Tag Archives: Charleston South Carolina

Year One


leave-it-to-beaver-familyI thought I had this mom thing covered. When I was pregnant everyone told me the first year was going to be hard. After watching my older siblings raise their brood for many years while I was in college I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and somewhere in the back of my mind I carried a small amount of pride thinking that I had a decent idea of how hard it was going to be.

I was wrong. My pride was misplaced.

I am waving my white flag shouting you win! You win parents who never claim to have everything together. You win single mom’s who have somehow managed to raise children who are not juvenile delinquents. You win sleep deprived zombie mother dragging her protesting toddler through the Harris Teeter freezer section. You win mothers who wear your yoga pants like a badge of honor.

I surrender.

I have seen the light. There are things I have done. Choices I have made that are irrevocable. There’s no turning back now.

I have eaten leftover yogurt off of Ian’s face. Let me repeat that. I have eaten food off of someone else’s face???? When faced with the choice of (a)sleeping in vomit covered clothing tonight and washing the sheets tomorrow or (b)postponing an exhausted crawl into bed so I could put clean clothing on I’ve done the unspeakable. I’ve forgotten what day it was. I’ve forgotten what thought I was thinking. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to have all of my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed. I’ve forgotten what exactly that phrase even means. Who has time for idioms anyway???

Last week I broke down to a very wise friend of mine. She is a single mom and I have a massive amount of respect for her. I asked her how she does it. How do you give 100% all the time? She shared her secret with me and it turns out there is no secret. You accept your new life, embrace the new way of doing things and try not to stumble on the things that may not have turned out exactly how you had them planned. You do the best you can with what you’ve got and hand the rest over to God.

A year ago if someone had asked me what I was expecting I would have said, “Oh, I know it’s going to be hard.” “Of course it’s going to be worth it!“. I’m both delighted and slightly frazzled by how true those statements are.


It’s going to be hard:

  1. You’re probably going to lose some friends in the madness. Not everyone is interested in jumping on your roller coaster and it can feel pretty lonely. But you’re probably going to gain some friends in the frenzy because there are a lot of people who don’t mind the change even if they don’t have kids.

(I’m still scratching my head on this one but I’m thankful)norman-rockwell--santa-s-helper-december-27-1947_i-G-52-5271-V5RZG00Z

  1. You’re not going to feel great about your outward appearance. I mean you’ll be happy but recharging your batteries is going to be really low on the To Do list. Fortunately, you’re going to feel great about how strong you have been!

  (Oh you can deadlift 200lbs? Well I’ve gone 8.5 months without sleep or makeup. BAM!)

  1. You might need a veteran from this war zone to tell you it’s going to be alright. You hear a lot of advice from a lot of people. None of it is going to matter until you’re crying into a dirty sock you thought was a dish towel …you thought was a tissue. That’s when you are desperately going to need a seasoned mom to tell you this is all temporary.

   (I find that even vomit can seem cute when it’s temporary but I don’t recommend sleeping in it if at all possible)

  1. You aren’t going to like your husband. There I said it. I’m a terrible wife. In all honesty he is probably going to try every bit as hard as you are but you had a nine month head start on adjusting to this little human being part of your life. (Give him time and try to keep your head above water.)1921-07-09-Saturday-Evening-Post-Norman-Rockwell-cover-Boy-Holding-Screaming-Baby-no-logo-400-Digimarc
  2. Mommy Brain. It’s a real affliction. If we are being honest it should be called “the baby usurped 80% of my working memory”. But the latter is shorter and easier to remember and EASY TO REMEMBER is the key phrase here. It’s like a switch gets flipped and suddenly you forget everything and start eating food off of other people’s faces. You forget your brother’s wife’s name. You forget the name of those purple things that grow on those green things that make wine. (I say good morning to my coworkers multiple times most mornings.)
  3. Nursing. I did it for a year. Does that negate the thing I said about not liking my husband? By the end of your breast-feeding days you’re going to feel like you’ve spent more time topless than a tribal woman captured in National Geographic. Yes they are still yours but no matter how you try they are still going to look like milk cartons in your mind.
  4. What you consider relevant is going to change drastically. You are going to hate that for a while until you realize that the entire year you spent watching Brittany Spears spiral into crazy town and then rise from the ashes maybe wasn’t the most productive use of  your time anyway.
  5. This year you become a caregiver, a shoulder to cry on, a personal life coach, a bodyguard and an adult most all the time whether you feel up to the challenge or not. I loved Ian immediately!!! But I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me. The first year you are going to work really hard to start building a relationship with a complete stranger who speaks an entirely different language. You are his person and he can’t survive without you. Enough said?


