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July 2010

IT'S OFFICIAL. I HAVE A GARDEN. WITH THINGS THAT ACTUALLY GROW. EVEN SOME THINGS THAT I EAT. IT'S SORT OF LIKE ROCKET SCIENCE. BUT WITH PLANTS.

People, this gardening thing has totally and completely hooked me.

Yes, I'll admit that sometimes it is a little irritating to work 8 hours, run errands, go to the gym, walk the dog, make dinner, clean up and THEN still need to water the jungle that is taking over my backyard, but once I'm out there I can't stop myself from cooing at my baby tomatoes, or smelling the basil, or protecting my cauliflower from the evil little worms that eat their leaves, and before I know it I'm laying between the isles rolling in the dirt screaming, "I LOVE MY GARDEN."

I think my nightly watering is beginning to scare Adam.

Here is the garden as you approach it for the nightly watering ritual. Last weekend while I was in Seattle Adam was a DOLL and slaved for like 25 million years hauling rocks to finally fill in the border around the garden fence, instantly turning our garden from 'nice' to 'seasoned professional'.

Man I love that kid.

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No joke, this shot was taken at eye level to my sunflowers. I'm thinking this means the one in the back is nearly 6 feet tall. Even more terrifying is that these guys haven't even flowered yet, meaning we're looking at another 2 feet at LEAST.

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Here's the garden as a whole. Teaming with veggies, some we've already been able to sample. Making dinner has become my new favorite past-time. Coming into the garden, breaking off a few leaves of lettuce, maybe grabbing some shallots, snip off some basil or oregano, and then casually walking back inside to start my dinner has been absolutely inspiring.

Suddenly I'm filled with all sorts of ideas for next summer.

If Adam isn't careful I'm going to simply start digging holes in the middle of the lawn and plopping down pumpkin seedlings. 

I mean, the lawn has the best sunlight after my garden patch. So it's only logical that I move into the lawn for additional planting next year. This little garden is cramped enough as it is.

And really, what is a little 1 ft hole going to do against all that lawn? Plus, maybe it will give the lawn character.

I told him when we started this garden that I needed more square footage. 

Men never listen.

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For a while I was worried that my tomatoes weren't going to produce fruit. We had a week of 90+ weather and the more I read, the more the super gardeners told me that the heat was the reason my little tomato flowers were shriveling up and dying without producing any fruit.

SO, being totally reasonable I ran to the garden store instead of consulting the internet for a quick fix.

And even though the guy who worked there told me that the 5 dollar bottle of blossom booster had done NOTHING for his garden last year, I bought it anyway. Because damn it I needed to feel proactive.

So every night I went out there, and I sprayed my organic compound which was probably fucking five dollar sugar water, and I waited. And moaned at the idea of going all summer with ZERO tomatoes.

And then I saw this.

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Pretty sure I screamed when I spotted this.

And Adam thought I'd found a snake.

But no. Just a baby tomato.

Take THAT garden supply guy. 

OK, I mean the baby tomatoes are probably a result of the decrease in hot weather, but I like the idea that me, in all my infinite garden wisdom, with my plant shaking, and my spraying of sugar water ACTUALLY helped turn a fruitless plant into a super producer.

What can I say?

I think highly of myself. 



Ashley, the Accidental Olympian



FORGIVENESS


Last Sunday morning I found myself seated across the breakfast table from one of my favorite people. As we chatted the topic of the last four to five weeks of her employment struggle came up. When you are unemployed at times it feels physically impossible to go a whole day without speaking of your plight. Today's economy forces you to carry your unemployment around like a scarlet letter. Try as you might to tuck it away, it feels as if it is always visible. 

Listening to her talk about her fears, or the way that she's beginning to find it hard to stave off the embarrassment, guilt, and shame of being unable to find work ate at me. I was looking into the eyes of a person who is terrified of the future, shocked at her situation and baffled at the utter lack of control that consumes her daily life.

I know that look.

As I sat across from her I tried to give her the things no one was able to give me.

Understanding.

