(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/

kerri.

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 of these awesome women to go after this…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.

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 kerri.
(kerri’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/)

kerriblog

kerri’s words ~

“Coming to the end-the end of life, a job, a relationship -be it friendly or romantic- and leaving no impact. The world was not different, not better for me being in it. My friends and family weren’t uplifted and made stronger, didn’t feel both affirmed and challenged, loved and safe by knowing me. I get scared that nothing is different in the world, my city, my community, my family’s and friends’ lives for knowing me. I fear being inconsequential.”

kerri’s friends and family:

“KERRI…
is strong; 
is charismatic; 
inspires joy in everyone she meets;
 is intelligent; 
is beautiful; 
has infectious enthusiasm; 
is independent;
 is family to her friends; 
is sharply witty, and silly as all get out;
 is a true confidant.” – alayna

“I could go on for DAYS about ALL the wonderful things about Kerri. She is one of my closest friends at this point and time, and I can’t currently imagine life without her. 
She is: Dedicated. Passionate. She can WOW a crowd and Captivate an audience like no one I have ever met. Natural Leader. Smart as all get out. A Great Listener. She relates well. Dependable. A phenomenal dancer – she can work those hips. She tells it like it is.” – heidi

“Ker Fer is….Thoughtful, creative and tenacious. She is selfless at her job, and often sacrifices her health and sanity for the non-profit she works for. She is charismatic, clever and charming.” – eden

“Kerri is a wizard. 
Kerri is a straight shooter who really sticks to her guns.
Seriously though, I don’t even know where to begin. There are so many things I love and admire about this stunning woman. 
She is incredibly perceptive and possesses striking intelligence. She can make me laugh like no one else on earth. She is effortlessly gorgeous. She is passionate about social justice and has a uniquely strong ability to empathize with people from very different walks of life. She is curious about the world and wants to keep learning and growing. She is a powerful force for good in this world.
Kerri is unapologetically herself. What could possibly be more beautiful than that?
Hope this is what you were looking for! 
~Molly
PS – Although ridiculous, I do believe the first two are true, and they might make her laugh.” – molly

“Cherished; 
integrious; 
honest;
 beautiful;
 genuine; 
tender;
 conscientious;
 life-giving; 
compassionate;
 honoring;
 driven.” – skylar

“Kerri is truly one of the best friends I will ever have. She inspires me to be better. When I’m around her I push myself to become smarter, happier, healthier. Kerri is one of the greatest people I have ever met in my entire life. Not kidding!
Kerri is ridiculously smart – book and street. But moreso street…because she’s a gangster.
Kerri has her shit together. Bam!
Kerri is super down to earth. I don’t know many people more genuine. Bam!
Kerri has one of the most beautiful and contagious laughs of anyone I know. Boom!
Talking to Kerri is so EASY. She listens!
Listening to Kerri is so easy. She’s relevant! She doesn’t ramble on and on like me.
My relationship with Kerri is one I treasure like she is my own family. I would do anything for her. I love Kerri!” – myra

“Kerri, You are an amazing woman. You are strong. You are FUNNY. You are sweet and dependable.
Your creativity and soul are outstanding. Your friendship is cherished and your personality fills a room with joy.
You make a party come to life and a song worth dancing to.
You support your friends and family to the fullest, and we hope to always do the same for you.
You are loved. You are beautiful. You are the KanJam Queen. You mean the world to me.
Thank you for being our incredible Kerri.
I love you! I miss you!” – carly

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/

peni.

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 more of these awesome women to go after this…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.

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: #18.

I give you peni.
peni wasn’t able to actually join us the night of the shoot, but she was a part of the project, nonetheless. So, here she is being the most beautiful pregnant lady. 🙂
(peni’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/)

babypants18

peni’s words ~

“I’ve had a hard time nailing down an insecurity because I have so many. I really started paying attention to that nasty voice in my head to see what she was talking about to get an idea of what my biggest one might be. I talk to myself worse than I would ever talk to my worst enemy let alone someone I loved or liked even a little. Whether it’s telling myself how hideous I am when I look in the mirror or telling myself that I’m not pretty enough for my fiancé and that he should be with someone else or that I’m stupid or clumsy or lazy, or, or. What really made me hone in on the underlying problem though was the recent birth of my son. It was a relatively easy and quick labor and delivery. Only 14 minutes of pushing and 4 pushes to get out a 8 lb. 2 oz. little guy who had one arm up by his face. The midwives even thanked me for a beautiful experience and for reminding them of why they do what they do. I couldn’t accept any of the praise though, all I could think was “but I tore and needed stitches…it wasn’t PERFECT…I wasn’t PERFECT.” I was really angry with myself and kept thinking about what I could and should have done differently to prepare in the months before and/or while in labor.

