Another Defense of the Selfie, and All the Forms It May Take

(Originally posted on my Facebook page)


“Ugh, I hate all these engagement shots” “The only work out of yours I want to hear about is NONE OF THEM.” “I don’t need to see a million pictures of your baby!” “Seriously, fuck your yoga pants and Uggs.” “There’s an app that replaces ____ photos with cats, thank GOD!” “Anyone who uses a selfie stick is a narcissistic imbecile.” “Why the hell do you need to post so many pictures of your food? WHO CARES??” “Do these people not realize they look like idiots doing xyz??” “All these vapid bitches posting selfies need to cut it out.” “Post one more picture of ___ and you’re deleted!”–Where did all this negativity come from? And would you ever say it to the person’s face you’re referring to, if there wasn’t a screen between you? Can you look me in the eye and say “your face pisses me off” because I happened to feel good about my hair for once in a long time and wanted to post a picture of it? I feel like I’ve seen this a lot in my feed, in a lot of different iterations, and it makes me feel deeply sad.

if you’re my friend, even just my Facebook friend, or someone I’m following on Instagram/Twitter/etc, we’re connected in some way. I care about you somehow, I followed you for a reason. And when you’re happy, I’m happy for you. If you’re feeling hot today and want to snap a picture of your outfit or makeup job, that’s wonderful. If you’re on vacation and want to take a pic of, and in front of, every dang tourist trap there is? Go for it! You’re having fun! Want to post a picture of the tasty food you’re eating? I’m super jealous, but excited you’re being adventurous with your food–always a cool thing! If there’s a smile on your face, I’m smiling with you. Even if you’re posting ten pictures a day of paperclips, if it makes you happy and you’re not hurting anyone–rock the fuck on.

At times sure, I’ve felt like “oh boy, EVERYONE is getting married, huh?” but those tended to be times when I, myself, felt lonely. Annoyed that I’ve seen far too many duck lips with a bar background? I’m probably feeling cooped up in my house and wishing I was out with my friends. Babies everywhere? It’s typically when I miss seeing my friends whose busy lives as parents make me feel a little less important because I don’t see them as often. OR I’m wondering if I’ll ever be in a place to have children. Pouty pictures where you’re looking up at your phone in switched screen mode? Silly, but nothing to scoff at for sure, and damn I’m probably wishing I had that eyeliner game.

The catty vitriol that I’ve seen in my feed lately, and the gleeful agreement that chimes in with even more put downs has me disappointed in us as humans and how we treat each other when we think there are no consequences. For every person that agreed that “no one wants to see your fat ass in yoga pants,” how many more were feeling ashamed at that picture they posted in a happy moment when they felt good about themselves? I know I have had that feeling of shame, multiple times, when seeing these criticisms in my feed (after my engagement, the sting of friends saying “UGH EVERYONE IS GETTING MARRIED”, after I posted about going to the gym “STOP POSTING ABOUT THE GYM NO ONE CARESSS” “Saw so many stupid sluts wearing MAKEUP at the GYM can you BELIEVE IT??” after my new recipe, “UGH NO ONE WANTS TO SEE PICTURES OF YOUR FOOD” after my vacation, “SELFIES ARE SO DUMB” not necessarily directed at me, but also hurtful because I knew they could be applied to me). Aside from that recent lip challenge that left girls’ faces bruised or perhaps trends that legitimately hurt people (planking… oh boy those made me uncomfortable…), why do you feel compelled to bash something that makes someone, even a friend of a friend, *happy*? I just don’t get it.

I post a lot of selfies. As a blogger, I always need to be active on social media in some capacity, and if I’m tagging the lipstick I’m wearing or the coffee I’m drinking there’s probably a reason behind it (trying to stay visible to brands for potential partnerships, showing my readers who come to me for suggestions what I recommend). I am probably the biggest offender for many of these “people who do ____ are idiots” complaints on my friends’ list, though no one has ever actually brought this up to my face I am under no illusion that I’m exempt from these rants. Maybe I’m a little vain. I like pictures where I look pretty, and I’ll admit that freely, because I’ve never quite FELT pretty in real life. I’d challenge anyone to say they DON’T appreciate a picture that made them feel good about themself, especially if they typically feel unattractive or invisible. My self esteem is  pretty damn low as a general rule. A like on a photo might boost my confidence just a tiny bit, and maybe in that moment, it’s what I need. I see the same slew of duck faces in my feed that you all do, the same pictures of happy couples and babies and exotic vacations I can only hope to go on. Sure, I get jealous on occasion. But mostly, I get happy for my friends. Because… isn’t that what friends do?


No one ever deserves to be put down for things that make them happy. Especially from people who are their friends, even if only by way of social media. And there’s a big, big difference between posting a picture that makes you feel good, and posting a bunch only for attention–and even then, you can never be sure of the intent.

There are so many reasons to feel bad about oneself, and way too many reasons to feel put down, unpretty, out of place. The circle you create for yourself shouldn’t be one of those places bringing you down. No picture that contains a smile should make the person feel shameful because someone else thinks they should have kept their phone in their pocket.

I think the world would be a much better place if we were just a little bit kinder to each other, whether we’re hiding behind a screen or not.

