My Life

The first time, I was young.

I don’t remember my exact age, but I was a kid–probably around 5 or 6. I was at a friend’s house, playing with girl about the same age as me. We were acting out our favorite TV show, Saved by the Bell.

She was having a hard time choosing who to be: Kelly Kapowski (the beautiful cheerleader) or Jessie Spano (the super smart class president).

My choice was already made for me. I’d be Lisa Turtle, the rich fashionista.

Not because I was rich. Not because I enjoyed fashion.

I would be Lisa because I was Black, and Lisa was Black. Plain and simple.

Honestly, I identified more with Jessie–I loved to learn and I admired her passion for issues like saving the environment. I liked how she always said what she thought and worked hard to be the best. But I couldn’t be Jessie because we weren’t the same color.

I didn’t really think of it as racism at the time because, as a said before, I was a kid. But looking back I see how I was put in a box because of my skin color.

The second time hit a little harder.

Once again, I don’t remember my exact age. But I was still a kid. I was riding the bus to school, and an older boy kept trying to get my attention. He kept calling me a racial slur (one that I will not type here).

Yes, I told the bus driver. No, she didn’t do anything.

I got called this slur EVERY DAY until the boy got his driver’s license and stopped taking the bus.

The first day I got on the bus and he wasn’t there, I felt a trickle of relief. By the end of the week, I realized he wasn’t coming back. The trickle turned to a flood. Finally, I could ride the bus in peace and quiet.

What’s that saying? “Third time’s a charm…”

This one I remember in great detail. I was in sixth grade, in Ms. White’s classroom. It was almost time for school to be dismissed, and we had to be sitting at our desks when the bell rang before Ms. White would let us leave her classroom.

I was kneeling on the floor beside my desk, picking up all my papers and books. I wasn’t dawdling–I was putting stuff in my bag as fast as I could. But there was so much stuff.

The bell rang and I wasn’t in my seat. No one could leave until I sat down. I stood, then moved to sit down at my desk. That was when I heard it.

“Hurry up, BLACKIE!”

It came from a white boy I only knew in passing–his name was Jesse. I don’t remember ever speaking to this boy–before or after this incident–but I can see his face in my mind’s eye as clear as day.

I froze where I stood. All hopes of sitting down were gone–I couldn’t move. I just stared at him.

Ms. White made Jesse apologize to me–a quick “sorry” that was clearly more about getting to the bus line than giving an authentic apology. Ms. White released the class, and I shot out of that classroom with tears running down my face.

I was practically running to get to the bus, crying. Someone–I can’t remember who–asked what was wrong as I flew past.

“Nothing.”

I can’t even remember if I told my mom what happened.

It happened over and over again, and got more humiliating each time.

In high school, it poured rain on the day of a band competition. I was in the colorguard, wearing a hairstyle that required a lot of hold. Pump It Up spritz was the go-to product to keep my hair in place. (If you’re a Black woman reading this, you’re probably nodding in agreement right now. Pump It Up is an old school Black hair staple, right there next to Luster’s Pink Oil Lotion and my aunt’s favorite, Blue Magic scalp conditioner.)

“Ewwwwwww, what is that smell?!?

Apparently, Pump It Up + rain water = a slightly unpleasant aroma. And another guard member was LOUDLY letting everyone know about it. I just tried to stay as far away from everyone as I could. Not only was the hairstyle that took an ENTIRE DAY ruined, my day was too. I felt like such a freak, even though the white girls back then would use so much gel and hairspray they reeked of aerosol.

It presented itself so often, in so many different ways.

My worst experience with racism to date didn’t even happen in America. That’s why it’s the worst time–I didn’t see it coming.

I was in Denmark for a work trip, staying for two weeks. It was January, so the days were short and dark and cold there, but I was so excited. I’d never been to Europe before, and here I was–traveling abroad for business! I felt so fancy.

The first week passed without incident. There were a few snags with my work project, but I powered through them. Then the weekend came and everything changed.

I went out to dinner with a co-worker. We went to a fancy place and ate a meal with, like, seven different courses. We talked and laughed and enjoyed the delicious food and generally had a fantastic time. We took a car back to our hotel, and I headed to my room after a quick goodbye near the hotel lobby. Shortly after I got back to my room, I got a text from my co-worker. The man working the front desk said I couldn’t stay at the hotel.

He thought I was a prostitute.

I went back to that front desk, room key in hand. I explained that I’d been in the hotel for an entire week and hadn’t had any problems until today. I asked that man if he would have made the same assumption if I was a white lady.

He said NO. Had I been a different color, he wouldn’t have given me a second thought.

It felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.

I wish I could say those were the only times.

But there are so many moments I’ve left out.

The “You’re so pretty for a Black girl,” moments.

