group 5!!! women: raw. honest. loved.

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Group numero cinco.
Six women.
The smallest group we’ve had just yet.
The smallest, most intimate, possibly most emotional group we’ve had so far.

I’ve said this before: I’m no therapist. I possess no degree in counseling nor anything having to do with therapy, in the least. I am just a photographer.
This project started as a simple concept with the hope of purely helping us all to be less catty, more supportive, more understanding, more loving…a super simple concept; a baby step toward becoming a better person.
The surprise happened with the very first group, however, when we walked away feeling…well…lighter. A bit cleansed. In addition, we walked away less catty, more supportive, more understanding, more loving….so, SUCCESS!
There is no need for me to be a therapist as the host of these groups…
There is so much to be said for just pouring one’s heart out…for feeling comfortable enough (even in a group of strangers) to tell people things that generally are only discussed between you and that devil version of you that sits on your shoulder and whispers dumb things in your ear.
There is so much to be said for being surrounded by others whose primary focus at that very moment is to LISTEN; others who are about to put themselves in just as vulnerable a position as you are.
There is so much to be said for RELATING; to establish, in mere minutes, this pure, reciprocal relationship based on things generally held so deep inside.
There is so much to be said for simply spending an evening in the company of others whose focus is on being positive, non-judgmental, and understanding.

This evening began, as all of them do, with some nervous energy…an apprehension that is pretty common in a roomful of strangers. Especially in a roomful of strangers that you realize are going to know you REALLY well in a very short matter of time. The super cool thing is that every. single. time. that trepidation seems to nearly disappear after the first half hour of everyone meeting each other. It doesn’t hurt that there are brownies. And wine. And, this time, there were CATS! One of the most beautiful souls I’ve had the pleasure to meet (as you’re about to, if you don’t know and love her already), Ms. Jen J., suddenly busted the most adorable craftiness out of her bag. She had made these little kitties for each of the women that were set to be there. It’s crazy, but I probably can’t convey how super sweet and powerful that gesture was…these little guys seemed to end up being a mascot of the evening…giving each woman a security blanket of sorts while discussing such emotional topics. I mean…look at it…
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COME ON…you get it now, right?? Sweetest thing ever.

Anyway, cats in hand, the night began. It was raw. It was intense. It was beautiful beyond definition.

Here are your ladies of Group 5. I love them.

(p.s. I feel I must point out, in case this is the first time you’re checking the project out, that NONE of the friends/family who wrote in for each woman knew in advance what said woman’s insecurity was. All they were asked to do was share some beautiful things that they see in that woman. No prompting…no knowledge of anything else.)

(p.p.s. the very first group for the project can be found here: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/women-raw-honest-loved-part-1-2/
please support this project by following this blog, which you can do by clicking on a fancy button over to the right…please also go and “like” the project’s Facebook page, which I definitely update much more than I do here. https://www.facebook.com/WomenRawHonestLovedProject
if you care to be even more awesome and want to support my photography, in general…https://www.facebook.com/alanatphotography

There also will be a video of post-interviews that these ladies did for me, explaining their feelings on the evening. It’s sorta powerful. I hope to include that soon.)

tiffanyTiffany ~

“I believe that my biggest insecurity is to be unlovable – or insignificant.

When I was 16, my mom informed me that if she had it to do all over again with me, she would have chosen to have an abortion.  She perhaps had made the wrong choice to keep me. I was just too much.  Too hard to deal with.
In my head, I read that to mean, unlovable.

When I was 21, my mom sent me my own “special” holiday letter.  It was on neon pink paper.  She informed me that I must have thought I was pretty special with all of my friends and family by my side – but one day they would all leave me.  One day I’d die alone.
I’ve always been so terrified that that was somehow some horrific prophecy.  That I would be a terrible friend and people would just drop like flies and I’d end up alone and unloved.

I lay awake at night and critique what kind of a friend I’ve been.  I worry that I have not given enough, or done enough, or perhaps I’ve taken too much.  Perhaps I’m truly not good enough to have the friends I have, or the family who loves me.
Perhaps deep down, I really am a very unlovable person.”

 

Tiffany’s friends and family –

“Hello, I’m Tiffany’s cousin, Heidi. When I got the email about this project I was SO excited at the prospect of writing something that is true and amazing about her and her reading it and fully ingesting it. And the timing is good too, because I just had my birthday and she sent me the sweetest, most heartfelt message that I did not feel worthy of. So here’s some payback:
Tiffany is immensely kind, fiercely loving, and probably the single most unselfish person I know (really, it’s true). She acts out the love of Jesus in a very real way and is always, always ready to put someone ahead of herself.  She has empathy deep and wide; real, raw empathy – the kind that is able to take a relationship deeper and into a more caring place.  I love you as family and I love who you are!!!! You are so perfectly you.” – Heidi

“Hello there!  Here are some words about my insanely awesome homegirl, Tiffany.
Exquisitely Raw
Inherently Funny
Grace Giver
Full-Hearted Mama
Love the project! Cheers!” – Lauren

“I’ve known Tiffany since we were six years old. She is one of the best listeners that I know.  She’s never made me feel like she doesn’t have time for me even if she’s dealing with her own issues. She has a huge, compassionate heart. She can knit. She’s crafty. She cooks. She’s clean & organized. She’s not afraid to take chances. She is brave & bold. She’s been through a lot and, while it may hold her down for a moment, she never lets anything keep her down. I’ve seen her confidence soar as a writer and a mother. She has gorgeous, sparkling eyes, the sweetest button nose, perfect teeth with the most inviting smile. Her skin is absolutely flawless. She has a wonderful fashion sense and fierce loyalty to those she loves. When she sets her eyes on something, you cannot get in her way. She’s feisty and intelligent. Her husband and daughter are extremely lucky to have her and I’m lucky she gets my humor & calls me friend.
xo to infinity (or google, whichever is longer).” – Rosie

