Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer of Suck: 2016 so far


I don't know if the world has always felt this dire, or if I'm just now realizing how scary things are because I am learning so much these days. Paying attention and listening. I'm guessing that it's always been a terrible time to open your eyes, but a lot of hate is boiling to the surface (the top of the Facebook feeds?) and it's harder than ever for me to compartmentalize.

On a much MUCH smaller scale, this summer has been really weird for my family. Our move has been delayed, we're staying in temporary housing, our things are in storage. We have arranged for, canceled, and rescheduled our utilities/cable/contractors in what seems like an endless loop. We were going to spend much of July working on our house to make it clean and livable- that's been pushed back a month. Small potatoes compared to the horror of this election/social justice in our country right now, but being out of our routines, sleeping on the floor, uncertainty, and having our things (MY BOOKS) packed away has been difficult. The preschoolers are adjusting better than I am.

Last summer felt drastically different. I went on a couple of trips sans kids and worked on my novel a ton and day drank and decorated my office. I'm not sure if the national narrative was as rough- it could have been, but I wasn't paying attention. Donald Trump was a joke. I was carefree. I bought an instant camera and spent whole afternoons ordering clothes for my sister's wedding. It was nice. But it wasn't lasting. The fall was all parties, weekends away, celebrations. I turned 30 and realized I was at a place full of comfort- no stretch. So 2016 became the year change. It's kind of sucked to have my year of putting my family through lots of change happen at the same time as a universe of shit is hitting the fan about the way non-white cis people are treated in this country, buuuuuut this is another lesson in the life course titled Hi Ashlie, This World Does Not Revolve Around You.

This year I have tried to balance my place in the national narrative (privileged white woman who needs to listen and signal boost voices more intelligent/ignored than mine, fat woman who needs to loudly celebrate her body regardless of how uncomfortable it makes anyone), my voice on the internet (blogging, Book Riot, and especially on Facebook where there are average characters from your real life insisting ALL LIVES MATTER and getting annoyed when you come down hard on the side of social justice), my place in my family (matriarch, so act it, lady- pull yourself together, spend out on a good mattress, and buckle down to change your address with the post office for the 17th time this summer), my place in my community (you're lucky as hell to have these people, you're lucky as hell to have these people), and my own self-care needs (alone time, alone time, alone time). Throughout a lot of roller coaster situations within my family and as I'm witnessing the horror of the way humans are often treated in my very own country, keeping these roles in mind has been mildly helpful.

There is a quote that I am paraphrasing (butchering) about years that ask questions and years that give answers. This is a year that is asking a question, and that question is WTF?, but I do not think this is the beginning of the apocalypse. It's a time for people who feel a little bit weird about what they see and hear to solidify their stance and vocalize it. You don't have to pick a fight with every great aunt in the world, but you should know how you feel and know how to say it. (As Hamilton would chide us- if you stand for nothing, what'll you fall for? OOH) If you are someone who is in the habit of speaking out against injustice, don't forget to give yourself breaks, because being told you are a stupid idiot for your views (no matter what they are) wears you down.

The world is not hopeless, because Michelle Obama slayed last night, and also because YOU are in it, and you are part of what makes it better. That's corny but it's true. Yeah, this has been a summer of suck, but we are the only damn things that will improve it. Be Your Own Lady challenge: tell me one thing about this summer (or 2016 in general) that has been really, really good. Let's change the narrative. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

To the next people who live in this house












To the next people who live in this house,
You don’t know me, but I am the last woman to live in this house. I wanted to tell you a little bit about the place you’re about to live.

When I first came here, seven years ago, I was a child. I was married, had a career, but I was spoiled and young. So much younger than age can measure. I had known sadness, but not hardship, and I had no idea what I was getting into. Seven years can change a lot. This house is where I stopped calling myself a girl. I’m not sure if it’s these walls that did it, but that realness will stay after I leave.

The kitchen was the first place we changed, and financing the floors was how we learned what “six months no interest” really means: if it’s not all paid by six months, you’re going to face ALL THE INTEREST. That was hard to swallow. The living room walls are blue, but that’s not the first color I picked. We bought three gallons of Tea Time Beige, and after only a few swipes on the wall, I instantly hated the color. The paint is still in the basement. I promise we’ll get rid of it before we close. Anyway, that’s when I learned the importance of testing your color before you stock up.