A Review of My Local Taco Bell


Atmosphere: I found the decor to be an ambitious blend of 90s-era grandmother living room–complete with large wall-hanging plastic flower vases and framed Monet gardens posters, as well as camo-printed plastic seating. The bare concrete floor gave the place a rustic and modern feel that can be found intentionally installed in many new Austin eatery establishments–though I question if that is the case here–so that if you keep your head down and your nose closed you just may think you’re at the new Fork + Taco on Burnet (GREAT tacos there, highly recommend).

Cuisine: In regards to the food, the chicken quesadilla was perfectly palatable with a good cheese-to-chicken-to-spicy-sauce ratio and a perfectly crisp grilled tortilla casing, and the hot sauce packet told me that I, myself, looked “hot” today. Sadly, the accompanying soft taco supreme could use some work. I was at first pleased and then horrified that my soft taco appeared to be grilled, when in fact it was simply on a very stale tortilla. The lettuce had an aftertaste of old refrigerator–perhaps also from the 90s grandma house?–and the sour cream was only at the very end of the taco, as if it were a prize to win for consuming the entire thing. I guess I lost that game.

The diet Dr. Pepper was fabulous. Will order again.

Staff: The counterstaff was quite friendly; two separate older gentlemen with tired eyes referred to me as “darlin'” and the combined group of my coworker and I as “you kids.” The man who took my order lamented that he no longer has fun on weekends because he’s too old to pick up women, but that “Thank God it’s Thursday, amiright??” I gave a knowing nod as I accepted my drink cup and tried to convey an air of sympathy for his plight.

Final thoughts: I may be compelled to give our  Taco Bell another chance ($5 quesadilla here verses $11 at our more upscale option across the street), but probably via drive-thru only. I look forward to sampling the morning crunchwrap some day, perhaps the morning after a night of $5 Long Island Ice Tea pitchers on 6th Street.

So, my dog had to poop.


My typically calm, quiet, sweet dog, was being crazy. Jumping, nudging my hand, running in circles. I was at work, where I typically bring her a few times a week, so I figured she needed to go to the bathroom. When the usual “stand outside and let her pee” trick didn’t work, I hooked her up to her leash and decided to walk the city block with her to see if she needed to let off a little energy.

I even ran back inside to grab a poop bag. I typically forget this step and feel like an asshole when she poops on one of the business’s front lawns and I just scurry away and hope no one notices.

Sure enough, about a block away she takes the biggest, steamiest dump I’ve ever seen. It was so diarrhea-like that it resembled jello. Typically, I wouldn’t scoop this one. How CAN you? But OF COURSE someone in the building she was crapping in front of was at the window, watching, lips pursed and daring me NOT to scoop it up.

Considering this was Lily’s usual poop spot, I feel as though this person must have seen me on the days I forgot the poop bag. Oops.

Shit. I now needed to pick up gooey shit.

I fumbled with the poop bag, creating a poop-scoop-mitten (as you do) and proceeded to try and scoop up whatever I could, while also trying my damnedest not to gag. I also had to frantically shoo my dog away from the poo goo, as her butt flap fur was grazing the mound and I feared it would become saturated with shit.

To my absolute horror, there was simply too much poop. Too much poop for the poop scoop mitten. Before I could prevent it, an enormous smear of shit suddenly warmed my palm.

So now I was a block from work, hand covered in shit, and trying desperately not to breathe in through my nose lest I vomit  all over myself and make the situation that much more dire.


Thankfully, across the street, on the edge of a yuppie-ish shopping plaza, was the random famous tree (Treaty Oak) I’d instagramed the day before that strangely housed a doggie poop station next to its protected mini-park. I jay-walked as fast as my little legs could carry me threw the shitbag into the trash. I grabbed three other poop scoop bags and, gagging all the way, cleaned the majority of the extra crap off my hand.

Since this is downtown Austin, obviously this is the time a random passing vagrant decides to yell some conversation at me.

“IT IS DOG DAY!” he says. I notice that he is a fairly clean vagrant, despite the long and scraggily hair dangling from his baseball cap, and I wonder if he is perhaps just–“THIRTEEN DOGS TODAY!”–slightly off?

I let out the half hearted laugh of a woman walking by herself with a dog tugging at the leash who, just moments ago, was covered in shit. I thought it was rather polite.

“YOU just don’t want to talk to ME because I am CRAZY!” he says, eyes squinted. “I don’t blame ya!”

I begin to make my way to the cross walk where a small group of people are standing. They look like they just lunched at Whole Foods and entertained themselves by buying yuppies supplies at the famous tree park shopping plaza. I mutter something about needing to get back to work, eyes on the crosswalk ahead.

“What kind of dog is he!” he barks at me.

“Oh, :half hearted poo laugh: she’s just a mutt!” The light has turned! I must get to the intersection!

Crazy man takes offense to this, telling me if anyone else called my dog a mutt, I’d be mad at them. “I don’t understand why EVERYBODY ALWAYS SAYS THAT!!”

“I mean she’s a mix, okay?” I have made it to the crosswalk! I book it, nearly running into a large man with a ponytail.

“Well, she is beautiful!” says the vagrant, thankfully walking in the opposite direction. His voice softer now, I wonder if I should thank him for the compliment. I don’t.

Instead of continuing my course, I follow ponytail in case vagrant follows. Vagrant does not follow, but my dog decides she REALLY wants to follow ponytail and tugs at the leash, nearly pulling me over.

