Monday, June 12, 2017

Pulse: One Year Later



"Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, and cannot be killed or swept aside."

~Lin-Manuel Miranda, June 12th, 2016~

This was just going to be a Facebook status saying, "I'm sad, I can't believe it's been a year". But it sort of morphed as I was typing. And I started typing hours and hours ago, but I have stopped and started multiple times. I have a lot of words in my head and I need to get them out of me so they don't eat me alive. Y'all know me; I'm a snarky sarcastic lady-gal who can usually make a joke out of everything, and I have a pretty dark sense of humor, and I tend to play true raw vulnerable emotions pretty close to the chest. I guess it goes with that territory that I am often pretty bad at letting myself truly feel things, or maybe I should say I try to, like, 'man up' when it comes to feeling things fully and openly. So when I do feel things and express my emotions, I have this intense paranoia that people must be laughing at me behind my back or rolling their eyes, and as a result, I feel like I have to apologize for what I'm feeling. But whatever, not today. I'm not going to apologize for the way today has made me feel, or for the way I felt a year ago today. These are words I need to get out into the ether because otherwise they're just going to keep rattling around in my brain, so bear with me as I ramble.

So, hey. I'm a big ol' nerd, right? I tend to relate to things and events through a frame work of movies and books and musicals and pop-culture stuff. Maybe it's a defense mechanism, like when the world gets too real and scary, I search for meaning in whatever is going on by assigning a favorite movie quote to it to help my brain make sense of it or something? I don't really know. But this is one of my favorite quotes, and I've used it before for other big and meaningful things. Every time I get down on the world (which is regrettably often), and every time I start to lose my faith in humanity (which is frighteningly frequent), and every time something god-awful happens and it feels like the world has been completely turned upon its head and nothing will ever be okay again, I try to remember the words of one Samwise Gamgee:

"There's some good in this world...and it's worth fighting for."

I'm not going to lie, I felt really weird and sad and surreal today--I wasn't sure how I would feel but I knew it would be a pretty emotional day. I had a session scheduled downtown this morning, and I had the radio on the whole way down, listening to most of the stations here in town talking about what will be going on to commemorate the one year mark since the shooting. I kept thinking about how horrible and numbing it was one year ago today as we all got bludgeoned by the news, shock reverberating throughout the community and the world, everyone just waiting to hear if they'd lost a friend or a loved one in the attack. In some ways it feels really raw and fresh and painful, like it was just yesterday, and in other weary ways, it seems like its been forever since that awful day, like we've been collectively beaten over the head for an eternity with the sorrow and senselessness and tragedy of that day.

I've been asked multiple times over the 16 years we've lived here why Brendan and I chose to move to Orlando. We've always been damn proud of this city and completely honored and happy to call it our home and not at all ashamed to proclaim that, but I don't think we've ever been more proud than we have been in the last year after watching how this city and its people reacted to tragedy. On June 12th 2016, an awful thing happened to all of us, and while things are never going to be the same again, I truly feel like the community here rose up and proved that love is stronger than hate. I wish like hell that we had never gone through what happened, but knowing that this city I chose--the community where I've built my life and established my home and business, the place where I've met some of the most amazing people on the planet, my city, your city, our city--was able to come together and push back so fiercely against an act of hate, makes me just burst with pride. The way the people here reacted in the hours, days, and months after Pulse were incontrovertable proof to me that the people of Orlando, and especially the LGBTQ community, weren't going to take the hate that had been brought upon them lying down.

So today, a day that's just filled with mixed emotions, I chose to follow the mantra that so many of us have taken up since that day: we will not let hate win. I am grateful to live in a city where the first responders came and selflessly put their lives on the line to save every single person they could as soon as the 911 calls began rolling in. I remember with awe that there were brave people who helped others escape from the club before saving themselves, and many who got out but then turned right around to run headlong back into the dark horrors of the situation unfolding in the club to try and save others who couldn't save themselves. I'm thankful to the skilled and compassionate doctors, surgeons, nurses, and staff at our local hospitals, people who worked endless hours to save the lives of those who were injured. I'm going to recall that in the days immediately after the shooting, there were so many people who stood in the sweltering heat for hours and hours to donate blood that they had to be turned away because the donation centers ran out of supplies and room, and that there were others still who showed up with cases of water and snacks and other supplies to offer support to the people waiting to donate. I'm going to remember the absolutely insane amount of people who crammed into downtown and other places for the rallies in the days after the attack. I'm going to continue to be gobsmacked and proud at the fact that the emergency funds set up for people to donate to the victims were able to raise record-breaking amounts of money for the survivors and the families of those lost. I am going to remember the survivors who've overcome so much, and the families of those who are no longer with us. And more than anything, I have chosen to spend today remembering the 49 beautiful souls who were lost. Because to me, these things are what make up our community--hate is not our story, and hate doesn't get to win. Love always wins here.

