wedding photography

Styled Shoot | Pioneer Woman Oklahoma Wedding Inspired

โ€œ'Well, first of all,' he began, 'I reallyโ€ฆI 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 wasnโ€™t used to this.
I was used to head games, tactics, apathy, aloofness.
When it came to love and romance,
Iโ€™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 heโ€™s the one, but heโ€™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!

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!

Giveaway Winner!

Phew!  You all sure know how to try for a prize!  What fun it was to read all the entries + count up all the votes :)  I really hate that part of giving something away... because I want to give the gift to everyooooone.  And it breaks my heart when "only" one can win.  Then I have to go into coach-Kristen-mode and not let the emotions get to me. 

SO.  After counting up ALL 638 votes.  We find ourselves using the handy-dandy True Random Number Generator Tool aaaaaand:
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Lucky Number Eight!  I was expecting something crazy like 234 or 551 or 391.  But nope!  It was number 8 :)     
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Congratulations Essie Jane - e-mail me your home address so I can get you your goods.  You're going to have FUN!

Oklahoma Wedding Reception | Mr. + Mrs. Morris

"they never understand why their princess falls
for some camouflage britches 
and a southern boy drawl."
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Our wedding was all kinds of dreamy, joyful and dear to our beating Morris hearts.  The *only* thing that seemed a sad touch of strange was that, aside from family and his new Maryland friends, Caleb really didn't have his "own" guests at the wedding.  The sweet church ladies who talk about his piano skills every time they see him (while pinching his cheek, or placing their hand on his.)  The Laura Ingalls Wilder children.  The families who are in the photo albums and home videos.  The first employers.  The next-door neighbors.  Dozens of friendly faces and lives were absent at our wedding.  In some ways it felt like "my" wedding without all of those "Caleb-people" there.  

On Saturday we were the bride and groom, for the very last time.  And this time, it was all about Caleb.  His hostess-with-the-mostess, creative bumblebee of a mother threw a "Cinderella pumpkin patch/Flea Market/Western" event of a lifetime on the family farm, Caleb's childhood stomping grounds.  I wore his favorite gold hoops and wore my hair down (he doesn't like pins and clips and bands.  Kind of like how most guys don't like lipstick.  Only gets in the way ;).  I told him to wear whatever he wanted: a tie-less suit with sneakers it was!  

We spent 4:00 pm to nearly midnight eating Mrs. Morris' BBQ, talking in the sunset, dancing, hearing stories from "way back when," and savoring all the sweetness of farm life and country friends.  My parents flew in to be here with us - which was so special to me.  I loved watching everyone 'ooo' and 'awww' over my mom, and laugh and tease with my dad.  I was madly happy.  Caleb comes from a little taste of heaven, and I'm honored to now be a part of this world.  

Enjoy the incredible detail and love put into this day!
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Tulip bulb favors!
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My favorite piece of advice was from a 15-year-old girl: "Take Kristen shopping every day."  That's the secret to a happy marriage, right?!
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There were little babies to couples who had celebrated their 50th wedding.  Friends from literally right next store, to friends who drove 12 hours to be with us.  We love all you folks - but mostly the kids.  They're so dang funny!  But my favorite quote of the night was from a lady who remembered one of her first conversations with the Morris boys, about seven or eight years ago:  "Well, Caleb told me he wanted to marry a city girl.  And Daniel, Daniel insisted he wanted a country girl."  I love how different Caleb is from his family, and how he really did want everything that I am... even way back then ;)  In the meantime, Daniel is waiting for that "country girl."  Unless I somehow convince him that city girls make for better wives!
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These "Magic Cookie Bars" are famous. Photobucket
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Alright.  This man right here is Matt.  Matt is a good friend of the family, and he  was one of Caleb's first employers.  We love Matt (even though this was my first time meeting him) because he helped Caleb be the worker and skilled-tradesman he is today!  When Matt got married, Caleb and his brothers decided to pull a little prank on Matt.  As he was running to the getaway car, the boys dumped baked beans, honey and snow down Matt's pants.  Matt drove away and apparently had to try to clean up a little in 10 degree weather out by a barn.  Terrible.  Matt's wife walked right into the reception and said "Caleb Morris, there is a verse in the Bible that talks about 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'  Consider yourself warned!" Photobucket
As the main part of the reception was winding down, Matt got his rightful revenge ;)  My only instructions were "Make sure his phone and wallet is not on him.  Please take his shoes off: they are brand new and he loves them with his whole heart.  And don't you dare ruin his $400 suit."  And with that, the fun began:
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(Shoes coming off.  Thank you, guys!)
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So happy... even when being attacked.
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At this point, he still did not know what was going to happen to him...
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... but then he say the water and started SCREAMING "NOOOO! NOOOOO!"  It was kind of heart-breaking!  But then I thought about honey-snow-freezing-beans pants on a wedding night, and I didn't feel too bad for Caleb ;)  The ice bath was frozen and ready:
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When he got out he said he was so cold he couldn't even breathe.  His body went into a quick shock.  It's a good thing he's so healthy and that they DIDN'T CAUSE A HEART ATTACK! Heart Attack > Beans Pants.
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We had a good laugh, made a chilly memory and learned a lesson... right, Honey Bunches of Oats? Riiiight?
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Two of Caleb's siblings built this play house years ago.  It's one of my favorite things I've ever seen. Photobucket
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"The House That Built Me" is a song that can bring both Caleb and I to tears.  Partly because we have half a home built in Oklahoma, that we dream of living in with children someday.  Also in part because Caleb's home really is the house that built us.  I met him here (almost two years ago exactly!).  I discovered he liked me here.  I fell in love with him here.  He lights up when he tells stories about these 27 acres, and always-being-built home.  Now we've celebrated our marriage here.  


Up those stairs in that little back bedroom
Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitarAnd I bet you didn't know under that live oakMy favorite dog is buried in the yard

Plans were drawn, and concrete poured
Nail by nail, and board by board
Daddy gave life to mama's dreams

Out here it's like I'm someone else
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To all the men, women, children, neighbors, and friends who built Caleb, thank you.  To Oklahoma, red dirt, big pastures, energetic small towns, and lots of barbeque, thank you.  To our future life, children, dreams and passions, thank you.  You've all built us, and we wouldn't be the same if it weren't for you.  God knew what he was doing when He made us a part of a small town outside of Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Happy "You" Reception, Cowboy.  I love every part of your life.  And I can't wait to spend our days loving it even more. Muah!

Our Wedding Day | Mr. + Mrs. Morris

"...he'll never let you down. 
that boy's got a heart the size of kentucky, and he loves you.
that's important. take it from someone who knows."
n.s.
Ever since I was a young child, I've loved stories.  The avenue from which I get the story has changed over the years.  I'll go through phases of being a bookworm, a movie junkie, a social bird, a blog slave, a newspaper or comic strip heroine or even imagining and writing my own stories.   As long as I've been able to talk, I've begged my mom to tell me everything about her past.  How was her room decorated?  Who were her friends?  What did she get for Christmas?  What was her favorite meal her made?  Where did she go on vacations?  Why did she go to nursing school?  Who was her first kiss?  What was the most embarrassing situation you found yourself in?  How did dad propose to you?  Again, mom, tell me again.   Read it to me again, mom.  Can I watch it one more time? "Are you sure you want to watch Cinderella again?" Yes.  Cinderella, Cinderella, in the sweetest story ever told.
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I never understood the concern "they" had with allowing little girls to watch princess fairy-tales, play with Barbies and enjoy romantic, lovey make believe.  Maybe I'm royally messed up and don't realize it, but fairy tales never gave me a false understanding of bravery, love and life.  They enthralled me.  They made my heart fill up and warm, like apple cider.  I remember wearing my little plastic high-heels, prancing around in a stiff blue dressing, with a ripped wedding veil headband and wagon full of stuffed animals and acting out Cinderella as I watched it.  The stories, the characters and the triumph over evil got me every time.  Even when I was four.   The story brought so much joy to my heart, and it made my mind buzz.  

My enchantment with life has had some significant, um, deepening over the years.  But I've never stopped believing that life was meant to be good, joyous and sweet... even if your life is one where those dearest to you have died, your family abuses and humiliates you, and you have not a single human friend to confide in.   You can remain filled with hope, ever gentle and kind.

And you know what?  There are Prince Charmings.  Through patience, heartache and true loveliness, you really can fall in love, and commit to love someone.  There are men who are relentless - who treat you with grace, honor and will not give up on you.  And when it all seems hopeless, and like it will never work out well, a miracle happens.  And it all ends well, after all.  

I've mentioned my personal and family history with Disney and their stories, and you know that my handsome one pulled off the surprise of a lifetime in FantasyLand in front of the castle.  So what else could we possibly base our wedding off of, other than a real-life storybook fairy tale (which many told us only happens in the movies.)  What started with our first piece of inspiration (the opening credits to Cinderella) ended with the most meaningful, memorable, tender days of our lives.  

Caleb loved the idea right away.  He was the perfect wedding planning partner for me.  He had only two "big" requests: 1)  a chocolate cake with a castle and fireworks and 2) snowcone during cocktail hour.  Other than that, he told me to do whatever I wanted and tell him what I needed him to do.  If I needed help making a decision, he'd help me think through the options.  He jumped right aboard and basically said "I love all your ideas.  I'll help make them happen."  It's a good thing I married him!
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our make-shift inspiration board
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our make-shift flower inspiration board
Without further ado, our wedding day:
"Leave the sewing to the wom-EN! You go get some trim-MIN! And we'll make a lovely dress for Cinderelley!"
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This is a portion of a painting our dear friend Maureen Hartnett painted for us to display at our wedding and to keep forever.  She went above and beyond creating this Mary Blair/Original Disney inspired masterpiece.  I really fight back tears when I step back and look at it.
Real princesses wear gold.  Sparkling gold.
We had to stop doing make-up several times so I could distract my happy tears.  
Bridesmaids jewelry box!  
She painted daisies into the picture as a tribute to my mother (they are her favorite flower), and roses are to honor Caleb's mother (since they are her favorite flower!).  Incredible.
My grandparents wedding invitation (which is framed in our living room) and my grandmother's handkerchief.  My grandmother (Bacca) was at DisneyLand the week it opened, she had a Disney-themed basement for the grandchildren to enjoy and she was with me the first time (and many times after!) I visited DisneyLand.  She was the greatest women I've ever known, aside from her very own daughter, and I missed her dearly on my wedding day.  My grandfather, PaPa, was planning on being at the wedding but last minute he couldn't make the cross-country trip.  He died last week.  These little mementos are more precious than I could express. 
My $700 silk dress!  What started as a size 14 off the rack "eh" dress was transformed into my (and Caleb's) dream gown.  My fabulous friend and seamstress, Joyce, made fairy godmother magic happen.  It was perfect.
Joyce hand-sewed these beads onto the neckline.  Where did I get these beads?  We invested nearly $20 in six Wal-Mart necklaces.  I know, right?
My flowers were done by Jonalee of Simply Flowers.   There is nothing more impressive to me as a bride than to explain a vision and then see just how well that vision was understood.  Jonalee was nothing but professional, affordable and fantastic.  She created bouquets better and more "me" than I could even explain to her.  She outdid herself and I will be referring every bride I know to her.  
Oh. Ha. Random iPhone picture of the bridesmaids gifts!  They fit too well with the "whole wedding" that I couldn't leave this out ;)
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A dear friend nailed my hair, and another talented friend did my make-up.  My shoes were from TJ Maxx and my mom made my veil.  Oh, and my earrings were $9 from Charming Charlie's.  It was so fun figuring out how to make a "rich" look without actually spending very much.  
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If Disney was the "major" of our wedding, violins were the "minor."  If I could only hear one more sound for the rest of my life, I'd without a moments hesitation choose Caleb playing his violin. 
The plaid painting was made for me by the genius father-of-the-flowers, Seth.  We were inspired by his art when we chose the colors for the wedding.  And the little silhouettes are my dad's mothers, and they also hang in our living room!

