HABIT(ches).

Habit is a bitch, I’m going to be honest. How much of a bummer is it that symptoms of anxiety, symptoms of OCD, symptoms of depression, boil down to a bunch of shitty, out of control and thoughtless… habits? (plus other stuff – but that’s not the point of this blog πŸ˜‰).

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one with destructive habits, but either way, I’m horrible at helping myself. Some of my habits and parts of my daily routine are destructive and not helpful. These parts of me are not healing. These habits and idiosyncrasies do not encourage me, or challenge me, or bring out the best in me. Some of my habits don’t actually improve me or my quality of life. In fact, many of my habits make me cranky and/or push my buttons, and feel insurmountable and defeating.

As part of my recovery from September 2020, and my quest to find true, genuine happiness for myself, I’ve realized.. some of these habits have got to go.

Habits are a bitch. They don’t want to go anywhere and they’re impossible to break up with.

I’m not talking about the dumb, little habits, the tiny intricacies that make you, you. Don’t give those up. I mean honestly, if you want to bite your nails.. that’s on you. It’s a habit. It’s hard to break. Trust me, it’s a constant battle for me. Currently, my fingers are bloody nubs. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ This habit I am less concerned about.

Cussing, too. It’s a habit. Supposedly a dirty one even.. but I don’t know, I stand by the fact that some situations really do just deserve the fbomb. You know when the moment is right. I’m not worried about habitual cussing.

Don’t get rid of the cute habits you have either- like the one that sounds like telling your loved ones to “get home safe and watch for deer” instead of goodbye. (Is this a Midwest only thing?🀣).

Don’t get rid of the good habits. For example, always wear your seatbelt. It should be a habit. If it’s not, make it one! If you work out, habitually, don’t stop.. especially on my accord. Just send some of that juju my way. 😝

The habits that I’m talking about are the negative habits, the ones that are deep seated in your brain, that are your gut reaction response. The habits that come out without thinking and wreck your day. For me, it’s the habit of talking badly to myself.

“Talking badly to myself” sounds so much kinder than what it really is.. a type of all out, knock-down war, internally, where the person losing is always me and there are no true winners. If anything, these moments fuel the brain, giving it more to pick apart and to judge later.

Yes, I’m talking about fighting with my own brain. My brain.. that I have SHAMELESSLY loved and supported, and grown and nourished, has turned against me. Okay fine, I’ll admit.. there were some serious knocks to the head (thanks Star! 🐎) but still.. an overall positive experience. My brain shouldn’t hate me, but for some reason it does.

It likes to point out all my mistakes. It likes to take away my victories by reminding me of my losses. It likes to think about worst-case-scenarios when I’m teetering on the edge of blissful, carefree happiness. My brain likes to distort my body before my eyes and it makes the mirror lie to me. It likes to wait until I’m quiet, and still, and relaxed, and then remind me of something I said but shouldn’t have, or a big project looming. It never notices what I’ve accomplished, only what I have missed. It never focuses on what I have learned, only on what I still don’t know. And it loves, and I do mean LOVES, to go over my mistakes, over and over and over again.

My brain is a bully, but it’s only a bully because I let it be. It’s habit. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

An inexcusable habit in my opinion. A habit in desperate need of reformation.

I know so many people out there struggle with negative self-talk , and honestly, my heart is with you. I wish I had a secret recipe for success. I wish I could just glue fake fingernails to my brain and break the habit (it works for biting fingernails!). But this one, it’s a bitch.. a lingering, clingy bitch. I don’t know how to make it go away. Do you? If so, tell me ASAP.

Until someone shares the secret to permanently breaking this habit to me in a few simple steps (which I am completely holding out for), I have some bad news. I don’t know how to get rid of the habit. BUT I am learning to curb it, to challenge it, to reshape it. I’m learning to make negative self talk less of a gut reaction and more of a conscious decision.

It’s a three step process.. but it’s not effortless and it doesn’t stop the negative self talk permanently. It’s something you have to work at for every second of every day, until you find your habits shifting. It’s not the solution for the lazy, or the people that want a simple process to an always successful result. It takes work, a lot of it:

  1. Pay attention to your thoughts. All of them. Even when you feel like being lazy or are not in the mood to work on yourself. You gotta catch yourself in the act.. a lot.
  2. Pause those thoughts. By pause, I mean, tell your brain to shape up or ship out. Refuse to let your brain tell you pointless, horrible, non-instructive bullshit, just because it wants too.
  3. Take a moment to genuinely think about those wins. Account for them. Pat yourself on the back. Think about what you learned or how you communicated better.

Like I said.. it’s not a cure, and more annoyingly, it take a lot of work. It takes a lot of time, sitting with yourself, breaking destructive thought-patterns, and learning (or relearning) how to be kind to yourself, how to respect yourself, and how to value yourself.

Build yourself up! Honor those victories! Remind yourself of all you’ve accomplished when the day felt impossible. Tell your brain to shut up. Break. The. Habit.

Habits are a bitch, but you don’t have to be. You, especially, don’t have to be a bitch to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that you are pretty and worthy and funny. Think about how far you’ve come in the last year. Don’t settle for what your brain tells you are your shortcomings or your failures. You know better.

This post isn’t as upbeat as I generally try to keep this blog, but I think it drops some hard truths.. and talks about something important. Negative self-talk is harmful! I’m so tired of it, it’s the nastiest habit. Want to join me on reshaping some of those thoughts and doubts? It’s time for some new habits.

Sunny daze ahead, friends. I just know it. 🌞

One dog, two dog; blue fish, blue fish (a bad Dr. Seuss rip off):

One time, Matt abandoned me. FOUR WHOLE DAYS. Just me, like a free-range chicken, with 96 hours wide open and not a plan in sight. Technically, he abandoned me AND the dogs, but they seemed way less hurt by the abandonment and carried on as life as normal so.. they don’t count as victims of his abandonment.

Okay, fine. It was for a bachelor party. But still 96 HOURS? Some people really just should not have that much time without their guiding light, their partner, and their low-key adult babysitter. 🀣.

Me. I’m talking about me. πŸ™‹πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

It started out with a fish. A blue beta, named Dog. Matt refuses to allow my heart true happiness and keeps turning down every dog/puppy/rescue I think I need, so I got a fish and named him dog. I got my dog, dammit! I thought it was hilarious. Actually, I still think this is hilarious.

Humble brag: I’m kind of a fantastic fish owner. I’m one of those people that had betas that lived for years, moved houses, etc. I mean, sure.. there were a few unfortunate incidents like slamming into my windshield because of a quick stop, a quick jaunt down the garbage disposal (not on, thank God), an unintended visit in the dog’s mouth, and a near-death freezing event, but overall.. I have had great success with betas. I’ve had them on and off my entire life.

To be fair, betas are not challenging. You pretty much treat their water, feed them when you remember, and clean the tank sometimes. They are built with fortitude. They are perfect for the accident-prone πŸ™‹πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

So with that as a background, imagine my SHOCK when Dog died within 24 hours of joining our home. I killed him. I put the water purifier in the tank, put him in the tank, and promptly went to sleep, dreaming of all the memories we would make together.

