Friday, January 23, 2015


This week I wrote an article for Christianity Today's Today's Christian Woman about what I'm learning as a brand-spankin'-new newlywed about the importance of keeping my own identity in my marriage. They wanted an expert to write about. I am an expert. Obvs. 

Check it out, here. It's fo' free.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Yes Please, Yes Please

You guys, I can't even. I woke up at 5 a.m. to read this before work. This isn't something Ashleys do.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Crap. Crap Everywhere.

I have too much crap. I started dragging it all around with me from dorm room to dorm room in college, and for the last seven years, I’ve dragged it with me from apartment to apartment. A few times a year I weed out a lot of it, and I’m always proud of myself, thinking, surely, this will make my life simpler. But I end up collecting more crap, or things I thought were necessities end up becoming crap, or I realize I haven’t worn those 25 shirts in my closet at all this year, nor have I worn the 12 sweaters I was certain I’d finally put to good use. Instead, I wear the same ten things. And then it’s just crap crap crap everywhere.

We currently live in a one bedroom on the basement level of our apartment building, which is equal parts awesome and horrifying. Awesome because we don’t have to walk far to get to our apartment, and when we take our dog out 75 times a day the outside is very close, but horrifying because I’m positive any well-seasoned burglar/serial killer looks at the location of our home and thinks, This is my next stop. When we first moved into this apartment, five months ago, I’d just watched a super scary episode of Castle (yes, Castle. I have a very low threshold for what makes something “super scary”) and was certain someone was going to climb in through our bedroom window at night and murder us both. I dealt with this by making Kevin sleep closest to the window. I am a delicate teacup. #bestwifeever.

Four months ago, I went through all of my clothes and got rid of probably 40% of them, because for the first time in my life, I was sharing a closet—with a boy. Adjusting to being married has its ups and its downs, but the idea of a future lived by constantly shoving Kevin’s collared shirt collection and fancy pants to the left so I could find my favorite dress or shirt seemed like an unnecessary evil. So after a night of alone time, filled with wine and watching The September Issue, which is about the offices at Vogue and high fashion and Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington and how everyone besides Anna wears the same black outfit to work every day because it makes their job so much simpler, I was wine-spired to downsize. I was relentless, pulling out my clothing and asking myself, Do I love this? If the answer was no, or, not anymore, then it went in the ThredUp bag for resale. It felt like a fire sale in reverse.

Moving Again

This month, because we’re crazy, we’re moving up to a new apartment unit, upstairs (No more serial killer windows. Praise the Lord). It’s a two bedroom, and it’s glorious. We’re painting and scrubbing and doing all sorts of stuff to make this apartment exactly what we’ll need for quite a long time, and IT’S GOING TO BE BEAUTIFUL. (I need to repeat this to myself because we painted like banshees five months ago, thinking the same thing about our current unit, and I am not good at repetitive hard work. Just ask my sisters.)

In the midst of all the painting and the repainting and the cabinet painting and the floor cleaning and the baseboards scrubbing and the broken-window fixing and glory and paint fumes, I’m finding myself once again overwhelmed by the amount of crap I have. It’s like a bunch of tchotchkes and clothes and accessories and shoes and books and mugs moved into our apartment and started mating.

Part of my problem is that I am sentimental to the max. I keep anything and everything that anyone has ever given me, written me, handed me, or made for me. Even the things people gave me simply because they didn’t want them anymore, I keep. If they hold a memory, I hold onto them. I’m a memory hoarder. 

So now, I'm at a place where I look at everything I need to hang back up and put away and find a home for, and all I can think is, I hate everything. This has been wearing on me for quite some time. I can always tell when I’m reaching my stress threshold (my streshold, if you will) because my throat starts feeling tighter, my dreams start getting crazier, and I get all bug-eyed. It’s sexy.

So today, after an overly emotional (on my side) conversation about whether or not to buy one more can of “Dove White” paint in Satin Finish for the trim, I broke down and started crazy-crying to my husband about how stressed out I am about a whole giant range of things. Basically, ALL THE THINGS. My poor amazing husband had, at this point, told me he'd work on the painting today, and that what I needed to do was to do nothing. I think this was part-sweet offer, and part-I need some time alone away from your crazy and you need to get back to being not crazy, but I took it either way. A few minutes late, I found myself tucked into bed, laying comatose under a pile of laundry and comforters, staring at the ceiling while being licked in the face by my dog. 

And this was when I decided this whole Get Rid of All The Crap thing needs to be for real this time. I need to simplify. This has to stop. In more ways than one, this has to stop. I spend too much time touching or looking at or worrying about things my life that no longer have a place.

