Friday, September 29, 2017

Opening Up

Have you ever had a fear so gripping that you let it take your life away?

Have you tried to fight back and overcome this fear after it controlling you for so many years?

I grew up never really thinking I was good enough. I have lived most of my adult life that way as well.

I have gone through so many different life dreams that I pushed away thinking there was no way I could ever accomplish that.


Well let me tell you what I thought:

"I don't have the equipment to make that work, and no one would want things from a lesser quality."

"I have no training for something like this and going back to school is so expensive and hard with all these kids to feed and take care of"

"I have some talent in this area, but there are so much more people I know who can do it so much better, it would be pointless to even try."

And the list goes on and on and on.

And of course, there comes looking at my value and feeling like I deserve to do or have things.

Some of my most popular excuses for that was:

"I am a Mom, and my kids and husband come first, one day there will be time for me."

"I couldn't possibly do or have that because it would take it away from someone who deserves it more"

Or the most come one... "I am not worth it."

Then I had a wake-up call. My Sister passed away.

She was 4 days away from turning 38. We had crossed off a few of her bucket list items, but her own self-doubt had held her back. She didn't do much for herself, and she second-guessed her abilities to do the things she wanted. We never know when things will end.

I have actually been very depressed about it since.

It took a year after her passing before I could actually begin to breathe again, but I miss my best friend so much.

I just kept trying to keep life going as usual, but I was just faking it.

I would volunteer when I could because that helped, but I still felt like a walking zombie most days. I can't even remember how I made it through most of them. Just that I kept my family and myself alive during it.

It is funny how hard grief can hit you, like a punch in the gut that just takes your breath away and you can't seem to catch it again. I couldn't even find joy in taking pictures anymore.

One of the things that kept me going was knowing I did not want to have my life on Earth end with me not having tried to accomplish some of my dreams. I was a zombie, but I had learned I was worth taking care of myself and doing the things I wanted. I feel blessed for that.

So in February, I turned 40.... Yep 4 decades old.

What do I have for those 40 years?

I have 6 amazing children ranging in age from 19 to 9. They have all worked through these past few years in their own way with their own struggles and yet are still so strong. I look at them sometimes and wonder how I am so lucky that they are mine.

I have a crazy life out on a property I share with my stepdad that we own. No mortgage payments, no rent, just a crazy life full of challenges that make it interesting. I have the most amazing neighbors who are there even if someone does something stupid. It is the type of community I have always wanted my kids to live in.

I have a husband who is willing to travel back and forth to work an hour each way at crazy times in the morning, and in the winter time, live in town away from his family to make sure he is able to support us the best he can.

I now work for a guy who I use to volunteer for. He is full of energy, and it inspires me to find my energy again. He finds things I can do at home for work because I still need to be here for the kids. I am part of a team and feel so honored that he could see my possibilities enough to bring me aboard. I have met some crazy cool people, and done some unbelievable things already with him, it is just getting started.

I have the best friends anyone could ask for. Even when we haven't talked or seen each other for years, I know they are they for me. They always seem to know when I need a boost because I will get a call or a message. I am the worst for keeping in contact with them as I get lost in my life, but they never forget me.

I am blest with a super family and extended family. They had taken care of me when I wasn't sure I could take care myself. They have been the rock that has held me up when I couldn't stand anymore.

I am truly grateful for a church that gives me the knowledge that I will see my sister again, but where she is and that she is loved. I can not imagine how much worse the heartbreak would be without knowing that. On top of that, it ensures that there are people here to lift my spirit when it feels like the bottom is falling out. I always know that someone is there and I never feel alone.

Without these things and much more, I can not even begin to fathom how dark and painful this past year and a half would have been. I still feel the pain of the loss, but never completely was lost in it. My heart breaks for those who are chronically there because of their mental illness. You are some of the strongest warriors this earth has to offer. You fight every day to live and win only to start the battle over again the next day. You are my Heros.

So this year I am focusing on building myself up. Teaching myself what I am truly worth.

I am working with my Doctor on what I can not do on my own.

I have got a fantastic job working for a wonderful guy as mentioned above. He has been understanding as I learn the ropes and make mistakes. My head is panicking that I have lost him business and I panic. Usually, it is not near as bad as I have made it in my head, and slowly I am gaining more confidence.  He may never know exactly how grateful I am for his belief in what I can do.

