
especially in the maryland/virginia/dc, new york/boston, or oklahoma to dallas areas
(i'll also be traveling around southern california + the lake tahoe/nevada areas in coming months.)

Erin James | Portait Session

"Whether you are four or forty-four or nineteen,
it's always wonderful to be elegant, 
it's always fashionable to have grace, 
it's always glamorous to be brave,
 and it's always important to own a delectable perfume! 
Yes, wearing a beautiful fragrance is in style at any age!” 
c. joybell c.
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Miss Erin James is the "big news" on my husband's side of the family.  Caleb's twin brother, Daniel (of Twins + Violins), has had to endure a few years of "third-wheeling" since we started dating.  So now we couldn't be happier that this girl wandered into his life-path.  They've been dating for a few months now and their relationship is splendid!  They spent most days with us during our month-long trip to Santa Barbara and we got a crash-course in getting to know her.  

Erin is a sassy, independent, curious, self-motivated, big-(BIG)-hearted, feeler.  Her blog and devotional have been extremely successful and she's in the middle of opening an Etsy shop as well as starting an online magazine.  I love her go-getter spirit.  But oftentimes when I'm in the company of the Type-A-motivated I can feel rushed or unable to just sit with no plans.  Erin isn't like that.  As much as she thrives on the satisfaction of job-well-done, she can easily spend hours lingering in meaningful conversation.  She loves to connect on a heart level and generously opens up -- but also generously asks questions to get to know you.  I respect both those qualities so much.  Erin, I consider you a friend and have enjoyed all of our long talks -- from silly to serious.  And hopefully I'll be seeing lots more of you in the years to come ;)
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Ps. Should I blow the cover on where we got Erin's incredible gown? This $9.98 top from Wal-Mart, the skirt was homemade out of 16-yards of black tulle (I really needed 32 yards, but the little fabric shop only had 16), and a $5 pair of earrings... also from Wal-Mart.  Not a bad way to spend thirty-one dollars and forty-eight cents, huh?

--- + --- + --- + --- + --- + ---

to book your own i'm kristen portrait or headshot session, 
especially in the maryland/virginia/dc, new york/boston, or oklahoma to dallas areas
(i'll also be traveling around san francisco + the lake tahoe/nevada areas in coming months.)

Rowdy on The Rio Carousel | Personal

“We walked always in beauty, it seemed to me. 
We walked and looked about, or stood and looked. 
Sometimes, less often, we would sit down. 
The place spoke for us and was a kind of speech. 
We spoke to each other in the things we saw.”
 wendell berry | jayber crow
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He saw it, for the very first time, on its inaugural day.  Last year we walked the local man-made "lake," passing the shops and restaurants of the outdoor mall.  Our baby was due in days, we walked and walked.  The year before we brought our spreadsheets and wedding folders to review over steak fajitas, and when we were done we walked and walked.  And the year before?  The night after our first kiss we had sandwiches at Corner Bakery, saw The Help at the theater, and walked and walked.  Nearly sixty years ago, my grandparents walked and walked a new park in their area -- a park named Disneyland.  "The story of my life..."  Rowdy's face, not just jaw but his while face, dropped when he saw the carousel for the first time.  He marched it's direction at a swarthy speed (only distracted by a balloon tower.)  He's a focused fellow and doesn't give away smiles freely, but one of his surest signs of happiness is when he's still.  He clasped the metal pole, sat upright, "oooooo"-ed.  Cogsworth and Lumiere and Mrs. Potts welcomed him as their guest through the speakers.  He waved good-bye when the ride was done.  He danced to the violins, eagerly introduced himself to new friends, he scaled the play-park, but also sat still on the steps.   If we could have one night to walk around heaven together, it must be something like last Saturday night.
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Ps. If you're in the Montgomery County area, go ride the new Washingtonian Rio Carousel!

Erica + Eric | Linganore Winery Carnival Wedding

out of the tree of life i just picked me a plum 
still, it's a real good bet, 
the best is yet to come
frank sinatra 
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(Linganore Winery was the dangerously gorgeous setting for this wedding day.  Oh I love this place.)