It’s going to be worth it.

Is it really worth it?

Maybe if I rephrase the question the answer will be clearer.

Is falling in love really worth it?

Beacuse that’s exactly what it is. It’s falling in love!!! It’s flying and crashing and crying and laughing. Sometimes when Ian is screaming and crying I feel like Martha Stewart’s publicist doing damage control and hoping a carrot soufflé will make the bad dream go away. There are days I want to crawl under my covers and pretend I’m not a mom, but like Jack Twist I’m a goner. It’s too late. I’ve fallen in love and I don’t know how to quit my little dude.  For every effort I put in, I get unmeasurable returns.



Scientifically I can’t measure it. Mathematically I can’t come up with the formula. Psychologically I can’t determine the behavioral measures but he thinks I’m cool and I think he’s awesome too. I think William Shakespeare says it best.

“Love is a smoke and is made with the fume of sighs.” 

Yes it’s hard. Yes it’s worth it. No I have not actually made my child a soufflé.

On to year two!


Happy Birthday Ian!


You are so important and special to me and your father. Your great big family loves you more than any words could ever express. We are so thankful you are part of our little world now!

Happy 1st Birthday to a brave inquisitive and loving little boy.

May every day of your life be a great adventure!!!

May you always bring light to this great big world with your smile!!

And may you always know love, laughter and true joy no matter what path you travel!!

And of course we love you so much little bean!



















































Just to Say Hello


Dear readers!

My my my how life can spin and whirl you in dizzying directions! For the past couple months my husband has been traveling much more than usual for work. I work full time too and that doesn’t leave much time for baby Ian and me to hang out. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices and cut the fat. I miss you all terribly though! I promise to write much more in the coming months to make up for my absence. In the meantime I will tell you what I’m working on!

I am slowly but surely planning our little boys very 1st birthday and getting ready for a snowy home grown Christmas in Pennsylvania. I fully intend on inundating you with pictures and stories by then. For now I consider myself lucky if I remember to put both ear rings in my ears and have matching shoe!

My ultimate goal is to slow down as soon as I can and reconnect with you! What do you think of this my friends? Stay with me and I promise to have lots of humor and kookiness in the coming year!

Here is a sneak peak at little Ian’s birthday plans!

We saved a couple trees with Paperless Posts! They have awesome online cards and we were able to order a hard copy of the card as a keepsake!


I call his birthday party theme Jungle Chic! Ian loves anything gold or silver so we thought it would be fun to incorporate this into a more traditional safari kind of theme. So here is my Inspiration Board full of things that make me smile and hopefully make little Ian a happy 1 year old on his special day. I’ll post pictures from his party soon. Thanks for sticking with me during the sparce writing periods!


It’s a jungle out there!

Much love – The byrd

My Girl


When we think of friends, and call their faces out of the shadows, and their voices out of the echoes that faint along the corridors of memory, and do it without knowing why save that we love to do it, we content ourselves that that friendship is a Reality, and not a Fancy –that it is builded upon a rock, and not upon the sands that dissolve away with the ebbing tides and carry their monuments with them.

 -Mark Twain



On Tuesday I said goodbye to an old friend. For eleven years we rarely spent a day apart. She was an awesome weekend warrior and an irreplaceable sidekick. She was my warm fuzzy at the end of the day and my home sweet home when it was just the two of us girls up against the world.  She welcomed and shared all of our seasons in life with a brave smile that made her beautiful amber eyes glow like bubbling hot caramel. Regardless of how stressed she was she was never too busy to stop and just sit beside me.

Tuesday was quiet and simply spent with family. She was in her eighties and while her soul was young her body had recently become riddled with arthritis and cancer. She was happy but there were shadows in her eyes that seemed to silently say “I love you but I’m tired”. On Tuesday she silently said “Let me go home please. I promise it’s ok to let me go”.  It was time for her even though I wasn’t ready. It was the right thing to do but I didn’t know how I was going to get up every morning knowing she wasn’t there. Tuesday Beta was once again my strength as I told her goodbye. Even though it was she who was the brave one going on to the unknown; it was me who was scared and unwilling to accept the finality of her leaving but accept it or not my girl left me yesterday.

