Monday, December 31, 2012

Busting Out of My Comfort Creature Shell: The Year of New

I’m declaring 2013 the Year of New. Previously, I’ve spent the last day of the year thinking of aspects of my life (mainly body) I’d like to change. 

Run 2011 miles.

Lose 30 lbs.

Run a full marathon.

I never fully achieved the above goals...

I ran about 800 miles in one year.

I lost 40 lbs, but gained nearly all my weight back after a few stressful months.

And I dropped down to a half marathon after I quickly realized my body wasn’t ready for a full marathon.

But this year, I plan on doing something different. And by doing new activities and eating new foods, maybe I'll end up losing that weight and keeping it off. Because I'll be happier, healthier, and less stressed.

Overall, I want to become a better-rounded person. It’s very easy to get caught up on aspects of your life that are familiar. For example, do any of these sentences ring a bell?

  • You order the same sandwich for lunch at the same restaurant each week.
  • You watch the same movies over and over again.
  • You read books from only the same author.
  • You bring the same wine (Sangria or Moscato) or make the same an appetizer to every function (Buffalo Chicken Dip).
All of those sound like me…You see, I’m becoming a bit of a comfort creature. 





This is a real comfort creature.
Google told me so.

But in 2013- I want to eat new meals, watch new movies, read new books, and explore recipes beyond buffalo chicken dip.

I want to experience newness each month.

Each day.

I’m still creating my “list of new” but here is what I’ve developed so far:
  • Cook dinner one night per week (a new habit for me).
  • Learn new workout programs such as yoga, cycling, and swimming.
  • Try a different wine and beer each month.
  • Eat dinner somewhere new once a month.
  • Watch at least one film from another country.
  • Read four books about another culture or country.
  • Order one new piece of jewelry from another country.
  • Try a different coffee drink each month.
  • Listen to a new music artist each week.
  • Buy one piece of new artwork for our house this year.
  • Shoot a new gun. You’re welcome, Justin.
  • Buy a new pair of boots each month. Just kidding, Justin…or am I? Muh ahahahaha (Dr. Evil laugh).
  • Travel to four new cities. And do something fun at each new destination!
  • Run 5-6 new (organized) races this year. 
  • Donate to a new charity each month (part of my Year of Random Acts of Kindness).

I’d love to get your ideas for something new for me in 2013! Share your ideas below, comment on Facebook, or tweet me back with inspiration for the Year of New!

I’m so excited to see what 2013 brings for you and I.

Maybe you’ll join me? 


This is what I look like right now.
Extreme bedhead.
So I better skedaddle and get moving...

Because I desperately need a shower.

And a new hair do.

Much love,
Ashley

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Happiest Place on Earth

Morning Rush

I have a confession.

I was apprehensive about Disney World.

Now don't get me wrong- I was extremely thankful for the opportunity to go to the "happiest place on Earth!"

But...I have the patience and attention span of a hyperactive four-year-old.

Not to mention, the overload of people in this city for the holiday made me want to scream. We had dinner at Taco Bell our first evening- and the line was long enough to assume a roller coaster would be at the end! And we waited 20 minutes for our food. TB was simply a mad house...

Taco Bell Hell.

Anyway, I digress.

I knew I would be stressed out by the long lines, screaming children, over-priced (unhealthy) food, and general problems associated with trying to make a "game plan" for 13 people.

Instead of going into the trip with a negative attitude, I tried to go in with an open mind.

Justin saw me getting ready in the morning and he walked into the bathroom.

He could tell by the look on my face and silence that I was stressed out. 

He wrapped his arms around me and said, "This is the one day I am telling myself that I'm not in control. You need to do the same."

He was right. I'm not in control.

And that's an interesting concept.

We didn't have a timeline.

Or game plan.

No stress? (Unlikely-but again, I was going into the day with an open mind).

We left a half hour late. I didn't freak out, I promise. Remember my mantra for the morning was: You are not in control.

I was dreading the drive into the park. I imagined we'd be stuck in traffic for an hour- just waiting for a parking spot.

But thankfully I was completely wrong! The drive was smooth and quick. We parked SO close to the ticket gate - we could just walk, which was a blessing in disguise because later it ended up POURING rain.

Justin pretending he is Magic Mike on the monorail. I'm not mad about it.

Within minutes of walking around the park, I quickly realized I was the only person wearing a fanny pack. And I didn't have one fanny pack to choose from, I had two!! (Thanks Grandma Sieb)!

The winner.

The runner-up (by default).
Spoiler alert: We visited all four parks and I only saw one other fanny pack. I tried to act hipster and not care, but I secretly did. 

Magic Kingdom: Becoming a Child Again

Our first park was Magic Kingdom. Immediately, I feel in love with the characters and "cast members" at the park.

I took a minute to absorb the moment.

The music.

The smiling faces of children around me.

The adults, who walked into a new World that made them feel like children again too!

Everyone was so happy and friendly!

Hap-pay, Hap-pay, Hap-pay!
Our first ride was the Pirates of the Caribbean. I was amazed at the detail and creativity that went into designing the ride. The pirate "robots" looked SO human...everything from blinking eyes to leg hair to the dirt found on their feet. I was truly amazed.

Next (and thankfully) I grabbed a cup of coffee, which ended up being cheaper than Starbucks coffee. At that moment, I realized I just MIGHT have a bad addiction to Starbucks.

