the many ways to celebrate love

well guys, the weekend of weddings is over. it was wild and amazing. and each of the three weddings were completely different – unique and beautiful, all in their own ways. for two of the weddings i was the officiant = i performed the wedding ceremony (a freaking awesome honor to have!). one was fairly short and quick, yet still meaningful and ground-breaking for the women. the other one was a little bit longer, and totally + completely inspired by the autumn nature around us. the third one was a greek orthodox wedding of two friends – complete with rituals, traditions, a reception and an after party. what an eclectic, fun time!

wedding # 1: long time love

i posted about this wedding the other day, so i won’t go into all of the details again. (you can read my original post here). but, i did have to include some photos from the day. my drive down to cherokee county, in the far western corner of north carolina, was amazing. it was just me and the open road for 2 and half hours both ways. that’s a lot of precious “me time”. and i loved every second of it.

and then there’s the photo of the happy couple and me. we were all smiles, all giggles, and all nerves. it was a moment of pure elation and joy. filled with the power of a love that has stood the test of time and hate and discrimination. but, finally, these two women married – something they never thought they’d get to do. and they chose me to officiate. humbled to the max. i get goosebumps just thinking about the whole day now.

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LGBT wedding

wedding #2: my amazing, fun, beautiful greek wedding

on saturday, i had barely come off my high from friday’s wedding experience, only to be ready for another amazing celebration. lina and i dressed up and headed to the greek orthodox church on a second absolutely gorgeous autumn day. it was warm + cool all at the same time. perfection.

we experienced so many new traditions and rituals at the ceremony of our friends, chris + andrea. rituals like wreaths crowning their heads in the middle of the ceremony, symbolizing that they are now the king + queen of their own kingdom. and their first steps as a married couple, a slow walk, wearing their wreath crowns and holding candles, around the altar three times.

there was so much tradition in the entire ceremony, chanting, singing, and praying by the priest. it was beautiful and mystical – something that i have always loved about the orthodox church – their focus and continuation of belief in the mystical divine nature of spirituality. though, there were a few theological things that i disagree with (man is the head of the household + spiritual leader scripture readings, and such). still, i can completely appreciate the ancient context of these readings and celebrate the commitment + love that our two amazing friends share. and, let me tell you, these two friends are two of the biggest rays of sunshine in the world that i have ever met – loving, accepting, fun, and so very down-to-earth. they are real people. beautiful souls. and it was an honor to watch them begin this part of their life together.

soon, it was reception time! we met downtown in a venue called on broadway. it was amazing! so beautiful and breathtaking when we walked in. we ate delicious, local food. drank lots from the open bar (thank you andrea + chris! hehe!), danced, sang, mingled, laughed, and generally just made merry the whole night long. lina and i kept saying to ourselves that we were so honored to be invited to be a part of this day. what a joy!

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my love and me

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greek orthodox wedding reception

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greek orthodox wedding reception

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my love and me

wedding #3: of nature + love

after sleeping off all of the festivities from the greek orthodox wedding extravaganza, i awoke to yet another captivatingly gorgeous autumn day. it’s as if nature has been celebrating with us for three days now (as i type this on monday morning, the perfect weather continues).

the third wedding was to be celebrated by my former co-worker (and friend) and his fiancé. they are the ones who actually got this whole ordination/wedding officiate thing started for me. back in september at lina’s + my 70th birthday party, these two asked me if i could marry them in december. they knew that i’d considered getting my ordination done before and simply asked me if i’d go ahead and do it. so, i did! then, they moved the date up to october, thinking they’d love to have an autumn wedding. the ceremony was to be at their home, which lies on the swannanoa river.

lina and i got dressed, i had all my my wedding stuff with me, including a nature-inspired ceremony, and we drove over to their place. as we drove down the curvy roads, the sun glowed through the leaves of all colors. it was gorgeous. then we came upon their house, which sat directly on the bank of the river, with a deck overlooking it. the water was clear, sparkling and glistening. lina + i immediately declared that we would love to live right there. the colors, the river, the entire setting was indescribable. and the day… well, it was the. perfect. autumn. day.

it was a small ceremony with a few family members friends, a photographer, and a few people with us via FaceTime from England (the bride is british). how cool is that?! lina became the impromptu FaceTime videographer. hehe.

i stood in the sun on the porch, with my back to the river, facing these two people as they began this next journey together in life. i was so filled with joy and inspired by the spirit of nature that was with us. birds chirping, water gurgling, sunshine dancing. as if nature was celebrating + blessing this marriage as well. of course, as soon as i said:

“and so, by the power vested in me…by the state of north carolina, it is with great honor and joy that i now pronounce you…”

i got all chocked up again. damn. that is so tough to say. it’s so powerful and meaningful – not because i have any power, but only because i am standing looking at two people who declare their love to each other and i have the insane honor to be there to witness it. it is such a beautiful gift and it makes my soul sing.

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swannanoa river autumn

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Congratulations to all three of the happy couples!! ♥

Transforming Power by Lau Tsu

Your love contains the power
Of a thousand suns.
It unfolds as naturally and effortlessly
As does a flower,
And graces the world with its blooming.
Its beauty radiates a transforming energy
That enlivens all who see it.
Because of you, compassion and joy
Are added to the world.
That is why the stars sing together
Because of your love.

