The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Confessions of a (Semi) Shopaholic

It all started as a little girl. I remember going with my Mimi to "Colony Shop" and browsing around for hours. The sweet ladies that ran the shop would offer you a can of chilled soda to refresh you while you shopped, and I remember that being the coolest thing ever.

I remember watching her mix and match, remembering what items were in her closet and what she needed to purchase to match them perfectly. To this day, she is still the only woman I know that can remember the color of something almost exactly and buy a matching accessory without the item being there. She knew what events in her life were coming up and what she needed to buy to be the belle of the ball.

I slowly began to fall in love with clothes. And shoes. And purses. And jewelry.

This realization has always been in the back of my mind, but it has started to resurface because of all the Premier Jewelry parties I have been a part of recently. I am even helping host one tonight. The presenter sets up the jewelry on a table in the center of the room and we are free to roam and try things on and keep them on for the rest of the party.

I am always attracted to the sparkle. If it sparkles or has huge stones on it, I am SO there. My mom always teases me for walking through a store and coming to a complete stop when I see something dazzling. I just can't help it. It's me.

The problem comes, however, when I purchase things based on what I want my life to be or what I think it will be in the future. I am that girl who walks through a store and pictures my life as it would be in those particular clothes. When I walk through Ann Taylor's Loft, for example, I picture myself in a power suit, heels and carrying a large fancy purse to a tall skyscraper building where I write for a popular magazine. In Lady Foot Locker, I see myself wearing a cute little jogging suit, running 10 miles a day (see how this is an unrealistic sickness that needs to be handled pronto?) I would like to say that the imagining just stops at daydreaming, but unfortunately I have taken the next step and purchased items that would aid my impractical future life.

Here are a few times where my future-life radar was way off, and my pocketbook suffered:

1. The faux fur coat-- Why I purchased a white fur coat a few years ago is beyond me. I think, in this particular case, I was picturing myself going to an opera in New York or a Broadway show. Surprisingly, "Wicked" isn't playing in Searcy and so I ended up having to wear it to the Homecoming musical freshman year. A little boy petted me through the entire play in between scoldings from his father. The only other time this wardrobe disaster made an appearance was during a YouTube video made during finals week one year in which I played a rat monster.

2. 9-inch red high heels-- Okay, so maybe 9 inches is a slight exaggeration, but these suckers were HIGH. The inspiration behind this waste of money was a country song titled--yes, you guessed it--"Red High Heels." Little country artist Kellie Pickler declares that she is going to buy these heels and strut her stuff around to make her ex jealous. Post break-up a few years ago, I too, felt that red high heels would heal my wounds and wearing them to where my ex worked would somehow make him want to take me back. Imagine my disappointment when watching an already 5'9" girl tromp in like a clown on stilts did not immediately elicit deep remorse and a beg fest to get me back. Instead, I was left with intense toe pain and was too concerned with not falling that I'm sure all attractiveness was lost.

3. The velvet blazer-- My roommate STILL gives me grief about this purchase. I don't know if, in the store that day, I was feeling upset that I was too young to enjoy the 90's grunge look or what, but I actually purchased a black velvet blazer. It had two black jewels on the cuffs and puffy shoulders. Michael Jackson could have come over and borrowed this and made a video.

4. The rocker look-- I hate to admit that this was a recent purchase that I still currently sport from time to time. I think every girl, no matter how sweet, has an inner rocker that wants to be released. I recall asking my father for an electric guitar one year and was met with this response: "No, you don't even practice your flute!" What Dad didn't realize is that flutists don't have fans screaming out their name; they don't strain their vocal chords and crowd surf. They play sonatas that people fall asleep to. I say all this to admit that I recently bought a British t-shirt that has a London phone booth on it and I wear it with a black, fitted vest. I wear a dangling chain necklace and I feel like I should go on tour every time I put it on.

Pondering this topic often makes me wonder if-- instead of being a shopaholic-- I am an adventure seeker who is not spreading her wings. Maybe trying on clothes and pretending I'm at an opera is my way saying, "Ashton, go to an opera!" Maybe instead of wearing rocker clothes, I should chill out more often. Maybe I shouldn't say, "This outfit would be perfect for a night out on the town" and actually go out for a night on the town.

