Throwback Thursday: November 2009

We lived in Amarillo in 2009, so that meant holidays were planned with a lot of traveling. For Thanksgiving, we drove to Chattanooga to spend the week with Chuck’s family and it afforded us the blessing of seeing some of our favorite friends. Continue reading

Photo session: Karin, Ethan, and Sidney


When you’ve known a set of kids since their birth, it’s a treat to take pictures of them as they grow. Karin and her children are special to me, to our whole family actually, not just because we’ve been through many life stages together, but because through all of it we’ve keep our promise to be there for one another no matter what.

They were overdue for updated family photos, so it was my birthday gift to Karin capture their lives at this very moment.

DSC_0356 low res w Continue reading

Photos from Corey and Gwen’s wedding

The primary reason we went to Washington DC last month was so that I could stand next to my oldest, dearest friend at her wedding. Since I was busy holding a bouquet and all, I couldn’t take my own photos. Here a few I snagged from her photographer.

Out of all the lovely pictures, this one captures our 22-year friendship perfectly. It’s my fave:

Best friends

This one is a close second:

Corey and Me on her wedding day Continue reading

The Lantern and my favorite banned book

There were two things on my To See list in Washington. The first was the Library of Congress and the second was The Lantern, a small shop for used and rare books. It’s run by volunteers and proceeds go to support the Bryn Mawr College scholarship fund. Win, win.

The Lantern is in Georgetown, and since we took a ferry ride on the Potomac from Alexandria to Georgetown on Friday, I anticipated floating back up the river with new books in hand.

The ferry ride was part of the pre-wedding activities, so the boat was full of family and friends. From the week, this is my favorite photo of Corey and me. Anchors away, my friend! So glad to be on the journey with you. ♥Corey and me 9-19-14

The bookshop was modest but organized, and if I had an extra hour to kill, I would’ve purchased a lot more than I did. Independent shops like these are my favorite, but only – and I mean only – if they are well-kept, thoughtfully categorized, and clean. The Lantern was all of these things. I browsed the stacks as quickly as I could while Chuck and the boys waited for me outside. God bless them and their endless patience. Since we had a ferry to catch, I couldn’t peruse too long.

The Lantern Bookstore

These were my finds. I spent a whopping $11:

The Lantern books

Finally, in honor of Banned Books Week, I’m posting a photo of my favorite banned book. No reader should be deprived of Nurse Ratched and McMurphy:

Banned Book Kesey

What’s YOUR favorite?


Throwback Thursday: My mom in the 60s

First, a story.

When I was in college (late 90s), I decided to come home for the weekend on a whim. I didn’t tell my parents beforehand (no cell phone, of course) but instead drove straight from my dorm room to the library where my mom was working. I parked the car, walked inside, and saw that my mother was working at the main desk directly in front of me. She didn’t look up from her work, so I calmly, quietly walked forward until I was standing less than two feet away from her. Finally, her eyes met mine and she let out a gasp. It wasn’t the sort of gasp that said, “Hey! You’re home!” Instead, it was one of shock.

“Oh my goodness!” she said. “It’s like looking in a mirror!”

For a split second, instead of seeing her own daughter, my mother saw her college-age self.

All my life I’ve been told I look like her, and it’s the greatest compliment. We have the same smile and very simliar eyes, and though her face is more slender and mine is more round, our features are close enough to one another that sometimes I see a photo of Mom and think, “Yep, there I am.”

While we were in Washington last week, we spent a couple of evenings with my grandparents. (Pictures to come!) In my grandmother’s office hangs a quilt with squares of pictures scattered throughout. One picture in particular stood out to me and it was this one:

The Thomas family in the 1960s

I’m assuming that it was taken in the mid-60s, and after this post goes up, I have no doubt Grandma or Grandpa will email me with the correct year. My mom is the only daughter and the oldest of four. This is one of those photos that when I look at my mother I see myself. Chuck disagrees, but I see it. Do you?

Library, Air and Space, Archives

Yep, the Library photos are my faves. Will someone please paint my ceiling like this? (Click on the photos for a larger view.)

Color in the library

The untouchables:The Stacks

Most amazing view from the second floor of the Library:
The view from the library window

I love that donations to the museums come in all currencies: Donations

Men looking at suspended airplanes:Chuck and Jeremy at the Air and Space

Hot Air in the Air and Space

My heart swells:
Leaving the Air and Space

No pictures allowed inside:National Archives

Two of my favorite people on the planet:
Two favorite people

Three days in Santa Fe

When I said I was going to Amarillo, that wasn’t a lie. I flew into Amarillo on Wednesday and left Amarillo on Sunday, but in between Wednesday and Sunday, Michele and I were in Santa Fe. It’s a quick nearly-four-hour drive from the Texas panhandle to the capital of New Mexico and everything about that place is a feast. It is rich in history, art, and cuisine, all of which we enjoyed to the fullest. We walked, shopped, ate, drank, repeat, repeat, repeat. Until Saturday, I’d not eaten an omelet with red and green chile pepper salsa, but man oh man. I’m gonna start doing that regularly.


