real life stories

i'm not a jeweler, i'm a photographer :)

i have wanted a watch for about 3 years now.

but i knew the kind i wanted, and i wanted to find a good deal on it.


i found it yesterday,

AND it was on sale!

i hesitated…like 2 seconds…

then i pulled out my saved birthday money :) and without hesitation now, handed the money over.

i was giddy!

i could hardly wait to get it on my wrist. 

but my wrists are tiny…i used to be too, but that’s another story. :)

i took my treasure home, and promptly googled how to take links out of a watch. 

i found this sweet, bubbly, little korean girl who was giving the most upbeat demonstration.

literally, her dad had bought an eyeglass repair kit at the dollar store (’tis what she said!)

and she popped out those watch link pegs like nobody’s business!

she took the links out, inserted the pegs back in, and 


her watch fit perfectly…in like 4 minutes. 

so, i got to work…or i tried to. 

i tried a pin, a tiny screwdriver…

she told me to hit the screwdriver on top of the top of it, with another screwdriver head…it was so easy!

it wasn’t.

i bent two pins.

the screwdriver head couldn’t make enough force on the other screwdriver, so i used a meat mallet…

do you get the picture?

i gave up last night…

and had a plan to go to the dollar store to get that eyeglass repair kit today. 

and i did!

i also got a mini screwdriver set…

i couldn’t fail now…

i tried by myself again, and impaled my finger with a pin (bc ummm…the dollar store eyeglass repair kit AND mini screwdriver set were BOTH too big).

i got my blood on my watch AND in a public place ( i was waiting on some take out and was trying to make good use of my time!)

i went to my mom’s…

we tried together…

doesn't sheer determination mean something?

it should!

after trying way too long on something that i actually HAVE a jeweler FRIEND who could do this for me, 

i gave up.

i went to dave rossi’s jewelry tonight, and his brother bob helped me…lickity split. 

i tried explaining how the cute korean girl did it so easily, and how my mom told me that you tube video was not to be trusted…

and he laughed, as he worked with his SPECIAL watch fixing tools!!!  imagine that!

he knew how many links to take out…

he knew how my watch should fit…

no blood was spilled…

and i now am proudly wearing the watch i wanted so badly!

yes, there is a story…

a meaning…

the internet, pinterest, fb, google and you tube ALL make us feel like we should be able to do anything!

and a heck of a lot of us try.

but there are some things that we try, that we aren’t meant to be able to do. 

i guarantee you that mr. michael kors did not have his watch designing team, assemble his watch so i, the consumer could fix it myself. 

and that wasn’t even one of the reasons i wanted the stinking watch!

i wanted it, because i need it, and i waited for the one that i knew i wanted…

and it was worth it!

i love to teach photography…

but it takes time to learn. 

i love to shoot in my studio.

but i have studied photography, posing and lighting, for years and have spent thousands upon thousands, learning to do just that.

i love to interact with people, and to shoot memories for them at PRECIOUS, irreplaceable times in their lives…

family pictures, newborns, senior pictures and more…

you wait for these times…

they are important!

you can look for a sale, but don’t sell out on quality. 

do what you can yourself…

take as many pictures as you can of those that you love…

but when it come down to the real thing, 

recognize the real thing.

save for the real thing, 

understand the value of it, and hand it over to the real professional that can do that real thing for you. 

and you know what?  embrace it.

you won’t regret it…

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? :) 



the joke can be over now.

for 41 years, i have had a puppy love, bubbly in my tummy, love affair with pittsburgh. 

born there in 1974, every thought of pitt is filled with black and gold, mouthwatering italian and polish food, family, inclines, KDKA and window shopping. 

the opportunities that i have had in shooting there have been some of my favorite images of all time. 


for almost a month my sister in law, loryn, has been in the shock trauma unit at allegheny general in pitt. it has been a very stressful, and intense time for my brother and us who love him so much. 

more about that later. 

i had a shoot scheduled in oakland yesterday afternoon, and had not been down to see loryn in a few weeks.  i decided to leave early, spend some time with ryan and loryn, then head to my shoot.

ry is a genius.  i'm not exaggerating.  my brother is the most cunning, find the leak in the system, brilliant person ever.  

we are total opposites. :)

after spending some precious time with him, he not only laid out directions for me, to my shoot in oakland, he went over and over them with me.  god bless him. 

we kissed goodbye and with one final drill of where i was headed to, i took off for oakland. 


first, i missed the right, then a huge piece of mascara got in my eye - i think mascara.