Then, at like 3 am, I jolted awake, confident I made a critical math error and that there was an insufficient amount of water purifier in the tank. I jumped out of bed, ran to the tank, scooped Dog out, added more purifier, and dropped him back in. All while patting myself of the back for being an amazing fish mom.

Unfortunately, a few hours later, I woke up and he was belly-up. Turns out I did the math right the first time. πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ This failure didn’t deter me from my joke. I got out (IN A SNOW STORM) and found myself another beta, named it Dog. This one was a little uglier, but seemed to come from humbler roots and felt like a better fit to the family than Dog #1.

I was NOT going to suffocate Dog #2, so I followed the instructions perfectly. I didn’t even put Dog #2 in the tank until 24 hours after the water “settled”. Things were going great, Dog #2 truly was thriving.

Then lots of crazy shit, not relevant to this story happened, including a car exploding in our backyard, and before I knew it, 96 hours had passed and I was still a free-range chicken, just with its head chopped off.

Matt came home and thought my joke was pretty clever (if I do say so myself). We bonded as a family, things were going great. All was right in our world.

As we settled back into life as normal, Matt returned to his drumming, we worked, everything was fine. Then two days later, Dog #2 bellied up. It was unexpected and devastating. I had no warning.

I REFUSE TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR DOG #2’S UNTIMELY DEATH. I’m convinced that the tank (which was directly above the music room) was effected by the drumming. Like the sound waves jostled his sanctuary and led to his demise. I have no idea if this has any scientific/intelligent backing at all, but I’m sticking with it. Matt says I overfed Dog #2. He is wrong. Probably.

So either way, we are now in a crisis; 2 “dogs” in a week. I’m not one to give up easily, but the thought of killing another fish wasn’t settling well. Matt recommended that I move the fish tank, so it was not directly above the music room (just in case I was actually right).

But here’s the thing, I liked where the fish tank was. It’s pretty, it fits the kitchen decoration scheme well, and honestly, it’s just really aesthetically pleasing.

So.. I bought fake fish. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

So far, they’re very low maintenance. They never need food (or get overfed), they are completely unbothered by the drums, and they don’t even make the tank a mess… and the aesthetic remains the same.

Fake fish, in a real tank, for a “certain” appearance. What a metaphor for life – I think we are all guilty of being fake (fish) for a prettier looking life (tank). I don’t know what to think of this whole fish/tank dilemma. I’m going to have to reflect on this whole metaphor for a while. I’m bothered by my superficiality, but like. not enough to.. not buy fake fish for my kitchen fish tank. At least, I’m being honest about my fake-ness, that has to give me some credibility points.

In the end, I guess we’re all just fake fish sometimes. Thus is life. One dog, two dog, blue fish, blue fish, and a whole pile of fake tropical fish.

Sunny daze ahead, sweet friends (probably). Don’t be fake fish, but if you are, at least be honest with yourself. 😝πŸ₯°

Trying something new: Meet Rachel!

Hi, hi, hello! How are you this beautiful Monday?! It’s 93Β° in Omaha and no one, and I do mean quite literally, NO ONE, is upset about it. What a great way to start the week! Otherwise.. not a lot new here. I generally pay it forward in the McDonald’s line on Monday, but today, someone paid it forward to me. That was kind of a special treat, kindness goes a LONG way, especially on Mondays.

So today, I thought we would do something a little different. My beautiful, confident, talented friend, Rachel G., has been writing for some time now. Unlike me, she kills it at the scene-setting and details. So, for fun (and because I’m supposed to be using this time to go through my clothes to give her), she’s hacking Sunny Daze. 🌞

My name is Rachel. I love writing in my free time. Some people have told me to really sit down and focus on writing a small chapter book, and then publish it. I’ve never been to proud of the writings I’ve done. After my creative writing class and the teacher told me to keep writing, I looked at all my writings and my mind set changed, and I’ve been so proud of it. Other than writing I love playing my guitar and making my pie music and songs, they usually aren’t great but they are fun to do! I have two amazing dogs at home, Daisy and Roxy. I love them to death. I did color guard all four years of high school, and I’ll be graduating soon! I can’t wait to go to college and start my life. I really want to become a EMT. I also would love to get an English major as well so if the EMT thing doesn’t work out then writing will. Oh, and I’m fascinated by space.

Fun fact: space freaks me (Ashley) the eff out!

Here’s a few of her short proses to share with you, and I (Ashley) can’t wait to share all your feedback and kind words with her! You guys really are the most supportive, and probably have so much more creative writing wisdom to provide than me. If nothing else, maybe we can convince her to start her own blog! ❀️

1 – My kingdom

Cecilia dropped to the cold, cobblestone ground and her head fell forward. β€œIt’s not fair.” She muttered the words through her frowning lips. Her sapphire eyes dull and dead as she looked at her hands that held her body up, as it was slowly getting harder to hold up. She started to feel her own arms giving in to the weight as the horses’ hooves drifted into the wind, blank, soundless, and gone. Her golden sun kissed hair draped around her shoulders as she just was still. Cecilia’s body shook as she gasped for air to fill her lungs, but it was pushed out by the tears that fought to leave her eyes. She sat back, her pink dress that once dazzled in the light was now dull, ripped, and discolored, like a grey sky after a bad storm.

2 – Forest whispers

The forest trees fluttered back and forth in the soft wind. As the branches groaned from being pushed the leaves from the branches happily danced. Following the bark down with its jagged lines that led to the ground and soft long green grass. Aurora's acoustics filtered back against her fluffy golden head. Her emerald hues floated over the shifting trees. The fea ran her pink ribbon over her nose once dry nose know, wet and cold. Slowly lifting her chestnut ears up with white tips to top it off she closed her emerald eyes listening, waiting then she heard it. The green trees around her whispering to her. Lifting a paw up from the warm grass to move her forward slowly she placed it back down the once golden step gulped in by the tall grass, with grace and silence. Reopening the rare colored optics she waved her fluffy, long tassel, the grass waved back at her as the wolf moved fourth into the thick forest.

3 – Home is where the block is

Adam looked around before noticing the street around him was still, no one in the next two mile radice, or at least that’s what the cubic wristband said. Used to the emptiness, and loving the fact of being alone he pulled a small block from his pocket out. The cube shifted in size from the small pocket to his hand and he tossed it back from his right to his left before letting it finally settle in the initial hand, his right. Now woken up by the rude gesture the block glowed a blue streak like the sapphires of a rock with a fading tail of sky blue to a whiteness like a cloud started to move. Not even moments later a red light chased the blue it to having a fading tail that was as white as a cloud. Both lights threatened to meet one another and once they sped up and met in the middle the block glowed purple and opened up in his hand.

Let us know what you think, sweet friends! Sunny daze ahead (always) 🌞

Don’t cry over spilt Mountain Dew.

