Seven Years Has Gone So Fast


Waiting for Damian to get here, seven years ago.

Autonomously Earned |

After an evening of fireworks, I finally went into labor. The same thing happened with Kevin, I went into labor at night. But this time, instead of pacing the floor, I went to sleep. I knew I would need the energy!

Damian Achilles arrived at 12:55 the next day, July 5, 2010. He was 9 lbs 7 oz and I was in love at first sight.

Damian Achilles |
Damian Ocean |
Damian Achilles |
Damian Achilles |

In 2010, I wrote:

Adding another son to our family is like being taken back to the best time of your life and someone replaying the lovely memories all over again like a beautiful song… and this time it’s even better because you have more partners to dance with.

Damian Ocean |

Inside the Rabbit Hole


When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
-Max Planck

Both of my sons had strep this week. Speaking with our social worker from base about getting them treatment in the midst of a changing healthcare plan and the transition of our divorce helped bring clarity to our options. Hearing her sassy voice echo through the speaker of my cell phone took me back to when I first met her almost three years ago. I needed help bringing our sons home. My oldest was attending his first week of school in Florida, because their dad decided to keep them after a summer visit. Armed with documents from my lawyer, (that he secured from our judge), I stumbled into her office and told her my story. She nodded and said, I know exactly what to do. She towered over me, and I felt safe under her wing as we walked to her office.

Down the Rabbit Hole | It's not John B McLemore's maze, but it's where my story started. I got married here.

Her confidence, her strength, and her grit supported me as we worked to negotiate how the boys would come home safely. She was a source of practical information as I attended to the challenges of working through all of our emotional hurdles of this situation. She came to my home and checked on me, helped me get groceries through a food bank, brought us school supplies for use home here in Ohio, and restored my faith in the military as she saw us through the beginning of a custody storm I wasn't aware had been brewing. Their father had moved away on amicable terms almost a year prior, and gave no hints he was going to permanently keep our sons with him. He had deployed twice in two years and spent almost a year living in Florida. When he asked if they could visit over the summer when he returned from his latest deployment, I sent them with blind kindness. I believed they should have time with him and didn't want to obstruct their relationship. Our divorce wasn't final, but I didn't have any hint that he would betray my trust (about bringing them home). However, the summer visit was part of a secret & methodical plan to relocate the boys to live with them. He finally disclosed his actions once he thought it would be too late for me to do anything about them.

Maybe he was right, because I was paralyzed by this nightmare.

But I wasn't alone.

I've only spoken about Miss J. to my close friends. I describe her and the other women from family advocacy as guardian angels that fought for me as I slumped in a corner seat and cried from exhaustion and gratitude. In all, it was fourteen days of tortured sleep, unimaginable stress, and being overcome with helplessness as I wrestled with the dark intentions of this twisted plan. My family, friends, and even photography clients, were constantly near me and supporting me. My lawyer fought for us and insisted that we patiently trust the system. I never knew I would come to depend on white sheets of paper to grant me the ability to continue raising the sons I had grown in my body. I didn't know I would have to be so adamant in my fight, just to continue the life we had already been living. I have replaced the original orders each time they are updated, and tuck them in my backpack. Sometimes when I'm digging for chemistry or calculus homework, I see familiar blue and red stamps from the court and am glad to have them. I want to be prepared to use them, or fear would affect me more than it does. For almost three years, this has been normal for me.

It is easy to talk about my classes, behavioral neuroscience research, or plans for medical school. I often omit the years I spent working to get custody of my sons. It's a significant part of our story, but it's embarrassing. It's not tidy. It's not like commenting about weather, discussing my favorite podcasts, or sharing funny stories about my kids. It also doesn't seem to have an end. Even after the final decision was made in my favor, there always seems to be something else that flares up. Like news of the submission of an appeal on the heels of our final divorce decree. It feels less dignified to admit that this week was one arduous legal event after another. Those papers in my backpack were summoned again. Another hearing. Another lawyer. Another week as a human filing cabinet weighed down by the pull of another world's gravity that detracts from the freedom of living my life.

I work to keep my mind occupied on other goals. I have to make a conscious decision to move forward or I would have drowned in this rabbit hole a long time ago. When I returned to college, I was desperate for something new to think about. Math and memorization help to keep my focus on something productive, but it can still be isolating to endure the battles that aren't mentioned in polite conversation. Some feelings don't seem appropriate for social media, even though they are all encompassing. It's hard to find a way to make a sensitive family circumstance a caption. Typically it isn't done, even though there is much comfort in knowing that other people have similar experiences. If you've ever felt like your body is exploding from the inside, time and time again,  I understand. Even though the situation is no longer acute, I'm still impacted daily by the trauma. I shy away from talking about it, because I still have to process the anxiety it gave me. Sometimes I wonder if that means it's a good time to get started? Maybe it doesn't all need to be neatly packaged to be useful to help someone else feel less alone. I am curious to know if there is a way to own our scars as part of the larger narrative that highlights the strength we attain from fighting back.

