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Rehearsal Dinner Tips (Part 1 of 17)

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First. For anyone asking “What the F*ck is a rehearsal dinner?!” - it’s a dinner/gathering that usually takes place the night before your wedding day. It’s called a ‘rehearsal dinner’ because it generally happens after your ceremony ‘rehearsal’ (you know – when you and your wedding party all ‘rehearse’ walking down the aisle and practice a run-through of the ceremony.)

So. That’s what a rehearsal dinner is – now – how is yours going to be? Right. Other than planning the actual wedding – at some point you might realize that you also have to plan this event. Of course – it can be as fancy/large/small/simple as you’d like. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive – but it can be both if that’s what you want. I know what you’re saying – too many options. Too many decisions! MORE DECISIONS TO MAKE?! F*cken wedding planning!

Atlanta Wedding Photographer | LeahAndMark.com | High Museum of Art Atlanta

Why should you have a rehearsal dinner? Why can’t you just tell everyone to go away and find their own food?

Well… your wedding day is Crazy. BONKERS. You won’t really be able to spend too much time with everyone – and many of the people who don’t live nearby or traveled the furthest to be there, will arrive the day before. A rehearsal dinner is another opportunity to spend time with those people that LOVE you. LET THEM.

Feed them. Drink with them. Catch up. Take photos with them – it doesn’t matter that you’re not all as dressed up as you will be the next day – the point is that these are 2-3 relaxed hours where you can hangout with your friends & family without your amazing photographer pulling you away for yet another portrait session!

SO. What type of rehearsal dinner should have? WHAT THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES?! Yes. And we’ll go over everything in parts 2-17.

About Rehearsal Dinners

 

All Photos by LeahAndMark & Co.

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47 Different Types of Wedding Cakes!*

We Make Amazing Wedding Photos for You

I f*cken love wedding cake. I mean sure – I don’t always get to get some because well sometimes there just isn’t enough to go around. I’m supposed to wait for all of the guests to get their piece of cake first, and then I have to offer some to my 2nd/3rd shooter, and then if there’s any left, I can have at it. Oh. And. I. DO. Because come on! It’s wedding cake! IT’S WEDDING CAKE! How many other times do you get to find out what $300, $500, $700 CAKE taste like? ALSO.

$700 CAKE?! Yeah! That sh*t better taste damn good and be pretty for my photos because otherwise you might as well have gone to Publix and just had them wipe off ‘Happy Birthday’ and stick your cake toppers on top. (because Publix cake IS amazing yo!)

Have you ever had $700 cake? I have. LOTS. I’m fancy like that.

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Our creative director Joy told me I shouldn’t just write complete nonsense in this post (like I usually do) and that I should at least try to throw in some useful bit of information. So here. Some useful bit of information.

How do you go about creating, picking, deciding on your wedding cake? I don’t know.

But hey – don’t stress out about how your cake looks. Stress out about how it tastes. There are many ‘cake designers’ out there and not all of them know how to make good tasting cakes. And dammit – if you’re going to spend $700 on a cake, it better taste good. Right? RIGHT. Suckas. ALSO. What color do you want your cake? White? That’s classic and formal and romantic and modern. WTF?! I KNOW! You’re like “I just want a big good tasting and pretty wedding cake” and your cake designer is like “oh well would you like a romantic cake? what about a formal one? or how about a formally romantic wedding cake?” Yeah… can you throw in a unicorn with laser eyes? I’d pay $700 for a cake like that. Oh and it has to be a purple unicorn.

The best part about making decisions on your wedding cake? THE CAKE TASTINGS. You know – where you try out the different flavor cakes from a specific cake-maker. Basically an excuse to eat lots of cake on a Wednesday afternoon for no other reason THAN TO EAT CAKE. Getting married is worth it just for that part alone.

I guess you could also have pie instead of a cake. or cupcakes. whatever. this post is about CAKE. Shut up about pie and cupcakes.

Also. Sometimes people have the colors on their cake do that matchy-match thing with the rest of their decor from their wedding. You can do that too. You should do that. It makes everything look nice. And people like nice looking things.

As you can see from these photos – our brides don’t always give a f*ck about the Geneva Cake Convention rules and did whatever they wanted – and they rocked the sh*t out of their wedding cakes. I know I was beating back my assistant for a piece.

Finally – buttercream over fondant ANY and EVERY day. Come on – even the word Buttercream PWNS over the word fondant. (does anyone even say pwns anymore?)

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*Actual number of wedding cakes in this gallery is not 47.

 

All Photos by LeahAndMark & Co.

