4 Years to Normal

A lot can happen in 4 years. In the past 4 years, I have taught in 4 different buildings. I have earned my masters degree. I have added a furry friend to my home and my heart. I have loved, been loved and been brokenhearted. I have been blessed to add inspirational, loyal friends to my life. I have witnessed friends get married and have babies. I have run until I thought my legs would give out. I have become a part of a new and amazing church that has inspired me to give my whole heart and my whole life to God. I have traveled the world and left my heart in San Salvador. I have watched one of my best friends conquer cancer year after year.

4 years ago, I watched my mom take on cancer for one final battle. I think back on all the things that have happened in the past 4 years and wish so desperately that she would have been a part of each one. I believe she would be proud of my perseverance as I am bounced from school to school. Dewey’s antics would drive Mom crazy, but she would love him for his fantastic cuddling abilities. She would have held me as I cried over yet another love lost and asked too many questions at the mention of another possibility of love. Mom would absolutely love my new friends. And she would be so of the ones that have stayed through the years. Kristen & Trai’s wedding would have BLOWN. HER. MIND. And she would have rolled her eyes because she would have known that the wedding bar had been raised. And oh my goodness, she would have never give Baby Dominick back once she had him in her arms. Mom loved babies! She might not have understood why I felt the need to run 13.1 miles, but she would have been there at the finish line cheering me on. Rock City Church would be exactly the kind of church she could thrive in. Creating a life in another country is definitely not something Mom would have ever done, but I hope she would be proud of my passion to see God’s love shown through me all over the world. And oh how proud she would be to see Amee kick cancer’s ass year after year and really show cancer who’s boss with the upcoming Baby BellWanzo!

I would give every moment up for just one more hug, one more “I love you too!”

There isn’t a moment I don’t want to share with Mom. It doesn’t get easier as time goes on; it just becomes more normal.

If you are as blessed as I was to have The World’s Best Mom (because, let’s be honest…we all do!), give her a hug, send her a text, pick up the phone…let her know that just 1 day is too long to go without sharing even the smallest of moments.

Ohio University Mom’s Weekend, Spring 2005
Advertisements

Taking the Dip

Yesterday morning was supposed to be fairly simple for a Sunday…church with Shelly, Dad & Cathy, lunch, laundry….my typical get stuff done day. Well, all of those things happened, but one more item was spontaneously added to the list.

I have been attending Rock City Church since November of last year. As a lifelong Christian, I have been through my fair share of churches. I grew up attending a Lutheran church with my family, often attended Sunday mass with my childhood best friend Sarah (she couldn’t sleep over Saturday night unless she went to mass first, so I made it part of the event!), switched to a different Lutheran church where many of my high school friends were in 9th grade and began going to a nondenominational Christian church after college, where many of those same friends had moved to. Needless to say, church has always been an important part of my life and it needs to be a place where my friends and I feel welcome, wanted and safe from judgement.

Rock City not only makes me feel all of those things, but in the 7 short months I have attended, mI have felt more compelled to do the work of Jesus than I ever felt anywhere else. At previous churches, when service opportunities were announced, by intial thought was, “Well, I shoudl probably go, but I don’t wanna go if I don’t know anyone there. Meh, I probably won’t know anyone. I’ll go to the next one.” There is nothing wrong with wanting to serve alongside our close friends and family, but God calls us to do His work whether we are with each and every one of our Facebook friends, a few acquaintances or no one we know at all. I was not able to focus on that fact – I was more worried about if I would have to meet new people, which for me, is something I actually love!

I have not done a lot of service events with Rock City Church, but now, rather than wondering who will be there that I know, I figure, “That sounds cool and like something that really needs to be done – sign me up!” For example, when I first heard about Rock City’s mission trips to San Salvador,my interest was immediately piqued. I had always wanted to go on a mission trip, but for one reason or another, never made it a reality. But when the idea of traveling with Rock City to San Salvador crossed my path, I decided I was going to “pray circles” around whether or not I should go. It didn’t matter to me who else would be going; more likely than not, being that I was so new in the church, I probably would not know anyone on this trip. One prayer led to another and I knew that God was putting the people of San Salvador on my heart for a reason and that I was meant to go.

Not only had my motives behind serving change after joining Rock City, but my relationship with my dad changed as well. I invited Dad and his girlfriend Cathy to join me for a service one weekend. With the loud music, unusual venue (Rock City Church uses movie theaters as their place of worship!), and the fact that it was something new (my dad and I both cling to tradition very tightly), I was sure Dad would come once to be nice and that would be that. Well, I was wrong! Dad and Cathy both LOVED it! They loved the upbeat, heart-pounding music. They loved the cleverness of a movie theater house of worships, and most importantly, they loved the pastor Chad’s message. So they came back the next week with Cathy’s really-not-so-elderly father, John (make sure he knows I put that in print!!). And even John loved the service!

Because Dad and I had begun worshipping together again for the first time since around 2003, God began working in our relationship. Planning for my trip to San salvador brought Dad and I closer. Chad’s weekly messages gave us something to discuss at our weekly dinners. I was trying to refine my ability with my father to be slow to anger and quick to listen. I truly believe Rock City Church has brought out the best in both of us and helped remind us that before getting frustrated with one another (which happens VERY frequently), we need to express ourselves in love. Dad and I have gotten along better in the past 5 months than we have in any of our 29 years together.

This brings me to yesterday’s unexpected event. I woke up early, took care of some things around the house and went to church to meet Shelly. The message was the 2nd of a 2 week series called “The Dip.” Last week’s sermon was the idea that “We all go through it. One way or another. Whether by design or by default. We want to avoid it. Nobody wants to go through it. But there are some things God can only speak to us in The Dip. Find out what to do when you’re in it, and what’s waiting for you on the other side once you go through The Dip.” I should’ve seen what was coming in yesterday’s message – a different kind of “dip.”

It was Baptism Sunday.

The message focused on the fact that God gives us a very simple and straightforward command: “Repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2:38) A water baptism is meant to be our first act of obedience to Christ. He doesn’t say “Repent and convert at least 5 other people.” or “Repent and tithe all your money to the church!” or “Repent and give up all your heathen ways NOW!” No, God says “Repent and be baptized.” So why is water baptism so important to Christians? What does it mean for us? God responds to simple obedience. If we can be trusted to do the little things He asks of us, imagine the big things God can trust us with! We might not understand why God tells us to do something, but He’s God, so we just do it. Take the story In Acts of Philip and the Ethiopian. God told Philip to “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he did. There, he met an Ethiopian who was “on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.” God then directed Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” So he did. Philip overheard the man reading from Isaiah and asked him if he understood what he was reading. The Ethiopian replied, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” and invited Philip onto the chariot to sit with him. He showed Philip the passage her was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
    and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
    Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.” (Isaiah 53:7,8)

Using that piece of scripture, Philip began telling the Ethiopian the good news of Jesus Christ. They traveled along the road together and came upon some water. The Ethiopian asked, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” So they went down to the water and Philip baptized the Ethiopian.

