Faith and Religion

Do you ever wonder where thoughts come from?  Those feelings, that feel almost rooted to your heart upon the instant you feel them for the first time?  The thoughts, that while brand new to your brain, feel like they have lived in your soul forever?

I wonder about a lot.  I wonder about everything.  I have an eternal curiosity, really. I question everything, especially myself.

When I was young(er), I questioned religion.  I went from church to church to answer my questions.  I was never satisfied with just accepting that one belief system was better than another.  I didn't know which would be best for me. I had always had a foundation in faith, but the religion part was where I felt unsure.  After spending some time in several different churches.  I made a decision.  I found a belief system that felt right for me and I threw myself into it full force. For a few years, it felt right.

But then something happened.  I began to question things.  Hypocrisies began to nag at me.  Something deep within me couldn't find peace with the judgement, the stifling of differences and inequalities I kept witnessing. So, I stopped going to church.  Occasionally I would find myself in a pew but usually only on holidays and even that stopped eventually.

The one thing that didn't stop was my conversation with God.  At times, I wasn't sure who I was even talking to. At times I wasn't sure I was talking to anyone or anything except my inner voice.  But I kept the monologue going.

I was never one of those people that could just have faith and not ask questions, but I think asking all those questions has given me a stronger faith in a higher power, even if I haven't necessarily found answers to replace the questions.

So, in short, here is what I believe:

I'm a person that believes everyone has a right to believe in whatever they want, or even believe in nothing at all. Although, I think having faith in something makes it easier to also have hope.

I am a person that believes that you should try to approach every situation with love. Jesus, mother earth and our future ask us to live in such a way.

I am a person that believes that no human, no matter race, sexual orientation, religion, political view, economic status or any difference is better than or worse than anyone else.

I am a person that believes that I haven't earned the right to judge anyone for their sins. But I do judge sometimes, because I am human.  That doesn't mean my judgment is valid.

I am a person that believes that you should just try to be the best version of yourself every day. Sometimes, you will let people down.  Sometimes you will let yourself down.   But tomorrow is your chance to learn and to grow and to forgive. And forgiveness is a show of strength.

In the eternal words of Limp Bizkit, "You gotta have faith".  For me, having faith in a higher power is having an equal faith in humanity.  And having faith, in something, anything, is powerful.

This is a bit outside of my usual realm of writing, but these are just a few thoughts I've had lately and I thought they were worth sharing.


Who I Am Today

I struggle between wanting what some may call a simple life and an extravagant one.  Growing up, I couldn't wait to move out, move on and move up.  I was sure I was destined for big city life and that one day I would end up with an "important job" living in a perfect penthouse.  As I've gotten older, I find the quiet much more appealing.  I like the idea of having a more simple life, in a suburb with big dogs and babies.  I think eventually someday I will settle somewhere in the middle. But I live in constant worry that by choosing one or the other I will somehow miss out.

My biggest issue with growing up has always been trying too hard to fit my title.  I always have a description in my head of what I am suppose to be- A girlfriend, a college student, a sorority girl, a wife, a divorcee, a single girl, am employee, a manager.  It always takes me a while to settle into just being myself regardless of the new title.  It's like when you get to a milestone age and you feel like something should be different about you, but you wake up feeling just the same as the day before.  It's been a real challenge to make sure I define my titles instead of letting them define me.

I thought for a long time I didn't want kids.  I was terrified that I would somehow screw them up.  I don't know when it happened, but one day I realized how utterly unsatisfactory my life would be if I didn't have children.  Suddenly my dysfunctional parenting fear was replaced by the fear of never getting to hold my own sweet baby in my arms.

I am a romantic.  I believe in true, everlasting, mushy, gushy love.  I know that one day I'll catch someones eye and just know.  I'll know "the way you know about a good melon".  But there is a fear that comes into play here too.  A few weeks ago someone told me, "you aren't putting out the flirt with me vibe".  I didn't really know how to take the comment.  After letting the words settle into my head for a bit, I realized my friend was probably right.  I don't know how to fix that.

