In Love | Friday Wine Night -personal

In the 41 years that I’ve been lucky enough to be around to tell my life stories, I’ve never had such a roller coaster adventure (besides parenthood!), since I first started online dating just over 4 years ago. I relived a few of these interesting life highlights in my “Getting to date 23” blog posts, but I am not sure I reiterated quite enough just how grateful I am for the 23rd date! That of course, was my husband, Aaron.

We “met” via E-Harmony in January 2012. The system that particular site uses has you screen your potential date through closed ended, then open ended questions, which leads to offering up open chats. As a mother, and a woman skeptical in general about what I was seeing online, this seemed perfectly acceptable and safe to me! I remember the first picture of Aaron to pop up in my daily feed. he had THE biggest smile ever!!!! Atop his head was a little beanie, he had this little beard, and he looked adorable! I was happy when we started communicating, though he said a couple of things I still tease him about! It seemed though that he was blowing me off! I am all for meaningful conversations and getting to know you, but relationships can’t be deepened online, we had to meet. I finally decided I’d say something about this, being the straightforward woman I am. I said he seemed far too busy and I was interested spending quality time with someone. I assumed this would chase him away for my being too bold, instead he immediately asked me out for Saturday. By this point in my social life I was down to a coffee, a glass of wine, or a hot cocoa type date. Chat, sip and run was how named them in my head. Aaron however insisted we were going ice-skating. I reluctantly agreed, fearing making a fool of myself, and the fact that I couldn’t just bolt if I wanted to!

My fears diminished when a few hours into the date and one sore fall later we were having the best time. Neither of us wanted it to end. We decided to go have some sushi. We got there, it was closed. I was going to leave, and he had to be in D.C. later that evening, but again we decided, “let’s go somewhere else”. We chased down the next nearest sushi place. Alas, closed again. Was this fate? A sign? I knew of one near my home, but out of his way, and he happily said he could go! CLOSED. by now it seemed obvious that the sushi gods were against us spending more time together. We were about to part when we looked up and laughed. Agreeing on Mexican food instead. This time, success. It was open. We talked and laughed and talked and laughed and it was the longest date of my life, in time, but the quickest in terms of the blink of an eye cliche. We had to part. Thankfully he friend requested me on Facebook and after 3 days of making him wait so I could preserve some cool points, we became Facebook friends and he posted a steam of sweet things on my timeline, and his own.

We went on a couple more dates, and talked in between those. I was searching for the “does he like me” signs: a hand hold, a hug, a flirty comment. Nothing. Hmm. I should make sure he knew I liked him, but that if he was friend zoning me, the dates had to end! On Valentines day of 2012, I was at lunch with my daughters, and a waiter wanted my number. I declined. So he kept our bill to the amusement of the girls. I had a date with Aaron later, and wanted it to take a turn towards actual dating…but hadn’t fessed up to my kids that I was seeing someone. Well, POTENTIALLY. I didn’t let them into my dating stories till that point (with one exception), but I had to break this rule when my youngest wrote down all of my personal information on a napkin (pretty much everything from height and what she thought I weighed, to email address and physical address!), so I explained about Aaron. The revelation was met with curiosity and excitement. They asked what the plans were: horror movie and dinner. They are like me, and understand that horror movie is romantic in the un-obvious ways, and would be less crowded than the latest Nicholas Sparks film also showing.

Tonight I was seeing for sure if Aaron had romantically inclinations and intent towards where we were headed. I put on nice lipstick (make him think about kissing), a nice shirt ( a date like shirt, not a church shirt ) and sprayed my GOOD perfume. I was set.

