My story

My art is based on storytelling. For my clients, I use emotive imagery to tell their story. My clients' stories are filled with tenderness, honesty, joy, and the unmistakable feeling of unconditional love! I use photography to reveal their visual story. My hopes are that the next generation of their family will find these photos and it will open a treasure chest of stories to tell! "Your dad used to always make that face when he didn't get his way!" "Remember when I used to touch your hair like that when you got boo boos?" "We used to have so much fun racing in the park! Remember that time when your dad stepped in dog poop?!?" Stories. They are our legacy. They define who we are and who we were. Stories are revealing and enduring.

But you may be wondering what my story is. What is the story behind the storyteller? You probably already checked out my "about me" and "artist's voice" pages and got a quick snap shot of who I am. But I'm here today to dispel all mystery surrounding that girl behind the Nikon!

1. I'm Jenelle! I used to not like my name. No one ever knew how to spell it. I never could find a keychain or magnet with my name on it! Childhood was rough. But also people could never spell it right. Every year in school the teacher would spell it wrong on my name tape on my desk. Every year it was spelled wrong differently. Who knew there were so many ways to spell my name! Even on my social security card it was spelled wrong until I got a new one with my married name. But now as I've grown into the sophisticated adult that I am, I have learned to love my name. I love how unique and beautiful it is. It matches me. Even though people still don't know how to spell it!

2. I have a master's degree in Psychology. I have a special love for behavioral psychology and industrial/organizational psychology. In college my goal was to work in the industry for several years and then become a college professor. I was going to be published in journals. I wanted to work for a company as a consultant and improve employee satisfaction and reduce turn-over. I was going to lead lectures and seminars. It was going to be awesome! I graduated with my bachelors degree in Psychology in May 2001.

3. Then September 11, 2001 changed everything. I was out of college with my resume sitting among stacks of other resumes in in-boxes across Raleigh. I was working as a leasing consultant at an apartment complex. That Tuesday morning changed the trajectory of my adult life. It was that day that I knew I needed to serve my country in the armed forces. It launched me into a career that I didn't even know I wanted. I spent 13 years working in the field of military intelligence and not only loving it, but excelling at it! I was good at it! My military career was very rewarding at all levels. And it lead me to the life that I am living now. 

4. The Army brought my husband and I together. Who doesn't love a good love story??!! Mine and Seth's started one afternoon in October. We had both recently returned from Afghanistan with our units. I was stationed in Georgia and he was in North Carolina. We didn't meet in Afghanistan but two of our soldiers did. And they fell in love and started a relationship. One day my soldier told me that she knew someone that I might like. Her boyfriend was planting the same seed with Seth up in NC. So we got each other's number and texted and then talked. Eventually he came down for a super awkward first date! Then the night he drove back home he drank too much and drunk dialed me. I knew at that moment this was something special! We survived another deployment together, him back to Afghanistan and me to Iraq, and after that I knew we had lasting potential! And the rest is history! I could spend days retelling our love story. It continues today. As our lives together grows and as we face more *life* together, our story just gets more beautiful. And a little ugly too! But mostly beautiful!

5. When I was a teenager I made scrapbooks. Like tons of scrapbooks. Scrapbooks about things that didn't even relate to me. I made books of newspaper clippings of stories I thought held powerful bits of history. I glued in ticket stubs and receipts. I saved magazine articles and brochures. I saved everything so that nothing would be forgotten. As my scrapbooking intensified, I made detailed and intricate pages documenting vacations and important events. They started to include photographs as well as trinkets and momentos. The pages took me weeks to complete with patterned paper and stickers and fancy scripts. But when I break it down, it was always the memory that I was desperate to preserve. The story that needed to be remembered. And perhaps this is where I became a storyteller. My desire to encapsulate the essence of a life lived. Of friendships made. Of mischief managed! (Catch the Harry Potter reference!) To remember who I was and the moments that define me. 

Well it turned into 5 things about me! And these things are big chunks of my story. These 5 things make me who I am. Of course I have a lot more than 5 things but I have to save some stuff so you keep coming back to my blog! 

It was cathartic to sit down and really reflect on 5 things that define me. People, things, events, memories, behaviors, or feelings - tangible, fleeting, permanent, and abstract. This ended up being a purposeful exercise in self-reflection. I challenge you to think of the things that make you who you are today. Children, jobs, family... these are easy answers. Look a little deeper into things that might not be big and flashy but still make a powerful impact. Or maybe the little things that aren't serious - like how I never got a Jenelle keychain! My personal story is part of my family's story. It's part of the legacy that my kids will pass on to their kids. I need to make sure I know how to tell it!

Jenelle Botts