#BiCoastalCouple

Sometimes I think I’m cut out for long distance. The independent girl in me loves being able to do what I want, when I want, without having to answer to anyone. Sometimes all I need is a phone call at night, a chat about the day and off to bed I go at 9:30pm so I can get up at 5am to go to the gym. I can even make it by with a weekly FaceTime chat, where we get to laugh and act silly before the week starts.

And then there are times I realize long distance is hard. Like when I’ve had a really bad day; when I just need someone around to sit in silence with me and hold my hand. Or when I just want to cuddle up and watch a movie on a rainy day.

It’s like a roller coaster, this whole long distance shit I’ve gotten myself in to. Sometimes I don’t really feel like a girlfriend. Sometimes I feel like a status on Facebook.

But today? I woke up really early because I’m picking Kyle up from the airport for his first visit to Atlanta. Today I get to laugh and act silly with him, I can hold his hand, I can even cuddle up and watch a movie if I want to. Today I actually get to feel like a girlfriend for the first time since July.

Needless to say, I really tried to have some posts ready while he was here. And then I realized I have way too much to do: like paint my toes, shave my legs and attempt to lose 10 pounds in 24 hours. (Here’s hoping.) Sadly, I’m going rogue and the blog will be a little quiet for the next few days while I really enjoy my time with him.

Instagram will be poppin though. I’ll be handling the fun activities and the selfies. Kyle will handle the food, obviously.

Follow me here.

Follow Kyle here.

And thanks for understanding. I just want to enjoy being a girlfriend for a few days.

To the Moon and Back

Today marks 3 years since my Grandma passed away. That’s three years without her voice, her smile, her silly one-liners, her amazing cooking. It’s three years without waking up early to join her at the dining room table while she drank her coffee and told me stories about her childhood before making me the best French Toast ever created by human hands.

The Friday before my Grandma passed away I called her for our weekly chat. We usually tired to talk on Wednesdays and/or Fridays, but she didn’t answer when I called her on Wednesday. Or Thursday. I was worried. She had been released from the hospital the week before after suffering from what the doctors said was “temporary dementia”. She answered the phone, but her voice sounded odd: different somehow….more tired and less excited to hear from me, which wasn’t usually the case.

“Grandma? Everything ok? I’ve been calling and you haven’t answered. I’m so worried and I’m so far away. What’s going on?”

“I’m so tired, Ashten Jay,” she said, “I think I’m ready to go. It’s time. You’re ok, the family is ok….I’m ready to go.”

Tears welled up in my eyes and I tried to speak without my voice shaking.

“We can’t have this conversation now, young lady! I’m not ready for you to go!”

Her voice was so small and tired, “I’m too tired to talk now. I love you to the moon and back.”

And that’s the last thing she ever said to me.

I could sit here and write about all the things I miss, about how I spent most of last night looking through photo albums just to see her face, or about how I pulled out my old iPhone 3 and watched a video of her that my parents sent me shortly before she died about 10 times (she’s talking shit to me because I wasn’t cheering for the Dodgers to make the Post Season). I still have that phone only because it has that video on it. I could write about the things she will miss: seeing me wear an engagement ring, watching me walk down the aisle in a wedding dress, holding my future children. I could write about how all of those big life moments won’t be the same without her, or that one of my children will probably have her name someday, in some way. I could tell you I miss her daily: that grief never goes away and that life just isn’t the same without her.

Instead, I will tell you I have no regrets, and that’s something I’m proud of. I never missed a chance to get up early and have coffee with her. I never rushed her through her childhood tales. I took the time to call her every week, no matter how busy I was. I drove to have dinner with her once a week when I lived 15 minutes from her house. I let her attempt to teach me how to knit, even when I had no interest in doing it. I opened her doors and watered her lawn when she was too weak to do it herself. I held her hand when we walked up and down stairs because sometimes she got shaky. I got her water when she needed to to take her pills. I fed her pets. I never got off the phone without telling her I loved her. I never look back on our relationship, wishing I’d done things differently. I’m not always proud of things I’ve done when it comes to family, but I am always proud of the relationship I had with my Grandma.

“I love you to the moon and back,” my Grandma would say before we ended our phone calls. I wasn’t allowed to get off the phone until she said it.

“That’s a long way, Grandma,” I would reply.

“Not far enough, Zeeskite,” she always said. (Zeeskite is a Yiddish word, meaning “little sweet” or “my darling”. It was my Grandma’s nickname for all the grandkids.)

This morning before I left the house for the gym, I looked up and said “I love you to the moon and back….”

And somehow, I know she heard me.

“Death came very easily to her. She had lived such an innocent and loving life of service to others and held such a simple faith, that she had no fears at all and did not seem to mind very much.”

-Winston Churchhill

 

My Roommate is a Slytherin

Some of you may remember when Tessa and I lived in the fake boonies and had to battle Lord Voldemort on a regular basis. You may remember how I prevailed one particular evening by using a shoe and my wizard powers to destroy Lord Voldemort, and how nothing made me happier than using that against Tessa any time I possibly could:

“Ashten, can you please take out the trash?”