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Different Types of Wedding Cakes | Photos | Gallery | Styles | Selection | Atlanta | LeahAndMark & Co. | Videography | Videographer | Video

What I’ve Learned | 2013

If you want to succeed, you have to make many, many more friends.

You know, I’ve never thought that this wouldn’t turn into something more. Back when I started shooting – while I still had my day job – I was really afraid that I would fail at this, so that kept me going. It was about the same time that Leah was finishing grad school so we were going through some major transitions. I knew things were aligning – but there was always that nagging fear that this would be added to my list of failures.

It’s a constant struggle to balance being patient with always being ambitiously in-the-moment.

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Since my son was born – I’ve become much more protective when it comes to family (including our Intern family) – and much more ruthless when it comes to business. 

I’m a fat kid trying to be thin. All throughout elementary and high school – I was a fat(er) kid. Not like round – but I definitely categorized myself as fat and I have deep stretch marks on my arms to remind me.

I’m hyper aware of how things look on the outside. That’s photography. There’s a lot of flowery BS said about capturing emotion but that’s not what I do. I take pictures of people doing things. The trick is getting them to do things. Something. Anything.

The only reason we’ve had any level of success is because of how hard we work. I’m ridiculous about it, and I wish I could work 8 hours straight. But I can’t. So I end up working 3 hours here, an hour there, and then 4 hours after Leah’s gone to sleep. I don’t know how everyone does it but that’s how I do it. I don’t think I’ve really conveyed that to our Interns. The clock has 24 hours in a day. Sleep is first optional then required.

Building your own business has to be an obsession. At least for the first two years.

Balance? Most people need a new definition of balance in their lives. Thirty minutes of love – family or sex – holds a lot more weight on the scale than 10 hours of being stuck in an office. Equal time for different things isn’t balance.

I’m probably unbalanced too often.

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The Internship seems so obvious now. It didn’t start out that way of course and even now we have to ask ourselves if we want to do it again, and again. It’s a true internship/apprenticeship. We don’t pay them anything and I teach them more than they work for me.

I know people have different learning styles and that I have a different teaching style. If my style doesn’t work for you then you should probably go find a different teacher. This isn’t a school for special people. This is work.

Sometimes you have to cry.

I don’t know how anyone thinks they can succeed as a timid photographer of people. Go shoot landscapes if you’re timid. Photographing people is about connecting with them on their level while at the same time telling them what to do. You don’t have to talk to boss someone around.

I have a small family and I think I always wanted a big family. So I surround myself with people. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy photographing weddings. All of a sudden I’m a part of the family. Leah has a big family – about 11 times the size of mine.

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Three months is the perfect amount of time for an Internship. It’s also too short. When the interns start they all have this crazy sense of urgency to learn everything they can in the first 3 weeks and then ask how they can get better. I usually just tell them to keep shooting.

You have to get all of those obvious shots out of your system. Just like writers and their first novels.

It’s a mind trip. It’s three months of amazing peer support while at the same time it’s three months of insecure self evaluation. You have to learn to control those thoughts and keep working.

Phoenix Children's Museum | LeahAndMark.com

I’m a petty person. I haven’t gotten less petty over the past two years, I’ve just tried to shut up and not move. My natural inclination sometimes is to snap back, so instead I have to just sit there and stop thinking until the moment passes.

I believe in myself and it borders on delusion.

I generally don’t read photography business books. Those ideas aren’t interesting to me and I know every photographer and their mom is reading the same book. I hope they are. We’re able to succeed doing what we do [differently] because every other photographer out there follows the same business plan. We try to play a different game altogether.

How’s that for generic business hype-talk?

I need a life coach.

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Posted by Mark

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3 Things About Boudoir Photography

We’re about to start offering boudoir packages for our clients! These are just a few photos from a workshop/photoshoot session we held for the Season [NINE] Interns.

None of this would be possible without the help of the following people:

Hair/Makeup – Ansley Gwinn
Hair/MakeupApryl Hughes
Set Stylist/DesignerLorigami

“Typically shot in a photographer’s studio or luxury hotel suites, it has become fashionable to create a set of sensual or sexually suggestive images of women (and occasionally men and couples) in “boudoir style”. The most common manifestation of contemporary boudoir photography is to take variations of candid and posed photographs of the subject partly clothed or in lingerie. Nudity is more often implied than explicit. Commercially the genre is often (though not exclusively) derived from a market for brides to surprise their future husbands by gifting the images on or before their wedding day. Other motivations or inspiration for boudoir photography shoots include anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, weight loss regimes, maternity, other form of body change or alteration (such as breast augmentation or reduction) and for servicemen and women overseas.

– From Wikipedia of course!

