HerKentucky Story: Photographer Priscilla Baierlein

This HerKentucky story features a guest post by Central Kentucky-based photographer Priscilla Baierlein. I am lucky enough to be best friends with the man who was smart enough to marry this incredible person. When Cilla started her photography business, she asked to take pictures of my daughter for portfolio. I had absolutely no idea how incredibly talented Cilla was. I've always loved photographs. Memories mean everything to me. I am a hugely sentimental person. However, it's completely accurate that I didn't "get" photography as an art until I saw Cilla's work. Aside from her ability to turn everyday moments into art, she's also an amazing wife, mother, and friend. I've never met anyone who doesn't adore her from the moment they meet her, and I can't wait for you guys to get to know her too! - Megan Whitmer

Many photographers develop a passion for photography that is born out of their love for their children. They realize just how fleeting each moment is and want to hold on tight to every little memory. My love for photography came at a time that I thought I may never be able to experience motherhood. I may never experience the gentle (and not so gentle) nudges of a little one growing inside me. I may never experience the hard work of birthing my baby into the world. I may never experience holding him for the first time or watching my husband ever so carefully swaddle him snuggly. I may never experience the intense and overwhelming love, fear, and feeling of responsibility that comes with having a child. There would never be bath times with water splashed every where or bedtime stories and snuggles. I would never have sweet little afternoon naps or squeezes around my neck. I would never hear that pitter patter and laughter fill my house. I would never have kisses that would heal any boo boo. It took a while for us to realize that although we may not be able to experience those things with our own biological child, there were other options. Then something happened. After a series of medical interventions and what, to me, can only be explained by the love of God, things turned around. We started getting good news. Before we knew it, I was pregnant.

Now, I find myself falling in love with photography all over again. It's my way of holding onto this time of his life. I get sick to my stomach just thinking about high school graduation and college. Although this chapter of parenthood can be trying at times, it is beautiful and perfect and will only last a short while. I feel extremely thankful. Thankful for all the things I thought that I may never experience. Thankful for the things we experienced that only prepared us to be the parents we are. Thankful that not only were we able to have a child, but we are able to watch him play, hold him, and protect him. He's not sick. He's healthy. And wild. He's wild and crazy and sweet and perfect.

My most favorite photography captures...well...everything. It captures the laughter, the tears, the pitter patter, the bath time, the first breaths, the swaddles, the naps, the neck squeezes, the cuddles, every moment...every chapter...every season of our lives. It's all picture worthy (even in our pj's, with our messy hair, dark circles under our eyes and pounds we need to lose) because it's our lives and it's what we're going to wish we had just a little bit more of when our end comes. I know that although many days seem less than perfect, one day I will hope for just a few more moments with the ones I love. These types of photos, these are the ones that will show my son how much he was loved just in case we're not around to show him.

I'll leave you with a few of my favorites from the most recent chapter in our family's story.

HerKentucky Adoption Series: Kathy's Story

HerKentucky is celebrating National Adoption Month with a collection of stories from Kentucky moms. Today, we're hearing from Kathy Ponatoski, my college classmate and Words With Friends nemesis. Kathy lives in Lexington with her husband Jeff and their sons Drew and Kai. -- HCW

I was 33 years old when I became a mother. It was in a room with concrete floors, 7000 miles and 13 time zones from my home in Central Kentucky. A nanny handed me a gorgeous infant boy who looked at me through curious, confused almond shaped eyes as dark as coal, before empting the contents of his stomach onto my freshly pressed blouse. In that moment, we were a family.

It was three years before when I received the phone call confirming what I had long suspected: that I would be unable to have biological children. As painful as that moment and the months that followed it were, they felt like a distant memory that morning in Taiwan, and more like ancient history as I write these words. The few months following were a sad range of emotion. I processed the anger of seeing people on the news sent to prison for child abuse and neglect. I endured a seemingly endless number of lunch dates, girls-nights-out and water-cooler conversations with other 30-something women where the conversation seemed to center exclusively around either the euphoria of pregnancy or the horror of childbirth. And perhaps most painfully, I grieved the loss of someday knowing what the combination of Jeff and I together would look like.