The time a classmate said it wasn’t fair I got a full scholarship to college because I was Black (even thought I was in honors classes and my grades were higher than hers).

The “You’re not like other those Black people–you’re one of the good ones,” moments.

The time a former coworker “complimented” me by putting both of her hands wrist deep in my fresh kinky twists–without my permission, of course.

The “I’m sorry, we don’t have makeup in your shade,” moments.

The time a boy I had a crush on in high school told me he couldn’t be racist because he’d kissed me once. (This was years after the kiss, on a Facebook post about police brutality.)

The “You’re so articulate,” moments.

The time a judge at a speech tournament wrote me a ballot explaining that I shouldn’t just do pieces on Blackness–that I was “better than that.

The “I don’t even think of you as Black,” moments.

The time I competed in a local beauty pageant and won Miss Congeniality, but I wasn’t included in the photograph that ran in the paper.

The time I drove past the fairgrounds in my hometown and saw signs stating “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” and learned just whose lives clearly didn’t matter.

The time I had dinner at my high school boyfriend’s house and his father refused to speak to me. Seriously–the man didn’t say a single word to me the entire time I was there. He spoke to everyone else, but not to me.

The time I got pulled over late at night in my new car. Terror isn’t the word–it was worse than that. Thank God I hadn’t been drinking, had all of my paperwork, and had the wherewithal to put on my most “articulate” voice for the officer.

Every single time I change my hair and people at work say they can’t recognize me–even if it’s just a switch from curly to straight. (And it happens EVERY SINGLE TIME.)

It’s exhausting. It’s infuriating. And, unfortunately, it’s a regular part of my life.

If you read this and realized that someone you know has said or done something like this in the past, I hope you’re horrified. If you read this and realized YOU’VE said or done something similar in the past, I hope you are filled with shame. I hope you look back over your life and recognize every single racist thing you’ve been part of. I hope you cry.

And after all that, I hope you make a promise to do better.

I hope you realize you aren’t a bad person, but that you have some learning (and maybe more importantly, un-learning) to do. I hope you read up on how America has disenfranchised Black people since we were stolen and brought here. I hope you advocate for Black people with your time, energy, money, resources, and especially YOUR VOTES.

I hope you check your racist family members and friends–don’t let those jokes or comments slide. I hope you support reparations for descendants of slavery. I hope you protest for us and with us. I hope you stop saying you’re “colorblind” and start saying “I see your color, but I don’t devalue you because of it.”

I hope you take a look at your life, now that you’ve seen some of the uglier parts of mine.

Heat

Think about all the things going on in your life: work, school, family, friends, all that. Think about how much you time and energy you pour into those things. Now ask yourself this question:

What am I getting back?

If you are providing support, you deserve support. If you are giving respect, you deserve respect. If you are listening and striving for understanding, you absolutely deserve to be listened to and understood.

This applies at home, at work, and anywhere else. You should get back what you put in.

But–and it’s a BIG but–you also have to communicate your feelings.

Have you told the person (or people) that you’ve been supporting/respecting/listening to that you aren’t getting the same in return?

Sharing your perspective is the most important part of all this, and yet it’s the part that often gets skipped. How do I know this? Because I’m the one who hates confrontation. I will avoid it at all cost.

Communication does not have to equal confrontation.

If these people truly love you, care about you, and value you, they’ll hear you out. They’ll try to meet you halfway.

And if they don’t, just remember this:

I put my work in–day in, day out!

Baby I deserve it–don’t let me down.

You used to make me feel like a diamond.

Now it don’t even seem like you’re tryin’…

So give me one good reason I should need you?

Kelly Clarkson, ‘Heat’

Fighter

How long do you argue with someone?

You’re right. They’re wrong. Classic scenario, right? How much time do you spend fussing with this person to prove the obvious–you’re right, and they’re wrong?

Had you asked me this question a few years ago, I would have looked you in the face and honestly replied, “As long as it takes!”

Awwwww, Baby Ashley was so…earnest.

Nowadays, I just don’t have the energy. And, to be frank, it’s just not worth my time.

2020 has shown me that life is too short to waste on things that just don’t matter. And unless you’re one of the cov-idiots who thinks this pandemic is fake, you probably realized that WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THE BULLSHIT.

Seriously. If it isn’t something that impacts my health, my family, my community, or my coins, I’ve decided I’m not fighting with you about it.

This is proving easier said than done.

Last week, a man went awf in my inbox. Just going on and on about why he he shouldn’t have to…he doesn’t have time…why is he required to…and so on. And I had a #ThrowbackMoment. Baby Ashley read that email and started putting together a three point presentation on why she was right and he was wrong.

But guess what Grown-Up Ashley did, y’all?!?

