What dating a LEO means to me…

I couldn’t be more proud of my boyfriend and his career in law enforcement… But let’s be clear- working in law enforcement is not just a career, it’s a lifestyle. I learned quickly that there’s way more to it than how sexy he looks in his uniform (*yum*)… Being a LEO girlfriend means

  1. Not being able to spend every night by his side
  2. Knowing his schedule for years out, but still having to RSVP “No” to things because he just can’t take off of work the way I can
  3. The unknown fears entailed with him on a SWAT call
  4. Having to sit in a certain seat facing a certain direction at every restaurant
  5. Also- having to avoid many of my favorite restaurants because of the dreaded, “I’ve arrested a few guys who work there…”
  6. Basically- seeing someone who he’s either arrested, barricaded, busted in their door with the SWAT team, or in some way been involved with on a call literally everywhere that we go (Why are so many of you breaking the law out there, people?!)
  7. Completely opposite work schedules 50% of the year
  8. Watching his “friends” and relatives (not to mention, my friends and relatives) only ever text or call him if they have a legal question
  9. Enjoying a Memorial Day baseball game together… i.e. him working it for off-duty, and me sitting in the stands alone
  10. Court on his days off
  11. Always wondering if he’ll be home on time, or if he’ll get hung up on a late call
  12. Never being 100% sure he will make it home at the end of a shift
  13. The terror that is house hunting in the city. “Not that neighborhood, not that street, no…”
  14. Waiting to hear what lie he’s going to tell strangers when they ask what he does for a living
  15. Never needing a GPS to get anywhere in the city- even random streets within neighborhoods
  16. Knowing he’s always packing- highly trained and qualified to do so- and knowing that he will always keep me safe
  17. Realizing how truly selfless he is, and that he always puts me and the girls first
  18. Immeasurable pride in him every single day
  19. Knowing that he will be upset with this post, because he hates to openly tell others his occupation due to the negative stereotypes connected to LEO’s

I will never be able to put in to words how proud I am of him every day. It’s a shame that LEO’s have to be so paranoid about how society perceives them, when they are truly our local heroes. Why is it that people love firefighters, but people hate LEO’s? Both are dedicated to keeping you- typically complete strangers– safe and out of harms way.

Please take a moment to thank all of your local heroes who work in public safety. Take a moment to think about law enforcement officers and their families who sacrifice so much for the safety of your community, and who receive little to no recognition or praise for doing so.

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“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

Do you have a LEO in your life? How else does it impact you? Leave it in the comments!

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Five Things- Christmas Edition

A new Monday, a new Five Things I Learned Last Week post…

ONE: There is NO BETTER FEELING than watching a 3 year old see what Santa brought her. She laughed and smiled all weekend, and my heart was so full. I’ve never had such a rewarding Christmas.

TWO: A plus side to having a blended family is that we got to celebrate Christmas all weekend long, and the girls got presents everywhere we went! (I know Christmas isn’t about the presents, but anything that puts a smile on their faces makes me overwhelmed with emotions)

THREE: Kid-movies as an adult are a whole new ball game. We watched Despicable Me and all I could do was compliment the social justice lessons. We watched The Little Mermaid and I literally cried when Ariel’s dad gave her away to be married. I CRIED during The Little Mermaid… WHAT?!

FOUR: We all need to take a minute to thank the people in public service who work during the holidays… law enforcement, firefighters, nurses, doctors, etc. THANK YOU. I am so lucky that my officer was by chance off all of Christmas weekend.

FIVE: Family really is where it’s at. Even when it’s messy, even when they’re a pain, being with family always does put a smile on my face.

What did you learn this holiday week? Let me know in the comments!

