The Story within the Song

I love music.  I don’t really know how someone couldn’t love music.  In fact, whenever I meet someone that isn’t into music, I question them as a person.

My love of music was instilled in me as a young girl — I have really fond memories of getting home from school and my dad would have our stereo system blaring with classic rock like CCR, Steve Miller, and Skynyrd.  My mom would always quiz us as kids, “Who sings this?”  “Name the artist!”  She told us it was good to know the artists behind the songs, which would make for great conversation starters as we got older.  And, she was right.  I couldn’t even count the number of times that I’ve used my random knowledge of musicians and song titles to network and build friendships. I usually start each morning with a song, and many nights, I end my day with a song.

It goes further than the music though — I’m a words person (are you surprised?), so lyrics and the stories behind the songs are really what draw me in.  And I use them to help me better explain my feelings — sometimes when I can’t find the words to really express how I feel, chances are, there’s a song that can help me get my message across.

Which is great, but the downside is the emotional attachment that can be placed upon that song. Good and bad.

The memories that linger even when the song has ended or the moment has passed.

That feeling you get when you haven’t heard a song in YEARS — you walk into a coffee shop, hear it playing, and it sends you right back and you want to rip your heart out of your chest and throw it in the garbage.

That warmth you get in your chest, and you can close your eyes and see your friends dancing around you, huge smiles, and you feel their energy.

That sharp stabbing pain you get in your stomach, when you hear certain words that basically describe your life now, as you know it.

That smile that creeps across your face, and you can close you eyes and see his looking right back at you, the same smile reflecting on his face.

The stories behind the songs, not just the song’s story, but your own personal story.  The song that would be playing in the background of that particular “scene” in the movie of your life, the overplaying music reflected in that cheesy 80s style montage moment, or the song that causes you to just sit back and stare pensively at a lake, or something.

And the relation piece.. god, sometimes there are certain lyrics that just pull on my heartstrings so hard that I feel like I’m going to fall over.

There’s the bittersweet past:

“How does it feel to know you’re everything I want? I’ve got a hard time saying this, so I’ll sing it in a song.” Still relevant.

“And, I wanna tell you everything, the words I never got to say the first time around. And, I remember everything, from when we were the children playing in this fairground. Wish I was there with you now.” Ah.

“So, please don’t let on, you don’t know me. Please don’t let on, I’m not here. Please don’t let on, you don’t love me, ’cause I know you do. I know you do…” Destroyed.

 

There’s the harsh reality:

“I’ve been afraid of changin’, ’cause I built my life around you.” Yep.

“Slow down, you’re doing fine. You can’t be everything you want to be before your time.” “You can see when you’re wrong, but you can’t always see when you’re right.” Preach.

“She’s imperfect, but she tries. She is good, but she lies. She is hard on herself. She is broken, and won’t ask for help. She is messy, but she’s kind. She is lonely, most of the time. She is all of this, mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie. She is gone, but she used to be mine.” God dammit, Sara. Why do you know my life?

 

And there’s the hopeful future:

“Life doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints, it takes and it takes and it takes. But we keep living anyway, we rise and we fall and we make our mistakes. And, if there’s a reason why I’m still alive when so many have died, then I’m willing to wait for it.” 100%.

“When you wake up, I’ll be the first thing you see. And when it gets dark, you can reach out to me. I’ll cherish your words, and I’ll finish your thoughts. I’ll be your compass, baby, for when you get lost.” Yes please.

“If you let go, I’ll float towards the sun. I’m stronger because you fill me up. When the fear comes and I drift towards the ground, I’m lucky that you’re around. I wanted to play tough, thought I could do all this on my own… your love lifts me up like helium.” Every word.

“All we need is hope, and for that, we have each other.” Every day, my love. Every single day.

 

I could tell you a tale for every song. I could compose the ending for the lyrics that pain me.  I could breathe in the notes of each verse and exhale all the memories I cherish and did cherish for so long.

Maybe one day I’ll create a mixtape and share it with you, and we’ll smile, maybe laugh, probably cry… and the world will be just fine. It will be a changed world, but it will be just fine.

Imagine.

 

G’night.