My heart will forever be grateful for the unwavering love my Beta girl showered me and everyone else in her life with. As to how I will get up every morning knowing she isn’t in my life anymore… well I’m going to take a lesson out of Beta’s book and smile because life is sweet and full of many bittersweet moments. The best choice we can make is to enjoy the bumpy ride and appreciate love given and returned.

Top twenty things that I’ll miss about our girl:

  1.  You had more hair on your body than I thought could possibly exist on one dog’s body. I could knit three sweaters from your coat. I could knit one sweater from fur balls floating around the house.
  2. How you would hang your paw on my arm when you wanted attention
  3. The frantic whining ball of slobbery fur you turned into when I pulled you leash out of the drawer
  4. You would hover in the kitchen when I cooked.
  5. You would lay right outside of the kitchen parameters when I told you to get out of my kitchen.
  6. How you hated your picture taken and the many ways you managed to avoid the camera
  7. How you sized up Dave for at least a month when he moved in with us.
  8. Your patience with the much younger dog [Chance] we brought home four years ago. He misses you so much.
  9. You always loved the song California by Joni Mitchel. It calmed you.
  10. Your ability to chew through just about anything (an entire tree stump, a rattan sofa, wall outlet covers, rugs…doors)
  11. Your snore could be heard from the opposite end of the house. It was amazing. I once yelled at Dave to be quiet only to find you sleeping on the other side of the bed.
  12. Whenever everything was crazy I could always look over and find you waiting to make eye contact for a few calming minutes.
  13. I miss your beautiful brown eyes.
  14. Having to trip over you in the mornings when I first get up
  15. Tripping over you when I’m cooking at the stove
  16. Tripping over you when I come in the front door
  17. Tripping over you when I get up off the couch
  18. Giving you baths. You hated them. You tried to climb up me every time.
  19. Your kisses. You didn’t lick everyone and thing in site. You only gave them to comfort or show affection
  20. Your smell. It was God awful when it rained and you were always hot in South Carolina weather…but I would give anything to burry my face in your fur.
  21. You wagged your tail even when we fussed at you. It was impossible to stay upset.
  22. How you would find a secret place to poop in the house so you wouldn’t get in trouble
  23. How you would growl angerly as you rolled on your back to scratch it
  24. How you forgave the twenty year old me though I know I failed you more than once.

Ok top twenty four things I guess!


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Love you Beta. We will never forget you.


Inside The Artist’s Studio


I started sharing her photography with you almost a year ago. However, I have never told you much about her. Art is so much stronger when you know the journey taken by its creator. I think that might be why artist become so much more admired when they have passed. Their work is a reflection of the life that once wondered this earth. I think we don’t always pay much attention to the life behind someone’s life work until their life’s work comes to an end and we are left with no options other than to reach backwards in time to retrieve some small piece of the energy they once contributed to our lives! Fortunately the light Heather’s artistic contributions bring to our lives is alive and well but it should never be taken for granted! I asked Heather a few questions that always come to my mind when I enjoy any artist’s work. I am pleased to share her candid responses with you. I hope you enjoy reading about her experience and inspiration as much as I did!

Inside The Artist’s Studio – Heather DelPalacio


When did you first discover your love for photography and why did you start or rather what has been a seminal experience for you?

Heather: It’s hard to pinpoint one moment.  I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by photos.  I used to love rummaging through the boxes of old family photos we kept in the attic.  Seeing my grandparents when they were young, my older siblings when they were babies, and my parents when they were kids – these moments in time came to life through photographs.  I kind of fell in love with the way a photo can transport you to another place and time.  When I got my first camera (a Kodak 110 film camera) I was around 9-10 years old, and I used to take photos of everything.  Then I got my first 35mm camera as a young teen and I started playing around with composition more.  When I met my husband in college, he gave me a SLR and helped me learn more about the technical side of photography (lighting, etc.).  So really, it has been kind of a life-long journey.  And I’m still learning…so the journey continues. 

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Bridge – I took this photo in Bryson City, NC on one of the annual family camping trips. It was taken with my Kodak 110 camera. It was my first attempt at “artistic” photography. I was probably 9 or 10 years old.

What is your method? How do you pick your subject matter? 

Heather: Honestly, I’m not sure I even have a method!  All I know is that when something speaks to me  – makes me think, inspires some emotion in me – I want to photograph it in a way that sort of conveys a glimpse of those thoughts and emotions to the viewer of the photograph.