– Ashley

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All of the grandkids (missing one!) and great-grandkids on my paternal side — Christmas 2015

The Stages of Abandoning CrossFit

Alright, friends. Since the holidays are upon us and my clothes are fitting tighter than ever, I wanted to share with you my recent journey abandoning CrossFit. After CrossFitting for 2.5 years, I moved in July of 2015, bringing my journey with the sport to a screeching hault (See- Top 5 Things to Consider before Relocating for a Job in Student Affairs). Here’s a small glimpse of how that’s been going:

Step #1: Denial. I joined a traditional gym and started going alone. This, of course, led to me completely pulling cardio out of my routine, and just lifting in the weight room alone. With a men’s bar. And no control over the music. Needless to say, this wasn’t my cup of tea. I then looked into the “Beachbody” workouts, since that’s a big craze in this area & I know 1 million Beachbody coaches. I quickly decided that is not for me either.

Step #2: Anger. I joined the small [only] CrossFit in my new town, then quit. The right CrossFit gym fits like a glove, and the vibe you get is everything. The small CrossFit in this town just wasn’t for me- the vibe was all wrong, the talent wasn’t up to the standard of my old box, and the coach made several comments I just didn’t agree with. If this is your home box and you love it, great! It just wasn’t for me.

Side bar: It was around this time I decided to go for a run with my boyfriend, and felt so out of shape that I just walked and cried.

Step #3: Lying to Myself. Bargaining. I began thinking, “If I just don’t eat like crap, my body will stay exactly the same” and, “There are all sorts of people who don’t work out and claim they feel great (right?!).” Then those bargains changed over to, “I don’t have time to workout, anyway” and “my boyfriend thinks I’m beautiful!”

Step #4: Depression. Okay, I don’t think this was legitimate depression, but at some point I decided I needed to unfollow every single CrossFit-ish account that I followed on social media because seeing the posts made me devastated. (I didn’t unfollow my actual friends, just “CrossFit Celebrities,” different boxes, companies, etc.) I realized I had no need for lifting tips, new gear, or to look up “#GAINZ” and see what crazy things people were posting. I even unfollowed my favorite CrossFit heartthrob, Garret Fisher (RIP to our long-standing, one-direction social media love affair). Also at this point, seeing my friends from my old gym making their #GAINZ made me extra jealous!! (Not to knock y’all though- I’m still SO proud!)

Step #5: Acceptance. I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’ll never CrossFit again, and that’s okay.

JUST KIDDING- when I relocate again, finding a solid CrossFit gym will be one of my highest priorities, and I will be back in the box whipping up those #GAINZ again before you know it. This current CrossFit Alumna isn’t out of the game forever, trust me!

In the meantime, my plan is to keep eating healthy-ish and maybe run with my boyfriend once a month or so. (Sounds healthy, right?!)

To all my old CrossFit friends out there still killing it, I’m watching you and I’m so proud! (Shout-out to CrossFit Lynchburg!)

At the end of the day, find what works for you, and stick to it! Don’t give up what works for you for the sake of anyone or anything.

P.S. to my boyfriend, I promise this will be the last time you see me use #GAINZ because I know you hate that. 🙂

 

Has your workout routine ever been compromised? Any advice for myself or others? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Five Things I Learned Last Week

Howdy, friends! Something I want to do each week is kick off our Monday with Five Things I Learned Last Week. I can’t promise that these will be insightful, funny, or stupid, but I think we too often take for granted the small learning moments we have in our lives. So here goes nothing…

ONE: Riding the train at the mall while visiting Santa get’s less enjoyable each time I do it; however, the excitement on the kids faces makes it all worth it. They constantly put things in to perspective for me. (Still trying to figure out how it’s always me on the train with them…)

TWO: When a baby wants to put Chapstick on you, you let her… even if it’s 300+ times in one hour. Seeing the look of accomplishment over and over again on an 18-month old’s face is absolutely priceless.

THREE: Caring for someone when they’re sick/injured doesn’t feel like a chore if you actually care about the person. My boyfriend injured his ankle last Saturday, and I spent all of Sunday doing 100% of everything for him. I wasn’t mad or annoyed at all (truthfully!)… I’d do it every day forever if he needed it.

