Saturday, December 27, 2014

"Help Me Forget, But God Let Me Remember" Part 1

It’s funny how images are burned into your mind—memories that will  last for all eternity…memories that are so strong that they seem tangible—like, if only for the veil of time, we should be able to reach out and touch them.

It’s been 10 years now since my own world was shattered in the silence of Christmas night…and I found myself panicking because what once were memories I could play like a movie, I seemed to be forgetting—like I had prayed to forget for so long, but what I realized was my prayer wasn’t really to forget—it was just to pretend like “it” never happened…at least not really…like Carrie Underwood’s song, “Just a Dream” there are still parts of the whole ordeal that just seem to surreal to completely absorb.

So, a decade later, I found myself being ripped apart by this tug-of-war within my soul. Part of me wanted to “allow time to heal” but another part of me felt that somehow that would dishonor the untimely death of my first husband…a death that I have tortured myself over for years and years because I had wished aloud, many times, for him to die during the most tumultuous part—and the last part—of our relationship. As the saying goes, “be careful what you wish for because it just might come true”…logically I know that I truly didn’t play a part in his death…I only played a part in the “death” of our marriage, but the guilt I bear is heavy—and truthfully I have known little to no true joy or happiness since his death because I have not allowed myself the pleasures of life…only the “burdens” and responsibilities.

So, in an effort to get all of this out from inside of me --in an effort to finally permit myself to “forget” and heal “safely” because the story is down on paper for all eternity, I’m allowing the memories to pour out of me completely for the first and the final time.

I remember Mitchell kneeling before me crying his eyes out one rainy night in early November 2004. It was the night I was to leave Washington in our Ford escape—heading back to PA where the children already were with my mother…the small SUV loaded with all the belongings I could fit. He was sobbing…begging me not to leave—and I left anyway.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love him. I did—but it was like my heart was closed off…and part of me enjoyed the pain he was enduring after all the pain I’d been put through. The part of me that enjoyed his pain is still part of me that I absolutely hate--and cannot believe there is part of me that can be that cold and cruel. I am still utterly embarrassed and ashamed that there is part of me capable of that behavior...something for which I have yet to figure out how to forgive myself.

We were young and our relationship had been a roller coaster.

I remember staying an extra night…and I very clearly remember the last time I saw him alive—he was riding his Honda V-twin motor cycle—I believe heading to his support group. We were both on the WA-101. I was taking the exit for I-5 headed North to Seattle and he was heading South to Mountain View Church of the Nazarene—the day was foggy and cold…much like every other November day in Washington.

I remember seeing his body—after flying out to Washington December 30th or so. I remember sitting and waiting for my baggage in the baggage claim of SeaTac airport and losing what little emotional composure I had—literally sobbing my eyes out.

I remember sitting outside the airport after collecting my bags—sobbing my eyes out again, but I don’t remember getting picked up at the airport—I don’t remember the ride to Meadow Road in Lakewood, Washington where Ron and Marci Kearns lived right next to the church I’d attended since Mitchell and I had married in 2001.

I remember sleepless nights thinking over and over again that “he is nothing more than a picture now” and “how am I going to raise these children? I’m only 21.”

I remember my mother getting me out of bed the night of December 27th…or was it the 28th? I just remember it was before I flew out to Washington. I remember the heavy feeling in the air—thinking I was in trouble for the mess that was left as a stomach flu went through the house and thinking I was in trouble.

I remember my Mother’s face.

I remember how she started to tell me that I, Ashley Elizabeth Lambert-Hollis, at the age of 21 was a widow: “Ashley…this is something I would never want to have to tell anyone…”

I remember sobbing immediately—and then I remember going numb but feeling heavy…sitting on the oval carpet on the floor in front of the kitchen sink in the home where I’d grown up.

I remember Kent Holmes coming over, but I don’t remember what we talked about…I just remember feeling part of my heart aching and my soul dying…

I remember calling the Thurston County Coroner back—the same man whom had called and spoken to my Mother—informing her that my husband’s body had been identified at the scene of a double homicide at 3351 Ken Lake Drive in Olympia, Washington.

I remember asking a bunch of questions—asking for a tattoo to be described in detail on Mitchell’s right upper arm—a tattoo he and his younger brother had gotten together….it was a picture of a card their mother had sent each of them during a really tough time in their lives, but I forget the details of the tough time. I was asking so many questions hoping and praying the body of this man was wrongly identified, but when I heard the Thurston County Coroner describe this tattoo, I knew this was real.

