Ashley Tries Hard, Ashley Fails Hard

I got a new razor for the first time in forever and now my left leg is bleeding profusely from three tiny wounds.  The nicks themselves are nearly invisible, but you’d never know that from the blood rivulets that came waterfalling out of them.  It’s just overly dramatic and I wish my leg would stop it already.  It’s like those soccer players who assume the fetal position and howl whenever another player bumps into them by accident.  Just stop it already.  You’re not gonna die, legs.  STOP BLEEDING SO MUCH.

So I’m sitting here in shorts, waiting for my leg to scab up enough to put on jeans and not have gratuitously graphic blood stains spread all over them.  It feels pretty Capital-L-On-The-Forehead Loser.  But my whole week felt pretty Loserly, so it’s par for the course.

I’ve been doing Ashley Tries for a while now and my main discovery during the process is that one of the common side effects of trying is failing.  I’ve also realized I hate failing.  I hate failing so much that sometimes I don’t want to try, just in case I fail at it.  But the irony is that failing to try is way more loserly than trying and failing.  I know that.  I still don’t like it.

This week’s Ashley Tries was supposed to be featuring accessories and I don’t think I did it well at all, so I’m going to try again next week.  Take 2 on Accessorizing.  It’s not that I failed at putting on accessories, I just lacked focus and intention and, to be completely honest, I lost interest in my Try this week.  That’s what made it a fail for me.  This week just happened to me.  I prefer to happen to the week.  I want the week to look back at me and think WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

That’s not to say I didn’t learn anything this week.  I learned a ton this week.  But most of what I learned wasn’t about accessorizing.

Things I learned this week:

  • In order to get more done, I need to wake up earlier.  I learn this lesson every week, without ever really absorbing it.  There are many lessons that fall into this category, including: If I don’t make a list, I’ll forget things at the grocery store and I won’t have clean clothes until I actually clean my clothes.  The Vicious Cycle kind of lessons.  The lessons that are solved through self discipline and a good solid routine.  I fail so much, guys.  I FAIL ALL THE TIME.
  • I’m way more likely to cry-laugh when I’m tired.  I laughed until I cried a lot this week.  Over random stuff.  Over that mouse in Cinderella who is sitting on the edge of his bed, trying to untie his tail.  Over not-that-funny jokes that in the moment WERE that funny.  Cry-laughing tends to derail work meetings, by the way.  Lesson learned.

  • If I want something, I have to ask for it.  Nobody is able to read my mind.  I’m not able to decipher my own mind a lot of time and I really shouldn’t expect other people to do what I don’t want to do.  It’s easy to think, “If they really love me, they should know what is up with me.”  But sometimes I don’t know what’s up with me, so how could they possibly know?  Asking is not admitting defeat.  It’s just something I have to do.
  • If it was possible to fidget to myself death, I’d already be dead.  I wore a ring for the first time in forever this week and I am SUCH A FIDGETY PERSON.  That ring was twisted every which way, taken on and off, and thought about way too much throughout the day.  I’m going to have to try again next week, just to see if I can get better at wearing a ring.  Accessory fail.

  • I tend to rely heavily on the things that I’m good at and avoid the things I’m not good at.  I stay well within my comfort zone on most things.  And since my comfort zone doesn’t necessarily look like anybody else’s comfort zone, I can get an undue reputation for boldness/confidence/bravery.  I wear weird outfits and post the outfit results every day and I’m a scaredy cat.  My fears aren’t obvious from the outward facade that I’m pretty good at presenting to the world.  My fears involve me not being respected, being a failure, and being a flaky person who doesn’t fulfill any of her obligations.  Sometimes my drive comes from trying to prove myself wrong about myself.  It’s stupid, but it’s true.
  • Not feeling pretty isn’t the same as being ugly.  That seems obvious, but when I’m tired and I don’t feel pretty, it seems like a safe assumption that I’m just a hideous person.  Intellectually, I know that I looked perfectly normal this week.  But I felt like a troll.  A fat ugly troll who lives under a bridge and gets annoyed at how loudly goats walk.
  • My job is great, but difficult to explain.  I emailed the US Department of Labor last week and didn’t even think that it was weird until I thought about it afterwards.  I really like my job and one of the reasons things fell through the cracks this week was a major project that I was trying to finish.  Most weeks aren’t entirely fails.  Usually it’s a mix.  This week was a work-win-week, but not a life-win-week.
  • Razors are one of the things I always forget to buy at the grocery store, because I stupidly decide not to write grocery lists (see Lesson 1), so I finally ended up ordering razors from Amazon and when I used one of the new razors, I cut myself in multiple places and then I realized that bandaids are the other thing that I always forget to buy at the grocery store.  Please excuse me while I sit here covered in the gory reminder of my failure.
  • Failing isn’t fun.  I know there are tons of TED talks featuring tech magnates with square glasses calmly talking about how failure is so good for you.  I always want to slap the square glasses right off of their overly calm faces, because they make it sound so easy to analyze everything.  My initial reaction to failing is laughing.  Or crying.  Or laughing until I cry.  It definitely is not gleaning the important lesson that I should be learning from my failure.  It takes me a while to calm down enough to acknowledge the moral of the story that just happened. And that is okay.  As long as you get to the point eventually, you don’t have to be okay immediately.  I’m a little teapot (short and stout) and like most teapots, I get steamed sometimes.  And I keep everything bottled up inside until everything comes out with a shrieking whistle noise.  My first reactions are emotional, but I don’t always let them out right then.  They do come out at some point, but usually they come out after building up for while.
  • Humility is a good thing.  I can present the image of having everything under control, but I don’t.  I’m good at some things, but I’m bad at so many things.  So. Many. Things.  The good news is that I don’t have to be good at everything.  Thank goodness.

