What Vegans Eat: A Week of Plant-Based Meals

Or: Vegan? Wait, like, nothing from animals?? But what, EXACTLY, do you eat?

Recently, I shared a week of vegan meals on my Facebook Page. Since then, I’ve answered a lot of questions and have been asked by more than a few people if they could reference my posts in an easier way.
So I’m pulling all those posts together into one big blog post here.

I think times really are changing in the meatless landscape – not just all the recent news about significant environmental impact and general health, but I’ve come to realize that the #1 question I always used to get about being vegan was: But how do you get your protein? That has now been switched up to: “Wait, like, nothing from animals?? But what, EXACTLY, do you eat?”  I see this as progress!

That question has ramped up even more in the last few days, since the World Health Organization (WHO) announcement that processed meat is linked to cancer, which made for quite a spectrum of headlines, many comparing it to the dangers of smoking cigarettes. Do I think everyone is going to give up meat immediately? No. No, I don’t. But I do think a number of people are quite interested in at least eating less meat, or are interested in learning about new food options they might enjoy just as much. And I think that’d be an amazing thing for a lot of reasons – undoubtedly, there’s the significant compassion I feel for animals. But also because it’s the #1 thing we can do for our environment, and I also have some serious compassion for the current state of this planet.

So I thought I’d try a new thing. I’m sharing an entire week of regular meals that I am normally eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – as best I can. Not because I’m going Instagram meal shooting happy but to show how normal, tasty and varied the vegan diet can be. And this was shared during a busier-than-normal week for me. So for any of you considering the possibility of just taking in less meat in your normal diet, here you go:

Day 1


A photo shared from Sweet Earth Foods– the Big Sur Breakfast Burrito. These are plant-based, non-GMO, high in protein and a really easy breakfast to grab on a busier-than-normal morning. They are available at a lot of groceries and natural foods stores – you can even get them at Target. (Oh, and I had a coconut milk latte from Starbucks).

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I grabbed food from a nearby cafe to eat at my desk, as I was in crunch time, working on getting some cool things out for Beautiful Together. Lunch was a tasty vegetarian lentil soup and a large greek salad. I made a couple swaps to the salad (avocado instead of feta / good fats for bad fats) and cannellini beans instead of onions (even more protein to the meal + hey, breath saver!) with a simple oregano dressing.

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Aaaand, dinner. Had the fun of having dear friends over tonight and we ordered food from the very popular Mellow Mushroom restaurant, a fun pizza (and more) chain – ours was vegan cheese pizza with mushrooms, olives, and spinach. Plus, a vegan cheese calzone. One of the favorite vegan cheeses used by many restaurants is Daiya, a tapioca-based cheese that is creamy, super melty, and works anywhere dairy cheese would be used. Can be bought at Whole Foods and Fresh Market, at least.

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Day 2


It was another frenzied morning, getting up at 4:30am for an early morning-until-evening field trip to the mountains with my awesome 4th grader. So breakfast was a grab-and-eat-in-car Sweet Earth Foods Curry Tiger vegan burrito (so good).


Lunch was a picnic – I had a hearty sandwich, which was whole grain bread with Tofurkey slices, tomatoes, vegan cheese (another super tasty option is Follow Your Heart cheese), Hampton Creek‘s vegan chipotle mayo, romaine lettuce and a (So Creamy) Kite Hill almond milk yogurt. Of all the non-dairy yogurts out there, and there are lots, Kite Hill is the kids’ favorite.


A big Chipotle Mexican Grill salad with seasoned tofu Sofritos, veggies, black beans and guacamole:

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Day 3


This is easily the breakfast we eat most often – sautéed kale with coconut oil and garlic, Amy’s Kitchen organic, low-sodium refried beans, and we switch up the proteins regularly. Today is No Evil Foods, a seasoned seitan of sorts. I don’t exactly remember which product this was, we bought it at a food market, so it was delivered in parchment paper (all their plant-based meats are made by hand in Asheville, NC) – but it’s quite flavorful. And fresh tomatoes. This is a combination of foods that taste great, is quite filling – and is a great mix of high-protein, fiber, and veggies. Plus, it’s low carb.



Today was a BIG, fresh salad from Whole Foods Market, where I am a ridiculously frequent shopper. I love going to an amazing salad and hot bar with tons of options where THEY do all the prep – so worth the cost for me. Salad was a mix of spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, spicy black beans and red peppers, pumpkin seeds, grapes, olives, and Annie’s Naturals’ goddess dressing. Tons of raw foods with warm toppings (seasoned cauliflower & curry tofu), one of my favorite combos.


Dinner tonight was Thai, a very easy food option for vegans. (Side note: I once took a 3-day Thai cooking course in Chang Mai, Thailand and they taught us how to make a special vegan topping for a fish dish – then, after a rather complicated effort to create it, we were instructed to pour it over a fish. Wasn’t quite sure why they thought that made the dish vegan, but it was a thoughtful effort??)

SO – dinner tonight: Pad Kee Mao with Tofu. We just make sure to skip the egg and ensure that the base is vegetarian/no fish sauce, whether cooking it or ordering it. Also, vegetarian spring rolls. The easiest way to make sure they are vegan is to make them/ask if they are made with rice paper instead of egg wraps – different restaurants tend to vary the way they make them. Thanks to Thai Spice Kitchen for the pad kee mao photo!

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Day 4 – Halloween!


We kicked off this gorgeous day with a late brunch of pumpkin pie pancakes with chocolate chips, fruit, and veggie bacon. (And almond milk lattes).

The pancakes are made from scratch with organic pumpkin, a mix of whole wheat & brown rice flours, and Ghirardelli Chocolate Company bittersweet chocolate chips (which are vegan). Applesauce works to bind them into pancakes, and reduce the fat content (more here), and cinnamon and nutmeg, with a bit of agave, bring on the pumpkin pie flavor.
The butter is Earth Balance soy-free spread, spot-on butter flavor without the dairy, cholesterol, etc. Maple syrup.
Fruit is a mix of pineapple, blueberries & blackberries.

You can find quite a few vegan pancake recipes – and lots of other vegan breakfast options – here, on my pinterest link.

