How to make your life, and the world, a better place in 20 seconds. A story of hope.


I remember my mom said something to me once which stuck immediately and forever. Likely because it resonated deeply with my fundamental desire to connect with people and have the world an idealistic and happy place.  She said we often go out of our way to point out flaws or take time and effort to make complaints, yet if we have a fleeting complimentary thought we rarely share it or take the time to compliment.  Something like that. From that day forward I owned that and for probably 25 years implement it almost daily or many times in a day.  It has made me a happier person. I wish I had been that diligent an advice follower when she said things like "wear sunscreen" or "save for retirement" or "I would not date that guy if I were you". Cest la vie.

Now they have to be GENUINE compliments for me.  I am not one to blow sunshine up your ass, as my close friends and family will tell you. I think calling a spade a spade is the kindest way to really support loved ones.

So how does this work?  If I am in line somewhere and I think a woman in the next line over has fabulous hair I will lean over and say "excuse me but I just wanted to tell you that your hair is FABULOUS. Like a movie star".  That person may be having the worst day, battling depression or living her version of a perfect life.  Regardless you may have just made their day.  I think because I am being genuine it can warm up even the most aloof person, even if it initially takes them aback. It really is not done a lot in our society sadly.  I incorporate it into everything I do. I say "thank you for such attentive service.  You are really great at your job" to a great server or customer service rep, lawyer... you name it. If that is what I feel.

Now take it a step further. I see long lines say at the postal office before Christmas, or 10% off Tuesdays at Safeway.  2 things happen in this order.

  1. My ADD brain kicks in and starts thinking about how long we will be standing in that line practically being tortured and trying to postpone (procrastinate or ignore) whatever it is I am there to do.
  2.  I look at the cashier, postal worker, hostess and feel their frustration  or being overwhelmed by person after person annoyed to wait, in a rush, and intentionally or not intentionally blaming them.  Maybe you do not blame them but you are still tired, busy and focussed on your next task.

I love to go out of my way not to pay them a fake compliment, rather if one does not cross my thoughts,  I will open with. "Wow your job must be hard.  I bet people you deal with are usually tired or frustrated.  That must suck"  It looks a little condescending in writing but I assure you it is not. I once told a dentist. "I think you have the hardest medical profession" she sort of looked wearily at me and said "oh?". I replied "you look in people's stinky mouths all day, do things that are unpleasant or that people dread, and many dislike you before they even walk in the door. Let alone thank you or show great appreciation".  I mean it is true, or at least how I see it.  Her face got teary and she touched my arm and said "Thank you for seeing that.  I really needed someone to realize that". Wow.  Was no extra effort on my part.  Just saying a compliment or thought out loud. Trying to put myself in others shoes as they say.

It may mean everything to that person.  Also I think the more positive things you say out loud, the more positive things you attract. My brain is now wired to think positive things first.  I really like that about myself . Even if it means I sometimes get hurt or people misunderstand my intentions.

I will share a time when a stranger touched my life in the very moment I needed it.  My dear friend Norma ( I will write about our story one day) was in hospice dying from cancer.  It was very sudden and from when we took her to the hospital for her cough she never even got to go home again to sort her stuff or say goodbye.  So I was heading home from a visit where I had remarked to her that I had never seen her in my life without perfect manicure and pedicure.  She just always looked put together.  She looked happier than I had seen in weeks and said "Yes! That would be wonderful. Purple would be a great last colour (I choked back tears)".  Then in delightfully Norma fashion she said "like a lavender except brighter, deeper but without being too blue".  Hmmm ok.  I left my daily visit promising to return the next day an expert beautician, then bawled all the way home.

After I fed my dogs and tried to wash my face to look less sleep deprived, puffy and red I headed to the neighborhood Shoppers Drug Mart. I googled how to give a good mani/pedi and since I had my own nails done at a local place, I had no supplies.  I was wandering around the cosmetic aisles blankly with no ability to focus or think.  When I entered I had been greeted by a friendly and very tall woman whom asked if I needed a hand.  I declined, not wanting to talk to anyone.  After a few minutes of watching me stare at the shelves, feeling hopeless at the simplicity and also importance of this task, she came over and with a big smile leaned towards me and said " you look like you need a hug" or maybe "you look like you need a friend". I have remembered it both ways    (I am bawling writing this ).

Either way I got both a hug and a friend. I explained the situation to her and she led me merrily about the store finding the best tools and best deals on them.  She gave me a pretty cosmetic bag to put it all in for Norma and added some fun samples and treats. That was a tough time for me as one of my manifestations 'on the ADD / Spectrum' neurodiversity (which is also my superpower I know now) is that I feel things extremely intensely and my feelings take a lot longer than neurotypical to fade or lose the immediate intensity.  I know this about myself so tried to ignore it to be 100% there for Norma and her family. As she was the human who likely came closest in my life to totally understanding me, I was holding on by a thread.  That one little encounter filled my soul up enough to pull it together and keep on keeping on. It meant everything.

I challenge you to try this or share this.  Comment below and tell me of a time someone paid you an unexpected compliment or you reached out to a stranger.


