Im a “Tween” again.

I’m a “Tween” again

By the age of 42 I had imagined I’d be established enough as to understand my general role in society as a woman, and as a mother. Surely by this age, though ONLY 42, I would be recognised as someone with motherly experience? With some sort of wisdom I could impart on other younger mothers. Above all, I’d hopefully FIT IN.

 

Instead, I find myself at 42 to be a bit of an odd ball. I am not up to date on the gizmo’s and gadgets that the new mothers around me are discussing on social media posts. I am no longer privy to the “in” books and services, as everything they seem to need is now online and via blog, and let’s face it, I haven’t READ any newborn advice and help blogs. There WERE no blogs during my newborn phase! Those mothers can’t turn to me for that. All of my well-meaning advice is dated. Regardless of the fact I have SURVIVED 22 years of parenting!

On the other end of it, I am not quite old enough to dole out grandmotherly type advice or pass adages to my own daughters because I haven’t lived through THAT much yet! I am ONLY 42.

I remember what it was like to be a “tween”. Not a child anymore, but not quite a teen either. It is a hard and confusing time when you just feel lost and stuck. And I am back at that same stage in motherhood. The in-between stage…Not yet old enough to be that wise grandmother, but not that new fresh mother trying to figure everything out. It all seems so AWKWARD…. So unsure. So in need of a mother’s advice, had I had one.

In this stage though, I see just how segregated we as mothers keep one another. We create cliques, whether knowingly or not. A sense of divisiveness does exist. I feel like I did when I was picked last at PE. That happened due to an obvious lack of experience in ANY sport at the time, and my very petite stature all through high school. I wasn’t going to survive PE roughhousing without tears, and classmates  just knew it.

However, I KNOW I have not only survived two decades worth of mothering, I have often THRIVED at it, though in full disclosure, I have also really totally and completely stunk at it. That’s ok, because it is a learning curve. Parenting will always be, as each stage changes.

One big dramatic change for me over the past two years, was learning a new way to parent through the holidays. Halloween, especially. I love the Autumn traditions, everything from crisp walks, to pumpkin spiced anything, and decorating! I loved seeing the fun costumes come out and talk to my girls about what they would dress up as! Two years ago, I had my first Halloween without a trick or treater. I admit, I was devastated. I felt like a chapter in my role as a mother was now over. I wouldn’t experience that again. I wasted that day being miserable. Last year, determined to make up for the previous year of pouting, I dressed up, as I do, and sat at the end of my driveway, armed with the tastiest mini-chocolate bars, and expectantly scanned the street for ghouls and goblins, and the never ending trail of Disney princesses. None came. NONE.

I even decided to get up and yell at the child at the end of my street (I am in the middle!), and screamed, much to the chagrin of my “hostage” 22 yr old, who I had made sit with me. “Hey kid! I have candy! Come and get it!”. I sounded like a crazy lady! It really isn’t accepted in society to yell at children to come eat your sweets. Lesson learned. NEXT year, we will be in a new home, and I hear the neighbourhood is packed. So I will be the fun decorated house, with good treats and creepy music playing for ambience! I am beyond determined to re-love this day. To start new.

Something I would like to see an end to though, is those cliques I mentioned. We deny there ARE any, but they exist. I’d like to see parents respect, admire and ACKNOWLEDGE that others have mothered before us, will be mother’s after us, and we should embrace the similarities that we as women share, with grace and kind listening ears, even when we disagree with another’s approach.

I think a good way to bridge this gap is to simply spend time with mothers and women who are NOT  just like us. Whatever is different from our daily norm. I can learn from someone different, and they can learn from me. I found, by being around older AND younger women, that we are more alike than opposite. For example, the exclusion I have felt from not being invited to my friend’s child’s birthday party, because I didn’t have a toddler. She invited an assortment of what seemed like only acquaintances, and women who she met only once or twice, instead of me. I immediately felt not only excluded, but that somehow I had committed some offence. It was only after taking a breath and asking why I wasn’t invited that she confessed that she wasn’t sure if I, with older children, would even WANT to go. Of course I would have! I cared about our friendship, AND I loved that child! Another time, I myself didn’t extend a hand of friendship to a woman. Her children were younger than mine, which did not bother me as I love to talk to new people, however we differ in life. My hold up? She was beautiful. Like, GORGEOUS. Immediately, that terrified me. I am not sure why. I am usually not intimidated by the way a woman looks. She just seemed so perfect, so put together, and in a way, I convinced myself she was too  good for me. I didn’t have time to dwell on it, because she approached ME in this situation. She had worried that no one was speaking to her because they found out she was getting divorced, and wouldn’t be part of the military community we were all involved with at the time. I couldn’t believe I’d been so quick to make someone else feel so isolated! Especially since, I too was about to be divorced.  I think a lot of the breaking off into sub groups of mothers, is due to a breakdown in communication amongst us all.