Once back in the office, I take the dog into the bathroom so that I can fully wash the last of the crap off my hands, and check her butt flaps for extra poo. Apparently, we will add Public Bathrooms to the List of Things Lily is Scared Of. She immediately fell to the floor and wouldn’t let me pull her into the large handicapped bathroom with the private sink.

I finally convince her the bathroom is not terrifying, and to follow me in. While I am washing my hands, she crawls under the door and I find her stretched out under the other two stalls, looking terrified.

“This is where I go when I leave the office and you always want to follow me,” I tell her, trying to be patient, “this is where you have always wanted to go! You are finally here! Be happy!”

I pull her back and attempt to check for poo, but she falls to the floor again with her tail between her legs.


When I open the door to leave, she books it to the other side of the bathroom. I tug her back and we exit, and she begins to go nuts again. Back in my office, she licks at an empty water dish.

“You… you’re thirsty? Water?” She runs in a circle.

I fill the bowl, feeling defeated about the entire situation, wondering if water was what she wanted all along.


My New Year’s Status Update

From my Facebook:

*Obligatory End of Year Post* 2013–what a year. I remember at the end of 2012, thinking that, while 2012 had more than its share of stressful moments, it had ended on a high note (meeting Cory was a huge part of that) and set the stage for 2013 to be much better. And it was. Tenfold.

I welcomed in the new year with amazing friends in Canada, then recharged my travel bug even further by visiting Iceland with some old castle buddies and sampled both whale and puffin for the first time. I performed as the titular role in Alice in Wonderland at my beloved Shea Theater, and immediately after that performed in Midsummer Night’s Dream in what would be (unknowingly at the time) my last Shea show. I won a contest through The Lisa Ekus Group for agency representation for my first book–a cook book loosely based on my blog, as said blog continues to grow and my fearless agent continues to search for the perfect publisher. I can’t recall if anything huge happened over the summer, except that I went tubing for the first time and ruined my phone but was forced to face my fear of water when I was thrown from the tube–regardless, it was an incredible summer with my dear friends. 

Then Autumn hit and I wrote and directed my first play (different plays, in the same night). I visited Austin, Texas for the first time, fell in love with its quirkiness, great food, and warmth, and after a conversation with Cory decided that while I still would love to live in California someday, Austin was a better option for the both of us as a couple and as young people crafting our careers. Soon after that, Cory found a job, and I left my job of three years at my first post-college job and one that I loved, and we drove across the country to begin our new life together. Not long after our feet hit Texas soil, Cory proposed, and now we are in the early stages of wedding planning while we adjust to Southern life.

To say 2013 was a great year would be the understatement of the century. I will look back on it as a turning point in my life, a year of pivotal moments and risky decisions that resulted in so much love and so many adventures. I’m now unemployed and job hunting like a madwoman, far from most friends and family, both of which can be scary, but I’m excited for 2014 and the new challenges and adventures it will undoubtedly bring.

Happy New Year, everyone. Take those risks, jump with all your might, and follow whatever path will make you happiest. Cheers!

My Ranking of The Best Christmas Movies

I’m particular about my holiday season. I’m one of those who scowls when the Christmas music begins the day after Thanksgiving, but it’s not because it’s too early–it’s because I hate 90% of the Christmas music that’s out there. Aside from a few modern tunes, for the most part I can’t stand it. I guess my sweet tooth doesn’t translate to sicky-sweet happy holiday music.

However, I’m just a little bit less picky when it comes to my Christmas movies. Some of the typical favorites aren’t on my list–It’s a Wonderful Life is not so wonderful and actually moreso depressing than anything–and most were made in the last two decades, but to prove I’m not totally a Christmas Entertainment Grinch, here is my list of my favorite Christmas movies.

The Holiday–As a Christmas Chick Flick, this is pretty good. The majority of Christmas Chick Flicks (let’s call them CCF’s for the rest of this blog post, ok?) are Hallmark specials where the actors are all soft-spoken, yet somehow over-acting, and there’s so much sap that you just want to drown all the actors in it. This movie… is not like that. It’s sweet and I find myself rooting for all the characters even though I’ve seen it enough times to know how it all turns out. And while I feel a bit bad for Kate Winslet (the other leading lady gets Jude Law and she has Jack Black… sad) the coupling works and it’s all adorable without overdoing it. It doesn’t beat #1 on my list for a CCF, but it does the trick for something happy and fairly mindless.

A Christmas Story–I grew to love this movie sometime after the third year my brother insisted on watching the 24 Hour TNT Marathon of it. Before that I felt kind of “meh” about it. But, after actually sitting down and watching it beginning to end, I was immediately taken back to every year that my tiny childhood self wished so hard for that magical Christmas gift of the year. Though I wanted Magic Attic Club dolls or an Easy Bake Oven and not a Red Ryder BB Gun, the feelings were the same. This movie adorably illustrates what it’s like to be a kid at Christmas… I just won’t be watching 24 hours of it, ever.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation–This movie would be a nearly perfect comedy if they didn’t kill the cat. Seriously, don’t kill the cat. It’s just not cool.

The Santa Claus–This movie makes my list not only because it’s a lovely, original idea (you kill Santa? Now you ARE Santa, HAH!) but because the sequels actually don’t suck. Neither can compare to the original, but even the worst of the bunch isn’t that bad. If nothing else it’s cute to see how the characters have aged. As a kid I was convinced Judy the elf’s secret recipe for the best cocoa ever would work (shaken, not stirred) and it resulted in many a messy kitchen.