“Nope, I killed Lord Voldemort.”

“Ashten? Can you clean the downstairs bathroom?”

“I would love to, but I’m simply exhausted from killing Lord Voldemort.”

“Ashten, can you pick up the dog poop in the back yard?”

“Ummm I kill the Lord Voldemorts, you pick up the poops.”

I have proven myself to be a Gryffindor: a model of true bravery and courage. And then Tessa and I moved out of the fake boonies and back into the city. Our new place is a little smaller than the one we had out in the fake boonies, we lost our Harry Potter closet but we love how cozy our new place is. Not to mention, we feel safe in our gated neighborhood, we don’t have a bitchy landlord and Lord Voldemort seemed to be gone for good. We feel so safe, in fact, that Tessa will sometimes leave our backdoor open to “let some fresh air in” while she’s home during the day.

Now I spend my days waiting for my Hogwarts letter to arrive, practicing spells to make traffic in Atlanta disappear and trying to train Warner to be a house-elf. We live a quiet life and no evil finds us these days.

And my scar didn’t hurt for a very long time.

That is, until Friday when I came downstairs to find a snake in my house.

The snake decided to coil up on the floor, IN THE MIDDLE OF MY LIVING ROOM, like he belonged there. When I came upon him, I instantly stopped in my tracks, the cups and phone I was holding in my hands went crashing to the floor and Warner started barking, like we were being robbed.

The snake coiled up and started hissing. LIKE IT WAS GOING TO ATTACK US.

The first thing that went through my mind, was “WHO IN THE GINNY WEASLEY LET A SNAKE INTO OUR EFFING HOUSE?!” In all my years of Southern living I have battled many things: traffic, humidity, even snow but snakes? This is the kind of shit that makes me wish I had a working wand in the house.

I am not cut out for this.

With Warner’s collar in one hand and my phone in the other I dashed upstairs and started Googling. And this is what I was sharing a living space with:

That, my friendsssssss is a garter snake. Apparently it’s not poisonous, which gave me the courage to venture back downstairs and try to battle the serpent. Because I’m a Gryffindor, and I’m brave, damn it.

My bravery was short lived, when I realized the snake, unlike a Lord Voldemort, wasn’t going to go quietly. Cockroaches don’t fight back and can be killed instantly with the smack of a shoe. Snakes are faster. Snakes will flight. Snakes want to live.

What did this wannabe wizard arm herself with to fight off the serpentine evil?

A broom and a dust pan. Yup. I’m not only brave but resourceful. Look out, Harry Potter, there’s a new wizard in town.

The snake had slithered into a corner of my living room. I stood about 2 feet away, unable to make contact with it or use the dust pan to scoot it out. I didn’t realize I was scared of snakes, but I was completely paralyzed with fear.

The scene from “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” when the serpent slithers through the pipes of Hogwarts saying “kill…..kill” kept running through my mind, and I realized I was not going to battle this snake and win. Even if I was brave enough to pick it up with my mighty dust pan and broom, I was not quick enough to get it out of the house before it realized what was happening and tried to escape. I couldn’t use a pot or a pan, because I wouldn’t be able to see what the snake was doing, and even if it wasn’t poisonous, it could still bite me.

Maybe I would try a motivational approach….on the snake this time.

“Hey, snake….you don’t want to live here. It’s not even that great. We don’t have mice or whatever it is that you eat, so you should leave. Ok, thanks.”

And then I realized I was talking to a snake and it was time to get medicated and get a new plan.

I remembered seeing a maintenance truck across the street at our neighborhood clubhouse, so, in my bare feet, men’s basketball shorts, tank top and no bra, I darted across the street like this was college and I was doing the most embarrassing walk of shame.

I threw open the door and starting yelling “HELP! PLEASE HELP!”

A little man came around the corner, startled, with a look of concern on his face. He actually reminded me of Mr. Filch a little. But with glasses. And overalls. And no cat.

Ok I’m reaching for Harry Potter references now.

“Ma’am? Are you ok? How can I help?”

“There’s a snake in my house, please hurry!”

“A snake? Is that why you’re hollerin’ and makin a fuss?” (I can’t make this up, this is how the guy actually talked.)

“Umm I actually think my hollering is warranted because there’s a SNAKE IN MY HOUSE! CAN YOU PLEASE GET IT OUT!?”

Mr. Filch followed me to my house, where our serpent friend was still chillin in my living room. Armed with some clamps and more bravery than I could muster, Mr. Filch expertly wrangled the snake and removed it. I screamed the entire time. Warner was upstairs barking the entire time. Our house was in chaos from a 2 foot snake.

Mr. Filch shouted over the fence, “ma’am? Got rid of that snake. Bye!” and he ran away from crazy town as fast as he could.

I realized the snake had gotten in to our house because TESSA had left the door open most of the day on Tuesday, which means we had been living with a snake for THREE WHOLE DAYS.

