For the eyes. For the heart. For the ears. For the feet. For the soul.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Make it count.

Sometimes, it takes a while to find your groove. Everything new has it's bumps, whether it's a relationship, a change in career, a blended family and in my case, all of the above. When I was a child, there seemed to be nobody in my class that had divorced parents. Kids would ask me in confusion why I was packed to stay with my dad on a weekend. My family tree had 8 grandparents. Today, it's more the norm than not that parents are divorced, remarried and blended.

I remember as a child, coming home and telling my mom how pretty and cool my stepmom Sue was. Later in life I would learn that this woman had an affair with my dad; my dad who broke my mother's heart, and I think to myself how I as an adult would handle my child telling me how fun and cool my ex's mistress was. It couldn't have been easy for her. My father went on to remarry. And remarry again. And then again. But that's a different story and this story is not about him.

My mom met someone who we lived with for 20 years. I never really looked to him as a father and he never tried to be one. My mom made it perfectly clear that she was the boss of me, not him, and I think these are the struggles and disciplinary boundaries that stepparents face. He had two boys as well and it was just all so confusing for all of us.

Years later, my mom remarried. I was ecstatic as she had been alone for several years and I could tell she was struggling with the loneliness. I was living in Toronto and tried to come home as often as I could, but I was also dealing with my own life issues and struggles.

When my mom met Vern, it was an adaptation for all of us, but mostly I believe the hardest on his daughter. His wife had passed away of cancer, his son lived out west and here he was marrying this new woman and in tow came her daughter and family. I was single at the time and we all spent our first Thanksgiving together before they were married at Vern's family cottage. I was in heaven. I finally had the sister I never had. We were all cooking together and spending time at a beautiful cottage. I guess I never realized that 32 years of tradition in a family must be hard on someone who is thrown into a new family and new customs and traditions.

Years have passed and we've been together as a family for 7 years. It has had it's trying moments. I had to adapt to a strong and opinionated man who also had to adapt to someone with a mind of her own. He came into a brand new family, much different than his own. Michael came into the picture and tried to smooth over family issues. My mom was trying to make everyone happy and Vern's daughter was just trying to accept all these changes. It's been difficult. Michael too has a blended family with a stepdad who has been in the picture for years. There was no doubt in our minds when we asked our parents, because that's what they are whether blood or not, to stand up for us at our wedding in Mexico.

When my aunt passed away last year, something hit me like a thud. My entire life changed and I vowed for it to change. Too many wasted and bitter years arguing about nonsense and I realized that I may only have limited time with my own mother and family. My life has changed for the better this past year, but only because I took hold of it and discarded the bullshit, took accountability for my own actions and surged onward and upward to greater things.

This Christmas morning, the five of us sat in my mom's living room. We always exchange cards, stockings and then gifts, followed by a breakfast and then a dinner. Every year has been different with traditions. Sometimes we've gone to different churches, we've gone to Vern's side of the family, which was awkward for my mom and I since it was his deceased wife's family.....but they opened their arms, hearts and home and welcomed my mom and I in, even more so than some of our blood family. When Michael came into the picture, we had to alternate Christmas Eve and day with his mom and only children we have to be fair and take turns.

My step sister Christine opened the card I gave her and started to cry. I put pen to paper and let her know that it has been an absolute pleasure to spend the past years with her, and during the holidays especially. I let her know that I know all these changes must have been the hardest on her. After all, I had everything to gain from this new family, but she had lost so much.

She let us all know, that this was the first time she had looked forward to Christmas. We all started to choke up and I think this was the first time we were all in the same room at the same time, on the same page, with the very same feelings. My mom announced to us all that it has been hard on everyone, but that we are a family and this was our family. My mom had made Christine a memory album of her and her mom and there were more tears.

It hasn't been easy for any of us. Family dynamics are so complex as is, but when you add people into the mix who are not related but forced to behave like a family, it can sometimes be overwhelmingly difficult. I truly am thankful for everyone.....for my husband, for my mom, her family, her husband and his family, Michael's family, our friends, colleagues and neighbours. It's been a hell of a ride this year and let's face it, every year has it's challenges, but as the new year rings in and we are at the dawn of new beginnings, it's important to take stock of those that you love and whether related or not, we must always make time for our family.

Without family, what's the point really? We're all we've got.

Happy new year to all of you, and from my family to yours, make this year count.

Love always,



Thursday, December 29, 2011

A meeting of urgency.

