Slowing down, when life give you an opportunity

Written and Photography by Monica Lopez / Model: Hannah Rangel

submitted piece to Bella Grace Magazine

It’s nice when you get a chance to stop and take life in, sometimes it can look like a set back; unemployment, or even an accomplishment; the day after graduating school, or sometimes it’s something beyond your control.

Last January, I wasn’t feeling well , I left work early to  see the doctor. After the medical check up the nurse walked in casually and said, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant”. I sat there trying to picture what my life would look like with a baby. I’ve always been a free spirit, traveling around the world, or spending all day at the office. My husband and I been married for two years, and we talked about having a baby all the time, he would warn me how much our life would change.

Every month I was psychically changing, and so was my life. I couldn’t move as fast as I once did, my productivity suffered as I slept most of the day. I could no longer focus reading, multitasking on my phone made me nauseated. I was forced to slow down.

The pace of my fast food, running out the door, grabbing a coffee  and climbing towards success  was on pause. Once my daughter was born my focus was on taking care of her. I was lucky if I was able to get out of the house. I no longer had the luxury of spending hours in front of the computer making things, the moment I would start a project she would wake up from her nap. When it was time to go back to work, I had the expectations life would go back to normal, but my normal no longer existed. I couldn’t help and feel my new purpose in life was to take care of my daughter. It’s a decision that every new mom has to make whether she wants to work or stay home with the baby. To my own surprise,  I made the decision to resign and be a full time mom.
After a few months at home, I started to see someone else in the mirror looking back at me.  I no longer had a title with a team to lead to make me feel special. My inbox was zero and days would go by without receiving a text messages.

I wondered what else could I do with this new pace of life. I now had time to give attention to the things I always said I’m too busy for. I started to ask myself questions; What do I enjoy doing? How can I help others? What do I want to do with my creativity?  For the first time in my adult life, I could use my skills of photography, and producing videos for the pure enjoyment.

When I would take my daughter to the park, I would take my camera with me and take photos of the trees.  I would film my daughter when my husband and I would take her out for walks and edit videos about her. When she was busy playing with her toys, I started to spend time writing on my blog.  After her bath, we would discover new stories as we read together. Because I was home all day and trying to save money I had to learn how to cook healthy food for my daughter and us. I also had to think of new things to do as entertainment now that I was on a written budget. I started to scrap book and document every month. I returned to my love of journaling and writing about the things I’ve learned.

My daughter gave me the gift of slowing down.  I was discovering how passionate I am about creativity and the role it plays in our health.

My life is completely different from a year ago. My daughter is growing so fast and I’m able to take the time to be with her, teaching and playing with her everyday. She is seeing the world for the first time and showing me how to the same. 

I needed to lose myself in order to start all over and rediscover who I now am. My younger self never thought this far, now that I am living it, I’m not sure where to go from here. My story isn’t done. Life has given me the opportunity to create adventures I haven’t even dreamt of.


Bellagrace is a magazine written by its readers. The magazine accepts articles and photography submissions so I wanted to adventure out and tell the story of my transition to a baby centered world while staying creative.

Behind the scenes photos:

Lessons from a baby

I’ve always been a person who tries to learn lessons from life around me. It’s probably years of Sunday school classes and trying to find the lesson in the Bible stories.

I just started feeding my daughter, Portland solid foods. It’s been fun seeing her facial reactions to different vegetables and fruit. Her first reaction is usually unsure if she likes the new taste, by the second bite she is smiling big and wants more fast. She often tries to grab the spoon and put more in her mouth by herself. She once was so excited, she grabbed the small cup I was feeding her from and tried to eat it. I laughed and said, “You can’t eat the whole thing at once!” When I said it, I stopped and laughed to myself, so that’s what I’m trying to do! When it comes to all the new dreams and ideas I’m having, I’m trying to do everything at once. For the past month, I’ve been enjoying being a mom full time and being creative on the side whenever I get the chance. I started writing more here and making YouTube videos weekly. As I’m pouring my extra time into these areas I’m waiting like… ok when is this going to pay off? In other words, I’m trying to eat the cup just like my little girl. It doesn’t work that way, it’s one small bite at a time.

From the moment I learned how to do graphic design all the way to graduating as an editor, I’ve intern and got hired to help other people build their vision. I didn’t mind, since at 22 I didn’t really have one myself. It’s easier to help others build theirs. When it comes to my dreams, I’m often changing my mind on how to go about it, or ask the question; is it worth the risk? Rediscovering my creativity and refining new dreams has become a process in which I am learning new things about myself.

