Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A note to Mom's who have Lost a Child

I've been laughing and smiling a lot lately. My husband and I have found ourselves laughing together more than we normally do too. I've been asking to watch funny movies and wanting to input "FUNNY" into my life. I can't help but relate this to the gift our baby has left us with. While I was pregnant I felt this deep desire to laugh and I felt like our baby was going to bring this sense of humor that would add so much laughter to our family. There was even moments during my pregnancy where I would stop and say to our baby "you are a comedian" because of funny things that would happen. It is SO hard to wrap my mind around death and loss in general. I try my hardest to pay close attention to each stage of the process and while I was pregnant that is what I did. I began to know our child in ways only a mom can know their child. Life begins in the womb and I believe purpose begins with that too. I've chosen to look at the loss of our baby in a light that would seem so hard to find. But I've taken this laughter as a gift. A gift that I am choosing to embrace and getting to know. I am naturally NOT a sarcastic or witty person. In fact I am always in awe of people who are and think it's quite attractive actually. So, here I am patting myself on the back and remembering how I am thankful for this gift that our baby has given to us. We may not hold our babies in our arms or raise them like we desire too, but everyday we get to know our babies more and more in a new kind of way. This puts me in awe and my prayer is that all woman who go through a loss of a child can experience a glimpse of their child on earth. Everyday we encounter beauty, some days we just have to look harder than others. When beauty appears the gift is there for us to embrace. So embrace it. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Grieving Brings Healing

Woke up early, did my hair, got dressed (thank God) put make up on, put a smile on my face and snapped a picture. Engaged with people today, met new people and enjoyed it. Why am I telling you this? Well, because Grief can cause us to not want to do any of these things and guess what? That's okay. I had a day yesterday where I sat in mismatch clothes, with no make up on, didn't wash my hair and cried A LOT. Both examples are part of the process. Neither is right or wrong and neither is positive or negative.
When we went through our first loss, my husband and I attended a Grief and Recovery class that the hospital offers for families who have lost a child. One of the questions was this, "Do you believe there is a wrong or right way to grieve?" I answered "Yes!" Expressing how anything that is negative must be wrong and anything that was positive must be right. Such as, if I was depressed, suicidal, wanting a divorce, questioning anything and everything...I thought that was all negative ways to grieve. Positive ways I thought were thinking good thoughts, telling people how good I am doing, going back to work with a smile on my face and picking up right where we left off. The person leading the class said "have any of you had any of those thoughts that Gina mentioned?" Everyone in the room said "yes, I have had suicidal thoughts, I went through a divorce, I am depressed etc..." Then the person leading the group said "let me tell you, there is no wrong way or right way to grieve." I left with so many thoughts going through my head because the truth was I felt ALL of those feelings I had expressed, I just didn't know I could express them or even feel them. For days I have thought about everyone in that room and how they expressed their heart so freely. What I saw was healing and freedom in their eyes. Instead of questioning anyone, I chose to listen and from that one experience I learned. I learned everyone goes through a process and it's not about right or wrong. 

I thought to myself "How na├»ve and prideful that I thought this way" but really it set me free. Free in such a way that I felt I had to come to terms with my own thoughts and emotions and be honest with the reality and truth of where I was at in my life. l thought to myself "if I am not honest with those thoughts, they will only keep growing until I actually take action to one of those thoughts or I will live a very unhappy life" dealing with all other kinds of issues and then as I grow old I would think "how did I end up here?" I started to see the unhealthy perspective and in that moment I had to choose to lean into this truth and reality that I had going on with myself. 

The beauty was when I expressed my thoughts my husband was not afraid of any of it. But guess what? Shortly after I went through my process he then went through his. And now it was my turn to not be afraid of his process. It was so hard. Because we realized neither one of us could fix each other, but we could be there for each other with an open mind and open soul to allow this freedom in creating honesty in our life, for the rest of our lives. 

Honesty changed EVERYTHING. 

Had ONE of us made the choice to not move forward in these areas our story would NOT have played out this way. 

