We thought we were going to lose our sweet Riley 3 weeks ago. She was seemingly fine on a Monday morning and that same afternoon, her back legs stopped working.
Treatment of a bulging disk involved a steroid shot which set her diabetes out of control and put her into pancreatitis and diabetic keto acidosis.
Riley was really, really sick. And our family was devastated at the possibility of losing her.
She is the youngest member of our family and yet for a dog, she’s getting old – she will be 14 a month from tomorrow.
How do you prepare for losing one of your “children?” I still don’t quite know how we will deal with such a loss, but fortunately it wasn’t this time around. Our local animal clinic has taken excellent care of her and she is acting normal again. And yet I know we will face this day, eventually.
I grew up on a farm. Our pets were outside. People were inside. And unfortunately, on a farm, pets could be almost disposable – subject to being run over by cars passing by, getting into rat poison, or being accidentally hit by vehicles in the yard. My relationship with Riley, my first indoor pet, is something totally different and unique from what I was accustomed to while growing up. She is in every way a family member. The loss of her someday will be incredibly difficult for us.
Today, we celebrate every additional day we have been given with her.
Our children wanted to take this opportunity to have new formal pictures taken with their “sibling.” None of us knows how long anyone (or any pet) has time left on this earth. Illness tends to make all of us take stock of what is the most important things in our lives – our relationships.
Cherish every moment with your loved ones. Give thanks for all of their days. And preserve their memory with images.
This past weekend was filled with special moments! We are in a time when most of us, including me, pull out our cell phones for quick snapshots.
But this was an occasion when I pulled out my (gasp!) actual camera to capture wonderful memories!
I, of course, use my professional camera for my work. It’s my biggest and bestest 🙂 camera and it stays primarily in the studio. I took a slightly scaled down version this past weekend.
I used to pull out my camera all the time when my kids were little. Why did I stop? Perhaps it was because as they got bigger, they said, “No, Mom. No pictures.” I honestly can’t remember…. If I pulled out my camera on them randomly now, I would definitely get protests. I took TONS of pictures of my kids when they were in their high school sports…. It was fun to pull it out again this weekend. Although, I have to admit, I took a number of pictures on my cell phone also – convenient & less “in your face” than a camera.
Something else disappeared when we switched, especially from film cameras, to digital cameras and eventually cell phones – printing our pictures. And I am embarrassed that I have been guilty of this as well. The exception has been our formal portraits.
I started something several years ago, to capture and store images in a different way. I have files on my computer that I store my children’s images – pictures meaningful to them. I know that they are meaningful because they have shared them on their social media pages. After every year, or sometimes semester, depending on how many images there are, I create books for them. So at least these memories have been stored in one way or another. I also burn disks of the pictures and store them, in case we find need to print more of them later.
Is it a perfect system? I don’t think such perfection exists. But I can tell you that my children really enjoy them! And you can get a LOT of pictures printed in a rather thin book, also saving on space.
I would love to hear about your ways of preserving your snapshots! 🙂
I have been thinking for quite a while on making this announcement. It has been a hard decision, but sometimes you are shown which way to go. I believe that this is one of those moments.
I will no longer be photographing high school senior sessions as I have been at Portraits by Michelle. Those who have family members yet to graduate and I have photographed their older siblings or families will be grandfathered into having the option of still having their senior sessions photographed here.
As you know, I have been working diligently at creating my Fine Art Painterly Portraits these last couple of years. This art has wildly taken off and I am so excited and blessed to create these magnificent images that honestly take my own breath away!
I have struggled with back issues since I was in junior high. And as you might imagine, they have only gotten worse over the years. The cause? Honestly I think it’s just genetics. Both my dad and mom have had significant back problems.
If you have witnessed me shooting a senior session, you are aware of just how much energy I have put into creating such images. I am steaming backgrounds in advance, there is multiple clothing changes and every time an outfit is changed, so is the background. I’m up on a ladder, I’m down on the floor. I have multiple lighting set-ups to move about. On location is another story – we have many different locations, assembling, disassembling, and moving/carrying of lightboxes. We will walk literal miles to get to various locations. These sessions have taken anywhere from 4-6 hours.