With my cup o' Joe in hand, we went on the following rides:
  • Magic Carpet Rides - A total kid ride, but I had a blast! 
  • Haunted Mansion- I absolutely loved the story behind this ride + the animation was outstanding. My nephew Braxen said this was his favorite ride of the day.
  • It's a Small World After All- The creepiest ride / experience of my life. Seriously, those small dolls gave me nightmares last night. And that song will probably never escape my mind.
  • Lilo and Stitch- An "interactive, alien experience" - need I say more? (Yes, I screamed and grabbed Justin's hand the entire time). 
After we finished the above rides, the park was packed. I had false hopes that the park would be slow, especially because it took so long to fill up! Waiting times for rides exceeded an hour and one ride was 2.5 hour wait. With my patience was starting to run out, I was getting very hangry (hungry + angry). A deadly combination....

We all wanted to end the night at Magic Kingdom, so we decided to eat lunch stay for the holiday character parade then head to Animal Kingdom.

In case you're wondering I ate a grilled chicken sandwich (tried to be as healthy as possible). 

Animal Kingdom: Climbing Mt. Everest

We had to take a bus to Animal Kingdom, which wasn't as awful as I expected. Most of the "big kids" had the mission of riding one of the newest rides, Expedition Everest.

This was also the first time I had a beer all day.

And that, my friends, was magical.

Cheers!


The group split up and the big kids went to the new roller coaster while the kiddos went to Dinoland.

The wait was long, but not awful (about an hour and a half). It was interesting to learn about the history of Mt. Everest and the mythical creature, The Yati.

Once we got up to the line, everyone paired up - so I was riding solo or with a stranger (neither of which bothered me).

I ended up riding with an adorable little boy.

"Will you be annoyed if I scream?" I asked trying to make conversation.

"It's okay," he said. "I have two sisters, so I'm used to it."

I could tell he was nervous about going up the roller coaster (that part always freaked me out as a kid too). So we made small talk and I tried to make him laugh. 

Finally, we went down the "hill" but it wasn't a straight shot. We dipped over to the right and saw this:

Broken track!!
You stay in this position for a few seconds, wondering what the heck you'll do next...and then, you take off backwards!!!!

The kid and I were both screaming and laughing.

"I can't breathe, but this is so much fun," the kid said.

He was the cutest and made me excited to share moments like that with our kiddos one day!

After the ride, we turned the corner toward the safari ride and I nearly had a panic attack.

The walkways of Animal Kingdom looked like crowded China.

China aka Animal Kingdom on Friday, December 28.

I think the park exceeded it's maximum capacity. By a thousand or three thousand. 

People were barely moving.

Eager moms and dads were running into people with their strollers.

And clumsy people like me were tripping over small children and strollers.

I was (obviously) walking too fast for everyone, so we kept getting separated. 

"Okkkkk," I said. "It's time to get out of here. I'm losing my mind."

"I'll be right back," Justin said.

"Only come back if you have food and a bottle of wine," I shouted.

Justin, my lovely husband, showed back up with another beer and a bag of chips.

A few minutes later, we made plans to split up again. Big Justin aka my husband aka Uncle J-Dog, Devin, Cierra, Justin Jr. and myself all decided we wanted to ride the Hollywood Tower of Terror in Holllywood Studios + grab a drink in Epcot. Everyone else decided to head back to Magic Kingdom.

On to another bus ride...

Hollywood Studios: The Best Elevator Ride Ever

Once we arrived at Hollywood Studios, I grabbed a cup of coffee to wake myself up. We walked back to the Rock N' Roll ride + Tower of Terror (they are right next to each other). 

The Rock N' Roll (Aerosmith ride) was a three hour wait!

Never.

Will I ever.

Wait 3 hours for a ride....

Well, unless they serve free drinks and healthy snacks while I'm waiting.

The Hollywood Tower of Terror was only a 90 minute wait, so we hopped in line.

The wait was worth it! The Hollywood Tower of Terror was my favorite ride of the day!

I was terrified the majority of the time...and little children in Magic Kingdom could probably hear me screaming from the top of the tower, but I loved every second of the ride. 

Epcot: Drinking in the Rain

As we waited for the bus to Epcot, our fourth and final park of the day, I had a margarita on my mind.

Unfortunately, it started raining and the air was cold.

I was freeeezzzinnngggg. Not to mention, I looked like a wet muskrat.

As we ran toward the park (with the majority of people looking at us like we were crazy as they were leaving the park), I came across a janitor.

I asked him him I could have a trash bag.

"Can I see your ID?" he asked.

I was confused, so I just laughed and said, "Oh no ID! I just want to use a trash bag!"

He looked confused and just ripped one off for me.

I put the bag over my head and tore out of hole the size of my face near the top. I made my very own poncho!

Brilliant, Ashley.

Just brilliant.

We rushed over to Mexico so I could get a Mango margarita.

Class act.

A stranger who was leaving the park gave us three fast track tickets to do an interactive spaceship ride.

Big Justin and Cierra went to Germany and I took the other boys to the spaceship ride. I chugged my margarita on the way over, which was a bad life choice.

The spaceship ride was a stimulator. And I kept reading signs that said you shouldn't on the ride if you are prone to motion sickness or don't like tight spaces.

They really should add another sign that says: If you just chugged a margarita, do not board this ride.

But I suppose that's common sense. 

The ride began with a video, explaining your role in helping the space ship land on Mars. Every person on the ride had a role. I remember feeling so much pressure...like I would actually die on Mars if I didn't press my buttons at the right now.

Thankfully, we survived the ride and I pressed my buttons at the right time. Maybe I missed my secret calling as an astronaut? Get real, you know I'd never do that...I'm too afraid of aliens, darkness, the unknown, and well dying in space in general.

I left the group to eat a Caesar salad while the others went on another ride. Once I was done shoveling the salad in my face (at least I tried to eat healthy!!), everyone was soaking wet and tired.... so we made plans to leave the park.

It was about 10:45 pm, so I would say we had a successful day at the park!

