from the mitten to the boot and back

Ann Arbor is cheerful and upbeat, there’s an electricity here. The University of Michigan is intertwined with the city and they depend on each other. In part, it’s powered by the students; the twenty-somethings buzzing to and fro with a furious mixture of excitement and anxiety. There’s either no money in our pockets or too much of dad’s. We’re confronted by our futures. It could be in 5 minutes from now, following the call of a grande soy vanilla latte  – or directing the course for years in advance, to major in English or Communications because “at least you can get a job with that”.

DSC_8862 copy
“Townies” as we call the natives of Ann Arbor could be described as hip and well educated with a general acceptance that driving around this city is hell from September to May. Some are a bit eccentric, but they certainly add to A2’s flavor. Because of the University’s international scope, lots of people are drawn here from all over the world.

DSC_8881 copy
Anyone who has an interest in anything can probably find it in Ann Arbor. The community and University combined offer a club for almost anything and activities from rock climbing, to roller derby, nerdy but cool gaming places and record stores to a botanical garden. Obama likes hanging out here and Madonna went to UoM for a little while – her daughter goes here now!!

DSC_8883 copy
The truly, truly beautiful thing about college, and specifically University of Michigan is – we have this cradle of Ann Arbor, it surrounds us in comfort and offers the tools we can use to find ourselves. It is soft here, and welcoming. People are happy and helpful.

DSC_9325 copy
Mid December overcast skies in Michigan, the trees have laid their leaves down and they are long gone from their raked piles on the side of the street. We barely hesitate, we slip on our gloves and our long, black, puffy parkas to head out into the cold. Although I know the routine, every year it seems I forget about the biting wind and the ever present chill that cannot be quenched by layers of clothes or artificial heat.

DSC_9317 copy
I was staying with Nikki who graciously took me in for a few weeks when I came back from Italy. (roomies4lyfe) Thanks to this girl for always being there. Ride or Die. A truth speaker and often times my moral compass. The bigger the hoop earrings the better. I could say a lot but I’ll spare her. Days are spent pretty quiet – we stream tv shows on the internet and always have good talks over smoke breaks.

DSC_9328 copy
And dearest Gaby who gives the warmest hugs lives two doors down. Within one block, four houses belong to my closest friends – a one minute walk connects most of the people I hang out with.

DSC_8892 copy

DSC_9082 copy
This is our little baby Zilla, she’s two years old now, but she has the small stature and spirit of a kitten. By that I mean she’s pretty crazy and basically a ball of cattitude who is very loving in her own way when she chooses to be.

DSC_8521 copy
By the time night falls, we pick ourselves up, and finally put ourselves together. With our energy wound up all day in books and working food service part time, after dark is our time to shine.

DSC_8688 copy
DSC_8903 copy
DSC_8904 copy
DSC_9144 copy
DSC_8901 copy
Once the night’s supplies have been gathered and we are prepped to go, our troop begins to fall in line. Jackie, Joe and Théo come in from Division, across the parking lot behind Nikki’s house – the silliest folk I know who all have sharp wit, are keen on cuddling and cooking, and are the most generous with their love and resources.

DSC_8667 copy
DSC_8685 copy
DSC_8679 copy
DSC_8653 copy
DSC_8645 copy

DSC_8899 copy
After a lil goofing off, we go from Jefferson around the corner to Division where my friends were hosting Théo’s birthday party. The party started with all of our closest friends. I heard many people say “if this is all that show’s up, I’ll be fine with that”. We are all in senior year, we have found our niches, our family, our spots. A night with the people you already know trumps a night of walking around looking for a party big enough to crash.

DSC_8556 copy
DSC_9123 copy
The thing about college is that sometimes Crystal Palace is your only option, and that isn’t okay but it has to be.

DSC_8936 copy
DSC_8919 copy
DSC_8941 copy
DSC_9002 copy
DSC_8907 copy
DSC_8970 copy
DSC_8935 copy
DSC_8963 copy
I can tell you with certainty that Taylor Swift’s “Shake it off” is streaming on someone’s iphone through the speakers to get us all in the mood to dance – it works every time.

DSC_9015 copy
DSC_9125 copy
Leaving my signature.

DSC_9106 copy
DSC_8505 copy
DSC_8564 copy
DSC_8565 copy
DSC_8543 copy
DSC_8530 copy
DSC_8606 copy
DSC_8583 copy
DSC_9040 copy
DSC_9030 copy
The best thing about my friends is how much variation we have amongst us – we all differ in background or race, career path, sexual orientation, major, and beliefs. My friends all have different perspectives that help me to understand and care more about the world outside of my own experience. They are all strong willed, I know that all of my friends will succeed in any endeavor they chase. I expect they will all go far. Nikki’s mom spent a night with us once and after observing our interactions, with heartfelt tears welling in her eyes, she compared us to “a good minestrone” with lots of different ingredients that each have a taste of their own and compliment each other. I admire my friends for their passions in human rights and for tirelessly putting acceptance and love into a world that is so often unforgiving. I am blessed to be surrounded by folks who support me to the max. They not only love me for who I am, but they helped make me this way. It’s people who make a place feel like home.

