A Few Things

1. I have been thinking about doing a blogger biggest loser, since so many of us are on a quest for health/ sleeker bodies in 2013.  Who's interested?  I'm looking for a cohost...

2. Half price ads for anyone who books between now and Jan. 1!  Use the code OWIOWIHALF on passionfruit!

3.  Need a blog makeover?  I started doing a little design work.  I have a two week wait right now, but if you send me an inquiry before Jan. 7th I will give you $5 off my already re-donk-u-lous-ly* low prices.

*Redonkulously- (adverb) So darn low that it makes you want to shake your badonkadonk ridiculously because you are saving so much money.  You're welcome!


The 12 Things I Learned in 2012

I am a bit of a thief today.  I was reading Jenn's post from Party of One and and inspiration caught me.  So thanks for the inspiration love!  Without further adieu  here is my list of the 12 most important things I learned in 2012.
1.  Don't be afraid to be who you are.  I have spent a lot of my life trying to fit into someone elses version of me.  In 2012 I learned that when I stop worrying about what other people think of me, I think a lot more of myself.  Blogging has been a big part of me finding my true voice.  So thanks to all of you who've been listening!

2.  Good things come to those that don't force them. If you want something bad enough, don't settle until you get it.  Don't take good enough when patience will bring you perfect.  This can apply to so many aspects of life and for me it was my career.  

3. Embrace change.  Fighting it will only make you more unhappy than the change itself.  Change means growth and growth means strength.  
4. Identify your happy place and make it part of your routine to be there.  For me it is a particular beach.  I try to go at least once a week and appreciate the splendor that is the earth.  

5.  If it doesn't expire within the next 3 weeks, it is probably not that good for you.  Frozen foods aside, if it could survive an apocalypse  it's not going to be easy for your body to digest and it's going to ferment in your intestines... just say no to processed foods (Self, I am talking to you!)
I'm a little hair obsessed... and went back to my roots.
6. Invest in multiple types of shampoo and conditioner.  Use one of the more expensive brands like Kerestase at least 1-2 times a week.  It'll make a difference and it won't kill your bank account. Use something cheaper in between to save money. (I recommend Mane and Tail.  It keeps hair healthy and shiny!)

7. He's just not that into you.  No I didn't read the book, but I have come to realize looking at both my relationship and the relationships of my friends, both successful and unsuccessful, if he wants to see you, he will find a way.  If he wants to talk to you, he will find a way.  And if he wants you, he will show you.  
8.  You are in control of your own destiny.  While I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, I also think you have to be the one driving the change.  Maybe that means prayer, maybe that means envisioning the things you want, maybe it means not taking no for an answer.  Just remember you are in the drivers seat!

9. Don't be afraid to be good at what you do.  Whatever it is, own it.  Celebrate you successes and be confident in your work.

10.  Accept failure and mistakes.  Fail informatively.  Don't place blame.  Accepting fault and coming up with a solution to the problem is sometimes more impressive than if you had succeeded in the first place.  A person that can claim their failures along with their successes can learn from them.

11.  Make time for those that matter.  I love to catch up with friends and family when I am stuck in traffic.  It makes the time go by faster and it makes me less angry at the asshole that just cut me off.  I think I have more quality talks with those I care about now that I live in another state.  

This little boy is in the final stages of cystic fibrosis and wanted to hold a record for number of Christmas cards received 
12. Be kind.  It's easy to forget to be kind when life gets hectic, but random acts of kindness are so heartwarming.  It makes my day so much better when I do something unexpected for someone else.  I can live off the high for the rest of the day.  

What are some things 2012 taught you?


The Best Friday

So let me tell you why today is the most exciting day of my adult life!  No it's not because of anything the Mayans predicted.  It's because for the first time, ever, I have 2 whole weeks off from work.  Since I started working back in August of 2007, I have never taken this much time off.  I feel like it's almost unheard of these days to take 16 days off in a row and not be a teacher or unemployed or self employed.  And boy do I have big plans:

The house I grew up in.
-I am headed home to AZ for the majority of my vacation to celebrate the holidays with the fam and cause a little trouble with my best girlfriends. It's going to be so strange to be a guest for Christmas.

