The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Beep One More Time. I Dare You.

It's 5:00 a.m. I am lying in my new queen-sized bed, enjoying some Zzzzs when I suddenly hear these sporadic, high-pitched beeps.

Not coherent at this time of day, I stare up at the ceiling; when the idea of someone placing a bomb in my room was dismissed, I looked for the annoying culprit.

I sat up. I prepared for the hunt. Then, it stopped. I sat there for a while waiting for it to grace me with its presence again, but the room was once again silent and the world was right.

I lie back down. As soon as I fall back asleep, a loud beep suddenly awakens me from my slumber.

...That's it. This is war. This is not funny. Some technological device in my room is dying; and it can't just die a slow and quiet death. It has to take me down with it.

It is then that I realize it is the smoke detector. 'This shouldn't be too hard,' I tell myself, 'just take the battery out and sleep is yours again.' I tromp like a Neanderthal into the kitchen to get a chair, sliding it down the hall mumbling the whole time. From what I remember, something to the extent of, "You had to pick 5 stinkin' in the morning to tell me this, you dumb thing."

I carelessly climb up on the chair, wobbling a little bit and wishing I hadn't purchased such cheap chairs from a flea market. I try to read the directions, but realize I forgot to put my glasses on. I grumble some more, get off the chair I just got settled on and go get my glasses.

When I climb back up, it has decided to start beeping again; and it is, of course, ten times louder when you are 2 inches away. I use all the might I can muster at 5 a.m. and try to twist off the top part. It comes off pretty easily and dangles from the electrical wires. Not knowing much about this contraption, I hope that maybe this will stop the noise.

Once my head hits the pillow, I realize once again that it is not satisfied with my help. Beep! Beep! "Are you serious!?" I yell. It is then that I see the button. I love buttons because they usually do something to help you out; just push the button. So...I pushed it.

Pretty much the "Evacuate your house!" sound starts firing away, and I just know that my roommates will come rushing from their room any minute. No such luck. It's nice to know that I will have to wake them up from a coma if a fire ever does erupt in the house.

I used scissors to pry the top part from the bottom part, hoping that this would do something; the warning on the detector told me that I might feel a mild shock when I did this; so I felt victorious since every hair on my head was still in place (well, as in place as it is when you wake up!) It worked for a few hours so I thought it was cured. I fell back asleep. An hour or so later, it began again. I was too exhausted at this point to do anything about it and knew that I would be getting up for work in a few hours anyway.

"Beep one more time. I dare you." Why am I reasoning with a smoke detector? It is winning, Ashton. It is winning-- because you are going absolutely crazy.


I stick my fingers in my ears like a two-year-old who is chanting to their parent, "I'm not listen-ing!" This is how I slept until 7 a.m. when my roommate Allison has woken up for the day. With all the energy I can muster, I call to her. She comes in and I just point at the dangling wires from the ceiling. "Help!"

She works at it some more; her morning-person demeanor proving to be more triumphant. She takes it down and takes the battery and everything out of it. I, meanwhile, have gone to the bathroom to start getting ready for work. She opens the bathroom door and proudly presents me with the destructed smoke detector. "Thaaaaaaaank you," I said. It is then that I hear it.


How does a smoke detector beep when there is nothing in it whatsoever? It is then that I realize that this is some demon-possessed, angry smoke detector. Maybe it's bitter because it hasn't had a fire to warn us of; maybe it feels useless.

"I want this demon-possessed thing out of my house!"

Allison, knowing I was at the end of my rope as far as this little devil was concerned, took it from my hands and put it outside. If I hadn't had to get ready, I probably would have followed with a baseball bat.

Needless to say, I am quite tired this morning. I just know that the next few nights, I am going to fear its return; I feel like it will be one of those horror movie-esque things where this possessed smoke detector finds itself back in my room and beeps endlessly.

I will not give up. Beep one more time. I dare you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you”

I went to Paragould for the weekend. It had been long overdue; and was just the boost I needed and the breath of fresh air my lungs so longed for.

