Best Shot Monday: 17045 NW 11th Avenue


(So it's Tuesday...who's counting? And this isn't exactly a stunning photo, but it does have a story behind it.)   I was born in Miami. The best that I can remember, we lived in four different places in Miami before moving to St. Petersburg when I was in the middle of 5th grade. I can't really say why, but 17045 NW 11th Avenue is the address that's always stuck with me. I even remember my phone number from that house.

I was in Miami this past weekend for a Student Government conference, and curiosity got the best of me.  I wanted to see it. It's so funny how you remember things from your childhood being so much bigger than they actually were. The nearby landmarks that stuck out so clearly in my mind were an arch, kind of like the St. Louis Arch, and in my mind it was that big, and a Levitz furniture store. The arch was still there, right at the intersection of 826 and 12th Avenue, but it was a quarter of the size I remember it being. Levitz was no longer there, but the industrial area there did have a furniture, flooring and building supply vibe to it. When I was a child, the area just to the north of 826 at the south end of our street was a big open field. It was full now, with a hotel and more industrial buildings.

But as soon as I made the turn onto the street, there it was, the second house on the right, right where I remembered it. And there was the Hunter's house across the street, and Timmy Taylor's house next door. I remember there being a big tree to the left of the sidewalk in our yard, but it was not there. Not sure if it ever was.  The house was so much smaller than I remembered it being. The neighborhood itself has held up pretty well as far as old neighborhoods like this go. Throughout the neighborhood, there were bars on all the windows and doors, but at least more than half of the yards and homes looked fairly well kept. The elementary school was still at the end of the street, though I wasn't allowed to go to that school. This was in the early to mid 1970's, so busing was in full force in Miami. Kids in my neighborhood were bused to a school on the other side of town, so my parents put me in a private school nearby, Northwest Christian Academy.  Looking back now, I have no idea how they afforded private school, but I'm glad they did. I have good memories from that school (including being sent home because I wore pants instead of a dress one day ... a rebel from an early age), and I still have my 4th grade NWCA yearbook.


I've often heard it said that most parents dream of their kids doing better than they did. My mom's been gone nearly 16 years now, but she was doing pretty well financially in the years before she died, though obviously, she's a prime case of money not buying happiness. My dad's doing fine and still living in South Florida. My sister Kim and I had the opportunity to go to college right out of high school, something my dad didn't have the opportunity to do. My mother went straight into nursing school, Nana and Granddaddy sending her up to Miami from their home in Key West, where my mom was born and raised. Kim and I are now both fiercely independent.  While we had our parents help for our undergraduate degrees, I put myself through grad school and Kim put herself through a post-bachelor's advanced certification. We both now have happy, healthy families.

Our life experiences certainly make us who we are, whether we choose to take the best lessons from them or not. I took both good and not-so-good memories from 17045 NW 11th Avenue and hope I've made the best of them. As I've said many times before, I believe happiness is a choice and I try to make that positive choice every day.  Moving around so much when I was younger, I've wanted to keep a strong sense of home as I've become an adult and started raising my own family, which is why our move to Tallahassee was so hard on me and probably part of the reason I'm not sure I'll ever be fully grounded here.  "Home" will always be back in Jacksonville, in the home we built and raised our girls in and will go back to for retirement.  But I'm trying. I'm getting involved here. I've found an animal rescue to work with and I've accepted a position as a chapter advisor for my college sorority.  We're slowly growing some roots here on Wild Rose Way, though the deepest roots will always be thriving on Heckscher Drive.

*I first wrote of 17045 NW 11th Avenue in this post if you want to read it. Be forewarned, it's an emotionally revealing post, but a story I needed to share.

Best Shot Monday: Meet Farrah


Well, I've finally hooked up with a rescue for which I can photograph dogs in Tallahassee! Meet Farrah! We first met Farrah when the girls volunteered with Tallahassee Big Dog Rescue back in September. When we came back to volunteer again, I promised I'd bring my camera. Farrah is obviously a gorgeous girl. Look at that face! She was quite a good poser for the camera as well. She pulled a bit on her leash and needs to learn some leash manners, but she is eager to please and loves to settle down on the grass and stretch out.

Here's what Farrah's foster mom has to say about her: "Total sweetness describes this baby. She had a rough past, found starving, torn up, with skin issues, heartworm positive and the list goes on. You would never know it now. She is at an ideal weight, with a gorgeous full coat of fur, heartworm negative and so full of love. She gets along with dogs and cats. She loves to play and will need to go to a home with another dog for her to play with or you will need to be active and want a jogging buddy!"

Tallahassee Big Dog Rescue (TBDR) is a private, non-profit rescue dedicated to rescuing as many dogs from abuse, abandonment, euthanasia and natural disaster as possible. I love their slogan: "We rescue big dogs, dogs who think they are big, and cats!"  Visit their website to read more about them and see other animals they have available for adoption.

It's very different volunteering with a small private, non-profit rescue like TBDR as compared to a large city organization like my home shelter, Jacksonville's Animal Care and Protective Services. While the mission is the same -- save as many animals as possible -- the approach is very different by necessity.  I'm still planning on getting into the Leon County shelter as well to see if I can help out there. And of course, I try to make it into ACPS every time we are home! ACPS will always be home. For now, I'm happy I can help TBDR as often as I can. You can see more dogs I photographed for TBDR in this Flickr album.

2015 Documented Life Project: Week 20

Documented Life Project - Week 20

Week 20's challenge for the Documented Life Project was to use modeling paste. I've discovered that modeling paste works similar to the very thick gesso I used on these books in Albie's class at An Artful Journey back in 2011. What fun! On these pages, I started by laying down some color with spray inks and then stenciling on some modeling paste flowers.

Documented Life Project - Week 20

After the modeling paste dried, I went over the flowers with gelatos to give them more color and then finished up the spread with more stenciling, mark making and pen work. Check out all my 2015 Documented Life Project pages here and see everything the Art to the 5th gals have going on here! (Want to see my 2014 Documented Life Project book? Click here.)

Documented Life Project - Week 20

Best Shot Monday: Meet Mr. Big

Mr Big_A924150

This handsome boy is Mr. Big. Sweet Mr. Big and Velvet are currently Animal Care and Protective Services two longest residents. I love both of these dogs and have photographed each several times now.  Shelter staff believe Mr. Big is a three-year-old gray and white American Pit Bull Terrier.  He is a super great boy and a big hunk of love waiting patiently for his forever family.  We think he may do best as an only dog but, with him, that's more than enough to love.  He loves to take walks, is very smart, and learns quickly, especially when treats are involved!  He walks well on his leash, and he sits for treats. Each time that I have photographed him, he's been the perfect handsome model.

Can you believe this awesome boy has been in the shelter since April 16? That's more than six months. And yet, amazingly, it hasn't broken his spirit. He patiently sits in his kennel, holding his Kong in his mouth, just waiting for someone to come see him, take him outside and see how wonderful he truly is. Do you have room in your heart and your home for this big sweet hunk of love? He's available for adoption at Jacksonville's Animal Care and Protective Services. His ID number is A924150.

Mr Big and Kelly