The Year Without a Santa Claus–This was my favorite stop-motion movie as a kid. I never saw the live action update and have always wanted to, but I know it just won’t compare. It’s cheesy, yeah, but the songs are so catchy. Also the premise is kind of neat. Christmas isn’t in danger because of something catastrophic, it’s just that Santa is feeling under the weather and needs a break. The guy has the most demanding job like, ever, so I can understand.

Nightmare Before Christmas–Is this a Halloween movie? Or a Christmas movie? Ehhh I’m going to lean towards Christmas, since that’s when all the action takes place. It meshes my two favorite holidays with awesome music and amazing stop motion by Tim Burton before he got too full of himself and Tim Burton’d himself all over the Tim Burton Movies. And before Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, even though they both are fantastic they are both SO overused it hurts my eyes. Nightmare is a golden time for Tim, and one we should all remember.

Scrooged–I love this movie. It’s laugh out loud funny and the ONLY version of A Christmas Carol that I can actually stomach. And in these days of big business sucking the souls out of us all, it rings true even louder today. Bill Murray is just at his best and funniest, years before he’s become somewhat of a cult icon that is moreso stuck in a movie for an inside joke (Zombieland…) than anything else.

Elf–I remember when the previews for this first came out and I said “woah, this is going to tank BAD.” And then it didn’t. Oh holy wow did it not tank. I finally watched it on DVD after it came out and, while I’m not the biggest Will Ferrell fan, I fell in love with this adorably hilarious movie. You can tell that some of the lines are improvised–much like in Anchorman, another film I love of Ferrell’s–and the situations and dialogue are just downright funny. It also doubles as a movie you can watch with the whole family, since any of the more adult jokes will definitely fly over the kids’ heads.

Love, Actually–I just love this movie. The perfect CCF. The storylines run the gamut from adorable to heartbreaking and it’s all good. Plus British Accents. Disregard Hugh Grant. Focus on Alan Rickman and Liam Neeson and That Guy From Walking Dead and Laura Linney and even Kiera Knightly a little bit. It’s all good.

Runner Up: Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer–I can’t handle it now, but it was my favorite as a kid. Though it kind of perpetuates the whole “people will hate you until they need you” playground crap.

The Engagement Story


The first picture ever taken of us, a few days before we were officially “a couple”
Rocky Horror Cast Party, 2012

I remember once, early on in our relationship, Cory and I were in the car going somewhere and a hot air balloon quietly bobbed itself into our line of vision on the highway.

“You know, I think my ideal proposal would be in a hot air balloon.” The moment the words came out of my mouth, I immediately regretted them. We had only been dating a few weeks, maybe a month at most, and if my years of 20-something dating experience had taught me anything, it was that you do NOT utter anything having to do with the “M Word” to a post-college guy. The mere idea incites visions of running into their brains and proposal pressure. How could I be so dumb? I was ruining this fledgling relationship before it had even begun!

“Hmm… noted.” he replied, smiling to himself. The panic in my chest tightened.

“Sorry, I, um, I didn’t mean–like, it’s so early, I don’t mean to be saying that–”

“No, Ashley, it’s okay. But, now I can’t propose that way. You’ll be expecting it.” There was no terror in his voice. No inclination of running. Calm, contemplative, accepting. I was baffled. My last long term relationship partner had shrugged off any questions I had about “our future” with a “I don’t know.” or a “I haven’t thought about it, that’s a long way off.” or the dreaded “I don’t know, what do you want me to say?” and that was when I’d subtly broached the subject of a “future”–carefully avoiding the “M Word.” And now, Cory, a man I’d met off an internet dating site and fallen for faster than any other guy I’d dated, was already accepting that maybe marriage was in the cards for us?


When the world was supposed to end in December, I jokingly suggested we go to the courthouse and get married, just in case. He said okay. I said I was joking, he said he only half was. Another early instance of him being comfortable with a future with me (however short, if the world had actually ended). It was a new feeling, of being comfortable and not having to side step how I was really feeling. Cory surprised me in so many ways–taking an interest in my interests, going so far as to wear a dress for his first ever stage performance at my beloved theater, making an effort to become friends with my friends, attending events he wasn’t so sure he wanted to attend but doing so simply to make me happy, going out of his way to make me happy in general… everything from calling me “baby” to holding my hand in public, all the little things I’d been missing from guys who simply “weren’t into that stuff” and didn’t feel the need to show affection. I loved it. I loved him. I finally felt like all the love I’d invested over the years to only be returned in half, was returning to me tenfold from someone I was truly, deeply in love with. It was a new, wonderful feeling.

(EDIT: Not to say those were necessarily “bad” relationships–I am grateful for every long term relationship I’ve had, because they all were learning experiences. I just had gotten into the bad habit of compromising things that were important to me–like holding hands in public, or taking pictures together, being able to openly discuss our potential future together, or how much time we spent with each other’s friends–and I felt like I tried too hard make relationships work that weren’t right to begin with. Affection was and is very important to me, but not important to a lot of guys I dated, and I never realized how much I was missing in compromising that.)


Our “family portrait” please pay no attention to the dirty floor, it was mid-party

At about the six month mark he told me that he knew I was the one for him, that he could see himself with me forever. Heart pounding, I told him the same. He said he fantasized about proposing to me, I told him we should probably wait a year. “A year is probably my minimum,” I said, “anything before that feels like a little too soon.”

