When your “To-Do List” becomes a “Bucket list”

There have been a couple of times when I felt my life was just wasting precious time.

My first time was 9/11. I remember how many people re-evaluated their lives to see if they genuinely lived what was in their hearts. There were proposals, new endeavors, mended relationships, and divorces.


I had a divorce in the works by the end of that year. The shift in the world, the loss of lives, and the loss of security were cause for a closer look into my own life. My divorce, while painful, gave me a second chance to have all I had ever wanted. We were young when we married, we had two amazing boys, but even our love for them couldn’t keep us together.

My second time was when they found a parotid tumor in my neck about five years ago. The tumor was removed, and other than a badass scar and numbness on my right cheek, I’m good. My doctor encouraged me to leave a high-stress job, I started fishing, and my life completely changed direction.

This is the third time. This tumor on my brain is a new promise of change in my life, whether or not I want it. I can see this as a horrible thing happening to me, or I can think of this as my body and life demanding change. Each time a trial such as this occurs, you can push against it and refuse to change. Or you can see the difference it is physically making in your body, accept it, and move with the change.

As this tumor grows and changes, it pushes against the bone structure of my skull. It causes it to disrupt nerve impulses, motor skills, and abilities. It is making room where there is none. It forces other parts of my brain to compress and stop working correctly.

My tumor is in the frontal lobe area. One of the areas controlling my ability to walk, dance, solve problems, communicate, and express myself. I find it ironic how it can affect my ability to express myself and communicate since I have an English Degree from the University of South Florida and I’m a writer. But really, it ultimately makes sense.

I haven’t written much since I finished my degree a year ago. I haven’t been expressing myself; I’ve stayed private and to myself. COVID gave me the gift of being away from people and allowed me to recognize how much stress crowds of people cause me. It opened my eyes to acknowledging I’m an introvert, and I’m really good at it.

I guess I’m more of an omnivert, a person who looks like a natural extrovert in public, who can talk to anyone or even be the center of attention. But when they get home, they need time to heal and gain strength from the energy it took to be in that situation.

I love people, but they drain me, and I don’t know how to shut off all the feelings I feel from them. It hurts to think I can’t be who I once was when I was much younger, but my time in the Army took that from me. The VA diagnosed me with PTSD – High anxiety disorder and gave me meds and offered me therapy, but I think it’s where you fit in the world that needs to be addressed first.

I felt I didn’t fit in anywhere when I first got out. I never spoke of being a Veteran until my boys were in High School. When I did meet a group of Veterans, we all got along great. Eventually, I found I didn’t even feel comfortable around other Veterans. Many brought back some painful memories of my time in service.

The fishing community found me, and my life changed. They were very much like Veterans but with super cool fish. And I felt comfortable around them. I met a lot of incredible people in the last seven years. One of my favorites was my fishing partner for four years, Melissa Littlewood.

I could tell you some fantastic stories about how she was such an inspiration to me in all areas of my life. I will tell stories of our adventures another, but today is just about one of the things we did together.

After fishing with Melissa for about 3 months, she convinced me to enter the Sarasota Tarpon Tournament. This is the oldest tarpon tournament in the world, and I had never caught a tarpon at this point and, up until then, had only seen one in the tank at Mote Marine.
I signed up. We saw many tarpon but didn’t catch any the first year. Somehow, Melissa convinced me to sign up again the following year. Still no tarpon.

We spent 5 days a week and 8-10 hours on the water, but we still didn’t catch one. Melissa convinced me to sign up for the third time. I hooked one, it jumped, and it was over in less than 15 seconds, but after three years of fishing, still not a single tarpon.

Melissa left us all almost a year ago on June 27th. The last time I fished with her, she wanted to try for tarpon. I didn’t know she had stopped her cancer treatment, and I didn’t think it would be our last time to fish together. I voted to log fish for the CCA Star tournament and not target tarpon.

If I could do it again, I would have agreed to fish for tarpon; I would have stayed out as long as she wanted to. We would have talked and talked until the sun was gone and until it came back up again. But that didn’t happen; the chance is gone.

