Thursday, March 31, 2011


For those who practice (or even for those of us who don’t) you might snicker and laugh at my late-blooming arrival to this religious pastime. I ask you to bare with me, put on some good instrumental music and read on, because I think this is pretty cool.

There is something so productive about Lent -an honest action based quest for the Higher Power - I’ve been unable to resist the practice. I’ve come through many a winding tunnel on my spiritual quest; down back alleys I’ve wandered, to highest mountain peaks I’ve climbed. I am not Catholic, sometimes I wonder whether I could call myself a Christian, and it makes me giggle to think of myself as “Spiritual”. However, my spiritual quest has taken many twists and turns and indeed dropped me off on the road of Spirituality rather than Religion… whatever THAT means I’m really honestly not sure… But no matter where I journey, no matter where I stop off or what I discover, I forever find myself back here, “Seeking first…” Sometimes we must, irregardless of labels and culture preferences, step outside ourselves and look up.

I began this “seeking first” with thoughts of introducing something positive that would bring me closer to God (I have trouble with any authority that tells me what to do; this is a perfect example of my controlling version of compliance: “Okay I’ll do what you’re telling me to do but I’ll do it backwards…”) but that yielded no good ideas. I asked myself if I wanted to give up Facebook? Nah. TV? Too fun. For some reason, those didn’t seem important enough. Lent is a time to give up a thing that holds you back from the Divine; I’ve had friends who gave up boyfriends for crying out loud! I searched my heart, and this search effort bled over into the actual time line of Lent, yet still I sought. I may have missed the starting fire, but I held fast that I could yet make the finish line! And aha! I discovered an answer.

We mere humans, who think of ourselves more in-souled than the rest of Nature around us (at least we humans in this culture), were ironically created last. Well after the fish of the sea and fowl of flight, after the beasts of the field, even after the grass we walk upon, only then did we cross the mind of God. Did he have us in mind all along? Some would say so. Were we nothing more than a simple after thought? An aesthetic add on? Whichever way you look at it, we weren’t here first. Our entire history on this planet has been that of guest in an occupied territory. As I looked over those texts in the first chapters of the Bible, so elementary are their teachings most of us memorized them in grade school and promptly forgot to give them a second thought. But I paused. Often times it is that which is simplest that lends the most profound insights; what is our first Biblical commandment? To be stewards of this earth. To love it. To care for it. To love it so much we name it. In light of this I looked at my life, and I admit with shame, I saw very little love. And what love I saw, it was in want of some purposeful action.

And so I discussed it with my husband, and we decided that for Lent we would give up our carbon footprint. Well… we would as much as we could. There are substantial rocks blocking our path to peaceful coexistence with nature around us. The first being 1.) My husbands commute to work which ends over 20miles away. 2.) my work is a mere 8.9 miles away, and for sometime last fall I did ride my bike. However I pitifully complain of rain and hop in the car; but rest assured, bike enthusiasts, with the spring will come a milder morning, and an Ashley imbued with adventuring spirit. I’m a pansy, you say? Keep in mind, I’ve been out of practice.

So what does this “giving up our carbon footprint” really mean? A lot of things. It includes a mandatory bike ride if the destination is within 5 miles. It includes a commitment to buy ONLY local and organic foods. It includes a militant effort to save water and dump the saved water into the garden where it can seep into soil, evaporate and make clouds, and come down and bless our land again. And now THAT includes using biodegradable cleaning products, shampoos, dish soaps, body soaps, on and on. And that includes a quest to make those myself.

Does this sound crazy? It feels a little crazy, I’ll give you that. But to be honest, it isn’t that much different than what we were already doing. Only a few locations changed. For example, instead of purchasing our produce at Whole Foods, we bike to the nearest farmers market. We might bike a little longer, and might eat a little differently, but we’re doing it all more consciously, and I do believe that’s the point.

Since we’re on the subject of Lent, perhaps a confession is now in order; there have been more than a few times that I’ve wavered. Driving my car past two stoplights because I was “too tired” to bike to school. Midnight hopping at Winco because Whole Foods was closed and I forgot something at the Farmers Market (or, been too lazy to GO to the Farmers Market in the first place…). But, if I’ve learned anything from Mother Nature, its that everything is a process. No good change is attained over night, and any good change requires work to be sustained. Along the way, especially at my pitfalls, I’m learning how to plan, how to keep myself motivated, and more importantly, how to let things go. Sometimes when you’re sick and its pouring rain and its 50degrees outside, you shouldn’t ride your bike. To summarize, I’m only human. I’m weak. I cave in sometimes. But I’ve learned to accept my humanity; and I think that *He* does too.

