Thursday, December 31, 2009

{the year that hope built...}

“It was the best of times…it was the worst of times…” That’s how the saying goes, isn’t it?!?!

As the last hours of the year came to an end, I couldn't think of anything better than Charles Dickens’ own words to sum up my feelings about the last 365 days. It truly was the best of times and the worst of times. In all of my years, no other - thus far - has spread me thinner across the emotional spectrum of life than 2009. It was the good, the bad, the glorious, the grief and all things in between.

But all roads have led here; right where I’m supposed to be…and for that I am thankful.

I suppose that I could spend page after page reflecting on my experiences of the past year but the time has come and gone…and so must my feelings towards all that has happened. I’ve endured and I’ve enjoyed, and now I will close the book on a time that has taught me so much. I am walking away though with a sense of growth and a better understanding of just how precious the human spirit really is. Strength, courage, grace, forgiveness, love…all of these things create a world far more beautiful than I ever thought possible. And perhaps most precious of all is gratitude; the all encompassing sense of knowing that all you have is all you’ll ever really need. And so I leave 2009 feeling the need to share my own sense of gratitude; gratitude towards a year that let me come out victorious, towards people that made the fight worth fighting and for another 365 golden days that are going to change everything…

Thank you to Joanne, Jamie and Christina for being my biggest fans all year long; for perpetually encouraging me and for picking me up when the pieces have fallen down. It would have been a much harder road to go down had you not held my hands along the way…

Thank you to Papermoon Photography, Miv Photography, Studio 1948, Sammy Oxendahl, Cathy & David, Jen Berry and Tim Forbes for all of your advice, encouragement and outstanding inspiration. The world is a better place because you are all there to document it…

Thank you to Starbucks for giving me the energy to do two full-time jobs for eight months straight! I heart you...

Thank you to all of my amazing clients from 2009! Thank you for taking a chance on a basically unheard of photographer and for allowing me to share in your lives. I am only here because you trusted me to do so…

Thank you to my Steve…my husband, my best friend, my beloved. Thank you for believing in me enough for both of us. Thank you for standing by my side every step of the way. Thank you for wiping my tears away when things were hard and for sharing in my excitement when things were perfect. Thank you for buying me a cell phone so I would no longer be stranded and thank you for holding my hair back when I threw up all summer (you can take that up with your son in a couple of months!!)!! Thank you for choosing me and most of all…thank you for loving me…

(Thank you to Tim Forbes for capturing my husband in all of his amazing handsome-ness!)

And thank you to a God unlike any other. Thank you for bestowing on me the countless blessings that fill my days…blessings far beyond what I deserve. Thank you for giving me a gift and for the courage to pursue it. Thank you for giving me your guidance, your purpose and your presence. Thank you for helping me find my way back to you…

May all of you celebrate the most wonderful of new years and may you let hope and love be your guide for 2010…

With love,
Gen xoxo

p.s. To view my "Best of 2009" slideshow, click here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

{andrea & david: maternity...}

It was a warm July morning the day that I found out that I was pregnant. I had been lying awake in bed most of the night contemplating what it would mean if two lines showed up instead of one. Of course, I knew what it would “technically” mean, but what about everything else? It’s sort of a strange feeling having to anticipate results. There was most certainly excitement at the idea, but it also came with its share of anxiety and fear. Would we have enough? Enough time…enough love…enough money…enough patience…??

Steve was downstairs in the dining room having breakfast with his parents. I had asked him to come up to our room with me for a minute and being the somewhat stubborn Gemini that he can be, he kept insisting that I wait. I finally had to tell him that I broke my four day old brand new Nikon D300 in order to get his attention and before I knew it, he was upstairs before I was even able to finish my sentence! It was well worth the little white lie!

That was six months ago.

Now, we are a mere nine weeks away from the arrival of our son and we have had plenty more time to wrap our minds around the idea of raising a child. It seems a bit less scary now but I’m sure that if you ask us in eight weeks, the blood will have little or no problems draining from our faces! I’ve had many months to ask myself how one even remotely prepares them selves for such a life changing event and even now…I simply draw a blank!

There is the obvious method of preparation however, and that is spending time with other parents. That being said though, this strategy has also compelled me to climb up the side of one wall and straight down the other at times. People have some pretty strong opinions about parenthood and pregnancy, which has left us sighing reluctantly on more than one occasion; the perfect stroller, optimal maternity leave, cloth versus disposable diapers, appropriate weight gain and let’s not forget the distinctive eyes of judgment as you stand in line at Starbucks…all of this can leave you wishing that you had never shared the news to begin with!

But there has been solace among this flurry of advice and guidance, and one of those most precious moments came when I had the opportunity to photograph Andrea and David…a couple that I not only smile at the very thought of but a couple that was also expecting their first baby just a couple of months before us.