And, even though there are about 20 types of vegetarian bacon out there, this is definitely one of my favorites -> Sweet Earth Foods Hickory & Sage Bacon. I get asked why I eat meat alternatives if I don’t eat meat. For me, it was never that I didn’t like the taste. It was that I didn’t want to support the backstory of what had to happen to get that food on my plate, or the environmental effect, etc. I think a lot of other people who choose to not eat meat, or just eat less meat, feel similarly. Also, this is the bacon that even my dad says “hey, not bad at all”, which is massively high praise!


Lunch & Dinner

Halloween day and evening became a blur of gatherings and trick or treatings.

“Meals” is a strong distinction – it was more like eat here, eat there-ness. That included a delicious vegetarian white bean chili served at a party and a cheeseless mushroom & olive pizza served at another, plus not just a couple Swedish Fish, a vegan treat because it doesn’t contain gelatin (why many vegetarians/vegans skip it). We gave out a lot of them last night and we picked up a lot of them, so now, of course, I have to strategically hide them from myself for the next year.

(Thanks to Vegan In The Freezer for the white bean chili photo. :)


Day 5 – World Vegan Day! (Actually a thing.)


Breakfast today was pure comfort food, which included a run to Bruegger’s Bagels and a kitchen full of our family and leftover sleepover kids sorting through a tall paper bag of bagels. Mine was a toasted garlic bagel with Earth Balance Soy-Free spread, tomatoes, avocados, sea salt & pepper with Kite Hill strawberry yogurt. (And an almond milk latte).


Lunch with an often-enjoyed round of Fish(less) Tacos, with Gardein Fishless Filets, Hampton Creek Sriracha vegan Mayo, low-carb tortillas, romaine lettuce, and tomatoes.



Tonight I made a tomato vodka sauce, with cashew cream. And I cooked a fettuccini that is a great option for anyone looking to keep a lower-carb or gluten-free diet, since it’s made 100% from mung beans but with no mung bean flavor & still has the chewy taste of pasta (the Explore Asian brand). I also added veggie meatballs, this time Trader Joe’s meatless meatballs, and grilled button mushrooms. So Good.
On the side is lemon pepper asparagus and hot garlic bread with Earth Balance – for those not watching carbs ; )

All shot with Nikon D810, 24-70 2.8 and SB 910 flash.




Day 6


Shaved brussels sprouts sauteed in coconut oil & garlic, with pepper and Jamaican Jerk seasoning (thanks to Scott Jurek for the recommendation he shared on my Health & Energy program, since I use it all the time); Amy’s Kitchen Organic Low-Sodium Refried Beans; and Steakless Tips by Gardein. I was asked how long it takes to make a breakfast combo like this – about 15 minutes or so. Super high protein & fiber, low carb.


Takeout in the studio from a Japanese restaurant – the vegetarian Bento Box, spicy red curry, spring rolls, salad and avocado roll sushi. Looks much prettier in the restaurant! We just ask that they don’t use fish or oyster sauce.


Teriyaki Stir Fry with Seasoned Tofu. My son actually loves to help me prep the veggies; tonight they were bok choy, snap peas, red peppers, and mushrooms. I like eating just the stir fry as is, and the kids like to mix it into rice noodles, which I serve on the side.


Day 7


Kale sautéed in coconut oil & garlic, with Bragg Liquid Aminos (lower sodium, non-gmo alternative to soy sauce), Fishless Filets by Gardein, and Amy’s Kitchen Organic Low-Sodium Refried Beans.


The kids were out of school for a teacher workday, and we ate out at a cafe. I had Sweet Potato & Habanero soup, kale & fruit salad, and an avocado & tomato salsa. They had a spicy white bean stew over rice, bbq tofu strips and jackfruit “tuna” salad.

I get asked about calcium intake sometimes, since we don’t drink milk/eat dairy. Between the high amount of calcium naturally found in leafy greens, broccoli, the fact that our almond/cashew/coconut milks and yogurts are all fortified with calcium, and almonds/almond butter, etc – we are quite set for calcium without supplements. Although we all take a daily multi-vitamin anyway.


Pesto Chicken Panini with Sauteed Broccoli. This consists of vegan pesto made in our Vitamix, with olives, tomatoes, spinach, melty Daiya Cheese and No Evil Foods‘ seasoned hand-made Chicken-esque (love that name).
And the very fun use of our awesome panini grill.

And drinks! I haven’t touched on drinks all last week, but juices like a couple shown here include fresh green juices (kale, apple, lemon, cucumber, ginger) – thanks to All Recipes for the green juice image – and smoothies (almond milk, kale, bananas, pineapples). Also shown is carrot ginger lemonade. Obviously there is a ridiculous amount of nearly endless options here.

And dessert – oh my. Endless amount of desserts. Several people wrote in about ice cream. There are tons and tons of non-dairy ice creams out there that are crazy creamy and flavorful and fun – check out So Delicious Dairy Free‘s line up to start. And dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is always a beautiful thing.



So, there you go – that’s a week of every day eating.

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btogether-logo3Beautiful Together Feeding Fund is grateful to partner with Life To Live for Korah, working to feed the children in Korah, Ethiopia.

One of the more impactful experiences we had on our last trip to Ethiopia was spending a couple of rather meaningful days in Korah. We not only visited but were able to see the whole village, all the way around and through, and spend time inside more than a couple of makeshift homes, greeted with extraordinarily warm hospitality. We met orphans without family homes and lepers without limbs – or, rather, we met beautiful human beings who just have had a much harder go at this life than most. We also saw what it meant for a community to care for each other, despite having so little themselves.

One of the main things we wanted to do in Korah was have a firsthand experience of the orphan feeding program that was founded by Korah native Cherenet Gullene, called Life to Live for Korah. And after spending time with them, and experiencing their entire process from start to finish, we definitely knew that Beautiful Together was going to partner with them to help as much as we could.

Korah, Ethiopia was originally built as a leper colony and has now grown more than 120,000 people, nearly all living in extreme poverty. The actual name “Korah” means cursed. There is more illness, sickness and lack in this village than one sees in most impoverished communities – yet, there is an incredible spirit, sweetness and energy running through the people. That doesn’t mean to say there isn’t suffering, difficulty, hunger. There is. The pain just seems to co-exist with the gratitude in a way that really stays with you.

