Don’t Lose Your Pictures

posted in: Notes | 1

Don't Lose Your PicturesLast year, my child accidentally did a factory reset on my phone. And he wiped the micro SD card clean too. At first I was furious. He should know better than to mess with Mommy’s phone, right? But then I took a breather. He was only three, after all. He thought the pattern passcode on my lock was a fun new game. And, I obviously neglected to realize that I had the default phone setting “erase all data after 10 failed login attempts” turned on. whoops.

So, as I thought things through, my anger dissipated. In its place, I was left with a keen awareness of just how fleeting electronic data is. Sure, I’ve tested and reviewed data recovery software before, but I’ve never had an actual loss. It’s not the end of the world. These weren’t wedding photos, or birth photos. I know enough to download photos to my regularly. So all that was lost? This past month’s cell phone photos and videos. But they were still memories that mattered. Memories of Toby being brave at the hospital when he got his x-rays, a video of him getting his cast put on.

Thankfully I don’t have to report to a client that I’ve lost their photos. And I pray I’ll never have to do so… my redundant backups should be prevention enough. But I’m still regret the loss.

So I thought I’d take a moment to remind you — please download your phone pictures regularly. Save them to your hard drive, burn them to a disk, put them in the cloud. Do something.

And what should you do if you lose your pictures? Take it as a reminder to do better next time. A reminder to be grateful for the memories you do have.

My attempts at using a photo recovery program were mostly unsuccessful.  Out of 3,358 files recovered, only 303 were fully recovered. The rest were partially corrupted. Thankfully I found the manual backup I’d done when switching phones several months ago.  So I’m only out 2-3 months’ worth of pictures.  Yes, this made me sad.  But you know what?  My life isn’t defined by the photos I have.. my memories aren’t relegated to pictures.  Sure, they capture the memories for me to enjoy later, but I can think back fondly on those memories without photos too.

I’m strangely okay with the fact that these pictures are gone.  My life is not defined by the pictures I take of it.  My enjoyment of this life is not dependent on the pictures I have captured.  Life is more than that.

I’m glad I’ve been documenting and sharing snapshots from our life on social media — snippets of those months are preserved there.  And, in the big scheme of things… no one has been hurt by this loss.  Maybe an emotional drainage has occurred, but nothing more.


Some Mornings You Just Need to Stay Home

posted in: Parenting | 4
Some Morning You Just Need To Stay Home
Photo by Jill Wellington, from Used with permission.

I have to tell you, I love being a mom.  I love seeing my boys grow and develop, watching them refine their social skills and practice empathy. It feels good to be able to take them to activities like preschool, swimming, music class, and other activities outside the home.  But sometimes, it can feel a little overwhelming.  Sometimes all the hustle and bustle can make you feel worn thin.

It’s on mornings like today that I know I need a break.  An unplanned departure from our routine.  Some days it is better to skip everything and just stay home.

Today was that day.  We had a morning Moms and Tots group to be at, but the boys slept late, and I was feeling frazzled.  The house was a mess, nothing felt calm, and the past week it seemed like we have been at home only long enough to eat, mess up the kitchen getting food prepped, and sleep.  I needed a break.  Not from the kids — because we’d been fortunate enough to have date night this week — but from the grind of our routine.  While I love going to our Moms and Tots group, and I know it’s great for both boys, I could tell we all needed a break.

The clincher was when Toby, during breakfast, asked: “Mommy, can we miss part of Moms and Tots so that I can have energy?”  The poor kid has been crashing around lunchtime the past few days.  Although he gave up naps about a year ago, this week Toby consistently asked to be done with lunch so he could go rest — resulting in a four hour nap each time.

I know when to cut my losses.  The schedule, the routine, isn’t more important than our sanity and well-being.  It’s not worth “making it” to all our activities if my kids are going to have meltdowns from being so exhausted they can’t sit at the table for lunch.  And I’ve needed those naps too.

It’s not like I’ve gotten nothing done this morning.  On the contrary.  I tidied the kitchen, put away the straggling Christmas gifts that were piled by the piano, emptied laundry baskets (yes, plural) of clean clothes, and started a load of laundry.

But it feels peaceful. Relaxed.  Calm.  The stress is melting off my shoulders as I sit here and type.  Toby is playing happily with his matchbox cars and Zack is diligently watching.  We are a contented bunch, our morning obligations thrown to the wind.

We are happy.  We are having fun.  This break was much needed…. essential for our sanity.

