Friday, May 27, 2011

Photog Featured Friday: Toni Lynn Photography

The other day I was on my facebook fan page and I noticed that one of my favorite photography blogs called I Heart Faces had posted one of their entries to their weekly Photo Challenge. This week the photo challenge was for the color yellow, and I loooove yellow, but this particular photo was stunning and it just spoke to me. It was creamy and the lighting was to die for! It made the model's hair glisten in the sunlight in a way that we all wanted her hair (I still do) and to feel her peace.

Picture taken by Toni Lynn Photography

 I immediately found this photographer on facebook and "liked" her page, checked out her work, and contacted her.  I have only "known" Toni for a short time, but I am sure we will be running into each other on other photography group pages much more often. From what I gather she is incredibly successful because she loves her craft, she loves people, and she has a heart full of gold and wants to see every photographer succeed. She is hands down awesomeness and I, for one, am lucky to have stumbled upon her work. 

Toni, maybe one day we can meet in person even if we are on opposite sides of the country :-)

Here is my I-wanna-get-to-know-Toni question time:

1. How did you get into photography? 

I was that mom always following my kids around with a camera.  I only have one picture of me as a child and I never wanted to miss a moment with my kids.  Now they are at the point that they see my camera and hide.   I never thought I would be a photographer and it wasn't something I even thought of doing.  Last summer I really started to think about what it was that I wanted to do with my life besides being a mother and I thought "Maybe I can be a photographer".  I bought a 5d Mark ii and 2nd shot my first wedding 4 days later!  I had been reading about shooting in manual and when my camera came I practiced non stop for those few days before the wedding.  After that first wedding I fell in love! Here' the link to Toni's blog post from that first wedding: {}

Picture of Toni Lynn
Copyright -Toni Lynn Photography

 2. What is your favorite genre of photography to shoot? Seniors because I absolutely adore their willingness to try anything and just how full of life they are!  Weddings because I love capturing the emotions of the day!

Picture of Toni Lynn

 3. Where do you see yourself ten years from now?  A world famous wedding photographer or sipping ice tea by the pool.  Either one!

Picture of Toni Lynn
Copyright- Toni Lynn Photography

 4. Who or what inspires you?  Gods creation, people, skies, old barns, my children.  Lots of things inspire me.  I just see so much beauty in this world and something deep inside myself wants to capture it and hold it forever.

Picture of Toni Lynn
Copyright- Toni Lynn Photography

 5. What is in your bag? Canon 5d Markii, 50 1.4, 85 1.8 (my little baby!) 24-70 2.8,  2 580exii's a couple pocket wizards, 5-1 reflector, Fiber one bars. ;)

Picture of Toni Lynn
Copyright- Toni Lynn Photography

6. What is your favorite lens to shoot with? Hands down 85 1.8 and when I make some money it will be the 85 1.2!

Copyright of Toni Lynn Photography
Copyright - Toni Lynn Photography

 7. What is the best advice you can give to someone just starting out in the business?  If you want to be successful be a blessing to others first.

 8. What has been your favorite photography shoot or moment?  My favorite moment is every time I upload the pictures from a shoot.  I'm always nervous they will suck and am so happy if at least some came out good!

Copyright of Toni Lynn Photography
Copyright - Toni Lynn Photography

9. Have you had an “Oops!” moment that you learned from?  Every time I forget to take my lens cap off!

 10. Do you have favorite photo of yours?  Yes I just adore the profile picture on my facebook fan page.  The light was beautiful that day and I just love it!!  When I uploaded that picture my first thought was "I will never be able to take a picture that good again!"

Pic of Toni Lynn
Copyright- Toni Lynn Photography

11. Where have you been featured? and if so with who?  I have been featured on Inside the Locker and various photographers blogs.

 12. What do you like to do on your free time   Free time???

Thank you so much Toni for sharing your time with us and for being my first EVER featured photographer! I can't wait to see more of your work in the future.