The date as usual was fun, it was playful, it was FRIENDLY. I HAD to be just a friend to him, even though it was Valentine’s day. There was still hope. The movie would surely intake some snuggles, or a hand holding opportunity. And did it? Nope. Once I THOUGH i saw him try to reach for me, and hesitate. Then reach again, only to grab popcorn. It was truly lovely popcorn but HELLO, here I was giving all of the most ladylike indications that I was dateable, kissable, and interested. My head was becoming stubborn and defiant and I was telling myself that it was ok. I could be his friend and that this was the LAST “date” he would be getting. I almost saw my own head shake back and forth and a mental finger wave like a Tyler Perry character.

Outside, ah. God painted a pretty winter and magic night. Snow was softly falling. The cinema was in a pretty lamppost and twinkle light lit patio area that looked like a scene from Bridget Jones diary. God was setting the tone for a romantic good-bye. Could Aaron be so oblivious?! (I know, Im a girl).  Well, here we were. End of the date. Its been 2 months of build up and 4 lengthy dates that had been promising, if platonic. He leans in, I pause dramatically and look up, and I am presented with a hug. And a one armed hug at that. I was dismayed. I was annoyed. I was sad. I was incredulous!

I walk away. He says good night.  I keep walking. All the while telling myself it was ok, it wasn’t me, it just wasn’t meant to be. I look back. I don’t know why I did. I am however glad I did. Because he was standing there in the snow looking at me. Whatever came over me next was what I can only describe as Kate Winslet did in The Holiday,a s gumption. I walked. No, I marched over to him, and looked at him and said “Sorry, but I have to”. And I kissed the boy. The girl went for it. I made the first move that I told myself Id never do. It was a mere half a second before his arms went around me and he kissed me back, and right then I knew there was NO way we were just friends! It was THE.Best. Kiss. Ever.

He looked so happy, that big smile shining under the lights, and he said he was glad I did it, because he had been too nervous and didn’t want to spoil it!!! I now know him well enough to know that even my most blatant statements still don’t, to him, seem as obvious as they are to me. But in that moment, it was alright. There was a connection. there was a spark with the Nicholas. There was, well, magic.

Needless to say it only got better. One year later exactly, (minus one day) 2/13/13, we were at our church having a very small intimate exchange of vows with some very important witnesses, and in October of 2013, we celebrated a wedding with family and friends. The one with cake the dress the dancing the fun. I get to celebrate BOTh days. Our anniversary, today. And our wed-iversary, in October. With a Valentine’s day thrown in there too.

And, we still kiss under that lamp every single time we pass it by.

Happy 3rd Anniversary Aaron!!!!

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Photo courtesy of Tiffany Joyce Photography

I’ve learned from 2015

It’s Hogmanay, New Year’s Eve, the last day of the current year, and I sit here with a list of resolutions, swayed not by the common pitchfork attitude of how awful the “new year, new me” community is, and instead I vow to myself to keep trying. To try HARDER. These resolutions are not ways to revamp my whole life, or completely change. They are meant to be encouraging, thankful that we are given fresh starts. We get the blessing to wake up at least one more time, so why NOT serve to do better?

2015 started for me with a sense of finding my new growth. To move forward and to be the new best Debbie I could possibly be. I still stick with that resolution. I wont feel badly that I didn’t complete my master task of self promises for this year, and instead I will look at what I DID accomplish, and not what I didn’t check off.