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I loved how the bridesmaids looks came together.  I was adamant that I did NOT want them to look "like bridesmaids."  They all worked so hard finding gold sequins.  Right now gold sequins are actually  trendy, but six months ago it was SLIM pickings.   Also.  My sister and maid-of-honor could have come right off the red carpet, yes?
(I am so glad I did bright coral nails! It's my favorite.)
I actually have incredibly attractive friends.  (I picked them for their looks, obviously.)
Caleb's groomsmen selection tells so much about him.  I love it.  He has an age-range of 16-55, with a I've-known-him range of 25 years to 8 months.  Caleb is loyal to the bone, and cares for people of every personality type, age and "kind."  I love that about him.  And I love that all these brothers and men call him "friend."
Remember when Caleb said "Whatever you need me to do, I'll do!"?  His biggest and best honey-do our ceremony backdrop.  Made from old deck wood he saved from a job (thank you Bryant and Tiffany!), he spent days on this project.  First he drew a to-scale diagram which we scanned into photoshop.  From there we mix and dumped colors into the right rectangles.  We printed off our pictures and headed to Home Depot to match up all the paint.  Then Caleb cut and assembled four four-foot wide panels (which, when put side by side, is 16 feet wide.)  Next he chalk-lined the wood, primed with white paint, re-chalk-lined the wood, and then hand painted all the colors.  Have I ever mentioned that I love him?  The next big wow-factor of the ceremony were the wreaths my mom and Aunt Pam made out of pins, straw wreaths and leaves pulled off of two fake house-trees.  THANK YOU.
Every single color on these paintings was meticulously researched and chosen.  She used the flowers in my bouquet and googled those flowers and bought/mixed the exact colors those flowers bloom in.  All the animals come in pairs:  the birds, the goats, the bumble bees, the butterflies, the snails.  The garden is filled with weeds to represent the struggle and beauty of married life: it isn't always perfect, but love does defeat all.   Incredible.  Unreal.  Brilliant.  
As Caleb and I were discussing which children should be in the wedding, we struggled to pick just two or three.  So we chose 13 (and honestly could have had more.)  They made the wedding day.  All their excitement, bow-tied-cuteness, and emotions blessed our hearts.  Thank you, mothers, for doing the real hard work of having your little people in the wedding.  We just couldn't have had it any other way.
Aren't these SO impressive?!  Every leaf was hand-placed by my mom or Aunt Pam.  On all ten wreaths.  I'm so spoiled and loved.
We did "things" a little bit different with our schedule.  Since we had a Thursday wedding, and a very tight timeline with our venue, we decided to have cocktail hour before the ceremony.  When guests arrived they were greeted with live Morris violin beauty.  
Food and drinks were out and being served.  The specialty drink of the day was a homemade Cinderella Blonde Ale, made by our wicked cool family friends, The Branchaws.  Guests were encouraged to snack, mingle, take in the decor, and enjoy the entertainment.  
Oh, and Caleb got his snowcone! :) :) :) 
Our nod at Main Street USA in Disney Parks was our traveling singing quartet!  My childhood best friend, Sam (inside left) and I made a deal with each other in highschool:  I'd take pictures for him for free, and he'd sing at my wedding for free.  This year we both got to cash in on our word!  James, Julie's husband, and Kevin, Maureen the painter's husband and Lydia Jane's father, and a heaven-sent friend of Sam's made this troupe complete!  
Guests were also wow-ed with Bill Kerwood's mind-boggling and hilarious magic tricks!  I love how he works:  he gets the whole audience involved and roaring.  I could hear the squeals and laughter from the bridal suite.  
The table-card display was made by my mama.  Wooden dowels, ribbon and paper!  The moment I saw this idea, I knew it was what I wanted to do.  Once the table cards were pulled off, the ribbons remained as decoration.  Win-win!
I bought nearly 12 different fabrics from Spoonflower to make all the napkins for the wedding.  Except I didn't make them.  My mom and cousin, Ashley, did.  The week of the wedding Ashley sewed ALL the napkins and runners by herself.  Where do these people come from?!  And how did I get the honor of being related to them?!
The food was just as colorful as the rest of the wedding.  And man was it tasty!  
This instagram snap from Jamie is a great view of the ceremony setting.  Caleb made the simple wooden "door-way" and we found the gold curtains at Bed, Bath & Beyond.  It tied all my color-scheme ideas together so well.  
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Our programs were simple, but combining the powers of our invitation and "bridesmaids books."  I know it might seem silly, but putting the little cut-out picture on the back of the program totally made these for me!
Now Mary Blair starts to get quite personal ;)
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I haven't never felt that much feeling in my entire existence.  Those last few minutes are powerful.  I could see Caleb getting lined up and I really was just overcome.  Panting, pacing, "whooooo"-ing, trembling, shaking.  It's an out of body experience.  
Pixar clouds!
Hot smoking siblings.  The processional music was inspired by chick-flicks my dad and I watched together when I was a child.   My dad has always been a sucker for good one-liners and romances that will make you cry.  We've watched so many good movies together over the years, and he is not ashamed of this tender side at all.  The family members and wedding party walked down the aisle to was the Theme from Sabrina by John Williams.  We can quote Sabrina for an hour to each other.  But my favorite line has to be this narration: "Once upon a time...there was a very, very large mansion, almost a castle. And on this very large estate lived a small girl. And life was pleasant there and very, very simple. But, then one day, the girl grew up and went beyond the walls of the grounds and found the world."  Once I graduated highschool, my dad told me I needed my Sabrina moment; I needed to grow up and see the world.  Tears.
The flower girls (and ring bearers!) walked to Somewhere In Time Theme, by John Barry and Roger Williams.  The 1980's movie is a little slow, but it's the first real romance I had ever watched.  My mom was out of town, the rest of the kids were in bed, and dad and I had a special evening together.   I'll never forget it. 
These are my favorite lines from Somewhere In Time: "The man of my dreams has almost faded now. The one I have created in my mind. The sort of man each woman dreams of, in the deepest and most secret reaches of her heart. I can almost see him now before me. What would I say to him if he were really here? 'Forgive me. I have never known this feeling. I have lived without it all my life. Is it any wonder, then, I failed to recognise you? You, who brought it to me for the first time. Is there any way that I can tell you how my life has changed? Any way at all to let you know what sweetness you have given me? There is so much to say. I cannot find the words. Except for these: I love you'. Such would I say to him if he were really here."
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The moment was perfect.  The music soared and right on cue dad and I emerged from the curtains.  I've heard it said dozens of times, but it was true: as soon as I saw Caleb, I was completely calm.  Just smooth, clear, still happiness.  All my butterfly-nerves and fast-breathing and racing-heart-beats evaporated into peaceful bliss.  And I only had eyes for him.
Still makes me cry.
Glassy, locked eyes.
After all my years of watching this moment happen, we were finally in it.  It was happening to us.  
(Too excited to pray.)
Our good pal Bill led us in worship to my favorite hymn, How Great Thou Art.  Funny story:  Back before Caleb and I were actually dating, on one of those long long phone calls, I dared Caleb to sing a song on the spot over the phone.  He said he would do it only if I yodeled first.  He was sure that would be the end of that discussion.  I turned on The Lonely Goatherd from Sound of Music, yodeled along to it while Caleb laughed in fear.  Once I was done, it was his turn to sing.  He sweetly sang "How Great Thou Art" to me.  Tears.  And. Ha.  We were too distracted to worship.
We also shared communion as part of our ceremony.  Katie, Anna and Lydia sang a joyful version of "Oh, How He Loves Us," the same song we listened to on the truck-ride where I realized Caleb liked me ;)
I loved saying our vows.  And I remember them very clearly.  One good friend told me to pray before the wedding that God would give me "special memory" of the day.  That He would help it not be a big blur, but that I would be able to reflect on and savor the little details of the day for years to come.  I am so grateful that this did come to pass - I remember the wedding, especially the ceremony, so vividly and clearly.  It was a holy moment. 
Pretty human beings.
Dad and Mama Bear.  And pretty fans.
I love this picture of the first kiss!  See Daniel on the right side with his hand in the air?  The groomsmen all let off air-horns when we kissed :) So great!
And just like after we the proposal, when I *instantly* felt engaged, I instantly felt married.  It felt different.  And better than ever. 
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Let me tell you something about a marriage ceremony:  it changes you.  The words you speak, the one you speak to, the depth and weight of why you are saying what you say:  it's truly life-altering.  It doesn't matter how many times you hear someone else say their vows, or how many times you re-read and practice your vows, when you are standing there, before God and man, looking straight into his eyes, a beautiful, heavenly wave comes over you.  The words literally feel heavy.  They ring coming out of your mouth.  And then hearing them said to you?  Experiencing in that moment the richness of the love God has for you through this man?  Realizing that before the earth was formed, God had decided to make us to be together.  That culture, geography, heartache and past would not keep us apart.  That every marriage that led up this very second was also planned by God.  Like the genealogy of Jesus, where nothing could stop the Son of God from being born according to prophesy in Bethlehem, that same God created a family tree, a lineage, a heritage for me and my husband to enter into.  And God did it.  All those sleepless nights, numb mornings, searing pangs of hurt, lonely weeks, bad decisions, and joyful desiring really were used for our good.  The boundary lines have fallen for us in pleasant places; they've been pleasant all along.  At times I wanted my gates to be in other fields, or at times that border seemed like the most painful, disruptive addition to my life.  And, yet, there I stood, hand in hand with my dearest friend, most-trustest companion, silliest lover, and greatest-joy.  God really did it. 
Behr and Caleb have a special bond.  Tears.
Other than Caleb and I, I think Selah-the-pink-bowed-flower-girl was the most excited person at our wedding.  Talk about sharing in our joy!
Man, we can't wait to have our own little crew.  Can I take 100 of these guys, please?  Love them all so dearly.  
Time for eeaaaat!
All of our best ones!

