Happy New Year to all!! I would like to start this first blog of the New Year with some great news!!
Back in October I photographed a girl named Danielle (See Blog post titled "A Beautiful Fighter"). She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was shaving her hair before chemo to donate it to Locks-of-Love. Well, I am pleased to inform that Danielle is starting off 2013 in remission!!! She is such a rockstar and I couldn't be happier for her! What a great way to begin this New Year!
In the blog post about Danielle I also talked about her sister. There is a lot of love between these two sisters. It reminds me of how lucky I am to have my sisters.
Leslie *She is Beautiful!*
Leslie. My oldest sister. She is an incredibly intelligent, theatrical spirit. I've always looked up to her.
As a kid I can still remember sitting in the basement playing 'school' and Leslie was always the teacher. Her name always was Miss Zeek. She would stand in front of our desks with her pen and paper, writing down our lunch orders to give to the lunch lady/principal (aka our mom).
Through the years, I've had many talks with Leslie that have really meant a lot to me. And, believe me, this girl can talk! :)
To my first school teacher, I love you! You are an amazing person, don't ever forget that!
Diana *She is Beautiful!*
Diana... The little troublemaker! The one who wrote some of the best diary entries as a kid that we get to fully enjoy reading now!
She is one of the reasons I went to art school to pursue Photography! With a creative mind and beautiful outlook on life, she has really found a way to truly be herself. I always love talking to her about my creative ideas and get her feedback. Both of our minds can just dance with ideas!
To my fellow art-schooler, I love you, Sis! Never lose that light that shines so bright in you!
Erica *She is Beautiful!*
Erica. The one that I always had to share a room with. We had plenty of moments of getting on each other's nerves, but also many moments of making each other laugh. Erica has always been a nurturer. She loves kids and has always had a huge heart.
Growing up we were always together. When we finally were at the age of having our own rooms they were right next to each other. Every night I would either hear The Sound of Music or Sister Act playing on her tv. This may have led to a conclusion that she would someday be a nun (although she did not).
To my older, but always shorter sister, I love you! Always smile, because your smile is contagious!
I do have one more sister. I wrote about her in my second ever blog post! She was the first True Beauty picture I took!
To my later-in-life sister, Madison, I love you! You always love to play pretend. Whether you are pretending to be Rose, the big girl dolphin trainer, or Nala, the big girl leopard... To me, you will always be my little bean! :)
The Mother-Daughter Beauty
My Mom :) *She is Beautiful!*
My last blog post was about mother-daughter relationships. This theme has also been present in a couple of the other posts I've written. This is because I cannot stress enough how important it is to have some sort of mother-daughter bond to strengthen us as we get older.
Growing up, I've had a very strong bond with my mom. She is one of the most amazing women I know! Full of strength, full of love, and definitely full of beauty! She has taught me a lot of important life lessons that I still hold true to this day. She is the reason I'm so true to who I am, and the reason I know how to stand my own ground. I'm truly lucky to have an amazing mom that supports and loves me. I hope that one day my daughter will look at me with the same amount of love, respect and graciousness as I do for my mom.
So, I would like to say thank you to my mother. Thank you for being such a huge part of my life and always calling me to tell me you love me and your proud of me. Thank you for always being there to make me smile and to kiss my boo-boos when I'm hurt. Thank you for showing me how to be strong and how to love with my whole heart.
To all the other moms who are showing their daughters that it's ok to be yourself... Thank you.
"Fathers be good to your daughters.
The Power to Be You
*They are Beautiful!*
"How do I look?" - This is a question that we often ask. We are asking others a question we should be answering ourselves. We often seek the approval of those around us in hopes to fit a stereotypical genre of 'beauty' that society is trying to form. What we should be doing is stop focusing on appearances so that we can start focusing on what's important in ourselves, as well as others.
I just recently read a quote from actress and mother, Jada Pinkett Smith. After her daughter, Willow, shaved her head she was asked by a reporter why she let her do it. This was her response:
"The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First, the 'LET' must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls, are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power, or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit, and mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It's also a statement that claims that even little girls should have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother's deepest insecurities, hopes, and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be..."
What an amazingly accurate statement. This is exactly what this True Beauty project is about. I obviously don't personally know Jada Pinkett Smith or her daughter Willow. But, after hearing her words spoken so true, I would love to one day photograph them for my project.
I believe we are all born as a blank canvas. As we grow up and learn from lessons we are molded and shaped into who we will become. The people in our lives have the ability to create art in the form of a human. When we reach a certain age, we are handed the tools and materials we need to continue our own masterpiece. We gain control of the illustration that will be our future. At that moment, we choose what kind of painting we want to be. My family has played an incredibly influential role in my life-canvas. They have been a huge influence in who I am. Let's just say they've dumped a few paint buckets on my life.
