“April 12, 2015, that’s when we started dating,” Austin told me with laser accuracy while we reminisced about he and Meghan’s love story at their pre consult. A guy remembering dates that quickly?? Wow–I was impressed! This is a love story I’ve been dying to tell for years. I watched it in its infancy and as it began to flourish and I knew these two were meant to be together! So prepare for a little walk down memory lane to celebrate the engagement of Austin and Meghan and the families that grew this tender love affair! 😉(Meghan with her brother, sister and cousins from a generational portrait session at their grandparents home…you’ll see the fortifying bond of family is a running theme in Meghan and Austin’s life and I am blessed to have been documenting it for them over the years. The playhouse on the left is where these kids all made their memories at Marmee and Zeda’s house…there are signatures all over the planks inside that testify to each one of their stories of life at the time…the car on the right tells the story of the passionate love of cars that runs strong in both homes as well.)
Meghan and Austin grew up together swimming at the Riding Club and had mutual crushes on and off throughout their childhood, unbeknownst to each other. When their families met and began talking at the pool Austin’s parents said, “wow, we really like that family!” Anyone who has been married more than half a second knows what a significant role extended families play in a marriage. The Borkowiczs and the Butts realized this and knew these were the kind of people they wanted to do life with. At the time, however; Austin was dating another girl, but that didn’t stop his parents from secretly hoping that Austin and Meghan would connect one day.
And connect they did! Now I’m going to share with you the private back story re why this portrait time was so anticipated by me and thusly, so dear to my heart. About 8 years ago, I had a vision for a portrait time for the women who keep portrait traditions alive generation to generation. I wanted to create one special day where my team could celebrate and pamper these women while creating portraits they would cherish. As a rule I don’t actually ever pitch my services, people have just always come to request my services. However, this was brand new and having watched Laurie with her daughters, I could envision them doing this. So I talked w/Laurie about what it would entail and asked her if she’d be interested in that. She was intrigued and the Borkowicz girls were my first Mother Daughter portrait session…before it was officially “Unveil your Cinderella.”
Laurie was in a bitter sweet time of her life as she was preparing to watch her beloved spunky and hilarious Ali leave the small town comforts of Westminster for NYC. She wanted to mark the time, knowing her theater loving girl may fall in love with NYC and leave behind Carroll County for good. (Ali still lives in NYC today)
After the day with the Borkowicz girls I knew I was onto something. Women make memories during this time that are just as precious as the portraits. Then later that year, I was hired to create Meghan’s senior portraits. This was well before there was a JDP senior brand…and I like to think of this session as where all that began as well.
Fast forward a bit more and Austin’s family commissioned me to create family portraits when he was on leave from the Merchant Marines. Karen and Tom were also celebrating 25 years of marriage. While at the studio, Austin and his brother Ian pointed at the hip to hip portrait of Ali and Meghan you see below and said, ‘we know Ali and Meghan, we love those girls!’ Then they proceeded to suggest that they should re-create the same pose! Of course I thought they were kidding…except that they brought it up several times. Finally I said, “sounds like you guys really wanna do this?!”
They heartily agreed and I said, “ok, quick while your parents are changing before they lose all trust and confidence in my judgement.” This particular pose is no small feat to get into…however Austin and Ian nailed it within seconds! I was stunned! The girls are convinced they practiced it going into this day–they assure us they did not. I told the boys to keep it a surprise for the reveal when they all came back to select portraits.
(So how appropriate that we would create it for Meghan and Austin and their fur baby Remy!)
I was a bit nervous to reveal this at the View and Choose, not knowing the Butt family going into this day. Thankfully mom and dad exploded into laughter and it has become a family joke that continues to this day. I learned then how prized laughter and making memories is in the Butt household. In fact Austin asked at his engagement view and choose, “how much to make one of Ian and Ally?” The portrait of the girls and the Butt boys flew back and forth between their phones and opened the door to a steady stream of banter back and forth between them all. And so it began bit by bit.
Meanwhile time was passing and Austin and Meghan were both experiencing heart breaks of their own. I had Rascal Flatts racing through my head, “That every long lost dream led me to where you are, Others who broke my heart, they were like Northern stars, Pointing me on my way into your loving arms, This much I know is true, That God blessed the broken road, That led me straight to you.” Austin was set back from Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy his plebe year because he failed 2 of his classes. Determination and focus began to direct his every move. While he was on break from classes as Kings Point, he was working two jobs and taking classes to try and catch himself up. He was home on his 21st birthday and Meghan wished him a Happy Birthday on Twitter. It was a risky move, but he corrected her grammar with, “I’m not trying to be an ass but you used the wrong ‘there’.” Bold move, but it opened dialog further between them.
And if you are wondering how Austin has understood that the way to a woman’s heart is to make her laugh…well that would be from watching his dad love his mom so well over the course over his life.
Austin and Meghan talked over the next 2 weeks and began hanging out. Then in Meghan’s home, sitting on the kitchen floor, making chocolate chip cookies for her mom’s birthday, Austin popped the question that few girls here today: “will you be my girlfriend?” They both grinned ear to ear and knowing something felt very, very right about this.
