August 7, 2017

No Kidding...Well, Maybe a Little.

Back in April, Little Miss joined me on a photoshoot in a neighboring county. I knew she would enjoy watching the shoot- since it was a 4H livestock shoot...however, I had no idea that she would have the opportunity to bottle feed a baby goat! {Yes, I was jealous.}

The 2 hour drive home was spent with her trying to convince me that we needed goats, plural, because they are herd animals, she said. {like she needed to convince me, it was her BooPa who we needed to work on}
I mentioned it to him several times to no avail. I received mostly grumbles of 'don't need more pets' as a response. I was not deterred. These wouldn't be just pets...they would be farm animals- milk producers- and snuggle givers...I mean, milk producers. 

A few months later, some friends of ours mentioned they were getting dwarf goats. I buckled down and got serious with my persuasion....


Those little dots went on for quite long that I was a bit concerned that I had sent my husband into cardiac arrest just by asking a simple question.

The response wasn't exactly a yes...but it also wasn't an outright no. I quickly decided I was doing this OJ style- that shadow of a doubt (or ignorance) that got him acquitted? Well it was getting me baby goats.

I continued to correspond with the breeder I found on craigslist- asking every question imaginable about goat care. As he was texting me about their parents personalities and bloodlines, etc. he casually mentioned their names...

"The father of both these goats...his name is Donald. The little white one's mama is named probably think it's strange but we name them after our relatives," he explained.

I almost dropped the phone. 

"No. It isn't strange. I lost two very special people to me last daddy's name was Donald, Don...and my aunt was Selma Lenora..."

It was all the sign in the world that I needed...and I wasn't even looking for it.

One week later, while stuffing hay into a dog kennel to bring home our new babies, it occurred to me that I could be meeting some kind of craigslist killer who had lured me to his goat farm with fake photos of cute babies only to chop me up and serve me with fava beans.

"Oh well...that's the chance I'm willing to take," I thought as I shoved the kennel into the backseat of my car.

{Yes, I picked them up in my car. I may have risked my life to pick up the goats but I was doing it in my fuel efficient Camry vs. the dodge dually!}

Before I knew it, we were almost home and these two had snoozed the whole way.

We got them home and acclimated to their new living situation. Since they are still tiny, we are keeping them in one of the horse's stalls. (Which created quite the scene...Tristan is certain they are going to turn attack him and serve him with fava beans.)

Meet Mochaccino bon Feefee {Mocha} and Leche Lenora {Leche}...

 {Who is that teenage-looking kid in the adorable goat tank? #mybabyisgrowinupmakeitstop}

They aren't exactly used to human-snuggles...but they seem to be quite content in their new bedroom! Welcome to the fam, gals!

PS- Thanks, Boo!! You have some happy girls!! <3

May 17, 2017

A(ddi)CTION: The Story of a Recovering Addict

No two addiction tales are the same. While many have similar paths, the addict determines how the tale ends.

This is the story of recovering addict, Taryn Daniels...

I spoke with Taryn after she shared my post on Emerson Gardner on Facebook. She wrote a bit about her own struggle with addiction- which prompted me to ask permission to ask some more in depth questions about her journey. She, too, was very open with what she went through.
"Of course it all started with snorting pills. My {now} ex-boyfriend introduced me to heroin. He actually held me down and shot me up for the first time. I was terrified and didn't want to but once I felt that rush I was in love. I was 16."
It only took that one time to hook another American sweetheart.

Taryn started smoking and drinking when she was 14 but snorted pills for the first time mostly because her friends were doing it and she wanted to see what all the fuss was about. She liked how it made her feel...until she realized she was addicted.

Heroin quickly went from 'a way to get high' to 'a way to avoid withdrawals'. She describes being "dope sick" as the worst flu imaginable, times a thousand. This isn't a party drug- not that any truly are once you become addicted- this is a lifestyle drug.
"Doing heroin was like my dance with the devil. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy. And that is exactly what it does."
Taryn drove to Virginia one to two times daily to get heroin. Every penny she made she spent on drugs. She admits she doesn't know how she kept a job during that time, but somehow she did. 

