My Inspiration

For all the things my arms have ever held, the best by far is you.

Everyday I grow closer to the momma y’all deserve. Some days I stumble. Hell, some days I crash and burn. On those days especially, I am most grateful to have your beautiful hearts close. Grateful I can hug you and kiss you and snuggle you. Grateful you accept my apology when I know I’ve lost my temper. I aspire to be as giving and loving as you are.

You lift me up with the simplest little grin. Your big ole’ baby blues melt my heart every time. You are the inspiration for all the beauty I share with the world. I find the most joy in these ordinary moments that make up an extraordinary life. How did I ever get so lucky? 💛

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Bentonville O.G. ;)

Bentonville is a tiny little spot of heaven in the middle of nowhere. Undiscovered in its charm and small town uniqueness, a place I have always been honored to call home. In the last decade or so Bentonville has drastically changed! Northwest Arkansas’s metropolitan area is one of the fasted growing economies in the U.S. and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping!!!

It comes as no surprise to me that other people have noticed and love our beautiful little town. Located in such a lovely part of our country it’s so appealing in rich history and southern charm, what’s there not to love?! We’re so blessed with the benefits provided to our community by the many corporate headquarters located here. They help keep our country’s commerce running and fuel innovation throughout different industries for the future of the world! In turn making our community even more diverse and expansive as we move forward.

I recently had a friend, I’ve known most of my life, tell me she is coming to visit and wants to know what to do when they come! I was so happy to tell her about everything there’s to do here now! With all the growth and excitement I feel like sometimes I can’t even keep up with what all is happening! I got to the end of the conversation and realized I sounded like a travel agent for Northwest Arkansas! I get excited about sharing!!!

Most people leave their hometown wanting to seek bigger and better things. I feel like the bigger and better things have coming to me! I went to art school and then the art came here! How much luckier can I get?!

From the beautiful recently developed walking and biking trails that wind from Bella Vista all the way to Fayetteville to local breweries there is so much to experience in Northwest Arkansas! Pinnacle Hills, in Rogers, Ar has a beautiful sprawling outdoor mall that can keep you shopping until your hearts content…or your pockets empty! 😉 Bentonville’s 8th St. Market and the Art District is constantly evolving with innovative new businesses enriching our community with fine art, amazing food, and custom shops. Bentonville isn’t the only amazing little town here either! All of Northwest Arkansas is expanding at an astounding rate! Fayetteville Ar. is one of the top 5 best places in America to live, according to U.S. News & World Report in its annual “Best Places to Live” report. Every industry here is seeing a massive boom, adding to our ever growing Arkansas based businesses and communities!

What does that mean to the O.G.’s?! When I say O.G., being that I’m only 31 I can only go back so far, I know there are much more legit O.G’s! If any want to chime in please feel free to add a comment! I’d love to hear your stories! Locals have loved Bentonville before it started to evolve and become “cool”. We’ve watched how beautifully our sleepy little town has become a hub of new culture and interest from people around the world.

Growing up on Main St. and having relatives living all around downtown my entire life I have countless memories that make the Bentonville Square my favorite place! As a kid I remember spending time around the fountian downtown where only a few lawn chairs and a couple good ol’ boys playing folk music on Saturday nights filled the square. The farmers market was only about 10 booths and they only sold vegetables! When the coolest thing to do was walk around the Wal-Mart on Walton Blvd. and see ALL your friends doing the same!

