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how i find simplicity

hello beautiful February!  are we already a month into 2014?  doesn’t seem possible – but I’m getting excited about the possibility of moving into warmer weather in less than two months (yay!) and seeing  spring blossom around us.

for the past few years, I’ve started off the new year with a new word.  for 2014, i choose simple.  it’s a word that many of us want to embrace, but difficult to put into practice, right?


remember the last time you wanted a  simple kids birthday party and you ended up going over the top and personalizing each kid’s goodie bag?

or when you start off the new year with a list of goals a mile long only to become overwhelmed because most people couldn’t finish that list in a life time?

and my favorite – planning the family vacation, mapping out each minute of the day,  but forgetting that your kids are inevitably going to melt down just ten minutes after arriving at the museum you drove two hours to get to?

my hope is that this year i’ll choose simple when faced with that fork in the road that points to “be everything” or “be simple”. choosing simple usually creates more time, closer relationships and surprisingly, more creativity.


choosing simple means letting go of commitments that fill up time with little reward and instead enjoying unstructured family time which often results in tickles, building forts and seeing creativity seep out of my boys’ growing minds.  living in the DC area is truly a blessing, with so many things to do and places to be, but at the end of the day, its not what you did, but how you felt.

i started a project on instagram called project simple – where I attempt to post a picture everyday (and I’ll be honest, its definitely not everyday…) that takes a simple moment, simple act and recognize it for its beauty.  many times it makes me stop in the middle of my day to just be thankful for what is there in front of me.



in case you want to join me in a few simple acts, here are my favorite so far from this year -

  • continue to let go of comparing to others. the more I compare, the more I become stuck in this space of push and pull instead of focusing on the beauty of life – children – relationships – photography – you name it.
  • waking up to a morning routine : tea, yoga, reviewing my daily, weekly, monthly/yearly goals.  just a little kick start so I remember the path I am on. and if I have time,  toss in a few minutes of writing. pm has its own routine, but so far, haven’t been able to commit to that.  i figured there is at least ten more months to figure that one out. :)
  • creating an ideal schedule.  my schedule is so different from day to day – but if I look at my week, i can carve out time for the things most important to me.  some things I strive for each week – spending alone time with my husband, practicing photography, editing photos, artist date, and a yoga class.  what helped me in figuring these out was observing my schedule for a week.  go to 168hours to do the same.
  • scheduling less, relaxing more.   maybe this is counterintuitive to the one above – but its about creating white space between those activities – allowing more buffer time, or only scheduling one activity for the day.


because I’ve been focusing more on simplifying, keeping up two blogs has become more challenging.  i’m not ready to say good-by to sweetbluesky – but I will be posting more musing on my business page – because to me, blending who i am, next to my photography seems the most natural thing to do.

wishing you lots of sweetness and love this february, with a splash of simplicity along the way.


if you haven’t already, I’d love if you follow me over at my business blog as well as joining my project simple over on instagram(#kellyprojectsimple).

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why finding a new normal is sometimes deceiving

shortly after my mother-in-law passed away, we went into a bit of a cave, attempting to our heal our family and try to figure out our new normal.  we took to the beach for a week  and it was the perfect way to decompress without having all of our daily to-do’s on top of our grieving.  we traveled to north carolina’s beautiful outer banks and spent some quality time with my mama and her long time boyfriend, enjoying sun, pools, sandcastles and lighthouses.


what i thought was our time to adjust to our new life without my mother-in-law, was just a chance to catch a breather before the next family journey.

at the beach, i could tell some things weren’t right with my mama.   i will admit –  her and i are two peas in a pod when it comes to ailments – we always think the worse and usually everything is fine.  so, while something seemed a bit off, i chalked it up to anxiety from the past few months.


generally, she seemed to be okay throughout the week, with the occasional bought of stomach pains.  we played in the pool, went to visit lighthouses and played some mini-golf.  unfortunately, the day after we returned from the beach, my mom’s aliments could no longer be ignored and for the following eighteen days, she endured lots of poking and prodding that eventually ended with emergency surgery on September 20th.   just six weeks ago, its hard to believe just how far we’ve come and  how much has changed since then.


i haven’t been able to write here, because i couldn’t honestly think about anything other than my sweet mama, going through the scariest moments of her life.   things  would change daily  and i was fearful to write anything too positive or too negative.  i just wanted to give her the space she needed to adjust to all the changes that have unfolded for her, without reading her daughter’s commentary along side of it.  i’m still not sure if she is ready for me to proclaim her diagnosis on the internet, so when she is ready, i will share more details.  she has a journey in front of her, but i believe in my heart she can come out stronger on the other side.  right now things are tough – but this week, i cried, my first happy tears in many months – because when i called her on wednesday - we talked about things we haven’t talked about in forever.  her strength, determination and appreciation for positive things are returning.  i am over the moon excited and so very proud of her.

