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Take a part of this with you

   For the first time in, I cant even remember when, I set aside 2 weeks and labeled them as "vacation" on my calendar.

   The first week got away from me. We were supposed to take 16 long days and travel all the way out west, exploring mountains, indulging in artistic towns, and seeing new sites. Instead, my work load was too heavy and I spent that week trapped in my office playing catch up.  Really think about that. I sacrificed time with my husband, amongst gorgeous scenery to sit in a dark room and stare at a computer screen....

   That's not right. Plain and simple.

  Yes, it felt good to get caught up, work on some new things, and tie up those lose ends before vacation, but I never, ever wanted to turn into that person- where work was more important than LIFE. I love my job, it's my obsession, it's my addiction, it's what helps me express myself, and it pays the bills, but... it's still my job.

   Many people think working for yourself or out of your home is awesome, and most days it is, but also remember exactly that- my work is in my home, therefore, how can you ever get away from it!? There's no door to lock up and walk away from for the night, there's no answering machine that will keep people satisfied until I have time to get back with them and there is no one else to pick up my slack when I am sick, gone, or need a day to myself!

   So, with that being said, the 2nd week of vacation we decided on the good ole Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (again, for the 6th year in a row.) I can't even say I don't know what draws us there, bc I know EXACTLY what it is. It's not the mountains, even though those are exciting to explore, it's not the art, even though that always leaves me with a sense of inspiration, and it's not the southern cooking, even though that leaves us very happy at night. It's the fact that everything, and everyone there moves through life at a peaceful and slow pace that I envy and while we are there, we can pretend to live the same way for a few days.

   We can wake up in the morning and not rush out the door. We can drive through town, stop calmly at the red lights, and inch our way down the road as we look at the scenery. We can do what needs to be done during the day and get back to our room where we can lay in bed before sleeping and talk about the day, read a book, or watch t.v. Please, again, really think about that. Am I saying my life is SO busy that I can't even find the time to read a book at night before I go to sleep? Yep. That's what I said.

   Again, that's not right. What is there to life if you don't have enough time to slow down and do the things you love, even if it's for 30 mins? Ok, I know it's not the end of the world, but it was really starting to alter me. The number one reason why I fell in love with my husband is because he made me feel like it was ok to dream, to live, to explore, and to not worry so much about the "right way to live." Somewhere, in my busy life, I had lost that and I felt like this vacation was 9 days for me to get it back.

  Did you know that in Tennessee if it snows a foot, no one INSISTS that you still HAVE to come into work or the world will end, like in Michigan? That they obviously value life more than money.

   Did you know in the south it isn't uncommon for someone to leave a note on the door that reads "Closed for the day for my daughter's birthday" during regular business hours? They obviously cherish life's precious moments more than everyday hustle and bustle.

   Did you know in the mountains the weather doesn't always go as planned, the sun doesn't always shine when you need it to, and the animals don't come out so you can get a picture of them exactly when you pass by... There's a true sense that the world is much grander then you could every imagine there, definitely grander than you or I and our lives. I was glad to find that again.

   In short, we took a few days to shop, to hike, to sit by the river, to explore, to relax, to view art, and to appreciate the land the animals.

   The image to the right was from the aquarium, one of our rainy day trips. It's me with the jellyfish. I have never, ever seen a more beautiful site, almost to the point that they were hypnotic. To walk away from them was difficult. Animals that we viewed there were amazing and truly made me question what is real and make believe- they were unbelievable!

   The thing that I was most excited about though was to be able to sit, and stay sitting, long enough to create... It's something I do every day for my job, but with digital tools. It's so different when that creation comes out of you, made by your hands, as a true reflection of what you and only you are capable of, without any helpful tools.

   Amongst all this I made a pack with myself, to not lose this sense of life again, to take a little of the south with me when I returned back home. Promise myself, at 7:00, work is done! Those images that I was so close to finishing will have to wait until the next day, those people who text you at 10:00 at night on a Sunday will have to remember that I have scheduled weekends too. And I mean this all in the kindest way. Most people DO understand, and that's what I have to work on. It's ok to take a break, it's ok to have a life, and it's ok to treat my job, like a job! I need to bring that balance back! 

   So with that, I leave you with a peaceful view of the mountains, early in the morning, wrapped up in fog, with the sun dancing on the trees hoping you have balance in your life or will find it soon, that your love for life will never leave, and that we all take the time to take a deep breath and remember why we are here. Not to work all the time, not to play all the time, but to live, happily, progressively, truthfully... in a way that allows us to smile when we lay our head down onto our pillow every night. 

Home is where the heart is... and I've left a little piece of my heart in a lot of places!


