Photography: Neighborhood Sunrise

“The morning steals upon the night, Melting the darkness.” -William Shakespeare

A gorgeous friend of mine writes and talks a lot about joy—seeking it out, the importance of recognizing it, and fighting for it even when it feels ridiculous. She inspires me all the time and this morning I did something purely for the joy of it. I hiked to a park by my house with my camera to capture the sunrise. It felt luxurious and I basked in the beauty of the world for an entire hour alone.

My mother-in-law has entered hospice care within the home of my kind, caring, and incredibly giving sister-in-law. This time in our lives is hard. Watching a woman of immeasurable strength and love fade before all our eyes is beyond difficult. While I don’t know what this next part looks like, I do know that even within these hard moments we can find gratitude and even joy.

All the photos above were taken with my Olympus OM-D and edited with ON1 Photo RAW.

Here’s a bonus iPhone self-portrait:

What to see more?

It’s all about the confidence

My ratty sweatpants and stained tank top were covered haphazardly in paint. My hair was pulled back sloppily and I had splotches of yellow on my face and arms. I’m an incredibly messy painter who tends to get as much on myself as the walls.

Obviously, I was in no condition to go into the grocery store. But as the kids and I were starving and there was nothing to eat at home, that is exactly what I did.

“Ugh, I’m so embarrassed to walk into Trader Joes looking like this,” I said as we walked through the door. “I should not be out in public.”

“Mom,” my daughter said grabbing my hand and making me face her. “You look like you worked hard and you did. You were helping our school. You should be proud.”


“Your right,” I said.

I wish I could report that I felt completely better and that I walked around without giving my appearance another thought.

That’s not what happened.

I was still quite embarrassed to look such a wreck in public. I felt as if everyone was looking at me with their disappointed gazes of judgment. I was sure they were making assumptions of me as a person and mother.

At the checkout stand, I felt an urgent need to apologize and explain myself.

“Sorry I look so messy,” I said. “I was just painting and had to dart out quick.”

“You look fine mom,” my daughter said in a clearly annoyed tone. “I told you that. You worked hard and it looks like it.”

“Your right,” I told her. “I did work hard.”

“You always look great mom,” she pressed.

“Thanks love,” I said blushing, embarrassed that my 7-year-old daughter was schooling me in front of the store clerk.

“I mean it mom,” she said. “You do.”

And she is right.

I have made incredible strides in my self-esteem, but there are days when I feel like an ugly witch from a Grimm’s fairytale and nothing will shake it. That’s when all the mean things I’ve been told over the years comes bubbling to the surface and I can’t quiet the voices.

I’m 37-years-old and those voices are still there, whispering when I’m most vulnerable. What they say is untrue, but it doesn’t matter. When I am weak, I believe them. I let them tear at me. I let them get me.

If I had the power to grant my daughter one wish, it would be that she never loses the voice inside that tells her how special and amazing she is. That she stays true to herself.

Ever since that exchange at the grocery store, I can’t stop thinking about protecting my girl. What can I do to combat all the negativity that is headed her way? How can I ensure her voice stays the strongest and that she gives no power to all the other voices that will be directed at her?

Then I stumbled across an interesting piece featured on A Mighty Girl called “I Like My Body Because It’s Magic.” A photographer interviewed girls between the ages of four and eight about what they liked about their bodies. The answers inspired me to talk to my girl.

I asked her to draw a picture of herself and write what she liked about her body. Here is what she did:


I love this so much that I hardly have words for it. It makes me happy in the deepest of ways. It gives me hope that maybe she will not struggle like me.

Just maybe.

As we were hanging her picture on the refrigerator, it occurred to me that I should have her do this every Thanksgiving as a yearly focus on what she loves about her body. We could keep them in a little book and pull it out each year to see how she has grown.

My hope is that this little act will serve as a yearly window of opportunity for us to talk about her body. It will give her a chance to focus in on her strengths and me a great opportunity to keep up with all the changes headed her way.

I also know that I need to set a good example, and I’m trying. I no longer say I hate my body and I’m learning to accept things about myself. I am growing and hopefully I can keep up with her.

Her wisdom and spirit is something I will fight to protect.

I have always tried to stay away from compliments, hoping that would help her see that she is more than her appearance. But everyone needs to hear they are beautiful, inside and out. I need to be a positive voice whispering the truths of her beauty to her, so she can combat the negativity headed her way.

I need to be louder.

So on this day of Thanksgiving, as a tribute to my daughter and to combat my own voices, I’m going to say a few nice things about my own body.