I got a text message that had somewhat of an urgent tone in it, or at least that's how I read it, because how can a text have any tone at all? My girlfriends and I try to have weekly tea. Two are stay at home moms, one works shifts and I'm usually home during the day editing. It's also convenient that we all live beside and across the street from each other. How it happened that our homes form a perfect square and we all became great friends, I can only leave that to lady luck.

Usually, if we set a time for tea, there is at least one of us who can't make, it. Too much editing, too many kids, too much work to do, not enough time during shifts. This time, the text message instructed us to all find a way to be there. And we did. There is something endearing about having a set time to meet. Michael and I often comment on the show Blue Bloods and how no matter what is going on in their busy law enforcing lives, they are to meet at family dinner every Sunday. And this is how it should be. We need to find and make time for important gatherings.

So, yesterday, the four of us girls found a way to get together. Kids hanging off our legs, tears about spatting spouses and freak outs from crashing computers. We were all there. I awaited a big announcement. Surely she wasn't pregnant again, the enitre two years I have known this friend, she has been pregnant. She wasn't moving and hadn't won the lottery she confirmed while I tried to guess the monumental reason we were all to meet up with no excuses.

Four gift boxes were presented to us at the same time with a neatly hand written note inside. The note explained a new way to try out high end cosmetic products and directed us to activate an account. My girlfriend then explained to us that she had bought us all a subscription to Luxe Box and that every month, we would each get a box in the mail of cosmetic samples to try. Based on a questionnaire we all filled out, we will all be sent different products to match our taste, skin, budget and style.

We all squealed in excitement. Who doesn't love receiving parcels in the mail, and makeup samples at that? This Luxe Box, my friend mentioned to us, was exciting but not the point of our meeting. A monthly parcel she quipped, was a way for us to all get together. We are not permitted to open our box until the four of us meet for tea (or wine). This way, we can share, exchange and ensure that there are no excuses to not meet up.

Life is not easy. We all know that's for damn certain. But my girlfriends and I have vowed to get through it together. We are all busy. There's always something more important that needs to be tended to. But when all is said and done, it is our loved ones and the time with them that truly warms our hearts, gives us memories and the strength to carry on in these crazy, crazy times.

Sandie, thank you for such a thoughtful gift. My friends have always been number one in my life. This past year, the only thing that was number one was my growing photography business. The new year brings new change, goals and resolutions. Some of us don't believe in resolutions as it's a surefire way to set ourselves up to fail. Others strive for unattainable goals. Whatever the case, whatever life may bring, we can always make time, at least once a month, for our girlfriends.



Saturday, December 24, 2011

Verses from my kitchen......

......will be switching to Wordpress soon and hoping that the ads generated to Michael's 80,000 monthly viewers will make us a little extra income. Michael and I dream of photographing, writing, cooking for a living and buying a rustic farmhouse one day.

Merry Christmas to my husband Michael! I am looking forward to spending the holidays with our families and doing what we do best: laughing, eating, drinking, and marvelling in the love and joy we share with those dearest to us.

Check out some holiday recipes on Michael's blog. He has become quite the food photographer, writer and of course chef this past year. I'm so proud of him.

Verses From My Kitchen

From our kitchen to yours, Happy Holidays!



Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I cannot believe this year is approaching to it's end. What a year it's been. Thank you to everyone for a beyond amazing experience of my first year in photography. Happy Holidays and I hope all your dreams come true in 2012!

Keep dreaming.....never stop dreaming.



Thursday, December 22, 2011

Your love is better than wine.

Enough of the heavy stuff this week. Christmas is literally around the corner. Are you ready for it?

In my young life I have received
Callers as though they were Christmas Eve.
Disappointed and I don't know why?
She gave me laughter and hope
And a sock in the eye.
(A love like this is sealed with a kiss)

In my young life and I know something now.
I've never tried to create a wow.
Wows are few frustration more common.
Now I can feel it in my soul,
That's why I gave the come on.

Kiss me with your mouth.
Your love is better than wine.
But wine is all I have.
Will your love ever be mine?

Faces fall before my feet.
Like blood onto a clean white sheet.
When I grow old I won't forget
To innocence my only debt.

Wow I feel so fresh today.
Barefoot in the snow to make love in the hay.
The stars are bright in the abyss,
Now I can feel you in my arms
I explode inside your kiss.

~ Stephen Duffy ~

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sometimes it hurts instead.

We've all lost someone at some point in time that we loved, not by any choice of our own. It's heart wrenching isn't it? As adults, I wonder if  it's easier for us to deal with because of our tenacity, life experiences and coping mechanisms.

