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, 2013, and of course 2014. I love to look back and read them to see what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown along the way. I think so much of growth and learning in life is by taking the time to look back at where you’ve come from and forward at where you hope to go. I’ve been kind of putting off this year’s post for various reasons… one being we are busy wrapping up lots of urgent items on the agenda lately, and the second being that the third trimester exhaustion has hit me – and the thought of even trying to put 2015 into words completely exhausts me! haha But I know that time will become even more limited before we know it – so I want to write down what this year meant to us before I let it all slip by.
The first thing I think when I look back at 2015 is … “This all couldn’t possibly have happened in ONE year.” When I think back to the clients whose weddings we shot in March/April/May… it feels like years ago… not this past spring! So much has happened this year (good and bad) that I really have a hard time wrapping my brain around all of it. We had some incredibly beautiful, unexpected, and truly wonderful moments this year. Moments that bring me to tears in the best way possible. Among that, we also had some incredibly heartbreaking and difficult moments this year… most obviously the miscarriage after our first IVF last spring. The high of seeing our first ever positive pregnancy test after 6 years of trying and fertility treatments, only to end in a miscarriage, was a blow we were not prepared for.
On top of that, James especially dealt with a lot of loss this year – one thing after another – that really shook him to his core. Much of his pain I didn’t even fully realize because we were so busy when he was going through some of it that we both just put our heads down and did the work to keep moving forward. I foolishly assumed he was okay, and it wasn’t until we came out of the flurry of work, moving, and everything else this winter that we really had time to acknowledge what he had been through and gave him the space and time to heal properly. He unexpectedly lost his uncle this summer, and then a week before Christmas got word that his dear grandma had passed as well. I have never seen him in heartache like that before and it absolutely broke my heart to see him like that. Between those losses for him personally and our miscarriage this spring – he was really struggling internally this year in ways I didn’t even grasp at the time.
Along with those valleys of loss where we experienced pain and heartache like we hadn’t before… we also experienced moments of complete and utter joy, and almost a sense of disbelief… thinking “is this real life?!” for much of the year. We cautiously celebrated a second IVF pregnancy this July, and soon after found out we were expecting TWINS (!!), while at the same time we closed on our first home together. So many things we had dreamt of for so long seemed to be coming to fruition just at the exact same moment and while we were unbelievably overjoyed… it all came with a tempered sense of “when will the other shoe drop?” I tried my best not to think that way – but after such a long road of hoping and dreaming – it all felt so surreal (and still does, quite honestly)! As we look back on all of it now, I do see and feel the pure and complete happiness that came with much of these positive things in 2015. I only wish I had allowed myself to feel them more at the time!!
And so, obviously, you can see where the title of this post “The Year of Peaks and Valleys” comes from. It truly was a year of the highest highs and lowest lows for us. But as they say, you cannot experience full joy without knowing the depths of pain. And so it was. That was what our year felt like… peaks and valleys. I know both of us are incredibly grateful for all the beauty and joy 2015 brought for us, as well as the lessons we learned from the losses and pain… but we are hoping for a much more steady year in 2016. Please oh please. We hope for some constants, smooth sailing, and are praying for no more losses. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our boys, while trying our best to soak in the remainder of our time as just the two of us (and Chloe, of course!). We are hopeful that all goes well and they are born healthy & strong. All we can do is pray that 2016 shows us some grace.
Before I move on to look at all 2015 held… last, but definitely not least, were all the truly wonderful couples, families, and people who trusted us to document their stories this past year. We were blessed enough to shoot 28 weddings (27 big ones & 1 elopement), 63 other sessions (16 mini sessions, 23 proposals/family/babies/anytime, 22 engagement sessions, 2 Beautiful sessions on film), and taught 32 people through mentoring sessions and the 3 different workshops we hosted! I’m so incredibly grateful for each of those sessions, weddings, and opportunities to share our knowledge with other photographers this past year! We learned so much through the process, and were humbled by all of it.
Now, without further ado – a look back at the crazy ride that was 2015:
- We started off 2015, as always, by setting goals for ourselves for the year ahead! It is such an important thing for us to sit down and do together so we can make sure we are on the same page moving forward, and can improve upon various aspects of our personal life and business! You can see how we did on those goals throughout the year here.