On Saturday afternoon, I went with Bliss and her husband to go pick wildflowers from a nearby field. Bliss was wanting to get some to put in a vase; and Nick and I were her helpers. Oh, and Charlie--their first child--a black and white shitzu, who was more interested in rolling around in the flowers than picking them, came along on the adventure.

Wildflowers have always amazed me.

Here's an unattended field; full of weeds and brush; and right in the middle of it all, these beautiful flowers have sprouted. Blues, yellows, purples; they are like a rainbow on a rainy day; a blessed reminder that God's hand is in all things.

Reaching down to pick a few yellow flowers, I ignored the brush around them; I was on a mission, and I was going to gather some wildflowers for my friend. I soon became perfectly aware of the brush when thorns began to attach themselves to my arms and legs. I took a step back, only to realize that thorns were covering the wildflowers in a protective shell.

'That's strange,' I thought. 'Here is something so amazing, so perfect, and these thorns are becoming an obstacle in my way.'

I have the curse/blessing of always making connections in my head; and comparing events around me to my own life. These wildflowers and the thorns that encompassed them reminded me of what I am going through right now.

When I started on this journey of finding who I am, I was a wildflower. I was a blank canvas; I was free; I was a natural beauty untainted by harsh conditions. There were no thorns around my heart; I lived life to be admired and loved; and I trusted all who approached me.

Growing up was closely followed by heartache; and reality began to overshadow my childhood dreams of how my life would be. Each hurtful word became a tangly vine; and each heartbreak added a thorn to its branches. Before I knew it, I was a guarded beauty; perhaps no one could come close enough to see beneath the sharp encasement.

It's only after I return home that I am reminded of my former self. These are the people that knew me before the thorns; they know nothing of the brush that has hidden my heart, and they approach me without hesitation. They take me into their arms; they share with me fond memories of my wildflower days; they remind me that I can be beautiful again.

Part of me wants to stay in the shadow of the thorns; to ward off their fondness of me. After all, if they get too close, they might get poked. They don't know all that has happened after my departure; they don't know that I am not as carefree as the girl that walked their buildings and waved at them in the supermarket.

It is then that I look through the bitterness and ponder this: What if, instead of being hindered by the thorns, my friends and family at home actually are the thorns?

How could this be so, you ask.

They are the protectors of my heart; they see a beautiful girl in the midst of an untamed field, and they want to guard my wildflower spirit. No matter what outside forces may weigh in, I can always count on them to keep me safe. That's what this weekend was for me; a safe haven; a time when thorns went on active duty to save my dwindling soul.

The hugs I received and the stories that were relived slowly began to restore my spirits; I was reminded of the Ashton I used to be and am now determined to get her back.

The next time I look at thorns, I won't think of them in the same way; though I don't necessarily want to run through them, I will see them as more than a nuisance. They are there to draw attention to something great; to protect it from getting torn down from forces beyond its control.

In the same way, my Paragould family is that for me. They are a lighthouse that guides me on my way back home. I used to think that 730 West Court Street was my home and that it was stripped from me for good. I have found, however, that home is the light in me that I thought I had lost. It isn't a landmark. It isn't my rundown elementary school. If it was those things, I really would be homeless.

It is rather a stirring to get back to your roots; to where you were before hardships weathered your heart. Only then, when happiness and a drive for betterment is sown, can someone truly grow and thrive in their surroundings.

And I want to thrive. Oh, how I want to thrive.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Moving On

“Watching you walk out of my life does not make me bitter or cynical about love. But rather makes me realize that if I wanted so much to be with the wrong person how beautiful it will be when the right one comes along.”

I don't know a lot about a lot of things, but there is one thing I think I have seen my fair share of in 23 years; and that is heartbreak. That good 'ol icecream-binging, drowning in a sea of Kleenex, clinging to your pillow for dear life kinda heartbreak. I'm pretty sure my teen years to now have pretty much put food on the table for the employees at Ben and Jerry's.

Once again, I put myself out there and was burned. I was vulnerable. I gave it my all. And it came back to just not be so. I didn't really see it coming; and I guess that is the most painful part of heartbreak--when you are so enamored with the person that you fail to see that their thoughts on the matter are changing.

