Oh yeah! Still here!

Last you guys heard, I was having a miserable winter. You’ll be glad to hear that I’ve moved on to having an okay winter. I know it’s April and I should be calling it Spring, I don’t call it spring till I’m tiptoeing through tulips. I’m sure you’re all dying to know what’s happened between posts. Here’s a quick overview:

  • I got a promotion. Since I keep this space free of work talk, I’ll just say that in my new position, I have many more responsibilities and a TON to learn. I’m excited for the challenge.
  • I went on vacation and returned yesterday. I spent a week in sunny San Diego with an old friend and her 3 year-old daughter. Much to my surprise (and my mother’s), spending a week with with a 3 year-old didn’t completely eliminate the possibility having kids some day. I actually think it would be pretty cool to have someone tiny to hang out with and dress up. I’d want some help paying for the tiny companion, so I won’t be doing it solo any time soon, but if the circumstances were right, I would be okay with having a child. Other highlights of my vacation include: sunburn, an overpriced drink at a rooftop nightclub, delicious bruscetta, witnessing the public’s eagerness to buy STAR MAPS in Beverly Hills, appreciating days that pass without caring about the time, and reading a Meg Wolitzer novel (The Wife) in two days.
  • I registered for an improv class. You know, like Whose Line is it Anyway? That sort of thing. It’s going to go one of two ways: I’ll succeed immediately and be on SNL next year or have an epic fail and experience a huge ego check.
  • I started online dating again and after a half dozen dates I disabled my profile again. After outlining an essay about online dating and I read a Nora Ephron essay that is making me rethink the essay entirely. All I can confidently say now is that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing when it comes to dating and that I’ve sworn off several types of men (musicians, dudes who say “I don’t know” constantly, and those in search of an identity).
  • I registered for a 10k and promptly stopped training. Then one night my roommate and I accidentally ran 6 miles. I haven’t done much since then, so on May 18th, I’m banking on a repeat of the spontaneous endurance level.
  • After a 15 minute discussion with a friend one night, I got seven inches of hair cut. Felt like I lost thirty pounds and was disappointed to see I was mistaken.
  • I got obsessed with Chris Thile, listened to Punch Brothers for three straight months, freaked out and bought tickets to see Nickel Creek two minutes after I realized they were playing nearby. My parents and I will be seeing Nickel Creek on May 10. Kick Ass Daughter Level = Expert.
  • I turned 26 and threw myself a party. It was fairly lowkey, though I did wear a sequin-covered dress. I’m not sure if the latter statement negates the former, but I don’t really care. I had fun – great friends with lots of food, lots of wine and coffee Patron, and DJs who vibed the party perfectly.  Check them out here. I hear they accept payment in burritos, but don’t quote me on that.
  • I bought a new couch. Like a real adult couch. Like I went to an actual furniture store and picked out a piece on the showroom and paid to have it delivered. It wasn’t on clearance and it cost the better part of a paycheck. I’m sitting on it now.
  • I crocheted a lot. I don’t want to talk about it.

I’m making a goal to spend less time with yarn and more time with people. That’s a pretty good goal, right?

Oh, also, after realizing I had let the Customization Packs for my theme expire, I decided to revamp my blog with a new theme and picture.  My roommate helped me with the photos by goofing around on our stairs in gorgeous afternoon sunlight after I spent last night being sick from an airport deli sandwich.  We got some good shots that included the ones below. Credit for any perceived glow goes to the sunlight prisms or post colon-cleanse.

This is my "I'm Scared, Feed Me" face.

This is my “I’m Scared, Feed Me” face.

Slight variation of the previous face, but with less "I'm Scared" and more "Feed Me".

Slight variation of the previous face, but with less “I’m Scared” and more “Feed Me”.

Next time I do online dating, this is totally going to be my profile pic.

Next time I do online dating, this is totally going to be my profile pic. I’m sure to get some classy men with this one.

Sorry you guys read the blog of someone so weird. I’d tell you to hope for something different in the future, but you probably know that’s a lie.