Instead of the activity being our priority this morning… my kids are my priority.  Isn’t it crazy how the things we do for our kids can sometimes take our attention away from our kids?  That’s not right.  So this morning we are getting things straightened out.  I’m listening to myself and my subconscious desire to stay home.  I’m listening to my boys, interacting with them, taking time for them — instead of shuttling and directing them. Toby is now playing peacefully with his toys, bringing me tea and pizza from “his” kitchen.  Zack is cooing while he rolls on the floor, trying to get places.

We’re not doing much, but sometimes nothing means everything.

Some mornings, you just need to stay home.

What about you?  Have you felt worn thin by the many pressures of parenting?  The schedules that seem to become ever busier?  How do you decompress and help yourself find peace in the middle of a tumultuous week?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 


Why You Should Backup Your Phone Pictures Regularly

posted in: Notes | 2
Why You Should Backup Your Phone Pictures Regularly
Photo from Used with permission.

Take it from me… you want to back up your phone pictures regularly.  I know this from experience.  I learned the hard way.

It’s not like I lost that many images, in the big scheme of things. And it’s not like I lost the memories that those photos documented.  But still, the entire thing was preventable…. avoidable.

How I almost lost three months’ worth of phone snapshots

You see, I regularly back up my phone pictures to my hard drive, just as a precaution.  And I take advantage of an Android app that backs up my images to “the cloud” as well.  But when I got my new phone last fall, I neglected to set up the back-up feature.  But everything was hunky dory.  Until I decided to install a screen lock password for my phone (a judge ruled that police can access your phone’s data if it’s not password protected).  And when I set that up, I didn’t realize the default option for “reset phone and clear data after 10 failed attempts” was on.  Since I chose the pattern password unlock screen, my creative toddler was excited to find a “game” on the home screen of my phone, and he gleefully played it …for… you guessed it… all 10 attempts.

The phone was handed to me with a reset notification blaring in my face… and I unwittingly let it proceed to wipe my phone’s internal memory — as well as the micro SD card containing my precious snapshots.  I diligently went about getting my phone back in order.  And when I set the password screen this time, I made sure to uncheck that evil “reset everything” feature.  But for some reason my password was recorded wrong. So the phone had to be reset before I could use it again.  No problem.  Reset to factory defaults, easy enough.

So, two formattings later, I discovered my SD card no longer had my data on it.  I was upset and sad.  All those pictures… gone.  Well, aside from the ones I’d shared to Instagram or wherever else.  But, I was still hopeful.  You see, there are software programs out there that can recover data from damaged and reformatted cards.  And actually, when a card is reformatted, the data doesn’t disappear until new data is written over top of it.  So I was pretty optimistic about getting some pictures back.

Now, remembering which software I’d reviewed in the past was harder.  The first one I tried using was a complete bust. It recovered the names of every file, but nothing further. Nothing readable. Nothing practical.  I was so sad.

That night I got to thinking.

Yes, I love photographs. I love snapshots. I love how they draw me into the memory of that moment. I love how the image brings back the smells, sounds, and emotions of that split second, or even the entire experience.  I treasure my photos very much.  They remind me of the joy in my life, the wonderful family I have, and all that good stuff.


Yes, but.  My stuff does not define me.  Those pictures are only a representation, an mere reflection on the surface.  They are a glimpse into the depth of my life experiences.  I still have those memories, even without the photos.  I still remember.  The photos are not “the key” to accessing my past.  They merely represent it.  My life will not be lived in regret of this loss — in the big scheme of things, it’s insignificant.

With that, I felt at peace about everything.  I was content.

Come morning, I decided to try one other software program to see if it could restore any photos.  Just for kicks and giggles. I didn’t really expect to see anything.

Was I ever surprised.

Before my eyes, the software started pulling up image after image.  My heart fluttered a little in excitement, I will admit.  Yes, I’d accepted my “fate” — but this was good fortune indeed!  Some of the images recovered were partially corrupted, and others had a working thumbnail but corrupted main image.  I didn’t get everything back. Some of my favorite snapshots were still gone.

But consider how many were recovered — I was elated.  I’d say for the three month time period when my phone wasn’t backing up images, I probably took a thousand shots easily.  80% were recovered, in some form (including some partially corrupted ones I deemed “passable”).

The videos, on the other hand, were lost completely.  Unreadable.

At that point, though, I didn’t really care.

Some of my images had been rescued.  Some of the pictures I’d thought were lost forever had been found.  I’m glad that I didn’t lose everything.

