Six months ago, this beauty was featured on the blog, sans mane, and today her hair is growing back and her confidence is more FIERCE than ever (eat your heart out, Tyra). Let it be known that yesterday, Thursday, November 14th, 2013, marked her very last day of radiation. She is officially free of breast cancer.
Personally, I don't particularly like my own hair, but I certainly wouldn't know what to do without it. When I saw her in May, I was initially surprised by how comfortable she was without a wig. As a close friend, I have always known her to have long, thick, beautiful, wavy hair - I mean, her hair was her thing, and I would have thought her losing it would've upset her more. Nope. She gave away all of her haircare products and embraced the ease of washing a bald head every morning.
Don't get me wrong, this is not just about the hair. While hair is important to a woman's identity, this is really about having a healthy attitude. Lauren Kiebel didn't let cancer bring her down; she was determined to not let it have a chance.
We met in Boulder, Colorado last weekend for a follow-up shoot and she was absolutely stunning. Mindy Waite, a makeup artist and friend of Lauren, did a fabulous job of drawing attention to her dazzling green eyes and keeping her flawless skin looking natural. The weather was beautiful and the leaves had mostly turned yellow... And you know what happens when leaves die and fall off of the trees? LEAF SHOTS!
Allow me to cut to the chase... This woman is a champion for beating breast cancer in style and with grace.
Lauren Kiebel might go down in history as the most positive cancer patient, ever. She's cheerful, kind, silly, and playful, and you would never guess that she is undergoing some of the most destructive medical treatments that exist today. Cancer is something that affects nearly everybody these days, whether directly or through a loved one, and twenty-nine year old Lauren is an inspiration to us all. Wig or without, fight the good fight in style, my friends.
Just three short hours from SFO is one of the most magical places I've visited in Mexico. The first time I went to Puerto Vallarta was with family, in my late teens, and we stayed in a big resort outside of town. In March, I went with my longtime beau, and I remember thinking the drive from the airport into the actual town of Puerto Vallarta closely resembled the Vegas Strip. High-rise resorts and nightclubs litter the shoreline and it's such a bummer for this older, wiser version of myself, who now cherishes the natural beauty of a destination over the commercialized booze-centric attractions.
We kept driving into the section of Puerto Vallarta known as "Old Town," or the "Zona Romantica," to the Hacienda San Angel, a hotel once a villa belonging to Richard Burton. It is beautifully decorated with antiques and the landscaping is cared for, all day, everyday. If you're looking for a luxurious, quiet, safe, and small place to unwind in warm weather, this is it. The only concern we had there was whether we were eating too much guacamole (the answer is no!).
On the third day of our trip, we said goodbye to the wonderful staff of the Hacienda. This next part of our trip was... a trip. What I knew about it beforehand is that we would take a thirty minute taxi to a river town, where we would jump into a boat that would take us another thirty minutes to Yelapa, where we would jump on a mule that would take us into the jungle to our final destination, a small resort called Verana.
Verana is colorfully scattered on the side of a mountain in the jungle surrounding Yelapa. It was designed years ago by a Hollywood set designer and his interior designer wife, so every little thing about the place is gorgeously detailed. My six food allergies allowed us to get to know the two onsite chefs quite well, and the food that was prepared was incredible, which is no small feat when two of the six allergies are tomatoes and peppers of all kinds. We only spent two of our six days lounging around the property, reading, swimming, or doing yoga under the poolside palapa; the rest of the time was spent exploring. We had a gourmet picnic on a private beach, kayaked into town, got a couples' massage, and took a bath together under the stars.
If Puerto Vallarta and Yelapa hadn't already stolen my heart, we saw two whales playing just yards from our tiny, flimsy boat on our ride back toward Puerto Vallarta from Verana. Our boat operator was gracious enough to stop for a few minutes so we could watch them play. It was beautiful. Ah, my heart!
While most photographers would probably agree that editing personal projects can get away from them, they might also agree that there's something about leaving the photos alone and returning for a healthy dose of reminiscence. This blog post is one of those.
I've always had a travel bug, but looking back on these images from Spain makes me have it, <em>bad</em>. My pardner in crime gets a kick out of planning trips on his own to surprise me when we get there. (Note: If you trust your significant other to plan a solid trip, please, let them. Relinquish all control and let them plan their big, loving heart out. It's so much fun.) In addition to not really knowing where we were going, I didn't do much research on the places that I <em>was</em> aware we'd be visiting, so I really had no expectations, whatsoever. It was a care-free experience (aside from our cancelled flight and four days of no luggage - ha!), and with that, I spent every moment of every day in complete amazement.
Without spending time on too many details, I will tell you that we visited four spots in Spain over the course of seventeen days, and I wish we could do it again. He rented us apartments through a European AirBnB-type of website, in three of the four spots and a hotel in the other. While hotels are convenient, I really enjoyed spending time in the private residences, feeling out what it would be like to live in each of these places. In order, we went to Barcelona, Mallorca, Toledo, and Madrid. Don't ask me my favorite because they are all so wonderfully different that I couldn't possibly decide.
At long last, here are our photos from Spain.
Japan is the most incredible place I've ever visited. Tokyo is, in many ways, futuristic with its neon lights, vending machines dispensing everything from canned coffee to neckties, and electronics adjusting for your comfort on every toilet in town.
On this trip, we also visited Kamakura, where there is a giant Buddha (or Daibutsu), temples, and shrines (temples are of the Buddhist persuasion and shrines are of Shinto). It exemplifies older Japan in its narrow pedestrian-only streets where vendors are selling traditional Japanese fare. It is absolutely wonderful and worth seeing, but if I ever get a chance to return, I will be paying another visit to Kyoto.
Kyoto is nearly the opposite of Tokyo: old and soaked with tradition. I couldn't believe I was in a real place on Earth. It is so incredibly old and different from what I know that it's hard to imagine how people lived when the place was built. The cobblestone streets are even more narrow than in Kamakura, and there are temples and shrines carefully woven in between homes and restaurants.
The food is incredible, the people are supremely kind, and the streets seemed to be free of trash and muck. I could go on for hours about the magical time I had in this country but I'll leave some of it to your own experience. If you get the chance, go. It is an incredible experience to spend some time in this culture.
I had a hunch the Marin County Fair would be a good opportunity for me to wield my camera, and I'm so glad I did. The fair is colorful, sweet, and full of baby farm animals. If you know me well, then you're fully aware that my favorite part of anything, ever, is a plethora of baby farm animals. Not only was there a petting zoo featuring babies of the cow, deer, goat, and llama variety, but we also saw a tiny pig race, which made me melt more than the 91 degree weather. My favorite part? Waffles, the donkey.
While my love and I were recently exploring the incredible Spanish city of Barcelona, we found that many of the parks feature at least one human bubble-maker generating giant bubbles for passersby to enjoy. The below collection of images reveals one of my favorite memories of traveling through Spain, where strangers of all ages are brought together to engage in an often under-appreciated childhood pastime.