It’s only been 15 days.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve completed four short stories based on one of my favorite characters I’ve created – Ruby, an art major living in a large city (Milwaukee or Chicago, I haven’t decided). Each of the stories is centered around a work of art she has created (linoleum stamp, a re-purposed book, self-portraits, and her first nude sketch), but illustrates how she works through an issue in her personal life (her own self-perception and accompanying anxiety, ending her first major romantic relationship, her parents’ divorce, and her younger brother’s suicide). Each of the stories is emotionally raw and maintains the perfect blend of exposition and dialog. In addition to these four short stories, I’ve kept my apartment spotless, tried three non-crockpot recipes (Beef Wellington, Napoleons, and coq au vin), crocheted four scarves, bought and wrapped all of my Christmas gifts, and effectively set the foundation for a loving and mutually-rewarding romantic relationship.

Sick PinterestJust kidding. I’m still single, eating leftovers, and I was sick with tonsillitis for over a week. I took three sick days (yikes!), drank my weight in Powerade, cried once to my parents on the phone because EVERYTHING hurt, and lost two pounds from a diet of mainly popsicles, jello, and vanilla yogurt, and spent a ridiculous amount of time on Pinterest. Then I spent a week on antibiotics – where I mainly crocheted (I tried knitting a few times, but I got frustrated because knitting is so damn boring compared to crochet), watched The Colbert Report, and scoffed at the terrible writing caliber of Nip/Tuck. Occasionally I read (Fun House – an excellent graphic novel if you’re looking for one, This is How You Lose Her – disappointing after Oscar Wao, Infinite Jest – that book is damn hard, and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim – rereading and still laughing), but mainly I just slept a lot. I can’t remember the last time I was so sick.

Basically, I was sick and uninspired for the last few weeks, so excuse the lack of posts. I’m not dead, I’m just not writing at the moment, which will change.

I think I’ll go write those short stories now. More posts this week.

Lookit! Lookit! New things!

A few Saturdays ago, I woke up feeling sort of bored. My options were pretty wide: sit in my bed and read or write, go to the last farmer’s market of the year, grab coffee somewhere and pretend I was some artistic genius struggling to write a poem in a spiral bound notebook, or give myself a new hairstyle. I decided to give myself a new hairstyle. Since I’ve been watching a lot of New Girl (and like every other twenty-something girl, I have a bit of a girl crush on her), I decided to give myself bangs.

While in Milwaukee a few years back, I tried to rock bangs (my Feist obsession was at an all-time high), but I ended up getting feeling uncomfortable with them, so I pinned them back and let them grow out. That time I took a scissors and cut straight across my forehead about 40 minutes before an orchestra concert. That could have ended disastrously. I’m incredibly brilliant sometimes.

This time, I took the 30 seconds to google how to cut my own bangs, and they ended up looking pretty good. I think they make me look a lot younger than what I had before then.

Exhibit A: Summer 2012, tanned and blonde so I could feel like a bombshell while my soul died in a cubicle.

Exhibit B: Autumn 2012, pale and brunette so I can feel artsy and slightly superior when I wear leggings and boots

Good god. I look like a completely different person.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on my bangs. Many of my coworkers (including some who have never talked to me previously) say that it fits me. Some days, I feel really confident about it, while other days I miss my forehead being cool. I’m sure it sounds silly, but it’s a bit tiring to adjust to such a different style.

Other new things: my job. I LOVE it. I know I’ve talked about it before, but I’m really enjoying my new position. This week I have my first client visit. Really looking forward to one of my first interactions as a professional.

Last week, I got a Kindle Fire HD. I’ve spent plenty of time playing around on it: listening to music, reading books, reading magazines, watching youtube, Netflix, and Prime videos, browsing the web – it’s just awesome. I haven’t been disappointed yet. I thought I might not enjoy reading on the back-lit screen (that was my biggest hesitation when switching from my classic Kindle to the tablet), but it’s really quite nice. It’s been especially easy to switch between Infinite Jest and Elegant Complexity (the excellent reader’s guide). I may tire of it, but I figure if I do, I can always just get the basic Kindle for my serious reading sessions. Or you know, I guess I could pick up an actual book.