-Getting my hair done (which is super exciting because it has been 4 months. Eek!
Me and bestie about 2 years ago
-Rubbing my bestie's baby bump for an awkwardly long amount of time.

Suns love from 2010-12
-I get to say hello to my beloved Phoenix Suns, not once but twice!

A rainy Coach House Christmas circa 2008
-Meeting up with the whole gang for a Coach House Christmas (details to come later)

-Drinking as much wine as I want with my best girls.

-Getting some serious design work done for The Life: Stylish (Need a new blog layout?  The Life: Stylish can help!  *shameless plug*  And since we are being shameless... wanna sponsor me?)

-Ringing in 2013 with a big glass of bubbly and a lot of hope for the future.

My last girls trip to Vegas
-Heading to Las Vegas for a bachelorette party where we plan to paint the town!

Now if all that doesn't sound awesome, I don't know what does!

Oh, and here are my thoughts on this whole end of the world business.  I hope today really is the end of the world (gasp!)... a very specific world.

A world that cares more about being the right one, than doing what's right for everyone.
A world where people lash out at one another instead of show kindness, love and compassion.
A world that cares more about our stock investments than where we are investing our time.
A world where people are afraid to ask for help, from others, from professionals and from God.

So if R.E.M was right and it is the "end of the world as we know it", then I agree, "I feel fine!"



Gift swap, swap, swaperoo

Hooray, it's time to reveal my gift swap partners!!  First I want to thank the lovely Tabitha, Janna, and Kelly for putting everything together.

Next I want to apologize to my partner Michelle of  Michelle's Pixie Dust.  I am really bad at mailing things.  Like seriously, it takes weeks to get the package out to my car and then it rides around with me for a while, then I go to the post office, take one look at the line and go home... until the last possible day.  So she probably got her gift yesterday.  Maybe.   I'm not making any excuses!  I suck at mailing things. End of story.  I just hope she really likes it.

Now onto the goods.  My secret Santa not only got me my gift ahead of time, but totally figured me out!

Not only did she get me to different adorable list makers, but she got me makeup.  Makeup is a total weakness of mine!  And I have been wanting to try the elf brand (which hello, what a better brand for a secret Santa swap?!)  and the verdict?  I'm pretty much obsessed!  I couldn't have asked for a better secret Santa than Melissa of Lulu and Sweet Pea.  

I just can't wait to see what everyone else got!

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...


A little kindness never hurt anybody

I might have put a little different spin on Random Wednesday, but I’m just going to go with it!

I try to be a good citizen of the world.  I try to donate clothes I don’t wear any more.  I volunteer when I can.  I work for a non profit organization . I try to say please, thank you, excuse me and I’m sorry when necessary   But the moments I feel the most joy are the ones that happen a little at random. 


About a year ago, I was headed to my car from the grocery store and a man asked me if he could have some money to go in and buy an apple.  The man told me he was a veteran and just got out of the hospital.  I had just bought a sandwich from the deli and some apples, so instead I gave him my sandwich, a couple apples and a bottle of water.  He cried when I handed him the bag.  I cried as I drove away. 

I’ve had a few of these opportunities to do good over the last few years, but after reading Jenn’s post 26 random acts of kindness to honor the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary school, I was inspired!  I started reading all about  the movement Ann Curry started with a simple tweet.  Seriously, check out #26Acts and #26actsofkindness for all the inspiration you may need. 

This is our chance to spread joy.  This is our chance to remember to be kind.  This is our chance to spread hope even in the wake of horrific tragedy   So instead of filling my instagram, twitter and Facebook with photo-a-day challenges, I’m going to be joining the #26acts movement.

So today, I got a holiday greetings card.  I wrote a message and I went to pick up my lunch. ( It was a McDonald's kind of day –don’t judge me.) After giving my order, I got up to the first window and the cashier gave me my total.  I told him I would like to pay for the car behind me as well. The cashier looked puzzled   Then I handed him my debit card and the card I had written.  I asked him to please give it to the guy in the car behind me.  The cashier just stared at me to which I awkwardly blurted out, “I’m spreading holiday cheer… like an elf or something.”  (What? Who says that?!)  The cashier smiled.  As I drove up to the next window, I saw the man in the car behind me receive his card and open it.  I drove away pleased with both my salty french fries and the warm fuzzy feeling that was radiating from my heart! 
#26acts.  Follow me on Instagram to see what other acts I'm up to @ashmarall

I hope he went back to his office and shared his lunch adventure with his office  I hope he is inspired to do something nice for a stranger.  I hope this movement spreads.

