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

Back to the Old Boring Blog

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” —George Bernard Shaw

I’ve been through a pandemic, so have you. We’ve been stuck inside and forced to do things differently. Things are just different, very different, and we are all different too. 

Here I am again.

I’ve been here before—many times. I’ve been all of the things for all of the people in all of the careers. I think that just about covers it. I’ve been back to this blog, time and time again, a love-hate relationship with photography. Hey, guess what? I’m back to fishing after 30+ years … but first, let’s try Mary Kay; oh, did I forget to mention Insurance sales? Oh, I really meant Real Estate … you get the picture.

Here I am again. Doing the only thing which has been constant since I was little—I’m writing. Maybe, in the beginning, it wasn’t on a Mac, or an iPad, or iPhone; in fact, I know it wasn’t, since none of those things were even a seed in the belly of technology at that time. Paper. The smell of paper and the sound of a pen leaving a trail of my thoughts on the page, and only time, water, and fire can make them disappear.

I’m back. After two years of school and a degree in writing and photography, I’ve come back to where I first sent my thoughts and writing out into the void of the internet to see what would come back. I have very few followers; you could count them on the one hand. Really, you actually can since I have exactly five followers. Surprisingly, what came back were very kind words from five people who stuck with me over ten years of trying to find my way. 

I can’t believe I ever left. I’m sorry I left.

I decided to resurrect my blog; it has been waiting patiently in a shallow grave for the last two years. I missed telling stories, sharing my photos, some of my memories, and maybe there was even a response back from somewhere within the void. I forgot how important it was for me to tell stories. I am a storyteller. Whether it is with my camera, computer, pen, or voice, I was made to tell stories. I have always written my stories to have significant meaning, maybe not as important, as an epic poem, a fable, or myth. But they have always had a purpose, connected with the heart, and left the reader thinking about things differently. I feel we all could use something to connect us with our hearts in times like this. 

So — I’m back.

This time I won’t pretend like I wasn’t destined to do this; I know I was. I have rekindled my love with photography, so I’ve even picked my camera back up. I’m ready to take some incredibly meaningful photos. I’m a little rusty, so if you need a portrait or headshot, give me a shout. I could use the practice.

I went back through every blog post I’ve written over the last 10 years, and I saw so many things I wanted to rewrite, change the phrasing of, the punctuation, and spelling. But then I got honest with myself, and sometimes we need to do that. I am only in competition with myself to make myself better today than I was yesterday. I left every misspelling, comma splice, incomplete sentence, blurry photo, and run-on sentence right where it was. If you want to see how technically flawed a writer and photographer I was, go ahead and read my old posts, there are some doozies. If you’re wanting to read some good stories, go ahead and read my old posts, there are a few I’m still proud of, even without the corrections. 

I’m back, flaws in plain view, humble, and ready to step into shoes I’ve been tiptoeing around since I was 8 years old. 

My name is Corinne Noel North-Fuller and I’m a storyteller. 

I write sentences. I take photos.

I hope you’ll stay and see what happens next. 

To my faithful five — thank you ❤️ and here we go again!

— 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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♫ 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!

 

Take time to smell the roses!

The reason for this post started out as an excuse to play with my new 100mm macro lens 🙂 I love how close I can get to see the real details on things and how the rest of the background is just a beautiful fluffy, blurry mess! Anyway, I have roses in my front yard and I saw one of my peach Tea roses was in perfect bloom when I took Anderson to school at 5:30 this morning. After running both kids to schools, making sandwiches and breakfast, I quickly ran to  my camera bag to snap a few photos of my rose before anything else came up. I took a few quick photos and then one of my sisters called, she wanted to stop by and borrow a camera for the day. My family doesn’t just “stop by” anywhere! I think I might be the biggest talker in my family, but we all were given the gift of the gab from my grandmother Elsa. Beth showed up at the house, we talked & talked, she cut Winston’s toenails for me, (thanks again Bethie) we talked some more, I gave her a book “power of a praying woman” and we talked some more. Well, 2 1/2 hours later, she was finished stopping by 😉  I realized that it was almost noon and Bret would be home for lunch & I have done nothing!

