Fertility Vacation // A Heart Full of Gratitude

“No one has friends half as good as mine or loves them half as much.”

I butchered that quote, but the people in our lives astound me and I am wholeheartedly grateful for them.

I often think we must have done something right to have such incredible people in our lives. Really incredible people like Cristina, Vanessa, Jenny and Janna who would fly out and meet us in Prague, Germany, and Iceland.

An amazing group of people in San Diego and scattered all over the world, rooting for us and our 10 eggs. Everyone has been so kind on Facebook, via text, and WhatsApp. It’s been good to share our experience. I feel so safe wrapped in everyone’s collective prayers and vibes.

I like to imagine our little eggs swaddled in a myriad of wishes and dreams; all of us collectively willing life into them. I want them to be safe and healthy and know they are loved. Four eggs growing strong, three slightly slower; seven eggs left in the race. They are small, but mighty.

While my mind is exploding with wonder, I am gently reminded of the song, “Que Sera Sera”.

Que sera, sera

Whatever will be, will be

The future's not ours to see

Que sera, sera

What will be, will be.

I feel grateful for the opportunity to try IVF.  Some people never even have this chance. At the very least I can give it my all in the process and feel grateful for every opportunity. Grateful for IVF, for travel, for Prague, for the lower prices in Europe, for my translator, for amazing coffee, and for my handsome husband.

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Cuba // 18 Years Later

I traveled to the magical country of Cuba in 1999 and then again in January of this year. Here is my letter to this country, that my heart now calls a friend. 

Dear Cuba,

Hello my old friend. How thrilling and sweet it is to sit with you. Seeing your face again makes my heart swell with all of our past memories. You are just as intriguing, exotic, captivating and confusing as ever before.

As I walk around your colorful buildings and crumbling heroic walls, I can’t help but reminisce to our first meeting.

Back in '99, visiting you was daring, almost provocative. When I saw “Havana” on my syllabus at art school in San Francisco, I grew nervous and excited that we would meet. Our professor, Tony Labat, who grew up in your neighborhoods, took 20 of us to see you for a week.

We flew out of Tijuana, Mexico. We stopped in Monterrey and had to de-board the plane to get our passports stamped, since it was illegal for Americans to visit your country and spend money there. We landed in Havana and I remember feeling nervous. The agent looked over my treasured passport, chockfull of stamps, and waived me through.  Havana was mine and I was in awe.

Hotel Inglaterra was our home for the week. From there we went to museums by day and then stayed up late drinking Cuba Libres, listening to music, and smoking cigars on the rooftop. We were an eclectic group of artists; some painted, filmed or created performance pieces. We felt saturated in the Cuban art experience, if only for a week.

Upon seeing you, the movie Buena Vista Social Club had come out. I sat in the theater, fascinated by what was to come. Everything was as surreal as the movie suggested; the cars, the architecture.  I watched men play checkers. I photographed little kids in their school uniforms.

I felt honored and changed to have this rare experience. You are resourceful, yet without resources. The resilience of your people was inspiring. I was left questioning our place in the world, and with new real estate in my heart, just for cheering you on.

And now flash forward to January 2017.

My heart had missed a beat when I learned a few years ago that President Obama would open up relations with you. Could we make peace and end the embargo? Could this country that stole my heart, finally know equality and the same advantages and disadvantages of their neighbors?

My photographer friend, Maryanne, and I jumped on a plane and made sure we had the chance to see you before the new presidency.

This time, we flew from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale to Havana. In Fort Lauderdale, I heard over the loudspeaker, “Jet Blue Flight XX to Havana”. That’s when it hit me. A profound moment that actualized in my gut. I was flying from America to see you; a dream of mine and so many others realized. I felt a surge of joy and solidarity with this small victory.

I thought of 18 years ago and the boy I gave a pencil to on the street. Of the artist Los Carpinteros. And of the college girl I once was, walking your streets with a different lens and perspective than today.

We arrived early in the morning and immediately began exploring. I soon realized so much was the same, but we both had grown up too. I have grown from a student into a professional photographer.  But, we both still have our quirks.

This time, we stayed at Casa Particular. Casas weren’t legal on my last trip and very hard to find. This change marked an acceptance of a new socialism and I’m curious to see how it evolves.

We listened to music and had coffee around the city in Plaza Viejo, at the Inglaterra and at the Nacional. The menus were larger and more varied. I remember feeling frustrated with ordering a meal on my last trip. I would ask for a cappuccino and a salad. The waiter would leave and come back 5-10 minutes later and inform me that they were out of those items. This would repeat itself several times. Eventually, I learned to ask what was available and simply order that.

