rideTZ | day one

to say that this 10-day, 400-mile adventure was amazing, incredible, absolutely awesome, life-changing...would be an understatement. i'm not even sure how to put it all into words but i'll do my best over the coming weeks. we departed from our hotel at 10 AM and headed straight to usa river academy, where many of the TFFT-sponsored children are attending school.  there, the riders were greeted, applauded and encouraged by the children and staff -- and of course, we were equally inspired by all of the children. and then the riders were off -- biking approximately 40 miles (every day).  my 8+ hour ride was in a landcruiser with my awesome driver, hamisi (and sometimes joined by the doc and ben, who had a bad shoulder injury).

i wasn't really sure what to expect this first day or how i was going to shoot the ride, but i kept reminding myself that i'm here for a reason and i just have to do my thing and -- and so i did.

day one culminated at maji moto, where there is one of the coolest hot springs i've ever seen, imagined or dreamt of.  definitely not a tough way to end the first day. the water was warm and crystal clear blue. there were cold beers, swimming, barry jumping into the water from way-too-high in the tree, lots of swinging from the tree swing, staying up till 2 AM, learning about taking showers in dribbling water and discovering that we had some killer snorers amongst the bunch. all-in-all -- an incredible first day.

one of the things i so loved throughout the entire ride was seeing and visiting the different villages.  some we stopped at; others we just drove through.  i will share various encounters as i blog the photos, as i feel there are so many thoughts and stories i want to share.  one thing that was huge in every village was gaining their trust.  there were plenty of times when the children ran, hid and even cried.  sometimes the men and women would simply tell me no photos.

the riders, all set to depart our hotel.

kaitlin (the one who asked me to photograph RIDETZ and whom i can never thank enough) and joyce, the beautiful young lady that kaitlin's parents sponsor.

mike is a pilot and brought wings for the kids. the children couldn't get their new wings put on their sweaters fast enough.

all the students lined the road of the school, cheering on the riders, as they officially departed usa river academy. each RIDETZ, one TFFT student is selected to do the ride. this year, 16-year-old, simon, was selected (pictured below). i can't wait to hear about all the stories he has to share.

there were two land cruisers -- one that i was in and then this one, which pulled a trailer of bikes and equipment.  there also was a large truck that carried everything else (tents, kitchen, bathrooms, showers, etc.) directly from campsite to campsite.

we passed by lots of corn fields, which often were sprinkled with beautiful sunflowers.

sometimes (although not often), we had to ask for directions.  this was one of those times.

our first village stop.

this woman really wanted me to take a photo of this little boy.

the kids loved getting silly bands.

so many people came to see what the bikers were all about, as they rode by.

in most of the villages we drove through, children herded the goats and cattle. it's pretty incredible what the children do here and how free they are.  it really has had me thinking about how we raise and (over) protect our children in the US.  more on this later, after i can put my thoughts together a bit better.

the roads were often shared with others.

fixing the RIDETZ sign on our vehicle.

our first lunch stop.

another village stop.


lots and lots of dirt and dust.  and yes, you should see my camera and computer equipment.

first night's camp site -- magi moto hot spring.

and last but not least, our fearless leader, ake (sounds like orca) -- of adventure international. ake and his entire staff were so kind, hard-working and truly, truly amazing. i can't wait till my next adventure with ake and his team. ;-)

ETA:  i'm still hoping to reach my $5000 fundraising goal for TFFT.  all money raised HERE goes directly to the foundation.  maybe -- just maybe -- i can do it before heading home on the 26th.  every bit helps and is so greatly appreciated.  thank you! thank you!

also,  if you have any questions as i post, please ask in a comment.  i will do my best to answer each and every question (although might take me a bit because internet is very spotty here and often too slow).



so thankful

being military and living wherever the military sends us, we rarely are surrounded by family during the thanksgiving holiday. i actually can't remember the last time i saw family at thanksgiving [probably in my 20s]. but we almost always have invitations from friends [often our military family] on thanksgiving day. this year was no different -- loving friends opening their hearts and homes to us, for thanksgiving dinner. BUT we declined those invitations because we thought we were going to spend the day at disney world.  UNTIL we learned that even thanksgiving day itself is one of the busiest days of the year at disney. so very last minute, we decided to do a simple thanksgiving late-lunch [turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, stuffing, strawberry jello salad and pumpkin pie] at home, followed by a movie [hugo to be exact]. we are so blessed and fortunate. and i am so thankful...

for every little bit i've been blessed with.

wishing you all a very happy thanksgiving -- surrounded by and doing whatever you love and choose to do on this day of celebration and gratitude.

thank YOU! xo

honoring those who served

as a former active duty air force nurse and now being married to a naval explosive ordnance disposal officer, i couldn't be more proud to celebrate veterans day and honor those who have served our nation in war...and peace.

do you know how and when veterans day was first declared?

