Listen and you’ll know

I’m a photographer, not a writer. Forgive the imperfections and grammatical errors:)

I’ve sat down many times over the past few months to write this post only to talk myself out of it for many reasons. People will think this or that, think I’m being self serving, think I’m just plain weird or a bleeding heart. I overthink everything. Well, I’ve decided that it really doesn’t matter what people think, only that I’m doing what I’ve been urged to do; tell this story. And with all the love that’s in the air in the posts today in honor of Martin Luther King, JR Day, I thought it an appropriate time to post this.

I’ve been a volunteer for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep for four years now.  This past year I had many things happen in my life that caused a great deal of stress. We have all been to that point where we think, something’s gotta give! NILMDTS is tough organization to volunteer for. You volunteer to be in a position to deal with situations you aren’t trained for. We are photographers, not therapists, and as for myself, I have said dumb things in certain situations because I’ve either not known what the heck to say or I’ve tried to remove myself so much from the situation so I could work that I became insensitive. It’s a tough balance. If you let it get the best of you, your eyes are swollen with tears and you can’t see to take pictures!! You remove yourself too much and you just become a robot. You also deal with hospital relations. For the most part, nurses are sensitive to the fact that we are volunteers and not on call 24/7. Others aren’t so sensitive. Just in the past two years we’ve had to work to repair relationships because of things that have happened (which I won’t go into detail). We’ve trained nurses on how to use digital SLRs for the calls we can’t respond, we’ve worked to establish new procedures so the nurses aren’t clueless about what we do. We have alot of work to do because that was done with only ONE HOSPITAL! We cover SIX!!! (Children’s, Good Sam, Bethesda North, Mercy Anderson, Mercy Fairfield, University). Couple that with trying to serve all the families that need services and you easily have about three full time jobs. Except it’s not my (or other volunteer photographer’s) full time job.  I have my family and my business. If I didn’t live with my heart I could easily just easily say, well…sorry I can’t come take pictures and that’s the end of it. Knowing the amount of families that go unserved truly upsets me. But I also can’t let it consume my life or I will also fail my kids and husband. It’s tough though when unexpected things happen, like arriving at the hospital for one session and realize there are three. Three. it’s mind boggling. Three funerals. Three sessions to edit (which for some sessions take many hours to edit). Three memorial photos to return in time for the memorial. And suddenly my regular clients don’t understand why my 5 week turnaround quote is now going to be 7 weeks. I constantly was feeling guilty. Always saying sorry. I try to keep my regular photography business part time and only have two days a week dedicated to editing (well, I’ve not kept that schedule, as my husband can attest!).  I’m trying to change the guilt and the constant apologizing.  I’m okay with how things are. This is what I’m meant to be and do.

HOW DO I KNOW???? This purse is how I know.

I was struggling with stress and prayed for a sign of what I should give up. What do I do? How do I fix this feeling? I hate feeling this way! I hate letting people down!!! So I thought, I will need to just give up NILMDTS.

Then I get a message literally that same week I just resolved to the idea that it was NILMDTS that had to be my relief. “May I stop by and pick up my CD and drop something off?”  well sure! see you soon! It was Dana. Dana is the mother of Jennifer. Jennifer is the mother of Eli. She sacrificed herself for Eli. She found out she had breast cancer during pregnancy and chose to have Eli while delaying necessary treatment. I was honored to photograph Eli after he as born, and photograph his time with his mommy. She passed away March 8, 2011. But she’s still speaking!!! RIGHT NOW, in these words I am sharing!!

Dana came by and dropped off a bag and left. She didn’t want to cry and left me in private to open it up. In it was this purse, a card and a poem. Jennifer loved this poem. In the card sent to me Dana says “When Jennifer was in the Philly Cancer Hospital, they had a little jewelry show and she had seen a starfish necklace she just had to have”. On the way home “she told me this [starfish] story and then I understood. The little girl saved and made a difference in one starfish and Jennifer wanted to make and save her baby Eli when everyone was telling her to abort or let him go”. “After Eli was born, you were placed in our lives and made a difference in Jennifer’s life. You treated her as a young woman and not a person with cancer.” And a beautiful woman and mother she was! I just simply wanted to capture her little family the best way that I could for her, for Andy, for Dana…and for Eli to know what an amazing woman his mommy is. There are slightly different versions of the poem, but I’ll share the one they shared with me:


A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,
“Well, I made a difference to that one!”
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.
– adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley


So it was a VERY BLATANT MESSAGE that Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep WAS NOT what I was supposed to give up!!! I was so worried about getting behind on work, stressing about getting  this or that done. IT DOESN’T MATTER!!!! It’ll be there tomorrow. These families with these babies won’t. And while I have committed to taking a break from taking so many NILMDTS sessions to avoid burnout, I know that I’ll be there for the ones I’m meant to be there for. Even if it is just one a month. That’s one family that is served that wouldn’t have been. I will also continue to work on hospital relationships. We have some mending to do with Children’s Hospital and will be meeting with them next month.

“Do your best and God will do the rest” [Nick Vujicic, motivational speaker born with no arms and no legs]

“It takes the same amount of energy to worry as it does to believe” [Joel Osteen]

So I’m done worrying about how I’m going to do it all. Because I CAN’T do it all. I can’t volunteer for every call and feel guilty all the time. I can’t do everything at my kids school. I can’t run an effective business all the time when things happen in my family. I can’t do it all. And I’m finally okay with that. I’m okay if people think I’m a slacker. I know I’m not! I know in my heart I’m doing what I SHOULD BE DOING and what will have IMPACT. If that means I look rude to someone, well so be it. I’ve spent too much time worrying about what people think:)God is directing me, so I know my future will be amazing! I CAN’T WAIT!

GO BE AMAZING with just doing little things!

To learn more about Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep or to become a volunteer photographer, visit  And THANK YOU to the local Cincinnati photographers that endure this special journey with me as a NILMDTS volunteer. We have some special people on our team!!!


This is Jennifer, Andy and Eli the week he came home. Thank you Jennifer for speaking to me through your amazing mom and your amazing husband:





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  • ChrisJanuary 21, 2013 - 8:50 pm

    Thank you for this post. I do no exactly how you feel, and do take a break from NILMDTS if needed. You are an integral part to our team, and I do not want to lose you. Thank you for all that you do.

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