Always N Forever Photography

Happy anniversary to me. Today is exactly 365 days since I left my job of wedding and event planning at a hotel and biweekly paychecks so that I could plan weddings full time with Signed Sealed Delivered Events- the little wedding planning business I had dreamed about in private and joked about in public since college. One year later, this is what it looks like. It is a rainy Thursday morning and I am writing from my dining room table while drinking chai tea. A regular occurance actually since we decided to adopt a puppy during wedding season (who’s the smartest b*tch in this place) so to spare the carpet and Holly’s sanity, I work from this spot many a mornings before I head to the office for appointments or tastings or tours or venues or networking events. I am not fluffing this blog up with pretty pics although you know I love pictures so much. My every day is documented by the iphone and then updated to all the social media sites so I can share how much I love these people I work with.  But today it’s just me and the computer and a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that I want to share. Raw. No filter. No pretty. Yes I am still in my jammies and glasses and a side pony because I am bringing the 80’s back. I also want to add that it’s a reheated chai tea from the Bucks from yesterday. Told you it’s not pretty and I am being honest. So here we go: musings from the love aficionado I am blessed beyond words. I am a super spoiled rotten girl. I seriously cannot imagine being loved and supported by more people. It’s just rediculous. Every morning I list them off in my head. Attitude of gratitude. And then it happens and I meet some new wonderful person and I pinch myself. There truly are so many good people in this world. I just say goodness, we are going to be great friends and I already love you. I never slowed down before. Yes, my hours are crazy and I dream about weddings and I wake up to text an idea or reminder to a bride or sketch out some back drop and I type up timelines and to-do lists till 2 am. But before I was in fight or flight mode, racing here to there. Always in a hurry, most of the time late, trying to get that last call in, pleasing everyone in my path. Having the best of intentions to be present and enjoy the moment, to read that book, to have coffee on the deck or go visit that 6 month old baby I haven’t seen since she was born. Constantly on the go and promising myself that I would make a vision board and go to yoga and read The Secret and devote time to a relationship and go four wheeling with my dad. Now I slow down. I notice that I don’t need music when driving or to be checking my email every 2 minutes (not to say that I don’t but I don’t feel like I NEED to). I meditate when I catch myself getting overwhelmed. I read that darn Secret twice in the last month and practice affirmations. I see the beauty in a country road, the sky, a couple of kids on bikes in the park, a simple and kind interaction on the street. An opportunity to open the door and smile. I even introduced myself to a stranger when walking the dogs yesterday. I am actually listening when people are talking. I still get frazzled but smelling the roses is a must, it’s a “bring you back to Belleville” if you will, connecting with nature and people. I still haven’t gone four wheeling but hey, I’m not perfect and it gives me something to look forward to. Speaking of perfection, it does not exist. And we are about to get personal. I have always strived for this rediculous expectation I put on myself and guess what, it made me miserable. I will be happy and love mysefl after I look and feel a certain way or do that next half marathon. Finally at thirty something I can say hey, you know you really do have great curves, and yes you gain and lose the same 10 pounds and sometimes it happens twice in a year. #dontjudge It doesn’t change who you are. I used to look in a mirror and look for something wrong. Now I go, hmmm those jeans actually look better tighter. #yourwelcome and wow, you look pretty today. Self talk is very powerful and although it seems silly it can actually make or break your morning. So no more getting down on myself when I go to the cake tasting or order a real calzone WITH gluten and WITH cheese because jeez, life is short and it tastes so good. Just may have to spend a little more time on those hill workouts is all. Miss Independent (aka me) wanted to know everything and do everything herself. My ma says I came out of the womb in heels and knowing more that everyone else and when I didn’t know it, I would stomp my feet. That is true, the stomping part. I used to get so upset when someone asked me to do something I didn’t already know how to do. Now I look at this as an opportunity to grow and learn and that I should always be growing and learning. Occasionally my blood pressure rises when I have to figure out something new and make mistakes and try again. But it’s ok and it’s always ok and I will eventually figure it out. And if you have to pour a glass of wine on your third try, that’s ok too. And it is ok to ask for help. This year my amazing ma didn’t make me ask, she just swooped in with answers and suggestions and support and very fierce loyalty. Sometimes it was just to be there to pour the wine while I figured it out. The point is I now know I don’t have to know how and I don’t have to do it alone. Following your intuition. Oprah talks about this A-ha moment. I love Oprah. I know I mention her often, but I can’t help it. Sometimes I even introduce people in her voice. #mygoodfriendjohntravolta For years I have been asking where this magical intuition is. The answer was: it was there but if you refuse to listen and base your decisions on the reactions of others, then of course you are never going to experience the A-ha. This year my sweet little intuition worked super hard for months to talk to me and at points, screaming at me. Now, I couldn’t necessarily understand what in the hell she was saying let alone defend my decisions to clients, family, friends, colleagues- but bottom line is I finally let that girl shout it from the rooftop and I just followed with unwavering trust. Lets be honest, it wasn’t totally unwavering. But she’s there now, shouting A-ha. We are a team and there are lots of high five’s. And damn it feels really good to say hey, I made that decision and that’s that and I trust myself (because the little voice in my head told me to). I love weddings soooooo much. It almost doesn’t make sense to me. I got teary eyed at a floral design meeting last week because the flowers were more perfect for the bridal bouquet than I could’ve imagined. I scan through engagement and wedding proofs and I am in awe. I can walk into a venue under construction that is merely a structure and a pile of bricks and I can see the space completed in my head and get goosebumps. I get so much joy from being with my couples and helping them pick out their first dance song or invitations or cake- you name it, it fills my heart with so much happiness to see the culmination of their love and their relationship come together and represented in this beautiful day that I find it unbearable sometimes. Someone once said Ashlee, you love love more than anyone I have ever met. And it’s true. My house and office are decorated like it’s Valentine’s day all year round. I used to avoid Valentine’s day. Perhaps a little saddened that I didn’t have a signif other or that I listened to the on and off banter of “he didn’t get me a gift” “it’s singles awareness day” “I don’t need to show you how much I love you just one day a year” But now I can’t get enough red, pink, gold, heart shaped jazz. And I tell people how much I love them everyday. And you best believe that on Valentine’s day I am going to go all out to make sure they know. Speaking of love, I had the idea for years that it had to look a certain way. It doesn’t. I have found love in the completely and utterly unexpected and that is quite possibly one of the coolest things I discovered this year. And that is how I know that I am in the right place. That I am living the once little dream that now has a family of the awesomest couples and coolest projects ever and the most incredible team of wedding professionals and support staff I could have never imagined. Happy anniversary to me. Can’t wait to see what the next year brings. xooxoxoxooxoxooxoo, Ashlee