sydney • levelland high school senior • lubbock, tx

You may remember Sydney's fall session we shot back in October. Having already shot with her once, I was eagerly anticipating another go-round. The weather had warmed up significantly, and with graduation looming, there was a special, exciting emotion in the air for Sydney that I was excited to capture. 

Being the creative type herself, Sydney had several ideas for this session- all of which were spot-on with her personality and my style. I love the variety we got in this shoot. She received a super cool car for graduation, so we had to do a little Vanna White-style with it, of course! 

Thank you, Sydney, for making it so much fun! Want to graduate every year?!?

kamron + katie • wedding • borger, tx

"It was such a great party," I said to Katie's father, at the end of the night. "Are you relieved that it's over?" He responded, "Nah, I've actually been pretty calm this whole time…you know, there are lots of things that could go wrong, but as long as they're married at the end of the day…everything is good." 

He couldn't have said it better. It was, of course, a gorgeous day- and Kamron and Katie were oh-so-ready to be wed. Friends and family from all over had gathered- but one thing about a wedding that always amazes me- is that you really only need 3 people to make it happen. The bride, the groom, and the authority who makes it official. Of course, the guests, details, and festivities, are blessing upon blessing.

Speaking of details, you may notice a certain superhero poking his head out of Katie's cake below. This was a tribute to Katie's adorable and incredibly intelligent son, Blaise, and also one of the bride's favorite details. Katie's mother made the cake, along with all the delicious cookies- amazing!

I got to shoot this at the church I grew up in, surrounded by many familiar faces, and having known Katie most of my life, it was a blessing to document this day for her.

Some of my favorite images are of their first look- definitely some of the favorites I've photographed in a while!

Ceremony: First Baptist Church, Borger

Reception: Borger Country Club

Wedding Dress: Brides by Demetrios

Bridesmaids: Simpledress, Etsy

Groom/Groomsmen: Vera Wang, Men's Wearhouse

Floral: Holly @ Scott Flowers, and family friends

Cake: Margaret Vance and Debbie Chowins, Tina Massengale

DJ: John Hancock, Amarillo

Hair: Teresa Borchardt

Coordinator: Shana Richardson

Stationery: Courtney Carlton Design

kyle + rebecca • texas tech club • wedding

Ahh, the beginnings of wedding season! Spring could not have begun without a more fun crew than this. Kyle and Rebecca were married at First United Methodist Church here in Lubbock, and had their reception at the Texas Tech Club. Besides the gorgeous spring florals put together but College Flowers, I loved getting to photograph these two Tech grads on the field at Jones Stadium- something that could not have happened so effortlessly were it not for the expert planning abilities of Jill Leven with Eat, Drink and Be Marry. 

This couple has a truly wonderful group of family and friends and were just plain excited to finally be married. I loved getting to capture it all happen! Congrats you two!

Ceremony: First United Methodist Church

Reception: Texas Tech Club

Wedding Planning: Jill Leven of Eat, Drink and Be Marry

Hair + Makeup: Narci Bohn-Brooks of Roxi's Hair Studio and Brenda Becknell

Floral: College Flowers

Bride's Cake: Marla Felton

Groom's Cake: Allison Collins

DJ: DJ with TJ

hillary • texas tech grad • lubbock, tx

Hillary is about to graduate from Texas Tech University with a degree in petroleum engineering. Of course, being in West Texas, that means she is on the forefront of the oil and gas boom- an industry which largely effects the local economies of our region. In talking with Hillary, I realized what a brave explorer she is! I love that she seeks out new experiences and chooses adventure. I had a great time shooting with her- and can't wait to see where she goes next!

ory + larkin • engagement • lubbock, tx

There are so many things I love about this couple. Having only known them for a short time, I feel like I already see so much depth to their relationship. These two are working their tails off to finish law and medical school while planning a wedding. But beyond that, they have a deep respect and love for each other- it is evident in their interaction. Ory is quiet and kind, and Larkin has a special regard for his preferences and opinions. Larkin is outgoing and colorful, and Ory watches her with complete adoration. Photographing them was so much fun. I also hugely appreciate the planner that Larkin is- she put a lot of thought into their engagement shoot ahead of time, and I loved knowing that it was so important to her. These two will be getting married this December- can't wait!

he eats the heel.

