contest

Client Favorites of 2011 | Virginia Beach Photography Contest

Here they are!  Some of YOUR favorite photos of 2011!  The poll is found at the bottom of this post (with a thumbnail image for reference!)

The Rules:

*1 vote per person (Each IP Address will be counted once) – that means you need to link your friends and family to this post and have them vote for you, too! :D

*The photo with the most votes at the end of the year will win their image as a 12x12 (or 12x18) Gallery Wrapped Canvas!  (Value: $205)

*Poll will automatically close at 11:59pm on December 31st.

Have fun! And thanks to all my clients of 2011! I love you all! :D I'll be sharing MY favorites of the year on January 1st!

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Favorite Photo of 2011 CONTEST | Hampton Roads Maternity, Newborn, Baby, Child, and Family Photographer

As we wind down this year, I have to take a moment to thank each and every family who has entrusted me with capturing their family memories.  These are the moments that are so precious and so fleeting.  Some of you know that I am a scrapbooker - I have multiple albums that chronicle the lives of my two children from before they were born to the present (well, I'm about a year behind, but who's counting?!)  Photographs are so important to me - and I truly strive to treat each of my clients like they are part of my family.  My goal is to capture images that will be treasured by you forever....those that you will look at in a year or two years or ten years and think, "that captured my baby EXACTLY how they were at that moment!".  Photography allows me to freeze time for just that second - and I love being able to do that!

So, I'd like to see your favorite.  That's right, you have to choose just ONE favorite image from the year 2011.  I'll put all of your favorites in another post with a poll and take a vote to see which is the KGP Fave Photo of the Year!


To enter, send me your favorite image from 2011 session to amanda@kimberlingrayphotography.com or post it to my Facebook wall (www.facebook.com/KimberlinGrayPhotography).  It must be the websize/watermarked version, of course.  If you did not purchase the digital file, but know which photo you would like to enter in the contest, please send me an email and describe it as best you can.  I'll pull up my archives and do my best to find it for you!

The winner will get that image on a 12x12 (or 12x18 depending on the best crop) GALLERY WRAPPED CANVAS from my professional lab!!  What a way to ring in the New Year!

Can't wait to see YOUR favorites - I'll be posting my personal favorites at the New Year, too!  :)

Love Story Contest Entries

It's a Love Story!


Here are the entries in our 2011 Love Story Contest.  The winner will be chosen by a panel of judges and announced tomorrow - Sunday, February 13th.  Just in time for Valentine's Day!

Didn't enter?  No worries - a very special mini-session event is coming your way to celebrate your love!


Without further ado, here are the love stories:

Internet Love

My sister-in-law and brother had divorced many years prior and she had never started dating. We had a very close sisterly friendship and I really wanted her to find someone who would fill the void in her heart, and provide my nephew with the role model that my brother would never be. So I convinced her to place an online personal ad and just give it a try. She would only agree if I too placed an ad. I created this ad describing my perfect man down to the details of height, hair and eye color, and most importantly his job must intake wearing a uniform. I never expected the response that I received.


Read the complete story here




Young Love

My husband and I have endured incredible hardships that would likely drive any couple apart.  For one, we met when my husband was 19 and I was 21. When I think back to all we've had to endure: long distance, cheating, an unplanned pregnancy, collicy baby and deployments, I'm pretty sure there's nothing we can't handle together.





Love on Victory Field

When Nathan got home from Iraq I was waiting for him on Victory field where the buses bring the boys in. We had our first kiss on that field. It would also be the same field I welcomed him home from his 2nd tour of Iraq and is also the place he proposed to me. We had our first baby, a boy, in September of this year. Nathan missed the birth by about 2 months because he was once again deployed.

Read the complete story here




Long Distance Love

Our chemistry was immediately evident and we realized our mutual friends were spot on about us being a lot alike.   Chris and I are getting married back in Indianapolis on September 24, 2011. I am determined to give Chris the wedding and celebration he deserves. Unfortunately, we cannot get engagement pictures with our photographer because of his hectic schedule and upcoming deployments.

Read the complete story here



Love & Dreams

Even though we are young, we have been through a lot together and have already learned how to be each other’s support system.  He soon will be moving to Florida to pursue his dreams. I am still in school and will not be going with him. We both know that this will only make us stronger. We also know that the more we pursue our own dreams the more we can celebrate our lives together.

Read the complete story here




Second Chance at Love

My husband Rich was at my wedding. He and his wife had driven hours to attend and happily watched me walk down the aisle to marry another man.  Fast forward several years and we were still friends, but this time we were both single. We began a long distance relationship that taught us a lot, both about each other and ourselves.

Read the complete story here



Love Letters

I was working in sales during a period of my life I refer to as my “quarter life crisis”. I was not sure which direction my life was headed but knew it needed a change! Along came a handsome sailor recently enlisted in the navy named Chris.  We would always talk for hours and had so much in common. He eventually asked me out on an official date. During this date he said to me “You have to promise me you can’t fall for me” I replied with “well, I can’t promise you that”. Sealed with a kiss, I knew it was done and he was it. We had an amazing 6 weeks together before he left for boot camp where our relationship was based on writing letters back and forth.  In one letter Chris writes, “I wish I could fast forward these next 8 weeks to the time we are together with a ring on your left hand. I have never been so certain about something as I am knowing that you are it for me.”

Read the complete story here



In Sickness and in Health

I was hesitant at first to give him my number not only because I had always promised myself that I would never give a guy in a bar my number, but more so because I had just been diagnosed with a very rare form cancer and I was scared for my life and for what the future ahead might hold. I can vividly remember immediately telling this handsome young man that I was in treatment for sinonasal cancer. To my surprise, unlike my ex-boyfriend who called it quits the day that I was diagnosed, Aaron smiled and reassured me that he knew that everything would be okay. From that day forward, I knew, without an inkling of doubt, that this would be the man that I would spend the rest of my life with.

Read the complete story here




The One I Love

We didn't have a big wedding, only 2 other people were there and we only got a few wedding pictures of the whole ceremony. We had our first daughter in 2007 and our second in 2009. We've had ups and downs but we love the life we've created together. This year will be our 10 year "together" anniversary and our 5 year wedding anniversary.

Read the complete story here



Baby Love

One afternoon, he asked me if I had ever thought about having any more children.  I had thought about it - years before & had stopped thinking about it since. We had been together about 12 years now & I was now 40 years old - way past when most people are planning families, my daughter had just moved out, and another child was the furthest thing from my mind right then. After a little discussion I found out that he had been thinking abut it for several months. Only 4 months later we had a positive test - our beautiful daughter is now 19 months old & running our lives!

Read the complete story here



Cupid's Arrow

My husband and I met on the island of Kauai with a little help from Cupid.  Literally, my cousin who lived on the island had been known to dress in a Depends adult diaper, a pair of wings, carry a bow and arrow…and smoking a cigar, played cupid!  This bigger than life character managed to get the two of us to visit him at the same time.

We have now supported each other through marathons, triathlons, pregnancies, deployments, long sleepless nights with sick babies, full time jobs, full time back to school, and a myriad of other things. We are great about taking pictures of our children…but  we should remember that our bond also needs to be remembered.