I tried to tell her all the things that ring true about being in your mid 20's with all the education and experience in the world, lost in this economic shit storm.

Don't be ashamed to accept help. You deserve to let those who love you step in when you need it.

This isn't your fault.

Deal with your debt later. It is ok to be in survival mode now. Don't be ashamed to use credit to buy groceries if that's all you have. Survival truly is key.

It is ok to take something that feels beneath you to ensure that you have an income. No matter what society has told us, our job does not define who we are as a person.

This isn't your fault.

You are a talented, smart, well educated, hard working woman, anyone would be happy to employ you. They just can't see you right now through all the candidates. But trust me you still shine.

You'll make it.

Even if the job you find feels terribly lacking, eventually you will find something better, make it into something better, or improve your situation ten fold.

Stay strong. You are doing EVERYTHING right even when it feels like you're doing everything wrong.

This isn't your fault. 




As I drove home from my lovely weekend in Seattle, our conversation at the table continued to run through my mind.

Suddenly I began to cry.

Hot, salty tears streamed down my cheeks and my chest heaved over and over and I was powerless to control the emotions surging through me.

The words I had told my friend, the reassurance, the positive outlook, the loving encouragement and reminders of her self worth were all things I have never once given myself.

Through my unemployment battle and subsequent year of employment striving to turn my position into the role it is today, I never once stepped in and told myself the hardships hadn't been my fault. I never let myself off the hook, told that scared girl inside that it would be ok, reminded myself that I truly was doing all I could, I never once pointed out to myself that I was actually making the best out of a horrible situation, and I never let myself accept the idea that I was doing everything I humanly could to survive. 

The very words of encouragement and love that poured so easily out of my mouth for another had been impossible for me to give myself.



As the tears began to subside and my breathing returned to normal it felt as if I had given myself the most loving embrace. The weight of the last year and a half seemed to finally be lifted, and instead of feeling disgrace for the way I believed my future to have been drastically shifted beyond my control, for the first time in ages I was proud of myself.

Damn fucking proud. 

Finally after all this time I told myself it was ok, that I loved myself, and that what I went through was horrible and demoralizing, but I'd done it.

To anyone today who is struggling to find work, who lays in bed at night wondering where they went wrong, to the person who feels like a failure for resorting to the lesser job when it was all they could find, to the individual who feels like the only one they know on a drastically tight budget, to the graduate who feels like their future is the bleakest sight imaginable, you can do this. You will do this.

I believe in you.



Ashley, the Accidental Olympian

Five Star Friday

OBSESSED WITH MOUNTAIN MEN




You totally thought this post was going to be about me being obsessed with actual men who live in the mountains and are all grungy and shit huh?

Nope. If that was the case Adam wouldn't stand a chance seeing as he can't grow anything besides this skinny mustache thing that makes him look slightly Mexican.

No, what I REALLY like is this song.

Called "Mountain Man." 

You get it now?

Loving this song might expose my seriously lameness if this song is like so 5 minutes ago.

I mean for all I know, the general consensus between those who 'know' music is that this song is seriously lame.

BUT I DON'T CARE.

I've never been hip.

No need to start trying now. 



Ashley, the Accidental Olympian



THE OLD LADIES IN MY HOUSING DEVELOPMENT ARE TOTALLY FUCKING WITH ME


I live in a housing development where all the houses look the same, AND OH WOW the theme song for Weeds totally just came into my head as I was typing that first line and now all I can think about is Andy Botwin and how I want to marry him.

Sidetracked much?

ANYWAY, so yes, I live in some cookie cutter land of sameness and dull, and one of the things about this development is we pay monthly HOA dues to keep all our front lawns and bushes even and perfect. God forbid someone's personality shines through.

You are however allowed to plant things in your front yard in this weird little strip of dirt near your front door IF you swear on your life that you wont let it get all messy and unkempt, and I'm pretty sure the blue haired HOA committee members walk around at night with a little clipboard to make sure everyone is keeping their pansies in line.

We've lived in our house since March 2009 and besides some flowers in two pots lining our garage door, I just didn't have the funds to spice it up much more than that.