My back issues have finally caught up with me. I have an appointment coming up with a neurosurgeon as I now have constant pains that go into my legs. I am not sure what his recommendation will be. But considering that I also found out I have a tear in my hip labrum, I feel some decisions are being made for me.
Does this mean I will no longer shoot seniors? Far from! I can still create amazing sports images for you with edgy lighting patterns that are so cool! I can still create fabulous montages for you that I shoot in the my studio. I am still available to create that one beautiful wall portrait that you really wanted to commemorate this special time, including gorgeous painterly portraits! I just can’t do all of this at the same time in the same session anymore. It’s too hard on my body.
Life evolves. Please do not feel badly for me. Everyone has something and I will be fine! I just need to make some modifications!
As always I strive, as with everything I do, to create the most amazing images for you!
In the past, when asked about my photography career, I have referred to my first memories of taking pictures as a child and how that love turned into a hobby. When my daughter was in kindergarten, I took two beginning photography classes in Fort Dodge at the community college – beginning photography followed by beginning photoshop. My memberships with Professional Photographers of America and Professional Photographers of Iowa and the education opportunities in these associations led me to where I am today.
But there is more to the story. Today, on a day of love, I wanted to share my transition from hobby to career. I have been reluctant in the past to share because this is such a personal story. But after discussing my story with her niece and her sister, I am ready to share…
I came to know Lisa when we first moved to Algona in 1996. At that time, I sold Longaberger baskets and pottery and she had been to a couple of my shows. I knew Lisa, but not well, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I felt a bond with her, however, as I was a cancer survivor myself. When we came to town, I had just been diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma when I delivered our 35-week old son. I had gone through 7 months of chemotherapy. I knew a little bit about the pain she was going through with her own treatment and having two little girls.
So, every now and then, I would stop by her house with a little gift, something I enjoyed when I was going through treatment – a soft, new nightshirt, some lotions…
When Lisa was done with her treatments, all looked well! She was as beautiful as ever and moved forward with her life, caring for her children and her family.
Then one day, I heard the news. Lisa’s cancer had returned. I was so sad for her and her family.
I was getting ready in my bathroom one morning and trying to think of some way I could do something for her when I literally heard a voice say to me, “Maybe you could take some pictures for her.”
When my children were young, I loved photographing them with my 35 mm film camera. I captured many wonderful moments! I never had any kind of class, but I knew that I could take a good snapshot.
I didn’t know what to do with the words that I heard. I would happily take pictures for her, but would it be weird? Did I know her well enough to ask?
I asked a mutual friend, Dede, who was Lisa’s neighbor across the street. Dede thought pictures was a great idea and when she presented the idea to Lisa, Lisa was also thrilled!
So Lisa and her family got dressed up one day and I came over with my camera with little knowledge about photography, but a genuine to desire to do my very best at creating some images that she would love. We took pictures of her family, of her girls, of her, of her with her girls, and I remember taking a picture of her with her God-daughter, Chloe, who at that time we never would have dreamed would now be working for my husband. Our families have become intertwined in unexpected ways since then.
I had the film developed with double prints and gifted them along with the negatives to Lisa. Both Lisa and I found so much joy in this experience together. And I treasure the wonderful day we took pictures in my heart.
Then Lisa became more ill. My heart broke when she passed away. I went to the funeral visitation by myself. When I entered the church, with each picture board that I passed, I saw another image we captured on that fun day together. And with each image, I cried a little harder than the one I saw before. When I got to the front of the church, I saw a larger picture from that day, where she looked off to the side and each of her little girls was kissing her cheek. I went to my car and I sobbed as hard as I have ever sobbed. I am still breathless when I think about that moment.