This wasn’t a terrible week.  It was just a long week and I was tired for the majority of it.  There was a lot of cry-laughing in it, but that’s way better than a lot of crying.  My life is pretty darn funny.  I’m listening to a Roger Miller record while writing this and if you’re having a long week, I’d highly recommend listening to Roger Miller songs.  Hilarious.  This is the comic genius who wrote You Can’t Rollerskate In A Buffalo Herd and other such classics.  Take this lyric:

Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage
Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage
Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage
But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to –
All ya gotta do is put your mind to it
Knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it.
Yeah!  You said it, Roger Miller!  I’m going to try again next week. (Knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it.)  If I fail next week, which is a possibility, because accessorizing isn’t one of my strengths, I’ll try again the next week.  It’s not a big deal.  Not trying guarantees failure.  If you try, there’s a possibly of failure, but there’s also a possibility of success.  So I’ll be back next week and I’ll try again and we’ll see how it goes!  Thanks for putting up with me, friends.  I’m know I can be a drama queen and a little steamed-up teapot and a loserly mess, but I really like all you of you guys.  You’re pretty great.  If you feel like a loser this week, join the club.  It’s no fun, but it isn’t the end of the world.  Have a good laugh.  Learn something from it (eventually).  Go ahead and try again.  And then try again.
I’ll be back next week with something to say about accessories.  Hopefully.

Waiting Around On Valentine’s Day: A Study In Metaphors

[An important preface to this post:  I wrote this on February 15th while on airplanes.  Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I tend to get pretty philosophical on flights.  Maybe it’s something about hurtling through the air, being a little sleep-deprived, being very aware that my fate is NOT in my own hands, whatever.  If it doesn’t make sense, I apologize.  It’s probably the just the flight talking.  Alternate titles I thought of:  Singleness 2:  Even More Single?  / Does Hope Hurt?  / A Bad Day to Fly / Why Am I Still Here?…..  Yeah.  It was a long day.  Here goes!]

On Valentine’s Day, I spent a good chunk of the day in a tiny rural fog-bound airport.  I was waiting for a plane.  (As one does.)  The irony of sitting around waiting alone on Valentine’s Day didn’t escape me.

Trying to keep the boring part of the story short, I was dropped off for a mid-morning flight.  The weather didn’t look promising – snow flurries and freezing fog between the flurries.  The airport is so small that it only flies to one destination and the plane wasn’t at the airport yet.  It hadn’t even left the other airport yet.  That plane kept delaying and delaying and delaying.  Then finally, the news was announced that the plane was wheels up and on its way to us.  (Rejoicing!  Hope!  Hurrah!)  We had been in the airport for around 4 or 5 hours by that point.

As we scurried through The TSA Security Pageant (the most common form of interactive live theater in the United States), hope was running through our blood.  And as we sat in that post-security lockdown area, we heard the plane.  And then there was silence.  And then we heard the plane again.  That plane circled the airport three times, couldn’t find an opening in the fog, then went back to its original airport.


Went back through the line, got rebooked for an afternoon flight (which was about an hour away at that point), went back through The TSA Security Show and got patted down that time.  Why be MORE thorough the second time through security?  It’s a mystery.  Sat back down in post-security lockdown, and heard the plane.  And heard the plane.  And heard the plane.  Then heard the announcement that the plane circled three times and went back to its original airport.

You know the hardest part of waiting?  The hope of imminent change.  In this case, it was hearing both of the planes.  It was going through the motions and getting packed and getting prepped and getting patted down, then sitting there with a suitcase and going nowhere.  It felt like a Buster Keaton movie and I’ve never felt more for that sad-face little figure who was funny just because he didn’t know when to give up.

T.S. Eliot has a line in the Four Quartets:

I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope / For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love / For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith / But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. / Wait without thought thought, for you are not ready for thought…

Are you ever afraid of hope, because it seems so tied to disappointment and hurt?  I know that I’ve made hope into the enemy, because I’ve tried to fool myself into thinking that if I don’t hope for anything, I can’t be disappointed.  Making waiting and wanting into a problem and trying to solve them by ignoring them.

HOPE IS NEVER THE PROBLEM.  Hope is hope.  It is good.  How can we even pretend to be fine without it?

Today, I’m writing this on an airplane.  The weather is absolutely gorgeous.  The snow hills look like sleeping swans with their heads tucked under their wings.  From the air, school buses look like chopped up No. 2 pencils.  The world was blue and white and brightness.  My prayers have been answered.  Not that they weren’t answered yesterday, but yesterday’s answer was Wait.  Not gonna lie, I never like that answer.

But the truth is that yesterday was a terrible day for flying.  Today is a good flying day.  Today is everything that I hoped yesterday would be.  It’s obviously the right day to go.  I woke up knowing that it would work this time.

I spent a lot of the stuck-in-the-airport time reading, but also browsing social media.  A lot of single people kinda lost their minds over Valentine’s Day.  Reactions ranged from the ambivalent (Well, the day after Valentine’s Day, all the chocolate goes on sale) to pure reaction (Well, I’m going throw a party for myself and celebrate singleness!  Yeah!) to offended, wounded, and in despair.  Like waiting for a plane, this despair over a reminder of romantic love has everything to do with unfulfilled hope.  Being single on Valentine’s Day can be like hearing that your long-awaited flight has finally been canceled.  It’s a symbol of love and you feel excluded and alone.  But hope isn’t the problem.  You know the most important time to have hope?  When it is hard.

It’s the same with all virtues.  Fellas, love is easy when she’s looking beautiful in that black dress and her smile is stopping your heart.  A stranger could fall in love with her when she looks that beautiful.  Love is hard when the baby’s crying in the middle of the night and you’re deciding whether or not to acknowledge it or not.

Hope is a gift from the Holy Spirit.  We can’t cultivate it on our own.  Without God’s grace, love, hope, and peace are just words and words we can’t possibly understand, let alone carry out their actions.  We want hope without any need for hope.  We want love without any trials to refine our love.  We want peace to mean there is never any conflict for us to resolve or any anxiety to make us doubt.  We want to be great without trying.  Without difficult people or difficult circumstances messing our hair up.