It always seemed like there would be a distinct line I would cross that would signal when this is over. Maybe the terrain would feel different under my feet? Maybe the air more clear? Maybe sunlight itself would reach my eyes without the diffusion of the cavern walls? That doesn't seem likely.

Instead, I carry the burden with me as I build our new life and acknowledge it is part of me. I try not to let it get in my way. On good days I use it as fuel. On other days I'm not so strong, and it locks my feet in place like cement. Sometimes other people help me carry it, like Miss J, my family, my friends, or other professionals. I try to make myself notice the people in my life who support me. Their kindness, strength, and humor help me continue to move forward.

When I was exposed to darkness I could never have imagined, I also experienced a cascade of love that held me together.

When I felt like my body was exploding from the inside, time and time again, they patiently wove me back together with threads of hope.

While I heal, I choose to bathe my thoughts in the memories of the love I witnessed. My sons need this from me and I want it for our future.


It's been a few days (well, more than ten), since I began writing this. My sons finished their antibiotics and feel much better. I listened to S*Town and need to talk about it to SOMEONE. Also, I think the rain is procrastinating. My hydrangeas could use it.




April Snow


Our Wright State Neuroscience Club took a little trip to the Kent State Neuroscience Symposium last week.

Photo Apr 14, 11 37 44 AM.jpg
Photo Apr 14, 11 36 31 AM.jpg

Their little town is adorable and we realized they were not kidding when they called for snow. It was nice to hang out with some of my friends and listen to some insightful lectures about research behind sex differences in the brain.

Sue Carter, of the Kinsey Institute, spoke about her research in Oxytocin and pair bonding. I enjoyed her ability to share freely about her experiences as a mother and scientist. Sometimes I feel like I turn off expressing "the mother switch" to be as professional as possible (i.e. blend in), but she didn't do that. And I liked her for that.

The lecture that will alter my approach to research and interactions with my (future) patients, was given by Larry Cahill, of UC, Irvine. He expressed concern about the lack of motivation to consider sex differences in neurophysiology as a component to setting up research models, especially in drug trials. He was also cautious about identifying where these differences are, and of course, where they are not found. He was funny & humble about his own previous assumptions, and I appreciated his passion about this. He was also careful to specify that sex differences are not another form of female oppression. Understanding these biological differences can help women's health (women tend to have more side effects after drugs are tested exclusively on men), and men's health too (some drugs can not get FDA approval that are effective in men but not women). Wrapping my mind about all of this, while also continuing my own capstone review on the microbiome's influence on stress behavior was really intriguing. Probably something I'll think about for life.




Last week was a blur of three midterms, a term paper rough draft (on how our gut microbiomes might affect stress responses- my favorite), and a chemistry paper (on kinetics and rate laws- not my favorite). Just as I thought I was going to quietly crawl through the finish line for the week, Damian reminded me that we had VIP breakfast at his school.

My first thought was that I would lose a precious half hour of sleep that I really needed. But Damian's eyes were bright with excitement.. and... he's my Achilles.*

One look at his excited face and exhaustion was quickly replaced with gratitude. He reminded me that it's a dream come true to be able to go to breakfast with him. Even though it seems like a lifetime ago, I fought hard for this privilege.

I made sure to have fresh hot coffee and took my frizzy paper typing hair to our breakfast.

It was magnificent.

*His full name is Damian Achilles, and I like to refer to him and his brother, Kevin, as my "sweet Achilles (heel)."

**Can you believe we named Damian, "Patron Saint of Physicians" and "Achilles," years before I even considered finishing my degree and adding pre-med courses? Life is interesting.


Flowers on her skull.



Leftover flowers from photographing Skin Foodie products are a bright spot in my kitchen. Someday I'll have to post the "studio" set up in my sons' room that I use intermittently for product photography when I'm not working at Knack. You would certainly laugh.



I can tell that we are gonna be friends.


My fifth semester started this month.

I wasn't prepared for what it would feel like to hear my maiden name during the first morning's roll call. I've heard "Andrea Bell" spoken by teachers since 1989. This time it was an unexpected rush of triumph and pride. By speaking my name, she opened a gate and let me go free. It was permission to take off the burden of his identity and return joyfully into the familiar refuge of my own skin.  It was a song of reclaimed dignity and a thunder of confidence that the unbearable years pushed me into where I am. I like it here very much.

