...has been keeping me really, really busy this past week.  more than usual.  much more. after being out of a house for over two months, we finally moved into our 1920s mini-castle this past friday, which i've come to now call our money pit. we unloaded the truck and began unpacking and assembling as fast as humanly possible, as steve left for afghanistan on sunday (for three weeks).  forty-eight hours isn't a whole lot of time to move and settle into a house but we steve worked until the very last second.  and well...i'm still working.

with this job here in tampa, steve will be doing lots of little trips to the middle east versus any long (6-plus month) deployment. there's no way to fully describe the emotions that occur during a deployment, but today, i received this video from a fellow photographer (thanks amelilia) and i couldn't think of a more perfect way to describe the emotions of a homecoming. and while i don't have sound for my computer yet (still not unpacked), i don't feel it's really needed -- i have a lump in my throat and tears rolling down my cheeks.

so yes, things here are a bit crazy -- with three kids, unpacking, organizing and wallflower friends workshop stuff...and no husband to help, for three weeks.  but i'm doing my best and trying to get it all done. i'm a bit drained but so very grateful to be home. i'm definitely not complaining!!

it's still all a bit surreal that i'm living in tampa, florida.

also, PLEASE don't forget...tomorrow is the MAX RUN.  they're 90% to their $2000 goal.  let's help them get that last 10%.  even if you're not running, please give -- $5, $10, anything.  every little bit will help.  my friend, heather (whose husband is deployed for seven months and left when their youngest was a month old), and i will be running our one mile (with our kids), here in tampa.

please join us... do it for you. do it for max (who i know will be running with us in Heaven). do it for those currently battling cancer, who are too ill to run with us.

this is a photo of max running on the playground, at school. you could see his pain, as he ran. but that never stopped him! what's stopping you?

this month national childhood cancer awareness month. no parent should ever hear the words "your child has cancer". no family should ever have their lives turned upside down because of cancer. no child should suffer from cancer. no parent should ever lose their child to cancer. no parent should ever be left with a shattered heart and empty arms.

please join me in spreading the word and raising awareness of childhood cancer.

what can YOU do? read. learn. share (blog, facebook, twitter). donate. recognize. be aware and... help bring childhood cancer and it's research to the forefront. above adapted from momma's pixie dreams blog post.

remember this post?

you can do something as simple as spreading the word to others to run on september 11th and donate.  just imagine, if this spread to 5,000 people and each person donated only $5.  together, we would raise $25,000.  you can donate via my blog post or via max's dad's blog post. please donate...they have $780 left to reach their goal of $2000.  and i hope you'll be joining me for a one-mile run on september 11th, no matter where  you are.  if for any reason, you're unsure, just take one minute to read this, or this or this.

please help spread the word!

in closing, i want to share and remember these two amazing boys, who lost their battle against the terrible beast -- neuroblastoma.  remembering sam and max and their amazing families.  love you guys!!

let's do this together

i was reading max's blog today and came across this post and especially loved this part, written by max's dad:

I'm not bitter when people decline to participate because they aren't available, can't afford to, or even just don't believe in the cause. Long ago I chose not to take it personally when someone declines to contribute, participate, or otherwise engage with our cause - life's too short to worry about that kind of stuff (and there's so many people who DO want to help if only you ask and show them how, so that's time better spent anyway!).

But what gets me are the excuses. "Oh sure, I care Andy, just make it easy for me to care, and I'll show up."

As Melissa and I have started giving more and more of our time to fighting neuroblastoma and other causes, a constant theme has emerged for me, and that is when giving is easy, you get less out of it. Giving in a manner that challenges the giver, also helps the giver; it helps them appreciate the sacrifice of their giving more. It makes the giving mean more to the giver. Altruism is a funny concept (quick refresher: altruism being an act that benefits someone else other than the actor). Altruism doesn't align well with biology and evolution.And while I know that evolution exists, I also believe in God. Perhaps that's where love enters the equation. Maybe God's love makes it possible to see past our own selfish interests and limits. To extend ourselves past our comfort zone. Take risks on behalf of someone else, but get something unattainable otherwise in return.