Ashley and the Tale of the Red Balloon

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I got my first tattoo when I was a freshman in college. It was small — a tiny little star with rainbow stardust, on the side of my right ankle.  I was about a week into school, on my own, 3 hours away from my parents.  My first attempt at being a rebel.

A rebel.. one who gets a tiny star with rainbow stardust tattoo.

My second tattoo was the one that would change my life. And, it was completely random. Unplanned. Ironically enough, that’s what made it so magical.

I went with a group of friends who were going to get tattoos.  We spent about an hour in the parlor, looking around. Going back and forth on whether they were going to do it or not.  Eventually, both friends decided against getting one.

“What!?” I exclaimed. “We literally spent all this time here, and no one is getting a tattoo?!”

They shuffled their feet and mumbled under their breath, obviously still debating, but ultimately deciding it was best to wait before permanently marking their bodies.

“Well, I mean.. we’re here. So, maybe I’ll just get one.” I said, trying to act way more confident than I actually was.

“What? What would you even get?” My taller friend was attempting to call my bluff.

“I don’t know.. maybe I’ll just get a red balloon or something.”

“Why a red balloon?” asked my other shorter friend.

“Why not?”

30 minutes later, I walked out of the tattoo parlor with a fresh red balloon tattooed on my left calf. It was simple, a red balloon with a black string. No muss, no fuss. It didn’t need any.

There were a few days afterward where I secretly questioned why I got it. A red balloon? Of all the things to get tattooed, I chose a red balloon?! So strange.. At that point I didn’t have the same affinity for balloons as I do now. It had no meaning, no significance. It was really just a spur of the moment decision that would eventually mean everything to me.

The randomness, the “spur of the moment” decision, the “giving no fucks” attitude, the impulsivity.. that wasn’t really my style.  I’m known to be very type-A: a planner, a to-do list maker, a thinker, a high-expectations-of-yourself-and-everyone-else overachiever. The split moment impulse to get a red balloon tattoo was one of the more spontaneous things I had done in my life to that point — and I did it without much thought or contemplation. As the days, months, years passed since getting it — of all the tattoos I have, that one gives me the most joy.  It gives me life.

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The red balloon is such a great reminder for myself of important life lessons.

  • Sometimes the best parts of life are unplanned and unpredictable. And that’s okay!!
  • It’s all about the little things.  Take time to appreciate the little things, for one day you will wake up and realize all the little things were actually the big things that make life so wonderful.
  • When life throws challenges your way, pick yourself up and rise like a balloon.
  • Smile. Just smile.
  • Every little thing is gonna be alright.
  • When everyone else is finding joy in bursting your balloons, don’t let them. You are stronger than you think.
  • Fear can be two things: Fear Everything And Run — or — Face Everything And Rise.  Choose to rise.
  • You will rise by lifting others. So lift up with your whole heart and let them go.
  • “If one wants to rise like a hot air balloon, one must cut the wires and let go of the weight that hold back the true potential.”

As I’ve grown older, the balloon has become such a happiness boost for me. A muse. A hope.  I eventually added in the word “Hope” into the string of the balloon — again.. a reminder. Don’t lose your hope, don’t let it break — it can be fragile, it can get twisted, knotted, cut-off. Cherish it, and keep them high.

“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.” — Winnie the Pooh.  Preach, Winnie. Preach.

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Friends, your life is like a balloon. If you never let yourself go, you will never know how high you can rise. Da Vinci said, “Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return.” You’ve seen my descent, now watch my rising.

Ain’t nobody gonna burst my balloons anymore. I am in control of how high I rise. And the sky is limitless.

Fuck the haters, love the lovers, and rise above.

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Ashley: reinvented.

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Life has a funny way of teaching you things you never knew you needed to learn.

At the beginning of 2016, I chose a one word theme for the year — something to help keep me motivated, something to drive me and my decisions, something BIGGER than resolutions that are notorious for being broken time and time again.  I chose growth.  Growth.

Growth –  noun.

  • the process of growing.

