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Karen- your honesty and heartfelt words on the screen are so inspiring. YOU are a fantastic mom and I admire what you did as a single college mom! YOUR photography documents all those special times that you wished away --but actually- they are right there on the page! GREAT JOB!


Simply beautiful Karen-I have tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing your story and Happy Birthday Ross!

Lovely Cee.

i am blown away, Karen. you just wowed me. just from reading your blog... i really like you, Ross and your family.


You got me on this one Karen! The tears were flowing! Such a beautiful and heartfelt post! You've done good with him. It's clear. You have a beautiful family :)

Shauna M

this made me full out bawl.
I was a single mom with my first for a while.. and we are struggling with him now..trying to get him to do be more respectful, to do his best etc and I feel like we are failing miserably.. I am so afraid of what is going to happen with him.
Its so hard being a parent isn't it..
But you have done great.. I admire everything I read about you on here..


You have raised a very well ground kid! I don't think you have much to worry about!

Melanie C.

This is beautiful Karen. I actually teared up reading this. You sound like such a great mom.

Julie McD

Wow! Another reason why we love you! :) Happy Birthday, Ross! Hope your 'birthday date' night was awesome.

Jennifer S

Oh my god, Karen! I can barely type this, my eyes are all blurry from tears. This is the most emotional post I,ve read I think!

You both are incentives to each other, and its beautiful.

Ross is one great kid, I mean, young adult. Happy Birthday, Ross!


oh Karen, I really wish I could know you "for reals", not just through mutual friends and blogs..your stories stick to my heart, as I am a mom of boys and although they are only 11 & 14, I know that what you are going through right now is where I will be in a blink of an eye...Happy Birthday Ross...give that wonderful mom of yours a huge hug!!!!


As a fellow mom, your post made me tear up. Very heartfelt, definitely sweet and sounds like to me that you did a great job!

Kathy Jiran that you have made me cry. For you I have to say Bravo for saying what you mean & your son being the man that he has become, because of you & your beliefs & your many sacrifices. To your are so lucky to have a Mom & family that care so much about you & believe in you. Always believe in yourself & what your heart & mind tell you is right. If it feels wrong....guess what it probably is. Best of luck to you Ross & make sure you call, text or write your Mom!!!!! Thanks Karen for being you!! Kathy

Andre Meerten

That was beautiful and then some.

LeeAnna Carson

Well said Karen. Good timing for me, someone who is also wishing away the days for a time that will be "easier". I hope my kids will think the same of me as yours so obviously do of you. Thanks for this post today.
(And boy, do you ever look like Annie in that photo!)

Lisa Westphal

Oh Lord. . .you've got me in tears! You are such a good Mama. -And as so many have already said, you are so lucky to have one another.

gina f.

Go Karen!! Go Ross!! Life is good when the things that make our hearts happy are greater than the things that make our hearts sad.


That just made me cry. That is a special story. Happy Birthday Ross!


So sweet. Sniff. Sniff. I'm glad you and Ross have a wonderful relationship with each other and best of luck when he does move out.


I love that you posted this. I too was a young Mom, getting pregnant and married at 16. I swore up and down that I would not be a statistic. I wasn't just 'another teen pregnancy'. I was a person having a baby. A baby I loved from the moment I knew. Even though I was scared to death. lol My story is very different but my point is this: We did it. We are still doing it and we rock.

They will always be your babies, no matter their ages. ;)

cindy b.

As a teenage mom myself...KUDOS to you and the wonderful job you did in raising him. This post really made me cry!!!

cindy b.

ps. I WAS a teenage mom..I"m not a teenager now..LOL!!

Sarah K

OK, you have to issue a tissue warning at the beginning of these kinds of posts. You've got me sobbing at my desk on my lunch hour. God Bless You and Ross! What a lovely portrait of the mother and son relationship and your love for each other.


Wow! I hope I can raise my 2 small children as well as you appear to have raised Ross! Respect is huge and so is hugging his mum in front of his friends. You're a very lucky mom and he's a very lucky son!!


I have a huge lump in my throat, tears threatening to run, and immense respect for your decision to live life on purpose. Ross is lucky to have you ... and you are lucky to have him!

Wendy M.

