Headphones

I’m training myself to wear headphones and listen to music at work. Most people in my office do this, and I have never understood how they do it… I think it distracts me from my work.

But nonetheless, here I am, wearing headphones, listening to Ed Sheeran “Shape of You” (obsessed) while at work. This is all because I’m trying to drown out the noise of one coworker. The one who literally never stops talking. The one who cannot answer an email without processing it out loud. The one who has worked here the longest, but needs to ask the most questions. The one who has lived an extremely sheltered 30+ years, and seems to have no real grasp of reality. Okay now I’m just being rude… I digress.

This got me thinking… I’ve been trying to wear my metaphorical headphones a lot lately. To drown out any and all negativity. To drown out the things that make me feel anxious. To drown out the possibility of an expensive therapist.

I know that I am in control of my reaction to events, and of my emotions, but man is it hard sometimes! I’m almost always in control of my reaction to things that upset me… I’m decent at keeping verbal outbursts contained… I call this “Grown-Up Ashley.” *applause* But my emotions get the best of me. Thanks, estrogen…

I have a few key measures in place to get my emotions back “in-check” once something happens out of my control… 1- vent to my safe people, 2- breathe, 3- take an ambien before bed. Solid plan, right?

Seriously though, I’ve been working hard at not emotionally overreacting to things that are out of my control. As a stepmom, there is a lot out of my control. There are a lot of false allegations that come out of BM, and a lot of harassment towards my husband. This is where my emotions get the best of me.

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I don’t know if I will ever have complete control over my emotional reactions to things… Does anyone have this superpower?! If so, please enlighten me.

What I do know is that I can choose happiness. Every day. The things out of my control are just that. I have to take life day by day, and live in the moment. I never want to look back and think that I missed out on things because I was too caught up in the “what if’s” and the “but why’s.” I never want to miss out on quality time with my husband or our girls because I’m too wrapped up in my own thoughts. I want to be present, always.

So, I’m choosing to wear my metaphorical headphones more often. I’m drowning out the nonsense, and staying present with my life, with my family… with everything that matters.

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And as for my coworker… Well, I’ll continue adapting to my real headphones to deal with her…

My New Last Name

I am so proud to wear my new last name.

For the first time in my life, I am proud of the name I bear, and the family I represent.

It has been a long time since I used a last name that was not my legal last name. That name, my mother’s maiden name, was never truly mine. That name was given to me by my grandma, who couldn’t bear to use my legal last name… my “father’s” last name. I believed that maiden name was my legal last name all the way through adolescence, until I applied for my Learner’s Permit and I, for the first time, saw the truth. I went by my “fake” last name until college, when I decided it was too confusing to try and correct every faculty and staff member I encountered. I opted for consistency over pride.

After 8.5 years of bearing and representing my “father’s” last name.. I am no longer bearing the last name of the man who destroyed my family. I am no longer representing a drug addicted murderer who has been in and out of prison, and who no one in my family (even on my paternal side) keeps in contact with, or even cares about. I am no longer burdened by the last name of a man who had two daughters by two different women, but has never once tried to make contact with either. I am free.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been at peace regarding my “father” for a very long time; however, wearing his last name from 18-26 years old was not fun. Having the first name “Ashley,” I was constantly surrounded by other Ashley’s, and therefore, being addressed by my last name. For example, when I joined my sorority in undergrad, I was one of six Ashley’s out of 55 members. The only thing worse than seeing that name on my legal documents, was being called it out loud. Thank God, those days are behind me.

I now proudly wear the name of a man who is an exceptional son, father, and husband. I now represent a lineage of public servants, with my husband and his late grandfather being police officers, and my father-in-law being a firefighter. I wear the name of a man who puts me and our kids first every day… a man who would never do to us what my father did to my family when I was only 4 month old. I am no longer embarrassed by my monogram, or expected to explain to my high school friends why my last name “changed” when we graduated. I am married to the most amazing man, and have been accepted into an incredible family. I will proudly represent my new family until the day I die.

Family can cause a tremendous amount of pain, but remain optimistic, as good things come to those who are determined.

Five Things: Boundaries

Hey, Friends! I’ll just hop right to it with this week’s Five Things: Boundaries.