In a marriage two people must be willing. At times one is pulling the other. In fact we are hardly ever strong at the same time. We have moments where we are both strong BUT most of the time when I am weak Ryan is stronger and when he is weak I am stronger. But ideally when neither of us are strong (which happens) we know God is always there. How do we know He is there? Because we talk to him just as we talk to a friend. The beauty in discovering what honesty did in our own lives opened us up to be so honest with God and realize He can handle ANYTHING. God has heard it all and I think because we've been fed lies from man or religion we had such a closed mind to not even allow us to be real with God. I wrote this quote in a blog I posted a few years back and I said "When we become Real with God He becomes Real to us." It's true. Too many of us deny God even exists and to be honest we did the same thing for a time walking through all the pain and junk that we walked through. But it didn't matter how far we ran or how much we yelled, cussed at or denied him, HE was STILL there. We make God out to be WAY more complicated than He really is and all He wants from us is to invite Him into the process. He's not there to pound us into the ground or stop blessings from getting to us because we didn't do x, y and z. He just wants us to come to Him undone and show us the loving father that He is. His Beauty is always there. His Hope is always there. We just have to be willing to pay attention to it. 

Some people do and some people don't but at some point we must. Our life is all worth something and we all have something to give.  Nothing ever goes to waste and we've learned to endure the hard times because we know it is within those moments something will rise above our situation and it will be worth it ALL. 

We've experienced it first hand, the beauty to embrace it all. Here we are still standing and choosing to do this all over again. To walk through another loss, but this time our faith and our love for one another will not be shaken. Marriage is a series of these kinds of events and when you find someone who is willing to walk through one event after another...oh my friend, the possibilities for you and your spouse are endless. 

It takes time. It takes work, both individually and collectively. It takes being uncomfortable, and it takes being honest with yourself and one another. It is a messy process, but the process is worth it all. 

Invite yourself into the messy process. Invite God into it too and invite others with whom you can trust to walk through the process with you too. It is so important to not walk out this process alone. You don't need to do what we do and feel like you have to share with the world, but you can share with a friend or someone who is able to help walk through the trenches with you. 

Grieving effects everyone no matter if your married or not, have kids or no kids, have family or no family. It effects everyone so differently. Once you've opened up your heart to grieve and heal you will be able to see other people in a different light too. It is truly amazing the gift that is hidden when honesty begins. Allow honesty to become real in your life and watch the healing process begin for YOU. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Peace in the Midst of a Storm

How do you share something so devastating and somehow hope you can do it justice? I guess you just do the best you can right? Well, that is what my husband and I did. We want to say thanks for all the thoughts and prayers in advance as we walk through another loss. We stand on Peace and Strength in the midst of this storm. 
Thank you for watching

Friday, August 18, 2017

Four Months

4 months pregnant. 
                                                      So what's it been like for me? 
Well, I'm Pregnant! I'm tired, I wanna eat ALL the time. I feel like crap at night time (totally a new experience for me). I am normally a night owl and I feel like I can crash at 8pm every night. My legs are already getting really achy, usually that happens to me later on but I guess when they say the more babies you have the more your body remembers and the quicker your symptoms pop up too. It's ALL TRUE. My body is not hiding anything and I am completely okay with that. 

It's fun being pregnant with our fourth because the things that I used to care about I don't and I have embraced that my body is growing a so is the human being inside me and so I am letting myself take it all in. I don't care about trying to wear my "normal" clothes as long as I can. I've already bought materiality shorts and jeans and it feels SO good. I am comfortable and that is all that matters. 

I remember with my first pregnancy I used to think it was so cool that I could wear my jeans up until I was 8months pregnant and now I'm like SCREW it. Let's just be pregnant. 

A friend text me the other day and said something so awesome. She said "I am thankful for the symptoms but it is hard to go through the emotions." She nailed it. That's exactly how I feel. I've come to a place in knowing my body will do what it needs to do and I am not going to force anything upon it. If I'm tired I lay down, if I am hungry I eat, if I feel like crap I say it and if I think I look beautiful I show it off.   

People look at me and say "oh it must be nice to be skinny while your pregnant" but what people don't know is my body changes JUST like everyone else's. We all are our own worst critic right?! TRUST me I can go into a lot of TMI with you but I will spare you all the changes going on with me physically. But what I will share with you are the changes that are going on with me Mentally and Emotionally. That I am NOT shy about and I will NOT hold back. 

