Photo Contests!

Do You Know a Mom who is Running on Empty? Chicago CONFIDENCE Workshop


Chicago -it’s your turn for ‘Running on Empty’ nominations! We’re giving away one seat in the CHICAGO CONFIDENCE! WORKSHOP coming up May 28-29th!  What an amazing Mother’s Day surprise for one lucky mom!

Who do you know who is a mom who needs this kind of group and weekend getaway? Her own ‘play group’? A woman Running on Empty?  Nominate her today. Let’s turn life around and put a BIG SMILE on her face and lift her spirit!

If you know a MOM who is;

A. Running on Empty

B. Lives near the Chicago area or has mileage to spend

C. Can arrange for a sitter and get the weekend free, starting Friday, May 27th 7-9pm, for Meet & Greet through Sunday evening, May 29th.

D. Most importantly, has a PASSION for photography

Nominate her TODAY! Nominations must be in by Sunday night, 5/1 at 6pm PST.

We will announce the winner in time for her to jump in and make all the arrangements. So make sure your nominations are all in by Sunday at 6pm PST. If you are not familiar with this contest, read Me Ra’s description below and see what it’s all about! Moms are one of the most beautiful parts of creation. This contest is all about acknowledging their beauty, even when they are Running on Empty.

Running on Empty

“Here’s how it works!

In honor of how wonderful moms are and all that they do and give, Brian and I keep one spot reserved in every workshop for a special mom like YOU! That’s right, you (or she) will get a free pass to the upcoming CONFIDENCE Workshop in the Chicago area! (Please note, we don’t provide room/board and travel.)

To nominate a mom, you must post a comment telling us about the mom who you think deserves a big break in life! If you are a mom, you’re probably laughing because we ALL deserve a serious break. But the moms we’re looking for are the ones who have had a ridiculous amount of stress in their life whether from trauma or things just not going her way this year. She is a mom in your life that needs a serious blessing to come her way. She needs a serious surprise that gives her empty tank some fuel. If she is a woman that has miscarried, she is still a mom in my mind b/c I know her heart became a mother’s heart the moment she found out she was pregnant. Don’t hesitate to nominate her too.

I’m proud to say that some of our previous winners stepped out on a limb and nominated themselves. Take courage in them and feel free to nominate yourself if you know you need a serious break. Who knows, you may have your house remodeled by Oprah!”

We’ll collect all the nominees, have a committee of wonderful moms vote, and then announce the winner in the next week! Being as wonderful as they are, it’s not an easy job. As one said recently, “After reading each story I’d say, ‘I’m voting for HER’.”  Each one of you is so deserving.

Nominate her today and turn her day around!  Oh, wait!  Don’t forget to let her know you’ve nominated her too! If I was a mom nominated I’d love to know my friends were thinking of me whether I won or not! Deadline for ALL nominations is Sunday, 5/1 at 6pm PST. Nominations MUST be posted as a comment on this blog post.  Nominations emailed or posted on other blog posts may be overlooked. Please post all nominees here. Thanks! (A tip: write in Word or other program first, then cut and paste over – just in case.:))

What do past attendees say about the CONFIDENCE Workshops?  Wow, the best place to send you is Me Ra’s birthday post where over 100 women shared what a difference this workshop has made in their life.  CLICK HERE to read their comments!


*TWO SPRING Workshops remain:  Seattle and Chicago!  They are ALMOST FULL, so click the city below for more details on how to grab your spot!!  If confidence is your goal and photography your passion, it’s an amazing pool to jump in.  You never know what may open up!

Seattle, May 14-15 CLICK HERE! Two spots left!

Chicago, May 28-29 CLICK HERE! Two spots left!

Remember to post those nominations by this Sunday at 6pm!

And I’m not monkeying around like some people we know in Thailand! 😀 Genie

P.S. Our Running on Empty winner for Seattle will be announced tomorrow!



  1. Bailey says:

    I am nominating Jackee Austerman, a mom with true courage and perseverance for the Chicago Confidence Workshop scholarship. Jackee is an incredible mom to a very special one year old boy, Isaiah. Isaiah was diagnosed with Phenylketonuria (PKU) a few days after he was born. PKU is a genetic disorder, in which an enzyme necessary to metabolize a specific amino acid does not work. If this condition is not carefully treated it can affect brain development, specifically, it can lead to mental retardation. Jackee, and her husband Shane, have been amazing since Isaiah was diagnosed with this condition. Everyday Jackee cooks specific phe-free foods, measures, and calculates the amount of phe in each and every single morsel that touches Isaiah’s lips. Isaiah is basically restricted to fruits and some vegetables, and his special formula, since he is not able to eat foods that contain protein. Although Jackee has acted like a rock star in dealing with all of the extra stress and work that Isaiah’s condition has caused during the past year, I know that she is currently running on empty. She spends hours each day preparing Isaiah’s food and worrying about what insurance will cover and won’t cover for her son’s condition. Not once have I heard Jackee complain or wish that she didn’t have to deal with this rare condition.

