Month of Firsts or as Brene Brown Would Say FFTs

Author and speaker Brene Brown is an absolutely wondrous and wise person. She recently started the podcast “Unlocking Us with Brene Brown.“The very first episode she explains that we are all experiencing what she has dubbed FFTs. F%*^ing First Times. None of us has ever lived through this type of crisis. It’s our First Time. And First Times come with anxiety and fear. She give lots of great advice and anecdotes in her podcast, highly recommended.

What strikes me is my personal timing. Today is my birthday. Day 20 of self isolation. And day 2 of my annual Month of Firsts. I don’t think I have ever shared this self challenge. Three years ago I realized that it would be easy for me to fall into habits and ruts very easily. To combat that I decided that every year during my birthday month of April I would “Try Something New Every Day”. An FFT or just FT if you will. 

This will be fairly difficult in isolation but I am committing to it for the month anyway. As my FT for today I am going to share my New Thing with you all for the first time ever. On this blog every Friday I will post a recap of the week. A photo or a quick note will accompany each entry.

Oh this is SCARY!  It’s vulnerable. It comes with accountability. Why am I even doing this? Perhaps as an example. The more we let ourselves experience FFTs or FTs the more we are able to cope with future new situations. Or in the world we are in now. Every. Darn. Day.

At this point I have ideas for new watercolor paintings, new books, new recipes, new video editing skills and more. If you have ANY ideas for New Things for me to try please send me a message.

Next week my YouTube episode will be a completely new style. Join me in a narrative film about my birthday, New Things, photography and ladybugs.

Monique kayaking on Cattail Pond


Why I won’t offer “Front Porch Sessions”

Why I won’t offer “Front Porch Sessions” March 28, 2020.

A week and a half ago I thought “Front Porch Sessions” would be fun. Families gather on their front porch. I drive up and photograph them from safely across the street. 

Then I thought about it deeper. I checked my reaction when I heard photographers across the country and the world were offering them. And I got mad.

Who are we to think we are elite? Yes everyone wants to feel “essential” but where does it stop? If I am out walking and driving around and staying 6 feet apart isn’t that ok? No.

If I as a photographer start doing that then landscape companies, fence repair shops, roofers, painters, and any number of contractors should be able to go about their business as well right?

Here’s why it doesn’t sit well with me:

Driving: Once the governor issued the Stay at Home order for Colorado I finished my last errands. One was to close up my studio space and bring home any equipment I could use for projects at home. On my way home, one block from my house, emergency vehicles were gathered. Fire truck, police, tow truck, ambulance. A fender bender. Car accidents still happen. We are distracted and anxious. Now all these emergency responders and potentially ER hospital beds will be taken.

Desperation: Offering portrait sessions during a time of crisis felt desperate. Am I doing it to be in the news? Publicity? Do I just want to increase my portfolio? Am I in it to make a few dollars? Do I want people to remember me as the nice photographer who took family photos for free? These are all so self serving. 

Leading by Example. This crisis is real. The numbers around the globe prove it. I need to lead by example and stay  home. As much as I love photography it is not essential. Repeat-Non Essential. That’s a bit of a blow to my profession I know. But is it really worth walking or driving all over town when I could be doing my part for the greater good?

I searched my heart and what I considered the deeper reason for Front Porch Sessions. Why was I originally drawn to the idea weeks ago? 

To me it’s all about memorializing this time in our history, in our community, in our family. What did life look like in Spring of 2020? How did we fair during isolation? What did our day to day look like? How did we feel? Like a happy family in our best clothes sitting pretty on the front steps? Maybe sometimes. How about the quiet moments on the couch in the evening. Or everyone gathered around the dining room table for a meal they hadn’t enjoyed as a family in a very long time? What about our pets, our children, our spouses telecommuting? When we look back years from now we will want to remember those times.

You don’t need a professional photographer to show these moments. Take your own family portrait. Prop your phone on some books, set the 10 second timer and get in the photo. Or be watching for moments and quietly record a photo or video. Give your phone or camera to your kids and have them take photos all day. Set your camera in the corner, turn on time laps and forget it’s there for an hour recording. You can document your own life. Heck you can even sit on your front porch in nice clothes and prop your phone on a bush. 

When “normal” life resumes again us professional photographers will be here for you again. To photograph your family in high definition to print and hang on your wall and send to loved ones. 

Until then I will be home. Washing my hands. Snuggling with my family. Holding Zoom meetings. Creating videos. Honing my skills. Reading. Bird watching. 

And wishing all of you health and safety. 

Phone propped on books with toilet paper rolls for self portrait.



Gift Certificates & Studio Credit Available On-Line Now!

Want a gift certificate for that special someone? Is that special someone you? Would you like a studio credit toward product from a past session? 

Good news! We now have Gift Certificates Available here on the website! 

Gift Certificate and Studio Credit

Simply choose your amount and you will be directed towards a page to enter a personalized note.

From there I will email you the custom gift certificate you can email or print.

Thank you!