Okay, if I honestly look at my day, it was full 🙂 I was able to care for my family and make them feel special & to let them know how much I love them. I sat and had a really great talk with my sister 🙂 I loved that! I’m sitting here writing my blog and I have this photo of this amazing rose and the best part of all, I can’t even share with you. This rose is the sweetest smelling rose, when you smell it you immediately think of women from the 20’s wearing lace petticoats, laced up boots and girdles. It’s that fragrant and the scent is just beautiful! Thank you God for reminding me that life is in the small things. Life isn’t in how clean your house is, if you checked everything off your to-do list or if you have the biggest house on your block. Life is about taking time to listen to people, noticing a flower in bloom, staying in bed a little longer to cuddle, tickling little toes, tents in the living room, dirty faces and a bug collection 🙂 In short…take time to STOP and smell the roses…they are simply magical and beautiful 🙂

Serious Denial!!!

I’m rather hyped up on coffee this morning, didn’t sleep well last night. No visions of sugar plums in my head…I could only wish! It all started a week ago when my cat Gracie started acting strange. Usually my fur covered princess sleeps all day, she is big on beauty sleep, she’s proof that it works! Anyway, so she’s been staring at the hole in our wall for a solid week. We have a fireplace and we usually get lizards in it, Gracie swats at the glass doors trying to catch them. Well, to the side of the wall where the stones from the fireplace meet the wall, there is about a 1 inch crack there. I had never noticed it before, but then again how often am I looking there, really. I looked at the hole closely and noticed there was a bunch of her hair around it, she continues to rub against it from time to time, nothing looks odd. I forget about the hole, for now.

Yesterday morning when I came home from dropping off the boys, I walked in the house and thought, geez I need to take the trash out, because it smells like trash in here. About an hour later my sister came over and the first thing she said when she walked in was “ohh dog smell, I love that smell!” First you must know, my house has NEVER smelled like a dog! I was a little offended, said it was the garbage, mentally kicked myself for not remembering to take it out and she stayed for a couple of hours. The whole time she was here, the cat was sitting at the hole, meowing. I didn’t think anything of it.

I worked in the studio editing some photos and then I left to pick up the boys and when I walked in the door, you could hear the cat meowing. The dog looked scared to death, but that’s normal for him, he’s a pug 😉 The boys ran into where the cat was and I walked back to my bedroom. The kids started yelling for me to come quick. I ran into the living room and the entire family was bent over that hole, like they were watching the miners being recused from a mine. Bronson said ” Remember I told you I saw a hairy looking wormy thing?” Okay he did tell me that, but this kid really has an imagination, I thought it was a lizard that walked through cat hair 🙂 Anyway, I look in the hole and this was staring back at me:

I screamed and the boys smiled, the cat meowed…Winston our pug never left the couch and his eyes were bigger than normal! After I came back to my senses, I had to get my camera, my new 100mm macro lens was very helpful and I took several photos. You never know when you might need them 😉  I turned the camera around to look at the screen  and there was this photo. I said “ohhh it’s so cute, it almost looks like a bunny!” Bronson my younger son said, “MOM!!! It’s not a bunny, it’s a rat!” I got very defensive and said,”No, it’s a mouse!”

After calling one of our friends who was in pest control for years, he told me there really are no mice in Florida. Suddenly, I was freaking out. I called my husband and I begged him to come home to protect his princess 😦 He giggled and said he was busy working, which was paying for the now “rat infested” castle we are living in. My older son taped up the hole in the wall and we called someone who said they would come in the morning to take care  of the rats. Oh, I forgot to tell you, when we were watching the hole, the rat, moved and then there were several in there 😦

So, I’m no longer in denial! I’m freaking out… but, grateful for my cat & how brave my kids are to put the duct tape over the hole and the calmness of my husband through this whole mess. I was taking Bronson to school this morning and he had this big smile on his face, then he said ” Mom! I can’t believe you thought we had bunnies in the wall!”  I said that it was more comforting to think that we had sweet fluffy little bunnies in the wall, than to have hairy dirty rats! He asked me how I thought “bunnies” would have crawled into the wall next to the fireplace? I said that maybe the Easter Bunny left them here or they came with Santa down the chimney last Christmas 😉 I understand why denial works only for a little while, because the world is full of 10 year olds who are REALLY honest !

