Destination Wedding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
By the time July arrived, I was well aware I needed a vacation. A mere break from everything life has thrown my way over the last year. In fact, we all needed a vacation. Apparently Alice was the only one who knew this last summer.
I took her call last September. It was late in the afternoon and was watching the evening light quietly slip away. My cell buzzed and the screen flashed with a picture of my ‘little’ cousin, Alice.
Of course, she is about a foot taller than I am these days but once upon a time I was her ‘big’ cousin. In those days, she thought I hung the moon. At Thanksgiving, she’d quickly jump to the seat beside me eagerly listening to whatever I had to say.
I miss those days but I am incredibly proud of the woman she has become. More than just beautiful, she is brilliant in every possible way.
We hadn’t spoken in a while but I knew instantly she had some exciting news. In true Alice fashion, she attempted to ask my about my life and how things were going.
‘Spit it out girl!’ I demanded, ‘He finally popped the question, didn’t he?’
And her calculated response (which I heard involved more than a few tears):
‘OK, yes. Let’s do this!’
She began to tell me she wanted a destination wedding in Mexico on her mom and dad’s anniversary … July 2nd. They’ll invite their closest friends, all the Rugby guys and their wives, of course.
“That’s so exciting Alice!!” I tried to act excited about Mexico. But I wasn’t initially thrilled with the idea. I instantly began to think about the complications.
“Mexico? In July? You know it’s gonna be hot, right?” I wasn’t the first or the last person that would ask her this question over the course of the year.
Alice was right.
She’d thought everything through and she wanted a destination wedding. She wanted everyone she loved together, not just for the day. She wanted everyone to have time to get to know each other; for family and friends to become one over the course of the celebration.
Sometimes we all need a break. Just time away from the everyday grind in order to get our minds back to what really matters. I’ve had a trying year, thus far, with lots of daily challenges and new adversities to overcome. Life happens to us all and sometimes we need someone like Alice to remind us to take some time for ourselves.
When a Pet Dies, how should you tell your child?
(originally posted October 28th 20016)
The clock said 8:01. I insisted Emmaline hurry as we rushed through the front door. The cat slipped out as I turned to key the lock. I told myself there wasn’t enough time to catch the cat and get to school on time. A decision I regretted almost instantly.
As I turned the corner back to the house, my neighbor rang my phone: ‘Hiya, Uhm.. I think your cat was hit by a car sweetie?’
“Is he ok?!‘ She remains silent on the line as I turn the van down the street. My neighbor is standing in the the road standing over a white pile of fluff. I could barely look… I touched his side, feeling his soft fur for the last time. The life was already gone from his body.
This was no longer my daughter’s sweet cat. Simon- Rainbow-dash-sparkles-cupcake the great, was no more.
My grief was instantaneous, seeing him like that. Only moments ago he sat in my lap purring, desperate for some love before we headed off to school. Now all of that was a memory.
Simon was her Christmas kitten. He was so laid back, she put him in her back-pack and took him around the house. One of her daily joys was locking the dog and cat together in the crate and reading to them. He was just a cat but he was a happy part of daily life. He had a loud, infectious purr and his fur was softer than cotton. We laughed at him when he begged for food or when Pete the dog usurped him for some love.
Death is a part of life.
The day Simon died, Emmaline was a few months shy of her sixth birthday. I wanted to find the right way to break the news to her at age and I was certain I didn’t want to lie to her about it.
I did some online research and talked to friends to help me find the solution right for my situation. I don’t make it a point to lie to my daughter in an attempt to protect her from life. However each situation is different and some are more delicate than others. It can be difficult providing a balance between innocence and growth. I wanted her to find her own closure for the situation and for that to happen, she needed to know the truth.
“Don’t feel as though you have to give them a lot of information,” says McNamee. “Tell them what happened, then see what comes from them, such as their feelings and ideas about how to handle the death.” *2
Involve your children in the grieving process
I waited 24 hours before telling my daughter about the death of the cat. Gaining control of my own emotions was required before calmly sitting down and telling her the unfortunate news.
‘ I have some sad news’ I began, ‘Simon was hit by a car and killed yesterday.”
She interrupted, ‘I want to see him and where it happened.’
I already thought about how I would proceed if she asked to see him. I deemed that too grotesque and something I still couldn’t get out of my head. So instead, I took her to the spot where the blood splatter was fading on the road.
