It's the morning of the last morning, of the last day, of the year that has changed my life and its trajectory. I watch through my dining room window as the sun peeps through the tall trees towering over the back lands. As most mornings, I stop for a second, admire its beauty, and walk on toward the coffee pot for my morning jolt. This morning, its reflection stops me.
It's been a fun year, a year of firsts, a year of statements as to how old I actually am and just what to expect from this day forward.
The list of 2017 (forgive me):
1. Italy for the second time was just as triumphant as it was the first. Include Sicily and its charm. Then Ireland for the second time. Costa Rica for the first. Keep travelin'. Keep those faraways coming.
2. Weddings upon weddings. Incredible clients, with no exceptions. I would have never stumbled upon these lives had I not had this dream of photography. You're never too old to let a new dream take hold of your life.
3. Opportunities to write for large outlets only whet my appetite for more assignments. I think I'm done with writing and then I write, I read, and I'm smitten all over again. Thanks AAA, BBC (more letters, please). Let the avalanche of pitches begin.
4. Challenges with children and the obligation to let them go. I must trust that I've done my best, done all I can, and allow them to live their lives - the good, the bad, the right, the wrong.
5. New challenges physically cause me to make changes mentally. You see, it's the mind that either gets in the way or catapults me. It will have to rise higher than ever for 2018.
I'm ready for a new year. That invisible line drawn between today and tomorrow has power, and I tend to do well with what I can't see. One thing I can see, a card I acquired at a conference in November that sits alongside my travel inspiration keepsakes on my desk. It reads, "Do hard things."
That's my first and only resolution. Do hard things. In doing that, I remain sharp and miracles happen. I don't think I could ask for anything more for 2018.
What a blessing each year becomes. I am so overpowered by God's grace each and every day that he allows me to breathe and inhale his wonderful world. Gratitude is a powerful tool. As we give it, it almost automatically returns to live inside of us. It approves us to be positive, to see the favorable, to be joyful rather than miserable, to throw off the complaints and see the positive, to accept moments as they come and be gentle . . . I think we all need more gentleness in our lives.
So from Seeing Southern to all, I wish you more gentleness in your 2018 moments, more positive thoughts, more productive exploits, more gratitude for whatever might befall you. And yes, more travel and more stories in this gift of another year.
P.S. I would be remiss if I left out THIS in my final words of 2017: GO DAWGS!
In the southern foothills of the Appalachians, in a small hamlet in Georgia where neighbors were family and strangers were soon-to-be-friends, lived my family of three.
Being raised as the adopted child of a middle-aged man and woman labeled to be of America’s Greatest Generation hinted at the trajectory of my character. Looking back, I had no idea that my future expectations were being constructed from my earliest days. And little did I know how much society would evolve, consuming those expectations and casting an entirely new set of realities in its wake.
From toddler days to the teenage stage, life was straightforward. Days started before the sun roused and ended as the sun disappeared. What happened in-between was a life of convention, dictated by seasons and responsibilities, as well as the convictions of a stalwart Southern Baptist woman. During the week, daddy would walk out the door, lunch box and thermos in hand, to work a day’s shift in town where he dyed thread at the textile mill. Mama remained at home, the proverbial housewife; however, to me, she worked harder than any man I knew. On Sunday, daddy donned his suit, mama, her best dress, and we’d pile into the Chevy Chevelle and join others at Bethlehem Baptist, the church closest to home.
In decision making, I was a non-entity as most children were to parents of this generation and geography; plans, even dinner choices, weren’t altered because of my wants. Mountain living was certainly challenging to those whose preferred spontaneity, but for my family and those closest to us, we knew no other way. Traditions of simplicity and legacy governed our daily walk, how families raised their children, the values they embraced, their attitudes, their morals and actions.
Every decision and action was purposeful.
The only exception to any routine arrived with the holidays, especially Christmas. It wasn’t that things were different; they were more intense. It was Sunday on steroids. The unannounced visits. The never-ending food. The daily church services. The family time. For us, the season had nothing to do with material gifts, but everything to do with flashes of homemade time. Ordinary life, inconveniences too, took back seat to spiritual and familial priorities. Year-after-year, I longed for the holiday season when schedules were broken and days, even meals, transformed from simple mashed potatoes to decadent sweet potato casserole coated with sugar and pecans.
The excitement was unmistakable: lingering longer with family without regard to distance or the time it took to get home; anticipating and indulging in Aunt Sophia’s homemade coconut cake, which she reserved only for Christmas; buying a dress from Golds Department Store, the only store-bought dress of the year, and wearing it proudly as I sang in the Christmas cantata; laying for hours in front of a roaring fire with daddy, enjoying its crackling and soon the popping of corn over the open flame; taking the scheduled and shrewd drive on Christmas eve to spot all the multi-colored lights throughout the city providing Santa enough time to drop my solitary gift under the tree.
The season was a magnet, grabbing hold of the best of life and plopping it right in my lap.
As the years passed and I grew older with a family of my own, as each year drew to its end, I awaited with childlike excitement the vitality of the season. Instead of that Christmas state of mind, exhaustion arrived. There were schedules to keep, presents to buy, meetings and parties to frequent, emails to send, babysitters to arrange, and houses to prepare. Where had my Christmas gone? Perhaps I had become complacent in the life my parents had created and I had lived, one that was centered on their traditions, values and circumstances. I expected the same familial experience, but I had not taken into account how deep I would have to dig to retain those patterns of life. Plus, I had discounted how society would change, how I would change.
For the better part of twenty years, my parents had prepared me for life the only way they knew how, imparting in me values and traditions established by their parents nearly a century earlier. The circle of life, we call it now. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I fully understood the scope of what they had given me, the battle they waged with society to keep me sheltered within the confines of the age-old ways. They, like their parents, had no control over the evolution of the world, and they could have never imagined that, among other things, a small gadget held in the palm of your hand could hold and dominate your entire world.
I somewhat blame my parents for instilling this grand expectation within me but ironically, eternally grateful they did. As each season unfolds, I return and embrace my parent’s memory, and intentionally recreate at least one moment. Whether it be taking that Christmas Eve drive, making Aunt Sophia’s coconut cake or finding the time to drop by a neighbor’s house and simply visit, I will not let those traditions slip away.
In the end, we build the life we choose, and certainly, unforeseen circumstances cloud our greatest of expectations. Nevertheless, whether I have succeeded or failed to translate that life into the modern world in which I find myself, I consider those years as the touchstone of my character.
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.