Tony and His Driver Jill

Jill carried Tony into the CSU destress event for HABIC this winter and immediately drew a crowd. Orange, calm and regal Tony the therapy kitty had arrived. With such an usual occupation I knew I had to interview Jill about the fabulous life of Tony. He’s the most confident and laid back cat I’ve ever met and Jill says her only roll is to be his driver.

Find out more about HABIC here and enjoy this tale.

Listen here on Anchor.fmOn Apple here. Or on your favorite podcast app.



Therese Monkeys Around

Therese Kopiwoda shares a hysterical childhood tale of an unusual family pet in the Tales with Tails Podcast. Therese and I met on-line in her livestream group #PetLoversTribe a few years ago. While that group is now dissolved we all still stay in contact and are great friends (like Tricia in Cheesy Riedi episode). Therese even designed this website! Be sure to check out her biz if you are a pet business.

Through the Social Media Hound Therese teaches pet businesses livestreaming and more.  

Listen on hereOn Apple here. Or your favorite podcast app.


Jess & Lupe

Jess gushes about their very special chihuahua, Lupe, in this Tales with Tails Podcast episode.

Jess and Mat have fostered 46 pups over the years but Lupe is the only pup to join the fam permanently. Jess relates the tale of Lupe’s journey to their home, how Lupe helps all the fosters and what Lupe means to them.

I met Jess several years ago through my photography volunteering. Jess has helped me photograph adoptable pups, teach me how the local rescue and foster programs work, and has become a great friend. Their heart for animals and the well being of all life is felt in everything they say and do. 

Thank you so much Jess for telling us all your Tales with Tails. 

Listen on the app here. In the Apple iTunes page here. Or your favorite podcasting app.


Cheesy Riedi

Season 2 of the Tales with Tails podcast kicks off with my first interview! Tricia Clement’s shares her tale of baby Riedi being very cheesy. 

Monique and Tricia in Atlanta GeorgiaI met Tricia way back in the #PetLoversTribe and PetScopeTV days. We livestreamed with other pet lovers every day telling our pet stories and becoming friends. In January I met up with Tricia while at the Professional Photographers of America conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Her pups are enjoying chasing squirrels at their new home and are her constant work companions in her home office. If you are a pet business needing social media management and consulting she can help! 

Tricia is a social media manager and consultant specializing in pet businesses and video at her company

Podcast episode on here. On Apple here. And on your favorite podcasting app.



Tales with Tails Origin Story

Tales with Tails podcast episode 10 wraps up season one! But what is the origin story of the “Tales with Tails” idea?

January of 2018 I lamented to my mentor Cheryl that I felt like my business was missing something. All seemed to be rolling along smoothly with the studio. Everyone loved my photos of pet and people, I had great engagement on social media and was well known in my community.

I knew I could do more and be more if only I could grasp the deeper message of my business.

Cheryl suggested a weekend intensive here in Colorado. Of course I jumped at the chance. Coffee by the lake in the morning, craft beer in the evening reveling in our accomplishments of the day, and a nice neat vision and plan laid out in 72 hours.

Keep dreaming Monique! What really transpired included tears, temper tantrums and completely giving up. 

In the 11th hour we sat slumped with our craft cider somberly staring out the window of Scrumpy’s in Old Town. Had we both failed?

Cheryl had persisted all day, plying me with questions, being empathetic, pushing me to keep trying and even told me funny stories of her kitties. 

We watched as a truck and small horse trailer maneuvered the busy College Avenue. My mind drifted to crazy horse rides as a child.

Being May 16th I commented how Friday would be the anniversary of the Mt St Helens eruption. We had goats as a child in 1980 who caused quite a ruckus trying to warn us of impending disaster. 

Then my thoughts drifted to my neurotic golden retriever Gypsy and her antics at the river.

Suddenly I sat bolt upright and looked wildly at Cheryl. A huge grin slowly spreading across my face. Her startled eyes widened. Nearly jumping out of my chair I said “Cheryl all of the stories I tell involve animals!” After a quick moment I practically exploded “ALL OF MY TALES HAVE TAILS!” “THAT’S IT!”

Ideas, inspiration and excitement flooded me. The mood changed and we headed into our final meal together with a lighter heart.

Two days later I created the Tales with Tails Facebook group. Please join us there!

By fall of 2018 I jumped into creating the Tales with Tails podcast on, Apple Podcasts and 10 other platforms.

Reach out to me to be a guest in future seasons!

Many great projects await in 2019! 

To find Cheryl and her Moxie Catalyst Coaching join the Moxie Sisterhood here, check out her webpage here or join the party on Facebook.



Strangest Animal – Tales with Tails

Strangest Animal – Tales with Tails

Winter of 2016 I found myself on a walk-a-bout. On a personal journey from Colorado to Washington state for several weeks of self discovery. Much of my time I spent with my daughter in the tiny town of Port Angeles, Washington.

With the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the North and the Olympic Mountains to the south I sat in the midst of photography paradise. I wandered down to the water to spy on seals & bald eagles. And up into the mountains for snowy Lake Crescent scenes.

But my heart yearned to photograph pets. Within two weeks I had tracked down the local humane society.

