Me with my muse, Bailey!

About Allison Shamrell Photography:

Thanks for visiting my blog! My name is Allison, and I work in San Diego, CA, capturing the personalities of dogs and cats of all sizes & temperaments. I do photo sessions on location and in-studio, wherever my clients prefer! My photography style is natural, playful & soulful.

Here on my blog, I tell the stories of recent sessions and events. You might even find an insight or two into the behind-the-scenes side of my business! I hope you have fun looking around!

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619-357-6624  ~  ~  3251 Adams Avenue, Suite C, San Diego, CA 92116

Officially Voted the Best Pet Photographer in San Diego, 2014-2017, by the San Diego A-List.

“Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Face.” – Mike Tyson

Today is May 2nd. It’s been exactly eight months to the day when we heard the news that would change our lives, but mostly, my husband’s life. When I see people at events and they say “I heard you were leaving town…?”, even today, it breaks my heart a little. We were supposed to leave. We definitely were. I wrote this blog post because I feel like I owe my past and future clients an explanation as to why we’re still here… and to clarify what’s really been going on in this crazy life of ours.


Let’s start with a timeline.

September 2009: we move to Pensacola!

October 2010: at this point, my husband Ken has completed two basic preliminary flight training programs – and maybe during another year, this wouldn’t have been such a big deal. But with an overloaded aviation force, the Navy increased the passing grade to 94% (the passing grade) and gave all sorts of opportunities and packages to those willing to transfer to other communities (such as Intelligence). They even gave a few people free passes out of the Navy. Having graduated from Notre Dame’s ROTC program, Ken knows this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but passes it up on his path to becoming a helicopter pilot. So this month he begins Primary, an intensive fixed-wing training course with the T-34.

Bailey (in his flight suit) is very proud of him!

March 2011: Ken completes Primary and moves on to Advanced, where he can finally fly what he’s been waiting for: helicopters. Both of his brothers work with helicopters (one is a Marine crew chief, and one is an Army pilot) so Ken’s choice wasn’t exactly a huge surprise! :)

Ken's graduating Primary class

July 2011: A routine eye exam (for a new contact lens prescription) causes a doctor to recommend that Ken gets looked at a bit more closely by an ophthalmologist. He’s almost done with Advanced, though, and the briefs and flight schedules are so intense that he schedules the appointment for a few weeks later. (He’s doing 5-6 flights a week at this point; Advanced is a series of over a hundred hours of training flights.)

September 2, 2011: During Ken’s appointment with the ophthalmologist, he’s told that he has optic nerve head drusen and visual field defects. These are words that I’d never heard put together before, but now, they potentially mean the end of my husband’s career in aviation.

September 3, 2011: My 25th birthday. Not the happiest birthday I can remember.

The rest of September 2011: We worry about everything. But with only two flights left to complete (two! after so many!), Ken’s CO goes to bat for him in a big way. He authorizes the flights, and Ken earns his wings of gold.

September 20, 2011: Ken flies to Miami to see a world-renowned specialized ophthalmologist, who does sophisticated tests and tells Ken that his binocular vision is completely fine. We have hope.

September 30, 2011: Winging ceremony at Whiting Field. My husband asks me to pin on his wings, and I’m honored to say yes. He’s officially an aviator! One of the happiest days I can think of… :)

Ken with a TH-57 trainer helicopter.

October 1, 2011: we go shark fishing in Destin with our parents to celebrate the winging! Because we definitely have cause to celebrate! (in the movie below, feel free to fast-forward to 0:35, when the action starts happening!)


October 2011 – January 2012: we wait for Ken’s waiver package to be submitted. There’s a ton of data and reports and charts, and getting it submitted electronically is no quick thing. If Ken is awarded a waiver, he can continue to fly helicopters. (Like in the video below! This was taken by another Navy wife who thought the pilot was her husband, but it was actually Ken completing the landing!)


January – April 2012: We wait to hear what the board of doctors says. Lots of waiting.

At least we can go to the beach to wait!

Friday, April 13: Ken’s squadron doctor calls. The final decision is no. Just no.


