Everyday

A letter to my father on Mother’s Day

Dear daddy,

Hey there, how have you been?  I hope all is well with you and that you are enjoying whatever it is out in that big great unknown.  Tell grandma Mary, grandma Betty and grandpa that I say hello.  Oh and please give Raspberry and Pudge a pat on the head for me!  I hope they are keeping you company and your lap warm.

So today is Mother’s Day and  I wanted to thank you for giving me the best gift I could have ever asked for.  I know you paid the ultimate sacrifice but you didn’t leave us, it was just your time to go.

Thank you for giving me my mother back.

I missed her so much over the past 13 years and now I get to spend the first of many more holidays together.  Even though I wish it could have been on better terms, I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to spend time with her again (you understand, you were with her over 40 years).

Sure we have our moments, but just so you know, mom is doing just fine.  She misses you like crazy and still talks about you like you are here.  But I have seen her grow so much in the short amount of time you have been gone.  She is so much stronger than she gives herself credit for.  Honestly, I’m just so proud of her.

She helps us around the house and thinks your son-in-law is a hoot.  She laughs at the crazy songs I sing for all the animals (yeah you’re a grandpa to 5 fur babies).  And I know you would have never guessed it, but Mom has fallen in love with our newest family member, Lola!  I know, right?  Mom loving a dog so dearly; I never would have seen it coming either.  We rescued Lola but in so many ways she has rescued us and helped us all through the hard days.  I think about you a lot when I go on walks with her.  I think you would have liked her.  Lucy is still not too sure and I think she misses you too.  She lays in your chair a lot and sleeps there at night.

But back to mom.  I notice more and more that she doesn’t worry as much and I think she likes herself better more each day.  Being vegan suites her just fine and I like when we have dinner together every night.  I cook and she cleans and it’s just nice to feel like a family again.  She’s lost weight and has been so excited to buy new clothes.  She spends money a little more freely now, nothing crazy but just enjoys herself more (sometimes I have to remind her of what you would say “just buy the damn thing”).  She has become so much more spontaneous and just “goes with the flow” when it comes to last-minute vegan hot dogs or ice cream trips!  We laugh together a lot and are there for each other no mater what is going on.  Sometimes she is stubborn but you already know that!  I try my hardest to be the best daughter and wife and fur-mommy I can be.  You had something to do with that and I hope I still make you proud from wherever you are.

Sorry I keep getting off target.  So mom’s still not too keen about living in Texas but I think it is growing on her more and more everyday.  Sunny days are her best times.  I got her a necklace with a little sun to remind her of the better times.  We go for walks together with Lola a lot and while I work she makes sure the fur babies are safe and well fed.  We even have little happy hours in the backyard and watch our crazy neighbors.  She spent her first week alone with all 5 animals while Hector and I went to Hawaii.  Again, something we couldn’t have done without your gift to us.  I had a good time visiting with you there.  When you look into the ocean and realize how small you are it’s easier to connect to those who have passed on.  The beauty was amazing and I hope wherever you are is just as beautiful.

I also wanted you to know that I have tried my hardest to keep up my end of the deal as well.  I said I would make sure we took care of each other without you and we have.  Hector loves mom too.  He likes having a little family to take care of and he wishes it could have turned out differently.

Truth is, we all miss you.  Whether there is a holiday or a vacation or just another day, we all think about you everyday.  You are with us all the time, but I know you already know that.

I love you,

Ashley

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Everyday

Clickbait

Social media.  I feel like it sucks me in every time.  It’s one of the first things I check when I wake up and usually the last thing I’m scrolling through before bed.  I have no idea why it is so addicting for me.  Someone on Facebook this morning just vowed to (hang on, let me open Facebook in a new tab for reference…. dang it……. now I can’t find it and I am wasting more time yet again).  Anyways, they mentioned something like this year they wanted to do away with unneeded drama vampires.  I think that’s a good metaphor for social media.  Something that sucks your time away from what you should be doing instead.  Sure, I get great recipes from Facebook and Pinterest but what about all the fluff that I have to scroll through first to find mentioned items?  Clickbait, I think it’s called?  I got pulled into a site this morning that was advertising “travel pants”.  They had some great colors and nice styles and their “clickbait” worked because I did go to their website.  But $155 for a pair of “travel pants” was a little too spendy for me and so there goes wasted time that I can never get back again.

