Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Are You Going to Eat All of That?

A full plate: that is one way to describe my life the past few weeks months years.

So much on my plate, sometimes I didn't even know what is really on there...

My Grandma Kaye often says, "I couldn't ever keep up with you! I bet you pass yourself coming and going."

She is right. And some days, I can't even keep up with me.

My friend Kristin Matthews asked me one day, "Is there anything you that you DO NOT do?"

I had to think about it. The next day, I wrote back and said, "I don't speak a foreign language?"

When Justin and I were at lunch the other day, I had a revelation: I have to take control of my life again. I have to prioritize things and figure out what matters to me and my family. The stress of constantly being "on the go" was significantly wearing down on me...and my lack of emotions or too many emotions at times were starting to take a toll on the relationships around me too.

I've spent much of the past four years working my butt off to get through school and build up my resume / portfolio to land a job after graduation. I missed out on a lot ....On my little brother's baseball games and my sister's basketball games. I was living in the same town as my family and maybe saw them once a month...During the summer months, I missed trips to the zoo with my nephews and lazy days laying by the pool with my family.

So I looked at my plate - my overwhelming "to-do" list - and asked myself, "Are you really going to eat all of that?"

In 2011, I made a goal to get healthy by running / walking / biking 2011 miles and changing my eating habits. But it's just as important that I become emotionally healthy too. I can run all the half marathons in the state of Indiana and eat all the salads in the world - but until I truly clear my plate - I won't be healthy. I'm weighing myself down.

Recently, I've made significant changes to clear my plate. Honestly - its not always easy and will often hurt other people's feelings - but if they really care and love you, they will understand. And -I must say- the changes have been for the best. I'm slowly learning how to say "no." I'm learning the importance not spreading myself too thin. I'm learning to love everything and everyone that I have in my life. I've got unbelievable family and friends, an amazing fur son, a great job in marketing, a future house and so many opportunities ahead of me. What else could a girl ask for? Well - besides a margarita maker - I don't have one of those yet....maybe that will be a house warming gift ;)

So, is your plate too full? Is there something (or many things) that you can eliminate from your plate that will help you live a happier and healthier life? I'll bet there is...Don't wait until your obese (overwhelmed to the max) to clear your plate (eliminate stress / projects / negative people / the list goes on and on).

Start passing the dinner rolls to someone else.

Much love,

Monday, May 23, 2011

He Cuts My Mangos

I was driving to Amanda's bachelorette party this weekend and the sun started beaming on my face.

I smiled. For a lot of reasons, really. The bright sun was certainly an added bonus to the day, but more importantly - I smiled because I'd only driven 5 miles down the road and I already missed my husband. I knew I'd have fun with the girls celebrating Amanda's end of single hood (which also made me smile because Kyle & Amanda are true love story waiting to be published), but my body filled with happiness. I got that butterfly feeling in my stomach...this is the everyday kind of love feeling exploded in my body.

As always - I started thinking and driving. I reflected on the past few months. It's been hard. On both of us.

I've been in a slump for a good 2-3 months. Some days I feel like Ashley and other days I just feel like I am going through the motions. I could truly pinpoint so many reasons- but at the end of the day - its because I spread myself too thin and care too much.

I started to think about what my dad told me a few weeks ago. "As far as happier, I would work on the mind and soul more and the body less...or more to the point..working on the body with the mind not right isn't going to be a win. Sorry if that was confusing."

I smiled knowing that my dad is such a wise man. He went on, "You are amazing. People love you lots...just look at how many people follow you on Facebook and interact with you."

Then he asked me question that has stuck with me ever since, "Would you rather be with an imperfect Justin who was happy or a Justin who was working hard on an imperfection but wasn't happy?"

I knew the answer instantly. My response was obvious, "Happy imperfection. Dad you are so right and that makes perfect sense. With a strong and healthy mind, absolutely anything is possible."

"Yes, remember," my dad wrote back,"You have to be happy on the journey. You can't say 'I will be happy when I get there.'"

I need to bring myself back to life- I need to get happy again on this journey through life... I started to think of Justin again.

He is my best friend.

My true love - who makes me smile when I am holding back tears.

Who tells me I am the most beautiful woman in the whole entire world even when I am feeling awful because I ate too much cheese & feel like a bloated whale.

Who rubs my feet when I don't even ask.

Who looks at me and smiles when we are driving - for no other reason than to say "I love you" with his beautiful brown eyes.

Who let's me go shopping when I don't really need another summer dress, but ensure him that I'll wear it to two weddings instead of one wedding this year.

