Advice for Moms

A Mom that Inspires: The Repossessed Car Wouldn’t Stop Her!

Me Ra Koh

Repossessed Car Wouldn’t Stop Her – Me Ra Koh

Meet Shawna Smith!  This is a woman who has a story that will leave you changed for the better.

Shawna emailed me her story of what happened before her first paid shoot.  As I read her story, I sat and cried.  This is one of the most beautiful, moving testimonies I’ve ever heard. 

Even though her story is incredibly vulnerable, I asked if we could share it on the blog with all of you.  Shawna’s response was immediate and empowering, “You’re right, it is a very personal to share that you can no longer afford your car, but how many women are having to short sell their homes right now?  That is something very public, no matter how personal it feels.  I think by sharing my story, women will feel less alone about the economy. I’m happy to share it.”

With that said, this is what happened the day Shawna had her first paid shoot;

“You probably don’t remember so far back, late in 2008, I wrote in for the Running on Empty contest for your Seattle workshop. Another woman couldn’t make it, so you contacted me, and although I cleared my schedule, I couldn’t leave my daughter for that many hours a day – she was exclusively nursed.  I totally understood but it broke my heart to have to pass up such an opportunity.  Little did I know then how empty I could get – my husband was laid off from Starbucks in Feb 2009, applied to a million places, found nothing, and decided to try his hand in insurance-the only opportunity that had responded.  Eight months later and no paycheck, we realized it was not going to work.  So we’re both working part time right now doing all we can to sorta make ends meet.”

Shawna went on to tell me that she had booked her first paid shoot.  But found out that their car was going to be repossessed during the night.  She was out in the driveway emptying the contents of her car onto the grass, and “all I could think was, “Now what are we going to do?!  And then all week your family was sick with Dengue jungle fever, and all I could think was “we have it so easy. it’s just money, it’s just a car – we have our health and each other and that is plenty”.  Isn’t it funny how inspired we are by one another?”

Shawna felt tempted to back out of her first paid shoot because of the car situation.  I mean ladies, can you imagine all the voices she must have been dealing with!?!  This is why her story makes me cry.  I know what it’s like to step out and try something new, something that I’m passionate about.  It takes every bit of confidence you can muster up.  But then to have your car towed away, and not have a way to drive yourself to your first shoot.  We all either remember how scary our first paid shoot was, or dread what those feelings will be when that day comes, let Shawna’s determination lift you up today.

“My dream seemed so very far away and impossible with financial obstacles in the way. But I sucked it up, turned to a good friend and borrowed her car (and determination) to make the shoot happen, and honestly I felt confident in her car, it even had car insurance covering it.   She reminded me that as I start my business, all I have is my reputation, so she wanted to make sure I got to the shoot to keep my word.  And then, she lent me her car. It was a wonderful experience.  And I’m so glad I got to be there.”

Look at what Shawna captured!

“I’m sure I am not the only one going through financial stress right now.  And, we have to hold together.  I really owe it to my friend who talked me down when I was too stressed to think clearly.  I am so grateful to have friends like that here.”

If you are reading this post today and experiencing similar challenges, I hope you feel recognized, validated, comforted and a little less alone.  We really do need each other when storms come our way.  And even though we can’t see one another face to face on this blog, I hope you know that you have a safe, loving community here who believes in your dreams–no matter how fragile they feel or how many obstacles are in front of you.

Thank you Shawna for being so vulnerable and sharing so much!

May your determination feel a little stronger, may you feel surrounded by a community who believes in you, and may you feel a little braver to try those wings out.

still we rise,



  1. Michelle B says:

    Hi, I guess this comment is really for Shawna, so I hope you get it. Hang in there, really, my heart goes out to you. We’ve been hit hard in this economy as well dealing with two separate layoffs. Your story is an inspiration to many women who have been hit hard in this economy. I just wanted to let you know that you have my sympathies, and that I think your photography is beautiful! Keep going no matter what, you can do it!


  2. MeRa – what you are doing here, what you nurture is SO special. I adore you.

    Shawna – Your photography is wonderful. I know you HAD to get to that shoot for you, but the generousity of putting your own feelings aside and creating an atmosphere to capture what you did – to create something so special for that family will continue to have rewards – it speaks to your strength and character.


  3. Jody 4 says:

    Shawna, Thank you so much for sharing your story! The photos your captured are gorgeous. Great work under such stress!


  4. Samantha says:

    Shawna- The photos from your first shoot are beautiful. I have been strongly resisting shooting indoors, but your work inspires me to give it a try.

