Bonnaroo

The day to head off  to Tennessee is finally here. A music festival that includes my best friend, camping on site, every OOTD that I could ever want in my closet, some of my most favorite artists that have helped me survive through the hard times in life, a cultivated “kindness” attitude, clean port-a-potties (I’m telling you this is important), good food, a week long’s vacation from Florida, and discovering a couple of new cities with my best friend.

I’m not even mentally ready. How do you mentally prepare for a music festival that is going to blow your mind? Its going to override all of senses with loud music, loud people, while we’re sleeping, while we’re eating, while we’re doing anything, there’s going to be noise. There’s going to be this overcoming feeling of belonging with these people, the same people that listen to the same music as us and decided to follow their favorites all the way to this 700 acre farm.

All I can say is I’m excited. Overwhelmingly. Brittany and I aren’t prepared enough for it, even though my car is filled to the brim and I have a coffee in my hands and I said good-bye to my boyfriend this morning with some tears in my eyes (six days is quite a time-frame to be physically apart from your soulmate). But the best part of all this is that I get to spend six days with my other soulmate, my “bae”, my girl, B.

This is what we’ve been preparing for since we met each other. We knew that we loved music. We shared an intense desire for music together. We fell in-love with some of these bands together, some of these people. When we first started going to concerts, our parents we sit us both down or at least talk to us as we’re leaving the house, irritated and ready to get on the road, about how important being careful was. How important it is to be aware of our surroundings, how important it is to carry mace, and stay near each other and check in.

Yesterday, all my parents said was “check in daily, have fun at Woodstock!”

With that, we’re outta here!

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When Ashleigh Met Brittany

I once thought of food as a treat. I thought of food as the place to escape after a long day, and I still see that many people do. However, when I was growing up, that idea was almost taught. Not intentionally, but my parents would feed me for a reward, feed me if I was sad, feed me if I was mad (we would talk and vent while breaking bread). I became as equally lost inside of the idea of food, as I did of the substance of food. I was a lost child in the habit of food because that’s the only habit I have know my whole life.

I see now that girls say that they just go home and binge. Or if this sounds too structured and makes it seem like a disease rather than just a mindset that can be changed then I offer the thousands of printed t-shirts that say “fries over guys” and “donuts all day”.

I’m not saying that this is an awful mindset. I’m not saying I wouldn’t wear that type of shirt because I totally would. I’m simply saying that that’s the mindset I feel like no one else was in except me.

I was extremely alienated when I ate with friends because my friends were kindly skinny, or only had a little extra flesh, whereas by 9th grade I had already hit the 200 pound range and didn’t know what to do about it besides complain and blame.

I had a close friend when I was young. Her name was Carol and she had Polio when she was young. She landed in a wheelchair and then built herself up daily reminding herself how incredible she was, regardless if she could walk or not. Carol lived down the street and she paid me, a young possibly only around 8 or 9 year old girl, to help her clean her house and dance around to the latest Jams on the radio. She had the biggest sound system I’ve ever seen and she was so goofy. I remember thinking I was grateful for her. And I remember thinking that was one of the most adult thoughts I had ever had, gratitude.

She moved away when I was nearing 6th or 7th grade. She had me over a couple of times after to enjoy dinner with her and just be her company. I told her one day how I was feeling. How I felt isolated when my friends and I went shopping for clothes because I had to go to different stores than my friends. I couldn’t fit into anything from the normal stores, Hollister and Aero and all of those pre-teen brands, and I held her kitchen counter and looked down at her because I was finally taller than her, even with the help of her wheelchair, and I just cried and cried about the fact that I was so different and couldn’t “fit” into anything.

That’s around the time that I realized I had choices. Choices to break habits, choices to not get seconds, choices to walk for thirty minutes a day, choices to learn what it felt like to pick up a free-weight and not be scared of dropping it.

But I was still too young to really “get it”.

I could tell you all about the bullies in 9th grade that I cried over because they were once my friends. I could tell you about how I still pray for them every night and thank God that I gave them forgiveness before they even asked. I could tell you that I felt like every boyfriend I had could have had better, if not a boyfriend than even just guys I was talking to. I could tell you that every friend I’ve ever had I’ve never even tried to compare myself to because I always thought that every other girl was prettier than me. But instead I’ll tell you this, I met my best friend, Brittany, and she changed my life.