I remember calling Marci Kearns…the wife of the Pastor of my church in Washington—Ron and Marci were like my adopted parents…I don’t remember what I told her exactly, but obviously it was about Mitchell’s death. Looking back now, I don’t even remember the details but I’m saddened that this relationship that was once so close was torn apart in the aftermath of Mitchell’s death...mine has been a particularly messy journey of grief that not even my relationship with my family--let alone friends, has been able to's a miracle Rob has been able to traverse this treacherous path with me.

I remember calling Mitchell’s Mother, Sherri. She was at her older sister Kathy’s house in Kansas City. I remember Sherri telling me that she didn’t believe me and dropping the phone. Kathy picked up the phone and asked what was going on—and I told her Mitchell had been shot and killed. That I had just found out. And giving her the Thurston County Coroner’s contact information.

I remember my children were both asleep…it was late at night, but I remember walking into the rooms where they were sleeping and asking God why while I cried.

I remember staring at a picture of Mitchell I’d kept beside my bed wishing for this all to be just a dream.

I remember Marci trying to get me to eat something the day I flew into Seattle. Food disgusted me…but I took 2 bites from whatever it was that we’d ordered from McDonalds to try to make her happy.
I remember Ron and Marci walking through the crime scene with me—it was after we’d been to the Coroner’s office and I’d been given a little baggie with Mitchell’s watch in it. I remember very clearly how that watch smelled…it smelled like dead flesh.

I remember when I saw his body for the first time—it’d been kept in refrigeration and I could see the stitching on his head from the autopsy. I remember thinking he didn’t look that bad—and when I saw him again in Missouri—after his body had been flown down for his funeral, I remember thinking how awful he looked and wished his family had been able to see him before he’d “come back to room temperature”.

I remember the first time I talked to Jeannie on the phone. We’d said hello to each other and just started to cry. I remember feeling the bond that formed immediately because this woman whom I’d only met over the phone knew exactly how I felt.

I remember meeting Jeannie for the first time in the half circle drive of the home at 3351 Ken Lake Drive—the house where both our husbands and fathers of our children had breathed their last and hugging her. It was foggy. It was cold, and it was raining the typical Washington drizzly misty rain.
I remember wanting to go into the house the same way the bodies of our husband’s had been found.
I remember the first blood spatter on the patio step—just outside the glass sliding door that led into the eating part of the kitchen.

I remember the blood spatter on the wainscoting of the wall to the left of the door. I remember, as I turned to look in the short hallway that led into the den/office where Mitchell’s body had lain in a pool of his own blood until he was found nearly 48 hours after he’d been shot 7 times and died, how odd that I had toured this house him just a few weeks before.

I remember looking at the hole that had been cut into the floor where a bullet had travelled through Mitchell’s body and lodged into the floor and then at the pool of blood that had since dried and bubbled up—I remember leaning down to touch it and thinking that I wanted to put some in a baggie to keep it.

I remember the Coroner talking me through what they’d figured out forensically had happened around 11:45 p.m. Christmas Day 2004…I remember asking what he thought Mitchell was doing—and the Coroner replied, “running for his life.”

I remember turning around and coming back into the kitchen—seeing 2 open Bibles on the breakfast bar in the kitchen.

I remember looking to the left to see where the body of my fellow widow and now friend's husband had been found. They’d assumed he’d come out of the bathroom because his fly was still down. There was another hole in the floor where a bullet had travelled through Don’s body and lodged in the floor. Don was face up where as Mitchell was face down and the pool of blood beside the hole in the floor where Don’s body was considerably smaller than where Mitchell was.

I remember walking upstairs and seeing the broken glass where the gun cabinet has been broken into and thinking how ironic is was that Don was killed with his own gun.

I remember the blow up mattress and camp table and chairs that had been in Mitchell’s room…I remember I took a few things with me—now that Brian, the gunman, had been found and had killed himself, there was no longer an active investigation and I could take whatever belongings Mitchell had left at the house…for Thurston County it was “case closed”—and I remember wishing  it could just be “case closed” for Jeannie and I, too.

I remember finding a pile of something—I wasn’t sure if it was poop or vomit at the time. I remember the corn kernels…I’d found it was I walked the yard where they believed Brian had been—I remember the empty beer cans that had been thrown in the side yard—opposite the side of the house where the patio was and the first shots had been fired.

I remember shopping for an outfit to wear to Mitchell’s Memorial Service with Marci…I remember enjoying the distraction, but feeling completely numb and disconnected with my body.

