5x5: 2016 In Review, Part I

Better late than never for a little review of the previous year, right? I wanted to recap 2016 because it was a big year for me in a lot of ways, but rather than going month by month, I thought I'd hit the highlights with a 5x5 blog - 5 categories with 5 things each. I'm splitting this recap into two parts (because a year is a long time and we all know I can be wordy). First up - 5 of my favorite images I shot this year, 5 life happenings, and 5 books I read. Here we go!

5 of My Favorite Shots from 2016

This was definitely the hardest category. How do I even begin to narrow that down? My heart for photography grew immensely in 2016 and I was honored - seriously - to be able to work with some really special couples and families to document new chapters in their stories. Obviously I have more than 5 favorite images from this year, but these 5, in no particular order, stood out to me for various reasons.

I love this image for a lot of reasons. Her eyes. That dress. Vanessa's confidence in who she is as a woman and a mother. But mostly because we shot it on a whim after the session, walking back to the truck, in a gravel parking lot. I said HOLD UP and made her stand there while I climbed on the tailgate, and we got something beautiful. This shot taught me to trust my creative intuition and to look for beauty in unconventional places.

A few weeks after Jeni heard the word no one ever wants to hear, we were connected through a mutual friend. I met her on a cloudy afternoon in May and witnessed some humbling moments as her closest loved ones rallied around her and we captured some images with her entire family. This one of Jeni and her mom shows how incredibly loved she is and the joy that she radiates - joy that's rooted in a faith deeper than almost any I've seen. She doesn't sugarcoat her struggles, but at the same time, never loses hope in her God. Jeni is a graceful fighter and gives a whole new meaning to the word strong.

Oh, my gorgeous Lauren. This whole session just confirmed for me that every bride should invest in bridal portraits. Even if it's months after her wedding, even if her dress was packed up a year ago. Bring that baby back out because there's something so empowering about how beautiful every woman looks and FEELS as a bride - and that's worth celebrating.

I get emotional even thinking about this in-home newborn session (my favorite kind, by the way) because Miller's mom and dad went through SO. MUCH. to bring him home. I can't even fathom it. This baby is the answer to many, many prayers. Our God is faithful, friends!

I'll always look back on Lesa and Chance's summer wedding with a smile. The light that day was amazing, her veil - I mean, come on - and what a fun celebration they had. I was so glad to be a part of it! 

5 Life Happenings in 2016

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1. Went to Mexico. Technically this spilled over into 2017, but we got there on New Year's Eve so I'm counting it. Andrew and I spent 5 days in Playa del Carmen doing absolutely nothing, and it was glorious. We did go kayaking one day, and played tennis together for the first time in years, but mostly we just relaxed on the beach. I'm so proud of Andrew for all of his hard work in law school and this trip was the perfect way to celebrate being halfway through! 

2. My friends made some really cute babies. 

Being at the point in your life where your friends are having babies on purpose is a little weird, but so much FUN! I loved watching my sweet friends become mamas to two precious boys in 2016, and was so thankful for their showers giving plenty of excuses for road trips and reunions. 

3. Got Lasik surgery. This may seem like a silly one to include, but y'all. I cannot tell you how life-changing that was. I've worn glasses or contacts since 2nd grade and had TERRIBLE, terrible vision. Like I couldn't make out features on a person's face from 5 feet away. To go from that, to 20/16 vision? To wake up in the morning and just be able to SEE? It's amazing. Technology is incredible. And yet I still think to myself every single night before bed, "Time to take out my contacts!" Ha. Old habits die hard.

4. Saw Chris Stapleton in concert for Andrew's 30th birthday. 

This picture was taken before it started pouring rain and we bought trash bags from a guy for 2 dollars to wear as makeshift ponchos, but holy SMOKES does Chris Stapleton put on a badass concert. That man can SING. We were mesmerized. 

5. Invested in Oklahoma friendships. When we packed the U-haul up and made the move to OKC, I had really low expectations when it came to new friendships - especially couple friends. But in 2016, we grew closer to a few couples we met through law school and through our church and I've just been so thankful to have friends here (even just down the street!) who we can do life with and who just click with us. Of course we love and miss our Texas friends, and probably put a few thousand extra miles on our cars last year to visit them, but gosh it's been nice to have good friends close by, to lean on and to laugh with. 

5 Books I Read in 2016

I'll be honest; I don't really consider myself much of a reader. I'd probably read 5 books total in the 5 years since I graduated college, up until last year. The house we're renting just happens to be within walking distance of a public library, so I did what any nerd would do and got myself a library card. And much to my own surprise, I've actually been using it!

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1. All the Missing Girls - Megan Miranda. I'd heard of this book from a blogger I follow and with a title that sounded like a Forensic Files episode, I marched on down to the library only to find out that 17 people had it placed on hold ahead of me. Apparently this was a popular one in 2016, and I can see why. It's gripping from the beginning and is told in a really unique way - in reverse order - but without giving anything away at the beginning. It's just confusing enough to keep you hooked.

2. The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins. Another one told in an unconventional way, this one goes back and forth among several people's points of view and different points in time, making you piece together the puzzle of clues until it finally clicks at the end. It's similar in a way to All the Missing Girls, but again, really kept my interest. I stayed up til 3 a.m. to finish it because I just had to know what happened! I haven't watched the movie yet, but if it's anything like the book, it's bound to be good. 

3. Better than Before - Gretchin Rubin. I saw a reference to this book on a fellow photographer's Instagram and the concept sounded interesting: creating better habits creates a better life. The author says 40% of our daily life is repeated, mindless actions (habits), so in order to make significant changes and improvements in our lives, we have to either break existing habits or make new ones we can actually stick to. She discusses how people manage their habits differently based on their personality types. I can't say that this book inspired me to make or break any habits, but it did make me think about the habits I do have and why I have them. 

4. For the Love - Jen Hatmaker. Okay, first things first, if you don't follow Jen on social media, stop what you're doing right now and go do that. Homegirl is stinking hilarious. I enjoyed this book of hers mostly for the humor in the way she writes, but the points she makes are valuable, too. For the record, this book was way better than Wild & Free - read that too and was not impressed whatsoever. That one was very overly simplistic, middle school church camp-y. Jen's book, on the other hand, was like a conversation with your friend - your hilarious but mature, sarcastic yet down-to-earth friend. Moral of both? Show grace to others, but especially to yourself.

5. The Magnolia Story - Chip and Joanna Gaines. Shocker to no one that I read this book, I know. I got it for Christmas from two different people - not sure my love for Fixer Upper is apparent enough... Honestly, I was more impressed with this book than I thought I'd be. It shows a side of both Chip and Joanna that you wouldn't know existed from just watching the show, and affirms that their relationship is genuine and their work ethic is no joke. I found myself identifying with the younger Joanna quite a bit, so it was reassuring to see that she's really come into her own as her business has grown, and it was refreshing to learn how their marriage, while not perfect, has always been their first priority.

 

Later this week I'll share part two of this 5x5 2016 Recap - 5 things I'm proud of and 5 things I learned.

Thanks for reading!