Once Upon a Morning – Summer

la joie, la vie | iphone photo by kelly sauer

“Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. For those few months, you’re not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool give you a courage you don’t have the rest of the year. You can be grateful and easy, with no eyes on you, and no past. Summer just opens the door and lets you out.”

― Deb Caletti, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart

When I Need Him

la joie, la vie | by kelly sauer

Pencil marks on a wall, I wasn’t always this tall
You scattered some monsters from beneath my bed
You watched my team win, You watched my team lose
You watched when my bicycle went down again

And when I was weak, unable to speak
Still I could call You by name
And I said, “Elbow Healer, Superhero
Come if You can” and You said, “I Am”

Only sixteen, life is so mean
What kind of curfew is at ten p.m.?
You saw my mistakes, You watched my heart break
Heard when I swore I’d never love again

And when I was weak, unable to speak
Still I could call You by name
And I said, “Heartache Healer, Secret Keeper
Be my best friend and You said, “I Am”

You saw me wear white by pale candlelight
I said, “Forever to what lies ahead”
Two kids and a dream, with kids that can scream
Too much it might seem when it is two a.m.

And when I am weak, unable to speak
Still I will call You by name
Oh, Shepherd, Savior, Pasture Maker
Hold onto my hand, You say, “I Am”

The winds of change and circumstance
Blow in and all around us
So we find a foothold that’s familiar
And bless the moments that we feel You nearer

When life had begun, I was woven and spun
You let the angels dance around the throne
And who can say when, but they’ll dance again
When I am free and finally headed home

I will be weak, unable to speak
Still I will call You by name
Creator, Maker, Life Sustainer, Comforter, Healer, my Redeemer
Lord and King, Beginning and the End

I Am
Yes, I Am

- Nichole Nordeman, I Am

Birth Day – You and Me

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

What day is it? And in what month?
This clock never seemed so alive
I can’t keep up and I can’t back down
I’ve been losing so much time

‘Cause it’s you and me and all of the people with nothing to do, nothing to lose
And it’s you and me and all of the people
And I don’t know why I can’t keep my eyes off of you

All of the things that I want to say just aren’t coming out right
I’m tripping on words
You got my head spinning
I don’t know where to go from here

‘Cause it’s you and me and all of the people with nothing to do, nothing to prove
And it’s you and me and all of the people
And I don’t know why I can’t keep my eyes off of you

- Lifehouse, “You and Me”

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

I couldn’t wait for Piper to come. I wanted her in June, but she waited and waited until she was three days past her due date smack dab in the middle of July, making her own way about things, the way we have seen her make it ever since. Bredon teased me for two weeks of prodromal labor until I was so tired I couldn’t believe he was EVER coming, and then he came on his due date, yelling for us to put him back where it was warm already! And then there was Noley, our little tagalong, unwilling to be left behind for long and more ready to meet me than I was to meet her, at least as far as my schedule was concerned.

Noley’s labor was my favorite labor. Beginning a little over 24 hours before she was born, she and I just hung out together, waiting for the work to finish. She dug a little deeper with each contraction, waiting, wriggling, hiccuping in between (she hiccups more than my other two ever did!), puttering her way down the birth canal until finally with one great contraction, my water broke and her head came to the excited cries of her siblings, who were in the room watching her arrival.

Always before, they had told me to “push,” except this time, when my midwife waited and let my body would do the work, and all I had to do was breathe and let time and contractions pass and allow my baby to come when she was ready. *I* didn’t have to be ready. I just had to *be.*

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

My eyes were closed as her head emerged, but I heard my littles, “I see her head!” heard the squeak in Pip’s voice that was between tears and happy, the awe in Squiggy’s “oh! she has hair!” Even as I registered them, I felt Noley flip wildly in my pelvis as another strong contraction pushed the rest of her out into the world. It all happened in the space of a minute or so, and then she was on my empty belly, wet and warm and crawling her way up to my heart.