I remember wanting other people to not worry about me and doing whatever I could to help them feel better…and I remember even talking about what I was looking for in my “next” husband…after all we were separated, right? I was the “estranged” spouse—and thus felt I didn’t have the right to be completely broken hearted because if I hadn’t left Mitchell—even after he’d assaulted me—he would have never met Don…or Brian and would still be alive.

I remember sitting in the front row during Mitchell’s memorial service—losing control of my emotions and regaining my composure multiple times. I remember Pastor Ron Kearns speaking—I don’t remember all of what he said, but I do have his notes…and I remember him closing his “sermon” with a poem that went…

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there
I do not sleep
I am the thousand winds that blow
I am the glitter on freshly fallen snow
So do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there
I did not die.

I remember Traci singing a combined version of “Old Rugged Cross” “It Is Well With My Soul” and something else…and as she sang I remember thinking back to when I’d walked into her brother, 
Troy’s, house in 3rd way in Lacey the day before—after walking through the crime scene with Traci’s parents. I was wearing Mitchell’s West Point PT jacket—though I don’t remember what ever happened to it. I remember her rubbing the arm of the jacket before she hugged me…and then hugging her brother Troy…but I don’t remember anything else.

I remember Cathy Edgin playing the piano, but I don’t remember who all was there…I remember being told there were several that couldn’t get back form Christmas vacation for the funeral, but I don’t remember who those people were either---I think the Schroder’s were some and Pastor James and his wife Lindsey…but I’m not sure of that either.

I remember the hotel where my Mother, Mikayla and I stayed in Leavenworth, Kansas.

I remember seeing Ben and Betts Kaiser at the Funeral Home—and being rather shocked when I saw how awful Mitchell looked after not being in refrigeration for 3 days.

I remember Ben speaking at the Funeral—and I remember I spoke, but I don’t remember everything I said other than mentioning the open Bibles at the crime scene being a sign that even in the midst of everything—God had a plan. (Looking back it was stupid and insulting thing to say in front of Mitchell’s family.)

I remember not wanting to let go of Mitchell when I’d walked up to say good-bye to him in his casket…thinking this was the last time I’d ever see his body except for photographs. I remember my Mother coming up to get me—I don’t know how long I stood up there.

I remember walking out of the red brick Nazarene church in Napoleon, Missouri to his burial plot in the cemetery that is bordered by the Missouri river on that foggy day in January 2005 and looking to the right to see the newly constructed Veterans Memorial…and seeing, just barely, through the fog the cement piece surrounded by red brick with a Bible verse engraved on it. The Bible verse said, “Be still and know that I am God.”

I remember sitting in a folding chair in front of Mitchell’s casket. My mother, with my daughter in her lap, to my right (I believe) and Sherri—Mitchell’s mother—sitting to my left.

I remember getting lost in my own thoughts as the Pastor officiating Mitchell’s funeral read more Scripture. I remember thinking how odd it was to have my mother—who never liked Mitchell—on one side of me…her energy feeling like she was saying “Ashley, if you’d only had an abortion or let Uncle Bill and Aunt Lois adopt the baby and never married Mick this wouldn’t have happened.” And Sherri’s energy felt like, “Ashley, if you had just been a better wife and not lied about my son assaulting you this never would have happened and Mitchell would still be alive.”

I remember jumping—startled by the first set of gun shots fired in the traditional 21 gun salute at a Service Member’s funeral.

I remember the aching in my heart as I heard Taps played…thinking the melancholy sound of the bugle fit perfectly.

I remember watching in silence as the team of United States Army Soldiers—led by an African American Sergeant First Class lifted the flag from Mitchell’s casket—the casket his mother had picked out…she’d told me about the little details like the crosses that were the fastening brackets for the handled on the sides…and the color was pretty close to Infantry blue—blue was Mick’s favorite color.

I remember the black of their dress uniforms…the shine of the bills on their “saucer caps” and their shoes.

I remember the white gloves on the hands of each Soldier as they perfectly and precisely folded the flag—stopping twice to remove lint or a thread from the flag.

I remember the Sergeant First Class leaning over in front of me until his eyes were level with mine as he held the flag in between his white glove clad hands. I remember biting my lip in a vain effort to control my emotions as this Solder said, “Ma’am, on behalf of the President of the United States of America, the Army and a grateful nation, I thank you for your husband’s selfless service to his country and present this flag to you in memory of him.”

I remember setting the flag on my lap—looking at how perfectly it’d been folded and thinking what an ironic comparison this perfectly folded life was in contrast to my life that was shattered in pieces on the floor.