and of course, i noticed the MAX RUN, which is taking place in san diego on september 11th, to raise money for pediatric cancer.  my initial thought was,

oh how i wish i could be there to participate in the run.

but why can't i run? and participate?  why can't i encourage people to sponsor me (donate) and just run here?  and why can't i encourage others to do the same?

so  you think you can dance did it with their july 31st national dance day, where people all across the world danced together on the same day.  okay, so maybe running isn't exactly as fun as dancing but...let's try it.  let's try to run one mile on september 11th -- together -- no matter where you are.  and let's, together, spread the word and encourage others to donate to fight pediatric cancer.  and while your donation can't help max or sam,  it could possibly help children like will or talia, who are both currently battling neuroblastoma.


on septemeber 11th, at 9:30 AM, i am going to run one mile.  can you please sponsor my run -- simply click on the Chip In button below to donate to fight pediatric cancer ...

p.s. steve is going to be in iraq at the time, so the kids and i will be doing this one mile together.  i hope you'll join me.  think about it!!

ETA:  i'm so excited that i've already had a number of people share that they will be running the MAX RUN with me on september 11th -- from all over the country.  but my real hope is that along with the physical support and encourgement,  i can help gather financial donations for max's ring of fire.  if you're running or simply want to support in any way, please donate...any amount will help.

and please spread the word!  if everyone shares with a few friends, who also support and donate, we could together make a huge impact!!

sharing my favorite image of max and a tree at his school on the day of the celebration of his life.  do you see the angel?  i do. © deb schwedhelm | tampa children's photographer

a gift from an angel

do you remember her?  my great friend and an amazing photographer, terrie kellmeyer.  while on vacation the past few days, terrie emailed me how her profoundly hearing impaired baby, poppy, just received a gift from an angel (literally!!) -- sam's loaner hearing aids.  poppy (like her brother and my daughter) will be implanted with a cochlear implant in the the next year and until then, she will wear hearing aids, in case there is any chance of her having access to sound between now and then.  here is what terrie shared --

i took poppy to her audiology appointment yesterday to be fitted for her hearing aids.   after talking with joan and laurie and also the audiologist at children's hospital that did poppy's BAER test, i wasn't too optimistic that she would get any benefit from the aids, as her hearing loss is so profound.  but, my friend that has a son that also has a profound loss was over at the beginning of the week and she said that her son had a huge benefit from the aids, and was able to distinguish some words by the time he was 12 months and received his implants.
joan and laurie had arranged for a pair of loaner aids for me, but now that i was more hopeful that there might be a benefit, i asked joan if they were good quality aids, because i wanted poppy to have every chance to hear as much as possible while we're waiting for her implants.  she looked at me and said "these are VERY good aids" with a funny look on her face and i actually felt silly about even having asked the question...
she was fitted with the aids, and as i was getting ready to leave, joan looks at me and says "these were donated by sam's family........"  both our eyes instantly filled with uncontrollable tears and i was completely and totally overcome with emotion.  there was another family in the room waiting for their appointment who had no idea what was going on other than joan and i were crying over a pair of hearing aids...
i can't tell you how much the aids mean to me and to poppy.  her presence in our lives continues to bring blessings to our family, and now i have a renewed sense of peace that a little piece of sam will live on through her and that she now has her own little angel up in heaven watching over her.....
laurie gave me some covers for the implants that are a little more "girly" than the black and white strips, but i won't have her wear them- she will wear her black and white aids proudly in honor of sam.
i took some photos to share with sam's family.
thank you deb for introducing me to sam through your blog and for all the blessings that have come my way simply through your friendship and your beautiful soul that loves to give to others.
lots of love to you!

here is sam, wearing his new hearing aids (in sep 09).  i saw margot and sam at the audiologist's office, the day sam was fitted with his new hearing aids and i  remember (like it was yesterday) margot sharing with me how excited sam was to have his new hearing aids with zebra covers.

and sam and one of his brothers, in nov 09...our last photo shoot together.

thank you sam for the gifts you continue to share with us -- each and every day.  we miss you but know that you are watching over us from Heaven!