Read the complete story here




A Wink and a Smile

It was a warm July evening as most are in Texas and Jessica arrived early with her bottle of water just as she did every Tuesday. She glanced around the large room and listened as Ella Fitzgerald’s warm voice filled the air, “Let’s fall in love/ why shouldn’t we fall in love.” It seemed so appropriate in the 1931 mansion in which she stood. She loved the wood floors and the history of the building; it all seemed to take her back in time.  As the class began the two instructors in the center directed all the women to make a large outside circle and all the men to make a large inside circle.  She had no desire to meet a guy; in fact she thought that might be a little awkward -meeting while dancing. No, she had come to have fun, learn to dance and make friends.  But there was one young man who caught her eye.

Read the complete story here




What is Love?

This question seems to ponder many people’s minds. While there may be many definitions as to what love really is, I have finally come to understand what love truly means. To me, love is not about seeing each other every day or even talking every day to that special person. Love is not bought with extravagant gifts and going on tropical vacations. Love does not cause us to worry or have doubts. Love does not cause anger or pain, and is never, never hurtful. Love is about being excited each and every time you get to see that one person, however often or rare those times may be. It’s about yearning to hear their voice, even if just for a quick “I love you!” Love is knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that the person you are in love with feels the exact some way about you.

Read the complete story here




Love:  In HIS words

Our first kiss: It wasn't a peck. I kissed her like I meant it...because I did.

Our honeymoon: We were standing on top of a lookout tower in the forest when the wind blew her skirt up. I almost fainted from the sheer sexiness of the event.

Four births: Her calmness, gentleness, and toughness in each one of them has been flat out heroic, an inspiration to anyone lucky enough to witness it. And I'm the only person lucky enough to have witnessed it all four times.

Sledding: That half-laugh/half-scream she makes when she's doing something fast and fun.

Showing her off: I really don't think she understands how gorgeous she is, but it's pretty common for friends, colleagues, and even the occasional student to let me know, when they see her dressed to the nines, what a lucky guy I am.

Candlelight: Sorry. This picture's not for you. It's mine alone.

Read the complete story here

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The Unedited Love Stories

I suppose I should start with how we met. It actually isn’t that odd of a story now but back in 1998 to imagine meeting someone online and falling love, well, it just wasn’t heard of. My sister-in-law and brother had divorced many years prior and she had never started dating. We had a very close sisterly friendship and I really wanted her to find someone who would fill the void in her heart, and provide my nephew with the role model that my brother would never be. (Side note: He suffered from schizophrenia and self medicated with alcohol, that a few years later took his life.) So I convince he to place an online personal ad and just give it a try. She would only agree if I too placed an ad. I created this ad describing my perfect man down to the details of height, hair and eye color, and most importantly his job must intake wearing a uniform. I never expected the response that I received. I wondered many time if he even existed. My inbox simply blew up. I had emails from many men of service, in many far off lands. It became over whelming honestly. They all just wanted someone to care, someone to vent to, or just someone to converse with. It got to the point where I would just go in twice a day and delete them all without opening them. I’d never get to know the few I had replied to if I kept reading new replies. One day, I logged in like I had done many other days to weed out the noise in the crowd of emails. I had cleared my inbox and returned to send an email to a friend of mine, when an email popped up. Now had this letter come a minute sooner, it would have been deleted with the drone of others. And had it come a minute later, it would have been deleted upon my next login. I thought, this man has perfect timing. How could I not read this reply? The first line read: I ,not only have a uniform, I have three. Well, how could this be? He went to explain that he was a US Marine stationed in North Carolina, a volunteer firefighter for the town, and a rugby player on the base team. This to me says, he is brave and loyal; he is kind and giving; and he is fun and enjoys sports. After many emails back an forth, he requested my phone number. I had never given anyone my number before. I knew that would make things real. I hesitantly replied, and he called. We talked for what I would like to say was hours. Because, it was. It was as if there was this one person created just for me. It is possible to fall in love without actually seeing the person. I believe you find the root of the real person when they cannot hide behind looks, or tricks. Little did we know, we would be celebrating 11 years of marriage this February 19th. We faced the obstacles of life, and came through them together. I wish that I had this great advice or kitschy summary. All I can say is; our life so far has not be easy, but it has been worth it.

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My husband and I have endured incredible hardships that would likely drive any couple apart.
For one, we met when my husband was 19 and I was 21.  We were both still in college; he at Georgia Tech and I was at Wright State University in Ohio. I came down to Atlanta to visit my best friend and met my husband at a frat party. We spent the entire weekend together and decided to give long distance a shot.
During the next year while I lived in Ohio and he in Atlanta, it was a true test of our relationship. We had to have a relationship on the phone and spend thousands of dollars on flights if we wanted to see each other. It definately took its toll, but as I was about to finish college, I decided to move to Atlanta to give us a real shot. My best friend let me move in with her while my husband stayed in the dorms at Georgia Tech.
The next year of our relationship was actually harder than the first. There were episodes of cheating, on both our parts.  Living near each other somehow became harder than being apart. We almost ended things after his junior year of college given that I was his first girlfriend and he wanted to see what else was out there.  This devastated me, but I was not willing to give up on us yet. He came back from Virginia Beach where he was living for the summer to celebrate my birthday. The weekend was like nothing had changed between  us.  But then came the biggest shock of all. I was pregnant!  This was quite a shock to us since it was not planned and we werent even really back together.  I panicked, but my husband was calm and
said whatever I wanted to do he would support. I decided to keep the baby and we would move in together with his roomate to save money for the baby. Slowly, we decided to get back together since he realized he would be a father and that it was not enough of a reason to break up since I was his only girlfriend. It was very hard to be pregnant around a bunch of college aged people. My husband still wanted to be in that mindset where you go out and drink and party when I could not anymore. By the 3rd trimester he decided to get serious and move us to our own apartment north of the city and away from all his drunk college friends. At this point we had been together 2 and a half years.  I was almost 9 months pregnant and was hoping now that he felt the same and was ready for the next step. He was and on March 3, 2006 he asked me to marry him.  It was one of the greatest days of my life.  Only to be trumped nearly 2 weeks later
on March 19, 2006 the day my daughter Chloe Marie was born. The next 9 months was definately a challenge.  I had to quit my job to become a full time mom to our baby all the while my husband was finishing his last year of college. He was planning on going into the navy as an officer once school was done so I had to be supportive as possible in letting him finish knowing a great stable job was in his future.  But it was hard.  Chloe had collic the first 3 months and it was very challenging to deal with being a new mom with no family or support system around. But somehow we got through it. On December 17, 2006 after a whirlwind weekend of my husband's graduation from Georgia Tech and commissioning into the Navy, we were finally married. I liked to joke that he was thrust into adulthood that weekend getting a career, diploma and a wife all in one weekend. The Navy had plans for us that next year.  We were to move to Virginia Beach so my husband could start working on an amphib ship.  However it was 6 months away from a deployment.  So not only was he to be gone for 6 months straight, it had all the underways that come with an impending deployment.  My daughter and I saw my husband maybe 4 months out of that year.  I had never been exposed to the Navy life and it was very difficult on me to adjust to being a single mom. I did find a support group through a moms club that was a life saver to me! My husband came home from his deployment and we decided to add one more person to our family. This time it was planned!  And 9 months later on February 18, 2009  we welcomed our son Colin Kenneth to the world. My husband would deploy one more time 3 months after my son was born but only for 2 months. However, the Navy life doesn't bother me as much now.   When I think back to all we've had to endure: long distance, cheating, an unplanned pregnancy, collicy baby and deployments, I'm pretty sure there's nothing we can't handle together.  Nearly 8 years, 2 moves and 2 kids later, life is pretty good. :)

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Here is our love story. My husband is a marine and we met through my brother-in-law, (Ian,) while they were both stationed in Twentynine Palms, California.  Ian was sure I would like this guy so he asked him to come over for a BBQ. When I met him I thought he was cute, but arrogant. No sparks flew that day. They deployed to Iraq a couple of weeks later. During the deployment my husband, (Nathan,) asked about me while on watch with Ian. Ian and my sister convinced me to mail him a care package. I did so reluctantly. Once Nathan received the package we began emailing each other every day for the remainder of the deployment. We got to know each other really well and strong feeling began to develop between us. When Nathan got home from Iraq I was waiting for him on Victory field where the buses bring the boys in. We had our first kiss on that field. It would also be the same field I welcomed him home from his 2nd tour of Iraq and is also the place he proposed to me. We had our first baby, a boy, in September of this year. Nathan missed the birth by about 2 months because he was once again deployed, (his 2nd deployment of 2010.) He will be home in a few weeks and this photo session would be a fun thing for us to do after such a long year of deployments.