Show love while waiting for love.  Have hope when it’s hard to wait.  Have peace when you start to doubt whether you even want hope.  Peace.  Be still.  I’m frustrated and illogical.  Peace  This is the most important time to have hope.  Hope comforts, disappointment hurts.  Don’t confuse them.

I was shown so much love on Valentine’s Day.  My family loves me so well.  I love them and I like them.  I’m spoiled and I know it.

My dad expresses his love in a lot of ways, but they fall under the general category of Caring.  He takes really good care of me.  He helps me with paperwork and booking flights and talks through car problems and taxes.  All the stuff that intimidates me.  We were on the phone so many times during the no-fly day, thinking through everything.

My oldest brother drove me to the airport, because he wanted me to be safe on the icy roads.  My second-oldest brother gave me a ride back to my house once everything got canceled and after finding out there wasn’t food in the airport, he made a detour to buy me chicken nuggets and sweet’n’sour sauce.  My sister fed me dinner and we made snow ice cream.  I’m so thoroughly blessed.  Saturated with blessings.

Waiting and hope are two different things.  Sometimes waiting feels like the airport.  Sitting.  Nothing to do except wait.  A defined timeline.  Between things.  Between what you have and what you want.  But I don’t think it is a good metaphor for hope.

Hope is like anticipating a really good dinner.  You have your work to do, but you have friends working alongside you, and you remember throughout the day that dinner is going to be amazing.  It isn’t static or wistful.  It’s a certain knowledge that God loves His children and He is going to give us exactly what we need.  Even if the work is hard, even if there are times you have to work alone, remember that there’s blessing ahead and it’s going to be exactly what you need and it’s going to taste even better after all that work.  Don’t JUST wait.  Work.

I’m saved by the blood of Jesus, so I can work in peace, knowing that He’s always taking care of me.  You know the only thing I have to do before I die?  Live.  That’s it.  Live in the delight of my Lord.  Do the work I’ve been given and give thanks for it.  Will that someday take the form of a house and a husband and some adorable fat babies?  I sure hope so.  But I’m not just going to sit and wait, because my life isn’t defined by what I don’t have right now.  I have so much to be grateful for and so much to do!  Time to get busy.  Keep praying, keep desiring good things, strong in faith that God gives His children everything they need and blesses far beyond.

If you’re waiting and struggling, maybe despairing, whether it’s for waiting for marriage, a job, reconciling with your family, or healing, I understand how hard it is.  I’m a 30-year-old virgin.  I know what waiting is like.  I look back on some of my life’s rough patches and just see darkness.  But I also know that those are my growth rings.  The hard times are the times when I’ve grown the most.  Those are my book of Psalms.  Seek out wise counselors, invest in friends, invest in family.  Don’t be embarrassed to cry in front of other people.  Let other people help you.  You don’t have to go it all by yourself.  You really don’t.  If you find that you’re stuck in airport mode, always sitting and waiting for that one thing that is out of reach, leave the airport.

Ashley Tries to Write About Singleness Without Coming Across As Whiny or Delusional


As a perpetually single Christian woman, I’ve read a lot of blog posts on singleness.  I don’t seek them out.  They mysteriously appear on my Facebook wall.  Who knows where they come from originally, but they end up in my feed, like dust bunnies under a couch.  They have titles like “How the Church Fails Singles” or “37 Things Never To Say To Single People” or “Singleness and Contentment” or “Using Your Singleness” or things like that.  I usually read through them, but none of them really captured my attention.  Probably because all of them were so SERIOUS.  I’ve been putting off writing The Dreaded Singleness Post since I started this blog, but it’s time.  The Time Is Now.  My target audience is post-college single women in the 25-45 age range, but please, stick around.

I’m 30 and haven’t been asked out on a date since I started my job, and I’ve had my job for about 6 years now. Not that I think my job has anything to do with it.  I just tell time by landmarks. I don’t remember specific years when things happen.  Now, I don’t really know why I haven’t been asked out.  In my lower moments, I can think of all sorts of reasons why guys wouldn’t be interested in getting to know me.  Maybe I don’t talk enough.  Maybe I’m uninteresting.  Maybe I don’t seem interested.  Maybe I seem too independent.  Maybe I can’t cook.  Maybe I’m not attractive.  Maybe I’m mean without realizing it. Maybe it’s because I’m either overdressed or I look like one of the Lost Boys fro Hook.  Maybe it’s because my eyebrows are constantly trying to take over my face.

Let me exhort you not to fall down that rabbit hole.  If you have a specific concern, ask your family or a close friend in honesty and humility.  “Am I careless with my words?  Do I hurt people?”  Don’t ask yourself.  If you are asking the question, you either you don’t know the answer or you are ignoring the answer.  So stop asking yourself questions that you don’t know the answer to and move on to something else!

Have you ever auditioned for anything?  It’s a vulnerable, nerve-wracking, competitive experience, because you have to stand up on your own and perform to a room full of people who are there to judge you.  Sometimes the cast list comes out and your name isn’t on it.  The best advice I ever received about auditioning: Don’t try to figure out why you didn’t get the role.  That’s a fast way to go mad or get bitter.  Either you blame yourself and start obsessing about what you could have done differently, or you blame your competition.  Either way, you can start thinking “I didn’t get it because I didn’t have enough breath control for that low note.” “I should have had more confidence coming in.  “I’m too ugly for that role.” “She only got the role because she’s blonde – typical.” “Why did SHE get the role? My audition was so much better.”  DON’T DO IT.  The same thing applies to unwanted singleness.  If you like a guy and he starts dating your best friend, how do you respond?  It’s ridiculously easy to automatically blame your friend or blame yourself or blame the guy you liked.  DON’T DO IT.

