Ornaments

We recently put up our Christmas tree, and the kids marveled at some of the ornaments while we took them out of the boxes. There were ornaments from their Grandma, ornaments that they had made, ornaments that we painted together, and all of their favorites that they were just now seeing for the first time in a year. One of my boys mentioned while he was hanging them that “each of these ornaments is like a little memory”. And he was right…..

There were the memories of exchanging gifts with friends when the boys were small. There were the memories of making new ornaments when our box full of vintage and family ones were covered in mold from a flood in the basement. And there were memories that we didn’t have ornaments to commemorate, but we knew in our hearts were a part of our Christmas tapestry. Like the year we flew out last minute to spend Christmas in Colorado.

This time of year can feel hassled. Frazzled. Stressful. But in the end, if we are careful about it, our kids (and us) won’t remember that part. Because we will all be too busy making, sharing and reflecting upon the memories…..

This week is a good week to charge up your camera batteries, or just keep snapping away on your smartphone. Don’t forget to document those memories! For more info on capturing and preserving special moments in time, visit me at lifelensandlove.com

boys decorating Christmas tree, Christmas

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The Holiday List

As a Mom, it’s easy to think of this time of year as one giant to-do list. Rather than being activities in the spirit of the season, the holidays can feel like a list of boxes to tick off mechanically one by one until you can finally relax, eat cookies, and throw back a few cocktails. This year I have made a new list for myself. It’s short and sweet, and more to the point, keeps me focused not on the what but on the why of each of these tasks. In the spirit of solidarity, I am happy to share them with you here:

  1. Holiday cards: Taking some time out of my busy life to wish a happy holiday to those I love near and far feels good. I sometimes don’t even see my friend and neighbor for long stretches at a time, (and her kids are at my house constantly), so to acknowledge loved ones in my life is a privelege. Does it take some time to make the card, order the card, address them and send them out? Sure. But do I reflect each year on how blessed I am to have each and every one of these people in my life? Absolutely.
  2. Gift-Giving: Giving gifts is a special way of showing someone that they mean something to you. With each gift selection, thoughts about who this person is, what they like, and how to bring a smile to their face is considered. And don’t even get me started on how worth it it is to see the sheer and absolute joy on your kids’ faces when they open that one thing they were waiting for under the tree. It is truly priceless.
  3. Wrapping: I hate wrapping. I suck at it actually. But I willingly put time into it because the anticipation and mystery of it makes gift-giving more fun. Coming down the stairs on Christmas morning to a handful of wrapped presents under the tree is such a magical moment. So do I have to pour myself some wine and play music to get through it? Sure. But it’s bearable. And it makes Christmas morning way more fun.
  4. Cooking: I am grateful for the food that I have in my home that I can share with others. I am grateful that we are not hungry at Christmas. Period.
  5. Baking: See number three. I actually kind of suck at baking too. But each year I make this an activity to do with the kids. Hanging out together and doing an activity when my kids would rather be with their friends or doing something else is such precious time. Do we care if the cut out cookies look like giant blobs? Nah. We just eat ’em up anyway….perfectionism is out the window real quick on this one.

That’s pretty much it. Seeing each “to-do” in the twinkle, twinkle light of the holidays makes each of them a lot more joyful. And when all else fails….there’s cookies and cocktails.

lifelensandlove; Life is a gift. It all depends on how you see it. Love is all that matters.

For more on lifelensandlove photography services throughout the year, visit me at lifelensandlove.com. And while you’re here sign up to receive The Daily Bread Blog in your email each week.

holiday cards, greeting cards, Christmas cards

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Willing….

We adults like to think we have all the answers. We know a lot about a lot. The older we get, the more certain we become about our faith, the world around us, what works, and what doesn’t work….right?

Children have wonder in their eyes all day long. Constantly exposed to new things, they marvel easily at the world around them. There is more they don’t know than what they do know. It is a constant source of awe, inspiration, and suspension of belief. The older I get, the more I realize that upon true reflection, underneath that certainty that I have, there are more questions, more possibilities, and more opportunities to offer grace than I first will admit. Is it just me, or is the world truly more mysterious, more magical, and much more complex and layered than any of us can explain away?

