Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Anniversary Acknowledgement

Today I have to give a shout out to our good friends Heather and Grant, even though I know they rarely read my blog. I like to tell myself it's because they can only get a slow connection to the Internets out in the country where they live, but in reality I need to just admit to myself that some people just aren't blog readers! Sadly, I'm not much of a blog reader these days either. Since I no longer have a regular routine at my computer, going to Google Reader only crosses my mind about once a week.

Regardless of whether they see this post or not though, I have to say how proud and honored I am to have them as friends since they are celebrating their 20th anniversary today! How awesome is that? We have no other close friends who've been married for 20 years--in fact, they're our only friends who've been married longer than we have! I think it's pretty darn impressive--not to mention highly unusual these days!

Our dear friends were kind enough to invite us to celebrate with them this weekend with a stay in nearby Weston, but unfortunately we didn't feel like we could get a dogsitter for the night due to Celtic's health. I'm bummed we won't be there to commemorate this milestone, but I'm sure they'll still have a wonderful time without us! Congratulations, Grant and Heather!

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mike and Tiffany

Today I finally finished editing and uploading the engagement pictures I did two weeks ago for our good friends Mike and Tiffany. Mike and Chad met way back in 1990 when they played football together at Hutchinson Community College. They became good friends and eventually roommates, and a few years later Mike was one of the groomsmen in our wedding. Although we only met Tiff in the fall of 2009 when they started dating, I feel like we've known each other longer because we get along so well! She's super smart, amazingly talented and hilariously funny, and we're looking forward to their wedding in Florida next April!

I was way honored that Tiff and Mike asked me to do their engagement photos (along with a few family pictures with them and Mike's son Maddox), but I was a little nervous because I had only done kid/family/baby sessions before theirs. While I'm getting better at spotting good lighting for shots, I'm still terrible at directing people into poses that look normal and natural. Thankfully, Mike and Tiff had lots of ideas about what they wanted to do and poses they liked. Some worked and some didn't, but that's the beauty of digital photography--you can just delete the ones that look dorky!

Once again, during my initial round of editing, I had a terrible time deleting any. I ended up taking my favorite version of every pose--and there were a ton of different poses! Even when I knew that a picture wasn't one of my favorites, I still kept it because I was afraid it might be one of their favorites! I was glad I did, because Tiffany and Mike definitely chose lots of favorites that I wouldn't have considered! It's just interesting how different people have completely different tastes in poses and processing.

Speaking of processing, in this batch of pictures I ended up using a lot more "actions" in Photoshop than I normally do, only because that's what Tiffany really liked. She loved the black and whites and Pioneer Woman's "Old West" technique especially, so I did a lot of different versions of each of their favorite pics. In the end, this is the one that they choose as their official engagement photo!

While I think this is a great picture, I also think it's funny that it's totally not the one that I would have chosen as my favorite. For some reason I absolutely love the more candid shots--the ones where Mike and Tiff are less posed and more engaged (get it...engaged?) with each other are the ones I love. My point is, I think I'm forever going to be editing every picture in the bunch because I'm always going to remember this session when the "clients" chose completely different favorites than I did!

Regardless, I think there were a lot of good ones in the set. If you have a few minutes, take a look at them and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Birthday #1

On Saturday Chad and I had the pleasure of attending our little friend Eli's first birthday party. His parents (our good friends Pat and Kristin) threw a wonderful monkey-themed shindig for the little guy complete with an incredible monkey cake and all sorts of other fantastic food. I got to be the official photographer of the event, and I'm glad I could help out in that way since Kristin had her hands full with entertaining guests and Pat was busy manning the grill. Although I haven't gone through and edited all the pictures from the day, here are enough to tell the story of his party!

There were some terrific decorations.

Kristin and her mom made an incredible (and tasty) monkey cake.

Eli was very excited to see his friend Lakin and hugged on her almost the entire day.

He wasn't terribly into opening presents, but he did enjoy playing with the new toys once they were open. I got him this baby blackberry and he immediately knew what to do with it!

Eli had a split second of uncertainty when first given his mini-monkey cake.

The uncertainty soon gave way to this...

...and to this...

...and this! It was a very impressive display of cake eating/playing!

Today was Eli's actual birthday, and this evening I enjoyed more time with the little munchkin and his family when I did his official one-year-old photo session. I came home and started editing right away, and after just a single pass through the bunch I found quite a few that I really like. I hope his parents like them too! I uploaded them quickly in low-quality just so I could provide a sneak peak today!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Plethora of Pictures

The last few weeks I've had several photography gigs, although I'm not sure if I'm really allowed to call them gigs yet if I'm not charging any money. Maybe someday I'll set up an actual business and website, but for now I'm content to just practice. It's fun for me, and I love to (hopefully) provide pictures for my friends that will adequately capture a special occasion or moment in time.

