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Meet Allan…{a true Thanksgiving story}

as an artist and as a fellow human soul navigating this crazy world…it’s always such an honor that people allow me in to capture them. it requires a quiet trust and it’s not something i take for granted. it’s an honor that they let their guard down and let me and my camera see into their soul–to be one in it’s calm presence for a short while..

my dear friend Amanda introduced me recently to Allan and we’ve since developed a true connection and a forever friendship. Amanda is one of the kindest souls i’ve EVER encountered. i’m honored to know her. and i learn from her kindness and humanitarianism all the time. she’s co-written this piece about Allan to accompany the photos i took a few weeks ago.

my life is forever enriched for knowing both of them.

if you are interested in joining us in welcoming allan to our great country and helping him as he starts his new life here please contact me in the comment section below. he deserves a great start and will surely turn any kindness you pass along to him into great things.

Allan, a 19 year old man arrived in Denver, Colorado, on October 17, 2014.

Allan’s journey began as a child in Uganda. Allan fled his homeland, for humanitarian reasons, as an orphan, at 15 for Kenya. Allan was homeless on the streets of Nairobi for three months as he made his way to Kakuma. Allan spent almost 4 years in a Refugee Camp – Kakuma, in Kenya, awaiting approval from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the United Nations High Commission for Refuge relocation and safety in the United States. Kakuma is the second largest refugee camp in the world. Angelina Jolie started an all girl school there, the Lost Boys of Sudan, were in Kakuma, prior to relocation. This is a grueling and arduous process, not for the faint at heart. There are over 120,000 refugees seeking relocation services in Camp Kakuma alone. The inhabitants that call this their ‘refuge’ are from Uganda, Sudan, Somalia and Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and the Congo. They travel with the clothes on their back, and are provided a tarp, canteen and cooking pan to start their new life. It is important to know that the choice to stay in their homeland will in most circumstances inevitably result in their death at the hands of their own people and or their government.They are fleeing to save their life.

Allan has shared with us his valiant and tenacious ability to survive and thrive despite atrocious condition in Uganda and Kakuma. 6 kg of Maize (ground corn) was distributed to him every two weeks as his food source. He then had to be resourceful and barter for wood and oil to cook the maize so that he could eat once a day. Often times he ran out of maize and went without food for days, awaiting the next disbursement of food. 6 kilograms is 13 plus pounds of ground corn.

Water is a precious commodity in the arid African desert, temperatures reach 120 degrees on a regular basis. Each refugee is given a canteen which holds 2 1/2 gallons of water. This water is for consumption, bathing, cooking and laundry. Allan explained that he had to tie the canteen to his body and get up at 4:30 am to wait in line for hours for when the water would be turned on. The water was available from 1-2 pm. Often people would fight and be seriously injured in their attempt for this precious life altering commodity. If you had to go to the bathroom during that time frame, you could easily loose your place in line.

With Christmas approaching, I recall the story Allan shared with us as I had prepared scrambled eggs for him and we sat at the kitchen table listening to his story. It was Christmas time, I was alone at the Refugee camp, many people there have families, but I was alone. I had 5 cents. I thought to myself, what can I buy with 5 cents? I was all alone, but I was able to buy a lollipop.

Allan maximized his time and opportunities offered in the refugee camp. He is impassioned with cinematography and film. An international organization Film Aid, took him on as an apprentice and student for three years. Allan is a certified Filmmaker, editor and cinematographer. Did I mention that he is fluent in English, Swahili, Luganda, Gishu, and Rwandu.

Allan shared that a long term goal of his is to start an orphanage when he is financially successful. He envisions running the non-profit business from the United States, and providing an education and or training in an area of interest to the children so that they too can follow their passion with hope and have a dream of freedom from poverty and social injustice.

I have witnessed spaghetti and pizza being tasted for the first time. Allan has an affinity for pineapple, and chose pineapple and Canadian bacon for the toppings of his first pizza. He loves Chiapatti, as we have come to call tortilla’s, with rice and beans and chicken-quesadilla style.

To experience the snow and frigid cold temperatures through Allan’s eyes and senses this week is innocence and childlike abandon and expiration, all encompassing.

The Red String of Fate is a Chinese theory that states that there is an invisible red thread that ties us humans together, connecting us with humans that we are meant to encounter. Without question this kind and sweet soul divinely touched our hearts. We have a middle son, his name is Allan. I cannot imagine my world without him.