    Jackee recently bought a Sony a330 DSLR and has soaking up all that she can about the features of the camera and photography in general. I know that if she were to be selected for this workshop she would be able to soak up SO much more by learning hands on with Me Ra and Brian, than she is currently able to by reading online. I also know that Jackee would be ridiculously grateful and humble if selected. She is truly one of those people that is always thinking of others, and never does anything for herself. I know Jackee would use this opportunity to her fullest capabilities. Please consider Jackee for the Chicago workshop, I know that she would never nominate herself for this workshop, but there are so many of us that know she deserves it.

  2. Anne says:

    I am writing to support Bailey’s nomination of Jackee Austerman for the Chicago Confidence Workshop scholarship. Bailey hit the nail on the head as far as what Jackee has been facing and how she is holding strong, but I would love you share more about what an amazing woman she is, besides being a mother. Jackee is the most loving, honorable and humble person I have ever met. I am consistently amazed at the lengths Jackee stretches to not only serve her son and husband but the rest of her family and all her friends.

    Last summer, when Jackee’s son was six months old and she was delving into the world of solid foods, I was simultaneously going through a difficult pregnancy and delivery of twins. With all that Jackee was challenged with, she was ALWAYS available to help with our transition home and the emotional support I needed from friends. In addition to supporting us, she was helping her parents after her childhood community was decimated when record storms caused a breech and failure in the dam.

    Jackee is the friend I wish I was. She is the person you call when you need a shoulder to cry on, the keeper of secrets, and constant supporter and the one who can help you be a better person. I have never heard her say anything cruel, mean or even gossipy about another person.

    When women are starting motherhood and facing all the unknowns your friends can be great resources. Unfortunately Jackee is rarely able to turn to her friends because of the PKU. Bottomline, Jackee has been able to excel as a mother in the face of adversity with less support than most mothers get all while maintaining a heart full of humility, kindles and love for everyone in her life.

  3. Sherri Kildow says:

    I would like to nominate Veronica Bernal again for either spots for the “Running on Empty” contest. Veronica is an amazing person. She is the mother of two, stepmom to one, and school mom to 16-20 boys and girls. I first met Veronica, when we were interviewing for a second grade teacher. It was obvious from the moment I met her, that she was a very confident and caring young woman. She had a 4 month old baby boy and was willing to start a brand new career as a bilingual second grade teacher. All new jobs require a lot of energy, but for Veronica to start a new career this also meant she had to enroll in “I Teach Texas” program. This involved on line classes, supervisor visits, and hours of lesson preparation, all with a 4 month old. There were days I would pass her in the hall and she looked like a young woman running on empty. A few months into the school year, she thought she had the flu. To her surprise, she did not have the flu but was pregnant. She had a beautiful baby girl just nine months after her little boy was born. Her little girl had several health issues at first. Veronica would come to school to care for her other 20 children, with little or no sleep the night before. She is a wonderful stepmom. She leaves school on Friday afternoons to drive 6 hours to pick up her stepdaughter for the weekend and return her on Sunday. She gives thanks to God everyday of her life. She is constantly telling all those around her that God will provide for her. Veronica has a passion for photography. This workshop would enable her to have a break in such a busy life. Please help her to pursue her passion for photography. Veronica is a mom running on empty.

  4. Amie says:

    I know that I had nominated Kellie Staats for the Seattle Workshop. However, I feel very strongly about nominating her again for the Chicago workshop. There are so many woman out there running on empty and Im sure its difficult to pick just one. I truely feel that Kellie Staats would be deserving of this spot. She is faced with a struggle that she will have to deal with for the rest of her life.
    And through her everyday struggles, she is doing everything she can to raise awareness and help mothers all over the world appreciate their children even more!

    I copied and pasted my original comment because it says everything that I wanted to say about her and why I feel she is deserving of this spot.

