August 29, 2014 § 2 Comments
When I was 23, I had never had the experience of walking into a restaurant and sitting at a table alone.
To be honest, I hadn’t yet learned the value of quiet and stillness and solitude. More on that later. The closest I had come was sitting on the roof of the farmhouse I occupied in Canada. When you walked up the stairs, there was a small kitchenette at your feet, a bedroom to the left and a bedroom to the right. Straight ahead was this awkward common area and two more bedrooms. The place was massive – 6 bedrooms in all – and 13 of us lived under the one roof. It could be, well, stifling. When it got warm, I would sometimes crawl out the tiny window in that awkward common area and sit on the roof and just be still.
At 23, I felt this need to try to sit alone at lunch. So, I walked into The Olive Garden (judge away!) and asked for a table for one. As I’ve come to know is the norm, they confirmed “Just one?” Yep, just me. And let me tell you, it was the most difficult lunch I think I had ever eaten up until that point. This was before smart phones (I know – WHAT?!) and there was little distraction. I visibly squirmed the entire time.
But, a tiny little piece of me knew that was good for my soul. And so, I almost subconsciously tried to find moments to be alone. The invention of incredible earbuds helped this. I’m in line behind arguing families and piles of drama amongst a group of 12 year olds out for the movies? Lalala, earbuds in, problems out. Sometimes, it’s nice to get wrapped up in solitude. On the whole, I feel like not enough people know how to do this. And I don’t know why because it’s the most liberating thing EVER. Just today, as I’m hiding out at a friend’s beach house, I went to the store. In my basket was a malbec, great bread, brie cheese, two peaches, some hot tea and an entire bag of Chex Mix Muddy Buddies that I plan to eat as quickly as possible.
And NO ONE CAN STOP ME.
I know, amazing, right?
I came back to my home-for-the-week and went and had dinner with myself on the beach in a swimsuit. Then, I went swimming.
All of you Momma’s kind of hate me, I’m pretty sure. And that’s the rub.
Being a Momma is your lot.
It’s the rub because since I was 23, and for years before, I’ve longed to be called Momma. You can read about it all over this pretty well-worn blog. When I see you, it’s everything in me not to just take your babies out of your hands. There are times that I, literally, have to have an internal conversation to prevent this. I wrestled for years with the fact that I wasn’t yet holding wee ones of my own and I don’t ever talk about it in person because it overwhelms the outgoing facade you see every day.
It’s better now. My ovaries only come tromping up the stairs to yell at me occasionally. They like to holler the loudest when we see brilliant papa’s with their kids or a man with class throws us a really long glance. Let’s get real, occasionally I can get bitter and sad. I just try to not stay in that moment. Sometimes, me and the girls argue behind closed doors, but it’s rare.
Yes, I’m talking about myself and my ovaries in the third person. Don’t you judge me. ;)
I mean, seriously though, I would rock the baby selfie photo market.
For now, though, I’m okay by myself. Though I’ve felt like I was meant to be a Momma, my path is no less beautiful. My experience as a woman is no less valuable. I said about a year ago, I asked Jesus for babies and he brought me a business. And I adore it. :) This is my lot.
My path is my path and it doesn’t look like your path. It doesn’t make either one less beautiful. And until a husband and babies comes along on my path, I hope you’ll let me hold your babies and chase your toddlers and throw around the 4-year olds and help with homework and buy backpacks for those that are going off to college. Small acts that keep the ovaries from screaming. And I’ll use my gifts to show you that you’re beautiful. Please sit in front of my lens.
I will happily bring you coffee and let you visit parts of the world you wish you could see through pictures on a screen. Because while you’re here wishing you could go, I’m there, wishing you were standing next to me.
You women are gorgeous.
No matter your lot.
March 11, 2014 § 2 Comments
Wandering will teach you so much about yourself.
I can’t even begin to explain it.
Anything you struggle with is amplified when you leave your everyday surroundings. Do you talk down to customer service folks? It will be hard for you to wander, as you will have your entire route run by them – down to your morning cup of coffee. Are you always late? Ha. Good luck! If you have balance issues, you’re bound to eat some pavement (:raises hand: Guilty). And you’ll never be such a believer in foot inserts. Never ever evah.
How much STUFF you have.
There is no way on God’s earth that you can effectively wander with more than a backpack or suitcase full of stuff. It will bog you down and slow you down. You quickly learn what’s important. You learn who is important, too, but that’s a different blog post altogether. :)
Last fall, I moved out of my big gorgeous Casita Azul. Trying to run a house and a small business with this much traveling was just too difficult. Besides, I knew that I would be on the road until mid-February with the holidays and gigs, so it didn’t make sense to be the only resident and letting go of that house has been so incredibly freeing.
