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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WEDDING SEASON

June is wild.

Wedding season has arrived with every ounce of energy it it can muster, and it has a cuss ton of it.  Last week alone I attended three weddings, beginning on Sunday the 8th at Gun Lake and finishing it off in Chicago on Saturday, with one in between here in Grand Rapids on Friday.

They were all as different and as lovely as the couples.  The wedding on Sunday I spent photographing for a friend from work, which is actually a touch humorous, considering I am in no way a professional photographer.  It was also terrifying.  I crapped my pants shortly after agreeing to do my friend this favor of capturing lifelong memories of the most important day of her life.  Then I wanted to do so again when I woke up the morning of her wedding to see dark clouds and deep puddles everywhere.  Thankfully when I arrived to the lake/wedding site at 10 am that morning the clouds had already dispersed and the day turned out to be absolutely perfect.  Except for when I broke a lens, but thankfully it was not the one Ryan bought me for Christmas nor was it either of the two lenses I had rented for the weekend.  One is forced to find blessings in tragedies as expensive as broken camera lenses.  Dan picked Karly up after they were pronounced husband and wife and he carried her down the aisle.  Pure magic.

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Friday’s wedding was for an old friend who has been in my life since elementary school.  There is a group of 20-30 (seriously, I’m not even going to count) who has kept quite close even after our high school days were over.  Many are married to each other – high school sweethearts whose relationships survived the odds, and others who we’ve since added to the group.  They’re my people.  We can move away, make mistakes, be absent from the group activities, forget birthdays, not speak in months, and then when we do all get together, everything is forgotten except that we have been through it all and that is enough to carry our friendships through.  It’s a beautiful crew.

and these are just some of the females…

Both the bride and groom that day had wide smiles they couldn’t quit.  They would try to give their cheeks a break and couldn’t.  It was happiness in its brightest, best fashion.  The reception was in an old brick building with antique chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the tables covered with white linens and decorated with bouquets of baby’s breath and white hydrangeas.  Romantic, man.  It was freaking romantic.

and seriously…photo booths? Awesome.

 

The morning after I rode with my parents and two of my sisters down to the Chicago suburbs for my cousin’s wedding.  She and I are the same age, but dramatically different.  She’s petite, sweet, teaches elementary, and has a heart of solid gold, whereas I’m brash, loud and unorganized.  And definitely not petite.  Despite our differences, she is my blood to the very heart of the meaning.  She is part of me and I of her.  She inspires me, and her now husband, Dave, clenched his jaw as she walked down the aisle to hold back his tears and then threw his fist in the air after their “I do’s.”

Hannah and her sisters (that should totally be a movie, right? 😉 )

 

We stopped in Saugatuck on our way home to soak in the smell of the lake and to eat pizza and ice cream in a waffle cone, and from there I sped north to Ryan’s family cottage where we took a late evening pontoon ride around the lake with a glass of wine.

And now it’s Monday.  My schedule is nearly packed with work every night, and part of me wants to quit my job just so I can keep going with this season…but I’m also exhausted.  Happily exhausted.  My body needs a break from mounds of endless food and bottomless glasses of wine.  However, finding that balance of crazy fun and endless work is not my strength, and there’s this idea brewing, wondering, imagining if it didn’t have to be a balance and could, instead, be all wrapped up into crazy fun.  Wouldn’t that be what we all hope for?

June is wild.  In the best way.

To Dan and Karly, Amber and Jon, and Christine and Dave,

Cheers!

Rachelle Rae was the photographer for Amber and Jon’s wedding, and clearly, she is awesome.  Visit her page here