Saturday, October 17, 2015

Make A List, You'll Feel Better


What do feminism and organization have in common? You can't bash the patriarchy if you lose your keys on the way the rally.

Seriously, though. Where are my keys?

It's been funny, getting older. I know I'm barely older. I'm scratching the surface of older. But one of the things I'm realizing is even though I'm quite fond of talking about myself and writing about myself and wondering about myself, I have been in denial about myself for awhile. I am frequently late, inherently messy, and as scatterbrained as they come. I've made excuses ("I'm just overwhelmed with too many activities right now!") and they've been made for me ("You have two small kids!") but the truth has always been the same. Keeping my shit together is very hard for me, and without discipline, I can easily crumble. I don't crumble cutely.

Being organized doesn't feel very rebellious, and I'm not old enough yet to be over that. I want to be cool and spontaneous and roll out of bed and get up and throw together an outfit and do something creative with my time instead of planning. The problem is, then there is no clean underwear and without a well-packed lunch I will get SUPER GRUMPY and if I forget to cancel that doctor's appointment they are going to drop me as a patient. One of my favorite quotes is this commandment from Gustave Flaubert: Be steady and well-ordered in your life so you can be fierce and original in your work. This makes sense to me. Save that spark and leave it on the page. Don't waste all your crazy in front of the fridge eating straight butter, crying because you can't figure out what to feed your family for dinner (that has never happened.)

My good friend Kacey said LISTS SAVE LIVES and I love it. Routines are another golden ticket. Yeah, sometimes it doesn't feel very subversive to do the same thing at the same time every day, but you know what is subversive? Taking the hours you've got in a day and killing it, knowing that you're going to get your shit done and then have time to paint your nails or work on your side hustle or binge-watch something because you took control. Another thing routine can do is reduce your decision fatigue. This is a real ass thing that can drain you- making decisions makes your brain tired. If you can use routine to get rid of the paralyzing What do I do next? feeling, then you save that decision power for important stuff.

So that is where I am right now. During one of the busiest months of the year at my house, I am balancing everything using pen & paper and a downright ridiculous number of iPhone alarms, set to tell me what I am supposed to be doing at any given moment.  My absolute FAVORITE tool right now is this Daily Page notepad from the Etsy shop Thyme is Honey. I ordered one of these pads a few years ago and only realized when I ran out how much comfort I had found in just the act of writing out my day.  There is space for water and food consumption, fitness plan, today's goals, lots of To Dos, daily tasks, purchase, notes + ideas,  and a schedule of events.  The color and font combination is visually soothing. Even owning this pad makes me feel 45% more capable of handling my life.

I like it so much that I decided I had to spread the love, so I am giving one away. But I am greedy, so I am making you give me information in return for a chance to win. Please leave a comment on this post and tell me what you do to stay organized. Weird, out-there tips encouraged. Use the rafflecopter link below to rack up entries, and the giveaway closes on October 24th!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck & happy listing!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

In My Next 30 Years


I remember listening to this Tim McGraw song when I was younger. I thought it was pretty clever, all about the things he was going to do in his NEXT 30 years...watch his weight, hang out with his family, drink less beer. I think he might have alluded to finding God again. It made 30 seem old. Ancient. Hang up your hats, guys, your fun is over, time to settle down.

I've been thinking a lot about ten years ago. I spent the last night of my teens crying. I was living in a little apartment on Highland Avenue with an older guy and I loved the novelty of being his teenage girlfriend. I liked being younger than all the people I went to college with. I wanted to do everything quickly, so I could do it YOUNG- get married, have kids, start my career.  Last night, in the last night of my twenties, I made my grandmother's banana bread, kissed my kids goodnight, and pretended to work out while I read a book on the treadmill. I thought about my full, full life and how glad I am that it's impossible to get your 19-year-old wish of staying "young" forever.

I'm 30 today. I kind of hoped I'd wake up with some blast of maturity and knowledge, but I fell asleep on the couch watching The Fly when I snapped to at 3:50 am, curled into a weird position with drool drying on my chin, I thought, "HOLY SHIT, I'm 30!" and went to bed without washing my face. I guess it's going to take the legwork to keep getting awesomer, but I'm definitely finding it easier with each passing year.  Here are a few things I figured out so far.

