the secret that i knew, in miss america's top ten...

yes, there was a hidden secret in the miss america top ten last night.  

it's a secret that i'm sure many others from around our area know, in their own ways, but to me and my family, i will reveal our part.


Mackenzie Victoria Bart, formerly of brockway, pa, landed herself in the top ten, at the miss america pageant last night, as miss ohio.  I know members of my family, and so many people in our area were excited to watch this great accomplishment.  

but for me, as i watched mackenzie (Miss Ohio), make it to the next round, to the next round, to the next round, the secret I refer to began to unfold in my head. 

i met mackenzie years ago. 

her mom, worked with my brother in law at the pa state police barracks.  i remember him talking about her (mackenzie and her sister, gabrielle), and the talented girls that they were.  my mother in law and he, would go to the different places that she was performing and would come home raving about this special girl. 

some years later, as my own sisters were getting older, they ended up in a few pageants.  my sister shannon landed herself a spot in the miss pennsylvania pageant.

the road to miss pennsylvania was certainly not a cheap one.  and most of the girls there had years of experience, training, and preparation for a competition such as this.  

the beginning of the miss pennsylvania road for shannon, actually started in brockway, pa.  

the pageant held there was organized by mackenzie's mom, janice.  

mackenzie was a preteen at the time, and janice saw potential in my sister shannon.

janice took shannon completely under wing…helping to purchase her dresses, finding her the pageant swim suits that she needed…prepping her, (janice was learning the ropes herself), and literally holding her hand and walking her through the whole way.

it was a gracious, beautiful act on janice's part.

however, that is not the secret.  

the secret is, that at this same time, janice and mackenzie started their own journey that ultimately landed them to where mackenzie stood last night.

(this is mackenzie and shannon at one of the pa pageant evenings).

(this is mackenzie and shannon at one of the pa pageant evenings).


and this night, was the beginning of where my family began to see the goals and dreams that janice and her mom would work tirelessly to fulfill. 

the secret that time, rejection, hard work and a never ending vision of attaining a goal, would be lived out for all those around them to see. 

i speak from experience, and as an adult:

it is not easy to keep focused on a goal. 

it is not easy to not be caught up in life itself and the responsibilities it brings. 

it is not easy to be a GREAT mother to all of your children.

it is not easy to keep your head up when your goal takes YEARS to attain.

but  the secret in that miss america's top ten last night, is that you CAN DO IT.  

if you remain focused on the goal that you KNOW you are being called to, it can happen - it does happen.  

mackenzie and her mom showed us all.  

maybe never even knowing they were revealing this secret in so many ways.  

but those that have watched this journey…those that know janice…those that know their family…we are privileged and honored to have watched this often great life mystery, unfold and be revealed.

so from a dreamer…a parent…a sister...

congratulations mackenzie, and the entire bart family.  

the crown you wear is one that you have shared with us all.  

and the sparkle of it has and will reach more than you may ever know. 

you are truly a beauty darling!



where is your family now?

i know so many of us are reflecting on this day. 

remembering where we were when we heard the news…unsure of what was happening…or why

myself, i remember that i was sitting at a women's gathering breakfast at what was the ramada inn, at the time, and i was 9 months pregnant with our first child, jonah. 

i had a cell phone, but had it on silent for the breakfast.  

i pulled it out to check for messages, and saw 2 messages form charlie...

"baby…you need to call me….a plane just flew into the twin towers in nyc.  call me."

then, the next..

"baby…why aren't you picking up the phone?  call me!"

i heard the urgency and fear in his voice.  

it was a tone i had never heard before.  

i ran to the hallway and called charlie.  he wanted me to get home quickly. 

and on my home, i remember checking off my list of where all of my family members were right at that time. 

i needed to call my mom, my sisters, my brothers, my dad in arkansas…dang why he did he have to be so far away? and where was my mother in law?

i quickly made the phone calls…making sure each of them was safe.

i'm sure this story, though different in ways, is one that many of you can relate to in terms of the feelings you felt concerning those you love most.  

this time of year always makes me think-

and i'll tell you, this is not a guilt dripping…get your photos down now post. 

this is a post about reality. 

this past year has held far too many deaths of those close to me or of those close to ones that i love most in this world.  i have found myself saying on more than one occasion - "this dying needs to stop!"

young people...

brides to be...

those just entering the retired years of their lives...