I realized that this is my insecurity…not being perfect. I’m not the most beautiful person I know so therefore I’m hideous and not deserving of my fiancé’s adoration. I can’t be proud of my natural home delivery of my perfect son because I screwed up somehow and was injured. I know how stupid this sounds but there it is.”

peni’s friends and family:

“For Peni…
She is an unwavering truth seeker…
Generous with her laughter…
A Happiness warrior!” – alison

“Peni sparkles. Her eyes smile and laugh right above her strong and gentle cheekbones. Even her thick and shiny hair has kind of a happy bounce to it. I love her laugh and even though it’s been years since I’ve seen her, I can hear her laugh. I don’t think the girl works out much (unless something has changed), yet she has a great figure and really good arms. If I ever needed to find humor or a positive slant to something not so fun in my life, I would go to Peni. Her ability to flip to the positive is instantaneous. I don’t think she even really has to think about it. Peni is supportive and loving to her friends, boosting them any way she can to succeed.
I’m so excited that Peni is a mom now, as I’ve always believe she’s a kindred spirit with the little ones, having so much patience, and is just damn fun for a kid. Milo is one lucky dude…as is Danny. My husband used to joke with Danny “She’s out of your league.” I admire this woman and am grateful she is here as the planet needs her!” – dana

“Where to start? After gorgeous, the next thing that pops in my head is so, so witty! Intelligent, funny, loyal, fearless, and just plain amazing! Easiest assignment ever! Lol” – whitney

“Hi Alana,
There are so many wonderful words that come to mind when I think of Peni, 
here are a few: Organized, Healthy, Fun, and Extremely likeable!” – ruth

“Ms. Peni Rae: 
1. Compassionate. She is the most compassionate person I’ve ever met. She knows how to put herself in others’ shoes and be incredibly understanding. 
2. Funny! Peni has the wittiest sense of humor and uses it well. 
3. Gorgeous! I never saw such beautiful skin and shining eyes as with Peni. 
4. Great listener. Peni knows how to listen when a friend needs an ear. She gives great advice but also knows when it’s just about listening. 
5. Passionate. Peni is very passionate about so many things. The health and well being of everyone, for one, but also now motherhood. 
6. Caring. Peni cares not only about the people she loves in her life but also about strangers on the street and about the earth and the environment and its future. 
7. Supportive. Peni goes above and beyond to support those she loves in whatever crazy dreams they might have. She believes that anything is possible for anyone. 
8. Positive. Peni is the most positive person I’ve met since being on the West Coast. She always has a way of knowing and practicing that when times are tough, there is a reason for it and that she wants to get the most out of any situation and encourages those around her to do the same. 
9. Diplomatic. Peni has a peace about her and knows how to handle people and sometimes their negativity in a peaceful, fair, and non dramatic way. 
10. ☺ And ❤ ❤ ❤ " – stacie

“Beautiful,
Thoughtful, Loving,
Brave,
Sweet,
Intelligent, Creative,
Wonderful, Loyal, Nurturing, Outgoing. I knew that I was blessed when Peni came in to my life. She is such an incredible woman and friend. Her loyal and devoted friendship is rare. Her unconditional love for her friends that have become her family is admirable. She is a person with wonderful insight on life because she is a person who thinks things through. I am blessed to have her in my life and anyone else who has come to know her truly knows they have met an angel here on earth.” – bianca

