Little Andi. I remember that outfit well and that glow worm still resides at my mother's house. I was quite the packrat.
I am the youngest of five kids, all born within seven years of one another, all by the time my parents were 30! As the baby, I look up to each and every one of my siblings. They took turns protecting me, defending me, taking care of me, and, of course, picking on me. I love them and am so incredibly grateful for the things I've learned, and continue to learn, from each one of them.
I began homeschooling halfway through seventh grade. I used to be asked all the time whether I felt I'd missed out on things by not going to traditional high school. In some ways I suppose maybe I did. But homeschooling also allowed for a great deal of one on one time with my mom that I otherwise would not have had. Those days are absolutely precious to me and far outweigh any experience I could have ever had in high school.
Shaunda has been my BFF since I was 8 and she was 6. When we were kids growing up in tiny farm towns in northwest Ohio we talked about our dreams of moving to Los Angeles or New York together. Here we are at Griffith Park about 8 months after I moved to LA. A year later she joined me.
I live for adventure. In May of 2015 my sister, my brother-in-law, and I hiked to the top of Yosemite's Half Dome. It was the most psychologically and physically challenging thing I had ever done. When we got to the top of the sub dome, we looked at the cables and I remember asking myself, "Why did I decide I wanted to do this? This is something crazy people do!" But we did it! And I'm so very glad that I got to share this experience with them.
In the spring of 2014 I met Greg at a random bar while visiting family in Ohio. I thought I'd never see him again but gave him my number anyway. A few days later he drove 2 and a 1/2 hours to have a beer with my dad and I the night before I left town. We started skyping regularly and the following summer we spent a weekend together in Cleveland where we fell madly in love. Together we do a lot of adventuring in any wilderness we can find.
Me, getting picked on.
Having four older siblings means having a slew of nieces and nephews. I visit my family often and every time I'm back I make it a point to play with these kids. Not only do they love me for it but it keeps me young.
The three youngest. That doll I'm holding also still resides at my mom's. I'm not kidding when I say I was a packrat. I do find comfort in knowing that the grandkids have plenty of old knick knacks and toys to play with at Grandma's.
When Shaunda first moved to LA money was tight so we shared a 1 bedroom apartment for a while. This is nothing out of the ordinary in LA. We shared the bedroom, with a nightstand between our beds, just like Bert and Ernie.
In the summer of 2016 I took a Eurotrip with two of my best buddies from college where we biked a portion of the Camino de Santiago. Up until then, hiking Half Dome was the most physically challenging thing I'd ever done but biking up a 3000 foot mountain on this adventure took the cake. At the end of that day I was more exhausted than I have ever been in my life and we still had two more days of biking to go. When we finally reached Santiago, we covered 134 miles in four days. We pretty much wanted to kill each other but sweet victory was ours! And I'm happy to report we are all still friends.
My mom, my niece, and I on one of my many visits to Ohio. I am so grateful for the enormous amount of love our family shares.
My seventh grade school picture. Is it any wonder that I wanted to homeschool?
My parents split up when I was about 3 years old. This is one of, if not the only, photo I've ever seen of our entire family while they were still together. I'm the baby in this picture. While I certainly don't hold anything against them for going their separate ways, I only have very vague, fleeting memories of them being together so any traces of those times are pretty dear to me.
When I was 17 I bought my first car, a 1973 VW Beetle. I saved and saved for the down payment and secured the loan with the help of my dad. Remnants of this young hippie will always remain in my heart and soul. Treehugger for life!
As a child I had quite the reputation for pouting. In the few images of me as a very small child, I am often seen wearing an expression similar to the one you see here, sitting in my dad's lap.
Growing up, I saw my dad mostly on weekends and holidays. He was always an ornery guy with a great sense of humor. I find delight in the jokes we can make between one another that take others a while to figure out. Since I've been an adult, our relationship has gotten stronger and I am proud to call him my father.
As if having one best friend to grow up and chase dreams with wasn't enough, Shaunda has a twin sister, Heather. Together the three of us spent countless weekends crafting, playing dress up for photo shoots with fun-saver cameras, and staying up all night drinking Mountain Dew while watching horror films. They are pretty much sisters at this point.
Edith and I were both new to LA when a mutual friend in Arizona gave us one another's phone numbers. We quickly became great friends. I felt incredibly honored to be asked to officiate at her wedding in 2015. Not only do I do wedding photography, I also officiate!
Ohio doesn't have a whole lot for hiking, but it does have plenty of rivers for canoeing! Every year a group of girls, including my sisters and sister-in-law, gets together for an annual canoe trip, the Estro Trip. We camp, canoe all day, then camp some more. Every year brings a few newbies and we canoe rain or shine! It makes for some amazing girl time.
My mother was an adamant animal lover. She rescued numerous animals in distress, including the orange kitten I am holding here. She saw it on the side of an old country road, pulled over, and picked it up. It had some breathing issues but lived a good life after the rescue, even accompanying us on our family vacation. We also once had a baby pigeon living on top of our refrigerator until it was old enough to be released. That pigeon went on a vacation with us as well. My mother's compassion seems to have no bounds.
When I was about 10, my grandparents moved into a small house in town and my dad moved into the home he grew up in to take over the family farm. Though it looks quite different from what is pictured here, circa 1895, I spent many a weekend wandering the 100 acres of fields searching for arrowheads, poking around the muddy banks of the neighboring river, jumping from haymows into wagons full of beans, chasing wild kittens, and taking turns with my sisters driving tractors through the fields. There were snowmobiles and ice skating in the winter, dune buggies and pond hopping in the summers. While I may have ended up more of a city girl, my days as a country girl are some of the best days of my life.
I place a great deal of value in my friendships, and, while my friends are scattered about the country and some overseas, we never fail to stay in touch. Even when we haven't spoken to one another in years, we are always able to pick up where we left off, like neither time nor distance ever separated us. I consider most of my friends family because sometimes, even if we have a great one to begin with, the people we meet along the way are so amazing that we end up making a sort of extended family of our own. These gals are just a handful of that extended family.
In the summer of 2014 Greg got a job offer in Washington. We began to make some plans and after two and a half years of dealing with distance, Skype dates, and endless airports, we sold nearly everything I owned, packed my car, and made the move to Washington. While I miss my city life and California may always feel like home to me, I can honestly say I've never been happier.