ONE: Last Sunday, my husband and I took a date day to some local cideries and breweries, while BM had taken the kids for vacation in Florida with her parents. BM- who never texts my husband unless it’s [a complaint] about [him or] the kids- decided she would try to be best friends with him and vent to him about traveling with her parents, making comments about the past and how she knew he hated traveling with her parents. *Cue, another date interrupted by BM* Then a couple of days later, she text him several pictures of the kids, including one of her with my youngest step daughter… it had a caption something to the effect of, “Sorry for a pic of me! You can crop me out LOL.” Seriously Lord have mercy… boundaries, people…

TWO: My one coworker who really just grinds my gears… I’ll call her Buttercup… she means well, but she misses some all social cues… Anyway, today, my work BFF CML and I were chatting with another coworker by our cubes… then, Buttercup started loudly laughing with our conversation, as it she was trying to get into it. Mind you, Buttercup sits on the other side of the cubes and therefore couldn’t see us, or actually participate in the conversation. But nonetheless, she kept on laughing every time we laughed… Girl, boundaries… come on. Update: As I have been writing this, Buttercup is singing out loud at her desk. That is all.

THREE: I serve as an advisor for a chapter of my sorority. I’ve been newly appointed the “supervisor” of the advisory board for almost a month now, and let me tell you, these women have no clue what boundaries [or preparation] mean. These poor girls want to do the right thing so bad, but cannot turn in paperwork before a deadline to save their lives… then they result in emailing, Facebook messaging, and texting me and other advisors until we respond. They’re literally about 15 minutes away from getting the “a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine” speech. We’re about to have a hard core boundaries talk…

FOUR: I saw this quote (below) referencing boundaries in an Instagram I follow, and I love it. Although BM is not high-conflict with me, she definitely blames me for the fact that her and my husband never worked things out. I think that over the past two years, I’ve done a good job of showing her compassion, and of setting healthy boundaries. I am constantly challenging myself to be at peace with the things that are out of my control, and I think I have come a long way in that journey. I cannot control her crazy, but I can document. Mental-Health-Saving Boundaries…

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FIVE: My husband and I are both very careful about who we “let in,” and I think that continues to save us time and time again. Y’all, cut ties with people who are causing you more harm than good! Your inner circle should not contain 15 “best friends.” That goes for family too… my husband is constantly reminding me that I should not continuously reach out to a family that never reaches out to me. Protect yourself and what is important to you, whether that’s a spouse, kids, etc. Guard your heart, because once it’s broken, it’s no easy task to super glue back together.

So what type of boundaries do you have in place for your mental health, protection, etc.?

Have a great week!

-Ashley

LEO Wife Update

Back in the day, I posted What Dating a LEO Means to Me.

Since I married the greatest man on earth back in December, I have a had a new/refreshed sense of pride in my husband and what he does. It’s strange… I feel like marriage shouldn’t have changed a lot about us, but it definitely did. Well, it didn’t change a lot, but it certainly grew my feelings for him to a whole new level I didn’t realize was possible.

Anyway… y’all know I can go off on a tangent thinking about my man… back to the story. I am so proud of him and his career as a Police Officer. I’ve got to see him do some pretty awesome things over the years. I’ve seen him get promoted, and switch platoons to serve as a relief supervisor. I’ve seen him be selected for a position working with our city’s youth in the schools. He’s so passionate about kids, y’all. *Swoon* I’ve seen him get selected to lead the departments part-time bike patrol, which he’s probably embarrassed I mentioned, but wow does he look great in those little padded bike shorts! I’ve seen him supervise a team of officers and keep large events organized time and time again. Y’all, he is so organized. I’ve seen him serve as acting Sergeant for his unit. This year, he was chosen to work the Presidential Inauguration, and traveled to D.C., was trained, and sworn in as a U.S. Marshall for the weekend. Talk about the most stressful weekend of my life… but that’s another post for another day…

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I’ve gone on more ride along’s than I can remember, and seen everything from him helping an old lady in assisted living, to him having to draw any number of weapons on people. (Sidebar: Never fired, thank God. Contrary to what the left wants you to think, the vast majority of police officers have never shot their gun at work… and they don’t want to!). I’ve seen him ripped away from family time, or more regularly sleep, to be sent on high-risk calls with the tactical unit (S.W.A.T. Team). I’ve been woken up by those calls, and that part is not-so-cool. I’ve seen his job impact the custody schedule, and that devastates him. I’ve seen him have to leave the girls with me to go to work, and we all miss him so much it hurts.

