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Apr

Being Known

You know when something keeps popping up in your life over and over in just a few days time? Like for example, your little old neighbor drops off a bouquet of daisies to you just because and then your new co-workers introduces herself to you that day at work and says her name is Daisy. Then the next night at dinner your BFF tells you her and her husband just painted their living room this amazing new color, Daisy Yellow and then when you open your fortune cookie the word on the back written in Chinese and English for you to learn is "daisy." I feel like that has all happened to us one time or another. Right?! And maybe it has been some silly coincidence like the reoccurrence of the word "daisy" (which I would probably see as a sign that we should get a puppy and name her Daisy :) ). Or maybe its been something that has been stirring in our hearts that has been brought to our attention by little things in our world. 
 
Recently for me, it's been the latter of the two. Over the past few weeks, in multiple conversations, TV shows, the news, and other random places the idea of wanting to be "known" has been coming up a lot and really got me to thinking... What does it mean to be "known?"  
 
Being truly known doesn't mean being famous, although for some that might be part of their story. Having accolades, trophies and medals isn't a requirement for being known. For me, being known means being our true authentic selves and seen for who we really are at the core. You know - the unedited version. Not the perfectly calculated what-the-world-wants-us-to-be self. Not the idea that others have of who or what we should be. Not the Pinterest board version of ourselves.  
 
Being known means being seen for who we truly are. No walls up. No fake facade. Just the real deal with all of our messiness, imperfections, and rough edges. When we live in that freedom and share that with others, that is what it means to truly be known. I think there is an innate desire in all of us to be known in this way. 
 
But being truly known does have consequences... we open ourselves up to judgment, criticism, and rejection. We are vulnerable to be made to feel like we fall short. Yet we must hold on to the truth that we are enough just the way we are. Being acknowledged and appreciated for our individuality and what only we can bring to this world is such an amazing feeling. It's an acknowledgement that speaks to our heart and tells us we matter, for just being ourselves. The author Timothy Keller wrote, "To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved in our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved [....] liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-ritueousness, and fortifies us for any difficult life can throw at us." 
 
I can tell you, I would rather be vulnerable and live in the freedom of being known for who I really am then being acknowledged and affirmed for being the less then 100% authentic Me. I would rather be seen, accepted and loved - I would rather be known - than famous, chameleon-like or inauthentic. 
 
So here's to being seen for who we are. Here's to being brave, being open and sharing our hearts. Here's to living freely with authenticity. Here's to being known.

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Apr

To Ashley 2013, From Ashley 2012

I stumbled across this old post I had written in 2012 to the me of 2013 and let me tell you, it really was just what I need to hear. It hit home and left me feeling so encouraged. Like a good pep talk... a splash of refreshingly cold water in my face. It filled my heart to read the words I wrote to the Ashley of 2013, which was the year I became pregnant, we lost grandparents and so many other amazing miracles and unexpected things happened. The twists and turns of life showed up as they do every year. I hope and wish all of these words and reminders for THIS year... for the Ashley of 2015. And the years after that and after that.... 
 
Dear Ashley of 2013,  
 
Every year you have many personal and professional goals. Many. You already read all your goals from 2012 and smiled with humble gratefulness in what you achieved and had the opportunity to do. You were motivated in what you disappointedly did not quite accomplish. You reflected on the past 12 months and what life has taught you - through the sweet memories, the hard losses, the pure laugher, the tough decisions, the breathtaking memories, and the struggles... And if you are honest, every year you grow and learn the most from the struggles. The cracks in the imaginary perfection that never existed. The curve balls that you didn't see coming and the wind that fill your sails pushing you in another direction. Those challenges provided the perfect opportunity for growth.  
 
That being said, looking at all the ups and down, this year I want you to live more fearlessly. I want you to leave the worries and "what ifs" and run ahead with a fearlessness doing what you love and continue to whole heartedly love those around you. Forget the she never coulds, never woulds, and never shoulds. Live fearlessly. Drown out the sound of your self doubt with the hope of what's to come and the blessings that continue to be poured over your life. Live fearlessly.  
 
Continue to hold close the learnings and grass stains of the last year but don't let them define you. Let them fuel you. Isn't emerald grass green the new pantone color for 2013 anyway? ; ) Honestly, you already know this, but truly the only one that can stop you from pursuing your dreams, is you. And only you. So go get 'em girl.  
 
Love,  
Ashley of 2012  
 
P.S. Don't forget to live fearlessly.
 
 
#TBT to 2013 when I was 6 months pregnant with sweet Greyson! :)

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Apr

CT Newborn Session | Baby Riese

These dear friends hold such a special place in my heart and Chris' heart. I typically don't photograph newborns, but what a joy it was to photograph this beautiful family of four. Baby Riese was just 7 days old and her soft pink skin, perfect toes, and sweet cooing had me trying my hardest not to melt into a puddle from all the cuteness. She was absolute perfection. 
 
But this newborn session was very different and moving for me personally. It was the first time I have photographed a newborn since Greyson was born a year ago. It was the first time I was behind the camera as a mom photographing a new little life. I felt truly in awe of the miracle that new life really is because I have been blessed to have brought it into the world myself. Seeing the love that baby Riese's parents and big brother have for her was so special, especially seeing Bridget with her new daughter. It's a love a mother has for her child that I have come to experience first hand. It is unexplainable and runs deep in a mother's veins. Being a mom is such a hard and beautiful thing, and having the honor to document this bond between mother and daughter was truly moving for me personally. I have been on both sides now of this bond, as a daughter and as a mother. 
 
