The very honest truth is that we are (big breath) poor. Taylor and I have been married for 8 years, when we got married we both had great jobs. He managed the Fortune 500 accounts for AT&T Wireless and I represented all of customer relations (sales, marketing, retention) for FM-Industries. We bought a home, we had his dream wakeboard boat, we spent hundreds and hundreds dining out at Seattle’s finest restaurants. Life was fun but we knew something was missing! And then after months and months of trying, we found out that I was pregnant. I knew exactly what the best job in the world was, and so I knew I wanted to be a stay at home mom! I also knew that there was a certain lifestyle that we (okay I) enjoy and when we lost my income that way of living would disappear. With these thoughts and feelings I asked my husband to go back to school and as incredible as this is, I married a man who would actually do just that for me. We literally sat in bed one Saturday morning and I was like, ‘ok – what do you want to be?’ and he told me that when he was in high school he’d wanted to be a chiropractor. Monday morning he was enrolled to start undergrad.
So we sold everything. We literally put the sign on our front door to ‘COME IN’ and put it all for sale. After the boat (he almost cried with that one), house and cars were sold we packed up the clothes that were left and moved in the direction of higher education. It has been 5 years since we left that lifestyle behind and embraced life as ‘starving students’. Five years of having to have our families and the state help support us, five years of laughing about all the money we used to spend and the taxes we used to pay. Now we don’t even make enough for them to give any back. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me. I’ve learned to find contentment in who we are together as a family, not in what we have. Most of the time. I will gladly admit that this has been a really great learning experience for me, I grew up in an abnormal lifestyle and learning to go without has been a huge blessing. But when we tried to shoot our family pictures with a tripod and nobody would cooperate and the lighting was awful and, and, and I wasn’t feeling the blessings. I sat at my desk to look at what we had and felt my face turn fiery red, which is always in anticipation to what’s coming, and before I could pep talk myself out of it the tears started falling. When Tay came in the room, I replied to his silent question, ‘I’m a photographer who can’t afford my own pictures.’
On Christmas, Taylor had a surprise for me. He had entered a contest that was being offered by a local photographer (Shannon Sewell) that he knows I love. The contest was for a family who couldn’t afford family pictures but would really appreciated them. Before I go any further I have to stress that this is HUGE because Taylor hate’s (and I mean hates) having his picture taken. He’s always trying to get me to put the camera down and refuses to let me point it at him unless it’s for the sake of capturing one of the kids. So to have had him take the time to first, enter this contest and secondly know that if he won that meant he would have to participate was, well. It left me breathless. And it turns out he did win!
Shannon Sewell, an incredibly gifted artist who I’ve loved following from afar was going to be our photographer!! Once the session was scheduled, I was a bundle of nerves and excitement. I’m a photographer (obviously) — I know how all this works and yet I suddenly found myself very nervous. It was eye-opening to experience this side of the spectrum. How should I act, what would we wear (yippy for credit cards that I will be paying for the next decade), would she like us? What if the kids didn’t cooperate, this was my chance! I imagined that Shannon would work in some magical way that would leave me spinning, turns out she does things just about exactly how I do … just with mad skills!The day finally came! It was like the first day of school, everyone‘s clothes were laid out. I had us timed to the minute as there was no way we were going to keep Shannon waiting. He-llo, would you keep Simon Cowell waiting if you were hoping to make it to Hollywood? Everyone was primped and prepared, Taylor was getting the last kid buckled in and I ran back into the house to get “one” last thing. I came running out with my arms full and as I went to swing the car door open, I managed to let the force of the door and my forehead collide smack into one another. My first reaction was ouch followed by something going through my head like, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me – what the FREAK!’ and then ‘no, no, no’! I ran back into the house and looked in the mirror to find a giant knot rising up from just above my right eye. I felt the tears pricking but suppressed them as I knew I was NOT about to ruin my makeup too. You hear of kids getting hurt just before family pictures all the time, but the mom?? This was a first! I grabbed some concealer, pep talked myself out of my pity-party that I wanted to throw for myself and we went to meet Shannon.Big bump and all, Shannon worked her insane magic and has given me (a complete stranger) the most treasured gift I could ask for, my family in print! The whole experience has given me a new appreciation and a wonderful reminder for why I love photography so much. Being on the giving end is a wonderful privilege, we are the means by which families can keep the stepping stages of their lives documented… But getting to be on the receiving end is pretty magical too. Don’t forget that!