Biography

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, I’m as Southern as sweet tea. I was raised by my mother, the oldest daughter of farm hands who met while picking cotton. She was the first member of our family to graduate from college, which she did when I was ten years old. Though I didn’t come from a lot of money or status, I learned young that determination, hard work, and good character go a long way.

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My early education was spent an impoverished and predominantly black area (Woodlawn). I grew up truly understanding cultural diversity, both racially and by the lines drawn by poverty. I was keenly aware of how hard my mother worked as a single parent, also attending college, to give us a good life. I understood that societies that pull together, not leaving anyone behind, are more likely to advance as a culture. I’ve made life-long friends from the earliest days of my education. I also continue looking for ways to help my community keep moving forward.

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Early on, I knew I had the gift of a unique perspective, allowing me to create beautiful works of art. By the time I could hold a crayon, I was already pursuing my artistic perspective.

By the fourth grade, I had won a city awarded poster project depicting diversity. I also drew the art work for my fifth grade commencement. By age 8, I ws taking photography classes through UAB Special Studies, a local university’s continuing education classes designed for adults.

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My mother, always my biggest advocate, made a huge financial commitment to enrolling me at the prestigious Altamont School for high school. Though I was years behind my contemporaries in academics, I was stubborn enough to insist on proving I could keep up. There, I was encouraged to develop my inner artist. Most important to me, I had access to a darkroom. While it had been neither been open, nor likely cleaned, for about 20 years, it had all the bare bones needed. Within months, I had the lab cleaned and running, with the help of my friends/recruits. By my graduation there a great lab, and full credit photography classes were being taught.

I would go on to serve as the President of the Photography Club, Vice President of the Art Club, win numerous art awards, and spent three years on the Annual Staff, including Co-Editor my senior year. I did also did an extensive independent study in art, developing my first portfolio. I earned the highest Art Scholarship that Birmingham-Southern College offered.

I started working at the age of 14. My first official job was as a day camp counselor at the local Jewish Community Center. By that point, I’d already been babysitting since about the age of 10, so I knew about working with kids. Throughout high school, I worked all of my school breaks in a retail or office environment, including winter and summer breaks, saving money for my own car and college.

I started college at Birmingham-Southern, where my mother had gone. Though I knew money would be tight, I would be the first person ever in my family who had the opportunity to go straight from high school to college. Tuition well exceeded the amount of money that I had. Although I had an Art Scholarship, it covered only a portion of tuition. I did not qualify for any additional assistance. So I worked no less than thirty hours a week throughout my first two years of college. During breaks and summers, it was more like 60 hours a week, with multiple jobs.

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Looking back, I romanticized my notion of Birmingham-Southern, having spent much of my childhood there while my mom was in school. Not too far into my freshman year, I realized I needed a college experience that would be more compatible with my future as an artist and a journalist, while recognizing that my financial limitations required me to work throughout school.

My sophomore year, I attended UAB as a transient student while I decided what my next step would be. While I was there, I had a serious accident that would lead to a number of medical problems throughout the next decade. Despite marginal health, I stayed focused on school and continued working.

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My third year of college, I began attending Western Kentucky University. There, I joined an amazing group of young photojournalists who would take the world by storm. It was both challenging and rewarding to be surrounded by the future leaders of the industry, and the journalistic forefathers who made up the department faculty. Quickly into my WKU career, I discovered a love of design. Unlike anything I had ever done, it came pretty easy for me. Learning the rules of design, including structure and color theory, felt like common sense to me, an undeniable “Type-A” personality who loves to organize things. I combined my skills for photography, design, and photo editing to become an excellent publications editor.

By the time I completed WKU, I had done numerous internships, worked freelance in three states, was actively involved in both the Art and Journalism Departments, worked in the Photo Lab, and spent three years on The Herald newspaper staff, including my senior year as a Co-Photo editor.

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Seven months after I graduated from college, I landed my “dream job” as a designer at the Key West Citizen. Though the newspaper was far from an ideal environment, I had always dreamed of living in Key West. Ultimately, I didn’t work for the paper very long. Instead, I began freelancing for a number of local publications, and photographing weddings, while working customer service jobs. Though Key West wasn’t the most financially advantageous decision, it fed my soul both spiritually, and as an artist. In the years I spent there, I developed a better since of who I am. I was surrounded by natural beauty, and a society far different than any I had ever known. Life changing inspiration led me to not only to design and take pictures, but also to paint and write. My artist’s soul was invigorated.

Straight out of college, I returned to my hometown following up on medical issues, while working as a designer. I was fortunate enough to find work in both print and web design while getting healthier.

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After a few years in the Keys, I found myself again facing my medical issues. This time, there were a few new challenges that took me by surprise. Again, I returned to Birmingham, continuing to working on a contract basis, while again trying to get healthy. Things were much more serious by then, affecting both my vision and my ability to walk for a time. No matter how difficult my physical situation became, I maintained contract work, and frequently office work, while I recovered. I always knew that though my medical conditions were serious, I would come out on the other side stronger and more eager in my creative career.