This is my favorite picture of the day :)  
If you've ever been on Storybook Canal in Disneyland, you can't help but fall in love with the miniature landscaping, plants and villages.  That ride is my second favorite Disney ride, and our tables will slightly inspired by the colorful, storybook ride.    There was not a single centerpiece, table setting or table that was exactly the same.  It took a lot of work, but I loved the final result.  So whimsical and fairy-tale!
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When I was 18 I nabbed about 20 pieces of milk glass for $30 at an estate sale.  Ever since I've been slowly adding to the collection.  Janet and Mom were the milk glass heroes before the wedding!  I have over 100 pieces now!  Too much!
We entered the reception to "Thank God I'm A Country Boy!"...
... and Caleb and Daniel (of Twins + Violins. Woo Rah!) whipped out their fiddles and started jamming. It was a blast.  Laughter, clapping, foot-stomping.  It was the perfect "Oklahoma" entrance, and so "my boy."
Our first dance was to "Tale as Old as Time" from Beauty and the Beast.  As soon as we started dancing thunder rolled, rain fell on the roof and a breeze sailed through the tent.  It was so romantic.
Aaaand the chocolate cake with castle and fireworks.  Thank you, Nurse Jess.  You made him the happiest man, which made me the happiest woman.  
These little tissue-paper covered mason jars were charming and wonderful.  Again, thank you mom and Aunt Pam! Thank you thank you!  The little details were so special to me.
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Line-dancing was some kind of old fashioned fun!
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My basketball team... I'll love you all until the day that I die.
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Our last dance was one of my favorite moments of the night.  Daniel played "So This Is Love" on his violin while the guests circled the dance floor.  Right away we turned and ran through the sparkler tunnel.  So dreamy.  
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And it was the sweetest day that was ever lived. 

Our Wedding | Invitations

"open in the name of the king!
an urgent message from his imperial majesty"
cinderella receives an invitation to the ball
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Call me "Georje Bahnks, Georja BAHNKS," because I feel like I'm walking through my allegorical wedding "mess."  Cue the fizzing champagne bubbles.  "I used to think a wedding was a simple affair."    As thrilled as I am to be living as a wife and as happy as I am about the great adventure of life before us, I can't help but play through our last few days of engagement and our wedding day.  We had a truly wonderful time planning our wedding.  The hardest week, was also the fastest week, and was also the last week ;)  I love being a wife more than being a fiance' or bride, but I loved both of those roles.  In every way.  
So now?  As I wait to see my own wedding pictures from Shannon, I'm going to unveil little bits of our day.  Today is our invitations!  I talked about our wedding inspiration in the spring and I'm thrilled with how our ideas turned into real products we could touch and keep.  Here's a little refresher on the feel we were hoping for (that whole playful-yet-royal, childlike-yet-elegant vibe? Remember?):
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We made our invitations ourselves, and I knew exactly what I wanted them to look like (well, almost exactly.) I designed the invitation-wording in photoshop.  I can't tell you how many slim sans-serif fonts I looked through!  And as much as I would have loved to have hand-calligraphed invitations, I found a very budget-friendly solution!  Calligraphy by Hilary hand wrote our names and then sent me the jpeg file over e-mail.  I loved having custom handwriting (instead of a script font) - it felt very Cinderella to my heart ;)  Two colored card stock squares and thread finished off these babies!
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She also hand wrote and then made a stamp with our return address.  This was also so nice because we didn't have to worry about printing on the letterpress envelopes and something feels satisfying and old-fashioned about stamping from ink pad to paper!
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The inner envelope was a spanking gold vellum with confetti-glitter band.  Double sided tape for the win. (Special thanks to my new mother-in-law for hand punching all the confetti for me!)
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The final product!
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We ended up using five or six different colors of card stock.  I couldn't make up my mind and just pick two! Haha!
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A close-up of the stamp.  When it went well... it went really well.  When it was messy, it was REALLY messy.  I don't even want to know how many envelopes we had to toss ;)
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A few thoughts (tips? lessons?) if you make your own wedding invitations:

1 // Have my friends.   
Starting with Caleb, then to my mother, then to my Aunt Pam and Becca, Janet, Lydia, Katie... they helped, worked, tied, cut, counted and breathed these into existence.   It got a little frustrating at times (printer formatting, blade-breaking, wrong measurements, etc), but the crew didn't give on me!
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2 // The details are worth it.
Once we started the project we weren't sure if we had to have the bow.  Or if we had to include the gold glitter.  But I'm so glad we pressed on and did those extra steps... even at 11:30 pm in a Florida hotel room the night before my entire family moved back to Maryland.  I wish I had planned better?  But I don't wish we had skipped the "little things."  I love how they added to - possibly even made! - the whole look.
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3 // Buy your own paper, but let someone else print and cut it.
Unless you have a commercial printer, heavy duty paper cutter and warm comfort food on hand, I do not suggest doing this part yourself.  After a few days of printing/cutting, uh...haha, fun?, I finally took the invitation file and white card stock over to FedEx office.  An hour and $12 later everything was perfectly cut and crisply printed.  I should have done that from the start.  The paper there is a little pricey, however.  So go do your good amazon.com or coupon/sale/deal hunting and bring your paper to them.  So worth it.
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4 // Have fun with the wording.
I loved writing out the invitation and choosing the words very carefully.   Joyfully.  Celebration.  Respondez S'il Vous Plait.  I say: say what you want to say, not what "the websites" tell you to say.  Does that make sense?  Use words you love and make it your own.  I say.  You say.  We all say for ice-cray!
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5 // Invite me to your wedding.
I just love weddings - more than ever.  So I want to come.
;)

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I was so pleased with how these turned out.  Especially because I think they complimented the other paper goods (the bridesmaids books, the programs, the table cards) but they also gave such a perfect introduction to our wedding.  And after all his grumpy, doting dad-ness, George was right: getting married is a NOT the same as "having a wedding."  And we girls do love our weddings... and the perfect "welcome" to the wedding really matters sometimes.

The Beginning of Our Honeymoon | Donovan House + Bluefields Bay Jamaica

โ€œi love you to pieces, and to distraction, and to etcetera.โ€ 
j.d. salinger
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Over the whole wedding-planning process I found my long-toed, tough-bottomed foot in my mouth regularly.  Nearly everything I swore I'd "never do," I did.  

"I'm never having a big wedding party.  Five girls or less is the perfect size.  More than that is just too chaotic.  That's one thing I've learned after all the weddings I've shot."  I had eight bridesmaids (and I sometimes wish I had more), escorted by Caleb's eight groomsmen, and rounded off with thirteen flower girls and ring bearers.  
"I'm NOT having a cake at my wedding."  I married a guy who asked for two things at his wedding:  a snow cone and chocolate cake.  How can you say no to such an odd and sweet request? I sure couldn't.
"I'm NEVER living in my parent's basement when I get married.  If you aren't ready to support yourself without mom and dad's help, you aren't ready to get married!"  Big sheepish grin on this one.  And for more happy, good and lovely reasons than I could even list right now, Caleb and I have the BEST (and biggest) basement apartment, with rad crew of related tenants upstairs.  I wouldn't trade it for a private jet or thick hair ;)
"I'm never honeymooning in Jamaica!" It seems like 90% of the couples I know honeymoon in Jamaica.  That figure is probably off (I was never very good at math), but for whatever reason I very, very early on swore that I would be going somewhere much more exotic and unique than Jamaica.  I wasn't going to do "what everyone else as doing."
"I'm absolutely, under NO circumstances, EVER posting honeymoon pictures.  It gives me the eebie-jeebies.  Keep your honeymoon to yourself."  Haaaaa-Hiiii :D  Well.  Here's the thing.  Um.  I'm sorry? To every honeymooner who has made a Facebook album or blogpost and I judged you with brimstone: I get it now, and I apologize.  Whenever I travel anywhere I take pictures, and like to post them.  It's the big-time version of gathering all your friends and family together to go through slides on a projector like they did in the old days.  Caleb and I really traveled to remarkable places on our trip.  And I just can't help but share.  It was too good.  We had a refreshing mix of everything: city and swanky, normal and "like date night," nerve-wracking and thrilling, tropical and blue, luxurious and Victorian, rural and sweaty, relaxing and busy.  
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I was curious how the word "honeymoon" began so I did some reading and, like, most things in life, there are many opinions and stories ;)  But I'll go with my favorite version from the 16th century!  The word is clearly two words put together "honey" and "moon."  The honey refers to "sweet" goodness.  And moon references the olden day calendars where time was measured by the moon and stars.  "Honeymoon" is simply the period of time after marriage where love is quite sweet!  Honeymoons, or sweet periods of time, could last for months, or years!, depending on the couples love for each other.   I just read this today and loved it.  Without being too silly, it reminded me of what Caleb told me on our flight home at the end of our trip: "The honeymoon isn't over!  It's just starting."  Sure, our vacation was over but our sweet time together has really just begun.  So, think of it this way:  you'll likely be seeing many, many posts and pictures of our "sweet times" over the next days, months and years.   Our hope is that our marriage will be one big, long, happy honeymoon.
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Our first day of sweetness as husband and wife!  Yipppee!  We spent a lot of time choosing our hotel (maybe too much time.  And we even booked a hotel once and canceled it. I'm so glad we did!)   I love Kimpton Hotels, a company known for their boutique hotels.  There are probably close to 15 Kimpton establishments in our general area.  The experience of a hotel really matters to us (well, if we are going to be spending good money on it! And you only get to start your marriage once!) We studied each and every website (almost booked Hotel Monaco, DID book Morrison House and changed our minds) and finally chose the urban, chic, downtown Donovan House.  Actually, Caleb chose it.  I told him that I honestly wanted him to pick and he nailed it.
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Donovan House has a killer rooftop pool and adjacent bar.   We must have spent 30 minutes walking around and looking at everything before we even picked some chairs and "settled in."
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Oh you know, just us in our turtlenecks at the pool! ;)
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I really did not feel like I was in my "own" town.  I felt like we had been whisked away to a Californian hideaway.
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Something I Did Not Expect Number 1:  How obsessed I'd be with our wedding bands.  What the wow. I really love seeing Caleb's handsome ring on his very taken hand.  I catch myself staring at it while butterflies mingle.  I love every time I catch a glance at it there.  I also think I've looked at my own hand more as a married woman than I did when I was engaged (and I looked at my new ring so often while we were engaged!)  I assumed that I would get a matching diamond-lined band for my wedding band.  But when I tried those on I though it really took away from the scale and beauty of my engagement ring.  I'm ALL for bling, but I'm so glad we went with a tiny, tiny, simple rose gold band.  It adds just the perfect touch.
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Some after-sun, chlorine-sleepy, kind-of-burned "portraits."  The light in the hall was just too good to pass up ;)
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Agh, I'm so happy we did this.  Though the hotel has a highly-reviewed restaurant, and well-known joints within a block of Donovan House, but we made reservations at our long-time favorite, Founding Farmers which is a mile away.  We decided to enjoy the weather and walk.   I mostly just took pictures of Caleb doing things with his ring on.
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We didn't know we'd be passing Mr. President's house!  Fun little surprise view :)
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If you go to Founding Farmer's, you MUST get their homemade soda.  We chose orange and hibiscus :)
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I wasn't going to take pictures of the food (you know, I was going to put my camera down and just be with my boy) but when our soup came Caleb didn't touch it.  I was surprised because he loves their clam chowder and usually digs right in.  I asked him if he wanted any: "Yeah! I do!  But aren't you going to take a picture of it first?"  I should marry that guy ;)
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After dinner we enjoyed free drinks at the hotel bar!  (Another reason Kimptons are wonderful!) Caleb wore his ring!  Which was wonderful!
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Mr. Husband of the Year made (yes, made.  I married Craft Angel, remember?) a special shirt for me to travel in.  And boy was I proud to wear it!
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Something I Did Not Expect Number 2: To "make" money on our honeymoon.  Here's the story.  Part of why we chose Jamaica is because of it's very convenient location: we could get on an airplane at 8:30 and be in Jamaica at lunch time.  Some good friends highly encouraged us to get the direct flight, not the flight that stops in Orlando.  "They only leave an hour of time to get change planes, and Florida has bad weather often, so the planes are usually late.  And there are only two or three flights to Jamaica a day, so if you miss yours, you're done.  And we almost missed our flight when we went!  Just take the non-stop flight and you won't have to worry about anything."  We really agreed with them, but when it came down to it, the non-stop flight was more than double the lay-over-in-Orlando-flight (we're talking $900 vs. almost $3000).  So we went ahead with the layover in Orlando, but gave ourselves a little pep talk.  "Something will probably go wrong during our travel.  That happens in life and that's perfectly fine.  If we miss our connecting flight, we'll just go to Disney for the day.  Heck, if we miss our flight out of DC we'll chill there for another day.  We're together and that's the point.  So we're not going to stress out if something 'happens.'"  You ready for this?  Our wedding was on Thursday and the plan was to fly out of Washington DC at 8:30 am on Saturday to Orlando, catch our next plane an hour later and arrive in Jamaica at 12:30.   We left our hotel at 6:00 am and arrived at National Airport around 6:20.   I can't tell you how many times I checked our itinerary and passports that morning.  "Right airport?  Right times?  Right day?   Right ID's? Yes? Yes." The couple ahead of us in line were flying to Orlando and Montego Bay, also.  I was eavesdropping.  They checked in.  They received their boarding passes.  They checked their luggage.  They went on their merry way.  Caleb and I came up right behind them.  The Airport Lady took our passports.  Her face looked seriously at her computer screen.  She asked me a few questions.  I answered them.  Caleb swallowed his tongue.  To quote Miss Clavel, "Something is not right, something is quite wrong!" After a few more painful seconds, the AirTran employee, nonchalantly and boredly said "This flight was overbooked and there are no more seats available."  She paused while she ripped some papers.  Caleb and I didn't say a word.  We just stood there.  Cool as a cucumber and without making eye concact, she continued, "There is a flight that leaves from Baltimore you can take.  You'll each receive vouchers for round-trip flights.  Do you accept the vouchers?" 

