We live in a very organized society. Not organized in the sense that we like to keep our kitchen cabinets neat, or make our beds in the morning. But rather, organized in the sense that we like to categorize, and label. But not so much with objects. More so with each other. People are either:

Fat or skinny.

Short or tall.

Black or white.

Nice or mean.

Smart or dumb.

Male or female.

Most of these I feel are unnecessary. Our pants size shouldn’t matter. Our skin color shouldn’t matter.

But something that I feel that matters is our gender. It is part of our identity. It is part of who we are.

For me, this is a label I am proud of. I’m proud to be a woman. A female. A daughter. A sister. I’m proud of my potential to create new life, to bare a child. I’ve always been taught to embrace that label. That classification. Being a woman is not something to be ashamed of.

But being either male or female is no longer the norm. What has become the norm is to be different. Facebook now offers 58 different gender options.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. My parents are very liberal. In fact, they call themselves ‘oxy-mormons’, because there aren’t very many left-wing Latter-day Saints. Because of this, I never really thought anything about gender growing up. I knew that I was a girl. I liked girly things. I definitely liked boys. Some of my best friends’ parents were gay. The concept of having two moms wasn’t really weird to me. I knew they loved their children, and I knew they loved me and my parents, so the fact that they were gay was never really discussed. I can’t remember whether or not I knew they were married. In my young mind, that didn’t matter. My parents had taught me to love everyone, regardless of their gender, race, religion, or life decisions.

It wasn’t until Prop 8 was under way that I really began to question what I knew. Or what mattered to me. I remember my dad sitting me down and explaining why certain people that I loved so much weren’t talking to us anymore. Why Sally’s parents wouldn’t let her come over and play anymore, or why my friends at school would ask me why I hated gay people.

This was a turning point for me. In my young, innocent mind, I felt that  I needed to take a stand. I couldn’t be a fence sitter on something like this anymore. How did I really feel about this?

To be completely honest, I still really struggle with this subject. I feel strongly about what I was taught in church, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I won’t go deep into doctrine, but I do know and have a strong testimony in the importance of families. (A father, mother and children.) Having grown up in a home with parents who love me, and a good relationship with my sisters, I know that the family is ordained of God. And I also know that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

That being said, I also feel that love is love. Whether its between a man and a woman, two women, or two men. People should be able to be with the one that they choose. And we cannot control who people choose.

So it hurts, when people call me a homophobe, or tell me that ‘I just don’t care.’ Often those who promote and encourage understanding and human rights are the most oppressive and close minded. They do not know my story. And I don’t know theirs.

What frustrates me is that there are so many labels. People feel the need to further classify themselves beyond just male or female, or gay and straight. I feel that the over-specifying simply creates more problems. Ultimately what we are missing is a lack of love and understanding.

We need to accept that we don’t know or understand each other as well as we think that we do. But we also need to give our 100% in trying.

If we feel loved or accepted, we shouldn’t feel the need to over-categorize ourselves.

I am LeeAnn Shaffer. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a friend. I love to write and I love chocolate. I am obsessed with Ke$ha, and hedgehogs are my favorite animal. Sometimes I drive all the way to Trader Joe’s just to try the snack that they have out, and I can’t ever walk in a straight line. 

Who are you?




Final Photobook

Making this photobook was so fun because I was a chance to look back through all of the photos I’ve taken this semester and see how much I’ve grown as a photographer. I learned a lot more about how to use Photoshop, Lightroom, and InDesign.

The font is the same throughout, and I used the rectangles on the front as repeating design elements. When I printed it, the text was cut off a little bit on each page, so enjoy the pdf because it looks better than the actual book does.


The Meaning of Home

I was so excited to start college. I’ve always been an independent person, and the idea of leaving behind Castro Valley and all the memories it held was something that excited me. I never looked back.

My first semester was wonderful. I learned so much about myself. I had meaningful experiences that taught me more about who I wanted to be, and how I wanted to be remembered. The small town of Rexburg, Idaho, with all its dysfunctional inhabitants, became my new home. I fell in love with the mountains, the

I came home that summer and I felt lost. I remember not feeling comfortable in my bed, and wandering out to the couch in the middle of the night. My mom heard my crying and came to get me. My excuse was that I couldn’t sleep, but it was much more than that. The roof that I slept under for eighteen years no longer felt like my roof. The sheets on my bed weren’t my sheets. The overflowing suitcases on the floor were just a subtle reminder that I no longer belonged here.

I followed my mom into her bedroom and curled up next to her on the bed. We didn’t speak, but sleep eventually overcame me.

This happened again the week before I left on my mission. I came in to her room, resting my head on the pillow next to hers. No words were shared, but we both cried. We cried because what was coming was unknown. I was leaving behind two homes. Two families. My heart was now in two places.

Eighteen glorious months passed, much more quickly than I would have liked. I lost myself in the work. But by losing myself, I also found myself. I found parts of me that I never knew existed. I also found another new home, amongst the Joshua trees and dust of the Mojave Desert.

Home is now three different places. When I think of my home, I think of the small blue house on Gem Avenue, with the Mulberry tree out front. I think of BYU Idaho’s campus, and all I’ve learned there. And, I think of the people of Rancho Cucamonga.

You see, for me, the word home no longer has a strict definition. It isn’t confined to the 4 walls and shingled roof of a dwelling place. It isn’t required to have a kitchen, a TV, or a dining room table. The word home means so much more. It is a conglomeration of places, people, and experiences. Its the time I spent walking roads in Apple Valley. Its the classrooms I spent so much time in. Its the trampoline in my backyard that my sisters and I spent hours playing on. Home is more than just my parents and siblings. Its the Gallos. The Cancholas. The Hobbs. Its Berkeley, and Alexa, and Cayzia, and McKenzie. Its Callie and Jessica and Jake and Ryan. Its Ben and Joel and Jordyn and Dallin.

When we are children we learn slowly. We touch a hot stove, and we learn that heat can hurt us. We make friends; some stay, some leave. Growing up we only have a small pool of experiences on which to base our thoughts and feelings. But as we mature, and move away, and find ourselves, the pool of experiences grows and gains meaning.

I’ve learned to embrace change. It doesn’t always come easily. It can be painful. I happens too quickly at times. But when we focus more on the experiences, and then the meaning that those give to our lives, we can expand life’s vocabulary.

Home isn’t just the little blue house on Gem Avenue.

Its what I choose to make it.


Fine Art Print

This is probably my favorite photo I’ve taken all semester. I know it’s shown up in a few posts previous to this, but it was my first choice for getting it printed as well. In order to make it more prepared to print, I darkened the background and increased the vibrancy of the veggies. The focal point of this photo is the tomatoes, and I love how the man in the background is not looking at the camera. 

Original, unedited photo.