so what is my new normal?  i am not sure.  i have had to shift priorities – big time.  my photography business is blossoming and i am forever thankful/grateful to all my sweet new clients (and returning ones).  they say that the fall is the busiest season for family photographers – wow – they weren’t kidding.   i have more editing to do then i could have ever imagined possible.  but i am loving every moment of it.  over the past few weeks, doing photo sessions has been my release – because when you are chasing toddlers around with a camera and trying to get their little busy bodies in focus, its hard to think about much else.

i have so many plans for my business, but some things have fallen to the back burner (like blogging my client’s sessions).   i’ve also had to limit the number of sessions i can do (although like usual, i’m still probably taking on too many!) but  photography is getting me through this time – just as much as seeing my mama’s smiles,  snuggling with my kids and having a nice lunch with my husband.   i’m learning about acceptance.  realizing not everything will get done or wishing i could have done something better. knowing that the only thing i need to do is breathe in and out and accept each moment  for what it is – a gift.  there are probably some people i have let down along the way – but we can’t be everything to everyone, just true to who we are and the rest will fall where it may.

i hope to return to this space again, but it might be a little while.  if i do have free time, i will be likely chatting about all the fun i’ve had over on my photography website.  hope you’ll join me there!  i’m also still instagraming – so visit me there for more frequent updates!

i’m off today to see my mama and spend some quality time with just the boys (chris gets to paint the bathroom, woo-hoo!)

hugs from joyfully happy and blessed mama-land.  see you soon!




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KellyNovember 2, 2013 - 8:07 pm

Olivia – thank you do much for your comment – I really appreciate it!

OliviaNovember 2, 2013 - 6:17 pm

Good luck with everything Kelly. I am sorry to hear about all the uncertainty and sadness, but it sounds like there is healing in being together.
Sending you all healing and positive vibrations.

embracing sorrow

walking path with sunshine

a few weeks ago when i wrote this post, i would never imagined this would be my next post.  my mother-in-law, colleen, while showing signs of decline, was still getting around fairly well.  just over a week ago, we all gathered at her house, my sister-in-law in town and relatives came by to visit.  she was eating shrimp and pizza and it started to seem if her appetite was coming back.  she watched the kids play sorry (in what seemed like the never ending game) and was being fairly chatty.

i could never imagine that just two days later, chris’s  father would call him to come to the house because his mom could no longer walk.  when chris arrived she didn’t even recognize him.  after a few hours of being with her and realizing she was not getting better and in a great deal of pain – they called hospice.  they were able to admit her that evening and began giving her morphine for the pain.

the next day she was doing so much better – and there was even talk of sending her home (with 24 hour care).  but one day later (thursday), she was out of it again, and that afternoon fell into a deep sleep.  the doctors told us it could be hours to days before she passed away.   friday morning  i brought  pictures of the grandkids,  flowers and  began reading  from the bible.  later that afternoon, chris and I sat with her and told her how much we loved her and reminisced about the past and all the great times we enjoyed.   we told her not to hold on for us any longer, that we will be okay and would always remember her to the boys.

early on Saturday morning, just a few hours after chris said good night to her – her battle with pancreatic cancer was over and colleen was finally at peace.

the past few days have been a blur, and my energy level has been close to non-existent.  (i’m even surprised i still have the energy to write this tonight!) i’ve gone through all the emotions i believe are normal with grief, from sadness, to fear to anger.  while i struggle with my own faith, there is this part of me that really wants to… or has to… believe in heaven right now.  the alternative is just to impossible to bear.

our kids are adjusting well.  tonight i asked gavin if he knew where grandma was, and he said in heaven.  i dug a bit deeper and asked if he thought she was okay.  he told me that she’s fine – she’s with god now.  kind of took my breath away.  how could this six year old be so sure?  i’m always interested, in awe and a bit jealous of people with such a strong faith.  i couldn’t believe one of those people was living right under my roof.  gavin finished the conversation by saying that  we would see grandma again someday when we all went to heaven.

today at starbucks, i saw this lady behind me in line, asking if they had any pink cake pops.  she was saying that she really needed those pink cake pops – two of them.  i leaned over and asked them who they were for – already knowing the answer.  she said - oh, my two grandsons – they just love those pink cake pops, i have no idea why!  i always want to bring them a treat when i come to visit and i just have to have the right thing.  my eyes started welling up with tears - i couldn’t help but think how lucky this lady was to be able to see her grandsons.  i would give up many things to give colleen 5 more minutes with her grandsons.  she loved them to the moon and back and having her not be here to watch them grow up breaks my heart.

but i realize this time is about healing, remembering and reinventing our new normal.  i believe we will become stronger as a family – continuing to live out the memory of colleen in our actions and traditions.  but for now, i’m learning how to embrace sorrow – allowing it to just be and simmer amidst my day.  no pushing it out of the way will make it go away faster – i’ve learned grief is a lot like a pitcher of water – you can try and pour it out into a different container and move it around, but eventually, one day you will have to take care of that container because its not going away.

colleen, i will miss you more than you will ever know.  your strength and quiet compassion will forever live in my heart.  hugs and love to eternity.


