short story sessions

Gather your people.  Your love.  And let’s come together to make some beautiful memories and capture your love and a part of your story.

I’m opening up an afternoon of short story sessions on April 18th.  What’s a short story session?  It’s a chance to document your story in 25 minutes.  Because my heart for what I do is to truly SEE people.  To see their beauty.  Their love for one another.  And to fall in love with every giggle, every snuggle and every moment in between.  As I do that and document those moments we create images that you get to hold to remind you of the beauty and love that is your story.

What kind of images can we create in that time?

I’m SOOOOOO glad you asked.

So here are the details and sessions available:

Sessions are 25 minutes in length and include the digital media with printing rights.  These short story sessions are $275.  These sessions will take place at Little Mulberry Park in Auburn, GA
4:30 pm
5 pm
5:30 pm
6 pm
6:30 pm

Ready. set. email. (amy@amy-paulson.com)  We’ll set up a phone date so I can get to know more about your precious family or friends and get you prepared to have an amazing time together.  I can’t wait to tell your story.

my journey to a new me

I had given up.  It just seemed that my body loved the extra weight it was carrying and had decided that parting with it was lame and overrated.

I had turned 32 and had survived carrying 3 children into the world so I figured maybe this is just what it is.

A part of me was sad.  After my first two kids, I came back stronger.  And fitter than ever before.  (Please know this took at least 2 years each time.)

 

Back story:

With every child, I gained 50-60 pounds.  Always.  (yes, I know the guidelines.)

Vomiting profusely for 7 months?  Still 50-60.  Running until 30 weeks?  Still 50-60.  No matter what I did or didn’t do, every time my body gathered those pounds.

But then the real insult happened.  No matter what – it held onto those pounds for 6 months.  Always.  Nursing or not nursing.  Working out with all I had or sleeping when I could.  Even while training for a half marathon…  I could always count on those pounds holding onto my body for 6 months before they would budge.  (And it took a year before things really started looking up.)

This was slightly upsetting.  Actually, it was highly upsetting.  And crazy-making.  Though I fought to see my beauty (as I think it’s so important to love ourselves and one of the greatest gifts I could ever give my daughter), I will not pretend that I was all smiles during those times.

But with time, I found my way back to stronger and fitter.  It took months – but I learned new loves.  This precious girl who HATED running and avoided it like the plague found that I ACTUALLY enjoyed it after getting suckered into a 5K with a friend. (I’m still floored.  I detested every step of running successfully for 24 years and felt strongly that every plod forward might just kill me or open up my body to pour out onto the ground.  And running outside?  Imminent death due to humidity.)

Clearly I was motivated to not die on the course, so I started a training program. For the first week I prayed staring at the program and mentally feeling the anguish of THINKING about running would prepare me, but I decided to play it safe I should actually run.  Otherwise, my fear of having to be wheeled off the course might just become reality.  After 5 weeks of showing up, hating all the steps and not actually dying from this training– something bewildering happened.

I liked it.  (running.)  No joke.  I didn’t know how to handle this conversion.  My new discovery led to me running a half-marathon.  (One of the most beautiful, difficult, huge moments of my entire life.)

After my middle man arrived on the scene, I wanted to get to work right away.  I tried P90X and though I still had nothing happen for the first 6 months, it finally started to work.

 

Back to NOW

But after Asher came and my body was left in shambles from Lyme disease, nothing worked.  T25, P90X2, running, Shakeology, Isagenix…you name it, it just didn’t yield huge results.  (Though there were good things to them and helpful things.)

Then my brother started Advocare.  I scoffed.  But I KNEW him.  And I knew that if he said it was amazing – he wasn’t kidding.  I secretly really wanted to try it but was convinced I couldn’t do it.  Because NOTHING seemed to work.  (PS: If you do have questions about Advocare or decide you would like to try it, my brother is an Advocare coach.  You can email Chris at chris@centeringlives.com  He’s pretty awesome, completely hilarious and the person I point people to for all things Advocare.  Side note: Their product Catalyst before workouts is just the best.  Well…I love it.  It makes a huge difference to my workout.)

My parents called and told me they were going to try the 24-day challenge and would love for me to join them.  I prayed.  I decided this was my last try.  If this didn’t work, I would shower myself with grace and just accept where I was and embrace it.  After all – my body was working and on most days was pain free.  That is a gift.

I was nearly 100% certain I couldn’t survive the 24 day challenge.  Eliminate coffee?  Um, no thank you.  My life was built around coffee consumption.  And the occasional chocolate chip.  But I decided to throw myself into it all and just try.

That was my mantra: just try.

And so I did.  Something amazing happened: I didn’t die.  I actually started to feel even better.  I had more energy.  My joints didn’t ache as often.  I could live without coffee!  (The 24 day challenge does include a drink called Spark.  Let’s just say it’s my bestie.  I realize it’s not perfect, but I also do love it and thank God for it frequently.)  Thought I often couldn’t believe it – I didn’t crave sugar anymore.

