first, a video…
i have long admired the gardellas. michelle’s fierce passion and glorious artistry, thomas’ gentle, loving spirit and humble bravery as he leads his family, and their two little beautiful humans, lily and braedon, who themselves are filled to the brim with quirky creativity, tender daydreams and wisdom far beyond their years. i have the honor of calling them friends, although family would perhaps describe the kinship better. and i know that anyone who has met them feels their genuine warmth burning from their hearts right down to their toes and into every soul they encounter. i spent a day with them at their home in austin, texas; arriving just before they woke up to an unkempt house, messy hair and bleary eyes, as requested.
michelle told me, “i want my children to remember this: that they, and we, are enough, even in our most undone and real moments. we are beautiful even when things aren’t pretty.”
while these images speak for themselves, i did feel that since the gardellas are, themselves, so eloquent with words, that i would share some of their writings that i gathered from their online journals alongside the photographs. you’ll also notice these are all in black & white, as requested by michelle. timeless and not a bit fancy.
these four souls, they just bleed love.
Thomas about Michelle: “I have learned so much from her. How to love. How to be silly. How to open my heart to the world. But more than anything I have learned how to be a better dad from watching and experiencing her be such an amazing mom to our children.”
Michelle about Thomas: “He always knows how to bring my heavy heart back into the light.”
Thomas about Lily: “I am certain I have known this soul for many lifetimes.”
Thomas about Michelle: “The little things about her I love… her side of the bed just after waking up. Her soft white blanket still warm while dreams slowly fade from memory. I cherish every moment with her.”
Michelle about Thomas: “If you were to throw a pebble in a lake it might make a tiny ripple, but if you happened to be super mini and sailing on an ant-sized ship, that tiny ripple would feel like an enormous wave. I am living this life on an ant-sized ship. Most days I see my highly sensitive nature as a huge blessing. Especially when it comes to my art. But somedays, my goodness it just feels like too much. And on those oh-my-goodness-my-heart-is-breaking-every-second-because-this-sunset-is-reminding-me-of-my-third-grade-lunch-lady-who-had-cancer-one-year-and-wore-orange-days, he is my anchor. He keeps my boat from capsizing or swirling out to a sea filled with pirates.”
Michelle about Braedon: ” Me: I will always love you with every inch of my soul. Him: Well, I will always love you from here to the ends of the universe, therefor, it is always expanding.”
Thomas about Braedon: “He is more perfect than I could have ever imagined. Every time I look at him I am so grateful. Grateful for the amazing times I have spent with him over the years. He has such a huge heart… just like his incredible mom.”
Michelle about Lily: “Her sweetly spun fairytale, her messy hair, backwards Goodwill dress, arm resting on my leg… I don’t want to let this go. I need to hold on to the seemingly simple moments like this, that, on every birthday since I can remember, I blew out the candles, and wished so hard for.”
Thomas about Michelle: “No matter what comes at us I know that she will always be there for me and our family. Never have I met someone so brave and true. She amazes me every single day.”
Michelle about Thomas: “I crept in on his nap so I could smell his neck.”
Thomas about Braedon: “At some point he went from cradled in my arms and rocking him to sleep to building and giving presentations on oscillating water generators.”
Michelle: “I follow their freckles like sailors look to the constellations, when their ships are lost at sea.”
Michelle about Lily & Braedon: “She called out asking for someone to help her button her sweater. He came running over. I don’t know much about previous lives, but I do know, without a doubt, their bond is millions of lifetimes strong.”
Thomas about Michelle: “Hearing her blow dry her hair with Lily singing and dancing around her always makes me smile.”
Michelle about Braedon: “He has the kindest, most forgiving heart I have ever witnessed. I have seen him angry twice. The love I have for this human being is otherworldly and swallows me whole. Every freckle on his shoulders. Every sound effect he makes while playing. Every comic he draws in his notebooks. Every dance move. Every huge hug he gives his sister. Every morning snuggle. Every single second that I get to be his Mama.”
Thomas about Lily: “This girl has my heart. Always.”
Michelle: “Me- Lily want to do my daily meditation together? Lily- Sure! (giggles nonstop for ten minutes.)”
Thomas about Michelle: “Everyday she works hard to live her truth and balance family and passion and art and income. We are so honored and blessed to have her as a mom and wife.”
Michelle: “My children know what it is like to be loved right up close, and to have parents who, by ungraceful but passionate example, live to nurture both the wilderness within, and afoot.”