FOUR: December is an incredibly enjoyable month when the temperature is in the 60’s-70’s all the time! Thank you, global warming + southern living.

FIVE: Respect is earned, not given. I watched my boyfriend’s father graduate a fire department recruit class this week, and the things the recruits said about his & his co-captain’s leadership were amazing. Leadership is not a position or a title, it’s action and example.

Those were my big takeaway’s this week. Did you learn anything this week? Let me know in the comments!

– Ashley

Blended Family Holidaze

Perhaps the most frustrating part of growing up in a blended family was that no one spoke to one another. My parents are out of the picture. My maternal & paternal sides have been in a [justified] feud since 1990 & have no contact. Where my paternal side is all very close- with the exception of my father- my maternal side does not communicate, and everyone stays within their household. Basically, it’s a mess. This time of year always reminds me of just how wild family dynamics can be. I’m going to recount my messiest adult Christmas for you below…

Christmas Eve 2011:
After spending the week visiting with both of my maternal uncles and their wives/children- who don’t celebrate holidays together- I celebrated Christmas a day early with another part of that side of the family (great-aunt & her boyfriend, second-cousin & his then-boyfriend [now husband]). We opened all of our presents & had a great night. I spent the night there at my great-aunt’s house & prepared to travel the next day.

Christmas Day 2011:
I woke up and started getting ready to visit my paternal family, who lives about 40 minutes from my maternal family. I have a fantastic relationship with everyone in the paternal side of my family, except for my “dad,” who I have never spoken to. For context- he lives in the same town as everyone else, and no one ever sees him (I mean, ever).

As I began walking to my car, I received a text from my oldest cousin saying “He’s here.” I panic. I obviously can’t drive there now! What do I do?! Do I just celebrate Christmas alone at 21? My reply, “Okay, text me when he leaves.” She did, hours later, and I made the drive out. My presence then sends my Grandma in to tears, and leads to my younger cousins asking 1-million awkward questions. Perhaps this was the first time they had realized I had no relationship with him? Who knows. All I know is that it was incredibly uncomfortable, and I vowed that year to never spread myself too thin on a holiday again. Being alone and vulnerable was not the way I wanted to spend my Christmas, and I’ve never done it again.


This year,
I’m spending Christmas Day with my boyfriend & his family, including his two daughters who are 1 and 3 years old. I cannot wait to see them open their Christmas presents and make the whole day about them (and Jesus). The day after Christmas, the four of us are driving 2.5 hours and spending half the day with the paternal side of my family, which includes both grandparents, three aunts, one uncle, my half-sister, brother-in-law, two nieces, and six cousins (with the always-present possibility of cousins’ significant others making an appearance). We will spend the later half of the day visiting my wonderful uncle & aunt on my maternal side who raised me from age 12-18.

Will I see any other relatives? If so, it will not be on either of those days. I love my whole family but over the years I’ve learned that you can’t spread yourself too thin. Communication goes both ways, and I can’t be the only person reaching out and making contact to try and see relatives. I just can’t do it. I spent a long time kicking myself because no one in either side of my family ever invites me to anything. I just invite myself. With parents out of the picture, there’s no one there to loop me in to plans. So since Christmas 2011, I’ve just done whatever I wanted to and it’s been freaking amazing. I know I’m still spread a little thin this year, but this is most definitely progress!

At the end of the day, Christmas is about whatever you want it to be about. For me, it’s about Jesus, family (meaning, my boyfriend and the girls), and NO STRESS!

Happy Holidays! Have you ever spread yourself too thin during the holidays? Let me know your story in the comments!

“Stepmom-In-Training” FAQ

Dating a man with two young children is not something that I ever considered I’d be doing at 25. It has turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my lifeat the expense of my family, friends, and acquaintances asking me the most ridiculous questions every time they see me. I have to share with you all some of the most frequent/funniest/strangest questions I receive (so that you don’t ask me- or anyone else in my position- these questions).