In an attempt to share what is being done to feed these orphans in Korah, I made this 3-minute video with Animoto. When my friends at Animoto saw it, they jumped in to help. They are offering not only a 20% discount (use promo code “TOGETHER”) for a full year subscription to their amazing video creation service, but they also said they would contribute 20% of ALL new sales for anyone using this code up until November 10th, with every single one of those dollars going directly towards this orphan feeding program.

Please take a few minutes to see what this true grassroots program is all about – and go get your own Animoto subscription, for less, here:  http://animoto.com/photography

You can also support this program, directly, at Beautiful Together.

(And thank you to Triple Scoop Music for the perfect song.)


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*All images were shot with the Nikon D810 – again, like with this experience, in pretty extreme conditions.

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2015 PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo in New York City

Today officially kicks off the 2015 PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo at the Javits Convention Center in NYC. The conference runs from today (October 21st) until October 24th, with the Expo starting tomorrow – October 22nd.

The PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo is the largest photography and imaging show in North America, attended by over 21,000 professional photographers, photography enthusiasts, filmmakers, students and educators from around the world. PhotoPlus features over 100 educational seminars, Photo Walks, and Master Classes, and over 225 exhibitors displaying thousands of the latest products and services for you to touch, try and compare.


I am honored to be included in a few programs over the next four days, and I love meeting up with so many friends in the industry. I also am excited to speak on behalf of some fabulous companies whose products and services I use all the time and SO APPRECIATE: Nations Photo Lab, Mylio, Adorama, Animoto, and Nikon.

Speaking of, check out the brand new promo codes for Nations Photo Lab, my favorite print lab. If you’ve never used them before, you can try them out with $50 credit to use as you wish:

Promo Code: OCT50TL

Activation Date: 10/1/2015
Expiration Date:10/31/2015

Amount: $50.00 new customer sign up

If you are already a customer, you can use this code for an additional 15% off any prints, including on top of existing sales!:


Activation Date: 10/1/2015
Expiration Date: 10/31/2015


And for only these limited dates, a HALLOWEEN SPECIAL PROMO CODE!

Promo Code: SPOOKYTL

Activation Date: 10/30
Expiration Date: 10/31

Amount: $10.00 OFF YOUR ORDER

Okay, back to PDN Photo Plus Expo!

First, on Thursday, October 22nd, at 4pm,  I will be joining other Nikon Ambassadors, and friends, Joe McNally & Cliff Mautner to speak on a panel discussion for students. The topic will be “Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting My Career in Photography”. The panel will be from 4:00 – 5:00 PM in the Show Floor Theater in the Javits Center, immediately followed by a reception until 5:30PM. This is a free event for members of the Photo Education Community. Register here.


Then on Friday, October 23rd, from 10:15 AM – 12:15PM, I will be teaching this seminar: “How To Light, Pose and Shoot for Authentic Expression: Top Ten Tips For Dynamic Portraits.” I am kind of obsessed with photographing portraits that showcase emotion, authenticity and a dynamic look, feel or connection. I’ll be walking through exactly what I mean by that, and showing plenty of examples, techniques, and BTS videos to illustrate this during my program. I expect that attendees will walk away with a variety of new skills to try out on their own!

“In this high-energy, new multi-media program, Tamara Lackey walks through her top ten techniques for shooting authentic expressions while lighting and posing to maximum effect.” Rangefinder Magazine mentioned that I like to “shake things up” when they described this upcoming seminar, and I thought that was more than appropriate. I think it will be a fun time, and I’ll have TONS of great giveaways to share with the attendees – like thousands of dollars worth – and that includes a couple of my brand new Family Posing Playbooks!
You can still sign up here.

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If this is your first time at Photo Plus Expo, my advice is to try to make a plan ahead of time of what seminars and expo demos you may want to see. There are tens of thousands of people expected to come through, and the Expo floor is very large (Javits is a massive, massive convention center), so you can quickly eat up a lot of time if things aren’t planned out in advance. If you come with lots of business cards, an open mind, and a welcoming intro, you can meet tons of great and interesting people passionate about photography. And if you see me there, please do come up and say hi!

Speaking of meeting some interesting people – out of context, this photograph is a bit odd. But I’ll just say here that sometimes Jason Groupp is so busy planning the heck out of these functions (He’s the Director of Education and Membership for Photo Plus & WPPI) that he’s at risk for nearly falling asleep during them – so it takes a good friend to help wake him up!


Lastly, I’m excited to head back up to New York City just because of the fact that it’s a vegan food mecca. I pretty much do an entire vegan food tour whenever I visit, and this trip will be no exception. I’m always on the lookout for new vegan eateries or dishes – so, if you know of any, please let me know!

Hope to see you there : )

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An Update on Lush Albums

Tamara Lackey —  October 15, 2015

An Update on Lush Albums – Photo Albums by Tamara Lackey for the Portrait Photographer

We had our first soft release of our beautiful Lush Albums in April of this year, and I wanted to share a quick update on how things have been going. Like some of the best things in life, getting to this point has been a journey. We started with an idea in December of 2013 and, along the way, built every aspect of having this line up and ready to go. So to now have them in production and being successfully delivered to our customers, friends, and fellow photographers is such a great feeling.


Lush Albums has been a true group effort. We chose to partner with Fundy Design Software because I absolutely love it—it’s just a fun software, and it makes the work of design so much easier, faster, and, well, fun. I love that you can create a Lush Album in minutes using this incredible design software – and at no extra cost.

Next, we chose Finao as the manufacturer of the books because I have always worked with them and have found that offering albums to my clients was always a win-win. I also found myself looking for the most eco-friendly, animal-friendly options out there, so when I realized that I could create my own line and also have nearly fully-automated design options as a part of it, I decided to go for it.

We spent months and months looking through fabric options and finally settled on the three lines we are offering by selecting THE most attractive, high-quality, and high-durability fabrics that really looked beautiful with nearly all home decors we placed them in.