The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was her little face and her baby cry, “I’m here, I’m here, Mama!” I grabbed her and I covered her and I called back to her, “you’re here, you’re here,” not recognizing my own voice, knowing in that way you know as a mama that I would never be the same person on the other side of her, that I would never forget this moment and the feel of her new life in my hands.

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie
noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Time stops when labor begins. I don’t understand why it does this, but after birthing three babies, I know that it does. After the nesting and the restlessness and the endless waiting, the passing moments don’t matter as you focus on one contraction at a time, as the increasing pressure from the uterus brings you closer to holding a new little person in your arms. You know you can do it, and then you think you can’t and then you know that you can and you have done it – and this is the way it is with your children every moment for the rest of your life.

The hours pass, and then the days, and then the weeks, and you touch and you nurse and you smell and you laugh at all the scrunchy faces and talk about her hedgehog sleep sounds. You wonder if your other babies were ever so small and hold her as close as you can. You think about the miracle that she wakes up and as you tuck her in late at night after she has finally nursed herself to sleep, you think about the miracle that she goes to sleep. You introduce her to the sun and the moon and dream about the day she will really smile at you, when she will be ready to coo at you while you talk to her.

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

For months, I have been deep-tired and ready to give up all the things. God knew (and I think Noley knew too) that she would come just exactly when I needed her to keep me alive and reaching for life, whether I knew I needed her or not. I will never, ever forget how she just couldn’t wait to live.

noley | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

I’ve finally begun to surface from our rest, and she is four weeks old tomorrow and her sister is seven years old today and I know time is passing and I must step back into it. I have been a mother before, and for longer than this four weeks, and here is time again, reminding me how to take the next step and the next step, and here we go living again.

Repost: On Living Simply

I originally posted this piece in September of 2012, but I wanted to repost it now in the middle of some really big changes to our lives and business while I’m working on some new material for this space. I hope you don’t mind – it is one of my favorite posts in all my years of blogging. In times of change, you ask why things can’t be what they were, and it’s easy to feel as though you have lost more than you are gaining. Every new day is a step of faith.

I come from simple stock. My mom always wished she were Amish, said she was born in the wrong generation. My grandma, the most practical, beautiful person I knew, grew up during the Great Depression. My mother-in-law raised four kids on a limited budget and crafted a beautiful home (and a thousand gifts) from what she had. I learned from my mom that thrift stores have treasures, learned from my grandma that the old things are sometimes still the most beautiful, learned from my mother-in-law that even what we could throw away may end up being useful.

These women have taught me how to make do with less, how to make more with less. How a simple, home-cooked meal served up on a table with a tablecloth and shared with people you love can feel like fine dining. How lighting a candle in a room makes habits into romance. How doing dishes together helps you remember you’re not alone. How creating things with your soulmate refreshes your love, no matter how long you’ve been married.

They taught me how every moment with the people in your heart is an opportunity to live your dream.

I have things, but I don’t have everything. We live in someone else’s house, drive two cars that make funny noises, and work hard just to make ends meet. Our home is made up of a collection of hand-me-downs and Craigslist finds. I buy most of our clothes at thrift shops, and we cook most of our meals from scratch.

Five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined being content with this. I think I thought we’d have a home of our own, that we’d be making twice what we make now, that when I “grew up,” I really could do and buy anything I wanted.

But this summer, I have found myself more content than I’ve ever been in my life. I love where we are, love Charleston, love that my husband comes home at regular hours, that I get to travel and take pictures, that we have a fig tree in our back yard, that the sun goes down so tropical here. I love that I can imagine up meals with what we’ve got in our cupboards, that Pete can fix things around the house and I can help him, that we live near the sea and when it cools down here I come alive.

We discovered something on Labor Day weekend. We’d intended to crash, and do nothing. We put the to-do list away, and started on that scheduled plan – and then we sort of lived into painting the guest room, cleaning the garage, making pizza, cleaning the house, and going to the beach. When we went to bed Monday night – me with a hundred pictures on my camera that I’d CHOSEN and not just snapped – we realized we’d actually lived all weekend.