I called her.

Me: Hi, I want you to know that from this moment forward you are a Slytherin. Why? Because YOU LET A SNAKE INTO OUR FREAKING HOUSE AND I JUST HAD TO GET IT TAKEN OUT.

Tessa: WHAT?! How did you get it out?!

Me: The maintenance man across the street. I tried to use motivation but that didn’t work.

Tessa: So you spoke to it?

Me: I tried.

Tessa: So you’re a parcel mouth. WHO IS THE SLYTHERIN NOW?!

Me: Actually, that makes me the Chosen One. I’ll take a burrito bowl from Chipotle for my troubles. Thank you!

In case you were all wondering, our house is still incredibly nerdy.

One good thing that came from this situation: I now have a new excuse to never do chores again. It’s so nice to have the power back.

And before I go, please join me in wishing Kyle a very happy birthday! He seems to like the card I sent, so SUCK ON THAT HALLMARK. He’s sharing a really delicious birthday treat on his blog today. Check it out.

(He gets here on Thursday. I guess I should shave my legs.)

Eight Reasons I Like Coffee More Than You

You guys. I’m so excited to welcome my friend Kallie from But First, Coffee to the blog today. This girl is not only beautiful but extremely talented. She’s a great writer, a fantastic YouTuber and she can really pick a good nail polish color! But, if there’s one thing I love about Kallie, it’s her love of coffee. In fact, that’s one of the big reasons we became friends. Today, she’s straight guest postin’ us into our weekends!
Do you want to be straight guest postin’? Secure your spot by clicking here.

 

Hey there Always Ashtenians. You like that? I enjoy creating nouns for the readers of blogs. Probably because my own blog – But First, Coffee - is too difficult to do that for. But first, Coffee-ers? Meh, no. But First, Coffeeteers? Eh. I’ll keep trying.

Either way, my name is Kallie (that’s me with the mug!) and I’m, quite clearly, the writer over at But First, Coffee – where I write about life, beauty, cocktails and everything in between. Today I’m mega-pumped to guest post here at Always Ashten, partially because I want to be as cool as Ashten and this is the next best thing.

I don’t remember exactly how and when Ashten and I became blog friends but I’m pretty sure it went something along the lines of, “You love coffee?! I love coffee! DID WE JUST BECOME BEST FRIENDS?! Yep! I think so.”

And so our blog friendship grew as we sent each other coffee and Dawson’s Creek pins, snapped each other ourselves drinking wine in our pajamas on a Friday night and bonded over our obsession with our fur babies. So, in honor of how our friendship began, through the love of coffee, I knew I had to make today’s guest post coffee related. And so, I’m here to tell you 8 reasons I like coffee more than you. Don’t take it the wrong way, I really like coffee, a lot.

1. Coffee always smells good. I’m not saying you necessarily DON’T smell good, but there is no way you always smells as good as coffee.

2. There is no one I want to interact with at 7am on a Monday morning after a busy weekend of tailgating and too much beer drinking.  Well, besides coffee, that is.

source

3. I don’t care how good your cheerleading abilities are, no one motivates like coffee.

source

 

5. You never get sick of it. If I go on a long vacation with you, I may want a little break from you, but no matter how much time I spend with coffee, I never want it to go away.

6. Coffee is good for your health, science says so.

source

7. Even bad coffee is better than no coffee.  This is not relevant with people, no people is always better than bad people.

8. You can put alcohol in coffee and it gets even better. We can’t always put alcohol in our friends and know for sure it’s going to get better – often it does get better, but sometimes it also ends in ugly crying on the floor of the bar’s bathroom.

Well, there you have it. Eight reasons coffee is better than you/people in general.

I hope you enjoyed and hope you’ll hop over to But First, Coffee to visit me sometime soon.

You Add Value

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI don’t talk about my job on here because, well, Blogging 101 tells us to NEVER talk about our jobs in detail or suffer the big firing axe. And there’s a little thing at my job called a “social media policy” that doesn’t allow me to have any fun. While I would love to gush about what I do because I love it so much, I have to keep many of the details quiet. I know, this makes me  boring and makes me look like a tease. Rules are dumb. ANARCHY!

Anarchy makes me think of Sons of Anarchy, which makes me think of Jax Teller. He’s delicious.

Cold shower. Cold shower. 

ANYWAY…..

Just know this: I feel like a small fish in a big pond most days. Sometimes I find myself swimming extra hard just keep up with the big fish I’m surrounded by, and that causes me to often fall into bed, exhausted by 9:30pm most nights. That’s why sometimes I can’t post 5 days a week. I work really hard, long hours, I travel A LOT and I don’t have a lot of downtime. I definitely don’t have a 9 to 5 and sometimes I feel like I’m married to my work phone, but I know I would miss it if I suddenly didn’t have to answer emails at 9pm.

