Family

Christmas in America

I always find it interesting coming back to America around Christmas time. Living in other places where Christmas isn't as widely celebrated makes this season a joy to come back to (although it's also a surprise in a lot of ways because we're not used to it anymore). I love taking part in traditions and festivities--putting up Christmas trees, making cookies, going to parties, etc. It's one of my favorite times of the year, celebrating the birth of Jesus with family and friends. 

Speaking of traditions, when I married my husband I was introduced to caramel chocolate covered pretzels by Joshua's grandmother. They are delicious (read: addictive!) and she makes them every year for her grandsons.

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Gram's Caramel, Chocolate Covered Pretzels | 2015

Gram's Caramel, Chocolate Covered Pretzels | 2015

We've had some great laughs while making these, so it's always enjoyable doing this with her (and they're fun eating afterwards ;). So far, we've already helped my family and Joshua's grandmother put up Christmas trees in their houses and everything looks so festive. This surprise return back to the States has been fun and we are trying to enjoy it while we're here.

What's your favorite holiday and what are your favorite traditions? Would love to hear how you celebrate!

-Ashley

Fatherscapes Project: Meet Kelly

I had the pleasure of photographing Kelly for my project before we moved and we had a great time. His two children are adorable and you can tell that they just adore him. 

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"Even though my kids upset me often, the love I have for them doesn't change. Five minutes after they've hurt me badly, I still have this deep feeling of love for them that drives me to do whatever is important for them, despite how much they've not listened or thrown tantrums."   -Kelly

"Even though my kids upset me often, the love I have for them doesn't change. Five minutes after they've hurt me badly, I still have this deep feeling of love for them that drives me to do whatever is important for them, despite how much they've not listened or thrown tantrums."   -Kelly

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"My youngest child is starting to smile a lot and so when he wakes up with a big grin and stoked to see me, it's an amazing moment."  -Kelly

"My youngest child is starting to smile a lot and so when he wakes up with a big grin and stoked to see me, it's an amazing moment."  -Kelly

Seeing how these fathers interact with their kids has been a lot of fun for me. With the change in location (back in the States--if you didn't see that change, read about it here), I'm interested in seeing if there is a huge difference between expat fathers and "local" fathers, if you will. I just wonder what the advice will be! I guess I'll find out soon. 

If you're in the Houston or Dallas area and you'd like to participate in my project, let me know!

-Ashley

Life Can Be Hard

Life can be really hard sometimes, throwing curve balls at you when you least expect it and it really knocks you down. I can honestly say that I feel quite knocked down--I just didn't see this one coming. 

Thanksgiving 2015 - Joshua's grandparents

Thanksgiving 2015 - Joshua's grandparents

We lost a very special person last night, Joshua's grandfather, whom we call "Papa". I met him a long time ago, when I was 13 I think, and he's been an important person in my life ever since. For Joshua, he was like his dad. With both of his parents passing away, his grandparents took him in and made sure he was taken care of through college. Even before that, they were the rock in his life from his childhood, one of the most stable relationships he had. For myself, I've actually considered Joshua's grandparents to be my grandparents as well. Since I didn't have a second set growing up, they naturally just filled in that spot, caring for me, loving me, and accepting me right away. I have always been able to count of them.

Christmas 2015

Christmas 2015

As I reflect on him and all the moments I shared with him, my heart is really full (and also very sad). He was such a good man. He deeply cared for people and loved to joke around. Playing Phase 10 with him was always interesting, especially as he would say, "I'm just speculating" as he'd pull a card from the discard pile. He absolutely loved flea markets and garage sales, and when we were with him he'd show us every treasure he found for a quarter, beaming from ear to ear that he found such a great deal. The stories he shared from his past were also so interesting and I wish I would have asked more about it now.

Going to bed last night, I realized that he was only 51 years older than me--and that was startling. Our lives are so short, folks. We don't live very long in the grand scheme of things. I thought how important it is to live our lives to the fullest and do what God calls us to do. In the Bible it speaks so much about how fleeting our lives are--just a breath of air and we're done. When things like this happen it's sobering. Death doesn't discriminate or care--it is guaranteed that everyone who is living will experience it no matter how much we avoid the subject. This makes me consider and look deeply at my life. Am I headed in the right direction? Is there more I should be doing with my life? Do the things I care about now really matter? 

Thankfully, as a follower of Jesus I believe that Papa is with Jesus right now and I'm incredibly grateful for that. I have a peace that is so firm that it couldn't be removed even amidst grief. 

Since all of this has happened, we decided that we are coming back to the States for a short time. Obviously, this wasn't planned, but we feel it's necessary for us to return to be with our family. If you're in the Houston or Dallas area, let us know. We'd love to see you and connect. if possible

And lastly, please pray for Joshua's grandmother, his family, and us. This is going to be a hard couple of months.

-Ashley

Fatherscapes Project: Meet Andrew

Meet Andrew--he and his kiddos participated in my project recently. His perspective on Fatherhood is much different than other father's I've interviewed in that he has four children at very different ages. It was fun to hear his experiences and photograph them drinking tea and playing cards. :)

"Let each kid be themselves. Don't try to force them all to be what you want to be. Observe them, get to know them and see what they're actually interested in rather than kind of pushing them around."

"Let each kid be themselves. Don't try to force them all to be what you want to be. Observe them, get to know them and see what they're actually interested in rather than kind of pushing them around."

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“This drawing was made by my oldest daughter and is very important to me, as it clearly represents each person in our family. It reminds me how thankful I am for my children and how special they are to me.”