DSC_8697 copy
We carry on from porch to porch around the neighborhood, meeting friends of friends which automatically makes them friends too. We let go, we drink and laugh and probably forget a lot of the details.

DSC_8621 copy
DSC_8719 copy
Ciao Bella! DSC_8722 copy
DSC_8730 copy
DSC_8762 copy
DSC_8808 copy
DSC_8771 copy
DSC_8773 copy
DSC_8738 copy
DSC_8751 copy
DSC_8732 copy
DSC_8793 copy
The holidays bring about ugly sweater themed parties to celebrate the end of a semester. Peppermint patty shots are  peppermint schnaps poured down the hatch, followed up with chocolate syrup to chase it down.

DSC_9155 copy
DSC_9139 copy
Walking down liberty towards main st we head to the German bar, Heidelberg, then a cab ride across town to Blue Lep.

DSC_9163 copy

DSC_9174 copy
DSC_9202 copy
DSC_9222 copy
DSC_9263 copy
DSC_9133 copy

DSC_9271 copy
DSC_9278 copy
DSC_9305 copy  DSC_9282 copy

And he’ll probably hate me for putting this in here, but since leaving Italy in November, my boyfriend Peppe has been stuck behind a screen. 4,000+ miles is really far and difficult but we’re going strong and totally excited for the next big adventure: Peppe in America! Coming soon!

Screen shot 2014-11-19 at 4.42.32 PM copy


dam good

DSC_7093 copyLast week I had a delightful treat in the form of this lovely lady, Erin. A fellow Michigander and photojournalist, Erin was staying in Florence for a week and a half with her family. I love it here so so much, but I can’t express how refreshing it is to have a familiar face around.

DSC_7112 copyI met Erin through University of Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. We were taught as photojournalists to “ask for forgiveness, not permission.” So basically – investigate, take risks, use your camera as an excuse to apologize later.  We took a walk around the south side of the Arno just to catch up and hopefully find some photo-worthy adventures.

DSC_7113 copyAfter a panino at Santo Spirito and having a creepy old man take pictures of us, we reflected on the benefits of being small cute girl photographers. We walked around for a while and finally something caught our eyes! Like, how did he get down there?

DSC_7120 copy

There were a bunch of people sunbathing out on a dam in the middle of the Arno. The perfect, unsuspecting subjects to capture. So OBVIOUSLY we had to figure out how to get there.
DSC_7131 copyThe point of entrance wasn’t obvious from the street so we had to peak over the wall a few times to find the best place to hop over. Climbing over a brick wall and down the side got us where we wanted to go, with only minor setbacks due to too-tight pants.

DSC_7136 copy

DSC_7134 copy

DSC_7139 copyAnd so we were released to roam and capture an array of different folks who flocked here: the sunbathers, couples, families, kids, fishermen and other camera-wielders.

DSC_7152 copy

DSC_7155 copy


I climbed out out and sat on the far edge of the log beneath a deer statue made of sticks and wire.  My legs dangled over the water and I took a moment to set my camera down and take in my surroundings. It’s times like this when I consciously acknowledge that I’m actually here. When I feel the weight of such an incredible opportunity, the realization of a dream setting in, it’s nearly incapacitating. I can’t even estimate how old the ground is beneath me, how many feet have walked it before me. The buildings stretched along these streets have seen so much, their presence seems to impart a type of wisdom I can’t describe. I said to Erin, “I could seriously fall into this river and die right now and be happy.” Well duh, It’s not that I want to, but it’s that I’m so content and I’ve come so far.

DSC_7207 copy

DSC_7213 copyThe thing about photographers is we actually hate having our pictures taken. It’s necessary to be a little sneaky but I loved this snap of Erin. That Tuscan sun gives a special type of glow.

DSC_7216 copy These girls were taking pictures of each other in a senior portrait sort of way. I offered to take a photo of the two of them together on their camera, in exchange for one on my own.

DSC_7223 copy

And then there were these guys, couldn’t have been more than 15 years old drinking beer wearing beer shirts. It doesn’t really get much better than this.

DSC_7230 copy

There’s nothing more satisfying than taking a walk with no destination and discovering such interesting places. Thanks to Erin for her wonderful company and for bringing a little mid-western warmth from the mitten.

***Check out Erin’s seriously amazing photography at****