What’s the moral of the story?

You need to be backing up your memories regularly.  You don’t want to lose everything.  Back up your phone pictures, if you care about them. Back up your pictures that you diligently store on your computer.  Storage space is cheap. You can buy 1 TB drives for under $100 (Western Digital has 1 TB internal HD and 1 TB external HD options #afflinks).  You can use cloud services.  There are ways to back things up.  I’ll probably cover that in more detail in a future post.

But for now, know that your images need to be stored securely. And backed up on a regular basis.

Otherwise you might lose your photo memories, like I almost did.

Have you had a close call, or experienced loss of your photographs?  Either digital or physical photos? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Making Memories – 20 Takes on Favorite Family Christmas Traditions

posted in: Notes | 4

Making Memories: 20 Takes on Favorite Family Christmas TraditionsMerry Christmas!  Today I wanted to share with you some thoughts on Christmas traditions — from 20 women, including myself.  …wait, what are you doing online? Get unplugged and make some memories with your family!

If you must read on…. 🙂

I’ve listed some of my favorite Christmas traditions below, and further on you’ll find 19 other takes on favorite family Christmas traditions

  • Visit Santa – while we usually work in one visit to Santa during Christmastime, this year we had two.  Our “usual” venue was at the country club — see the snapshots of my two boys with their first visits with Santa. Such cutie pies!  But the highlight, for my train-loving toddler, was our train ride to see Santa (we also made hot cocoa and cocoa salt dough train ornaments that same week).
  • The Christmas Pickle – an ornament we hang on the tree, it’s shaped like a pickle. Whoever finds it is said to have good fortune for the year ahead.  In my childhood, it usually accompanied a game of “I Spy” on the tree, with the room lit by the lights on the tree or by the fire.
  • Orange in the Christmas stocking – we grew up with this tradition.  I wasn’t sure of the origins, but according to the St. Nicholas Center’s Christmas Customs page, it’s representative of gold dowry.  Oranges also used to be a scarce treat (read more about why we put oranges in stockings at Christmas.
  • Set out milk, cookies, carrots, AND gifts on Christmas Eve – we grew up with the tradition of putting out snacks for Santa and his reindeer, but only since having kids did we add the “gifts” part.  The boys select one toy for each year they are old, and Santa will take them to give to kids who don’t have any toys.  I absolutely love this.  Toby was so excited to give kids one of his fire engines, a fireman’s hat, a book, a well-loved stuffed animal, and a few wooden train accessories.  It has been great to see him so focused on giving during Christmastime.  Last year I wrote about the power of giving, and the toys that Toby decided to part with.  That year, the tough one (for me) to let go was the Hello Kitty house.  This year, it was tough for Steven — Toby decided to give some of his train table accessories (a building and a train engine).  Isn’t it amazing how this exercise in giving helps everyone?
  • Getting sick – this is one of those traditions that we wanted to put an end to.  Last year, I learned about Christmas tree allergies and how they are usually due to allergens that are on the surface of the tree.  So we took some measures to minimize our Christmas tree allergies this year.  I think it’s working!

Ok, well that’s all for now about our traditions — I want to share with you the 19 other takes on making memories at Christmastime.  Read on for some fun insight on different family Christmas traditions!  Click on an image below to enter gallery view mode.

I have so many favorites! I think the kids’ favorite is that every Christmas Eve Morning we go bowling. Then we eat out for lunch and head home to get ready for a big ham Christmas Eve dinner followed by a musical program where we sing and the kids play christmas songs on their instruments. I love it because we are focused on family time and having fun together and there are no distractions from other sources. On Christmas Eve we [also] let the children open presents from their siblings. I like this because in the craziness of Christmas morning sometimes the presents from their siblings would be overlooked and not seem as special. When they open them on Christmas Eve, both the giver and receiver are more excited about it and they have time to give each other hugs and say thank you. It’s worked really well for us.

Erin, Chicken Babies

My favorite tradition is our tree tradition. We go to a tree lot and pick out our perfect tree and then we come home and decorate it as a family while listening to Christmas music. We then bake cookies, and watch a Christmas movie while sitting next to the lit tree.

Brittany, Love Play and Learn

We do christmas PJs, order pizza and watch rudolf on Christmas eve It’s the one thing we do with our family of four, since we spend Christmas day with extended family (which is also super fun!)

