Eklutna Lake – Storyteller Photographic

Eklutna Lake is one of my favorite places – I used to come here to run, pray, and read before and during my pregnancy with my son – and now I bring my boy here to run, pray (lots of prayers raising a wilding!), hike, and play in the mud!

I recently had the pleasure of hanging out with these three gems at my favorite spot- Sarah, Nick, and Canyon were so much fun!! I learn something new everyday as a photographer – my passion for visual storytelling only gets stronger with time.

This session had me walking away thinking of how Nick (Dad) and his son (Canyon) interacted together. Nick is a tall dark haired man with a scruffy beard, has a great smile, and a silly personality. As he walked up I thought – well he’s a little intimidating. In reality – this probably says more about me than him. I quickly learned that my first impression was far off the mark. Anytime he was within arms reach of Canyon his eyes softened. He would ruffle Canyon’s hair or give him a hug and a tickle. It was such a lovely interaction to witness.

After an hour I came to see Nick as a very loving Dad and boyfriend. Sarah always has a great laugh and is smiling but she seems to be even happier when she’s with Nick. They would be standing next to each other and instinctually their hands would come together-or they’d lock arms. They had a very ‘laid-back’ nature to them – an ease that only comes with real love.

To play in the mountains with this family was such a treat!

I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on this photo session!

https://storytellerphotographic.pixieset.com/guestlogin/sarahnickandcanyon/?return=%2Fsarahnickandcanyon%2F

mothers – the souls of our society

Motherhood looks differently on every woman. Some mothers are single and juggle school and/or work two jobs just to support their babes. Some mothers are lucky and happily married but had to wait years for their dreams to come true, while other womans’ prayers are never answered. Some struggle with infertility, failed adoption, foster parenting, step parenting, youth mentoring, and others have histories of abortions. And, the most heartbreaking, some mothers have lost a child.

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Some mothers provide three home cooked meals a day while others watch their children shovel French fries in their face and are thankful that they are at least eating. Many mothers limit screen time and plan art activities – and then one day they say, “to hell with the rules!”, and let Paw Patrol babysit for 23 minutes and 22 seconds because they need a moment of peace. Don’t ask me how I know the exact length of a Paw Patrol episode, I plea the fifth. Despite all these differences, one thing remains the same. Mothers see their children as extensions of their own soul. There is a reason most fear mama bears above all else – there is nothing we will not do to protect our children.

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I learned a fun piece of trivia this morning from my pastor, Levi (at Awaken Church in Anchorage for those fellow Alaskans, I highly recommend this community). He said that Mother’s Day has the third highest attendance rate following Easter and Christmas. This really spoke to me. It just validates the influence that we have over future legacies. Even though we aren’t perfect and make mistakes we remain one of the greatest influences of the future. Doesn’t that make you feel so special? I mean sure, its a little overwhelming with that pressure on our shoulders… but consider the ripple effect we as mothers have!  We are the heart and soul of our societies. Remember this, just how special you are, when you have a meltdown and cry in the closet because your two year old still wants to nurse all day and has a tantrum to put all other tantrums to shame (please tell me this isn’t just me!). Remember that we all have our stuff. We all have shortcomings. Despite what motherhood looks like in our homes, I know with certainty that no one can do a better job mothering your children than YOU! And your love and guidance will make ripples…or waves!

One more thought….

As an artist (storytellerphotographic.com shameless plug) – motherhood is my muse. All experiences of motherhood – pregnancy, giving birth, newborn phase, toddler phase, all the way to grand baby phase. It is all so beautiful. While I don’t have a ton of experience photographing other families I have seen one thing, time and time again. Mothers have a sparkle in their eye when they look at their children. They have a certain expression, a specific smile that only shows itself when they gaze at their children. Of course, this smile doesn’t always shine, for instance when my toddler lost his **** while leaving the park last week – I’m certain I wasn’t smiling. But then we got moving and he started singing and I felt the corners of my mouth turn. All mothers have this expression, and it is truly one of the most beautiful things to witness.

So, let’s raise a cup of cold coffee to you! To all you women, despite how you wear motherhood, here’s to you! I hope you got a nap, had someone else do the dishes, and jammed on a fantastic brunch today!

 

She was a Wildflower

Let me tell ya about one of the greatest women to ever grace this world (I’m biased, but it’s true), Willie Mae Reeves Decker. She had many names – Willie, Mom, Grams, Nurse, neighbor, and sister, just to name a few. She celebrated her 100th birthday in the clouds on 4/28/18. I miss this woman every day – I talk to her all the time. She was, and still is, my hero in every sense.

