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Go Big or Go Home

“Go Big or Go Home”

In theory, that is a great idea, but in reality, it does not work for someone like me. I’m an all or nothing kind of person, so instead of trying something, I just assume I will fail and do nothing. I guess that would be the easiest explanation as to why there has been nothing posted on this blog in the past 2 years. I don’t want to say I am going to start blogging, only to quit after a few weeks and add something to my list of failures..so instead I do nothing. My brain is full of big ideas, but rather than starting them and falling, I just don’t try. Good way to ensure that I am successful, right?

Since I am not so slowly approaching my 40th birthday and it is the time for “resolutions”, I decided it is time to start making some changes. Rather than promise to eat right, exercise, spend less money, not yell at my kids, keep the house clean, cook more, organize 5 years of photos, etc, etc..I thought I would try writing on my blog. Hopefully in doing so, I can get to know myself better and figure out what next. I wish I had been smart enough to become a “blogger” years ago when I had my first “mama blog”, but being that I am not a writer nor am I an expert at cooking, sewing, crafting, organizing, parenting, exercising, etc, I figured what do I really have to say. Who cares what I am or am not an expert in. From my little quips on Facebook, I know I am not alone in the thoughts and feelings I have, so what not share them with 3 of you, right?

My wonderful husband bought me this beautiful MacBook Pro for Christmas. I stared at it in  he box for a week before I decided to keep it. With my goal of less screen time in 2014, I thought that adding this to my iPhone and iPad would be a bad idea. But, I decided to keep it on the condition that I don’t use it to wander the world wide web aimlessly, but to change the world. OK, I may not actually change the world, but I need to get past the idea that it does not have to be “go big or go home”, but it is more than enough to do my part to dent universe or at least dent my little community.

I’ll be back, I have much more to say. Going to put Martha the MacBook back in her box for the night. That is totally normal to put it back in the box after every use, right?!


January 9, 2014 - 9:25 pm

Christy - Love this! Love you!!! You’ve already changed my world ;)

how to love like liam & live like a rockstar

Today marks one very sad year since Prince Liam the Brave passed away. I wrote this post about him last year soon after he passed away.  I have no idea how his parents Gretchen & Larry, continue to get up every day and continue to raise money for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, but they do. They continue to do it because they made a promise to Liam, they promised that they would make it better for other kids, and they will, I have no doubt about it.  Gretchen and so many other mamas are forced into a life that they did not want to be part of, but in turn take the worst possible thing that could ever happen and try and make some good come out of it. I never met Liam, but was blessed to meet Gretchen last year when she came to our mamas night out event. While I know that there is nothing that can ease her pain, I hope that knowing how her story as opened they eyes of so many people, around the country and here in Santa Cruz, can at least show her that she is making a difference and Liam lives on in the hearts of so many.

There is another blog that I have been following, that touched me in the same way that Liam’s story had, that I have hesitated to share because it is so incredibly heartbreaking, raw, honest and real. Beautiful little Ronan, had Neuroblastoma like Liam, and sadly lost his battle last year as well. Ronan’s mama, Maya, shares her story and grief in a way that will leave you crying and hopefully motivated to make a difference. You can read her blog here. If I had to pick out one post that sums it up for me, it would have to be this one: “how could my love not be enough“. Just imagine for a second being told that there is nothing more that can be done for your child’s cancer. I don’t think that we have any clue what it is really like to love a child until we hold our babies for the first time. To know that no matter how much you love them, there may come a point where you can do NOTHING to save them, is just shocking and so completely wrong.

I know many people who completely tune me out when I start talking about pediatric cancer, it is just too awful to think about and I guess that people hope that if they pay no attention to it, it will not happen to them. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Pediatric cancer does NOT discriminate, and it is thousands of moms like Gretchen & Maya who are working through their never-ending grief to make a difference so that other mamas do not have to ever feel the pain of losing your child to cancer. As a mom of 3 healthy kids, I owe it to moms like this to do my small part to make a difference.