In our search to determine the right path, it’s safe to say that we never considered infertility treatments. They were among the options available to us, obviously, but it never seemed to appeal to either of us. I became aware during those few months of the number of families I ran into that had adopted: at the grocery, at our favorite Thai restaurant, at church. My good friend from work had just returned from China with her second daughter. We also became involved during those months with a group of adoptive families we met through my friend from work. Each family had a unique story… one had adopted twice domestically and were in process for a third child. One family had a daughter born in Russian, and another a daughter born in Guatemala.

Every family we talked to seemed to say the same thing. Call Adoption Assistance in Danville. After a preliminary meeting with them, it was easy to see why. We were blown away with what a tremendous resource was available right in our backyard to help us navigate the entire process. A few months later we had a completed home study, and were on a list a few months after that. We flew to Taiwan for Drew in January of 2008.

This past March, four years after my first trip across the Pacific, I was back in Taiwan to bring home Drew’s brother. Beautiful baby Kai turned one year old this week and is the perfect completing piece to our family.
Last night our family was out to dinner at Ramsey’s . I was reminded of how much fun it is to watch a baby explore new foods when Kai touched a fried green tomato to his lips and at first looked confused, and then horrified. As we were finishing our meal, (i.e., Drew was inhaling a piece of combo pie at record speed) a nearby patron stopped to say: “My goodness, your family is so lovely.”

When I talk about adoption, I often say that it’s the advice you cannot give, because people must arrive their on their own. Together.

I’m glad that Jeff and I were able to dream together of just how lovely our family could be.

Adoption Assistance now has offices in both Danville and Louisville, with social workers serving all regions in Kentucky. They offer home study services for all private domestic and international adoption programs. They also provide insight on available programs and preferred placement agencies. They are on the web at www.adoptionassistance.com

HerKentucky Story: Writer Megan Whitmer

 Today's HerKentucky Story spotlights Lexington-based writer Megan Whitmer.  I had the pleasure of meeting Megan this spring when her brother married my cousin/BFF.  Megan is exactly the kind of person you'd hand-pick to add to your extended family -- smart, creative, cool, and unique.  And she has two of the cutest little girls I've ever seen!  I hope y'all enjoy getting to know Megan as much as I have! -- HCW

Megan Whitmer grew up in Lancaster, KY and currently lives in Lexington. She attended Transylvania University and the University of Kentucky, and holds a bachelor's degree in psychology. When she's not working on her novel, Megan spends her time playing dress-up with her two daughters, drinking absurd amounts of Cherry Coke Zero, and wishing someone would pay her to tweet.  

You can learn more about Megan on her blog, or follow her on Twitter.

Every time I tell someone I’m a writer, I get two questions: 1. A real one? 2. Have you written anything I might have read? (Answers: 1. No, I’m imaginary. 2. Probably not. Yet.) 

I’ve written three books. The first was in elementary school, a picture book called Honey I Flunked the Squids. The second was many years later, and so ridiculously unmarketable I don’t even want to tell you about it. My latest is the first with a real chance at being published. It’s a young adult fantasy called Between, and you can read the first couple of pages of it on my blog.

In case you don’t know, getting a book published isn’t as easy as Amazon would have you believe. 

1. You write a book. 
2. You send query letters to literary agents telling them about your book and asking them to represent your work. 
3. They say no. 
 4. You keep trying. You hear stories of people who query agents for a day before they find someone who loves their book. You hear stories of people who queried for months. You take comfort that some bestsellers were repeatedly rejected before finding an agent. You reread your book and convince yourself it’s crap. You read it again and call yourself a genius. 
5. If you’re lucky enough to find an agent who thinks your book is publishable, he or she will shop your book to publishers.
 6. Hopefully, an editor at one of those publishing houses will read it, love it, go through a painfully long process involving editorial boards and marketing teams, and then your book will officially be on its way to bookshelves. (Or not. There’s no guarantee that your agent will be able to sell your book to an editor. But we’re going to ignore that piece of reality for the sake of my mental health.) 

I’m currently hanging out in step four. There are nearly 350 agents who represent the kind of book I wrote. I queried about 50 of them before I decided to stop. 

