Tag Archives: fresh

Changing the Way I See Things

flipped glasses

Totally not me because I never could get my Dorothy Hamill haircut. But those are the sweet, sweet spectacles that I loved.

When I was in third grade, my mom took me over to Dr. Hammett’s office in LaGrange.  He was “the eye doctor” and I loved going there because the front desk had a bowl of Kraft caramels on it and every now and then one of those fudge ones would show up…SCORE.

That’s exactly how I felt when Dr. Hammett told my mom that I would need glasses.  I knew that I was not supposed to want glasses but I really did want them.  I thought they would make me interesting.  And I would be able to read and read and read and read.  So I tried not to smile while I heard the news.  I picked out a pair from the kids’ rack–they were called “Cherry Swirl” and they were AWESOME.

Glasses didn’t stay awesome for long, for all the usual reasons.  Blind at the pool.  Contacts are itchy.  Fingerprints.  Four eyes.  Sweat.  They slide down, get knocked off, scratch too easily.

I loved my Cherry Swirl glasses for about a year then I tolerated glasses for another 33 years.

Then one magical day, my car was paid off and I saw an email about $1000 off laser vision correction and I decided that it was time.  I went to the seminar and found out that it could work for me.  I had the money for it.  I got over my concerns about the slim slim chance of ending up with worse vision.  Last April, I did it.  I signed the papers, paid the bill, swallowed a Valium (#18!) and lay down on a table.  Srrrrrrrt.  One laser made my vision blurry.  Then they walked me two steps to the next table and Srrrrtttt blip blip blip runk runk ruuuunk…and I could see.  Seriously.  I stood up and read the time off the clock across the room.  It was 11:40.  Thirty four years of not being able to see then I could see.  Just like that.

The day after the procedure, I gathered up all my old glasses and prescription sunglasses and stuffed them in the donation box for charity.  It felt so liberating!  I could lie on my side and read a book.  I felt safer around the pool because I could see my kids clearly.  We went to the beach and I saw fish jumping out in the distance.  I could wear regular old sunglasses from Target.  Even working out was better because I could sweat all I liked without my glasses slipping down my nose during push-ups.

But this isn’t an extended testimonial about the powers of laser vision correction.  It’s about changing habits and changing situations in life. With the speed of a laser and a few thousands dollars, I changed my situation.  But this morning, I did what I always do–I turned off the alarm, swung my legs over the side of the bed, then reached for my glasses.  It’s been a year, but my body still follows that habit of 34 years.  It happens when I am sleepy and running on my lizard brain.  Habits are like that–they are grooves that my body has gotten used to.  They once served a purpose, but now I might still be doing them without the need to.  Habits don’t always recognize when a situation has changed.  Think about an alcoholic–the minute they decide to stop drinking, the situation has changed.  The habit of wanting to drink takes longer to retrain.  

The week after the laser eye surgery, I started ripping down the ugly fruit wallpaper in the kitchen that I had resented for eight years.  In a couple of days, we redid the kitchen counters, the appliances, the walls.  FINALLY.  It felt like I had shaken something loose.  The eye surgery had inspired me to change other situations.  Some things really can be fixed just. like. that.  It only requires making the decision to change.

There was a time when running was a habit for me and I want to get back to that.  I simply need to do it.  I could spend eight years or thirty years to think about it and plan for it and worry over it, or I could put on my shoes tomorrow and run.  Well, probably walk and then run down a hill.  I can change the situation quickly, even though the habit will take longer to recover.

Sound familiar?  What's got you scared to change?

Sound familiar? What’s got you scared to change?

Do you have something that’s been nagging at you?  What are you tired of?  What part of it is a habit and what is a situation?  Can the situation be changed?  How can you retrain the habit?

Now I’m going to bed and I bet you a dollar I reach for the phantom glasses in the morning.  And I’ll smile.

Short But Sweet

My car smells like old french fries.  The bottom of the washing machine is filled with the fine gray sand of the Georgia coast.  Carlos’ little wrists are more tan than they should be.  Vivi’s curls have been tied in knots by the sea breeze.  Yesterday, we woke up to the sound of the surf and fell asleep to the sound of rain on our roof.

My newest happy memories were made with my oldest friends.  It must have been a Road Trip Weekend.squish

It was short, but sweet.  I’ll write more about the art at the heart of it tomorrow.  And maybe I’ll write about the man whose portrait stopped traffic.  There’s a “feet picture” story to tell and Vivi’s lesson on math.  For today, I can only think about the shortest and the sweetest member of our family–my son.