I'm not going to use this post as a boy-bashing, spiteful response to the anger and distress I feel. It would no doubt be easier than trying to be reflective and insightful, but it accomplishes nothing. It doesn't put the spring back in my step or stop the tears from flowing from my eyes. Instead, it builds and builds and the resentment I feel is eventually taken out on every person I meet. Especially those of the male gender. Part of me wants to put up walls; I want to guard my heart from the invasion of anything that likes ESPN and inappropriately adjusts itself in public.

Every time I attempt to give up on the male race, however, God kindly points me back to my family. I watch my father beam with pride when he has purchased or done something that makes my mom smile; it may be a trash can or a garden hose, but it is something he saw that she was missing, and he is overjoyed to give it to her.

I see my Pawpaw Reely leaving sweet post-it notes for my Mimi. He brings her Subway for lunch and sends her flowers just to let her know he cares. He is an elder in the church and a leader of our family. Though the amount of articles and clippings he has cut out for me through the years could fill up three dump trucks, it is a constant reminder that I am on his mind; and that he cares about what I am doing and what I am currently interested in.

Then you have Papa Huddleston, a quiet man with a gentle strength and dry humor that only the best can catch. He was one of the most respected men in his community and my Mema always talks about how proud she was to be by his side; I've heard her often remark that she couldn't believe that he chose her; not only did he choose her, he loved her deeply and was a great example of what a man should be.

When I'm really feeling low, I tell myself, "Those guys don't exist anymore. That ended with my grandparents' generation!"

It is then that Ryan comes thudding down the stairs with his massive feet and "You Can't Have Your Bread and Loaf too" tank top on. He gives that smirk, and I can't help but be proud that he is my brother; that a 22-year-old boy is capable of kindness and love. Kelsey, too, is a great display of all that a young man should be. He may be strong and look like a Greek god (haha), but he has a deep compassion for people and a drive to make the world a better place. He has had some hard knocks lately, too, and it just goes to show me that I am not alone in my journey through pain.

I am not so naive as to think that a few chants of "Girl Power" and a few renditions of "I Will Survive," will alleviate what I am going through. It is going to take some time; and it is not going to be easy. But I know that--like always--I will be fine and move on with my life.

Even though it is easier to hate, I will love. Even though it is easier to hold a grudge, I will forgive. Even though it is easier to stay captive, I will set myself free.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Opera Lady

As soon as the church song leader announces that we are about to sing, "O, Lord, Our Lord," everyone braces themselves.

They know it's coming, and they await.

Eyes dart around, scanning the large auditorium for the mystery lady. She stands out-- yet is totally anonymous; she is a legend yet a missing puzzle piece.

She is the lady whose "Forevermore" in the last stanza can make a deaf man hear and an old dog die.

I have always had the urge, during the singing of this number, to direct her rafter-hitting note from my seat. Today--though I may have tried to refrain-- I could no longer resist the opportunity. To the embarrassment of my roommate next to me, I looked at her with that "get ready" look. It was coming; the showcase event.

I enthusiastically waved my finger in the air to the exact rhythm of "for-ev-er-more." Then, as I raised my finger slightly to show an octave raise while mouthing, "It's almost here," she once again followed through. She hit that Amen so that the angels in heaven could hear; I am sure they rejoiced as did I that she once again hit this impossible note.

I want to find this woman. I want to walk up to her and ask her a few questions. "How did you find out you could hit this note?" "Did you ever try to do it at your present volume and miss it entirely?" "How many people have gone deaf who sat to your left and right?" Those are only a few.

The truth is, I'm jealous. I am a follower. If the person sitting next to me is singing alto, I sing alto. If they are singing soprano, I sing soprano. I haven't quite captured the bass line for when I sit by males, but I'm getting there.

This woman isn't afraid to fail. She isn't afraid to have a church of 2,000 wonder where she is sitting. She isn't afraid of cracking a note and everyone noticing. She feels the Holy Ghost and knows that she is going to be there to hit that Amen. The song just wouldn't be complete without it. Any lesser woman would chicken out at the last second; but not Opera Lady.