I’m pretty sure that’s how the quote goes, or at least, it’s close enough for me. Who likes milk these days anyways?

The title hits close to home. I’ve had a WEEK at work, despite taking a vacation day Monday and it only being Wednesday. πŸ™ˆπŸ€£ it’s one of those “there’s 100 ways this issue could go right and be resolved, but we’re gonna find the little, tiny thread of DISASTER to pull on, and then tug and tug and tug on it, until your entire issue is basically a knotted ball of yarn, instead of the once clean and crisp sweater that it used to be and there is no foreseeable resolution/semblance of a sweater in sight” type of weeks.

I resigned myself to working this evening. The dogs were at daycare today, so they’ll be tired and I really do have to get stuff done. So I stopped to get myself a Mountain Dew on the way home, just a little treat for “trying my hardest”.

Then… I kid you not, I sit down, plug in my computer, and Brantley promptly gets tangled in the cords, throws my laptop across the floor, and dumps all 32 ounces of Mountain Dew on the floor. I thought about crying over the spilt Mountain Dew, I really did.

I mean, it probably would have turned into one of those “my dog died 6 years ago and my horse died 2 years ago and I have other pets that have died at some point in my life, and the world is sad, and everyone hates each other, and people are mean, and the news is depressing, and Covid is still killing people, and I just hate being an adult” rambling type of cries, but I just really don’t need it. you don’t need it either. Don’t cry over spilt Mountain Dew.

So now, I’m in the bathtub, with lavender Dr. Teal’s, getting my freaking wooosahhhh on. Instead of crying, I have some really important stuff to tell you guys. Like late-breaking thoughts that I think everyone should know, including you, my sunny-dazers:

1. Avocado toast is just really not that good. I don’t care if you slice the avocado, mash the avocado, or sprinkle seasonings all over the avocado. At the end of the day, you’re eating plain bread, with the world’s plainest flavored vegetable/fruit (which side do you align?) mashed on top, with a sprinkle of flavor (like a la croix – “somewhere near an “everything bagel” seasoning factory”).It’s a textural nightmare. I’m not gonna fake it anymore.

2. Charcuterie boards: I love, love, love the idea of them. But there’s approximately one thing I will eat on any given board. Plain salami. I don’t even like the cheese, it smells. That being said, I take it upon myself to bring a charcuterie board with me to all social settings. I have no idea why. It makes me feel sophisticated. Normally I leave a lunchable in the truck, so I can enjoy normal ham, cheese and crackers without judgment from my swanky-ass friends.

2a. Plus charcuterie boards are expensive. Like I’ll spend a quick fifty on ridiculous cheese balls and nasty stuffed olives and candied okra, but I’ll be damned if any of that even gets the within a foot of my mouth. No. Thank. You. Your complex and adult-like taste buds might make me hurl. Let’s normalize lunchables again.

3. I’m the level of petty that if my dogs have been at daycare for more than an hour and 0 pictures of them have been added to Facebook, I go through and “love” all the other dog photos in a super passive-aggressive way. It has quite literally never worked in my favor, but somehow, I feel like I’m winning. (No one tell me that they don’t care or even notice, I need this win).

4. The throwing of bridal bouquets should be banned. It’s DANGEROUS. See below for proof. People get too competitive and inevitably end up injured. (People = me). If I ever get married, the practice ends with ME. 🀣

I’m the one flying.

5. My dog recently got sent home from daycare for urinating on goats. As in, she wouldn’t stop following the goats around and peeing on them when they stood still. 😳That’s really all I have to say about that.

6. I semi-befriended a work goose, because everyone kept trying to get me to get him to go away. He was not very nice and I wasn’t overly thrilled with the task. Someone (not me) was feeding him, so he wasn’t going anywhere and he would chase people in and out of the building. I took a couple of personal days, and now he’s gone. I’m convinced someone killed him while I wasn’t looking and I think I am expected to be more upset than I am.

7. I was told I was a “very good flying partner” on Monday, because I sat in my chair, did not move, listened to my podcast and minded my own. It was very sweet to hear, but I think my seat partner thought I was like 12. I didn’t break it to him that I generally sit still and don’t ask random strangers for entertainment. Regardless, his relief was palpable – so I am glad I was able to be that for him.

8. A 55 year old man at the airport slipped me his number on a napkin and told me to text him. I asked him if he was planning on giving me marriage advice. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ guess he forgot about his wedding ring. We were almost friends, gosh darn it! Sneaky, sneaky Ashley B!

9. I recently started watching The Mentalist. So far, I like it. Will I finish it? Doubtful. It goes against everything I am as a show-binger to finish any particular series. 🀣

Guys, the world is a mess. No one is getting along. Feelings are hurt, arguments are heated, and aggression is rampant. There are quite literally people killing one another (and/or strangers) over bad days and depression. Don’t cry over the spilt Mountain Dew. There’s a lot bigger issues out there, and if that the worst you have to deal with right now, you’re doing pretty well. I’m thinking of all of you, sending you my lavender wooosahhhh vibes, and praying your dog doesn’t pee on a goat (it really is quite embarrassing). We can do this. Summer is coming, trees are blooming, and there really are sunny daze ahead (probably).

A series of seemingly unrelated events that almost created a catastrophe: a story of sorts.

You. All. BUCKLE UP. I have an “Ashley-only” type of story to share with you, the kind that seems unbelievable, that involves like 900 seemingly unrelated parts, but still.. somehow ends up related, disturbing, and sort of hilarious. I’m actually super proud of this particular story, because while it’s absolutely Ashley-esque, Matt is the protagonist of this particular scenario. My outrageousness is rubbing off and there’s no one I’d rather share it with. Bless his precious soul. πŸ˜‰

So, to start: last week, the dogs had a stomach bug, a butt bug really. Poop was running rampant in our house. You really never realize how much 3 dogs can shit, until they’re all shitting their brains out nonstop. Like 6 months ago, I had bought a white rug for our living room (which LOL what was I thinking?!). This rug became a favorite spot for bowel emptying. It was quite literally shittastic. So much so, that we ultimately decided to just trash the entire thing.

Matt, being a real trooper, carries it out to the trash and gets the cans set up for pick up the next day.

Fun fact: apparently garbage day recently changed. We keep getting letters from our trash collectors, but Matt and I are in agreement… surely they do not actually need to talk to us. TO THE TRASH THEY GO.

Hint: you may miss important updates like CHANGED trash days, if you continue to ignore their correspondence efforts. 🀣Whatever. We figured we missed a day and had some weird national holiday on Monday or something and the trash would be picked up.. eventually. It was of little to no consequence, we just needed the shit rug ELSEWHERE. πŸ’©

Next up, Friday. I have work, like a lot of work. It’s an overwhelming and busy day, and I have to head straight to KC for a bachelorette party after work. Due to the busyness and my inability to manage stress well, I decide that I don’t want to get up from my desk too long for lunch. So I ordered Panera and have it delivered. I have the app that lets you monitor the order progression and updates you when your order is delivered.

