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st mary's waterway

A Weight Has Been Lifted: The Big News I’ve Been Teasing About

February 18, 2020

st mary's waterway

Before I dive in to the big news I’ve been teasing about and the huge weight that’s been lifted off my shoulders, let me give you a bit of a backstory.

Fifteen months ago, our lives were radically different than they are today.

We were back in Colorado after a 2.5 year mistake stint in California. We had missed Colorado so terribly that we left in the middle of the school year.

We had bought the most incredible house, the house I dreamed about my kids walking down the stairs in their prom dresses and sending them off to college, or maybe even seeing them get married in our backyard.

Business was booming for me; we were booking 30+ weddings a year, comfortably getting more well-known as Colorado wedding photographers, making six-figures and we were on the verge of being able to have Randy quit his day job to work photography and videography with me full-time.

The kids were happy. We were happy. Life was as perfect as I could have ever imagined.

But then Thanksgiving of 2018 Randy’s brother Ricky got sick and our entire lives got turned upside down with one phone call. Less than a couple of weeks after his diagnosis, we decided to move to the South to be closer to Ricky, his wife and our nieces and nephews, ending up in a small town just a mile into Georgia from the Florida border last June.

I took nearly a year off from work after Ricky’s diagnosis. I saw my business spewing and sputtering, because I wasn’t booking anything because I was so laser-focused on my family. I just started diving back into things a couple of months ago, getting back in the groove of things.

We moved into a Georgia house half the size of our Colorado house. I sobbed the entire time we were signing our Colorado house away, I couldn’t even look at Randy because I was so devastated. I had to excuse myself to the bathroom to let out a choked sob. Even just thinking about selling our Colorado house still makes me get choked up, and it’s almost been a year since we handed the keys over.

Over the last eight months, we learned what sand gnats are, and that Danny is anaphylactic allergic to fire ants.


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First ER visit in Georgia … Danny started going into anaphylactic shock after getting attacked by fire ants while mowing the lawn. He started turning beet red and swelling from head to toe within minutes (swipe to see a pic – this was 20 minutes AFTER benadryl and steroids!) and was having trouble breathing, and was getting the chills all over. He’s going to be just fine, but I officially just grew 76 gray hairs. 😳 In the nearly 17 years of parenting, I’ve never had a kid allergic to something. Never. The folks here in the ER saw us come in as Danny was grabbing his chest and pulled us right back and within a couple of minutes were getting him hooked up to IVs and it was a flurry of doctors and nurses. I’m so thankful to them for working diligently while answering my questions and taking such good care of my baby. 🙏 He’s currently zonked out and I’m just sitting here thanking God that he’s okay. I can honestly say without a doubt that I now have a whole newfound respect for parents with children with allergies. 😫

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We learned what a can’t-escape-the-heat sauna feels like, no matter where you’re at (inside, outside, nighttime, doesn’t matter). We also learned how much we swell in the heat, to the point where Randy can’t even wear his wedding ring anymore most of the the time if it’s over about 80 degrees outside.

Most alarming, our kids started hating going to school. They became victims of racism, prejudice and ostracism – something they had never experienced before and it’s been heartbreaking to walk them through those situations. Their friends have been few and far between and to be quite frank, their mental health has taken a serious nose dive since school started last fall.

Then Ricky died, only four months after we got here. The doctors told us he could have years, that his outlook and positive attitude and fighting spirit was remarkable and they didn’t understand how he was still alive and functioning with such a large tumor in his brain. Then the first of the bad seizures happened over the summer, and then the second in the early fall. And then, within weeks, he was gone.

sun peaking through the clouds at fernandina beach

We went through the holidays in a daze. I honestly don’t remember most of 2019, but especially the last couple of months after Ricky died. I remember bits and pieces though; I remember taking the tree and every single festive decoration down by 10 in the morning the day after Christmas. I couldn’t stand looking at it for another minute (as I turned the air conditioning up a bit). I remember watching Randy fall to pieces losing his best friend and big brother. Never outwardly exploding, but more of an implosion that I watched in horror, in slow motion.

In fifteen short months, my entire life has changed and I feel like in the last six weeks or so, I’ve come out of this foggy abyss and I’m finally coming up for some air. And it’s made me think really hard about a few things.

Big things.

I’ve tried putting on a brave face for Randy and the kids, and I’ve tried putting on a smile; I’ve forced this smile on my face that never quite reached my eyes, and I’m a little surprised at how many people in my circle bought my acting ability (or maybe they’ve just been giving me some grace because of how traumatic everything has been for us). I’ve gone through the motions of trying to love the South, embracing the community and trying to put some roots down. I immersed myself so far down that truth be told, I started to drown. I hit my breaking point around Christmas.