Allan despite his tremendous suffering has survived, and is guided by angels. I admire and adore this young man who inexplicably came into our lives three weeks ago. My life is enriched and blessed for having him in our family. He touches my maternal heart and soul, he teaches me the meaning of true love and God’s grace.

Ubuntu.

a teacher’s love… {littleton family photography}

look at this lovely family!

look at this lovely family!

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my mom was a dedicated and devoted teacher in the public schools for over 30 years. and because teaching was so much a part of her life it was so much a part of mine as well. so i truly get the power and importance of pedagogy. but until you see said power unfold in front of your own parental eyes you never really do get it. and even though i spent several years working in our children’s school myself-it never ceases to amaze me. what surprises me the most is watching the lengths teachers will go to ensure kids are not only educated but that they are also empowered, uplifted and emotionally supported too. we’ve been so blessed with AMAZING teachers for our sons each and every year that we’ve be part of our neighborhood school.

and this year i got to give the gift of photography to my youngest’s outstanding teacher. (still waiting for you to take me up on my offer from last year MR.L!)

i was a para educator for kiddos with Autism in this lovely lady’s classroom last year and was completely in awe of how amazing she was to them. hugs, extra attention, patience, kindness, compassion and passion for inclusion are just a few words that come to mind. and then thoughts of countless examples of each of these words fill my mind. countless. and i smile.

so fast forward to this year when my son (who also has autism) is in her class. as parents we all trade our children’s days for the education they receive. we are beyond blessed to leave our child in YOUR sweet hands Erin (and also the hands of another amazing para educator miss michele). what a true joy it is to see you hug EACH kiddo as they leave the classroom after the bell rings with an embrace that is no different than we parents see you give your own children.

it’s an honor to know you and your lovely family. i love the love that you guys share. and i loved capturing it for you.

these photos are a gift from all of the parents in the ASD program at our school for all that you do and all that you’ve done for all of them throughout the years.

heartland hero of mine…{littleton family photography}

my sweet 10 year old son just finished writing his “heartland hero” essay. in it he describes, with wisdom far beyond the typical insight of a 5th grader, a hero he met after being lost in a wave of runners while walking the “bolder boulder” race with me a few years ago. it’s a tender piece about how a simple gesture of kindness forever changed his life.

tonight i went to turn off the computer and there it was–his essay all typed up and lovely right in front of my eyes. reading it stirred up quite a few emotions in me. so here i sit way past midnight staring at the computer and thinking about the concept of a hero.

i click to minimize his lovely writing piece as i dry my eyes and gloat a bit about just how proud i am of him. i pull up Facebook to check in before i head to sleep. i see a reminder that today is a very special day. a birthday for someone who, in my life, has truly been a ‘heartland hero‘. a hero who truly deserves a shout out.

it’s emotional to think back to the beginning…when it began to sink in that i truly was battling ovarian cancer–back in the fall of 2012. actually it’s quite overwhelming looking back. not surprisingly, many of the details i’ve somehow blocked out…and honestly, most of them are completely gone. but i do remember getting my port put in and sitting in the waiting room of the oncology floor–hardly believing that i was there. i remember the amazing comfort of having my big sister and one of my best friends there (both also true heroes to me also–but that’s another blog post.) i remember having my long hair. {and i remember being self-conscious of said long hair as i was one of the few in the waiting room (aside from my loyal companions) with hair–let alone long black hair.} i remember my heart beating fast, sweat dripping from my forehead and complete fear overtaking my mind. then…the door opens from ‘the other side’….the chemo room, which was to be my home once per week for the next 18 weeks. i looked up and heared my name being called. and my eyes locked with the kindest blue eyes and the warmest smile i had seen in a long long time.

those eyes and that smile belonged to my chemo nurse shannon. she comforted me, made us all smile and made that first day more tolerable than i’d ever imagined it would be. in many ways she set the stage for me to begin the battle and reminded me that it would be ok.. and that i would be ok. {even though at that moment i wasn’t really sure what “ok” really meant anymore.} i was blessed to have her as my nurse many times during my journey and her care made a huge difference in my attitude, my fight, and my recovery. she, in many ways was my very own’heartland hero“.

i even wrote about her in my caring bridge journal:

“sunshine on a cloudy day”

well today is my heartland hero’s birthday. and recently i was able to document the love of her newly expanded family and to give back to her for a change. it was truly my honor.

shannon, thank you for making a difference in the lives of those of us struggling with all types of cancer and having to deal with chemotherapy. your aunt would be so proud of you. thank you for being such a special part of my journey.

cancer has forever changed me. and so have you.

happy birthday!