I can tell that we are going to be friends |

Recognizing that I am past my halfway mark until the end of my undergrad has been more encouraging than I had realized it would be. For a long time I was focused on how much extra time adding pre-med courses would take, but now I wish I had room to take even more courses before I will finish. There is so much I want to learn.

I gave a presentation in my Psychobiology of Stress Captstone on the effects of an interesting study with evidence suggesting that the algae, chlorella vulgaris, can reduce stress on the HPA axis. I (embarrassingly) butchered speaking so many words that I do have a new resolution to speak out loud more often about the content of my classes. It showed me that I tend to ingest the material by reading silently, but need to practice the words I'm learning. On another note, it was my first time designing a slideshow about neuroscience. It made me so excited to pair design + neuroscience together in a visual format! I want to do more of this.


My Slice of Bedford Falls


Growing up I always identified with George Bailey from "It's A Wonderful Life," because I wanted to go somewhere bigger than my hometown. Even in the happy ending, I always felt a little sting for him not being able to go to college & travel like he once aimed to do.

Years ago, when I first became a single mom, I felt like I was stuck in Dayton. Then my parents moved back. My family & friends have been patient & kind. My sons' schools & friends have been what they needed. We found a rhythm for ourselves.

Then I went back to Wright State and I started to really understand how fortunate I am to be here. Touring my new behavioral neuroscience lab in the Neuroscience Engineering Collaboration, (a gorgeous building at Wright State), I felt humbled at the opportunities for research & hands on training we can get as undergrads to prepare us for studying medicine. More than once, I have wanted to pinch myself while I assist with an undergrad Anatomy lab in our medical school. My professors & advisors have been genuine and encouraging. This is exactly where I want to be, I really can not imagine a more perfect fit.

In my own way, I understand why George stayed. | Traditional Snowball Picture

Merry Christmas!



Re: Anatomy


When someone told me, "A year from now, you'll wish you had started today," I nodded enthusiastically in response. But I had always been numb to action if it meant wavering from my guarded routine. I didn't picture myself as someone who would finish my degree. I saw myself as someone who would think about it often but never actually follow through. It's still a wonder that my feet touched campus last August.

My anatomy muse. My sons & I affectionately call her  Hermione Granger.

My anatomy muse. My sons & I affectionately call her Hermione Granger.

Tomorrow my fourth semester begins at Wright State. I can say semester, because the first time I attended Wright State we were scheduled by quarters. A long time ago (2004), I briefly entertained the idea of being a psychiatrist or a nurse, so I decided to take anatomy. I've debated between two nail polish colors longer than the time I spent researching or preparing for this class. I was in for a surprise when I found out we'd be learning about bones from human donors.

It seemed that being in the course made it clear to me that I wouldn't be working in the medical field. I received an "X" in anatomy. The foreign language of anatomical terms overwhelmed me- it all sounded the same. It's embarrassing to recall that on one test I wrote clavicle or sternum for every fill in the blank answer. I didn't study enough because I had written anatomy off as an impossible subject. Another factor was my sensitivity to anything painful & strong smells. At the time I was terrified about having babies, and I'd leave the room if anyone even started to talk about their delivery stories. My discomfort in the lab seemed to serve as a confirmation that I was not cut out for medicine. It never occurred to me to reach out for help from my professor. I also didn't schedule appointments with my advisors to have open discussions and listen to their advice on how to work through my obstacles.

My failure in anatomy was the binding on that chapter of experimentation with science. The next quarter I transferred to Sinclair and went on (after a baby Kevin) to earn a Visual Communications Associate Degree and soon after became a photographer (then had a baby Damian). It seemed that this direction was much more in line with my personality, my talents, and generally an easier alternative.

I didn't know that Art is not confined to pixels and wavelengths of light captured in a camera.

I didn't know that Science is so finely embedded in our world that I couldn't outrun its pull or avoid its influence.

Every movement away from it was part of the ordered sequence that brought me closer to the place where I would return.

The bridge between where I was and where I am is a story for another post. The girl who left anatomy lab to go draw with charcoal pencils is someone I wouldn't recognize. I'm pretty sure I could pass that version of myself on the sidewalk and compliment her shoes but forget that we once shared a name. She's from a life that is distant to me, but not a life that I regret. I’m grateful I pulled away when I did and waited until I knew why I wanted to finish my degree.

