Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Max and the True Meaning of Christmas

I wanted to write this Christmas morning, but when I woke up at 7:30 in the morning to write it, the power to the laptop was not available. Laying back down, I woke back up 2 hours later my small little family of 4 furkids and hubby waiting for Christmas to start. With yesterday as hectic as it was in the morning and on top ofthe beginnings of a migraine that took a turn for the worst yesterday, the blog would have to wait. It's an important one though that I couldn't leave unwritten as it is about the true meaning of Christmas. Yes, I know I am an adult and should already know the true meaning of Christmas, which I do, however there are events in one's life that changes his or her life forever. This is one of those times...this is the story of Max and the true meaning of Christmas (and really of life in general)

As a photographer, I take pictures of anything and everything that inspire me in life. There are many things that inspire me, the landscapes God has provided for us to the unique and beautiful architecture designed by man. There is nothing more precious than seeing a newborn's parents proudly snuggling and comforting their newest little one that I am then able to capture in a photograph. To me, all these subjects are inspirational and a sign of unconditional love in some way. Last week, I had the hardest assignment of all though of all since I started my photography career. Capturing the last few moments of unconditional love between man's best friend and his family.

It all started around Thanksgiving. A good friend of mine was taking in a new foster dog. This was not your typical foster dog placement however. Max was being taken in because his owner who he'd shared many good years with was being moved into a new assisted living home where she was not allowed to have any pets. Max was also in poor health himself. They ha

d both taken care of each other for a very long time and kept each other company until it was time for them to part ways. His owner was hesitant about euthanasia for him just yet, but did not know what else to do. She knew if she took him to the pound they would almost immediately put him down. This is where Maria stepped in along with her husband Paul. They decided they would see if they could help Max buy a little more time by caring for him themselves.

After several weeks of trying medications and Max's condition becoming worse, the inevitable decision was made to proceed with the euthanasia. We had already entered into December by this point and Daniel and I were busy preparing for Santa Paws pictures that we do every year. Maria had asked if we could get some Christmas pictures of Max to send to his previous owner so she would have something special to remember him by. The two different times we
were at the Santa Paws events, Max was not able to attend. His poor joints had just completely given out on him and he could barely stand let alone walk into a store with somewhat slippery floors. So we decided to go to him. Often times with my photography that is what has to happen, I have to go where my subject is, this time would be no different. If Max couldn't come to us, then we would go to him. Simple as that.

We went over the Tuesday morning before Christmas. Paul greeted us at the door. As we entered the apartment, there lay Max. He was laying on his blanket and trying to stay as comfortable as possible. He wasn't able to get up and greet us, but he started giving us kisses and tail wags as soon as we came to him. There is a reason why dogs are called man's best friend. They do love you unconditionally, without regard to how you may treat them. All they want is love and attention from those around them. You could tell that
is all Max wanted too. He was definitely getting it from Paul and Maria and their kids, they loved him so much even though they had been taking care of him f

Max was very sweet and very patient while we took photos of him. He even managed to give us a funny grin now and again showing off his playful side. When he felt well enough to hold his head up for us he did. In between takes was more petting, kisses and telling him what a good boy he was. He was growing weary and tired so we didn't want to push him more than he was able to handle. We left him resting on his blanket.

The next day I got the news from Maria that Max had crossed the rainbow bridge that morning when they took him in to be euthanized. We both cried at his loss, but I can only begin to imagine her sorrow as I went through it several years ago when I lost Buttercup and then after my miscarriage. Those losses were different though, those were mine. To take in an animal you barely know and grow to love it like your very own pet only to have to make the most painful decision ever is heartbreaking to say the least. Many people would not have done what Paul and Maria did. Many people who own their own pets would not have done what they did. I used to think that euthanasia was "cruel" in some ways, but after going through it and having seen what Max had to go through, I now realize that it is the most humane thing to do for an animal who is in so much pain and is suffering. Max crossed the rainbow bridge knowing he was loved and can rest now, rest in Heavenly Peace.