The reality is for MOST pregnant mamas we want healthy babies. We want to experience a full term pregnancy, we want to experience natural child labor and no imperfections whatsoever. But if you talk to a mom who has experienced labor you know those experiences are not always the case. When you don't have a good experience fear naturally try's to grip you and pump you up with every thought that can possibly go wrong. Even if you haven't had a good experienced fear can grip you too, right?! 

Well, that was me for about the first 4 weeks into this pregnancy. Due to my last pregnancy ending in my child being a still born, getting pregnant mentally and emotionally was NOT easy and with that naturally comes some crazy thoughts that have ran through my head.
Have I beat myself up over it? NO. In fact one of the first words out of my mouth when I found out I was pregnant was, "I don't think I have the faith to follow through with this." As if I can send the baby back or something right? A lot of people would probably gasp if they heard me say that, friends might correct me and people may try to encourage me to think otherwise. I get it, had I not experience what I did I probably would be that friend too. But because I did experience what I did, I let myself feel the feelings and deal with them. All you peeps reading, don't freak out okay. I didn't entertain the thought to the point of giving up my child. I felt those thoughts because I knew at some point I was going to have to face them. 

If you've gone through any pain whatsoever in your life I would probably say you are inhuman to me if you don't have some kind of mental games that you have to put yourself in check with from time to time. 

It doesn't mean that I don't have the faith to go through this again it just means I am human and our human mind remembers our past hurts, even when we don't want to. Another friend shared with me that our muscle memory stores painful situations. That's why one day out of the blue we will be like "today just seems off" and the more we think our muscle memory triggers these emotions that remind us about what may have happened that day years ago or not long ago. It is really unreal how the body, soul and spirit work. So, try not to beat yourself up if you have a day like this. It's normal and it doesn't mean you are not strong it just means you are human. 

So what did I do when I felt like I didn't have the faith to carry this child? I told my husband. He didn't correct me or condemn me instead he said "Gina I can only imagine, you carried our last child and that is something I will never know or experience." That has been such a beautiful reality for us in our marriage. That there are just some things that each of us will carry that are different from each other and we have to be patient with each other through the process. It's taken us facing several moments where I have broken down because I want my husband to understand the feelings I feel carrying a child, but each time I broke down we realized we both have experienced our pain differently. And that is okay. He is there for me and I am there for him. 

After those four weeks there seemed to be this peace and this knowing that I believed in myself and in my body that I can do this. I would speak to my body and say "I am one with this pregnancy", knowing no matter what this child is already serving a great purpose. 

I will be honest even though I have more faith now I do notice before every doctor visit I will take a deep breath and remind myself "everything is going to be okay." If I lay down for an ultra sound I notice I get a little nervous and I don't look at the screen until I can hear that heartbeat. There is a relief every time when you hear those words "the baby looks great, the baby is growing perfectly, what a strong heartbeat." The truth when women say "all I want is a healthy child" has become SO real to me. I know it's super fun to try to figure out the gender of your child and if people ask "do you have any feelings yet if you can tell if your having a boy or girl?" But really deep down inside all I'm praying for is a healthy pregnancy the whole way through. 

Our 8 and 6yr old girls are SO excited for us to find out the gender of our baby and of course so are WE but I will tell you it's been a total BLAST having older kids as we walk through this experience with them. I always thought I would have my kids all close together but you know we can't control everything and honestly one of the reasons why it was so hard to think about another baby was because after our loss there was the age gap. Why "the the gap" is such a big deal I really don't know but I think we make the whole gap thing a bigger deal than it really is and ITS NOT! It's been the greatest joy for us to see how involved our girls have already been and how much they are taking on this new joy in our lives. They are planning our gender reveal party, they are already talking about who wants to wake up in the middle of the night, who gets to feed the baby, who gets to help mom and so on. It's been so fun! 
I have such a sense of peace that has really filled my soul and I am soaking it all up at the moment. We have SO appreciated all the love, prayers and support from everyone who has celebrated with us in this next chapter of our lives. It's true when people say you can feel the love because that is what my family and I have been experiencing...nothing but love. 

God is so good and it is beautiful to see how he turns ashes to beauty. Annabelle's life taught us to live daily and to focus on whatever is happening in our lives right. To not exhaust ourselves with the future but to embrace every moment as they come. I am so thankful we chose to take this next step. The trusting part, the faith part and the believing part has been a process and I know it will continue to be. So here I am at 4 months into this pregnancy sharing this part with you and thankful to be at a place where I can share it with true joy. 


