This post is in celebration of my turning forty!! My kids tell me that I certainly don’t look like an old lady, even though I am one (ah, my sweet children always keepin’ it real)!! It has snuck up on me and although I don’t feel like I’m forty, I am so incredibly grateful for the life I have lived so far and to be standing at the start of yet another decade.
Now as I age, I find myself less able to keep quiet about certain things and in light of the news and social media movements lately, I would like to discuss something that has effected my life for far more than it should have. Please be warned that this post is very personal and deals with highly sensitive subject matter.
I recently read a headline that said that the “stars” (referring to celebrities) were looking to eliminate sexual harassment in Hollywood and it actually made me a little angry. If this discussion is going to happen now, could we at least finally be completely open about it? Sexual abuse and harassment happens EVERYWHERE: home, school, sports, workplace, children, women and men. It affects people regardless of race, income levels, education, sexual orientation, career or belief system. Why can’t we just use this conversation to admit there is a problem and it needs to stop. Period. For everyone.
A lot of women have been putting “Me too” as their status lately to show how widespread the problem is and as much as I have wanted to support this movement, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. To condense my painful experiences into those tiny two words couldn’t begin to describe the shock, shame, guilt, confusion, hurt, betrayal, anger, confusion, and blame. I was twelve. Over the years, I was physically bullied in high school, sexually harassed in the workplace and emotionally abused by individuals. I am not a victim or a survivor, I consider myself an overcomer.
One huge effect of these experiences is that I am terrified for my children. A lie detector test, three criminal checks and a breathalyzer are required to babysit my children, well maybe not that bad but you get the idea. You see, the majority of sexual abuse is done by people that are in a position of trust; family members, babysitters, neighbours, coaches and the list goes on. Have you ever heard of of someone arrested for child pornography and everyone around him/her says “Oh yeah, totally. We knew there was something off there”. No, they are everyday, normal people. So, I have seen counsellors to make sure that I am not going to let my experiences negatively effect my children. I have been educating myself and putting things into place to help me feel comfortable and ensure the safety of my children as much as I can. As we’ve heard recently coming out in the news, most abuse cases are not reported and the suffering happens in silence.
A positive effect is that I know what those complex emotions feel like and if someone ever came to me and revealed an abusive situation to me, I would tell them that I understand and that we are going to get them the help they need but most importantly that I believe them.
When I started doing this photography blog on my own, I used to want to change the world. Hundreds of thousands of likes, shares and an all-expense-paid trip to see Ellen. I don’t want any of those things anymore. This is a letting go and if it touches someone in the process, that is an added blessing.
Now, I would like to finish this post on a positive and fun note so even though I’m not Oprah, here are a few of my favorite things (40, of course)!!
- Our family
- Our friends
- My camera and photography
- Dark chocolate with coconut, but really any will do!
- Beautiful, comfortable clothes
- Good, homemade food
- Farm fresh eggs
- Laughing so hard, you cry
- Organizing (saves me soooo much time)! My fave budget youtuber is: https://www.youtube.com/user/DoItOnaDime
- Road trips
- My children: Max, Oliver & Madeline
- Our dog Milo
- My Husband who is always supportive and understanding (unless we’re at the mall)!
- Curling up with a good movie and a glass of Arsvitas Riesling
- Reading a book that you can’t put down
- Learning something new
- Random acts of kindness
- I am an absolute lover of the truth
- Kindness, loyalty and honesty are my absolute favorite traits in a fellow human being
- Hearing inspiring stories of real, everyday heroes
- A clean, quiet house which immediately turns into missing #11!
- Watching my children playing together (and getting along)!
- When my children take care of me. Once I was sick and they all fussed over me. It was adorable!
- When Max absently plays with my hair or when his ideas are coming so fast he can’t get them out!
- When Madeline snuggles into me in her sleep without even knowing it and then sighs contentedly.
- Oliver’s backrubs and also when he gets that mischievous little grin and I know he’s teasing me!
- The warmth of the sun
- A beautiful, brilliant sunrise or sunset
- The reflection of the sun on the water (we call them diamonds)!
- Nature’s incredible beauty
- Baking and Cooking
- Heart-to-hearts with my girls
- Lazy family days, you know when there is nowhere to go and you hope no one will pop by so you don’t have to change out of your pjs!
- Playing with the children: soccer games, water balloon fights, swimming, biking, hiking, board games, Barbies, lego, hide-n-go-seek etc. Their excitement is so contagious!
