To all of the strong, inspiring women in my life- thank you. You inspire me every day with your tenacity, your beauty, your creativity and generosity. I really do believe I have the best job in the world, and it’s because of you.

I started out writing today intending to write you cheery well-wishes for a happy International Women’s Day. But let’s be real. This day is not a celebration, with what’s going on in the world. It’s a battle cry, and I could not ask for a more powerful group of warriors.

We Will Not Go Gently

This year we have seen women’s rights take some terrible blows. What that means is that more than ever, we need to stand with our sisters; especially those who are further marginalised by ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity. We can’t afford to be complacent.

As a young woman I didn’t call myself a feminist. I thought it sounded “combative,” and I had never experienced gender-based discrimination (that I noticed), so surely the fight had mostly been fought? Now I know how incredibly privileged that opinion was, and how wrong. The pay gap is real. Sexual violence is a risk all women must protect against. Many of my female friends have received horrific online threats; it’s expected in their line of work, and they compare war stories and online block lists. Our culture has normalised uncountable unhealthy attitudes towards women.

It has to stop.

The definition of feminism is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” (Merriam-Webster) More than ever, in this time where we all feel deep in our bones that this fight must surely already be won, that it is absurd to still be having this conversation, we must all be feminists. Because this backwards slide of women’s rights is not just a tragedy; it is an opportunity. A chance to show the world that this battle hasn’t been won. Proof positive that we need to act. An opportunity to expose the ugly underbelly of inequality to the world and take a stand, united by our horror and disgust, against it.

We can still win this thing.


 

Ways to take action:

Stand up for your rights. Don’t accept poor treatment. Demand equal pay. If you need help with any of those things, ask for it.

Wear red to support the women’s strikes happening across the world.

Use the power of social media, today and every day, to advance women’s rights and spread important messages, and to share stories of strong, successful girls and women.

Defend each other. It’s a crazy world out there, but together we can make it safer. Watch out for each other and stand together against harassment.


 

Places to donate:

Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund – A Canadian organisation championing women’s equality in the legal system in Canada

The Global Fund for Women– Fighting for women’s right internationally to the human rights enshrined by the United Nations

Plan Canada- Because I’m a Girl – A global initiative working to end gender inequality and promote girls’ rights


We are stronger together. Never forget it.

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Then

7 years ago, I went to the cabin for the summer. I took the kids (4 of them at the time, my Keeper Three plus a foster daughter). My children were complicated and difficult, their special needs and behaviours draining, but I had started to think that maybe I could do the single parent thing after all. Maybe I was getting the hang of this. It was hard, almost too hard, but I tried to make myself believe.

On Canada Day, when I was sitting on the back porch after the kids were all in bed, the most incredible fireworks display started up over the lake. I stood up, wanting to share it with my kids, wanting to see their faces light up with wonder… and then I sat back down. I had two arms and four kids. My littlest one needed to be carried but the next oldest would wake up wild, the medication that held her to sanity gone out of her system for the night. One of the older girls had trouble getting to sleep because of the abuse she’d suffered and the other was so hard to wake you could drop a bomb and still not be sure of getting her up. I just didn’t have enough of me to go around.

In tears, I called the guy I was dating. I told him about the night and I told him I didn’t know what to do- that I liked him, even loved him, but the “casual” thing we were doing wasn’t going to work for me long term. That no matter how much I hated it, no matter how much I wanted to be independent and strong, I needed a partner- I couldn’t do this on my own. I needed someone who was all in.

He said, “Okay. Then I’m in.”

And he was.

Now

Today, New Year’s Eve, I was working on a blog post. It was pretty deep, no lie, about about how life is really just a collection of stories and you have to make sure you pay attention and don’t miss out on them. I was about halfway through when I heard That Boy call the kids (already in bed) and say “The neighbours are having fireworks, come see!” I went upstairs and we draped a leather jacket over our small son, naked but for his Spiderman undies and now big enough not to need carrying (but little enough to still let you), and we stood in the doorway together, watching fireworks burst over the crisp white snow. His feet were bare and his eyes were full of wonder.

I think this is what happily ever after looks like.

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  • Denise

    that does indeed sound like happily ever after. And the unexpected blessings keep rolling in. Thanks for sharingReplyCancel

I first met Miss C at a blues dance workshop, and in less than a minute I knew that A) I needed to photograph her and B) we needed to be friends.* Not necessarily in that order. However, thanks to some late-in-the-game social skill acquisition I did not say either of these things, sticking to the much less creepy “Nice eyeliner!” (it was vibrant purple). Look, I’m learning!

Of course, when she contacted me about a session and I was able to repeat back every word of our brief conversation I think I totally blew my cover. So.

Dramatic-light-boudoir-dancer

It’s always funny to me- funny “incredibly hard to believe” not funny “ha ha”- when women like Miss C come in and have no idea how sensual and powerful their bodies can be. She is a dancer who became a geneticist and then became a dancer again, and the way she moves makes it clear that academia did nothing to dampen her exquisite grace.