The thing is, I love being a big fish in a small pond. Community is kind of my thing, so nothing makes me happier than walking through the halls of my office, chatting with people I know and being involved with the corporate culture. But, being a small fish in a big pond doesn’t always afford me that luxury, so I’ve learned to become content blending into the background watching the big fish as they expertly maneuver the waters and ever-changing currents has become my hobby: some day I hope to be a skilled a swimmer as they are. I practice being a big fish every time I write a new email, sit on a new conference call, create a new PowerPoint, hoping that one day I will take my place amongst the giants.

But I remain a small fish.

Some days I don’t feel like I make a difference at all.

But, I’ve realized something in the 2 1/2 years I’ve been a little fish: I add value. Just by showing up every day with a positive attitude and the desire to work hard, I bring something to my team that no one else can. It’s an empowering feeling to realize that no matter how small your role is, you bring something to the table.

I also have a really cool boss. She reads this blog and sometimes asks why she doesn’t get a shout-out. HI BOSS!

I’ve realized that with blogging, it’s the same thing. Blogging is a giant pond: there are so many of us out there with a story to share; who just want someone to read it and say “yes, me too.” I know there have been a few times where I’ve wondered if my blog matters, and why I sit down night after night to write about my life in such a big pond; a pond that can often be so cruel. I do it for the same reason I answer my work emails at 9pm: I add value. My story matters. Some days my stats suck, some days my posts aren’t as good as they should be (again, some nights I pass out at 9:30pm), but I’m here and I’m telling my story, whether you like it or not.

One thing I think we forget in the world of blogging is that we add value. We get caught up in stats and Twitter and how we can become the next “big” thing that we forget that just by sitting down and writing a post we’re doing what matters. It makes a difference. It’s not about the amount of comments we receive or the number of people who follow us on Bloglovin (which I still don’t understand): it’s about telling your story. It’s about adding value to someone else’s day, even if they never leave you a comment or tweet you about it. That’s why I blog. That’s how I keep this space in perspective, even on those really tiring days.

You. Add. Value.

AND, FINALLY….DRUM ROLL PLEASE…..

AD SALEBOOM. THURSDAY.

On Trust

When I came home from work on Monday there was a brand new mattress and box spring just sitting outside one of the houses in my complex. That never happens, especially in a nice neighborhood like mine. I couldn’t believe it: someone was getting rid of a perfectly good mattress and box spring, what fools!

Could this be the answer to a prayer? I’ve been needing a new mattress and box spring, perhaps this was meant to be!

I was so overjoyed I practically jumped out of my car and took off running down the street; afraid some neighbor would try to snatch it up before I could get my greedy little fingers on it. I lugged it all (the mattress was a pillow top mind you) a block and a half to my house.

I probably looked like this:

I was so sweaty, I begged Nicole to grant me reprieve from my evening work out but it was fine, because?

I JUST PROCURED MYSELF A BRAND NEW MATTRESS AND BOX SPRING FOR FREE. I was pumped: what better than a free mattress? I mean, someone had to be looking out for me, right? No one just has a free mattress dropped in their lap on a Monday.

Surely this was just some sort of good karma thing. What could go wrong with a free mattress?

What I thought was a good find (and a steal, literally) turned out to be one of the worst ideas I ever had, and a lesson in trust.

I always ask my friends for advice, as I’m sure most girls do. Their opinions, whether they are the same or different than mine, are always valuable and I’m never able to make a decision without consulting at least one of them first. When Kyle gives me his opinion on something, I run THAT by my friends too, because why would I trust some guy over my long time friends? I find that I can’t fully trust Kyle’s opinion until it’s echoed by one of the girls I confide in. I mean, I’ve dated assholes, selfish pricks and guys who cheated on me, why would I trust Kyle?

The first person I called about the lawn mattress was Kyle. I was so excited (and out of breath from lugging the mattress) that I could barely get the words out.

“MATTRESS! FREE! OUTSIDE MY HOUSE! IT’S MY LUCKY DAY!”

His reaction was less than stellar.

“Babe, there’s a reason someone puts a perfectly good mattress outside their house ON A MONDAY, which we know isn’t even trash day. My opinion is that either that thing has fleas or bed bugs and I would get it out of the house immediately.”

Umm what?

The thing is: Kyle loves a deal. He has a food blog that basically helps people eat delicious foods ON A BUDGET. He is always nagging at me because he thinks I spend too much money at the grocery store and he’s the first one to check and see if we have a coupon for, well, anything. So, naturally I was shocked when he put down my lawn mattress so quickly. More importantly? He didn’t agree with me, and my stubborn ass couldn’t allow that to happen.

“Dude, it doesn’t even look like it has bugs on it. You’re out of your mind.” Because clearly I don’t trust him or his experiences enough to fathom that he could know what he’s talking about.

“If it were me? I wouldn’t have given that mattress a second look,” he said.

I was growing more annoyed by the second.

“KYLE. IT’S A MATTRESS. IT WAS FREE. IT DOESN’T HAVE BED BUGS AND I AM KEEPING IT. YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. JUST LET ME KEEP IT!”

