What Makes An Exceptional Teacher?

posted in: Notes | 6
Today I’m welcoming Sue Lively of One Time Through as she shares a snapshot from her childhood, and the wonderful story about how her teacher, Mr. Smith, inspired her to learn, grow, and ultimately, become a teacher herself. What a wonderful tribute to an exceptional teacher!

Sue is an elementary school teacher on extended parental leave to stay at home full time with her son. She is passionate about all things related to arts and-crafts, language, and science! Thank you Sue, for sharing these musings on what makes an exceptional teacher. I can think of a few such teachers from my own childhood.

— Betsy

What Makes An Exceptional Teacher - One Time Through @ BPhotoArt.com

What Makes An Exceptional Teacher?

What do you think makes an exceptional teacher? Is it that unique ability to put oneself into a student’s shoes and see things through their point of view? Is it having a mastery of one’s subject or exceptional communication skills? Is it about seeing a student as more than just a sum of their parts?

Everyone has a favourite teacher that they can remember from early school years. Probably your favourite teacher had a few, if not all, of the qualities listed above. My favorite teacher certainly did.

Mr. Smith

He was a little unusual for an elementary school teacher, because he was a man. Also, it was widely known that teaching wasn’t his only gig. Mr. Smith not only taught full-time, but he wrote the drama critiques and reviews column for the large newspaper in the city close to where I grew up. He was highly involved in theatre himself and brought that love to his students.

I was lucky enough to have Mr. Smith for my teacher in grades 1 and 2 and later when I was in grades 4, 5, and 6; I was involved in school musicals that he directed.

What I remember most about Mr. Smith from the early grades was that he was FUN. Isn’t it always those teachers that stand out in your memory? Our classroom was full of laughter, poetry, art and drama.

I remember that he used to keep exceptional artwork up on his walls, long after those students had moved into higher grades. I was always proud to return to his class as a “big grade 5 or 6er” and see one of my art pieces still there! He just had a way of making kids feel good.

Teaching Through Discipline

He also treated his students exceptionally fair. There was one time when I was given the privilege of staying inside at recess on my own to finish an art piece. For some reason, only God knows why, I went around the room and tore a small corner off the page of everyone else’s work. I can remember clearly doing this, but to this day, have no idea why I did it!
When the kids came back in from recess, Mr. Smith easily figured out who the art culprit had been, as my piece was the only one without a missing corner!

I remember being quietly pulled into the hallway and firmly but gently confronted about my behavior. There was no scolding or shaming, just a very serious discussion about my actions and how they had affected others.

I think I remember that episode so much because I felt very deep remorse about my actions, and I was grateful my favorite teacher still liked and cared about me, even though I had been quite naughty!

Committed to Excellence

Later on, in grades 4-6, Mr. Smith directed me in the school musicals. He encouraged me to try out the first year, and really took me under his wing.

These musicals that he directed were not just “kid-stuff” either – they were big productions. We had amazing costumes rented from a theater company, professional lighting, and performed for large audiences. We rehearsed for months and really felt like we were a part of something important. They were a source of self-esteem and positive memories.

The time commitment from Mr. Smith, and the other teachers involved, must have been huge. It’s hard to see that as a kid, and although we all loved Mr. Smith, I don’t think any of us really appreciated how much work and time he must have put in to do these shows with us…and really, FOR us.

As a teacher and a parent now, I can see all the amazing things he did…and was. Mr. Smith was such a huge positive influence on me.

Encouragement Into Adulthood

He encouraged me to pursue singing and acting, which has been a source of incredible enjoyment in my life. Even into adulthood, he followed my “career” and supported me by interviewing me for his newspaper column, even giving me great reviews for my performances in several musicals.

He has become a positive mental teaching template for me. I often think about how Mr. Smith would deal with certain situations when I am challenged by a student.

He has also inspired me to direct musicals with my own students over the years and hopefully I can make a difference for some of them as he did for me. This has been one of my favorite, and the most rewarding, parts of being a teacher.

Lifelong Positive Influence

The photograph above shows Mr. Smith and me after I had received the grade 6 Drama Award. You can tell by my face that I was thrilled, and especially honored to receive this award from my favorite teacher.

When I look at it now, tears fill my eyes, and I send a hearty thank you to this special man who had such a positive influence on me as a child, and as an adult.

Thank you, Mr. Smith.

– Sue Lively

What About You?

Do you have an all time favorite snapshot from your childhood? Maybe a photo from your school years? I have memories of my favorite teachers, and seeing snapshots of their classrooms can bring so many memories to mind.

