Never Too Late To Love: An Urban Photo Shoot

When I moved to Chicago seven years ago, I came as part of a volunteer program. One part of what I loved about the program was that they provided housing and (bonus!) roommates who were also volunteering. I flew into Midway, having never before so much as visited Chicago and not knowing a single person. Emily was one of the first people I met here in Chicago. She was my roommate and quickly became a friend. 

When we first lived together, there was so much about Emily I didn't understand. My New England upbringing could not comprehend the slow and relaxed pace of life that Emily had acquired growing up in the South. But oh how I love that about her. She takes life as it comes and is never rushed. She savors meals and moments. And when you're with her, well, you can't help but slow down and enjoy life a bit yourself.

In seven years of friendship, what I most appreciate about her is that she is loyal and dependable. Three years ago when Adrian and I got married and he was working nights, it was Emily who drove me back and forth between apartments. She carried boxes and boxes night after night. And without complaint. When life is rough and I just need a friend, I know without a doubt that she is there.

Plus she is hilarious. Which is obviously a friendship must-have. 

We headed out to Pilsen, this wonderful neighborhood on Chicago's west side. Pilsen has a thriving artist community and is known for its beautiful murals. Emily loves living in the city and wanted city character in her pictures. So we braved the elements and headed to Pilsen.

I've driven by this mural many times and just adore it's bold statement and graphic qualities. After driving by a few other murals, I remembered this one and knew it'd be perfect. 

As we started, an older man came out onto his back porch and watched. It's a city so it happens. But my favorite part? When it started to rain and he saw that only Emily had an umbrella, he went in his house and found an umbrella to offer us. My sister says that would never happen in New York City. So, Chicago- 1. 
This is my absolute favorite. It is so very Emily.

How amazing is her coat? Perfectly bright for a rainy day. 

Thank you so much, Emily for all these years of friendship, the talks over dinners, shushing that one roommate all those years ago and for graciously allowing me to share your first name! And of course, thanks for being awesome in front of the camera and for having that show-stopping smile. Much love!

My imaginary universe.

I'm huddled up quietly in my bed by myself tonight. And I could not be more content. The past few days have dropped into the below freezing temperatures, heralding in our first snowfall of the year. The heat has been on, hot chocolate has been made and my feet are forever wrapped in the fuzziest of socks. Right here, right now? I am blissfully happy at the promise of winter. (Remind me, please, of this moment come February, no?)

I know I have written on this before, but each year I find myself increasingly more like my father. For better or for worse, depending, I suppose, on who you ask. And in this year, I am most certainly the most Paul I have ever been. 

You see, this onset of winter, it's not only the coziness of a blanket and socks and hot chocolate that I look forward to. It's the quiet. The peace. The "Sorry, I don't much feel like coming out because it is beyond freezing outside." The space to think and dream and plan.

I've been quiet here on the blog for some months now and I believe part of that is rooted in my recent transition to a new position at work, a position that requires much more social interaction and many less solo projects. These changes, while ultimately good, are stretching and pushing me beyond my normal comforts. And when I return home, I want to disconnect. And mostly not blog.

This is the Paul in me. The part of me that craves the quiet freedom of working alone. Of following your own rhythms of work. Of allowing yourself to focus on one project until it is done. And it's the part of me that lately feels overstimulated and drained. 

Tonight I felt myself reaching my limits, of having pushed myself beyond the "this is character building" and into "this is just not me." And I crawled into bed and remembered that at one point way back when, I had this blog that I wrote in for moments such as these. In this blog, I'd type out my thoughts and follow each one until it's very end. Sharing some and guarding others just for me. I'd tell Adrian I just needed a little time and I'd go in another room, though never too far away. Sometimes he'd check in on me but mostly he'd wait until my thoughts appeared there on the blog the next day. And he'd read them and come home ready to talk about them with me. After we'd both had a chance to think. He's a good one, that Adrian.

A few years back some friends and I used to partake in this beautifully balanced activity we called Collective Solitude. Together, armed with laptops, books, journals and iPods, we'd find a corner in a coffee shop. Each would write or read or listen to music, but always within a whisper of one another. Should inspiration strike or the need for feedback or just human connection, there we were. But the majority of time, we sat in silence, each following our own thought paths. In the end, we'd often share where we had gone and what thoughts we'd come across on the way. 

I think I need more of that. 

So tell me, introverted friends, how do you stay balanced? How do you follow your thought paths while allowing for interruptions because they often must happen? How do you stay fundamentally you? And how do you? Yes, just how do you?

Until then, I'll be lost in some project. I'm sure.

Haley: A Fall Photoshoot

Hello friends! It's been some time. There are many reasons I haven't been around this space and one day I will get into it more, but not today. Even when I'm away, I feel like I'm always thinking about this blog and what I want it to be. I'd love to define it, to tell you all exactly what you will find here. Every expert says I ought to find my niche and direct all my posts to that niche. And maybe if money were involved, perhaps I would. But it's not so I don't think I will. This space has been the home of many ideas and times and changes. For awhile it housed primarily just writing. And then some decor. And some parties. And a few blog designs here and there. I've loved that over the years I've had a space to try new things, to discover new loves and to experiment. 

I also love that this blog has motivated me. I want to show up here each week with something new to share. Something to contribute to the greater blogging community. I'm amazed by others' talents and passions and the ability to find such talents with just a few clicks. The internet has become my window into the lives of artists, photographers, graphic designers, party planners, videographers and authors. And it is truly astonishing to think what a blessing that is. 

Over the past few months, armed with the vast knowledge of the internets, I have been diving back into photography. My mom started me in photography classes back when I was twelve and I loved it. I learned to shoot in manual and to develop in a darkroom. In the past few years, my perfectionism has gotten the best of me and I've let my photography skills go, assuming that my photos would never turn out exactly how I envisioned them.

Oh but that blogging community got to me. I wanted to contribute and to put myself out there. Eventually my desire to share and contribute won out over my need for perfection. I dove into whatever  photography resources I could find and began learning the ins and outs of my camera. 

All of this is to say hello and thank you. Thanks for taking time to come by here and see what I'm working on. For creating such wonderful works of your own. For sharing all your knowledge on the internets. And for continually motivating me to show up here and create.

Ok, so let's talk about this beautiful friend of mine, Haley.

Haley and I have been friends for about seven years now. And for seven years, I have been amazed by her loyalty, dedication, energy and passion. Haley is one of the busiest people I know, but never in that "How are you?" "I'm soooo busy" kind of ways. She rarely, if ever, complains or talks about how busy she is. She just goes out there and gets stuff done. She is fully committed to her teaching job as well as to her church community. When there is a need, Haley is one of the first to jump in. She takes initiative and knows her strengths well. As a friend, she is there however she can be. She maintains strong ties to her family, hometown and college community through frequent phone calls, packages, and visits.

In short, I adore her and very much value our friendship.

I've been wanting to do a fall photoshoot and I knew Haley, being an outdoorsy midwestern girl, would be perfect for it. When I told her my idea, she loved it and started prepping her outfit. We waited patiently for the leaves to change and finally set out last week to capture her in the midst of peak leaf season. We had such a good time in the middle of this city block. To one side was a basketball court and two other sides were busy city streets. People passed by, watching as we worked. But Haley was a champ, embracing the awkward moments.

I wanted to create a little graphic to honor Haley for the years of service and to remind her to be proud of all the incredible work she has done here in this city.

Thank you Haley for who you are and for how you've inspired the rest of us to go out there and get it done. Whatever it may be.
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