I could write volumes about the highs (trips, time with family, creative pursuits...) and lows (basically any and everything having to do with our ridiculous current presidential administration) of this year, but instead I'll just leave you with these: some of my favorite images from some of my favorite shoots and adventures over the course of 2017.
There is something quite magical about photographing artists in their element, doing what they love. Documenting their process, seeing their tools, getting a glimpse into the creative forces that drive them - is it mesmerizing and inspiring all at once. My experience with Bailey - a mosaic artist who works at her in-home studio - was no exception. Here are a few of my favorite images from my visit with this talented woman.
It's no secret that parenting is all about finding balance: Letting your kids unleash their full creative energy while keeping your house from getting destroyed. Encouraging your kids to play freely while keeping them from hurting themselves. Letting them learn from their mistakes yet intervening to help them make good choices.
The true beauty of the newly-reopened and expanded Minnesota Children's Museum is that it reconciles these paradigms. Getting messy isn't an issue - it's encouraged. The play structures and activities are safe and - even with my avid climbers - there is little chance of injury. Opportunities to make discoveries on their own abound.
The museum understands that kids need the chance to JUST PLAY. Something children and their parents can all use a little more of.
EDITOR'S NOTE: November, 2016 rocked my world unlike any other month of any other year in recent memory. The election of Donald Trump was a game-changer - the sort of devastating, earth-shattering event that puts everything else into perspective and forever marks periods of time as "before" and "after." As such, this project stopped after 13 days. Stopped because it felt trivial and meaningless in the grand scheme of things. It stopped because I stopped - stopped my desire to create, stopped by ability to not be utterly depressed about the state of our nation.
For a long time, I simply hid this post; it served as too raw a reminder of how painful that period of time was. But as I look back at the images now, I see beauty and hope in them. Hope I was able to find even then. Albeit unfinished, the project seems to have served some small purpose and for that, it's hard not to be grateful.
November to me is a month of warmth. Not warm in the way August is hot and sticky or the way May is balmy and breezy. It is about a sense of home and nostalgia and peacefulness that make you feel warm and fuzzy no matter the chill in the air or the darkness of the long nights. It is cozy blankets and hot beverages sipped out of oversized mugs. It is glowing fireplaces and the heart-filling laughter of family and friends. It is food that sticks to your ribs and booze that warms your belly. And most of all, it is slowing down and pausing for moments of introspection and gratitude.
For the next 30 days, I plan to offer up thanks for the things in my life - big and small, material and intangible - that fulfill me in some way. And to do so in the best manner I know how: through images.
I'm thankful for kids who are finally starting to realize they are better playmates than adversaries. Also, Julian just discovered he can lift Nora up and they both think it's pretty cool.
I am grateful for our garden. For the bounty of vegetables it produces. For the time it forces us to spend outdoors. For the fertile soil and access to clean water which allow us to grow healthy food. I am thankful that - by participating in the growing, nurturing, harvesting, and cooking of these crops - my children have an understanding of where their food comes from and an appreciation for it.
I am very thankful to live in a neighborhood that puts us within walking distance of parks, restaurants, a brewery, a natural foods co-op, friends' houses, and more.
I am thankful for the beautiful weather we have had so far this month. For the chance it has afforded us to spend extra time outside. For the prolonged season of spectacular fall colors and the way the glorious sunshine illuminated this ginkgo tree today.
I am thankful to be surrounded by creative and inspiring people - both those I've known for a while and those I continue to meet throughout the course of my work.
Thankful doesn't even begin to explain how I feel about being this girl's mama. She is independent and strong and she likes playing with tractors and her brother's ninja turtle gear just as much as she does singing to and "mothering" her babydoll. This little powerhouse waited in line for over an hour today and joined me in the (early) voting booth as I cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. The future is female and this one is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
I'm grateful for our dog, Oliver. Our cuddly, stinky, grumpy old man who always seems to know the right time to curl up in my lap. Like today when my election anxiety was at an all-time high and my other methods of coping (stress-eating and blasting hip hop) weren't quite doing the trick.
I am finding it really difficult to find something to be grateful for at this moment on this particular day. Perhaps it's times like this when stopping to look for the proverbial silver lining or giving thanks for the little things matters the most. I can't even begin to process my emotions about this election right now, but I sure do love these little kids of mine, both of whom were very excited to watch the returns tonight and neither of whom made it past 8:30 p.m. Lucky them.