It took felony drug charges and over a year in a Teen Challenge rehabilitation facility to shake Taryn to the core.
"I got to come home on a 7 month pass and I still wanted to get high. When I went back is when it clicked- I've got to change or I'm gonna die, I can't continue to live like this."
She credits God, the power of prayer, a supportive community and Teen Challenge for being able to get clean and stay clean. {I also give a HUGE credit her wanting to get clean and stay clean.}

She says the time she spent at Teen Challenge helped her clear her mind and focus on herself. The constant drug use left her brain in a fog- only wanting to focus on chasing that first high. {Which as most addicts say, is only attainable that first time.}

Most of Taryn's friends that she used with are either still using or dead- only a few tried to come back into her life when she returned from Teen Challenge. However, when they realized she was serious about staying sober- they didn't continue. The urge to use again used to be something she dealt with daily, but thankfully today...that is a thing of the past.
"I don't have urges to get high anymore. At this point, I never wanna do it or be that person again. My heart breaks for my friends and everyone in active addiction because I know it is possible to live a healthy, happy, drug free life. I am living proof. I am 100% drug free! No suboxone or anything. But I also know I can't put myself around it."
Taryn is currently a stay-at-home mom to a lovely 8 month old little boy. Up until his birth, she worked three jobs in order to purchase a car and get back on her feet. (Heroin literally took everything she had away from her.)  She goes to church regularly and says her relationship with her family is better than ever.

I'm thankful to be able to share her story. While pushed her to rock bottom, she didn't let hold her there. She fought back!! It IS possible. Sobriety IS attainable!

*Sidenote: I am very pleased to congratulate Emerson on 60+ days clean. She checked into a detox facility shortly after I wrote her story. From there, she went into a treatment home. Emerson said reading her story helped her to realize how badly she needed help.

Please continue to discuss addiction with your families to raise awareness in the awful truths of addiction. #talkittodeath

**I plan to continue sharing stories of addiction here. Following my initial post, I received fantastic feedback & some inquiries of other folks who have stories (some similar, some not) of addiction they would like me to help them share. If you have dealt with addiction & would like to share your story, email me at Your stories DO help others!**

March 9, 2017

Life's Blessings

Life changes without our is our attitude that determines the ride.
This was one of my daddy's favorite sayings. Maybe not always- I certainly got my stubbornness from him- my ability to hold a grudge- my ability to be a hard-headed jackass...all proudly from my daddy. But in recent years, he had my mom put this quote on their refrigerator to remind him that life can change and the only part that is truly up to us is how we handle it.

A few ago, I was looking for a new job. Photography used to be my love- but I was totally resenting it more and more with each click of my shutter. I wanted something completely different.

" your restaurant hiring? Maybe I could just wait tables at lunch...even though I've never done that before," I said to my best gay friend #ofalltime.

"I do NOT see you slinging food, need to work at a law firm or something. Heels and pencils skirts- not aprons," he said with all the attitude you would expect. #obxdiva

At the time, I didn't even know any attorneys...except for one whose family I'd photographed a couple years earlier. I was trying to handle my own divorce- with only google as my counsel. Apparently, my diva thought this imaginary law-job was just going to fall from the sky.
Always trust your gay...they have crystal balls. #punintended 
In the blink of an eye, I was shopping for said pencil skirts and heels for my new position at a law firm. (I'm still not sure if it was my photography skills or my hip hop knowledge that landed me the position!)

"Like you needed any reason to perfect your arguing..." my sweet mama told me, while shopping.
"My point exactly, dear."

So life changed...and it was an exciting and welcomed change. I learned how to walk in heels again- I learned that getting myself out of a speeding ticket has nothing to do with crying- and I learned how to get divorced, with the help of my bossman. (The speeding & divorce part...not walking in heels.)

"I'm so proud of you, have a career now. Well...another career," Daddy said one day, when he dropped off pimento and cheese to me at work.

After he passed away, I would stand in the spot that he said those words to me, close my eyes and see him standing there. I would hear him say those words, clear as a bell. Something about seeing him walk into the door at my office, made it tough to make the move to a new office.