Carlos has been to the beach 4-5 times in his short life, but this was the first time that he was REALLY into it.  He squished his chunky baby feet across the sand and rolled around in rippling tide pools.  The wind blew so hard off the ocean at night that it wobbled his baby cheeks–but he couldn’t stop giggling.

luis and carlos

At our picnic in Forsyth Park, Carlos lolled around under the trees, stuffing himself with a celebratory amount of Chips Ahoy cookies.  If I offered him an apple slice, he shook his head and answered with his curt little “no!”  I handed him a sandwich and he reached for another cookie.  What the hell.  Why not?  He fought off his nap valiantly but chilled on Richard’s old raggedy bedspread (our family Adventure Blanket) for over an hour.  After Tio Luis finished the sidewalk portrait, he and Carlos sat and pondered for a while, like men do.  One of them enjoyed a beer; the other had another cookie.  One was covered in chalk and sweat.  The other in chocolate.


We went back to the beach for the evening.  Carlos learned that the wind is fun as long as you’re dry, but not so much once you’ve gotten wet.  That’s when it’s best to be wrapped up, snuggled up, loved up in a lap.  Even when his lips were blue and he shook with cold, he couldn’t take his eyes off the waves.  I remember a trip I took to St Simon’s on my own when I was about six months pregnant with Carlos.  I walked out into the water to cool down and that baby started flipping and dancing and getting down.  I stood there for so long, bouncing along with the waves, that a school of tiny fish started nibbling on the green skirt of my swimsuit.  That was a September, and the monarch butterflies were resting in Georgia on their long trip south.  Small things–the fish and the butterflies–small things with great journeys ahead of them, making their way across the wide sky, through the deep sea, into our lives.  My boy.

I’m Coming Out

smiling me

Saturday, April 20, 2013
about 4pm on a really good day

Hi, this is me.  

I was trying to edit my “About” page for this blog and I realized that I’ve been hiding.  I can tell all kinds of stories about heartache and empowerment and rebuilding, but I have been afraid to just show ME.  So today I am coming out of the photo booth.  

Most of y’all have known me since I wiped my nose on my sleeve, but some of you are strangers.  Hello to all.  My name is Ashley and I am the Baddest Mother Ever!  

This picture was emailed to me yesterday from a photo booth that I sat in last weekend.  It was Alumnae Weekend at my alma mater (Kathy Bradley, author of “Breathing and Walking Around” taught me that the phrase means “nourishing mother”).  I had a fantastic weekend, filled with stomach-lurching challenges (like leading a formal meeting with 1000 people, fire, and an organist) and breathtaking successes (that meeting, even with a couple of glitches).  I made new friends who graduated before I was born.  I hugged necks of friends I hadn’t seen in 20 years.  I met our oldest graduate, 106 and there for her 85th reunion.  My spirit was nourished.  I challenged myself, rewarded myself, believed in myself. 

And look at how it shows on my face!  Normally, pictures of me make me see wrinkles and gray and extra chins, but this picture…I can’t help but smile at myself.  I LOOK LIKE MYSELF.  

Five Things I Love About This Picture

  1. My whole face is smiling, even behind my ears.  
  2. I am wearing something colorful that says, “Hey, look at me!” instead of something drab that says, “Nothing to see here, move along.”
  3. I went into the photo booth wearing a pair of ridiculously huge, bedazzled sunglasses but I put them on my head so I could see myself.
  4. That necklace is made from my late husband’s wedding ring.  I don’t wear it often because I have a toddler who likes to grab things.  
  5. My gray hair looks kind of like highlights.  

How long has it been since you posted a picture of yourself on Facebook?  Yesterday, I saw Nicki making a muscle she’s worked hard to earn.  Today, Alice was having breakfast with her son.  Lucy had some cute hair going on.  Kimberly’s son is taller than she is.  Felicia is at the paddock.  What are the rest of you doing?  

Your babies are adorable.  Your cats couldn’t be cuter.  And that lunch you had yesterday…yum!  But let’s see more pictures of you!  It’s my challenge to you today.  Post that pic of YOU.  

Happy Anniversary, Fartbuster!

yellow rosesIt’s April 22, y’all!  Happy Anniversary to Fartbuster, wherever he may be.

We married in the backyard at my dad and stepmother’s house on a perfect spring evening.  Now, don’t be picturing some trailer park hoe-down.  Their backyard is SWANKY.  Boxwood hedges line a lush clipped lawn under soaring pecan trees.  Beside the midnight blue lagoon of the pool, bright clouds of pink and white peonies dance beneath a tumbling waterfall of yellow Lady Banks roses.  A yellow and white striped tent sheltered the buffet–cornbread and tomato bisque, pineapple sandwiches, and all sorts of Southern delights.  Sunflowers dotted the tables that were scattered around the pool.  My fairy stepmother is a genius at making things beautiful.

