August 2014 Self-Portrait: How a Visit from a BFF Saved My Month

I’ll be honest, my heart wasn’t into creating a self-portrait for the month of August. And I think that’s because, well, really, my heart just … wasn’t into August. It was a hard month (but to clarify, like, first-world-problems hard….I mean, God, this was a month that on a grand level brought with it the Ferguson debacle, the James Foley-ISIS tragedy and Robin Williams’ death—it was like, everywhere we collectively turned there wasn’t a hole big enough we could hide in to shield us from so much craptacular news).

For me, it was a sucker punch that involved throwing out my back for the first time. For some reason, I took this to as my Great Sign I’m getting old. (Or maybe it was the conversation I had with a coworker: “How’d you throw it out?” “That’s the thing, I don’t even know…I just, like, sat up?” “Ohhh man…you’re getting old.” But feeling miserable physically this month reminded me SO much of how challenging it is to be your best self (mentally, spiritually, creatively) when, physically, you feel like one big hot mess.

The bright spot to this otherwise blah month was a late August visit from one of my photo besties, Tina. It’s entirely to her credit she’s kept up our pact of seeing one another at least every two years (since having a kiddo on this end has thrown a mega wrench into this mama’s traveling agenda). But we’ve made the time for each other in 2012, 2010, and 2009 (the year we met at Melissa Jill’s photo workshop in Arizona), so it just feels so good to have this constant friendship of a fellow creative  in my life, one with whom I know when you DO get together, we can pick right back up where we left things last at the airport.

This time was especially meaningful as Tina finally got to meet my boy! She doted on Dean and we made a trip to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum with her as guest. I was grateful at her suggestion I bring along my professional camera so she could take a few snaps of us as a family. Admittedly, I teared up going through these files. It’s not every day you have a professional photographer tag along on a family playdate (one more reason I’m so so grateful to her paying us a visit).

Then there is this: I see pictures of my son and I together so seldomly that, when I do, it’s an emotional punch to the gut. Knowing you’re a mom and SEEING it? It reenforces this whole impossible-to-wrap-my-head-around mind bender that is the fact WHOA, I HAVE A KID. Of course, I wouldn’t trade Dean for the world, but sometimes I think every parent on the inside still has moments where they think, “How did I get here? I mean, seriously, wasn’t I JUST in high school? college? a newlywed?”

Be the gift of today is the present it is. And speaking of presents, as if Tina wasn’t already A+ material in the best friend department, I came home yesterday (after a long day at work) to a thank you package from this woman! Inside, wrapped in a perfect bow, was a fresh journal to start pouring out my thoughts and plans for my next book and a Cars’ Mater book that already Dean has had us read to him a dozen times.

Tina, if I haven’t said it enough already, let me say it again (and more publicly this time): I love you to the moon and back, with that little spot on the map of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as a pit stop inbetween.


What I’m Loving Round-up: August 2014
What I’m Loving Round-up: August 2014

A sweet summer dress that has me paging Betty Draper, an intense sci-fi thriller that made me bite my nails to the quick, and a brick of a book with a Scottish love story that I cannot stop obsessing about ... here's a peek at a few of the things I was loving this month.

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DEAN: 21 & 22 Months

Oh son, I seem to be slipping a bit with these letters of yours (notice how I’m combining a few months here?) So it goes … but really it’s with good reason. This summer has been a DOOZY in so many ways. These last couple of weeks, your mama has thrown her back out twice (the harbinger of getting older, for sure), you’ve been sick with a nasty upper respiratory infection, and, as a result, we’ve been down and out for the count a bit too. Did I mention a house project of converting our sunroom into a new playroom for you? Because oh yeah, there’s that too.

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So you’ll have to forgive me for hitting a snag here with this project of mine. But let this be a valuable lesson: Life gets in the way. It always does. With everything. But especially passion projects. Dean, I don’t know what you’re going to do with your life. Maybe you’ll want to be a doctor, maybe you’ll want to be an accountant, maybe the garbage man (or a fire fighter since you can’t get enough of fire trucks right now) but whatever it is, I hope you do it with all your heart. And if it should be a creative passion or series of projects you’re wanting to chase, well know this, my boy: There’s a very good chance you’ll have to fight for the right to keep that passion of yours alive.