I guess if anything, my daughter is teaching me to enjoy the experience of life.

Thank you to those who enjoy my post and liking them, I hope you are also learning with me new things about life and are encouraged.

Middle of No Where

I’ve always wondered why people fled the city life to go hang out in the middle of no where for their vacations. Every paid vacation from work is like fine gold, every moment must be used to have the highest level of fun and inspiration. My ideal vacation is to travel thousands of miles away to a foreign land, to escape my culture and world and to have some new experiences. This summer I was invited to join Gus family on their family camping vacation.

Though this sounds like a classic plot set up for a girlfriend to be pranked on by the family who doesn’t really approve, (Parent Trap and every episode of a 90’s sitcom.) I knew I had to be open to try new things, I wanted to show I could have a good time away from the city life.

I was looking forward to learning how to fish. At first, I was bothered to kill a fish in order to eat it, but my boyfriend’s Native American roots taught me the relationship between nature and man. The fish was giving it’s life in order to sustain mine. The fish could feel everything I was feeling through the line, being relaxed and developing a connection with nature, would attract the fish to bite. The beautiful mountains and lake was office for the day.

We spent the day at the lake, fishing, catching fish, getting excited and cheering each other on. I snapped a few photos, but because I had no phone service, I was forced to put it on airplane mood and focus on getting dinner. By the end of the day I caught my first fish and Gus showed off by catching the largest fish out of all of us. I am now a fisherman!

In the evening when the normal routine is to relax and watch some television, or youtube, we were left with no options than to talk to each other. We made a fire and talked about faith, our careers, and family life. It was a nice bonding experiences to get to know Gus’ family. I saw familiar mannerisms of Gus all though out his family. It was fascinating to see parts of him in his parents and brother. This was his tribe, and I was an outsider being allowed in.

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I began to wonder about the women through out history who had to leave their families in order to marry. How hard it must have been for them to serve a new family, always daydreaming about the family they left behind.

Coming home, I was thankful for the time spent away from my world, but I was also very happy to return to my family and share my adventures with them. I still find myself putting my phone on airplane mode, chances are, whatever it is.. it can wait.

The Importance of Being Prepared

When I think about the photoshoots I’ve done in the past, the ones that were the most stressful where the ones I took getting prepared lightly. Usually this would happen after I hit a home run with a shoot, I’d just grab my camera bag with not many thoughts about preparing for the shoot. A number of problems never fail to come up during a shoot; I didn’t charge the battery, the batteries in the flash decided to give out by the third photo taken, the location agreed upon was closed, a child starts crying for no reason, all of these things happen but preparing for them is the game changer to master.

Every mistake I’ve made or failed to be ready for, I add it on my mental list of preparation.

1. Work out money and the detail before your shoot. Land on an agreement of prints, photo count, location, and so forth. What will help you with this is to pretend you are looking for a photographer in your area, research and see what the market is like. Then decided what is fair for your time and talent.

2. Charge all the batteries the night before, even if you think they are charged enough.

3. Clear all memory cards, capture any photos on it before you head out, even a few images on a card can impact your ability to get that final shot. You don’t want to stand there with your clients in front of you deleting images to make room.

4. Contact the location you are going to shoot at, get open time and ask if they don’t mind if you take photos. There have been times I failed to do this and the place was closed, and another time we had to pay $50 to take photos. That is something I could have added to the price.

5. Contact the client days before, exchanging contact mobile phone numbers, location address and time. Be prepared to show up earlier.

6. Communicate the payment for your service is due the day of the event. Many time’s I’ve said, “Don’t worry pay me later”, only to be paid months and months later, and awkward conversations of where’s my money. People forget and move on, get paid now.

7. Look up examples on line of the shoot you’re going to do. Of course you want to have your own style but chances are your clients have been on Pinterest and now have “this” idea of the photos they want. Also, this will help you with setting up your shots.

8. Gas up the car, clear your calendar. Avoid booking two photoshoots in a day. Its overwhelming and the second one will pay and be sloppy.

9. Book your appointment based on the best lightning of the season, or if the location is shaded anytime works best. The most visual mistake is shadows or harsh sunlight.

10. Do as much as you can to make the process easy for your client, do most of the work as possible. They are not only paying for photos but a service. Go beyond the agreement if it doesn’t hurt you. You want them to tell there friends about you, and you want to become their family photographer. What an honor. Or better yet, you want a photo you took to become their Facebook profile picture. That’s the greatest honor for a photographer of them all.