Sniff, sniff.... that was beautifully written Karen! My son left home to go to school last September and I'm excited to see him come home in a couple of weeks. But I know that the little kid that left me last September will be coming back, well, a little less kid-like. And that is what we wish for our kids... that they are able to make their own way in the world... just like you did. congratulations on your successful "incentive plan"!


Beautiful, amazing - I struggle with two boys and I'm 41 and have my husband so hats off to you - you did a good job! I can't imagine the emotions you will have when it's time for him to go it alone.


lovely post...thank you for sharing these" snapshots of a good life" with us..god bless!!

Tanya beautiful. you're amazing. both of you! :)


What a fantastic post - you are an inspiration!

Karidan Chapman


Even though my son is only two and a half, I totally understand your guilt on wishing away his childness or in my case "Infantness". I couldnt wait for him to walk, talk and now I can barely remember him at 2 weeks, 2 months. That guilt is so intense but now I just have to appreciate the now and live for today!! Beautiful post! you should print it out and give it to him or at least put it away for him!!

Sherrie taylor

Oh Karen ,I don' cry much but thanks for this post.I have a 12 year old son who is struggling in school/life and I am constantly on him and with your post it just gave me the incentive to keep pushing him and just love on him.THANK YOU for the incentive for my son and I.

Krista Lund

i read your blog religiously, but rarely comment. this post made me smile!


You made me cry! Happy Birthay Ross!
Awesome Job Karen!


Best post ever! I'm in tears reading it. Happy Birthday Ross!

Beth B.

Ok you made me get all teary-eyed with that one. Thanks for sharing; that was beautifully written. What a great kid! What a great mom.

Deb Zorn

I copied this and sent it to my daughter, who is 29. Her son is 12. She finished high school, and graduated from college, in four years, with a BSN. Her relationship with her son is much like the one you have with Ross. Like all your other commenters, I am teary eyed. I wish I could give you and my daughter, and your boys, a hug. Happy Birthday to Ross!


So beautiful. I am teary-eyed. Thanks

MichelleG've made me cry. What a wonderful post and a beautiful tribute to the child you raised (and who helped raise you too I think). You are both so lucky.

Jenny B

Your story touches me as I think about my own sixteen year old son. Blessings to you and your family, Karen. Thank you for sharing your heart with all of us.


my mother {who had my older brother when she was 17} has always said that you are only given challenges that you were born to conquer. cheers to you!

Ashley S.

I loved this post, especially since I have a five-week-old (my first) and I'm struggling with the all-nighters and hard times. Thanks for the reminder to not wish them away. I don't know how you did it as a single mom. I think you're amazing!


Thanks for sharing this part of your private thoughts and life. I am touched.


Nellie, that was the best...sniff...sniff :*) you're the best...sniff...sniff


Happy Birthday, Ross! And Congratulations, Mom on a JOB WELL DONE! (It is, however, a never-ending job!). Be thankful that you will be so close in proximity (and in his heart!).

Please know that single moms can do just as good of a job as a two parents. Sometimes, I think they just try even harder to make up for the absent parent. There are also two parent families who are doing an awful job raising their kids. Feel proud that you did the best you could with what you had!

When my son moved across the country to go to his dream school (and because his rotten parents forced him to stay in the same school district his whole life!)- I talked/text with him more than when he was home. I got random calls about how to choose an onion and where to find tomato juice in the grocery store. We had prepared and he knew this info., but I think he just missed me! Enjoy him while he is there and spoil him when he visits! Thanks for always inspiring us!

Barbara Zea Jones

Just what I needed....tears! You've worked hard and it is now paying off. Happy Birthday Ross!


I am cracking up right now because I am almost positive I had that EXACT same turtle-tank and shorts. In fact, I had the oh-so-cool-turle-tank in several other colors too! :) Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

I absolutely loved this post Karen. You are so honest - it is refreshing. And I just love hearing about the evolution of your darling family.

Terri Barton

What a lovely testament to you both!


Thank you for posting this! It is so inspiring! I have 3 little incentive plans of my own:)


Oh...and Happy Birthday to your son!

Susan Dingess

I love this entry of yours! Thank you for sharing.