    It is amazing how Maddie – only 4 months old, has made such a huge impact on woman all over the world! Its amazing, that while this mother struggles daily just to get out of bed, she still finds the time to smile and through all of this, she shares her struggles with us and tries to remind us of what the important things in life are.
    I have a baby 1 week older than Maddie. She had croup when she was first born and needless to say, the first 2 – 3 months were difficult. I am so blessed to have found Kellies blog. After reading her blog, it helped me realize that I am blessed to have my precious baby here on earth with me. Even though she was screaming everynight at the top of her lungs, I get to hold her!! I get to tuck her in at night, I get to bounce around the bedroom with her over and over, until she falls asleep. I appreciate every second I have with her and I dont get upset anymore. I look foward to waking up with her in the middle of the night to feed her. I look foward to seeing her smile and slobber!! I cant imagine having that and then it being taken away.
    Kellie has done her best to keep a smile on her face, every day, while inside her heart is aching. Not only does she have to face the fact that her baby went to Heaven and is no longer here, she is a teacher and gets reminded every day that her baby is gone by little 5 year olds. What a struggle this mom has faced. Simple things like going to the store or church are hard for her. When she sees babies that are Maddies age, she hurts inside.
    She is a mother to a daughter in Heaven. No mother should have to go through what she is going through right now.
    Photography is her outlet. She needs to win this spot! Kellie has helped so many women the past couple of months appreciate what they have in life while she grieves over what she use to have! She is the most unselfish person and one of the strongest women I know. She wakes up every morning with an emptiness in her heart. She lives everyday feeling like she is in the middle of a bad dream, just wanting to wake up and everything be back to the way it was.
    My heart aches for her as do so many others. Giving her this spot will help her heal. It will help her have something to look foward to. Little Maddie has inspired her to do this and I feel that she is most deserving of this spot after all she has been through! Thanks Kellie – for all you do. Through you, Maddie is truely doing GREAT things!

  5. Amy says:

    Veronica is such an incredible woman who is more than worthy of any award a woman can earn. Although she has had many heartaches and has been stretched through tough situations, she lives her life as an overcomer. She has never let her past define who she is. Veronica finds her identity in Christ and lives victoriously each day. Having two small children, her heart’s desire is to quit teaching and work from home where she can spend quality time as a mother and housewife. Her passion for photography has grown and blossomed into a desire to touch and change people’s lives with a single snap of the shutter. The education she will get from your workshop will help propel her into her new career as a photographer. I hate to say that she is “running on empty” because she is so full of the joy of the Lord, but as a working mom short on money, I know she grows weary. Please consider her for your award not because of her struggles, but because of her perseverance.

    Sincerely, Amy

  6. Tracy says:

    Veronica….Running on Empty
    The phrase “running on empty” refers to someone who is exhausted, but keeps going. It comes with the package deal of motherhood! Veronica runs on empty with two young children, a career as a teacher, and the responsibilities of a husband and a home. But as I’ve gotten to know her….it describes her in a different way. It describes her life…running on empty, not physically, but in her heart. And how God can take an empty heart and fill it with Him!
    The story begins with a young girl growing up in a loving Christian home. Knowing she’s loved, and having confidence in her inner beauty. But lacking confidence in her appearance and her outer beauty. Not feeling like she will ever be one of the “pretty girls” she dreams of being. A heart running on empty.!
    She goes on to college and discovers a passion for photography, makes it her minor…a passion driven by the desire to focus on the beauty around her because of her lack of confidence in her own outer beauty. But events in life keep her from finishing school. A dream that has to be left behind. A passion that can no longer be pursued. A heart running on empty!
    The next chapter of her life is that of a young wife and more shattered dreams. Her dream of becoming a mother shattered by the news that she would never be able to have children. Followed by her dream of a faithful marriage shattered by repeated infidelity…and the devastating result of all things, her husband’s child with another woman.
    The story then continues as the husband comes back to make amends and work things out. They give it another try. He “wanders” again. Her now VERY broken heart…running on empty. Empty of everything she had ever dreamed of.
    Now….this is where the story begins to change. This is where God takes her empty heart…her shattered dreams…her failing marriage…and does the things in life that ONLY He can do. That only HE has the power to do!
    She receives a call from the college she had previously attended informing her that they had been holding a full scholarship for her for two years, and wanted to know when she could be there to register. Now, what college “holds” a scholarship for two years?! And then reaches out to contact the person to come to them?! Things like that only happen through the power of God! A dream that had been left behind was now able to be fulfilled! A heart no longer running on empty! A heart being filled with God!
    Her husband comes to the realization that he’s been wrong and that he truly loves her (and only her!)and wants their marriage to work. That he not only needs forgiveness from her, but also from God. His repentance leads him down the road to becoming a mighty man of God! Her belief that marriage is a sacred covenant gives her the strength she needs to forgive. And God, in all His mercy, not only restores a marriage that was once destroyed by infidelity, but makes it strong enough to weather the storm. A shattered dream put back together…only through the power of God! A heart no longer running on empty! A heart being filled with God! (Make that TWO hearts!)
    And then….against all medical odds…in her barren womb is life! Not only once, but twice! And two beautiful children are added to her family. Precious children that she had been told she would never have. And her empty heart is now so full of love, that what she once thought of as a devastating result of infidelity, is a third beautiful child that she is able to embrace as her own. More shattered and broken dreams given back to her…only through the power of God! A heart no longer running on empty! A heart full of love! A heart being filled with God!
    Which brings us back to a passion that was kindled in her heart during the “empty” years…and is now a flame being fanned again. Photography. But the driving desire behind the passion is now her children…all three! And the desire to “catch” the moments of their lives! Moments that are so much more valuable than she ever imagined they could be. Moments that she knows are hers ONLY through the power of God! Moments that she wants to share with others….all for the glory of God! A heart no longer running on empty! A heart FULL of God!!

