gone home, too

I am shooting more and more families like this one, who traveled from all over the states to Newport Beach for a family vacation! Grandma and Grandpa, their five kids, each of their spouses, and all of the grandkids joined in this fun.

Each shoot is beautifully unique to every family and their own story, and when they leave I feel like pieces of me have gone home with them.

slice of orange heaven

so many feelings

not clear words

lots of pictures

I never know how much to say or not say. But once again, I’m just gonna go for it:

This was a recent response to an email I wrote to a friend (we don’t live near one another and rarely see each other. I recently spent a brief moment with her after 6 years. This was my take away after we tearfully shared difficulty, heartache, and success in all of 20 minutes):

“This observation shook me while driving away from our discussion: I see my own imperfections and those of my family members, and sometimes I think we are living a lesser version of ourselves because of them, but when I see you and your family I am shocked at how all I see (and saw) is how beautifully each of you is living life. I would never even think of, or care, what anyone’s faults might be because all I saw is how everyone is just THEIR OWN BEAUTIFUL SELF. 

I can’t even describe my feelings or thoughts well, except I came home wanting to extend so much more mercy and grace towards myself, and each of us, because I more clearly see beauty in the chaos, growth from imperfection. I see how our efforts…work! Tyler and I were both in tears the night I came home and I told him about each of your babies, and you, and [your husband], and our time together. My mind is flooded with, “How can I ever judge or criticize myself?” In our time together I saw so clearly how beautiful life is even with the messy parts.

[You were right - we just] keep trying. And most of all keep giving thanks for a Savior who creates beauty from my measly efforts. 

I am learning to abide: abide the chaos, abide the Savior’s embrace, abide in the scriptures. (“Abide” is my new favorite word... [Our favorite teacher] mentioned that on [that sacred ]Sunday morning the apostles were at the tomb, as well as Mary, but when the Savior was not inside they left! She chose to abide and [the resurrected Savior] appeared to her. [The teacher] said, “Abide longer in your scriptures, in the temple. When you receive revelation ask, “Is there any more?”) Recently I have chosen to abide [and felt a flood of answers and love and confidence]. I abide in family, even when it’s uncomfortable or I don’t know what to say or do, in study even when I’m tired, in worship when I feel angry or frustrated.

It’s what I see you do and I see how powerful it is and I want that, too. 

You are so wonderful I can’t even say it enough. 

Maybe none of this makes sense in word but it feels precious and important to me, and I want to remember it…

I love you!


Where darkness melts into light...

Where darkness melts into light

Lines meet and quickly fade.

Expectations dissolve and

Given new ears I hear

The melody she sings

When not confined to the shadows.

There is an artist, photogtapher, writer I love, Amy Grace, who is the master of combining words and photos. I want to be a better writer - and reader - and put my thoughts down, especially in a way that specifically makes sense me. Here is my attempt and poetry; I hope it's a lifelong friendship.

"...to the core."

 "...we love each other, to the core." That is how Kennedy describes the love she and Chris share.

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle, comings and goings, and stuff that presents itself in our relationships, it can be hard to remember that we loved one another "to the core." Somehow those moments, mistakes, or habits, become more important than the person we love, or once loved. 

While it is work, and was not meant to be easy, I am sure the growing pains will have unified us. When we are old and gray, and he paints my fingernails and feeds me oatmeal (not to mention changes my diapers), the hard stuff will be nothing more than a distant memory.  

This is my reminder to recommit to choose love.

To always choose love.

Who I Truly Am

"I may always feel subject to the forces of echolocation, moving to and from experience and reflecting back again, but like the bat I can determine outcome. I do this in every thought and in every action. Every day I have to inventory the messaging. Edit and rewrite. At times there may be a little retrofitting to get the landscape to better reflect my desired outcome, but I have to do it again and again until it is true. Until all of the messages rattling around in the sound chambers of my mind are reflective of who I truly am. Simply charming, vastly likeable, perfectly self-deprecating and absolutely wonderful! As for now I am happy to be a work in progress."

Maran Hanley, Echolocation of the Soul: A New Perspective on Identity

I love her words. The complete article can be found here. Here she is, enveloped in the eyes and hands and love of those who are lucky to call her wife and mom.