She changed my life delicately throughout the first two years I knew her. She still changes my life daily; I still see her effects on me daily by my way of words and my ‘instant forgiveness’ as she calls it. But that first year she changed my mind about food.

Food was a treat. I would eat for any reason, as most of the youth do, and I loved doing it. I loved cheese, tortilla chips, and heavily salted meats. Brittany is a vegetarian that was cutting cheese out of most of her meals, loved tortilla chips but chose to stay away from them, and she obviously didn’t eat meat (hence the veggie in a vegetarian). Before I met her, I didn’t really understand vegetarianism. I didn’t understand that a body could survive completely off of vegetables and healthy fats. Cutting meat out didn’t look hard for her at all.

I won’t go into extensive detail because its her business and this is my blog, but she had problems with food, too. The difference is that she only keeps a certain amount of the food around her tummy, which doesn’t make her look “bad” in the way that I felt like I looked “bad” because the extra food and caloric intake stayed around my whole body. Her momma taught me like my momma did: eat, eat whatever you want.

But she chose differently. Once she began to learn about the food industry, organic foods, the meat industry, the lack of cleanliness in it all, she chose differently.

She helped me choose differently after I encountered an awful case of stomach ulcers. She helped me put together a diet that was going to show exactly (take it or leave it) which foods were bogging me down and giving me a tummy ache.

That diet worked better than the pills that my doctor gave me. My doctor wrote me a prescription for a two years’ supply of Prevacid and told me to be on my way, call her if I felt like something ruptured.

That’s modern medicine. That’s Western. That’s American.

Britt gave me the ideals of a monumental new wave of thoughts and dietary intake: Eastern. Its only new because America hasn’t grabbed ahold of it yet. The East was built on this stuff. And I saw my body begin to flow correctly. I was having regular bowel movements. I was feeling lighter. I didn’t have acid every morning. I didn’t have as bad as breath as I used to. I could breathe better. I wasn’t catching near as many colds.

In fact, since I’ve met Brittany and became more mindful about what I’m putting into my mouth, I have caught possibly four or five colds. All from when I would be around someone that was extremely ill.

I used to get sick every couple of months or come down with a fever as the seasons changed from severely hot to severely cold.

This morning I have another of those adult thoughts. I’m thankful for my momma. I don’t blame her or my father for the habits. They were taught the same and they taught what they knew. I have gratitude that I had food. I have gratitude for Carol and her ear and her support of a small child that was made even smaller through her tears and bad feelings. I have gratitude for bullies, freshman year, boyfriends and best friends that were all beautiful in their own way. I have gratitude for Brittany Ann that came into my life as the Universe asked her to (and I love that we fell into a friendship and there was no choice, it just ‘was’).

Finally, I tell myself that I am grateful for myself for being the strong-willed individual that I am. I am grateful that I was blessed enough with a demeanor that tells me I can even when the thoughts appear that I can’t. I am grateful that I have a choice to eat what I want, but choose to eat correctly. I am grateful that I am now a 160 – 165 pound individual that doesn’t care about the number anymore, or even how I look, but I care about my mind, I care about my body, I care about my heart and soul being nourished to the highest degree.

I am. I am. I am.

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Night Shift is Over

I began working as a front desk agent on August 21st, 2014. If you’d truly like to know the name of the hotel, or can’t figure out where I worked, etc, ask. I’d rather not slander them. It was one of my most favorite moments in life, being behind the front desk. I adored answering phones and greeting guests. I loved fixing problems and feeling like it was rewarded with smiles, or the simple comfort of my guest. I truly fell into a comfortable step at the front desk with a lovely group of people that I still will continue to think of and pray for. I made a couple of friends there that I’ll probably never take off of my “references” list for new employers. I met people there that will continue to be friends.