The Final Countdown: Heading Home

The rain continued as we walked to the van. We were getting ready to cross the street when a Disney safety guard said, "It'll probably be safer if you walk around the other way."

We all looked the other direction.

The sidewalk was probably only another 500 feet away, but at that point...everything hurt, we were tired, and just wanted to go home.

Big Justin looked at her and said, "Safer or required?"

She smiled, but didn't respond.

And that was all we needed...we glanced at each other and all took off running the "unsafe" way.

Just as we reached the other side of the road, Justin Jr. hit a part of the sidewalk that was painted and he lost his balance on the wet and slick ground. His feet slipped up over him and he landed on his butt.

We all lost it and everyone was holding onto the wall crossing their legs, trying not to pee themselves.

The cross guard was probably smiling and thinking karma...it'll get ya!

As we walked to the car, still laughing at Little Justin's fall...I told everyone we needed a theme song to end the day.

Big Justin wasted no time and started singing, "The Final Countdown."

So I joined in.

And they all rode in the 15-passenger van home and lived happily ever after.

Much love,
Ashley


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Weight

I don't think I should step on the scale for another month.

I think I weigh 300+ lbs.

Goodness, why do I eat my life away at every holiday!?

Meh.

I've got my alarm clock set for 6 am everyday. Vacation or not, my butt is working out every single day.

Much love,
Ashley

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas ya'll!!!

I hope you have a wonderful day with your family and friends.

We are currently driving (from Richmond) to Decatur then to Fort Wayne and then back to Richmond.

What, you don't travel all over the state of Indiana for Christmas?!

At least Justin and I have good music, coffee, and each other! :)

Justin actually made 5 burnt CD mixes for our road trip.

"Nothing says I love you like a burnt CD," Justin said when I opened my gift last week.

I love hearing the songs that make Justin think of me...right now we are listening to "Price tag" by Jessie J.

"It's not about the money, money. We want to make the world dance. Forget about the price tags..."

Turns out he thinks my theme song is "Hot Mess" by Cobra Starship. Sounds about right...

Anyway, I digress.

My favorite gift this year (beyond spending time with family) has been the pearl earrings Jdog got me.

I wore fearls (aka fake pearls) on our wedding day. I got the necklace and three sets of earrings for only $10. Boom. Because we got married the weekend after I graduated college (aka on a super tight budget), I was so pumped. The earrings mean so much to me, so I wear them almost every single day (even though they turn my ears green).

But yesterday Justin got me real pearls. It was such a thoughtful (and unexpected gift).

"And now your ears won't turn green!!" Justin added when I hugged him.

So now, I am dreaming about eating bacon and giving my nephews giant hugs! I also want to see their face when they open up their gifts from us (ninja turtle costume set, so you know, my sister will love us when they are beating the crap out of each other).

What's been your favorite gift this year? It can be something you gave or received!

And don't forget to remember the reason for the season!

Much love,
Ashley

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How The Paleo Diet Turned Into a Cookie Binder

"Ashley, what ever happened to your Paleo diet?!" - you

Great question...I'm glad you asked.

My failed attempt at eating like a cave man lasted four days (at best).

And as a result, I ended up eating cookies for breakfast the following week. I don't know how "healthy eating for 4 days" turned into a cookie binder, but some things are just unexplainable.

I didn't go into Paleo thinking I would be 100% committed to the diet, but I wanted something to keep me balanced. And I loved that I could find Paleo specific recipes and read Paleo blogs! Or follow Paleo people on Twitter! Basically, I'm a marketers dream ...despite being a marketer myself...

Turns out, Paleo isn't for me.

I felt too much pressure to eat and exercise "by the book."

I like frozen yogurt.

I like sweet potatoes.

I like nuts (I know, I laughed when I wrote this line too).

And I like whole grain & brown rice.

All of these foods are on the "do not eat" list with Paleo.

Now, my short time on Paleo did teach me that I should try to follow my diet 80% of the time. And learn to pick healthier options or eat more balanced meals whenever possible.

I've eaten more fruit in the last month than ever before!! And I'm very focused on portion control!

And you may recall, that I had a true face-off with a cheese ball the other day at my office.

I'm happy to report that I did NOT eat even a single bite of the cheese ball.

Are you proud?? Don't be...

Instead, I ended up eating some cheddar flavored popcorn and grabbing a cookie later in the day!

Butttt I ate healthy the rest of the day...

So, what's my final verdict?

Paleo wasn't a true failure.

Why?! You ate 45 cookies this month. - you (with added dramatic emphasis like me)

Well, I learned a few things about myself and my eating habits.

Most importantly, I learned that one bad snack doesn't mean you should eat bad for an entire day or week.

As long as you stay focused and dedicated the rest of your day (aka eat your veggies and fruits and lean protein + get off your booty & exercise) one small cookie a day will not be a deal breaker.

You got this.

We got this...

Much love,
Ashley

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

40 Reasons Why I Love Christmas

My beautiful Grandma Sieb sent me an email last night reminding me to slow down and enjoy the holiday season. Her thoughtful email filled with love and positive words inspired me to remember what I love most about this time of year (which is pretty much everything).

I have a few memories childhood memories from Christmas that make me smile each year. I’ll share three.

One year, when I was about 7 or so, I stuck a buckeye (those nasty chocolate and peanut butter balls- yes, you heard me- I don’t like peanut butter and chocolate together), into the sink of my toy kitchen set. Every single time I see one of those toy kitchens, I think of buckeyes…and I wonder if anyone ever knew why it always smelled like peanut butter in our “fake” kitchen…

When I was about 11, I wore my FAVORITE Christmas dress –it was white and lacey. I was so excited to wear it to church! I remember being upstairs listening to music and dancing around, and then I puked everywhere! Right before my puke-fest, I was drinking orange soda. From that day on, I never drank orange soda again, but the good news is...at least I looked cute.