I’ve found this freeing thing to be true with letting go of stuff regularly.
As I have driven and flown all over the nation the past 12 weeks, it’s been no more than one checked bag, purse, camera bag. It’s felt like a lot to me – there’s all the cables and the filters and exactly HOW MANY TANK TOPS can one girl own? (A lot. It’s kind of sad, really.)
Just today, I unpacked into the new digs. I’ll be here until the end of May and decided to actually hang things up. Hangers make a place feel like home. Some of my artwork is on the walls and my favorite Paige Puckett Pottery mug is on the counter, too. (The coffee grinder stays in the trunk.) (You call it an addiction, I call it I-hate-the-morning.)
And this wild thing happened.
Turns out, this is all I own.
We aren’t gonna talk about the fact that everything falls into four colors. Somewhere, my Momma is THRILLED that everything isn’t all black and that’s enough for me. Honestly though, except for the t-shirt and jeans I am wearing, this is it. And that’s during the winter!
Fans of simpler lives have already commented on how great this looks to them. If you’ll notice, five of my 29 items are jackets. In addition, there are two pullovers, a flannel, dress shirts, two dresses, two skirts, slacks, and my favorite GO PACK sweats way over there on the left (and all the tank tops) (shhhh).
I had to sneak in that NC State is wonderful and better than Carolina somehow, c’mon. ;)
Here’s the crazy part.
I sincerely had zero idea I was living on what most of us would call “so little”.
There hasn’t been any crazy frustration with what to wear and I even had a girl compliment me that I look really put together these past few months!
It wasn’t until today that I comprehended how little I owned. And it doesn’t upset me.
How big is *your* closet? Can you donate some of your unused items to amazing local non-profits?
In Raleigh, simply put your extra things in a new plastic bag to organizations like Interact or the Raleigh Rescue Mission. Nicer items on hangers are accepted by Dress for Success!
I think you’d be surprised by how little you’ll miss things.
And how much your generosity would help someone struggling feel valued.
*Organizations included here were mentioned without incentive or payment. They are merely a few of the incredible Raleigh area organizations helping love at-risk individuals.*
February 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
“I came out of the womb with the backside of Beyoncé”, she said.
“And most guys I knew didn’t go after girls like me. Or at least they didn’t try…confirming in my mind that I was too tall, too curvy or just too much altogether.”
These aren’t my words. They were thrown across the lips of a fellow girl over 5’8″ who also has never been able to fit in the plethora of size 6’s taunting us from the rack and dealt with the fall out as a result of her genetics. Our conversations had all started in the mutual bonding of recent dating experiences. We are both convinced that 30 and up is where it’s at and, if this isn’t your age bracket, just hang with me for a moment.
Since turning 30, it’s like I walked into a completely different singles party. And can I just say? It. Is. Amazing. This is where gentlemen hang out – the ones who are not short on their affection or their preferred wine list. They have some maturity, some experience, and have learned how to treat a woman, for the most part. The difference between sharing a table with a mature gentleman and a 20-something still-stuck-as-a-frat-kid guy is like night and freaking day.
And frankly, I don’t know if I’m ever going back. For like my beautiful friend, my height and body shape and body weight have been deemed Too Much by the 20-something crowd. And spending time with a man who appreciates curves and communicates that is just mother trucking incredible.
For though I have almost always been comfortable in my own skin, guys don’t even realize how much they trod over my emotions with a pair of soccer kleats, creating holes as if my feelings were something that needed aerating. If you’re a woman with more curves than a Gap ad, you know exactly what I mean.
Oh, there are the male best friends who can’t possibly ever “think of you in that way” and string you along forEVER. Or the guys who ask your friend out after befriending you to get an “in”. You’re wanted by men in secret, lest their friends ever find out they’re attracted to a “bigger girl”. And then, the guys who leave you standing at the bar completely alone because they ran into something prettier and flirtier. The worst is when they mistreat you, then label you crazy because you’re upset at their terrible behavior.
And each time the dejection came & I was sad. One night, after an absolute row done by an inconsiderate guy, I came home and sobbed on the kitchen floor with my dog.
We were besties after that.
(Me and the pup. Lest you think it was the guy.)
(Seriously, dogs help everything!)
I told my friend that I wish that someone, some tall girl would have grabbed me by the shoulders in the middle of a bar when I was 20-something and, in an incredibly loud British accent, said “Get out of here! This is awful and you know it. Once you’re out of this, just hang on, it gets so much better.
I don’t know that I would have listened, but I think it would have at least mildly helped.