and here are a few photos that terrie took of poppy, wearing sam's gift to her.

love you neil and margot.  and think of you and the boys daily!!  thank you for coming into my life.  xo!!

is there a perfect time?

a friend posed this question today on her facebook wall:  what is holding  you back from booking a family photo session? quite a few women (moms) quickly commented that their weight is holding them back, which made me really sad. and a few posted money, which i understand but i also believe that there's enough photographers out there to cover everybody's budget.

this all led me to thinking about the perfect time.

is there ever a perfect time to have photographs taken of your family?

i posted on our wallflower friends blog today about an awesome article i read, which had the overall theme of taking the time to slow down and appreciate life and the everyday beauty that surrounds us.  in a swirly kind of way, i feel what i shared there and what i'm sharing here is totally intertwined.

it's so easy to say -- i'm too fat. i have too much going on. we're too busy. maybe next year.

but i just want to say STOP IT! we need to take the time to appreciate the value of family photos, if not for ourselves (because we're too fat or whatever), then for our children.  in 20 years, your children are not going to say,

i really love this photo of my family but i wish my mom had waited until she lost some weight.

and i think about steve's mom, who died when she was 40, only months after being diagnosed with breast cancer. steve was five at the time she passed away. he cherishes every single photo of his mom (not just the ones where she was thin, beautiful and looked perfect).

and kirsten sandstrom, who recently passed away at the age of 37, leaving behind a husband and three young boys. i don't think for one second that those boys will look at photographs of their mom (who pre-cancer probably wished she could have lost some weight) and see her as anything except the most amazing and beautiful mom there ever was.

we never know what tomorrow will bring our way.  and life is quickly racing by; before we know it, our kids will be grown and leaving the house.


i hope that this will inspire someone, who might be waiting for that perfect time or to lose a couple of pounds, to book a!

and let us all try to slow down, remember what's important and see and hear the everyday beauty that surrounds us. © deb schwedhelm | tampa family photographer

do what you love...

and do it passionately.  that's what i think about when i watch edward sharpe and the magnetic zeros. i mean seriously...are they passionate about what they do or what?!  super love them.  i can only imagine how awesome they are live.  i now have them loaded in pandora. curious to see what pandora produces because i don't think there's anyone quite like them!!

also, this NY times article came across facebook today. i had read the salwen's story a while back.   so inspiring.  they've now written a book about their experience and  have a power of half blog here, which i plan on checking out later today.

i've been thinking a lot lately (more than usual) about what i'm meant to do in this world. i feel, deep in my soul, that i'm meant to do something greater. sometimes this thought really weighs on me...that i'm not doing enough. that there's something else waiting for me. for my family. do you ever feel like that? i know that someday i'll figure it out. maybe the time isn't quite right right now. i guess that's the deal that i make with myself. to alleviate the ache a bit.

i will figure it out. i will. and until then, i will live with the ache.

ETA: ended up buying edward sharpe and & the magnetic zeros in itunes. pandora didn't do them justice. they are a-ma-zing!!

hope for haiti

it's hard to believe what haiti is going through.  the devastation. the pain. the struggle to recover. and then move forward. the struggle to simply survive amongst the devastation...the suffering...the dead bodies. i watched a video of a doctor running to treat a 15-day-old baby, with head trauma.  when he found them, he learned that the mother was dead. the father passed the baby over to the doctor.  it was a head laceration. no skull fracture. the MD put a bandage on the baby's head and passed the baby back to the father.

she is going to be okay. she's going to be okay, he said.

as i watched, tears fell. is she going to be okay? would the father be able to meet the baby's basic needs? their house is now a pile of rubble, with the mother buried beneath. i can only hope.

i can't stop thinking about the people of haiti. i see their faces over and over again. the pain, the sadness--you see the devastation in their eyes.

please donate. something. anything. and offer your thoughts and prayers.  at a time like this, you just have to believe in the collective power.  you just have to.

wishing with all the hope i have to hope that haiti finds some peace, comfort and relief from this devastation...soon.