And to clear some things up…Florida is covered with rats! Everyone has rats crawling around on top of and outside of your houses every night! I was just fortunate to  have some get inside…lucky me! Also, if you get rats, it has NOTHING to do with if your house is the cleanest on the block, if they find a way in, expect to have furry guests!

Maybe I should buy a snake…just kidding 🙂

So…you’re graduating this year…really!

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Well, it’s that time of the year folks, when all of our 17 & 18 years olds are getting ready to have their senior photos done. Being a photographer, this is a great time of the year for me, for the kids, they love it, because they get to express themselves the way they want to. The parents on the other hand are having a rough time to put it lightly. Moms all over the country are coming close to the day where they have to let their little guys and girls, which are almost adults, off the apron strings, out into the big bad world to fend for themselves. Well that and they are faced with the cost of Senior Photos, Graduation parties, graduation gifts and the most expensive of them all…college.

Now that we have placed all the cards on the table, let talk about the least expensive of the four and the most fun, in my personal opinion 🙂 Senior Photos!!! Okay, senior photos do not mean for the elderly, they are for graduating 12th graders to put in their yearbooks and parents to hang on their walls. Senior photos have changed A LOT in the last 10-15 years, really! Gone are the days of the dreaded black drape and tux that schools required everyone to be photographed in. Today seniors are sporting all of their favorite clothes, sitting on a vintage mustang, riding their horses, jamming on a guitar or just showing off their style. These photo sessions are no longer 2 minutes in a chair, turn to the left, okay to the right, face forward, okay now you’re done. Todays seniors have full-blown fashion photo sessions with lights, music to get them in the groove, don’t forget the props, 4 to 7 outfits with matching shoes and several locations. Yes, things have really changed.

Gone is the day where you order prints in a small package like regular school photos. Gone is the day when your friends will only see your photo in the year book or the 8 x 10 your Mom framed on the mantle. Today’s teens are having business cards with their photos on them with all their contact information on it, so their friends will always know how to get in touch after graduation. The kids and parents get 12×12 photo table books made of their favorite photos, to show everyone. The parents are putting 30×40 & 40×60 canvases or metallic prints on their walls. Things have really changed!

So, remember to find someone who will allow your senior son or daughter to express themselves and be prepared for this to be a very special time for them. This is their time to show the world who they really are. I’m really excited for this senior picture season, I hope that you are too…oh and Moms, I’ll be right where you are in about 3 years. I’ll need advice, a shoulder to cry on and lots of scholarships 😉

If you need senior portraits or any portraits, give me a call, I would love to capture your style 🙂

Corinne Noel 941.266.3972

Georgia on my mind…

Yesterday I had the pleasure to photograph some pretty awesome little friends! There is a local pet rescue in Sarasota called “Gimme Shelter” it’s run by some amazingly selfless people who open their homes to these little sweeties until they are adopted. I was looking for a friend for our pug Winston, so I visited their website & thought that maybe they could  use some help showing the REAL personalities of these furry characters. I spoke with Michelle on the phone, she was grateful for the offer. Little did I know she was doing more for me than I could ever do for her.

I was greeted by Derek and a couple of his pals at the door and then they introduced me to the whole gang. I had such a great time and I feel in love with one little girl there…Georgia. Georgia sweetie, you stole my heart, just wish I had a bigger home. Maybe the bigger home with a fenced in backyard fairy will come tonight and I’ll be over in the morning to bring you HOME 🙂

I went there to help and they helped me to see how there are such wonderful pets waiting for a home, waiting to become part of a family. Stop breeding more animals, stop paying breeders for fullbred animals that push other animals to the point of being put down. I feel bad that we bought a pug! I won’t buy another animal, only adoptions for me…’cause I ‘ve got Georgia on my mind!