(FYI he could potentially be sleeping on that lawn mattress when he comes to visit next week. AND IF HE KEEPS THIS UP HE WILL BE SLEEPING ON IT ON THE LAWN.)

We went back and forth on the “to keep lawn mattress or not to keep lawn mattress” for awhile, until finally he said: “why don’t you just ask your friends? Call Ashley or Tessa or Katie.”

He brought up the big three: my three best friends and closest confidants. The three people I go to when ANYTHING in my life goes wrong. The people I trust more than I trust him. The people who, if they told me that lawn mattress was a bad idea, I would believe. Basically? I have believed them over him a few times. His words were like a hive of angry bees, swarming around me and stinging me with their angry little bee asses, and he didn’t even know what he had done.

While he didn’t come right out and say it (nor do I think he actually meant any of this, I just over analyze errrry-thang), he was (probably not) acknowledging that I don’t trust him enough to listen to his advice or his opinion.

I stopped before responding to think about trust. I could very easily have gotten off the phone with him and called one of my “big three”, asked their opinions and done what THEY suggested. I trust them, after all. But I need to learn how to trust him; how to open up and allow someone else to help me if I need it, or be there if I need them. I need to be the kind of team player who lets someone else call the plays and not always “go for it” on 4th down. I’m always afraid of being left, and because of that I have a hard time allowing anyone in enough to trust them. It’s a cycle I’m not proud of; and one I need to break.

I took a deep breath, and against everything I knew, I said “I’m not asking them, I’m asking you. So, what do I do?”

The words were hard to say, but I could tell he was really excited to hear them.

Wouldn’t you know? The damn thing had bed bugs. Touché Ashten, you asshole. Needless to say, I got rid of the lawn mattress and learned a hard lesson: lawn mattresses can’t be trusted, but my significant other can.

I also learned a hard lesson about moving a heavy mattress by yourself in the dark.

Don’t tell him, but he half won. I kept the box spring.

The Birthday Grey

Have you ever stood in the greeting card aisle of your local grocery store, slightly overwhelmed by the mass amounts of cards, trying to figure out which one of your feelings can be summed up by someone else’s words? It’s equal parts frustrating and fun: like a guessing game almost.

And when you find the perfect card? It feels like you’ve won the effing lottery.

Last weekend I found myself lost amongst piles of folded card stock, trying to decipher how in the world I was going to find a cute, flirty yet not so serious birthday card for Kyle. It was like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Kyle’s birthday is next Monday. We’ve been dating 4 months, which is no milestone by any means. It’s that in between time: it means we now fall in the “dating but not long enough to get all sentimental on birthdays/holidays” category. We’re in a birthday/holiday grey area. Maybe I’m weird, but I really feel like there’s this unspoken timeline in my head when it comes to birthdays and holidays in a new relationship. I can’t send anything overly sentimental or mushy because we aren’t on that level. I can’t send something I would send to a friend because…we’re way more than that.

To sum up my experience, I asked some friends to join me. Friends who know the struggle. I give you:

The Birthday Grey Area Struggle

Brought to you by Girls

Phase One: Good intentions

While at the grocery store: “oh, I’ll just pop over to the greeting card aisle and get Kyle’s birthday card while I’m here. He will be so surprised to get a card from me on his actual birthday. I’m such a good girlfriend.”

Phase Two: Trying to find the genre of card to buy

“So…birthday for him? Yeah, that seems appropriate. I bet there are a plethora of card options there. He’s not my husband, nor is he my fiancee, so that’s out. I don’t think he would want his girlfriend to send him a card with a half naked woman on it, so that’s out too…wow this is really difficult. Looks like my options are beer, boobs or ‘I love you so much you sexy bitch’. WHY IS THERE NO BOYFRIEND SECTION IN ‘BIRTHDAY FOR HIM’?!?!?!”

Phase Three: Why are all these cards so….emotional?

“Let’s see if any of these ‘love’ cards are casual enough to work…..DEAR GOD WHY ARE THESE SO EFFING EMOTIONAL?! IT LIKE NICHOLAS SPARKS HIMSELF WROTE ALL THESE CARDS. I can’t do this: all these feelings literally make me want to puke.”

Phase Four: Maybe I’ll just get a blank card?

“Maybe a blank card is more my speed. Oh! This one has a puppy wearing a birthday hat on it. That’s cute, maybe I’ll get that. WAIT. Do puppies wearing birthday hats say ‘hey boyfriend, happy birthday’? What would I even write in a blank birthday card? It’s like a blank card is practically begging for a long, heart-felt, personal message and I don’t think we’re at that level yet. Are we?”

Phase Five: Is this even worth it?

“Ok, I’ve been here for an hour and I still can’t find the perfect, casual yet relationshippy card. I think my ice cream is melting. This might be a lost cause. Maybe I’ll just make him a card. haha, ok just kidding my craft skills are almost worse than my card picking skills.”

Phase Six: The perfect card appears!

