Posted on

The night her world stood still

“Oh my God, Debbie, it’s cancer!” I was standing in Borders at Ala Moana. You never forget where you are when you hear those words. The words no one ever wants to hear, especially when talking about a 3 year old! Over the summer, one of my best friend’s 3 year old daughter was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor. While on Denae’s college road trip, we drove to Las Vegas to visit with Eve, Joe and Chloe. Chloe was diagnosed on a Monday and had surgery on the Tuesday to remove her left kidney as well as the tumor growing inside of her. Denae and I arrived at the hospital 2 days later to visit Chloe in hospital. Chloe was up and about and in good spirits but this was just the beginning of a very long road. Their life was turned upside down. I took my camera for the sole purpose of documenting this part of their story, knowing photos needed to be taken. Knowing that this is a part of their story that will need to be told in the most beautiful way possible.

It’s hard to watch your best friend go through something like this and know there is really nothing you can do. Eve is one of the strongest women I have ever met. Sitting in the hospital lobby, with tears streaming down her face as she tells me every detail of this nightmare she is living, my heart simply breaks. I cannot even imagine what she is going through. The only thing I can do is listen, and hand her tissues. I don’t know what the future holds. I pray it will be one full of hope, joy and a long life for Chloe. For now, all we know is Chloe has stage 3 cancer and will undergo 26 rounds of chemo and 8 rounds of radiation in the coming year. She has had a port put in for all of her upcoming treatments. She has a big scar across her tummy and one less kidney. But for today she is still smiling. And she still has all her hair. So these photos are going to remind her of the week their lives changed forever,…and the week they found out exactly what they were made of.

DebbieLeannePhotography_OahuPhotographer_FamilyPhotography-6 DebbieLeannePhotography_OahuPhotographer_FamilyPhotography-7 DebbieLeannePhotography_OahuPhotographer_FamilyPhotography-8

 

 

Posted on

College Road Trip

I cannot believe the past 17 years have flown by as quickly as they did. It seems like just yesterday this young woman decided she was ready to meet the world, even though she technically still had 9 weeks to wait! With her dad deployed, my mum flew to Hawaii to watch the younger two kids and Denae and I embarked on her college road trip. And a road trip it was! From California, to Nevada, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and back to California. It was the quickest two weeks road trip I have ever done, the most ground covered and the least amount of scenery enjoyed! We met up with her grandparents in Las Vegas so Papa could help with the driving. I am so thankful we did. As many times as I’ve driven I-10, it never gets any more interesting. We visited 2 colleges in Colorado, one in Texas and one in Arizona. Caught up with friends in Las Vegas, Vale, Colorado and Colorado Springs. Spent a few days with family in Texas and then headed back to California. Like I said, quickest 2 weeks ever!

While we were driving through Nevada, we pulled over to enjoy Walker Lake. After driving through a whole lot of nothing for what seemed like days (it was really only a few hours!) Walker Lake looked like an oasis. It was windy and hot, but equally as beautiful. I took advantage of the winds blowing Denae’s hair all over the place and took some of my favorite photos of her from the trip. Denae begrudgingly allowed me to take photos of her during the trip because her daddy was deployed and wanted to see photos of our adventure. Really though, I knew I was taking these photos because I didn’t know how much longer she was going to be at home with us.

DebbieLeannePhotography_OahuPhotographer_FamilyPhotography-5
DebbieLeannePhotography_OahuPhotographer_FamilyPhotography-3

 

DebbieLeannePhotography_OahuPhotographer_FamilyPhotography-4

Posted on

Aloha, Hawaii…Hey ya’ll, Florida

After what seems like a life time, this family is retiring from the only life they have known, leaving their home on Oahu and heading to Florida to retire. I have known the Ladtkow family for a number of years now, after having taught their youngest son when he was in 3rd grade, and working alongside Andrea. They will be sadly missed as they embark on their next chapter. Thank you for trusting me with some of your final memories of Hawaii… the artwork will look incredible hanging on the walls of your new home for years to come.