Great post...thank you for always being true to who you are and who you were as a young mom. If more people were honest with themselves and others this world would be a better place. Thank you for sharing!! And most of all thank you for choosing life!! Again...happy birthday have one awesome mom!


I teared up too! AWESOME Post!!! I do have to say that Annie sure does look A LOT like you in the picture above....I couldn't believe it! Hear Erin Cobb is coming over to OR....can't wait to hear about it!!! Hope all is well!!!



So, I came out here to read the rest of your post (the first time, I couldn't get through because of the tears). Still cried, but your writing is so beautiful. What a wonderful love we have with our oldest children (especially when we had them so young)Thank you for contining to share your stories.

Corie in Indy

A great post, Karen! Love that you have the self-confidence now (even if you didn't back then) to let your real emotions shine. We love that about you. Ross has a great mom! :o)


That was beautiful! Sounds like you've raised a wonderful and respectful man. There aren't enough of them out there anymore! And you're a wonderful mother filled with so much love. Good luck to both you and Ross in the fall. Happy Birthday, Ross!!!


Thank you for being so candid. What a pleasure it is to read your blog. :)


This post just brought me to tears. Now I need to go find a tissue! Beautiful relationship! Just beautiful!

Gena - MI

Oh WOW! What a blessing! :)


Karen - I could go on and on talking about your post and how emotional it made me. All I can say is you should be darn proud of yourself. Not many women could have done what you did. Your love for your son and family shines. :-)


What a wonderful post. What a wonderful son. What a wonderful mom.
Sounds like you did, and are still doing, an excellent job of being a mother.
Happy birthday Ross. Thank you for sharing Karen.


That is the most beautiful and touching love story I've ever read. WOW!


okay you have gone and done it now....I'm crying. My son 16 just told my husband and I that he has someone he wants to date. He is meeting with her parents to ask permission. The days do go by very fast!

Felicia Lie

ow man...that was the most touching story i've ever read. I'm tearing as i type this comment!
I'm so glad that you shared this with us.
and Karen, you've done really really well in raising him up! :)

Casey Moore

*TEARS* That is beautiful! You are a wonderful Mom.

Mindy M.

I know exactly what you mean when you say "I never felt like a regular college student though. I felt like a kid with a kid. I felt embarrassed to be a 19 year old, single-mom. I felt like a walking, social-stigma. But he was my incentive plan when I wanted to give up."
My son was born in my freshman year of college & he was my incentive plan, too. He's 9 now & I hope that he turns out as well as Ross has & we have as good of a relationship as you two do even through the teen years. You've done a great job of raising him. From what I can tell (through blogland), he has his head screwed on straight (as people tend to say here in the South). In other words, he's a pretty good guy & you have a lot to be proud of.
Happy Birthday, Ross.


This was your best post and I am honoured to have read it. Thank you for sharing. Your strength and lovely relationship with your son is inspiring. I was especially challenged to remember not to wish my young kids lives to move faster and enjoy the small things. From the bottom of my heart.. thank you.

Beth P.

Crying now. Seeing myself go through the same thing in another 16 or so years. Feeling guilty for thinking the same things about my two precious little baby boys (currently 28 mos. and 11 mos.)... and thus wishing their lives away. You're a wonderful mom and I hope to have the same kind of relationship with my boys when they get older. Thanks, Karen, for sharing that.


I have got to STOP reading your posts at work...I just BAWL!!! You are such an inspiration not onl;y to all us scrapbbok, photography moms but to all struggling single moms!! Thanks so much for sharing!


Karen - it's pretty obvious you are an amazing mom the way your kids adore you.

Your post reminds me of myself when I was young and it was just my son and I for a long time.

Love it... thanks for sharing your great thoughts.

Tracy Eau Claire

A very beautiful tribute!

Cheyla Breedlove-Miller

It is amazing the amount of memories that are flooding me as I read this and the amount of tissues I had to get through it. I know your a wonderful mother. I'm so happy to have seen you on your journey. You raised my nephew to be a great man. You deserve a huge hug. I hope you know how greatful I am for you and for all you've done to provide for him.
I love you both with all my heart.


and I am trying to read this thru tears...

Don't you hate it when your kids grow up...

My oldest is going to be 30 in June and yet I don't feel a day over 30 myself....