Melissa always wanted me to learn how to fly fish. I started tying flies in October with Project Healing Waters. I joined Mangrove Coast Fly Fishing Club, and every Tuesday night, I tie flies with some of the most generous people I’ve ever met. The kindness they have shown me is incredible. I will treasure these people forever.

I have started to learn fly fishing. I caught my first fish in North Carolina a few weeks ago. I went out with a great guide with KS Outdoors in Maggie Valley- named NIck – this guy was so talented and he put me right on fish!

I know Melissa was smiling down on me. She was an incredible angler, both spin and fly. I hope to one day be that good and share what I know with others, as she did with me. To carry on her legacy.

She encouraged me to continue to write, which I have been doing again. She challenged me to learn to fly fish, and I can check that one off the list. But the one thing I still haven’t done is catch a tarpon.

I watched a great documentary at the Compound the other night, “Fly Fishing Film Tour,” a group of short films about fly fishing from 2021. It’s shown in fly shops, clubs, and venues every year. I watched the 2020 film at home the morning before going to Compound.

One of the short films was about this guy who had been trying to catch a permit for 12 years. His story ended with him folded over in tears with his closest friends, crying because he finally reached a goal he had struggled to reach for many years.

I thought about how long I’ve been trying to catch a tarpon, and I thought I’d been trying to catch one for six years. But then I remembered. I went on a tarpon trip on my honeymoon with my first husband, and the only fish caught that day was a catfish.


So, really, I have been trying to catch a tarpon for 28 years.

When I finally realized this, I was walking on the beach with my friend Jackie trying to catch snook on fly. We talked about my surgery and how long I might need to recover.

I decided at that moment that I would make it my mission to catch a tarpon before my surgery, just in case I never get the chance again.


I’m sure I will be fine; I have a great surgeon. I’m young.

But I need to do this.

Jackie didn’t take a second to think before she offered to split the trip with me. So, I have a plan and a partner to fish with. Next thing you know, I have two of my other fishing friends from IWFA, Amy and Nancy, filling out the trip.


My tarpon trip is scheduled for 7:00 AM on May 11th.

Hopefully, four fishing friends will end the day folded over in tears from their friend finally catching a tarpon after 28 years. Another wish will be fulfilled in honor of my dear friend Melissa.

The Tarpon necklace in the first photo was Melissa’s. I’ll be wearing it on our tarpon trip, so I’m bringing Melissa with me. I couldn’t imagine her not being a part of this special moment.


My surgery is scheduled for 7:30AM on May 24th.


-Corinne Noel

Resist change or be changed

“Looks like nothing’s gonna change

Everything still remains the same

I can’t do what ten people tell me to do

So I guess I’ll remain the same”

-Otis Redding –The Dock of the Bay

I’m sitting on my porch listening to the birds chirping. The sound of the water moving in my pool drowns out the hum of traffic not far enough away. My eyes are red and swollen. My shirt is tear-stained. The tears help clear my cloudy vision but leave a mark to remind me of this moment.


Otis Redding recorded “Dock of the bay” just two days before he died when his plane fell from the sky into an icy lake. The world was changing. He felt he was changing too but struggled with the fact he couldn’t please everyone, “So I guess I’ll remain the same.” And he tried not to change. When he died two days later, he left the memory of the man others wanted him to be and not who he wanted to be. He refused to change, and so changed happened to him.


Death can be so unexpected, and I think it’s completely different if you know it’s coming. You have time to say what needs to be said, do what you always wanted to do, and say goodbye to those you love. I’m by no means saying it is any easier to see someone you love falling further and further away from your grasp each day, and you are helpless to stop the suffering. I’m saying it’s just different.


Where my heartbreaks is when I can see both sides of the coin, and neither one is any better.


I remember having a conversation with one of my patients many years ago about loss. My husband of eight years had decided to leave me for someone else, leaving me with two small children. All of the effort I had poured into our marriage to keep the promise of “Till death do us part” was discarded before I could take another breath. This patient had just recently lost her husband to a 3 month battle with pancreatic cancer. My husband had chosen to leave. So, there was just this messy accident; none of us saw the train wreck of divorce coming; we couldn’t stop it or prepare for the impact it would have on so many lives. Her husband, against his will, had to leave. How is either one any better, and why do we have to compare? They are both equally terrible and painful; both cause suffering, loss, and change.