She planted 500 white tulips for the wedding.  But you know how it is with gardening…the Earth works on its own schedule and cares not for the plans of gardeners.  She called me about three weeks before the big day.  I could hear ice cubes tinkling in a glass of bourbon and the flick of a lighter.  She took a long inhale off her cigarette and said, “Heeeeeeey, Love.  You know those tulips for the wedding?  They’re GORGEOUS.  And they’re a teeeeeeensy bit early.  I swear, if your Daddy would let me use the pistol I’d walk out there in the backyard and shoot every one of their goddamn heads off.”

It’s fun to sit here today and think back to the wedding.  In the wake of the bad times that came five years later, some of the details of that day were overshadowed, but they deserve their due.  My mother made my dress for me and it was exactly what I wanted–a French lace bodice, eight layers of tulle for the skirt, with beaded medallions and seed pearls scattered here and there.  Wally played “Ode to Joy” for the processional and “Zip a dee doo dah” for the recessional.  My brother lugged chairs and tables and anything else that needed lugging.  The ladies of the garden club arranged flowers in silver punch bowls, crystal vases and anything else that would hold still.  Jan baked both cakes, lemon with white butter cream frosting in a basket weave and chocolate fudge with sugared grapes.  My sister made table arrangements of sunflowers and stattice and sent me off to the spa for a mani/pedi/massage.  She even wore dyed to match shoes and I still owe her an apology for that.  Mandy came down from Baltimore to read a poem.  Rhoda sent over a spray of green orchids.  Laura performed the service and would accept only a bouquet of peonies as payment.  So many people, so many hands, such light work.  It rained, then it stopped and everything was fresh.

The focal point of the backyard is a magnificent pecan tree, so that was our cathedral.  My stepsister had married in the same spot the spring before.  We called it “The Marrying Tree.”  Later, after two divorces, we renamed it “The Tree of Doom.”  When my sister got engaged a few years later, Daddy and Gay said, “Don’t even THINK about it.  We’ll cut it down ourselves before we let anyone else get married down there.”  They ran off to Vegas and are happy as larks.

I would show you pictures from the wedding, but I packed most of them up after the divorce and put them in the attic at my dad’s house.  I didn’t want to throw them away because they chronicled so much love (from the people who made the day possible), but I didn’t want them around me.   It might be time to dig them out.  I’d like to see my great Aunt Eula again.  She was always so dear to me.  When it was time for wedding day portraits, I had one taken with my grandparents (with whom she lived in a little spinster apartment) then I asked Aunt Eula to pose for a picture with me.  She lit up in her little pink dress and pearls and said, “I’ve never had a picture with the BRIDE!”  Later, when I threw the bouquet and they asked all the unmarried ladies to gather around, Pop hollered, “Get up front, Eula!”  She was about 80.  I did my best to throw it right at her.

In all the fuss and hubbub of that day, there are two moments that stand out in my mind, because they relate back to that idea of “When people show you who they are, believe them.”  There were so many words exchanged that day, and Fartbuster and I had chosen the words of our ceremony very carefully.  He said the vows….but they were just talk.  After Laura pronounced us married and invited us to share a kiss, I reached up to fling my arms around my new husband’s neck.  He held my arms down.  In the picture, he’s holding my arms down like I’m a lunatic and I might hurt someone with all that joy.  That was his first action to me as my husband–tamping down my enthusiasm.  When the pictures came in weeks later and I saw the awkward way he was pinning my arms to my sides, my heart was heavy.  But I buried that feeling and took what I got.  For a while.

I rarely think of that moment anymore.  This next one, I think of frequently.  It’s another case of a man showing me who he was and me believing him.  I can’t convey how hard everyone had worked to put together this wedding.  It was a feat.  A miracle.  A gift.  At the moment when Wally started playing the opening notes of “Ode to Joy,” my Daddy took my hand and tucked it into his arm.  We stepped out on the porch and I got my first look at the finished product…my wedding that I had dreamed about for so long.  I was overwhelmed by the moment.  It was my wish come true.  I whispered, “Oh, Daddy!  It’s perfect!”  He patted my hand and said, “So are you, Sugar, so are you.”

Some people hold you down.  Some people lift you up.  

Word Swaps: “I Don’t Have Time To…”


How many hours does Martha Stewart have in a day?

How many hours does Michelle Duggar have in a day?

How many hours does Serena Williams have in a day?

How many hours does Ang Suu Kyi have in a day?

How many hours do you have in a day?  Yup, 24.  Same as everyone else who has ever lived.

Today’s challenge is a powerful word swap that I learned from my boot camp coach.  She doesn’t tolerate when someone says, “I don’t have time to exercise.”  You have to phrase it, “Exercise is not a priority for me.”  Ouch.  That puts the responsibility on…ME.