The hallway outside of the bathroom is where I read the pregnancy test that turned me into a mother. I took it on a whim, on my way to work, and I called into the back bedroom where my husband was sleeping. I told him to put on his glasses, and he looked and it and said “REALLY?” and gave me this side hug. The only light was coming from the sconces over the vanity. It was the last carefree moment we ever had.

The window in the corner of the living room is where I sat down hard on the couch the day my mother called to tell me my grandmother died. The couch was always there; it’s where I was sitting when I called my Papa to say goodbye, when I was stranded in a snowstorm and he was dying in Florida. In the backyard, which I never tamed, I used to think of my long-dead father when I tried to dig or landscape. He must have been laughing so hard at me. Our whole family has watched the birds in the hedge next door for years now. It feels a little lame, but we can’t help getting thrilled when we see cardinals or blue jays. There are wild raspberries in the hedge on the opposite side. They’re thorny and the neighbors hate them, but they are our favorite part of every year.

I wrote my first novel on the back porch, bit by bit over several years. This is also the first place I ever called myself a writer. I was sitting at the kitchen table when I got the news about my first paid writing gig. I jumped up and down and cried in disbelief. Some of the happiest moments of my adult life have happened at a little desk pushed up against the left back window, before sunrise, with a hot cup of coffee at my side.

Last October, my sister threw me a giant surprise party to celebrate my turning 30. I stepped onto the back porch and saw our backyard full will a huge tent strung with gorgeous lights and a crowd of people cheering for me. I was so stunned, but later, when I watched a video of myself stepping onto the porch, I noticed my son holding up his arms and pronouncing “all Mama’s friends!” That’s what I will forever think of when I think of that night, and all the campfires we’ve had in the backyard. How lucky we are to have these friends.

This doesn’t cover all the memories of this home: sitting on the front porch steps eating popsicles, dance parties after dinner with sauce-covered boys, greeting trick or treaters, shoveling our little driveway, naming strays, walking to the dinosaur playground, birthday parties and Easter brunches and a million nights of takeout on the couch with a good movie. But I need to stop because I know the most important thing is that none of this matters. This is not our home to make memories in anymore. It’s your turn now.

You don’t have to keep anything the same. You can paint the siding or tear down the raspberries or demolish the little back porch. This house is yours now, to make perfect for you and the family you plan to raise here. And I want you to know how special that is to me, to know that a family is coming here. To know that you will be layering more messy fabulous family love onto the messy fabulous family love that has already happened here.


I’m not giving you my blessing, because you don’t need it. You are already scheming, I’m sure, where you’ll put the Christmas tree and what color your children’s room will be. Your touch is already flooding the walls. I hope you have the same profound transformations that I have had while you call this place your home. And if you ever choose to move on, I hope you can have the same peace that I do, saying goodbye.

Here is the post I wrote sharing pictures of our brand new house in 2009. It's amazing how much has changed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Feminist Sticker Club Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the challenges I laid out last week in the Glorious Bod post, I absolutely freaking adore seeing all your selfies. It drives me over the edge of happiness. So many gorgeous smiles and sun kissed ladies and summery feelings- KEEP IT UP please don't stop. I plan to keep posting all summer long- break the internet, ladies.

I was pumped to see so many people enter the giveaway for the SIX MONTH SUBSCRIPTION to the Feminist Sticker Club (the July sticker should be here any day and I can't wait!). Alas, there can only be one winner, so a big congratulations to....

Blythe Henderson Freedline!

Hooray! But I can't let the sticker love stop there, SO, if you have posted a selfie in the last week with the hashtag #BYOLSummerOfSelfies (hint: you can go throw that hashtag on any selfie from the last week RIGHT NOW), leave a comment here or privately message me with your address, and I will be sending you your very own copy of the Beach Body sticker. EEE! I can't wait to see where you slap these stickers. Thank you again to Kelly at Feminist Sticker Club for donating this badass prize.

Another quick note:

There is no July pick for Be Your Own Book Club- my family is moving and I'm taking a writing class, so I have no time to give it the love I think it deserves. If you're hankering for a July suggestion and didn't read You Don't Have To Like Me, our June pick, definitely check that out. I adored this book and will be rereading passages all summer. It's a feminist, body positive, gushing confessional about lipstick, rape culture, bulimia, fashion, female friendship, periods, abortions, and the ridiculous task of being a woman in today's society. I especially love the way she discusses her mistakes and missteps- incredibly validating to me. I'll be writing up my review and some discussion questions in early August.

Keep cool, sweet ones. All the love in the world!

(image credits: 1 / 2)