Coming soon…

Occasionally we get some truly special opportunities to shoot with old warbirds and trainers. Here is the gorgeous Chelsea from the Bluestocking Burly-Q and Hope Anderson posing with a Trojan T-28 trainer. These planes came into use in the 1950s. Chelsea is wearing genuine HBT overalls and Diesel shoes.

 

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Here’s to an incredible day: Riding around in the washouts in a WWII Jeep, searching for just the right spot. I always try to put a lot of thought into these concepts, and we were fortunate enough to have this amazing vehicle to play with. But that wasn’t the most special part… Hope is holding a real 1911 pistol that belonged to a soldier awarded the Medal of Honor and wearing a real United States Marine hat from WWII.  It’s these little things that the history geek in me lives for. We had such a wonderful afternoon in the warm Colorado sunshine. Hope was a wonderful model and we just loved her!

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So, if you’ve ever driven I-70 east towards Kansas… (the Route 66 song abruptly stops with record-scratching noises)..

Yeah. I’ve made that drive more than a few times. You ever seen those “World’s Largest Prairie Dog” signs EVERY.TEN.MILES??? You always say to yourself that one day you’ll stop, but then suddenly you stop seeing the signs and realize you drove straight past it, and you forget, and move on with your day, until the next time you see those signs, a few weeks, months, years later. They’re old signs, and look older than most prairie dogs probably live. Did I mention there are also signs advertising a five-legged cow? But I digress…

The mister and I decided to stop on our way back from a convention “back East.” We both have seen these signs for years, we weren’t in a hurry, and figured one of us could blame the other if it ended up being utterly ridiculous. Well it was.  It was a giant petting zoo full of animals in cages that were too small, a glass tank full of angry rattlesnakes, and then, the pièce de résistance…. can you tell by the look on our faces that we can’t believe we’re taking pictures in front of this thing, but nobody else will actually believe that we did indeed stop to look? I’m not one of those people who takes a lot of selfies, but this one warranted it!

Clever man, the owner is. Putting up signs for miles on possibly the most boring drive in the United States of America for people to stop in the middle of a giant cornfield to look at dozens of fattened little prairie dogs all clamoring at the feet of The World’s Largest. Only in ‘MURICA! Good thing I think prairie dogs are rather cute or I’d ask for my money back.

Photography in Denver, Colorado, Murica!

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I typically don’t write about my personal life here. But something has recently happened to me that I realized I wanted to share. I wanted people to know about this more than I wanted to keep it to myself and pretend all was well and everything was normal.

There needs to be an increase in dialogue about genetics, and the resources available to people who are at a high risk of cancer. There just isn’t enough information out there. People are not aware that genetic testing is not just for the wealthy and famous any longer, and recent legislation will hopefully put it in the reach of more doctors to help their patients make better preventative choices.

I had always known that there was a very high risk I would get cancer. I’ve had conversations with doctors about my family history, and more than once it’s been suggested that I be tested for the BRCA gene mutation. I’ve always shrugged it off, but it’s begun gnawing at me, for several years now. My paternal grandmother died of cancer when she was close to me in age, and my uncle’s recollection of her sitting in the kitchen crying the day she came home after discovering it has haunted me. I recently took a trip to Maine, and we took the time to walk through the cold, empty and uninhabited house where she died. Stories my dad told me about being a little boy there, standing at the kitchen sink hulling strawberries with her were strong in my mind. I was mindful of her as I photographed the last place on earth she had called home, and it was almost as if she was silently standing there with me in those rooms and in the overgrown bower under the large trees that used to be her garden. A strong sense of sadness hung over me the entire trip, and I could not shake it. My father and his brothers were in an orphanage for many years after she died. We walked through those halls too, and I had to hold back tears as I lingered behind the tour in some of the rooms. I considered what that bleak place must have been like for a heartbroken five-year-old boy who just wanted his mother back, more than anything else in the world. Since the 1940s the orphanage has been upgraded considerably but traces of its former self remain. My father mentioned the cold stone of the stairwells, where he and the other young children had to scrub and mop every day. They were malnourished and abused there, having to steal food at night from matrons who prided themselves on using only a dozen eggs a week for an entire orphanage full of children.

The thought that the beautiful woman I was named for had to leave behind her young sons to the care of that place filled me with such a sad feeling of loneliness. I don’t ever want to have to watch my world slip away from me, powerless to control what will happen to my loved ones when I am gone. I realized that the genetic test my doctor had discussed with me was something I had to go through with. I could not just keep turning a year older every year thinking that it will never happen to me. As I dozed fitfully on the plane back from Philadelphia to Denver, the recurring thought in my mind was that I want to live more than I want to avoid the reality that I have a high risk of cancer, and possibly an early death. I looked out the window at the lights and clouds slipping by below me and I felt so much apprehension about what lay ahead but I knew what to do. The creme-brulee cheesecake and nice steaming hot towels after dinner were the beginning of my plans to celebrate my life and my plans to honor myself more than I ever have before. My husband picked me up at the airport and I didn’t say anything to him about what had happened. I decided would wait until the results came.