Like many others, I could have made resolutions a few weeks ago to eat better, exercise, be a better mama, get organized, spend less money, go through 5 years of photos on my computer, etc, I would really just be setting myself up for failure. If I could just find a way to love like liam and live like a rockstar, I will be a much better person at the end of 2012 than I was at the end of 2011. I am not so sure that organizing photos or spending less money will make me a better person, will it?! I think this years resolution needs to be a bit more simple, it really comes down to this:

It is about being the BEST version of yourself, that you can possibly be.” – Maya Thompson

Ronan’s mama has this list on her blog called “how to live like a rockstar”, that I have printed out and look at every single day. For today, in honor of Liam,  I am going to focus on #6 – Educating  people around me about pediatric cancer and #18 –  Love with your whole heart, soul, mind and body. #19 is to stop freaking out because your kid colored on the wall with a black sharpie, and then peed all over the carpet. I will be glad that I have a kid to create such a creative piece of art for me. I will embrace my little guys inner spiciness. That cute one up above who walks to the beat of his own drum every single day.

Everyday, 46 Kids are diagnosed with Pediatric Cancer and 7 Kids lose their battle to Pediatric Cancer. Since Prince Liam the brave lost his battle 365 days ago, 2,555 kids have lost their battle and 16,790 kids have started their battle.

Please join the fight for Liam & Ronan, as well as for your kids, your neighbors kids and our future kids.

Do not turn away and pretend pediatric cancer does not exist. Hold a bake sale, make a donation, buy some cookies, order a necklace, make a difference and above all..LOVE LIKE LIAM.


January 28, 2012 - 6:04 am

around the web » Krista Lund Photography - [...] you heard of Cookies for Cancer? my photog friend has a great blog post- so inspiring! i’ve already asked for her help. i want to do something with Cookies for Cancer [...]

Project 52 – family – around the web

As a family photographer, you would think this weeks theme would have been as easy one, but it was not. I thought about sharing family photos I have taken of others that really capture the essence of family, but decided if I was going to do it, I would talk about my family.

Every few months, I tell Todd that maybe we should have had a fourth child. This comment usually comes when the kids are sleeping or we are out on a date. The comment is usually followed by a look that basically says.. “are you crazy, have you forgotten what your day was like?!”. Life with 3 kids under 9 is a bit crazy, but in brief moments, I am able to look into the future and see what it will be like when the kids are grown, married and have children of their own. I see that as crazy as the years with younger kids are, down the line it will definitly be, “the more the merrier”. We don’t have lots of extended family, only a few cousins who don’t live nearby and grandparents that are at least a few hours way. I figure that if our little “unit” is pretty much our family, mine as well make it bigger, right?! Another child is not in the cards for us, and I am pretty happy with our “little” family of 5 (6 if you include Cookie). I am so thankful that family is so important to Todd. He is an amazing husband and father who does whatever he needs to, to make make sure that he gives the best possible life for us. He works hard every day to provide for our family and then spends any free time he can helping create great memories for our children. While our family may not be huge or exactly what I thought it would be, it is pretty darn good and I know I owe that to Todd.

One day a few weeks ago, Todd took the day off from work. I planned to spend the entire day finishing up mama and me photos and expected him to stay home to work on projects around the house. He had other plans though. He wanted to take Ari and I on a little walk to see the tadpoles that he had seen with Eli & Zoey a few days prior. I hesitated and then decided I needed to go along. I thought about leaving my camera at home, but Todd encouraged me to bring it. Thank goodness I did. The light could not have been more perfect and I was able to  take some shots that remind me why I love photography and capture just one of the many things that make our family special.

Make sure to click over and check out what Misty Setzler, Lubbock Tx Photographer did this week.

I think this photo says it all..
I LOVE this photo, I just do.

The light and color make me happy. I could have shot ALL day right here.

We brought a container to try and bring a tadpole home and watch it turn into a frog.

My reward for leaving the house and bringing my camera, catching  my adorable little frog in the most perfect light doing his little jiggity jig.

June 24, 2011 - 2:44 am

wedding make up artist - So many different looks you captured here!

June 24, 2011 - 3:31 am

wedding PR - Great family photographer! Just beautiful Work!

June 24, 2011 - 6:05 am

Amy Mae - Oh Michelle. Great job! These are so wonderful!!!! Very sweet. Love the framing in the tunnel, too!

June 24, 2011 - 8:19 am

Shannon - Fantastic family photos! Hope you hang all of them on your wall!

June 24, 2011 - 9:30 am

Nicki - i love these images, great job!

