These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…About My Body

So sassy. Love it! P.S. Shortly after this picture was taken, I lost this black scarf forever. I think I might have accidentally thrown it away. True story.

So sassy. Love it!
P.S. Shortly after this picture was taken, I lost this black scarf forever. I think I might have accidentally thrown it away. True story.

Hello lovelies! I hope all of you had a lovely Labor Day! Hopefully most of you either a. enjoyed the day off from work or b. excitedly/dreadfully anticipated the start of a new school year (for those of you who don’t know, in Central Virginia, most public schools start the day after Labor Day). To everyone, I wish you all the best of luck in your own personal starts of something new, whatever they may be!

And now, for some business before pleasure: Please continue to be kind/patient as I ease myself into posting on a regular basis, and eventually revamp the blog itself. As I have noted before, I am new to this whole process, and this will definitely take some getting used to. However, as I mentioned in my previous posts, I am looking forward to challenge and sheer discipline this will take. Work does a body good, you know. 🙂

So let’s begin. Shall we? 😉

I want to jump by listing the things I actually love about my body, which in of itself is a HUGE mark of progress, since a few years ago I would probably say I loved NOTHING about my body. I think any weight loss journey should begin by listing and praising the things you like/love, because even as things change, there are things that you will always come back to. I also think it reminds myself/will continue to remind me to be kind to myself, even when things get hard.

Enough jabbering, more listing! Here be the list!

1. My Eyes, Lips, and Nose (a.k.a., my Face)

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True story, I have had to ask my eye doctor (Hi Dr. T!) a couple of times what my eye color is. (His answer/the truth? Hazel. YAY! Love that!) Anyway, my eyes are very expressive, and are (along with the rest of my features) from my mother and my grandfather. Whilst I do have to wear glasses to help me, like, not be like Mr. Magoo, they are the windows to my soul, and often show my true emotion. It’s quite sad: I have NO poker face whatsoever. They also sparkle when I am happy, sassy, confident, or feeling mischievous, or even sometimes all four at once. (This can happen a lot.) At the risk of sounding like a Gavin DeGraw ballad (you know what I’m talking about), if you want to what I am thinking or feeling, just look into my eyes. My eyes are framed by my crazy long eyelashes (seriously. We’re talking Liza Minnelli-length here), which I adore and I hope never changes.

(Quick side note: Did you know that Belle (as in Disney Princess from Beauty and the Beast has hazel eyes? I love her even more now! I knew she was my favorite for a reason!)

My nose is, as mentioned, has been passed down to me by my mother and her father. It is the classic “Bowers” nose, and according to my friend Courtney, it’s “cute as hell”. There is a small scar in the middle of my nose (squint and you can see it in the picture above) that I got by scratching it when I had chicken pox…twice…when I as little. (I think I was four?) My dad named him Fred, and he (Fred) has been with me ever since.

My lips are just, my in humble opinion, cool. I love their bow shape at the top! Truthfully, I never feel more feminine than when I get to swipe lipstick or lipgloss on my bow-shape lips. It’s my favorite part of my makeup routine!

Basically, in the words of Madonna and in my humble opinion, I give good face (like Rita Hayworth).

2.  My Smile

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This kind ties in with #1, but I think it deserve its own mention in this list. I love my smile! It brightens up my whole face, and showcases my joy AND strength. It glows when I get to be around people I love, which again I also love! Also, I better freakin’ love my smile, since I had to go through two years of braces, retainers, head-gear, etc…let’s just say that my parents invested a HUGE chunk of change into my mouth. (Don’t dirty this up.) My smile, along with the rest of my face, shows my true emotions and thoughts, which is why I mentioned above (and it bears repeating) that I could NEVER play poker. Ever.  #nopokerface

3. My Legs

Okay, so I don’t have a picture of my legs. My bad. I love them regardless, because even though they are short, chunky, and cellulite, they get me where I need to go, and haven’t failed me yet. 😉 They also were my strong ally when I was an active swimmer; my kick, rather than my stroke, propelled me through the water and got me through workouts and races. I love them. I had power in them once, and I will have power in them again. 

