You, me, and OCD.

After the catastrophe that was September 2020, and the major screw up with my medication change, I decided I needed to see a psychiatrist, or at least, a doctor that had more knowledge about mental illness and medication that affects the brain.

I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect, since I already knew; I have generalized anxiety, always have. I didn’t really care to be hyper-diagnosed, by a woman that didn’t know me OR my lifelong anxiety journey. Plus, my mom kind of freaked me out, with cautionary tales about psychiatrists just trying to push all the drugs on you, whether you need it or not.

It probably won’t surprise you that 45 minutes into our conversation, she told me that she thought I may have OCD, and I thought about punching her through the screen (I was in a BAD place people!) I was so frustrated. I don’t obsessively turn knobs 3 times, I don’t open and close the door 6 times (on purpose), my volume doesn’t have to be on an odd number or an even number. I DO check that my straightener is off like 8 times before I leave the house.. but I have determined that is a normal/healthy safety measure.

So, I was pissed. This woman, whom I was desperately reaching out to for relief, was making up more conditions for me. She wasn’t hearing me and I just needed someone to listen and CHANGE my mental state, stat.

This just goes to show how little I knew about and understood OCD. I know the stereotypes. But I had no idea that most people’s OCD doesn’t actually manifest in obsessive cleaning, loyalty to certain numbers, and unusual tics.

OCD looks like a downward spiral for me. One gigantic, twisty slide into Doomsville. It’s intrusive thoughts. It’s absolutely paralyzing fear that something bad is going to happen to me or my loved ones.

OCD looks like unanswered calls turning into a full blown panic attack that my mom is missing. It’s calling all my mom’s sisters and my dad to try to track her down. It looks like going through traffic alerts and listening to the KC scanner, to make sure I don’t recognize any cars that have been reportedly wrecked. It’s calling hospitals to make sure she’s not a patient. Seriously, it has happened.

OCD looks like endless vet visits and constantly being convinced Lucy is going to die of cancer. It’s panic attacks in the parking lot of the vet office and tears. It’s requests for unnecessary blood work and X-rays. It looks like money that my dad would argue is (wasted) but also my only solace. I can’t sleep or eat or if I think she’s unwell.

(I do blame Harley for this one, FYI)

It’s mulling over conversations when I should be sleeping. Worrying that I was misunderstood or made someone angry. It’s worrying that a lack of response via text message means I’m in trouble. It’s worrying that my communications were misconstrued or that I didn’t say what I meant.

It’s worrying when friends and family members have check ups. It’s timing how long it should take my loved ones to get somewhere when they’re traveling. It’s watching flight paths and monitoring flight conditions. It’s weather alerts, in every single state, county and city where my loved ones are located. It’s crying when the weather is bad and I don’t want my family out in it.

It’s crying every time I leave in KC, because it “may be the last time I see my parents”. It’s begging my friends to never drink and drive, because I don’t want to lose them.

It’s worrying that my truck is going to explode on the highway, but my dogs miraculously escape, only to be hit by a car on the highway. This one is new, the car explosion in my backyard did NOT help me out.

It’s freezing when I don’t know exactly what to do or how to fix something. It’s being afraid to make a mistake. It’s avoiding certain things because it’s easier not to do it, than flounder.

It’s almost uncontrollable, my mind is truly more comfortable spiraling to the worst of the worst, and convincing myself it’s going to happen, than rationalization. OCD is living in the shadows of the worst-case-scenario, begging God to protect my loved ones, and straddling the line between a complete mess and a functioning human being.

The worst part: knowing that I have been so blessed with the health and safety of my loved ones, that Lucy is healthy and well, and being absolutely terrified that God is going to punish me for not being “appreciative enough” for all he’s given me and how well he’s protected me.

I thought this was normal. I thought this is how everyone felt. I thought it was okay to be prepared for the worst-case-scenario at all times. I thought it was okay to be afraid that God will show me true loss and true pain, because I’m stuck in this state of mind.

That’s silly and it’s irrational, but OCD is silly, irrational, and just plain evil sometimes.

OCD has forced me to live in fight or flight mode, nonstop, for years at a time. It has convinced me to sit on the sidelines of my own life, to preserve my own safety. OCD has turned me into the crazy “mother-hen” to my family and friends. It has caused me so much stress, and anxiety, and heartache. I have spent hours mourning things that haven’t happened, and quite honestly, may never happen. Allowing myself to feel this way.. is just stupid, and frankly, I’m tired of it.

Bad things are going to happen, it is inevitable. But instead of sitting here, waiting for the metaphorical shit to hit the fan, frozen in place and time and not really living at all, I can choose to live. I want to live, but not like I have been.

It’s time to change the game, change the habit, and teach my brain to channel positivity. At the the end of the day, I know I am strong. I know that 99.9% of the time, the worst-case-scenario rarely happens & even if it does: I can’t stop it, all I can do is live through it, grow from it, and love as hard as I can.

I refuse to live in fear anymore, I’m robbing myself of my happiness. Mistakes happen, accidents happen, tragedy strikes, and people still survive. Living doesn’t mean living in survival mode 24/7. And I want to live! โค๏ธ

Sunny daze ahead, sweet friends (absolutely).

Name a person, a place or a thing (or all three): Home

After 25 years in the same house, my granny is moving. It would seem utterly unrelated to me in the slightest, EXCEPT my granny’s basement sort of became a storage unit for my home.

To distill a complicated spiral of events into a few sentences: I got into law school (unexpectedly- I know, a story for another time. I’ll get into it someday), I was in a toxic relationship, I was commuting 1.5 hours each day to and from law school, and I decided I needed to move. STAT.

So I packed up my house, my home for the four prior years, moved into my parents fully furnished basement, and happily deposited all my “home” in granny’s basement. And there it is has stayed since 2015.

I always thought I would get a house after law school, so I always thought holding onto my “home” was a good idea. Besides, any time I missed it, it was just down the street and down a flight of creepy stairs. And trust me, there were times I could have sat in that dark basement for hours, just be home.

But then, plot twist: 2017, I met Matt, who lived in Omaha, and had his own house. By the time my 2018 graduation rolled around, he had a career and a home and was settled… and I lived in my parents basement. It made more sense to leave my home and join his home. So I packed up my dog, my clothes, and a good pillow, pulled away from my childhood home, to embark on my Nebraska journey to find home.