I somewhat see a cyclical pattern in parenting, just like in fashion, where what is on trend one season, changes and goes away the next. Only to come back a decade later and be the new cool yet retro “in” thing.

So I am trying whole-heartedly not to judge other mothers, especially those so different from myself, at our respective stages in life and motherhood. I think we are all maybe a little guilty of this? It becomes easier for me to justify this internal judging I do, when I feel criticised in some way as a mother. I immediately jump on the defensive and find something to tear another down about (all in my head, and never towards someone specifically), so that we are on some even playing field in a game neither of us know we are playing. I may currently be considered to be like platforms shoes, flared jeans and fringe, not so on trend and a little out of place, but I assure you. Just like these jeans do, and just like my other in-between mum’s, we will get through this phase, and be hip, retro, and relevant again.

Halloween 2004

Making Mother’s Day memories, without a Mother

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Lauren (22) and Caitlin (15), my blondes

 

It’s hard to miss the ominous presence of the love and celebratory preparations for Mother’s Day, if, like any other person, you have gone into a store or mall recently. Everywhere I look, there are flowers in pretty bouquets, banners welcoming shoppers eager to spoil their mother, and special menus popping up in all of my favourite restaurants. May 14th in the US will see yet another Mothers Day pass by, where I do not have my mother to treat, take out, or visit.

Mothers do not have to have passed on, like my own has, in order to be absent from your life. Sadly, there are many stories going untold, that leave women hurting everywhere. Emotions are usually far from happy and joyous on this day for many of us, and for me, it took a long time to learn how to live through a day that so many are enjoying, while I felt lonely and isolated.

I am a mother myself now, but being a mother, and being MOTHERED are two very different things. I also had a stepmother for a beautifully brief period of time, but that too, doesn’t replace the void I feel.

I learned to live through this day and find ways to still make it beautiful, and to honour my mum, so that I wasn’t sad and weepy, or jealous, like I was many times during school when I was a child. The obligatory craft making that ensued in the run-up to this day, often left me feeling miserable.  I couldn’t fill in the blanks on the teacher made cards with what colour she liked, what made her happy, and what I loved most. To me, those precious memories were in my heart, and with her gone, they simply didn’t translate onto paper and glue daffodils with the ease my classmates displayed.

I remember a beloved art teacher telling me once to make my gift for someone else. My grandmother was often the recipient of endless “motherless day” crafts I made. As an adult, now that she, too, has passed on, I am looking at mothers day in other ways to avoid the grief and pain that always slips into my current pleasant life, every time this day approaches. I’m sharing some of these things here.

  1. Place a photograph of your mother/motherly figure, somewhere in the open, and light a favourite candle. Reminisce with those around you, and share a special story, or talk openly about what you miss. I often find that sharing positive feelings and stories helps keep my mum near, and lets my husband and daughters get to know her.
  2. Buy some flowers from the array of beautiful displays for sale. Then either keep them or give them to a special woman in your life. I don’t need a special day to have something beautiful in my home, to enjoy, and to love. Also, there are many women I know that can be made to smile in presenting THEM with something special too. I know many ladies feeling lonely, or who are childless, and I love to bring a little light to someone else. I think my mother would have loved this.
  3. Enjoy being treated nicely by those in your life who love you! Whether that’s a husband or partner, children, nieces and nephews or siblings. Allow people to treat you and do nice things for you, because you are so special to them! Again, there is a diffference to being mothered, and being one, but Ive definitly loved my early morning mothers day raps, homemade “lovebots’, funny made by hand cards, and many days worth of burnt toast and ketchup sandwiches in bed ( a long story!), that my children “treat” me to.
  4. Turn the day into a new celebration! Invite friends over, or family members, and people who are spending the day alone, or not celebrating others. Make it about love and friendship, and a gathering. It doesn’t have to be limited to mothers. This way, you are bringing together a little tribe of people, and starting new traditions.
  5. Music always ignites emotions, so load up a playlist on your device or phone, and get into your car and drive. Cry, laugh, grieve, miss her, remember her, and spend time alone (with her). It is ABSOLUTELY ok to NOT BE OK. It IS hard, and setting aside some time to privately mourn and think about things you wanted to say, seasons she has missed, or joys she didn’t get to encounter, is understandable and normal.  You are not alone in doing this.
  6. Start a small collection. I used to think of my mother when I saw a lighthouse. On her birthday and mothers day I would seek out little ornaments or memorabilia, and buy them as a “gift”. This way she was around me all the time, and I always had the intention of sharing these with my children one day. Or, make a donation as a gift, each year, to a charity she liked, or one that would be a cause in her memory. I even want to buy a star, and name it Elizabeth, after my mother, a perhaps silly to some, but positive way, to have her in my “universe” again.
  7. Lastly, don’t be alone the entire day. Do something that will bring you happiness. See a film with an available friend, go to the beach, enjoy a show. Do something that will surround you with laughter and fun, excitement and life. I have done this many times when I feel lonely. It truly helped remind me that I am still here, and still meant to truly live my life!