In Budweiser radio commercial fashion: Here's to you College Church Opera Lady. Without you, Elder Bob would have missed the invitation song. Without you, the children would not have awoke for the upcoming Bible class. We salute you, College Church Opera Lady. May you continue to hit that note as long as you live.

A----(piercing note}----men!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Completely Hypothetical, Of Course...

When teachers--especially in graduate programs--see the final product of group presentations, I am confident they have no idea what happened behind the scenes. If they did know beforehand, they just earned 10 deductions from the book of life for constantly administering cruel and unusual punishment.

I felt like it was my duty to enlighten them on what exactly goes on behind the scenes of every group project I have ever been a part of. A general overview would not do it justice; therefore, I have decided to lay it out in an hour-by-hour format. Perhaps this will give them a little bit of a glimpse into the lives of their students. Maybe it will also lead them to bestow mercy upon the students who strive to make the best of such terrible conditions.

Thursday, 6:30 p.m.-- Classroom-- Students are put into their groups; a mixture of nausea, grating nerves and dread starts to surface as the individuals stare blankly at each other. One brave soul speaks up: "When do ya'll want to meet for the first time and get this thing started?"

Boy 1: "Umm, can't do Monday because it's Monday night football; can't do Tuesday because it's World Series of Poker night; can't do Wednesday because it's half price wings at Wings 2 Go with my boys."

Girl 1: "Well, can we do Thursday then?"

Girl 2: "Like, my boyfriend and I usually like go to RedBox and get a movie on Thursday nights. It's the only night he has off work. Oh, and I work 2 hours on Friday so that pretty much shoots the rest of that day."

Boy 2: "English poor. I excited about project."

Boy 1: "Can't we just like do this whole project virtually? Like through e-mail and stuff?"

Girl 1: "Considering we have to verbally present a 30-minute presentation to the class, I don't think just e-mailing would work. Our presentation would be unorganized and sloppy."

Girl 2: "Let's just meet in the library on Saturday night. Ok?"

{deep sighs, rolled eyes} Agreed.

Saturday, 8 p.m.--library--Girl 1 sits at table alone. Gets out laptop and homework; she looks at her 80 oz. cup of coffee, yet somehow wishes it was 100 oz with another shot of espresso.

Cue cell phone.

Boy 1: "You're never going to believe this, Girl 1. I was driving down Race Street to get to the library and my car started making all these noises. Oh, and it started smoking. Oh, and it started shooting flames from the hood. I don't think I mentioned this either, but it exploded into a million little pieces."

Girl 1: "Oh, that's terrible. Are you ok?"

Boy 2: "Oh yeah, I'm fine. But I am just going to have to be 10 hours late to the meeting tonight. Is that ok?"

Girl 1: "Sure, one person missing the meeting isn't the end of the world."

Fast forward 2 1/2 hours. Girl 2 comes running in the library.

Girl 2: ", girl. I got fired from my job today and contracted pneumonia right after that. I work an hour away and I ran, in my heels, to get to this meeting. That's how important it was to me."

Girl 1: "Did you get a chance to fill out the sheet we were supposed to discuss tonight?"

{pause} Girl 2: "Oh, and that's another thing. The magnetic pull of the moon, you know, the one that causes ocean waves. It somehow messed up all the computers and technological devices at my place of work and it lost everything I did."

Everyone finally shows up at 10 p.m.

Girl 1: "The first order of business is to talk about..."

Girl 2: "Oh my goodness, that's my ex-boyfriend over there. Like he broke up with me 2 years ago and I'm still not over it. I mean, I loved him. I mean, my heart was his. My soul was his."

Girl 1: "I'm sorry. That must have been hard on you. So, what is our strategic plan for this project? Who wants to talk about what?"

Boy 1: "Powerpoint done my part. I cover roses, biscuits and how to handle asthma in business."

Girl 1: "That's very good that you have that done, Boy 1, but our topic isn't on any of those things."

