Poverty and the Purple House

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We pulled up to a small private school in a neighborhood in Nicaragua. Our driver turned the key in  the ignition and Kendra, the missionary we were with, began to tell us why they decided to partner with this school.  

"See that purple house with shutters over the windows," she asked.

Sixteen-year-old twins lived there with their mother. 

Kendra met them when they were 11. She brought them to a camp the missionaries hosted each summer.

At night, they screamed.

It was so bad that she pulled one of the girls outside and asked what was wrong.

Desperate for her daughters' survival, their mother would accept food from a pastor in the community. 

He came by at night, where she would meet him on the front steps. In exchange for food for her daughters, she would let him go inside and have his way with the girls.

They were also forced to sleep by the open windows so men could come in and out throughout the night. 

When Kendra heard this tragic story, she decided that not only did Feed the Hungry need to have a presence in this neighborhood, but that families there desperately needed food. The school is now a feeding center for FTH, and the students regularly eat Feed My Starving Children meals. 

Kendra contacted the authorities about the situation. They did an investigation. She hopes that it, along with a presence in the community and much-needed nutrition, can help others not take such drastic measures. 

"The affects of poverty go so deep," Kendra said as she twirled a little girl's orange-tinted hair and moved on to explain how consistent nutrition meant it was starting to grow in healthy. 

I Went to Haiti and Forgot to Tell You

This past April, I had an amazing opportunity with my job managing blog and social media storytelling for Feed My Starving Children

I was able to travel to Haiti with a group of FMSC staff and donors. 

I wrote a lot of blog posts for work and shared photos on my personal social channels, but I never wrote about it here.

Perhaps the biggest thing I walked away with was that there are so many factors and variables to each child’s story. Sometimes the healing takes longer than we realize.

I talked about that in a blog about how hunger is more complicated than we often acknowledge. 

I also wrote about experiencing church in Haiti, sending meals to Hurricane Matthew survivors and paying attention to the faces of Haiti.  

I have the opportunity to bring that last blog to life at Community Grounds in Columbia Heights.

An exhibit of portraits I took in Haiti will be on display through the month of August. I hope you check it out! 

Tangled

“Growing apart doesn't change the fact that for a long time we grew side by side; our roots will always be tangled. I'm glad for that.” 
― Ally Condie

This weekend, I sat on the floor with this person I have known for 20 years and ate mac and cheese. But this time there was a baby there, too.

No one really talks about the beautiful mind fuck that is seeing someone you've grown up with become a mother.

It's been four days since I've met Max, and I still can't get over it. The way Amy looks at him and touches him and rushes to his side when he cries.

Capturing this family whose roots are tangled with mine has been one of my greatest pleasures since I picked up a camera this fall.  

Click on photos to navigate gallery below.

Reflections and Bubble Baths

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 1 Corinthians 4:16-18

My puppy, Ramble, is afraid of all the usual suspects: lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners, other dogs on TV (okay, not sure that one is so normal).

But the things he is most scared of in the entire world are his own reflection and bubble baths.

I was telling my friend about how I recently made this discovery after buying some lavender epsom salt bubble bath. 

I don't do anything around here with Ramble, so I let him in the bathroom during my soak. 

He would stare at me, approach the bubbles with hesitation and then jump back and cower in fear. 

Then I would try to coax him over in my most gentle voice, holding the bubbles out in my hand until he knew it was OK. He would investigate and the cycle would start all over again.

I love this weirdo more than I can express with words, and I would never, ever hurt him. 

"Besides, it's just so silly," I told her. "It's just bubbles...it can't hurt him."

And I was bowled over. 

What if the things I am so scared of are mere bubbles to God?

Although I can't imagine a bigger love than what I have for Ramble, I know that this God I believe in loves me one hundred times more. 

And I know he's coaxing me in his gentlest voice...

Katie, I would never hurt you. Come closer and look at these bubbles. See how small and fluffy they are?

You are going to be OK. 

Welcome...

