I've been volunteering my photography skills for shelter animals for about a year and a half now, and it's truly been one of the most rewarding things I've ever committed myself to.  This past weekend, we had our annual Mega Adoption Event at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds.  Our city shelter, Animal Care and Protective Services (the shelter I volunteer for), joined forces with First Coast No More Homeless Pets, the Jacksonville Humane Society, and all our Jacksonville area rescue groups to find homes for hundreds and hundreds of animals.  So guess how many were adopted this weekend!  1,003!!!! 

We found a home for our foster dog Lucee the day before the event started so she headed home with her new dad Mike, and our foster kitties Ivy and Lily had their spay surgery last Tuesday so they'd be ready for the event.  I'm hoping and praying they were adopted!  I'll be going back into the shelter this Friday for another photo shoot. Even though all those animals got adopted last weekend, I'm sure we'll still have plenty of new shelter arrivals for me to photograph this week. 

Find something that captures your heart and volunteer. You'll find that it benefits you just as much as it benefits the organization you are serving, if not more!  Already volunteering somewhere on a regular basis?  Tell me about it in the comments below! 

Best Shot Monday: Happy Birthday to the Daily Dose of Awesomeness!

Sarah and Olivia 10!

Today is my girls' 10th birthday.  That old age question is so true: Where the heck does the time go!?  These girls have blessed my life far more than I could have ever imagined.  They are funny, smart, caring, sweet, thoughtful, beautiful and everything a mama could ever hope for. I am truly blessed.

As this 10th birthday has been approaching, I've felt like that they have blossomed so quickly into such amazing young ladies.  I just had my 30 year high school reunion July 20.  It was so interesting to reunite with old friends, many of whom had kids right out of high school, so now their children are in college or beyond.  And here I am with my twin 10-year-old miracles.  I wish I could stop time. 

I blogged about their arrival back here.  Sarah and Olivia, you are my heart.

Best Shot Monday: Learning How to Say Goodbye

Liv and Ivy 7-16

We've been fostering kittens for nearly three months now. It's very rewarding to know that you are saving a life or three by taking these babies into your home and caring for them until they are big enough for adoption, but no matter how hard you try, you can't help but fall in love with them so the goodbyes at the end of the foster period are bittersweet. You're happy because you know you've given them just what they needed to thrive and blossom and be ready for adoption, but at the same time, you are very sad to see them go.

We've had Ivy and Lily for just over four weeks. We got them at four to five weeks old, so they were teeny tiny, and I honestly was concerned they weren't going to make it the first weekend I brought them home.  But finally they started eating better and soon started thriving. Today was the day for them to go back to the shelter for their spay surgery so they'll be ready for adoption during our big city-wide Mega Adoption Event at the Fairgrounds this weekend.  As we were loading them up in their carrier this morning, Livvie said, "Mama, my heart feels like it's going to break out of its chamber," with big fat tears running down her cheeks. So not only does my heart break from sending our little charges off to their new lives, but it breaks even more so for this little girl in particular.  Livvie has definitely been the Mama to these babies.  She's fed them, cleaned their litter box everyday, and played with them every day, knowing from day one that we would not be keeping them; our job was simply to help them grow strong and healthy and socialize them.  Ivy and Lily are actually our second set of foster kittens we've had, but we had these two a little longer so Olivia got a little more attached.  I asked her after the first two to let me know when she was ready for another set, so this was her choice.  And I've told her that we'll wait until she's ready to do it again ... and until I'm ready to do it again, too!  We're also currently fostering a dog, a sweet, crazy Pit/Boston Terrier mix named Lucee who was a long-timer at the shelter. Thankfully, we've found her a forever home and she'll be moving on to her new home at the end of this week. 

I'm hoping that my girls are learning from these experiences.  They're learning to care for someone, or something, outside themselves, they're learning how they can help out their communities, and hopefully, they're learning how to say goodbye, as difficult as it can be. I'm thankful I'm blessed with such sweet, big-hearted girls.