    I am honored to nominate Veronica Bernal as a candidate for the “Running On Empty” Photography Workshop. Her life is a testimony of God’s amazing power to take a heart that is running on empty….and fill it with Him! A testimony of God’s amazing power to take the broken threads of her life and weave them one by one into a beautiful tapestry!

    Thank you, Tracy

  7. Veronica says:

    I sit here wondering where each of these women draw the strength to go on. Women are amazing creatures, who are so versatile. It is hard not to acknowledge that every single one of them is worthy of this seat. My life is so much more blessed and enriched by their stories.
    So, I humbly ask that you take the time to read my story even though I know my struggles do not compare to theirs.
    When I was two we were visiting my grandmother in Mexico. I got cholera. I was immediately flown to the States. After spending two weeks in ICU, I flat-lined.8 minutes had passed and doctors had done all they could do to save me. I was gone. They apologized to my parents and asked them to leave. In that moment, my father’s journey of faith began. He says he knelt outside of my room and asked God to give me back to him. He promised to serve God all the days of his life. The heart monitor began again. Doctors promised my parents that too much time had passed. If I lived I would live with too many physical problems. My dad didn’t accept that diagnosis. I was released a few days later.
    Needless to say, I grew up experiencing a childhood as normal as any other healthy kid. I was the first to graduate out of my family. Our parents always pushed us to educate ourselves and further ourselves any way possible. I went on to community college and was in my second year when I met someone. We had a lot in common. However, we had a lot of differences that made us incompatible regardless of what I felt. I placed distance between us and transferred to a university 5 hours from home. There I made new friends and was a semester away from graduating. My path crossed his and he again began seeking me out. You see as normal as my home life was, my perception of myself was nothing. I had only been told once all my life I was beautiful. My self-image and self-esteem were nothing. My dad’s way of loving us was as a provider to our home. I do not doubt his love for me. He just never expressed it. I walked away from my only dream “to finish school”. We married without my family’s blessing. I entered in with expectations that were never met. After a few years of trying to start a family, I was told I would never bare children. That statement added on to the lack of self-esteem. ”How could I be a woman of any worth with no children?” All the while I was told my husband was having an affair. I refused to believe it and stood by his side.
    I came home to help my family through a crisis with my sister. While I was home, my mother-inlaw met me. She told me what she did and did not think of me. I took it all in silence. She ended her conversation by telling me her son wanted a divorce. I was in disbelief. I called and he confirmed her statement. I in my own pain, obeyed. Destroyed and lost I ended up home, broken and with absolutely nothing…looking for a job. Of all places I got a job in his hometown 30 miles away. If you know small towns, everyone knows your business even sometimes before you do. (lol) God began a new work in my life. I picked up the pieces and began the journey of truly searching for my identity. My husband filed for a divorce shortly after and did not show up. Out of money and broken hearted, I still felt bound to him. A year and half later, I filed. I stood in the courtroom alone. Months later, I received a phone call with a desperate voice asking me to forgive him. He begged me to listen. I didn’t want to, but I did. He had had a daughter with that woman. She had left him. He took me through all the events. When he was done, I asked if I could pray for him. He thought I was crazy. I did pray for him and then cried myself to sleep. God all this time had been preparing me for that very moment. I honestly believe that at times that is why God answers our questions with bits and pieces. We may not be ready for the whole truth. In that moment, I knew that God had begun to heal me from the inside out. I needed to know the truth. I went on to finish school in 2007. He again crossed my path. I was ecstatic thinking—“wow. He and his family realize all that I am.” Wrong! I was the perfect candidate to help fight for custody of his daughter. I was stable, held a profession, had a home, and was willing to help financially. After about a year of enduring an “off and on cycle”, unfaithfulness, completely broke, very drained emotionally, and being subject to countless situations that destroyed myself worth. I was done. I could do no more. I had no more to give.
    I was home bound again left to pick up the pieces of what was left of my life. A mess. I was totally blessed with an amazing boss who loves God and believed in me. I was blessed with women who have arrived and others who were on their own journeys. They embraced me, believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. They have taught me so much. They continue to this to this day to wrap their arms around me and push me through. God began to help me love and accept myself in my own skin.
    I crossed paths with a man who was on his own journey but at the right point in his journey….I got PREGANT!!!!! Yes, this infertile woman had a beautiful baby boy! We married and I wish I could say it was love….it was out of obedience to God. Stress and daily grind as it does for many, takes its toll. However, God is faithful! I soon was pregnant AGAIN! Now birthing a healthy baby girl. I have been so blessed with so much! My students are my teachers. I learn from them every day. I have learned to love my step-daughter in a way I never thought possible. I’m still a work in progress. You see that man that joined me in marriage was my ex-husband. True forgiveness for him and for myself invaded my heart. I am falling in love with him more and more as I see him strive to be a better man, father, and husband. Our life is still hard and very trying at times. However, I take time to glance back and see how far God has brought us. I have not arrived, YET! But I am excited to see what lies ahead!
    Me Ra, I read your book in my dark season of my life, searching for strength. It moved me to see you draw strength and rise up. I had never really followed the site after reading your book. A couple of months ago, I came across your site in my quest to refine what I love to do. I started reading your blogs and ordered your book. I long to capture every moment. My babies are changing so fast. However, that “higher calling on my life” it is tugging at me now. I pray that God will use my hands, eyes, and desires of my heart to help women and pregnant women(physically or by paper and heart) love themselves and embrace ALL that they are. I want to capture the essence of that amazing, unending love. I want them to know how beautiful they are in those moments and how blessed we are to be a woman. A woman chosen by God to host a baby. A miracle He can create. I want my work to tell THEIR story, not just be a good picture. I was blessed with a dslr camera a few weeks ago. I already have my first assignment. It is an incredible story of an AMAZING woman!
    However, I need your help. I need your workshop to help me perfect what I feel drawn to do. To empower these women all around me who are broken, empty, lost, hurting—-to show them their beauty. I would love to meet you and have the experience of learning side by side with you. It is my turn! It is my dream! The time is now!