But hey, Orlando: our job isn't done. We're still here, and if we're really going to remember those who were lost at Pulse, and if we're truly going to honor them with action, we have a job to do. There are still survivors who are going to need ongoing medical and mental care. There are still people affected by the tragedy who might need a helping hand--victims and their families and first responders alike--who were directly impacted by what happened and what they saw, people who might need someone to help them as they move forward; PTSD is a real thing and it really takes a toll. There are the efforts being undertaken by Pulse owner Barbara Poma, including her mission to turn the club into a permanent memorial, so that the site of the club can become a sacred space where anyone who wants to pay their respects can come and grieve. We can't pat ourselves on the back for what all we accomplished in the wake of the Pulse tragedy and then stop helping each other out; we've proven that we're better than that. So, if you want to keep helping, and if you want to keep honoring the victims with actions, here are a few things you can do and resources you may find helpful.

--The One Orlando Alliance has created a page for those wanting direction on how to help, be it through donations or through other means. If you need some direction on finding out how to get going on giving back to the community, this is a perfect place to start. Go to https://oneorlandoalliance.org/acts-of-love-and-kindness and you'll find a great jumping off point for ways to act, love, and give to the community as it continues to heal.

--You can donate to The Contigo Fund, which arose from the Pulse tragedy as an offshoot of the OneOrlando Fund, and which is working to eradicate discrimination in the LGBTQ communities here in Orlando and Central Florida. Here is their website: http://contigofund.org/en/

--You can give to the onePULSE Foundation and help Barbara Poma with her goal to set up a permanent memorial honoring the victims and with her initiatives to continue to support the survivors and families of those who were lost. https://onepulsefoundation.org

--You can throw some dollars to the GoFundMe page set up by Equality Florida, which will help them with their goals of destroying animosity and hatred against the LGBTQ community, to prevent bigotry in schools, and to speak out against anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence https://www.gofundme.com/forthe49

--And for a non-financial donation: give blood if you're able. For more info on how to do this simple but powerful thing, visit www.oneblood.org

And if you're looking for some ways to help that don't involve donations, or if you need resources that you can share for people who might need a helping hand (or if you're in need of help yourself), here are some links and contact info for you:

--http://helpisstilloutthere.org is a great site with a lot of good info for people who might need physical or mental help as a result of the tragedy.

--407-500-HOPE and https://orlandounitedassistancecenter.org are community resources offering help and assistance to those who might need it, 24/7.

--For suicide prevention and counseling, dial 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org if you're having trouble or thoughts of self harm. Help is available for people who might be suffering, from Pulse or otherwise, or people who are dealing with PTSD and don't know where else to turn. Seriously, reach out. I've been where you are, and someone cares even if you don't think anyone does--I mean it. You can't be replaced. Please raise your hand and someone will help you if you're feeling like you have nowhere else to turn; there is no shame in feeling the way you do, and no one will judge you if you need help, but a lot of people will miss you terribly if you're gone. I promise. You matter and you have value and worth.

And in your community, there's plenty of simple stuff you can do that takes very little effort but that can have a big impact. Accept people and love them for who they are. Embrace the wonderful diversity that makes this such an amazing place to live. Be vocal and prideful in your support of those who might need a friendly face and a warm smile. Help a stranger with something, even if its a small thing like loading their groceries into their car. Hold a door open for someone, and thank someone if they hold a door open for you. Show patience and kindness, even to those who might not be showing you the same courtesies. Be an ally, a friend, and a warrior for someone who might not feel safe or secure in who they are, and make sure they know you're there for them. Be an open door and a smiling face and a cup of coffee for someone who might be dealing with a lack of acceptance from others. Thank a police officer, firefighter, EMT, doctor, nurse, 911 dispatcher, or anyone else in a job that is often thankless, for doing their part to keep our community safe. Never give in to hate, and don't lower yourself to the level of those who would try to drag you down into the muck. Give what you can, do what you can, and remain vigilant. There are going to be people who need help and who are still struggling, people who are dealing with more than they can handle, those who haven't been able to move forward, and those who may not be able or willing to reach out--clock in and pay attention, because you being attentive could still save a life.

Smile more, hug more, laugh more, find the good in people, and for the love of peas and carrots, don't miss a chance to tell someone you love them, because Pulse showed us that nothing is guaranteed and tomorrow isn't written in stone, and you might not get another chance. It's a running joke with my family and friends that I often end phone calls and interactions with people by saying "I love you!", sometimes on accident. (Occasionally it's with clients or people I'm speaking to for the first time, and when that happens, I always sort of cringe and feel like a giant dingus, but we laugh and move on and I secretly hope that I've maybe in some way brightened their day with my awkward dorkitude.) But I'll often say it to friends and people who I genuinely do love, and sometimes people just cheerfully chuckle and return the sentiment, but there are times when people respond with, "Uhhh. Okay, you too", because they don't know what to say. But, you know what? If the worst thing that happens to me today is that I absentmindedly tell someone I love them because I genuinely do and it just slips out as I'm talking, hey, I'll take it. I would rather say it than miss the chance.

