July 26th is my birthday! 

In honor of today, I would like to share a personal story so you all can get to know me better. ❤️

I passionately love my family however tragic our story is. I lost my father, my best friend 12 yrs ago.  He adored me and with his passing the bubble exploded. My sisters and I were torn apart. The relationship we all had with my father was very different. And he knew how to create walls and rifts between us. This story didn’t die with him instead as we all figured out ways to cope with grief we grew apart we fought and hatred grew like weeds in an unkempt garden.  

Family outings were miserable. There was always a fight and we pegged each other against one another. I so clearly remember a much needed vacation 14 hour drive home almost turning deadly.  My mother had to order me to stop the car and have my middle sister drive to separate me and my little sister. It was a horrible drive home to say the least. We still fight to this day.  It is a deep rooted lesson that even now 12 yrs after my father passed I try to fight.  

So how on earth do I see family as something so cherished and important with a story so tragic as mine? Don’t get me wrong. I had a beautiful childhood. But I was always the outsider in the story. My sisters were very close to each other. They were 18 months apart and lived in the same bedroom. I was the oldest and very independent.  I was the keeper, the boss, the caregiver. I felt responsible for the well being of my family. I still do. 

With every decision I make I ask is this the best decision I can make for the well being of my family as a whole. My mother, my sisters and their families, and of course myself. The responsibility is a burden to say the least. 

In the time since my father passed I have learned a lot. I learned that he kept too many secrets and didn’t let anyone help him with anything. I do this too and it’s something I always have to fight. He also didn’t trust anyone and I understand exactly why. I learned about real estate and that it is not a career I ever wanted to pursue. I learned that family is not just blood. My family consists of people who are not related to me but rather who treat me with love and kindness and respect. And I treat them the same.  

I also learned that it is ok to say no. It can be hard but it’s ok. In the 69 yrs my father lived he said no a lot but when push came to shove he always gave in. He had 6 kids (I have 3 older half siblings) At the time of his passing he had 6 grandkids and he now would have 14. He was surrounded by love but he also had a tragic story. He was surrounded by people who didn’t appreciate him as a father and provider. To them he was nothing more than a money bag.  

Like I said he really never said no. Some of the mistakes my father made was allowing people who were not blood into his house.  The separation and isolation that I felt because of the decisions he made still affect me to this day. I feel it every time my sister and I fight.  She knows just how to get under my skin to amplify the feelings that I so clearly learned while “extended family” was living under our roof. 

Now I don’t blame my father completely. Of course my mother was there too. But these were kids who had a rough life and we had it so easy. He was just trying to give them a better appreciation of hard work. Right? And if they didn’t come to us who knows where the courts would have put them.  But so much of my turmoil is in my HS years where I was bullied in my own house.  

Your house is supposed to be a safe haven but here I was feeling like an outsider and the only one who truly loved me was never home because he was always working to make sure that we were provided for.  

I was bullied in Elementary school too. The people who I considered my friends were never actually my friends. And I don’t think I fully understood that until yrs later. Oh how innocent I was. 

So you ask, what does all this have to do with you? Nothing. But what I do know is that the one person in my whole world who loved me more than I could even understand at the time died much too young. He was 69 yrs old. I was 23. I was a baby. There was so much he hadn’t seen. Today he would have 14 beautiful grandchildren (and although I don’t talk to some) I adore my sister’s kid. They are light! Magical light that has engulfed us with more love than I could have possibly ever imagined. 

I am sitting here today writing this because every single person you spend quality time with is important and deserves to know that.The bond that is created at a young age is what will carry you through. I do believe that if I was encouraged to have a more loving and connected relationship with my sisters when we were younger things would have been easier as we got older. But that wasn’t the case for me.  

Today my sisters and I have a much better relationship. Of course it is not all butterflies and rainbows but the bond we have created with each other out of a loss so big is beautiful. Every hardship we endure only makes us stronger.  Every child that is born into our family brings more light to shine the way to beautiful days. These are the people I do what I do for.

I love what I do and I love creating memories for my clients but I could not create memories with my clients if I could not first create beautiful stories with my own family. I love fiercely and I have a passion for creating a place of inclusion.  

In my childhood I was the outsider.  Bullied by my peers, excluded by my siblings, made fun of in my own home. I want every kid to feel like they are a part of something, to feel included. I work really hard to create an environment where I feel included (which means I’m planning most of the events or invite myself 😉 ) I don’t want other kids to feel that isolation from their own family.  So by working together we create a sense of belonging.  

The funny thing is before I was a portrait artist I asked my dad if my sisters and I could do a glamour shoot session as a gift for my mom. I was about 19 so they were 17, and 15. We went to the mall and bought some matching pajamas (my mom always photographed us in matching PJs as kids) and we got some matching sweaters too. We got our hair and makeup done and then did a whole bunch of photos.

After the session was over the kid (I say kid because that’s what she was) sat down with us and showed us the images and we picked out the ones we wanted. Because my father was not there with us I had to call him and ok it with him but we bought a small wall portrait for the entry for like 1300.

At the time I thought this was so much money. But I was a kid myself and just grateful my father agreed. We gave it to my mom that year and of course she loved it but it has been in our home on the wall since. It creates a sense of belonging in my moms house.

I created a sense of belonging in my own family without even realizing what I was doing. I needed that everyday reminder as I came down the stairs that I am part of a bigger whole and I am loved even if they didn’t always know how to show it. The only regret I have at this point is that I wish I had convinced my father and mother to join us for that session. He passed away a few years later.

I have learned that life is tragic, and short. And we should hold on tight to the ones we love because the ones we love are the ones who will be there right until the end. Anytime you think you still have time, know that it might just not be true. I would do anything for my family. And they know it. I would also kill for 5 minutes with my father.

The life that we live is what we make it. And although my story seems sad and troubled I absolutely love the life I have.