Lush Albums, Tamara Lackey, photo albums, Fundy, Finao

I was lucky to work with some talented people to help create and test drive the albums. When we started, I really relied on Christine Perry-Burke (Job Title: Queen of Finao) for her ridiculously knowledgeable guidance when it came to locking down the aesthetics of the albums. She knows so much about fabrics, paper quality, bindings, production, etc etc etc inside and out – it really made such a difference.

Here’s an overview on so many of the aspects of Lush Albums:

In addition, after we had the whole line set up and going, Yesenia Bocanegra, a fashion and portrait photographer and photography teacher with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with, ordered an album for her own lovely work and acted as a bit of a guinea pig for us. She even took the time to film the entire “unboxing experience” and the first view of her album to help us learn what we could better tweak along the way. We are still working to improve every aspect of the customer experience as we go, and her feedback was so helpful.

The decision to have 10% of the proceeds go to the charity Beautiful Together seemed like a perfect fit. Honestly, I am always looking for ways to contribute to charities that benefit children. My first book, The Art of Children’s Portrait Photography, was written so that all proceeds could go directly to Save the Children and the Worldwide Orphans Fund, two organizations I think so highly off – seriously doing great work. We have also been lucky to have already done great things with Beautiful Together, in part because of this relationship with Lush Albums, and I can’t wait to see what else is accomplished. (Please subscribe to the newsletter to see progress and learn of new projects from Beautiful Together!)

We have been rather fortunate to have some amazing feedback from photographers that we respect and trust:

“I am lucky to be able to partner with Lush Albums to bring my clients one of the most beautiful fine art albums I have ever seen or felt. Thanks, Lush Albums, for such an awesome product!” – Alexis Buatti-Ramos 

“These books are so very nice—the printing is just beautiful.” – Scott Kelby

“Lush Albums are so gorgeous. The different organic fabrics are beautiful, and the color options are perfection. The soft linen fabric is to die for, really unique and pretty. The pages are printed on fine art paper and coated for protection. The smooth matte finish is beautiful. Colors are rich, and black and white photos really look amazing. The partnership with Fundy Software makes the album design process incredibly fast, fun and no longer a burden. Lush Albums and Fundy Software are really going to help me grow my business and help me create amazing albums quickly!” – Shannon Hager

We have also been able to partner with and interview some industry professionals on the Lush Albums blog. We are hoping to showcase topics that are relevant and inspiring to professional portrait photographers. You can see Becker’s interview on “How to Build a Referral Network” or an interview with Steve Saporito on “The Art of the In-Person Sale for Photographers”. In addition, we had a guest post by Jake Hicks focusing on “Getting Sharper Images“. Be sure to keep the blog bookmarked, as we have more great content coming out in the next few weeks.


We are still working on refining the brand and the customer experience, and we are hoping to have some more shipping options available soon, like being able to ship internationally! But for now, seeing these albums being created as keepsakes for families make me feel like all the work we’ve put in to date is worth it.

Have you had your own experience with Lush Albums? If so we’d love to hear from you!

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Tamara Lackey’s Family Posing Playbook is released!

In October 2012, I released my first Posing Playbook, focused on Kids Who Don’t Do Posing. Since then, my team and I have received some pretty wonderful feedback and quite a few requests for a family-focused version. And, while it only took three years, I finally finished writing one – and the Family Posing Playbook is now officially available for purchase! (Download Here!)


Photo by Stacey Stricklin, shot at the San Francisco Portrait Photographer’s Workshop

This new posing guide is aimed very squarely at photographers who photograph families. It has more detail around each type of potential set up, and there is also an additional Family Posing Playbook Quick Reference Guide with just the poses and bullet point reminders so you can refer to it easily while on shoots.

I initially built the Posing Playbook…for Kids Who Don’t Do Posing as a printable item, but I found that most people were using it as an on-the-go reference guide. So, the new Quick Reference Guide that comes with the new Family Posing Playbook was built specifically for the purpose of easy referencing while on a shoot, without having to wade through all the detailed information about each pose. It is designed to be printed, laminated, and ring-bound—or simply save it to any mobile device you might bring to your shoot; it is compatible with all devices.
Or you can do both!

I like that the entire Family Posing Playbook is based off real-world experiences. It’s one thing to say “this is how everything should go,” and it’s quite another to work with a variety of personality types, challenging situations and resistant subjects—and to show exactly how you can work in so many of those situations to still create a great final shot. I detail every component I considered in each scenario, most especially lighting, technical settings, posing, and expressions.

Download Now!

When you purchase The Family Posing Playbook, our first 200 downloads (and we are almost halfway in at the time of this post!) get a FREE $60 lifetime song license, thanks to a rather generous offer from Triple Scoop Music. AND, like our Lush Albums, 10% of all proceeds go directly to Beautiful Together, which works to identify and complete specific and measurable projects that tangibly improve the lives of orphaned children in the United States and Africa. Beautiful Together also shines a light on children living in extreme poverty, foster care, or orphanages through a combination of on-the-ground work, professional photography, video profiles, and social outreach.

These donations really do make a difference, as you can see on Beautiful Together’s Fully Funded Projects page, so we’re excited about these new contributions!

Beautiful Together, Tamara Lackey, Family Posing Playbook

I am always happy to partner with the (very) talented team at Triple Scoop Music. I personally have used their music for years, I’ve even built a Top 10 Favorites list with them—they were the first company that I found to have royalty-free songs that I would want to listen to on my own, in the car, or while on a run. I’d never been able to say that about royalty-free music before. Like, at all. But they have such talented musicians and such a range of sound; they have truly good music offerings, I just love incorporating their original sounds in my work. So a big thank you to them for this very kind offer.


Posing Playbooks for All Kinds of Portrait Photo Shoot Situations

I liked having so much feedback from our Posing Playbook…for Kids Who Don’t Do Posing. We knew just what to expand on and what would make sense to add—in this case, the separate quick reference guide. I really feel you can use either the Posing Playbook…for Kids Who Don’t Do Posing or the Family Posing Playbook, based on what you’re most focused on photographing, and find that you have two very different, useful resources based on the work you are doing.

Here is a little preview from the introduction to the Family Posing guide:

“When I first wrote The Posing Playbook … for Kids Who Don’t Do Posing, I tried to incorporate all of the main things to consider when posing children. There are often a few factors to consider: location, lighting, styling, interaction, mood, expression and, of course posing. The most prominent issue with that last factor, posing, being rather interesting as most kids don’t really do posing.