HURT!  i couldn't see!  i'm driving in pitt, with every stinking turn 15 seconds ahead of me, i couldn't see, and why wasn't my GPS working now too?  oh!  the volume was off.  

long story short, i arrived almost ten minutes late to my shoot, but exactly where i needed to be...the cathedral of learning. 

emma's mom and i quickly memorized our license plate numbers and grabbed our credit cards to pay for parking.  for all my dubois friends - let's just say, it is WAY different than paying for parking at the luigi's parking lot. 


we spent two hours shooting this lovely.

and for all i have in me, i'm kicking myself for not seeing what was happening to the left of us. i take such care in composing a shot.  

but then again, this is the girl who shot a whole round of bridal party pictures in front of a COOL graffiti wall, that just may have had a huge penis painted on it.

 i never saw it. no more graffiti walls at weddings. 


i should have realized when people weren't staring at emma.  

they were all day. until now.  SOMETHING was going on. 

oh, you know, there just happened to be about 3 or 4 tow trucks approaching, with police cars and lights.  

but i thought this shot was rockin. 

sometimes i hate being me. 

all of a sudden, i realized what was happening!  i looked over and NO!!!!!

the tow truck was lined up right behind the jeep to put it on.

i ran across the street - total jay walking / running.....up to the policeman.

"sir, look- my ticket, i'm paid until 3:23.  it's not even 3:00...ummm...sir."


and he wasn't even......NICE!

he told me the signs said that there was no parking after 4 a.m.

"4 a.m.??  i asked.  

"the parking slots were full, and the machine took my card - twice!  

and now you are towing?

PLEASE! don't tow my car..."

he told me.."once we start, we don't stop!"

so i ran up to the "tow guy." 

"dirty, greasy, smelly, sir..." (i always consider the inside of someone rather than the out, but this man was NOT nice on the in. :(

"please, don't lift my car onto the truck.  it's not up there yet.  you haven't started, please let it go. "

and the DUDE tells me...

"once i start, i won't stop."

"where are you taking it?" i yelled above all of the noise of 4 tow trucks installing chains to cars....

"the city impound." he yells. 

so from here, 

i know i will sound like a naive, cow poke, innocent, small town gal, but i don't care.

yesterday was AWFUL.  for a ton of reasons.

this being a big part of it - but THERE IS MORE!!!!!

to be continued...

is it only tuesday???











it's more than a stomach bug - it's my heart

i have this thing that when i "dump" all of my heart's contents on a friend, i say that it's a "vomit text" or that i "vomited" all over them.  i brush their chest off , pretending to try to clean up my mess and apologize :). i know it's disgusting, but it's how i feel.  i throw up every bit of hurt and despair, and ailment, and poison that is inside of me, all over someone i love.  (makes you want to be related to me or be my friend huh?)

be prepared- this is a vomit post:

it's been a whirlwind of a week. 

i attended and shot at 3 different events. 

in addition, i had corporate shoots, family shoots, senior shoots, and meetings with clients.

i've been dealing with an online service that i have used since 2006, being down, and bringing a halt to my design work. 

my best friend's father is in the hospital suffering from a stroke. 

we found out this week, that my son has a torn meniscus.

my girls are in the play, "the christmas story" at our local theater.   practices….lines...

my children need to eat, and need help with homework. 

my mom has been dealing with issue after issue after issue with health and a building project.  

we lost a dear member of our community last week - an individual who was very important to people that i am hurting for and love. 

another dear friend has been ill, and searching for answers...

my body is beyond tired.

my soul is weary.

if you follow me on fb, then you know i have been not thinking straight, and have been downright dippy this past week. 

i currently have roughly 20 emails to answer, 8 voicemails, and 32 text messages.  

there is just not enough time in my day.  

there is just not enough of me. 

how i love to love on people, and to make them feel special. 

i can't love on people, i can't do anything being so empty. 

last year, charlie opened a division to our studio called, studio j.  the intent was to offer portrait services, similar to sears or target - simple pictures at a great price. 

he has stopped studio j, and i'm taking down the Facebook page of that, today. 

i have a joelle watt photography page, that i will also be removing. 

my personal page, is about my life.  my life is deeply connected to my business. 