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Christopher (my fiancé) and I met October 7, 2006. I went to Indiana University and he went to Wabash College, an all male college about an hour from I.U. My sorority sister was dating his fraternity brother and she continually talked about this goofy, ornery guy that I HAD to meet. I was a senior at the time and Chris had already graduated and was out in Quantico completing TBS training for the Marine Corps. My sorority sister, Makenzie, found out at last minute that Chris was flying in for Wabash's homecoming and told me I had to join her for the day so I could finally meet him. Our chemistry was immediately evident and we realized our mutual friends were spot on about us being a lot alike. Unfortunately, I had to return to IU that night and Chris flew back to Virginia. We stayed in contact for the next two years, but only as friends as I was finishing school and he was in training to be a Marine Corps Officer. Chris moved out to California and eventually deployed to Iraq. We continued to stay in contact, even if only by patchy satellite phone conversations and light hearted emails.

Only two weeks after returning from Iraq and exactly two years to the date after meeting, Chris flew from California to Indiana to meet back up at Wabash's homecoming. When I picked him up at the airport at 1:00 am, it was as if we’d never been apart. The weekend was short, but wonderful! We knew immediately that we were never going to go that long again without seeing one another. After that weekend we decided to start dating, even if it meant only seeing each other once a month as he was still in California and I was still working in Indiana. The weeks spent apart were hard, but our weekends together were always amazing. Each one was better than the last. Each visit to see one another was always a milestone …. Meeting friends, hearing the words “I love you”, meeting each other’s families, and eventually discussing how we were going to put an end to the distance.

The distance was about to get much more difficult as Chris was deploying to Afghanistan the first weekend in October 2009, one year after we started dating and three years after we met. Before leaving, I gave Chris his anniversary present – a pendent with the verse Isaiah 40:31 engraved on it. The verse reads “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” It was my constant prayer over the next seven months that Chris would have amazing strength and return home to me safely. On April 30th, 2011 my prayers were answered and Chris was safely back on American soil.

While I was elated to have Chris home, I knew I had a heartbreaking decision to make in my near future. I was teaching at one of the best schools in Indianapolis and absolutely loved it. I knew that Chris and I finally needed to end the distance and move together to his next duty station in Norfolk, Virginia, but this meant me quitting my job. After many tearful conversations, I finally resigned from my position and made the move out to Virginia with Chris. It has been the most rewarding decision I’ve ever made! Being out here and seeing him everyday has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Things only got better in November when Chris proposed to me in Boston Common Park during a weekend getaway.

Chris and I are getting married back in Indianapolis on September 24, 2011. The wedding planning has been challenging being this far away, but I am determined to give Chris the wedding and celebration he deserves. Unfortunately because of Chris’s work schedule, he will not be able to fly back to Indiana to see the church or reception site until our actual wedding. We also cannot get engagement pictures with our photographer because of his hectic schedule and upcoming deployments. We’ve discussed having a friend use their personal camera to take pictures to use for our save-the-dates, but I would truly enjoy professional pictures.  Christopher is truly my best friend and makes me indescribably happy. I would love nothing more than to capture our love in a photo to have forever. Please choose us for this wonderful opportunity!

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I absolutely love the idea of this photo session! I have wanted to do one with my boyfriend, Joey for some time now and myself. I am an aspiring photographer, who is still in school, so I was ecstatic when I saw that more and more people are doing just love photo sessions. (Of course I’ve always wanted to get my photos done with Joey and myself but always thought that this wouldn’t happen until we were engaged).

I do not even know where to start to tell you about our love story, in this case our still growing love story. I think that no matter who you are your love story should always be growing, and always have things to add to it. Joey and I met our senior year of high school through friends, and were just friends until a few months into my first semester as a student at Old Dominion University. Since then we have been head over heels for each other.

Both of us are almost twenty-one years old and have gotten through a lot with each other’s help. We both have had some rough times, with life in general and have been each other’s rock. He told me one day, during a period of rough patches that I have saved his life and he does not even know how his life would be without me. Well a few months ago, my life decided to change a little bit and while having his support I was able to turn right back around to him and say, “I may have saved your life but now you are saving mine.” We meant every word we have said to one another and because of this has brought us even closer together.

Even though we are young, we have been through a lot together and have already learned how to be each other’s support system. All the while keeping our love strong. We both know what we want to do in life; our dreams and we both are supporting each other to do them. Mine is to become a professional photographer, and his is to become a professional golfer in the PGA tour. He soon will be moving to Florida to pursue those dreams and I could not be happier for him. I am still in school and will not be going with him. We both know that this will only make us stronger. We also know that the more we pursue our own dreams the more we can celebrate our lives together.  I never thought or believed that I would find my soul mate this early on in my life and I did not think it was possible. After meeting Joey and falling in love with him, I quickly learned that this idea I had was completely false. It is a humbling feeling knowing that my true love is already by my side each and everyday. He is the greatest thing that has ever come into my life, and I know that he feels the same way. I hope we will be considered for your love session because I feel that it will be a great present to the both of us. For an hour we can just be the two of us together, without the worry that is going on in both of our lives. I would love this opportunity to have great pictures of us for the both of us to cherish forever.

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My husband Rich was at my wedding. He and his wife had driven hours to attend and happily watched me walk down the aisle to marry another man. We were all good friends. My first wedding was very casual and we played volleyball in the park while old men fished on the lake nearby. Rich got a flat tire in the parking lot and a speeding ticket on the way home. It could have been a sign.

Hindsight is 20/20, though. He and his wife and me and my husband stayed good friends for years. We visited each others' houses. We exchanged Christmas gifts. Everything seemed good.  Time has a funny way of moving in a direction you'd never guess, though. The short version is that each of us learned through the years that our marriages were not working. We weren't as happy as we thought we would be. No one was as happy as they should be.

Fast forward several years and we were still friends, but this time we were both single. I lived in Norfolk and he lived in Richmond. We began a long distance relationship that taught us a lot, both about each other and ourselves. I put 25,000 miles on my car in one year.  I would drive home from work, pick up the dog, get back on the road and be in Richmond for a late dinner. I still remember the alarm going off at 5:20am so that I could drive home, shower and drop the dog off to be at work by 8(ish). That was our routine several times a week for three years.

We talked about wanting "empty hours". We dreamed about time together when neither of us had to watch the clock or forgo sleep. Long distance relationships involve very intense episodes separated by long stretches of tedious communication. Would that translate well if we finally had empty hours? In 2005, Rich moved to Norfolk and we finally got our empty hours. Entire days - weeks! - with nowhere to be but together. We learned more about each other and ourselves. I never closed bedroom or bathroom doors no matter what was going on inside them. He tore into cereal boxes so that I thought I was living with a bear. We learned how to live together.