“This is really inspiring! How do you always know about this cool stuff?
I would love to say nice things about you, I do it all the time when I tell people about my friend Tiffany. I just hope what I have to say makes sense.
I think you are strong; the way you have handled some of the challenges you have faced – how you keep trying; keeping an open dialog about what you’ve been through, in hopes that you might inspire someone else to be strong – that takes the kind of inner fortitude people can only respect.
I think you are brave. To try where you have failed before;  to question yourself, your beliefs, and push past the negative to create and become something positive and beautiful – that is spirit to inspire even the most fearful.
I think you are pretty; not just because you are my friend, and not just because you have nice features – like your sweet little nose and puckery lips – but because you care about how you look. It’s not the most important thing to you, and some days just aren’t as good as others, true for all of us, but the things you do to express who you are through your looks – fun necklaces, bright knit sweaters, printed tights – are just examples of the types of uniqueness that bring out your inner beauty.
I think you are diverse; with your vitamin/personal pharmacy bag, false eyelashes, whole foods, tattoos, cloth diapers, shoe collection, owl items, unique bags, breastfeeding, on and on…all of these pieces make up your amazingness.
I think you are selfless; way more selfless than most I know, including myself. The dedication you have to your family, the sacrifices you have made for your daughter, the energy you give to the work you do – these all could only be understood by someone who truly appreciates how rare these values are, especially all in the same person.
That’s probably more words than you need…and I could go on…but I probably ought to get to sleep. Please let me know if there is anything else you need!” – Lisa

“As I sit here thinking about what to write about Tiffany – it makes me laugh because there are so many amazing things about Tiffany that when I try to come up with the ‘most perfect thing to say’ – it makes me want to call Tiffany and ask her because she has an amazing way with words!  LOL!!
Tiffany is real.  Real in everything she does.
She is a friend – a true friend.
She is an amazing Mom – who does not take ONE SECOND of that for granted and for that (and many other things) she makes the world a better place.
She is honest.  I think that is something that has become a little ‘gray’ over time – not with Tiffany – SHE. IS. HONEST.  And I believe honesty and trust go hand in hand.  If you know someone is honest – you can trust them!  I trust Tiffany with all of my being.  She is ‘that guy’! 😉
Her humor is, well, there are no words.  SHE IS HILARIOUS!!  Her descriptions of things just kill me!  I should just call her ‘Thesaurus’ with all of her descriptive words – – words that no one else would’ve thought of!  She NEVER fails to make me laugh and I love her for that.
I also love her heart.  Tiffany will cry with me – that’s a sign of empathy.  She has a very deep heart and a kindness about her that seems to be missing in the world nowadays – not with Tiffany though – it’s there.
All of this wrapped up in to one happy, full of laughter and kindness – BEAUTIFUL PACKAGE. 🙂  And God blessed her & Dave with Presleigh = = that just made the world a better place.  Tiffany is an amazing Mother that most people could learn a lot from.  God love you, Tiffany – you are one of a kind and absolutely amazing and I love you to the moon and back.  I’m beyond proud to call you my friend.  God bless you. :)” – Kristin

“Hello, my name is David.  I am Tiffany’s husband.  I was very happy to find out that she decided to participate in this project.  For too long I’ve been saddened by her less than stellar opinion/image of herself.  She is usually willing to offer 4 negative things about herself to 1 positive thing.  She is in my opinion, the only one who believes these negative things to be true.  If she can obtain a level of peace with herself, or perhaps a better understanding of just who she really is and how others truly see her, then, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend an evening of her time.
My wife is quite possibly the most kind, generous, stubborn, and unselfish person I have ever met.  All of these traits, especially the stubbornness, have allowed her to be married to the likes of myself.  Her kindness is displayed daily by how she treats those around her.  She is quick with a smile, and to help those in need whether there will be reciprocity or not.  She is generous with her spare time (of which there is little with a 9-month-old toddling around).  She has volunteered to help the homeless, and was all set to volunteer at a shelter that provides temporary/emergency housing for child victims of domestic abuse if and when a parent gets hauled off to jail and CPS is unavailable due to the late hour.  She would have followed through with that except that we found out to our extreme joy that we were expecting our own child, and thought rest a more prudent course.
Her stubbornness, I believe, is what has carried her through to where she is in life today.  Being born to an extremely selfish (sociopathic, in my opinion) mother who ripped her away from her loving and adoring grandparents at whatever whim she deemed appropriate, so she could “play” mother , and take her into whatever drug-addled, abusive relationships she was in at the time could have sent her down a terrible path that we see too often in our society.  Instead, she persevered; refused to repeat the cycle.  She yearned for, and learned a better way to be.  She refused to be like her mother and was too stubborn to falter from her decided course. She was born with hips that weren’t perfect, a fact that has caused her agonizing daily pain.  She could have given in, become sedentary, and turned to alcohol or drugs to keep the pain away.  Instead, she tucks her chin down, and continues forward with her life.  She accepts the pain as part of being alive.  She hardly even says a word about it.
She displays her unselfishness to me daily.  We (mostly she) have decided to raise our daughter in a more natural way.  From breastfeeding, to higher quality foods with ingredients you can pronounce, to cloth diapering.  All of these things are not the easy way.  We both read a lot in our spare time.  While I am usually checking out the latest effort from Tom Clancy or John Grisham, she is reading about better, more natural ways to feed and take care of our family.  She is reading books about how to teach our daughter sign language so she can communicate with us before she can talk.  She is continually thinking about how she can make me happier, or what new and exciting recipe she can try to bring a smile to my face.
I’ll wrap this up with these final few thoughts about my wife.
I have never second-guessed my decision to ask her to marry me.  It is, and will remain forever, the single best decision I’ve made in my life.
She is my moral compass.
She is my lighthouse on a foggy night at sea that keeps me off the rocks.
I don’t know, and don’t want to know what I’d do without her.
Selfishly, a part of me hopes that she never does figure out what an amazing person she really is, lest she wonder what the hell she’s doing with the likes of me. 
Thank you, Alana, for doing this – I think that it is a great venture.  I sincerely hope you’re able to get all the support and traction you need to turn this into a bona-fide movement.  Perhaps Oprah will come out of retirement and invite you to her couch one day to sing your praises.” – David



jenbJen B. ~

“I am never enough.

