Burlington, MA Yoga/Fitness Session | Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness

Two years ago I started practicing yoga. I began with online videos in my basement where I could hide and nobody could see me! I realized very quickly that yoga was something I really enjoyed and I actually kept at it. Last year, I joined a local fitness center and started taking yoga classes there. I was really nervous practicing with a room full of other people at first, but with the encouragement and guidance of a couple of amazing instructors, I got over that fear pretty quickly.

Anyone in the Burlington area who practices yoga knows that Monique is one of the best. She has such a calming voice and presence and you will always feel welcomed in her classes. You will leave feeling relaxed and at peace, but don’t be fooled…you will ALWAYS get a workout in her classes!

I recently did a photo session with Monique in my studio. As we were shooting and talking, I learned more about her life with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and how yoga has helped her with some of her symptoms. Since I did not know much about RA, I started reading about it after our session and then thought this would be a great way to bring awareness to the disease. So, in addition to sharing photos of the beautiful Monique, I am sharing some of her personal journey. I hope that this will help others who suffer from RA.

How old were you when you were diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

I was diagnosed with JRA and the correlating eye disease, Uveitis, when I was just 22 months old.

What symptoms did you have at that time? What symptoms do you experience now as an adult?

My parents knew something was up when I went from being a very active and happy baby, to all of a sudden refusing to walk. Throughout my life, I’ve experienced pain in my ankles, knees, hips, left wrist, right elbow and neck. As an adult, it’s been my knees that flare up the most.

What is the treatment for JRA?

Treatment for JRA can range from over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs, to immunosuppressant injections. In addition to these conventional treatments, I have dedicated the past 10 years of my life researching and trying holistic treatments. Some things that have helped me include eating an anti-inflammatory diet, keeping stress levels low, staying active, acupuncture, physical therapy and consuming certain herbs and supplements.

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What made you start the practice of yoga to help with your symptoms?

I was in high school when I discovered yoga. As a varsity three season athlete, I was desperate to find relief from my Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. I started doing on demand yoga workouts at home and fell in love with the physical practice. When I went off to college, I had a Denise Austin power yoga DVD that I would do in my dorm room. Practicing yoga helped me maintain a strong, flexible and balanced body while also alleviating pressure on my joints.

When did you decide to train to be a yoga instructor?

After my freshman year in college, I decided to take my first live yoga class, which not only took my practice to the next level, but happened to present itself at the perfect time. My cousin had just suddenly passed away and yoga played a huge part in my emotional healing. After that first live class, I felt the happiest I had felt in months and I knew right then that I wanted to become an instructor. Eventually, I became a children’s yoga instructor at the age of 19 and, after two gratifying years of teaching yoga to children, I was ready to take the next step. I decided to go for my 200-hour yoga teacher training and started teaching adult classes immediately upon completion.

How many classes a week do you instruct?

I currently teach anywhere from 10-15 classes per week. I’ve also taught classes to athletic teams ranging from High School to professional level.

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Do you have any advice for anyone that is newly diagnosed with JRA?

My advice to anyone newly diagnosed with RA, or any autoimmune disease is to prioritize self care, eat well, get your rest, and surround yourself with supportive people.

Any advice for anyone thinking of trying yoga?

You don’t need to be in perfect health, in tip top physical shape or be able to bend yourself into a pretzel to practice yoga. Your yoga practice is just that, a practice and a journey. It works for all different body types and you learn to embrace and celebrate your body for what it CAN do and not compare yourself to others.

Cape Cod Engagement Session | Cold Storage Beach, East Dennis

I recently spent a week in East Dennis on Cape Cod with my husband's family. They has been vacationing in Dennis for many, many years and it has become one of my favorite places. My brother-in-law (the youngest of 6 and the favorite child!) and my future sister-in-law made the trek up from Nashville to spend the week and we took advantage of their visit to take some engagement pictures on the beach. Even though the wind was a little out of control, the weather was perfect and we had a beautiful sunset. And I just LOVE Olivia's dress....gorgeous!

Here are just a few highlights from our time on the beach. 

Kent Cottage, Historical Building, Burlington, MA

Although I have never considered myself a history buff, I have always been fascinated with historical buildings. There is one particular building in Burlington that has always had my attention. The Kent Cottage is an old stone building that sits alone along one of Burlington's high tech roadways, Network Drive. From the front, the boarded up old house appeared to have darkened windows but when you look closely, you will see that they are not actually windows. They are boards designed to look like windows...very well done! From the side, the doors and windows are boarded up and a small, hidden addition sits in back. 

For years, I never knew the history of this building or what it was called. But thanks to Google and lots of attempts at creative keywords, I found this great article written by Dina Accardi on www.wickedlocal.com. The article explains that the house was built in 1851 "for John Kent (1798-1870), a wealthy brewer from Charlestown who was born in Haughley, Suffolk County, England". He lived there with his daughter, Helen, until he passed away in 1870. Helen continued to live in the house until 1897. It appears that there were other residents of the house after the Kent family, but for years it has remained unoccupied. 

