Her Heart, His Heart and My Heart

Mother’s Day for the past 4 years brings up a certain level of emotion on my end.  I love my mom and don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank her enough for the amount of selflessness, love and guidance she’s given me over the years. She’s taught me the meaning of love and has continued to show me how a woman who’s graced with strength, dignity and compassion should look.

But, as I said above, the weekend of Mother’s Day also holds another place in my heart. A place carefully guarded and one that brings my dad into the forefront of my thoughts, our entire families thoughts.

Four years ago today, I woke up and spent the morning in an unusual way.
I got up with a cloud of emotions hanging over me…much like I did today.

See, the night before I did something I couldn’t fathom having to do only 12 hours prior and at the age of 28. I gave dad, my blessing to do whatever it was that HE wanted. Doing this, while fully understanding that another open heart surgery was not up for discussion and wouldn’t be 10 years down the road. Meaning, I let him know I would support his decision of picking between a tissue valve and a mechanical valve – regardless of his decision.

To put it into laymen’s terms….his decision to pick between something that would last for on average 8-12 years vs a more permanent option that would be with him until the end and not require a second open heart procedure. I spent the morning in complete shock.

It began by letting my parents’ dogs out the front door (not on a leash) and watching in panic while Gabby & Bailey made a run for it. I’m talkin’ fugitives on the run kind of run for it. I stood on the other end of the driveway, yelled, screamed and prayed to God (very quickly) that they would not get hit by the school bus that was heading their way. As you can see based on this picture, they are alive and well 4 years later and I was thankful I didn’t have to explain to my dad that his “other two children” had hit the road running and wouldn’t be there to greet him when he got home.

(Picture taken Christmas Day 2013)

I fully believe God gave me a slight break that morning and I learned a few big lessons. As I stood in the shower, letting go of every single emotion that was running through me, several things passed through my mind and out of my tear ducts. Thoughts of how quickly life can pass you by; the thought and realization that my dad chose to put a life span on his heart plus many more hung over me while I got ready.

But like I said, in hind-sight, I learned some pretty valuable lessons that day:

- Sometimes you have to let your hair down and run wild for a moment.
– Life is about taking advantage of chances when they are presented.
– That life is too damn short to not enjoy every living & breathing moment of it.

You never know when you’re time will come but I made it a goal that year to consciously be aware of who I am, what makes me happy and set out on a path to making those things part of my regular day.

The hours, days and weeks that followed were much tougher. Sometimes I think God was gearing me up for everything that morning. The days pushed my mom, David & I to the brink – emotionally and physically. My mom and I talked to dad’s surgeon following the procedure and received the report that everything went great -  dad was heading up to the ICU recovery bay.

Dad’s surgery was a serious one. He got what I like to refer to as the crème de la crème of open heart surgeries. A fixed hole, a new tissue valve, a few blockages fixed and an aortic root replacement and I got a quick education in cardiology.  Google it if you’re curious….pretty much all the fixings one person could want/need.

Within a few hours, it was clear that dad’s heart was not on the same page as his doctors originally thought. I’ll never forget the feeling of watching a waiting room empty and the cyclical process of families stationed in the main waiting room, rotating into the ICU waiting room upstairs and then rushing to the their loved ones. We watched it for days/weeks. The process is gripping, because we grew small bonds with the families, then watch with joy and frustration as they headed out the door for the last time. It was tough. I remember my brother & I watching through the recovery bay windows those first few days. I confided with close friends that it was like watching the TV show, House. Everyone standing around, figuring out what the best option was – what the next step should be. The doctors assured us that all their resources were being pulled together and that dad would make it.

Those first few days were interesting, as my dad is someone I look up to tremendously. He’s the tough one that always pushed me, yet had a delicate way of making me realize that whatever I wanted was within an arm’s length reach…just like the finish line in a pool, all I had to do was kick until the end.
But he is my dad: the guy that would sit and get tangles out of my hair when I was little, the guy who’s back I would jump on when I was scared in the river but wanted to ride the knee board, the man I called when I needed some extra cash in college, because although my budgeting skills were passed along genetically, (smirk inserted)…I might have had a moment of amnesia; and the man that to this day I call when I need real advice or guidance about life’s big issues
(you know – love, finances, jobs, etc). Those days were interesting.