appreciating life

i've been thinking about living a lot lately--my gratefulness for simply being alive. it seems that i've been hearing about a lot of tragedies lately--people i know, friends of people i know. freak accidents. precious lives lost. and of course, the recent devastation in haiti.

then while blog surfing this morning, i came across lindsay baumgartner's video on me ra koh's blog.  it's one of the winning videos for me ra koh's incredible  SOAR competition.  i hadn't watched any of the other winning videos but for some reason, today, without reading what it was about, i decided to watch this one.

lindsay's video is amazing and had me in tears.  her story reminded me yet again to be grateful for each and every day because life is something that absolutely cannot be taken for granted.  cherish it all--every day, every moment.

also...please don't forget to donate to haiti earthquake response and relief, if you can.  every bit will help.  it's as simple as texting 'haiti' to 90999, to send a $10 donation to the american red cross.

or you could donate here and support doctors without borders in haiti.  i decided to donate to both.

every day

not sure if i ever shared this video.  with tears streaming down my face, i viewed it again today, after visiting the mikulak's blog, which i check regularly.  i think about max and his family each and every day, as they have touched my life in a way that is beyond words!  thank you max and the entire mikulak family for making my life fuller, making me a better person and teaching me how very important it is to live and cherish each and every day to the fullest!!

in sharing this, i encourage you and challenge  you to give  in any way you can this year and every year.  it will touch you in ways that are truly indescribable. if you'd like to help in pediatric cancer fundraising and advocacy, max's ring of fire charity foundation can be found here.

this video is 18 minutes long and amazing. max was such an incredible little boy, whose life was so sadly stolen by neuroblastoma at the age of seven.

(too short) Life | Max Mikulak | Max's Ring of Fire from Andy Mikulak on Vimeo.

if you don't have 18 minutes right now, there's also this video. about four minutes long.

Inspiration | Max Mikulak | Max's Ring of Fire from Andy Mikulak on Vimeo.

eta: looking for other ways to give with your photography skills? check out the give ten project for ideas (there's links of how to give on the right side).

wishing you...

wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and really fabulous 2010!

the above image was the front of our christmas card, with our family's photo on the back.  and this year is officially the last year that i am mailing paper christmas cards.  next year, i plan to email and post on my blog only!  all the money that i would have spent on printing the cards, paper for our family's christmas newsletter and stamps will go to charity (having sent over 150 cards this year, that will be a pretty good amount of money to charity).

i also decided that every year, i'm going to include our christmas card and newsletter in our family's annual book.  i'm not sure why it took till the fourth book for me to think about this, but better late than never.

now off to clean the house and begin making the kids' forts.  this morning they asked me when i'm going to start and shared that it was the one gift that they really, really want. can i say no to that. this is my inspiration, from the movie the holiday (such a cute movie).  tried to find the video clip to share, but all i could find was this screen capture i did from the you tube clip, a while back.

next year

along with everything posted here, next year i'm going to be a salvation army bell ringer.  for sure!  i'm hoping that i can convince my kids to do it with me.  surely, kiele will want to take part, as the girl has a heart of gold. i absolutely love everything (yes, everything!) color me katie does, including this handbells improv.  the only thing i that the surprise bell ringers stayed the entire time, with that guy.  or that they floated from bell ringer to bell ringer.  although, who knows...maybe they did.

love this.  makes my heart happy.  and since i'm an emotional mess these days (must be PMSing), it makes me teary.  happy, joy of giving, kind of tears.  of course.

sweet changes

this is such a sweet electronic christmas card | gift. i discovered them through a blog i follow. i guess this couple has a no-christmas-gift agreement this year and instead, they are supporting a child in uganda. as i spent too much money and bought too many things for the kids this christmas, i've already begun thinking about some serious changes that i hope to make next christmas. one of the changes i'm very seriously contemplating is no gift giving! i haven't talked to steve about it yet, but i know he'd totally support it.  instead, i'd like to donate money to a couple charities, in the name of each person we would normally buy a present for. of course, the kids will still get some gifts from santa but i think we will even talk to santa about our family's wish to donate to charities...maybe we'll request just one or two really special gifts.

and as we purchased and addressed over 120 christmas cards this year, i thought about going electronic next year. not because i'm lazy. but because i'd rather have the money go to charity and save a couple trees at the same time.  when you think about how much the cards, labels, paper and stamps cost...that's a pretty good chunk of change going to charity.

lastly, i've now added sufjan stevens in my pandora (thanks to the christmas video below). digging his music!