3 Things About Boudoir Photography:

1. A lot of what you’ll find out there on the internets is bad and/or creepy – but it doesn’t have to be.

2. Often times the model/client/woman is actually wearing more clothing than they would be if they were at the beach, wearing a swimsuit.

3. Not all boudoir photography is the same. Some veer closer to a ‘pinup’ girl style, while others are more magazine editorial – and then everything in between. Some boudoir photography looks and feels posed, while others come across as more natural.

4. (this is extra!) – Whether your photographer is a guy or a woman – throughout the entire process you should feel absolutely beautiful. No matter who you are or what you look like.

Atlanta. Boudoir. Photography. Photographer. Workshop. Information. About. Boudoir. Sessions. LeahAndMark.com

The Easy Stuff

Remember Tara and Cory? Last month, in Tara’s 9th month of pregnancy, she braved fences and potential trespassing charges for her maternity session, handling it like it was all old hat. And guess what? We didn’t get arrested for trespassing! Yay! Well, that, and… her baby is here! Celeste is here at last and now Tara is an official card-carrying (diaper bag-carrying?) member of the Motherhood sisterhood. And what does being around a newborn do to me, you ask? It might have given me the tiniest(!) bit of baby fever, sure, but it also sends me into major self-reflection-slash-blogging-wheels-are-turning mode. I’m a thinker. Always have been, always will be. So after a shoot like this, reflecting on how you jump into motherhood and life will suddenly never be the same, it flowed for this one. A lot. The fact that I’m also a mom defines my identity in ways that still overwhelm and astound me.

My journey to motherhood wasn’t easy. For a long time, I dwelled on the journey that knocked me down and broke my spirit- what was wrong with me? But then, finally, my dream come true… a little brown-eyed dream that weighed 8 pounds and awarded me the fastest labor of anyone I’ve ever known. And then, a few years and a few more struggles later, my other dream came true… this time, that dream was a 10 pounder with curly black hair and the most squeezable cheeks in existence. It’s funny. The struggles and heart ache and tears that defined my life for what, back then, felt like it would be forever, actually had a purpose after all. They shaped me. They’re always sort of there, lingering in the back of my mind when I’ve had a hard day with my children. They’re there to remind me of how far I’ve come and how very lucky I am. And I am lucky. So very, very lucky.

If you think about it, it’s actually really easy to take care of a baby. Need a diaper change? Done. Hungry? Got it. In need of a walk around the house, at 4 am and only in a very specific position in your arms? That’s the easy stuff. The harder parts of motherhood come creeping in as your babies get a little older. The easy, most primitive needs of a person give way to the more complicated stuff. How do you take a helpless newborn baby and turn it into a smart, kind, productive adult in only eighteen or twenty years? There’s so much to teach them and so little time.

 

It’s so daunting, the idea that it’s only going to get harder. I worry sometimes (okay, I worry pretty much all the time) that I’m not going to be able to teach them everything I want them to be armed with. And seriously- how am I supposed to help them with their Calculus homework when the last formula flew out of my head years ago?

I wish I had the answer, but I don’t. So here I sit, a few days before my youngest daughter, my Little One, celebrates her first birthday. And I’m a wreck. How can I teach either of them all the stuff in the world when first steps and preschool graduations make me cry? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

But what I do know is that if I could go back in time, years back, and have a choice: the easy road or that road less traveled, full of bumps and setbacks and doctors appointments and ultrasounds and tears and pain and sadness, knowing that it would be a rough journey, guess what? I’d still do it. In. A. Heartbeat. Because I look at my girls, so beautiful and smart and funny, and I know that it was worth it. SO WORTH IT.

 

So I push along. Like me, Motherhood is a lot of things. Life-changing, rewarding, challenging, fun, exhausting, exciting, boring, busy, lonely, joyful… and more often than not, all of the above, all in the same day. It’s also a process. You become a mother and let’s face it. Most of us have no idea what we’re doing for a good long while. Or ever, really. (And guess what? Those who act like they know EVERYTHING about motherhood, all the while giving you the stink eye because your kid is a genius and wants to eat mud at the playground? They’re lying. They have no clue what they’re doing either.) It’s a learning process, and you figure things out as you go. And the best part of all is that you have the most perfect companion to figure all of this stuff out with over the next few decades: your baby. See what I said? SO WORTH IT.

Wednesday by Leah: Nursing In Public

– Posted by Leah

This popped up in my Facebook feed yesterday:

So, for those of you not up-to-date on your breastfeeding literature, this is a take on the common “Tips for Nursing in Public” that is found all over the place for new moms. It really got me thinking. I’m not super-modest overall, but when it comes to nursing in public, I’ve been inclined to keep myself well-covered. I’m painfully aware that nursing in public might (*gasp!*) make some people uncomfortable. In fact, I even used to be ever-so-slightly uncomfortable around breastfeeding women. I would quickly avert my eyes, even if the mother was using a nursing cover. Oh no! Don’t look! She has her breast out!