Guess what: families don’t really do posing, either. But even as people aren’t often professional models, they are often amenable to being move this way and that. So, how do you adjust them to showcase them as flatteringly as possible and keep their expression fresh so you can showcase them as attractively and as naturally as possible – while also keeping the shot well-framed, well-lit and showing off what matters the most: who they genuinely are at heart, and how they belong to each other? 

This book, like my original one for just kids, is all about creating a reference book of past “wins” – challenges I’d faced and how I was able to resolve them to produce attractive and natural-looking poses using a variety of techniques, which I share in detail, along with before and afters, metadata, what lighting I used, and any interpersonal techniques I utilized to shift the mood or refresh expressions. I also share any interactions I may employ in certain situations – and any other helpful technical information that could come into play in that scenario or any others like them. This comes complete with bullet points to quickly reference the main considerations of each pose.”

It is my sincere wish that the Family Posing Playbook helps you fast track a lot of that progress in your own work. You can purchase it here or feel free to contact us with any questions!  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Upcoming Mentor Series Workshop with Popular Photography Magazine and Nikon – Tuscon, Arizona


I am so looking forward to joining Popular Photography Magazine and Nikon as an upcoming instructor in one of their Popular Photography Mentor Series programs.

“The Mentor Series travels to dramatic, vibrant and cultural destinations creating a hands-on learning experience out in the field.”

Although I’ve done several photo trips, this will be my first time leading a program with this esteemed program. The trek lasts from November 6th to November 8th in gorgeous Tucson, Arizona.

I’ll be teaching alongside Tom Bol, who I haven’t taught with before, but have heard some rather great things about, from more than a few people.  I always learn something from all of the people I collaborate with, and I look forward to seeing Tom in action.

We’ll be checking out the area before the workshop kicks off, and I’ll be sharing the process of how I translate places into photographs. One of my favorite things is to scout out new locations and figure out how to make it work, so it’ll be a lot of fun to do this together as a group. To learn more, and to sign up, please visit the Mentor Series Website. You can view a preliminary itinerary, or you can go directly to the sign-up page.

I usually share more of my portrait work, but I’ve done quite a bit of travel and landscape photography over the years, and that will be a good amount of the focus of this particular mentor series.

All the photographs shared in this post were shot with Nikon gear. Specially, the Nikon D810, most with the Nikkor 24-70 2.8 lens, and some with a polarizing filter.



Glacier National Park, Montana



Jackson, Wyoming



Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


I firmly believe that the more experience you get with locations, lighting, subjects, and situations, the more quickly and effectively you can respond in nearly all types of circumstances. It’s one of the reasons I like to photograph a variety of genres rather regularly and love to photograph everything on all of my travels.


Glacier National Park, Montana





Montana Skies



Grand Tetons, Wyoming



Yellowstone, Wyoming



Grand Tetons, Wyoming

There’s so much involved in running a photography business – far more than people expect, which is why most of my teaching involved business, marketing, and lifestyle. But this trip will be pretty much directly focused on shooting, which is really fun. The only preparation needed from attendees is gear that is ready to go – and an open mind.


Yellowstone, Wyoming



Yellowstone, Wyoming



Glacier National Park, Montana

It’s truly an honor to work with Popular Photography and Nikon on this internationally-recognized mentor series. I remember seeing their ads for photo trips years ago, thinking how much I’d love to do one – and here I am leading one! The coolness of that is not lost on me.

The exact details of the photo trip, directly from the program description:

Photograph birds of prey during Raptors Free Flight at the Sonora Desert Museum. Showcasing the natural behavior of native birds in the open desert, the flight demonstration will provide a great understanding and appreciation of desert wildlife. The 98-acre museum is also brimming with botanicals, various animal species, mineral collections and an aquarium for photographic exploration. Finally, as we end the day at Saguaro National Park, we will capture the cactus-studded landscape as the sun falls over the desert during our sunset light painting demo.

After an early departure to capture the morning’s first light, photograph the exterior of Mission San Xavier del Bac, a functioning, 18th century mission. Framed in the warm browns of the surrounding hills and the violet shadows of more distant mountains, the Mission rises, brilliantly white from the desert floor. Learn to use your off camera flash to photograph models at Prima Air and Space Museum—an airplane graveyard—and at Old Tuscan Studios, an Old West town with saloons and churches. A visit to White Stallion Ranch to capture images of horses, wranglers, barns and ranch life concludes the photographic journey.

To learn more, and to sign up, please visit the Mentor Series Website. You can view a preliminary itinerary, or you can go directly to the sign-up page.

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San Francisco Portrait Photography Workshop & CreativeLIVE Photo Week

I’m thrilled to spend a few very busy days in San Francisco this week. I love San Francisco – we used to live here before we moved to Chapel Hill and we come back fairly often. This time, I’m here for the last 3-day Portrait Photographer’s Workshop of 2015. I’m excited to work with a group of such talented and creative photographers.

Then, on Friday, I’m off to Seattle for a quick visit with Creative Live to present at their Photo Week (a 90 minute presentation on Friday at 3pm PST!).


San Francisco from my hotel – Shot with Nikon D810 and 35 1.4

We kicked off our workshop on Tuesday, September 22, and we’ll be going strong until Thursday, September 24. I always feel a bit nervous before beginning a new workshop even though we do a good amount of refreshing, revising, and preparation beforehand. Fortunately my studio manager, Sarah, came out with me to help handle all the details. She’s essential to the success of a big event like this.

These three days are quite intense, and it’s my sincere intention that no one leaves with any questions left unanswered! I spend time with each attendee – private, alone, and one-on-one – to really get to know his/her unique business challenges. The best part is that I also really get to know them in the process, too. I’ve made some really good friends from these workshops.


Huge thank you to Joy Bianchi Brown and her lovely Millie for being our (seriously. adorable.) lighting models. Here, they’re showcasing shutter speed and strobes as part of our indoor lighting segment—while being ridiculously photogenic.

This is our last workshop of 2015, but bookmark our workshop page to learn more about additional opportunities coming in 2016. I try to do them once or twice a year, as best I can!