Now: Ken is exploring his options. He’s enrolled in an eight-week class for Aviation Maintenance officers, he’s also considering civil engineering (seabees), and there are a couple of other possibilities (military and civilian). His future with the Navy is totally up in the air. That also means that our time left in Pensacola is uncertain, too. Let me tell you: on September 1 of last year, I believed 100% that he’d soon get assigned to a squadron elsewhere in the country, and we’d spend Halloween in a new place. Now I’m wondering if we’ll be here for another Halloween. We’ve learned not to plan things (trips, vacations, etc.) more than a month in advance. Oh, and running a business? That kind of timetable doesn’t make things easy on the pet photography side, either! But we’re making it work.


I hope no one takes this post in the wrong light. I’m not mad at the Navy, I’m not asking for pity – I just want to air what’s been happening, because even just writing this post is a bit therapeutic, and I know some people (all five of you that read my blog, right? haha) are curious. I don’t know the point of a blog, or a business, if you can’t be honest and real with it. So this has been our struggle. What’s kept us functioning is the knowledge that things happen for a reason. God has a plan for us – it’s just hidden from view right now, and for that reason, life hasn’t been easy the last few weeks. But I hope this clears up the reason why we haven’t left town yet, because I know people wonder why that pet photographer lady was going to be gone but she’s still here… To be totally honest, one thought haunts me: that anyone thinks I announced we’d leave falsely, as a publicity/sales stunt. I’ve never even heard a whisper of this idea from anyone outside of my own head, but hey, you don’t get to manage a successful business without imagining a few worst-case scenarios. I hope and pray that no one would believe such a terrible thing. And I wish I could sum up this post with a “lesson learned” or happy ending… but I don’t think we’ll figure out that we’ve learned anything until years from now, looking back on this. And we’re still in the thick of it – Ken doesn’t know what his career will end up being – so the happy ending just hasn’t come yet. But we know it’s on its way.


So I thought the above quote by Mike Tyson was rather fitting for this post, and for our lives: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Plans change. I’m sure that’s been the case in your life at one time or another. So even though my husband was punched pretty damn hard, I’m still so impressed at how he’s handled everything. He’s incredibly strong and brave, and I’m so lucky to be his wife. And we’re happy to stay in Pensacola as long as we can – or at least, as long as we should. Right now it looks like we’ll be here through June. And then? Who knows where? And while the planner and businesswoman inside of me is DYING to know where we’ll go next – and when, and for how long – life is full of surprises, right? I guess if anything good has come out of this, I think it’s that my husband and I have learned pretty well how to roll with the punches.



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Allison Shamrell Pet Photography
Call: 619.357.6624 // Email: // Visit: 3251 Adams Avenue, Suite C, San Diego, CA 92116
San Diego's Best Pet Photographer, voted by the San Diego A-List 2014-2016
© Allison Shamrell Photography, 2016

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8 Responses to ““Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Face.” – Mike Tyson”

  1. Mary Ellen says:

    I think you two have done an amazing job of “rolling with the punches” … We are so proud of you both!

  2. Lori says:

    You both are amazing and strong. I know this seems like a crushing blow, but there are better times to come!

  3. Leslie says:

    Exciting to hear what God is doing in you! Always uncomfortable when He puts our lifestyle into a new pace but I know what you are learning now will be precious to you wherever He places you next. Thought I’d share this funny quote:
    “Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you, but not in one ahead.”
    Thanks for sharing your journey!

  4. Wow! I was wondering why you guys were still here, but I have a few clients who didn’t think they would be here for half their baby plans that were… I never think it odd when military families don’t move on when they anticipated they would. ;) Glad you’re here long enough to plan lunch some time! Let’s do it!

  5. Connie says:

    Well you know the saying …. Life is what happens when you have other plans. Don’t we all know that.

  6. crystal jennings says:

    I know how it feels to not really know whats next, my husband was in the military for 20 years, and sometimes it is a hard life and other times its great, just hang in there.

  7. Vicky says:

    Thanks for telling and having been in and around the militery(sp) know how it goes with planning. I’m very happy that you both have gotten to stay here for however long you are able to be here. So sorry about your husband’s eye problems but understand about it. Things will get better!!

  8. […] a very, very big week! For those of you that read the blog post that I wrote last year called Everyone Has a Plan Until They Get Punched In the Face, it detailed a few events in my personal life… let me summarize & bring you up to […]

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