Those friends will be invited to my wedding. Those friends will be in my prayers, hopefully for the rest of my life. Those friends taught me the secrets of the system at work. Those friends taught me when to speak, and when it was best to be quiet. A couple of those friends reminded me of the definition of “integrity”. Those friends showed me how to be a better employer, a better friend, a better learner, and a better person.

During that time of transition into the hotel, I never thought “I can’t do this”, which is a regular sentiment when I began a new job because its something new and its something that I don’t know how to “excel” at, right away. However, with a couple of great trainers, and a ton of positive energy from my way, I excelled. The hotel is owned by a stern, modern and innovative owner that is on his way to owning a good number of other hotels. It was a great group to work for that truly taught me a good amount. That same owner was commenting that the hotel was in good hands when my boyfriend, Chris, and I were working.

Unfortunately, towards the last couple of months that I worked there, there was a certain individual that just had such a negative energy, in general, but especially towards Chris and I as a couple that it was handsomely hurting us in all the wrong ways. We were struggling with the issue of working for this individual that was so intensely against us that we could feel her energy whenever we were around. So, we quit. Back to back, we quit. He quit on a Thursday, almost out of force, but mostly out of how the Universe was going to work, anyways.

That night we were roaming to the seaside town of St. Augustine to see a band that helped me fall in-love with him. The band that helped me through desperate times, of what I may call adolescent-agony, but a pain that was very real in the moment. Manchester Orchestra was playing and giving us good vibes on a Thursday night. We arrived late, we arrived with an open heart, we arrived.

I just held onto that word, “arrive”.

That word was first used in the 13th century, from a Latin that the dictionary describes as “vulgar”. The word is “arripare” which when translated into English literally means “to come to shore”.

Well, we were there. We were on shore in St. Augustine. The sea-salt was whipping around with the wind as we rocked alongside hundreds of others, listening to Andy Hull sing us into a lullaby. We were on shone because we had decided to take a jump into some very dark water. If you’ve read my blog, or know me intimately, Chris and I came together in an awkward time in my life. I was with a guy named Gurdeep. He was sweet, we had our differences, especially mentally and intelligence wise, so, when I met Chris I saw something.

I saw something so beautiful, that I almost cringed from the light. I couldn’t stand to look at Chris and not smile. I wasn’t able to keep from talking about Chris, when some commented that I had a crush on him, and instead I would comment that I was with Gurdeep and that’s that. But it wasn’t. The Universe, so damn beautifully, brought someone like me near a gorgeous guy like Christopher. And we fell. Hard.

We jumped, in fact. That’s how we still describe it. We’re happy that we jumped. Regardless of situations, or work (who we were pretty sure wouldn’t love the idea of two employees going steady), and social ideas of how “wrong” it is to fall for someone when you’re with someone else. But it was all right. Everything was right.

Chris and I fell in-love in St. Augustine. I think that’s where both of us can pin it, because hours after we returned from that place and I went to work and forgot my work shoes and he came by with the work shoes and his precious dog that still melts my heart, is when I first said (ACCIDENTALLY IN SAYING GOOD-BYE) that I loved him. I’ve never seen his eyes shine so bright or his smile so dopey and cute.

The hotel brought us to the shore. I had arrived as a new girl, with a big smile and ready heart to learn, and Chris had came back from another shore (Key West, I believe), and we met right there at the sandy, gritty shore of a budget hotel that didn’t pay us enough for everything we both did.

Which is, ultimately, why we left the good ol’ H. I loved that place, at one point, more than I had ever loved a job. But the seasons come in cycles, along with feelings and mentalities. I was disrespected heavily there, being a young girl with a pretty smile and an hourglass shape working night-shift treating young men (and old) to feel that they could make a pass at me. Chris was disrespected because as much as he did for the place, he wasn’t respected for it. All that all of us did on that team was taken advantage of. And it is quite unfortunate.

But we have both come out on top. I had a cool interview at another hotel. It didn’t work out, but I enjoyed the ability to have the interview. The Universe had something to do with that, too. He definitely put someone else that was better for the job there, since things in Gainesville aren’t where I need to be, anyways. Not to sound “selfish” or absorbed, simply hanging onto those faithful words that say everything will come together for my good (which, inadvertently is someone else’s good, as well).

