Each year I do a year-end summary – mostly for myself to reflect on the past year and to remember everything we did. I wrote one in 2011, 2012, and of course, 2013 – which I love to go back and read to see what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown along this crazy journey! I’ve been thinking a lot about 2014 and have had quite a few conversation with James about this year. There was so much about 2014 that was amazing, beautiful, and so much fun… but if I’m being honest, there was a lot about 2014 that was really difficult too. So when I was thinking about this year and a title for this post – I couldn’t help but equate this year to one that felt like we were getting hit with a lot of punches, learning patience, and ultimately persevering through it all.
This year we officially started our infertility journey with our initial attempt last spring, which turned out to be just the first of many treatments, appointments, roller coasters of emotions, and ultimately 3 unsuccessful IUIs. I remember at the start of 2014 – I really thought this would be our year. I thought we’d finally been brave and shared our story. I thought we were taking all the steps necessary to build the family we’ve dreamt of for so long. I thought this was it. I thought we’d paid our dues. I thought by the time I turned 33 in September – I would be gleefully pregnant and awaiting the arrival of a new little Tyler. Obviously, our plans are not the plans that matter though. There is a greater plan at play. Sometimes as hard as we work and as much as we think we’ve finally got it figured out, checked all the boxes, done all the things we needed to do – this still isn’t it. There is still more to do… lessons to learn, patience to grow, empathy to build, stories to share, people to reach out to, relationships to strengthen, and life to live.
Along with that – was the sudden loss of my Grandma in late October. Obviously that was incredibly difficult to go through, which I’m aware of having lost three other grandparents prior to this. This was the first time that James was around for the loss of one of my family members though – and I realized that I do not grieve in a way that allows James to help me cope. As we both learned this fall, apparently I’m quite the jerk when I’m grieving. (Yikes.) I pushed him away, snapped at him, and found myself crying at the drop of a hat during the least expected moments. During that same time was one of our busiest seasons of the year, and some equally difficult business situations that threw me into some serious bouts with anxiety as I dealt with them. They hit me like a ton of bricks initially, but as things continued – I did my best to let it roll off my shoulders and started to realize that many times (if not always) the way others treat you has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them and something they may be personally going through. (I wasn’t very open about it at the time, but now that life has returned to a bit more smooth sailing – knock on wood – I feel I’m in a better place to share. Not to mention it can be so easy from the outside to assume everybody else’s lives are all peachy-keen, happy, and perfect all the time – and you guys know I’m not one to keep up facades – or even build them in the first place! Ha! I would much rather you all know we are ALL HUMAN. We ALL struggle. We ALL have good days, and bad days. We all go through things in life & business, and learn lessons along the way. Nobody’s life is perfect, no matter how fabulously your Instagram feed is curated! ;))
Of course, as often happens, the difficult times tend to stick out in our memories rather than the moments of relief, calm, joy, and happiness. I think that’s why I love writing these posts too – because they force me to see the WHOLE picture… not just the bumps in the road that left marks on our hearts. Along with all of these struggles this year – we got to travel a lot, and spend much more time than normal with loved ones! We also managed to have our most successful year of business ever. We are more financially secure than we have ever been in our lives, and were able to save money to help build for our future (not to mention able to afford fertility treatments, and possible adoption costs if it comes to that). We worked with a truly amazing company to produce five different commercial photo shoots, as you’re aware of if you’ve been following along this year. It kind of blows my mind how much we have learned since they first approached us last spring. We knew a very slim amount about producing a big photo shoot, and really didn’t know much about building an estimate to propose to a company in competition with other photographers trying to get a job! It was a crash course in usage rights, bids, purchase orders, invoices, location scouting, running casting calls, and hiring models! We learned new things along each step of the way and are so thankful for the amazing relationship we built with a wonderful company. The night before our last shoot with them in December we went out to dinner with two of the women from the company who have been along with us for a majority of the shoots this year (and have become dear friends). We toasted to a fabulous year of working together, and to another year ahead (in which we hope to do the same)! James and I continue to be so incredibly thankful for these opportunities, and continue to bust our butts to do our very best and hope to exceed expectations every step of the way.
And last, but definitely not least, were all the amazing couples, families, and people who trusted us to document their stories this past year. Between all the other things listed above, we were blessed enough to shoot 30 weddings (26 big ones & 4 elopements/intimate weddings), and 80 other sessions (5 commercial, 19 mini sessions, 20 proposals/family/babies/anytime, 22 engagement sessions, and 14 Beautiful sessions on film). So without further ado – here’s what we were up to amid all of the above in 2014 (in chronological order, of course):
- We sat down and made goals for 2014 at the very start of the year, and I’m so proud of how many we were able to check off and even exceed! (Of course we didn’t quite get through all of them – and if you’re curious how we did – we basically left off where I last updated in July.)