We are entering into a season of magic. And at my house, we are approaching this stage with caution. There are lots of questions about how it all works. What are the details? Is it for real? I for one, intend to live this season with gusto. Not only to celebrate what at first seems like the fleeting and last remnants of fantastical belief, but to whole-heartedly embrace that mystery myself.


boy, boy in nature, boy holding a pinecone, child portrait

Gina Graham is a family photographer, writer and boymom. The Daily Bread blog is a weekly post about life, thoughts from behind the lens, and love. Sign up today. For more information about family photography, visit lifelensandlove.

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Boys will be….

“Boys will be boys”

Anyone who has a son knows this gist of this expression. While all children can be energetic, boisterous, and rowdy, seemingly a large majority of boys possess this unique way of being in the world. As parents of boys, our biggest tasks are often to channel that energy, harness it for good, and know which battles to choose. It’s always a challenge on any given day.

 

Today’s social and political climate, however, has presented us all with a special set of challenges. In a world where leaders, elected officials, sports heroes, and Hollywood stars are shamelessly on full display with hatred, bigotry, racism, sexism, and misogyny, we parents have even more of a job to do. We now have more of a responsibility to teach our boys what it means to be a man. A constant dialog is needed. At all stages and ages. Across both genders. We need to talk about how to respect others at all times, to disagree in a constructive way. To foster kindness in the world, to know and respect boundaries. To discredit the lack of moral compass that is so blatant in our culture. To discern. To stand up for. To use our voices to create a changed and more positive atmosphere. To stand up against what is wrong. To fight for what is right.

 

It’s disheartening as a parent to wake up each day and see the rip in the moral fabric and how it will impact our children. But it’s empowering to be a part of the solution. As parents, we can enforce in our own homes what is in our hearts. What we know to be right and true. To raise the next generation to do better. To know better.

 

It’s a mess out there. But we parents? We clean up messes all the time. So let’s band together and do what we do best. Raise our kids. Have the conversations. Enforce the rules of respect. It’s what we do. It’s what we need to do. Enough is enough. It has to stop.

 

 

boys playing in the grass, football, boys playing

 

 

Gina Graham is a photographer and writer and can be found at lifelensandlove.com To sign up for a weekly does of inspiration, images, and camaraderie in parenting, sign up for the blog here.

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Dear Dad

Dear Dads,

I often write for and talk about Mama’s. I am a Mama, and we have a sisterhood that may be hard to understand. But I see you too…..

You are working hard, long days. You are giving it your all. Sometimes working at a job you don’t love, often sacrificing anything for yourself for the good of your family. You are serious about providing for them, and committed to doing whatever it takes to give your family a beautiful life.

Often selfless, most often “the fun one”, always so full of love, even in the necessary moments of discipline and teaching. You often miss the moments during the day, the milestones, and the little things, yet seldom complain.

I see you too….and isn’t that what we all ultimately want? To be seen. To be acknowledged. So for you unsung heros out there, you Dads; Keep on keeping on. Your families cherish you…even if they don’t always tell you.

This month my own Dad has a milestone birthday. For over 40 years he has been my biggest champion, in spite of me often challenging in so many ways that unconditional love in some years and seasons. But the love back has always been there, always been deep, and will never change.

So do I often speak out with a voice for the Mama’s out there? Sure. But Dads you are there too. We see and love you and thank you.

father and son, family photography, kids and parenting

Hey Dads! Want to hit the easy button this year for holiday gift-giving? Give Mom the gift of memories. Contact me for information on gift certificates towards family photography in any amount….it’s sure to be her favorite thing under the tree!

