A scare and a life lesson | Personal

• September 17th, 2014 •

Copyright ©  Devon Shanor Photography | All rights reserved

Life sure isn’t boring around here!  No matter how much I wish “normal” was a part of my life, God just has other plans!

Last month I had one of the most terrifying moments in my life happen.  Something I NEVER thought would ever happen to me happened.  I was at my bank when it was robbed at GUNPOINT!  No, I am not making that up.  I was casually talking to my teller when she froze as she looked over my shoulders and mumbled “not today” as she immediately locked her drawer and (I assume) pushed an alarm under her counter.

I am kinda naive about things so even when I turned and saw the masked man, I didn’t realize, right away, what was going on.  No, it wasn’t until I saw the gun as he jumped up on the counter, did I realize he was robbing the bank!!  I am not sure how other people would react in this situation (because believe me, what you THINK you would do and what you really would do, are two different things!) but I froze.  As he stood up on the counter and held the gun at one of the tellers, I simply froze and waited for him to tell us what to do.  I wanted direction!  Do I get on the ground?  Run?  Cower?  Give him my purse?  Scream?  I needed some direction as I simply stood there in disbelief that this was actually happening.

The older ladies around me needed no direction… they ran!  Yep- they just booked it right out of the building.  I waited a moment or two and when no gunshot or “Freeze, don’t move” was heard, I realized he was allowing them to leave and ran myself.

This happened on a Saturday morning in broad daylight at a prominent bank in a good area.

Things I realized that day…

1.  I make a terrible witness!!!  I watched the guy leave the building (as I hid in my car on hold with 911) and get in his car and I still couldn’t tell the police what model car or exact clothing he was wearing.  (Yes, my Marine husband teased me about that later.  He would have figured out the guys shoe size with his skills of observation!)  I was just hoping he didn’t see me and shoot me! I was the only one to see him leave, and even the police officer teased me about being a “key witness” who knew very little!

2.   There is no such thing as a “safe place” anymore.  If people get desperate, even the nicest neighborhood/businesses can be where terrible things happen.  We need to remember this and always be prepared and aware of our surroundings.  Sadly, more and more people are seeing the line between “right and wrong” disappear… where if it’s RIGHT for you, then it’s not really that wrong.  It’s making living in our world a scary place at times.  We don’t need to live in fear, but we do need to be aware of our surroundings.

After the bank robbery, my family and I had many talks about “what to do when…” so my children would know when to run, when to fight back, when to get involved and when to get away.  We talked about abductions, robberies, fights, hitchhiking and more.  I PRAY nothing like that happens to them (or me!) ever (or again) but in the event it does, I want them to know how to best protect themselves!

3.  I have never thanked God so much for a “professional thief” before.  As I talked with the police and the other witnesses after the fact, we were all amazed at how calm, cool and collected this man was.  He didn’t yell, didn’t get upset when we ran out of the building, didn’t act erratically, etc.  The police said he was most likely a professional.  While that may make it harder for the police to find him and the bank to gets it’s money back, it made ME so thankful.  We all made it out safely and no one was hurt.  I am thankful for his calm demeanor.  We all, including him, walked away that day uninjured and to me, that is more important than the money he stole.

4.  Life can be going along “as normal” and BAM it can change in an instant.  So much could have gone wrong that day.  I could have been shot.  I could have had my kids with me and they could have been injured or emotionally scarred.  My life COULD have drastically changed that day.  That morning MIGHT have been the last time I had ever kissed my husband or children.  Our “normal” average life, could have instantly changed without any notice at all.

It made me think my kids and what life without “mom” would look like.  Had I hugged them enough, kissed them enough, tucked them in enough, read to them enough?  Was I the BEST parent I could be?    Would the love and tenderness outlive in their memories over the discipline and yelling?  Had they seen me laugh enough?  I am so thankful God allowed me to walk away from that scary situation, but the fact remains that no one truly knows how much time you have left.

My profession, photography takes moments and freezes them in time.  It is part of why I love so much what I do.  It takes the people you love and FREEZES them forever.  So that people for generations to come can remember and even get to know, people they love.  I hear people all the time talk about the pictures they have of their loved ones.