Shaped, Coloured (Happy Christmas) from VsTheBrain on Vimeo.

their miracle

could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?- henry david thoreau

i met marcina through max's family last year. and from the moment i met her, i knew there was something special. there was just this beauty and essence about her. you could see it. you could feel it. an then i learned her story...

two years ago (in november), neil was taking their daughter, kendra, to a screening in LA. kendra had been acting for years.  at the end of the day, he began throwing up and thought he had food poisoning. he felt he was okay to drive home to san diego but things got worse and he had to pull over at a gas station, to throw up again.  shortly after that, marcina got a call from kendra,

mommy, daddy's really sick, we're on the side of the freeway and he is now sleeping and has thrown up all inside the car.

they were on the side of the highway, with neil in and out of sleep.  with marcina's mom on the phone with kendra the entire time, to help her feel safe, and marcina's dad on the computer mapquesting and directing marcina to neil's location...marcina was on her way, driving into miles of heavy traffic. luckily, kendra was able to read a few signs out the window, to help determine exactly where they were. when marcina arrived, neil was asleep and kendra scared but safe. they drove back to san diego and marcina put neil into bed.  after continuing to vomit and sleep throughout the following day, marcina decided to take neil to the emergency room that night.

they sat in the waiting room for a bit and then neil was called back to be seen. thirty minutes later, a nurse came out and asked kendra if she would like to come with her to color. a few minutes later, two doctors take marcina in the opposite direction, to tell her that neil is very, very sick and most likely would not live through the night. they encouraged marcina to notify family and that she and kendra should say their final good-byes. this was the beginning of their seven-month journey on an emotional and painful rollercoaster...

over the next seven months, neil most likely had a stroke and suffered a brain bleed. he underwent four brain surgeries, infections, two weeks in a coma, months in the hospital and now has a prosthetic bone flap and front skull. the family was told three different times that neil would not live and that if he did, he would most likely have physical challenges and brain damage.

well today, neil is alive and doing fabulous.  while he still has very vivid dreams from his days in a coma and continues to be closely monitored, if you met him, you would have no idea what he went through.  you see no scars.  he has no lingering ill effects (that are apparent to me).

the C family has the most amazing love for one another and outlook on life. and needless to say, neil being alive today is a miracle.

but there's more to this story. the first time i photographed the C family was last november. originally they were scheduled for 2009, but i happened to have a cancellation. after we were done shooting and marcina was sharing with me how thankful she was to be able to get in on a cancellation, she suddenly realized that the shoot was on the same day as neil's first brain surgery--an anniversary of sorts. and it is for that very reason that the photo below is so much more than just a photo for them. and it's a photo that almost didn't happen...

their entire session was super overcast, until the very moment of this shot. we were walking back to the car and i noticed the sun had come out.  when i looked at kendra and saw the halo of light surrounding her, i said that she looked like an angel and asked if we could take a few more shots.  little did i know at the time how important and magical the photos would end up being.

i also wanted to share a bit more about what kendra is currently working on.  she's 10 years old now and has recently written and is going to be recording a song, voices of the children. the producer is already working with the band and hopefully kendra will be recording in a few weeks, with the release date anticipated to be the end of the year. kendra has decided that she will donate a portion of the proceeds to two children's charities: casa de amparo and childhelp.

one of the goals of last weekend's session was to get a photo for kendra's CD cover. this one is my favorite.

it is always such a joy to see them, as each of them is amazingly beautiful inside and out, with a zest for life that is unmatched. i am truly blessed to know them!!