In 2006, we started working in the same office. In 2007, we got married and invited many of the same friends who were at my first wedding 10 years prior. We rarely were more than 25 feet from each other throughout the day.  In 2009, we had our first baby. We're back to pining for "empty hours" again, but this time it's a different feeling. We're on solid ground. We are a team. They say that having a child magnifies both the good and bad in a relationship and I'm happy to say I've only seen good things. I still leave the bathroom door open and he still ravages the cereal boxes but it's part of the package. I admire the fact that he taught our toddler to blow his nose and washes all his cloth diapers. He appreciates that I taught our son most of his sign language, though "all done" is more like TA DA! complete with jazz hands. Finishing a meal is cause to celebrate in our house.  And while we don't get many "empty hours" now, we eat lunch together every day and we are learning to snuggle again. Last night our son got sick and threw up all over our bed at 3am. After changing clothes, sheets and diapers then having a snack to refill our stomachs, it was after 4 when we were able to go back to bed. Once the boy was asleep I rolled over to my husband, smelled the fresh sheets and his skin and relished a few empty hours before morning.

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The beginning of our love....It was the summer of 2006 in Cleveland, Ohio and I was working in sales during a period of my life I refer to as my “quarter life crisis”. I was not sure which direction my life was headed but knew it needed a change! Along came a handsome sailor recently enlisted in the navy named Chris. He had taken a temp job at the same company awaiting his boot camp departure. During a bad day at work I ran out of the office in tears. The moment I got into my car I received a call from him making sure I was ok. He had gotten my number from the employee register, easy! He didn’t even have to ask me for it, ha! Then it all began. We could not get enough of each other. It was amazing how in such a short time it felt like we had always been together. BUT I didn’t want to get involved with a military guy and he didn’t want a relationship while starting his navy career. We would always talk for hours and had so much in common. He eventually asked me out on an official date. During this date he said to me “You have to promise me you can’t fall for me” I replied with “well, I can’t promise you that”. Sealed with a kiss, I knew it was done and he was it. We had an amazing 6 weeks together before he left for boot camp where our relationship was based on writing letters back and forth. Talk about old fashioned courting. In one letter Chris writes, “I wish I could fast forward these next 8 weeks to the time we are together with a ring on your left hand. I have never been so certain about something as I am knowing that you are it for me.” In the letters we wrote about our love for each other and our dreams and plans when we would be back together again. The first time I went to visit him out of bootcamp, five months after we met, he proposed with his grandmothers ring. Three months later we were married on the beach in front of immediate family where he was stationed. So through years of changing addresses, jobs, friends and deployments the one constant is each other. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have married my best friend and be in love more each day. It is difficult to be away from each other so often but I would rather be with him only some of the time than not at all.

We would be honored to win the Love Story contest. Amanda took my maternity pictures as a surprise for Chris who was deployed during the majority of my pregnancy. The real surprise was that our little bundle arrived that night after the session! Chris was flown home from the middle east where he was finishing a six month deployment and we were re-united. Our baby, Liam was born at 32 weeks so he spent 8 weeks in the NICU getting strong enough to come home. Amanda again captured another beautiful moment in our lives as she photographed our sweet boy in a newborn session when he was discharged. This would be an amazing opportunity to have professional pictures of just Chris and I and celebrating our life together.

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Our story begins in the summer of 2004 in Baltimore, MD, when I (Lauren) was approached by a very handsome gentleman (Aaron) in a bar. We struck up a conversation immediately and after talking for some time, exchanged telephone numbers and spent the rest of the evening dancing the night away. I was hesitant at first to give him my number not only because I had always promised myself that I would never give a guy in a bar my number, but more so because I had just been diagnosed with a very rare form cancer and I was scared for my life and for what the future ahead might hold. I can vividly remember immediately telling this handsome young man that I was in treatment for sinonasal cancer. To my surprise, unlike my ex-boyfriend who called it quits the day that I was diagnosed, Aaron smiled and reassured me that he knew that everything would be okay. From that day forward, I knew, without an inkling of doubt, that this would be the man that I would spend the rest of my life with. Miraculously, several months later we got the good news that we were hoping for. While I wasn’t yet in ‘remission,’ the cancer was gone and the scans were clear! Praise God!

Summer turned into fall and eventually winter fell upon us, and soon it was time Aaron to leave for flight school, where he would begin his training to become a Navy F-18 pilot. From February of 2005, until November of 2006, we made arrangements to fly twice a month to see one another in both Florida and in Texas where Aaron was stationed for the remainder of his flight training. We also spent hours on end sitting in front of our computers using webcams, and we always made it a point to talk on the telephone every evening right before falling asleep at night. Despite the long hours at my new job as an RN at Johns Hopkins, and Aaron’s grueling study hours, we were determined to not only make our long-distance relationship work, but to prove to ourselves and the rest of the world that even with thousands of miles between us, our relationship was extraordinarily strong. During our 21 months apart, we learned to not only truly appreciate one another, but to never for a second take a moment that we had together fore granted. We understood that people often searched their entire lives to find what we had found in one other, and that was something that would forever cherish.

In 2005, we were faced with another frightening health scare when I went in for an MRI to follow-up on my cancer diagnosis. The scan revealed that I could likely experience an aneurysm at any time, which could lead to a stroke. I was rushed in for an emergent angiogram that disproved the aneurysm scare but showed that I had a venous malformation on the left side of my brain. After such a scary diagnosis, we once again found ourselves thanking God for his blessings and mercy, as we continued to be thankful for what we had found in one other. In times of trial, fear, and uncertainty, we had each other to lean on for love and support. Very fortunately, today, I am well controlled on daily asprin therapy.  In November of 2006, it was time for Aaron to graduate from flight school and become a winged naval aviator. After graduation, he had returned to Baltimore prior to moving to Virginia Beach, VA to join his training command and eventually his fleet squadron. The holidays came and went and soon we were looking at being separated again, which neither one of us could bear to endure for a second time. So after the 1st of the New Year, we both moved to Virginia Beach to start our lives together. We quickly found a house and were able to settle in quickly. It was such a natural transition without any hiccups along the way.

As the cold winter months passed and Spring fell upon us, we began to talk in detail about how we envisioned our perfect wedding day to be. However, there was one minor detail that was missing, a proposal and a ring. Much to my astonishment, on the morning of my 24th birthday, Aaron surprised me with a more romantic proposal than I could have ever imagined. The morning got off to an early start as Aaron had a 6:30 a.m. flight. That morning Aaron woke me to announce that I could open the gift that his parents had sent for my birthday days earlier. With not a trace of sun peeking through the windows, I opted to roll over and go back to sleep instead of waking up to open my gift. However, Aaron begged that I open my gift before he left for work for the day. After a lot of convincing, I got out of bed and followed him downstairs. When I sat down on the sofa, instead of handing me a package, he handed me a slip of paper that told me that I would be going on a scavenger hunt to find my gift. Needless to say, it was very early, and I was not entirely thrilled. The first slip of paper told me to go to the computer to find my first clue. When I arrived at the computer, the slip of paper read, “This clue is a reminder of the 21 month long-distance relationship that we endured. Thank you for the sacrifices that you made for me.” The next clue took me to the refrigerator and was on top of the tortillas. It talked about how our love grew over fajitas and margaritas while our love continued to grow during our time together in Texas. The clues continued and eventually I ended up outside at the Jeep with a clue that reminded me of our memorable 29 hour road trip from Texas to Maryland where the Jeep broke down when we were only three miles from our starting point. Eventually after a dozen different clues, I was led to the sofa and told to look under the pillows to find my gift. After looking behind every pillow on the sofa, I turned around to find Aaron down on one knee with tears in his eyes. In that moment, I honestly cannot remember a word that was spoken because of the overwhelming amount of emotion that had overtaken the both of us. Of course I said, “YES!” As we planned our dream wedding at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, we were faced with a taste of how being married to the military could change one’s plans at any given moment. By the time our wedding date was definitively set, we had changed the date four different times. Prior to our August 2008 wedding, we had already endured our first deployment, which left me to plan our entire wedding all on my own. Our beautiful wedding day ended up being absolutely perfect and was everything that we could have ever imagined. However, soon after our ceremony was over, we had to return to Virginia Beach where Aaron immediately began work-ups for his upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