I have a delightful visiting teacher who is a very talented Massage Therapist. She is someone I am comfortable with, and so for the first time in my life, I have been getting massages. It has brought a lot of my hidden pain to the surface. Stuff I have ignored for years. She is magically and so very kind.

I have started taking classes to learn skills I have always wanted to know, I have completed a basic Photoshop class, currently looking into a Social Media in Business class.

And the biggest change is that I am letting people help me with things now, so I am not so overwhelmed.

I have a long way to go to even get back to where I was before my Sister was first diagnosed, but I now feel like I can do it.

I just need to remember to believe in myself.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Deepest Fear

So today I was able to spend some time with Cloe one on one.
It was nice since she just came back from spending almost 2 weeks in Lethbridge with her Grandma.
 So while the boys went out to cut some wood, I introduced her to the movie "Akeelah and the Bee".
She was so involved in it that she was clinging to my arm, hoping for the outcome she wanted.
During the movie I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes.
I took it and using a picture I took of the sunset across the street I made her a picture to hang on the wall.
Everyday we will work on her being able to read it herself so that she will always remember that she can be anything.

Just to post something fun as well, Grandpa bought a water pump like the forest fire fighters use to bring water to the house from the creek.
With a good stretch of hoses water was free running to the house and for the first time since moving out here we had a spraying water.
Ben helped Cloe figure out how to hold it.

She over came her fear of losing control and handled it like a pro.

In the end this was bad news for Grandpa.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Final Photos part 3 The Photo Shoot

Tamara's Photo shoot February 5 2016

Part 3, Taking the photos

This is the continued the story from part 1 & part 2 of the day my Sister received her wish to look healthy one last time.
We move to the last part of the magic, 
 There will be 2 different set of photos here, the ones I took will be in black and white, and Kathleen Rossel's, from Kay Ross Photography are the ones in color.
I am so grateful to her and Mandy Paavola from MP Make-up Artistry for making this all happen.
I am also full of gratitude to The Twisted Cork for giving us such a beautiful location to take the photos.
This will be a longer post because so many beautiful photos were taken and even though I am not showing all of them, there were just some I had to share.

 After walking to the table, Tamara just needed to rest.
This next photo is not one I took, but the assistant to Kathleen, Susie Crichton caught.
She just captured her exhaustion so perfectly with the sadness that always comes over her face with it.   

Kathleen also took an amazing photo of that moment.

After she was done with her rest she went to work like a pro.
I always thought she would have been a great model.

After the photos with the table and chairs were done it was time to bring out the bench.
We brought it right up to her and she slid over to it.
Again, the exhaustion took place.

Instead of making her get up and turn around to the right position, we moved her.
It was a perfect group effort that helped things all come together.
The best part was that through it all, she knew she was worth it.

Time for another rest while Kathleen figures out the best way to work with how Tamara was feeling at that moment.

Then just as before, though super tired, Tamara was back to taking photos like a pro.

As you can see it took a lot out of her. 
We had been here for 1.5 hours at this point.
She needed to take a small nap.

After about 15 minutes she woke-up and was red hot again.

One last position change to finish up the shoot.

She did such a fabulous job, but after 2 hours it was time to go home, and she was ready to not have to work anymore.
The crew got together and helped her into her walker chair.

It was truly a living miracle for all of this to happen, and as fast as it did.
Without these 2 amazing and talented ladies, along with the help of others, we would not have these wonderful and touching last pictures of my sister, and what she would have looked like if she was healthy.
Thank-you will never express what is in my heart.
Kathleen and Mandy are just some of the angels here on earth to make sure we know we are loved.

I leave this series of blog posts with this final picture.
It is the one Kathleen caught that, for me, showed my sister's true spirit.
A bit mischievous, happy, and so full of life.
I will miss her until we meet again.


Final Photos part 2 Getting Ready

Tamara's Photo shoot February 5 2016

Part 2, Getting ready to look healthy

This is the continued the story from part 1 of the day my Sister received her wish to look healthy one last time.
We move to the first part of the magic, 
 There will be 2 different set of photos here, the ones I took will be in black and white, and Kathleen Rossel's, from Kay Ross Photography are the ones in color.
I am so grateful to her and Mandy Paavola from MP Make-up Artistry for making this all happen.

