2017, Single Parenting

Do You Ever Wish You Were Married?

It was never my intention to be a single mom. Christian was in diapers when that happened, he had just turned two.  He was sleeping in a pack-n-play because he was still really little and because I couldn’t afford a toddler bed.  Hannah was four.  She hadn’t started Pre-School yet and I can still remember her asking when we were going home.  I was 27.  Talk about being in over my head.  I had no job, no money saved, no idea what in the world we were going to do.  The anxiety was overwhelming.

When I think about it now, I think we managed those tougher times because I never believed I couldn’t take care of my kids.  There’s not a day that has ever gone by that I thought I wasn’t the best person for the job.  Even on the worst of the worst days, I knew I would figure out a way.  And even though I always had larger than life dreams, I understood that if I could make it through today then I can make it through tomorrow.  And if I can make it through tomorrow, they day after that will be okay too.   But talk about how many changes we’ve seen. How many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we ate because peanut butter and jelly are cheap.  How many times rent was a week late.  Or how many hand-me-downs I was secretly relieved to accept because new clothes just weren’t in the budget.

So many uncertainties, anxieties, and fears have seen the light of day, but have yet to define us.  Oh, but they have their moments.  Just this past weekend the kids and I went to Kalahari for the day with three other families.  We had a ton of fun swimming in the hot tub, going down a few water slides, and floating along the lazy river.  It’s been a couple of years since we went to an indoor water park and I forgot how exciting the atmosphere is.  For nearly eight hours we escaped reality.  To say we were tired by the time we started driving home would be an understatement.

Thankfully the kids quickly fell asleep but before they did Hannah asked in an I-already-know-the-answer tone, “Do you ever wish you were married?”  

It was as if she could tell how challenging outings can be.  Like she could see how disappointed I felt when I had to make them choose between playing a few games in the arcade or getting ice cream because doing both is too much money.  Or trying to carry everyone’s jackets and bags and then finding my keys and finding the car and making sure nobody gets run over in the parking lot.  Maybe it’s the sigh of relief I let out once we all get settled into the car and she can tell that it might be easier if someone else was with us.  I’m not sure why she asked, but I can tell you it made the car ride home a bit somber for me.

I never wanted any of that for my kids. I still wish that wasn’t part of their story.  I wish it was easier.  I wish I wasn’t stressed as much as I am.  I wish they could see I really am trying.  Maybe they can.  Maybe these are those insecurities trying to define me again.  Maybe they know the truth.  Because every morning I wake up to a little boy who tells me how much he loves me.  And I go to bed with two kids who have requested to be tickled again and again and again.  I wake up to hugs and smiles and Legos and a little voice excited to start our day.  I go to bed knowing that Hannah read us a story out loud while I laid in Christian’s bed with him.  I wake up reminded that I am enough.  I go to bed reminded that I am enough. In those moments, my fears of inadequacy and failure are nonexistent and it really feels like Love is enough. That I am enough. That the road we are on is enough.

Happy Valentine’s Days, my friends!  Hope you have a wonderful day and I hope you know that you are enough!

-Ashley, XOXO

2017

Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017!

Nothing quite says slow down, you’re about to crash like having your brakes go out on your car the day before the new year begins.  I, someone who doesn’t necessarily believe in signs, can take one when it’s this clear.  So I welcome 2017 with open arms and intentions to stop taking on more than I should because the last 12 months have left me mentally and physically exhausted.

Here’s a recap of 2016.

In the last 12 months, the kids and I watched someone we love get diagnosed and sadly pass away from lung cancer.  Nothing puts life more into perspective than watching a vibrant 54-year-old fight for their life and then watch her take her last breath.  A defining moment in our lives. We then moved, again, but into a more permanent place that feels more like home. Cavs won the NBA Finals in the most amazing way possible which may have been the highlight of the whole year.  3-1, what?!  I started working more which meant more money but less time at home.  On a whim and without any intentions of getting it, I auditioned for an acoustic trio and knew the minute I drove away that I landed the gig.  A week later I got the call, got it!  Another highlight of the year as my love for music has been reignited and real, genuine relationships have been formed.  And lastly, I’ve managed to end 2016 with a big, painful bang as I just got diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia which is a nerve disorder and have been in daily pain for the last 3 months.  It makes me think all 7,528 migraines that I had last year weren’t for nothing.  It seems like it was all leading up to this which along with my brakes giving out, has slowed me down like nothing before.  

