rosie.

As we delve into more project groups and more discussion about the project in general, I really want each of these ladies to get their story released on its own merit. I know how intimidating it is to sit down and read an entire blog post, let alone one that contains eight or more ladies’ stories to read. We have about five minutes sometimes, and I want you to have the chance of making five minutes of your day a beneficial, uplifting read. So, re-releasing the fifty-one participants’ (so far) stories as singles is what I am doing. I even downloaded a handy ol’ “number generator” app on my trusty lil phone to do so (because I am a genius AND because I’m bad at making decisions).

I will not insult your intelligence by posting my various thoughts on each group with each ladies’ story. What I will do is include the link to my blog about that particular group and that particular night, and you can feel free to check that out if you feel so inclined. What I will include with every post is the link to the blog from our original group, which has the explanation behind the reason for the project and how it goes about. You can find that here: Women. Raw. Honest. Loved. Group 1.

Today’s lady: Rosie (Today, this is one of two stories I’m posting, as Rosie and Tiffany were just interviewed with me on a little local radio show that will air on Sunday. They talk about the effect the project had on them both. It’s some good stuff. They both made me cry. No joke.) – Rosie was part of Group 3 – the 55+ Group!

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Rosie ~

“What are my insecurities…WOW…I have a few. Body image; Am I smart enough; Am I good enough; and my huge fear is losing my son, Jim, or my husband and my mom. I think they are all connected in a way because when one tape starts in our head the others do seem to find their way in and join the loop. They all feed off one another, and if you are not careful it turns into one big self-bashing party. It’s funny – as you get older some of the same tapes play- just different words find their way in to replace others. Let’s take our boobs…. when we are young it’s, “I wish they were bigger”, and now it’s, “I wish they were firmer.” Or, “I’ve lost 15lbs so why do I look the same?”…. We defeat ourselves before we even get out the door. That’s just to touch the surface.
As for regrets…to be honest, I only really have one and I try not to let that one eat away at me. I wish I had not missed my son Brian’s last show…. because he died that night and for some reason we seem to think ” if I would have been there…” so, with that said…would the outcome have been different? No. I feel like I let him down…but did I? No. Was he sad that I didn’t come? …I really don’t think so, because I never missed a show or very few. But why that show?? …Why did I have to feel too tired to go that night??!!!! We never know when someone is going to pass…be it of natural causes, or, like my son, an accident. Either way, we can’t change the outcome. I would if I could… believe me. I live it everyday…the intense pain.”

Rosie’s friends and family:

“Rosie is gentle, loving, and has gumption. She’s many more things than this, but I’ll focus on those three for now. Babies love her and she’s like Snow White when it comes to animals. It’s quite magical, really. Even wild birds love her. She’s loving and gentle to everyone but also doesn’t take shit, which is good. She has been through a lot of pain and heartbreak but it’s never made her hard or jaded. No chips on her shoulders; just love for everyone. She’s always wanted the best for me even though “misery loves company”. We’ve been miserable together and I’ve never felt like she wanted me to be anything but happy and to have joy in my life. She’s super hot and gorgeous too.
I’m blessed to have her in my life for those times when no one else gets what it’s like (she will know what I mean) there are parts of Rosie and I that are frozen in time together. It’s hard to explain, but it’s kinda like I will always be her daughter-in-law. And there are a lot worse things to be. I love her and I’m really glad she’s a part of this project. Besides everything else, like I said before, hot and gorgeous and photographs so beautifully.” – Dana

“Rosie is a fun-loving and nurturing person that provides self-care by her many forms of art. She has an infectious laugh and is very supportive of those around her. To know her is to love her. Luckily she has become close to me as I have mentored her in her photography and she is always a great confidant of my personal secrets and problems, which it’s generally hard to find someone with those qualities without judgment. She is a woman whose presence is known when she is in the room because of the light she radiates.” – Bill

“My mom has the kindest heart of anyone I have ever known. She will go out of her way to make anyone and everyone happy. She is one of the strongest people I know and I am proud to have her as my mom.” – Jim

“It is pretty serendipitous that her name is Rosie because she sees most situations or people through a rose-colored lens. Mama sees the best in people even if they are terrible people. She sees the best in everything. When Brian died, it was one of the darkest places I have ever seen her in and she still found positive things about people whom I was not so sure about. This does not mean that she’s going to let anyone take advantage of her. She has lived three lives already and she has taught me much about people. I truly believe that she is one of the most selfless people –she puts others first before her own needs even it is someone undeserving.
She was the first person to truly teach me the meaning of love. When you truly love someone you love ALL of them including the bad parts, and they can never complete you; We find love in everyone and everything, not just one person. Would I have survived without her in my life? Maybe, but my life is more fulfilled with her support and unconditional love. She is not my blood mother but that never stopped her from loving or supporting me even when Brian and I were at odds. We all know how important he is to her; and to me :)” – Athena

“You know that person in your life who, no matter what your day or month or week has been like, always manages to make it seem better? Rosie is that person. I have always referred to her as my “white shining light; the cool calm center of the universe” in a room full of chaos. She is beyond charming, yet has a calmness and grounding nature about her, like she sees only the best parts of you, and, in turn, you become a better person for having been around her. In the past few years, Rosie has faced more heartbreak and devastation than most could face in their lives, and though I know each and every day is hard, she manages to face it with an infectious smile and a joke or two. She is the strongest person I have ever met.
We became close after her oldest son, Brian, died in a tragic accident. Though it is hard to explain, we have shared experiences regarding him that I think only she could understand, though I felt strangely honored and saddened to have shared them with her. She loves both her sons with a palpable intensity that I wonder if, at times, it must be exhausting. Yet almost effortlessly, Rosie still manages to spread kindness to those around her, patiently listening and offering guidance, advice, and infinite wisdom.
She isn’t afraid to tell you the truth. She’s delicate in a ladylike way, but not fragile. She has a laugh that will light up a room, and in her hugs you find peace. I know I speak for many more than myself when I say that I look forward to the time I get to spend with Rosie, for her love is something that radiates from her and we always have a good time.
Rosie has certain magic about her, an impish charm that is inherent in her sons. She loves to laugh and as I said before, hers is contagious.” – Leah

“Rosie is: Special person with a huge heart. Lots of talent with a lens and with clay! :0)
Beautiful smile, with an intenseness behind her eyes that is sometimes beautifully haunting, relaxing, mysterious and loving.
I’ve only known her for a few years but feel like I’ve known her for hundreds of years.” – Larry

“She

She is a seer.
Where others find flaws and doubts,
She’s a believer.

She is a spirit.
Where others will shy away,
She will not fear it.

She is a mother.
When others have lost their home,
She’ll give them cover.

She is a sunray.
When others live in the night,
She gives them warm day.

She is a feeler.
When others will pain and toil
She is their healer.

She is a shoulder.
Where others are burdened down
She’ll take the boulder.

She is something new to everyone she meets.
She’ll find the beauty underneath the beast.
She never puts her needs before the rest.
Because of that, her damage is repressed.

A fragile line she walks from day to day,
While sorrow is just barely held at bay.
Her strength renewed in pictures she collects,
While insecure emotions genuflect.

I’ve tried to share with words limited to few
All the lovely things my friend can do.
But how is one to possibly explain
All the splendor found within the rain?” – Jessi

“I met Rosie through the Tacoma based record label that was the home for a band I was in called The Jupiter Order. Rosie was photographing a show that we played at and I met her afterwards through Raymond, who played the keyboards in the band and is co-owner of the label.
The following two years of discovering whom this eclectic artist and amazing person is has been a delight, and after seeing recent photographs of her doing a fashion shoot as a model, it was another brilliant revelation. Her persona comes through in the photographs! The photographer even commented on how her warmth and bright soul saturated the shots!
Rosie is an exceptional person, who I have grown to be friends with and admire! She is sensitive, caring, and intuitive to a fault! I’m writing these things to introduce you to her, but in a very short time, you will discover these things for yourself!” – Scott

“I have known Rosie for about 6 years now. We got to know each other better after the passing of her son, Brian. In that time I can honestly say that I have never met anyone with a heart as caring as Rosie. She also has an eye for composition that few have. She sees everything through the viewfinder even on the rare occasion that she leaves her camera at home. I know that she struggles every day with emotional pain and I feel bad that there is nothing I can do to help but I also know that she is stronger than she thinks she is.
Rosie always greets you with a hug and not only asks how you are but is truly interested in your answer.” – Corey

tiffany.

As we delve into more project groups and more discussion about the project in general, I really want each of these ladies to get their story released on its own merit. I know how intimidating it is to sit down and read an entire blog post, let alone one that contains eight or more ladies’ stories to read. We have about five minutes sometimes, and I want you to have the chance of making five minutes of your day a beneficial, uplifting read. So, re-releasing the fifty-one participants’ (so far) stories as singles is what I am doing. I even downloaded a handy ol’ “number generator” app on my trusty lil phone to do so (because I am a genius AND because I’m bad at making decisions).

I will not insult your intelligence by posting my various thoughts on each group with each ladies’ story. What I will do is include the link to my blog about that particular group and that particular night, and you can feel free to check that out if you feel so inclined. What I will include with every post is the link to the blog from our original group, which has the explanation behind the reason for the project and how it goes about. You can find that here: Women. Raw. Honest. Loved. Group 1.

Today’s lady: Tiffany (Today, this is one of two stories I’m posting, as Tiffany and Rosie were just interviewed with me on a little local radio show that will air on Sunday. They talk about the effect the project had on them both. It’s some good stuff. They both made me cry. No joke.) – Tiffany was part of Group 5 .

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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 think I’m 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

maya.

As we delve into more project groups and more discussion about the project in general, I really want each of these ladies to get their story released on its own merit.  I know how intimidating it is to sit down and read an entire blog post, let alone one that contains eight or more ladies’ stories to read.  We have about five minutes sometimes, and I want you to have the chance of making five minutes of your day a beneficial, uplifting read.  So, re-releasing the fifty-one participants’ (so far) stories as singles is what I am doing.  I even downloaded  a handy ol’ “number generator” app on my trusty lil phone to do so (because I am a genius AND because I’m bad at making decisions).

I will not insult your intelligence by posting my various thoughts on each group with each ladies’ story.  What I will do is include the link to my blog about that particular group and that particular night, and you can feel free to check that out if you feel so inclined.  What I will include with every post is the link to the blog from our original group, which has the explanation behind the reason for the project and how it goes about.  You can find that here: Women. Raw. Honest. Loved. Group 1. 

Today’s number: #19 – Maya, from the Teen group.

(p.s. the word “group” starts to look super bizarre after you’ve typed it so many times…)

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mayaMaya~

“My insecurity is not being perfect. I try my best in school but hardly ever get straight A’s. I’ve been playing the violin since 4th grade and I’m in the back of the second violin in Youth Symphony. I also can be really mean and make others feel bad even if I didn’t mean for it to be that way.”

Maya’s friends and family:

“Dedicated to schoolwork, Musically talented, Piercing Brown Eyes, Generous, Fun, Entertaining, Loving, Feisty, Beautiful, Clever, Trustworthy, Confident, Aiden (my son) loves her, Genuine.” – Jessica

“Has great charisma, Very easy to talk to, Creatively passionate, Wonderful Musician, Looks great in anything, Charming, An old soul who is wise for her years.” – Sadie

“I have known Maya since she was a little girl, so I have many impressions of her. My most vivid, oddly enough, is of her at a distance from me, at the age of twelve or thirteen, running in an orchard at dusk. As the light was fading I could only make out her silhouette. Other children were running around frantically trying to find a hiding spot or something, but Maya was being so perfectly Maya. Moving gently and thoughtfully. Leaping higher than the others (just for the joy of it and because she could), Shifting quietly and with grace. Making her way without sound. A little woodland creature.
The other most vivid memory that I have of Maya is from when she was no more than six. She had come to our house with her little sister and the children were outside playing in the garden. I was doing the thankless job of polishing the main stairs in our house and I was moving stair by stair as I polished. I thought I was alone in the house as I could hear the children outside calling to one another. When I heard a sound above me I looked up suddenly, and there was little Maya. Her sweet face so serious and earnest, she asked if it would be ok if she stayed with me while I worked. I don’t think she was unhappy or upset with the others, just that she preferred to watch the methodical process and have a quiet conversation. We worked slowly and carefully on those stairs, not saying much, but working together happy and peaceful until the others came in.
Maya: Gentle, thoughtful, quiet, graceful, serious, earnest, happy, peaceful, loyal, wise.” – Megan

“Brave, Tenacious, Intelligent, Honest, Beautiful, Creative, True to her heart, Silly, Runs fast, Jumps high, Best camp bed-maker ever!” – Natalie

“Elegant, Determined, Dedicated, Strong, Full of Promise, Slyly Funny, Whip-Smart, Thoughtful, Stunningly Beautiful, Sweetly Shy, Compelling.
Maya is an amazing young woman. She is talented in areas that aren’t supposed to be compatible — music & engineering, humor & stoicism. She is incredibly smart, but she also strives to achieve – so her accomplishments are that perfect combination of dreams & desires plus true effort. I think Maya is going to accomplish great things — things we can’t even imagine right now.” – Shannon

“Maya is a force to be reckoned with. She is fearless and brave and knows what she believes in. Maya is one of those kids who can be terrified or intimidated on the inside, but, take a deep breath, square her shoulders, and walk into any situation as if it is just a stroll in the park. She has a calm and logical way of approaching life that is so refreshing. When she finds something that interests her, she is passionate about her commitment to it – whether it is the violin, building robots, drawing, playing piano or high-jumping. If you are lucky enough to be Maya’s friend, you will have a steadfast and dedicated companion. Maya just might rule the world someday, and we might all be better for it. I am proud and honored that she is my daughter.” – Shari

I’m too sexy for my post-babies shirt.

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This past Sunday, I got together with five strong, sexy, stunning women (with even more beautiful insides to match) to do a different kind of boudoir shoot. This is something that most of us never would have imagined us doing at this point in our lives. With age comes confidence in a lot of things, but often a lack of love for our own bodies.

I mean, for the Women: Raw.Honest.Loved. Project, my main insecurity was my body image (I say “was” because it has diminished in importance since that evening…not to say I don’t still get hung up on it from time to time; I’m human…but, it’s just not as much in the forefront as it was) and I would have never suspected that I would find myself removing my clothes and standing in the FRONT of the camera. It was awkward and intimidating…and then liberating and empowering. I got to own it and feel sexy just being me. I actually think the reason I was most uncomfortable was not because I was somewhat naked, but more-so because I was trying to be serious. I laugh. A LOT. I don’t even know how to keep a straight face for more than a few seconds. So, being sultry in seriousness is not my thing…I WILL SULTRY IT UP WHILE LAUGHING, HOWEVER. I don’t even know what that means, but I’ll do it. Next time, because there WILL be a next time, I’ll be laughing the whole way.

In any case, above are a few photos from that shoot. To see more, along with an explanation of why we went for the theme that we did, go here. I’ll be adding a few more photos this week, so be sure and check back.

ATTENTION!***My MAIN point in putting this blog out so quickly, however, is not just to show you pretty photos, but to tell you that you NEED TO READ THIS: “Let’s Hear It for the Girls: the reason I chose to do boudoir.”. My super sexy and talented dear friend, Rachel, wrote in the most eloquent way how she felt about doing a shoot like this. But it is mostly about women; about our obsession with body image…about the way things are versus the way things need to become. It seriously is beautiful. And I love her. It makes me cry every time I read it…which has been several times already. 🙂
GO READ IT RIGHT NOW. Seriously. You will not be disappointed.
Also, share the hell out of it, won’t you? The world needs to read her words.***

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/

group 4!!! women: raw. honest. loved.

sylviafinalashleyfinaldawnfinalanafinaljillfinalmichellefinalnicolefinalaprilfinalcharfinalkarinfinallizfinalkaylafinal

TERRIFYING.
Terrifying is the word that keeps entering my brain when thinking about the ladies’ feelings about being a part of this group.  Prior to the evening taking place, “terrifying” is the word that kept coming up when they would enter any sort of conversation discussing their upcoming participation.
And “terrifying” was the word that kept being used at the beginning of the evening.
But, ask any of these ladies now, after they have participated and felt what the whole experience is about, and I feel like you will get some words other than “terrifying” to explain it.
I have heard words now like: relieved. accepted. understood. affected. touched. loved.

I must admit that this group was the first one that made me a little bit nervous…
I’ll explain.
The first group we did (if you’re only familiarizing yourself now with the project, visit here to find out the backstory and how the night evolves: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/women-raw-honest-loved-part-1-2/) was done, not with the intent of it becoming a project…not with the intent of it being anything other than a night of peers discussing things we are not prone to discuss, just to see how beneficial it might be.  It was a group of my own friends/peers who participated, not knowing what they were getting themselves into…nothing to base this on.  And it was awesome.  And it convinced us to do a teen group.
So, we did a teen group (https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/teen-version-women-raw-honest-loved/)…with girls who really didn’t know what the project was about, but were interested in the concept.  And IT was awesome.
THEN, we did a 55+ group, (https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/55-version-women-raw-honest-loved/) to see what the differences/similarities would be…with women who, for the most part, weren’t really aware of the project much, but were also interested in the concept.  And, guess what, it was ALSO awesome.

So, because each group was beneficial, it was decided that the project should continue.  And so I opened it up to a mixed group – of just interested women, in general.

The main, super noticeable difference?

These women all knew what the project was.
These women all were affected by the previous women’s stories and wanted to share their stories.
Well, wanted to and didn’t want to…but felt like it was something they needed to do.
In their own words, here are some comments they made when sharing what brought them to the project:

“It was terrifying, and so I thought I’d better do it!” – Michelle

“Becca’s photo came up on Facebook…I read the blog and I thought it was super cool and not something I would ever do.” – Liz

“I would never do anything like this.  When Liz asked me, it was like a five minute decision.  It was like, “Are you insane?!” as I’m reading the email, “there’s no way I would ever, ever do that.”  And then I finished the email and I was like, “You know what, that’s just dumb.  I should just do it because it’s something I would never, ever, ever do.  Why not?”  And then once I said I would do it, I couldn’t really back out.” – Nicole

“Becca’s picture popped up in my news feed and I read it and thought, “How brave of people!  That’s beautiful!  I wish I was brave enough to do that, but I’m not,”  and then you were like, “Oh yes you are!” and I was like, “Oh crap!  I’m doing this, I guess.” And then I committed and tried to back out twice…and my boyfriend was like, “Oh nooo, if you back out, so help me god, I’m gonna tell your mother!” And then he did…and she called me up and was like, “Ana-Elizabeth, do not make me fly out there!  I will fly 2000 miles and drag you there myself!” And I was like, “Now I really can’t back out.  Crap.” – Ana

“I felt totally voyeuristic, reading the blog.  I was like, I’m kinda embarrassed reading this about people exposing themselves, but it’s such an honest thing and such a brave thing that I thought, “if my friends can do this, I can do this. I shouldn’t be such a wussie and hide from things.”
So I just thought it would be a good way of stepping forward into being a more brave person and a more consistent person.” – Char

“I saw Dawn’s post on Facebook and right away I thought it was a divinely inspired project – that there needs to be healing amongst all of us and the more women your project can reach, the more healing can occur.  So, I wanted to be a part of that.  I’m honored to be a part of it.  I’m terrified,
but I think it’s exactly what I need right now and I think we’re all meant to be here right now.  That every single one of us is meant to be in this room.” – Karin

So, yeah, that is how we started the evening.  Terrified.  Doing something they’d never, ever do.   Wanting to back out.  But, committed.

But there were so many good things to come…
All of the sharing/relating/bonding with other women.
All of your feedback (as friends and family) on why you love these women like you do.
All of these things that you possibly would never say, not given the opportunity.  The stuff of eulogies…when the person is not around to hear the words anymore.  Here was your opportunity to say them, and say them you did.
They are inspiring words. They are loving words.
They are words that have instilled newfound strength and confidence in these ladies, and for that, I can’t thank you enough.

As you read these ladies’ stories…please think about all of this.  And when you’re done reading this, go tell at least one person why you love them.  In detail.  Even if they look at you like you’re nuts.  🙂

Now, meet the ladies.  Be inspired.

(I will also likely be releasing each lady’s story individually, as I know this is terribly long, and I want them each to be considered.)

sylviains

 Sylvia ~

“I am a coward. Well, that might be a little harsh, but sometimes that’s how I feel. Like a big puss. A spineless wimp.  A scaredy-cat.

I have a really hard time with conflict. I hate it, pure and simple. I cringe when I’m around it, and I especially detest being involved in it. The thing that sucks the most about this is that it stops me from standing up for myself, expressing my feelings, and worst of all, standing up for the things I believe in or even sometimes for the people I love. It blows. It makes me feel week and awful.

The weirdest part is that I don’t even know what my dang problem is. I honestly don’t know what I’m afraid of. What do I really think the consequence is going to be if I let go of my fear and start approaching conflict with confidence? I mean, I honestly don’t really think that if I say “Hey, what you said hurt my feelings.”, that my friend would end our relationship or scream at me. I don’t foresee that if I said “Hey, you can’t talk to my friend that way.” , or “Please don’t talk like that in front of these 27 children. You are at a water-park, sir…” that I’ll get sucker-punched or stabbed or something.  But for some reason, I have an almost physical response to stuff and my mouth just can’t say what it wants to. It just stews in my head and I get more annoyed, or angry, or sometimes even resentful. It’s only when things get pretty messed up that I’ll finally say something, and sometimes even then it’s watered down and tapered.

The other weird part is that I’m not a watered-down person. I have a good sense of humor. I like to laugh. I like to be social, I like to be around people, and I love having a lot of different friends that I maintain relationships with.  But, often, I feel like I have to be on my best behavior so I’m not doing anything to make waves. I try really hard not to be offensive, rude, disrespectful, too loud, or too annoying, so there won’t be any reason for me to have conflict with anyone. While I’m proud of being polite (most of the time), having good manners, and thinking of how my actions affect other people, sometimes I am so concerned about the impression that I make that I let myself (or others) down by not being strong and vocal when I should be.
Even now, as I’m writing this, I’m worried that someone is going to read this and think that I’m never honest with them and they’ll be upset with me and we’ll have to have a conversation that will be uncomfortable for me to have, which might result in an argument and then that person will be mad and upset, and I’ll be mad and upset and I’ll bitch about it and think about it, and hopefully it will either resolve itself or get swept under the rug or…blah blah BLAH.. Sheesh. It feels crazy, and tiring. I’m aware of it, and working on it, and have gotten better at it…but I have a long, long way to go.”

Sylvia’s family and friends:

“*beautiful inside and out *funny *patient *caring *A best friend *honest and loyal” – Angie.

“It’s hard for me to believe that I have known Sylvia for over 15 years now, it makes me feel old!  We met our Freshman year of college and right away we had an instant connection. I think that Sylvia’s witty sense of humor is what made me like her so much.  In all my years of knowing Sylvia there has never been a time when were hanging out that we didn’t end up with a hilarious story, even something as simple as going to 7-11 would make for a huge comedy in our eyes, even if others didn’t agree!  I don’t think the amount of fun memories we share could fit into a book, the number of ridiculous singing phone messages we left each other is too many to count! Sylvia has been a part of my life through all of the milestones, births, marriage, death, and just figuring out life in general.  I can honestly say that my life is better because I call Sylvia my friend.   When I think of Sylvia there are so many things that come to mind but here are a few.