What should I have been doing?  Well….. anything really.  Anything besides scrolling over and over again.  I have a couple of phone calls I could have made, I have this blog that I have been ignoring, I have two kittens (one of which is on my lap now) that always enjoy my attention.  I am in the middle of reading three different books at the time and they aren’t going to read themselves.  Yet, here I sit “liking” another cute animal meme.

I can remember a time without social media.  Where you just had to be social.  You actually just had to pick up the phone or go and meet up with people, in person, to be social.  You had to have actual real life experiences, full of awkwardness and real emotions, instead of thumbs up and smiling emojis.  Just as I am sitting here writing this, my computer is dinging and pinging at me.  Another email came in.  I am tagged on another Facebook post.  Anything that will pull me away from trying to be “real” and suck me back into the world of my own make-believe.

I did just take a minute to see who tagged me and it was actually worth checking.  I guess some good things and good connections can be made through social media.  I have made a connection that is still in its infant stages with a vegan “life coach” if you will.  His post today asked “what are you grateful for today”.  I commented and he replied and now I have found out that we may have a chance of meeting face to face at our yearly vegan festival in April.

Social media 1,234,235,675, me 1.  Score!

So, not all is bad and lost in the virtual world.  Yet, sometimes I do feel like I lose myself a little too much there.  At the same time, without it I wouldn’t be able to be reaching you all here today (yes, WordPress is a form of Social Media, I know, it’s terrible but it is what it is).  I could still write out my thoughts and feelings but they would fall on deaf ears in a book on my nightstand.  But then who’s to say that what I have to say is any more important than just that?  Maybe what I have to say should just be written in a journal and left for just myself to see.  How do you get followers anyways?  The same way you get thumbs up I guess?  You have to be, write, or do something interesting enough for other people to want to stop what they are doing, and then become the catch at the end of your own hook.  Although I think more highly of my followers, that really seems to be the name of the game.  I just wonder how some people make it BIG and some just have their humble little existence out there in cyber world?  I wonder what their defining moment was?  How did they acquire a huge following?  What was it that caused more and more people to be interested in what they had to say over the next person out there?  I wonder if they sit writing and have Facebook open on another page and go back and forth between the two?  I certainly hope I am not the only one distracted by its alluring glow.

I have tried many times to remove myself from social media.  I have taken it off my phone for months at a time (that helps when I am away from my computer or tablet).  It actually is rather freeing.  I know I am more productive when I am at work or just out with family and friends.  But I also use it as a tool.  I don’t really have a lot of “friends” on these sites, but I use them to gather information on things that I am interested in learning more about.  I “like” pages of people I follow (e.g. in the vegan world) or of products that I feel would add value to my life (in fact I just started to “follow” the page for the Motiv Ring while writing this blog; pretty cool little gadget).  But is it really worth the trade-off?  Or is it really just making us all more anti-social while wearing cool travel pants?

 

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Everyday

Solo performance

Music is so, so powerful. You can see how much power it has over the violinist or pianist as they perform with their instrument.  It’s almost like they are dancing.  Just as it can play with our emotions, it can also heighten our senses.  The first few chords of that certain, life altering song, can take you back to any previous place in time. You can feel the feelings as they just happened yesterday.  The tenderness of your first kiss, the fear of the time you almost wrecked your car, the sadness as you watched someone disappear right in front of you.  I can’t really think of anything else in my life that can do this.  Some songs can dig up memories I haven’t thought about in years.  Remembering so many things that I thought were forgotten.  The heart lets them go but the memories are always there, locked away in our subconscious.  The other night I got out of a soak in our bathtub where I held my own private concert.  I had my “I Love that Song” playlist on and was trying to shuffle my music but for some reason Siri wanted me to listen to (and perform) Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning” over and over again.  It actually put me in a really great mood.  When I perform, there is not only an attempt at singing but also an array of movements and “dances” that allow me to really feel what I am listening to and just super relax.

