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{during times of tragedy, people want to celebrate love} grace ormonde

it is an anniversary today. not just any anniversary but one that brings about many emotions and many, many memories of people we have loved and lost; of where we were “when”; of the changing of a nation (of people) by acts based on hate and intolerance. we have been changed…there is no denying that. but for all the new precautions, the loss of feeling truly safe in our own backyard, the subtle changes in our day to day as well as the more profound changes in many who have had their lives forever turned upside down through loss…there were things that came out of that ironically beautiful sunny day that the ones filled with hate probably didn’t anticipate.

a new hope and a renewed sense of love

even in the darkest moments, it was people reaching out of themselves and their lives risking everything for another human being through selfless acts of courage and hope. we saw humanity at it best as well and we became better, kinder, more compassionate people because of it. yes, life has been changed but with that change has come a stronger sense of love as we look at our priorities and ask ourselves what is truly important in this lifetime.

today, eleven years later people celebrate love through family bonds, through marriage, through new life, through friendship. we seem to cherish theses things even more and no amount of hate could ever destroy the hope that love brings to people. we have been changed…all of us. whether we feel it in most open and profound ways or experience it subtly…we feel how important love is, how fragile life can really be and how very critical it is to meet hate and transform it inside ourselves into love. to take the most dire of times and find the hope.

so on this anniversary day, here are just a few images of enduring love and hope…






  • Melanie Kitchen

    Thank you for expressing so eloquently and beautifully what we can overcome when we turn human tragedy into triumph!

when i was little i use to think wonder woman was real…and i wanted to be her so badly that it was all i ever thought about. i wanted the cool star crown, the wrist bands that deflected bullets, the golden lasso to make everyone tell me the truth, the perfect size 13 waist and, of course, the invisible airplane. you know the one she flew to camouflage herself even though the fact that the plane was invisible but she wasn’t didn’t seem to phase her much. actually wouldn’t that have looked weird seeing a person just flying around in the air in a seated position? but i’m digressing…

flash forward to the 80s and, as young teens, we were bombarded with images of strong powerful women. perfect, amazing women…doing…it…all! wearing power suits with puffed up shoulder pads and 18 inch stiletto heels, cradling a baby on her hip while simultaneously cooking up eggs in a frying pan for her man, putting a load of laundry in while on the phone sealing a multi-million dollar deal. all of this looking effortless and with perfect hair. we ALL wanted to be that kind of woman.

but then life gets real…

turns out it ain’t so perfect and it ain’t so pretty…and, as much as we would like to believe we can juggle two dozen balls in the air at the same time and not trip on those stilettos, very few {if any} of us can really pull it off. oh, we want you to think we can…but late at night, when the kids are in bed and the last client email has been tended to…we resort to the sweatpants, comfy puff, bad B movie and a whole bag of salt and vinegar chips to {putting it in PC terms} decompress. which really means have a mini-breakdown and wonder how in God’s creation are we going to muster the energy to do THAT all over again tomorrow!

well, short of a winter spent on bora bora languishing in a hammock, reading those {what are they called?} shades of gray books and drinking frosty pina coladas, i realized some things need to happen to stop the insanity…to find a way to have a more balanced life while still being able to be the best mom i can be, friend and family member i can be and provide the best to my clients as well…all without the panic of facing another hectic, gerbil-wheel day of life. oh, and to get off the nightly bag of chips that are making me break out like a teenager.  so, rachel bell photography is undergoing some changes that will come into effect right after labor day. perfectly timed, of course! here are a few of those changes:

i will now have structured working hours. i will be in studio and available wednesdays through saturdays extended hours {which means pretty much all day until i collapse!}. if i am away photographing a wedding or senior session, i will be sure to return your email, text, call or facebook message as soon as i get back. however, i will be turning off all technology sunday through tuesdays to dedicate my time to my children and be a whole, present part of their lives. if you contact me during those times, i will make sure to get back to you during my working days unless it is an emergency.

i will only be photographing weddings, engagement sessions and seniors from now on. this was a VERY difficult decision to come to but…all said…it is better to focus on what you do best then to try and spread yourself too thin. i wish i could be all things to everyone and, even now, this is hard to see in type. but, in the long run, i will do better by you when i am inspired, freshly rested, not rushed or trying to cram too much into an already hectic life. i will be happy to refer you to a number of extraordinary maternity, baby, family and children photographers if you need one. please just ask…

i will be limiting the number of weddings i shoot to 25 each year from now on. it is absolutely critical that i give you the best of me that i can, be fully on and focused for each couple i am blessed to share a wedding day with and to not lose the love i have for wedding photography by trying to do too many a year and then feeling like it becomes “work”. i love the joy in a wedding and all things leading up to your big day as well as afterwards. each wedding is genuine, unique to each couple and just wonderful. i never want to lose that zest!

finally, i have just filled my last high school senior session spot for september so that month is full and i only have two dates left for seniors who have later october school deadlines. currently i have wednesday, october 3rd and thursday, october 18th available. the rest of the month is full as well.


whew! that was a lot and some of the changes were beyond hard to make but i hope that, in the long run, they will balance my life better which, in turn, will help me be able to provide the best i can to all the people who are and who become a part of my life. i might not be wonder woman for real but this will allow me time to put on the crown, wrist bands and lasso my daughter made for me…and dream with her!


