Yep, it’s scary…do it anyway!

So, here we are…the day has arrived…tonight I will get up before the Foothills Camera Club and speak openly about Bella Forza Portraits and why it is so important to me.

Extra Oomph

Extra Oomph ūüėČ

Being open about that which we care most about is hard…writing it down and hitting ‘post’ is hard, saying it aloud (in front of others!) even harder. ¬†But isn’t that where true joy lives…isn’t it critical that we face our fears and banish the negative self talk that says that others might judge us – judge our words, our creations, our dreams? I mean, isn’t it also possible that they’ll think our words, creations, and dreams are amazing? ¬†It took me years, YEARS, to work up my courage to finally follow my dream of providing compassionate portraiture…I’m sure not going to let a little fear over public speaking get in my way now, right?! ūüėČ ¬†(and sometimes we just need a little extra mojo…like a new blouse to add some oomph to our step!)

Whether it’s making an appt with your doctor because you fear something is wrong (my mom was scared of what the doc might say and so she left that phonecall until it was dangerously late), or if it’s making your own choices about your treatment plan even though it might differ from your family’s wishes, or if it’s as simple as a speaking engagement…go ahead and remind yourself that the beauty in life is in living it fully, everyday, based on your own heart and mind. ¬†I’m certainly not saying it’s easy, any of it, but I am saying that in those moments that we are daring with our hearts, our hearts become stronger and our courage becomes greater.

Vulnerability is one of our toughest choices in life, but it is a choice…and choosing vulnerability opens us up to more love, more laughter, more adventure, more opportunities, more authenticity, more hope, more inspiration, and more joy. ¬†Yep, I ¬†pick vulnerability and I hope you will too!

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.    ~ Dr. Seuss

What are you going to do today that scares you a little, or a lot?

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

xo Lori

PS It is worth mentioning that when this invitation arrived in my in-box last Fall I told my kids about it and pondered, aloud, if I’d say yes. ¬†My kids asked why I wasn’t sure and I told them, ‘because it’s scary!’, to which they so aptly replied, ‘aren’t we supposed to do things that scare us a little to grow.” ¬†Love those kids – I’m a lucky mom! ‚̧

Lasagna and The Ripple Effect

How many times have we, in life, wanted so badly to help someone but been at a loss for how? ¬†Inevitably, when a person faces a serious illness or debilitating injury, the first offerings, and longest lasting efforts, centre around food; which is, in my experience, wholly appreciated by the affected person AND their families (although we had one care worker who insisted on making trifle for us, daily…I can’t imagine every eating trifle for dessert again! ūüėČ ). ¬†Given that this is the first thing that tends to come to mind when you are in the position of wanting to help a loved one, people’s fridges and freezers become full, quickly. ¬†I remember feeling so awkward when my mom was sick and we had so many people wanting to help, but we really didn’t need any more lasagna! ¬†It’s so difficult, as the grateful recipient, to say ‘no’ to these generous acts of kindness, especially when you don’t have any other suggestions of how they can help – people WANT to do something.

Well, what if there was a way to help that didn’t involve Tupperware?!

I’ve been through tough times, with both my mom’s illness and other life challenges…I know that prepared food, walking the dog, helping get kids to and fro school and activities, quiet games of Scrabble, and many more acts of kindness, are all incredibly important and provide unparalleled solace & relief. ¬†I also believe that fun, uplifting experiences are needed too. ¬†I recall spending the time painting Mom’s nails and doing her makeup, with chatting and laughter throughout, before friends would come to visit. ¬†It wasn’t about pretending she wasn’t sick, it WAS about her not feeling that her role and as we saw her was as ‘patient’ only; it WAS about her having on her trademark red lipstick and feeling ‘ready’ for a visit.

I believe, deep in my soul, that a few hours away from ‘real life’, being pampered by a wonderful hair&makeup artist, having your portrait created, and then being gifted with a framed print from our session is healing. ¬†I believe we all want to feel beautiful, we want to have fun, we need to feel alive…and I propose that this is one of the nicest things you could gift to a loved one. ¬†I fully recognize that women facing health challenges may not instinctively seek out having their portrait taken; let’s face it, if you are fighting for your life a photo shoot may not seem an immediate necessity! ¬†However, for any of you who are looking for a warm, loving, lasting experience to provide…I can’t think of anything nicer; and ¬†please know that I’m speaking first as a daughter, sister, and friend and only secondly as a photographer.

There is also a bonus in this…the fact is that, as with all acts of generosity and kindness, there is a ripple effect for everyone associated.

The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect

The niece of my very first Bella Forza client had this to say about her aunt’s session, which she attended:

“…the experience was wonderful‚Ķthis process has a real ripple effect ‚Äď i can feel the positive response and gratitude amongst my extended family as they see what you did for my aunt and as they hear the story from an objective viewpoint ‚Äď very powerful!! …actually, from my perspective I see what you are doing as amazingly therapeutic and healing for the woman and also for her nieces and siblings, extended family and friends‚Ķ”

Another client, who is a young woman with a young family, told me that she had noticed the positive and heartwarming reactions of those closest to her with regard to her portrait session and that she felt it might take quite a while for her to really ‘see’ all the ways that this session was meaningful to her family…she told me that she felt it was as though they had a ‘tangible’ thing to hold now, evidence she had gone through something very real and life changing and that she had made it through the fire!

A fellow I follow on Twitter, Terry Alex (#TA), today posted, “A single act of kindness is like a snowball going down a hill. It starts small but grows larger & more powerful the farther it travels.”

The Strength Package includes hair and makeup (to whatever extent my client wants!), a portrait session, and a beautiful framed print (with its digital file for their personal use) for only $350. ¬†I am also, absolutely, more than happy to customize the package…it is my wholehearted desire to provide an amazing experience to my clients and I am open to customizing the session and package to suit each person individually. ¬†If she wants a portrait with her best friend(s), her kids, her mom, her beloved pet….the world is open to us and I am open to being your ally in making this an incredible experience.