I am not smart enough, so I’ve gone out to get degree after degree and multiple certifications to prove to myself I am an academic. 

I am not smart enough.

I am not pretty enough. I hang out with the pretty people but I don’t really belong with them.
I’m not pretty enough.

I am not eloquent enough. I say the wrong things. I open my mouth before I think. I curse. I shout. I am crude.
I am not eloquent enough.

I am not thin enough. I have been on diets since I was in the 4th grade. Even at 20% body fat when I was 19 years old, I thought I was obese. So much so that I gained 140 pounds and weighed 335 pounds when I was 29 years old. I worked my ass off literally and can say I am still not thin enough and I am probably not healthy enough.

I am not artistic enough. No matter how crafty I might be, it just looks like crap.
I am not artistic enough.

I am not lovable enough.

I am not compassionate enough. I feel selfish because I sometimes don’t care. I just want my shit to get worked out and I don’t have time to deal with anyone else’s crap.
I am not compassionate enough.

I am not a good enough parent. What does that really mean? When does the report card come out on this?

I am not enough. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I do or how hard I try, I am still struggling to be enough for everyone.

I am never enough.

The breakdown of my insecurities and the realization that these negativities are always going through my brain is scary. I’m sure there are even more. The phrase “I am never enough” is HUGE. I am actually a rational person and over the past 10 years I have seriously tried to combat the ideas that I am constantly hearing in my head. I have filled many journals with words, thoughts, and questions for myself. I’m trying to fight back against the craziness that is me.
During the journaling, I came up a phrase that I wrote every single time as the last statement for the day. “I love myself AS IS.” I came up with this because I remembered as a kid looking through the clothing racks and seeing the red writing “AS-IS” on a tag. There was something wrong with the garment. Something the store thought was so terrible they couldn’t sell it for full price. However, someone, somewhere LOVED the “AS-IS” garments. They could fix a zipper, change the look, whatever.
I love myself “AS-IS”.
The other saying I’ve come to like lately is “The voice in your head that says you can’t do this is a LIAR!” – Jen B.

Jen B.’s friends and family –

“Jen has so many good things about her. She is thoughtful and compassionate. She is always helping her students to make sure that they are doing the very best they can, whether during or after school. She is incredibly intelligent.
Jen is very outgoing and fun to be around and continually makes sure that everyone is having a good time. She is very much the life of every party. The best trait she has developed, at least over the last two and half years, is how wonderful she is as a mom. She is loving, thoughtful, and considerate when it comes to all things surrounding our daughter. I have to say, though, that of all the positive things she has going for her, which are immense, the top two are her patience and tolerance. I can speak to this firsthand, as I am very good at stretching both to their thinnest margin. I wake up everyday thinking that I have hit the lottery and sweepstakes knowing that she said “yes”. Thank you for that, by the way.” – Chris

“Dear Jen,
There are so many wonderful things about you. I don’t know if you know this, but you are one of my favorite people in the world. We are very much alike in some ways, but so different in some other ways. I definitely consider you a sister more than anything else.
You are such a strong person. I like the fact that you are a can-do person. I have never known you to say “I can’t do” anything. You always attack everything you do with confidence and enthusiasm. I am in awe of that ability. I am often negative and lack confidence in myself when doing a task. You have influenced me in a positive way to be more self-confident in everything I attempt. Our competitive natures have served us well in our quest for being more than “Montessori lite.” We are well on our way to becoming true professionals that Maria would admire. Promise me you’ll never go completely hardcore on me!
I also love, love, love your sense of humor! You and I share a similar sense of humor, and I appreciate your twisted way of looking at the world. In addition, you have the best laugh I have ever heard! I love hearing it echo through the halls at school. I know it will be an incredible day when I hear you laughing in the morning.
We have more fun than should be legally allowed at work, and I get an anxiety attack when I think of either of us leaving and not working together. I know the day will come when one of us flies the Bryant coop, but I can’t dwell on that, because I will break down.
I am so happy that you have welcomed me into your family of friends. Most of my friends were married couples, and when marriages break up, you find out who your true friends are. Apparently I have no true friends, except for my work family who keep me sane and alive. You were my one and only confidant when my ex first betrayed me. I don’t know what I would have done without your support. You showed unconditional love and didn’t judge the situation at all. When things further disintegrated, you were my fierce defender, and your jabs at the ex were truly appreciated. He deserved them.
Really, you know my life is fucked up. I am so thankful to have your love and support, you just don’t know. You really are far more a sister to me than any friend has a right to be. I trust you implicitly with my secrets, and I know they are safe with you. That is more than I can say about even members of my own family. You are beautiful, smart, tough and kind. Also, a great mom! I love seeing what a beautiful well-adjusted kid your Natalie is turning out to be. I hope you will allow me to be her honorary aunt forever! I can only hope that I have been as good a friend to you as you have been to me. I love you kid; now and always.” – Laura

“BEAUTIFUL inside and out (eyes to die for)
Loyal
The most competitive woman I know
So stinkin smart
Very dedicated to family
Loud – the greatest, loudest, laugh EVER!
Hard working
Dedicated
Super stubborn 🙂
Would do anything for her friends or family
Very generous
Devoted mother, sister, daughter
Independent
Adventurous
By far one of the strongest women I have ever met, physically and mentally.” – Jenny

