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soggy dog designs | for real life 2020 edition

Since July 25, 2019, one year ago from when I sat down to write this, life has thrown its share of curve-balls my way. Personal health challenges, family health challenges, mental health challenges, work challenges, the loss of my father, the loss of all normalcy in our worlds, the loss of my favorite camera, the loss of my family car (Bessie!), and the realization that from this point forward my life will never be as it was. I find myself increasingly responsible for those in my life, and increasingly grateful that I can be that person for them. I find myself simultaneously sad yet beholden, insecure yet confident, sloth-like yet motivated. I feel like I can roll with whatever this world throws at us, but sometimes I want to crawl into a hole and hide – or scoot up to another harbor to simply appreciate the peacefulness and beauty of the sunrise over an open sea.

In the big picture of life I know how fortunate I have been throughout my lifetime. I have always had a family that loves me as much as they drive me to insanity. I share lifelong friendships with humans of all races, genders, sexual preferences, political views, work ethics, and senses of humor. I have been able to create a career in a community that lets me play, lets me do what I love - to capture memories, to coach, to be a mentor for our youth, and to be my 'for real' self.

#howie did spring sports photos during quarantine in 2019!

I have begun writing and sharing more stories of people in our community and beyond, and realize that the only thing holding me back from doing this sooner was my insecurities and uncertainty of how to share you wonderful humans with the world. In light of all things Covid, I am grateful that the pandemic caused me to 'stir my damn stumps' ( a direct quote from my Dad's dad, Grandpa Ralph!) and follow my gut and listen to my heart. My heart and soul are much sadder this year after losing my father, and I know this will take a very long time to accept as a part of who I am. But with the darkness there is always light, shown by some of my sweet and soulful athletes just yesterday. They got out of their car to come see me sitting in mine after a shoot. The older sister just wanted to check in with me and give me a virtual hug, saying that she noticed I was sad and wanted to let me know she was sorry about my Dad. These incredible young women took time from their day to check in on me. Knowing that I live in a community that fosters this kind of empathy in its youth – I am actually speechless about how this makes me feel, but I am typing through tears, here! I can say it makes me smile big and swells my heart.

So why do I share all this with the world? You allow me to share your selves and to tell your stories, and I hope will continue to do so, I felt it only fair to share a bit of mine. Twenty years ago yesterday (July 24th) my newlywed husband and I moved to Maine and began this insanely crazy journey together. Maine is not the most welcoming place to move to from away, as we learned our first few months here. Although we found a place to live and jobs quickly, life just as quickly threw those curve-balls at us. There are a lot of ugly details I'd rather not share, but basically included job-harassment, legal issues, our house robbed and belongings destroyed, eviction, unemployment, and a bit more. Like we do, we bounced, and we bounced higher than we started and found our way in a new community that welcomed us openly. We started two businesses, created our family, and found our forever home in Bath and in our 'family we choose' that supports us and all of our crazy ideas.

I have been blog-silent these past few weeks as I just needed some time to pause, to take some deep breaths, to appreciate all that we still have in light of all that we have lost this year. As I write this I am sitting at my mom's house just four miles from mine, listening to the immature bald eagles cry, and appreciating that I am living my childhood dream - to live in Maine and be a photographer. I realize that I have been allowed to become more than that – a wife, a mother, a friend, a coach, a mentor, and a story-teller as I get to share your awesomeness with the world. That is what I am looking forward to resuming as I embark upon my own personal 'New Year' that starts today. I am celebrating the end of a most challenging year, along with the milestone of 20 years of adventures in the place I have forever felt was home – knowing that we are in the thick of the good parts of life. The parts that are saturated with the daily joys, sorrows, and humors of reality - soggy with the 'for real life,' if you will. I am beholden to you all for continuing to be a part of my 'for real life,' and look forward to creating more adventure with you all throughout the years to come.

Here's To 20 Years, Maine – and Here's to You, soggy dogs, for letting me be a part of your stories.

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