Leon + Josie

There’s something about a vow renewal that’s just…romantic. A chance to recommit out loud. A chance to share that feeling again. To stand in front of the people who have come to know you as a couple, and say “I still choose you.”
Josie and Leon have been married 10 beautiful years, and since their first wedding was small due to military circumstance, they decided to have the party they’d always wanted in addition to their vow renewals. We had a gorgeous time in Aliso Viejo, and Josie and Leon could not have looked more fantastic together.

Here’s to renewing love, and choosing each other.


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She Let Go.

She had held on for too long.

Believing, with her whole heart, that if she was strong enough for both of them, she could weather his storms for him, that she could slay his dragons, and be his savior…because he had been hers. She stayed. She stayed in this town, in this place, because he didn’t want her to leave…but he didn’t want her. She waited, she wanted, and she cried in the shadows and the darkness, she lay crumpled on the floor in the wake of his absence and his empty acknowledgements. She reminded herself of the words he had told her, of the beautiful things that only she was to know…the things that, if she was honest with herself, she knew he was likely whispering to someone else as she wrote. She was too much…and she had been sitting in this town, sitting in this corner, waiting, punishing herself for being more than enough of a woman. Punishing herself for being capable of so much more than he was, punishing, degrading herself for being larger than life. She was not too much. She was not meant to sit in this town, in this dark corner of this home that was not her home, and die. She was meant for the stars, the mountains; meant for midnight conversations and the poetry of nature and the smile that a delectable cup of coffee brings to lips in the early hours of a lazy morning.

She was not too much.

He was not enough.


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Nathaniel + Allison || Quail Haven Farm

They met over dancing.

He walked in with their dog Rory. She walked down the aisle to Cowboy Take Me Away.
The girls wore shades of coral, the groomsmen all broke out their amazing line dancing skills during the party.

Allison and Nathaniel have made me smile since meeting them almost a year ago. They are the DIY couple of the century, planning and designing most of their own wedding all while doing a self remodel on their property they just purchased together. Going out line dancing with their friends all the while.

Thank you both for including me in your day, it was a pleasure and pure delight.

Venue: Quail Haven Farm, Vista CA
Hair: Bridal Hair by Cristina
Makeup: Kat Eyes Makeup


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Senior Photographs // Abby

We actually shot Abby’s senior session at the END of senior year…because time flies away THAT quickly during this time in young person’s life. I’ve known Abby since she was about 8 years old, and have watched her ride horses, learn, and grow into a beautiful, brilliant young woman.

There was no question that we would be including her beautiful horse Zach in our session, and I loved Abby’s looks, the variety between her cute green peplum top and her lovely white dress really captured the different sides of her. I picked Zach up (because I’m a full service equine photographer) and we spend the afternoon enjoying a beautiful mix of clouds and sunshine. Abby is off to CalPoly Pomona in the fall with hopes of becoming a horse trainer herself, and I wish her the very best. xx

With Heart,


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Tuesday Choose Day.

I used to work with a brilliant woman with two young boys. Each week she looked forward to not having to worry about dinner on Tuesday. When I asked why, she told me it was Tuesday Choose Day, the day of the week that the boys could pick anything (within reason) that they wanted for dinner, and she’d just pick it up for them. No muss, no fuss. Tuesday Choose Day. I’m deciding to try a little experiment and apply this to my emotional, physical, and spiritual life today. Choose Day.

Recently I was bitter with someone in my life. A friend, someone I had become close with in a short amount of time, that I had told things about my life, that I had listened to, that I had laughed with, and shared my heart with.
This person then failed me, or so I believed. They didn’t come through for me the way I felt that they should have, and I was hurt. I fell into a pattern of blame, picking apart all of the reasons that made them wrong, all of the reasons that, in the end, pointed back to why they didn’t show up for me they way I wanted them to. Why didn’t they call, why didn’t they include me in their plans, why didn’t they tell me the whole story, why, why, why?