“I have only known you six short years but have known you by your maiden name and then your married name as you transitioned from R… to Jen R…-B…. (You married into a good clan.) I have known you without a child to pregnant with child, and now as a mother. You have gone through two of life’s major changes in this short time. I admire your strength and ability to do the hard work of balancing your role as mother, wife and teacher, in addition to other hats that you wear. You throw yourself into everything you do with creativity and enthusiasm.
You are a wonderful Mom. I love hearing your stories about Nat and the latest thing she has done, or how she is just like you when you were her age. She is lucky to have you as a mother. I am so looking forward to getting to know her when she comes to Bryant.
I enjoyed co-teaching with you two years ago. You taught and I watched. You are a masterful teacher who can think on your feet. I love watching you take a concept or lesson and rework it so you get at what the kids do not understand. You show them why math is important. You make them think. How many times have we all heard….. “Ms. B… scares me! I am afraid of Ms. B… and I am in 9th grade.” The students love you but they are afraid of you. It is your Leo roar.
You are a true Leo. Your lioness strength fills any room you are in when you are showing your Leo traits. You do not shy from the limelight and have a flair for the dramatic when on stage. You are fearless and strong.
I love having you as a coworker. You are always willing to think about an idea I might throw out. You are always game for a new field study even though it may be out of your comfort zone. When you give me the eye-roll after I have asked a particularly simple question about the computer (usually), I have learned to eye-roll back or at least give you grief. I appreciate your input and ideas and energy you put into everything you do at work.” -Wynne

“Dear Jen,
I think you may be one of the most considerate people I know. We tease you because you’ve been known to curse at inopportune times, or because you have a voice and a glare that carry across a room with ease, but we won’t be fooled; you’re a softy. You are so sensitive to others’ needs and seem to know what to say or do to make it better.
• you are my champion when my bully walks into the room.
• you notice when I am inwardly freaking out, thinking that no one can see it, and say things like, “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
• you offer me chocolate when someone makes me cry and then always follow it up the next day with something like, “How ya doin’?”
• and…you have bought me flowers more times than my ex-husband ever did.
You are beautiful, thoughtful, hilarious, warm-hearted, and so very appreciated.
Love, Therese”

laurarLaura R. ~

“Let me begin by saying that while some women will be searching for one thing that makes them feel insecure, I have spent the last several weeks weeding through my host of insecurities; I am “the fat kid” of my family, I am covered in freckles, I tend to always say the wrong thing at the wrong time. But in reviewing my list, I realized that I have one deep seated fear. The fear is of loss and abandonment. I live in constant fear of the other shoe dropping, always. It may be the Irish in me, this melancholy belief that I will lose everything that is good and right in my life. What’s worse is that I believe that it is my fault. Somehow I am not good enough a person to be worthy of good things and lasting relationships.

There is a reason I feel this way. I have lost throughout my life. It began with the loss of my dad. My dad was a larger than life person who meant the entire world to me. I looked up to that man, and wanted to be just like him. When I was 17, on a cold autumn night, my Dad fell asleep behind the wheel of his car and hit a tree. He died all alone on a deserted Massachusetts back road. This experience shook me to my very core. If only I had been of more help, my Dad wouldn’t have had to work so hard, and he wouldn’t have been so tired. From that point on, I felt set apart from all of my friends. I was the kid who everyone should feel sorry for. I couldn’t wait to go to college so I could try to forget what had happened.

Life went on. I moved from Boston to San Francisco on a whim in 1989. I met my now former husband at a Blues bar. It was love at first sight. We got together and I knew I had found the man I would be with forever, the father of my children. We did get married and had two boys. I loved him with all of my heart. About 4 years ago, on New Year’s Eve, he told me, in tears, that he had betrayed me. I was crushed. I knew that if I had been a better wife, a better lover, a better housekeeper and cook, he wouldn’t have betrayed me. We agreed to go to counseling, and put about a year of counseling into our relationship. Unbeknownst to me, Sam had betrayed me again. My first reaction was utter fear, loss and betrayal. I begged him at first to go back to counseling with me. I told him I would be a better wife, a better lover, I would do anything, just please don’t leave me. I knew he would come back to me eventually… He is now engaged to another woman. Again, it was my fault. I had gained a lot of weight, I wasn’t sexy, I was a mother before a wife. I was too involved in my job. It was my fault he left.

Finally, there are my sons. My sons are my world. They are the absolute best that I can give the world. I always had a nagging fear that I wasn’t a good parent, that I wasn’t patient enough, that I didn’t do all I could for them. My oldest son has decided to move out of the house at 18, and work rather than go to college. He is a gifted young man and surely if I had not pushed him so hard, or pushed him harder, he would be in college by now. Our relationship is strained because of the disappointment I feel. I am afraid I will lose him forever.

My youngest is 16, and has been diagnosed with a pervasive illness. He is sick and misses many days of school and I know it’s my fault. If I hadn’t been a lousy wife and my husband left me, my baby would be ok. I am afraid that I will lose my Jacob. If I had stayed home with him, and not worked, I could have prevented this. I am a terrible mom; that is what my mind tells me when I think about my poor baby.

Surely someone who has had this much loss has to have something wrong with her. I don’t know if I am too fat, too loud, too uncaring, but I know that I carry two things with me; my maudlin Irish sensibility, and my Roman Catholic guilt. My Boston Catholicism tells me it is an accumulation of my sins that caused all this bad and loss in my life. I’m the walking plague.”

Laura R.’s friends and family –

“Hi,
This project is amazing!  I wish every woman knew her self-worth, myself included.
Laura is my older sister and has been someone I have admired all my life.  Having seen your project, I am going to write a paragraph about her and I believe you will pull out the keywords to write on the blackboards.
Laura is one of the strongest people I know.  She has persevered through so many hard times and she always manages to keep her sense of humor.  She is so funny!
She is also one of the most intelligent people I know.  Not only in the academic sense, but her emotional intelligence is palpable.
She relates to anyone and everyone and she is able to communicate as effectively with PhD’s as she is with a homeless person or a kindergartener.
She has always been one step ahead of every trend; be it music, theatre, literature, fashion, art…  She’s just ahead of her time, I guess.  A pioneer of sorts.  So talented in so many ways.
She is so loving and caring.  She really cares for her family and friends, students, neighbors, community…  She’s always willing to help.
She’s selfless and giving, of her time, talent, heart and smile.  She has a magnificent smile and a beautiful, full mouth.  When she smiles, it shows on her whole face, even her dimple shows up.  Her eyes are so beautiful.  Green, big, and a window into her beautiful soul. She’s always had great hair.  Trendy, stylish, healthy.  I wish she could see herself as I see her.  She’s beautiful inside and out.
I’m so proud to be her sister.  I hope I can learn from her and be more like her.
I love her so much!
Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to participate.” – Cara