I'm also a realist.  I believe that love, like all things worthwhile and good, takes work.  I believe that true love, means wanting to strangle each other at times, but always figuring it out.  Love is not for the faint of heart, the quitters or the lazy.  Love is only worthy of those that work to solidify the value of their relationship.  Love is always finding ways to circle back to the feelings you had in the early days of your relationship and giving each other butterflies years down the road.  Love is being patient even when your life feels more like a maze than a merry-go-round.  Love is messy, but in a beautiful way.

I have completely absurd fear including snakes, bones in meat, and E.T., but what I am most afraid of is failure.  I hate feeling let down, but even worse I hate letting other people down.  If I doubt my ability to do something, I would rather not try than fail.  It's a fear I am working on overcoming.

Every single day I spend 15 minutes listening to my relaxation pandora station.  During that time, I focus on all the good that has happened in my day.  It kind of makes me feel like a hippie, but counting my blessings every day has made my life so much happier.  No one wants to hear people complain everyday, including you.

I legally changed my last name to my moms maiden name when I was 18, even though I had gone by her last name and not my fathers for as long as I could remember.  As I was filling out the paperwork, I seriously considered changing it to Ashley America, because I thought it would be fun to be both really patriotic and Miss America every day of my life.

I hate unanswered questions.  If someone asks me a question that I don't know the answer to, I almost immediately whip out my phone and look up the answer.  Before I try something new, I read everything I can get my hands on.  I hate feeling unprepared.  This obsession with knowing everything turns me into a bit of a procrastinator because I spend too much time learning and not enough time doing.

I've recently realized, that I might never know exactly who I am, because who I am is changing all the time thanks to the experiences and the people that fill my life.  So this is just a little glimpse of who I am today.


Inspired and Recommitted

I am so blessed to be friends with some pretty incredible women.  I try to surround myself with women that inspire me, challenge me and have traits I try to emulate.  Some of my friends are outspoken, but honest.  Some have incredible passion, courage and strength.  Some are fighters.  Some have unwavering faith.  But all of them have one thing in common, they are all great friends.

Last weekend, I got to watch some of my these women complete a half marathon.  For three of them it was their first half marathon- something that they approached with nervous determination.  I loved that I got to spend my day being a support system and a cheerleader for women that have so often been cheering me on in the race called life.  I was both proud and very inspired.

Someday, I will be able to cross running a half marathon off my bucket list too and I was re-inspired to reach that goal by watching them on Sunday. 

Here are some snapshot of the weekend, my beautiful friends and their incredible achievement!  

Checking out the expo with my little running belles!

Proud to be a part of one awesome cheer squad!

I know they got emotional crossing the finish line, but I was emotional for them too- thank God for dark sunglasses!  

The last few weeks have been a real struggle for me with sticking to my personal health and fitness goals.  You see outside of a squat challenge I have been doing with a few girlfriends,  I haven't exactly been a gym regular.  I am a creature of habit, and when travel and scenery locations forced me to change my habits, I fell off the wagon.  I was eating my feeling,  eating out of boredom and eating, just to eat... oh and not hitting my daily calorie burn- not even close!  

It's easy to make excuses and it's hard to make sacrifices, but enough is enough. Starting now, (well as soon as what I am calling food poisoning, because I refuse to believe I have a stomach bug, goes away) I am back to focusing on my health.  Back to eating lots of fruits and veggies, and putting in my time at the gym.  Back to working my way, slowly but surely, to my own half marathon finish.  And back to being worth more than a basket of french fries dipped in ranch.  

Thank you to my girls, for inspiring me to get myself back on track again.  Love you all and I'm so proud of your accomplishments.  Next time, maybe I'll be crossing the finish line with you!