Mothering On.

Mothering On.  I have to.

I have teenagers. Well, I call them both teenagers and in all reality, my oldest daughter is 22, and my youngest is 15. However just like your babies are always your “babies” until they get car keys or some other social right of passage that makes them no longer satisfied with Sophia The First, My girls will always be teenagers, until the day they are in a wedding dress, and I have no choice but to admit they are women.

So, I have teenagers. Those three words alone probably ignite some nods. Some “oh wow”’s. Perhaps a few “you poor thing”’s. Even a few “gosh you’re so lucky you don’t have to change diapers anymore”. I can in fact, from those in “the teenage know”, hear wine pop as they consider their own teens at home. They too, are probably mumbling from a distant bedroom, that they don’t “get” what life is like. Or that we parents are so mean. Or too strict. (I am right now getting texts from my true teen, telling me how unfair regulations on her wifi time is, and that NO OTHER PARENT in the realm of this universe does that.)

Sometimes, I.NEED. A. BREAK.

Here is where it would be normal, as they bicker over computer usage, brow gel and who took what out of whose room without permission, to call my mother. To get that wiser older motherly loving advice. The kind that breathes a sigh of relief all over me, as I foresee a weekend at grandma’s for them. As I sleep (catch up on laundry), have a date night (catch up on the DVR’d shows), or have some time to myself (catch up on netflix).

But, I can’t call anyone up. No one is at the end of a text. No contact in my phone is listed as “Mum”. My mum has passed on. She has been gone for a very long time. In fact, she didn’t even see ME as a teen.

So I begrudgingly reconnect the wifi and settle the naked makeup palette dispute, and assure my drama queen of a strong willed girl that there are MANY mothers out there just as mean as me, and one day she too will be shutting wifi off herself. Of course, she tells me that she will never be doing that because she knows all too well how it feels and how important it is to contact important people. Oh Caitlin, if only you knew.

My important person IS my mum. SHE would have assured me I am doing great. She would have no doubt taken her grandchildren, the oldest of whom is only 4 years younger than she was when she left this world. I know she would have. She would have done this so I could not lose my patience. So I could remember all the cute baby things. Remember the laughs and smiles and frequent hugs and kisses, and returned to my girls refreshed. Or, at least have a few piles of laundry washed and be up to date on Grey’s Anatomy. So I could MISS them.

Instead, I pour myself a glass of wine, and I miss her.

I.MOTHER.ON.  I have to.

I have NO choice. I mother alone. There IS no one but me for this. There is NO ONE to pick up the slack.

So, I.TAKE.A.BREATH

Sometimes it feels like my patience and sanity held hands, and ran away. Sometimes it gets too hard understanding teenagers. Both in a humourous way, and in a generational gap sort of way! I personally think this happened somewhere between the overplaying of “Juju on that beat”, the social trending of the Kardashian/Jenner sisters, and the delivery to my door of a package, for my daughter, that included butt enhancement cream and her first pair of spanx. *Note to self, and parents like me: Buy store specific gift cards! Do not leave your child to the wonders and splendours of online ordering with plain old Amazon or Visa cards.  

 

Parenting teens has opened my eyes to what I think I could have been like under “normal” childhood circumstances. Growing up without a mother is unlike any of the experiences that my other friends shared. I was the receiver of hand me downs from boys. The girl with the dad-given haircut. I was both under-parented and naive, and yet simultaneously mature and thoughtful for my age. I missed out on many things and grew up way too fast. I try to avoid this happening to my own children. I never wanted for them to lose this period of “freedom” they are in, where they do not feel they HAVE to take on every household chore, or be absolutely independent, and make ALL of their own decisions.  I feel this is a brilliant and selfless thing for me to do! I mean, what teen doesn’t want their mother to continue to do their laundry, and call the doctor for them, or tell them what to do and advise them in every situation? It is not only selfless of me, but I realised along the way it was dumb of me. It was a mistake in my parenting choices. I see that in hindsight, and where I, maybe, left them some of my own naivety. Especially with my oldest, whom I didn’t want to see struggle with the burdens that I had to shoulder at her age. I got better by the second child. My guess is my hypothetical 3rd, 4th and 5th children would have been utterly amazing!  Not that my two are not. I just would have been better.

