Friday, December 31, 2010

At my core.

December 31 – Core Story
What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Author: Molly O’Neill)

It seems an appropriate time of year for me to be talking about this as January, especially late January (which is when I'm writing this despite the date on the post), is not a great time of the year for my friends and me. It's a time of year filled with tragedies. And often togetherness. But at those times are the stories at my core. I know them and spend time with them. I picture them as my worry rocks, turning them over and over, smoothing out the edges.

I shan't share them here, they're too tender. But they're at my heart, my core and I carry them always. Quietly and lovingly, letting them shape my every day interaction with the world.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


December 30 – Gift Prompt: Gift.
This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root)

The day of our wedding Michelle, my sister-in-law, present us with the above print. It was accompanied by a lovely story which she'd written herself. I'd share it but it's too quirky and personal to translate well. Suffice it to say, it was one of the most thoughtful, amazing, affirming gifts I've ever been given. And now that beautiful print hangs on the wall in our office and makes me smile every day.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 29 – Defining Moment
Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year. (Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice)

One day I opened an email from eHarmony. Then I sent a text message a few weeks later which resulted in a meeting. From there, engagement and marriage. That introduced me to new friends, one of which needed some time off. So we went to Colorado and there several years of searching clicked into one perfect moment of understanding that my constant soul-searching wasn't just a quirky thing limited to me.

I reflect often on my life, on the odd choices, the seemingly mundane actions that lead to great, unexpected things but sitting in a hot tub in Colorado, I've never been so grateful for internet dating in all my life.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


December 28 – Achieve
What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.(Author: Tara Sophia Mohr)

Physical activity! I've been sedentary for a year, adjusting to being partnered and settling in to this new life and I'm ready to shake that off, to get back out on hikes and away from civilization. There is a calm for me when I'm away, outside and moving that is unlike any other. In the quiet of a tent at the end of a day or returning to the car after seeing a majestic's just amazing.

And the feeling of the tired, the quiet of my mind after my body has had energy exerted is a feeling I miss.

Ten thoughts:
1) It's a choice in every moment--movement or stillness
2) Partner up!
3) Find a passion and enjoy.
4) Glory in the small steps
5) Release the idea of skinny.
6) It's about health--keep focused.
7) Group activities!
8) Think of the photographs.
9) Find adventure in the everyday.
10) Keep at it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ordinary Joy

December 27 – Ordinary Joy
Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (Author: Brené Brown)

This was a year filled with the extraordinary. Marriage, sisters reunions, moving, a retreat and my first trip to Feista! in San Antonio. So many big, shiny memories that it took me some time to consider one that may be 'ordinary'.

I think every time a person enters a new family there is some hesitancy about if you'll fit and there was a bit of that for me with my new in-laws. Overall it was such a great fit that I was left worrying about the minutia. Because, really, without anxiety, who am I?

Anyway, my moment was sitting on the amazing patio at my in-laws house in April in Texas. It was warm, there was family flowing around and conversation. The mood was light, everyone was happy and we were just enjoying being together. As I looked around, feeling my way into this new family I was so excited to feel the calm of ordinary and the rush of joy that comes from knowing you belong.

It was another perfect moment in a year filled with them.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Soul Food

December 26 – Soul Food
What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul? (Author: Elise Marie Collins)

Scones. Made with love, passed with laughter and filled with promise. Without a doubt, it was scones.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Self portrait

December 25 – Photo – a present to yourself

Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

(Author: Tracey Clark)

This photo was taken by my friend Katie Edwards during Integrate in the Rockies a day before my 33rd birthday. I love that it shows my more quiet, reserved face and that it's honest. My hair is messy, up and held back by my sunglasses. I'm wearing my favorite hoodie and my favorite dress. And it shows that I'm relaxed, surrounded by love, light and some of the greatest women ever.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Everything's ok.

December 24 Prompt – Everything’s OK
What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead? (Author: Kate Inglis)

I don't like to be mushy about my marriage. I feel mushy but that's not a reason to make everyone else in the world deal with it. But when I consider this prompt, there's not a great way around the mush.

I love to be hugged by my husband. When he gets home from work at the end of a day we say hello and then he hugs me. My head falls naturally into the curve of his neck and, his chin rests on my head and we both just hold tight for a moment. That moment, every day, that's the one that makes me know it will all be ok.

I feel so torn when I say that, as though I'm somehow disallowing the idea that a person can be single and alright. I'm not. There were moments when I was a single girl that were equally compelling and relaxing. It's just that on my path I've chosen a partner, it's just worked out that way andn it's more work than I intended it to be. Sometimes the laying bare of my soul to him, the knowledge that even my silliest habits are going to be known, is daunting in the extreme. And I can worry about that all day if I'm in a dither.

And then he comes home and we hug. And I realize I made the right decision, that it's ok to be partnered and that I really am deeply in love. And everything's ok.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Name

December 23 – New Name
Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why? (Author: Becca Wilcott)

I have this odd thing that happens about my name, if anyone doesn't call me 'Stephanie' they call me 'Jennifer' with nearly 100% accuracy. It's happened for a large number of years, so much that it's become a joke with my Mom that she got my name all wrong. So, given this prompt, I'm pretty sure I'd just go with what everyone has deemed natural.

"Hi, I'm Jennifer."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


December 22 – Travel
How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?
(Author: Tara Hunt)

I feel like we went *everywhere* stateside in 2010. Wedding in Phoenix in Feb, back and forth to Montana, Boise, San Antonio, Phoenix maybe we just traveled lots between the same places. In any case, it felt like we were always on the move. I don't mind that but it was something of an exhausting year, if I'm honest.