After we were let into The Twisted Cork for the photo shoot, the first step was to take before photos.
These were really important to Tamara, for herself. 
I think she needed to see what she currently looked like, plus be able to show the magic these 2 amazing ladies truly created.   

 Afterwards, Candi and I took her to the bathroom and changed her into her new clothes. 
It took so much out of her.
After Ben helped get her onto the bench so Mandy could get to work, she looked so tired and done.
This next photo shows how everyone was just rushing around her while she just wished for more strength.

 Mandy was so great!
She showed amazing concern and great care for my Sister. 
She talked her through everything she was going to do first before even starting.

 No matter how hard the position was or uncomfortable, Mandy made sure my sister felt like a queen in those moments.

It was so amazing watching the color come back to Tamara.
It was hard for her at the same time because she never wore much make-up before.
Mandy's goal was to make her look like the natural beauty she was before the cancer.

 This was the first time my Sister ever wore fake eyelashes because she was gifted with natural, extra long ones.
I loved how Mandy had the perfect ones that she could put on that matched what use to be there.

Final step is to bring her lips back to life. 
My favorite part of this photo is Mandy's face and how animated she was.
She probably didn't even realize she was doing it, but brought joy to the whole thing for us.
Tamara would talk about that for a few days after and then again when we were given these photos.

After the make-up magic was done, it was time to move her to the table and chair set up for the first stage of the photos.
It was so hard for her to do.
She just really wished that she could have walked to them it on her own. 
She was grateful for the amazing men in her life there to help. 

This photo is of the last steps she ever took.
It is funny thinking of all the first steps I captured of my kids, I never thought I would take photos of the last steps my sister took. 

Final Photos part 1 Getting there

Tamara's Photo shoot February 5 2016

Part 1, Getting to The Twisted Cork

So my sister expressed to me how she did not want a viewing when she passed away.
Some people may argue that this is for the ones left behind and that that would be a chance for them to say goodbye to her.
The reason she asked for this is because she did not want peoples last memories of her to be how she looked a that point.
She wished she had just one last photo of her when she looked healthy so that would be what everyone would remember.
Of course this wish set me in motion.
I talked to a few people and so many came forward to help, but there were challenges that needed to be met.
The miracle was that within  2 days we had an amazing photographer lined up, a make-up artist who volunteered her time, and even a location venue that donated the space. 
Day 3 after coming up with the idea Phoenix and I went shopping for some new clothes to make this extra special for her.
We found the perfect clothing at the Bolli Imports store in the mall that was both soft on her sensitive skin and stretchy to make getting into them not so challenging.
I forgot to take pictures of that trip but it was very special.
Day 5 after the idea was first formed and we are heading to the photo shoot.
These are the pictures and struggles from that day.

Getting out of bed was so hard for her at this point, it exhausted her many times just thinking about it. 
In this first photo she is trying not to cry after the work it took just to get the basics done to leave.
The frustration she had as her body slowly stopped doing what she wanted was the hardest thing for me to watch.

It took a couple of attempts to get her out of bed because it hurt her so much. 
This next picture was after the second time and she just needed to rest.
It was the strength and determination on her face that built up before every try that was, and will always be an inspiration to me.

My husband, Mike, and my oldest son, Ben, were there to help her with everything she needed for moving.
Walking was getting hard for her before this day, but on that day it took everything she had to walk just a few steps. 

She made it to the door but could not do the stairs, again she cried over her failing body.

It was at this point Ben carried her to the car and from the car so she would not have to worry about using that energy again.

We actually made it to the venue for the shoot early and had to wait outside for just a little while.
I think she was a little relieve to not have to get to work right away.
Thank-you so much to The Twisted Cork for be such an amazing place to eat, but also a supporter of the community you live in.

I do not think I will ever truly understand her internal struggles during this time. 
What I will remember the most is how much she fought through it all and never gave up.
If she could do that then my struggles with having to take baby steps while my body heals is minor and I will try to be as strong as she was and consider my self amazing if I find even half of that strength.