Austin was home for 9 months and the two got to really know one another. He was very up front about what his life was going to entail over the next several years. Extended leaves away at sea where they’d go months without seeing one another. Meghan was on board, she’d been through her share of heartbreak and knew this guy looked out for her in a way no other ever had. The timing was actually perfect for her as she was studying to get her AA in nursing at Carroll so she could transfer to UMD to finish her RN. She knew she had to apply herself to studies in a focused fashion that didn’t allow for unlimited time with a boyfriend, regardless of how adorable he was.
Their courtship continued while Austin was largely away at Kings Point. Meghan and her family went for a visit for Valentines Day and to cheer him on in a swim meet and it was clear they were getting more serious. We all started whispering about a possible engagement in the future. Then Austin shipped out to CA and Japan and was away at sea from March-July, home for only 3 weeks before he headed to Japan. This meant that over 9 months they were able to spend a total of only 3 weeks together. Duty as a third mate, third officer AMO, o1 Ensign in the Navy called.
As Austin wrapped up his time in the Merchant Marines, he got a civilian job with Maersk standing bridge watch, working cargo, vessel maintenance, vessel safety officer, driving and navigating the boat. His current schedule is on 77 days, off 77 days, 10 am-12 am shifts. They get 12-16 hours in port and sometimes just 3 hours of sleep depending on conditions the ship is traveling through.
Austin loves being at sea and working with the same crew. It’s rare in the industry unfortunately, but his happens to be a happy ship so his mates are like family to him. The night watch calls to him in a peaceful pull which allows him to put on his stoner music and hang out with the ocean. He relishes the little accomplishments in ship life that are foreign to us land lovers. Austin’s favorite port is Spain to Africa because the Mediterranean is challenging to navigate through the tight channels and very busy. The 77 on/off time allows him to vest deeply in his relationships with family and friends because he is really off for those 77 days. He said, “I don’t have to do anything or I can do everything.”
While Austin was starting his career at sea, Meghan was transfering to UMD to get her BSN. She knew from the beginning her desire was to work in a NICU and that’s exactly what she did! all with the goal of landing in the NICU which she successfully did last year. She realizes the timing of her and Austin dating relationship enabled her to focus on the priority that school needed to be to earn her a 3.8 GPA.
Meghan describes her role as a NICU nurse intense and obsessive. After her 12 weeks orientation she was responsible to be able to do all she had been trained for. UMD NICU is a Level 4, 52 bed unit which is the biggest in MD. Care ratio is 2-1 or at worst 3-1. The youngest baby she’s cared for is 22 weeks. She’s found her work environment to be similar to Austin’s, everyone is helpful and has developed a close camaraderie. The intensity of her day plays out in complete 12 hours shift sometimes passing dedicated to the care of one baby the whole time. Eating becomes a luxury that no one can afford, much less a 1 lb baby. Meghan’s triumphed when babies she’s helped to care for beat all odds to come around and then she’s plunged to the depths of sorrow when a baby with the same condition has care withdrawn in the same day.
Meghan’s heart is big and we are all kind of amazed that she has made it through her whole first year as a NICU nurse and hasn’t officially adopted any of the babies she cares for yet. Some of the babies are abandoned and she pours out her love on them and prays that a mother’s love is imprinted on them where otherwise there would not be. Some babies steal a bigger chunk of her heart and for those she sets aside her favorite bows and ribbons. Austin won’t be surprised if he comes from a 77 on leave to find a baby in their care!
Given how these two met at the pool and Austin’s competitive swimming history, we thought it appropriate to put them in and under water together….
Last October Meghan and Austin bought an adorable house with 2 acres to enjoy with their new puppy Remi. The course of life events doesn’t alter a sea man’s 77 on/off schedule, so that meant a picture of Austin’s head was on a poster to “attend” their settlement and Meghan’s graduation from college. They are figuring out what is necessary to make this work and committed to whatever they have to do to write their story of love till death do they part.
Austin and Meghan are hot and heavy in wedding planning mode for their May 8, 2021 wedding. Meghan has just chosen her dress, surrounded by family as she did so. Meghan’s mom and “Marmee” (grandmother) wore the same wedding dress but told Meghan and Ali they did not want them to feel pressure to continue that tradition. They truly wanted the girls to choose their own dress, but Meghan was excited to create portraits in it…after the girls all got photos in it at home!
If that’s not the devilish little boy grin that Austin’s been making his entire life, than I don’t know what is! As you can see laughter was in abundant supply between these two throughout every segment of this marathon session. They enjoyed every moment of the process and I am honored they selected me to continue to tell their story. Last summer I created Meghan’s little brother Will’s senior portraits. Meghan and Austin came for a small segment to cheer on Will and as they left, Austin said, “I’ll be seeing you soon,” with a wink that let me know an engagement was pending! So grateful for these two, the families that grew this love story and the future that awaits them!
May the Lord bless you, keep you and guide you and direct your paths all the days of your life!