4. My Butt

Sorry lovelies, I do not have a butt selfie. Instead, let’s all enjoy my current anthem. 🙂 #allaboutthebass (I have been telling the men of Richmond this for years, but it I suppose the message hasn’t gotten through. Maybe that’s why I am still single?!)

I love my butt. It’s curvy and round, and fill outs my jeans quite well, thank you very much. I actually don’t want my butt to change whilst I am on this journey. It can stand to be firmer, but if it becomes significantly smaller, I may weep.

(Quick side note about the video above: I know what “da bass” is, but what the heck is the treble? This is question that plagues me, like, all of the time.)

5. My Brain

I love Thomas Jefferson, and his house. #nerdygirlcrush

I love Thomas Jefferson, and his house. #nerdygirlcrush

WHAT?! How did I manage to sneak in a picture of Monticello in this body post, and what does that have to do with the task at hand?! I know what you are thinking: “WHY DIDN’T YOU SHOW US A PICTURE OF YOUR BRAIN?! OR YOU IN A CAP AND GOWN?! GEEZ!

Bwahahaha classic.

Bwahahaha classic.

Stay with me, lovelies. First of all, I don’t have a picture of my brain (if I did, that would be weird.) I think this picture best represents my brain: I love to travel to different places and learn as much as I can about that particular place, especially historical sites (a HUGE passion of mine). After years of waffling, I am currently in school studying liberal arts, with the goal of going on and earning my degrees in history and museum science, so that I can help pass on my passion for history to the public, and teach people a new way of viewing their current communities/societies around them. I think this picture of Monticello, one of my favorite places ever, represents my love of learning, my growing intellect, and curiosity, i.e. things happening in my brain. Plus, my brain holds my wit, which is an AWESOME thing, because otherwise this blog would be super dull. 

Yes, this actually happened.

Yes, this actually happened.

6. My Height

Yeah, so I am only 5’2″, and I genuinely love being short. Why? In spite of the difficulty of buying clothes that fit length wise (which doesn’t bother me…lovelies, there are tailors for a reason), I don’t mind being closer to the ground, per se.:) My height matches my personality: spunky, trying to be brave and try new things, and yet also willing to prove myself. I think it adds to my charm as well.

7. My Heart

Perfect.

Perfect.

I love my heart. Not only does it genuinely does what it is physically and anatomically supposed to do (you know, beat and pump blood through the rest of my body, keeping me alive and all that jazz), but it holds my dreams and hopes for my life, as well allows me to keep persevering to allow these dreams to come true. It truly does, in every way, shape, and form, keeps me going. It is where my deep reserves of strength reside, as well as my passions. 

I have never talked about this before: When I was a baby, I had a heart murmur at birth that I ended up growing out of; I am only now appreciating how freakin’ tough my heart is. If my heart (along the rest of me) were able to overcome this kinda major health scare, then I can handle anything AND that I should be more kind to my heart. It is indeed a vital and tough organ, but it also it requires the utmost care, since it holds and does everything so valuable to me. It literally keeps me alive physically, and it safeguards the things that I hold most dear.

All in all, this is what I love about my body. I know the list is rather small, but I hope that by traveling on this journey, I will discover more things I love about my body (perhaps different areas that have been hiding throughout the years), and share them with you all here. I know this post may come across as self-serving and braggy, but I don’t care. Self-love is a vital part in this story that I am sharing with you, and I think we should all stop and acknowledge what we love about ourselves often.

What do you love about your body? I would love to know! Tell me in the comments!

And now, a special treat for you, since I know subconsciously y’all wanted this:

Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend lovelies!

Please note: no haters allowed on this blog, ever. If you choose to post something negative on this post or any other post, your comment will be deleted, and you will be blocked.

A Love Letter to my Babies (a.k.a. my youth group girls)

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Just a normal day: Strong women, covered in mud.

Warning: This love letter/post is TOTES long.

Dear Beloved,

HEY GIRL HEY!/Sup.

Let me begin by saying how proud I am of all of you. You all sparkle in your own way, and are making your marks on the world. I am so excited to see glimpses of the young women you are becoming; I know our world is and will continue to be a much better place because you are in it, and are intent on changing it for the better (in your own and unique ways)! Some of you have started your careers already (Oh Lord…I am ANCIENT), some of you are sweating it out in college, trying to figure out who you want to be when “you grow up”, and the rest of you are simply trying to survive high school and middle school, figuring out who you are in the midst of so many voices and influences on either side.