My favorite dress (obviously partnered with a side ponytail).
PS Love your stache dad! :)
When I was 6 or 7- probably the same year that I stuck the buckeye in the toy kitchen- I begged and pleaded for a mullet. You heard it folks, a mullet! Business in the front, party in the back. There is a picture of me- proudly holding up a pack of underwear- and I have a mullet- it’s one of my favorite Christmas pictures of me ever.

I’ll see if I can dig it up and I’ll be sure to share it with you!  In the meantime, enjoy this picture of my sister and I making Christmas cookies (aka she is eating her hand + I’m being dramatic about something, probably someone hating on my mullet).

I look like a boy.
You're welcome for this laugh.
And here are 40 reasons why I love Christmas time!

1.    Home Alone. Best Christmas movie ever.

2.    Christmas lights! I LOVE walking or running with Bandit or driving home in the dark because we get to see all of the Christmas lights.

3.    Peppermint mochas. You should really only have one a month though. So. Many. Calories.

4.    Sharing family stories and memories around the dinner table.

5.    The Starbucks holiday cups.

6.    Dealing with my husband after he comes home drunk on Christmas Eve. I know what you’re thinking…why is dealing with your drunk husband part of why you love Christmas? The answer…Because I get to take pictures and blackmail him for the year to come.

7.    Adopting a family (our work adopted 2 families this year and it was amazing to hear all of the wonderful gifts they received!).

8.    CHRISTMAS MUSIC!

9.    Eating buffalo chicken dip for 4 days in a row. At least.

10.    Watching snowflakes fall for the first time.

11.    Busting out our first Christmas picture together. We’d only been together for about 3 months in this picture, so clearly you can see that we were soulmates from day 1.

12.    Justin trying to teach me how to wrap presents (unsuccessfully of course…I’m a huge fan of gift bags).

13.    Jello shots with Grandma Kaye.

Grandma is the life of any party.

14.    Celebrating my dad’s birthday…he is the first man to ever steal my heart.


Dadddy's girl.

15.    Baking Christmas cookies!


Braxen LOVED helping roll out the dough for the cookies this year.
He was the cookie Rookie of the Year.

16.    Watching the children open up their gifts.

17.    Adorable nails with little Santas, Christmas lights, and snowflakes.

18.    Dreaming that I will ever make crafty Christmas gifts like Pinterest people do (never have I ever…)

19.    Ugly Christmas sweaters.


Some of the Iasta team rocking our ugly Christmas sweaters!

20.    Shrimp cocktail (a classic appetizer for this time of year that my Grandma Kaye always has...can't wait!).

21.    Making snowmen (I've only successfully done this twice in my lifetime).

22.    The annual blood drive for our friends in Heaven, Corey  Shaffer and Rick Girod. Miss you both so much…

23.    Visiting with family that I only get to see a few times each year.

24.    Did I mention Christmas cookies yet?

25.    My work Christmas party. Honestly, we have the BEST parties ever.

Iasta Christmas Party - Photobooth 2012

26.    Watching Bandit play in the snow.

27.    Wearing winter hats.

28.    Giving back to the community and those in need.

29.    Gingerbread frozen yogurt with pumpkin pie syrup. YES!

30.    The realization that a new year is near!

31.    Wearing red sweaters and dresses. Red just seem more festive this time of year.

32.    Traditions. My Grandma Lahman kicks off holiday traditions by giving the grandkids Christmas ornaments at Thanksgiving and my Grandma Kaye always gives coloring books and crayons. We always eat steak on Christmas Eve with Justin’s family and I can’t tell how you good Beth’s biscuits and gravy are on Christmas morning. My Aunt Cathy always hosts Christmas Day and has the most amazing whole grain dinner rolls & tex-mex dip! SO good!

33.    Seeing pictures of everyone’s Christmas tree.

34.    Ham- it’s the only time of year I really want a baked ham. Also, I once missed a final exam in college because I was picking up a free ham from work.

35.    Using Happy Hoildays in my email signature.

36.    Christmas inspired 5Ks.

37.    Santa hats on babies and small animals.

38.    Awkward family photos.


Classic.
39.    Candy canes – I think I eat 2-3 a day. Seriously. Peppermint only…keep your Starburst flavored candy canes to yourself, please.

40.    Making new memories with my lovely friends and family members.

Why do you love Christmas!? I’d love to hear your Christmas traditions and favorite memories!

And most importantly, I wish you and your family a WONDERFUL holiday season.

Travel safely.

Laugh often.

Eat food until your pants burst (okay, I'll do that for you).

Take lots of pictures.

And remember the reason for the season! :)

Much love,
Ashley

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Year of Random Acts of Kindness: Week 5

I have a confession. I went to bed on Friday unsure about attending Sussy Day.

Now, I LOVED the concept and purpose of Sussy Day.

And I obviously love The Sussy Project.

But I was completely overwhelmed with work. 

I had 13 award nominations to write.

A campaign to work on.

And (okay, I won't bore you with all the details and projects).

But before I could make up another excuse, I reminded myself of the unthinkable tragedy the day before.  I thought of the children...the children and teachers whom I've never met, but have changed my life. 

"Ashley, now more than ever- you need to remind people that kindness still exists. Get up and show people that violence and hate will be defeated by love and kindness."

And then I read this story...The First Day's Lecture:

On the first day of class, the philosophy professor stood behind a table that had on it a large, empty mayonnaise jar, a box of golf balls, a box of pebbles, and a box of sand. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up the very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up the box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up the box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things--your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions--things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

"The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else--the small stuff.