Every morning I'd walk past my space of dirt and sigh. Because OMG HOW BORING.

Then fast forward a bunch of time. Suddenly my pockets were a tad fuller and I found myself with a few extra pennies to put towards things that make me happy, like flowers and wine. So I got a hair up my ass and bought myself this gorgeous pot of hydrangeas. They were blue, and as I planted them I imagined them next summer as this huge bush of amazingness and lovely. These flowers would greet me when I would come and go from my house, I would be able to cut these amazing blooms and place them in a vase on my kitchen counter, and these flowers single handedly inspired all sorts of suburban Pottery Barn-esk porn to swirl around in my brain.

This is what a healthy, thriving hydrangea plant looks like for those who aren't aware.

Hydrangeas new shrunk

Pretty huh?

The day after planting my new little miracle plant of lovely I was on the phone with my mother telling her what a deal the bush was, how pretty it was, how happy I was to finally be in a place where I could do something so simple as plant a bush without breaking the bank and then, then I just stopped. 

Two


The gardeners, or a rogue neighbor maybe, planted, WITHOUT ASKING, another bush right in front of the bush I'd just planned.

What. The. Fuck.

I didn't ask for another bush.

In fact I had JUST filled out a stupid form claiming that I was competent enough to weed my own patch of dirt and further stating that I'd like the gardeners to stay the fuck out of my dirt patch so I might plant things EXACTLY like this hydrangea bush. 


I mean, I've lived here nearly a year and a half. Where was this magical free bush planting service LAST SUMMER WHEN I WAS BROKE?

Why did they plant it in FRONT of the bush I just planted?

And while we're at it, who the fuck actually planted this bush? Neighbor? Gardener? Spiteful HOA lady?

What the hell kind of coincidence is it that they would plant this the DAY after I just planted a bush I purchased with my own damn money?

I mean I know I'm harping on the same concept over and over a bit, but, HELLO! I just filled out the 'I'll garden my own front yard thank you very much' form two weeks ago! Yet here was someone obviously doing my gardening for me.


And oh look, their new, free, magical, refused to arrive last summer when I was too poor to do my own gardening, bush blocked out all the light and KILLED the bush I actually paid for.

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I know that's the worst picture EVER but I was enraged. Enraged people have no time to think about composition.


Someone is fucking with me and I'm not sure how to get them back.

At this point I'm thinking the only thing I can do is randomly plant bushes in the front yards of the HOA committee member's houses in the middle of the night and see how they like it.

Who's coming with me?



Ashley, the Accidental Olympian


I LOVE ME


Or, at least this is what I am supposed to be working on.

One of the MANY things I am supposed to be working on you could say.

 

Yesterday I read a post by Fired & Fabulous that got me thinking about my own current mission of being kind to myself.

I am one of those people where if you compliment me, I am going to shoot you down.

Doesn't that sounds lovely?

YOU - Ashley I love that dress!

ME - Eh, it's like a million years old and the only thing not showing my 'I ate too much an hour ago' gut.

YOU - ???? *walks away*


Fun right?


Recently I've been working on something very very simple.

YOU - Ashley I love that dress!

ME - *GRIMACE* Thank. You.

YOU - You're welcome!


See! Normal conversations that don't make YOU feel all squirmy and weird about giving me a pretty basic compliment.

But I swear it takes work.

And really it shouldn't.




Recently my therapist asked me what I thought made me a good friend. Made me worth being around.

And my eyes simply filled with tears.

I went blank.

I can list off all my qualities that I think make me a bad friend, all the things that I believe hinder my ability to be a genuinely good person, the things about myself that I hate, but when asked to list the things that I believe make me worth being around, my head was filled with a void of nothing.

It seems scary to say out loud what I think makes me worth being around.

What if you don't agree?

What if you think that's a crock of shit and think the complete opposite?

But then the trick is, you* probably don't think about me nearly as much as I think you do.

And if I can stop being my own worst critic, my belief that everyone else is my worst critic will hopefully fade into the background.

So here it goes.