I want you to know that I love each and every one of you. You ladies are beautiful, and are my heart. God sent each and every one of you to me, and I will always be grateful for that. You ladies may also be the only babies I ever have, and if that turns out to be true, then that’s okay. I excitedly take part (for as much or as little as you want me too) in raising you, or at the very least, be a listening ear for whatever life throws at you (either happy or sad). Seriously, I brag on all of you, like 100% of the time to all of my family and friends.

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Yeah, I tend to not follow directions when taking group pictures. My bad.

Thank you for your faith in me, even as I have let you all down in some way or another. Y’all are constantly encouraging me, laughing at my dumb and nerdy jokes, and are always greeting me with warm smiles. Truthfully, I don’t understand what exactly you lovelies see in me that makes you want to keep hanging out with me (or befriending me on Facebook); however, it warms and fills my heart (kinda like the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, except I am not green and furry) whenever you beg me to eat dinner with you, sit with you at church, or insist that I come to a Chorus concert, soccer game, or just out to lunch/coffee/smoothies to hang out. You allow me to embarrass you by doing one (or all) of the following:

1. Praising all of your accomplishments out loud to anyone who’s listening
2. Doing the jump/clap thing I do when I celebrate your accomplishments
3. And, if you are feeling down, allowing me sing loudly to you any song of your choice, complete with a nerdy dance I made up OR my attempts at the latest new dance craze (is the Dougie still a thing?)

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You guys may not know this, but the picture is sooooooo love.

Thank you for also being cool in my group driving abilities, as I may or may not have side-swiped church vehicles against, let’s say, a parking garage pole, or the church van port. Or driven THE WRONG FREAKING WAY down a one-way street in, say, downtown Baltimore. Or pulled off a NASCAR turn in a church bus into a narrow farm driveway in Goochland, VA. I have appreciated all of the slow claps, the exaggerated prayers to Jesus for sparing your lives (lovelies, it was not that bad), and ultimately encouraging me and laughing at/with me about it later. Jerks. 🙂

Somehow, even with all of my flaws, you always see the best in me, and are ALWAYS planning out my future: me, being rich (I’m not sure how this always is a factor), with a husband (who is a GORGEOUS firefighter/Army guy/Doctor hybrid with a Southern accent), and 7 kids*.

*(I want to take a break for a second to discuss the kids part. WHERE IN THE HECK DID YOU GET THE IDEA THAT I WOULD HAVE 7 KIDS?! Lovelies, that’s a LOT of babies to carry and push out of my business-end-of-things. Yes, I know you ALL told me that I could have them in “batches”…but listen here sweetsies: Having babies is NOT like baking cookies, or having puppies. That much I do know.) Thank you for having faith in me and my future mothering skills, but please stop discussing my “womb of fire” (adorably/disturbingly your phrase and not mine. I love you for it, but let’s talk about LITERALLY anything else next time, mmmkay?)

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Adorable. Or, as my girls would say, this pic is totes adorbs.

I want you to know that whilst my many reasons for creating this blog are varied and full of meaning (as some of you have already read), one BIG reason that unites them all is this: I am doing this for you. I want to be the woman you (and God) see me to be, and I want to live honestly and healthfully, so that I can continue to be there for all of you many moons from now. You demand (in your own quiet ways) honesty and “realness” from me, and I love you all enough to finally put aside facades to show my scars, as well as my smiles.  As I have told some of you before (but it bears repeating to all of you): In the very wise words from Sir Justin Timberlake: you guys are my mirror, (oh oh), my mirror staring back at me (oh oh)…I see how God sees me in your faces, and I want to fight this fight so that someday, you may not have to.

Let me expound (big word alert) on that last sentence: I don’t want you to be like me, my sweet chickadees. I don’t want to grow up hearing that you are too much (too fat, too nerdy, too weird, too smart) and not enough (not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not cool enough). I don’t want you all to be scared of your own shadows or hold yourself back in life, all because some pretty crappy people told you some ugly un-truths and in doing so, broke your heart so deeply that it takes you 30 years to try to put it back together. I don’t want you to build walls around yourselves because of all of the pain you have felt in just trying to live your life, all of the crappy things that you have experienced that makes you feel like you are simply trying to survive. I don’t want you to EVER question who you are because someone or something told you that you just aren’t good enough and are too WHATEVER to fit into a mold.