(a poem i used in yesterday’s wedding)

light + love to you all. xx

70th perfection

lina and me ego

there is a thing that i discovered when i lived in sweden that is quite common – and fun. and it seemed like the perfect time to include it in my/our american life.

you see, sometimes, when friends or family members have a birthday, they choose to celebrate together. they add their ages together and then say that they are having a 50 years party (two 25 year olds), for example. well, lina and i have celebrated some pretty big birthdays this year – 30 and 40. so, there was nothing else to do but celebrate our 70th together!!

and last friday, we did just that. we invited friends (who also invited some friends) and decided to hang out at one of my favorite places in asheville, the bywayer. it’s a bar that sits on the banks of the french broad river. a place for kayakers or tubers or rafters to pull out and grab a beer and grill some food.

of course, you can drive to this place as well. but, it’s hidden behind a tall wooden fence, looking like not much of anything from the street-side. seeing as this is a bar, it doesn’t sell food, but it does provide a big backyard, grills, picnic tables, lots of drinks, train tracks, and coziness. plus, as i said before, it’s by the river.

it’s a super relaxed place to be – and i mean just be. yourself. as yourself. a place of realness and a sense of acceptance and freedom.

so, we gathered there last friday with about 15 or so friends. we talked, drank, laughed, snacked, and had a delicious cake provided by my brother.

it was the absolutly perfect 70 years celebration. absolutely perfect.

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peace + love

how available are you?

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when you don’t have a 9-5 job, or any job with a set schedule, then you tend to be available and flexible. which is a good thing. but, only if you set boundaries. know your limits. and learn how to say “no”. oh, and are disciplined. very disciplined.

working as a freelance writer and photographer, i have come to understand this very intimately over the past year. and i’ve reaffirmed the fact that i do not set boundaries, i am aware of my limits but i ignore them, i have a very hard time saying “no”, and i am not in the least disciplined.

but, at least i am aware of these things. and i am working on them. really hard. i’n no where near perfect, but i think that i’m getting better. i hope so.

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what got me thinking about all of this lately is how busy i have found myself. and how i have been actively struggling to balance my life – though i dare say that i have been successfully struggling. i know that i have been successful (in my eyes) because i feel quite balanced inside. at peace. not freaked out. i did feel freaked out and panicky about 2-3 weeks ago. and i think that’s when the shit hit the fan and i decided it was high time to figure my shit out.

so, i did. now, as i said before, it doesn’t look great in my life. i am every single second trying to balance and decide what to do next (or who to do it for – without forgetting doing stuff for myself), but i am getting a handle on it. i feel like i’ve taken the first few steps. and that feels freeing and empowering.

if i reaaaally want my photography business to grow (and i do!!), then i have to make the time for it. i have to commit to it. and i have to give myself permission to make that happen. so, i have.

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at the same time, i want to nurture and grow in my marriage – as my love and i continuously embark on new adventures and journeys and chapters in life. i want to do it together. she is my partner. my everything. and makes life worth living because i share it with her. so, i will always fight to try to make time for us – because she’s my favorite person in the world and there i no one on earth i’d rather spend my time with.

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and then there is my family. my parents + my brother. i love them, and they all have major, major things going on in their lives currently. so, i have been very available for them. giving them moral support and physical support. i’ve been caught up in their lives and their next steps in life, all the while, working on my next steps in life as well. it’s been tough and time-consuming. but, it all came to a certain, freeing point yesterday.

yesterday, my parents got the keys to their new mountain house. yes, they sold their beach house (something that i have not dealt with or thought about or mourned yet – that will come much later), and have moved up here full time. as of yesterday. but, the process over the past month has been taxing on everyone. still, yesterday, as i helped them move stuff out and move stuff in, i felt such peace and pride and joy being there with them. and i had so much fun helping to welcome them back to the mountains – it feels good that we’ve all gathered in one area again.

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now, my brother, he also had something major happen yesterday. he’s been renovating him home for the past 3 years. it’s a 1920s bungalow in downtown asheville – prime real estate people. but, it was in bad shape when he bought it – and he bought with his (now) ex-wife. they had a vision. but he was left with the house and a lot to finish up. after about a year of trying to decide what to do, he decided to go hard at the back half of the house and renovate it and rent it out on airbnb. a great idea!

as of yesterday, the renovations are complete and the first guests checked in!! it not only marked the beginning of his airbnb hosting, but it marked the ending of a personal era for him. it has become a literal moving on. what comes next… none of us know. neither does he. but, it’s clear that one part of his life is over. and i had the pleasure and pure joy or working with my brother pretty intensely over the past month to make this airbnb thing happen.

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so, things have been changing around me. very busy. but, quietly, things have been changing for me as well. just as i close out my responsibilities to my family in this phase, i move on to my first paid wedding photography assignment tomorrow. and it feels amazing. it feels like this could be really real.

and my love and i also are busy changing things too. but, in a patiently waiting kind of phase. we know that big changes for us are coming, but we don’t know when or what or much of anything.

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so, even though i have had a flexible schedule which has allowed me to be available for my family and my love, it has taught me so much about myself. i am so grateful for the chance to be present with these people who mean the most to me – to give my time and my thoughts and my presence over to them. i’m so glad that i am right here with them all…

at the same time, doing all of that, knowing that my purpose, while i have not had a stable job, has been to be with them all, i have somehow discovered more about myself. my passions, my wishes. and i have begun to learn how to balance, how today “no”, how to set boundaries, and how to know my limits….

because, living life to the fullest means learning how to live for yourself and to listen to your soul: how to be available for others, and also for yourself. learning how to live and love in relationships. to prioritize and balance. it’s not always easy, or fun, but it makes life so much richer. and i find myself filled with gratitude and empowerment. i find myself feeling loved and truly alive.

peace + love.