The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Panty Hose and Perms

As I walk around campus running errands for work, I have begun to see the demographic of the campus change. People are in the hallways laughing, catching up, getting ready for class. The only difference? About 50 years.

It is indeed "Lectureship" season on Harding's campus, a time when ladies named Ezmeralda and Priscilla are allowed to roam the Student Center selling incense and special potions to cure your ailments. Any traditional hymn you've ever dreamed about can be yours with the purchase of a King James bible and a cassette tape.

You can also spend your morning staring incessantly at the cryptic Christian t-shirts, wondering if your salvation depends on whether or not you grasp the deep meaning hidden behind their obscure symbols. I put my vote on an open tomb on the hoodie to the far left.

My friends and I were at McAllister's last night and watched the two tables behind us. One table was full of older ladies and the table next to them was filled with their male counterparts. It became quite apparent that the women were humorously recounting their husbands' recent goof-ups, while the men attempted to explain why women do the things they do. One man, when he saw that his wife was chilly, went out to the car and brought in her jacket. Precious.

Basically, I love older people. I guarantee if you just listen to them, your life will instantly become better. As I have walked around today, I have just seen how excited they are. They are reuniting with old friends, and going to class is an amazing time to brush up on the Bible and learn new things.

All of this makes me wonder what I am going to be like, Lord willing, in 50 years. And how will my friends be?

I have been sitting here, picturing my closest friends and I at the "Lectureship." This is what I have decided:

I am going to be fabulous.

I am going to wear frilly hats, fancy scarves and lots of jewelry. I am not going to limit my stories or censor them because after 50 years of crazy moments, I deserve an ounce of redemption by being allowed to talk your ear off.

I am going to buy pink jogging suits and join a gym. And take water aerobics and wear a swimming cap.

I am going to buy a red convertible and whistle at the youth parked nearby as I speed past them, my floppy straw hat blowing in the wind.

I am going to back up out of parking lots without looking. Because I am allowed to do that.

I'm going to learn to tap dance and win the grand prize in Bingo.

I am going to wear a ring on every finger and I am going to smell like the rose garden I have in my backyard.

I'm going to drink tea, attempt to watch the news and then realize that laughing is more important and change the channel.

I'm going to wear curlers in my hair to Wal-Mart and a housedress just because I want to.

For a girl that is so worried about what everyone else thinks, I sure can't wait for the time when I don't have to care anymore.

For a time when people will let me have my way and say, "That's just 'ol Mrs. Ashton for ya."

Bring on the panty hose and the perms. I can't wait.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


One of my professors posted a link to a news story about the University of Central Arkansas's new wake-up call feature for its students. The university apparently signed a $11,000 yearlong contract with a Maryland-based company that provides students with wake-up calls and various other test reminders throughout the day. As of the last report, 121 students had signed up so far after the announcement had been made. They expect many others to follow suit.

The student center director compared the service to a hotel concierge and said it would be very helpful to freshmen especially who "are away from home for the first time and don't have parents around making sure they get out of bed for school."

I feel like this is one more coal in the fire surrounding the assertion that this generation doesn't want to grow up. As if your mom calling all of your college professors to ask them about your assignments isn't embarrassing enough; now we have decided we need our college to wake us up too. Imagine the excuses that will come: "I'm sorry Dr. Smith, but Snoozeter set my alarm wrong this morning and forgot to tell me I had your test today."

There are these cool little things called alarm clocks that someone invented. Also, most university bookstores sell planners. The cool thing about planners is you can-- get this-- write down when you have a test on -- gasp-- the day you have it.

I was in one office on campus recently, which shall remain nameless, and some helicopter mother called the secretary asking all of these questions for her twenty-something son. When the secretary reported to the guy in charge, he simply said, "Tell the mother to have her son call me and we will work it out. I don't want to talk to her, I want to talk to her son."

Though this sounded a bit harsh and the secretary didn't really know how to properly phrase that to the mother, I found it quite interesting--especially in respect to this topic. The man realized that there comes a time when you have to learn to fight your own battles; you have to start with waking yourself up on time and then expand that into getting a job, keeping that job and making something of your life.

In my opinion, what this teaches kids is that they will always have someone catering to their needs. What boss in corporate America is going to call you at 7:00 a.m. to wake you up for the office meeting? Who wants a spouse that will forget to pick up the kids from school because you didn't call to remind them every day?

I feel like, to the generations that paved the way for education, college was a time for growth in all facets of life. I often feel like my peers and those under me go to college because it's a fad. Like paying $100,000 for an education is equivalent to buying Ugg boots in 2008.

Though I would be lying if I said that every class piqued my interest and that my attitude toward learning was always what it should have been, I still feel like college is a time for change; it is a time to dig deeper into yourself and find out what you believe. It challenges what you always thought you knew and teaches you that you are capable of so much more than what you told yourself growing up.

