Ever since I can remember, at the end of the year, my Dad would compile a list of all the big events or milestones that happened during the year and have the family vote on the top ten most important events. Even though we teased Dad about it, it was a great way to close out and recap the year and always made me wonder what would be on the following year's list. We haven't done those lists while my parents have been away on a mission, but I figure I can carry on the tradition for my own little family. So here goes!
2015 was crazy. In mostly good ways, though. It was full of photography, showing houses, golf, travel, and family. But it wouldn't be a true recap without recognizing the difficult things.
The Tough Stuff
Infertility reigned supreme this year. Lots of time, money, and emotion invested in trying to grow our family from two to three. It was good to start actively pursuing treatments, but it has also been frustrating not to know the cause behind it all. I've found that the stakes just keep getting higher for us emotionally and financially, and it takes more effort to keep the faith. Infertility seems to be all about two things: waiting and managing expectations. It's a difficult balance to be hopeful but not set yourself up for disappointment. Perhaps equally frustrating has been the inconsistency we've encountered in what doctors have told us. Inconsistency between doctors, but even with the same doctor. At the same time, every trial brings blessings, and this one has required us to stay closer to the Lord than we otherwise might have. We are also enjoying the time we have together, just the two of us.
Finances were interesting this year. Once I quit my job, we moved to an entirely new income model where both of us had unstable income sources--lumpy, as someone called it. Feast and famine. There were a couple months where I looked at our bills and then looked at our income and nearly fainted because the divergence was unreal. It was the first time in my life where paying tithing looked like the choice between obedience and affording groceries (and rent and car payment and insurance, etc etc etc). But we knew tithing needed to come first, and somehow, miraculously, we were blessed to meet our obligations even though the numbers didn't even come close to adding up. As difficult as simultaneously having both of us try to start our own businesses has been, it has been such a great blessing that we wouldn't trade for the temporary financial stability we sacrificed.
The Lovely Stuff
Early in the year, we left our job at the Elms Apartments (a job that had been so good to us for the time it lasted) and moved to North Orem. We fell in love with the neighborhood and the ward we were in. At that same time, Brandon had his first home sale!
Shortly after our move, we left on our trip to the Philippines and Australia to celebrate Brandon's graduation. It was a trip of epic proportions. We swam in the clearest water in the world--both saltwater and freshwater--camped on the beach, snorkeled our hearts out, and ended up in the tiny medical clinic where Brandon was admitted to treat dengue fever. Even though he wasn't better yet, we discharged ourselves from the clinic to catch an INSANE 6 hour death ride to the city with the airport. I wasn't going to let anything stop us from getting to my parents. Not even dengue.
I knew the reunion with my parents would be sweet, but the emotional weight and uncertainty of Brandon contracting a tropical illness 6 hours away from the closest hospital was enough that I nearly collapsed with relief once we arrived in Melbourne to such beloved and familiar faces. Australia was every bit as amazing as I had hoped, and much too short. We will be back.
Our little stopover in Taiwan on the way home was enough to whet our appetites for Asia.
A couple months after returning from the South Pacific/Asia, we headed to Brighton for a family reunion. The Cottonwood Canyons are STUNNING in the summertime!
Soon after, we made the leap of me quitting my job at Qualtrics to pursue photography full-time. For many months, I had been itching to ditch the 8-5 office gig and do something more fulfilling and meaningful. It was scary and exhilarating when I put in my notice, and it has been an adventure ever since! I am SO inexpressibly grateful to all my photography clients who have let me in on important events in their lives to capture beautiful moments. It is such an honor to do what I do!
The day after I quit, we headed to Flaming Gorge for a family reunion where we rafted the river and stayed up to see the stars.
We drove home, picked up our other travel bags, and hopped back in the car to drive to San Diego for a real estate conference. Brandon and his brother spent all day in meetings, and I did whatever I pleased. I spent a whole day in Balboa Park, visited Old Town and the Mormon Battalion museum, and hit up some beaches. After meetings finished, the single boys went clubbing, while Brandon & I went to Sunset Cliffs and then Old Town. The next day we all ordered pizza and enjoyed it in La Jolla with the seals and sea lions.
We came home and, thanks to my new flexible work hours, I was able to take care of my ridiculously adorable nephew Thomas for a week. Our entire year was full of nieces and nephews and family. It was the best!
Two months later, we unexpectedly packed our house up and moved to Springville into the house Brandon's parents bought for their retirement in a few years. We both have our own office here in back-to-back bedrooms. We wake up together, eat lunch together, decide when the work day is over together, and will often pop into each other's office when we need a quick break or a midday kiss. It has been such a blessing, one that we savor and express gratitude for daily. It also means that work hours bleed into all hours of the day--we work when there's work to be done, and that can be 5 in the morning (sunrise shoots are worth it!) or midnight. It's a trade-off, but one I will gladly take!
In November, I worked my tail off on a personal project that I probably put a good 25 hours a week into on top of photography. It was honestly one of the hardest things I've ever done--sticking to it every day when it was the last thing I felt like doing. But it was such a great experience! More on that later, since it's still in the works.
One of the most incredible blessings of the year was Brandon happening upon a wonderful position to work as SuAnne Hoffman's partner/buyer's agent. She is an incredible person and an equally incredible real estate agent, and working with her is an invaluable opportunity in so many ways. That position is a game-changer for us, and we are so grateful that things fell into place as they did!
All in All
As I look back on 2015, I think I will remember it as the year of the unexpected. So many things happened that we hadn't planned on but which have been beautiful and wonderful (and sometimes hard). The blessings far outweigh the difficult times. Life truly never goes as you expect it to, but I'm so grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who guides our lives, down to the smallest detail, and in Whose hands we can place our lives. I know that, despite any trials we encounter, 2016 will be beautiful!
Some of what we have to look forward to:
-Trip to Scotland & Italy in April (& unknown destinations for me afterward)
-President and Sister Maxwell (aka Mom and Dad) return in July (!)
-Maxwell Family week at the beach in August
-Working hard to better our skills and to grow our businesses
-Saving up for our financial goals
-Plans for trips to Seattle and the East Coast or Caribbean
-Pursuing personal projects in photography and writing