A very good friend I had known since I was in 7th grade left this earth a few weeks ago. He was a beautiful person, inside and out. He was funny and cool. He was smart and popular. Somehow he remained humble and was one of the kindest people I know. He loved everyone, all but one person, himself. I sat with him a couple of times after he tried to take his life. I was just there for him, trying to be enough of something that might make him want to live.

I never judged him. I was always there for him. I desperately wanted to fix him, we all did, but it wasn’t within my power to make him want to live. When he tried again, I quickly learned I couldn’t save him. It wasn’t up to me to decide for him, he had to chose life. I just continued to be there when he needed someone the most. I’m grateful to have been that person a couple of times; I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m grateful for the others who stood beside him until the end of his precious 53-year-old life. He is dearly loved and missed by so many. Sadly as much as he was loved, nobody could love him enough to save him.


Yesterday, the life of a beautiful wife, mother, friend, and angel left earth for her heavenly home. She was 33 years old, leaving behind two children under six, two step-children, and an amazing husband. I’ve known her husband for over 20 years, and he is also one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. They had a three-year battle with breast cancer, and they loved life and each other until the last moment. Today there is an emptiness to be felt more than just in our town, but everywhere. I know you feel it.


How can you compare which is worse, which is harder on the family and friends? One who chooses or one who is taken? I remember someone telling me about death; I’m sorry, I don’t remember who it was, but they gave me a new perspective on death and God “taking” them away. I was told God isn’t a taker, not of life or breath, but He is a giver. God gives life, and He gives breath, but sometimes for reasons we don’t know or understand … He stops giving. This gave me so much peace, knowing He’s not both giver and taker; He is life, not death.


No matter how much we try to control our lives, we are not in control any more than we are in control of what others think about us or what others do. We are not in control of the days we will live unless our attempts to leave are finally granted. I’m not sure if you believe in God, a supreme being, or the power of the universe, but there is something or someone in control of whether we live or die, and it’s not us. We don’t have that kind of power. If we did, more of us would be gone, or maybe more would more be alive? I think of many I know who left here never wanting to leave, and then I think of those who desperately fought to go, many times unsuccessfully. I know a few still fighting the choice to stay or go. I still feel the final choice is not ours; we don’t have the ultimate power over life, to create or destroy. I have peace knowing there is a purpose for all of this. I know it’s for a more significant reason, and I have faith God is in control, and He knows what He is doing.

Like Otis, I worry about what everyone wants, and I want everyone to be happy. I’m the one who watches you while we sit together watching a movie, to make sure you are enjoying the film. I want to make my parents, sisters, children, and husband happy and proud of me. I wish I could fulfill the wishes, expectations, and ideals all of you have for my life, but I can’t. I wasn’t created to live within the box any person wants to place me in; I was made with a unique mold made special just for me and for my purpose. Life is too short and too precious to be wasted on worrying if you’re living the dreams everyone else has for you. Will you choose the narrow or the wide path? The wide path allows for you to move through life with others, but the narrow only has room for one person. The narrow has room for the one life you were given to live … this life. Don’t waste it.

Life is changing. People are changing. I’m changing and continually need to change to be the person I was put on this earth to be. Both beautiful souls we lost fulfilled their purpose, both leaving a legacy and a message to those who are still living … to live fully and to love. I think the rest will just work itself out. So, try not to fear change because it will come whether you want it to or not; it happens to all of us. Embrace change, life, and love. Remember those we’ve lost, cherish the memories, and don’t forget to look for the lesson in every situation.

-Corinne Noel

Furry little miracles

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Everyday we are faced with the decision to take what the day brings and stay positive or to allow trials to destroy us. I’ve had my share of trials and I admit there are some days that are more than I handle…I cry, I pray…I cry some more…I move on. Not everyone can do that, not everyone has somewhere they can turn, someone or something to look to for help, for comfort…for peace. I’ve made it this far, not on my own, Glory be to God for the peace I’ve received in my times of need. I think I’ve been through some tough times, but today I was blessed to share in a special day, a day of victory, a day of overcoming that most would bow in defeat!