So.. I’m watching the order get closer and closer. Then all of a sudden, it is marked delivered. ZERO PANERA WAS DELIVERED. I was stressed out and took it as a sign that I didn’t need the lunch break. But not before calling them and chewing them out for failing to deliver to the right address.

A few hours later, I get to KC. bachelorette Saturday. Side note: took a pole dancing class. That is not a missed calling me for me 😳. This is actually strangely reassuring to know.

Saturday night I get a text from Matt that said: “I didn’t appreciate how I discovered it, but you ordered Panera. You should have told me, I would have at least ate it.” He thought I drunkenly ordered Panera at this bachelorette party and failed to have it delivered to my location.

but no, I IMMEDIATELY realize my Friday Panera… was delivered to the house NOT the office. πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ also this was two days ago. The odor. 🀒

Given his text, I assumed that he stepped in it to be honest. He always has friends over to jam and as we know, NEVER LOOKS AT THE DOOR MAT, so I honestly thought someone stepped in my stinky soup and that was that. I kind of thought it was funny. I do the laundry. It was going to be FINE.

WRONG. Turns out our neighbors either like us more than we were lead to believe.. or they’re super nosy. Apparently, the trash can still on the sidewalk, the two day old Panera on the porch, and my missing truck had stirred up some nerves.

No, no Matt did not step in my soup. He was greeted at the door by SWAT, with the battering ram, about to bust down our front door.

They call this a “wellness check”. 😬. Turns out, when Matt has his headphones on, he can’t hear anything, like knocking or “POLICE” being screamed around our house. Our dogs, bless their souls, were appalled by the turn of events. They were trying to dive through the windows at the cops “sneaking around our house”. Protection level 900 purportedly looks very similar to “our owners are dead and we have consumed their bodies”.

So, like .0032 seconds before they bust down our door, and “neutralize our dogs” (which I am pretending just means give them treats and snuggles, instead of what I know that means), Matt gets a text from our next door neighbor to see if “everything is alright because there are cops all over our yard, casing the place”. Matt is none the wiser, he’s been in his musician world, and just noticed the dogs were barking “excessively”. Matt RUNS upstairs, talks to the police, and resolves the issue.

He did tell them that this is why I can never leave town, and they were VERY interested to know where I was, if we were fighting, and if he had killed me. πŸ˜…. These cops really thought they were coming up on the newest episode of forensic files. I may have to call tomorrow and assure everyone that I am alive and well.

All the while, I’m in KC, pole-dancing (badly), trying gross wine, and blissfully unaware. But still lowkey pissed about my Panera never showing up on Friday.

Don’t worry, I’ll be calling Panera tomorrow to pay for my meal again. πŸ™ˆ. But my Lord, all that drama for a bowl of soup!

On a more positive note: it’s nice to know we have someone keeping an eye on us in our neighborhood. I think if I figure out who called.. I’ll just give them my cell number.

Sunny daze ahead sweet friends, stay alive. 🌞πŸ€ͺ

Yes. That is the bride and groom tattooed to my FACE. 🀣

To be or not to be.. present

Hello, hi, so sorry for your (favorite) bloggerina’s minor disappearance. LOL @ all of you that thought I finally gave up and realized that I suck at blogging or those of you that didn’t realize I was gone at all – surprise, I’M BACK BABY! I’d like to say I’ve been up to something really exciting or that I have some brilliant new life outlook to share with you, but to be honest; I’ve just been super busy. My phone “reminded” me last night that I hadn’t made a blog post in over 10 days. I don’t remember setting this reminder – but it was a good reminder to get. Sunny daze is here to remind me to focus on the sunshine, to make the sunshine, and to be the sunshine, and truly, I’m feeling a bit like a rain cloud these days.

I haven’t been doing as well as I was. I feel myself slipping back into my anxious thoughts, moments of self-doubt, and my old OCD habits are rearing their ugly heads. I’m experiencing a lot of worrying about things I can’t control, gravitating towards other people’s drama (to try to fix it – instead of focusing on fixing my own issues), and just tiredness. I feel incredible burn out: work burn out, friendship burn out, dog parenting burn out, being Ashley Bee burnout. Please don’t interpret this as me being ungrateful for all I have in my life, I know, without a doubt, I am so blessed. Also. please, please don’t take this as a cry for help. I am not suicidal. I’m just feeling… tired, and that’s okay.

Some of it is legitimate: I have fought with the DMV for two months, finally got my truck registered, and walk out to a huge crack on my windshield. Wtf is up with that?! 🀬

My dogs, both Lucy and Zeppelyn, have had a stomach virus from daycare. It has created a mess. We have 90% hardwood floors in our house and 0% of their vomit or poop has made it to the hardwood. They also aren’t sleeping through the night without potty breaks. They don’t want to eat and my brain just feels like it is approximately .0032 seconds away from the “Harley stopped eating, Harley threw up, Harley got cancer, Harley died 7 days later” spiral. PS: the girls have both been to the doctor and are medicated/eating. For whatever reason, my brain just won’t accept that we don’t need to continue to worry. 😩 it’s a work in progress.

➑️. Quick shout out to all you real parents: I have no idea how you do it. I have never been more preoccupied by another being’s bowel movements than I have this week. Real tears have been shed, my friends. I cannot handle this kind of worry πŸ₯Ί

Work is insane, the clients are impatient, and I’m struggling to keep up.

Our house is under construction, but only part time – so it’s mostly just a mess.

This weather makes me miss my horse. God, do I miss my freaking horse.

But maybe, the most tellingly anomaly to me, is the fact that this is my favorite time of year, and I have so much to be happy about and excited for, but I’m simply looking at everything in my life as a giant check mark.

βœ… task complete, onto the next one.

I’ve been talking about sitting on the back porch drinking a beer and enjoying the sunshine and a good book for months. I’ve been excited to sit by my parents pool and enjoy their backyard in the spring. I’ve had events that are finally coming to fruition, that I couldn’t wait for, and now.. it’s just a task. Even the construction on our house, I have been planning for months.. and now it’s burdensome.

I’m not “present” and I hate it. This is one of my least favorite attributes that I see in myself and I can really go down a rabbit hole thinking of all the things I have missed while planning for the next big thing/event/step. It drives me crazy! I want, so badly, to slow down; enjoy the day to day, relish the moment, live for the present, (a bunch of other clichΓ©s), but I’m struggling.

The problem with not being present is that you never truly enjoy anything. You never give your full attention or heart to your passions, your daily life, or to the people and places that you love. You are always thinking about the next move to make, the next friendship to cultivate, the next accomplishment or goal to reach for, and you miss the right now. Or at least; I do.

Missing right now is exhausting in its own right, because you get stuck in a perpetual cycle of half-assmanship (or womanship). Trying hard(ish) at friendships, giving it (mostly) your all at home making. Being the best dog mom you can be, when you’re motivated. Working out and taking your fitness seriously… when it’s convenient. It’s the best way to create a goal-oriented quitter.