You may be asking yourself how this relates to the true meaning of Christmas? Well, when I first began to write this blog it was 7:30 Christmas morning. I had been able to sleep for about n hour thinking about Max and the fight I had had with my husband on Christmas Eve about a broken picture frame and so many other things. Christmas shouldn't be about the commercialism, the trinkets you buy that will only be broken or lost a year from now. Picture frames can be replaced and rings can be found, but the loss of loved was cannot be replaced. It is about being with family and friends (those that know me well enough know my friends are my family). It is about seeing a good friend return from overseas unhurt while remembering those in your prayers who will never get to come home and making sure their families are cared for. Today is the day after Christmas and was suppose to be a day my husband had planned for my birthday celebration. While a massive migraine prevented those plans from being carried out, I got the best birthday present of all. The unconditional love and support from my husband being there for me today and caring for me for 8 plus hours while I coped with my migraine.

While this time of year is called the "season of giving" my challenge to each of you that may read this is to make every day a day of giving. I heard about about 4-5 dogs that all had to be put down this past week, and while it is sad that it had to happen at this time of year, the reality is that it happens every day. People are sick every day and need prayers every day and someone checking in on them every day, not just at Christmas time. If you would like to donate your time to being a foster parent, please do so. There are many children out there that need a good home and there are many four legged "children" that need a loving home to call their own too. Food banks need volunteers year round, not just at the holidays. Senior citizens love company any day, not just Christmas Day. When you give yourself and your time to others you will be rewarded in more ways than one, I promise. I know I have. I may not have known Max but for a few brief hours, but he has left a paw print on my heart forever.

***Update to this post**

It actually took me quite awhile to even post this blog due to many of "life" activities getting in the way, etc (not to mention making sure I was blogging correctly). The story of the Hass family continues, yet is bittersweet. A new furry addition will be added to their family tomorrow. A little female PBT they have been fostering that loves the kids and is very sweet. The hope was that the new dog and Pepper, their little Jack Russell would be good companions for each other. However, due to sudden turn of events (my guess is sudden illness but I am not sure yet) will also cross over the rainbow bridge tomorrow. I add this part to pay tribute to Pepper and her family. As a pet photographer, I have come to realize that sometimes the pictures I take may be the last pictures of that beloved family member. This was the case with Maria and Pepper at Christmas time when I took their photo. I had no idea at the time that just a short time later we'd be saying good-bye to such a sweet dog. You will be missed by your mama Pepper!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Santa's Little Helpers

It's time for Santa pictures again. It's a pretty big event that Dan and I have been in charge of for the last 3 years to help a local dog rescue group we are involved in. It's a very stressful project because well, we usually end up doing about 90% of the work by ourselves. Dan loves doing it though and we love helping the dogs out.

This year has been especially stressful since my doctor has restricted me to bedrest to help heal my pressure sore...can we say really bad timing! Without getting into specifics since I have no idea who will read this, let's just say that this year it seems like one thing after another has happened to almost make this Christmas year not happen for the wonderful dogs and puppies.

A month ago I ordered all the backdrops and other props I knew I wanted to use. Backdrop outlet was having a great 11-11-11 sale. How could I resist right? Lots of great Christmas stuff on sale! So...credit card in hand, I placed my order. I waited about a week or two and still no order. I contacted the company only to be told they had received a lot of orders (geez, you think!) and they were making stuff as fast as they could. Now, call me crazy but if you are offering stuff shown in pictures and putting it on sale, I would venture to assume that you'd at least have some of this stuff prepped ahead of time! Then again, we all know what assuming does?! So after explaining my dilemma to their customer service and why I needed my order so fast, I was told they would get it out as soon as posssible. A month later it still isn't here! My best friend got hers yesterday so I figured mine would be here today. Nope! Today's email was that they delivered it to the wrong post office...3 hours away! So I called that post office and they said that it was on the truck and headed to Anchorage. I will get it sometime tomorrow. Guess when the shoot is? Yep, tomorrow! Luckily I should have everything ready for next week's second shoot.

