Sunday, September 26, 2010

Even Trap Shooting Can Make Me Inspired...

I've always been told to keep my eye on the ball, don't pull my head, and don't swing for the high ones. Of course I'm referring to softball - but the same is true for nearly every other thing I've attempted do in my life. And I heard the same three comments yesterday when I was trap shooting with Justin.

Yesterday, Justin and I went trap shooting in Noblesville. It was an absolutely beautiful day.

I was extremely nervous. I didn't want to be like the kid on "A Christmas Story" and shoot my eye out.

I also didn't want to shoot someone else, especially my husband.

He was a brave soul bringing me to the shooting range...

Since I was the only girl there, I stood out in the crowd. And probably because I'm also tall, loud and draw attention to myself on a daily basis.

So before we knew it, there were old men left and right coming up to us giving us advice.

"So is this your first time shooting a shot gun," Bruce asked us.

"No," Justin lied. It really was his first time.

"Yes," I said. Always too honest for my own good.

So they started giving me the run down and told me to keep my eye on the bird. Follow the bird with our gun. Be steady. Aim low. Don't be scared.

But I thought we were shooting clay. Not birds.

"Um, so do you call the clay a bird?" I asked.

I knew I didn't have to look at Justin. I could feel the wind coming my way from him shaking his head and that was just the beginning.


My first round I didn't hit any "birds" - In fact, I don't even really know where I was looking or aiming. I just kind of saw something in the air, tried to point at it, and then pulled the trigger. But that wasn't very effective.

So I wasn't aiming.

I was jerking back every time I pulled the trigger.

And my biggest criticism: I'm always too high- on my targets- not drugs. I kept shooting OVER the bird.


So they started giving me advice again.Unfortunately it didn't matter. I didn't really know how to aim, which might sound stupid, but I didn't want to admit it at the time. Finally I got some advice that made perfect sense.

"60 percent of shot goes above the you know what the barrel is?" he asked.

I shook my head "yes" --but I can understand why he asked.
"So make sure that you are actually a little below the target when you are aiming," he said.

And it worked. I shot my first "bird" and I did a little happy feet dance with the gun in my hand. I'm sure people were fearing their life at that moment since I was doing a jig like a four year old on their birthday, but I was extremely happy!

In the end, I hit 6 birds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, out of 50 attempts - but who is really counting? That is a great first time and I made new friends with the old guys, who are absolutely adorable in their little camo outfits and fanny packs that hold their shells.

"Thanks for letting us borrow your amo- is that what I am supposed to say?" I said to the man who let Justin borrow his gun and shells for a round.

"Something like that." he said and laughed. "Close enough."

Justin shook his head again. Always an adventure with me...

So how can I make this blog inspiring? I'll use my three biggest areas of improvement as examples (sounds better than saying three biggest weaknesses, doesn't it?)....

Keep Your Eye on the Ball
It's the same thing as keeping your eye on your dreams. If you start to lose sight of what really matters in life, take a step back to align your visions with your dreams and hopes. Then you will certainly hit all your targets and aspirations in life.

Don't Pull Your Head
Don't be afraid. When I pulled my head in softball, I was afraid I'd miss the ball. But sometimes you just have look at people, events, and obstacles in life head on. No turning away. No turning back.

Don't Swing for the High Ones
This one comes easy for me. You can't always hit every ball that comes your way- just like you can't manage every project, please every person, or be at every wedding, party, or weekend trip. But that is okay. Don't spread yourself to thin. Sometimes you just need to say "NO" and that doesn't make you weak or a bad person. When you stay in the middle and keep that balance in life, you will be much happier. And probably take down a few birds and knock out some home runs.

Much love,

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's The Simple Things

It really is the simple things in life that make me happy.

Like Bandit jumping up on me when I walk in the door. Grabbing ahold of my arms so he can pull me down and give me kisses.

Like coming home and Justin doing the dishes. And laundry. And then cooking dinner.

Like the sun shining bright on a sad day.

Like seeing a couple kiss in public.

Like running in the rain just for fun- not to race to car so your hair doesn't get wet.

Like giving someone a compliment just because you want to make someone other than YOU feel good...

Like looking at old pictures and laughing at the things you were doing, the clothes you were wearing, and the friends you made. See below in the dorms being goofy with Toni! =)

Like saying "hello" to a complete stranger.

Like getting a text from a close friend that says "I MISS YOU" and that is all.

Like tripping over a parking block and pretending no one saw you (wait, you haven't done that...story of my life).

Like getting your mail and finding a special hand written letter from a close friend.

Like painting your nails a completely bold and wild color.