But like I said, those are the low moments.  Most of the time, I’m happy and fine and enjoying life.  But I do run into some hilarious singleness problems.  Like people being concerned about me and offering me advice and comfort.  It’s amazing how uncomfortable comforting can be sometimes.  This is where all those “37 Things Never To Say To Singles” posts come from.  But OH COME ON.  How pretentious would it be to walk up with a scroll, dramatically unfurl it, and announce All The Thinges Which Maye Not Be Uttered In My Presence.  That’s what those posts are like.  Are people always going to say the right thing?  No.  Will they always be sensitive to the issue you’re handling right now?  Nope.  When people try to comfort you and do it clumsily, recognize their intention.  Remember all the times that you clumsily tried to comfort a friend.

I have a little collection of singleness sayings at this point. One of my personal favorites: “Don’t worry, it’ll happen when you least expect it.” At this point, I don’t know how I can expect it any less.  But the winner of the most uncomfortable (and unintentionally hilarious) comforting was a lady who came up to me at my Grandaddy’s funeral. Here’s the scene – I’m in the receiving line and a kind stranger comes up to me and starts this gem of a conversation:

Lady: “Do you have kids?”

Me: “No, I don’t have kids.”

Lady: “But you have a husband, right?”

Me: “No.”

Lady (patting my hand): “Aww. It’s still just you and Jesus.” (Lady walks away, while I struggle to keep a straight face during all of this, because this was at a FUNERAL.)

Enough concerned people have asked me if I had tried online dating that I eventually joined OKCupid.  There were a few reasons for this.  Reason 1)  If I tried it, I could just say “Yes. I have tried online dating” and quickly switch to a more interesting subject.  Reason 2)  It was free. 3)  I’ve heard some success stories from OKCupid, so I was interested to see what it was like.

I think the main thing that drove me nuts about it was the inefficiency of the process.  Inefficiency is fine when there is warmth and personality and kindness.  Greece is inefficient, but if there’s blue ocean and delicious food, I don’t care how inefficient it is. But the deadly combo of inefficient AND impersonal eventually made me put the online dating account on ice. If I wanted inefficient and impersonal, I could run down to the DMV or get called involved in some other tedious bureaucratic process.  In my opinion, trying to meet somebody shouldn’t feel like a part time job.  What happened to the original matchmaking services, dinner parties and dances?  I like those.  If nothing came out of the dinner party, at least you got dinner.  If nothing came out of the dance, at least you got to get dressed up and see all your friends.  If nothing comes out of online dating, you’re just home in your pajamas, clicking through photos of strangers, probably holding a glass of white wine.  No wonder we feel isolated sometimes.  Real people are more fun than the ideas of people.

I want Amazon or Netflix to start an online dating service. Sure, it would be icy and impersonal and probably run by evil masterminds, but at least it would be highly efficient. Netflix wouldn’t even need me to fill out a profile – they already know too much about me. They know that on emotional days, I either want to watch Disney movies or the category they have labeled as Emotional East Asian Dramedies.  If dating comes down to algorithms, I want a service with the very finest algorithms.  Amazon’s dating service would come with reviews for each person.  That would drastically simplify the process.

Truth be told, I am picky. Evidence to this fact: I’m 30 and oh so very single.  But I’ve waited this long, so why should I settle NOW?  It seems like bad timing.  I’m holding out for great.  I’m not planning on lowering my standards.  If anything, my standards have gotten higher.

Okay, now I’m going to say some things that I should probably Never Say To Singles, but rest assured, everything I’m going to say to you, I’ve already had to preach to myself.

  1. STOP COMPLAINING THAT ADULTING IS HARD.  Also, we need to stop using the word Adulting.  Sure it’s hard.  It’s real life.  But you’re a real adult, so stop pretending that you’re still a child trying to do adulty things.  You’re an adult doing what you have to do and have every capability of doing.  Do you want to be treated like an adult? Act like one. Commit to things. Don’t have one foot out the door.  As a single person, it’s easy to sit at the kid’s table for a lot longer.  My younger sister feels more like an adult than I am, because she has a husband, three kids, and a household that she has to run.  But that’s a feeling.  The truth is that I’m just as much of an adult, but it’s easier to not see myself that way.  It’s time to put down roots and start building my own household.  If I’m building that household on my own right now, that’s not a problem.

2. GIVE UP THE HYPOTHETICAL TIMELINE AND LIVE IN THE REAL ONE.  It’s easy to sigh and think, “When I was in college, I assumed I’d be married and have kids by this point.”  That’s a hypothetical timeline, but it feels more real the more you dwell on it.  This feeds into a particular smart girl problem of being terrified of falling behind or failing.  Sometimes it feels like I fell behind a long time ago and now I’ll never catch up.  It’s not a race.  Don’t feed the fake timeline.  Give up your disappointment.  Give up the fake competition.  This is the real timeline. Live in it and love it.

3. MAKE GOOD FRIENDS.  If I could have one thing written on my tombstone, I’d want it to be Good Friend.  Cultivate your existing friendships and always be open to new ones.  This probably seems like a no-brainer, but be a good friend to your family.  Sometimes it’s easy to ignore that aspect of family, but being friends with your siblings and your parents is one of the best things in the world.  Spend the time and really invest in people.  Let your focus be external, rather than internal.  Focus less on being interesting to other people and focus more on being truly interested in other people.


4.  BECOME ADMIRABLE.  Keep learning.  Keep improving.  Become an intimidating force of nature.  Do the hard things that you have to do and don’t complain about it.  I find it so easy to complain.  Way too easy.  I don’t want to be a wimp or a whiner.  If an amazing man does come along someday, I want to be standing on my two feet and carrying out a plan, because that’s what I’d expect from him.

5.  USE WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN.  A couple days ago, I was reading The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.  It’s one of the hardest parables for me to read.  “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.  Look, there you have what is yours.” (Matthew 24:24-25)  I don’t know about you, but it’s very easy to me to feel sorry for that man with one talent, but that is because he uses the same excuse that I do.  LORD, I WAS AFRAID.  I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANTED ME TO DO.  WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?  The answer is anything except nothing.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  If he had put the talent in the bank, he would have at least earned interest on it.  Don’t be afraid, because fear only paralyzes.  Use whatever you have been given.