I'm certain that may be the most odd title I've had for a blog post yet. But it's what I kept thinking of this morning, as I walked around my home in amazement that 1) I was actually walking around, and 2) our house hadn't fallen apart yet.

A couple of days ago, I headed out to a very rare Sunday photoshoot. I typically reserve Sundays for my family, going to church and seeing our awesome support group of friends. It's a day I look forward to- a big drink of refreshing water right before the start of another workweek. This Sunday, however, I was happy to work for my clients who are both busting their tails to finish law and medical school- two institutions with unforgiving schedules. Before I headed out, a special wave of exhaustion and stress hit me. I was tired. Maybe my body was going, "Hey, isn't this your typical nap time?!?"

We were running late getting back from lunch (who would have thought Steak and Shake would take an hour and a half?!?) and the minutes I had before the photoshoot were dwindling away quickly. As I ran in the house, Shawn loaded my camera gear and the extra props I thought I might need. He poured a little bit of chocolate milkshake into a cup for me, and kissed me goodbye. On my way to meet my clients, I got a video of Knox saying, "We believe in you, Mommy! I love you!". Precious. There was nothing better for my heart. 

The photoshoot went fabulously. Every time I get out and shoot I am reminded just how blessed I am to have the job I do. Beautiful day, great clients. Being that it was a Sunday meant we had most of our locations to ourselves. It was really nice. 

The closer I got to home, however, the worse I felt. My stomach turned and my eyes wouldn't stay open. After a few minutes of investigation upon arriving home, Shawn said, "You've got a fever". The thermometer confirmed it. Our Sunday night plans were cancelled. I laid down. The next thing I knew, Shawn had taken Knox to get groceries for the week, and picked up some soup and meds for me. He had taken special care only to buy what we needed, and he bought it on sale- simply because he knew that's what I would have done.

I slept. And when I woke up the next day, I felt even worse. Thankfully, I had planned to take that day "off", and was encouraged by my husband to do so. Taking days "off" is something we mutually struggle with- our favorite joke is that as self-employed people, our bosses are total jerks! Shawn got Knox ready for school and made himself a lunch. About 10 am, after Shawn went to work and Knox was at school, I went back to sleep and didn't wake up for another 5 hours. Then, after a short snack, I went back to sleep for another 3 hours. The day was a blur. 

Shawn called to check on me. Before coming home, he brought me a latte. Lattes = my love language. :) He never complained. He picked up Knox from school, made dinner, did the dishes, bathed the kiddo, and put him to bed. I didn't do one. thing. that day…other than sleep.

And then I woke up today. Feeling almost 100% better. I'm sure that has something to do with the medicine and the rest, but I'm positive it has everything to do with my husband. He serves me (and Knox) so well.

He eats all of my "experiment" dinners. He doesn't complain about the leftovers of said dinners. He tells me to rest. He gives me my "alone time". He goes to work every day and is thankful for the work, even though retail is one of the toughest businesses I know. He chooses to dream, to be optimistic even when I am SO glass-half-empty. And he eats the heel of the loaf of bread. Who does that?!?

In 8 years of marriage, I am more romanced by my husband's small everyday sacrifices than any big romantic gestures. It's when I see him quietly serving, consistently choosing to act with integrity- even when no one would know but myself- that I know I made the right choice. 

Thank you for serving us well, Shawn. I love you!

chris + tomiscena • engagement • lubbock, tx

One of the biggest reasons I loved Chris + Tomiscena's engagement shoot was that it was full of sentiment. Each location we shot at was a special place for this couple- represented something, or was the actual place they enjoyed while getting to know each other. It seems simple, really- but I love that these images will be a direct reflection of this point in their lives. Looking back, I wish I had more photos of Shawn and myself at the Wayland Baptist cafeteria, or the gym, or in the neighborhood we both grew up in. I think it would only make my memories more colorful.

That's what I'm hoping these images do for these two. For our first location, they wore exactly what they'd been wearing on their first date, when they wandered into the children's book section at Barnes & Noble after dinner. Then, we went to their favorite park for evening walks. And lastly, we ended up at the National Ranching Heritage Center- an homage to Chris's many years working on ranches. 