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Lovelies, life is a gift, and it is meant to be lived with a brave and open heart. Let me share with you a lesson that it has taken me 30 years to learn (and am still learning): Whilst it’s totes safer to close yourself off from and build walls around yourself so that you don’t have to feel pain and hurt, these walls can also box you in your own prison, “protecting” you from yourself. These walls you made can trap you within yourself, and in turn the words that you tried to block are trapped in with you. They echo off of the walls, and you can’t escape it. It’s only in reaching out in honesty and asking for strength and help that you are able to knock down these walls; it’s only in being brave enough to be vulnerable to learn the truth about yourself that you can move on from the prison (and live a free life).

I want you to remember something I learned from a favorite book and movie of mine (and no, this is not from The Hunger Games, even though I have talked about them AT LENGTH with all of you and how much I love them so):

You are kind. You are smart. You are important. (from The Help)

Anytime someone tells you something about you that you just freakin’ KNOW is not true, repeat these words to yourself, over and over. Eventually, you will believe it, because it’s true; I know it to be true. Don’t EVER let anyone tell you that you are “too much” or “not enough”; you. Are. Enough. You are all so beautiful, and you all bring so much light into the world. Don’t associate with ANYONE who is trying to bring you down and extinguish your life.  NEVER forget that you have in your possession a heart with a HUGE capacity to love, a brain made for all of your smart thoughts, a voice to use to speak up, and smile to show the world that NO ONE can take away your light (no matter how hard it may try). You matter. Always know that for as many who may “hate” you or just not like you, there are many more who love you all to bits and pieces, and think the world of you. I don’t want you to ponder what life would be like if you didn’t exist, because guess what: it would suck.

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I taught her everything she knows. BWAHAHAHAHA

Lovelies, live your lives knowing these truths: You are kind. You are smart. You are important. You matter. You are beautiful. (God doesn’t do ugly.) You all have something to bring to the world, and each and every one of you have the capacity to change it for the better. Your very existence brings GINORMOUS blessings upon the world around you, and I can’t wait to see what you make of it. Your very BEING is so bright that it makes me (and everyone around you who loves you) smile so freakin’ big. Don’t let the walls, moats, prisons, towers, etc. overcome you and guard who you are from the rest of the world. This is no way to live. Be brave!

My beautiful babies, I love you. Thank you for being my mirror. From the here and the now, I want to make you this promise (with God on my side, of course): Just as all of you have so valiantly fought for me (whether you knew it or not), I promise I will do the same for you. I REFUSE and WILL NOT allow you to believe anything about yourself that is NOT the truth, and I will not let you create walls around your heart to protect the world from yourself. The world make not always greet you with open arms, but guess what: I will. So will your loved ones, aka the ones who matter most to you. We WANT to see and celebrate who you are. We love you! I promise that when the walls start laying themselves back up, I will look into my mirrors, and knock them down; I also promise that I will do the same for you. I promise to always be there for you, no matter what. When life knocks you down, I will be there to remind you to keeping swimming through the storm (and to swim it with you); when life lifts you to the craziest highs, I will also be there to do my happy jump/clap thing, complete with squeals and giggles. (You gals know you love this.) God brought you all to me, and why would I want to throw away such a cool gift?

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Thank you for being my heart, and for always believing in me, no matter what. Thank you for being my light. Thank you for giving me strength to be honest and brave (and encouraging me to write this blog). Thank you for loving me with all my quirks and flaws, and never allowing me to justify these quirks and flaws for when things are not so awesome in my life. I hope to make you all proud, and I promise I will continue on this journey and give it all that I got.

Remember (this bears repeating): You are kind. You are smart. You are important. You matter. You are beautiful.

I love you!

Ashley

Thank you for being my light.

Thank you, God, for giving me my babies. They are the lights of my life. 🙂

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So, about the title…(Part Deux)

Shameless selfie! When did selfies become a thing?