Andrea Bell of | Nontraditional Pre-Med

Anatomy revisited last spring was a success. Actually, it's interesting that after (cough) twelve years (cough) they have also added physiology to the course. When I first read it on my schedule I thought the abbreviation "PHY" was possibly a reference to physics? I didn't know an ion from a proton, but I studied really hard and loved the physiology portion (the function of our bodies) even more than the anatomy (the structure of our bodies). Which says a lot, because I fell head over heels with the design of our existence- I'm especially interested in the way our brains are constructed and the way our movements + thoughts are wired. I tried to learn from my other mistakes to soak up all I could from the class- especially reaching out to my professors when I needed help. Twelve years ago I never stepped foot in an office hour appointment, but this time I brought my sons weekly to the (free!) supplemental instruction sessions on Fridays. Being in anatomy/physiology served as a special confirmation that I am capable and excited to learn the intricacies of what we know and the mystery of what we can not yet articulate.

Returning to Wright State at a different point in my life, with intentional focus, has given me a perspective I didn't have at 20 years old. I've enjoyed my freelance photography career, but I also look forward to the opportunity to work in an area that makes an impact on the way we treat diseases and the way my patients will receive care. Logistically, it's a handful to be a single parent and a full time student. With that said, I feel lucky that I have these two really good reasons to concentrate on my goals. My sons require my focus and energy, but they also inspire me to make this opportunity count. No longer taking my education for granted, I can understand it is a gift to be able to study what interests me. I've always been intrigued by the mechanisms of our minds. To be able to learn more about them in this context is a destination in itself. Before each lecture, I try to remember to be thankful for the chance to be in college again.

I am not ashamed of my enthusiasm.
Or my Lisa Frank folders and rainbow highlighters.

I start tomorrow as a undergraduate teaching assistant in anatomy lab.



Re: General Chemistry

re: general chemistry by @TetherAndFly

I remember the way my fingers felt heavy as I weighed whether to withdraw from general chemistry last spring. I only understood fragments of the chapters, and was far from being competent. As optimistic as I tried to be, I knew that deep in my temporal lobes, my hippocampus was not encoding the chemistry concepts the way I would need them. By a miracle of a curve, I could possibly pass the class. "Passing the class" is not sufficient for what the future will require from me. This is the first class in a series of chemistry courses, and some of the content will be on the MCAT. I needed to have a very solid understanding of chemistry principles or moving forward would be a futile endeavor.

Coming back to Wright State in fall of 2015 after an eleven year hiatus had felt empowering. As I carefully researched my course options and sought guidance from my advisors, I started to believe that I had the determination to harness any class. It felt like I had resurrected an inner confidence that had been stifled in the shuffle of morphing into a young wife & mother. I was reclaiming an essential tenet of my identity that felt familiar, but updated. Evolved.

Just as I was getting the courage to say (out loud) that I was pre-med, I was facing the "failure," of jumping ship of a sinking academic boat. I started to wonder all over again if I could be deemed suited for the rigor of medical school. If I couldn't patch the leaks here, could I be trusted to be responsible for more difficult courses?  As a 32 year old single mom of two boys, the deck was already slightly, no, significantly stacked against me. To lose the work I had put into the first half of the semester's chemistry class was highly discouraging. My professors had recommended that we had taken previous chemistry classes, but I was too arrogant to admit that my high school chemistry class was close to fifteen years ago. I also did not admit that I hadn't really cared for it, and did not go to any length to retain any facts from it. Interesting how confidence and arrogance are probably the same- labeled differently only after we look back and assess the result of their influence.

My mindset has always been that persevering is synonymous with success, but it is more nuanced than I used to understand. Perseverance is imaginative, flexible, humble, and often has a timeline that exceeds my own patience. Perseverance also requests that we calibrate frequently in order to stay on course.

After hours of deliberation, I submitted the form to drop my chemistry class. Touching "enter" felt like I was detonating a nuclear explosion. I was wracked with guilt and fear about what I had done. I was ashamed about the money I was wasting and felt the humiliation of surrender.

Until I breathed.

Upon exhale, I felt a surge of relief.

The sensation was probably the effect of GABA and dopamine, among other neurotransmitters responding to my decision. I imagined freshly released ions crossing synaptic junctions and receptors carefully setting updated biochemical reactions in motion. I pictured my microscopic cell assembly line in slow motion, as a beautiful kaleidoscope of fireworks responding in a synced cascade to the new chemical messages. That is when I knew I had to quit feeding the neuronal circuit that relied on my insecurities. It grew strong from the repetition & frequency of my worries. Either I would move forward or I would choose another career- constantly questioning myself was costing my neurons a precious supply of limited energy. I couldn't keep wrestling with my fears because I needed every spare atom to rally around building up my strength. I also needed to stop looking at my age and single parenting like a deficit. I could make excuses or I could make a plan. There would be a rematch, and I would take time to change my approach. I couldn't walk into the classroom as the same student. What was I going to do to prepare for fall semester?

