I recently photographed Raymond, a black and white tuxedo cat, who was named after Andrea's great grandfather. Raymond is 16 years old and still look like a young Don Draper. He was a 14th birthday gift and adopted from the basement of an abandoned building. Here are a few of my favorite portraits from his session that was a birthday gift to Andrea from her family.
On Thursday I headed over to Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and photographed a few of the cats available for adoption. Luna had the tiniest little meow and totally stole my heart. To get to know more about each cat click on the image or on the name below.
Today I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Melissa Vertosick who is this week's interviewee in Personality Prints, an interview series focusing on the bond between creatives/artists/entrepreneurs and their pets. Melissa is a holistic health coach here in Pittsburgh, PA and owns The Whole Life Approach. This year I have watched her business take flight and in the last couple of months she has been a speaker at Farm to Table, and organized cooking workshops at McGinnis Sisters, among others. Not only is Melissa a coach, predominantly helping diabetics, but she is also an artist. She is combining her love for painting and nutrition, and promoting healthy eating habits by cooking the rainbow. How cool is that?! When I last spoke with her she was finalizing a cookbook focusing on preparing breakfasts of different colors for the seven days of the week. I absolutely adore Melissa, and know that you are going to love getting to know her and her two cats Lizzy and Raoul as much as I have. Tell me where you can be found online: Website: www.thewholelifeapproach.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheWholeLifeApproach Twitter: www.twitter.com/MelissVertosick Youtube: www.youtube.com/TheWholeLifeApproach
Tell me a little bit about your business. I am a certified Holistic Health Coach. My business is all about helping you to make changes to your diet and lifestyle in order to be the healthiest you yet. This is the journey we are all on and I focus on getting you back into the kitchen and through that, work with you to use food to heal your body.
So many of the chronic conditions and diseases that are a concern today can be prevented, managed, or reversed by changing one’s food choices. We all know what we ‘should’ be doing but it can be hard to implement what we know into our lives. That is where I come in. I help to make connections between the what, why, and how. I introduce ways to easily balance your blood sugar and to boost your energy by supporting the organs and glands within your endocrine system.
My approach and passion comes from my love of cooking but also from my personal life. Eight of my family had or are struggling with diabetes in some form. I myself have experienced a period of extreme fatigue and stubborn weight. I looked intensely at what I ate and why to find answers. I implemented changes slowly as I learned more about the effects food, emotions, and environment had on my body. My personal journey of health and healing has become the catalyst for my business as I help others to find their own healing path.
Tell me about your pets. My two cats are quite the opposite of each other. Lizzy is large, super friendly, and always happy. Raoul is smaller, loves to sit in my lap and shadow me, but is very nervous around others. He is often hiding before any visitor gets to the front door. Lizzy, on the other hand, is almost always there to greet anyone who stops by.
I picked them up at a local shelter over 7 years ago. I went at the end of 2006 to find a new companion after Merlin passed. Lizzy was there with the other cats I met but I selected a really cuddly cat. Lizzy had been friendly but a little stand-offish. Yet when the staff was getting Eva ready for the cat carrier, Lizzy kept trying to get into the carrier! Eva was actually a very sick cat and I only had her for a very brief time. Lizzy stuck with me so when I was ready, I went back to the shelter to see if she was still there. She was and this time after she greeted me she was very possessive, following me around and not allowing any other cat to have my attention.
The director of the shelter asked me to look at other cats to see if I would like one of them. We were in the kitten area and that is where I saw Raoul. He had very interesting markings which he has since grown out of. He had vertical white stripes on his sides that looked like wood rings. They got along so I brought them both home.
Do you and your cats share personality traits that has helped you in life/business? I would say we all have inquisitiveness that makes my life richer. Raoul and I share being very focused. He will sit and watch a stink bug or a bird for a really long time. He is very patient in that way. Lizzy loves her vegetables (although only when they are in the grocery bag fresh from the farm or store).
How do your pets support you and or inspire you and your business? My cats remind me to take the time to just be. They are both very affectionate and have no second thoughts about coming over and demanding attention while I am working. This helps me not to get too wrapped up in what I am doing. Also, they enjoy certain routines which helps to create the rhythm of my day.
Do you have a favorite quote that you live by? “What is so priceless about being the selves we were created to grow into is that it’s impossible to do it wrong.” This is from Victoria Moran’s book Living a Charmed Life. I think it is such a great reminder to not let fear prevent me from experiencing the now and that my personal path is always the right one even when it seems out of sync.