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Nov 20

Today is November 20th, and it is my Grandpa’s 97th birthday. Cosmo DiPasquale and his brothers were a part of a local landscape in Ohio in the mid-century and were known for their produce business. I have so many memories of my Grandpa dropping off boxes of fresh bananas and melons on a Saturday morning. Because of him, I had a daily grapefruit habit throughout my childhood. As much as he was known for boxes and baskets of produce, he was even more well known for his music. For most of his life, he was an avid clarinet and saxophone player. He played in his youth, throughout the world in World War Two, and all the way throughout his life until his fingers no longer worked the keys the way he wanted them to and was forced to stop playing. We in the family know how much it breaks his heart that he can no longer play, but stopping by his home one often finds him listening to old music (albeit the volume has to be turned up pretty loud these days). He is a business man, a husband, a father, and a grandfather, but at the heart of it all, he is a music man. It’s as if the music is his true heart beat. I believe that because of him, so many in our large extended family have a serious passion for music in all forms.

 

Several weeks ago I was photographing some amazingly talented kids. One of them brought his saxophone so I could document this part of his life. As he played away while my shutter snapped, I was immediately transported to memories of my youth. It’s impossible for me to hear a sax or a clarinet and not think of my Grandpa. As for the sweet boy I was honored to photograph that day? I don’t know what his future holds or where his music will fit in. But it was beautiful to see that day how the music always lives on. Always lifts and inspires and has a place in the heart for anyone willing to listen.

 

boy playing saxophone, music, photography session kids portraits

 

Milestone sessions are a great way to celebrate hobbies and passions and the passing of time. For more on booking a milestone session for your kiddo, visit me at lifelensandlove. I would love to hear from you!

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Moment

It was a bright and crisp morning. The first official frost lay sparkling across the landscape. In spite of the stillness of the quiet morning, the leaves were falling like rain from the trees. Seemingly the trees had all conferred the night before and decided today was the day to shed their leaves and prepare for winter. A new season of life was on its way.

 

I put the dog on the leash and set out for a quiet stroll to gather my thoughts for the day and take in the beauty of that particular morning. The sound of the falling leaves was in my ears, punctuated only by the sounds of…..two rowdy and rambunctious boys. Mine. On our way to school…..

 

For three whole blocks they literally squealed, shrieked, bustled, jostled, shoved, and in general made all kinds of noise and ruckus. Between the first frost that had them excited, and the morning energy that was coursing through their bodies, it was apparent that just walking calmly and quietly to school was out of the question, as is almost always the case with boys. Three blocks, two blocks. Then one blessed block to the drop off spot and I went on my way, grateful for the extra time I had that morning to walk a little extra in peace with the dog, breathe, and just take it all in.

 

As I walked along, I passed the headlines of the Chicago Tribune. The Health and Family section was placed on top, and in big bold lettering were the words, “Exhaustion Widespread. Stress and social media are taking a toll”. It was in those moments that it dawned on me, not for the first time; life is not going to hand you peace and quiet. Ever. Whether you are a parent, working full time, live in the city, or the relative quiet of the suburbs. Even within your own home, your own palm. Everything is vying for your attention. Crying out for you. Noise. Headlines. Stress. Worry. To-do’s. Modern day life is relentlessly bombarding you. And only you can create that small oasis of peace for breath, quiet, space, and reflection.

 

The holidays are almost upon us. And it is a time notorious for stress and overwhelm. Don’t wait for it. Make it intentional. Carve it out. Put the device down. Connect to the still small voice within, even just for a few moments. Hit the reset. You need it. We all do.

 

fall leaves on a plate. Moment of peace and quiet

Want to take something off of your plate? Prints, photo gifts, and albums make a great holiday gift. New this year are gift cards in any amount towards a family or milestone photo session, as well as towards any print or product that I offer.

Contact me today.

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My Favorite Stage

“This is my favorite stage”, I remember thinking when my youngest was around a year, and my oldest was about three. Sure, it was hard work, but they were so precious. My oldest was so interesting to me, and my youngest was still such a baby, but yet so big at the same time. It seemed magical, and I remember wishing I could freeze that moment in time forever.

“This is my favorite stage”, a client said to me recently, while I photographed her beautiful family on a muggy and hot September night. Her two boys, ages 14 and 16, were teens, and despite what some might say about photographing teenage boys, were absolutely delightful. Conversational, fun and full of interesting things about their lives and what their goals were, I could have hung out with them for hours….I could see why Mom would feel that way, in spite of the assumptions about what life with teenagers seems like when you are not there quite yet.