{life is about balance. the good and the bad. the highs and the lows. the pina and the colada } ellen degeneres

  • Stacie

    Good for you, Rachel! Some of those are HUGE changes and kudo’s to you for taking care of yourself and your family. Now… where will I go when I get preggo 🙂 xoxo

  • Alicia Cummings

    Oh Rachel – I am SO wishing now that I had you squeeze me in last fall for some family pictures!!! (darn it!!) I am totally confident you’ll be able to point me in the right direction of someone who can do it when the time comes.. I only work 2 days a week, and that seems crazy sometimes, so I truly respect your decision to focus your energy, unbelievable that you’ve done it this long!! Good for you!! 🙂

  • Sue Roop

    Good for you! The kiddos grow so fast! Enjoy:)

  • Elaine

    Women take on too much! Even at nearly 60 I still do it, but manage some “Me” time whenever I can. I have let many things go as well- often its housework! The healthiest thing you can do is set priorities and limitations and then stick to it! Good for you!

  • I’m so proud of you for focusing on what’s important. It’ll make a difference to your clients. Keep it up!

  • Krissy

    So happy for you, Rachel. Setting boundaries used to be one of my most difficult challenges and the guilt that would follow when I did set a boundary! You did Brianna’s senior pics 4 years ago and as she enters her senior year in college, I can say it all goes way too fast. Enjoy!!!

  • Marie Maloney

    Rachel – a hard decision to make but good for you! But I’m so glad that you took the family pictures before you made your decision. They are GREAT photos!! What a wonderful birthday present from my kids (they do grow up fast)! Looking forward to seeing you in November at the wedding (glad we got that scheduled too!)

  • Megan

    You are amazing at what you do Rachel, and now its time to slow down, and to take time for yourself and your family. Your not stopping what you love to do, your doing what you enjoy most, this way it allows you to have that time to relax and not feel so anxious all the time. You never know, you could always change your mind and switch things around in the future. Nothing is set in stone : )


    I am very proud of you. Change is always challenging but with your devotion to your children and family, you will be fine and land on your feet. Those of us that realize change and prioritizing is important, I believe, are the ones that will get the most out of life…time and love…love to you my dear friend and nicely done. xox

  • Lynn H

    Congratulations, Rachel! I’m very, very happy for you. It takes wonder woman-like strength to put your foot down and say “enough!”. I hope your move inspires others to think about doing the same, even in small ways. ENJOY

  • Sarabinh


  • Molly Siegle

    You go girl! I love it. Balance is key. Thoroughly enjoy more time with family! It’s what life is all about. xoxo, Molly

  • Good for you !!!! I am soo happy for you and your decision to balance your time…Family first is the key…your doing the right thing…Congrats luv your work..

  • Rachel

    Before I had kids, a wise friend told me that as a working mother, you’re stretched between two worlds – your family and your work – and the balancing act will inevitably leave you questioning your effectiveness in both worlds! I have thought of this often as I’ve struggled to set limits and find my own balance over the last several years. While I have only known you to be completely effective in both worlds, I commend you for taking clear steps to tackle the balance issue head-on!

  • Michelle Young

    You are such a beautiful person! Recently I’ve been struggling with finding the balance between friends, family, work and just ‘me’ time and it’s a very hard thing to do. I always feel sad when I have to tell somebody ‘no’ but I think I let myself down more than other people when I realize it’s my sanity that I’ve sacrificed. Congratulations on putting your foot down and setting up some boundaries for yourself! Just last night I was sitting on my couch all stressed out and stuffing my face with chips and the next time I do that, I’m going to try and remember your words and fight for my priorities. 🙂

  • Gwen

    Your work decisions make a lot of sense. Best wishes on it all going smoother. I liked your blog; as someone who has chosen a very full-time career, (50-60 hr. weeks now), but no kids, I often wonder how women with kids do it all. It takes most of my time to work and keep the house running, and take care of my animals, and I don’t even cook. I recently read an article by Uma Thurman on the myth of doing it all, and her words resonated. She said she decided she’d have to live with the outcome of whatever she decided to skimp on, and couldn’t live with doing less for her kids.

  • Gwen

    And lest anyone think I work at 3:30am, it is actually 8:30 pm here! Not sure where that time stamp came from!

