Once upon a time, I was married. Twice in fact, but this post is about the last time, not the first time I was married. This second marriage is how I came to have the last name of Roosmalen. I’m not married anymore, so why do I still have this last name? Having changed my last name from Sowinski to Kleifgen and then back to Sowinski after my first marriage ended, and then to Roosmalen after the second marriage, I was not eager to go through the name change process yet again after the second divorce. During my second marriage, I had also done a lot of work to make a name for myself in the community and develop connections with people throughout the country and other parts of the world. Part of me was worried I’d lose some of my social capital by changing my name. I figured it was just a name. What did it really matter? As years went by, I slowly began to regret my decision.
The relationship with my ex-husband ended in the most absurd act when he chose Valentine’s day as the day to confess he never loved me and that he wanted a divorce. As if that were not enough, I also learned he was having an affair with a woman in his accounting class. They had even spent time in our home while I was away on the east coast for a work trip. Our entire relationship was a lie. Every day for five years he told me he loved me. Every. Single. Day. These were not small “I love you’s”, they were arms stretched as wide as they could reach to convey how much he loved me “I love you’s”. And every bit of it was a lie and I had no idea. If a person I trusted and loved could hide the truth like this from me, how in the world would I ever trust another person again? This is something that plagued my life (and relationships) for years. At one point after the divorce, I even contemplated suicide. It was not a good time to be me.
Fast forward nine years later to today and I’m living my dream of living in and photographing Oregon and it’s pretty darn amazing. When it comes to my photography, I’ve received awards, had work accepted into juried shows and included in art auctions, have been published in books, and have even given public presentations. I’ve truly begun to make a name for myself in the photographic community. But wait. It’s not my name at all. It’s HIS name. I decided 2018 would be the year I would officially put that all behind me and reclaim my identity. After a simple online search, I discovered it was quite easy for one to change their last name in Oregon. All I needed to do was simply fill out a form, pay a fee with the cashier at the courthouse, and wait for the paperwork to come in the mail. All I needed to do to get the ball rolling was choose my new last name. My first thought was to go back to my maiden name but something about that didn’t quite feel right. So if I didn’t want to go back to my maiden name, and I could choose any name I wanted, what name should I choose?
As I’ve been working on my photography these past few years, I have given a lot of thought to my art, my brand, and my life. What does it all stand for? What do I want my legacy to be? What name would encapsulate the essence of all the answers to those questions? It didn’t take long for a name to come to mind: Cole. My pug, Cole, came into my life shortly after my marriage ended and I took a new job managing an animal shelter. Cole was surrendered by a woman who recently went through her own divorce and found she didn’t have the time for him that he needed. I instantly fell in love with him while filling out his surrender paperwork and quickly proclaimed to the other staff members that I would be adopting him. Although that job ended up being a bit of a disaster, I’m fairly certain it was destined to be so he and I could meet. We were both abandoned by those who were supposed to love us most. We shared a deep scar that no one else could see but us.
I often refer to Cole as the best thing that ever happened to me. He has remained steadfast in all of my adventures. He rides shotgun on every road trip and snuggles into my sleeping bag at night on each camping trip. Every great photo I capture and share, it is he who is by my side, just out of the frame. He’s watched each time as I packed up our belongings and moved us either across the country or just across the city. He sleeps by my side every night and snuggles with me every morning, it’s truly a miracle I ever get out of bed and to work. I rarely feel lonely because he’s always curiously watching me every step of the way and interjecting his own antics along the way that make me laugh. He brings great joy not just to my life but to everyone we meet along the way. Ask anyone who has ever met him and they can attest to what a special little soul he is.
Cole is a kind, adventurous, loving, and beautiful little being that is thoroughly infused into every trip to the coast and hike into the mountains of my Pacific Northwest adventures. He is just as much a part of the creative process as I am. He represents everything I want my life to stand for. What better way to honor the importance he has in my life and to create a legacy through my art that will live long after his time here is complete? Cue the birth of Kristin Cole and Kristin Cole Photography. As I begin to change my name on social media, I hope you’ll remember my journey to this name and what it stands for when you see it. Cole and I still have many more adventures to look forward to, I hope you’ll continue to follow along on our journey.