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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The Art of Balance

 Balance....If you Google the word (yes, I know google is technically a verb, but a name as well, ergo the capitalization, so live with it...;0) I digress...If you Google the word balance, you get fitness programs, health bars, scales, gymnastics schools, and most interestingly...disorders.
Yes, disorders. This is about the reparation of my own balance disorder.

According to the experts, with the lack of balance, you may feel as if the room is spinning. You may stagger when you try to walk or teeter or fall when you try to stand up, suffer vertigo, feel as though you are going to fall, feel confused or disoriented. I'm usually pretty balanced, or so I thought, give or take a vino here or there. But what happens when normalcy dissipates and suddenly your life becomes unbalanced due to elements out of your control? In our case it was a leak, two leaks, and toxic mold. A black furry Build-a-Bear type of fuzz that crackles when you think of touching it. It bathed the intestines of our drywall and threw us out on our derrieres and into an apartment with four kids and two dogs. Our entire downstairs had to be rebuilt, the kids were suffering allergic reactions to the furry beast, Emma on a nebulizer and Joe with asthmatic reactions, the house was deemed uninhabitable.

For many a night, snuggled in my favorite polar fleece jammie pants with little white bunnies in pink scarves, lavender oil slammed into the pores of my nasal passages, and the echo of Larry King dancing on the walls of my ear canals, my dreams had begun to take the form of Hitchcock, wavering with three dimensional angst and altered in a halo of distant obscurity. The upstairs neighbors vampires, stalking the corners of their apartment, renovating caskets with which to house their prey...

At first it was an adventure, something new. As my dear friend Lou said when she was diagnosed with the C-word, "Well, I'm looking forward to this actually, it's a NEW experience." So there we were, fleeing our home's C-word, and hovering the corner of a world we found completely foreign, trying to adjust.

In a matter of months, we have had to create an entirely new existence, and make it work for us, all the while the rest of the world stood strong, clients were still calling (Thank God), my husband still had to return to work, the children still had school, lessons, but childcare had completely bifurcated.
To balance work and home-life as a working mother is never, ever done alone. My friends jumped in whenever possible helping with pick-ups and drop-offs. 

Through this experience,  I've realized that as important as it is to have structure and balance within a home, it is just as important to have structure and balance within one's self. I had become so dependent on the physical structure of the home, the logistics of timing of schedules, the essentials of the daily calendar obeyance, that I had completely forgotten the importance of the balance within. I ate like a redneck at a meat-and-three diner. Exercise had become a verb simply used as an expression, and daily schedules had become a pacifier leaving me sucking away dependent upon the metronomic normalcy of life to feed me the oxygen needed for survival.

We moved into a tiny apartment, yet this apartment has taught lessons with a wooden ruler leaving precious splinters in the fingerprint of my soul. These are lessons learned which have breathed into us a new life-perspective.

You see, suddenly, as blessed as we still were of course, we had to now walk the dogs three times or more a day down a stairwell and through a gate to the boulevard roadside where our home's neighbors waited at the light to turn left to our old neighborhood. The occasional honk and wave of their hands, the uncomfortable nod and reserved smile, not wanting to show too much joy as they knew I was indeed now walking my dogs on the boulevard in front of our apartment and unable to return home. I'd wave and flash the largest smile I could muster which best complimented the roll of my eyes. Yet those walks woke something inside me which had previously grown accustomed to the laziness of opening the door to the back yard and dismissing the canines to the out of doors.

This was a sentence to take a new look at life. Those little walks outside, the obligation to my good furry friends, reminded me of the simplicity of smiling at fellow dog-walkers (while holding back my innocuously venemous Chihuaua with the Nepolean complex-mix and restraining my apoplectic Dachshund...) We had no childcare now, and I still had a company to run, weddings to shoot, clients to take care of, a husband who needed me present to help with insurance claims and raise our babies, contracting issues to address, as well as oodles of images to edit and laundry out the gege. I was back at square one, attempting to figure out HOW to "do it all". On top of all THAT, I turned 40.

Cathartic barely touches the surface.

Yet it was during this period of time major life changes were made, so that if life ever rears it's follically challenged head again, this girl is ready.

My entire system's internal ecosystem has been transformed from the inside out. Yes we were stuck in an apartment, but HEY, this building had a GYM! I exercised for the first time since my first child screamed in my ear! So what, one of my knees blew up like a blowfish with a bong, I was actually being healthy! Our increased visits to restaurants during our domestic expulsion made me realize the downstairs of our home wasn't the only thing needing reconstruction. I went on a complete health kick. Living in a small space made me realize that if I had to be stuck with myself in a small cell for the rest of my life, I had better like the way I FEEL. NOT look, but FEEL!!! Anyone who knows me knows there is not a french fry on this continent I have not overturned. No longer would I be labeled the Miracle Whip queen, or the Velveeta Princess (I'm not kidding...these are actual adjectives ingrained on my frontal lobe...).

My friend introduced me to the Flat Belly Diet way of life, and I'm born again. Look it up...your life will change.

So why is a photographer's blog talking about a domestic disturbance of the Home Depot kind? Because I've realized we can all try to do it all. We can all have balance when life is normal. But if I had had this other type of balance, the internal balance of a healthy lifestyle and healthier outlook on being internally balanced, this curveball could have been a much easier transition. It was during this transition that our lives were placed under the microscope and I realized what wasn't working. Even though everything had looked functional, it didn't mean I was present in the most intimate aspects of life.

In our apartment, our children share rooms, the youngest girls have decided that if we ever had to live in an apartment they'd do just fine as it is a glorified hotel in their eyes (only without the room service, maid service, spa service, concierge service...) We had birthdays in the park, walked around town and got to know our community better. The dogs have learned to walk on a leash, my husband has realized he really, really, really likes our house, and yes, our two teens, a boy and girl, have learned that they really do actually despise one another...and I have decided that no matter how busy life can be, I will never return to normal. Normal was redundant, expectant...As cramped as this apartment has been (we move back into our home next week) it is still not a tent in Haiti, or a shelter in Nashville or Oklahoma. We are blessed beyond words to know that our family, as dysfunctional as it can seem at times, is one which has been brought together
not only physically, but in spirit.

As excited as I am to return to our home, to have my workspace back, to put my photos back on the walls, a part of me will miss this little apartment. (A VERY small part of me...) But that part is one I need to keep close to my heart, as it taught me to simplify, that we don't need all of the "things" we thought we did. It has taught me to let house cleaning go a bit more and snuggle my babies more at night rather than do laundry. I've learned my children love art and coloring more than computer games, and I haven't visited Farmville once since we got here.

I love my home, my family, my friends, my clients, my life...and now with new balance the only teetering, vertigo, or nausea I am going to feel is from my arms spinning in relief as we re-enter our home, forgive it for it's indescretion, and remember the teacher with the ruler and the spintered fingerprints...forever.

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