Thanks for staying up to date with us. We love you and are so excited to keep sharing our updates with you. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Welcome to Our Next Chapter

I recently heard this on a video I found on youtube. It was one of those days where I was listening to one video after another so I don’t even remember who even said this but all I know is it stood out to me. This man said… 

“There will never be a point in your life where its the right time to do a great thing. 
If your waiting for the perfect moment and perfect timing its not going to happen. 
You know what you have to do is to CREATE the perfect time and the perfect opportunity and the perfect situation.” 

When I heard this it hit me pretty hard, this idea that I have the ability to create TIME in my life. Then I thought some more and said “wait a minute, this is exactly what me and my family have been doing over the last couple of years” Creating a new life for ourselves and with that came an awareness that we are so done sitting around, waiting for the perfect time or perfect moment, but what we can do is CREATE it. We ALL have this power inside us. For some of us it is when we hit rock bottom (whatever rock bottom is for you). I have noticed our “Rock Bottom” is really how much we are able to tolerate. Some are just willing to tolerate more emotionally physically, spiritually, financially, relationally etc…than others but at one point we do reach our breaking point.  

Many of you know that 3 years ago we lost our third child as a stillborn. I was six months along when I delivered Annabelle Grace. When we as a family experienced her loss it lead to one loss after another. The moment this happened in our lives it was like everything prior in our life had been erased and here we were starting with a blank slate and it was up to us what we were going to do with it. What we were able to tolerate had reached its peek and there we stood face to face with it all. We didn’t see it at the time, but little did we know, Annabelle’s life was giving us a new life. A good one that is. But it really didn’t seem that way at first. We began to ask a lot of questions. How are we going to respond to this? Is the situation going to improve our lives? Is this situation going to make us stronger as individuals and as a family? These were some hard questions. At the time my husband went into survival mode which is VERY common for men and as a woman I fell into a downward spiral. I have written several blogs describing our experiences but since then we as a family have carved out some time rebuilding us. I have taken a year away from blogging about our personal life which has lead us to work out some things that have really needed our attention. 

Many people have asked if we would consider having another baby. Some knowing our situation and some innocently not knowing. It is a common question to ask, right? Sometimes it was easy to answer and sometimes it was hard. There are lots of questions or remarks that have been hard for me to answer or hear over the years and to be honest I still have moments. It is so easy to get offended and so easy to misjudge people and assume the worst when really, the truth is, no matter which way you look at it when a friend, a family member or someone you may know is going through a lot it is just hard all around. For the ones going through the pain it is in our human nature to want sympathy at times, for someone to notice our hurt or even understand just a little. It is our job to remind ourselves through the process that some people will be there and some people we thought would be there may not. The beauty is we meet new friends along the way and our environment can’t help but change a little and for some a whole lot. Our situations change us and that is okay. Your perceptions change, your appreciations for life change and your views change. While going through a healing process it is SO important to be understanding of others as well. Meaning, we shouldn’t set our expectations too high. People will not be there for you 24/7. People will not always understand. Your best friend may not have the words to say, and not everyone you think will be in your life forever will. AND GUESS WHAT?? Never will you be able to live up to all those standards either. If we set our expectations too high we will be left with disappointment for the rest of our lives. Now, some people are intentional and have absolutely no filter and some simply choose to remain naive and ignorant and those people you do not need in your life. For some it may be just a phase for you to have to distance yourself in the relationship and you never know, they can eventually come back into your life, but for some you just need to wipe your hands clean and let go. Again we have the power to create what we allow in our lives or what we don’t. This takes time. 

For our family our attention couldn’t be about how people were with us or how people would approach us and so on. We were going through enough spiritually, emotionally, physically, financially…in ALL areas you could imagine that we just didn’t have the time or energy to acknowledge the other chaos around us. Our girls would ask us on occasion to have another baby and my husband and I would visit the conversation at times, but I really didn’t like the pressure I felt when we did talk about it and the conversation never came to any conclusion. I think a part of me was afraid to move forward. I would think "what if I get pregnant and we lose everything again." At times I would have such a positive attitude and think “if we did it once, we can do it again” nothing would phase us and just as fast as that thought would come another one would come saying “but what if we don’t?” Thoughts move fast don’t they? It doesn’t matter how much faith or strength you have, the thoughts come and go quickly. Training your mind to be beat those negative thoughts to the punch is mandatory. It's not a matter of if they come but when they do what is your response. Dwelling on the past does no good. The fact is the past will always be there, fear will always be there, negative thoughts will always be there, but realizing that you have just as much control and power over all of them is something that we all need to recognize. 