Then the Holidays came.  My coffee dependence came back, even though it was hurting my stomach.  Desserts found their way back onto my plate and though the changes to my body from my start with Advocare were still very obvious and wonderful, I could tell my body wasn’t feeling as great anymore.  Plus – I still wanted to be more fit.

I decided to do a second 24-day challenge after the New Year.  To press the reset button.  To feel my best again.

About the same time, I came across these pictures of physical transformations on Instagram.  As with most of the workout transformations I’d seen, I decided those people were like magical unicorns and those kind of transformations didn’t happen in real life.  But there were so many. I kept coming across this Kayla Itsines and her Bikini Body Guide.  (Honest moment?  I didn’t like that name.  I still don’t.  So I just call it BBG and ignore the name.)

I was 100% certain that I couldn’t do it.  I’m not the most tenacious person when it comes to physical challenges.  I am not quick to be motivated to push myself beyond what I want to do.  I like pressing play, being told what to do, watching the crazy super fit people struggle through it with me and then being done.  And when something is crazy hard physically, you can usually find me considering when I’m going to quit.  I lurked on her website, read the stories, searched Instagram and made up my mind that though these results were amazing, I wasn’t capable.

Until I stopped.

God reminded me of all the things this beautiful body of mine had done.  It ran 2 half-marathons, carried and birthed 3 babies, survived high school, hiked with 3 kids under the age of 6, learned to ride a bike at the age of 27.  I had been lying to myself for a long time.  I constantly told myself I couldn’t do things, when in fact, I could.

So…I decided to try her free week of workouts.  With my own set of rules.

I would extend grace to myself.  I wouldn’t push myself like crazy.  And I would celebrate every last thing I DID do and let go of the things I didn’t do.

For the first trial workout, I made it through 2 rounds.  Seeing as my legs appeared to have morphed into Jello, I decided I was done.  Boom.  I did 2 sets.  Sure, I was supposed to do 4 but I was all about celebrating the fact that I just showed up and TRIED.

The next time I made it through 3.  (The following day I became very jealous of those handicapped railings on the sides of bathrooms and decided I might need to invest in one.)

After a week or 2, I could actually complete all 4 rounds.  Granted I was modifying things left and right, but I did them.  I put in my 7 minute rounds and I did the work.

So I decided to do the BBG.

For the past 11 weeks, I’ve been doing the guide.  (And eating mostly clean.)

Though there have been numerous moments where I’ve seen NO change at all, I’ve kept showing up and reminding myself OVER AND OVER to “trust the process.”

And now?

(Yes, internet.  I just went there.  And yes it feels awkward.  Good thing I’m focusing on being as honest and real in life as I can.  Also – this is a comparison shot from one week after I began to Week 8.  I’d upload a more recent one with more changes but that requires more work and I’ve got to clean my house.)

The results are a little astonishing.  My pictures may not be quite as dramatic and awesome as others out there, but I’m thrilled.  (Please note – stopping and taking pictures along the way was crucial.  Embarrassing, but crucial.  I didn’t really start to have big results until approximately week 7.  So I said a heck of a lot of “trust the process” to myself and found a lot of encouragement through amazing ladies sharing their BBGmoms journey on Instagram.  But now to compare pictures – I see it.  All that hard work.  That brave girl.  And I want to hug her for showing up and putting in the time and trying.  And modifying a lot and laughing whenever possible.)

So here’s where it’s hard: this stuff can bring up SO many things.  Shame.  Pain.  Anger.  Good.  Bad.  All the things.

Because this small part of our lives can often be used as a public measure of who we are.  (The truth is there’s SO much more to who we are)

So it’s rough waters.

It would be really easy to say – “look at what I’ve done!  And if you make time for it – you can, too!”

There’s a problem with that.  I truly don’t believe that anyone can do this.  We’ve been in debt before and there are times where you have to say no to any extra purchases – Advocare and workout guides included.  These things may be wonderful but when your bank account says no – it says NO.

Workout wise?  I think many can.  But not all.  I have precious friends with auto-immune diseases and chronic pain and they literally cannot.  When I was in the throes of Lyme disease, I most CERTAINLY could not.  (I also needed to modify the exercises often.  Sometimes it was because I wasn’t strong enough and sometimes it was because some of my joints have been compromised from my bout with Lyme and I cannot safely do them.  For me, modifying sounded way better than injury.)  When I was in the early stages of learning life with new precious souls who had lovingly invaded our home and like to remind us of that at ALL hours of the night – I don’t believe that I personally could have done this.  (Granted there are new mommies who can and are doing this.  I just don’t believe I could have done it so early on and I think it’s great I know myself that well.)