2011 will be travel light. I'm wishing that I'll get to see my best friend during Mardi Gras on the Gulf Coast but we'll see. Other than that most of the trips we take annually are coming off the books while we focus on padding our savings account.

We do have a goal to camp twice this year, though I'm not sure where, and I am looking forward with great glee to seeing how Michael adapts to my love of camping.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Note to Self.

December 21 – Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Author: Jenny Blake)

If I could imagine myself five years from now I would, without any doubt, be a mother of at least two. I'd be busy helping them with daily learning and growing. I'd be working about ten hours a week as a photographer with clients who entranced me. And I'd still be madly in love with my husband.

I suppose I'd want to tell that future self to keep on this journey of active self-discovery and artistic expression. There is something so healing, so beautiful to me about this path and I don't want to leave it--I don't want her to have left it.

To my past self--oh, the epic novel.

Ten years ago I was about to enter into my first adult relationship, about to declare bankruptcy, living with my sister and on the verge of some of the darkest years of my life so far. I don't know that I'd tell myself anything than "Hold on. You'll get through it." because if she knew, oh how she'd avoid what was coming.

Like run to Argentina and work in the fields kind of run.

But I'd want her to know we pulled through so it would just say, "Keep repeating 'It will all be alright in the end. If it's not alright, it's not the end.' And remember that I love you."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Who, me?

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)

This year I should have had a budget, should have been using my planner daily and should have worked out more.

Yes, in 2011 I will be doing those things.

And then I shall buy a t-shirt that says, "Damn you, ADD!"

Sunday, December 19, 2010


December 19 – Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leonie Allan)

I often bury my wounds and try to just move along. After all, I was raised in a family that has some amazing stories about overcoming or ignoring pain in honor of accomplishing something useful. My great-grandmother? She broke her leg in the garden, her femur, and couldn't get the attention of my great-grandfather. So she pulled herself up and down the rows of the garden and finished weeding.

Yeah, I come from that kind of family. So when I think of healing, of wounds that may be to my soul, I feel almost weak just for acknowledging they exist.

But this year has been a bit different. Somehow having Michael around, just the circumstances of this year, have allowed me more time to explore, tend and help alleviate my wounds. It's been a slow process.

As I was considering the topic I thought of the drive I took back from Phoenix after dropping some pugs at a rescue there. I'd put my family dog, my dog, of fourteen years down two days before and it was such an emotional and symbolic ending. In my car was a little pug with big medical troubles headed home to be our new pet. We just drove quietly together, both exhausted and I cried off and on for much of the drive. But it felt so good to be moving, to have the wind flying by that I couldn't help but feel the energy of the world, feel that I was moving forward through the pain and into a place of light and acceptance.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Do or do not, there is no try.

December 18 – Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it? (Author: Kaileen Elise)

In the eternal story of my relationship with my body I 'tried' to incorporate five days a week of working out. I managed to find a group of women to walk with on most mornings but some were pregnant and it eventually petered out when they got close to birth. I tried to work out a couple of times a week with Michael but that died too. It just seemed like I didn't have the gumption to stick to a schedule.

We've talked about why this is and I think it's some ADD and some just not seeing the immediate results that make me motivated. So, this year we're doing things differently. We're starting slow. We're not only going to exercise together. We're going to use the facilities available to use and not pay for a membership until we know we'll use it.

I think the accountability to each other will make all the difference.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm good enough...

...I'm smart enough and doggone it, people like me.

December 17 – Lesson Learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? (Author: Tara Weaver)

I've always been aware of how big and how loud I am. And I've not, in all honestly, really liked it. But there is a beauty in my way of expressing myself and a freedom in my humor that makes it fun to be around me. And so long as i remain open and gentle along with that, it's just fine to be me.

I suppose going forward that's going to translate into a constant need to remind myself of that until I really, truly assimilate the information into my soul and behave like I'm enough. This year will also find me studying more about my internal vocabulary, my shame and how to monitor both and change the things I need.

It's going to be a long process but I'm interested to come to this day next year and read my journal, seeing what kind of progress I've made and where I'll be headed next year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A sudden, brilliant burst.

December 16 – Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)

Katie E. unwittingly shifted my universe in November. She'd asked me to go along with her to a gathering in the Rockies. I agreed without thinking too much about it. I even considered backing out so that I could spend my first post-marital birthday with my husband. But I didn't. And that was the best decision I'd made in months.

In three days I felt my world shift, the thoughts and feelings aligning and I finally started to feel at home in my skin again. Over the next month I've been shocked at how time and time again I return to things I learned that weekend--about myself, about controlling anxiety, about relating to others and about my vocabulary. It was a profound experience, and that's probably undervaluing it.

Honestly, I feel as though I'll be actively, eternally grateful.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Five Minutes

December 15 – 5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

I'd like to remember the look on the face of Michael as we were sealed together for eternity as husband and wife. The look on the faces of my family and friends as they congratulated us and the quiet peace of the best decision I'll ever make.

I'd want to remember the feeling of walking into our first home and looking at the fireworks from the backyard on the Fourth of July with our friends and family.

My parents dancing together for the first time in my whole life at my wedding, doing the steps they'd practiced in secret for a year and the expressions of my brothers and sisters while watching.

I want to remember the feeling of hosting Thanksgiving and seeing all my family under my roof.

The faces of my new parents-in-law as they stayed in our home for the first time under a roof with their son for a few days.

The peace of the Sedona sky as Michael and I rested in the hot tub after a long, tedious journey to our wedding.

And the feeling of so many beautiful women bonding, loving and healing together high in the mountains of Colorado.

