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Everyone has a story to tell, and I was incredibly honored when Gigi asked me to share mine...until I sat down to write it.  

It isn't easy to talk about yourself in terms of personal achievements and overcoming obstacles; in a way it feels like bragging on yourself.  But I have overcome a lot in my life, and I am proud of the woman I have become because of my challenges. So.....#thisisme. I grew up in Lindsay and graduated in 1983.  I came from a family that didn't put a lot of value on education. I had a full-time job at 15, working 40 hours a week while going to school.  I watched the things that went on around me and knew I wanted a different life; I wanted to achieve something.  Life was difficult at times, and my oldest sister was my saving grace.  She was, and still is, the person who I go to for advice. Without her, I don't know where I would be. I went to college right after high school, but dropped out after one semester.  I got married, had my first son when I was 21, and worked while I took care of my family.  A second son was born 7 years later. Even though I had a  job I liked, I never stopped thinking about a career in medicine.

When I was 30, my husband got a job that allowed me to chase my dream.  I started college, working days and  taking classes at night. It wasn't easy.  There were times I stayed up all night studying. Seven years after I started, I graduated from College of the Sequoias with an Associate Degree in Nursing.  I was a Registered Nurse working in the Intensive Care Unit and I absolutely loved it. And I still wanted to continue my education. As the years passed, things changed, My sons grew up. The oldest one joined the Navy, married an amazing young woman, and moved away. My marriage ended after 29 years. My youngest son got viral meningitis and almost died.  There were days that I just wanted to stay in bed and pull the blankets over my head.   But I didn't.  I worked two full-time jobs for 5 years.  I paid off all my bills.  My son recovered, my oldest son and his wife were happy and expecting their first baby in January of 2017. I was finally able to go back to school. I started a three and a half year Masters Degree in Nursing program in November of 2016.  During the first quarter of school, I had surgery three times, but I kept up with my studies.  On January 11th, 2017, my grandson Seamus Hunter was born, and slept in my arms his first night of life while I did homework.  Seventeen months later, his baby brother Isaac James was born on June 15th, 2018.  I was on track to graduate in May of 2020 at 55 years old.   While good things were happening, bad ones were too.  I had health issues that affected my education and job, dealt with the grief of a horrific accident  that affected many people I love, had an unexpected job change, and dealt with more stress than I could ever imagine.  The Covid outbreak very nearly prevented the completion of my degree, but I was fortunate enough to have what I needed and I graduated May 10th with a Master of Science degree in Nursing.

Today I am Lori West, RN, MSN, CCRN, WCC, and in a few weeks I will be adding FNP-BC (Family Nurse Practitioner, Board Certified) to those initials behind my name. Every set of initials signifies a commitment to my profession and hours of work to obtain and maintain the certifications they stand for.  Despite every obstacle, I made it, and I've been told I have inspired others to not give up on their dreams too.  August 31st I start a Doctor of Nursing program. My son Josh and his wife Cassie, my grandsons (known collectively as The Sirs or Nana's Best Babies), and my son Brandon are the motivation to do what I do. Even though we are divorced, my ex- husband continues to encourage me and be proud of what I have accomplished.I want them to see that if you believe in yourself, you can make anything happen. I want you to believe it too.💖

By Lori West, RN, MSN, CCRN, WCC

  • Gigi Kraus

Updated: Aug 1

e for yourself without feeling mom guilt!




Ashley is a busy mom raising 3 beautiful kids. Like most moms, she’s usually behind the camera. Well, last year she got to experience her very own fun portrait session. We took the time to enjoy the moment and create beautiful photographs for herself and to create memories to share with her children.

The sweetest thing I heard that day was when her daughter Megan lovingly said, “you look beautiful mom.” Today, do something extra nice for yourself without feeling mom guilt!



According to Ashley, learning beauty from a young age was less makeup is more, don't tan your face, hold your stomach in!


I always feel like other women are more poised than me. Their styling, makeup, nails etc I am low maintenance, don't get my nails done, never had a facial, worn false lashes twice for special occasions. I tend to spoil my kids more than worry about me.


"I don't take a lot of photos of myself. I'm usually behind the camera. - Ashley

Ashley is a busy mom raising 3 beautiful kids. Like most moms, she’s usually behind the camera. Well, last week she got to experience her very own fun portrait session. We took the time to enjoy the moment and

create beautiful photographs for herself and to create memories to share with her children.

The sweetest thing I heard that day was when her daughter Megan lovingly said, “you look beautiful mom.” Today, do something extra nice for yourself without feeling mom guilt!

Ashley is a busy mom raising 3 beautiful kids. Like most moms, she’s usually behind the camera. Well, last week she got to experience her very own fun portrait session. We took the time to enjoy the moment and create beautiful photographs for herself and to create memories to share with her children.

The sweetest thing I heard that day was when her daughter Megan lovingly said, “you look beautiful mom.” Today, do something extra nice for yourself without feeling mom guilt!

  • Gigi Kraus

Updated: Aug 3



Monique is one of the nicest person I had the pleasure of working with last year. Her personality is as beautiful as her smile is. PLEASE PLEASE STAY AND READ TOWARD THE END OF THIS BLOG.


"One day I will not be here for my 2 beautiful daughters and the majority of the time I am not in the pictures because I am behind the camera. I would love for them to have pictures of their mommy to cherish."


INTERVIEW WITH MONIQUE


Is there any advice you would like to share with others who struggle to see their own beauty?


Beauty is not always on the outside. Beauty can be the person you are & how you make others feel!


Tell me your story!



I am 33 years old and I have 2 young daughters and a son if still alive who would be 12. After my ex husband left me after my son died for another woman he told me I was damaged goods, therefore I have struggled with self esteem issues. My weight has recently gone up due to an injury I sustained from a student. I am getting married in October 2019 to a wonderful man and I really would love to feel beautiful in my own skin. He tells me I am beautiful but I keep hearing my ex's comment over and over.


A SIMPLE MESSAGE FROM JORGE WHO WAS MONIQUE'S FIANCE NOW HER OTHER HALF.


What do you like most about Monique? What makes her unique and special? “Oh my goodness where to begin. Monique is the strongest woman I have ever met, she has gone through a lot in her life but none of it has stopped her from reaching her goals. On the contrary she uses her experiences to do something that is truly unique in cases like hers, she helps others. She has an amazing heart that loves, she looks good opportunities to make this world a better place, one person at a time. And now she is going beyond just giving out "blessing bags" to the homeless she educated herself to provide hope to families going through what she did. She is an amazing mother! There is nothing she wouldn't do for her 3 kids, she always makes sure they know they are loved no matter what. She is raising two beautiful girls that will one day change this world because of the love, influence, and guidance she provides.

And then there's me. She loves me in a way I could have never imagined. A love that some people may never know. I feel humbled, honored, and at times unworthy of it. But I am truly grateful that she does love me.

What I love most about Monique is who she is, she is the most beautiful person I have ever known.

What makes her unique is the way she loves, she truly is my everything!” -Jorge A.


© COPYRIGHT 2020 GIGI KRAUS PHOTOGRAPHY