So this is my Lent announcement! Better late than never! I will continue to keep you posted, share tips, accept your tips, and post a few pictures along the way. Wish us luck!

An old piece, yet still applicable.

And here, a piece from last year. Written after just such a day as today;


My mind has been occupied with terribly unpoetic thoughts, such as how humorous these bodies of ours are. Our awkward long limbs that fail, our large heads, peculiar sex organs. How silly that we prop up the fatty tissue of breasts and blush them, dress them, deep v-neck them. And what of feet? What about toes? I could burst out laughing looking at them. Don’t even get me started on sex! That ridiculously goofy and beautiful of all human pastimes! And as I turn about in the mirror, as I hold my arms out to examine my fingers with grandeur and the funny flapping lips
that put forth thoughts and emotions and ideas, I chide myself that I ever spent more than two minutes worrying about this body. I roll my eyes to think I wound a measuring tape round my waist and worried about the climbing number. After all, that belly is merely a place to put my vitals. And what a beautiful job its been doing!

Better a body
alive than a wasting bag of bones. This is a feeling to remember and
never forget. Write this on my mirror and sink it into my soul, steep it like
a tea bag on my eyes, till all I see is loveliness.


A funny little thing called an eating disorder

Recovery is a funny word, isn’t it. For something so sought after, one often asks, does it ever truly become part of ones constant vocabulary? For my part, having denied the existence of my disorder for so long and genuinely believing in its non- existence, its difficult to know when disorder ended and where recovery began. I have lots of questions; did it really end? Has it actually begun? I still question whether or not what I had could be really and legitimately classified as “an eating disorder”, or if it was a mere right of passage thing that every teenager goes through. Indeed, whats the difference between what “those girls” have, and what ever person seems to struggle with at some point in their life? No really, I want to know what that difference is.

Should I give a back story? One seems necessary but sounds long and uninteresting. I suppose I’ll try it out and make it as briefly sweet as can be;

It all began innocently enough, when I was diagnosed with a series of food allergies and other health concerns. These diagnoses quite literally saved my life. I who had been bedridden for over six months had new life breathed into my weak and weary bones. I also lost fifteen pounds. I gained a low level anxiety disorder. And thus my fear of food began; at first I was afraid it would make me sick and bind me to the couch yet again. It ended with me afraid to gain a pound or an inch.

I had whispers of realizings, but it wasn’t until a fateful talk with my friend that knocked some much needed honest sense into my brain. I rambled on “I didn’t have full blown eating disorder or anything… but it got pretty bad… I’d go for a long time without eating… then take laxatives…” She looked at me with such niceness in her eyes and said kindly “I’m pretty sure that’s classified as something…”

For something so obvious, how, you ask, did I deny it for so long? I didn’t believe I was skinny enough to be anorexic. And I wasn’t making myself throw up. So obviously I was good to go, right?

The road to recovery is a hard one to describe when you didn’t know you were traveling down its way in the first place. It all began, I suppose, when I took my first nanny job and was awake a full day’s worth of hours; enough to eat three meals a day (its easy to survive on an apple and a piece of toast when you sleep till noon, lay on the couch, work at Luna’s, then go home to sleep somemore. entirely different story unfolds when you must be at work by 7:00AM). I wasn’t eating unhealthy, I was still adhering to my allergy rules, but I was eating. And I gained twenty pounds.

With mere months to go before the wedding I began wearing my husbands shirts in an effort poorly planned to hide my new figure. These were not happy days. However, it was my first move towards a better lifestyle, for as I stared down at those numbers glaring back up at me, I realized I had two choices; I could go back to my old eating habits and loose this weight, or I could choose to be normal and healthy. I chose healthy. It sounds like I did know I had a problem after all.

Times have changed and I am now anxiety free and living in a happy, healthy, luscious body of 150 pounds. I see some things I’d like to introduce to my life, mainly exercise. I’m careful to focus on how I want to alter my lifestyle and not my weight. I’m careful to focus on why, to lock into my carefully chosen reasons and look neither left or right there after. I want to exercise so I can hike half dome. So I ride in a cyclocross race. So I can have muscle tone when I’m fifty and satisfactory bone density all throughout my life.