This is a call for our society to cut the apron strings, so to speak. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great." I feel like, in some instances, people only live up to your expectations for them. Is it any wonder then that our society sends kids to college with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the next second calls them lazy and incapable?

I think, though this story is very small in the grand scheme of things, it is indeed an alarming wake-up call of its own.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Look for the Bracelet

I would be remiss to act like this blog entry was totally an original thought from me. Rather, it stems from an article that my good friend Kenley sent me for laughs. As usual, my loving friends are always on the lookout for articles that will cause thought processes to come about, in turn creating some creative release of that newly inherited information.

The article shined a humorous light on the often secretive practice of subtle Christian searching. Don't act like you haven't done it. You make small talk with the guy in line next to you. After the initial left ring finger check, you begin to gauge his religious standing based on ridiculous outward signs.

In a world where it's hard to find someone who is on the same page spiritually, we seem to hang on tightly to any hope we have -- even if it's in the form of a wooden cross necklace that protrudes from his button up shirt when he leans over to pick something up. Our heart skips a beat as we realize that necklace has to mean...has to mean something, right?

Or why do elusive Bible verse references make us excited when thrown into normal conversation? If I am making my way through a crowd and some guy goes, "Look out, she's parting the Red Sea here," I would probably immediately stop in my tracks. I would proceed to grab my white chocolate mocha that I ordered and tote Mr. Moses-referencer with me.

The author of the article ends her thoughts with certain tip-offs that we subconsciously look out for in our search for I Corinthians 13 love. They range from the turning of a frontal hug into a side hug all the way to whether or not they reference their career as a "calling." Then you have the True Love Waits ring and WWJD bracelet to look out for. Not to mention those who answer "How are you?" with "I am very blessed."

This honest look at our sometimes irrational behavior was mostly in fun; we have all been guilty of searching the outside of the glass, when the inside has the potential to be completely empty. Perhaps we have even felt that described our own life at times. We should always remember Matthew 6:1, 5-6:

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Instead of checking a girl's True Love Waits ring, why not search her for a pure and loving heart? Rather than be elated that your cute waiter has a cross necklace on, why not make sure he bears the cross daily in his own life? Tip-offs aren't a bad thing necessarily unless the discovery stops there. Before you give your heart to someone, make sure their life fits their e-mail sign off...and make sure the person really is...

In His Service.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Baby So Real

I came across this slideshow of the worst toys you could get your daughter. I am appalled that someone even invented such things, but it's even more shocking that some mom or dad out there actually thought the purchase was brilliant. Before you read further, please take a quick minute to check it out:

This immediately took me back to childhood and my obsession with dolls. I had every kind of doll you could imagine. After I had made my rounds with Caucasian dolls, I told my mom I needed baby dolls from other cultures. It was shortly after this revelation that Ebony made her debut into my life, as well as my Hispanic American Girl baby. Let's just say I was Angelina Jolie before I had even graduated to non-cartoon underwear.

The doll that has probably imprinted itself on my mind the most though was "Baby So Real." I guess the terror that followed such anticipation is what makes this doll so engraved in my memory. I saw a commercial for this doll on television and it advertised that it could cry, move, and create facial expressions "just like a real baby."

I felt that I was indeed ready for a real child by the age of 8 so I begged my parents for a baby that was so close to a live one that it wasn't even funny. Fast forward a few weeks and it arrives in the mail. Put the batteries in and there you have your authentic mail-order child.

Nothing could have prepared me for what came next. I turned her on and much to my horror, it sounded like 100 assembly line workers were inside of her face working away. Each smile or blink of the eye was a slow, calculated mechanical process that would clank and rattle inside her brain. Her mouth would churn like a can opener and suddenly a disturbed cry would emerge as she opened and closed her eyes.

No parent could have foreseen that so I don't fault my parents in the least; let's just say her home soon became the back of the closet. It's hard to top the "Baby so Creepy," but the doll I received that came in a pregnant belly that you could later use to hide under your shirt to become "with child" falls in a close second or third place.

I occasionally walk through the toy aisle at a store just for the fun of it; it seems that creepy babies are being replaced with miniature teenagers with attitude problems. It's interesting to me how we don't want our own children to become brats, but we will gladly buy them dolls that encourage them to become one, too. I personally will not purchase a doll for my daughter that has lips that take up 3/4 of her face with its midriff showing.

I would rather her be terrified into abstinence with a terrifying baby that claims to mimic a real child.

Monday, September 6, 2010


When answering the phone at work this morning, I realized I am a woman of many voices. I often wonder why I am incredibly drained after a day of simply just talking to people and interacting with other human beings. I have come to the conclusion that it is because I am being an animated version of myself…and that is emotionally exhausting.