So why is it, when I could use this pick-me-up the most that I tend to shuffle to the most depressing songs in my library instead?  Slow, sad songs that really amplify whatever it is that I am trying to forget.  Downer songs.  Just like a drug, you listening to them thinking that they will make you feel at peace, but instead they bring you down the twisting path into the deepest, darkest parts of your own mind.  Yes, you start thinking about everyone that you have ever hurt.  Ever loved.  Lost.  How your life is just passing you by.  That you are tired of working for someone else’s dream.  What does it all really mean?  And what about the end?  That’s what happened earlier when I listening to Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind”.  All the sadness and fear started to startle my calm mind.  But literally as soon as a more up beat song came on everything changed.  I will never be able to completely forget the sad memories I have but instead I can turn around my way of thinking, reshuffle my music and try to focus more on the things that really matter.

Life is what is happening right now.  What soundtrack do you want to add to it?

 

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Appalachian Trail, Blogging, Everyday

Here, is where I belong

The other day I had a friend that I haven’t talked to for a while email and ask me if I was still going to hike the trail.  See, I had planned on doing a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine in the spring of 2017 (see blog posts starting here).  He lived in Georgia at the time and was considering starting off with me just for the weekend.  Things in my life changed and as my start date got closer and closer (April 10th), I realized that this year was not going to be the right time for me.  Even though I was a little disappointed I was also a little relieved.  The year before I was in a weird place in my life where I felt like I needed to alter my viewpoint and what better place to do that then on a 2100+ mile trek?  I felt the need to walk out of my life and walk into a trail life for what could be over 6 months.  Although my family and friends were supportive, I think they were all relieved as well that I had changed my mind.

A couple of months before what would have been my start date, I had let one of my 13-year-old cats cross the rainbow bridge because she was loosing her battle with cancer.  It was devastating and as I was going through those emotions, I couldn’t even imagine leaving my husband and our other cat behind at the time.  So April came and went and then in the summer I had to face an even bigger loss in my family when my father passed away from cancer as well.  If I had been on the trail, I might have been too late to have ever said goodbye and I can’t imagine how my life would have been after that.

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and there was a higher power that was holding me back from the hike so that I would be able to be with my loved ones in a massive time of need.

I replied back to my friend that, for now, I didn’t have a new start date in mind.  Not that I would rule it out for the rest of my life but that my life had changed so much in the past 6 months that I have been looking at it differently.  I told him that “…before my father died, I felt the need to find myself on the trail, but after he died I feel like I have found myself right where I am.  If that makes sense”.

And even though I don’t know exactly what 2018 is going to look like, I am confident that I will discover even more of who I am, right here where I belong.

 

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Everyday, Vegan

Vegan 2017

The times could finally be changing.  I watched a great YouTube video this morning put out by Plant Based News called:  Vegan 2017.  It documented the shift of going to a plant-based or vegan diet and it is picking up speed worldwide.  I will let this video speak for itself.  I hope it helps to open everyone’s eyes to the changes that need to be made for all of mankind as well as for ALL life on the planet.

There is the link!  Enjoy and lets make 2018 speak even louder!

