Mother’s Day Makeover

Mother’s Day Makeover

By Liz Reph
Photos By Sabotta Imagery Photography

In October of 2012, 32-year-old Alison Conklin awoke to a terrifying sight – absolutely nothing.  “I woke up and I couldn’t see. When I was challenged to view the large ‘E’ on the optometrist chart, all I could make out was a very faint vertical line. I had never been so scared in my life.”

Her husband, Geoff, immediately rushed her to the emergency room at Lehigh Valley Hospital where doctors performed a CAT scan that revealed devastating news – Alison had a half-dollar sized brain tumor sitting on her optic nerve. “It was complete shock followed by uncontrollable sobbing,” recalled the professional photographer. “Specialist after specialist came into my room, and then finally the surgeon came in to explain the gravity of the situation. She said I needed to have surgery right then – or else.”

While nurses rushed Alison through the hallways towards the operating room, Geoff stayed by her side. As tears streamed down their faces, Alison’s thoughts went to her two young sons, 9-year-old Jonas and 8-year-old Moses, who were both still in school, completely unaware of the situation that was unfolding. “I was trying to remember the last time I saw them and what I had said. I kept thinking, if something were to go wrong, what would their last memory of me be?”

Nearly six hours later, Alison slowly regained consciousness in the neuro intensive care unit.  Thankfully, the doctors were able to remove the entire mass through Alison’s nose. “I was incredibly lucky,” Alison explained. “Had the tumor been positioned slightly differently, they would have had to perform a craniotomy.” Her ordeal, however, was still far from over. Even though doctors determined the tumor was benign and would not grow back, it was impossible to judge whether or not Alison would fully regain her vision. This took several more excruciating days of waiting, healing and hoping. “Since I couldn’t get out of bed, I used a clock on the wall across from me as a gauge. I would close one eye, then the other.  By the third day I knew I could see. I was so incredibly thankful, because the doctors had never promised that to me.”

In the months following her surgery, Alison and Geoff returned to their normal life – falling back into the comfortable routine of shuttling kids to little league games, cooking family dinners, and working together as partners in their photography business. But despite resuming their old activities, Alison knew their lives would never be the same. In her first blog post after the operation, Alison wrote, “I feel like I have a second chance… I will be able to see my children grow up, and watch them in their cap and gown one day as they graduate from school. I never thought I took things like this for granted, but now, more than ever, I am reminded how lucky I am.”

In early 2013, Geoff stumbled across an online competition for a Mother’s Day Makeover sponsored by CertaPro Painters and Roger Hazard, an interior home designer/stager made famous by his role in A&E’s Sell This House. Geoff immediately knew he had to nominate Alison.  “Telling you how amazing Alison is is easy, yet hard, to fit into one email,” Geoff wrote, before going on to explain the trauma his wife had recently endured.

Before and After

After reading Geoff’s letter, Kathi Mello, Director of Brand and Marketing Communications for CertaPro Painters, and Roger were equally moved. “You could tell this was a very happy, loving family with a really positive attitude despite the hardships of the past,” said Roger.

And so, unknown to Alison, over four days in May 2013, while she and Geoff were in Cancun, Mexico, photographing a wedding, CertaPro Painters of the Lehigh Valley, Kathi Mello, Roger Hazard and Chris Stout took over the Conklin’s home and transformed their kitchen, living room, office nook and entranceway. “We call it ‘stage and stay,’” explained Roger. “Because you’re not remodeling with the goal of improving future sales value – you’re remodeling to personalize the home to fit the owners.”

To this end, Roger and Chris created a new color palette by looking at Alison’s favorite photos and household items. “Alison loved the backsplash in the kitchen, but it was one of the only places in the house that had color. Now, it’s one of three primary colors in the house,” said Roger.

In the kitchen, Roger and Chris created a gallery clock wall using several large ornamental clocks that Alison already owned. They also recovered the kitchen stools and added throw rugs to give the space a more comfortable feel. “Since the goal is to keep it really personal, we show people how to use elements and items they already have,” said Chris.

In the living room, the large fireplace was painted a dark charcoal, meant to draw the eye to the height of the room, while the layout was rearranged to create a better flow. Using framed photos of the entire family – including the Conklin’s two dogs, Chloe and Molly – Roger and Chris also created a large photo gallery on the wall opposite the television.

“I love everything they did!” said Alison. “It’s so beautiful and makes our house feel like a real home. I’m just so grateful…  It’s one of those moments that you never believe would happen.”

Alison’s remodel will be released as the pilot episode of the new web series Roger That!. To watch the full episode, please visit

To visit Alison’s website and blog, please go to

CertaPro Painters USA has 350 franchises across the USA and Canada. CertaPro Painters of the Lehigh Valley is owned and operated by Joe and Lisa Costa (

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