GIRLFRIENDS ARE KEY
I've sucked at this for most of the first third of my life. I could blame it on losing my dad (I've tried to justify it in this way) but in all honesty, I know that my personality craves attention, and male attention most of all. Especially in high school and my early college months, I would often go after relationships with guys, romantic or platonic, at the expense of my female friendships. I never claimed to be one of those "girls who gets along better with guys" [I heavily side-eye this statement from anyone], but I was a crappy friend to lots of people who deserved better treatment. I'm sorry.

At this point in my life, I'm finally in relationships with several women who are EVERYTHING to me: therapist, confidante, mentor, hilarious entertainment. Home. These are the people who diagnose my symptoms when I can't tell if I should call the doctor, indulge me with hours of talking about young adult literature, tell me when I need to get over myself and apologize to my husband, suggest gymnastics camps for my toddlers, leave love notes on my desk at work, text me articles about my favorite fandoms, or show up with Thai food on the night before my birthday. Some of these women I see every day, and some of them are only a text or a call from me, but all of them make my life SO much richer. I wish I had realized how much better I could be if I invested in the female friendships that I was so lucky to have in high school and college. WHATEVER AGE YOU ARE, GIRLFRIENDS ARE KEY.

SLOW DOWN
To a sloth's pace. I'm not going to reference two country songs in one post, but there's an Alan Jackson song called You're Gonna Miss This, and now I've done it. STOP RUSHING. There is time, and if you allow yourself to have it, you might come to a better decision. Lots of what I did in my twenties is because I thought it was what was NEXT. I'm dating someone. Next is getting married! I'm in an apartment. Must be time for a house! I've graduated college. QUICK, get a job with a ridiculously high level of responsibility that directly affects LIVES! 

I want to be clear that I love my husband and I'm fond of my house and I'm proud to be in my 9th year of teaching. But I did things without thinking. I was lucky that Ben turned out to be such an incredible husband and father, because I married him after knowing him for two years, one of which was while I was a teen and legally brain dead [I actually think teens are legally brain dead, at least all the ones like me who AREN'T inventing things and solving major social problems]. I got into teaching because someone said I was good at with kids, and I never thought much about my own personal goals at any point during college or afterwards. Right now, I'm fairly certain that I would like to explore a career working with books and writing. Maybe teaching at a higher level, or the ultimate goal- LIBRARIAN? But I am going slllloooowwww. Gathering information. Feeling myself out. There's no need to rush.

TAKE CARE
of your butt. I have reached (at a somewhat early date) the point where I am literally exercising for no other reason than to stay alive. Actually, I just want to be able to go on amusement park rides and not have to replace my beloved brown autumn jacket. As much as I want to love myself and my skin and I firmly believe that my worth is not equated to my size, I know that I have a family history of health problems and I want to stick around. I wish I had spent a little more time on fitness FOR THE RIGHT REASONS. It would have been less depressing and easier to stick to. 

I spent lots of time in twenties waiting to become someone else. I pictured her- she was gorgeous, ultimate, ideal, skinny, funny, quirky with no uncomfortable weirdness. She had a perfect wardrobe of boyfriend tshirts, converse sneaks, and bright dresses. She kept a clean house, an organized desk at work, read all the most literary titles, and was never afraid of the obscure horror movies her husband watched. The saddest part of this is that I really thought all I had to do to unlock her was lose weight. I had to remind myself that THIS BITCH WAS NOT REAL. And I wouldn't even like her if she was.  Now I READ WHAT I WANT (fantasy princesses and love triangles?) and WEAR WHAT I WANT (mostly what she would have worn, in plus sizes) and I MOVE WHEN I WANT (so I can stay alive). I want to take good care of myself because I deserve to feel healthy and my family deserves to get me for as long as I can torture them by hanging on. That's what fitness is going to be in my next 30 years.

FOURTH AND MOST IMPORTANT: PLEASE RECOGNIZE THAT YOU KNOW LESS THAN NOTHING. I spent most of my early twenties thinking I knew a lot. I was wrong.