Do you have an exceptional teacher who inspired you like Mr. Smith inspired Sue? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity For Kids

posted in: Notes | 16

In honor of Memorial Day, I put together an impromptu art activity for our son …so we could have some patriotic artwork to hang on the front door today!
Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity - Planning a free-form activity to encourage self expression and creativity in kids! - BPhotoArt.com

While I love seeing elaborate crafts and projects others have done (via Pinterest), my style is a little more informal and aimed at culturing creativity. For us, replicating a craft or following steps to end up with the “correct” project just doesn’t always work out. Toddlers, when they have their mind set up on doing things their way…. are an immovable force to be reckoned with.

So, this free-form activity had no rules, aside from keeping ink and glue on the paper canvas (i.e. off the table).

I laid out a large white envelope as the paper canvas for this patriotic craft, pulled out some red, white/silver, and blue items that we had on hand (paper, sparkly pipe cleaners), etc. Of course, no patriotic artwork craft would be complete without stars, so I set out a star rubber stamp and ink pad. Supplementary supplies included scissors, a glue stick, tape, and a blue highlighter.

Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity Supplies - BPhotoArt.com

While Toby went after the scissors and started cutting paper enthusiastically, I showed him how he could tear up the paper into strips and even squares. He allowed me to help make some squares while he cut abstract shapes.

Then he discovered the stamp and ink pad. First his thumb went onto the ink pad, and since this was our first time using an ink pad, I told him about how he could make thumbprints — which he tried. But the stamp was more fun.

Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity for Kids - BPhotoArt.com

Toby immediately stamped his hand (just like at the library), then asked for permission to stamp his arms and face. I have to admit, I declined on the face, but did permit the arms do gain some stars.

Stars were stamped everywhere, on the paper, on the little torn squares, you name it. He then started spreading glue on the white canvas and sticking things to it.

It was great to watch the creative gears turning as Toby switched from one tool to another. The scissors were a frequently used tool, although the blue highlighter was briefly more popular.

Patriotic Artwork Craft Activity for Kids - BPhotoArt.com

Finally, he got to the tape. Long streams were pulled from the dispenser and stuck to the canvas, the table, everywhere. I helped Toby get the tape back onto his canvas, and once we decided to “save” the rest of the roll for Grandma, impromptu craft time was complete.

Toby was proud to show off his patriotic artwork craft to Grandma (whose house we were at), and to Daddy when he got home.

I love that this project came together so easily, that there were no rules or restrictions, and how our son really got his creative thought process going.

[Click on any image in the gallery below to view full size]

Resources + Supplies

Here are supplies similar to what we used for this artwork craft project. I’m all for buying in bulk when it comes to kid craft supplies… it never hurts to have extras on hand.

You may also want to check out my Art for Kids Pinterest board, where I’ve been pinning lots of fun art projects for kids (not specific to any holiday in particular)

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Art For Kids on Pinterest.

Do You Have Any Patriotic Artwork Craft Ideas?

Are you a fan of the pre-planned activities, or is free-form crafting more your style? What works best for your kids?

I’d love to hear about any craft or art activities you’ve tried, whether they’re patriotic in nature or not. It’s always fun to see what others are doing!

Aging Gracefully + End of Life Planning

posted in: Notes | 4

Parenthood has brought new considerations for us, such as the need to prepare a will and ensure that our child(ren) will be taken care for. It seems like the older you get, the more you have to think about end of life preparations. I’ve touched on this before when considering the legacy my grandmother left behind, and the fact that life is too short to put off doing what really matters.

Today I’m guest posting over at The Entwife’s Journal about getting your affairs in order — from the perspective of a grandchild (Read Aging Parents: End of Life Preparations).


My grandfather is in good health but had decided to set his affairs in order recently. Our son is fortunate enough to know and remember his great grandfather (“grandpa with the broken cane”); I’ve written about my childhood memories of painting with grandpa as well. While I wasn’t directly involved with his end of life preparations, but my mother and aunt helped him organize his estate and complete some necessary end of life planning.

Their checklist of things to do included organizing financial paperwork, making sure that both children knew where important documents and valuables were stored, and knowing who would do what when the time comes. End of life planning doesn’t sound fun, but honestly I think it can be bring peace of mind for all involved.

End of Life Planning Checklist - BPhotoArt.com

Having been through a number of estate distributions, I can tell you that when a loved one has taken the time to put their affairs in order and has taken the time to do end of life planning, things go much more smoothly for the surviving family members. And it is generally less stressful too!