Ive learned its okay if I don’t mark off everything on my daily to-do lists. Life will go on anyway. Its okay that I don’t have a 6 pack of beautiful abs, I am healthy, and worked out, and tried. I adjust the safe zones of where my adorable husband can hug me, and I still (as does he) think Im okay looking the way I do. Its okay that I didn’t win glorious awards and photographic accolades, because my clients smiled when they received their images, and referred me to their friends and family members, which is what I do this for anyway. Its okay that I struggled in motherhood. Each year brings fresh challenges with no guidebook and I have to wing things, and fight my way through them, often without achieving what I wanted to do, sometimes with tears, and (more than I wanted to), with some yelling and fights. However my girls were loved, taken care of, fed, clothed and encouraged. Ive also sadly lost some friendships that I cared deeply about, and that has to be okay too, even though its painful, for I really have to accept the seasons of the relationships that enter my life.  God has placed new people in my life who not only come with a friendship, but have opened my eyes to new dreams, new paths, and showed me you are never too old to start something new. Ive learned that I can’t go forward while looking back. I want to grow. I want my personal life, my home base AND my business all to evolve. Ive taken the steps to do that: partnered with one amazing team, to encourage other female boss ladies as part of the Modern Femme Conference; enrolled in the Master’s AKademy with my ever motivating mentor, Abbey Kyhl   and I cannot wait for this multi week long learning and advancement process, unlike ANY other mentoring experience Ive attended. I have writing classes now, to long fulfill my ultimate dream of writing a book! I am beyond excited to have actually sat down and created a writing plan and time to actually do this, and explore my creative outlets, and one way to help was actually having OFFICE SPACE!!! This alone is a huge dream! Along those lines, I also started a small homemade gift business, creating mugs and stamping jewelry. Not to be a million dollar business but without doubt a craft I want to grow! I have served more this year than any other year of my life, and this is something I want to invest more of my time into. I believe we can make a better world by being better people. I want to be kept humble because I know it could be worse, and I want to be thankful, because Ive known worse. One way I can do this, is with being accepted as a Magic Hour Photographer and my signing up for next years Dressember and Feed Supper, both supporting causes I am wanting to help more. debbielaughlinphotography-MyFamily-3debbielaughlinphotography-xmasheadshot-1debbielaughlinphotography-MeandAaron-111debbielaughlinphotography-redandwolf-3 copydebbielaughlinphotography-Holiday-161977780_10153880167730323_824875718_o

I know there will be many changes in my life this year. There always are changes. I have a lot to look forward too, and a lot that probably wont get done, and thats okay too. First to change will be this blog. No longer wanting to be boxed into ONLY a photographer, I want to use this great tool as an online journal of sorts, to map out and plan and replay the adventures that happen to me in parenting teens and college kids, my writing journey, the conference with MFM, my photography and also my personal journey as a woman in her 40’s finally accepting that beautifully broken is her own sweet kind of perfect! HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016!!!

The hard stuff, from a seasoned mother. Part 1.

When I was a child and I drew pictures with my sister depicting my future wedding, husband and children, they were picture perfect. If there was a slip of the crayon, or a smudge or smear to damage my future life, I erased the image and started over. I am a brunette, yet  I drew blondes. Except the mystery husband to be. He was tall, dark haired and oh so handsome (though slightly resembling George Michael). Fast forward 20 years, and let me just tell you straight away, besides stating the obvious that I didnt marry George, you cant just rip out a page and start over ever time life makes a smudge on your family.

I told you Id be honest in this series. Right from the get-go of parenthood for me, my proverbial crayon slipped. I gave birth younger than I “dreamed” at 20, to a very premature baby, born with gastroschisis. Gastroschisis is a birth defect of the abdominal (belly) wall. The baby’s intestines stick outside of the baby’s body, through a hole beside the belly button. The hole can be small or large and sometimes other organs, such as the stomach and liver, can also stick outside of the baby’s body. Immediately I aged in maturity 20 years. Having lost my mum when I was very young, I really didnt have guidelines or counsel when it came to this, so trial and many, many an error gave way to a somewhat regular pattern. Two surgeries within 18 months corrected the defect itself though Lauren doesnt have a belly button, a fact that doesnt bother her, and I feel like I got through a tough time and earned some sort of invisible kick-ass mummy award.

Crayon slippings continued throughout my new mum years, as a navy wife to my ex husband, life became tough. I was living in America, and very homesick. One baby more (blessedly healthy) and a divorce later, I found that I was in a oh-no-Im-a-single-mother-what-the-heck-will-I-do status. Except, that wasnt a social media status. I had to put that as “divorced”, but it may as well have been ostracized, because thats what I felt like at times.

