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…

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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

Five Things: What a Week!

Happy Monday!

I had a great week, despite having serious sinus issues, so I want to share a little about how it went in this weeks Five Things: What a Week!

ONE: My 16-year old cousin. She is having a rough time with her mom (my aunt), and most of her issues are not your typical “teenage-parent rivalry” things… she has actual concerns and valid points. No abuse, people- no worries! But it really does seem like my aunt isn’t making the best personal decisions, and it’s been affecting my little cousin. Y’all- she picked ME to open up to about this! Her cousin who is 10 years older than her. She even attempted to come spend the weekend with us; however, her mom [understandably] wouldn’t let her drive the 2+ hours. It hurts to see my cousin going through a hard time, but I’m so thankful she feels comfortable reaching out to me for advice and/or to vent. Parents, never stop parenting your children! Just because 16-year olds LOOK like they’re 26 these days, does not mean they are. They still need you!

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TWO: Our baby + our big girl. (I’ve promised the 4 year old I will abide by her wishes and refer to her as a big girl). We had them the majority of last week and I couldn’t have asked for a better week with them! Also, after months of my husband and I switching vehicles back and forth depending on who takes them/picks them up from school, we bit the bullet and I now have car seats. That’s right- I have reached that point of stepmom-ing. I know this is probably not a big deal, but I am wildly excited about having these car seats! These girls are so similar yet complete opposites. Their sass is out of this world. We have a sensitive one, and a bully. We have one who listens, and one who laughs in your face when you tell her “No.” But they both love on us SO MUCH all the time. It’s funny when you can see them struggling to split their time between me and my husband. Boy, would I love to be inside of their little brains sometimes…

THREE: My Mother-In-Law. This weekend we celebrated her 51st birthday, and she had a great weekend! I’m sure a lot of you have “bad” MIL’s, but mines pretty great most of the time. Even though I prefer spending my weekends with just my husband and the girls, it was nice to spend most of the weekend with my in-law’s, and I know it meant the world to them to have the girls there for so much time.

FOUR: My Job + Work BFF. I love my job, but we really have our slow points! Our work comes and goes in waves, and I most days I am thankful for that. But sometimes, it sure does drag! I don’t know what I’d do without my work bestie CML. She is my go-to vent person for work, life, etc. I typically steer away from getting “too close” to colleagues, but for some reason I let her in. We know way too much about one another, seriously. And we literally laugh all day long. And we send meme’s back and forth all day long. And I’m invested in her! Whether it’s her shitty roommate, or her navigating her new-ish relationship with her “dream guy” (well, we all know dreams are better left to Disney…), I am so invested in her life to the point I go home and keep my husband updated! (On most things… some things are strictly Girl Talk, duh). How blessed am I to have this job, and an excellent Work BFF to share it with!

FIVE: My Husband. (I know, you’re so sick of hearing about him, I get it). But this week I was down for the count with a self-diagnosed sinus infection and he really was my knight in shining armor. He got me medicine, did my chores for me, and just let me relax at home on the nights we didn’t have the girls. (On the nights we had the girls, my sinuses were on the back burner. Like that commercial, “Mom’s don’t get sick days!”). He was off Thursday and Friday and had lunch dates with me both days. I had a coworker point to his picture on my desk and ask if that was my husband, and my immediate out-loud response was, “Yeah, he’s so hott!!” Y’all I’m still so smitten by this man I can’t even handle it.

How was your week? Hopefully you took the time to refocus on what’s important like I did. God Bless and have a great week!

-Ashley

Inadequate.

Do you ever just feel like you’re not enough? Not doing enough, not worth enough, etc…

I do, sometimes. I think it’s normal. But that doesn’t make it sting any less.

Right now, my focus is my family. I want to be the best wife and stepmama possible. But how am I doing?

Do I give enough? Do I lead by example? Am I coming across positive, or do I just look stressed out all the time? [I don’t feel stressed, but sometimes things get pretty crazy!]

Do I focus my energy on what matters, or do I get too easily wrapped up in the little things?

Am I showing enough grace?

Do I know enough about raising toddler? Should I read more any toddler parenting books? Am I screwing them up forever by letting them eat a fruit roll up at 7:30pm?

Do I show my husband how much he means to me everyday? I want him to see how much I love him every single day. Does that transpire?

Do I pull my weight around the house, or does he feel like he does it all? [Cue, self-conscious Ashley because I don’t cook often at all…]

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And then, the nonsensical hypotheticals and comparisons come into play…

Will I ever be seen by my husband’s family and friends as my husband’s wife, or will I always just be “his new wife?”

Is the picture his parents still have up in their living room from his first wedding a sign that they want me gone? Or is that just their most recent family picture? [Thank God she’s not in the picture lol] [Okay I’m probably definitely overthinking this one]

Will the girls ever love me like they love their bio-mom? Do they/will they ever really consider me a mama to them? Who’s going to take care of me when I’m old? Are they going to be there for me, or are they going to put me in a nursing home and never visit?

These questions can go on and on… Then, I stop and reflect. I think about what I know, and what I’ve learned along the way. Things I’ve read, been told, and found out the hard way…

You’re doing the best you can, and that’s enough.

The kids won’t remember every small detail, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

Your husband absolutely adores you, and constantly tells you how thankful he is for you. So why would you question how you’re doing as a wife?!