What is holding each of us back from begin baptized? Often the simplest commands and the most simple acts of obedience have the deepest significance and yield the greatest results. When God proclaimed that “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased,” Jesus had just been baptized. All it took for him to please his father, the creator of the universe, was to be baptized; to proclaim in front of everyone that he belonged to God. 

I was listening to Chad preach, I wondered, Well, I was baptized as a baby, doesn’t that count?? You’re just talking to the people that have never been baptized at all, right?? WRONG. This is something I have wondered many times before – if someone needs to be re-baptized if their parents did it for them as a baby. As if Chad was reading my mind, he imparted, “If you were baptized as a baby, that says more about your parents’ faith than your own faith.” This actually made sense to me. When Mom and Dad had Uncle Art baptize me, they were proclaiming the church and to God that they would raise me in a Christ-centered home, with Biblical values and teach me to live a Christian life. So yes, that says a lot about their faith and how important it was to their life. And they did all those things. They “made” me go to church each Sunday, they encouraged me to join the youth group and they were at each and every time I earned a place in the church musical chorus, they were there front and center.

But I never announced to the world that I had made a decision to follow Christ and declare myself as his. I truly appreciate that my parents had a very big part in pointing me towards Jesus, but as a person that can (and sometimes to my parents’ chagrin) and has always made my own decisions, He asks me to proclaim it for myself. So yesterday, after Chad gave an amazing and action-inspiring sermon about the importance of water baptism, he invited anyone that wanted to make the decision and announce to the world their dedication to Jesus to head out back where a team of people would meet them. Well, that would be cool, but when I get baptized, I wanna have an outfit prepared, I want to invite my friends and family, I want to have a lunch planned afterwa…wait. Where’s Dad going? “Shelly, did he just walk out there?? We should probably go with him, right? Holy crap!” Shelly and I followed Dad to a room where he was filling out a baptism registration card and getting clothes he could get baptized in so he wouldn’t have to drench his church clothes. “What’re you doing??” Dad asserted, “I was baptized as a baby, but this is important to me and I want to do it now! Plus, it’s better than when they do the winter baptisms in 12-degree weather!” (He had a point, yesterday was a beautiful, sunshiney day!) I stuttered, “Oh! Huh…well, I guess I can’t let you do this alone…hand me a card!”

As a spur of the moment decision, I made the choice to go with my dad and be baptized. I have been doing my best to live a Christ-centered life my entire life. (Some days are notably better than others!) What was holding me back from making it official and declaring to God and to the world that my heart and my soul are His?? Not having a well planned out event or a fashionable outfit? Well, that definitely sounds like something I’d say, and just showed that I wasn’t think with my head on straight! I donned a Rock City Church t-shirt and a pair of workout shorts and headed outside with Dad. We were met by a team of people just waiting to pray with us. They thanked God for moving our hearts and our feet that day and sent us on our way towards the baptismal tubs! Dad and I decided that we were in this together, so we were getting dunked together! We stepped into the giant, horse-trough-turned-baptismal and sat facing each other. Pastor Todd Marrah knelt down beside me while another volunteer knelt next to Dad, and Todd assured us that as soon as we came up from the water, we would be washed clean in the blood of Christ, clean and forgiven from the sins we committed 10 years ago, the sins we committed 5 days ago and the sins we will commit 5 hours from that moment (we’re human…it’s normal to sin on your baptism day!). He asked if we understood and accepted that. Dad and I both said that we did, leaned back into the water and came up refreshed and new.

Oh, did I mention that Dad and I’s few moments of baptism were on the big screen? Oh yeah! Since Rock City holds their services in movie theaters, they live broadcast the baptism into the theater for the rest of the church to watch. I’ve been in there for previous baptism services, and it’s amazing. Every time someone come up from the water, the entire theater rejoices with applause and cheers!

Do I feel differently now that I’ve been baptized? Honestly, no, not really. But I am proud that I got to share the moment with my Dad and now I can go to San Salvador practicing what I preach. I now know, without a doubt, that when Jesus calls me home, my home is with Him in Heaven for eternity. My friends and family know who my heart belongs to, but most importantly, God knows!

I wholeheartedly trust that God has a plan for me, goes before me and has a place ready for me in Heaven. I know that if I trust God enough to follow him, He will allow me to do immeasurably more than I could ever do on my own. Yes, I will falter. But with God at my side, time and time again, He has and He will continue to strengthen my faith.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Hillsong United

***UPDATE*** You can watch Chad’s sermon HERE! It’s Week 2 of the series.

Prayer Team

Prayer Team

 

We are assured that we are cleaned from ALL our past sins and ALL our future sins through Jesus' ultimate sacrifice.

We are assured that we are cleaned from ALL our past sins and ALL our future sins through Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice.

 

A friend in the worship service recognized a few familiar faces this week!

A friend in the worship service recognized a few familiar faces this week!

 

photo 3 (2)

Ending Up Helping

Before ANYTHING else, Happy New Year from Dewey & me!

Dewey New Years Day

Not only is January 1st the first day of a new year, but it is the first day of JanuAshley! I have this little habit of celebrating my birthday (January 21st!) as much as possible each year. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love receiving awesome gifts from my friends and family (gift giving and receiving is one of my major love languages), but I love celebrating my birthday because it brings friends old and new around. Having a birthday party, dinner, karaoke session, striptease lesson (27th birthday. It was a freaking riot!), movie night, etc. gives my friends and I a reason to spend time together. But yes, it became blatantly apparent last year that my birthday was definitely celebrated to the extreme, thus January being deemed JanuAshley.

This year, I want to do something a little bit different. Yes, I will still celebrate the day of my birth probably a little too much, but I want to do something outside of myself. I have been very blessed to have lived almost 29 years on this beautiful earth, and I want to find a way to pay it forward.

The wise sage Britney Spears once said, “Why don’t ya do somethin’?!”

So I am going to do something.

For each day of the month, I will highlight a different charity, some national, some local, that does good and deserves our attention. I am not asking people to spend money. I will find ways that people can support these charities other than financially. I will also research and report on questions like:

How do I know if this is actually a legit charity?

Where does my money go once it is donated?

What does it mean that my donation is “tax deductible?”

At the end of the month, I will choose one charity that speaks to me the most and donate either time or money, maybe both! I have some other ideas that will hopefully pan out over the next few weeks, but this is my scaffolding!

If there are any worthwhile charities that you think I should highlight, please let me know!! I would love to hear your personal stories and why you think it is so wonderful!

 And now, on with the philanthropies!

The Mid-Ohio Food Bank

logo

I am beginning with The Mid-Ohio Food Bank because for three years in a row, it has been voted the #1 Local Nonprofit Organization by readers of Columbus Underground, a local media enterprise focused on why Columbus is so freaking amazing.

The Mid-Ohio Food Bank opened in April 1980 and seeks to obtain and distribute food to hungry people across central and eastern Ohio. Their mission is important yet simple: “To end hunger one nourishing meal at a time and co-create a sustainable community where everyone thrives.” Since their opening, The Mid-Ohio Food Bank’s operations have flourished and they are now able to feed some 250,000 hungry Ohioans, consisting of children, the working poor, the newly unemployed, seniors, families and veterans.

