beginnings, thank yous, and overwhelming heart tugs.

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We just had our reunion of the nine groups that have happened so far and it got me thinking about beginnings. 

This project started about a year and a half ago, in February of 2013, as merely a “thought”, more or less.
As an idea.
As a little shift from the “normal,” just to see what could come of it.
It started because, simply, I feel that communication is powerful. Conversation can breed change.
It continues because that communication has become more powerful than I ever thought possible.

As I’ve said many times over, it started because I was more and more disgusted by the gossip, slander, trash-talking that is common among women. The ONE goal I had was that the eighteen of us in that first group would walk away with a little more understanding and a little more empathy – that we would check ourselves before we think something disparaging about another person, definitely before we voice such a thing to someone else. That we would take the time to realize that, more often than not, there is SOMEthing we have in common with them – that if we took five minutes to really listen to them…to listen about things that matter…our quick-to-judge opinion would change.

The project has continued because that has definitely happened. But, that’s not all that has happened. I receive letters over and over from participants who have gained more self-respect, more self-love. Who, besides being slower to judge others, are also now slower to judge themselves. They are equipped to recall the positive traits about themselves that their loved ones believe to be their overwhelming qualities. They’re not just equipped to do it – they actually DO it.

The project continues because I also receive letters and feedback from those who haven’t even been directly involved yet – those who take comfort in the words of participants that are friends and strangers alike, finding that they’re not alone in their feelings, in their insecurities. That we’re all more and more alike than we sometimes imagine.

One of the things that has impressed me the most about this project is that every. single. time. I orchestrate/facilitate another group or ANYthing related to the project – no matter how nervous I may get – everything flows so effortlessly and easily. It tells me every time that this is what I am supposed to be doing. Things just flow and work with this because it is based in positivity. Because it is solely for building up, supporting, and loving one another.

Even when it came down to organizing a party that would consist of about 130 people – I’ve NEVER thrown a party in which I would need 130 people entertained and happy! But, as I said, because it was for the project, it just came together beautifully and perfectly.

I cannot thank enough those involved with that night.
It’s impossible.
But I’m going to try.

For those of you that didn’t get to attend, however, I will give you an idea of how the night went down, in list form.  

– 80 photos and insecurities – (every single participant) were hung on the wall
– amaaaaazing finger foods
– ridiculously delicious beer and wine
– a photo booth (SO FUN!)
– a spot for the little kids to entertain themselves
– a video that made everyone weepy
– a raffle and silent auction featuring awesome goods from small businesses in the area
– music! My favorite kind of music.
– laughter, tears, and more laughter, with an overwhelming feeling of solidarity

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The night was amazing.
I’ve said many times since that I wish I could have stepped back, taken a breath, and just listened. Just looked around and taken the whole thing in.
I didn’t really get that chance, as there were so many people who stopped me that I desperately wanted to talk to. Everyone was there because they were supporting the project. That alone gave me a constant overwhelming lump in my throat. To see so many people there, whether they have been in my life for long periods of time or short, meant the world to me.
There really are no words to accurately convey how that felt. But, I would not be far off in saying that it was one of the best feelings ever. Like falling in love with 130 people at once. Whoa.

What I can possibly state just in words: the buzz was phenomenal. The party was constant and joyous. I was told multiple times that when guests entered the building, the energy was awesome and contagious. THAT means everything went as it should.
Once again, the project was a success. And it enforced my desire to continue. So, continue I will.
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This party served as a fundraiser as well – as I know that many who attended are curious, the amount raised basically allowed me to break even as far as the cost of the party itself. So, thank you all whom were there for helping me to throw an awesome party!

I will be releasing the Group 9 – Mothers/Daughters blog in the near future, as well as a Kickstarter for the project, so that this can be something that continues as long as possible. Hopefully, this will be out sooner than I currently think. 

Now, I’d like to thank some people specifically:

Rhiannon – my right hand lady – the one who has filmed almost every single group; the one who serves as the part of my brain that is often lacking; the one who tirelessly sets up and tears down all of these things with me. You are amazing. You have my undying appreciation always.

Jamey – I could not have thrown this thing without you. No joke. Your handling of the food – organizing and creating such a delicious array of selections – brought such peace of mind to my planning. Everyone would have had to eat some Little Caesars pizza if I had been handling the food. You and your family did more than I could have ever expected. And I know you had a few other awesome helpers with you – to all of you, THANK YOU. I love you guys.

Glenna – for tirelessly lending your home time and again for us to have a meeting place. I don’t know what I would have done without you. ❤ Also, a big thank you to you and Abby for more wine! 

Kt – You are just awesome. You are reliable even when you think you’re not going to be reliable. Not really sure how you do that, but you do. You have been so damn supportive of this whole thing and I appreciate all you’ve put into it. I love how our friendship has grown since the start of this. You are definitely a part of our little family now. Thank you!

Ian – THAT VIDEO. WHAT?!?! That is the most beautiful thing. I still can’t watch without crying. You are ridiculously talented and I appreciate every stressful and exhausting second you put into this for me. Thank you so very much!