Field in Winter

Field in Winter


Field in Summer

Field in Summer

Field in Winter and Field in Summer – the field next to our house on Hwy 421 in Bristol, TN. I think I photographed this field at every season over the years. It was great subject matter for practice as the colors and textures changed with the seasons.


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Mountains in Early Fall – also taken at the house on 421.

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Fenced In – This is another shot of the field on 421; but of the fence post this time. I don’t know why, but this is one of my favorite photos ever.

Who are your favorite artist, art work, and/or photographer? Who would you like to be compared to? 

Heather: It’s hard to pick a favorite when there are so many talented artists in this world.  I guess two of my all-time favorites would be Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams.  While they had very different styles and methods, both were pioneers in photography.  They took breathtaking photographs that captured the majesty of nature and the complexity of human emotion – all before the advent of digital cameras and expensive editing software.  The depth found in their work is certainly something to aspire to.

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Sunset – Hwy 421 Bristol, TN

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Dusk – Hwy. 421 Bristol, TN

What role does photography play in your life?

Heather: Photography for me is a way of expressing how I see the world.  I have absolutely no ability when it comes to drawing or painting.  So there is something magical about looking through a lens and being able to capture a little bit of the world as I see it.

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I took all of the photos in this email in Charleston when I was 16 or 17 maybe? All taken on my first 35mm point and shoot camera.

Finally, if you could give any advise to aspiring photographers what words of wisdom would you offer?

Heather:  I think the best piece of advice I could offer is practice.  Read as many books and articles as you can.  If possible, find someone with photography experience and knowledge to critique your work and give you pointers.  But above all things, practice.  The more you practice, the more you’ll discover your own style and learn which techniques work best for you.

Suzanna – Bristol, TN. That time I bought a roll of black and white film and pretended to be a photographer…lol. I think I only got about 5 decent photos out of that 24 exposure roll. But it was so much fun, and I began to understand lighting a little better. 


It only seems appropriate to end our session with this photo titled Bloom. Maybe it’s me waxing poetic but it seems to foreshadow the budding talent that has evolved over the years into a beautiful body of work that continues to flourish!


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Bloom – my favorite sandals of all time! Back when Adidas still had the bloom logo.



Thank you for taking the time to share a little bit about your passion Heather!


7 Months …ish


Dear Ian!

I am your mother and I am a wild mess. Every morning I wake up and look at the wonder of you and then the rat race begins! I tip toe through the house and get dressed in the dark and if your dad is home I give the dogs a scrunch and head to the job. Most mornings I don’t put makeup on until I get to the office parking lot and more often than not I don’t put makeup on at all. I leave an extra toothbrush and deodorant at work for those extra special mornings when I’m really a spastic mess. My bed head that the ever so fabulous and stylish girl in Payroll is envious of, comes directly from my at home hair dresser aka the fluffy drool stained pillow I would really like to be laying my head on right now. Five O’ Clock comes early and it never hurts any less even when it becomes routine but I visualize myself successful with ultra-white teeth, freshly pressed clothing and hair bouncing with just the right amount of body and the perfect shade of color. Sometime when I get to work it is a struggle to speak the English language but I manage to get 8 hours of work completed (most days) before rushing back home to see you and your dad.

I always knew I wanted to be a mom but I pictured myself being much more polished at it! Life is funny and you’ll see that the best way to handle it is to take it all in and learn to laugh and embrace the unexpected things. I hope you’ll learn to have a plan but I also hope you’ll be willing to abandon it when your plan no longer fits where you are in life. Sometimes having the carpet pulled out from under our feet is the best and most exciting thing that ever happens to us!

So you are 7 months and some change! How did you grow so fast!?

You are the most special little stinker in the whole wide world! I feel proud and kind of responsible when you sing because singing is a big part of how I communicate with you. I sing to sooth you and I sing to make you giggle. Your dad plays you records to so I’m certain that is a big part too. When you sit up you smack your hands happily on your thighs and I mimick you to get a laugh. I don’t know what it means but it’s fun to watch! You love hearing your own voice as much as we do! Sometimes you whisper dadadada and mamamama and nananana and sometimes you shout DADADADA and MAMAMA and NANANANA! It’s a big time experiment! Serious business!

Let’s see…you’re 20 and a half  pounds now. You are wearing 1 year old clothes and your feet are pretty big but still really soft and I kiss the arches all the time which makes you smile. You bounce and reach out as we cart you around on our hips, shoulders and wherever else you will fit. You gurgle and hum in your chest when joining in on our conversations and you love looking at ceiling fans.