Why am I telling you this? Because today was a terrible day. Today triggers were firing all over me. Duck and cover. Bob and weave. Today your thinspo’s went too far, leaving my fingers inching towards the tape measure, my mind devising plans to clear the pantry before my husband gets home. I start eyeballing my jump rope in-spite of the hour well past midnight. Snapping me back, I slip further down the tunnel, that tiny light growing tinier still till all my progressive footprints are erased. I’m telling you this because today was a disaster. And I needed to tell someone about this. This has been, I fear, a horribly unpoetic post, full of poorly strung together thoughts, words clashing. Thoughts, fragmenting. If you stuck with me thus far, I feel eternally grateful to you.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

As you were given to free of charge, give free of charge.

*Disclaimer; if you are too tired, too impatient, or just without adequate care (all of which I understand, this thing is long) (thats what she said)(oh em gee Ashley you're disgusting) Then just cut to the end!

After our failed attempt at futile yard sale-ing, we were left asking ourselves some piercing questions, first of which was; "Does our stuff suck that bad?!" Yes, I know we were getting rid of it so I hear some of you sarcastically remarking that this should have been the first tip to its suck-factor, but people, some of that stuff we really liked! Just couldn't fit it anymore, just wasn't practical. Take the twin bed for instance; it was useful, (when my family used to spend the night! Trickle down a tear for my loneliness. boohoo) and promised to come in handy especially when we figured out that spare room. However, in today's studio apartment, propped against the wall its an eye soar at best. Second Example; the Schwinn. People, in spite of what those snobs at that one certain store will tell you this is a good vintage bike! Its a fixie, not the lightest thing in the world, but if what you're looking for is a stylish cruise to the ice cream shop then this bike is for you! It can't take you 8.9 miles (well, could yes, but should?) but it can take you a mile or two. But here, like the bed, it is an eye soar and nuisance.

This takes me to our second question; "What do we DO with all this STUFF?!?!" Right now the piles and bags and such are in our cars, the bed is back against the wall, the bike is...some where around here, and the desk is out in front with the assumption that something that big and heavy will be safe from theft.

So we have two options. Maybe three. We can 1). Wait another few days and have a second yard sale. 2). Ebay that shizzznit. Or 3). Forget, and, like all good intentions, let this one pave our way to hell.

Those, led to some reflection; We have been given a lot this year. I don't mean tangible material things necessarily; our thrift store excursions paid for most of these objects left lying about (we can also blame childhood memories and sentimentality, but the later culprit is easier to forgive.) What we've been given is help. Over the course of these many months without proper, working, or even legal transportation I've received weekly rides from my mother and brother, from my mother in law, and from my dear friend Danae. Recently, my mother in law has allowed Marcos to use her car every night to go to work, and we understand that is no small thing. We are literally floored by the loyal help we've been given. But it goes beyond human aid, right to the heavenly kind. As we've struggled through life and marriage and money, wondered where to go from here, doubting everything from the next step to the next five years, one this has been made apparent; The Lord is faithful. Dear friends, we've spoken of our doubts, blamed our scientific minds, and you've asked me some big questions, for which I have no answer that would satisfy you. For Jesus can not be broken down to fit into a formula; we can form a hypothesis but we can honestly find no finished theories here. Well, I can. My entire life points to the existence of a very real, very loving, and very misunderstood God. At every turn, as an answer to every prayer, he has kept us safe, provided for us in the days of want, saved our marriage, given us peace. He has put money in an empty back account and food in our fridge. I cannot touch him, but I can feel him. I cannot see him, but in a way I can; in the love of my husband, the beauty of the flowers, even in the judge who extends our tickets so we can pay another month. And it is this, that has left me speechless. And humbled.

And now, we've reached a conclusion; "To whom much is given, that much more is required." We have much things. So much things are required back. We have been shown a BIG giving, and so we must give bigly as well. In a world that is full of want, should we ask for money back? As much as it would be helpful, the answer is no. I don't need money for that twin bed, or that desk, or those clothes. OR whatever else there is in here. I don't want to consume, I want to have just enough, and no more. No, we will not be winnowing down our possessions to 100 items max, though we're not too far from believe that to be a well deserved goal. If Proverbs asks for only two things, then those two things are good enough for me;

"Two things I ask of you, Oh LORD,

Do not refuse me before I die;

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;

give me neither poverty nor riches,

but give me only my daily bread,

Otherwise I may have too much and disown you and say "Who is the Lord?"

Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God.