“I met Tina in September of 1985. We were roommates at Emmanuel College, Boston.
Tina is one of the most caring, patient and real people I have ever met. One of the first things I noticed was the tight bond she had with her family. I always looked forward to going home to Ashland, MA with her.
Tina has a big heart. She is very selfless and is a great mom. She raised two terrific  boys while going to school!
I have always envied how smart Tina is. She is a strong woman; a true friend who is never judgmental.
Tina has a great ear for music. She introduced me to musical groups and genres I never would have thought of listening to.
Beautiful (inside and out); trustworthy and real; generous, funny, athletic. Tina’s numerous traits would make anyone envious!” – Ann Marie

“Laura, my “sista from Massachusetts.” I learn so much from you Laura. You are persistent, steady, strong and faithful. Working with you these last seven years, I have seen you take whatever life has pitched and do what you need for those around you, and for yourself. You are a true New Englander with your strength and ability to do what needs to get done. Yet, unlike many of our east coast ancestors, and maybe because of your west coast experiences, you take care of yourself in addition to doing what you have to do for others.
Your love for your boys is wonderful to see in action. They are lucky to have you as their mom. You believe in them but you also hold them responsible for the people they are and who they are growing to be. You are their rock! In the same way your kids know you are there for them, the kids at school trust you because you are fair and honest. You share your honesty with them and you hold them accountable for who they can be.
You are adventuresome and daring. You are willing to go out and meet new people, date new men, and build the life you want to live. You show your kids what it is to live life with meaning by taking the steps toward the life you want to have. You are brave.
You are so funny. I love your sacrilegious, outspoken analysis of any political, personal or private matter. If you are going to hell we will be there with you and we will all be laughing.
You put words to many of my thoughts and make me laugh about the worst and the best things.
Last but not least you are wicked smaaht!!! I love talking to you about politics, ideas, history and education.
I feel lucky to have you as a coworker who is also a friend.” – Wynne

“Dear Laura,
You have mastered the art of making lemonade. Oh…and not JUST lemonade, but lemon bars, lemon chicken and lemon meringue pie! Damn!
The amount of lemons that life has sent your way in the last couple of years has resulted in a finely honed skill and you are now a lean, mean, lemon-fighting machine! I hope to be half the lemon-slayer that you are when I grow up.
I admire you for a number of reasons, Laura…
1. Your knowledge of history rivals that of my mother. (God forbid I ever have to choose between the two of you for my Trivial Pursuit partner.)
2. You can whip out a 10-page paper in one sitting…and it will be GOOD!
3. You connect with your students in a deep and meaningful way.
4. Your ability to boil down a situation to a “sound bite” that makes us all laugh so hard.
5. Your personal style.
6. Your self-discipline.
7. Your love for your children.
8. Your ease with which you are transforming into what makes you more happy and content.
It has been a pleasure to sit and think of all the reasons I enjoy being around you.
Love, Therese”

“I’m writing you let you know some of the positive things about Laura. I have known her for more than twenty years. She is the smartest, and most loving and caring person that I have or will probably ever know.
I.                    Smart
a.       She is one of a few people I know that can answer those T.V. jeopardy questions.
b.      She watched the children all day and still managed to keep a GPA above 3.5.
c.       She volunteered to assist in school, sometime putting in more than 29 hours a week, and kept her GPA over 3.5.
d.      She can debate on just about any subject – not only a common sense debate, but also a factual one.
e.      With all of these things, the one thing that will always stand out: she never puts herself above anyone. She never makes you feel that you are below her. I know this is hard for a majority of us, but she does it with ease.
II.                  Loving
a.       Laura love is unconditional.  She truly loves from her heart.  To many of us who know her, this was a new experience.
b.      She loves life, and will do all she can to help others enjoy and love life.
III.                Caring
a.       We all know (plants, animals, and peoples) about how caring she is.
b.      She wakes up at 4:30 to ensure all lesson plans are prepared. She stays at school several ours after her contractual time is over to make herself available to all students who are struggling.
c.       She takes the time to hear your problems, no matter how many problems she has going on in her own life.
d.      As stated above, she takes the time to LISTEN to your problem, not to inject a solution, or compare your problem, but to LISTEN to your problem.  This is one thing that I think most of us can learn from her.
e.      She will share her time and money and give you the clothes off of her back if that helps you get through life. I know there may never be another Mother Theresa, but to me, she is the closest thing out there.
I felt honored when I was asked to write this letter.  She thinks there are only ten people who can write positive things about her. Laura, almost every student that you taught would have written a great letter about you; when most of your students win any major awards, they want to share them with you.  You may never realize the positive you have given the world.  I say ‘world’ because you have taught your family and students to “pay it forward”.  This will affect many people in a positive way, and it is all because of you.
I would like to say thank you for all that you have done for me.  You have made me the man I am today.   You have shown me there is good in everyone, no matter how much evil that you see.
The world is a much better place and it is because of you.” – Sam

“Dear Laura,
You are one of the emotionally strongest people I have ever met. You have been through so much in your life and every time you pick yourself up and start again. You never give up! You are the very essence of perseverance. I admire you greatly for your talents.
You can hold a conversation with anyone. As a professional I have learned so much from you in how to approach a situation with tact and respectfulness while making sure to stay true and honest to the situation. As a friend I have been reminded of the many walks of life we have come from. When I read your posts about equality and the reminders that the work of civil rights is not done, I am inspired to think about what I can do as a global citizen. Thank you for always saying the hard things that need to be said.
I remember when I first met you over eight years ago. We had a slight connection even then. You have become a great partner to teach with and a wonderful friend to hang out with. I love that I can count on you for anything and I can call you crying for any reason. You will listen. You are compassionate, truthful, fair & loyal. I love you.
Thank you for everything you have done for me, even if you don’t realize the impact you’ve had.
Love,
Jen