We headed out to a small patch of land alongside the deserted Canadian Forces base to shoot their maternity session and as the cold winter air started to blow in, we talked about the joys (and stretching!) of being pregnant, the anticipations of being a parent and the excitement of trying to take it all in. David very politely helped the two of us get around as we lugged our bellies through the tall grass and the unstable ground beneath us…who ever said that chivalry was dead?!?!

Our time together was lovely; the light, the scenery, the conversation and most of all, the complete and total adoration between this couple as they patiently waited to meet their baby for the first time.

I left not only having felt privileged at being able to capture this time for them but I also left with a reminder of why this is all so special; it’s not about finding the perfect stroller or the textbook rules of “what to expect”…it’s about holding that other person’s hand and knowing that this experience is something that only the two of you will ever share in this way. While others may offer their advice and participate in the excitement…only the two of you will stand in that wide open space with the knowledge of just how precious your world is about to change.

And that alone is enough…

All my love to you, Andrea and David…you’re going to be remarkable parents!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

{dennis & naomi: engagement...}

Have you ever noticed how the longer you live in a city, the less you tend to know about it?!?! Perhaps this is an oversight that only I make but I certainly have a tendency to take my home town for granted and overlook all the amazing attractions that I pass by every day.

I grew up in London, Ontario...a city, which as far as I'm concerned, is completely charming. When it came time to choose a university, I decided to move to equally endearing place. Like most teenagers, I longed to get away from the only place that I had ever really known and to see the world through my new independent eyes. And in doing so, I fell love. I fell in love with both a cute French boy and with this amazing city! Not surprising, the French boy didn't last...but my love affair with Ottawa certainly did!

The thing is though that since I find myself fully emerged in Ottawa life every day, I never fully get around to appreciating its history and heritage. I never do take the tour of Parliament or hop on the double decker bus to make a visit to the RCMP stables. "One day", we always say, as countless visitors come through our city every year and learn more about our home than we likely do. Sad, I know!

With much of our family now living out of town, it has given us the opportunity to make room for being a tourist in our own city and I have to has made the love affair that much better. Finding out that Ottawa was once considered the most dangerous city in North America or learning about the amazing efforts that went into building the Rideau Canal is almost like bringing home the rebel on a motorcycle that you know your parents won't like!!!

When Naomi and Dennis first contacted me about doing their engagement pictures, they were clear that they wanted it to not only be about them but they wanted it to be an ode to our lovely city as well. I, of course, was thrilled. "My kind of couple" I thought...

So off we went...from the National Gallery of Canada to the Library of Parliament, we made our way through the landmarks that define our city and in many ways, defined them as couple...


The beautiful National Gallery of Canada...

Major's Hill Park...

Our recently completed and beautifully restored Library of Parliament...

And lest we forget the beautiful couple...

Thanks so much guys for reminding me why I choose to call this glorious place home...I really never do getting tired of setting my eyes on her!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Okay, so the story starts like this…

First there was a girl (me!).
Girl moved to Ottawa to go to University.
Girl decided to adopt a Cat to keep her company in the big city.
Five years later, Girl also adopted a super cute Boyfriend.
It seemed that Cat and Boyfriend didn’t appear to get along very well.
Cat would spend countless nocturnal hours strategically pouncing on Boyfriend’s groin.
(Did I mention that Cat was 26lbs.?!?!).
Boyfriend would attempt to terrorize Cat with spray bottle.
(Did I also mention that Cat had a very unusual affinity for water?!?!).
Cat chewed a hole through said spray bottle when Boyfriend accidently left it on night table.
Cat : 1 – Boyfriend : 0
A year goes by.
Domestic tensions increase between Cat and Boyfriend.
Things get ugly.
A litre of chocolate milk becomes an innocent bystander.
Girl gets fed up.
Someone’s got to go.
Cat gets one way plane ticket to B.C.
Boyfriend can stay.
Boyfriend is a better cook!

Now fast forward four years! Boyfriend becomes husband (he’s just that good in the kitchen!!) and Cat is still happily chasing eagles in B.C. All was well on the home front!! But I’m not going to lie…I missed having pets around the house, even if they were 26lbs pounds of insanity that may or may not have needed psychological intervention at some point in time!

I’ve always grown up with pets around the house and I truly believe that they add a certain magic to a family that can’t be attained any other way. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in the country where animals had a purpose and never, ever slept on the bed! Trying to convince my husband to get a pet that would become an actual member of the family was one of the bigger challenges in our marriage! But after four years of living feline free, my husband promised me that when we bought a house, we could get adopt a kitten and once again hear the pitter patter of little paws. He did have one condition…they couldn’t sleep on the bed!!!!

