special events

Knott's for the Cure

"We want women to survive and thrive through breast cancer." And with that statement, applause thundered throughout the room.

Knott's Berry Farm has proudly partnered with the Orange County Affiliate of Susan G. Komen, and it was there at the celebration breakfast that the true power of it all began to unfold. The room was a sea of pink, but it wasn't just the decor. Audience and speakers alike were decked out in the color that has become synonymous with breast cancer awareness, showing their support thereof and solidarity with one another.

Because everyone has a story.

Every. single. person. in that room had been touched in some way or another by breast cancer... whether they were a survivor, a support, or were there to honor someone's memory. In Orange County, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. But, thanks to Komen's funding of research, new treatments and awareness of the importance of annual mammograms to detect breast cancer in its earliest and most curable stages, the survival rate for breast cancer has risen dramatically over the 33 years of the organization. Leading to many more celebrations like this one.

Because there was a strength in that room as I've never before seen. These women were powerful, and many of them weren't even aware of their strength and beauty. The survivors stood tall. And a few women, still undergoing treatment, stood the tallest of them all. These women will not go down without a fight.

They've taken their stories, their struggles, and their pain... and turned it into strength. Turning towards one another for not just comfort, but the recognition that they weren't alone in this battle, and then taking that strength and bringing it out into the world to help others.

The mic was passed, and a few stories were shared. Many had a similar theme: "I can't have cancer. I don't have TIME for this." Because it's often overlooked... just because a woman deals with "the C word," it's not like the rest of the world slows down around her. One woman mentioned her own struggles in balancing real life again, and said she worried about spending too little time focusing on her son. But out of the mouth of babes sometimes come the healing words that are needed the most: "Mom, remember that day when we were helping to save lives? That's what it's all about."

Breakfast was concluded the way it began... with thunderous applause and cheers... as Rebecca shared her own experience: "I am 4 years away from cancer, and every day I walk further away from it and give it the finger."

It had been stated that the journey through breast cancer is like riding a rollercoaster. There are definitely ups and downs, any maybe even a bit of screaming and crying. But there is also strength in numbers, and no one needs to go through the journey alone.

With that thought in mind, the breast cancer survivors went for a symbolic ride together on the Pony Express... one of the rollercoasters of Knott's Berry Farm.

Surrounded and empowered by those who have all "been there before," their screams of fear turned instead to screams of joy.

Knott's Berry Farm is playing a pretty big role in helping to find a cure for breast cancer. From February 1 through March 31, they are offering a special "Pink Ticket" for theme park admission (available for purchase online at www.knotts.com), as well as limited edition specially designed "pink" merchandise. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Susan G. Komen Orange County. And to kick off the promotion, Knott's Berry Farm has generously donated $25,000, which will provide 400 women in Orange County with life-saving breast health services.

KnottsSusanGKomen-65Guests entering the theme park during the time of the promotion will be greeted by this special display, and guests are able to purchase a commemorative limited edition magnet to place on the display in honor of, or in memory of, someone affected by breast cancer.


KnottsSusanGKomen-59I, myself, left a magnet in honor of my mom's best friend, Jackie. She is definitely a strong woman, and the world is a much better place with her still a part of it.

KnottsSusanGKomen-55These magnets, as well as special edition pink Knott's for the Cure shirts, are available in select merchandise locations inside Knott's Berry Farm, and all proceeds will benefit Komen Orange County.

KnottsSusanGKomen-46 You can even take a picture in-park and share it with your social media network.

KnottsSusanGKomen-50Because it's all about spreading the word. Touching people at an individual level, so that their voices as a collective become that much stronger.


KnottsSusanGKomen-42KnottsSusanGKomen-37For instance... Jacque is a survivor. She got through it, and didn't let her cancer define her. Just a little piece of her story: She is a single mom, and had just started taking classes at a community college when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found out on her son's 2nd birthday. When many women might crumble under the strain, Jacque decided that she was not going to let it win. She continued her classes and graduated with a full scholarship to UCI. Just having graduated from there with a B.A. in Psychology, she is about to continue her education by going for her doctorate.

KnottsSusanGKomen-39She is most definitely an inspiration, along with so many other women I had the pleasure of meeting that day. As individuals, they are strong. As a collective, hear them ROAR!


Show your love and support by participating in this wonderful event at Knott's Berry Farm.

Visit Knotts.com to learn more, or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Visit KomenOC.org to learn more, or call 1-877 GO KOMEN. You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Choose Joy

Eyes shiny with joyful tears, and lips curved into a smile that grew and grew... I listened to their stories. Stories of bravery. Of traveling an unexpected path. Struggling with infertility, and the possibility of adoption. Heavy decisions. Doors closed, windows opened.

The women shared stories that they hadn't previously shared outside of their inner circle. This was a safe place, filled with others sharing in their experiences. The joy, the pain, and everything in between. And comfort came in knowing they weren't alone.

I was there at the Choose Joy Event to help spread the word of Red Thread Sessions (complimentary portrait sessions for newly adoptive families). And while I shared the story of Red Thread Sessions with them... they shared their stories with me.

I met a lot of wonderful women who had made the decision to adopt a child. Some were at the beginning of the adoption process and it was all brand new to them. Some had gone through it before but were doing it again. Some women already had at least one biological child of their own, but wanted to add to their family through adoption. Some children would be joining their families from countries I'd honestly never even heard of before.

Each and every woman I met had a story of their own to share. And each and every one of them was absolutely amazing.