Well, now I’ve had my own breast out in more places than I can count. The BabyRoX is a hungry, growing little person. And Mark and I are active, going-out-in-public type people. So this leads to lots of nursing in lots of public places. And now that I’m the mom to an increasingly curious 4-month-old, the nursing cover that I so very much love isn’t quite as loved by my kidlet. And really, can you fault him for that? You try eating with something draped over your head and tell me how much you enjoy your meal. So lately, sometimes, I don’t even bother with the cover. And honestly, it’s often even more discreet than using a cover – Jonah is good about latching on quickly and then it just looks like he’s sleeping nuzzled up against me. But I spend the whole time worrying what other people might be thinking, and what if he unlatches and a tiny bit of my breast is exposed? Oh, the shock and horror! Just sign me up for Girls Gone Wild already! (In reality, I’m showing less skin than any billboard around me.)

 

Source: MotherWise


So I’ve been thinking about this whole nursing in public embarrassment. And I’ve decided it needs to stop. At least for me. I have every right to be out and about in my community. I’m not taking my child anywhere that is inappropriate for him to be. If I were feeding him with a bottle, no one would take any issue with it.  And while I haven’t encountered any outright discouragement or harassment while nursing in public, I’ve received a lot of discouraging commentary in general around the topic of nursing in public…

“You’re going to nurse on the airplane? What about the other passengers?”

“Breastfeeding totally skeeves me out. I don’t understand why women do that in public.”

“Oh, he needs to eat? Do you need to find a restroom?”

And I’ve been letting this commentary make ME feel ashamed. Embarrassed. In the wrong… for feeding my child. For having the audacity to go to a public place with my family and keep my baby nourished and comforted. I haven’t let it STOP me from doing this… I’m stubborn enough to power on through these uncomfortable feelings. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that those feelings are a burden I shouldn’t have to carry. So I’m not going to anymore. I know that breastfeeding just needs to become more normalized in our culture… so I’m gonna help y’all out by normalizing it some more. And if you seriously have an issue with that, maybe YOU should stay home. Or go to the restroom. Or put a blanket on your head.

This isn’t just about people feeling uncomfortable, though. I was starting to write a much longer post on this topic, when I found another blog post over on Skeptical Mothering that even more articulately expresses my line of thinking…so I’m going to send y’all over there to read it! But here’s a quick snippet for the lazy/in-a-hurry types (I’m both much of the time, so I get it…):

Nursing in public is a big debate currently, but I don’t think many in the “anti” faction appreciate how big a feminist issue this is.  Acceptance of nursing in public is about female empowerment on two levels.  First, it diminishes the objectification of women.  For so long, breasts have been all about sexuality and the male gaze.  To acknowledge that they aren’t just about arousing the prurient interest of men is to elevate women beyond being mere sex objects.  Second, nursing in public is vital to allowing mothers full access to social life.  As more women are nursing, trying to do the best thing for their babies, more women will be out and about and need to nurse.  Only someone who hasn’t nursed an infant would ever say, “Just time your excursions for when the baby doesn’t need to nurse,” or “Just pump some milk and use a bottle,” or “Just sit on a public toilet for 20 minutes and nurse.”  These are not practical solutions.  What is practical is to get over our societal perversion about breasts and allow mothers full access to life outside their homes by supporting, or at least ignoring, public nursing.

I’d love to hear what Rush Limbaugh has to say on this topic. (Not.) But I will say that if any of you local mamas-to-be reading this plan on breastfeeding and feel at all uncomfortable about it, nothing helped me more than hanging out with OTHER breastfeeding mamas. I was enjoying a lovely afternoon in a park in Arizona with my friend Lindsey and we were talking about how even having just one other nursing mama around makes it so much less awkward-feeling to nurse in public. Until we feel empowered enough in our own skin to nurse our children whenever and wherever, we can borrow some of that strength from the power of numbers. So call me! I’ll come hang out with you and nurse away. And slowly it won’t be such a weird or uncomfortable thing to do.

Breast Feeding | Atlanta Photographers | Information | About | Tips | LeahAndMark.com

Wednesday by Leah: Sleep!

– Posted by Leah

If you are a sleep-deprived parent, please don’t read this blog post!

Everyone else – I am happy to report that I’m getting a decent amount of sleep! Which is probably the biggest surprise of this parenting adventure for me. I didn’t expect to be getting as much sleep as I do, but Jonah is a super easy baby – he wakes up generally once or twice to nurse for 5 minutes and then falls back to sleep. He’s been doing that for the past 3 weeks. Before then, he was still nursing every two hours, and peeing and pooping about as often. But as he’s grown, he’s started going longer between feedings in the evening and he also doesn’t pee or poop quite so often. Which means more sleep for both of us!