She's proven herself responsible, competent, independent.  Erica is an organized dental hygienist, and it makes complete sense.  She's not a hot mess.  She's not frazzled.  She's not "all over the place!" She's not quirky-goofy-silly-boppy.  She's kind.  She's kind.  She's focused.  She's a go-getter.  I could nearly imagine her as one of the first women graduating (at the top of her class) from a university in the 1930's.  (She'd be wearing pearl stud earrings.)
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I've been photographing the Smart Family for years, and Erica is Jessica (before marriage: Sherwood) Smart's little sister.  Last winter  their mom asked me to take a few pictures of the whole Sherwood clan and it was during said shoot that I met Eric, Erica's boyfriend.  He had accidentally slept in (and felt horribly about it), came screeching into the parking lot, and was finishing off his breakfast: a bag of Doritos.  Trimmed, neat, prompt (actually, early!) Erica was taking it in stride, and laughing.  Throughout the session the two of them seemed to wander behind or whisper during frames.  I hoped, right then in that moment, that this wouldn't be the last time the two of them were in front of my camera.  Eric had kind eyes, he seemed to walk hand-in-hand with Erica out of her comfort zone in healthy ways (minus the chemical chips), and seemed to respect her well-developed strengths.  Oh. And he made her laugh.  Thank goodness they decided on forever.
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When I took this picture the gentleman in the wheelchair, Erica's grandfather, was quite sick.  He sweetly enjoyed the wedding, but not soon after he moved worlds.  I care deeply, passionately, about my work and the high-honor it is to record families together on days like these.
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The gasps and responses to Erica making her way to Eric are some of my favorite in the history of my career.  Truly the definition of sweet.
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Along with the sounds of water, the smell of completely new babies, and the taste of fabulous cheese (especially melting) I think some of the best things in life is confidently, securely happy people who love to laugh.
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And... kiss.  Drew Barrymore shares a similar idea boldly: "Kissing - and I mean like, yummy, smacking kissing - is the most delicious, most beautiful and passionate thing that two people can do, bar none."
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My soul is fed when there is fun energy.  It's crystal clear when groups of people have an air of stuffiness, vanity, or superiority instead of carefree, happy fun.  Photographing these people was so easy because they were sincerely happy.  Every of of them.  Ah! That's another thing! Sincerity.  That's the word.  I've been writing this post trying to clock this nail on the head: they are sincere.  Good, sincere people.  You can see it in their eyes; their body language.
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Erica, with help from her guy and family, pulled off the perfect mix of "young fun" and "classy" with their carnival at the vineyard reception.
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Thank you for being best buds, and life-long teammates.  Thank you for having me photograph yet another special event in your family's life.  Thank you for getting married at Linganore (OH. MY. MY!) And thank you for being patient with my slow-blogging-new-mom year last year.  On that note: congratulations on your little guy on the way.  He's going to have a great life alongside the two of you. "The best is yet to come..."

Ps. This may be my favorite "Smart Family Shot" yet ;)
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--- | --- | --- | --- | --- | ---
to book me, "i'm kristen," for your wedding or family-story, 
especially in the maryland/virginia/dc, new york/boston, or oklahoma to dallas areas
(i'll also be traveling around southern california + the lake tahoe/nevada areas in coming months.
actually! i'd love to travel anywhere! )

Four Buddies | Child Playtime Portraits

"love is what carries you,
for it is always there, even in the dark,
or most in the dark!
but shining out like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery."
wendell berry
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Two Mays ago I babysat the three musketeers and grabbed a few pictures of them.   Since the original shoot I was married, we added a Rowdy and a TinyBaby Kless (due in a few months!), and we lost two grandparents and two siblings.  The documentation of "the passage of time" has become particularly important to me over the last 24 months.  Years feel more like school-quarters, months go by in days, days can be brief minutes... but in all that time crazy stuff happens.  Crazy stuff including growing, changing and developing.  My two best friends have been annually photographing ourselves at a local park (we're scheduling year nine!) and the pictures are important to me.  I love this new traditions with my friend's kids.