To say I was on the ramen noodle diet was putting it mildly. However, I did survive. So did my girls. Who, sidenote, DID turn out to be those picture perfect blondes I was drawing about.

Life, well, it can be very hard. Big hard and little hard and all kind of hard stuff in between. You protect your children yes, naturally, as people do when they become responsible 24/7 for another human being.

So I think that the lesson Ive most learned from the hard stuff in my life, the stuff not like the pretty pictures I drew, is that Im preparing these “babies” to be strong. In hardships. To show them and explain to them that it IS hard. Its not all puppies and play dates and bubble guppies and pony tails. And as hard as it is for some new mothers to accept when they are in the beautiful bask of newborn love and adoration: one day, they WILL leave our homes. They will be out there, potentially facing life outside a perfectly coloured page. So we have to be open about hardship. Transparent about mistakes. Sincere about life and her lessons. Most importantly, encouraging them to not let these things close their little hearts off to the sunshine and flowers that come after the mistakes. To hang onto hope that these things lead to better things. Rascal Flatts say it best “God blessed the broken road..”. So I feel that its up to me to teach them how to navigate a broken path, without Dora and her map. Instead, with faith, God, and a cell phone to mum!

Exactly HOW?? Well, I will share my experience with that in part 2.

Lauren at Day 3 when I first got to hold her.
Lauren at Day 3 when I first got to hold her.
Lauren (19) and Caitlin (12), my blondes
Lauren (19) and Caitlin (12), my blondes

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My New Year Resolve…my new word for the year too..

Ive been trying to think of the word to be encouraged by, for the whole year. Just one word, to motivate and excite me, to overcome things with, to challenge myself with, and to hopefully all around make me a better person. After all, with each new year comes new resolutions and promises to oneself about the “New You”. I however, have spent the past 5 years learning to love the old me. And you know what, Ive decided Im not so bad afterall! I have met challenges, had my heart broken, single parented my way through a bevvy of draining and rewarding parent-trocities and really learned to trust more in myself and faith. It worked for me. I got through it. I even got a “happy ending”, by marrying someone who treats me like a princess!

So, rather than find a new me, Id like to keep bettering the REAL me. To hone my photography craft to the next level, to take my business to new markets, to be a better mother, a more patient person, a better friend, a deeper Christian and a more content Debbie. My word is Refine.

v. re·finedre·fin·ingre·fines
 verb \ri-ˈfīn\

: to remove the unwanted substances in (something)

: to improve (something) by making small changes

v.tr.

1. To reduce to a pure state; purify.
2. To remove by purifying.
3. To free from coarse, unsuitable, or immoral characteristics: refined his manners; refined her speaking style.
v.intr.

1. To become free of impurities.
2. To acquire polish or elegance.
3. To use precise distinctions and subtlety in thought or speech
This will guide me in all areas of my life. Not just personal. Not just photography. Not just in faith. Because Im not just ONE of these things. Im ALL of them.
I have grown sadly accustomed to comparing myself personally and professionally to those around me who, on facebook anyway, certainly appear to have it all together. However, I know there was life before Facebook, and while I commend these people for having such a great outlook and command over a mulitude of things, I am “old enough to know better” and see beyond a social media status to accept its not all bubbles and kittens.
I also resolve to start a blog, a series of 4 or 5, on being a seasoned mum. Baby balancing in a chaotic life is crazy enough, and focus tends to be on actual important physical needs. However, our offspring do not remain cute energetic toddlers and infants forever and I know there are mothers,, and fathers, like me out in the http://www.com universe who may learn from, or commiserate with, some of the challenges us hard working (in all senses of that word) mothers of children/teens/young adults face, that we cant get past with a visit to Toys R Us. First blog will be posted tomorrow, and I hope you come back to read, with totally honesty, how it is for this business owning mother of two, and step mother to one, deals with the challenges of blending families, juggling personalities and maintaining control of her sanity, all while being a great wife and whole person!