We both instantly started asking questions.  How do we GET to Baltimore?  Baltimore is at least 45 minutes away, with no traffic... and that flight leaves 15 minutes after this one?  We're not going to make that flight!  What time will we get to Jamaica?  Where is our layover?  If it's in Orlando that cuts our connecting time to 45 minutes! "Here is a voucher for an airport taxi.  They'll get you there on time.  The flight is a nonstop flight and you'll land in Jamaica a little after eleven o'clock.  Do you accept the vouchers?"  "Um, yes?"  "Great, then sign here, please."   Caleb was panicking on the inside that we were signing our lives away.  He was preparing himself for no Jamaica at all.

We took our taxi voucher, new boarding passes, luggage, and $1000 worth of flight vouchers to the curb.   A leather-seated Expedition pulled up.  We cuddled into the clean, warm seats and started doing math.  "It's 6:40 now... we'll get there by 7:30 hopefully, boarding starts at 8:10.  Yeah, we'll be fine. It'll be fine.  Be we can't hit traffic."  Long story made short:  we made it in enough time to stop at Starbucks and get some breakfast and we discovered that we had been upgraded to first class!  A first-classs, non-stop flight to Jamaica plus four free flights to use in the future!  We were so excited.  We kept yapping about how this is the BEST way to start a honeymoon!  And I've never flown first class!  And it only take two and half hours to get there, now?! This is the BEST!  The rest of the first class passengers loved us ;)
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If I had a dollar for everytime my name was spelled right on a Starbucks drink, I'd have a buck or two.
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"Don't our feet look so different now that we're married?!"
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Baltimore > Sky > Montego Bat
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Honeymooning Tip:  Buy a big and pretty square scarf.  I bought this one at Charming Charlie's for $15 and used it for everything.  A blanket on the plane, a cover-up at the beach, a skirt with a tank-top, a pillow (Caleb has boney shoulders), a regular scarf... it was so useful!
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I went overboard with the travel-day pictures.  But he's just suuuch a stud muffin!  Look at the cute boy :D :D
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The first time ever.
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Without any further ado, I present to you:  Montego Bay.
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(This is Caleb's "patient" face.)
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I love landing in this airport.  As soon as we exited a crew of friendly strangers started asking us where we were going.  "Bluefields Bay Villas...?"  "AH!  BlewFeelds, mon? Oh-kay, oh-kay mon!  Percy is your driver, mon!"  They all knew our driver by name, and since he wasn't there yet they called him on their cellphones.  "Whatcha doing Percy?  They here mon!"  While we waited for Percy they picked up our luggage and sat us down for some drinks and snacks.  We definitely were not planning to eat yet, but they insisted ;)  Rum punch and a papaya daiquiri turned out to be just what we needed.  They were right after all!
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Percy did come (very quickly!) and took us on the grand tour, with a pit stop for jerk chicken and eventually taking us "home" to Bluefields.
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They know how to do chicken right.   Absolutely unreal.
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When we pulled up to Bluefields, we were speechless.  See those two cement stairs?  We were standing on those...
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...looking at this.
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If we walked forward a little bit, our private cottage was on the right...
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... and this view was on our left.
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Of course the friendly staff had drinks ready for us the moment we stepped out of the van!  Caleb could not have been more pleased ;)
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Since we arrived about an hour earlier than expected, the staff was still running around getting our place ready... but I couldn't help but peek in and see all the beauty!
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View from the bedroom to the left...
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... and to the right.
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We headed down to our outdoor dining room called "The Treehouse."  I was instantly in love with the views and rich table settings.  It was all so expensive and luxurious.
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Pearly silverware! Yes! Yes!
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{Super Random} Something I Did Not Expect Number 3:  No salt shakers!  They only put pepper in a shaker, and the salt comes in this cute little bowls with a pearly "spoon."
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More drinks!  Why not!  They're already paid for ;)
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I'm not *exactly* sure what the highlight of the honeymoon was for Caleb: the endless sweet drinks, spending time with me, or the pool.  Okay, okay... It was obviously the drinks.  But the pool and I are close seconds! ;)
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Besides the heavenly surroundings, one fun part of travel for a photographer is the different lighting.  My east coast friends love to talk about how California photographers don't get how different "their" light is.  Some places are more heavy and blue, others are "fuzzy" and yellow, some places have strong and "deep" light.  Jamaica was very, very bright and clear.  I loved it!  And went, again, a little crazy on the pictures on our first beach day ;)
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Our own private beach!
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A different beach day!  A day when I felt brave enough to take my camera into the ocean with me to get some new angles
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You haven't lived until you've snorkeled with a cowboy.  Let's just say... there aren't many oceans in the way out in the country ;)
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We spent some serious time lounging and eating... so had to do some sort of exercise one day!  Our humble and kind of mischievous beach-boy Christopher took us on the hike of a lifetime.
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I loved all the different paths we took!
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Christopher insisted that we try a real, fresh coconut.  "It's good for the heart!" So we met up with his family in the middle of their work day.  Isn't his nephew a heart-melter?
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His 50 year old father came running out of the bushes and greeted us.  And then he, barefooted, walked right up the tree and started throwing down coconuts!  It was epic.
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After sliding down the tree like it was a pole on a playground, he whipped out his machete and opened those suckers up.
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Like I said before, I loved our honeymoon for endless reasons... but we could go from fine dining in the lap of luxury to a sweaty hike where we ate coconut for lunch!  ("Yeah, look at that body.  He works out!")
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The views from up top did not disappoint.
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Bluefields has six villas spread out over two miles of shore.  August is hurricane (and therefore "slow") season, so not all the villas were occupied.  Just for fun, we spent an afternoon at a different home.   You know, being all snobby and in charge.  "Take us to our other villa!" 
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My battery died a few days before the honeymoon was over, and I purposely did not bring my charger or card-reader.  The point of this trip was quality time and relaxing! We journeyed to Black River and went on a water safari (think Disney's Jungle Cruise... but in real life.)  The tour guide would actually hold meat in his hand and call crocodiles over to the boat, and then pull the croc up by his legs or snout.  It was wild.  We also went to the serene and stunning Ys Falls and spent the day rope-swinging, sliding down rocks, walking underneath the waterfall and swimming.  Quite a dreamy day!  But no "real" pictures of those trips ;)
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One of the most common phrases I had heard before our wedding was "Getting married is the best, you don't have to say good-bye!"  Caleb and I did not live together (or stay the night together) until we were married.  I assumed that the "not saying good-bye" part of marriage would be my "favorite."

And don't get me wrong, I love it ;)  But here's the thing about us:  we can both fall asleep anywhere.  And we HATE to leave each other.  While we were dating, so long as we were in the same state, we saw each other every single day.  No exceptions.  We didn't make a "rule" about that... it kind of just happened.  Even if it was for 10 minutes or very late at night or was out of our way, one of us (usually Caleb) came to the other and we were together for a little bit.  Also, for most of our relationship we lived not even two minutes away from each other.   I can't tell you how many times we made a plan for Caleb to leave my house at 10:00 (or 10:30, or 11:00, or 11:30) so he could get to bed at a decent hour and wake up with a full night of sleep.  It happened *maybe* five times.   We were together as much as possible as long as possible

We pretty much always pushed it until one or both of us was asleep or at least couldn't hold our happy eyes open any longer.  Caleb usually tucked me into "bed" (on the couch) and I'd be sound asleep when he left.  Other times he'd finish dinner and just crash on the couch (even though he'd insist he was going to watch the movie with Dre!).  I would let him sleep until I was ready for bed, then I'd wake him up and send him home.  That, um, system? wouldn't work for everyone, but it worked for us!  And our housemates and friends (Dre and Becca, and Janet and Seth) were very patient with us and our ridiculous hours ;)

All that to say, there were many nights I didn't "say good-bye!"  I'd be sound asleep and wake up in the morning, all alone, with a text (every single time) from Caleb.  So my actual favorite was not "not saying good-bye" but not waking up alone.  I didn't have to wait for him to get home from work to see him, or wait for him to wake up on weekends (the boy never sleeps, so when he gets to sleep until noon on Saturdays, it's the best.  Except that I didn't get to be with him.)  Now when he sleeps in?  I'm already with him.  Now before he heads off to work?  I'm the first and only person he's with.  No more waiting all day long.   We now, more than ever, get to spend sweet periods of time together, and that really is my favorite part of marriage.


โ€œI now know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest - blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine.