Surprisingly, my insurance paid for it. All of it. Every cent of the four-thousand-dollar fee for this test. If they were being this serious about it, so should I. After a few weeks I’d stopped waiting and forgot about it. Until the phone call came, around 6:45 in the evening. My doctor asked me if I had a few minutes, and could sit down…because it was important. I already knew what she was going to say. I asked a few minor questions, told her I was ok, and would get back to her the next week…and then the conversation was over. I sat at my computer for a few more minutes before I went out to tell my husband. “I’m BRCA1 positive,” I murmured, and curled up in a ball. It felt like I had already been told I had cancer, that it was already there, already a menacing threat. I cried a lot, and he was supportive over the next few days as we talked about what to do next. I’d read about Angelina Jolie’s experience, and at the time I thought, “how brave.” Now it was me, staring at the numbers. They were higher than the national rate for BRCA1 mutation carriers given on the genetic testing sheet because of my family history. Higher than 87%. Eighty-seven-percent or higher. The holidays were coming up, and I quietly kept my thoughts to myself as I was surrounded by the whirlwind of places to be, people to see, things to do. Life was going on as usual, but it felt surreal for me in those weeks. I remember driving to work over and over, feeling like I was suddenly on auto-pilot. The thought of the threat of cancer would not diminish and would only worsen. It felt like it was pressing on me. I felt like I was doing so well when I made the decision to undergo the testing, and now that the results were back, I was deflated and just numb.

Nearly two months went by, and during that time I had  visits with doctors and specialists. I had my first mammogram. I did my research. I prayed. I talked about it to my friends until they were weary of hearing about it. Reading online, I tried hard to stay away from the horror-stories and the misery-loves-company forums online, yet I read about cancer until I was dreaming about it in my sleep, and the nightmares of cancer and dying haunted me. I cried, felt sorry for myself, and gained weight. There were not a lot of options for me, and finally, we settled on the surgery option. I already had known I would have a double mastectomy. The risk is so high for breast cancer and recurring incidences, that there was just no other option in my mind. Then there was the risk of ovarian cancer to tackle. We talked about an oopherectomy, a hysterectomy, and the hormone issues. So many things to consider and think about.

After meeting with another round of doctors, now including surgeons, I had been told I was essentially a “walking time bomb,”  and that that my decisions about surgery really were the best choices I could make. It wasn’t if, but when. Not surprisingly, some people tried to convince me I was making a terrible mistake, or that I needed to start a family before having all of these things done, and that I needed to second-guess my decisions, and agonize over it even more than I already was.  It was even suggested to me by a friend that these were evil male doctors were trying to “mutilate” me. They had the very best intentions, and I understood why something so drastic would be shocking. It was hard but I finally had to shut those voices out, even though they came from people I love and respect deeply. Next, I had to start saying no in other ways. I’ve had to turn down wonderful opportunities and clients, scale back volunteer work, and start making serious preparations and changes regarding my employment.  I am beginning to accept and fully grasp how important this really is. The rigorous testing and examinations I’ve undergone have turned up other serious health problems I was having, and I feel grateful for each gleaming fold in the silver lining that goes with all the fears and nervousness.

There are days I feel sorry for myself, and whine a lot. I ask, “why me?”  Without hesitation, there is always a little voice in my mind asking, “because you are strong enough.” I sometimes wake up with nightmares about looking like Frankenstein, and the sight of pink ribbons everywhere makes me emotional. I used to have a love-hate relationship with my body, but I am finding ways to love it a little more each day, and appreciate it, here, now, knowing it will drastically change, but those changes will not be bad changes. Just different changes. It took this happening to force me to realize I’ve been living in fear of cancer for many many years already, and imagining myself helpless and powerless. I had already allowed myself to be a victim of something before it even happened to me. I’m still sad thinking about my grandmother, but I believe she is proud of me for deciding to alter the course of my life for the better. I am so fortunate to have the technology, the advances in science, genetics, and medicine working for me that she did not have available to her in the 1940s.

In a few days, I’ll have the first of several surgeries. I’m nervous, but relieved to finally have taken the first steps towards the implementation of a proactive, aggressive plan to keep me cancer-free, so I can stand at my sink each summer and hull strawberries until I am old and grey.

Although I am frustrated at the inertia I feel now… I know life will pick up and resume for me when I am taken apart, put back together, healed and whole again. I am so grateful to be surrounded by loving family, friends, coworkers, and clients who give me strength, make me laugh, challenge me, and refuse to let me wallow. Thank you. I’ll update again soon with a link to another blog where I’ll talk more about my BRCA1 journey.

Maine in the fall.

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Yesterday we had the opportunity to meet a very special lady and her family. Elizabeth Zuercher had come to Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum’s Family Fun Day with her family. Elizabeth is the wife of the late Jerome Zuercher, who was one of the crew of the B-29 “Ramp Tramp” that made an emergency landing in 1944 in Vladivostok, Russia. The Soviets, though they claimed to be our allies, had a nasty habit of detaining and holding the U.S. planes and pilots who were unfortunate enough to land in their territories, and the “Ramp Tramp” was no exception. They went on to reverse-engineer  the B-29s they got their hands on, creating the Tupolev Tu-4.

Upon learning who Elizabeth was, the museum staff ushered her in for a VIP tour of the B-29 “Peachy.”

I got the chance to take some pictures and my assistant Greg was able to get a short video interview with her. She had some fascinating stories, and gave us more leads to track down some old interviews he gave to various magazines in the 1940s. Elizabeth’s family was given a tour of the B-29 and the interior. She sat in the same compartment her husband would have sat in. A sweet lady, she had fond memories of Jerome and their time together. It was a pleasure to meet her and the family.

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Ginger Rose of the Bluestocking Burly-Q is, in the words of her fellow bombshells, “like catnip.” She is a gorgeous model, dancer, and actress. The more you get to know Ginger, you start to wonder if she just didn’t just wander away from the set of a certain Baz Luhrmann film and do she and her fellow Bluestockings  live in a giant gilded elephant house somewhere in Paris?  Be sure to check out the Bluestocking Burly-Q. They perform regularly in Fort Collins and in Denver. http://www.bluestockingburly-q.com/

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