She sent a reply that was merely TWO SENTENCES. Those two sentences said everything that needed to be said. So I said my piece, and I went on about my day.

Say your piece, then move on. Don’t let anyone waste your time, your breath, or your life!

Move

Today, a pretty big change is happening in my life.

My boyfriend and I are combining households–today’s the day of the move!

I must admit, I’ve been looking forward to this day for quite some time. We’ve lived apart for the entirety of our three year relationship, and I’m so excited that we’re taking this step together to really become a team…a family.

However, this move hasn’t been without it’s share of challenges. I’ve had to purge a significant amount of, well, crap. It’s amazing how much stuff a person can collect! When I went back home to Kentucky this summer to visit my family, my mom sent me back with a lot of my stuff from my childhood: pictures, knickknacks, school yearbooks–even my American Girl doll, Addy. Add that to the house full of stuff I’ve collected since I’ve lived in Wisconsin and you end up with a ton of things you have to decide to keep or throw out.

I’m not the best at letting things go. Channeling my inner Marie Kondo was a struggle for me. How do I know if this thing “brings me joy”? Isn’t it wasteful to just throw this in the trash? If I don’t have this ticket stub/t-shirt/photograph, how will I know that I saw that movie/went to that concert/knew those people?

This process has helped me understand one thing: Those tokens aren’t the important thing. The memories of those experiences are what matter.

The Beginning

When I first started this blog, I’d just celebrated my 26th birthday.

Yesterday, I turned 31.  #OldLadyClub

What would I tell myself, at the beginning?

  1. Control is not love.  You deserve better than him, even if you don’t think you do.
  2. Yes, you do love your new job.  Money isn’t everything–you’ll get by, I promise–and you’ll be soooooo much happier.
  3. DO NOT COSIGN ON THAT CAR.  Trust me.
  4. DO NOT PAY FOR THAT WITH YOUR CREDIT CARD.  Again, trust me.
  5. Old friends will leave your life–let them go, girl!  The ones that stay are the ones that belong.
  6. You are beautiful at any weight.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  There are so many people who love you.
  8. You’re going to travel the world.  Take lots of pictures!
  9. Love–real love–will find you.  But you have to love yourself first.
  10. You are so much stronger than you know.  Physically and emotionally–you can handle anything that comes your way.

Many thanks to all of you who’ve been part of my life’s journey.  Here’s to 31–I’ve only just begun!

31me

A ‘froed out, thick hipped, incredibly happy Kentucky girl living in a Wisconsin world.

 

Me. Mine.

It was during high school, one afternoon, in an upstairs hallway.

I’d come to the conclusion I wanted to end the relationship.  We’d been together awhile (probably around a year) and while things were good at times, overall things were bad.  My boyfriend–my first real boyfriend–was clingy, demanding and manipulative.  He wanted to plan matching outfits every day.  He constantly compared our relationship, especially the physical aspect (really, the lack thereof), to his best friend.  If I was having a good day and he wasn’t, he went out of his way to ignore me until my day was shitty too.

So, I told him it was over.  He rested his head against the wall, silent.  I though the conversation went as well as it possibly could have…until he reared back and slammed his forehead into the glass of a picture frame hanging on the wall.  In disbelief, I backed toward a classroom door, hoping to escape quickly.

Locked.

Shock quickly turned to fear.

Luckily, other students were farther down the hallway and heard the commotion.  I hurried back to class and frantically told my teacher what happened; she rushed out to assist him.  My cousin came to check on me and I told him I was fine, he hadn’t hurt me.

The painful part came afterward, when I was asked to keep quiet about what happened.

My ex begged me not to tell anyone what happened.  He hoped to join the military and worried this would negatively impact his chances.  His mom and sister came to me with the same request.  I was horrified.  was supposed to protect him? He was upset, they said.  That behavior wasn’t like him; his future was at stake.

He.  Him.

My college boyfriend–my first real love–went home for the summer while I stayed in town and worked.  Toward the end of the summer, he told me he wanted to take me out to dinner–to talk to me about something–when he got back.  He was very mysterious, refusing to tell me what he wanted to talk about, and I thought for sure he was going to propose.  Turns out, he wanted to break up.  (Thank God I got him to tell me over the phone instead of in a restaurant.)

But after that, we were still cordial…until he got upset with me for not buying a computer from him.  See, he worked at a computer store and I came in one day and bought a brand new laptop–but not while he was on shift.  He could have used that commission, he said.  He thought I would have wanted to help him out.

He.  Him.

Too often, women are expected to take ownership for what men do.  Recently, the trial and conviction of Bill Cosby illuminates this disgusting facet of our society.  Why did she go to his hotel room?  What did she expect would happen?  Why is she coming forward now?  He’s an old man; he’ll die in prison because of this.  What about him, his legacy as a Black actor?