This family is so special and I am grateful to have been able to spend a quiet morning with them just soaking in all the baby cuteness!











Clearly daddy's little girl! :)





























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Apr

Life Is Short

Life is short. The sentiment that these three words hold is sometimes not given the weight that it should. It's more then just a great reminder phrase boldly declared on our coffee mug or t-shirt. It's a mantra for which our lives should be lived.  
 
Sometimes we hold on to the false promise that tomorrow will always be there. That our next breath, our next exhale will be followed by billions more. But the truth is is that there is no guarantee. 
 
Life has the ability to be cut short and it ends on a day for each person that can't be known. We know this, but how many of us can say our daily lives reflect this knowledge... That the daily existence we have on this earth is lived with a sense of urgency. An urgency that fuels living a life bursting with love, passion, kindness, caring, generosity. 
 
To those who say, "I hate my job." To those who aren't sure what to do with their lives. To those who aren't sure what their passion or purpose really is. I have been there. I have existed in that space. And to you I say, make time to figure it out. Self reflect, explore, take risks, try new things, pray. Find out what you want to be remembered for, what is important to you, and what you want your legacy to be. Know and do.  
 
It took my step-dad battling MS, my mom waging war on her own battle with breast cancer, and my all consuming anxiety all at once years ago for me to be so tangibly reminded that life is fragile and fleeting. In that moment I realized I wasn't living the life that reflected what was important - it wasn't one that left me happy at the end of each day, serving others, living my passion, fostering community and loving whole heartedly. From that chapter in my life everything changed for the better - my job, where I lived, what I poured myself into and what my focus was on. 
 
Do those things that will reflect a life that showed what you cared most about, what you loved, what was most important to you and what your priorities were. Start. Start today. This hour, this moment. Because my friends, life is indeed fragile. Life is indeed fleeting. Life is indeed short but we can live and leave a legacy that truly matters.

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Apr

Previsualization to Actualization

I am not sure that my dad ever thought it would sink in as we kicked the soccer ball back and forth at the soccer field near our house growing up. I was just a kid, but for me it clicked. Or at least I wanted it to. After countless times of missing the goal and the ball rolling off into the bushes, my dad could see the frustration on my face. He grabbed the ball and came over to me, asking me to mentally visualize me scoring a goal. At this point, I was open to any suggestions, so I closed my eyes and pictured it in slow motion... all of the movements leading up to my laces striking the ball and the ball soaring through the air. It was a high strong kick and landed into the net at the back of the goal. The net rippled as the ball hit it and I think I probably saw myself doing a slow motion "superstar" move from that Saturday Night Live skit. But I could see it. I could visualize myself successfully reaching the goal, quite literally and figuratively. My dad who loved everything about tennis then went on to tell my about one of the athletes he admired, Andre Agassi. Andre won Wimbledon in 1992 and explained that it was kind of like deja vu because he had won in his mind so many times before. He had pictured this victory and now it was his reality.  
 
This previsualization of victory and success soon became a part of my pre-game warmup right along side actually warming up with my team all through high school. It was the secret training tool that my dad gave me. And to this day, all these years later, I still find myself doing it. I previsualize myself accomplishing my goals and imagine what that would actually look like. I use past moments of victories and successes to build a picture in my mind's eye of accomplishing another goal.  
 
But let's face it, I don't always do this. Sometimes it's hard to picture myself successfully doing this or that because I see all of the "what if" moments that stand in the way. What if I forget what I was going to say, or what if I forget how to do this, or what if I fail? What if I am just not good enough or have what it takes or what if I fall on my face? The fears and anxieties can build some serious mental blocks that stack up to form sky scrapers. But I have to remind myself, that if I can't picture it, then how do I ever expect myself to actually accomplish the goal and be on the other side of the sky scrapers. Sometimes it takes a lot more focused effort and some encouraging to previsualize the "win" for ourselves.  
 
In 2011 Andre Agassi was inducted into the Hall of Fame and the opening of his introduction speech has stuck with me as a great reminder. He said, "I've stood at this podium twice before. Once was to introduce my beautiful wife, Stephanie Graf... The second time was in my father's imagination, in his mind's eye. From the day I was born, my father Mike saw this day in my future and described it to me many times." It pulled on my heartstrings as he spoke of father's love and belief in his son. A visualization to actualization which Andre came to embrace. And that is key. It reminded me that no matter how many times his father saw his induction into the Hall of Fame in his mind's eye, what was important is that if it was Andre's goal to be inducted, Andre needed be able to previsualize it - he needed to picture himself doing it.  
 
No matter how many times people support us and tell us we can accomplish something, the key is we need to believe we can. We need to see it for ourselves, past the insecurities, fears, and "what if" blocks. Picture yourself being a wedding photographer and shooting a wedding at that venue in the next town over. Let your heart and mind believe you are going to have a successful meeting with this prospective family for their family session. We need to dream, see, believe and embrace the power of positive forward thinking and believing that we CAN. 
 
Because if we can't see something happening for ourselves, chances are it won't happen. So here's to dreaming, picturing, and believing in ourselves to achieve our goals! 
 
And now I'm off to previsualize spring and cherry blossoms! :)

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