Grit & Grace: Jessica Spong

"I didn’t set out to be a single parent, but it’s where life brought me, so I’ve had to rise to the occasion. It can be very hard, but it’s rewarding. I get to tuck my kids in every night and say I love you; this is the biggest blessing in my life. While I have an incredible support system filled with family, friends, and coworkers, I am the one constant in my children’s lives. It can be overwhelming but also amazing. My goal is to teach my children compassion for others, always helping those that are weaker or in need. I want to instill in them
the same values that my parents instilled in me – love for others and love for God.

Professionally, I support families whose children are having some type of mental health crisis. Much of the time this is the hardest thing that these families have been through... watching your child struggle with this type of challenge can be heartbreaking. Having a loved one that has struggled with mental illness makes me uniquely qualified to support the families I work with. I find that sometimes parents just want to hear that they are doing right by their children, that they are doing a good job being a parent. I’m able to give them hope and nothing is better than that.

I have learned that no matter your circumstance, socioeconomic status, family structure, education level, or what your own upbringing was like – there is so much guilt that comes along with being a parent. We all judge ourselves for our shortcomings and have a difficult time seeing our strengths and what we are doing right. No matter how short the time I spend with the families I work with, it is an honor to be a part of their journey."

Jessica is a Family Partner at Lahey Health Behavioral Services.

 

 

Grit & Grace: Anjali Chitre

"I am the daughter of immigrants from India who came to this country in 1972 in search of opportunity. My parents worked hard to create a life here, and to provide their children with a strong education and opportunity for success. I grew up watching my mother juggle a demanding career as a physician, two children, and a culturally traditional marriage. My mother is one of nine siblings. Her older sisters were married at ages 14 and 16, respectively, and each had between five and six children. When my mother reached a suitable age for marriage in India, she refused and insisted that she be allowed to pursue higher education. Her parents refused to support her but her grandfather allowed her to move in with him to attend college and medical school. I am
most proud of her ambition and desire for independence. Having had this role model in my life, being a working mother has always been my personal expectation of myself.


Coming from a family of doctors, law school was not on my radar screen at all. My family was not initially supportive of pursuing a law degree as they were unfamiliar with what was required and the job prospects. I basically had to forge my own way with it, initially without their support, and prove to them that I could be successful in a field that they and not many of their friends knew much about. After working at a large law firm in Boston, where I had my first child, I moved to the in-house legal department at John Hancock. I work primarily in the Commercial Real Estate space which is dominated by white men. There are still many moments of self-doubt, but I remind myself of the importance of women being present, heard, and respected, and that keeps me forging ahead. I want my two daughters to know that they can be anything they want to be, and no one can tell them otherwise."

Anjali Chitre is Managing Director & Senior Counsel, North American Investment Law at John Hancock

 

 

Grit & Grace: Annika Johnson McKenna

"I am a second generation Silversmith. My mother, Carolyn Johnson, is a scrimshaw and watercolor artist. My father Robert F. Johnson is a master silver and gold smith.


From an early age, I loved looking at rocks. As a kid, I would come home with pockets full of them! Some of my earliest memories are of creating jewelry along with my family in our studio. My father is the biggest influence in my life. Both artistically, and personally he gives more of himself than anyone I know. My fascination with nature has continued to this day. Whether it’s fall foliage, the shape of a small stone, or the unique color of a piece of sea glass, I am constantly inspired by the natural world around me.


I am blessed with the ability to do what I love. Since silversmithing is traditionally a man’s artistic medium, I’m honored to represent women in this role. I love connecting with people and seeing something I made bring them happiness. My customers are like family; I look forward to seeing every year."

Annika is the Owner and Founder of SeaSalt Designs

Grit & Grace: Anne Brainard

"I have a bumper sticker on my bathroom mirror that reads, “Be a New Orleanian, wherever you are”. I live by that creed, happily sharing the love & unique culture of my hometown at any opportunity. MOJO Coffee is a way for me to share that love. For years, I used to dole out shots and cups of my New Orleans cold brewed “happy juice” at North Shore volunteer events just for fun. Many people encouraged me to bottle and sell it, saying it was the best coffee/elixir they had ever tasted. After researching the beverage industry (and the ready-to-drink coffee market in particular), I realized there was a huge opportunity. I saw a need, and thanks to the enthusiasm and encouragement of so many friends and family members – and my belief in my cold brewed hooch – I decided to go for it, to try to fill that need. I launched MOJO in 2011, selling cups and mason jars of MOJO at local farmers’ markets and have never looked back.