My friend Sylvia is………………

An amazing Mom
funny as hell
sharp
sarcastic
too strong for her own good sometimes
musical
sensitive
interesting
intelligent
undefined
compassionate
loyal
beautiful
a free spirit

I Love you my beautiful brown sugar simply caramel angel!” – Etema

“As a person – Sylvia is one of the kindest I have ever met! She genuinely cares for those that are close to her and always tries to be positive. Sylvia is one of those people that make you feel right at home – after meeting her, you feel like you’ve known her all your life.
Sylvia underestimates her physical beauty. She has a very unique face, not your average “Barbie” doll face. Sylvia has an absolutely amazing smile with beautiful teeth and a very infectious laugh. She has a beautiful caramel skin coloring – and some of the prettiest kinky curls!! She has fascinating eyes – they tell a story with just a glance – you can tell a lot of what she is feeling by just looking at her eyes.
Together with her incredible inner beauty and her exotic outer beauty – Syl is an AMAZING person! She’s absolutely hilarious too!

I hope this helps with your project. I know that she is totally excited about – and I can’t wait to hear all about it!
Have fun and good luck!” Jessica

“I am extremely impressed with what a beautiful, intelligent and caring young lady Sylvia has become.
She doesn’t lament about how life is unfair, hard, etc., but makes a plan of action to handle the situation should one arrive.
Sylvia is very concerned about peoples’ feelings, whether they’re family, friends, or those she comes into contact with briefly.   She is so careful to not say or do anything to hurt anyone.  She will often call and inquire whether I took something she said the wrong way.
She is always honest.  Not in a bad way, but in a way which does not cause any problems or misunderstandings.
Sylvia is great in expressing herself.  She has a great vocabulary, uses correct English, and explains herself well.  I’m sure she is a great trainer.
She is understanding of others and not judgmental.  She never jumps to conclusions, but considers all options, backgrounds and situations; not to justify or condemn, but to understand.  She accepts everyone where they are in life.
Sylvia is a wonderful listener and never interrupts.  If she is not sure of what was said, she will ask questions, so there is no misunderstanding.
She has a great sense of humor and is fun to be around.  She does not take herself too seriously and is always able to laugh at herself.
Sylvia is gentle with people, especially the young or older.
She is concerned with everyone feeling comfortable in any situation.  She will engage those who are on the fringe and make sure to enjoy everyone.
Sylvia is the most remarkable mother I have ever seen.  She has gone to extremes to take the proper care of Zander,  including changing her diet dramatically because of his allergies so she can continue to nurse him.” – Justine

“SYLVIA is my sister and my friend and I admire her and look up to her in so many ways…her strength of will, her laugh, and her warm and happy attitude are infectious! Her genuine love of those around her and her openness and honesty are so refreshing to anyone who knows her. She always stands up for what she believes and holds dear but will always listen to views and ideas that are opposed to hers and give her thoughts from the heart, never out of anger or a sense of needing to be right. Her storytelling ability is magnetic! Whenever she starts to recount an event or bit of news, everyone will listen because she gives the craziest things a new vibrant life.
Sylvia is beautiful, and if she knows it she is never arrogant about it. She has a natural beauty that also comes from being positive and the exuberance that she produces out of her love for life. She has an energy that, if her aura could be seen, would be golden. She is always up for adventure; from living on a cruise ship for two years to climbing through the Ape Caves and adding her vocal talents to a song on the underground punk/rock group Botch’s album “We are the Romans”! Even though she has a strong love relationship, so many friends, family,  and acquaintances…Sylvia always finds time for a chat, a visit, a kindness to whoever needs it! She is always surprising me with her strength and great attitude and now that she is a mother, has shown that she will do all that it takes to be the best mother there has ever been! Sylvia knows her mind and can do whatever she sets her focus on… she is like a gorgeous great tree that braves all weathers and stands through time, shimmering and beautiful and sheltering and strong! I love you, Sylvia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” – Chelsea

“Sylvia has been my best friend for 20 years. Throughout those years I’ve watched her grow into a woman who is loyal, loving, sensitive, wickedly smart, disciplined, creative, thought-provoking and craaaazy funny. She makes sure to speak with kindness and thoughtfulness even when faced with confrontation and most recently becoming a mother, Sylvia has shown another side; an even softer side with even more warmth and joy and unconditional love for her boy. She is dedicated and inspiring and the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known both inside and out, I couldn’t love her more if she were my blood.” – Kate

“I apologize ahead of time for my writing as I am not good at just writing a list of synonyms of someone’s qualities, so it is more like a story. Since it is storyish, I have included myself so I can give my fresh perspective but in no way is it meant to be about me, only Sylvia and her traits.
When I was originally asked to write something about Sylvia, I immediately felt honored. That I, of all people, was given the chance to be able to talk about her – someone I not only hold very dear, but absolutely treasure. It is an extraordinary feeling to be involved in writing my deepest, most honest feelings about my good friend for this powerful group she has taken part of.
It is hard to try to find the words to start, so I will start at the beginning…
When I first met Sylvia at Marlene’s we were mere acquaintances, but her beauty and the confidence she exuded immediately astonished me. I would see her at work around her co-workers and I could tell they all adored her. When I saw her at the bar with her boyfriend, I was bewildered at how he just worshipped her. It was clear to me that Sylvia wasn’t just ‘cool’; she was the real deal. She wasn’t trying to impress anyone, she was just herself always. I never saw Sylvia be phony. She had something that I didn’t – she radiated an inviting aura. I was so drawn to her, not only because her smile was like a welcoming mat, but also because I was so interested in how she had such a charming appeal without even trying. Naturally, I admired her from afar as I was incredibly intimidated.
Then a very special thing happened – after months of working together and saying hi, we went from acquaintances to great friends. In a dirty booth at Magoo’s we started talking and didn’t stop. It wasn’t just the kind of fun time where you look back and go, “she was amusing, maybe I’ll see her around,” it was the kind that bonds you. A bond that you know was made for a reason. I know the reason is because we complement each other. To this day I can truthfully say, I don’t know what she needs from me, but I know I need her. I would feel lost without her. Sylvia is everything I wish I was, and being around her makes me a better person.
Oh and talk about a sense of humor, this girl is one of the only people that can make that real hearty laugh come out. She can be a smart ass, she can be silly, and she can just be herself and it is all delightfully funny. The woman has a powerful laugh too. It’s like ‘Contagion’ because it is very hard to escape without finding yourself infected and giddy. I not only admire her personality and her life experiences, but everything about her. There is nothing that woman can say to me that doesn’t make me feel blessed to know her. Since she has a tendency to withhold her emotions or hardship, it is a very special and unique experience to have her open up to me. I know she has had a lot of tough times and it seems easier for her to hold it in then exert the energy it takes to let it out, but even when she is opening up, she is still such an admiration.
I envy her willpower and capacity to take on all the nonsense she has to deal with. To be so cool and collected and reach out when necessary to the people she trusts, instead of turning in to a hot mess and dwelling herself into a dark place. It is a respectful quality and she should always treasure her strength, because, even when she has had emotional moments, I still only see her as a woman who can never be broken and I believe that to be a badge of honor. Especially when she doesn’t feel strong ‘cause in all the years I have known her, I have never seen her appear weak. This is not to say that she is withdrawn or reserved about herself. Quite the opposite. She is an open book and when she speaks about herself she does it in such an eloquent way that even if it was out-of-the-ordinary or what some might consider too personal, it’s not at all. It’s fascinating and, like I said before, you feel like you have been graced with the most awe-inspiring conversation. When it’s not just a fascinating tidbit about her, she is captivating you with her talent for amazing storytelling.
If her sense of humor and conversation topics weren’t enough to hold someone’s attention, than an adventure with her would be, because just about anything is an adventure with Sylvia. I could list many of our adventures that I still remember vividly but this would turn in to a novel. It’s more than the adventure, it’s the memory. It’s the drive home from Tiki Bob’s with the windows rolled all the way down, or helping check the trunk of her car that had been broken into for a dead body, or the Christmas party at Hank’s where I got roofied; or “let’s pretend we are rich valley girls and act it out in this bathroom”; or “I wish I was a little bit taller-I wish I was a baller-I wish I was skinnier”; or “can you please stop sleeping on my back I’m really hot”; or dressing up for the nutcracker only to look like lushes chugging wine during intermissions; or that phone-a-friend with the big question, “What’s the worst thing that can happen right now!”
All in all, I have never seen a more desired woman in my life. Men love her and women want to be her. She may have insecurities because she is human but she doesn’t need them. They are just weights around her ankles that don’t belong there because no one else sees them.
To wrap this up with my straightforward truths and what I see in Sylvia, is this: Sylvia, you are the bestest friend I could have ever asked for. That is not a cheesy superficial junior high statement. It is the truth. You have stood by my side even when I didn’t deserve you. You have helped me when you needed to help yourself more. You have given me time you didn’t have to give. You have been strong for me when I wasn’t and it made me believe that I could be. You have always supported every smart and stupid thing I did because you wanted me to be happy.
You give me hope when I feel hopeless. You, above anyone else, I trust to be my cat’s, dog’s, son’s godparent and you know that is not something I take lightly. Why do I keep you around? Well…. I don’t know who I would be without you because you have become such a part of me. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am not the only one who feels this way. I guarantee every person that loves you can repeat these same words and many more. I am so proud to be your friend but, mostly, I am just so proud of you and everything that you are.
I wanted to write something that would show you exactly what I thought of you but I don’t think this even grazes the surface. You are so remarkable and superb, how do I put that into words? I could write forever about you but instead I will just end with this: I love you with all my heart and no matter what happens, I always will. You are family to Fox and I because you belong in our lives. I couldn’t be more thankful that you are my friend and Fox’s godmother.” – Leah

“Things about Sylvia…

I thought of when Sylvia and I first met and what it was that attracted me to her.  I tried to focus on things she has become good at after years of effort.  I thought of concentrating my efforts on her natural talents and gifts.  I also tried using what I’ve heard of her from others as a guide.
Then I thought of the purest, most-removed way of showing who she really is:  All the things that make her a loved person to those around her are the same things that make her an amazing Mother.  They are traits that sneak quietly from inside her, past her awareness, and out to the world.  They aren’t things she learned or some “mothering instinct” that so many people love to mention.  It is a collection of traits she has never had control of; beautiful, quiet, shimmering little stars that wait to explode and fill the universe of each person she meets.  Becoming a Mother has magnified these things and revealed even more.  She was born to be a Mother and born to bring joy to the lucky people around her.
She is selfless.  As a Mother, she has filtered her diet down to nothing to meet the dietary constraints of our son.  She could have decided to feed him formula in order to bypass all of the foods he is allergic to – but she didn’t do this. She has taken the hardest route possible for no reason other than to give our son the best start in this world that he can have.  She is no different to the rest of us.  She hurts when she senses others are hurting and puts her own comfort to the side in an effort to secure the comfort of others.  There is no formula for her.  She lives for our happiness and success.
Sylvia has a memory like hieroglyphs on an Egyptian stone wall.  And I don’t really think this is something she puts much effort into.  I’m the one that asks for help remembering the name of someone we just met (that was probably wearing a name tag).  She’s the one that paid attention and caught their favorite pasta noodle, pet’s name, birthday, and pet’s birthday.  As a Mother, this translates into appointment times, doctor names, shots, allergies, and a running count of changed diapers.  As Sylvia’s friend or partner, this means having someone in your life that remembers the little things.  Sometimes it feels great to know that someone cares enough to remember our pet’s name… or even our doctor’s name.
She is amusingly insane.  She sings songs that make no sense, with music that makes no sense, while doing dances that make no sense, to a son that thinks she is the greatest thing in the world.  To myself (and maybe some lucky friend) she’ll sing songs that make no sense, with music that makes no sense, while doing dances that make no sense.  I think she is the greatest too.  She can turn a bad day into a confusing day, and sometimes that’s just what I need.  It can be this singing of hers, a new animal sound she’s created, or an impersonation.  She keeps a child’s perspective on the world, just enough to keep a person from taking life too serious.  It’s something  I hope my son and I keep with us every day.
Lastly, Sylvia is brave.  I have seen her hair fall out and knew, without asking, that it was one of the most devastating things that could happen to a girl. She never complained as much as she deserved to.  Instead, she styled her hair strategically and went to work each day, or to the store, whatever, and held her head high.  I know she wanted to curl into a ball and hide.  But she didn’t.  What she did, and has done in many ways, was teach me that there are many forms of bravery.  As a Mother, she will have much to teach, and many traits to pass on to a son that will become a great man.
Sylvia is a one hundred foot tall Mother that sees eye-to-eye with her son.  She is the heart of a whale in the body of a field mouse.  She is a great leader dressed as a peasant.  She is truly the better half of me.
I love her more than I love myself and never want to know a day without her.” – David

ashleyins

Ashley ~ 

I am a controlling bitch.

I like things done my way, and I like it done in my timeframe. I tell my husband how he should do simple tasks and what he should do for a career; I question my friends decisions when they do something I wouldn’t do; I give my opinion at times I really shouldn’t. I try to keep my thoughts to myself, but if I get carried away, I tend to sound really judgmental. I have gotten much better over the years, but the people closest to me have fallen victim to my ideas of right and wrong many times.
I wish I was a nicer person.”

Ashley’s friends and family –

“Loyal
Honest
Amazing friend
Great mom
Fierce (in a good way)
Trustworthy
Supportive.” – Jenny

“Hi Alana!

My seeeestah, Ashley, is:
STRONG AND DETERMINED: she wants what she wants, doesn’t need anyone’s approval, and she’ll go for it!  I wish I could be that sure of myself.
INSANELY NURTURING: when we were growing up it was pats, and hugs, and snuggles for the cats… whether they wanted it or not ;).  Now, it is Hayden.  It breaks my heart that there are people that would openly criticize and question her mothering, especially because I know that she’s going at it perfectly, but she DOES hear them, just in case there is a way to improve (even though the naysayers are totally wrong), because she cares so crazy much.  Hayden is so smiley!  And funny!  That only happens when you do things in the way that is right for HIM.
BRAVE:  well, she willingly had a kid, for one.  But supporting her husband’s choice regarding military service is something that I KNOW I don’t have in me.  I’m scared shitless for them!  I don’t know how she is doing it?!?!  It’s amazing.
PRETTY!!!  She has that perfect skin tone that doesn’t get too pasty in winter, and browns up super nice in the summer.  She got the interesting Eyes with No Particular Color.  Her teeth are the perfect size, too!  And her eyebrows are awesome.  And she got the rack 😉
My husband, Darrin, says that Ashley is OPINIONATED BUT UNDERSTANDING: she knows how she wants things and people to be, but when they aren’t, it’s not really a big deal, and she’ll get along with you anyway.  Different is okay.
There’s a picture I have from EndFest in 2000.  It’s goofy as hell; we’re in Mom’s minivan and we’re all sweaty after the concert, and we both have ginormous smiles.  We look the most like sisters as we ever will in that photo.  Mom gave it to us years ago in “sister” frames.

The frame says:
“Sisters love, sisters share, sisters fight, sisters care, sisters laugh, sisters understand, sisters come together at different times in life.  Sisters are the precious sunshine giving meaning to so many things not understood.  Like stars in the night, sisters are forever.

To Ashley,
We are more different than a lot of sisters we’ve known.  We have definitely had our share of fights, but I think our years of caring and sharing are starting to make up the bigger chunk of the last 25 years.  Sisters really do come together at different times in life, and they wouldn’t always choose to associate with each other if not required by blood.  I think we’re becoming more and more compatible as we go through life and that’s freakin awesome!
(I attached a copy of my fave pic of us in the frame)” – Lauren
Sisters

“Ashley has been a good friend of mine for many years now. We have had our disagreements but we have managed to stay close… as close as we can with me being on the east coast lol. She is very strong willed independent, and determined. She is also very stubborn. While some see that as a negative quality I see it as a positive one. It means she is not willing to give up and will keep trying for whatever it is she needs or wants. When all options are gone and everyone is telling her to give up she ignores everyone and keeps going until the job is done.” – Christina

“Ashley:

I have tried to write a synopsis of my younger daughter. Started over several times. I don’t want to define her by any one slice of her life!
Ashley has always been independent and ready to tackle everything. She rarely takes “no” for an answer.
Fearless
Fierce
Stubborn – As a new mother, I have seen Ashley stick to her beliefs as to how her son will be nurtured along. She is so in love with that little guy!
Committed
Tough
Moral – Ashley married her high school boyfriend. They have grown up together and continue to evolve as a team in life. She believes in her husband.
Fair
Ethical
Loyal – I worried that Ashley wouldn’t be treated well when she started her career. She was so much younger than her peers, but her confidence and professionalism won them over.
Protective
Practical

So I ended up with a few slices of Ashley after all. She is so much more, and anyone who knows her will agree.”  – Teri (momza)

“Ashley’s :

Impish pixie, but not naughty.
Brave, but not overly bold.
TENACIOUS
Bright, & intelligent
Logical
Thinks ahead, and behind
Intensely emotional
Forgiving, & unforgiving  (be careful)
Caring, for those close and far
Her tolerance level towards ignorant, lazy people is still nice and low, but she’s less emotional about it as she matures.
(Understands the cathartic benefit of having “Ally McBeal” moments, and defuses herself when she might want to escalate an situation.)
She’s growing up, but not away!
I love her and her family dearly, they make me very proud.  I’m glad I contributed to who she is . . .  and to who they will become.”- Norm (Dad)

“Who is Ashley to me, in short she is my atlas holding up my world. She represents all the stability, fortitude and mental endurance in my life. I am a very unconventional person in the way that I never live the same day twice. I have no routines and no plans to develop them anytime soon. I thrive in chaos or at least I thought I did. This is where Ashley comes in; she taught me how to slow down, to stop constantly reacting to my environment and most importantly to relax and find comfort in the things you can control. She patiently, through years of resistance on my part, helped me set goals and showed me how to achieve them.
Ashley leads by example, when she wants something in life, nothing can stop her. A good representation of this is her car. When we were teenagers she picked out her dream car. A practical and reliable Ford Escape. I remember when she first showed it to me. She said this is the perfect vehicle for her. It was rugged enough to go anywhere received high ranks in safety and gas mileage but most importantly, it had enough room for a family of four to sit comfortably. We had already been dating for almost five years (2005), but kids was for from the equation, but that was her always looking to the future and meticulously planning for what lay ahead. Fast-forward to the present and damn was she right. The car is perfect for our new son (now almost two), and has provided us with many memories, i.e. road trips and camping. At times it’s hard for me to see what she sees. She has the ability to gaze into the future five or ten years ahead and to make sound decisions affecting that future. Without her I would still be living in chaos with no future to look forward to. Thank you for all the guidance and sound advice and thank you beautiful wife, loving mother, for the amazing future you will undoubtedly provide for Hayden and me I look forward to growing old with you and watching our children thrive.

Love, Your Husband Mikal”

dawnins

Dawn ~

“Stunted by my insecurities, I miss out on opportunities to grow. My lack of confidence and my propensity to worry too much mingle throughout all my insecurities.
One of my early memories is worrying about being too fat for my ballet pictures when I was 5 or 6, so I quit. I’ve seen pictures of myself at that age…I was nowhere near fat! Where did that come from?!  As a teenager, I had a passion for acting. I took one acting class but quit because I was too shy. Now I wonder how that opportunity would have changed my life. From a young age until recently, I had very large breasts; which I was definitely insecure about & that infringed on my relationships with men. They brought me, a shy person, unwanted attention and changed my behavior – making me feel trapped. Currently, being overweight is something I fret about and work on much, but with little avail. My body image is one of my insecurities but I believe people should be appreciated by who they are inside and how they treat others – not what they look like. A poor body image is there for me, it’s just not at the forefront or top of my list. There is always going to be one imperfection or another. Sometimes I think I don’t care enough about my appearance; leaving the house without looking in the mirror and coming back home to realize, “Oh yeah, I was waxing my eyebrows before I left the house and I have pieces of blue wax on my face. Oops I guess I should have looked in the mirror before leaving the house…”
I waste my time worrying. I worry about how my insecurities will make me miss out on healthy relationships. And how my lack of confidence & passivity will make me lose out on advancement at work or business opportunities. I feel alienated & worry people don’t like that I’m too emotional, too honest, too weird, too awkward, too passive, too introspective…but these are all things I love about myself.
Ira Glass once said something on an episode of This American Life that I related to: “I’m married to somebody who …I totally feel like every day I have to prove myself anew. That’s totally my personality. For me, I think that something went wrong when I was a kid, where I think that other people, they just accept that they’re “in”. They accept that this other person likes them, and they don’t have to keep proving themselves. Whereas for me, it’s entirely temporal. I’m constantly judging the whole thing moment by moment, and it could always fall apart. For me, it never ends.” (This American Life, episode 314:It’s Never Over)”

Dawn’s friends and family –

“My friend Dawn is a strong woman, a resourceful woman, a confident woman and a great friend. She is a beautiful lady, inside and out. 
Dawn has such a big heart. While I was working at VRads, she always had a hug for me on a bad day and gave me support without bias during a difficult time. 
She lights up when she talks about her special little kiddos and I love watching her interact with each of them 🙂 
She is a hard worker and has strong convictions.
Dawn, you have a great style that shows from within and your sexy savvy is sassy, Sister! I love you!” – Sasha

“I would describe Dawn with these adjectives;
stylish, smart, cool, honest, loyal and crafty.” – Eric


“Dawn… I’m not sure where to begin.  She and I have braved the mile-long friendship test that is IKEA and came out Laughing. We lost track of each other in the lamp section, and after about 15 minutes I was convinced she was pulling a fast one on me, like when kids hide in the center of clothes racks to freak out their parents.  Or, in this case, Mom hides in the clothes rack, and kiddo is left wondering which way he came from and how anybody could hide in all this extra light.  I remember her finally walking up, grinning and a little frazzled, asking “HEY, Where’ you been, I’ve been looking all over the place?”  It’s always fun to hang out with her.
I admire a lot about Dawn.
Her commitment to everything she’s interested in… her hobbies, now her business, her friends, Robb.
Her enthusiasm for finding anything to spark both her own sense of Being Alive, and encouraging it in those around her.  She’s the one who organizes the group camping trips, double dates, game nights… a night out for a friend who’s feeling low, just to get them out and moving and laughing again.
Plus, she’ll make you pillows!  For the new couch she drove you to pick up!
She’ll call you Sweet Tits!
She will goose you in the middle of an antique fair, and out-do you and everyone else on Halloween!
And she won’t bother to sugarcoat a hard truth – I don’t think she has any interest in that kind of thing at all.  She’ll be gentle about it, sure, but still give it to you straight.
She is Great, and I feel very fortunate to have her as a friend.” – Todd

“Hi Alana, just wanted to tell you about my daughter, Dawn.
She is a daughter to be very proud of – what she’s accomplished in her life, despite many adversities, she’s managed to stand up and keep on going.
Her honesty would be above most people, including myself.  She’s always been honest all of her life.
She is a very loving and faithful daughter, and friend. She always has time for me, and includes me in her life, and also shares her friends with me.
She is very creative, which shows in her handmade crafts that she carefully creates and packages.
Dawn is also a great godmother to April’s two girls, whom she adores and they in turn love her very much.
Dawn takes time to make all her friends feel cared for and important.
She has qualities that make me so very proud of her and the life she lives.
I’m happy she has so many friends and the ability to go on day-to-day, because when I’m not here anymore, I know all of you will watch over my daughter, my gift.” – Diane

“I admire Dawn for all of her qualities. She is confident. She wears what she wants to wear, she says what she feels. She’s just free to be herself. She’s an amazing friend to have. Dawn is vibrant, strong, and honest. She has always been there when I’ve needed her. She’s the kind of friend that you can accidentally spill an entire drink in her lap and she won’t get upset. She will just wipe herself off and proclaim to the entire bar that her panties are wet.
I love the way she loves my girls and my girls adore her. That is why we made her the Godmother of our children, after all.” – April

“Hey Alana,
Thanks for making my lady friends feel good about themselves. You do good work. So here’s some of the things I think are great about Dawn.

