blame it on the tinsel and the sentimental...

christmas tree 2017 2.jpg

its strange what you remember isn't it?


one of my strongest christmas memories is of our tree. 

it's funny, i never remember decorating it, although i know i did because we have pictures of me doing so.  

i only remember the finished product.  

an ornament stuffed tree, and tinsel. 

so much tinsel.


i hated that tinsel.

i thought it was cheesy. 

i loved sitting around the tree, and the lights and the "feeling" but i thought i knew more about decorating a tree.

probably because i was young and thought i was much more sophisticated than my “older” mom, in fashion and taste. 



in the early years of marriage, and even with our children, i had the “styled” tree.

it was the tree i SHOPPED for. 

i dreamed up the vision and executed it. 

it was glorious.


the kids got older, and i kept my perfect tree.

i got them a tree for all of their homemade decorations and the ones that they were getting to save. 

christmas tree 2017 1.jpg


the past few years, my taste has changed. 


call me old.

call me sentimental.

call me nostalgic. 


but i’m hooked. 


i go through those homemade and mounds of decorations that we have accumulated over the years, and the treasure is ALL MINE, as i hang , and loop, and remember. 


i pile them all on. 

you can never have too many memories…

or class.

so i merge them both. :)


and this year i added tinsel.


my kids hate it. 

i don’t care. 


that tinsel sparkles and shows off the trove of treasures that weigh down the boughs of my tall pine (the tree - it’s fake...but tall pine sounded better ::)


i’m sure my kids wish for a simpler, more stylish tree.

yes, they have poked fun at me. 

but i don’t care. 


my bountiful, sparkling tree holds the tangible treasures of my heart in the most beautiful way. 


one day i'm sure they will see it all. 

it’s strange what you remember isn’t it? :) 



what does one say at a time like this?

these past few weeks, and especially days,

have been hard.





full of life.


good-bye's, not whispered, but courageously spoken. 



as our bill prepares to begin his journey to his heavenly home, he and my mom's home here on earth has been filled with so so many visitors, so much prayer, so much singing, and with overflowing love.

two times now, my charlie has sat and blessed us all, with hours of his music.  

playing hymn after hymn, the great Cathedral songs, Andrae Crouch and more. 

we have sat around bill's feet and sang, cried, talked, and prayed. 

cancer is HORRIBLE.

the pain and suffering - despicable. 

to watch someone you love (honestly, how many of you out there KNOW this firsthand?), suffer at the hands of this body eating, bone breaking disease, is horrific.

but when there is hope.... 

no, not hope.  

...when you KNOW where and what you are going to, when your last breath leaves, i believe much more than hope enters in.  

an understanding....a peace...YES, even in the suffering.  

so the music, and words and visits have been amazing. 

and bear with me as i and my family try to heal as we journey, and i share much of what we have experienced. 

but today....i learned, as much as it is important to serve and give to bill....

my mom, has suffered as well.  

she would never tell you that.

she would tell you that it is an honor to get up at he break of bathe shave and dress him, and to put cologne on him.  

to make him feel as if he is living, not dying, regardless of what his body feels like.  

to wake at all hours, to care for him to serve and keep him comfortable...yes, my mom needed "fed" in a huge way. 

today she was. 

cindy and joe...our blessed cindy and joe came to visit...from arkansas. 

cindy and my mom have been friends since 7th grade acapella chorus.  

i've often shared, that our families created the very first "life group."

we spent every important date together, and too many to count in between. 

cindy, joe, and their 3 children, dawn, tim, and joanna, were more like siblings to us than friends. 

to cut things short, life happened. 

in '83, my family moved from pitt, to the dubois area. 

while we still visited almost as much, in '88 joe, cindy and their family moved to arkansas. 

no more visits. 

the adults still talked, but us kids, we, were growing up. 

as God orchestrated, when my dad passed in 2006, he was living in the same city as cindy and joe in arkansas, and they along with their oldest daughter and my precious friend, dawn, were there for me to walk into the funeral home for the first time with my dad there. 

joe sat behind me at my dad's service in arkansas, as i spoke...

 and as we prepare to say goodbye to our bill, cindy and joe made it back to dubois.  the first time since 1988...for my mom. 

what does one say about a friendship like this?

what does one say, to look at the people that felt like another set of parents for more than half a life? 

no words...only tears...hugs, laughs, and prayers...

as cindy loved on my mom, joe grabbed my hand. 

the hand of a man that i TREASURED...who watched me grow, prayed with and for me, played, sang and danced with me, and now, holding my hand, loved me. 

and cindy, who saying goodbye, held my face as my mom does and whispered her prayers and love. 

what does one say?

when the people who love your mom so, thank and bless the man who has loved her?

i have no words...except..

