A Fresh Start and a Second Chance

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In her home in Shepard, Mich. Kara Mclean kisses her 3-month-old daughter, Milah Nyokos, as she gazes at a framed photo of her eldest daughter, Aria Balis, who no longer lives with her. November 13, 2016.
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Kara Mclean reports to the W.I.C office in Mount Pleasant, Mich. to claim food benefits offered to low income mothers, November 17, 2016.
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Kara Mclean (center) shows her case worker a photo of her first born daughter, Aria Balis, and compares it to her 3-month-old daughter, Milah Nyokos, at the W.I.C office of Mount Pleasant, Mich on November 17, 2016. Mclean notes how similar the two half-sisters look and how much she misses Aria, who was placed into court ordered foster car a couple of years ago.
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Aaron Ginowsky looks at his tablet as he sits with Milah Nyokos as her mother steps away for a moment to prepare a meal, in their shared home in Shepard, Mich. on November 17, 2016. Aaron recently moved into the one bedroom apartment with Kara Mclean and her fiance Stephen Nyokos as a temporary roommate after losing his home following a divorce.
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Kara Mclean breast feeds her 3-month-old daughter, Milah, in the bedroom of her home in Shepard, Mich. on November 17, 2016.
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Stephen Nyokos, sits on the porch of his home in Shepard, Mich., checking his phone as he waits for his grill to heat up, February 2, 2017.
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Milah Nyokos, tugs at her towel as her mother, Kara Mclean, swaddles her after a bath in the kitchen of their home in Shepard, Mich. February 2, 2017.

 

 

“They took her because my ex showed up at my house and he wasn’t supposed to be there because of the restraining order. It’s not my fault though, what could I do, I didn’t tell him he could come over.” Kara Mclean says as she discusses why Child Protective Services took her first born daughter away from her. She is completely open when it comes to discussing the fact that her child was taken from her though her explanation is vague and opposes what other sources state as the reason her child was placed in foster care. However, she often brings it up the loss of her daughter in casual conversation with coworkers and customers at her job. Locals/coworkers who have known Mclean say that her daughter, Aria, was taken because her father was molesting her and Mclean was turning a blind eye to the situation. This has not been confirmed by Mclean and despite the rumours she always greets everyone with a smile and kind heart. Kara has not seen Aria in 2 years but keeps photos of her displayed around the house and speaks about her often.

Kara states that her life was really hard after losing everything and even though things aren’t perfect and she still can’t afford a home she’s happy to have a partner who is kind to her and a new baby. She is currently engaged to Stephen Noykos and now has a 3-month-old daughter, Milah Noykos. They live in a one bedroom apartment in Shepherd, Mich. Kara works at a local diner as a hostess, where she met Aaron Ginowsky, a coworker who is currently living with the family after losing his home in a divorce. Though Aaron can not contribute to the household financially he helps the couple by giving them rides because neither can afford to own a car. Stephen works a few days out of the week but does not have a steady job at the moment, when he isn’t working he spends his days searching for ways to gain income. Kara works afternoons and is always eager to return to Milah, who rarely leaves her arms when she is home. 

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Nurturing Your Roots

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Annie Eby places some of her household herbs in water in the kitchen of her home in Alma, Michigan, December 14, 2016.
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Annie Eby sorts her and her husband’s medications for the week and places them in pill organizers, in their home in Alma, Michigan, December 7, 2016.

 

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Jeff Eby, left, ties his father’s, Al Eby, shoelaces in their home in Alma, Mich. on the morning of December 7, 2016. Al is unable to reach his shoes on his own so Jeff puts on his shoes for him as part of their daily morning routine.
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Jeff Eby, left, helps his mother, Annie Eby, prepare a meal in the kitchen of their home in Alma, Mich., December 14, 2016.
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Al Eby watches television as he waits for his lunch to be served, he spends most of his days in this spot in the living room of his home in Alma, Mich. December 14, 2016.
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Al Eby, foreground, reads the newspaper as his son,
Jeff Eby, (who is also his caretaker) makes his bed, December 7, 2016 in Alma, Mich.
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Annie Eby sits on her porch and pets one of the stray cats she feeds everyday, Alma, Mich., December 14, 2016.
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Al Eby, left, Jeff Eby, middle, and Annie Eby, right, lounge and talk in the living room of their shared home in Alma, Mich., December 12, 2016.