(If you haven't seen the previous shoot it's worth browsing through really quickly! It gives these pictures more punch -- even though a group of cute kids can totally stand on their own.)
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The Ring-Leader // Audrey, of the Remsnyder Tribe, is the oldest.  She has had a quirky personality, clear communication skills and incredible weirdness since she was born.  She looks like her mama, and dresses like a lady... but she is a sassy, intellectual, creative bombshell.
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The Big Boy // Behr is the first boy in the group, and has been the longstanding only boy in the group.  He is perfectly made with a set of sincere emotions and a vibrant imagination.  He is a sweet little dude, is curiouser than the cat, and says the funniest things.  You can't help but watch him as he pudges around, declaring announcements about all he does!  We love this young Kless.
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The Terminator // Audrye's little sister Edy, also known as "Crunchy" (among other things), has the girliest-lightest-song-bird voice, with velvet brown eyes and charming curls.  And she's a beast.  She's by no means the left-out third in the group.  She holds her own and doesn't back down to a challenge.  Her beast-mode has been a defining quality of hers since birth, but it only becomes more special as her tender side comes out more and more.  In one foul swoop she can finish her (large) plate of lunch, hit Behr in the head, pat him and carefully cradle a baby doll.  Boom boom "aw."  That's Edy.
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The Little Big Boy //  Rowdy Man loves his friends -- even if they don't get to play together as often as we want.  And he doesn't skip a beat.  He absolutely believes he is as old, capable and strong as they are.  He has been an early "mover" -- rolling at six weeks, crawling at five months, walking at nine months -- but his activity isn't just action.  He pays close attention to the people and environment around him.  He puts "two and two together" and picks up on things quickly.  He's a happy baby, but he's a serious one.  I love how he reminds me of his dad ;)
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I hope these kids are at each other's graduations, getting drinking together after life-good-news, in and at each other's weddings, moving boxes into each other's houses, and hanging out together for many, many, many years.
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There are many ways to experience love -- all different, important, and valid -- but one of my personal favorites is the love of and the love between children.  Even this morning, on the four-month anniversary of my mama's passing, I was filled with laughter and refreshment as oversaw these knuckleheads play on bed.

--- | --- | --- | --- | --- | ---
to book your own i'm kristen session with your kids, 
especially in the maryland/virginia/dc, new york/boston, or oklahoma to dallas areas
(i'll also be traveling around southern california + the lake tahoe/nevada areas in coming months.)