“Till the brink of Dawn, baby got it goin’ on!”
Dawn has a great sense of humor. I like joking around with her.
Dawn is inventive and crafty. It’s cool to see what projects she’s working on.
It’s pretty awesome camping or hiking with Dawn.
She’s a very good organizer and hostess.
I love her sense of style and fashion.
Dawn is very smart and witty.
Dawn is a great friend to have. She’s reliable and trustworthy. She truly tries to see where you’re coming from. She likes to get out and experience things. I’m glad I have her as one of my friends.” – Joe

“I just have to start with one of my absolute favorite things about Dawn: her laugh. She’s got this full, big, happy contagious laugh that goes for miles. It’s genuine, pure, and lovely. It’s one of the many beautiful things about my friend.
I have had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with Dawn over the last decade or so. Due to a chance meeting involving a mattress and a male friend (minds out of the gutter, now…), I was lucky to be introduced to this lovely girl. Turns out that we went to the same High School and knew a lot of the same people, but didn’t run in the same circles at that time. However, we did start hanging out at Magoos, drinking, and sharing stories and fun-filled times. I always loved being around Dawn. She has this charisma, this charm. It was always there, every time we were together.
We got closer over the years, and that’s when I got to know the depths of Dawn. She is one of the most honest and true people I know. If someone asks Dawn a question or for their opinion, they know that the answer they are going to get is genuine.  And the great thing is that even if the answer might not be what the person wants to hear, she has a gentleness and grace that comes along with her honesty.
She also has this amazing strength. She stands up for herself and for her friends, with fierceness, if necessary. She isn’t afraid to say what she thinks, stand up for what she believes, and to be herself no matter what the situation. She has this “realness” that I admire so. She has a outwardly noticeable pride in being a strong woman and I believe that people are drawn to her prowess.
And she’s so smart!  I have been thoroughly entertained listening to her debate a topic with a friend (or a stranger) and just school them like nobody’s business. She also listens and has an open mind, always willing to listen to other people’s opinions and take something away from a conversation.
I love that Dawn is always trying new things, gaining new experience and growing as a person. When she sets her mind to something, she does it whole-heartedly and makes it hers and it’s really inspiring to watch.
Dawn is fashion savvy and sassy! She has this phenomenal sense of style, and when she’s dressed up she’s a perfect picture of vintage class. She’s so beautiful! She has this ridiculously perfect, porcelain skin, stunning eyes, and beautiful hands. Even when we are camping for days, she looks fresh and adorable!
I love so many things about my beautiful friend, and feel honored to be able to write this about her. It doesn’t even begin to do her justice, but I hope that it at least taps the surface of the wonderful things I see in this amazing woman. I love you, Dawn!” – Sylvia

“Dawn

  • creative
  • smart
  • honest
  • loyal
  • generous
  • thoughtful
  • kind
  • determined
  • stylish
  • witty
  • a true friend
  • quirky
  • beautiful
  • fun
  • brings people together
  • supportive
  • outdoorsy/adventurous
  • free spirit
    –        Amy

“Dawn is a person who has learned to turn her life experience into meaningful and compassionate interaction with other people. The strength and grace she has shown whenever life has given her hardship has been an inspiration to all who know her.
Dawn is the kind of friend and companion who will be patient and supportive when you’re struggling, but also honest and open with you at all times. In other words, she’s a real friend.
Like all self-aware, considerate people, her life is a balancing-act, with patient, careful analysis on one side of the cable, and urgency and spontaneity on the other, and it’s always her love and consideration of others that keeps her balanced in the middle, moving ahead.
All cheesy metaphors aside, she inspires me every day to be a be a better person, and I’m thankful that we get to learn and grow together, side by side.” – Robb

anains

Ana ~

“When I think of what it is that makes me the most anxious, the most insecure, I feel my mind trying to shy away from it because it rattles me so deeply. 
Deep down in the core of me – that which informs everything I do and think – I feel as though I’m an obligation. That I’m so beyond redemption, so broken and damaged, that I’m a waste of the time and energy people have put into me…and everyone knows it. But because they’re obligated, because they feel honor bound to carry me, they don’t throw me away as they wish they could. Because I’m not clever, or lovely, I’m not good or kind or smart or brave or strong. I’m just damaged. And no one wants that as a companion, and yet they are stuck with me.
It leaves me in a constant state of anxiety, feeling clumsy and stupid in the company of other people. I t leaves me so exhausted from worrying that I feel like I can’t be a good daughter, or sister, or significant other, or friend, and making new friends is a harrowing and anxiety-ridden experience. I try to be good, of course, but I feel my nature leaves me incapable of being those things that I admire in others, and that leaves me as a burdensome obligation to people who are so much better than I am.”

Ana’s friends and family –

“I remember looking into her newborn eyes of an indescribable color and feeling like I had fallen into eternal wisdom…so I whispered to her, in those first hours of knowing her, that she would teach me the secrets of the universe.
She has been my portal to a realm of wonder – a flouncy, flitting fan girl whose squeals of delight can cause a smile to erupt across 2000 miles. She loves her clan, those related to her by blood or kindred spirit, with a fierce and passionate loyalty.
Her struggles have challenged her and fashioned her into the kind of person who chooses to practice compassion.  She dances with demons and angels, she knows tragedy and triumph, and her spirit, although sometimes wounded, rises again and again to meet the world on her own terms. She may not always triumph, but she is yet to be defeated.
Although I have wondered aloud how on earth such a chick could have ended up in my nest, I have no doubt she was meant to be mine from the founding of the world. My daughter, my child, my Ana.” – Amy

“Hi Alana, it’s hard to know where to start with Ana – I’ve known her pretty much since she was born.  She is easily the kindest person that I know and one of the strongest that I’ve ever met.  It’s hard enough to find one of those qualities in someone and she manages them both in the most genuine way.  Even though she doesn’t always see those qualities in herself, I know that those closest to her see her in the same light.  She also has an incredible mind; every time we hang out I’m surprised by it.  She will remember and tell you exact details of things that happened last week and 15 years ago as though they were the same.  It’s incredible, and even when there’s doubt she’s the one that comes up true, so you learn quickly not to doubt her!
With all of that, the quality about Ana I adore most is that she is always honest with others and with herself.  Right or wrong, angry or happy, she will tell you her true thoughts and not hide behind any kind of a false veil, and that’s one of the hardest things a person can do.  To stay exposed, open, and accepting in the face of everything.
To me she’s more than a friend…she’s family.” – Micah

“I have known Ana for over a decade. I have seen her at her best, and I have seen her at her worst! She is, BY FAR, the strongest person I know! She is misunderstood by many, but for those of us that take the time, she is a blessing like no other. She is the person that will NEVER give up on you! I am living proof that once you let her in, you don’t have a choice! She will change how you view yourself and the world around you! With all of the hardships that she has been through, she can still see the beauty in this world. There are so many that fail to see the beauty and at the same time, they believe that the horrors (like the ones Ana has seen) are just something of myth. Ana has gone toe-to-toe with pure evil and won! She often feels that she is weak for having relapses or panic attacks, but truth be told, most of us wouldn’t have survived long enough to experience the panic that ensues so many years later! She is one of the most kind, loving, forgiving people I have ever had the honor of knowing. I would truly be lost without her!” – Mat

“I’ve known Ana for a handful of years now, and while we’re not always central to each others’ lives, we’re never really out of touch or too far away.
Ana has always been a positive influence in my life. She is an insanely brilliant, creative and good-natured person. Ana has a unique sensitivity to the emotional health and well being of the people around her, and while I might not always understand it, it is something that has brought me comfort many times. She’s one of very few people I have ever met, that know: some things are worth the effort of doing, simply because it is good for the heart/soul/spirit/sense of self/whatever-have-you. She has had more than her fair share of trials and injustices inflicted on her, and I can tell you; she is capable of amazing amounts of grace; more then most people will exhibit in their lifetimes. I am proud and grateful to call Ana my friend.” – Cat

jillins

 Jill ~

My entire life I have suffered from a crippling need to make people like me. I want to entertain and charm and generally leave people with the impression that I am a joyful person. And I don’t think that’s false, I am generally joyful. But somewhere along the way I began to work too hard for this, to the exclusion of all else. Instead of developing real, meaningful, informed opinions on things, I churn on the words or an inspired twist of a joke I can make around the topic.  This isn’t always bad. But other times it is – a sort of manic anxiety that I know isn’t healthy.  Then the insecurity really kicks in; I start to fear that people I esteem – my friends and family – can see through my performances. And because they are actual sensitive, intelligent people, they know.

That I lack fundamental substance.
That I don’t care enough about things that are actually important.
That I’m not smart, just clever. 

 I look around at other people who are driven to make a difference and I admire them. I see people who are doing amazing things in life, and I feel pride for them while simultaneously wondering what they see in me. I feel like a fraud.  I don’t want my friendships to become a series of performances, I want real connection. But I don’t always know how to get it.
It is also part of my nature to gloss over the painful emotions in life. I just…decide not to feel them. I take sadness or anger and stuff it down. But in recent years I have come to realize it doesn’t stay down. And when it comes rushing up it’s confusing and painful and destructive. It causes me to need validation and approval to patch the holes I’ve created in myself. And so I entertain and charm and generally pretend to be a joyful person. That makes it better. For a minute.”

Jill’s friends and family –

“There are few friends who have known me since I was a child.  Few who have seen the changes in my life and held on.  Jillian is one of those friends.  I love her because she has the capacity to see past my dark places and still find light.  She doesn’t make me feel small.  In fact, she has the ability to draw anyone in. It is not just her wit that keeps me hanging on to every word, although she is terribly funny; it is the rawness that lies just beneath the surface…the layer that is vulnerable and honest and whole.

I love Jillian because she takes the world seriously while making fun of it at the same time.
I love Jillian because she is a good mother.
I love Jillian because she tells a great story.
I love Jillian because she does not judge.
I love Jillian because of her strength (the kind that makes me want to be stronger) and her beauty (the kind of beauty that slaps me square in the face).
I love Jillian because she is trustworthy.
I love Jillian because she would be an equally fantastic date to a funeral as a baby shower.
I love Jillian because she is a risk taker.
I love Jillian because she understands and appreciates the value of parenthood, friendship, and family.
If you stripped away her fantastic stories and witty remarks, I’d still like to sit next to her at a bar and sip cinnamon whiskey all night long.
I think I might like to be her when I grow up.” – Sunshine

“Jill is so fun, and it was so easy to get to know her. I remember when we first met we liked each other straightaway.. I’m sure she has lots of friends but she has this way of making me feel like an important person in her life when we are together. That feels great! She is also the funniest person I know. She always makes me laugh and look at life in a funny way – especially when it comes to our kids. Jill is also an incredible mother. Very patient, and always interacting with her kids with funny things to say and look at things. Being a mom of two myself, I know how hard it can be to stay engaged and have energy to make things fun for the kids, and Jill is a model mommy with regards to planning fun outings and when things get hectic she just rolls with it and makes everyone laugh all the while.
I think most of all, though, I admire her positive outlook on life. I’ll ask her how her weekend/day was, and it could be any old day, and she would say “the best!” It’s so uplifting to have a positive friend, someone who has great things to say about the life they are living instead of the alternative.
I really love this gal, she’s super!” – Heather

“This letter is harder to write than I thought. I honestly don’t know if I can quantify all that is what I love about Jilly, and love her I most certainly do.
She’s my sweet jilly. My funny bird. My favorite aeroplane to fly. Jilly is smart, and beautiful, and stronger than she will ever know. She, despite all of her attempts to avoid it, has some pretty astute insights and can always be counted on to mention an angle you hadn’t considered when a situation arises.
She’s brave and willing to try anything. I think technically Jill is what you would call ” a down ass bitch”. I can prove it. Well, not here and now…her dad is going to read all of these eventually and he really doesn’t want to hear anything I have to say on that subject. But, it could be fun because Jill would totally blush as this was being read out loud and I think that would be adorable. And so would you, because she is adorable. So, adore her. I sure do.” – Jamey

“I am honored to have been present at the moment of Jill’s conception. While hysterical amnesia has blocked that moment from my memory (no fault of Jill’s), every moment since combine to have made my life worthwhile. Jill and her kids are my mark on the world, and I could not be more proud of that mark.
But it is her qualities that you want to hear about, and it is those that make me most proud. Jill is fiercely loyal. Once you are a friend of Jill’s, you are always a friend of Jill’s. To this day she counts among her friends members of her second grade Brownie troop in addition to the legion of friends she has added through the years. And to a person they are fine people. Jill sees into people, and when she sees good, she makes a friend. Her friends adore her, and why not, she is riotously funny. Without really being conscious of it, Jill remembers everything she reads (which she does voraciously) and hears. When nuggets of that encyclopedic knowledge re-emerge they are invariably in the form of a pun (her favorite form of humor), a joke, or a witty bon mot. It makes her a joy to be with.
The mental machinations behind her wit make her a natural born writer, an artist whose medium is the English language. I like the art she creates.
Interview anyone she knew growing up and you would not have found a single person who would have described her as a “mother type.” But she is exactly that, a wonderful and joyous mom. She not only enjoys her kids because they are her kids, she genuinely gets a kick out of them. She treats them more as little people than as children. One of them may very well be the Kwisatz Haderach… Those who know her, know who.
In short, Jill is an accomplished liver, lover, and laugher. And I could not be more proud.

Her Dad”

“When I think of Jill I think of a beautiful, fun-loving, and interesting girl.  She makes people want to be around her and be part of her life.  She is lively and has an aura of welcoming light.  Don’t understand why she can’t dance…or doesn’t dance.
Jill is very creative in everything she does.  When she was young, she made me an apple core in clay that I absolutely cherish.  Anything she tries, she can do.  She is definitely a left-brain thinker.  She writes poems, limericks and stories that are fun, interesting, exciting, mind-blowing and always a joy to share.  I often wonder where that creativity comes from and I’m definitely glad she has that talent.  I think she could write songs if only she could put it to music.
Jill is an Aquarius and she fits the sign.  She is easy-going, accepting, forgiving, honest, head-in-the-clouds kind of gal.  She tells the truth and expects people will do the same.  I think she learned very early that she is a bad liar…it shows in her face.  I think the only reason she would even tell someone a lie is to spare their feelings…but it wouldn’t be in person.
Jill is so nice to friends, family and strangers.  I think she is naïve in that sense.  She always believes people have the best intentions. In this, I think she can put herself in dangerous situations because she trusts people to behave in an expected manner.  When they don’t, she is thrown off kilter and doesn’t know how to react.
She is mostly fearless of places and people.  We are different in this way.  Where I don’t fear places or people, I am more cautious than she is.  The things she does fear are the things I do not.  Maybe that is just an age and experience difference that she will grow into.
Jill is very sensitive.  She gets hurt very easily.  It was always hard for me when she was growing up to not hurt her feelings because I come from a family of jokesters…we tease and we never let it hurt our feelings.  Her sensitivity is what makes her so sweet.  She has an open heart that sometimes gets bruised but never for long.
Jill takes time to talk with people and is genuinely interested in what they have to say.  She is an engaging conversationalist and people love her.  She has a tolerance for people that I wish I possessed.
Jill is a very good mother.  It is obvious by how her children react to her.  She is a loving, patient and understanding parent.  She always wants to please her children when she can but understands when to say no.  She’s never going to regret loving her children too much.
I don’t think Jill sees herself as a beautiful, interesting woman who people want to be around.  I think she has doubts about her charm, intelligence and her appearance.  She doesn’t trust her instincts and lets others influence her self-esteem.  Recently she questioned why a handsome man would be interested in her…my response was “why wouldn’t he be?”.
Whatever credit I can take for being part of the genetic pool that produced such a fine woman, I’m taking it.  I am so proud of her and happy that she is my daughter.  She is the absolute best daughter a mother could ask for and I only hope she thinks that I the absolute best mom a girl could ever have.  I love her with all my heart with a fierce protection to protect her and her children from harm and hurt.” – Judy

michelleins

Michelle ~

All right, let’s just say it. Like most of us, I’ve got issues. And, like most of us, I learned very early that you should stuff those issues down deep to protect yourself. And then for the lucky ones (which is still most of us) our issues happened when we were so little that we don’t even remember what or why they are issues.

As I think about my greatest insecurity, far too many ideas come to mind. I’m just a giant ball of insecurity! What in the world ever possessed me to do this I still don’t know..? I thought it would be brave, or healing, or something. And, being so insecure, I can’t ‘reuse’ a word that another woman has used! But, some of them are my words, too. They run through my mind daily and hold it captive.
So much of my life has been about seeking acceptance from everyone else, and hiding the parts of myself that I thought others wouldn’t want to see. The biggest of those parts were my FEELINGS. When I think about growing up, I was always told I was ‘too emotional’ and ‘over-dramatic.’ Don’t FEEL so much, Michelle. Better yet, don’t feel. Period. It’s a nuisance. SUCK IT UP.

 So I learned to ‘feel less’ (not exactly – I just learned to stuff the feelings I had) – I never learned to manage my feelings. They became too big or too scary. Too much emotion shows weakness.

If I feel too deeply, I am weak.

If I am overwhelmed, I am weak.

If I don’t do everything right, everything PERFECT, I am weak.

If I can’t handle it all, I am weak.

I can’t be vulnerable – that’s WEAK.

I can’t let someone REALLY see me. They might think I am weak. 
But now I feel like there might be more for me if it don’t SUCK IT UP. If I FEEL. And so this seemed like a good place to start. FEELING. Period. I am feeling. Guh…”

 

Michelle’s family and friends:

“Hi Alana. This is Tyler, writing about how awesome my mom is. My mom makes me feel special by how caring and loving she is. It is really cool to see how she brought Jacelyn in as her own daughter. She also knows how to make me feel better when I’m not feeling well or am sad. She is super smart and can help me, by pushing me to do my best in school, and can help me with my projects. She is fun to hang out with. She has a lot of fun creative ideas for things to do. We also love to watch science fiction shows together. I am lucky to have her as my mom.” – Tyler

“Michelle, I have watched an intelligent, loving young girl grow into an intelligent, loving, kind, amazing woman. You are a caring compassionate friend, who tells it like it is and then offers good advice after praying about it. You are also an awesome prayer warrior, a great mom, and have the integrity to stand up for what you believe even if it isn’t the popular thing to do. I could always count on you to be in my prayer loop, even when you were younger. You are a talented woman in many areas, after all who introduced me to kale salad? I have always felt very blessed to have you in my life and I hope this helps you to know what a truly awesome person you are!

Love you, Judy”

“Michelle is the kindest, most empathetic person I have ever met. Heck. She’s the kindest person YOU have ever met. When we were little, Michelle was tall, and kinda goofy, and asked a lot of questions. This annoyed people and I remember them being pretty mean to her. I was probably pretty mean to her sometimes…but she never. ever. ever. held it against anyone. She would accept, absorb and forgive while barely batting an eye (this is a skill most never  even realize they should master). I remember watching her one day while I was waiting in line to play foursquare… she was walking and talking with a girl who had cerebral palsy (I think). This girl was the constant butt of cruel jokes and mostly ostracized…but not by Michelle. They were walking and talking and laughing and I will never forget that moment. I’m not even sure why it’s that one specifically that I’m choosing for this letter because there are more stories of her fighting off kids who were bullying someone less able. I think it’s that it is the stuff of a truly beautiful human being. Just being in that moment – at that time – with that person.  She can do that and make you feel truly loved.
Michelle and I have faced some demons together – I couldn’t imagine having been able to do that with anyone else. She’s brave, and fierce, and funny, and all of those questions that she asks? If you stop and listen…and try to answer them…you may learn something. She has that gift, that intelligence.  Here we are 30 years later…I am so very lucky to have her in my life.
She dedicates herself to protecting others. Others without a voice…I love her for that.
That and her wickedly dirty sense of humor…the way she talks her thoughts through out loud…she really considers herself and her place in this world. She’s great. Really and truly great.” – Jamey

“Michelle,

I thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in this project. I feel blessed to not just know you as a friend but also as a colleague. Not only do you amaze me in your professional walk but also in your personal walk in life. It’s a blessing having you as friend. You always  have this attitude that is optimistic and positive. You are enthusiastic and fun to be around! I see you as hard working, knowledgeable and successful. Despite your workload you’re never too busy to listen and offer up words of advice to those around you.  You Michelle are brilliant, ambitious, fun loving, dependable, caring, energetic, a strong leader and one amazing mother.  The Lord is using you in so many ways. You touch so many lives and as He sees you as beautiful inside and out, so do I.  I’m very thankful for you!

Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.

Psalms 55:22

Love, Shannon”

“Michelle R***** L**** (R***** now, except when I yell at you)

Keeper of my secrets
Holder of dreams
Peaceful voice in the craziness of this world
Teacher of wisdom
First real friend
True friend
Pollyanna and sunshine
Balance in this unbalanced world
An advocate for what is right
Compassionate even when none seems to be deserved

You are an amazing friend, woman, and sister.  To me you are all three.  We have gone through this word together.  It is a long hard journey and had I not had you by my side I am not sure if I would have made it.  The good and bad memories of my past all have the vine of you twisting and supporting. Memories of us flood through my mind.  You are an essence to me and this world.  You are strength in the quite.  And when nothing else is working you make people laugh.   Even if it doesn’t make it better, for a moment you made them forget and smile.  You are sunshine and light.  Never let anyone tell you that that is not a strength. If this world had more Pollyanna’s in it we would all be much better off.
Thank you for blessing my life with yours.  Don’t ever become what you are not.  To me, you are the best friend to have walking with in this world.  Anyone whom you choose to walk with is blessed.  Thank you for choosing me.

I love you so.