Shameless selfie! When did selfies become a thing?

Hello lovelies! Thank you so much for the response surrounding my past post. It was very hard to write; so hard that I had to stop myself a couple of times to let the tears flow and breathe just to keep the words flowing from my whole being onto the page. (Sorry, that sounded sooooooooooo emo.) I also had to stop myself from going super dark and revealing everything, because it’s not time yet to reveal all of the dark corners. Trust me, lovelies, we’ll get there. 🙂

And now, let’s talk about puppies let’s talk about more about the title (specifically, the motivations in naming the blog itself). Part Deux awaits!

Knowing what I had gone through thus far in my 30 years of living on this earth coupled with the fact (or, at the very least, my truth) the only way to change something in my life that has caused me so much pain is to be brave and ask for help when needed. I decided that if I truly wanted to slay forever my weight (from obese to healthy), my attitude, and 30 freakin’ years of virtually no self-love, self-esteem, and all around toxic words I (and others) have told me regarding my body and how I look, I need to FINALLY be honest to all about where I am, and where I want to be. I need fight this fight publicly, and I need to do so with a community around that will fight this with me, and can encourage me and keep my accountable. Frankly, I needed to get out of my own way, and let others (that I love and trust wholeheartedly) fight this good fight with me. To honor this community that I’ve assembled, and to keep everyone updated on my progress (as well as revealing things about myself that I have kept from everyone), I decided to do something equally courageous and drastic: write a blog. As in, it’s on the interwebz for all to see. Yikes.

Within this spirit and with the goal of starting this blog, I knew what the first step needed to be. A little while ago on my Facebook page, I asked people to help me come up with a name for my blog, in order to help me actually get the thing started, and to perhaps help me focus what exactly I wanted to write about. I knew I wanted to write about 2014 being my Year of Courage (I turned 30 at the end of 2013, and I wanted my 30th year to be a year where I try new things and to be bold, hence the declaration), but other than that, I was drawing a blank.

Here is what my loved ones came up with:
1. Ashley’s Silver Lining
2. Journey to New
3. Beginnings
4. Who New?
5. The Love-Me Blog
6. Be-You-Tiful
7. My Year of Courage
8. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Myself* (*Full Disclosure: I was thisclose to naming my blog this.)
9. Loving Myself by Grace
10. Blossoming in the Spirit
11. A Thousand Mile (and Grace Filled) Journey…
12. The Year of Ashley
13. Inside Out – Bringing Inner Beauty to the Surface
14. The Amazing Adventures of …
15. One person didn’t have a title, but suggested something with a phoenix. LURVE THAT.
16. The Lovely Blog
17. Baptism

Let the record show that I know some awesome people, whose love in suggestions for a personal blog still astounds and humbles me to this day.

However, I was drawn to the word lovely. It’s a word that my generation doesn’t use much anymore, and I loved the classic, feminine, vintage, and inherently Southern vibe this word gives me to me. I didn’t want the blog (and by extension, myself) to be pretty, beautiful, astonishing, ravishing, hot; I wanted it to be lovely.

So I decided to look up the word lovely on the internetz (aka Dictionary.com), and this is what it came up with:
1. Charming or exquisitely beautiful
2. Having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye, as a person or a face.
3. Delightful; highly pleasing
4. Of a great moral or spiritual beauty

Sold.

This is the kind of beauty I want to achieve in my life (vs. the other words mentioned above). I want my beauty to be reflected from my insides (my mind, heart, and soul) to my outsides (my face and my body). I truly believe that when one focuses on treating and developing his or her inner health (i.e. character, intelligence, confidence, etc.), this will be reflected in your outer health. Meaning, if you let your light shine on the inside, it will shine through to the outside of you as well. (As I mentioned before, light attracts light.)

Pursuing this kind of beauty takes courage, whether one decides to take this privately or publicly. Asking for help for anything in life also takes courage, no matter what the task may be. As I pondered all of the titles suggestions, and pondering what my heart already knew about my Year of Courage and the things I wanted to achieve, the title came forth: The Lovely Courage.