End of Life Planning Resources

I’ve compiled an end of life planning board on Pinterest, with a number of articles and documents that may be helpful if you’re not sure what to do so far as putting together your will, making estate plans, or even organizing important financial documents. Obviously the best choice will be to consult with your lawyer or financial planner, but for those of you who like to do extra research — here you go!

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board End of Life Planning on Pinterest.

What about you? Do you have any suggestions for end of life planning made easy? Stories of aging gracefully and being prepared for the final stages of life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Displaying Baby Photos In Your Home

posted in: Notes | 14

Sometimes figuring out how to display baby photos in your home is tougher than Capturing Baby Milestones on Camera in the first place! Actually, I’ll expand that sentiment to include all types of portraits. It’s great to have family portraits to document milestones — but, once they’re taken, the dilemma becomes what to do with them?

Depending on what my clients’ homes will accommodate, I do usually recommend some sort of wall display. I love displaying baby photos, especially in nurseries! All too soon, babies grow into kids, and those adorable little bundles of joy become little men and women. Where space is a constraint, I’ve found there are still options for displaying baby photos as part of your home decor — it just takes some imagination and creativity. A baby’s first year album can be displayed on a bookshelf, a floating wall shelf, or coffeetable; smaller framed pieces can grace the smallest of walls and still look meant to be.

Displaying Baby Photos – Our Wall Decor

Let me give you a little tour through my home so you can get some inspiration for displaying baby photos in your own home too!  When you first enter through the front door, there is a very small wall next to our coat closet.  It’s a little less than two feet wide.  A while back, I found the perfect shelf (with hooks!) for the wall, and created a little display that I enjoy very much.  My mother-in-law gave me this lovely frame; and while not usually my style, the frame is something I enjoy in this arrangement.  At the far right on the shelf, you’ll see a gorgeous glass frame that my cousins gave us for Toby’s baptism – it displays the correlating photograph of his baptism.  The two wooden sculptures are pieces I picked out while in Israel with my grandmother – I am so glad they made it home safely!

home decor entryway photo display - displaying baby photos - bphotoart.com

As you stand in the entryway and look the opposite direction, you’ll see our formal dining room.  This is actually an older photo — we’ve since moved around some furniture and are now displaying these baby photos in our bedroom hallway.  But I love the grid layout of these images!

home decor dining room - displaying baby photos - bphotoart.com

As you continue into the main area of our home, you’ll see the huge fireplace, and lots of windows.  We wanted to place a portrait that would balance out the fireplace, so large scale was a must.  The photo over the fireplace is actually before kids, from a trip to New Hampshire (taken in the southernmost part of Maine).  We have several small frames on the mantel holding snapshots of life after kids — 8x10s and smaller are great tabletop options for displaying baby photos that you want to keep updated on a regular basis.  Our furniture setup has changed a bit since this photo was taken — we added in a rug, and moved couches to create a cozier, kid friendly play are.  But the open feel remains.

family room photo decor over fireplace - bphotoart.com

Next, we’ll swing by the kitchen, where we have another tiny wall, maybe a foot and a half wide.  This one presently display’s four portraits from our son’s first year.  These framed art pieces are great because they fit pretty much anywhere — giving you lots of options for displaying baby photos wherever you want to see them in your home.

home decor photos baby's first year - bphotoart.com

Finally, we’re about to get to the best place for displaying baby photos — baby’s room!  Once again, if you were to visit our home today, this room looks slightly different… We’re preparing it for the arrival of our second son (and Toby got to move to his “big boy” room”).  Anyways, the focal point of the room, when we designed it, was the wall with the crib.  We set this up before baby arrived, and I wanted to have it be personalized from the start.  So, block letters over the crib were a great choice.

wall decor displaying baby photos in nursery - bphotoart.com

The nursery also holds a very comfortable recliner, in which I spent many hours.  I set up a side table right next to the recliner so that I could easily grab my waterbottle, reading material, knitting, or whatever snack I needed while nursing our new arrival.  On the wall, you’ll see a neat three-dimensional piece that has four of our son’s newborn features — who doesn’t love infant hands, feet, ears, and even belly buttons?  If you look in the reflection of the left window, you’ll see where we placed the dresser with changing table — along with a painting to match the theme of the room.