Nikki”

“Michelle is, and always has been, very concerned about others’ well-being.  Whether it’s a friend, family member, or someone else’s kid, she’s always ready and willing to help.  Michelle sees potential.  She often sees the potential in others long before anyone else – even before the person him/herself.  She uses this potential to feed her desire to help others become their best selves.  Because she sees potential and how to get there, she’s very celebratory of small victories.  This draws others to her like a magnet – because she’s so positive and encouraging and celebratory of every accomplishment along the way.
Part of why Michelle is so good at seeing potential and helping others move towards their best self, is because she’s also doing this for herself. Michelle takes whatever she’s given, combines it with whatever she’s been able to scrape together, and works to make herself better.  Her life better. Her family better.  Her home better.  Her world better.
Michelle is an example of someone on an eternal quest for improvement- always working to make things better- to make everything better.” – Steph

“Michelle is very strong-willed & determined. She knows what she wants and works to get it. Even though there may be detours, she gets right back on track and continues to her goal.  She worked a full-time job with a young child – all the while keeping her family together during stressful times -and still managed to earn her bachelor’s degree at night. At times she was even working a part-time job to supplement while her husband was out of work. Strong willed & determined!
She is very loving & patient. To see how she has raised her son to be such an intelligent, compassionate human being is amazing. Now she has also taken on the added responsibility of fostering a young girl with a huge amount of behavioral issues. It is wonderful listening to the stories of frustration as well as success in this endeavor. Somehow, she has also managed to have her husband and son behind the decision, making it a family affair to love and care for this forgotten child, despite the heartache & drama that follow her.
Michelle is family-oriented and the peacemaker. Always reaching out to keep her extended family & in-laws within her circle. Always working to smooth over the rough edges of arguments and such that happens in family life. Always bringing everyone together again, thus showing her son by example that there is nothing more important than family – no matter how far away they are or how much emotional distance they put between themselves. Family is important and you need to work to keep them together.
She has grown into a beautiful young woman with much to give the world. I admire her and am proud to call her my daughter. I look forward to the great things she will surely accomplish!  I love you, Michelle! – Mom”

“Michelle,

I’ve mentally written this and mulled it over a million times and, no matter how I try, I can’t break it down in a way that could make others understand what I have to say to you within a context they could grasp. So instead, I’ve chosen to write to you. To my person. How could anyone else understand who we were when we met and what we’ve each been through to become who we are now? Or who we want to be?  They weren’t there to see the two young teenagers sneaking around the corner to the grocery store during breaks, forging a new friendship. They weren’t there the first time you nursed me through heartbreak, let alone any of the others. They haven’t watched our children grow up as family or listened to us share our professional aspirations. They couldn’t possibly know you are one of the very few people in this world with whom I don’t feel like a schizophrenic freak, nor would they understand. But you do.
You may laugh at what has continually popped up for me as I’ve tried to wrap my head around choosing a word to describe my favorite part of you, but I ask you to then take a breath, believe that I’ve chosen it thoughtfully and intentionally, and let your heart feel it. When I think about the many forms of our relationship, the overriding quality I find myself emulating across the board is your intention to be graceful. Grace. You have such grace in you.
Your grace is so beautiful, Michelle. You fight for children everyday in such graceful ways. You mother your son with grace that inspires me to be more graceful with my own children. You are graceful in your relationship with your husband and have taught me more than you can possibly know about how to have a healthy relationship with he who may yet someday be mine. You speak hard truths with a grace I have always, and will always admire for your resounding ring of truth and kindness. And when your graciousness lapses, I see you feel its absence. I see you look for it to put back on, because it is you. You are grace. Your intention to be graceful in all you do is one of the many reasons I feel safe to trust you with all of me. Why you are my person.
I love you, Michelle. Thank you for sharing your grace with me and mine.

Sincerely, your person too,
Debbie”

“Hi Alana. I hope you are not looking for some eloquently written letter. I’m a relatively smart guy, but not a great writer. That is one of many areas where my lovely wife, Michelle, shines.
What are some words I would use to describe her? Beautiful, smart, caring, thoughtful, wise, patient (she’s put up with me for 18 years) I would almost say she’s a saint! Especially the way that she has taken Jacelyn in. This is a 4-year-old, hyper, emotional girl that most people would run from – yet, Michelle opened her heart, arms, and home to her and is raising her with the love she would give our own daughter. She is an amazing mother. Not only for our own son, but any other child that should be fortunate enough to meet her.
Michelle, is a very loyal friend. She may not have “a lot” of friends, but the ones lucky enough to be her friends, will be her friends for life. She loves every one of them very deeply and with all her heart.
This is tough. I have been with Michelle for 18 years and have been through so much with her that words can’t really describe how I feel. I guess I could say how lucky and blessed I am to have her in my life, and how fortunate I am to have her as the mother of my son. She talks about wanting to get a tattoo of an anchor, in honor of her father (Retired Navy), but I could get one in honor of her. Not in the derogatory term, but in the sense that she keeps me grounded when my emotions get the best of me. I guess you could say…Michelle brings out the best in me. I am one lucky man!” – Bryan

nicoleins

Nicole ~

 My insecurity is that I always feel like an outsider, even with people I know well. I feel like an afterthought and that no one really knows or understands me. It makes me think that either they don’t care to know or that they do and simply don’t like me. This causes me to be guarded with new people I meet and constantly second guessing myself with family and friends.”

Nicole’s friends and family:

“As Nicole’s Mom, I could list hundreds of great things about her, because she’s my daughter and obviously I think she’s perfect. But I will list just some of the many great things about her…

Excellent Mother to Victoria
Loving caregiver to her grandparents
Very big heart
Excellent artist
Extremely Smart
Very creative & resourceful
Very determined
Independent
Thoughtful of all family and friends
Always happy to help anyone who needs it
Self-confident
Honest
Good friend

I hope this will help your project!”
Danielle

“She is an active listener
Has a great sense of humor
Patient
Eager to learn
Open to try new things
Unique
Does not give into peer pressure
Creative
Independent
Kind

I apologize for the delay. This list can go on and on. She is an amazing soul!” – Daisy

“My Sister, Nicole…

Amazing caretaker…to so many people!
Strong
Extremely sincere
Independent thinker…she does not follow the pack, which is so admirable!
Loving Mom…gives so much for her daughter
Creative AND Ambitious…you need to have both!
So funny!
Beautiful hair 🙂

I am lucky to have such an awesome woman in my life.  Love you, Nicole!” – Gina

aprilins

 April ~


My biggest insecurities have changed over the years. Currently, it’s my body after having 2 children via C-section. I’ve always been a bigger girl. As I made my way through high school and onto college I came to terms with that fact. I had always done all sorts of sports and dance and was never thin. It’s not that I’m a different size then I was before I had kids, but somehow I just feel different. It’s not even the scars that bother me. Just something in the back of my mind that tells me that I’m less sexy and less desirable than I used to be. My husband tells me daily that he thinks that I’m sexy, but I just can’t let myself believe it. My insecurity with my body affects me daily. It keeps me from letting me be me.”

April’s friends and family –

“April is a very good friend to me and my daughter, and we also feel like she is part of the family.
She is an excellent mother, and you can tell she really loves being a mom.
She’s very calm and collected, and makes sure both girls get the attention they need.
April actually has 3 children including Dave, her hubby, lol.  She is a good wife, and manages to take everyday in stride. They have a great family and I love to visit with them.
I admire her strength and fortitude; being a wife and mother are both very exhausting jobs.
I think April is rewarded for all her good work by having a nice family to be proud of.
I hope to see her darling girls, Samantha and Ella, grow up to be wonderful and gorgeous young ladies.” – Diane

“I have know April since before she was even started. I helped name her. She is warm- loyal- thoughtful- loving- reflective -patient. She has a quiet reserve about her. I adore her. She was my daughter’s best friend as her mother is mine. I now look at her more with my heart than I should. But when you love someone unconditionally, that is how it is. April – you have all the qualities a woman of this day and age should have. Be brave and proud and move the mountains set before you. I know you will. I love you.” – Gayle

“April and I became friends at a time in our lives that was very difficult, our early twenties, ha! She has come to be a admirable friend. She is genuine, smart, strong, honest, dependable and patient. All qualities in a friend I hold in high regard. She is an excellent wife & mother. I admire her patience with her daughters. I’m proud to call Sam & Ella my goddaughters. I’m honored to be apart of their loving family.” – Dawn


“Hi Alana,

Here are some good positive things about April that I know anyone will agree on.
She happens to be my daughter and I love her deeply.
She is my best friend.
She takes me shopping and sometimes does the shopping for me.
She always gives me back the change.
April is a wonderful mother and wife.  She takes it all in stride.  She loves her ladies, as she calls them, to her very soul.
She is funny and well liked.  A bright ray of sunshine.
She is very good at her job.  She gets things done when they need to be done.
April takes charge of me when I’m not able to do so.  She is what holds our family together.
She is eager to help anyone in distress.  No matter what.  Even stray crippled cats fit into that category.

I couldn’t live without her. Everything I do, I do for her!” – Dawn (Mom)

charinsChar ~

 “Growing up I often felt different and never good enough, feelings that have incapacitated me as an adult.  As an adopted child, I rationalized that I must have been trash for my own mother to not want me.  My twin sister and I were eccentric – peacocks in a family of swans.
By 5th grade I had begun to lose hope in school.  I was a straight F student who was also taking gifted classes, told I just “needed to try harder”.  As a teen I was diagnosed with ADHD, anorexia and severe depression.  I tried to get by on charm and appearance but ultimately felt like a worthless fraud, incapable of success and ultimately of any true worth.
I left school at 16 and ran away, suffered a year on the streets (and rape) and left when I got pregnant (on the pill, go Planned Parenthood).  Due to my very religious upbringing, I married my boyfriend at 17 – who I had met on the street – and was pregnant again, this time with a daughter, two months after giving birth to my son.
The “marriage” was a disaster.  I was basically a single mom living with abuse.  I finally left, as it was hurting my kids, and chose to move away, striking out on my own.  I worked hard to provide for my kids, and besides a perfectionist work ethic, credit them with giving me motivation to get through life.
However, my oldest kids were adversely affected by what I can admit now was mental illness and my extreme shame in dealing with it (depression, anxiety, anorexia, hoarding and conversely, OCD).  I also have had autoimmune issues that made (make) me feel like a genetic weak link.  My self-imposed isolation and not seeking help have come at a great cost and have caused a burden to my family.
I am finally seeking help as I have a sweet 2-year-old son and 8-week-old daughter (and a loving husband) who need me.  I am in the grip of Postpartum Depression, Fibromyalgia and Lupus and need to come to terms with these limitations and MOVE ON.  I would not be such a harsh judge to a stranger; it is time to learn how to love myself and turn off the self-hatred.”

Char’s friends and family –

“I’m sending this message in regards to my mother Char, and I would love to give you my input. She is an amazingly trustworthy person, empathetic, and has always been an incredible mom.” – Demyan

“I have known Char for well over a decade. She is bright, sensitive, caring, and capable. Her love for family and friends is evident in everything she does.  If she is afraid to take on new challenges, she doesn’t show it. Whenever knocked off her feet, she gets back up and tries again. I’m glad that Char is a part of my circle, and happily foresee that she always will be.” – Traci

“Char loves us all. She believes in us. She believes we can do more than what we do. She will be there for us. She will help us.  She will inform us of imminent dangers. She will protect us. She does this for you and she does this for her family. Char is beautiful. Char is intelligent, strong, wise, weird and strange, and isn’t going to stop any time soon. Hold her hand, and you will smile. Love you, kiddo.” – Nicholas

“Strong
Wonderful mother
Beautiful
Charismatic
Hard working
Determined
Gentle and nurturing
Loyal
Unconditional love
Intelligent” – Sierra

“I couldn’t imagine anyone more open and honest than Char. It was that which drew me towards her and that same trait that characterizes any close friend that I have to this day. Ironically, often the most honest are the least likely to open up. At first they’re quite good at smiling and saying soft “hellos”. A simple gesture, a reply, can be difficult at first and intimidating. Their beauty radiates from within and then outward like a tropical trade wind visiting you on the driest hottest day of the year on the most lifeless side of an island that can sometimes go by the name of Life.
Char was like that for me when we first met. A godsend.
I was young and struggling with my identity and insecurities of my own. If I could go about my day in a hoodie with headphones to drown out my thoughts, I knew I’d be ok. It took a friend like her to help me realize what I was going through. It took a friend like her that went through enough that she wasn’t going to hide it if she met someone who was traveling along that same path. It took a friend like her to tell me all the things I couldn’t tell myself, that she couldn’t even tell herself, things that made my heart and mind stronger. Made me love myself a little more.
We met as co-workers at the Harvester in Stadium district. Perhaps she knew I was looking for something because she took me in under her wing. She was skilled at what she did, a master. From her I learned how to never waste a step and to maximize my potential. To feel good at the end of a hard shift. To help others in need. To care. To open yourself to all those patrons who so badly wanted to give, or at least, share a part of themselves with someone who had no judgment to give, just food.  At the end of some days we would often share a few drinks and joke about our permanent grins and how hard it was to stop smiling. Smiling is the number one addiction in the food industry. If your server is smiling, you’re definitely more likely to say yes to any invitation.  Oh, but to smile a real smile, now that was hard. For women like us. We hurt constantly inside and no one ever knew.
I don’t know what it is about women who have insecurities that draws them to a life of servitude. That’s Char. She’s constantly giving. You wouldn’t know it because of how youthful and beautiful she is, but she suffers in many ways. Her health burdens seem to only make her stronger. But she also has a past that could take a lifetime to forget and still she’s one of the strongest women I know.
Whenever holidays came around I felt blue and lonely and without family and there she would be with something small yet special in a tiny dainty box with cute wrapping paper and just the wonderfulness that could make even finding an empty box followed by a hug the most lovely gift in the whole world. Not to mention she would find a way to make this moment possible when she had nothing to give.
Honesty. Sometimes you can say something to someone and they look at you in disbelief and then suddenly become afraid of how fragile and possibly unstable you might be. Your words have more meaning than the emptiness that most speak and they don’t know what to do. They want to run because they were raised in households where you didn’t talk about how you feel or if there was a problem and that getting angry wasn’t OK. Char didn’t run and I didn’t run from her. We were OK with telling each other that we were not OK and that helped us feel OK. We weren’t alone anymore. We could tell each other that the things we thought weren’t true and we knew we weren’t lying. There was a trust and faith that only time could tell.
Here I am today, cured. Char and I parted ways about 7 years ago. Parted in the way that we no longer were in the presence of each other. It wasn’t until 5 years ago that I was completely cured. I know what it feels like to be better. And sadly, I sometimes feel like I’m not with my sister, Char, as much as I should be. And sadly, I sometimes think it will remind me too much of the old sad me. But, I know its not that at all and that I’m actually just really allergic to cats and she’s a stay-at-home mom now so……well……smiles. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about her and how she was there for me when I needed someone so raw and honest to love and be loved by.
I love her. To this day. And when I knew her, I knew nothing, and still to know that I had a friend like her by my side made every day possible because I knew she was there just a few blocks away. Unconditional love.” – Leilani

 

karinins

 Karin ~ 

“I figured out what is wrong with me…the fact that I think that
something is “wrong” with me.  I am imperfectly perfect in this perfect moment.
When I wrote this a few months ago, I thought I really believed it.
If only I could fully embody this, at the core of my being. To truly live from a place of pure love, not fear.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve strived for perfection. And guess what? I always ended up “falling short”….never quite enough. Like the “Little Drummer Boy” without a “drum”.
Over the years, I’ve “poisoned” myself slowly with the good ‘ole “negative self-talk tapes”. So many years of my life, wasted…secretly loathing myself much of the time, literally shoving down deep those parts of myself that were just too dark & too “ugly” to be revealed.
And beneath it all has existed within me the core belief that I’m not worthy of love.
Sadly…living with this core belief for most of my life has led to feelings of shame, unworthiness, fear, & despair. “Damaged goods”, a “lost cause” not worth “saving” with no hope of healing & finding True Happiness.
I’ve actually been called “Joyless”…how sad is that?!

This distorted view of myself triggered many self-destructive behaviors & led to moments, caused by my inner self-saboteur, which abruptly & seemingly without mercy, changed the trajectory of my life path. You know those moments, when you can never turn back & you are forever changed…Well, recently…some life circumstances, have brought me to my knees into a state of pure madness & surrender.

I believe the Universe finally intervened & made it an impossibility for me to focus on the healing of others, & instead, focus on “healing thyself”.  It has at times felt like a discouraging and lonely road.
Never in my life have I felt so isolated from those closest to me. And why? Because, unfortunately, I was depleting my own soul,  giving away too much of myself. And unfortunately, many times these good intentions of mine proved to be more detrimental, not only to me…but also to those that I tried to “help”. Co-dependence & enmeshment at its finest.
Also…I’ve developed an unhealthy pattern, that seems to have been engrained in me, of looking outside myself for the “magic answer”, to find “enlightenment” &  to “Live Happily Ever After”.
But, now…finally, the lesson is clear. I must first go through this initiation on my quest for self-love & acceptance, before I am able to enter the next leg of my journey…I must take pause. It’s time for me to embrace my True Self & create my own “Happily Ever After”.

It is my belief that this unconditional love can only be attained by accepting…without judgment…ALL parts of myself, even my “shadow-selves”, opening my heart to receive the pure love, that has been lying in wait…all these years. Forgiving myself, for hurting others & myself in my pain & confusion & having faith in myself, completely letting go of my Damn Ego, & trusting my connection to the Divine & to all living things.
To see the Warrior Woman in myself & others, & to believe in my own “voice” & trust it.

As excruciating  as “growing pains” can be, they bring with them Wisdom, Courage, & a true sense of awe & humility.
And…most of all, I pray to truly have gratitude, for all that I’ve learned so far during this this treacherous, yet exquisitely beautiful journey.

To deny your shadow, is to deny your light.
Open your heart & embrace your whole being.
Receive the love of spirit that exists within you.
Surrender your ego & return to your true self.”

Karin’s friends and family:

“Karin has the soul of an angel.  She is always concerned about others, wanting to heal the broken, while putting herself last.  She has a beautiful soul that I believe can never be broken.  I know it has been trampled on many, many times, yet, her soul always shines through.  She is amazing to me. How she keeps going, keeps getting up.
We don’t always keep in touch as often as we should, but she is always a constant in my life, my heart.  I know that she is always thinking of me, just as I am always thinking of her.  I know God has put her in my life not only to help me but for me to help her.  She has been through many lows in her life and I have been there, just as she has been by my side during my lows.  I am so thankful to have such a strong, beautiful woman in my life that will forever be by my side.  I hope and pray that she will see how wonderful she is and know that she is worth her weight in gold.  I want her to be happy, to have a smile on her face everyday and I hope she can find that soon!  I love you!” – Jenee

“This is what I know of Karin…

She’s a beautiful woman. Health issues that never seem to crush her positive spirit. Simple and careful free spirit by nature she seems to go with the flow of life enjoying the ups and downs life has to offer!
That’s all I really know about her, as I’ve not seen her in awhile… Praying she’s well! Hope that your work continues to flourish!” – Kendall

“Genuine!
Faithful!
Honest!
Kind!
Compassionate!
Intelligent!
Graceful!
Beautiful!
Simply amazing!!!!” – Honor

“Karin is………………….
Unique, Intuitive, Intelligent, Inspirational

Karin is…………………
Charismatic, Compassionate, Caring, Creative, Kind……..a healer

Karin is Loved…………

Karin is Resilient……..

Alana, as I read some of the words described by the ladies doing this project I was drawn to two words LIBERATING and EMPOWERMENT.  Hooray for your project . May it be the start of an ongoing dialogue between women!
Here’s to greater understanding of ourselves, acceptance of ourselves and foremost LOVE of ourselves.  We are wonderful, beautiful women and Karin is one of them !!” – Kathy

Karin

  • wise
  • beautiful
  • kind
  • spiritual
  • loving
  • gracious
  • nurturing
  • humble
  • funny
  • eloquent
  • generous
  • sweet
  • has an amazing speaking/singing voice
  • fashionista
  • talented poet/writer
  • brings peace & strength to others
  • a healer
  • the best little sister anyone could ask for.”

-Amy

lizins

Liz ~

“I’ve always been “almost.” 
All my life I’ve heard “You’d be so pretty if…”

If I was taller.

If I had better skin.

If I had a tan.

If I lost some weight.

If I had bigger boobs. 

I’ve heard how I never finish anything. I’d be such a good mom if I had follow-through. I’d prove my intelligence if I would finish school. I’d use my creative aptitude better if I worked faster and turned it into some sort of business. 

And, I’ve always felt incomplete. I’d fill that void with a baby, if I could have one. Or, maybe a dog, if my husband didn’t hate them. Or, a best-friend, if I got along with others.
I’m almost good enough. Almost pretty enough. Almost cool enough. Almost perfect. Almost almost.”

Liz’s friends and family:

“Best friend
Amazing mother of 3 beautiful children
Crazy talented
Beautiful
Caring” – Katie

“Some things about Liz that are AMAZING:

-She is a wonderful mother. Her kids always come first to her.
-She is inspiring to me, as a crafter, as a mother, as a human.
-She says what she means, even when it’s difficult to say.
-She is gorgeous, inside and out.
-She is genuine.
-She follows her dreams.
-She is trusting.
-She is supportive.
-She is kind and expects nothing but a smile in return, like she shares the life philosophy “Create the word you want to live in” with me. I don’t know if she really does, but that seems to be a sign of it.
-It’s not necessarily about her, but I wish we lived closer together.

I hope that is enough. I could go on and on about her, but I think I hit the top points here. She is incredible.” -Andy

“My words for her are: courageous, incredible, beautiful, strong, deep, dreamer, perfect.” – Ethan

“Hi Alana,

I’m writing about my daughter-in-law, Liz…she’s an amazing young woman.
Liz is open – what you see is what you get.  Her emotions are on the surface…she’s passionate about things, animals and people.  She lets you know how she feels and there’s no hidden agenda.
Liz is a wonderful mother – her kids know that they’re the center of her world.  She lets their creativity shine, and their happiness is a testament to her involvement in their lives and the love she gives them.
Liz is a free spirit – she marches to her own drummer in her own way.  She is on a quest to explore herself and her place in the world, and she’s willing to try new things.  She’s growing by leaps and bounds and her potential is endless.  With her intelligence, the sky’s the limit.” – Alvarita

“Intelligent
Loving Wife
Extremely dedicated to ANY project
Very creative
Artistic
A loyal friend
Imaginative
Resourceful
Inventive
Knowledgeable
Devoted
And…above all…an AWESOME mother!” – Duane

“Lizzy has had many experiences, good and bad in her 30 years, and I think the lessons she has learned are the most important “facets” of her life. She has compassion, empathy, and sincere tenderness for those in need.
She is very creative and, whatever she attempts, she does well.  I’ve always admired her ability to teach herself things that she found interesting …knitting, computer skills, gardening, home schooling, quilting, yoga, to name a few.
Her sense of humor is quirky and entertaining, especially when she bleats like a lamb or burps the ABC’s!
When Liz became a Mother, I think she found her niche in life.
Her parenting skills are imaginative, loving, patient, and nurturing.
I don’t think Lizzy has “found” happiness, I think she has worked hard to create a happy life for her husband and family by making wise decisions, backed by a thoughtful evaluation of her options.
I am proud to be her Mom!” – Diane

“Traits about Liz:

Fiercely dedicated
Fantastic mother
Hauntingly good singing voice
Wicked awesome & meaningful tattoos.” – Zoe

“Liz was an unmistakable and remarkable turning point in our son Ethan’s life.  Her independent spirit, willingness to take risks and explore, and appreciation of art and all things beautiful, both aligned with our son’s entrepreneurial nature and challenged him to see and appreciate new things himself.  She helped him come out of his social shell, sharing with him a zany and attractive sense of humor and that “sealed their deal” as soulmates.  And when they had children, they both grew themselves as they dedicated themselves to being great parents and rearing wonderful children.  Liz is inquisitive, exploratory, sometimes daring, very bright, articulate, and not afraid to voice an opinion…character traits that are shared in many respects by our son and by our family in general.  Ethan has said many times that Liz changed his life and made him a better person.  I completely agree.” – Rick

kaylains Kayla ~

“I’ve always been a generally shy person, and I don’t really open up very well to people.  After my freshman year of high school, I moved to a different school district and went to a new high school.  One night, my “best friend” from my old school told me that pretty much everybody that I knew at that school hated me because of how “annoying” I was. Every body talked behind my back.  She said she probably shouldn’t have told me, but she wanted me to know. It was weird because I was always shy.