Lovelies, this blog title has since become my mantra, my life’s purpose. I have fallen in love with the passion and intention behind these words, and I love how these words combine together to imbue the tone of this blog, and the both the journey and fight I have ahead of me. Not only am I fighting for my beauty; I am fighting for courage to lay it all out there for all to see.

Welcome to the Lovely Courage. Enjoy. 🙂

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So, about the title…(Part Uno)

Oh you know, just waking up...to fight for my life. (Please ignore the fact that I am waking up at 1:19. I am not a vampire.)

Oh you know, just waking up…to fight for my life. (Please ignore the fact that I am waking up at 1:19. I am not a vampire.)

Warning: this post may or may not have been written with tears in my eyes.

Hello lovelies! Before I truly get started on this journey (which involves me being honest with you about my weight…yes, I am planning on saying how much I weight on the internet), I wanted to explain the title in further detail. I deliberately left that explanation out of my first post, because if I didn’t, the first post would 1882323405953053 words long and you would STILL be reading it. Chaos would ensue. 😉

However, something happened when I tried writing about the title. I kept wanting to make it 1882323405953053 (this is totes a real number) words long. Which is fine. Truthfully. Except for this: I kept skipping past the vulnerable part of really truly explaining why I came to this title in the blog and what I believe about myself and the whole blogging process. I was just explaining titles I loved and words I loved having together. Kind of like downright SPRINTING (I really hate running, sweetsies) past Go and demanding that I collect $200 from all of you. NOT FAIR.

So here it goes…I will be brave, and faithful to this process and all of you, and explain the processes behind this blog and beginning to explain my title (and new life mantra).

(Pep talk to self: Be brave Ash.)

For as long as I can remember, I have never thought I was beautiful. Ever. Yes, I have had fleeting moments of feeling powerful, strong, loved, and pretty, but never beautiful. Truly beautiful, from my soul (inside) to my face and body (the outside).  I so badly wanted to be skinny, with the perfect hair, skin, teeth…I really could go on and on, but I will stop here. Every time I thought that maybe I could be beautiful, or at least worthy of all of the good things in life (we’ll get to that in a second), the following things happened that slammed the proverbial beautiful door shut:

  • Being told (in 7th Grade) that I would never have a boyfriend because I was fat, ugly, had pimples, and was preppy. (WHO THE EFF CARES HOW I DRESSED?!)
  • Being given a weight loss book when I was in high school. For Christmas. I didn’t ask for it. (In my relative’s defense who shall remain anonymous, this person didn’t give me this book to be mean, but out of concern for my health. Regardless of intent, this gift still brings tears to my eyes and breaks my heart to this day.)
  • Being called fat IN FRONT OF MY WHOLE SHOW CHOIR (again, in high school) by our choreographer. Yay.

(Aside: Writing this is breaking my heart.)

I quickly bought into the lie that if people were saying this about me, then it must be true: I was gross, unworthy of love, and peace: all because I weighed differently than most people I knew. So I had a new job: protecting people from my heart, and myself: you will see me laugh, smile, and make you laugh and smile in the process, but you will never see me cry. Because (I so badly believed this) I wasn’t worth your time anyway, and since no one was going to defend me or come to my rescue, I had to do the job.

Lovelies, this is no way to live.

I don’t write the above for your pity, shame, praise, or what have you. I also didn’t write this to make you sad. (Don’t be sad sweetsies!) I write this because I am tired of living in my own shadow, in my own castle with a freakin’ moat to keep all out for their own safety. I want to live my life with an open heart, with all the love, kindness, and peace bestowed to myself by….myself. Being beautiful does start within, and it one is brave enough, it will push its way outside. Light attracts light, you know.

Hence, the purpose and title of this blog: The Lovely Courage. (True story: I kind of want to tattoo this somewhere on my body. Don’t tell my mom.) The very idea that in order to find your own beauty and live it in every single day, you have to travel through some mountain tops and valleys in order to get there. You have to accept the joys and the sorrows, and you have to be honest along the way. Yes, it is one thing to have your lip gloss be poppin’ and your hair did, but it quite another to face 30 years’ worth of demons in the name of loveliness and begin the fight to slay them…forever. If I am going to truly embark on journey, I want to make sure no stone is left unturned.

I’m ready. Are you?