Today was the entry day for all kids competing at the Sarasota County Fair. I remember as a young girl, my friends and I were in the 4-H horse club. We made and sold elephant ears at the 4-H booth. We were allowed to stay the rest of the day after our shift and see all of our friends, but the best part was that I got to hang out with my best friends from the barn. It was a great time in my life, those friends, those moments carried me through some hard times in my life. Now, the county fair brings back memories of rides that made you sick and food that made you sicker! I guess as time passes and the further you walk away from who you were, time muddies the memories and they start to look less like anything you would want to remember. Today, the mud was cleared by the tears from a video of a rescued bunny and a little girl and her calf! Today, I was brought back to the one of the many reasons why the fair was one of my favorite places when I was younger. I was reminded why cows, pigs, chickens, bunnies, goats and ducks were more than just farm animals, they are valuable in connecting kids with the outside, teaching them a sense of pride and accomplishment and most of all, helping them bond with real friends that will last a lifetime!

As I stood in the tent where the bunnies, roosters, ducks and chickens were, there stood an amazingly happy family. Todd and his beautiful wife Jessica were there with their two children, Bailey & Xavier. There were many families there today, all with children that were entering a furry friend into the fair to compete, but this family was different. This family not even 36 hours ago, lost every possession they owned and sadly 3 dogs in a house fire. They were renting and didn’t have rental insurance, so they lost everything! Todd & Jessica are both Veterans who fought for our country, they sacrificed their lives and now this amazing family of 4, have lost everything, but each other. Everything but…a miracle bunny named “Shadow” who was revived and rescued by the firefighters. Everything but…a hedgehog named “Sonic” that was found a day later, still alive!

This family was smiling and giggling the entire time I was there. The strength that Todd and Jessica have… to keep it together for their children, when there is so much loss…they are inspiring others…they know that they have each other and that is the greatest blessing. The parents are trying to keep the kid’s spirits up and being around the animals, the community and their friends helps remind them that there is so much good to focus on! I wanted to meet the family, take some photos to help them create some new memories, give back to my Veteran brother & sister and in trying to help them heal, they helped me remember a time of my life that was missing that I’ve desperately  needed back.

Their daughter Bailey is showing a calf named “Snickerdoodle” today at 7 pm. She lost her show outfit in the fire along with her show boots and belt. I heard that someone had donated boots for her to wear today, but I would love to help Bailey have a beautiful shiny show belt to wear today…shiny like her smile, even in this terrible mess that their life has become overnight. I’m asking my Greenwood Stable friends, Hunt Club friends and friends that are still at barns, to donate to this family. We all know what it was like to show animals, we had our show clothes, our own jackets and boots, but what if we lost them in a fire? I can’t imagine how this little girl is feeling, how her little brother and her amazing parents, how they are coping.  I CAN imagine that maybe giving her something to make her feel special, like a shiny new show belt, how that might make things good just for a day and I want to help give that to her! Her family has been given clothing for the kids and right now they are all staying at their parents house. I know it sounds silly to ask for just a belt when they need so much more than that. I believe that there are many people out there that want to help others, they want to really know who they are helping and they want to really connect. I wanted everyone to really know this family, not just see them as a family in need, this is more than a story of a bunny, a cow or a shiny belt. This is a family of Military Veterans, a 4-H family, a family in our very own community and they need your help. Will you please help?

http://www.gofundme.com/oimqgo?fb_action_ids=10155245481995562&fb_action_types=og.shares&fb_ref=undefined

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Finally seeing what has always been there…

Bleeding Heart

We’ve been living in the same house for the past 5 years. Not too much has changed, same color on the exterior, a few walls inside are different, a few new items from Ikea, but for the most part, it’s all the same. The outside vegetation has been completely dead or so overgrown that the neighbors wonder if we’ve moved out 😉 The back yard is the most neglected, we had grand plans for that space, complete with a grill, fire pit and seating for the family to eat outside when it cools off. All that being said, I think we have been out there to eat, maybe once! The plants and the bugs took over and life got busy and we forgot about what grand plans still wait in our backyard.