And I’ve been in Nebraska for almost 3 years. In fact, I just established residency (despite no diamond, which I SWORE would never happen). Damn me for telling the police on myself!

So.. If you’re keeping track, I now have my home that’s stored in granny’s basement, remaining parts of home stored at my parents, and the home that Matt and I have built together over the last 2.5 years. So like, 3 homes, or at least, 3 pieces of home scattered along the Midwest. ๐Ÿ˜ฉ

Back to present time: I have to clean out granny’s basement. I’ve been dreading it all week. Pulling out my old decorations and my old furniture, my old pictures and my old horseback riding stuff, is going to inevitably hurt. Last time I was in my Lawrence home, Harley was still alive, Star was still alive, I was two bunnies richer. I had different friendships and relationships. My 5 year trajectory looked NOTHING like my current life.

No seriously, if you told me when I moved out of the 1800, I would eventually live in Nebraska, I would have laughed in your face. But hey, life has its own plans ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

But the more I think about it, the more I realize home is just a concept. It’s a person, it’s a place, and it’s a thing, and sometimes it’s all three.

Home is where Matt and my dogs are. Not where my outdated decorations are or my beach-themed bathroom set is.

Home is where my parents are, not with my broken living room chair and my scratched kitchen table.

Home is with Star’s ashes (which still kills me, btw) not with every halter she’s ever worn and every hoof pick I’ve owned.

Home is spending the evening with loved ones, laughing about old memories, and cherishing all the other “homes” you’ve shared.

Home is the place where the people that you share it with are the most important part.

Home is currently dark walnut floors, covered in muddy paw prints, and an empty, but still running fish tank (because for some reason, I just can’t get the damn fish to stay alive).

Home is having drums as the background beat to my life.

Home is paws on my face, blankets hogged, and sleepy kisses from my guy.

Home changes, invariably. Time changes home, people leave home, people start a new home with new people, friends move forward, you (or in this case, I) move forward (or northern ๐Ÿคฃ). Home is ever-evolving.

The more I’ve considered it, the less home is about an address and the more it’s about a feeling; a comfort; safety. Home can be filled with furniture and decorations, but those are merely things. The invaluable pieces of home are the memories made within the walls, the laughter that still hurts your stomach to think back on, the feeling of safety beneath your roof, and a place to grow.

Home isn’t my things. I’m not getting rid of home today, by going through granny’s basement. Rather, I’m reminiscing on an old home, a place of growth, and a place of tremendous, irreplaceable memories. That growth and those memories will never leave me, as they are not tied to things that filled that house.

Today, I’m going through my old things; some I will keep to add to my new home, and some I am ready to let go of, because they never really made home, home anyways.

Home is priceless, but not because of the things in it. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Sunny daze ahead, sweet friends (probably).

Be Like the Dogs (when appropriate)

It’s no secret that I’m a dog lover, proud dog mother, and a self-proclaimed spokesperson of all things dog related. Nearly all my clothing items have some version of “dog mom” or “can I pet your dog” or “dogs > people” ostentatiously stamped across the front of it. There is no shame in the game, folks. Don’t hate me for finding the members of society that don’t suck. I take my groupie responsibilities very seriously. Besides, talking about dogs is my pageant talent. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

True story: Matt and I discuss, at least once a week, which dog of ours we would be, if we got the chance. Obviously, Lucy is the sweetest, but she’s got some joint issues. Brantley, is confident, but also yells all the time. Ultimately, we both end up choosing Zeppelyn, because she is truly the happiest being on the planet. Nothing bothers her. Her feelings are never hurt, she is never stressed, she sleeps well, wakes up well, and gets around great.

So, as always 99% of my brain was thinking about how great dogs are, and somehow, someway, I got sidetracked into thinking about how much better people would be… if they would just be more like dogs. Stick with me here. ๐Ÿคฃ

Lucy, Brantley and Zeppelyn wake up every single day happy and ready to embrace the day. They don’t care if they have a hard day ahead of them, they aren’t dreading socialization, they aren’t even worried about what’s for breakfast. They just want to take their morning potty break, then snuggle up for a quick morning cuddle session and then enjoy a good stretch. What if we, as people, woke up, took a quick potty break, and then took a minute to cuddle up with all our favorite people and enjoy a good morning stretch?

Every single day, when Matt and I get home, all three of our beasts coming running at us, full speed, just to say hello. What if we made this a common practice? What if we ran to the people we love, and showed them how happy we are to see them, unabashedly and without excuse? For the record, I started practicing this in my own relationship, greeting Matt with excitement and a big smile/smooch, no matter what kind of day I have had. It’s a game changer for both of US.

Our dogs EXUDE joy. They don’t care if it’s an old toy to play with, or the same breakfast they’ve had the last 365 days, or a simple ear rub, they are happy. They love the mundane. Simple acts of affection, a full meal, and attention, and they’re happy. What if we woke up everyday simply happy and were able to find pleasure in the little things?

Everything is an adventure to our babes. A car ride, even to the vet, is exciting. An open window and ears flapping in the wind is pure bliss. What if we approached every car ride as an adventure, and every adventure as if it’s the first time we’ve ever taken one? I’m trying – I enjoy my drive more when I’m not in a hurry, I like the fresh air hitting my face (even if it’s cold) to wake me up. I want (and am working) to approach each day as an adventure, surrounded by my loved ones.

Do you know what my dogs do when I pull out the leash or mutter W-A-L-…? They run to the door, they sit down, wait for the leash click and then take off for the hills. Lucy has never once said: “wow mom, not with these knees” or “did you forget about my arthritis?” Or “in this weather”. (Matt said I should clarify that there’s millions of other words Lucy has never said, because she does not speak English – much to my disappointment). She, of all creatures, has every right to fight exercise, and she is thrilled for any opportunity to move that big, achy body of hers. I want to be like that. I want to approach exercise, like it is my favorite activity, like my joints don’t ache, like I didn’t have a long day. Let’s move our bodies, let’s be excited about it, let’s not make any more excuses.