    Me Ra- Thank you for helping women to share our stories. There are many blogs with great business and photo technique advise, but yours is one of the very few that reaches out to the whole person- the mind, the body, and the spirit. And the way you are able to bring people together is amazing. And thank you for this today. It is disappointing to be one who opens up with a story for the Running on Empty contest, but is not chosen. Hearing an inspiring story from another women who was not able to go to your workshop either is comforting. We are all so much more alike then we are different.

  5. Onica says:

    Me Ra- I found your blog through Shawna. You my dear are freaking awesome.

    Shawna- I love you like a sister and your amazingness truly astounds me. I feel truly lucky and blessed to know such a woman as yourself. You are doing great things and many more great things will come to you because of it. Love, O

  6. shawna says:

    Wow, thanks everyone. What a wonderful way to wake up this morning! I cannot thank you enough for your support and encouragement.

    @samantha, thank you! it’s pretty much a guarantee it will rain at some point during your shoot in seattle unless it’s summer – so i’m getting used to the indoors. get creative and the indoors can be a great location!

  7. Christina says:

    Thank you Sahwna so much for sharing. You are right there are so many women who could use this encouragement right now!! Including me 🙂
    The images you captured are so beautiful too, I am glad that you had an amazing friend to help you through!! Or this mom would have missed out on some great pictures 😉
    God Bless

  8. Jodi says:

    Love it! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Christin says:

    Me Ra- I was watching the Nate show yesterday and found your blog. This is the first post that I’ve read and it was so comforting. I look forward to searching around and reading more from your blog.

    Shawna- Thank you for sharing your story. I am currently trying to save my home, but it looks like we are going to have to do a short sale. Reading your story was so encouraging.

  10. Carey says:

    Shawna… we need to meet in person one day!! Love your story & your courage. (if you’re even 1% like me, you snorted or laughed when you read “courage”) but you’ve got it, and THANK YOU for sharing your story with MeRa and all of us!

  11. Lynde says:

    MeRa, I would really love to start some sort of a fundraiser–please? I think it would be awesome for there to be a simple resource for that…to have the silly “sponsor me” link with the thermometer/goal/etc, right? People could pitch in $5 here and there–it all adds up? Photographers could donate or work for it, I know that they would be glad to! “Headshots for $50/each so that I can go to my confidence workshop!!–click here to sponsor me!!” C’mon!! So simple!! We might have confidence coming out of our ears!!

  12. jeramy says:

    hey shawna….great shots…and story. thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. i know that is super tough. hang in there!

  13. Rose says:

    Shawna you ARE a story of inspiration, thank you for sharing!

    It’s so true, we are not alone in these economic times, everyone has a story, everyone is experiencing difficulty; most of us are not all that different when it comes right down to it. When I do get frustrated or disappointed, I stop and take count of what I DO have and how fortunate I am. It anchors me.

    Funny thing, I got so discouraged last night when I opened and viewed some images; and later, as we talked about the day, my husband asked, “When is that Confidence Workshop?” Ha-ha! Even HE is looking forward to my finally being able to attend a workshop! And it’s only possible because of we could set up a payment schedule!

    Thank you Me Ra, for introducing us to women like Shawna and for cultivating our gifts and passion for photography!

  14. Nickie Mullin says:

    Shawna- thank you for sharing your story, so inspiring. I love your postive attitude during a stressful time. Your pictures are beautiful!!!

    Mera- You know how much I admire you. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, talent, and time with all of us. Keep on sharing these amazing moms!!! They are all so inspiring.

  15. Mandelin says:

    I just wanted to say thank you to Shawna. You are a friend of mine and without your enthusiasm and spirit for life I would have given up on so many things in my life. You are an inspiration as a woman and a mother. If it were not for you reaching out to me in my time of desperation I am not sure I could have gotten my stuff together to improve my life. My Family and I both owe you so much. Thank you.

  16. Susan says:

    Thank you for being the person that you are. You are amazing. I know that your parents are very proud of you. Hope you get to come back home for a visit so I can see how much Bella has grown and to meet your new little one. Good luck and God Bless You.

  17. Kelli says:

    Love this post! I think we need more of “this” …these gentle reminders that we are all together in this…thanks!!

  18. Delanae says:

    Shawna, you are such an inspiration! You are right, you are in good company my dear.

    My husband was employed with WAMU for 7 years when JPMorgan/Chase took them over… and he lost his job. I was recovering from double knee surgery when we lost our home and had to move. I thought my world was collapsing all around me but God certainly does open one door when He closes another. I had no idea what a crappy house I had but now that I’m in this one where I can open my photography studio (also in the rainy Seattle area) I just cannot believe how blessed I feel. I’m going to Me Ra’s Confidence workshop in January and I am SO stinking excited I just keep pinching myself.