{oh–and thank you for the bottle of my favorite italian white wine and the sweet note!}

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Shelly - October 17, 2014 - 3:55 am

This whole post shows the beauty of people sharing their gifts and changing lives for the better. What a great read to start my day.

a summer reunion… {littleton family photographer}

a moment forever preserved.

a moment forever preserved.

a true family affair.  time to celebrate being together.

a true family affair. time to celebrate being together.

a sweet embrace before a precious daughter goes off to college.

a sweet embrace before a precious daughter goes off to college.

cousins in colorado.

cousins in colorado.

sisterly love.

sisterly love.

brother and sister.  a powerful image.

brother and sister. a powerful image.

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more sweet sisterly love.

auntie love.

auntie love.

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i love this–a sweet and simple giggle.

more father/daughter love.

more father/daughter love.

a sweet embrace.

a sweet embrace.

it’s so easy to forget the importance of taking the time to capture family time.  it’s very easy to avoid bringing a camera (other than the one that comes with a cell phone) along to events when family is visiting. (and even if you do bring one–of course someone has to be taking the photos and therefore that person will not be in the photos…)  the most common thing i hear people say is “we’ll take a group photo later or tomorrow“…but then tomorrow’s photo plan gets forgotten and the visit ends with nothing being documented.  or in another scenario–the only photo memories taken were on a phone which didn’t get downloaded or even accidentally got deleted before a print ever got ordered.

i’m a professional photographer and this has all happened to me.  and i am willing to guess that something similar has happened to just about all of us.

we live in an age where capturing photos is easier than ever.  our phones are are daily companion and we get into the mind set that a quick snap is all we need.  but is it?  even the most recent phones (well maybe not the newest ones…which i haven’t really experimented with) still take mediocre photos at best.  sure they look great on the phone itself but when you try and print them they are often grainy, blurry and disappointing.

i applaud all families  who recognize that family gatherings are celebrations that need to be documented by a professional family photo session.  it’s a small investment in time and money– with ten-fold gains. as a matter of fact, our family hires a professional photographer annually as well.

the purpose of this session was to create prints to surprise parents for an anniversary gift.  but our session went longer and we took the time to capture many different family combinations which made the gift even more special.

the light was perfect on this early colorado summer morning, our time together brief but poignant, and the edited images are now forever preserved memories of a lovely family gathering.  now these are images that will be shared and enjoyed for years to come.

 

 

gorgeous dancing light…{littleton family photographer}

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i went on a magical hike this afternoon with an inspirational friend who reminded me that i haven’t been blogging.

and we spoke about the fact that it seems to be a lost art.  we have less and less time in our lives for extra things like blog stalking, day dreaming or web surfing.  i feel the pressure too and i understand it.  but i miss writing.  and i miss reliving the beautiful moments of my family photo sessions.

i love looking back at a gallery of images after editing and swooning over the sweet summer light.  there is this new special spot i’ve found that glistens with said magical light and just about all times of the day.  and you combine that with the love that a family shares and it’s, to me,  pure synchronicity.  when those two collide i feel so full of passion and life and my camera and i are absolutely at one with each other.  it’s like time stands still and everything plays out in slow motion–and all i see is the connection between that light and the love and energy of the family behind my camera.

as an artist it’s been so amazing to have had the honor of photographing this family for many years.  documenting the adorable twins from a few months old to now and then the addition of a handsome baby brother who has grown up to be a pre-schooler has been so cool.  and i’m now honored to call these guys my friends.  they’ve been so kind and generous to me over the years and the admiration i have for them surely comes through in the images.

photography is never work for me.  it’s a passion and it’s my life’s work even though i have lots to learn.  i am so honored to have earned the trust of so many families over the years.  and as long as they’ll have me–my camera and i will continue to follow along.

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dad and lad. {i just adore this image. }

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these two are so dang cute–i could photograph them all day long.

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the connection between these two is just the sweetest thing.

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one word…gorgeous.

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Baylor–here i come!

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her eyes, the light and that sweet sweet smile….

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party of five…

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i may have to blow this one up as a canvas…what do you think M?

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look out girls…

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look out boys!

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again–look out boys!

Erin Ranum - September 7, 2014 - 9:36 pm

Gorgeous pics of this family and loved reading your blog! Your passion for appreciating the beautiful moments in life is contagious!!