Seeing my dad in that bed was interesting. I remember the first night my mom let me go back to see him in the recovery bay. She didn’t want me to, but I was so hung up on being there. I didn’t care if he heard me, if he couldn’t squeeze my hand or if his skin coloring looked normal, but I wanted to be there. I wanted to understand clearly what I was praying for. I sat with the nurse who was on his shift. A nice older, gray haired but balding gentleman that took the time to quietly explain to me everything my dad was hooked up to. There were a handful of times in my dad’s future that he got a nice clean shave from that man.
He was amazing and talked me though everything. I am forever grateful for him.

Then there was Shelley. My favorite nurse, the funny and cheerful nurse and someone who I’d run to for the
“give me a real answer, not sugar coated response” nurse.
She cared for my dad a lot over the course of those first days.  Mainly because they wanted the staff working with him to fully understand his medical situation vs being new to his case.  She always checked in on him even when he wasn’t on her list and I realized quickly I missed her smile when she had a night off.  She and I are still friends, to this day, on Facebook. She was the nurse that prepped us with details the day prior to surgery, and I am thankful she was the nurse that removed dad’s feeding tubs and the ventilator. I give kudos to those individuals that I crossed paths with while they were caring for my dad and I couldn’t have picked a more timely thanks, as last week was Nurses week! They are a big part of the reason he is around and the reason I still have someone to ask life’s big questions to.

My dad is my rock, my mom’s rock, our family’s rock and 17 days after entering the heart center, we were lucky enough to get him out of the hospital and home.

It’s this time in my life, the month of May, where I am grateful for those I love.

Where I realize how grateful I am for the past 4 years.
Where I am grateful that my dad is around another year and even more so grateful that, although against his will…..mom is there to take care of him.
I am grateful that there are nurses who can become friends and friends who become confidants and family.

So I challenge each of you reading this
to spend a little extra time showing those you love how much you care.
Whether it’s your mom, dad, your siblings, your children or the people you consider family although it might not be by blood.
Love them and tell them you love them because life is about being
vulnerable and honest
yet realizing that it shouldn’t have to wait for a special occasion…today is special.

Lastly – never forget that everyone’s life is made up of the same stuff:
hope and fear
promise and pain
happiness and sorrow
Love you Dad & Happy 4 year Heart Anniversary -
Cheers to another 14 or more if mom, david or I have anything  to do with it!
XO – J

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(Picture Taken November 2010)

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2013

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing – Helen Keller

I must leave this year admitting to my friends, the internet world, and to whomever crosses path with this blog, that I have been totally, 100%, without a doubt in my mind…selfish this year! I have been ensuring I “did not waste the pretty” as a good friend of mine might have said.

I took every moment and really seized the day. It ended up being an amazing combination of minutes, hours and 365 days that I will never forget! When a friend called, I answered; I was reminded of my love for music and danced ALOT; I spent time with my nieces and spoiled them rotten; when I got an invite to go out, I went; I ate well and enjoyed yoga; I rejuvenated relationships that had strayed a little too far and I created new friendships that added value and fun to my life; I took chances and loved with all of my heart like my parents taught me; I stayed up too late and sometimes drank a little too much; I watched as friends got married and had babies; I took lots of pictures; I enjoyed staying home on Friday nights to make pizza; I heeled my broken heart and realized that when one door closed another would open as long as I faith and could figure out how to trust the process; I had fun and traveled (7 amazing trips to be exact, two of which included bucket list trips); I was regularly reminded that every once in a while I should take some time off from work because life is too short; I read some great books and became a fan of fancy beers; I found the beauty in being single but still prayed for a partner; I rebuilt my dreams and came up with some big ones to replace the old ones; I daydreamed a little too much; I enjoyed the holidays and Thanksgiving day parades; I got a promotion, gave thanks and gave back; and I lived the way I have been dreaming of for a long time. I laughed, cried, prayed and enjoyed every moment along the way!

I’m not 100% sure of what will happen on my path next year but my goodness I’m thankful for this past year and wouldn’t have been the same without it! So as I round out this year, I realize it has big shoes to fill!

2014 I welcome you with open arms and know that whatever is next will be an amazing journey.

Bon Voyage and much love to my family and friends – Cheers to a NEW YEAR and a new chapter!

XO – J

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list” – Susan Sontag

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The Whole “C” Crew

When I say the “whole crew” I mean ALL of them!

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It’s not often that I’d have the opportunity to work with this entire family. Some drove from the west coast of Florida and some flew in from Boston.  Regardless of how far it was to travel I am so very happy that I had the opportunity to work with all of them before they all took off on vacation and left me behind in Orlando  (PS i am happy to join you guys on vacay next year…just think of me as the family photographer – haha!)