“Okay…” he said, “but I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait that long.”

I knew “too soon” was a relative statement. I knew my heart was bursting at the seams for this guy who came into my life so unexpectedly–I had given up on guys after one last stupid boy took me for a run around and in my misery had adopted a cat to give my love to instead–and that if he’d asked me that day I would have given an enthusiastic “YES!!!”

Our first meeting was one for the story books for sure. I’d signed up for a profile at after giving up on I’d had almost two years on OKC, and though I’d gotten a series of interesting dates on it, I hadn’t found anyone that I both liked AND who wanted a relationship with me (typically, it’d be one or the other, which I guess is descriptive of dating in general), and I was getting discouraged. “Try Plenty of Fish,” my friend Lauren suggested, “there are more horny assholes on there, but there’s also more guys in general on the site. More chances for a decent date.” Basically, I knew POF would be full of hilarious messages from guys wanting hookups (the BEST cheesy pickup lines are in online dating messages) and I figured I’d get a laugh but nothing more. One night, just for fun, I decided to message some interesting guys based almost solely on grammatical structure of their profiles. You’d be surprised how few of them there were.


Summer 2012, Beach Trip

Cory’s profile pictures were all of him making goofy faces, so I didn’t even know if I was physically attracted to him at first. This was probably in his favor, since I’ll be the first to admit that in the world of online dating, pictures end up being way more important than they should be. I continued reading his profile and, in addition to having all words spelled correctly, he actually had something to say. I liked that he was an artist, and despite his very last paragraph saying that he didn’t like girls who wore makeup or lived at the mall (me = guilty on both accounts) I decided to message him anyway. I asked him about his tattoos. What came next was a back and forth conversation that lasted two days–each of us refreshing our messages every few minutes hoping for a response from the other.

It turns out that another friend of mine had actually met Cory in college. She confirmed that he was “a good guy, a little shy, but very nice and an extremely talented artist.” That was the final push that convinced me to meet him.

I was in the middle of performances for Rocky Horror, so I couldn’t meet him just yet. I told him he should see the show, assuming he probably wouldn’t. Rocky Horror didn’t seem like the kind of show a 20-something dude would attend just to meet a girl. But he did. And the night he chose was the night I was taking tickets–full lingerie outfit, full sexy-clown makeup, and in character as a breathy, ecstasy-influenced minion of Dr. Frankenfurter. My first words to him, before he even knew it was me, were “hey there, big boy.” I died inside. He gave me a quizzical look, then realized it was me.


Signs you’re meant to be together: you show your support for each other’s dorky hobbies.

“Oh, hi!” he said, smiling. I knew he was tall, but the online pictures did him no justice. The guy I’d been enthralled with for the past two days was. freaking. hot. And I was half naked. And this was the first time we’d met face-to-face. And I expected no date to come of this. After the show, I thought he’d left. But then I felt a hand on my shoulder, “so, what are you doing after this?” I invited him to our cast gathering at Applebees and we sat together, squished in a booth with the entire cast of Rocky.

To quote a cliche: the rest, my friends, is history.

A year later, we made the decision to move across the country to Austin, Texas. We both needed to leave Massachusetts, to explore the world a little, and a job opportunity for Cory was the deciding factor. We were apart for three weeks while I finished up my work in Mass, and Cory began his job in Texas. It was the longest we’d ever been apart and we counted the days until we were together again. Though I wanted a long road trip, Cory was insistent that we make it back before our anniversary. I assumed it was for his job, so I agreed.


Packed up and ready for Austin!
Not sure how my poor car held ALL THIS STUFF.

The night of our anniversary and our first full day in Austin, Cory took me to a lovely restaurant on my favorite street in town. South Congress is probably the “hippest” part of the city, a colorful street lined with cafes, boutiques, thrift and vintage stores, and all sorts of kitschy amusements and street vendors. South Congress Cafe is a $25 per plate kind of restaurant with wonderful food and ambiance to boot. After a wonderful dinner we tried to find a local movie theater, but after our GPS took us on three wild goose chases we ended up back at Cory’s aunt’s house, where we’re staying until I find a job and we get an apartment.

When we got home, I immediately went to the computer to check my Facebook messages, blog comments, and email. Cory was still dressed to the nines and insisted I come into the kitchen. “I’m almost done!” I said. I was chatting with a friend who had just gotten married, and didn’t want to be rude.

“Are you coming? I have that champagne from your mom, ready to open!” My mom had given us a bottle of her favorite sparkling wine, as an anniversary gift. I wasn’t sure why Cory was so insistent on the wine, but eventually I met him in the kitchen.

We toasted to a year together and kissed. His aunt was in the next room with a friend, talking and watching television. Cory pulled back and, leaning on the kitchen island and looking down at his hands, he started to mumble.


A few hours before the proposal!

“I was waiting for the perfect moment, and I had a million romantic scenarios planned out in my head… but you know me and, well, I figured I should just be casual and…” he pulls out a small box. “You know I want to spend the rest of my life with you, and… yeah.” he hands me the box. Heart pounding, I open the box. Inside is a small ring, on top of a fluff of cotton. On Valentine’s Day he had said a similar speech and given me a promise ring, so I was a little confused. I didn’t know if this was an anniversary gift or more, and the ring was on its side, so I couldn’t see what was on it. He was standing, not on one knee, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions!

