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.