Love isn’t a feeling.  It’s something that you do.  Don’t sit and wait for love.  Don’t bury it in the ground.  Don’t be afraid.  Love God and love your neighbor.  That’s it.  That’s what we’re told to do.  Loving other people does not require any other person giving love to you.  God has already given you all His love.  More than enough for you to give away every second of every day for as long as you last.  Don’t be afraid.

So whatever I go for this year, I want to go full out.  If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay.  I want to do anything except nothing.  I want to invest in people and build up my friendships.  I want to put down roots and not be afraid that it’s the wrong thing.  It’s not the wrong thing.  The wrong thing would be to bury what I’ve been given in the ground.

To all my single ladies, my amazing friends:  I love you so much.  You’re like those classic actresses in black and white movies – fierce, funny, witty, compassionate, intelligent, and beautiful.  Most people don’t think they make women like that anymore, but I know that’s not true, because I know my friends.  I’m telling you that you are all worth getting to know and it’s my privilege to know all of you.  Are you intimidating?  Absolutely.  Please don’t lower your standards.  You don’t need to settle for mediocre.  You deserve legendary.


Ashley Tries Doing Her Own Hair and Ponders Gift Giving

This week has been a departure from my standard Ashley Tries format.  I did try to do my hair a different way every day, but that really wasn’t anything to write home about.  I’m still really bad at doing hair.  The main thing I learned was that I had to decide the night before that I was going to try to do something different, so I was mentally prepared to try something new the next morning.  The first day was the highlight – I tried that I’m-a-millennial-so-I-don’t-curl-the-ends-of-my-hair hair and that worked out pretty nicely.  I also tried to put together my best millennial outfit and break out the instagram pose, just for consistency’s sake.
The only problem with having a win early in the week was that it lulled me into a false sense of security.  Tuesday I tried to do a french braid.  WHY?  I never learned how to do a french braid and I have very little dexterity when I’m trying to knot hair on the back of my own head.  I didn’t have Sara get a picture of back of my head, because I didn’t even want to know what it looked like.  This picture was taken an hour or so after I twisted my hair into what I hoped looked like a braid and it was already falling out.  Fortunately, I was wearing a turtleneck and pumps to prove that I am in fact an adult and a professional.  I wore red lipstick to try to salvage the hair and face situation, but my hat is off to those women who can somehow knit together a masterpiece on the back of their own head.
By Friday, I had definitely run out of ideas, so I went with a ponytail.  I realized that I use clothes as way to control things that I’m not great at.  Mainly hair.  “Well, my hair is kind of boring, but I’ve got a red shirt on.”  “My hair is mess, but I WILL DISTRACT YOU WITH MY BLAZER.”  And it works.  People assume that I’m a put-together person most of the time.  I’m really not.  I have a million ideas sleeting through my head and a stubborn streak, but discipline doesn’t come easily to me.  But if a blazer makes people think that I’ve got it all together, you’d better believe I’m going to wear that blazer.
The main thing I focused on this week was creating gift guides and thinking about presents!  I love Christmas and I especially love the tradition of gift giving.  The only reason I object to the idea of Santa is that sometimes he’s used as a works righteousness threat.  (Be good or Santa won’t bring you any presents!)  NO.  The whole point of Christmas is that God gave us everything when we least deserved it.  This world was a planet of Grinches and Scrooges and we deserved worse than nothing.  Then God sent His Son and saved us.  He gave us everything.
When we give, we give ourselves.  Love who you give presents to and love what you give.  Watching kids open Christmas presents is the absolute best.  They haven’t gotten to the stage where they don’t know what they want.  They ask for what they want and when they unwrap the thing they really want, there is pure joy.  Adults are trickier to shop for and sometimes we just need some inspiration.  So I made a few themed gift guides to help get your giving going!
Gift Guide: Geek/Nerd/Fan
Gift Guide: Organized vs. Crazy
A few parting thoughts about giving fun presents:
  • Figure out a budget for presents and stick with it, so that your giving isn’t grudging or tinged with guilt.  Antique stores and consignment stores and thrift stores are great places to look for inexpensive presents with a lot of personality.
  • Some people get very burdened by physical possessions.  If you’re trying to figure out a present for somebody who already has too much stuff, give them a gift card to a coffee shop and plan a time to hang out together, or buy them a movie pass and plan a movie night together.
  • Food is a great present.  I adore food presents.  I’m a farmer’s daughter and one amazing thing about farmers is that they give what they grow.  It’s so personal and wonderful.  Growing up, the other farmers would give us tangerines and oranges and almonds and pistachios.  They didn’t grow chocolate, but they also gave us a lot of chocolate and it was the BEST EVER.
  • Don’t shy away from practical presents.  The older I get, the more I appreciate nice socks in my stocking.  I wear socks all the time and nice socks are such a delight!  I was given a little pocket knife one year and that was fantastic.  But I lost it somewhere along the way and I am living a knifeless life.   I should ask for a little Swiss Army Knife for my stocking!
  • Give music!  I signed up for Pandora Plus (because I got sick of listening to ads) and I love it.
  • Give presents that foster a sense of adventure – if they want to travel to Iceland, give them a travel guide to Iceland!  Give them a map of hiking trails in your area.  Give them trail mix and a compass.  Give them a globe.  I loved our globe growing up.

The main thing is to just love your people and give out of gratitude.  Start Christmas off right by having a happy heart!

Ashley Tries 30!

I turned 30 this Monday.  I’ve successfully made it from October 1987 to October 2017.  YAY!  It’s good so far.  I like it.

I didn’t have a clothing theme this week – I thought I’d do a list of things I’ve learned, things I’m grateful for, and things I want to do by next October!

1. First of all, I’m grateful for everyone who reads this blog!  I started it in July 2016 and I still get intimidated every time I write a post and send it off into the ether.  You have been such an encouragement to me and I hope I’m an encouragement to you as well!

