05 November 2010

Makeover Madness

2010 Makeover Madness Scarves so far
Tomorrow's my big day. As a photographer, it's one of my biggest shoots of the year. I'm a bundle of nerves, as I am prior to any wedding or family reunion or charity event I'm shooting. I always worry for days in advance the camera will malfunction, the strobes won't fire, or I'll be blond and forget to check my settings before I start. I don't want to do anything wrong!

Readers who have been following along might be curious about the biggest "big service project" I do every year. Those who know me know not to ask anything of me or expect anything of me during November and sometimes early December.

What's it all about?

A group of friends and co-workers make an annual pilgrimage with me each year to a residential treatment center for high-risk teen girls. My friends and co-workers do the hair and makeup of the girls closest to emancipation and graduation. One of my co-workers poses the girls like fashion models (and tries to make each girl believe she is beautiful on the inside and out), and I then shoot approximately 600 glamor-type portraits in about eight hours.

I will then spend the next month or so retouching the girls every waking minute I'm not at work or church. This is where it gets sad. Some of the girls have horrendous complexions. I fix them. Many of the girls have scars. I fix them. Some have facial tattoos they regret. I fix them. Some are meth addicts and will not smile because they don't want their teeth to show. Ever. I fix them. I don't Christmas shop. I Photoshop. :)

Then I make movies choreographing still photos to cheery, motivational music, a movie for each girl, and then burn DVDs they each get to keep.

My mother-in-law and a co-worker pay to print all the photos, and several other co-workers donate and assemble photo albums. We also stuff the albums with motivational quotes printed on fancy paper with fancier fonts.

Almost all of my co-workers and many friends and loved ones who've become involved with the project over the years donate gift bags and things to go inside them. Socks, jammies, pillow cases, shower scrubbies, scented soap, stuffed animals, lip gloss, journals, candy, colorful pens, makeup, shampoo, perfume, stickers... things teen girls love. And each girl gets a handmade scarf. A very fancy handmade scarf.

For the last two months, my co-workers, some of whom don't craft or make handmade things any other time of year, have been cranking out scarves, just like they do every year, to make sure each girl knows someone cares about her. Someone who doesn't even know her cares enough to make something especially for her.

Once we have the names, another co-worker will machine embroider each girl's name on ribbon, and the ribbons will be affixed to the gift bags.

After a bag-stuffing party, we cherish the delivery party. That will be sometime in December. It happens before Christmas. But it's Christmas for those of us who do it. It's what Christmas is all about. Some of us don't fully experience the meaning behind Christmas without something of this magnitude. To see these girls' faces as they dive into those bags, flip through their photo albums and then excitedly trade wallet-sized photos with each other... words cannot describe.

Before and after photos would tell such a story, but that's never going to happen. Some of the girls go out on a limb to trust us, and some of them need bunches of coaxing. Then they receive their gift bags, and we behold them transform. Like magic.

One day I will share why I am so emotionally connected to this project. (No, it's not what you think. I was quite the opposite growing up, a "total goody two shoes," according to my adopted daughter.) For now, I'll just say Makeover Madness has been an emotional makeover for me through the years.

This year, I've been asked to talk to one of the girls, one on one. Three or four years ago, I would have been intimidated. I don't know that I could have done it. Time truly does heal all wounds. Time, and sometimes a little service to others who are hurting.

Now, I feel honored to have been chosen. I feel blessed. I'm excited to be valued, and I look forward to the opportunity to possibly make a difference in the life of a girl in need of a shoulder, a connection and a positive role model.

Bottom line: With this, another 109 miles I'm determined to log on my bike before the end of the year and my first-ever public craft fair in just two weeks, Snowflake Mondays and Wordless Wednesdays will continue while I zit zap, but I can't guarantee I'll be posting as frequently during the next few weeks. So if you don’t see me, nothing's wrong. I'm just not connected to the internet while I'm Photoshopping. But I'll be back; I promise!


  1. Ok, see ya soon:).

    Everyone needs a shoulder or shoulders and you and your friends are awesome. You spend a lot of time doing THE important job with those girls.

    Happy Photshopping with this project :)

  2. What a fantastically nice thing to do for those girls!
    Good look with all your photography.

    (The upside down photo in my blog is a mirror on the celing above a stage and the audience)

  3. That is wonderful. I am so excited for you! Have a wonderful time.

  4. what a wonderful work! Congratulations to you, friends and co-workers. I will miss you but I will know were you are and I will be with you. Kisses to all of you, specially to the girls.

  5. "Nothing's wrong"? I'd say everything is right! What an amazing gift - not just for those girls, but also for yourself and for each other. Merry Christmas!

  6. how do you manage to do all that? I can´t believe it. Where do you find time? But I think it is a pretty important job you and your co workers are doing. :)

  7. I came by your blog-home today for a little bit of cheer, the splash of color and vibrance you bring in to this world just by showing up. Today, I found far more than a warm welcome, beautiful art, extraordinary photography... you shared yet another piece of the incredible puzzle that is YOU. Deb, this is so deeply touching. I had to just sit and absorb everything and then exhale slowly.

    The gift you are giving these girls, these young women, is profound. Life-altering. I'll be right here cheering you on- it's a marathon of photography, emotion and caring that is impossible to fit into words or between lines.

    Thank you. For being who you are- for doing what you do.

  8. From since I found your blog and started following I knew there was something special here, something special in you. What gifts are given here both to the girls and to you and the people who give of yourselves. God bless you for that which you are doing, most of which you don't even know about but HE does. Prayers and blessings to you and all in this endeavor.

  9. Your heart is amazing. I am pleased and proud to call you my friend.
    Here 'knowing' you will have a great time and all will be well. :)

  10. God bless you for doing such a wonderful thing for those girls! I want to help - please tell me what I can do. You can email me: storygirl8888@yahoo.com.

    Maybe next year I could make the trip out and help take photos. You can have the editing! :)

  11. That is SO awesome! I would love to help out next year, making scarves. =]

  12. It matters not to us why you do this project but that you have the support time and understanding you need. I wish you the best and please know you are truly an inspiration to many.

  13. You and your friends are fabulous. What an interesting and creative way to share your skills and show love to those sometimes invisible to society. I look forward to hearing about all of your success in the next few weeks.

  14. How absolutely wonderful! You are an amazing woman! How special you are to these girls! I will be holding all of them up and thinking about you tomorrow, that you touch each one of them - I'm sure you will! HUGS!!!

  15. Deb, *thank you* for sharing this wonderful project with us. You and your team ROCK for doing this! Imagine what a difference you are making in these girls' lives, and how much you're helping them move forward into a better future. It's just incredible. I look forward to hearing more about the project in the future.

    P.S. I'm sharing this - hope you don't mind. :-)

  16. You and your group are absolutely wonderful, thanks so much for sharing this.

    Good luck with the photography and touching up.


  17. What an exciting, fantastic thing you're doing for these girls. Good for you ... and good for them!

  18. You and your cohorts are offering a great service and friendship to the girls. I can see how it can be nerve-racking and fun at the same time.

  19. God Bless you for your kind heart. For God is already Blessing them by introducing them to you & they wonderful group you are working with. ~hugs~

  20. I wish that I'd read this before I saw today's post for the first time. Wow - you are a star and an inspiration. Thanks for being such a very good person.

    We won't worry if we don't see many posts. We know that you're out there doing lots of good!

  21. I have been busy myself but feel blessed that giving an evening to read my favorite blogs (new and old) that this is the first post. So glad I did not miss this. Peace be with you on this event.


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