Learning

We are already creeping into crisp air and early sunsets.  It’s hard to believe that summer 2015 is coming to a close.

It was a summer of learning, for me.

After spending May with lots of work and only passing each other in the mornings and late evenings, Ryan and I decided we needed to make a decision.  We were newly married for only three months, and we knew we couldn’t spend another month the way we spent May.  So I did something that I haven’t done in years.  I took a step back at work and spent the summer working two, sometimes three shifts a week.

I was terrified.  I have spent most of my adult life working five to six nights a week at busy restaurants.  Allowing myself time off seemed a bit negligent, but I knew that taking this step was imperative to my marriage and to my own mental sanity.

It ended up being the best summer.  Ryan and I were able to take trips, go camping, spend time with each other and our families, and I remembered that mornings and evenings still exist…and they are glorious.

I was able to take a trip out west with my friend Betsy to photograph a gorgeous mountain wedding.  Returning to the place  I once lived healed deep parts of my soul that I didn’t recognize to still be broken (that’s an entirely new blog in itself).  It was quick and busy and a twelve hour day of photographing with one of my best friends made me feel alive and fresh and challenged.

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oh and hey, we met Willie Robertson.  We spotted him at the Cowboy Bar in Jackson, Wyoming.  To my father’s dismay, I introduced myself in a whisper saying, “Hi, I know you don’t want people to bug you, but, my dad LOVES you…”

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checking out the wedding site.  Tetons in the background.

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On a beautiful hike with beautiful people

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The wedding day just after the ceremony.  Hi mountains!

This summer Ryan and I were able to GO ON DATES.  We are generally frugal people….

Let me re-phrase:  Ryan is so great at being fiscally conscious, while I try determinedly to spend our money on important things like food and wine and dates and home decor.  He has been an enormous blessing in the money world by reminding me of what’s important and necessary.  Thank the Good Lord that he agrees an occasional splurge on date night is necessary.

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I mean, just so.freaking.adorable.

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If you are not familiar with Michigan, I’ll let you know that there are lakes EVERYWHERE, and we are blessed to be able to spend time on this particular lake often in the summer.  Boat rides and these people happened, often.

I was able to go with Ryan up north to Traverse City, MI for a business trip, where we rented a cottage on Old Mission Peninsula, ate fabulous food all weekend, and even got to visit our cousin, Jamie, who works for the local news station.

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We ended this great weekend with a perfect night camping.

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Our last trip of the summer was to North Carolina for a wedding with a quick stop in Washington D.C. on the way to visit with some dear friends.

Aside from the travel, we were able to spend time with each other and with friends, have dinner on our deck, go golfing (oh we golfed; we golfed endlessly.)  It was an incredible summer.

But I also learned.

I learned that I don’t need to work my life away to feel accomplished or justified.  And although I do love what I do, it doesn’t define the person I am or the life I want to live.  My priorities are far beyond what I do to earn money.

I also learned that I have passions to re-ignite.  I say RE-ignite because they were coals that were cooling from neglect, and this summer I was reminded that doing the things you love will feed your soul.  For me these include photography, my writing, and travel.  I always keep a notebook and pen on me, but have rarely taken them out these past few months.  I was once going to school for photography and was crazy in love with capturing these still moments representing so much more than that one second in time.  I adore exploring and finding what makes places special.  Somewhere along the way I forgot I had a camera…and a notebook…and a pen…and a passion.

We constantly look for those things that make us feel fulfilled, and sharing stories and lessons and moments is one of those things for me.  It’s putting a pen to paper and scribbling, and spending time with people who want me to help share their story.  It’s discovering a new place and sharing what I love about it with others.

But it’s also time that I spend learning from someone else’s craft.  It’s reading and learning from other writers, shooting with photographers whose work far surpasses my own, and it’s GETTING OUT and going places.

This summer, I’ve learned ENORMOUSLY that I never want to stop learning.

To you and to me, may we always be pushing to be a better version of ourselves than the day before,

Cheers!

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Vegas Adventure.

So it’s been a while.

I could totally dive into all the things that have happened since my NYC adventure.  We found a house, got hitched, welcomed another fur-baby into our lives…it’s a lot of big stuff.  Lots of BIG, MONUTMENTAL, LIFE-CHANGING stuff.

You know, the stuff I was craving last summer when blogging was difficult because life was just so CALM.

I’m actually not going to write about any of that today.  Because today is dedicated to Vegas.  Even more so to Francis and Lisa.

I’ll be honest, of all my travel destination desires, Las Vegas was never one of them.  I’ve never been a gambler, I hate crowded pools, loud all-day bashes, and I was also too scared for my liver to make a lengthy visit to Sin City.

However, two friends of ours (yes! you’re right! Fran and Lisa!), decided to get married there, and little Las Vegas soared to the top of our Travel List.