“I love seeing this image, it reminds me of how much she loved to laugh!”
“She always made this face when she cried!”
“He loved this red shirt so much!”
“Can’t you see how much the baby looks like grandpa in this picture?”
“This was the last time we were all together.  Remember how happy grandma was?”

It makes me so sad when people give excuses for not taking family portraits.  Yes, we all wish we were a little thinner or less wrinkled or less grey or more photogenic… but YOU are beautiful to your husband or wife, your kids, your future grandkids.  Don’t shy away from the camera, embrace it.  If, God forbid, you don’t have many tomorrow’s left… don’t you want to leave your loved ones pictures of you smiling and happy?  I recently talked to a young man whose mom passed away when he was a child.  He has ONE picture of her.  ONE. His mental memories of her are there, but he sometimes struggles to remember her smile, her laugh, her hair.  Imagine if she had left behind hundreds of pictures.  All different smiles… many different captures of her laughing… lots of images to remember and see her beautiful blond hair.  His memories of her would be so much more alive and vibrant.

I don’t say all this to drum up business… come to me or go somewhere else.  But, please, take portraits with your family.  And not always the posed smile at the camera portraits.  Interact with your kids, laugh, be silly, show your laugh lines and grey hair.  Be you in front of the camera.  If you are married, show the love between you and your spouse.  Kiss in front of the camera, be silly, LAUGH together.  Create some memories not only to be stored in your brain but also be be stored and cherished and HELD in physical form.  A picture truly can freeze a moment and capture it forever.  It’s a lesson even I had to learn.  I take pictures of my kids all the time, but it’s rare for me to take pictures WITH them.  After this robbery scare, I asked myself when the last time I had been photographed with my kids.  Thankfully, this summer we took some family portraits at the beach during a mini family reunion.  I was so thankful because the one prior to that was a few years ago.

The lessons I learned during and after this robbery, are ones we should all remember and work to live out everyday.   Make sure you hug more, yell less, say I love you often and worry less about the small things.  Hopefully we all live to be 100, but in the event we don’t, make sure you leave behind a life without regrets and lots of happy memories for the ones who love you!




Jack is Nine Months | Baby’s First Year Photographer VA Beach

• June 25th, 2014 •

Copyright ©  Devon Shanor Photography | All rights reserved

I love that my little ones are growing up so fast! Mr. Jack is nine months old now!!!  Wow, time is flying.  Soon we’ll be celebrating walking and turing one!! Check out some of my favorites from his session.


mom2jack (1 of 1) jack (10 of 33) jack (11 of 33) jack (16 of 33) jack (24 of 33) jack (25 of 33) jack (26 of 33) jack (31 of 33) jack

Personal: Lessons of Faithful Living

• June 10th, 2014 •

Copyright ©  Devon Shanor Photography | All rights reserved

It’s June!  Which means two things for this family… Fathers Day and GRADUATION for my husband!!!!!

Yes,  I am SOOOOOOOO (yes I that that is a lot of o’s!) excited to announce that my husband is officially a GRADUATE and a Registered Nurse!!!! I am SO proud of him and the long journey to get here!

Today I want to talk about goals and changing your life. So many times we say we aren’t happy or fulfilled in our life, our jobs, our relationships… and, we feel there is not a way to change that. You feel “stuck” and frustrated in that place because the only way to get “unstuck” just doesn’t seem possible. For Brett and I, we lived “stuck” for WAY to many years!

Brett LOVED being a Marine. The camaraderie, the “brotherhood,” the travel, the hard workouts, the striving for excellence… he loved it all. Then, he had a family and the travel, the separation, the risk and danger and saying goodbye to fallen comrades all became too much. He decided to leave the Marine Corps after 10 years and try a new road. However, without a college degree it is difficult to forge a new path in life when your talents are best suited for warfare. Our plan was to leave the military world altogether and find a new path where friends dying and learning better ways to kill your enemy weren’t a part of his job description. BUT we felt “stuck” as I was a stay-at-home mom and he was the only one providing for our family.