    Psalm 90:17

  8. Shane says:

    I too support Bailey’s nomination of Jackee to go to the Chicago workshop. As I read through the other stories, there is not a shortage of people who could benefit from this workshop, but let me tell you why I think Jackee should win.

    First of all, I may be a little biased, I am her husband, but Jackee is absolutely amazing, and definitely in need of a break. Above, both Bailey and Anne touched on our son, Isaiah’s PKU, but they did not mention some of the other difficult things we have encountered over the last year and a half. Isaiah has been to the emergency room multiple times due to asthma related issues and a bad bout with MRSA. In addition he has hypothyroidism, which is treated with a daily pill, but as his thryroid levels swing, it seems to affect his sleeping and PKU levels. Our son is now 16 months old, and just started sleeping through the night in the last two months. Through all of this, Jackee has been working full time hours compressed into four days so she can take one day a week to try to maintain our house and pre-cook food for our son.

    Jackee truly understands that we are blessed to have our son and are very lucky to hold him everyday. Many people have it worse than us, and she is just thankful for what we have. What separates Jackee is not our struggles but her heart.

    While dealing with the myriad of problems mentioned above, Jackee has devoted herself to our son, myself, and her faith. Her love is so evident as she cares for Isaiah that I fall in love with her over and over again. She is a rock of compassion to her friends and family, and the love of my life. Her servant attitude and devotion to growing her faith is an stunning example for her friends and me.

    Lastly, Jackee’s love of photography is blossoming. In the last year as we have watched our son grow, Jackee has been taking more and more photographs of the journey. Our recent purchase of a DSLR has only intensified this interest. In the beginning it was a way to capture a memory, but it has grown into a way to express her thoughts and feelings. When I look at the photographs of our son, I see Jackee sharing her heart with the world and I see our son’s essence staring back at me. While photography began as a reprieve to the daily grind of raising a special needs child and working full time, it has become her art.