“I love Laura. I love her openness and her honesty. She’s one of those instant connection kind of folks. She sees the people around her in a way most people don’t bother to. She takes the time to actually look. To make note. To care. I think that is most reflected in her teaching. When you walk into her classroom you can tell that this is a woman who is emotionally invested in each and every kid in that room. (Honestly, sometimes it can be a little heartbreaking to witness.) I worry so much about the pain she must feel when she can’t do as much as she wants, but then I see her strength and resilience and the huge amounts of bravery it takes to be her and I am awed. That’s right, I said awed…because she’s awe-inspiring. WHICH MEANS SHE’S AWESOME. (or to quote her, “wicked awesome”. heheheh.) I love you, Laura, my friend. My friend, you may never see how beautiful, brave, strong you are. But… I see it. I think everyone who meets you does. I feel like you are facing a future you never dreamed of. I am wishing for you a happiness that you never thought you could have. You are becoming a beautiful new you and that makes me happy and so very proud to know you.” – Jamey

brandyBrandy~

“To sit down and put all my insecurities on paper is difficult, not only because it is emotional to open that Pandora’s box, but because when I look at people that are really suffering, I feel selfish. Who am I to feel this way when I am healthy and have my limbs, two beautiful children, etc.? But, as we know, insecurities aren’t always fact-based…they are that little creepy voice that probably got way too much attention as a child.
That said, I’m going to plug my nose and dive in, and there I pause. I don’t think I have ever really felt loved, I have a problem with true intimacy, and there are times that I feel like I am the ugliest hag. I remember seeing the picture that at first glance is the beautiful maiden with the choker necklace, but on further inspection, she is the ugly crone witch – that witch is how I have seen my face reflected for most of my life.
My fear of intimacy is hard to define. I have never shied away from relationships or friendships, but sometimes I feel like if people knew the real me…or that those that have known the real me don’t like what they see. I have been very misunderstood most of my life. I care so deeply for people and feel others emotions so completely that sometimes I feel like its my fault if there is chaos.
I want to feel like someone can really love me, see me. I want my family to accept me. I want to always look in the mirror and see beauty, not hate the reflection that looks back.
In the last year I have grown immensely. One of my therapies is to look back at pictures when I felt low, beat up, and unattractive and see that I wasn’t looking like I felt on the inside. I have been kinder to myself and have started for the first time to have a real relationship with me instead of looking for things from outside sources. I picture myself as a child and what I would give me or say to me so that I could feel that love and compassion. I now try and look at all I have to be thankful for instead of looking back at where I have been. I’m voicing my spirituality and trying to surround myself with people who are in better alignment with my being.
We all have hurt, pain and baggage that we carry around. I have said for the last two years, if only we could hold up a mirror to ourselves and see what others see, the world would be a different place – and then this project came my way, after a night of asking for a sign of new directions and sending me people who are making a difference. That is the truth. Thank You, Alana.” 

Brandy’s friends and family –

“Brandy is a beautiful woman inside and out; great heart and soul. She is an excellent mother, businesswoman, and healer, who is involved in the community on many levels. I find her to be a courageous, loving, kind, resourceful, talented woman who cares about family, friends, and community. When I think of what a successful businesswoman looks like, I picture Brandy. She is a good motivation for me when I am feeling tired and worn down. I enjoy our friendship, and hope to continue it for many years to come.” – Steven C. Pepping

“Brandy is a free spirit that always looks for the best in people. She can make a lonely situation brighter with her smile and infectious laugh. People always seem to cling to her and be attracted to her energy level. She is a great mother who goes out of her way to teach her daughters the right and wrongs about life. She provides for them while also teaching them the importance of independence. She always fights for what she wants, no matter the obstacles she faces. She is very selfless when it comes to her peers and would drop anything and do anything for someone if it would help lighten their load. She is always ready for a great time, no matter the situation and always looks wonderful.” – Zairy

“Beautiful
Firecracker
Outgoing
Positive
Holistic
Energetic
Wild
Unique
Confident” – Candy

“I would like to share a few qualities about one of my best friends, Brandy.
Brandy is beautiful inside and out, and that becomes apparent the moment you meet her. From her signature red hair, to her gorgeous smile and infectious laugh, she is the epitome of true, natural beauty.
She is a driven career woman. Strong and independent. She is continuously striving to learn more, do more, and be better than she was the day before. She is one of the most loyal, honest, genuine people I have ever known. She loves wholeheartedly and would go to the ends of the earth for the people she cares about. I can tell her anything without fear of being judged or looked down upon. She tells it like it is, even if it isn’t what you want to hear. She has no idea how much that has helped me at times.
She makes people laugh. Brandy radiates positive energy, and it is near impossible not to have fun when she is in the room. She always manages to bring our old friends together, so that we never lose contact for very long. I love her carefree, child-like spirit. She has a sense of adventure and spontaneity and a desire to see the world. She plays the role of both mommy and daddy to her littlest star, Araydia, and does so with grace and ease. I admire that about her so much more than she could ever know. She is definitely a super mom. I could go on and on, but I will sum it up by saying this: If you are lucky enough to have Brandy as a friend, co-worker, partner, or mom, then you have found the best of the best.
I love you, B. and I cherish our friendship. You are simply amazing!!” ~Nicole

“Hi, Brandy requested I do this but there is not a form of questions.  Do I just tell you that I think she is a beautiful, kindhearted, sexy, gorgeous, tenacious, upbeat, outgoing, dear friend who is also a devoted, gifted mom that has an amazing relationship with her two daughters. a sister… a friend who from the moment I met, I felt at ease with.  She is open-minded and I learn a lot from my conversations with her.  She is a good listener and gives heartfelt sound advice.  I LOVE HER.
Namaste,
Sonia”

 

jenjJen J. ~

“Over the last year or so, I’ve found myself driving home or to run an errand and crying in my car on a fairly regular basis. I guess when I find myself alone and stop having something to keep my hands busy, my mind wanders to an unfriendly place. I have time to ponder why I am where I am. My decisions, actions (or inactions), and the sometimes-cruel curve ball called life that have put me in this place where I feel so lost and alone. Worse than that though, I feel helpless and broken. My car is dependable – it’s me that’s always breaking down.