Spending afternoons with my siblings at Bentonville Public Library, which at the time was located in the old Massey Hotel that is now Phat Tires Bike Shop, was my favorite space to pass time. The same place that sparked my love for art. Seeing a 3D model of Crystal Bridges with stars in my eyes. When I was just 11 years old, Crystal Bridges was just a concept living in the lobby of the library. I would see it every week and daydream about what it would be like. How it would open up my eyes to the world of art! I never imagined that I would get to experience it with my children! Literally puts the biggest a smile on my face! My love for Bentonville and the pride I have living here is grandiose! I absolutely love it and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

But, with this excitement and huge growth I also wonder how it will change our identity. There are locals opposed to the growth. They don’t like all the “newness” and change. I do not see change as a bad thing, uncomfortable at times-yes but, always an opportunity to become better in a new direction! That being said I wonder if we will lose our small town charm along the way? What will we become when there are 100’s of thousands of people living here….or even millions?! Will we get that big?! What will Bentonville look like? Will we lose our charm we are so dearly loved for?

All questions I am anxious to see play out. One thing’s for sure change is here and I am one to embrace it! ❤

*all photos are taken and copyrighted by Courtney Kitterman

Where Does Your True Happiness Lie?

Tell me all the things that make you smile! I mean really smile. The kind that you feel growing from within, finding its way to the corners of your mouth blooming like a flower upon your face. Bringing with it joy and usually, if not always, love.
It’s that in which our happiness lies. And isn’t it what we are all chasing? Happiness is a moment and not a destination. With the understanding of this statement I began to see the importance of these seemingly small moments of finding a smile creep across my face. Not small at all. Huge, grand, beautiful moments that make up a happy life. A life worth living. A life of smiles.

I find myself smiling with the warmth from a sunrise coming through my studio windows. In the thrill of creating something from nothing. With the infectious laugh from my son that fills a room. When the arms of my daughter wrapped around my neck from an unexpected hug while she tells me I’m the best mom ever. I smile from the nourishment of a meal lovingly cooked after a long day. In the excitement of bringing someone joy with an act of kindness. I love making the world a better place just by sharing the talents I am blessed with. Chasing a stunning sunset until all color has left the sky with stars in my eyes. Not a day passes that I do not find something within it that makes me truly smile. And with that I have to say that I have a happy life. Moment by moment is where my happiness lies. not a destination that is one day reached but, instead happiness in moments throughout the journey that make me smile the most.

I’ve found if it doesn’t raise a smile within you leave it. Life is too short. Life is too precious to spend it on things that aren’t meant for you. With that being said I also believe you should never regret things that make you smile, even if it no longer does. If for a blink of your eye you let something touch your soul enough to bring a smile to your face it was worth the thought and energy you put forth.

Chase all those smile things. Follow the sun. Cherish and give to the people you love. Happiness comes with the way you look at life. We all have sorrows that are deep and burdens to bear. We all have regrets and hardships that need dealt with but, in letting it fill your heart and weight you down you’ll never find yourself smiling at the things you love. Let things go and smile a bit more and in these moments you will find happiness.

ROOTS

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I am very much someone who snaps as many photos as the device I am using allows, sometimes to the point that it begs me to STOP! My cameras SD card cannot process the images fast enough or the app on my phone just completely shuts down….at which point I curse the ‘faulty’ equipment and decide I need a faster, more capable device that can keep up!!……Of course, I realize I just need to chill…(something I tell myself way too often).

I was a freshman at the University of Arkansas when my interest in photography sparked. I started with nature photography. Being here in the south, specially in the natural state, it’s quite easy to understand why I was most drawn to it! This was before cell phones had state-of-the-art cameras and digital photography was not something I was able to afford. I wanted to take photographs to stop time, preserve a moment, an emotional connection that I could create within an image. Studying classical art as my major, photography allowed me to be creative and expressive in a more direct way.

I had a class in black and white film photography that required me to buy a 35mm film camera. I needed to understand the basics, be at the heart of where photography originated. I wanted to develop the film and understand every aspect of it. Every step must be executed perfectly or you ruin it…and I did many, many times. I learned to love the process and how important the details are in creating a beautiful photograph. It’s such a beautiful art form from start to finish.

