Me and my sister Amanda didn't always get along. She was outgoing and had a bunch of friends and was pretty and I was the quiet, weird little bookworm sister. In the way younger siblings can be, I was embarrassing and "not cool" and so she didn't want to hang out with me.
That was fine. I had Marisa and kept to myself. I read to pass the time and vacated the room when her friends came over. But we were a lot alike. We both liked art and books. I remember she would collect these porcelain jester dolls from the crane machine game and every time we passed one I would try and win one for her (even though I thought they were really creepy.) I actually got her quite a few.
My dad would draw us our own coloring books and liked to do the same few drawings. Unicorn head, big wheel buggy, and Winnie the Pooh. (He still does them.) We would color them in and he would print copies of them at work so we could have our own book.
My uncle would watch us sometimes after school and we would watch Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, and wrestling. Amanda liked Gilmore Girls and 7th Heaven, but would watch the cartoons too. Our whole family loved to play video games and we would race our dad in Gran Turismo and fight in Tekken.
We fought and tattled and she would be in charge of watching me, only to go watch TV or hang out with her friends.
Then things got worse when our parents divorced.
We both dealt with our parents divorcing and having to move to Dallas differently. I withdrew and she acted out. Being a preteen and dealing with everything is hard. She started dating boys and would argue and I stayed out the way.
In my mind, she was always causing trouble. In reality, we were both just dealing with a hard situation and didn't know how to cope or feel.
When she was 16, my sister got pregnant. It was a rough time. We ended up moving back to Lubbock and stayed with my dad, going back and forth between our parents. She grew up fast. You have to in that situation.
On November 12th, Amanda had my nephew Aidan. She was young but figured out motherhood quickly. She went back to live in Dallas with my mom and Aidan's dad's family. When she turned 18, they got married and he joined the military.
After a bit they moved around, going military base to base. She actually lived in Tacoma, Washington at one point and my grandma went and stayed with her to help with Aidan. Amanda would make join Myspace and Facebook so we could chat and we would share things that way.
Distance was the key to us getting along. We both have different but same personalities and sometimes they butt heads. I use to joke that sometimes I acted like the older sister. I was the cool headed sister and she was all fire.
A few years later, Amanda moved back to Texas. A bit after that, she got divorced.
We would talk about her going to school or finding a new job. She had loved photography and art in school but didn't think that was feasible as a single mom.
We talked more. Amanda was learning to be more independent and figure everything out. It's crazy to think of all she had to deal with and she was only a few years older than me.
In 2010 she met Kaleb. They had known each other in school, but reconnected. He was nice and didn't try to bribe me into liking him with Yugioh cards so that was a plus. He was sweet to her and Aidan and she was so much happier. He would take her fishing and they liked Walking Dead and video games. He could take a joke which is a must in our family because we all pretty much just bully each other.
2012 Amanda got engaged and got pregnant with my niece Tabitha, Tabby for short.
Amanda got to start working from home and was able to stay home with Tabby. We texted and chatted online and I would download movies for her to watch when I would see her. One time I stayed with her for a week and we did nothing much lay on the couch in our pajamas, watch Game of Thrones, drink, and attempt to make fried Oreos.
We ate a lot of junk food.
She would borrow my makeup and clothes when I would visit and when she came down, would make fun of my apartment and cats. Kaleb always found me cat stuff because I was apparently turning into the crazy cat lady.
When I started doing vlogs, Amanda would watch almost every one and text me about them. She didn't think it was weird and would read my blogs and we would tweet about things online. She was like an internet friend that shared the same parents and stole my stuff when I would see her.
If I can say one thing, it's that Amanda is a good mom. She was figuring it out as she went along, but she knew how to deal with a growing boy who was much shyer and sweeter than other kids and a little girl with enough personality to fill a room. Things would get crazy and she has a quick temper like me, but she would find a way to make everything work.
Aidan got older and was catching up on our height. Tabby finally started growing hair. Amanda and Kaleb got married in 2014. Me and Marisa and our younger sister Elizabeth were bridesmaids.
In 2015, Amanda got a camera. She had always loved photography and wanted to pick it back up again. It was the one thing she had always been super passionate about. She wanted to do pictures on the side, maybe once she got good enough she could make a little money. Simple. I was starting Ladies Night and offered to pay her $100 so she could drive down and shoot the event. She could launch her Facebook page and it'll be a little exposure.
Amanda was our very first photographer for Ladies Night. And if you look at her pictures from then to now, it's breathtaking how much she has grown. I'm my sister's biggest fan. Her work is gorgeous and I'm not even that into maternity and bridal pictures. But they're something else.
The difference in those pictures is barely over a year. One year! But the best part is, her starting a photography business made my sister absolutely bloom into a whole new person. I remember that she was worried for the first Ladies Night because she wasn't sure how her pictures would turn out. She was scared to try. And now I've seen her navigate photo shoots and pregnant moms and nervous couples like it's nothing. She's not afraid to tell someone what looks good and doesn't and work with clients.
Better yet, she has a confidence in herself that I haven't seen since she was a bold, stubborn teenager. We talk more now. We talk about our problems and how to deal with situations and websites and social media and being a small business. We talk ideas and photoshoot ideas and getting her clients when she comes and visits and she'll share my art and events. We talk about our body image and health issues and anxiety and love lives and moving to Seattle.
It took almost 20 years, but I finally have a relationship with my sister and she is my best friend. She's ambitious and artsy and goal orientated and we tell each other things honestly without the sugar coating. When our parents are driving us crazy or we get weird ideas or need outfit ideas, we text each other. And I'm so grateful for that.
The older we've gotten, the closer we've become.
My sister is one of my closest friends. We help and support each other and even when we don't always agree, we have one another's back. I've gotten to see her grow from a scared teenager into this amazing mom and from novice photographer to someone whose work takes your breath away. Her pictures are what dreams are made of and people can see that now.
I know of a lot of the plans she has in store and I'm excited. If I could take her to Seattle with me, I would, but we're not far from each other. We're always a text and a message and a Facebook comment away.
I'm so proud of her and so proud of how far she has come.
Amanda will be in Lubbock July 28th- August 5th if you would like to message her to schedule a session! She will also be the photographer for July 29th's Ladies Night! All photos were taken by her.
If you want to follow Amanda's work:
- Follow her on Instagram- @Amanda.Raylee
- Give her Facebook page a Like- Amanda Raylee Photography
- Check out her website- https://amandaraylee.com/