Eventually what happened for us is when Ryan went into survival mode and I went though my downward spiral we begin to shut out and num all the feelings just to stay afloat in other areas. Let me tell ya, eventually the numbing wears off and at some point you have to identify the pain you are experiencing head on. I heard on another video someone say “that problem, whatever your problem is, you can not ignore it. That problem will not go away. You won’t wake up one day and it won’t be there anymore. It will be there and it will haunt you for the rest of your life and I am hear to tell you, DEAL WITH IT! The sooner you deal with it the sooner you can create a solution for it and the sooner you deal it will the sooner you will begin to feel fulfillment!” and he is absolutely RIGHT!

Most people do not experience this because naturally as humans we do everything in our power to fight against pain. Knowing this and talking to lots and lots of people who have gone through a tremendous amount of loss and pain we knew we didn’t want to be like most people and in that moment we agreed that we were going to take our situation and somehow make it meaningful and hopefully beautiful. We didn't quite know how we were going to do that but we just knew we were. In our life before Annabelle we had already experienced what it was like to live life on Auto Pilot. Like I said before, we were drained, our marriage was drained, our finances were drained, our kids were drained, our relationship with God was drained and everything else you can imagine. 

It sure is hard to remain patient. Still, to this day when we find ourselves trying to "fix" each other, one of us has to quickly remind ourselves that it is not our job to fix one another. If we are intentional about experiencing a better life than we have to know that nothing is going to happen overnight. SO, no matter what junk comes out or unexpected thoughts that cross our minds we vow to be there for each other during the process. It's not been the prettiest process. Trust me it's been easy (more on my end) to escape the easy way out and call it quits. I struggle with this and I don't hide it because we all are a work in progress. I mean, doesn't everyone want to skip ahead to the pretty parts and leave out all the ugly parts of a story. Wouldn't you agree though the ugly parts are the best parts of every story because that is what truly makes us who we are today. If we choose to skip ahead our appreciation and perception would never change. Our struggles and pain are meant to change us in a healthy way and if we don't allow time for our soul to heal we will never see the beautiful exchange that can take place and that WANTS to take place in our life. 

I think the biggest thing for us that we have realized thus far in our healing process is that when facing our pain we have now gained such an appreciation, an awareness and an ability to become present in our life. And you know when that exchanged happened? When we finally were able to admit to ourselves that everything was not okay in our world. I love what Tony Robbins says “If we can remain humble and hungry, we can WIN.” I am telling you, instant freedom comes when you can humble yourself and speak truth to those things that don't need to be in your life anymore. Whatever it is that holds you back from freedom has probably been because you have been ignorant to the truth and you have not wanted to face the truth of your current situation. Yes, it is hard to trust again. Yes, it is hard to believe good things can happen again or that we can even forgive each other again. BUT is it possible? ABSOLUTELY! 

As I write this blog I want you to know our hearts desire is as we invite you into this next chapter of our lives that you will be enlightened in such a way where it will bring some hope that you can connect to. Whatever your situation might be right now, know there IS a brighter tomorrow. That there is beauty in store for you. Healing and a joy that will flood your soul. We were CREATED to enjoy life to the absolute fullest and if you are not enjoying life then you are not living. I am NOT talking about all your dreams coming true kind of living. I am talking about a loving yourself, forgiving others, experiencing a life that gives…kind of living. You can have all the bells and whistles and still be the most miserable person. It is finding true freedom within yourself that will allow you to live freely. 

Finally, here we were. The time came. There was a moment when all of my fears, all my thoughts and all my emotions visited me face to face. I am excited to share this because I really didn’t think we would get here, but here we are. 

I asked my girls one day, “give me one good reason why you want mom to have another baby.” I was not looking for the typical answer that all kids say like “Cause we want one.” I was looking for a solid answer that made sense. Well, with no hesitation my oldest gave me an answer that I had never thought about. She shares her answer in the video below so you will just have to watch it...