June 24, 2011 - 10:03 am

Jenn - These are so beautiful. Love the sentiment and how you captured the little details of your outing.

June 24, 2011 - 10:56 am

liza - what a great set! the holding hands shot is killing me, so sweet!

June 24, 2011 - 12:54 pm

Michelle's mom - love the pictures thanks for sharing. he (Ari) is getting so big.soon he will be taller then his Bubbie in Massachusetts.just like everyone else.

June 24, 2011 - 12:54 pm

Megan Wold - Your little frog is absolutely adorable! And I love that shot of him and your husband in the tunnel.

June 25, 2011 - 12:59 pm

Jobrina Hofleit - LOVE these series of images Michelle, I especially love that first one of your husband and son holding hands!!!!! ;-)

June 26, 2011 - 10:02 am

Crystal K - These are all adorable but those first two pulled at the heart strings. Your composition on the second is perfection. I love how you captured your feeling toward your husband and son- so well done.

July 6, 2011 - 3:00 am

rome wedding photography - Awesome frames! This boy is so cute!

July 7, 2011 - 6:58 am

Wedding Inspiration - So much energy come from these pictures! Great!

Project 52 – Home – Around the web

I promised myself that this would be the week that I jumped back into “project 52″, then I saw the theme was “home” and I thought about passing on this week and jumping in next week. As I sat at my desk that is just covered in stuff, looked around at the clutter that is surrounding me where the kids play, the wall still empty with no photos hanging and the stained carpet, and unfinished projects, I thought, can I really take a photo of my “home”?! In my head and as I peruse pinterest, I see homes that are perfect, spaces where I would be content and calm, and then get overwhelmed at the thought of starting to de-clutter our house and make it something that I will love and want to share. A few hours after I had those thoughts, we went out to let the kids eat the pudding pops we had made earlier and I took some photos of them eating their tasty snacks. While taking the pictures, I found that there actually was something I love about my home..our front steps. If I go through photos from the 4 years we have lived here, I love that I can see my kids grow up on these stairs. I don’t love that looking through those photos means finding them on various hard drives on my computer, rather than in albums, but that will change as part of my “summer of de-clutter”. I have photos on these steps from the first and last days of school, photos from warm nights where I let them eat their ice cream outside so they would not make a mess in the house, photos when I beg them for a quick photo because they look extra cute, the light is right, I am testing something on my camera or they let me pay them $2.00 to take a picture of them. So, while me loving and photographing the inside of my home is a work in process, I love these stairs just they way they are, and to me,they are “home”.

Now go and check out Liza Hall’s view of “home”, which looks like perfection.

June 17, 2011 - 11:23 am

Brandie - Love this Michelle! I need to make a point to get my photos of the computer too.

June 17, 2011 - 11:26 am

Christine - These images are adorable. The tones in the first one are perfect and so sweet. I love your definition of home.

June 17, 2011 - 5:02 pm

liza - these are gorgeous! the moments you captured are priceless and classic, and your conversions perfect! oh, and far from perfection our house is….the fact that it is so far away and out of focus makes it very forgiving!

June 17, 2011 - 6:37 pm

Amanda - Great post! Sounds like we have a lot in common! I can relate to your entire post! :) Great steps and the story behind it. Your kids are adorable!

June 17, 2011 - 9:28 pm

Misty - We’ll I think they got over paid money and ice cream ;) smart kids! I love the stairs!

June 18, 2011 - 7:49 am

Amy C - So perfect. It’s nice that you have photos of them on the steps through the years. That will always be fond memories! And I too am working on de-cluttering and printing photos this summer! My kids want photo albums :) So sad that I don’t have any!!!!

June 18, 2011 - 9:32 pm

Jenn - So perfect, Michelle. Love the sentiment.

June 20, 2011 - 10:38 am

Jennifer Foster - ahhh this post made me smile. I SO hear you about the home pics, I almost skipped this week too, but your “step” shots are inspiring, love them <3<3

June 20, 2011 - 2:49 pm

Shannon - How wonderful! What fantastic memories you’re making.

June 21, 2011 - 5:48 am

Meghan Boyer - These are beautiful conversions. Classic photos as well. I love them!

August 24, 2011 - 2:50 am

wedding PR - What a pleasure to read!

