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Twenty-Eight – Happy Birthday to Me

Some things never change – like my love for old time jazz. Whether it’s on the record player or in my AirPods as I clean the kitchen, I sway to the beats of yesteryear. But some things do change. Like my perspective in how different of a post this feels from the previous years…It is with a new perspective I sit down to write this, my annual birthday, post.

Today I am 28.

And today I find myself in the midst of a year known for one thing: perpetual change.

I don’t think any of us anticipated what 2020 would bring us…A worldwide pandemic. Significant job loss & upheavals & disruptions to industries we once took for granted. There’s ongoing & horrifying racial & sexual injustices. There are opinions & politics. Or how about the cancel culture rampaging our social feeds, seeping into our living room conversations and ricocheting throughout our night’s stress-induced dreams. Yet,


I have been encouraged by so much personal growth.
I’ve also been privately devastated by so much loss.


I likely won’t have the perfect words, but I’d like to share.

Not for sympathy, not for drama, not for hoo-rah inspiration.

But more so from a freeing concept I’ve been holding onto these many months.

A concept from my church’s pastor shared earlier this year: we can hold two truths at the same time, one in each hand – Joy & Grief.


(If you’re on desktop, listen to my guilty pleasure song while you scroll)


St Louis wedding photographer and female business owner - Pattengale Photography

For me, the year of being 27 holding grief looked like:

  • Dangit: Watching friends and family mourn the death of a loved one, that because of Covid, they were 1) unable to say goodbye to and/or 2) attend the funerals. I’ve also shared in the grief and gulped down the fear that bubbled up when the term “diagnosed” enters the conversations.

Frederick Chopin's museum in Mallorca, Spain and the streets of Barcelona by Pattengale Photography

  • Career-wise: This year’s projections for my career were going to be huge. In February, the feelings of, “I made it” were palpable. To be blunt, 2020 was going to be my first 6-figure year. I don’t share this to brag or to ask for sympathy. But more so because I want to write this down for myself: if it was attainable once, it will be so again. March changed that timeline and that possibility for this year, but not for forever.And while that still stings on some days and that yes, in my humanity, in the last 6 months I’ve questioned my worth, my passion, my talent, my commitment, my ability to get up and try again, my goals, and my outlook, I have also tasted, in tangible ways, what it means to hold onto Hope. I have had unforeseen opportunities come because my calendar had been cleared. There’s no denying it.

St Louis wedding photographer traveling to the Maroon Bells in Aspen Colorado and working from home

  • The Takeaway: In light of this and my personal journey, I have also come to believe: I am do not become a victim from my circumstances, but only when I give up Hope. For a huge chunk of this year, I (and so many of my friends & colleagues) lost the social permission and the ability to do my job. I physically have to be with people in order to photograph them. Weddings – you know, the events that often brings large amounts of people together – have to happen for me to get paid, produce content, and stay current in the market. There have been so many tears, so many conversations, so many speechless moments as I’ve grieved with our couples planning weddings in the midst of this pandemic. My world crashed around me one day when, earlier this spring, we needed to consult with & hire legal counsel for a particularly difficult circumstance. That whole crashing down part? It happened again a few weeks later, when I received my first-ever 1 star review that attacked my character & integrity from someone whom I’d never met or served before. We talk often about, and even praise, being open minded. It’s been hard, but I’m choosing to believe that even in all of this, this has all been for my good, for my growth, for my confidence, & for my ever-expanding perspectives.
    I am genuinely grateful.

For me, the year of being 27 holding Joy looked like:

  • Traveling the world: My 27th year held so much joy with travel. Kentucky with my family. Colorado in our friend’s personal small plane. SPAIN with my sister. Mexico with Stephen. Richmond, Virginia with some sweet couples. Atlanta & Florida for a friend’s wedding. And then Thailand for our anniversary (landing just days prior to lockdown).

Traveling wedding photographer travels to Port De Soller, Mallorca Spain

  • Health-wise: I’ve made it up to 115 pounds (I was 103 when we got married), I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, and I average 8.5 hours of sleep each night.For those who didn’t know, last spring I battled some significant health challenges that made daily activities a challenge (I hid a heart monitor under my clothes for two weddings & engagements last year) and relationships more emotional than usual. I had been diagnosed, then misdiagnosed, then not diagnosed at all with an auto-immune disease (to be clear, I DO NOT have one). The real issue? Stress. I’m freaking proud of myself that I’ve been able to figure out a sustainable & (mostly) predictable way of balancing things out that keep my stress low. Despite the whole ‘rona situation, I have been thriving.
  • Investing in myself: I completed a second year investing in a business & mindset coach who helped me grow & spark joy in so many areas of my life and business it’s CRAZY TOWN. I was challenged to stop playing small. I made decisions from a position of empowerment & confidence instead of fear & unknown. I worked through my ish. It’s an ongoing journey, but good lord if it weren’t for this last year being coached, I LITERALLY would not be saying yes to the opportunities before me right.now. because I would have dismissed them as “distractions” instead of “open doors.” (more on this later!)


  • Kodak: This pup. Oh how 1 year makes all the difference!! He is the chill, cuddly dog we always wanted. I miss the crap out of how teeny-cute-omg-poofyfluff-face he was, BUT wow so grateful he’s older now (& how I’ve trained him to model for the camera!!!!).
  • Community: This has been a grief and a joy this year. Since moving & living in St Louis, we’ve now gone through almost TWO entire sets of friends because of them physically moving away or going through the natural changes of availability & bandwidth of becoming parents. We get it. I mean, for a hot 4-month-second we moved away from them too. But this has been a significant emotional challenge for me. We aren’t ready to have kids yet, but apparently everyone else was, ha! In 2019 alone, I knew thirty (30) friends who became mommas. The blessing in the community department, is that I’ve also been able to connect with other local female business-owners, making Saint Louis feel a more friendly and familiar than it has in the last 4 years. I am grateful.

Pattengale Photography husband and wife duo travels to Florida for intimate outdoor wedding

There’s certainly more that I could share, but I’ll leave you (& myself with this):

There is much yet to be done, much to learn, and much to continue to become.

That despite the change around me and the discomfort that can come from the unknown, I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

I have as much time as I need.

This is for my greatest growth.

And, the best is yet to come for me and for you, friend.


Happy Birthday to yourself, Tara. This next year? –>

–Tara M

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I’m Tara


As a young girl, I kept a journal and then when Stephen and I got married, we wrote our vows into a journal we shared as a couple. On this lil’ corner of the internet, I want to invite you into our virtual journal’s stories and musings.  I hope you’ll find encouragement and inspiration along the way. You can expect a mixture of our recent photography work & adventures, lifestyle tips, current obsessions, and personal stories of us behind the scenes too! I’m so glad you’re here!

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