…maybe your best friend is going through a difficult time and you’d like a portrait together….maybe your mom is ill and this could boost her spirits, and she’d especially love one of your family together…maybe you simply wish to provide a buoy to a coworker or friend to remind her that not every day has to only be about treading water.

Let me help you do something extraordinary for the extraordinary woman in your life.  I promise that your loved one will be met with compassion, support, a willingness to go above and beyond, and that I will do everything in my power to have her leaving my studio feeling bathed in strength.beauty.grace.!

Please visit Bella Forza on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bellaforzaportraits and share with your friends and family. ¬†Let’s make some snowballs!

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

xo Lori

And we call her, ‘Grace’…

_MG_0718 900 px square web ready

The remarkable Ms. G.!

Note: Due to my client’s work it was my initial preference to only use her first initial, “G.”; however, as I typed, “G.” lacked the vibrance that IS this woman; therefore, I will call her ‘Grace’ (and, trust me, it fits)! ¬†ūüôā

After a lifetime of having ‘lumps and bumps’, Grace had become a pro at doing self exams, going for semi-regular mammograms, etc., all of which afforded her the knowledge, on the morning of August 1, 2012, to know that this time something was different. ¬†Grace told me, “I just knew.” ¬†She called her doctor that morning, with some gentle encouragement from a coworker to not wait, and made an appointment for the same day. ¬†The doctor was as concerned as Grace and ordered a mammogram and ultra sound, which could both be done two days later.

At Grace’s August 3rd ultra sound she was told that she would need a biopsy; which was scheduled for one week later. ¬†That interim week was spent, as previously arranged, visiting her elderly parents with her beloved dog, Chloe. ¬†Not knowing what the final diagnosis would be, Grace told them nothing, to spare any unnecessary worry, and returned home for the test.

The day after Grace’s biopsy Chloe had a heart attack. ¬†Grace was told that Chloe was in congestive heart failure and would need to be euthanized. ¬†Grace and Chloe had the weekend to spend together; cuddling, visiting loved ones, and going for walks. ¬†On August 13th Grace had to say goodbye to Chloe and then leave the next day for a conference in the U.S., which is where she vowed to present at the April 2013 conference in Europe. ¬†She then arrived home to news that she had Invasive Ductal Breast Cancer that may have spread to her lymph nodes.

Due to the fast growing type of tumour, it was decided that they needed to slow/stop its growth through chemotherapy prior to proceeding with surgery. ¬†With an incredible support network, which she refers to as her ‘A-Team’, Grace met chemo head on – and it was tough. ¬†The cocktail she was given was known to be hard-hitting, but no one could have prepared for just how hard-hitting it was. ¬†Through it all she has had friends around her constantly; she never attended a chemo session alone, and, during the darkest hours, her friends would rally with her at her home, staying overnight, providing care and laughs, and, as she puts it, “living around her”. ¬†Grace credits this exemplary demonstration of friendship, this “life around her”, as a primary reason she is here with us; still on the journey, but getting stronger by the day!

Grace, in B&W

Grace, in B&W

At the conference that she was at last August, Grace had vowed, both to herself and others, that she and her colleague would present important and emerging information at an international¬†conference to be held in Europe this April. ¬†Grace credits part of her resolve to beat Cancer to her promise made during that tumultuous time in her life last summer: when her hair fell out she would think, “I’m going to that conference”; when she had a near fatal experience on chemo she thought, “I’m going to that conference”; on those days when it was nearly impossible to get out of bed she would think, “I’m going to that conference.” ¬†Indeed, it has been Grace’s resolve, determination, and passion that has allowed her to accomplish AMAZING things in her life (things I so wish I could share publicly here…she’s done a lot for our society!), and which served her well during this battle for her life. Grace was in Austria two weeks ago, presenting to her colleagues, just as she knew she would!

Grace in Colour

Grace, in colour

One of the very difficult things about treatment for Grace was the loss of her long, blonde hair. ¬†She was determined at the outset that ‘her hair’ wouldn’t fall out. ¬†But it did. ¬†The chemo also stole her¬†finger and toe nails. ¬†These things are poignant for us; while you are expending every ounce of strength into your fight, you must also, simultaneously, accept dramatic and often heart wrenching differences in your appearance. ¬†When Grace knew that her hair was in fact falling out, she, with her friend, found Compassionate Beauty, a specialized spa and resource for women undergoing cancer treatment. ¬†Compassionate Beauty provides support, products, post mastectomy products, medical hair loss solutions, and more, and was able to help Grace with the fitting and purchase of wigs (among other services) that allowed her the opportunity to maybe not feel quite so vulnerable during a very difficult year. ¬†Nine months later, though, Grace is on the admirable journey of embracing her ‘new me’. ¬†She’s rockin’ a wicked, platinum pixie cut and is looking outrageously awesome in some new black frames! ¬†Grace told me that this session came at a perfect time for her…this is a time of change, growth, acceptance, fearlessness (I dare say something I can’t imagine she’s ever not rocked!), and a new-found confidence in a new look and outlook!

_MG_0674 cropped slvrfx web ready

Grace, the movie star!

Grace finished her nearly 5 months of chemo in January; had a lumpectomy (now being referred to as breast conservation surgery) in February; and is currently undergoing radiation.  Her sense of humour and unwillingness to back down from the fight are the stuff of legend.

G., it was my absolute pleasure to meet you, to hear and then convey your story, and to photograph you.  I sincerely hope that you see the beauty, intelligence, life, and vibrance in these images as I see in you!

Strength.Beauty.Grace.

xoxo

Lori