Oh 2013, where do I even begin with you?

This has certainty been a year of growth, acceptance, gratitude, and discovering self love. A year filled with personal success and emotional triumphs, physical changes and mental shifts. This has been a great year and a very hard year all at once. I started this year as a woman who just left her husband. I had to learn how to raise a 7 month old baby all by herself, learn the art of independence and balance with both personal and professional endeavors and learn the balance of mom and self. All the while learning how to live alone again. How was I going to prepare dinner, remember to take the trash out, remember all of my special clients, pay attention to the details of wedding days, spend quality time with my child AND work out? I failed a lot. I learned even more. I never thought my life would be this way. By this point I would be happily married, raising our son in our big 4 bedroom home in perfect suburbia bliss as our puppy ran around the backyard. But life didn’t fold out that way. And today I can say I am okay with that. Today, December 31, 2013, I reflect on the year that made me a woman. Never did I know the meaning of a multitasking-powerhouse-superwoman badaddness until 2013 happened. Never did I realize that you can mourn the loss of a broken heart and rebuild it to being something new, something bolder, better, more resilient. You can be broken and yet healed, all in one powerful year. My motto for 2013 was ‘fake it, till you make it’. The first 6 months of the year were the hardest. I didn’t know who I was or how I had gotten here. I was overweight, depressed, and moving from chore to chore. It was hard to feel depressed and yet so happy at the same time. What an anomaly. There were only 2 things keeping me afloat and they are my lifesavers- my beloved son and my beloved business. I couldn’t drown in the pain of my personal life and let that affect the two things I loved the most in life. And day after day I trudged ahead and what a successful year it was for Alex Michele Photography. 25 weddings and 50+ sessions, from The Bahamas to Nebraska, Minnesota and Key West, I traveled a lot and I met so many wonderful people, from my clients to their families, their guests, and other vendors- we all know how lucky we are. My clients come with different stories and different paths. It was and continues to be the ultimate blessing to know people on such an intimate level, to be the one they trust the most with to capture their memories. And as lovely and beautiful it is, how it also made my heart hurt a bit from time to time. Coming fresh out of a separation while trying to understand the Arabic behind divorce papers, sometimes it was hard to witness all this love around me. But instead of letting the tough part consume me I let it inspire me. Over the year, between the hustle of shooting and coordinating I saw with my own eyes something MORE than just the beautiful images I was creating. Love and togetherness. They kept me going, kept me smiling, kept me inspired and for that I am always so grateful.

My other BIGGEST growing joy is my little Henry- how you can fit SO much personality and character into one 25 pound little human I might never understand. Henry went from a darling crawling little infant to a grown walking talking little stinker. He is AMAZING! He calls me 'mom'. Yes straight up MOM. He loves to dance the most (just like mommy!) like seriously, do they have "So You Think They Can Dance Toddler" edition?! Boy oh boy, He drives me insane too, always keeps me on my toes, always makes me laugh and never ceases to take my breath away. He has taught me how to love, REALLY love- real real real love. He has taught me how to focus on the most important things and forget the rest. He has taught me how to move forward and forgive people, especially when they didn’t deserve it. He has taught me the real meaning of hard work and pure graciousness. I am forever changed.

And lastly the very tail end of 2013 wouldn't be memorable if it wasn't for my AMP New year, New You weightless competition ladies. They have been SO AMAZING and words couldn't really express how proud of them I am. We started out with 30 and ended with 12. Though we might be little, we are fierce, strong, and a brave group of women. We all created a platform of trust and honesty on the group page and CHANGED everything about ourselves. Everyone is happier, marriages are better, people are finding their voice again, and doesn't hurt we all look damn sexy now too. All of us have lost 10-50 pounds in only 12 weeks! It was EXACTLY what I needed to start 2014 off with and I know these girls too. Some of them are even starting their OWN competitions! How terrific is that?! I tried and failed many times trying to lose weight alone. I needed them, they needed me. Today I am almost 30 pounds down from where I started. From a size 16 to a size 10/12, wearing medium tops and feeling totally beautiful again. They helped regain my confidence and worth back. Being physical active just changed everything about my life. I am a better mom and photographer because I can handle longer days now, handle the physical endurance of shooting more, of temper tantrums. I am just happy. I CAN'T SAY IT ENOUGH! So my bit of advice? Surround yourself with like minded people, people who want to be positive and purposeful, people who encourage you to be the best version of you. Get rid of the negative people, get rid of the titles you "think" you should have, get rid of the excuses. Less pixels, more prints. Less facebook, more reading. Less caring about what others think, more enjoying life. Less shitty food, more farm to table movement. Less spending money on corporate America, more support for small businesses. Bitch less, understand more. More time for yourself, your kids, and your relationships. Take care and nurture those relationships around you, synergy is what makes the world go round.

2013 was hard yes, but so valuable to my growth.

Today I don't sit in suburbia anymore. I am a soon to be divorced woman. I am a single mom. I don't have it all together but I try- every day I try to make it better than the day before. I live in a quaint townhouse with my crazy little toddler. There are stains on my carpet from strawberries and chocolate milk. My car looks like someone took a nerf gun and exploded goldfish all over it. My office is sill a room with boxes in it. My shower has baby toys in it. But I know where I stand in my life. I am strong. I am not consumed with excuses or regrets. I am not bothered by stupid little irritable things. I loathe drama and stay far away from it. I treat my clients like family. I certainty don't let my happiness be dictated by a man anymore. I have forgiven so many things. My idea of happily ever after is nurturing my essential relationships, sweating out the things that bother me at the gym, spending time with the people who matter and getting rid of super ridiculous high expectations of perfection.

Cheers to my beautiful clients, my friends, my son, and my business- 2014 is going to be EPIC! (thank you to Katherine for shooting the below pictures!)