I think a lot of people get caught up in the big picture of life. I'll be happy when I graduate, get a job, get married, or move away. But really- it is about the simple, small every day things that you can always count. I smile when I see the same old man at Starbucks getting his same favorite frappacino. Then getting his tiny red car and driving away with a huge smile on his face. I guess I notice those things...because I find joy seeing other people smile. Live their daily lives. I hope you find pure bliss in the little things in life. Or least start too- because if you don't, you really are missing out.

Much love,

Friday, September 17, 2010

Update: The Matthews + Bixler + Raymond Wedding

- Brittany and Kristin checking our where Kristin and John's wedding reception will be on June 2, 2012- picture taken from Kristin's Facebook page.

I wrote yesterday about Brittany Raymond and how her life and death has changed the life of many people. Today, I'm happy to write about how her life will be celebrated and remembered during her best friends wedding, Kristin Matthews.
Kristin called me today and left me a voicemail- telling me she has an update about her wedding so I'll need to update my blog.

Kristin was excited to tell me that Brittany's sisters Carly and Adria will be her co-maids of honor.

" :) :) The Raymonds have offically taken over this wedding, which isn't until June 2, 2012 btw :) I'm so happy right now!" Kristin text me at exactly 7:30 p.m.
I'm happy to share this update. I'm certain Kristin and John's wedding will be absolutely beautiful. Their wedding day will be filled with love and support- and memories of Brittany. And I know Brittany will shine down her bright smile and share her laughter through the wind on their wedding day.

Much love,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

But The Greatest of These is Love

When I found out Brittany Raymond Arnold passed away in a car accident, I was in complete shock. She was only 25 years old. She was a mother of two children. She was attending school at IPFW. She was a beautiful daughter, happy sister, loving best friend, and a true inspiration for how to live your life: inspire others, reach for the stars, love your family and friends unconditionally, and never stop smiling =)

But I still had a thousand emotions and questions running through my mind....

What about her kids who will grow up without their mother?

How is her ex-husband, who also lost his grandma the same week, coping with everything?

How are her parents, who lost their youngest daughter wayyyy too early in life, handling this unexpected situation?

And her sisters- who are also like best friends- what sea of emotions are they experiencing?

And her best friends- who are like sisters- how are they holding up?

I knew Britt through the pool house gang and playing softball. I also remember her big smile and loud laugh- yes someone put me up for a challenge with their laugh. And when I saw her out last at the bars, she still had that same bright smile and contagious laugh. I just wish I could go back to that night. Take a picture. Talk more about her life, her dreams, and her hopes for her children's future...

I was nervous about going to her funeral, mainly because I haven't seen her in awhile. But I'm really glad I went. I got to pay respect to her family, share some tears with a group of people who loved Brittany with all their heart, and even laugh at funny memories her friends shared during the service. And I was completely inspired by their strength and courage to speak in front of a room full of people, who were starring back at them with teary eyes.

And my dear friend Kristin Matthews made everyone laugh- which does so well- and then cry. She recently got engaged and asked Brittany to be her maid of honor. And we are now on the hunt for a great bargain on finding a life-size cut out of Brittany. As she will still be her maid of honor. She will still walk down the isle. And she still forever live through Kristin, and all of us.

When her sister got up to speak, she grabbed something that was in Brittany's room. It was an 8 x 10 picture frame with "1 Corinthians 13" passage, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." Her sister spoke about how this described Brittany perfectly - how she had so much love for her children, family, friends, and life.

The crazy thing is as I was driving home this morning, I thought of the same passage when I was thinking about Brittany. I even posted a Facebook status that said, "Above all is love!"

Ever since this happened I've been thinking of ways I could help out her family and friends during this tough time. I'm going to donate to Kianna's and Korbin's education fund. But I knew there was more I can do to help remember Brittany and help her family. So I talked to some of her friends and parents about this and I'm really excited. Brittany LOVED playing softball, so I thought it would be a great idea to celebrate her life and give to her children if we had a weekend summer softball tournament next summer. If you are interested in helping or playing in the tournament, please send me a message or call me! More details will come once I talk with her family and friends to organize a date, theme, etc.

I hope that in one way or another, you learn something from Brittany's life. I hope you cherish all the time you have- as it can be taken from you during a single second. I hope that you give your children, sisters, friends and lovers a goodbye kisses every single time you leave them. I hope you smile at complete strangers.

Love is contagious, powerful, hopeful, faithful, and forgivable. That's why it's the greatest of all =) Forever in our hearts and always reminding us to express our love, rest in peace Brittany Raymond Arnold. May you rest high above the skys....