One act down, 25 to go!



Sipping Kate's Kool Aide

I haven't written much the last few days.  I don't know if it is because of a bad case of Angry Eye (not pink eye,,, it's just angry and doesn't want to wear it;s contact anymore.  Actually, today it has calmed down, so we'll call it Surly Eye), or maybe it's that I have been working lots of events, then Christmas shopping, then working on my own projects.  

Christmas shopping and I have a love hate relationship.  I hate the pressure I put on myself to get the perfect gift for someone.  I hate the crazy busy malls.  I hate how drained my bank account becomes.  I hate finding parking...anywhere.


I love knowing I got someone something they will love.  I love seeing their faces when they open the perfect gift.  I love wrapping gifts (see last Christmas here).  And lets be honest, I love getting gifts too, definitely not as much as I love to give them, but I am human after all.  

So I know a lot of you blogger do great gift guides, but I put together one that is purely for me...err girls like me, that happen to be seriously drinking the Kate Spade Kool Aide.  It's just something about being in the store, it's so happy and bright and the gift boxes are so cute... 

Earn Your Stripes Carousel Bangle- $225, An Ace Up Your Sleeve Bangle- $48, This is the Year Bangle- $58,  La Pavillion Iphone 4 Wristlet- $70, Deborah Dot Journal- $28, Take Heart Bangle- $32,  Kaleidoball Beret- $89,  Get Carried Away Bangle- $33, Skirt the Rule Pendant- $58, Hi 5 Mittens- $47, Diagonal Stripe Phone Case Iphone 4- $40, Pardon My French Cards- $27 Magnolia Plaza  Knit Gloves- $52, Avaline Aviators-$128
So lovelies, what is on your lust list?  And are you hopelessly stalking one store? Or better yet, link your gift guides in the comments, I've got a few more people on my nice list that I need to shop for!


How loud can silence be?

I have some mixed feelings about a day of silence.  I absolutely support what it stands for; a wonderful metaphor for support. Today and Tuesday, I stand united with the blogging community, a community I so appreciate and respect. But I have to wonder, as a group that has the power to stand united by using thier voice, is silence the best way for us to support? 

On Tuesday, December 18th, there will be a blogger day of silence. We will post the button and that's it. Please try to not post anything else that day if possible.

We are also raising money that will go to an organization in the memory of this tragedy. The organization is called The Newtown Family Youth and Family Services.

Here is the official description of the support service we are donating to:

"Newtown Youth and Family Services, Inc. is a licensed, non-profit, mental health clinic

and youth services bureau dedicated to helping children and families achieve their

highest potential. NYFS provides programs, services, activities, counseling, support

groups and education throughout the Greater Newtown area.


Please visit THIS PAGE to make your donation.

We can't imagine how they must be feeling, especially this close to the holidays. We would love for you to spread the word on your own blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Let's make a difference and use blogging in a positive way.

Thank you in advance for participating.


The Blog World

p.s. If you would like to, copy-paste and repost any part of this, please do. Share on.

(A special thank you to Neely, Michelle and Meg for organizing all of this)


Where can we feel safe?

My worst memory from elementary school was stapling my hand to a bulletin board while helping to build a Thanksgiving turkey. In general, all of my memories from elementary school are happy, joyous and fun. School, specifically elementary school, shouldn’t be anything less. Being a child shouldn’t include a fear of going to school.

Where can we feel safe?
This year, we learned we can’t feel safe in a movie theater. We can’t feel safe in a mall. And today we are reminded that our children aren’t even safe at school. So I ask again, where can we feel safe?

Do we let evil win and live in constant fear, or do we fight back? If we choose to fight, what do we do? What is the answer? Is the answer in gun control? Is the answer in behavioral healthcare? Is the answer in public safety measures? I’ll be honest; I don’t think there is an answer.