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Blogging, Everyday, Fitness

I felt consumed

I was up at 5am for some early morning speed work at the track.  It was crazy cold, with feels like temp of about 35 degrees (well crazy cold for Central Texas).  So I layered up, ate my sweet potato breakfast and was out the door.  It was really dark at the track and only 3 other people showed up.  The work was hard; 8×400 repeats at about 5k pace with 2 mins rest between.  The view was great as the sun began to start it’s day.  If camera contact lenses existed, I would have taken a picture.  We were also taunted by an owl; with each lap came his distinct ho hoo.  He probably watched us and thought we were all crazy running around and around in circles.  His day was coming to an end while I was just starting.

It felt good to have gotten that accomplished before most people had even had their first cup of coffee.  The runner’s high did wear off pretty quickly into the progressing day.  Work was taxing.  My work has never really been “hard” in the almost two years I’ve been there, but there is a first for everything.  I had the Midas Touch but in the worst possible way.  Everything I touched turned to absolute shit.  It was horrible and I let it get to me.  I could feel anxiety creeping in to take over my day.  It wound up being 7 long hours of nothing good.  7 hours that I just wanted to end more than anything.  I wanted nothing more than to come home, draw a hot bath for my achy muscles, and wash away my tears fears.

I finally came home.  It was finally time to unwind.  I went to my soaker tub, poured the epsom salt, started the hot water, and put on some of my favorite music.   I mentally eased my way into relaxation.  After a couple drags, I began to think.  I thought about the music I was listening to.  It made me think about my dad.  I wondered if he had been scared during the last hours of his life?  I think about things like that a lot.  Death is so foreign to me and so out of anyone’s control.  I felt consumed.  I became consumed by my own morbid thoughts.  But then the music crept back into my mind.  “……echoed in the wells of silence.  And the people bowed their heads and prayed……”  I really want to make a video using that song*.  I would dedicate it to my father.  I wanted to share it with the world.  Should I go back to school?  Would I be able to make it?  To learn?  To teach and be heard?  I have no idea, but I feel a need to share my thoughts.  Maybe I need to talk to someone?  Sometimes I wonder how I get around these feelings.  What was I doing?  What will tomorrow look like?  What about the space between?

I got out of the tub and finally felt relaxed and ready to end the day.  Tomorrow had to be better.  There would be another sun rise waiting for me in the morning.  There would be another workout to tackle and another day to go onto.  Another day to love my family and miss my dad.  Another day closer to figuring it all out.  I wonder if the owl has nights like this?

 

 

 

 

**Song reference was to:  The Sound of Silence, composed by Paul Simon.  But by far my favorite rendition was performed by Disturbed.  I highly recommend listening to it here if you have never heard it before.  It is very powerful.

 

 

 

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Blogging, Everyday, minimalism, Vegan

Was the Grinch a conspiracy theroist?

Have the holidays turned into a huge conspiracy theory?

I have learned a lot about how certain ideas and industries really work, rather than from the way that they are perceived in real life, from being a vegan.  I won’t go too far into that, but I don’t believe that all the facts, are always presented, all the time to the public.  And as consumers, we tend to place our heads in the sand when it comes to the things we enjoy doing, having, eating or pursuing.  Sure lots of things are “bad for you” but how many of those things do we choose to still enjoy anyways?  From foods, to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs of all kinds (legal and illegal); we want what we want and sometime we choose to look the other way even if we have an inkling that those things may not be what’s best for us.

After having many realizations that everything isn’t always as it seems, my mind often gets lost and I find myself thinking on a deeper level then ever before.  Just the other day, my family and I were in the car, on the way to dinner listening to Christmas music on the radio.  As I was listening and singing along I had a profound thought:

What if the government has hidden subliminal messages in all of our classic holiday songs that encourage us to buy more?

I know that is a pretty crazy notion, but what a genius way to trigger us to spend more… and more… and even more.  A way to boost the economy at the end of the year, so that when tax time comes around the rich get richer, the lobbyist dig deeper and you and I are none the wiser because we are all waiting to get our tax returns to pay off our holiday debts.