DebbieLeannePhotography_OahuPhotographer_FamilyPhotography-1 DebbieLeannePhotography_OahuPhotographer_FamilyPhotography-2

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on

Men are what their mother’s made them…

And she loved a little boy very, very much, even more than she loved herself. And she calls him son…

 

As moms, we make a lot of decisions. Daily decisions…from what to cook for dinner, to prioritizing our children’s activities. But making the decision to allow your eldest child to leave home a full year early to follow his passions and dreams, is one decision no mother really wants to make. I know this wasn’t an easy decision for Heidi, either. But allowing her son the greatest chance of receiving a scholarship into college and to one day play in the major leagues, meant making a decision that I am almost positive, broke her heart a little bit.

As a military family, life is always about saying good bye…whether it’s to our own family members, or to those friends who become like family. Each time we move, we leave a little piece of our heart. With each move, our children are older, our “stuff” changes and the memories of our time in each place are etched forever, somewhere in our hearts. With each move, we prepare for new adventures, make the best of the opportunities afforded to us…and of course, make new friends. It is never easy, but it’s life, and the only life our children know. So as military moms, we do our best to make these memories good ones.

Heidi, Mike and their boys will be leaving the island in just a few short weeks. Being able to spend a little extra time with them before their session, allowed me to get an insight that would often times go unnoticed. The small things that we often take for granted, or the unspoken words that we assume the other knows.

One of those discoveries, were the words of their oldest son. Those words that often go unspoken. The things we assume others already know. When a 16 year old boy opens up and tells you how he feels about his parents, it can be quite emotional. This summer Josh will leave his family to attend boarding college on the East Coast, while his parents and brothers make the military transition to Alaska.

“My mom is my rock, my solid foundation. She reminds me that when I’m having a bad day, that it’s JUST a bad day, not a bad life.”

“I am the man I am today, because of my dad. If it weren’t for him throwing the baseball with me in the yard all those years ago, I wouldn’t be were I am today.”

Getting a glimpse of  how your child really feels at their deepest, is such a joy for any parent. Heidi and Mike have done an amazing job of raising their sons, despite the constant changes that military life has thrown at them. I hope when they look at the art work on their walls, they will be forever reminded of the incredible young men they are raising.

 

Lifestyle, Debbie Leanne, Debbie Leanne Photographer, Debbie Leanne Photography, Family, Oahu, Hawaii, Motherhood, Mother, Children, Intimate, Sentimental, Grace-filled, Love,Lifestyle, Debbie Leanne, Debbie Leanne Photographer, Debbie Leanne Photography, Family, Oahu, Hawaii, Motherhood, Mother, Children, Intimate, Sentimental, Grace-filled, Love,Lifestyle, Debbie Leanne, Debbie Leanne Photographer, Debbie Leanne Photography, Family, Oahu, Hawaii, Motherhood, Mother, Children, Intimate, Sentimental, Grace-filled, Love,Lifestyle, Debbie Leanne, Debbie Leanne Photographer, Debbie Leanne Photography, Family, Oahu, Hawaii, Motherhood, Mother, Children, Intimate, Sentimental, Grace-filled, Love,Lifestyle, Debbie Leanne, Debbie Leanne Photographer, Debbie Leanne Photography, Family, Oahu, Hawaii, Motherhood, Mother, Children, Intimate, Sentimental, Grace-filled, Love,Lifestyle, Debbie Leanne, Debbie Leanne Photographer, Debbie Leanne Photography, Family, Oahu, Hawaii, Motherhood, Mother, Children, Intimate, Sentimental, Grace-filled, Love,Lifestyle, Debbie Leanne, Debbie Leanne Photographer, Debbie Leanne Photography, Family, Oahu, Hawaii, Motherhood, Mother, Children, Intimate, Sentimental, Grace-filled, Love,Lifestyle, Debbie Leanne, Debbie Leanne Photographer, Debbie Leanne Photography, Family, Oahu, Hawaii, Motherhood, Mother, Children, Intimate, Sentimental, Grace-filled, Love,Lifestyle, Debbie Leanne, Debbie Leanne Photographer, Debbie Leanne Photography, Family, Oahu, Hawaii, Motherhood, Mother, Children, Intimate, Sentimental, Grace-filled, Love,

Posted on

The reason I am who I am #sentimentallife

I know a lot of women who don’t have a good relationship with their own mothers. Of course they love them, but for whatever reason there is tension in their relationship. Maybe there is judgement. Abandonment. Lack of personal boundaries. No respect for decisions made as they entered into adulthood.  An unspoken feeling of favoritism towards another sibling. A feeling of never being good enough. Whatever the reason, the relationship between their mother and daughter bond has been strained.