Even though this was such a long time ago, it still affects me today. Sometimes I find myself at a loss as to what do say in social situations.  So, i withdraw. I’m worried that people won’t like what i have to say, so often times, I am unsure as to what to actually say.  Really, I like you-I just don’t know what to say!”

Kayla’s friends and family:

“What can I say about Kayla that doesn’t bring a smile to my face? She has been a part of my life since the moment her conception was first a reality. She has been the pride of her Mother and of so many others. The thing I most appreciate about Kayla is her empathic tendencies; as a young girl she would weep for the injustices that exist in this world, which was beyond the wisdom of a child.
As a woman I admire her willingness to follow her joy and her life’s purpose. Kayla has very strong influences in her life yet she followed her heart to her joy. I wish as a woman of half her age that I had the guts to do the same. I am so proud of the woman that she is and of the child that she never abandoned. The child who took pride in violins and celebrated the joys of life regardless of what others may have judged her for. I see her living a life that she chose and reveling in the joy she creates for herself everyday; and I am in awe, and I am envious. As my dad always said, “you have the world by the ass on a downhill pull” and if there is one person in this world who does, it’s my precious Kayla. We may not have been bred on the same bloodline but she is my family nonetheless and I love and admire her immensely!” – Erin

“Thank you for having me as part of this! Kayla is an incredible girl.

When I first met Kayla, what struck me the most in our first few conversations was the incredibly confident manner in which she welcomed me into the job. It wasn’t until later that I found out that she had only been working there about three months longer than me! I was impressed. This is a girl who thinks before she speaks/acts and treats everyone (*everyone*) with the same gentle humor and respect – something I always wish I could do. *Then* I find out how old she was… man, if I’d have had such a handle on my life and such poise at that age – sheesh…
And who doesn’t love that crazy mop! Those raven curls of hers that look so effortlessly chic and sexy at the same time.
And the way she lights up when Matt brings Max into the studio.
And that low, quiet laugh – so infectious.
Alana, I could go on and on – you let me know if you want more :D” – Kate

“Kayla is:

smart
honest
kind
thoughtful
caring
has excellent taste in music
supportive
friendly” – Matthew

“When I think of Kayla, I think of her big ol’ smile, gorgeous curls, and super contagious laugh.  Man, do I love to laugh with her.  We haven’t had as many opportunities in the last couple of years as we used to when we were in school together, which I really miss.
Kayla has always referred to herself as “shy,” but I must say that she was the one to reach out to me (via Myspace, woot wooooot!) before we started our first quarter at the Art Institute.  So, shy as she may think she is, that was not my first impression.  I’m so glad that she reached out, as, no matter that I was heading into college at 30 years of age, it was still super intimidating to do it alone.  It was nice to make an awesome friend before that that would be experiencing it with me.
And experience it, we did.  She was often my right-hand partner in the studio and we had some pretty fantastic times.  Though, when I think of Kayla, I think of those times outside the studio…outside of school…mainly at Pies & Pints.  The hilarious conversations that we would have over some beers and custom-ordered mac ‘n’ cheese.  YUMMMMMMM.
So many conversations about boys.  Holy crap.  So many.  I will always laugh my ass off thinking about those conversations and the times we had together.  (Going to a particular laser show with a particular Mara is also coming to mind…jeesh.)
We are always able to pick up where we left off, too, no matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other, which is important to me in any friendship.
Another thing about Kayla that I love – her obvious love and support of her mom, and vice versa.  They are super close and always there for each other, which I envy and love to see.
I’m super proud of her following her dreams and making a life for herself that makes her smile.  It’s super helpful that I really love her boyfriend, too…yay for finding a good and hilarious man!
I love you, Kayla!!!!!  Let’s go to the zoo!” – Alana

“My beautiful granddaughter Kayla…  She is the light of my life.  Kayla is so loving and caring, considerate of other people, she is more than her physical and mental self. She is a spiritual creation. Her capacity to think independently reflects her mental ability.  As I connect simple but powerful words, such as faith, love and peace, I am describing her true nature. She is an expression of God’s love and peace. She is faith in action. You will not find a truer or most loyal friend as Kayla.  She exercises this trait whether dealing with friends or in her place of business.  She is someone you can rely upon in good or bad situations.  She embraces the Truth of who she is and lives this truth everyday.  She is an expression of the spirit, contributing to a world of divine creation.  This describes Kayla as her Papa Fred and I see her.
Thank you for the opportunity to express our love for her and who she is.” – Fred and Dianne (Grandma and Papa Fred)

“I am not good at forming thoughts into words. I can draw, sculpt, or paint how I feel!! So please bear with me.
How I see my beautiful Kayla; well, I look up to five people on this rock that we live on and she is one of them.
She defines the word passion, when she believes is something she stands as a pillar – right ,wrong, or indifferent.
Because of her passion and how she expresses it, most people view her as fragile, but, in my opinion, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately, people have tried to convince her that she is fragile .
When I view my beautiful Kayla, she has incomparable strength and discipline and would give anything to possess it. If you look at her accomplishments, it’s inspiring and keeps me trying.
Her brain, what I wouldn’t give to have some of that in my brain. Her thought on concept, design, and life, I love it and think she is brilliant artist!
She in so many ways has my respect as an artist, a friend, and most of all, a father’s love.

I’m not sure if this is what you were looking for and sorry it took so long as this isn’t something that I can just rush. Thank you for doing what you do, how rewarding it must be to lift the hearts of people and give the gift of sight.” – Dan

“Kayla,

My daughter.

My friend.

My rock.

My hero.

The woman Kayla has grown into is someone that I could only hope to mimic.  To think that this loving, tender, smart, kind woman is a part of me, is overwhelming.  She has taught me what true love really is. This child of mine came into my life and stole my heart with her sense of humor, her kindness, and her beautiful, beautiful smile!  There was not anyone who, when they met her, did not fall in love with her.  She just commands goodness from those that are lucky enough to be around her.

If you are lucky enough to be Kayla’s friend, you have someone that will be loyal to you until the end.  And will accept you for exactly where you are – exactly what you are – and exactly who you are.

I am honored to call Kayla my daughter and my friend.  She is the most beautiful person inside and out that I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  I am truly blessed.” – Mary

“Kayla is…

As gorgeous in body as heart.
Rare, indelible sense of humor.
Calm face, perfect smile.

The true her is hard to access,
thanks and no thanks to an
oft crummy past;

But to see her true,
even for a moment,
trumps all else.

And the passion, her passion,
it’s the greatest passion
I have ever seen.

Without her,
I would be dead.
Of nothing else
have I been so certain.”

– Matt

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 5: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/group-5-women-raw-honest-loved/

(55+ version!!!!) women. raw. honest. loved.

paigefinalglennafinalpeggyfinal2sylviafinalrosiefinaljanfinalnanafinal

“Boy, I SURE WROTE THE TRUTH!” – Louise’s (aka Nana) words, when I handed her the writeup she had sent me of her insecurity, so that she could read it to the group. (The insecurity which she couldn’t remember ever sending me…she was hilarious…I can only hope to be so hilarious when I’m 89!)

I open with her statement because that could be the theme of this evening.

Of this project, really.

This project is about honesty.

Oftentimes, it seems to be about being honest about things that you are terrified of being honest about, and rarely, if ever, share with those around you…let alone strangers both in the room and later on the internet. And yet…the relief, the bonding, and the love that you can feel in the room afterward overwhelms all of the terror that went into sharing these lesser known/shared insecurities and fears we have about ourselves.

I learned so very much with this group. It’s been difficult to write this blog post about this night simply because I’ve come away from it with so many thoughts…so much insight into women as individuals and women as a community. My attempt is going to be to keep it simple. To let these ladies speak for themselves.

Starting out, when there was just the thought of doing this project exclusively with an older age group, I wondered how this one would turn out…there were really no assumptions in my mind.
I was on the fence…couldn’t decide…
My brain seemed to sway back and forth between the negative, “Sure, of course they still have insecurities…this shit never ends!,” to the more positive “They probably have worked through all of that by their age! This could be a super boring group!” (Not really. I didn’t think that last part, but, can you imagine?? Everyone sitting around staring at each other with nothing to share? As if. That would never happen.)

Plainly put, we did not all sit around staring at each other silently.
As we did in the other groups, we shared, we laughed (A LOT…especially with Nana there), we cried, we hugged…

We understood.

We related.

And I can’t speak for everyone else, but I LEARNED.

I learned, more than anything else, the importance of a network. A community.
We spoke about the importance of being part of a strong network of women. That has stuck in my head and will stay there ’til the day I die…hopefully surrounded by my strong network of women.

One of the other most important things I learned, especially from Nana, is to LAUGH. Especially at yourself. Laugh, laugh, laugh, and laugh some more. It makes you radiant. It makes you endearing. It makes you beautiful.

Without further ado, here are the ladies. Let me know what you learn…

(For this project, since these ladies have so much experience, we added a “regret” portion {at the suggestion of one of the first participants…great idea, Mona! Thank you!} I think we can maybe think of it moreso as an “advice” portion.
Also, I do not censor these ladies’ honesty. Ever. Their words are their words.)

paigeins
paige ~

“To pick one insecurity is a hard task. Do I choose the obvious things like body parts or do I choose something that is more hidden? For someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, just thinking about what I should write brings up an obvious one for me…
I often feel insignificant. I try hard to be a good mom. When I work outside of the home, I do my job well. However, I am constantly walking the line between “no one even notices or cares for me” & “they talk negatively” or even “laugh at me when I’m not around”. It’s hard to explain to people that it’s not that I care what people think of me, because I don’t…fuck‘em if they don’t like me. It’s that even if I don’t “care” what they think, I am constantly thinking about the impression, if any, I leave on people.
In recent years, I feel like it’s gotten a bit better. I’ve really figured out what makes me feel good & I’ve focused on those things. I try not to put myself in situations where I know I’m going to feel judged or too exposed. But thoughts of past interactions, jobs, former friends, etc. haunt me. When it’s quiet, I find myself replaying old conversations to see if what I said sounded stupid. I try to analyze my past friendships that are no longer alive to try to figure out what I did to cause our parting. I think about why a current friend hasn’t called or didn’t invite me to something – did I do/say something wrong?
It’s constant, it’s painful, &, even though I feel like most days it seems better than it once was, it takes away from my life & overshadows everything I do.”
p.s. Paige is not 55+. But, she has been following the project since the beginning, recommended her grandma (Nana) as a participant, came down from Montana, and brought Nana. So, I thought it obvious that she should join us as well. I’m so glad she did.

paige’s friends and family:

“I remember on the first day of second grade being sooooooo excited to see Courtney again after the long summer break. I was terrified she wouldn’t remember me and I was prepared to be crushed when she didn’t want to play with me. I wondered if she would still have eyes that looked like half sunshines and if she still giggled like a chipmunk…and then I saw her! And she did! And she still does 30 years later… and I love her for it. With Courtney, I know she will always remember me, I will always take joy in those half sunshine eyes and her giggle is RIDICULOUS. Seriously. My brilliant friend has grown into such an amazing woman. Kind. Open. Honest. Accepting. Lovely. PATIENT. Court has been through a lot these last few years and the way she has met it all head on is fucking rad and awe-inspiring. She is a perfect mother and wife. Let me be sure you understand what I mean by perfect – I don’t mean her house is always clean and her nails are always done, I mean…the way she lives her life suits the needs of her family perfectly. Making them lucky, loved, doted on and her…well, perfect. I love her. Courtney Paige will be my friend for all of eternity. I can’t wait to see her giggling when she’s 90.” – Jamey

“Loyal, True, Caring, Straight Forward, Intelligent, Beautiful, Fantastic Mother, Fair” – Sherri

“Courtney (aka Paige) is loving, caring, giving, mellow, has a fantastic sense of humor, is super-smart, loyal, trustworthy, an amazing mom and a true friend.” – Amy

“Paige is a caring soul. She is the truest of friends, loyal, forgiving and honest. She loves and cares for her family and is a beautiful mother of three. Paige volunteers for her church and her speeches are lovely.” – Mariah

“Strong; Giving; Forgiving; Compassionate; Understanding; The World’s Best Mom; Fair; Grounded; The World’s Best Wife; Innovative; Creative; Passionate” – Brian

“Generous, hard-working, quick on the uptake, and committed to the people and things that she cares about.
I love Paige.” – Julia

“Paige…how I love her so. She is the first to ask what do you need or how she can help. For me, she is easy to be around. Being with her is like having your fave jammies on. It’s warm, soft and you feel like yourself. She accepts people for who they are, the good and the bad.
Watching her bring up three amazing children is a joy. She has faced some very hard life choices with these little monkeys and she always is looking at the best outcome because for her there is no other. She is stronger than she knows. She is always looking to be a better person. Not for other people but for herself. I admire her willingness to learn about new things.
I am truly blessed to call Paige my friend.” – Lisa

glennains glenna ~

“Insecurities:
I am a procrastinator.
I fill my days with people, projects, not completing anything very well.
I’m rather unorganized, messy and easily distracted.
I don’t like the feeling of not following through with my commitments.
I don’t say no enough and let too many people drain me emotionally.

Regrets:
My biggest regret has always been the ending of my marriage and the fracture of my family. I was a child of divorce at 5, and one of the strongest beliefs I held growing up was “I will never divorce because it’s too hard on kids”. While I am extremely sorry about this happening, I have come to realize that we both did the best we could for who we were at the time. You must forgive yourself and seize each new day you are given and use it for good, not dwell in angry regret.
Another regret I’ve seen my whole life…I have a problem with doing things I really don’t want to do. I tend to do what others want me to do, not having a voice and saying no. I can remember this as a child, always doing the things my mother suggested. As I look back today I understand how this trait has impacted my whole life, especially the biggest decisions I ever made.”

glenna’s friends and family:

“Intelligent, Compassionate, Supportive, Community-Focused, Dreamer, Survivor, Loyal, Witty, Curator, Collector” – Summer

“I find that over the years, the more that I get to know Glenna, the more I like her. I have always admired her intelligence, forthrightness, candor, her ability to listen without interruption, and her savvy sense of style.
I also have had the opportunity to see her great sense of fun and wonderful sense of humor! She looks for the bright side!
I truly enjoy her company and I look forward to spending more time together in our future. She is a friend, in the true sense.” – Cheryl

“Caring, resilient, giving, warm, funny, beautiful, loyal, supportive, unconditional. Those are a few words that come to mind when I think of Mom.” – Brett

“Why I love my friendship with Glenna – She is: Low-maintenance; strong-willed; intelligent; has amazing social skills; has a huge heart; is amazing; is understanding” – Tina

“Can walk in a room and light it up with her smile. She is giving with her time. She’s a person who can make you feel very loved and appreciated. She makes old men feel young with her funny and flirty conversation. She is more energetic than most women I know! She is willing to help people get a fresh start when most would have given up.” – Nanette

“First of all, she’s super nice and isn’t afraid to share her opinion (which I find really awesome).
She also has a super great sense of style. Every time I walk into her shop, I want pretty much everything in there.
She really does care about people. She wants to go to every performance/recital/talent show you will ever have (which you know she’ll try her best to come to).
She also isn’t afraid to enter into an awkward situation, whereas, if I were to do that I would probably make an awkward situation even more awkward.
Glenna is also able to deal with people who don’t cooperate on a daily basis and still manages to make them love her. Not many people are able to do that.
I’m proud to introduce her as one of my grandmas.” – Ravyn

“My grandma is the most loving and selfless person I know. If you needed a shirt and you came across this wonderful woman, she would give you the shirt off her back. If you needed a place to stay, she would happily open her house to you with open arms. She can be quiet and reserved but is full of some of the best advice. But she can also be quick on her feet and call you a bitch, and it’s awesome – she even catches me off guard sometimes with her comments. ha!
Without her, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had in my life, the number one – being able to go to college. I don’t think I could ever thank her enough for that opportunity. I just hope that one day I will be able to repay her, but I honestly don’t know how I could ever do that. It would take millions and millions of years to equal the amount she has done for me.
My grandma is like my best friend, like one of those friends you can come home to and just bitch and bitch and they’ll listen. Or a friend that seems to have an answer for everything. The people who say their best friend is their mom suck, because grandmothers are much better – sorry, mothers of the world. When I’m stressed about school or pissed off at people, I can go to her and just vent.
And she texts! Oh my god, she texts! She knows technology! Sometimes she has her struggles with computers, but the fact that she texts is just awesome. Have you realized how much I’ve said awesome? Well, it’s because she is.
On a more professional note, have you seen her store? Good god, that woman is a pack rat – sorry, grandma! But your constant search for vintage clothing has sparked a love for vintage clothing in myself! I might not enjoy wearing them, but I love learning about it all, whether it be from you, or the research I’ve had to do for you in your continuous effort to document all the clothing you have…. all the bags and bags and bags and bags…and bags of it. Everyone has their flaws, hers is just one that has sparked a business, how lucky is she? The fact that she loves what she does, even if at times it can be a little much, is inspirational, she absolutely loves what she does! If she can do it, why can’t I?!
It’s really hard for me to say I am myself around my family, but around my grandma I am completely myself – and a few other family members as well on that side, hah. I am so grateful for that, there’s no judgment, no criticism, but also no nonsense.
My grandma is my role model, my inspiration, and one of my closest friends. I love her with all my heart and then some. I could never thank her enough for all she’s done for me, but hope that one day I can give back to her some of what she’s given me. She makes me want to be the best that I can be and more. She has helped me through some of the biggest struggles in my life, whether she knows it not – high school, lame-o crazy ex-boyfriends, and now my experiences in college…
And now a direct note to you, grandma: You are awesome, what you do is awesome; keep doing what you’re doing because people love you for it. I love you so much and hope that I can one day be as caring and selfless as you. I miss you, and miss seeing you almost every day…remember back when I was in high school and got picked up by you pretty much every day? Seems like such a long time ago, I must be getting old. 😉 ” -Kaylee

“There is so much to be said about Glenna.
First of all, she is the best grandma you could hope for. Our little guy brightens up every single time he sees her and gets so excited when we tell him that “Naama” is coming to pick him up. He blathers on and on about her…half of the things we don’t understand (he’s two), but it’s obvious that it’s all good things he’s saying. Haha.
She’s also taken on my daughter (her step-grandchild) as her own grandchild, never making her feel like she’s anything but instantly part of the family…and has made Ravyn so implicitly comfortable with that, that Ravyn quite naturally refers to Glenna as her grandma, too – no matter that she only got this new grandma when she was ten years old…old enough to be stubborn about it, had she wanted to.
Glenna also raised (along with THREE other boys) the super loving, loyal, compassionate, caring, hard-working son that I not only get to call my boyfriend, but I get to watch and admire as a most attentive father, in addition. I will be forever indebted to her for this.
She is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met…so much so, that those of us close to her sometimes wish she would actually be a little selfish. ☺ I know that seems strange, but, this woman gives so much of herself to others that we worry about how much it can drain her. She is so busy giving, however, that she often doesn’t even seem aware of the effect on her. She has a bigger heart than most.
Glenna is also very quick and witty, which makes conversations with her quite enjoyable. ☺ We seemed to hit it off pretty well when I first met her…I knew we would get along when we were able to banter right away.
Glenna is always doing what she can to support the community here. She always is first to know about what’s happening in local music and the arts, and seems to always be part of the crowd…doing whatever she can to promote Tacoma’s small businesses and arts scene. She volunteers her time (which, after helping everyone she helps, she rarely has much of) at The Grand Cinema downtown, getting to know more of the community that way, as well.
Besides all of that, she owns her own kickass vintage clothing store downtown! She has the largest selection of vintage clothing in one place than I have ever seen! She establishes a great rapport with all of her customers and clients who end up endeared to her and she instantly calls friends. That’s just who she is: lovable, great energy, enthusiastic, informative, endearing, and witty…in a nutshell.
I know she had a hard time agreeing to do this project, as, while she is so busy being there for others, she is more reserved when it comes to her own emotions. I’m incredibly blessed to have her as a part of this, since I know it was super difficult for her to have to sit down and really concentrate on her own feelings and internal struggles that don’t normally get attention brought to them. I definitely can relate. I love you, Glenna, and I’m honored to call you my mother-in-law (especially since liking your own mother-in-law is generally quite a stretch)!!!! Thank you for being you. Now go take a vacation and enjoy yourself! Hahaha” – Alana

peggyrevisedpeggy ~

“My insecurity is my weight. I was always very petite until I hit menopause. I am not comfortable with the weight that I’m carrying. BUT… I LOVE FOOD. I don’t drink or use drugs, but I love to eat. I always said that if I ever have a weight problem, I would have a problem because of my love for food. I have gained and lost 50+ pounds over the last few years. I NEVER thought that I would be a typical YO-YO dieter but I am. I tend to really do well losing the lbs. if I have a special event coming up in the future, but I don’t keep it off for long. It’s weird, because they say that if someone really heavy loses the weight, they still feel like they’re heavy. I’m just the opposite – I’m heavy, but, unless I look in the mirror, I still feel really small like I used to be. No one is really bothered by my weight except me. I don’t feel any less loved because of it.