Plan A: I could watch Khan Academy videos this summer. Yes that would be wise. I'd revisit chemistry in the fall and feel ready after a summer of self tutoring. Except that I knew myself and I knew I needed structure. There was a high probability that I would not watch the videos and would most likely cram a few in just before classes started. My intentions don't always serve me well without structured responsibility.

Plan B: I could take an online intro to chemistry class from Sinclair Community College. It would keep me motivated and I could still have flexibility to take other classes at Wright State. Except that I needed to take a lab in person, and online classes usually get slumped into one day a week. I remember the art history class I took online years ago at Sinclair (for my Visual Communications degree). Sundays were the days tests were due. They were always a scramble of speed reading + a sloppy search for keywords so I could finish all my work in one sitting. It was doable but don't ask me anything about art history. This is not the outcome I wanted for general chemistry.

Plan C: I could take an in person chemistry class from Sinclair. I went with Plan C.

It had been eight years since I graduated from Sinclair and funny how I had never taken classes at Building 12 in the chemistry department. As I made my way from the parking garage to class I saw construction under my feet. I stopped to watch below the walkway as workers dug the first layer of a new building. I felt consoled by the parallel that much of my academic work would serve me in a similar fashion. This semester at community college would support the weight of my future classes, so I determined to benefit from this opportunity.

It was a perfect fit for me. It kept me accountable to go to class and gave me the opportunity to ask questions. I was in lecture three times a week in a very small class. My professor had a bench to create demonstrations while he lectured & was fantastic about tailoring his time to revisit concepts we struggled with. We did group assignments daily after lecture and were frequently quizzed so we knew whether we really understood the chapters. Labs were basic and informative.

Chemistry at Community College @TetherAndFly
Chemistry at Community College

Very soon into the semester, the foreign language of atomic theory started to make sense. Lewis Dot Structures became relaxing to draw instead of a futile mess of pencil lead erased over and over in frustrated strokes. After class I would review definitions and draw my own notes, because I knew a major weakness was my lack of fluency in science vocabulary. There are many concepts & names that sound the same, but have important differences. This time around, I wanted to carefully examine them until I could pick them apart by memory. In lab, I loved building molecular models and imagined showing my sons how to play this "game." I learned that the once intimidating algebra behind many of the formulas is reliable and I liked the consistency of its application. We scratched the surface of organic chemistry and I was excited to see snippets of physiology referenced. My professor said we could skip reading the medical references in the book, but for me, the integration of chemistry with my neuroscience and physiology classes is essential:

The molecular model drawing of L-DOPA is on my book cover? What?!
This realization several chapters into the semester felt like meeting a celebrity. I took pictures of it and tried not to act too excited.

Hey look, there's a paragraph about osteoid!
My spring anatomy/physiology course taught me to instantly recite, "Osteoblasts turn into osteocytes, which are broken down by osteoclasts..."
This basic premise of bone histology hummed in my head like a nursery rhyme as I read the page about bone matrix. I'm not too embarrassed to admit that I often channel Phil Dunphy's enthusiasm- I am delighted that life offers ripe plums & fanny packs.

As I started to understand what chemistry can teach me, it was stimulating to begin to see the connections between these disciplines. It gave me an appreciation for why I have dedicated my mind to working through a subject that felt impossible. Earning an A over the same type of content that used to make me frustrated felt immensely gratifying, and working through the obstacles reinforced my determination to become a doctor. My chemistry impediment became an opportunity to invent my own sequence of reactions. It became a chance to measure the transformation in myself.

I was always careful, of course, to use sig figs. 



Chemistry Calibration

Student Success Center at Wright State |

This winter I took on too many courses. It's been a blur as I tried to find a rhythm that would work for me to balance everything on my plate. It's a lesson I'm slow to learn & only grudgingly accept, but balance usually requires a reduction of what I believe I can handle.

I've enjoyed Anatomy/Physiology, Statistics, and Behavioral Neuroscience. However, I wasn't prepared for what effort and time commitment it would take to add Chemistry to the lineup. It's been more than a decade (maybe 15 years?) since I took Chemistry and I can honestly tell you that I remember almost nothing from having it in high school (oops). I finally had to withdraw and give myself some time to refresh & practice before I tackle it again.