It’s true!  We all have the same amount of hours in the day.  Some of us have 19 children to wrangle.  Some of us dedicate huge blocks of time to athletic training.  Some of us sacrifice sleep to fight for social justice.  Some of us have businesses we built from nothing.  Some of us have immaculate homes.  We allocate time to whatever we make a priority.

Claiming “I don’t have time” can be helpful when I use it as an excuse to say no to something I don’t want to do.  I don’t have time to clean the baseboards.  Cleaning baseboards is not a priority.  Yeah, I’m OK with that.  But when it comes to something that I want to do but I’m not doing, using “not a priority” over “I don’t have time” makes me refocus on how I am spending my time.  For years, I said, “I don’t have time to write.”  Now I blog every day and I love it.  I made it a priority.  I quit running when I was pregnant with Carlos and I miss it.  If I keep telling myself I don’t have time to run, I’ll keep avoiding it.  But if I have to say, “Running isn’t a priority for me,” and that feels like an untruth, I better make time.  If I can say it and it feels true, I can let go of the idea that I want to be running right now.

Try it today!  Think of something that you’ve written off because you don’t have time.  Now rephrase it as “that’s not a priority” and see how it feels.  If it feels true, good for you!  If it doesn’t feel true, make it a priority!

Laura VanderKam seems to be the  source of the “it’s not a priority” language.  Her book 168 Hours:  You Have More Time Than You Think is on my Kindle.  Now I just have to make it a priority…

Word Swaps: Have To and Get To

Here’s a synopsis of my weekend:

“I have to drive to Macon for Alumnae Weekend, where I have to host a bunch of events.  I had to go out and buy three new outfits for all the parties.  I have to speak at a luncheon.  I have to come up with something to say to open the Celebration Concert.  After the concert, I have to run across campus to host a cocktail reception.  Then I get to go back to my hotel and crash.”

Parenthood705All of those statements are true, and it’s pretty much the way I’ve been thinking about a very exciting weekend that’s coming up. But that paragraph sure does remind me of  the scene in the movie “Parenthood,” where Mary Steenbergen and Steve Martin are discussing the fact that they might be having another baby.  He is being pulled away from the discussion.  She asks, “Do you really have to go?” and he moans, “My whole life is ‘have to.'”


This is a habit that I have noticed in myself and I think it’s a habit among busy grownups.  We mentally list all the things that we have to do, our responsibilities.  The danger of a “have to” mentality is that it places more weight on the responsibility of an event or a task and makes it less about the opportunity.

What if we swap “have to” for “get to?”

“I get to drive to Macon for Alumnae Weekend, where I get to host a bunch of events.  I got to go out and buy three new outfits for all the parties.  I get to speak at a luncheon.  I get to come up with something to say to open the Celebration Concert.  After the concert, I get to run across campus to host a cocktail reception.  Then I have to go back to my hotel and crash.”

It’s a verbal shift that inspires a mental shift.  Like that piece I wrote about calling yourself a woman instead of a girl.  The words I use to describe my life don’t just reflect my attitudes about life–they help to create those attitudes!

Yes, my weekend is filled with events that are my responsibilities as president of my college’s alumnae association.  The words I use to talk about them should honor the fact that they are also delightful OPPORTUNITIES!  I get to drive to Macon because G is taking care of the kids all weekend.  I get to host parties–the joy of an extrovert!  I am lucky enough to be able to afford some new clothes.  I get to talk into microphones and I do loooooove talking.  There’s music!  And wine!  And reunions!   Why am I saying “have to” when I am lucky enough to “get to?”

Sure, sure, some have to’s are just WORK.  It’s hard to say, “I get to have a biopsy!” or “I get to clean up this dog barf!”

Nevertheless, here’s my challenge to you today.  Listen to yourself talk.  When you hear a “have to, ” can it be swapped out for a “get to?”  If you try it, let me know how it went!

Law and Order FPU: Stakeout

Episode Two

“In the criminal littering system, panty-based offenses are considered especially heinous. In our fair City, the dedicated bloggers who investigate these underwear felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Feral Panties Unit. These are their stories.”



Day Two, 5pm.  The panties are beginning to camouflage themselves as they adapt to their new habit.  We’re 48 hours into this stakeout and the trail is growing cold.  And breezy.  We may have to call in commandos.


In the rain

Day Three, 8:30am.  Looks like someone left their cake out in the rain.  The FPU officer suffered an attack of panty pity and shielded the wad of panties with her regulation black umbrella.  It’s hard out here for a pimp.


chalk outline

Day Three, 5:15pm.  Feral Panties Unit officer outlined the panty wad in order to prevent further contamination.   From this angle, it’s starting to look like the Rolling Stones lip logo…or have I been looking at this for too long? 


If you have no earthly idea what the hell is going on here, click here to read the beginning of the story.

And then the second part of the story.

Then somebody help me get in touch with Ice T to see if he’ll do a guest post.