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal.

"Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers." 

-END of STORY-

 I pulled myself out of bed and told myself that my laptop was staying closed today.

All day.

The sand will not win today.

I made up my mind to focus on the golf balls, the pebbles, and the beers. 

And I'm so thankful and happy that I pulled myself out of bed on that rainy morning. We passed out hand warmers, candy, gift cards, and Sussy t-shirts to people in the mall. We wrote 36 Christmas cards and Meggie gave the Starbucks crew a $100 gift card to use on the patrons. 


Dalton Dingus has a dying wish to break a world record and receive the most Christmas cards. We wrote him 36 different cards.

We decorated tags wishing people a Merry Christmas & Happy Holiday. I didn't have Christmas colors, so I was wishing people an even brighter holiday with those neon colors.

Surprising people with gifts at the mall with Josh and Meggie.
The Sussy Squad - all smiles after a successful morning.

The rain stopped and the gifts began.
The Sussy Squad takes downtown Indy!
One of the most touching moments of the morning was when a woman came over to thank us for her coffee. 

"Thank you so much," she said. "You're all a reminder that good people still exist in the world, especially after yesterday's events..."

We all held back tears, but managed to say "you're welcome" + wished her a Merry Christmas.

The day was perfect. I shared many laughs and made new friends.

And best of all, I spent the rest of the day smiling and wanting to spread love to everyone who crossed my path.

Much love,
Ashley


A Year of Random Acts of Kindness: Week 4

Kindness comes in all forms.

A smile.

A small gift.

A donation.

A helping hand.

A phone call.

A compliment.

An amount of your time.

A cookie.

A shoulder to cry on.

A door to hold open.

And during Week 4, my random act of kindess came in the form of advice. 

A week earlier, I was running with one of my best friends Ryan. He told me he had a second job interview at a position he was REALLY excited about.

The job had some elements of social media, so while we were running I started rattling off ideas and opportunities for him to consider.

"If you want, I can take a look at the site and give you some ideas!" I told Ryan. "I also have a lot of research I could send your way."

"Would you really? That would be amazing!" Ryan said.

On Sunday evening, I realized the weekend escaped and I had forgotten to email Ryan the information I promised.

Frantically, I typed up a list of ideas and gave him research for inspiration. The ideas were simple enough to inspire him...and I knew he would take the ideas and run with them + apply them to the organization to the position / organization.

Ryan replied back in all capital letters: "WOW- YOU ARE AMAZING. Thank you so much!"

A week later, Ryan called me at work and left me the best voicemail ever.

I saved it because his kind words and happiness was so contagious.

When I called him back, I could feel his smile through his voice.

"I got the job!" he said instantly.

"I am soooo proud of you, Ryan!" I said. "I knew you'd get it!

"Ashley, I couldn't have done it without you," Ryan said. "You've done your good karma for an entire year!"

At that moment, I realized that I did my random act of kindness and didn't even know it! And best of all, my friend has a job that he loves!

As you grow in your profession and gain more skills, don't hoard your knowledge to yourself.

Share your ideas and inspiration with your friends, especially if they are seeking your help!

Offer your best advice.

Encourage them to be creative.

And most importantly, believe in them.

Much love,
Ashley 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

How to Hide Your Food Baby

I know what you're thinking....

Where have you been this week, Ashley?

Why aren't you posting more instagrams of your food?

Why haven't you been tracking all your meals in My Fitness Pal?

Well, the answer is simple.

I completely BOMBED on my "diet" this week.

Big. Time.

It started with a few pieces of shredded cheese in my salad. Just like a crackhead, those little pieces of cheese were all I needed to spiral down into a binder.

Tuesday was Birthday Bagel day at work. So naturally, I had no will power and ate one...And that lead to eating popcorn with chunks of bacon and Parmesan cheese (yes, you heard me...and it was amazing).

Next was the pepperoni pizza...

And let's not even TALK about the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger I ate on Thursday.

And all of that just set the tone for my work holiday party where I ate 3 peppermint and chocolate cake balls, bbq pulled pork (at least I didn't eat the bun...can I get some bonus points for that "carb free" attempt?), buffalo chicken dip, and beer. Well, I think I had a few pieces of fruit at the party too- so that's about the only healthy thing I ate all week.

I know, I know...now you're wondering WHY!?

You did so good last week, Ashley.

How did this happen?

The answer (again) is simple.

I am addicted to food.

I love food.

When I'm sad, I eat.

When I'm stressed, I eat.

And when I'm happy, I eat.

But because you read my blog, you already know this about me.

Eventually...

One day...

(I hope)...

Food won't control my life.

And when I do "eat my emotions" - I'll go for happier options.

"I AM SO STRESSED OUT- someone give a head of broccoli!" - Ashley in the future

But despite my week of awful eating, I only gained .5 lbs.

So, I'm sitting around 217 lbs.

DO NOT ask me how.

Because honestly, I thought I was going to step on the scale and gain 15 lbs.

And please DO NOT take this as a sign of inspiration to eat whatever you want...because honestly, I just got lucky.

Or my scale is broken.

So, my weight loss journey continues!!

Full steam ahead my friends! 

***

Today, I went shopping for my work Christmas party dress.

I wanted something green; that was my only requirement. 

My first destination was Old Navy, which is where my food baby came to life.

Food baby. 5 months.

Roll out.

OBVIOUSLY I ripped this dress off as quickly as I put it on.

The style of this dress was NOT flattering.

Because the dress is tight at the top and then flows out toward the bottom, it made me look bigger than I really am. And the dress was really thin, which made my leggings / underwear lines show...not impressive.

The best part about this shopping trip? I did not cry when I saw this picture.