The latest thing to always be in my purse

I’m going to sit down and write a good post tomorrow, so please excuse this ditzy “oh mah gawd, lookit me n mah stuff!” post. You know I’m better than this.

Seriously though, I’ve got to go fix my bangs and take pictures of myself in flannel with my new gadget. Ciao!

This is me in my flannel pajamas being a dork while I try out the HD camera on my new Kindle.

…and then I cried to a strange asian woman.

So, you know how  my last post was about how I got anxious about driving and losing everything in a second? There was an accident on the highway yesterday morning. Thankfully, I wasn’t part of it.

But my car did die on the way to work. That word sounds so dramatic. Die. I suppose context doesn’t matter either. But in this context, it’s almost certainly not the right word, but I don’t know what else to say.

My car ceased to work on the way to work. My car lost power. My car decided to nap on  the way to work. Instead of driving to work, my car preferred to overheat and force me to coast into a parking lot.

I tried to call my dad. And my brother, Corey. And my parents’ house. No answer at any of them. I was particularly worried about Corey, because he leaves for work around the same time I do, and his phone went directly to voicemail. I was half convinced he was in what Facebook updates lead me to believe was a 12-car pileup (he wasn’t).

I didn’t know what to do. I was about to change out of my heels into the flats I keep in my trunk to walk the mile to my parents’ house when I remembered that I know people outside of my immediate family.

So I called my grandma.

She sounded sleepy, so I just gave her my spiel. “Grandma? This is Ashley. My car just died on the way to work and I can’t get a hold of my dad or anyone else. Could you come pick me up and take me to my parents’ house?” Of course, I started crying too. Because I’m awesome like that.


“I just need a ride to my parents’ house. I’ll be able to borrow one of their cars.”

“Who ah you?”

“Is this Grandma Bea?”

“Who ah you?”

“You’re not Bernice, are you?”

“Who ah you?”

I realized I had just cried to a strange asian woman. So I hung up. I called an aunt who was going to pick me up, but then my dad called me.

He saved the day, like he always does.

Of course later that day, my dad was able to get the car started and running without any problems. I love when that happens.

A week of revision, wine, screaming, & decoupage.

This last week has been about as good as I could have hoped for. After last week,  it was just what I needed. After making some mistakes, it only seems appropriate that fate rewards me with less trying and more rewarding seven days.

I spent the earlier part of the week revising a piece to share with my writer’s group. This meant coming home from work and spending the better part of my evening at my computer, reworking the same paragraph I had been staring at for twenty minutes. As tedious as it sounds, it was extremely rewarding. One evening, I took a bike ride down by the river, found a soft grassy spot and went to work. I got a lot more done without an internet connection.

I used to hate revision, but that was back when I thought everything I wrote was gold. Now I’ve accepted that first drafts are typically shit and have learned to appreciate the process. And though I don’t usually sift through old drafts, I’ve saved each one. This means I have a folder of each story with at least four or five drafts. Speaking of, I should really back that up on two separate hard drives.

On Wednesday, I met up with three of my aunts. We went to a wine bar for dinner and I spent the rest of the night burping moscato and beef carpaccio. After that, we went to Lifest. Lifest is a christian music festival that my family used to go to when I was young. I hadn’t been there since I was fourteen with my boyfriend at the time. Ten years later, it was bizarre to see a music festival lacking stumbling drunks and an excess of cleavage. Since I grew up nondenominational, I’m pretty sure most of my extended family assumes I at least claim to believe in God. While I’m not willing to state there is no God, I’m not willing to say I believe in a God. I know that saying this will probably give me some backlash from some friends and family, but I don’t want people thinking that because I went to Lifest I’m a god-fearing young woman. And I’m not saying that out of some sense of hyper-vigilance, I just don’t want to present myself as something I’m not. I know many good things done in the name of God, but there are also some pretty dark things done in the same name. At this point, all I am willing to say is that I haven’t found compelling evidence. When and if I ever do believe in God, it will be something that occurs organically, not by shocked friends and family sending me bible verses.