Let the record show, he definitely cringed when he read my title today. He will hate that I wrote about his job, because “people don’t like law enforcement.” But I’m confident my readers do. I am so proud of him every day, and I think it’s disgusting he has to feel worried about people knowing what he does for a living. This man puts the safety of our city… of people he doesn’t even know… first and foremost every day. This summer he will celebrate 10 years with the police department… 10 years!! What an amazing commitment and sacrifice this man has made to our city.

He is a father, son, and husband. He is a great human. He is incredible, inspirational, and truly my hero. I will never be able to show him how much he means to me, or how proud I am of him. I stand behind the thin blue line.

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Five Things: Confessions

I’ve just got all sorts of random thoughts up in this big ol’ head of mine, so this week, I’m getting some of it out! I bring you Five Things: Confessions.

ONE: I swear if I was the supervisor of my colleagues, things would change around here. We have a serious case of “no one is holding the people who have been here for a while accountable anymore” in our area. It’s honestly crazy. We all pull our reports from the same databases, and when I see the same “veteran” names listed over and over again, I’m just infuriated… like why aren’t you doing your job?! What are you doing on your side of the cube?! OMG people.

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TWO: When my husband is off, I only want to hang out with him (and the kids if we have them). I don’t want to make plans with friends when I have the option of being home with my husband. I don’t feel bad about it, either. I don’t feel guilty saying no to hangout requests. I used to, but I don’t anymore. I don’t want to be out drinking (or doing anything else) while he is home alone. I also don’t want him going out drinking (or doing anything else) when I’m home alone. We’re a team. We’re best friends. We need couple friends, but we don’t have any because BM scared all of his couple friends off, and all my friends- even the “coupled” ones- are younger and just in a different place in life (i.e. no kids; i.e. they’re trying to hang out at 8pm and I’m like okay but bedtime is 9:30pm).

THREE: Real, raw confession… I truly mourn a little bit every month when I get my period. That vasectomy hasn’t reversed itself yet?! *sigh* Don’t get me wrong- I also celebrate… now’s not the time! But it’s my monthly reality check that it will never be the time. (another topic for another day…)

FOUR: I’ve been listening to “Today’s Hits” on Pandora today, and I seriously don’t know any of the songs they’ve played!! Who are these “hit” artists?! Why is this “ZAYN” character spelled in all caps? What a weird name. “The Chainsmokers” ?? Really that was your idea for a band name? Is Noah Cyrus related to Miley? Must be. What is happening to music?! Everything has a techno-vibe now… ugh. And then the rap/hip-hop music… ugh! In a past life, I had enough of that nonsense. I’ll just stick with country. Country’s never done me dirty like this…

FIVE: I just got an invitation to my sister’s baby shower in the mail… No chance I’m going, and it’s for selfish reasons too. She didn’t send me anything for my wedding in December… so obviously I’m going to take it out on my unborn niece right now by boycotting onesies and diaper cakes. Not to mention, baby showers make me feel sick (tried one a few weeks ago… not feeling it). And this is her third baby… at some point don’t you stop all the parties? Okay, I’m done with petty #5. But I told y’all these were confessions!

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Well that’s my five things for this week! I hope you’re all ready to grab this week by the balls and take full advantage of it!

-Ashley

Kanye’s Workout Plan

I know I just wrote about how life doesn’t always go as planned, and how you constantly have to recreate your “Happily Ever After” … but there’s nothing like Facebook’s “On This Day” feature to get me in my feels…

Today, Facebook showed me a video from 2 years ago. I was in the gym, back squatting 215# for 3 reps (there was more going on… that was just what the video captured). I had my old gym partner spotting me. Those were the days! I was in the best shape of my life. I was so happy, because I felt great! I was working out 4-6 days a week, and I felt so healthy and so strong. I loved it. Absolutely loved it.

I remember those days like it was yesterday. My CrossFit days. I loved CrossFit. This July, it will be 2 years since I quit CrossFit due to a move. When I moved for a job, the CrossFit gym in the area was sub-par, and I was so discouraged because I didn’t have “my people” there with me. I went once and then never went back. I only lived in that place for 10 months before again changing jobs and moving back.