Show Toni some love by checking out her blog here

and liking her facebook page here

Until next time,


Monday, May 23, 2011

Better Together

Like peas and carrots…

Like peanut butter and jelly…

Like wine and buffalo pretzels (am I the only one that loves this combination?)…

Like Edward and Bella…
Like Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers…ummm…I mean, like Michael Jordon and Scotty Pippen…

It’s true. Steve and I go together like Coca-Cola classic and boardwalk fries smothered in salt and vinegar and eaten on the beach.

After dinner, he looks over at me across the table and asks, “Do you have the kitchen or will you be giving Addy girl a bath?”
We are a team. We tag team the chores like no other. Even when he leaves the toilet seat up, it doesn’t bother me a bit because I most likely brushed my teeth with his toothbrush in a sleepy haze on my way to bed.

We’re not perfect. There are fights from time to time, but only when we lose sight of the fact that we are better together. After all, I wouldn’t be complete if every time I was in the kitchen shaking my groove thang and joking, “ Where be ye treasure” in my English Pirate accent, if I didn’t have someone swinging their hips in front of me coming back with, “Yar!, if you mean me booty, it be over the poop deck!”
And what does all of this have to do with Addisyn? (Other than the fact that she may or may not be embarrassed by her parents later on in her life)


For this little girl...

is already reaping the benefits of seeing a relationship full of respect, laughter, teamwork, and most of all...LOVE.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One More for Love The Story: Chapter 17 - No Time for Goodbyes

“Dude! How was your Christmas break?” asked Bobby as I entered the break room on my first day back to work.
“Brutal bro.  Melissa and I broke up on Christmas Eve.” I responded sitting down at the computer next to his.

“Are you serious? So I guess it was like the worst Christmas ever.”

“Not exactly…”

I went on to tell Bobby how I’d found out Melissa was cheating and how I felt more relieved than saddened by the whole experience.  By the time the story was over, I was fully logged onto my work computer, checking my email and secretly wishing I could check my new MySpace account to see if I’d been friended by any of the local ladies. 
Even though I was single and internet mingling, I was excited to be back at work.  I was sure that Stacy and I had both opted to take Christmas break off and not the New Year’s break, which meant she’d be back at work the same night I was and I could not wait to tell her the latest and final story in the chronicles of Melissa.  Just as the thought had entered my mind, a civilian mechanic named Gordon, who was better known for spreading rumors than for troubleshooting aircraft, sat down next to me and began to log into a computer.

“So Hart, did you hear about Sergeant Morey?” he said, giddy with gossip.

“What do you mean?” I usually didn’t encourage his story telling, but if it was about Stacy and had any truth to it, I had to hear him out.

“You mean you don’t know?” he asked, reminding me why I don’t like to talk to him.

“Just tell me.” I said, impatiently.

“She’s getting deployed.” I paused, stunned.

“How do you know?” I asked, flustered.  “How’s she gonna close on her house?”

“I heard the shift chief talking about it.  I guess she’s been trying to get out of it because she has to close, but they’re sending her anyway.  She does not want to go.”

“I’ll bet she’s devastated.  She really wanted to be here to close on that house.  What time’s she coming in tonight?”

“Coming in tonight? She leaves for the desert in two weeks.  She’s on leave then she’s on a plane to the sand pit man.  We won’t see her for another five months at least.”

“Five months?” In disbelief, I immediately logged off the computer and went on a hunt for information from a few more reliable sources.

After checking with the shift chiefs and supervisors, I found out that everything Gordon said was true.  Stacy was on leave until a few days before her departure, just enough time to out-process and get on a plane going over the ocean.  She had put a tremendous amount of time and effort into having her new house built and was devastated by the idea of not being able to close and begin to create a home with her own personal decorative touches.  But, when it comes to the military, her time had come and there was nothing she could do but accept her fate and step on that plane…it’s what she signed up for.
I felt numb.  If I would have known the last time I saw Stacy I wouldn’t be seeing her again for almost half a year, I would have at least told her goodbye.  I would have told her how much I appreciate her friendship.  I would have told her how the nights we worked together went by in a flash while the nights I worked without her dragged on for hours on end.  I would have hugged her. Not a romantic embrace, but a hug to tell her to be safe and to come home in one piece.
I had never been deployed and was afraid of the things I didn’t know.  I had no idea where she’d be or what she’d be doing.  I didn’t know what kind of danger she might be in or how close to the war zone she’d be. All I knew was…she’d be at war.