Some may say I am lucky to have the relationship I do with my Mum. It hasn’t always been perfect, but it has always been unconditional. I remember being told as a teenager how rude and disrespectful I was to her. Of course, as a teen the words, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” may as well have been said in a foreign language. It meant absolutely nothing to me. I had no clue what that even meant…until my daughters turned in to teenagers and I found myself repeating the exact words my mother once said to me! All of a sudden, those words came alive with truth.

Today, I get to praise my Mum on this public platform, because after all, it is my public platform to speak from. And when my Mum came over recently to watch my children so I could go to a photography convention on the mainland, I decided what better way to honour her than to make her a part of my Motherhood Project. You see, if it wasn’t for my Mum, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. She has allowed me to make mistakes. Allowed me to cry and scream when I was mad. Encouraged me to move half way around the world, without too many tears. And she has allowed me to raise my children without judgement or condemnation. She is my biggest cheer leader. My most supportive advocate and the one person I know I can count on to be there whenever I need her. The love that she has for each of her children is truly grace filled. It is the very definition of a Godly love.

When I think of my Mum, two things in particular come to mind….one, her quiet disposition. I wouldn’t use the word meek, although she has a meek spirit about her, but she is one who listens before she speaks. She doesn’t just talk for the sake of hearing her own voice (unlike me at times!) and if she has something to say, she deliberates before speaking. The other thing that comes to mind is her laughter. She is a genuinely happy person. Of course she has her days when she needs to vent, cry, or yell…we all do, but her authentic manner is one of joy. I laugh a lot with my mum. I love that she displays such pure joy in her life. She hasn’t always had an easy life, but she has chosen to overcome and live in the moments that bring her joy. Her children. Her grand children. Her best friends. Her family. Her relationship with God. These are the simple pleasures that my Mum dwells in.

Some may call me lucky, but I say I am blessed. Blessed to call this woman my Mum. Blessed to have her as an example of life and Motherhood. Blessed that no matter what, she will always love me. And that even as an almost 40 year old women, I can still sit on her lap and know she will put her arms around me, listen to me, offer advice if asked and love me unconditionally. My mum is the reason I am the mother I am today to my own children. My Mum is the reason I am Intimate, Grace-filled and Sentimental. Thank you Mum, for the legacy you are leaving for our future generations. I cannot imagine my life without you.

A big thank you to Katrina Meyer for coming over and capturing these moments with mum and I. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.

Motherhood, Birth, Women, photographer, family Hawaii, Oahu, Honolulu Ewa Beach, Maternity, Debbie Leanne, Photographer, Newborn, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Photographer, Lifestyle Photography, Family photography, Family photographer, Women Glamor Photographer,

Motherhood, Birth, Women, photographer, family Hawaii, Oahu, Honolulu Ewa Beach, Maternity, Debbie Leanne, Photographer, Newborn, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Photographer, Lifestyle Photography, Family photography, Family photographer, Women Glamor Photographer,

Motherhood, Birth, Women, photographer, family Hawaii, Oahu, Honolulu Ewa Beach, Maternity, Debbie Leanne, Photographer, Newborn, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Photographer, Lifestyle Photography, Family photography, Family photographer, Women Glamor Photographer,

Motherhood, Birth, Women, photographer, family Hawaii, Oahu, Honolulu Ewa Beach, Maternity, Debbie Leanne, Photographer, Newborn, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Photographer, Lifestyle Photography, Family photography, Family photographer, Women Glamor Photographer,