Chris had a cool interview for a paid internship. Prayers there, please!

We both have jobs. We aren’t struggling. The summer is full of opportunity. And we are happy.

So, to say that I didn’t appreciate my previous job is quite incorrect. I’m so very happy that I was able to work with such a great team. And I’m happy to have met regulars, cool people from different countries with great accents, and to see my name on TripAdvisor was also swell. I’m thankful.

I am. I am. I am.

Heart-full

Today I want to document that it is a Sunday. I have this Sunday off. I have weekends off again. I left Howard Johnson Inn of Ocala, and my personal peace has been sky-rocketing since doing so. I went back to an old job where the job is bland, but I have a greater appreciation for it.

And it gives us the weekend off, meaning that I’m going to be enjoying the Farmer’s Market more often, enjoying seeing my family more often, and sleeping in on Sundays.

My boyfriend and our family went to Ormond Beach today. It was glorious. I am redder than a clown’s nose and we are all now sitting on the couch, waiting to make dinner at a reasonable hour, and preparing to watch a movie later.

I just simply wanted to take the time and state that I am so happy today. I feel so full today. I’m humbled by the remarkable thing that is life. For the remarkable abilities we all have to take advantage of life. I love life.

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February 17th, 2015

I awoke with a headache. I awoke with a pain in my neck from sleeping too long, from weird hours of sleeping. I awoke to the thought of how much I did not want to complete a fitness test in Health. I awoke to the thought of how much I desperately needed ten more hours of sleep. I awoke to the thought of how much I don’t want to live in Ocala anymore.

The first couple of thoughts when I woke up I can contribute to too late of a night with Chris, watching our brand-new obsession (The Blacklist…Netflix has taken over), and just a bit too much of White Zinfandel.

I enjoy late nights. I enjoy the comfort of a long night with a boy that has completely stolen my heart. The one that I never thought I would ever get to be with. I’m twenty and I’m in-love. More on that guy later.

The last thought is what is truly on my mind. The whole not living in Ocala thing. I’m in a landlocked small town that has watched me grow from a tiny nine pounds to a lovely young thing of twenty years. Its been a ride. I’ve had some of the best memories of my life in horse country. I’ve visited secrets spots in Ocala, showed them to others, and been hopeful to discover more. My best friends and I could have almost told you where every store in the Paddock Mall was when we were walking there every day during our time in sixth and seventh grade. The Easy Street all-nighters still sit on my heart. Meadowbrook Church still catches my eye when the sun sets over it just right.

All of these places hold intense memories for me. I have a coffee shop just minutes from downtown where every one knows my name. I’ve been coming here since 2012. My order went from frozen chai to iced everything to hot white chocolate pumpkin lattes and each barista knows what I want before I even go in. My best friend and I have had countless intense talks sitting outside on the porch watching the traffic on State Road 40 fly by. I fell deeply in-like with Chris here. I’ve written countless stories, proses, and poetry at this location. I passed College Algebra by staying glued to the light brown wooden seats.

If I moved, I’d have to search for an apartment. Or a house. I’d find a humane society and adopt a cat. Or a dog. I would be continuing my education at a new campus, one where I wouldn’t know a single soul. If I moved, I would have to find a new job. A new coffee shop. A gym. I would have to find a new slice of every thing.

The only thing I would take with me from Ocala would be my memories, and Chris. And all of my beautiful friendships. But physically, I would be stripped of normalcy. Of normal atmospheres.

But this morning, that’s all I could think about. I have a while left in Ocala. I know that. My time isn’t finished here yet. My work isn’t finished in this place yet. And that’s just fine. I’ve become very calm in the atmosphere of trust, in the lovely hands of Someone else.

I’m interested in knowing if I would still be the same social butterfly I am now, or if I would retreat and focus on myself a little bit more. Social gatherings don’t overwhelm me; I actually flourish in that type of thing. Taught by my momma how lovely community is, to always have a friend. But I wonder if I would give myself what I owe myself in taking a break from so much of the social stuff. I would give myself more of a routine. I would let myself take a day to myself instead of believing that every day I have should be devoted to carving out time for others; a lunch here, a coffee date at this time, a quick run to the grocery store together. Oh, and so many dinners. I love all of my friends, all of this community has built me, but when I say that a full schedule every week since last May has been exhausting me…I mean it.