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SueDecember 5, 2013 - 4:29 pm

Kelly, this is so touching…I am so happy you are able to embrace the grief, accept the new normal and move on. I hope to, too, someday.

GloriaAugust 21, 2013 - 8:09 am

Oh Kelly, I just cried my eyes out reading your blog. Beautifully written. When my brother died I was angry with God at taking him away from us too soon – it just wasn’t fair to me to not have him in my life any longer. I DO believe in Heaven and believe that one day we will be reunited with our loved ones who passed before us. Of course we still miss them and wish they were with us. Don’t forget that every time the boys do or learn something new – she is seeing it from above and smiling down on you all. She is pain free and with her Daddy (I know you had mentioned he passed away when she was 16). Sending lots of prayers to you all for peace in your heart. We love you! Gloria, Kevin Andrew and Trevor

how do you hold a heavy heart in the midst of sunshine?

the day is here,
the one that for the longest time, i thought could safely hide away, never to be seen.
be she has arrived,
awaking me to the moment of my life,
the reality settling in as a blanket of cold snow.  

i love writing about happy things - the things that remind you of warm summer days, where you have that nice big slice of watermelon that cools you off just by all the drippings from the fruit itself .   but this (short) post might not be all warm and fuzzy,  so i hope you understand i need this space to reflect tonight – because there is some heaviness in my home sweet home that can’t be ignored.

my mother-in-law’s cancer has spread.

i knew this day would arrive and still after two weeks of processing the news, i sometimes can’t believe this is our reality.  for a few hours i might forget.  feel as if we are back to the time when her disease is more chronic and not imminent.  but after listening to chris’s visit with his mom this evening, i felt as if my heart slipped down to my belly, praying for just a few more days with her where everything was normal.

tears filled my eyes as i remember just a few weeks ago, her and i headed to west virginia to watch a play and have lunch with her friends.  i walked into her house that morning, and really saw her.  for a moment, she looked like her old self – her skin glowed, she was smiling, and she had the most beautiful cream colored top on.  i remember telling chris that night – “your mom looks really great – i think she is turning a corner, all that chemo just wore her down, but i feel good that she is going to get better.”  i realize i might have just tried to be positive, glossing over her difficult time eating at lunch and the challenges she faced sitting in the theatre and riding in the car for the one hour trip.

my mother -in-law and i are pretty different, but that is what i love about her. even though we might be cut from entirely different cloths, there is something about the difference that makes me feel comfortable with her.  sharing with her some of my crazy ideas, she still accepts me – even with all my quirks.  i never could have imagined such a relationship in my life – the kind of quiet, drama free relationship that you take for face value and you just enjoy what is in front of you.

i have no idea how much time we have left with her, but i know i will try to savor every moment, realizing it is in her (or God’s) hand at this point.  i think for many people struggling with a terminal disease, they must hold on for the family around them, wanting to give them one more day.  but i want my mother-in-law to go peacefully, letting go of any should-have, could-have or people pleasing that comes along with day to day life.

to you colleen, thank you for inspiring me, showing me that love can look different then expected, and for raising the most wonderful husband and father  – for that, i am forever grateful.

hugs forever,


me and colleen at great country farms



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Chrissy WalshAugust 18, 2013 - 5:35 pm

I read this again today and realized what a wonderful tribute to Colleen. She certainly was a special lady. I will always keep the memory of this past Mother’s Day and how we laughed and talked about past antics of Gavin and Liam. I am really going to miss her! Beautiful writing from your heart.

KellyAugust 8, 2013 - 9:29 pm

Thank you so much MC- I know you went through this all to recently with your step-mother and your comment means a lot to me!

KellyAugust 8, 2013 - 9:28 pm

As Gloria, now you are going to make me cry! Thank you for your kind words and YAY for mom visits! I hope I can meet her when she is in town!

Mary CatherineAugust 8, 2013 - 7:51 pm

I’m SO sorry to hear this, Kelly. You and your family are in my thoughts. Sending lots of loving energy your way! xoxo

GloriaAugust 8, 2013 - 1:07 pm

Oh my gosh Kelly – I am so sorry to hear the news. I literally have tears streaming down my face after reading your blog. It is nice you have such a great relationship with your in-laws – how many people can honestly say they enjoy their company and speak of them with such fondness that you do. I know you will savor each moment that you have with her and build on to all the wonderful memories you have stored away. HUGS to you all! My mom is coming for three weeks in September – I am going to cherish my time with her. Life is short and we need to try to live it to the fullest and make a point of telling the people in our life that we love them every day.