You will always be striving for somewhere else or something different, and even when you reach it and/accomplish those goals, you still won’t enjoy it, because you’ll already have your sights set on something else.

I created sunny daze to help keep me present. To remind myself of the sunshine: my mom visited this week, the girls ARE doing better, we finally started on our house construction, Matt and I have shared a lot of fun “jam nights” lately, I made a freaking bombtastic dinner last night, the trees are BLOOMING, the grass is soft beneath my feet. My truck and I are officially Nebraskans. My new insurance may cover my cracked windshield. My mom and I got an awesome pedicure together. I get to celebrate a dear friend’s bachelorette party tomorrow and do my first brewery tour! I have the privilege of spending the rest of the weekend relaxing with my parents. I get to take a few days off work next week to celebrate another dear friend’s marriage. Shoot, I’m even getting a break from dog duty – and Lord am i excited to sleep this weekend!

Things are good. These are not tasks. They are joy-bringers, passion-inciters, and a pivotal part of the “right now”. They deserve more than a check mark — and I deserve to get more out of the experience than another “accomplished task”.

My challenge this week (and every week), but especially this week.. is to put myself and my heart 100% into everything I do and to be present. My heart and my mind are both so much happier in a present state of mind – and I don’t want to miss out on the right now, for the maybe later. I’ve spent far too much time stuck in that frame of mind.

Sunny daze ahead, sweet friends. Be present. ❀️

Shut your damn mouth πŸ€

One of the hardest parts of adulthood, and honestly, even just growing up, has been controlling this mouth of mine. It runs faster than my brain and apparently enjoys my foot in it. It gets me in trouble, again and again and again. I remember one time, as a small-ish child, I was taunting my neighbor/BFF over the fence, and her mom came out and scolded me, telling me to leave her alone. Even more clearly, I remember looking her mom in the eye and saying “it’s a free world.” I was probably 6-8 years old.

In my lifetime, I have made bad first impressions.. and second impressions… and probably third and fourth. I’ve overshared (arguably this blog is the best example of this πŸ˜…). I’ve defended the wrong people and picked the wrong side. I’ve alienated family members, because I didn’t like the way they treated someone I loved. I’ve hurt feelings, I’ve hurt the feelings of people I love. I have taken the blame for things I didn’t do, because I thought I was protecting someone I cared about. I’ve said things I think are helpful, only to have it twisted around and used against me. I’ve put people I love in positions that they have to make choices that they shouldn’t have had to make. I’ve asked people I love to choose sides. I’ve said things I wish I hadn’t and that I’m not proud of. I’ve said things that go against the very core of who I am as a person.

It’s not like I spew malice (or at least, I don’t think I do). I am just defensive. I’m an A+ student in protection 101. I have a clear idea of right and wrong. I have high expectations for friends. But I try to hold myself to the same standards. I try my best to be a good friend. I try to protect my loved ones, my advice (while maybe worded poorly) comes from a good heart, my opinions are (sometimes) well-founded, my heart is always sincere… it just hasn’t always caught up to my brain yet.

But I’ve also said things to be polite, to seem kind, that I didn’t really mean. I’ve said things to get validation from people I don’t really care about or need validation from. I’ve been fake, I’ve told white lies, I’ve complimented people for things are less than compliment-worthy

With all that in mind, i remember clear as day when I looked up at my friend’s mother and said “it’s a free world.” My neighbor’s mom looked me dead in the eye and said “not for kids” and this moment has always stuck with me.

I dislike being told no. I especially disliked being told no or that I was wrong at that age. I was humbled, but more pissed. But that’s not why it’s stuck with me. The questionable implications of an individual’s constitutional rights that give way in the statement don’t bother me either (maybe this is a topic for a different time). It’s the bigger picture, it’s the fact that she’s right, you can’t (kids or otherwise), just say anything without consequences. The world is not free from your words and your words, whether uttered when angry, when drunk, when hurt, or when embarrassed, don’t get a free pass either.

At the end of the day:

  • Your opinion is yours and yours alone. Maybe you can convert someone, but probably not. You can definitely alienate someone though.
  • Most people don’t actually want your opinions and if they do, you’ll know. They’ll say something like “yo Ashley, I really want your honest opinion.”
  • It’s almost never a battle of right and wrong. But it is almost always a battle of feelings. Winning an argument, won’t ever assuage the hurt feelings.
  • Impressions are important. Don’t blow them, or you’ll end up lonely in a group of people. Trust me: This one I know.
  • If it’s not your story, you don’t get to share it. I don’t care if you have permission. I don’t care if you “know what’s best.” Share your own story and make it count.
  • There’s nothing wrong with white lies and compliments. There IS something wrong with white lies and compliments to get white lies and compliments in return. If you need validation, validate yourself. You are beautiful. You are smart. You are kind. You are a goal setter and dream-achiever.
  • Share your truth, but to the right people. The people that will hear you, hear the thoughts behind those words, and hear the emotion behind those words. There are some people that don’t deserve your truth. Don’t give it away freely.
  • Defend your friends how you would want to be defended, but understand that they may defend you differently. Don’t hold it against them.
  • While we’re at it, admit that others may not have the heart you have. That is okay. You can still do right by your heart, and just know, it won’t be reciprocated.
  • Don’t get snarky. It doesn’t help anyone. And those snide little comments only feel good for a couple of seconds before you feel like an absolute garbage person.
  • Understand that you aren’t going to be heard the same way you hear yourself. Understand that some people are listening with their heart instead of their brain. Understand that your meanings and thoughts can be twisted, even on accident.
  • People are always going to hear what they hear – no matter what you say to them.
  • Be honest with yourself and be honest with others. Tell someone that your feelings are hurt, but be willing to hear that you may have hurt someone else’s feelings too. Communication is a two-way street. If you’re the only talking, you’ve failed to communicate. You’re lecturing.
  • Admit when you’re wrong and when you’ve been hurtful or when you could have handled something better. Use the words I’m sorry, but mean them.
  • Don’t fall on the blade so someone else can avoid consequences. They won’t do the same for you, and years later, you’ll still be wondering if you made the right decision.

Basically, keep your damn mouth shut. Speak with your brain, not your heart. Or if you’re going to speak with your heart, let your brain catch up. The heart is a fickle being, it can say things it doesn’t mean, phrase things in a way you never intended, and can do irreparable damage.

I used to think that to be real, you had to speak from the heart, at all times. I’ve come to realize, that’s a good way to be real stupid, real naive, real selfish, real self-absorbed, and the best way to totally misrepresent your heart. You know, your good, genuine, kind heart. Your heart deserves better representation.

I battle with myself about this every single day. I still want lead conversations with my heart. I still want to be right. I still want to look kind and complimentary. I still want to push my opinions on others and tell people when they’ve messed up (at least based on my made-up standards), but that does not make a nice person or a friendly person, or a relatable person. This isn’t a person I want to be. In fact, I doubt any of us really want to be this person.