Around the first of the New Year, Lynette told me she and the kids wanted to move. I’ll be honest – at first I was rage-angry; I was absolutely selfish about it and I felt betrayed because we had literally uprooted our whole lives to be here for her and the kids. For days I just was hurt, and when I finally calmed down and got my head back on my shoulders, I talked with Lynette and with Randy and I realized something.

I wasn’t angry at Lynette for wanting to leave.

I was angry because I felt like we were getting left behind.

When we were in hospice with Ricky, there was this brief moment when Randy and Lynette had stepped out of the room and it was just me in there with him, holding his hand. And I remember whispering to him that I’d always be there for Lynette, and that we would be there for his kids. That he could let go, because they would be okay. And I prayed for God to help Ricky find peace in knowing, without a doubt, that we were there.

And since the realization that our location isn’t a correlation of our love and my promise, my heart has been softening and I’ve stopped gripping so tight on the idea that we have to be here.

A Weight Has Been Lifted:

The Big News I’ve Been Teasing About

Before Ricky got sick, if you had asked me if we were ever going to leave Colorado again, I would have told you no. And I do not regret moving to Georgia one bit, especially because it meant spending that time with Ricky and giving Randy those precious few weeks with his big brother. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything; it was the right thing to do. And it’s brought me closer to my faith, even if that means not going to church all the time.

Over the last several months I’ve had countless people ask if we’d ever move back to Colorado, and I’d fake laugh and firmly tell them oh hell no. I’d tell them it was too expensive or too overpopulated or whatever else; I’d say it with that same smile that wouldn’t reach my eyes, because I knew deep down I was full of absolute shit. I’d move back to Colorado in a heartbeat but it hurt too much to even think the words, let alone say them out loud.

But once Lynette said she wanted to go and I realized we didn’t have to stay here, it didn’t hurt so much to think about.

And these last few weeks, we had some big discussions – with Lynette, with each other, with my parents, and with the kids about leaving Georgia and moving somewhere that felt a bit more like ‘home’ with four seasons, snow, mountains and forests. We started researching places we could go – Coeur d’Alene, Pouslbo, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, Minnesota, Gatlinsburg … and it all felt wrong. Lovely, beautiful places … but not home.

This past weekend, we were getting ready to go out to the grocery store and Randy was sitting on the bed. He was in the middle of putting his shoes on, and I was in the bathroom putting my face on, and he quietly says, “why don’t you just be honest and say where you really want to go?”

And without hesitating, I turned to him and started to cry and said, “I want to go home.

wedding photos near sapphire point in colorado

He stood up with one shoe on and wrapped me in his arms in one of his incredible bear hugs and said, “finally, I’m glad you finally just admitted it.”

It honestly instantly felt like a million pounds was lifted off my shoulders. My heart beat a little less heavy. My smile reached my eyes again.

I’m not sure of the specific logistics or the exact time-table, but here is the gist of our plans.

We are moving back to Colorado this summer; right now the plan is to wait until late May to late June. There’s a lot of balls up in the air, so timing is not 100% determined yet but as soon as I know, you’ll know!

We are likely going to be in the Colorado Springs area, but it’s not 100% yet. We are in the process of trying to secure some land, which will be part of an even BIGGER announcement … coming sooooooon. We aren’t quite ready to formally announce this part of why we’re moving back, but once the details and logistics are nailed down, you better believe I’m gonna be singing this news from the rooftops!

Regarding Bookings for Weddings and Sessions …

Due to our impending move and not knowing exactly when we’re heading back west to Colorado, I am no longer booking anything in Georgia for after May 15th – families, boudoir, weddings, military events, anything.

I am booking weddings for Colorado starting as early as July 2020, and I plan to serve couples from Fort Collins down to Colorado Springs, and all in the Rocky Mountains! Destination weddings are going to be reserved for direct referrals from past couples only!

I am also booking family, boudoir, senior and branding sessions for Colorado!

Thank you all so much for your continued love and support – it means the world to me, Randy and our family!!!

See y’all in Colorado!!



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Heyyyy ... I'm Ashley Durham and I'm a luxury wedding photographer in Phoenix, but I travel all over Arizona and the desert southwest to hang out with the most incredible people. I am obsessed with puppies, extra hot coffee, sunrise and firmly believe that love conquers all.

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