“I have a sister. I didn’t even know she existed until about 7ish years ago. Nope, she doesn’t share the same DNA as me…but, man oh man, do we share the same blood. She is my confidant, my rock, my teacher, my therapist, my dork, my best, best, bestest friend in the universe.
When I first met Peni, it was at work – we were told that this AMAZING chick had just moved from California to Washington and was going to join our freelance team…our trainer went on and on about how awesome Peni was, so, immediately, because we were a bunch of insecure women, we knew we were going to hate her.
Well, damn him if he wasn’t totally right. You couldn’t hate Peni…not even if she really was better than us (she was). Peni is freakin lovable. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone who doesn’t love her. She is smarter than all of us, but she keeps her opinion and knowledge to herself unless you ask for it. She is humble as all get out.
People who don’t know her very well would think that she’s just a cute, quiet little thing…but, Peni is HILARIOUS, and talkative, and full of quips that could just shut you down if she wanted to. She is so damn witty. I don’t know if anyone in my life has ever made me laugh as hard as she has. And, I dunno if you know me, but I laugh A LOT. And at a lot of dumb shit. But this girl is the funniest.
Peni is my go-to for advice. She’ll tell it to me straight. Or she’ll somehow use her jedi mind-tricks and, without hurting my feelings by telling me that whatever I’m thinking is a REAL DUMB idea, she’ll cause me to think of something better. I don’t know how she does it, really. I’m constantly blown away.
Peni is STRONG. She can hold herself together in the most trying situations. I can probably count on my hand the number of times I’ve seen her cry, and they’ve been for damn good reasons.
She is PATIENT. Man is she patient. Which is really coming in handy now, because, not only is she the raddest new mom ever, but she’s a super patient rad new mom. What kid doesn’t want that??
Peni deserves every beautiful thing that can ever happen to a person. She makes us better people just by knowing her. The beauty that Peni is shines strong through her fiance’s eyes. You can see who Peni is by how much he adores her. She deserves nothing less than to be adored like that.
Peni is GORGEOUS. She is the queen of nutrition, so, she has the best, strongest, healthiest, cutest little body. She has the most beautiful skin…always glowing. She has the BEST smile and makes you smile with her when you see it.
Peni is no-bullshit. That is something that I have proven most thankful for, as she sets an example in not wasting time on toxic people. She focuses on the positive. She has no need for negative. And she exudes the positive for all of us. Remember, we’re better people because of her…
Peni is also the most trustworthy, nonjudgmental person I have ever known.
I would do anything for Peni. ANY. THING. She is the pants to my boots. I love her so much.” – alana

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/

mara.

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 more of these awesome women to go after this…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.

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: #12.

I give you mara.
(mara’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/)

marablog

mara’s words ~

“A Very Hairy Nightmare –
I never realized I was a chubby girl until a boy in second grade screamed, “Watch out for thunder thighs!” across the playground at me during a game of tag. I became even more aware of my size and stature when my mom called me a fat ass and put me on a serious diet at age eight. I was stuck with braces, and later neck gear, for the better part of my awkward tween years. Just my luck, I also had terrible vision and had to wear lenses as thick as bottle caps. As the years have passed, I learned to get contact lenses, use an invisible retainer, embrace my curves, and, when I can’t, just wear clothes that flatter my shape. Now, after recently having a baby, I am trying to learn to love my body all over again.
Then there is the hair. Ugh – the hair. Women were always commenting on my thick, dark, wavy hair when I was a kid. Unfortunately that hair stuck to my body in more places than the top of my head. I had the bushiest, thickest uni-brow as well as hair on my arms and legs that made me feel like Sasquatch. I remember begging my mom for a razor as a 13th birthday present. She finally acquiesced after catching me cut worse than an incident with Edward ScissorHands on the bathroom floor, her adult razor in my hot little hands. To this day, I still shave my forearms. Additionally, I have been plucking every stray hair from my face since fifth grade. Have you ever looked at your face under high magnification? It seriously changed all my grooming habits. I can’t leave the house without giving my entire face a once over with tweezers. The facial hair plucking is now an obsession. All I can see when I look in the mirror is a bearded lady. I can’t even go camping without a hand mirror and travel tweezers. I wish I could get over it and just get waxed or laser hair removal or something but, honestly, I have been too embarrassed to grow my hair long enough for an esthetician to see and remove it! I wish I had been born hairless.“

mara’s friends and family:

“It’s hard to put into words everything that Mara is. She is spicy, passionate, flirtatious, and a tease. She’s a blast to have fun with. She is very protective over the ones she cares for. Motherly and nurturing…sometimes even when you don’t want it. Stubborn as hell, and depends on if she will let up on her stubbornness in a situation. She gets matter-of-fact on ya when she wants you to do something. Great friend.” – jen

“Although I’ve only had the pleasure of Mara’s company a handful of times, I cannot help but feel impressed by her wonderful, positive personality and stunning face. In my experience with her, I’ve witnessed a gracious hostess, an engaging charmer of children, and a very talented artist. I was really amazed by her artwork and her ability to decorate. She is very talented and I hope she continues to develop these talents and share them with the world.” – andrea