She took my hand and squeezed as I told her, ‘He didn’t see the car. He died immediately because the car was just too big and powerful for his little body. But we are going to celebrate his life in a little while and bury his body in the backyard. In the meantime, why don’t you draw some pictures for Simon.’
“Children need a process of saying goodbye,” says McNamee, and “you can help them do this in a variety of ways. Have them draw pictures of your pet. Share funny stories. Plant a tree in the backyard in honor of the pet. Put the pet’s ashes and pictures on the fireplace mantle. These kinds of tangible steps may be more helpful to your child than talking alone. “*2
We held a small funeral in the backyard
Later that day Emmaline, Mr. John, myself and a few neighborhood kids gathered in the backyard to say goodbye to Simon. Emmaline placed a drawing of Simon she made that afternoon along with a clipping of her hair. She picked flowers in the yard and sang a song to celebrate her little cat and the short happy life he lived. We told a few stories about silly things the cat had done in his short life and Emmaline said ‘Good-bye little cat. You were a good friend.’
Why say ‘I Do’ to a Destination Wedding
Initially, I wasn’t exactly ‘excited’ when Alice called me to tell me about her wedding plans. Mexico, I thought? Why get married in Mexico? She met resistance from almost every family member with whom she discussed her plans. Even though I’ve worked as a wedding professional for more than 15 years, I still had little understanding of why someone would choose to plan a destination wedding.
While sitting together for breakfast on our last day together, we universally concluded that Alice was right. It was a much needed vacation for everyone whom attended. It brought us all closer together, spending quality time and making new life-long friends. It also gave us all the chance to discover who Alice & Bryan are as a couple.
Since #aliceknowsbest, I asked my blushing bride to provide a few key reasons why she knew a destination wedding in Mexico was the perfect way to marry the love of her life.
1) A large, self-selecting guest list!!
- We could invite literally everyone we wanted because we knew not everyone would be able to make the trek. Guest lists can be extremely challenging. You never want to hurt anyone’s feelings but the cost of a wedding changes drastically as the guest list expands.
- We don’t live near our extended family or parents, so having the wedding in our city was still going to be a destination for them anyway. getting married in one of our hometowns made no sense for the majority of our friends.
2) More QUALITY TIME with the people we love.
- Six hours hours of fun just wasn’t enough for us! We wanted more time with our friends and family. We also wanted them to get a chance to know one another. We live on opposite coasts so this was a great way to unite our loved ones.
3) Vacation Mode
- Sure, less people come, but all the people who make the trek are in total vacation mode. Most people needed some time away – they left their kids at home and were partying like it was 1999. Yes, literally- like it was 1999 mostly to the tremendous number of 90’s references throughout our wedding celebration.
4) All-inclusive means less work
- We choose the all-inclusive Now Amber Resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They put on weddings all the damn time! It’s like clockwork and they do it all for you! There’s a crew of people setting up your wedding and you don’t worry about a single vendor (except your photographer, which is why we flew Adrienne there with us!) Wedding planning is always stressful, but going with a resort that does it all for you alleviates a TON of potential stress.
- BEWARE all-inclusive DOES NOT mean your wedding events are free!!
- You still pay per head for each event you host. This is because the resort is putting together a private event for your guests. But it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than what per head would have cost in the States.
5) More bang for your buck.
- We decided on Mexico because for the same cost of 6 hour reception and open bar in San Diego, we could do 3 open bar events with food for 70 people (rehearsal dinner, ceremony/reception, and brunch). We ended up spending the same amount of money but we had 5 full days with friends and endless cocktails!
Please share your experiences? If you were there, what was your favorite memory?
Do you agree with Alice?
Summer Wedding Day
Behold, another gorgeous day celebrating at the Hilton President. This wedding day (like many others) did not come without it’s unique challenges! It’s important to remember that no wedding is created equal and no two weddings are EVER the same.
This couple knew that this one day was theirs and they owned it! They embraced the hiccups, taking in every moment with joy in spite of things one might say ‘went wrong.’
Summer weddings in Kansas City have known to be ridiculously hot which makes everything a little more difficult. We were blessed with sunny 70’s and we thanked our lucky stars when the limo broke down! Yes, that’s right! While going up a hill, the car made a terrible noise just before the engine gave out.