As a family, we’ve been to Santa Fe exactly three times. It was a go-to retreat when we needed to see mountains and Amarillo was just… too flat. (Actually, my favorite trip to Santa Fe was when we went camping. Read about that trip here. There are adorable photos of the boys and Hank. It was his last trip with us.)

Although Santa Fe wasn’t new to me, it was a treat to enjoy the city as an unattached adult. We popped into galleries, enjoyed wine at nearly every meal, and perused all the stores that would’ve made my husband and sons collapse in boredom.

That being said, I did enjoy two dinners in Amarillo and a spin around the old neighborhoods. That city is thriving and growing and I’m glad to have seen it in person.

Thank you, Michele, for a most fabulous birthday retreat. ♥

PS. There are more photos on Instagram.

Amarillo Bound

I gotta say – I never thought I’d go back to the Texas Panhandle, much less to celebrate my birthday. When we packed up our things in March 2011 and headed east, I was sure that I’d never return. Living in Amarillo was one of the strangest detours of my life, one that created a lot of heartache, but also one that landed me a fantastic job where I met some wonderful people. Still, when I said goodbye to Amarillo, I didn’t look back. Not even once.

It was foolish to presume that I’d never return, particularly since one of my dearest friends lives there. Michele started out as my boss, but it didn’t take long for her to become my closest confidant. We worked well together at Amarillo Magazine, so well that I sobbed some hard tears after turning in my notice. Despite how badly I wanted to move back to Tennessee and be closer to my family and other friends, I didn’t want to leave Michele or my job. (Seriously, who can say that about a job?)

Growing up an Army brat, I learned early on how to keep in touch with people. I knew distance wouldn’t affect our friendship. She came to visit me in October 2012 and now it’s my turn to do the visiting. I’ve been giddy about it for weeks.

Michele and Me, 2010


Michele and Jennie, Maryville 2012Despite my excitement, I’m getting tons of flack from my boys about leaving.

You won’t be here for your birthday? What are we gonna do with Dad? Can I come? When will you be home? How many days will you be gone? 

And so on.

For the record, I’m not the least worried about the boys. Chuck is a great dad. They’ll eat junk food and walk around freely in their underwear.

(I am a little worried about the pets, though. And the garden. No one loves them like I do.)

I leave tomorrow morning. ♥


Room 1519

If we’re friends on Facebook, then you know we were all sorts of crazy over being upgraded to the Presidential Suite at the W Hotel in Atlanta Saturday night.

Room is ready

The pictures are amazing, but I’m not sure you can get the full experience unless you hear our squealing.

Weekend Recovery

T’was an amazing weekend in Atlanta with my BFF for her Bachelorette Party. Many thanks to the W Hotel who over-booked our standard corner room and had no choice but to upgrade us to the Presidential Suite. The amount of shock we experienced was fully captured on video, which I intend to share with you later this week.

In the meantime, I have squandered the day away with photo editing and eating cookies. After I press “publish” on this post, I must, must, must write a paper that’s due tonight.

Our view from the room: ATL

Cheers to a fabulous night:Cheers

Love this girl! (This photo is a re-creation from high school graduation night in 1996. The original is probably in a storage bin in the basement. If I can find it, I’ll show you.)Bathtub Re-creationMore photos and such to come. For now, I must harness some level of responsibility. I should also probably get changed out of my pajamas.


Sherrod family photo shoot

Last week I drove to Lake Junaluska to take photos of one of my favorite families. Jimmy was ordained in the United Methodist Church and, though I didn’t go to the ceremony, I captures moments in the aftermath when the family of four had some down time.

Cuteness abounds in these tiny faces! It’s a privilege to document their little lives from the beginning. (Click on the photos for larger versions.)

Catherine in black and white Catherine's blue eyesSuch cuteness. I love the squash mouth ♥
Eyes and squash Henry at the treeThis little ham knows how to pose for me and I know I have about .25 seconds to capture it.Henry on the stairs Henry's smileCongratulations, Jimmy!
Lesli and Jimmy Ordained The SherrodsThe Sherrods2

I am a Military Brat.

This isn’t the post I intended for today, but I read this affirmation several times yesterday (obviously posted in honor of Memorial Day) and finally decided just to share it. I don’t know who wrote it, which is unfortunate. The Internet can be a great asset to writers, but it can also be a harsh curse. I wish I could give proper credit.

My favorite part is the fourth paragraph about friendships. Though I missed out on growing up with the same group of people, I feel infinitely blessed to have cherished relationships from each place I’ve lived, save the earliest years. For all the military brats I know and don’t know, enjoy:

Military Brat

This week gets a big WTF.