wall decor displaying baby photos in nursery - bphotoart.com

The final wall in our nursery had to hold books, of course!  Being a bookworm myself, I wanted to encourage a love of the written word as soon as possible.  We stashed age-inappropriate books (as in “too old for a newborn”) on the shelves from the beginning, leaving space on the bottom shelf for the cloth and board books.  This was a wonderful location for reading material — right next to the recliner, which became our reading chair later in baby’s first year.  On the wall, we decided on another three-dimensional piece — it has part of our birth announcement, plus a baby photo of our son.  The top of the bookshelf has a cute frame (matches the theme of the room!) — we updated this from time to time so that we could continue displaying baby photos that were developmentally on track.

wall decor displaying baby photos in nursery - bphotoart.com

wall decor displaying baby photos in nursery - bphotoart.com

Finally, what baby room is complete without a nightlight?  I love this custom photo nightlight that displays a newborn baby photo of me with our son.  It’s now in our upstairs hallway, but regardless of where it’s plugged in, the bas relief photo looks really neat.

home decor nightlight displaying baby photos - bphotoart.com

In the studio area, where I meet with clients, I have some more ideas for displaying baby photos to share.  I mentioned this first option earlier, for those with limited wall space.  It is easy to display baby photo books on a floating shelf — you can arrange multiple books, or pair with picture frames, for a nice, modern look.

home decor baby photo albums on shelf - bphotoart.com

And finally, another framed image series.  I really love these for displaying baby photos because it really demonstrates how much change there is over the course of a year, or even a few months’ time.  This particular series showcases images from birth through around the ninth month.

home decor baby photos - bphotoart.com

Not surprisingly, we do have more photographs on display throughout our home, including ones from our wedding, photos from trips, and of course, artwork.  But that’s for another time.  For now, let me just say, I hope this virtual tour of suggestions for displaying baby photos in your home has been inspiring and helpful.  I think it is so important to surround ourselves with images of those we love and cherish, to keep the memories we hold dear on display for all to enjoy.

What About Your Wall Decor?

What memories do you have on display in your home?  Are there photos you’ve always wanted to put up but have never found the “right” spot? 

I know sometimes it’s taken me several tries to find the perfect home for a piece of wall decor.  What is your experience with displaying baby photos and planning out your ideal wall decor?

Resources on Baby Spaces + Nurseries

Here are some of the other blog posts being featured today. Topics are cover all sorts of baby spaces, from – nursery ideas and to play spaces. You may also want to check out Pottery Barn’s How To Create A Frame Display (PDF), and my Pinterest board on Photo + Wall Decor. Links open in a new window for your convenience.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Photo + Wall Decor on Pinterest.

The Ultimate Guide to Baby's First YearThis post is part of The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s First Year — I’m one of 30+ blogs participating. Over the course of a week’s time, there will be posts on these topics:

  • taking care of new parents
  • feeding baby
  • taking care of baby
  • baby’s milestones
  • baby play
  • baby spaces
  • celebrating baby

Check out the The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s First Year for a list of all the posts on each topic.

Memories of Painting With Grandpa

posted in: Notes | 10

I may be a bit biased since it’s my line of work, but for me, photographs are an integral part of preserving family memories. There’s a time and a place to document family portraits professionally, but there’s also a soft spot in my heart for snapshots — they capture candid moments from life that are totally unplanned and spontaneous. Both types of photos are different. But both kinds are important for creating a lasting family legacy.

While I’ve written about being inspired by my paternal grandparents (My Photographic Inspiration + The Legacy of a Truly Excellent Woman), I have to confess there are many relatives who have encouraged and supported me along my life’s journey. So today, I wanted to share this picture from my personal archives — it’s of me and my maternal grandpa when I was a toddler.

Betsy Painting with Grandpa - Family Snapshot - Memories

I love this photograph! It was taken when I was a toddler, in my childhood home.  We were painting Christmas candles (well, one of us was!).  I loved helping turn white tapered candles into advent calendars.  We would paint red and green elves around the base of the taper (bottom 3″ or so), and then the rest would be evenly divided into 24 sections — numbered 1-24 for each day of December.  Then came the fun part!  Remembering to light the candle at dinner every day so that we could melt the elves by Christmas day.

Over the years, my grandpa has explored many different media in addition to painting (watercolor, oil, acrylic).  He used to have a woodworking “shop” in his basement (later it moved to the garage). In addition to making utilitarian items, he was quite skilled at wood marquetry, wood carving, and pretty much anything that required tinkering (that comes from being an engineer, I think).  My favorite wedding gift was from my grandfather — a marquetry panel of a ship. It’s framed and hangs at the top of our stairs, so I get to enjoy it every time I climb the steps.