Let’s be enthusiastic about the day, excited to be alive, excited to go on an adventure with our people, and delighted to feel the fresh air on our faces, the wind in our hair. Let’s enjoy belly rubs from loved ones, simple things like brushing our hair, sharing our “toys” with our favorite people, and moving our bodies around. Let’s enjoy the outdoors, no matter the weather. Let’s jump into the cold water to take a quick swim, shake it off, and sunbathe, just because we can. Let’s share kisses and eye contact, freely and fully, with our loved ones (Lucy!). Let’s yell when we need to, scream hello to our neighbors, and bite the feet of people we don’t like (Brantley!). Let’s lay in front of the fireplace, enjoy the peace, and just cuddle. Let’s snuggle up and share a nap. Let’s practice loyalty and self-confidence, let’s love our bodies, the way they are. Let’s lose track of time, forget when we’ve been wronged, and just drop the drama (Zeppelyn!) It’s easier to just cuddle it out anyways. Let’s love one another, like our dogs love us. ๐Ÿ’•

It would be irresponsible if I just left it at that. So quickly, we should probably take a second to talk about when it is not a good idea to embrace “being the dog”:

1. Don’t shit in the wilderness (unless you’re camping I guess, but in that case, you’re beyond my help).

2. Don’t sniff your friend’s butts. Don’t sniff stranger’s butts either. In fact, just don’t sniff any butts. It’s weird. It’s not how we make friends.

3. Don’t hump any legs. We aren’t in middle school anymore. Actually, just don’t hump anything, especially in front of others.

4. Don’t sort through the trash, looking for tissues full of snot to chow down on. It’s not cute, it’s not appetizing, and I’m pretty sure it could lead to a bigger health concerns.

5. Don’t eat the shoes. I don’t care how delicious they look, how spiteful you feel, or how ugly they are, leather is not as replaceable as you think. Or the couch (Zeppelyn!)

6. Don’t chew on bones. Especially human bones. Your dentist will thank you, and it turns out, we (as a people) aren’t overly thrilled with cannibalism. Think Ted Bundy – not the most liked person in the universe.

7. Avoid eating things off the ground. Especially, ESPECIALLY, if you didn’t drop it and have no idea when it was dropped. I’m all for the 5 second rule, the 10 second rule, whatever your family abides by, but don’t, and I mean do NOT, eat random things off the floor. It’s bad practice.

8. Use a shower to clean yourself. Shower, water, soap. Maybe a nice squeegee. No one cools licks themselves clean. And by cool, I mean, no one without major hygiene issues.

There’s a lot worse things to channel in the world, than to channel being like a dog. Be happy, be cuddly, be loving, be forgiving, be kind, and smile… a lot. Sunny daze ahead, sweet friends, be like the dog. ๐Ÿถ

Zeppelyn โค๏ธ
Lucy โค๏ธ
Brantley โค๏ธ

Double trouble and spite bunnies. ๐Ÿ‘ฏโ€โ™€๏ธ

Today, it’s a nice toasty -9ยฐ in Omaha. That’s the actual temperature, I didn’t have the guts to look at the “real feel” temperature. I’m not made for this. It took everything in me to get out of the covers to feed the dogs. And I clearly LOVE to feed my dogs, everyone comments on their “full-figures” ๐Ÿคฃ

So, now feels like the perfect time to tell the story of the day I made my dad the most mad that he has ever been at me. Okay, it was a series of events, but truly, he was openly hostile there for a while. We are still dealing with the aftermath every now and again, and each time, it’s like ripping off a bandaid.. that’s attached to a bushy eyebrow, and it hurts. June 2012 was a rough month for the family. I think my dad still has PTSD. He still locks his jaw when I bring it up. ๐Ÿ˜…

One time, I brought home two puppies.

Okay, first off, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I was 19. I had just gotten a new house (that my parents so graciously furnished and helped purchase). I had a job. I had planned on my adorable baby black lab puppy, Lucy, for an entire year. Seriously.. planning for Lucy may have been what got me through the dorm “experience”, besides Courtney of course ๐Ÿ˜˜. Everyone, including my parents, knew about and approved of the future-Lucy.

So, when the time came, I was searching for the perfect breeder. And there were NO litters. Anywhere. For months, I couldn’t find a black lab puppy.

So, I got a rabbit. A “mini-Dutch,” the type that isn’t supposed to get bigger than a couple of pounds. S(he) wore a dresses and I brought her(him) everywhere with me. Her name was Remy and she was a good girl… until she wasn’t.

Fun fact about rabbits, they don’t grow their testicles right away. HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT ASHLEY (you’re probably thinking)?! So glad you asked. I was brushing Remy, had her/him flipped on her/his back.. and I found a tumor.

Immediately, I panic. I know this is probably shocking because I’m naturally such a calm person. ๐Ÿ™„

I take her straight to the vet to get this tumor examined/taken care of. The vet laughed and laughed and laughed at me, for weeks. I’m probably still the running joke in that vet clinic. I didn’t notice that Remy had matching tumors. Remy grew TESTICLES on me. Remy โžก๏ธ Remington, no more dresses. ๐Ÿฐ oh, and Remington was NOT mini. He was 12 pounds of love. ๐Ÿ™ˆ

After that trauma, it probably would have been appropriate for me to just cool it on the animal hunt, but if you know me at all, you know that was not going to happen. A friend convinced me that I should go look at the shelter “just for fun.”

And I’m not kidding.. the first kennel we see.. TWO black lab puppies. Immediately, I adopted them. 0 thought AT ALL. Against all my mother’s advice, I absolutely did NOT sleep on the decision. I had my credit card out, ready to be swiped, before my brain even caught up to my heart.

To be honest, we need to take a moment to thank the LORD that the littermate brother was in a separate kennel down the hall, and they weren’t all three together, otherwise.. I swear I would have walked out with all three. Self control and puppies are incongruent concepts for me.

… so I send a picture of the girls to my parents and said Congrats Grandpawrents! I’m not sure my dad has ever dialed my number so quickly in his life. There was a lot of “NO NO NO, blah blah -new house, you don’t have time for two dogs. Blah blah DO YOU NOT REMEMBER THE TWO PUPPIES WE HAD WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD?!”

But it was a done deal. I had already named them. Lucy and Harley were coming home.