This is not the thankfulness post I had hoped to write on November 9th. Instead of celebrating the historic shattering of glass ceilings and the triumph of love and common decency over hate and exclusion, I am left completely despondent over yesterday's election. I've cried more today than I have in a long time. Like every time I looked at my children's faces and thought about how long 4 YEARS is in the span of their lifetimes.
As this unforgettably painful day came to a close and we sat around the dinner table as a family, this little guy took it upon himself to teach us the sign language he learned at preschool today. The words? PEACE, JOY, HAPPY, and MUSIC. And there we had it: a beautiful moment of light - worthy of immense gratitude - during a dark, dark day.
We could all use a little more light in our lives right now. And Bruce Munro's, "Winter Lights," at the Arboretum was just the thing. I am grateful for the opportunity to preview this impressive art installation.
After having landed myself squarely in the depression stage of [the five stages of] grief and having suffered a migraine all day long, to say that I am grateful to my people for taking care of me would be a huge understatement. My mom - rockstar that she is - played with and read to and cared for the kids all day long. And Andrew ran point on bedtime and cooked us a special dinner AND served it to me in bed. As miserable as today was, it's hard to not feel thankful for having amazing people in my life.
I am thankful to have a plant-filled, light-filled, powerful-woman-filled environment in which to work and create.
I am so grateful to live in a city that celebrates ALL of its inhabitants regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or immigration status.
There are vacations and then there are trips. To me, the former conjures up images of lounging, reading, and drinking cocktails with umbrellas in them. The latter usually involves sight-seeing, activities, and being constantly on the go. I've done plenty of both and have grown to love each. I’m quickly learning that traveling with kids is all about finding the perfect balance between “vacation” and “trip” - keeping them entertained and happy and sneaking those brief moments of relaxation whenever possible.
Paradisus - La Esmeralda grasps this concept fully. They know just how to cater to families trying to strike a balance. The mini bars are stocked with both liquor and chocolate milk. The turndown service at the end of the day includes champagne for the adults and cookies for the kids. And while Andrew and I didn’t go so far as to drop our kids off at the in-house day care and peace-out to the spa, we did decide - after our action-packed second day - to spend our third day hanging around Paradisus and taking advantage of its many amenities. We slept in, watched the sunrise from our balcony, and ordered room service for breakfast. The kids played with Lego sets my mom had sneaked into their luggage and Andrew and I actually got to savor our morning coffee.
One of my favorite moments from the trip came that day when Nora discovered there were kid-sized slippers and a bathrobe in the closet to match the ones I’d been wearing. She donned them and we were “twinsies” most of the morning. It was such a sweet moment and a beautiful reminder that the most meaningful memories can be created even when you’re not actively seeking them out.
When we decided we were ready for an excursion, we didn't need to venture far; the pool and the beach at the resort were all the entertainment we needed. My little water babies loved swimming the ocean - meaning they clung to us for dear life as Andrew and I jumped up to ride each cresting wave. We built castles on the beach and let the waves wash up on our feet and cover our toes with sand. When we needed a break, we headed for the pool where we lounged in cabanas, ordered food and drinks, and relaxed while the kids splashed in the water.
Upon the recommendation from our fabulous butler (did I mention there was a butler?!), Paulina, we dined that night at the resort’s teppanyaki restaurant. Not exactly authentic Mexico, but delicious and highly entertaining for the kids.
When we returned to our room at the end of the day, Paulina had a surprise waiting for the kids: a bubble bath in the huge tub with balloon swords and animals in it. (This was on the heels of a treasure hunt she had staged for them in the room the night before.) They were delighted and it was the perfect ending to the perfect day - one where we had just the right amount of activity and relaxation, the perfect mix of vacation and trip.
I could talk about how I've known the Kieners for more than 15 years. How we've been college roommates, travel companions, bridesmaids, poker opponents, drinking buddies, and neighbors during that time. And how our daughters were born a little over a month apart and have become besties. But all of that would still seem inadequate. So instead I'll just leave you with a set of images - a mixture of candid at-home family moments and posed maternity portraits - that I took of this beautiful family of three very shortly before they became a family of four.