They'll be getting married in a few short months- can't wait!

morgan • senior • snyder high school

Shooting with people like Morgan is one of the reasons I love working with seniors. I LOVED her style and fresh face. Morgan has a great attitude and a clear direction for what she'd like to pursue after graduation. It was great to have creative space during her session- she trusted me whether we were in an alley way or in the middle of a bunch of tumbleweeds! Really, though- I am in love with so many of the images from her session. These are just a few!

the footwork & frustrations of a self- pay patient

You're about to get an ear-full about the healthcare system. To me, it's really a boring topic and I've generally avoided discussion over it. There is enough in the media about ObamaCare and the Affordable Healthcare Act to make me go mad. However, several circumstances have given me an interesting perspective on it and I feel compelled to share it. :) 

If you're just catching up, you need to know that my family does not have health insurance. Technically, we are "self-pay". No, we are not irresponsible- quite the opposite. We have been a part of a Christian bill-sharing group, Samaritan Ministries, now for 2 years. Basically, we commit to sending others in the group our "share" (i.e. what we would be paying traditional insurance- around 370.00 per month) in order to help them with their medical needs. When we have a need, it's our turn, and the others in the group send us money. You can read more about Samaritan in this blog post. Sounds a little crazy, but it really works, and it's been a great fit for our fully self-employed family.

I recently had a day surgery to fix an anatomical issue that was causing me to have recurring early miscarriages. The surgery itself was a breeze. Paying for it, however, has been more like a obstacle course. 

Before the surgery, we were given estimates on what our costs would be, from the hospital where the surgery was performed and from the doctor. This, of course, was just an estimate- they wouldn't be able to give us the real costs until after the surgery (you know, in case they decided to take my kidney out. Yes, that is actually something I had to sign off on- the chance they'd "get in there" and decide I needed my kidney removed).

I even made a few deposit payments. One of the things I have been most shocked by after becoming a self-pay patient is the generous discounts most providers will apply automatically. Self-pay patients typically get a discount of 40% off the billed amount. When I went in to the hospital for my pre-op appointment a week or two before the surgery, I was informed that as of January 1 2014, the discount for self-pay patients has gone from 40% off, to 71% off. WHAT?!?! I felt like I had won the lottery. And at the same time, a bubble of disgust grew in my stomach. 

While extremely thankful for the major increase in discount, I remembered what it felt like to be a loyal, responsible, traditional insurance-paying citizen with a very high deductible. There is such a great chasm of difference between the way patients with traditional insurance are billed vs. self-pay patients. 

I have mentioned before that one of the tougher parts of being a self-pay patient is the footwork. I have learned how important it is to PAY ATTENTION. Three weeks after the surgery, I spent a morning going to the various offices with the intention of gathering my bills (Samaritan requires itemized bills reflecting any payments or discounts) in order to get them submitted to Samaritan for reimbursement. While I was successful with some billing departments, others basically scoffed at the idea of having a bill "so soon" after the surgery. I called more offices than I can count. Just when I thought I had gathered all the bills from my doctor and the hospital, I remembered that there was likely one from the anesthesiologist as well (something I'd have not thought about had I not already had a baby and received an epidural at the hospital). Tracking down the anesthesiologist was a joke. My doctor's office did not know the name of the doctor nor could provide any contact information. I joked that I should have gotten her name and number right before I slipped into that I-just-had-5-margaritas feeling at the beginning of surgery! 

Finally, almost 2 months post-surgery, I was able to acquire bills from the anesthesiologist, the doctor, the lab, and the hospital. And guess what? The bills are a total mess. Some of the same charges are listed on two or more bills. Some bills reflect the payments I've already made. Some reflect a self-pay discount. Most don't. 

Upon reviewing one of the bills, I realize I've been charged twice for two different anesthesiologists on the day of my surgery. The same amount of 1190.00 for each. What???

I call the billing department. I'm told I have to call the business office for those physicians. (This is very common.)

I call the business office. The very nice lady on the phone explains that because my hospital is a teaching hospital, there are always two anesthesiologists present during surgery (Ok, I get that). They must bill for each physician separately, so they break the charge in half, which is why it is the same amount for each anesthesiologist. But, they put a special code in the billing so that when it is sent to the insurance, the insurance will pay for half of the charges and so I, the patient, will only be paying for one anesthesiologist. Ok, so what happens if I am self-pay? Oh, you can get a 40% discount...let me see...yes...if you can pay in full, you'll only need to pay 714.00. 

This is great news, but I am also frustrated. What if I hadn't called? What if I had just paid the amount on the bill? I preceded to call each office with a charge on my bills. ALL of them were able to give me 40% off the amount listed on my bills.