Before Jonah came, I thought we’d use the Arm’s Reach co-sleeper from the get-go. It’s set up right next to our bed, so Jonah can be close by. But then Jonah arrived and he was so tiny and precious, and nursing so often, that he ended up just sleeping on my chest. Even the co-sleeper was too far away – when I would put him in it, I couldn’t sleep. I would just watch him and make sure he was breathing. On my chest, I knew he was breathing because I could feel him. I would prop myself up with pillows, and could nurse him easily throughout the night. And that’s how we slept at first. No, it is NOT the recommended way to sleep. But even the slightest movement from him would wake me up, so I wasn’t worried about his safety – if anything, I felt like he was more safe with me than lying in a bassinet, because I could keep him warm and make sure he was breathing.

Now that he’s sleeping for longer stretches, he sleeps beside me. Still not in the co-sleeper, but I think sometime between 3 and 6 months we’ll transition him over there, and then between 6 and 12 months we’ll transition him to his room. What’s worked great for me and Mark is for me to sleep on my own for a few hours in the earlier part of the evening, while Mark hangs out with Jonah. Then I wake up for a snack (breastfeeding makes me more hungry than pregnancy did!!!), and I take Jonah while Mark’s goes to sleep. Jonah nurses and then we both fall asleep…then he wakes up 4 hours later and nurses again, and falls right back to sleep, and Mark usually gets a full stretch of sleep – 6 to 8 hours.

And that’s what works for us. Which is really the point of this post, other than me being really excited that Mark and I are both getting sleep, period! This is not how I pictured the whole sleep thing working out, but it most definitely is working out for us. This is not what the parenting books say to do, this is not what our pediatrician recommends, but it’s what works for us. And while I understand the concerns about co-sleeping, intuitively this feels right for us, for our family. And practically, it’s allowing us all to get a good night’s sleep. So that’s what we’re doing.

one path | +Jo

-Posted by +Jo

Around here everyone is self taught. You pick up, shoot and figure everything out along the way. It’s just how it’s done. It’s even a selling point for Leah and Mark that they didn’t go to an art school to learn about photography. That makes it all the more impressive. There have been other situations in the past year of job hunting and figuring things out that people would see an art school as a ridiculous thing to invest in.  I can understand their viewpoint.

But for me, the traditional route was the only way to go.

I’m part of a particular generation that grew up being told “You get good grades, go to college and get a great job.” Pretty simple philosophy and I stuck to it. But as soon as I entered into my college life the economy tanked and I hoped to wait it out. No such luck… Anyways. I’m not here to argue the point of the 99% movement or other political topics. I want to talk about SCAD. The good and the bad.

 

 

I was accepted to SCAD my junior year of high school. I didn’t really try for any other places. {Except the London Art Institute - but I wouldn’t havebeen able to move overseas for school.} I wasn’t very worried about paying for it because I had been saving for college since I was 5. Yeah. Dead serious there. I knew from the beginning I wanted to study as much as possible while at SCAD. I wasn’t sure which areas, but I had a pretty good idea. Through a lot of trials with life, finances and school I figured out I wanted to get a double major and double minor. Sequential art {comic books} with a minor in Printmaking and Performing arts with a minor in Dance. I told myself I would do it in five years. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

The administration thought I was nuts. The first 3.5 years every time I had to speak to anyone about my classes, finances or planning they would try to talk me out of it. I was tossed between so many advisors I really can’t recall any names. Around the time I was doing my senior project for my Sequential art degree they finally gave up and let me be.

The professors were amazing people. They are the reason I stuck it out at SCAD. They have so much knowledge packed away and as long as you put yourself out there, they would stuff as much as they could into your head. However, they all had the same reaction to my course of study. I “wasn’t focused enough”. Well, all except for one. Jeremy Mullins was the only professor to hear my long list of concentrations and responded positivity. “That’s so awesome!” I still hear his words ringing loudly in Norris Hall’s computer lab. He really wanted to see me make it in everything I was studying. He wanted to see how I would apply it as a whole. Though I only had two of his classes, he was hands down the most supportive person I met at SCAD.  {R.I.P. Sweetwater – you are the cranky angel on so many student’s shoulders.}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The students were a strange force to reckon with. I can’t really talk about the student body with out specifically talking about the department they studied in. Each department produced {or attracted} a specific kind of student. It was strange… everyone was the punch line to a different department’s jokes. There was not a lot of camaraderie between everyone at SCAD. In each department, sure, but not really across departments. Theater kids didn’t really hang out with game design kids. Sequential kids didn’t chill with jewelry kids.  This was one thing that made me stand out in all my departments. I wasn’t a consistant face so people didn’t know how to respond to me. This was a good and bad thing. Good - because I wouldn’t get caught up in department drama. Bad – because I had a hard time making connections with people. In the end, my friends consisted of a hodge-podged group from all over the school.