That makes no person ANY LESS worthy, lovable and beautiful.

It’s just to say that in life there are seasons.  This worked for me in this season.  If this matters to you – you’ll find your season.  Just be brave enough to know you are probably more capable than you think and you can ask God for help ALL the time because I sure have.  (Frequently uttered prayer: God, please help.  I realize there are bigger issues in this world that deserve Your attention and mine, but right now this matters a lot to me and it feels big.  And…help me care more about the world, too…)

So I’m sharing today without pointing fingers.  Scrap that – I am pointing fingers.  I’m pointing my finger at you and leaning in close and saying this, “You are a gift to this world.  And you are so lovely.  RIGHT NOW.”

Then I extend my ears to listen to your story and your heart.  Because you are worth every last moment you need to share.  Then I extend my hand and say that no matter your next right step – we’re in this together.  If that’s a step toward lying down and sleeping while the baby sleeps – I’m cheering you on.  If that’s choosing to hold hands with your husband and say I choose love today – I’m cheering you on.  If that’s tying up shoe laces and attempting a training program for a 5K – I’m cheering you on.  If that’s remembering that tomorrow is a new day and choosing to go to bed early and let the stress of today go – I’m cheering you on.  And if that’s trying Advocare or BBG or anything – I’m cheering you on.

I share this journey because when I think of that precious me from last year – I’d want to hug her.  And I’d want to look her in the eye and say – you beautiful girl you…don’t be afraid to try.  You’re in a new season.  Trust the process.  Lean in.  I’m cheering you on…

there is room at the table

There is room at the table.

I wasn’t sure of that anymore.

I’ve spent the past three years trying to make friends. When we first moved, I felt like a trailblazer.  An adventurer.

After the first month or so?  Good feelings gone.  Once you unpack the boxes, you actually have to live in that unfamiliar place.  And watch your friends move on.  (Facebook + moving can be a painful and heart-wrenching combination.  I don’t recommend it.)

I felt lonely.  Less than.  Like damaged goods because I couldn’t seem to find real friends.

Don’t get me wrong, I had lots of people to smile with.  Attending megachurches can do that for you.  But those people who see your whole soul and know how messy your insides really are and don’t turn and run away screaming?  I didn’t have those.  (With the exception of one in our old neighborhood.  That we moved from…)

I tried small groups.  Photography meetups.  Saying hi to neighbors.  Trying to talk to people on the playground.  (SOOOOO uncomfortable for us introverts.)  Emailing people who seemed nice.  Volunteering.  One night, I even searched for mom groups on meetup.com which is something I originally swore I would NEVER do.  (The sad thing?  I would have had to pay to join the play-group.  Which felt like I’d be paying to have friends.  This was a low point.)

I heeded Elmo’s friendship advice and even sang the “Stick out your hand and say hello” song most every time I went to a place with people.  (Not kidding.  I remember singing it to myself before a kindergarten/parent party)

But everyone’s tables appeared to already be full.

I get that.  As a mom, I’m doing well to dress myself most days.  (sacred secret: I sleep in workout clothes so that if there isn’t time to change before getting the kids on the bus or taking Ash to school – it looks like I got “dressed.”  Truth.)  With loving my people, it often feel like there’s little time left for anything else.  Most of the friends that have stuck with me through this journey are gracious people who knew me before I had kids or back when I only had one kid.

But when you move away from those people – you look around and want to cry because these people who now walk beside you in the everyday already have their table filled.  (Or maybe I just think they do.  That’s also possible)

A few weeks ago, I went to a local church and attended a gathering of women that weekend.  I gave myself three rules: “try”, “stay open” and “be you”.  I secretly wanted to gather up all of my friends from other places and go be me elsewhere amidst the comfort of people who already know and for some reason still love me.  But problems don’t typically get solved when you run from an opportunity to face them.

As I walked through the parking lot, I tried to take deep breaths.  “I can do this.  I can try again.  I can stay open.  Maybe God will surprise me.”

There I met up with the two friends I’ve finally made in the past year.

Before long, we did that typical “break it down” move of church gatherings and I found myself amidst a table of ladies I didn’t yet know.  At that table was Morgan.

Morgan is either not afraid to say THE things or she faces that fear and says them anyway.  Which means I adored her in .3 seconds.  After the evening was over, I asked her if we could be friends in real life.  She said yes, of course.  I held back tears.

Since that night she has literally brought me to her table.  The first time I entered her home, she explained that she purposefully didn’t clean because she was tired of all the pressure and wanted people to know the real her.  Which is why when I texted her the other night that we were coming for the gathering of families at her house, but we were totally running late because of me and my little guy was STILL wearing pajamas, I wasn’t surprised when she texted back: PERFECT!!!