Growing – verb

  • to become better or improved in some way

I’ve always been the type of person who had expectations of how my life would go, or plans on how it would all work out in the end.  By choosing the word “growth” this year, my expectations were that I would gain insight into different aspects of my life to live a little happier. I was seeking that “passion” in my career that everyone talks about when they say “living the dream” or “love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”  I was seeking that “drive” when it came to living a healthier lifestyle, becoming “fit” mentally, physically, emotionally. I was looking to find more sunshine and rainbows, even in the mundane “everyday” routinized activities we “have” to do. Talk less, smile more. Become a better “me” so I can be better in every other role I fill.
I had no idea how much “growing” I would actually have to do this year.

How much work I needed to do, not just in the areas I wrote above — but in areas I didn’t even know needed help.

Or did I know but refused to believe it? Or did I know but just was too blind to actually see it?  Was my heart confusing my head, or was my head telling my heart different things to protect it from getting broken?

Will I ever know?

Does it even matter now, at this point?

I’m not sure I believe in the adage “Everything happens for a reason.”  I believe that everything happens the way it is supposed to, whether there is a reason or not. I’m still trying to wrap my head (and heart) around the “not needing to understand reasons or lack of reasons” part, but I’m working on it.

Someone wise once told me, “Everyday is another opportunity to turn it all around.” I believe that. We have one life, one chance, one moment, one breath, one body, one mind, one soul. Now is the time, the time is now.

Remember. Stop crying in the corner of the kitchen. Pick up your pieces.  Dust off your shoulders.  Breathe in, slowly let it out.

Remember. Smile from your liver. Stop, Cancel Cancel. Everyday is another opportunity it turn it all around.

Remember. 10 miles, barefoot. Stronger than you think. Move forward. Look back, but only to enjoy the memories and then let them go.

Remember. 26 breaths per minute. Take another one. One foot in front of the other. One more mile ran. One more sad song. “How does it feel?”

Remember. “I’m not in love with you anymore, I’m in love with someone else.” “Eat. Workout. Clean yourself up.” Supernova. Everyday is another opportunity to turn it all around.

Reme
mber. “Today is going to be a great day. The sun is shining, a few clouds in the sky. And today is going to be a great day.” “God, please help me.” Send me love and light, and drop it.

Remember. She’s looking to you. She deserves it. She is everything. She will learn from you how to get through the seemingly impossible. Find rainbows everyday.

Remember. “They will be lining up at your door.” Columbia. Afternoon movies and bookstores. Falling more in love with the city that never sleeps. Can’t start a new chapter when you keep rereading the old ones.

Remember. Prospect. Central. Try new things. Talk less, smile more. Move forward, with me. Everyday is another opportunity to turn it all around.

Remember. Just remember.

 

You’ve got this. Don’t you forget it.

Find rainbows everyday.  When you are living the best version of yourself, you inspire others to live the best versions of themselves. Love the person you’ve become because you fought to become her. Sometimes the negative things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the BEST things that will ever happen to us.

Growth.

Ashley: Reinvented.

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Tot School: Week 5

Hi friends!

Week five of Tot School is a wrap — and as always, we had so much fun!

This week, we only had a short amount of time to have the littles together — so our lesson was condensed into fewer activities, but allowing more time within those activities for learning.  I wanted to focus the entire day on talking about Springtime, but we ended up covering “Spring” at the end of the day, and spending a bit more time on colors and letter recognition.  The little ones seemed to be a bit all over the place, and their attention spans were very short — so we had to improvise 😉

Here was the week 5 lesson plan:

Tot School

We started the day off with a Color Review activity that was super fun — but did require a little bit of prep!  I secretly raided Ella’s toys to find a variety of different small toys in all the colors of the rainbow, plus brown, black, and white. I made sure to have at least 3-4 toys of each color, and then mixed them up in a small plastic bin.  Then, I gathered all of the matching colors of construction paper, and laid out the paper on the floor in a circle.  All of the littles sat on the floor, and I would lift out a toy, and say “What color is this?” Whoever answered correctly first, got the toy — but they had to place the toy on the matching colored paper.  It was a bit rough in the beginning, but once they got it — they loved it.  Ella particularly loved it — we have now included this game into our daily play. 🙂

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After our color review, we moved into the kitchen for fun “Do-A-Dot” activities. Since Week 4 we focused on A, B, and C — this week, we focused on D, E, and F.  We dotted the letters by themselves (you can find the templates we used here), and also did the “Spot and Dot” activity we did last week — which was awesome and the kids really enjoyed it (as well as the proud mommas!).  You can find the “Spot and Dot” worksheets here.  The littles LOVE their Do-A-Dot markers, or as most of them call it “Colors” or “Painting.” Purchasing these markers has been a huge help with our tot school — highly recommended!

