A Letter to 2016

Dear 2016,

I am at a loss for words. At first I think back upon you with such disdain. You claimed so many lives, brought so much tragedy, and destroyed so many hearts. You've shaken HOPE and threatened LOVE with a vengeance. But, that wasn't all. You spared a couple lives very close to my heart, AND made a mother out of me. So I can't hate you too much after all. However, I will have no trouble letting you go gently into that good night.

And so, I find myself once again going through this year's mountains of photographs and memories. This seems to be my way of processing the last 365 days, as well as opening up my heart to the next 365 days to come -- whatever they may bring.

You've been... the worst of times & the best of times.
I bid you farewell.


Okay. So. When 2016 took it's first breath, I was 6 months pregnant.
Sick as a dog, throwing up every morning, and SO OVER IT.
But, you would never know it from these photos because they're GORGEOUS.
{sun drenched photos below by my work-wife, Lindsey Gomes . H&MU by Amanda Olson}

{cozy lifestyle preggers photos by darling, Sabrina Klomp . H&MU by Amanda Olson}

And then came the baby showers. There is nothing like women from every time and space of your life gathering in one living room just to love on you and your unborn baby.
My heart was overwhelmed and my belly was full of this ADORABLE funfetti birch-tree cake my best friends made (I don't care for cake. unless it's funfetti. obviously).

these four women pulled off the baby shower of my dreams. I can't even.

One week later, my darling Sabrina hosted a second, Alice in Wonderland themed shower for my wedding industry tribe. once again, I was floored by the number of women that showed up to celebrate this insane transition into motherhood with me.

P.S. this next photo 100% sums up the awkward duo that IS Sarah & Sabrina, or "Sabrarah".

Next on 2016's agenda was the number one reason that I will forever look back on this year with epic amounts of heartache. On February 8th, this world lost it's brightest light -- my mom's brother, my Nanna's son, my cousins' father, my Uncle Steve. Being 30 weeks pregnant at the time, I instantly put up emotional guards around my heart -- not letting myself feel it too deeply, to protect my baby bird. And so, little by little, since she's been born, his absence from the world has hit me; harder and harder with each emotional wall I allow to fall. My Uncle Steve was perhaps the kindest, most playful, wholesome person I will ever know. He wrote music and sang at the top of his lungs until his dying day. He taught me how to snowboard and showed me what it means to live a life of adventure. I don't think a loss like this ever fades. Not a day goes by that my entire family doesn't miss him. Everything he ever did was done in love. Everything he ever touched felt kindness ripple through it's being. And I wish with all of my heart that he was still here, that he could have met my Phoenix. That ache will never go away. Ever.

One of the times I took Phoenix to visit my Nanna, we were sitting in a chair in her bedroom with a photo of my uncle sitting on the side table. Phoenix kept reaching for the frame, so I finally handed it to her. She took it into her hands with such purpose, staring right at him and placing her fingers on his face. In that moment, I knew he was no stranger to her. I like to imagine her final moments in heaven before she came into this world were spent with him, where he told her everything would be okay and to give his love to his family as he sent her on her way.

And sent her on her way, he did.
At 9pm on March 24th, my water broke, sending us into the tailspin that would be Phoenix's drug-free entrance into this world (the full story of which can be read in this other blog post).
{B&W birth story photos by, who else, Lindsey Gomes}

after 2 nights in the hospital, we headed home.

... where Lindsey took MORE photos :)

In June, my dad and I celebrated our 10th Live Oak Music Festival together,
this time with a baby clad in the ceremonial garb.

In July, we took Phoenix on the annual Fagan Family Vacation to Squaw Valley,
a place I've been exploring since I was 5 years old.

My wedding season started in May, when Phoenix was just 2 months old. Josiah had just started an outage at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, working 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week. not only was I learning how to be a mom for the first time, but a mom who worked from home, with a baby who wouldn't take a bottle. Phoenix attended 20 weddings in her 8 months, because the alternative of "if she gets hungry enough, she'll take the bottle" didn't sit well with me. it was anything but easy - simultaneously being mother and documenter of the most important day of a couple's life. I have never been more exhausted, nor more blessed. I now know intimately the meaning of the phrase "it takes a village" -- I couldn't have survived this wedding season without a team of INCREDIBLE 2nd shooters who had my back, a collection of couples that were ceaselessly accommodating and never once made me feel like less of a business-person even though my baby was crashing their wedding, and most of all my mom and Josiah who would care for Phoenix during wedding days (10-12 hour days, sometimes traveling out of town, all the time having to entertain and pacify an infant without the comforts of home).