During the darker days of ill health, a number of wonderful things happened. The most life changing was that I met and married my husband. Together, we learned a lot about nutrition and alternative health and wellness care. He also supported my efforts to recover physically, rebuild strength in my legs, and stay inspired by frequent hikes and adventures in nature. Together, we adopted the next member of our family, our dog Marly.

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After many years of being physically limited, I returned to the work force full time as the Area Supervisor of an ever-evolving team of photographers (11-18, depending on the day), photographing newborns in five local hospitals. Responsible for hiring, training and overseeing a staff of women (average ages 21-40) in a very intense work environment, I learned a tremendous amount about management and diplomacy. I also learned the fine art of maintaining a professional image, inner staff politics, and remaining cool and drama free, come what may.

Though this was clearly not a permanent career, it was an amazing first step back into the professional creative world. I met some really great people, sharing awe-inspiring first moments with families welcoming their newest members. A longtime photographer, I appreciated the opportunity to both take pictures, and trained other amazing women to capture memories through a lens. Something else was also sparked within me: I realized I wanted to be a parent.

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On April 11, 2011, hundreds of tornadoes ravaged much of the South. My home was among those with significant damage. I wanted more than anything to contribute to the recovery of my home town. Immediately after the storms, I began volunteering in an impoverished suburb, utterly destroyed by an enormous F4 tornado. I also talked to disaster relief workers from FEMA. They encouraged me to watch for a job opening if I was serious about moving in that direction.

A few months later, I began the truly amazing experience of working as a photojournalist for FEMA. I was recording history in Alabama and the people who were determined to rebuild their lives, despite enormous obstacles. FEMA was probably the most inspiring and fulfilling jobs I have ever had. I was absolutely elated to be offered a position to continue working for FEMA, documenting disasters wherever they happened.

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In the most surprising moment of my career, especially to me, I turned FEMA down. Though I REALLY wanted to continue, I also knew that FEMA deployments were very much like military deployments. FEMA employees go into the ravaged areas affected by disaster, committing themselves to stay for as long as they’re needed (frequently upwards of three months). I knew that as much as I wanted to tell the stories, there was still more of my own story to be told: I still wanted to be a mother.

Three years into a devastating economic crisis, and six months after the tornadoes, the Deep South was in a crippling financial depression. Full-time creative positions were rapidly being eliminated. Unable to find a creative role, I decided to rely on the skills I had learned in customer service, project management, and in volunteer positions. I accepted a role at Civitan International in November, 2011 where I helped create community service clubs.

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I was thrilled to occasionally design for print and online platforms, take pictures, write, and manage my department’s social media. Civitan was a fun and unique opportunity to work behind the scenes of a non-profit, working with some really amazing people while giving back to the community. I also continued freelancing and volunteering whenever possible.

At home, life was also pretty busy. In August of 2012, we bought our first house in preparation for our next adventure. Between January of 2013 and August of 2014, my husband and I were also the foster parents to two beautiful young sisters who we hoped to be able to adopt.

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Eight months into my time at Black Creek, it was obvious that the position would be ending. After leaving in June, 2015, I resolved to find a position that would fuel my creative drive, allow me to have a home life, and provide an opportunity for longevity. But first, I had the leverage and time to pursue some creative projects, freelance work, continuing education classes, a little travel time, and some recovery time for myself. I have had the opportunity to catch my breath and enjoy the view, preparing me for the next chapter.

In August of 2014, during a very difficult goodbye with our girls, we terminated our relationship as Foster Parents. In the months that followed, my husband’s position at work was eliminated. Simultaneously, I was offered a position as the Creative Director and Webmaster of a local IT Security company. -I immediately accepted and resigned from Civitan after 3 years of service.

I also continued volunteering, devoting as much time and effort as possible to the Greater Birmingham National Organization for Women. As the organization has more than tripled, I agreed to take on a leadership role.

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Bring on the next adventure…

Today, I am seeking the right opportunity. I have learned that above all things, I am a survivor. Despite the obstacles I’ve seen in my life, I’ve been determined have a life and career that mattered. I have a tremendous amount to contribute, unique to the life I have lived. I also whole heartedly believe NO ONE is more determined than I am.

I am resolved to use my skills to do something amazing, while simultaneously enjoying my life. I am hoping that my next position will be a long-term career, which will allow me to continue to grow and evolve. I look forward to an opportunity to work with an outstanding organization that shares my values and my drive, and preferably the social consciousness I value.

Bring on the next adventure…

Today, I am seeking the right opportunity. I have learned that above all things, I am a survivor. Despite the obstacles I’ve seen in my life, I’ve been determined have a life and career that mattered. I have a tremendous amount to contribute, unique to the life I have lived. I also whole heartedly believe NO ONE is more determined than I am.

I am resolved to use my skills to do something amazing, while simultaneously enjoying my life. I am hoping that my next position will be a long-term career, which will allow me to continue to grow and evolve. I look forward to an opportunity to work with an outstanding organization that shares my values and my drive, and preferably the social consciousness I value.

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