After the food is received by the food bank, it is sorted, boxed, and stored in the warehouse, which can hold up to 5 millions pounds of food!!! Partnering food pantries, shelters, etc. can then use an online service to order the food they require.

Where they get their food:

Where does my money go??

You can feel confident that 95 cents for every dollar you donate to The Mid-Ohio Food Bank goes straight towards purchasing food. AAAAND!! Every dollar that you donate buys $11 in groceries or FOUR meals! So you don’t actually have to donate a lot of money to make a difference to someone. If you would rather donate time instead of money, there are numerous opportunities on the foodbank’s website; everything from sorting at the warehouse to volunteering at partnering pantries to inspecting damaged food from grocery stores that may still be safe and edible. Got a green thumb?? I certainly don’t, but if you do, you can help maintain the foodbank’s community garden! Produce from the garden can be distributed to partner agencies!

Many years ago (okay, not that many), I went with some of my fellow middle schoolers and we helped sort food at the warehouse. It was a day filled with teamwork and fun and I left feeling like I had done something good for people that need a little bit of help.

And most importantly of all, why should you give to The Mid-Ohio Food Bank? Because hunger is something that is happening in Columbus, Ohio and can be helped. I am fortunate enough to have had a delicious New Years Day lunch with my family consisting of pork, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, peas, gravy and sauerkraut (we’re German! It’s for good luck in the new year!). I blessed to be able to decide what I am going to eat for breakfast tomorrow. A pang of hunger in my stomach results in a handful of veggies in my hand. Because I am so fortunate, and hopefully you are too, we must help those who are not. There are people supporting a family, working 2 jobs and still just barely making ends meet. Will they choose to pay the rent…or to buy groceries? A student goes to school without breakfast everyday and consistently fails his 2nd period class. There is a connection there.

How can I help? I don’t exactly know, but I can provide a strong pair of arms, a fresh set of ideas and a heart that does not feel settled by doing nothing. What about you?

*******

All information was obtained from www.midohiofoodbank.org

Find The Mid-Ohio Foodbank on Facebook at www.facebook.com/midohiofoodbank

Throwback Thursday, 9.26.13

Right about this time, TEN years ago, I was starting my freshman year of college at Ohio University. It was my first time outside of my safe haven bubble of family, church friends and teachers I knew and loved. I had jumped into a world of no parental supervision, completely new faces and professors that expected a HELL of a lot from me.

And I was ELATED. I couldn’t wait to start a life all my own. I was assigned to live in Lincoln Hall with 2 other girls, Mary & Samantha. We met once over the summer to coordinate bedding and decide who was bringing what. It was all very exciting. I volunteered to sleep in the loft bed (basically a top bunk with my desk and VERY small closet underneath). Sam and Mary shared the bunk bed, Sam claiming the top and Mary on bottom. While waiting in line at Target, Sam asked Mary and I, “So…do you guys drink at all?” I answered honestly. “No, my friends and I don’t think you should have to be drunk to have fun.” I was 18 and a church-going good girl. I wasn’t ABOUT to break the law by drinking underage! And it was true. We had some of the most random, silly, fun times without involving alcohol. Mary responded, “I drink sometimes, but not a lot.”

I held to my answer for as long as possible that Fall Quarter. But one thing led to another, and the 3 of us were attending house parties, frat parties, club parties…any kind of party we could find and drink cheap (but FREE!) beer. We always had an eye on each other and made sure the other two made it home safely. (Notice I didn’t say “made it to bed safely.” Many a night was spent on our dorm’s sky blue carpet!)

This Throwback Thursday is dedicated to Roommate Mary, Samson, the parties we crashed and the memories we made (some of them are a little fuzzy…thanks Natty Light).

Another Night in Athens! {Me, Mary & Sam)

Another Night in Athens! {Me, Mary & Sam)

What a Wild + Crazy Weekend!

As I write this, it is late Tuesday night. My Uncle Art’s calling hours were tonight and the funeral is tomorrow. Writing just seemed like the best thing to do tonight. Uncle Art was an amazing writer and getting my words out on “paper” has always been therapeutic for me.

********************************************************************************************

Phew! That was one HELL of a weekend!! You know it’s a good one when you need a whole extra day (or THREE!) just to rest up from your weekend.

On Friday, Amanda & I got tattoos to commemorate our running of the half marathon, 13.1 miles! Our initial plan was to get matching tattoos on our feet, but being such flamboyant individuals, we were unable to decide on one design, so we each got something that spoke to us! Amanda went with the number 13.1 on her wrist next to her Wonder Woman cuff (because once you run at least a half marathon, you become a superhero automatically.) and I decided to get the number spelled out on my right foot, next to my runner cheetah tattoo. The neatest part of both of our tattoos is that they are both in our trainer Alexander’s handwriting. I know that he will say WE did it, not him, but I must say that I would have NEVER run a mile, let alone a 13.1 of ’em if it weren’t for his inspiration and support.

Looking for an awesine tattoo shop?? Check out Fate Tattoo, in Columbus, Ohio! Jack has now done half of my work and I couldn’t be happier!

13.1 Tats

Alexander's Handwriting. The bottom lines are just random letters we might have needed.

Alexander’s Handwriting. The bottom lines are just random letters we might have needed.

Not only did Amanda and I get tattoos, but Allie joined us for the fun! Unfortunately, we could not convince her to get a tattoo, but I think we’ve sold her on getting one eventually! Watching Amanda & I get our tats was her first experience even seeing someone get tattooed! Amanda’s only took (what felt like) 30 seconds and she braved it like a champ, saying didn’t hurt at all (and I’m actually inclined to believe her)! Mine took maybe 5 minutes, but…WOO! I definitely earned that one! My tattoo pain threshold has increased, but there’s something about the side of my foot and ankle that just stings!

This tattoo makes it an even EIGHT tattoos that I have on my body. When I started with my first at the age of 18 (a harmless lil Jesus Fish on my hip), I never thought tattoos would become such a large part of my life. My friend Justin told be the other day that with all my “word tattoos,” I’m gonna become a book eventually! WHich, would be totally fine with me!  All of my tattoos represent a part of my life journey. They either mark an important event in my life or represent a permanent part of my heart & soul. There really isn’t much that I am not willing to talk to people about when it comes to my life story, and I think that tattoos work as a perfect conversation starter. I love telling people my stories and hearing their’s in return. It’s part of that whole “people person” mentality that I embody.

After the tattoo gun was turned off, our wrists and feet were bandaged, and my faced relaxed from its grimace, Amanda, Allie & I fetched another member of our A-Team and headed to Tip Top, a DELICIOUS local restaurant for celebratory dinner and drinks. (As I write this, I am realizing that we celebrate EVERYTHING! You ran a race? Celebrate! You got a tat? Celebrate! You celebrated? Celebrate!)