Over the next two years, little did we know that we would endure two back-to-back, six and seven month, combat deployments. Today it is easy to think of those long months apart as a blur, or a hiccup in time. However, while neither us will soon forget the trials and tribulations of deployment, those days seem like they are far behind us now. Though we were a world apart and often dealt with limited means of communication, we constantly found ways to strengthen our marriage every, single day. In times when I was feeling anxious, worried, or afraid for my sweet husband’s safety, I knew that I could e-mail Aaron about every one of my worries and concerns and that he would console me and ease every one of my fears. I can also remember ending every e-mail with how much I loved him and missed having him to share a meal with, to enjoy birthdays and holidays with, and to talk to at the end of a long day. While deployment can truly test the foundations of many marriages, deployment for us proved that we had built a rock-solid foundation for our marriage through our unboundless love and support for one another. When Aaron finally returned home on July 27th of 2010, we held each other as though we would never let go.

The challenges that we have triumphed over have strengthened our marriage in ways that I could never have thought were possible. Just when I think that things could not possibly get any better, Aaron constantly finds ways to prove me wrong. We are so blessed today to have our health and such a sense of true happiness. On our wedding day we vowed to be faithful to each other, and to love and support one other in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, in joy and in sorrow. I can undoubtedly say that we will continue to live out these vows until the end of time.

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Travis and I met on the bus during the 2nd semester of 9th grade. He was the new kid, the ugly new kid (so I said at the time) It was definitely not love at first sight! I don't know what happened during the freshman/sophomore summer but when we went back to school he made my heart skip a beat! We exchanged numbers and used to call each other every night to watch Jeopardy! over the phone, we started officially dating March 27, 2001...I will never forget that date or how it went down..."You like me, and I like you so let's just be boyfriend and girlfriend." We've been inseparable ever since, even when my Dad decided he didn't want us dating and refused to let me see him. I would call him on the phone as soon as my parents would leave the house so he could come over (he lived about a mile from me) even if it was just for 10 minutes. He gave me a beautiful promise ring at our Jr Prom when we were getting our class rings, I still wear it with my wedding band. The day after Sr Prom we went to Busch Gardens and stayed the night in Williamsburg, the next day I found out my Dad had reported me a missing person and said Travis kidnapped me, what a mess, I had to call the police station and report myself as not missing and then the counselors at school made us talk with them, it was crazy! We moved in with each other in June 2003, 1 week after graduating. We were married in July 2006. We didn't have a big wedding, only 2 other people were there and we only got a few wedding pictures of the whole ceremony. We had our first daughter in 2007 and our second in 2009. We've had ups and downs but we love the life we've created together. This year will be our 10 year "together" anniversary and our 5 year wedding anniversary. Having pictures done would mean so much to us because we have never had any professional pictures of us together. No engagement or wedding pictures and now that we have kids our house is flooded with pictures of them and none of us. It would mean even more because since October 2010 Travis has had to move down to NC for work and we only see him now maybe one weekend a month, it's hard being without the one I love! We would love love love to win a free couples session from Kimberlin Gray!

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I first met my true love in a Farm Fresh Grocery store when I was in the 9th grade - he was the cutest bag boy I had ever seen and after the first time I saw him I had to beg my mom to go through his line every time. I don't really remember how we began to talk (probably because I chased him til he got tired of trying to get away!) but I knew I must be the luckiest girl alive when J.K. & I started going "steady" (which mainly consisted of me riding my bike to his house while he worked on his car). I was able to drag him to my 9th Grade Prom but  after a few months we decided that it wasn't working (actually I think he just didn't have time for his car, which we still have, a girl, work & school) and parted ways. I still thought of him often & wondered how he was doing. Then we both ended up working in the Shipyard in the same area at the same time - both of us involved with other people by then. We would talk occasionally & exchanged phone numbers. Once I called to see how he was doing & interrupted a make-out session with his fiance' - darn! :) Anyway we both got married & I began working at the veterinarians office that his parents went to. So I still got updates on how he was doing through the years. By now I had a beautiful little girl and a not so good marriage. My husband & I decided to separate. About 2 months after that I answer the phone at the vets office (still the same one) & it's J.K. He's called to ask about flea treatment for his dogs. I gave him our standard advice and added "I thought Donna took care of the dogs?" And he told me that that they were separated. I put him on hold & took the call on another more private phone in the back. After that call we began talking every so often, exchanging stories of our spouses & how things had gotten so messed up. In the beginning we just ended up at the same places sometimes - once again as often as I could make it happen.  Neither of us wanted any type of "together" relationship then, we never wanted to get married again & I didn't introduce him to my daughter right away. The first time I introduced them we went to the Grand Illumination in Williamsburg & I don't really think either of them knew what to think of the other!  For the next 6-7 years we dated never really talking about any serious commitments just enjoying a great relationship and then J.K. decided to move. When he discussed moving & the school system he wanted to move into I could only hope that he was going to ask my daughter & I to move in with him. And he did. We lived in sin for the next several years - enjoying our "together life" 1/2 the time and dealing with  a teenage girl the other. Even when I didn't think we (all 3 of us) would make it another day without strangling each other I was always thankful that J.K. cared about us enough to move in order for my daughter to attend a great school system and that he was always there to help with tough school work or to chase away the "bad" boys. Somewhere along the line I mentioned that it would be soo romantic to get engaged on a cruise (at this point we had still never discussed marriage, still too wounded from our first attempt to talk about it again). A short while later J.K. & I went on a cruise with some friends. At dinner one night my dessert had a beautiful ring in it and J.K. got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I couldn't believe what was happening and could not focus on what he said so I have no idea, but I said yes. We were in no rush and did not discuss a date. One afternoon about 2 years later we were on the way home from a cookout & J.K. asked me if I had ever thought about having any more children. (It's helpful to know that J.K. & his 1st wife did not want children & he had never mentioned them, we had never discussed this.) I wasn't sure what he was referring to but quickly figured out that he was talking about us! I had thought about it - years before & had stopped thinking about it since. We had been together about 12 years now & I was now 40 years old - way past when most people are planning families, my daughter had just moved out, another child was the furthest thing from my mind right then. After a little discussion I found out that he had been thinking abut it for several months. We decided that we would start trying to get pregnant but that we would not get married just because we wanted a child together. I read all the "How to Get Pregnant" manuals, planned sex on the "right" days of the month & we went to a fertility specialist because of our ages. 6-12 months was the time frame we were given but only 4 months later we had a positive test. His parents were ecstatic - this would be their only grand child ever and by now they had decided they would never have one. I will never forget the day we went to the ultrasound & found out we were having a girl - my daughter &  J.K.'s parents went with us. The pregnancy went along fine & we decided to take a last cruise & enjoy some last "just us 2" time. A few days before we went on the cruise we found out that his dad had liver cancer & we almost canceled but Pop insisted that we could do nothing for him right then & we should go & enjoy ourselves. We discussed marriage but decided that we needed to concentrate on my father in laws health & would get around to that later. 3 short months later when I was 8 1/2 months pregnant Pop passed away & never got to see his only grandbaby. We did get married shortly after she was born with her, my older daughter & my mother-in-law in attendance. Our beautiful daughter is now 19 months old & running our lives!

