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!

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.

 

Dog-sitting, Taking Classes, and Wrapping Up #100HappyDays

Day 96: Dog-sitting makes me happy. My boyfriend planned an out of town trip, so he asked me to watch his dog while he was away. Luckily his dog and I have lots in common (specifically, a love of snacks and napping). I don’t think I’m ready for a dog of my own yet, but being a temporary dog mom has been fun. Check out a few photos of some of our adventures!

Enjoying a long walk!

Watching a rabbit. See it? (Look in the upper right corner of the picture!)

 

Day 97: Company picnics make me happy. My company goes all out when it comes to our annual picnic. Earlier this week I volunteered to help with pre-picnic stuff (more on that here) and the end result was spectacular! Here are some pics of (just one side!) of our celebration:

Fun activities for the kiddos! (Adult activities were on the other side of the building.)

Food tents!

Day 98: Catching up with friends makes me happy. My friend Judith was in town this weekend, so we met up for brunch at one of my favorite restaurants. We met through a work opportunity and became fast friends! Even though she no longer lives in Madison, we make a point to keep in touch. It was awesome catching up with her in person!

Day 99:  Free lunch makes me happy.  Today was staff meeting day and the wrap (sweet chili tofu) was so good!  It tasted even better because it was free.  🙂

Day 100:  Taking classes makes me happy.  This week, I get to take a class instead of teach a class!  I absolutely love learning and am thrilled to be the one being taught this time around.

Also…today is my last entry for #100HappyDays.  This was a fantastic exercise in gratitude!  Taking a step back and finding something to celebrate in every day–no matter how small–helped me to put my life in perspective and realize I’ve been blessed with an amazing life.  Honestly, some days it was hard for me to come up with something more than “Waking up this morning makes me happy.”  Not every day will be filled with joy–that much is certain.  But I found that the happy moments outweigh the unhappy ones overall, and that’s pretty good to me.

Eating Well and Helping Out #100HappyDays

Day 94:  Eating well makes me happy.  I’ve mentioned it a few times on the blog but for those who may not know, I’m a vegetarian.  (Fun fact:  July 8 was my one year veggie-versary!)  I originally became vegetarian in order to eat healthier and improve my lifestyle, but quickly fell into the habit of eating very unhealthy vegetarian foods.  (Another fun fact:  French fries and cheese pizza are in fact vegetarian, but they aren’t the best foods for you.  #TheMoreYouKnow)  I’ve also been working with a personal trainer, and he encouraged me to start a food diary to keep up with the number of calories and amount of protein I’m eating (peep this post for more on that).  Now I know it’s possible to have a delicious, filling dinner for under 700 calories!  (Final fun fact:  This does not mean I’m never going to each french fries or cheese pizza again.  A lady has to indulge every now and again.)

Day 95:  Helping out my company makes me happy.  I actually have *two* days in the office this week!  And I chose to spend two hours of each one not working in my office.  (That’s #assbackwards I know.)  Our annual company picnic is on Saturday, and I’m helping out with advance registration. Volunteering for this internal opportunity made me happy in a few ways:

  1. I get to spend time in a part of campus that I never go to.
  2. I met three really cool coworkers that I probably wouldn’t have talked otherwise.  (In a company of 9000+ people, it’s easy to work with folks you’ve never met.)
  3. I got to brush off my retail customer service skills.
  4. I got to pick up my own tickets in advance.
  5. I got a free t-shirt!

Grateful Dead and Surprise Packages #100HappyDays

Day 90:  Wedding receptions make me happy.  My boyfriend invited me to the reception of one of his good friends.  We had a great time!  My boyfriend was so handsome in his suit and meeting his friends was really fun.

Day 91:  Experiencing new music makes me happy.  My boyfriend is really into the Grateful Dead, and a documentary about the group came out recently on Amazon Prime, so we watched it.  I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.  I never knew too much about the Dead–basically that it was “hippie” music and Jerry Garcia was involved–so I liked learning more about the group and the music they made.

Day 92:  Coaching others makes me happy.  I’m part of a group that helps trainers improve their adult education skills, and I had a 1:1 session with one of my colleagues today.  We focused on determining if trainees “got it”–she really wanted to make sure that trainees were understanding the information she taught them.  It was really fun to look at another class and find ways to make the information stick.