“I knew Mara and I would be fast friends the moment I met her and heard that sarcastic tone in her voice. She is hilarious and has the best laugh – makes you want to laugh with her all night – so, we do. ☺
Mara is fearless. She is bold. She is dynamic. She walks into a room and demands attention just because she radiates fun.
She is BEAUTIFUL. Mara has the most beautiful smile and most captivating expressions. And THOSE EYES. She is my dream to photograph, as she is full of life and not afraid to show it. She is dramatic and captivating and lovable.
She is incredibly patient. I am blown away that she is not in pieces after the troubles she’s had with little Balen. ☹ I feel like I would be a constant sobbing mess, but that woman is an enduring powerhouse – a sacrificial, patient, and loving mama.
She is a STRONG woman – she stands up for what she believes in and is protective of those she loves.
Mara is one of those friends that I am always able to just pick up in our friendship from wherever we left off, (if we don’t see each other for a bit, as life has become busy for us both, now that we’re not just gallivanting single ladies) ☺ which is incredibly comforting. I appreciate this woman wholeheartedly. I only wish we lived closer to each other.” – alana

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/

jennie.

I’m sorry there has been such a pause in getting these individual posts out! Been busybusybusy lately, because the teen version of this shoot is set to happen TOMORROW NIGHT! Been rounding up information for it and working out the flow of the evening. Cannot wait for this one. So, look for it! Coming soon.

Anyway…back to these lovely women…

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.
Tonight’s number: #7.

I give you jennie.
(jennie’s story can also be found in Part 1 of the women’s blog posts: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/women-raw-honest-loved-part-1-2/)
jennieblog
jennie’s words ~
“I would have to say that the insecurity that plagues me the most is my skin. For such a long time I have been battling acne scars, eczema, and very irritable skin. As I have grown older things have gotten better, but I still feel the need to hide in my clam shell whenever my skin breaks out.”

jennie’s friends and family:

“Alright, so she and I have been friends since the last day of high school. We met through a mutual friend and both decided she was crazy and we needed to be friends. She’s my hetero life mate. She’s always been so real with me. Even though it pisses me off sometimes, she always gives the best advice. After talking to her, I always feel like I have a way better grip on reality and what to do in any situation I’m in. She has the best family ever, and if you know her and her parents, you realize why she is the way she is. She cares way too much for others… sometimes to the point where it becomes a problem because she’s trying make everyone happy when everyone’s already happy. But she only means well. She’s so personable and can talk to anyone. She’s one of those people that becomes friends with my boyfriends and if I have to leave to go to work or something, she will stay and chill. She’s always been there for me through thick and thin, and in ways that other people could never think of being. I found out that my 5 year old cousin was killed when I was with her and a boyfriend of mine. I left to go on a drive for a while and then go see my mom. When I got back they had made me the most delicious cake that was totally me. It was black and white stripey Oreo Pie cake with a quote I used to say all the time: “Look at me go.” They fucked it up, even, but it was better than it should have been. It was the perfect idea to help me feel a little better, and to remember to laugh and be positive in a time where you can’t even think about it. She the man!” – kt

“What can I say, Jen is my soulmate of best friends and a hero to me. She probably doesn’t know, or realize it, but she’s saved my life a time or two. From the very beginning, at a time my life had so much darkness, she shined a light right through it, the day we became bf’s. It’s been nearly 14 years (I think) since that day and I thank God for every moment and memory I have with her.
I don’t know if anyone else (other than Jim- cause he just knows everything) knows the triumphs Jennie has had over her insecurities like I do, to be honest. I think when Jen and I became friends, she was probably her most insecure self. And although Jen is the same beautiful, kind, and funny girl that she was 14 years ago, she’s not the same girl I met – she’s so much more than that girl. She’s so full of life, when she laughs…I mean really laughs… you can see, hear, and feel how the world values someone like her.
The honesty Jennie has towards herself as to who she is as a person portrays so much about how she treats others and who she allows to have in her life. Her morals, dignity, compassion, and unconditional love are qualities most people strive to have. As an example, watching Jennie grow as a woman – all that she has accomplished and overcome in such a spiritual way, how she applies and lives out all that she has learned and still learning till this day – allows me to put her so high up on a pedestal in my life…that when I look into my daughter’s eyes, and think about all that I wish for her life and for her to be, not only do I think of her father and I… but I think of Jennie and who she is, and hope that my daughter will live and love in the aspiring way that Jennie has.
I have so much more I could say about her, but knowing my Jennie, she already knows how much I love her and all the things I love about her. And she’s not a person who doesn’t love herself or lets insecurities get in the way of that… My Jen has confidence, and those that don’t have confidence in her or think she has too much confidence generally get a real sophisticated fuck you… so I will end with this comment…
I think the only down fall Jennie has is that she doesn’t realize how truly special she is to people and how much she makes a difference in their lives. And now I will address Jen- “Jen, you’re not just another person in this world, you’re an inspiration- a movement-a statement to this world, and we desperately need more people like you… so with that said, my love, don’t stop with just inspiring me – get out there and inspire others.
Love always,
Sami aka “Yoshi”” – samantha

“My sister Jennie is a lot of amazing things…She is the Best friend that a person could ask for. She is caring and kind and always there when you need her. One of the things I love about her is her views on life…She is very realistic about things, and very honest about what she feels, and I love that! She is a very positive & real person!” – shellie

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/

jen.