Thanksgiving with the Family

The holidays require a lot of energy – of course the setting up, cooking and so on, but the talking seems to be the most challenging. Just being in the same room with other people takes work. Of course, I often get stuck in my head and yes…I am an introvert.

Have you seen that youtube video of The Wonder Years where the narration is taken out? Kevin is even more awkward without the voice. He stands there trying to come up with a respond to his mother’s questions. Sometimes I feel like that. The space between the question and my final answer has a gap of silence. I try to give a simple, not giving away too much information statement. I do admit, sometimes my face gives away my answer and I am forced to be honest, which I sigh in relief.

I started to think about the person I am in my head, and the person I project to the world. I wonder if I will ever allow the world to really know me, to know the unedited me. When you think about it, we have our thoughts, adjust them accordingly and then deliver. Of course this has taken us decades to master.

When we go through tough seasons, this skill seem to weaken. How can I be my true authentic self without acting like a rude teenager? I guess the real me is indeed quite and observant. To me, there is more to be said that interest me than words.

I can recall memories pretty well, it’s what I was thinking that I remember most. The random conversation I have inside my head, the song that was playing in the background, the mood I was feeling, and the way the lighting was casting shadows. It’s like I’m watching the movie of my life. Its a gift but if not taken care of well, it can cause me to miss out on whats in front of me -People, family, and future memories that I will need to bring me comfort when life changes. One thing I know, is that time seems to travel faster than the year before.

I might be the artsy girl at the family gatherings who hides behind her camera, but I know the moment I am seeing will soon fade away. The holidays remind me to enjoy the company of people around me.

The Race is Over

As I was preparing my dinner Wednesday night, I noticed my dad was even more quiet than usual. As he laid on the living room couch I asked him how his day was. He said it was okay but I could tell something was bothering him. My mom walked in to the room and said, “They gave grandpa a few days to live.” My heart dropped as I knew the time had finally come.
My grandfather is our last connection to our Mexican heritage, language and history. He was always so private, we would learn a small piece of his life every time we visit. There was still so much I never got to ask him.
I was nervous to see my grandpa sick, he had always been a strong solid  man, depending on no one. He lived alone for years and even drove himself to doctors appointments. If there was one thing I knew, my grandpa didn’t like to be fussed over.
When we walked in to the room my grandpa was in, the first thing I noticed was the color of his skin. I had never seen it so pale. He was asleep over drugged with medicine for the pain. The more I saw him struggling to live I tried to hide my tears from my dad.
It seemed we were all shocked at how fast his body shut down. Just a month ago we were at my grandpas house watching tv. Now we were here waiting for him to go. I wasn’t sure how to respond. My uncle told us earlier that morning, my grandpa took a walk outside and said, “The race is over.”
When I heard that, I took a deep breath, looked at my grandpa about to leave earth and knew he was right. As my dad played my grandpas favorite album, I pictured my grandpa as a young man in Mexico, excited to make his trip to California for work. I imaged the going away party his family gave him. Leaving at sunset to the bus station. Daydreaming of a new life.
I got up from my chair, hugged him and whispered in his ear, “I’ll miss visiting you grandpa, I love you, good bye.” I walked away allowing my dad to talk to his father. When we left the house, I knew that was the last time I would see him. My mom shared with me when my dad told his dad about the Lord and how God changed his life. That day he accepted Christ. I was comforted to know my grandpa made his peace with God.
The following day, I returned from work with the news that my grandpa took his final breath. The only thought I had was, life really does happen fast.

My grandpa picked grapes for a living to support his family. Because of him, he taught my dad to work hard, and because of my dad I’ve learned to finish the race well. I always felt bad because I never learned Spanish or I never paid attention to Mexican holidays, but true heritage is wisdom and the legacy he passed on to me, the next generation of Mexican Americans.

I’m grateful for the heritage my grandfather left me. I’ll miss him.

What heritage do you wish to pass?

Good-bye Uncle

When it comes down to it, it’s the small insignificant moments we appreciate most about life. Yesterday, I sat and listened to my father speak at my uncle’s memorial. He told stories of looking for something to eat after they had partied together, he remembered when he lent his little brother his car when they were teenagers and the first time he held his hand in the hospital a week ago. I couldn’t help but release my own tears for a life gone. Looking at my uncle David’s old photos made me miss a man I hardly knew. He was a person who came in and out of the scene of family visits or conversations.
When I looked around the room, I saw people who resemble myself, who shared the Briano last name, and whose personality were familiar. It was odd to feel close but yet still strangers. This was my tribe and I hardly knew anyone. My dad talked about forgiveness and always being family not matter what happens.
Hearing my family members talk about my uncle David made me see we shared a lot of the same memories. His easy-going personality, and smile he gave to the world daily.