I’m a person that has a relationship with God, but doesn’t necessarily tie that relationship with a specific religion or church. But today, I have an overwhelming desire to go to church and pray. Pray for the victims and their families. Pray for the other children at Sandy Hook Elementary School that will forever have images from today burned into their minds. Pray for the state of humanity. Pray that these tragic events end.

Today, I want to hug my brothers and sisters a little bit tighter. Today I wonder what things will be like when I bring children into the world. What about my children’s children? Today, my heart breaks for so many.


Borrowing other people's words

I sat down to write something brilliant, but today, the words just didn't come. I could have hammered out something, but I figured my lack of inspiration should at least provide a little inspiration for someone else out in blogland. Here are someone elses words.



What inspires you?


A wise 4 year old once told me...

Last week, my mom packed up my two little sisters (10 & 4) and came to visit me in California.  It was such a fun couple of days filled with girly cupcakes, frolicking on the beach and visiting Knott's Berry Farm.  The best part though was getting to see the world through a four year old eyes.  Beautiful eyes at that.

This is my little sister Paige.  She has an incredible zest for life, no fear and she is a total ham.  She's got perfect "boingy" curls, eyes bluer than the ocean and a personality bigger than her little body can contain.  She may be 23 years my junior, but she reminded me of a few things, so I thought I would share a few gems with you all.  Couldn't we all use a little four year old wisdom.

Live every day like it's the best day ever.  I can't tell you how many times during her trip she said, "This is the best day ever!".   Playing in the sand on the beach, despite the cold, "This is the best day ever!" While on her first ride of the day, mid plunge, "this is the best day ever!" On every ride that followed, "this is the best day ever!"  After rattling off her Christmas list to Santa and after practicing her ninja skills, "this is the best day ever."  Sometimes it was a whisper, some times it was an excited squeal, but she never forgot to let everyone know it.  

There is always a reason to dance.  Trust me, there is always a reason.  Music or not.

Own your feelings and then get over it. She's just a little munchkin, so she wasn't tall enough to ride some of the big roller coasters   When mom and big sis Courtney went on a particular ride, she wept quietly into her knees on the bench beside me.  When I asked her what was wrong, she said simply, "I'm just sad."  No long drawn out explanation.  She just simply was sad.   But within minutes, we found a merry-go-round and she got to ride a bunny.  I asked her if she was still sad and she said, "Nope!  I got over it."
Be who you are. That can mean a lot of things. She's not shy.  She doesn't care what people think of her.  She just is who she is.    

Be kind, but stand up for yourself.  Paige has a kind heart.  She is always trying to cheer up other people, even strangers, when they are sad.  However, don't do her wrong.  While at Knott's we went to see the Charlie Brown Christmas Show.  During the show the characters came off the stage and handed out jingle bells to every kid in the audience... except Paige.  She was crushed.  After the show we spotted Snoopy and Paige knew exactly what to do.  She marched right up to Snoopy, gave him a hug and said, "Snoopy, Charlie Brown was mean to me!"  She was quite pleased with herself and told us all that Snoopy would take care of it.  

Be the leading lady in your own life.  For Paige, that means you can be a princess any day of the year, preferably days that costumes are not the normal attire.  The thing is, no matter what she is wearing, she is definitely the star in her own life.  And she doesn't apologize for it.

Funny faces and double fisting, yeah, I'm a good role model...

I am pretty sure the life of a four year old is really awesome, but there is no reason that I can't incorporate some of her wisdom into my life at age 27.  And you can too!

Just remember,

Today is the best day ever!!!



OWIOWI got a makeover

...and she's looking pretty swell if you ask me.  Swell? Yes, swell! I might be playing with it a little bit more, but overall, I'm happy with the new direction!  I wanted to something that said, girls, happy and hopeful! What do you think?

Want a blog makeover of your own? 
Don't forget to enter to win a free blog makeover by THE LIFE:Stylish... me!

Comment on this post to enter.

Have a fabulous day my loves!