“Are you… are you proposing?” I asked.

“Yes. Will you marry me?”

I hugged him and said “yes, of course! I love you!” He had waited exactly one year to promise, remembering my request. His heart was beating so hard in his chest.

“Were you nervous?”


“Did you think I’d say no?”

“No… but you never know!”


We kissed again and I tried to put the ring on my finger. It got up to the first knuckle and wouldn’t budge. I laughed. “We’ll get it sized,” he said. I asked him if we could do more than that—you see, I’m supposed to inherit my mom’s ring from her first marriage, to my dad. I loved the story of their engagement because it mirrored mine and Cory’s a bit–both were young, engaged fairly soon, and didn’t have a lot of money. So Dad gave Mom a promise ring, and they paid for a proper engagement ring at the department store. They’d visit it every week and Mom would wear it while Dad paid for that week or month’s payment. I loved that story, and knew someday the ring would be mine. It was important to me to have a piece of this family history, so we decided that we would use the diamond Cory gave me–his grandmother’s ring, another ring with history and heirloom significance–my mom’s diamond, and another family diamond to create a new ring.

The proposal was adorable, and so uniquely Cory. He had gotten the ring from his mom shortly before leaving for Austin and had mulled over when to propose. He’d decided on the holidays, but once we got to Austin he decided he just couldn’t wait.

In the meantime, I am continuing to wear my gorgeous opal and diamond promise ring from Valentine’s Day on the proper engagement finger, and the engagement ring on a chain around my neck.

We joke that we’ll be engaged longer than we were boyfriend and girlfriend–as currently I am trying to find a job and we are trying to save for an apartment, so financing a wedding is still a long way away. We are so happy to be engaged, and have been humbled by the outpouring of support and love from friends and family.

That’s our story, and I hope you enjoyed it 🙂


A love letter to my community theater

To my dear, dear The Shea Theater (a love letter),

This Sunday I leave for a new life in Austin, Texas. I will be leaving behind Western Massachusetts for a new adventure, and when I think of all the friends and family I must say goodbye to, the Shea is not far from my thoughts. In fact, it’s probably the epicenter of my thoughts, just to the right of “I Will Miss My Mom” and “I Will Miss My Cat.” After all, it is because of this amazing theater that I’ve found such wonderful friendships and shared countless incredible experiences.

A friend of the family had been bugging me to audition for the plays years before I finally gave in—despite having done theater in high school, I was intimidated by the idea of auditioning with adults. There was no way I was good enough, I thought. What if they’re mean? I wondered. Finally, I gave in and auditioned for The Country Player’s “Oklahoma!” In 2008. I was a chorus part, but the feeling of returning to the stage was invigorating. Each year I looked forward to my summers home from college, so that I could do the yearly TCP musical.

Each year my parts got a little better, each year I learned and grew as an actor. Occasionally I would feel the rivalries and jealousies that come with being an actor, but it was always overshadowed by the tremendous support and camaraderie of the Shea family. Eventually I expanded my theater circle to include New Renaissance Players and Shea alum Ja’ Duke, and while I never was able to do an Arena Civic Theatre show I met many great ACT regulars and enjoyed watching them perform as well. Each group was so different, but each one amazing and welcomed me with open arms. After I was a chorus member I was a funeral director, a sassy Scotswoman, a mobster’s moll, an actor in a play-within-a-play, a pirate, a former debutante, a phantom, a nurse, a ditzy dancer, Alice (in Wonderland), and a fairy.

After moving home from college, I was excited to finally be able to do plays year round. Being a constant presence in the Shea rather than a once a year visitor, I was better able to make lasting relationships. In the past few years I have met the most amazing people who have become my most cherished friends. The other day a group of us met at Twisters and tried to make a “family tree” of how we all met each other. Eventually, the tree became more of a tangled bush—if one of us had never invited everyone over after rehearsal, if another one of us hadn’t invited a friend to join a play, if someone hadn’t seen that audition post, if someone else hadn’t taken a chance and met for drinks via a Facebook request, all these ifs that would have resulted in someone being absent from the group, or the group never existing at all. In the center of this loving tangle was the Shea.

This theater has given me so much, I cannot thank you enough. It’s given me a voice, a home away from home, an opportunity to be seen on stage, something to look forward to every single season, people who need me, and friends I will never forget. I wish I had a million dollars so that I could put in just a fraction of what the Shea is worth to me. I will never, ever forget my time here. I love this theater, these people, with every inch of my heart. Thank you, thank you so much for everything.

Until we meet again, “take pains, be perfect, adieu.” 
Ashley Blom


Originally posted as my Facebook status, but I decided to put it here to save it in a more organized fashion 😉

New Adventures (And a New Purpose for this Blog?)


Hello again, my often-forgotten blog.

At this point, anyone who cares has probably heard the news, but on the offchance you don’t check Facebook or my Cooking Blog regularly, here it is:


As of November 8th, I will no longer be a resident of Greenfield, MA, but rather a resident of Austin, TX.

This is a big, huge, scary, intimidating, and endlessly exciting change.