I get it, Universe, I get it.  Slow down.  

It’s been the never-ending year but we’ve made a handful of very meaningful relationships and learned how to keep moving forward when moving forward didn’t seem very fun. We also learned that sometimes the doggies don’t always come first but their love and companionship never ever waver.  I found myself rushing to take them on their walks or rushing them outside to go potty before we had to leave the house.  Rushing to get the kids ready, only to rush them out the car door so I could get to work on time.  Rushing to take a 20-minute nap, rushing to get to the bus on time, rushing to take a shower.  Rushing, rushing, rushing.

So, yes, I get it.  

Time to slow down.  Unplug.  Re-prioritize.  Breath. 

And take more hikes with my two favorite friends in the whole entire world.

May this year bring about personal growth, meaningful relationships, and that all the twists and turns that are bound to happen be greeted with kindness, self-awareness, and flexibility.  

Happy 2017 everyone!

life lessons thanks to my dogs

20 Ways To Live Like A Dog

They say a dog is the only thing in the world that will love you more than it loves himself.  

I can vouch for this.  I’ve never had a friend more loyal than Lily or Romeo.  Or a friend who’s lived with so much passion, happiness, and eagerness to live life to the absolute fullest, which made me think… if humans lived more like dogs, maybe we would all be happier too.

Here are 20 ways how to live like a dog, in hopes that we can be as happy and wise as the best creatures in the world.

1.  Always be up for an adventure…

Ever notice just how excited your dog is to hop into your car, having no knowledge where they are going?  They’re always ready to go!  Something us humans can learn from.  

Be adventurous.  Take chances.  Stay open to new experiences.

2.  But know your limits

Dogs aren’t afraid to put the brakes on things when they need to.  As much as they can go, go, go… they will let you know when they need to recharge.

Life isn’t fun when you’re running on empty all the time.  Take care of yourself by knowing your limits.

3. Make friends easily…

Dogs (most dogs) LOVE making friends!  At the park, on a walk, or on a trip to the pet store.  They’re always ready to say hi and play!

Somewhere along the way we forget how important it is to connect with new people.  Let our dogs remind us that life is better with friends.

4. But trust your instincts

With that being said, dogs are never afraid to trust their instincts when they meet new people or are in situations that don’t sit well with them.

Trusting our instincts is an essential part of living a happy and safe life, yet so many of us deny them.  I think we would all enjoy life a little more if we learned to trust our initial gut feelings.

5.  Be wary of the vacuum

Some things dogs do are hard to relate to, such as always yelling at the vacuum when it is turned on.  But I think loud, scary objects that move around the house probably should be avoided.

Be wary of anything that suggests cleaning your house.  That’s my best analysis here.

6.  Forgive and let go of grudges

Dogs have this amazing ability to forgive and let go of grudges completely.  Many dogs have been victims of neglect, abuse, and poor decision-making.  Some have watched their families drop them off at a shelter, never to see them again.  Some have lived their life tied up outside, never to feel the comfort of a warm bed.  Some… well, some have been so physically abused their body takes new form.  Yet these dogs – with a lot of love and nurturing – remain some the most loving and loyal dogs ever.  

We have a lot to learn with this one.  Forgiveness is hard, but living with bitterness and anger is much harder.  Try to trust again – you may just be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

7.  Be up for trying new foods

It does not matter what food I have in my hands, both my dogs will try their hardest to sit patiently until I give them their treat.  They LOVE new food!

I read once that people who try new foods are generally happier than people who don’t.  I don’t know if there’s any truth to it but if you asked my dogs, they’d tell you yes!

8.  Be so excited you sometimes pee a little

Maybe not all dogs do this but on more than one occasion I’ve returned home and Lily has been sooooo excited, she’s peed a little.  

Can you imagine being that happy over something?!

9.  Cause a little harmless trouble aka destroy as many stuffed animals as possible

Romeo has killed many stuffed animals in his time.  Was it nice to do?  No.  Was it fun to do?  Oh, I’m sure!  Did it hurt anyone?  No, not quite.

Break a few rules.  Have a little fun.  Don’t hurt anyone in the process.  Pretty simple things to live by. 