Regrets… When I was in the process of leaving my marriage to Kt’s dad, I was with another man, for whom I had left the marriage. My marriage was as close to what I imagine hell to be. It was kill-or-be-killed after 16 years of trying to make it work. I was dead inside. I thought about taking my own life many times, the only thing that kept me from that was that I didn’t want my kids to find me or be left with that legacy. At one point early on after I asked for a divorce, my Pastor (my husband’s cousin) and two Elders from my church came to my home and admonished me for my sins. Told me that I could no longer take communion because I would cause others to “fall”, and if I wanted to stay in the church I could choose between leaving my marriage and staying. They asked me if I had been unfaithful in my marriage??? Of course I had, Duh, I made it no secret that I was with someone who made me feel as though I mattered. They also asked Ernie, (KT’s) dad, if he had ever been unfaithful. He said no.
My regret is that I didn’t say… “OH REALLY, SO ALL THE TIMES THAT YOU WENT TO THE DEJA VU FOR LAP DANCES IN THE COURSE OF OUR MARRIAGE, EVERY TIME YOU WATCHED PORNO AND PLEASURED YOURSELF IN OUR MARRIAGE BED, OR WAS IN SOME OTHER LOCATION IN OUR HOME WITH A PORNO MAG. PLEASURING YOURSELF WITHIN A FEW STEPS OF OUR CHILDREN’S BEDROOMS…THOSE DON’T COUNT??? ACCORDING TO MY BIBLE, THEY ARE ALL THE SAME.” I didn’t think about it until much later down the road but that’s one of my deepest regrets, ever. The next one is probably not as hard to share. I regret that I didn’t leave the marriage just for the simple fact that it was intolerable. I never had the courage to leave – instead, I had a man give me the courage to do it. All that that did was take all the ugly things that he had done in our marriage over the years – all the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional abuse – away from him and it made me the “Bad Guy”.”
an additional note on peggy…we are in Tacoma, WA.  She came over from Spokane to do this and I’m eternally grateful that she did.  She is a super inspiring lady that we all can learn from.  

peggy’s friends and family:

“Some positive traits I would say about Peg are that she’s very caring towards everyone! She always looks for the good in people and she’s very friendly and funny. She takes what life gives her, good and bad, and makes the most of it.” – Karly

“A very deep and honorable person.
She tries her hardest for anyone in need. A selfless person. A woman that has dealt with struggles of broken children…myself included! She has become this fun and adventurous person – spending time with her makes you feel you are loved, and being in her presence alone makes you feel wanted (something I now cherish) she drives to help others.
She has a great heart and fills the room with joy and love to be around her. She always is there when you need her for anything!!! From recipes, to car trouble, to kids, to relationships. She is def one of few that is so devoted to her family.” – Valleri

“Sooooo, it’s really hard to sum up my mom. She is like the mom of moms. School volunteer, teacher, compassionate, and a crafty lady. She is a collector of all things rainbow and strawberries. She has been helping me all weekend plan a graduation party, and dove right into it, last minute, and completely: making the cake, special cookies and candy and decorations. She would stay up all night making Halloween costumes and bring a couple extra to our elementary school, in case another kid didn’t have one. My sister and I would always win on crazy hair day, because she would stick like a hundred barrettes in our hair, and go all out, because that’s fun to her and she never does things halfway. It’s really how I want her. No one else is quite as ‘mom’ as her; I’m kind of biased though. When she is gone, there will be an unavoidable hole in every day.” – Jordyn

“There is only one word that I can think of that best describes Peggy and that is – Selfless -…Peggy is the most unselfish and most giving person I know. Words cannot describe how happy she makes me and what a positive influence she has on me. Peggy gives off this aura of genuine, raw kindness. I’ve only known Peggy on a personal level for a little over a year. In that year, I can’t explain how accepting she has been. She’s made me feel like I have her as family and as a friend. She is always welcoming me with open arms, as well as any other person who may be important to me. Peggy always thinks of others before she thinks of herself. There is not a time where I feel like I can’t ask her for advice or for help. She never makes me feel like I’m a burden. Peggy would give anyone her last dollar if it helps them, or her shirt off her back.
Peggy can take anyone by surprise; she is the definition of ‘never judge a book by its cover’. Peggy on the outside looks like this conservative, quiet, very calm woman. She makes it known that she is a good Christian lady, but what most people know is that she can have a mouth like a sailor! haha. She has no filter when it comes to speaking her mind and it makes me happy to say she is my friend. Peggy loves hardcore rock and longhaired rockers! Peggy will take you by surprise and I love knowing she is a part of my life! Peggy has so much love for all the people in her life and it’s just addictive to be around her. I don’t have any family out here and I don’t have many people that I’ve connected with, but Peggy has welcomed me into her family and has made me feel like I’m at home all the time, and that is important to me. I’m sure you can get the picture that Peggy is a great woman and I’m grateful to know that I have her in my life.” – Joddy

“First of all, this lady is my mom… she made me! And I’m awesome, so she’s gotta be super awesome! Like most mothers she has always put her kids, and step kids, and grandkids, and so on before herself. She is very selfless but beyond that she has always been accepting of anyone else that comes along with all these kids. To break it down for you all… she birthed 3 of her own and eventually took on 4 more. On top of that she now has 8 grandkids ranging from 4 months old to a recent High school Graduate! She loves every single one of our friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, and other extended family members as if they were her own. Also she is beyond accepting of all our VERY different personalities, religious beliefs, musical tastes and so on.
Speaking of music… I love music, and when I started developing my own musical tastes, she’s was a bit afraid, understandably. I love hard rock and heavy metal. She loves country and Christian music but chooses to take an interest in my life and personal tastes. The first concert I took her to was Ozzfest… backstage! She loved it and got to meet lots of rock stars! Who would have thought a country loving Christian woman would grow to obsess over the guitarist of Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. 666! Hahaha! We now live about 4 hours away from each other and she hates it but we have only grown closer. We have become great friends and she comes to me often for advice. She is always so open and excepting of constructive criticism. I feel that this is one of the most rare human traits and a big reason she is and always will be one of the most amazing people in my life! She’s constantly growing and adapting but will always be my mom… Hi mom look at me!” – Kt

sylviains
sylvia ~

“The insecurity I have has been with me all my life. As with most insecurities, it stems from my childhood. I was bullied for being the fat kid at home, the fat kid in the neighborhood and the fat kid in school. I was looked at in disgust, teased, and called an assortment of fat names. I learned early on that the stereotypical opinion of a fat person is that they are lazy, stupid, ugly, and smell bad.
To this day, I feel the “need” to prove that opinion wrong. Intellectually, I know I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. But emotionally – and insecurity is an emotion – I feel I must fulfill my “need”. In my quest, I have developed many skills (survival skills in a thin world) to appear self-assured and confident. I know how to dress for success, do my hair and make-up perfectly, I can work circles around most people and I am strong enough to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders! This all seems good enough but there is still this inner voice telling me, “Sylvia, you are fat. People only see you as fat. You will always be remembered as the fat girl”.

Regret/s:
*I regret not having had the wisdom at age 25 that I now have at age 65! I know that I have grown from my mistakes and truly feel remorseful that sometimes my growth was at the expense of others.
*I regret not having developed a stronger network of women. It has only been in the last 10 years or so that I have truly come to appreciate the importance of those female bonds.
*I regret not asking for support when I need it the most. I have a difficult time convincing myself that asking for support should be viewed as self-worth rather than as a weakness.

What I don’t regret:
*I don’t regret hugging people. I believe it is through this simple act of kindness that no matter how much we are hurting, feeling insecure or alone, the hug fills that void.
*I don’t regret owning up to the level of compassion that I have for people. I have been a nurse caring for the hardcore male prison inmate population and a nurse caring for Nuns in a convent and have felt the same degree of compassion for both. The Nuns had the greater advantage, however, because I could hug them!”

sylvia’s friends and family:

“Sylvia and I have been friends since her son, Ashley, was the age
of 2. I won’t say I know her because no one really knows all aspects of a
person, but I would say that I am probably one of very few whom enjoys being
with her no matter what her mood or frame of mind. We have a common
background and that makes us comfortable with each other.
Words that come to mind when thinking of Sylvia are: Creative, Beautiful,
Bold, Caring, Considerate, Loving and Stubborn.” – Sally

“Sylvia is one of my best friends, always there when u need her for support, to talk, listen, or physical hard work. She is one-of-a-kind, never judgmental of what you’re doing; always standing by you with whatever decisions your making. She will give you input if asked – take-it-or-leave-it kind. She is one special person, with a great personality and laugh – quirky sometimes, with a sense of humor us girls understand. She can be serious, if needed, and a kind and gentle soul. I could write a book on Sil; we’ve had super good times traveling together and some very sad emotional times when there were deaths within our families. We just see each other through it.
Oh ya, she is both beautiful inside/out. With great genes for her flawless facial skin.” – Debbie

“Sylvia is generous, caring, compassionate, patient, nerdy and down to earth!” – Roz

“Positive traits about Sylvia: *Always puts others before herself *Dedicated and hard-working *Sees the good in everyone *Nurturing caregiver *Loving family member *Open-minded *Infectious sense of humor” – Paul

“Joyful personality. Sees the good in everything. Positive energy, optimistic, compassionate. Accepts people the way they are. Makes others feel good about themselves. Her soul sings.
Very talented and creative.
Wonderful laugh. Crazy-good sense of humor. Even in emails her unique sense of humor comes through. Does not complain no matter how much she has on her plate. Just gets in and does it.
Loves people, especially those in her personal life.
Although she is obviously a beautiful woman, I believe her lovely spirit makes her even more so. When she is very old she will still have that beauty. No plastic surgery needed there.
I read once that a key to a good relationship is how we feel about ourselves in another’s presence. In Sylvia’s presence I always feel good.
Bottom line…Whenever I’m going to her house I always feel really happy.” – Pam

“My Auntie Sylvia has always been one of my Favorite people to be around and to aspire to be like. A role model. She is generous and caring to those in need. A loving mother and wife. I admire her open-mindedness and nonjudgmental approach to people and places. She is also very creative; a talented artist in every media I’ve seen her work with.
Sylvia is my favorite person to go with on a food and shopping adventure! We get a little carried away some times “ooo ahhh! Feel this! Taste this!’” Fun Fun!! So many good times, Laughs, Cries, good talks and brainstorming. I am So blessed to have her as my aunt and my friend. I am very Proud of Sylvia!!! An amazing woman!” – Sunny

“1. She is kind. 2. She would do anything to help anyone in need. 3. Awesome cook! 4. Fun! 5. Full of life. 6. Full of love. 7. Youthful personality.” – Stephanie

“What I find most important and profound about my mom – the fundamental thing that I think everything else great about her stems from – is her refusal to be anyone other than herself, coupled with her acceptance of everyone for who they are. She has provided the most amazing example, my entire life, of what it means to go your own way – to hold fast to what you believe and live outwardly, as well as inwardly, in the truest possible way. For me it’s meant being a weirdo without fear; for her it’s meant loving and accepting the people she knows unconditionally, and allowing herself to be loved and accepted right back. It’s meant always being someone you could trust with even your most fragile of inside stuff without fear of judgment. It’s meant being someone who encourages generosity and kindness in others, through her own actions. And yeah, it’s also meant being a weirdo without fear.” – Ashley

“There isn’t much I can say about Sylvia except that she is fun to be around, supportive, and open-minded. I’m not sure if she knows how much I truly appreciate having her in my life. She looks only half her age, and is extremely active. She’s a great person.” – Elliot

“Sylvia is one of the most amazing and beautiful women I have met. She is more outgoing and fun than most grandmothers out there. She is also one of the most creative ladies I know. Honestly, when I was younger I absolutely worshiped her for her creativity; every piece of art she created at paint-a-plate was absolute perfection. Sylvia is a great mother, grandmother, and friend that I know I can count on to be there for me no matter what.” – Bella

“Sylvia is one of the greatest people I know. She is hilarious and very kind. Even though the music I listen to is not her type she still does a strange dance to it. With Sylvia, you can talk about anything, which includes drama, sports, food, etc.” – Ethan

“Sylvia is an artist and a teacher. She is a beautiful person.
Regardless of the event, Sylvia finds a way make something special. If there is no event, Sylvia can create one just by being herself and letting her personality flow through the audience.
From doll dresses to gardening to hand-drawn artistry, her artist’s eye always finds a way to manifest itself.
She influences people. As a teacher, Sylvia has made me a better dad and husband. She’s the primary reason our son has matured so nicely as a man and a dad. Kids in the family always learn from her.
When you add her obvious characteristics – she’s intelligent, she’s pretty, she’s funny and positive – it’s easy for me to say that marrying Sylvia was the smartest thing I ever did.” – Duane

rosieins
rosie ~

“What are my insecurities…WOW…I have a few. Body image; Am I smart enough; Am I good enough; and my huge fear is losing my son, Jim, or my husband and my mom. I think they are all connected in a way because when one tape starts in our head the others do seem to find their way in and join the loop. They all feed off one another, and if you are not careful it turns into one big self-bashing party. It’s funny – as you get older some of the same tapes play- just different words find their way in to replace others. Let’s take our boobs…. when we are young it’s, “I wish they were bigger”, and now it’s, “I wish they were firmer.” Or, “I’ve lost 15lbs so why do I look the same?”…. We defeat ourselves before we even get out the door. That’s just to touch the surface.
As for regrets…to be honest, I only really have one and I try not to let that one eat away at me. I wish I had not missed my son Brian’s last show…. because he died that night and for some reason we seem to think ” if I would have been there…” so, with that said…would the outcome have been different? No. I feel like I let him down…but did I? No. Was he sad that I didn’t come? …I really don’t think so, because I never missed a show or very few. But why that show?? …Why did I have to feel too tired to go that night??!!!! We never know when someone is going to pass…be it of natural causes, or, like my son, an accident. Either way, we can’t change the outcome. I would if I could… believe me. I live it everyday…the intense pain.”

rosie’s friends and family:

“Rosie is gentle, loving, and has gumption. She’s many more things than this, but I’ll focus on those three for now. Babies love her and she’s like Snow White when it comes to animals. It’s quite magical, really. Even wild birds love her. She’s loving and gentle to everyone but also doesn’t take shit, which is good. She has been through a lot of pain and heartbreak but it’s never made her hard or jaded. No chips on her shoulders; just love for everyone. She’s always wanted the best for me even though “misery loves company”. We’ve been miserable together and I’ve never felt like she wanted me to be anything but happy and to have joy in my life. She’s super hot and gorgeous too.
I’m blessed to have her in my life for those times when no one else gets what it’s like (she will know what I mean) there are parts of Rosie and I that are frozen in time together. It’s hard to explain, but it’s kinda like I will always be her daughter-in-law. And there are a lot worse things to be. I love her and I’m really glad she’s a part of this project. Besides everything else, like I said before, hot and gorgeous and photographs so beautifully.” – Dana

“Rosie is a fun-loving and nurturing person that provides self-care by her many forms of art. She has an infectious laugh and is very supportive of those around her. To know her is to love her. Luckily she has become close to me as I have mentored her in her photography and she is always a great confidant of my personal secrets and problems, which it’s generally hard to find someone with those qualities without judgment. She is a woman whose presence is known when she is in the room because of the light she radiates.” – Bill

“My mom has the kindest heart of anyone I have ever known. She will go out of her way to make anyone and everyone happy. She is one of the strongest people I know and I am proud to have her as my mom.” – Jim

“It is pretty serendipitous that her name is Rosie because she sees most situations or people through a rose-colored lens. Mama sees the best in people even if they are terrible people. She sees the best in everything. When Brian died, it was one of the darkest places I have ever seen her in and she still found positive things about people whom I was not so sure about. This does not mean that she’s going to let anyone take advantage of her. She has lived three lives already and she has taught me much about people. I truly believe that she is one of the most selfless people –she puts others first before her own needs even it is someone undeserving.
She was the first person to truly teach me the meaning of love. When you truly love someone you love ALL of them including the bad parts, and they can never complete you; We find love in everyone and everything, not just one person. Would I have survived without her in my life? Maybe, but my life is more fulfilled with her support and unconditional love. She is not my blood mother but that never stopped her from loving or supporting me even when Brian and I were at odds. We all know how important he is to her; and to me :)” – Athena

“You know that person in your life who, no matter what your day or month or week has been like, always manages to make it seem better? Rosie is that person. I have always referred to her as my “white shining light; the cool calm center of the universe” in a room full of chaos. She is beyond charming, yet has a calmness and grounding nature about her, like she sees only the best parts of you, and, in turn, you become a better person for having been around her. In the past few years, Rosie has faced more heartbreak and devastation than most could face in their lives, and though I know each and every day is hard, she manages to face it with an infectious smile and a joke or two. She is the strongest person I have ever met.
We became close after her oldest son, Brian, died in a tragic accident. Though it is hard to explain, we have shared experiences regarding him that I think only she could understand, though I felt strangely honored and saddened to have shared them with her. She loves both her sons with a palpable intensity that I wonder if, at times, it must be exhausting. Yet almost effortlessly, Rosie still manages to spread kindness to those around her, patiently listening and offering guidance, advice, and infinite wisdom.
She isn’t afraid to tell you the truth. She’s delicate in a ladylike way, but not fragile. She has a laugh that will light up a room, and in her hugs you find peace. I know I speak for many more than myself when I say that I look forward to the time I get to spend with Rosie, for her love is something that radiates from her and we always have a good time.
Rosie has certain magic about her, an impish charm that is inherent in her sons. She loves to laugh and as I said before, hers is contagious.” – Leah

“Rosie is: Special person with a huge heart. Lots of talent with a lens and with clay! :0)
Beautiful smile, with an intenseness behind her eyes that is sometimes beautifully haunting, relaxing, mysterious and loving.
I’ve only known her for a few years but feel like I’ve known her for hundreds of years.” – Larry

“She

She is a seer.
Where others find flaws and doubts,
She’s a believer.

She is a spirit.
Where others will shy away,
She will not fear it.

She is a mother.
When others have lost their home,
She’ll give them cover.

She is a sunray.
When others live in the night,
She gives them warm day.

She is a feeler.
When others will pain and toil
She is their healer.

She is a shoulder.
Where others are burdened down
She’ll take the boulder.

She is something new to everyone she meets.
She’ll find the beauty underneath the beast.
She never puts her needs before the rest.
Because of that, her damage is repressed.

A fragile line she walks from day to day,
While sorrow is just barely held at bay.
Her strength renewed in pictures she collects,
While insecure emotions genuflect.

I’ve tried to share with words limited to few
All the lovely things my friend can do.
But how is one to possibly explain
All the splendor found within the rain?” – Jessi

“I met Rosie through the Tacoma based record label that was the home for a band I was in called The Jupiter Order. Rosie was photographing a show that we played at and I met her afterwards through Raymond, who played the keyboards in the band and is co-owner of the label.
The following two years of discovering whom this eclectic artist and amazing person is has been a delight, and after seeing recent photographs of her doing a fashion shoot as a model, it was another brilliant revelation. Her persona comes through in the photographs! The photographer even commented on how her warmth and bright soul saturated the shots!
Rosie is an exceptional person, who I have grown to be friends with and admire! She is sensitive, caring, and intuitive to a fault! I’m writing these things to introduce you to her, but in a very short time, you will discover these things for yourself!” – Scott

“I have known Rosie for about 6 years now. We got to know each other better after the passing of her son, Brian. In that time I can honestly say that I have never met anyone with a heart as caring as Rosie. She also has an eye for composition that few have. She sees everything through the viewfinder even on the rare occasion that she leaves her camera at home. I know that she struggles every day with emotional pain and I feel bad that there is nothing I can do to help but I also know that she is stronger than she thinks she is.
Rosie always greets you with a hug and not only asks how you are but is truly interested in your answer.” – Corey

janins
jan ~

“I guess my biggest insecurities have to do with my health and my house. My health is generally good, but I have a progressive type of MS, and I worry about getting around as time passes. Still, if I had a choice, I prefer a failing body over a failing mind. As for my house, my husband is a “collector” (read hoarder). I don’t want to go first, as I want to do something with the mess before I do go. I’m not wishing anything bad for my husband, but it makes me sick to think what my kids will be stuck with if something isn’t done.
As for regrets, I regret not being a stay-at-home mom, and when I was, I thought I had to be a housewife first. I thank God for my job, as I retired with a pension, which we would be lost without. Now my house is worse than ever, and my kids are grown and gone. When I look back, and when I watch the things my kids and others do with their kids, I have a lot of sadness and regrets. I also regret not giving them a better Christian upbringing, and setting a better example when they were most impressionable.”

Besides what Jan shared in writing, she elaborated further that evening…She was a busy mom of four boys when twelve years later she ended up giving birth to twin girls. Surprise! She worked while her husband stayed home with the girls…she says he spent a lot of time with the girls…playing with them, engaging them, enjoying them…he didn’t spend time worrying about the house. She wonders, looking back, had she stayed home: “I wouldn’t have been a bad mother, but would I still have done the things with them that he did??”

jan’s friends and family:

“I LOVE JAN. She is by far, the best friend I have E-V-E-R had.
I have never met anyone else like her; this woman could give Wonder Woman a run for her money just on sheer strength of character alone. She has a gentle heart wrapped in the body of a lioness. Jan was an “old friend”, the moment I met her, we fell into comfortable conversation with our first words. She is the sister I never had, the shoulder I cry on, the support that holds me up, and the foot that kicks me in the ass when I needed to “get over it” and move on.
I LOVE JAN, and she loves me! We haven’t spoken in almost a year, yet I know that statement is still true because, SHE is that good of a friend.” – Pat

“I’ve known Jan from our working days. I had already been at PSESD for four years when Jan came. My husband called us ‘yokemates’ because we often worked together on the same jobs. She had said she was only going to work for 10 years. Thirty years later, we retired a couple of years apart.
Right away I admired her honesty, loyalty, sharing, determination and helpfulness as well as terrific sense of humor. She helped me with computer programs, coping with other employees, giving information on the phone when I spelled her as receptionist so she could eat lunch, and giving me advice on how to run a household when I was married. Mostly, she gave friendship when it was needed. I hope I gave half as much.
I hope our friendship will last much longer than when I saw her everyday at work.” – Diane

“What would you get if you combined: Mother Theresa, Gloria Steinem; Florence Nightingale; Julia Child; Santa Clause and Jane Goodall?
Well, you would get my beautiful mother, Janice.
You may wonder how she can compare to all these famous women (and Santa), but I think it’s all of them who compare to her. I will try to keep this short, but I will break it down for you.
*Mother Theresa: She is a mother of 6, 4 boys and 2 girls. My mother sacrificed all worldly goods to give all she had to her children. She never asked for anything in return, other than for her family to be happy and healthy. While she may not have walked the streets of Calcutta, I think my brothers and I made enough messes in our lives to make a beggar in Calcutta say, “Ewww…. that’s gross”.
*Gloria Steinem: My mom often fought with the powers that be (aka the man, aka my father) for the rights of her children. The majority of the time it was a losing battle, but it was one she fought for us. She did achieve in the workplace, retiring from her job after over 30 years. In today’s workplace with mobile jobs, and people always moving about, it is amazing and impressive for one to stay at the same place for this long.
*Florence Nightingale: 4 boys in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. BB Guns, lawn darts, trees, dogs, football, fights, woods, tools, axes, slingshots, rocks, dirt clods…I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Lots of blood, sweat, and tears.
*Julia Child: I often thought she had a magic wand, because she could whip up anything. How many people make their own maple syrup for pancakes? Everything was homemade…she was magic.
*Santa Clause: She had the ability to make things magical during the holidays. While we didn’t have much, she gave all to make sure we had some. And, like Santa, I have never met a person who knows my mother that does not think she is the greatest person they have ever known.
*Jane Goodall: Do you even need to ask? 4 boys………(get it??????)” – Ty

“Oh, what to say about Janice???
My mother is an amazing, beautiful, loving woman. She is encouraging.
There is nothing she won’t do for her family.
She doesn’t give up.
She is always there for anyone that needs her, whether to dish out advice, help with money troubles, or just sit and be a shoulder to cry on.
She is gentle and kind.
I don’t know anyone more patient than she is.
She is generous; putting everyone’s needs and wants above her own.
She is strong. Maybe not physically, but in every other sense of the word. I know she gets frustrated not being able to function as well as she once could but she has more resolve and determination than any person half her age.
She is the foundation that holds us all together and keeps us sane.
She is our first love, our biggest fan, our loudest cheerleader, our saving grace and our stronghold when everything else seems to be carrying us away.
We don’t tell her enough, I don’t tell her enough, what a fantastic mom, friend, and woman she is. I can only hope to be half the lady she is.
I love you, Mom. More than you’ll ever know.” – Becca

nanains
louise (aka nana) ~

“I had a lot of insecurity growing up. I felt I wasn’t good looking enough. When I started school in first grade, I couldn’t read or speak English – only German – and I was humiliated that I didn’t understand. I always had the feeling that the other kids thought I was backward. I felt I would never be able to meet everyone else’s expectations. Because of this, I haven’t trusted people or that they are going to do what they say they are going to do….hence, I ask them and remind them many, many times.
I have no regrets at this point in my life. I did when I was a kid, but at this time I have none.”