So ten weeks after having moved into our new house and a mere ten hours after returning from our month long trip to Australia, Steve and I roamed the halls of our local humane society looking for the perfect furry friend to bring into our home. Sure enough, mere minutes into our search, there he was…all quiet and sad looking in the back of his cage. His name was Mouse – a completely ridiculous name for a cat if you ask me – three months old and had been at the humane society for six weeks already after having been found abandoned on the street. The staff said no one wanted him because he was so much bigger than the other kittens. “Nonsense” we said…wrap him up!

And just like that…two became three! We strongly believed that our first job as “kitty parents” was to spare our newest addition the agony of having to endure a life with the name Mouse. Really…all the other cats would tease him!! But we didn’t want to completely disregard his early days in the big bad world, so we agreed on naming him Tugger Mouse Smyth…an honourable compromise for a street kitty, we thought!

Not wanting him to be too overwhelmed with the transition from cage to three story house, we kept him within the boundaries of our bedroom for the first couple of days. The little guy stayed hovered around our ankles for every breathing moment that we were in that room and imagine what happened when it came time to turn the lights out?!?! You guessed it…as soon as Tugger let out one pathetic little cry, Steve’s one little kitty condition when right out the window!! He was soon curled up on our pillows, right between our heads and proceeded to purr the night away. Literally. For six hours straight. Even after our thirty-seven hour trip home from Australia, neither one of us managed to sleep a wink that night! “Welcome to parenthood” we were told!!

Not surprisingly, Tugger has slept on our bed every single night since; waking me up with the same gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) head butts when the alarm goes off in the morning and receiving the same scratch behind the ear from Steve as he attempts to make the bed each day. And so it goes with the fur ball we love so much!

Tugger knows that his world is about to be rocked! He knows that he won’t be the only child for much longer! He’ll sit on my lap, with his head perched on my belly and give me a look of complete disgust regarding the situation at hand! “Come on…you know we’d be better off just the three of us” he’d say…if he were only given the chance!!

No doubt about it, Tugger really is one of our first great loves as a couple! It’s easy to say that our family is about to begin with the birth of our son but truth be told, our family began the moment we brought that little three pound ball of fur into our home! With every one of his little adventures – from creating a hammock out of my in-laws box spring to swallowing a Christmas ribbon – Tugger has taught us the art of patience, flexibility and how to tie a Christmas tree to the wall…all qualities that I’m sure our son will thank us for later!

So my little Tugboat, please rest assured…you may not be our only child for much longer…but you will forever be our first child! And we wouldn’t have it any other way!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

{authentic success...}

Not every day is easy. Not every day comes with the same inspiration and certainty of self that other days do. Not every day comes with equal amounts of confidence to trudge through the doubt; the sometimes nagging struggle between worldly success and its authentic counterpart. But, every day does come with the knowledge that where there is a gift...there is a Giver. And I was humbly reminded of both today when I read the following essay by Sarah Ban Breathnach...


Authentic success is different for each of us. No single definition fits all because we come in all sizes. One autumn afternoon years ago, while wandering through an abandoned cemetery, I discovered a wonderful definition of authentic success inscribed on the headstone of a woman who died in 1820: "The only pain she ever caused was when she left us."

Authentic success is having time enough to pursue personal pursuits that bring you pleasure, time enough to care for your home, tend your garden, nurture your soul. Authentic success is never having to tell yourself or those you love, "maybe next year." Authentic success is knowing that if today were your last day on earth, you could leave without regret. Authentic success is feeling focused and serene when you work, not fragmented. It's knowing that you've done the best that you possibly can, no matter what the circumstances you faced; it's knowing in your soul that the best you can is all you can do, and that the best you can do is always enough.

Authentic success is accepting your limitations, making peace with your past, and reveling in your passions so that your future may unfold according to a Divine Plan. It's discovering and calling forth your gifts and offering them to the world to help heal its ravaged heart. It's making a difference in other lives and believing that if you can do that for just one person each day, through a smile, a shared laugh, a caress, a kind word, or a helping hand, blessed are you among women.

Authentic success is not just money in the bank but a contented heart and peace of mind. It's earning what you feel you deserve for the work you do and knowing that you're worth it. Authentic success is paying your bills with ease, taking care of all your needs and the needs of those you love, indulging some wants, and having enough left over to save and share. Authentic success is not about accumulating but letting go, because all you have is all you truly need. Authentic success is feeling good about who you are, appreciating where you've been, celebrating your achievements, and honoring the distance you've already come. Authentic success is reaching the point where being is as important doing. It's the steady pursuit of a dream. It's realizing that no matter how much time it takes for a dream to come true in the physical world, no day is ever wasted. It's valuing inner, as well as outer, labor - both your own and others'. It's elevating labor to a craft and craft to an art by bestowing Love on every task you undertake.

Authentic success is knowing how simply abundant your life is exactly as it is today. Authentic success is being so grateful for the many blessings bestowed on you and yours that you can share your portion with others.

Authentic success is living each day with a heart overflowing.


I will forever be grateful to God for the presence of the written word in my life...