So Emily, if you’re reading this.. I am sorry about taunting you over the fence, all those years ago. ❀️

In the meantime. I’m keeping my damn mouth shut, the best that I can. I am working to only be sincere and genuine. I am working so hard to give the benefit of the doubt to others and to believe that I don’t know the whole story, or even 1/8 of it, in some cases. I’m challenging myself to let myself be wrong, even if it’s to protect feelings of those involved. I’m trusting that my friends and family know that they can always, always count on me to be their cheerleader and to stand up for them, but that they don’t need defensive Ashley on alert 24/7. I’m leading with my brain, then my heart. I’m learning to appreciate that every situation doesn’t need or WANT my input, and that is okay. Just know, I’m always here. This time, with two ears and one mouth.. that’ll try it’s best to stay shut.

Sunny daze ahead, sweet friends. Shut your damn mouth and think with your brain, THEN your heart.

Photo proof that that sass has always been strong with this one. 🀣

Getting to know your bloggerina (that’s ME!)

First and foremost… I hope bloggerina isn’t a word, because if it isn’t, right here, right now, I’m patenting it, trademarking it, copyrighting it. IT’S MINE. It’s the perfect title for someone who desperately wants to be rhythmically inclined (or just not utterly inept), that would love to move her body in graceful, flowing motions, instead of sporadic tumbles and big gestures, and that wishes to move quietly and purposefully through a time/space continuum for your viewing pleasure. But unfortunately that is not me. I cannot even clap on beat (much to my musician-boyfriend’s chagrin), nothing about me or any of my chosen body movements is graceful or flowing, I am not quiet, I will not put you in a trance, you will not swoon at the beauty of my movement and grace. I’m just kind clunky: loud, out of place, a sight for sore eyes (I’m sure 🀣). Thus was born – your bloggerina. I may not be rhythmic and peaceful and graceful, but my writing generally is. Particularly, my writing has a natural flow to it, a voice you can hear (mine), and is a mostly quiet presence. SWOON AT MY SENTENCES, PEOPLE. 😜

I am a bloggerina- forget all those ballerina dreams. A bloggerina that has clunky, loud sentences, sometimes- just because I’m also me.

I recently gained a whole new group of followers, and this is my twentieth post, so.. I thought it might be a good idea to introduce me, or at least, some of me, to all of you, out there.

But first, thank you, thank you, thank you to all that have been along for the ride. Wow.. what an experience. I have to admit, I recently learned the importance of hashtags (hence the new followers) and became aware that my blog should have a home page. I clicked on mine and it was a bunch of random travel ads. I’m not entirely sure what that was all about, so if you’ve stuck with me, despite all that, you deserve a pat on the back, a cookie, and a big hug. I like to think I’m getting better at this as time goes on, but maybe that’s just my ego. I’m working on a logo, and my homepage says stuff about Sunny Daze now, and there is a Instagram page in the works, so we have to be making at least (some) progress.

To be honest, I can rarely read my own blog posts or view any comments without tearing up. Sunny Daze has turned into something that I am so proud of, even if it is just for myself. Anyone along for the ride, just makes the ride that much sweeter. ❀️ There’s something empowering about being vulnerable, and being honest, with yourself. There’s something stark about seeing the words, in print, that you are going to hold yourself to. I started my blog because I was encouraged to do so by my many friends and family who cannot believe some of the things I get myself into, but it’s truly turned into a labor of love for me. It’s teaching me to love me; the real, random, genuine me. I can’t thank you enough for being part of my journey, and I hope, if nothing else, my blog brings a little sunshine your way.

So, now, for the purpose of this blog; getting to know your bloggerina:

1. I’m Ashley; enneagram whatever. If you don’t know what that means, you haven’t been following long. (Please refer to prior blog post #3). Basically, I’m most comfortable not grouping myself into one specific category. I can be loud, I can be adventurous, I can be a homebody, I can be a leader, I can be a follower. I’m well educated, but I would say my common sense/real world knowledge sometimes is lacking. I’m not overly spiritual and religious, but I believe in what I believe. I hate the idea of eating meat, but I’m not a vegetarian. Mostly, I am comfortable saying that I am not creative; although, I would say this blog challenges that preconceived belief I have always held about myself.

2. I cry when passing roadkill. Call the Disney effect, call it PMS, call it insanity, I just get so upset thinking about the mama deer and the baby deer, no longer having the papa deer. (Also applies to squirrel, rabbit, turkey, fox, coyote, and hawk families). I’m 27 years old, and I still buy into this whole, animal-family dynamic concept. The circle of life means nothing when my feelings are involved. Overpopulation also isn’t a good argument to make to me, even if it’s logical. I will still be sad, it’s just my way of life. Just let me shed my tears about the mama fox and we can be on our merry way.

3. I’m a big supporter of the Oxford Comma. I recently learned what this comma is, despite using it forever. It was cut out of some of my higher education classes and I never really understood why. At this moment in time, I’m back to fully embracing the Oxford Comma and all the separation of clauses it gives us, because it is fun, it’s helpful, and it makes reading sentences easier. (πŸ˜‰ see what I did there – love that damn Comma!)

4. I have never met an animal I didn’t think I needed. Ever. I’m particularly hung up on goats at this moment. I would love several. Immediately.

5. Sometimes I’m a “Mountain Dew to function” type of gal and other times I’m trying to stick to pre-workouts and protein shakes. It’s all about a healthy balance. There is never an inappropriate time to enjoy chipotle though. Diet or no diet. Fitnessing like crazy, or zero fitness at all. Chipotle is always the answer.

6. True crime everything. Podcasts (CJ, Island Crime, Dateline, Morbid) and shows (Snapped, Forensic Files, Dateline, the First 48), even the fictional shows (Person of Interest, Law and Order, Criminal Minds and Burn Notice). I read somewhere that people with anxiety tend to like shows they can predict the ending of, because it’s comforting. And with true crime: it’s almost always the spouse, for the life insurance, and they will inevitably get caught. How comforting.

7. I’m the type of person who takes it really personal when I have a bad day. I don’t get upset with other people necessarily, but more so with myself. I try really hard to maintain my happy deposition, to smile a lot, and truly believe and manifest that sunnier daze (days) are ahead. I get frustrated with myself when I struggle to maintain that interior. I used to think I just had to maintain the exterior of a happy person, but that person, while outwardly putting on a show, is unhappy. Now, I worry more about maintaining my interior happiness. Sunny daze has helped me focus on that and I get upset with myself when I don’t keep that promise to myself. I’m all about internals matching externals, join me.

8. I take promises very seriously. I take friendships very seriously. I take myself seriously. I’m trying to lighten up. Help remind me – nothing is ever as big of a deal as it seems.

9. One time I did yard work in my swimsuit, with a hack saw, which was exactly as time consuming as it sounds. I got it in my head that I was going to surprise Matt by cleaning up the yard, but I had yet to figure out how to turn on the lawnmower and the weed-whacker. I wasn’t going to be deterred. Thus entered.. the hack saw. I considered it an awesome time to work on my tan and to up my vitamin D intake. I’m sure my neighbors still think I’m crazy. πŸ’πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

So that’s me, at least partially. πŸ‘‹πŸΌ hi. Get to know me more, stick around, let me get to know you. Let’s be friends. Welcome to Sunny Daze – of all the places you could be, thank you for choosing to be here with me.