By the time Dan got home, given everything that happened with the post office and other issues that had gone wrong, I'd just about lost it. Then as Dan walks in he has his new Santa glasses on. Now, yes they still had the tag on them so that when I looked up I was trying to figure out what that funny thing was in the middle of the glasses was. When I asked and he responded rather irritated like I should have known it was a tag! Well, that got the water works going! Yeah, it's also that time of month for the hormones and moods to be all over the place! TMI....yeah, but you read this so that's your fault! LOL....okay, so back to the story.

I guess posting all my frustration out on facebook must have concerned a lot of people. My friend Kathy offered to bring me a pumpkin pie blizzard from Dairy Queen! She is so sweet and plus she knew where a lot of my frustrations with this project was coming from so she was good to vent to for a bit. Thank you Kathy! Then my friends Marco and Becky called...well, Becky called but I could hear Marco in the background so that still counts. Becky offered to help be a second photographer tomorrow! I also got in a couple of more volunteers tonight too!

Even though this afternoon started off really bad and I was feeling really down, it's as if God could hear and see my frustrations and sent several Santa's helpers my way! Now all I have to do is finish getting things ready for tomorrow and leave it all in their hands since I am not allowed to be up for more than 20 minutes at a time. I'll probably break that rule a bit just to make sure things get started smoothly, but I have awesome photography friends and several other friends who have pitched in at the last minute and I can't thank you all enough for your love and support!

In the end, I don't care if I do get thanked, I do it for the dogs. I do want those that have helped me though to know I appreciate all of you for helping out!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I had intentions of writing a very funny post to go along with today's Thanksgiving well-wishes to everyone. I had it all mapped out. See, I get my best "thoughts or ideas of the day" while in the shower. I had one today in fact. I even told Dan about it when I got out of the shower.....do you think I could remember it now though? Nope! This leads me to the conclusion that I suck at blogging funny stuff like others are able to do because of my short term memory loss. Yep, that has to be it. Otherwise, you guys would be reading the funniest stuff ever! Trust me, there is really never a dull conversation around here at our house. Dull moments maybe, but not dull conversations.

Today was Thanksgiving 2011. Given that it was just the two of us and no family in town this year and nobody had invited us over, we decided to hit up Golden Corral. I mean, what could be better, an all you can eat buffet on Thanksgiving? Heck yes! We were not the only ones with this idea apparently. When we got there at noon (mind you they opened at 10:30) it was already packed! People were fighting over parking spaces and by the time we got through the line it was a fight almost to get to the turkey and other dishes! Still, it beat not having dishes to do this evening and we spent much less than most families do on a regular turkey dinner and we got much more! Bawahahah! (or however that is spelled...Dan has boycotted now helping me write my posts all because I said it makes me nervous to have him watch me write....geesh!) .

The hightlight of dinner had to be two-fold. First, the fire alarm went off right where we were sitting. Luckily it was just the emergency alarm that went off, no sprinklers or flashing lights. The last thing I needed was to have a seizure on Thanksgiving! After about five minutes of that going off, Dan had finally come back with the seconds I had sent him off for, he didn't even hear the alarm go off. That tells you how loud it was in there! Okay, so second highlight was funnier and I literally laughed for about 5 minutes straight! Peach cobbler was the "highlight" dessert of the afternoon apparently as they kept running out of it before we could get any. Well, a lady with her family that was sitting across from us was coming back with a small bowl and I overheard her say it was the peach cobbler! In my excitement of starting to act like a small child telling Dan "now, go get it now, must have peach cobbler now!" I saw that the woman carrying the peach cobbler while trying to get back into her seat tipped the bowl ever so slightly that the oh so yummy dessert began to drip.....straight down into her daughter's hair! I tried to say something but they couldn't hear and I just began laughing to hard! The little girl did too and the dripping finally stopped but all I could think about was that poor girl and trying to get that out of her hair since her mom was totally oblivious to what had happened! I did at least mouth to her to ask if she as okay and she nodded back and we both had a good laugh about it! Only at Golden Corral, right?!

After stuffing ourselves silly at GC, we went to go see "Hugo" at the theater. Great movie, highly recommend it! Don't want to ruin it for you, just trust me, go see it! Then we came home where the dogs overall seem upset that they did not get any turkey for Thanksgiving...greedy brats, they must have forgot that Dan gave them an extra helping of kibble this morning!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I can't believe this year is nearly over and I've only posted once this whole year!