Ryan and Francis became friends while serving in the Marine Corps together.  They have this man-love for one another that just doesn’t happen after “hanging out a lot.”  It’s an incredibly bond that formed after hours together of hard work and sacrifice.  They spent days of exhaustive, relentless, and punishing training.  It’s a bond that builds after countless hours practicing dangerous scenarios, knowing full-well that they could come to fruition, and in those cases, your brothers beside you would die for you.

….Like I said, it’s a serious man-love.

And it’s the best.  They are constantly embracing in these muscle-y bear hugs, and making each other roar with laughter.

Lisa has a heart of solid gold.  She is witty and funny and will tell you what you need to hear.  She doesn’t sugar-coat anything, and that kind of honesty is FRESH AIR.  She is down-to-earth and easy-going.  Not only that, but she is over-the-top, stop-dead-in-your-tracks beautiful.  Wrap it all into one human and you have Lisa. I’ve known Lisa for a little bit, and finally met her last summer when she and Francis visited Michigan.  I knew the minute I met her I wanted her as a friend for life.

That’s what it’s like with these two.  It’s fresh and easy.  We can talk about the serious and the mundane, the important, gut-wrenching stuff that shapes us, and we can talk about how good Francis looks in a man thong.  It’s a friendship we hold dear to us, and booking those tickets to Vegas was the easiest click of the button.

So why did they choose Vegas?

Fran and Lisa decided to get married there for a very specific reason.  New Jersey.

These two have been together for years, and had plenty of time to decide exactly what they wanted for a wedding.  In Jersey the weddings are over-the-top, and after they started the planning process in their hometown, they decided they didn’t want that.  They didn’t want the pressure to spend thousands and invite hundreds and undergo the pressure of “how big can we make this event.”  For them, it was never about that.

So they sent out an e-mail saying they would be going to Vegas, and if you wanted to join, they would love your company.

I love them.

SOLD. We were going to Vegas.

So first of all, Vegas is quite beautiful, which I never really imagined.  Everything is glamour and glitz, and then it’s surrounded with jaw-dropping mountains.  IMG_4771.JPG

That’s a random plane picture…but still, gorgeous, right?IMG_4788.JPG

the night before the big day…clearly unable to focus.IMG_4797.JPG

Day of the wedding!

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I mean…unreal. (Photographer was www.tylerfreear.com and he was FUN and amazing.  If you are looking for a photographer in the Denver area…or clearly Vegas area, check him out. )IMG_4798.JPG

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The wedding was to take place at 5:00pm at the Elvis Wedding Chapel.  The lovely couple rented a party bus to bring us from the chapel, to the Vegas sign, to Old Vegas, and then back to the Strip where we would dine and party.

Things got interesting.

The party bus was 15 minutes late and traffic was crazy.  Francis and Lisa missed their 5:00 wedding.  I have to tell you, Lisa stayed so calm.  (Francis was clearly stressed, which I don’t blame him, he just wanted to marry his girl!)  They were able to reschedule for 8:00, and we moved on to Old Vegas for some photos.

It was here that one of Lisa’s friends was called out to dance for a crowd of strangers, the couple got a photo with an Elvis impersonator, a tiny old lady with Cheetos all over her face and holding a Sephora bag stalked me asking for $5, I lost Ryan on several different occasions and found him conversing with random new “friends,” and I began to worry that not all of us were going to make it til 8:00…the Vegas fun was flowing.IMG_4815.JPG

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We made it.  All of us.  Most of us coherent and some of us on the way out of that realm.  We watched and laughed and even got teary eyed as Elvis married our dear friends.

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It was unlike any wedding I’ve ever experienced.  And despite the costumes and the singing and the humor in it all, it was still beautiful and heartfelt.  I don’t think Grand Rapids could pull off weddings like that, and I don’t think New Jersey could either.  It was something that only Vegas could get so weirdly right.IMG_4872.JPG

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Oxygen bar we tried before leaving…don’t waste your $40!IMG_4883.JPG

Sad to say goodbyeIMG_4886.JPGSeth, Francis, and Ryan.  All served together.

Vegas was everything I thought it would be, but it was also beautiful and surprising.   I didn’t know any of their friends, and I think the raw spirit of Vegas broke us out of our comfort zones and our shells.  We were quick friends.  In the busy, crowded pools we were forced to sit close together for conversation.  We bonded on the Strip in the chaotic evenings, trying to decide if we wanted a grand dining experience or pizza in the hotel.

We have these expectations for things, places, people, moments in life, and I love when the actuality destroys those expectations.

Vegas, you were a lovely reminder that things may not be what we imagine, that friendships break barriers, that our preconceived notions may be inaccurate, degrading, or even complete bullshit. Thank you for reminding me that beauty is immeasurably more than what we may expect…

Francis and Lisa, we are so blessed to have shared in your amazing weekend, and even more so by your friendship.

To Vegas, surprises, and mostly to the new Mr. and Mrs. G,

CHEERS!

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