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On Being Back Home in California

We returned home to California last night and it made our recent move feel more real than ever. Several times on our trip I thought about going home and each time I caught myself picturing us going back to Chicago. When I corrected myself and thought of our new digs in Topanga Canyon I felt a little thrill run through me. And driving home last night along the Pacific Coast Highway with palm trees swaying in the breeze and surfers waiting in the water to catch a wave, that thrill turned into pure happiness.

Greg says I have to be careful not to annoy people too much with all my “I heart California” ramblings, but I just can’t help it. I’m not trying to brag in the least, and I know as well as anyone that CA isn’t the place for everyone, but man, does it really make me happy. I’ve been feeling really grateful for all that time in Chicago because it gave me so much perspective. The first time I moved to California I wasn’t nearly this excited, and while I certainly grew to love it, I never quite reveled in it the way I’m doing now.

Anyway, enough about where I am right now, and more about where I just was. We were on Cape Cod for the last 6 days to visit with family and take part in my cousin Ron’s wedding. Ron is my favorite cousin and actually one of the people I’m closest to in the whole world. He was adopted when he was two by my aunt, a fact that just proves to me that certain people are meant to be in each other’s lives, since I feel more connected to him than most people I’m blood-related to.

Ron’s a photographer and until last year, he’d been living in NYC for almost two decades. He moved out here to LA with his fiance last year and all of us are beyond thrilled to be in the same city again. Needless to say, this was one wedding I was unfathomably happy to be attending. And not only did I attend it, but I was the official wedding photographer, a role that caused me quite a bit of strife leading up to it, since I am by no means a professional. But Ron shot my wedding and asked me to do his. What’s that saying about karma? Oh yes…

Anyway, it was really the nicest weekend. By the end of it, and by end I mean Sunday morning doing a beach yoga class led by my cousin Alex who is an instructor, I felt so incredibly grateful to have the family I do. For so many years I held my extended family at arm’s length, feeling like they didn’t know the pain I’d been through losing my parents and how alone I felt, and then one day I was finally able to put down my arms and embrace them all and take time to really appreciate how wonderful each and every one of them is. This weekend amidst lobsters, drunken dancing and lengthy beach walks, all of that was only emphasized.

So here I am, home in California, feeling sated and full and content with all that my life is right now.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to the photos I shot. I actually took 1400 photos over the course of the weekend, but paired this album down to 385. I’m serious. Oh, and I did I mention that Veronica was a flower girl? Here’s a preview of the cuteness.


  1. I cant get over how cute V looks! And you look stunning as well :)

    I love weddings for all the nostalgia..Recently my parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and many of their friends who were there for the wedding came down from all over the country to attend the Big 25th celebration..I am sure Ron’s kids would use the photos you clicked from the wedding on their 25th (we did that)
    Loads of love!

    Comment by Nima on June 29, 2011 at 9:51 am

  2. Thanks, Nima!! Aw, your parent’s anniversary sounds so nice.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on June 29, 2011 at 12:52 pm

  3. V looks darling!

    Comment by Lyssa on June 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm

  4. Shout your love of anything from the rooftops, baby. Brag away! You are missed in Chicago by countless many, but knowing how happy you and your family are makes it nuttin’ but good stuff.

    I’m not surprised Ron is your favorite cousin. I mean, his name is “Ron”!

    Continued happiness (and bragging about it!) xoxo

    Comment by Ron Stempkowski on June 29, 2011 at 6:53 pm

  5. Haha…you know, some of my favorite people are named Ron. Been thinking about you lots. Let’s chat on the phone soon!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on June 30, 2011 at 8:43 am

  6. Thanks, Lyssa!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on June 30, 2011 at 8:43 am

  7. Hey Claire! I haven’t popped over for a while and I’m totally digging the new blog look. I’m down in SoCal all the time, one of these trips I’d love to scope out palm trees with you.

    Comment by Reese Dixon on June 30, 2011 at 12:17 pm

  8. Yay, I’d love that Reese! Let me know when you’re headed down next.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on June 30, 2011 at 12:31 pm

  9. I love this post for so many reasons: your beautiful daughter (cute beyond words!), your gorgeous photos and the fact that your happiness and contentment beam through the screen. So happy for you!

    Comment by Ellie on July 1, 2011 at 2:48 am

  10. Aw, thank you so much Ellie!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on July 1, 2011 at 7:52 am

  11. Love those pics! Looks like a terrific wedding.

    Comment by Liz on July 1, 2011 at 11:16 am

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