There’s no snappy, put together conclusion to this story.  I guess I wrote it just in case you too are lonely and currently haven’t found friends.  I’d just want you to know that you are so incredibly not alone.  It is freaking hard.  You may be completely sick of trying.  I get it.  I wish I could hug you today.  That we could sit down together and I could look into your eyes and say “me too.”  And that I could also tell you what a gift you are to this world.  That I see you and I know how incredible you are and one day – I pray with my whole heart you’ll find more people who do, too.  Or that you’ll see and invite in those who already do.

Though your heart may be aching today, I just want you to know that there is a God who loves you beyond measure and knows you and your story and since the beginning of FOREVER has a seat open and decorated JUST FOR YOU.  There is SOOOOOO much room for you at His table.  And He never turns ANYONE away.  Ever.  He just gets excited and throws an epic party when you come on over to the table where you BELONG.  (And if you doubt this, it’s all good.  I have for the past three years and He hasn’t given up on me.)

Lastly, can I please just ask anyone reading this to please oh please leave room at your table?   (Yes, even those of you who currently feel like you should just throw yours out because no one is sitting at it.) There are so many of us wonderful, amazing people out there who for whatever reason haven’t been discovered in our areas yet.  Some of us are new moms.  Some are transfer students to your school.  Some of us have 3+ kids and rarely break out of our yoga pants.

We are gifts to this world just like you and we’d hate to miss out on the gift you are to this world.  Would you keep your eyes out for us and keep room at your table?  Because I’m learning that one of the greatest gifts we can give is taking the time to really see each other and say – Welcome.  I SEE you.  I’m so glad you’re here.

on the road again…

Oh you beautiful people that still join me here.  Did you know that I love you?  I do.  Times infinity.

In an effort to be organized (read: grow up and be a big girl) – I’m doing a big thing.  (For me)  I’m putting travel dates out there for the rest of the year.  I know…you may faint from my organization here.  Honestly, I almost did.  (And yes, I also have no idea why I’ve waited until this year to do this.)

So here is my current travel schedule for the rest of the year:

April 14-15 Clarksville and Nashville, TN (tentative)

June 4-6 DC (tentative)

June 25-June 28 Chicago

June 29-July 7 Michigan (Grand Haven, Holland and Grand Rapids) *some of these dates may be changed later to open up more days in Chicago

July 8- July 11 Chicago/Wheaton

October 3-4 Birmingham, AL (tentative)

So here is what this means…I would LOVE to see you.  And I would be all kinds of thrilled (and likely found doing a super hilarious happy dance) to document your life and love while I’m there.  You see, creating memories together and freezing this incredibly sacred moment is my absolute joy.  I can tell you the story behind every image.  What he said, how she laughed, the way her eyes danced when her little boy climbed into her lap…  And I’d love to do this for you as well.  If you’d like more information about sessions, (I offer both regular sessions and all-inclusive sessions which hold the digital media with printing rights as well) just email me at amy@amy-paulson.com.  Be sure to include a number where I can reach you so that we can set up a phone or Skype date so I can get to know you and answer any questions you might have.

 

 

 

Finally, if you don’t see your city, but you’d love for me to come visit – email me.  I’d love to talk with you more and see if we can plan a trip to your area.  Here’s a (shortened) wish list of places (and people in them) I already desperately want to visit:

In the US: Boston MA, Los Angeles CA, Denver CO, Naples FL, New York City NY, San Francisco CA, Columbus OH, St. Louis MO, Little Rock AR, Indianapolis IN, Chattanooga, TN

The world: Tokyo, Germany, France, British Columbia (Canada), London, Moscow, Brazil, Peru and South Africa  (Honestly – I’d list the whole world, but each of these places/countries have amazing friends and due to the overwhelming desire to hug them and see where they live, these places win the top of my list)

 

kyle and ashley: engaged

Pea coats were donned.  Gloves were required.  Full blown snowsuits could have been a necessary addition.

But no temperature warnings could keep us from celebrating.  Because these two have a love that requires a party.  They see the incredible gift they have in one another.  What started as a friendship has grown to a love that gives itself for the other.

Ashley and Kyle, you two + coffee + FREEZING cold temperatures = one of my favorite days ever.  There is no one else with whom I would rather commandeer coffee shops and restaurants.  Thank you for sharing your love for each other with me – and for skipping through the snow and ice…literally.  I am so excited for you two to start your lives as husband and wife.

 

And just for fun, (and because I loved their responses) when I asked them via email what some of their favorite things about each other were…

What she said: I like how compassionate and caring Kyle is! I’ve also always been drawn to his sense of humor! Kyle is also very thoughtful and VERY good looking

What he said: Ashley is literally the strongest and most compelling person I have ever met. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel like I’m the most important person in her life. The sacrifices she has made for “us” has also driven my love for her. I feel so lucky because I don’t think there’s another human being on the face of this earth like her. Which is why I feel so lucky to have her. Also, she’s sexy! BONUS!

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