I have many fond memories of painting and creating with my grandfather. He had drawers and bins of interesting do-dads and whatchamacallits that my brother and I would use to make things. We helped make a castle (think dollhouse, but bigger) with a plexiglass moat able to hold real fish. There was an oscilloscope in his workshop that we loved to play with too.  My favorite cookies are Springerles — his specialty.  These German cookies may be an aquired taste, but I loved helping select which hand carved mold to press into the dough.  My grandfather even made some molds especially for us grandkids!  The best part, though, was eating a freshly cooked Springerle (first dipped in milk).

Isn’t it amazing what stories can come from just reminiscing over one snapshot from your past?  That’s why I love photographs.  They open the floodgates, revive memories which have long faded into subconscious.  Pictures take us back to that moment, remind us of the things we truly value in life.

I am so grateful that my son has had the opportunity to know my grandpa, or as he is called: “Great Grandpa Rebeck with the broken cane.” Even though he lives many states away now, my son still remembers when my grandpa visited — and Toby was allowed to help “fix” great grandpa’s “broken” cane (one of those nifty collapsible ones).

It’s so hard to attribute any one thing to my grandpa, because he really did help expand my way of thinking.  I’m one of those people who always asks “why,” who loves to know how things work, and who enjoys taking apart or putting back together little do-dads.  My comfort with adapting new technology probably comes from my grandpa too — while an engineer he worked on the Apollo Lunar Scientific Experiment project (ALSEP).  After the moon landing, he eventually went into the computer technology field — I grew up familiar with that blue and red DOS screen, and even learned how to write simple DOS computer programs from him as well.

Important of Snapshots + Memories (Resources)

Here are a few links about the importance of snapshots and memories. You may also want to check out my Family History + Genealogy Pinterest board. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Family History + Genealogy on Pinterest.

What Memories Do Your Snapshots Bring To Mind?

Even if you don’t have an extensive collection of family photos, I’m sure you have a few snapshots that bring back many memories.  Maybe tearful ones rather than joyful, but important memories nevertheless. We are defined, in part, by our past experiences.  We don’t have to let ourselves be bound or limited by those memories, but we can learn and grow from them.

What about your favorite photo?  Does looking at it bring a slew of memories to the forefront of your mind?

Teal Parallelogram Shapes

posted in: Notes | 4

Teal lines, angles, and parallelograms… any idea what it is? I wasn’t sure either; my mom actually had to tell me what this object was when she first gave it to me. Since then, it has seen quite a bit of use. I have to confess my toddler is quite fond of this item (maybe because it is teal, but who knows) — and frequently “borrows” it for creative uses. I’ll reveal its identity at the end of this post, and provide some resources on how to use it as well.

fine art abstraction - parallelograms

fine art abstraction - parallelograms

Since I was feeling up for the challenge, here’s a haiku about these abstracted images:

creating light and shadow
shades of blue and teal

What Is It?

So, any idea what it is? When I first went to write about it, I am a bit embarrassed to admit that the term “parallelogram” had escaped my memory. I had to ask my husband: “What’s the rectangle with slanted sides called?” We then confirmed I meant both sides slanted the same way (in order to differentiate from a trapezoid). I am totally blaming that memory lapse of the pregnancy hormones, by the way.

It’s a dual sided Tupperware citrus zester — It’s probably at least a good ten years old. My son likes to use it when we bring snow inside, or have playdough time. Usually my kitchen gadgets are procured for sensory play over the toy kitchen tools (go figure!).

tupperware citrus zester - kitchen gadget

See? He’s waiting to snatch the citrus zester as soon as I give the ok!


And, as promised, here are some resources on shape stuff for kids, as well as recipes that use citrus zest. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

Shapes for Kids

Recipes that Call for Citrus Zest

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Oh, and if you have recipes that call for citrus zest, by all means, please share them especially if it uses zest in a unique way!

If you enjoyed this post and want to see more from my Fine Art Abstraction series, make sure to check out the other images and take a guess each object is!

(*) – Affiliate Disclosure Policy

The Legacy of A Truly Excellent Woman

posted in: Notes | 32

Today I am sharing a poem in memory of a truly excellent woman, my grandmother – Fayola Ash. I wrote this in memory of her passing, which was almost three years ago — on my son’s due date (3/15/2011). He arrived about two weeks later, in good health — and he was known by name to my grandmother before she died. If you want to read the backstory behind the poem, consider some thoughts on creating a photographic legacy, and view more candid photographs, make sure to read to the end.