Last night, I finally got the Christmas wrapping done, put my editing aside and finished watching photography webinars. It was time to give my brain a break and just sit back and unwind. Time to slow down a bit. Let the creative juices replenish themselves.

Michael set up the new Adele concert, live at Royal Albert Hall. I'm telling you, I have always loved this woman's smoky soulful voice but there is something about sitting down and listening to someone's story woven in between her love songs. It gives new meaning to the lyrics, to her experiences and the song itself. It's like you hear the music on a different level, like you feel the song, like it moves your soul when you take the time to understand the proverbial place it was written and performed from.

I think it is a mistake to dismiss heartbroken teenagers' relationship woes. It is far too easy for us as grown adults to haughtily roll our eyes at their puppy love and treat their sadness as trivial. Do you remember your first love? Chances are, you also remember your first breakup. The first time someone cheated on you. The first time someone you loved left you. With no choice but to deal with it. Accept it. This was your reality.

I've had relationships. I've been the dumper. I've been the dumpee. I've shed some tears. I've made some friends from lovers. I've made mistakes. I've had good times. I've been treated like shit. I've treated some like shit. As the years come and go, these memories and the emotional attachment of these relationships and their endings slowly fade into the dust of my past life.

Almost fourteen years have passed and the memory of my first real love's betrayal still stings my heart like it was yesterday. Not because I miss him because I certainly am thankful that I never ended up with him. It's because I remember the feeling of being left for someone else and not being able to deal well with the lonely realization.

I remember sitting in my room at 2:30 in the morning, waiting for a phone call from him, only to receive a  call from my girlfriend that she saw him with another girl making out in the corner of a Toronto nightclub. I wanted to fucking die. I leapt out of bed like a crazed madwoman on a mission. I grabbed the yellow pages (these were the days before internet and cell phones) and looked up this girl's phone number. I was confused as to which last name belonged to her phone number. Then it all started to unravel and make sense. I saw her last name next to a street name in a prominent Ancaster neighbourhood. My ex was fascinated by wealth and money. He would always talk about this certain part of Ancaster, specifically this street. And then it hit me when I saw her street name. It all started to unravel and my thoughts raced back to the events leading up to this moment of clarity. The vague and wide gaps in his stories started to narrow.

We had matching tattoos. He gave me his grandmother's ring, with his mother's permission. I would have dinner with his family and stay over and go for jogs with his mother. Our parents met at Christmas time. I was sure he was the one for me. When I met him, he was overweight and nobody saw the allure that I did. I was so attracted to him and so madly in love. We met in University. We started to workout together. He lost a bunch of weight. Everyone started telling me how hot my boyfriend was. I never saw it that way because I fell in love with him for the person inside, as corny as that sounds.

I couldn't accept the fact that it was just one day over. In hindsight, all the signs were there. I was just too blind to see it. When it was all pulled out from under me, I just had to deal with it. There really is no thoughtful way to break up with someone is there? I mean, obviously it would be nice if someone treated your 3 year relationship with dignity and respect but not everyone is capable of doing that. It was no post it note, but it may as well have been a Jack Berger moment because that's how raw and blunt it all felt.

I remember crying. Losing my mind. Driving to his house. Calling his girlfriend. Calling his friends. Emailing his mom. Trying to get some answers and getting nowhere as all these people were just as confused, or so they let on. I tried to stay home. I tried to go out. I lost a shit load of weight. I dyed my hair bleach blonde. I started to date someone else and go places he would see me, as if jealousy would somehow win him back. And then it happened. I was with my friends. And they all sort of held their breath and told me under absolute no circumstance, was I to turn around. It was summer time and we were enjoying a cocktail on a patio in a downtown Hamilton street of bars. And then I did what I wasn't supposed to. I turned around. I saw him with her. They were together. I wanted to be sick. I literally felt queasy.  Of course everything in my proud body wanted to keep my cool. But the woman in me was anything but cool. The heat, the fire, the red that I saw and felt, well, you know how it is. I casually walked by him. So awkward. He let me know that I looked great but he couldn't talk to me. It just was so incomprehensible to me. He was once mine. And now someone else owned the right to his loyalty? WHAT THE FUCKKKKKKK???????????

I waited outside of his house until 6 in the morning when he arrived home. He told me to leave. I cried. I begged him not to go. I threw his grandmother's ring on his lawn. That seemed to infuriate him and I now gave him a reason to be angry and justify him leaving me. I pleaded I was sorry. Then I screamed at him. As the sun started to rise, I drove home in a slump. I smoked cigarette after cigarette. Tracy Chapman's Fast Car came on the radio. That was our song. I was sure it was a sign.