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as "the Great War." Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning the following year, November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938. In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars. [history.com]


the other day, i drove around the corner, to look at the monster house they're building right behind my house.  a couple doors down, i noticed a large sign with an american flag and a marine corp flag on each corner of the sign.  i said to my mother-in-law,

that's interesting. i've never seen flags of support like that on a home depot work sign before.

and then we got closer and i read the sign...

Tampa Bay Community Supporting

Cpl Michael Nicholson USMC

Giving our best for the best our Nation has to give!

Send Donations to: Michael Nicholson Road to Recovery c/o Alley, Clark and Greivwe, PA PO Box 3127 Tampa, FL 33601

as soon as i got back home, i began to investigate and learned that on july 6th, cpl nicholson [22-years-old] was on foot patrol in afghanistan and was attacked by a hidden improvised explosive device [IED], tragically losing both his legs and one of his arms.  i continued to his michael nicholson fund facebook page and found this article about the endless search for IEDs in afghanistan.  i also learned that the young man in the 11th photo down, cpl justin crabbe, who is from the same unit, also lost both of his legs due to an IED explosion in afghanistan.

on october 13th, corporal nicholson walked for the first time since july...

corporal nicholson is an american hero. a wounded warrior. a brave, young man, who has sacrificed beyond words. i can't imagine his pain. his suffering. i honor him -- his determination, strength, dedication...his courage.  corporal nicholson is a true inspiration for us all.

if you would like to donate to corporal nicholson's road to recovery fund, here is the info:

The “Michael Nicholson Road to Recovery Fund” is set up and administered by Alley, Clark and Greiwe, PA in Tampa. 100% of the donations will go toward Nicholson's care, specifically on items not covered by the Veterans Administration. The fund is set up at the Bank of Tampa. Donations can be sent c/o Alley, Clark and Greiwe, PA P.O. Box 3127 Tampa FL 33601. Please only donate directly to them or Bank of Tampa and please make sure checks are made out to "Michael Nicholson Road to Recovery Fund"


being a military spouse, i loved reading this article -- 10 things you may not know about military wives, recently shared on facebook by one of my best friends, gwenn, who i was a nurse with at davis-monthan AFB.


lastly, i share photos of some of the veterans [and their families] that i have photographed over the past few years...

i thank you. i celebrate you. i honor you. today... and every day. so grateful to be part of the military family. HAPPY VETERANS DAY!

it's a cat-and-mouse game

that's how i feel right now. i guess that's kind of how i've been feeling for quite a while, when it comes to catching up -- my house is never clean these days, more to edit, workshop to keep up with, orders to complete, and the list goes on and on. and while this might seem like i'm complaining, i'm so NOT!! i'm grateful to have all these things in my life. the cat-and-mouse game is just part of my norm.  and i try and keep a detailed to-do list to manage this norm.

speaking of the workshop (via the bloom forum), it's going amazing. i'm loving every single minute of it. and feel it's exactly where i'm meant to be right now -- sharing and teaching.  leah and i have also begun discussing our 2012 wallflower retreat dates and location.  and we'll be talking much more at the NAPCP retreat, where we are so thrilled to be speaking, next month.  lots of excited things ahead!!

i am driving to charleston, south carolina today, for a mini vacation. the littles and i are meeting a friend there, with her little girl. we're staying right on the beach. i so can't wait to just hang out and chill for a few days.  i anticipate lots of fun, laughter, inspiration and great conversations, along with some shooting.  :-))  but yes, we will have to do some work, while there too.

