I love retrospectives. I love to look back on what happened during the year, and think about the things I learned, the people I met, the experiences I had, and then think forward to what I want to manifest for the future.

I have to be honest, this year I had several moments of “pinch me, is this seriously my life?” Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be one of those people that makes it seem like my life is all a constant nonstop joy-fest … I get caught up, as many of us do, in looking at what went wrong, what I DON’T have, what I wish I had done better. And then the other day, I got my Note from the Universe, and it said “I’m sure you’ve probably noticed, Janet, but you’ve already gone farther than you used to dream of going. Please tell me you’ve noticed.” (as an aside, if you don’t get Notes from the Universe, check it out. They keep me going.) And then I looked back at all the wonderful experiences I’ve had this year, experiences that were special and life changing and life affirming. Places I’ve gone that I never dreamed of seeing, people I met who brightened my life. So here are some of the things I’ve had the joy of experiencing this year, and why they were so special to me.

I’ll start the year with the Posse Foundation Awards. Every year the Posse Foundation awards Atlanta scholars four-year scholarships to top universities. It is a special moment that is life-changing for every person there, and I’ve never made it through one of these events without crying.

Posse Foundation Scholarship awards

Next up was a special event in my own life… being nominated for an award from the B Collective. I was nominated for Best Event Photographer, and was also nominated for a group award for the Event of the Year, for Cardi B.’s baby shower. I felt what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera, (thanks to my BFF and second shooter Courtney Goldman for these great images!) I felt like a star in this AMAZING gown created for me by Brides by Nona and had hair and makeup done by the always awesome Scoobie West. My man David’s tux was from The Modern Gent. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

Next up was this spectacular but intimate event for Rick Ross to celebrate his birthday. This is the 3rd birthday of his I’ve been able to be there for, and I’m always amazed to see the gorgeous decor created by Lemiga Events.

Since Atlanta hosted Super Bowl in 2019, I was able to photograph a party thrown by Arthur Blank, and got to meet John Legend. It was so special to me to be a part of such a fantastic event.

But not all the events that are special to me are star-studded. One of my favorite events of the year was for the birthday of Tony Brewer. I’ve worked with Tony for years, and he creates gorgeous events for many people, so seeing him get celebrated by his closest friends was a highlight of my year.

Another event from this year that I’ll always remember is the CHOA Prom. They throw this dance for the children and families at CHOA, and I got to watch with happy tears in my eyes as they got makeup, dresses, dancing, dinner, and visits from the Atlanta Falcons and Miss Georgia.

My favorite event of the spring was Huncho Day. This event was created by Quavo from Migos and organized by the Vanity Group. Quavo celebrates his birthday by giving back to the community, hosting an Easter Egg hunt, festival, and celebrity football game at his alma mater, Berkmar High School. Rap stars and pro football players face off in a fun game of football, and this year was better than ever, with Colin Kaepernick making an appearance.

I was SO excited to be a part of the Pajamas & Lipstick event from XoNecole. If they ever host another of these events in your town, GO. Between the pajama dress code, themed cocktails, games and roundtables with REAL talk, you could just feel the stress drain from everyone in the room.

I was there when Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park came to Mercedes-Benz headquarters to talk about innovation. He was so insightful and forthcoming about his creative process and it was fascinating to see how Mercedes-Benz uses all kinds of innovation in design and sound to make their cars even better. Fascinating! (Here is Mike, checking out the first ever Mercedes-Benz vehicle, which still runs!)

I was also there as Aventer Gray launched her lifestyle brand with a beautiful event designed to uplift women. It was beautiful and inspiring … think sweet treats, prayers, gratitude, and self care.

I was able to travel more than usual this year, too! I had work trips to Little Rock, Washington D.C., Jamaica, and Grand Cayman. The first was a trip with Passport Moms to Jamaica. It was a fantastic weekend of excursions, entertainment, and relaxation for moms to gather, relax and recharge. If you’re a mom or just someone who needs a break, I encourage you to take time for yourself and do this!

As the kids started to get ready for fall, Quality Control Music threw this fantastic back to school block party! The festivities included festival games, performances by new QC artists, hair cuts, face painting, tons of food, a freestyle rap contest, and giveaways of backpacks and shoes.

My pals at Shutterbooth celebrated their 10th anniversary with a showcase of the absolute coolest photo booths ever!! It was so much fun to see everyone enjoying the booths, and to see my fellow vendors and friends in the event industry getting to relax and enjoy themselves!

My last trip of the year was with the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United as they hosted their partners in Grand Cayman. They were able to create an experience that bonded us as people, and I was able to realize one of my dreams of swimming with dolphins! It was such a joy to experience this with everyone there.

This fall I was able to meet Tyrese Gibson and his amazing wife, Sam, when he threw her a surprise birthday party. She is an amazing human being, and seeing her celebrated by her husband, friends, and family was a beautiful experience.

And speaking of surprise birthdays, this party thrown by Inky Johnson for his wife Allison’s birthday was so much fun! It was an intimate party with games and a lovely dinner. There are some people that just make you feel good when you’re around them — Inky and Allison are two of those people.

And finally, I was there to help celebrate Atlanta Falcon Roddy White as he was inducted into the Ring of Honor. The Falcons use the word “brotherhood” a lot, and it really is. It’s always a treat to see how they have created a family of team members and see them celebrate each other’s successes.

Wow, what an amazing year it was! I’m taking this moment to celebrate gifts 2019 has brought, and I’m so excited to see what 2020 has in store!