When her sister, Linda, went to look for a picture to put on Lisa’s stone, she knew what image they wanted to use, but how on earth could she find it amongst so many pictures? She opened a box, and the picture she wanted, this picture, with the negative was right on top.
The truth is, I believe Lisa and our experience together led me to photography. I give credit to her for my career decision now. Because with her, I saw that taking pictures could make a difference in people’s lives. I already had a bit of an artistic ability. I just needed to learn more and with these passing years, I have learned.
My photography is more than a job for me. It was a calling from God. And with each session I pray to do my very best and make a difference in the lives of others.
Thank you, Lisa! I can’t wait until we can talk about this more some day!
It’s December 1st. Is it too late to express my thanks?
I am no different that anyone else. We have all experienced stress, anxiety and trauma in the last couple of years. Recent occurrences have brought me back to a habit I had forgotten to implement in quite a while – embracing my gratitude.
I had this beautiful journal that I purchased several months ago and was just sitting on my desk. It was begging to be used.
I have found that journaling the things that I am thankful for each morning sets an intention for my day. I am grateful for hope in the future. I am thankful for my family, my husband and my children. I rejoice when I hear the jingle of our dog, Riley’s, collar or hear her crunching her food. I am thankful for my body that can move and also for my health. Many things that I am thankful for may be unexpected – beautiful shapes, colors, and textures, the smell of seasonal candles, the feeling of warmth in my home when I get up in the morning, the artistic gifts that God has provided for me….
When I consciously thank God for all of these things and so much more, I am reminded over and over of my blessings throughout the day as I live my life.
Sometimes I forget in the morning, I figure better late than never and take a few moments to journal. But if I make the effort in the morning, I find my day just goes much better for some reason.
I also give thanks for all of you who are reading this. I am thankful that you are somehow involved in my little artistic world!
It’s been a few years…. Time for a new family picture. Truly, if you want to see me at my most stressed, it’s taking my own family picture. And I am not sure why… Is it because the perfectionist in me wants a great image? Is it because of pressure, because I realize that it is representational of my profession? Have I just held onto the stress of when I took pictures when our kids were young? Those times also involved dressing them, curling hair, and parenting while trying to capture an amazing memory of our life at that time. But these images truly display a real family. You will see the beautiful, final images soon! But this is what our lives, everyone’s lives are all about!
Today in my Facebook memories, I came across this picture that I shared a year ago. This was when I was in the middle of perfecting a new fine art style and I decided to practice on myself.
It all started in January of 2020. I happened to be on Instagram and came across some images captured by another artist from the United Kingdom. I was completely captivated by her work! Was I looking at a photograph or a painting?….
Upon further investigation, I discovered that she was coming to the United States to conduct upcoming workshops. Almost all of her workshops were very far away, in other countries, and they were all sold out. There was 3 openings left in San Antonio for her class taking place in March 2020. After a discussion with my husband, I signed up for this workshop. The following morning after completing my registration, the San Antonio workshop was also sold out! I felt I was divinely led to sign up for this class!
So, March 3rd I took off to learn! I was in San Antonio just long enough to be there for my one-day class. When I came back, we experienced the shut-down. This time has enabled me to work on skills needed for my new portraiture specialty – Fine Art Painterly Portraits!
I am officially now sharing my new-found love with all of you! It took my 15 years of experience to be ready to master this kind of portraiture.
These portraits take me hours of time. This is a style that is found more in Europe that in the United States. Each one is truly a one-of-a-kind commissioned work of art! I am printing these on an amazing, thick-textured canvas that truly gives each portrait a vintage, timeless feel and resembles fine art paintings!
My studio is nearly complete redecorating featuring these new portraits as well as new decor! I am thrilled to be sharing these images with all of you and creating true art, meant to be handed down, for you and your family!
This time has given me a chance to reflect on all of the things that mean the most to me. And these things are more precious than anything else the world can throw my way.
My husband. He and I were meant to experience this amazing adventure together! He loves me like no other could and I love him with all of my heart! Our adventures together continue and I know God has put us on the perfect plan!
