Before joining the LeahAndMark family, there were lots of things I’d never done before. Ran a photo booth. Climbed into a rusty old school bus. Waded up to my neck in a river, camera in hand. Been to Kentucky. Well. Driven through Kentucky. I’ll call it good enough.

A few weekends ago, I piled into a [swanky] minivan with Mark, Leah, and Baby RoX and spent the weekend in Indiana, shooting my very first out-of-state wedding. This was a big deal for me. Weddings! I love weddings. Traveling! If even to Evansville, Indiana, there’s something about loading up my luggage and seeing someplace new that I get ridiculously excited about. And the big one: Leah and Mark thought enough of me to ask me along. Weeks back, when Mark asked if I’d be interested in shooting an out-of-state wedding, I danced around my kitchen in excitement before rattling off a gigantic “YES!” in our G-chat window.

So I packed my luggage, marveling at how lightly [for me] I managed to pack, mulled over how much I’d miss my girls and my husband and whether or not I was ready to leave them, left pages of phone numbers and nap schedules on our kitchen counter (just in case), and in the end, jumped in with both feet and made the trip.

Want to know what I learned over the course of the weekend? Mark never sleeps. Really, the man can successfully run on about five minutes of sleep and believes coffee to be the cure for anything, like those crazy Greeks and their Windex. Also? Leah is adorable. We all know this information, because the moment anyone meets her for the first time ever, you instantly want to give her a hug. She’s also a Gardetto’s monster and would pull out this bag of trail mix throughout the weekend like Mary Poppins, a seemingly endless supply of weird little breadsticks and pretzels and snack bits. “Ooo, Gardetto’s!” Another fact? Baby RoX is the most laidback baby in the history of EVER. I seriously heard him cry for probably a total of three minutes out of the three days we spent together. He also let me snuggle him as often as I needed to, since I was away from my own babies’ snuggles for a few days.

Oh. One more thing. Mark is a genius. Now of course he made me say that, but really, he actually sort of is. I continue to learn so much from him every single time we work together. He pushes you to keep shooting- and a lesson I’d learned from him long ago (and sometimes need to remind myself of) is to shoot, shoot, shoot… and when you feel like you’re good with what you got, GO BACK AND SHOOT MORE. Ask questions too- because internship or plusdom or the busiest wedding photographer in Atlanta, you’re always going to have questions if you’re truly intent on getting even better- but ask only the RIGHT questions. Also: there is such a thing as a perfect photographer/ client match. Mark has this incredible knack for finding the most awesome clients, achieving that match of perfection.

The importance of that match is apparent when you’re at a reception and one minute, they’re cutting the [delicious] cake and the next, the bride and groom are up on the stage, belting out “Livin’ on a Prayer” and creating these amazing moments for you to capture. I’ll never hear Bon Jovi again without smiling at the memory of that moment.

Then, after our whirlwind weekend and a quick stop at the Casino on the Ohio River [a necessity. trust me.], we were back in the car and our way home. My weekend in Indiana was actually the first time I’d been away from both my daughters and my husband at the same time. Ever. And I missed them. Oh, how I missed them. I took camera-phone pictures all weekend (because I’m a photographer and that’s how I do) of farmland and our hotel and Cracker Barrel. I talked to my daughters on the phone every chance I got. And I missed them. They’re my whole world. How could I not?

But. I’m also so glad that I went and don’t regret it for one second. I’m the type of person that thrives on being busy. On doing and going. Plus I happen to have a job that I’m completely in love with, and having something just for me is really awesome and incredibly important. Leah and I talked about this a lot over the course of the weekend: how she’s not quite ready to be away from her son just yet, and how I’ve promised her that one day soon, that readiness will come. I love my children more than I could ever describe. But kid-free vacations are AWESOME. My husband is my very best friend. But I think maintaining who we are alone has been the key to 12+ years of happy togetherness. In the end, it’s wonderful (and necessary) to see the world.

But it’s also really, really wonderful to come home.

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