Still, I have learned to rethink what I am doing. To not only consider WHAT I would like to see in my daughters, but what I  would have liked to have seen in me at that age. I think about what I feel “normal” mothers would have done, and what I missed out on. Often this leaves me having to say I’m sorry. Usually, that apology is to MYSELF. I did not get to grow up in a typical home, so I am not going to parent in a typical form. I need to accept that. I need to forgive myself. I need to keep learning. I do not want my girls to think that if you make a mistake, or choose a style of parenting/discipline/path that is not “in”, or not “normal”, that you are somehow not a vital part of this world. That you are not “normal”.  I am. They are. We are.

The best thing I have found I can do for myself is to go on, mother on. Accept the challenge that has befallen me, and rise to it. I also like to keep what little I have of my own mum, very present. Aside from her name tattooed on my wrist, and the one picture I have of her framed, my girls are both very aware of who she is to me. Of what their grandmother is to them. I keep her present. My youngest daughter has even told me she would use that name as a middle name for any future daughter she would have.

 

Someone does not need to be around, for them to be known. She, too, goes on, mother’s on. 

If you find yourself in the midst of Mothering On. In going on without your own mother around, or parenting without help, I invite you to join my new community, where we can share stories, and be compassionate towards our tribe, as we struggle through this together. Whatever your own personal story is.

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For the Love of 2016

I had an amazing year last year, so far as the beautiful clients and weddings I was honoured to capture! Here are some of my most favourite images from the beautiful wedding season I had, as well as some fun family, and special maternity images! THANK YOU to all of my new and returning clients for giving me fabulous year in photographs. I look forward to serving more of you this year!