Cue cell phone.

Boy 2: {on phone}"Yeah..yeah, bro. Definitely. I'll be there in a second."
"My friend needs a ride to the cafeteria. I'll be back in a minute."

Girl 2: "Doesn't your friend like live right by the cafeteria?"

This kind of scenario repeats itself and escalates in intensity as the weeks go on.

Fast forward to the night before the presentation.

Girl 1 gets a phone call.

Girl 2 is in hysterics: "I know this is TERRIBLY inconvenient, but my poodle Sassafras died; is there any way you can do my part tomorrow night. I don't think I can emotionally handle it."

Girl 1 {through gritted teeth}: "Ok."

Night of the presentation:

Boy 2 walks in wearing a flannel shirt and jeans with holes in them. "Well, geez, guys, no one told me we were dressing all fancy."

Boy 1 is a no-show. The group later comes to find out that he thought class was on Tuesday night and showed up then.

After the presentations have wrapped up and the teacher has nicely informed us of how this would not fly in "the business world," he smiles and says the usual,

"I hope you learned a lot from this class and this group experience. In business, you will always have to cooperate with others and meet with them on a daily basis. I know that most of you had no challenges with this, but when you get in the real world, it will be a whole different ball game."

Something tells me, if this is the case, that is a game that I don't want to play. Count me out. I'm gone.

Just tell them my car exploded, my poodle died or my 10th grandmother for the week passed away halfway across the globe. I think that should suffice.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Listen to "Boston"--It's More Than a Feeling!

I had made my mind up this year. I was absolutely, positively NOT going to get wrapped up in "The Bachelor."

It is unrealistic. It is ridiculous. It is a waste of valuable time.

I lived up to that promise all season. I had heard things here and there, but still resisted the urge to get involved. After all, my last few experiences with the show left me frustrated that he picked the wrong girl.

My friends Tina and Mandy invited me last week to their house to eat dinner and watch "The Bachelor: Girls Tell All" episode.

'I can just watch one episode; no big deal,' I told myself.

Before I knew it, my competitive spirit kicked in and I had already decided which girls were real, which were fake and who I was going to root for. Consequently, I just "had" to go over to their house last night and catch the finale. It's like I didn't even need the whole season to get all wrapped up in the Tenley vs. Vienna battle.

What can I say? I guess I just have a weakness for cheesy reality TV sometimes. It's like they are reaching through the television and asking me to take a rose whenever they choose the girl I am rooting for--which is hardly ever the case.

In all honesty, the show needs new writers. Why? Because two completely different girls are always pitted against one another. You have the sweet, genuine girl who the family LOVES and then you have the wild, crazy run-and-jump-all-over-you girl.

"The Bachelor"--whoever he may be--inevitably says something to the extent of, "{Insert sweet girl's name here} is everything I am looking for. She is compassionate, kind, loving, dependable, loyal, caring, loves children, gets along with my family and I know she would be an amazing wife."

Cue audience to be like, "And so why is this a hard choice? Come on. Get the ring out."

Then comes the pause.
...and the tears...
and the shaking of the head as he stares down at the two rings.

Then comes those fatal words; words that every good girl out there hates to hear; the words that caused me to want to throw lasagna at the screen.

"{Insert bad girl name here}...I don't know what it is about her. It's just...I get this feeling when I'm around her. She just gives me this feeling; I can't quite put my finger on it."

When he utters these worlds, the groans of agony can be heard around the world as the Tenleys of the universe know who has already won before the show is over.


Because this ambiguous "feeling" has been mentioned. What is it with guys and this vague, floating-around-in-the-air-and-you-can't-catch-it feeling?! When I say guys, I am not just referring to the reality TV ones.

Insert Ashton's soapbox here:

It seems like so many people these days are on this search for "that feeling." The truth is, people, that love and marriage are far deeper than some butterfly in the pit of your stomach and the tingle you get when they kiss you.

...It is 50 years down the road when wrinkles have overtaken the youthful face you fell in love with, but you still look at that person like they are the most beautiful person in the world.