Amazing how much happens, how many lovely memories, and how much I'd forget so easily.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


December 14 – Appreciate. What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)

My close circle, without a doubt. It's made up of friends, family, my husband and it's the rock I depend on for my life. They have truly made me the person I am.

I like to think that I show gratitude in many ways--I love to give gifts, I love to cook and I'm always available to listen. I'm sure I could use improvement but I say "I love you" to everyone I do on a regular basis and then back it up with actions so there will, hopefully, never be a question about my appreciation.

Monday, December 13, 2010


December 13 – Action. When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)

Michael and I are in San Antonio with his family and we'll be here for a few more days. (written Dec 27) In that time we're discussing which goals are next for us.

I know this this year will be about being in better physical shape for both of us. We're going to make work-out schedules that work for both of us and become accountable to each other for the progress we make.

In my photography I am committed to taking two more classes (at least) about photography and a set of three about editing. I also have a goal to make $5,000 by shooting photos.

In my mental life it's going to be about shedding. I want to get rid of the things that are distracting. I'm considering eliminating some of my social media stops. I'm considering how to eliminate some of my mindless media. But I know this for sure, I'm done with the list of 200 or more blogs I used to keep track of daily. I love to read about the lives of others but the list of those I want to watch closely is short and those will be the ones I engage in. The rest? Gone.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hot tub me

December 12 – Body Integration This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (Author: Patrick Reynolds)

So, I thought yesterday was a hard prompt. This one is really taking some thought. I must confess that I don't spend lots of time thinking about my body. In fact, it's primarily ignored and not, to be very honest, well cared for. To think, then, about when I felt integrated with my body is quite the task.

I suppose that if I was answering about a time when I wasn't concerned with the future or the past, just simply myself, all three times were in a hot tub.

The first was February 14th, my first day of marriage, in Sedona. Michael and I were finally relaxing and I crawled in past the frigid air and sat alone and quietly for the first time in many days. I felt so very relaxed and at home in my life. I had not a care in the world.

Second, I was with my sisters. We took ourselves on a retreat to spend some time together and play canasta. On the first night all of us, including my niece, crawled into the hot tub and were talking and laughing. I got out and took a couple of photos. We were on the outskirts of Yellowstone under perfect clear skies and happy to be together. Amazing.

Lastly, I was with my soul sisters in Colorado. Amy, Aleece, Jen, Katie and I spent a great few moments in the hot tub there. It was snowing big, fluffy flakes and we were so content to talk and just be ourselves. There was no judgment about body size or style, there was only love and acceptance and camaraderie.

Perhaps I ought to just buy a hot tub and spend some more time feeling like that.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

11 for to be forgone in '11

It's even the 11 o'clock hour while I'm writing this! They're everywhere!

Summary of prompt: What are 11 things you could live without in '11? How would that change your life?

1) The 'What if?!' game--I know my perpetual planner needs some projects to keep her happy but I'm really tired of wondering how life would have been different if I'd gone to BYU-Hawaii in 1995. I mean, really. It's probably time to just leave that alone.

2) Refusing to see my skills as worthwhile--At Integrate I started the weekend thinking that I was too loud and brash. Then I realized that really can be useful for me and those around me. I just need to make sure other people get face time too.

3) Pedicures--This may sound crazy but 2011 is The Year of The Strict Budget around here and I have to say that $60 to maintain my toes is probably going to go.

4) Overcommitment--I'm a recruiter, a professional photographer in need of some portfolio building, a leader of the childrens organization at church, rescuer of dogs, a lady who wants to work out and an artist. I have got to learn to focus in on the areas that are really going to benefit us the most.

5) Avoiding exercise--There is always some excuse but I'm tired of my body the way it is. For the first time in ages it's annoying me. I don't really care so much about the more skinny but I do care about feeling healthy and as though I can do the hikes and climbs I love to get the photos I want.

6) Guilt about the decor in my house--I feel badly very often that all the couches and chairs aren't decorator perfect and that most of the walls are bare and then I start to feel bad that it doesn't bother me unless I think others may be judging. That same spiral? It's over. I just have to own that other things are more important than home decor to me and always will be. I'll make some small, monthly goals to get some things done but I'm going to release that this year.

7) More notions about The Perfect Wife-- When we were first married I'd get up and make a hot breakfast, make an involved lunch and then make sure I'd made a fantastic dinner. But I'd feel bad if I was even slightly grumpy or not 'made up' during those times. Like somehow I wanted to be the girl that gets up, puts on makeup and crawls back into bed so that her husband thinks she always looks like that. While I understand the value of actions like that, it's not me. My being 'perfect' for my husband is lots more about remembering names, reminders to get up and move around and helping him purge collections. And I need to settle into that this year.

8) Excess belongings -- I've been reading a bit on minimalism and we need more of that in our life. We have TONS of STUFF. Literally. We're weeding through it a bit at a time but if we were forced to go to an urban lifestyle right now we'd need a couple dozen storage units. I'm ready for that to end. (Inspired by Ramona! Thanks!)

9) Contact Priorities -- Know how people get contact drunk? I'm like that with passion and priorities. When I'm around the lady who runs the dog rescue I work with I get all spun up about how I could/should be doing more to help her. I mean, she has nearly 40 dogs at home so I should be able to handle 10, right?! Wrong. It's one at a time around here (which usually looks more like, say, three but they're small) and that is ok. It's still saving dogs and it's still making a difference. Even if I didn't save every dog in the entire world that needed to be saved last week.