No one who knows J.K. would dub him a romantic however I think he's the most romantic guy I've ever known. When he's not at the fire station where he spends his days keeping the public safe he's constantly working on our list of "stuff that needs to get done someday" at the house. He may not send flowers very often but he really listens to me & will surprise me with a visit to a place that I've mentioned or a vacation spot that I really wanted to go to like the time he took us to Niagara Falls. If I say that I'd like to eat somewhere he makes it happen. When I complained that the bed sheets were too cold in the winter time he put a heating pad on my side of the bed so they were warm by the time I went to bed. He eats breakfast at Chick Fil A every Saturday morning with no complaints. He is constantly thinking ahead & planning for our future. He was & still is there for our oldest daughter (really his step-daughter) & lends his support in almost everything she sets her mind to & that isn't always easy. And now he is learning this new daddy thing and giving it 100 percent also like he does everything else. It's beautiful to watch. I know that no matter what, J.K. will always be there for me, & I will be there for him. No one's perfect but he's perfect for me, he's my rock.  So that's our story. Thanks for the opportunity to tell you about it.

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Ohhhh, where do I even begin…..with a classic love story meeting, I suppose!  My husband, Steve, and I met in the summer of 2005, on the island of Kauai, with a little help from Cupid.  Literally, my cousin who lived on the island had been known to dress in a Depends adult diaper, a pair of wings, carry a bow and arrow…and smoking a cigar, played cupid!  This bigger than life character managed to get the two of us to visit him at the same time.  I lived in California at the time, so it was an easy trip to Hawaii for me.  Steve was his best friend, they met after Navy Boot Camp.  Steve lived in Jacksonville, Florida, clear across the nation!   I had never met Steve, but my entire family had met him a couple of times…they were always telling me how I would just LOVE “Fergie”, as they called him.  In the weeks leading up to the trip, we were emailing, exchanging photos, eventually talking on the phone.  Ahhh, that first phone call!!!!  I called him, and instead of answering with the standard “hello”, he answered with “Woman of my dreams, hi”….Oh my heart just melted!!!!

So only a few short weeks later, we spent a romantic first week together in tropical paradise!!!  We had lots of outdoor adventures, and sooo many laughs and wonderful memories were made.  We wondered what would happen next, would anything come of us?  Would the next time we saw each other even hold a candle to that first week we met?  Well, we saw each other about once a month after that, and it was better every time!  We did the long distance thing for awhile, then I took a travel nurse assignment in Orlando, Florida, about 2 hrs from him in Jacksonville.  We saw a lot more of each other once I was there, and as a bonus I got to know his parents really well…they live in Orlando.   I am from New Orleans, and Steve and his parents helped me through the difficult time following hurricane Katrina.  I took a job in Birmingham, AL following Katrina, and lived there for five months.  I knew no one, it was literally my first time in Birmingham.  I rented an apartment, sight unseen, and walked down to the hospital to sit in a windowless office, glued to some strangers TV, as I did not have a tv in my apartment.  They were nice enough to give me a place to pitch up for news updates.  I was unable to get in contact with any of my immediate or extended family for many days.  I had not yet met Steve’s parents, but I needed someone to talk to, so by way of email,  he gave me their number.  My cell phone had no service, as New Orleans was my area code of service, so for several nights, I stood in the pouring rain talking to his parents from a pay phone a block away from my apartment.  Oh, those people were saints to me at the time, and still are.  Steve visited me several times while I was there, and I spent my other off time driving across 3 states to see my family who was evacuated to northern Louisiana.  I lost my grandmother at that time as well, Steve and his parents helped me through that as well.  He had seen me at my worst, and still somehow managed to fall in love with me!

Once I was in Orlando, and we were seeing a lot more of each other, I planned a surprise for him.  His college friends were scattered all around the southeastern part of the country…well, I got them all together in Jax Beach for his birthday weekend.  He had NO IDEA!!!! It was so cool to plan the surprise.  I had not met any of those college friends yet, but spent lots of time emailing and speaking on the phone to all of them.  It was like we were old pals by the time we actually met for his birthday!  He says it was that weekend he knew for sure I was “the one”.

As I sit and type this, I look around our house and see gifts we have given each other, photos that captured our best memories, and the unfolding of our world as a couple and family.  Next to me is a globe that I had engraved for him, it says “there is no place in the world I would rather be than next to you”.  Man, is that ever still true.  I see a picture of my daughter when she was a few weeks old, I see my son’s first bike, I see our wedding photographs….so amazing that we have this opportunity to spend this life together.

I was perusing my photos to find a “recent” picture of us together.  I literally could not find one picture of just the two of us since I was pregnant for my first child!  The picture I submitted to you was from July of 2008…..that was the last time we took a picture as a couple!  This leads to me think that getting professional pictures from a photographer with your vision would be AMAZING!!!!  As I realized it had been so long since we had a photo together, of just us as a couple, I got really sad.  If it weren’t for “us” there would be no family, so how could we have neglected to still capture “us”????  What if something happened to one of us, we would not even be able to come up with a recent photograph of us together.  We are great about taking pictures of our children…but  we should remember that our bond also needs to be remembered.  Taking pictures together is a really important way to keep that up.  We used to be really, really good about taking photos of us together.  We miss those days, at times, and to just get a moment of that, just long enough to get a picture, would feel really good! We have supported each other through marathons, triathlons, pregnancies, deployments, long sleepless nights with sick babies, full time jobs, full time back to school, and a myriad of other things.  It would just mean the world to have this phase of our love captured by your talent.  Just to have that hour together, focusing on each other would really feel phenomenal!

You were kind and giving to us through Op love: Reunited when my husband was deployed.  He missed the first 6 months of our son’s life, I hate for us to look back and realize we may have also “missed” us during this time in our life.  Thanks for even considering “us” as the ones  to put in front of the lens.  He lived for those photos you sent while he was away, by the way.  You have such insight to the souls of families, and it is cool to get to express that through your work.  My husband and I love to laugh together, and love to live together.  We think our love is pretty special.  We think this life we are making together is pretty cool, even in all its chaos!

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They go together like a Wink and a Smile!!  It was a warm July evening as most are in Texas and Jessica arrived early with her bottle of water just as she did every Tuesday. She glanced around the large room and listened as Ella Fitzgerald’s warm voice filled the air, “Let’s fall in love/ why shouldn’t we fall in love.” It seemed so appropriate in the 1931 mansion in which she stood. She loved the wood floors and the history of the building; it all seemed to take her back in time.

