A Caring Kind of Beauty
It's been a minute... And by a minute I mean like 10 months... but who's counting?! Back to blogging! I have some important women to talk about and to thank.
So, for the past three and a half years Isabella has attended an aftercare program (through the YMCA) at her school. It's hard to put into words just how amazing her aftercare teachers have been. Ms. Kathy & Ms. Trish have been there since the very beginning, and Ms. Nici has been there since the beginning of this school year.
Ms. Kathy has a true heart of gold. She is such a caring and sweet person. I've gotten to know her well and she really is a great woman. Kathy has been through more than I could imagine in life. Through it all, she has remained compassionate and loving. One special thing about Kathy that has linked us is that she adopted one of our foster dogs, Caroline. They were a perfect match and, as a foster, I couldn't have asked for a better adopter for that sweet dog!
Ms. Trish is such a kind woman. She is very passionate and caring. In the years that I have been able to know her I can tell that she has a free spirit. She has been a great help with Isabella and all of the other aftercare kids.
I've known Ms. Nici for the shortest amount of time, but I still can tell that she is a great person. She has a beautiful smile that I saw her share very often. When I explained this project to her she seemed to completely understand what it was about and why it was important.
Because of a scheduling change, Isabella will no longer be attending aftercare. Today was her last day. A child changes a lot from ages 5 to 8. They grow and learn so quickly. I cannot thank these women enough for being a part of that. They truly have changed my life. We have laughed and cried together through many moments. We've gotten to know each other and understand one another. They have watched Isabella grow, and inspired her to be a better person. They are amazing women who I cannot thank enough for the help they have provided me in taking care of my baby girl. We aren't saying goodbye, because we will still see each other here and there. But, I wanted to write this to say how much I truly am grateful for them! They are beautiful women who everyday make this world better. That is definitely something to be thankful for!
Message of the day: Keep being beautiful, and don't forget to share the love and tell someone you know that they are beautiful too!
Bella's Birthday Beauty
My daughter, Isabella, turns 8 in a week. Did I really just type that sentence?!?!
Every year we do something special for her birthday. Isabella has been blessed with a very large and generous family. So, every year we try to focus on giving instead of receiving. Her birthday is a great time of year to do this. For the past few years, we've picked a special organization and, instead of birthday gifts, we've asked family and friends for donations. Twice she has chosen to donate toys and craft supplies to kids at Cincinnati Children's Hospital and last year we collected supplies for the Stray Animal Adoption Program (SAAP). It's been a fun tradition so far, and Isabella never ceases to amaze me with her giving spirit.
Last year, as her birthday party was coming to an end, I asked her if she had a good time. She said, "Yea. I already know what I want to donate to next year." She said she wanted to help endangered animals. The fact that she thought of this all on her own, and that she has since not forgotten, is so wonderful to me.
We are an animal-loving family. Isabella has already grown up with a strong understanding of how important wildlife is to our environment. She has learned a lot just from her inquisitive nature, but also from places like the Cincinnati Zoo. We LOVE the zoo! Not only is the zoo a fun atmosphere and great form of exercise (that hill by the bears always gets me), but it's also filled with knowledge!
After doing a little research, I found that the Cincinnati Zoo has a program called Project Saving Species. They are working on many field projects as well as raising money for programs around the world in an effort to help save the lives of endangered animals. From all the way in Kenya saving lions to right here in Cincinnati saving honeybees, they do amazing work!
So, I write this message in honor of my sweet and thoughtful Isabella. She is asking for 2 things:
1. If you have a cell phone lying around that you no longer use or need, we are going to collect them to help save gorillas. Click here for more info!
2. She is also asking for donations to help Sumatran rhinos. I created a gofundme page here! (More info on the zoo's program for Sumatran Rhinos is linked on the gofundme page.)
I've literally never posted anything on social media trying to raise money for something, but I would absolutely love to surprise Isabella and raise more than she expects!
If you can donate a phone or money, we would greatly appreciate your generosity. We started these types of birthday celebrations to show Isabella the importance of giving, especially when you already have so much in life. In a world that is very focused on 'things', we want to instill the importance of what really matter, like love and kindness. That's what True Beauty is all about!
PS. Isabella is still a kid and I still enjoy giving her 1 special gift for her birthday every year. It's my way to celebrate her willingness to give and how proud I am of her!
Back to Blogging!
It's been way too long (almost 2 years... WHOA!) since my last blog post and a lot has happened! I got engaged and married to the best guy ever, my daughter has probably grown about a foot, we've continued to foster dogs, we adopted one of those foster dogs, and life has really just continued to be crazy!
I've been thinking a lot lately about this project and how much I want to get back to it, so I started updating my website info and getting the page back to active. After looking back a little ways I realized that I started this project exactly 4 years ago this week!! So, how appropriate, on my True Beauty 4 year anniversary, I start back up with blogging! This project is something that I'm extremely passionate about! I'm really looking forward to meeting and photographing more True Beauties and sharing some of their stories with all of you. I have met some amazing women in the past 2 years that I know I want to photograph, and I know there are a lot of ladies that I've known even longer that I still haven't had the chance to shoot. Now is the time! I'm so ready for this!!!