Landscapes, architecture, and things that would not change in the blink of an eye were my initial interests. I focused on stillness, lighting conditions, and composition. I was not confident enough to photograph people. I was either too shy or too worried that they wouldn’t like it.  I have since gained the confidence to photograph people and learned that the photos I am most drawn are when the subject is most natural and candid. Capturing real moments and expressions in people’s lives, that is what I really love.

Now, nearly every person has access to a device that can immediately create gorgeous images and print them without a thought to how it works. Even with my love for film photography I take full advantage of this technology. I love that I can take as many photos of my children as I want and capture them perfectly, instantly sharing it! I don’t have to wait to finish a roll of film, go to the dark room, and spend hours developing the photos to see if what I captured was beautiful or not.

That being said, I know I would not be as good if I hadn’t started on that old 35mm. I do appreciate the history of photography and the process a great deal but, I also really REALLY love what it has become! I am a self-proclaimed photo hoarder! I always have a camera on me ready to snap a photo at any second. I take photos every day. I document most of my life. I love photographing my children. I love watching them grow. I love sharing. I love sunsets…sunrise…street photography. I love photographing beautiful food….mainly just to show the people who take blurry washed-out photos of their over-cooked dinner every night what a real photo of beautifully cooked food looks like! Lol! I love constantly becoming a better photographer and growing as an artist.

What got me thinking and made me want to share the why behind my love for photography is a photo contest I recently entered. All the photos must be taken on a mobile device and there are 3 categories. This contest comes with the chance to win a newer, more ‘capable’ phone, further continuing my obsession!! (as she says with an evil grin).

For me, having my camera out capturing what I find beautiful enhances my experience. It doesn’t take away from my ‘moments’ or distracts me from enjoying it. I love being able to share the beauty I see.  I can’t imagine it not being part of my everyday life. Being creative grounds me and lets me express myself.

As I began to look through all the photos I have stored on my phone I realized I have over 10,000 images…remembering that I’ve only had this phone for about a year, I panicked a little and though “Never-mind, maybe I don’t really want a new phone after all!”

Luckily, I have a folder of only the best photos coming to a grand total of 2307 images. A number that is a bit easier to manage scanning through than a staggering 10,000. I decided to delete the rest! I should only keep the best ones anyway, right!? Why keep the others…but, I must say it was hard!! When you have endless storage and countless memories it’s real damn hard! But, if I’m not even willing to go through them it’s a sign I never will and don’t need them. Remembering that editing down is good and you don’t have to keep every image. A lesson I am constantly reminding myself. In a world of excess I want to only keep the best – the rest can go! As for the massive amount of photos stored on my computer……one mountain at a time!!! 😉

I love how photography has grown by leaps and bounds and I can’t wait to see where it goes next! I can’t wait to discover new ways of expressing myself and sharing the beauty of my southern world with others!

 