10) Ignoring my ADD -- I hate talking about my ADD. Hate. It. It feels like an excuse to me. It feels like I really should just be able to concentrate harder/better/more. Yeah, never going to happen. I've resisted medication for YEARS and had a terrible relationship with this diagnosis but it's unavoidable. This year I'm going to change that relationship. This week we watched a documentary called 'ADD & Loving it?' produced by PBS. I actually called Michael down to make him watch it with me (Michelle and Marcine, you MUST find it but I'll tell you that at Christmas.) It was very helpful. I am ADD and it's ok and it's made me who I am and I CAN do something about the portions I don't enjoy.

11) Ignoring portions of me I don't think fit -- I ignore my artist because I'm not Van Gogh. I ignore my wanderer because I'm not able to pack a single bag and travel Europe. I mean, if you can't be doing the extreme, why do anything at all? Done. With. That. I will paint, I will photograph, I will show people what I make a be proud even if they're not weeping at the beauty of my creation. I will wander and sometimes be lost and I will revel in it.

Holy Hard Prompt, Batman!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A very wise party.

I'm practicing this radical (to me) idea that just because I signed up for Reverb doesn't mean there is mandatory daily writing on the blog. The prompts make me think every day, do something to respond to them, but it's not always ending up here.

Small revolutions! Yahoo for feeling like I'm not a slave to own creative inflictions!

Ok, that aside the last two prompts, boiled down, are "a great party" and "a wise decision" which leads me to talk about The Great Garis Wedding of 2010.

Clearly a very wise party.

Michael and I dated from 600+ miles apart while I worked graveyard weekend shifts and he worked a day job. Every other week I'd have four days off in a row so I'd drive down after a shift (not wise) to his house and then I'd sleep while he was a work. We'd be together for about 4 conscious hours and then he'd fall asleep. Who am I kidding. I slept too. I was usually exhausted by that time. On my short weekend he'd drive up and the setting would change--not the sleeping.

So, this exhaustion (especially on my part) was a theme in our dating that had a direct effect on our wedding. Once engaged we spent some time considering how my family in Missoula, DC, Ogden, Sacramento and Phoenix would be able to meet with his family in/near San Antonio with the greatest of ease. We thought about Salt Lake but it really looked like we'd be married when there was snow on the ground and I had no interest in snowy wedding photos.

Yes, yes--first world problems, I know.

We then decided on Phoenix. Warm, somewhat a mid-point and full of family. Perfect! I was pulling for March, he wanted 'tomorrow' so we met in February and my lucky number of 13.

Why was this wise? First, I was marrying Michael. Turns out? One of the best decisions of my life. Second, it really was a great place for all my family to meet and have time together. That doesn't happen often and it felt great to have them all around. Third, it was WARM!

The party was, I think, one of the most hands off weddings ever. I found vendors that liked each other, knew what they were doing and were fine with my attitude.

An example? When the cake team (shout out to Piece of Cake!!) asked what I wanted for a wedding cake I said, "Whimsical, off kilter and themed around that terrible holiday proximate to my wedding." They asked for more instructions and I said, "You're the cake people. I trust you. Go forth and cake."

Honestly, I don't know why every bride doesn't do it that way! It was a fantastic day filled with my love-ah, our friends, our family and so much support and love. I will never forget it.

But I will also say that the fourth reason it was wise is that I managed to remember that the day was simply one day of celebration for the marriage I was choosing. My head didn't explode (it came close once, but I walked away) and by just trying to relax into the day and let things be, putting the single celebration into context, I think I was so much more able to enjoy the moment, revel in the love and realize that while it was a great party, the wisdom of the match was The Thing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


One of my favorite pieces of art now resides in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore. That's not where I first saw it. When I first discovered Awakening it lived in DC. I went with a guy friend of mine who I loved dearly. I was glad I was with someone who loved the piece too because it took my breath away to see it.

The statue, for those who haven't clicked, is a massive representation of a man who is arising from the earth. His who body is not yet visible and there is obvious strain on his face of the journey.

So often that is how I feel, but even more so lately. Since Integrate I've been astounded at how many waves of creative self-awareness have come. It's as though so much time considering, labeling and understanding over the last couple of years have finally born fruit into all these realizations about myself and my desires for my life.

More pointed than the rest are the discoveries I'm making about my creative self, my very prominent artistic side. And, might I say, it's exhausting.

In so many ways I feel like my creative soul finally has time to wake up, stretch her limbs and frolic but because she's been dormant so long it's taking ages for the process.

Patience has never been a virtue I have much use for but I listened to my teacher Jen Lee talk in a podcast about spaciousness and creative work. One point she made was that creative work has seasons--it's not always harvest time. I realized upon hearing those words that I've been trying to force constant harvest. It's not that time for me--it's a time of cultivation, quiet repetitive chores and preparation.

In projecting my desires for 2011, I'm putting into the Universe this idea of quiet cultivation during integration. That I stop rushing shoots, paintings and songs and let them come. Let those things awaken in their own right and honor them.

I can already hear myself telling myself that this is 'fruity' and 'hippie' and all the other labels I have for these feelings and words. But I can't deny that there is something putting forth effort to live, to awaken, and I'm going to do all I can to stand in amazement and love and allow myself to be wonder full.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Let's go.

Prompt: Who or what did you let go of this year? Why?

About a week ago I clicked on a link to an astrological site with predictions for
December. While I don't remember much about the post, I remember that they author talked about this year being one of 'forced closure' by the Universe. All I could do was nod in agreement.

Pondering all the closings and endings is anxiety inducing for me. I hate endings. I'd love to keep all the people I meet and interact with in my life for always. Honestly, I abhor saying goodbye.

But I digress.

When considering this prompt I decided to embrace the spirit of Amy's post and say what I usually wouldn't.