Nick + Becca | Walker's Overlook Wedding

"because same, no we’re not the same 
but that’s what makes us strong"
home -- dierks bentley 
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Becca was the little girl in my parent's church group.  Becca was the pretty little girl with enormous dimples in my parent's church group.  Becca was the pretty little girl with enormous dimples who loved to draw, paint, read and write in my parent's church group.  A modern-day, kind-of-country version of Belle.  And she grew up.  With a college degree and a diamond.  I'll never forget meeting with her before the wedding. "Tell me about you and Nick?  I don't know him aside from what's on Facebook, and I've never met him!" She paused for a moment, a smiled -- she always smiles -- "Well." Another pause.  It was if she had something she wanted to say, but was looking for an Option Two. With her hands gently crossed over well-postured torso she finally spilled the beans: "Nick and I are madly in love! I'm just, we're, well, we're crazy about each other.  I really didn't know it could be like this.  I'm so in love with him."  She physically saturated as she spoke: her eyes greener, her cheeks peachier, her lips raspberrier. 
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Becca didn't necessarily feel ready to be married.  She thrived in school, and is passionate about literature and great stories and diligent creativity.  Her china-doll appearance is wonderfully matched with her firm, yet gentle, resolve.  School, it was!  And then? Maybe teaching?  Maybe traveling?  Maybe more school?  Until... Nick.  He lived a few hours away and they met at an area conference.  She resisted the best she could but it was a brief resistance.  She snapped open like a pixie stick, and sweet wonder came pouring out.  With a couple of semesters left of college, a semi-long-distance-madly-in-love-relationship, and pending wedding -- marriage! lifetime! -- Becca had her work cut out for her.  And she rose to the magical, devoted challenge. photo becca_nick_maryland_wedding_photographer_walkers_overlook_wedding_photography6of166-2.jpg  photo becca_nick_maryland_wedding_photographer_walkers_overlook_wedding_photography5of166.jpg  photo becca_nick_maryland_wedding_photographer_walkers_overlook_wedding_photography16of166.jpg  photo becca_nick_maryland_wedding_photographer_walkers_overlook_wedding_photography15of166.jpg
I love, throughout each wedding day, when "it" catches up with a bride.  For me it happened at three times: mid-way through getting my make-up done, waiting to walk down the aisle, and driving away in the limo with my husband.  Each moment was just... there aren't words, there aren't descriptions.  I could try, but it would sound like naive, foolish gush-sauce.  The moments were other-worldly and moments that simply cannot be recreated or re-lived.  They happen and *poof* they are a bold memory.  Watching Becca as she saw herself in her dress for the first time took me back.  It was as close to re-living my moment as could be while I enjoyed her having her moment.  (Ps. Her crazy great mama did a little jig to try to make her laugh and stop crying.  Brilliant.)
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The day was everything it should have been.  Becca grew up in a white-porch-hugged country home, at the bottom of a grassy green valley in the first rural town outside of our suburban area.  As children we loved visiting their house -- go carts! creeks! the country store across the street! barefeet! dogs!  When I watched Becca, so lovely and so poised, wander around on the rolling green property of Walker's Overlook I was overcome with the scene.  It had an illustrious rightness. 
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If the buzz before a ceremony could be bottled and sold someone would be eternally wealthy.   The waft of perfumes as female guests arriving, newly primed, the loud cackle every few minutes that hushes into reverence, the clangling of earrings and bracelets and wrist watches and sunglasses, the final strums of a practicing musician, crriiick as humans bend into their seats, the flutter of green leaves, like a chime.  It took much time to arrive here, and yet! Here we are! The time is now and it can almost feel rushed -- natural, and right, and good -- but striking when it's "suddenly" the beginning of your wedding.
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As sweet as it was that Becca declared her mad-and-hard fall into love with Nick, it wasn't that she was in love that I remember as much as who she was in love WITH.  You see, in so many ways Nick is Becca's opposite.  I more and more find that couples personalities may be "opposite" but often they have a core of similarity.  But not so with Nick and Becca.  He his idea of a great night is wings and the game.  He loves his softball team and league.  He works hard with his hands, dances like a ninja racoon in the moonlight, and loves to entertain the crowd.  He's active, social, athletic, and friendly.  His sense of humor is impossible to miss and, well, he's just not the tortoise-shell-glasses-wearing, studious, book worm nerd we all always predicted for Becca.   And when I see pictures of her at huge Halloween parties dressed to the nines as a Marilyn Monroe, or at family reunions in the great outdoors pulling ropes in giant tug-a-war I just smile.  I love it.  I love the various and many interests and life tugs these two have.  I love that a powerhouse athlete turned his head for a shy poet.  I love that there was electricity, friendship, and unity.  I love that being married has meant brave steps (since they've been married for almost a year now!) I love that Becca has jumped headfirst into her art, building a handsome business.  And I love that she has the support and companionship in her dearly beloved opposite.
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(sweet memory: my parent's were guests at this wedding, and mom held two-week-old rowdy for me while i worked.  i loved going through to choose pictures for this post and coming across her in the background, chatting with friends or eating or holding my son.  i'm grateful for this special last wedding event together.)
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The entire day was a noticeably bright, festive, big-fat-great, especially smiley celebration.  These firecrackers have so much fun, new, and ever-different ahead of them.  I'll close with a few lines I read this morning from Seth Rogen, goofy-guy-next-door actor: "In movies they like to portray marriage like 'Oh, the wife and husband are always arguing and bickering. For me and my wife, the easiest part of life is [our] marriage. Like if everything was as smooth and easy and fun as my relationship with my wife then I would have a much easier time getting through the day. We really get along..."  I loved this sentiment, and it is my own personal experience.  I saw it fitting for Becca and Nick because -- despite the odds, the miles, the cheese nachos -- they just get along and sure are crazy about each other.  Happy (late!) Wedding Day!  It was an absolute blast, as I'm sure your marriage and life is as well! (ps.  Happy Birthday, today, Becca!)