2.  I learned this a while ago, but it’s been steadily reinforced throughout this past year:  we are our own worst critics.  Most of us don’t have an arch-nemesis whose only goal is to ruin our day in subtle ways.  We don’t outsource that job, because we do it ourselves.  The best plan is just to confess our sins and move on.  Be happy and don’t ruin your own life.  (By the way, I’m really good at ruining my own day.  It’s easy to do.)

3.  I love colors.  Bright colors make life happier.  Dark colors make life richer.  But of all the colors, red is the most important to me.  When I wear red, it is because I decided that I needed some red in my life that day.  It’s intentional and important.  Red lipstick, a red top, a pair of red shoes that I used to wear when I had to speak in public…. What color makes your day?

4.  I’m scared of writing.  I’ve learned that every week for a year now.  I’m scared NOW.  But I also know that being scared isn’t a good reason for doing something good.  So if you know something is good and part of you wants to do it and part of you seizes up in terror just thinking about it, you should probably do it.

5.  I’m grateful to my friends Sara and Lindsey, who have been my photographers in this venture.  We’ve had a lot of two-minute photo shoots since I started my Ashley Tries series and I can’t thank them enough, because I’m bad at face selfies and mirror selfies or any kind of selfies, really….

6.  Over this coming year, I’d love to get better at alterations.  My mom is bringing up my little sewing machine within the month, so I’ll be able to give it a try.  I fully expect to be bad at it, but I want to work on it, because I’ll have to hem trousers all my life.  My legs are super short.

7.  Building on that thought, to the short women of the world – there are ways to work with your proportions.  Even for a short person, my legs are proportionally short.  I have to hem petite trousers.  I sometimes wear capris and just call them ankle jeans.  If you ever have specific questions about what works and what doesn’t, ask away.  Odds are good that I’ve had to deal with the same clothing problems you are having!

8.  If you worry about what people think about what you’re wearing, remember that most people like it when OTHER people make bold fashion decisions.  Whenever I wear a hat, I hear this multiple times during the day – “I love hats!  I can’t wear them, but you look so cute in it!”  There are lots of different kinds of hats.  There’s probably a hat shape that suits you, so give it a try!  (The same principle goes for anything that’s out of your comfort zone.)

9.  It’s easy to make clothes a scapegoat.  If you are unsatisfied with yourself and your life and how you look, clothes will constantly be a problem.  If clothes NEVER work, that’s probably a sign of something deeper.

10.  Building on that last one, it’s hard to be content if you constantly compare yourself to other people and how they look.  We don’t even have to know these people.  Some of them are strangers, walking blithely through the carefully landscaped gardens of Instagram and Pinterest.

11.  Speaking of Pinterest, I don’t like millennial pink.  I’ve arrived at that conclusion and I’m okay with it.

12.  One of my biggest fears is fading into the background and disappearing.  And nobody noticing.  On the flip side, what I want most is to have somebody look at me and really see me.

13.  Smiles are beautiful.  They are like the sunrise.

14.  I want to sing Romeo and Juliet with Mark Knopfler this coming year.  Just want to put that out there.  I don’t know how that would work, but I REALLY WANT TO.

15.  The days when I want to give up are the most important days not to give up on.

16.  My favorite Ashley Tries series was the week that I got to try out fandom dressing with Sara.  That week made me so very happy.  Here are a few highlights!

Princess Leia:

Princess Nausicaa:

Miss Frizzle:

Agent Peggy Carter:

17.  If you are going through a rough time, use it.  Use it as a reminder to encourage others.  Use it to sharpen your mind and focus your walk with the Lord.  Use it as a opportunity to change.  Hard times are when growth happens.

18.  Singing can get me out of a deep blue funk faster than anything else can.

19.  I probably have too many dresses.

20.  In the immediate future, I will consign some of my dresses.

21.  Women are beautiful.  I’m surrounded by beautiful women.  A lot of times, women don’t see how beautiful they are, but I’m here to say, “Ladies, you are gorgeous.  No lie.”

22.  I’ve loved my trips this year!  Mexico in February and France and Switzerland in September.  I love traveling – I always come back a different person than when I left.


23.  I have never decorated my own house before, but I’m going to be moving into a place of my own soon and I get to DECORATE HOWEVER I WANT.  I’m scared, but also excited!

24.  One of the past year’s goals was to get better at talking to people.  I think it’s kind of working.  It’s a work in progress.  Being awkward is awkward, everybody.  I want to be un-awkward.  So I’m working on it.  Remember, embarrassment is entirely your own reaction to something, so you can choose not to be embarrassed.  In some situations, it’s really hard to decide not to get embarrassed, but it can be done.

25.  I am thinking about dressing up as Static Cling for Halloween.

26.  Keep sending questions – I want to answer all your questions this year!  This especially applies to the ones that you think are strange to ask.  I love random questions.

27.  Sample question:  “Ashley, how might one properly wear food prints?”

28.  Remember not to take clothes too seriously – they’re here to work for you, not the other way around.  You’re the boss of your clothes.

29.  This year, I want to get better at cooking.  And playing an E chord on the ukulele.  And keeping a plant alive.  And having people over to eat popcorn and drink tea and do artwork.  And talking to people (work in progress).  And blogging.  I want to get better at living.

30.  This has been a great year.  I’ve had my rough patches, but overall, it’s been stellar.  Thanks for making it so.  You are all great.

Here’s to the next 30 years!





Ashley Tries to Look Pretty Without Feeling Pretty

To be blunt, I didn’t feel pretty at all this week and the last thing I wanted was photographic evidence of each day.  It was one of those weeks.  I don’t know what brings it on.  My brain recognizes that I look exactly the same as last week, but my emotions seem to be taking snapshots and then applying a filter called Hideous.  Most of the time, my face doesn’t bother me, my hair doesn’t bother me, my body shape doesn’t bother me.  Hardly anything bothers me.  Then a week will come along and everything bothers me.

I recognize that I’m blessed – most of the time, I do feel pretty.  A lot of women wish they felt pretty most of the time, but they don’t.  Their emotions have the Hideous filter as the default setting.  If that is the case for anybody reading this, let me tell you this:  you are more beautiful than you think you are.  I guarantee it.