I could have rejoined my old CrossFit gym, but I didn’t want to. That was my old life. The girls I always worked out with had continued going while I was away, and had now way surpassed my abilities. I could have joined a new CrossFit, or a new “regular” gym, but I didn’t want to start all over again. Be the “out of shape” girl. Start from scratch. Y’all remember when you first start out at a gym, right?! Talk about the worst feeling ever…

When I was at my peak with CrossFit, I was in grad school. I had the time to dedicate to it. I do not have that type of time now! I’m married, working full-time, with two kids! I can’t possibly take time away from them to go to the gym. I don’t even want to do that! I want to spend every second I’m not at work with my family.

So what do I do? What do I do when Facebook has now reminded me how incredible I once felt, all because I worked out regularly. People, I’m going on two years of barely any workouts. I can’t get back into it now!! *Dramatic Ashley* Watching that video and reminiscing about how I used to feel has me feeling like a legit sack of potatoes in this chair as I write this.

I want to start working out with my husband on the days we don’t have the kids… I think that would be a good start. We talk about it all the time but it never happens. We are so tired when we get home from work! *Excuses, excuses*

I don’t know what I’m going to do. But I can tell you that I need to get back in shape, even if it’s not as in-shape as I once was. I need to get my body back together, because I felt so much better when I was in shape! This is important. Maybe this post will make me feel held accountable. Maybe my husband will read this post and think, “She’s right! We need to work out!” Who knows. What I do know is, I owe it to myself to get back into it. I need this.

Recreating your “Happily Ever After”

Through the years, I have met a lot of people. I’m a people person. I’m “that girl” who will ask you 100 intrusive questions about your life in our first 5 minutes together. [I hate people like that, but] I am that person.

Everyone has a story. Y’all know this. But when I’m chumming it up with people and learning all about their life, it is crazy to hear how hardly anyone’s life played out the way they hoped for. Even the happiest of people didn’t get their “Happily Ever After.”

The image that we strummed up in our heads as little girls of how life would work out, just crumbles at one point or another for damn near everyone. When I was 16, I could have guaranteed that I would be married fresh out of college at 22, and had 3 kids by the time I was 30. I would also be coming out of college making minimum $50,000.00 a year. Having a family young, and making good money… that’s all I wanted. That was the plan. It didn’t matter that I was single, and had no idea what college I wanted to attend, let alone what major I wanted to pursue… all those things were definitely happening.

Fast forward ten years to the present. Life update: NONE of those things happened. Literally, not a single one. Sure I went to college and worked hard for two different degrees, but I still make what feels like minimum wage, and I have to see an astronomical student loan balance lingering in the background for the next… “forever” years? I got married at age 26, after having to date several complete losers before finding “the one.” My prince charming came with so much baggage from his last relationship, we’d definitely have to pay Delta the extra $50 to check it. I did end up with two thirds of the children I wanted, but I didn’t get to plan for them, carry them, or give birth to them… and I’ll never get to give them a sibling. I’ll never be considered “a parent” by the vast majority of society. All the things that were so important to me… everything I wanted out of life… now completely out of reach.

So why is this a theme? Why does everyone I meet somehow tell me they didn’t get their “Happily Ever After”?! And again, I’m talking about the happy people too! I’m included in the Happy People Club! I am so happy despite none of my “dreams” coming true. So why aren’t our dreams coming true? Because our dreams are not realistic.

Societal pressures. The people in your life telling you what you should want. Hollywood showing you what you should want. “Natural instincts” (y’all, being a woman is hard). Traditions. Whatever the case may be for you… why do we let ourselves get caught up in this lack-of-a-fairy-tale ending? More importantly, what can we do to show younger generations that it is okay? It is okay when things don’t work out as you have planned!

We need to bend the mold. We need to promote a-typical, revolving dreams. We need to stop pressuring young girls to have 1 million kids and make 1 million dollars in their lifetime. We need to stop promoting toxic relationships, and embrace blended families. We need to support each other when things don’t work out, and not criticize one another for not meeting milestones. In a time where anxiety and depression are very real things our children are facing, we need to model positivity. We need to be our best selves. We need to do better, we must do better.

“Happily Ever After” as we know it is a joke. Happiness happens when events occur in the right place, at the right time. Happiness happens in God’s time. “Happily Ever After” cannot be planned out years in advance. It happens organically, through life lessons, wins and loses. It happens through living life, failing, and rebuilding.

Whatever you’re going through, know you’re not alone. Remember that virtually no one’s “Happily Ever After” is going as planned. Remember that you can still achieve and maintain true, honest happiness.

True, lifelong, “Happily Ever After” is not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Enjoy life, my friends. We’re in this together.