It isn’t healthy. And I should be able to make a routine now rather than later. Let me tell you, I’m working on it.

But after a lovely weekend in Daytona Beach with Chris, I was able to fantasize about the idea of us living on the coast where A1A is just a step away from our front porch. Where we could take those long walks on the beach. Where I could run and do yoga on the beach. Where I could write in a coffee shop that faces those magical waves as they crash and crash under the flamethrower of the sun.

That’s just been my thought of the day.

Changes are in Motion

If there’s something I’ve learned since posting my last blog post, it would be that changes are coming. Change was once something that did terrify me, though at the time I don’t think I truly noticed that change was one of my weaker points. However, in the past two-three years, I’ve adapted and began to welcome the new waves of change that roll through way more often than most of us probably even realize. Way more often than I realized.

In the past month that I’ve blogged, I’ve had the pleasure of getting even closer to the precious baby girl that’s been staying in the bedroom across the hall from me. There’s something interesting and wacky and mind boggling about an only child (at 20 years old) getting a new child in the house. She’s a blessing, a handful, and quick witted. Her name is Tammara and she’s basically brightened my life. Her sweet hugs and funny jokes and weird laugh never fails to make me smile and make me all sorts of giggly.

I’ve had the peculiar vantage point of watching my parents move from one category to another. First, of course, as my parents and providers; the ones I would run to or run away from, depending on the situation. The ones that I grew up with and knew distinctly as my parents, not as Tracy and Kelly, but simply as Momma and Daddy. But then my 17th birthday hit, and I realized I was telling my mom some of the most personal information I had about myself. I realized my dad and I were having equally intelligent conversations with each other, rather than me just learning from him and his opinions.

That was my particular favorite was the friend phase and relishing in the comfort of having parents that were not only parents, but some of my best friends, as well.

We were still in that stage when Tammara came along. And we still are, for the most part. But its difficult for them to start the parenting process with Tammara again. She’s a nine year old that has switched schools in the middle of the year, who now has to try to pass the FCAT while maintaining her valuable time outside playing with her best friend across the street. My parents have had to go from a “full time parent/friend” to a twenty year old who knows the rules and understands the amount of respect and love that needs to be given in most situations that are laid in front of her, to being a “full time parent” that reminds the little one that she must brush her teeth in the morning and she must be in bed by 9 pm to be fully rested for school the next day.

I can see the hardship that my parents have been going through jumping from one role to another. And this blog is simply to commemorate for their role in my life. Their roles each have a specific and effective role in my life. I’ve learned to love, communicate, study and observe through their teachings. They taught me the foundations of life and then let me go as easily as momma birds due to their tiny ones. They taught me how to walk, run, and soar. I’ve been doing quite well. I’m still under their wings in certain ways, but I know that even that is going to be changing soon.

And I welcome it.

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The baby girl herself.

New Year Brings New Things

I won’t say I have resolutions. I don’t truly believe that “resolutions” are the resolutions to our day-to-day habits. It takes an intense amount of time to stick to a habit, good or bad.

Granted, if you don’t start somewhere then you have nothing.

I don’t want to have “nothing” as my current plan of action, so something occurred to me as I walked back to my boyfriend’s house after meeting one of my closest friends in the middle of the street to hand her some of the pie that I made for dessert.

She was the one who started it; honestly. She told me she wanted to bring me her chili since I was sick. My heart was touched when I read her text message and even more touched when she actually met up with me to give me the chili!

My resolutions are:
1. To be the type of friend that says they’ll bring you whatever you need when you’re sick, and truly mean it.
2. I want to be the girlfriend, the friend, the daughter that is supportive and compassionate towards all subjects.
3. To be the calm one in all or most situations.
4. To always try. Even when my spirits are down, even when I’m sick, even when I don’t “feel” like it.
5. To love. To love as hard as I possibly can, but with a softness.

Tonight I feel completely and totally in tune with what my tea is trying to tell me.

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Thankful. So thankful.