One thing I noticed this week was that I started getting defensive about other attributes, maybe in subconscious fear that I would start losing them as well.  “Well, at least I’m good at my job.” “Well, at least I can sing.”  “Well, at least I can draw.”  These things are real blessings.  Doing my job and singing songs and drawing made me happy this week.  The problem was the attitude I had toward the.  The attitude actually made them less happy, because I felt like I needed them.  The bad part was the “Well, at least…” part.  The unspoken (but implied) beginning of the thought was “Well, [I’M NOT PRETTY, BUT] at least….”

I have a pep talk I give myself in moments like this: “STOP IT, ASHLEY.”  That’s the whole speech.  And then I pray.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat as many times as it happens.  Don’t let it get normal.  Don’t let it get deep inside of you.  Don’t let your emotions dictate your actions.

Here’s a good test to see if your perspective is warped – how do you handle input from other people?  How do you handle compliments?  If your feelings have taken over, you can’t accept input.  There isn’t room for another opinion.  Don’t dismiss other people’s opinions.  If somebody tells you that you look nice, don’t assume they are lying.  If you have trustworthy people around you, why would they suddenly become liars when they talk about you?  If you assume every compliment that comes your way is a lie, then your perspective is warped.  Don’t turn your family and friends into liars.  What if they try to tell you something important and you have gotten into the habit of dismissing what they say?  The issue is not whether or not you feel pretty.  It’s how you handle your emotions.

There’s also the problem of appearance vs. reality.  I can come across as confident and easy breezy, but I’ve gotten pretty good at projecting it even when I’m not feeling it.  I’ve been posting pictures all week that I see no beauty in, but nobody else notices a change.  To be completely honest, I post pictures throughout the week to keep myself accountable to actually write this weekly blog post.  Writing is really hard for me.  Staying disciplined and consistent is REALLY hard for me.  This blog combines both of those things.  I want to quit every week.  But I know it’s a good thing and I’ve been deeply humbled by everybody’s responses to it.  I’m grateful for all of you – everybody who asks what I’m doing for Ashley Tries this week, everybody who trusts me to tackle a specific fashion problem, everybody who asks advice.  Thanks for trusting me to write this thing – you trust me more than I trust me.  Pretty sure it’s been a year since I started and YAY I HAVEN’T QUIT.  That’s pretty darn exciting to me.

Phew.  Keeping secrets is my default.  Telling them to the Interwebs?  Yet another thing I’m uncomfortable with.  But what’s the use of having a bad week if I don’t use it to help encourage other people who are having rough weeks?  I want to help.  If you need advice or encouragement, message me and I’ll try to help best I can.

Day 1

This week was all about choosing things that made me happy, since I was fighting the blues.  I like this shirt – it is soft, has some cool design details, and best of all – it isn’t sheer!  I don’t like shirts that I need to wear another shirt under.  It’s summer!  I can’t go around wearing two shirts all the time!  A pair of comfy jeans.

A couple new things in this outfit!  New shoes that I am breaking in for a trip in September.  I’m really pleased with them – they are comfortable, good quality, and pretty enough to transition between walking all day and going to restaurant at night.  The other new thing is trying out a patterned headscarf.  I like this one – the burgundy base color blends in with my hair a little bit and the abstract print looks good even when it’s all scrunched up.  It’s great for those days when you wake up feeling like a bird must have nested in your hair during the night, and that’s exactly how I felt that day, so it was convenient.

Day 2

This is the other pair of shoes I’m breaking in for my trip and they are 95% great, but they rub at one very specific point on each foot, so they drew first blood around the end of the work day.  Everything else about them is great, so I’ll just buy a couple of those little gel pads, put them over the tiny blood stains, then I’m good to go.  Ha.

It was a hot day, so I just put on a loose dress and headed out the door.  I love a swingy dress during the summer, because everything that has direct contact with my skin gets sweaty.  This dress doesn’t end the day with a spreading sweat patch in the lower back, so it’s kind of a winner.  It’s comfy and it has great texture and color – what’s not to love?

Over lunch, I sat and sketched.  If there are two things that can get me out of myself and my own thoughts, it’s singing and sketching.  I’ve been sketching women and clothes since I was four or so.  The earliest drawings I remember doing are a queen wearing cowboy boots and a glamorous lady with hair over one eye (because when I was little, glamour = a beautiful woman with blond hair over one eye).  I didn’t know who Veronica Lake was at that point, but it was very Veronica Lake.  These sketches aren’t like the rest of my art – they aren’t really based on anything and they are all different.  They are littered all over my room and scattered through my life and I don’t even think about them, but I’m really grateful for them.  Art helped me out of my funk this week.


Another great thing happened to me on Tuesday – I learned how to do eyeshadow.  Last week, my friend Lizze (who is a rep for Mary Kay) came up and asked me if I wanted to learn how to do makeup, since a substantial subplot of this blog is that I can’t do makeup or hair.

So on Tuesday, we met up and she patiently took me through how to put eyeshadow on my face and how to make it stay on my face.  Shout out to Lizze, because I was comically ignorant to basic makeup techniques (what’s primer? but how do you use an eyebrow comb?  is the eyeshadow symmetrical now?).  I kept freaking out about how dark the eyeshadow was and then it turned out looking completely fine.  It was great to learn something new.  I’ve been putting eyeshadow the same way for years and it’s the way I saw on the back of an eyeshadow package.  As it turns out, the way I’ve been doing it just made my eyeshadow disappear, because I put the darkest color only on the crease and when I opened my eyes, it vanished.

The biggest takeaways for me:  Don’t freak out about how dark the eyeshadow looks right when you’re putting it on.  You are very close to the mirror and it looks more dramatic than it actually is, and once you put on mascara and step back from the mirror, the look will come together.  (Put on mascara and step away from the mirror is probably good advice for all of life, really….)  Application tips for those of us with hooded eyes / monolids – put on your eyeshadow with your eyes open and put the brightest color above the crease.  That way, you can see what the finished product will look like and the crease won’t eat your pretty shadow.  Highlights go right under the eyebrow and right above the eyelashes.  Voila!  This is how it turned out.  (Thanks, Lizze!)

