Best Shot Monday: Meet Coco, Come to the Mega Adoption Event!


Meet Coco!  She's currently in foster waiting for her forever home.  Doesn't she have the most inquisitive face?  She's a good example of the many adorable dogs available at your local animal shelter.  Contrary to popular belief, shelters are filled with far more varieties of dogs than just Pit mixes.  And, for the record (again), Pits and Pit mixes can be incredibly sweet, loving family dogs.  Remember it's not the dog that's inherently aggressive; it's a bad human that trains him to be that way.

This weekend, First Coast No More Homeless PetsAnimal Care and Protective Services (the agency I photograph for), Jacksonville Humane Society and dozens of other rescue organizations are joining together for another mega adoption event at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds. The past two events like this we've done have found homes for nearly 1,000 animals each time.  Coco will be there along with more than 1,000 other dogs and cats. As for our current fosters Jonathan and Josie, Benny has decided on a course of action.  Each foster family can create one flyer to go on the crate of their fosters.  Benny's decided that our flyer should include "We must be adopted as a pair or our foster family is going to adopt us."  Ha!  You see who finally got too attached!  Olivia is still undecided on that course of action.  She, too, is very attached to these two (as we all are), but she knows that if we keep them, we won't be able to foster kittens anymore. And this little foster Mama really wants to continue fostering kittens.  So I guess time will tell. By next Monday, we'll either have wished Jonathan and Josie "Happy Life!" with their new family, or Isabelle, Molly, Savannah and Tink will have two more siblings. 

If you haven't already, please read last week's Best Shot Monday and help me help a friend.

Best Shot Monday: Help Me Help a Friend in Need

Out there

This is a longer post than I usually write, but I ask that you give it a few moments of your time. See those two little girls?  Looking outside wondering what the big wide world holds in store for them?  Dreaming about the time when they will be able to go out and explore every corner of it?  I want to tell you a story, and though these are my two little girls many years ago, this story could be about any little girl, but it is a story about a beautiful little blue-eyed blonde named Blaine.  She has a beautiful green-eyed blonde mama named Vanessa and a handsome blue-eyed blonde daddy named Lance. 

Lance and Vanessa are childhood sweethearts who fell in love two lockers apart in the 9th grade. They went off to college together and eventually married and welcomed that beautiful little girl into their lives.  And then a little darkness entered their world. At 19 months old, sweet Blaine was diagnosed with ALL leukemia.  But her family and friends rallied around her, and through many prayers and a hard fought battle, after two years, Blaine beat that leukemia. 

Blaine went on to enjoy the beautiful times of childhood, playing sports, dancing and making things with her mama. Imagine a sweet little girl dancing with her daddy at a daughter/daddy dance, or a thick blonde pony-tail bouncing down a basketball court, or even an adorable little pixie dressed like one of Santa's elves. Now imagine sweet Blaine at 11 years old, getting ready to start 6th grade.  Can you imagine how excited she is?  Having two 10 year olds excited about going into 5th grade, I certainly can. Now imagine the unthinkable.  Just as she was getting ready to start 6th grade, after seven years in total remission, Blaine's leukemia returned last month.  She was in the hospital for nearly a month and had just been able to return home for a few days just a week ago. But, really, that wasn't the unthinkable, as that was yet to come. Last week, beautiful Vanessa and sweet Blaine tragically lost handsome Lance, loving husband and doting father. Can you imagine it now?  A child fighting for her life, a mother fighting for her child, and both instantly and unexpectedly losing the man that completed their sweet family?

That's what I've been imagining since this happened last week. Imaging how I'd feel if my girls were in Blaine's shoes, if I were in Vanessa's. Now I ask you to do the same. Even though you may only know them from this story, Vanessa and Blaine need you. They need your prayers.  They need your love.  Let's do all we can to make sure those prayers and that love reaches out and surrounds them so that Blaine can find out what beautifully amazing things the big wide world holds in store for her, and so that she can stop dreaming and actually start exploring every corner of it again. And so that she and her beautiful mama Vanessa can find peace through this tragic loss.  You see, I know Blaine and Vanessa and Lance as Vanessa has been my friend for 15 years. 

