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What a Year: 2019 in Review

January 2, 2020

As a former newspaper journalist, I’ve grown to have real disgust at trite expressions. That being said, what a difference a year can make.

Dale and Tyler Benfield eating spaghetti like Lady and the Tramp at Artisan Kitchen

This time last year was rough…

This time last year I was unmarried, had just lost a huge account (which was 1/2 of my photography income) and wasn’t going to church. Stepping back from my typical transparent self, I stopped blogging for awhile because I put a lot of other things on my plate.

I forgot that I used my blog as one form of therapy, and as a chance to work out my thoughts in my head. Walking a fine line of keeping you all updated but also not oversharing, I got overwhelmed but what I should post. My indecision was crippling.

In that sense, I’ve grown a LOT in 2019. Because by the end of the year, I felt like the healthy, happy me. The me that you knew before I got burned a couple times in a row. I felt self-worth again, and I felt valued in my personal relationships. Props to Tyler, Ellie, and Cece for showing me just how much I was loved.

Turning negatives into positives…

So, let’s back up to January, when I lost that big account. I love Impressions and the team there. They are wonderful people, and that it was merely a business decision (I mean, hey… they flew out to Vegas for our wedding!), and I have only wonderful memories of my time shooting for the online boutique. I feel pride in helping their workflow be more efficient and their bottom line grow. Looking back, it was the kick in the butt I needed to start my annual side hustle.

I say annual, because it seems like every January I come up with a fun new project to do when photography is in it’s off-season. Remember Baller? That foodtruck was my brainchild that I started, built, and sold as a franchise. Then there was Oh Cecelia, a cute little online kids boutique. Then there was a web-design business that I still do for close friends. Well this year, I came up with a freaking DOOZY of a side hustle. I learned how to develop mobile lightroom presets and started selling them.

Best Preset before and after

Then it started getting better…

When it wasn’t bringing in a ton of money, I realized I needed a bigger audience. I reached out to some instagram influencers and struck gold! I began working with, and became friends with, a few Bachelor contestants, style bloggers, and other reality tv stars. At year’s end, I have worked with around 50 influencers! It turns out all that work my dad had me do when I was color processing in his photo lab prepared me for something that not a lot of people in the world can do. I had far surpassed the income I lost shooting for Impressions, and got to meet some really great people in the process.

Also in 2019, weddings picked back up and I was shooting a lot more than I had in 2018. I felt more connected to the NWA community and loved forming some great relationships with my fellow NWA wedding vendors, and re-formed some that I had let previously deteriorate. It’s so great to have “work friends” even though I work for myself.

Then in started getting good. REALLY good…

In the personal front, I got married! My fiance, Tyler, met me while I was shooting her sister’s wedding WAAAAAY back in 2010. I think it’s cute that we met at her sister’s wedding, right? After getting engaged last September, we started the year deep in wedding planning and had a dream wedding at the Juno Gardens in Las Vegas on March 30th.

My wedding made me happy for so many reasons. First, it was a culmination of all my closest friends I have made in my life. Wiley was my newest friend, and we’ve been bffs for at least 6 or 7 years. The people who came to support Ty and me are the best humans on the planet. I couldn’t be more thankful for them!

from left: Tom, my lifelong BFF of 25+years, my brother Steven, my 10 year NY + Photog BFF JP, and Boom + Foodie BFF Wiley

Ellie was a bridesmaid, and I totally cried when she walked up the aisle. Bless that girl… she and Cece are the most incredible things I’ve accomplished in life so far. I can’t believe how much she has grown. More on that later.

I mean GREAT.

And finally, my favorite part of the wedding was marrying Tyler. I still think how CRAZY it is that I ended up with HER. She’s way too cool for me. Way too hot. And Way too smart. And Way too funny. Don’t tell her, k? k.

I got to photograph my gorgeous wife’s bridal portraits after the wedding!

Then we went on a killer honeymoon. I wrote all about it here, but let me reiterate that I loved our honeymoon. I loved the small size of the resort, where everyone knew everyone else’s name by the end of the week. We made some good buddies that we still connect with and even flew to Florida to see later in the year.

A fortnight or so after the honeymoon, we talked about trying to get pregnant. Being older, we thought it might take a bit to conceive and that we didn’t want to stress about it but thought we should go ahead and start. Well, it DID NOT take long, and we found out we were pregnant at the end of April. Our family was growing!

We came, we saw, we conquered.

The next couple months were a blur. Shooting weddings most weekends, selling presets, watching Ellie dance, witnessing Cece learning to read, and dating my wife took up most of my time.

I had some cool weddings this year, some amazing styled shoots, and some bucket-list opportunities! I got to shoot a wedding for Netflix (say whaaaaa?!) and work with Jessica Mulroney (you know… friends with Megan Markle and Prince Harry. NBD)

For Ellie’s birthday, she went to Europe and we weren’t able to go. I was bummed that I didn’t get to go with her this time, so Tyler and I gave her a trip to Hawaii for her birthday, which we took in August. I was thankful for airline miles and hotel points, because we booked a lot of it cashing them in. We grew as a family that week. We have a tighter bond and so many fun stories that the three of us share.

In late summer, Tyler and I decided we wanted to get back into church. I had stopped going when I returned from California. Honestly, I thought I’d struggle finding something similar to Mosaic (my LA church) here, but I was wrong. We joined SOCO Church in Bentonville and immediately got plugged in. We started going to community group (a Financial Peace University group) and I started shooting video and photos for SOCO. Since then, we have a new community of friends, Ty and I paid off all our credit cards and some other debt (40k+ or so!), and most importantly get back to being close with God. I’m thankful for my SOCO family, and what it has done to bring Tyler and I closer in our marriage.

What else? Oh, I played a bunch of saxophone! Also on the music front, I have been teaching Cece piano, and she has a natural aptitude. She has a tremendous ear and can already transpose music, which baffles me. But of course that kid has a special mind! Back to sax, my buddies in Boom! Kinetic invited me to play with them and I’ve had a blast. I feel like I’ve come out of my shell again and felt confident in what I had to offer. Whoa… maybe that’s my motto of 2019!

If you hated 2019…

A lot of people had bad 2019s. I get it. I had a pretty shitty 2017. Looking back it was a product of what I was focusing on. 2018 got better after I had gone back to therapy and was doing a lot of self love. Then I started attracting the right kind of things to my life. 2019 was a product of what I was focusing on 2018 and 2019, and I’m thankful for those in my life who hung in there while I was figuring all this out. To those who had a less-than-stellar 2019, hang in there! It gets better. Well, sometimes it gets worse, but THEN it gets better!

As 2019 drew to a close, we got ready for “Dilly” to make his/her appearance. After a scare at 32 weeks, we got our butts in gear and got everything ready for the baby, and now we are on #DillyWatch in the new year.

I’m thankful for you, you know! Whether you’ve hung around for the past ten years that I’ve been blogging, or if you’re one of my new friends, I’m happy you’re here. Life is about connection and community. I’m happy you’re in mine!

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