“EFFING FINALLY!! I DON’T EVEN CARE THAT YOU COST $4.50, I AM TAKING YOU HOME RIGHT NOW.”

Phase Seven: What the eff to I even write in this card?

“I got nothin’ and I’m a blogger…somewhere the blog gods are laughing at me.”

Phase eight: Write something stupid, throw a stamp on it and call it a day

“Ugh. Maybe next year will be better, when we’re more invested.”

Help! What’s a good birthday gift for a guy you just started dating?!?! Can I just send him a pizza?!

Kickin’ it with Helene InBetween

To blog consult? Or not to blog consult? That is the question. Whether ’tis nobler to spend your money on a bottle of wine or hearing someone’s opinion on how to grow thy blog?

I’m out of Shakespeare. You’re welcome.

I’ve been blogging for about a year and 3 months. I’ve watched this blog go from a tiny studio apartment to what I guess would be a one bedroom, one bathroom home that fits Warner and I just fine. Mostly because it has a small yard for Warner to play in.

Warner loves yards.

I love this blog, I really do. I’ve loved sharing my life here, watching it grow and learning a lot along the way.

I’ve been thinking about doing a blog consultation for awhile, but never found a someone I felt understood my voice, my “brand” and how I want to grow while still maintaining all the things that make this blog “mine”. I waited, I researched consultation packages, I was like a lion in the Sahara stalking its prey.

Are lions in the Sahara or am I dumb?

And then, like an answer to a blog prayer, Helene started offering consultations and I snagged one of those spots like I snag the last cupcake from Tessa on most days.

I chose a consultation with Helene for a few reasons:

1. She knows me. She reads my blog, she comments on my blog. She knows my style.

2. I consider her a friend. Helene and I met when I was in Dallas for business. And we hit it off immediately. I value her opinion.

3. I’m a fan. I’ve read Helene’s blog for awhile and I consider her to be a very successful blogger.

We spent an hour chatting and I learned so much. You need to secure your spot with Helene NOW, because, well, if you’re like me and you’re looking to take your blog to the next level, this is worth your money. Here’s some reasons why:

And yes, there will be GIFS…and they will be Beyonce themed because Helene loves Beyonce and I believe her to be the Beyonce of blog consultations.

ONE: HELENE IS REAL, SHE’S CANDID, AND SHE GETS IT.

When I sat down for our consultation I didn’t know what to expect. Would she tell me I’m a terrible blogger? Would she tell me I’m awesome? Would this be awkward? I was a bit nervous. The second we started chatting, though? I was instantly put at ease. Helene is just as real, candid and funny as she is online. The conversation just flowed and we have a lot of similarities. Plus, she’s a blogger, so she speaks our language….and it helps more than I realized.

TWO: HELENE DOES THE WORK.

Helene came to our consultation prepared. She spent ample time researching my blog, had her suggestions for how to I can continue to grow and she even did a “Your Competitor Analysis” AND a “Alexa Score Analysis” of my blog to see how I matched up with other blogs in my niche. I didn’t even know what those analyses were until I sat down with Helene and I was amazed when she told me the results! And? She sent me an action plan after our chat so I knew exactly where to go next.

THREE: HELENE MAKES YOU REALIZE YOUR WORTH

I have this really annoying tendency to sell myself short. Sometimes I’m convinced I’m a terrible writer, that no one reads my blog or that I’m not good enough at blogging to grow this into something that could even help me make a living someday. Helene took ALL those insecurities and squashed them like a bug. She was so supportive and so honest about how much she loves my blog. She was really invested in my potential success.

FOUR: HELENE IS ENCOURAGING

I came into our consultation with a few ideas I wanted to run by Helene before I really got serious about them. Because I value her opinion, I knew she would be honest with me. Helene listened to my ideas, was encouraging, but also was real with me and gave me some really great constructive criticism to make them better. So, look for some fun new things to happen around here!

FIVE: HELENE IS AWESOME.

Because she makes faces like this. And she’s relatable.

heleneI really, really appreciated my time with Helene last night. I was truly amazed at how much sitting down with another blogger helped me make a solid plan for where I want to take my blog and how I can make it grow without compromising my content and my voice. I highly recommend doing a consultation with her, if you’re in the market for one.

Sign up for your consultation with Helene here. I’m not kidding, do it.

A Better Freaking Saturday

Football. Damn it, I love football. And not just because I enjoy seeing men in tight pants tackle each other either (although that’s a huge plus). Football, to me, is the best kind of community: people can form such a bond over a team: their traditions, hanging out in a parking lot day drinking and wearing their team’s colors.

For me, that team is the USC Trojans. I go ape shit every time I set foot on USC’s campus.

You should know my love of the USC Trojans runs deep. I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember: it was even my dream to attend the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at USC. That dream was killed, however, when I learned you needed good grades to get in, along with about $60,000 for tuition…PER YEAR.

Ain’t nobody got time for roughly $240,000 in student loans.