Here are the reasons I think people like having me in their life.


  • I am a fantastic listener. No please, tell me about your life.
  • I like seeing my friends succeed and try to celebrate their achievements.
  • I'm funny.
  • I'm aware of my flaws.
  • I am up for nearly anything. No seriously. You want to wear silver spandex shorts and run the streets? I'm in. You want to stay in and make mac'n cheese watching Lifetime movies and wear snuggies? I'm in.
  • I am a good communicator and will let you know if something is bothering me instead of letting it fester. 
  • I'm versatile. City, check. Outdoors, check. Girly time, check. Sports/athletic activities, check.
  • I don't need a lot of fanfare or an event to spend time with you. You see, I just like spending time with you.
  • I can talk for hours. Adam might find this one less than desirable at times, but I know my female friends get a lot of use out of it!
  • When I say I am sorry, I mean it.
  • I'm always willing to work on something, and even if I don't get it right away, I'll keep trying to change.
  • If something makes you happy, I am willing to try it even a few times to see if I might also share in your interest.



That. Was. Hard.

And there are some up there that I'm not sure I totally accept and believe.

Yet.

And a part of me feels sad I can't think of more.

But it is a start.

And we all have to start somewhere, right?

So damn it, here's to loving me.

Loving the parts of me that others love, and working to identify and encourage more of those positive associations to the point where I celebrate my positive qualities openly and don't hide behind my perceived flaws.

 


Now you. Tell me what you love about who YOU are. What makes YOU a good friend/sister/brother/husband/wife?




*hypothetical 'you' not actually YOU the reader. I know you my reader think of me hourly.



Ashley, the Accidental Olympian


HERE'S THE THING

I got nothing.

I mean, there just isn't much going on over here in the land of Ashley the Accidental Olympian.

I still accidentally live in Olympia, WA.

I still hang out with the boyfriend.

I still spend a lot of time walking the dog, throwing the ball for the dog, and trying to keep the dog from eating more tea candles. Yes, my dog recently decided that decorative CANDLES were her new favorite treat.

And yes, it is true that my dog is absolutely insane.

Lately I do a lot of going to work.

I also work out.

Sometimes.

When I remember that it is good for the mind and body, and stuff.

I've been working in the garden too.

Even got to eat my first salad with lettuce AND carrots right from my garden. I did cheat on the tomatoes because my plants are evil and refuse to give me any tomatoes yet. The little fuckers.

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Don't judge me because I grow mutant carrots that Adam wouldn't even eat because he said that if he did he'd probably grow a third arm. 

Which I of course countered by saying he should eat the carrots then because if he was lucky enough to grow that third arm then I wouldn't have to do so much ladder holding, or trash bag holding, or paint bucket holding for all these damn house projects. 

But really other than that, it's all pretty dull around these parts.

Now that I think about it, I have been doing a lot of crying lately.

For Captain Phil Harris.

Do you watch Deadliest Catch?

Because Adam and I do.

Which basically means that each episode this season ends with Adam sitting quietly watching the tv, and me sobbing next to him about poor dead Captain Phil. And his kids. And his friends. And why does this happen to good people?

WHY ADAM? TELL ME WHY WE ALWAYS LOSE THE GOOD ONES?

What? Don't judge me and my emotions. I just really like that show.

And Captain Phil.

I think we could have been friends.

So yeah... OH. I got an award from Kazoo the other day which totally brightened MY day because I found her a while back and began stalking her and writing weird shit in her comments and being a strange creepy fan because I thought she was HILARIOUS, and all of a sudden she's telling me she likes me back and giving me blog gifts.

Versatile-bloggeraward

I think we're dating. 

There are all these rules that came with the gift, and I'm supposed to tell you about myself and all this other stuff, but I don't want to. I'm just going to plug the shit out of Kazoo, tell you to go there, and read her, and tell her she looks great today and maybe add her to your Google Reader.

I hope all YOUR lives are more exciting than mine lately, or else we're all doomed.