I remember wanting to throw that flag on the ground as I screamed at the top of my lungs and jumped up and down on it in the mud that this whole situation wasn't my fault and that this wasn't fair—I knew how much I’d blamed my mother for my father’s death. I was 5 when he’d died and the only memories I have of him are the afternoon before he died when he was blind and looked like a skeleton in a dark room of Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas—and now my daughter, who was 3, and my son who was 13 months old would have no memory of their father…and how if any parent had to die it should have been me because Mick was the one to get on the floor and play with the children while I was the one to cook, clean, do laundry and pay the bills…I was the “worker” and didn't really know how to play.

I remember how upset people were that I’d had Sherri pick up “Infantry Blue Balloons” filled with helium so Mikayla could send balloons up to her Daddy who she knew was now an angel in heaven. Sherri and Mitchell’s younger brother, Wally, were the only two from the Hollis side of the family to participate in the balloon release. I remember Sherri telling me that the other members of the family weren't ready for anything remotely happy—they were still heart broken and in shock. I remember thinking that it was absurd that they couldn't get over themselves enough to think about what Mikayla would go through for the rest of her life with her “real Dad”…and then reminding myself that not even my mother had that frame of reference…I was literally the only one who had grown up without their father being alive.

I remember my Mother getting upset with how rude Mitchell’s family was being to her—or at least how she perceived it. I was too much in my own world to notice.

I remember my Mother and I screaming at each other in the rental car as we drove back to the hotel. We both hit each other and I got out of the car in the middle of no-where and ran into corn field that had been cut—only 8 inches or so of the stalks remained. The night was crystal clear—not a cloud in the sky and I could see millions of stars in the sky as I screamed at God with everything I had in me: “This is not my fault! This is not my fucking fault! I fucking hate you! I fucking hate you for letting this happen!” And then I fell to my knees and cried some more—I don’t remember getting back in the car or the flights back to Pennsylvania…other than I flew alone and my Mother had my daughter with her.

I remember going and getting my hair highlighted and permed the day after we returned from Missouri…and I remember going out to dinner that night at the Anchor Inn with the members of the Punxsutawney Presbyterian Church Choir. I don’t remember what I said—when I replay those memories, I am talking but there is no sound…I just remember my Mother being appalled at whatever I’d told the others over dinner…apparently a detailed account of the murder scene.
I remember I didn't go straight home that night. When everyone left the Anchor Inn, I headed to a bar in town known as “The Hotel” to drink—I've never been much of a drinker, but I didn't want to go back to my parents’ house.

I remember watching others I’d gone to high school with laughing, joking and having a good time as I sat detached and numb sipping on a vodka cranberry. I remember thinking how it had felt like the world had stopped turning for me, but for everyone else it was life as usual.

I remember my old crush from high school, Paul Wherle, coming up and talking to me. He must have sensed that I was on a collision course for an massive break down—and I know I got drunk that night. I remember Paul drove me back to my parents and sat with me in their living room talking until nearly 4 in the morning.

I remember my mother coming down and asking me to come into the kitchen where she chewed my ass and told me to get “that man” out of the house and get “my ass” in bed. Looking back, I think she thought Paul was trying to take advantage of me, but I don’t remember him making “a move”—just talking and making sure I was ok.

I remember my mother waking me up at 6:30 the next morning with my step-dad…a man I’d called “Dad” since I was 5, but never felt like I was “his kid”—especially in comparison to how I’d seen him interact with my sisters…it wasn’t really anything he’d ever done or not done. It was that I knew in my heart my “real Dad” was dead and I was angry about it because it was like my mother “just” moved on.

I remember when they woke me up, my Mother handed me $1,000 and told me I had 24 hours to get myself, my things and my children out of the house. I’m not sure where she thought I was going to go—looking back, I think she thought I’d talk to my Aunt Martha and stay with her like I’d done when she had kicked me out of the house my Senior year of high school. I remember she was especially angry about two things:

#1 that I had called Indiana University of Pennsylvania—the college where she worked, thus my tuition was waived and I was scheduled to begin classes mid-way through January 2005—and postponed my enrollment until the fall of the year…telling the college administration office of the loss of my husband and the brain fog that has set in. I remember telling then that getting through the day was challenging right now, and I couldn’t imagine trying to concentrate on classes—let alone even try to get passing grades. The college said they understood and felt this was a good decision given everything I was going through and happily delayed my starting of classes until the fall semester.