And my GOD were they naughty. My dad was 100% right. Apparently, I did NOT remember the puppies we had as children, because the level of destruction that these puppies brought to my new house.. and new furniture… was offensive. I should have known when they puked 3 times each in my new jeep on the short drive from the shelter to my house. No exaggeration, the shelter was 3 blocks from my house. They EACH puked 3 times.. in three blocks. That was just a preview of what was to come.

Toys were shredded, blankets were annihilated, walls were pooped on. Window screens were chewed out, and there were teeth marks on all the trim in the house. Brand new furniture was worn in, carpets destroyed, outdoor furniture demolished. My jeep permanently smelled like dog vomit.

They grew, quickly. All my plans to train them when they were little and manageable, were quickly tossed to the side. Come to find out, my little labbies were actually rotties. Lucy was 40 pounds at 4 months, Harley was 53 pounds. I was 90 pounds. They literally outweighed me from the beginning.

It was never more clear that I bit off more than I could chew, than the day I took them both on a walk, to “work on leash skills”. First, Harley wouldn’t stop doing somersaults and tangling her leash with Lucy’s. Lucy laid down in the middle of a crosswalk. Overall, the experience was going horribly. BUT THEN, a skateboarder came by, made a loud noise scaring them, and they ran for the hills. I was so caught off guard, so disoriented, so confused (and possibly concussed), that I couldn’t let go of the leashes. My dumbass held onto these damn leashes as these dogs drug me down the street, through a bush, over sidewalks.

How long did this last? Surely, I let go, right? Sure didn’t. Cars had to pull over. A man jumped on my dogs to get them to stop. 4 blocks. We went four blocks before we ran into our superhero… literally. There is no road rash like the type of road rash that comes from 4 blocks of cement, bushes, sidewalks and curbs. My arms were outstretched, from holding the leashes, so the insides of my arms were destroyed, my knees and thighs were bleeding, even my poor chin was bloodied.

It was an experience. At that moment, I knew my dad was right. But don’t worry, it took many, many more years (and vet bills) before I ever gave my dad the satisfaction of my agreement… two littermate puppies might not have been my BEST decision. But don’t worry, it only got worse, a couple days later.

I was all about my zoo. I had the fish and my horse too. I loved it. I loved the chaos and having all my items be destroyed (apparently). So, when my boyfriend at the time told me I couldn’t have another rabbit, I was bent and determined to prove him wrong.

19 year old Ashley with her “own house” wasn’t one to be told no. So, I promptly went out and bought ANOTHER bunny. A spite bunny – named Apollo.

In a matter of two weeks, I had moved from the dorms, adopted a rabbit, dealt with the shock of finding out my rabbit was male, adopted two puppies (very against my parents wishes) and bought a spite bunny, just to prove I could.

June 2012 was a busy one. My dad didn’t speak to me, besides one word sentences, for the entire summer.

100% worth it. ๐Ÿ˜‰. Despite the mess, the chaos, the money, the destruction, I wouldn’t have changed my girls for the world. โค๏ธ he did eventually come around, I will admit. He loved Harley until she passed away and he still calls Lucy his special girl. I know, deep down, he’s glad they were mine.

… deep, deep down. Never did get approval for the bunnies though. ๐Ÿ™ˆ

June 2012 was my favorite (sans the silent treatment from my dad). I loved my home and all the paws I shared it with. โค๏ธ those were some sunny daze, friends.

My little Jayhawksโค๏ธ๐Ÿ’™
They loved one another so wellโค๏ธ

Sunny daze ahead, sweet friends. Stay warm, buy the puppie(s). โค๏ธ

But did you survive Florida?

Today, opening up my blog app, my gut reaction was to go on this massive diatribe about the last 72 hours. I mean, for the love of God, a car exploded in my backyard. It’s been a BATTLE. I’m also coughing. I think it’s from the smoke; but of course, COVID exists so who freaking knows? So needless to say, it’s a 100% full-fledged pity party up in here. But I’m honestly not having a good time feeling this way, and dragging you down, with my made-up bullshit and first world problems, sounds like a really good way to turn into a major pain in the ass. SO.. that’s all I will say about that.

So today, let’s talk about trips, sun-shiny wonderful trips. We have a running family tradition, every summer, we spend a week or two in Destin, Florida. It’s our favorite week of the year and I am so blessed to be able to count the number of summers I haven’t gotten to go on one hand. 27 years, almost 27 summers.

Of course, once I was of dating age, I was INSISTENT that I had to have my boyfriend at the time go with me. Man, I wish I woulda just enjoyed that time with family, but what can I say? Teenage Ashley was stupid. ๐Ÿ˜

It started as a running joke, but sort of turned into a curse. Each and every time a new boyfriend made it to Destin with the family, the relationship would end shortly thereafter. It became my test, can I travel with this person? Do we vacation the same? HINT: 4/5 didn’t make the cut. ๐Ÿคฃ it’s not on them.. it’s me.

Side note: is this a lot of boys? Lol 5 serious boyfriends.. from ages 15-27. Do high school relationships count as serious relationships? Do first year of college relationships count as serious relationships? Do I have a need to be in a relationship? ๐Ÿคฃ need honest feedback. Also accepting well meaning diagnoses. ๐Ÿ™ƒ

Boys: this will be the last time I fall on a blade for you, but I think it’s important to be honest. It really is me that creates the problem.

I cannot overstate how important it is to vacation the same. I’m so mellow. Vacation Ashley wants a good novel, evening puzzles, all the seafood we can find, and a lounge chair on the beach, with umbrella access, and bud light. That is it. I do not want to go out clubbing. I do not want to sightsee. I do not want to go on adventures and go shopping and drive places.

My ass… is parked… in the beach chair working on my tan.. for the entirety of our trip. ๐Ÿ

This has always been the issue. My determined laziness and simplicity clashes with the adventurous; the ones that want to try new things and restaurants. The ones that want to make friends (ew) and like.. bond with them (ew). The ones that want to go dancing, and putt-putt golf, and participate in water park activities, are in direct conflict with my tranquil, sedentary, slightly tipsy and reclusive vacation vibe.

Without fail, 4 times I brought a boy with me (Boys I had been dating for a long time or even lived with) .. and there was the inevitable, particular moment, mid-trip, that the entire family just knew it was over. Too much action to upset my non-action. And we would all tiptoe around it like we had NO idea what was happening. Sure, maybe not the first time, but times 2-4? We definitely knew what was brewing.