Now that I have postponed Chemistry for another semester, I've been reflecting on what went well this semester and what I need to design differently. I'd like to think that the choices I make will always create the results I want if I work hard enough. In some ways, I will always believe that. I'm simply learning to reevaluate my original time constrictions on these goals.

To be clear, "timing" feels abrasive. I have to daily resist the temptation to imagine what could have been different in my life if I had been able to begin this leg of my journey sooner. Taking longer than I already have feels like a tremendous defeat, but lingering on the sting of this frustration would be an incredible waste of my limited energy.

It helps to believe that approaching Chemistry as a future neuroscientist will play to my advantage. As someone who believes in the power of repetition for improved long term potentiation, I am consoled that the rematch will feel more familiar. Until then, I can focus on what fascinates me about the anatomy & wiring under our skin. Like the meninges that so eloquently swaddle our brains, the beautifully designed cauda equina, and all the unfathomable little bundles of neurons that mysteriously grant us both our existence & our adaptability.


It amazes me that a difference between college in 2002 and 2016 is there are so many resources online. I try to remember that help will come to those who search persistently on YouTube. :)


The Mirror of Erised


The Mirror of Erised shows nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desires of our hearts. However, it will give neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible.

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.

-Albus Dumbledore

When we were putting the boys' desks together, Kev caught my attention by holding one of the frames in front of himself and Damian like a large picture frame. He announced that they were in the Mirror of Erised. Then he remarked that if I were in the Room of Requirement, my deepest desire would be to see them reflected in the magical mirror. He smiled proudly because he knew it would affect me, but I don't think he knew the magnitude of his words. I excused myself to take care of the itch that suddenly developed on my nose (tears).

Yes. Yes. A thousand synchronous yeses.

This thankful mama would sit in front of the ancient glass and see the three of us, exactly as we are.

Happy 10th Birthday to my Kevin.




The Patterns


Before plunging into work this morning, I took a moment to have my coffee and look through my camera roll. The last thirty days have brought warmer evenings for my boys & I (baseball!), opportunities to meet new people (hello!), & many new spring projects (thank you!).

The Patterns by

All of these frames create a beautiful mosaic of memories, but can be camouflaged by their "sameness" as a collection. The pace of this ever expanding pattern gives no indication of intending to slow down. I realize I need to pause and celebrate all of these moments more often.

Even if it's just by myself, over hot coffee... one small tile at a time.




Gimme a BEET


I've been shooting Skin Food by Aubrey products this past year, and one photograph has stood out among the rest as a personal favorite between us.

Gimme a BEET Print | Skin Food by Aubrey +

It was really fun to come up with a creative giveaway with her for her Instagram Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaways. Since she is such a good friend, she encouraged me to sell this beauty in my print shop. Even though I take thousands of photographs, it's still nice to hear someone say that a certain picture inspires them. Sometimes we lose a connection with our art because are viewing it on screens and it is so easily forgotten once we edit or post it. When we touch it with our hands, the pixels have a different effect on us. This was a really proud moment for me!

You can see more print options in the link below. I personally like the rug for a kitchen!

Tether & Fly | Society6 Shop

In other news, I took those heels right off as soon as she snapped that picture.


Winter Skin


When the Damian noticed the toilet was flushing slowly, he looked at me and asked, "Do you need to use the plunger again?" 

He remembered I did it last year and didn't blink at the thought of me using it again. Eight years ago I would have never dreamed of learning to unclog a toilet, because there was always someone to do it for me. Now that we've been our own the better part of two years, I have learned to Google & YouTube my way through many "adventures" around the house. It is reassuring that my four year old sees me as a more capable handy-gal than I used to see myself. 


When Kevin saw me applying for college this morning, he said I was too old to go back. I explained that I'm not.  

He said I already went. I explained the reasons for checking out the requirements of finishing my bachelor's degree.

He said I would be gone all the time. I told him probably not, but if I were it would be for a good reason.  

This conversation echoes the many we have had and will have about being a secure unit of three. There have been many decisions to make and many opportunities to consider as I map out what the future looks like. I've finally been able to start moving toward the goals that used to be fragile ideas in the back of my head. Honestly, I don't have a lot of choice but to adapt and evolve. Staying the same is not an option. Once we thicken our skin and see the world with new eyes, I believe there is a strength that surprises even our own expectations of who we can be.

I want to make sure I'm raising boys who embrace a life that is not conventional.


Time to shovel the driveway & officially begin our Christmas season.




Stoddard Ave Pumpkin Glow 2012


Did you know Dayton is home to a longstanding Halloween tradition of displaying hundreds of candlelit pumpkins on the hill behind the Greek Orthodox Church? Imagine the love poured into this collaboration from the volunteers who band together to gift our city this breathtaking sight.