Her answer truly healed a wound in my heart almost immediately. There are some people that know the time is right to either have more kids or not. For my family and I little did we know we really had to create this so called "perfect time." I am a strong believer that nothing in this life is perfect, but I do believe you can create “perfect” situations by inviting in conversations around it. Not hiding the conversation or being afraid of it but embracing it in such a way where it becomes perfect for you and your family. Not everyone needs to understand all the details. The main thing is you understand it and it is right for you. What my daughters answer did for us is realize this new space we had created as a family had made more space in our life to now give more. This was such an important moment to me because we really haven’t experienced being in a place like this before. When it came to another child I just knew it had to be an honest and true decision. So here I am ready to announce that 
YES! WE ARE HAVING ANOHER BABY!!!

This child was planned, this child has been talked about, prayed for and really has come at the perfect time for our family. Any obstacle or resistance that comes our way I have now realized it is up to us how we respond to it. 

Friends, can I just tell you to please focus on your life that is right in front of you. Don’t try to skip ahead. Look for the beauty in every situation you are in. I promise, beauty is there. Hold on to those little promises. They are just for you. The past is the past. We learn and grow from the past but we do not remain there. 

As we continue to share our story with you, we pray you find healing and freedom. If you have read this far, THANK YOU! We would love for you to watch our video if you haven’t already as we share our excitement with you. We look so forward to sharing more throughout the process. 

Thank you again for taking time to read our blog…Stay tuned for updates along way!!! 



Monday, July 31, 2017

Kid's Independence

Today I told my girls "ya know I'm going to REALLY miss you two when you go back to school." 

This time of year comes every year and you would think I'm ready for it, but it seems I never am. It's like their Birthday or Christmas. You notice those little things that make you think how fast time goes by. They grow a little bigger over summer break. Not only in size but their heart grows bigger, their minds, their thoughts, their personalities, the way they express themselves, their interests, their relationship as siblings and daughters, their questions and answers. There is always more to learn and more to do and it seems like every year they are so excited to experience more. In the same token I like to soak up all these feelings I am experiencing because wise moms who have crossed my path and who have experienced much more than I, have told me to do so. So, I remind myself to listen to them and so far its paid off pretty nicely as I do enjoy motherhood.

As I explore my thoughts as a mom I can't help but take a minute and hope they hold on to those little nuggets that I take time to pour into them day in and day out. Thoughts like...I hope they listen, I hope they are polite, fair, attentive, respectful, truthful and friendly, I hope they notice the people around them in a positive light and love others for who they are. They are still young and they have a long way to go but with each step they take I pray they discover more and more of who they are and they find freedom in those areas even when I can't be involved every step of the way.
There may be moments where they will be treated unfairly and they have to stand up for themselves and in those moments I have to trust them. There are different stages in this game of life and we are at the stage where we are now teaching our girls about the power they have to listen to the voice within. Kids are capable of much more than we know and it is so important that we as parents don't allow fear to grip us but we allow fearful moments to turn into teaching moments. If kids know mom and dad are not afraid to give them responsibility and we allow for opportunities to mess up in front of us, then I believe the stronger they will recognize the power that lies within them to trust themselves too. Sending our kids off to school can be a very overwhelming experience but keeping a healthy perception is key as life moves on. I love that they have teachers other than me, I love that they are influenced and exposed to different ways in learning and receiving. 
So here I am reminding myself as much as I will miss them during the day, I also am excited to see them grow and explore in another new school year with many more to come. It's not easy to see independence grow, but it sure is a beautiful thing when you believe in the work you do as a parent. So parents, believe in yourself, trust the work you do and have confidence they will do even better. Because, let's face it, their life teaches us the same thing in return. How to be better. We just have to be open to see it and receive it. 

With every new step
With every new stage 
With every new season 
Is an opportunity to grow and explore even more. 
Don't look back. 
Embrace the new and 
Keep moving forward.