A Southern Momma on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day in the south is full of beautifully dressed ladies, perfect hair, delicious food, thoughtful gifts, and ornery little children doin’ the best they can to mind their P’s and Q’s! You DO NOT make momma raise her voice on Mother’s Day ya’ll!!!
Mother‘s Day always falls on the second Sunday in May and usually involves a church service full of motherly love and a feast afterwards! She should not have to lift a finger all day! She probably will because she can’t help it but, it’s your job to make sure she knows she doesn’t have to. A small token of appreciation showin’ your mama how absolutely amazing she is for putting up with your shenanigans all year-long!!
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In my 7 years as a mother to Abby and Asher, I have woken to flowers, breakfast, gifts and days full of love! Nothing is better than being surrounded by my beautiful babies excited to show me surprises they have been working on! Handmade gifts are my absolute favorite and I cherish them the most! Momma’s are always happy to receive flowers, yummy food, jewelry, cards, and anything crafted from the hands they helped create. What she wants most though, is acknowledgement. Acknowledgment of all the unspoken things she does for you that go un-noticed throughout the year. A simple heart-felt thank you, and a nice big hug will do just fine!
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I’m not only writing to talk about how you should shower your momma with gifts on Mother’s Day (Which you absolutely should!!!) but also to express all the reasons I am in love with being a mom. It is the most important part of who I am, sometimes to at the extent of wondering if I’m anything else.
Mom, mommy, mother, momma, ma, mum, mumsiethere are so many variations (more I’m sure I forgetting to mention) of the word that means the most to me. All of which, I will always answer to…despite sometimes wanting to drown it out after hearing it 500 times in a row!! I will never take being a mom for granted, always cherishing it more than any other word.
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Being a mother means so much more than just giving birth to a child. Caring for and loving another soul even before seeing their beautiful face is an indescribable feeling. Wanting to be there for every step, every new discovery, every triumph, and every fall, every heartbreak and moment of self doubt. Through the sadness and tears I want to be there to wipe them away and hold them tight. Being there to teach, discipline and encourage while filling their lives with laughter, huggles- a hug + a cuddle (a beautiful little word Asher decided is ours), and lots of kisses is just the beginning of what I want to give them.
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I am painfully aware I won’t be there for all life throws at them. My biggest job as a mother is to make sure that they are prepared for those moments. Hoping all the love, I have given them, whether it be caring or tough love has prepared them to be strong. I hope they learn how to overcome obstacles on their own. I want them to know I will be here to teach them respect, not just for others but for themselves.
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Remembering that my choices as a person are most evident in the reflection of my children. Revealing who I am in the moments that I think no one is looking. My children see me in all stages of motherhood, womanhood, and spend their lives watching me grow and evolve, just as I do with them. I know I won’t always do the right thing. I will fail and say the wrong thing at the wrong moment. I will make plenty of mistakes but I will apologize when I do. I will be unafraid to be imperfect.
Letting them see I am human, and don’t have all the answers. The way I handle myself and treat others in those moments is what matters most. Letting every experience, good or bad, be a stepping stone to being a better person. Not letting triumphs make me blind and failures drag me down. I will always be here for them with my whole heart. They come first. They mean the most. They are always the most loved. My world revolves around being the best Mom I know how to be and to understand this a process of learning as I go. I build on my success and failure. This it only a small part of what being a mother means to me. As I grow with my children my definition of being mom will continue to change and develop.
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The curious and adventurous people they have become inspire me every day. As an artist and photographer, I get so much joy using my art to capture every moment I can to express the beauty of their souls. It’s amazing to see so much of myself revealed in who they are, at the same time the uniqueness of their personalities shine through! Truly life’s greatest joy.
“Mama, I love you!”Mommy, watch what I can do!!!”I just need my mom.” Are the words I live for. The words I will never tire of hearing. I will cherish and honor being a mother every single day. I feel that Mother’s Day is not only about honoring your momma but, also acknowledging the gift of being a mother. What an amazing gift and truly incredible honor it is!

In a Southern Woman’s State of Mind

 

Hey y’all! I’m fixinto get real southern on ya! Here in the south there is never a lack of creativity when it comes to our use of words. Where sass and charm are a way of life and slow talkin’ is an art, the southern accent makes it irresistable. We have a sayin’ for just about every occasion and we know the value of catchin’ more flies with honey than vinegar. If you wanna work on your southern drawl just silence the last “g” of most words and you’ll fit right in!

There’s no such thing as strangers in the south, just friends you haven’t met yet. Greetin’ someone is almost always accompanied by a warm hug and some charmin’ phrase immediately making you feel welcome! You’ll hear things like: “how’s your mom’n’em?”, “gimme some sugah”, and “well, aren’t you cute as a button?!”

A southern girl is sweet as cherry pie and she can charm dew off the honey suckle. Believe me when I say, she’ll use it to get jus’ about anything she wants. As sure as water flows down hill she’ll make you happier than a dead pig in the sunshine!