It was so great to learn more about makeup.  I should have somebody teach me how to do my own hair.  *gasp*

Day 3

This was my “I’m going to try to apply what I learned yesterday in the presence of a professional makeup artist and try to make it work in my real life with my actual makeup”.  It went pretty well, considering.  Eye makeup?  CHECK.

Flip flops (because I had blisters from the day before), jeans, a bright pink tee.  To add a little bit of visual interest and elevate the outfit a bit, I layered a white lace shirt over the top.  That way I had glimpses of bright pink, but I wasn’t all pink.  It would have been a lot (especially with bright purple eyeshadow).  I went for bright colors, because the blues just kept coming this week and I needed to keep fighting them.

Day 4

I needed to keep on pushing and keep on trying this week, because I woke up every morning ready to give up.  THE DAY HADN’T EVEN STARTED YET.  That’s unacceptable.  I needed an extra challenge by Thursday and something else to think about, so I chose a skirt that I find challenging to wear.  It’s a pleated navy-and-cream J. Crew number that was a steal at $10, but it’s a little fancy/fussy.  Paired it with a floral top that went with (but didn’t match) the navy in the skirt.

Did the eyeshadows fairly successfully.  Hurrah!

Wore the first pair of shoes again, because blisters ain’t the boss of me.  These shoes are proving to be very versatile.  Hurrah!


Did some art on Thursday night and it turned out so much better than I had hoped!  Used oil pastels to draw the cover of The Little Prince on black paper and I thought about stopping at the black and white stage, because I was afraid of messing up a perfectly good concept with colors.  But I’m really glad I added in the colors.  Art is good for me.  It’s an area where I know I have to push myself and if I mess up, there’s always another piece of paper.  Messing up is part of it and it isn’t permanent.  Keep pushing until it’s done.  Don’t stop halfway through.

Day 5

By Friday, I was so ready to be done with the week.  So tired of my hair, my face, my body, my little blistered feet.  But I had things to do, places to be.  Got out of bed.  Pulled out a dress that I used to wear all the time, but haven’t worn in a while (mainly because there’s a big old stain on the front).  I positioned the belt over the stain and zoomed to work.  This has been a really big week at work, which has been a hard blessing.  I obviously needed to be pushed to my limit this week.  Beyond my limit.  Beyond the safe black and white sketch, into the risk and beauty of bright colors.  Beyond how I feel, into what I believe.

These weeks come.  They are hard and humbling.  But you know the most amazing part?  God loves me no matter what I’m feeling.  He is all my beauty.  Any good that comes from me comes from Him.  He doesn’t change and He doesn’t have bad days and He doesn’t quit and He doesn’t give up halfway through.  He’s not going to stop drawing me while I’m still in the sketch phase – at the end of my life, every corner of the canvas will be complete.  He has written me a story that Shakespeare wishes he could have written.  So are my emotions in charge?  No.  They’re not.


What I’ve learned from my mom

I love my mom.  She is visiting this week and Mother’s Day is tomorrow, so I thought this was a good time to talk about a few things she has taught me on the subjects of clothes and beauty and generally keeping oneself presentable.

Thinking back to tiny childhood, the first gift she gave me was not worrying.  I played in the dirt all the time and I never worried about my clothes and I knew mom didn’t worry either.  When I say I played in the dirt, I don’t mean drawing on the ground with a stick, but still staying fairly clean.  One of my my favorite pastimes was smearing things in mud (my tricycle, the family dog, my sister, myself, anything handy really….).  If/when necessary, my mom hosed me off before I came in the house, but I never had to worry about keeping my play clothes nice.  It translates to a peaceful easy feeling about clothes.  That is a gift that I take for granted, but one that I love so much!

When I wasn’t outside smearing my face with the Dirt of a Hundred Gopher Holes, mom let me play dress up and draw dresses and choose my own clothes a lot of the time.  We also watched a ton of black and white movies growing up.     I think that is where my fashion love comes from – dress ups and old movies.  By the time I got to high school, some of my outfits were pretty strange looking, but mom let me try things and let me fail sometimes.  She gave me freedom to get messy and to figure things out, but she was there for advice when I needed her.

But rules and being allowed to do this or that are only a fraction of what you learn from your mom.  Rules are a tiny part – they are easily overwhelmed by learning through what your mom says and does and how she acts toward people and what she loves.

My mom doesn’t give up comfort or function in her clothes.  She chooses practical clothes in happy colors and never wears anything itchy or constricting.  Since she feels comfortable, she looks comfortable.  She likes clothes, but she mainly likes being able to forget them and get on to what she’s doing.

Simplicity can be very beautiful.  Don’t hide behind artifice.  Mom always looks genuine – she doesn’t change faces when she puts on makeup.  Her beauty is her own and it is linked directly to her kindness.  Kindness is beautiful.  My mom’s smile is like solar power – a powerful sunshine magic that warms you up inside.  My mom gives herself away through those smiles and she gives so herself so freely and sincerely.

My mom rejoices in what makes other people beautiful.  Do you ever look at a friend and see something beautiful about them and sigh inwardly, because it doesn’t belong to you?  It’s pretty instinctive for most of us.  My mom doesn’t do that.  I think it is one of the most beautiful things about her.  My mom is really competitive, but it is the healthy kind of competition that makes every game more fun.  It’s never about having better hair or better makeup or better clothes than somebody else.  Her competitive spirit isn’t tinged with envy.  It doesn’t involve one-upmanship.  She builds people up and focuses on their strengths, even when they aren’t the same as her strengths.

I’m so blessed by my mom.  If you haven’t met her, I’m sorry.  If you do meet her, you’ll understand all this.

Thank you, mom.  This one’s for you.  Happy Mother’s Day!