This year I lost a very strong point of solidarity with my friends--I'm no longer single. There is a very specific culture around being Mormon and single over, say, 24. It's a beautiful one that I've come to love for and despite all the oddity therein. It's a culture that all three of my closest friends find themselves still involved in. And now I'm not.

I know that my friends don't hold this against me, that the bonds of our friendship aren't shaken by the lack of solidarity but it drastically changes our conversations and my credibility in them. Understandably so. The lonely weekend nights are a memory for me. Going for days or months without physical touch, not even knowing how badly I miss it, is now a notion.

It's only fair, really, but it's still a loss. One that I had to grieve quietly because I wasn't sure it would (or does) make sense to anyone who lives outside my head.

It has taken a bit of doing for me to mentally be ok losing the 'single' status to which I'd become so devoted. It's taken more focus for me to understand and trust in the love and friendships I created for myself as a single and let them bear out my marriage. But in letting go of relating about that point I've discovered my friendship really are a broad, a deep and as lovely as I'd always imaged them to be. We've weathered this storm and we'll weather more.

RAGS forever.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


"Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?"

I don't know that I've ever actively cultivated a sense of wonder. It's just something I live with daily. I spend lots of time inside my own mind, sussing things out. Pondering. The result of that, for me, is a nearly constant undertone of wonder.

Just tonight I dashed out of the grocery and into the rain, headed for the car Michael was pulling around to meet me. Just as I hopped into the warm car, vaguely dog scented from dropping rescues in Montana this weekend, our song began. He'd queued it and waited until the perfect moment so I could hear every note. This isn't something we do often but it made the moment perfect. Then he put his hand wordlessly on my leg and I put my hand on the back of his seat, playing absently with his hair while we drove up the hill home.

As I looked at the lights, the signs of the season I wondered that the sum of my experiences resolved into this moment. I turned my head and just gazed at his quiet visage and honored the lucky feeling that poured over me, amazed that I deserved this much goodness.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Today's prompt: Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

This year was so full of these moments. My marriage, my move, losing a job I adored--all moments in which I felt the kind of alive the author is asking about. As I was considering which to share--some of them are so personal it would be like trying to describe sound using sign language--I thought of a tender, perfect moment I wanted to document.

Shortly after I was married to my husband we were together on the lawn of the LDS Temple in Mesa taking pictures with our family and friends. My best, good friend Amber was there, dressed in brilliant red, her hair gleaming as usual. It's a beautiful color of blond and I'm always amazed at how lovely it looks in the sunlight--just like I'd describe the color of happiness. She came over to give me a hug and as we embraced a feeling of complex love, trust, friendship, loss, grief and affection surrounded the two of us.

The dynamics of that particular hug would take our five-plus years of friendship to explain but I can so clearly remember the feeling of the tears building up in my eyes, my body unable to contain those intense flavors of emotion without manifesting it, as I held her body against mine. I remember how quiet things got. The hectic, excited conversation just fell away around us and we stood there for a moment--just the two of us. Knowing that moment would change, again, our friendship and mourning the loss of what once was while both knowing better times were ahead.

It was one of my very favorite moments ever.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Perfect Plan

Today brought the prompt: what gets in the way of your writing and how do you eliminate it?

I have this thing I do--I make plans. Ever thought about what you'd do if you cut off your finger in the kitchen? I have. I have The Perfect Plan for that situation. Well, that and about one gazillion other situations. Every time a new situation or possibility of a situation arises my mind immediately tries to find the rules and game the scenario so that I 1) don't look dumb, 2) minimize risk and 3) find the optimum way to achieve acclaim/adoration/not looking dumb.

You'd think I'd be great a chess, right? Not so much.

The plans tend to be so specific to really oddball scenarios that they're barely ever feasible. And that's being very kind to myself.

My writing is the same way. I have some ideas. They're not well developed and lack The Perfect Plan. Instead of doing hard work to flesh them out and create I usually just think that not taking the risk will help me avoid the ever dreaded Looking Dumb.

Next year my word is 'integrate' and that is going to mean that I'm spending more time with my creative outlets and having faith that my validation is enough. With that careful approach, that self-kindness and respect, I'm hoping that I can finally move forward with some of the stories I have to tell.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 1: One Word

2010: Transitory

This year I stopped working, moved back to a state I thought I hated, bought a house, got married, began being paid for my photography and hosted my first Thanksgiving meal. I'm leaving out some parts but there was So.Much.Change.

I think the most pronounced has been the lack of traditional outside employment. Well, that and the marriage. Together they're sometimes ridiculously anxiety inducing.

I should explain, for those of you who have never read before, that I find marriage to be quite odd. I always feel compelled to point out the obvious--I'm deeply in love and was willing to rearrange my entire life to be with this man, he's that cool. Blah blah blah. So let's assume that when I say 'weird' I don't mean that I'm trapped in an unhappy marriage or looking to find a door.

Marriage is weird to me because of the intense togetherness (among other things) and it's taken quite a bit of time to come to that. Couple that with moving back to Utah (something I swore I'd never do) and not working (for the first time in almost two decades) and you have something of a perfect storm for anxiety.

Turns out? I don't like change nearly as much as I thought.

And there I was, steeping in an anxiety I was trying to quell while simultaneously denying it was there and I meet Jen Lee. I spent a weekend with her and a group of amazing women in Denver realizing why I was feeling this way and how I could help.

2011: Integrate

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crafty. Crap?

I'm sitting here with a pile of ideas for gifts to my left. They're projects that have been in the works--some of them--for years but I've never 'had' the time to finish them. Somehow this Christmas seems the right time. I keep thinking that the things sewn and crafted (in the literal sense) with love are usually the most appreciated, even if The Olympic Committee says they'll be eschewed.