As we visited with one another, sharing laughs, I took a moment to look at those women and truly soak up the moment. In that moment, I was surrounded by love & support. I am so very blessed to have passionate, smart, beautiful and STRONG women around me. I strive to surround myself with people who build me up to become a better person and that exactly what my friends do. Eating sweet potato fries and sipping malbec wine seems so simple and mundane, but in that moment, it became a memory that I will never forget.

Allie (and her almost real tattoo), Amanda, Amee, & Me

Allie (and her almost real tattoo), Amanda, Amee, & Me

Now onto the rest of the weekend!!

Saturday night was the second annual Columbus Rocks the Cure Rock + Roll Fashion Show! This is an event organized by Amee, breast cancer survivor extraordinaire! The event is a mix of locals bands playing while local fashion designers show off their latest collections. This year, each designer was assigned a band, and they were to design their outfits using the band’s music as inspiration. Not only is Amee is event creator, but she is the lead singer of Black Eyed Betty, a local rock + roll band! Betty closed out the show, barely able to observe the noise ordinance the neighborhood has instilled.The coolest part is that ALL, 100% of the proceeds go towards local cancer warriors, buying them wigs and gas cards to get to their doctors appointments. The bands and designers donate their time and effort and any money they would have pocketed from the event. This year, over $1000 was raised! Thanks to everyone who came!! RAWK!

Amee rockin' out with Betty!

Amee rockin’ out with Betty!

Making the event even more special was that Amanda and I got to model for designer Kelli Martin! She has such an edgy, cool aesthetic! This was the 3rd or 4th time I had modeled for her because I will take any chance I can get to rock her clothes. So most of our day was spent at the salon getting our hair and makeup done by the fabulous Jeffrey Steele and his assistant Casey Pennington! I swear, I need a hair and makeup team to follow me around every weekend! Once they were done with me, I looked like an edgy, original, 1950s Barbie Doll! It was a dream come true! My curled bangs and dark eyeliner made my green eyes just pop! And I’m a sucker for my bright-colored lipstick! Kelli’s designs were deranged rockabilly, and I just looked like Barbie on vacation! I got to wear a crop top and high-waisted, pocketed shorts, both in a floral print, and an adorable black, brimmed hat. Kelli’s work is normally very hardcore and requires a runway walk and face that yells, “I’m gonna kill a bitch!” but Saturday’s look was much nicer and more fun. Rather than walking like we re on our way to inflict some pain on some deserving soul, we got to walk with a bounce in our step and smiles from ear to ear. I even played up the hat a little bit, cheesin’ it up for the audience.

CRTC Modeling

Fellow Mobster & Model: Rachel!

Fellow Mobster & Model: Rachel!

Modeli silliness at the end of the night!

Model silliness at the end of the night!

One of the biggest reasons that this event is so important to me is not only because Amee is a kickass survivor and I have become her Hype Girl, supporting all of her inspiring ventures, but because my Grandma passed away from breast cancer when I was 9, my dad is a cancer survivor, my mom died from endometrial cancer 2 years ago and just this past Tuesday, my Uncle Art was taken from us because of pancreatic cancer. I am f**king sick of cancer affecting and taking people we love. I don’t think there is a person in this world that doesn’t know someone touched by cancer. So anything that works towards a cure or supports those battling towards survival is a worthwhile cause, in my eyes.

Which brings us to…

…Mother’s Day. This year was the 3rd Mother’s Day without Mom. It has gotten a little easier to spend it without her, but nonetheless, every radio ad reminding people to get Mom a gift, every Facebook post boasting that their mom is the greatest, only serves to remind me that I don’t have a mom to buy or make a gift for and that my mom really was the greatest mom and was taken from us years too soon. This year, I spent part of the day with a dear friend, Karen. Her mother also died way too early. Losing a parent is a grief I would not wish upon my worst enemy, but it is a blessing to have others to share it with, that understand the big and little pains of not having that person around. Karen and I spent our afternoon shopping for flowers for our yards; something that Karen really inspired me to do last summer. I was refreshing to walk around the nursery and be reminded that even though there can be such ugliness in our world, that there is a God and he is always creating and recreating beautiful things. It was too cold for our scheduled bike ride (ugh. Thanks Ohio. Jerk.), so instead, we went shopping at Rag-O-Rama, a local, quirky, thrift shop. I got a fabulous neon leotard and bright pink sunglasses for an upcoming costumed bar shuffle (I’m channeling Jem!) and a couple of pairs of cute shorts. If my mother taught me anything, it’s that retail therapy is a real thing. Once again, I felt very blessed to have such a compassionate person in my life.

The weekend came to a close with my weekly Sunday evening hot yoga class with Alexander & Co. I sweat out the weekend and left refreshed and ready to do it all over again!

Me & my 2 BFFs: Mickey Mouse & Mom (Easter 1987 ~ I was 2)

Me & my 2 BFFs: Mickey Mouse & Mom (Easter 1987 ~ I was 2)

Uncle Art & I playing on the beach in Florida, Mom & Aunt Nancy behind us. The beach is where I will remember Uncle Art most fondly. (Easter 1987)

Uncle Art & I playing on the beach in Florida, Mom & Aunt Nancy behind us. The beach is where I will remember Uncle Art most fondly. (Easter 1987)

Over & Out

This morning, my Uncle Art passed away from pancreatic cancer. Just like most of my family, Uncle Art was not technically or genetically related to me. He was the pastor at my parents’ church. Uncle Art and his wife, Aunt Nancy had a very close friendship of 40+ years. So even though he wasn’t technically my uncle, he was more like family than some of my actual family members. Uncle Art was there the day my parents brought me home from Catholic Social Services. He baptized, first communioned, confirmed…and was supposed to marry me someday. That will be my greatest regret; that I will never get to hear the wonderful sermon I know he would have written for my wedding. Uncle Art was in my life for every major and minor event of my life. As a child, my parents and I would go to Florida for spring break every year…Uncle Art & Aunt Nancy tagged along year after year. The beach was our home. As a pastor, Uncle Art was always there to answer my difficult questions with compassion and understanding. I’ll never forget the day that, as an oblivious teenager, I made the flippant comment to Uncle Art that he was lucky because he “only worked on Sundays.” WOAH! Needless to say, I learned my lesson and was immediately corrected. I will always remember Uncle Art’s laugh and how I always thought how silly it was that Uncle Art was the only pastor I had ever heard say, “Jesus Christ…” in reply to a good joke or ridiculous comment. As a father of 3 boys, I’ll always remember how frivolous and girlish all my life problems and events seemed to Uncle Art. I’ll never forget how he held me and refused let go, even when I tried, only minutes after Mom passed.

I will take with me Uncle Art’s love of life and ability to touch every life he came in contact with. He had many wise one-liners, but one of my favorites was “Everything a person does makes sense to that person at that time.” Those words have allowed me to understand people and not pass judgement many (not all!) times. Just because I don’t understand or agree with the decisions a person makes, doesn’t mean that person doesn’t hold valid reasons for them. Uncle Art was so wise and so loving. He took the time to genuinely learn about each of my friends. Those of my friends that had the chance to meet him or even be a part of his life will understand the great loss.