The wedding party and I were in route to take photographs downtown prior to the wedding ceremony. When the car stopped on the hill, I bounced up and told my couple we’d get out right there.
‘It’s an adventure!’ I proclaimed.
They both smiled with a quick, ‘OK!’ and off we went, frolicking in the June sun. Their smiles never faded, even when it was evident that our mode of transportation was now our feet.
Yet, not a single soul complained?! I couldn’t have asked for a better group of friends than the ones who surrounded Anna and Jordan, especially since we were going to have to make a trek back to the hotel. I began to make a plan of action getting us back to the hotel without sweating through our clothes!
Enjoy the moment
The kids laughed and told stories as we navigated from place to place. I continued to shoot as I led everyone through buildings, following a path that would take us back to the President.
With my alternate plan in place, and an experienced team of wedding professionals, we made our way through downtown playfully enjoying our adventure. We often miss exciting moments in life because we are too concerned with how ‘the day’ will roll out. Try to enjoy the moment! Sometimes you have to relax and let things unfold, especially on your wedding day because that’s when magic happens!
Just as I was about to call it a wrap, Anna turned and the wind took her veil. I walked around her observing the light that bathed her in a soft, warm glow. Her groom looked on proudly, beaming with satisfaction that this woman was about to be his wife. Anna giggled, claiming she felt awkward with all of us all starring at her. It was classic Anna!
Maura and I giggle with glee as we capture this quiet, unanticipated moment. We took a moment to admire the woman she has become, looking forward to what she has yet to achieve. With Jordan by her side, she is unstoppable. That’s what unconditional love can do for you.
WEDDING DAY DETAILS
This wedding day was shared with some of my favorite Kansas City Professionals. A gorgeous display of floral art by Craig Sole, Cinematography with the talented Maura Coleman-Murray of Creative Films KC, delicious yet beautiful cake by Classic Cakes run effortlessly by Samie LaForce with the Hilton President.
View more images from this wedding day on their personal wedding proofing page: Anna & Jordan Got Married
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been inspired by the rich enduring paintings crafted during the Golden Era of the Renaissance. The significant art created during this period has had a great influence on the portraits I longed to create. These paintings drew in the viewer with stark contrast of colors on rich textures and bold fabrics. The use of light adds drama and intensity while the story is told using symbols and subtle gestures, implying innocence or passion, virtue or grace.
With this body of work, I use light, texture, and contrast to create the familiar look of these paintings. I utilize new world techniques to complete each canvas I hopes of reflecting the same beauty and timeless touch achieved by the master painters throughout history.
What is Clean Beauty?
Jeopardy was a big deal with my grandparents. We sat together with them anxiously watching, ready to pounce on ANY attempt to answer before my grandfather. He was rarely stumped and I was always looking for an opportunity to prove I was as smart as my brother. Then came the day that Alex Trebek asked, ‘This organ is the largest and protects the human body on a grandeur scale than any other…’
In an instant I was up and shouting, ‘SKIN, it’s the skin!! The skin is the largest organ on our bodies!’
My brother smiled incredulously at me; ‘Way to go sis!’
I am hoping on day Alex Trebek points to the category ‘CLEAN BEAUTY’ with a line of questioning about toxic chemicals. The truth is there is a great need for more awareness about what we are exposing ourselves to with products we use daily. The US only bans 11 ingredients from beauty products,while the EU bans a staggering number of more than 1,400.
Why is this a big deal?
We must look at the larger picture here. Our bodies have the ability to remove toxic things; however over time the cumulative effects of the build-up of toxins can affect how we regulate hormones and other normal functions. You find Endocrine disruptors in a variety of beauty products from body wash to the Aveeno lotion I once used regularly. (Now I use coconut oil for everything!)
Women are particularly vulnerable to substances that interfere with hormone production especially during phases of reproductive development, pregnancy and adolescence. Without using toxin-free products on our children and instilling knowledge in them about toxic additives, our daughters will be using products that may one day interfere with her ability to have a child of her own.
Our Children Deserve Better; We ALL deserve better
Did you know that the average teenage girl is using more than 13 products on her body each and every day (deodorant, perfume, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, face cleanser, face lotion, eye lotion, foundation, powder lipstick, eye shadow, blush, concealer…) ?!
But chances are that in this day and age, she isn’t reading the label and makes her choices from advertising and friend’s recommendations. She’s studying for her next final and the list of ‘toxic things to avoid’ aren’t on her radar. We need to teach ALL women to avoid products that will impair their hormones especially our daughters.
‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better do better.’ – Maya Angelou
Let’s do better together. It won’t happen overnight.
You must be patient and forgive yourself on a daily basis but I am on a journey to a toxic free life, will you join me?
This assortment of chemicals added to our personal use products can contribute to premature aging as well as a variety of health problems.
I’ve chosen Beauty Counter Products for myself and my daughter and I’m joining the movement for clean and safe products. Beauty Counter Corporation is lobbying congress to update their law about ingredients in our products. There has not been a major piece of legislation to regulate ingredients in personal care and beauty products since 1938. Think of all the things our scientists have learned since 1938!
In conclusion, making informed decisions through education is the key for us, our friends and our children.
“I just want you well again…’ (originally posted 5/19/2010 Lyme Life)
I whisper these words to my then husband who was tossing & turning in his sleep. Before the words leave my lips, I feel a strong wave of uncertainty wash over me. I want to bury myself in his arms & pretend this life we’re living isn’t real. But it IS real, this is happening to us.
I’ve been stuck in this nightmare for almost three years and I feel as though I’ve been fighting all my young life. I am exhausted, beyond belief, but I keep pushing myself forward… or perhaps life keeps pushing me…
While you have all anxiously waited on an update, I spend day after day hoping the next will be better. Perhaps tomorrow I can write something positive? While anxious for that day to come, another one passes with no change in his condition. Some days I awaken to find things are unbelievably much worse.
It’s been hard to relive the experiences of the last several months but I feel a duty to share the horrors of Lyme disease and the dangers that exist with treatment. I believe it’s imperative to bring light to the tragedy that Lyme disease has created throughout our communities and the travesty created by the medical community who refuses to agree on the existence & treatment of late stage Lyme disease. I assure you that an afternoon caring for someone with chronic Lyme would convince anyone otherwise!
I almost lost him in April when we once again rushed to the ER with another complication. His fever spiked upward of 104 … Delusional with intermittent chills, sweats ravaged his body.
By the time we arrived at the hospital April 20th, he’d gone septic. Sepsis is a deadly condition which steals thousands of lives every year. Staff, Strepp & Yeast were all found growing in his bloodstream, the result of an infected chest port that had been placed under his skin 2 weeks prior.
Undeniably one of the worst things that could happen. A blood infection is always a possible risk when undergoing long term treatment with a PICC line. While aware of the dangers that come with having a central line & long-term antibiotic treatment, we have no choice. IV treatment as it is the only viable solution for eradicating late stage Lyme disease. Killing Lyme bacterium is a toxic process; each bacterium leaves behind a trail of toxic waste. Toxins build up in cells, tissues & joints causing painful inflammation & locked joints. This reaction, known as a herxheimer reaction, leaves patients substantially more ill during treatment. Miraculously we made it through… and on our 4th anniversary I laid by his side thinking about our uncertain future, alone, as he slept.
It’s best to know your enemy before beginning the battle. This is certainly true of Lyme Disease! And with Lyme Disease quickly becoming the fastest growing epidemic, it’s more important than ever to teach your children prevention.
‘Knowing is half the battle.’
Do you remember this old G.I. Joe adage?? It played over and over and OVER in my head the first time my then-husband was hospitalized. We had no idea the underlying problem was Lyme disease.
If I could just discover the cause. If I JUST KNEW what it was then I could fight back.
That would only be half of the battle. I fought for discovery, then I fought for treatment. I was in for the fight of my life in order to save his.
By teaching prevention & EARLY detection, we can prevent this epidemic from crippling our children. Here is what you need to know.
–>>> Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks, gross little blood suckers. However, then need to be attached for a while to transmit the disease. But the situation should always be monitored and taken seriously. Early detection, a round or two of antibiotics and you are scott-free!! Waiting too long to address the problem will allow the parasites to take hold. These are living organisms, don’t give them the chance to reproduce!
What about when I find a tick and it is attached?
How do we achieve Artistic Newborn Portraits?
Newborn portraits, they look easy, right? The baby just sleeps. The photographer puts them in a basket, or props their tiny head on their hands and the magic just happens, right?
Well that’s not exactly what we do here. Actually newborns can’t support their heads by themselves. So those images are actually a product of Photoshop!