Introducing The Life: Stylish

Back in college, I was pretty decent publications designer. I really loved being creative and using different elements, but the idea of coding and web design totally intimidated me. A while back, when I started this bloggity blog, I hired someone to design my space.  I loved what she did, but now I'm sick of it.  I decided to conquer my fear and teach myself a bit about designing for the web. 

Enter, The Life: Stylish

Here's the thing, I gotta build up my portfolio.  So I am offering Five free blog makeovers.  You get the whole shebang for free, zip, zero, nada.  This is really great for all you new bloggers that don't want to invest in a design yet.  It's also great for anyone like me that likes a change every now and then, but isn't made of moola!  Don't want a blog design, but have something else in mind?  You can win too!

How will I choose?  Just leave me a comment.  I will draw 5 winners on Friday December 14th.  I hope you'll enter and I hope you win!!!


Hitting a Homer

This is one of those really honest posts, the ones that get a little messy and maybe a little long. The ones that aren’t easy to post, but are somehow so freeing. Good luck!
If love were a baseball game, you might call 1st base dating, 2nd base a monogamous relationship, 3rd base getting engaged and a home run is marriage. 
Most of us spend the majority of our time hitting doubles.  I’ve been up to bat my fair share since I began playing the game at 16. In the early years, I had a handful of doubles and even one at bat had me headed towards third. Then I hit a home run. It was all good until the game got called and the run was stripped from me like I was using roids or something. So I went up to bat again. A few singles and then a decent double, but as I headed to third, I got called out. Longest freaking game of my life!
Here is the thing, I love love.
Probably too much.
I love the excitement of love developing. I love the promises that love offers. I love the tummy tingles. I love that special look that he reserves just for you. I love being someones other half, part of a couple, loved. I love feeling depended upon. I love having someone to do things with, to be there for and to talk to about my day. I love being in a relationship. I love thinking about all the possibilities to come.
Why is this a problem? In actuality, I love the idea of all these things. It has come to my attention, that in my quest to be in love and be loved by someone else, I often forget to love myself.
That is both a sad realization and one that is hard to admit out loud. It’s hard to acknowledge that you aren’t really you when you are with someone else. It’s hard to admit that you don’t know how to be yourself in a relationship.
In relationships, I spend so much time focusing on the other person, I forget to make myself happy and be who I want to be. I compromise on things that define me. I become undefined or rather almost entirely defined by the other persons happiness. Meanwhile, I get lost. I begin to fill up with unnecessary sadness. I become dependent and empty. Soon I am a shell of the person he was originally attracted to. Try as he may, he can’t fix me.
Then the relationship ends, as it inevitably will because, let’s face it, who wants to deal with someone’s nightly panic attacks brought on by self uncertainty. At this point you are so lost, that it is a struggle just to function. You have to coax yourself into being happy. You seek out attention and love like a drug. Male interest provides a quick fix, but is short lived. Then one of three things happen:
1. You quickly go up to bat again. You meet someone new. You impress him by showing the you that’s been hiding and then slowly morph into the version of yourself you think he wants you to be and this whole cycle begins again.

2. You bench yourself. You decide to focus on you…but, then someone comes along and he could be the one, so you don’t want to pass him up. You swing. See option 1 for how this plays out.

3. You bench yourself. And you stick to it.
I’ve chosen number 2 all too often. This time I am sticking with number 3. I want to be madly in love with someone and have them be madly in love with me too- the raw, honest version of me. The thing is, I just don’t think that can happen until I know who the authentic version of me is. I’ve been getting a glimpse of her lately, but I think she has a little more growing to do before she is ready to hang out full time.
So I’m benching myself from the game for a little while. Until I get my shit together. Until I am happy with who I am and ready for someone else to love me for that person. Until the desperate Ashley (that just wants to be loved and get on base) gets bitch slapped by the confident Ashley (that loves herself and is totally cool with hanging in the dugout for a while). Every day I’m working on me by writing things down in a gratitude journal, finding things to inspire me, getting involved in my community, putting myself first and examining my relationship with God. Every day I am making baby steps.
There’s some external stuff I want to work on too. So to hold myself accountable, I’ve set some stipulations - areas of my life I would like to be in order before I go up to bat again.
- Get healthy. For me that means losing some serious weight. There is a certain number on the scale that I want gone before I step back up to the plate.