You just HEAR the word and your ears get excited.

Every year my husband and I try to plan 1 big, relaxing, site seeing adventure we look forward to. Through out the year we may take small weekend trips or extended weekend trips due to holidays somewhere near us or venture up to the U.P. but we always try to give ourselves a bigger goal for the year!

The first year we got married we ventured to The Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It was a city where you felt at home at. It was a place you could connect with nature, yourself, and your thoughts. It was a place we couldn't wait to return to! The next year we thought we would try something new, but when it came down to it, we couldn't bare the thought of not going back to the mountains, so we went back, except this time in a camper. We did this agin, and again, and again. FINALLY, after 4 years of it we decided THIS year we would try something new! But.... what? What's better than the mountains, the uncrowded hiking trails!? Perhaps..... warm weather? Florida? Really..... Florida?

As a child my parents and I had went to Florida EVERY Spring Break. I've been to Florida 13 times in my life. When I was younger the sun, the malls, the pools and beaches really had my interest, now that I'm older I couldn't be less enthused over that scenery. So.. what were we thinking!?

As we began to plan our trip we realized, if we were going to drive the long 21 hours, why not make the gruesome trip more bearable by stopping at some cool places along the way? Not once in my 13 year to Florida had we ever done anything except drive straight through. Surely there had to be SOMETHING ELSE hidden in between us and all those other miles.

And so it began.

We made our first stop near Red River Gorge in Kentucky.

Pretty much what did make up the town was closed for the season and what was open for the season was a good 10 miles away and consisted of one Mexican restaurant and a Dairy Queen- perfect. We don't go on vacations to be surrounded by people. We go on vacation to be, basically, smothered by each other. haha. Back at home our lives are hectic, we're busy working, we're always trying to finish up projects we've started that are way over our heads, and it's nice to step away from that and just enjoy living at a more simple level. We spent our few short days in the mountains driving around to site see off into the middle of nowhere, hiking on top of natural arches, in between rock crevasses, and looking over the edges of mile long drop offs. We knew we were "down south" when upon our hour long drive into the middle of nowhere we came across someone's "home" that welcomely had spray painted on the side of it "Stay the F**K out or get shot."

Once it was time to travel on we packed up, drove for the

day, and landed in-

 Savannah, Georgia!

All we knew about Savannah is that it's a beautiful historic city full of mossy trees. Me, who loves anything aging, intricate, and old and my husband, who loves all things history and trees, it seemed fitting enough. I can not explain to you what an understatement that was. As SOON as we entered the city I asked Jake when we would be able to come back! The cobblestone roads, the attention to detail on the preserved buildings, the huge engulfing trees, the city squares..... I can't reminisce about this city without feeling sad that I can not visit it everyday.

Our few days in this historic wonder were spent merely roaming the streets, enjoying the shops, learning it's history, and talking about what aspects of the town we would love to be able to enjoy in our own town, maybe one day!

So, finally, it was time to travel on, and what beckoned us in the first place, was now about to be in our reach.


Now, I'll be completely honest. I'm a geek. Me and my husband both are. We like to daydream, imagine, create, think of the impossible and plan the ridiculous, so when we heard Harry Potter was now at Universal Studios, we had to go. We had to experience what it was like to walk the streets of magic and play where anything was possible. So- that's why Florida was on the list, and yes, the sun! Well, once we got to Florida we got about 2 days of sun and when we left it was a whopping 35 degrees. But, we enjoyed it while we could!

We experienced the magic of Harry Potter, the silliness of Suess' Landing and more. The attention to details in these theme parks could honestly consume your life. We took in so much but at the same time, still missed so much! These streets are transformed into different worlds and that's what I love about them!

After that we took it easy. Enjoyed the beach, searched for shells, and watched the waves crash over the surfers.

When the weather reached MI standards we left.

And where did we stop on our travels back home?

The Smoky Mountains!

Never experiencing it in the winter before really made the trip special and unique. You enter into a green wonderland, covered in ice and a skiff of snow. It's the one place I feel completely at ease all the time, whether I'm in the city, on a trail miles in the woods, on top of a mountain cliff, or biking next to a bear...

A few days later we got in the car and drove back to the box we built for ourselves that holds our everyday schedule and our dreams mapped out in books. We were home.

If you've made it to this point, I applaud you. As much as I feel as though my vacations and travels are like a fairy tale come true, they are merely just stories and pictures for you, but if I can stress one thing after all these stories and tales is... go. Just GO. Explore. Take an adventure. And it doesn't have to be miles away. It could be 10 mins down the road, it could even be in your back yard. But take time out of life to actually think about it... We live so quickly. Isn't it time you slow down and figure out why?