So anyway, I was at Lifest. I spent most of the time talking with my Aunt Laurie about men, dreams, passions, mental obstacles, The Bloggess (and Beyonce, the giant metal chicken), and goals. I went home feeling refreshed, inspired, and content.

On Friday, I went to Six Flags Great America with some friends where I went on rollercoasters and screamed a lot.

Yesterday, I met with my writer’s group, got some great feedback (“You have a lovely way of being funny & witty while also being poignant, self-deprecating, and reflective”), and left feeling inspired. I shared a more reflective version of my last post, and I had several requests for a story next time. I think I’ll do something more prose-like for next month, but my biggest obstacle is going to be getting away from my second person narration. It’s emotionally easier to write second person. It allows me to distance myself from the material. I think that was pretty evident with my last list. It’s strange: I’m willing to share fairly intimate details, but I’m not, apparently, willing to attach the “I” pronoun. I could be wrong, but I think that if I want to write memoirs and personal essays, I’m going to have to get over that.

Or maybe I’ll just revolutionize memoir and write a collection of essays in the second person.

Nobody steal my idea, okay?

Then Andrea and I had a decoupage day. We listened to Rilo Kiley, ate some pizza, drank some beer, and pasted things on foam board and canvas. I created some things to hang on my walls.

[Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.]

All in all, this was a mediocre blog post about a rejuvenating week. Now it’s coming to a close with a heat advisory that I’m using as an excuse to sit inside and read Kurt Vonnegut all day.

Just individual egos, crazy for love

So, I just got internet in my apartment. I came home after work and attempted to secure my wireless network. Then I realized I’m a silly girl who has no idea how to do such a thing. I screwed it up and then a friend told me about the reset button. So as of right now, my internet has no password. But I’m connected. That’s the cool thing.

Somebody should come over to my apartment and secure it for me so my neighbors don’t hack into all of my very sensitive files (17 drafts of my seminar piece, 9 attempts at the above shot with my webcam, russian vocabulary translations).

I have a feeling that someday I’m going to turn into the sort of person who begins every sentence with “My therapist says…” Right now, I’m too poor for that. But it’s good to have something to aspire to, right? Anyway, I realized the other day that I’m certainly my own brand of crazy. Crazy isn’t the appropriate word, but my head hurts too much to think of something else. But everybody is. We all have our weird quirks and terrible ways of dealing with things. Me? When I cry, I fold my tissue into halves. I try to prove that whole seven times thing wrong. I don’t think it’s worked. But I do my damndest. I’m a very dedicated worker. I could go more into this, but I’d rather eat ice cream for dinner and quickly change the subject.

I’ve also been reading my Norton Anthology of Short Fiction for fun. I haven’t touched it since my intro to creative writing class about ten years ago (I lied, it was only about four, but it feels like it’s been ten years), so I’ve been reading stories for what feels like the first time. I spent about $70 on the thing to read four or five stories out of it that semester. Apparently the professor had never heard of a copier. It’s become the thing I fall asleep with at night. It’s a nice giant book that feels like a bible but with way more insight into the human psyche. It’s fantastic.

Like that ditty, from Donald Barthelme’s “Me and Mrs. Mandible”. Tell me that isn’t true. I dare you.

Oh, I’m also reading Freud’s Dream Psychology Psychoanalysis for Beginners. You know, for fun. Making fun of Freud is something that will never get old. I promise you. I expect to someday talk to a therapist about things in this book.

I’ve also been self-medicating again. Large doses of Ok Go and evening jogs on the trail near my apartment. Going almost two weeks without internet forces you to get creative with your time. There is really only so much a phone and 3G can do for a girl. She’s forced to return to books and writing without blogging. It’s weird. There isn’t any immediate gratification from pressing that “publish” button. She has to write the kind stuff that requires (and deserves) revision.