So, I just wanted to quickly write a little 'hello again' post and update everyone on the new website. It's now .net instead of .com - HUGE change, I know! :)
A big huge shoutout to all of my True Beauties that I've already photographed. I love you all and thank you for being a huge part in this project and my life!!
Your True Beauty Blogger,
PS. If you are new here - feel free to click around and check out some of my older blog posts!
This is Jessie. She is 16 years old and the youngest of 5 sisters. I photographed her and her family in May of 2012 and have since had photo sessions with her sisters. On February 27th Jessie was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Being one of 5 daughters as well, I can only imagine what this type of diagnosis would feel like. Absolutely heartbreaking...
This is a strong girl with a strong support system. I have already seen an amazing outpouring of love on Facebook!
I wanted to share this story so I could help spread the support and get more love, positivity and prayers going Jessie's way! She just started chemo on Monday and I'm sure she would appreciate it!
If you would like to wish Jessie well or send her a nice message, write a status on Facebook and hashtag #jessieSTRONG. Let's show this beauty some love!
Also, if you would like to follow Jessie's progress, go to www.carepages.com and search: Jessie Davin. Find out ways to donate and support Jessie along her journey!
Thanks & Giving
One of my favorite holidays is coming up... Thanksgiving! No, not just because I enjoy eating a ridiculous amount of food. And, no, not just because I want to sit around and watch football all day. Even though those things might be nice, it's more than that.
Thanksgiving is a time for two things. First off, it is a time to be thankful. Although it is easy to forget just how lucky we are for the simplest things in life, November is a great time of year to remind ourselves. It may be as small as being thankful for short lines at the grocery store. Or, maybe it's bigger. Maybe it's being thankful for that split second you hesitated at the stop light that saved your life. There really is SO much to be thankful for every day.
The second thing that Thanksgiving is good for is something that people often forget. It's actually the second half of the word 'Thanksgiving'... Giving. There are so many ways that we can give. Maybe it's giving your seat up to someone with tired legs... Or maybe it's holding a door open for a parent juggling three kids. Maybe you have money or time to donate. Big or small, giving comes in all shapes and sizes.
This life that we have.. It's a beautiful thing. It's full of crazy improbabilities. But, the one thing that this world and this life could always use more of is kindness.
In kindness our beauty shines. We could light the night with it if we really tried. We just have to try. We all have the power to choose kindness. It's in that decision that, I believe, we choose to be truly beautiful.
Here are some True Beauties that I am certainly thankful for...
Baby Eloise... My most recent reminder of how special new life can be. I miss my baby girl being that tiny! Thank you for your beautiful innocence.
Christin... Thank you for choosing me as a photographer for so many special moments in your life! I feel honored to know you and see your family grow!
Caroline... You have inspired me so much with all of your hard work with the Stray Animal Adoption Program (SAAP). Thank you for caring so much and saving so many lives!
Beth... Thank you for your open heart, for sharing laughter, and for adopting one of the sweetest girls ever! Allison is a lucky daughter to have you for a mother!
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving full of laughter, love and true beauty! <3
The power of positivity can be our greatest tool in life. Every morning, when we wake up, we start our day with a choice. We decide to make it a good day or we allow the day to decide our mood. I am, on occasion, definitely guilty of the latter, but I'm working on improving that.
I've been trying to focus on the important things in life... Such as the fact that I woke up in the first place. Sometimes I just think about how lucky I am to have a bed to sleep in and a roof over my head.
My theory is this: By starting your day in a positive and thankful way it will allow your brain to think more positively throughout the day. If not first thing in the morning, just at some point in the day, stop and think of something you are grateful for. No matter how bad things get, there is always something to be grateful for.
The future of your day, along with the rest of your life, relies on your attitude. If you go through life focusing on the negative, your life will, in turn, be negative. If you go through life with a positive outlook, your life will reflect it. Too often in life do we get caught up in petty/foolish moments. Those are the times when we should just hit the pause button, take a step back, and find something to appreciate.
We have this one life and this one chance to make it count. Every second of every day is a new chance to create the happiness we so often seek.
“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Here are some True Beauties that, in the time that I've known them, always seem to have a smile on their face or something positive to say:
(Thank you ladies!!)
Beauty in a Princess
Paige *She is Beautiful!*
A couple months ago I photographed an event at The Little Gym of Mason. It was a birthday party celebrating the life of a little girl named Paige who passed away in 2010, at the age of 6.
Paige had been diagnosed with a spinal cord disorder and was in and out of Children's Hospital from the age of 3. Paige had to endure many therapy sessions. Although she had many physical problems, Paige never seemed to let it effect her mental state. When talking to Heather, Paige's mom, she told me of how brightly her spirit shined. Paige was the type of girl that had trouble walking, but took dance class for 3 years. In every single picture I have seen of her, she's had a big beautiful smile on her face!
In May of 2010, Paige started getting sick. Heather figured out pretty quickly that this was not just a regular sickness, but something more serious. She took Paige to the hospital where, shortly after, she passed away. The doctors later figured out that her liver had failed.