A few years ago, Uncle Art learned the joys of email and would send me quick notes every so often. He and my mother frequently exchanged letters discussing the meaning of life and various moral issues. I guess email was his way of passing the torch to a younger generation. Here are a few of my favorite notes:

Well Ashley – How was school today? Do you like teaching? It seems like you put it all together since OU – it is always a difficult task for anyone – the counselor in high school – after I took all the tests back then – said I should either be a Marine or a Farmer – I hate to shoot at people although I like guns and have them – and I do not even know how to plant grass that will grow -my pastor asked me when he visited me in the hospital when I was real sick – 14 years old – do you want to work with people or things – I tried the things stuff – so I said people – and here I am all these years later doing almost the same thing that you are doing – Have a good week – Love you Uncle Art

It was good to see you and talk with you and have another opportunity to tell you that you are loved. Love you a lot Uncle Art  Thanks for the coffee  — um um good.

Did you know that someone stole Bristol Palin’s virginity – I am looking for him – Did you know that Johnny Depp is making a comeback – Is there a Deppathon this year ? How and what are u doing this summer with your summer break – are you taking classes – hanging out or just surviving like me – Love you and will be at the brat thing at St. James the Less  in August – miss you and hope you are well and happy – or at  least a combination of that – Art The Uncle who is the Wizard of Worthington – Love 4 you

{In response to an email I sent him about receiving my 5 year teaching license and that my mom would be proud of my perseverance} Yes she would  – and we are so proud of you too and we love you very much – you are on your way now and I know that you will touch a lot of lives positively – that is what you were meant to do – you have a positive soul about you . We are going  out to dinner with your dad and Cathy tonight – what do you think? It will be difficult to see someone else but your mom is already deeply embedded in our souls and lives – talk to her every day and wondering what she is doing and can’t wait to see her again —- Love you Uncle Art (The Wizard)

I love you always and forever – and hope that you will soon be found by the charming prince so that you can become a princess – Love you Uncle Art

I will make to your wedding and well beyond that – I wouldn’t miss that for anything – and the guy you finally get must be a very nice guy because you do not deserve any jerks or assholes or I will put a contract on them – and whoof – they are gone  Love you a lot – have a good day  – Uncle Art

{It should be noted that my mom’s drink of choice was Dewars on the rocks with a lemon twist} your mother is with all of us today – we love her and will continue to love her and she is having scotch with God – I hope God provides the lemon twist – Talk to you tonight – Love you Uncle Art  (The Wizard)

I am very, very sad about his passing, but once he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, unfortunately, I knew it wouldn’t be long. So I guess it’s not surprising, but I am nonetheless devastated that one more person has been taken from me because of cancer. Uncle Art was a pillar of strength and a ray of love and life.

F*#K Cancer. Seriously.

Every time Uncle Art ended a phone call, his signoff was, “Over & out!”

Always a goof! This was a Lake Erie fishing trip when I was 9 years old.

Always a goof! This was a Lake Erie fishing trip when I was 9 years old.

 

Someday, I will walk with Uncle Art on the beach again.

Someday, I will walk with Uncle Art on the beach again.

 

I know that Mom & Uncle Art are in Heaven finally sharing a drink together after almost 3 years of separation.

I know that Mom & Uncle Art are in Heaven finally sharing a drink together after almost 3 years of separation.

Thirteen point FREAKING one!

If we are Facebook friends, you are more than aware that this past Saturday morning, May 4th, 2013, I completed my first ever Half Marathon. A friend told me Saturday night that he had to scroll through at least 97 status updates and photos about the race on his Facebook newsfeed before he could finally see what was happening in anyone else’s life!

Well, sooorrry! You run 13.1 miles and then see if you want to scream it from the mountaintops!

I promise. You will.

But yes, I completed the Cap City Half Marathon in Columbus, Ohio. 13.1 agonizing, thrilling, endless, and yet gratifying miles. A year ago, hell, 10 years ago, when I was in my peak athletic condition as a varsity high school rower, I would have never completed 13.1 miles. But then, a few months ago, some friends alluded to the idea that if they could run a half marathon, so could I, and we should do it together. I laughed, shook my head and told them how crazy they were for running a half marathon, let alone thinking I would want to do it with them.

Well, time went on and they were able to convince me to run a few (much) shorter races with some friends. As we ran the Oktoberfest 4 miler, the Walk for AIDS 5k, the Thanksgiving Day Flying Feather 5k…I had begun to see a trend. As soon as one of us thought a particular race might be a good idea, it immediately became an “I’ll do it if you do it!” type of agreement. We had all suddenly become race buddies. The Oktoberfest race was fun because my friends and I will use any event as an excuse to dress in costume, so we ran the race in beer bottle costumes! Sure, people run it in lederhosen every year, but I think we were the first beer bottles to cross the finish line. Next year we are going to create some sort of pretzel costume…this could take some creativity.

So when one of us {ahem…Amanda…ahem} decided that, “Sure! I think I want to challenge myself to run the half marathon!”…my competitive side kicked in. Well, if Amanda’s gonna do it, I can do it! Fine. I’ll sign up too! Wait…what? You have to PAY for this torture?? Ugh. There better be a sweet medal.” One by one, almost all of our workout buddies began to agree to this masochism and signed up. A few could not be swayed to join us, but in the end, we had a tribe of 9 running warriors in all (I think I counted everyone!).

Once I had paid the entrance fee, I had to do it, I couldn’t let that money go to waste! I’m an underpaid teacher who is easily influenced by her friend’s fashion blog to purchase things she just HAS to have! So I began training. I asked Alexander, our fearless hot yoga and kickboxing and spinning and hip-hop and…you get the point…instructor how I should train. He told me that there are 2 camps of marathon training. I could either run, run, run, RUN! Or, I could do a little bit of everything. He is of the latter camp. He stressed strengthening my entire body, all my muscles, in order to help me run better. Being that I didn’t really enjoy running at the start of all this, I was stoked to hear that I wasn’t going to have to run 8 miles EVERY day.

I took Alexander’s advice and did a little bit of a lot of things.

Monday: Weightlifting

Tuesday: Run (distance varied)

Wednesday: 90 minutes of hot yoga

Thursday: Run or spin

Friday: Whatever I didn’t do Thursday

Saturday: This varied every week from running to biking to touch football…just something active. In all honesty, many weeks, Saturday was my day off.

Sunday: 60 minutes hot yoga.