#2 that Kent Holmes—who was not only the Reverend of the church I’d grown up attending in Punxsutawney, PA, but was also the father of the children whom I’d babysat very regularly since I was 13. Our families were so close we’d vacationed together at my family’s summer place in Harborside, Maine nearly every summer since Kent had been assigned to our church—announced from the pulpit on the Sunday my mother and I were in Missouri burying Mitchell and about what had happened Christmas Day. His actions came from a place of love and wanting the congregation to be informed and ready to support me and my family in the wake of this massive tragedy…my Mother took his actions as sharing our family’s personal business with others…we hadn’t even put an obituary in the local paper because my Mother didn’t want anyone to know…for her, the fact that I’d been rebellious all through Junior High and High School, endured copious rumors and finally gotten pregnant and “ran away” to get married at the age of 18 was embarrassment enough in a small town she said “never lets anyone forget anything”.

I remember calling Ron and Marci to tell them my Mother had given me 24 hours to “get out”—and they told me I was welcome to come back to Washington and live with them until I could get on my feet. ...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Today my heart is aching--I can feel the heaviness in the air from both "sides" of this story.

While I do not agree that #Ferguson was a "racial" thing--perhaps that is because I have a Combat Veteran for a husband who has shot and killedindividuals from another race in a war that had nothing to do with race...and I know how that affects him...I know that instead of being excited about the pending birth of our daughter during my pregnancy with her in 2007-2008, he was horrified because the bigger I got the more he saw the pregnant Iraqi woman he had to confront during a house raid.

Perhaps my thoughts are as they are because I look beyond the color of skin to the heart and soul--and feel that love is the only answer...and it is such a simple answer--if we get our ego out of the way--that I sit wanting to cry because what happened last night doesn't make sense to me.

I didn't follow this case much. In fact, I don't pay attention to the news or political agendas hardly at all because I don't need those lower energy frequencies in my life. I am a role model and example for too many hurting people that desperately need hope and something to hold onto in their lives--someone to love them regardless of their past...and I do not take that responsibility--one that I didn't choose, but rather chose me--lightly.

In August. ..

We lost a troubled, young man who had a lot of life left in him--who made decisions in the moment that resulted in his death. I live by a quote..."Out beyond the limits of right and wrong, there is a field--I will meet you there"...for I believe it is not my place to judge. It is my place to love--to comfort--to be a light--to spread hope, and I have seen first hand that amazing miracles begin as seeds not yet seen in deep, dark moments like last night...I have come to know beyond a shadow of doubt that no death or life is ever in vain. There was a reason and a purpose and a plan to literally every microscopic detail of each life and death.

We lost another young man who had chosen to be a civil servant and has now removed himself from this selfless role because of choices he made that resulted in the death of another human being--regardless of skin color...taking the life of another human being (even in a kill or be killed situation) is a heavy burden to carry... any Veteran or Service Member will tell you that (if they feel safe enough with you to admit the pain they carry within their hearts and souls).

I fail to grasp the "reasoning" for the rioting and destruction last night--again, regardless of the color of skin, I am so very ashamed of humans right now....WHERE IS THE HUMANITY?

I've chosen to share the following example because the color of one's skin has been such a focus lately...

"In this African tribe, when someone does something harmful, they take the person to the center of the village where the whole tribe comes and surrounds them.

For two days, they will say to the man all the good things that he has done.

The tribe believes that each human being comes into the world as a good. Each one of us only desiring safety, love, peace and happiness.

But sometimes, in the pursuit of these things, people make mistakes.

The community sees those mistakes as a cry for help.

They unite then to lift him, to reconnect him with his true nature, to remind him who he really is, until he fully remembers the truth of which he had been temporarily disconnected: “I am good.”

Shikoba Nabajyotisaikia!

NABAJYOTISAIKIA, is a compliment used in South Africa and means: “I respect you, I cherish you. You matter to me.” In response, people say SHIKOBA, which is: “So, I exist for you.”

This is taken directly from the Facebook page of author Natasha Kyssa.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lessons from "The Slight Edge" by Jeff Olson

"Turning Simple Decisions Into Massive Success" reads the subtitle on the book that came in my "start-up kit" for Nerium International this past January.

And you know what? That book sat around in a stack of other books I've been "meaning to read" since then. I literally had to dig it out of a box to start reading it after the move.

And guess what? Today is one of those days that I really don't "feel" like writing a blog post or scheduling social media--all part of the slight edge plan that I'd created for myself a few weeks ago...because I'm going through and I'm doing the right things to grow the Battling BARE network and get my life on track, but it's not like this plan is a magic wand and everything is "poof" going viral again. Know what I mean?