I’ve struggled with what I would consider my biggest insecurity. Trying to identify it had me making lists. Lists of the things I don’t like about myself. It is not a fun list.

For this project, I wanted to be unique and say something that no one else had. It turns out while reading the stories and insecurities of past group members I found that I could identify with a lot of the things the other ladies said about themselves.

I’m overweight and under pretty; I’m scared of being alone and I feel unloved. Sometimes I feel like a horrible friend to those that have stuck around and haven’t completely abandoned our friendship. I often feel like people find me annoying or boring and make excuses not to be around me. Sometimes I don’t feel like I have a lot to live for.

I think my greatest insecurity is being alone. It kind of blankets a lot of my fears. I’m terrified of not being able to offer anything worthwhile in a relationship and will find myself without anyone. Guys tend to say that I’m great and I’ll make someone really happy. They want to reminisce about how great I was once they’re stuck with someone who treats them bad. I’m perfect for someone else…just not them.

 I don’t know who I am and I’m afraid I’ll never figure it out. I’m so scared of all the time I’ve wasted waiting for something to happen rather than doing something for myself. 

While I’ve been waiting for everything to happen I’ve gone from thin and healthy to morbidly obese; engaged, to single for 5 long years; unemployed, living at home, and dependent on my dad to provide for me. Will I ever be able to get my shit together? 

I’m afraid I’ll never be enough for anyone to love and want to marry. I’ll end up the crazy cat lady that never leaves her house. I’ll never have children because I’ll never find anyone that wants to be with me over someone else. I’ll never find out if I could be a good mom. I’m scared that I’m running out of time.

I’m at a point in my life where I go to more funerals than weddings. I’m losing people faster than I’m gaining them. My already small family is getting smaller every year. We’ve lost the older generation, which is natural but devastating. We’ve also lost a couple younger than me. I am so scared that no one will ever understand what it felt like to hear my dad yelling down the hall and know that I’d never hug my sister again.

Life is chipping away little pieces of me and I’ll never feel whole. Maybe that’s my biggest insecurity.

Being forever un-whole. I’m losing pieces of myself all the time and I can’t find anything to fill the empty spots back in with.

I should be strong enough to stand up to the winds of change but I find that it’s biting and cuts right through me. I’m frozen with fear, in pieces, unable to move. Why would anyone choose to be around that?”

Jen J.’s friends and family –

“My first daughter, Jennifer, is beautiful, sweet, honest and deeply devoted to those people that she loves and cares about.  She loves to learn about new things and is an amazing Jeopardy player. She loves to do craft projects, which she learns very quickly, and does them to perfection.
She is not only my daughter but is also my confidant/friend, and she’s been there whenever I’ve needed her. We have wonderful deep meaningful conversations about everything in life and I love hearing her opinion.
She always finds time to make the people in her life feel special, and she does special things for them. Her level of patience is amazing, both with people and with pets!!! She’s always willing to try to teach the pommie babies better manners and how to be good K9 citizens.
She never holds a grudge and always tries to understand both sides of any issue presented to her.
She goes literally ‘out of her way’ to make things work for her friends and family. She’s the one who will throw a birthday party for you, making every detail about that party reflect the person who it is being thrown for. She does special things for birthdays and for Christmas; things that she knows will make that person happy, which usually includes homemade/handmade treats and or decorations!!
Jennifer is giving and kind and always thinking of others even though she’s had to suffer much heartbreak in her own life already.  When life has given her lemons, she’s made delicious lemonade!  The tough times haven’t soured her though. She just keeps right on going – bubbly and positive, smiling, and punching life in the face.
She is an amazing photographer and gets much joy from her newfound passion and it shows – not only in her pictures but also in her everyday life.
She has a rare kind of nature that is forgiving, empathetic and loving. She always gives people the benefit of the doubt.  Even when she’s been hurt by someone, she’s forgiving, and she’s not one to judge others.

Jennifer is a beautiful person, inside and out!!  I am so very proud to call this incredible person my daughter, my friend!!” – Wanda    (Mom) 

“My sister Jen is an intelligent, creative, well-rounded and beautiful woman.
She is an individual of humility and integrity. She has always been there for me if I’ve needed her, or to lend a helping hand and a laugh when you need one the most. Jen is a role model and, while she is someone that may not always believe in herself, she is someone that I have believed in for many years and will continue to believe in for more to come.
Here and there she has hit bumps in the road, whether it is jobs, friends, or her insecurities about herself, but it has never caused her to be anyone but who she is, and that’s what I admire most. Jen isn’t afraid to stick a middle finger up to the world and believe that if she is happy with whom she is then no one else matters.
Everyday we’re surrounded with images and propaganda that epitomize what a “beautiful” person is, but even the most beautiful of people can seem ugly if their heart permeates hatred or distaste towards others. Those of us who see Jen’s true beauty scoff at the outside world. Who are they to judge one of God’s children when they have yet to understand where that person has come from, what they’ve been through, or the personality they bear within themselves? When you take the chance to open your heart and allow yourself to truly understand and know another individual, you see that they are more special than you ever thought imaginable.
I love my sister, and I know I can always count on her. We will forever live in this world of judgment and cruelty, but, to me, my sister is able to outshine the darkest of people and surpass the contempt that the world displays to those around them. She, instead, shows the world that true beauty lies in those that are able to show love even when it has not been shown in return. Jen is who I think of when I hear the words beautiful, warmhearted, and compassionate. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and takes the world head-on without allowing the obstacles she faces to get in her way.
Working on trying to find who she is in the world, I believe she is on the road to a new beginning, one of hope and strength. She will continue to create memories for herself and those around her with her breathtaking photography that captures every moment and distills it, so that those memories never go to waste.
Because one day when she is married and has kids of her own, all that she has done in the past will forever be cherished within these photographs that will never fade and will last a lifetime, awaiting more to be added in their place.
You’re beautiful and I love you dearly.
Your sister,
Angela <3”