This is my favorite quote I always forget. And while I have seen it before, I saw it today and started trembling. Then the tears came. 

This quote always catches me off guard, but it's especially moving when you've had a hard year, isn't it? When your year has been full of no-s and tears and waiting. 

I embraced this quote at the beginning of 2016, and my year WAS full of things that have never been. It was full of infertility diagnoses, failed IUIs, an unplanned-for photography business -- things I had never before experienced. Good and bad. The old cliche of blessings in disguise. 

But I am learning to embrace it. To be open to what the Things That Have Never Been are teaching me, and they're teaching me a lot. 

I'm hoping that my Things That Have Never Been in 2017 are more blessings and less disguise, but like my nephew with his Target bag wings, I'm jumping full force into what this year holds for me. I hope you join me -- and thank you -- for standing with me in 2016. 

How to Navigate the Photography World with an Infertility Diagnosis

So, I don't actually have an answer for this. I don't know how to navigate the photography world with unexplained infertility. I just wanted to talk about it.

I'm not sure it can be done. I have zero pain when it comes to photographing families. I consider this a huge blessing. Family sessions are my favorite thing to do, and I love holding your baby so I can get a picture of mom and dad alone. 

But it's not just me and you. Photography is so much about community. It's not just about me and my clients; it's about me and other photographers, photography groups and social media accounts. 

As a photographer, especially when you're new to the game, you have to figure out where you fit in to all this.

Where do you belong? 

You can't be a successful photographer if you live in a vacuum. You have to be active on all the pages -- getting inspiration, participating in weekly fave and themed submissions.

This is where I've started to see a disconnect. So many photographers have children of their own. So many pages are geared towards mom photographers. 

It's one more way for someone struggling with infertility to be on the outside looking in. 

It's one more way for someone struggling with infertility to be reminded that they don't really belong -- anywhere.

This week, I've felt like throwing in the towel. I've unfollowed a lot of important accounts. It's not just the complicated feelings that come along with constantly seeing pictures of baby bellies and peachy newborns -- it's feeling like you can't participate.

During the busy season, I had lots of client photos to share and submit, but now I don't. For most photographers, they can post photos of their children in place of clients until spring when sessions start to pick up.

I don't have that luxury. 

It's not that I don't love these beautiful images. I do. I love the documentary style that comes along with photographing your children in your home. It's so, so beautiful and important. 

But I implore you, photography world, to invite me in. Tell me where I belong. Help me find a way to coexist with you despite this terrible, painful thing called infertility. 

 

 

Let it Snow -- Personal Projects that is

Winter is officially here. It's negative degrees outside and I've had my first of many winter flat tires (thank you Scion tC!) 

With winter comes a bit of a lull for many photographers, and I'm excited to tackle a few personal projects that will grow my photography and editing skills for the next busy season.

Twin Cities Refugees: A Day in the Life

This project is near and dear to my heart. I first pursued journalism as a means to tell the stories of refugees. And when I got to do it, it made my heart sing. One of the reasons I left journalism is because I didn't see a path to that kind of storytelling where I was at. Now, I have the freedom to do what I want. There has been a lot of vitriol and misunderstanding of refugees lately. It breaks my heart. The refugee community in the Twin Cities is vibrant. From Hmong to Somali to the fastest growing group, the Karen, this is a beautiful and diverse place to live. 

Yet. 

Last year a Muslim woman was attacked at an Applebee's for speaking Swahili to the friends at her table. Racial slurs have been sprayed with graffiti in high school bathrooms. Innocent people have been told with hatred to "go back home" and that they don't belong here. But they do belong.

This winter, I am focusing my energy on a photo essay project to capture the very normal yet beautiful daily lives of refugees. Sort of a "Celebrities! They're just like us!" but for refugees. And I can't wait. 

The Photography Conversation Project

I'm also applying to participate in this project for photographers with the talented Rachel Cathleen Photography. You pair up and have an ongoing conversation through photos alone. I hope to be accepted because this will challenge me in my photography and in how I communicate in general! 