Maybe it’s because this has been a summer of highs and lows for me with a few of my own creative projects, or maybe it’s because I’m just winging it here with this particular letter to you, but all I can think about is wanting to put down in words this kernel of truth: That whatever dream it is you chase some day (especially if it’s one that involves words, or oil paint, or photographs, or tap shoes), never let life stand in the way of you pursuing it.

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The reality is, your dreams may not involve (or lead to) money. But life? Life DOES involve money (in the form of mortgages and bills and roofs that need replaced and tires that get worn on your car and daycare for your kids). So unless there’s a lottery win in your parents’ future (and there won’t be, since we never play), then the chances are great you’ll need a steady income, which will come in the form of some kind of job, which may or may not (but probably not) be of the sort that allows you carte blanche to experiment with your art all day*.

I know you can’t comprehend what it is we do every night after we kiss your sweet toe head goodnight. But most often, we’re chasing our creative dreams: Your daddy in the garage, in the makeshift wood shop he’s built from the ground up, making toys for you, dreaming of making them someday for other children too. And your mama? Writing. Or editing photos. Because those are the pursuits that sum up her creative dreams.

And dreams, my son, are important to have. They can sustain you in this weary rat race called life. I hope it comes to pass that someday, you’ll be the proud owner of more than a few of your own.

**If someday you happen to become a famous actor, or the next Jackson Pollock, or a rock star or best-selling novelist, well, feel free to come back (and I’d prefer you visit me in person, not just call or text or project yourself into the air in the form of some fancy future hologram) and proudly prove just how wrong I was!


(A Very Belated) July 2014 Self Portrait

This might be a record for the latest I’ve shared a self-portrait … especially one from the month before! In this case, I was waiting to post this entry until I knew it would accompany a piece I recently wrote for the online women’s magazine, Verily Magazine about chopping of my hair this summer. And with the posting of that story today, well, now I can share it all for you to read!

For those who follow me on Instagram, you probably have seen my shorter ‘do by now, but I didn’t want to let an opportunity pass for me to expound on the decision-making behind it. (I am a writer after all!) A writer who, as of late, has been seeking out a few opportunities to put her voice out there in other new platforms aside from her blog and the work she does for her day job.

Writing freelance is a totally new (read: anxiety-inducing!) experience for me. I don’t have the time to do it much, but the few opportunities I’ve had this summer to send a query out for a story, then experience the thrill of having an editor say “Yes, we want you to write that” (or, in some cases, the disappointment of sending a piece out only to not hear back) well, all of it—the good and the bad—is helping convince me that my 30s are my decade to really, truly take myself seriously as a writer. One who, for the last month or so, has been loving her sassy new hair cut to boot.

005_gail_shorthairA special thanks to my dear girlfriend Amanda who took this snap for me on a recent venture down to Indianapolis where we were able to catch up over a couple lattes. Love you woman!

ASHLEE and CORY: An Indianapolis Wedding at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

I’ve been radio silent on this blog for too long … I could blame all sorts of things—a pulled back, a sick kid—but who wants to hear about any of that? Not me, not when I have so many INCREDIBLE photos to share with you from Ashlee and Cory’s gorgeous wedding last month at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I have to admit, I was more than a little excited to shoot this grand affair: That’s because Ashlee is cousins with one of my two best friends from college, Andy. And so, with that being the case, it meant that shooting Ashlee’s wedding was both a little more nerve-wrecking (I didn’t want to disappoint my best friend or his family!) and EXCITING, since I felt like this was a gang that, in many ways, all already knew me.

As you’re about to see, it was a beautiful day, start to finish, and I admired all of the hard work Ashlee especially put into pulling off this sophisticated, glamorous affair. Judging by the amount of smiles, laughter, and DANCING that took place (and the sweating…shewwwww boy was it a HOT and HUMID one), I’d say it’ll go down as her and Cory’s greatest day together yet. Ashlee and Cory, thank you again for hiring me, trusting me, and welcoming me into your family fold. I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed editing them. May they always help you remember this first day of your new lives together!