Who looks at me playing with my nephews and tells me that I'll be a great mom one day- even when I worry that I won't know what to do.

Who cuts up my mangos when I don't have the time or truly know how to do it.


I picked up the phone and called Justin.

"Hello babygirl!," he said - probably thinking I forgot something.

"Babe - I just want you to know - that I love you so much. You mean so much to me and it means everything to me that you do for so much for me on a daily basis. You cut my mangos!"

I don't know why - out of all the cute things I had just thought of- that cutting the mangos stuck out the most. Maybe because it was the last thought I had before I called him OR maybe its because cutting mangos is a true pain in the butt.

He laughed, "I love you too babygirl. And you mean so much to me."

"Well, I just want you to know that - and I'm so lucky to have you...thank you for never giving up on me and always making me smile and happy."

With tears streaming down my face as I type this blog post-  I write what I've heard him say many times before and always makes my heart melt, "I'll never give up on you."


We just celebrated our one year anniversary. We didn't get dressed up and go to a fancy dinner. We didn't spend hundreds of dollars on gifts. We just looked at it as another day to be thankful for each other. Another day to love each other with like crazy teenagers.

We went to lunch at my favorite place back home, Arnold's Drive-In, and Lori (my former boss whom I love so dearly) bought our lunch. Then we out to Justin's parents' house to eat our year old cake- which let me tell you - was amazing after being frozen for a year.

Face off- check out Justin's face. He knows it is coming...
Face off one year later.
And I got it right up his nose...
Don't worry - he got revenge this year.

Today, I realized that even when I get low- I still have Justin by my side.

Getting low, low, low during our first dance.

Knowing that I'll always have him by my side - brings the beaming sun right back to my face. He'll never give up on me- so I can't give up on me either. It also makes me feel super blessed to have such  a loving family and supportive group of friends (the family I get to pick) next to me.

I'm back! :)

Much love,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

13.1 Miles: A Lesson of Acceptance

There is a certain peace about 5 a.m. in the morning that I can’t explain (mainly because 99.9% of the time I am sleeping during that early in the morning). But as I kissed my husband goodbye and asked Bandit to give me some good luck, I was overwhelmed with relaxation. I walked outside, and the sky was still dark. I saw an older man walking alone in a bright orange vest. Was he warming up for the mini marathon? Maybe. I smiled.
I met my friends / running partners, Brittany and Lexi, in Fishers. I ran inside to get Starbucks – nothing fancy, just a bold coffee. We hit the road discussing our expectations, worries (well my worries) and funny stories.
I didn’t really get nervous until we got downtown and I started seeing everyone. Hundreds of people – all walking towards the start line- which was filled with thousands of people. All the while, I was still looking for some suspicious activity as the news reports questioned the safety of runners after bin Laden’s death. I could have worked for the FBI that morning because I was looking in every hotel window and down every grassy knoll.

When the gun went off, I reminded myself not to get too excited. I was in corral V – and I was warned it would take at least 30-45 minutes just to reach the start line. By the time we crossed the start line, it was 28 minutes into the race. (But our time didn't start until we crossed the start line).

We started to run, but quickly turned it to light a jog. There were so many people and it was very hard to pass anyone. So we just took it easy.
The first person I saw performing on the side of the road was a man with a megaphone talking about Jesus. It took me back to my Ball State days – I wondered if it was the same man, and kept running. The next few bands I saw were awesome. There were even kids – totally rocking out to songs like "TNT". Another band was singing about breathing – and that was the first time I thought of the people who’ve passed before me. The people I am running and raising money for through the American Heart Association. I’m breathing, I’m alive. I threw my arm in the air as I passed them and yelled, "Thank you!"
I was doing pretty good until about mile 5. That's when I noticed I was asking for walking breaks more often. My back started hurting pretty bad, but I tried to fight through it. Lexie started to press against my back and rub.

"I am not sure if I am helping or if I am just pushing you along," she joked.

Once we got off the track, we stopped for fruit snacks and a stretch. I mentally told myself to "lock it up" and I tried to take myself to a positive place.

"THIS IS AMAZING!" I said. "I feel great- these fruit snacks are really hitting the spot and this stretch feels great."

But that burst of positive excitement was short lived. I quickly reached behind me and grabbed my back; It hurt so bad. 
We didn't even run half a mile and I was already wanting a break again. I felt awful for them. I really wanted Britt to get a personal best and Lexie to enjoy her first race. I really wanted a personal best, but more importantly - I wanted HER to get one if she physically could...I knew I probably wouldn't hit my best time.
"You guys.." I said. "Just go. Please just run ahead of me and get your personal best. I'm not sure we will make it." 