We had some plants in the front yard die this past winter, so I asked our youngest, Bronson to find something alive from the backyard that might do well in the front. He chose bleeding hearts. They thrived in the backyard with just dappling of sun during the day, but they were being put in the full sun. Usually I’d read up on a plant to make sure it was the right spot, but being busy, I just smiled as he planted them.

The first 2 months, they dried up, all the flowers fell off of them and I was just grateful to have something in front of the house. I was sure they were gone. Enter monsoon season and 7 inches of rain in a weekend. Suddenly every plant we thought we lost from drought….came back with a vengeance! We are still trying to cut things back after 2 weeks of pruning!! The bleeding hearts are doing beautifully 🙂 I never really cared for them before, they were more like weeds in the back, every time we cut them all down, in a week they would be back. This is a photo of one tiny bleeding heart flower, all alone, silent and still. They were always there, I just never took the time to really see them. I never realized how lovely they are 🙂

I say all of this to bring up the fact that I love photography 🙂 It took so long for me to realize it! I’ve been shooting again, all thanks to God who answers prayers for a camera and gear to shoot with and then amazingly supportive and loving friends like Jennifer Ford-Cote, Joni Dusek and Carissa Warfield, who answered the call!!

I’ve learned a lot this time around. Though I’ve preached about it not being about the gear…I was comfortable saying that with $4,000 worth of gear in my bag! I’ve used entry level cameras this time around and you know what…they still take photos!!! It’s been challenging, but so worth it! I’ve had time to make do with what I had and I really had no idea how good some of the consumer cameras are! It’s been a great experience and now I know after all this time which camera and lenses I want to start back with 🙂 It’s not the most expensive, but I’m comfortable with it for now. I realize that I got caught up in the newest gadgets and better glass (more expensive lenses) and I know now, that I didn’t need all of that!

Thank you for all of the support from my family, my friends and my clients! You all believed in me and you loved me back into a place that I never should have left…I know…you were all right 🙂 I’m excited to tell some more stories with my photos on this blog, maybe not just my stories, maybe your stories. So stay tuned…we’re just getting started!

Corinne Noel †

 

It’s more than just a rock!

I’m sitting at my desk and I have to admit, I’m feeling…numb! It’s not that I’m feeling nothing, it’s more like when you feel too much and then you can’t feel anymore, so you’re numb, but totally aware!! I find that I’m most humble in this place, I get sick of the sound of my own voice. I notice my faults, weaknesses and mistakes…but it’s where I feel most like me. Here, in this place, I can see EVERYTHING!! It’s such a place of clarity for me, I’m not bogged down with emotion, because I’m past the RAW stage, where it hurts, now I can use it to make me stronger, I can lick my wounds, make changes and start again. This is what it must feel like to the forest after a fire…with the potential to grow again, brighter, stronger, higher…better 🙂 There is so much beauty in being humble and fragile!

I see the steps of where I’ve been and the path before me looks a little familiar, but my footsteps veer off into a high traffic area and that’s not where I want to go! I’ve been there, I’ve failed, I got up, tried something new, succeeded but felt empty, tried something new…you know how it goes. I know I’m getting all serious and usually I’m all laughs or I make you cry, but today I know that I need to do something different! Today, I live intentionally and as real as I humanly can! I LOVE photography! I LOVED being a photographer and while I’ll admit there were many things about it that I loathed…I feel like I can’t breathe without it!!

I believe that is where you have to get…get as far away from something that you love, walk away, free yourself from every camera, every lens, backdrop, photo book, etc. and then you can miss it, you can appreciate it and vow if it will let you come back, that you’ll be different this time. I want to come back!!! I have nothing, but an iPhone and a dream in my heart…but it’s somewhere to start!!  I want to be a professional photographer again…for real this time, no giving up, for better or worse!! But how…how do I get there???