I’ve lived in New England for 26 years. I knew if I ended up staying here forever, I’d feel tragically unfulfilled. I remember back to high school, when I assumed I’d go to Smith College, marry my high school boyfriend, and be a Western Masshole forever. That all changed once I went to college in the “big city” of Boston, and the true “seal the deal” experience was when I studied abroad. The world is freaking HUGE, I realized, and confining myself to just this tiny corner would be a shame. I need to get out, explore, live somewhere new, so that when I return I’ll know that it’s because I WANT to live in New England, not because I just fell into it by chance. My mom made me promise that I’ll move back to the East Coast before I start having babies, so that gives me at least 5 years in the Southwest. That’s a good amount of time for soul searching and travel, methinks.


Austin wasn’t the original goal. As you probably know, I’ve been itching to get to California for years. But California never totally made sense to me. I chose it because it was warm, and there were friends there. It wasn’t ideal for the career paths I’d chosen (part-time writer, full time PR/marketing… somethingorother?) and way too expensive to live in. I worry that people will just assume I chose Austin because my best friend from childhood recently moved there (“Is she just copying Jenn?” I can almost hear them say) and while that surely HELPS the decision, it isn’t the be all and end all.


Austin is warm. The winters are mild. It’s greener than I ever expected for a state I assumed was mostly desert and the landscape is gorgeous. And yeah, I have friends there–not just Jenn, but a friend from college, a few friendly friends-of-friends, a welcoming food blogger community that is already offering to show me the local eateries, and some guys I used to party with in Boston. Not to mention, my boyfriend has family there that has graciously offered us a room to stay in while we get on our feet. Plus, the cost of living is low ($700-$1000 for a two bedroom apartment, whereas LA or NYC would charge that PER ROOM), and the economy is booming. Already I’ve had three phone interviews, taken two tests, and have two in-person interviews lined up. Not only are the jobs there, but they ACTUALLY CALL YOU BACK WHEN YOU APPLY. This is a new thing for me. With the endless resumes I’ve sent to NYC and LA when the “need to get my butt out of MA” bug bit, I only ever got one legit interview, and maybe a handful of actual rejections.

Maybe I’ll get to Cali someday, maybe it won’t be LA but rather San Diego or San Fran—but Austin just makes the most sense right now.


And, I finally have someone to share the journey with. I met Cory exactly a year ago, and our one year anniversary is next month. A year, you might say, is not a lot of time to get to know someone enough to move across the country with them. If you’d asked me a year ago, I probably would have agreed. I can’t count the times someone is relaying a love story to me and they say “I met him, and I just knew” and while I would nod and smile, inside I’d be rolling my eyes. I didn’t believe it until it happened to me. We were madly in love from just about the moment we met. A year feels like it’s been forever already. Taking this huge life step together feels more than right. I feel safe with him, I feel loved, and it’s a deeper and more meaningful relationship than any I’ve had in the past.


Here’s how it’s going to go: This week I’ll be in Austin for some interviews. This Monday, Cory will make the drive to Austin in his truck. I’ll be in MA, finishing up my two-ish weeks at my current job and packing and getting rid of stuff. Then, on the 2nd, Cory will fly back to MA, we’ll have our going away party (if you’re a friend, you’re invited, fbook me for details), and then the very next day we drive out in my car.


I’m going to miss Western Mass so much. I’m leaving during the best season, our gorgeous fall. I’m leaving my theater friends, my entire family, and the relationships I’ve grown to love so much. I hope at least some can visit me in my new home!


This blog will become a place for Family and Friends to be updated on my new life in Austin. Still check Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine for recipes and tidbits, but I’ll write more longform here about my adventures. Stay tuned 🙂

The No-Flat Iron Hair Challenge, Summer 2013


Thoughts on beauty and self image as I try to go an entire summer without straightening my hair, a feat I haven’t tried since I was 14. Basically, I go on forever about my hair. Read at your own will.

The day I got my first CHI flat iron was the happiest day of my young adult life. The 14 year old me, mind still buzzing from the gorgeously flat hair I’d had weeks before when a friend properly straightened it for the first time, carefully lifted the ceramic iron out of its box and out of the bubble wrap. This, this was where it all would change. No more feeling ugly and out of place as my straight haired friends were able to show off the latest hair cuts. My frizzy mop simply had two hair cut types: long, or short. No more wishing I could let my hair down in the summer, only to ultimately succumb to the scrunchie around my wrist as salvation from the heat.


My father’s hair was straight, blonde, and ever-thinning as he combed over his bald spot until the day he died. My mom’s hair was dark and straight, and I remember the years she would get it permed and come home smelling of chemicals and looking, to my childhood memories at least, like a poodle. The only other family members who were gifted with the same brown, frizzy, curly situation as I were my brother (who, as a boy, could simply cut it short and hide the spirals) and my Aunt Krissy, whose curls were actually tighter than mine but a bit less thick. For years, new hair dressers would pick up my hair for the first time and marvel at how “you have the hair of THREE people at once!”


The iron was my salvation. My self-confidence booster–until, of course, later in my teen years when I found a million OTHER things “wrong” with my appearance–my ticket into a world I’d never known. The world of pin-straight, shiny locks. It was my most prized possession.


Older friends and family members would lament, “but your curls are so PRETTY! I WISH I had hair like yours!” to which I would grumble a “thank you” and mutter “you wouldn’t like it if you had to deal with it.” I cannot count the number of hair elastics broken in my hair. Bobby pins lost and found days later. And I already mentioned the haircuts. Layered bob? More like frizzy triangle. Angled front? Nope, and the shortest pieces would simply hang in my eyes when I wore a ponytail. I tried serums, creams, gels, and all would just make my hair glisten or stiffen while it still puffed and frizzed and poofed. I needed this iron. It was life changing.