Update 7:00pm:  When I came home today, Olivia had a little surprise for me. When she got home from camp, she got out a new journal and created "Olivia's Foster Journal."  Inside were pages filled with hand drawn pictures, written descriptions, and favorite things for each of the fosters we've had so far. She is such a good little foster Mama! Melted my heart.      

Spiral Journal Spread 9: ABC Play!

Spiral Journal Spread 9_7-6-13-72

I had a lot of fun with this page! I took Livvie's leftover paint and just spread it all over a few pages in my journal. From there, I stamped the harlequin stamp all over the background in a pale gold. Then I grabbed the letter stencil simply because it was sitting right there next to me opened!  Next, I used a couple different pad inks to give it some color, also from a multi-color ink pad that was sitting out from Livvie's project. From there, I just grabbed whatever scraps that were around me, and I love the way it all came together. The tag was sitting in a pile that the girls and I had made weeks ago; I think Sarah made this particular one.

This spread took me about 30 minutes from start to finish simply because I used just what was laying out around me. That was a good lesson learned!

Best Shot Monday: Serendipity .... Meant to Be


For as long as I can remember, serendipity has been my all-time favorite word. I think even before I knew what it meant, I just liked the sound of it. I've always thought that if I were ever lucky enough to own a big sailboat, I would name it Serendipity.

Well, it was serendipitous that I learned of a little art retreat called Serendipity, thanks to my friend Jess Yelvington.  In a spur of the moment action, Jess learned about this retreat and registered for it within an hour. I learned about it on her blog, told my friend Dana about it, and a couple days later, boom!, Dana and I were registered.  Here's where the serendipitous part comes in.  I told Dana about it over lunch.  By the time I got home, I had an email from her saying that there was just one double bunk room left.  I talked to Benny about it, and he said, "Yep, looks like you are going to North Carolina with Dana in October."  So come October 23-27, Dana and I will be in Nags Head, North Carolina for this. We're taking Melody Ross's Wild Happy Soul class together one day.  The other day, Dana is taking Hannah Marcotti's HELLO Awakening Woman class and I'm take Kate Inglis's Contemplative Photography class. I've always wanted to take a class with Melody Ross of Brave Girls Club, and I haven't taken a photography class since college, so this will certainly be a treat. Even though there was just that one double bunk left, Dana and I decided to stay off site in a little two-bedroom beach front cottage. It was more economical and we'll have our own space! 

So about this photo ... we were out on the dock this weekend, dogs and all, playing in the river.  I had my camera out there trying to get a few good shots of our foster dog Lucee. Then as I was getting ready to go back inside, I looked down the fence line, and thought, hmmm, that might be interesting.  I opened up the aperture, shortening up the focal range dramatically, just to catch one little bit of grass and fence in focus.  In addition to serendipity being my favorite word, green is my favorite color! And what better than green grass to remind you of summer? 

Spiral Journal Spread 8: Rod Stewart

Spiral Journal Spread 8_7-4-13-72

To those that know me really, really well and have known me for a really, really long time, this will come as no secret, but for the rest of you, here it is: I have been obsessed with Rod Stewart since middle school. There, I've said it! I can't remember where I came across this picture, but I cut it out during one of the our magazine cutting sessions the girls and I have every now and then.  I just had to have it! 

I've seen Rod in concert at least 10 times now. I never miss him if he's nearby. Obviously that hasn't been very often in recent years, but if you've never been to a Rod Stewart concert, I'll tell you one of the neatest things he does.  Being a Brit, Rod is a soccer fan and he was quite the soccer player in his day (yes, I know this about him...I even know his that creepy?  It's January 10, 1945, so that means he's exactly 18 days older than my father...but still...) so back to soccer... About half way through every Rod Stewart concert I've ever been to, he takes some time to kick soccer balls out into the audience. And let me tell you, he can get some air.  Even in his sixties, he's still kicking out soccer balls.  One of my funniest concert memories was in 1984.  I was going to see him with my friend Denise.  I showed up at Denise's house with my hair all spiked up like Rod still wears his today.  Hey, it was 1984!  Big hair was in in the 80's!  It was hysterical.  I bet Denise still remembers that moment too.