So, I watched from afar, I cheered loudly and I tried to attend as many games as I could. I took for granted the numerous bars only a short drive away that showed my beloved Trojans on TV. I didn’t understand what it meant to “not have your game on”….USC was always on….that’s just how it was….USC was accessible.

Then I moved to Atlanta, and the struggle got real. I’m in SEC country. I’m the minority.

And today I would like to share a bit of “the Struggle” with you, because as a West Coast, Pac-12, die-hard USC Trojan fan living in a Southern, SEC world it’s more real than you can imagine.

When I first moved to Atlanta, I had to explain to some of the people that there was actually ANOTHER USC besides South Carolina. On top of that, all my games are on West Coast time: sometimes they don’t start until 10pm, which means I’m up screaming at my television until roughly 2am, therefore making me THE WORST neighbor of all time, and making me the crankiest person alive on Sunday mornings.

Coffee gets me through football season. And life, let’s be honest.

Does it get worse, you ask? Yes it does. A few of USC’s games are broadcasted on the Pac-12 Network, which is not a “thing” in the South.

Here’s how many of my conversations have gone while trying to find a place to watch the game:

Person: Hello, thank you for calling (insert bar name here). How can I help you?

Me: Hi! Yes, I’m calling to see if you have the USC game on today?

Person: Yes, we will show the South Carolina game.

Me: No, not South Carolina, the USC Trojans game.

Person: Ummm…..them? Let me see, hold on. HEY BRENDA! ARE WE CARRYING THE USC TROJANS GAME? THAT LOS ANGELES TEAM. Hey, ma’am what channel is the game on?

Me: The Pac-12 Network.

Person: Yeah, we don’t carry that network. Sorry.

Click.

Me: String of expletives.

I’ll pause while you pity me.

Long story short, Tessa and I joined a USC Trojans watch club in Atlanta, then sucked it up and bought the (not cheap) sports package through our cable provider so we had access to our Trojans on game day. Thus, my fandom lives on: aggressively and unashamed. FIGHT THE EFF ON.

And you better hope USC doesn’t have a losing season or this blog will tank faster than the Titanic.

On Saturday I was LIVE TWEETING THE SHIT OUT OF the USC vs. Fresno State game, because: a.) we looked damn good, b.) we blew out Fresno State and silenced all the ESPN haters we’ve recently acquired (which really pisses me off, by the way) and c.) I TOLD YOU ALL SARK WAS THE BEST COACHING OPTION, when I got a new follower on twitter.

A UCLA hater perhaps? Those are my kind of people. I invite them to follow me with open arms. Here’s my Twitter handle: @alwaysashten. FOLLOW AWAY ALL YOU BRUIN HATERS. COME ONE, COME ALL.

Ok, it wasn’t a bruin hater but it was AT&T (almost as good as a UCLA hater) and I was obviously flattered because AT&T is my cell phone provider and I thought I was being rewarded for always paying my bill on time. I followed them back. Which obviously means I’m getting a discount on my cell phone plan, right? Maybe a new iPhone 6? I’m open to discussing this over a USC victory, AT&T.

And then, I got this message:

at&t

And I’m all “is this a hoax? IS AT&T GRANTING WISHES NOW?!?!”

(it wasn’t a hoax. I received an email almost immediately from a real person, who confirmed this was in fact, real.)

In this victorious situation I did what any normal human would do: I screamed a lot, I danced around my house and few times, then called everyone I knew screaming “DO YOU KNOW WHAT AN AMAZON FIRE TV IS?! I DO, BECAUSE I JUST WON ONE FROM AT&T FOR HAVING A #BETTERSATURDAY! PS MY HELMET IS SIGNED BY CHARLES WHITE AND HE WON A HEISMAN AND YOUR SATURDAY IS NOT AS GOOD AS MINE, BRO!”

I have a lot of new friends now. Friends I will turn in to USC Trojans fans because I have a signed USC helmet. A USC helmet I WON.

And then, this I sent this tweet:

I’m not mad at you AT&T. You gave me a #BetterSaturday than I could ever have imagined, that that counts the fact that we won 52-13.

**I was not paid to write this post. I wrote it because I was genuinely excited that I won and didn’t have to do anything to win except watch football. Best contest I never entered.**

THE CHALLENGE HAS BEEN ISSUED!

Try to keep up with me here:

 Katie has been a good friend of mine since high school. Katie’s brother is Asa. Asa is Kyle’s best friend. Asa is married to Nicole. Still with me? Good because there’s a quiz at the end of this. Asa and Katie introduced me to Kyle, and now that Kyle and I are dating, I have become friends with Nicole!

(This was something Kyle was very adamant about. He said “you have to be friends with Nicole. Or else.” And luckily, it was easy!)

I’m so lucky to have Nicole as a new friend, because not only is she incredibly kind but she’s a great motivator when it comes to my healthy lifestyle. Home girl has a passion for fitness that I envy!

Nicole is a Beach Body Coach, a Personal Trainer and a Fitness Instructor AND the owner of Nicole Hagy Fit. Home girl is in SHAPE and she’s DEDICATED!