In all of these situations (besides one where I was literally driven so insane I wasn’t sure we were taking the same plane home), I tried to make it work, I tried to push these feelings aside, I tried to think logically: making the whole “52 weeks a year, and only two of them are for vacation, it’s not that big of a deal” argument with myself.

But it is. It really, really is. Vacations are different for everyone and everyone has different expectations, but you deserve to enjoy your vacation the way you like it. Those 2 weeks are hard earned, much anticipated, VALUED, weeks. You shouldn’t have to compromise on them.

So.. that brings us to Matt. Matt has been to Destin (2 years ago… this feels promising), we have cruised, we have road tripped. We have explored NYC and Montreal (not our “ideal” beach adventure, but we’re glad we did it).

Matt meets my lazy, morning reads with his lazy morning music listening, he tries all the seafood and even likes most of it! He never wants to go clubbing and he will never talk to random people to try to make “friends”. He will stare at the ocean, chug bud light, and just be.

Silent. Relaxing. Comfortable. I love to go on trips with him..

Now the actual act of traveling, that is an entirely different story. I have never met someone with worse luck while traveling… EVER. it’s borderline unbelievable and it’s honestly become so expected, that morale starts low, and expectations are always met… and seemingly made worse than you could have ever thought. I can make an entire blog all about his horrible traveling luck – but this one, I wanna keep mushy-gushy.

I figure, as long as we can get there, I know we will have a great time. A day of travel torture one way and a day of travel torture on the way back home, is worth all the time in between.

I’m thankful for my vacation-equivalent. He makes life so much more fun! I’m thankful he survived Florida and honestly, I think it was at the moment, heading home, happy, well-rested, sun kissed and 10 pounds heavier from all the shrimp we could find, that I knew I found my person. ๐Ÿฅฐ

Find your vacation person, do not vacation settle. It’s important.

So for now, I’m thinking beach side thoughts, imagining sunshine and warmth, and daydreaming for the day travel becomes less taboo again.

Sunny daze ahead, my friends (Probably). ๐ŸŒž

Passing the Florida test like the boss he is. ๐Ÿ’•
Seafood and bevvys. The two most important elements to a successful trip. ๐Ÿงก

Small girl, big truck; a COMPLEX complex

I’m not the tiniest, but I’m not a big girl. This isn’t a play on my questionable maturity level, but rather, commentary on my size and my SIZE only. I’m about 5’4 and 105 pounds. I’ve always been the small one in a group, short and stick-like. My legs really did look like chicken legs for the majority of my childhood. Quarantine has helped these chicken legs thicken up (not in a cute way, just in a way). I have long, orangutan arms that reach far, but could probably be snapped like twigs. My fingers are long, and bent, and creepy. So are my toes. I’ve been told I have my grandfather’s toes, but I’ve also been stepped on by my 1000 pound horse, at least a 1000 times.

It may sound like I’m being critical of myself, but I’m not, just honest. I like myself, and my elongated limbs, and broken extremities. The broken parts remind me of Star, and wow, do I love being reminded of Star. Every twisted finger and smushed/jammed up toe reminds me of my girl. I wouldn’t change that for the world.

But as much as I love being tiny, there’s a part of me that has always wanted to be big. Not big as in tall, or big as in chubby. But big in presence, big in life, big in personality.

I used to think that to be big, I had to fight to prove it. I have two distinct memories that immediately come to mind.

Once in about 8th grade, TINY Ashley (70 pound Ashley), got tired of listening to a school bully pick on another student. I was definitely the underdog in the situation. Nonetheless, I looked him dead in the eye and told him to meet me behind the school after class ended. He never showed. I was big that day.

A few years later, I was at a concert with my mom, my high school boyfriend, a couple aunts and some other friends. A bunch of boys in front of us started climbing on each other’s shoulders, blocking our view, and acting like idiots. Eventually one fell, and hit my mom on accident on the way down, then had the audacity to insult her in front of me. Before I knew it, my (flat) chest was puffed up, my pointer finger was jamming that boy in his chest, and I was screaming at him to “hit me, just hit me, he’d only get one shot.” Turns out he was more of a gentleman than he let on and apparently hitting a girl was beyond his threshold of shittiness. I was big that day.

To me, big has always equated to defensive, to loud, to opinionated, to “impossible to ignore.” Big has always meant defending my loved ones with all of my being. Big has always been being the biggest personality in the room; whether it be by being the loudest, the funniest, or the smartest, I’d always striving for at least one.

So this “tiny” girl owns a big ass truck – Fiona F-150. There’s something empowering about being a hoss on the road. You can’t miss me, or her. No blind spots with us on the road. We sit up high, overlooking everything, and just take up SPACE.

You know what they say about big trucks.. it’s a complex complex.

Big is more than size, and as I have aged, I’ve learned big shows itself in other ways:

Big is not always being the loudest in the room, and sometimes, big is just not saying anything at all. There is nothing more unsettling to someone else than offering no explanation, no reasoning, especially when they want one they haven’t earned. Big means understanding that sometimes no explanation is necessary, and that some people, don’t deserve to understand you. You don’t have to understand them either.

Big isn’t outwitting or outdoing other people. You don’t have to be the smartest in the room, have the best stories, tell the funniest jokes, or have the quickest tongue. Big is being comfortable in silence, finding enough wherewithal within yourself to be okay with just being you. Big is laughing when other people tell funny jokes, and hearing friend’s stories and actually listening. Big is being you, not projecting you onto everyone else.

Big doesn’t equate with bragging, with show-casing, or with gossiping. Big doesn’t mean you are never wrong or that you never speak out of turn. Big doesn’t mean you never make mistakes. Big definitely doesn’t mean being mean, and hurtful, and using violence. However; big does mean owning your mistakes, apologizing when you need to, and being honest with yourself and others. Big is being kind to others, but also being kind to yourself.

But big also doesn’t equate to being liked by everyone.

It has taken me a long time to learn, some people are just not going to like you. No matter how hard you try, no matter what favors you do, no matter how sweet you are, they just won’t. People will tell you it’s jealousy because of what you have or what you’ve accomplished or it’s because they are insecure, but I’m not sold.