Losing My Voice

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Facebook is pointedly asking me whats on my mind, as usual. A small and expected prompt on a platform I use daily. On twitter, less frequently used, but similarly followed, I am being suggested to “follow” the new president, and other political figures that both stand with him, and oppose him. I am grateful to see that I am not boxed into a “side”. I have been silencing myself during alot of the conflict and arguments that I am reading daily via social media, and have been silent, not just during this most recent US election, but during the Brexit vote, the Scottish Independence vote, and the previous US election. Out of fear of conflict. So I didn’t speak up. I didn’t use my voice. My oldest daughter had her first voting privilege during the election when Obama became president. A right I wanted her to be aware, was fought hard for her, and something that women in some countries were still fighting for up till 2015 (Saudi Arabia), and even today, women in the Vatican City cannot vote. (It is my understanding that some men cannot vote there also.) I make both of my children aware that they are from two vastly different cultures, but are incredibly lucky that both a free countries, and have wonderful diversities (usually) that many other countries do not have.
So, I have remained silent during everything Im seeing, and during times where I am seeing friends being mocked, attacked verbally by both “friends” and strangers simply for having an opinion that is different, or not popular. For my silence, I am sorry. I feel like it almost leant an opinion that I wasn’t interested, or compassionate or acknowledging. I was. I was silent when I feel slighted myself as a woman, when I hear people cry and hurting from policies and agendas that hurt them, and even though I am in agreement with those hurting, and have empathy towards pain, I am silent, because being called names hurts, because somehow this is the fault of people “like” me. My silence is deafening to me now. “People like me” is such a shallow sentence that holds no truth to what my heart actually feels. I feel my silence has people not actually KNOW who I am, so I cant be silent, I want you to know that there are many people like me, who are not like you, but who stand with you.
Yes, I am white, and Christian, and raising two blonde haired daughters, and gratefully realize these girls will never personally feel the hurt that many of my friends feel. Nor the persecution, nor have to ask permissions to do things or marry someone they love, or have trouble getting in and out of this country. Or worry what will happen during a roadside stop for speeding. I have amazing friends of colour, and different races, or mixed races, and I wont personally go through the same kind of pain and worry they do, but I KNOW how they feel. I am HURTING for them. I do NOT feel they are treated fairly, or that their lives are somehow less valuable than my own. I am aware there is much mistreatment, bullying and segregation even to this day of people who do not look like me, act like me, or believe like me. I cry with them. I know many people who are gay, some transgender, some even closer to me than other people know, and I hurt when I see them struggle, with insurance, with adoption or being made to feel unworthy, or evil. I see may injustices towards women, and their equality in this supposedly free land. There is hate and divisiveness all around me and PEOPLE LIKE ME see it. I see it, I feel it and I detest it with all of my heart.
Im Christian, like I said. This faith has helped me get through some of the roughest pain and times in my life, and given me hope when I had none. I am Christian, yet most of my family are not. Many of my friends are not. Yet I do not hold those differences in faith in any way against who they are or how much they mean to me, or how I love them. There are many assumptions of what being Christian must mean I am, but I do not think you truly know my heart then, if you feel that being who I AM, means I despise certain people, or groups, that I am intolerant, ignorant, against your rights and freedoms, “holier than thou” in my actions or deeds. That Im submissive and backwards and against the feminist marches or “liberals”, and perhaps even marching against some of you myself, in protest and/or calling you “sinners”. THAT IS NOT ME. It DOES mean that I am struggling, learning, open minded and tolerant. That I am TRYING to understand, and support you where I can. I am growing, and still have room to grow. I am open to listening to you also. It means reaching out, it means helping, it means doing the right thing, it means loving all others like I am loved. The God I know is the example of loving. Loving and just, and spent time with people NOT like Him, not the perfect people, not only the Christians, not the wealthy, not the able bodied, not the religious only, not the people you think Jesus should have spent time with. Jesus died for ALL of us, even the ones you don’t like, even the ones I don’t like, even the ones who DO NOT LIKE ME. One of my favourite quotes from the bible is found in 1 Peter, 4:8-9 ~ “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
I cant think of a BETTER passage to lean on, especially with all of the immigration and refugee fear that is casting so much HATE and un-acceptance into this world.
I am an immigrant. I came over legally from Scotland, in my twenties, not as a refugee, not seeking asylum, but as a married women and young mum, doing what I had to do for my new family. 14 years after that day, I got divorced and I stayed. Labeled a “legal alien” with a green card because I paid taxes, worked hard, and raised my family dutifully as a military spouse, yet I understandably kept immense love and devotion for my birth land. Sadly I have not had the chance to return home to Scotland, and am homesick every day. Many things have changed since I last lived there, many things have changed here. I have changed too! I am not naive to that. Both are home, yet in many ways I feel like an outcast in both. I have since lost my ability to vote overseas absentee, and as a non-citizen here, cannot yet vote. Now I am at the point where either renewing my passport is my choice, or applying for citizenship. I love America, I love the United Kingdom. I am unpopular Im sure amongst many when I say I love the monarchy. I love the history of my country of birth. I cherish every square sausage eating inch of my Scottish life. Clearly there is much more to my amazing country than a different shaped sausage, and I was very lucky to grow up into womanhood in a place so culture filled and diverse, where women stood out as leaders despite odds, and successfully ruled and even had entire eras named after them. Ive seen castles and heather covered hills, beautiful fog covered lochs and even glimpsed Nessie. (Aye, I have 🙂 ), and yet I am also very lucky to be living in America, where I started a business and see beautiful landscapes, and have lived on the Hawaiian islands and visited the Alamo, and Tombstone, The White House, and seen the beauty of the desert, and the great lakes. I believe this world came ALIVE with immigrants, and the beauty of the lands, and the arts, and the inventions we take for granted, and the families we have or know or are inspired by are all due to acceptance, inclusion, welcoming hands and friendships. Not divisiveness, prejudice, hate or disrespect.
I am so lucky to have been inspired my whole life by women, wether we love them or not, I have grown up seeing and hearing about inspiring go-getters who overcame odds and challenges and made HUGE differences that would have seriously changed the world negatively had they not been the fierce and bold women they were. Women in the past like Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, Joan of Arc, Anne Frank, Florence Nightingale, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Mirabai, Sojourner Truth, Jackie Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and more. I grew up seeing Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher, Elizabeth II, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Hodgekin, Indira Gandhi, Laura Bush, Oprah, J.K. Rowling, Michelle Obama, Ellen DeGeneres, Malala Yousafzai, Ivanka Trump, Cindy McCain and MORE continue those types of legacies. All of these ladies, fearless and unique, are women and leaders who make me want to raise women just like them. Yet, now the rights of my daughters, concerning their heath and choices, and the ability to be paid for their greatness, are potentially under attack, and just because I, and PEOPLE LIKE ME, have traditional values in how I treat people, and want men to treat me, does NOT mean I stand against the empowerment of my daughters, myself, my female friends or the millions of women I do not know but have a heart filled with hope for.
I even, have hope for the president. Why? I choose to. In no way do I endorse either of the final two candidates wholeheartedly, however I am a believer in hope. I stand for hope. I stand for the power of prayer. I stand for the ability to get up and make a difference. I stand for the rights to grow, and be forgiven. I stand for our differences and our similarities, and I stand with YOU, reading this, even if you stand against me. I stand for the men and women around the world giving up their daily lives FIGHTING AND DYING for us to continue to have these beautiful people in our past, our midst now, and our future. Even if those future leaders are, like my own 15 and 22 year olds, are currently struggling over crushes, studying, eyebrow perfection and what to wear, and where to go with their lives, and how to have a voice themselves. I do all of this, not as silently any more, because I do NOT want to lose the voice I have, the passion I contain, and the love I want to give to others. Therefore I chose to hope for the new leader too. I do not take freedom and personal liberties for granted in ANY way, nor do I ever, or have I ever, thought that MY rights and desires were more important than yours, you who are not JUST LIKE ME. I care about you for YOU. Exactly because you are different from me. That is who I am, that is how I am raising my girls, and that is what my heart and God and plain old (well, not THAT old) conscience tells me to do. We are ALL destined for greatness, and I feel it has to be done holding hands and raising awareness and increasing tolerance and acceptance, and reaching out to our neighbours, even when we are different. Even when we are scared. Even when we face opposition.
Posting this may see me have backlash and a few less friendships, or it may make me seem silly and “rant” like. I may find myself with comments that are hurtful or negative. Im okay with whatever happens with this post, because I am fearlessly going to be myself, and wether I will now stand alone or surrounded, will always want to fight and SHOUT about fairness, peace, love, God, joy, hope and acceptance.