I am young, I am free, and I hope to say at the end of my life, that my closet was more empty and my life was more full. Live life to the fullest, everyone!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

'Tis the Season to Be Set Up

Spring and summer are my favorite seasons; I love to feel the sun shining down on me; I love to feel a gentle breeze; I love to see all the bright flowers blooming everywhere. Minus the mowing the yard thing, I love that the grass has become green again.

Spring and summer also bring the chiming of wedding bells. Something about the sunshine makes people all pick the same wedding dates. You don't really realize this until you hit your early 20s and then the invitations start flooding in. You soon realize that almost every weekend in May you're headed off on a 9-hour trip for a 5-minute ceremony.

... So far the sequence is this: Flowers and sunshine let you know spring and summer are here; spring and summer lead to marriage season; marriage season leads to...

Ashton being set up season.

I don't know if it's the music or the punch or the overindulgence of wedding cake that makes the urgency to find me a significant other so much greater. Even I find myself scanning the caterer behind the brisket dish.

Pretty soon, others start approaching me: "You see that guy over there? That's the groom's cousin's best friend. Oh, and he's single."

Something tells me that falling in love with this perfect stranger in between bites of chocolate-covered strawberries and party mints might prove to be quite difficult. I've rarely made it past, "Hey, I'm Ashton." "Where do you go to college?" "Harding." "Oh, that's cool. Do you know a Mary Johnson? She's a good friend of mine." "Um, the name sounds familiar but it's a pretty big school." "Oh."

The End.

Here, in no particular order of importance, are my favorite set-ups from people:

1. "Ya'll would be love the same music and both love Italian food."

I call this the elusive "hobby" set-up. This is when people who have been married for 40 years suddenly forget that a love for Thai cuisine and Kenny Chesney doesn't always mean marital bliss.

2. "Ya'll would be perfect...he's had some hard knocks with love, too."

This set-up theory falls under the "two wrongs don't make a right" category. Unfortunately, one terrible love life + one terrible love life doesn't equal two people deeply in love.

3. "Ya'll would be perfect...his grandmother is a doll."

These type of set-ups are quite disappointing because you soon realize that just because A=B and B=C, it doesn't necessarily mean that A=C. For example, just because I love my grandmother and my grandmother loves her friend Betty and her friend Betty loves her own grandson doesn't ultimately lead to me loving her grandson.

4. "Ya'll would be perfect...he's 23, too."

Allow me to insert an old expression-- an expression of which I have no clue as to its origin. "What does that have to do with the price of eggs?" This phrase always comes to mind when people use this one on me. If this theory is indeed valid, I have a chance with every male born in 1986.

5. "Ya'll would be perfect...he's a nice guy."

I am sure there are plenty of guys who climb Mount Everest every year and eat Spam all the way who are nice guys. That doesn't mean that I want to say "I do" to a life of rappelling and oxygen tanks. Nor do I necessarily need to date a nice Fish and Game specialist who hangs dead animals to dry on my front porch. It's just not me. Nice is definitely a start, but it doesn't always mean a match made in heaven.

Most of you who know me realize that all of this is very much tongue-in-cheek. The truth is, while set-ups aren't necessarily my favorite thing, I just try to remember that people are only doing it because they love me and want to see me happy.

They see the good in me; they know me for who I am; and they just want someone else to see it, too.

So, bring it on people. I'm ready. 'Tis the season. Fa-la-la-la-la. :-)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Seashell Test

Rain isn't the only showering April brings; it also floods us with sequins, glitter and ozone-killing amounts of hairspray. I went outside my house last weekend and saw a huge spotlight circling the neighborhood from Searcy High School. I knew that this could only mean one of two things: 1) They had really stepped up the Neighborhood Watch Program or 2) It was prom season.

My trip to Chili's for dinner confirmed my suspicions as girls sauntered in with their hair reaching the ceiling and blinding amounts of color and glitter on their dresses. Only 23, I couldn't believe how old I was sounding: "What are these dresses? I remember when we used to wear classic gowns; gowns that made us look like Cinderella." These girls looked like they had taken a pair of scissors and slashed their dresses up to their bottoms. I remember feeling like royalty; these girls look like they should try out for "Dancing with the Stars."

I ran across an article today that was giving parents tips on how to face the toils that come with their child going to prom. The first problem, of course, was the dress dilemma. The expert posed this scenario:

"You go dress shopping with your daughter and wait outside of the dressing room as she tries gowns on. "What do you think of this one, Mom?" You turn to see your little girl wearing a low-cut, tight gown that makes her look like she just stepped out of a music video. What do you do?"