Perhaps, old Ashley would have cried...but I'm feeling more and more confident in my own skin each day...I love my curves.

I'm proud of my figure.

So, I reminded myself that I needed a different style for my body.

Next, I went to Express and instantly loved this dress on the hanger.

And when I put this dress on, I realized it was PERFECT for my figure!

Food baby ...be GONE!

Kim K. booty say what?!
Now, I usually don't wear animal print. BUT I was feeling frisky, so I tried this one too (same dress, different pattern):

I sent this picture to my husband, who replied and said: "Just put on some hot pink leggings and you'll look like LMFAO."

So, the winner is....

I felt so skinny and fit.
No photoshopping required.

The dress is tighter all around, which hugs my curves in all the right places.

The black strips down the side hide my love handles.

The material is thicker, so you can't see my legging lines.

And this dress was 40% off!

It's perfect.

The trick to hiding your food baby is realizing and accepting the strengths of your body. 

So, the next time you go shopping... 

Don't focus on weaknesses- who cares- everyone has something they don't like about their body.

Focus on your favorite features and work around those! And spending a little extra money helps because you will get better quality material and designs. But you don't have to spend much more...the first dress was $30 and the second dress was $43.

Worth it.

Much love,
Ashley

Monday, December 3, 2012

Words Are Gifts

I had a bad day.

A stressful day.

An overwhelming day.

And to top it all off, I didn't eat well at lunch or dinner.

I've also been sneaking cheese into a few meals. I KNOW, I know...but I couldn't keep my secret any longer. At least tomorrow is a new day...and I have goals of doing better!

Anyway, my salad at lunch had 680 calories.

Unreal.

I could have eaten a small burger and fries for under 680 calories.

A burger with cheese.

And mayo (okay, light mayo).

Maybe even bacon!!

This doesn't look delicious at all.
(I'm lying).

But that's what I get for not checking my calories BEFORE ordering.

At this point, you are probably wondering what burgers, words, and gifts have in common...I promise, I'm getting there...

After work, I drove home with self-pity in the passenger seat. 

"I could really use a sussy today," I whined.

Just then, I remembered a conversation I had earlier with a friend. Lindsay wrote that I had inspired her to take on a fitness journey of her own! She told me I looked fabulous and to keep up the great work.

And then I remembered a post from my friend Tara last night. She wrote, "Just wanted to say THANKS for not giving up on your weight loss journey!! I kinda fell off the wagon, and your post the other day showing your weight loss got me motivated!!! Ran 4 miles today, determined to keep going this time!! :)"

Thanks for not giving up...

Those words are so powerful, and I think I've repeated them in my head about 49.3 times today. Yes, someone interrupted me during my own thoughts, that's where the .3 comes from.

And then, of course- there is the overwhelming amount of love and support I received when I posted my exciting weight loss news on Saturday:

"The lbds leave, but the curves stay. Best Saturday."

So, as I drove home feeling sorry for myself tonight, I realized I've been receiving gifts for the past week straight! 

Words are gifts that are delivered directly from your heart!

When spoken at the right time or in the most perfect way, your words are priceless.
 
So if you want to help someone in need or simply make someone smile...

Use your words.

And at the same time, do as your teachers or parents taught you growing up:  

Think before you speak.

Because you can't take back your words.

And people will remember what you say forever.

So be wise.

Be kind.

Say sorry.

And remember to always speak from your heart.

"Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love." - Lao Tzu


Much love,
Ashley

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Year of Random Acts of Kindness: Week 3

$1,500.

That's how much we have to pay in car repairs over the next few weeks.

But- it could be worse! At least we both have good jobs. And we are alive.

So...

Despite the (always) unexpected hit to our bank account, The Year of Random Acts of Kindness must go on!

On Saturday, I spent the morning with my girls drinking bloody mary's and mimosas.

Ann and Ashley.
Day drinking.

I needed that morning of laughs, especially after our car news.

"Animals are not allowed to drink from the well."
We are grown-ups. I promise.

On the way home, my friend Ann and I stopped at Taco Bell.

Always a good idea after a few drinks, right?

(Wrong. I ended up getting sick after eating Taco Bell. Never again). 

"Ann!" I said. "I need to do my random act of kindness today! I'm going to buy this guy's lunch behind us. And your lunch!"

"What if his bill is really expensive?" Ann asked.

"Well- then Justin will lecture me and I'll remind him...that it was just meant to be!" I said.

We both laughed- knowing that Justin would shake his head if he heard me say that...

I pulled up to the window and said, "Hi! I'd like to pay for my order and the guy behind me!"

The young girl smiled, "Okay!"

"And just tell him that I said 'Have a great day!'"

The young girl smiled again, unsure what to say next.

I always love seeing the reaction to people during these random acts of kindness.

Ann laughed, "You sound so diplomatic!" 

"What does that even mean?" I asked. "Is that good or bad?"

"Good!" Ann said. "Well, I guess good. But you kind of sounded like a crazy ex-girlfriend. 'Hi my name is Carol- and you go ahead and tell my ex-boyfriend back there I said HAVE A NICE DAY!"

We started dying laughing.

"Okay, well now I have to sussy someone," Ann said.

(By the way, a sussy is a gift for no reason. Click on the link above to learn more about The Sussy Project).

Guys, that's the best thing about these random acts of kindness- they are contagious!!

We went to Marsh and saw the most ADORABLE little boys selling discount cards and 3-D sports cups to raise money for their basketball team.

A prime target.

"Hi!" Ann said. "What are you selling?"

The little kid went into a huge sales pitch about the cups and discount cards. The other kids next to him would chime in if he forget to mention something or mispoke.

The dad, who reminded me of Jessie from Breaking Bad (aka I had a crush on him), was smiling at Ann and I the entire time.

