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  • Writer's pictureJulie of Julie Anna's Joy

It's the beginning (for those of us who don't start before Halloween) of the holiday season. I'm not sure what that means to you, but to me, a mom, especially a mom who works outside of the home, it means I often feel like I'm dropping the ball on something. I'm forgetting an activity, an event (soccer game, meeting, sleepover, gathering, concert, etc.), and admittedly sometimes an entire group of people to include in something. It's stressful, and daunting, and... overwhelming.

As I drove home after a VERY long car ride last night and noticed our neighborhood decor switched from fall to Christmas lights essentially over night, I felt that stress (pumpkins to Christmas tree stress). Don't get me wrong, I love many things about Christmas, but as the resident "magic maker" in our home, I find myself overwhelmed.

Before I completely spiral into how "behind" our decor is, how there's gifts to buy, and gifts to wrap, gifts to get in the mail, people to remember--- many, many people to remember here's what I know I'm getting right. In a few pictures, it's slowing down.

See the weekend after Thanksgiving I typically dust off my holiday magic wand and put the Christmas sparkle on as much as I can inside and outside of our home. This year I didn't. I took two days and I went away with this free spirit gift of a child that is our daughter. She is exactly as she seems in photograph-- fun, carefree, kind, funny, and an absolute beautiful soul. She reminds me to dance in the aisle at the store, to skip in a parking lot because you can, that it's okay to just sit in a hotel room to do a puzzle instead of going somewhere, to be authentic ALWAYS, and to drink in the little things. Next weekend I spend it with our son at a soccer tournament. While not a slow weekend by any means, I will have moments of opportunity with him and conversations to savor. Because of these days dedicated to our kids, I may not have out our house decor just yet, and certainly not as much as I could. But I'm trying.... I truly am trying.

So, this holiday season, may we give ourselves all grace for mistakes, and delays in decorating and doing what we "should" be doing (I don't care for that word, should). May we breathe, and show each other as imperfectly perfect fellow humans, patience and understanding. It's these valuable, fleeting moments we have to remind us what we "should" be doing. We should slow down, we should not care so much about getting it ALL right. Chances are we are getting some things right after all…. if we just give ourselves enough credit to stop and acknowledge what's right--- it's likely what's right in front of us.

*For more thoughts and musings from Julie (and her husband, Rick) consider joining in on The Victory Couch Podcast

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  • Writer's pictureJulie of Julie Anna's Joy

There's an image taken the day of our wedding of my hands and my husband's hands. They are lightly rested together on top of my bridal bouquet, and until about six years ago I didn't look that closely at that particular photograph (even though it was in a large print hanging on our bedroom wall). As time passed and we were approaching our ten year wedding anniversary, I remember asking the photographer to try and get some of our hands. Now, it's a thing, a tradition of sorts--- I want to see our hands each decade we've held them in one anothers.

Hands show us so much. They can show signs of our profession (mechanic, artist, etc.), they can show our preferences (nail care, rings, bracelets, tattoos, etc.), and most of all they are evidence of our age.

As a photographer, I love to incorporate a quick photo or two of hands in a family session, and certainly on a wedding day. We forget how small our kids' hands once were, what our young and in love hands of our twenties looked like, what old bracelet we once wore for in and day out, and we struggle to see the age in the hands of our parents and maybe even in our own.

I'm dusting off my blog post corner of the world to encourage myself, and any of you who might consider stopping to take a quick snap this weekend of the hands of this time, this season of your life.

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  • Writer's pictureJulie of Julie Anna's Joy

I drove down the mountain we live on last week into the neighborhood below and saw pumpkin décor lining the exterior of one of the best-groomed yards on the block. As a lover of summer and warm weather, I shuddered. Eh, pumpkins in August--- I’m SO not ready!

Don’t get me wrong I get it, cool nights, sweatshirts and campfires, football--- for those of you die-hard PSL gals, it’s your dream season!

I’m a bit jaded by fall, and have a love/hate relationship with it. For the better part of my adulthood I had to travel for work extensively from September-November. The season for me is associated with fast paced days, living out of a suitcase, seeing the change of the season out of a state car window, and being away from routine with my family. While those demands lessened over my career, the deep jaded wounds are still there.

I think what truly made me cringe seeing that autumn décor the last week of August was the rush ahead mentality. Planners may criticize this thought, and this inability to jump on board with fall décor now. But for me it’s something about being present and not rushing life.

Anyone with young children gets this--- I don’t want to rush ahead, I want to savor. I want to savor one last swim in the backyard pool—one last hot day with a popsicle in hand, one last neighborhood walk without a jacket. These little things, this chapter of life I have now-- with elementary aged school children has been a blur, and I want to savor it all with eyes wide open.

One of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist writes about being Present Over Perfect (if you haven’t read this book or listened to the audio version, you need to). This is a philosophy rich with meaning especially for mothers who work outside of the home. I feel a guilty tug of conviction reading those words PRESENT OVER PERFECT, but also the freedom to let go and be. Be perfectly imperfect, but present. I STRUGGLE with this concept daily, weekly, okay-- hourly. But if we put the pumpkins up in August, we aren’t drinking in the season. For gardeners or even just food consumers, it’s like our lives are full and rich in tomato growing season but we are tired of tomatoes and want a kiwi that has to be imported. Living now, living here with what’s around us is so important, at least to me.

So, as for our family--- from July 4th – Labor Day we have patriotic décor, summer flowers (even though they are wilting a bit) in the pots at our entrance way, and we WILL savor this season. Mid-September we will welcome fall. I will put up the harvest décor, and break out my favorite sweet cinnamon pumpkin hand soap, and try my best to cheer on the Washington Football team (that’s another set of thoughts for another day).

Until then, grab a popsicle or ice cream cone, put the windows down and soak in the present. This is my encouragement to myself, and to all of you who happen to stumble upon this little outlet of expression.

*For those of you not residing in the Mid-Atlantic region, I know this entire read is laughable to you. We are Marylanders and truly do live deeply in seasons.

On the photography side of life, I have enjoyed getting out in the sunflower field for senior portraits and doing some family photography as well. Here is a little glimpse behind the scenes for you and of some recent work. Thanks as always for the support and interest in my life as a photographer and beyond.

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