As the class began the two instructors in the center directed all the women to make a large outside circle and all the men to make a large inside circle. “Welcome to Lindy 1. Here we will teach you the basic moves of the Lindy Hop,” the gentleman said as he took his partner and demonstrated the basic swing out and a few other moves. Jessica took a place next to a much older woman who stood across from her husband and cordially greeted the young man standing across from her. Class began and slowly Jessica and her partner practiced the moves and tried to imitate the instructors. Five minutes passed and the instructors instructed the men to move to the left one person. Jessica had a new partner. This pattern continued with all the men rotating partners every 5 minutes.  Jessica was new in the area. After completing school and obtaining her teacher’s license the opportunity to try someplace new struck her. Her younger sister was attending The University of Texas at Austin and loved the city so Jessica had picked up and moved there. Being with her sister was wonderful, but Jessica wanted to make her own friends and decided swing dancing was one great way to meet people. As luck would have it she had already met Kay, a young women who was also new in town and who also taught children with special needs. She had no desire to meet a guy; in fact she thought that might be a little awkward -meeting while dancing. No, she had come to have fun, learn to dance and make friends.  The classes were always followed by a couple of hours of dancing in the grand ballroom where all the students and instructors, including those in Lindy 2, 3, and 4, could mingle and dance.  It was a great way to practice and be social. Thursday nights there was another dance, but no classes and soon Jessica was coming every Tuesday and Thursday. There was one young man who caught her eye though. He was definitely the cutest in her class. He had short blond hair, sweet blue eyes and a thin athletic build. He was a good dancer and a confident lead; this was certainly not his first time dancing. What struck her most about him was how much of a gentleman he was. He always thanked her after a dance and anyone else he danced with, opened doors and was just a true considerate gentleman. Every Tuesday and Thursday they danced a couple of dances and slowly got to know each other.

One Thursday during the dance Michael asked Jessica if she was available on Friday to go out to dinner and a movie. Awkwardly Jessica blurted that she was babysitting and ran to tell Kay about the invite. Kay, who was aware of the affection Michael and Jessica shared, realized Jessica’s innocent honesty and suggested that she ask Michael if Saturday was okay since she wasn’t babysitting that night. Jessica had not realized that her honest answer might be misconstrued as a lack of interest and went back to Michael and arranged the date. The prearranged date arrived and Michael was not feeling well, but was unwilling to cancel the date. They had a nice dinner and went to a movie and then Michael went home early, as he wasn’t feeling well. After that the two saw each other frequently at dances and a couple other times a week.

One day, about a month later, Kay and Jessica were talking and Kay mentioned that Michael was leaving in about a week. “What do you mean leaving?” Jessica blurted.

“Didn’t you know he was in the Navy?” Kay responded slowly

“Yes, but what does that have to do with it?”

“ He has to go to his next command,” Kay spoke softly.

They had talked about it, but Jessica had never known anyone else in the Navy and had never realized that that would mean he would be leaving at some point. She was very much enjoying there time together and did not want it to end.

On his last day in Austin, Jessica and Michael met at a restaurant on Lake Austin to say good-by. After a nice lunch Michael and Jessica sat on the grass across from the water and talked. The day was also Michael’s birthday so Jessica had brought a gift for him, a little bag of goodies for his drive to Charleston, SC. Michael had brought Jessica a bottle of wine and a card. Although they had seen each other regularly for the past month they had neither held hands nor kissed. After exchanging gifts Michael went to hug Jessica, but somehow they ended up bumping into each other’s faces. Michael was terrified thinking that Jessica had been anticipating a kiss. Jessica, not anticipating or really wanting a kiss yet thought the whole awkward mess was funny and couldn’t stop laughing. Over the next couple of months Michael and Jessica stayed in contact by telephone, talking a couple of times a week. Jessica wasn’t sure if this would amount to much; the distance relationship was hard and her faith was very important to her and was not something they shared.   In December, Michael returned to Texas to spend Christmas with his family in New Braunfels about 45 minutes away from Jessica. They both realized that they still cared for each other deeply. New Year’s Eve arrived and they made plans to spend the evening together and shared their first kiss. This kiss marked a new phase in their relationship. Now both Michael and Jessica felt free to share their feelings openly knowing that the other cared for them. Two days later Michael was leaving again to return to Charleston and thus began their long distance romance. The next year passed with frequent visits between the two.  Michael moved to upstate New York and then to Groton, Connecticut and all the while making time to see each other or talk as much as their schedules would allow. Jessica was teaching at a local private school for children with special needs and Michael was always rotating through various shifts and schedules. Once a month one would visit the other. They explored Boston, Montreal, Quebec, Charleston, New York City and Washington DC together and Jessica who had never been in the northeast was getting to exploring this part of the country with a person very dear to her heart. In December, a year after their romance really started to pick up tempo, Michael returned for Christmas to spend some time with family, friends and of course Jessica. They again made plans to spend New Year’s Eve together.  Michael took Jessica to the restaurant they had been to on their first date. It was a nice restaurant and crowded on this special evening. Soft music could be heard under the exuberant conversations. Michael and Jessica were taken to their small table right in the middle of the crowded room. They talked and had a nice dinner. After the plates were taken away Michael came over to Jessica got on one knee and asked her to be his wife. Speechless, Jessica could only nod yes and went to hug and kiss him. They ordered dessert and in their euphoric state, gitty with the prospects of the future together, held hands and delighted in being together. A few people came over to congratulate the happy couple, but most of the other customers were oblivious to the rejoicing occurring nearby. In the following days Michael informed Jessica of his impending deployment and the wedding day was scheduled for a few days after his return.

A number of years and children later, Michael and Jessica are still jitterbugging around the house to the delight of the little ones and you can still hear Ella Fitzgerald’s warm voice fill their home, “Now is the time for it, while we are young/ Let’s fall in Love.”

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*JUST A LITTLE THING CALLED LOVE!*
What is love? This question seems to ponder many people’s minds. While there may be many definitions as to what love really is, I have finally come to understand what love truly means. To me, love is not about seeing each other every day or even talking every day to that special person. Love is not bought with extravagant gifts and going on tropical vacations. Love does not cause us to worry or have doubts. Love does not cause anger or pain, and is never, never hurtful. Love is about being excited each and every time you get to see that one person, however often or rare those times may be. It’s about yearning to hear their voice, even if just for a quick “I love you!” Love is knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that the person you are in love with feels the exact some way about you. Love is being confident with yourself, not to worry that someone else might be prettier or could sweep your love out from under your feet. Love is laughing together at things that seem so minor to others, yet are the most hysterical to the both of you. Love is reading each others thoughts and minds and knowing what the other is thinking before even they do. Love is randomly bursting into laughter because a thought pops into your mind about the one you love that no one else would understand. Love is being able to be yourself in any situation. It’s waking up next to the one you love and still feeling beautiful. Wearing sweats with no makeup on and still knowing that your significant other thinks you are the most gorgeous woman he has ever seen: that’s love! When you look into someone’s eyes and couldn’t imagine being without them and want those to be the only eyes you look into forever, that’s love! Love isn’t about all the tingles, butterflies, and goose bumps you feel, it’s the overall warm and comfortable feeling of being happy and content. Love is not thinking “What if?” “What could’ve been?” or “Is this the one?” Love is KNOWING that you were meant to be with that special person; knowing that everything in your past brought you two together. Love is being hurt, scared, afraid, and worried from old experiences and relationships, yet still trusting the one you love to cherish the love you two shares as the most precious gift of all. When you think of “us” or “we” more than “me” or “I” and look forward to the future you two will have together, seeing the ups and downs of reality and knowing it may not always be perfect and easy, but will still be the love of a lifetime, that’s love. Love is more than a feeling or emotion; it’s everything in our lives and becomes our whole world. True love happens when we least expect it. When we aren’t looking for it, love comes around and opens our eyes and hearts! Love is accepting someone for everything they are, flaws and all, and loving them unconditionally. Love is magical and mysterious; it’s exciting and exuberant; it’s free spirited and fanciful; but most of all, love is love! Love is, above all, unexplainable, and no matter how hard we may try, true love just can’t be explained! You just know, and that’s love!