People, our medical system is broken. Though it was a pain to do all the footwork, I'm glad I have. Before becoming self-pay, my attitude toward healthcare went something like, "We are responsible, so we need to make sure we have good insurance. When we get bills, our good insurance should cover it. (It didn't) I hope I don't have to deal with the insurance company or the the billing department. (Still did)They should be able to figure it out (ha!)." 

I really avoided dealing with any of this. I know I was naïve. But I really believe that this is the thought pattern of much of my generation. And that's why I'm writing this post. While opinions over how to solve our healthcare conundrum differ, I do know that across the board, we need to be aware of what's going on. I am so thankful for my doctors, nurses, and all the medical professionals who gave me great care. I am even thankful for the people in billing who sent me to so many different departments I thought my head would spin. This is not all their fault. What if every patient was more aware of what they were being charged and why? What if insurance companies AND medical providers were clear about their charges and took time to make sure patients understood the process and how and when they would be billed?

I know that we are just one small, generally healthy family. No, I do not plan to go on crusade to "fix" healthcare. I guess, as a patient, I'm just hoping for some purity in this process. Maybe we have been spoiled by the "see a need, meet a need" mission with Samaritan. It's such a simple process. And I wish healthcare were like that as well- where a doctor could care for a patient, and the patient could pay for their expert services. I've heard that there are doctors out there who have stopped taking insurance altogether. This family would be all. over. that! Looks like I'll need to do some more footwork to find them...

UPDATE 3/20/14: I decided to add a little update based on many of the comments I received about this post on Facebook and here on my blog.

Most of the comments I have received have been something like, "wow, I can't believe you saved so much money!". While it is true that the discounts were/are significant, my point is not that we saved a ton of money by going without traditional insurance, it's that I am being billed as if I were an insurance company. 

There are many additional costs that I did not mention in my post above, in addition to the charges on the bills I was addressing. We do not have a co-pay for a regular doctor's visit. We don't get discounts on prescriptions. Any need we have under $300 is not able to be submitted to Samaritan, which means we need to keep enough cash on hand (all the time) to cover us if everyone in our family gets the flu. We are also paying our regular share ($370) each month to a family with a medical need. 

That being said, our doctors have been kind to work with us and give us a standard copay ($50 each visit), and order generic prescriptions or give us samples.  Sending a check for our Samaritan share with a note each month has been a true blessing. 

All in all, Samaritan is still the best plan for our family when it comes to healthcare. Which leads me to my next point...

I am NOT advocating for no insurance. Accidents will happen. People will get sick. NOT having a plan is NOT a plan. There are many people who are self-pay by default because they have chosen to let others handle their healthcare for them. We are not on this train of thought. God tells us to take care of our bodies, which includes making a plan for our healthcare costs. Samaritan (along with many other lifestyle choices) is our plan. Traditional health insurance is also a plan. JUST HAVE A PLAN. Bill-sharing groups like Samaritan are given provision for under the Affordable Healthcare Act, which means it's legal, and we won't be fined. 

Another commenter also asked about catastrophic/extreme health costs. Samaritan does have a program (which we are a part of) that is specifically for needs that amount to more than $250,000. We have only participated in this program since January, after watching friends of ours (also with Samaritan) have very high medical costs due to a complicated birth of their son. He was in the NICU for several weeks, and also required an ambulance. These friends were so glad to be enrolled in the Save to Share program and have had all of their costs covered.

These friends also let us know that it is possible to do the negotiating (all the phone calls asking for discounts I complained about earlier) on the back end- after submitting our bills to Samaritan. The extra money not needed after the discounts will then be sent on to other Samaritan needs.

isaiah • senior • borger, tx

Isaiah is my nephew (wow, I feel old!) and is graduating from Borger High School this year. I was excited to shoot his photos and was thankful that he was up for pretty much any weird idea I had. He's like that- easygoing, accommodating and thoughtful. I know God's got some big plans for Isaiah. 

Like many seniors in high school, he's got several options for the next season of his life. I'm praying that whatever he's doing, he's doing it in an effort to seek God and His Glory- I know that's Isaiah's heart. Thinking about his personality, I've decided to pray this scripture over Isaiah's life- it's from one of my favorite books of the Bible- Isaiah!

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
— Isaiah 61:1

Congrats, Isaiah!