just old enough to see grandchildren….

the fact is, the dying doesn't stop. 

we have no idea what holds our tomorrows.

and just as september 11, 2001 shocked us and hurt us to the core, we are never guaranteed that feeling never coming again. 

this year, i have also had the honor once more of photographing individuals and families that i have for many years.  once small children, are now entering into adulthood.  my BABY sister just had her third child, and my other BABY sister will be married in two weeks.  

and just yesterday, the sweet infant that i walked the floors with as she screamed with her acid reflux, looked up to me and said…"mom, i think you waxed your eyebrows unevenly…you may want to fill in the right side a little more!"

time doesn't stop….

babies grow up….

families expand and unfortunately grow smaller because of circumstance too. 

my point?

dont' wait.

this is the time. 

stop for this moment. 

relish the moment and the blessings that you have right now.

and think about preserving them for all time. 

the moments will not come back, and lost memories will not have a price tag attached to them.

but a picture of the moment will keep its worth in gold.  

the pictures that i can't share with you

i was snapping away this morning with my own kids, i'm sure just like everyone else.  

it's the first day of school.  

in many ways, i have been more than ready for this day for quite awhile!

let me clarify - i have 3 incredibly sweet, thoughtful, loving and smart children.  

one day i know for sure that they will all be the best of friends, and charlie and i swear that our "bookends" will live with each other far into their adult years.  

but this school day was ready to be here…

the time was here to set them off once more into the world to learn and to grow in every way that they are designed to. 

and my pictures this morning , like yours, were just one way that we as parents memorialize in our hearts the day that we see how much they have grown, and recognize the butterflies that don't just flutter in our babies' hearts as they set off, but also in our own.  

my pictures, on my stoop, in the front of my house this year, will be kept to my family.  

i received a text last night from a trusted relative, informing me of 2 violent sexual predators, just released from prison, who now reside just houses away from me.  


the description of what happens in a parent's stomach with that news is not even able to be put into words.  

ironically yesterday, before hearing this news, my buddy and i were having a heart to heart.  

at almost 13, he is at an age that i need to start becoming more and more real with him about my fears, my joys, my struggles….and i was sharing with him how as much as i want to walk ahead of him…how i want to protect him in so many ways….how i want to give into my fears that i have as his parent, that i, AS his parent, need to walk a fine line.  and the line that i walk needs to be brought before God every day.  

as his mom, i need to know when i need to step in to protect him…when i need to say no…when i need to make a change…and when i need to trust and cling to the prayers that i pray every day over him (and his sisters)….

the fact of the matter is, that i'm certain that these are not the first sexual predators that have lived next door to me.  evil lives all around us, everyday.  it's just the times when you receive a text just as i did yesterday, that the reality of that evil comes glaring at you dead and center.  

so today, as i keep my images to myself, and to our family, what i will share with you is the hope and the safety that i cling to.   

my freckle faced, bickering bookends (i don't mean to leave out my level headed middle child who refuses to engage in such nonsense), had their mom at her wits end a few times this summer, but even so, this morning, i wanted to wrap my arms around each of them and i longed to keep them safe and untouched forever…but i couldn't.  i had to let them go.  

and i did...

i sent them off with tons of kisses, pictures on my camera, a few tears in my eyes, and a prayer on my lips...

"God protect my sweet one.  Hold him in your hands.  Protect him from accident or illness, from anyone that would want to hurt him, and any way that he could hurt himself.   Protect him physically, spiritually, financially and emotionally.  Place a calling on his heart that he would always know that is from you.  Give him a talent that he would always know that you have given him, and that many people would come to know you through the talents that you have given to Him.  Hold him in your hands and in your arms for I know the love you have for him is far greater than even the love I am able to have for him.  Keep him safe dear Jesus..."



treasuring today….and again, looking back :)….the yoder / hoover family

after watching jenna grow from a teenager into a young woman (she was on the cheerleading squad with my sisters)...

to shooting her engament pictures...

then her wedding photos...

i cannot tell you what a thrill it was to spend time with her whole family and get these fun, precious images for her family to cherish for many years to come.  

a family is complete in the love they share, the memories they cherish and in the heart.  

as i edited these images, i loved to see how the pictures were made "complete" with the hydrangeas.  xo yoder family.

hmmmmmmm :)….now looking back to 2009 :)

and their session highlight video