Friday Wine Night: What’s my name again?

My Friday wine night posts are meant to be a way to open up about me personally. Something that I in all honesty have not been very good at. The typical girly thoughts of judgement, over sharing, fallout, and general “what will people think of me” fears have halted ALOT of what Ive wanted to say! In fact I’ve pulled posts down! However for this new year, I want to finally take my journey in a new direction. I am old enough FINALLY to understand who I am and what I want. I am the first to admit there is always going to be room for growth, but at least I am owning who I am.

Who am I? Well, thats a long complicated story, and something that for most people usually starts with a name. My mum died when I was very young, and we (my sister and I) lived with her when she passed. She had divorced my father. She was actually engaged to someone else. Getting ready to have a new name herself. I was born with a very simple and plain, in MY opinion, name. My name was Debbie Smith. A Basic name if ever there was a name! I apologize to ALL of the Debbie Smith’s that are in the world! Im sure you are all lovely and beautiful and unique, but for me, the plain-ness of my name went further. I wasn’t the cutest child. I didn’t have the typical happy home. My dad actually changed his own name for personal reasons, and ours along with it. So I didn’t get to really connect with Smith, or the “new” name. When I married my ex husband, I naturally took his name. Again, it wasn’t really MY name but I WAS married. When that marriage ended after 13 years, I though diligently about what to do. I had daughters, and one day they too would marry and their name would be different. The name my dad changed it to legally wasn’t mine (found this out doing background checks for a US visa!) so who was I going to be? On my birth certificate the Debbie and the Smith were completed with my middle name, and my mother’s maiden name. I looked at her name. I could be connected to her still. Laughlan. I liked it.  So, I officially and with all of the paperwork with one small adjustment. I changed the spelling to Laughlin. With an “I”. For ME. It was MINE.  I started my new single mother life, and indeed my business, under my new name. When I married my new husband,  and this sweet man learned all about me, he completely understood why I wanted to hold on to this new me. Why I hyphenated my name, in order to show respect for my marriage. To make life a lot simpler for the dreams I want to do, I am keeping the Debbie Laughlin business, and on social media, dropping the hyphen. Its long, its hard to look up, and I want to be accessible. if the unimaginable happens and I get to write my book (my dream!), that too will be under Debbie Laughlin. My wedding ring, my certificate of marriage, all of our personal bills and household ALL contain my married name (and I LOVE LOVE love my husband and being his wife!), but going forth, all social media and search engines will say just the Laughlin. Im opening up about this because I lost myself before, in relationships. Now that Ive found me again, and more importantly, now that I am APPRECIATED just for being ME, I want to revel in that name too. This photo below is me, with my Dad, who is also a photographer. He is a writer, a poet, and very creative. I certainly get my love of these things from him. Just, now, only our names are different. 11908237_10153252578119132_1484945146_n

Friday Night Wine Nights: Getting to Date 23, date 2, 3 & 4.

dating_quote_4The “type”.