Much love,

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Just Dance

Last night I ran into an old friend. I say "old" because our friendship started as pen pals in elementary school. She reminded me of this last night and promised to scan the picture of us when we first met. I'm super excited. We shared lots of laughs last night, as we always do. She has one of the most contagious smiles and vibrant personalities...Leah, you know by now I'm talking about you.

But we never talked about it. The accident. The event that changed her life. Until last night. Part of me didn't know what to say and the other part didn't know what she wanted to say.

But she brought up. The day she got into the wreck. She told me all she remembered, which wasn't much because she was flown 50 feet from her car out the back window.

She thought she left her phone at her boyfriends (now husband) , so she started searching for it while she was driving 55 mph. She looked up. Suddenly- she had a decision to make - hit a telephone pole, go into the corn field, or try to get to the other open side of the road...she went with the last option but over corrected.

"Oh shit!" she said.

And then she woke up in a hospital bed.

The story breaks my heart. She is one of the most inspiring and loving people I know. You'd never wish her to go through something like that. So life changing.

But does she feel sorry for herself? No.

Is she hopeful? Yes.

Does she inspire me? More than you'll ever know.

She told me about the accident and how her life has changed. Everything from getting ready in the morning to falling out of her chair, which she encourages me is actually more funny than sad.

She told me she hates when people stare, but even more when they walk over her. Looking past her like she is nothing. People can be so incredibly mean and it just breaks my hear that every trip to the mall, gas station, bar, or even probably at that very wedding- people were starring.

Of course, some were probably trying to question what happened to this beautiful, young girl in a wheelchair who is actually pretty healthy. But others just stare because...But the wheelchair doesn't define Leah. She is more than that. Way more. In fact, it's just a small part of the who she is. She can do everything I can do. Except run, jump, and dance. For now. And I'll pray that one day I can do those things with her...

Her recovery was amazing. Most people who have the same spinal injury as Leah are in the hospital for 2-3 months. Leah was in the hospital for only one month and a day. Inspiring.

She told me stories about a guy who travelled to Mexico to get injections to help with his injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down. After those injections, he turned into a pro on the balance beams- a true miracle as they told him he would never feel or move from the neck down.

But what really broke my heart was when she turned around and saw everyone dancing. Her eyes started to fill up. She looked up at the sky trying to fight the tears back, but a few streamed out.

"You know what really gets me though?" she asked. She turned around again toward the crowd of people and said, "That. Dancing. I'd love to dance again..."

She apologized for crying, but she didn't need to. My eyes started to fill up too. And I thought of the kid on Glee who dreamed of being a dancer. And I wanted to make sure Leah danced that matter what.
We would dance.
And we did.
And it was awesome. We got to share the last dance together! =)

So what did I learn last night? I learned the importance of the saying "dance like no one is watching" - Leah - you make me so proud to be your friend. You remind me that it doesn't matter what people think of you in life. Live your life with what you have because life is truly what you make it. I know there are some days when you want to give up and cry because you don't understand why? How? What if? But please know your story serves as a beautiful foundation for cherishing what you have in life and staying positive through all situations. I'll never take dancing for granted again. And I'll always, always dance like no one is watching. Thank you, Leah- for reminding me to do so. Until we dance again, cheers my dear.

Much love,

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Better, Or Worse

Justin's family has truly become my family. From the day I met them, I knew I was a part of their family. I never once doubted their love for me and I've never discredited my love for them.

Today, I'm dedicating my blog to Justin's Great Grandpa Bowen, who lost his battle to lung cancer and pneumonia today.


On July 31, 2010- Roy Bowen turned 90. We celebrated his birthday at Justin's parents house with a cookout. He was a humble man. In fact, if you didn't know it was his birthday- he wouldn't be the first to tell you. He grew up on a farm and ending up raising his own family on a farm. He survived the Great Depression and his final thought before entering the hospital was about his bank account. He and his family worked so very hard for everything they ever earned. And they saved everything the could...he is a true image of a hard working man for his family.

Sadly, he lost a daughter five years ago. I never met her, but I've heard wonderful stories about Donna. And as tears stream down my face reflecting on Roy's struggles and triumphs through life, I have a single image in my head. I see him dancing in heaven Donna. Holding her closely after all these years and dancing like she did with her father on her wedding's beautiful and I choose to pick that current image above all others...


I had a great dinner with one of my best friends tonight and then I took myself shopping. A cute top. Skinny jeans. A belt. Two headbands....I was eager to show Justin my new purchases and he had a serious look on his face when I walked in the door.

He hugged me and kissed me, firmer than usual.

I pulled away and looked at him in the eyes.

"Grandpa passed away today," Justin said.

"Oh- Are you okay?" I asked.