After this 3-day whirlwind, I go straight to Seattle for CreativeLIVE, presenting at the final day of their Photo Week 2015 Event.
I’ll be live at 3PM PST/6PM EST on Friday, September 25 to talk about Authentic Family Posing.

I’m excited for this segment as I’ll be showing new video of a family session I photographed. I feel the video really captured all the specifics I’m discussing when it comes to posing families authentically – something that I care a great deal about, and that can really help you effectively capture a unique family personality and dynamic!

This is actually my first year doing CreativeLive’s Photo Week – even though I’ve done 8 full classes for them. Each of these programs have been so different and fun. Please feel free to join us virtually on Friday. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter. I always welcome questions!

Although I love this week’s intensity and all the opportunities for personal interactions with my workshops and session participants, I’ll be flying home on Saturday pretty darn exhausted.

For now – luckily for me, there’s nothing like spending time in September on the West Coast : )

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Lighting Classrooms & Education Center Repairs – BeautifulTogether.org

We are so grateful to have completed renovating the orphanage bathrooms in Ethiopia – the children living there now have clean, safe bathrooms with new toilets, lovely sinks, updated plumbing, and (my favorite) hand sanitizers! These newly renovated bathrooms have made a big improvement in the orphanage. We are also currently finishing up our last project, Safeguarding The Orphanage, which we’ve heard is already cutting down on every day injuries and finally keeping the children safely inside a much-improved play area. (We hope to be completely done with that project in less than a couple of weeks!)

And, of course, we are all thrilled with their new Portrait Gallery, or The Best Gallery Opening Ever.

The next big project we have researched and worked with the orphanage to plan out is this: to light up their small, dimly-lit on-site classrooms and bring their education center back into existence.

Please check out exactly what I mean when I say these classrooms are so dark – and why an existing education center can’t help these kids if nothing in it works:

We hope you can help us help these children. They are already growing up in an orphanage, waiting for families (although, statistically – and heartbreakingly – this will not happen for many of them). Even more than for most children, education is the way to a better life for them, especially for all those who will age out of this orphanage with even more challenges to face.

These kids are bright and talented and affectionate and hold so much promise with their lives. If you’re interested in helping us help them receive a better education, please visit the donation page for more information.

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If you’re not a video-watching kind of person, here’s the deal: The good news is that there are three small classrooms that have been built onsite at the orphanage to help the children with early education. The bad news is that the classrooms are all very dimly-lit, as in it’s tough to even see the chalkboards when you are inside. Between the lack of adequate natural light, the extremely intermittent electricity, and the high cost of utilities in Addis Ababa (which coincides pretty rottenly with the lack of resources for the orphanage), it’s tough for the kids to even have the opportunity to learn in these classrooms, as it’s simply very difficult to see when you are in the classroom.

We’re looking to raise $6,500 to light up the classrooms by installing a 1,000-watt solar panel that would feed light into all three classrooms. In addition, we’d like to help bring in natural sunlight by installing shatterproof glass windows, which will help keep the kids safe, as well. These improvements will not only light these rooms, but they’ll also help the orphanage save dramatically on their electric bills with the ongoing use of a sustainable energy source.

The goal for this project is to give the children a brighter, cleaner, more inspiring learning environment.
Please consider either donating or sharing this post with others who might be interested in helping these kids!


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The other part of this project will be addressing the major issue in their once-donated Education Center: not one of the computers that were donated years ago currently work. This Education Center was a great idea – the older children at the orphanage have received educational CDs and DVDs that they want to use, to help them study and further their education. And they have a lot of motivation to learn. Truly, education is the key to a significantly brighter future for them. But there is not much opportunity for them to study when none of the outdated computers work. Our plan is to team up with a local repair shop to fix the computers that can be fixed and then replace the ones that are beyond repair with new, basic computers. They do not have internet in the orphanage and are not currently able to take on that expense, but they will be using this education center for significant ongoing study.

We’d also love to add some protected tablets that can be attached to the walls in the Education Center, if we raise enough funds. And, of course, we plan to stay in touch with an IT specialist ongoing to keep this education center in good working shape long-term.


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These education and lighting improvements will truly make a huge difference for the children as they grow and learn, and we’d love for you to be a part of it in any way that you can. If you’re interested in donating, please visit the donation page for more information. If you’re not in a position to donate at this time, please help spread the word. There are sharing buttons above and below this post!


Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times,
if one only remembers to turn on the light.
~ Albus Dumbledore


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Beautiful Together’s Orphanage Bathroom Renovation: Officially Completed!!

We are thrilled to announce that the orphanage bathroom renovation that has been in process for nearly two months is finally, totally, beautifully completed!!

When we first announced this Beautiful Together project, we weren’t sure exactly how long it would take or what kind of complications we might run into, but much of the work was done before we traveled to Ethiopia, and it was done well – so when we arrived, we were able to walk through the bathrooms and just talk through paint, adjustments, updates, and additional things we’d like to add to the overall project, which was a huge bonus.

MASSIVE thanks to Larry Leuallan (!!!), Rangefinder Magazine/WPPILauren WendleTricia Kelly McCormack, Diane Rausch Belden, Sarah CoppolaTom and Laura Witt FennTeresa Prociuk, Thunder Cloud ImagesKryrissa Morgeau, Carlie Brunelli, Derek Aheme and Brooke Shaden for their contributions to this specific project! Their donations were extraordinarily impactful.

(And, of course, we are always grateful for the constant donations and the ongoing support of Lush Albums!)


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Everything started by stripping the bathroom of what the children at this orphanage had been using for years. As ground broke on the project, and each rusted and rotted toilet, tank, and piece of disintegrated plumbing was removed, we became more and more excited about the simple dignity of clean, new bathroom fixtures.


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Next up was picking out all the shiny, clean, brand spankin’ new sinks, western toilets and “turkish toilets”, or squat toilets as they are frequently called. We had initially wanted to install only conventional western toilets but were informed by the caregivers at the orphanage that many of the younger children could not use them on their own, that the little ones would actually fall in or get stuck. There’s no leaving a smaller toilet seat there for children to manage on their own, with the strain of trying to supervise 65 children with an already-stretched care staff. So we invested in a combination of each type for both major bathroom areas and found that to be a rather smart decision, especially after witnessing some of the tots’ full-on comic efforts to use western toilets!