It’s all inspired by my roots. My dad was an entrepreneur, a gifted chef and restaurateur who taught me the importance of eating and drinking well. He built and ran several restaurants in New Orleans. Like his father, he was a master entertainer, able to charm customers while they dined. My mother was an equally inspirational role model. She worked in Washington, D.C. at the forefront of the environmental movement. She traveled the globe doing what she could to make the world a better place. Both of them have influenced me greatly in terms of dedication, hard work and following your dreams and convictions.


From my perspective, being a female in a male dominated industry is an advantage, a “hook”. It allows me to stand out from the crowd, to channel my inner Wonder Woman: to be fierce, fearless, and confident. We all have these super powers within us, we just have to recognize and tap into them. I want to do all that I can to make the world a better, happier, more positive place. To find the good in every situation. I want to inspire others to go after their dreams. To take risks, be bold. To choose to view fear & obstacles as opportunities to learn. One of my mantras is that “life is not a dress rehearsal”. Don’t sit on the sidelines waiting for something to happen. Make it happen!"


Annie is the Chief Blending Officer and MOJO Mama of MOJO Coffee

Grit & Grace: Kristine Ellis

"I am proud to be a firefighter, not a woman firefighter, but a firefighter. As individuals, we all have our strengths and challenges, and I am blessed to have always been treated as an equal in the Fire Department. But I recognize that being a woman in this field should be celebrated, and it’s great for our children to see a woman in any role she has selected for herself.


Accomplishing things, even simple things, is a great satisfaction to me. I am not someone who does “idle” well. My mom raised my sister and I single-handedly....always working hard at everything she did and still does. She is one to always step up and lend a hand when there is a need. I find my worth by being the best mom I can be. There is nothing that gives me greater joy than my son and family. Just before my son was born, I showed up for drill night and was totally and completely surprised by a baby shower! I was touched beyond words by their kindness and thoughtfulness. This was out of their wheelhouse and they hit it out of the park. Having my son “grow up” at the fire station with so many great friends and role models is pretty special.


I strive to be a good role model and to help others; I define my value in the things I do and what I can contribute. The things I value are happiness, kindness, and compassion. My passion in life is helping people and making things better."

 

North Shore Massachusetts Maternity Photography: The Scolas

In home photography sessions can be convenient and cozy, especially during the winter months. I loved meeting Emily and her husband, as they awaited the arrival of their newborn baby. Even the fur babies were ready for some photos! I consider it such an honor to document these milestone moments in people's lives. Stay tuned for a post featuring their precious baby girl!

Boston Massachusetts Newborn Photography: Flower Girls

I have known Carey and John for a long, long time. I met Carey at my first job out of college, back in 2001. When I found out late last summer that Carey was pregnant with twin girls, I yelped for joy! Carey and John are some of the most caring people you could ever meet. Carey is a school social worker and John manages a book store. Carey has loved gardening since the day I met her, and I always loved hearing her talk about what she was growing each year. How fitting, then, that her sweet baby girls would be named after flowers? I got to meet Lila and Lily at their home in Boston, MA for their in-home photography session; they were about 3 months old. I have photographed many twins, and many babies, but never baby twins! Aren't they so adorable? 

 

 

North Shore Family Photography: The Hines Family at Long Hill, Beverly, MA

We're all home today, due to a "monster snowstorm". The kids are making a fort, my husband is working from home, and I'm trying to keep my feet warm. As much as I dislike winter, I do really love watching a snowstorm.

A few weeks ago, I met up with the Hines family to play in one of our first snowstorms of the season. It was so sweet to watch Joshua exploring the quiet landscape. Long Hill in Beverly, MA was the perfect setting for this winter family photo session.

Hoping you are all staying warm and dry today!