"i'm blessed.  oh surely...i, she, he and we are blessed, over and over."

there is so much living to be found...

in the road to eternity that we call dying. 

thanks be to God and for the living.




at home and forever...HE IS ALIVE

it's another one of those nights.  geez they are frequent lately. 

we went to church tonight in lieu of tomorrow. 

but honestly, we haven't been to church in quite a while.

no, we aren't one of those, "only go easter and christmas families," but for various, and complex reasons, we have not gone - in too long. 

we listen online....and on the radio to many pastors and messages....

but tonight, BEING there, and feeling the Holy Spirit in the presence of the place, moved me so much....about 10 tissues full much. 

the music, the authenticity, the truth, the honesty of what christ did for us - His children...

as chris (our pastor) was talking about the crucifixion of jesus and the details...i looked for my notebook that i always carry in my purse.  i'm a "write it down or forget it" kind of girl. 

i couldn't find it so i pulled out my phone and typed into my notes..


a month or two back, our bill, had undergone major surgery.  he had at least 3 HOLES/drains in his back to let out, ugh - i guess what needed to come out.  

one sunday afternoon my mom called, asking me to rush over....when i got there...bill was seated, with his back exposed in the the bathroom.  i will never forget what i saw.

to keep it simple, he had a hematoma, it had erupted and was releasing through one of those holes. 

the blood, the fear, the intensity of the moments....and bill sat quietly.  allowing us to dress his wound to get the hospital while reassuring my mom.  

as i  helped him, i remember thinking..."he can't do a thing!  he is relying on us.  he has NO REASON to deserve this.  the ONLY thing(s) he has ever given my mom or her children is love, support, strength.....WHY????   why is he suffering and bleeding like this so much?"

you know what i realized that day?

no matter what physical hardship i have faced, BLOOD has made it more real than ever. 

so back to chris at church tonight.

yes, Easter... Jesus on the cross. 

mary magdalene, His closest friend among others...peter, john...his mother.....all had to sit and witness that horrific suffering and blood.  

blood being poured out.


of someone they loved..who had nothing but love on them and EVERYONE.  

blood being poured out...

because He chose to put Himself there.

for you  - for me.

when all He ever did was love and give. 


i know what my heart felt watching bill, who is a father to me on earth...

can you imagine watching jesus...a father to all ?


it brought me back  ONCE again to the red velvet couch....

my mom stroking my hair...

my dad mixing and adjusting the sound to the don fransisco... dancing...hands raised, fingers pointed to heaven....


my mom and her sisters went on to perform that song at many concerts for years to come...

but this song , my memory and its message made the act and purpose so clear....

and now with bill...and tonight with chris...i see it in a new way.

a way relatable to all...but sensitive to he hearts of those that see and hurt....

and tonight...i'm so grateful that HE IS ALIVE!



carried in the stillness...

did you have a brother?  or a cousin or friend that you used to go swimming with? 

for me, i had a little brother by 2 years.  enough to be younger than me, but not young enough that i was any stronger or bigger than him. 

we had a pool at our house.

i remember when we would be swimming together, so many times, he would jump on my back and push me under.    oh how i hated that!

he'd hold me under, long enough for me to start to be afraid, then he would let me up.  i would gasp for air, look around, and wham, he'd push me under again. 

i remember trying to figure out what to do. 

if i called my mom, she wouldn't hear me.  she was mothering our 3 younger siblings inside. 

if i fought back, he would do it again and more. 

so by trial and error, i realized that if i stayed under, not fighting him, and just let it happen, that i was less scared, and i wasn't giving him satisfaction either.  that is what made him leave me alone. 

this isn't a slam on my brother ( i love him dearly!)

this is the only way i can describe what life has felt like for me, for a very long time. 

i hate drama.

i love being happy. 

i love everyone i love being happy. 

i like to fix things, and help people, and i like to look good and feel good. 

but in reality, the past 3 years have not held much of that in my life. sometimes i feel like a broken record that is stuck on a scratch that it can't move from.  i've been pushed down under the water so much over and over again, that i feel i've lost a sense of reality, and a lot of times, have a hard time judging a crisis because crisis has been so seemingly eternally present. 

a lot of time, i have even asked those closest to me.."is this really that bad?  or am i making something big out of a little thing?"  but those who love me, assure me, "oh yes...the stuff that keeps happening is real.  this is hard stuff...." and a lot of times, tears and hugs accompany those words. 

listen, this isn't a pity party.  but reality - it has been hard. 

most recently, life has held quite a bit of loss and serious illness.  again, pushing me under the water, as i thrash around trying to figure out what to do. 

and just like i learned in the pool, fighting my brother, i find now, that it has brought me to a point of stillness.

even with my business.