I’m just not sure that’s true. Honestly, I think it is much more simple than that. I think, sometimes, people just don’t mesh. Sometimes, it’s just you, as the human-being that you are, that they hate… and that is okay.

Learning to be okay with that is big. I’m learning to be okay with not being liked. I will always try to be friendly and respectful, but I won’t change who I am, how I feel, how I look, what I think, just to be liked by someone else.

I am who I am. Not the smallest in the room, but not the biggest in the room either. Sometimes loud, but working hard to practice quietness. Sometimes fairly intelligent, sometimes wildly outsmarted. Defensive, but always well meaning. Kind to others, but also kind to myself.

I’m the tiny girl, in the big-ass truck, taking up space, but only the space I am appreciated and wanted in and only in the spaces I choose. I am big.

Sunny daze ahead, friends. Be big. ๐Ÿ’•

Crushed dreams and Dill Pickles

I told myself that I was going to construct my Sunday series chronologically, so today SHOULD be about picking roommates while prom dress shopping, but that feels like a story for a different time. It’s a good one, I promise.. and I still love her and her mom dearly. But today, today needs to be about crushed dreams.

I’ve published 9 blog posts so far and I think I have mentioned in every single one that I spent years 3-19 telling everyone, including myself, that I would be a doctor. As I have mentioned, I am NOT a doctor, so now feels as good as ever to talk about the downward spiral of that one-time goal. Then I promise, we can drop the topic, for good (maybe).

It started the way it does for everyone. Failing classes, or at least, almost failing classes. You know- those weed out classes? They. WEEDED. me. Very effectively.

To be fair, I did myself no favors. As stated, I DOVE into college, headfirst. Chemistry, calculus, biology, anatomy. It was a nightmare.

Have you ever been SO committed to a dream that you can’t see anything else? It wasn’t lack of effort (as soon as I learned that they actually expect you to follow the syllabus in college), I tried my best. I joined the study groups, I studied all the time, I got all the tutors. It simply wasn’t clicking, at all. But, it also wasn’t clicking that maybe my dream… wasn’t REALLY my dream.

After a year and a half of struggling through the classes, all it took was one, itty, bitty, but extremely specific incident for my dream to come crashing down. It was a small thing, probably considered a non-event in the majority of people’s life, but at that specific moment – 2:05 p.m. on a random afternoon in November, my dream changed.

It started as physiology lab experiment and a frog. Not even a cute frog- it was one of those monster bull frogs, with the big, watery eyes, and the throats that bubble out when they breathe. His legs were about as long as mine and he was incredibly ugly. I hated him.

But I also named him Dill Pickles. I’m not even sure it was a boy to be honest. But the name felt right.

The experiment was a semester long. We were to pick a certain diet for our frogs and then monitor the effect the diet had on the frogs. The idea was that different diets changed the internal biology of the frog; making some more active, more lethargic, fatter, etc.

So I did the damn thing. I fed the damn frog everything to help him grow into a strong, massive, slimy, creep ALL semester long.

Then… came finals week. As our final, we were required to BEHEAD our frogs and harvest their STILL active tendons to do final tests to determine the effect/detriment the diet had on the muscle/tendon health of the frog.

The PSYCHO lab-leader was ALL about this event. She was losing it, practically peeing her pants in excitement. She was grinning from cheek to cheek as she demonstrated how to use these gnarly machete scissors to swiftly decapitate your frog and then move quickly to the legs, to harvest those bad boys.

She may be the equivalent of a female Ted Bundy. I don’t trust anyone that gets that excited about decapitation.

SO ANYWAYS. Ms. Bundy was all kinds of excited about this particular step of the experiment and she was not hearing me, in the slightest. I was explaining, in great detail, between heaving gags, that I would not be beheading Dill Pickles. My explanation was going in one ear and out the other, attaching to absolutely nothing in between. Lady Dahmer could hardly contain herself, volunteering to do it herself, moving closer to Dill Pickles’ stupid square container, as his eyes bulged even bigger. She was wielding the machete scissors like ordinary, boring salad tongs or some other kitchen utensil in front of his ugly face, and her pride was palpable. She was ready to kill the frog. Murder was quite literally in the air. Apparently none of my classmates were as disturbed by the sudden turn of events, as they were all just CHOPPING AWAY.

It was that moment that my dream died. It was a dramatic death and Dill Pickles was only part of it. But not the way you think, I promise.

Without hesitation, I grab Dill Pickles from his plastic, square container, yanking him away from her maniacal, murderous rage. Mind you, I NEVER touched Dill Pickles before this moment. Looking at him grossed me out and the thought of actually touching him still makes me squeamish.

But I’ll be damned if I didn’t get that ugly frog, carry him out the door, carry him across campus, and deposit his ugly ass in Potter Lake (a pond on KU’s campus) to live out the rest of his ugly days.

With PRIDE, I called my dad and told him that medical school simply was not for me. I was not going to kill the frog. I was done. Oh, and I failed physiology lab.

I kid you not, as I’m on the phone, telling my dad about liberating Dill Pickles from his square container and liberating myself from a dream that simply WAS NOT working, a hawk swooped down, grabbed Dill Pickles in its sharp talons, and carried him away. (A real hawk, not to be confused the the mythical Jayhawk – ๐Ÿ™ƒ I had to, I’m sorry).

The dumb frog was meant to die that November afternoon. I tried to intervene, and he STILL, presumably, died.

That day, I truly thought my future was carried off in those nasty talons, alongside slimy Dill Pickles, the frog I hated.

I have to be honest, that was a tough day, a tough lesson. But let me just say, like Dill Pickles was meant to die that day, I was never meant for medical school. That dream, while ambitious, was not practical for me.

The day I liberated Dill Pickles from his square, plastic container, I liberated myself from the burden of doing something that my heart wasn’t committed to and yet, was forcing myself to endure, simply because I always said I would.

It was not all downhill from there. I was going to be a wedding planner (I hate weddings and planning and organization). I was going to be a teacher (kids are REALLY not my thing). I was going to be a novelist (creative writing is fun.. until you realize every single setting has to built word by millionth word). I was going to be a psychologist, but the only person I was diagnosing was myself (hypochondria is a real bitch!). Then, I was going to be an English professor, Shakespearean studies, specifically.