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Willie Mae Reeves Decker

She was such a gem – and, honestly, for me she was intimidating. She was the epitome of strength and compassion.

After her passing I went through the normal grieving process, and then I remember feeling shame. Knowing she was in heaven, an all-knowing realm, she knew all the mistakes I have made, all my sins. That’s what I believe, anyhow. That was unsettling because I valued her opinion above all others. She was even toned, kind, compassionate, selfless, and optimistic – just to name a few! These traits are admirable, however, given her past, her character was nothing short of extraordinary.

Willie was a wildflower. Despite all the odds, she grew into a beautiful person in the most unlikely place and with the most unfortunate experiences.

Growing up in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina in the 1920s was not easy. She was a child when her dad passed away. Suddenly, her mother was faced with an impossible task – which children she could keep at home and which she had to send to an orphanage. Can you imagine? This breaks my heart. How could a mother ever make that decision?

So, my grandmother was raised in an orphanage. She would run barefoot in the mountains, feet so calloused shoes were not often necessary, which is a good thing because they weren’t always available. She told me once she ran over a nail and it didn’t even puncture the skin!

I will go out on a limb and say that most put in this situation would be bitter, scared, and angry. Most would feel unloved and jealous of others including her siblings back home. I know I would certainly have all these feelings. While I’m sure these thoughts passed her mind – they did not harden her heart. Despite all the odds and hardships Willie Mae grew into a compassionate wife, mother, friend, and nurse.

Amazingly, Willie put herself through nursing school while working as a waitress at a diner. She met my grandfather, Joe Decker, while he was serving in the military police during WWII. They had a love story that puts most others to shame, but I’ll leave that for another time.

After the war my grandparents moved back to his hometown outside of St. Louis. There she worked as a Labor & Delivery Nurse, singing hymns as she walked the ward.

I wanted to share this story as a way to not only remind myself how blessed I am to have had such a hero in my life but to also share her stories with others. When I think life is hard, I think back to all the challenges that Willie overcame. And she did so with a smile. I quickly am given a fresh perspective on my problems and feel instant gratification for my multitude of blessings.

We could all learn something from Willie Mae.

Be a wildflower. No matter where you, or what life has thrown at you, you can choose happiness and grow into something beautiful.

 

Who is your hero? I am a total sap and love reading stories of others overcoming adversities. I will always root for the underdog! I’d love to hear your stories!

Creativity

Since I began dedicating time everyday for my writing and starting a photography business with my sister I have learned a very important lesson. Creativity is like a muscle. If you don’t use it enough it will fatigue.

To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.                                                  ~Osho

When I was younger I would write nearly everyday. I was easily inspired – the way the light would hit a corn field on the drive to my grandparents, the many pets we had and their unique personalities, my sister and her quirks that annoyed me but also made me love her, or my grandmother’s hands while she held onto her cup of coffee. Like most teenagers, I was mostly inspired by my daydreams of future travel and adventures.

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When I was 19 I was living with my future husband, Rob – and we were financially challenged (fancy talk for poor). We had a wild young love that was not spoiled by discount shopping for dented cans of groceries at Big Lots! We shared an apartment with a few mice and were learning to embrace the unglamorous sides of adulthood. Heck, really we were lucky – we always had a roof over our head, running water, and our power was only shut off once for a very brief time – I quickly learned how to balance a check book after that. We hustled. Rob delivered more pizzas than I can count and picked up other jobs here and there. I’ve always been a workaholic – I’ve had a job since I was 16. I graduated high school early just to dive into college – then nursing school – then a nursing career with a full schedule and as much overtime as my boss would allow. After a while, that wasn’t enough so I went back for my masters degree and finished an anesthesia residency. In 2015, we moved across the country to the Last Frontier and I started my new career. For years I existed among the rat race. You know the drill – wake up, breakfast, work, lunch, work, dinner, sleep, repeat. A workout or hike here and there, on the weekends, and off days.

Some people die at 25, but aren’t buried until 75

Benjamin Franklin

Before I knew it I’m sitting here thinking, “what happened? how has this much time flown by? Looking back on the 19 year old version of myself it’s easy to see what happened. The vacuum of materialism sucked me right in.

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And poof! Fast forward to now. I’m 34, a wife, momma, sister, daughter, friend, and full-time nurse anesthetist. I wear many hats – like most women – and unfortunately the “creative artist” hat has been on the closet’s top shelf for too long.

Then one day I was slapped in the face with a wake up call – a little stick with the words “pregnant”. It’s so bizarre but all of a sudden it was so obvious! There is more to life than this! My son saved me and lit the creative spark that was buried inside! For more than a decade I had tunnel vision – and thankfully I now see life with a full frame!