therefore, i will keep my personal page, and have all my business shared on that pag

my kids help me, the people i shoot, the places i go, the stories i tell...

i need to streamline things for myself in order to try to get a handle, yes, a grip, on things. 

and what i am asking from you, is grace.  

i promise you i will return every phone call, message and text…but it is going to take me 2 days to do that without doing anything else.  i'm asking for prayers from you, and understanding as i hold on and try to regain some control of things. 

i apologize if i see you at walmart and walk right by you….i don't wear my glasses, and i'm in a zone lately that makes everything even more blurry than normal.  

and please, don't' lose faith in me as i fight out of this struggle.  please know my heart - how i love - how i want to help - what i strive to have others see. 

please continue to walk with me, as i strive to guard a few things in my life today:  

(the message) Proverbs 3: 21-26 

Dear friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life;
 don’t for a minute lose sight of them.
They’ll keep your soul alive and well,
    they’ll keep you fit and attractive.
You’ll travel safely,
    you’ll neither tire nor trip.
You’ll take afternoon naps without a worry,
    you’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep.
No need to panic over alarms or surprises,
    or predictions that doomsday’s just around the corner,
Because God will be right there with you;
    he’ll keep you safe and sound.


an "ah ha" moment - enough is enough

i had an out of town appointment early this morning.

after my appointment, i grabbed a cup of coffee and decided to take "the back way home," so that i could visit my dad's grave.

dad died in 2006.

i can count on one hand the amount of times i have been to visit his gravesite. 

i hate going there.  it makes me sad. 

it makes me feel like he is dead.

i mean, i know he is no longer alive on this earth, but he IS alive in heaven!  and when i look at that grave, it fills me with a sense of loss and defeat, not hope and promise. 

so i hardly ever go. 

for memorial day, shannon and her girls, and charlie, and our kids went to the site to plant flowers.  being there together, and working to make it look nice, made it not SO bad. 

today, i pulled into the little country cemetery, and i approached my dad's plot.  

"oh dad," i started in…..

i looked at his name, and the dates on the stone, and then all of a sudden, i NOTICED what was staring me in the face: A HUGE MESS.  

my brother had planted some type of bush behind the stone that was now huge and unkempt and dead.  and the flowers we had so lovingly planted months ago, were dead, and filled with weeds-some of which had grown taller than the stone itself.  on top of that, the dead plants had become a natural landing place for all the leaves that were not anywhere else in the cemetery. 

my mouth literally dropped open at really seeing this, and i immediately felt such shame.  

my dad was a meticulous man - with everything!  how he dressed, his vehicles, his home, his shoes, his finances, and me as his child, to protect my own feelings, had left his resting place become the worst scene in the cemetery.

it was cold.  i had a light sweater on.

i was wearing, you know, my NICE boots, my NICE scarf…i had no gardening gloves, no tools…..

i contemplated leaving and promising myself that i would come back to clean up the mess.  i got back in the car to do just that, and i stopped. 

enough is enough.

i could not wait one second longer.  i could not put this off with good intentions to revisit.  i needed to take care of this problem now. 

and i did. 

with my bare, ringed hands, i started attacking the mess.  pulling with all my might to remove those lodged weeds.  i brushed away worms, and mud.  i pulled twigs and old flowers, and the more i pulled and removed, the more energy i got to keep doing the same.  

i left the plot, not with the entire job completed (ryan, do i cut that bush?), but with mud under my finger nails, my nose running, my hair flat, but feeling accomplished and that i had down SOMETHING about it.  

i drove away, with the heat on full blast, and a smile, as i passed all the places that were so precious to me and my family all those years ago, and i began to think:

it is ok to give into ourselves, the healing, the protection that we need.  but at some point, we need to see a situation for what it is!  ignoring facts, may seem easier, but can leave us with regret, and possibly even shaming those that we love. 

and practically to me, what does this mean?  

after 12 years in the photography business, a marriage, and 3 kids, it means focus.  

it means digging in, and cutting back, even if it leaves me vulnerable and with dirt under my nails.  

it means that there is no better time than the present to see things for as they are, and to make changes.  changes that i have felt i have had to make many times in the past, but never felt strong enough to follow through.  changes that will make me and those around me better.

and to be quite frank, i have no idea what those changes are right now.  

but the stage is set, and i'm ready to explore and see.

what do you have in your life that needs attention?  what have you let go because it's too difficult on your soul to dive in and change?

i have no answers, only direction.