Nana added that evening: “I have no regrets. I was married. My husband’s dead. I have a daughter. I have three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. There is nothing to regret.” She elaborated further that being a part of the Lutheran Church has proven the most positive element for her: “You trust your people.” She associated her lack of regret and insecurity into her later years with being a part of that community…staying close to people and sharing and confiding in them.

nana’s friends and family:

“Funny, Loving, Thoughtful, Smart, Giving, Helpful” – Sherri

“*One of my favorite people of all time!
*My feisty redheaded aunt–and even though her hair has turned silver, to me she will always be a redhead.
*Sweet, thoughtful, beautiful.
*Has to be related to the wonderful Betty White–they have the same vivacious personality.
*Loves her family to the “nth” degree (and that includes nieces and nephews).
*Don’t know what I’d do without her–and don’t even want to think about it.
*Wonderful sense of humor–even about herself. She can make fun of herself and her foibles–like no one else.” – Phyllis Schneider

“What to say about my Grandmother…
When I was a kid, we clashed. We are both very strong-willed & opinionated; I’m so thankful now that this is something that I got from her. Since I’ve been a mother myself, we have definitely grown closer. Watching her interact with her great-grandkids is amazing. They adore her & she LOVES them so much, her whole world seems to revolve around them. She is smart & funny & silly, which is everything anyone could want in a Nana.
She had a tough time as a child, which has obviously shaped her interactions with others in her life. She is a hard-worker & a bit of a perfectionist & holds those around her to a high standard. She would give her family anything & everything they need. She has an undeniable faith that has never wavered. She is a wonderful cook & hostess. Her sense of humor, sometimes unexpectedly raunchy, keeps all of us on our toes. She loves to dance & still thinks that Dean Martin is a dreamboat. I love her very much & I am so thankful that over the years I have gained some insight & understanding that has allowed us to become as close as we are today.” – Paige

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 4: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/group-4-women-raw-honest-loved/
Group 5: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/group-5-women-raw-honest-loved/

a brief 30 seconds of your time…

malleryblog
May I make an ever-so-brief request of you?

It was recommended to me that I start a Facebook page for the women’s project…which will likely serve as a pretty decent hub for it – promoting interaction, feedback, friendliness, you know… – so, will you go give it a like to show your support?
And to keep yourself informed of more activity, of course.

And spread the word! Help me make this project grow, please and thank you!

https://www.facebook.com/WomenRawHonestLovedProject

I really appreciate it. If you were here, I’d buy you a beer. (maybe…as long as it’s not everyone that views this…that could get outta hand.)

(TEEN version!) women. raw. honest. loved.

mayafinal_1bellag_1bethfinal_1cassiefinal_1izzlebizzlefinal_1irisfinal_1ravynfinal_1sophiefinal

Remember being a teenager?

Especially being a teen girl…
Ugh. The skepticism. The self-doubt. The pressure to be prettier, thinner, funnier, more athletic, smarter, more popular…the list goes on.

Now, take those feelings and maybe multiply them by 100.
With the pressures induced by media and social networking adding to those already crappy feelings they are prone to have about themselves, I would hate to be in these girls’ shoes today.

I went on a field trip this year with my daughter (who is days away from turning 13, and is just now tiptoeing {CONFIDENTLY, I might add} through these waters), and my eyes were opened WIDE as to what she deals with among her peers on a daily basis. Thankfully, the particular group of girls that I had in this group were pretty level-headed girls…smart, fun, goofy girls in seventh grade…acting like seventh graders. But, as I looked around on the bus I observed LOUD, crass, mean, gossipy girls all around. Girls who were wearing layers of makeup. Girls who were doing the best to make their school uniforms as revealing as possible. Girls who seemed quite sexualized already, sadly, at their age. I’m not saying these girls are the majority, but they make up a good number. And I could see many girls around them desperately seeking their approval, hanging on their every word…trying hard to be their friends. And this was just on a couple of bus rides…only a smidgin of a glance into a middle-school girl’s everyday world.

My heart hurt a little bit.

And it scared the crap out of me.

How does this pressure affect my own daughter? Is she really as level-headed as she seems and can rise above it all, or is there a part of her that gets confused about all of it and feels the need to be like everyone else? Will her own insecurities then do as mine did – become a nagging voice in her head always bringing her down? Or will they not only possibly bring her down, but turn her into another “mean girl”, one who takes these pent-up insecurities out on other girls and women along the way? How do I stop this?

I do understand that the feelings…the insecurities…are somewhat inevitable.

But, the outcome? I don’t think the outcome needs to be the same.

Well, I sort of put those thoughts after that field trip out of my head for awhile.
Until I did the original women’s project with my own peers.
Originally, I wanted a change because of that very apparent fact about women: that we have a tendency to internalize our insecurities and then, in turn, take these things out on other women, disparaging them, ruining lines of communication and support between ourselves and other women that we should instead be seeking.
Interestingly enough, that evening we ended up realizing that most of these insecurities have had their roots for a very long period of time. Generally starting or building up significantly around the times we were these girls’ ages.

So, it was decided: the next project needed to take place with girls in this age group.

Because, not only did the original project achieve the objective: to check ourselves before we disparage another woman…to think about this night, and these women, when a negative thought about another woman crosses our mind…to remember that we don’t know the struggles that that particular woman may be dealing with…that she has friends and family who love her, and that there are probably numerous reasons why they love her unconditionally…
but, it also had a few unexpected benefits: we each have come away with a bit more love for ourselves, not so much of a focus on the nasty messages in our heads, and opened lines of communication with our loved ones. How awesome would it be if we could have done that yeeeeeeears ago?!

So, after brainstorming with a few of the ladies from the initial women’s project (Rachel, Jamey, and Rhi), and with their help (THANK YOU, LADIES!!!!!), the stage began to be set for the teen project.

Our hope was that these girls’ insecurities would not have too much of a root yet, but, that maybe the evening could promote among them an understanding and acceptance of their own peers and an appreciation of what makes they themselves individual and unique – which can hopefully promote empowering thinking, and not only prevent a bullying of others, but encourage them to stand up for others when they see this happening.

Well, here is how the night went down…
The girls arrived little by little. There were some super quiet, super shy, sometimes awkward introductions made, as I only knew two of these girls personally. The rest had only corresponded briefly with me via phone and email about the project. It was obvious that they were nervous. Honestly, it was obvious that all of us were nervous. Rachel, Jamey, Rhi, and I all sorta kept looking at each other like “this should be interesting…”, and then decided to have a glass of wine before beginning…allowing us to relax a touch, and allowing the girls to get to know one another a little (as many of them had just met for the first time as well).
We found it pretty cool when suddenly we realized that all of the girls had disappeared into Isabella’s room (for this project she will further be referred to as Izzlebizzle – her request) 🙂 to chat and giggle as teen girls do, subsiding their own nerves a bit.
We let things evolve as so, finally rounding the girls up downstairs to begin things.

And so, we started chatting.
I explained a bit about the project…the beginnings of it, what compelled me to start it, my personal experiences behind it. The other ladies did a bit of explaining what it’s meant to them since our project night. And then we turned it over to the girls…who didn’t really have questions, but were on the same page as us…understanding where we were coming from, excited, and maybe a bit apprehensive to address this topic.

Let me just mention here that we were dealing with some SUPER AMAZING, super intelligent, broad-thinking, empathetic, mature young women, as you will soon find out…

We showed them a couple of clips from the documentary “MissRepresentation“, as it speaks a lot about both media and society’s pressures on girls to look and act a particular way, often inadvertently (and sometimes advertently) discouraging girls from being themselves, from taking leadership roles, from finding importance beyond body image, etcetera.

I had come to the interesting realization, in preparation for this evening, that most of these girls’ shared insecurities had nothing to do with the physical. This was incredibly impressive to me, while also making me curious.
Is this actually the case?
Are they really not hung-up on/somewhat obsessed with physical appearance?
Is our society and media maybe putting so much pressure on personal appearance that these girls have already recognized it for how shallow it is and risen above??? If so, AWESOME.
OR, is this the age they’re at…where, seeing as this project would be public…they didn’t really want to call attention to these things?

I still cannot share that answer with you. The answer I’m going with is the first one. They’ve risen above. That is my hope.

In any case, please appreciate these girls’ honesty. Most of these insecurities were read with hesitation in their voices, cracking tones, falling tears, emotions on their sleeves.

I am inspired by each and every one of them. I’m positive that you will be, too.

And now, meet the girls (ages ranging from 12-17)…


*The process in which I did the photographing for this was the same as for the initial project, which was explained in the first blog posts, found here:
https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/women-raw-honest-loved-part-1-2/

https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/women-raw-honest-loved-part-2/

mayamaya ~

“My insecurity is not being perfect. I try my best in school but hardly ever get straight A’s. I’ve been playing the violin since 4th grade and I’m in the back of the second violin in Youth Symphony. I also can be really mean and make others feel bad even if I didn’t mean for it to be that way.”

maya’s friends and family:

“Dedicated to schoolwork, Musically talented, Piercing Brown Eyes, Generous, Fun, Entertaining, Loving, Feisty, Beautiful, Clever, Trustworthy, Confident, Aiden (my son) loves her, Genuine.” – jessica

“Has great charisma, Very easy to talk to, Creatively passionate, Wonderful Musician, Looks great in anything, Charming, An old soul who is wise for her years.” – sadie

“I have known Maya since she was a little girl, so I have many impressions of her. My most vivid, oddly enough, is of her at a distance from me, at the age of twelve or thirteen, running in an orchard at dusk. As the light was fading I could only make out her silhouette. Other children were running around frantically trying to find a hiding spot or something, but Maya was being so perfectly Maya. Moving gently and thoughtfully. Leaping higher than the others (just for the joy of it and because she could), Shifting quietly and with grace. Making her way without sound. A little woodland creature.
The other most vivid memory that I have of Maya is from when she was no more than six. She had come to our house with her little sister and the children were outside playing in the garden. I was doing the thankless job of polishing the main stairs in our house and I was moving stair by stair as I polished. I thought I was alone in the house as I could hear the children outside calling to one another. When I heard a sound above me I looked up suddenly, and there was little Maya. Her sweet face so serious and earnest, she asked if it would be ok if she stayed with me while I worked. I don’t think she was unhappy or upset with the others, just that she preferred to watch the methodical process and have a quiet conversation. We worked slowly and carefully on those stairs, not saying much, but working together happy and peaceful until the others came in.
Maya: Gentle, thoughtful, quiet, graceful, serious, earnest, happy, peaceful, loyal, wise.” – megan

“Brave, Tenacious, Intelligent, Honest, Beautiful, Creative, True to her heart, Silly, Runs fast, Jumps high, Best camp bed-maker ever!” – natalie

“Elegant, Determined, Dedicated, Strong, Full of Promise, Slyly Funny, Whip-Smart, Thoughtful, Stunningly Beautiful, Sweetly Shy, Compelling.
Maya is an amazing young woman. She is talented in areas that aren’t supposed to be compatible — music & engineering, humor & stoicism. She is incredibly smart, but she also strives to achieve – so her accomplishments are that perfect combination of dreams & desires plus true effort. I think Maya is going to accomplish great things — things we can’t even imagine right now.” – shannon

“Maya is a force to be reckoned with. She is fearless and brave and knows what she believes in. Maya is one of those kids who can be terrified or intimidated on the inside, but, take a deep breath, square her shoulders, and walk into any situation as if it is just a stroll in the park. She has a calm and logical way of approaching life that is so refreshing. When she finds something that interests her, she is passionate about her commitment to it – whether it is the violin, building robots, drawing, playing piano or high-jumping. If you are lucky enough to be Maya’s friend, you will have a steadfast and dedicated companion. Maya just might rule the world someday, and we might all be better for it. I am proud and honored that she is my daughter.” – shari

bellag bella ~

“I have a lot of insecurities, but I think the one that bothers me the most is the constant fear that my peers will decide they don’t like me and disconnect me from social situations. When I was in elementary school, I was friends with one girl in the fifth grade, and one day she randomly began to ignore me. I was in such emotional distress, I had honestly no clue what I had done. Eventually, this girl sent me a not so nice email, claiming I was the rudest person she had ever met and that nobody else liked me, even though I never did anything besides worship the ground that little girl walked on. Ever since then, I’ve always worried about people not liking me. I’m in this semi-constant fear that my friends are mad at me, or think I’m dull, annoying etc. It’s hard for me not to be paranoid and I hope I’m not alone..”

bella’s friends and family:

“Brilliant, Kind, Huggable, Nerve-Calming, Compassionate, Adventurous, Courageous, Strong, Excited, Helpful, Always there when someone needs her, Problem Solving, Beautiful” – oscar

“Bella is very creative and has a great sense of humor. She is not afraid to express her individuality through her clothing and doesn’t hide her personality. Bella helps me with homework whenever she can. She is a great sister.” – chloe

“Hi!
I’m a friend of Bella’s and I’m here to yell at you about how amazing she is and stuff!
Honestly, Bella’s one of the best friends I’ve ever had (since preschool actually, I’m a super credible source), and I’m so honored to call her that. She’s one of the most understanding people you will ever meet, she’s incredibly encouraging and she will never give up on someone. Bella is incredibly understanding and a total joy to be around, plus she’s super smart (she was in the gifted program back at Kalles). She’s super artistic and musical, and I’ve never met anyone more genuinely incredible than her.” – carissa

“Isabella is an intelligent and free-spirited young woman whom I admire very much. She has a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. I love that Bella is so passionate about her beliefs. She is a beautiful girl with a fresh outlook on life, and she is very stylish!” – jenny

“Bella is one of the three smartest, sweetest, funniest, and prettiest great nieces in the universe. Plus, she’s not just a great niece, she is an awesome great niece!
She is articulate, creative, caring, compassionate, and deeply intellectual.
Bella isn’t afraid to ask questions. That’s the great secret to learning.
Bella looks for unique solutions to challenges. When she is determined to accomplish something and encounters an obstacle, she will continue to look for a way to go over, under, around, or through the hurdle.
Bella loves her family and her animals. One of the best ways to learn about someone is to look at how he or she treats animals.
When something runs counter to her sense of justice she swings into action to take corrective measures. She is also a true thinker with an unmatched sense of humor.” – uncle sam

“I have been best friends with Isabella’s mother, Ursula, for well over twenty years. Once Isabella was born, I became her surrogate Aunt and godmother, so I have been on the periphery of her life since she has been born.
Isabella was always a strong and intelligent child, and it has been a privilege to watch her maintain these traits as she moves into adulthood. I have always been struck by Isabella’s will to do what’s right even if it’s not popular. I have been impressed with her willingness to be involved in the LGBT community and crusade for the underdog, even though it might not be the “cool” thing to do. It is just one example of her strength of character and compassion, and it makes me feel a lot better about the future of our society that we have people like her in it. I could go on for pages about her creativity and wit, but was advised I had to keep it to a paragraph.
Thank you for the opportunity to sing her praises.” – kerry

“The following is a list of what makes my precious niece, Bella (beautiful)…
-She is kind.
-She cares for all critters; two legged (people), four legged, scaled, feathered or furred.
-She loves deeply.
-She is very intelligent in a humble manner. Never flaunting her intelligence but rather using it to teach others, especially those who are younger, with a desire to help them understand something new.
-She has a wicked sense of humor but never at the expense of others.
-She is a good listener. What you say is important to her and she shows it in her eye contact, body language, and how she engages in the conversation.
-She has a hunger of knowledge and is inquisitive. She lives and breathes books for the adventure and understanding they afford and enjoys discussions that stretch her intellectually.
-She loves her family deeply and enjoys spending time with her favorite Aunt (her best quality, I might add!). All family is important to her.
-She pursues her music passion with fervor and dedication and loves to share it with others.
-She is a good encourager, especially to those who are younger.
-She is helpful, especially to her mother with her younger siblings, and does it with a joyful heart knowing it makes a positive difference in her mother’s life.
-She is an independent thinker, able to assess information and make an informed decision on her own behalf without worrying about what others think.
-She looks at the world beyond herself and searches for ways she can make a difference in this world today and for her future.
-She has a sweet spirit with just the right amount of feistiness! 🙂
Isabella is a ray of sunshine and a joy to be around! I am honored to call her my niece!” – heather

“Bella is a beautiful person inside and out. She is caring and sympathetic towards others. She is a loving daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and friend. She is fun to be around and always has something interesting to talk about. She possesses a stellar sense of humor. She takes time to make sure she is well-informed and is not afraid to share her opinions as she is confident in them. She is incredibly bright. A talented musician and lover of music. She has a great sense of fashion and has created a style that is all her own. I think she is an amazing human being, I am so proud of her! :-)” – mom

beth beth ~

“It has taken me a long time to realize this – my greatest insecurity is that I am a stupid, annoying, bore. I feel like everyone around me knows it, and I’m the only one not in on this hilarious joke of a girl. A girl who’s trying so hard to be smart and interesting. Often it feels like I’m the only one who doesn’t see my ignorance, my plain stupidity. I often feel that I am overzealous, and annoying – that my very presence is a hindrance to other people. I feel like people who are my friends just aren’t in on the joke yet either, and when I lose friends it’s as if they’ve realized and moved past me. I feel like the whole world is in on this joke that is me, and they all sit in a room together and laugh about it. So in essence, I guess I feel like I’ll never be anyone’s first choice, or I’m just not good enough, and people see my inadequacy. Clearly.”

beth’s friends and family:

“Your drive and ambition is likely to be your greatest asset in your life. With that, the sky is literally the limit for you. I know you fear your abilities in general, but you are foolish to do so. With your dedication and ambition and drive, there is realistically nothing you cannot achieve.” – uncle owen

“Beth,
So, I’m not even sure where to begin this letter. Can I start off by saying that you are so truly amazing? Because you are. And just in case you don’t hear it often enough, you are so worthy of love and beautiful friendships and relationships. You are the truest person I know, and I have more love for you as a friend than I’m sure you realize.
While we were in Moclips, I met a Beth I didn’t know existed. One with so many layers, and so real, to the core. She showed me that she is stronger than people realize. That she is passionate. I met someone that week that would become more necessary and important to me than I possibly could’ve foreseen.
So many others don’t value you as much as they should. I’m convinced its because they aren’t willing to get to know you more than they hear in rumors. They’re simple-minded, and unworthy to know someone as fantastic as you. You have such a beautiful soul and I am so happy that you share it with me.
Let me be the first to tell you that I am so very proud of the person you are, and I am incredibly honored and blessed to be your friend. You simply amaze me; you have one of the most compassionate and gentle hearts I’ve ever had to pleasure of spending time with. You love me endlessly, without questions. You’re there for me like it’s your job, and I hope you never stop. I want you to know that the person I am today wouldn’t be complete without you. You bring me more joy and sunshine than you can possibly comprehend- there isn’t a time that you can’t put a smile on my face, and if I am half of that to you, I would be so proud.
Everything is better when you’re around. All the really hard stuff is a little easier when I can talk to you about it. Everyone deserves a best friend, there’s no doubt about that. I can only hope that everyone is as lucky as I am.
Sometimes I feel like you’re shy when it comes to aspects of your life and that you’re unwilling to disclose things you think I would find unsavory. I hope you can realize that I will not judge you, and that any and everything that you choose to share with me will always be sacred and I will never turn on you as people have done before. I just really hope you can say “fuck everyone else” and learn to see and love Bethany the way that I do.
Thank you for always bringing out the best in me, and I will never take you for granted. If our past and present adventures is any clue to what our future would bring, we’re in for a hell of a ride.” – serena

“Alright. I should start.
But honesty is HARD.
Stop that. We need to write this.
NEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.
Shut up.

Hey Beth. So uh- where to start? I suppose where we did. We met in middle school, but we never really hung out that much. You insist that you had a goth phase, but I must have been too blinded by the sheer volume of my Afro to take notice of things like your style decisions. I think I had a crush on you at one point, but in any event I don’t remember it very well. I distinctly remember being moderately scared of you (don’t worry, I start off negative and work towards positive; It’s almost like giving you a character arc). One day you would be happy to see me and give me a hug, the next you would completely ignore my existence or kick me in the shins or something. This may or may not be why we didn’t hang out much.
I was surprised when I saw you at SaMI freshman year. You always seemed artsy, creative, a bit fey. I had expected you to go to SOtA, but you came to SaMI instead. Again, we didn’t hang out all that much for awhile, me still being a bit scared of you, but eventually we developed overlapping social circles (one trait we share: we have awesome taste in friends). We started to hang out a bit. The first time you were nice, I wasn’t surprised, but the second time it caught me off guard. Usually, by this time, your opinion of me had switched, but it hadn’t so I was content to kind of bask in this extended kindness.
But then something extra weird happened. It didn’t stop. You just stayed nice. We hung out a bit more and the kindness train just kept on chuggin’ through. You were always smiling (this is when I started to notice how weirdly immaculate your teeth are, by the way). You were fun and, dare I say, cool. I started to trust you. You started to trust me. We became what I think of as good friends. You being the adept social butterfly that you are, put me in a lot of situations to interact with people. I think you brought me out of my shell and gave me a bit of confidence (successfully hanging out with a group of women and getting them to laugh will do that to a guy). You were always happy to see me and I was happy to see you. We could share secrets (cough… Egyptian… cough). I was – am – proud to call someone as cool and kick-ass and talented and nice and awesome as you my friend.
Fo’ Shizzle,
Elijah
p.s.- you should make your rogue so we can play D&D. There will be ninjas. It’s gonna rock.” – elijah

“Bethany is an amazing friend of mine. I have known her since my freshman year and we’ve grown very close since then. She is extremely beautiful. I have found her attractive ever since I met her, but she is far more than just that. Beth has a great sense of humor. Every time I spend time with her we laugh for the majority of it because of the humor we both find in everything. She is also very intelligent, more then she gives herself credit for. She is incredibly curious about many things in this world and will search for answers until she finds one that satisfies her. That tells me that she questions the world and is very driven about things that interest her.
Also, Beth loves to go on adventures. I am constantly hearing stories of her going camping, on huge hikes, and exploring the world around us. I believe that all of these adventures just drive her to be more curious and learn more about this magnificent world we live on.
She is also incredibly social and outgoing. I know very few people who make as many friends as Beth does in so little time. With her outgoing-ness, Beth is very bold and open. She will tell you almost anything about herself and what she likes or dislikes. This can be a great thing, but I have seen the times when people have done her wrong and she gets hurt incredibly. I am not saying that her openness is a bad thing, I just wish she was more cautious with it.
Above all else, Beth is amazingly caring. Rarely do you meet people who genuinely care about you as much as Beth does. Why she cares so much is beyond me. All I know is that if I need someone to talk to, or I need a shoulder to cry on, Beth will always be there for me.” – stephen

cassie cassie ~

“I have a lot of insecurities but I think the one that eats at me the most is the feeling of being insignificant.. I think of myself as just another mere speck of dust floating around on a bigger speck that’s floating around with maybe millions of more specks.. When I try to look at the big picture of existence, I feel so small and insignificant. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother trying so hard when it doesn’t really matter. When I work really hard on something like a drawing, sometimes I think, “Why am I trying so hard? Eventually everything I’ve put all my time and energy in, everything I’ve worked hard on to make will end up being nothing more than dust. I’ll be nothing more than dust, so why even bother?” The feeling of being insignificant eats away at me everyday and keeps me up every night. Always feeling like nothing I say or do will ever matter or make any difference makes it hard for me to keep trying hard everyday.”