"The Clock Man"

"How much will you pay for an extra day?"

The clock man asked the child.

"Not one penny," the answer came,

"For my days are as many as smiles."

"How much will you pay for an extra day?"

He asked when the child was grown.

"Maybe a dollar or maybe less,

For I've plenty of days of my own."

"How much will you pay for an extra day?"

He asked when the time came to die.

"All of the pearls in all of the seas,

And all of the stars in the sky."

Shel Silverstein

When the wild and crazy of children stills and I await distant FaceTime calls, I know I'll be telling anyone who will listen that I would give, "All of the pearls in all of the seas, And all of the stars in the sky" to have it all back: tiny arms squeezing my neck, middle of the night whimpering from babes wanting my bed, and the constant tugging on my legs while shouting, "Mama, come pway and dance wid me!" 



"You should not have come today. It's a free day, for everyone to enjoy." The lady who stopped our photoshoot to continually lecture me about how I - and the other photographers - should not be there in their way.

"Moooommmmm!!!!! She turned it off and we LOOOSSSTTTT IT!" Ashton and Oliver when I turned off Pokémon Go to take pictures and they didn't catch their Pokèmon (which now I feel bad about.)

"I want this to be what it is - Brenda is the star of the show." Lorin looking at my camera after the session.

At least we ended on a good note - a really good note!                

Love and Choice

"If we did not have moral agency we would simply be puppets manipulated by the strings of fate. ...the great purpose of mortality is to learn. [Faith] is a spiritual gift...and it always requires that we act first, and then the power comes. We don't know where to go, we don't know what to do. But my trust in Him enables me to act. He blesses me with His power, that confidence increases, we then can ultimately navigate the most difficult circumstances in life, knowing that we will never be alone, and we will always have His help.

"The greatest gift that the Father gave to us was His Son, and the gift that comes to us through the Savior's atonement is agency. So agency is central to the Father's plan, and it is the capacity to act and learn from our own experiences. That is the very essence and purpose of being here in mortality." a 3-minute video by David Bednar

The greatest lesson I have learned in my life is: This life is about love. If I am not loving, I am not doing it right.

The greatest gift we have is the gift of the atonement, from which I am bestowed the gift of choice. My greatest job is to love, no matter another's choice.

I love this family. This is my family. And their photos tell a perfect story.

Greenlake at Dusk

This family was one of the very first families I ever photographed - bless them for coming back for more. One year has passed since I started this gig. I have learned so much and have connected with people I now love, who I never would have met otherwise. My photos have been sent out to the world via blogs, The Wall Street Journal, and plain 'ol Instagram and Facebook. When I see canvases in peoples' homes I still cannot believe I was the one who took the picture. This was a dream I never saw turning into this much of a reality.

These photos of Kristi and Mike wrapped in each others' arms, E being kissed over and over again by his mama, and his swinging in his dad's arms, are all the things that make me love what I get to do. I am giddy inside thinking of what the coming year will bring. XOXO.

Just Playing

These images are some of the most meaningful I have ever taken, for a few reasons. First, Annie was one of my mission companions, and is one of my closest friends - you know the person you don't have to explain anything to and they get exactly what you are talking about? You can go months without chatting and then as soon as you talk it's as if you had been hanging out every day the whole week previous. I wish we lived next door to her and her amazing husband and beautiful baby girl. I may or may not have named my Annie-girl after her...

These pictures are also significant to me because they are a sign of major progression on a path to creativity. I want to be an artist - one who paints memories and feelings with her camera. I have been doing mentoring with Samantha Kelly - a photographer I look up to so much, and let's be honest, who I want to be when I grow up (AND who is traveling to Seattle in June to take family photos, mine included. Oh ya, it gets better, she has a Bachelor's in painting and a Master's in Art Therapy. Aaaannnnnddd, she shoots 100% film!) A couple weeks ago she gave me homework assignments via a Google Skype session. I asked all of my questions, told her all of my fears, insecurities, and worries about photography, and she did nothing but infuse me with confidence and excitement. I put into practice the suggestions she offered and saw immediate results. These photos were born of my own brainstorming and creativity, and I could not be more pleased. I tried every angle to get these shots, free lensed, and used manual focus to do it (and did not drop everything in the sand!) I took risks without worrying about the outcome, and the outcome was 8 million times more than I could have imagined. 