Orlando is an incredible place full of incredible people. I was proud to be here before last year. I'm proud still. And I love you all for being part of this vibrant, funny, talented, interesting, passionate, strong, resilient, united community. Hate doesn't win here, because love is love is love is love is love is love is love, and Orlando has proven that without question.

There's some good in this world...and it's worth fighting for.

I believe in these words with my whole heart, and I am so humbled that I'm able to live and work and love in Orlando, my home, my City Beautiful, and humbled to be able to fight for the good alongside all of you.

I love you, Orlando.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Tyler and Trish: Married!

Put the finishing touches on this sweet couple's wedding gallery this week; Tyler and Trish are a truly adorable pair, and it was so fun to be with them for their spring wedding at the gorgeous Lake Mary Events Center. LMEC is one of my favorite venues for weddings in the Orlando area, and the wedding celebration of the new Mr. and Mrs. Lahman was a day to remember.







The weather was perfect for Trish and Tyler's lakeside ceremony; not a cloud in the sky.









Being able to meet and work with Tyler and Trish's family and friends was so much fun, and their wedding party kept us laughing all day!









Tyler and Trish are so perfectly suited for each other, and I absolutely love how their post-ceremony photos turned out. Their smiles look so genuine because they are...both of them were grinning from ear to ear as they reveled in the fact that they were finally husband and wife!









As the sun began to set over the lake, it was time to head inside the gorgeous grand ballroom at the Lake Mary Events Center for the reception!




The love that Tyler and Trish's families have for them was so evident, and their father-daughter and mother-son dances were wonderfully heartfelt displays of this.






Once the music kicked into high gear, the party was in full swing. This couple and their friends know how to light the dance floor on fire!












It was a delightful, joy-filled, wonderful day from top to bottom, and we were so glad to be a part of it. Tyler and Trish, here's to your happily ever after, and thanks again for allowing us to be with you as you said I do!




Thursday, April 27, 2017

Something Wonderful


So the other day, while getting ready to photograph an important event for an awe-inspiring person on a very big day in her life, I happened to look down the hallway of the church we were in and saw this. I feel like we all need little reminders like this on occasion. Sometimes, when we are just moving through what feels like a normal day, something wonderful might be right around the corner. I love when weird little moments of inspiration like this hit me right in the face and remind me to be grateful for all the good stuff in my life. Congrats, Reverend Tracie. It was an honor to be with you on such a monumental day and I know you will do great things in the world!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mini-Sessions Ahoy!

Pssst...mark your calendars, because we're thrilled to announce the dates for our 2017 fall and winter mini session events!

First off, we're bringing back our annual Halloween minis on Saturday, September 23rd. It's never too early to start planning your costume and to prepare for the best holiday of they year, so save the date and get ready to get spooky!



Up next, we are so excited that the one and only Santa Jim will be with us yet again this holiday season for our annual mini-session portrait event! Three dates this year: November 19th, November 26th, and December 3rd. It's a perfect time to plan ahead and start campaigning for your spot on Santa's Nice List!



Yes, we know it's early to be thinking about these things, but with our 2017 calendar rapidly filling up and a ton of stuff booking, and with tons of inquiries rolling in for when these events would be taking place, it just seemed smart to get them on the calendar and make them official.

We will be opening up the booking and sharing more info on locations, appointment times, and details for both the Halloween minis and the Santa minis soon. For now, save the dates, and we hope to see you!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Emerging from Hibernation

Okay, so, the title of this blog isn't totally accurate. I've definitely not been hibernating--I wish, because then maybe I would have caught up on sleep. But alas, winter was still crazy busy, and as is apparently my yearly tradition, I neglected keeping fresh entries going here for the blog. Sigh. At least I'm consistent.





Hi! Happy Spring, y'all! Life is rolling merrily along and no matter how much I think January and February will be "quieter" months, I'm always wrong. (It's not a bad thing and I'm of course not complaining.)





Now, the weather is warming up and the busy spring season is getting ready to start in earnest. We are ready to go and have a ton of stuff on deck for the spring and summer. We're about to kick off our first contest of 2017, gearing up for all our spring weddings, maternity, newborns, and family sessions, and organizing our first open water mermaid sessions, which I'm incredibly excited (and a little nervous) for.





We hope you're having a good spring so far and can't wait to see everyone's smiling faces for your sessions and events. For now, enjoy some of our favorite images from the past couple of months!