    There may be people who have worse circumstances than Jackee, but I can assure you that her heart sets her apart. She already expresses her love, faith, and grace through kind acts and steady perseverance, but by attending this conference, it would enhance her the ability to capture those fleeting moments of truth and love, and share her heart with the world.

  9. Christa says:

    Back in August 2009, I was at my desk at work and I realized my cell phone had been sitting in my purse dead for most of the day. When I plugged it in and retrieved my messages, I discovered I’d missed several calls from my mother, which seemed rather odd. You see, my mom’s generally not a phone “stalker;” instead, she’ll leave a single message and just wait for you to return her call.

    When I called Mom to find out what was so pressing, the news she had sent me into a state of utter shock and panic. My sister Shannon, who only a few days earlier had given birth to beautiful, healthy twin boys and was supposed to have been released from the hospital earlier that morning, had been rushed to the ICU in congestive heart failure and was fighting for her life.

    I promptly collected my things, informed my boss that I’d be out of the office for a few days, and rushed home to pack for an overnight 12-hour drive to be there with Shannon and the rest of my family. I prayed every minute of my drive that God would keep my beautiful safe so she could raise her three boys, Isaiah (4 at the time) and newborns Liam and Elijah.

    After a few days in the ICU, Shannon’s heart began to heal and within a week or so, she was able to go home to her family with an excellent prognosis of a full recovery. Nobody has been able to pinpoint exactly why her heart decided to give out on her so unexpectedly, but now a year and a half later, Shannon is healthy and we’re all so thankful to have her here with us.

    In the days following her release from the hospital, Shannon experienced exhaustion like none of us can probably imagine. Her heart wasn’t functioning at full capacity, which in and of itself will wear someone out in no time flat. Add to that the demands of newborn twins who can’t seem to sync up their schedules and have day and night confused, a rambunctious four year-old who’s having a difficult time adjusting to life as a big brother, and a husband who recently started a new job and is working his tail off to prove himself. She was the definition of “running on empty.” Later that August, she had to find the strength to add back into her schedule her part-time job AND school, as she was just over halfway through her coursework for a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Disorders.

    Shannon amazed us all at how she pushed herself through those first few months of being a new mom (again), a wife, and a full-time student. She amazed us…and made us worry. Every time we would see her, she looked gray, her eyes were lackluster, and you could just feel the fatigue oozing out of her. Somehow, though, she found the strength to push through, and this semester, she’ll earn her Bachelor’s Degree.

    This is an AMAZING story, complete with a pretty darn happy ending, right? So you may be wondering why on God’s green earth would I be nominating Shannon to receive the “Running on Empty” spot in the Chicago CONFIDENCE workshop. Well, a few weeks ago, Shannon received news that she was not accepted into the Speech Pathology graduate program that she had so diligently planned to begin in the Fall. Even though she’s doing her best to maintain a positive attitude, those of us who know her well know what a devastating blow this has been to her. She’s going through all of those emotions that we experience when our best-laid life plans start to fall apart before our eyes – disbelief, helplessness, grief, panic. And one thought I know that plagues her is WHY? Why did she push herself to the brink of exhaustion, when in the end it wasn’t even going to matter? And NOW WHAT? Now what is she supposed to do with her life, since it will no longer be consumed by classes, papers, and case studies?

    After some time passes and she gains perspective, all of this will begin to make sense to her as God’s plan for her unfolds. (Doesn’t it always?) In the meantime, though, I KNOW Shannon would RELISH being afforded the opportunity to attend Me Ra’s workshop and spend some time pursuing an interest of hers that’s been back-burnered for so long.

    Shannon LOVES being behind the lens. At family gatherings, we can always count on her to document the kids playing, the womenfolk cooking, the menfolk watching the game, or any other happenings. She’s a natural storyteller, and she has an amazing knack for anticipating situations and capturing the moment. She’s so creative, and I remember back when she was a new mommy of one, before her life got crazy with school and twins, she was constantly setting up photo shoots with Isaiah and delighting us with the utter cuteness she was able to capture. I know she would LOVE to learn more about the technical aspect of photography, taking her work to the next level of being able to consistently convert her photographic vision into reality. And I’m certain that by attending the Chicago CONFIDENCE workshop, she’d get a healthy dose of that thing called, ummm…oh yeah, CONFINDENCE, helping her answer that question she’s constantly worrying about of “What next?”

    (Oh, and did I mention, I’m already signed up to attend the CONFIDENCE workshop, so selfishly I’d relish the opportunity to spend a little “Sister Time” with this amazing woman, sans children, nurturing our creativity and becoming better photographers?)

    Thanks so much for your consideration!