After our Do-A-Dots, we did a special painting activity.  All of our toddlers know their names and the letter their names start with — so when I was out piddling away at Michaels, I found some chipboard letters in each of their first initials on clearance, and I thought, “TOT SCHOOL!”  The only letter they were missing was the letter “E” — of course! 😉  But, instead of doing a letter for Ella, we let her paint a shape that looked like a ticket — that we will then write her full name on.

We used Crayola Washable Paint, and let the kids go to town painting their letters — after we made them say what each one was out loud.  It was great practice for them to remember their friends names — as well as practice of letter recognition outside of the repetition of the Alphabet song.

Painting was so much fun — but whew! What a mess 😉  We cleaned up, and our last activity of the day was going to be talking about spring, flowers, and actually putting our hands in dirt to plant our own little pots of daisies.  For a snack, I made “dirt cups” with chocolate pudding and crushed oreos — so we decided it was a better idea to eat our dessert AFTER we plant our flowers, to avoid having the kids eating real dirt thinking it was a treat.  #momwin

We found these mini pots with seeds at our local Target in the $1 section.  Each little one got to plant two pots — one with daisy seeds, one with poppy seeds.  They all had fun playing in the dirt, for sure — I think once they are a bit older they will understand what we were actually doing.  They are learning, though — and so are we 🙂 I absolutely love the look Ella has on her face in the first picture below — she’s like “Hey man.. whatchu guys doing…..?” LOL

And, of course — everyone’s favorite part of the day was our dessert treat.  Even the Mommies enjoyed this one! 😉  At first, the kids were like — eww, we are going to eat dirt?? But, in the end, I think they enjoyed it.

Week Six was supposed to be last week — but scheduling conflicts prevented us Mommies from coordinating on a day together.  However, Ella Grey is just so in love with school and learning.  There isn’t a day that goes by where she isn’t grabbing my hand to sit with her as I quiz her with flashcards on her numbers and letters.  She knows her ABCs, she can count to 25, and is great with her colors and shapes.  It’s amazing to watch her grow and learn — seems like everyday there is something new!

I’m planning to expand on our once a week “tot school” lessons with our friends, and include a weekly lesson plan of the activities I’m doing with just Ella — so be on the lookout, friends!  The greatest gift you can give your child (aside from love, of course) is an opportunity for growth and learning. And, she’s soaking everything up like a sponge right now — so let’s set goals, let’s continue to learn, and let’s get to it!

Do you have any amazing homeschool, preschool, or “tot school” activities you are doing with your little one?  PLEASE SHARE!  I’m always on the hunt for “gold” when it comes to new and exciting ways to teach Ella.  I’d be so appreciative 🙂

Drop me a comment below, or check me out on Facebook and Instagram!

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Body Back: Week Eight Recap — The Final Assessment!

It’s hard to believe… but my first session of Body Back is over! Wow.

8 weeks of early mornings, intense workouts, and BURPEES.  I feel I’ve grown so much in the past 8 weeks — I’ve learned so much more about myself, and the direction in which my future is heading.

So, you’ve waited and waited for 8 weeks — so let’s get to it!


Week eight started out rough — I caught a silly cold over the weekend, so I managed to miss the last class before the assessment!  BLAST!  I really wanted that final workout in — but really, I knew this was it and one more workout before the assessment wasn’t going to make or break me.

The morning of the assessment was here before I knew it.  I was so excited for it, I barely slept the night before — and felt super pumped when I arrived to our workout area at an earrrrlllllyyyy 5:30AM.  The first thing we did was take our “After” photos, followed by weighing in and doing our measurements.