- After what felt like a tumultuous 2014, we knew we wanted to kick off 2015 with a good old fashioned VACATION. We tend to only travel for work – so this was the first time (I think since our honeymoon!) where we went somewhere just for fun! Just when the temperatures hit record lows – we hopped on a flight to Puerto Rico, where we traveled to the quaint little island of Vieques and absolutely FELL IN LOVE with it! This was honestly one of our best trips ever, and I’m still dreaming about how we can manage to go back!
- Upon returning we were relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle 2015!! I kicked off my off-season to-do list by finally launching a separate size for our Beautiful Sessions!!
- February in Chicago was SNOWY and we spent lots of time outside with Chloe enjoying all the pretty white fluff & even managed a date night in the city (never mind that it ended in me having a pretty serious concussion thanks to an ice skating wipe out… oops)!! We even had a blizzard on Super Bowl Sunday that James managed to brave a walk to CVS through just for beer and game day snacks! He may have come back with ice in his beard, but he made it! haha!
- We hosted a sold out Beginner Photography workshop and had the best time teaching some awesome ladies all about how to use their dSLR cameras!
- Then it was time to pack up our bags again! This time we were heading out west for Francis & Ann’s engagement session out in San Francisco!! While we were there – we booked some extra days to just enjoy the area and see more of the Bay Area! Totally worth it!! You can see lots more from our trip to Muir Woods, Sausalito & San Francisco HERE.
- March began with my first trip back to the fertility clinic to start ironing out the process for our first attempts at IVF in the spring. Naturally, the appointment got me thinking a lot about the future and struggling to focus on the beauty of the moments I could be enjoying right at that moment. I wrote a post about preparing for the next steps, while still cherishing “now.“
- I crossed a huge thing off my to-do list and FINALLY ordered our very own wedding album!! Our 6 year anniversary was creeping up on us and it was sooo not okay to still not have our photos in an album!! The final product blew me away! I only wished I had done it sooner!! You can see our album HERE. 🙂
- We did another Life Swap with my sister’s family and headed up to Madison to spend a weekend with our niece and nephews!! Always a highlight of our off-season!!
- We hosted our 4th Annual Advanced Workshop and I had the best time!!! Seriously nothing fills me up quite like sharing all we’ve learned along this crazy journey and connecting with other creatives who want to make their passion a reality!! I cannot wait to host another one (hopefully) later this year… since the boys are arriving right around when we’d normally host one!
- We packed up our bags again (a theme of 2015, apparently!) and headed out east to Maryland for Sarah & Rob’s stunning wedding in Baltimore!!
- We celebrated 8 years since we first met at a mutuals friends’ birthday party back in 2007!
- My sister and two of her kiddos came down to visit for a couple days just as we started our first ever round of IVF treatments. It was honestly the perfect distraction amid what was a very stressful time with issues getting my meds, and the anxiety leading up to this long-awaited time.
- We were a house divided during the NCAA tournament as we suddenly realized our teams were going to play each other in the National Championship game!! (Not a pretty day in the Tyler house! Especially not for the Wisconsin fan… me… argh.)
- I addressed a question that we got asked A LOT throughout our journey to start a family: “Why don’t you ‘just’ adopt?” and it was met by so much love and support from all of you. xo
- We navigated a crazy few weeks of early April that consisted of seemingly non-stop fertility appointments, monitoring, shots, egg retrieval surgery, and eventually on April 15th – our long awaited embryo transfer. (You can read about each week of IVF treatments in summary posts I did HERE.)
- For the first time ever – I felt what it was like to see a positive pregnancy test and we were OVER THE MOON. But unfortunately, as quickly as we were overjoyed… our hopes were dashed when we got word from the doctor the pregnancy wasn’t viable and I was told to let the pregnancy miscarry naturally. I can’t fully explain what this time in our lives was like for James and I… but looking back at the photos from late April and May of 2015, I see so many photos of cards, flowers, and gifts that you all sent in the mail to help us through those dark times. I see a million photos I took of flowering trees and the beauty around us during the 70 miles I walked with Chloe in May. I see photos of James and I clinging to one another and going out on date nights like it was our job… to Cubs games, out to dinner, out to impromptu drinks. I see family and friends visiting us in Chicago and spending time with us to keep our heads up and moving forward. While it was an incredibly difficult time in our lives – when I look back at the photos and think of what it felt like… it really was overwhelmingly beautiful in many ways. The love and support from those around us and way James and I got through it together was something I will never forget.