The ethereal event is known as the Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow. It could easily be the backdrop of a classic movie set, and it is undeniably an interactive artistic experience. No picture will ever compare to the almost sacred vigil of watching the pumpkins' delicate candlelit fires dancing in the late October chill. I suggest you bring a mug of coffee, or cocoa, as you stroll along the hill and marvel at all the intricate creations. The Pumpkin Glow is situated in the historic & charming Grafton Hill neighborhood near the Dayton Art Institute. The area is surrounded by gorgeous homes & many residents are the very ones who generously carve the pumpkins for the grand show. 

Stoddard Ave Pumpkin Glow | Dayton, OH |

A couple years ago, I took my sons for the first time. We walked the streets waiting for the sun to set. In 2012, Kevin (6) & Damian (2), seemed so big to me. We were at the beginning of another deployment and I was spinning my tires in work obligations & single mommy duties. It can be tempting for me to skip these little activities when I am overwhelmed, but I hastily decided to make the six minute drive that I do not regret.

These pictures remained untouched for two years until I lost them in a corrupted hard drive. Thankfully, I had backed them up and could retrieve the files. When I opened this folder to see a fuzzy hat on my Damian & Kev's innocent little smiles, I cried. Each imperfect photo is meaningful, and not just because I thought I would never see them again. I didn't consciously know that this season was the slow beginning of becoming permanently separated. Or better explained, I couldn't admit we would eventually divorce. This night marked a new habit of celebrating who we are and where we live. It is what I now refer to as "tether and fly."
Instead of extending all of my energy pining over an ideology of happiness that is no longer possible, I find joy to be abundantly available when I'm brave enough to accept it from unconventional places.
I do not regret the six minute drive.
Now I realize they were oh so small and this was oh so big for us.

"It’s fleeting, and that’s what makes it so special.” 
Judy Chaffin

You can read more about founder Judy Chaffin and her story and vision for creating the legendary Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow in this article by Dayton Most Metro.

The Pumpkin Glow on Stoddard Ave is a free event at 8:00 PM on
Thursday October 30, 2014 and Friday October 31, 2014

Say 'hi' if you see me there! I will probably be telling Damian to stop trying to make the pumpkins roll down the hill!

-Andrea | Andrea Doziér

Thank you for joining me here. I am a wedding & commercial photographer, writer, and mama. All content & photographs are my own.  The images from this post were taken with my Nikon D700 and edited in Lightroom. © Andrea Bell of Tether & Fly.

I now use multiple hard drives to back up files as well as an upgraded Dropbox Account and a cloud based backup company called CrashPlan that I highly recommend. 


Surrendering to Autumn


My "Grandpap" Bell passed away Friday morning. I'm thankful I could kiss his warm cheeks & visit with him during his final days. Gathering with my family to celebrate his life was a special, sacred event. It was filled with joy, honor, and plenty of humor. I am still processing what I want to tuck away in my heart from what I have witnessed throughout my life & this week relating to him.

Surrendering to Autumn |

We are home now and I've learned to make friends with the typical overcast October sky. Even the fickle wind that demands we surrender our golden leaves is welcome at my door. Grey clouds, gentle raindrops, and blustery Ohio mornings are ingredients in comfort food weather I crave in order to pause and refresh. Renew. I've found it's easier to take on the world once I cave to the truth that it can't be done without a proper night's sleep.

Earlier in my life, I neglected the importance of letting myself breathe after a long week, a big project, or being around a lot of people. My mind isn't always convinced that I should embrace this pattern of listening to the limitations of my body, but I am working on persuading it that I should. I even read a highly informative book on this topic, because I'm a big girl now.

Today was about not thinking too much about the past and certainly not forecasting too far into the future. 

We ordered Scholastic books (online, because I missed the teacher's deadline). We, I mean, I, cleaned. Kevin did homework & told me funny stories about his day. We talked about African Elephants (Kev's new obsession), and ate canned soup for dinner. I would be lying if I didn't admit that touching these familiar pages brings back one of my favorite past times from elementary school. 

Surrendering to Autumn |
Surrendering to Autumn |
Surrendering to Autumn |
Surrendering to Autumn |
Surrendering to Autumn |
Raccoon in the Rain |

They finished their evening with a rainy walk to visit their Grandparents' house, our neighbors. Kevin was gone before I could blink, let alone grab a camera.
Damian wasn't far behind his big brother.

I hope the boys remember this season as fondly as I always will.


Andrea Doziér |

Thank you for joining me here. I am a wedding & commercial photographer, writer, and mama. All content & photographs are my own. The images from this post were taken with my Nikon D800 and edited in Lightroom. © Andrea Bell of Tether & Fly.