ETA: neil was officially diagnosed with a cerebral hemorrhage (bleed). to this day, they do not know what caused this to happen. the first night in the hospital, his blood pressure was around 250/150. however, they can't say definitively that that is what caused the hemorrhage.

the give ten project

it's been a journey--a journey of passion and friendship.  a journey, which began about a year ago, with phone conversations amongst two friends.  and in may, evolved to the beginning of a blog.  and now i'm so excited to officially announce the give ten project.  it's a project created by  my friend, steph beaty, and i. and the most exciting thing is that it's only just beginning and we can't wait to see where it goes.  one thing that's for sure...our hearts are open! what is the give ten project about?  well, here's our mission statement:

give ten: 10 percent of your time and profits to causes greater than yourself.

it’s a whisper to anyone who’s listening - starting with photographers around the globe. give ten. give it selflessly. give it joyfully. you *can* do it.  not sure where to start? how about by giving something? the links on the right are just a few starting points. give with your camera. give with your wallet. it’s simple, gratifying and freeing.

once you start, you’ll never work the same way again. so, stop just doing business — and start giving business.

are you with us?


have an idea? want to share a giving link? or just hoping you'll say hello. visit and share with us here!

will you ever?

i don’t think you will ever...fully understand how you've touched my life and made me who i am. i don't think you could ever... know just how truly special you are. - erica jong

i have this thing. always have. i'm good at blocking things out. the bad things. the things that have been difficult in my life. i put them in a place, a place where i can't find them and they cannot escape. it's part of my personal survival mechanism in life. how i survived my past. i's not exactly a good thing but i've become very good at it.

well, i have this thing with leaving too. this coping mechanism. if i keep telling everyone that i'll see them again before i go (truly believing that i just might), then i might not have to say an official good-bye. well this all hit me today. as i arranged to meet one of my greatest friends here in san diego, for a last play date together, because she is going out of town tomorrow and if we don't see each other today, i won't see her before we leave.

damn. that screws up my ability to say, i'll see you again before i go. because i won't.

this play date arrangement all happened via email, while i was editing max's family's photos. and all of a sudden it hit me--the moving, the leaving. it hit me like a train and the tears began to uncontrollably flow. i couldn't keep them in that magic place, unable to escape...and i breathed and let them flow.

i have made some of the best friends i have ever had in my entire life, while here in san diego. and while i know for certain that i will see most of them again, it just doesn't matter...this leaving thing just sucks!


long overdue, i am working hard to finish max's family's photos, to get the photos to the them before i leave. in the beginning of the year, i had told andy and melis that i really hoped to do a family photo of them before i left, if and when they were ready. in april, they were ready. i knew they would include max's shark, bruce, in the photos (always), but i had an idea for them to release seven orange balloons--max is forever seven and his favorite color was orange. they agreed. we walked around and shot all over balboa park, one of max's special places. a couple hours later and almost to our cars, melis says, darn, we forgot about the balloons. no worries, just get them and we'll photograph them somewhere here [near the parking lot], i replied.

and we did. i photographed the family releasing seven orange balloons for max to catch and hold onto in Heaven.

while editing the photos this morning, i came across this one, which literally took my breath away. it was my test shot for lighting. i'm not even sure what i focused on in the was just a test shot. but it wasn't; it turned out to be much, much more than just the test shot. it's like the light is pulling the balloons, calling for them. how did the wind of the balloons and the light of the flare line up so perfectly?  i have to believe it's max's light shining down, letting them know that he's okay. and did andy see it? did he see or sense something that was beyond what he even knew at the time? all the other balloon shots i have...not a hint of wind.

the first shot, just testing the light


the moment the balloons were released, beginning to float away


watching them float to Heaven. to max.

will these people that have come into my life and changed my life forever... will they ever know how much they mean to me? how special they are? how they have become a part of my soul?

i hope so.

max, i miss you little buddy!

give ten

life is a gift...and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more. - anthony robbins

more on giving. i guess i can never really blog too much on giving...right?! well just so happens that one of my very best friends started a giving project--the give ten project. and i'm hoping that everyone will participate. not just photographers. everyone. in some way. give ten. ten percent of your time and profits to charitable work and causes.

some giving i've done this year that has fed my soul--

max's family. i will forever be committed to photographing and helping max's family in any way i can. recently i photographed their family and am hoping to return to san diego the end of september to photograph their maxapalooza fundraising event.  hannah is holding max's shark, who since max's passing, will be in all their family photos.

