LET’S DO THIS.

Hello lovelies! I am so sorry for not posting in a while…my bad. Things have happened since our last post (pneumonia, chipping away at my college degree #almostdone, an amazing trip to West Virginia that I will blog about in the future)…okay so I’ve been busy, and not faithful to this blogging process. I promise I didn’t leave you all high and dry, my sweetsies! I’m not giving up. Besides, these past few months away from the blog (again, I am so sorry), I have felt restless. I have felt like I am on the brink of a journey, and I wanted (still want) to get out there and on the path already. I haven’t been happy with how I look, and these feelings of bleh coupled with the fact that I just want to get out and DO IT ALREADY haven’t exactly made a peaceful existence.

So, LET’S DO THIS.

After all of my “epilogue” posts on my blog, I am ready to get started with Chapter 1. Here is the “before” of who I am and what I really look like…..all 295 pounds of me. WHAAAAAAAAT?! Did I really just reveal my weight on the interwebz? Crap. Oh well, it’s out there now.

Yup. You read that right.

I weigh 295 pounds.

Wow.

So...this is me. Not the most flattering pic of me out there, but it will do. Also, my roommate would like to apologize for her "lack of skills" taking this pic with my iPhone.

So…this is me. Not the most flattering pic of me out there, but it will do. Also, my roommate would like to apologize for her “lack of skills” taking this pic with my iPhone.

And of course, since this an incredibly revealing, vulnerable post, why not throw in another “before” picture of me awkwardly running:

Fitness?

Fitness?

Let’s move on to my plan of attack, shall we?

1. We can have lots of fun GYM

(Double bonus points for understanding the above reference) I am a member of a gym in my hometown, and I have let my membership lapse. First of all, that is a waste of money, BLERG. Second, I specifically joined this gym because a. They have a pool and B. They offer aquatic personal training, WHICH IS AMAZING. I used to swim year round (summer league, club team, and on my high school team, which I was a 4-year Varsity letterman…letterlady?), and swimming was also a HUGE passion of mine. I think a great way to encourage myself and be kind to myself about getting back into shape is to do something I love(d). Plus, swimming is great for the joints, and it’s fun. If it works for Ellen DeGeneres (and by her, I mean Dory from Finding Nemo), then it works for me!

2. Join Weight Watchers

(Because Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Hudson. Duh.) In all seriousness, however, I have research different diet programs, and this is the one I trust. I feel like I will have the most success with this program over other programs, since they teach you portion control, lifestyle changes, etc. Also, this is the most cost-effective option I have in my life right now (Lovelies, I can’t afford a legit nutritionist. Those noble creatures cost money (like $$$ type of money, which I don’t have), and I would rather invest my money in an aquatic personal trainer (see above), and save in this option.)

3. Blog, Blog, Blog

As I have stated before, I plan on blogging about the whole process: the highs, the lows, the celebrations, the despairs, and everything in between. I plan on being super active with my blog, post on the reg with all sorts of goodies and updates. This is what I have planned out so far:

  • Weigh-In Wednesdays: I think this speaks for itself, but to be clear, posts in which I document my weight loss, complete with pictures!
  • Tasty Thursdays: Posts in which I attempt to cook healthy recipes, and live to tell the tale
  • Park Saturdays: Posts in which I (and a friend that I have bribed with maple bacon doughnuts  recruited) walk some walking trails in some parks around my hometown and home state (I live in the Greater Richmond area of Virginia. I am told that this is God’s country, bwahahahaha). By the way, loved ones/people that know me in real life: Let me know if you want to walk with me!
  • Music Mondays: Posts in which I feature a song on my own personal playlist that I jamming out to, particularly tunes that are inspirational to me and ones that I sweating to as I work out.
  • Inspirational posts sprinkled out in between, such as:
  • Pictures/articles/videos/people who I find inspiring
  • Interviewing women I know about beauty, health, etc.
  • Frank discussions about how I am feeling about as I go about this journey
  • Geeking-out posts of things that I am obsessing over
  • Goals of mine: What are they? How will I achieve them? Did I succeed, or do I need to adjust?
  • General posts in which we talk about that magical time in our lives in which our bodies change I’m just kidding, sweetsies. 😉
  • And many more!

I also would like to beef up the blog to make it more open, more user-friendly, and more me. 😉 I want to learn how properly learn how to post and keep my blog updated, and looking cute. (In other words, I want my blog to constantly have her hair did.) I also would like to try to attempt posting some vlogs(?!), in which I just about a topic, say Hi, and possibly answer any questions you may have (in which I beg and plead for your comments on any of the above topics).

Stay tuned for a new roll out of The Lovely Courage in the late fall, as I plan on investing some money in how the blog looks and feels. I have an amazing friend who helped me create this one, and she has agreed to help me build the beautiful-er new one! YAY!

4. Yo, I gots to buy some stuff, and save some cheddar. (Cheddar=cash.)

With any journey, one needs to financial invest in it, because, like, things cost money. Just ask Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote Eat Pray Love. Do you think that was free?! (The answer is no.) Here are the things I financially need to commit to:

  • Re-upping my gym membership
  • Joining Weight Watchers
  • Buying a scale
  • Buying a “dry-land” gym outfit or two
  • Buying a waterproof MP3 player/iPod shuffle with waterproof case (so I can groove whilst I get my swim on)
  • Making more meals at home/bring my lunch to work everyday vs. going out
  • Save my pennies for an “After” photo shoot AND a DURING photo session project that I am keeping secret for now. 🙂 (I promise, I will blog about this soon!)

I will add more things to the general plan of attack as I go (and I promise I will keep you all updated). This journey will officially start on September 1st! Why September? Because this gives me enough time to get things settled before then, so that I can jump in with both feet and hit the ground running/hit the water swimming! (I know that this reason may seem vague, but I am asking all of you to trust me.)

Keep me in your thoughts and in your prayers! I am SO EXCITED/SO SCARED to be starting this adventure, and I am honestly thrilled to be sharing it with all of you. I am ready to do this, now and forever. I am ready to swim for my future, and for brighter days every day. I’m not going to give in. 🙂

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. 🙂