Did I have one?? Some of my friends seemed to think so, and even though I disagreed, since my relationships had been with VERY different people, I heeded advice.
IS this what date 1 was so much not like me at all?? Was a I subconsciously seeking a “type”?
After the cold debacle of my first online experience, I decided to go against type. To look for other “types”, or at the very least, establish a type.
As a society, we label people all the time, so I assumed this could be socially experimental, and offer me a chance to meet people that I wouldn’t normally meet if indeed I had been limiting myself. After all, if God has a plan for me, then wouldn’t my denying the experience of meeting people be my going against a God I love? Yes.
Date 2. The Funny One.
I consider myself to have a funny sense of humor, so maybe since laughing was a trait I wanted, Id read the online profiles to find a hilarious one. I did, and it really truly cracked me UP! He was smart sounding, his intelligence was dry, and sharp. Being from the UK, I fancy myself as a similar type, so I imagined laughs and giggle all night.
The date was set.
The hair was curled.
The outfit ready.
The place found.
The butterflies started.
The date didn’t show.
Not. SO. Funny.
Lesson from this, I can actually get a lot of reading done and don’t mind dining by myself, something I treat myself to now.
Date 3. The Christian.
Faith is a biggie on my list, so it only made sense to seek someone out who was on a similar path.
Again: Date set.
Again: Hair was curled.
Again: Outfit Ready.
Again: Butterflies.
Text after 10 minutes of not so patiently waiting, telling me after considering my profile, he didn’t think we were going to be compatible as he got a sense that I was going to be difficult to date having children already.
Well. Wow. Ok. Hey, at least he was honest. Still stung like crazy. I felt weak.
I also finished a really good book.
Date 3. The Nice Guy.
I mean, after all Ive gone through, THIS was someone I needed to meet, and asap before “all the nice ones were gone”. I looked, I “winked” online, I conversed. Mr nice likes kids, seemed polite, could spell, and had everything interesting to discuss. No mention of faith but thats private to many, and he wasn’t on the mission i was after all.
He also showed up. Well, he IS nice. We stayed there having a beer, laughing, talking, and before you knew it, 3 hours passed. He even put this as his status on social media after, how nice it was to not realize 3 hours passed. Sweet. NICE. Sad thing is, we were actually compatible friends in the making. I knew I wanted to retain a friend here, and in fact he became my daughters soccer coach, and we hung out an an ODU game, and he attends my church now. He is really nice. I hope he finds someone equally as nice.
And yes, he knew about this blog 🙂

Friday Night Wine Nights: Getting to date 23

I am starting this getting to know me section so that friends, family and clients can read about my journey so far, to understand who I am, why I love what I do, why Im excited to do more, and how it feels to walk a little through the roller coaster of a life Ive led up until now. Im going to be blunt. Open. Honest. Real. DebbieLaughlinPhotography-Debbie-1

On November 1st I will be turning 40. An incredible milestone by my standard, after holding a fear for a long time that I will pass on early, like my mum sadly did.
Looking forward to what my new “era” will hold, I will be blogging new experiences Im going to try, setting little life goals and business goals, chasing a dream of book writing, and hoping to grow older more gracefully than fearfully.
Part of who I am came after my divorce, 8 years ago, when I finally finally found myself, or found MOST of myself! Realizing who I was, where I was going and what I wanted were GIANT steps to gaining the confidence to plow full steam ahead as a single mum, running a home based business. A giant part of that, was dating. I had one beautifully broken long term relationship after my marriage ended, and quite honestly, it was my first heartbreak. It took a long time to get past that, and when I did, I did what I never in my dreams imagined I would ever do.
I WENT ON 23 FIRST DATES
With different people. Most from online dating websites. I know I know… there are a lot of crazies out there. Trust me, Ive met many crazies in person too, however I wanted to be happy. I wanted to be in love. I wanted a romantic movie in my real life, and once I decided to begin, I was ready.
The hardest thing about dating was creating my profile.
Selfies were not big back then, and recent images of myself were not flattering, because when you are in a relationship, you tend to get comfortable and just forget the rest. I pulled a variety of semi decent shots from my not so smart phone, and even some from myspace, see? I told you it was BACK WHEN… None really looked like I did now, some looked like how I wished I still looked, and some looked like the me I wanted to forget.