It's a slow process.

A process that must be carefully, deliberately and diligently executed--a little bit every day.

So what exactly is "The Slight Edge"--I'd never even heard of the book or Jeff Olson before I was introduced to Nerium. So, I completely understand if you have never heard of this book that has been a "best seller".

The Slight Edge is a attitude in life that brings to like that it is the little decisions that don't really seem to know the little ones...that either give us the "edge" or have the "edge" working against us.

The decisions like getting out there and walking for 10-15 minutes because you just know you should--and a year later, you look and feel amazing because all those minutes of walking added up and created this huge life change....but that is after a year. At first, the small decision to walk 10-15 minutes doesn't result in much change...and you don't look or feel any different. So, you just have to stick with it...and the cool thing is that the walking really becomes second nature. You just "do it" instead of having this big huge debate in your head about whether or not you "feel" like walking.

The same thing with getting on top of finances and saving money to finally break the "paycheck to
paycheck cycle" of life that often results in the infamous "bill juggling" where one never gets ahead in life--they catch up on one thing only to fall behind on another. UGH...I think every person has been there a time or two--but far too many "stay there" because they don't know how to break the's their "normal" or as I like to call it their "awareness". (For how to break this cycle, check THIS THISout!)

The same thing with eating--which I have to be honest, this is where I am really having a tough time because I have come to love food and "flavor adventures"...especially in times of stress where I crave sugar and "baked goodies"--not to mention that baking in and of itself is a stress release for me--and I adore the reactions people have to my delicious concoctions. So, all of that together--along with my decision to not work out since we've been in Missouri...and let's just say the only clothing that comfortably fits right now are "stretchy" things. (For resources on medicating with food, check out these 2 incredible books: Within and Loosing Your Pounds of Pain)

**I do want to insert here that I have made the decision to start working out again and am getting new athletic shoes today. 2 weeks ago, when I started my "slight edge" plan, I found my athletic shoes had been left outside during the "great garage" organization...and my 8 year old Maine Coon decided to pee on them. YUCK! And...since we are still getting back on top of the finances...I didn't "just have" $60 to go spend on shoes. Today is payday! So, GUESS WHAT!?!? New Shoes!!! :-)**

So, why am I rambling on about the slight edge after I just wrote about not striving for perfection and stressing yourself out in yesterday's "Reality Check" post?

Because the slight edge isn't about doing it all at once.

It's about doing a little it here and there--like with your house for instance, I just love The Fly Lady's 15 minutes a day program that starts with shining your sink. :-) It's amazing how that results in a clean home less than a month later....and a purified and lightened heart and soul, too!

It's about reading a few pages a day in a book that feeds your heart and soul--instead of what I used to 30 books at a time and read 30 pages of one of the books before ordering another 30 books on the new "topic de jour". (Lord have mercy! I have a LOT of books and self improvement programs!)

It's about make small nearly unnoticeable changes that have time start working in your favor and not against you. (Like--Christmas is coming! Are you putting aside money to pay cash for gifts?)

It's about setting a goal and breaking it down into tiny little baby steps and then working your plan...even if, like me and my social media plan, you see more "unlikes" than "likes" on the Facebook page--or people being cranky that I refuse to focus on the "sad, angry truth about PTSD".

It's working that plan--no matter what, and before you know it, you'll have a brand new life.

So what are you going to do to give yourself "The Slight Edge"?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reality Check

So, I don't make a million dollars a year.
Not even close.
We are lucky enough to count ourselves above the median income here in South Western Missouri, but things are still tight as we try to adjust to retirement and furnishing our home.

So, I'm not one of those moms that I idolize who seem to have it all together and are just, you know, on top of everything.
In fact, I'm quite the know, the kind who is scrambling to find something acceptable for picture--or, like this year, didn't even realize when picture day was...and who constantly seems to be searching for missing shoes or backpacks at the same time we are supposed to be heading out the door to do the morning "drop the kiddos at school" run.
...the kind of housewife who loves and adored organization--even color coding clothing "Roy G. Biv" style, but in reality is shoving things into the hall closet and vacuuming "where people see" right up until company comes over...and even then is apologizing for the globs of black hair that my Newfoundland leaves all through the house no matter what time of year. *sigh*

I'm also the kind of wife that realizes my husband has PTSD/TBI issues--thus I find myself helping him search for his wallet or shoes or whatever because he can't remember where he put them...thinking all the while, "Umm...I have 3 teenager, one "tween" and a 1st grader...why am I doing this for my nearly 40 year old hubby? And why is it that I can remember where everyone else's stuff is, but no one seems to have a clue when my crap turns up missing?"
....and then I feel all kinds of guilty for a little bit...and then forgive myself because, Lord-have-mercy, I am only human and I'm trying...I really am trying to give my best, but for what ever reason I seem to get caught up on one thing and then something else falls behind.