This (flexible) training schedule truly prepared me for my race. Once it got nicer out, I started running outside, which was waaaay better than being stuck inside on the treadmill. Because I didn’t get bored so quickly, I was able to run farther! All of this running and training was great until about 4 weeks before the Half, I was running on the treadmill with a goal of 6 miles. Towards the end, my knee REALLY started hurting. Something I had never felt before. It was at that moment that I realized, Well, shit. I guess this means I’m a runner. What about this pain made me a runner? I knew what was causing the pain. Running. I knew what would make the pain go away. Not running. I knew that “not running” just was not an option. All signs pointed to the pain not actually being my knee, but my IT band. (for an explanation of just what this means, click here: OUCH!) So out I went to buy a special running brace. My first run with the brace was miraculous. 8 beautiful, outdoor, sunshiney miles without any pain! Huzzah! But then every run after that included the pain. So I just got used to it and ran through it. The pain would come and go as I ran, so I just kept going. My very last pre-race run was the Monday before the Saturday, May 4th race. I made it so close to my 6-mile goal before my leg just quit. There would be no “running through the pain.” So at this, I vowed to not run at all until race day and let my leg rest and heal. Alexander recommended not changing my workout schedule much the week prior to the race, other than to reduce my running, so this actually went according to plan.

Fast-forward a few days to race day. Saturday, May 4th, 2013. I woke up bright and early at 5:15am (that’s earlier than I get up for work!), got dressed, and scarfed a few eggs and an energy bar. I met my plucky race buddy Amanda and her husband Brad at their house, where we biked to the starting line. Once we arrived at race central, we were lucky enough to stumble across a few other race warriors (trying to find someone amongst 14,000 of your fellow runners was next to impossible!), Mandy & Roxanna. My dad came to meet me at the starting line as well. Us 4 girls just kept freaking out at the fact that we were actually about to embark upon 13.1 miles. Thirteen point one miles. That is a hell of a lot of miles. But we were ready. We had trained, we were hydrated and nourished, and we looked fabulous (c’mon. you don’t think we were going to use this as an opportunity to add to our wardrobe??).

Even my breakfast was cheering me on!

Even my breakfast was cheering me on!

 

My Lady Race Warriors! Me, Amanda, Mandy, & Roxanna!

My Lady Race Warriors! Me, Amanda, Mandy, & Roxanna!

 

Dad & I pre-race!

Dad & I pre-race!

8:00am: BAM! The race begins!

Well, it began for the people at the starting line. We were so far back that we didn’t actually hit the starting line until 8:14am. The four of us started jogging together, keeping up with one another, but eventually, we each hit our stride and it was every woman for herself to meet her goals. After a bit, I found a few more runner warriors, including Alexander. I passed them all and kept running. I was feeling awesome! I was high on adrenaline and passion! And then.

BAM! My leg gave out.

Freaking IT Band. It just started searing with pain. I was only about a mile and a half in and I was already walking! I had planned on running at LEAST 5 miles before taking a break. NO! NO! NO! But I had to listen to my body. So I walked until the pain subsided and I ran a bit. Searing pain. Walk. Run. Searing pain. Walk. Run. Searing pain. Keep running. Mind over matter. Run through it. This is it – what you’ve trained for. Pain is temporary, pride is forever. So I kept running. And guess what? The pain went away. I knew I had to keep running because if I stopped, it would only hurt again. So I ran. I pulled a Forrest Gump and just kept running. I was able to stop at every water station and take a little break without the pain reoccurring. I don’t know if I had just warmed up the tissue and stretched it out or if I was experiencing some sort of “runner’s high,” but whatever it was, I’m glad it happened.

As I turned a corner on the course from N. High St to Broad St., there was a woman in a wheelchair with a sign that read, “Run Strong Because I Can’t!” I’m not sure why she couldn’t run, but that sign spoke to me and gave me reason to keep going. It even made me tear up a bit. Initially, my dad had told me that he wouldn’t see me at the finish line because it would be too crazy with too many people. But at that moment, I knew that I needed to see him there. I needed to hug my dad at the end. I had my phone on me, so I texted Dad (He’s so old fashioned. He can read texts, but hasn’t figured out responding yet.) and asked him to please be there when I finished.

Throughout the race, I saw a few friends cheering me on (one group of friends, I actually passed them and then turned around and ran BACK to get a picture with them!), I had other friends texting me words of encouragement, and one friend even hopped in and ran with me for about ¼ of a mile! I was all good until about mile 11. I was at a good pace and my legs weren’t exhausted yet. But then right around that mile 11 marker…I. Got. Tired. I knew it was all in my head (Thanks girl with the “You’re legs are giving up, you mind is!” poster!) and kept pushing on. I knew I had made it that far and would only be disappointed in myself if I gave up then. So on I went, through German Village and back onto N. High St for my big finish. That was the point when Roni, a girl I don’t really even know that well, saw me running and hopped in with me. She’s run a few of these things before, so she knows how those last few miles feel. With her purse and all, she ran next to me. She gave me words of encouragement and asked if I could hear the beat. “You hear that? That beat? That means you’re getting close to the finish! You got this girl. You’ve worked so hard and you’re so close. You’re not giving up now. Keep going!” Man, that’s some awesome shit right there. I could write (SHOULD write!) a whole other post about the CBus community and how tight knit we are, even with people we vaguely know. But really, I sure hope that I wouldn’t have quit without her actions, but Roni running next to me solidified the fact that I would finish that race running.

And Mom. Oh, Mom. I knew that she was up above screaming, “PERSEVERE!” My mom was my biggest motivation to keep going. When she was alive, she NEVER let me quit anything I started and has been my inspiration for perseverance for many years now. So I carried on in her honor. I ran because she can’t.

I got to mile 13 and had that final .1 mile to go. High Street was lined on both sides with people cheering, holding signs, ringing bells…I felt like I was one of the first 10 to finish (I certainly wasn’t!). Once I had entered into that tunnel of buoyant support, not only did I NOT walk, but I sprinted. I ran as fast as I could through that last bit of racecourse.

The Big Finish! {sorry for the screenshot, but it's $20/pic!!}

The Big Finish!
{sorry for the screenshot, but it’s $20/pic!!}

And guess who was waiting at the finish line cheering my name…

…my Dad.

I fell into his arms with the greatest, most exhausted of hugs and cried. I cried because I had just accomplished the greatest physical feat I had ever attempted. I have spiritually overcome many things in my life, but today’s 13.1 miles required perseverance of not only my body, but my mind and my heart as well. I cried because I wished my mom were there to hug me. I hope she would be proud. I cried because it was MY body, MY mind, and MY heart that crossed that finish line. Yes, I could not and would not have done it without the support of my loved ones, but in the end, I was the one that had to take each stride and carry on.

Dad & I at the Finish Line!

Dad & I at the Finish Line!

So thank you to each and every one of you that called, texted, and even ran beside me. Not only have I learned that my body and mind are capable of more than I ever imagined, but so are my amazing and encouraging friends and family!

My Halfie Race Warriors Post-Race! And yeah! You got a free beer for running!

My Halfie Race Warriors Post-Race! And yeah! You got a free beer for running!
L-R: Brooke, Mandy, Alexander, Roxanna, Kendall, Me, Amanda, & Noreen. Not pictured; Jackie & Brenton!

