Celebrating Bela : A Birthday Surprise

She had absolutely no idea what she was walking into. Her mom had kept this secret for a month and a half and the only part she knew was that she was getting to spend her birthday at home. Then, she was informed of a surprise outing - still having no clues as to where she was going, what she was doing, why she wasn't allowed to wear makeup. Meanwhile, Kirby and I were eagerly awaiting at the studio. The balloons were out, streamers ready, tiaras on with a temperamental banner and a lighter at the ready to light the candles on Bela's birthday cupcakes at the last minute. I was holding my breath, giddy with excitement. 

Bela walked in, puzzled and a bit shy. She blew out her cupcake and we explained that her mom had gifted her with a glamour experience. She would get to pick out her favorite gowns, choose her favorite makeup looks and jam out to her favorite soundtrack (Taylor Swift!).

A compassionate and gentle young girl, Bela decided she wanted a soft, yet glamorous look, choosing light pinks and a soft smokey eye to match her grey tulle, sparkling rose gold, pink lace and seafoam gown selections. She ate her Hershey's cupcake while her hair was being curled and talked about her school, fluency in sign language and family stories as her makeup was being completed. 

Stacey, Bela's mom, sat in our gold french lounge chaise soaking in every moment. Her smile and eyes radiant with her love and pride for Bela. Softly "You take a deep breath and you walk through the doors. It's the morning of your very first day" When Taylor Swift's "15" song came on, we soaked in the words for a quiet moment, emotions building until Stacey let out the sweetest "awe!" Bela may have been a bit embarrassed by all of us getting a bit teary eyed over how precious she is and the perfect timing of this song. 


Step into the studio with us on an exciting day - Bela's Birthday! Unbeknownst to Bela, her mother surprised her with a day off school and a glamour experience with us. Complete with Bela's favorite candy, streamers, cupcakes and a Taylor Swift soundtrack, we had a blast! 

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Celebrating Jennifer at True Hart Farms
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"I grew up around horses at my uncle and aunt's farm. I've was on a horse at age 3," Jennifer said with growing excitement as we schemed our next portrait experience together. As luck would have it, I'd recently connected with an incredible local barn just outside of Winston-Salem, NC that runs as a rescue for farm animals and does riding lessons for anyone interested in the equestrian life. True Heart Farms was going to be the perfect fit!

After one rain reschedule, we drove down the heavily wooded gravel path, strands of hair sticking to our faces as the muggy 87 degree day hovered over us. Even at 7pm, we had sweat dripping. You'd never know it, though, because Jennifer looks pristine in her portraits! 

Luxe and Grey were the two horses we got to know and work with, trained by Grand World Champion Becca Hart. Seventeen hand Luxe towered over all of us. If you're not familiar with how big that is, just know that I'm 5'4" and his shoulders were right at my head level. So, he was BIG! He was as gentle as he was large, though, enjoying chomping on the grass and looking majestic no matter which way he turned. Jennifer, undaunted by his size, lead him around as I walked through posing with her and worked with Becca and her mom, Tanya, to get Luxe into the ideal position. Then came two year old Grey, a spunky little horse with a lot of heart and a lovable camera personality and, man, were he and Jennifer gorgeous as the golden sunset shone on them!

Despite the heat, the mugginess, the bugs and getting to know two new animals and all the quirks that go with those elements, this session was beyond perfect!! Check out some of our favorite portraits below!

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Celebrating Glenna
This is a treat for me. I never get pampered. I’m always doing everything for everybody else. This is my turn.
— Glenna, as she was having the curls styled in her hair

Glenna is the type of woman who makes you smile starting deep in your stomach. She is such an upbeat, positive woman who says it how it is and I love, love, LOVE her authenticity! She was wide open with her emotions, especially in a sweet tribute she did for her father. Spunk and laughter were not in short supply for Glenna's Beauty Experience.

As a Harley Davidson enthusiast, we wanted to incorporate as much of her motorcycle lifestyle and classic rock personality to really celebrate Glenna or her 62nd birthday. While we didn't bring her motorcycle in the studio this time, we had a ton of fun styling her leather jacket and array of bedazzled Harley gear. Glenna had even purchase a silver necklace and earrings from our local Greensboro, NC Harley store, which she then coyly told her husband “You spent some money on me today, Hun!” (I tell ya, she’s riot!)

Glenna also wanted to honor her father, a San Diego fireman, during her portrait session. She always wears a necklace depicting her father's badge but she wanted to do something more. After a little back and forth, she decided to bring her dad's helmet and a few photographs of him as a fireman and at the firehouse. We incorporated each element into her session and ended up with a sweet memorial to her dad.

I’ve loved getting to know Glenna. She’s brought a special sparkle that I hadn’t yet experienced. Check out her behind the scenes video and portraits below for a glimpse of how her session went!

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Alyson Lawton Comments
People are People

A friend shared some heartbreaking news with me recently. News that, while it didn't directly affect me and my every day, brought up an old deep heartache. This heartache brought back a mantra I say multiple times a day and is something I want to share with you - if you haven't heard me say it already (which, if you spend any time around me, you've definitely heard it).

People are people.

Yes, I know this is obvious but, sometimes I need to remind myself that we are all humans, inherently flawed, each dealing with our own burdens and struggles. We all are acting from our own perspectives, our own personal history, our own hurt and life experiences. We each have needs, wants, desires, unique ways we are fulfilled, unique ways we are gifted and unique ways we respond to the life happening in and around us. Each and every one of us are in need of unconditional love, grace, forgiveness and understanding. 

I remind myself when the person in the checkout line in front of me does something to annoy me, "people are people, Alyson, be kind and understand that you have no idea what type of day they've had or what they're going home to or anything else that may be going on in their life;" When the person driving erratically does something rash, "Breathe, Alyson. People are people. You don't know why they are in a hurry or what/who is depending on them or why they're making this decision." To myself when someone takes what I say or do negatively "People are people, Alyson. You may have hit a nerve, not been sensitive, or could have handled the situation better. Maybe they're having a bad day. You don't know why they're reacting like they are. Be gracious, show them love, stop judging, know where you're coming from and do what you are able to help the situation and encourage them." This saying comes to mind all the time.

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It also comes to mind when I hear news like today of a young pastor committing suicide, a pain that hits close to home as I've been in the congregation of a beloved, godly, inspiring pastor who made the same decision. The truth is, depression doesn't use discretion. It doesn't say "well, you're a pastor. So, I'll leave you alone." In fact, with the weight pastors and church staff carry, it's likely that the struggle with depression may be found more right there amongst our incredible church leaders.

When it comes to depression and struggle and pain, people are people. Just because people have a certain status, job title, influence, or wealth - they are not immune to the negativity of life. At the most basic level, we are all human - all judgements, differences, and prejudices aside - we are people. We all struggle. We all experience hurt. We all need to experience kindness, to be encouraged. Everyone... everyone... needs love and support.