Please tell me this sounds familiar.
Please tell me I'm not the only one who tries to budget--yet forgets a bill or doesn't think to plan financially for something and then has to juggle/maneuver things around to make it all work...
...who has made valiant attempts at creating a daily schedule and a "home organization binder" but with 3 kiddos and this monkey on our backs called PTSD/TBI, things get over looked, forgotten, put off, adjusted, and then who knows what else! *laugh*

I try to stay balanced.
I try very hard to not strive for perfection; however, with Pinterest as my's rather difficult. *laugh*

Can I let you in on a little secret?
In my crazy brain, your home is literally Pinterest perfect.
Your pantry is perfectly stocked with all the labels facing out and organized by this incredible system.
Your meals are planned--always.
You never forget anything at the grocery store.
You are dressed fashionably and with no dog drool or kiddie oopsies anywhere to be seem..oh and your shoes, jewelry and purse perfectly accessorize your ensemble....and you have these outfits planned out the week before.
There is no digging in your purse because it is perfectly stocked and organized at all times with no crazy loose receipts fluttering about.
Your animals are perfectly bathed and groomed.
Your towels folded and organized.
Your house is always cleaned--with fresh vacuum tracks in your carpet.

Why are you laughing and rolling your eyes?
Is this not your reality?

See, I had some girlfriends clue me in on the reality that this "reality" in my mind that I was constantly comparing myself to was ridiculous and just not REAL.

I was stressing myself out for some illusion I had concocted all on my own in my head.

So what is real?
What is realistic? are going to have to define that one for yourself, but right now my office isn't all the way unpacked and even though I make organized little piles every other day, my kittens or children come in and remind me how much they love me by leaving this:

About once a week...ok, probably more like every 2 weeks when myself or the children run out of clean socks and underwear, my laundry room looks like this as I catch up on a tsunami of dirty clothes:

And my kitchen sink seems to always have "straggler" dirty dishes that didn't quite make it into the this:


But you know what? I don't care anymore...because  have found that as long as my children and husband get my attention for a few minutes a day--they don't care whether or not the house is immaculate...and Lord knows I don't look back over my childhood and wish my mother had kept the house fact, I remember how stressed she was raising 4 children with a husband that worked away trying to keep it to the standards that her mother kept her house....oh and her mother had a live in house keeper. ;-)

So, why am I writing this?
Why am I sharing my "lived in and full of love" house?
Because I want you to know that you are a superstar!
You are more than enough...and this "stuff" that women's magazines tell us is important is B.S.
I want you to love yourself--have fun with life where ever you are at and let that be wonderful.

For instance, we pinching pennies to save for Christmas and fix this crazy car that "blew up". So, I've decided to see how creative I can be to feed my family for $150 or less a week. I'm learning how to make bagels and bread at home...along with a bunch of other stuff. And Christmas is going to be rather home made...along with Halloween costumes this year. And we've committed to buying gently used clothes...basically the only thing new we'll buy is socks, undies and shoes.

And you know what?! We are having a lot of fun with it! (And not focusing on "lack" but instead all of the things we have to be grateful for!)

So, I challenge you to give yourself a "reality check" by redefining what "reality" should be in a life that is full of mood swings and unexpected "stuff".

Remember, my friends, to always:
Love with PASSION!
Live with PEACE!
Dare to DREAM...for you are more than "enough" and incredibly worthy of everything you desire--and more!

I love you.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Managing Expectations

Can I be totally honest here? I really feel like I have no idea what I am doing sometimes.

No seriously.

In the beginning of the crazy, awesome journey called "Battling BARE" I was only on Facebook. I had no idea about websites or Twitter or blogs or anything like that. Social Media was just fun for me--so the idea of using it as a business just blew my mind.

And then things went crazy...
And the entire team that was working with Battling BARE at the time felt like we were simply holding on for dear life.

Fast forward to today and I am really a one woman show as far as everything really goes, and I really let everything slide for awhile. Even thought about shutting everything Battling BARE related down, but was begged not to by many, many strangers.