  10. Emily says:

    I am nominating my mom, Stacey, who has been a truly influential person in my life.
    I could talk about how my mom gets on my nerves sometimes. How she can frustrate and anger me every once in a while. How she can be a tad bit overprotective. But if I wrote about these things, I doubt I could get half a page written, no matter how hard I tried. But if I wrote about how kind she is, what sacrifices she makes for her entire family, and how deserving she is of this opportunity, I think I could go on forever.
    Growing up, I feel that we often don’t think about how hard our parents work to make our lives amazing. We usually only think about ourselves and our problems, not our parents’. Sometimes, we think that we work so hard in school and in our activities, and that our parents have it easy. I think this is how I was living- until I stopped to think about just how much my parents do for me, especially my mom. And even though it may get a bit bothersome every time she gives her speech on how much she sacrifices for her family and how little she asks from us, lately I have realized that this statement is completely true. She really does so much for her family and asks for so little in return, not only because she is a great person, but because of how much love she feels for her entire family.
    Lately, I have found that parents have perhaps the hardest jobs- especially my mom. She has put all of her effort in the past 15 years to ensure that my childhood was much more enjoyable than hers. When she was 23, she had me, and gave up working to become a stay-at-home mom. That is truly one of the greatest things I respect about her- she was not one of those moms who simply place their kids in daycare all day. She put an incredible amount of effort into taking care of me while my dad worked all day. Growing up, she did more than enough for me, especially when I entered school. Starting in first grade, my mom has helped me with anything and everything, from homework to projects. In second grade, she helped me write my own book that is still remembered by my teacher eight years later. Through all of my whining and crying and fretting about all of this work, she has been there to help me. That is the other thing that’s great about my mom- she knows how to comfort people in a time of need. Just last year, when I was in eighth grade, I remember having a breakdown the night before a math test. She was there to help boost my confidence and reassure me that one bad grade wasn’t the end of the world. She’s somehow managed to deal with me through all of my mistakes (and trust me, I have made more than enough to drive any parent crazy), but somehow she has managed to stick with me through it all.
    When she was 29, she then had her second child, my sister Julianna, and has added even more effort to ensure that her two kids have fantastic lives. And even though at times she may feel completely stressed and tired about her crazy life, she never lets it show. My mom is perhaps the strongest woman I have ever met in my life, which makes me respect and admire her that much more.
    For the past few years, my mom has been on the search for her calling. Since she had me, she had not had a job that really appealed to and satisfied her. Then last year, she landed herself in a job at our local dancewear store in my dance studio. She thought this would be a great opportunity to finally get that job she had been looking for, but was quickly disappointed. It didn’t allow her to really show all that she can be- a skilled worker. My mom is great in many fields- she’s got a certain warmth to her that appeals to many people, and has learned to deal with those that don’t share the same warmth back. She is a crazy good organizer, and can quickly master almost any skill. She’s a hard worker and won’t give up until she gets what she’s looking for. But even with all of these things, she still hasn’t found the right career path.
    My mom is also a strong believer in fate, and believes that everything happens for a reason. So when she came across Me Rah Koh on “The Nate Berkus Show,” she thought that photography might just be her destiny. She soon looked up Me Ra Koh‘s website, and immediately jumped into the field of photography. She had been interested in photography before, but not nearly as much as she is now. For the past few weeks we’ve been posing around various parts of our house for her to try out her newfound photography skills. During that time she has also learned more about her camera and how to take professional photos than most people probably do in a lifetime. And the best part- she has done this all on her own. Not once has she taken a professional photography class or even been able to talk with a real professional. If she was given this opportunity, I think she could become an amazing photographer. My mom has a knack for picking up skills quickly and performing them well, especially when she’s passionate about them- and lately, photography has been her passion. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my mom, and could be the only chance she has to find the career that was meant for her. I think my mom deserves this chance for her to finally get the satisfaction in life that she has worked so hard to give her children all these years.

  11. Erin Hyde says:

    I am writing to support Bailey’s nomination of Jackee Austerman for the Chicago Confidence Workshop Scholarship. Jackee is one of my dearest friends, she is one of only a handful of people in my life that I know loves and supports me with the most genuine heart; I am blessed to have her in my life. Not only is she a great friend, it has been an honor witnessing her becoming a mother. It is an honor because not only is she a great friend but she has become a great role model for what it means to be a mother.