"Okay, we will come back and get some cups when were are on shopping," Ann said.

We walked away and she said, "There is my sussy. Expensive cups...and I'll give them to...who knows?"

I loved that Ann was inspired to sussy someone- she supported the kids and bought 3-D IU cups.

Also, this was the result of day-drinking.
A 6 p.m. hangover.

Later that night, I went to Starbucks (hoping the caffeine would eliminate my "hangover headache" and planned on buying coffee for the person behind me.

But no one came in, so I didn't have the opportunity to keep spreading the love. Instead, I smiled knowing that my purchase was helping raise money for World AIDS Day, which Starbucks was supporting all day on December 1.

Sussy Saturday was a great success. 

And I'm looking forward to making even more people smile this week.

If you have any good ideas for my charity to support for December, comment below or send me message! As a reminder, I'm donating $26 to a different charity each month.

Go out and make someone smile today.

And everyday. 

Much love,
Ashley

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Bathroom Stripper + My New Laugh

This week I've mainly blogged about giving up cheese my diet and weight loss.

But my life is more than a diet or number on a scale. So, I wanted to share a funny story with you about the bathroom stripper at my office today!

I walked into the bathroom this morning, and I noticed a sea of glitter on the ground.

"Um, KE$HA?
Is that you blowing glitter all over the floor?"

Holy cow, does a stripper work here now?

Later in the afternoon, I went into a different bathroom stall.

I noticed there was MORE glitter on the ground.

A lot more.

Someone is PACKING on the glitter today!!!

Just then, I went to button my pants and I saw glitter fall to the ground.

Lots of glitter.

And then I looked at my jeans.

Even more glitter.

Oh no, I'm the bathroom stripper...

My newest pair of underwear, which ironically said "HO! HO! HO!" were covered with glitter on the rear...

Just another day in the life of Ashley Sieb...

OH and one more fun fact, my latest laugh is now inspired  from the ADORABLE kid at the end of this video:



Much love,
Ashley 


I Close My Eyes and Think of You

"I'm able to run my entire route without stopping now," my friend Sabrina told me last Friday.

"That's amazing!" I said. "I'm SO proud of you!"

"You want to know my secret?" she said.

"Obviously!" I said, smiling. 

"When I want to stop and give up, I close my eyes and think of you. I picture you crossing the finish line of your half marathons. It works every time!"

I smiled and part of me wanted to cry- because you know I'm good at that...but her story really touched my heart.

And I was filled with so much joy and happiness- knowing that when she is searching and digging deep to stay strong...she thinks of ME!

Me?

I was over the moon...

I've reminded myself of Sabrina and her story at least 40 times this week.

This week has been tough.

I'm hungry CONSTANTLY!

Literally, I was at the doctors office on Wednesday and I could hear my stomach grumbling over the Christmas music. And one time, a lady looked me as if I was about to birth a small cheese cube.

I MISS my Diet Coke.

I CRAVE cheese like a man craves sex (aka I think about cheese every 3 seconds). 

Just when I was about to have another break down, my friend Hannah sent me a message on Twitter.

She said:


"Just wanted to let you know I am beginning a fitness odyssey of my own and tonight I found out I lost my first three pounds! I've been reading your blog and getting lots of inspiration from you! When I am wheezing on the treadmill trying to run half a mile (not a joke) ...I think, "Ashley ran a f#!$ing MARATHON Hannah get your ass in gear" and it legit helps me keep going...So, I know you are always getting inspired by super fit people of your own, like your trainer, but I just wanted to let you know that you are MY super fit inspiration! THE END."  

Wait, did she have the right, Ashley?

Me?

That's the second person this week who made me feel like the happiest person in the world!

I wanted to reach through my computer and give Hannah the BIGGEST hug in the world.
Her message came at the most perfect time...

And to know, that she considers me her SUPER fit inspiration?

I'm just a chubby girl trapped in a skinny girls' mind. 

And Hannah thinks I am super fit?

I spent the rest of the evening smiling...

THEN I got this message the next afternoon from my friend Hillary:

"So, I came across a couple of blogs last Spring that I've saved on my laptop for when I decided I was going to finally "lose the weight." Not sure if you've heard of www.mamalaughlin.com, but she is freaking hilarious, and I think you might like her. It screams, "Bedwell" to me..

Also, this http://undressedskeleton.tumblr.com/Mademenus .. this girl has all of these menu options already made up, I think this is going to help me a lot. I know how to eat healthy, I'm fully aware, I just don't. And I don't make good decisions. And I feel awful and pathetic about it, but I think it's here... the DESIRE to finally get HEALTHY.

Which also brings me to you, your blogs, posts, etc. Such an inspiration, you are.. So glad I have someone awesome to look up to and relate to in different ways!

Hope you're having a great day! And hope you haven't been thinking about pepper jack cheese cubes dipped in ranch all day like me.. Well, maybe you are now lol"

I adore her. And yes, I probably was thinking of cheese cubes dipped in ranch 30 seconds before reading her message. 

But wait, there is more! 

This afternoon, I got an e-card from my lovely friend, Carla Jo.

Funny Sports Ecard: Don't trust a skinny bitch who's legs never touch when she runs.


 Carla left me this message:

"I am realizing this is going to be you shortly... so i'll make an exception :) Keep up the great work on the caveman. You are looking refreshed and healthy and toned! Your blog is helping me remember my portion control and helped me eat a banana today instead of popcorn. Love you and your face.
-Carla"

She completes me. And knows the key to my heart...but to be fair, I'm 100% sure my thighs will always touch when I run. 

But no matter my thigh size, I'm so blessed.

How did I ever get so lucky to have such AMAZING friends?