Ashley, the Accidental Olympian


STUDENT LOANS. ALSO KNOWN AS THE BIGGEST LIE ABOUT COLLEGE

So, you know how when you're 17 and you're trying to decide the REST OF YOUR LIFE, like what you want to be when you grow up, or where to go to college, tuition seems a little scary but also a little obscure because you've probably never paid for more than a cell phone plan and your gas before? But then all of a sudden you're weighing options and thinking about tuition which is terrifying and confusing, but people just tell you that it is worth it, to invest in your future, that you should go where you'll be happy, pick somewhere that will enable you to grow as a person, select a school with the programs are that you want, bla bla bla follow your dreams.

I believed this. As most of us college bound 17 year old's do.

As a Californian native, I picked a school in Washington.

Honestly, the drama program was a plus (back then I thought I was going to be an ACTRESS! Cue the laughter), but I also picked the University of Washington because I thought campus was pretty (which it is), and it had this East Coast feel to it that made me feel all grown up and fabulous and when I walked around on campus I felt farther from a Southern Californian native than I could possibly imagine. I also thought the Greek system was adorable and very southern looking. Even though I didn't yet have any plans of going Greek. But I still thought the houses were absolutely dreamy. And I secretly knew that even if I never went Greek, the Greek system would obviously have the best parties, therefore I might be spending a lot of time there in the near future, so it was a bonus that at least the houses looked nice and there were a shit ton of them. 

Way to weigh the options Ashley.


The fact that my tuition as an out of state resident was going to be as much as 4 years of tuition all in one school year, for the next four years, was something I would deal with LATER. Because I was 17, remember.

Thankfully I left LATER up until I was a sophomore. I did all this stupid shit like go to school part time, become financially independent from my parents, and work two jobs 7 days a week for a year to prove to Washington state that I was hard core and should deserve to call myself a Washingtonian and no longer a Californian, and therefore receive a HUGE cut on my tuition.

Best. Decision. I. Ever. Made.

Way better decision than when I thought it was a good idea to remove my top and bra at the frat house (what? they were soaked in beer) and walk around in a bathrobe, with the ties undone. WAY BETTER.

 

 

So here we are, years later, lessons learned, bathrobes always tied tightly. And all this time my student loans have lived in the background. 18,000 dollars worth of background noise. Because even when you're a shiny WA resident, that whole college shit is EXPENSIVE.

But I never thought about it, because they are student loans, and everyone who went to college has them (ok most of us at least), and you're supposed to just deal with them, later.

End of story.

Right?

Except I just did the math today.

And at my current repayment rate, I am going to be paying this MOTHER FUCKER off for the next 13 years of my life. 13 years.

That's a lot of years to be paying off a loan. Especially considering I've already been in repayment since March of 2008.

WHY DOESN'T ANYONE TELL YOU IT WILL TAKE YOU THIRTEEN YEARS TO PAY OFF YOUR UNDERGRAD DEGREE WHEN YOU ARE 17 AND TRYING TO DECIDE WHERE TO GO TO SCHOOL?

Thirteen years to pay off 4.5 years of school. Yes, 4.5 years worth of school to enable me to check the box 'college graduate', but holy hell! No one has ever REALLY cared what my major was, or checked to see if it was applicable to the job I was applying for, and damn it, can I bring my diploma into work and display right next to my computer because OMG THIRTEEN YEARS.

But it's ok, because if I double my payment it will only take me 7.5 years to pay off.

Kill me now. 




Ashley, the Accidental Olympian


6 MILE SUNDAY

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Each time I have the thought, "I miss living in the city," I have a day like today where Olympia reminds me how lucky I am to live 10 minutes away from things like this, or my newest discovery, the Chehalis Western Trail

Ten minutes from my house lies a paved trail covering over 20 miles that winds through fields, forests, past rivers and through neighborhoods. I was only ten minutes from my house, and yet, my home, and civilization felt hours away.

One of these days Olympia I'll just stop fighting it and finally proclaim my full and total love for you.

Don't you start counting down the days or anything Olympia.

I said one of these days. 



Ashley, the Accidental Olympian