Just when I said it was too much, there ended up being more.

I learned yesterday that Karin’s mother passed away from a horrific car accident, another life taken swiftly, without warning. That makes five this week, which leaves many of us wandering around wondering what the hell just happened.

Jeremy was so tender when I told him that Ethan lost his grandmother. He said he wanted to attend the funeral with me “because I know what it’s like to lose a grandma.”

Karin and I dip our toes in the Atlantic Ocean. - June 2013

Karin and I dip our toes in the Atlantic Ocean. – June 2013

This morning we took Jeremy to an ENT at Children’s Hospital. He had his annual hearing test two weeks ago and the audiologist noticed a significant drop in the low frequencies. He referred us to an audiologist at Children’s for a second opinion, who we saw yesterday, and she confirmed the original results. They got us in to see the ENT first thing this morning and he scheduled Jeremy for a CT Scan to see if there is any structural damage behind the ear drum.

The reason why this drop is so troubling is because Jeremy’s hearing loss has been consistent since birth. It was detected at his newborn screening – a mild loss in his left ear, a moderate loss in his right. He’s been aided since he was ten months old. Now his right ear is labeled “moderate to severe,” and since there hasn’t been a change in his hearing in ten years, it’s definitely odd.

The doctor asked if Jeremy has sustained any head trauma and I told him the only thing I could think of was playing tackle football. The doctor nodded knowingly. He said that could be the culprit and Jeremy is to refrain from it until we know what’s going on.

Jeremy kept it together in the doctor’s office, but as soon as we were in the car, he was noticeably distraught. He said, “So he’s saying I can’t follow my dream?” His eyes were wet with tears. The boy loves playing football. If we get a red light on tackling, we won’t have a choice but to withdraw him.

The Power of Empathy

Yesterday was too much. In a span of an hour, we learned about two tragedies affecting two families from my high school. Four lives have been lost and countless others are changed forever because of it. Words fail me here.

Knowing what to say or do in times like these is impossible, but I find this short piece by Brené Brown to be tremendously helpful in discerning the difference between sympathy and empathy.

“Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is a connection.”

Some Friends are Family

My house and heart were full this weekend. Corey, Gwen and Alex came to visit. There was good food, good company, and good conversation. We made another deposit in what has turned out to be a lifelong relationship.

Corey and I met in 1991, or there abouts, when she befriended a shy, heavyset girl who’d just moved to Atlanta. And even though I’ve moved three or four more times since then, our loyalty to one another remained. We grew up and made families and brought them into the fold. To say these people are friends seems entirely inadequate.  They are the family we choose.

Here we are in 2005, pre-Jackson.

With Corey and Alex in 2005

And yesterday…

Corey and Me April 2014

Jeremy and Alex April 2014

I’m sure I could scrounge up a picture or two from the early 90s, but I’m not that cruel.


Girls Weekend with Avery and Catherine

Susan hosts Girls Weekend in the spring,  so this weekend I had the opportunity to take pictures of Avery, something I’ve not done since 2012. Susan also got to meet Catherine, who’s now three and a half months old. Man, time flies.

Being a mom of boys, I loved being around little girls this weekend. As a rule, we don’t incorporate our kids into Girls Weekend, but there have been exceptions when babies are born and photo shoots are overdue.

Avery at age 6

Avery bw

Catherine at three months

Catherine March 2014

The little ladies 2014

The little ladies again 2014

Of course, then there’s us:

Girls Weekend March 2014

Weekend Recovery

I’m off my routine and fumbling. I can’t blame the holidays anymore but I do blame back-to-back weekends of travel and sleep deprivation. All of our fun has been super fun, but recovering from fun is way hard. You know what I mean. Organizing a thought takes extra effort.

The boys and I went to Chattanooga for a night and then to Atlanta for two. We were zombies by Monday evening when we got home and spent the majority of yesterday still in a state of fatigue and snippiness. The boys were so exhausted that they didn’t argue when I put them to bed at 8:30 two nights in a row. They surrendered willingly.

I took tons of pictures of the boys with their friends, but I have to share this one first. Chato is the sweetest little bulldog ever. And so calm. SO CALM. (Do you hear me, Major? CALM.)

Chato and his twinWe’re still in a bit of recovery this morning, based on the amount of tattling I’ve already had, so I’m off to wrangle two children and change their tones. Before I do, I’m going to adjust my own attitude with a little music and another cup of coffee. First coffee, then children. Always.

City people in the mountains

On my sister’s last day in Tennessee, we took the Chicagoans to Gatlinburg, taking the scenic route through the national park. I don’t love Gatlinburg, but I love the drive to get there.