Because let me just tell you, it most definitely gets better.
Men really do exist who really appreciate and value women. Some of you have found them and didn’t tell anyone because you kept them and now they’re your husband! I see you. :)
These are the men that don’t make condescending sarcastic jokes at your expense or talk crudely in public. They love height and curves and your loud laugh. (The laugh is one of their more favorite things, actually.) They love your independent spirit and make beautiful food from scratch and buy a bottle of wine with dinner just for FUN.
While I know that my value isn’t wrapped up in what men think of me (you think I get this confidence from them? Please.), spending time with gentlemen is so REFRESHING. The word use is intentional there. With someone who has a little bit of class and a proper serving of maturity, you are no longer too much.
So today, on Singles Awareness Day, I hope you know that I am standing beside you. Stand as tall as you would like, there’s no reason to stoop to hide your gorgeous height.
Know that you are beautiful. Your ‘weird’ smile, your double jointed shoulders, that big patch of freckles running down your arm all give you character. And if you need to lose 5lbs or 50, celebrate the body you’ve been given. Its quirky and mismatched and has that weird mole in that spot you hate and it is YOURS.
There is only one you.
And if there isn’t a man in the picture at the moment to remind you just how beautiful you really are, let *this* be enough.
You go dance in the kitchen by yourself and drink allllll the red wine.
It gets oh so much better.
January 27, 2014 § Leave a comment
Let’s start with Justin Brodie Clark.
You don’t know him? Well, we need to make that happen, first of all. Say hi.
This guy can make me laugh like I can’t even explain. He’s an incredibly generous person and despite some storms, he’s a really great friend. Currently, he’s on long term mission with a ministry in Romania called Caminul Felix. To learn more about them, feel free to click that pretty little link. Essentially, they are a Christian organization providing homes and care for orphaned and abandoned children within the country. Currently, they have over 200 kids! Want to say hi to some of them, too? :)
The organization is incredible and has a *lot* of things going for it. Having the ability to house, feed, clothe and assist so many children is amaziiiiiiiiing.
After being to eastern Europe in 2001, I was hooked. I returned to Prague to live for a few months in 2012 and learned…ha. Well, I learned a lot. I went again last fall and have plans to be in the area again this summer to capture a Prague wedding!
There is something about eastern Europe that pulls on all of my heartstrings. It’s a completely different culture, that is for sure, but the people are so incredibly beautiful. When Brodie began to prepare to go, the idea of visiting him to help somehow danced in my head. Just a few months later, in the midst of some of our many emails, the idea came to light:
“Amaris, you’re a photographer. You capture people. Portraits give love and worth, you say so yourself. Come use your gifts for these people.”
Oh my gosh, YES.
Turns out, digital media is something Caminul Felix completely lacks. They have incredibly limited resources for things like high quality videography and photography. In eastern Europe, DSLR’s are scarce and once broken, incredibly difficult to repair. After my time in both the former Yugoslavia and the Czech Republic, I have experienced this firsthand. Digital media simply is not a priority in the budget and especially not for an orphanage with so many mouths to feed. When we proposed our idea, their response was short and sweet:
“We need you.”
Ignite Student Ministries will be spearheading the trip and helping with virtually every facet. Ignite’s President, Jason Vana, travels to the Czech Republic every summer with teams to love on the people there and has for a decade. He understands how incredible eastern Europe really is.
I know, I know, you want to go and want details. Skimmers, pay attention here! ;)
Dates: July 26-Aug 5
Team members will travel round trip from their home city (no, you do not have to be in Chicago or RDU!) to Budapest, Hungary. Orientation and debrief for all team members will be here before we travel to Oradea, Romania by train.
People! We are hoping to have a two part team for our week in country. Another professional photographer and two videographers for the digital media portion of the trip. You will be using your own gear. In addition, Team 2 will have 7 team members to assist Caminul Felix with their ongoing activities. They host VBS camps, teach sports, have construction projects and even an auto shop! Medical needs are possible and we are still awaiting final word. If you’ve got two hands and any kind of skill, we want to chat with you!
Each team member is responsible for raising their own support and we definitely partner with you on this! This overall cost might be less, depending on airfare and some other factors we’re working out. Ignite is working to supply us with donor letters, cards and all donations are tax-exempt. In addition, donations may be made online as well as via check or certified funds. Such a great ministry – seriously!
I’m interested. How do we start this thing?!
I’d love to chat with you or your friend or your sister – whomever you think would want to go. There is an application process and, like anything great, things might change. But, seriously, if you’re interested, just reach out. I might be one of the most accessible people on earth. :)
Email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tweet at me here: @ahmareiss
Facebook me here: Amaris Hames
Call me here: 919.244.2234
They also do still have carrier pigeons in select cities.