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.
Tonight’s number: #17.

I give you jen.
jen wasn’t able to actually join us the night of the shoot, but she was a part of the project, nonetheless. So, here she is being rad with her kids. 🙂
(jen’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/)

bayrykwatermarked2

jen’s words ~

“Although I’ll be joining you ladies in spirit, my insecurity is: always feeling like I’m failing as a parent, and not getting over bad decisions I’ve made as a parent.”

jen’s friends and family:

“Jen was actually one of my very first friends when I moved to Oregon! She is such an accepting person and would do absolutely anything for her friends! She’s a very dedicated and loving mother – she loves unconditionally! You can also tell her that I think she’s absolutely gorgeous!! She’s willing to go the extra mile for her friendship and give it all she has. She’s a free spirit and strong-willed! She’s also a great cook!! I’m sure I can go on and on about her forever but she should know she is truly cherished as a friend. And you can tell her she’s the L to my C… she will get it, hahaha!!” – maggie

“1) She’s an amazing mother. She has such patience. So much so that she has no idea how patient she is. She has a calming tolerance for dealing with her children even when they are driving her nuts. Her patience is something to be commended…especially since I have a toddler the same age as her, and I wish I had her patience. 
2) She has a beauty about her that is just natural. She doesn’t believe that it is there and almost seems shocked when someone compliments her on her appearance. She has an effortless beauty that shines even when she hasn’t done anything. She can throw her hair up in a clip…claim it’s a rats’ nest, yet she carries herself and appears as though she spent an hour forming it in that particular “up-do”. 
3) She has a childlike, playful side. She laughs and finds humor in silly things. An innocence that shows her youth when she giggles, yet, being a mother of two and an amazing homemaker girlfriend/wife to Justin makes her appear so much older than she is. She has wisdom well beyond her years, and I believe that is from taking such good care of herself and her family starting at such a young age. 
4) She is beautiful. She tends to think she needs to exercise, or diet or lose weight…. but she is absolutely beautiful. I think her insides exude just as much beauty as her outside does.
When I first met her, we clicked so fast. She said I looked like her family member or something. We decided that we were Italian sisters from another life, lol, our mutual love of the movie Goodfellas was a kismet thing for us and we understood each other instantly. Like we were always on the same wavelength. Our boys were born two days apart in the same hospital. She came into my hospital room while in labor just waiting out her contractions while I sat there …she was so strong and tough…she carried on a conversation with me during contractions. It amazed me – her strength – in so many ways.” – stephanie

“Jen is one of the strongest women I know. She has been through so much in her 25 years. She is one of the best moms I know, too. I look up to her, straight up. She is such a positive influence on me. It’s friends like Jen that make me grateful for social networking, not only because I would never have reconnected with her if it weren’t for Facebook, but also because she’s moving away from me again soon and I’m sure that ’cause of Facebook and such, we will keep in contact forever, and I will be able to ask for her advice anytime. Jen also has a good sense of style. And is never afraid to try new things. I admire that. So many people out there fear change. Jen welcomes change.” – mallery

“Even though I’ve only known Jen for less than a year, she has become one of my favorite people for many reasons. The more obvious reasons: she’s hilarious, a fantastic mother, and she makes awesome food. But anyone could see these things in a first meeting. When you get to know you her, you come to learn how thoughtful and caring she is. Jen is just a super genuine person and, I’ve already said it once, but, she’s one of the funniest people I know.” – alicia

“She is a woman I highly admire. She is beautiful, both inside and out. She is an amazing mommy first and foremost. I love to watch her interact with Bay and Ryker. She is playful, loving, and understanding, yet they know she means business. She has a way of teaching independence and responsibility to her children that I find amazing. She takes great care of my cousin Justin and their home. She’s an awesome cook and so crafty. She’s a great listener and easy to talk to. She’s funny. She is an amazing woman!” – mandy

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/