After I finished Between, I spent six months reading some really incredible manuscripts, and I realized that my book was nowhere near ready. It needed so much work that a simple revision wouldn’t cut it. 

It needed an autopsy. I needed to take it apart and put it back together again, figure out what parts worked and what didn’t, and at that point, I did the unthinkable. 

 I deleted every word. 

I could’ve written a new book. After all, if you’re starting at page one, doesn’t it make sense to just write a brand new book? I have a few other story ideas I could’ve put my sweat and tears into, but I couldn’t let go of Between. I’m so in love with my characters, and I didn’t want to feel like I hadn’t done everything I could for them. 

So I wrote Between. Again. It took three months of around-the-clock writing. I deleted one character completely, changed the ending, had one of my most loved characters die, and amped up the kissing. (When in doubt, always amp up the kissing.) 

I thought about quitting at least twice a day. In the hardest moments, when my brain was completely broken and I was sure all my words were stupid, I questioned the point of it all. Between wasn’t getting many bites from agents. Young adult fantasy is the hardest genre to break into. Why was I sacrificing sleep, meals, and time with my family for a book that might not get me anywhere? 

Then I reached The End. For the first time, I feel like my book is really and truly complete. It’s everything it needs to be. 

You know what? Between might never land me an agent. But at this point, I know if it doesn’t get published, it’s not because I didn’t give it everything I had. It won’t be because I was afraid to start over. None of my books will ever make it to a bookshelf if I’m afraid of looking at a blank page.

HerKentucky Story: Krissie Bentley of LexRunLadies

Today, we're kicking off a new feature called HerKentucky Story.  We've asked friends, writers, and fellow bloggers to tell their stories about Kentucky life.  Today's story comes from Krissie Bentley, coordinator of LexRunLadies, a group of Lexington-based women runners.  

You can keep up with Krissie on Twitter (@krissieb) or on her blog, My Radical Commitment.  If you'd like to learn more about LexRunLadies, you can visit their website, Twitter (@lexrunladies), or their Facebook Group. , You can also email them here.

You know those people you see in your neighborhood? Those people who lace up their shoes, pack on their water packs, and run with blatant disregard for precipitation, temperature, or condition of sidewalks?

Yeah. I am one of those people.

I admit that I started running to lose weight, but that’s not why I still run. I keep running because of what running has given me. Not only do I pay more attention to my body and the changing of the seasons, I pay more attention to where I live, work, and play.
Sunrise in Midway
I have learned so much about Lexington and surrounding areas because I spend so much time on foot. When I run downtown, I find shops and restaurants that I return to when I’m clean and dry. I smell food and coffee as I run by restaurants that I return to at the end of my run. I like to explore areas on foot that I’m not familiar with and areas I know well. I pay more attention when I’m moving a little more slowly. Things look different when I’m not behind the wheel of a car.

Lexington also has an impressive trail system, including the Legacy Trail and the Brighton Rail Trail. Many of the roads in the Lexington area are lightly traveled and also fun to run. The area around Keeneland is one of my favorite places to run, not only because of the challenge of the course but also because I never know who I’ll come in contact with.
I ran across these guys in the area surrounding Keeneland.
Being a part of the running community has introduced me to new places to run outside of Lexington as well. Midway is a beautiful place to run. I have met up with friends to run their familiar routes in Louisville. I love to run the trails at Shaker Village in Harrodsburg. Because I am on the lookout for new places to run, I am frequently finding new places to explore.
From the top of a hill on a Shaker Village Trail

The running community in the Lexington area is thriving. I coordinate LexRunLadies and we are often out and about. I have met so many friends through this running group. I am frequently amazed at how strong and quick I can connect with someone while we’re out for a run. It seems like so many personal barriers just come down when we are running. The support, encouragement, and challenges I have felt from this community have changed the way I view myself and my strengths.

LexRunLadies at the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon, March 2012
We welcome and encourage anyone – ladies and dudes, as we call them – from the absolute beginner to the multiple marathoner. We meet at various locations in and around Lexington. You’ll find encouragement, feedback and answers to all sorts of questions, even the embarrassing ones. If you have ever thought about wanting to run and are interested in support, please reach out to us.