Betsy and her Grandmother, Fayola, in Pozzouli, Italy
Betsy and her Grandmother, Fayola, in Pozzouli, Italy (2010)

A Truly Excellent Woman

My grandmother was always certain,
calm, assured.
She had a firm foundation.
Her faith was strong,
her compassion knew no bounds.
She knew what she believed, and did accordingly.
Her whole life was a testament to her Creator.
She recovered from polio,
she raised four children (including twins),
she managed her household.
She loved and respected her husband,
deferring to him in public;
but if you knew them, you would know
he let her have the final say.
She was wise and thoughtful,
kind and loving,
opinionated but usually justified.
Her life was spent inspiring others,
through the works of her hands,
the music she created
as her fingers danced across the keys.
Age slowed them down, but didn’t stop her.
She loved music, and kept her dearest hymns
on her lips, even as death approached.
She lived a life worth living.
But in the end, cancer struck.
A vicious, quick attack,
leaving only weeks to come to terms with
the finality of the battle.
In her dying hours, she was selfess.
Caring more about the impending celebration of life,
that my son’s birth would not be
overshadowed by her death.
She always wanted the best for others.
Even at the sacrifice of herself.
Small in stature, she left big shoes to fill.
I hope my legacy will be worthy,
that one day I will fill my grandmother’s shoes.
She was a truly excellent woman.


Backstory of “A Truly Excellent Woman”

This section does talk about my faith and beliefs. If that might offend you, feel free to skip to the next section. It’s just an integral part of who my grandmother was, so I can’t overlook it.

The Voice Bible translation describes the Proverbs 31 woman as “a truly excellent woman” (Pr 31:10). This is where I began when writing this poem, as my grandmother was an inspiration to all who knew her. She was everything one would aspire to be as a woman of God. While we never get over the loss of a loved one, it has taken me several years to realize the impact her life has had on me, and how I want to live my life as a wife, mother, and person. I hope that I will one day be able to look back on my life and know that I too, with God’s grace, was able to be a truly excellent woman in all my words and deeds.

A Shared Journey to Italy + Israel

In 2010, I accompanied my grandmother on a trip to Israel and Italy (she did not want to go alone). At 86, she was not the youngest on the tour, but she was a trooper. She conquered all the stairs at Tel Megiddo, she walked the Via Dolorosa, and climbed aboard a camel. Why the camel ride? She’s always wanted to ride a camel since seeing them on her travels to Egypt with my grandfather (my photographic inspiration). On this trip, she carried his camera with her (yes, I helped her use it from time to time). It was an honor to have taken that trip with her, and I have memories I will always cherish. She was a world traveler, and I got to share in her last big trip abroad.

The images below feature candid photographs of my grandmother (and some with me as well) during our travels to Israel and Italy. I’ve plenty of fine art photographs from my travels to show you, but that’s for another day. Today it’s about my grandmother’s legacy. [click on any image to view in gallery mode]

Candid Photographs of Our Journey

What About Your Legacy?

What kind of legacy will you leave? What do you hope to accomplish in your life? What will the photographs say about you to future generations?

I know I tend to ask a lot of open-ended questions, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers either. I know what matters to me… yet I make new discoveries on that front every day. I hope you too will be inspired to take an active role in crafting your legacy.

The decisions we make today, the actions we take now, all affect the person we will be remembered as by future generations.

And if you haven’t checked it out already, make sure to read my post, Life is Too Short, which I wrote earlier this month as I grieved with my friend for their loss of a family member. Pregnancy does things to ramp up emotions, so maybe that’s part of the reason for these sentimental posts. But truthfully, sentimental is part of what I do for a living. I make memories for my clients, I create portraits that capture personalities, I help document family legacies. I love doing multi-generational portraits because, for me, family is really what it’s all about.

So, back to my question: what about your legacy? Do you have someone similar to my grandmother, a truly excellent woman, in your life? Will you be an inspiration to others, as my grandfather inspired me to become a photographer? Will you be known as a someone whose shoes others can only hope to fill?

Life is Too Short

posted in: Notes | 18

Life is too short to put off what matters.  Your family, your loved ones. Spending time with those you care about.  I have a dear friend whose brother is in the hospital on life support right now. It was unexpected and sudden.


Last year, my aunt’s father went in for routine surgery, and next thing we knew, he was gone.  Before that, my grandmother was diagnosed with and died from cancer within a month’s time — she passed on my son’s due date.

Life is not fair.  Life does not take our feelings into consideration.  Life hurts.

We deal with loss from the time we are little.  To an infant, the loss of warmth and being held can be world-shaking.  To a child, loss means saying “goodbye” to Daddy as he goes to work every day.  A teen might focus on their loss of independence.  But the older we grow, the more familiar we are with loss.  Loss of self, loss of others, loss of control.