When she says “oh honey”, “sweetheart”, or “darlin” it’s either the most loving term of endearment or a dire warning. Dare to cross her and she’ll insult you without you even knowin’ it. Her level of sarcasm shouldn’t be downplayed by her sweet southern drawl. “Aren’t you precious” and “bless your heart” are not what you want to hear come out of her mouth. If she’s real mad she’ll say; “you’re as slow as molasses going up hill in winter.” or “you’re dumber than a box of rocks.”

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When it comes to southern mamas no one holds a candle to the respect she demands. You’ll have another thing comin’ if you’re ever feeling too big for your britches and decide not to say “yes, ma’am and no, ma’am” when talkin’ to your mama….or any woman for that matter! Oh, goodness gracious, if you get above your raisin’ and back talk she’ll cut eyes so deep she won’t even need to say words. You’ll make her madder than a wet hen and if you think she’s gonna put up with that you got another thing comin’! When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!!!

There’s a difference between a “hissy fit” and a “conniption” and we don’t “have” them, we “pitch” em. She’ll tell ya to “hush your mouth and quit being ugly.” or she’ll “put a knot in your tail.”

Time is different here in the south. Saying goodbye always takes at least half an hour. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been there, it could be hours or days, she’ll always say “No need to run off. You just got here!” She’ll require no less than 3 hugs and somehow you will always end up taking home some kind of homemade leftovers. “You’re not gonna go home hungry.”

Bless your soul if you have to go back in because you forgot something….it all starts over. “Tell your mom’n’em hi for me”….more hugs…..”don’t be a stranger, come back any time hun!” “Call me when you’re home safe.” She’ll follow you out the door making sure you are completely out of sight before she’s done yellin’ bye 30 times from her front porch. “Don’t forget to call! love ya, bye hun!”

That’s just how its done in the south and it ain’t ever gonna change. Life just sounds so much better with a southern drawl and a little southern hospitality goes a long way! Chances are you’ll get more than just a lil’! I love all y’all! Come on back now ya hear! 😉

 

It’s Spring in the South Y’all!!!

There is so much to love about springtime in the south. After a long dreary winter the anticipation of spring is always an exciting time in Arkansas. March begins the season of rebirth and breathes life into everything!

As the days get longer the flowers awaken from their winter slumber. Beautiful drops of colorful buds peaking from their hiding places grab the warm of the sun and fills the air with intoxicating aromas. Backyards are covered in a sea of yellow daffodils and tulips of all hues. The blooming dogwood, magnolia, and cherry blossom trees are a sure sign that spring is here! Hints of brilliant green moss start to blanket the earth, covering the browns and grays of the landscape. Everything starts to come back to life, bringing with it colors only spring can give. 

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The excitement of my gorgeous magnolia tulip tree blooming is the highlight of March at our home! The beauty of its pink flowers swaying in the wind are magical. I look out my window to see finches, cardinals, blue jays, and woodpeckers who come from all around to sit in the limbs of her branches. A smile comes across my face at the sound of sweet chirping in the air. The happy exchange of seed for their beautiful songs brings with it a warm welcoming of old friends.

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Spring is the start of open farmer’s markets and evening concerts on the lawn of the downtown square. Hikes on the Ozark trails and barbecues at the lake fill the weekends with much-needed time outdoors. The simple pleasure of backyard gardens and the joy of first harvests make living in the south during spring beyond delightful!

Being southern is enriched by the changing landscape and all the beauty that comes with living in such a beautiful ever-changing place. Spring reminds me that there is always a time to start over, that the end of somethings is always the beginning of something new, and rebirth is the loveliest time to grow. Life has a way of happening whether you are ready for it or not. I’ve learned that you have to find the beauty in it and let it breathe life into you. Take things as they come and live life to the fullest! 

Spring in the south is my favorite time of year! There’s nothing like southern hospitality and I invite you with open arms to enjoy the beauty of the south though the eyes of a born and raised southern girl! Grab a glass of sweet tea and stay a while!

North is a direction, the South is a way of life!