-Proverbs 30: 7-9

I had to ask myself; If my time is the Lord's, then the money I earn during some of that time is the Lord's. And if the money is his, then the things purchased there with are also his. And if I don't use those things, am I stealing? Or am I disowning? Is it both? Self sufficiency is a steel and sneaky trap. In American culture we value independence, singing "God bless the child that got his own", but its made it far too easy for me to forget God; forget what his done, and disregard what he's going to do. Its made me forget his children, making it easier for me to turn a blind eye towards the poor both near and far. And its made me tired. We have been called a nation of consumers, and I don't want that label to fall as heavily on me anymore.

And so, alllll that is to say; I have some stuff to give away! I just don't know where to start. So basically I'm calling upon you delights who are reading this to tell me if you know anyone who needs this stuff, or if you know of an organization that would know who needs this stuff? Would your church know? Does your neighbor need something? Do YOU need something? I'd love to bring these things to you! Here is a small list of some of the things I have;

A twin bed, mattress and box.

A desk, blonde wood, one long drawer three smaller side drawers.

Women's clothes, Small and Large Sizes. Styles ranging from business casual to...casual.

Some nicknacks.

Men's clothes, Large sizes mostly. Mostly casual, some business casual.

...and thats all I can think of for now.

Let me know if you guys know anything!

Much love, to you and yours.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Morning train, this is my favorite. When the new sunlight mixes with the passing cars to play with the shadows of my sleepy walls. I'm currently clutching a fourth cup of coffee, trying to figure out a way to get it all done. By all of it, I mean clean up to save our toes from further stubbing, organize a yard sale to save us from joining an episode of hoarders, and fix the toilet because...well...gross.

The weather is lovely here, two whole days of breezy, beachy weather, of opened windows and sweaters and pleasant bike rides for once! I haven't posted much about m-lady Nishiki, ironically, posts halted when I actually began riding her more often (thats what she said).

That is another item to add to the list of All of It; fix cars so that my husband and I can cease to borrow and bum rides to his far away job, and I to mine as well. Part of me wants to refuse any other mode of transportation other than bicycles and good ol' fashioned hoofin' it, but lets be honest; driving out of downtown fresno (even though I am on the outskirts, which you'll find to be less ghetto and quite pleasant) in the darkness of 5:30 am on my little ol' bike, with me being just little ol' me, is not what I'd call wise by anyones standards. We'll see; perhaps I'll be emboldened with a heaping dose of bravery and change my mind yet again. For now, my little bike will remain how I get to the store, the coffee shops, and everywhere else that doesn't involve darkness.

Tonight Marcos and I made plans! Oooh boy! A date! We're going to see a movie, and I'm going to get dressed up and wear heels! I feel very excited and all full of butterflies; and we're two years in. Keeping the spark alive?-Check.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Recently a friend of mine very thoughtfully and earnestly asked me what I thought about The Mosque. Yeah you know what I'm talking about. The one down the street from the World Trade Center. I rolled my eyes and said I didn't care. But upon further pressing for what I "really thought" I went into a bit more detail. After questions of where it would really be, and admitting that I thought an "onsite Mosque" would indeed be nothing more than a big eff you in the faces of all of America and especially those still grieving the loss of loved ones, I carried on;

America is because many years ago a group of people, in an act completely un-patriotic, sought religious and political freedom in the wilds of the New World. And America still exists today not because of our military might, but because of the promise our land holds for all those who remain oppressed and without options. This is still the New World to some people. When our founding fathers set down the laws of our land, the fairness and equality they put onto paper were in truth the furthest thing from reality; and yet today we have some of the most solid laws heard of in place to protect those first ideals as well as the rights of those around us, however different from us they might be. One of those rights is the freedom to worship where, and how, and when, and wearing what, you choose. Even if it is down the street from the site of 9-11, and even if you do wear a tiny white hat while you do it.

What we as Americans fail to realize is that Middle Eastern Muslims are very different from the Muslims in India, who are very different than the Muslims who worked in and were also killed in the towers of the World Trade Center. What sent that specific and tiny group of Middle Eastern Muslims on a waring Jihad against us was not necessarily their Muslimness; rather it was their culture of violence that attacked us. Just as our culture of violence attacked them back. And if we could make steps towards understanding the cultural differences between these separate groups, if we could stop drawing sweeping conclusions against a whole based on the actions of a tiny and extremist sector, if we could understand the atrocities committed in the name of our own political and religious extremism, them perhaps we could make concrete steps towards love and forgiveness. And apologies.