Sunny daze ahead, my friends (probably) 🌞

Wasn’t kidding.

A Sunday State of Mind

I’m guilty of the “Sunday Scaries”- you know, the inevitable feeling of doom and gloom, the distress, and just plain stress, related to an upcoming week, and an overall sense of dread for Monday. It normally involves a bunch of ruminating on why weekends are so short and lamenting that the weekend is a brief 48 hours.

I was speaking with my therapist recently, and was explaining how I manage to get myself completely worked up, starting 7:00 am Sunday and continuing well into Monday. I’ll be honest, there’s not a lot of positivity and “good vibes” going into a work week, when your stomach is in knots and your brain is experiencing above-average stress levels.

My therapist, let’s call her… Bailey, and I, have talked a LOT about routine, about habit. She often reminds me that getting into this state of mind is merely habit. I have trained my brain that this mental wringer every Sunday is necessary. Maybe not necessary, but part of my normal Sunday, a bad, but reliable, habit.

Bailey also reminds me about how hard it is to break a habit. As an example, she tells me to try to imagine drying off with a towel after a shower. I have a routine, you have a routine, and it’s habit, I promise. You’ve just probably never thought about it. At least, I never did.

This example is especially poignant to me, because one of my biggest pet peeves that Matt commits (secretly) is drying off in the shower. Bless his sweet heart, I would never tell him this, but my GOODNESS, he could make me crazy. His dry-off method makes more sense than mine, but it just drives me bonkers.

In my case, I turn off the water, do a wet dog shake, climb out the door, grab the towel off the hook, and wrap it around me. I put my hair up in a different towel and dry myself from the feet up.

Matt (my precious angel) hangs the towel over the glass door, showers, turns off the water, then using the towel, dries his hair first. THEN he pulls the towel over the door, and continues to dry off in the steamy shower.

He’s doing it the right way. It’s way less cold than my method. It does not result in watery footprints and water drips all over the bathroom. However, the towel (like everything in our house) is generally covered in dog hair (even when they are fresh out of the wash, they are still hairy, and I DO NOT GET IT) . Inevitably, stray dog hair ends up on the shower walls and on the floor. AND IT DRIVES ME CRAZY. 3.5 years in and I still feel my jaw clench, every, single, time.

It’s okay if you’re laughing at me, I’m laughing at me too. 🀣 How lucky am I to have THAT as a “biggest pet peeve?” But it really does paint a picture, everything we do, including exiting the shower, is habitual. I’m trying to retrain my brain, starting with the Sunday Scaries.

This last week, with Star’s birthday and the time change, just felt heavy. I went into the weekend; mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. So I knew that today, of all days, it was extra important to really focus on my new Sunday routine. I don’t have time for Sunday Scaries.

It might be silly, but I’ve started making these small changes Sunday/Monday and I am already seeing a big difference.

On Sunday’s:

  • I grocery shop/meal plan. I love the grocery store. It’s the MOST relaxing place.
  • I clean out and restock the fridge: out with the old, in with the new, and no more mystery smells!
  • I clean the bathrooms. I don’t know why, but the thought of going into a new week with gross toilets and a hairy shower, just doesn’t set well.
  • I pamper the dogs; lots of time playing with toys, brushing, and cuddles for my babies. I miss them when I’m at work 🀣
  • I clean our glass front door. I can’t look into a new week with dirty, and nose smudged, windows.
  • I empty all the trash cans, even if they were just emptied. There’s something refreshing with taking last weeks trash out and starting the week fresh/empty. Ain’t nobody got time for last weeks trash (physically and metaphorically).
  • I prepare a meal for Monday night. No one wants to make dinner on Monday nights.
  • I always shower and air dry my hair, I’m not dealing with that drama Monday morning and those extra 15 minutes.. are cherished.

On Monday’s:

  • I pick an outfit I like, something comfy (but work appropriate). An outfit that screams, I’m here to kill it.. with comfort. 🀣
  • I check my email to make sure that the bone marrow registry hasn’t found someone that I match. I DREAM of saving a life like this. Checking this every morning is a happy habit.
  • I pack a lunch, one that I will look forward to eating and throw together some good snacks. Tasks, even shitty ones, are more fun if you have a yummy snack to dissipate the pain.
  • I always stop and get McDonald’s for Monday’s breakfast. I’m actually trying to cut soda, but Monday mornings deserve a McDonald’s Coke.
  • I always pay for the person behind me in line. Starting my week with a simple act of kindness, towards a stranger, just makes me happy. (When I used to go to McDonald’s more regularly, the girls would get so excited to tell me the next day how long the “pay it forward” trend lasted. Sometimes it was one person, sometimes it was three, sometimes it was 35. Kindness DOES make a difference, I promise.).
  • I listen to music, happy music. To be honest, I LOVE true crime podcasts, and I used to listen to them on the way into work, but I’ve come to realize – music is better. Starting the day out with brutal murder and monsters wasn’t kicking my day off right. This has been a HARD habit to break, but “Should have been a Cowboy” by Toby Keith is a staple. Without a doubt, I should have been a cowgirl.
  • I call my dad and wish him a good day. There’s nothing like kicking off the day talking to one of your favorite people.
  • Once I’m at work, I fill up my “I love my dogs” tumbler with ice (work has the BEST ice), turn on my space heater, clean out my email inbox and write the most simple, easy to complete to-do list. I write down ALL tasks, so I have lots to cross out all day long. Productivity feeds on feelings of success.. at least in my case.
  • I ALWAYS miss a Monday. I know, fitness instructors everywhere are probably shitting their pants right now. I’m sorry, but I ALWAYS miss a Monday. I don’t like working out. It isn’t fun. Maybe my endorphins don’t work. But seriously, the last thing I want to do is to spend even a mere 30 minutes on a Monday, doing something I hate.
  • Matt and I have a rule – there are no responsibilities after work on Monday’s. No chores, no big dinner plans, no errands. He drums, I read/veg out, and we go to bed early.

It’s been said that it takes 3 weeks to form a habit- and I’ve been at this for almost 3 months now. I have to admit, it’s taken big effort on my part to continue to do this, because up until a couple weeks ago, I saw no progress. I was just doing a bunch of stuff, I didn’t particularly enjoy, while stressing about Monday and the upcoming week.

Maybe it’s stupid. Maybe you’re calling bullshit. But I have to admit, it works for me. A clean (ish) home, meals ready, a little kindness, and starting my week out with cheery music is a game-changer, and to be honest, I don’t miss the Sunday Scaries.

I don’t know what will work for you, I don’t know if you even suffer from Sunday Scaries, but if you do, try switching up those habits. Retrain your brain. Future you will thank you, because unfortunately.. Sundays aren’t going anywhere.