  • “What’s it like dating a man with two kids?!” The same as dating a man with no kids, except instead of spending our free time binge drinking and watching TV, we’re building pretend castles and trying to teach the baby how to talk. (Okay, okay… there’s a little bit of the former when the kids are with their mom)
  • “What do they call you?” By far the funniest question I get. Ashley… they call me Ashley. That’s my name. I’m curious what people are expecting me to say when they ask this?!
  • “What does their mom think of you?” WOW intrusive much?! You’d have to ask her.
  • “Do you just take care of them while your boyfriend just sits there?” LOL… Okay first, way to stereotype based off of gender! Second, my boyfriend is the best, most hands-on father I’ve ever seen. His daughters love him and I am impressed with his parenting abilities every single day. He runs laps around me with those kids.
  • “Are you planning on having real kids?” Wait, what?! These ones are very real. And I’m not even engaged so this is not on my radar. And this is offensive and none of your business.
  • “Are they going to be in your wedding?!” Again, not engaged. Nice try…
    • Always followed up with, “You have built in flower girls!” Yeah, I have those with my nieces, also. Again, nice try…
  • “Do they like you?!” OF COURSE they like me!! Seriously though, they really do love me (and I love them!) What a weird question though… do I seem unlikeable?!

Moral of the story- all families look very different & you should really think before you ask some of these questions! At the end of the day, I’m just trying to maintain a healthy relationship, and be the best role model I can be for the girls, without crossing any boundaries and/or disrespecting their mother. (Piece of cake, right?!)

Are you dating someone with kids, or a stepparent?! Any other wild or intrusive questions you receive? Let me know in the comments!

Top-5 Things to Consider before Relocating for a Job in Student Affairs

As graduate school was coming to an end and I began job searching, I was quick to rush into the first job that came my way (because everyone warns you that for your first job you have to compromise)… Well, I’m 6-months into the job I picked, & want to share some advice for those of you looking for that first career placement…

  1. DO NOT COMPROMISE. Do not settle for the first job offer you receive unless you’re 110% sure that it’s the perfect fit. It’s nerve wracking to not have something lined up but trust me- you cannot wait on divine intervention for this one. Trust your gut and if it’s not right, just say NO!
  2. Location, Location, Location! Search geographically where is right for YOU. Not your boyfriend, not your family, just you. You are responsible for your own happiness, and compromising the geographical span of your job search for anyone or anything other than yourself is a trap. The institution is important, but the city/town is just as important.
  3. Regarding location, find an area that will meet all of your personal needs! If you need a United Methodist church, a CrossFit gym, a Junior League to get involved with, and a Community Market, make sure that you’re looking in an area with those things! Again, we are trained that we need to compromise for our first job- that is a lie! You will be unhappy if you’re not both personally and professionally fulfilled.
  4. You need to like your colleagues. If you’re in an interview and could not see yourself potentially liking the employees, it’s not for you. Even if work is your #1 priority, you need to make sure you’re surrounded with people who you can rely on (and vent to when necessary!). In interviews, ask if there’s a strong network of young-professionals.
  5. Don’t be shocked- no place is perfect! Even the organizations who appear put together have their structural flaws. You need to make sure that you’ve considered every controllable aspect of a relocation before you do it, because undoubtedly something in the workplace will end up different than you expected.

In my relocation, I got very lucky in many of these areas. I also wish I had of done some things different to be both professionally and personally fulfilled. Job searching in Student Affairs can be a national process and as an upcoming professional, you likely have multiple mentors telling you different advice and directives. At the end of the day, you have to make every decision for yourself. As I said, you are responsible for your own happiness. Relocating is a big leap- make sure you’ve created a safe place to land for yourself.

Have you ever relocated for Student Affairs? Am I missing something on this list? Let me know in the comments!