I never took a break. I always worked and kept learning. I wore my body out doing it. In my final quarters at SCAD things were a little dicy and I though I would have to drop a minor, possibly both, but the administration really pulled through. It was such a surreal moment when I was sitting in front of one of the many advisors and she was telling me “No, you’re going to finish the minors. You are so close. We are going to figure this out and you are going to do this.” I was flabbergasted. Years of fighting with them on being allowed to do it and then in the end, when I lost hope that it was possible, a couple people rallied behind me and helped me complete everything.

Five years and I met my goal head on.

So what does all of this even mean?

Nothing in particular. It was the path I took. It was a path that has now defined me in more ways than you can imagine. The past year has been very rough and there has been numerous occasions that I felt embarrassed not only about my degrees, but also about even attending one of the top art schools in the world.  I’ve taught myself many things over the years. Photography is one of them. But I don’t want to feel embarrassed about my time at SCAD. I don’t want to look down on my accomplishment. An accomplishment I tore my mind, body and spirit to pieces to achieve. I know art school isn’t for everyone. But neither is an alternative path.

 

~*~

Placenta Encapsulation

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

– Text by Leah – Photos by Mark

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta PhotographersSo I decided to encapsulate my placenta. Or, rather, I decided to hire someone to come over to my house and encapsulate it for me (thanks, Melanie!). Honestly, if I think about it too much it still grosses me out. *But* I’m happy to report that the actual taking of the placenta pills is not as gross as I feared. So why exactly am I swallowing my placenta? There are a list of supposed benefits from consuming one’s placenta after birth – from helping reduce postpartum bleeding, to increasing milk supply and a host of other things. There aren’t any big studies to back up these claims, but there are tons of anecdotal accounts from other women, so I figured I’d give it a shot… at the very least, it wouldn’t hurt me. And it could possibly really help with my postpartum recovery. The main reason I wanted to take placenta pills was to help with the huge hormonal decrease that follows birth. Like I said, there aren’t many studies yet on placentophagy, but the few small studies available are promising and show benefits such as decrease in maternal fatigue and postpartum depression. The placenta is super rich in nutrients, and contains a stress-fighting chemical know as corticotropin-releasing hormone, or CRH:

During the last trimester of pregnancy, the placenta secretes a lot of CRH. The rise is so dramatic that CRH levels in the maternal bloodstream increase threefold. “We can only speculate,” says George Chrousos, the endocrinologist who led the NIH study, “but we think it helps women go through the stress of pregnancy, labor, and delivery.” But what happens after birth, when the placenta is gone? Chrousos and his colleagues monitored CRH levels in 17 women from the last trimester to a year after they gave birth. All the women had low levels of CRH – as low as seen in some forms of depression – in the six weeks following birth. The seven women with the lowest levels felt depressed. Chrousos suspects that CRH levels are temporarily low in new mothers because CRH from the placenta disrupts the feedback system that regulates normal production of the hormone. During pregnancy, when CRH levels are high in the bloodstream, the hypothalamus releases less CRH. After birth, however, when this supplementary source of CRH is gone, it takes a while for the hypothalamus to get the signal that it needs to start making more CRH.

The theory is that by ingesting the placenta after birth, it helps the mother get over the “hump” until her brain starts producing CRH again, thereby warding off the baby blues or post-partum depression. And that’s primarily why I’ve chosen to eat my placenta. (yuck, it still grosses me out to say that!).

I’m only 2 weeks and 6 days postpartum now, but I can tell you that my milk supply is off the charts. BabyRoX is getting plenty of it and gaining weight like it’s his job. There have been two days I didn’t take my pills in the morning like usual, and on those days I felt way more tired and emotionally raw – you know, the kind of crazy everything-is-gonna-make-me-cry feeling…and then I took the pills, and I felt substantially more energetic and emotionally stable. Was this due to the powers of the placenta? Maybe, maybe not. But even if it’s just a placebo effect, I’m all for it. I like feeling great and I’m glad I decided to encapsulate my placenta. And the little purple pills in my fridge aren’t that gross. I just try not to think about it too much. Mark, on the other hand, photographed the whole process… for your viewing pleasure, of course!

(It gets pretty graphic and bloody – which is why we pushed the photos further down than usual on the page.)