No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward's society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together. 

To be together is for us to be at once free as in solitude, as gay as in company."

- c. bronte

Enjoy Weddings | The Ivy at Dewey Beach | Claire + Brad

and i heard you say
let's lose ourselves out here always
lost in this haze
here in this place - goyte  
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The east coast beach was ideal.  75 degrees, sunny with a slight breeze - happy weather.   Claire watched the wedding day unfold.  "What do I do now?  Do I need to do anything?" Her friends ran in and out of bedrooms and bathrooms and stairwells promising her that everything was taken care of and that she only needed to relax.  "I am relaxed!  I don't have anything to do!" Her friends and family truly had taken care of everything.  
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I gave Claire little projects to do for me.  "Let's get your dress out... do you know where your shoes are?... Do you have any special items you'd like photographed?" 
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You may or may not believe this, but within a few minutes of walking into the adorable beach home, I felt connected with all these strangers.  I couldn't quite place my finger on it, but I had warm, bubbly feelings in my heart and a calm, lovely feeling in my head.   I soon found out that all the bridesmaids were long time best-friends.  I'm talking childhood friends.  Toddlers, even.  And their weren't three bridesmaids.  The eight girls were like Loralie and Rory, or The Bennett Sisters.  Their chemistry and roles were highly entertaining, comfortable and moving.
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Little flower girl Veida wasn't just a cute addition to the day; she was a constant reminder of how quickly life moves.   Someday she'll be the bride, and hopefully stand with her childhood friends.  And not too long ago Claire was the little girl, playing dolls with her tiny pals.
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"My veil is my something borrowed.  OH!  And I need to show you the handkerchief my aunt gave me when I was born.  It came with a poem.  Oh my.  I can't.  You can read it. I can't read it.  I'll.... cry."  Claire turned away with glassy eyes and fluttery hands.  
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I went outside to give all the ladies a little space and to snoop out a location for portraits.
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When I returned inside, I came into a heart-warming scene.   All the emotions on edge, the life of friendships, the hum of a family beach house turned bridal suite, the little feet and dresses and dolls, the bigger feet, dresses and bride, laughter and teasing - everything settled around a TV in the living room. The bride's sister, Mary, had made a video for Claire.  This video went all the way back to the beginning, and for ten minutes showed each and every girl in that room move from toddlerhood to kid-hood, to teenage years ("GAH! I took that picture!  That's the first picture of you and Brad! You BABIES!"), to the present.   "Not a single eye was dry."
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"Remember when I was young, and so were you?"
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Daddy and daughter reviewed their speeches while the very-loved bride went upstairs to touch up her make-up.
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When it was time to help Claire get ready, everybody had to help.  How else would it be done with these girls?!
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Claire, well, Claire is a gem; a precious and rare spirit.  In all her rowdy, sarcastic, quick-spoken, loud, colorful friends, she's the rock.  She's quietly funny, she's happily supportive, she's as sweet as her eyes would indicate.   She's much more beautiful than she knows she is, and her heart goes deep.  One of her friends told me, quivering, that this day is so important for them all because Claire is really the best friend and she's the first one to get married.
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Veida always joined in on cue.  Life moves quickly.  Little girls grow up.
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And if little girls all grew up to be like Claire, this world would be a sweeter place. 
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Oh kids.  I love you all.
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You're a rare and stunning gorgeous, Claire.  Seriously. Whoa.
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I had to pull myself away from Claire to go meet the boys at The Ivy.  I wasn't disappointed ;)
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One of my friends and I love to remark on "nice eyes."  We'll see people walking around and say "Ohhh.  She had nice eyes.  You can tell she's so lovely."  Brad has nice eyes.  
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I don't know how as well, but this is his grooms cake, so he must have some sort of sense of humor and athletic-heart.   Sounds like the perfect combination to me!
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(How cool was the inside of The Ivy?!  I'm dying to recreate a version of the dark-stained shelves with ALL white objects in my new house...)
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When ceremony time arrived, everyone was in their place waiting for Claire to pull-up and exit the limo.  Mom was ready to attach the veil.
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The boys were all together and patient.
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Veida was getting nervous, but certainly ready.
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The guests were seated and looking fine.
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The time had come.
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One of my favorite ring-putting-on shots ever!
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Congratulations you charming couple!
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While the guests enjoyed cocktail hour, the wedding party hid out on the side of the building and rejoiced.
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All the Visitation ("Go Visi!") girls!
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Oh little one.
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Brad and Claire have been friends for years.  Their friends have been friends for years.  They've loved each other for years.  Their wedding was pure celebration, beauty and joy.
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The guests were fascinating: a whole crew of beautiful, well-dressed, personality-FULL, funny people. I loved it.
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Ah, I love a good set of toasts :D
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Still the best cake ever...
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I'll take my dinners like this every night, please.
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Congratulations, sweethearts.  Go have so much fun together!

Enjoy Writing | Oh My My My | Part 7

rough seas, 
they carry me wherever i go
josh ritter - change of time
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a view from my christmas eve run in florida
part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 | part 6

After I coached a basketball game, my dad asked me about my trip.  As I sipped Wendy's chili from a spoon,  I raved.  He re-stated his prediction.  "Caleb will be in touch tonight." I cowered.  "If you had such a great time, why are you so upset that he'd want to talk to you?"  BECAUSE I DIDN'T HAVE A GREAT TIME WITH HIM DAD!  I had a great time with his family!  And friends!  And property! He was actually a little weird.  Dad laughed.  I wanted to smack him.  Or myself. Bzzzzt.  Bzzzzt. 
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driving the team bus home after an away game.  i left oklahoma monday morning and went straight to school to coach.  that is the same sweatshirt i wore while i held a goat ;)

And there it was.  A Facebook message from Caleb on my iPhone notifications.  My dad shook his head at me and leaned back in his seat.  My starting forwards and point guard were going back for another frosty. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.  He's gone on and e-mailed me. Oh dear. I herded my little matching team to the bus.  I needed to get home. While we drove, my mind quivered. I hated that Caleb had Facebook messaged me.  Don't get me wrong, I was flattered.  Honored, even.  I knew how seriously "pursuing a girl" was for Caleb.  And, as silly as it might seem, I knew a Facebook message was indeed "pursuing" me.  Hitting on me.  Whatever.  He liked me.  And he was finished with warm-ups and ready to get moving.  
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my team at wendy's - with no clue how emotional their coach was ;)
Monday and Tuesday were very strange, emotional days. "He's a great guy, it's okay to give him a chance.  Good Ness, Kristen, he's a great guyโ€ฆ and you could break his heart!  You don't even like him. You're a complete, utter, flabby-stomached jerk.  You're going to hurt everyone.  Probably even him.   But, that's between him and God.  God doesn't promise to keep us from broken hearts.  He promises to always be good to us.  Caleb is a really, really good guy.  There is NO way I can do this.  But why am I so torn?  If I don't want to talk to a guy, I justโ€ฆ don't talk to him.  Do I want to talk to Caleb?  Oh my gosh.  I think I do.  I can't.  Oh my gosh." 

Though many people would argue that having different guys romantically or emotionally involved in your life is "giving away pieces of your heart," my experience was that it built my heart into the joy of God like nothing else has ever done.  Obviously it would seem be ideal to never be hurt by a relationship and to have the first guy work out the first time (and for some people, that is exactly what God has planned!), but I'm so very grateful for my "boy history."  By that day in December 2010 I had only had a grand total of two boyfriends for 22 days, combined.  Yeah.  Impressive.  But those two relationships (and the other boys who came into my life but I didn't date) taught me some life-changing lessons.  Namely:  to find an genuine-not-game-playing, happy, family-oriented, fun, single, attractive man who was not only eager to be a husband, but also a father; who loved family and wanted his entire life, ministry, career and walk with the Lord to be walked out in and for family, for his wife and children.  I lost much sleep over "finding a man" who didn't see children as a hindrance to our married joy, but as something he wanted to pursue happily!  I lost much sleep over wondering how a girl can know when a guy who likes her isn't charming her with lies, one-liners and fake religion.  And all of a sudden, there was a Caleb Morris in my inbox. Hm.

By Wednesday he had gotten in touch with my dad (the obvious and only next step in "pursuing" a girl) to ask permission to talk with me.  My dad said something to the effect of "If you'd like to talk to my daughter, you'll have to ask her!"  It was almost 11:00 pm that night.  I could hear the siding of my apartment "crack" in the wind.  My Christmas tree lived in the windows, housing a city of lights.  Cars occasionally rolled by.  I lay my phone on the other side of the room and watched it. My neighbor turned off her light. My cell phone illuminated and shook.  There was a man, sitting on a bottom bunk-bed on a farm, with a pounding heart, calling a girl for his first time ever.  And there was a girl who was about to answer.
"Hello!"  "Um, Hi.  This is Caleb Morris." "Mmm, yes.  I know. Haha.  My dad told me you'd be calling."  "Well, yesโ€ฆ I just spoke with him and wanted to know if it'd be alright with him and mostly you but him too! Alright if I got to know you a little bit more.  And it's not official or like we're dating or anything like that.  Well, if that's what God has it might eventually be thatโ€ฆ Just now we're talking.  If you want to.  Your dad said I should ask you.  And we'll pray and see what the Lord has for us.  But just build a friendship now.  If you want. It's okay if not.  But, I hope you do. Want. To talk."

I squeezed my eyes and bit my entire lip.  I thought he was the most adorable, nervous little beaver I'd ever heard.  Typically when a guy makes "this" call, I'd be a little reserved and wait for them (or rather, give them a chance) to start the conversation.  I'm a talker and have no trouble filling in the silences, so I'd really try to not bulldoze the guy by jumping right in.  But with Caleb I thought it was necessary.  I told him we could talk.  And get to know each other.  And I started right into a little re-cap of the weekend.  What fun it was!  He affirmed the sentiment, very politely and very accent-y.  Cute phone voice.  I like.  I hadn't noticed that voice this way in Oklahoma.  Then Caleb had a perfectly normal "get to know you" question. Not. "So, when you have children, you want to homeschool them, right?"  Ha! Oh boy.  This could get ugly real quick, I thought.  He's looking to get married in eight weeks and I ain't what he's looking for, honey pie.  I don't think he has any idea what he's getting into by crushing on me. 

I was sure that my scandalous answer about being willing and eager to consider many schooling options would send him running away.  But the truth was, I feel that the Bible leaves freedom for a parent to decide how to school his child, from homeschool, to private school, to christian school to public school!  I could never make a blanket statement that I would or would not do any of those four options, because I just don't know what life and God might hold.  He seemed a little taken aback, but he listened and asked questions.  He said "Yeah. Yeah. Hm. Yeah." a lot. We ended up talking for over an hour and a half.  Not bad! Not bad at all for a first phone call ever!  I wouldn't say the conversation was marvelous, or even particularly fun.  Caleb was jumping right into the serious questions, and we barely knew

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the lovely view i had while i waited for caleb to call :D

The next night he asked if he could call again.  He'd ask before he'd call.  I decided that even if nothing happened with Caleb, I was going to have to find myself one of these gentlemanly country boys.  We talked on Thursday night for nearly three hours.  These conversations were fairly thick.  He talked the experience of watching his brother die.  I talked about my mother's cancer.  He asked me about my convictions regarding debt.  I asked him pointed questions about leadership and "male and female roles."  We were very different people, I came to find out.  At the same time, we actually got along well!  Our disagreements were notably fun to talk through and "debate."  I felt free to speak my mind, and I think he was a little overwhelmed but intrigued.  But I was skeptical.  And extremely fearful. 

Friday was the day that changed everything.  I couldn't talk to him anymore.  It was too much.  Too much was on the line.  He's so serious.  I don't want to hurt him, or anyone else.  We're not in too far, yet.  No one is attached.  Two phone calls?  That's nothing.  To be clear, I also really thought I felt a conviction that I needed to stop talking with him.  This might cause you to go "huh?"  But it's true.  And maybe silly.  But I was a mess.  I cried all day.  I talked with my parents.  I wasn't at peace.  I felt terrible.  I spent the entire day in fetal position going from bed to floor to couch to bed again.  My body felt like I had eaten cotton-batting (the fluff used to stuff pillows.) 

I called him that night to tell him I didn't want to talk anymore.  He was floored.  He was not expecting to hear those words.  Clearly.  Who would be?  If a guy did that to me I would have considered him quite the jerk.  I knew I was a jerk.  Caleb fought my decision.  He pressed in at every angle he could.  The more he pressed, the more sure of my decision I was, and the more it broke my heart.  Every sigh.  Every "Kristen.  Oh Kristen."  Every long silence.  Every "Well. I guess." followed by more silence.  It was like a hippopotamus doing jumping rope inside.  I pounded.  I'm so sorry.  I really am.  I tried to tell you that I was crazy.  We eventually hung up.  The good-bye rung in my ears.  How could this possibly feel so much like a break-up!  This is nothing, woman!  Get yourself together!  This was the right decision, right?  I felt terrible.  Maybe it wasn't the right thing to do. 
   
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a heart-breaking text... when he texted to ask if we could talk that night, i answered "yes, we need to actually.  and it might not be the most fun conversation ever."  i screen-capped his response :(
 I listened to Taylor Swift.  A lot.  "So here I am in my new apartment, in a big city.  They just dropped me off.  It's so much colder than I thought it would be, so I tuck myself in and turn the nightlight off.  Oh, I don't wanna grow up. Wish I'd never grown up and could still be little.  Oh, darling, just stay little.  Don't you ever grow up, it could stay so simple."Photobucket
I kept my word and didn't communicate with Caleb.  Not a single Facebook "like" or break-down text.  Shortly I flew to Florida to spend the holidays with my family.  I needed my mommy.  And my kiddos.  And some food that would make me fat and happy.  The first night home I constructed a gingerbread house, played games with the not-so-Littles and watched TV. 
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my view from our lunch table in "the middle east" ;)
We left Busch Gardens "early" (we are "that" family that opens and closes theme parks) to get to Christmas Eve Service.  I decided to take a quick run through the neighborhood before church.  The night was cool and breezy, and the run really was quick, so I wash-cloth washed in the bathroom and got dressed for church.  The chili was simmering away (apparently this part of the story was brought to you by: Chili, the food of the crazed).  The darkness of night hid Florida's obvious un-Christmas scenery.  We all put on coats and scarves (it's CHRISTMAS, after all!) and went to the candlelight service.
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most of our faces at busch gardens
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these guys make my skin crawl
In the meantime, Caleb had completed his miserable 17-hour drive.  He wanted to call me and wish me a Merry Christmas!  He wanted to hear how it was to be with my family.  He just wanted to say hi.  He could barely sleep in the car.  He struggled to join in with the holiday merriment.  He was sad.  Plain and simple.  He was confused.  He was tired.  And he felt sparks.  Photobucket
When we arrived home, mom scooped chili and bowls clanged while hungry hungry kiddos lined up for their serving.  "Dad! Dad! Can we pleaaaaase open a present tonight? Just ONE? Pleeeease dad?"  "Ask your mother."  "Mooom! Pleeaaase? Please?  Just ONE, one little tiny present? Please?"  "I already told you no.  You have to wait just ooooone more night, and then you can open everything."  Dad interjected.  "Okay, I've made a decision.  One kid can open one present.  Who do you think should open one?"  They kids all clamored and jumped up and down and nominated themselves.  Dad smirked.  I filled my chili bowl.  Oh dad.  He's always up to something.  I looked up and mom was staring at me.  Then dad started to walk towards me, smiling. Um. Yes?

Dad handed me his cell-phone.  "Merry Christmas."  I was confused.  "You're giving my your Blackberry?"  The kids were disappointed.  "Read it." 

I looked at his screen, which was opened to a string of texts. 

Caleb Morris: Great Mr. Snyder. Thank you so much.  My flight lands at 10:35 pm and is coming from Nashville to Tampa.  Hopefully you can track it if there are any delays.  Thank you again! I can't wait to meet you, and to see Kristen.

Alan Snyder: Yup.  See you later tonight. Fly safe.




To be continued...   

Enjoy People | Personal Thank You + Catch-Up

i'll be eighty-seven; you'll be eighty-nine
i'll still look at you like the stars that shine
taylor swift - mary's song  
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My friends.  Thank you.  The six posts of "our story" come with the most supportive as well as scathing words from those reading along.  These Oh My My My posts are easily my most read and viewed posts this year (side from our phenomenal engagement story.)  Turns out y'all like Caleb too! Thank you for reading, thank you for saying something when you read, thank you for encouraging me on in writing.

It might seem silly, but this story is by far the hardest thing I've ever blogged.  It's hard because I couldn't possibly put in words what is in my heart.  It's hard because this is my life - I can feel vulnerable.  It's fairly easy to repeat to you a story I heard about someone else at an engagement shoot, but putting my life "out there" is an entirely different animal.  It's hard because it's Caleb's life.  It's hard because I regret decisions I made during this story.  It's hard because I can't even tell the whole story.  It's hard because you, the readers, will never understand how much God did in us and with us.  Though I am quite looking forward to telling you about our happiest and hardest and then happiest days together, you'll never know exactly what happened.  It's hard because some readers will only think of us as a cutesy-coo little couple and nothing deeper, while others will continue to make assumptions and despise us.  It's hard because I've been somewhat-secretly dreaming of writing a book someday.  Telling this story is a little bit of a trial run to see if my writing is as welcomed as my photography.  It's hard because I make lots of typos.  And each post takes me hours to write.  It's hard because when I push "publish" and let my heart and self out to be seen and scrutinized, I might be misunderstood.  It's hard because I am critical of my writing abilities. It's hard because, as Charlie Brown says,  "You not only can't explain love, actually, you can't even talk about it." I love him so.  I really do.

And truthfully, if the first few posts had had a "blah" response - maybe no one hated the story, but maybe it was "eh, whatever" - I don't think I would have kept blogging it. (I'd like to think I would have kept on writing just for myself and my man, though!) Please know, more than any other time in my entire career, your support and kindness (and occasional mean-ness!) has kept this writing going.  

I was looking for a reaction - good or bad! I don't think our story is boring, but if you all did?  Well, no body likes a boring story!  So thank you: please keep telling me what you think... and you really can be honest.  You don't have to like it!  But if you do, feel free steal or pin that above picture and link back to the Oh My My My series.  I absolutely love when I come across new love stories online - and if any of you are inspired to right yours out, please tell me!  The Enjoy Project is really a desire deep in me to share and connect with people. I want you to know the real me.  I want to know the real you's.  And the real you's have blessed and encouraged me tremendously.  Thank you!

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In other news!  Life has been rich.  If you follow along on instagram, twitter or Facebook, you saw that I was able to be a little bridesmaiden last week!  I'm in awe of how different it is to be in a wedding rather than to shoot a wedding.  Congratulations Stephen and Abbie!



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The wedding was near the Philadelphia area and Caleb had a job starting Monday in New York.  The plan was for me to drive back to Maryland on Sunday, and he'd depart at the same time for Syracuse.  But when the time came, I just couldn't leave him.  So I went with him!  The work was going to take at least 10 days and the little corn-cob was awfully sick.  I only had one pair of pajama's and a few skirts (rehearsal dinner options, of course) and a bridesmaids dress!  But it was pure bliss to scrape wallpaper and just be near my favorite person.  And be called "shmoopy" (from Seinfeld? Anyone?) by the rest of the crew ;)
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I couldn't stay long though.  I left Wednesday morning to make it home in time for a bachelorette weekend starting Thursday!  The second wedding I'll be in this year is for my little Julie and her smart yet daffy James. The bridesmaids whisked Jules away for a weekend of eating, dressing-up, the boardwalk, dancing, movies, sleeping-in and mockery.  It was the best.
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Now I'm home.  Mr. McMuffin gets home from New York today.  We might go to a baseball game.  We might die from happiness.  We might do both.  Oh my my my.

;)

Enjoy Project | People | Twins + Violins

you are
home, home
where i wanted to go
clocks - coldplay 
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After all the smack-talk and big-mouthing I got about how nothing compares to Oklahoma... I must say I'm very pleased to have successfully convinced two cowboys to join me in the "big city."  My darling fiance' once again shares a room with his twin brother.  In the "big city." Muhaha. ;)

Besides having family in town, the best part of these two being together is their incredible musical gifting and talent.  Combined they have been playing music for 38 years, and it all began with teaching themselves piano.  In an effort to really make a living by playing music, The Other Twin (aka: Daniel) has set up a nice little facebook page.   Please don't like it "just because."  Listen to them and see what you think.  If you like - or dareisay love! - the sounds you hear, let them know!  Share their video or like their page or even send them a message.

They are available and eager to teach lessons as well as play for weddings.  In the "big city." ;)

(They had never heard "Clocks" by Coldplay.  In an hour they were playing this:)

(Caleb still hasn't heard "I'm Yours."  But he can play it.  They are freaks of nature.  In the "big city.")

Maybe I have to give Oklahoma some credit for raising these tall, gorgeous, disciplined, creative men after all.  Maybe they were right: maybe nothing compares to Oklahoma.


Enjoy Project | Southwest Knows What's Up!

"pointless play is fun."
jay heinrichs
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I haven't been particularly subtle in declaring my "theme" this year.  Enjoy.  Play.  Fun.  Laugh. Enjoy. Yes.  It's been on my heart so strongly.  I've talked about blogging more (because quite simply! I enjoy blogging!), learning how to play again with my husband-to-be, group pinning and instagramming (because things are more enjoyable when shared) and more.

You can imagine my thrill when I picked up the newest "Spirit" magazine on my Southwest flight last week and the cover had a giant image of children with the colorful word "PLAY!"  I read the article on play twice.  The author wrote about children, kittens, companies introducing "recess" into their corporate work day and even some science. You should read it. It's very fun ;) Maybe this theme is on more hearts than just mine!