- Also in May: James turned 37, and we celebrated Mother’s Day back in Wisconsin with my family (and I felt more at peace with that holiday than I have in quite a long time… part of it might have been the giant double rainbow that appeared that day – giving me hope for two rainbow babies possibly waiting for us in the future). I wrote this post on Instagram that weekend and it still surprises me how at peace I was…
“This Mother’s Day was surprisingly much less heartbreaking & more enjoyable than the last two Mother’s Days have been. || Two years ago James and I had been trying naturally off & on for 4 years and I got my period the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend- a month when I’d convinced myself I was finally pregnant. I called my mom in tears that morning and finally shared our struggles with her. It was after that that we finally decided to seek help & answers at a fertility clinic. || Last year we did our first IUI in April and found out that it hadn’t worked the Friday of Mother’s Day weekend. I was really crushed because I thought that was it – finally. I was in a difficult head space and couldn’t shake feeling hopeless and sad. || But this year – this year is different. Of course I am saddened by the loss of our baby – and yes, with those four positive pregnancy tests & positive beta just a few weeks ago – I thought that our 1st IVF cycle last month was the beginning of a new chapter in our story. And although we experienced loss in a new & heartbreaking way – I do still feel it was the start of a new chapter. A chapter of newfound hope and almost a clarity within myself. I am certain I will be a mom and really have a feeling this was my last Mother’s Day without my baby(ies) in my arms. I am immensely hopeful and positive moving into our July FET (frozen embryo transfer) in a couple months, and have faith we will meet our littles sometime soon. ? || In the meantime I’m doing my best to remember that: Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only robs today of its joy. So I’m finding the joy everywhere I can during this period of waiting and preparation. ?”
- Probably partly to distract myself from our fertility struggles and recent loss – I threw myself head first into obsessively searching for houses online. This was on our goals list for 2015, but I honestly didn’t think it was going to happen – but with our lease end date approaching and looking for ways to keep my mind occupied – I started looking for houses a lot in mid-to-late May… which resulted in a lovely realtor reaching out to me asking if we’d like to meet to talk more about the process of buying a home. At first I said “no thanks”, but she was so darn persistent and wonderful that we did end up meeting with her and decided to work with her as our realtor!! (Yeah, Lindsay Kronk!!)
- Later that month we celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary and had professional photos done by our wonderful & crazy talented friend, Tami Paige!
- Early June started with a pre-approval for a mortgage and house tours!! During our first round of tours we fell in love with a house, but felt like we should probably see more before jumping to any decisions. 4 days later we couldn’t stop thinking about that house and decided to put an offer on it!! Ha! In retrospect, this all seems so crazy!! But we knew it would be a long process, because the house needed lots of work and a serious inspection given some issues… so we weren’t getting our hearts too set on anything, but were excited to take steps to move forward!
- James became a Godfather in June!! What an amazing thing to be honored with and he is sooo excited to be a part of little Andrew’s life!!
- Mid-June we packed up our bags once again – this time to head to Carmel, California for Eric & Aya’s beautiful wedding day!! I’ve always wanted to see more of this part of California, so we booked some extra days around the wedding to see the area and enjoy some time together! I knew we had our frozen embryo transfer coming up in early July, so it was the perfect last trip before another IVF round. (You can see more photos from our trip HERE and HERE. I absolutely fell in love with Big Sur and the surrounding area!)
- We continued through our busy wedding season of gorgeous summer weddings & shoots, and on the personal side – July started off with our frozen embryo transfer on 7/7 (which we took to be a lucky day)! We were seeing all kinds of signs around us between our miscarriage and the transfer date, and were doing our best to stay positive about the two little embryos we still had waiting for us.