- We rebranded our entire business (including pretty pretty print materials)!!! This one is pretty crazy to me, because this current look feels so “us” – that I forget we ever had different branding! I’ve been so happy with our new website and blog this year!! I feel like it has helped bring more of ‘our people’ to us, which is exactly what we wanted it to do!
- We got a new couch and updated our living room! Not really a huge deal, but it was pretty exciting for us. haha.
- We braved the Polar Vortex, all. winter. long. (Wow was last winter cold! I can’t believe it’s almost the New Year and we still don’t have snow on the ground this year!)
- We attended The What If Conference in Arizona in early February and decided to make a trip out of it – visiting Sedona and The Grand Canyon before heading to the conference!! We loved it so much that we hope to go back, but preferably when it is a pinch warmer next time! 😉
- We kicked off our wedding season shortly after returning home from Arizona in Punta Cana for Melissa & Steven’s wedding, and enjoyed the escape from the Polar Vortex while we were there!!
- In March, amid all the wedding photography conferences and get-togethers (that I didn’t attend), I had to remind myself to turn down the noise and focus on what matters. That it is not about QUANTITY of things in my life (blog readers, ‘likes’ on Facebook, conferences I’m attending, dollars in my bank account, houses & what items decorate my house). NO. It is about QUALITY of life (how much I love, give, share, laugh, and live a life I’m proud of with people I love by my side).
- We hosted our two-day wedding photography workshop!! In the past I tried to cram everything into one day and realized it just wasn’t enough time! So in March we stretched it out to two days and it went amazing!! (There are still a couple seats left for our upcoming workshop – so snatch those up, friends!)
- Life felt very serendipitous and had me crying happy, grateful tears when we found out we were hired for the commercial job that we were vying for last spring!
- I wrote a post called, “On ‘Luck’ + Conscious Coupling” in late March that seemed to really strike a chord with our readers. I was tired of hearing people always telling me how ‘lucky’ James and I were to have found each other. When in reality, James and I didn’t get lucky – we work at this every day. Relationships require constant consciousness, and constant pruning. We choose to make decisions for each other and for our marriage every day. And most of all – we choose to be happy together above all else. (I may hop over there and re-read this one actually, because it is a great reminder for me too! haha)
- In late March James and I did a “Life Swap” with my sister and her husband! They came down and lived a child-free existence at our place in Chicago, while James and I headed to Madison to hang out with the kiddos! We learned a lot and had a blast!
- We hosted our 2nd Annual CTP Wedding Client Party and had the best time with all our clients turned friends!! (We forgot to get a picture with everybody in attendance, but this is a pretty good representation below!)
- We launched our Beautiful Sessions in Film last spring, and I’m so happy to have gotten to photograph 14 beautiful women this year!! I’m even more excited to get our website up and running this off-season (now that we have enough film photos for it) and do even more of these in 2015!
- We learned to make lemonade out of lemons during our infertility journey, and have been brought closer together than ever because of this journey together.
- I updated you on where we were in our journey and clarified all the crazy medical jargon!
- We enjoyed a beautifully relaxing Easter celebration with family back in Wisconsin.
- We did our first IUI on April 28th (which I had to prep for by giving myself a shot in the stomach in the bathroom stall at a wedding a couple days prior).
- We celebrated James’ 36th birthday in May and I wrote him a little love note on the blog. 🙂 (I can’t believe how time is flying! This guy was just 28 when I met him!)
- I wrote a difficult post about Mother’s Day and shared a little more of my story.
- We found out our first IUI didn’t work, and I wrote a heartfelt post about the weekend we found out called, The Romantic & The Realist.
- I shared a post on living consciously and showing yourself grace, especially when life gets crazy busy and you don’t think you have time for either!
- We celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary on the same day we did our 2nd IUI. The timing was uncanny and had us extra hopeful.
- We found out a couple weeks later that the 2nd IUI didn’t work, and discussed our next steps, which included taking a step back from treatments to find “us” again.
- Life got SUPER busy in June, and in an attempt to make the most of our busy summer – we made a Summer Bucket List (which we did pretty good on)!
- We couldn’t believe it had been 3 years since we said goodbye to our first pup, Phoenix. I spent some time remembering her and discussing lessons I learned from her on the blog.
- As life started to feel overwhelming, I reminded myself to release the guilt and live my life amid all the “busy.”
- We went back to my small-town hometown and enjoyed 4th of July with family and friends!
- Life came full circle for a moment when we drove through Galena on our way to a July wedding. We were reminded of three years ago around the same time when we were just about to take our business full-time!
- A fabulous perk of our job is location scouting together when we’re able to! We took an afternoon to hit up the Chicago Botanic Garden to get a better feel for the grounds before Stacy & Joe’s wedding and had the best time!!