  • Val

    Good for you Rachel! I can feel the anguish you went through to make that decision just by reading your words. Among many other things, you are a great writer! Now that you have made the decision to strive for more balance, I hope you will find peace. There will always be more weddings, and family events to shoot (boy I wish I hadn’t stalled on scheduling one more family photo shoot), but your family will only be as it is once. Enjoy every moment…for they are gone way to soon! Best wishes!

with all the travel i do around the world, year-round, there is no vacation more precious to me than this one week back home with my family in new jersey. no, it’s not the most exotic place on the earth and, yes, i have heard enough “what exit?” jokes to last me a lifetime, we do say the word “mawl” and some people still have very big hair but i love home and going back to my roots…not the ones that need coloring but the best kind of roots there is…la famiglia.

tomorrow i leave for home with my children and get to stay at the lake that 4 generations now have enjoyed. i have been strictly instructed by them to “not even think about bringing any work, or “puters” or anything”…so i’m packing it all up and will return to the rest of the world on monday, july 30th. until then, we will be creating new memories of our own.

here’s one frame to leave you with…

  • Rebekah

    I’m jealous you guys get to visit home, if only for a little bit. Enjoy the lake, and the much needed relaxation time.

  • rachel

    Hey Bekah! Miss you a ton and hope we can get together on one of your stateside visits! If not…when do you want to get together in Bali? I’m game! 🙂

  • SO TRUE. It’s so important to turn off phone & computers and come back to Earth. Family and friends are the most important thing in this world, and it’s easy to put them on the back burner with the hustle & bustle in the world. Enjoy your vacation. You SO deserve it. xoxo


    I can remember the days before cell phones, computers, etc…the days of running around in the fields and building cabins in the backyard…watching my mother in the vegetable garden or having the laundry out to dry…simple and beautiful…I look forward to a week with the children when I can feel that way again. Enjoy your week and your family…my mother always said, “life is not a rehearsal Meredith…live every moment as if it were your last”. Go be free. xox

so, it’s the eve of my birthday and i’m not quite sure how to feel about it all. it’s quiet, the kids are all in bed, the dog is snoring at my feet and i’m stuffing my face with chocolate covered caramels trying to decide how i feel about being “of a certain age”. my joints ache a little bit more, i let off a resounding loud sigh of relief every time i get into bed at the end of a long day and i have honestly considered that botox might not be all that bad…if i wasn’t afraid of long needles lunging at my face and injecting me with botulism. hmmm…maybe not!

but, regardless, tomorrow, at 6:05 am, i will be one year older and, supposedly, wiser. not sure about the wiser part but i am richer in life for all the experiences i have had. some unforgettable and breath-taking and some heartbreak…but all necessary and part of what makes me the person i am right here, right at this moment. without all of the steps in this journey, life would be vastly different and it is mind-boggling to imagine that. i am grateful for so many things and one is that i took a chance and followed my passion in photography. it was a huge leap of faith to step off the cliff and not know if i would crash and burn or if the wind would catch the wings of the glider and make it all air born. i am grateful it has been the latter…

what a crazy, exhilarating, wonderful ride it has been so far. and i wouldn’t trade it for the world. yes, i work like a mad-woman. yes, there is no room to become complacent. yes, life is a constant balancing act of meeting as many people’s needs as i can. yes, i have earned each and every one of my wrinkles. but to go to my “job” and know that, on any given day, i get the blessing of being part of what is best about humanity…love, new life, family, friends, laughter…pure, from the soul, joy…

well, there really are no words. it all just makes my heart sing.


  • Stephanie H

    What a wonderful picture of ultimate pre-birthday celebration relaxation feeling.. Well, I just wanted to say (as I’m sure all of the couples you have photographed in the past would agree) that we are really blessed and thrilled that you decided to follow your passion of photography. You are a joy to work with and capture the heart of emotions with such ease! Have a happy birthday, Rachel 🙂

  • Mac

    Hi Rach – Happy Birthday! Einstein’s Theory tells us that the faster an object moves the more time slows down for it. Since your average motion on any given day is much greater than those around you, you have therefore remained younger than other people of your calendar age.

    Love, Mac

  • Elaine

    You are the kind of person so many people should try to be- living life- going for the gusto- appreciating all the moments, good or bad for what they bring to your life. You aren’t just along for the ride!

    Happy Birthday!

  • Colleen

    Happy birthday Rachel!

    You are such an amazing writer – I always have such a fun time reading your blog and getting a glimpse into how you are feeling and what you are thinking. You describe your feelings in such a way that everyone can relate. You are very inspiring.

    I hope that you have a fabulous birthday filled with love, family and laughter. Enjoy your day!