Paula, Beauty Through Imperfection

TIS THE SEASON! We have two holiday traditions that I love. The first is simple- cutting down a Christmas Tree and our Tree decorating party the Saturday after Thanksgiving. First, we go cut down a tree. Then, we come home, and have left over thanksgiving dinner, fire in the fire place, and Christmas music while we decorate. The second is more spiritual, and it is our Jesus Stocking. Each year, our kids place money inside a stocking to help raise money for a charitable cause. It is our way of being the hands and feet of Jesus on His Birthday!

Mandy Kelly, Worshipful Living

My family has always had a very strange Christmas Eve dinner. We would have Greek potatoes, a turkey, stuffing, and the works. Plus, Chinese food and a birthday cake for Jesus every year

Stefanie, Called His

For the last 18 years, we have had the tradition of inviting fellow military (single or families away from extended family), into our home for the holidays. Nobody should be alone. For Christmas, I put together little stockings with goodies, for each person to take home.

Tina, The Rockin’ Housewife

For Christmas we wrap up 25 books and then the kids each get a fuzzy blanket. Starting on December 1st we unwrap one book a night to snuggle up and read for our bed time story.

Stephanie, Parenting Chaos

For Christmas we hang some of those HUGE stockings (you can get at the dollar store) with each person’s name on them. For the entire month we put little love notes, thank you’s, or treats in them for each other then we all open/go through them on Christmas eve. We also started doing only 3 gifts a few years ago and the kids loved it so we’ve done it since. They get 1 need (clothing type items) 1 spiritual gift, and 1 want (this is from Santa).  The kids also have 1 of their siblings they get a gift for.  Christmas eve we have 1 family gift that we open when we do our stockings, it has everyone’s jammies, hot cocoa, a movie, treats, book and those type of things to use that night.  It’s been great limiting the number of gifts under the tree and making the focus on the true meaning of Christmas. We also make homemade tree decorations each year and try to do as much homemade type of gifts as possible. (Pinterest is GREAT for ideas) You can see my post on the ornaments we made last year!

JoDee, A to Z for Moms Like Me

We LOVE celebrating Christmas!! Let’s see: we start Christmas Eve with opening one of our presents for one another, sing carols & usually bake plus a fun family movie. Each year we also forgo the big presents, stick to stocking stuffers (sometimes a few books & misc.) & go on a trip! We’ve been doing this for years. Last year we went up North (Ontario) & had a great time: snowshoeing, tobogganing down hills, caroling with a local church door to door and eating tasty food together! Last, but certainly not least, we already read/talk about the Christmas story (Luke 2) together during the holidays.

Rachael, Parenting and Homeschooling in Faith

Since I was a little girl, we had a box with all the pieces of our Nativity scene wrapped in newsprint. My dad would read the Bible story and we had to dig through the pieces to find the character he mentioned and place them in the nativity. It was a great tradition. We are doing something similar with our kids nows.

Jen, Heaven Not Harvard

When I was a child, my grandmother prepared a special Christmas brunch for my whole family. Each year she planned the menu for months! I started taking on the tradition by helping her each year. When she was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago I started to do more until I was making the whole meal. This will be our second year without her, but we carry on her tradition.

Katie, The Wise Wife

Every year we purchase a new Swarovski crystal star ornament. Then when put them on the tree one by one and mention something about that particular year. The boys think it’s awesome to hear a snippet of our past years. We now have 13 stars and counting!

Jennifer, The Jenny Evolution

We created a Christmas Advent activity to teach our children who God is and stll enjoy seasonal fun in December. It’s an ebook now: 30 Bible lessons and fun family activiities for the whole family teaching kids the character of God during advent.

Katie, Paradise Praises

Every year I go out with my church ministry Actz to give food and cloth to the homeless in the DFW area, not to a shelter, but street homeless on cardboard box. Its a humbling expirence, instead of recieving you should be giving. This year i hope i can make a impact on a homeless person face

Avery, AK Reviews

We have loads! I’ve got a whole post: Family Christmas Traditions (some crafty, some not).