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After all the old fixtures were removed and all the new equipment was installed, we were able to move on to managing some of the plumbing issues and drainage leaks that were damaging the inner and outer walls of the orphanage and causing mold issues. In addition, some small updates were made to fixtures in the kitchen, to help it run more safely and efficiently.


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While the fresh coats of paint were applied across the bathrooms, in such bright, cheerful colors, we asked for some additional minor changes, like a door to close more smoothly, a lock to be fixed, or small sections of cracked tile to be replaced in multiple locations.


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There was a lot of celebrating the clean, new digs:


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As the kids embraced their new bathrooms, we asked for one last addition to the orphanage bathroom renovation project:


As wonderful as it was to have new sinks with fresh, running water, the day-to-day reality of life in Ethiopia is that the water is simply “not running” all the time. Sometimes, you turn the handle and water flows out; sometimes you turn the handle and the sink remains bone dry. And, besides that, a bar of soap is not always handy. The option for children at this orphanage before this renovation was to simply plunge their hands into a barrel of lukewarm water that sat in the bathroom.

The incredible germ-controlling, infection-managing, cleanliness-boosting benefits of being able to use waterless soap was something we really, really, really wanted these kids to have. According to the CDC, or The Centers for Disease Control, the most significant way to stop the transmission of a variety diseases is to frequently wash your hands with soap and water and/or use a hand sanitizer. When these children have absolutely no option to wash their hands with soap and water, which occurs frequently, it’s a wonderful thing that they can still use waterless soap to kill nasty bacteria that can hurt their sweet, beautiful, growing little bodies (Okay, can you tell I really, really, really wanted them to have hand sanitizers???).

This last addition to the project was the last part to be installed, tested, and found to be completely working, along with every other aspect of the project, point by point.


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Although this was not the first project we completed for Beautiful Together (that was our Portrait Gallery!), this was the first one we had officially kicked off, the first one we started, and the first we had fully funded, due to some extremely generous hearts.

We are extraordinarily, overwhelmingly proud to see it completed in its entirety.

I can’t wait to finish our Safeguard The Orphanage project next, hopefully within the next couple of weeks. The majority of work has actually already been done, and it’s just those final pieces that can take a little while to complete.

And I can’t wait to kick off our Light Up The Classroom & Educational Center project soon. Think solar panels.
And bright minds getting brighter.

Lots and lots more to come, too.

I love this work.
I am so grateful for how many people care.



When we founded Beautiful Together, our 501(c)(3) all-volunteer, non-profit organization focused on supporting children without families, we knew that one of the benefits of doing this type of work would be meeting others who were doing similar work. We knew we would want to partner with a few key organizations and have found that it has been a surprisingly natural process to determine who that would be. We are currently partnering with two organizations. One of our partners is Life To Live for Korah, a feeding program for orphaned children in one of the poorest communities in the world. I will be sharing more about them and the work we are doing with them soon. The other non-proft we are doing work with is Make Your Mark, which focuses on at-risk youth in a very real, hands-on way. Founders Carmen and Trent Post moved to Ethiopia from Charlotte, North Carolina four years ago because they believe that every child deserves the opportunity to impact the world, and sometimes they just need help to be able to do that.

While we were in Ethiopia, we went to their home for dinner and learned more about what Make Your Mark does – mainly, help get children off the streets by working hard to earn their trust and then giving them an opportunity to, over time, transform their lives. Not that I think this sounds remotely easy, but it’s even more difficult than one might think. I headed out with them one Tuesday morning at 4:30am to document, and be a part, of the work they do. And this is how it went.

We started out by finding the groups of children – most orphans, most boys – in the locations where they tended to sleep. When we found the first group, some were still sleeping, very much huddled together for safety and warmth, and some were up and already burning whatever they could find. The morning we spent with them, they were burning scraps of rubber, and the fire emitted an incredibly acrid smoke. I kept thinking about how bad it was for their little lungs – these children were mostly between 10 and 13 years old. But, then again, these same children are nearly all doing whatever they can to stay safe, warm and to dampen their constant hunger. In that respect, burning rubber was kind of the least of their health concerns.

By the way, I photographed all these images with my Nikon D810. And I shot plenty of these images in pitch dark, as in this camera sees in the dark. Because of the nature of what we were doing, there was definitely no using a flash or any additional light. Although I had to do quite a bit of manual focusing, this camera performed exceptionally, truly helping me to tell this story. Some of these images were shot at 25,600 ISO. (No, that’s not a typo.)


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Carmen and her daughter, acting as translator, ask the children how they are, how they are feeling, how the night was. They sing together for a bit. Or they just sit together, side by side. Basically, they make a point of showing they care for them, that they want to spend time with them.

And the dogs. There are so many street dogs in Ethiopia, in all kinds of conditions. But the dogs that stay with these boys are very much their pack. They really do stick together – sleeping together, sharing body warmth, watching out for each other, protecting each other.  They build a truly special bond that is heartwarming to see.


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If you can’t tell, these children are sleeping in the middle of a median. Of a VERY busy road. It’s not quite as busy at 4am and 5 am, but there are still cars and vans and police going by at all hours. They stay in this spot, though, because it’s more open, less hidden – and, thus, safer for them at night. But “safer” is a pretty relative term. I worry about my children falling out of the bed a few feet onto the floor. Here, rolling the wrong way is simply life-threatening.


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These faces stay with you.
There’s no question why Make Your Mark does the work it does, why they feel compelled to do this often-exhausting work. Even as you know they are also constantly battling some rather discouraging odds.


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We told the boys from the first area that we’d be back to take them out for breakfast. The thinking is that, in order to gain their trust, you take them out for meals. You sit at a table with them and you hear their stories. You return. Again and again. And eventually you invite them to come to a day center established for children on the street to have a safe place to be, connect, eat, learn, all of it. You give these children a chance to make the decision to change their own lives. But you don’t get that kind of opportunity with them by just driving up and handing them money. You feed them – but you’re actively part of everything else it means, in all cultures, to share a meal together.