And we had still “got things done” and while just hanging out with no to-do list running us. We always have “less” energy and “not enough” time, but we had filled up our hearts just living together, and we found we had just enough. It was simple, childlike living, just doing the next thing instead of looking at what was coming at us or what we needed to do and stressing out about it.

I often worry that I don’t live simply enough, especially when I see others selling off their goods to get out of debt and giving everything to care for the poor. I have more than they have, perhaps too much, I think. But I’m realizing that what my mom and grandma were teaching me wasn’t that austerity or asceticism.

It was this simple, real-life-and-not-Pinterest lesson that you can go looking for life on the other side of your life plan, or you can open your hands, your eyes, and your heart to engage life right where you are. Love isn’t a to-do list. It is knowing – and being known.

Announcing – Anna Marijke Noelle

Noley's name card | dear piper design | by kelly sauer

Name: Anna Marijke Noelle Sauer, aka “Noley”
(pronunciation key: “Mah-REE-kah”)

Birthdate: June 18, 2014

Birth Weight: 6 lbs, 7 oz

So we had a baby last week. I will tell you her story sometime, about her arriving two weeks early in the middle of my final work projects before I was going to feel free to close my studio and go on maternity leave. But we had her, and she was SO ready to come, I can’t even mind it, though I will admit that my brain is still spinning because we were still supposed to be waiting and ignoring contractions all the way into July! But I got my June baby already, and she is a dream come true and the darlingest baby girl you ever saw, and we are all completely in love with her, our most perfect “inconvenience” ever!

"noley" | by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

Once Upon a Morning – Gardenia

exquisitrie by kelly sauer | la joie, la vie

“It smells like peaches,” Pip says to me, as we try to describe the scent. It is our last “nature” walk of the school year, just as warm as the first one we took last September, but earlier, because we are racing the heat that Charleston is bringing in early for the summertime.

Squiggy grabs the blossom back from her, squealing in the way he does about his big sister taking things from him. He is still not quite awake for the day and grumpy about having to be out walking with Mama. I know he needs his breakfast, but I selfishly want the early morning with them. I want them to notice the light, to feel the world, to have one more memory of us as four before we will be five.

The moon is full, and my body is ripening, reminding me – whether I am ready or not – that we are only two weeks away from our due date, that soon my arms will be full of baby and all of the attendant dreams and discomforts.

I told Pete while we wandered on last night’s date that I am so very glad that Flip is not our first baby, that while having three will be new for us, we have had one and two before and we are not afraid of the inconvenience now. We laugh a little at the congratulations from people who think we are having our first, and take the advice quietly, knowing that we will learn this one with each new moment she lives with us, just as we have discovered our first two.

I like being a mama, not because I find my fulfillment in my role as a mother, but because my children are people with so much life of their own, and they give life back to me with their unique perspectives. I wonder what they will be when they grow up, how the strengths I see in them now will shape their own goals. I wince sometimes at their weaknesses – I wince at my own weaknesses in them, really – but we grown-ups are never the perfect parents we imagine we should be, and God chose me to be their mama, so I am what they get.

And most days, they tell me I am the best mom ever.

We bring the blossom home, and I watch them walk in front of me on the quiet street, holding hands as the best friends they are. Our cat runs over from the neighbor’s house, where she has been waiting for our return after electing not to walk the whole way with us. She knows we are her people. We are each other’s people, and we have been building a life that has time for the scent of gardenias in the morning light and room for other lives within our own.

All the days are not perfect, but that is life too, and you learn to hold onto the moments, and to stop for them when they invite you in.

