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?

Balance

Motherhood. Some days are better than others, am I right?

First, let me clear the air. My husband and I struggled with infertility for many years (more on that later) so I am very grateful to be one of the lucky ones. I am not complaining – I take the good and the bad – The beauty and the chaos. Some days I feel like I’ve got it all figured out – yay me! (pat on the shoulder) Others, I am treading water, barely able to stay a float.

Sometimes I reflect on what pre-baby visions and expectations I had for motherhood. I pictured love, smiles, laughter, cuddles. Crafts – glitter and glue – birdhouses – you name it. I imagined a clean, organized, minimalist home with very few toys because I didn’t want to spoil or overstimulate him. I thought my child will be obedient and listen.  Surely he would be respectful because I will be such an engaged parent, not a chopper mom, but a positive influence. I thought I would demonstrate attached, gentle parenting 100% of the time. We will eat healthy well balanced meals every day. I recently read through my journal from when I was pregnant – it provided a few chuckles.

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The love I pictured was grossly underestimated – like every good mom out there I can say that I never knew I could love someone as much as I love my son. One look was all it took. Boom! Heart exploded. My son is a huge cuddler, a bonafide snuggle-bug. He would lay in bed and nurse for most of the day if I would let him. And he is hilarious, just like me (wink!).  We laugh. A lot.

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My son is now a little over two years old and my bullshit meter has busted, pardon the language. My household is far from the hallmark movie scene I pictured – in reality it is more like a comedy sitcom. I do practice gentle parenting – 75% of the time. I practice positive reinforcement – and sometimes I raise my voice. Not in a scary mommy way….in fact he laughs when I do, so I may need to rethink that tactic. I am an engaged mom, I try my best to fuel his imagination and provide intellectual stimulation –  but I have let the iPad be a babysitter while I get a workout in. Nutrition is still a priority for us, my husband and I struggled with weight fluctuations and don’t want our son to ever feel the discomfort of being overweight. So, we eat pretty healthy with plenty of organic fruits and veggies – no dairy – limit sugar. That’s pretty awesome right? Except, some nights my husband calls to tell me to bring home burgers and fries for dinner, and my son doesn’t like burgers (current meat aversion) So, on these nights he eats French fries for dinner, chugging La Croix, throwing his fruit on the floor.

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My favorite pre-baby expectation is the obedient child. Oh man. This was ridiculous. Toddlers are truly the most magical, hilarious, and  frustrating individuals on the planet. This time in life is so great for so many reasons – to see my son develop his personality, facial expressions, and quirks is the best time of my life. One morning I was thinking how blessed and awesome my life is (mornings are my favorite part of the day) – and then I put his eggs on a yellow plate. That was a huge mistake. He made it known he wanted the Paw Patrol plate but I had already gotten the yellow one dirty. He went nuclear – I have never seen someone throw a fit like this over dishes. You would have thought I put hot sauce on my nipples (he still breastfeeds). Needless to say, this behavior never made the cut for my hallmark visions of motherhood.

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Motherhood has taught me many things.  One that I am reminded of daily is that life is all about balance. Some days I kill it as a mom – I mean I Mom hard! Full breakfast with all the fixin’s, crafts, we get outside for some exercise and to recharge, I manage to vacuum and get some laundry done, and then we snuggle and have an easy bedtime routine. Other days, not so much. I am spending my day chasing a toddler that is refusing to wear pants. This kid will sneak up and bite my butt while I’m doing dishes and then slip away like a ninja. I get yelled at by a little heathen that resembles a smaller version of myself, that I created. I’m tripping over laundry baskets (at least they’re clean clothes!) and dodging launched sippy cups and hidden hot wheels.

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Hats off to all you moms living the dream! Life is full of both beauty and chaos. It’s all about balance. And I wouldn’t change any part of it for the world.

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Thoughts on happiness

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Life is a roller coaster and there are two types of people in this world – those that hang on tight convinced they are gonna die at any second and those that wave their hands in the air and just enjoy and trust the ride!

Which are you?