Aarde, Cheryl and Alan – THAT VENUE! Seriously, you guys, THANK YOU SO MUCH! That was such a perfect place to hold this and I appreciate your kindness in providing it so very much! I don’t know what I would have done without you guys. Aarde, thank you for making it happen.

Ash – While I include you in my thank you to Jamey, you definitely need your own. You were like a machine in your assistance with food and tables and cleanup and music and and and and…so many things I know you did that probably even went unnoticed. You are a great dude. Thank you. So much.

Rosie and Jennifer – You’ve photographed various groups and shared your experiences at each of those and I couldn’t thank you enough for your support in that way. Rosie, I love the photos you’ve shared from that night. I am so thankful that you were kind enough to capture the evening for me, as I was too busy to even take it all in.

Heidi – That wine was so good! You are the biggest of champs for providing that for us. I appreciate you and Precept Wine so very much. Love you, lady.

Dylan and Austen – THAT KOLSCH! Soooooooooo good! Thank you for brewing for me and sharing the deliciousness with everyone there. I know people now can’t wait for you to get some tap room/brewery going’. Love you both. Thank you so much!

Peni – Having my best friend here for this event was just perfect in itself. The fact that you organized and helped orchestrate the raffle and silent auction to take it off my plate, that was even beyond perfect. You helped silence my crazy mind where that was concerned. Thank youuuuu!

Kristen, Ana-Elizabeth and Jen – Thank you for conquering any fears you may have had (except Kristen; you love that shit)  and speaking in front of the crowd. Your experiences still speak to me on a huge scale. You are the reason this continues. I love you guys.

Mara and Melissa – GIRLS, I would probably only have made $5 if not for you both! I cannot thank you enough for your mingling and selling and handling of money! You guys are the best. I love you long time.

All of you who donated for the auction/raffle – Melissa Huston, Peni Massure, Singe Candles, Anna Bailey, Thisisrhi, Heidi Hedge, Justin Tamminga, Dagmar Simard & Sasquatch Cinnamon Rolls, Jennifer Jones, Jamie Haskell, Becca Macdonald & Compass Rose, Mara Christensen, EarthNerd Treasures, Jake Pendle, Drollinger Designs, Kt Wright, Karla Corona & The Red Hot, Erin Stiner & Salon Parente and anyone else that my crazy brain may be forgetting…THANK YOUUUUUU GUYS SO VERY MUCH!!!!! You were essential in the raising of funds. I appreciate it sooooo much!

Jenn, Rhi, Austen, Dylan – Thank you for helping me clean up everything remaining the following day. I think I would have just sat on the floor and sobbed if I hadn’t have had your help.

To EVERYONE who donated money and contributed to raffle/auction monies, I thank you! (To Shari Kalsta and Laura Rossi who donated toward food before we even went shopping…all my love.)

If I forgot anyone, I’m so incredibly apologetic. My brain has been fried since this event and is only sort of coming back to me. You are all amazing.

TO EVERYONE: THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES FOR YOUR SUPPORT. Your support keeps this project in the forefront for me. It makes me keep going even when I think that the work is too hard – when I think of the daunting paperwork it will take to become a non-profit organization; the hours of social networking and administrative work it takes to keep this out there; the exhaustion that is super emotional and, yet, fulfilling with each group. You keep all this love and positivity as the main message for me.
You are this project.
Thank you.

Alana ❤
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4 comments

  1. Karen (Teague) Daniels · August 26, 2014

    Alanna, my how you have grown and blossomed. This project touched my heart and soul. If we were in the Seattle area I would jump at the chance to be involved. I imagine that Kizell would too. If ever you and your happy family get a chance to visit Montana, please, please contact us. There is a lady here that handles all of the ‘What Women Want’ events. She would be a good person to contact about sharing your project here. Great Falls is big in the artsy stuff. Missoula also. Besides, I’d love to see you and meet the rest of your ‘new’ family. Best wishes. -Karen

    • alanatphotography · November 12, 2014

      Thank you so much, Karen!
      Sorry it’s taken me so long to get to this…haven’t been on this blog in forever. I would love to do that if I can arrange it. I have another friend over that way who would like to get a group goin’ as well. Maybe a Montana trip is in the near future! 🙂

      ❤ Alana

  2. Dawn Saari · September 2, 2014

    Please keep me and my daughter in mind for mom/daughter group. We have a unique story and even sweeter bond. We have been through a lot in the last year ( I lost my step-dad and mother in the space of six months, my daughter her grandparents). We are rebalancing and rebuilding.

    I love your work.

    Dawn Saari, CdA Idaho

    Dawn Saari, MS, LCPC, LMHC Sent from my iPad

    >

    • alanatphotography · November 12, 2014

      Thank you, Dawn! I would love to have you involved. The mother/daughter group did take place back in June…it took me til now to get the blog posted, however. I am sure I will have another one in the future. Do I have your email address already? If not, can you send it my way? Either here or at alanatphotography@gmail.com or rawhonestlovedproject@gmail.com

      Thank you,
      Alana 🙂

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