cassie’s friends and family:

“Cassandra is the most beautifulest girl I’ve ever met in my life. She’s so caring for others and has a smile that can light up the sky. Her laugh and her voice is so soft and gentle, I can’t help but smile. I love that girl with all my heart, and if she is reading this, “Hi baby” (: “ – dominic

“Cassie is really nice, Beautiful, Loyal, She will always be there for you, Protective over the ones she loves, Funny, You can trust her with anything, and she’s really caring about a lot.” – breanna

“I’m a photographer too, so Cassie and I have a lot in common. We both like photographing a lot of the same subjects.
Cassie is the sweetest person I’ve ever met. It doesn’t matter who you are…if you have some kind of a problem and just need someone to talk to, she’ll listen. I’ve done a lot of stupid things within the five or so years Cassie and I have been friends, and she’s never judged me. She always puts her own personal problems aside and gives me her two cents. She is extremely shy, but if you’re lucky enough to know her like I do, you’ll see that she is very outgoing. She will randomly start acting like a five year old when we’re with all of our friends, just to make someone smile. She also is known to make some of the weirdest and creepiest noises I’ve ever heard! She always knows how to make me smile when I’m in a bad mood. Whenever I get really pissed off at home, I’ll call her and she’ll meet me somewhere so I can hang out and blow off some steam. Cassie is hands down one of my best friends. I know that even after graduation we’ll still be really close. I love Cassie to death, and I’m always trying to help her work on overcoming her shyness, and working on being able to stand up for herself more. Since she is so caring, people will often take advantage of her. She doesn’t think so, but she has become so much stronger over the time we’ve spent in high school. Since freshman year, she has changed so much, but in the best way she could change. She sticks up for herself more and shares more of her thoughts and opinions in class and with our friends. I’m so proud of her for that, and I know that I could never thank her enough for how much she’s helped me throughout the years. I don’t know what I would do with myself if I ever lost Cassie as my friend. She’s one of the only people I know and trust enough to go to, no matter what the problem is. I honestly know that if I showed up at her house crying my eyes out, and not wanting to talk about what’s wrong, she’d just hold me until I stopped crying and could explain what was wrong. She’s the closest friend I have. She’s talked me out of cutting myself and even killing myself, whether she knows it or not. I’m so grateful to have her be such a big part of my life. I love you so much Cassie! You mean the world to me, darling.” – jodee

“There are so many great things i can say about Cassandra Elmore 🙂
She is the single most amazing person I ever met.
She is loving and caring about everyone in her life, and will put everyone else before her own needs.
She is hilarious and beautiful, and I love every second I spend with her.
She is adventurous and genuine, and I know I could never find anyone else who even comes close to comparing to her.
Cassandra is my single most best friend in the world, and I want to keep her in my life forever.
If I never met Cassie, my life wouldn’t be where it is today. Hell, I might not even be here today if it wasn’t for this magnificent, beautiful, amazing girl that I am more than proud to call my best friend.
Cassie means so much to me, and I would do anything to make her happy. I absolutely adore her smile and laugh. She brings so much joy and happiness to my life.” – rebecca

“Cassandra is one of the most selfless people I know – she’s generous to a fault. She is conscientious in all that she does and feels. The day she learned about Earth Day in school, her little heart would break at the sight of garbage in the streets, she took it very seriously. Her kind and sensitive heart has made her a go-to confidant with her friends. Her passion and talent in photography inspires me to search for my own creative outlet, and her harsh self-criticism breaks my heart. She expects perfection of herself and yet forgives with ease when slighted by others. She’s a loyal and fierce friend. Her empathy and sympathy knows no boundaries – she doesn’t care about what your race, religion or sexual orientation is – I couldn’t be prouder.” – amy

iris iris ~

“It’s hard to make friends with new people or my friends’ friends because I’m afraid I won’t live up to their expectations. I worry that people will think that I am lame or annoying. I guess that’s why I’m always awkward around people, because I feel that if I open up that they won’t like ME.”

iris’ friends and family:

“I haven’t known Iris for very long, but what I’ve summed up about her is that she’s pretty awesome. She’s funny, smart, and absolutely gorgeous. She can goof off with you and take control of a situation when necessary. I think she’s pretty cool to be around and I’m glad I know her.” – ravyn

“Humble, calming, sensitive, shining, one of my favorite people in my life, bubbly, strong, smart, fun.” – hope & aimee

“Iris is determined, smart, funny, very loving, and compassionate, a born-leader. She is tough when she needs to be and always caring. She puts the needs of others before herself, and the best thing is that she does these things and is how she is because she wants to, and not because she is supposed to. I am proud to call her my step-daughter” – damien

“Iris is the bravest person I have ever known.
She is creative ~ She is genius creative. She can imagine and then create anything. And she does. Daily ~ every moment~ she is creating something marvelous.
She is genuine in the truest sense.
She is beautiful. Heart-achingly beautiful. She is tender and graceful and delicate. She is a rosebud. She is made of star dust and magic and dragonfly wings. She is wind.
She is able to make a person feel special and radiant with just a look.
She loves. She loves fully and purely and with no hesitation. Her love is a force of nature that can bend mountains.
She is kind ~ she will give to any and all everything she has.
And she is thoughtful. so very very very thoughtful. Iris is my buddha of compassion. She feels what the universe is feeling and must heal it as best she can.
She is a protector. She will defend anyone she sees being hurt or attacked. She is fierce and loyal. She will stand by you through anything. She IS her word.
She is a valkyrie in the truest sense. She is strong and safe and stable. She is made of granite and oak and has the blood of an eagle. An eagle with a wolf head. With laser eyes. She is that kind of epic.
She is a graceful ballerina with a war axe and the smarts and compassion to know how to never have to use it.
She has the best fashion sense of everyone I have ever known or admired.
She knows how to be a friend and a very supportive and good one at that.
She is wonderful.
And now im all rambling and in tears. And so fearful I forgot things. Which I know I did.
How can you write how marvelous Iris is in words? She is beyond mere words. She is water and music and laughter and sunshine. She is who she is and stands unflinching.
I have been in awe of her since I was blessed with her into my universe.
She is my hero.” – dagmar

izzlebizzle izzlebizzle ~

“I don’t like talking to people about my problems. I reshape myself in a “happy” and “cheerful” way so people don’t ask questions. I guess you could say that is my biggest insecurity… I’m not happy enough and I feel selfish for that.”

izzlebizzle’s friends and family:

“Not afraid to let her “child” out. Fiercely protective of family. Boundless energy. A natural force of nature. Bright. A highly developed sense of humor. Confident. Can hold a meaningful conversation with adults and peers. Physically beautiful. Creative and artistic. Loving and affectionate. Isabella is a joy to be around. I hope this is of help!” – grandma sylvia.

“Bella is a brilliant girl. I am not talking super smarty-pants brilliant, although she is a smarty-pants. I am talking, quite literally, BRILLIANT. I mean, she shines. She radiates life and happiness on an inhuman level. She’s full of enthusiasm and joy, and you can always count on her to lift your spirits when you are in a funk. She’s creative, and funny, and she’s always had great style. She loves to read, learn, and share cool things with others, and not in a show-offy way. She has friends from all walks-of-life, and is pretty good at accepting people who are different from her. All in all, I’d say she’s 95% awesome, 2% dorky, 2% messy, and 1% silly as all get out. I wish I was her age so we could be best friends. She will always have a fan in me.” – diana

“Isabella,
You are one of the most darling people I know.
Our meeting and friendship has been destined since our mothers went to school, and you are a phenomenal woman. You are strong and empowered. You do wonderful things, you are passionate and just an all around absolutely wondrous person. I love who you are, I love being your best friend. We even each other out, and we pick each other up when we’re down. I know you struggle sometimes, I am and will always be here for you, through anything and everything. I want to point out all the good things about you in this letter, all the good feels, right here. Not just the ones you can see on the outside either, the inside feels.
I want to tell you how smart you are – you, dear, are in fact very smart and insightful, and I think often you doubt yourself when it comes to your awesome brains.
I want to tell you you’re beautiful, and dependable, and fun to be around, you have infectious energy, and amazing taste. You are a loyal friend, the best person to confide in, and a great adventurer. I can have very deep talks with you, and also completely silly superficial talks.
You are amazing. I am glad to call you my best friend.
I want to tell you many more things, but I think instead of me writing them all down here, I will just make a point of telling you in person as often as possible.
Because, my honey bunny, you are a light shining in the dark. You are a really beautiful person inside and out. I want you to remember that when you’re feeling insecure or doubtful about your amazing character .
I love you.
I love being your bestest friend .
I will always be here for you.
I will always want to snuggle you even when you’re PMSing 3 weeks out of the month.

You are a pleasure to know, to be around, to love.

And I will always cherish you and be a loyal friend to you.

Love, Beth”

“In the years I have been lucky enough to be a part of Isabella’s life, she has shown herself to be one of the bravest people I’ve ever known, a fiercely loyal friend and sister and daughter, and a first-rate comedian. She faces every situation head-on, and if she is afraid to fight for what she believes is the right thing, you wouldn’t know it by watching her. She has an instinctive understanding of how people should be treated and cared for, and a completely admirable understanding of how she herself should be treated by others… I think it’s unavoidable for anyone who spends any time at all with her not to learn something about kindness and self-respect. Isabella takes no shit and has mad love to give, and I think she’s the fucking greatest for it.” – ash

“UGH. I knew writing this letter was going to be hard, but I didn’t think it was gonna be THIS HARD. There are absolutely not enough words for me to describe how awesome my daughter is. Every. Single. Day. I am amazed by something she does. (and almost always in a good way! ha.) I love the way she moves through the world with such awareness at her young age and maintains her optimism. Her ability to look at a problem and immediately set to work on it…determined… sets my mind at ease. I can see how capable she is. I know that she is going to be able to take care of herself out there in the world. She can always find an answer…she’s not afraid to ask for help…and she isn’t afraid of doing anything. She can navigate the public transit between two cities with a bike in tow, alone. Seriously? Most adults I know can’t do that.
She may be in to some totally screamo new metal bands that her brothers totally make fun of her for, but, you know what? She doesn’t give a fuck…and she tells them that, “I don’t give a fuck”. Which leads us to her delightfully expressive language. Yesterday alone I heard her tell her brothers to “eat sh*t”, “shut up, c*nt!” and “f**k off”. It’s like she speaks the language of my heart.
My Isabella has an open heart that leads to an open mind. She has her own style, her own ways of doing things, and her own opinion on how the world should be. I couldn’t be more proud. Having a daughter who can think for herself and not let others get her down when they are being pack-minded, jerk beasts? The perfect gift.
I think it’s obvious (to the rest of us) that all of the stuff I’ve mentioned comes from true intelligence, but I don’t always think she realizes that. If ever there was a person who doesn’t seem to know just how brilliant they are, it’s her. I get a little frustrated when she knocks herself in that area…I’m hopeful that time will lead her to see what everyone else does. She is so smart, so able, so fast! It’s freaking cool.
My beautiful girl has the world in her hands and she knows just what to do with it. I will never be able to express how much I love her in a way she will understand. Sometimes I hate that. I think sometimes she really, really, really needs to know. But. It’s just too much. I love her too much for her to understand.

Quick list of other important Bella characteristics:
-She’s funny. In real life and on twitter
-She has a pretty great Tumblr
-She stands up for herself and others
-She’s not afraid to tell some jerky dude to shove it
-She respects herself
-She is going to be a great snowboarder someday of she can avoid breaking her butt again
-She has more clothes than any one person should ever have
-She bought most of them herself
-She’s responsible enough to babysit an infant and toddler simultaneously and be good at it. Most adults I know can’t be left alone in the same room with an infant without freaking much less the two together.
-She’s so awesome six names weren’t enough and she continues to acquire more.
-She’s the best

Okay. That’s it. I don’t feel like I said everything I needed too. Darnit.
Mommm” – jamey

ravyn ravyn ~

“At first I didn’t know what my insecurity was. Then, when I read other women’s insecurities from the last shoot I realized that it was my skin. My skin drives me crazy. I hate it so much. I have very bad acne, huge pores, and many scars. I’m able to hide most of that behind my bangs. My skin is the reason why when I run I’m constantly resituating my bangs so that my skin doesn’t show, and it’s the reason why I’m nervous about getting side-bangs. It doesn’t help that most girls I know have flawless skin…they make me extremely jealous. My skin is just stupid.”

ravyn’s friends and family:

“1. Her laugh.
2. She has an amazing personality.
3. She’s loving.
4. She is natural at anything she does – be it acting, singing, writing, anything…..she can succeed at it.
5. I am proud to have her as a best friend.
6. She is trustworthy.
7. She is pure at heart.
Thanks for letting me do this for Ravyn! I love her so much.” – jessica

“-Her laugh -Her smile -Her personality -Good sense of humor -Isn’t afraid to be herself in front of people she doesn’t know -She is considerate -She is polite -She is kind and caring -She can make any situation a funny one -I can joke around with her and she won’t take it the wrong way -Very generous -Very smart (helps me when I need it) -Good sport” – isabelle

“I’m honored to be of the select few that Ravyn asked to do this. She’s probably hoping that I’m not going to be embarrassing. I make no promises.
I believe Ravyn is a little like me, unsure exactly how to navigate this weird kind of a stepdad/not-quite-dad territory. We each know how we feel but aren’t sure how to express it – we get it wrong occasionally, sometimes we get it right.
Ravyn is hilarious. Dinner is often the highlight of my day. We sit around at the table, talk, make jokes, annoy each other, throw wet paper towels, bug mom… Oh right, and eat.
Ravyn is also extraordinarily talented. Anything I’ve seen her choose to do, she does well. School, theater, piano, MATH… there are no limits. When she puts her mind to it, she does it, and does it well.
It doesn’t stop at talent. Even being a sister, she’s fun, caring…you name it. Grey will realize this more and more as he gets older – he has an awesome sister. Her mom has a great daughter – Alana’s always talking about how impressed she is with Ravyn and how proud she is. I do the same, I couldn’t ask for a better [step?] daughter.
It’s been a crazy few years but if I could go back in time (haha Dr. Who) and change anything… I wouldn’t.
To Ravyn: Always do what you think is right, no matter what others say. Never let anyone tell you what you are capable of doing. Never be afraid to pursue what you’re interested in.” – dylan

“Why did I start this project? Why didn’t I realize that I would soon want to do a teen group, that I would be including Ravyn in it, and that it would be so extremely difficult to have to neatly package my feelings about my RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME daughter?? This was a dumb idea. This is hard. *breathe*
Where to begin?
Maybe I should begin with the obvious…anyone who has had the privilege of hearing her play piano, sing, or perform in a play knows that she is incredibly talented. She makes all of these things look effortless. She is a natural when it comes to artistic pursuits. I love watching her excel at these things…I love while doing menial things around the house, hearing a song start up, thinking she is playing something on the stereo, and then realizing that, no, that’s just my daughter being awesome on the piano AGAIN…playing and singing that song she taught herself.
Ravyn is super intelligent – she’s got ‘brains in her head and feet in her shoes!’ ☺ She excels in school even at things that she THINKS she is doing badly at. It’s as if she doesn’t even need to try, but she then tries even harder. She’s not afraid to ask questions. She also has a deep love of reading, which I’m super stoked about…I love to watch the world open up to her through books. She always longs for more and could spend hours and hours in a bookstore.
Anyone who has met her also knows that she is HILARIOUS. She has grown into this super rad, ridiculously funny sense of humor that is spot-on, and always timed perfectly. We have many a night around the dinner table that is filled with us in tears over something she has said…or done…and, yeah, sometimes we (herself included) are laughing AT her, because she also is a big ol’ dork and does super dumb things, too. But that is also the beautiful thing about her…she’s unafraid of saying and doing silly things. It’s pretty awesome.
Ravyn is gorgeous. Inside and out. Sparkling eyes, big encapsulating smile that makes you smile with her, and long, strong legs that can kick my ass in tennis.
She is super compassionate, accepting, empathetic, and generous. She truly feels for other people and would give anything she can to help someone who needs it.
She is unashamed and unapologetic about her morals. She has very high standards and is not ashamed about sticking to those standards, even when it may not be the norm around her. She gains my respect in this all the time.
She is the BEST big sister. She’s Grey’s biggest fan, and he is hers, as well. Nothing makes me happier than watching them together. There really are no words…
Ravyn is pure, understanding, loving, and affectionate. Affectionate with her ridiculous mom, who she knows has an innate difficulty with affection, but she still never gives up on me. She still sees through my struggles and hugs me anyway…she seems to know that even when I need my “space”, I also need her to ignore when I say that. ☺ She loves me and loves ON me despite me being a weirdo. And I love her even more for it.
Ravyn is the coolest, most conscientious girl I’ve ever known. It’s been astounding to watch her grow up so much in these last few years. My heart hurts a little every time I think about the fact that she will surely not be around as much in the years to come…it seems that she suddenly went from needing and wanting her mom’s company all the time, to suddenly becoming a beautiful, smart, hilarious, talented, creative, and independent young woman who has dreams and plans…and will surely fulfill all of them. Because she’s like that – determined. And because her stepdad and I will always, ALWAYS have her back and support her in fulfilling those dreams. She should know always that she is loved. So very loved.” – alana (aka, mom)

sophie sophie ~

“If I can’t understand something in school immediately I feel stupid (especially Math!). It makes me feel like I shouldn’t be in Algebra. If I don’t get it I feel like maybe I won’t get into a good college and I won’t be successful.”

sophie’s friends and family:

“Sweet, Charming, Sociable, Generous, Smart, Pretty hair, Beautiful eyes, Athletic, Good role model to Aiden (my son), Entertaining, Great imagination, Can talk to anyone, Adventurous, Loving.” – jessica

“Vibrant, So friendly, Makes people feel their best, Very helpful, Extremely athletic, Beautiful Smile, Energetic, Fun to be around, Fantastic long legs, So silly in such a fun way.” – sadie

“My most vivid memories of Sophie are, quite simply, of laughter.
Ever since she has been small she has seemed to be the center of happy and exuberant moments. Her warmth is an integral part of everything she does; a natural extension of her obvious love of life. She runs quickly and with abandon, hugs like she means it, and has learned early the joys of human folly. She is bright, loving and kind.
Sophie: Uninhibited, warm, joyful, happy, exuberant, affectionate, bright, artistic, funny, approachable, kind.” – megan

“Kind, Caring, Funny, Smart, Curious, Clever, True-blue friend, Gorgeous, Generous, Organized, Fantastic Dancer, The world’s greatest nickname-creator ever!” – natalie

“Effusive, Hilarious, Curious, Outgoing, Energetic, Powerful, Compassionate, Empathetic, Philosophical, Truly Gorgeous, Brilliant, Independent.
Sophie gives the world energy. We might not know it, but I think we’d all feel an absence if she were to stop contributing to the “buzz” of the earth. I love that she is fun-loving, goofy, and unafraid of taking risks. Nothing stops Sophie… And yet… her wildness is balanced by what is probably the kindest, most compassionate heart ever. Most adults lack the empathetic development that Sophie has had since she was just a wee kid.” – shannon

“Sophie lights up a room. She has an effervescent joy that she just can’t help but exude. Dancing, singing, cartwheeling across the lawn, laughing ALL the time, she is an energetic force that cannot be stopped. She wears her huge compassionate heart on her sleeve. Anyone who hurts in her immediate area has their hurt felt deeply by her. She is huggable as the day is long. She can paint some amazing finger and toe nails. She is neat and organized in everything she does. She gets up and immediately makes her bed, she sweeps the dog hair from our floors daily without being asked, keeps up the family fridge calendar (color coded by person and activity), and her schoolwork is always done on time- pristine, neat and perfect. She is smarter than she can even imagine. I love that girl with every fiber of my being.” – shari


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 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/
Group 5: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/group-5-women-raw-honest-loved/
G
roup 6: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/group-6-women-raw-honest-loved/
G
roup 7, MEN!: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/group-7-men-nope-not-women-men-raw-honest-loved/
G
roup 8: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/group-8-women-raw-honest-loved/
G
roup 9, Moms & Daughters: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/moms-daughters-group-9-featuring-melissa-lily/
https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/group-9-moms-daughters-featuring-liz-caitie/

katie.

This is the countdown of the last of the women’s individual posts until the blog all about our night doing this project with some outstanding teen girls will be released. Only three two ONE more women to go THIS IS THE LAST of these awesome women from the initial project!!!…thank you for taking the time to read their individual stories that they so honestly and openly shared with you. It makes this all worth it.
LOOK FOR THE TEEN PROJECT BLOG EITHER TONIGHT OR TOMORROW!!!

The blogs about women were long. Real long.

For the sake of none of these women’s honest, heartfelt words and loving messages from their friends and family going unseen, I’m going to be posting each in a single blog every couple of days or so until I am able to finally get the teen session executed and up to share. So that you can take just five minutes and read one woman’s “story” and maybe find comfort in the way you can relate/understand/empathize/etc.

They will be in no particular order…drawing numbers 1-18.
Today’s number: #10.

I give you katie.
(katie’s post can also be found in Part 2 of the women’s project blogs: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/women-raw-honest-loved-part-2/)

katieblog

katie’s words ~

“Ok so my insecurity is my stomach/midriff/muffin top. I just wish it was flatter and didn’t hang over my jeans. And less stretchmarks would be nice. I don’t regret how I got them though.”

katie’s friends and family:

“She is wonderful with kids. All kids like Katie…she has a kind heart, smart, hard worker, always shows compassion. I think something that I admire the most about Katie is her calmness – I never see her lose her temper or show stress, unlike a lot of people. She handles situations and people really well. Awesome Mom, and my best friend.” – carolyn

“Here are just a few things about Katie that I love: She is loving. 
She is accepting. 
She is open. 
She is self-sufficient. 
She is very creatively-minded. 
She doesn’t pretend . . . you know when she’s happy, sad, or mad, or if she thinks your BF is a DB and you can do better (btw- we broke up, and I did do better).
 Her skin glows like no other and
her eyes sparkle, (and I think the shine for both comes from her heart.)
 She has a great set of ta-ta’s. 
She makes the best salt scrub ever.” – tammy

“She is really fun and adventurous. Very youthful looking and beautiful. Extremely hardworking and motivated. She’s a good listener. Always making friends. Takes amazing photos. Family is important to her. She is loved by many!!!” – jessica

“Katherine is a loving, loyal person. She will do anything she can for a friend. She is a wonderful, kind mother, and I couldn’t ask for a sweeter or kinder, loyal daughter.” – lora

“Katie is one of the most kind and genuine people I have ever met. She is thoughtful and considerate. She’s always offering to help me out, whenever or wherever she can. She is a sweet person and amicable. She is easy to carry a conversation with, and seems to get along with everyone she encounters. She is also a nurturing mother and friend, and has compassion for children of all ages.
Katie is talented with photography. She is also a hard worker. She is someone that I think of fondly, and I consider her a true friend.” – carrie

“Nice, smart, funny, brave, outgoing, friendly, pleasant, beautiful, intelligent, gracious, kind, honest, trustworthy, helpful, creative, generous, grateful, entertaining.” – owen

the original blogs (with backstory) can be found here:

https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/women-raw-honest-loved-part-1-2/

https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/women-raw-honest-loved-part-2/