15 Questions Celebrating 15 Years of Marriage!
In honor of fifteen years of marriage, we sat down with our friend Allison and answered fifteen questions about these years and who they’ve made us and
How has your business grown alongside your marriage?
Jeff: The growth and change our business has experienced is very closely tied to our marriage and family life over the years. I think back to fall 2007 when our friend Micah, a lawyer, helped us draw up our articles of incorporation. We owned one DSLR camera and one external flash, and not much else. We didn’t know at the time that J.A. Laub Photography would grow into something that would take us to new places, teach us new things, support our family, earn us new business relationships, and most importantly, friendships.
You learn a lot about each other being married, but you learn different things about each other trying to run a business together. There’s been things I’ve discovered about Abby by working with her that I probably wouldn’t have (at least as quickly) if we’d never tried this.
The decision for Abby to leave her full time job about 10 years ago was, at the time, a scary one. It seemed to be one of those decisions, like marriage, where you never really know how prepared you actually are. It turned out to be the right one, and the business flourished.
You all are nothing if not adventurers! What is your favorite travel experience you've enjoyed together?
Abby: A highlight for us personally was going to France together last summer. And on our 10th wedding anniversary Jeff surprised me with a trip to the Bahamas. That was incredible! Our business also has allowed us to take some fun tr ips over the years, including New York, Washington, D.C., and others. We have been very blessed to have many travels over the last 15 years!
J: We met in Colorado (see the pic of us as little youngins!), and over the years have had a few opportunities to go back there. I’d personally put those high on the list as well, just because that place will always be special to me. One in particular when I was looking at grad schools out there early on in our relationship, just the two of us drove out there in my truck. I remember driving through the snowy passes, and just talking a lot about life, getting to know each other in a deeper way.
What is your ideal, local date night?
A: We don’t go on enough dates––Jeff, let’s go on more dates in the next 15 years of our marriage! When we do, it usually involves food or coffee or a bike ride together, or paddling without the kids if we are really lucky.
J: My ideal is very simple. Start with a long chunk of time (ideally open ended), grab our bikes and ride down through campus to downtown, and just do whatever we want. Eat, hang out, maybe just looking at all the old beautiful homes in old downtown for a bit. Finish off the ride with a treat, then head home!
You each hold different parts of the business in different ways. Abby, as the written-word storyteller, what are some of your favorite stories you've written in the last 15 years?
A: I did one recently that I really loved. It was about trees. I think almost all of the articles that I do for Kentucky Monthly are always a favorite at the time I’m writing them. One time Jeff and I went on a zip-lining adventure together for an article. Another involved photographing hysterical little chickens. I’ve eaten amazing food, taken so many fabulous photos, met so many people and experienced more than I ever would have otherwise. I can't pick one favorite. Quite a few of them can be found here. I love all of the writing I do for endless clients, but those ones are always the most fun.
Jeff, is there a race you look forward to each year?
J: As far as races we shoot, I really look forward to RunTheBluegrass… it really kicks off our race season, and we get to bring a whole team of people for three days to shoot with us, and it always makes great memories. I also really like the Honor Run in Northern Kentucky for the people, the Urban Bourbon in Louisville in the fall for the scenery (and it’s where I grew up), and strangely enough, I like shooting the Gobbler and the Thoroughbred Classic 5K at Keeneland on Thanksgiving. Those are such chill (and chilly!) days; short so everybody still gets home to their family, but it’s a nice late season reminder of the community we share.
For races I participate in, I love any and all of them. One that has a special place in my heart that I’ve been making a point to get to consistently is called the Bix7 in Davenport, IA. It’s one of the older road races in America, but more importantly, I have family roots there. My mom’s side of the family is from there and I was born there. For the Bix itself, my uncles ran it, my dad ran it, and it connects me to a storyline that reaches back long before I was here. Some great reflection tends to come out of that trip for me each July.
A big but valuable question!: What has been the greatest joy and greatest challenge of 15 years of marriage?
A: Having our two kids together is a very special highlight. We’ve also experienced many great losses and disappointments together. We’ve taken a few big risks that thankfully have paid off. I think one of the greatest joys is just knowing that he’s stuck with me, no matter what. There is great comfort in that. And we take joy in doing fun things together, like taking the kids tent camping from the time they were babies. Adventures like that make normal months less mundane.
J: I agree that bringing our children into the world has been not only one of the greatest joys in 15 years of marriage, but in my entire life. That’s an incredible experience to share with someone, and it’s ongoing. I would have to say the greatest challenge is the continual dying to self. I am a selfish person, and there simply isn’t any room in a successful marriage for selfishness.
And similarly: What has been the greatest joy and greatest challenge of running a business together?
A: I’m pretty sure we’ve had a lot of conversations that have started with me bursting out, “Fine! I’m selling all of these cameras and we are done because this stinks and I can’t work like this anymore!” Thankfully, all the cameras are still accounted for. At first we got under each other’s skin with the business because we have completely different work styles…But we've learned and we’ve managed to grow our business every year, regardless. It’s been a joy, overall, to see what we have accomplished without going into any debt. We realize that although we operate differently, at the end of the day we think a lot alike and value the same things.