Hodge Podge

Our favorite tradition is the Christmas Pizza. We buy a take-n-bake pizza from Papa Murphy’s on Christmas Eve and then cook it Christmas day. The Christmas Pizza allows us to spend time together as a family without being stressed about cooking a big meal and cleaning on Christmas, plus it’s a real treat since we don’t buy pizza very often The year I had our daughter on Christmas Eve the only tradition I really cared about maintaining was the Christmas Pizza, so I forced my husband out the door to buy it while I labored at home by myself for a few minutes

Crystal, The Science Kiddo

We love singing. Last year my 3 year old daughter really connected with her Great Grandma while singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” Christy, Thriving STEM

Each year we read some of the Christmas Classics and then do something related to the book afterwards. In the past, we’ve read The Nutcracker and then watched the ballet (at home on video or go to the ballet depending on the kiddos’ age). We’ve read A Christmas Carol, and then visited Dicken’s Christmas Village near us. Our kiddos are 7, 6, 5, and 3. Depending on their age, depends on what version of the book we read. We don’t celebrate Santa in our home, so we try to find things that are Non Santa related. To aid in our understanding of each of the books, I usually create homeschool unit studies (Nutcracker and Christmas Carol Christmas units).  We also have our Random Acts of Christmas Kindness Tradition that is included on our countdown tree. The kiddos love it.   I also set up dates with each of my kiddos to go Christmas shopping. I take them to dinner. They choose the place. Then I give them $10 for each person on their list-their siblings and parents. From there we go shopping together until they find a gift for everyone. Before we go they’re great at asking their siblings for ideas and making sure they know what their siblings like. They do this with Mommy and Daddy too. We have such a fun time. And while we’re out, I get great ideas for them for their stockings etc. Even though we don’t celebrate Santa, they still each get a stocking.

Renae, Every Star is Different

Every Christmas we make homemade raviolis (around the 20th of December) and eat them on Christmas Day (and sometimes on New Years Day). We also bake cookies. On Christmas Eve was have the feast of the 7 fishes and try and have 7 different kinds of seafood for dinner (we don’t always get to 7 but we try and have a few different dishes).

Beth Anne, Beth Anne’s Best

Because we have lots of extended family to visit we seem to spend much of Christmas travelling or not at home and it was getting a little overwhelming. So a few years ago we started a new tradition of Christmas breakfast with just our family. The kids love planning the menu, and we go all out with fancy breakfast treats we never usually eat and we spend time together eating, opening presents and spending time as a family. It’s lovely!

Kate, Pickle Bums

What about you? Do you have any special Christmas traditions? Any you’re thinking of starting up? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Nite Lights – Christmas Light Show

posted in: Local | 2

Nite Lites at the Jackson County FairgroundsJust a week or so ago, I learned about Nite Lites at the Jackson County Fairgrounds, one of the largest Christmas light shows in all of Michigan.  I was elated, and told my husband we had to go.  He agreed.

You see, both of us remember going to Domino’s Farms in Ann Arbor to see the Christmas light show.  It was an event; my parents and my brother, along with my grandparents, would all pile in the car for a driving tour of the elaborate light displays.  I think my favorite part was the “tunnel” of lights.  And since that light show had been discontinued years ago, it hadn’t crossed our minds.  That is, until a local parent told me about Nite Lites.

Nite Lites is a 2 mile long car ride through an elaborate light show, complete with train rides, games for kids, the option to see Santa, and more.  It draws around 37,000 people annually — how did we not know about this?  I feel like we’ve been hiding under a rock or something.

Anyways, we took the boys out for our annual Christmas dinner (dubbed as such because we give the waitress an especially nice tip), and then headed to see the light show.

When we arrived, the line of cars waiting was about a mile long, and we spent a number of minutes inching forward while Toby was practically jumping out of his seat in excitement.

Once we were inside the fairgrounds, Toby was allowed out of his carseat, and he rode shotgun with me for the light show.  Toby was brimming with excitement as he peered through the front windshield, craning his neck to count the big candles by the “official” entrance.

As we passed each item of interest, Toby would declare, “that’s my favorite too!”  He liked the semi truck, the train bearing presents, Rudolph bowling (complete with animation), to name a few.  It really brought back the magic of Christmas for me, that feeling of excitement and childhood wonder.  I’m so glad we were able to let Toby experience the same thrill of seeing such elaborate Christmas light displays.  Zack slept through the light show, of course, but no matter.  This will definitely be an experience that we repeat in the years to come.  Nite Lites met and surpassed our expectations!

While nothing compares to the actual experience of driving through a light show, I figured you might enjoy seeing a few smartphone captures from our drive.

Last share from the light display…a video!

A video posted by Betsy Finn {} (@bphotoart_com) on

If you want to visit Nite Lites 2014, there is still time!!  The Christmas light show (which went up November 27th) runs until December 30th at the Jackson County Fairgrounds — every evening, 5:30 – 9:00 pm.   It costs $15 per vehicle, or $30 per bus.  So bring the family!