THANK YOU to everyone who has sent me emails (Brittany + Mel + Alexandra + Carla), tweets (Hannah + Amber + Hannah S.), comments on my blog post (Katy + Sonia + Annette + Stephanie + Chelsea + Sarah + Stephanie + Kami + Kelli + Beth + Justin), personal messages (Hilary + Katy), diet advice (Josh + Becca + Carolyn + Elizabeth).

Seriously, I'm overwhelmed by your love, support, and inspiration (sorry if I missed anyone!!).

I'm going strong.

I'm feeling great.

I'm learning willpower- and portion control (aka I ate the world's smallest burger today for lunch).

The burger was INCREDIBLE (and only two bites).
The vegetables sucked big time, but thankfully I ordered a side salad too.
And yes, I cheated by having ranch.

I've lost 11 lbs since last week (Biggest Loser style). 

And most importantly, I haven't locked myself in the pantry to hide in the corner + eat a block of cheese....sooo let's just chalk this week up as a SUCCESS...

And I couldn't have done it without you.


Much love,
Ashley

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Power Breakfast!

Are you ready to become super jealous of my breakfast?

Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and a cutie / tangerine. I washed my bowl of fresh fruit down with a glass of grapefruit juice!

All for 186 calories :)

So.Good.

My previous breakfast options included:
  • Americano + Spinach and Feta Wrap: 293 calories
  • Egg McMuffin + hashbrown: 450 calories
I am making giant strides my friends.

Also, I didn't have a food meltdown today.

Giant.

Strides.

Much love,

Ashley



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

11 Down

And counting :)





Much love,
Ashley

Monday, November 26, 2012

A New Personal Best: Rainbow Lake 5K

Last October, I got second place in my age group at the Spirit Run 5K. I thought I finished around 36:40, which has been my personal best ever since!

Turns out, I WAS WRONG (in a good way- you'll see). I actually finished the race in 37:48.



On Saturday morning, I ran the Rainbow Lake 5K in 37:44!

A personal best by four seconds!!


I truly didn't realize I set a new personal best until about 10 seconds ago, so I'm still exploding with happiness!

The Rainbow Lake 5K was a challenge.


I woke up early to stretch and take pre-run mirror pictures (obviously).

The air was COLD.

At times, snow was falling from the sky.

And you're running around a lake aka a giant circle, so there is that...

I went to the race with my friend and running buddy, Ryan. He was going for a personal best, so we didn't plan on running together.


Spoiler alert: Ryan ended up running the race in 27 minutes!
When we pulled into the parking lot, I was immediately nervous.

I was surrounded by intense runners.

Young.

Skinny.

Fit.

Runners.

Some folks were running around the lake (aka almost the entire course) just for a warm up!!

"I'm coming in last place," I told Ryan.

He laughed, "No you won't, Ashley! Don't say that!"

"No, I'm serious!" I said. "Take a look around...I'm doomed! Maybe my new goal is...don't come in last place!"

"Listen," Ryan said. "If you come in last place, I'll take off all my clothes and jump in the lake."

I laughed.

I needed the confidence booster.

"But that doesn't mean you can come in last place on purpose, though!" Ryan said, probably half-serious.

I had to register that morning, so we wanted to get there a little early. When the lady asked me for my t-shirt size, I said "large or XL, please."

She lifted up a large and said, "Are you sure this will work?"

"Well, give me an XL if you have it," I said back, a little disappointed.

"No, no- I have a smaller size if you need it...that's what I was asking!"

I wanted to hug her for thinking I could fit into a size medium, but I gladly accepted my size large.

After all, I don't like running in belly shirts.

The race was pretty small (only about 200 people) so I tried to creep up toward to the front of the pack for a head start.


I found another running friend, Jeremy!
Immediately after this picture I stepped on his dad.
Just call me Grace.

The first mile was tough.

My nose was dripping and snot was getting stuck on my face Dumb & Dumber style.

I was struggling to find my pace.

I was getting passed my old ladies and little kids.

I was miserable.

Once I reached the sign for Mile 1, a volunteer caught my eye and told me I looked great.

She told me to keep going and that I looked strong.

Her inspiration came at the most perfect time.

A few minutes later, the song Til' I Collapse came on my iPod. I tried to dig deep and listen to the words.

'Cause sometimes you just feel tired,
Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
And just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.


That song pushed me through to Mile 2, where I found a table with cups on it for the runners.

Usually people manage the water stations, but no one was there.

Just ice water.

And I mean ICE water. When I picked up the cup and lifted it up to my face, nothing moved.

The water was frozen, but the thought was sweet and I was thirsty...so I pushed my fingers through the ice to get some water.

After taking my water break, I made up my mind to run the entire 1.10 miles I had left.

No walking.

No matter what.

Yes, my average min/mile is about 2 minutes better than my half marathon pace!
Boom.

I picked up my speed the last quarter mile (hence the 9:19 pace at the end) and truly felt incredible!

When I turned the corner and saw the finish line, I saw 37:20 on the clock. I was 100% determined to finish in under 38 minutes.

And because I spoiled my finishing time earlier, you know I did finished in 37:44!

Ryan and I after the race! He finished second in his age group for the 5K series / challenge.
I'm so proud of Ryan!


I celebrated by eating soup and watching fellow runners accept their awards.


Nom, nom. nom!
Don't worry- this was "pre-diet."

The winner of the entire race broke a new course record (by ONE second) and finished in 15:18.

Yes, 15 minutes and 18 seconds.

Incredible.

And you know what else is incredible?

Not giving up.

Fighting through pain.

Inspiring myself during uncertainity.

Listening to lyrics to Til' I Collapse. 

And earning a new personal best / not coming in last place!

Much love,
Ashley