When I read about the potential development of this building, I knew I had to get inside of the building and take pictures before it was renovated. With the help of the Burlington Planning Board, I was put in contact with Nordblom Company who currently owns the property. They so kindly allowed me access with my camera!

I was accompanied by one of their facility staff members who was armed with a flashlight. Even with that sole source of light, the building was pitch black and I couldn't see anything at all. I was shooting blindly with my camera and flash and I really had no idea what I was looking at until I downloaded the photos from my memory card. It's probably a good thing that I couldn't see what I was shooting because I may have run away! As you will see, the building was loaded with water and fire damage, mold and lots of holes in floors and ceilings. I was disappointed that I wasn't allowed up the stairs until I saw the images of the stairs and the underside of the bathroom floor with the cast iron tub exposed. Ok, I guess I am good with just the first floor. 

This satisfied some of my curiosity of the Kent Cottage and hopefully will provide some insight to others who have wondered about this very old structure. 

Oh no, the dreaded headshots! | Burlington, MA Headshot Photographer

Dentists get a bad rap. I really don't know anyone who likes going to the dentist (including me) but I guess I never realized how much people dislike getting their professional headshots done until recently. I've had a couple of clients openly express how much they were dreading the process. I promise you that getting your headshots done is definitely much easier and less painful than going to the dentist. 

How do I know? Well, for starters I just had mine updated. My friend and fellow photographer, Sue Bruce, and I have made it an annual event to get together and do each other's headshots. For me that involves coming armed with several outfits on hangers, a few jewelry options, my curling iron and, of course, my hairspray. We even had our make-up professionally done by Kristina of Flawless Makeup Company, which is always a treat. Sue and I evaluated each other's outfit choices and background colors and then we took turns being on either side of the camera.

Although I prefer to be BEHIND the camera taking the pictures, I took the plunge and sat in front of the backdrop. How do I stand? Where do I put my hands? How should I smile? I know the answers to these questions, but somehow it all changes when you are the one being photographed. But with the right guidance and many laughs, we are able to put each other at ease and get the job done. And guess what? It really wasn't that bad. I survived. And I have a couple of great new headshots. 

I've come to appreciate this annual event with Sue for a couple of reasons. First, we have a good time and we share many laughs. But more importantly, it is a great reminder of what it's like to be on the other side of the camera and how important it is to make people feel comfortable. I like to think that it makes me a better photographer because I can relate to the experience. 

In case you were wondering how my nervous clients made out...there was no pain, no extractions, no root canals and they, too, left my studio saying, "that wasn't so bad"!

Thanks to Sue Bruce for my new headshots!


One Year Old Cake Smash Session! | Happy Birthday Nora! | Burlington, MA Child Photographer

Take a look at this adorable studio Cake Smash session for one year old Nora! This was so much fun in many ways. As a parent of two boys, I was in my glory shopping for some girly accessories including a pink and purple feather boa, purple decorations and, of course, a sparkly tiara! Here are a few highlights from this very fun session!

This stunning (and VERY delicious cake) was created by LaCascia's Bakery of Burlington. 

Nora most definitely has the largest shoe collection of any one year old I have met. This day she only had a couple of pairs with her. 

Nora is not just a walker, she's a runner! So Mom spent a lot of time getting her into position and then trying to run away before Nora took off. It wasn't easy! 

And then came the cake! I must say, she was very dainty...at first! I will let the pictures speak for themselves!

Family Photography | Burlington, MA | Carlisle, MA

Now that senior yearbook deadlines have been met I can finally put aside a few minutes to blog. I have some really gorgeous senior sessions that I want to blog, but this family session was something really special and I can't wait to share it. These are some of the most beautiful and well behaved children I have ever met...they made my job easy! After having to reschedule a couple of times, we finally pulled this off on a beautiful fall day at Great Brook State Farm in Carlisle.

You may wonder why the littlest family member has no hair. That's because last June little Livy was diagnosed with Leukemia. Ever since that dreaded day, "Brave Livy" has been fighting a long, hard battle to be healthy again. Livy and her family have a very large (understatement!), very supportive and very faithful support system behind them. That support combined with the best pediatric oncology health care professionals in the world will get Livy through this very difficult time. 

Livy's siblings were amazing. Hunter, Faith and Emma were so kind and so patient with her when she needed extra time to regroup and they kept on their smiles until she was ready for the shot! They clearly love their little sister and all wanted to be next to her of holding her in every picture. It was pretty special to see and I think you will agree!

You can read about Livy's story here: https://www.gofundme.com/ek3u9m8g

<3 Brave Livy <3