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We moved to another group.
It was dark-dark out in this part of Addis Ababa, about 5am now.
I photographed these images at 25,600 ISO, 1/30 second, f2.8. What you see below is Carmen and her daughter speaking to a woman, her son, and her infant, held very tightly in her arms. They are learning that this family, like so many others, is homeless on the streets but could have a chance for a different life. Specifically, this woman has relatives in the countryside and, if she could just get to them, she could better feed her family, and her infant would have an infinitely better chance at life. Carmen offered to return and put this family on a bus and pay bus fare for them.


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At one point, while we were at this location, Carmen told me to turn away from a few men who were walking up to us. They said some things to us, and we all kept our backs turned and stayed silent. After a while, maybe a few minutes, they moved on – and there was a feeling of noticeable relief. Carmen says she doesn’t really worry that much about safety out on the streets, but there are definitely some interactions it makes sense to avoid.

I wrote earlier that these boys would do a whole lot to dampen their hunger. I have photographs of this boy sniffing glue, an extraordinarily cheap and massively toxic way to get high and to forget how cold, hungry and alone you are. They are not shared here. His face is partially covered for a reason.

Nearly every child we spoke to was doing something to help get by – if it wasn’t glue, it was herbal. Chat, or khat, is a small, evergreen plant that can be chewed on and acts as a stimulant. One of its main benefits, though, is a decrease in appetite. These are cheap (or even free) drugs and getting children to no longer rely on them when they’ve repeatedly made life more bearable is one of the major challenges that Make Your Mark faces. They know that the choice to leave drugs behind for a better life has to be the choice of the child. A choice difficult enough for most adults.


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And, as you can see in this image below, no matter what they are living through, make no mistake: these are very much children. And they act like it.
They are affectionate, they dance, they cry, they giggle.

They are kids in every way except in one we naturally think of as part of childhood: they have no home, and they have no parents. They are completely on their own.


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This boy caught a ride with us. Make Your Mark had been trying to help him transition off the streets for a while. He was very quiet, very kind, and he had a wonderful smile that we didn’t get to see a lot of over the 4-5 hours we spent with him. He had also experienced things most of couldn’t imagine at his age. At any age. It hurt to hear how much. After breakfast, we drove him to get some medical attention. I think of this boy – and that surprise dimple of his that emerges when his expression opens up.


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When we went back to the first location, we collected the boys to go for breakfast. We would walk with them to a restaurant about a mile away that had agreed to open up early so these boys could be fed.

While standing there, though, something occurred.
Something really frightening.

This white van raced up the road just as one of the little puppies wandered into the street. I mentioned earlier the relationship these boys had with these dogs. They were close. They truly care for each other. The way you watch them snuggle these puppies, you could be anywhere in the world with any child and their puppy. For all the extremeness of their situation, sometimes some things are just the same everywhere.

So when this puppy wandered out into the street and this van just kept going, I heard a boy cry out and the van screech to a halt – and I saw the puppy disappear under the van. The boys ran up to the front of the van and, for a minute, it all looked pretty horrible.


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Then, a little scamper – and this puppy emerges from the undercarriage of the van, near the back tires.
I don’t even know exactly how.

I heard these whoops, and then they grabbed the pup, hugged him and celebrated.

Sometimes love is just the same everywhere.


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We headed out to breakfast, walking just under a mile on pretty empty city streets, as the sky finally started to lighten a bit. And of course, the dogs walked with us, too.

These boys wore everything. Some of their jackets were women’s jackets, many of their clothes were far too big – but it was coverage. Some had shoes, several did not. Shoes, I learned, were quite the commodity. If you were a deep sleeper, and you had shoes, you didn’t wake with your shoes still on; they would be taken in the night.


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We waited outside the restaurant for a while until they opened their doors.  The boys all wanted their photograph taken while we waited. And once we got inside, the boys lined up to use the sink. This was their best chance at a shower, and they washed their faces, arms, chest, as much as they could as best they could.


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Then we sat down and went around the table, the boys telling their stories. How they got to where they were now. Some had lost their parents. Some were told there was no more room for them at the house. Some had left the countryside for a better chance in the city. I kept asking how old each was. Although some knew they were ten, eleven, twelve, others didn’t know. “Eleven?”, with a shrug. As odd as that sounds, knowing your exact birthday is not as common in Ethiopia as it is in the west.


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Grace was said as the meal started arriving, after the scuffles broke out.
Food arriving at the table for some and not yet for others created a sense of panic among some of the boys. They were each given their own separate plate for that exact reason. Sharing food off a main plate would simply be too difficult. Carmen made it very clear – No one touch anyone else’s food. You will all be given your own food. She knew to head things off at the very beginning.

There was still a bit of swiping, though. One of the boys burst into tears because a boy next to him had grabbed a piece of his meal and swallowed it fast. The boy who was crying was probably around twelve years old. The way his tears flowed reminded me of my son losing his stuffed bear when he was four years old. The quick sadness at the loss.

The boys separated. The one in tears wiped his face and continued eating, now with his arm around his plate.


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After breakfast, you could feel the energy relax. There was more laughter. The boys had eaten well, and they would now head back to the streets.
But not before running back to say a sweet goodbye.


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This ritual will continue for weeks, feeding the boys, building trust, developing relationships. And then they would be invited into the day center. They would slowly be given the opportunity to transition off the streets and move into a transitional home.

They would have the opportunity to transform their lives. But only if they committed to it on their own.

That opportunity, to transition them off the streets.
That takes a lot of driving, to and from the day center, to get the boys, to bring them back and forth. This is one of the major needs of Mark Your Mark: a dedicated van. This is one of the areas where we are partnering with them, to help them raise funds to be able to afford one. This actually helps in more than one way – not just to help these children, but to also offer a full-time job to a boy who transitioned off the streets years ago and who would greatly welcome the chance to have a career as a driver. We will be creating a fund for this soon on Beautiful Together. If you would like to learn more, or wish to contribute to this fund, you can do so here.

My hat is off to Make Your Mark, to Live Life for Korah (these are their facebook pages, if you want to learn more about them), and to every person in the world who is trying to make life better for those who have it pretty rough. And especially to those trying to make life better for children without families.
This is the heart and soul of Beautiful Together.