  • Megan M

    You always know how to say it best Rachel, It always comes from your heart. Happy Birthday and keep living life to the fullest!

  • Phyllis

    Well, congratulations for the older and wiser of it all! Enjoy your next trip around the sun, m’dear. And take the requisite time to enjoy the moments as you go. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RACHEL!

my son has just had his heart broken for the first time. listening to him talk about how the girl he has had a crush on for years has found someone else just makes my heart break right alongside him. i know that pain well…we all know it well. even at my ripe “old” age i can still remember my first crush.

his name was david fox, my fourth grade classmate. he was the son of a surgeon and they lived in this obscenely large mansion (i aimed high) in the best part of town. i decided, one day, that i would profess my undying love for david in a note which quite clearly stated my feelings. i was terrified as I folded up the words “i like you. do you like me too?” and passed it to him in the next row. wait! he’s writing down something on the note! i could hardly contain myself and i imagined what his words would be. when it arrived, I carefully unfolded the paper and, with all the hope of a 10 year old lovesick girl, read the words “no. leave me alone!”


this i carried in my heart for a long time to come and feared ever putting myself out there again. i learned the wrong lesson that day. i learned to doubt myself and to think there was something wrong with the person i was…that i wasn’t good enough.

but that was so far from the truth…

so this is what i talked to my son about and this is what I hope will be what he learns about himself:

no one, not a single soul on this planet determines your self worth. you have to believe in yourself first and you have to love yourself enough to know that you are a beautiful person inside and out. and when you truly know that about yourself, then your goodness will radiate out to the world.

never give up because of fear. fear of rejection, fear of looking like a fool, fear of life…never, ever, ever give up! keep putting yourself out there because, when we are old and look back on our lives, we will regret all the words never spoken and the chances never taken…but we will never regret having tried and having given our heart openly and freely.

believe in love and don’t let life or other people who come and go in our lives jade you. love, in all its forms is pure and true…and free to give. don’t be stingy with your love and always make sure people you love know it. even if it might be met with rejection, it is far better to have tried and failed than to have run from fear of getting hurt. you will get hurt and love may not always unfold as you wish. you may trust people with parts of your heart and be hurt when they don’t take good care of it. you may face all these things…

…but that makes it so much sweeter and more powerful when you do find true love because you will know, it is real, it is pure and you are loved for all you are…unconditionally, openly and without reserve.

believe in love…


  • Mac

    Rach – I can’t help thinking how proud your mom would be – not just of your great blog (and it is), but of how you echo her intense belief in loving others without pretense or reservation, and how happy that you are passing that on to the kids.
    You cannot give Connor a better gift than to teach him to believe in himself and his self worth and to make it the center of his being – you’re right that all love flows from it, both ways, out and in. Nothing and noone have the right (or real ability) to take it from you – only you can do that by not fighting for who you are.
    Tell Connor that I also had my first lost love episode at just about his age – her name was Carol Ann and you never do quite forget – but you do survive. Soon after that I decided that it was more her lose than mine (even tho I was very jealous of Michael Mahoney, the boy she started going with – she later dumped him and he and I became friends.) And she wasn’t a vixen – just very pretty and very popular – she and I stayed friends too.
    For future life lessons it’s also important that he learns how to accept love when it is offered, or if he doesn’t have mutual feelings, how to decline without causing too much pain.
    Also, and here your thinking and mine may not exactly agree, he should learn circumspection – not to the degree of not acting, but in trying to get a sense of who the other person is and whether there is some real basis of compatibility (like that’s easy when a pretty face is smiling at you!) But some measure of self-preservation is required (by evolution if not by common sense.)
    Anyway, the blog is a great idea.

  • Mac

    P.S. – Re my last comment: Once you do get that sense, even if it makes you a little uncomfortable or doubtful, then you pull out all the stops and show how you feel – because even if it doesn’t work out exactly as you hoped, you’ll know that you’re honesty was worth it and you’ll still be whole.

    NOTE: The time stamp on these comments is off by about 4 hours (it’s 6:52 now.)

  • Meredith Bradley Bickford

    Your writing and reflection is so beautiful. I have watched as others have had their heart broken, as they have broken others and I too have loved and lost. I’m afraid watching my children get their little hearts broken will be very difficult but I also kno from experience, that this kind of hurt makes us stronger. Like you my dear friend, I believe in love and because of that continued faith and hope…I have found it-thank you for your amazing blog…I look forward to many more.

  • Aunt Edna

    Your writing is beautiful and very thought provoking. Thank you so much for sharing it with me. I know we don’t see each other, but I love to hear what is going on with your family. This blog shows me what a remarkable insight you have on life. My heart breaks for you son, but hopefully your words helped him understand what love and life is about. You are truly a extraordinary parent. I agree with Mac, your mom would be so proud of you.