Loss happens.  And we can’t do a thing about it.

We tell ourselves “there will always be tomorrow.”  But maybe, there won’t.  Maybe it’s worth the sacrifice to do it today.  Maybe it will make all the difference to you, to your loved ones, if you stop telling yourself “there will be time later.”


Because the clock doesn’t stop ticking.  Time keeps on going, life keeps on happening.  And it is not in our control.  We can’t control what happens to our loved ones, we can’t control what happens to ourselves.

The only thing we can control is our reaction, our response….

We have adages and proverbs galore that advise against delay, against getting ahead of yourself:

  • Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today.
  • Don’t go to bed angry.
  • Don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Eph 4:26).

Because time shows us that waiting …for some things… doesn’t help.  Sometimes we need to take action now.  Sometimes we need to act impulsively, to exist spontaneously.

Live in the moment, exist in the present, be content with where you are, when you are, and what you are.

Life is too short to put things off.  Do what needs doing — do it today.


Further thoughts…

I feel like I should flesh this post out a bit more, but it just flowed so quickly, I can’t bring myself to really edit the words above. The emotions of loss and our lack of control over life. Sorrows over lost opportunities. All too often I find myself making excuses, procrastinating on what is really important (in the big scheme of things) so that I can accomplish whatever (trival) task I’ve decided needs finishing.

One of the things my toddler likes about his bedtime routine is “tell me about tomorrow.” We talk about what we’ll do tomorrow, our plans, and what we’ll be doing. Oh, if only life were so simple.

“Tell me about tomorrow” — what’s going to happen? I want to know.

I don’t think this changes as we get older either. When life goes “according to plan,” we consider everything to be good and right. It’s when the storms come and we get thrown off course that we really begin to question ourselves. Earlier this week I blogged about my print, Uphill Battle, and how sometimes life is a struggle, but we have the choice to keep plugging away.

We will have troubles in this world, yes. We will face loss. We will suffer. But amidst all those things, we can still choose to persevere… to make the moments that matter be meaningful. The other night, my son chose to have me read The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble at School (disclosure). Right now, I’m hearing Grizzly Gramps in my head, telling Brother Bear, “If you find yourself on the wrong road, don’t just keep going until you’re in over your head – back up and start over on the right road”

…and Mama Bear saying, “It’s never too late to corre

ct a mistake.”

Sometimes, like Brother Bear, I get so entrenched in “keeping going” that I forget I have a choice to jump ship and abandon my stubbornness. Life is too short.

What changes have you been putting off?

Stop telling yourself those changes can’t be made, that you’ve committed to doing XYZ so you can’t back out now. You always have a choice. Life is too short to put off making things right. Don’t put the life you want

to live on hold for “later.”

“He didn’t take life seriously, but he took living seriously.”

What will your legacy be?

Eco-Friendly Photography – Wasting Less

posted in: Notes | 1

We make every effort to be an eco-friendly photography studio. In a minute I’ll discuss how we minimize wasteful packaging and reduce our environmental footprint, but first, here’s a story about wasteful packaging. I needed loose leaf green tea for making kombucha (fermented sweet tea), and for various reasons, I ended up cannibalizing some boxes of bagged tea. No big deal, I thought. But once I got a visual idea of just how much waste is involved with individually bagged tea, I changed my mind. I know I’ll be making every effort to buy loose leaf tea in the future. It is so much more eco-friendly. The photographs below illustrate how much packaging I tossed, and how much tea was actually in the packaging. I had even tossed some packaging before this (probably a box’s worth), so the pile of trash should be even bigger.

still life green tea  - wasteful packaging - eco-friendly photography Read More

In Utero Baby Pictures (~20 Week Ultrasound)

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This week we went in for our 20 week ultrasound; we’ve returned with some in utero baby pictures to share! Well, I’m actually past 20 weeks at this point (over halfway through!), but for some reason we didn’t get on the schedule soon enough so we had to do it a little later.

The three of us all were able to be present for the “picture session” (as I explained it to our toddler), and Toby was excited to see the special “camera” that would look inside mama’s belly and take pictures of his baby brother. Since then, he’s been talking about the “goop” that was on mama’s belly during the baby pictures and how the tech put it on for the doctor to do a final well-being check (all looks great!).

20 Week Ultrasound - in utero baby pictures Read More

Life is What You Make of It

posted in: Notes | 0

Keith is one of my good photographer friends and mentors. After dealing with various medical issues, including a massive brain aneurysm, for almost a year, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He has been traveling multiple hours to receive inpatient chemo treatment for two weeks out of every four. And, he was there over Christmas. But, like most things, Keith hasn’t let his current situation phase him. Here is a video of their Christmas plans for while in the hospital. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.