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This rock…this boring smooth stone…I took this, well actually I asked permission (can you believe that!!) from the desk clerk at the MGM Towers, I asked if I could have it from the waterfall in the lobby, waiting to come back home after my 1st time at WPPI 2011. I wanted to remember how AMAZING WPPI was and how WONDERFUL this photography community really is when you reach outside of my city, to where there are truly big name photographers that are nicer than some of the  local ones with half the talent!  I was on fire and I let it blow out. I still have this stone to remind me of what I felt I could do, of what I dreamed that I could create, of what I really felt…was real!! I’m ready to be real too 🙂 It’s a long way back…but I know all the roads, I’ll be taking a few different ones, the ones I was afraid to take…this time…it’s going to be BEAUTIFUL!!!!

Welcome back…Corinne Noel Photography 🙂

Mission #1 …going to need a camera…oh and probably one with a lens might be good 😉

♫ I’ll Stand by You…♫

 

I was at a camp out this past weekend with my son’s SMA Raider team. Most of you have no idea what I’m talking about so I’ll try to explain. My son’s school is a military school for good kids, focuses on them going to college and really gives the kids the chance to focus on school and be whatever they want to be. At his school, they have a team called “Raiders” it’s a JROTC team with running, push ups, tire tipping, mud-slinging & sweat galore! I left out a lot of other activities, but I think you get the idea.

 

This weekend they also had a competition with another military academy, that also is a public, charter school for good kids with the same focus on college. They were fromSummerlin Military Academy, so it was sort of cool having SMA vs. SMA!  Now, the camping was fun, the competition awesome, but really that wasn’t what the weekend was about. This weekend was about making the team. The kids from our school & some incoming freshman…trained all summer long with 3 mile beach runs on Saturdays and 3 mile park runs on Wednesdays. This was the summer… you know, where most kids don’t leave their beds until noon…only to fall asleep for 2 more hours in front of the tv & then later go out and start all over again. Not these kids! They were focused on making this team. They have 8 slots for the All Male team, 8 for the All Female team & 8 slots for the Mixed team. There will be alternates…a few…but last year my son found out that while it’s just an honor and a great achievement to make the Varsity team…it’s not the same if you don’t compete! The kids on our team were fighting to beat Summerlin, but really were fighting for a spot on the competing team. Raiders training is hard & the 50+ kids that have dropped out in the last 3 weeks proves it! Our kids…really took a beating this weekend and it wasn’t out of fear of losing or worrying about what other people would think. No, it was because they have had a taste of what it’s like to be a part of something bigger…something amazing…something great!

 

Our Raider team has won 1st place at the State Competition for 4 years now! Our kids on these teams are the best of the best! It’s not just because they are faster or stronger, but because they are led by a team of men with great integrity and these kids support each other through everything, even when they fall or fail! I’m so proud to be a part of this team, even at a distance…watching through my lens…grateful that there are still people who will stand by you…pick you back up & support you until you cross that finish line!

 

The Ugly Duckling…

This is a story of a boy and his truck. This boy since he was old enough to talk, spoke of his love of cars and trucks. He had his favorite Matchbox cars and trucks as a toddler. As he grew older, he could name the make and year of a car just barely in sight and tell you facts about that car that the average person wouldn’t know. He would watch “Overhaulin” with Chip Foose every chance he’d get and he would talk about how that would be the coolest job in the world, how he wished one day he would have an old truck that Mr. Foose would come and make new again.  He would constantly ask his Mom who knew NOTHING about cars, very specific questions like, “Does it cost more for 2 small tailpipes or for a really big one?” His mother having no idea and not the ease of Google back then, she would say, “You need to find it out yourself.” This boy would always find the answer…somehow?!

This same boy when he turned 15 and started to drive, was a much better driver than his Mom could have hoped. He listened to her instructions, he did everything by the book, which made his Mother very proud 🙂 He talked about wanting an old truck and every one he would pass on the road, he would say if it would be the perfect one for him. He searched them out on Craigslist and if they drove past one, he would make her turn around just to drive past it…r.e.a.l.l.y…slow!