I've been actually reading a lot of blogs lately to inspire me to keep up with my own personal blog. It just occurred to me that I've only posted once, maybe twice this whole year! My excuse...I don't have one! I am admittedly the world's worst blogger! No wonder nobody ever reads my blogs...well, for the most part.

So a little update on life here in Alaska. We are STILL here. Feels like forever now. However, things are going well and we really like it here, minus the frigid cold temps in the winter! I have been on bedrest for the majority of the year due to a pressure sore. It's official, my body hates me and doesn't want to heal! I've had actually quite a bit of time on my hands...so why haven't I been blogging? Ugh...yep, the thought of not keeping up with my blog is slowly now driving me insane! I really have no excuses for not posting anything. Okay...letting it go...for now at least.

I have been busy getting the photography business going. It's slowly getting off the ground and I had my first gallery showing of sorts back in Septemeber (yep, should have blogged about that too...did I? Nope!). I am really enjoying learning new portrait techniques though and getting more and more business.

This past weekend was quite chaotic and fun! Since I am "technically" not allowed out of bed for any long length of time, my husband who has been wonderful since I've had to be on bedrest did a marvelous job getting the house ready for Christmas portraits that people have been requesting. I had a newborn shoot to do as well as my first of several family Christmas portraits to do. Silly me thought I could do them all in one day. I did, but I'm regretting it a bit now....okay, digressing yet again.

So...the night before the day before the shoot, Dan got the house all decorated with the Christmas tree and other Christmas decorations that made the house very festive looking. I did also have to send him out to the store to get a few other last minute prop ideas I had for the newborn shoot. Here is how the following conversation went regarding the shopping trip:

Dan (calling on the phone) They do not appear to have any cornacopias at Michaels. Thanksgiving isle is pretty much picked over or we totally missed the holiday...any other ideas?

Me: Pine cones, do they have those?

Dan: Kinda, they have glitter on them though....you know, the herpes of craft products

Me: Okay, those won't really work either...just don't forget the ribbon I need. Try Walmart or Fred Meyers for the cornacopia

Dan: Okay....still don't know why you are insisting on stuffing a kid inside a cornacopia...remind me to shoot Ann Geddes later!

Me: Just see what you can find....oh, and dont' forget the stuff I need at Anita's place.

Dan: Okay...see you soon.

30 minutes or so later.......

Dan walking through the door walking in with much more than I needed and or asked for but I was not going to complain. He did awesome! As he is bringing in everything and putting the bags on the bed for me to go through....the best line of the night came next:

Dan: I don't think I have ever felt so gay in my life!

Me: Why?

Dan: Well, when you are at a store like Michaels or Walmart in the craft areas or more "female" aisles and saying things out loud like "oh that's cute or oh that would be a fun prop, oh I like that one, etc." the women around start looking at you funny...as they are pulling their children closer to them.

I LOVE my husband! And just for the record...he IS NOT GAY! LOL!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Iditarod 2011!

Living in Alaska there is an adventure for me practically every day, around every corner. There have been several highlights and this year so far that highlight has been attending Iditarod 2011. The only other highlight that has topped this experience (and it's a near tie actually) is when my dad was able to get me a glacier flight landing on Denali.

This past weekend Daniel and I got to attend the ceremonial start and the re-start in Willow of Iditarod 2011. This year was extra special as I was able to secure a press pass and go behind the scenes a bit! Saturday was the ceremonial start and began rather early! We stayed at the Howard Johnson downtown which is right on 4th ave. so that we wouldn't have to fight with traffic. Our day started at 6 a.m. to get ourselves and camera gear ready. Four layers of clothing later, we were out the door by 8:30 or 9 a.m. Walking out onto 4th ave, the streets were already packed with excitement as fans from Alaska and around the world gathered to see 62 mushers make their way down 4th ave and through the streets of Anchorage only to finish at Campbell airstrip. This is the traditional route the mushers take for the ceremonial start. There were 10 Iditariders this year, individuals that spent quite a bit of money (or through charitable contributions) who got to ride with various mushers on Saturday. This year the Iditarod Committee put up a special wheelchair section or platform right near the start for those with disabilities who were invited to sit there so that we would have a better viewing of the start. While we had great seats and got some amazing pictures, it wasn't exactly what I had in mind for my press pass! It was a new learning experience and next year I think we will be better prepared to be where the rest of the press will be.....right down next to the snow berms! I guess people volunteering with the Iditarod don't realize that just because someone is in a wheelchair doesn't mean that they are a professional photographer and there to take amazing pictures! Oh well, next year! I've got it all mapped out already!