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Looking Back at 2013…

posted in: Notes | 0

Well, the holiday sick bug that’s been going around hit our household …and hard. Normally we’re not ones to get sick, but this time ALL THREE of us got sick to varying degrees. I guess, if there is a silver lining to be seen, it’s that the littlest one of us seems to have gotten off the lightest. Us adults, on the other hand, got the heavy-handed version of things (don’t worry, I will spare you the details). Suffice it to say, we’ve been holed up since Christmas, and I doubt we’ll be doing anything special tonight; I have no desire to pass this bug on to anyone else. So, if you have portrait orders to pick up, don’t worry, I will let you know when we have sanitized and decontaminated the place 😉 so that you can come get your lovely portraits without fear of also bringing home a bug.

Anyways, as we were lazying around (er, resting?) this morning, I couldn’t help but see the lovely snowflakes falling and glittering in the sun’s rays. It’s no fun to be out in the cold when sick, but it certainly is still nice to look at, regardless. Here’s some of our morning view (no turkeys today, but yesterday we say 5-6 of them).

bphotoart-IMG_4602 Read More

Making Memories for the Holidays

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What have you done this year to cultivate family time and creative play for the holidays?


We really had fun with holiday activities this year (see pictures below). Many memories were made, including: playing in the snow, experimenting with grain-free cookie recipes, seeing Santa,and giving toys to those in need. Instead of cultivating the “I want for Christmas” attitude, we focused on making gifts to give to others, crafts that symbolized the meaning of Christmas, and outdoor play, of course! Pinterest has been pretty helpful for ideas, especially crafts that are easy enough for an independent toddler to do mostly on his own (follow me on Pinterest). Read More

Digital Retouching and Achieving the Impossible

posted in: Notes | 0

I’m no stranger to the art of digital retouching. In fact, I do a lot of what I call “natural enhancements” for my clients every time I create a portrait. Through lighting and camera technique I can eliminate or reduce wrinkles, downplay features that aren’t desirable — you name it, it can be enhanced. But, I believe there is a line between enhancing a person’s image and altering it. Yes, I always do my best to portray someone in a flattering light. But, I want the end result to look like them. I recently read a blog post, Photoshop Transformations and You, that really epitomizes the issue I am seeing far too frequently. I’ll repost the video below so you can watch for yourself. It’s really stunning to see the before and after versions of some of these models.

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The Power of Giving

posted in: Notes | 6

As the gift-getting mentality becomes ever more prevalent in our society, my husband and I have been taking steps to intentionally cultivate a spirit of gift-giving and sharing in our son.
Besides a more well-known favorite, The Giving Tree (*), one of Toby’s favorite books that illustrates what it means to share and give is one I received as a child: The Mouse in the Manger (*). It’s about Oscar, a young mouse who runs away from home because he wants a bigger bed of straw; he ultimately gives away his entire pile of straw and learns how freeing it can be to give unreservedly. Read More

Finn’s Insurance Executive Portrait

posted in: Notes, Photography | 0

I recently was able to create a combination family and executive business portrait for Finn’s Insurance. We created a business portrait with four of the five Finn brothers and their father, and then by adding in the fifth brother we were also able to create a great gift for their mom. Here is the business portrait for Finn’s Insurance:

Doing dual-purposed portraits is actually a common request for me. Frequently my business professional clients love their headshot portraits so much that they ask about ordering a few prints to give as gifts. I love it!

Back from New Orleans!

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Betsy at the International Exhibition of Professional PhotographyWell, we just wrapped up our first family trip to New Orleans! It was nice and warm there, we were happy to wear shorts instead of winter coats. But, the highligh of our trip was getting to see my photographs in the International Exhibition of Professional Photography, and getting my Master of Photography degree.

And, I can’t say enough about how nice it was to travel while babywearing. While other moms were trying to force their strollers through crowds on Bourbon Street, we were able to just go with the flow of sidewalk traffic. We enjoyed our beignets at Cafe du Monde, had lots of tasty seafood (including an excellent meal at Bon Ton Cafe), and did quite a bit of walking around the French Quarter.

The snapshot at right is of me and the little boy (in our comfy Didymos wrap) at the 2012 International Exhibition of Professional Photography. Two of my three photographs on display are in the snapshot (to the right of my head, the top two). You can see all three portraits if you’d like!