I am not a Unitarian by any means. Nor am I Muslim. Nor does defending the rights of those people put me under their respective labels. Isn't it odd that I had to say that? That I had to make sure that you, dear reader, knew I wasn't "one of them"? Hypocrisy is rampant, and as I'm typing this what I hoped woudl be a heroic defense, all I can see is the eyes of the mothers of my friends widening, suddenly disapproving of our hangouts and tea parties (the kind with actual tea and muffins.) and I wanted them to know that I wasn't "one of them". What horrible words "they" "them". Aren't we just...we?

We are a brotherhood. A humanity made for each other. If we could just switch shoes and walk around for a day or two, I think that then and only then would we see things clearly. Taking a step towards understanding another human being's culture goes a long way towards our own personal sense of peace, but also contributes to a global peace as well.


(P.S. what I think they ought to do is make that site into a tranquil park, full of trees and flowers, plaques and bench's, a place for meditation and reflection. What better way to honor a memory? Perhaps I've been reading too much Secret Garden...)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm finding my patience level is sinking lower and lower. The more people mill past me, bump into me, cut me off and drown me out, the more overwhelming the urge towards violence -or at least severe pettiness- becomes. Amongst such large groups I become disorganized and awkward. Limbs Flailing. Words stumbling, feet stumbling. Spinning rapid circles searching for a piece of wall to hug. In the quest for invisibility I stick out like a sore thumb. Except for when I'm with you. Together we weave such a graceful whirling dance of smiles and jokes, sometimes of tears and silences. Our ordinary steps are the things that magics and dreamings are made of. When I am by your side I no longer feel awkwardly, nor do I think I look it. Perhaps it is not exactly that my arms no longer flail while my hand is in yours, but really the more probably option would be that my arms DO flail, but with a friend such as you by my side to laugh at them awkward movements, those movements become not exactly awkward but...something to smile at. I feel strangely beautiful when you laugh at me. You are the stuff that turns bussrides into adventures.

-Even as I was writing that, I somehow managed to ever so smoooooothly spill all the contents of my binder; class syllabus' and add slips all, down upon the dusty sidewalk.

Summertime. This heat makes green living almost impossible. Riding between the hours of 10AM and 7PM is almost out of the question. Call it sure suicide. But we moved downtown for a reason. And bought bikes for a reason. Now it is time to see that through to its most beautiful and glorious end; And so we rode our bikes to school tonight beginning at the ungodly hour of 5:30PM, and I had enough sweat dripping beneath my harem pants to prove it! Yes, I am wearing harem pants. My dear friend April Spain gifted them to me (and a pair for Marcos, yes she's amazing as far as friends and girls with good taste go) after her trip to India, and I wear their pink and purple elephants with pride. (They also hide the sweat quite well.)

I had some internal drama at tonight's class. Somehow I managed to get my greedy little fingers 'round an addslip before role was even taken – an unheard of turn of events that left me standing in the doorway. Well I got news for you Teach – if five of us are standing in the doorway and three more are sitting against the wall then we don't all fit, so take the roll and give us some solid answers!

I let a girl use my phone. I put my writing down and sat erect and ready (that's what she said) just in case she were to make a run for it, with it. She didn't. And here I am. Does a good deed count if its wrought with suspicion? I'd like to know...

The farmers have picked their grapes. Tomorrow they'll be in trays that will blanket the soft vineyard dirt and the deep, luxurious scent of drying grapes will fill the countryside. I believe a sunset drive with windows down and music on is in order.

There is a man sprawled on the grass reading a book, even as the sun is setting. There is a family with two small girls walking two small dogs. The wife is throwing ice down the husbands shirt, and now he's wailing and kind of running with a few hobbled hops away. A K-9 unit rolls past. Now someone, man or woman I couldn't tell, has shifted their course of direction and is headed right my way. Now they've chosen my bench of all benches to sit on. And it would appear that he/she has something lodged in the back of his/her throat and now he/she is trying to liberate it. DO THAT SOMEWHERE ELSE! I'm board. Does this count as Stream of Consciousness writing? Could I be the next Jack Kerouac? Wont you explain to me how Kirstin Dunst got herself into the new movie of On The Road? I'm horrified.

The Campus is slowly emptying of people and passerbyes. My benchmate has left and things are thinning out. Its time to put my notebook away and ready myself for escape, should the need for one present itself.