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What I've learned this past decade.

It's funny, when you turn 39 that imaginary time clock immediately starts running. You have a whole year to reflect, correct, improve, enjoy, and prepare for what is supposed to a pretty significant milestone ahead. I'm sure most of it is in our heads (like any age in general), but somewhere along the way 40 became the number where you are apparently supposed to know yourself better than you ever have before. No pressure, guys!

I entered my thirties with two life changing experiences: becoming a mother and losing my own at the same time. I was forced to grow up sooner than I had "prepared," and most immediately – to learn how to mother my own children without my greatest example here to teach me. While I don't feel like my mother's untimely death defines me as a person, it definitely represents this past decade in many ways. All of the changes that come with motherhood, career (do I stay or do I go?), juggling it all – I didn't get a chance to soak in all of the advice that I know she would have given me. I missed my best friend and couldn't imagine that my children would never know how they truly hit the grandmother jackpot. But now, 10 years later, thanks to an incredibly supportive husband, an ever-giving father, and amazing girlfriends and family, I have come to realize that she left me with the greatest gifts. I had soaked it in by just being hers and I was, in fact, prepared. I have nowhere near mastered them, but at least her voice is there – nudging and reminding when I need it most...

1. Above all else, always strive to maintain a positive attitude; 2. Always believe there is good in others; 3. Be grateful for each and every day; 4. Take good care of your body, never take your health for granted; 5. Have FUN and laugh A LOT. No matter what you go through, make it fun. Your children will learn this, and as long as you're okay, they're okay. They will learn to find humor, even in the most difficult situations; 6. Listen. It's a gift to have friends/spouses/parents to lean on, but remember to listen. They need you too, and they can also shed light where you may not see; 7. Be compassionate towards others. Remember everyone is doing the best they can and there is always an element of information that you don't know that may be guiding someone's actions; 8. FInd your faith. No matter what religion you practice (if any at all), be grounded in something bigger than you. My mother never preached or pushed religion on us, but she was the most spiritual person I knew. She walked every bit of her talk, and taught by example; 9. Keep your cards close. In this world of oversharing, I think this one will be our (and our kiddos') biggest obstacle. Teach restraint, and respect. 10. The greatest gift of all, selflessness – while most importantly also taking care of that self. I'll never know how it broke her heart to have to tell me that she had cancer when I was 38 weeks pregnant. She actually apologized for it, not complained or said how unfair or how painful -- but that she was sorry I had to go through this at what should have been such a happy time. And I will truly never know how it broke my father's heart to have to tell me in the hospital after I had just had our first child, his first grandchild – that my mother, the love of his life had just slipped away. At the very same time we were checking in to have William, she became our angel. Her gift: she was going to let the newborn joy overshadow that sorrow. There wasn't any other way to look at it. My father immediately got in the car and drove 8 hours to be there, with me, with us. He made it for William's arrival (26 hours of labor later, thanks buddy:)!) and let me have a day of pure joy before he shared the news to anyone. That is parenting, that is love. Duly noted.

And because I tend to communicate much better in photos, here goes.  Below is the internal (and external!) growth of a decade in pictures, most taken by my amazing hubs. Right up until yesterday, where we celebrated in the same spot that Bill surprised me for my 30th birthday...with three little additions and a bit earlier of a bed time. I often get the question, "do you ever get your picture taken" and the answer is yes. I do. My husband is pretty ruthless about me walking my talk and making sure of it. He took these first two pictures of me the last time I was with my Mom, just before William was born. I was huge, bursting with my sweet 10 pounder and we weren't aware he was taking them. If you had asked to take my picture at the time, I would have said nope -- I'm soooo pregnant and so tired but here we are, and they are some of my greatest treasures.  And I know William will feel the same way about them one day. I always tell the mamas (and the dads, but they generally agree;) to get in the picture, JUST GET IN THE PICTURE. Your kiddos aren't going to care if you were "having a bad hair day" or "aren't wearing the right outfit," they just want you. And to remember every bit of you, so remember that. I am grateful that the last decade has molded me not only as a mother but also it truly gave new meaning to my being as a photographer. Each time I pick up my camera, I think of her -- and how life is fleeting and I am blessed to be able to get the chance to document that joy for others.

So here's to it, here's to 40. I am so psyched to take on this new decade, whether it means I survived the last or that I am just happy to hit this "milestone" where it's okay to go to bed early and LOVE it. May I take the best of my 30's and let those lessons be a gift to my 40's.

Come March 7th next year, I look forward to another lifetime celebration. Her 70th birthday, my 40th year, and a very special Southern Mothers weekend here in Charleston. I will be featuring all the wonderful women since my last show 5 years ago. Save the date, it's going to be a special one.

All the love, and ever so much thanks. xoxo

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true beauty of wadmalaw

Spent what was a picturesque Lowcountry day with the Cogswells. True beauty all of it, their love of family and being together doing what they love most. Photo sessions are generally hectic, they can't help but be by nature of what they are. But when it's real and it flows and no one's on a clock, nothing's hectic at all. We finished up for the most part, and I tagged along for a little 'bonus'  ride to the barn on my way out. That was the best part. xxoo

What's next?!

It's hard to believe almost 8 years ago this was the scene at 51 George Street. Painting bathrooms, hanging photos, I remember it like it was yesterday. Margaret and I had moved back to our college town with our husbands and we couldn't believe the luck of being back together again. We were roommates in college, graduated together, lived in NYC together–I left for Alaska–and then a few years later timing jived and we were back in our favorite city. We had always talked about "what if?" What if we did end up back in Charleston and hopefully, one day were blessed enough to raise our families here? 

Another "what if" that was frequently talked about, what if we could figure out a way to work together one day? Combining our agency backgrounds and artistic passion, mine photography and hers graphic design. We both had been lucky/crazy enough to work for the same agency, NYC based Arnell Group, though at different times and on different accounts. We had an appreciation for the left brain business and the right brain creative, and the importance of them flourishing together.

Now, almost 16 years after we graduated from CofC, all of those 'what ifs' seem to be becoming realities. We are mothers (5 little people between us!), we are business owners, we are women who are in love with the community that we are fortunate enough to call home. And that last what if, it's happening now too.

This coming Monday, I am super excited and honored to be joining the team at Caviar & Bananas as their Director of Marketing–as they continue their growth in Charleston and beyond. Photography and documenting life will always be a part of who I am and what I do. I will continue to keep it as my passion and work with people to ensure that photographs stay a tangible part of this world, even if one small step at a time. 

But for now, I couldn't be doing more of what I love for the people + a brand that I love.

I can't thank you all for your love and support through this journey and my next.  xoxo, ashley

THEN.

AND NOW.

And a WAY BACK WHEN. With a big thanks to CofC for bringing us together all those years ago! xoxo

Sisters + Mothers

On rare occasion I get to photograph multiple generations and families. I think people tend to shy away from it because it's hard to coordinate, there are a lot of kiddos running wild, family dynamics to deal with, and you just never know what you are going to get. I get it. It's hard enough for me to get ANY photos with my children, much less when you throw cousins and the like into the mix!

But, this beautiful Saturday was one of those days when it made me ever so grateful that these beautiful sisters (two of four!) had me over for photos of them and their precious brood. 

xoxo