Weight and Measurement Results:

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Overall, I lost 1.6lbs and 3 inches.  However, I also gained 1.5 inches in my arms and hips.  After doing these measurements, I have to admit — I was feeling a bit down about it.  I worked my tail off — I was expecting to have a bigger difference.  It just wasn’t in the cards for me this time. But…..then we did our actual physical FITNESS assessment.

Here are the results and comparison from the fitness assessment:

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Yes… You read that right.  Although I was bummed about my measurements — I kicked butt on my physical assessment — and that’s really what mattered most to me.  I knew I had areas to work on from the initial assessment — and I worked hard on all of those areas.

When I started this, I could only hold a wall-sit for 1 minute and 34 seconds.  8 weeks later, I held a wall-sit for TWENTY FIVE MINUTES.  TWENTY FIVE!!!  And, truth is — I think I could’ve held it longer!  Directly after, I ran my mile in 5 seconds quicker time than I originally started.  That’s incredible — and man, my legs were JELLY!

I do feel a little bummed about my planks and side bridge– I know I can hold longer than this.  But, honestly (and not to give excuses…) I did side bridges LAST — you know, after I held that 25 minute wall-sit, bicep curls, etc.  So, only improving a little from the first assessment is okay with me.  C’mon.. twenty five minutes! That’s insane.

And, last but not least… the photos:

I don’t see a huge difference in the photos — but the huge difference is beyond what the photos show.  The girl in the grey tank is STRONGER, more CONFIDENT, and HAPPIER. And that, my friends, is worth every single second, every single sweat bead, every single burpee.


One evening last week, on our walk, Ella fell asleep — so I took a few minutes to just sit and think by a lake that sits behind our neighborhood.  I couldn’t help but smile, thinking of how far I’ve come — not only just in these last 8 weeks, but since we moved here.  It’s an incredible difference.

The girl I once knew was struggling.  She had forgotten who she was, what she loved to do. She was so consumed by working and being a mom in her non-working time, that she let herself come second .. third.. last. She would constantly be told she looked “tired” or that she needed to smile more.  And, truth is .. I was tired.  I did need to smile more — I just was struggling to find balance that reminded me of all the beautiful things I had in my life to smile for.

But now, it’s completely different.  I find myself laughing more, crying less.  I’m beginning to recognize myself again.  I’m getting to meet such amazing new people who have become instant friends!  I’m remembering all of the things I love to do. I’m making time for myself — and time to appreciate the little things.  I’m getting out of my comfort zone. I’m GROWING.

I’m proud of myself and how far I’ve come.  I’m a constant work in progress, for sure — but you know, I’m definitely moving in the right direction. 🙂

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Whole 30: Week One Meal Plan

Happy Monday, friends!

As part of my month of Health and Wellness (and mentioned in my previous post here), I will be aiming to complete my first Whole 30 this month!  This is super exciting for me — I’ve always wanted to give Whole 30 a shot, and I’m looking to really hone in on my eating habits and practice a bit more mindfulness when it comes to the foods I put in my body.

In order to be successful, I’m going to plan out my meals each week, and will be posting those meal plans here!  At the end of the week and beginning of the next week, I will do a recap post of how it went, with pics and recipes of the delicious meals I prepare.

So, let’s get started!

Here is Week One’s Meal Plan:

Whole 30_ Week One

My breakfasts are going to remain pretty consistent throughout the week: eggs, eggs, and more eggs! 🙂  Also, I’m planning to make extra of dinner each night so I will have leftovers for lunch!  Snacks will consist of almonds, vegetable strips (celery, peppers, carrots, cucumber), and olives/pickles.  Also, my goal is to not eat after 9PM.

I’m very excited to try out some new dishes this week, and look forward to sharing them with you!

Do you have any Whole 30 approved dinner ideas?  I’d love to hear them!  Leave me a comment below or let’s connect on Facebook!

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May: the Month of Health and Wellness

Happy May, friends!

I just love May — Spring is in the air, beautiful blue almost-Summer skies, flowers, Mother’s Day, and warm days that still have a bit of a nice breeze — before the Florida death-heat takes over!

This month, in conjunction with my year of GROWTH, our little family will be focusing on Health and Wellness.  We have BIG goals for the month, and I’m so excited to share the journey with you.