- After a super awesome (and unintentional) summer break last August, we decided to do the same thing this August! We turned away work for a couple of weeks and planned trips to see family! Best idea ever, and we’re already doing the same for next summer!! This year we hit up the Pacific Northwest with a trip to Seattle to visit my brother, Will, then drove down the coast through Cannon Beach with my cousin, Chelsea, and her boyfriend, Derek, to Eugene, Oregon – where we spent time with my brother, Josh, and his fiance, Martha! It was so. much. fun! We can’t wait to head back to Eugene in 2015 for their wedding!! (And I had the best time shooting film, as usual, on our trip!)
- When we got back from our trip to the PNW we had a nice little stay-cation in Chicago with my sister and her family!
- After that we got right back into work with a ton of gorgeous fall sessions and weddings!
- We took a little break right around September 15th though – to celebrate my 33rd birthday together on top of Chicago!
- I reminded myself about how although the timing of things may frustrate us, everything happens as it is meant to be in a post titled, “Trusting Timing to Get to Yes.“
- We celebrated three years of supporting ourselves on our photography business alone in September!! Time is flying!
- I talked about the anxiety I’ve battled over the past five or so years, and ways that help me manage it. Ironically, a few days after that blog post I spiraled into some of the worst anxiety I’ve had in YEARS (which I mentioned early on in this post about the situation we were dealing with this fall). Thankfully, I managed to pull myself back out of it. Whew. Not fun.
- I gushed about my love for James in a much-deserved post considering all this man deals with being married to me (ha!)!!
- My Grandma passed away in late October, and I struggled to keep up with life amid loss. Looking through photos I gathered, I was once again reminded how important what we do for people truly is – preserving these memories, these moments for them to remember always.
- Chloe kept things light-hearted in her most fabulous Halloween costume – Bat Dog!
- In early November (amid fertility appointments) we flew up to Minneapolis the morning after a wedding (for approximately a 24-hour trip that obviously flew by) to celebrate my Grandma’s life with family.
- Almost immediately upon returning home we did our 3rd IUI, and a couple days later I flew to NYC for a busy week full of sessions and time with my brother, Ben!
- We had kept our 3rd IUI secret for various reasons, and right before Thanksgiving we found out that it hadn’t worked. After digesting the news ourselves, we shared an update with all of our readers on the blog, and the support & love was completely overwhelming in the best way.
- We enjoyed a very quick trip up to Wisconsin to enjoy Thanksgiving traditions with our family, and were so incredibly thankful to have such amazing people in our lives.
- We shared the business side of our story on the blog – since we get asked a lot about how we got started and the journey from there to here!
- We made a conscious decision to slow down in December and turned away work so that we could get all of our editing done and back to clients in time for the holidays, and also have some time to enjoy the holidays ourselves! I’m so happy we did this because this holiday season has been incredibly more relaxing than it was in the past! I even had a free weekend to enjoy showing my best friend and her sister around Chicago when it was all dressed up for the holidays! 😉
- James wrote his first blog post ever!! And I didn’t even ask him (nag him) to!! 🙂
- James and I discussed the next steps we wanted to take in our journey to build a family, and after a couple of meetings and lots of talking – we shared our plans for 2015 on the blog – and once again – you all were so incredibly amazing. THANK YOU.
- We celebrated our own little Tyler Family Christmas the weekend before Christmas, and had the best time exchanging gifts!!
- A couple of days later, we headed up to Wisconsin to enjoy a nice extended break with family enjoying the holiday (which will be on the blog in a few days – so make sure to check back to see lots of adorable pics of our crazy niece & nephews)!! It was odd not having my Grandma there, and missing my younger brothers, who weren’t able to make it home, but we were still so grateful for all the love around us, traditions, good food, and lots of laughs with loved ones.
- Tomorrow we are closing out our year and 2014 wedding season with Maureen & Brandon’s sure to be amazing wedding!! We can’t wait!!
Whew!!! If you made it to the end of this post – congratulations!! haha! Seriously though, reviewing this entire past year has reminded me how truly blessed we are to be surrounded by so many amazing people who are always, without fail, on our team… cheering us on, supporting us, and loving us SO MUCH. We are eternally grateful for that and know that we have persevered because of the wonderful people in our lives. Throughout all the ups and downs, we clung to each other and always remembered to be thankful for all of our blessings. It is SO important to always look to the positives, and not to wallow in our own trials & tribulations, but to continue to laugh, love, learn, and pay it forward. This has been a theme of our year, and we are better people having been through all we have. We are hopeful for the future, and enjoying every moment together in the meantime.
Here’s to an even better 2015!! XOXO Have a safe and happy New Year, friends!