When she walked in to be photographed for THE REVELATION PROJECT she carried a surf board under her arm like a seasoned professional (I don’t even think I can actually physically lift a surf board). Medelise gave me a smile with her kind brown eyes, and in an instant I had the feeling that I was meeting a woman who had been through some stuff in this lifetime, and like she’d have some stories to tell. It seems I was accurate about that. I loved photographing Medelise- because she was intensely connected to something I could not quite put my finger on… until her story began. Then, I got it.
She’s intensely connected to LIFE, and REALLY LIVING IT.
TRP: Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Medelise: I have to start with my name…I am named after my mother, grandmother and great, great grandmother. My daughter is the fifth Medelise. I am proud and honored to be in a long line of amazingly strong and beautiful women.
A bit about me…aah my nickname in college was “the pleasure seeker”(having nothing to do with sex, mind you) I was the ultimate tomboy, thrill seeker and slightly unusual girl who could beat most boys at anything. I still carry that to this day…would much rather be playing Frisbee out in the back yard at a party than talking gossip or cooking in the kitchen…as much as I have grown to love talking in the kitchen. My passions and hobbies include skiing, surfing and mountain biking mixed with butterflies, reading, connecting with people and long solo walks on the beach. I hit my stride in my forties and finally started following my heart and pursuing my dreams. Along the way I became very ill, having to rebuild my physical and emotional strength over a period of two and a half years. I lost my entire colon in 2009 to a killer bacteria infection after fighting the infection for over six weeks in the hospital. This resulted in four major abdominal surgeries in that time period, developing a serious portal vein thrombosis (blood clot in the liver) after my third surgery that threatened my recovery and culminated with an emergency surgery for a small bowel obstruction just 7 short months after my last reconstructive surgery. I was just beginning to regain my vitality and mental strength prior to the obstruction. It was devastating to me on a very personal level. Emotionally and physically it was such a setback … I was finally beginning to have faith in my body again. It took a toll on my marriage, my children and my own sense of well being! Looking back, I now feel that in many ways it was a gift to me, the whole experience…sounds funny I am sure.
I have been healthy the last 9 months(knock on wood) and am currently one of the founders and operators of the Garden of Wings Butterfly Pavilion at The Farmer’s Daughter in Wakefield. I also teach skiing at Burke Mountain in Vermont and will begin teaching surf lessons here in Narragansett this summer.
TRP: What is the biggest challenge that’s ever faced you as a woman?
Medelise: Without a doubt the biggest challenge I have faced as a woman is marriage and motherhood…it is incredibly hard not to loss a part of yourself in both of those endeavors. No one ever really told us as women how hard it was going to be. Even though I love both my spouse and my children I do not always like being a wife and a mother! I have a different view on marriage, love and family than many and sometimes my inner being and in not always in sync with the norm. This has created problems for me. My ability to be honest with who I am in recent years has allowed growth within my relationships that some individuals never achieve.
TRP: Are you a mom?
Medelise: see biggest challenge question!!! Meddie 18 and Nolan 15…I am blessed with two incredible, fun, thrill seeking and lovable kids.
TRP: What are some of the issues that you think are important to explore as it relates to our gender?
Medelise: Where does one begin…authenticity, societal pressures and standards, freedom and independence within the context of family and marriage, expectations, emotional strengths and liabilities…the list goes on from here in many directions.
TRP: What’s your idea of a great “girls night?”
Definitely an evening that involves a little bit of talking, dancing, laughing(sometimes crying), drinking and eating…but not necessarily in that order!
TRP: Is there anything in particular that made you feel like being part of the Revelation Project was a good idea right now?
I think that I was at a point where I really needed to embrace my regained strength after being sick for so long. It felt like it needed to be something really tangible for me. I wanted to see it with my eyes not necessarily just know it with my heart…or maybe seeing it so I could feel it more deeply in my heart and remind myself whenever doubt creeps in. It was important for me to have my surf board be a part of the shoot. Surfing and getting back into the water, especially for the year I had the illeostomy saved me. I had refused to have my life taken from me or the things I loved to do be threatened because of my illness or the illeostomy.
About the shoot:
TRP: What did you think about the approach of the upcoming photo shoot (before you got there) and what were the results you were expecting?
Medelise: To be honest with you I just kind of jumped into it without thinking too much about it other than what I stated earlier. I was really clueless as to what it would actually be like.
TRP: How did you feel during the shoot and was there anything in particular that made you feel more or less relaxed or open to the process?
Medelise: I loved watching and feeling the chemistry between Robyn and Monica. I had issues with relaxing especially with my mouth…so we had a bit of fun with that…some of my favorite photos came from it. The music was great and after awhile I felt I had as much control over what the shoot would be as Monica and Robyn did…and that was sort of nice and unexpected.
TRP: Can you describe in three words the way you felt before we shot?
Medelise: Nervous, excited and clueless
TRP: Three words for after
Medelise: energized, myself and clueless
TRP: Three words for when you saw the results
Medelise: awe, belief and love
TRP: After you left but before you saw the results – did you have any thoughts about the experience? What were some of the things you thought about on the drive home?
Medelise: I was so late to an appointment after the shoot that I did not really have much time to think at all right after. But for several days I held my breath in anticipation.
TRP: When you saw the results can you tell me your first impression?
Medelise: WOW and TEARS
I was never afraid that I wouldn’t like my pictures but I was not prepared for how moved I would be by them.
TRP: Can you talk about the feedback you received from those who saw your photographs?
Medelise: It is mostly woman who comment…they love them and feel that the photos really caught an essence of me.
I like that!
TRP: What are some words you would use to describe how you were feeling throughout the shoot?
Medelise: It is funny I think I was a bit focused on the logistics and maybe a bit tuned out to how I was feeling emotionally. I was having fun and for me that was what it was about at the moment…having fun with me!
TRP: Did you learn anything new about yourself from the experience?
Medelise: I have certainly learned a lot about myself since the shoot via the results and going over the pictures from time to time. They give me strength. I have learned that I do need reassurance at times (don’t we all?) I had such post traumatic stress after my first surgery which still lingers a bit under certain circumstances. I need to know that I am ok and everything is going to be ok. Somehow looking through those pictures helps me to regain balance a little bit. Interestingly, it is me looking at me that guides me back.
TRP: Did you feel empowered? Why? Why not?
Medelise: Absolutely…me taking charge! Participating in The Revelation Project was one decision I made that was just for ME.
TRP: Do you think this was an important/valuable experience for yourself? Why?
Medelise: Yes…we all need to do something for ourselves from time to time. Even if it is just for the pure fun!
TRP: Do you think it’s relevant for other women? Why?
Medelise: I think it can be relevant for other women but I think that it would be relevant for them in an entirely different ways than it was for me. We each bring something different when we show up at the door.
TRP: How would you use the photos moving forward? Professionally? Personally? As gifts?
Medelise: That will yet to be seen and discovered…beyond what I have already said.
TRP: What is your favorite song and why?
Medelise: What a Wonderful World by Louie Armstrong. It has been my favorite song for as long as I can remember. It moved me when it was used in Good Morning Vietnam movie. I always remember that scene of the troops moving out in the light of a beautiful dawn. It is a song about gratitude and life and all it can be if we are open and aware!
TRP: If you could sum up the experience what would you say?
Medelise: It was a genuine bucket list experience…and I hate that expression.