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I met Amara in 1990. I was a Junior at TCU, and she was an incoming Freshman. She joined the service club I was in, and I had my eye on her right away, though I didn't ask her out because there seemed something, well, a little sleazy about trying to pick up a Freshman.

Thus we stayed casual acquaintances for that first year. The following fall I drew up the chutzpah to ask her out, and we clicked pretty quickly. When, that spring, I had to decide between going to UT for my Masters or staying in Fort Worth to get it at TCU, I couldn't imagine trying to keep a relationship alive long distance, but I also couldn't imagine ending it either. And that's how, in May of 1994, we spent Saturday the 14th graduating from TCU and Sunday the 15th getting married.

We've been faithfully married since that day—seventeen years this May—and, though like all couples we have our ups and downs, I think it's true to say I've never loved her more. If I try to paint some fairytale portrait of our relationship, it would be a short and rather dull story. Truth be told, I'm a pretty left-brain guy, and I've never been strong in the “I just called to say I love you” department. To her eternal credit, and my relief, she's a patient woman. Let me give you two examples.

I'll start with the proposal. I thought I'd plotted things well. I proposed to her under a full moon after midnight in a sculpture garden outside the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. Romantic, right? I thought so, except that I completely forgot to get on one knee, and it never even dawned on me that I should ask her parents' blessing first.  What was our first home? It was a dorm for leadership staff at a summer camp in Kerrville, TX. We'd both worked there in previous summers, and it just seemed the obvious thing to do when you've got a summer to kill before moving on. Because nothing says newlywed romance like a linoleum floor and two twin beds shoved together to make a king, right?

When we moved to Lawrence, KS, at the end of the summer so I could pursue my doctorate, living quarters improved only slightly. KU married student housing consisted of 400 square feet, more linoleum flooring, and no air conditioner...plus an upstairs neighbor whose water heater banged like a Victorian boiler at 2 am. We spent five years in Lawrence (with gradually improving housing), both taking a bizarre array of jobs to make the budget work, but we loved it there, and it was in Lawrence that our first child was born. Last year Mia found a KU T-shirt on a sale rack and thought it would be funny to buy it, she being our little Jayhawk, and all. She's 13 now, but every time she wears that shirt I remember how wonderful, crazy, terrifying, and exhilarating that time was for us.

After two years in New York, where I had my first teaching job and where Levi was born, we ended up—permanently, probably—in Virginia Beach. Having both grown up military brats, these ten years have been the longest either of us has lived in one place. We've also welcomed children #3, Chloe, and #4, Harper, into our family here. Life is still as beautiful and scary as it has ever been. How could it not be with four kids? And I don't think either of us thinks any relationship is perfect. But despite stresses over money, time, and everything else that makes real life unlike a fairy tale, we are still married. We are still in love.

We have different tastes in almost everything. But we are still married, and we are still in love. We have very different views about God, the Universe, and all that. But we are still married, and we are still in love. Our parenting philosophies are sometimes at odds. But we are still married, and we are still in love. It's a genuine struggle sometimes to find time just to be together. But we are still married, and we are still in love.

Is all that too saccharine? I'll end with a slideshow from inside my head, just in case you still don't believe me.

Our first kiss: It wasn't a peck. I kissed her like I meant it...because I did.

Our honeymoon: We were standing on top of a lookout tower in the forest when the wind blew her skirt up. I almost fainted from the sheer sexiness of the event.

Four births: Her calmness, gentleness, and toughness in each one of them has been flat out heroic, an inspiration to anyone lucky enough to witness it. And I'm the only person lucky enough to have witnessed it all four times.

Sledding: That half-laugh/half-scream she makes when she's doing something fast and fun.

Showing her off: I really don't think she understands how gorgeous she is, but it's pretty common for friends, colleagues, and even the occasional student to let me know, when they see her dressed to the nines, what a lucky guy I am.

Candlelight: Sorry. This picture's not for you. It's mine alone.

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Love Story {Valentine Contest} | Hampton Roads Couples Photographer

This one is more than just a photo contest.  It's a photo STORY contest. I promise not to call this the "Cutest Couple Contest"...'cuz that's just too much!  :D  Instead, it's a Love Story Contest!

The Why: I love seeing the love between couples in photographs - and we so rarely do that outside of engagement and wedding photos. Once we start families and spend all our time photographing those adorable munchkins, we forget about ourselves!  So this is your chance to win a FREE couples mini-session in honor of Valentine's Day!

I am always curious about other peoples' stories.  How they met, how they fell in love, how they got engaged, where they got married, etc.  I think it stems from my own love story.  You see, my husband and I met when we were 14 years old at high school church camp.  There's a LOT more to the story, but the bottom line is that I just knew.  Yes, at 14.   And the rest, as they say, is history.  We've been married now for 11 years and I can't imagine it any other way!

The What: The Winner will receive a free "Love" mini-session!!  We'll spend about an hour doing all sorts of fun, romantic, and hilarious things. Get ready to be creative and get close!  This package includes a 5x7 Spiral bound keepsake album of your session photos plus 5 websized images to share on Facebook since we all want to have a beautiful profile pic with our love!

The How:

*In 1500 words or less, tell me your love story.  It could be how you met, but doesn't have to be.  Be creative - tell me why having a {Love} Mini-Session would mean a lot to you, or challenges you've faced as a couple, or even a funny story about the two of you!

*Submit your entry and a (somewhat) recent non-professional photo of you and your love to me at kimberlin.gray@gmail.com by this Saturday, February 12th.

*Stories and photos will be featured on the Kimberlin Gray Photography blog.  A panel of judges will choose a winner based on their love story - no voting required! :D

The fine print: ALL couples can enter - there are no restrictions on age or gender.  Story and Photo are required for entry.  Mini-session is non-transferable and holds no cash value.  Session must be completed by May 1, 2011.  Session is inclusive of two individuals only - no children allowed.  Seriously, who wants their kids running around when we're trying to capture that perfect, romantic photo?

THAT'S IT!  Now, get to it!

Giveaway! | Hampton Roads Maternity, Newborn, Children & Family Photographer

Win a FREE "Be Merry" holiday mini-session with Kimberlin Gray Photography!  I decided to add a mini-session time on Saturday, November 6th (4:30-5:00pm) and what better way to reward my fans for their support than a giveaway!  You can use this mini-session for your family, children, or even for a mini-maternity or couples session!

Here's how to win:

1. Simply enter your e-mail address HERE (or click on the link at the bottom of the blog!) to subscribe to this blog.

2.  Check your e-mail inbox and click on the link to verify.  You will then receive e-mail updates every time I publish a new blog post!  What better way to keep up with KGP? :D

3.  When you've subscribed, come back here and leave a comment - I'll choose a random number and the corresponding subscriber's comment will be the winner!

*Contest ends tomorrow (September 21st at 9:30pm EST) so don't delay!

The fine print: *Value = $100; includes 20 minute minisession and 1 medium-resolution image *Applicable to the Sat., Nov. 6th, 4:30-5:oo mini-session time ONLY *Not transferable to full sessions or newborn sessions *Valid for new mini-sessions only; not applicable to booked sessions *You may upgrade to a larger package after your mini-session images are posted *You must live in the Hampton Roads area or be willing to travel for the session