He took jobs over the next 9 years working for the military as an intelligence instructor. It was hard. Brett suffered issues related to his own trauma and the guilt he felt teaching young men who ended up going over seas only to die in war. People would often stop and thank him for his service, call him a “hero”, but he simply wanted to “change his stars” and do a job where he felt GOOD about what he had done that day. He wanted to help people. BUT HOW? As a contractor, he was making a very nice living, but after Messay’s adoption and a horrible real estate investment, we had zero savings.

If Brett went to school, how would we survive financially? Four years ago I started this amazing business that I love, but if you know anything about owning your own business… it often takes a few years before you “break even” and start making any money! (The first two years of business EVERY dollar I earned went right back into the business!)

Our marriage was struggling. He was depressed and unhappy. I was feeling neglected and overwhelmed. We wanted to make so many changes but how???

I know you’ve been there! I talked with so many of you who have told me your struggles: how you want a new job but are afraid to walk away from the one you have; you want to go back to school, but what about the two kids you support; you want to change your relationship, but how will you ever fit in marriage counseling or break up with your emotionally abusive boyfriend who helps pay your bills… Simply, you feel “stuck” and have no idea how to get out!

Let me tell you that you CAN DO IT!! And let me also tell you it won’t be easy! It’s hard work… but often the most difficult work is simply making the DECISION to change your life: to go back to school, to quit your job and walk on faith, to set up the marriage counseling… Living out that decision is not quite as difficult.

Brett and I sought help from some amazing counselors for our marriage. We actually separated for a while so Brett could deal with some of the symptoms he was having related to PTSD. It was a difficult time for us both. My business suffered as I emotionally dealt with a separation, a hurting husband, hurting children and a damaged heart. But God got us through, we all did the work and we came back together stronger.

**And then we lived happily ever after. NO… not quite!!! Life isn’t a fairy tale… it’s hard work!**

We felt like we had done enough change for awhile; we were ready for some “normal” and quiet. But God hadother plans! After Brett’s diagnosis and recovery, he had trouble finding work. We lived off unemployment for awhile and I began to push my business as hard as I could. But it still wasn’t enough. (Thank God for wonderful parents who helped us on the tough months just to pay the basic bills!)

In November of 2012, Brett enrolled in MCI to get his RN degree. At the time, we weren’t making enough pay our bills; tuition was $48,000, my business was about to hit it’s VERY slow time (Jan-March), unemployment was about to run out, and we didn’t have healthcare. Brett heading back to school seemed like a great way for him to change his life, but HOW were we ever going to financially make it though the 18-month school?

We decided to walk on faith. God had just healed a marriage that few thought would be able to survive and He was going to help us though the next year and a half.

And here we are landing on the other side. My husband is a GRADUATE! He’s a nurse!!! My business is flourishing and we made it! I learned so very much; here’s the top 10 lessons:

1. Asking for help isn’t something to be ashamed of! People were inspired by what we were doing and often wanted to help! But we had to ask! Sometimes you need to suck up your pride and ASK someone to help you repair your car, cook you a meal or help with carpool! (Remember though, if you ASK for help, you should also make sure you GIVE help, when you can!)

2. Kids are just as happy playing with a found tennis ball as they are with all the newest expensive toys! My kids learned that for awhile, we wouldn’t be able to afford the same gadgets their friends owned. Yes, I have a happy teenager and NO she does not have an IPAD, an IPOD, or a phone.

3. If you communicate with your kids about your financial situation, they will understand! We’ve had lots of discussions in this house about “The Budget” and how we could and could not spend our money while Daddy was in school! Now, they are kids so they will still ask, “Can I get…”, “Can we go to…”, etc. But with lots of communication on “The Budget” before hand, the whining did not last long!

4. Going to a “Food Pantry” is a blessing! Yes, the first time we went, I was slightly embarrassed… until I got in line and realized that on the whole, we’re all in the same boat: hard working men, women and families just needing a little help to get through the month!

5. Discover all the “Kids eat FREE” places in Virginia Beach! We didn’t eat out much this year, but when we did it was almost always a deal!!! Our favorite place was Qdoba in Hilltop where kids eat free on Sundays. Practically every Sunday after church you’d find us there! We could feed our whole family for $20!!