Shining Moon Coven

 

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Members of the Shining Moon coven gather in preparation for their annual Samhain ceremony held at the home of the coven’s high priestess, Cheryl Waskevich, on Ashman street in Midland, Mich. on October 28, 2016.
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Jeremy Meleichos, member of Shining Moon Coven, lights a sage smudge which is used to purify each member prior to entering the sacred circle during the coven’s annual Samhain ceremony, in Midland, Mich. on October 28, 2016.

 

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Ashley ‘Moonbeam’ Zook takes a break between card readings to discuss some of her favorite cards in her tarot deck and what they mean, at a psychic fair in Bay City, Mich. on October 28, 2016. “When I first received this deck I looked at the book that’s included with them and it is supposed to explain the meaning of each card and such but I soon realized it was mostly just cute and nothing else. So I slept with the cards under my pillow and asked….
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Cheryl Waskevich, an eclectic witch and high priestess of the Shining Moon coven, rearranges her altar for the autumn season, in her home on Ashman street in Midland, Mich. on October 27, 2016.
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Cheryl Waskevich, priestess of the shining moon coven, purifies coven member Jeremy Medeiros with a sage smudge before entering the sacred circle and beginning their annual Samhain ritual, in Midland, Mich. on October 28, 2016.
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Isis the cat rests at the feet of the witches as they discuss preparations for a ritual, in Midland, Mich. on October 28, 2016. Isis is the familiar of Cheryl Waskevich, the high priestess of the shining moon coven, and therefore attends all of the coven’s gatherings and rituals.
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Ashley ‘Moonbeam’ Zook hugs another member of the Shining Moon Coven as they greet each other before the annual Samhain ritual in Midland, Michigan on October 28, 2016.

The Finnerty Family Farm

My first time visiting the Finnerty family farm I met with Dale Finnerty, as I watched him execute his morning routine of feeding his calves he fed me some interesting history on the development of the farm. Dale inherited the farm from his father, who is currently 80 years old and still actively working on the farm.

“Sometimes I think I’ll have to tie him to a chair just to get him to sit still for a few minutes.” Dale says when telling me how his father is still working hard despite his age. I’m sure it’s that same hard working Finnerty spirit that has kept the farm up and running, and always family owned,  for the past 75 years. The Finnerty’s land consist of 1280 acres and spreads out an entire square mile. They have a beautiful park near the center of the farm filled with charming farm antiques and family memorabilia as well as a gazebo and bridge built by Dale and his brothers (the family celebrated their farm’s 75th anniversary in this very park with family and friends this past July).  The farm began as a dairy farm, and was also a rabbit farm for a short amount of time a few decades ago, and has progressed to a successful cattle farm that currently houses approximately 700 head of cattle. Dale, his father and his nephew  take on the daily tasks of the farm, with occasional help from Dale’s children.

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Natalie Finnerty fixes a leaning fence on her family’s farm in Beal City, Mich. on September 23, 2016.

Dale and his wife Jane, who works at a local hospital, live in the same farm house Dale himself was raised in. Together they have raised five children, Joseph, Amy, Ashley, Natalie and Robert. Three of their children have moved out and Natalie, 18, & Robert, 14, still live at home with their parents.

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Jane Finnerty, left, laughs with her daughters, Ashley, middle, and Natalie, right, in the kitchen of their home in Beal City, Mich. September 24, 2016.
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Robert Finnerty, right, tries on his suit for his first high school Homecoming dance as his mother, Jane , helps him adjust his dress slacks in their home in Beal City, Mich. September 27, 2016.
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After helping his children with their homework Dale Finnerty, left, and his son Robert, middle, watch as Natalie,right, works out a math problem on the chalkboard in their home in Beal City, Mich. September 27, 2016.

Spending time with the Finnerty family was a heart warming experience. I expected to feel out of place and awkward intruding on a family’s quality time together but I was completely wrong. They were all so welcoming and sweet even though I was only there a few days and they barely knew me they accepted me genuinely. Just watching them interact with each other was like watching one of those cheesy family sitcoms, but in the best way. They were the most perfect family I’d ever met, their home was perfect and they were all so close and family oriented. I didn’t know families like that existed anymore. I cherish the moments I spent with them and feel so lucky to have met such an amazing and successful family, and I wish them another 75 years of continuous growth, love and happiness.

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Natalie Finnerty grooms her ponies Maggie and Mog in her backyard in Beal City, Mich. September 23, 2016.
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Natalie Finnerty, right, shoots a compound bow in her family’s calf barn as her cousin Nathan Finnerty, left, and friend Kenny Meyers, middle, look on awaiting their turn, Beal City, Mich., September 23, 2017.
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The Finnerty family plays the board game, Life on the Farm, in the living room of their home in Beal City, Mich. September 27, 2016.