Last month, my boss opened his own firm in Kitty Hawk. The first morning I drove to our new place of business, I took the beach road. Daddy always told me it was just as fast- and I, for once, wasn't in a huge hurry. I got to the Kitty Hawk line and could see the ocean- it was calm and breathtaking. I turned the radio up and heard Chris Stapleton's voice bellowing out a song that always seems to play when I am already thinking about my daddy. {Daddy Don't Pray Anymore}

As I rounded the curve by the Kitty Hawk Pier, I got chills as a memory struck me. My Daddy spent summers in Kitty Hawk when he was little. His grandparents had a house in Southern Shores- one of the only houses there back then. I wiped away the tears I had tried desperately to fight back as I thought of a young Don Spencer, running in the on the shoreline...telling stories with his grandparents.

Our attitude definitely determines our ride. My new office is filled with memories of my daddy that I bring with me each day. And my rides to work? Well, they're filled with ocean views and chats with my favorite angel. #blessingsindisguise 

February 28, 2017

Ready, Set, A(ddi)CTION

Addiction. Heroin. Overdose.

Three words that swirl around in conversation in today's world- but somehow don't rock our youth the way they should.

We always spoke candidly about addiction in my house when I was growing up. My cousin was and is an addict. Looking back, I'm so thankful that addiction wasn't brushed under the rug in my family. Learning the ugly truths and reality of it at a young age scared me to death. I was a total band geek, but the seeing first hand how drugs ruined lives killed any curiosity I might've had.

Today, kids aren't afraid of anything. Society tells us not to punish them- let them get their feelings hurt or God forbid, let them lose at something. Our children are growing up thinking that anything they do can be undone and that nothing they do is ever really wrong. That, my friends, is bullshit.

Kids today aren't just smoking pot by the tennis courts- they are skipping school and shooting heroin in hotel rooms...and dying. There is no 'undo' when you die. This is real life and real death. This is happening right now and I feel like most parents are completely ignoring the giant, purple elephant in the room.

My child would never do that...

God bless. I hope not. But if we don't talk about these issues with our babies- they won't know the real truth about addiction. Hell, maybe we all need to be educated a bit on addiction.

Allow me to enlighten and horrify you, all at the same time...

A young girl I've known since she was around 11 years old is now a 19 year old heroin addict. Her name is Emerson Gardner. She has overdosed a half-dozen times- the most recent time almost dying. It took three Narcan shots to bring her back.

I argue with myself over the use of Narcan. Yes, it saves lives and that is incredible. If it was my baby laying there overdosing, I would want sell my soul to the devil to save her. But how many times can you push 'undo'? 

Once discharged from the hospital, Emerson went back to her dealer, purchased more heroin and shot up, yet again. Today her current routine is to wake up, get high, go about her day, get high, then go to bed. More often than not, she sleeps all day and stays up all night getting high.

In answering my questions, Emerson hopes young kids and curious adults will hear her story and understand how serious this drug is. She wants to help others...but she isn't ready to help herself. {Maybe reading her own story in my words will help her, too.}

"I started with just snorting pills when I was about 14, but as I started doing it more and more, I slowly started getting introduced to more and more people who then introduced me to heroin... it was cheaper & easier to get... I switched from snorting to shooting 5 days before my 15th birthday. I remember it like it was yesterday"

My heart stopped. When I was 15, I was scared to put eyeliner on my waterline, much less a needle into my body! 

When Emerson was 16, she lost her father. But admittedly, this only gave her one more excuse to go further down the heroin rabbit hole.

Now I know what you're thinking. Well, she lost her father...what was her home life like? How did she grow up? And again...this wouldn't happen to my child because I'm not raising them like that,

But I can promise you- you are. Addiction doesn't discriminate- it can choose your son, your sister or your neighborhood best friend. This young girl didn't grow up all that different that I did. {Except she was a cheerleader and I was a band nerd.} Emerson didn't want for much but wasn't a trust fund child either. She grew up with a loving mother who instilled a work ethic in all of her children. A mother who was there at her kids' games, teacher conferences, etc. She was there for them when they needed her. Emerson had a horse- she played sports- did well in school...she was the girl next door- who is addicted to heroin. To look at her, even during her second or third year as an addict, if you didn't know you wouldn't have had a clue that this beautiful, curly haired teenager was putting needles into her veins and filling her body with poison.