I had heard enough stories to know that most of the assignments for aircraft mechanics were at an airport away from danger.  But, many times to get from the hotel or barracks they used for lodging to the airport would require a convoy or travel through towns where stopping was not an option.  The vehicle went full speed from point A to point B, and improvised explosive devices (IED’s) were a constant threat.  Many of my fellow military co-workers had informed me of how far away from the action they were and how being deployed was no big deal, but for every five stories of safety there was one story of mortar rounds going off so loud they would shake the barracks like an earthquake.  

My thoughts were in a tail spin.  I began to envision what Stacy would be telling her family while they were sitting around the dinner table on the last week before her deployment.  Was she scared?  Or was she playing it down like it was going to be no big deal?  I felt cheated.  I was aware enough of the dynamic of our relationship to know that even though she was a big part of my life, I was a small part of hers, but why didn’t she tell me?  I had to find out from Gordon in the break room?  She couldn’t have sent me a text? Or given me a phone call?  It wasn’t fair. 

That night was one of the longest nights of my life.  I cycled between selfishness and worry until I eventually coped with the idea that what was done was done, there was nothing I could do to change things, and the sooner I realized that her world didn’t revolve around me, the better off I’d be.
On my drive home that morning, I made a decision that the best thing I could do for myself was not to think about it and move on.  My thoughts were tied to my emotions and I wasn’t doing myself any favors by spending my emotional energy on a woman who was in a relationship and would soon be thousands of miles away.  This approach seemed to work until one night when I was out looking for love on the Dover bar scene; I ran into Chris Bollard.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Behind Every Great Man...

There is something to be said about the feeling I get when I walk through the front door after being separated from my husband for a weekend. It is a mending, so to speak, of a piece of me that was missing while I was away. Maybe it is the kisses he gives me when he sees me for the first time. It’s not a quick peck on the cheek, but a lingering, long, soft kiss followed by a great big hug and another kiss on the forehead to top it off. Yep, my heart restoration ensues after this welcoming. It could also be the giant smile and the contagious glow that is impossible to deny whenever he sees his daughter screaming with delight and reaching out for him.  Or maybe it is all the funny stories and the simple conversations that have been missed while we were apart. Whatever it is, it feels right…like needing my fingers to type this post, kind-of-right. He is a necessary part of me. 

*our attempt at a self portrait while holding the camera. You know you love it!

Addisyn  and I went to my hometown in Virginia for the weekend to celebrate my older sister, Kimberly's , Bridal Shower. Kelly Jo (my little sister)  and I, along with the rest of the bride's crew had been organizing and planning this  for months and we wanted to make sure everything would be perfect for this day. My sister has dreamed of her wedding day and everything it entails  for years, so this had to be special. As the guests were beginning to arrive at the house, I snuck upstairs to check on my sister who was almost finished curling the ends of her long brown hair. Her eyes begin to fill with tears and she worked to gain her composure before she came downstairs to greet the thirty or so guests gathered in her honor.  Her time had arrived.

We passed out cards to all the guests and asked them to finish the phrase on their card. For example, one said “Behind every great man” and we had to complete it with an original saying instead of, “…there stands a great woman.” My mind was blank. I write a blog every week, but couldn’t come up with one original piece of advice to tell my sister about this great journey she is about to start. And so, Kimberly, I dedicate this blog post to you. My advice to you is this: Behind every great man… is a woman who will walk through the front door and be reconnected by the sweet kisses of her man, inspired by the love for his family, and restored emotionally and spiritually by the simple fact that you are together, you are family, and you are one.