Ultimately, I am an attorney. I’ll let you deduce how I ended up here. Being an attorney wasn’t my dream. Hell, sometimes I’m still not sure it is my dream. But I KNOW that medicine wasn’t my dream. I’ll forever be grateful for the ugly, slimy, big-eyed, long-legged frog. My Dill Pickles, the frog that saved me from myself.

Sunny daze ahead friends, I promise. ๐Ÿธ

#prayforpickles #sunnydaze #crusheddreams

Trench-warfare and friendship – more similar than dissimilar.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about friendship lately.. and by lately, I mean the last 10ish years of my life. Friendships are hard, or at least, friendships, in my experience, have been hard.

Maintenance: friendships take maintenance and it is so incredibly hard to maintain a friendship with someone with which you suddenly have nothing in common. This is especially true in the 18-30 age range. Some of us went straight to work, some of us did 9 trillion years of school, some of us started families right away, some of us (๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ) are raising their dog as if it is a child. Some of us are traveling now, homemaking later; others are sticking strictly to their career tract; daydreaming about early retirement. Relying on old memories and outdated good times, only works for so long.

It’s not a lack of interest; or a lack of caring; it’s simply.. lack of relatability. I want to hear your stories, all about your children’s drama, and your family trips, but I can’t pretend to be in the same place. I can tell you all about my workplace drama, and my increasing vet bills, or my home renovations, but you can’t pretend to be in that place either. Doesn’t mean I love you less, but we’re in different places. Plain and simple. Friendships when you are in different places in life is challenging. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile. ๐Ÿ’•

Friendships without history are also challenging though. I never knew how comfortable my bubble was, until I left the safety net of KC, with old friends, family friends, school friends, and neighbors. Picking up my entire life and planting roots in Omaha (albeit only 3 hours away) felt similar to being dropped into uncharted, and completely foreign, territory. I no longer could rely on the connections from the past or distant classmates. I had my boyfriend’s friends and their significant others.. but I was most definitely a fish out of water. Flopping violently and trying to find my way back to any semblance of my old “tank” so to speak.

But being alone like that, and even a little bit desperate, puts you in a trench-warfare state of mind and trench-warfare tends to bring out the authenticity of people. Trench-warfare is up close and personal, it’s kind of messy.

In friendship, it’s good times, bad times, and REAL times. It’s honesty all the time and it’s unwavering loyalty. It’s rare to find and harder to keep.

Tonight, I had the most perfect example of a trench-warfare friend. Lucy, my once believed to be lab-mix, that is actually almost a full rottie, is the best kind of a trench-warfare friend.

For illustration, Lucy HATES bath time, with a passion. She will swim just fine, but the minute you try to get her within a 5-foot proximity of the bathtub, she’s immediately a 105 pound, flopping, deadweight that has to be LUGGED to the bathroom by her four paws, hog-tied style. (She doesn’t get bathed often, don’t worry. Her misery = my misery).

But Lucy, my sweet, trench-warfare friend, Lucy, hates me being in the bathtub alone even more than she hates bath time. Any time I try to take a relaxing soak, with a good book, she’s right at the door, whimpering. Inevitably, she sneaks in the bathroom, creeps over the edge of the tub, and lies in the bath water with me. She does this every time, without any real hesitation.

That is a trench-warfare friend. A friend that will put themselves in their least favorite place, at the cost of their own comfort, so that you aren’t alone in the trenches. Lucy doesn’t understand that a relaxing bath is NOT the trenches for me, but I know it is the absolute trenches for her… and she still comes and sits by my side, so I am not alone in the “trenches”.

I don’t think you have to have everything in common, be at the same place in life, or even understand each other perfectly, to share a trench-warfare friendship. But I do think you have to be there. I don’t think you have to be able to relate, but I do think you have to listen to hear and without judgment. Mostly, I think you sometimes have to be willing to sit in the trenches with your friend, be a shoulder to lean on, and just exist. You don’t have to have the answers, and honestly, most the time you probably won’t, but being there will be everything.

I have been blessed with a solid group of trench-warfare friends; some are family, some are from KC; some are from riding horses; some are from college; and so, so many are from Omaha. I have an absolute, metaphorically armed-to-the-teeth, group of girls and guys that would come at my beck and call, the minute I needed them, with 100% support and 0% judgment, and just sit in my trenches with me. They have proven it, time and time again… and I can’t thank them enough for that friendship.

So, my question for you, today, is this: do you have a friend (at least one solid friend) that would sit in the trenches for you? And potentially more importantly, do you have a friend for which you would sit in the trenches?

I can promise you, there will be fakes. There will be trench-warfare friends of convenience and the “friends” that are always there for gossip-purposes, but you should always, always strive to have you to have that one true, genuine, authentic friend; who loves you, for your true, genuine and authentic being.

You deserve a friendship like that. We all do.

Sunny daze ahead, trench-warfare friends. ๐Ÿ’•

Lucy ๐Ÿ’•
– Sue Fitzmaurice

How to not do college: a Sunday series ๐Ÿ’‹

I told Matt I was going to create a series of blogs about “how to not do college” and he kind of just gave me a blank stare – then goes “considering you completed 4 years of undergraduate college and 3 years of law school… I’m not sure you’re qualified to speak on the matter.” ๐Ÿคฃ

He has a point.. I DID college, I did a lot of it. Wayyyy too much (0/10 recommend). But that’s precisely why I know exactly what NOT to do to YOURSELF during college. Consider this a how to: how to survive ages 18-22, how to make GOOD decisions (vis รก vis my BAD decisions), and I may even sneak in a fashion tip or two. Basically, consider yourself enrolled in the world’s longest extended lesson on everything not to do, because it’s tried and true.. and I’m not sure that I’m what you would consider #goals.

First, please note: I was unaware that college was a choice.