Print Shop is Open


Thanks for all of your support with this project, I am overwhelmed with the response! I've been working on this site for such a long time that it is a little intimidating to realize that now my words aren't just buried in a series of hidden pages anymore. On the other hand, it's a relief to have it launched. :)

This week felt undeniably like autumn for us. While I adore the golden colors we are seeing, lately I've been inspired by denim blues. Damian & I picked up some plums at Monnin Fruit Farm last weekend, and spent one afternoon pretending they were dinosaur eggs.

He knew they weren't real, but he was a good sport. He has become more interested in dinosaurs, requesting I read his big brother's old books on his prehistoric fascinations. The shame continues as I mush up the same ole' pronunciations I did four years ago. You try to say, "MICROPACHYCEPHALOSAURUS."

If I read over them quickly, he doesn't notice I have no idea what I'm talking about. 

"We pretended they were eggs that belonged to dinosaurs that I can't pronounce."    Print Available by Tether & Fly on Society

"We pretended they were eggs that belonged to dinosaurs that I can't pronounce."

Print Available by Tether & Fly on Society

This morning I've added two autumn prints to my Society6 shop.

Shop Tether & Fly | Society 6

Hope your weekend involves coffee, naps, and rain.



Thank you for joining me here. I am a wedding & commercial photographer, writer, and mama. All content & photographs are my own. The images from this post were taken with my Nikon D800 and edited in Lightroom. © Andrea Bell of Tether & Fly.

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Broken Mum


Cool mornings and shorter evenings have a way of catching me off guard in the bustle of breaking in a new school year's momentum. Before pumpkins are fully ready to catch my attention, I have a quiet tradition of carefully selecting a few bundles of mums for my little porch. Each year I anticipate the moment I will dress up my shopping cart with their color, because they make that routine grocery trip a fancy little occasion for me. 

Soon after I put them on my front step, I noticed one mum bush was leaning. On closer inspection I realized that a large chunk of the plant had been knocked over, presumably by a familiar soccer ball. It was suspiciously re-planted, as only as 8 year old can attempt to cover an accident. I discarded the broken stems and turned the plant so that the living petals faced toward the sun.

Over the course of a few days, the brave remaining buds delicately opened without any sign of regret for the pieces that died. They did not dull their colour as a curtesy for the clusters that would not have the chance to bloom. They did not seem to mind the void so clearly obvious in their misshapen remnants. They absorbed light & transformed into their potential.

This morning I continued the quarrel in my thoughts about the way I share bits of my life. How can I possibly focus on what is beautiful when destruction exists next to every curated photograph? It is a topic I have discussed often, (ask my friends), and one that will likely always persist in order for me to pursue balance. This morning I inched closer to clarity on this subject while I admired these berry hues.  

"I can spend my time mourning what is broken and my energy consumed by events I can not change. Or I can celebrate what courageously still blooms & revel in the beauty of the season I live in.  " -Andrea Bell |  Tether & Fly

"I can spend my time mourning what is broken and my energy consumed by events I can not change. Or I can celebrate what courageously still blooms & revel in the beauty of the season I live in. " -Andrea Bell | Tether & Fly

These mums gave me more than I paid for them. They illustrated the attitude I need to embrace.

I could spend my time mourning what is broken and my energy consumed by events I can not change.
Or I can celebrate what courageously still blooms & revel in the beauty of the season I live in. 

It seems to be the only logic that could possibly spare me from fits of madness.


Tether & Fly | Andrea

Thank you for joining me here. I am a wedding & commercial photographer, writer, and mama. All content & photographs are my own. The image from this post taken with my Nikon D800 and edited with Lightroom. © Andrea Bell of Tether & Fly.




Welcome to Tether & Fly


"This year I didn't make resolutions.
Just plunging forward with a sensitivity to act on the things I've been putting off."

-Andrea Bell

View from a hospital where I worked as a newborn photographer for six months.

View from a hospital where I worked as a newborn photographer for six months.

There is a haunted beauty in being the first one here.

It reminds me of spending the night in an empty house before the movers come to fill it. I am nervous and excited for that day, hoping I gave this my best. For now, I'm enjoying how my voice echoes in the halls and the adventure of eating pizza on the floor. 

It is the splendid moment between imagining a dream & being close enough to touch it. 


Tether & Fly | Andrea

Thank you for joining me here. I am a wedding & commercial photographer, writer, and mama. All content & photographs are my own. Images from this post taken with my iPhone4 and edited with Afterlight. © Andrea Bell of Tether & Fly.