team kirsten. you can read more about kirsten and her family and see some of her photos on this blog post.

team sam.  my giving actually started with sam, when he and kiele were at the same school together. his family is such an incredible family, determined to find a cure to save their little boy's life.  i've now photographed sam and family a few times, both for their personal use and for their magic water foundation.  

st paul's school auction. i made this book, 52 glimpses of heaven, to raise money for the preschool class.

warren-walker school auction. i actually worked with two warren-walker classes this year. i photographed the first grade kids and auctioned off 5x7 framed prints of each child. and photographed and made a book for the 2nd grade class.

deployed EOD families. a few months ago, i donated mini-sessions to six EOD families, who had a deployed spouse...and gave them 5x7 prints of all their photographs to send to the deployed active duty member and an 8x10 for their wall.

mentoring session. i recently donated a mentoring session to an up-and-coming photographer.

the howard family. nicole's husband deployed when she was 36 weeks pregnant. i donated a maternity and newborn session to nicole and her family, giving them 5x7 prints of all their photographs. dad was able to be here for newborn photos because he was able to come home for a couple of weeks because baby got sick and was in the NICU for a little while.

there's so many ways we can give. i truly believe that where there's a will, there's a way. we all have our unique gifts that we can share with others...that we can give to others.

a future giving project that i'm super excited about... after steve retires (nine more years), we plan to live on a sailboat and travel the americas. i'm excited about the adventure. excited to be free of the things that hold us down and hold us back in our everyday lives. excited to give.

we'll bring the little ones with us on our year sailing adventure, as they'll be 14 and 15. kiele will be able to choose if she wants to come or not, as she'll be 21. and when we go, i want to give, give, every location we stop. in some way. in any way that will benefit the community. whether it be building homes. or teaching english. whatever will help. we will learn. and give. and share. and dream.

celebrating her strength

she held her head high and looked the world straight in the eye.- kobi yamada

most of you probably already know that a huge part of my photography journey is giving. i feel that i have been blessed with this gift and i need to share, whenever i can. it completes me. i am a better, more complete person when i can give...

on july 8, 2008, kirsten was diagnosed with adrenal cancer. and that cancer had already metastasized to her liver and lungs. kirsten is only 36 and the mother of three young boys. after 9 rounds of chemo, she's currently on a 2-month break, so her body can recover a bit. while some of kirsten's tumors have shrunk, the cancer still exists in her adrenal gland, liver and lungs. kirsten will have a CT scan at the end of may, at which time they will look at what the tumors have done over the previous two months and make a decision on continued treatment options.

since we're moving in june, i wanted...i needed to photograph kirsten one more time before we left. in july and august, i photographed kirsten and her family, shortly after kirsten's diagnoses and beginning of chemotherapy.

but i really wanted to capture her beauty and strength one more time before leaving. and lucky enough, i was able to do so this past weekend. and i was not only able to photograph kirsten, but also her family and some of her extended family--her team (team kirsten). and they are all absolutely amazing. they are so filled with love, laughter, hope and faith...beyond words. we shared together. we laughed together. i can honestly say that i am blessed to have them as part of my life. and i so look forward to photographing kirsten and her family again, when i return to san diego this fall.

i so love that the above photo captures kirsten and jake talking about their team kirsten bracelets.

love you kirsten. i will forever embrace and celebrate your beauty, spirit, determination, bravery, radiance, faith, joy, laughter and...strength.  you and your family are amazing and an inspiration to all.

where'er you are

stay the course, light a star,change the world where'er you are. - richard le gallienne

first, it looks as if we will be moving to KS (probably the beginning of june).  the detailer said that he is changing steve's orders and will officially release once the exceptional family member (EFM) stuff is straightened out.  i submitted the EFM paperwork last week, to the san diego EFM coordinator, who in turn submits it to the main EFM coordinating folks in millington, TN.

you should know something in about 6-8 weeks, the coordinator said, as he was handing me my copies of the paperwork. 

what?!  6-8 weeks?  steve has orders waiting and his school start date is 1 july.  is there any way they can expedite the process, since orders are on hold?

yea, i can do that.  so you should hear something in 4-6 weeks.  that's the expedited time.

