The most important thing my grandfather ever taught me.

It was probably just an off-the-cuff pep talk my grandfather used to encourage me in the moment; a passing thought meant to bolster my confidence.

Those words have stuck with me ever since.

“You can do anything you set your mind to.”

I don’t remember when or the exact reason why he was trying to lift my spirit.

But every since then I’ve realized how true it really is.

I really can do whatever I set my mind to.

I’ve done it over and over again.

My grandfather, ‘Bapa Jim’, ‘old man’, ‘Jimbo’ or ‘gramps’ as I’ve referred to him plenty of time in the past is a graying, fragile and stubborn gentleman. Although he may be mad and stick out his tongue towards me if he knew I called him fragile.


His wobbly knees and limp give him character.

He doesn’t let it hinder his activity.

The first thing you may notice about him is his bushy, salt and peppered, mustache, salt which has occupied his upper lip ever since I can remember.

James J. Vaessen. A strong name for a strong man and the only positive male figure I grew up with.ORLANDO WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER 3

Ever since I was a small, blonde and curly haired little girl I can remember him believing in me.

A priceless value, something a child wouldn’t even know to ask for until much later in life.

Still, he believed in me.

“You can do anything you set your mind to.”

It probably didn’t cross his mind that I would take that conversation to heart or remember it for all these years.


Today, I’m a 30-year-old reporter and on-the-side wedding photographer who is still ‘setting my mind to it’.

Some days I find myself struggling to stay motivated, to spark my own creativity.

And then I remember,

“You can do anything you set your mind to.”

It takes effort, will, and trust in yourself to truly believe in what you’re working for.

Some times you will fail and that’s okay too, as long as you set your mind to it.

My grandfather has taught me countless other lessons while growing up.

Get out there and meet people. — He would tell me this during volleyball tournaments when I was too shy to talk to my other teammates. It’s taught me to be outgoing in the most uncomfortable situations.

You get what you pay for. — It’s so true. I’ve never regretted a good investment, no matter what it was for. If you get something cheap, expect it to be cheap.

Whatever is meant to be will be. — I heard this so so so many times when it came to boyfriends. I always thought I was in love. It never worked out. Until what was meant to be, WAS. Now currently married to my best friend and Husband, Rickey Lyon.

I feel lucky to have absorbed and acknowledged what my grandfather has taught me over the years.

Granted, I’M SURE, I’ve forgotten a thing or two he’s meant for me to take in.

I am stubborn just like him after all.

Even though I love what I do as a wedding photographer and reporter, the business can get draining.

And that’s when I pause and remember the blonde curly-haired little girl who was listening ever so carefully the day I heard the words that would guide me forever;

“You can do anything you set your mind to.”


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