“They all were our favorites and got better with each year”, my parents said upon looking back on raising me and my brother. I’m sure it was not always easy, and I am sure some stages seemed like they would never end. But then they did. And led to the next. And the next. Until one day we moved away from home and started off on our own path. Now grandparents to four beautiful souls, they seem to be enjoying them now in a whole new way.

Stages. They come. And they go. They are beautiful in their own way. Fleeting. Never ending. Always a gift.

mom with teenage sons, boy mom, mom with kids

What stage is your family in? Let me be the one to capture it. Reach out and let me know when you want to book your family session.

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Taking My Time

I get asked all the time if and when I do “mini sessions”, and this fall is no exception. Lately I have been getting a ton of requests for them. Mini sessions are when a photographer sets aside a certain time slot, say 20 min, and shoot 5 to 10 classic portraits of a family or a child. If you are on a tight budget, or are truly only looking for that one “money shot” classic portrait for your holiday card, then finding the right photographer that can get everyone to relax and give genuine smiles in under twenty minutes can be just the ticket.

 

But working within a tight time constraint is also a bit of a risk. While we have all become more accustomed to having our pictures taken with social media, most of us are not professional models, and when placed on the other end of the camera, we can all very quickly get uncomfortable and self-conscious, myself included. I truly have a place in my heart for a classic portrait, but what interests me more in working with a family is capturing their genuine smiles and connections. Who they really are. The bond at the deepest roots of their tribe. And in order to do that, I like to relax, take my time, and get to know people a little bit while I shoot in order to achieve that. Over the years I have been a child and family photographer, what I have noticed is that the shots toward the middle and end of the session are the best. People are at their most relaxed, most confident that it is all going well. We have gotten all of the “cheese-y” smiles out of the way, and are just letting them be themselves. It is at this time that I learn a ton about the families I am working with, and truly get a sense of their story…and what are we as photographers if not storytellers?

 

So, no, I don’t do mini sessions or force families into a time-limited slot that is their allotted time to be “on”. I do, however, hope to create an atmosphere where the story of who I am working with can really stand out. Shine. Because at the end of the day, I believe that is what my job really is about.

 

What’s your story? Let me be the one to tell it.

 

Family in black and white, candid family portrait

For more info on booking your family photo session, reach out and get in touch. There’s still time left to capture your family’s connections before the end of the year…..

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Awareness

 

I have been working with a family for a few of years now, capturing their stages and changes a couple of times a year. About a year and a half ago, we got together to photograph a different and more difficult stage. Anne, the loving mother of her four tiny and sweet children, had just been diagnosed with Breast Cancer, and had just undergone her first round of chemo when we got together to snap some summer shots of her and her kiddos.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of that, I asked Anne to share a few thoughts about her journey. {And of course, I had to share this super fun shot of her family now}.
“In 1978 a drug was trial tested to help cure breast cancer.  That was the year I was born.  It wasn’t approved by the FDA until 1998.  Who’d have thought that all these years later that was one of the drugs that would save me. Unfortunately there were many women who took that drug to benefit those of us that would get cancer (or hadn’t been born yet). Those are the real heros.
At 38 I didn’t think I could get breast cancer, especially not after having a baby less than a year before.  But as I later learned, breast cancer doesn’t care if you are young or old, a mom or not, it just happens to some of us.
I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.  After 18 months of surgeries, chemo, radiation, medicine, I am cancer free.  The experience will always haunt me, take my breath away.  But it also makes me appreciate all the chaos, the hugs from kids, and moments with my family that I might not have had.  I am lucky to be here and truly see life now from a different lens.” ~ Anne P.
Sending love and prayers for all of those affected by Breast Cancer. Below is a list of Anne’s favorite links in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

 


family hugging and snuggling in the grass, family photography

Gina Graham is a family photographer, storyteller, and memory keeper. For more on family photography with Gina, visit www.lifelensandlove.com

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