His expert advice?

"You'll want to ask practical questions that won't make your daughter feel badly. Use phrases like, "Do you really want to show that much skin?" and "What is your intention with that dress?" in a fairly laid-back manner to start the conversation. Ultimately, it is her individual decision which dress to wear since she's presenting herself in a manner that she wants to be taken as. However, you should be able to say what you sincerely feel without making a judgment or defaming her."

This made me laugh; trying to picture Ronda Reely asking me, "Do you really want to show that much skin?" and "What is your intention with that dress?" is quite comical. I can guarantee you she would KNOW what my intention was with that dress and that my father would have cared less if I "really" wanted to show that much skin. They would have made me immediately discard it for a Victorian-era type get-up.

How do I know this?

The Sea Shell Test.

When buying a new swimsuit, my mother insisted on putting me through every test and trial I could possibly endure before purchasing. "Bend over like you are picking up a seashell," she would order.

"Mom...I don't even pick up seashells at the beach."

"Just do it. You never know." I would sigh heavily and then pick up this imaginary seashell that was in the middle of the Goody's dressing room area. If the swimsuit gaped open, it was returned to its rightful place for other girls to pick up; probably girls whose parents read articles like the one above and "talked it out" like it was a matter of life and death.

Modesty was definitely a battle during my junior high and high school years; it is still something that I am not perfect at. I have realized, however, that parents have to be that voice of reason for girls. This whole, "it is her individual decision which dress to wear since she's presenting herself in a manner that she wants to be taken as" is Satan's greatest form of deception.

Truth be told, 15-year-old girls don't know what they want to present; I didn't realize what my clothing choices said about me, and I was quite naive to the fact that my decisions actually did affect other people. That's when it is important to have parents who stick it out and pray that you will come to your senses. They stand their ground even when you don't understand where they are coming from.

I appreciate my parents deeply for seeing me through some tough, stubborn times. Honestly, I had no idea what 'Ashton' I wanted to present to the world; that's why I am so grateful that they knew later on, I would want to be looked upon with love and respect, and they demanded it for me when I didn't demand it for myself.

I may have had a swimsuit that could have doubled as scuba gear, but past the bad tan lines, was their message of deep concern for who I would be one day.

So, in lieu of bluntly stating, "Put some clothes on!" (Which I guess I kind of just did...) I would just like to encourage parents and teens alike to see past the here and now. Yeah, being popular is great. Having the latest style dress is fantastic. But a short dress now becomes a shorter dress next year, and pretty soon all standards are out the window in the name of fashion.

It's time to enact the seashell test; according to Ronda, you never know when you will have to pick up a starfish.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dancing (and Singing) Queen

"We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams."

People have passions that pull them through the week; that one activity that makes them forget about their worries, forget about their stresses, and neglect to remember heartache. Some guys fish. Some girls knit. People cook. People go hiking. While I would like to say that these normal events speak to my heart, it is evident that they do not. Hiking is more like torture than relaxation to me and cook to relieve stress? Ha!

We're driving down the road the other day in Loramy's jeep; I have had kind of a bad day, and I'm not feeling up to par. The best thing about best friends is that they know what to do to make you feel better. She didn't try to give me any kind of advice; she didn't ask me to reveal "how I feel." She simply rolled down the jeep window, turned on her iPod to a fun, must-sing-out-loud song and began.

I sat there for a little bit; I was not going to give in to this; I was not going to laugh and have fun. My day was bad and it was going to continue to be that way. She, knowing me, knew that I couldn't resist. She smiled as she saw me reach over and begin to manually roll down my window. It was kind of an admittance of defeat. She had won.

Before I knew it, I was singing at the top of my lungs and dancing with my arms out the window of the Jeep. We got to our house and decided we weren't finished yet so we looped the neighborhood a few times until our favorite songs were over. Oh, the glorious feeling of feeling my hair blowing in the wind and just being totally uninhibited. I somehow feel like the best version of me when I'm hanging out of the Jeep in the summer; I am truly happy.