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

– Text by Mark

We hired Melanie Nasmyth to do the placenta encapsulation. You can email her at: melnasmyth@gmail.com if you’re interested in finding out more about her services – she’s also a DONA certified labor doula.

To ‘keep’ the placenta – we placed it in a ziplock bag and put it in the fridge right after the birth. Two days later we had Melanie come over to turn the placenta into pills.

Of course – the first step whenever you’re cooking human parts – is to prepare the meat.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

There’s an outer lining/sac that you have to remove.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Once the placenta was cleaned – Melanie put it in the steamer and then into a pot of water to cook the thing.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Oh yeah – if you put a lemon slice into the pot – it helps to keep it from really smelling bad as the placenta cooks.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

It cooks faster if you poke a few holes into the placenta meat.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Hey look. Cord.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

And then after 20 minutes or so – you have cooked placenta!

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Now you cut it up into slices.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Get your Food Dehydrator ready – because we’re making placenta jerky.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

… six hours later…. you take all of that placenta jerky and eat it.

No – just kidding don’t do that! You put it into a coffee grinder (one that you will NEVER USE AGAIN) – and grind that placenta meat into a fine powder.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

And then you grab your ‘pill-making’ set and get to work.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

And now you have 64 pills (or more).

It’s a relatively easy process once you know what you’re doing and once you have all of the tools/appliances you need. Melanie brought a lot of her own supplies with her – stuff like a disposable cutting board, the knives, the food dehydrator, the coffee grinder, etc… think of all of the ‘dishes’ that you end up using when you cook a meal – now think about how you might NOT want to use any of that stuff EVER AGAIN.

It was totally worth it for us to hire Melanie and have her do everything, with her own supplies. Now – if you’re a partner/spouse that thinks this might be a crazy/gross thing for your wife to do – the way I see it is – F*ck the weirdness of the whole thing. If it’s going to keep my wife from getting post-partum depression or just help her from feeling sad/not feeling well, then I’m all for it. Why wouldn’t I be for something like that?

And now – it’s time for a bath and then a nap.

Placenta Encapsulation | Photos | Process | How To | LeahAndMark.com | Atlanta Photographers

I’ve been ‘Let Go’

As the title of this entry suggests, I’ve been let go from my job. Laid off. (Although I have never liked that term.) It happened yesterday afternoon around 1:30pm, relatively non-eventful and without any dramatic scenes. Basically, since I had changed departments a few weeks earlier and hadn’t ever unpacked my boxes – I grabbed the two of them, walked to my car and drove off – after deleting all of the junk I could from my work computer – mostly loose files that don’t mean anything to anyone except myself – just in time too because the IT guys arrived right after I had logged off…

Of course this isn’t my first time losing my job due to the industry/slowdown/company troubles. However, this one is slightly more inconvenient. Plus I’m not getting anywhere near the same amount of severance. I will say that telecommuting, and being a bit stubborn has helped in that I was paid ALL of my vacation time – even though arguably I wasn’t in the office for almost 6 weeks this year – but nothing’s on paper, and in the end I always completed my job duties. Although not much, the vacation pay helps greatly.

So while there is that initial stress of ‘not having a job’ – I can’t freak out yet. Not yet. I’m waiting on 2.5 jobs to get back to me with an answer so I’ve at the very least got to get through the weekend without freaking out. And still – it’s like red alert around here. Cost cutting measures and reduction. With real efforts towards curbing spending and such, we’ll be fine for at least two months – and that’s if I do NOTHING during that whole time (which obviously will not be the case.)

But I’m awake again today at 4:30am because I feel like I have to keep to my normal schedule… If I do not keep myself busy I will fall into that slump, that depression or overwhelming high anxiety that I suppose some people get after something like this happens.

And yet, we still went to our regular Wednesday night StandUp for Kids outreach – where we work/counsel/provide food and hygiene packs to at risk, about to be homeless and homeless RIGHT NOW kids. And although it’s very easy to become disillusioned with them, with their no action and lack of progress – lately I’ve been working with two youths whom I actually connect with. They live in an abandoned school which I’m sure is quite condemned. It’s been raining a lot here lately and I know the place leaks and floods badly. They didn’t even have flashlights until I gave them a few last night.

And while they may have made some unwise choices such as leaving their parents (which in cases like these is always a difficult call since MANY parents truly are that awful) – they are not like so many of the other kids. At least to me. They communicate. They don’t have that ungrateful attitude of entitlement that many other streetkids present (and I’m not saying that I don’t understand the facades that many have to take on). I simply feel like these two genuinely appreciate the help I give them, and are not taking advantage of the system that to a degree does enable their lifestyle.