Rather than rely on PhotoShop to create something post-produced, I prefer to shoot what is right in front of me. Using light, texture and a limited color palette, I can create a unique still life every time I work with a newborn without finding any need for elaborate props. (Although, a few personal items can add a fun personal element!)
To be honest, I wasn’t always great with newborns! One of my early newborn sessions was when I myself was just 8 weeks pregnant. The baby cried the entire time I was there. I hung around for FOUR hours in a futile effort to provide assistance.
I didn’t know what to do!?
I felt worthless and I didn’t know how to help. As it turned out, the baby was suffering from acid re-flux but at the time, none of us knew.
I didn’t have the skills to calm a baby or comfortably maneuver them into something photo worthy. Initially, I didn’t think I was cut out for this particular vein of photography; yet motherhood was just around the corner to teach me the lessons I needed.
It’s taken a lot of patience and patience. A lot of patience. After the birth of my own child, spending day in and day out with a newborn, gave me the understanding needed to handle newborn babies. Now I work with newborns on a regular basis and my images reflect the vision of a mother instead of whomever I was before.
I enjoy snuggling these precious babies and capturing the perfect moments of their newness. These days I have an arsenal of time tested tricks that help me capture these fleeting days with your newborn baby!
Lying back on the chair I held my right wrist tightly, attempting to relax as the tattoo artist traced the precise lines of silhouetted birds onto my pale, sensitive skin.
As his needle buzzed, I allowed myself to come to terms with my new identity; single mom, divorcee, ex-wife. This was the first moment in a long while where I felt control over my own future. In that moment, I accepted my new path.
One of my best gal pals sat by my side, holding my hand and snapping photos. She softly asked me if it hurt.
‘Haha! Not really…’ I laughed shaking my head.
‘You know, he broke my heart. Nothing really hurts… but I’ll say this does burn like hell…’ I grimaced as the needle pinched into a softer spot on my wrist.
My tattoo wasn’t a decision made lightly.
Up until this point, I have survived 37 years without any desire for a tattoo. Permanently altering your body is a BIG decision and one that requires sufficient consideration. My daughter looks to me as her example. I am now and will forever be her mother and this fact weighs heavily on every decision I make. It was important she understand the many things that were considered before finalizing such a big decision.
As a ‘tattoo virgin’ I had questions. When and where was I getting this done?! After all, I didn’t want a ‘prison’ tattoo and I expected cleanliness & professionalism. But most importantly, WHAT exactly was I going to permanently ink on my body??
My Tattoo Considerations
- I would use one of my own photographs.
- The number 3 is significant. Three birds would represent my journey: the struggle to find the truth, the strength to move forward and the love for my daughter which ultimately set me free.
- I asked friends about tattoo parlors & did the”ole” google search. I asked friends, read reviews and ultimately decided Exhile Tattoo 2 would be the place; they received good reviews about their cleanliness and professionalism. I booked my appointment with Bob Rodriguez, a recommended artist working there.
- April 1st was the day. It marked the first day of my new life. In the weeks prior, I gave into my emotions, consciously mourning my lost future while preparing for the new one.
The photograph I selected was taken last Christmas. My (soon to be ex) husband moved out in November just shy of the holiday season. In an effort to distract my daughter (and myself), I filled our holidays with activities and friends. We spent Christmas with a few of my dearest girlfriends and their children and as the kids chased each other and ran circles in the front yard, I looked upon the changing winter sky. The faithful flocks of geese squawked noisily overhead as they continued along their annual journey South.
There is something beautiful about the journey.
This year brought about fundamental changes in my life. Epic changes for which I didn’t prepare. But I’ve lived through enough to understand that life will surprise us all with change. How we respond to it, well that’s the true test.
Change can destroy you or it can make you stronger. He was my greatest weakness but that’s now in the past.
I am closing a chapter: a decade spent dedicating my life energy to someone else. I learned many truths about myself and I’ve been broken down, changing to the core. This mark, my tattoo, is an outward symbol of an internal change; a visual reminder that I am indeed different.
This became a catalyst for continuing changes. I’ve had to step back, evaluate and decide how I would become stronger through this instead of allowing my emotions to prevail.
My evolution from artist to advocate has begun. My brand is a reminder for truth, taking control of life, creating a better world. It does not remind me of what was lost but rather what I have gained.
Where are you on your journey?