Beauty, Optimism and Gratitude | 2017 Year in Review

Oh, Friends.

I have been holding off on this post. In part, I think I was afraid that I would end up pouring my heart out and well… drowning everyone in my sorrows right along with myself. Maybe nothing that dramatic, but on a personal level I wouldn’t be completely honest if I didn’t admit that it wasn’t a rough one for our family. True to my own nature however– and the fact that I am a bit of a deep thinker (not to be mistaken with deep in a profound sense, but deep as in “I can’t get out of my own head and turn it off”), I may have even made it worse because I couldn’t help but relive every hardship the moment something else heaped up on the pile of personal tragedies. I can’t help but look back on the very beginning of 2017 and all of the optimism and excitement I felt drafting up the last year in review post. There very well may be a different girl sitting here drafting this post for you all. I firmly believe that grief changes you. It alters your perspective. It sands you down and if you allow it to, it also can either buff out those seams and refine the hard spaces or make those hard spaces… harder. It can truly either make you bitter…or better. For a while, I think I inadvertently chose bitter. Now I am choosing better. It’s a new year and I am not making any breakable resolutions, but I am making peace. I am looking towards courage. I feel like being this is such a personal business, because I befriend so my many of those that I am honored to photograph, because I am so wrapped up in my art and my business has thrived under that, and because transparency is important to me I wanted this post to be as frank as possible.

I wanted to bring all of me into this post. I have no doubt that 2018 will be better because I am turning my face to the light. There have been blessings to follow us from last year as well. I wanted to be honest to also show maybe one suffering soul that they aren’t alone. I wanted to share the real me with you. I closed up a bit last year. That is also why I have very few images of my own family to share here this year. I stopped taking photos for me. I shut down entirely for a bit to anyone outside my immediate family.

It’s not that I haven’t had a hard path or my share of struggle in my time. But last year… last year I lost one of the people whom I loved most. My grandmother… but more like my second mother. I spent most of my childhood living in and out of her home. She was always there. Always. Every special memory is wrapped up in her, from getting ready for my wedding in her home (my childhood home) and her and my grandfather driving me to the church to my sweet husband, or her rocking and singing to my first born daughter. One of my most special memories however, the very last Christmas I saw her (three Christmases ago but it doesn’t feel that long), I will never forget that my husband went to bring our children to my in-laws to say good-bye and I stayed behind at my Mom’s to spend just a little more time with her. We drove all the way from Colorado to Connecticut with our then five children just for her. All I wanted was to be with her on her favorite holiday. And as we sat around the table with her and a few of my aunts and uncles, I looked at her and I said, “I told Wes all I wanted for Christmas was to be here with you. All I wanted was you.” And she began to cry. My grandmother NEVER cried. She didn’t like to show what she perceived as weakness. She wasn’t overly touchy-feely. That wasn’t her love language. She somehow still managed to be the most amazing, nurturing, kindhearted human being I have ever met though. We lost her at just sixty-nine years old. It came as a shock to be honest. I thought I had so much more time. Me from a young mother, and a young grandmother. She had health complications over the past year or so, but my grandparents being the hush-hush sort when someone takes ill, I didn’t know how serious this was. I would have rushed to her. I hadn’t seen her in almost nearly three years for one reason or another.

Almost immediately after, I lost my aunt (my grandmother’s own daughter) after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was only forty-nine. We were actually driving back from my grandmother’s funeral and my Mom face timed me so I could see my aunt. My aunt wasn’t talking well then, but she looked at me (her first niece) and said “You were always my favorite.” That was the last time I talked to her. That was her last day earth side. We didn’t always have the easiest history, but my beautiful auntie was always my favorite too. She was the epitome of the “cool aunt.” She was my Mom’s baby sister. She was there through my most awkward tween-teen years, and held my hand when I found out we were to have my first child in a clinic waiting room at the tender age of 18. She knew before my own Mama.

I do find comfort that they are no longer suffering and are maybe rejoicing together in heaven. I am thankful to have had such incredible women touch my life. They visit me in my dreams often, and it still feels so real. I wake sometimes forgetting they are gone and then the pain sinks in all over again, but it was a gift to have them even for the short time I had. And maybe it wasn’t that short, but I know an eternity wouldn’t have been enough for me.

And then we had our typical share of hardship. Our baby daughter being hospitalized with Cellulitis (but she is completely okay now thank goodness.) The bills and financial obstacles that stemmed from that. Other things that we won’t remember even a year from now but seemed like a big deal in the moment. The depression I sunk down into and the hard fought battle to crawl out from under my own pain. It’s a process. Grief is truly a process.

But something incredibly beautiful happened too for us. On the way home from a road trip with our family this summer, I didn’t feel well. We learned shortly after we were expecting another child. We truly thought our family was complete. I was actually pretty shocked at the news. And then we learned something even more amazing. This baby was conceived right around what would have been my grandmother’s 70th birthday. A month before that I had dreamed she was at my baby shower for a baby daughter… and I woke up with a smile but shrugged it off because we weren’t having any more babies. I feel like she knew something we didn’t. Even more amazingly, she shared a name that has stuck with me all these months. A name we will give our baby daughter. The baby daughter due just the week after my grandparents wedding anniversary.

So ultimately in all of this mess and pain, we have been blessed. She is a gift. She is just what we never knew we needed.

And of course in the middle of living out our own story, I had this beautiful thriving healthy business. I had compassionate clients and I had the honor of telling so many stories. My work became my safe haven. It became a solace I didn’t know I so desperately needed. And I embedded all that pain into my focus and the work I did this year was some of my favorite for that reason.

Sadly, I didn’t have the foresight to take photos with my grandmother, but I realized that as photographers we are a legacy maker of sorts. We help tell other’s stories. Every year I strive to reach a bit deeper and work a bit harder because I value what I do. I value photography. It’s important to me. It’s important to the families I photograph.

So next year, I hope the work will be even better. Even deeper (in the profound kind of way.)

My personal goals for my family are to be more present. To document more for them. To be a better human. A better wife. A better Mother. A better friend. Maybe even kinder to myself.

My personal goals for my business are to be even more transparent. To share more of me, to help others share more of them. To maybe help others more.. period. And to tell more honest stories. Capture MORE emotion. Deep emotion. Tangible love and moments…. And to maybe even do more lifestyle work.

And I want to thank you all. ALL of you. Those that take a moment to like, or heart my work.

To those that trust me to love on your families and document them in a way that hopefully blesses you but also shares your love for those you love in the most honest way.

To those that let me share my world.

I am grateful.

Love and light friends.

A few highlights from last year.

Just a few personal images I managed to grab. (Very few.)

And so many beautiful moments with the families I had the honor of photographing this year.

Beauty, Optimism and Gratitude | 2017 Year in Review