rideTZ | day five

day five took us to camp 3 along the pangani river.  day five also was the start of almost everyone in camp getting sick -- fever, chills and diarrhea.  i think there were only three who didn't get the bug.  thankfully i was one of the three.  it blew my mind how diligent the riders were --  not a single person got into the truck when sick. one of the villages we stopped at for a break.

another village break point.

they were making chapatis out of this hut and served us a banana wrapped in a chapati -- so yummy!


flat tire repair, which happened many times each day.

gretchen and mike posing on a termite mound during our lunch break.

at this point, the cars had to separate from the riders. i was told that i could walk to the campsite faster than the cars could get there. since i had done so much sitting in the car over the prior four days, i was excited to walk for a bit.  little did i realize...the walk would be SIX long and hot miles.

this was after the first three miles, at which point i had a blister on my heel the size of a quarter.

ake crossing another not-so-steady bridge.

most others decided it would be best to walk across.

these two (brother and sister) walked with ake and i the last three miles.  they were walking home from school and still had farther to walk, after we arrived at our campsite.

and finally back at camp! kaitlin led a session of yoga, for anyone that wanted to join her.


ten days

yes, ten days until i depart for africa.  and most days lately, i seem to be a bundle of emotional mess -- excited, nervous, curious, anxious, thrilled. and then sometimes my head REALLY messes with me and worry overwhelms me. i begin to question... will i be able to accurately capture the awesomeness that i am about to view? will i capture all that these people deserve to be shared? am i going to forget something important? will my equipment be okay?

yes, i seem to play the best head games with myself. and i know this worry is just not healthy. i know some might think it's downright silly. i know some might want to shake me. i know that worrying does nothing for no one. i know that my energy and thoughts need to be redirected in a positive direction. I KNOW!

when these thoughts seem to be getting the best of me, i remind myself that i have been blessed with this gift and all i have to do is use it -- use it the way i do each and every day here at home. i remind myself that i'm about to embark on the most awesome, incredible, magical journey of a lifetime -- a dream come true.  i remind myself how very blessed i am. i remind myself that i can absolutely do this!  i remind myself that right now, i simply need to breathe, trust,  believe and enjoy my family.

they have entrusted me. i need to trust myself... trust the path. trust the process. and stop worrying.

i am beyond grateful for this opportunity. many days, i still can't believe it. i'm not sure i could ever fully express the amount of gratitude that i hold in my heart.

lastly, to all those who have donated, either monetarily here or items, for me to hand-deliver to the tanzanian children -- i cannot thank you enough. your kindness and generosity overwhelms me. deeply and truly, I THANK YOU!

p.s. thank you for reading...and understanding.

remembering max

most who read my blog already know about my journey with max and his family.  the mikulak family graced and touched my life more than i could ever express. i do my best to continue to photograph the mikulak family in san diego every year. and this year, our session took place a few weeks ago...

and when our session was done, there stood hannah just like this...

with the light beaming through max's urn and hannah. and it was in that moment that i was so perfectly and beautifully reminded that max was right there with us!!

i feel so very blessed to have the mikulak family as part of my life.

and don't ever forget to live life to the max!!

my very first photograph of max, captured december 2007.

the interconnectedness of it all

i got an email from max's dad today, sharing how interconnected things can sometimes be. both max and kirsten battled cancer in san diego. i photographed both max and kirsten multiple times throughout their battle.  max's doctor now works with Tgen (via the van andel research institute). and both families are incredible supporters of the cancer research taking place at Tgen.

it's such an honor for these families to be able to use these photos that i took of max and kirsten on websites, magazines, news publications, etc., in an effort to raise awareness and encourage others to give, with the hope that one day -- someday -- a cure WILL be found!

now, i can't wait to connect these two amazing families with one other.

max's dad also shared this video with me -- pat lacey talks about his son, will, a seven-year-old boy, who has been battling neuroblastoma since he was six months old.

i'm hoping that one of these days, i will be able to get to boston to photograph will and his family. we've been talking about it for years!

don't ever forget the power in giving!!

kirsten's legacy

kirsten sandstrom endured a 21-month battle with adrenocortical carcinoma [acc], a rare and aggressive cancer of the adrenal glands. kirsten was only 37 when she passed away on march 25th, 2010, leaving behind a husband and three young boys. kirsten was such a kind, caring, incredible woman, whose beauty radiated through and through -- no matter how much pain she was in. a few months ago, i was contacted by translational genomics research institute [tgen] about possibly using some photos of kirsten, in an upcoming issue of tgen today. i had already known that her family approved because they were the ones that referred tgen to me. and there was no question on my part. i immediately went through all of kirsten's images and shared every photo that i thought might possibly work for the article.  i knew tgen was happy with the photographs but i didn't know which image[s] they had selected for kirsten's article.

a few days ago, i received tgen today in the mail.

the article -- the power of one: pasquinelli-sandstrom family establishes kirsten's legacy to focus on ACC resarch -- is so beautifully written. they included bailey's (one of kirsten's three sons) school essay:

I asked in a cautious voice, 'What's wrong, Dad?' He told us to sit down with him and said, 'Mom is really sick, and the doctors say she has cancer.' My heart skipped a beat. I was still wondering if he said this right. Could that even be possible? When I looked around the room, everything was fuzzy and I could not see anything. It was then that I hear my innocent little brother, Jake, ask, 'What's cancer?' At that moment, I knew he would feel unimaginable pain far worse than Holden, [Bailey's twin] and I were currently feeling. I knew that we all wanted to hug our mom and never let go.

and the closing paragraph quotes kirsten's dad...

What we hope to do at TGen through Kirsten's Legacy is this: She doesn't have to be physically alive for her faith and courage to be contagious, to give others hope. By funding this research, her faith and courage lie on through the successes I know TGen will achieve. And in turn, those successes will give others with ACC a chance.

the entire article can be read here.

without a doubt, kirsten's faith and courage are contagious!!  i truly am so blessed to have met kirsten. and her entire family.

you can see more photos of kirsten and her family here on my is there a perfect time? post.

max's angels

the first time i photographed max and his siblings (april 2008), i saw this angel in the clouds, immediately after our session together.

yesterday, max's dad emailed me about how their family saw this angel in the clouds, while on a vacation in mammoth a couple weeks ago.  andy wrote about it all here.

chills.  serious chills.


i also wanted to share this post written yesterday by my friend, amy boring -- if i could turn back time.

i hope you'll take a few minutes to not only read a bit about max and all that his parents are currently doing to raise money for neuroblastoma research, but also amy's blog post.  i promise...it will be time well spent.