My youngest graduated last June and is going to college in Ashland and just got his first real job.....

And here I am just turned 52 wondering what do I want to be when I grow up...

Thank you for sharing you life...



You already have 172 comments about this post (holy crap!) but I just HAD TO comment. I'm in the middle of the teenage years with my son and it's hard. He used to think the sun rose and set on me and now he thinks I'm embarrassing. I know this is normal. I know that it that's the only thing I have to worry about then I'm pretty damn lucky. I hope he feels about me the way your son feels about you.

I'm back to school right now (grad school) and my 2 kids are MY incentive plan to finish and be ready for them to go to college. I'm trying hard not to wish this time away for myself so I can get working because I know that'll just mean 2 years I didn't take the time to watch them grow as carefully as I should.

Thanks for the beautiful post.


Tears rolling down my face...

Sheila McClymonds

I'm trying to fight back the tears but they are flowing. I was a young mom going through college too. I did the same thing as you as far as wishing my son's childhood away. This one hit so close to home. Thanks for sharing.


I have followed your blog for some time now...and I just love the way you capture life in all it's beauty.

I love this post. I am still hormonal...just had a boy ON APRIL 12th!!
So of course I cried at your story, your struggle and your beautiful relationship!

Thanks for sharing with blog land!

michelle gardella

I don't know you at all. I found your blog completely by accident way past my bedtime- and though we will probably never meet, and though i won't sign up for your workshop because i am saving my pennies, annnnd though i am one of a huge crowd, i have to say: that this blog entry means the world to me. it means more than the world. it means that i, a young mom with a camera in her hand and her heart on her sleeve, am not alone. it means that even though i don't have a rich grandmother to pay for me to start this business ( and even though i am hopelessly human, maybe i am beautiful- just like you.
thank you for listening to that part of yourself that tells you to take pictures. thank you for being honest and real and fabulous.

Suezi gurzi

Wow Ross is one lucky boy/man! Happy Birthday Ross. Thanks for sharing your feelings and thoughts. Gonna go wipe my tears and go hug my 17 year old girl.


this "message" to ross would make wonderful journaling in a graduation mini-album of the journey the two of you have taken. i know the special bond between single moms and their sons...i have one too. a totally get this. now, i am off to find a box of tissues. hope you are having fun with your fellow photographer friend...

Kay Drenth

Wow! Like so many others I'm sitting here bawling my eyes out. You amaze me. So many young girls in your situation have just given up. They use their child as an excuse to not try and do anything with their lives. Granted, many of them don't have the suppost system that you did but even with it I'm sure it was unimaginably hard. I'm so very glad you didn't give in to the temptation to give up. You are a true inspiration. All four of your children (yes I said four) are so very blessed to have you for a mother.


Wow! Made me cry,
So Beautiful Karen!

anna bowkis

oh Karen, this has just brought me to tears! YOu are an amazing person, and have an amazing family, xx


Wow! I don't know how that makes me feel. Gloriously happy that you have such a relationship, curious how you did it, and even more I feel as if I can never achieve that with my own children.

I'm sure he screamed and yelled at you as a child, all kids do, but how did you retain an attitude of respect for yourself?! My mom never had that (respect for self) and I've found that I struggle with knowing how to maintain that with my own children. I find them blatantly ignoring what I ask them to do and sometimes (alot of times) I wonder if that is just a child thing to do or if it is a worse problem that I need to address.

Your post makes me think that you had the answer! I'm jealous and curious


Congratulations! You have done your job well. Personally, I think the job description for motherhood sucks - help your child become independent of you. Then again, 19 isn't as cute as 5.


that was just plain beautiful.


A beautifully written post. I identify with this thoroughly. I have an 18 year son in college at the same university I went to. He's even in the same major I was in. I was 19 when he was born. I was lucky enough to not be a single mom, but I never felt like a college kid. I, too, felt like a kid with a kid. He grounded me and because of him, I made it through school and graduated. He was my incentive intent to plagiarize, just to 100% agree with your words. You put it better than I ever could have.

Ida J

was looking through your photography tips and was reading some of your posts at random. was fighting back some tears reading this one. I wish to have a wonderful relationship with my own when they have grown, just like you.

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