Motherhood, Birth, Women, photographer, family Hawaii, Oahu, Honolulu Ewa Beach, Maternity, Debbie Leanne, Photographer, Newborn, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Photographer, Lifestyle Photography, Family photography, Family photographer, Women Glamor Photographer,Motherhood, Birth, Women, photographer, family Hawaii, Oahu, Honolulu Ewa Beach, Maternity, Debbie Leanne, Photographer, Newborn, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Photographer, Lifestyle Photography, Family photography, Family photographer, Women Glamor Photographer,

Motherhood, Birth, Women, photographer, family Hawaii, Oahu, Honolulu Ewa Beach, Maternity, Debbie Leanne, Photographer, Newborn, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Photographer, Lifestyle Photography, Family photography, Family photographer, Women Glamor Photographer,Motherhood, Birth, Women, photographer, family Hawaii, Oahu, Honolulu Ewa Beach, Maternity, Debbie Leanne, Photographer, Newborn, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Photographer, Lifestyle Photography, Family photography, Family photographer, Women Glamor Photographer,

Want to read more stories on how to celebrate and embrace your #sentimentallife? Check out these wonderful people: Tori PintarJessica Eileen, Rachel AbelsonCindy HarterJen SnyderAmanda RedGregory Byerline, Katrina Meyer, Jason Henriques

Posted on

The Face of Breast Cancer…Jen

“Can we be FB friends? I feel like a 5 year old- will you be my friend?…If it helps I probably won’t be around forever…” If you did not know Jen’s sense of humor, you might be shocked that someone, who was just diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, would say that to you. The very thought of not being around for much longer would not usually be in one’s mind as they made new friendships, let alone using that as the bait to seal the deal. But Jen is different. Jen is real.

We all know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. We all know someone who has had, currently has or will have breast cancer in their lifetime. And we all know that not everybody gets to tell their story. However, last year, I teamed up with photographers from all over the world, to provide free portrait sessions for women with breast cancer. I PICTURE HOPE (IPH) was started by Camille Denae after seeing her mother battle breast cancer. Through I Picture Hope, Camille’s mission is to remind women, that although breast cancer has tried to take away their femininity, they are still beautiful.

Enter Jen….and her glitter-filled lungs.

 

storyboard002

 

“Jen was diagnosed with breast cancer not too long ago and now she just let everyone know that it had metastasized in her lungs. A few years ago, her then 3 year old daughter Lily, had two types of cancer and is now in remission. Jen and her family have been through so much, because this cancer is a rare genetic type that also took the lives of her father and brother. However, Jen is so amazing in that she is incredibly positive and one of the funniest and most caring person I have ever met. She and Phil are so in love and are the type of parents that most people wish they could be. It breaks my heart that she just received this news, but she is such a strong person.”

These are the words of Jen’s friend, Sharon. Along with this message, she sent me a link to Jen’s blog

As I sat there in tears, reading through her blog, there was no doubt Jen would be the IPH recipient for this year. I quickly forwarded the link to a fellow photographer, Brenda Van Valkenburg, and asked if she would be interested in helping me create a special video for this family. Although Brenda and I are both photographers, we approached this session from completely different angles. I photograph women, capturing the intimate relationships and moments in their lives. Brenda photographs nostalgic memories for the children, creating heirloom pieces for years to come. Along with Brenda, my hair and make up artist, Sheena, also volunteered her time and talent to give Jen a full makeover for the day. 

Sitting there in Starbucks, listening to her tell her story, we both fought back tears. Living with Li Fraumeni Syndrome (her “mutant” cancer gene, as she has affectionately named it) is simply that. Living. You have no guarantees, other than the fact that your body will try to kill you with one form of cancer or another. The only option you have is hope. And a good sense of humor. Both of which, Jen has plenty!

 

storyboard004

storyboard006

Watching Jen dance with her husband, Phil, as the sun set on that Sunday evening, will be a memory I carry with me for a long time. Just the two of them, alone yet surrounded by the family they have created together. The family that loves, cries, fights and holds one another as they navigate the next wave that has washed over them. This is a woman I wouldn’t think twice to be friends with…on Facebook and in real life. And dammit Jen, you’d better be around for some time to come. Because I like you!!!

M1

Cheersxx