When he turned 16, he was blessed with a job on a surveying crew and his first job was more than his Mom could have asked, because she knew his boss & he was a truly kind man. He worked 40 hour weeks in the hot sun on his Summer vacation to save up for his dream truck. He finally saved up enough to buy a truck, he searched out one online and they were off to get a truck. They drove an hour to get there and when they pulled up to the truck…his Mother’s eyes were as big as salad plates! This truck, that they drove an hour for, looked nothing like what the photo showed. The man walked out, introduced himself and they started thier way around the truck. It was in rough shape and that was even being kind. He came down $450 from his original price, making it a $750 truck. The boy drove the truck and when he stepped out of the truck, what his mother saw was truly shocking. That boy was grinning ear to ear, like he was…in love! How could this be? It is so rusted, the door could fall off any minute and the paint job…it’s been spray painted black…which is now more of a grey! The boy wanted the truck…so he bought the truck.

The truck worked one day…it was in the shop a week…it worked one day…it was in the shop another week. The boy’s mother was hating herself for letting him buy that truck! That truck…the one with all the problems…the one that nobody would want! The man selling the truck told a story of it being his grandparents truck, they bought it in 1977, they drove it around their family farm for 33 years and somehow only put 54,000 miles on it! He didn’t want to part with the truck, it was the only thing he had left to remember them by, but times were tough for him now. He could have scrapped it and made more money, but he wanted to sell it to someone who would keep it, love it and maybe one day restore it.

To the average person,  if they saw this truck, they wouldn’t buy it and if they did, they would sell it to the junkyard for scrap or parts. The boy’s mother had a similar thing happen to her when she was a teenager, but it was a horse that no one wanted, that looked more like a donkey than a horse, and the man who owned her wanted someone to love her. He could have made more money sending her to a glue factory (horrible thought), but he loved her, so he sold her to a man for $200. That horse was loved and was trained by the little girl and when she was older, that horse was beautiful and worth so much more money than anyone could have thought. So the mother understood how he could love this “Ugly ducking” of a truck, because with love from this boy, it could one day be beautiful!

The mother was fortunate to find a really amazing mechanic, who offered to show the boy how to fix his own truck, just so it would run. The boy isn’t worried about how it looks, he just wants it to run, he wants to sit behind the wheel of his dream truck and smile and know that it’s all his and that he loves it…just as it is.

This is a photo of my son Anderson and his truck…this is his story 🙂

To be a Curse or a Blessing…

Most of my life I can remember my Mother telling me to help others before myself. I did that growing up and then found that there is a point where you give so much, that you have nothing  left to give, you are no longer healthy enough to help anyone. This is an area that most people have problems with. Yes, it’s great to help others & do nice things for them, but you have to make sure that you are healthy first! It took a 2 year period of classes at a Lifestyle Management Class in Dallas, Texas called Pathways, before I ever understood how to give & still hold onto some for myself.

There is a process that I went through that is called “Are you a giver or a taker?” This is all about giving to others, not out of personal reward & not out of selflessly trying to give help that you are not really able or should give. This is about giving help in a way that you are able to, keeping some for yourself & that when you do give, it feels good, you still are in one piece & everyone walks away a winner.

I’ve thought about blessings lately…I went to an awesome Ladies Retreat with Aletheia Tampa and although there were many things I learned, the biggest lightbulb moment for me was approaching each new day with the question of “Who can I bless today…How can I be a blessing?”  The question that I believe most people ask themselves toward the end of their lives is…Was I a curse or a blessing? What kind of legacy am I leaving behind? I’m hopefully not nearing my time of departure anytime soon, but why wait until you’re 90 when you could have changed your path at 30 or 40 years old & made a difference & left an amazing legacy for your children!