The summer continued like this. My friends would patiently listen to me but I could tell they were getting tired of the same story. I would seek out new acquaintances, just someone, anyone to listen to my story and help me through this god awful time. Then, a divine intervention of sorts appeared. My friend was going back to school in Toronto and wanted to move there. I was working downtown Toronto and thought to myself, this was my ticket to freedom. The freedom to escape the ghost of our relationship. The constant thought of running into him. Running into them.

I met another friend who I believe in my heart of hearts we were destined to cross paths. She too was going through a devastating break up. She too was looking for a way out of the Hamilton haunt of ex-boyfriendhood. She helped me and I helped her. A group of friends got together for my birthday. Things were starting to come together. I had arranged to move into a house of four girls in Toronto. I was promoted to an amazing project at work. I was getting my shit together. There we were, on the rooftop of that Toronto Queens Quay patio overlooking the city. It was my 23rd birthday. I was surrounded by people who loved me. The breeze was warm. I was looking and feeling my best. And then it happened. Again. By now I should have been familiar with the look on my girlfriend's face and the warning not to turn around. I never heed warnings very well and this time was no exception. There the two of them stood, side by side, hand in hand, in my place on my birthday. My friends all surrounded me as if to form a protective shield but with my new found fabulousness, I mustered the courage from the  balls I had grown and maturely walked over to them. All was fine, all was cool, until she smugly jabbed: He's mine. Get over it Wendy.

Oh my. Oh my God. All that hard work I had put into becoming the new and pulled together me was just flushed down the toilet. Hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn? Is that how the expression goes? The blue drink that was in my hand magnificently flew out of the bottle and into her face. Nothing in my entire life had ever felt sooooo good. And then reality hit me as hard as the pavement that I was thrown out onto. The drink also spilled on the bouncer and he screamed at me, picked my tiny self off the dance floor, carried me down three flights of stairs and told me to get the fuck out and to never come back. The whole time, I smiled, waved to my friends who had just arrived for my birthday, feet dangling in the bouncer's massive arms and sung/chirped BYE GUYSSSSSSSSS!!!

Thank God I moved cities. Years later, I would still be reminded of this story by random people who would say, aren't you the girl that dated so and so and didn't you throw that drink and get kicked out?
Epic? Or epic fail? Still not sure, but I am certainly sure of the sheer pleasure that moment brought me.

It didn't free me of the difficulty of the breakup. God no. I sometimes wonder if even time itself can ever get rid of the memories, the devastating feeling and realization that the person you love with your heart and soul does not want to be with you. It's a simple concept really. A book and a movie were written to clearly describe to the seemingly daft that he's just not that into you. I remember once, crying to my girlfriend who matter of factly told me that I was sitting home crying and he was out not thinking about me and enjoying his life. I just could not get it through my thick skull. He didn't love me anymore. I couldn't make him love me. I tried everything. Nothing was working. He had made his choice and I had to deal with it. Every song reminded me of him. I would see the video for Cristina Aguilera's "What a girl wants" and think that it looked like the two of them. I would hear Toni Braxton's "He wasn't man enough for me" and sing my heart out, on repeat and repeat and again on repeat, imagining the day I could sing the song to her.

I got in wicked shape. I was always imagining the day he would see me looking so amazing that he wouldn't be able to resist me. I heard there was a swimwear fashion show on a boat and that he would be there. I was asked to be a model. I think I starved myself for weeks. I got in the best shape of my life. I was armed and ready. And he wasn't on the boat.

Years passed. He went on to marry her. I drove by the banquet hall on the day they were married. I'm not sure what I was hoping to see. I googled his name and found photos of the two of them looking beautiful and happy. Like the Sex and the City episode, there was a moment in time where I had to realize "They're happy / we're over."

Listening to Adele recount how her song "Someone like you" was written about her ex truly moved me. She said they were so happy. They laughed together brilliantly. They broke up. He's happy now. And to her, it's bittersweet because he changed her life forever. The ironic part was that thousands of her fans were singing the song back to her, and there she stood on stage, in Royal Albert Hall, selling her 10 millionth copy of the song, and the only person who could probably make her feel better was in the arms of another woman.