- www.thebettermom.com A website that has countless times been exactly what I needed
- Two books that helped me immensely with parenting: “Straight Talk with Your Kids About Sex” by Josh and Dottie McDowell and “Triggers” by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake
- For healthy eating, beauty and decorating tips: https://www.youtube.com/user/CheckInTheMirror
- Music – some of my favorites right now are: MercyMe, Kari Jobe, NeedtoBreathe, Newsboys, Casting Crowns, Zach Williams, Lecrae and especially Hillary Scott’s “Thy Will”
- and saving the best for last, my faith in Jesus Christ.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
My special baby boy, Oliver, turned eight in July, which happened to be just a couple days before we began our journey (vacation / move) across the country. After completing Madeline’s photo shoot at the end of August, I realized that Oliver’s had been overlooked this year. Unlike Madeline, he doesn’t begin a countdown anticipating our annual birthday session! He forgave me and we agreed to do it soon. One beautiful evening, we spontaneously decided to head out. With the boys, I know I don’t have much time to get pictures of them. Well, we set a record this year. Less than 30 minutes with a location change, which was luckily just down the road!
Oliver is my firework! He has an explosive personality and feels everything BIG! He is very excitable, energetic and a born leader. He loves to be in charge and stand up for the underdogs. Recently, on the way home from school, Madeline was sharing a story of feeling bullied on the playground. Before I could even respond, Oliver says “You go tell the duty teacher Madeline and if they don’t end it, I will end it!!” That took me back to high school when my big brother, Matt, rescued me from being bullied on the bus! I always loved knowing he was there for me and it comforts me that Madeline can have that with Oliver. She even told me one day that there were a couple times she needed help tying her shoes so she went and found Oliver on the playground and he helped her. Seriously, it is those moments that just make my heart swell to bursting! Watching these little beings you made taking care of each other! It is really hard to put into words but those moments make me feel like I’m doing something right!
Another funny thing that happened with Oliver recently is while we were enjoying our family movie night, the movie was a bit scary in parts. Each time it was, Oliver would say “I’m bored” and then lean into me a little closer and once he said “ok, maybe a little scared”!! It cracked me up that he so loudly stated the opposite as a stand against what he was feeling. How often do we not even admit to ourselves what we are feeling especially when it makes us a bit vulnerable!
Each one of us has talents and gifts that we can use in our lifetime. I know that Oliver’s energy and determination are going to take him somewhere special!
Biking is his passion right now and I love incorporating these into my children’s sessions because having them to look back on will be absolutely priceless for us and them as they grow!
We love you YaYa!! Mommy can’t believe you’re EIGHT and biking down mountains!!!
This session started about the sweetest way possible! I knelt down to meet little Jorja and she just ran over, gave me a big hug and then hurried back to Mommy! It was touching and even more so when I realized that it’s the first hug I’ve received from someone here in Cold Lake, other than my family. Thank you Jorja!!
Jorja is almost two and other than being completely adorable, she was quite happy to pose and play for the camera. Now, I have two stipulations for my sessions: they need to be relaxed and fun. I don’t push poses, I give children down-time and I love to incorporate family play into each one. My favorite pictures, without exception, are when a family is interacting with each other and laughing, not looking directly at me and smiling! Poses have their place and their own beauty but the ones that make me smile stand out and the ones that can make someone laugh are priceless!
This first one is to show that Chris and Joey are getting very close to welcoming their baby boy into the family! At this particular moment, Jorja was more interested in throwing rocks into water. Maybe she’s even practicing to show off for her little brother! We tried briefly to include her in the picture, in a more traditional way, but this is what we got and I have to say that I love Jorja’s version!
Chris, Joey and Jorja, it was great to meet you! Thanks for a fun session and I look forward to seeing you again soon!
Enjoy your preview!
To say that we miss this woman and Oma’s Garden would be a gross understatement. In fact, there are no words to describe how much I miss her face, that smile and those arms. This is the first birthday that I am unable to celebrate with her in fifteen years. A celebration of this woman who is my Mother and cherished friend must be done from afar this year.
There are many different kinds of love. For example: I love my children and I love coconut dark chocolate. Same word, LOVE, but very, very different! This woman loves in a way that I have rarely seen in my lifetime and I am incredibly blessed to have been on the receiving end of it. There are no need for words to know that we matter to her because she invests herself in us!
My reason for sharing this is because I want people to know without a shadow of a doubt that love is not words but also actions and I wish I had realized this when I was younger. If someone tells you that they love you but treats you in a way that makes you feel unloved, then really take the time to determine your boundaries and worth and then lovingly address the situation. You know, when I was younger I had a boyfriend let me walk home in the dark, by myself, while he stayed at a party. It would have taken him 10 minutes to run me home, make sure I was safe and then return to hanging out with everyone. My value to him was far less than my value to myself. That was (unofficially) the end. The marks that people leave on our hearts run deep. Do damage control for yourself because you are totally worth it and they are too! Maybe they don’t even realize what they are doing! Ultimately, we allow people to treat us they way they do (most certainly when the behaviour is repeated)!
Happy Birthday Oma! We love you beyond words so we’ll just show you instead.Thank you for the shining example of what love really means!
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