Finding Our New Normal

posted in: Notes | 0

There’s something about life.  It is ever changing.  Just when you think you’ve got things under control, and are finally getting into a routine…

…things change.

The only certainty is change, right?  No matter how much we try to plan our days, to create a routine and maintain order… the inevitable happens.  Someone gets sick, sleeping schedules change, someone has a rough day.

Life is anything but routine.

Yet we try to create patterns, make routines, practice habits that will make life easier.

And sometimes those things work.

Since my younger son was born, we have been working on creating a new normal.  Helping my older son to deal with his emotions on those days when he “needs mommy time” …but baby’s basic needs have to be met.

I assisted at Toby’s preschool the other day.  While comforting a boy who didn’t want his  mom to leave, I noticed my son’s demeanor change from cheerful to concerned, and perhaps jealous.  I averted disaster by asking him to help find a toy to cheer the sad boy up.  But several other times that morning, I saw an angry frown on my normally happy son’s face.

Later I asked him about it.

He didn’t want to share his mommy.  He needed me.  He didn’t want others to need me.

And I get that.  In a world where you’ve gone from being only child to older brother, it’s important to know you can still have mom’s attention, that you still are deserving of mommy hugs.

Since my younger son was awake and needing mommy when we got home, the older had to settle for shared mommy time.  The three of us settled into our comfy reclining chair, and I read book after book to my boys.  Ultimately the three of us all fell asleep together.

The new normal isn’t bad, by any means.  Most days, Toby loves being a big brother.  He is a phenomenal helper, bringing diapers, wipes, pacifier for Zack, and snacks, drinks, or even a blanket to me when I need.  He has a giving spirit, he excels at helping others.

Our new normal isn’t perfect, but we are getting into a routine.  A routine that will be ever-changing as both boys continue to grow and develop.

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode

14″ Hair Donation!

posted in: Notes | 7

Well, this is the second time I’ve grown out my hair …and successfully gotten it long enough to donate! I tried numerous times throughout high school to do this as well, but my hair is just so thick it can be a pain to deal with. Honestly, I’m surprised it got this long 🙂 — but with little baby hands in the picture now, I finally decided it was time to donate my hair and get it cut off.

My most recent portrait of me with my long hair was our maternity session… since then, life’s been a little busy to get pictures with my hair down — while keeping those tiny baby fingers out of the enticing strands.

Before my haircut, I grabbed an instagram photo of myself with my lovely long hair… maybe as proof of how long it got? I loved having it long, but the practicality of long hair — that long of hair — was not there.

And then here’s my post-haircut teaser on instagram…

And since that photo elicited a number of complaints — I stayed up after the kiddos went to sleep and took a few pictures to show you. Here’s what my hair now looks like!


And then me with the ponytail of hair I’ll be donating. All 14 inches worth. Last time I did this, I donated my hair to Locks of Love, but since then I heard about a more local organization that doesn’t charge the kids for wigs at all. They’re also less stringent about hair, and are willing to accept dyed hair and gray hair too. Once I check with my mother-in-law about the name of the charity (she’s the one who found it!)… I’ll update this post with details.


Have you ever donated your hair? Or tried to grow it out with donation in mind?

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?

Betsy :: Maternity Portrait

posted in: Photography | 0

Baby Finn is getting closer than ever to arriving! Before his arrival though, we decided to ask our good friend, Liz Vance (she’s a great baby photographer in the DC area), to document the pregnancy and create some lovely maternity portraits for us. Needless to say, Liz did a wonderful job! Here is a video slideshow of the highlights from our maternity portrait session with Liz.

Thank you Liz for creating these wonderful memories to enjoy and look back on once we’re past the whole “being pregnant” phase! And no, I can’t pick out just one favorite portrait… I love them all.

Backyard Visitor

posted in: Notes | 3

The other day, I went out into my yard after a session to relax… seeing as the weather has been great lately! Well, I didn’t quite get the break from photographing I expected… since I found a turtle who needed his portrait taken. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very cooperative! But, I guess I’ll settle for a “leave me alone!” portrait, since it still looks neat:

Mr. Turtle, peeking out to see if the photographer has left yet:

Atlanta Morning

posted in: Notes | 1

Earlier this week I went to Atlanta for a committee meeting at the Professional Photographers of America headquarters. I got to meet and talk with some of the people who are supporting the photography industry during my two days there.

I wanted to share this painting I created from some photographs from my hotel room.  It really was a gorgeous view, and the impressionistic style really captures the essence of being in a big city.