*the sistas -

... and a Monday night blog post wouldn't be complete without some pictures of Addisyn ;-)

Monday, May 9, 2011

In My Arms

There is a place I go each week where, if need be, I can guarantee my faith is restored, any hardness I have in my heart is softened, and where a broken spirit is reconnected.  That place is my church.  Depending on how I feel on Sunday morning, I usually find a spot in the first row where I am so close to the front that I feel like part of the worship team or a spot in the very back row where I can have quiet moments to myself throughout the service. This Sunday was a “back row” kind of day and I found a cozy spot in the very last row near the aisle with a good line of sight to the worship band. It is not unusual that you will find me dancing back and forth with Addisyn in my arms, tapping my foot to the beat, belting the songs on the top of my lungs (without remorse for the people around me), and smiling from ear to ear when I feel the Holy Spirit in our presence, but my ”back row” Sundays are a time of reflection after a tough week. It makes me feel like I am in a private setting where it’s just me and God. I usually find myself sitting down, closing my eyes, shutting down my brain, and letting the music and God speak to me.  This Sunday our congregation was blessed to hear Rebecca Wood sing, “In My Arms” by Plumb. (First song on the playlist below). Tears were immediately drawn to my eyelids as I was simply reminded of a very special purpose I have on this earth; to be a mother who provides a safety net for my children in the form of love. What an amazing gift us mothers have been given.

And then when I sat down to write this blog post and went back to read the lyrics again, I realized the parallel.  Sometimes weeks are tough, patience runs thin, my body tries to spare ever last morsel of energy to complete the day and my physical needs outweigh every other need in my body. I even have weeks where I feel the storms of life racing in and pummeling my weaknesses so that I am left exhausted and emotionally drained.  Today, I draw motivation from this song and in knowing we are safe in God’s arms and in His Love.

Happy Mother’s Day! May you feel rejuvenated in all aspects of your life~

In My Arms Lyrics- Plumb

Your baby blues, so full of wonder
Your curly cues, your contagious smile
And as I watch, you start to grow up
All I can do is hold you tight

Knowing clouds will rage
And storms will race in, but you will be safe in my arms
Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around
But you will be safe in my arms

Story books full of fairy tales
Of king and queens and the bluest skies
My heart is torn in knowing
You’ll someday see the truth from lies

When the clouds will rage
And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms
Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around
But you will be safe in my arms

Castles they might crumble
Dreams may not come true
But you are never alone
Because I will always, always love you

When the clouds will rage
And storms will race in, but you will be safe in my arms
Rains will pour down, waves will crash around
But you will be safe in my arms, in my arms

Friday, May 6, 2011

One More for Love The Story: Chapter 16 - Christmas Curse

It was December 24th, 2005.  While most people were probably coaxing their kids into getting into bed for fear that if they stayed up Santa wouldn’t come, I was throwing a birthday party for one of Melissa’s friends.  Not that I really cared. I had always had bad luck with the Christmas season so it didn’t really bother me that we wouldn’t be celebrating Christmas Eve this year. For example, when I was younger there were three Christmases in a row where I had the stomach flu so bad that, while the rest of the family was lost in the excitement and merriment of Santa’s latest delivery, I spent my mornings curled up in a ball in a corner of the couch. My fate was confirmed on one Christmas when I was particularly ill, when I received my first C.D. “The Sign” by Ace of Base. I think “the sign” was that I was cursed by the Grinch of belly aches and pin point food poisoning. Which is why, in 2005, I was more than willing to host Karen’s birthday party on Christmas Eve. 

The party turnout was better than expected.  We had about twenty people show up which was pretty good considering the day and the season.  They were mostly Melissa’s friends as all of my military pals were back at their home towns spending Christmas with their families. 

Once Karen showed up and the party got on its way, the vibe was that of any other of the weekly parties we threw at our house.  I was even having a decent time watching Sports Center with some of the guys.  Until, a few hours into the party I saw Melissa locked into a text message she was reading on her cell phone…that phone.

Ever since she cut her McDonalds trip short to rush back home just to grab her cell phone from the kitchen counter, I had been keeping an eye on her and that phone.  She took it with her everywhere.  If we were eating dinner together, it was right next to her plate like some kind of soup spoon substitute.  If she left the room, even for a few minutes, she would always be sure to tuck the phone into her pocket.  The situation became even more suspect when I noticed she wouldn’t check her text messages while we were in the same room together.  Sometimes her ringtone would go off, she’d ignore it completely, then conveniently excuse herself to the restroom.    Now, I’ve never been a person who got jealous, but a person who has suspicions I am certainly not above.   The way I saw it, she either had a chronic bladder problem or there was something going on that she didn’t want me to know about. 