Enjoy my favorite quotes from the article and some of my favorite ladies at play :D
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Enjoying People + Videos | Oh My My My Video Series

when will you learn that there isn't a word for everything?
nicole krauss
Originally I had intended to show you friends one of my all-time favorite date nights.  I had recorded some video footage during the date and yesterday I set off to make those clips a brief and jolly moving memory.

Instead, however, I looked through nearly every video in my library.  I believe in the power of a still, silent photograph, but the movement and sounds in a video... wow.  It was very emotional!

So I changed my plans.  This video is one to coincide with part four of my story "Oh My My My." If you haven't read it yet, you should catch up while it's still relatively short and then come back and watch the video ;)

If you have read up to part four, you'll enjoy 180 seconds of the green kitchen, the blue-gray house, the last few days before "the good-byes" and the official departures of both families.  I had completely forgotten that I took videos of both their moves!  It is almost uncanny to watch now knowing what has happened since then.  God is great, life is good and people are crazy ;)

Enjoy Instagram | 30 Days of April Check-In

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If you haven't joined in the instagram/twitter Enjoy Project fun, you're missing out!  It's been so very fun to see all kinds of little joys: from flying kites, to training for races, to snuggling babies and making wontons!  Please join in, even once or twice.

Here's a little check-in of the fun:

Wearing: Miss Lydia donned an adorable outfit the first day of April!
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Smelling: Few things beat the garlic-y, cheesy smell of simmering alfredo sauce. Good call, Ahepburnl!
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Eating: Hannah Braboy enjoyed her "pocket full of sunshine" fruit.
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Touching: After a scare with her kitty, Lydia Jane was happy to have him home from the vet!
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Giving: Diehard Red-Sox fan and one of my favorite mommies says she loves "giving her son firsts."
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(We have a few other baseball sluggers enjoying opening week!)
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Hearing: With The Kooks on in the background, Ambrosiaaaa_ enjoyed her roadtrip.
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JC Mays has had one of my favorite EnjoyProject feeds.  But this one of her mother and hearing "her sweet voice in her head" particularly captured me.
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Drinking: Kelzai's picture of her daughter (years ago) melts my heart.  God is good.    
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Sometimes it's fun to get creative with the word of the day.  "Drinking" in the last few minutes of sunlight with my fiance'.
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Using: Though I'm not the biggest "dog person," these couch potatoes cracked me up ;) Loved it, LydiasPics.
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Looking at: Allix Ryan Brunson's bonfire picture made me salivate.  I love fire smells! And sights. And everythings.
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What a sweet daddy/son shot of the guys looking at mommy.
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Doing: Is bowling every a bad idea? I don't think so.  Allix Ryan Brunson knows whats up!
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Waiting: Sweet wifey Allie Paredes took care of the car for her guy.  That's a woman right there ;)
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Holding: The other night it felt incredible to "hold" onto childhood by playing foursquare until it was black outside.  
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NamieElle5 had a great point: "It's the small things that bring the biggest smiles."
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Making: Kendall_Glab seems to be up to something fun.  Look what she's making!
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Enjoy Writing | Oh My My My | Part 4

i was thirsty so I drank
and though it was salt water
there was something 'bout the way
it tasted so familiar
josh ritter | change of time
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part 1 | part 2 | part 3 


There once was an August that changed everything.  An August where the climax began to build.  An August where life as I knew it was never the same.  And that is where we find ourselves in the story.  But, again, we must back up just a smidge. Soon we'll be done with setting and back story, and we'll find ourselves happily enjoying the drama and romance.

For now, we must go all the way way way back to 2006 where there was a little woman named Becca who married her best friend, and they moved into a small apartment with a green kitchen.  They lived the precious married life, where they cut coupons, made cookies, went on adventures and laughed hard.  They named a stuffed animal and brought said animal on trips.  They were addicted to local sports and potatoes.  They hosted 10 wiley and chattery 18-year-olds from church at their house every Tuesday.  They fed them, played with them, talked with them, welcomed them and made them like their own family.  I was one of "them."  We spent evenings in their green kitchen, laughing and doing dishes. Becca was a church secretary and her best friend was working in real estate.  Then he worked as a church employee.  Then he was a lifeguard.  And an Apple Genius. For the first few years of their quirky, young forever, Andree struggled to find his "career."  He always worked.  He always found and had a job, but he was searching for a career.  He wasn't a bum or mooch.  But most of us come to that point in life: what exactly do I want to do forever? What am I good at? What are my passions? Could I actually live off of my dream job and support a family with it? 

In the sneezy spring of 2008, this wondering heart of a husband got an e-mail from his mother that changed everything.  She had sent him some information about the occupation of Air Traffic Control Specialist.  The fantastic with technology, OCD, up for a challenge, fascinated with airplanes and flight Andree was intrigued.  Three days later he sent in an official application to become an air traffic controller.  When our little crew of now 19-year-olds found out, we were so excited for him.  We asked him questions.  Becca looked so proud.  He looked innocent - like a child who had was being publicly praised for a good deed.  He'd probably have to interview in exciting places like New York or Chicago.  Or at least that's what the forum online said.  After the interview (which he was obviously going to get, in our minds) he had to go to an strange place (Oklahoma) for five months (what do people do in Oklahoma?).  That's where the air traffic controllers get trained, at a huge training facility (the forum said so.)  But in the meantime he had a few meetings and perhaps a drug test to get through.  No big deal (at least I thought.)

Becca worked and waited.  Andree worked and waited.  Springs turned into summers more than once, and snow fell fast and grimly for some winters. There were tests, phone calls, little trips, scary reports, months, voicemails, tears, moves and prayers.  On June 11, 2010 (over two years after applying for the job!) there was a special announcement: the fun-sized, big-hearted, determined couple would be moving to Oklahoma in just a few weeks.  I think bells chimed.  Or tolled.  Whichever would be more celebratory.  We rejoiced through the merry land of Maryland.  We longed for our good friends to arrive at this day.  We waited hopefully with them.  We sometimes didn't know what to say when it was particularly hard to wonder about their future.  But God, as he tends to do every now and then, arranged the timing of these events perfectly.  So, here we are with Becca and her best friend packing up their world for a brief stint in the midwest.   

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And me? Well, as for me, my life was a zoo.  Ever since my birth in August 1989 I had lived a silly, adventurous, full, athletic, diaper-y, warm life with my parents, who brought home six little people for me to love.  I had always lived with my eight favorite friends.  We moved to San Diego together.  We spent extended time in New York together.  We mostly live in Maryland together.  Just around the time that secretary and her man confirmed their move to Oklahoma, my parents confirmed their move to Florida.  My father's work was thriving.  The new Florida branch was opening and "corporate" wanted my dad to be the guy to head it up.  I made the hard decision to stay in Maryland and not live with my family.  In early August they packed up their house, sailed away in their cars and I watched little hands and wrists flail to me all the way down the road.  I think I sang Kenny Chesney's "There Goes My Life" 42 times that day.  Our large blue-gray country home was empty, aside from my bedroom upstairs and a few closets.  We thought it might take quite a while to find renters for the spacious, far for the highway, very, um, used home.  I worked hard to clean, paint, curtain-rod-assemble, Craigs-list and show our house.  On August 15th I prepared to be little miss real estate mogul (Bravo has done me well).  With fresh flowers, music, and crumb cake on hand, I greeted a smiling family and their big-eyed children.  We walked and talked and enjoyed the property.  Over two acres of woods, a hearty wooden deck with screened in porch, hot tub and grill set-up, an above-garage loft, wood floors, tall windows, and a master bathroom the size of four college dorm rooms: I loved bragging about my home, dents in the walls, stains on the carpet, "personality" in the appliances and all.  Within 30 minutes, they were sold.  "I'll bring the contract and deposit by in the morning." WHAT. "How much should I make the check out for?" WHAT? "Oh, and would it be possible to move in this weekend?" WHAT! I'm not sure what my face was doing, but my heart was running away through my ears (and scorching them.)  I was hot and queezy.  Right now? This is happening now? I was truly convinced this process would take months.  HAVEN'T YOU HEARD ABOUT THE ECONOMY?  And, let's be honest, this was no $899 studio apartment down the road from your university.  We were offering quite the treasure, at quite a cost! 

But, on August 16th, a lease was signed and I was on the hunt.  Mom and dad and the kids were in Florida.  Becca and Andree were in Oklahoma.  The rest of my friends were up at the shore for a church retreat.  I gathered my important documents and "I'm not intimidated by real life" outfits, and started to apartment hunt.  God rolled out the red carpet.  The latest and greatest strip of food and activity in my county is on Century Boulevard.  The movie theater, the library, the art center (complete with outdoor performance stage), a Chipotle, frozen yogurt land, Panera, grocery store, banks, Starbucks, dry cleaners, Five Guys, Moby Dick, Thai AND Chinese restaurants, camera shop, shoe store, Chick-fil-a, Italian dining, and more are all located on one road, about four or five blocks long (not to mention this road is one minute from the main highway).  The Pinnacle Apartments are located in the dead center of the road.  I was hooked.  I wanted to live there.  
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I walked into the building and met a leasing office girl (named Brittany or Katie or Megan or something like that, obviously required by leasing office's everywhere) who was going to show me the apartment I was there to see.  A 2-bedroom (one for me, one for an office) space on the fourth floor, behind a dumpster, with a view of a parking lot.  I hated it. "No wonder it's so cheap," I thought. Kat-Britt-gan-ley saw my dismay written all over my face.  "If the second bedroom is really only for an office, I just might have a place for you."  She chatted with me as we echoed down the long four story staircase.  "Technically it has one bedroom with a den. But a den is just a room without a closet! And offices don't need closets! Right?! I mean, unless you want a closet.  Do you want a closet in your office? I don't have a closet in my office. I mean, at work I do, but not my home office. But I mostly work at work, and we do have closets."  

We crossed the street and she pointed out to me the apartment.  At the corner of a four-way stop, directly across from the library and catty corner from a Five Guys, was the Emerald City of apartments.  The second story home had wall-to-wall windows that overlooked the street corner, with a pint-sized wooden porch.  We went up into the building and I discovered that the back side of the place had a large swimming pool, complete with grill and umbrellas!  Inside was a sunny, white, window-ed space, with a kitchen facing the windows and a beautiful big bathroom.  Families passed by the windows with bags of books, professionals shook hands as they entered Sabai Sabai and a dog parked at a pedestrian's ankles.  I almost cried.  "It's perfect. I'll take it."  Credit checks, renters insurance, applications, key hand-offs, orientation meetings and packing ensued.  (As I re-read this, I realize how "factual" this part of the story is.  I have to get to the big stuff, so I can't marinate in my heart and tell you just how it felt to do what I was doing.  I was scared.  I didn't sleep much.  I missed my family awfully. I felt lonely.  But when I get "that way" I put on a brave almost smart-alec cape.  This just has to get done.  Don't think about it.  Just do it. You'll be fine.  You're a big girl.  Figure it out. Go.)  The night before my 21st birthday, August 19, I packed until I fell asleep on the carpet next to boxes.  August 19 also happened to be Andree's first official day of training in Oklahoma.  
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When the sun rose it was time leave my country heaven and move to "the city", with the help of some boy muscles and a borrowed beat-up pick-up truck. The following day I shot a wedding and returned to my little home.  Lights shined outside.  I'd never fallen asleep to neon sign and street lamp night-lights before. I had a futon from hell, my twin bed, a kitchen table with one chair and lots and lots of clothes.  But it was my home. My apartment.  I had an apartment! I cried while I unpacked. There was something incredibly comforting about my new world, but it was still very very new.