Olympic Peninsula Humane Society is located just on the edge of town nestled in lovely northwest trees and meadows. The OPHS has their own little forest with a groomed walking path that all the dogs know by heart. Near the dog building a rock garden and patio serve as a perfect location to pose adventuresome pups. In a separate building the cats enjoy huge suites and the bunnies have taken over the enclosed back patio.

On each of my four visits I had the honor of photographing whichever adoptable animals needed portraits. I posed a pair of pugs on a flat boulder. A regal pyrenees paused on the forest trail for her photos. An elderly cocker spaniel lounged on the patio for her session. We gathered all the Christmas decorations from the entire facility to create a holiday set for a litter of foster puppies. Kitties of all ages enjoyed rolling around on the soft fabric of my portable table top studio. (Yes on my walkabout my photography gear filled half my Subaru so I was well prepared for any photo adventure.) One bunny with a neurological condition managed to sit still for a few images (she was adopted quickly after that!) And one bunny we decided to surround with real carrots and lettuce for a fun studio set-up.

But the strangest animals I have ever photographed were also at the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society. I consider them strange because I had never personally interacted with one and honestly didn’t even know what it was when I looked at it. With the softest fur in the universe, a long bottle brush bushy tail, big round ears, shiny black eyes, teeny feet and cat like whiskers I had met a Chinchilla. Actually a pair of chinchillas.

According to Wikipedia, chinchillas are native to Chili in South America. The chinchilla is named after the Chincha people of the Andes, who once wore its dense, velvet-like fur. Unfortunately by the end of the 19th century, chinchillas had become quite rare after being hunted for their ultra-soft fur.

Somehow chinchillas became exotic pets. But I wouldn’t recommend them! They are very difficult to care for. Again per wikepedia they need dust baths, low stress, strict room temperature regulation, and teeth care among many other needs.

This pair we learned were relatively wild. The previous owners did not handle them and likely did not 100% know how to care for them.

Only one employee at OPHS knew how to handle them. As gently as possible she cradled one at time in her hands for their adoption portraits. Very fast, small, delicate and unpredictable we decided against letting them go on the studio table set. The first one we used a soft pink towel to wrap her in and concentrated on close ups portraits. The second one was a little more comfortable so she simply held him in her hands. While not the ideal poses we managed to create some extremely cute images of these strange rodents.

Volunteering at an animal shelter brings surprises and challenges. I never know before entering who I will encounter. I will definitely never forget those soft, squirmy, exotic chinchillas.

Listen to the narrated version on the Tales with Tails podcast Episode 8. Aired November 26, 2018.

Available on Anchor.fmApple Podcasts and your favorite podcast app.


Tales with Tails – Seen Equals Saved

Tales with Tails – Seen Equals Saved

For years people have told me “I don’t know how you do it, I would want to take them all home.” Usually said with a sad expression and a sigh of defeat. Well meaning people everywhere can hardly comprehend how I can meet hundreds of homeless animals a year and not want to take them all home.

As a professional pet and people photographer I volunteer my skills each week to photograph adoptable animals at two local shelters. Animal House Rescue and Grooming and Fort Collins Cat Rescue Spay/Neuter Clinic here in Northern Colorado. I’ve also volunteered at Larimer Humane Society in Loveland, Colorado, at Furry Friends in Vancouver, Washington and Olympic Peninsula Humane Society in Port Angeles, Washington.  

Hundreds of dogs and cats have modeled for me over the years. I’ve even had the pleasure of photographing chinchillas, rabbits, rats, ferrets, lizards, pigs, turtles, mice, fish, birds, guinea pigs and ducks. From the youngest puppies and kittens to seniors to special needs. Giant breed dogs to tiny mice. Well behaved to shy to rambunctious. Yes even neglected, abandoned and terminally ill.

So how am I able to look all those precious needy animals in the eye and not scoop them up and take them home? Can I turn my heart on and off? Do I ugly cry after each session? Do I have special powers of resistance?

I’ve decided on my role in their lives and my mission. I strive to take photographs that will speak to potential adopters. That will make someone’s heart skip a beat causing them to stop scrolling through pet adoption pages and introduce them to a perfect furbaby for their family. I am a connector.

I know good photographs make a difference. Recent statistics from found that good photographs increase adoption rates by 60%! Their recent campaign “Seen Equals Saved” urges creatives to use their skills and talents to make a difference in the lives of these animals and to ease the burden of rescue organizations throughout the country.

With the giving season upon us consider how you can give. You don’t have to adopt them all! You can volunteer photography, design skills, social media savvy, fostering, dog walking, litter box cleaning, and more. (Of course all our favorite organizations could use cash also!)

Wherever you are in the world you can make a difference. You could change the world for one animal today just by sharing a social media post, calling the shelter for a cleaning shift or donating time or money from your business. Every effort counts.

For this  holiday season and beyond let’s all #GiveWhereOurHearLives.

Listen to the narrated version on the Tales with Tails podcast Episode 7. Aired November 20, 2018.

Available on Anchor.fmApple Podcasts and your favorite podcast app.