  • I love how strong my back and arms are. I can work around the house, lift my children and carry things up and down the stairs all day. My arms help me to cradle my loved ones and make them feel safe in my embrace.
  • I love how my eyes change colors. They are beautiful reflections of my mood and one of the most powerful ways I show my love for my children. When I am happy, they shine brightly and light up my entire face.
  • I love how tiny my hands, feet and head are. I can shop in the kids department for shoes, gloves and hats. It makes me feel youthful and cute.
  • I love how my brain works, always in wonder and awe of the world around me. I notice the clouds in the sky, the hummingbirds at my window and the tiny patterns in the leaves.

So I challenge everyone to take a moment today and be thankful for the beauty that is you. I know it’s cheesy, but do it.

Sarah Maren Photographers

As my beautiful girl reminds me every day, everyone is special.

Yes, even you with the gravy on your shirt, you are worth celebrating.

I love you.

Shards of life

I am a beautiful glass vase that keeps being filled with flowers that then rot and die.


Now the vase has been dropped and broken into shards of glass. The pieces are uneven and sharp. Some are beautiful. Many are ugly. It might not ever fit back the way it was before. But that’s a good thing.

It’s a crazy mess and I want to share some shards with you.

*Floating down the Truckee River with my crazy mom, the beautiful Liz and all the kids. Water fights with strangers. Laughing so hard as we crashed into things like rocks, rafts and bridges.

*Watching my daughter lose it. Completely. Screaming and calling me the worst mom in the world while people floated by on their rafts. I may or may not have wished to drown at that point.

*Getting a text that one of my oldest, dearest friends, my dear Angy, her mom Gloria was in the hospital. My arms literally ached to hold her and be there for her.

*Finally being with Angy as she had to see her mom like that. Hearing words that nobody wants to hear. Feeling like the most important thing in the world was being there.

*Knowing I could trust my mother and my friend Liz with my children, so I could release that and be present.

*Seeing the strength, courage and poise with which Angy handled things. She has been and always will be a beacon of light in my life. She is a truly amazing person.

*Seeing her father Earl broken as he couldn’t bear to see his love like that. The love they shared was so intense and present that I felt it was a physical thing I could see.

*Sitting with Earl as he told me story after story about Gloria – how they met, courted, fragments of memories they shared. “I was never nothin’, but she made me feel like somethin’.” Those words are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever heard in my life.

*Holding my friend as her mother died. Feeling that intense pain like a physical stab. A pain we all have to endure over and over. Knowing that just being with her, holding her, crying with her, was some comfort. Feeling our humanity and fragility together.

*Watching my son learn to shoot a BB gun with Earl. As they knocked down cans in the backyard, it was like time was stopped. I was a kid again, but I had my boy with me.

*Trying to understand my husbands’ reaction and realizing that some pain never goes away. Some things can’t be fixed.

*Knowing my grandfather is battling cancer and that I won’t be able to be there with him. Hurting that I can’t see his beautiful eyes in person again or hear him play his guitar and sing.

*Making the decision to send my mom to see her dad. Makes no sense financially, but seeing the tears in her eyes as I told her to pack and that she was going…worth everything.

*The kids and I drove her to San Francisco for her flight. It was stressful, the kids had to pee, their was traffic and we almost didn’t make it. But she did. She is there. She is probably hugging her dad right now as I type this. That makes my heart sing.

*Realizing it was 3:30 p.m. in San Francisco and that there was no way I wanted to sit in traffic for hours. So, with tank tops and not much of a plan, we parked at Fisherman’s Wharf. We walked around and froze. Ended up on an amphibious vehicle. It drove around S.F. then drove into the bay. Kids got to steer. Talked with the sweetest couple from Denmark celebrating their 10th anniversary. Love was pouring out of them.

*Sitting in my friend Sondra’s backyard drinking coffee and hearing our kids play together. Knowing she will be by my side always. She loves all of my pieces..and I hers.

*Coming to terms with my own unhappiness and realizing that I can’t fix everything. Breaking down and discovering that I try to make everyone happy, but that I cannot. I can only really make me happy and I’m failing. I’m not responsible for others happiness. Still not sure I believe that.

*Seeing how many people care for me. They are coming out of the woodwork and they are all saying the same thing, “so glad you are back, we missed you.”

*Making a plan to work on my strength. I need to get strong, physically and mentally. It’s the path I need to be on. It’s the hard work I need to do.

*Playing babies with my daughter, seeing her love and care for my old doll Nathaniel wearing clothes and diapers from Cooper’s baby wardrobe. She can be so gentle and kind.

*Ironing my beautiful, white tablecloth for Gloria’s celebration of life tonight. Spraying it with starch and fighting all the wrinkles. It will be filled with flowers and pictures. Nobody will see the imperfections. They will see the beauty of the cloth. The beauty of life. The beauty of Gloria and the love she inspired.

So, those are the shards – glorious, sharp, jagged and uneven. I’m fitting them back together. It’s going to be a beautiful, strong vase that you can count on. It will just take time.