There are some people in our lives that are not born into our family, but become a part of our family. (There will be a few more blog posts about these people in my life because there are a few too many for one post.) One family that has became very close with mine is the Wheatley Family. My step-mom babysat all three kids, Samantha (Sammie), Griffin, and Jordan from when they were babies. This family is truly a beautiful one. Kelly and Pat make two incredible parents to their awesome kids. The few things that I love about them is how they let their kids be who they are and fully accept them for it, they always have big smiles on their faces and have plenty of laughs to share. How lucky I feel to know them! <3
A Beautiful Fighter
Tonight I drove to Harrison, Ohio to meet with a girl named Danielle. A friend recommended that I contact her for my True Beauty project, saying that she would be great for it. Danielle was diagnosed with breast cancer in June. Within a few weeks of her diagnosis the progression of cancer had gotten worse. She has been going through treatments, including chemo, which she will be going to tomorrow.
I met Danielle at a hair salon because tonight she shaved her head. As she walked into the salon, and I met her for the first time, she smiled at me. What a beautiful beaming smile she has. Behind her came a flock of support in the form of family and friends. It was amazing to see a room full of people all there for her at such an emotional time. As the hair stylist started speaking with Danielle the tears started to pour. I immediately felt myself well up.
We all walked back to the chair where Danielle sat down and started to cry harder. She told the hair stylist to save as much hair as she could to donate it to Locks-of-Love. Then came the first cut...
As the scissors started to cut, almost everyone in the room began to cry. This was more than hair. After her ponytail was gone the clippers began to buzz. She asked to turn the chair around so she couldn't look in the mirror. After a somber few minutes, her sister made a joke. And then, something beautiful happened. Her smile re-appeared...
I took one True Beauty picture Before her haircut and one After. No matter the length of her hair, her beauty is measured from within. What a beautiful fighter she is!
Almost immediately after standing up from the stylist's chair, her sister sat down...
Danielle then watched as her sister, Tiffany, shaved her head in support. The emotions began to flood the room again. Both of these woman were amazingly beautiful and strong. Danielle has already shown great strength in her fight against breast cancer and will continue to do so with the support of her family and friends.
Tiffany's hair was also donated. What amazingly beautiful ladies, inside and out! I feel honored to have been able to photograph them. They are Truly Beautiful!
Growing up, I was a pretty emotional child. I had thick skin when it came to facing obstacles, but the feelings I had I needed to release. I found my release by picking up a pencil. Writing, specifically poetry, became an amazing outlet for me. I could take everything that was bouncing around in my crazy head and put it onto a piece of paper. I could explode into a rant about how I was sick of feeling a certain way, or express the gratitude I had for my family and friends. I could do anything! I started pouring my heart and soul into composition books. Page after page of ridiculousness and hilarity, I still love to look back and read some of the things that were so troubling to me in the past. I get a good laugh out of some of it.
Every once in a while I will meet someone who carries a certain poetic potential. It can be in the way they speak or even just in the way they move. I can just tell sometimes. Corinne is one of those people. She continues to amaze me in her writing. Seriously though, what young teen do you know that is writing page upon page of an intense zombie thriller story with descriptions that feel like reality?! She is an amazing girl!
She has written many beautiful poems, one of which talked about True Beauty. So, she has inspired me to write again. This time, I decided to write something for her.. Hopefully I'm not too rusty ;)
Don't listen to what they say, my friend
Their words can be misleading
They'll try and tell you how to look
But their speech will be deceiving
They'll pick and pry
Until you cry
They'll tell you you're not perfect
But, they'll be wrong
About you, hun
Because you're more than worth it
Your beauty is held
Your spirit, your presence, your heart
The strength you show
that continues to grow
Is what sets you apart
Keep your innocence strong
Soon it may be gone
Don't let them try to corrupt you
Your heart is pure
Your mind is sure
Hold on to your Beauty that's True
Always be you
Always be true
Keep shinning your light
on whatever you do
Keep your eyes open
But your heart open wider
You're stronger than strong
Your a beauty survivor.
What comes to your mind when you think of laughter? Maybe you think of a person you know who has a great laugh... Maybe you think of something that has made you laugh today.. Maybe you just think about how simply amazing it feels to laugh. Whether you giggle or snort, laughing is a universal sign of happiness exploding.
In my life, laughter has been a way to cope, a way to celebrate and even a way to fall out of a chair! It's something that I have shared with so many people and all of them have shared with so many others. If ever you want to test how contagious laughing really is then do a youtube search for 'babies laughing' and try not to laugh. I'm positive that it's impossible to keep a straight face.