So here I am--writing a blog, figuring out what it means to have a Social Media plan, what it means to be the wife of a now retired 20 year Veteran, settling my family into a beautiful home that we don't have enough furniture to furnish--and I've decided in all my home-making to literally build most of the furniture and thoroughly adopt the attitude/philosophy of my secret addiction--The Duggar Family's show on TLC of "Buying used and saving the difference."

This idea means that it'll probably be a full 6 months or so before our home is furnished and "finished"--which drives me absolutely insane in the mean time and delays having a "house warming party" where all our family and friends locally can come see our beautiful new home.

On top of all of that, this move from Tennessee to Missouri has been full of crazy ups and downs, financial adjustments, epic the SUV we bought in June having catastrophic engine failure 5 weeks after we bought it...thus we now drive a Ford Flex (which is basically the result of a station wagon and a mini-van/SUV falling in love and having a baby car...ok, I drive a tissue box, people. Ask my children. And yes, he has a name--Felix!) and are still figuring out what to do with the SUV(--so if you have an engine to a 2007 Ford Expedition you are getting rid of, please let me know!)

On top of all of that, we are still recovering from a $3,000 shortage in July, and I just honestly have to sit back and laugh because isn't this life? Isn't this wonderful journey what everyone goes through? That no matter what we plan for and try to figure out, life is full of surprises and pitfalls and just craziness sometimes--and each and every moment is truly a miracle if we stand back and look at it?

Just this morning, I sat contemplating what to write--thinking in the back of mind that really what interesting things so I have to write about? And then all this just started pouring out.

When I look back over 2014 thus far...I could focus on the frustration of all the health effects from the toxic mold in the Tennessee house and how much money we lost remodeling it--or I could realize all the wonderful memories that were made building an awesome flagstone patio and pergola (like this one from  with my children and my husband.

Here are the plans:

I could focus on my husband disappearing to his best friend's house in Carthage, Missouri (9 1/2 hours from where we lived in Springfield, Tennessee) after telling me he was heading to the store to get buns for dinner...thus inducing a state of panic and horrendous fear in the lives of my 3 children and myself. Or I could focus on the outpouring of love and assistance that came from the friends I've met literally and only through Facebook because of Battling BARE.

I could focus on this crazy move to Missouri that we hadn't saved for or planned because I knew my husband needed to be "back home" where he grew up...close to family and friends. That resulted in our financially struggling for the past few months, my daughter and I's precious Pomeranian, "Chewie" getting killed on the road in an area he didn't know and my massive emotional break down because of all the memories of my 1st marriage that resulted in a double homicide Christmas Day 2004 being triggered because Carthage, Missouri is where my 1st husband and I went on our honeymoon  (Odd the way life comes full circle, eh?) and the 30 pounds of weight can that resulted in all the stress...did I mention that when I am stressed I bake...and let's just say I've been baking A LOT!

Or I could focus on this big, beautiful home that my entire family loves! Here is the front of the house:
--and that has a REAL DEAL laundry room! Here is part of it:
(I gotta let my geeky-mom self out for a sec there!)  a huge great room:
 And a functional kitchen that allows my love of all things culinary to go WILD:
Our new precious Pomeranian, "Reggie". The fact that my oldest 2 kiddos were so excited to be in Junior High and Middle school here in Carthage where they would have still been in Middle and Elementary school back in Tennessee. The amazing recipes that I found to feed my "stressed out baking habit" and have made several times over because of the financial strain forcing me to get creative with what I made my family for dinner.

Like this crazy-amazing pizza crust that we now make once a week for Pizza Night on Friday! YUMMY! (Here is the Recipe:

... and the fact that I have an amazing friend, Lori Harder, who got me involved with her workout group and I have amazing support through a group of women who have all "fallen off the wagon" a time or two in their journey to a rock-hard body.

This is Lori...I love her...and just have to tell you I met her at a conference in California. She was walking into the women's potty in front of me and I blurted out, "Girl! You have the nicest butt ever!" Yeah...I have no filter sometimes. *laugh*

Life is nutty, my friends. Life is anything but perfect--and I know none of you really expected me to be perfect...I just put that idea in my head. So here is to having realistic expectations and being open and honest with everyone.

Here's to this blog being a window into my crazy life in the hopes that you will see you aren't alone in the chaos that is having a family affected by PTSD...and that your perspective will shift so you see all the things to be grateful and in awe of in your life...instead of all the B.S. that will always be there no matter what.

So, I think that is enough "mind dumping" for my first blog post in over a year.
Make today amazing, friends!

And remember to:
Love with PASSION!
Live with PEACE!
Dare to DREAM...for you are worthy of everything you desire and so much more!

-Ash Wise