So this page, my friends, is my tribute to my dear Rod, silly as it may be.  So come on, now it's your turn to confess. Who's your favorite 80's icon?  Tell me in the comments! You can see more of my art journal pages here.

Best Shot Monday: Wild Daisy

Wild Daisy

Don't you love the wild flowers of summer? This wild daisy grows in a pot on our back deck. As I've shared here, here and here, I have a soft spot for daisies. We can't really grow anything in the ground in the backyard because the ground is too salty, and when we get super high tides, the backyard is filled with salt water.  So we have pots and pots and pots of things all over the deck: daisies, hibiscus, datil peppers, tomatoes, more datil peppers, and some purple flowers I can't name at the moment!    Benny is a datil pepper connoisseur and grows them every summer, eating them fresh of the plant and making them into hot sauce. Me, I'm not much of a pepper girl, and particularly not datils, but I've many a friend who asks for Benny's hot sauce! 

Have a Best Shot you'd like to share? Post a link or just say hello in the comments! 

July Free Bling Friday!

July Free Bling

Time for Free Bling Friday!  Congrats to Hannah from Starkville, Mississippi, for winning my June Free Bling!

How about some earrings for July?  I've topped pink Czech glass briolettes with metallic pink and purple rondelles, all wrapped up with sterling silver.  To enter, visit either of my Etsy sites (here for jewelry and here for photography) and leave a link to your favorite item in the comments along with your location and a way to reach you by midnight Thursday, August 1. Want more entries? Tweet, blog or Facebook this giveaway and leave another comment with the link. The next winner will be drawn via Friday, August 2.

Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Click here to sign up for free weekly email updates or subscribe in the reader of your choice over there in the right column. And be sure to like my Facebook page or sign up for my monthly newsletter on my website here for specials. Thanks for stopping in!

A Little Bit of Yellow

For Jean

My friend Jean brought me by a piece of fabric a couple weeks ago and asked if I could create a bracelet in those colors. I love getting custom orders in which I have a little freedom. Give me a piece of fabric and I can work from that! So here you see the fabric I was given and the finished piece I created.  I mixed handmade lampwork beads with some funky gray disco ball cat's eye, black cat's eye, and yellow jade, all wrapped up with sterling silver accents. Thankfully, Jean said it was just perfect.

I must have a yellow vibe going on here lately. In addition to this bracelet, I received two different Etsy orders yesterday for my classic car and truck prints. Both were for all yellow vehicles. Sarah's response? "Mama! Maybe it's Lara Spencer ordering from you! You know how she loves yellow!" We are Good Morning America fans AND love Lara's Flea Market Flip show on HGTV. The girls and I have decided that we're going to start our own flea market flip creations. We'll start hitting flea markets soon, and try to turn some trash into treasure.  Lord knows we already have a whole neighborhood of painted cardboard fairy houses!

Best Shot Monday and Furry Face of the Week: Meet Zoey!


Meet Zoey! I primarily concentrate on photographing dogs at the shelter as there are far more dogs there that need homes than cats, but if I have the energy left when I run out of the morning shade I need to photograph the dogs, I come inside and spend a little time with the kitties like I did this past Friday.

I'm still getting the hang of this.  I can't say dogs are easy to photograph, but they are easier to photograph than cats.  Cats don't look at you and smile when you squeeze a squeaky toy or hold up a treat!  I'm also still trying to find the best settings on my camera to capture these cats in the best light.  I don't use a flash, so I'm shooting wide open on a slower shutter speed.  Due to that, I get a lot of just slightly blurry photos I can't use.  But every now and then, I catch a little magic like Zoey here. She's hanging out with her sister Dobie. Remember to adopt, not shop.  Visit your local shelter for some amazing pets!  In Jacksonville?  Hop over to Animal Care and Protective Services at 2020 Forest Street.

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