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By just taking a step back – always pursuing inspiration – it has allowed me to savor life like I once did. In a way this creative hiatus has been a blessing. Always try to see the silver lining! I now value my creativity in a way I never had before. I understand how empty my life was without it!

Artists just view everything differently. That’s what makes them wonderfully weird! (That is a compliment!) Life doesn’t have to pass you by in a blink – just learn to slow down and take it in. I should mention that I know how incredibly difficult it is to slow down in this day and culture – and I’m a hot mess 75% – I’m utterly useless without my morning coffee- and I am constantly reminding myself of these profound thoughts while also considering a long list of other philosophical conundrums. Basically, I don’t have it all figured out – but I have realized what didn’t work for me…. so I got off the hamster wheel. I am playing in the grass again with dirty bare feet – pursuing inspiration – and learning to flex my creative muscles again.

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I am curious…. what inspires you? Any tips or exercises that help with creativity ruts??

 

Rules for my son

When I was pregnant with my son people always asked “Do you want a boy or girl?” I would respond, “I just want a healthy baby that doesn’t turn into an asshole.” I really didn’t care about the gender! I just want my child/children to grow into respectable people that leave this world better than it was when they were brought into it. Is that too much to ask?

I ran across an article, “Rules for my Son” that had some great ideas! I thought what a great idea….make a list to keep reminding myself of the big picture. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks – Did Harrison eat anything green? Did he practice his letters/numbers/colors/animals/etc. Did he drink enough water? Did he get enough exercise? While these are all very important they should not be my main focus to fulfill the ultimate goal – raise a Godly man with a kind heart and brave spirit.

“Start a youth out on his way: even when he grows old he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

  1. Love God above all else.
  2. Never shake someone’s hand sitting down. Stand up. Look them in the eye.
  3. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool – the stairs ain’t one! If you’re going to do anything in life – dive in! IMG_9529
  4. If you hunt and kill you clean and grill. Waste not, want not.
  5. In a negation, never make the first offer – you’ll always end up settling.
  6. Act like you’ve been there before. The big show in the end zone is ridiculous.
  7. Don’t let a wishbone grow where a backbone should be. Take leaps of faith – the best things in life start with a belly full of fear.
  8. Request the late check-out. And decline the wake-up calls. Learn to slow down and enjoy the moment.
  9. You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. Set high standards.
  10. Return a borrowed car with a fresh wash and full tank of gas. Always show gratitude.
  11. Don’t fill up on bread. (This made me think of my mother-in-law! She was very firm about this rule) Learn the art of savoring your food – meals are about laughter, smiles, and conversation – don’t just inhale your food and move on. IMG_8766
  12. If you need music and booze on the beach, you’re missing the point.
  13. Carry two handkerchiefs. The one is your back pocket is for you, the one in your breast pocket is for her. If you want a “Proverbs 31 wife” learn to be an “Ephesians 5 husband”. Very important.
  14. You marry the girl, you marry her family, but don’t forget your momma and where you came from, buddy!
  15. Write down your dreams and keep them under your hat. Every year make sure to add at least one dream to that list.
  16. Experience the serenity of traveling alone. Travel is the only thing that you can buy that will actually make you richer. pexels-photo-297642.jpeg
  17. Never be afraid to ask out the best looking girl in the room. The world is full of insecure girls that don’t think they’re pretty enough, and boys to shy to tell them how gorgeous they are. Be the change.
  18. In a game of HORSE, sometimes a simple free throw will get ’em. This applies to life too. Happiness is easy! Don’t overthink it!
  19. A smile goes a long way. Remember that everyone is fighting a battle you aren’t aware of – a smile may be enough to make their day. Consider the ripple effect you can make with kindness.
  20. Thank a veteran. Buy them a cup of coffee. Refer back to rule #2
  21. If you want to know what makes you unique, sit for a caricature! Embrace your uniqueness! Those imperfect perfections are what make you stand out. It’s what makes you, you – are you are perfectly made!
  22. Eat lunch with the new kid. You can never have enough friends.
  23. After writing an angry text, or email, read it carefully. Twice. And then Delete it! Learn to not carry anger.
  24. If you want to really see how good you are ask your dad to play – he won’t let you win! Sorry, buddy – but this is true. A competitive spirit is good for ya! IMG_0384.JPG
  25. Give credit. Take the blame. Always. Telling someone, “you’re right” may not be easy but not saying these words is even more difficult.

 

Of course I have countless other things I want to pass onto my boy – but these are a good start. What are some of your Rules?