“Gorgeous soul
Creative, crafty and artistic
Eyes that sparkle, genuine smile
Patient, kind
Animal lover
Infectious laugh” – Loni

laurajLaura J. ~

“When I think of me, I think of a better person than I was even ten years ago.  But, my question always comes back to, “how does the world see me?”
Do they see a woman that is unsure of herself? Fat? Ugly? Maybe too intuitive?
Do they see the me that has high expectations for everyone and maybe pushes for that too much of the time?
The girl in me feels that I weigh too much; I don’t keep my house up to the world’s standards; I am scared to talk to people because they will just see what I am and run the other way.
I like who I am and who I am becoming, but I have a hard time making friends because I am scared of what others see.” 

 

Laura J.’s friends and family –

“I have a very special girlfriend…her name is Laura J.
When I first met Laura, it seemed as though I had known her for years. We met first over the phone and spoke with each other nearly every day. Laura is an honest, caring and wonderful friend. Even though we live many miles apart, our hearts beat to the same beat. I love you, Laura.” – no name

“She is strong,
… Supportive,
… Independent,
… Teacher,
… Confident,
… Loving,
… An awesome mom,
… A great friend,
… Creative
… An awesome person to get to know.
Her awesomely raised daughter, Kara.”

“Who is Laura?
My friend Laura is one of my best friends.  Someone I trust; who I can tell almost anything to without judgment. Someone who is always there when you need her.
I know she doesn’t give herself credit, but she’s a very smart and savvy woman.  To be able to do what she does, as successfully as she does it, takes a lot of effort and intelligence.  Not everyone is capable of what she is.
She’s also one of the most loving people I know.  She has helped me through some tough times with great words of wisdom, allowing me to feel what I was feeling, all while pointing me to the amazing things and people in my life.  She’s a mama bear.  Someone who’s extremely loyal to her family and close friends.  Someone who will stand and fight with you when you need her to, even if you don’t ask her to.  I don’t think she even realizes just how strong she is.  She’s also one of the most giving people I know.  Sharing her time, knowledge, and experiences, in addition to going over the top to show her gratitude for the little things that others do for her.  She’s a wife, mother, businesswoman, and most importantly to me, my friend, who I love dearly.
Thank you for doing this project.  I hope that it helps the women you depict to see how others see them.  Laura doesn’t give herself the credit that I think she deserves.” – Mike

“I think Laura is absolutely beautiful. Her hair is gorgeous and she always has a glow about her. Her eyes are filled with light and a bit of mischief, plus, her laugh is infectious.
She is a loving mother. She is responsible and caring.
She is excellent with the technology whether it be a camera, or anything else for that matter. She is a very intelligent woman.
But, what I love about Laura the most is that in a world where a lot of people are fake, Laura is completely honest! I can ask her anything and she will tell me the truth.” – Leslee

“Laura, Hmm, let me see. Strong and efficient on the outside, but sweet and caring once you get past that. Beautiful, and caring; if you let her, she will STRONGY defend her family (dogs too), and her love of her marriage!! Which to me makes her a rare find these days, and a good true friend that I am glad I have had the chance to get let into her life. I look forward to my daily greetings – often she turns a crappy long day around and makes me smile!!” – Robert

“Some of my fondest memories are of time with my two sisters. My oldest sister is going to be 80 in November and my middle sister is 12 years older than me (65). We spent an entire weekend together 3 years ago. We laughed so much, the tears came flowing.
Another warm, fuzzy memory is of my friend, Laura. Our friendship began when I would talk with her almost every morning when I was working. In my job, I worked with the elderly; in Laura’s case, I worked with her father-in-law. Laura has such a warm, caring way about her. She loved to spend time with her father-in-law when she and her husband returned to Iowa to visit. Laura would “boost me up” on days where I was buried in paperwork. We were blessed to have lunch together a few times when she was back to Iowa. A true friend is someone whom, when you haven’t seen each other for a while, you both can pick up the conversation as if you have just seen each other the day before. Laura is in my “keeper for life” friend. She is a very positive person and always has her way of finding the positives for others even when the day seems to have bogged you down. My sincere thanks to this Wonderful Lady.” – Phyllis

 

Group 1, Part 1: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/women-raw-honest-loved-part-1-2/
Group 1, Part 2: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/women-raw-honest-loved-part-2/
Group 2, TEENS!: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/teen-version-women-raw-honest-loved/
Group 3, 55+: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/55-version-women-raw-honest-loved/
Group 4: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/group-4-women-raw-honest-loved/

7 comments

  1. prappleye · November 12, 2013

    Reblogged this on Prappleye's Blog and commented:
    The newest group is up! If you’re not already following this project, you should be…grab some tissues!

  2. Normal is the New Weird · November 12, 2013

    I love this project. I love that you’re doing it, and I love reading them. Keep going!

    • alanatphotography · November 12, 2013

      Thank you so much!!! Hearing people’s feedback such as your own definitely keeps it going. Hearing how many people can relate to these messages gives me all the support I need. Thank you so much for supporting it in this way! It is very much appreciated. ❤

  3. Pingback: group 7! – MEN!!! (nope, not women) men: raw. honest. loved. | alanatphotography
  4. Pingback: group 8! women: raw. honest. loved. | alanatphotography
  5. Pingback: Suicide. Insecurity. Self-Esteem. And the power of communication. Group 11 – Decorah, Iowa Teens! | alana t photography

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