Tonight, I needed a little boost. Solution? Karaoke time. My roommates and I have our prized possession in the corner; a karaoke machine with two mikes and a television dedicated just to the art of karaoke. A soulful rendition of "I Will Survive" and a duet of "I Got You Babe" later, and the world is right. I could probably cause the neighborhood dogs to go crazy, but I don't even care--straining my vocal chords to Gloria Gaynor somehow makes me feel like I have received closure and resolution in every heartache I have ever experienced; it's like my voice can actually carry itself to the four regions of Arkansas and cover every boy with my deep disdain.

We often have people over for karaoke; you always have those few characters who immediately refuse: "No, no...I don't sing." First of all, how do you not sing? Unless your vocal chords are messed up, you have been called to karaoke. It's a God-given gift. What's interesting is that halfway into the evening a certain song comes on. You can never predict what it will be, but you slowly start to see the mike chord be pulled across the room. Before you know it, the Ebenezer Scrooge of karaoke is busting a move and rapping to "Nelly."

Shy girls suddenly become Britney Spears and the kid who was "too cool for school" has to have the microphone torn from his hands to give other people a chance to perform. It really is a beautiful thing.

You can learn many things from karaoke. For instance, when a girl and a guy are singing together, I can tell what kind of chemistry they have; that's right. There's Olivia Newton John's "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and then there's the Please-Realize-I'm-Not-Just-Your-Friend "Hopelessly Devoted to You." And sometimes I can tell that "I Got You Babe" often is equivalent to "I (Wish) I Got You Babe."

Karaoke teaches you more about yourself than you would ever think. It's a box of enlightenment; a small joy. It releases anger, brings joy, helps with sadness; and has a lot less calories than stuffing your face with ice cream. Unfortunately, I did both tonight.

I feel like we need to take more time out to dance, sing and laugh. If we don't, we will go absolutely crazy. I know that as long as there is music and fun in life-- along with best friends--I really will survive...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Georgie On My Mind

"America is a Nation with a mission - and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic peace - a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman." - George W. Bush

There have been times when I have asked myself, "Ashton, if you were 5 inches away from a famous person or public figure, what would you do?" While I often daydreamed about how I would smile, how I would look, what I would say...I now know the real answer.

I sweat. Profusely. And I stutter a little bit.

George W. Bush was on campus last night to speak as part of the American Studies Distinguished Lectureship series. I worked as a student worker for 4 years in that office, and they let me step back into my old role for this special evening.

Not many people got to meet him so I was honored to be behind the scenes for this special occasion. The staff was in line to meet him...and then it started. Beads of sweat started forming on my forehead and pretty soon it was almost like I-just-took-a-shower material; but unfortunately, not the whole fresh water from a faucet kind of look.

Regardless of my post-basketball-game physical state, I still asserted myself and went straight for one of his arms when it was picture time. He was a little shorter than I had always pictured. He put his arm around, grazing my back slightly. It is then that it dawns on me that he probably just got swiped with Ashton perspiration. Awesome. I meet the Commander-in-Chief and he probably wants to executive order me a bath.

I would like to say that after the hug I uttered something profound like, "Sir, thank you for what you did for our country" or "It was a pleasure meeting you; thank you for the picture" or "You were the President I voted for in my first election when I was 18."

Instead, it was something like this:

"It'''s an honor."

What's an honor? Come on, Ashton. You WRITE for a living. You put beautiful words together on a page. You stir up emotion in people every day. Unfortunately, there are no instant do-overs when you meet famous people; it's like the curtains have closed and you are shuffled from the stage.

When I took my seat, I noticed that the staff section was right next to the fire department section. "Could this night get any better?" I asked myself. To be honest, I watched the President most of the time, but in slow parts, I peered at Mr. Fireman Hottie to my left. I contemplated using some fire department-esque pick-up line on him, but opted for nothing. "Call the fire department because you are ON FIRE!" just did not seem appropriate for this momentous evening.

I really enjoyed the President's speech; he was funny, lighthearted and down to earth. Even though he is not the most eloquent speaker, he is genuinely kind and sincere and I love that about him. I would rather listen to a sincere guy make up words and flub up lines than hear a masterful man of words spout lies and false promises. He is true to his values and beliefs even when they are not popular; I realize that he made plenty of mistakes when he was in office, but I also know that he really loves America and tried to do the right thing and stand up for freedom.

