Sunday, October 30, 2011

Busy busy busy

Sorry for the lack of updates everyone! It has been a very busy week! I have lots to share with you in the next 2 weeks so be on the lookout for new sessions and photos! =)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Opening these dusty pages

I apologize in advance if this is a little all over the place. I just felt that I needed to share this with you today. 

Have you ever taken a book off of it's shelf to find all sorts of dust and cobwebs on it? That's what I am doing today...taking down a book of sorts and opening it to share with all of you.
So many of you know what my family has been through these past couple of years and you have all been such an amazing group of friends! Today I woke up feeling a lot of the pressure that I tend to shrug off and tuck away on it's shelf. I have these days every now and then. It's usually triggered by seeing something that reminds me of my sister. This month it's triggered by the overwhelming amount of pink I see in support of my mother and the millions of women (and men) affected by breast cancer. Whatever the trigger may be, these days are sometimes unbearable. 
For those of you who don't know, I will share a small amount of our story.

It was December 15 and I was headed to the airport. I was visiting my boyfriend and his family for the holiday's. My mom and my oldest sister Kristen drove me to the airport along with my nephew Gabe. Kristen and I shared a common interest at the time and that was Glee! We sang along to the soundtrack the entire way to the airport. We enjoyed making fools of ourselves because we always did it together. Standing in line waiting to go through security I couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right. I have flown countless times by myself so I knew that couldn't be it. Kristen did her best to console me. I was crying and I didn't know why. "Ashley, everything will be ok. Be happy! I love you". She hugged me so tightly (she was known for that) and kissed me on my cheek. I said goodbye to my mom and my nephew and I was off. I received a phone call at 6:00 in the morning the next day. My sister was gone. One day after her 34th birthday. I was stunned. That day was the longest day of my life. I was on the phone most of it, talking to my loved ones back home and struggling with my airline trying to get back home. My boyfriend flew out with me the next morning. I know that God had me away from home for a reason. He gave me my time alone to grieve my loss and fly home to be strong for my family. For that I am thankful. I was also able to say goodbye to her. Our last words to each other were I love you. I wouldn't trade that for the world.

7 months later my mom went to her doctors office with severe back pain. For my mom, this was a big deal. She is the strongest woman I know and nothing ever knocks her off her feet. The doctor told my dad that he should take her to the hospital for further tests. 
They diagnosed her that day with stage IV breast cancer. The next few months that followed were a nightmare. She was in intense pain, going through radiation soon to be followed by chemotherapy. It's been a little over a year since her diagnosis and she is an absolute trooper! She has her days where she's tired and doesn't feel like doing much. But she also has her days where she's full of energy and spontaneity! Just like usual and I love her for it. She keeps the rest of us positive! We know God has His hands on our family and this is why I wanted to share our story with you. 

I can't count how many times someone has come up to me and asked me how we do it. "How do you keep from giving up?".

1) We have each other. We have always been incredibly close and the trials we have gone through have only made us tougher.
2) We have an incredible support system! You guys have been such a joy in our lives and we can't thank you enough for the love you have shown us!
3) God - I don't know how people get by without him. He is our Stronghold! 
4) There is always someone who has it worse than we do. 

I would be lying if I said I didn't have my difficult days. But happiness wouldn't seem quite so sweet if we didn't have the sadness to compare it to. So for those of you who are struggling with loss and deep hurt...remember that you are not alone. Our prayers are with you daily!

I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me 
~ Philippians 4:13

Monday, October 24, 2011

A walk amongst the trees

I was blessed to have the chance to spend some one on one time with my older sister Nikki yesterday. You know how it is, life gets busy and schedules work against one another. So it's always nice when that rare afternoon comes along and you realize that you have nothing "better" to do than take a quick photo hike with your sister. Before you know it that "quick" hike turns into a couple of hours, then a stop at the coffee shop and then a "Oh why not, I'm on this side of town" stop to visit the two cutest nephews in the world! Here are some of my pictures from a too long overdue day out with my sister. *smile*

Friday, October 21, 2011

Zoo Adventures!

Another one of my very favorite things is the Zoo! That may just be (aside from family) one of the top things that I miss most about my hometown Chicago. They have an amazing zoo there that I am constantly comparing all other zoo's to! I love to take my nephews to fun new places and watch them as they explore things! Here are some great pics from our latest trip to the NC Zoo! Enjoy!

 I used to be deathly terrified of gorillas as a child. 
 "I'm a photographer, they don't stop. They never put down their camera's" ~ Gabe (Oh dear, what have I done? lol)
Drop and give me 20!

 Bad hair day? I know how you feel.
 Brother in-law Michael and cousin Sarah

Poor little guy is all tuckered out after a very long zoo day...
 ...Amazing what a quick nap can accomplish. *smile*

It's hard to imagine that something so sweet and playful can be so very dangerous!

 I believe my sister actually has 3 sons =)
Gabe imitating a picture we have of my brother Michael...If only I could find it. 

The two sweetest, most entertaining nephews a gal could ask for!

We had such a great time at the zoo with our family! Can't wait to go back as soon as we possibly can! =)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oh Snap! Photography Club

Congratulations to Mackenzie for winning last week's photography challenge! Here is her assignment photo in the "Doors" category.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Photo of the day

Black Mountain Adventures

Hello everyone! I am fresh off a weekend getaway to Black Mountain, NC and it couldn't have been a better trip! My family met my Aunt Francesca and her new hubby Steve (who live in Grand Rapids, Michigan) in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina to spend some much needed time with them. Some of us stayed the entire weekend while a couple of others weren't able to. We made the most of the time we did have together and here are some pictures to prove it! 

My beautiful Aunt Francesca and new Uncle Steve *smile*

Baseball with the family!
Exploring the magical surroundings
My amazing brother in-law Michael H.

My beautiful sister Nikki
My two favorite littles
Love this picture of them!
Gabe exploring the creek...
...and the trails

My favorite brother, Michael
Will and his Papa

 My awesome dad!

 My beautiful mom (diagnosed with breast cancer 1 year ago)
 I love her warrior hair! So cute! *smile*

 We stopped at this great little chocolate cafe in Asheville!
Just had to split a mini pecan pie with my dad. Yummo!

 Best hot chocolate I have ever had! Ever!
 Gabe and his Nonna
 Candy at the Mast General Store! 

Thank you Aunt Fran and Uncle Steve for sharing such an awesome weekend with us! We love you bunches!