And I thank them all from the bottom of my heart. For being brave in the face of uncertainty. For sharing their stories with me. And for choosing to share their love with an adopted child.



Vendors there to share their knowledge, services and goodies: TheSuitcaseStudio_0025.jpg TheSuitcaseStudio_0026.jpg

And here was my own table set-up: TheSuitcaseStudio_0027.jpg

Even a fun craft for everyone to take home: TheSuitcaseStudio_0028.jpg TheSuitcaseStudio_0029.jpg

Some songs of worship were shared:

At the end of the night the event's creator, Emmy Blakely, shared her own story.


But my very favorite moment of the night was what followed. Raffle tickets had been sold for a lot of great goodies, but the grand finale was a jar of $2,700 cash that was given to one lucky attendee to use however they needed in order to help grow their family.

A ticket number was called, but nobody moved. Heads swiveled around the room, trying to locate the winner. A few moments later a noise was heard at a table, and the words "yes, that's YOU" drifted over to my ears. A woman stood and hesitantly walked toward the stage. Pure disbelief. She smiled and nervously laughed, but still didn't believe it was real. And happening to her. She asked for the ticket number to be read again. And confirmed it was hers. Then held out her ticket for someone else to triple-check. It was amazing and overwhelming and wonderful to behold. And it turns out that the amount in this glass jar was exactly the amount that she and her husband needed to reach their adoption fund goal. Click here to read her story, in her own words.


I am incredibly thankful I was present to witness this event, to meet these amazing people, and to hear their touching stories. My eyes are still shiny from happy tears, and my smile is still in place.

Choose JOY: the EVENT

Adoption isn't anything like you see on most squeaky-clean tv shows, where someone decides to adopt... and BAM... they've got a kid.  Adoption is a long process. It's complicated. And it's incredibly emotional for everyone involved, from start to finish... and beyond. For anyone who is considering adopting a child, there is an event happening this Saturday, February 9th which you may want to attend.

Full details can be found at www.ChooseJoyEvent.com

Created by Emmy Blakely (after her own experiences with infertility and adoption), this faith-based conference is geared towards women who are experiencing infertility and/or looking to build their family through adoption. There will be a luncheon and several breakaway session topics discussed, including the following:

Blending Bios and Adopted children & Transracial Adoption {Jamie Fink} Having a Heart of Hope: Overcoming the Hurt from Infertility {Lesli Westfall} God's Heart for the Hurting; Waiting Hurts, Waiting Perfects {Rachel Goode} Fundraising for Adoption {Kathleen Ellis} Infant Loss & Miscarriage {Julie Carson} When Adoption is your First Choice {Chrissie Rouse} Foster Care {Allison Dalke} Living Hannah's Prayer {Amy Srch} Living in 2 Week Seasons; Waiting in the Lord's Timing {Beth Lauder} When Adoption Fails {Dena De La Toree & Lisa Frattone} Open Adoption {Lesily Davis} Special Needs Adoption {Lyndsay Boulton} The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly of International Adoption {Vanessa Clairmont} The Ethics of Infertility {Scott & Marlo Kurz}

Emmy will be sharing her own story at the end of the event. And the grand finale for the night: funds will be raffled off to one lucky attendee to help their family grow!

I will actually have an info table on-site, helping spread the word of Red Thread Sessions (complimentary portrait sessions offered to newly adoptive families).  If you attend the event, please be sure to come say hello!

For more information about the Choose Joy Event, or to purchase tickets, visit their website at: www.choosejoyevent.com



Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to my favorite boys and ghouls... Tonight is where ghosts and goblins come out to walk alongside the superheroes. And where kids of ALL ages are encouraged to dress up and PLAY. (Grown-ups, I'm talking to YOU)!

No matter where you end up tonight... whether you're handing out the candy or gobbling it up yourself... HAVE FUN! And don't forget to take plenty of pictures along the way!

(images from a "Trunk or Treat" event at my nieces' & nephews' school a few nights ago):


Have a holiday party or other special event coming up? Let ME photograph it so you can actually relax and ENJOY your day! Click on "Let's Talk" at the top of this page to get started.


Matt + Timree // MARRIED // sneak peek

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of second-shooting Matt & Timree's wedding under Hanh Nguyen Photography. All those who are familiar with Timree know that it was bound to be a glitzy affair. From "glitter girls" who threw large pieces of gold confetti (instead of the traditional flower girls with rose petals), to a ceremony exit under a confetti shower, to a dance floor filled with LED light rings ("so everyone would look like fireflies as they danced," as Timree said), to a sparkler exit for the night... it was definitely filled with glitter and sparkles galore.

But the bride and groom were shining brightest of all.

wedding of Matt and Timree

More pictures to come soon. In the meantime, check out their FUN engagement session from a few months ago.


There's still time to book an early-bird holiday portrait session! Clients who book an October portrait session will receive a bonus of 25 FREE holiday cards! Click "LET'S TALK" at the top of this site to get started.





sneak peek: phuong + kim

Weddings are incredibly beautiful.

There is so much thought and time put into every last detail.... the perfect flowers, the perfect location, the perfect food...

But it's not the beauty of those things I speak of.

Because when the big day comes... all those little details fade away into the background.

And there is only him + her, and the way they look at one another... the beauty of their love shining through their eyes. 

sneak peek of wedding of Kim and Phuong

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of photographing Phuong + Kim's wedding alongside the fabulous Hanh of Hanh Nguyen Photography.

More images to come...