When I say unaware, I mean, I had no idea that it was an option/there was no legal obligation to go to college, like there was in high school. Not going to college was simply not a discussion in our household and it wasn’t until I heard of people in high school that were going to go straight to work ๐Ÿ˜ฑ, that it even crossed my mind that college may (possibly) be a choice. Don’t be that kid. You’ll just look dumb in front of your classmates. (thanks mom and dad! ๐Ÿ˜‘)

Also, I recommend having a clear understanding on the inner workings of college credit hours BEFORE enrollment. Otherwise.. you will try to sign up for 15 hours of class a day and have a breakdown in the enrollment classroom (in front of all your new classmates) because it keeps telling you that you’ve hit your credit limit.. tenfold. Fun fact, I had no idea that college students didn’t go to school from 8:00-4:00. ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

yep. That’s RIGHT. I thought we were going to be going to classes all day, every day, just like we always had. For how long, you ask? UNTIL I WAS LITERALLY CRYING DURING ENROLLMENT. As in, yes, I was actually AT the college when this little nugget of truth was revealed to me. (Thanks again, mom and dad! I feel STRONGLY that this could have been brought up at least ONCE before you set me free on the world).

Goals are good. Have goals. But don’t shape your entire college experience around a goal that you have predetermined is your ONLY option. Give yourself a little grace – up until three months ago, you had to ask to go to the bathroom. Dip your toe into college, at the shallow end, and take a minute to get used to the temperature. DO NOT dive headfirst into the deep end and suddenly discover you do not know how to swim. I have never been a strong swimmer.

So for example, Med School. I think it’s a good idea to think about it, pursue it, but don’t like.. cut-off every other option in your life. Especially for a goal.. you are not 100% committed to completing (come to find out!). 18 is a hard to time to decide what to do for the REST of your existence. It’s okay if you need to give it some thought. Most people do.

Otherwise, you’ll be so determined that you are going to med school that you fast-forward the whole college experience by completing 21 credit hours (you know, those introductory classes in college) before you even get there. Inevitably, you’ll be thrown in the pre-med program, and taking calculus as your first college class, when in reality, the last math class you took was in like ninth grade.. and it was elementary algebra.

How bad was it? I’ll paint a picture. Imagine me, walking into my first college class, sitting down, and getting up after 5 minutes and leaving class, because I ASSUMED I WAS IN THE WRONG CLASS.

The limit (of how under-qualified you can be) does not exist in calculus class – which seriously sounded like some weird cult-language to me. ๐Ÿ˜ณ Imagine my horror when I realized I was in the right place and had to go back in. I know they mean something else when they say the walk of shame.. but this particular moment had to qualify somewhere on the walk of shame – scale of misery.

One final token, and this is an important one, do NOT wear your cute new dress, with your sexy new thong, and your fancy Vera Bradley backpack, to your first day of college.

Inevitably, you will walk the entire length of Jayhawk Boulevard (I don’t know- 1/2 a mile? Give or take) with the bottom of your dress tucked up your back, by your super snazzy, new backpack, and your ass will just hanging out. FULL BLOWN ASSAGE. Let me just say, it’s not actually as breezy as you would think. And I’m not sure there is anything quite as awkward as mistakenly thinking you look like hot shit and appreciating the stares and finding out later it was for ALL the wrong reasons.

Talk about the walk of shame. ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ bless the upperclassman that finally pulled me aside and updated me on the butt situation. I have no idea who she was, or what she has done in her life thus far, but she truly deserves all good things at all times.

LEARN FROM ME! Sunny daze ahead, friends (probably).

Wellness: what does it mean for me?

Wellness — I have spent so much time trying to understand what it means to me lately. I know I have alluded to it in the past, but I’m going to be straightforward, right now.

In September, I opted to switch my anti-anxiety medications around. This was a decision that weighed heavily on my heart, but ultimately, I felt like I needed a change.

I’m pretty “in-tune” with my anxiety; after all, it is my longest, nearest, and not-at-all dearest frenemy. I have struggled with anxiety for almost as long as I can remember breathing. Medications, therapies, good times, bad times. So in September, I felt like it was time for a change. I felt ready to make a change.

It almost ruined my life. I have never been so sick, so depressed, so low, so anxious in my entire life. I honestly should have been hospitalized. I spent 3 months absolutely miserable… and I couldn’t remember why I decided a change was needed.

And being that low really does make you think… what is wellness? What does wellness mean to me?

Wellness used to mean climbing on my horse’s back, taking off at a full gallop, for as long as we both could last.

Wellness used to mean spending hours brushing her, detangling her mane, and kissing her soft spot on her nose.

Wellness used to look like walking around the Lawrence dog park with my TWO favorite girls, stopping to let Harley take a quick swim.

Wellness used to look like my home, in Lawrence, sitting on my roof, staring at the stars, and listening to the steam whistle signal class was over for the night.

I used to know what wellness looked like for me. Wellness used to seem easy.

I’ve come to realize that wellness is a choice, and it’s a choice that you have to make Wellness was so, so hard to see during those 3 months.

But I see wellness in taking a night to binge watch my favorite tv show, in my favorite place (bed) with my three favorite poochies.

I see wellness in mopping my floor (is there anything that makes you feel like your shit is more put together than a mopped floor?) and testing out a new recipe (I recently started testing out the instant pot.. it’s a little scary LOL)

I choose wellness by choosing to love others when I don’t feel like loving myself. By sharing phone calls, and telling stories, and setting lunch dates.

I feel wellness in sitting on my back porch, sharing a cigarello, and jamming out to Brian Davis, with Matt. Sunshine on our face, summer breeze through our hair.

Wellness looks like sharing a good meal, with good friends and good family, making memories.

I choose wellness when I let myself say no, when I remind myself to take time to me, when I remind myself to rest.

I feel wellness when I sit down to watch a game, at a favorite restaurant, and share a couple of budlights, and an appetizer or two, with my favorite guy.

I feel wellness with a good bubble bath soak, a juicy murder podcast in the background, and a glass of wine, before an early bedtime.

I feel wellness when I sit down with a good book, or to solve a puzzle with my mom, or sit down to watch dateline or go grocery shopping with my dad.

I feel wellness on lazy Saturday mornings, cuddled up with Matt and our three babies, telling stories and laughing with one another.

I’ve come to realize that wellness takes different forms on different days. Wellness changes with the times and changes with the needs. I have to be honest, I would love to have access to some of my old “wellness” techniques, but how exciting is it that the entire world is open for the pursuit of wellness?!

I plan to keep pursuing wellness, for myself, and I’ll keep you updated on what I find out. Pursue wellness, friends, we ALL deserve it.

Sunny daze ahead friends, surely. ๐Ÿ’•

Sunny daze ahead friends, surely. ๐Ÿ’•