My children. How on earth I was ever so blessed with these souls in my life, I will never know! I am not worthy, but am so very grateful! They have blessed me with laughter and pride and love beyond measure!
My dog. Riley is absolutely our 3rd child! We were actually supposed to get another dog from the breeder. It didn’t work out and he offered us this dog. God meant for her to be in our lives! She has provided comfort and laughter! She communicates with us so well!
My family. My parents and siblings and all of my relatives that surrounded me as I was growing up created me to be the person I am today. I love them all very much and I am thankful!
My relationship with my dad. It continues to this day. He passed away 5 years ago. He has sent me very distinct signs to reassure me that he is around and is well! Lately, a cardinal has flown by my window frequently throughout the day, no matter where I am located in our home. Last winter, I asked him a question, and if the answer was “yes,” I asked for the sign of a coin that I would notice in the middle of something – a carpet, a rug, anything… A few months later, I was in my car and glanced down. I got my answer.
Lamplight. Is that silly? I love illuminating photos and things that I love in my home with lamplight. And as I turn on my lamps each morning, I feel happiness and warmth and thankful for all of the things they illuminate – pictures of my family, vacation mementos, my home… And each night as I turn off my lamps, I once again thank God for my blessings!
Family traditions. One simple memory is every time I see a shiny penny, I think of my Grandpa Christensen and his love for collecting coins. Every Christmas, he would give each of us a shiny, new penny. When I walk into Dollar General, there is a smell that reminds me of shopping with my Grandma. When I bake, which is rare, I remember Mom always handing us a beater to lick.
All of these things and more are the very most important things to me! My photography adds joy to my life, but when I count my blessings, I actually think of all of these things first!
My greatest blessing and privilege in my life is my relationship with God and my Lord, Jesus Christ! His love for me is my reason for my everything, all of my blessings! I am blessed beyond measure that he chose me as His child! The journey He provided for us continues!
Trees…. we have had a heck of a time with trees growing in our yard. It’s so heartbreaking because it takes so long for them to grow. In the 24 years we have lived here, we have lost a full-grown maple tree, a weeping willow, 3 ash trees (one of which, came up by the root ball and hit our house during a rain storm), a second weeping willow never took off and literally blew over during a wind storm, another newly planted tree never took off because it was injured by the weed eater (we still have it, but it will never grow), we have had problems with grafted, ornamental trees, and we cut down two oversize pine trees (not a fan.) Currently, we found out our birch trees will need to be treated every year if we want to save the two. One has already suffered some death from tree borers. But fortunately, we now know that we can save them by treating them each year – TOTALLY WORTH IT!
Right now I wanted to focus on 3 different trees in our yard. Tree #1 is actually a lilac bush.
Tree #1 was planted by our son when he was in the third grade through a program at school called “Trees for Threes.” Each third grader receives a lilac bush to plant.
This “tree” actually arrived as a thin, little stick. Our son had such high hopes for his tree. Every day, he religiously went out to water his tree with a cup of water.
When we dug the basement to our house that currently serves as my photography studio, he totally freaked out when he saw excavators take over our yard. “My Tree!!!” We instructed all workers to avoid this area and had like literally 7 flags surrounding the stick.
The tree made it, and began to flourish. Then one year, the leaves withered and it didn’t bloom. We were sad. Was his tree dying after all of his love and care? One person who stopped by said, “I’ve seen trees come out of this before…” So we hoped, and we waited, and the next year, the tree was healthy again. It now boasts many beautiful blooms each year.
Three years later, our daughter was in third grade and came home one day proudly displaying her new lilac bush, Tree #2.
“Hey!” Our son yelled in jealousy. Her tree was about 4-5 times bigger than the tree with which he started. “Not fair!”
She watered her tree, but honestly probably did not tend to it as much as her brother because the tree was already so well established when she received it.
The tree was getting bigger and even had some blooms much earlier than her brother’s lilac bloomed.