“This drawing was made by my oldest daughter and is very important to me, as it clearly represents each person in our family. It reminds me how thankful I am for my children and how special they are to me.”

I'm beginning to take pictures of not only the father and his children, but of objects that are special to the relationship--like toys, pictures, drawings, etc. I think this will build more context to the story! 

More to come soon!

-Ashley

Where Have I Been?

Well hello there! After almost 10 months of not posting on this blog, I have decided to begin posting daily again. I have so much to share about my project and where I'm headed as a photographer. 

First off, what am I up to these days? Well, I'm no longer in South Asia, but the Middle East! We have shifted due to some opportunities Joshua has found business-wise and with my online MA I don't have to be in one specific place, so we moved. This has been a very recent change (we only moved 12 days ago!) and we're still adjusting, settling in, and trying to figure out this new country and culture. To be honest though, I feel like once you've lived in South Asia you're about ready for anything. ;)

My project on fatherhood has progressed incredibly since my last post in January. I'll be posting some of the photo shoots on here in the coming days and look forward to sharing these with you. I'd love to get your feedback on my project and the trajectory it is heading in.

I also will continue posting images from our travels--we traveled a lot this year and I have much to share! Alongside this, I have much to share about what I'm learning in my MA on this blog. I have grown so much as a photographer and storyteller this year and I want to invite you into my findings.

So, much is ahead, friend, so keep on the lookout about what's going on! I'll leave you with this image from one of my more recent photoshoots from my project on fatherhood. 

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I'll explain more about the direction of the project in the coming days, but feel free to follow the project's Instagram feed in the meantime! 

-Ashley

Happy 80th Birthday, Papa!

I think this is one of the best surprise birthday party's I've ever gone to. Joshua's grandfather (whom we both call "Papa"), was turning 80 years old and his grandmother wanted to throw a big surprise birthday for him. We weren't supposed to be here for this party, yet God worked it out--what a blessing!

His grandmother somehow kept this a secret from him for probably six months--maybe longer! She called family from out of state and arranged for them all to come down and be at the party. A couple of times the surprise was almost spoiled, but the party managed to be pulled off.

We all got to the party before 4PM to make sure we were there before Papa and Gram got there. There was a lot of preparation beforehand, although in the photo above, it looks like everyone was just standing around (there was a golf game on and everyone was mesmerized).

Joshua's uncle (picture above) arrived at 9:30AM to smoke all the meat and prep for the big shindig. There was ribs, chicken legs, and sausage--yum!

While waiting for Joshua's grandparents to arrive, we snagged a quick picture of ourselves. :) I rarely am in a photo. Truth be told, I don't like having my picture taken. Ironic, isn't it?

When Joshua's grandparents arrived, Papa believed it was a party with his cruise friends. As he walked into the gate, he began to see faces of not only his cruise buddies, but friends from old. At this point, however, he had no idea that his family from out of state was there. 

Slowly, one-by-one, each family member came out of the house and it was overwhelming for everyone on the porch. Tears freely flowed, hugs abounded, and laughter was in the air. It was such a treasured moment.

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I don't think there was a dry eye in the room. 

Papa kept saying, "This is unreal! I can't believe this is happening!" as he wiped away his tears and laughed with joy. 

Happy 80th Birthday, Papa! We love you dearly and are so happy to have you in our lives. 

-Ashley

Emily | Baby Portrait

If you've been following me lately, you will notice most of my pictures are travel oriented. Back in the day (about 5-6 years ago) I was primarily doing lifestyle portraits, which included families, babies, engagements, etc. It was a fun and exciting time that really set me up well for where I'm at today.

So when my friend, Mary Kathryn, approached me about doing her baby's portrait, I jumped on the chance. To be completely honest, I was a little nervous since I hadn't done one of these in so long! However, despite my nervousness I feel like these turned out well! 

Thanks Mary Kathryn, for giving me the opportunity to take pictures of your beautiful daughter!

Thanks for stopping by and taking a look. Feel free to leave a comment and say hi! I love meeting my readers!

-Ashley

Meet Kaycee | Weekly Portrait Project

I really enjoyed meeting Kaycee this past January in Washington. I met her through her sister, which is a good friend of mine, and I felt so blessed to meet and hear more about her life. 

That's what I love about this project. Taking photos of people, hearing their stories and learning about the experiences people go through is both stretching and encouraging. It reminds me of how we are all so similar--we might all have different stories, but we are all humans desiring to make a difference. 

To be encouraged by Kaycee's story, read below!

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For seventeen years I was the youngest of four girls. I thought a lot about having younger siblings, but never really thought it would happen. At the age of seventeen we started foster care, which I loved, but it was also heart breaking when we had to say goodbye. Then at the age of nineteen, in November 2012, our family’s adoption of two siblings from Uganda was finalized and they got to come home! For the first time I had younger siblings, and for the first time I had a brother. A little over a year ago another adoption went through and we gained another brother, this time from Ethiopia.

Many times when people find out how many siblings I have, 16 (including foster siblings), they react in shock and they go on to say how in awe they are with what my family has done. For me it always throws me when they say these things. I never thought about how much it takes for what we do. It’s just what we do. We say yes to God. Especially with my adoptive siblings, I could not possibly imagine not having them. At times, it’s like we have all been a family forever and that there is no difference between us. The way my family is put together has been such a blessing and has shaped me to be the way I am. 

-Kaycee


To share your story and picture on my blog, leave a comment below and we'll set something up! Thanks for stopping by!

-Ashley