In college, nobody knew I had curly hair. Due to a dry scalp I could wash, blow dry, and straighten on a Sunday and not have to repeat the process until at least Thursday. With some minor touchups, this was nearly a week of straight hair. In recent years, friends have even questioned which texture is the real one.

As straight hair fell out of favor and light, perfect barrel curls (or beachy waves, if it’s a casual day) became more popular, I still could not fit in. Now my hair could be pin-straight or the usual frizzy mess, no happy in between. I still couldn’t win. But it did inspire me to let my hair air dry more often. I found that somehow, straightening my hair through puberty and letting it grow had made my hair more wavy than curly–but sadly did nothing for the frizz or poof. I still call it “curly” although “wavy” probably would be more accurate.


I had a secret question I would ask a new suitor: “Curly or straight?” And while I didn’t believe them when they told me they liked it just the way it was naturally, I still appreciated it. Only one has ever failed this test, but I dated him for 2 years regardless. “It just makes it seem like you take better care of yourself.” Hmm. “Take better care of yourself” is code for “conform to traditional beauty standards” these days, isn’t it? Male friends pass on female dates because they’re heavy and say “I just want someone who ‘takes care of themself'” and I would roll my eyes. Further confirming that I should keep painting my face, shaving my legs, and ironing out my hair.

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When my current boyfriend caught me for the first time with my big, frizzy hair and nearly no makeup one morning, he cupped my face gently in his hands and looked me in my eyes and told me that “this is you at your most beautiful.” I had never even asked him the question. I still didn’t believe him, but somehow it made me love him even more. It was winter, and my busy schedule was keeping me from having much time. I was letting the curls out more and more. I was instructed to leave my hair natural for a play I was in, and after a month of curls I was on the edge of summer and had an idea.


I’ve made it this far, well into May, I wonder how far I could go? Could I risk an entire summer, surrounded by girls decked out in sundresses, mini skirts, and shorts, looking their most attractive and me next to them, with my frizzy hair? Could I make it with my pride intact, would I gain the self confidence I’d been striving for for years? I wonder…

So I challenged myself, and posted it to Facebook so friends would know–I needed witnesses, to make sure that no one could call me out if an Instagrammed picture of me with flat hair came about–I was taking a summer off. I was packing away my CHI under lock and key. I was going to give my curls their freedom, for a few months at least.


It was easy, at first. More time, less to worry about. As summer creeped in I could feel the weight of my hair pulling me down, begging me to end the challenge early. Short shorts and more skin and light, airy hair was in style. The beachy waves I could not have but the shiny sun-bleached hair? Maybe? But I resisted. I had to do this.

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It is now the halfway mark and I’ve yet to pull my flat iron from its hiding spot. Some days, I’ve realized, I can actually have the coveted “good hair day” despite being wavy. I discovered new products to help ease the frizz and add some shine–Nume Finishing Serum, a sample I got from Ipsy (a monthly makeup club I joined to curb my need for makeup I cannot typically afford for only $10 a month) became my new secret weapon. A bit on damp hair, then a bit later for dry. In between washes, a spray of Dove Dry Shampoo kept it from looking limp and weighed down by sweat and product. And on a heavily humid day, perhaps some mousse, but not too much, because crunchy curls are as bad as frizzy ones.


I want to say I’ve had some big revelation about my appearance and how I don’t need straight hair and lots of makeup to feel beautiful. But due to a weight gain that simply won’t go away no matter what I do (daily gym and strict diets are failing to work for me), my confidence is low. It’s not even a lot of weight, just enough to make me feel miserable–which is, thanks to society or the media or whoever you want to blame, seemingly a lot. 15 pounds and up two dress sizes but still in the single digits so friends tell me to just shut up about it. Enough to make me worry, not enough to complain about ,I suppose. So I put my hair up in a messy bun and hide my growing thighs under long skirts and wish I could wear all the crop tops I bought last summer on sale. I lament about the drawer of pants that no longer fit and fight back tears when I try to wear them and they won’t fit and won’t button if they even make it to my waist at all. And then I look in the mirror and I see the bits of frizz springing up from my hairline and it’s the last straw, and I want to cry. I’m sure there are harder things in this life, so many harder things, but for me, this is hard.


But I’m still going. I’ve challenged myself to do this. My hair is long now, it would reach to my lower back if straightened. I toy with the idea of coloring it again, or going back to blonde, or doing something interesting to enhance its beauty. And my boyfriend still runs his fingers over my hair (not THROUGH, he knows better) and tells me I am beautiful. Friends now know the true texture of my hair.


And on those rare days that I pass by a store window and see my reflection and think, “oh, it’s a good hair day afterall” I smile. And I think about that 14 year old girl who so gingerly opened her very first flat iron and I want to hug her and tell her sadly that if it’s not one thing, it’s another. But if makeup makes you feel beautiful, then wear it. If taking an hour and a half to make your hair as perfectly flat as it can be, and you feel a bit better about going outside today, then do it.


But know, that the ones who love you most will love you either way. They will tell you you are beautiful and they will mean it. And that strangers won’t see the things you see in the mirror, and they will rarely judge. It’s yourself that takes more convincing. It’s yourself that needs to see a face in the mirror that they can feel comfortable in.

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I’d tell her we’re still working on that part.