BFF Spotlight: Amee BellWanzo

You probably feel like I’m a bad girlfriend. On again and off again, very unreliable! Well, I apologize! Don’t give up on me now! I know, I know, I keep saying “I’M BAAAACK!!” and then I disappear from the blogosphere for another month and you move on to a younger, hotter blogger with bigger boobs. Well, jerks, life is crazy and, unfortunately, blogging keeps getting pushed to the side. To give you an idea of what has been keeping me from you, here’s a portion of my “Ugh….I have so much shit to do!” List:

  • Finish masters (CHECK!)
    • This included 86 (EIGHTY-FREAKING-SIX!!!) pages of writing over the past 3 months.
  • Grade student essays
    • Each of my seniors is writing 14 “chapters” about their life for a scrapbook project. 14 chapters, at ~2 pages each, times ~50 kids = a lifetime of grading.
    • Also. Please try to imagine the quality of the majority of these essays. I’ve definitely shot myself in the foot over this one.
  • Workout
    • So I’m running the half marathon on May 4th. 13.1 beautiful miles. (Yeah, it’s not so beautiful once you hit mile 8.) Training for this means running. A lot of running. I can run about 6 miles in an hour. So, as you can imagine, this takes a lot of time!
    • Hot Yoga, to stretch my running muscles and calm my brain, twice a week.
    • Other training exercises like biking and weightlifting.
  • Bible Study
    • One night a week, I meet up with folks from my church and remind myself the real reason why and how I’m able to do anything in my life.
  • Alternative Fashion Mob (AFM)
    • I can’t say no to Amee BellWanzo. Plus, the AFM is pretty damn cool and I’d be a fool not to be involved from the beginning.
    • I am now the Mob’s website manager and social media mistress. This job not only requires time on the computer, but there are badass social events, fundraisers and planning meetings involved.
  • Work.
    • Yeah, I still have to do that everyday.
    • (at least until I meet and marry a prince.)
  • Social life
    • I’d go crazy if it weren’t for my friends! I need to spend time with them to keep myself grounded. Plus, they’re each remarkable in their own ways, and I don’t want to miss out on their badassery.
    • Also, I’m a catch! So every once in awhile, I go out with a gentleman caller!

So there. Now you have an idea of the things (some awesome and some required) keeping me from you. It’s certainly not because I don’t want to write anymore! In fact, once such gentleman caller described art as “something you have to do and it pains you not to do it.” In which case, this blog has become my art. It truly has tormented me not being able to create more hours in the day or function on less sleep in order to write. It really feels cathartic to be back here writing.

Anyways! Back to the topic at hand!

Am I the only one, or do you have a best friend (or 6) that has become more like a sibling than a friend? Growing up as an only child, many of my closest friends became more like siblings to me. We saw each other everyday, spent hours of time together, loved the hell out of each other, and engaged in the nastiest of fights. As I have grown up, the fighting part has subsided, thank goodness!

One such of these friends is Amee BellWanzo. I met her about 5 years ago through a mutual friend. I didn’t know much about her, but because we had mutual friends, we both kept showing up at the same places at the same time. I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but one thing led to another and I was addicted to her.

Amee’s love of life is contagious. It didn’t take me long to discover why I wanted her in my life and after you read this, you’re gonna be Facebook stalking and requesting her friendship in no time.

This was the first night I met Amee in August 2008. Some things never change.

This was the first night I met Amee in August 2008.
Some things never change.

First of all, and most badass, Amee is a breast cancer survivor. (We actually just had a party celebrating her 5-year anniversary of being cancer free! She is now out of “The Danger Zone” for remission, so of course the party was Top Gun themed!) My mom passed away from cancer 2 years ago, so Amee’s survival is all the more important to me. I already lost one of the most important people in my life to the cancer bitch, I won’t let it happen again. Not on my watch!

We've got Goose, Iceman (me!), Maverick, Charlie and...Evel Knievel!

We’ve got Goose, Iceman (me!), Maverick, Charlie and…Evel Knievel!

Amee ridin' right out of the Danger Zone!

Amee ridin’ right out of the Danger Zone!

Because Amee knows firsthand what it’s like to live with and survive cancer, she has created an organization focused on supporting people going through cancer: Columbus Rocks the Cure. For the past 4 summers, Amee has organized a large handful of local CBus bands who all come together for one night to raise money to support cancer fighters. The bands play for free and local companies donate their wares and gift cards as raffle items. All of the money raised (yeah. 100-freaking-percent) goes towards buying wigs (girl can’t have no cheap weave!) and gas cards (some patients drive upwards of 100 miles each week to get to a hospital for their treatments) for current cancer patients. This is an amazing and fun event my friends and I look forward to every year.

Sometimes, you just need an F-Bomb

Sometimes, you just need an F-Bomb

Columbus Rocks the Cure 2012 Bands: Black Eyed Betty, Millur Boyette, Fresh Wreckage & The Girls

Columbus Rocks the Cure 2012 Bands: Black Eyed Betty, Millur Boyette, Fresh Wreckage & The Girls

Last year, Amee added a fashion twist to Columbus Rocks the Cure and we now have Columbus Rocks the Cure Rock & Roll Fashion Show! This is a night of music and fashion mixed together! Four bands shred it while models strut their stuff rocking designs created by local artists inspired by the music. And once again, 100% of the profits “support local cancer warriors, right here, right now in the Columbus area.”

This year’s show is Saturday, May 11th, 8pm at Ace of Cups! Click here to buy tickets!

Columbus Rocks the Cure Rock & Roll Fashion Show

Columbus Rocks the Cure Rock & Roll Fashion Show

So I mentioned that Amee organizes Columbus Rocks the Cure and Columbus Rocks the Cure Rock & Roll Fashion Show, where a bunch of awesome bands play. Well, one of said bands is Black Eyed Betty; lead singer, Amee BellWanzo! RIGHT?!? She’s a legit rockstar! Black Eyed Betty (BEB or Betty) is a punk metal/hard rock band fronted by Amee, flanked by twins Kevin and Keith (bass & guitar), and backed by T-Bart on drums. Betty can be found just about every weekend playing somewhere in CBus, from a local bar, to Columbus Rocks the Cure to ComFest to for the first time ever this year, Red, White & Boom (Columbus’ 4th of July Extravaganza)! Their music is catchy, well-written and super fun to dance and jump around to. I was privileged enough to travel with them on a 4-stop mini tour this past summer and act as roadie/groupie/merch girl. I was definitely living the rock ‘n roll lifestyle vicariously through Betty!

Amee rockin' with Betty!

Amee rockin’ with Betty!

We had A LOT of down time/photo ops in the car.

We had A LOT of down time/photo ops in the car.

As if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Amee has recently ganged up with a horde of Columbus fashion advocates (designers, stylists, fanatics, etc.) to create the Alternative Fashion Mob (AFM).

The AFM “believes that fashion is for everyone. It should be accessible to all people, regardless of age, shape, sex or economic status. Our celebration of Columbus fashion invites all members of our community – especially the fashion-forward, creatively focused, and community-minded – to participate and embrace as we showcase, nurture, and enjoy our local design talent. You’ll see us around Columbus at events, fundraisers, pop-up boutiques, and at the mother of all fashion fests, Alternative Fashion Week. A portion of all money raised will be donated to worthwhile charities, while the remainder will be used to fund the Columbus Fashion Incubator. The goal of the Incubator is to (eventually) provide retail and studio space, marketing and business resources, opportunities, and connections for up-and-coming local designers.”