"get out of your mind to get into your right life." -martha beck ph.d.




i have a list of wants...

if you are like me, you might just have a list of "i wants."

i want to have more free time.

i want to be a perfect wife.

i want to be a better mom.

i want to be a better communicator.

i want to be a better business owner.

i want to be excellent.

i want to be real.

i want to be wise.

i want to give more.

i want to listen more.

i want to love more.

blah…..i'll save you any more of my extensive list. 

shooting and editing session after session these past few weeks, answering email after email, phone call after phone call….oh, and i'm a mom!  my wants slowly gave way to my needs. 

the more i tried to satisfy my wants, the emptier i became. 

i woke up 2 weeks ago, with back and arm pain, and unable to move my right arm.   (i'm getting some strength back)

i couldn't hold a toothbrush, a brush, my computer mouse, my camera.

i couldn't open the creamer for my coffee, let alone pour my coffee.

all fo a sudden, the striving to be and do all i had wanted, left me in a broken pile of need.

i pride myself on being spiritually and emotionally strong.  

not because that is how i naturally am, but because of the situations that have entered my life over the years, and how i have searched for the plan and grace and mercy of God as i have walked through each one.  

as different hardships hit my life, i learned more and more that i had no control and that my strength could nowhere near hold me up.

you think i would have learned. 

see, as i have let my life became filled with everything i want to be, do, or have, the big "I" got in the way again.  

we weren't made to be able to do it all. 

we weren't made to "be" it all. 

and as dave bish, of tri-county church pointed out yesterday, "it is better to do the right things, than to do things right."

does that make sense?  

in other words, all my wants, were getting in the way of my actions.  

"I" was getting in the way of the simplicity of life that i am offered.

and it is, if only i choose to do the right things…

as the opportunities open in front of me, then satisfaction, and peace, contentment, and well, Christ like living can enter in.  

Matthew 6:30 (the translation from The Message) says it best:

30-33 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.  34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

and as this whole lesson to me comes into focus, the "right things" wind up as moments and those moments, become life. 

a good life…a right life.

the beauty of bokeh….newborn baby lila

if you have an interest in photography, you may very well be familiar with the term, "bokeh."  according to wikipedia, "bokeh is defined as aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens."

bokeh, generally, is one of the effects in photography that i get asked most about, among photography enthusiasts.

"how do you get that blur?'

"my lens won't blur things, and leave what i want in focus!"

to put it simply, bokeh is achieved best when i shoot at a very low aperture (1.2 or 1.4), while placing my focus points on exactly what i want to remain in focus. 

do you see, i have focused on baby and daddy's fingers, and everything else is a slight blur?  this is bokeh.

i love this look in photography.  i shoot this way very often…it is what pro's would call, "shooting wide open."  to me, shooting with a wide open lens, gives more feeling to an image…it has a way of drawing one into the an image, and creating an intimate or "secret" feeling.  almost as though, you were allowed in to view a special moment that was only captured for you to feel.  

looking through even just one of my recent sessions (with beautiful baby lila and her family), i can see how much i favor this style... 

do you see what i mean?

ok…here is where my thinking starts (and goes on and on…), and really i'm realizing, it why i blog…because shooting and thinking and living and loving…they all go hand in hand for me.

i'm finding in life that as i focus on what i need to…what i'm called to see and focus on for a particular time, that the beauty of the moment, the depth of the trial, the overflow of joy-whatever it is, is all pulled together to create the beautiful picture of life that i live. 

without the moments that are out of focus…without me deliberately bringing one part of my "snapshot in life" in and out of the blur, then i would't get to see the beauty, wouldn't have the moments to recognize the blessings…and really, would in the end miss the big picture that i was called to live - to see.  

because the big picture is:

simple beauty...

it is:


it is balance of the blur and the sharpness, 

and it certainly is:


Deuteronomy 7:9The Message (MSG)

7-10 God wasn’t attracted to you and didn’t choose you because you were big and important—the fact is, there was almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love, keeping the promise he made to your ancestors. God stepped in and mightily bought you back out of that world of slavery, freed you from the iron grip of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know this: God, your God, is God indeed, a God you can depend upon. He keeps his covenant of loyal love with those who love him and observe his commandments for a thousand generations. But he also pays back those who hate him, pays them the wages of death; he isn’t slow to pay them off—those who hate him, he pays right on time.