If you’re feeling down or lonely, I can’t recommend Ok Go enough. I know, they’re that band you liked in high school and pretend you’re too cool for now, but seriously. You’re a robot if this video doesn’t make you smile or at the very least breathe a sigh of relief. Listening to this band will decidedly end your pity party.

Also, that’s the first acceptable use (outside of the military) for a ghillie suit that I have ever seen.

I think my therapist would say I’m avoiding what’s really bothering me.

Five Shockingly Boring Confessions

My writer’s group has a fascination with lists. Since most of the group is composed of men, they usually don’t pertain to me. (Last month, somebody shared “Five Signs You’re Ready for Fatherhood”.) Usually they’re written with the perfect balance of intelligence and self-deprecation. I’ve been trying to find that balance in my own lists, but I’m all about self-deprecation and no intelligence, apparently. My mind has been operating in lists for the last week or so. I learned it’s not exclusive to my sober mind either. After an ER visit the other night, I walked away with a diagnosis of “Abdominal Pain, Right upper quadrant” and a prescription for vicoden. This is what I came up with while on vicoden. (Just a head’s up, my sober-minded lists aren’t much better. )

1. When my nail polish chips, I peel the rest off.

I’ll take great pride in completing a beautiful manicure only to deliberately ruin it as soon as it chips. I like how my nail feels when it takes in air after by suffocated by three layers of polish and I get an unnatural sense of satisfaction from peeling a chunk bigger than an pencil eraser. It reminds me of being in grade school, getting Elmer’s Glue on my hands, and peeling it off after it dried. A normal, self-respecting young woman would simply use remover to take off the thing when it starts looking like crap. Not me. I’d rather peel the stuff off and look like a thirteen year old who doesn’t take notes in algebra class.

2. I have no idea how to wear lipstick.

I genuinely envy women who can wear lipstick. I have no idea how to apply it. As a former Mary Kay lady, I’m probably supposed to know how to do this. I know that the “proper” way involves liner, lipstick, and tissue, but I’ve never been able to figure it out. Whenever I use liner, I’m never able to figure out where exactly my lip ends and where my skin begins. You’d think the color difference would be enough, but no matter where I trace the line, it never seems to be right. Also, if I’m trying to wear a shade other than red, I’m convinced that my liner is too dark and my lipstick is too light. There’s some comedian who has a joke about the dark liner/light lipstick; he says that it’s the most hideous look ever and it looks like a butthole. I’ve never been able to get that visual out of my head.

3. I have watched Say Yes to the Dress for more than two consecutive hours.

When I had my own television, I genuinely enjoyed Friday nights alone. TLC plays wedding shows from about 4pm until 11pm. I often used this as an opportunity to shut my door, hang out in my underwear and drink too much moscato by myself. The show isn’t exactly compelling. It’s just women trying on wedding dresses. Where’s the appeal? I don’t like half the dresses they show, and about 95% cost far more than I would ever consider spending.

4. I don’t know the words to Rich Girl but I insist on singing along anyway.

After creating a Bee Gees Pandora station (Bill used to play in a disco band and I was a supportive girlfriend), I came upon the realization that I genuinely enjoy music made before I was born. This includes, but is not limited to, the Bee Gees, Simon & Garfunkel, Earth Wind & Fire, and Hall & Oates. The last time I heard Rich Girl, I told my friend, “This is my jam!” before rocking out and attempting to sing along. As long as I catch the “it’s a bitch, girl” parts, I consider it a success.

5. I own a piggy bank. 

And it’s currently empty. There is literally no reason for me to own a piggy bank. I used it for a few months before I took a trip to California and collected about $70 worth of latte-making tips. Since then, it has not held more than $13. I know that because I used the last $13 as my bar money for Halloween. But it’s cute, isn’t it? I bought it because it looks exactly like a piggy bank you see in a cartoon. Did I mention I’ve been known to spend my money irresponsibly?