Thank you to all the teachers who pour out so much time and energy to teach our kids. We are thankful for you. Praying for one beautiful school year for all your kids, students and families. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Live Life, Celebrate Life

This past weekend I was given the opportunity to photograph a beautiful Engagement Party for some vey close family friends that I so love and adore. We have been friends since I was a kid. In fact I babysat the soon to be groom and his brother when they were kids. Not only that but once I showed up at this event I felt right at home. Many of you know that I come from a big Italian Family. You may see a lot of photos on my Facebook or Instagram of my family because my immediate family is all I have in AZ. I never grew up with cousins or distant relatives. I have one Uncle that lives in Arizona who is the coolest guy you will ever meet and sing just like Frank Sinatra. I had one set of Grandparents on my mothers side who lived in Arizona as well. My grandfather passed when I was in Jr. High and my grandmother passed when I was in college. Eventually my other set of Grandparents on my father side moved to Arizona and I was able to spend many precious years with them too before they passed. Originally with family being from Italy most of our family migrated primarily to the Chicago, IL area and to Canada. Thankfully my mom worked for the airlines so growing up we traveled a lot. My sisters and I LOVED Summer vacations. It never failed the night before a big trip us sisters wouldn’t be able to sleep because we were so excited to go see family. When we returned home from our trips my parents would hear endless cries that were more like sobbing as if we were mourning a death. OH BOY! Did we ever pile on every kind of guilt trip you could imagine as to why we had to leave and why, OH WHY, Did you make us grow up in Arizona??!! Oh goodness it was awful. Just thinking about it I have to say I’m so sorry mom and dad. But I know my sisters would probably say “nope we aren’t sorry," LOL! We still have our moments trust me. Just last week my sisters and I were talking about our childhood memories visiting family and no joke we were all in tears. 

But somehow, someway my parents made a way to integrate the Italian culture even though we were FAR from it living it the sunny state of AZ. We attended lots of Italians gatherings and had a lot of friends we called Aunts and Uncles and their family we would call our family. If you know anything about the Italian culture you know we do everything BIG! The food is a BIG, our music is a BIG, the memories we create are a BIG, which makes our celebrations VERY BIG, which then leads to the LOVE we feel, express and give is VERY BIG too. To people we might sound like we are yelling at each other but all that is, is the passion we have to LOVE so BIG that we just can't help but to yell and sometimes YES when there is a disagreement that breaks out you better believe there is some REAL YELLING going on too, haha! There is no shame in hiding or expressing our feelings. 

Every culture has something we gotta work on right, haha!    

I say all this to express the joy I felt attending and capturing this beautiful engagement party. It felt like home to me, the minute I walked through the doors people I didn't even know were greeting me with hugs and kisses and even the soon to be Brides Nonna starts speaking to me in Italian. I would just smile and node my head just the way I used to do with my grandmother and what was so great is she even did what my grandmother used to do, she would grab my face and think the world of me too, lol! I left with my heart filled to the max and the minute I walked out of those doors I called my mom and went straight to my parents house to give them a hug. I know family is something not everybody has nor do you stay on good terms with. Trust me we have plenty of that in our family too. But can I just say no matter who you call family make time to hold them close. If you have kids teach them the essence of what Family looks like and teach them to celebrate life, food, people and culture in a healthy and beautiful way. It may be foreign to you or it may be very close to you. Either way I encourage you to discover it and create it today. We can all learn from each others ways and see culture and diversity as a beautiful thing. So, today I am happy to share my beautiful culture with you along with some very beautiful people that have worked so hard to be where they are today. 

Meet Evan and Erika, they have been dating each other for nine years. Over Christmas Break Evan propose to Erika in the beautiful Napa Valley, CA.
Evan Graduated from ASU with a four year degree in Criminal Justice with moving onto one year in the Police Academy. Erika has a Masters in Speech Pathology from ASU, and studied abroad three different summers in Italy. To see their family and friends come along side them, support them and now celebrate them was a very beautiful thing to witness.
All the food and pastries you see was all made from scratch even down to the herbs and lemons straight from the backyard and much much more. I shot over 500+ images and somehow narrowed it down to 230+ but here on the blog I am sharing as many as I can with you. This celebration was one to remember and I hope as you look through these pictures you are inspired to celebrate life, share life and create one beautiful life to live. 

Thank you Brenda for this wonderful opportunity to allow me to capture a very special moment in your family's life. Evan and Erika I will always and forever remember this beautiful celebration. What a beautiful life you have ahead of you. Wishing you the very best.  
And Nonna thanks for making snagging me away to capture this sweet moment with you. I felt my grandparents smiling down at me this evening and it felt like home.