This type of exchange rarely happened this time. Although napkins and toilet paper were still in short supply.

We hired a tour guide for the Art and Color Tour. Our guide Dayana was knowledgeable and indulged all of our many questions. She took us to multiple galleries and the Museum of Bellas Artes. I saw a piece of art that mentioned Los Carpinteros and felt joy at their success. I was thrilled to be in my element, hearing about the history and present culture of art in Havana. I love the familiar joy in museums, people from around the world sharing their own passion for art in many languages.

Ironically, the actual band, the Buena Vista Social Club, was playing while we were in town. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them in person. There were a couple of musicians from the original documentary there. Snippets of the movie were projected in the background. So we have changed a little, I thought. We were all a little older, wiser, and with a few more lines on our faces.

Yet here we both were, practicing our craft with energy and joy all these years later. Them on stage in a room full of approving fans, and me still walking around with my camera and artist friends, sharing all of the color and contradicting ideas in still images.

What will the next 18 years hold for us? I’m hoping my country and yours will build a beautiful friendship full of respect and admiration.

Just as we have.  

Besitos my friend, until next time.

Suzanne

15 Years Because of YOU

All of us at Shewanders Photography are dancing in confetti of love and gratitude for celebrating 15 years behind the lens.

15 years of gratitude. 15 years of love. 15 years because of YOU.

We’d love to take you on a little vacation down memory lane to where it all began.

In 2002, a friend asked me to shoot her big day. I very reluctantly said yes. I had never shot a wedding before and it wasn’t something I wanted to do. By the end of the day, sparks were flying, adrenaline was pumping; I was in love. A couple months later, I got laid off of my job in advertising and started Shewanders Photography.

Mike started with Shewanders in 2008 and has blown my mind with his raw talent.  He took some photo classes when he was younger, but really claimed his voice at Shewanders.  He started as a third shooter and within a couple of years was shooting his own weddings.  I admire his voice and the sense of immediacy that he captures.  I often look at his work and wonder how he puts people at enough ease for them to be so natural in front of him.

There are a few things over the last 15 years that we couldn’t have lived without.

Suzanne says....

I write in my morning pages every day. It’s how I let go of all the chatter so that I can stay focused and understand what I want. The gems are hidden amidst the words of my everyday writing. It takes putting in the work day after day; that’s where the magic happens.

I ask what if it’s magical? Instead of, what if it’s too hard or expensive? Shewanders by nature has allowed me to live an untraditional lifestyle where I get to travel and work. Work to travel, work while traveling, the whole shebang. When I travel, I know who I am. It allows me to learn, grow, challenge myself, and respond to my environment. While exploring a new place, I want to fill each day to the brim with adventures.

I listen to music to make sense of my thoughts. Sometimes an idea or a problem will be floating around in my mind. It takes the emotional quality of a song or the lyrics to help me understand what I’ve been feeling or thinking.

I always allow myself time to daydream and listen to my inner voice (even when she sounds like a drill sergeant). This gives me the freedom to dream up new concepts and ideas from within, rather than what I see on Pinterest or Instagram.

Mike says...

I believe that love and a celebration solves any problem. Regardless of the stress of a wedding day or the never-ending tasks, when I live in the moment of a beautiful celebration, everything else disappears.

I always stand true to who I am. I never try to stand out, I just try to be myself. I do what inspires me and my clients so that we have a journey together.

I find peace and recharge in fitness and nature. Outside of photography, I do martial arts, running, and bodyweight training. I love the outdoors. Hiking and survival type training is a passion and hobby of mine.

I couldn’t survive without listening to my inner voice. This is driven by reading, film, and new experiences.

Both of us say...

We have constantly been inspiring ourselves so that we can create inspired work. We go to workshops, take classes, have art adventures with friends, and always experiment with new techniques.

We attribute our success to the most amazing friends in the industry and rising together. CAKE Bakery was my first industry friend. We love those ladies like no one else. Our companies grew up together.  We had our growing pains together and all of our successes.  Did you see them win Cake Wars?

We also couldn't have done it without finding our ideal clients.  Oh my gosh we love our clients. Seriously! So many people complain about their brides and grooms and we are head over heels for ours.  Our clients tend to be warm people who are grateful to have wonderful people in their lives.

A thousand thank you’s to all of our friends, at home in San Diego, and everywhere around the globe. Because of you, we have been able to create a life we love.

Cheers to 15 more years of art making and dream chasing!