KellyAugust 8, 2013 - 9:19 am

thank you so much Kirsten, it means a lot to me (and Chris). you know exactly what we are going through – and its so nice to have good friends to help us get through this time.

KirstenAugust 8, 2013 - 9:05 am

I’m so sorry to hear that. It brought tears to my eyes for all of you. Let us know if we can help in any way.

letter to gavin – sixth birthday

dearest gavin,

i will start off by saying, i really hope you get your daddy’s genes when it comes to time management.  here i am with just 53 minutes left in the day and i am determined to put out your birthday letter.  it’s not that i procrastinate purposefully, but i am easily distracted.   so, if this seems a bit all over the place, know that my bedtime should have really been an hour ago.

sunflower field father and son.  have you noticed I’ve been a bit cranky the past few days?   i thought i just had too much to do and it was making me turn into mean mommy.  but a little while ago, i realized what was wrong.   all day long, i could not let go of my oldest baby turning six.  each year that a child grows older, i imagine parents say, “i can’t believe they are _ years old.  they are getting so old! where does the time go?”  and i admit, when you turned one, i didn’t think it was even humanly possible that you could be a full 365 days old.  but today, feels really different.

my son in the sunflowers

i’ve been watching you a lot lately – seeing how the way you talk and interact with people is light years different then one year ago.  you are asking questions – really good questions and some i don’t know the answers to.  your empathy of others is beginning to show through – like the way you share and love on your brother, especially when he is in time out.  you bring him his puppies when he’s sad and even offer to give him the blue bowl in the morning so that he won’t be upset.

tonight when we got in the car and your shoe fell off, i stopped for a moment, held that foot that was bigger then my hand and leaned over to kiss your toes.  you squealed saying “mom, don’t kiss my feet”, and even though you were smiling, i know my days for treating you like my little baby are slipping through my fingertips.

as you soaked up every minute of your birthday, from the moment your classmates sang to you as you walked in the door, to your special birthday dinner at king burger with your friend andrew - my heart felt full.  i decided tonight, that even though i am sad about you loosing your dependence for me, i am excited and ready for all the fun about to come our way.

in the past year you’ve  become mesmerized with outer space, gained the courage to take ice skating lessons, started kindergarten and build legos like it is your mission.   i love how we have our talks together at night, those quiet moments right before you fall asleep and you tell me what’s on your mind.  i love when you get quiet and say, “mama, it makes me frustrated when you do (insert many of the things you don’t like)”…  you are growing, learning and becoming this amazing little man who far surpassed my wildest dreams.

baby gavin,  even though you were the one that made me a mama, i’m ready to let go of those baby years.  i will tuck those memories in a safe place to visit once in a while.   but now, i am ready to join you, in all your excitement and energy of being six – to take on the world, one angry bird at a time.

i love you to jupiter and back,


p.s.  these pictures make me smile.  for starters, you NEVER let me take your picture.  and the other reason?  the day daddy picked me up to find out if you were a girl or boy, he brought me the most beautiful sunflowers – for our “son”.  that dad of your’s, well, he usually knows what’s up.


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Irene LaBedaJuly 28, 2013 - 8:04 pm

What a sweet letter to Gavin on his 6th Birthday telling him how happy and sad you were feeling that he has turned six. So nice that you could convey these feelings and Oh how many more milestones are yet to come with different thoughts and feelings like when he graduates from grade school, high school,learns to drive,has his first date, gets engaged and many more lifechanging events –just think how your parents felt when you were starting out just like Gavin. So nice that this 1st son can look back on your thoughts on these special events and realize what a wonderful Mom he has to take time from her extra busy day to sit down and tell him how much she loves him and why she is so proud he came into her life.

KellyJuly 25, 2013 - 4:26 pm

Ali! You comment made me tear up! Thank you for the words of encouragement. Many times I feel as if I can not figure this mama thing out! So nice to receive your comment here and on FB! The sunflowers are in MD! Only out for 2 weeks a year – maybe I’ll need to try and plan with you a family photoshoot there next year! Here’s the link to the place – you definitely need to check it out! So many photographers were there! :).

KellyJuly 25, 2013 - 4:18 pm

Thanks mom :)

Mommy WalshJuly 25, 2013 - 7:23 am

Absolutely love this letter to Gavin . I still remember our first time at the beach house when he was just a few months old and now look at our big grandson. For gramma where have the years gone but so looking forward to all the new things he discovers in years to come. The pictures on this letter are priceless!!!!!

aliJuly 25, 2013 - 12:34 am

these words will stay with me… you have an amazing mama heart. it made me smile and cry. your boys are so lucky. and where on earth is this glorious sunflower field? what a dream!