You see, what I realized in that incredibly attractive, super-together-brilliant state, is that my life has become one big too-much-crap metaphor. Along with all my mismatched socks and ugly cardigans and weird candle holders that I keep thinking I’ll paint someday, I am dragging around a thousand little bits of my past that don’t fit into my life anymore. It’s been so subconscious, I don’t think I really was able to realize it until just now, maxing out my potential to be good at life while whimpering incoherent half-sentences about every single thing in my life, past past and present, to Kevin. As one does. By the way, I believe I began this beauty with, "Everything *sob* in my life *sob* SUCKS!" like a thirteen-year-old girl. I'm sure Kevin was thinking about how he'd like to marry me all over again. Duh.  

Idina Menzel, Sing to Me
I think when you get married, or even just when you grow up or move on, one of the most intensely healthy, but sort of new, things you can do is to work on really letting go of things. When I say I think this, I mean I just realized this. See above.

I’m not talking about friendships. Obviously, you keep those—the healthy ones, at least. I’m talking about 28 years of dating and depth and stupidity and mistakes and wondering. I’m talking about bad family history and past failures and all the heavy stones we drag through life. I’m not sure why I drag this cross around when Jesus did that for me so many years ago, but I do. Kevin’s always telling me I need to stop trying to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. For me, these are the people I still dream and worry about, or the failures I remember the most vividly. They mess with my day and my mind constantly, and they keep me from looking to future, or even enjoying the present. 

And the thing with the past is, it’s both concrete and malleable—you know what happened, but you can remember it however you choose to remember it. If you want to see certain experiences or people as all positive and all perfect, you probably can. At least I can. Kevin knows this, by the way, because I can’t keep anything from that man. I overshare, and somehow, he continues to like me. I have found my lobster.  

So that’s some of it. Memories that haunt me. I need to let that go.

But some of the things that don’t fit anymore are things that are still very much a part of my present. They’re those pieces that make me miserable to be around sometimes. I need to let go of this stuff, too, but it’s scarier to do, because it means I have to trust that God will fill those gaps. It’s sort of like those too-tight jeans that make me crabby to wear, but that I keep hoping I’ll be able to fit into, “eventually.” (God bless us, carb-lovers everywhere.) These aren’t things that make me crabby and stressed sometimes—if that were the case, I’d have to cut everything and move to Alaska to live with the Eskimos—they’re the things that stress me out and make me crabby always.

The crying in the kitchen and the laundry burial and the painting and the scrubbing and the ambiguous clean/dirty clothing all over our room has taught me a valuable lesson.

I need to simplify. I need to minimize. I need to look at my life and see the forest again, not just million trees. I need to get excited about people and things and places, instead of living in a constant state of overwhelmed exhaustion. C.S. Lewis once said, "There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind." I need to get on that train. I want to believe that again.

To start, I’ve decided to make a list. Here is what I know to be true about myself:

·         I love to write.
·         I equal-parts love alone time and time with good friends.
·         I love my husband.
·         I love my family—my parents, my sisters, my brothers-in-law, my nieces and nephews, my in-laws.
·         I love my dog like he’s a furry dog toddler.
·         I have close girlfriends, both near and far, who are the absolute best women I know.
·         I have best friends, and I want more time with them.
·         I love saying  “yes” to things and people and tasks.
·         Between work and freelance, I’m overdoing it right now.
·         I want to spend more time with Jesus, learning more and whining less.
·         I've always wanted to write a book.
·         I love to read.
·         I love to create.
·         Cooking stresses me out.

Here are a few things I am realizing I need to work on:
·         I have some control/trust issues.
·         I have a hard time trusting that when my husband says he’ll take care of it, he’ll actually take care of it—by no fault of his.
·         I compare myself to the unicorns in my life—you know, those magic people who can do everything and look great doing it and never fall apart and fall asleep under a pile of bed laundry because they’re too busy saving the hungry and pooping out rainbows.
·         I say yes to too many things, and this causes me to be super flakey.
·         I’m very into myself.
·         I’m very into my past, because the future feels too unknown.
·         I have too much crap.
·         I have church issues.
·         I watch too much TV.
·         I say I want to spend more time with Jesus, but I never make time for it, partially because there’s always somewhere to be or something to pick up or clean or put away or watch on TV.
·         I worry about everything that could possibly go wrong for everyone I’ve ever met. Ever.
·         I don’t write enough.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got so far. These lists could be a mile long, but that really defeats the point of simplifying.

I have a feeling this is going to be a longer process than I’d like to think it will be. I have no doubt I’ll end up crying over paint cans at some point in the near future. But writing this stuff down helps me see it—really see it.   

These aren’t really New Year’s Resolutions. I had big dreams of writing a super awesome NYR post about all the beautiful moments I was going to have this year, and all the food I’d learn to make, and the races I’d run, and how I’d smell more roses and pet my dog and write the greatest weird nonfiction memoir by a not famous funny woman you’ve ever read. I had dreams. And I’ll have them again. But I think before I start shooting for the moon (I mean, seriously, cooking) I need to clean up what I already have going on. I need to declutter.

Pray for me.

Also, not that I’m feeling insecure, but have any of you ever gone through a season like this? If not…no biggie…I’ll just be over here in crazyland alone…