Dramatic-light-boudoir-dancer

How do you feel about your body?
I am still learning to accept and love my body. I grew up feeling inadequate and less beautiful that the other girls. Over time, I’m learning to appreciate how I look and be comfortable in my skin.

What do you love about your body?
I love my legs. I’ve danced since I was a kid and I love the way my body feels strong, graceful and expressive when I’m moving.

Before your session, did you have any worries or fears? What were they?
I was worried that I wasn’t conventionally beautiful. I was worried that my glasses would make me look nerdy and take away from looking attractive. I was also concerned that I was being superficial and a narcissist by wanting to get pictures taken of myself.

How did you feel coming out of your session?
I felt confident and beautiful! I couldn’t believe how comfortable and easy the session felt. I was so excited and I couldn’t wait to tell my friends what I had just done!

Dramatic-light-boudoir-dancer

What was one of the highlights of your session?
I was really nervous at the beginning of the session. Star was amazing and encouraging and soon after we started, I was able to relax. Once that happened, my smile felt genuine and I was able to really enjoy the moments.

How did you feel when you saw your photos?
When I first saw my photos, I was taken aback. Star was able to bring out sides of me that I didn’t think I had. Before this, I wouldn’t have described myself as beautiful, sexy even less so. But after seeing the pictures, she proved me wrong!

What would you tell another woman considering coming to Acts of Beauty for boudoir photography?
Do it! Put away your fears of inadequacy or your notions that you’re not pretty enough. You are beautiful, you are worthy and you deserve to celebrate yourself!

Would you do it again?
Yes. A thousand times yes.*

Cut-woman-with-jade-bracelet

 

*Which we totally now are.

*And she has. Spectacularly. But as usual I’m behind on blogging so… stay tuned!

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I have been looking forward to this wedding for years. Crystal is one of those clients who was a friend before her first session was over (and her wedding is shoot 7, in case you were counting- hasn’t anyone warned you that good photography is addictive?) and long before Darren proposed, I was in there rooting for them. Especially once we did our first couples’ shoot and I discovered he was just as much fun in front of the camera as she was. Now /that/ is my idea of a good catch. 😉

Crystal & Darren 2016-064

The wedding, though, let me see all the parts of their life you don’t otherwise get to capture on film; the love and strength of their families, the giddy friendships, the incredible foundation of support this marriage is being built on.

(And special thanks to Edmonton Wedding DJ Stacey of PopJukebox for helping me jury-rig lights for the first dance, which meant that a) I was not shooting in pitch darkness or blinding people with my flashes and b) no one saw me crying at how beautiful it all was.)

Here’s a little peek at a wonderful kind of love. <3 (Click on the big image below and then use the “next button” to see more)

 

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I just finished writing out the recipe for my iron-rich Women’s Secret Gingerbread, which is a recipe I adapted to fill it with iron for those times in a woman’s life when she needs a little boost. Having gone to the effort of writing it up, I thought I’d share it- you have to like molasses to enjoy it, but it has about 15-30% of your daily iron needs covered per slice (depending on how you slice it, natch. The way I eat cake it sets me up for the week).

Women’s Secret Gingerbread

Dark, moist, spicy and full of goodness. One recipe makes only a single 8×8 cake pan so I double or quadruple it for 9×13 pans. This is adapted from the “Old-Fashioned Gingerbread” recipe in the 1997 edition of The Joy of Cooking.

1/ 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1tbsp ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder (you can do without this, I add it to recipes I have made heavier to give a bit of a boost)

Substituting black beans for butter: Use a food processor or blender to puree a can of black beans (drained and rinsed). You will need to add a bit of moisture- last time I used 1/2 of a banana and a splash of milk but water will do fine too. You need just enough to make them puree better. I measure and freeze the leftovers so I don’t have to do this every time I bake.

In a large bowl, beat until creamy 1/2 c black bean mixture, butter or hard margarine. I usually do a blend of about 3/4 bean mixture and 1/4 butter but the recipe will come out fine with any combination of these. Black beans are a good source of iron.

Gradually add and beat on high speed until lightened in colour and texture, 2 to 3 minutes:

1 large egg
1/2c packed light brown sugar (I halve this but you might want to try it with all the sugar the first time)

Gradually beat in:

1 cup cooking molasses

If the molasses taste is too strong for you, use half fancy molasses and half cooking molasses until your tastebuds adjust. But the cooking molasses is chock-full of iron and fancy is not.

Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in:

1/2 cup boiling water
3 tbsp finely chopped crystalized ginger (optional)
1-2 cups apple, chopped small (optional)
Your favourite nuts and seeds (optional)

Bake at 350 until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, 35-45 minutes.

 

Let me know what you think!

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