Even though I only spent a minute with him tops, I could still tell that he was a good 'ol country boy from Texas. He was kind to everyone, didn't have an uppity attitude and I was very lucky to have had this experience. Sweat and all, an honor.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Oh, Memory Lane

It is hard to believe that this time two years ago I was free traveling around Europe with 4 good girl friends. Life has gotten busy, we've all gone different directions, but we all still carry with us the memories of Spring 2008. We got together for supper last night, and it was this wonderful time for me; it was a reminder of the journey that started it all; the journey that is one of the puzzle pieces making me who I am today. It broadened my worldview, widened my heart and gave me a thirst to travel the world.

Though I don't make it quite past the Wal-Mart these days; perhaps Little Rock if I'm feeling really adventurous, the spark in me for adventure has still not gone out; it may be a little fainter than it was when I was hopping trains in Paris at 2 a.m., but it is still very much there.

Many of you may have followed my blog "It's All Greek to Me" ( while I was traveling. After getting it published, it has become one of my most treasured items; I still go back on occasion and read from it and relive the memories of my semester abroad.

Because I am talking about free travel, however, I decided to pull some quotes from the free travel portion of my adventure journal. Though pulled out of context, I hope they can still provide some humor of some kind.


"I was very proud of my first free travel purchase: peanut butter. From what I had heard, it was a must for every backpacker-- it was cheap, fit in your bag and would keep you from starving. In all my peanut butter excitement, I forgot to put it in my checked luggage. We get to the airport first thing and this mean security man goes, "Who has a jar?" After a minute, I confess that I have in fact smuggled peanut butter. He inspects it like it is a bomb and I tell him that it still has the seal and has never been opened. "This is not allowed!" he firmly states. "That is my only food supply," I manage to muster. "THIS IS NOT ALLOWED!" he repeats, this time dramatically pulling over a garbage can and tossing it in. With that one kerplunk, my food was gone."

"For those of you who have visited Amsterdam, you know that it has a magic all its own. First, this old man comes up, leans over and proceeds to yell at us in an unfamiliar dialect. I am pretty good at picking out languages, but I'm almost certain his was original--a result of large amounts of marijuana. Shortly thereafter, another man came up, gave us an evil look and grumbled, "City trash!" Never having been referred to as filthy street rats before, we began to look around and re-evaluate our situation."

"When we thought this train station experience couldn't get any more bizarre, this man who was clearly crazy marches in with a newspaper, shouting things while pointing to an article. He was speaking another language, but it seemed that he was attempting to make some type of political statement-- either that or he couldn't figure out the day's crossword puzzle. He began tearing his shirt in distress."

"As corny as this sounds, when we walked in I couldn't help but feel like I was a part of something. These hippy, Bohemian college students, many with eclectic clothing and dreadlocks fascinated me. Here we were, 5 happy-go-lucky girls on our own for the first time (ponytails instead of dreadlocks, t-shirts and jeans instead of mismatched skirts and beanies)-- yet we were a part of this adventure too."

"I found out the hard way that even though I should cherish every new sight and experience, I should also take time to look down every now and then. I was so busy looking at the amazing sights of Berlin, that I missed a sidewalk restaurant sign and totally took it out with my shin. I had to limp all the way to the bus!"

"We boarded it and soon were on our way to Munich. It wasn't long into the train ride that I discovered a rather large hole in my jeans. Apparently, they had seen their share of Europe and decided they couldn't survive any longer. Already being short on clothes, I mourned the loss of another pair of pants. I thought maybe I would keep them, but a bending over incident later in Rome did them in. Because of this, I was ordained with the nickname, "Breezy."


"We were soon greeted by our rather chipper tour guide, Peter-- a fruity older man who operated as if he had just consumed 5 energy drinks."

"While we were walking back to the bus, I saw a little girl (who was on the tour with us) holding her dad's hand. As she swung his hand back and forth, she sang every word to, "I am 16...going on 17." She must have been like 4 years old! My heart was touched because that was about the age that I fell in love with this movie."


"When we finally walked in the museum, I began to fumble with a map expecting to have to search for this little David statue somewhere amidst all the others. It was then that I looked up and *Ahhhhhhhh* (imagine me saying this with arms open wide as if I have seen something descend from the heavens)-- there he was. He was the highlight of the room. There is no way you could have missed him! His platform alone was as tall as me and he stood a good 8 feet or more above that! He is truly the ideal male form. Every muscle (there are some I now know exist that I need to get workin' on!) is in place and even the veins that run through his arms are showing. He has an Adam's apple, a clavicle and even his neck is realistic!"