Although Paige had been through a lot, her death came very suddenly. After hearing her story, I knew that Paige was a True Beauty taken from this world way too early. I felt so fortunate to meet Heather, along with her 2 other daughters (Paige's big sisters), Grace & Haley. I could tell by the way they all spoke of her that she was a very special girl.
Heather has created a non-profit organization called Paige's Princess Foundation that provides grants to children with physical disabilities. They have done amazing things so far and I know this will continue in honor of Paige.
'Like' Paige's Princess Foundation on Facebook to see all of the amazing things they have done and are doing: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Paiges-Princess-Foundation/139761289403824
Isabella *She is Beautiful!*
On April 20th, my little baby girl will be 5 years old. Whoa.
The last 5 years have been a total whirlwind... An emotional roller coaster of love - *sings the Ohio Players 1975 hit song*. When I found out I was pregnant I was in shock. When I felt her kick for the first time I was in awe. When I saw her for the first time I was in love.
Isabella is an amazing girl. She is full of expressive energy that can be seen through every face she makes. I have definitely photographed plenty of them. She has a huge heart that shines so bright with every smile! And I just can't get enough of that giggle!! :)
Never in a million years could I imagine my life any different than the way it turned out. I feel so blessed to have Isabella in my life. She is my constant reminder that every day is a new day, a special one, and that the same goes for the people we meet. She reminds me to slow down, be patient and always stop and smell the roses!
I made this video to celebrate her 5 years of life, and all of the joy she has brought into mine.
Thinking of You
The following was written by Guest Blogger, and True Beauty: Lisa Alfieri
Five years ago, I lost the most important man in my life. Not only was he a friend, a mentor, and a true inspiration, he was my father. Five years seems like such a long time, but its short in comparison to the 19 years I was able to spend with him. Rick Alfieri was one of the most unbelievably caring and humorous men I have ever encountered in my life. He gave his all when it came to his family and made us completely aware that he would always be there, and he still is. I can still hear his contagious laughter and remember his goofy quirks. He was my teammate and my rock, my strength and my role model. Every day I feel his presence in my life, whether it be a song that I needed to hear RIGHT THEN on the radio, or his random cameos in my dreams.
There is a song by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones called "The Impression that I Get," and one line struck me especially after I lost my father unexpectedly on January 4th, 2008. "Have you ever been close to tragedy, or been close to folks who have? Have you ever felt a pain so powerful, so heavy you collapse?" Sadly enough, at the hospital that day, I fell straight to the floor from the sheer shock of losing my father so unexpectedly. But the best part is that I picked myself back up. I went back to school a week after his death and continued on with my life, because as my brave and wonderful mother said when I asked her if I should go back to school: "What would your dad want you to do?"
I grew up with two loving parents, and as much as they loved each other, it doubled in their love for David and I, their children. My mother, in her weakened state, kept looking at my brother and I, gasping through tears "My other half, my other half, what do I do without my other half?" I looked back at her and said "Well at least you still have your quarters!" She laughed. My mother is a beacon of hope and love, and she has now happily moved on with the wonderful Jim. She had way too much love in her heart to not be happy with someone else, and I think if my dad could ever have the pleasure of meeting Jim, he would shake his hand and tell him he appreciates putting that light back into my mother's eye.
I am a different person as a result of my dad's death. When I tell people he died, they say "Oh I'm sorry." Well oddly enough, I'm not. Like I said previously, I learned more from him in 19 years than most children can learn in an entire lifetime from their father, and I am eternally grateful to him for that. I have become a strong, independent woman, and I know he is smiling down on me every day; at my accomplishments, my decisions and my "go get it" attitude. They don't call me Rick Alfieri's daughter for nothin.
So I wanted to end with my favorite quote that my dad wrote to me in a Kairos letter, with his ever-love for music and family: "Keep a song in your heart, a twinkle in your eye, and think about your old man every once in a while." And I do, Dad. I really do.
A Lesson for A Lifetime
Isabella and I have a little ritual. I always say "Guess what?" and Isabella replies, "I love you." Then I say, "Guess what else?" and she says, "You're beautiful.". This conversation happens because I have said the words 'I love you' and 'You're beautiful' to her many times, and she already knows what I'm getting ready to say. I had a conversation with her today... We were talking about beauty and what it means to be beautiful. I asked her what she thought and this is what she said:
"It doesn't matter about what you look like. It's from inside our hearts. That's what matters."
I almost started to cry (as I am doing right now). That lesson is something that I never want her to forget. To be able to hold on to that knowledge as she grows up will be crucial in the person she becomes. I want her to know that every person she sees has a story. They all have a reason for being who they are. Our job is not to judge them on their appearance. We need to look past that and see people for who they really are. Respect and love is what you show, not judgement and prejudice. Our kids need to know that bullying is not ok. So many people have lost the simple value of treating others the way you want to be treated.
It starts with us. We, as adults, need to set the example and show our kids that our looks don't matter, it's who we are that is important. We need to let our kids see that we can see the beauty in others so that they can continue to do the same.
Here are a few little ladies that may be small in size, but definitely not in beauty! :)