- Become financially stable. I don’t need to be debt free, but I would like to at least not owe anything on my store specific credit lines, finish  paying off a loan and build up my savings account to a certain number.

Based on those two provisions, this girl is going to be single until at least June. It’s time for me to celebrate being me.
Of course I have wondered, what if Mr. Right shows up tomorrow or next week or in March? I feel deep down in my gut that when I am truly ready to really be with my soul mate, we will be together. I also feel deep down in my soul, that I’m not ready. If Mr. Right doesn’t want to wait, then he wasn’t really Mr. Right after all. Who knows, maybe Mr. Right is already in my life… The possibilities are endless.
Very few people are born natural ball players.  To get a home run, you have to practice, you have to take your time and you have to keep trying,  The promise of finding that forever love, still makes me giddy, but I finally feel like I am giving myself a chance to be forever happy too. I can’t wait until I'm ready to take another swing, but in the meantime, you can find me at the batting cages, working on my form!


Hair Do?

When I close a chapter in my life, I usually make some kind of fairly drastic hair change. 

When I graduated college, I got thin side bangs.
After I got married, I got a lob (long bob).
When I got divorced, I began dying my hair.
When I was ready for anew adventure, I got extensions.

Now, here I am ready for a brand new chapter.  A chapter where I uncover my truest self, explore my passions, push myself, create new things and most importantly learn how to love myself for exactly who I am.  In short, I need a new do!

Here's what I know, my truest self likes:
-long hair (the lob portion of my life was very short lived and unhappy at that). 
-I want to go back to my natural hair color, which is a very very dark, almost black, brown with some subtle dimension enhancing highlights.
-I want something fun.


My answer? Bangs.  (Also I have noticed a very defined line running across the center of my forehead which I'd like to think is just an indentation from concentrating too hard.  Bangs will hold off botox!)

So first I consulted with a group of my best girlfriends.    The official poll was inconclusive.  So naturally, I hopped on Instyle Makeover (what? doesn't everyone do this when they have hair decisions to make?), gave my self some of my favorite celebs fringe and decided to ask you all to weigh in.
How creepy is this?  Ha! 
Alright lovelies, what do you thing?  Should I go with option 1, 2, 3, 4 or is the whole bangs thing totally over?  Do you have bangs and love them? Hate them?  Spill!


I dreamt I had Victoria's Secret model abs

I think I have mentioned this before, but long ago, I was an aspiring model/actress.  Well, really I was an aspiring actress, but got coaxed into modeling for my height.  Modeling was not my thing.  I could never get skinny enough to appease my agent.  I was a dancer, with an athletic body.  Waif would never be my look.  But then, I found something within the modeling world to admire.

Yep, that's me about a decade ago.

Back in the day, (10 years and dozens of pounds ago) I dreamed of one day being a Victoria's Secret model.  I know, it sounds like a super vain, unattainable aspiration for a 16 year old, but I dreamed about wearing a pair of wings none the less.


I had my minuscule modeling career already.  All I needed was to be discovered by more than just local campaigns and designers. 

The women in the VS shows were everything I wanted to be.  They had curves, muscle definition, and incredible abs.  They had the best hair and always looked super sassy on the runway.  They got to trade in their runway scowl for a smile and the occasional dance move.  And, lets face it, there isn't a woman that watches the show that doesn't envy them just a little or a man that doesn't drool.  The Victoria's Secret model always come across as empowered.  She is confident, owns her sensuality and doesn't take things too seriously.  Don't we all want to feel like that in our skivvies?
Source                                   Source
I looked up Adriana Lima's workout plans, used the products Marissa Miller  recommended(have you seen the maternity photo spread she did for Allure? She's not human!), ate like Alessandra Ambrosio, and stalked Gisele Bundchen's hair secrets.  These days you can add Erin Heatherton, Meranda Kerr, Candice Swanepoel and Doutzen Kroes to the list of women whose tips I will begin hoarding.

Alas, I have come to terms with the fact I will never walk down a glittery runway with a creative pair of wings on my back, but that doesn't stop me from watching the show every year, becoming inspired to get back into shape and one day at least hold a very sexy fashion show in my own bedroom.