It would be the perfect ploy.  Think about it:  we are taught holiday carols pretty much from the time we could understand them.  We are trained like little monkeys when we are in school to perform them for our families.  And in all that time we were being programmed to always want more.

As children we  learn to associate the holidays with receiving gifts.  We are excited by the commercials on TV and the ads online and can’t wait for our moment with Santa (and what better place should Santa be stationed then in the local shopping mall).  Even children with the best upbringing are hoping to get more stuff.  And parents these days find it harder and harder to say no.  So they work more and more while little Johnny is left home alone not understanding any of it.  The greatest gift that any child needs is for their parents to be present in their lives.  I know when I look back at my life, I don’t think about the gifts that I got, but instead about the time I spent with my family (some of whom are no longer with us).  The traditions that we had and the memories that we created.  Sure I remember the year that I got the Inspector Gadget doll that I really wanted, but I would trade that in a second if I could just have spent one more Christmas with my dad now.  Just one more holiday together with the people I lost over the years.  But I digress…

I know there will be some parents who will say that they have taught their children the “real” meaning behind whatever holiday their family celebrates.  But let’s get real for a second mom and dad of the year.  If you were to ask most kids what they looked forward to during the holidays, I can bet 90% would say the toys and/or gifts they received score way above spending time in church with their second aunt that they see once a year.  I mean how many kids do you know that actually want to celebrate the holidays for what they are “supposed to be” rather than what they have become?  That magical day, that for a lot of children, all their materialistic dreams come true wrapped up with colorful paper and ribbons.  Sure some children will have it better than others, but what is the real toll that those gifts have played on their families?  How many extra hours did mom and dad have to work to get little Johnny the most sought after “what-cha-ma-call-it-imal” so that in a month or two it could be shoved in the corner and forgotten about, then trashed or hopefully donated?

Was that really the best use of time and money from parent to child?

Then, as an adult there is a shift.  You go from the receiver to the gift giver.  Feeling that you have to give bigger and better every year to “keep up with the Joneses”.  Blue collar consumers have to work harder and longer the rest of the year just to give gifts that many will forget about or re-gift to someone next year so that they can instead buy that Black Friday TV for themselves.  And the circle goes on and on while Bing Crosby plays softly in the background.  The triggers come into to the radio earlier and earlier and stores stay open longer and longer.  But your holiday bonus gets smaller and smaller while interest rates climb and you fall deeper and deeper into debt.

I am by no means an anti-holiday person.  And I love giving and receiving an awesome gift as much as the next person.  But as I get older (and try to live a more intentional life through minimalism) I just can help but shake my head at the Black Friday crowds I see on TV.  And I am disgusted by the stores that are open on Thanksgiving.  And for the love of all that is holy, please stop playing holiday music right after Halloween!  I feel like the holidays should be a time that we all slow down a little and really reflect on our lives and loved ones.  Life is too short to be waiting in line, in a tent, in front of Best Buy at 3pm on Thanksgiving day just to buy a TV that was probably already marked up so high in the first place that when the price drop on Black Friday the only person really winning in the end is Mr. Samsung himself.  Not you, nor the poor employee that is working and missing time with their family.

And so many wonder why the family system is falling apart.  Maybe the Millennial’s have the right idea after all?  Not wanting to have children and instead choosing to spend their money on living in the moment instead of for the moment you remove the plastic film from the newest fruit phone.  Some people probably spend more time with their electronic devices then their actually living and breathing family members and friends.  Or if they are spending time with their loved ones, everyone is sitting around the dinner table like zombies paying homage to their little blue screens.  Scrolling through websites or pinning the next best thing that will “make them happy”.  The next best thing.  But I digress….. again.

Anyways, just a long and drawn out thought.  I hope everyone reading this has a great holiday however you and your loved one’s choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) it.  Just live every moment like it could be your last because you never get a chance to do today over again.  And no one really needs a hippopotamus for any reason, they can be mean SOB’s!

 

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