Travel In Style: Gulf Shores

E42A722F-611A-415A-A09D-50DA890B7809.jpg

My family did our annual Thanksgiving vacation to Gulf Shores, AL. For the past seven years, we’ve joined three other families for a weeklong retreat at a house along the beach: A full week of eating, drinking, laughing, relaxing, and just detaching from our busy day-to-day routines. As we we’d all been looking forward to the trip, this year was a little different for us. My mom’s sister Phyllis passed away October 12; five weeks before Thanksgiving and seven weeks before her 64th birthday.

My aunt was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer a little over a year ago and unfortunately her journey throughout her treatments was quite painful. As we’re all still processing, there's been a major shift in our family dynamic. Personally, it’s been a challenge for me to truly sit with my emotions about it. She was known for the beautiful smile and sharp sense of humor, her love for pork chops and the Pittsburgh Steelers, her stubborn and rebellious approach on life. She’s been such a prominent member of my family, so not having her around has cast a faint shadow over all of us… so much that we’ve barely spoken about it since. Her presence was missed on our trip this year, but we managed to get through our week as best as we could considering.

   Phyllis Anne Phillips, November 1954 - October 2018

Phyllis Anne Phillips, November 1954 - October 2018

I got to spend some quality time with my siblings and niece. We went to the movies [twice], played Super Mario World, and had many candid conversations about life. I got to snuggle with my dad and catch up with my mom, though I could tell that she was working through some of her own emotions about my aunt’s transition. For the most part we all kind of did our own thing, but as a group we did come together for themed dinners, hosted by a different family member every other night: Sunday BBQ Night, Tuesday Fiesta Night, Thursday Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, and leftovers for the nights in between.  

Whenever I’m experiencing heavy emotions, I naturally isolate and submerge myself in work. Most of my week was spent trying to catch up on rest and shopping for a upcoming photo shoot I had the Sunday after our return. Though it was a challenge for me to fully relax, I was seduced by the serene atmosphere and encouraged to indulge a little. Every morning I sat silently on the porch, sipping hot tea, watching the sun move, and listening to waves crash. I spent only one day on the actual beach, so I took that time to bury my feet in the sand and do a bit of writing...mostly about my family.  

If you know me, you know that my family is my everything. Sometimes the families we are born into aren’t the most compatible with who we come to be as individuals. With my family...we have our different approaches to life and often don’t communicate very well, but our love for each other keeps us solid. With loss, often comes plenty of gain. My aunt’s passing may have been the shift we all needed to strengthen our relationships with each other. T’Phyl brought something special to each of our lives. For me, she was always very supportive of my creative work. She bought me a selfie stick (when it was still a thing) and a iPhone tripod to use for my blogging. I have her to thank for many things, but mostly for showing me how to live for myself. I relate a lot to her; being strong-willed, independent, and so very different from my siblings. As I’ve added another ancestor to my alter, I will continue to spend my life LIVING and honoring her spiritual guidance. This Thanksgiving tradition is one I hope to continue for years to come. It is the one time of the year I get to travel with my entire family and I am honored to be able to have that privilege.  


Scroll down for some highlights from our family trip.        

Fall Back

Shirt & Jeans: Madewell, Photographed by Me.

Fall back to spring forward
Losing my mind, to find peace
Losing my heart, to find love
Losing my relative, to find family

Falling back without a net
Springing forward without direction
No map for this route
Free-flowing guidance by the grace of my spirit


Craving for me to live
Waiting for me to let go
Granting me permission to fall...

My Divinity

Top: H&M by way of Buffalo Exchange, Jeans: River Island by way of ASOS, Shoes: Puma

Photography by Scott Simon of iHeartNOLA.com

I am divine…

Even when I can’t seem to smile or face myself in the mirror,

Even when I can’t stop my tears from flowing,

Even when my nerves shake me crazy

I am divine…

See, my divinity is a reflection of my highest self.

The glow from within seeps out through my sores.

I am divine because I know that I am…

Even when I don’t see myself, I know that I am SEEN

Even when the pressure is weighing me down, I know that I am lifted.

Even when I cant seem to steady my breaths, I know that I am breathing…

When I see myself, I see my divinity.

I find strength in my sensitivity

and exude my femininity

with a natural affinity.

Standing tall in my presence,

You can feel my essence.

My energy is effervescent.

My glow is iridescent.

My truth is my freedom.

This body is my kingdom.

My heart is like gold.

I am a beauty to behold.

When I see myself, I see my divinity…

And I wonder if this world is ready for me…

-C.M.Hamilton

Travel In Style: Foxfire Ranch

This month I joined my writing group for a weeklong Writer's Retreat. There were five of us, in much need of a getaway to rest our bodies, expand our minds, and conjure up some creative flow. We joined at a charming countryside ranch in Waterford, Mississippi, called Foxfire Ranch.

This is a 100yr old, black family-owned ranch. The Hollowell Family opened their beautiful property to us, allowing plenty of room to relax and recharge. Y’all, this place was so perfect! Acres upon acres of ancestral land, with a stable of about five horses, delicious home-cooked country meals served three times a day [each day we were there], adorable wooden cabins, scenic hiking trails, nearby city excursions, coated in superb southern hospitality. It was divine timing how this trip presented itself to me and the rest of the group. We each had pending projects we were working on, but felt a bit strained in our regular environments; such that we just needed a breather. And not even just to write...but to reconnect with ourselves and be more present in the moments. This was the first of a two-week retreat, so I'm looking forward to part two in a few a weeks. 

 

Here are some photos and a video to recap my trip...

NAVE8675[1].JPG
5B915B6B-0ABB-41DC-A227-4AE5939E8A23.JPG
IMG_5681.jpg
IMG_5727[1].JPG