...It is being dirt poor when you first get married but still finding contentment in your deep love for one another. It is saying, "We are going to get through this together."

...It is an old man by a hospital bed holding his wife's hand as she lets go; and knowing that he will meet her in heaven someday because they worked together to make sure they both got there.

So many people my age give up on their marriages after a few years because that "feeling" goes away. You know what? Sometimes you're going to be mad. Sometimes you're going to go, "Why did I marry this person?" That's normal.

It doesn't mean "the feeling" has gone away; you have to work to keep that feeling alive and to grow the intensity of your love.

It's like we light the flame when we're 22 and then walk away from it. Then we give up and think it's a lost cause when it goes out when we're 40. It needs to constantly be nurtured and rekindled.

Who knew "The Bachelor" could evoke such strong emotions in me and cause this sermon? I didn't even know it until I started typing. Above all, I think we just need to not go into love with this unrealistic picture of what it should look like. It is more than a feeling. It is more than googly eyes and physical attraction. God planned it to be so, so much more than that.

Doug Larson makes a good point when he says, "More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse."

In the vows, sometimes we ignore the "worse" part of "better or worse" and skip right to the dreams of sunshine and gumdrops falling from the sky. When looking for a mate, don't always just picture the two of you basking in the sunshine in the Caribbean; chances are, you won't return there after your honeymoon. Instead, ask yourself: "Will this man/woman be a leader in our home?" "Will they care for me when I'm sick and never leave me?" "Will they be able to look through their anger and still see the person they fell in love with?" "Will they, at the end of our lives, look back with no regrets?"

Those are the questions we should ask. And those are the people we should give our "roses" to.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monsters on Ice

We have a home video of Ryan and I--as small children--"ice skating" around our living room with the Olympics playing on television in the background. Our eyes are closed, we take a deep breath and it seems like the rest of the world has disappeared around us.

I can only imagine how real ice skaters feel when they are spinning around and soaring through the air. I have a feeling it far surpasses the feeling of landing on carpet and realizing your dreams are nothing but that--dreams.

My fascination with ice skating brought me to these pictures; I needed a good laugh this morning, and these surely provided it. Why? Because, after my battle with sports photographers when I played basketball, I realized that these would be the type of shots captured of me had I decided to pursue my childhood dreams.

I remember opening up the sports page after a big game and seeing my worst nightmare: A large photo of me, trying to grab a rebound. This wasn't some Sports Illustrated-esque picture in which I am gracefully grabbing the basketball; a perfect combination of determination and beauty on my face. This was pure humiliation. It didn't matter if I was in the game 2 minutes or the full game-- I would wake up to my dad eating his cereal and chuckling at the morning paper. "Check out 3A. I think it beats last week," he would say in between bites of Lucky Charms.

I would sigh heavily and then flip to the page, ready for my daily humbling. Sure enough, my lip would be snarled like a Rottweiler ready to bite and the waving of my hands in defense made it appear I had 10 fingers on one hand. I, to this day, still think the sports photographer had it out for me. I don't know who he was or where he lived (he should be thankful for that) but I do know that he probably had all the guys at the newspaper bring popcorn and a soda over to his computer for the daily photo reel.

"Dude, what did that Reely girl do this week?"

"Check this out. If you thought last week where she was falling out of bounds with the ball in her hands was good; check out THIS face. You can't even tell she's a human being."

I give you this background to say--it's probably a good thing I didn't end up being an ice skater. I would probably be caught in poses such as this and with faces that have not a trace of beauty and grace.

I know the whole "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" thing is not really in effect here-- because, technically, I am re-publishing pictures that these skaters wish would disappear.

I somehow feel justified in the fact that I endured such embarrassment and did NOT make it to Olympic glory. Truth be told, everyone needs to take a minute to laugh at themselves. I know that every Saturday morning I got the chance to do just that. I have heard it said that, "Those that laugh at themselves will never cease to be amused." If this is indeed the case, my joy will be unending.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures; I hope they were a reminder to be silly, make goofy faces and never take yourself too seriously.