He.  Him.

It sickens me for a number of reasons, but mostly because it happened to me.  I completely understand the anger, the sadness, the frustration, and the guilt that comes with being made to feel like you have to take care of someone totally able to care for himself.

Women are socialized to care, to nurture, to feel.  We are expected to be firm, but kind.  We are taught to be nice. Even at our own expense.

This goes for everyone, but especially for women–we need to start taking care of ourselves.  It isn’t selfish to protect yourself from harm.  It isn’t mean to tell the truth.

Honestly, I hesitated to even write this post. What if my two exes, their friends and families, got upset with me? What if I hurt their feelings? What if I made them mad?

Then I realized–I can’t worry about them. I have to worry about me. One of my intentions this year is to speak my truth. I’m finally telling the truth I’ve felt obligated to keep quiet for so long.

Me. Mine.

You don’t owe anyone your self-esteem, your time, your money, or your silence–especially if they aren’t willing to positively invest in you.

Snowy Days

Winter in Wisconsin is in full swing, y’all. And ya girl is NOT FEELING IT.

Something Everything about the blistering cold, the gray skies, and the seemingly unending snowfall just makes me depressed. Being cooped up inside doesn’t help my anxiety either. The days are so short it feels like you never see the sun. The wind chill is so cold that it burns your skin. Now how much sense does that make–weather so cold it feels hot?!?

We got four inches of snow on Saturday, and another inch on Monday. More snow is predicted for tonight, and even more next week. My snow shovel and I have been best friends the past couple of days. #truestory I shoveled my driveway as my cardio warmup before my personal training session on Monday. There’s a silver lining to this cloud after all! 🙂

But, in all honestly, I know this rough patch won’t last. Where there is cold, eventually there will be warmth. Gray skies will be blue again. And summer will be here and make me forget all about these snowy days. Here is a snapshot from a hike at Devil’s Lake last summer–I cannot wait until I see green trees and feel the warm sun again!

Best of 2017

So.  2017 was an…interesting year.  So much craziness went on in the world (including, but not limited to, somebody’s President acting a fool constantly) but plenty of good things happened too!

Here’s is my list of personal highlights from 2017 (in no particular order):

  1. Getting back into acting…kinda:  I completed recording for my first lead role in an audio drama!  I’m used to acting for stage and screen, so doing just vocal work was new to me, but it was a fantastic experience.  And y’all–this story is SO GOOD.  I can’t wait for you to hear it.  Please check out Who Killed Julie?, debuting later this year!
  2. #relationshipgoals:  My boyfriend and I celebrated one year together!  Wonderful can’t even describe this man.  He has been so supportive and understanding (given my rocky last relationship) and I can’t imagine my life with out him.
  3. International travels:  It was a bit late in the year, but I went to Ontario, Canada for a work trip in December.  I had never been to Canada before and was excited to get another stamp on my passport.  I’d love to go back for fun instead of work (preferably in the summer months).
  4. Mommy/daughter Costa Rican extravaganza:  I guess technically this falls under international travels too, but it was so awesome I had to give it a special shout out.  My mother and I took a trip to Costa Rica in October that was so wonderful.  Look for more details on our adventures in a FOUR PART series next month!
  5. Three decades of life:  This year, I turned 30!  Honestly, I feel like I acted like a 30-year-old long before my actual birthday, so it is nice to have my age match my maturity level.  🙂  I’ve come a long way from that girl who first boarded a plane at the age of 16, who thought she’d live and die in the great commonwealth of Kentucky.  I’ve learned a lot along the way and I can’t see what the good Lord has in store for me for the next 30 years.
  6. My squirrel friend’s wedding, my other squirrel friend’s baby, and just general squirrel friend shenanigans:  This year I was blessed to see my good friends make awesome moves in life.  One had a daughter, who is now a DRDIT (Drag Race Diva In Training).  One got married in a beautiful ceremony in upstate New York (which I was fortunate enough to be able to attend).  One finally freed herself from an abusive relationship.  And so many called, texted, Skyped, or just hung out with me.
  7. Girls Trip:  If you haven’t seen it, you must.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever laughed that hard in a movie theater.
  8. StellaMy brand new car!  You know, after seven years, I finally feel safe driving in these Wisconsin winters.  It’s amazing.
  9. Workin’ on my fitness:  2017 marked one full year since I started working with my personal trainer.  I’ve lost 20 lbs so far (and improved my eating too)!
  10. Fully realizing the awesomeness of Amazon Prime:  “Why yes, I did order a dish drainer online.  Couldn’t I have just gone to the store and bought one?  Absolutely!  But…why?”

Tell me–what’s on your “Best of 2017” list?  What are you hoping to accomplish in 2018?