After cuing in on Melissa’s text message stare down, I took a look around the house and noticed there was one party regular who wasn’t in attendance.  Adam Schefield.  In the best interest of appeasing my suspicious nature, I approached Melissa with my observation, “Hey, I noticed Adam isn’t here.  Is he going to be able to make it?”

“I don’t know.  I think he had to work.” She responded, rather brash, then turned to walk to the restroom.  I stayed put hoping to pry a little deeper when she finished answering the beaconing of what could have been an overactive bladder.

When Melissa was done in the restroom, the door swung open, and just before she turned off the bathroom light, I saw a glimpse of her cell phone sitting on the bathroom sink.  I reacted immediately.  As Melissa walked past me to a group of her friends, I darted into the bathroom and locked the door.  Time was of the essence.  I picked up her phone with every intention of going through her text message history and piecing together all the evidence I needed to find out whether or not she had been cheating on me, but I only had to read her most recent text to find the answer I was looking for.   It was from Adam and it simply said:

“Sorry can’t make it tonight :( Miss u, love u."

It didn’t hurt like I thought it would.  I actually felt a little relieved.  I went back a message into her texting history to find out what she said to generate this response.  This one was from Melissa:

“Are you ever going to get here?? MISS YOU!!! Love – ME ;)"

That was all I needed to know. I looked through a few other messages just to be sure, but I didn’t care if she was sleeping with the guy or not. If she was in love with someone else; it was over.

I quickly put together a plan of how to confront Melissa. I wanted her to know that I knew what was going on, there was no way we could work things out, and that her and all her friends had to be out of my house immediately.

When I left the bathroom, I walked over to Melissa, who was still talking with her group of friends, and asked her if we could speak privately. We walked a few steps away from the group and I said (just loud enough for her friends to hear), “I’m going to give you one chance to get out of this relationship with at least a shred of integrity.” I showed her the cell phone in my hand. “Are you cheating on me?” Her eyes opened wide as she tried to overcome the shock of my accusation.

“That’s my phone Steve!” She said, snatching it from my hand and gaining the attention of the party. “What’s in it is none of your business!”

"Do you want to read the texts from Adam aloud or do you just want to leave my house now and spare yourself the embarrassment?” I said, starting to get upset that she was even considering trying to trump her wrong doing of cheating with my wrong doing of going through her text messages.

“It’s not what you think.” She said, realizing the attention she’d drawn.

“Did you tell another man you love him?” I asked, talking down to her like a child.

“Yes, but he’s a…”

“Then it’s EXACTLY what I think!” People were getting visibly uncomfortable.

“He’s a friend. What? You don’t love your friends?”

I wasn’t even going to entertain this argument. “It’s over Melissa. Get out!” I pointed to the side door of the house then looked around the room. “The party is over people. EVERYBODY OUT!”

Looking more embarrassed than angry, Melissa walked past me with an emphatic, “Screw you!” inches from my face, leading the file of shocked party members toward the door.

After everyone had dispersed and all the cars had left the driveway, I sat down on the couch and glanced up at the living room cable box clock showing a glowing 1:00 a.m. It was Christmas morning and I was alone on my couch reflecting upon my relationship with Melissa. Now that it was finally over, I realized that I hadn’t been happy being with her for some time. She was nice and funny and neither of us had ever given the other a good enough reason to break up until now. As I started to drift off to sleep, I couldn’t help but be proud of Melissa for finally finding a way for both of us to see that we weren’t right for each other.

Monday, May 2, 2011

One Picture

I have one good picture of Addisyn from this past week. One.

Editing just one picture of her is like having just one slice of the blueberry pie that is currently sitting in my fridge: leaving me wanting more...

Fortunately for me, I get to wake up to this beautiful face everyday.

How sweet it is to be loved by her...

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