(these next family shots are from a wedding I 2nd shot for my dear friend, Ely Roberts)

From the beginning I have been hell bent on not losing myself entirely to motherhood. I was determined to find a way for Phoenix to fit into the beautiful life we had already made, instead of building a new life that revolved around her. Obviously, a baby changes your life in a BIG WAY. It would actually be a lot easier to just drop the life I had before her and just BE HERS (in truth, some days that's all I want), but in order to best love and serve my daughter I must also love and serve myself. Which to me means keeping my business running strong, traveling wherever that business takes me, hosting photography workshops, singing at wineries, and the list goes on. Phoenix is along for the ride, which may not be easy all the time, but I believe we'll both be better because of it.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Josiah has been without work since May. At first, we were stressing balls wondering how the heck our bills would get paid. But now I see things in new light -- I couldn't have done ANY OF ^ THAT ^ without Josiah's constant support. The relationship this man has with his daughter is because of the time he's gotten with her. Being a stay at home dad is far from being "jobless." While I've busted my butt shooting and editing between naps and nursing, this man has busted his butt doing dishes, vacuuming, changing diapers, folding laundry, making homemade applesauce (because it's her favorite), and the list goes on. It is a privilege to witness this man becoming a father, and an honor to do parenthood with him.

Phoenix also has the unending love of not one but TWO great-grandmothers:
her Nanny-Granny (83 years old) & Great-Grammy (93 years old).

MOTHERHOOD has been no frickin joke. And no one can prepare you for it (try as they might). It's equal parts heaven and hell. Okay, maybe not equal -- heaven always wins -- but the "hell" parts are the stuff of nightmares. For the first 3ish months, I experienced postpartum depression. I cried for hours every day, over every little thing, sometimes uncontrollably. I would find myself staring blankly at the air in front of me, while my mind wandered back to the life I used to have. With the help of my midwife, yoga, Josiah, and Zoloft -- I slowly found my way out of that dark place and began to see the beauty in the chaos. This new life is indescribable. I may be sleep deprived most days, but the way this girl lights up when she sees me walk into a room is everything.

{mama & baby Magnolia Session by my lovely friend Tina Loveridge}

a few things about the little family we've come to be:
1) we communicate primary by ogre-speak or song
2) our two dogs, Griffin & Ruby, may knock Phoenix around a bit, but they've accepted her into the pack and fiercely love her
3) we like morning cuddles, tea parties, cooking together, going on walks, breakfast dates, swings, and watching the ocean

{amazeballs family photos also by Tina Loveridge}

October brought Phoenix's first Halloween: Dragon Baby.

November brought the latest and greatest Linden Clover Workshop (Lindsey's and my lovechild).
For six months, we planned and dreamed this creativity retreat into life. For 3 days and 2 nights, we hosted 8 photographers in boutique trailers on a vineyard in Paso Robles, feasted on the best food my tastebuds will ever experience, and fostered relationships with fellow creatives that will last a lifetime. My heart has never felt such fullness as this.

and then there was Phoenix's first Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday).

and my family took their first-ever family photo. GO US.

In December, we celebrated my belated-birthday at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with my two brothers and their girlfriends (who I adore). I never wanted to leave.

Then came Christmas. I will never grow tired of watching Phoenix experience things for the first time -- such wonder & magic is lost to so many, and she brings it back to life.

And thus 2016 has fatefully departed us -- a year full of tragedy as well as new life, sorrow as well as joy.
With bated breath, I wonder what this new year will bring. But as long as I have my tribe, my village, my people, I know it will be beautiful.

Happy New Year, from me and mine to you and yours <3


Pam Martinez:

Loved this. Also would love a pet photo shoot....😀 Something to consider this 2017?? I have variety and cuteness. You are a wonderful human.

EvaKay :

So beautiful. What a journey you've been on. Thanks for sharing it so artfully