Dan and I decided to only stay at the start till after seeing Lance Mackey. He is the superstar of the Iditarod so pictures of him are a must of course. Shortly after he left the start line we gathered our stuff and headed toward Campbell airstrip. This is where the fun begins! We got to park in the press area finally and got to get up close to lots of the dogs and made our way over to the trail that they were coming down. Now...for those who have taken sled dog pictures you will understand this next bit of insanity! Shooting the dogs coming down the trail is somewhat tricky in a wheelchair. Sometimes they turn out well, sometimes...most times they can turn out a bit lopsided and/or I miss the shot! Well, after about 20 or 30 minutes of trying to shoot from the chair, I begged Dan to spread the blanket down and lower me to the ground. My wonderful husband, not wanting me to get cold and or hurt at first refused...drat. What next? Okay, continue shooting from the chair....okay, if I must. Nope, still not getting the shots I want. I take matters somewhat into my own hands and put the blanket on the ground. Ha! Dan now has no choice but to help lower me to the ground :) Success! Now, one would think I would be freezing, but it was actually quite comfortable and I was able to use the snow berm as a stablizer almost like a tripod! From then on I was able to get some pretty good shots!

After we finished in Anchorage, we shifted gears and headed to Wasilla to spend the night there since we were attending the Alaska Dog and Puppy Bow Wow Ball and doing the photography for that event. After a really long day, we ended up back at the hotel we were staying at and I pretty much fell into bed and asleep at midnight! Early Sunday morning we got up and started getting ready to head to Willow for the official start of Iditarod 2011. Not knowing exactly what the weather was going to be like, I decided to add one more layer today, turned out to be a slight mistake. I was roasting! When we got to Willow our friends Rhonda and Julia made it possible for Dan to park down on the ice where the mushers got to park. The whole day was absolutely wonderful and would not have been possible without these two ladies helping us out! Thank you to both Rhonda and Julia!

While down where the mushers were getting ready we got to meet and see many of the mushers. Lance Mackey was already there and giving interviews so getting to chat with him was impossible. Newton Marshall was next to Mackey as he is using some of Mackey's dogs. Newton is the musher from Jamaica and you can tell he really loves his dogs and loves racing the Iditarod. We also got to meet Wattie McDonald, the musher from Scotland and his buddy Dean who have invited us to come to Homer to see the dogs in the off-season and take a sled dog ride! That was offer #2 as G.b Jones also made us an offer as well. G.b Jones is a good friend with our friend Mimi so we got to meet him on Saturday and spend some time photographing (or trying to at least) his dogs. He's got one dog, Mick, who was very friendly and curious of the chair so we played more than photographed! After seeing most of the mushers, we made our way to the press area to watch the start. It was great getting to be right next to the start and seeing all the mushers head out of the start chute and onto complete the 1,000 mile race to Nome! Mush on!

I've begun work on the pictures and they can be found on my website at kristielentphotography.com it may still take me a day or two to get them all up so keep checking the website and facebook to see when they are posted.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I've been Published!

Last spring I was invited by my friends Jessica and Justin to go watch Justin in the lead role of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" at Alaska Pacific University where Jessica works. As usual, I took my camera along to take some pictures. I wanted Justin to have some pictures of his "big" debut ;) (For those that don't know, Justin is extremely talented musician and singer!)

As luck would have it, a good handful of pictures turned out pretty well. I was quite happy given that it was pretty low lighting. I gave the best 4 or so pictures to Jessica for her to be able to use for APU promotional use including their newsletter. It was pretty neat knowing that my picture was going to get published with my byline. Justin and Jessica have been so good to Daniel and I and we are such good friends that it was a pleasure to do it for them. That was last spring and I figured that was the end of that set of pictures for the most part.