If you were to call me on my cell phone on any given day, you would probably think a) you woke me up b) I was immensely upset about something or c) She is probably sitting in bed eating ice cream and writing in her diary about her sad life. Why? Because I am in no way enthused.

If you called me at work, however, you would get excited, energized Ashton who is at the edge of her seat waiting to help you. My voice raises about 2 octaves and my normal grumbles become enunciated words of purpose. Call me names. Gripe about my inability to do anything for your situation. Throw in some cuss words. You will not unravel the chipper dialogue I long to present to you in its fullest form.

My grandma used to say that I needed to work on my phone voice because I sounded like I was dying or being held hostage. I now find that I am being held hostage in a world of candy, rainbows and butterflies where I talk like a host on Nick Jr. and flash my smile with lipstick on my teeth. In any given day, I am all of these people:

The granddaughter: The granddaughter voice is used to address customers who need some family loving outside of their home. This is the girl who speaks softly, in Southern colloquialisms that will make you want to make me an apple pie. I will often throw in some “darlin’s” and “ma’ams” to make you feel like you are sitting on your back porch drinking pink lemonade.

The mysterious younger woman: I am bound to come across some men who need to feel like they still have game. They will often remark, “Hey little lady” or “Exciting weekend up ahead?” This is when curling a strand of hair around your finger, shuffling papers and nonchalantly responding with, “Maybe so, we’ll see” is the perfect retort. This doesn’t answer their question, but still makes them feel like they made a proper move. Checkmate.

The girl at fault: This girl, for the sake of her job, lets everything be her fault. She is able to listen to criticism for long periods of time and nod accordingly. She takes one for the team and never loses her tender, mousy voice of acceptance. She often gulps because her mouth is becoming dry from utter disdain.

The interested party: This girl notices you have a Razorbacks shirt on and will make small talk with you about the big game yesterday. This is the girl who will look at the photo album of your fifteen grandchildren while meticulously finishing paperwork at the same time. If you need a shoulder to cry on, by all means, do it while she is typing.

This isn’t to say that all interactions with me are superficial or that I hold no regard in getting to know people. I really do love people; but I feel like we all overextend ourselves socially throughout the day. There is nothing wrong with being what people need you to be at that moment in their lives; as long as you stay true to yourself and give them a glimpse into what makes you you. And that, by golly, is the truth darlin’.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

In All Things

I will be the first to admit that I have been in a spiritual kind of rut lately. I have had no actual, blatant reason to be. I have great friends, a family who loves me and a very blessed life. But why was I finding myself so alone in the midst of crowds of people? Why was my heart aching when I was surrounded by laughter? And then it started to dawn on me that it was because I had lost my relationship with God; not my relationship all together, but that constant reliance, that continual connection that gave me an underlying foundation to hold me up during daily storms that blew my way. I had quit consulting him; and asking him for daily strength to get through the day. I started relying on myself for little, seemingly insignificant things and then slowly let that grow into monumental decisions that needed his guidance so desperately.

Church became routine to me and my heart felt somehow hardened while being there. With each discussion of building plans and multi-million dollar renovations, my mindset to worship slowly faded to nothing by the time the song was led. I needed an escape.

A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to attend church with her because her sister was out of town. I had been considering trying a new congregation for some time now and thought maybe this was the break that I needed. I was a bit nervous as I made my way into their family room; after all, I was used to my routine and though I didn't like it, I was comfortable.

As we began the first song, I just so happened to look to my left. The whole congregation was standing, singing praises to God in beautiful harmony. There was a woman in a wheelchair sitting off to the side; I saw that she had hoisted her arms to the side of her seat and was lifting her body up. Her eyes were closed and she was, in her own way, standing before God in worship.

I began to get a little choked up. And I realized the words that were coming from my lips were just that...words. To this woman, they were a life song, a constant reassurance that life was better for her because God was in it. I don't think God shows you these people so that you will feel sorry for them; or feel guilty about your life outside of a physical handicap; I feel like he uses them to bless you. And though I don't know this lady's name, she gave me great encouragement today.

Tearing up during the song service and during a few prayers let me know that my heart is not opposed to feeling again; it is not guarded from an emotional experience with God. The church wasn't striving to profit from one's emotionalism, and I don't think that my thoughts today are a result of a spiritual high.

I think I just needed to be reminded that I am fully capable of relying on God for strength; and that he was a dear, dear friend that I let get away for a while. The preacher read this excerpt from a book today, and it really resonated with me and what I am going through right now. It's funny how these things get mentioned when you need to hear them, isn't it?

"For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and
until the hearers find God in personal experience, they are not the better for
having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to
bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may
enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know
the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their

I'm tired of words. I hear words all day. I write words all day. I am ready to let God back into my personal experiences again. Into my struggles. Into my joys. Into the mundaneness that makes up a life of praise when He is in it.

And maybe when he is in the core and center of my heart will he be at the core and center of my worship.