10.  Don’t judge people on their height, weight, or skin color

Dogs don’t care if you’re 5’2″ or 6’5″.  They will love you regardless.  They don’t care if you’ve lost or gained 10 lbs.  They will love you regardless.  They don’t care if you’re black, white, or Asian.  They will love you regardless.

Take note, humans.  Dogs get this one completely.

11.  Live in the moment

The here and now is the only moment that exists for dogs.  Their uncanny ability to stay in the present moment is admirable.

Be here.  Stay here.  This is the only moment that exists; let everything else go.    

12.  “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”

Lily looooves getting into the garbage.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve come home to find garbage all over the place.  It doesn’t matter how many times I yell at her for this either, it happens more often than that.

Which clearly only means one thing, one man’s trash really is another man’s treasure.

13.  Channel your inner frog

This one falls in the same category as be wary of the vacuum.  I’m not quite sure why they sit like frogs but if my dog thinks it’s cool to be a little different then I should probably listen.

Don’t be afraid to be a little weird.  Channel your inner frog, just like your dog does.

14.  Accept yourself fully

Dogs don’t get hung up over what color their coat is, how big or small they are, or where they’ve come from.  Without a second thought, they accept things just as they are.

Imagine waking up, looking in the mirror, and accepting yourself completely.  I think this is one of the hardest things we have to do, but it’s clear that when you do life naturally becomes so much better.  Try every day to worry less about things you can’t change and focus on the things you can.

15. When someone’s not looking, steal some of their food

Just yesterday, Lily and Romeo snatched three pancakes off the counter when I wasn’t looking.  I definitely don’t agree with this behavior but it makes you think… who’s the real winner here?  It wasn’t me.

Do it… just once.  Blame your dog if you get caught. :)

16.  Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty

When Romeo rolls around in the grass it’s impossible not to see how much joy it brings him.  Last fall when I would bring him to the dog park he would literally dive into the wettest parts of the park.  Splashing water everywhere.  Getting covered in mud.  Having the time of his life.

Don’t ever let the responsibilities of being an adult let you forget to have fun.  And don’t ever get so out of touch with nature you forget that getting a little dirty is actually really, really, really fun.  Go four wheeling, go for a hike, go play out in the rain.  

17.  Sometimes not saying anything is everything 

The few weeks before a close family member passed away from cancer, I would come home mentally and emotionally exhausted.  Overwhelmed with how unfair life seemed, I usually would cry myself to sleep.  Without fail, Lily and Romeo stayed by my side offering comfort and affection without saying a word.  I will always be grateful for them during that time.

Sometimes it’s hard to know how to respond when someone close to us is going through a hard time.  Sometimes not saying anything, but offering a shoulder to cry on is one of the best things we can do.

18.  Love without conditions

Lily and Romeo don’t expect me to be anything other than who I am, in this moment.  They don’t care about what I look like, how clean our house is, or how much money is (or isn’t) in the bank.  They love me regardless.  That’s what dogs do, they love regardless.  Without any conditions or strings attached.  They love regardless.

How better this world would be if we could all love unconditionally.

19.  Always wipe your feet after you go to the bathroom

This is an odd one, dogs.  I’m not quite sure what this is all about but it never fails, Romeo always wipes his feet after he pees.  Kicks up grass and dirt, which usually hits me, and always walks away feeling very accomplished of himself. 

If dogs are one of the happiest creatures on earth, maybe we should follow suit.  We should all wipe our feet after we pee.

20.  Chase the squirrel

Maybe your dog has, but neither of mine has ever caught a squirrel.  They’ve both wanted to but it’s never happened.  Three years together and not a single squirrel has been caught, yet that doesn’t stop them from still trying.  They’re always interested.  Always excited.  Always ready to pounce.  I would think by now they would understand that it’s probably not going to happen.  But they never give up.  They never give up.

Following your dreams is a lot like a dog chasing a squirrel.  Most people don’t achieve their dreams or reach their potential, not because they aren’t capable but because they give up.  They lose interest.  They become bored.  They abandon their passion.  They believe it’s not possible and they give up.

be a dog

Be a dog.  

Don’t give up.  Don’t lose focus.  Don’t surrender your dreams for a belief that isn’t true.  

Be a good friend.  Take a trip to somewhere new.  Enjoy naps when you want to.

Let go of the past.  

Live with passion.  

Follow your dreams.

Be a dog.