Portraits of Steven + Betsy

posted in: Photography | 1

Well you may have noticed some new photographs of me floating around the website.  And I’m really excited to share some more of them with you.  In January, I was talking with a good friend of mine (Jeff Dachowski) about how Steven and I would really love to have an amazing portrait of the two of us.

There is something to be said for having a professional create your portrait (yes, even professional photographers go to other professional photographers for portraits).  By not doing it yourself, you can actually relax and enjoy the whole experience.  Jeff made sure we looked good, and did all the work.  And I love the natural expressions of our relationship that he captured.

Our portrait session took place in Phoenix during January’s Imaging USA convention.  In fact, it was the evening of the awards ceremony where I was recognized for being Photographer of the Year.  My friend Jeff and his wife both received Degrees from the Professional Photographers of America that evening too!  So, all in all, it was a very fun time.

Oh, and I have to tell you.  My hair is NEVER curly like this.  I didn’t even know it was possible!  But, thanks to another photographer friend of mine (Thanks Andrea!), my hair stayed curly and wavy all night long.  Very impressive.

I absolutely love this image (yes, I’m excited about these, can you tell!):

This one is also gorgeous.  Love the lighting fixtures in the hotel lobby (we’re overlooking it from that balcony).

And then finally, I asked Jeff if we could do one with us on the escalator.  So, being the good sport he is, Jeff happily obliged!

This session was a blast, and I really enjoyed being the center of attention for once (yes, I am a photographer who doesn’t mind being in front of the camera every once in a while).  I am so excited to find a place for these lovely images in our home.  Thanks Jeff, Andrea, and other photographer friends who participated behind the scenes for our mini-session!

My Photographic Inspiration

posted in: Notes | 4

Major McKinley AshI am often asked by new acquaintances how I first became interested in photography as a profession.  I’m sure that my story is similar to the stories of many other artists, but it is special to me.  So, I’ve decided to finally share my photographic inspiration with you (in a nutshell, of course).

But before I begin, I want to add one other comment.  This may be my initial inspiration, but every additional client I meet brings more fulfillment to me as an artist.  I absolutely love capturing moments that no one else can — I love the opportunity to turn a moment into something that will endure for generations.

I’ve always been interested in creative things – in first grade I convinced my grandmother to teach me piano; when I was a little older I would run an art store in my parents’ basement, and the walls on the basement stairs were covered with ‘art gallery’ items. So photography was a natural creative outlet for me. My parents have a picture of me when I was about 3 where I am holding a box of film – at 5, there is a snapshot of me peering through a ‘big’ Nikon SLR and telephoto lens. Those snapshots are actually more a reflection of my natural curiosity and desire to try new things than a sign that I was ‘born to be a photographer.’ Photography, like my other creative tendencies, came naturally to me as part of my desire to capture and document life around me – moments and memories that cannot be repeated.

My grandfather, who passed away in March 2007 (read the backstory of “Uphill Battle”) was a quiet but steady influence in my enthusiasm for photography. Two of his sons (one being my dad) love photography as a hobby; probably due to my grandfather’s interest in the art. I would rarely see him without a camera in hand, and the photographs he took on vacations were on display throughout their home – the Giza pyramids, a farmhouse in the Swiss alps, and even hot air balloons. These images encouraged me to see the wonder in the world around me!

I more recently discovered how my grandfather became interested in photography. He served in Signal Corps during World War II, and was seriously injured during the Battle of the Bulge. His injuries took over a year to heal. During that time, two of his friends (who escaped serious injury) were stationed at the Leitz factory in Germany (where Leica cameras were made). Each soldier was allowed one Leica camera — since they had to pick it up in person, his friends were unable to get my grandfather the Leica. They did send him another camera, though, and that camera was the one that piqued his interest in the art of photography.

My Engagement Story

posted in: Notes | 0

Working with engaged and married couples allows me to enjoy hearing about many wonderful proposal stories. And while I haven’t heard everything, I have heard quite a bit. From the more typical romantic flowers + tux proposal to a more adventurous underwater scuba diving proposal, I find it extremely interesting to see how each engagement story is different. And then there’s my own engagement story. Nothing extraordinary, you might think, but it’s special to me. It seems so long ago, but of course I can still remember the details.

My Engagement Story - Just Engaged -

Before We Begin

Before I get into the full story of how Steven and I got engaged, let me start by explaining something. I have an uncanny knack of ruining surprises. Steven has planned numerous exciting and thoughtful surprises, most of which I’ve somehow stumbled across before their due time. I promise that I’ve never intentionally ruined a surprise — I like surprises! But, no matter how hard I try, the surprise aspect often remains elusive.