J: The greatest joy for me has been the freedom running a business together brings us and our family. I love getting to do things how we think they should be done, and learning all the lessons (positive and negative) that come along with that. I think the greatest challenge is related to my answer for marriage above… I have to remind myself that our business would not be what it is without both of us. Actually, it mostly wouldn’t be what it is without Abby. It grows and becomes stronger because Abby has a different viewpoint than I do, and that’s a good thing! Letting go and trusting her never turns out badly for us.
How do you celebrate your anniversary each year? How will you celebrate this year (celebrations are still important, even in COVID)?
A: Every year for our wedding anniversary we eat more food than previously thought possible at Malone’s in Landsdowne. Jeff gets some $500,000 steak on the menu and we just let loose and sit for like three hours. Some years we've done special getaways, but we always make time for that dinner tradition.
J: They’ve got the Christmas decor up and all that so that’s a great detail we love about it, too. And for this year, we celebrated the same way, even though because of COVID it was in a huge tent in their parking lot.
What truly sets your business apart is how communally you approach projects. You have such a beautiful network of client relationships! Who are some of your closest and longest-standing clients?
A: So many! Relationships with our clients is one thing we value, and it has paid off. We truly like the people we work with, so it’s not just a business transaction. Some of the races and race directors, and so many others are just really people and we have a lot of mutual respect for each other. Corporate partners and publishers like Kentucky Monthly, The Lane Report, SmileyPete and so many others have been with us since the beginning. Some of the family portrait sessions we’ve done for more than 10 years––starting with their wedding and continuing on through the years.
Abby, what is something unique about Jeff that your clients may not know?
A: He doesn’t own a car! He sold his truck in May 2019 and we’ve been a one-car family ever since. He rides his bike to work every day––heat, rain, snow, cold. It’s pretty incredible. We do a lot of walking and cycling together as a family for every day events.
Jeff, what is something unique about Abby that your clients may not know?
J: Abby’s an identical twin! We just celebrated their birthday last weekend with a Zoom birthday party! Abby has an incredible commitment to family and when her family of five siblings (and their spouses and kids) is together it’s quite an experience!
If you could give one piece of marriage advice from your fifteen years of wisdom, what would it be?
A: I feel like I still know nothing about marriage. Just support, love and respect each other, always. Be nice, and remember your happiness isn't contingent on the relationship. And if we didn’t have God in our lives, we’d probably not still be married. I’d say, too, just be fun and adventurous together. Do things differently than other couples. We try not to fit too well into the “the mold.”
J: Get over yourself and serve your spouse. Bring what’s good about you to the table, and let what’s good about them fill in the major holes that would definitely be there if they weren’t.
What about one piece of wisdom from working with your spouse?
A: Have your own projects and then have some together. If we did all of our projects together, we would drive each other bonkers. We keep synced up just enough to run a business together, but each bring our own unique clients, projects and skills to the table.
J: Don’t let work become the centerpiece of your relationship. It’s hard to do, but it’s critical to have separation between what you do and who you are as a couple. Your work doesn’t define you, and although it plays a big role, our business doesn’t define our marriage.
How do you separate work from family and marriage?
A: I could easily be a workaholic because I really like what I do and have worked incredibly hard to build my career while also raising children without full-time daycare, so it’s hard to cut myself off. We don’t talk a lot about business outside of work hours, so that helps. We have enough hobbies and interests that help draw us away from all business all the time.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane! What stands out as a memorable story from your time working together?
J: There are so many. I remember shooting Kerry and Alan's barn wedding on a 95-degree day and sweating through about three shirts. I remember one wedding where I broke a lens on the dance floor. I remember another bride knocking over one of our cameras we had on a tripod. I remember breaking a flash at another wedding. I remember getting to stop in New York City for a couple days and take in Wicked while traveling to upstate New York to shoot a wedding. I remember when weddings started to become less of what we wanted to shoot, then meeting lots of crazy and awesome runners and athletes as we worked our way into a new community and business model. I can remember getting to meet Boston Marathon winner Des Linden and photograph her with American Pharaoh the year after she won Boston. I can remember countless 4 or 5 a.m. wake up times for races, meeting our good friends who’ve shot with us for years now to make a sleepy drive somewhere to be at a race early.
I can remember some of the most breathtaking views of Kentucky sunrises and horse farms and lakes and back roads that made me feel lucky just to be alive in that moment and that will stay with me forever. I can remember staying up all night the last several years to shoot an overnight triathlon relay and working shifts so that one of us could get back home and be with the kids while they slept. I can remember somehow making a wrong turn on a course in downtown Louisville and ending up in busy traffic for a couple of miles, driving a golf cart. I remember the finish line proposals, the cold mornings where I accidentally underdressed. I remember our friend Alex who wore a pair of Toms with no socks to photograph RunTheBluegrass one of the years it was in the low 40’s and rained hard for the entire race. I remember retrofitting a bicycle trunk bag for photo gear and riding my bike to photograph races like the Bluegrass 10,000 and the Midsummer Night’s Run.
When I think back over all these memories, I realize I wouldn’t change any of it. The broken gear, the heat, the cold, the early mornings and the late nights; they’ve all been worth it. At times neither of us would have said that, but I believe it wholeheartedly now. This business has been an opportunity again and again to show up for one another, and above all, that’s what I remember most from every story: my wife and partner experiencing it all with me.
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