(DISCLAIMER - i am still booking and shooting tons and tons) 

BUT - i'm a planner, and an organizer, and a dreamer, and a do-er, but my spirit has just stopped all of that for awhile.  and you know what?  i'm totally ok with it.  

i'm under the water, and i'm releasing the instincts to push back.  lately, i've been learning that while i'm under there, that i need to move out into the deep even further.  the longer i'm under, the farther i go, the more i allow myself to feel, but to release my own strength, and i find myself being carried.  

there's a scripture in the bible that tells us that in our weakness, he is the strongest. ..

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 corinithians 12:9-11

in no way am i saying that i enjoy the hurts, the loss, even the fear i have sometimes of the unknown, and what is to come, but what i am saying is that in this extended time of brokenness, my heart has been filled with so much love, so much joy, so many tears and pain, but yes, even so, a peace.  

from people who love on me, and those that i love. 

from watching the strength of my mom as she walks and show us what to do in the deep.

to forgiving the deepest hurts i thought i could ever endure.

and in embracing the blessings of the husband and children i have and the privilege of loving them. 

oh - what does this have to do with joelle watt studios?  i guess, it's an update if you will. 

i'm here...shooting and loving what i'm doing.  i'm fortunate enough to say that what i do for a living inspires me and fills me with much joy.  but if you notice a stillness in the events that in the past i have been always planning and creating....if you see a quietness in the community projects i'm involved's not because i'm going's because i'm being carried for awhile.  i'm riding the waters that envelope me for a bit.  i'm going only where i'm led to go, and there's no fight against it.  and that's a good thing.

recently, i spoke at a meeting for teens, encouraging them to find and do what they love.  

i used my career as an example - and oh my, it opened my eyes!

i've gone and done and been and shot....

and, well this is highlight of the career that i have loved...bits and pieces that were easy enough for me to find pics of :)

some highlights 

i’ve sang on tv
i’ve competed in pageants
i lived through my parent’s divorce
battled an eating disordrer

and i chose

i found my camera
i’ve shot amazing people with diablitlies
and i have had the opportunity to teach and work with my own kids
i have shot Best selling NY Times author’s photos
i’ve photographed a church in colorado and
a real life cowboy on a colorado ranch
i’ve shot on the shores of lake erie
and a wedding on the patomic river
i’ve shot countless weddings all over the country

and ones close to home
i’ve had the opportunity to photograph my dying father
and even babies that died before they were born

i’ve shot at the NYC RCA Recording studio
and for billboards in dubois, pittsburgh and colorado

i have shot at events overlooking the nyc skyline
writers, actors, doctors, psychologists, models from LA and even one
of the richest men in the world
i’ve photographed orphans from africa and charity events for beloved friends
I've shot an italian recording star
and both of my sisters’ wedding
i‘ve documeneted  weddings in missouri, maryland, virgina, texas, new york,and d.c. 
to name a few
i’ve learned my craft along with friends
i’ve photographed the pennsylvania teacher of the year
and mentored students from around the area.
i’m a big sister and an aunt

i have my own photography studio
and i have lifelong friends
i spoke and shot at an international teen event
and i said i’m a wife and a mom right?

i love what i do. 
and i’m anxious to see what can be done in my life as the waters carry me on. 







what do we do now?

it'e been quite a day. 

our beloved pastor, leader, mentor and friend, Dave Bish of Tri County Church, went home to meet His Savior today. 

to me personally, Dave was a trusted mentor, counselor and friend.  for the past year, our family has been a member of his life group. to my family, he and his wife lori, have become very dear.

just skimming through face book, and remembering through the 25 years that he has served here in dubois, it is easy to see how many lives he has touched deeply.  

there are many stories to tell...

each as meaningful as the other.

i know for the days, weeks, months, even years to come, we will find solace in sharing these memories.  

as a wedding photographer for many years, many of the weddings that i have shot, have included Dave as the officiant. 

tonight i want to share this memory.

it was maybe 2010 or 2011.  (basically, long enough ago that i couldn't go to my hard drives that i have connected to my mac to find the files :).)  it was a beautiful summer day that i would be shooting an outside wedding of my twin sisters' best friend, bre.  i've told this story more than once on my blog, that this wedding took place at Starr Hill Winery in Curwensville.

and my twin sisters were in the wedding.  