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? -Nichole Nordeman

Here is my challenge to you…if you know me…ever met me, talked to me online or in the real world…if you are from my past or still in my present…I want to hear from you! I want you to be honest…have I been a blessing, did I choose the high road, or was I less than a blessing and more of a curse? If so, then tell me what I did to bless or curse you…so I may apologize & do my best to now be a blessing to you. Why wait until the end of your life to question if you loved enough, gave back enough, was a good friend or a horrible friend? I want to be a blessing…please let me be…

Corinne Noel †

The Hopes and Prayers of a Single Mom

I still remember the moment he left, the moment I knew I was on my own. I remember how I felt, first I felt abandoned, then I felt anger & then at the core of it all…FEAR that cripples even the strongest of people. My fear…raising two boys on my own. Now, I was fortunate to have some child support & the fact that their Dad was still local so they still had him in their life. There are hours of things that I could write about that would anger even Mother Theresa, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about the victory, the end result, after all the bad…the bright shiny ending 🙂


See, I was a single Mom for 7 years with two amazingly wonderful boys! I’ve since remarried about 3 years ago, but again, this isn’t what this story about. This story is about the single Mom & how she hope & prays every free moment, that she loved those kids enough & that they won’t miss the other parent. They pray that they give them enough & that their kids don’t want for anything. Single Moms work sometimes 2 & 3 jobs to provide for their kids & so they have the best that they can give them. Single Moms worry about their kids sometimes to the point of being ill & they love them until their hearts burst!

We hope that we taught them enough, loved them enough, prepared them enough & was there enough, even though we know we couldn’t be & it wasn’t a matter of choice like with other parents. I think we hold our breaths until they graduate from High School, because there has been so much put into them to get them this far. Now after hanging onto our kids for dear life…we have to learn to let go…let them spread their wings and fly…watch the beautiful sight of them making a life of their own & smiling when you know that you had everything to do with it! Well…you & God, but He was the one that entrusted you to carry this life until he could walk on his own & love him until your own breath was gone.

This photo is one of my friends Latoya & her son Kenny. She is an amazing single Mom 🙂 She has raised a wonderful young man & soon he will graduate and head off to the Army! I love that I was able to capture this moment last week, where she can rest her head on his shoulder for a change. Latoya…your prayers have come true & your wishes come true 🙂 He’s a good man! Just like we all hope they will be…so breathe…smile & know that someone appreciates all of your hard work & is so proud of you! Love you…you did it!

Corinne Noel †

Giving a chance to those without a voice…

I’ve recently had the pleasure to help out a local animal rescue here in Sarasota, one that is near & dear to my heart. My friend, hero…angel, Michelle Sampson runs an animal shelter/rescue called “Gimme Shelter.” She not only helps to get animals in her shelter to forever homes, but she also has a local television show  where she goes to other shelters & rescues trying to help them be seen by the public also. She has a blog where she educates the public & pleads her case for animals needing to be rescued. If she’s not on her blog, she’s trying to reach out to the public on her Facebook fan page. She has been known to travel to anywhere in the state of Florida, to save perfectly good animals from being put down, rumor  has it she might go as far as Georgia. I’ve met one of her rescue puppies named “Georgia”, so I’m sure it’s not just a rumor 😉

I had the pleasure to meet about 10 new furry friends yesterday, they all were very well-behaved for their photo shoot 🙂 There was one special friend that I had seen on Facebook about a month ago, his name was Theo. Michelle rescued him from Orlando, he was set to be euthanized, his only real issue was mange from not being cared for.  She took this puppy, bathed it, treated it, loved it and now he’s almost ready for his forever home 🙂 She saved his life on March 10th, 2011…now look at him…

I’m grateful for the chance to try to help. I offered to take some photos, in the hopes I might be able to show their personalities better than someone just taking a snapshot. I’ve seen some of these photos online with other shelters, with red eyes & cowering puppies, they do them no justice. I think they would all have a better chance if you we all just give a little of ourselves, just a little time, a little money, a bag of food, maybe open your home if you can, or maybe just thank the people doing this amazing work. It’s hard, heart breaking, loving, selfless work! Michelle introduced me to our foster puppy, which became one of our family 🙂

I’m so grateful for her, for what she does, for being a voice for these animals that don’t have one…she’s saving lives…won’t you help?

http://www.gimmeshelterpets.com/

Stop by the Fan Page & see what’s going on, how you can help, or maybe just drop a note to say “Thanks” 🙂

Gimme Shelter Fan Page