Mamas Night Out

Where do I even start to talk about the “Mamas Night Out”. It has been 3 weeks now, and I keep putting off writing a post about it, because I am not sure I will ever do it justice. Trying to do it justice may result in me writing a short novel, so let me see what I can do.

I love what Pacific Cookie Company employee Emily, wrote about the event, which you can read in its entirety here, but these few sentences sum it up so nicely. “It was at that moment that I realized the significance of the event. Mama’s Night Out wasn’t just another night on the town; it wasn’t about socializing with friends or with other mothers; it wasn’t about showing off your new shoes, or winning a few raffle prizes; it was about family. It was about solidarity. It was about creating awareness. It was to teach how to Love Like Liam.”

The event was everything I had hoped it would be and more. I am still in a bit of shock that 275 women showed up. Our goal was 200, but we would have been happy with 100. For me personally, looking around the room and seeing mamas I met 9 years ago at a new baby group, teachers from my my kids elementary and preschool, moms who I talk to everyday and moms who I have met once or twice, was such a great feeling. To see all these women come out to support a cause that had become so important to me was overwhelming. There were also the amazing mamas who jumped on board with Cara and I and did all they could do to help out. I can’t forget the businesses and individuals who donated to the cause to ensure that every dollar raised at the event would go to Cookies for Kids Cancer.

There was the the shabby chic orange and pink decor that was perfection. I spent the first part of the evening watching women walk in and be in awe. They then made their way over to the wine that was so generously donated and sampled the delicious desserts also donated from 16 local bakeries. They bought raffle tickets to win one of the 75 items or bid on the silent auction items. The mamas did some shopping in our mama business shopping area and even had an opportunity to get fit for the right size bra. There was a place to get your makeup done, glitter tattoos and the very popular feather hair extensions. Mamas drank some yummy cocktails being made by Clouds and listened to the dj playing just the right tunes to get them moving. There was also the fun photo booth set up by Rebecca Stark Photography (you can see those photos here and event photos from Rebecca here). The icing on the cookie though, was having Gretchen Witt, mama of sweet prince Liam and the person who started Cookies For Kids Cancer come to the event. We watched a slideshow of Liam’s beautiful memorial service and then Gretchen spoke. She shared all the amazing things about Liam and why she started Cookies for Kids Cancer. While there was not a dry eye in the house, mamas got the message loud and clear that 1. pediatric cancer is grossly underfunded and 2. to LOVE LOVE LIAM.

When Cara and I started planning the event and told Gretchen our plan, she said she was going to come to the event. While I thought that would be the most wonderful thing, I was not going to get my hopes up. I knew that May was going to be a tough and busy month for her, and a trip from New York to California may not actually work out. Cara and I went ahead planning and hoped that Gretchen would be able to attend and share sweet Liam in her own words. A few days before the event, while Cara and I were meeting, we saw a facebook update from Gretchen that she was really coming to the event. As things got crazy those last few days, I would just stop and think of Gretchen walking into the event and seeing 250+ women there to support her cause, and then I would cry.  As Cara and I watched women coming in to the event, and made sure everything was going smooth, we often looked toward the entry for Gretchen. While Cara and I waited for the elevator so we could head downstairs and see if Gretchen had showed up, the doors opened and there she was. Cara and I tried not to cry, but how could we not. Emily Fowler, Gretchen’s friend and the one who does so much of it a Cookies For Kids Cancer, wrote this to us in an email, when she talked of getting some press for the event; “who wouldn’t want to retell the story of 3 women who were complete strangers and are now friends (even though they’ve never met in person . . .yet), united by the inspiration of a little boy and the organization founded by one of the women?”. I think that sums it up so nicely. This photo is one I will always treasure.

The concept of the event was something I had in my head for a few years now. Mamas go out with their “momtourage” every month or so. We eat, drink margaritas and complain about the things in our life that are not going quite as planned. I thought why not take the idea of a mamas night out and make it for a good cause. Lucky for me, Cara totally got it and we made a great team planning the details of this event to make it perfect. So perfect, that before the night was over, people were already asking if we would do it again next year. Don’t tell our husbands yet, but I think the answer is yes. I would also love to see mamas everywhere do these types of events. Find a cause that is important to you and your friends and do it..just do it.