Sure they have to turn some corners such as getting their birth certificates so that they can get an ID so that they can get jobs – but that’s in the works… and we’ll see how that actually goes. However until they let me down – but more importantly themselves down – I am left with thinking about them going back to that abandoned school that’s been flooded by the rain, and sleeping there at night.

That was yesterday.

Ymail? El Myr.

I signed up for a Ymail account (Yahoo’s new email system that’s supposed to be cool? awesome?) – I don’t really know what I’ll use it for since ummmm… since I have like 10 email addresses, all signed-up for various things that I no longer care for. But still. The chance to have another ‘MarkRoX@domain.com’ email address is always too much for me to ignore.

For dinner we walked ourselves down the street to El Myr. Good stuff. And again – much better than The Albert. (I am still really annoyed by that place…) We’re definitely going to get our bikes all ready to go – just for these trips down the road because it always starts out as ‘not hot’ and then we end up dying from the humidity by the time we get there. And then the walk back? After we’re full of food and beer? Yeah. It’s even worse. So. Bikes!

In case you haven’t noticed – we have a donation counter over there at the top of the sidebar. Actually, the reason it’s there is because I’m using it as an example of an online donation meter that we can use for this fundraiser we’re doing with StandUp for Kids. But – I thought it would be kind of funny to have a fund raiser for our lunch. So we’ll see right? Eh.

For some reason, I can’t take good pictures of beer. Bottles? Nope. No matter how cool a label they have, I just haven’t figured it out yet. This one? Blurry. I’ll have to practice more. (which obviously entails more beer drinking!)

Burritos are trouble for me too – I think mainly because I can’t hold still. In one had I’m holding the thing and in the other I’m pressing the camera button. 99% of the time it’s blurrrrrry. Still. This one was good. Probably the best grilled fish burrito I’ve ever had… but I haven’t really had too many if any. Still. Good. Awesome. Filling. Worth the $7. That’s another thing – El Myr isn’t over priced at all. AND, you can get a $6 pitcher of PBR. Sure it’s not super great beer… but there are times when PBR is the right choice.

This week… was pretty consistent and it didn’t fly by, but it didn’t exactly drag on either. I’m not worn out, I just see a lot of work ahead. I am happy that I’m learning quite a bit and it’s all going to payoff soon. Mostly computer junk and software that I should already know but for some reason don’t yet. Still. I’m brilliant and I can do anything because I wear glasses – and they help to maximize my knowledge intake.

If you aren’t on Yelp.com – you should get on there – and then you should stop by the Yelp event on the 17th so you can hangout with us for a while this Thursday. That’d be awesome.

StandUp for Kids and Everyone Else

Anna & Chris came over last Tuesday evening and hung out. Sure it might not sound like much – but you have to understand that this was the 1st time that Leah and I have ever had anyone over to our place (on purpose) to just hangout. Our last place was so unbearable that we just never had anyone over – ever – at least not for hours at a time and just hanging out.

Oh Look. A Sandwich!

This is the turkey sandwich that Leah got for me on her way home last night. It’s from Alon’s Bakery in the Virginia-Highlands area and ummmm yeah – it ROCKED as much as this picture makes it look. That was a Great sandwich. I don’t even really like sandwiches that much (I say that… and then I realize that yeah – yeah I do.) Oh. Here’s another look! Food! Food!

… I’ve been really busy with things at work and life in general (school/work/school/not having a working dryer) – and I feel like I haven’t been reading people’s blogs lately – but I have! I just haven’t been commenting as much since I’ve been reading them all thru NewsGator – I think someone else said the same thing happened to them. But still. Ummm Don’t know where I was going with this. Y’all are awesome? Right!

In other news – have you ever tried to make your own social network? Like, say your name is Leah – and instead of Myspace, you create LeahSpace – where everyone gets their own individual ‘page’ and everyone can network with everyone else and blah blah blah.

Background!: StandUp for Kids is completely volunteer run except for like 2 people (maybe just 1) – and in each city a group of organized volunteers go out onto the streets on a regular basis and hand out food and hygiene packs to homeless youth. Some cities only have ‘street teams’ and other ones – like here in Atlanta, have actual Outreach Centers. At the center, we also give out the food/hygiene packs but also provide a dinner, shower facilities, computers, legal help, medical care (nurse!), ID/Social Security cards (help getting), and even housing aid.

But again – all volunteer run.

Enough of that though. SO. Birthdays are sometimes the end of the line for kids and their time spent at StandUp – when they turn 22 they are no longer eligible to receive our services. Last night one of the regular youth had her 22nd birthday and so, along with goodbyes – there was cake.

Oh it’s getting Late. I love Leah!