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After the service the mortuary owner hosted a dinner for us outside. The owner said he wanted us to spend time together and to share stories of David’s life with one another. It was nice re-meeting everyone. “Hi, remember we use to fight over Barbies?” my cousin and I said to each other. “I remember you as a baby!” and “Wait, which sister are you?” Someone yelled to the crowd to gather around and take some photos. We all laughed as we gathered around, already teasing one another for their height or someone for hiding in the back row. As I snap my photo of my uncles I thought how much David would have loved to have been here. He would have really loved this party we are having for him. When I showed my photo to my mom she said, “wait someone is missing….”


Its uncle David who is missing. My dad reminded us that towards the end of my uncle’s life that he was seeking God. He had always said no to prayers and church but the last few months of his life he opened his heart up. The family was reminded that one day we shall see him again, healthy, young and once again see his smile. And for now, we have each other. As one of my twitter friends advised me when losing a love one, just being there for one another can help a great deal.

The Images of Life

Life can happen so fast, that even a 2,000 camera can miss it. The past few months I’ve been enjoying my camera phone. When I was 8 years old I use to say, “I wish I could take as many photos as I wanted, to have unlimited film!” Now many years later, I am living that reality, minus the film. The camera phone isn’t the best quality to print but I can’t deny the joy of being able to capture the simple moments of life and sharing them right away.

Maybe this is my way of rediscovering my childhood love of photo taking. If anything this will help me see how beautiful life is and be thankful for all I have.


Photos: Christmas Time

For some reason, our culture treats the word, “Christmas” like its a bad word, covering it with a generic, “Happy Holidays” greeting. I find it strange since they advertise aggressively all of November and December for the day they aren’t even allowed to say. And maybe that’s okay, since they don’t know the meaning of Christmas anyway.

Regardless what one’s feeling is about Christmas, whether you believe in Christ or not, the gift of family and love is freely given to those who open their hearts to it. To forgive, to mend, to welcome and to share a beautiful holiday where we remember the greatest gift of all that was given to humanity. A baby born in Bethlehem. Emmanuel. God with us.

Christmas Day – My Grandpa’s house.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas!



Pics: Christmas Tree Farm

The best part of Christmas is preparing for it. Last year I was so busy that I didn’t take the time to enjoy the season. I decided this year to start Christmas early. My family and I went to a tree farm for the first time to get a fresh tree.

It was exciting checking out all the different trees, looking for the perfect one for our house. Well we’re looking at tree a horse started to neigh. We stop and hung out with him for a while.

As we walked around we came across their petting zoo. I was so excited when I saw a pony and the pigs. The atmosphere was so peaceful.

Going to the tree farm early allowed us to get the most beautiful tree on the lot. When they put the tree in the truck and the smell of the pine tree filled the air it reminded me to spend time with my family more. To create new traditions and to create moments.

Here is a short video I created. You’ll get to hear the horse.

Photos: Capturing the Everydays

My favorite pictures to take are of my nephews. I love watching them play and interact with each other. They remind me of life’s greatest joy, having each other. When I arrived at my sister’s house I told David I was there to play and visit with him and Jacob (instead of using the babysitting term.) They welcomed me with open arms and allowed me in their world.

Its amazing when I think about the days when my sisters and I use to play together.  Time passes by so fast, if we don’t take the time to stop and notice, soon, the years would have passed by. Good thing for photos and video, they help us remember what we’ll probably forget. They capture the everydays.

Holiday Photos with a New Camera

I saved up this year to buy a fancy point and shoot camera, the Nikon CoolPix P300. As a photographer, no point and shoot camera will ever be good enough but what makes it special, are the people in the pictures.

Here are my holiday photos.

The drive home from Big Bear I told my friend, “Don’t fall in love what you don’t have but what you already do.” Pictures help us see the real beauty in life… Friends and Family.

Happy New Years.

Audio: Thoughts Behind the Music

I asked my cousin Isaiah to do an interview with me. I wasn’t sure what we were going to talk about but I knew it was going to be something interesting. To my surprise we ended up talking about music. So many times we hear of success stories from the finish line, but what about the beginning days, the days where love is the fuel. I hope you are inspired as you listen to, “Thoughts Behind the Music.”


Check out more of Isaiah’s music on and add him on twitter.