Dating In The Social Media Age: Judgey Judgersons

Wouldn't it be nice if we could date like back in the good old days, circa 2003.  Back when a guy would call you on the phone, possibly even your home phone and ask you on a date.  Then you'd try your darnedest to make a good impression.

Those days are gone.  Aside from the fact that you have probably done a majority of your date planning via text or the chat feature of your preferred dating site, chances are your internet presence has already made your first impression.  Your date probably knows how many mutual friends you have, your common interests, exactly what you did on vacation last month, when your last relationship ended, what your ex looks like and any other thoughts that have found its way to your fingertips and onto your screen.

And then today I stumbled upon an article about the controversial app, Lulu.  An app for women only, that allows you to rate all the men you know- friends, lovers or foe- as if they were a restaurant.  It's like Yelp and Hot or Not made a baby and called her Lulu.  In addition to scoring a guy on appearance, ability to commit and  ambition you can also attribute him with hashtags like #MarriageMaterial #HumpAndDump or #WearsEdHardy.

Because of my curious nature and my interest in the evolution of social media, I downloaded the app.

I was not impressed.  Moreover, I was disappointed that this is where social sites are heading.  As one of my friends put it, it's one thing to judge someone based on their looks ( a la Tinder), but it's completely another to say libelous things about their character on a public forum.  It seems to me this app is an easy way for women to seek revenge on a relationship gone wrong.  And in an era where cyber buyying is a hot topic- how is this okay?

What's worse, is that men have absolutely no forum to justify or change their ranking or selected hashtags.  In fact, unless they know a girl willing to let them sneak a peak at the app, they probably have no idea they are even on the site.  The company is already facing lawsuits from men with low ratings.

I mean, I understand the creator and CEO. Alexandra Chong's initial idea of women looking out for other women, but let's get real, most women are turning to this app as a way to get back at someone.  Chong also claims that the app is a method of behavior modification for men that don't like their score.  Be a better guy, get a better score- um what?  Because we all are looking for a man who is putting on a show to get a good rating, right? No.

I think there is a point where the judgmental atmosphere that we have built within social media has gone too far.  It's on thing to judge someones selfies or ridiculous status updates, but to make broad statements about their character without any annotation of history or circumstance, just doesn't seem right to me.  I mean, I certainly wouldn't want to be rated and judged that way.  Which begs the question, where do we go from here?

In an age where every single woman is looking for prince charming, how will she ever find him if our first impressions are determined by a series of social media profiles and his combined score from women who clearly weren't his Cinderella?  And lets be honest, who we are on social media isn't always who we are in real life.  So are we shooting ourselves in the foot by social media stalking?  At the end of the day, are we falling in love with or not giving people a chance because of their online persona instead of who they really are, or is social media a means to get to know someone better? Is this just the beginning of social judgement apps?  You tell me (seriously, leave me a comment and let me know what you think about this topic).

P.S.- Hey male readers, Do you have a Facebook profile?  Then you have a Lulu profile too!  Want your Lulu profile removed?  Click here to deactivate/remove your profile.


No Really, He's Just Not That Into You

I met him at a bowling alley.  It was a bowling lock-in put on by my church.  About 100 high school kids locked into a bowling alley for the night.  I was 16 and I happened to find myself sharing a bowling lane with him.  We'd spend hours sharing flirtatious looks until one of us, and I don't remember which one it was, got the nerve to issue a challenge. I don't remember who won.  In fact, I don't remember many of the details of that night, or the little details from the next morning, when desperately seeking reasons to continue to hang out I suggested we get breakfast- although, I imagine I ate french toast, since I always choose french toast. We continued to flirt through breakfast, but he didn't ask for my number.  We exchanged an lingering hug and I got into my little yellow bug and went home.  I consoled myself knowing I was bound to run into him at church.  