Along with laughing, sharing laughter is an amazingly beautiful thing. I love capturing a good giggle in photographs!! This blog post is in celebration of our daily chuckles and in sharing them with those around us. Laughing everyday will keep your beauty shinning bright and your heart feeling good! The following True Beauties are Margo, Rachel, Alexis and Mollye, who I captured mid-laugh!
P.S. Have you laughed today?
SPREAD THE BEAUTY CHALLENGE
For this blog post I want to try something a little bit different.
I love telling the stories of the people in my life that I have met along the way, and exploring the journeys they have been through. But, there is a future in store for me and all of these people that also needs exploring. Each and every one of us have an amazing opportunity every time we wake up in the morning. In everyday lies the possibility of something wonderful. Don't get me wrong, I know that everyday will not be perfect. I've definitely had plenty not-so-perfect days. The idea is that if we mentally remind ourselves of the possibilities we have then we can improve our lives and others on a daily basis.
Many days go by where we wake up thinking about all the things we need to do. Maybe it's going to work or tackling that giant pile of laundry. Then the complaining happens, talking about how much we hate our job or how much we dislike chores. So easily do we lose track of just how lucky we are to have that job.. or to even have clothes that we are able to wash. Life can be tricky like that. This can also be said for how we treat each other. We may not always appreciate the people around us or take into consideration what others have faced in their lives. I honestly believe that a smile could change a life. That may sound extreme, but it stems from the idea that spreading positivity will in turn effect others in a positive way. For example, when you go to a restaurant how often do you see a waiter/waitress who you can tell is having a rough day? Those are the moments we should be using to try and make someone's day a little better rather than just let it pass us by.
So, for this blog post I want to challenge you to make someone's day better. I'm talking about tomorrow and the days to follow. I'm suggesting that we make it a goal to do it more consistently in our lives. It can be as simple as a smile.
If you do have a moment that you would like to share (from the past, present or a goal for the future) I would love to hear about it! Leave me a comment below :)
In closing, I still want to share one of the True Beauty pictures that I've taken. I met this beautiful waitress a while back when eating at Johnny Rockets. I started ta her about my project and she told me that she wanted to be a part of it! I got her picture, but somehow did not get her name! I do plan on going back and finding out though. She told me that I brightened her day! What a great feeling!
BEAUTY IN THE BYRD HOUSE
*She is Beautiful!*
I met Dani in July 2007. She was VERY pregnant with her first daughter, Abigail. I immediately loved her and knew that she, along with her husband George, was someone to keep in my life. We're two artsy girls with a love for photography, how could we not be buddies?!
When I went to visit her in the hospital after delivering Abi, she joked with me saying, "When are you going to have a baby??!". I laughed it off thinking that it was something totally out of my near future. Low and behold, 9 months later, my daughter was born. I'm pretty convinced in her newly mothering state that she had a sixth sense.. The I-can-tell-you-are-going-to-be-a-mom sense.
The past 5 years have flown by, with Dani and George having 2 more daughters, Autumn and Avery. They are growing up way too fast! Although we don't get to see each other nearly enough, the times we do see each other are always full of motherly bonding, hilarious children playing, and so much happiness. She is one of the greatest women I know.
She has not only been raised as a beautifully strong woman, but she is also raising her daughters the same way. Talk about a role model!
One of the most incredible miracles of life is the creation of it. Becoming a mom has been such an amazing experience. Not only am I shaping the life of another, but I now have someone else helping to shape my life. I saw a quote a few months ago that was from a mother to her child that said: "No one else will ever know the strength of my love for you. After all, you're the only one who knows what my heart sounds like from the inside." I think that is a perfect description of what motherhood is like.
Megan and I have been friends for seven years now. We went through 2 years of college together, both studying photography. She was there for me after my daughter was born, and now I'm excited to be there for her during her journey into motherhood. She has been an amazing friend and an important part of both my life and my daughter's. I'm so lucky to have a friend like Megan. I took her True Beauty picture when she was about 4 months along.
A BIG congratulations to Megan and her husband Dan, on the birth of their beautiful baby boy, Dexter James. I am so excited for you two!! Here is a picture of the adorable Dexter, who weighed a whopping 10 lbs. 4 oz. and was 23 in. long!!
Another (soon-to-be) mom that I was so excited to photograph this past weekend was the lovely Kristy. Growing up, Kristy lived right across the street from my family and was best friends with my oldest sister, Leslie. Since the beginning, when her and Leslie would organize talent shows with all the neighborhood kids, I knew she would make a great mom. Not only does she have a smile that can light up a room, but she also has a heart of gold!