Tag Archives: growth

The Long Growth: There to Here; Green to Gold

“I looked it up–we need to get a male and a female,” Richard said as we stood over the muscadine vines at Cofer’s. I picked up a gallon size bucket with a thin green vine growing inside. I held it up above my head and looked at the bottom. “This one must be female.” I picked up another container. “Shoot, this one must be too…nothing dangling under here!”

He shook his head and smiled at my silliness. “Seriously, how do you tell the difference?”

He stretched out the narrow white label that was tied around the base of the vine. “Here we go–this one has an M. Look for an F.”

We paid a lot of money for those straggling vines. That afternoon, we planted them on either side of the small archway in the backyard that had been built by a previous owner. I remember wondering if the plants would be close enough for the male and the female to matter or if the vines needed to intertwine. Once the roots were buried in the clay, the vines barely reached to the bottom of the trellis. We tied them up with some twine and left nature to do its thing.

Muscadine vine, 13 years later.

Muscadine vine, 13 years later.


Its slow, slow thing. Nature’s veeeeery slow thing.

Richard died before ever getting to taste a muscadine from those vines. We stood under that bare archway after our wedding, with vines that still hadn’t reached waist high. I neglected the yard that summer, and the next. But the vines kept growing.

It took years for them to creep up and cover the top of the archway, their male and female tendrils twining together at last. After about five years, I spotted tiny fruit, but the birds got every grape.

I’ve never pruned it, fertilized it, watered it, nothing. Just let it be. One autumn, when the leaves changed color, I noticed that the muscadine vines had grown all up in the redbud tree next to the arch. All that growing, at long last.

But last weekend, while cleaning the pool, the light hit the vines just so and revealed heavy bunches of golden grapes. I couldn’t stop smiling. I stood under the dark shade of the covered arch and ate those sweet muscadines right off the vine. I made a basket with the tail of my t-shirt and picked all I could reach.

Muscadines are wild grapes; scuppernongs are the golden variety.

Muscadines are wild grapes; scuppernongs are the golden variety.

That thick pop of the skin and the sudden sweetness. When I was a kid, I used to buy a pint of scuppernongs every year at the Cotton Pickin’ Fair from Owens Vineyard. Back then, I’d enjoy the juice then spit out the pulp to avoid the seeds. I’m older and wiser now, and as I stood there in the shade of those vines we planted thirteen years ago, I enjoyed every bit of the grape.

It takes a while.

Back then I was young and willing to trust that this would lead to that. You look things up, you read the label, you plant things on the sunny side and you wait. And wait and wait and wait. I got swamped by life for all those years and I lost sight of the idea of grapes that we had entertained over a decade ago. During the growth years and the bird years and the years I was too busy with babies to worry about what was going on in my own backyard.

Then one Saturday I taste the sweetness that we had planted so long ago. From there to here. From green to gold. From all of that…to sweetness.

You just have to hold on and keep growing. It takes longer than I ever imagined.

Scuppernong tendrils

Scuppernong tendrils

Sunday Reflection – Green Beads

green beadIt’s been a great and growing week for me.  I’d string a green bead for just about every day this week.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, flash back to this story from Baddest Mother Ever, “A Blue Bead for Boston.”

Wordless Wednesday — Time to Grow

Thoughts on growing from three wise men who always maintained a connection to childhood:


I’m youth, I’m joy, I’m a little bird  that has broken out of the egg.
James M. Barrie 

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

C. S. Lewis 

Being born in a duck yard does not matter, if only you are hatched from a swan’s egg.
Hans Christian Andersen 

Newly hatched baby gecko

Newly hatched baby gecko


I hope you grow today.  


I’m Really Not That Tall

I need to declare something publicly and I need to say it to people who will hold me accountable.  I hope y’all don’t mind the responsibility.  I guess this is as good a place as any.   OK, here goes.

I am a blogger.

Well, DUH.  Over the last four months, I’ve been writing diligently and posting with great regularity and really digging the feedback from the people who read this…stuff.  I can say that I enjoy writing.  I can encourage others to express themselves.  But that exact arrangement of words?  Yipes.  So today I’m putting it out there–I am a blogger.

So what?

Well, there’s this conference for female bloggers called BlogHer and it’s in Chicago this July.  I’ve had it on my radar for months and had it on my calendar for months.  I saved tax refund money to cover the expense.  I’ve even reserved the vacation days at work.  I’ve stalked the website, clicked on the schedules, looked at the photo gallery of the hotel, checked flights to Chicago, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger on registering.  Because that conference?  It’s for BLOGGERS.

There's an impostor among us...

There’s an impostor among us…

If I actually went, it would become some “Carrie Goes to the Prom” nightmare, right?  They would let me register, but once I walked in the meeting I would be called out in front of everyone for presuming to place myself at an event for REAL BLOGGERS.  For example, I looked at one of the photos of a discussion group at last year’s conference and noticed that everyone was using an iPad to take notes.  I don’t even own one.  Well, we do have one that G won in a raffle and we mostly use it to entertain the kids on long drives.  It might be under the love seat in the den, cloaked in a skim of Cheetos dust.  Why would real bloggers let me in with my nasty Cheeto-smelling raffle iPad????  I am a fraud, clearly.  