As Gretchen put it that evening, “it is not about science, it is about funding”. While many mamas left the event with glitter tattoos, feather extensions and a few raffle prizes, they also left moved and inspired to make a difference. Unfortunately, once you get back into the daily routines of life, it is hard to hold onto that feeling. The thought of actually doing something can be a bit overwhelming and I want to make it easy for mamas and their kids to make a difference. In September, during Childhood Cancer Awareness month, I want to encourage you to have a bake sale. At a time when many of us will be crazy with back to school and all the activities that surround that, it is the perfect time to think of all the mothers who are dealing with something much bigger than picking out the right backpack. I promise to do all I can to help you hold a bake sale between September 15th-18th at your kids school, in your workplace or right in front of your house in your neighborhood. There was a wonderful blog post written on the CFKC blog about involving you kids here. To sum it up, I share this quote from one of Liam’s preschool teachers;  “Not only can children relate to cookies, they can help bake, package and sell cookies. It is literally a hands-on opportunity for children to become part of the solution to a problem that plagues way too many children in today’s world. What a positive way for families to nurture the seeds of empathy in their young children, and introduce them to the ways philanthropy and activism!”

For a few years now, I had thought about doing mini mama and kids photo-shoots to benefit CFKC. When I walked into the space where the event was going to be held, and saw the columns throughout the space, I knew that photos of mamas and their kids would be the perfect addition to the event. A few weeks before the event, me and 3 other local photographers did a day of “mama and me” mini sessions and we then hung a black and white one from every session at the event. While doing all those sessions was a bit exhausting, getting the opportunity to see and document the love that mamas have for their children was invigorating.

When I look at these photos, I see a beautiful mama and her adorable girls, who felt as strongly as I did about this important cause and was my perfect partner in crime. I also see mamas and their amazing little boys who just so happen to be cancer survivors, a mama who brought another child into her already full family to give him a wonderful life, a mama who lost her sweet boy years ago and still has the ability to find joy in the everyday. I also see a mama who had to make a change in her life to do the best for her children, a mama who lost her husband and is having to raise her beautiful children without him. There are also a few mamas who had to deal with miscarriages before they got to move on to have their precious babies..one who had her little boy the night of our event. I see a mama who is always the first person to lend a hand for an important cause and A mama who has never had photos taken with her 3 beautiful boys.

I look at these photos and I see that every mama has a story and what it is like to love your children in a way you never thought possible. I see a small fraction of the women who joined us on a magical night in May and learned to LOVE LIKE LIAM.

June 15, 2011 - 3:09 pm

Jo Ann - Beautiful, Michelle! Thanks so much for sharing this. You’re amazing.

June 15, 2011 - 9:22 pm

Becky - Michelle.. your beautifully written words and gorgeous photos have again moved me to tears. The night was pefection! You and Cara are simply amazing. Thank you for your huge and generous heart!

June 15, 2011 - 10:49 pm

Julie - I agree, you are amazing and I’m so blessed to have met you.

June 16, 2011 - 2:22 am

Tara Lynn Wedding Photography - Your work is lovely, just amazing.

June 17, 2011 - 7:42 am

Sophie - Such an amazing cause, and your article was extremely touching… The photos were the icing on the cake. Thanks so much for sharing!!

June 18, 2011 - 6:54 am

Gretchen - I am still speechless….what an amazing evening. It was simple. It was elegant. It was beautiful. But resonated the most for me was the love in the room. There was so much love….and if love is the guide, you can never go wrong.

Gretchen + Liam

June 22, 2011 - 9:05 am

Lizz Anderson - Hi Gretchen,

We donated to your 5/26 Santa Cruz event, but I’d love to talk about more ways I can get involved. I run the Music Together program in Santa Cruz & Santa Clara Counties – and I know many of the moms in your photos from our classes!

Can we host an event in our classroom? Offer your local moms a coupon for our classes?

My only brother died of bone cancer at age 14, and I’m already involved with Jacob’s Heart, but I’d like to see how I can get involved with Mama’s Night Out too.


July 7, 2011 - 9:30 am

How to Put on a Successful Non Profit Event - [...] Check out this link to see Michelle’s blog about the event, complete with Mama and Me photos. http://michelleriddlephoto.com/2011/06/15/mamas-night-out/. The mama and me photos raised [...]