Your husband’s family loves you, and tells you so all the time.

It really doesn’t matter what friends acquaintances think of you.

You’re a newlywed. Of course you are the “new wife” right now (duh, Ashley). Only time can make that disappear.

Comparisons are completely stupid in this scenario. Obviously your husband loves everything about you or he wouldn’t have married you. So seriously, Ashley, cut that comparison shit out.

I think the female brain is wired to totally sabotage us every chance it can get. Come on, God, why’d you do that to us?! [Oh yeah… freaking Eve…]

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Life is so good. Just do the right thing, it’s simple. Be kind, be patient, be loving. Only be concerned with yourself and your family. Take things one day at a time. Take a breath. It’s all good.

So the next time you’re feeling inadequate, remember, you’re doing better than you think. You are loved. You are healthy. You are beautiful. You’ve got this!

And to those of you lucky enough to have a loving, caring, sexy-as-hell husband like mine… go home tonight, give him a little squeeze on the butt, and tell him how much you love him.

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Five Things: Thankful.

Hey, hey! What a week it has been, my friends… and may I just say, I have SO MUCH to be thankful for.

ONE: My husband *drool*… WOW what an amazing man! He had the girls draw me little cards for Valentine’s Day and I could have cried. We didn’t really do presents, but I blessed him with showing up to his work with dinner- in spandex pants. He was a fan (*wink*). He is so busy but spends literally every moment he’s not working putting me and the girls first. I am so blessed.

TWO: Living in such a great area! Now don’t get me wrong, we fully intend to retire in Florida, but I’m so thankful to live in a place where we can just scoot up to D.C. for a Washington Capital’s game for date night! We did that last weekend and it was so much fun! While we were there, we talked about how lucky we were to live so close… it’s wild to think about the fact that the majority of American’s probably never get to explore our nation’s capitol!

THREE: Great in-law’s. My biological family is pretty shaky, but man are my in-law’s great! They always go out of their way to take care of us. Last week, they surprised us with a beautiful canvas they got made with a picture of my husband when he worked the Presidential Inauguration as a sworn U.S. Marshall for the weekend. They always help me to see what really matters in life, and are such a great example of a strong, long lasting marriage (almost 31 years!).

FOUR: Our babies. Even though the 4-year-old would correct me and tell me that she’s a big girl. I tell you what… the only part of my life they have negatively affected is my bank account (*cue* I cannot walk past the toddler/little girls sections of any store without grabbing them something). All coparent-from-hell nonsense aside, I wish I could keep them these ages forever. I want to preserve them in their cute, innocent, charismatic little selves and kiss all over their cheeks all day, every day, forever.

FIVE: A great job. Even though I’m in a cube, and some of my colleagues [okay, mostly just one] really can drive me up a wall sometimes… I love my supervisors and the potential for growth in my department. I love that I am working in an area I can truly see myself “career.” I love that I’m working in an area applicable to my Masters degree. I am so thankful for this job, and thankful that taking a risk last April landed me on this incredible journey.

So what do you have to be thankful for this week? Never forget, there’s always a calm in the center of this crazy storm-of-a-life.

-Ashley

My Valentine…

First, I’ve always been pretty indifferent about Valentine’s Day. Never loved it or hated it. I mean, I have always loved chocolate and flowers but if I don’t get them, it’s not a big deal.

I just want to take a moment to brag on my husband… first of all, WHAT A STUD.

Second, WOW… I have never in my life met such a selfless, hard-working man.

As you may know (depending on how long you’ve been reading), he is a police officer. Last August, he was fortunate enough to be selected for a “sort of regular working hours” position within the police department. His actual schedule is 7am-3pm, but he works late every day (normally until 4pm or so), then picks up an evening off-duty job almost every night that we don’t have the girls.

He does this for us… the four of us. He does this so that we can live “comfortably” (???) while paying our bills… So that we can take the girls to fun places and/or buy them things that they want. Of course, I work a full-time job too, but he is certainly the bread winner here.

He cooks dinner every night that he is home. That’s right- these girls get to see their Daddy cook them dinner every night. He helps with keeping our home clean and we “split the chores” without even a discussion. We’re a team. We just do what needs to be done and it’s amazing.

He is always on the ground playing with the girls, whether he’s turned our living room into a wrestling arena, or he’s helping the 4 year old learn her alphabet.

He puts the 3 of us before himself day in and day out. I can’t remember the last time he bought himself something “for fun.” He truly is one-of-a-kind, and I still cannot believe I’m lucky enough to be his wife!

I am so thankful for all the girls I’m sure he swooned when he was growing up, who he didn’t take a chance on. I’m so thankful that his two previous serious relationships didn’t last. I’m especially thankful for the last one, because without her, we wouldn’t have these two AMAZING girls. Whenever I get weighed down in the “hard parts” of having a blended family, I remember all the things I’m thankful for. And I think about him. How good he is to me and the girls. How selfless he is. What an amazing role model he is. He makes me a better person. The craziest thing is, everyone says that we will just continue to fall more and more in love with each other with time… I can’t even imagine loving him anymore! I am so thankful for my husband, and I wouldn’t want to do this life without him.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day, Babe! I hope I never let a day go by without showing you how much you mean to me.

Love Always, Ashley