The disadvantage to taking so many pictures lately is that I'm having a hard time keeping up with all the editing and sharing of them! I take so many darn pictures at each session or event, it then takes me hours to go through and delete, crop, sharpen and color correct them. My biggest problem is that I have no ability to discern which are bad and which are good. It's like 99% of the time I can find something I like about almost every picture I take, and then I can't delete any of them! I have to go through the batches four or five times to figure out which ones aren't worth keeping, and even then I keep thinking that the ones I end up deleting might be ones that someone else would really like! I just really need to work on my discerning eye!

I'm so slow at this whole editing process that I just tonight finished the pictures I took of our friend Vikkie and Brett and their kids two weeks ago. There were just so many in the batch I liked, I could only narrow it down to 192 pictures! I know that's so ridiculous, and I know not all of them are worth printing, but I just couldn't help myself. Especially because of baby Abe, there were just too many absolutely precious shots. There were probably 100 different adorable expressions by him alone!

Here are just a few of my favorites. If you have a few minutes and have an interest, feel free to look through all 192 of them here!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Happy Boy

I really intended to blog about some other stuff going on in our life, but clearly I've turned the blog into Celtic Watch 2011. I just can't help it because my life and thoughts are so consumed with him. Last night was a fitful night for both of us, as I sat up ever time I heard or didn't hear him just to make sure he was still breathing and to give him a few pats. Although I went to KC yesterday to pick up a stronger anti-inflammatory medication for him, he still seems to be in so much pain and discomfort. He pants sporadically and is frequently so feverish you can feel the heat radiating off of him. I know his time with us is not long, but with that said, he's still such a sweet and happy little guy. Yesterday morning while we were enjoying the cool morning on the back deck, he got so excited and animated when he was ready to go inside. Since one of my regrets when Steeler died was that I had very few videos of him, I made sure I grabbed my phone and captured the joyful moment.

Speaking of his brother Steeler, I've told this to several friends in the last week, but I can't even tell you how much comfort it brings me to know that Steeler and so many other doggy friends (Pepper, Homer, Leo and others) will be waiting for our sweet boy when he gets to doggy heaven. Although I know it's so ridiculous, when Steeler died so suddenly I was further traumatized by the thought of him not having anyone he knew waiting for him when he crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. My beloved grandmother was the only person who had met Steeler (she died when Steeler was about 2) who had already passed away, so I kept telling myself that Steeler was hanging out with her in heaven. It was such a silly thought, but it really brought me comfort, just as I'm so comforted now by the fact that Celtic and his brother will be reunited soon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Heavy Heart

I'm not even really sure where to start this post, because the news is very sad and my heart is very heavy. I don't want to be overdramatic at all, but our dogs are obviously a really big deal to us, and yesterday we made a really hard decision about our little man Celtic. We decided to cancel his surgery.

This decision might seem like a strange one to our friends who know we would do anything for our dogs, but Chad and I are thankfully very much in agreement on this. While we didn't come to the decision easily, I think we're at peace with it as much as we can be under the circumstances. Since his CT scan a week ago and the needle aspirates that preceded it, Celtic's overall health has declined significantly and his tumor has literally grown by the day.

We've certainly been worried about this rapid growth of late, but the noticeable size increase wasn't really so out of the ordinary. Often times when cancers are disturbed by a biopsy they tend to react by growing--Hope's first mast cell tumor did the same thing when it was aspirated back in 2007. Although the growth was concerning, we were still hopeful that yesterday morning's bloodwork would be better and today's surgery would be a go. While the anemia was a tiny bit improved, our regular vet Dr. Coles was alarmed by the tumor growth, Celtic's coloring and his overall malaise. He suggested we try and get back in to see Dr. Layton yesterday morning for another consult and possible early surgery, even though Dr. Layton usually only does emergency surgeries on Mondays.

We thankfully got in to see Dr. Layton right away, and as usual, she was her amazingly caring, compassionate and helpful self. She agreed that the tumor was significantly bigger than last week, and she expressed her concerns about his lethargy and immobility. The incredibly rapid growth confirmed her initial suspicion that the cancerous part of the tumor is a hemangiosarcoma, the extremely aggressive kind of cancer that killed Celtic's brother Steeler. Because the tumor had grown so much down his leg, she thought there was a very strong possibility that in order to remove it she would have to amputate his leg as well--or at least damage the nerves enough to make his leg useless. Chad and I both agreed that because of Celtic's age and significant problems with pain and weakness in his back legs, he wouldn't be able to walk on three legs. To us the amputation didn't seem like an acceptable outcome, and if Dr. Layton got started and realized that was her only option, they would just have to put Celtic to sleep by not letting him wake up from surgery. We couldn't bear the thought of his final memories being ones of fear and anxiety in a scary hospital.

There were other significant surgery risks that contributed to the decision, namely that Celtic might bleed to death due to the vascular involvement of the tumor, or that Dr. Layton would open him up only to find that surgical removal was just impossible because the tumor was so connected to muscles and other tissues. Even if the surgery went perfectly and Dr. Layton had been able to remove the bulk of the tumor and save the leg, we probably would have only been buying Celtic another 3-6 months before the remnants of the tumor took over and took his life. Since the odds of a perfect surgery were so slim, we didn't think it was a risk worth taking. We decided we would rather spend Celtic's last few weeks spoiling him rotten and showering him with all the love we can.