"Ashley, stop it!" Brittany said sternly. "If we wanted to run ahead of you, we would have stayed in our corral. We are staying beside you and we will finish together."

I didn't accept that answer.

"Brittany," I said. "Seriously- if you can do better - do better - I just feel so bad and guilty - I want you to.."

"Ashley!" Brittany said. "Stop it - you are making me mad. I've made my decision."

At that moment, we crossed the 10 mile marker. 

And it was settled. We would finish together. But it was also during this moment that we realized we would not be getting a personal best. In fact, we would be cutting it close to even reach our time at the last race.

And I got really sad - How would I explain that I did better at a race when I was limping in pain, had bruised ribs, and scraps on my body?  

We walked the final 3 miles, but made sure we were always running before and slightly after a mile marker. When we weren't talking, I was trying to answer that question in my head the whole time.

We got to victory mile. It didn't feel like much of a victory for me. I felt defeated. Weak. Discouraged. I was holding back tears the whole time. I felt like I let not only myself and running partners down, but everyone who donated. I told myself I should have trained harder and gave it more. 

We ran the final quarter mile.  I'm not sure what I looked liked when I crossed the finish line. I wanted to smile through my pain, but it was even harder knowing I didn't have my husband to run to and friends to hug on the sidelines. Thank goodness I had Britt & Lexi there to make me smile and laugh. Our afternoon was a little crazy after the race, but looking back - I can't help but smile. I'm so glad they never gave up on me....

If I would have wrote this blog immediately after the race, it would have been awful. I was miserable - not only did I feel sore physically- I was an emotional wreck.

But the moment I reached for my phone, I couldn't help but be inspired! SO many people left comments on my split time status updates! I had messages of encouragement and pride written on my wall. People told me I was such an inspiration and that I did such a great job. YOU ARE ALL AMAZING. Thank you so much - for every comment, text and phone call - you all truly made a huge difference.

When I went to lunch at McAllister's, the manager gave me a discount for wearing my medal in. He didn't ask me what my time was once. He simply gave me a big smile, huge high-five and told me great job!

Even better, I came home to an inspiring video my husband left me. He reminded me that I  can't beat myself up after every single race. You'll always have a better or worse time- it gives you motivation to do better in the future. With tears streaming down my face, he closed by saying this:  "Nobody cares about the time you ran - no one donated money to you beating your last time- everyone is proud of you and that is what everyone thinks." ♥

Later that night, I went out with my friends for Delanie's bachelorette party.

And I proudly wore my medal out all night long.

I view those 13.1 miles on Saturday as acceptance. I am accepting that I have my work cut out for me in the future. However, I am also accepting the fact that I accomplished something huge. I still beat 10,000 other people. I still finished. I still ran / walked / limped with heart across that finish line.

Much love,

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Words With Friends Contest

The love and support I’ve received from my family, friends and even complete strangers during my journey to complete this half marathon and raise money for the American Heart Association have been unbelievable. My initial goal was to raise $500. Within a month, I hit that goal – so I increased my goal to $700. I am happy to report that because of your loving donations, I have not only met my goal – I have exceeded it! I have raised nearly $750 for the American Heart Association.

Now it’s time to have fun and pay it forward to you everyone who has supported me and my goals through monetary donations, kind words and hugs! While taking a shower last night (where all brilliant ideas occur because you have no paper to write them down), I thought of a contest that combines four of my top loves:

• Writing

• You (my amazing and loving supporters)

• Starbucks

• Justin

The Words with Friends Contest is simple.

1. Write down an inspirational message to me for race day. It can be funny, inspirational, sweet, encouraging, etc.

2. Once you come up with your message, write it on a piece of paper, a larger sign, pizza box, etc. & take a picture of yourself holding up the sign. Include your family, friends, hamster, fish, dog in the picture – I don’t care. Take the picture inside or outside. Take it jumping in the air or running. The more creative, the better.

3. Post the picture on your Facebook page or Twitter account & tag me in the picture.

4. Justin & I will judge the inspirational / hilarious / motivating posters. The top 3 will win Starbucks gift cards and ALL pictures will be posted on my blog to celebrate your thoughtful messages.

I am really looking forward to seeing your messages! You truly have NO idea how much it means to me. I know that when I am running 13.1 miles on Saturday morning, I will smile and think of each and every message from you all. If you haven’t learned by now, I am actually the true winner of this contest – because I get to keep your love and messages forever.

Much love,