In the meantime, if you pray, please do! This trip will be amazing and I’m so excited about working with both Ignite & Caminul Felix, even though J. Brodie won’t be able to join. If you’re interested in giving towards the trip, you can reach me any of the ways listed and I would be thrilled to talk to you about it.
With great affection,
December 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
All fall long, I’ve been looking forward to taking a break from the camera. Reading a real book on a comfy chair in the top of a cigar lounge for as long as I want to stay. No computers.
And then, a friend advised me to keep it handy for my trip home to Charleston for the holidays. I told myself I was going to take my time and stop where I wanted to stop and it was going to be great. So, today, photos grace the personal blog instead of the work one because I decided to take pictures that I wanted to take. No contracts and no fiscal obligations.
Enter: The Murphy’s.
This family came to North Carolina and I cannot tell you how thankful a lot of us are. These beautiful folks are gracious & hilarious troopers. I mean, troopers. Kristen gave birth to baby #3 at home with no drugs. Did I mention they have planted a church in Fayetteville, NC?
Y’all, these. folks. are. great.
And beautiful baby girl arrived on Sunday morning and, just like that, the Murphy’s are a family of five. I decided to see if they would let me come for a visit (fully expecting a no, I mean, hello, new baby!) and they almost immediately said yes!
They also let me capture a few moments of little girl’s second day on the big wide earth.
For the first time ever, through a variety of happy coincidences, I got to be the first guest of a family’s newest addition. (Am I beaming? Maybe.)
Murphy’s, thank you for letting me spend some time with you. I’m so glad I got to come.
The rest of you, say hi to Audra Kate Murphy. :)
November 21, 2013 § Leave a comment
This house situation is pushing me to drink.
Right out the gate, none of it is anyone’s fault & there’s pretty solid relationships still standing all around the board. But, I need something to happen. I don’t care about the result, because I believe Papa will work things out of both His & my good, I just need something to LAND. And for the love, SOON.
We have a great casita. It’s not perfect. She’s got character (and her own Facebook page – wha whaaaa). Here, say hi.
Here’s a quick review:
We changed roomies over the summer and I became the only name on the lease.
Then, a roomie needed to move out for completely legitimate reasons.
Then, the other. Leaving me alone.
We thought we had found at least one replacement and then, they had to back out. Again, for totally legitimate reasons.
I’ve shown this house nearly 20 times. Answered emails and dealt with no shows all during the busiest months of the year.
I. am. SO. done.
Do I want to move? Kind of. What I really want is a break. A for real vacation. If you’re sitting there wondering what I did during my time in Italy, let me tell you that is was not a vacation and just leave it there.
I certainly don’t want to give up such a wonderful house with the fenced in backyard and the resonating hardwoods. I’d be lying if I said I don’t sometimes walk through our giant foyer and dream of dancing with a boy there. There’s been many cigars smoked and beers consumed on the front porch and I’m grateful for the extra office space on the lower floor.
This house has been so good to me.
But, y’all, I’m just….over it. Subletters don’t just emerge from thin air and new roommates don’t either. Unless a miracle falls from the sky, my gorgeous parents will be coming this weekend to pack up everything except the bed and my computer. I’ll pay rent ’til someone takes it. That’s where I’m at.
Should someone take it soon, I’d be a bit of a wanderer for awhile. Which isn’t new, duh.
So, I’m sorry if my social media has been super confusing. I haven’t really known how to take all that this situation has been and put it in concise terms.
Don’t worry, Raleigh, I’m still with you at least half the year. But, don’t think for a hot minute that I’m not going to take advantage of the opportunity to go to my Momma’s and sleep and go sit on the beach with my toes in the freezing cold water. That might be the only thing you have going against you, land of the pine – the beach is way WAY too far away.
To all who have sent words of kindness or encouragement or offered to let me have a place to sleep in the RDU area, you’re awesome. Like, really really awesome.
And if you know of someone looking to live in one of the most homey residences in the great DTR, send ‘em on ovah! It’s $1195 to take the whole thing and the lease runs ’til August 15th of next year. I’m willing to consider roommate situations, too, if you know of someone chill & responsible.
And if you’d just like to come share beer and cigars on the front porch, just holler first? I’d love to see you. :)
October 25, 2013 § 2 Comments
I have no idea where to begin.
The blinking cursor and myself are bound to become BFF’s by the end of this, as this is something that’s been trying to find a voice for nearly three months, at least.