"Yeah, I'm okay," Justin said. "Its like he knew it was his time to go. He was going to be released from the hospital tomorrow and they'd start reducing his fluids then..."

"Well," I started, "He's not in pain anymore..."

And then I just started crying. I couldn't help it. All I can think about his is wife- who is going through this for the second time. His daughter, who lost her father. And Justin's parents, uncles, aunts, cousins; I just couldn't stop crying for them.

"I'm so sorry Justin," I said. "You shouldn't' be comforting me right should be the other way around..."

"Of course I should...and this is why I love you, Ashley," Justin said. "Thinking of my family like are the most compassionate and empathic person I know."


The last time I saw Grandpa was on Saturday morning. He was in terrible pain and it took every ounce of strength in his body to simply breathe. Yet, when he saw Justin and I- he recognized us. He asked us about our move. And chimed in during our conservation. And when Alice broke down crying, he looked over at her with the most loving eyes and smiled from his soul- without saying it, I knew by his look that he was telling her not to worry....everything will be okay.

When we left, I reached down and grabbed his hand. His hands were so soft and cold...I kissed him on the forehead and said, "I love you Grandpa. Get better."

He looked up at me and took a giant breathe and said,"Better, or worse."

I sensed that he just knew...I can only hope that he was in peace during his last few days. In my heart, I believe his spirit passed on before his heart stopped beating. And I think he is watching over my shoulder as I type this blog. But that's my faith coming into play. God has given me another angel to watch over me while I venture through this life of mine...

For Justin's family, I love you tremendously. I'm so sorry about your loss of an incredible husband, wonderful father, loving grandpa, and beautiful soul.

Much love,


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Reflection of the Fair

When I was at the Indiana State Fair, I joked that it would probably be the best people watching of my life. Despite the fact that I saw everything from freshly cut mullets to belly dancing 80 year old ladies to adorable old farmers, I think I left part of my heart with a little boy and old man I saw sitting on a bench.

It was pretty expensive to get into the fair- $8 per person. Two people = $16. Food on average is at least $4 per item and drinks are more than $2.

We were walking to the pork station and right before the covered bridge, I saw the most adorable little boy. He was sitting there with his Grandpa. I think African American babies are the cutest of all- even though he wasn't a baby- he was about 3 or 4. He was beautiful. He was in a plain white t-shirt and jean shorts. While he was sitting there calmly, I looked into his eyes and saw them moving with all the excitement in the world. The little boy was sitting on the edge of bench. His little feet were dangling and his eyes were glued at every kid's favorite part of ANY fair. The rides and games.

His Grandpa was sitting forward too, kind of leaning over with his elbows on his knees. He was soaking in the tractors there were passing through in a parade. The elderly man was in deep thought and didn't have a single emotion embedded on his face. He was truly enjoying his surroundings. He was wearing jeans and an old t-shirt with a brown hat. He must have been extremely hot.

I studied them a little more. Neither one of them had anything to eat or drink. No tickets in their hands for rides. When I got closer, I saw the little boy had sweat building up on his forehead. Bless his heart, he was sweating so bad- but never complained. His soul smiled and his eyes showed every ounce of his happiness--simply to be at the fair.

I haven't been able to let the image of that little boy sitting their peacefully with his Grandpa escape my mind. What if his Grandpa had saved all he could just to take his little grandson to the fair? Did they ever eat anything? Did they get to enjoy some of the shamefully delicious fair food? And more importantly, did he ever get to go on any rides and smile at his Grandpa every time he passed by?

I'll never know.

And part of me wishes I would have just bought the little boy tickets for the rides or games. Or a drink. Sweet tea is my favorite. What about fried cheese balls? Those are my absolute addicting- especially with ranch dressing. Pizza- every kid loves cheese pizza. I'm sure I could have gotten anything and he would he light up the whole world with his smile.

I can only hope they were just resting. And believe that they have all the money in the world. And it was all in my creative mind to come up with this story. That's the thing about being a writer- I always make up stories for people. Somtimes I'm right and most of the time I'm wrong. But sadly, this time I think I'm right.

But it taught me something- you should always cherish your childhood memories. Because alot of children don't get to make childhood memories. They struggle to get by and barely see the world. No family vacations or "out to eat" nights.

I encourage you to think back and smile thinking about every blast of air that met your face on a fun fair ride as a kid. And let your mouth drool thinking of every refreshing drink your parents bought you when you were a kid, when you were always begging for more.

More importantly, share....share your memories with others. Share your time/money/efforts with those who need it. You'll never, ever know how much you can shapes someones life simply by showing you care. Buying them a drink. Or giving them an extra ticket- even if you bought it for them in the first place.

Much love,