View More: http://elizabethhensonphotos.pass.us/eastbeachbabesDeciding on a few images, I then wrote what I wanted. This part was easy. I knew what I didn’t want, and wrote that. I literally wrote I didn’t want one night stands, casual flings, young boys, non-christians and people who didn’t like children. I also stated I was open to them having children. After all, most single men my age were probably in the same stage of life I was. Right? I also said I was starting the journey to find a real relationship. On the dating website I wrote that! Why waste time? Time was precious. I didn’t want to date people interested in not being a consideration for a relationship. I was determined to say the least.
Boy did I get some responses. Both in favour of my honesty and bluntness. Some out and out calling me a bitch. Some sending lewd suggestions imagining they could sway me into one of the aforementioned casual nights. I wont go into all of the details, and I wont mention any names, since in my head, to keep a straight head on myself, I gave them names of my own.
Date 1. The “cold” date.
I love tattoos, I have 9 now, all little, but 9 none the less. SO I was thrilled when a seemingly nice young (old enough to date me!) man chatted using proper grammar and asked me to happy hour for a cocktail and a bit of a chat. I agreed. I dressed up, then thinking it was too much, dressed down. Then realizing my pi’s were not a good first impression, dressed back up a little, to a church friendly non provocative jeans and casual top ensemble that left no signs of cleavage and a pile of discarded clothing in my trail.
We met a a busy bar in a well lit area, can of spray mace in bag beside me. I was ready.
He was outside waiting, dressed in not so great a first impression “Even your mom thinks Im hot” tee-shirt. Maybe he was being funny? I let it slide. He shakes my hand then one arm awkward hugs me. The smell of fries and other food stuff tempting me to eat, when I had on purpose not eaten in an attempt to squeeze into the last years skinny jeans. Mistake on my part.
We walked in, ordered a drink. Wine, kept it simple, bought my own too. Another precaution of mine.
We actually talked about the weather, and he admitted his mother got the shirt. I laughed. I would do that to a son probably too. Well, ok, maybe not THAT tee shirt.
Then he said he had ran late because he got a new tattoo, and asked if I would like to see it. So of course, he had big arms and who wouldn’t want to see nice arms. At least, I assumed it would be his arms.
Date 1 pre-ceeded to not so casually pull out his male member and put said member on stool, and asked what I thought.
????????????????????????????????????
“Are you cold?”, I asked.
He didn’t find that nearly as funny as I did.
End date.

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Investing In Me | The Abbey Kyhl Evolving Workshop, Virginia

Imagine my favorite photographer/business owning/mother, whom Ive followed for a long time, who inspires me, and writes blogs to encourage, shoots incredible images, teaches other photographers the fine art of balance…are you imagining? Then, imagine her here. In my present home town, after MY husband picked her up at the airport, and finally imagine MY excitement, at getting to spend two overwhelmingly amazing days in her company, and her assistant Jacki, as well as in the company of some equally eager-to-learn photographers, and you have imagined my experience at the AK Crew workshop, Virginia, hosted and run by Abbey Kyhl.
Last month I spent the days counting down until I was sitting in my chair, incredulously looking at how NORMAL she looked! LOL. She was real. She was here. And she brought to me the hands down best experience in workshop form that i have EVER been to, without a doubt the best investment I have made for my business growth, and I will even say that quite honestly I grew personally.

As she talked about how I can take back control of my time, return to a life of planned FREE TIME, of being a better wife and mother and friend, I became emotional. I was hearing someone tell me, and encourage me, to be the woman I am FIRST, to make myLIFE my passion, and not my business, and that I would STILL be able to provide amazing client experience to the business I love so so very much! She made it okay that business should not be your passion, if it was, you would put it before absolutely everything that you already had going on within your life, and forget about some important things, some special family time, or some other memory because you felt somehow that your business would fail if it didn’t get 100% of the best part of you. I was making it 100% priority, and taking on so much, that I was neglecting even more.

Now, I LOVE LOVE what I do. Being there for the most important events in people’s lives is an honor, an honor. I get excited by new shoots, seeing the final images, looking at the canvases and prints chosen by my clients. However, Abbey was right, my life should be, and IS, my passion!

I do NOT have enough space to cover exactly how inspired I was, and all that we covered from business systems to social media, to even un-friending people on Facebook, and the freedom you would have to enjoy life again, and still maintain a successful small business. I am so ready to begin implementing all of the things I learned, and I have already begun. Re-branding is underway, forming stronger client interaction has begun, and deciding what my specialties shall be is next. I am so ready to bring you the next chapter of Debbie Laughlin Photography, so ready to bring my family and best friends a whole new refreshed Debbie.

If you are a photographer, I strongly encourage you to join the AK Crew and look into these workshops! I am not exaggerating when I say it WILL change you!

Abbey – THANK YOU so very very much, for bringing your knowledge to us, for making sense, for supporting us even now after the workshop. I cannot wait for the next one…

Enjoy the following images from the styled shoot portion of the workshop, styled by some amazing vendors!!!

Planning, Design + Styling Michelle Amarillo Event Planning | Florals + Styling Studio Posy | Dress Maya Couture | Stationary The Girl Tyler | Makeup Beauty + Baubles | Hair High Voltage Hair by Crystal Casey

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