lastly, kiele is at a deaf / hard-of-hearing camp (such an incredible opportunity) this week, next week she visits a friend and then she goes with her dad for six weeks. so we won't be back to the horse farm until august. the barn cat will be there when we get back, but these kittens won't. my kids love these kittens so much.  they will really be missed when we return.

it's awesome though, to see the week-to-week changes at the barn (beyond the kittens growing up).  this past week... baby mice were born (still pink and only twitching) the geese eggs still haven't hatched (i would have attempted a photo but one goose was loose and very protective of his eggs; he chased me when i got remotely close). the baby ducks are now big ducks. we also seem to find a dead animal almost every time we're there; this time it was a bunny.  but my kids have learned that when you have that many animals on a farm, it's part of the circle-of-life.

we love the farm!!

the baby mice...

and a 14-year-old dog for good measure, from my most recent family session...



...came and wentway too fast. although i'm thinking the summer a busy one might fly by that much faster. and as i think hope pray believe for a couple treasured friends currently battling cancer i'm ever-so-grateful for every single minute of may and every day!!

a bit of our everyday may...

and because i was traveling on memorial day, let us never forget those military members and their families, who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

being grateful

i love this womani am grateful for this woman and all she shares with us she reminds me what it means to be good and grateful and not-so-serious in this crazy, mixed up world of ours

while in kansas, i started a grateful 365 project. to be completely honest, something went off course and i never finished. and then we moved. and then i was sent really off course. but seeing hailey's video has me longing to start another one. although i'm taking the daily pressure off and simply calling it my 'grateful project'. can't wait to see what comes of it.

how can anyone ever go wrong with a project that reminds them of all they have to be grateful for...each and every day.

hope you enjoy the video...

please don't forget to check out their 365 grateful site -- 365grateful.com

last but not least, here's a few photos from my 2010 (iphone) grateful project...

photography journey

i was just going through my website, checking how everything looked and flowed, after making some recent changes and updates. and as i went through my portfolio images, tears filled my eyes. i just feel so blessed to have met all the people i've met, while on this photography journey. the clients, who have trusted me to photograph their families and/or their children -- some of them, over and over again.  many of my friends, who i so cherish and would most likely have never met if i hadn't pursued photography. and to be a military family, which has given me so many opportunities to meet new people and explore new areas. i really hope that my photography journey has only just begun...but no matter what, i am grateful for all that i have experienced, which has truly filled my heart and soul. and to think, i may never have started down this photography path without going through those three months of hell in 2005, living in the rat, maggot and fly infested house, in san diego. some things are just meant to happen...even though we may not realize the gift they will one day bring us, at the time.

from san diego, where i first started learning photography, to kansas, which i never imagined i would enjoy as much as i did, to tampa, where i hope, dream and wish my journey to continue and paths to expand.

a life of hope

...there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.- elizabeth edwards

such incredible words from an amazing, courageous woman.  let us all find the strength to live a life of hope and have a positive impact in this world.  life is truly the most precious gift!


with a mutual love and obsession for horses (amongst other things), kiele and haeley quickly became best friends, shortly after our arrival here in kansas.  and through their friendship, we met the rest of the deeney clan, who we just adored from the moment we met them.  and today, the deeney family departs -- well, the parents will actually be back for a week to pack out, but the kids are headed to their grandparents, after after they attend a family wedding in tennessee. watching kiele and haeley say good-bye last night...well, lets just say it was painful. sad, sad, sad! after haeley left, i couldn't get kiele out of her bedroom.  i couldn't sleep, trying to think of ways to keep haeley and payton (the kids) here a bit longer.  but as i share with my kids, i reminded myself -- we have to be thankful for the opportunity to have met these new friends.  and look forward to seeing them again one day (which we will!!).  if we didn't come to this army post here in kansas, for this one quick year, we would have never have met this awesome air force family.

over the years, from state to state, we have made some of the most amazing friends ever!!  and while leaving them is always hard, we are truly blessed to have met and shared time with them -- and that's what we have to remember and hold in our hearts.

to show my thanks to the deeney family, for their friendship and all they've done for us this past year, i did a photo session with them the other day....

we will truly miss you heather, jay, haeley and payton.  thank you for a fabulous year!!

note:  kiele and haeley have already made plans to spend a few weeks together next summer, on the deeney farm and as far as i'm concerned, i'll do everything in my power to make that happen, if they want that.