Today though Jessica let me know that my picture now is appearing in an article featured in U.S News & World Report in their online site. APU is apparently one of the top grad schools in the country. While none of the photographers whose pictures are featured were credited in the article where their picture appears, I still consider it a huge step forward in my career to becoming a real professional photographer. Here's the link to see the article and all the pictures. My photo is #6 in the series. It's the theater one in case it shows up differently on your screen.

Friday, February 4, 2011

My thoughts on Egypt

Over the past week we have all been hearing about the upheaval in Egypt from those who are still able to report from over there. Now, even though I have studied Political Science and other governmental studies, I will be the first to admit that it's an area of conversation that really does not hold my interest. For this, tonight I was called insensitive. I consider myself a great patriot of my own country, the United States of America and while I do care about the rest of the world, I've just always been one that if it does not directly affect me (quite frankly immediately) then I have a harder time staying interested. The reason for this may at first sound like a lack of empathy. Yet, I ask those reading this where other countries have been when the US has been in need of aid?

Right now over 20% of our nation is suffering from a severe ice and snow storm. We are not talking a few inches, we are talking enough snow and ice to halt entire school systems, shut down the trucking industry or at least delay it and people dying from the extreme temperatures in areas that they are not used to getting. A good friend of mine was not able to get to her doctor's appointment because the office closed so that their pregnant patients would not have to risk their lives and their babies lives to come in for their appointments. My question to the individual that called me insensitive tonight is this - is your country reporting on the status of my country in any way shape or form? I highly doubt it. Yet, for some reason the USA has to feel like it has to stick its nose in everyone else's business. Yes, a lot of the time it is warranted-to an extent, but I would also like to see us step back a bit and see if these other countries can actually for once stand up for themselves.

I for one am very proud of the Egyptian people for demanding the reform they want. I don't recall in any of our history books any other country (except maybe the French) coming to our aid when we wanted freedom from England. No, instead we got together as patriots and said enough is enough we want our own country. This is no less than what the Egyptians are doing in a sense. If they ask for the USA's help then that is one thing, but I think it is highly presumptuous for us to nose into their business with our own news reporters and basically rubberneck a potential trainwreck if that is what it comes to and "report" on it for all hours of the day and night when there are other matters closer to home I would like to hear about first, especially since nothing substantial has happened as of yet. He agreed that he would not run again, now that was substantial and made sense to report on. What happened today I don't think warranted a "special report"

Yes, I was a bit miffed that a daytime show I was watching got interrupted today all to report on this news reporter getting to interview the Egyptian President, oh and also that she got to see his family. Was that really a call for a "Special Report" when that is something that could have been reported on the nightly news that airs at least twice in most of this country? To me, a special report would be a high official getting severely injured, the Chilean miners finally getting rescued, or another county getting bombed. Not to come on the air for ten minutes talking about an interview that they weren't even giving the specifics of at that time and waited UNTIL the nightly news to give.

My life might be impacted by what is going on in Egypt, only time will tell. If it does, can I please have a "special report" on the news about how one individaul's life has been changed by something a world away? Oh please say I can! OH, did that sound insensitive? Perhaps...then again, some people just can't take sarcasm!

I find it funny how people I know both very well and maybe some not so well always have such nice compliments about how kind and thoughtful I am, etc yet when I choose to speak my mind it's a different story. It's not because they don't really know me, it's only because I don't speak my mind very often because I am one that doesn't like conflict. Well, I've decided that is going to change in 2011. I am planning on speaking my mind more. This does not mean I am not going to be the same caring and thoughtful individual that I always have been and always will be, one that I know my parents would be proud to say they raised that way. Anyone that knows me well enough knows that I will lay down my life for those I care about, which happens to be a lot of people - my family and more friends than I can count. It simply means that I plan on expressing my opinion, my real opinion and not the one you want to hear, a lot more. If you don't like it, then you don't have to, that's your opinion. We can agree to disagree!