Day 93:  Surprise packages make me happy.  Imagine my surprise when I go to the mailbox and see a package from my friend Kathy!  She sent me a favor from her baby shower and lots of other goodies as an early birthday present.  She’s into fashion and makeup, so I’m excited to try the cosmetics she included in the box.  Yay for great friends!

birthday box.jpg

I can’t wait to try out this stuff!

Surviving, Snacks, and Family Vacations #100HappyDays

Day 80:  Surviving makes me happy.  This was my sixth day in a row of teaching customer class and my voice started going out.  I was able to get through my class anyway though–sometimes you just have to be happy you made it through.

Day 81:  Buying snacks makes me happy.  For our upcoming family vacation (more on that below) I was in charge of buying the snacks.  Who doesn’t like buying snacks?!?  The hardest part was trying not to eat them before the trip (and remembering to load everything into the car).  For the record, I did try to buy healthier snacks…but some s’more ingredients may or may not have made their way into the cart too.

Day 82:  Fridays make me happy.  Especially Fridays before a long weekend!

Days 83-87:  Family vacations make me happy.  My family and I camped near Mammoth Cave for the holiday and it was really fun!  We had the most awesome RV in the park (and that’s not me bragging–people came by multiple times a day to compliment it).  We hiked a trail near the cave, which was somewhat challenging in 90° weather with 1,000,000% humidity.  But we made it–and rewarded ourselves with great food and lots of laughs.  Check out the view from our campsite and my new friend Belle below!

 

Kentucky is so beautiful!

Victory (a.k.a. the baddest RV in the park).

Belle!  She protected us by barking at everyone who walked past our campsite.

 

Days 88-89:  Short work weeks make me happy.  That’s the awesome thing about coming back to work on Thursday–you’re already basically at the weekend!  Is it bad that I’m already counting down the hours until the weekend officially starts?

Throwing Shade, Writing Poems, and Saying Goodbye #100HappyDays

Day 73:  Throwing shade makes me happy.  Two of my very best squirrel friends, Kathy and Julia, love RuPaul’s Drag Race as much as I do.  We have a call every two weeks to throw shade on the current season (and also to catch up on life).  Hearing their opinions on the queens and latest life updates makes me so happy.

Day 74:  Using analogies makes me happy.  As someone who teaches adults every day, I’ve come to realize that the adult brain learns a bit differently than the child brain does.  So, I like to come up with fun analogies to help my trainees learn the new information.  The analogy I used this time?  Chip and Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s Fixer Upper.  🙂  A lot of my trainees said they had a “light bulb moment” after hearing that analogy, so I think I’ll keep using it!

Day 75: Being creative make me happy.  Speaking of teaching adults, I wrote a haiku for my class because they were so awesome.  They had great question and paid excellent attention during class, so I wrote them a quick poem to express my gratitude.  They really liked it!

Day 76: Weddings make me happy.  My boyfriend invited me to the wedding of one of his coworkers.  It was beautiful!  The weather was perfect for the outdoor ceremony, and the groom cried when the bride walked down the aisle (So sweet!).  I had a great time meeting the groom, bride, and other folks my boyfriend works with–and the cake was delicious!

Day 77: Reliving my childhood makes me happy.  I downloaded a bunch of sweet 90s music and it really took me back to “the good old days.”  You know–the days when I got summers off and didn’t have to pay bills.  Here’s one of the many songs I got–enjoy!

 

Day 78: Getting fit makes me happy. Today was my monthly weigh-in at the gym–and I lost 3.6 lbs!  I’m really working on lowering the number of calories I eat and getting enough protein in my diet.  Hopefully next month I’ll have even better progress!

Day 79: Getting rid of old stuff makes me happy.  Today I sold Raven, my old car. It was a bittersweet moment–that car was my college graduation gift and saw me through my first apartment, a move to Madison, and six snowy Wisconsin winters.  But now that I have Stella (peep this post to meet her) I couldn’t justify keeping Raven too.  The money I got from selling Raven will go toward paying down my credit card. (Not a fun way to spend the cash, I know, but #adulting)  I hope Raven’s new owners enjoy her as much as I did!

Raven

Ride on, Raven! Thanks for nine awesome years!