be yourself

wanted to wish all the moms out there a belated happy mother's day! i wasn't feeling well on mother's day, so i've been playing a little catch-up with things, including this post.  better late than never, right?! sharing this most awesome painting of me, which i received from kiele, for mother's day. i love how she incorporated the beads in my dreads, the special necklace the kids made me for my birthday and a be yourself t-shirt because she thought i would like that.  i more than like it, i love it!! and it will soon be framed as one of my most precious pieces of art, on a wall in my home. :-)

and this photo, taken on mother's day, of the little ones goofing around in my bed.

family photos

this past weekend, we had the awesome opportunity to have our family's photos taken by untamed heart photography at the city museum in st louis.  and oh...my heart is so darn happy, i can barely stand it.  i cannot even begin to express how much i appreciate this gift michelle has given us. friday afternoon, we drove to st louis, to visit michelle and her family.  ryder lost his tooth on the drive and we hoped that the tooth fairy would be able to find us.  she did.  :-) our families had such a great time -- sharing, laughing, playing together!!  saturday afternoon was the photo session.  and on sunday, we visited grant's farm and then ventured home.

i truly and deeply treasure each and every image michelle has shared with me.  needless to say, she's wicked talented. here's a few that she has emailed over the past couple days...

thank you michelle, for the magical photos.  for opening your home and your hearts to our family.  for the special memories that will forever be a part of us.  thank you...for everything!!!


and in case you were wondering, this is what the four-hour drive home had in store...

p.s. if you're a photographer, please don't forget to take the time to have your own (family's) photos taken!

getting my shit together

in my efforts to begin organizing myself for the year ahead and yes, getting my shit together, i just wanted to share a bunch of...stuff.

first, i want to share a bit about facebook (FB)--an online community full of networking opportunities and a wealth of information.  if  you've never been there, i highly recommend it.  it's amazing the help i've received from folks on FB...and the friends i've found or who have found me.  here's my personal page and business page.

since not everyone, who reads my blog, is on FB, i decided to share a few things here that i recently discovered and|or shared on FB just today.


i'm finally feeling better today (after suffering from a terrible stomach flu on new year's day.  what a way to bring in the new year, huh?!).  i was actually recovered from the puking yesterday, but the dehydration was still hugely kicking my ass.  so now that i'm better, it's about getting organized.  and that begins with grocery shopping, since i have nothing in the house.  not having a clue what i wanted to cook for the week, i posted on FB, inquiring if anyone had any great recipes they could share.  and i learned about these great recipe sharing sites:

smitten kitchen orangette allrecipes (actually an old fav)

i've printed out some super yummy recipes and will head to the grocery store in a bit (after the construction guys are done working on the walls in our 5th bedroom). my plan is to buy a clipboard and put it on the kitchen wall with the week's recipes clipped. kind of like this (love her series of inspirational clipboards).


our KS house is already rented and we're looking at real estate in tampa. this whole thing is rather surreal. we've been here six months and are moving in six months. oh. my. gosh!!

steve is dreaming of building in tampa, although i'm not sure it's going to be possible in the area we want to live.  our location options are based on the communities middle and high school (kiele's school is our priority).  and for the moment, we're house hunting in the 33629 zip code of tampa (palma ceia area).

but, if we magically happened upon cheap land, here's a couple homes that steve and i would love to build.  maybe after our sailing adventures. sure can't hurt to dream! the spirit of palo alto the Xhouse 2


i'm planning my spring trip back to san diego for client shoots, sometime in april or early may (leaning towards late april). if anyone is interested in a client shoot during that timeframe, please email me. i also plan to do client shoots in san diego and NY in the fall. it's so exciting to have clients across the nation. i guess that's one of the perks of being a military-family photographer. needless to say, i'm blessed and grateful.


speaking of grateful. my plans were to start my grateful | 365 project on jan 1st; however, my stomach flu trumped that idea. and so i begin today.  you might remember me blogging about hailey's inspirational 365 grateful project in the past.  my plan is to do simple iphone photos for this project and will print them (probably in a 5x5 book) at the end.

today (01 | 365), i am grateful that my kids play so awesome together. sometimes it amazes me. don't get me wrong, they do have their fair share of typical sibling bickering, but most of the time, they play like this. and it melts my heart.