How I Reached a Path of Happy Healing

WW Winter Portrait
Chronic pain was part of my daily life for over 3 years. This was after I had major neck surgery to remedy the issues I was experiencing, which were 3 ruptured discs in my cervical vertebra. I was in the dark about what the source of this pain was for several months before finding a doctor that could properly diagnose me. At that point, I was at my wit's end with the daily pain, and I was willing to do practically anything to lessen or get rid of it entirely. The doctor assured me that after the procedure the pain would subside, and I would be back to 'normal' in a matter of months after my surgery. Having felt like I exhausted all of my other options, I decided to go through with the surgery. That was 4 years ago.

Today (Jan 31st), is the anniversary of that surgery. It seems sort of morbid for me to celebrate such a painful time in my life, especially since it completely changed everything about how I chose to live and what I was capable of doing physically. One thing that I missed terribly was my ability to rock climb. Before the neck issues, I climbed about 5 days a week—it was a huge part of my life. Even though I was left with a void that climbing could no longer fill, I was eventually ushered onto a new path that brought me to where I am today.

I overcame many obstacles during that time period that were extremely difficult for me to come to terms with. Now, I see how necessary it was for me to shed my old ways in order to be open to all the new experiences I wanted to have in my life. When I no longer had the ability to rock climb, I had more time to devote to photography. Reigniting my passion for taking pictures was one of the greatest gifts to come from this life-altering experience. Now, I look back on what happened as a blessing.

2007 Neck Surgery Diptych

Not only did this experience guide me to a path where I am finally following my dreams, but it also helped draw me closer to a partner who has been there for me through thick and thin. Chronic pain can get the best of you sometimes if you don't have the will to fight against it; Cody was a real trooper when I had bad days. I'm very grateful that Cody has stuck by me through the good and bad.

It wasn't until April 2010 that those 'bad days' became few and far between. A friend introduced me to Yoga, and I've been practicing it almost daily since that time. There were moments when I felt as though the chronic pain would never go away. I consider myself extremely lucky that I could find a way to make that happen (finally). There were many occasions during the days of chronic pain that people suggested I take up Yoga, but I pretty much ignored their willingness to offer assistance. I'm glad that I finally wised up and changed this painful pattern once and for all.

My Neck X-Ray

This past year has most definitely been a time for healing—physically, mentally, and emotionally. It's so nice to look back on this time last year when I had no idea that the discomfort I was experiencing would diminish. It's a reminder to me that something that is bothering or worrying you today won't necessarily be there as you get further down the road. The fact that I'm sitting in front of this computer without a stitch of pain is a testament to the fact that things don't always stay the same, even if we feel as though nothing is changing.

January 31st, 2011 I will gladly celebrate my neck surgery anniversary because, in a way, even though it could be considered one of the worst things to happen in my life (so far), it's also one of the best things to have happened to me, too. 

Related Links:

    Iris Leah Photo Session | Newborn (Baby) Photography | Boone, NC

    Baby Iris Leah {Newborn}

    At 15 days young, Iris Leah was wide awake to the world. She has the most beautiful deep blue eyes that never rested for longer than a minute or two. Going into my second (nearly) newborn photosession, I was expecting it to be a lot like my first time photographing baby James, but I was wrong. The fact that she wasn't sleepy changed how I approached the shoot. I was forced to improvise. Thankfully, I'm pretty flexible and so was sweet Iris. 

    Baby Iris Leah {Newborn}

    Unlike my first newborn photosession, where baby James slept the entire time, Iris was alert and really wiggly. Had we been able to do the shoot on the original day we planned (at 10 days young), who knows, maybe I would have had a chance to work with her while she was soundly sleeping. 

    Baby Iris Leah {Newborn}

    Having her awake, though, gave me a whole different set of circumstances that produced an unexpected outcome. And I'm pretty pleased with the result. (It wasn't until the end of our session when I was mostly packed up that she started getting sleepy.)

    Baby Iris Leah {Newborn}

    From the moment I heard the news of their pregnancy, I have eagerly awaited Iris Leah's arrival so that I could capture the sweet new addition to their growing family. Anna and Patrick are my very dear friends and being so closely connected to them made this a special session for me. Seeing them as parents was sort of surreal, but they are naturals, for sure.

    Baby Iris Leah {Newborn}

    What I wanted to take away were images that they would cherish and images to show the love that they share. These people are special to me and I hope that is shows. Thank you to Anna & Patrick for allowing me to come into your home and document this momentous time in your lives. I'm really happy that I was able to do this for them so that they have these precious memories for years to come.
    Baby Iris Leah {Newborn}
    Wayfaring Wanderer is a natural light photographer specializing in family portraits (including newborn & maternity photography), and is located in Boone, NC. Instead of shooting in a studio, WW has a lifestyle photography approach and prefers to have a photosession in surroundings that you are comfortable in--whether that be in your own home or another location of your choosing. A dedicated photography website is currently in the works, however, if you are interested in family photos to document your life and think that my style will suit your needs, please inquire via email ( or through my Facebook page.

    Motivational Quote: Knowledge

    Motivational Quote: Knowledge

    "In your thirst for knowledge, be sure not to drown in all the information.
    ~Anthony J. D'Angelo

    In my quest to build a new photography website, I have poured over information scattered all over the internet for ideas and inspiration, as well as for instruction. Sometimes, I forget in all this searching to stop and take stock of what it is I really need to get started--and just forget about the fluff. You've heard the term, Analysis Paralysis, right? This quote is a reminder for me to let go of all the extraneous details that don't need to be worked out at this very moment. Eventually, I will get there, but I don't need to know everything right now!