Shannon had driven Sherri's car, and had neglected to put the emergency brake on (it was a standard), and the car popped out of gear DURING the ceremony, only to plow FEET away from the wedding ceremony, into the vineyard. it totaled the car:).

that's the was way more dramatic and now funnier than this, but my point of the story tonight is dave, so i'll get to it. 

dave was performing the ceremony. 

the car went, my sisters had LOUD words to each other about who was to blame....

people were in shock, and no one knew what to do or how to proceed. 


this is when dave took a big breath:

"is everyone ok?"


"ok, let's move on with the ceremony..."

we all just looked at him, dumbfounded thinking "ok!  this is what we should do!"

and we did. 


we went on with the ceremony as if the blue car and not rolled through moments before.

and we finished the wedding, breathed a big sigh of relief, and now laugh about the incident. 

i can't tell you how many times i myself have gone to dave over the past few years with "what do i do now?" dilemmas. 

and each and every time, he has met me there with, "this is what it know what God tell us, do it, and let's move on."

i don't want to minimize how dave handled and counseled these situations.

i want to share that he knew what needed to be done, how he believed, and he did it.  

emotions are real. 

they come at us hard.  it's good to feel them.  acknowledge them, and grow from them. 

but the bottom line is what we know and believe to be true. 

and just like that blue car plowed through those vines, today as dave left this earth, so many of us feel a sense of where and what to we do now? 

how do we go on from here?


we walk forward in truth now my friends, just as dave taught, and jesus taught. 

we love, we give, we believe, we trust, we serve.

and one day my friends, we see him again in glory.

1 Corinthians 2:7-9 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,”What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”


what may change next year /thankful for tonight/ merry christmas

I can’t help it. 

Christmas eve makes me nostalgic - even weepy. 

i sat in church tonight, with lit candles, singing “silent night" and looked over at my three children’s candle lit profiles, then looked to my husband, and i had to close my eyes. 

my breathing stopped - for just a few moments. 

my heart fluttered.  

and i tucked the memory deep deep down.


maybe i’m a bit of a thinker.  

even a dweller. 

but christmas eve, always makes me reflect.  

on the past…

and also on the future. 

next year this time, what in my life will be different?

will all of my loved ones still be with me? 

will i still be here?


we live in a world of uncertainties. 

and passing the candlelight from one to another tonight, i thought about these traditions that move my heart so much.

we all have them…some silly, some spiritual, some emotional.

but why?


and it struck me that maybe we have traditions to show us that no matter how much changes in our lives, that things can still stay the same. 

families can break apart…we may lose loved ones. 

sickness may hit and relationships can fail. 

but at the bottom of it all, what we believe, what we repeat, what means the most to us, and what we celebrate, can bring great security and joy to our lives. 


tonight, over that candlelight, with “silent night” being sung by hundreds around me, i looked around.  

different from last year...

my son is now taller than me.

my daughter, almost a woman. 

i saw a boy who lost his mother this year, a woman in the midst of a divorce, and a man just diagnosed with a terminal diagnosis.


in my heart, i reflect on the changes in my own family, and most recently the loss we endured. 

yet, in the reflection, i see promise. 

the traditions we have created, i love.  they bring me happiness and security.

but tonight, i do not carry fabricated hope, but truth that i can see from thousands of years ago.

traditions can speak to us. 

but only truth can save us. 


when life falls apart…

when hearts break. 

when nothing makes sense, 

and it seems all has changed.

we can look to our traditions to remind us….

but we can only see the miracle of Jesus’ birth and the hope and promise it brings, to save us. 


so tonight, as i place the last of the presents under the tree…

and i press my ear to the doors of my kiddos to make sure they are slumbering…

i take a moment to stop and just be thankful for this moment. 

for what we have…

who is here…

for all that will carry on, 

and for a forever love, an unending future, and an eternal security. 


merry christmas