I had to start out with these incredible stems. WOW to those shoes! Indianapolis Museum of Art_WeddingAshlee asked to have a surprise first look with her dad after putting on her dress. I was only too happy to oblige and their reactions together were priceless. This is a father and daughter who clearly have a special bond! Indianapolis Museum of Art_WeddingMeanwhile, at the IMA…the guys were putting the finishing touches on their own classy looks. I was SO grateful to have my friend and talented photographer, Chris, helping me capture the day. Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingI don’t think I’ve ever had a groom as nervous for a first look as Cory. I can say now I thought it was really sweet, but I felt for him because I remember those wedding day nerves (“I feel like my heart’s going to escape out of my chest!” he told me). Once he saw that sweet bride of his, he was fine and then it was time for some relaxed portraits around the grounds of the IMA. 006_ashleecory_blog 008_ashleecory_blog Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art Wedding Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingAshlee has one of those smiles that’s best described as megawatt :) She is such a sweetheart and I could tell one of Cory’s favorite things in the world is to make her laugh. Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art Wedding 012_ashleecory_blog Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingWhat a GOOD LOOKING group of ladies and gents! (Don’t you just love their wedding colors!? Ashlee, great combo!) 015_ashleecory_blog Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art Wedding 018_ashleecory_blog 019_ashleecory_blogI loved all the details from their day. It’s the little things at a wedding that you just can’t get enough of! Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art Wedding Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art Wedding Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingCeremony time! At I have to say, these ring bearers and flower girls? STOLE MY HEART (but that’s probably especially because they were Andy’s nieces and nephews—and so well behaved!)Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art Wedding Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art Wedding Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art Wedding 027_ashleecory_blog Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art Wedding 029_ashleecory_blog 030_ashleecory_blog Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingI thought I’d share this both to showcase that I DO take the prerequisite family photos on a wedding day but also to say hello to the whole Pollen clan again! Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingWhen given the opportunity and the space, I will NEVER turn down the chance to take my wedding parties on a stroll. Especially not in front of a house as picturesque as THIS! Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingWhile Chris was taking cocktail hour photos for me (and man oh man, what an AMAZING space the IMA is to celebrate over a few drinks!) … I was off giddily taking more portraits of the bride and groom. SO grateful Ashlee and Cory built in so much time for their photos, making their experience with me one of the most valued aspects of their wedding day. I appreciated it! 041_ashleecory_blog Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art Wedding034_ashleecory_blog Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art Wedding 044_ashleecory_blog Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingI think this will forever be one of my favorite wedding portraits I’ve taken. It makes me sigh every time I see it. Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art Wedding 050_ashleecory_blog Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingThe staff of the IMA did an INCREDIBLE job bringing Ashlee and Cory’s vision for the day to life. The colors and the space were breathtaking! I ESPECIALLY loved the uplighting (my camera did too!)052_ashleecory_blog Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingThis wedding party might have had one of the most rowdy entrances I’ve seen yet—I’ll give them props for that (ha…like what I did there? wink wink!) 056_ashleecory_blog Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art Wedding 059_ashleecory_blog 061_ashleecory_blog 062_ashleecory_blog 064_ashleecory_blog Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingI will say this: This was a group who came out to celebrate two incredible people and then DANCE THEIR SOCKS OFF! Oh boy! And I have to admit, I might have joined them out there too! The Pollens know how to tear up a dance floor, that’s for sure! 067_ashleecory_blog 068_ashleecory_blog Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingYou guys…I love taking pictures of people having their pictures taken in photo booths. It just… it never gets old. 074_ashleecory_blogAnd I was so happy that these two could end their night (and that the weather cooperated) with a grand sparkler exit. Dreamy AND timeless huh? Gail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingGail Werner Photography—Indianapolis Museum of Art WeddingAshlee and Cory, I just adore you two! Thank you, thank you, thank you AGAIN!