Obviously I regret that we didn't have Dr. Layton do the surgery last Wednesday, which she could have done. Since the surgery was risky even at that time, I really wanted to have a few more days to spend quality time with him in case something went wrong. Since my brother came home to Kansas on Sunday, I really wanted Eric to have a last visit with Celtic as well. Dr. Layton didn't think waiting six days would really matter, but of course she had no idea how aggressive his tumor would be. Knowing that we might have had him for a few more months instead of a few more weeks absolutely breaks my heart, but maybe not having to recover from surgery will mean less suffering for him in the long run. At least that's what I'm trying to tell myself.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Family Fiascos

Wow--what a week. I apologize for the delay in blogging, but the family drama in the past 7 days has just been off the charts. If you've been following my tweets or seen my Facebook statuses or talked to us at all lately then you probably know the details of what's going on, but let's just say that last Wednesday through Friday was downright crazy. One of our family members was involved in a sort of domestic conflict that was extremely stressful and emotionally draining. We're thankful that the end result is ultimately going to be an improvement, but things are going to be a little chaotic around here for a while as we work through lots of changes!

After a couple of calmer days over the weekend, our next emotional ordeal started on Monday. Actually, the story really started over four years ago when Celtic had an egg-sized lipoma removed from his armpit, and then it continued when we took him to Hope's surgeon Dr. Layton a year later to see if she could remove it again, since it had grown back even larger than before. She couldn't guarantee that it wouldn't grown back after a second surgery, and Hope's surgery was obviously more pressing, and Celtic's armpit tumor wasn't really bothering him, so we made the decision not to do surgery at all.

Over the next several years Celtic's tumor continued to grow, and although it had grown to the size of a baseball, it didn't seem to impede his mobility, so we didn't worry too much about it. We asked the vet if there was any worry that it could have changed into something other than a lipoma, and our vet didn't think that was a possibility. We just kind of ignored it until a few weeks ago, about the time that Hope had her lipoma removed and her teeth cleaned. It suddenly looked as though Celtic was limping a little on his tumor arm, and within another week we could see his front leg was actually bowed out a bit. We decided to make another appointment with Dr. Layton in KC to see if she would still be willing to "debulk" it, knowing that in another few years it would probably grow back.

So I took him to Dr. Layton on Monday, and while her staff was working on an estimate for his surgery, she decided to take a needle aspirate of the mass. Unfortunately, the samples she took were not fatty tissue like she expected. She only got blood, which told her that the tumor was something more than a lipoma, and was connected in a way that meant it was going to be a lot more difficult to remove. Celtic stayed at the hospital for x-rays, a CT scan and blood work, and unfortunately we didn't get very good news from all the tests. The surgeon and a consulting radiologist are pretty sure that Celtic's tumor is cancer. This was certainly not what we expected to hear. Somehow his benign fatty tumor grew a malignant tumor, but we couldn't tell because the fatty tumor was so big!

To add insult to injury, he is also anemic (which might be because of the tumor--Dr. Layton's not sure) and he has a urinary tract infection! The poor guy is falling apart at the seams and we didn't even know! He goes for a walk every day, has a good appetite and generally seems pretty happy, so we were just completely clueless that there was anything (besides old age and his recent back problem) bothering him!

So our first option is to do nothing until Celtic can no longer walk because of the size of the tumor, at which point we'd likely have to put him to sleep because his tumor will be even more difficult to remove and his overall health will be too bad for surgery. There's also a possibility that the tumor could eventually burst, which would also be a terrible end result. Unfortunately, because of the rapid rate that this tumor has been growing as of late, we're afraid that either of these things could happen within a month or so.

Option two is to do surgery fairly soon, which we've tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday. Unfortunately, this surgery doesn't come without some pretty major risks. Because the tumor is so connected to Celtic's vascular system and attached to so much other tissue, the surgery may be fairly lengthy and complicated, and Celtic might not survive being anesthetized for as long as it takes to complete. Because of the vascular involvement, too much bleeding during surgery might be a problem and he might need a transfusion. Finally, opening up his cancerous tumor could cause it's growth to accelerate, making his cancer and overall health worse after surgery and not better.

With all that said, we've decided that the surgery at least has a chance of giving him a few more quality months of life. Dr. Layton thinks it's his best bet, and since we think she's astounding and amazing, we trust that it's the best decision. At least we're praying that it is! We're praying that if surgery isn't the best thing for him, the door on that option will close after his blood work is done on Monday. If his anemia or infection is worse at that time, surgery might not be an option at all, so I guess that will be our sign that we should forgo the surgery and just let nature take its course. Of course we're hoping that the infection can be treated with a few days of antibiotics and that some supplements might help the anemia, so hopefully our little man will be as healthy as possible for his surgery next Tuesday! We would appreciate your prayers between now and then!