My friends were feeling similarly.  "This is exciting!  God has provided! But wow, this is different." I texted Becca pictures of my key and my kitchen.  She texted me pictures of the Garth Brooks highway and cows.  I was so happy for them - oh how we'd prayed for that trip.  She was thrilled for me - God had answered prayers!  She couldn't wait to see my new place.  And I promised I'd visit her in Oklahomaโ€ฆ


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(a few extras I came across...)
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This was me headed out the door to a wedding! Not even 24 hours after i'd moved in.


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And this is the dark and mismatched living room that greeted me when I came home from the wedding.
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My first order of business? Stocking my kitchen! You might find it funny to note at my large sizes and quantities: the ketchups?, the peanut butter, the rice and olive oil?, the sour cream! I obviously was used to shopping for nine, not one ;)

Enjoy Pinterest | Summer Dresses

โ€œdress shabbily and they remember the dress; 
dress impeccably and they remember the woman.โ€ 
coco chanel
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If you give a mouse a cookie, we all know what happens.  There is even a book about it.  But do you know what happens when a Kristen gets on that ol' laptop before she starts her day of work? It goes something like this: If you give a Kristen a laptop, she's going to check her "sites".  When she checks her sites, she'll certainly stop by Pinterest.  When on Pinterest she'll find a picture that inspires her (like one of pretty girls in dresses.)  The dresses will remind her that she has a dress just like one in the picture! She'll run upstairs to go look at it.  When she's upstairs she'll remember that her closet is like not nearly as organized as the local dump.  She'll want to clean her closet for a fresh spring chore.
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During the spring clean-out she'll probably come across a vintage wedding dress.  She'll remember that the dress doesn't fit her quite right and she wanted to sell it.  
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Then she'll decide it would be best to sell lots of her clothes, because she really doesn't use them all.  She'll create a Copius account on her laptop.  And chances are if she gets out her laptop... she's going to want to check her sites, too.
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For this slightly modified edition of PinTuesday, I want to see what happy and good dresses you all have your eye on these days. Can you show me on the Enjoy Project board? I'd love to see. Maybe you can sell some things from your closest and get it! Now wouldn't that be a fun treat! 

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Join the Enjoy Project!

PINTUESDAY RULES:
1] I created a group board called "Enjoy Project"... follow it!
2] Every Thursday I will blog about a particular topic (today, for example, is summer dresses.)
3] Leave a comment with your Pinterest name and I will add you as a contributor to the group board.  Also leave a link to your favorite/rad find for the theme.  
4] Once you are added to the group, you can pin your find right to the page.  If you would like to contribute to the group, but do NOT want to be an official contributor, leave your Pinterest name and link and I'll post your find myself, with credit for the find to you.
5] We'll collect ideas together! Sitting all alone on your computer, scrolling through pages and pages, waiting for pins to fetch, is very isolated ;) This way we can interact together! And get to know one another.
6] Once a pin is in the group you can (obviously) re-pin to a different board if you'd like more organization for yourself.
7] Be kind, have fun and enjoy one another, please and thank yaaaa.
8] When pinning on this board, use the #enjoyproject hashtag! It will make it ever easier to find when we have more and more posts.
9] My goal is to have the board available to the current topic for one week.  So you have from Thursday-Wednesday to post dresses! Then Thursday-Wednesday to post _______. (I'm not giving away next weeks topic just yet ;) haha).
10] Enjoy yourself. And the ideas. And the other people. 

Alright! You ready? Go pin!

Enjoy Project | Making Banners

โ€œwhat day is it?"
"it's today," squeaked piglet.
"my favorite day," said pooh.

aa milne  

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Before Janet had Edith there was a darling and refined Favorite Things Party thrown in her honor.
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Eight ladies enjoyed peach fizzy drinks, tilapia, quinoa with beans, and oven-baked green beans.  I felt like such a lady.  
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If you've never heard of a Favorite Things Party, let me introduce you!  Eight woman. Those eight women bring seven gifts each.  (My seven gifts were in the butterfly boxes! I gave some marker pens I adore.)  There is usually a price range of about $10 each gift ($70 total).  At the party, each woman gives her seven gifts away, and then receives seven new gifts!  It's like a grown-up white elephant meets Oprah's Giveaways.  You can see white serving platters in the picture - I love mine! And I also got a new chopping knife, some pretty darn cool soap, a reusable shopping bag, and more!  Each woman gifts one of her daily-life "favorite things" so everyone leaves with treats! Fun idea, huh?
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For today's "making things" post, I have to give props to Becca (the host of the shower/party) for her banner idea.  Flag bunting has kind of had it's day (in my opinion), so I'm always on the lookout for new banner/garland ideas.  Becca punched different colored craft paper with a nice big paper punch. She then stitched them together with a sewing machine! I was impressed ;) It'd be fun to get creative with different shapes and layering styles and colors! Oh my!
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I wish I could just take home an Edith. I am so in love.
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Enjoy Instagram | 30 Days of April

"so it took an eight-year-old child to bring 'em to their senses...
 that proves something."
harper lee
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You don't have to look far to find a reminder that "it's the little things in life."  I don't know if it's a new era of internet, blogging mama's and Pinterest that has this sunny quotes more accessible, or if because of this new era of technology that we feel we need to be reminded so often.  

Maybe it's like a tall home? There are of course the monumental and symbolic floors of the house.  Graduation, marriage, children, the beginning of a particular career that took one's life a whole different direction, a significant move, buying a home, retiring. The big stuff. But the "little" stair steps that connect the floors are possibly more important than the floors themselves. 

The teachers, who day in and day out nurtured and taught you, the friends who built and destroyed you, the restaurant that hosted a first date, the outfit that won and the clothes that were left behind on the floor for the same first date, the first kisses and "I love you's" and realizations, the happy friends who are so excited to throw you a shower (and the one scandalous friend we all have the offends your grandmother every other sentence), the belly that grew slowly but surely, the first time you went shopping and saw baby clothes and couldn't resist buying something - even a pair of socks - for your own child inside you, the trips to Home Depot, the hard hard hard hours late into the night, the excited unpacking and arranging your own home, when "your song" comes on the radio, you find out a friend is dating a really (actually truly) good guy, your guests loved the meal you made, friends bring you meal after meal during hard times, that really really good book you finished, when you wake up and actually love your job on a random Wednesday in the winter, he texted you during the day just because you're on his mind, your mom helps you with the things only moms can help with, and finding good deals at the grocery store so you can pay your rent and your taxes on time.  

I'm passionate about caring for those little things because the big things would mean nearly nothing without them.  The things and stuff of life are often condemned as creating busyness, greed and selfishness.  Sure, of course they do sometimes.  But other times they are really, really good.  

"I thank Thee for the temporal blessings of this world - the refreshing air, the light of the sun, the food that renews strength, the raiment that clothes, the dwelling that shelters, the sleep that gives rest, the starry canopy of night, the summer breeze, the flowers' sweetness, the music of flowing streams, the happy endearments of family, kindred, friends. 


Things animate, things inanimate, minister to my comfort. My cup runs over. Suffer me not to be insensible to these daily mercies." (one of my favorite Puritan prayers.)


SO. As flowers bloom and light lingers longer we're going to share with each other little joys.  Each day in April will be focused on finishing this sentence: "Today I am enjoying __(verb)___ __(instagram pic)___." 



Hashtag #enjoyproject and include @imkristen_ so I can see your picture!

Enjoy Weddings | Johnny + Kim | Small Little Church Wedding

there's nothing fancy about the way i love you
there's nothing you could not find in another man
but i love you as hard as i can
dave barnes - nothing fancy
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Everyone expected snow.  "It will be so magical." If not snow, everyone hoped it at least wouldn't be too windy.  "But the inside of the church is beautiful, so if worse comes to worse we'll do our best in there."
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This January wedding for childhood friends Johnny and Kim was dazzling.  The wedding was happy, quaint, genuine and tremendously precious.  Oh, and sunny - one might even have said "balmy" or perhaps "warm" at the right time.
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Kim is a mysterious person.  She is intellectual, deep and quite thoughtful, but she is also reserved and soft-spoken.  Her heart is big (like her eyes), but it is not worn on her sleeve.
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Kim is kind and not a flirt.  She is true and not gawdy.  But hidden behind her graceful, almost-ballerina-esque exterior, lies a cache of imagination and discovery.
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Johnny had the daunting but worthwhile task of chipping away at this beautiful mind, the adventure of capturing her tender heart.
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How do you go about, however, asking out your best friend?  The platonic, we'll-never-date, you're like my sibling, friendship that transitions to romantic relationship. Aaaah, that's a scary one.  The stakes are oh-so high.  The reward is oh-so great, but the risk is oh-so serious.  You could possibly lose your favorite person, or you could spend forever... with your very best friend. Whew.
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Johnny took his time.  Johnny prayed.  Johnny deepened their friendship.  Kim started to have that age-old "hmmm." Johnny still waited.  And when it was right, he asked her a question - a question that was sure to change his life one way or the other.
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And she accepted.  Their first date led to more dates leading a proposal to move mountains.
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Want to hear the proposal story?  It's a brilliant one.  Johnny and Kim packed their bags to go visit family in Virginia.  On the way to a family home, Johnny took a detour.  To the airport.
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"What is going on?!" Johnny kept his secret.  He kept his secret all the way until they landed.  Once on the ground, they rented a car and drove through the night: all the way to the Grand Tetons, Kim's favorite mountain range.
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Romantic, huh?  A surprise, whirlwind trip to your dream vacation.  Mmmyea.
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The two daring adventurers hiked and explored, and at the perfect crest with literally a view from a dream, Johnny asked his best friend to be his best friend all the days of their life.  With a marriage on the horizon (too much? haha) these two finished their romantic vacation and savored the newly-engaged bliss together.
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Up on a much smaller mountain, in a much smaller Maryland town, not many months later, there was a wedding for these best friends.
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Also, would the rest of my brides mind getting ready in this room?  I'm sure it wouldn't be inconvenient at all!
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I love these two side by side:
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I also love these two side by side:
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Though I will never love coldness, I will ever love crisp winter light.
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Johnny is infatuated with his bride. I've never seen a man so delicate with a woman before (especially such a tough, outdoorsy man!)
She's like his angel.
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Would you just love a sweet example?  I can do that.  I was taking portraits of Kim while Johnny watched from the side.
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Then all of a sudden! Completely unprompted he swooped in! And stole a kiss! And then faded back to the side.  It was adorable.  Kim blushed, I clicked away, and Johnny rocked on his toes.
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Good night, moon.
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I was obsessed with their tender body language.
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That right there is a man thrilled to be out of a suit, and leaving with his woman.  Ow ow!
He even lifted her into the car and set her in the seat.  I love it.
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