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I’ve known this family for about 13 years (gosh…I can’t believe it’s been that long) but this was the first time working with the full /extended version of the crew.
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We had one opportunity and a small window of time – so rain, shine or heat stroke (seriously it was so hot) this session was a go.  I can only hope that I caught some images that each of them can enjoy.

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It was so very evident (when I jumped into my “photographer role”) that these “kids” have some great role models!  More than anything, during this session, I enjoyed seeing the love that is shared between Pete and Kelly.

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Each time I took an image I was drawn towards their affection for one another and how proud they are of their kids. It was an absolute pleasure and I hope to have the opportunity to work with them again in the future.

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XO to all you guys and thank you for the opportunity - J

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Shall We Recap…Oh May…..Oh My!

Holy Heck…where did May 2013 go??   Well I can say it went toward photography….especially on my Sunday mornings.  The only Sunday I wasn’t booked was Mother’s day Sunday.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend that day with my momma…but don’t worry we got to see each other a few weeks later :)

As I look back on the month, I’m glad it flew by and I am glad June came flyin’ in on positive note.  Thank you to all of these beautiful clients for sharing your Sunday’s with me.

May took me to: the beach on a rainy Sunday morning and then to breakfast in hopes of seeing the sunshine….glad we saw the sunshine!

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May took me to: one of my favorite locations for photography on a bright and toy filled Sunday morning….
Oh and by the way – WELCOME to baby Brady - Lil guy was born this morning!!! Can’t wait to meet you!
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And then May took me to: the house of one of my good friends and long-time clients for some newborn goodness. Hello Baby Kate!!

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Peace out May…..glad to be enjoying June….who’s interested in a recap of June now that it’s almost over??  XO – J

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Calm My Mind

Thank heavens for other people….
other blogs that captivate me and occupy my mind when it needs to be calm.
I read the below on someone elses blog and wanted to remember it myself
and lets be honest….
I can’t post without an image attached…
this one felt right although its not mine.

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The Kama Sutra of Kindness: Position Number 3

It’s easy to love
through a cold spring
when the poles
of the willows
turn green
pollen falls like
a yellow curtain
and the scent of
Paper Whites
clots
the air

but to love for a lifetime
takes talent

you have to mix yourself
with the strange
beauty of someone
else
wake each morning
for 72,000
mornings in
a row so
breathed and
bound and
tangled
that you can hardly
sort out
your arms
and
legs

you have to
find forgiveness
in everything
even ink stains
and broken
cups

you have to be willing to move through
life
together
the way the long
grasses move
in a field
when you careen
blindly toward
the other
side

there’s never going to be anything
straight or predictable
about your path
except the
flattening
and the springing
back

you just go on walking for years
hand in hand
waist deep in the weeds
bent slightly forward
like two question
marks
and all the while it

burns
my dear
it burns beautifully above
you
and goes on
burning
like a relentless
sun

“The Kama Sutra of Kindness: Position Number 3″ by Mary Mackey, from Breaking the Fever. © Marsh Hawk Press, 2006

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The H Family: 10 of them to be exact!

Like I said in my prior post, I consider this new momma somewhat like family.  She is awesome and I just loved being able to capture this time in her life.  It was an absolute pleasure working with this entire family!

K, I knew you were a great guy, but it was so wonderful meeting the whole crew and I have such an appreciation for how fantastic they all were too!!

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Coordinating 10 people seemed like a daunting task in the early stages of my planning but I must admit I am so happy with these images and hope the family enjoys them for years to come.

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Lil’ Miss Andi stole the show and towards the end of the session and decided to give me a big ‘ole smile – It couldn’t have ended on a more perfect note!

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XO – J

P.S. I promised that April was going to be a busy month around here and I’m so glad to be back up and blogging (its been a long time coming).  I fully look forward to the challenge of delivering great service to each of my clients this month. Keep your eyes peeled for newbies, a few 6 month olds and a special engagement session toward the end of the month.  If you’re on Instagram find me at Jennypeppers21 and on facebook at jennypeppersphotography.

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I’d say the ladies are completely out numbered by the guys…but the good news is that there’s room to grow!

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I can’t help but post this last one.  I really believe that the love of a grandmother or great grandmother is one of the most capativing loves of all.

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Happy Wednesday everyone!!