I want to offer you two ways to help them, as Vanessa will be facing mounting medical bills in the days ahead.  First you can visit Blaine's Go Fund Me page to make a donation directly to the family into an account for Blaine's medical expenses. Let's help them far surpass their goal. Second, my family has already made a personal donation to Blaine's fund, but I will also be donating 100% of the profits from any sales in either of my Etsy shops (here for photography and here for jewelry) to Blaine's fund through the end of October.  If you've had your eye on anything, now's the time.  Let's help this sweet family all we can. Please hold them up in prayer.  Share this post with your friends.        

Best Shot Monday: A Thank You Flower for a Friend

Queen Anne

I captured this stately Queen Anne's Lace blossom in a field filled with hundreds of her sisters in Chickmauga. And today I want to send it out as a thank you to a friend. As I've been sharing our loss of our dear Aunt Livy, one of my readers has been keeping us in her prayers.  She is a volunteer for a wonderful organization called the Trauma Intervention Program, and she reached out to me with a very sweet email last week, thinking of me and my girls and the grief we've been working through. She sent me some incredibly helpful information with tips on helping children work through grief.  That info has helped me help my girls with our loss. TIP is a group of specially trained volunteers who provide emotional aid and practical support to victims of traumatic events and their families in the first few hours following a tragedy.

Little did I know that I'd be able to help someone else with that same information just a few days later.  When a good friend of mine texted me that she just learned that her father-in-law passed away, she reached out to me and another friend to let us know that she was on her way to pick up her five-year-old son and had to figure out how to tell him that his Grandpa died.  Immediately I emailed her the information that I received, and she, too, found it incredibly helpful.

So, thank you, Leeayn, for reaching out to me.  You were an angel just when we needed one, and you helped me help someone else.  Please check out Trauma Intervention Program's website.

Thinking of Photo Lockets

Wish Locket 1

I've always loved lockets and collected dozens over the years, from cheap plated lockets to beautiful 14K gold lockets I've lucked into on Ebay. Given that, I've been thinking about creating lockets out of my photos for quite some time. I've just been searching for the right lockets that will help me do what I want to do. I'd love to find some that don't have engraving on them, but no luck yet. If you've seen any, please point me in that direction! For this one, the photo portion is about 3/4" with domed glass over it, and it features includes my Dandelion Wishes photo. The locket itself is about 1 1/4" round and has two places to insert photos on the inside.  It will hang from a brass chain. Of course, the bright glare from my window in the photo didn't jump out at me until I just uploaded it to Flickr! Like all my glass pieces, I'll have to work on the best way to photograph these. Let me know your thoughts on these!

Best Shot Monday: Jonathan and Josie

Josie and Jonathan

Meet Jonathan and Josie!  They are our two current foster kittens.  And let me tell you, these are the two most people friendly cats I have ever come across. The girls have been mounting quite the campaign to keep them (and, gasp, even Benny has been somewhat supporting them...).  Some of their logic?  Sarah says, "Mama, can't you see that M on their foreheads?! That's for Mama! They've already chosen you!" Olivia is going the heart-tugging route saying, "But Mama, they were here when Aunt Livy died and are helping me get through losing her." (She's really good, isn't she?  But she does have a very good point there....)

This, my friends, is the hardest part about fostering.  There is no way to remain unattached and objective.  Honestly, you wouldn't be doing your job as a foster if you were to remain unattached and objective.  Part of a foster's job is to socialize a shelter pet.  And how do you socialize?  You spend time playing with them and teaching them that humans can give them love.  And what happens then?  You get attached and totally un-objective!  But you have to remember that you are saving a life or two and getting them ready for their furever homes (yes, I have to keep reminding myself of that as well since we already have two cats and two dogs.)

Olivia, as usual, has been living up to her title of "Most Awesome Kitty Mama," and is just ecstatic that we came across a little invention called the Litter Genie at Target yesterday.  So far, I must admit, it does seem to work rather well. I can attest that I did not have the same success with the Diaper Genie. This picture was pure luck.  I went downstairs to grab a load of laundry out of the dryer and saw these two sitting on this pink pillow next to the window just like they were waiting there for me to take their picture.  Surprisingly enough, they didn't move when I ran to get my camera! Perfectly posed.