This went on for days. It gnawed at me, it made me feel inadequate. This morning, I woke up and made a choice to be grateful. My dear friend that has come to be quite special to me is in a shit, dark place. Lonely, insecure about the future, and searching for their own purpose and path; my friend is currently unable to give anymore of themselves than the bit they have offered up willingly to me. This is not their fault. Nor is it mine…and that is the most difficult part to accept. I want to fix things for them…but the fixing is not mine to be done, nor is my fixing anyone else’s. I have the choice here; I can accept the gift of their presence in my life with the full acknowledgement that I am not taking their friendship with the expectation of receiving anything in return, or I can leave it with them, and move on without it. The choice, however, is mine. The choice to allow me in, is theirs. I am choosing to stay. To love them, to laugh with them, to support them, and to offer myself up in any way I can to lift them up when they need me. They may reject me. They may decide that they don’t want or need me. Until then, however, I will hold the space for them because we all deserve that from the ones that love us.

Furthermore, this space of gratitude lead me to examine why it was this person chose me to reveal themselves to during this time in their life; as they were clearly not in a space to expand their social and/or emotional circle. As I ran through the attributes I have come to know about my friend, I saw myself reflected back in several ways. I saw the loneliness in their eyes shining in mine. I saw their beautiful laughter and light heart the same way I had been missing my own. I had on once occasion told my friend that they had a bold heart, but a tired soul…yet it was my own tired soul that didn’t hold the space for them when they needed it. I saw the desire for acceptance, for direction and grounded purpose mingled with a gypsy soul that feared strings and bonds that would attach us to the place we stood. I saw my own struggles, my own demons….and then I knew. I knew why we had found each other, and why our friendship had been as natural and easy as breathing. We were wanderers, never wanting to settle, but fearful of being condemned to wander forever. Though our circumstances were as different as night and day, we were the same in so many ways.

And I smiled, because now I understood.

I wasn’t bitter. I was afraid. Afraid of rejection. Afraid of being told yet again that I wasn’t enough. The truth was, I am too much. Too much for most…and with that truth comes the reality that I just might wander alone for a good amount of my life. Again, the choice is mine. I can be less, and never scare anyone away with my honest words and steady gaze, or I can be more, and I can continue walking forward, and hope to be joined by people who are unafraid of truth, who want to look through my eyes and into my soul the same way I see into theirs; people who are just as unwilling to accept less than life as an experience, not merely an existence. We are responsible for creating our own experience, everyday. What we allow in, what we choose to participate in, defines our experience, and that is entirely of our own design. We have to find the line that is transparency without taking on responsibility for another’s circumstances, and that balance is sometimes a difficult one. Often times we will choose wrong, and then we will feel the consequence of that choice; however, the choice was ours to make, and we made it for a reason. Breathe that in, and then breathe it out and let it go. I was responsible for inviting my friend into my life, for sharing myself, for hoping to receive something from them that they were not ready to give…and subsequently for my feelings of fear and inadequacy when I felt abandoned and invalidated. They didn’t do this to me. I did. As my friend pushed me away, and I struggled with they ‘why’ and the need to validate the situation…I found that the only thing I could do was be silent, and hope that my holding love and space would be what they needed. I needed to take responsibility of how I was processing my present; because it was entirely mine. My friend’s actions had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with how they were processing THEIR present. So often we wrap ourselves up in the reality of another to escape our own. Thing is…our reality doesn’t go anywhere…it just waits for us to come back, struggles, heartaches, responsibilities, and all.

Today, I encourage you to take a look at any relationship you may be struggling with, and ask yourself how that person’s qualities may mirror some of your own? What are their struggles, and what do those struggles really have to do with you? Are you levying unfair expectations on someone for a void that could be filled on your own? Maybe, maybe not. It’s worth the consideration:)Might just save a great relationship in your life.

With Heart,

Shelby Leininger - May 6, 2015 - 6:40 pm

I love your writing. Very beautiful and raw.

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