Audio: Advice to a New Editor

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Duration 20 minutes (Audio doesn’t work on mobiles)

Audio Notes:

After Effects – Motion Graphics & Effects – Free Basic Training

Final Cut Pro – Video Editing software – Paid Basic Training

Ask yourself: What is your goal?

Learning software and try out what you want to do.

Be honest with yourself on what you really want to do.

Best experiences: Volunteering & Interning

After Effect example video

Movie Scene Project Blog

Learn by doing.

School is good if you can, if not put yourself in your own school.

READ AND DO. Book list blog & After Effects

Give yourself projects; You’ll learn the language of video, pace, time management, learn from mistakes.

Learn from failure. It will happen, learn how to grow from it.

Challenge yourself, “Have I improved?”

Have a platform where you can share your work.

Success comes by working hard.

When your working hard on something you love, it doesn’t feel like work at all.

Blog: My vintage baby (my nephew)

Video of my nephew visiting my grandpa.

Don’t get caught up making stuff for money, money will come, if you love doing what you do people will see that and hire you to do it.

A paid shoots

The important part is knowing what you’re doing.

Using what you have.

Learn the fundamentals on how to tell a story. Book: Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch

Free Mpeg Stream clip download

Freelance: ask, “Do you have a budget for this?” ask yourself, “What is my time worth?”

Volunteering and interning: your pay is the experiences.

Create projects that you want to get hired to do.

People will pay you to do what they already know you can do, they don’t want to pay for your experiment they want to pay for a guaranteed product.

Put yourself in your own school, read books, give yourself projects and deadlines.

Learn how to manage others: communication is key, don’t be afraid to ask for help, to correct, to critique.

Do it all in love for the greatness of the team. The goal is to get things done, by the deadline.

PC: After Effects & Premiere.

Mac: After Effects & Final Cut Pro. (Editing for Film: Avid)

You need the experiences, you need to prove what you can do.

Editing is a lot like life, you’re putting it together.

Get a journal: write projects and creative ideas.

Use your creative muscle. – Photography class on line

**share your work with me**

Life is beautiful and I desire to share that with everyone… awwww 🙂

Hope this helped. Feel free to ask any questions that you might have.

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Audio: Old Family Photos

audio player not available for mobiles


Photo 1 – My Grandfather

Photo 2 – The Funeral

Photo 3 – The Older Sister

Photo 4 – Baby Boomer Generation (my mom: the fourth child)

Photo 5 – I Felt Sorry for Him

Story – The Dishes (my mom: the top left)

What Did She Teach You?

What Do You Stay About Family? (my mom: the second child on the bottom)

What Happened When She Died?

What Would You Say To Your Grandchildren? (photo: older brother)

Video: The Story of a Fallen Hero

The past few months I have been working on a special project for a family from my church. They asked me to create a video about the life of their son.

I don’t do very many side video projects because the time it takes but when the father asked me, I could see it in his eyes that this project was very important. We then began to work together on a script and arrange interviews.

As I came to the end of editing the video, I realized that the men and women who sign up for the military enter into a whole different reality. They sacrifice their lives to fight for freedom and for the safety of Americans.  Raymond’s life displayed passion for the service and love for his friends and family.

Now when I hear of soldiers dying overseas, I think of Raymond and what their family have been though. It was an honor to tell Raymond’s story.

The video is 20 minutes. Feel free to share your thoughts.
This video was created for the Murphy Family.


Interviews, filming, video editing, audio recording:  Monica Briano
Script: Monica Briano & Paul Murphy
Voice over: Jamaal Brown
War details and family footage provided by : Paul Murphy
Various War and News clips: Youtube sources
Soundtrack: Halo 3 & Clint Mansell

Jacob, The Listener

Months before my sister got pregnant with her second son I had a dream of him. I was carrying him on my back like the Native American women and taking care of him. In the dream I remembered thinking, “He is different, he is deep.” I woke up excited for this baby boy to exist. She soon announced she was pregnant and gave birth to him earlier this year.

Today I was spending time with Jacob and discovered he is a great listener. My dream was right, he was different. He is five months and I can already tell. We went outside to enjoy the fresh air and I found myself talking to him about all sorts of things. I told him about Central Park in New York, the streets of Sydney and how I loved it there but missed the family. I held on to his little hand and told him about the season change and the joy of Summer. I later wondered how he was able to get me talking like this. When his older brother, David was a baby, I never knew what to talk about. David would just look at me and make me feel so dumb. haha.

Jacob smiles every time I kiss him and even laughs at my jokes. He also doesn’t mind watching me edit on my computer. Call me crazy, but Jacob is one of the coolest people I know. I am thankful to be a part of his life.