In my next 30 years I'm going to finish my book and maybe the trilogy. I'm going to decide on my next career- or maybe retire from teaching first before starting round 2. I'm going to go on trips with my sisters. I'm going to make taking care of myself a cornerstone of my life. I'm going to cement some family traditions. I'm going to get more tattoos. I'm going to make a million more mistakes. I'm probably not going to stop writing about them.  Any advice for this new decade? I'm all ears!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Seven years later, Ashlie tries tumblr











Quick update from Be Your Own Lady! I've been woefully lacking in post frequency, because most of my life is out of my control, and, in a shocking turn of events, I'm in over my head with hobbies, work obligations, and family interaction. I still want to support this community of awesome ladies sharing awesome ideas, and so I'm going to use the Be Your Own Lady tumblr account to share content more frequently: quotes, images, articles worth reading, and short updates can be found at ashlieelizabeth.tumblr.com. I'll still come here to post Be Your Own Book Club info, full-length articles, and the occasional life update, but I just want another way to stay connected with this community that makes me proud to read, write, [learn to] listen, and speak up.  You can also follow my Insta and Twitter accounts to stay in the loop. (spoiler alert: the loop is drinking beer, reading books, and getting a kick out of my kids)

If you are reading this, you mean a lot to me. Thank you SO MUCH for following along while I continuously figure out what a doofus I am and practice pouring my heart out in less and less dramatic ways. Writing and interacting with you is what makes me shine, and I will dull it down for no one.

xo, Ashlie

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Super Quick Reading Update and Book Club Pick

Hey ladies and lovelies. It's been way too long. My brain is bursting with all these fabulous things I want to share with you- great articles and compelling interviews with ladies breaking stereotypes and all the nerdy things I want for my birthday. I turn 30 in a few days and I cannot wait to be into the next decade of this awesome life.

At this exact moment, however, I've just restarted school and I am flat out exhausted trying to figure out how to teach 22 first graders, get home and do some laundry/potty train the 2-year-old/validate the 3-year-old/watch a damn episode of Doctor Who, then organize myself and my family to get up and do it again the next day.  I love routines, and we're pulling ourselves, hand over fist, into a new one for this particular autumn of our lives. I have more desire than time.

Here are some things that make me monstrous when I skip them: exercise, chugging water, and reading. None of these can be sacrificed, I am learning the hard way. I've gone on enough about the importance of the first two (Bi-yearly PSA for Ashlie: YOUR OCCASIONAL DEPRESSIVE EPISODE IS DIRECTLY RELATED TO DROPPING EXERCISE AND/OR WATER CONSUMPTION IN THE NAME OF BEING TOO BUSY) but I wanted to stop in and tell you about what I've been reading, and invite you to do a little reading with me.

Right now I'm reading a total mishmash of things. The third installment of the Peculiar novels, Library of Souls, is a perfect October creepy read, even if I'm having a difficult time getting into it. I have a feeling I'll like it more once I can devote a solid hour to it. I've been waiting for Julie Murphy's Dumplin FOREVER- "self-proclaimed fat girl" and the fact that it starts with a gorgeous ex-jock coworker falling for her both sold me. I'm also carrying around Generation Why, volume 2 of Ms. Marvel, mainly admiring the cover until I have time to let myself read it front to back, which is exactly how I enjoyed the first volume. Thanks to a kinder-than-necessary friend, I have Mindy Kaling's latest, Why Not Me, which is an awesome title and also maybe a new mantra?  And I am waiting, waiting, waiting for Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, which is released on my birthday, and if that's not fate than NOTHING IS!

We skipped Be Your Own Book Club in September, because by the time I thought I had picked something and was ready to write about it, the month was nearly over. Many of you who actively participate are also teachers, and I thought we could all use a little break. However, now that it's October, I want to get a little creepy. And Neil Gaiman is the perfect author to get us there. I struggled a little on which way to go with a Gaiman pick. He is incredibly prolific, publishing comic books, children's books, YA novels, horror, comedy, and more. I want to read Coraline, and may, in October, but our pick this month is The Ocean at the End of the Lane. My aunt suggested it, and the reviews used words like haunting, dark,  and  brilliant. It seems very quotable, too, which is always a plus.

SO there we have it. Some great books that are definitely worth checking out, and a slightly creepy, perfectly seasonal read to restart Be Your Own Book Club. Are you going to read along with us? Any other good ghostly books?  Let me know, sweet tarts! Happy reading!