What is her mother doing now? Has she tried to get her help?

She is doing everything she can to save her daughter's life. The problem with addicts is that unless he or she wants saving...there is almost nothing we can do to help them. We can provide them with knowledge- provide them with detox and rehab- but unless they want it and are willing to fight for it not against it, it won't work.

Emerson says she wants help- but can't handle the withdraws. However, she has had help. She has been in detox/rehab programs and gotten through the withdraws but still couldn't kick heroin out of her life. Her mother provided a car for her to work and return to school. {She recently allowed her dealer access to her car in exchange for heroin- he totaled it.} Her mother put her on a weekly budget- to make it that much more difficult for her to make the purchase. But again- if the addict doesn't want to quit, they won' matter how many roadblocks we toss in their path. 

What can we do?

Truly, I have no idea. But talking about it is a start. #talkittodeath 

It doesn't matter how old your babies are- communication is a beautiful thing. {Your children are not to young. This poison is in our middle schools, not just high school.} Teach your babies about the scary, scary truths. Put a face on addiction and help them to understand that one time, one try can ruin the rest of their lives.

My hope is to help at least one person. Maybe reading this will help one addict realize that they can fight this...or maybe it will help one parent realize they need to talk with their children about addiction...or maybe it will deter one teenager from trying a drug their friends have been using. 

Please take a moment & talk about addiction with your family- don't let this topic get brushed under the rug! 

February 9, 2017

Stitches & Giggles

{Disclaimer: If you don't like talking about gross stuff & stitches, skip this one}

I know that is an odd way to start a post- but I don't want to make anyone pass out at their desk. I'm far from squeamish. Growing up, I always accompanied my animals, big and small, into surgery. I was once thrilled to aid an ER doctor in draining a cyst on my dad's back. (Seriously, if you're squirming now- stop reading.) I've helped stitch, passed the scalpel & uttered the words "Oh my God, her bone is totally exposed!" without flinching. 

With that said, it is no surprise that I actually googled how to remove a knot behind my knee myself. I know, I know...all ten of you just panicked. This knot has been around for about 12 years. When I first went to the doctor, it was biopsied to death and doctors were a little unsure of what it was, except that it was NOT cancerous. I had been kicked in this particular leg a handful of times, so I truly didn't have much feeling in the 'knot' area. Scar tissue? Sebaceous cyst? A combination of the two? At that time, no doctor wanted to remove it for whatever reason. 

For years, it didn't bother me. Granted, a few years after it moved into my life, I became a mommy- so my focus was definitely not on myself. Cut to {pun intended} a few months ago when I started training for the half-marathon...and it started feeling weird so off to the doctor I went.

"It's a cyst...we can get you an appointment to get that out- no problem at all!" the doctor said.

The appointment was made and a few weeks later- it was removal day. I purposely wore a long dress, so I wouldn't have to put on an awful gown- knowing it would be about 10 below in the office. The doctor came in & I began chatting it up. #giftofgab

"So can I sit up and watch you cut it out?!" I asked...probably too excitedly.

"Um, sure..." he said.

"I googled how to do it myself. I figured if you couldn't get me in, I could probably just pop that sucker out on my own!" I giggled, realizing that I was not only making the doctor really uncomfortable, but I was doing exactly what my dad would do in such situations. 

He didn't reply...or laugh. This guy has no personality.

"Okay, I've numbed the area. You shouldn't feel anything but if you do, please let me know," he said, as he put the scalpel to my skin.

"OH MY GOD!" I yelped, "Just kidding...don't feel a thing," I said with a very proud smile on my face.

Again, he did not think I was funny. But I knew that my daddy was laughing his tail off because that is exactly what he would've done.