Here's to best friends, realizing our dreams, and documenting all of the things that matter most in this short time called life.

Free. Completely, Passionatly, Blissfuly Free.

Do you think our happiness can be directly linked to our ability to love? I believe that; I believe that sometimes the measurement of our love is also the measurement of our happiness. 

What I think is hard about life, and motherhood, is that it constantly throws stuff in our face that disrupts our love, and in turn our happiness, and vice versa. With incessant demands placed on us and growing babies who constantly throw us out of our comfort zones, our home - what should be our "safe haven" - can at times feel a war zone, each one of us fighting for the love, the happiness, the caressing, the comfort we crave and long for. 

I have had tiny moments recently that have led to thoughts of, "I am sincerely enjoying this moment." A recent one was when I grabbed one of my girls to tickle her. I'm typically annoyed with their grabbing my face, "mom. mom. mom. mom. woot-at-me (look at me). mom. mom. mom. mooooom." I most likely haven't taken one breath by myself in 24 hours and am annoyed that if I start playing with them I'll have to keep playing with them forever and ever and everrrrr ('cause once you [start] the fun don't stop). But, this time that I grabbed Annie, I was filled with gladness to be to playing with her and tickling her. I was enjoying her laughter, her curls, her smiles, her happiness (the romance ended when she kicked me in the nose but at least now I know the happiness is in there somewhere.) Another moment was while doing dishes. I am always complaining about washing too many dishes and why haven't I been to Costco yet to buy 50 million bowls and plates and cups so I don't have to wash one more?! (By the way, Tyler and I have been married seven and a half years and have had a dishwasher for all of 3 months of those.) But this time I found myself genuinely happy while standing at the sink washing loads and loads of dishes. These moments have struck me because they are very, very unlike the norm. I now know that happiness is a feeling of peace and contentment that can come despite the circumstances - it comes over time, and can be difficult to find, and the moments come and go, but I feel refreshed that in the mundane there are pockets of joy to be found, and I have found some of them.

I am also beginning to enjoy mothering my babies; I feel happy to stay home with them, and I am not fighting to constantly get away from them and the feeling I am drowning, or they are smothering me, or something... I'm not saying I "love every single moment because it's going too fast" - definitely not that! And there are plenty of minutes and hours I want to scream and drive far away while they tantrum on the kitchen floor. But as our lives unfold together I find myself happy to love them and even happier to be their mom. The measurement of my love had increased, as has my happiness while I'm around them. My heart, and our home, suddenly feels lighter and more full of laughter and love.

I was almost brought to tears while photographing these three. During this hour together happiness took over and love was all that was known. Every worry and care went flying out a wide open window into a breeze waiting to catch and carry them away, far from our joy and laugher. Everyone practically skipped down the shadowed path that lead us to sun kissed waves, glittering sand, hazy mist, and a wide open beach to frolic and play. Few were the spoken words, and overflowing the emotions of closeness, remembrance, and peace, creating a moment and a memory unable to be forgotten.

Cotaberts Family

Has your heart ever felt so full, so happy, wanting to explode with joy and excitement, so about to burst that it makes the world seem light as a feather - that you're floating along as if to have not a care in the world? I am there right now. I haven't felt this way over the last little while though, more the opposite: pressure, barely hanging on, unreachable expectations, drowning, heavy. For reasons I know and now recognize, but which I am learning to let waft past me. I now know how to recognize those hard moments and mentally and spiritually step aside so they flutter by hardly with my noticing them. I have a long blog post in my mind that I will write soon, but for now this family and the photos of them remind me of lightness, floating, free, acceptance, peace, progression, overcoming, and most importantly becoming.  

Rose Garden Family Shoot

These two met on Match.com and the rest is history. Her idea for a Rose-Garden shoot was spot on, and the overcast skies made for some brilliant images. I love watching families enjoy their time together. When their only job is to be happy and have fun for an hour things are good. I get sit back and enjoy the ride, and then hear about how great it was afterward. And the whole time I didn't do anything but press a button and listen to them laugh and chat together. It doesn't get much better than that.