Then one day, my husband was mowing around our weeping willow (one of our trees that died), when one of the weeping branches brushed against his eye and he mowed the WHOLE BUSH TO THE GROUND! (How? It was taller than waist-high on me.)
My daughter and I went out to survey the damage and stared in disbelief after he told us about the accident. We were both crushed. “These are the things that make a house a home!” (No guilt…) I was googling any and every way to try to save Tree #2. I stuck some of the remains back in the ground. Maybe they would just “take” and grow…. One article said a lilac may come back if the root structure was mature and established.
The next year, we saw signs of life. Tree #2 grew a little more each year. My daughter will be starting her 3rd year of college. Her tree is not anywhere near her brother’s is in size and it has not bloomed again, yet. But from the looks of it, it will. I am hopeful for next year.
Tree #3 was planted just before our son’s high school graduation party 5 years ago. After our ash tree literally blew over in the night, my husband said, “I think you are getting your patio.” We built a lovely space and planted some lovely plants, including this birch tree. Each year, it grew taller and more beautiful. Last year, it boasted some shade for this beautiful, but toasty area of the yard.
This spring, I was walking past Tree #3, and noticed there were no leaves, no buds, nothing…
In the back of my head, I recalled the advice I heard back during Tree #1, “Sometimes trees come out of these things…”
I had hope.
Then a trusted friend walked past. “This tree looks dead.” I thought, “Oh, please! Don’t let it be!”
This week, we found out, yes, our birch tree is dead. Very dead. Invaded by tree borers that were probably in the tree when it was planted.
I can’t stand to look at something when I know there is no chance of recovery. It’s coming down as soon as possible. We are now “tree shopping” once again. It’s time to work towards new growth.
I haven’t blogged for many months. I have felt stunned and scared and just incapable of writing anything. I am hoping in my writing today, I am on a path to some healing.
Life has felt so heavy right now. I have had a hard time at night, internally feeling the weight of the world. I often feel like I am having trouble breathing. Where are we? It feels like we have been plowed over. (Tree #2) Even dead at times. (Tree #3) I pray for growth and hope and new life (Tree #1)
Politics are not in my soul. I dislike anything that divides people. My heart is centered around loving and doing the right thing, treating others the way I would want to be treated, with kindness. I ask that no one makes political statements on my page.
I don’t know why, but I keep going through the fate of these 3 trees over and over in my mind and thinking of the current state of the world. I know that nothing compares to such circumstances. I wonder, is there any coming back? Will we see new growth? Will there be any change? I hope that we are resilient like our lilac bushes that were planted by our children with love. It’s my prayer.
This summer has flown by! Our daughter is back in college and our son leaves in a week.
This time last year was honestly very tough on me. The concept of Empty Nest is very, VERY real. When I was a little younger, the term conjured up visions of a happy, carefree time, much like those many years before we had children. Then as the time came closer, I experienced a deep sadness. I felt not needed. I felt like I wasn’t “Mom” anymore. For a person like me, who stayed home to take care of my children, I felt like I was completely losing my identity. I told someone today, that there really ought to be classes or projects or arts and crafts activities or SOMETHING designed for a parent to weather this passage of time. It is a rough transition going from the crazy schedule of sports, activities, dances… to an abrupt stop in the schedule as you knew it.
But here we are now. We made it! 🙂 Our family had a wonderful summer together and I saw and experienced so many blessings on a daily basis. We have entered a new phase. For the first time, I felt a distinct shift in my relationships with my children, the wonderful privilege of having adult children. We have had many wonderful bonding moments throughout the years, but this time the dynamic was different. It involved a new maturity, trust, and sharing with each other. And I am so excited about the future and the many experiences we will continue to share together!
Last month, while witnessing this….
I remembered this….
How blessed have I been?! I look back on all of these images and I am no longer sad. I am encouraged knowing I will have so many future pictures I will be able to fill into my precious memories. My mom days are not over! I am so looking forward to the future!