    You too are a warrior mom! You dug deep and did what had to be done and that kind of courage is not the easiest thing to come up with no matter how strong of a person you are.

  19. OMG… this story just made me cry! Shawna, you are just awesome! You can do anything you set your mind to my friend- thank you for that great reminder!

  20. Diane Allan says:

    Shawna, your honesty is one of your finest qualities. I’d put it right up there with your love for your family, your obvious creative talent, and your sense of humor. These are not easy times, but the fact that you continue to smile and to approach your days with gratitude says everything about the heart within. You inspire me, you make me laugh, you remind me to treasure the small moments. Watching you raise your family and find your voice has been a gift. Much love to you.

  21. Rhonda says:

    Thank you Shawna and MeRa. I look forward to reading your amazing mom interview tomorrow.

  22. shawna says:

    Wow, I’m blown away by all the comments and encouragement. Thank you so much, everyone. I’m glad I was able to share.

  23. jen armstrong says:

    shawna–just want to add that i feel the same! thanks for sharing-what an example you are! way to not give up, that’s just awesome!
    me ra-again, i will always love you for being such a light and bringing people’s stories to others.

  24. WOW! Such bravery. I am not sure what else to say. Just wow.

  25. Me Ra says:

    Shawna, your story…your story has given more than we will ever know. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing us to see the messy stuff, the triumph parts, the enduring lengths…all of it, so we would all feel a little less alone. You are amazing. And a big thank you to your husband for being such an incredible support. What would we do without AMAZING husbands standing behind us.

  26. Me Ra says:

    Lynde, I LOVE your idea. Keep flushing it out. I’m not sure how something like that would work, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a way! 🙂

  27. Natalie Johnson says:

    Shawna, Thank you for being honest and sharing your story. I really needed to hear that I am not alone. This economy is taking it’s toll on many of us:) I just love the photo of you baking up a storm with your little girl and your baby close to your heart.
    I have used this “extra time” I am having to really dive in and teach myself all I can about photography, but I am also taking this “extra time” to cook and bake from scratch for my family. I am so grateful for the small things and I realize that we do have so much when we have our health and a family we love. I have to read this blog every day to get my fix of encouragement and I got it from you today:) I think it would be fun for those of us that live in the Seattle area to meet one day. Blessings to you and your family!

  28. Charisse says:

    Shawna, your story is so inspiring. Thank you for your willingness to share how you pushed through such a difficult moment, but more than that…how you saw the blessing in your situation. So often we “overlook” the small blessings in the midst of our challenges. I have done this myself on more occasions than I care to admit. God Bless you and your family and may all of your dreams come true!

  29. […] my goodness, you can imagine that I was a bit stressed if you read yesterday’s post.  But I was so excited to meet the family! I make a point of filling out a survey over the phone […]

  30. Jennifer P. says:

    Shawna – you are truly an amazing cousin of mine and such an inspiration as I am also going through a tough time in a different way. Tell you more about that at another time. I am lucky to have you as a cousin and just adore your kids. Your family and friends love you Shawna. Live your dream and dream big. I know you can do it!

  31. Cyndi says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, you are very brave!
    I pray that new opportunities come your way for both you and your husband. You are right to recognize how blessed you are to have a lovely and HEALTHY family. You have the right attitude to get you through this, and I believe you will! Keep us posted, and you go girl!

  32. Gina says:

    I about cried reading this story too. Gosh, the struggles we face seem to push our personal goals to the side All.The.Time. It’s so difficult to rise above financial obsticals when photography can cost so much (especially in the beginning) – time included. I get so frustrated with similar downfalls and I am so glad I am not alone at this getting-a-photography-business-off-the-ground-and-get-paid-for-the-effort thing. Shawna, keep on keeping on. Heavenly Father will bless you for your efforts!

  33. Tara Bradford says:

    Shawna, keep up the good work! Your story is inspiring to so many others who are struggling. Hope many good opportunities come your way!

  34. Veda Taylor says:

    Me Ra, thank you so much for going forward with providing us inspiration and tools. They’re valuable both for photography and for our hearts.

    Shawna, is absolutely amazing. I already know her story, because I’ve had the good fortune of becoming one of her friends, a few years ago. Watching her grow as a mother, a photographer and a beautiful soul, has been inspiration enough. Watching her experiment and grow as a photographer has been a learning experience that I cannot describe.

    Shawna, I’m always moved by your heart and the heart in your art. Me Ra, thank you for introducing this wonderful person to everyone else. 🙂

    <3 Veda

  35. […] When I feel intimidation loom over me, I think of Shawna and she gives me strength.  You can read Shawna’s inspiring story here! […]