"He is the only statue I have ever seen that has spectator seating behind him. On a scale from 1 to 10, I don't know how wrong it is for 5 girls to sit on a bench and stare at a statue's tush for long periods of time, but put us on that list. Guilty as charged!"


"Lacey bought some shirts from this store called, "Blackout" and they gave her a billboard-sized bag for promotional purposes. Later, Lauren got inside of it. A guy that worked at the hostel tried to pick her up in the bag and ended up dropping his keys inside. He went around looking for them before we realized where they were. We all got a few laughs out of it."

"As we sat at our table, we looked across the room and saw a basket that said, "Left over bread goes here. For the stray dogs of Interlaken." You know you are getting to the end of free travel when you have started envying the stray dogs of Interlaken. Danielle kept talking about going over there and getting the bread out of the basket. Though I was all for it, I pleaded with her not to do it-- we were NOT going to stoop to that level."


"Our cart split from the rest of the train that was going a different direction, but something went wrong with the train that was supposed to attach to us and take us the rest of the way. We sat, cramped together in a lone cart on an abandoned track until the problem was fixed an hour or so later. It seemed like a scene from a horror flick. Luckily, it ended well-- not like an Alfred Hitchcock film."

"My FAVORITE night of the whole trip is when we laid in the lawn in front of the Eiffel tower waiting for it to light up. It was so beautiful and romantic. The only thing that risked ruining the atmosphere were the annoying guys that sell plastic, light-up Eiffel towers. They won't leave you alone! One guy kept bugging us and we firmly told him, "No!" He pathetically said, "Why not?" and Danielle, not missing a beat, goes, "BECAUSE I'M LOOKIN' AT THE REAL THING!" We laughed so hard and looked over to find this guy, who apparently understood us, laughing as well. He continued to laugh at us the whole night. He was cute in this gruff, world traveler kind of way. I should have talked to him-- it's Paris, the most romantic place on earth, for goodness sakes!"

Ireland airport:

"We spent the night in the Dublin airport, awaiting our flight back to Amsterdam. An annoying lady got on the intercom ALL NIGHT LONG making an announcement about how unclaimed baggage would be destroyed. We kept a tally on Lauren's arm and I think it ended up totaling close to 40."

There are a bazillion more where these came from, but these were some of my favorites. I will definitely never forget my semester abroad; and the people I met along the way. I hope to return someday and add even more quotes to my crazy collection!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Land of the Nerds

Tonight, when peering over the MSN style page, I noticed a very unusual headline. Headers like, "Get Jessica Simpson's Hair" and "Get Michelle Obama's arms" are quite commonplace, but I noticed a very interesting one gracing the screen this evening:

"How to Look Like a Nerd."

I couldn't help but pause on the words. With shows like "Glee" becoming big hits, it is apparent that "geek" is in. I just found it quite humorous that there are some stylish girls out there that are quite disappointed that they can't truly capture the essence of geekdom. They have to actually follow a step-by-step plan in order to truly become an authentic nerd.

Truth be told, they should have just followed me around during middle school and junior high. Here are some things they would have learned; I should have beat MSN to the punch:

1. Wear shoulder pads. If you are between the ages of 10 and 17 and you don't look like a linebacker, you just aren't trying hard enough. If you can't find a shirt in every color that has a shoulder pad, don't fret. Simply take one from your favorite shirt and insert it into every outfit to give it that perfect, British-soldier look.

2. Buy a blue jean jumper. First of all, everyone needs something in their wardrobe called a "jumper." Not only does an outfit with the word "jump" in it exude a certain energy, it is great for travel. Having multiple outfit parts is very inconvenient for packing for sleepovers. A shoulder-pad-stuffed shirt and a jumper is all one needs for an easy, on-the-go selection.

3. Buy Dr. Marten boots/sandals that weigh 25 pounds each. Forget the gym. Working out is not a problem when you have weights tied to your feet everywhere you go. These things have the strength of construction boots and the price tag of Louis Vitton. Paying $150 for a lead foot is just the thing to send you to nerd land.

4. Get a bad haircut. To be a true nerd, don't find the best stylist in town. Go to the old lady whose latest magazines are from the 1970's. When you ask for Jennifer Aniston, you will get Mrs. Brady. When you ask for Julia Roberts, you will get a mullet. Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything.