The phone rang as I was headed out the door for Cleo's session. It was Kelley. Mom hasn't left yet. Can we postpone 15 minutes? Of course, I said. Kelley and her husband were sitting in the church parking lot a few blocks from her mom's house. Kelley had contacted me a few months before Christmas after Cleo was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer, and wanted to have portraits taken as a surprise for her mom since they didn't know how much time Cleo had left. Once the coast was clear we met at the house. Even though Kelley's mom called several times to suggest places to go shopping for furniture (what she thought Kelley and Leif were doing in the first place), she never suspected a thing. Needless to say, Kelley's mom loved the album. Here is the story of how Cleo came into Kelley's life.
The Story of Cleo . . .
Disclaimer: my husband and I have 2 dogs and 2 cats of our own and all are rescues; I would never, ever get a critter from a pet store at this point. As a junior in high school in 1997, however, I was considerably less aware and thus my mother and I approached the Petland pet store in Monroeville while I whined incessantly about how much I had always wanted a black cat and could we please please please get a black kitten if they had one. Please. Pleasepleasepleasepuhleeeeeeee
There was one black kitten. I don't think I've ever seen my mother look more disappointed.
The kitten was sleepy and kind of layabout as we did the cursory kitten-squeezing. My mum asked if she was ever active and the saleswoman assured her that yes, she did in fact move and play. I used her lethargy as preemptive attack on the pivot that I *knew* my mother was preparing; "Oh see, she's sleepy . . . so she won't get into trouble and the landlord will never know." And thus did the black kitten come home with us the following week, whereupon she was named Cleo--short for Cleopatra. Her very first act as illicit apartment kitten was to scale the drapes so that she could sit in the window and advertise her presence. Eventually the landlord found out about her, but he declined to make a fuss. Cleo amused herself by climbing All The Things, begging for water at the bathroom sink, and racing around the apartment. At night she would sleep with me and suck on the crew neck of my t-shirts so that I would wake up with a wee little fuzzball at my side and an enormous slobber patch on my chest. Because she functioned so much like a hyperactive, drooly security blanket she pretty quickly earned the nickname Woobie. To this day mum and I refer to her most frequently as Woob, Woobie, Woober, or The Woob. "Cleo" has rather become her formal name. When I moved into my first place after college mum told me that, as she was my cat, I could take her with me provided I was ok with all the heartache and distress that would cause her. But, you know, if I was willing to make the woman who bore me VERY VERY SAD, I could have my cat. Totally up to me. Needless to say, Woob stayed with mum, who refers to her as my sister.
In her prime she was enormous--15lbs. And when she developed arthritis it became difficult for her to pop up onto window sills. So mum had a carpenter make a tiny set of kitten steps that led from the human steps up to an expanded window sill in the breakfast nook, in order that she could continue to make her little quacking noises at the birds. Woob has a voice--it's a little child-like in pitch, but with a slight edge of perturbation, which is how we perceive her personality. She's very much a cat: not overly fond of strangers or noise, picky about her food and the cleanliness of her blue donut bed (she lets mum know when it needs to be washed by pointedly lying next to it, but refusing to get in.) She doesn't bury her poop because she much prefers if it is instantly jettisoned from her box--and the house--by the closest available human, and she would rather not be picked up. Ever. She likes to play, where "play" means "to watch someone wave around a cat toy so that she can very occasionally swat at it from a recumbent position."
She has always been confident in her status as most intelligent mammal in the room.
While I was in grad school, Woob began assembling her oeuvre. It started with an errant piece of paper on the floor, which she decorated with a series of claw holes. Thereafter, she would sit at the printer and meow plaintively for paper. Mum would occasionally interpret the claw holes by connecting the dots. If the interpretation was correct, Woob would floop onto it when on the floor for her approval. Lately, however, Woober seems to have tired of the arts and prefers napping, waking mum up at 5am if her food bowl is empty, and napping some more. She's like a little sloth in a cat suit. Although she is old and hobbly, she still greets my mum in the kitchen most days and likes a good head scratching. So far as anyone can tell she has never spent a moment feeling bad for herself, even when her back was cut open after her first surgery and she couldn't comfortably sit for a week. She's a little trooper. A little, fuzzy, formerly drooly (but now far too dignified for that) trooper.
February is not only National Cat Appreciation Month, but it is also Porter and Tchin Tchin's birthday month. This was celebrated with an impromptu Sunday brunch with my friend Bethany, and birthday portraits for the 11 and 14 year old kitties. Porter made a brief appearance (just long enough to get captured on film ;)) before he took off, but Tchin Tchin loved his time in the spotlight.