- We were reminded that miracles do happen, as we found out I was pregnant again!! We were SO hesitant to get too excited, as we were so nervous the same thing might happen as last time. We really took the entire thing on a day to day basis… looking forward to each milestone and step in the process, praying for good results and a healthy, viable pregnancy.
- Early the following week (after inspections and negotiations and a lot of paperwork) – we CLOSED ON OUR FIRST HOME!
- My HCG numbers were growing quickly and so we went in for an ultrasound the day after we closed on our house and saw two little sacs on the ultrasound – which meant we were having TWINS! (It was quite the couple weeks around the Tyler house!)
- August is normally our month to have a quiet couple of weeks (we like to call it “summer break”, which we schedule in each year!) – but this year August consisted of moving moving moving and trying our best to get settled into our house before our crazy busy fall wedding season picked back up!!
- It also meant showing myself a new form of grace as I navigated being pregnant with running a business and trying to do everything else I wanted to do!
- September started with packing our bags (one last time for the year!) to head to Oregon for my brother’s wedding! We were photographing their big day, and I was also standing up alongside my brother with my other siblings as well! We had the best time catching up with all our loved ones and seeing more of beautiful Oregon!
- We got back from the wedding and brought some nasty virus with us that didn’t leave us for weeks… but we were still so happy regardless because mid-September marked the start of my 2nd trimester!! We were so ecstatic to reach this milestone!
- I celebrated my 34th birthday and was feeling extra grateful. It was hard to believe what a difference a year made…
- James stayed super busy (as we both did) working on a million house/yard projects among the CRAZY that is always fall wedding season!
- We went up to Wisconsin for a wedding weekend and were happy to coincided with my mom’s birthday weekend!
- I apparently took a lot of “bump” photos that month as well… which, when I look back on them – I really can’t help but laugh!! Oh my word – that was hardly a bump! haha. (At least it doesn’t look like much compared to the size of my belly now! haha!)
- October and most of November flew by in a flurry of nonstop weddings, sessions, and work work work!! But we did manage to get Chloe in a Halloween costume (Indiana Chloe! haha) and enjoyed one rare Saturday off on Halloween handing out candy from our house. It turns out we get a LOT of trick-or-treaters in our new neighborhood! We ran out of candy!
- Amid work were also house projects and contractors galore! We redid railings, installed new doors outside, reinforced our upstairs floor, replaced the carpet, got a custom shower door (for our crazy weird upstairs bathroom), and added some new counters to the previously empty wall across from our kitchen! It was a flurry of crazy (and a total mess), not to mention pricey… but I’m so happy to have it all done before the boys arrive!
- In November we also found out the sex of our twins and more importantly were happy to find after a thorough anatomy ultrasound that they were growing on track and healthy!!!
- My bump continued to grow grow grow and became much more noticeable (and tiring!!) as time went on!! As more milestones were hit and weeks flew by – I finally allowed myself to buy some things for the boys after holding out this whole time.
- Work finally quieted down, we spent some much needed time at home playing catch up, and then headed up to Wisconsin to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. It was lovely and relaxing and James caught my dad’s cold. Oops. haha
- December was a wonderful mix of work and enjoying our time leading up to the holidays!
- We hosted our final workshop of the year, “Let There Be Light” – to a sold out group of amazing ladies!! I can’t wait to host more of this type of workshop soon!!
- I decorated our home for Christmas, which seemed to take on a whole new meaning this year.
- We had an unconventional Christmas this year, as James had to head back to South Carolina to attend his grandma’s funeral on Christmas Eve, and flew back to Wisconsin to be with our family for Christmas day. I made sure to squeeze him extra tight when he got back, and we were both reminded to soak in every minute with our loved ones.
- Last, but not least, we rang in the New Year by documenting a beautiful wedding and celebrated reaching my 3rd trimester!! We may not have gotten to kiss at midnight, but we made sure to on our way home and thanked God for a difficult, wonderful, unexpected, and beautiful year. Here’s to the lessons we learned, the people we loved, and the memories we made. xoxo
Wishing you all the best for a bright and beautiful 2016. xoxo