Sunny daze ahead, sweet friends. Happy Sunday! 🌞

March 17th: a Star was born and the world ended.

March 17th, 1996, Star Patricia entered the world. I was not there, but I have no doubt she was standing, then running, at a record pace. Star was not one for casual milestones; rather she would often skip steps or do it all at once. I can imagine her gangly, filly body, running as fast as it could, slamming on the brakes and then spooking at nothing. This picture makes me smile.

I can imagine this pretty confidently because she was up to the same shenanigans; running full speed, slamming on her brakes, and spooking at nothing (just chubbier) when I fell in love with her 9 years later. But that’s kind of just how Star was: all or nothing. She was either a top-speed, bucking machine or you couldn’t get her to move. I preferred my bucking bronc.

And truly, that’s pretty much how she died: going 100 miles an hour, living a happy and healthy life, bossing everyone around, and then, just like that, it was over. She didn’t suffer. She didn’t wait around. But then again, she didn’t wait around for anyone, even me.

I lost her December 26, 2019. March 17th, 2020 was to be the first time in 15 years that I didn’t celebrate her birthday with her.

You see, I know it’s Saint Patrick’s Day, and perhaps more tellingly, I’m even Irish. But March 17th is and will always be Star’s birthday to me.

Ironically, March 17th, 2020, was also the day that the world ended in Omaha due to COVID. All businesses (besides essential) were shut down, we were advised to take our office equipment home “for the time being” and the grocery store pick up lines flooded onto the highways.

In a way, it wasn’t surprising, part of my world ended when Star died… and I didn’t expect the first birthday without her to be any less “world-ending”.

But at the same time, WOW, the world as we knew it, pre-pandemic, really was changing. I had no idea it would be months before I saw my family again. I had no idea it would be months before I saw my friends and my office again. I had no idea that making doctors appointments, and eye appointments, and dental appointments, would become impossible. I had no idea we would soon be fighting for toilet paper, and nonperishable foods, and that limitations for permissible amount of Clorox Wipes purchased would be set.

I don’t think any of us saw the world changing, quite like this, and I considered myself “braced” for a world change.

I had prepared myself for the first year without Star. I knew things like her birthday would be hard. So, OCD Ashley planned. On March 17th, 2020, I made a goal to make 24 people smile (Star would have been 24). I preordered flowers for all my favorite ladies, I sent candy bouquets, I paid it forward in the coffee line, I brought my team breakfast (which no one would eat, thanks COVID). I planned for the worst, or what I thought was going to be the worst, and knew how to face it. Smiles. 24 to be exact.

I planned on collecting 24 “good for my soul” memories in 2020 to honor Star. I had trips planned, I had concert tickets purchased, girls weekends were calendared in. The whole shebang, I was not going to spend 2020 sad, because I knew that is not what Star would have wanted.

But then the world ended (basically). Concerts were called off, shows cancelled, sporting events skipped, trips postponed. I spent 3 months inside, terrified to infect anyone I love, and mostly alone. Praise the Lord for Matty and the dogs. πŸ₯°

My experience was not unique. I worried about my granny, I worried about my family. I missed restaurants. I missed social gatherings (only kinda). I mostly missed going to the grocery store without people yelling at me for going down the aisle the wrong way.

I even watched Tiger King (which I still feel really weird about – this needs to be a discussion board topic someday)

After a while, a lack of routine started to get to me. My need to separate work and home was becoming increasingly evident. I was starting to hate all the other dog owner’s in my neighborhood for being the most active/dedicated dog walkers in America. I got bored of books, and Netflix, and DoorDash. I started to mourn the normalcy for the elderly, the kindergarteners and the seniors in high-school that I feared they were missing. I even missed random smiles from strangers on the streets, without a mask blocking the view.

Selfishly, I missed concerts and trips and restaurants. I wanted to patio drink without a mask on my face. I missed clothes shopping with dressing rooms and recognizing people when I passed by. I missed being able to see my family and friends without worrying that they were going to get infected.

This is not unique. I am not unique. We all missed those things/still miss those things, and we all still worry about these things. And we all, want the world to go back to the way it was, before March 17th 2020. (Or whatever day was the day before COVID interrupted your life).

Well.. if I could have it my way, I’d go all the way back to December 26, 2019, but that is neither here nor there. Besides, I can’t imagine what all I would have missed by avoiding the “end of the world”.

I would have lost out on experiencing the most true, humbling, and profound gratitude for those around me. I would have missed out on moments and times with friends and family that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I would have robbed of my extra long visits home, if the world hadn’t “ended.” These were the longest visits I have had at home since I moved. I would have been at bars instead of doing puzzles with my family. I would have been traveling instead of using the time to just be. I would have been busy, but not really mourning.

You see, I had every intention of living every single day as if Star wasn’t dead and the best way to do that, at the time and in my mind, was to throw myself, face first into living. But then… the world shut down.

In the last year, I have cried more times than I can count. I have wished for five more minutes an infinite amount. I have begged to not be stuck at home, to not be stuck in my thoughts, and to get out of my own memories. But I’ve come to realize… that is living. The world had to end, my world had to end (so to speak) so that I could learn how to live, and feel, and hurt again. I had to learn to be strong, to count on myself, to entertain myself, to control my mind, to control my self-talk, and to love myself.. all by myself. Star was a part of me, a huge part of me, and she was easy to love. It was a lot harder to love me, without the most me-part-of-me.

So Star, I’m sorry, but my world didn’t end December 26, 2019. It also didn’t end March 17th, 2020. Despite the world’s best efforts, I still grew, I still loved and I learned how to trust and rely on myself. I still prefer me with you and I would much, much rather be telling a story about you kicking me off and being sassy or something silly, but that’s not the purpose of this blog.

March 17, 1996, an absolute force to be reckoned with, my best friend, MY horse, Star was born and with her life, she taught me bravery, she made me both physically and mentally strong, she brought me more joy than can be quantified and some of the most precious memories of my life.

March 17, 2020, the world as we knew it, collapsed. Spirits were crushed, people were lost, morale was low, and honestly, it has been a very hard year.

But March 17, 2021, I’m here to celebrate: to fresh beginnings, to renewed hope, to personal growth, to setting boundaries, and to loving myself. On what should have been your 25th birthday, I will do nothing special, I’m not going to go out of my way to make people smile, but I can promise you, I’ll remember you, I look back at our memories together, I’ll cry into your mane a little, and I’ll miss you. But then I’ll grab myself by the bootstraps, roll around in some dirt, and take off running to a better, happier, brighter future – just like you would want. Your lessons haven’t left me, even in end of world times.

I said you didn’t wait around for anyone, even me, and that’s sort of true. But I believe now, more than ever, that your presence is always with me. I know you’re not much of a waiter, but I still have a lot of life to live, so wait for me at rainbow bridge, will ya?

Miss you Star, with all my heart. Happy birthday, baby. ❀️

PS: you really dodged a bullet Star, you would have HATED covid.

Sunny daze ahead friends (probably). 🌞