The Soldier and the Squirrel introduces children to the Purple Heart

through a loving story of a friendship between a newly wounded soldier

and Rocky the squirrel with his backyard friends. This story began as a

blog during my first year in bed after my incident. With much

encouragement, it is now a book and has been placed in the

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. Please watch the video

on the About page to learn for the Soldier & Rocky are changing children's






Glorious Rejoice Dots Glitter





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My First Wedding

The very first wedding I ever shot was on a Saturday, and on Tuesday my images were on Martha Stewart. Four months later there was a full four page spread on my work in Professional Photographer Magazine and the rest should we stay is history. From then on I had somehow undeservedly become this phantom success that everyone wanted to figure out. Because of my perceived accomplishment in the photography world I suddenly seemed to know a secret that no one else could figure out. The emails flooded in from around the world, asking me how I did it, how did I make it? I didn’t understand. In my eyes I wasn’t successful yet, I was just beginning to figure this whole photography business thing out for myself.

My situation was the classic definition of success. Success is when preparation meets opportunity. In my case, it was preparation meets chutzpah meets damn good luck.

My first wedding was a referral from my oldest daughter’s 4th grade teacher. I had already been shooting portraits and headshots for years, and every year offered a free session to my children’s teachers and their families, just my way of saying thank you. Prior to my business taking off, I too was completing my credential program when I had to make a decision between teaching and photography as there was no way I could do both, and do both well, as well as be a wife and mother of four with two dogs and rotating reptiles. My first bride and groom were a dream come true in every sense of the word and are still two of our best friends to this day. She insisted on paying me, money I found difficult to accept as I had never shot a wedding before. She had faith in me from my work on my site and we moved forward on a minimal budget. Unbeknownst to me, she happened to be marrying the brother of a well-known actor on a prime time series. Although his brother looked familiar with his chiseled Hollywood good looks, I could not place his celebrity but found it comforting that placing his face eluded me. The wedding took place at the actor’s home in tony Sherman Oaks, he was best man, his wife maid of honor and their 2 little girls were flower girls. Where budget lacked, ingenuity reigned. The ceremony took place atop the hot tub covered with wooden planks and the reception held in their French colonial style backyard. The groom’s mother purchased clean lined roses in delicious pastels from the flower mart in downtown Los Angeles. Clusters of twisting pedals grouped in simple square glass containers graced the center of each table all to the tune of $250. Tealight candles nervously twitched around the flowers with a simple chocolate brown and white polka dotted ribbon. Her dress was a silken sheath, the groom beamed in a cream linen suit. Portraits were taken along a stone wall in front of their wooden fence dividing their properties, protocol was dismissed and joy abound.

I didn’t know how good I had it until this wedding put me on the virtual map of wedding photographers. I had no idea this simple, lovely, unaffected event would change my life forever. It was not any international wedding with secret service attached, nor was it a movie star which would dictate a five digit fee once my name was associated with them. This was a wedding occurring from sheer serendipity, with goodness and grass roots anchoring it solidly in reality. I did not have fancy camera gear. The entire wedding was shot solo, with a Nikon D-70, 2 batteries and an SB-800 flash, which I had no idea how to use properly. At this point I thought the head on it swiveled so I’d have something to play with if I got bored. I may not have had the best technical chops at this point for shooting weddings, but boy did I have heart. I knew just enough to work my ass off to get the shots. My heart raced in my chest from the moment I saw the flower girl staring up at her taffeta dress hanging on the closet door, to the middle of the ceremony when their youngest daughter crawled onto her grandpa’s lap and whispered in his ear. My palms sweat from the moment they kissed to the reception when the only way to get an over head shot of the reception, at night, was to crawl up on their roof. If there were ever a wedding boot camp, this was it for me, because it meant that much to me that there was no way in hell I was going to get it wrong, even if I didn’t know everything I was supposed to. I was going to figure it out and not miss a beat along the way. I was a wedding virgin, and my cherry had been popped. Just like your first time, it hurts a little, but no matter how much pain you feel, God forbid you let on that you are the least bit uncomfortable in fear of taking any joy away from the other party involved.

I left that night with blisters on my feet and a right hand that was frozen in the shape of a D-70. I barely slept that night, wired from the experience and watching late night TV as I excitedly imported each of my images (in jpeg mind you…I had no idea how to operate in Raw). In looking though my images, one by one certain images would grab my heart. It was a visceral response as to whether the image was truly special. The ones that were hit me like a burst of awe, almost an aha moment of a sudden knowing that something was completely right. Only these images did I pull together and master and emailed them over by morning to the bride and groom. It was only about 10 images from the night, but each I knew were solid, universal moments that would hopefully speak to the couple. Sunday afternoon I received a phonecall from the best-man-brother-actor. My heart stopped. I felt for sure I had done something terribly wrong, why else would he be calling me. Perhaps he was upset that I had climbed out on his roof. Did I break a shingle? For sure it was that I had snapped a twig from the tree during the ceremony so I could get a cleaner shot, or was it that I had fed their dog a piece of my leftovers and it got horribly ill and died…..My thoughts raced around my brain like greyhounds grasping for that piece of meat trying to make sense out of the purpose of his call before he could speak. Then he said, in his calm, eloquent drawl, “Micaela, I can’t tell you how much those images you captured of my family touched me. I going on Martha Stewart on Tuesday. How quickly can you send those files over to the producer in New York?” If my heart had stopped before, it was my tongue that now followed.

Anxiously recording the episode I sat in a surreal haze as I witnessed Martha Stewart congratulating him on his brother’s wedding and commenting on each of my images as they appeared full screen; how lovely the roses clung to one another in the vase, the essence of the day captured in such beauty…. From then on, things were different. My Nikon and I weren’t in Kansas anymore…..

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