1 Photographer. 5 Dogs. 6 Parrots ........An illustrated day in the life of

Things I could have called this post. 'How the heck do moms get anything done' 'Add is my super power' 'Vomit, laundry and why I love what I do'

  • 4am up Because I don't know why. May as well get some work done !
  • 645am sleep fall upon me again
  • 8am alarm..Google you always take care of me and wake me gently then tell me the news I don't take the time to learn otherwise
  • 810am feed impatient dogs
  • 830am out the door w Elvis/ Elsa to run around the botanical gardens while I wait for a client. The last team member to do headshot for from two awesome physio/ wellnessclinics in Calgary
  • 9am waiting for client
  • 915am client arrives. Yay she is beautiful. I think everyone is beautiful

Here are 4 of the awesome team of about 20 or so

  • 10am Home. Time to feed birds clean cages
  • 1020am boot up computerS (all 3 available devices so I can do as many things as I can at once to get these tasks finished )
  • 1020am to 220 pm This 4 hour time slot was an Adhd whirlwind of trying to get stuff I don't  always like to do FINISHED. It went something like this.

Upload and edit head shots for the final gallery. Send gallery.  Make a requested change

Try to learn WordPress. I do minimum one hour a day of learning something new or figuring out something my brain does not have the bandwidth to process. I try hard to stick to this!

Then.....seo, site design, coding, Google analytics, take 4 phone calls, follow up w said phone call tasks, finish editing one of 3 family galleries on the go, schedule viewing/ reveal for said galleries. Print 6 prints (I do all my own printing as I am hyper fussy about quality and colour) while listening to tutorials

Oh fun! Go to quickly pee and clean up a dog crime spree which must have occurred while I was hyper focussed on my tasks. Comfort Dudley and clean some vomit (did I give him antibiotics without enough food?! 🤔)

Try to reply to a third of my messages, jot down 4 blog ideas, another load of laundry

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Random Gif from the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk I led a couple of weeks ago.

220pm omg I haven't eaten.

225pm stagger downstairs in a haze. Damn. Dog Hair everywhere so I sweep, vacuum and move laundry along

235pm  pull leftovers out of the fridge and heat up while checking eagerly checking email for bookings. So far its a 10 hour day and I have no actual money generating work

245pm take a piteous Dudley for a leash walk in the rain and high wind. Wind is my least fav weather.  It sucks.

315pm Elsa is anxious to eat but first I take Chika out and give her boxes, toys and change to re-destroy the house with.

Feed dogs.

Move laundry along again and change the sheets we use to cover the off white couch as its too hairy to sit on. Reply to a few emails from the couch as my back is sore from my desk ( by the way, wtf were we thinking with a white couch )

4pm clean diarrhea likely caused by the previous mentioned crime spree. Feed birds and have a quick dance party to amuse the flock who are screaming for attention. Sit down with them to write this. Will take a break to get back to work. True story these birdies will NOT tolerate missing a dance party. I have stood with them all over me while exhausted, drunk, late, even crying so they can rest having had their daily dance party fix.

4:30pm Storm is really brewing and even blew my back door open. Now I have the pleasure of having the outdoors  INDOORS. Yay.  Good thing I already swept hehe

4:40pm Finish cleaning the leaves and debris.  Take a call about complications with our upcoming move to the acreage.  Make 5 calls and connect necessary people to one another.  Phew.  Back on track.

5:00pm-645pm Finish editing a second gallery and send to lovely client.  She LOVES it ... Yay.  My greatest pleasure is trying to create the most beautiful images someone has ever seen of themselves.  This reveal did NOT dissapoint.  I cry and gush with the dogs and birds on how happy that made me.

Accidentally posted this prematurely when I added this last part. I think it showed up on Facebook all unedited and spell checked.  Awkward.

Posting this now and heading upstairs to tackle the poor carpet and then begin editing the next gallery and start vision boards for the 2 sessions this week. Dogs are sleeping.  Birds are happily flying around and I am listening to the rolling thunderstorm as I prepare to head up for hour 15 of non stop action.  To be repeated. xoxox

Why does your dog look away from the camera when you try to take a photo 🙈📸

Photo of my dog tied to a tree with out fav leash Notice how just as you go to capture a captivating image of your canine companion (I love alliteration )they

  • Look away
  • Give derp face
  • Suddenly have an itch
  • Tongue out w squinty eyes

How annoying is THAT! Next time that happens THANK your dog for giving you polite communication signals.  When we stick a camera, or a cell phone in front of fido's face they feel fear or discomfort as to them it looks like a giant dilated pupil. Dogs constantly read each others and our eyes to see what is going on. So when we hold it up and then ...GASP... put it in front of our own faces. This is uncomfortable and they are not able to read it's 'intention'.


How cute is Elsa Mae above?! She makes my heart hurt.  Anyhow...those last second look aways or irresistable itches are actually very clear communication signals that they are uncomfortable and stressed. So what can you do? How have I photographed literally HUNDREDS of strange dogs and not had image after image filled with stress signals? What if I told you it is easy to condition your canine to crave camera attention? In fact, for those of you that follow the naughty sock bandit misadventures of @elvis_the_pomsky may know he is trained to give an adorable head tilt when I hold up my camera and say "say cheese.  By the way don't ever say cheese for photos or ask others to. I will tackle that in a future post. Stay on topic Sandy! What? Squirrel?


In order to respect them and create the canine connection we crave (I know..groan) you must create a reason for them to overcome that instinct.

Those that have taken my workshops or had a session with me know I call it PAYING YOUR MODEL. I begin every single session by holding up my camera and a high reward treat (my go to is always Ziwipeak) and the very second they look towards my camera I mark it by saying "yes" and then I pay them! You have to have the timing perfect so they catch on quickly.  Secondly, do NOT over do it.  I am maybe 3 frames or shots and I back off the camera, pay my model and let them have a break. VOILA!

I would love to hear about your fur babies and see your snaps! If you have any questions or want to just say hi please comment below.  Have a happy day and make a stranger smile today.  You never know who really needed it.

Sandy and the pack

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