I guess with the Texican is a good a place to start as any. It was that merry-go-round that sparked a hundred conversations and led me to here. For the longest time, I muted my opinion on all the dysfunction wrapped up in that. And now you are sitting there in astonishment – “Did she just say she muted her opinion? I don’t believe it.”
F’real. I didn’t vocalize so many things. See, in the number of relationships I’ve had with the opposite sex, only one has been with someone that has the same faith system as me (until recently, that is). And it was only a couple of months long and it was not meant for marriage. It was certainly not a mistake & it was used to show both of us where we were in need of a heart check. As a result, I no longer believe that all relationships are destined for marriage AND that fact is 100% okay.
The local church does not communicate that. The local church communicates that if it’s not headed for marriage to cut it off at the pass. Do not waste anyone’s time, let him find a better fit, do what’s good for your heart. I’m sorry, what if what’s good for my heart is to spend hours with this other, so that I might receive healing, so that he might know what’s healthy, so that Jesus might show us what is good?
Before that pile of beauty, those thoughts had never run through my head. If a guy left, it meant he rejected you. It meant you weren’t worthy enough. It was heartbreaking & took recovery.
And the reason I hadn’t thought about these things and the reason I muted my opinion within whatever-we-are-labeling-the-Texican-dealio are the same.
We, the local church, avoid the topic of healthy dating.
That, frankly, is the conversation I wish we could have.
Here I was, 30 years old, with virtually ZERO idea of what it meant to be a complimentarian and be in a relationship with someone who believed the same. Want a book about marriage and that passage in Ephesians that everyone is so up in arms about (zomg don’tevengetmestarted)?
You got it.
But, somehow there aren’t a whole lot of guidelines for folks who maybe, kind of, think they might like each other? He’s cute! He claims to choose Love! I see the way he looks at me from underneath the brim of his ballcap…hey ohhhhhh, hot stuff. ;)
Sadly, as I had to learn through experience, just because a man claims to choose Love does not mean he has any idea on how to treat women. I honestly did not know this lesson.
And so, along comes this Mexican from Texas. His name is Marco, by the way. You see, I thought I should not give him a name as some sort of way to protect him or avoid finger pointing because I hate that shit. But, his name is Marco and he earned his nickname because he is a Mexican from Texas and I thought it was hilarious. Now, you’re all caught up.
(Ha, if only.)
Off & on for nearly a year, conversations with him consumed 2-5 hours of my day. Yes, each day.
There was never a definition. There were never terms. There was never a “DTR”, as we Protestants so love to call it – you know, with awkward eye contact and a whole lot of “Like”‘s and ice cream.
I became one girl in a long line standing opposite a long line of boys in what seems to be the latest trend. These seemingly never-ending nebulous relationships with no strict parameters or definitions. All the while her heart is hanging out there on a string and he doesn’t even see it. Or, if he does, he simply acts like it isn’t there.
For you women who walked that whole thing with me, (sigh) thank you.
While I pray daily for healing regarding whatever-that-was and I hope he is more considerate to the girl-who-will-love-him-better-than-me, the whole thing sparked this series of conversations that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Turns out I wasn’t alone. Many women have no idea what a healthy dating relationship looks like because no one talks about it. (Point me to the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” book. Do it.)
Frankly, who in the heyall decided this was okay? And why aren’t we calling it out with each other? And why can’t we talk about it within the church? There’s tons of material in the realm of Mark Driscoll on how men can be more manly. A couple of weeks ago, one of our pastors called men out on how to pursue a woman during his sermon. From the back row, I bellowed “Puh-reach!!!”
But, who will help the women?
Who will come alongside and remind them that they are incredible, opinionated and gifted?
Just four days ago, I got called a character. Yesterday, a friend told me that she adores how independent I am. How little shit I take off other people. And I just laughed. Because in the realm of what was the Texican, I became a shy and muted girl who kept all of her opinions and feelings to herself.
I am laughing out loud as I type this.
How absolutely unhealthy.
At the end of the day, though, I wish all those conversations I had afterwards were conversations that had come before. I still have very little idea how to be a woman who believes in complimentarianism, and chooses Love, and also runs her own game and laughs loudly. However, I’m no longer willing to compromise myself. I’m no longer willing to try and put myself into some sort of mold just to be in a relationship.
I hope that we can reach a place where these sorts of conversations are ok. Doubts are allowed and hugs are, too. Yes, the sexes are quite different, but that certainly doesn’t make one better than the other and I sincerely don’t believe that it is supposed to be so hard.
Ladies, you are beautiful. Walk proudly, but love much. Respect the gentlemen, for they deserve it. But, respect who you are, too.
There are far too few days in a life to treat someone poorly.
And that includes yourself.
Sending Love & Double Stufs,