5. Get confetti-style glasses. What in the world are confetti-style glasses, you may ask. Just like it sounds. Find some thick, red-framed glasses that have purple specks all over the frames. Nothing shouts "nerd" like a party on your face.

6. Match your eye color to your shirt. If you are wearing lime green to school, be sure to put lime green eye shadow on your eyelids. Forget being tasteful with your make-up. Real nerds go all out. If your face doesn't glow in the dark, you haven't reached absolute perfection.

I am ashamed to admit that these are only a few of the many faux pax that I was a part of during my tween years. It's sad to me that I spent so much time trying to be "popular" and "cool." According to the article, I was a trend setter before my time.

This article is a call for you to embrace your inner nerd. You don't need an instructional manual. Just do your thing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Beautiful Mess

My "before I go to bed" read lately has been a book called, "Messy Spirituality." Though I am usually not a fan of non-fiction Christian literature because it somehow comes off to me as being cheesy and extreme, this book has spoken to my heart for some reason. Probably because the author admits from the start that he doesn't have it all together; that he has insecurities; that he somehow doesn't feel like an ambassador for change. This, in itself, was already a change from the previous authors I have read who take the stance of, "I'm perfect and you should model your life after me."

One of the first things he said that struck me was: "There is no room for pretending in the spiritual life … Pretending is the grease of modern non-relationships … But being real is the synonym for messy spirituality, because when we are real, our messiness is there for everyone to see." (pgs. 26-7)

This resonated with me because I find myself wanting to pretend like I have this thing called life down; that I am this pillar of the Christian faith and a perfect addition to society. Then, I go home at night and wonder what in the world I'm doing. The facade fades away and I wonder, "Am I really worthy? I mean, God knows who I really am. He sees past the smiling face at College Church and the A on the Bible test. He knows everything."

This is where the author's stance comes in:

"It turns out that what disqualifies you and me from “spirituality” – the mess of our lives and our crippledness – is what most qualifies us to be chosen by Jesus… Some of us actually believe that until we choose the correct way to live, we aren’t chooseable, that until we clean up the mess, Jesus won’t have anything to do with us. The opposite is true. Until we admit we are a mess, Jesus won’t have anything to do with us." (pg. 37)

Isn't that comforting to know? That, while God wants us to live a righteous life, he chooses us before the process is even complete--or started for that matter.

I mean, just think about the people he chose in the Bible. David himself, after all he had done, was a man after God's own heart. Peter denied Jesus. He brought the crippled, the blind, the hurting to his side constantly. Jesus washed Judas' feet, while rebuking religious leaders. Rahab, a prostitute, was part of the lineage of Christ. The list goes on and on.

I feel like once we admit our weakness and address our "messiness," we can start to make the difference we want to see in the world. People don't walk into our church doors to see perfect people; they come to feel accepted, to be forgiven, to be loved by you-- and a God who takes them in despite their brokenness.

As the author writes, "Spirituality isn’t about being finished and perfect; spirituality is about trusting God in our unfinishedness." (pg.29)

It's all about the trust for me. I have a hard time seeing how God can use someone like me; especially since he can see what I view in the mirror every day. But that's just it-- he doesn't see that reflection.

I see an unfinished masterpiece. A painting that was left halfway through. A mess, if you will.

He sees a work of art; and he turns the splashes of paint, the harsh lines, the mistakes and fashions it into a glorious thing to be admired.
...a beautiful mess.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Weekend Update

I apologize for my recent lack of writing. My friends and family have wondered whether or not I have dropped off the face of the earth. I have not; it just seemed that the events that make up my life had come to a momentary halt. Between school, work and my three jobs, it seemed like I was living the same mundane day over and over again. Writing deadlines at two of the jobs curbed my creative writing and flexibility on the side; to write about fun things; things that brought me joy instead of dread.

Luckily, after responding to each of my friend's questions with, "My life just hasn't been very exciting lately," the Fabulous Familiar fairy decided to get back to work and play catch-up this weekend. Here, in no particular order, are some of the happenings of Ashton's weekend:

* On Friday night, Loramy and my friend Ashley and I decided to go on an impromptu walk around Harding's campus. Having not checked the weather channel, we just assumed it was a nice night for a stroll. This being an impromptu walk, we were all dressed nicely and had shoes on that were not conducive to walking briskly. We get quite a ways from our car and then we feel the first drop. Then another. Then another. Loramy does a quick about-face and says, "Oh no, we better get going." We link arms, huddle for warmth (the temperature has now dropped like 10 degrees) and walk as fast as we can.

