The OWEL Project, Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives, launches today, but was really started in my heart many years ago. When my first niece, Taryn, was born I began thinking of my younger days. I remembered growing up in rural MS, being brought up in a religious home. I had a great childhood. While not without hardship, we still did ok and were encouraged to do our best in school. I always wanted to be an artist. I loved to paint and draw and be creative. When I was about 8 or 9, I remember someone telling me that artists didn’t really make any money, and I needed a career that made money.
“So what are my options?” I asked. I was then told I had great long fingers, appropriate for filing like a secretary, or playing piano. I could be a great asset to a minister husband with those skills.
In my junior year of high school is really when I began to notice it. I didn’t really fit in with the rest of the girls I grew up with. It was not for my lack of trying. Most of them were aspiring to marriage. Some went on to be nurses, teachers, and stay at home moms. While all of those things are great things to be, none of them fit me. I tried nursing school and failed miserably....thankfully without killing anyone!
I also tried multiple other options and schools….and eventually graduated with a bachelor’s in consumer science.
The day of graduation, I was on the phone with my friend Sheila, and told her “I feel a bit like a girl pregnant on her wedding day, and no one in the church knows it. I'm a failure and a phony, because I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get this piece of paper.”
I was 27, recently moved to California, and in the middle of job hunting when I picked up a camera. For the first time, really ever, it felt right. By the end of the year I was teaching classes and had regular work being shown in advertisements and television. Fast forward to 37, and I now get to add internationally published and presidential photographer to my resume. I’ve watched many people profess their love in marriage. I’ve watched babies take their first breaths on this earth, and documented those taking their last. Humbly, I recognize that God created me to do this. It’s HIS gift of purpose to me. It was what I was always meant to do.
I want that for my girls, for your girls, for the girl my son will marry. My hope is that my nieces, friends, cousins, daughters, yours too, will grow up knowing and meeting women of all backgrounds and occupations. Through this project, they’ll see something that sparks a dream in their hearts. Something so familiar to their soul they say “Thats where I fit!”.
Meet my nieces.
Taryn, age 14
Fascinated by all things medical, Taryn hopes to become a surgical nurse, or a nurse that works with dermatologist and help others with skin care. She is one of the kindest, sweetest girls I know. You almost always find her smiling and laughing, with the best attitude towards everything.
Dailyn, age 13
Standing tall at 5’9’’, Dailyn is happiest when on the volleyball court. She looks to be a coach and teacher when she grows up. When she isn’t spiking the ball in her opponent’s face, she’s encouraging her teammates on the sidelines. You’ll find her heart at her church too, where she helps serve.
Mikadyn, age 8
When she was prepping for her 4 year old class' career day, Mikadyn proudly announced that she was going to be a Disney princess when she grew up. She was going to live in Florida and be a princess. The problem was, she told her mom, "I don't have a driver's license, or know the way to the castle. Also, Mom, I can't write my name yet, so I'm not sure how am I going to sign autographs."
Now at the ripe old age of 8, (9 in June, she wanted me to mention) she wants to be a teacher, because "I think I'd be really good at telling people what to do."
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