Today, much to my chagrin, will start with a trip to the fabric store to find the rest of the things I need. The sewing machine will find a home on a table directly between the television and the couch and I'll finally be able to finish my Netflix queue.

Want to know a secret? I think the Utahans are converting me because I'm something bordering on excited about the whole thing.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

All quiet on this western front

The last of the family left this morning. It's always a bittersweet time for me. In many ways I'm ready to have the 'alone' time I adore so much. And have my kitchen in just the way I left it. But on the other, much weightier, hand I miss them terribly when they go. There is so much personality and opinion in my family. We're always offering our view of the world to each other, trying to help and inform. We're a productive bunch, prone to be a touch too intense. We love fiercely and intensely and it shows. I miss that when it's absent and in the first few days after such togetherness, it's very noticeably absent.

I think that I did far better this year than I usually do at maintaining the calm I wanted. I did have moments of sliding back into my control freak ways but the house is messy, there is laundry and I still managed to relax and have some fun. Next year we're doing Christmas with my side of the family. I think that if I get the chance to host I'll be even better at this calm and loving thing!

Pictures of food to come.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I love the night of Thanksgiving. Everyone has retreated to their beds. They're full, happy and resting. The kitchen, in the aftermath of the feast, sits quiet for the first time in days. Clean but far less organized, it's a sign that we're together, that we have more than so many and there is love here.

I think I could get very used to this.

Monday, November 22, 2010

And, they're here.

I do love having family here after all. Last night as we were getting ready for dinner I looked out the window and saw the most delicious, buttery light. I just had to share.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Olympic Committee

This weekend I heard a great deal about how other people interact with their mind. Quite different than the brain when I say that, I'm talking about The Voices Inside Your Head. And not in a 'needs medication' kind of way.

Well, maybe that way.

On girl I met this weekend has basically one voice in her head and sometimes says her mind is completely blank. I was stunned. One?! Who has *one* voice in their head?

I had a boyfriend once say to me, "Arguing with you isn't fair. I'm only one guy and you have, like, a dozen women in there all thinking of the next thing they'll say."

It was kind of a revelation for me. But it stuck! I'd found a metaphor for the chaos of my mind. I started to picture them and, over time, I decided on a cheap basement room kind of like for an AA meeting or something. Seventies linoleum, plastic chairs that kind of match the floor but not each other, bad cookies and coffee (sinners!) in the back corner to keep them fueled--that kind of thing. What's their job, you ask? Well, basically it's to let me know instantly about what I've just done. If I say something that they think may be silly, they tell me so. But not in a unified voice. I have some allies in there. So it goes something like this:

"God lord that was dumb! I can't believe you said that!"
"Hey! Be nice to her. It wasn't totally dumb. But it was probably irresponsible."
"Is this really positive self talk? Come now, it was fine. No one noticed."
"Seriously!? What are we, all new age up in here? Self talk? Who let that one in?"

And on and on and on. Sometimes they're quiet. But I'm asleep.

So, anyway, this weekend with the help of Phyllis (one of our awesome hosts) I was able to suss out more of some of their roles. There's a Risk Manager in there. She knits and doesn't say much. She's tired of being ignored. And so on. Lots of little different roles and voices that I see for myself. One of the points of this weekend was to learn how to integrate all the roles and desires so that they don't act out and start behaving badly. You can see why I needed this retreat.

As I'm working through all this, trying to dismiss some that were unnecessary and find positive roles for who remained the girls present got to know me some. And on Saturday morning, and I don't remember who exactly said it, I was dissecting a thought and someone piped in, "You don't just have women up there, you have a whole Olympic Committee!"

I laughed and laughed but I think it's one of the more profound things I took away from the weekend.

What does this have to do with today? Well, today started off with a broken car needing a tow to the garage. I didn't take time to put on anything matching or do my hair when I went to swap the working car out for that one with Mike. Then I had to dogs with me so they got hair on the car of the nice woman who gave me a ride home from the shop. Then I was behind schedule for my cleaning and my shopping and then, and then and then.

The Ukraine is in with a 2.0.

Instead of letting the O.C. win the day, I'm blogging out my anxiety. I'm owning that it happened but that it's not going to win today. I have a couple more hours and I'm going to rock out the progress. Basically, I'm saying "To hell with the Ukraine."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

From this weekend.

Featured above are Katie, Grace and JenLee. They are just a few of the faces that made last weekend extraordinary. I've been home three days and it's a struggle to remain present and centered but the images I captured remind me what it feels like. It was the perfect way to turn 33.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why is there a llama in my collage?

I spent this weekend turning 33 at this retreat. Basically, I spent a long weekend with ten new, dear, amazing friends. The retreat was an idea broached by my friend Katie. She basically said, "I'm doing this an you should come too!" I agreed. That was months ago and I hadn't thought about it much more until just a couple of days before we were leaving. I started to wonder what we'd talk about, what kind of people I'd meet there and if it would be worth spending the second birthday I've shared with Michael away from him.

Turns out? It was.

There were heartfelt conversations, art projects, a movie, more conversation and lots of stories.

As Katie and I were talking on drive home yesterday we both decided that it would be difficult at best to talk about the retreat because it was such an intense few days of introspection. I will say this, however--I make a great collage! And all of it makes pretty good sense to me but right in the middle there is this picture of a llama. For the life of me, I can't figure out what that means. Any hints?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall has arrived!

I spent the last four days in Yellowstone with my sisters and I have some great photos to upload. Most of them are of my niece. Apparently other things happen in Yellowstone also, it was just had to tell with that tractor beam of cuteness always around.