The rain begins to strengthen; and it becomes apparent to us that rushing is not going to help us stay dry. Loramy suggests, "Hey, why don't we just go over there, call public safety and have them pick us up?" I, being the intelligent brunette that I am, actually utter these words: "Well, we'd end up getting more wet just standing here waiting on them than if we just walked back real quick." They both look at me with questioning, "Did you really just say that?" faces and then point to the nearby gym. Oh. My bad.

By the end of it, my make-up was pretty gross and my hair, which had been straight and coiffed, had become a frizzy mess; we all pretty much looked and smelled like wet dogs.

** Wet dog smelling or not we still made our way to Wal-Mart to get ice cream and a cookie log (you put the whole cookie roll on a cookie sheet and bake; it is DIVINE!) Then, we made our usual stop by Red Box to get a movie for a dollar. Because it is still raining, we voted Loramy to get out and get the movie. She readily complied considering there was a handsome cowboy already in line. As she looked back at Ashley and I with a huge grin on her face, we knew she wasn't JUST going to be looking at movies.

We wait. And wait. And wait. All we see are arm movements signaling conversation and laughter going on. Sure enough, she comes back with two movies and stars in her eyes. "His name is Joey..." After this, she proceeds to tell us what all she has learned about Joey; which is a lot for just being under an awning in the rain for 10 minutes. We haven't even made it 3 minutes down the road and she, after being spurred on by Ashley, decides she needs to go back and ask him for his number.

"No..." I plead. I just want to head back home and be saved from such embarrassment. I am overruled and the car makes a sudden turn and heads back toward Red Box. I decide I am not going to be present for this so I flop myself into the back seat; from there, I slide down under the seat as not to be seen by this Joey character. She rolls down the window and yells, "Hey, Joey!" He looks over and she says, "My friends think I need to ask for your number!" Though offended that she used the plural "friends," I still listened. Unfortunately, it seems that cowboy had a cowgirl at home. Gotta give her props for being bold, though.

** I am always getting pranked. It is a constant in my life. On the days that I try to get people back, it usually backfires and--once again--becomes a trick on Ashton. Case in point, Saturday night. Loramy and Ashley wanted to go spy on our other roommate Allison so we parked our car in the nearby high school parking lot. I stayed in the car and waited for them to return. When they got back to the parking lot, I drive off (not thinking that this isn't a good prank because they can WALK back home). When I come back to get them, I don't see them anywhere. I call Loramy. "Where are you?" I inquire. She proceeds to lead me on a wild goose chase. I am driving, turning, looking everywhere. It soon occurs to me that they are probably at home, guiding me from the comfort of the couch. Sure enough, I walk in the door and see a group of people laughing at me. I had been driving around, peering in dark places, looking for my dear friends. I had been a mariachi puppet, guided by the strings of deception.

** Sunday was not without its embarrassing moments. I ate Easter dinner with my friends and family. After I had finished my meal, I got up to use the restroom. I can't exactly explain how this occurred--because I have no idea how it could. I must have moved too suddenly because my foot hit the dining room chair in front of me...HARD. I stubbed all five toes at once. I didn't think, due to the different lengths of the toes, that this was possible, but I am living proof that it is. The impact caused me to fall forward and land flat on my stomach. I hurriedly pull my skirt down to keep my family from witnessing an unflattering sight as they finished their ham. I get back up and hang my head in defeat. It is then that I hear the encouraging words of my grandmother. "Ashton, look here. I want to take a picture." Everyone laughs as my dear sweet Mimi took this moment to capitalize on a painful moment. "It's for posterity!" she says reassuringly.

After finishing up with the paparazzi and autographs, I limp my way to the bathroom. When I emerge from the bathroom, my mom starts laughing. 'Are they really not over it yet?' I ask myself. It is then that I see my mom peer behind me.

"Ashton, the back of your skirt is tucked in your underwear!" Laughter ensues again. Really? Happy Easter to me.


I hope that this is the start of more faithful writing. Where there is Ashton, there is always material.