Pokemon cards on the wayJacob loves Tennessee

City boy at the river

Sis and bro-in-law

Come here


Roots and moss

The road to Gatlinburg

Pictures from Christmas 2013

Wow, y’all. I’m pooped! This has been a fantastic year all around and it is definitely ending on a high note. This time last year, I had a bad case of the flu, so being sleep deprived this year is no biggie. There’s always another cup of coffee to drink.

We had a wonderful Christmas with my side of the family. Seriously, not a single complaint. There were 11 people in the house for five days, but everyone was in good spirits. We went to church together, took communion together, and swapped family stories in the living room every night. If I sat and thought about it, I could probably drum up some minor detail that could’ve made the week better, but it would take a long while.

Chuck gets Husband of the Year for buying me a new camera lens (and a Green Bay Packers throwback jersey, which I wore proudly around my Chicago Bears family members).  I’m still learning how to use the lens, particularly indoors, so forgive the fuzziness. I’m going to dump a bunch of photos now, so I hope you aren’t on dial-up.

My boys were introduced to Rainbow Looming… Rubber bands everywhere!

Aunt Becky teaches Jeremy the Rainbow Loom

The boys loom while Mamaw reads:Looming while Mamaw reads

Our living room on Christmas Eve:
The Living Room

Two sets of brothers swap gifts to one another on Christmas Eve:Four boys on Christmas Eve

Yay Legos!

Grandpa plays Words with Friends: Grandpa plays Words with Friends

Cutie pies:Becky and Jeff

Best part of Christmas – my Mamaw came to visit. Actually, the very best part of the week was when she and I went to the Christmas Eve candlelight service together: Mamaw came to visit

I’m not in the photo (obviously), but this is what our living room looked like every night. Chuck wasn’t being antisocial, though. He was building a new Lego set: Everyone

Every Gryffindor should have a house banner:

I gave my sweetheart a meerschaum pipe: Meerschaum pipe

Opening Lego Marvel Superheroes: _DSC0523

Opening a NCAA football video game: Football video game

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock: Paper Rock Scissors Lizard Spock

A Marvel quilt from Aunt Becky: Marvel quilt

Hot chocolate by the fire:
fire pit time

Grandma played cards with the grandboys in the hideout: Grandma plays in the hideout

We all know how this one turned out:
Packers win

Cheers to 2013! May 2014 be even better.

Christmas 2013

It’s been the most lovely week. There is much to say, but little energy to say it, so I’ll just post a family photo and catch you up on everything next week. I hope your Christmas was as wonderful as mine.

Christmas 2013

Yay baby!

So yesterday I had the most awesome privilege of seeing brand new life appear on earth. Lesli and Jimmy, parents of Henry, had their second child, a precious little jewel named Catherine. I was over-the-moon excited to be there with them to capture her first few hours.

Catherine's dark hair

Wide awake

My favorite of Catherine


She is a beauty. Now, between Susan, Lesli, and me, we have three boys and two girls. My heart is bursting. I want them all in a room together as soon as possible.

Don’t think I didn’t freak out when Jeremy said, “When Catherine is ten years old, I’ll be twenty!” Wait, what?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our little baby, who officially turned one year old yesterday.

This was Major at six weeks old, sleeping soundly next to his older brother:

sleeping togetherAnd here we were last night, cuddled for about ten minutes until Salem was over it:

Major and Salem on Dec. 9I’d forgotten that it was Major’s birthday until I came home from the hospital and the boys told me I needed to join them in a round of singing Happy Birthday to the dog.

Ever Thankful

When we go to Chattanooga, we squeeze in every moment we can with friends and family. It used to be our home, so not only is the city nostalgic, it’s also home to some of our favorite people.

This year Thanksgiving was with Chuck’s family. I admit that I was glad to be a guest and not a host, but only because November has been a tiresome month. Normally, I enjoy all the cooking and whatnot. This month,  I enjoyed lounging.

Miller Family ThanksgivingDo you think these two are related?


So grateful Tami and Jeff could host this year. I can’t say that everyone was well-behaved (Chuck), but that’s how little brothers are (Chuck).  SiblingsOrnament reflection

Before we stuffed our bellies with turkey and dressing, Chuck and I got up early to meet Karin and run the Turkey Trot 8K. It was Karin’s first road race and I was so happy to run alongside her.

Turkey Trot 8K

On Black Friday, while everyone was blowing cash and fighting lines, we were with our Fred and Ethel Mertz.

Valovcins and MillersValovcin and Miller kids

We also drove down to Santa Land Tree Farm to get our Christmas trees. That’s right – plural. As in two trees. I’ll post pictures of that tomorrow.

Finally, for those who are wondering, I haven’t finished the novel but I’m in the 70,000-word range. I completed NaNoWriMo, which was really satisfying, but I have a little less than two weeks to finish the story and turn it in to my creative writing professor. So far, so good.