Tullahoma mural by Kris Kanaly

November 2023 Highlights: The Highs + Lows

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Nothing heightens my anxiety like the shortening of days and the looming dread of the cold and dark. For as much as I love the holidays, Daylight Savings Time lurks in the deep corners of my subconscious from when the second Fall Break rolls around until spring arrives, and I have to pre-plan a lot of fun November highlights to quell the onset of S.A.D.D.

Portrait with reflectors

Luckily, November was gorgeous in the South, and I was on the road for much of it—gone 13 nights traveling in three different states. I also was in that pre-holiday rush of getting everyone’s Christmas card galleries to them (for those who don’t know, I do anywhere from 50 to 100 family and portrait shoots annually), which kept my mind preoccupied.

Family photo galleries

One of my favorite families to photograph, and such a sweet group of cousins!

The Highs

I wrote a piece about better photographing your pets for the Washington Post. When my editor came to me and said, “I have the perfect assignment for you,” she couldn’t have been more spot on! This article leaned into my love for animals, my knowledge of photography and my deep respect for pet behavior experts who shared all their pro tips with me.

How to photograph pets for the Washington Post

We had a new mural go up in Tullahoma! We’re in year six of our nonprofit, and a catalyst for the work we’ve done has been Kris Kanaly and Plaza Walls in Oklahoma City. So it was truly an honor to get Kris to come out and paint in my hometown—and for one of my favorite distilleries, Cascade Hollow (who makes George Dickel) to sponsor it at that. You can read the full story here.

Tullahoma mural by Kris Kanaly

My November travels started with a weekend in the Smokies. My dear friend Kelly invited me along to my favorite whiskey event, Grains & Grits, as her +1. As someone who is usually working said event, it was a treat getting to go somewhere and just chill and enjoy the experience for a change.

Grains & Grits in the Smokies

Then, SVV and I flew to the West Coast for a week. What started out as a long weekend in Portland extended to a quick trip to see his parents in Sacramento. While there, we got to see our niece and nephew before continuing onto Oregon to meet our third board member Em for our last meeting of the year. It was a chilly but beautiful time to visit the Pacific Northwest, and I’ll have a full recap of everything we ate and all the art we saw soon.

Portland fall trip

Our month ended in Memphis, where we spent Thanksgiving weekend with my cousin Coco. Long-time readers know that Coco is my life-long best friend, and we try to visit them (or vice verse) anytime we can. This was our sixth weekend together since last Christmas—not to mention, of course, our two weeks in Africa together back in the spring—and we knocked out four puzzles in three nights. I also got to take their family photos…

Kid Christmas portraits
Kid Christmas portraits
Kid Christmas portraits

…and see the portraits I took of the kids framed nearly four feet high in the entryway! We used Framebridge, and I’m so happy with how they turned out.

How to Frame B&W Portraits

On the work front, November was mostly photos, photos and more photos. I did have my monthly AAA section to write and a huge ad package for a major consumer magazine, but this month’s work load was more visuals—and public art—than writing. Plus, grant applications opened up with a deadline just after the holidays, so we’ve been busy working on securing funding for our FY 2024-2025 projects.

The Challenges

This last month, I really pushed the limit on work-life balance. Next year, I’d like to get back to the balance I found around 2020 and not be in a perpetual state of stress! Other than that and some lingering injuries (because 40…), no big complaints around here right now.

Portland group trip

My Favorites of the Month

Favorite book: Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand (more fresh book recommendations here)

Favorite audiobook: I did not listen to one I loved this month, sadly, but have plenty of great audiobook recs here

Favorite TV show: Beckham docuseries (Netflix)

Favorite podcast: Armchair Expert (after taking a year off from the podcast, I’m back and loving the new eps!)

What were your top November highlights? All past month recaps are linked here.


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