Today is really gray and cold here. There is snow on the mountains and, if it gets any colder, there will soon be snow on our lawn. Sadly, I'm not sad. I was really looking forward to this fall. I have no logical reason for that. How could I? It's crazy talk. But true.

Anyway, for the next few months this is where you'll be finding everyone...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sometimes I get so proud of a photo

It took me nearly an hour to get this one this weekend. I loved the subject and I'm so happy I got a picture of how I experienced her spirit.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Self plus tech

Today I spend nearly all day shooting a wedding at the Salt Lake Temple. It was the first time I've been down there as a photographer getting paid and it was an interesting experience. The wedding was nice and after the luncheon we had a break. I walked across the square and sat for a bit talking to Amber on the phone. While we were talking I snapped this picture. Typically I hate self-portraits or even pictures of me. I'm going to change that, a weekly posted snap at a time.

As we were talking Amber mentioned that she didn't have a picture of the chapel where she attended church for nearly two years. I offered to snap a photo for her. It's not revolutionary but it is a token of my love.

And, just for fun and the people who may not have a clear visual of where I was today, here's a shot!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kitchen, continued.

I'm almost embarrassed that the next photo shows my very 'little girly' kitchen motif. I haven't bothered to change it because I'm still amused by the containers I bought when I was 22. So, I'll just live with the mockery of my pastel insects.

The picture is really of the shamrock. Long ago in a land called Montana, my Mom had a friend give her a shamrock and, to all our awe, it lived! And does to this day. It sits beside her sink in Virginia. Somewhere along the line my sisters and I got some too. And, of course, they sit beside our sinks.

Speaking of sitting, these two have taken to doing this together every time the door is open. Yes, the cat does outweigh the dog by about fifteen pounds.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Daily work with my camera

That's on of my goals. I haven't been vigilant about it over the last few months. I've decided that I'm going to spend the end of this year boiling down my priorities--trying to figure out where to spend the copious amounts of time I now find on my hands. I know that photography will loom large in those priorities so I'm choosing to devote myself more heartily to it now. And to unabashedly share the images I capture. That last part? That's the hard part for me.

So! Today we have 'Things you'll find in my kitchen.' The rose is one of three miniatures now in the house. Two are down in the television room and one sits in the corner of the kitchen on a chair I fell in love with in my apartment. While I like roses for all the typical reasons, I mostly love the way they play with light. It never becomes old for me to look at them. Yes, Michael. That is a hint.

The herbs sit on what is now my favorite table. It will be our table forever! It is a gift from Michael's parents and it's prefect. But I'll tell you more about it later. The herbs are part of my quest to have the kind of kitchen where everyone hangs out. The kind that is always warm, has a pot of hot water on the stove and inspires conversations about daily events and life choices. Some of my favorite books are written about Cornwall and they always seem to have a cozy kitchen filled with life. That's what I'm cultivating. One Ikea herb pot at a time.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I am a Gleek. And I'm seriously in love with the latest episode. I feel like a gawker on the freeway and I'm unwilling to stop myself.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Canines and Candids

That's what has been governing my life. My photography work for a Salt Lake studio has started to occupy about 10-15 hours of my week in shooting and about 95 more hours in working on my editing and technique. I'd share some of the work but my agreement with them is that the work is not available for online distribution. I have, however, finally decided on a name for my own photography company, have the domain registered and am well on the way to launching the site. Now I just need to get some more people in front of my camera.

It's not surprising that I'm having trouble finding time for people when I have all of these yahoos in my life...

Yes, there are currently three dogs, one cat and a background husband in the house. Mikey, the black and white, is just a visitor while his Mom is on a month-long trip. Blackie, the brown/black chihuahua, is a tiny new addition to our foster family. Last Monday her family tried to surrender her to the shelter but didn't have the money to do so. The shelter called us and here she is. She's hilarious and I'm sure she's going to find just the right forever home soon.

I'd update you about Michael and I but if I share too many quotes it starts to sound like "Bob and Ethel Do Marriage." We're ten days away from eight months and I can honestly say that no period of my life has flown by faster. It boggles the mind. Which is clearly the best excuse for not blogging.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Some stuff

Sometimes, after great storm, the sky outside the back of our house is unequaled.

I love it. I have to admit that some of my thoughts, very oddly, are trending to excitement for fall. The cool evenings and morning sharing breakfast outside are some of my favorite times.

We have a new addition to our family--at least until she decides to find a new home. Her name is FatBetty. She's fantastic and we have an excellent lead on a new home so she may be gone by next week. But she's been here a month and we've loved having her. She may be our last foster of this year. I'm sure I haven't shared but we had to put our lovely, family dog Duke to sleep last week. It's taken more of a toll than I anticipated. But on to happier are the two resident dogs. FatBetty is on the right. On the left?

That's Mandy. She's our hospice care pug. She's 7, has very small lungs and she'll be with us until she decides to depart this life. So maybe as long as another 13 years!

That's most of the news from here. We're quiet. I like it. Bring on fall.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Six weeks (about) without posting. Six months of marriage. I've thought quite a bit over the last couple of weeks about writing on the blog again. The point of taking out the writing in the first place was so that I didn't share too much of what was going on in our young marriage. Not from the stand point of excluding my tiny audience from drama--no, he did not say "I have six children in Cambodia. I hope you're ok with that."--but from place of wanting to learn what was just 'ours' and what I wanted to share. It's an interesting balance. I don't think that I've quite achieved everything I want in that arena but I feel like I know where the fences are. So! In short, words are back!