Raux and I are fairly healthy people — we are active and usually eat pretty good, but this month, I want to take it a step further.  To fill our month of Health and Wellness, we’ve set out these goals for May:

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Garage gym.  I’m so pumped for this.  For YEARS, we’ve been talking about having our own  workout space, equipped with a pull-up/dip bar, but never had the space or resources to get it going.  We would just go to our local park and use their bars, or modify using playground equipment.  But not anymore — we finally ordered our bar, and it should be delivered this coming Thursday. I’m so excited! I have some big goals to be able to do a single pull-up and a handstand push-up by the end of the year, and this will definitely be put to good use!  We have also planned to buy the mat flooring and a medicine ball this upcoming week to start building it out further.

Body Back wrapped up last Wednesday, and I’m beginning the next session (only 4 weeks) on Tuesday.  I’m officially addicted to it, and I can’t wait to jump back in.  Oh, and the final assessment post should be up on the blog soon, so you can see how much progress was made in the first 8 weeks!  I’ll give you a hint: TWENTY. FIVE. MINUTES. Stay tuned…..

Fit4Mom (the company that runs the Stroller Strides and Body Back programs I’m obsessed with) is celebrating May by empowering all Mommas to run 26.2 miles over the course of the entire month.  This made my heart super happy — I love running, and feel I’ve been slacking on this part of my fitness regime lately.  So, I volunteered to help out by leading a running group for any of the Mommas in our village that want to hit this goal by running their mileage.  We will be meeting every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings and covering between 2-3 miles per day — but I’m also going to reach out whenever I’m planning to do extra runs to see if anyone wants to join in.  It’s so awesome to have a group of people who love to run and workout as much as you do  😉

I can already check one goal off my list — registering for my first FULL marathon.  Running a full marathon has been a dream — but after running 15Ks and halves, I’ve never been brave enough to jump into registering for a full.  Well, not anymore!  I registered for my first full this morning — I WILL BE a marathoner come January 29th, 2017.  What a great start to my 30th year — gonna crush 30 like it’s my job!

Whole 30 has also been a goal of mine for a while.  While I normally eat pretty healthy, I have a hell of a sweet tooth.  I’ve had friends who have had great success with Whole 30, and I figured since Body Back is only 4 weeks this session, this is the perfect opportunity to do Whole 30 for the month of May!  It’s going to be challenging, but I’m hoping it will really shake me into a better eating routine, being even more mindful of my choices, and honestly — I just want to feel better!  I want to be a reflection of the fuel I put into my body — satisfied, healthy, and clean. I plan to do weekly posts focusing on my meal plans and nutrition as I work through this process — and would love all the accountability and cheerleaders I can get!

Lately, I’ve been falling into a TV rut, and haven’t been giving my books much attention.  I seriously have my nightstand and bedside filled with books that I’m yearning to read — but will find myself re-watching old Grey’s episodes instead.  NO MORE!  I’m challenging myself to read through 2 personal development books this month.  First, I’m going to read “Happier at Home” by Gretchen Rubin — I adore her SO much, she’s like my spiritual master!  I’m going to save my second choice for when I finish “Happier at Home” — which will hopefully be added motivation. 🙂

I really enjoy Stephen Covey’s 7 habits principles, especially his work on motivating people to spend time “sharpening their own saw.”  I need to do this more in my own life — I find myself getting wrapped up with the day to day, making sure everyone else’s needs and wants are met, and not giving enough time for me to do something for myself.  This month, I want to spend a few hours one day a week (at least) to sharpen my saw: go to the bookstore, write, go see a movie, take myself out to lunch — SOMETHING.  Something where I just go piddle without having to worry much about anything except enjoying MYSELF.

So that’s it, friends!  May’s goals.  I’m so excited for each of these, and am already getting started on crushing them — went for a 3 mile run this morning, registered for the marathon, received notification about our bar getting here on Thursday, feeling good so far on Day 1 of Whole 30, and I’m starting my 1st book tonight.

It’s going to be a FANTASTIC month!

Do you have goals for May?  What are they?!  I’d love to hear all about it!  Drop me a comment below, or check me out on Facebook or Instagram!

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