Not gonna lie, I used to be the wimp grabbing the handlebar. My husband is always telling me, “Trust the process” – I’ve gotten way better – but I still need reminders. My mom will tell you, I was always living ten years in the future. I was a planner – the nerd that planned to plan. You know those day-planners they handed out in school to keep you organized (and take away any excuse for missing deadlines)? I’d groan out loud with the other kids when they passed them around but secretly, I loved those things – I planned out every day.

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Another really cool *cough, cough* ok fine- ridiculous – obsession I had was to overwork myself. Again, clutching on the handlebar of the roller coaster. Don’t let go and have fun! (eye roll)

I was on the tennis team in high school. I knew they never cut anyone – so it was a safe bet after being cut from basketball and volleyball in junior high. The first year I was terrible. I mean really bad. So I borrowed a hopper and hit close to ten thousand balls until they finally started making it inside the lines. I started to not suck…and then I got kinda good. My serve still was a weakness. It’s a lot harder than it looks! So, naturally I would keep a hopper and after a full day at school and practice, I would stay until they shut the lights off to practice my serve. That year I was awarded the most improved, which really didn’t say much because I started off so bad. But, that sums up who I was.

Looking back, I think the cure for these obsessions was my husband, Rob. This guy NEVER plans – always flying by the seat of his pant. In truth, this still can be super annoying but I’ve learned to appreciate this trait of his. Or I’ve become numb to it – either way, I’ve realized it is what it is. Polar opposites must really attract one another because we could not be more different! Yet here we are, 17 years later (I’ve officially been with him half my life) still married – still driving each other crazy – still unable to live without each other.

Being around Rob showed me that everything will work out… just breathe and trust the process. Don’t get me wrong…I still take hold of my future. I plan my investments, business, and retirement. I plan for my son’s future. But, I learned there is a big difference between Plan and Obsess. Planning is vital for success. Who just wakes up and becomes successful without any planning? If you know of someone, go ahead and kick ’em in the shin for me the next time you see them! I love this quote….

 So yes planning is important. Obsessions on the other hand (in my experience), actually hold you back from success and just steal your joy. Now looking back I see myself obsessing over every detail in my life (past, present, and future) – it’s so obvious why I wasn’t living the life I wanted – I was treading water, barely staying afloat.

So the first step towards happiness was to stop obsessing and just trust the process. The other major change I made was to repeat one word over and over. Any guesses what that word is? No. No. The word is No.

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Why is it so hard to say “NO”? Someone from work asks you to go out for drinks…you feel obliged to say yes even though you don’t drink and really don’t want to be away from your kiddos anymore than you have to be. “Sure!” Someone asks if you can switch shifts and cover them at work even though you had appointments that you will now need to cancel and that makes your schedule more difficult. “Of course!” Someone asks you to volunteer for this committee or that club. “You got it!” The list goes on and on. The old me would say “Ya sure, you betcha”, and if I’m being totally honest – play the martyr card at home to the hubby.

I once read that for every “yes” you say you are also saying “no” ten times. This changed my life! Think about it, you just said, “yes I’ll volunteer for that committee”… Now, what is less obvious is that you just said, “no I won’t have dinner with my family that weekend”, “no I have to work on this volunteer stuff, I can’t FILL IN THE BLANK“, “no I can’t make church that weekend, I am busy with this committee” – it goes on and on. I am so glad I ran across that article – game changer!
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No – That word has power! And it is ok to say “No”. In the beginning I had guilt – I think that’s normal. I want to be a people pleaser, I want to make friends happy, and I definitely don’t want to upset anyone. But at the end of the day – I care about my tribe the most. I refuse to say “no” to my family and friends I am closest with just to say “yes” to others that probably won’t even be in my life in five years!. The good news is, the more I said “no” the less I cared if someone was offended – and in all reality most don’t care – I had it in my head that people would be so mad at me!

So, I urge you to stop saying yes when your heart is telling you to say no!
Also, if you’re the wimp clutching the handle bar try to let go. Maybe just one hand. Wave it in the air! Everything will be fine!! You won’t die.

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