Yes, I still think that marriage is weird. I can't remember if I've written about that here before but it's true. I'll probably write about it more later. Should you confuse 'weird' with 'I'm unhappy' then you ought not read this blog.

Now, to that six months of marriage bit with just a touch of sap. I went walking with friends this morning, I'm working on getting into a more elongated shape, and (because they are both skinny, fast walkers) I collapsed back into bed for a short nap after. When I woke up there were three dogs on my bed and a cat staring down at me from the headboard. I turned over and I saw this...

I chuckled because it's the prefect expression of what I feel. All sorts of elements, a few surprises and lots of light. And that's just about how all the last six months have been.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Unexpected Love.

This week I got to choose the theme for Photo Friday!! Honestly, it was seriously flattering! I've adored Calliope's brain since I met it online ages ago. I point that out specifically because I got to see it this week and that was also awesome!

Even funnier? I finally figure out the most unexpected of my loves, took the picture and when I went to find the link to her blog...nearly the same picture. But! It's still what I wanted to post. So, without further ado, here is my most recent and totally shocking love...

But this isn't far from it...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Afternoon Delight--Photo Friday

I realized I haven't been linking to Calliope's blog for those who may want to take place in Photo Friday. And I think everyone should! This week the theme was Afternoon Delight and I knew instantly what I wanted to capture. In our back yard, just under the kitchen window, is a retro couch that I bought at Salvation Army as part of a $50 set. It's positions parallel to our raised beds which make the perfect foot rest. Because of the positioning around 1pm the seat is in the shade and the sun is still right up the edge of the seat--meaning you can sun your legs without being too hot or burning your face. I spend lots of afternoons out there looking over the garden and then just looking over everything else while I rest. It's one of my new favorite things.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My name is Stephanie...

...and I'm an addict.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Catching up.

I've fallen very behind on my postings lately. I have millions of excuses all relating to dogs, my husband (still sounds odd to say that) and our yard. All of which are better now than they were before. But, sadly, my blogging is always the first thing to go when I'm overwhelmed.

We have finished planting the raised beds, installed breaks for the ground cover around the beds, built another flower bed and spread out one and a half cubic yards of dirt. It's been astoundingly hard work but I love it. There is a satisfaction in making a home (not only for my partner, I was like this when I was single) that can't find it's equal in me. I love making sure things are clean, tended and orderly. Except when I don't.

I'm having trouble sleeping tonight. The night is still but the creatures in our house aren't. We have Duke running about trying to find just the right place to sleep, Ziggy trying to catch him and the foster dog (a very, very small chihuahua whom I am really debating adopting) is a dutiful servant of the chaos trying to learn his place in it all. I'm finishing some reading, blogging and trying to devise ways to make my slumbering husband get out of the bed so that I can rearrange the room.

All this noctorunal activity got me thinking about the Photo Friday post Callopie had for last week--night. So I grabbed my phone and went for the first shot I got. And, with that, I'm back in the game.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Falling behind!

These are my (very bad) excuses.

When you look a them from the back of the house they look really boring and the couch seems oddly placed.

But when you sit on the couch, propping your feet on the side of the bed, this is what you see.

I'm excited to get them planted. It may seem late in the season but we had snow (again!!!!!) (maybe one more ! just for effect) just a couple of days ago. Here's home Utah really is ready to let me garden.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


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Friday, May 21, 2010

Photo Friday

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41, tomorrow.

And now the proud owner of a barbeque.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Deceptively Calm.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mowed grass

It's pretty much his favorite thing ever.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Foster

The Irish Setter found a home on Saturday. He was a lovely foster but I'm sure that he's going to be happier with his jogging, early-20's owner who will love and adore him forever. So, time for a new one!

Everyone, Lolo. Lolo, this is everyone.

She's a bit skittish but cute and small--so I named her Lolo. Also, it was a nice ode to Montana. She's a handful but I'm sure she's going to get better. She just needs some exercise, love and, of course, rules/boundaries/limitations.

I'll get some better pictures when she's not so shy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Gentleman's Cupcake

Today was a day full of sisters. Rina and I spent the morning relaxing at Saundies when we were sure the trip was actually extended into Monday. When Saundra ventured home from Church we went out to lunch, ran into an excellent family friend, went to a bakery, bought some cupcakes to share and headed to Beth's (and Bud's) place.

After some chill out time Beth decided it was time to learn Canasta The Granger Way. So we did. And sometime in the already hilarious and...well, sisterly (we'll leave it at that, for the dignity of the women involved) conversation we decided to break into the cupcakes. We tried Lavendar, Cayenne and then this one the bakery called 'The Gentleman's Cupcake.' No lie. I'm just going to say what my Grandma said, "Wow, I hope that was commercially made."

We laughed so hard I thought we may, in fact, pass out. But we all survived and have now achieved something similar to one or two thousand crunches.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Charlotte is getting so old

But I'm still fascinated by her every moment.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I love gardens.

Especially ones I don't weed. Shot a wedding here and it was awesome.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Models and flat salt.

I went on a photo shoot today. With models. And lights. It was AWEsome.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Crap! I almost forgot.

Since I nearly missed this post I'm going to cheat at my own game and put up one of my favorite photos. Enjoy!

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Relishing my relishrelish

I've had a hard time planning interesting menus. It's important to me that we eat well and with flair but it's hard to keep that up. Or I'm too lazy. Either way, enter And instant love. Every Monday (or for the last two) I select a menu, print of a shopping list, edit for what I have in the house and I'm done! The shopping is even broken down into sections so I don't waste any time at the store. And! And! They have menu items specifically for me to make and freeze so Michael doesn't fall of the Healthy Wagon when I can't cook dinner. If I wasn't already married.......

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