Artist Feature – Sarah Moon

sarah moon, artist feature | la joie, la vie

One of the things I am really enjoying about getting to have a maternity leave from photography is that with less focus on shooting and marketing, I get a chance to rebuild my blog a little bit from the silence it has experienced over the last year or so. I’m not rebuilding it only as a marketing tool, though – it’s a place for inspiration, my “artist journal,” if you will. There are lots of blogs out there trying to sell you something – and they have their place – but me, I like the blogs that slow me down, the writers and creatives who are just sharing their art and their lives in a beautiful way. I want to share from that place too.

So. I’m announcing what I hope will become a regular series at my blog-slash-journal today, an “artist feature” that will allow me to step out of the uber-competitive photography industry and share some of the inspiration that makes me feel like I can be the photographer – and the person – I want to be, even if I’m surrounded by others trying to get to “the top,” whatever that is.

Today’s feature is a photographer I discovered in my Pinterest exploration, SARAH MOON. Her work breaks every rule of everything and she is still one of the most successful photographers I have encountered, shooting for some of the biggest fashion magazines in the world.

Sarah has a truly unique voice. As far as I can tell, there is no one anywhere who takes pictures like hers. Even if we wanted to, we small photographers are often constrained to play it safe, because “safe” is what brings the money in. But money or not, there is something of a dare in Sarah’s work that I’m finding it harder and harder to resist. And uncovering her as a person this morning while looking for credit information just added another “pro” to a little bit of hero worship I have going on here. I know her language. She is a kindred spirit, inviting you to live a little more than you think you can, because “see, this is real too – you know it is.”

Sarah Moon is the exception that proves the rule. For more than 35 years, the photographer, whose complicity with her subjects is only augmented by the fact that she herself started out as a model, has remained out on a limb, creating some of the most heart-stoppingly beautiful fashion imagery that bucks every so-called commercial trend, from the need to establish eye contact – it is only rarely there – to the belief that the most alluring fashion photograph must be glossy, even hyper-real….

She is the first to admit that, being well known, she can afford to work in a more idiosyncratic and individual way. “After all these years, people hire me because they want my impression,” she says, “they know what I do. I know how difficult it is to make a living as a fashion photographer, however, and, with so many photographers now working, it is harder than ever to believe in your own vision, to listen to your own voice. That, though, is what any good photographer must do. That, in the end, is what it is all about. You have to listen to your own voice, to work for yourself, and accept that it will make a difference.”

Moon’s voice, above all, is an intensely personal one, whispering, rather than shouting, about an imagined world where preternaturally lovely, romanesque heroines inhabit isolated and, more often than not, fictional landscapes. This is the story of stolen moments, of the “dead time”, as the photographer puts it, between more staged events. A sweet nostalgia informs Moon’s magical universe – monochromatic and sometimes sepia-printed or vibrating with saturated colour – where time is the enemy, and the photographer’s aim is both to preserve the imagined moment just as the subject acknowledges it is passing, and also to surprise.

“For me, photography is pure fiction,” Moon says, “even if it comes from life. I photograph people, of course, as I do nature – trees, flowers, animals – but I charge it with something other than reality, with feeling, with a certain feeling depending on the day. I compare myself to reportage photographers, who make some sort of statement about life. I don’t believe that I am making any defined statement. Instead, I am expressing something, an echo of the world maybe.”


To read more of Sarah’s inspiring bio, you have to check out her facebook page – I want to copy it all here so much, because OH, but you have to read it and like her page, in my opinion.

The more I have learned about my own artistic voice, the more I am beginning to see that some of my favorite work fits only a few clients – but I’ve got a hunch that if I let that voice out (as with the creative work I shared in Tuesday’s post), it will appeal on a completely different level to potential clients who want more for their wedding than the wedding pictures everybody else has. I want to create “magazine” spreads, to add just a little more to the traditional, editorial wedding imagery so that you can feel the couple, feel the day, feel the love threading through everything and imagine yourself living that too.

You can hire a “good photographer” any day of the week, but finding a storyteller, finding someone who will learn you and work with you to make images that will speak long after the trends have changed – that is not easy to do. I am still so far from where I want to be on this, but I know it is my direction, and every day, I’m figuring out how to get there.