6. If your marriage is strong, you can get through anything!!! Sure, there were times we were more like roommates or ships passing in the night. Just seeing enough of each other to ask how the other was doing and to check on the kids… but since our marriage was strong… we could handle it!

7. My husband is SMART!!!! Wow, do nurses have to know ALOT of information! I didn’t know that before and I know I could never have done this program. So proud of my smarty-pants-hubby for pushing through, getting 2-4 hrs of sleep on average and passing ALL his classes!

8. Prayer works. We asked God to get us through this time and he did! We didn’t pray together EVERY night but we tried. The kids prayed for us, we prayed as a family and we prayed for each other. My business grew, Brett passed his classes, the bills got paid and we MADE IT!

9. I have the BEST clients! A HUGE part of us getting through this year was because of you and your referrals!

10.  Faith, Hope and Love.  Life’s difficulties can be overcome by these three things!  Have Faith God will provide.  Hope and believe that the future CAN change… even when it feels in the moment like it can’t.  And love.  Love at all times.  Understand that love isn’t always hugs and kisses, sometimes it’s tough and sometimes it means sticking it out when you don’t even like the other person… but love can overcome all.  Learn how to love each other in the tough times and in the good times it will be even stronger and more deep.  God says “Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.”  So obviously, Love is pretty important.  I can attest that loving someone through really tough times is HARD but I can also attest that being loved during your tough times is so wonderful.  And that the love you have AFTER the tough times is so much stronger, deeper and cherished!

I share all this not to gloat! I share it to encourage you. My marriage was over, my husband was lost, we were about to get kicked off unemployment, we had no health care, we hated the house we were $80K upside down in… we were STUCK. Going to school felt impossible, changing our life felt impossible. But we prayed, we unified together and we took a leap.

YOU CAN DO IT TOO! Even if it seems impossible, it isn’t. If you are unhappy, you CAN do something about it! It is HARD work, but in the end, it’s totally worth it. To see it in action check out these pictures…  For those that know my family well… you know Brett doesn’t smile much for pictures and for a few years didn’t smile much AT ALL… but take a look at this… my husband SMILING on his graduation day! 🙂

brett (4 of 8) brett (5 of 8) brett (6 of 8) brett (7 of 8) brett (8 of 8)

A Mommy M.O.M.E.N.T. | Personal

• May 21st, 2014 •

Copyright ©  Devon Shanor Photography | All rights reserved

Have you seen the movie “Mom’s Night Out”? If not, I highly recommend it.


It did get me thinking though. There is one scene where the main character talks about having “Mommy Moments” and no, she isn’t talking about the early morning kisses or the snuggles during their bedtime story. She’s talking about the moments we completely LOSE it because we’re stressed and overwhelmed and the “Mommy, can you..” “Mommy, I need…” “Mommy, he hit me…” “Mommy, when are you…” and “Mommy… Mommy… MOMMY!” …all become just too much! We all have those moments! And, like Sarah Drew in the movie, I beat myself up so badly for having them!

fall (4 of 8)

I am officially the mom of a teenager! Olivia just turned thirteen and I am SO very proud of the woman she is becoming. She is one of the kindest people I know and her heart is so big that she can’t decide if she wants to be a missionary, a doctor, a farmer or a veterinarian! However, she is also a teenager with hormones and a 10 second attention span! She and I butt heads often and this weekend I had multiple “Mommy Moments” as we butted heads more than once.

I am a kind person. I love to help people. I try hard not to judge and I work hard to be honest all the time. I love my family more than I can imagine. But I am far from perfect. Sadly, my kids usually see the very worst side of me. I hardly ever raise my voice to people and I despise confrontation. Yet, with my kids, I don’t think twice about yelling and lately, it seems confrontation is a daily thing between Olivia and I! I have had some pretty ugly “Mommy Moments” and I beat myself up for them daily.