We've all been there. This is why we all nod our heads and murmer with understanding when a girlfriend tells us of heartache. This is why music and movies make us cry and moves our soul.
Because we all understand. I'm a better person for my heartbreak. I'm a better person for my humility and humiliation. I'm a better person for my past. My only regret was that I had some sort of outlet to channel my pain. I truly feel I could have written, I could have photographed, I could have created some sort of beautiful masterpiece out of that pain.  Like a tortured soul. I dealt with it as best I knew how. I dealt with it because I had to. We all survive. Heartache doesn't really kill us. We don't die from it. But it does strip a part of us and we are forever changed. The people in our future pay the price. We're a little wiser, a lot stronger and better equipped to deal with it should it strike again.

But isn't it sad that nothing ever compares to that first love? It's so innocent. It's so true. It's so real. My mom once said that my father destroyed her soul when he cheated on her.

I don't think of my ex often. Or my past in general. But once in awhile, it all sneaks in, whether in reverie, thought or dream. I doubt he even knows the impact his actions had on my life. I doubt he often if not ever thinks of me. It was so long, long ago.  I know I certainly am remorseful for the ones I have hurt. Sometimes we don't know better. We follow our hearts.

Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A girl can dream.

I joined the Fearless Photographers group and am one day hoping for a Fearless award!
For now, take a look at the other amazing wedding photographers from around the world.
Their stuff blows me away.

Here is my page. (Zero Fearless awards so far)

A girl can dream.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Baby Hunter

Welcome to the world, just in time for Christmas baby Hunter!!!
Congratulations Jill & Jake!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ghetto amplified.

Did you know that if you put your phone/ipod in a glass bowl of some sort, it amplifies the sound?
Try it.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Let go. Let's go.

All I've left is my soul
Fall left me with this winter so cold
Take me away
Like an overdose on heroin

Baby, we were born for fun
Or maybe to sleep in the sun
A place where new waves come in
A place to begin.

Let go
Let the wind blow
Back your head tonight

Let's go
Let your friend know
That you're here on a beach by my side

Called me today on the phone
The sun guided me home
I'll never be alone again
'cause I've got a friend

Let go
Let your skin show
That you've been in the sun today

Let's go
Let your mind blow
All your sorrows away

~ JJ

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Social misfits....the lost art of a phone call.

We had a family Christmas party on the weekend at Michael's aunt's house. His aunt and uncle are an older couple; delightful to be around and so youthful in spirit.  They live in our town and it is not unlike us to go over and share some wine and a hot tub with them.

During family game time this weekend, their home phone line rang. Two of their grandchildren were standing beside the rotary phone and almost jumped out of their skin. "IT'S RINGING!!!" they shouted in confusion. "What should we do???" The rest of us just chuckled. We told them to pick up the phone and answer it.

Nobody talks on the phone anymore. If my phone does ring, I immediately think to myself: what happened? And if it's not an emergency, I wonder why they didn't text me first to tell me they were calling. Bizarre. It's all so bizarre. I suppose in this lightning speed paced world, a phone call demands you drop everything to speak to the caller whereas texting and emailing can be done on your own clock.

The New York Times ran an article discussing this very topic. "I remember when I was growing up, the rule was, don't call anyone after 10 p.m. Now the rule is, don't call anyone. Ever. Phone calls are rude, intrusive, awkward. The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people."

Personally, I think technology is turning us into a bunch of weirdos. Gadgets have replaced conversation. People don't know how to interact face to face. Eye contact feels uncomfortable. My mom calls the young generation of gadgets "Social Misfits." I laugh when I hear her coin this term, but it's true. And don't even get me started on thank you cards, hand written notes or buying music.

I understand we have two choices with technology: fight it or embrace it. But there are still times that I cling to my old fashioned life, values and manners. There was a time that you would never eat dinner while on the phone. Are you kidding me? Growing up, if anyone called at dinner time, my stepdad would answer the phone which was on our kitchen wall above our table and sternly let the caller know we were eating dinner and I would call them back. Sadly now, I look at the younger generation and even important business men and their heads are buried in their laps, eyes turned southward and the rest of us sit at the dinner table looking at each other and thinking the same thing: How rude.

Where is our world headed? I haven't got a clue but if current times are a glimpse into the unforeseen future, I have to admit, I'm slightly scared.

Call me.



Tuesday, December 13, 2011


And this is why I focus mostly on photojournalistic/candid moments of a wedding. The stiff, posed, assembly line shots simply do not capture your attention or tug on your heartstrings. Congratulations to the Fearless Photographers. If I died happy, it would be because I got even one like the photographs below.