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Bucket List Item: Photograph the Cherry Blossom Trees in DC

Let me start this post by saying I have NEVER tracked something like this in my entire life!!  Seriously, as odd as this is to admit (yes I’m fine if you call me crazy), I have been slightly addicted to tracking the Cherry Blossom bloom date for over 6 months now.  I have been dying to see these trees in bloom for over two years…stalking was totally warranted!  Unfortunately, tracking the date in which a tree will bloom in Washington DC is almost impossible for someone who is 860 miles away and not in control of the weather patterns!!

Needless to say I gave it my best effort and was pleasantly surprised when the National Park Service issued their first (FIRST is the crucial word here) forecast indicating the exact dates I was hoping to be in DC….BAM!  I scheduled the trip and got really excited.

Long story short, everything was moving along smoothly until March 18th.  That’s when the “experts” chimed in and decided to revise their original forecast…..to 4 days after I would be leaving – stupid cold weather!  Anyone who knows anything about these trees is aware of the fact that they only bloom (on average) for about 7-10 days(start to finish).  At that point, I was bummed because I felt like I might miss the blooms all together and I’d without a doubt miss the puffy blooms!

Unfortunately with my trip being planned for the following week, I felt like it was too short of notice to reschedule and push to the anticipated “peak bloom” date.   So I hunkered down and began to accept the possibility that I was going to miss seeing these blooms at peak bloom and possibly the blooming all together.  That is where everything started to get fun.

I was fully accepting the fact that I wasn’t going to see peak bloom when I received a text from my “traveling buddy.”  As a side note: oh how I ADORE my “traveling buddy!”  She is one of my closest friends and luckily for her she has lived in Japan and experienced the beauty of these trees in their original environment (not fair!!).

Anyhow, she texted me 3 days prior to our anticipated departure and surprised me with, “Do you want to push our road trip to the following week so you can see the blooms?”  I didn’t originally consider this an option because my traveling buddy doesn’t have as flexible of a schedule as I do (or at least I thought she didn’t).  BUT just like that, I slept on the idea and went into full “let’s see if this is even an option” mode the following morning.

The main concern for me was two client sessions I had already scheduled.

Client No. 1 – AMAZING! She basically said, Jen we are flexible…if this is something you really want to do, we’d be okay with swapping dates.  SCORE!  AND thank you to those awesome clients – more to come on them next week!

Client No. 2 – I consider her slightly like family…I mean her sister in law has been my best friend since 6th grade and I had my fingers and toes crossed that she would be okay and forgive me on this one.  SCORE again!  Forgiven, with me owing her my first born child (ha-ha just kiddin’).  You’ll see their family session pop up sometime in the next few days.

We hit the road and boy oh boy was it 100% worth the fun that ensued the moment we pulled out of the drive way.  12 hours later we arrived in DC and who’d like to guess what happened at that point?? Any takers??

We were officially greeted with the “experts” (I do NOT like these “experts”) revising their bloom date AGAIN…seriously?!?!  Of course it was too late to do anything about it and I must say I’m glad I was lucky enough to catch a few of the trees around the City and Basin in full bloom.  When I say that these pictures do not do the trees’ justice, I’m not kidding!   It was absolutely stunning and I can only imagine what it looks like around the Basin at full bloom.  I will return at some point in my life to catch the spectacle but it might be a while.  I am so happy with what I did see and am so excited to display some of these images around my house.

I don’t think I could ever thank my “traveling buddy” enough but I plan to keep trying because this was one vacay I’ll never forget!  I look forward to our next trip…of course we already picked the location.   More on the road trip and our shenanigans around DC later!

For now enjoy the amazing Cherry Blossoms (Anyone notice the new header?? Copyright: yours truly).

XO – J

There are several types of Cherry Blossoms – these are Magnolia Cherry Blossoms, which were already in full bloom when we arrived.
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I think this was one of the Weeping Japanese Cherry’s – I have really fallen in LOVE with this image!

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A Little History: Around the Tidal Basin are about 3-4,000 Yoshino Cherry Trees (now you might understand why I wanted to see peak bloom).  In 1912, the people of Japan sent 3,020 cherry trees to the United States as a gift of friendship. The majority of those trees were planted around the Basin.  These images will show you the progression of blooming that took place over the few days I was there. It was amazing to see how much they changed from day to day.

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Each tree gave me a peak at different stages, the next two images show one sole bloom on an entire tree.

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The tempatures started to warm up during the day and almost overnight things began to change:

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