    Related Links:

    Chamblin Bookmine (Used Book Store) | Jacksonville, FL

    Chamblin's Bookmine Collage 
    What might be considered slightly intimidating to a first timer, is easily heaven on earth for a bibliophile. From the floor to the ceiling is a seemingly endless series of shelves crammed full of paperbacks, hardcovers, and everything in between. Immediately overcoming your sense of smell is the sweet stench of old books permeating the air like an invisible fog. Even though I've been there before, I still couldn't help but stop and marvel at the sheer magnitude of their collection when I walked through the door again for the first time in years.

    For someone who has never experienced the wonder of stepping inside one of the most amazing book stores in the country it is a little overwhelming, to say the least. While they do try their absolute best to keep the disheveled shelves as organized as they possibly can, it's still challenging to find your way around; much less decide on where you should start digging first. Most of the sections are separated by categories—in no particular order—with small signs labeling the corridors. If you ask me, I think that the clutter and confusion just add to the book shop's charm.

    I'd much rather spend time aimlessly wandering through the isles of Chamblin's Book Mine if the alternative is some sterile-looking chain where real treasures are rarely unearthed. For me, it's a richer experience because you never know what you will find among the piles of pages.

    You can find books on any number of topics one could possibly be interested in. I wouldn't bank on finding a specific book, although you might get lucky. Even if you don't find exactly what you are looking for, you're bound to come across a title that will offer information on what you are in search of. A better plan would be to go when you aren't really looking for anything in particular. However, it doesn't hurt to have certain categories in mind beforehand.

    I knew going in that I wanted to look for photography and graphic design related books. And I did end up leaving with a photography book, but the graphic design section didn't have anything that caught my eye. However, in my wandering, I did end up choosing a book on sketching and a few yoga related titles to take home as well.

    Chamblin's Bookmine

    Over the years, Chamblin's has made some additions to the already overflowing bank of books, adding new alcoves and annexes. I was surprised to see how much more space was added since the last time I had been there (approx. 7 years ago). What started out as a miniature maze is now reminiscent of the movie Labyrinth—sans the scary little creatures. Luckily, directional arrows are placed throughout to help anyone who might have gone astray.

    Getting lost is the fun part, though. You can spend an entire day slowly sauntering through the towering stacks. Cody and I stayed for roughly 3½ hours sorting through book after book. Leaving with a pretty substantial pile, we both had about 6 books each. However, my bundle was significantly more expensive. He was hunting for older titles that cost no more than 2.95-4.00, whereas, I was in search of newer publications; they were only ½ off the cover price—still a pretty good deal, though.

    People have often complained that they don't have used book prices even though they still offer a discount. I think it's a small price to pay for such an amazing place. And since they buy books back with, basically, the same price structure as they charge, you can pretty much read what you buy and return it for credit on new books. It seems as though they want people to use it like a library almost. 

    I really wish that this Jacksonville book store was a lot closer to where we are, or that we had a similar book shop we could visit without having to drive 8hrs to get there. I suppose we'll just have to make sure that we sort through our existing book collection and take a box with us when traveling back home for a visit. I'll definitely make sure that this beloved book shop will be a must stop on our trips back to Jacksonville from now on!

    The Loop Diptych

    A Side Note: since this place can eat up a number of hours, you're bound to leave with a hefty appetite. A few miles down the road is one of my favorite restaurants in Jacksonville, Fl, called The Loop pizza & grill. We ordered a smoked bacon and artichoke pizza and an order of homemade kettle chips topped with warm bleu cheese, both were unbelievably tasty. It's also right along the St. Johns River so you get a nice view to go along with the delicious food! It was a great way to end our day of pilfering. 

    Related Links:

      WW to be Judge in Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition (Juried Exhibition) | Boone, NC

      AMPC Past Images

      I shrieked with excitement when I received an email notifying me of my acceptance into the Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition. It was the first time I had entered a photography competition, and I was beyond excited. And even though my first time was initially fraught with anxiety as I waited for an email to hit my inbox, overall, it was an wonderful experience, and I felt honored to have my photos next to the other talented photographers who had entered.

      For the last few years, I have been a contestant in the Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition. Every year, I have faithfully gathered my favorite digital images to enter in the open categories—like, Blue Ridge Parkway Vistas, Flora/Fauna, and Landscape to name a select few. So far, I've had at least one photo selected to be a part of the competition each year I have entered.

      Being a part of this photographic competition has helped me become more confident about the work I produce. Having that validation—even though it shouldn't be necessary—was a big deal to me. I mean, the fact that an image I created was picked against hundreds of entries gave me a very warm and fuzzy feeling, indeed.

      This year, I didn't enter any of my photographs. It's not because I didn't want to. It's because I couldn't. This time around, I will be taking part in the behind-the-scenes portion of the annual photo contest.

      It floored me to get an email throwing out the idea of me being a juror from the contest director. I could hardly wrap my head around such an unexpected request. The proposal made me nervous. It made me question whether or not I was even worthy of such a privilege. I waffled before replying because I didn't want to seem too eager (even though I was). Although I'm sure that I didn't hide my excitement very well even via email.

      I was extremely flattered that the organizer thought about me when making this big decision. A lot rides on the fact that the judges will select a great group of photos that viewers will enjoy and appreciate. I'm very much looking forward to taking part in this new way. And I'm even more excited about getting to see all the wonderful submissions from the talented photographers from all over the appalachian mnts (and beyond).

      The contest has already closed (as of Dec 17th) and the preliminary round of judging will be coming up in mid-January. It'll be an interesting experience to see a different side of the competition, and I feel very lucky to be a part of this process.

      Related Links: