All of the Details

I am an artist, most recently an installation artist: a genre of mostly three dimensional works that are site-specific and seek to transform a space. I tend to work in interactive art, so that viewers become participants in the experience. They are invited to play, touch, and experiment with pieces to complete it. Often the piece is not complete without their manipulation.

That said, this wedding has been a big art project for me.

Eighteen months of carefully curating pieces to form vingettes on tables, little scenes that transform the space and invite play. This is the work that I do at my exhibitions, often inviting a juried collection of artists to contribute to the greater scene.

So, I’ve handmade a lot of things – so.many.details. Like collecting coasters from all our favorite breweries in Michigan and Wisconsin, finding “badge” pins for the guys to use as boutonnieres, selecting field guides from antique mall, vintage pick up stick games, giant frame for a photo booth, painting signs like old summer camps to direct people, hand making a six page field guide to tying the knot for the invitation… I clearly love it. (Which is great, because if I didn’t, I would go crazy.)

Here’s a little preview of the stuff to come in the next couple days.

Spa in a jar for the ladies.


Kits for the bathrooms.


The favor and “camper registration” table where we’ll hand out flashlights and offer vintage postcards for people to “sign in with.” The vase will have baby’s breath in it, and the bowl will be filled with flashlights.


The bar scene, outlined on our kitchen table.


The menu, with food from Pigs N Eatin food truck.

And so much more! A post with all the details will follow.

Wedding Festivities

It’s been AWESOME celebrating with friends and family before the wedding. We are so incredibly thankful to everyone who has been there for us – whether it is planning and throwing a shower or party, making cute decorations for us, helping us see the wedding invitations, taking us out for beer or wine, and everything in between. 

Here’s a collection of photos of the parties in the last few months! 

Wedding shower with the Amini’s, hosted by Shala and Karen: 





Look at that cake! And those details!! 

Wedding Shower with friends, hosted by Ema:

(This invite. Oh my God. Ema is a Photoshop wizard.) 


Ema made us an AMAZING ketuba for our home. We’ll sign it after the wedding ceremony. It includes parts of our ceremony and is designed with old maps! Just love it! 





Chad’s Bachelor Party, in Minaqua, WI. 

Pictures coming soon. 

My bachelorette party, hosted by Audrey, in Madison. 


We went out for pedicures the morning of the party. Liam loved the massage chair.  


Then had beers and brats at the new Beirgarden close to our house. 


The whole night was a surprise to me, which I loved. We hung out at my friend Rachael’s house, then got sushi, and danced the night away. 




Such a incredible group of empowering, beautiful women. So fun! 

We’re just days away from the wedding now. Relaxing on the beach, hiking, and reading! 

Official

Oh, to put into words our wedding coming up this week. This day when we *officially* become a bigger family. 

Those that read this often or know me well know that I am sentimental. And that is me. That is why I have a tattoo of a heart of my wrist – I wear my heart on my sleeve. 

Next Saturday is the day that we become a family of three, and Liam, my beautiful son, is walking me down the aisle. 

We have been a small family, he and I. 

Years of love and years of grand adventures. 

I say this often – adventure. Because that is how we embrace life. Finding the ordinary joys. And loving it. Appreciating it. 

The way he would wake up and in a momentary fit of rage, would throw his pacifier and red monkey out of his crib. Then, immediately regretting the loss of his dearest friends, would cry  for them. I’d get him, and his face would still be wrinkled and we’d just cuddle. 

Dressed as a knight, storming the great castles of the co-op. Sometimes we’d be cowboys and robbers. And I remember how I surprised him with a real horseback riding lesson in Wisconsin Dells and he was so excited he didn’t even speak for the whole hour. His jar dropped, speechless in the slow walking movement of Banjo, the horse. 

Climbing trees and conquering the world, we did it all. We were partners as he went to Edgewood classes with me, attending his first college orientation at the age of four, because Mom was going back to school (and couldnt afford a sitter). We’d get out of an exam together, after he had colored quietly for two hours, and we’d make a mad dash for the playground. 

It’s been us. 

And while I occasionally dated, I never really introduced Liam to anyone, or at least in any official capacity. Never wanted a person to go in and out of his life, knowing he was watching me, knowing he would learn about love from me. I wanted it to be secure. To be safe. 

And then I met Chad. And it was so different. 

It felt right, intuitive, right from the start. I’ve said this before, but Chad and I knew by our fourth date that we’d get married someday. It was shortly thereafter that I introduced Liam to Chad. We built an epic fort that night, ordered pizza, and we watched Spiderman under the blankets. 

Liam embraced the idea of “Mom’s boyfriend” in the best way a six year old could – by teasing me about it. “Mom LOVES Chad!” It was the most embarrassing insult he could muster as we played Monopoly together, trying to shake me out of buying more houses. 

Just like Chad and me, it was intuitive with Chad and Liam. So easy to joke. So easy for Chad to head out to the garage and ask Liam if he wants to come out and help him fix the bikes. For Nerf battles to ensue. For silly bedtime stories to happen. 

Parenting is so hard. Definitely the best, but the hardest thing I have (or will) ever do, I think. And stepping into a child’s life at the age of six and assuming a new role is hard. Not having those years of learning the nuances of this tiny person, the memories that bond you, the tricks of the trade that help with bedtime or angry moments. He became a stepparent, and did it, has done it, with such grace. 

We have new adventures now. The two of them have their own adventures now. New pictures and stories of their own. 

Laughs and jokes that they own together. Share together. And it’s so beautiful. Truly I never imagined this. Our tiny family has grown.

Liam picks up Chad-isms, and makes the same jokes at the dinner table. I can see the influence, and I am truly, deeply proud of what this has become. Letting this person in, embracing the much larger adventure of love itself. 

I wasn’t just Mallory. We were always package deal. Liam and me. Nuances, and sentimental hearts, cowboy hats, and camera in hand. And I see why I never fully let another person I dated in – it was so special, and someone had to see the magic of raising a kid. Not the burden. Not the hardship. Because we, in our laughter and knight costumes, have a special connection. Chad saw that, and we saw the magic in him. And we chose each other. 

Liam and I have had so many adventures. So many trips. Sword fights and play dough castles. 

We’ll still have our photos, our adventures, our jokes and laughs. Our cuddles and stories late at night. Our birthday trips to Chicago, and I’ll happily pretend to be every other character in the Mission Impossible/Indiana Jones drama that he’s concocted in an afternoon. It’s us, and that will never go away. But now I consider us lucky that we have Chad – an excellent smore maker, soccer player, fort builder, and StepDad. We are a bigger us. 

This week, before the ceremony in front of our family and friends, we will have a private one, with only us, where we will honor this moment. Share our promises together, and respect this big day, where we officially become a family of three. 

Later, Liam will walk me down the aisle, hand in hand, and after we are proclaimed husband and wife, the three of us will walk down together. A new family. A bigger family. 

In our promises to love and commit to each other, I am so thankful for all that we have had. Because it all brought us here, on the shores of Lake Michigan, saying ‘I do’ to this. 

A hike in the Woods

Devil’s Lake has become more than a state park to me: it’s become a second home in the summer. 

I recently organized all of our photos over the years, taking those that had collected in various places – external hard drives, social media accounts, old cameras, and phones – and stored them on Google Photos. One of those projects where you start with one folder and find yourself blinking at the screen hours later, lost in the work. 

Photography is often criticised as taking one out of the moment, but for me it connects the present to the past. It allows me to remember, and, as memories shift and fade, this is very important to me. 

Life gets so busy that the days slip by, so photography (and reading) help me slow it down. Seeing things, appreciating things. Remembering. 

We recently drove to Devil’s Lake for our West Bluff Hike. It’s a four mile loop on the west side of the lake, and we’ve been doing it since Liam was two. Those first years he did it we’re very slow, but he did it. I let him do it all, never carrying him, guiding him as he packs his own backpack with snacks and a water for himself, and we always take breaks when needed. In those beginning days, it would take four hours to go four miles, but it was amazing. Liam climbing rocks half the size of him, and despite the distance, four miles for a two year old, he’d marvel at every caterpillar, stick, and landscape along the way. And while I may have been tired at the end of the day, he’d pull my hand to get up, to run to the “mountain” hill and play hide and seek. 

We started taking photos at the West Bluff trail sign, and since we moved so many times over the years (6 times in four years), this became our growth chart sign. 

Liam, age two

Liam, age three

Age four

Age six, with his friend Bjorn

Age seven

Age eight. 

I’m not entirely done organizing, and still have to find our fifth year photo, but I love this photo journey. 

And I love looking at all of our adventures and Chad joining us, as he brings so much to our family. We are so lucky to have him. 

Here’s our most recent trip. 

Five days until we leave for the wedding vacation, as we’ve been calling it. Packing books for the road, extra towels and beach toys, wedding dress, framed menu, and the rest of the twenty boxes for the big day. 

We’re excited, for this will be one of the greatest adventures of our life together. 

Summer Nights and Long Walks

11pm and we’re settling down, Liam long asleep, and the fireflies dancing in the yard. 

Summer is here and we have found our swing. It’s the constant balance of rest and rushing, where we finally collapse after the sunset. The full moon shines through the window. 

There is peace. There is a calm. And it feels so right to settle into this groove. 

This past week we went to the Monona carnival and fireworks show on the 4th of July. Riding our bikes there and back, it was five miles. Liam’s getting to know the streets, learning when to turn and where to avoid the big hills. 

We love this neighborhood – where the houses are all different, the trees are big and shade the streets, and people are always out gardening, walking dogs, or saying hello to each other. It’s so close to Lake Monona and all the restaurants and shops we love. 

This carnival was fun as always, and I love to trace these memories of every year we’ve been there through the cheap prizes you can win, cotton candy and hot dogs sold, and the hum of the old kiddie roller coaster. 

Thankfully, Chad goes on the rides with Liam that I cannot handle. He’s a trooper. 

This was I’d be game for, but who are we kidding: it’s 3 tickets to ride it and we don’t need to spend $9 for all of us to go on it every year.

Besides, who would take the pictures? 

We rode home and headed to our friends Chris and Angies’s house for a barbeque. They just bought their first home on the west side of town and it’s gorgeous. The back yard is like a wooded campsite – big and full of native plants, hops, and now their baby chickens. 

We headed back to the Monona area later that night. This time we walked, blankets and chairs in tow.

We got there just in time. 

I’ve never been one for fireworks, but this place is special. Lay on your back in the grass, lagoon next to you, baseball field nearby, fireflies all around, and it’s like you’re in a dream. The fireworks shoot off and fall, so close to you that it feels like it’s raining lights. The ground rumbles. Ooohing and aaaahing like my Mom did, and we reach over to each other during our favorite ones, drawing attention to the pops in the sky. 

We walked home, regretting our flip flop shoe choices, but talking and laughing about who would be the last one, the rotten egg, in the house. 

Between biking and walking, Liam went ten miles that day, and I am so proud. He’s so strong in spirit and in heart. 

He’s an adventurer, and he’s my boy. And I am so proud of the memories we call our own, the streets we know, and the blisters we earn in our flip flops. 

The Decision

Before I start, I should add that I don’t share this news lightly. It’s something I’ve considered for many years, watching the days on the calendar, watching the years, all the while knowing the possibilities on the horizon… 

I have a breast cancer gene. One that my.mother most likely had, one that I carry with her memory. It’s not the most common one, the one that we’ve heard about – made famous by Angelina Jolie and her decisions to remove her breasts. But it’s not great. It’s called chk2. That, paired with the high family risk, leaves me with a “high risk” or 50/50 chance of getting breast cancer. The average woman’s risk is between 10-13% Nationwide. The risk of a person getting breast cancer before the age of 45 is below 3%, and yet my mother got it at 37. 

I met with a geneticist last summer, who administered a 9 panel genetic test. (I had postponed it for insurance reasons and because I feared that I would have it and this would have the pre-existing condition on my report.) Two weeks later, we found out what we had suspected. It was t a fluke that my mother had cancer. It was predestined. Written in the stars, or in her genes, however you want to look at it. 

I was assigned to the top doctors at the Carbone Clinic here in town, specifically to a team of women that are at the top of the field, know their stuff, and are funny as hell. (I don’t know how they do it, deal with cancer and somehow leave me smiling. I feel lucky to have them.) 

They told me my chances. Told me that I need to alternate 3d mammograms and MRI’s every six months until I decided, when the time was right, to perhaps have a prophlactic double mastectomy. In time, I should also remove my ovaries, as this particular gene also raises my chances for ovarian cancer to high risk levels. They cannot screen for ovarian cancer as easily, and with the risk being so high, they fear they wouldn’t be able to find anything until it was too late. 

So, today I went in for another mammogram. It’s fine, and I’m getting used to it, I suppose. Another test, learning the hospital like the back of my hand, another round of waiting, another appointment. 

I consider myself so lucky that I CAN explore these options. That I have health insurance, that they cover these appointments. I’ve seen the pre-insurance bills, and the genetic test was nearly nine thousand dollars alone. I haven’t paid a dime. I consider myself lucky that I have the privilege of learning the hospital floor, able to read pamplets of new information, walk the halls to the next appointment, and barely look up.  I know many women carry fears of cancers growing, but are unable to confront these due to insurance or money issues. As awful as it all is, I am so lucky. 
I see this. I know this. Every six months, I wear this fear on my back, holding my breath that they will have news. I know what this waiting is. I know what that world looks like. One year ago, they found three tumors in my left breast and told me to wait six months for another MRI. I waited, trusting my doctors, but waited knowing that the tumors could grow inside me. Knowing that the next appointment could change everything. Thankfully, two tumors developed into cysts and the other is one that we can still watch. 

I watched this fear in my mother as she waited. Watched as we waited for the results, every six months. Every three months. Blood tests, cat scans, MRI’s. Watching, waiting, watching, all the while swallowing the inevitable fact that it was only a matter of time. 

I cannot do that. I don’t want to live like that. Watching, waiting, watching. 

The team of doctors have told me that it’s my choice. You have a 50/50 shot, they say. We have you on close watch, they say. If it comes, we’ll remove it right away, they say. But I worry that, like my mother, they will catch it early and it will rear it’s head again. Bigger, stronger, harder, and it will take me away. 

The reality of my situation is this: in one years time, I will have my breasts cut off. I will have reconstructive surgery. I will reduce my chances of breast cancer to 5%. I will turn 34. 

It’s a major surgery. It’s a major healing time. 

But it’s better than this fear that I carry.  It’s better than thinking I only have a few years left, which is what I’ve been thinking for the past fifteen years. I’ll get cancer in my thirties and that’ll be it. This is scary, but this is hope. 

As we go forward, scheduling the surgery and heading into the OR, I know that there will be a lot of opinions. A lot of thoughts shared. I know that we’ll have love (for which I also consider myself lucky). Please know that I’ve done research, considered the pros and cons for many years now, and will take this next step with confidence and hope for the future. We need support and love, listening ears, shoulders to cry on, playdates for Liam, the occasional meal, and gentle hugs (it will hurt for a while). We don’t need theories on alternative medicines, ideas on foods or recipes that cure cancer, or stories from NPR that shared an anecdotal story about a woman who beat cancer/Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s with positive thinking. Just love, listening, and lots of support. 

Not easy to share this. But it will be a big part of our life in the next couple years here. Thanks for reading and for loving us. 

Summertime 

I recently read an article about how the assholes are right. You know those older women at the park that look wistfully at you with your young children and tell you to soak it all in. Because you’ll blink and they’ll be older. 

And you chuckle because it’s crazy hard and your kid is smearing mud on your cheek. 

But it’s true. You blink and they grow. The assholes just might be right. 

Liam just graduated from the second grade. 

And it breaks my heart. Every start of the year and every ending. My boy is growing. He’s getting so big. We have more adult-like conversations everyday, and while his fascination with imaginary play (particularly Indiana Jones right now) goes on, I know that these moments where he is a child and more like a person are growing fewer and far between. 

I love that he still wants me to lay with him at night. We cuddle in and watch movies. We have deep talks and he has the most amazing insight to this world. 

But I wonder, maybe the older women at the park are missing something. 

I wonder if, in this life of grand and small moments, if we can only take in so much. We’re only human. We aren’t capable of soaking it all in (and quite frankly, that’s a lot of pressure). 

Memories are like the dozens of construction paper drawings done during the day. Some thin lines and some elaborate works of art. But we don’t, we can’t, keep all of these. We pick and choose. We keep what we can. 

(Don’t get me wrong. I try. I try so hard to live every moment. Take advantage of life. Make every day great. But it slips from our hands like sand.)

If we always set down our books, our phones, our lives for our children, they never see us as the humans that we also are. They learn to depend on that constant attention, that constant adoring eye. I don’t think that can be good for independent play, imagination, developing that confidence and trust in themselves and actions. As they grow older, perhaps they need not just a parent, but also a guide. Like a spotter on a gymnastics bar, saying I’m here for you, go on and try it, and if you need me, I’m right here. Always. 

As much as it breaks my heart, and I take in these big and small moments of how he still holds my thumb at bedtime, like he did when he was a baby, I know that I am here to love (love love love love love), do my very best by him, and help him be the person that he should be in this world. Who he already is – strong, resilient, determined as all hell, loyal, kind… I know that as it breaks my heart to let him be sometimes, to watch that space that he needs grow bigger and bigger, and away from me, it’s good for him. 

And he’ll know that I’m always here, always loving, arms extended in case he needs it. 

Perfect Day

Perfect day this Memorial Day weekend. Liam and I woke up and went to the farmer’s market. 

He had ten dollars to spend. He got a smoothie, a pastry, and rhubard sauce for his lunches. I want to teach him to support local farmers and businesses. He could spend it on anything, but he had to spend it on a local establishment. I think he was up to the challenge. 🙂 

Here we are looking at the honey booth, where they had honey bees in a small hive. We are trying to spot the queen. Can you find it? 

I got all of our veggie starters for our garden – three types of tomatoes, three types of peppers, pumpkin, peas, beans, cucumber, broccoli, and a lot of herbs. 

We walked through the Capital and up to the top. Amazing moment when we asked a stranger to take our photo, she took this one before we are posed and smiling, and it captures our spirit perfectly. 

This is us. Loving and happy. 

We dashed to the co-op to get a couple treats for dinner and ate a little snack there. I have to admit, it’s one of my favorite places in Madison. And this turned out to be my favorite video of Liam so far. 

We got home and Liam and Chad went frisbee golfing with some friends. While they were gone, I bought some compost/mulch/top soil and planted our veggie garden. 

I also cleaned up the backyard more, pruning bushes and weeding. It doesn’t look like much now, but I’m laying the groundwork for an amazing space. In the next few weeks, I’ll add paver stones. Over the summer, we’ll work on the treehouse. Next year, we’ll dig out a section, level out the yard, add a rentlention wall, build a deck, add a table, string lights, and have a beautiful space. The years that come will bring a chicken coop, compost bins, a rain garden, a sunken firepit area, and fruit trees. 

I can see it all when I work on things. This beautiful space is coming to life in our very own secret garden. (I never feel closer to my Mom than when I am gardening.) 

We made homemade burgers, carrot fries, a vegan aioli, homemade pickles, and salad and ate in the backyard. Stories, showers, and bedtime. 

A great start to a great summer. 

Catchup

Ooooh. Been a while since I’ve written! Time is flying. April felt like a minute. May is nearly over it seems. 
April was a hard month. We lost our dear cousin Colin and my friend Charlie, a friend from the Appalachian Trail. Lessons and sadness from both that I didn’t spend more time with them. I’ve certainly seen things through a different lens, one that shakes me to my core, that we need to let people in our lives know that we care about them. Spend time with them. Share that we love them. Because you never know… 

Both of them loved nature, so being immersed in nature has been wonderful. We went on our annual mother’s day camping trip. This time to Kohler-Andrae in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. 

Running along the waves and hearing the squeaky sand under our feet was amazing. It’s so peaceful there. It’s like a dream. 

We heard sandhill cranes and loons under the tree canopies by our tent. Watched the stars in our hammocks, roasted marshmallows, and went on many hikes. 

I’ve been digging new garden beds and planting new perennials. It’s really shaping up. 

But I have big dreams. 

The wedding is in ten-ish weeks and we’re all set. All we have to do is show up, buy ice for the beer, and party. Moonrise Kingdom meets wedding. Can’t wait! 

Nearly Spring

We are excited for spring break here. Too many days of being cooped up!

Sure it’s been nice with quiet days of reading and movie marathon…



(Liam is reading the Hobbit!)

But we are ready to run outside a little more.


Getting ready to plant the garden and start working on the treehouse again! We have plans for trips, camping, and of course, the wedding.

Six more days until we can relax with spring break! 🙂

More adventure postings soon.