A day went by and I couldn't get this boy out of my head.  So I did what girls do.  I replayed every moment of our time together.  I analyzed all the reasons he may not of asked for my number.  Eventually my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to be bold.  I wanted this guy to know I liked him.  I had to tell him.  So I started making some calls.  Who did I know that might know someone who knew his phone number?  It didn't take long for me to come up with his home number and gather the courage to give him a call.  I was overcome with both disappointment and relief when his answering machine came on.  I did my best to leave a message that sounded casual and confident. 

Then I waited.  

A few hours later, he called.  During our first 3-hour phone call I learned that the reason he didn't answer was because he had been driving around town looking for a girl in a bright yellow bug.  He had literally spent an entire afternoon just driving around to places I had mentioned during our conversation, hoping to "run into me".  He succumbed to the fact that he would just have to run into me a church when he found me on the message machine. 

I was smitten.  If I hadn't been so into him, I would have called it stalking.  It was one of those "meet cute" stories I had always dreamed of.

He and I dated for almost 2 years before we went our separate ways, but I'm always reminded of this story whenever I watch, He's Just Not That Into You.  

"If a guy wants to see you, he will see you."    

To my core, I believe in the above statement,  not just because a movie or a book told me so, but because of my own experiences.  Even so, I always try to talk myself out of its validity.  And I don't think I'm alone. I've always been bewitched by the thought of falling in love. My normally sane thought process gets so convoluted with the potential reasons for his lack of response or vagueness, that I convince myself that it can't be because he's just not that into me.

And let's not discount that honestly, maybe I'm not that into him either, but society, expectations and my uterus have lead me to believe that I'm getting too old to be alone.  Could it be that desperation is setting in at the tender age of 28?

Enough is enough.

The truth is, dating, especially online dating, takes a serious time commitment.  And time isn't really something I feel like I can spare right now. Sure, I still get carried away with the idea of finding Mr. Right, but I'd rather spend all that analytical brain power on launching my business and use my curiosity to learn about the world.

I guess what I'm saying is I'm giving up on "trying" to find Mr. Right.  I think if he truly is Mr. Right, I'll run into him when I least expect it and I'll know he's into me, because he will make sure I know.  Or, maybe not. Either way, I resolve to stop worrying about it, because really, what's the point?  


Resolutions: Make This Year Epic!

Cheers and Happy 2014!!!

You may remember last year when I resolved to make 2013 my bitch.  Looking back,  I wish I would have printed this out and put it on my bathroom mirror, because it is a pretty good recipe for success.  Just in case you missed it, the cliff notes version of making any year your bitch are as follows:
  1.  Let it go. Leave the proverbial baggage in the previous year.
  2.  Stop holding yourself back.  Do the things you are intimidated by. 
  3.  Your health, both mental and physical, is more important that any other person, job or obligation.  
  4.  Be honest in everything you do.
  5.  Love. If everything you do sprouts from love, your life will yield endless blessings.
2013 was a big year of personal growth and understanding.  I really spent my time working things out, but in 2014, I want to spend my time doing things!

Alright, so what is in store for 2014?  
Well, if I had to chose a word for 2014 it would be: EXPERIENCE or maybe Fearless.  In 2014 I plan to have one hell of an epic year.  Now is the time for me to go out and experience all that life has to offer!  How am I going to do that?  By trying at least one new thing every month! 

Too often I have held myself back because of fear of failure or worrying what other people might think.  In 2014, that changes.

What's on the list so far?  In no particular order:
  • Get a tattoo- yes I already know what I want, and I've been considering it for over a year.  
  • Start my own business- Woohoo
  • Visit Chicago- one of the only major cities I have never been to!
  • Learn to snowboard
  • Go to a music festival- Country Thunder, I will see you in April!
  • Learn to paddle board
  • Volunteer for habitat for humanity
  • Learn to ride a bike
  • Go skydiving- um terrified, but strangely excited
  • Run a half marathon
  • Join a networking group
  • Take a new class
No matter what you have planned for 2014, do me one favor and make it epic!  Here's hoping you have one of the best years of your life!  What are your plans for 2014?

Happy New Year!