    I am not a mother yet but I have learned a lot from Jackee as I’ve watched her become a mother. As Bailey, Anne and Shane have mentioned, Isaiah was born with rare condition called PKU. During this last year, I’ve seen her become the strongest I’ve ever seen her become. She has stepped right up to the challenge of all the extra protocols that must be made for Isaiah to live a normal, happy life. And she does this with joy in her heart and has not become bitter for all the extra time it takes to measure and prepare special foods and medication that is necessary. She has been given many challenges and struggles over the past year and has been faithful, optimistic and has overcome these hurdles. I’m amazed by all Isaiah has had to deal with but yet is the happiest baby I have ever met. Isaiah is very blessed to have a mother like Jackee because of everything she has sacrificed to make sure he gets all the proper care he needs.

    Jackee has taught me what it means to give everything you have to your family. Many of times I have a hard time even comprehending what all it takes for her to care for Isaiah and I have on numerous occasions thought to myself how does she do it all? And how does she do it with so much strength and joy? She gets up throughout the night with Isaiah, wakes up early to measure out all the food he needs, goes thru breathing treatments with him that take up so much extra time in the morning, in addition to all the care and needs for a child of this age while working a full time job and still making time at the end of the day when Isaiah is in bed to make sure she gets her daily exercise in so she can be a healthy example for her family.

    I am in absolute awe of Jackee. Jackee is someone whom is very deserving of this trip. Jackee would never nominate herself for this trip, she would probably think another mother deserves it more than her but I don’t know any other mother who deserves this more than she does. She would be very honored to be part of this trip and I know she would soak up all the information and knowledge this trip would give her. As you enter Jackee’s house, it is filled with captured memories in frames, smiling Isaiah is everywhere you look. I know Jackee would greatly benefit from this workshop and the knowledge she would gain from this trip would only enhance those future captured memories of her family. Thank you for taking the time to consider Jackee for this trip, what a great opportunity this is!

  12. BreAnna S. says:

    Jackee, Veronica, Kellie, Shannon, and Stacey (I hope I included everyone):

    I just wanted to say how you all have inspired me. Though you have all overcome very different obstacles, you obviously are all very strong women. I know we all have our doubts and weak moments, but you’ve continued on with your lives with hope and faith. Although some of you may still be faced daily with grief, obstacles, or financial restraints, it is truly my hope that you will find happy days in front of you. I’m thankful that I’m not the one who has to make the decision as to who is chosen for the CONFIDENCE workshop seat, as each of your stories has touched me. No matter who is chosen, just know that there are people out there cheering you on and hoping for the best for you. 🙂

  13. Becky and Jim Willey says:

    We would like to add our support for Bailey’s nomination of Jackee to go to the Chicago workshop.

    As Jackee’s parents, we will not pretend to be unbiased, but this is a message about moms, and no one expects a mom to be unbiased about her kids. Our Jackee is no exception, but we definitely feel that our pride and appreciation for our daughter are completely justified.

    Jackee has always been exceptionally sensitive to the needs of those around her, and a champion for those with unfair barriers to deal with. Refusing to accept that the world is sometimes unfair, Jackee has always gone a step further to see what she could do to make things right. Perhaps that is why God has given her son Isaiah the health challenges, because Jackee and her husband Shane have the courage and tenacity to work to make things better for familys dealing with PKU or other health issues needing special attention.

    This opportunity is also special for Jackee because of her long interest in photography. Jackee has always been interested in photography, making her first interests known with a fascination with her Dad’s camera’s when she was little, growing through 4-H photography projects and blue ribbons at county fairs, to recent renewed interest in creating pictures for her family’s memories. The opportunites from this workshop could give her the knowledge and confidence to take her interest further, for posible career opportunities or even her own business. Please help to make that opportunity possible for Jackee.

    Thank You – Becky and Jim Willey

  14. Teresa says:

    I also would like to nominate Jackee for the Running on Empty Conference in Chicago. I know it may be late but definitely necessary. I have known Jackee since college and have experienced living with her, watching her fall in love and get married, and now be an incredible mother. Being a mom myself I know the struggles that can happen when having children, and the worries, but nothing I have experienced compares to what Jackee and Shane have dealt with PKU and all the tests little Zay has had in his young life so far. Jackee is so in love with her life, family, and especially her faith. She is strong, courageous, patient, eager to learn, and always steadfast. She may say she complains, but I never see it or hear it. She is a truly caring woman who is a role model to me and I look up to how she handles everything on her overflowing plate. She has relished in every moment of being a mom and now with her new “toy” she is sharing with us on their blog the beautiful pictures she has been taking. She is totally deserving of this event in Chicago. It would help her realize what a wonderful leading woman she is in so many peoples’ lives and how this love of photography can help others to share their stories too.