"Read This if you Want to Take Great Photographs"

I'm reading this book by Henry Carroll as a way to expand my education past the two semesters in digital storytelling I took in grad school. He covers composition, light, exposure and lenses. It all sounds very basic, but he goes into quite a bit of depth in an easy to understand way. He also peppered the book with photos from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Dorothea Lange. 

 

'Patience is the Antidote'

Patience is the antidote to anger, a way to learn to love and care for whatever we meet on the path. By patience, we do not mean endurance -- as in “grin and bear it.”

In any situation, instead of reacting suddenly, we could chew it, smell it, look at it, and open ourselves to seeing what’s there.

The opposite of patience is aggression -- the desire to jump and move, to push against our lives, to try to fill up space.

The journey of patience involves relaxing, opening to what’s happening, experiencing a sense of wonder. -- Pema Chodron

Click on photos to navigate gallery.

Unexplained Infertility: an Object Lesson

 Selfie from my first, and failed, IUI.

Selfie from my first, and failed, IUI.

We observe our minds grasping and pushing and attempting to hold onto judgments.
‘This is good. This is bad.’ We attempt to make the world fit the pattern we think it should be. Letting go of these judgments frees us, allows open space for our lives to happen.
— Jon Kabat-Zinn

I wrote the letter below seven months ago. So much has changed, yet so little has. We're no longer calling you by this name. In fact, we don't know what to call you anymore. 

We were officially diagnosed with unexplained infertility, which I found out people really don't believe is a thing. But it is a thing, a very real thing, a very frustrating thing. The questioning and the self-guilt consume you every. single. day. 

Just stop trying.
Just stop being stressed.
Just forget about it.
It's only been ____ months!

I no longer feel like the people saying those things have good intentions.

It's not that they have bad intentions. It's just that they aren't thinking.

Frankly, they aren't listening. They aren't feeling. 

Telling me to do anything is telling me that there's something I'm already doing wrong, that this is somehow my fault.

_______________________________________________________________________________

It feels like we’re giving up on you, Adelaide.

First, it was the name. Everyone else suddenly named their baby Adelynn. And we are punished, it feels, for being late bloomers.

“Sorry you couldn’t get pregnant yet, but we took your name.”

Then it was really giving up. Putting trying on hold for almost a year because there is just so much happening in life, and we want the best for you.  

You seemed so close for awhile there. I could sense you. I could see you. I saw you in a vision. You had brown hair and blue eyes. Then I saw you in a dream. I saw you as a baby. I saw you as a toddler. I saw you as a pre-teen (and I was so proud of you!)

When I couldn’t sleep, racked with the anxieties of the day, I imagined rocking you close to my chest, smelling your baby head.

I thought about how my own mother would make me tea when I was sad. How she would bring a cup of tea to my room and talk to me. I thought about how we would have those moments, only more of them, and better.

I wanted to be a parent, but not a mother. But getting ready for you, making space for you, made me want to be a mother.

You are smart and creative. You’re funny, yet wise beyond your years. But you’re not here yet, and it breaks my heart. Why aren’t you here??

I can still see you, which is what makes this so hard. It feels like walking away from a real baby, a person, a future, that already exists.

But I know that you didn’t come to fruition in these past seven months because you know better.

I know that you are waiting for the right time.

You are my dream, but you are slipping through my fingers. What happens to a dream deferred? Langston Hughes wants to know. I want to know. I know you’re still there, but I feel like I’m losing you.

_______________________________________________________________________________

In the midst of all of this, I have been surrounded and held up by an entire tribe of people. The listeners. The empathizers. The prayer warriors.

I've been sent cards and trinkets that mean more to me than anyone will ever know (only some of which are pictured here.) You have texted me to see how I'm doing the night before your wedding. You have sought me and found me hiding in dark closets. You have stuck me with needles and put up with my late cards, my canceled plans, my obsession with my puppy. Thank you.

You know who you are. May I be as good a friend as you guys have been to me.