But even I must acknowledge the ridiculous nature of posting on my BLOG that I can’t call myself a blogger.  Every word on this thing is written and managed by…me.  Baddest Mother Ever is a wholly owned subsidiary of MissAshleyCo, Inc. Worldwide.

Sometimes I have a hard time believing that I am allowed to claim what is mine.  Even when I have done the work myself.  Sometimes I can’t even recognize myself.  Do you ever feel like that?  

A couple of years ago, I got a Facebook message from a woman I knew in college.  Lizzie was a year behind me, an international student from Bangladesh,  a young woman very far from home.  Back in those days, we had an old tradition where the sophomores hazed the freshmen, so my class indoctrinated Lizzie’s class.  Then 20 years later, she wrote to me on Facebook to say that she always appreciated the fact that I was kind to her during the hell week.  She said something along the lines of “I remember you because you were this tall girl with laughing eyes and your smile let me know that it was all a joke and it was going to be OK.”  My first thought upon reading this?  She must have me confused with someone else because I’m not really that tall.

I’m 5’9″.  That’s pretty tall by most standards, right?

After many years of therapy, I can at least catch myself doing this.  My brain heard a genuine compliment.  But I was so uncomfortable with someone acknowledging the simple fact that I’m nice and generally kind to people that I had to deny the very idea that she was talking about me! 

I shared this story about Lizzie with my friend, Heather (who blogs here at Allonsee).  Heather is one of the few people I know who doesn’t essentially doubt herself on a daily basis.  She gets frustrated and she gets muddle-headed at times, but she’s pretty secure in the fact that she’s an OK, intelligent person.  Can you IMAGINE what it would be like to live in her head for a day?  Now, whenever I start belittling my own skills or attributes or chances, Heather can simply say, “And you’re not even TALL!”  It’s become a form of shorthand that is much more polite than saying, “Get your head out of your ass and look around.”

To make a long story longer…This afternoon, Heather happened to ask me if I had registered for BlogHer at the very moment that I had the registration website open for a little spot of stalking and self-esteem bashing.  Damn her and her impeccable timing.  She sent me this list of reasons I should do it:

Why Ashley should go to Chicago …

1. It’ll be like her giant girl college experience. 
2. It is in Chicago in July for pity’s sake 
3. She loves writing and so do they 
4. She gets to take time and money to do things that are interesting to her because SHE HAS TIME AND MONEY THAT IS HERS 
5. There is NO entrance bar for BlogHer – she is not going to need to show her “Valid” pass to get in. 



#5 hit me right in the gut.  Yep.  That was what was stopping me.  I thought there was some “Official Blogger” pass that I didn’t have in my wallet.

I did it.  I registered for the conference and I booked myself a hotel room.  I even registered for the pre-conference session called “My Blog as a Book Proposal” because while I’m putting it out there to the universe I might as well put it ALL out there.  It’s time to start calling myself what I want to be.  I am a blogger.  I am a writer.  I am a creator and an author and a storyteller and a joyful citizen of the messy parts of life.

Oh, and for the record–I am tall.

Are you feeling tall today?  Or curled up in a ball?  What word do people use to describe you that you have trouble calling yourself?


A Blue Bead for Boston

beaded necklace with all colorsMany years ago, so many that I can’t recall the name of the book or the author, I read about a method for seeing the pattern of your life from a grander perspective.  The idea is a simple one:  at the end of each day, imagine that you are stringing a colored glass bead onto a ribbon.  The ribbon is your life, stretching all the way back to the knot that was tied the day you were born.  The color of the bead represents how you felt on that one particular day.  A red bead for an angry day, when you spent your time feeling put out and put upon.  A green bead for the day when you were growing, when you could feel yourself becoming greater.  A blue bead for a day touched with sadness, a day when your heart was laid open to the world.  A gold bead for the perfectly balanced day, when your heart was blessed with joy and peace.

Once you have chosen a bead for the day and added it to the ribbon, you can look back to see the pattern they create.  I could look back and see the stretches of blue when Richard died that lightened into green when my life became whole again.  I could see how few red days are behind me, but how sharply they shout out for attention.  I could feel grateful for the gold days scattered here and there and there.  

Yesterday would have been a blue day.  A blue bead for Boston.

My boot camp coaches, April and Natalie, who finished yesterday’s race in 3:57, just minutes before the bombs exploded, have been robbed of their gold beads.  Their achievement should hold nothing but joy, but it will forever be darkened by violence.  There’s a boy in Boston who should have had a green day, after watching his dad finish something tough, but now the boy is dead and his father is left with a red bead, a blue bead, and many days before he will reach for a gold bead again.  How many people will mark April 15, 2013 as the first day they spent in a wheelchair?  Red and blue, red and blue; when will green return?

Today is also the anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.  Another of my former coaches, Stephanie, ran the Boston Marathon a year ago in memory of the 32 people murdered at Virginia Tech.  Her brother, Jamie Bishop, died there.  If I think about that tragedy too long, I reach for a red bead instead of blue.  Especially after Newtown.

So at the end of this day, pick a bead.  There will be blue days.  There will be red days.  But there are so many green days.  And just enough gold to make it all worthwhile.

Thank you to April, Natalie and Stephanie for all of the green days you have coached me through.  For the gold days when I finished a race that I never thought I would have the courage to start.