I love my kids so very much, yet they see a side of me NO ONE else does! I guess the overwhelmed Mom working so hard (to raise them right, while running a business, while supporting a husband in school, while keeping the house clean and bellies fed, etc.) just hits her breaking point and has that ugly “moment”. Growing up, my dad was a “yeller” and no matter how much I try to be different, when I get upset, overwhelmed and stressed, I revert to what I knew growing up. I hate it when I get so upset about chores, messy rooms, homework, grades or sibling rivalry that I loose my cool and start yelling. However, I try hard to be honest with my munchkins! I repent, I apologize and tell them Mommy is sorry she got so upset. I talk about what got me so upset and how I SHOULD have acted and how they could have acted better as well.

I’m not perfect. I beat myself up all the time. Am I raising kids in fear? Do my kids know that “stressed out mommy” isn’t who I want to be? That fun, happy care-free mom is there for them ALWAYS and that stressed mom is just as human as they are. Ugh…Being a mom is HARD!

I wanted to be a mom SO BAD and was so excited to get pregnant almost as soon as we said “I do”! But being a mom of a teenager, a tween and an eight year old is HARD! They talk back! They fight! They don’t do their homework! They NEEEEEED stuff all the time and they all need to be somewhere else at the exact same time! It’s hard. Being a wife is hard, being a business owner is hard. LIFE is hard.

Moms, we need to give ourselves a break!!! If you are like me, you beat yourself up for your “Mommy Moments” and you can’t! I can’t! I need to have a little grace for myself, as I know God gives me SO much!

We need to stop comparing ourselves to others. I can guarantee that the “perfect” mom you think you see at church, at your playgroups, at the playground or at your job has her “Moments” too. She looses it. She yells, she hides from the kids, she has loads of laundry she didn’t do, etc. She’s not perfect.

I’m an open book. I actually laugh out loud when people say things like “but your marriage is so perfect” or “You seem like the best mom” because my life isn’t perfect! My husband and I have been to hell (and back!) but we push through the hard times. I currently am looking at a HUGE pile of clothes that AREN’T going to get washed tonight and I have photography equipment and props strewn EVERYWHERE around my office. The “perfect” mom does not exist so why do we try so hard to emulate her?

Watch the movie! Have some laughs and in the end, remember that God gave your munchkins to you. He knows your mistakes, your downfalls, your weaknesses; He knows we won’t be perfect mothers… but we are the perfect mother for OUR kids. God does not make mistakes and he gave your munchkins to YOU! There is grace and forgiveness for when we mess up. And we will! This funny Hollywood movie helped remind me that I can have my “moments” and they don’t make me a bad mother. They make me human.

So, when you have your “Mommy Moment,” don’t stress out. We all do! And if you meet someone who says she doesn’t, you can de-friend her… she’s a liar and you don’t need liars in your corner! 🙂

Graduation Portraits aren’t just for High School!

• April 3rd, 2014 •

Copyright ©  Devon Shanor Photography | All rights reserved

I was so blessed to photograph Wendy a few weeks ago for her college graduation portraits!  It’s been a long road but she is just a few weeks from graduation with a degree in Education from Old Dominion University.  If you are lucky, she may be teaching your little munchkins this time next year!

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Don’t forget to document all the important milestones in your life!  There are so many things we only “do once” and it is so important to remember to celebrate them! Congratulations Wendy!  So proud of you!

A Valentines smile for EVERYONE!

• February 14th, 2014 •

Copyright ©  Devon Shanor Photography | All rights reserved

February 14th means lots of different things to lots of people!  Some people hate it, some people love it!  My take?  Well, any day I get to eat candy is a good day.  And my kids give me lots of extra hugs and kisses so that makes me happy too!  My hubs is an awesome man, but he struggles with the romance side so I never know how that is going to go!!!  (This year he did good though… he’s been trying!  I got TWO cards and some bath and body “smell good!”  Love you honey!  Good job!)

I do know that some people get very frustrated on this particular day… everyone is all “lovey dovey” and maybe they are still waiting on Mr. (or Mrs.) Right.  Or maybe they are recently feeling the pain of a breakup.  Whatever the cause… there are always great friends, adorable animals and precious little babies and kids to make you smile!!!  Take a look at some of these cuties who helped me get into the spirit of love this Valentines day!!!

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