UGH! so, i'm hoping to know something for sure in 4 weeks.  the coordinator said that most detailers will go ahead and release the orders when the system says processing but i'm not so sure since kiele is rated a category 5 (limiting us to only san diego, DC and norfolk, VA).  my fear is that kiele gets EFM 5 again and then what? for the moment, more waiting.


if you haven't already noticed, max's parents continue their journey--their fight--against neuroblastoma. and they keep up max's blog.  i noticed today that their huge fundraising event, maxapalooza, is tentatively scheduled for september 26th.  

so i had an idea.

my plan is to come back to san diego, for four or five days every fall and if enough interest, i will come back in the spring too...shooting 8-10 sessions while i'm here. i've already had a number of inquiries for a fall session and have started a waiting list.  if you know you definitely want a fall session, please email me.  sessions will be on a first come, first serve basis.

maybe, just maybe...i can coordinate my return with maxapalooza.  i so want to attend and photograph this incredible fundraising event they are planning.  

also, andy and melis are looking for some volunteer help for the event:

  • a web producer
  • t-shirt / apparel designer(s)
  • facebook / social media guru
  • event coordinator / manager

if you know anyone that might be of assistance, please refer them to max's blog and/or just have them email max's dad, andy, at

i close with a photo of max, from the first time i shot him weekly for mashed potatoes for breakfast. this was san diego's children's hospital celebration of champions. even though max lost his battle to cancer, he was and always will be one of the most amazing champions i've ever met. this year, andy and melis will again attend this event, but instead of watching their child run the race, they (along with hundreds of other parents) will release a balloon in their child's memory.

have you seen it?

good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others.- plato

have you seen... max's ring of fire foundation website

there is the most wonderful slideshow/video of max on the website (bottom right). i sit here with a lump in my throat, tears in my eyes and hope in my heart...hope for the cure.

one of things that i love about max's parents (beyond how great they are in general) is that even after the loss of their son, they aren't giving up their hope or their fight. and they've taken things one step further, with the creation their own organization, max's ring of fire.  their organization will continue fundraising for dr sholler, who was max's neuroblastoma specialist, and continues to tirelessly work to find drugs that may someday cure children of this very difficult-to-treat pediatric cancer.

as you're visiting the site, please consider donating...every dollar helps.

what is Heaven?

Heaven is pretty, colorful, really big and very far away. Jesus, Joseph, Mary, animals, old people and sick people live in Heaven. - A, age four

Heaven is brown. Angels are in Heaven. Dogs are in Heaven. Kitties are in Heaven. People are in Heaven too. Cake is in Heaven. In Heaven, there are dresses. Jesus lives in Heaven. - G, age three

Heaven is like space. There is cotton candy and lots of love. There is gold on the streets and fireworks. Jesus lives there and lots of people. - R, age four

Heaven has Jesus, but I don't know what else because I've never been there. - D, age five

a friend of mine shared with me today, that i haven't blogged in a while and he wondered if i was okay. well...i'm okay! i've been donating a lot of work lately and i've basically been caught up in that (and life without a husband around).

preschool photos a book for one auction 1st grade photos 2nd grade photos a book for another auction photos for a family, with a boy with progressing cancer photos that i donated for an auction last year

and it all takes time. i love it but does takes time. and that's what i've been doing lately. it feeds my soul, but i do know that i have to be careful. can one give too much? i don't think so but, i really do have to be careful because i can get so caught up in the giving, i won't have time for my own family. so, in the usual, it's all about balance.

above are a few of the quotes from the book and below is a screen capture of the preschool book that i'm working on (although not quite finished yet; i'm missing a few things still), which will be auctioned off at the school auction (FIFTY-TWO GLIMPSES OF HEAVEN | a preschool project). i did portraits of all 52 preschool kids and then had each of them draw a picture of Heaven and describe their picture. their pictures and words are truly priceless.

don't ever forget to give when you can.  it feels so good.