So far, it appears Jonathan has selected me as his human while Josie appears to have taken a shine to Sarah (and, of course, both of them adore Olivia), but I know that whoever ends up permanently adopting these two will be showered with just as much as love as they are giving us. They love to cuddle and come running as soon as we come downstairs, looking at us like "Pick me up! Pick me up!"  Once we do pick them up, we are covered in kitty kisses before they settle in on the shoulders of whoever picked them up.  They are incredibly affectionate. 

If you are in the Jacksonville area and would like to become a foster, we sure could use you! Friends of Jacksonville Animals will be conducting a Foster Parent 101 class for Animal Care and Protective Services this Saturday, September 14, at 8:30am, at ACPS, 2020 Forest Street, Jacksonville. No RSVP needed!  Just show up!

September Free Bling Friday

Sept bling

Time for Free Bling Friday! picked comment number 26 for August, so congrats to Emily from Memphis, Tennessee, for winning my August Free Bling!

How about a cute little pair of lampwork gems for September?  I've pulled two small sets of lampwork beads and wrapped them into one lovely little pair of earrings. They hang about an inch and a half on sterling lever backs.  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, October 3. Want more entries? Tweet, blog or Facebook this giveaway and leave another comment with the link. The next winner will be drawn via Friday, October 4.  Giveaway open to United States and Canada residents only.

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!

Help me help a friend.  Please read this story.

Spiral Journal Spread 11: For Aunt Livy

Spiral Journal 11_9-4-13

This was a totally different page until I hated it and then covered it up and started all over again. Ever have that happen to you?  I think it's a good metaphor for life, too, and reminds me of something a friend posted on her Facebook page: "Lesson from your dog: no matter what life brings you, kick some grass over that sh*# and move on."  After I did that, this spread ended up becoming a tribute to my Aunt Livy. I remember as we were leaving the funeral last week, my husband casually threw out, "and the world keeps spinning and the sun keeps rising..." despite the heartbreak. 

Once I covered up the first go 'round, I looked at the messy paper on my desk, decided to trace a stencil over it, and voila!, problem fixed!  My thanks to Roben-Marie for reminding me that those under papers come in really handy. Since they had a lot of spray ink overage on them, I did have to spray a fixative on the page to keep it from smearing before I could varnish it and write on it. I'm loving using the matte varnish technique Orly taught me on my pages.  It definitely makes them so much easier to write on.  Each of the "rays" has little words about Aunt Livy and experiences we've shared with her.   

I still have my moments of Auny Livy inspired tears, but I'm doing better. My Livvie is still struggling though.  Every night I tuck her in to bed, the tears start coming again, and she asks me questions about Aunt Livy's death or death and dying in general.  "Why does everything good have to end?"  "Will my heart ever stop hurting?" and the biggee, which I think is the crux of it all, "Are you and Daddy going to die, Mama?"  I think as a parent, the hardest thing about losing a very close family member is helping your kids navigate their grief.  My heart breaks for my little Livvie. Have you had experiences with this?

Best Shot Monday: Barnsley Daisy

Barnsley Daisy

You know when you are traveling down the highway and you see a random sign directing you to some random non-commercial destination? Especially those that direct you to sites of historic significance? If I have the time, I just have to follow those signs. While we were driving up to see Aunt Livy, we passed the sign for Barnsley Gardens about an hour north of Atlanta. It was pouring down rain at the time, so we decided that on the way home, we would check it out.  So glad we did!  Very beautiful place! 

It was definitely off the beaten path.  Once we got off the interstate, we traveled several back roads, when out in the middle of nowhere appear this magical place.  A resort has been built up around the historic grounds, but it's very well done:  no hi-rise hotels, just small villas and clusters of rooms scattered in the woods. There was horseback riding, fishing, skeet shooting, pheasant and quail hunting, and amazing gardens.  We were most interested in the historic section and the gardens, where we found these daisies. The historic section includes the remains of the Barnsley mansion, and we enjoyed exploring the ruins and walking through the museum.

So the next time you are on I-75 about halfway between Atlanta and Chattanooga, follow that sign. Get out and stretch your legs, wander the gardens, and drink in the beauty of this place. You won't regret it.