The AFM has already hosted a handful of events around the city to help raise funds for our Alternative Fashion Week in June. Wait…I just said “our.” Yup. I have joined the horde and become an AFMobster. My duties include maintaining our social networks and updating the AFM website. I am so proud to be working alongside people who are overflowing with passion for what they do. Just like Amee’s joy for life, their passion is contagious. After my first AFM meeting, I was ready to quit my job and become a fulltime mobster. I have always liked fashion and tried to exude my own style, but that was about as involved as I got with the art form. I am now proud to be associated with a passionate group of people looking to shake things up a bit around this city.

AFM

Click here for a glimpse of upcoming AFM events!

Beyond being involved in a million organizations, Amee is, simply put, one of my best friends. She has been my accomplice on summers full of misadventures (an excerpt from this past summer: “We walked half a mile in the wrong direction towards the Jazz & Ribs Fest. We waited in line for 30 minutes for ribs and then bailed. We ordered a family size bucket of fried veggies and ate 10% of it. A homeless woman asked us for money, and when we said we had no cash but offered her our veggies, she turned her nose up at them, and I said, ‘Beggars can’t be choosers!’ We went to the wrong house for Olde Towne East Roving and yet were welcomed into the party, as strangers, for a drink. At the gay bar, we were mistaken for either sisters or lovers.”). She has patiently listened to me prattle on about a special guy one day and bemoan the end of the relationship the next. Sure, she will tell me when I’m being especially bitchy, but she’s also the first person to applaud my accomplishments. I know that whether we are sitting on the couch judging Project Runway, dancing at the local gay bar, or boozin’ it up with cowboys, my life is better with her in it. My relationship with Amee has most certainly developed from acquaintance, to follower, to sidekick and has found solid ground at sister. I mean, her husband Chris once said that I am the younger, taller version of Amee…and she taught me how to sneak a flask into just about anywhere. If that’s not the mark of an amazing big sister (I promised I wouldn’t call her “older.”), I’m truly not sure what is.

Misadventures

"Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down."  ~Oprah Winfrey

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” ~Oprah Winfrey

Vision Board Inspiration

This past weekend, I was without plans, and so turned to one of my BFF’s, Amee for plans. I swear, that girl is ALWAYS getting into something fun! When asked what her plans on Saturday night were, she invited me to tag along with her to her neighbor’s house (and by neighbor, she means anyone within a 2 mile radius of her house) for a Vision Board creation party.

Hmmm….not so sure about this. Vision board? What’s a vision board? Well, according to Tawana, the hostess, “a Vision Board is a collage representing things you would like to attract to your life. You will cut pictures and phrases out of magazines or print them from websites and include your own photos in the collage. Vision Boards are very popular because they work. They allow you to see your dream as a reality…and keep your attention focused on your dreams.”

This description came with a warning:

Come prepared to be transformed.

And a request:

Naysayers, please stay at home.

Stay at home?!? I was just told I get to make a collage out of pretty pictures and words, drink wine AND be transformed? No way I’m staying at home!!!!

Okay, fine. In all honesty, I was a little wary at first – not a naysayer!- but I wondered if this little arts ‘n crafts get-together really had the power to transform someone. Nonetheless, I had no other plans, and based on past Misadventures of Amee & Ashley, I knew I’d have fun, no matter what. So Amee and I perused selves of magazines until we had a stack of about 8 to share between us. We packed up glue sticks, scissors, our new travel flasks and Kelli (what’s better than TWO blondes on the loose?! THREE blondes crashing your party!) and made our way to Tawana’s home.

We arrived at the party a wee bit late (what?!? We’re on BGT!! (Blonde Girl Time)), but even so, were warmly welcomed by the itty-bitty Tawana. We took off our coats and put down our 13 lb bag of supplies and were thrust into the living room to be introduced. Two rooms of about twenty women greeted us with hearty “Hey girls,” and “Oh, you’re the rockstar?!” (Amee) and “Oh I love your leggin’s!” (me…they were fabulous) and “You girls look like you came to bartend!” (Our table was in the corner of the massive living room and the first things we pulled out of our magic Mary Poppins bag were vodka and mixers…)

After getting situated, Kelli, Amee and I began to flip through our stacks of magazines and cut out inspirational words, phrases and images. Truthfully, none of the three of us knew exactly what we were doing. Every so often, Tawana would pop over and check on us. Through her explanation of her board (images of wedding things because she wants to be married someday, a picture of her dream home and car, etc), we were able to get a better idea of what was expected of us to make our boards as beneficial as possible. I started to focus on selecting colorful words and images of relationships, exercise, and strong women.

After about 2 hours (RIGHT?!) of chattering, giggling, refilling empty cups and carefully selecting visuals, the girls and I began organizing everything on our boards. Since I like things to be visually aesthetic, this was probably the hardest part for me. I actually had to go back to the magazines to find colorful backgrounds for behind my words and images.

As everyone began finishing their Vision Boards, one by one, each woman got up and shared her board. Women had a variety of ambitions on their boards – from retirement plans, to career goals, to religious hopes to a young girl’s plan to be married by age 27 (She’s 24 now. All us “older” women chuckled and sincerely wished her well…hey, it could happen!). Each board was very personal to its designer, which I find interesting, considering they were composed of advertisements aimed at mass media. It was amazing how each woman took something targeted at everyone and made it personal for herself. After sharing, Tawana urged us all to continue adding to our Vision Boards and put them in a place where we will see it everyday and be reminded of our goals.

So was I transformed? I don’t think I made a complete, 180° change, but I was definitely reminded of how far I have already come in life and how far I have yet to go. Tawana was right – it will definitely keep me productive to have my goals illustrated visually, in a place I see them each and everyday. It can become so easy to just think, I want this for my life, I was to achieve that, Someday I’ll be this. But thinking it isn’t enough. I need to really see what those goals look like in my head. If I can see it, I can work towards it. And it won’t be enough to just visualize my ideal future. I will have to do something about it.

…after all…

tumblr_m4ns1jcVNC1qeqzpuo1_500

{photos from the Vision Board Party}

(Top-Bottom, Left-Right) Amee creating, Kelli & her board (and a wicked photo bomb!), Kelli presenting with Tawana, Kelli's board-in-progress)

(Top-Bottom, Left-Right) Amee creating, Kelli & her board (and a wicked photo bomb!), Kelli presenting with Tawana, and Kelli’s board-in-progress!

Blondes with Boards! Myself, Kelli & Amee

Blondes with Boards! Myself, Kelli & Amee (see? I told you my tights were badass!)

Presenting my board!

Presenting my board!

A few of the ladies & their boards!

A few of the ladies & their boards!

{My Vision Board}

photo 1 (1)

click to see bigger!