All this started on July 15. I was having a bad day. There were too many depressing things in the news, and I was feeling too much stress. Then I read somewhere that it was National Give Something Away Day. I always thought that the quickest way to lift yourself up when you’re feeling low is to do something for someone else. So I decided I was going to give away a portrait session to someone. I put out a message on Facebook asking for people to nominate someone that would really get a boost from a portrait session. The decision was TOUGH, let me tell you. I heard touching stories about wonderful people who just needed a boost. I ultimately ended up giving away two sessions, and I’ll show you the first one today. Emily, whose wedding I shot a few years ago, nominated her mother.

Meet Emily and Tim:

And here’s what Emily said.

I would like to nominate my mother, Carol Vincent. She gives everything she can to her family and friends. Her heart is open and she loves deeply. She adopts people to love and care for the way most people do animals. She honestly doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. Growing up, we didn’t always see eye to eye or even get along, but she always loved me unconditionally and was my tireless supporter.
About a month ago, she was involved in a terrible car accident. She broke three ribs, fractured her pelvis in three places, cracked the tibia on her left leg, broke the ankle on her right foot, lacerated her spleen, and tore her carotid artery. She was lucky to be alive and in terrible pain, but was still worried about those who came to take care of her. Through out this ordeal, as well as my life, my mother has been a beacon of hope and love.
I know this would mean the world to her because she has been saying for several years now that she wished she had more family pictures.

Joni Mitchell sang, “You don’t know what you’ve got t’ill it’s gone,” and that was almost the case for me. Thankfully, I was given a wake up call.  It is a world shifting event to see someone that you just assume will always be there, because they always have been, brought down to such a fragile and vulnerable state. I was left with the stark reality that no matter how grown up I seemed to be, all I wanted was to curl up in the warmth and security of my mother’s arms. Her heart is so open and full of love that despite being in tremendous pain and lying broken in a hospital bed, she only ever worried about how we were doing and what she could do to help us. I also realized during this time, that my mother was stronger than I ever thought. Things that I thought would break her have only made her stronger. My mother is not the delicate flower that I thought she was in my youth, but rather a beautiful willow tree that knows how to bend on things that do not matter but can stand firm against the toughest storms for what she believes is right. It is because of her selflessness, her capacity for love, and her kind spirit that I wanted to give my mom these family portraits.

And so, we gave her what she wanted, family portraits at Barrington Hall. Want to meet her? Here’s Carol (and her husband John)

And here is the whole family: Emily and her husband, her brother Matt with wife Lauren and kids, and their parents. I had met them all at Emily’s wedding, and what I love about them is their willingness to be joyful and silly! And that’s exactly how we started our session, with the entire family working out the wiggles. When the adults are being sillier than the kids, that’s when we’ve really hit gold!


I knew from talking to them that Carol had been asking for family portraits for YEARS.Emily’s brother Matt says this:

My mom has  wanted family portraits made for as long as I can remember.  The last time we had them done I was in 5th grade, needless to say  it has been a while.  For one  reason or another,  we always put them off thinking we can do them later.   In May of this year,  we got a very rude wake up call.  My mother and father were in a horrible car accident.  My dad was banged up but was able to go home that day.  My mom, on the other hand, was in bad shape.  She had to spend a few days in the ICU and the first night was especially scary.  She had a lot of injuries but the scariest of these  was the tear in her carotid artery that required surgery to close.  This was like having a bucket of ice poured over us.  We almost lost our mom in the blink of an eye.  She is in  much better condition now; still healing but able to move around and enjoy life.  We were given the opportunity to have pictures made as a family, and this time we did not put it off.  I could not be more thankful that we were given this opportunity, both by Janet, and by the fact that our mom is still here.

So we did some family portraits, plus some photos of each of the families.

Afterwards, I also got this message from Matt’s wife, Lauren.

 I can’t tell you how much it means to me to have these beautiful images of our family. When my in-laws were in the wreck on the way to our house I was absolutely heart broken. John and Carol treat me so much better than just a daughter in law. They love me as their own daughter. These two wonderful people mean the world to me. They deserve these gorgeous pictures of our family and so much more. I would give them the world if I could. John and Carol are truly two of the best people on Earth and I am absolutely blessed to be part of their family.


Family Portraits at Barrington Hall Family Portraits at Barrington Hall

There’s a lesson in all this. It all came about because I was having a bad day. I need to remember that in the future. Sometimes a bad day can be a gift. You just have to make it happen. It’s not just that gave something away, but what I got in return. The good that I felt about giving this session to this family far outweighed the bad day I was having July 15. And that’s why that was the best bad day I ever had.