I can imagine that most guys dream of surprising their fiance-to-be with the perfect proposal. Part of Steven’s goal was to surprise me (yes, tricky!). I won’t ruin the story yet, but keep reading to find out if that happened.

Like any couple, we discussed our future — and the possible timing for the big events of engagement and marriage. Steven and I didn’t set a date or anything like that before becoming engaged, but we had definitely talked these plans and how they would work into our future. Of course I had to have a “timeline” of sorts to share with my girlfriends, because they were asking all sorts of questions, so we settled on planning to get engaged sometime during the summer of 2004.

To make a long story short, a friend one weekend said she’d heard I was getting engaged soon. This was in March of 2004, so I still had a ways to go until the “timeline.” So I set that thought aside, and went about things as usual.

My Engagement Story

A weekend or two later, Steven and I were in town to spend time with the parents (neither of us were in Ann Arbor at the time). We were planning on grabbing dinner at our favorite restaurant (Knight’s Steakhouse), and then going with his parents to Saturday Mass. Our plans for Sunday were still up in the air. We got dressed for church, and then went to Knight’s Steakhouse for dinner. We sat upstairs, and had an uneventful dinner. After dinner, lo and behold, a lovely heart-shaped cake with roses arrived on our table. Can you guess what was on it? Yup, this was it! An engagement ring was nestled in a silk rose and the cake was iced with the words “Will You Marry Me?”

I have to admit I was so extremely surprised that I was speechless! Steven (who was all nerves at this point), took the ring, asked me “Will you marry me?” and put the ring on my hand as I nodded and said yes (finally, right? I’m sure my stunned silence wasn’t too reassuring at first!).

So after that, we enjoyed some of the scrumptious carrot cake that had been handmade for us. It was very delicious, and we left some for the wait staff (it was a decent-sized cake!). While we were celebrating during dessert, an older couple congratulated us and bought us a drink. It was their anniversary!

Finally, there was another element of surprise. Steven let me know that both sets of parents were waiting at Barton Hills Country Club to celebrate with us. On the drive over, some phone calls were made to spill the news. Once we arrived, a champagne toast was in order, and we let some of the excitement unwind as we sat with them.

It really was an exciting day. Steven succeeded in creating a wonderful and memorable engagement story for us to enjoy sharing with others. In case you’re wondering why he picked this particular restaurant, it was because he went to college for Hospitality Business (restaurant management), and during that point in time Steven spent many busy hours at Knight’s Steakhouse working the various positions. While it’s not an exotic engagement location, Knight’s was (and is) a special place for us.

What’s Your Story?

So, there you have it! That’s my engagement story, and I look forward to hearing yours soon. I’ve found as I work with engaged couples, the more you share of your story, the more unique and meaningful we can make your engagement session. Whether we do so by choosing the location of your first date, where you got engaged, or something more subtle, you will be able to fondly look back on your engagement images and remember some wonderful memories. I know I wish we had done our engagement session in such a way to evoke the excitement and surprise of the evening we got engaged!

Photography Class at Emerson Middle School

posted in: Local | 2

This afternoon I got to share my love of photography with a class of middle school students! It’s been a while now, but a long time ago 😉 I actually was a student at Emerson School here in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It’s a cute little school that has a great musical and fine arts “program” (can I call it that?). At any rate, Emerson School has a great focus on the arts, and one of my former teachers, Mrs. Borton, recently asked me if I would consider guest teaching for the photography class.

Now, I may be a photographer, but I also love to teach and share my knowledge with others. So, I jumped at the chance to spend a day with a great group of photography students. After sharing some of my work with them as “creative inspiration,” I sent the class out into the hall to complete some assignments in creative imaging (well, at Emerson it’s a more expansive common area).

Emerson Photography Students | Betsy Finn, Betsy's Photography

Emerson Photography Students | Betsy Finn, Betsy's Photography

It’s interesting to see how much photography classes have changed since digital cameras became widespread. While some of the “good old” film experiences are no longer there, going digital allows the students more creativity and quicker feedback. Now, since you’ll probably be asking if I participated in the assignments myself… the answer is “kinda.” Instead of working on all the tasks I gave for the hands-on exercise, I spent some time watching the students and seeing the creative solutions they came up with.

Emerson Photography Class | Betsy Finn, Betsy's Photography