When you’re sleepy you grunt and rub your drool all over your face while rubbing your eyes. You fuss going down and you fuss waking up but you sleep like a rock. I mena the other day I lifted your armand put it back down and I got no reaction!

Your thighs are roly, your cheeks are round a flush and your little taters (bum/derriere whatever) are the cutest hunks of chub I have ever seen (and yes, I squish them because I’m mom and I can..for now).

I’m sure I’m missing milestones but the biggest milestone is you’re almost 7.5 months! That’s a pretty big deal! It may be time to start planning that 1st birthday party for you! At the rate I’m going I need to start a little early.


Mama and Papa

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Listen To Your Mother


Our friend Angie Mizell lead the artistic production of Listen To Your Mother Charleston Chapter. When I first heard the buzz about this show I was intrigued. What exactly was this about? I thought to myself, “This might be applicable in my life… I listen to my mother…I’m a mother”. I decided to bring my sister Sarah. She is an amazing mother of four beautiful children. I thought, she’s a mom and this is about moms, right?!  I was pretty excited about going to this event even though I have to admit I hadn’t done a lot of homework on it. Another dear friend, Becca, was in it so between her and Angie I felt a connection with it and was looking forward to showing my support.

Little did I know how big a gift I was going to receive from this experience! This show consisted of a lineup of some very brave and intelligent woman who were willing to share themselves with an audience of strangers. In doing so they lifted up the blessed name Mother while displaying  the vulnerability and strength found in the heart of human nature! Becca blew me away with her live reading in Listen To Your Mother. She stated she was childless but described many situation in which she has been an  irreplaceable mother to so many people in her lifetime. She has given me plenty of sage advice many, many times! She has hugged me and let me cry on her shoulder. She has listened to me when I needed to be heard. The term mother covers A LOT of ground! What is a mother? The noun is defined as a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth. However the verb is what is noteworthy!

 To mother is to bring up with care and affection.  

Wow… let that sink in. How many people in your life have brought you up? How many times has a friend or loved one or even a stranger lifted you up and shown you they cared? I know a lot of mothers of all shapes and sizes! They are young and old. They have homes full of children and no kids at all! They are female and male. They give unselfishly of themselves! Of all these mothers the greatest mother in my life is Bette Lynn Barrineau Atkinson. My mother brought me up with care and affection. She taught me to love myself and explore who I am. She continues to love me through all my “seasons”! So who is my mom… this is tough to type without crying. She is so much more than my mom!

She is a beautiful and talented woman who put a lot of her “seasons” on hold to help me through mine.


One of the few pictures someone managed to snap of her!

 There aren’t many pictures of my mother. So here is a snapshot of how I see her.

She is an escape artist. My mom is always dodging pictures or holding something in front of her face.

My mother is the best pal, chum, playmate! She rides horses, plays sports, plants gardens, dances and laughs a lot!

She is a musician! She fills her home with lovely music. She plays the piano. She plays hymns. She plays classical music. She plays for church. She plays for her children. She truly makes a joyful noise unto the Lord!

She is a humanitarian. She gives and she feeds. You can’t leave my mom’s house empty EVER! You might walk out with a box of coffee or an extra bag of dinner rolls and you will never leave with an empty stomach.

She is a magistrate. She does what is right. She has never had a ticket in her life (unlike yours truly)! Sometimes I say things and she responds, “but Suzanna, that’s not right”… And she’s right.

She is a songstress. She has a beautiful alto voice and she sways in rhythm to her tune.

She is a doctor and an herbalist. She always knows exactly what to do when something troubles you or your health.

She is a teacher and philosopher. Many a conversation with her has led to more questions and more exploration into what is true. Many a foundation were laid in my youth by my mom without me even knowing it!

So I have to say when walking into the theater, Listen To Your Mother meant literally hearing the voice of mothers. However walking out of that theater Listen To Your Mother means recognizing and truly distinguishing your mother/s! Who is that person behind the endearing title? Our lives are blessed with mothers. I think I owe a lot of people thanks. I think I owe Bette Lynn Barrineau Atkinson a lifetime achievement award.

Mother’s Day is coming up. I hope you take the time to recognize the mothers in your life!

Thanks for reading, thank you mom for  bringing me up with care and affection and a special thanks to the Listen To Your Mother crew! What a thought-provoking and inspiring production!

– The byrd