Since Labor Day was a 3-day eat fest for me, and since Kyle will be here in 16 days, I thought it would be a good idea to get Nicole on the blog today to get a group of us together to do a little 5 day challenge because who better to motivate you when your boyfriend is coming to visit than his best friend’s wife?!

Hey! Let me start by introducing myself, my name is Nicole Hagy. Ashten and I have recently and quickly become friends not only because she is amazing and so easy to talk to but also because our significant others are best friends. Not to mention Ashten and my sister-in-law are good friends so, it was meant to be that we would meet and become friends too! Awww

Ok, enough of the mushy stuff…

She has asked me to write a guest post today because we have been talking a lot lately about health and fitness. This field is something I have recently become very passionate about and I feel so lucky that I have been able to turn that into my dream job.

So let’s back up a little bit.

Dance and fitness have always been a part of my life, I grew up taking dance classes and my mom was a fitness instructor. I was always surrounded by fitness, but never understood it. I can still remember being in high school and my mom taking me to the gym with her to workout together for the first time. She thought it would be a nice bonding moment; just going on the elliptical machines. Nothing crazy, right?…. I.Wanted.To.Die. I could not last more than 10 min before being out of breath and exhausted! My mom, on the other hand, said she was just getting warmed-up and into her target heart rate zone (which meant nothing to me) and she wanted to go for another 45-50 min! I thought she was crazy so I went to the weight machines and pretended to know what I was doing for the next hour until she was ready to leave. I did not understand why anyone wanted to do that; it was boring and hard.

Eventually, I decided to go back to the gym with her, this time to try an indoor group cycling class. And you know what happened??? I LOVED IT! Believe me it was still hard and I could not believe that my mom was kicking my butt! But, I discovered that I liked the group fitness setting, it was so much more motivating than doing it on my own.

Fast-forward five years and fitness is now what I do for my career. I never thought I would say that especially after my first gym experience. That just goes to show you that you need to give something more than one shot, go at it from a different angle and it can completely change you. With that said, in the past few month I did just that with my healthy eating habits and it has also changed my perspective on things.

nicole hagy fit 2

I used to think that since I worked out all the time and taught a bunch of fitness classes that I could eat whatever I wanted right? Wrong!

I thought I was eating “healthy” because I rarely went to fast-food restaurants. But, I would go out to dinner with my husband…we would order fried pickles…maybe a few beers…then we would go for ice cream… I thought it was okay because I had convinced myself that this wasn’t happening every day and that I worked out enough to make up for it.

Well, it wasn’t every day but it was beginning to be every week or even a few times a week that we would go out and do this. I didn’t realize that I was gaining weight, even when my clothes were fitting tighter and I didn’t like how I looked in form-fitting tops; I didn’t think it was a result of my diet.

In February of this year I went to the doctor for a check-up and she told me how much I weighed. I was in SHOCK. I had never weighed that much before, but you know what, I still denied that it was my diet. I had convinced myself that it was all muscle because I had been teaching more classes and muscle weighs more than fat….well let me tell you, it was definitely not 10 pounds of muscle that I had put on. I would’ve looked like a beast if that were true.

So, I kept living in denial until a few months later when I met someone who introduced me to the company Beachbody and wanted to know if I wanted to become an Independent Beachbody Coach. I was curious so I signed up as a coach and purchased the 21 Day Fix program along with Shakeology. {A super-food nutritional drink/meal replacement} This program completely changed my outlook on eating/diets/nutrition/etc in just 21 days. I learned how to control my portions and eat the right balance of foods. I discovered I was not eating enough protein or veggies before and was eating waaaay too many carbs.

I’ll admit; I’m a sucker for good breads, crackers, and sweet potato fries. If I could live off those, I would.

I was finally able to admit that I had been lying to myself all along about how “healthy” I was eating and that all my working out was counter acting the amount of junk I was putting into my body.

Ok, so I’m sure you want to know the outcome of the 21 Day Fix…I lost 11 pounds! And after it was over I lost another 4! 15 pounds I had NO IDEA I needed to lose. And let me tell you, what a difference those 15 pounds made.

I feel incredible now.

It’s not just the physical results, {yes it is nice to have my clothes fit better and feel more confident in a bikini} but it goes a lot deeper than that. I have more confidence. I sleep better at night. I have more energy during the day. I can think more clearly and rationally…(most of the time haha). My skin is smoother. My hair and nails are stronger and healthier. It is absolutely incredible what just changing your eating habits can do for you.

nicole hagy fit 1

Which brings me to the point of this long story… I want to share some of what I have learned with you!!

It’s the end of summer, which means the end of BBQ’s, bikinis, and late summer nights. {I know we are all aware that Pumpkin Spice Lattes and all the holiday goodies that go with it are quickly approaching.} So, I want to do an End of Summer Shape-Up. It’s going to be a 5-day eat clean, train dirty challenge!

Here’s what the End of Summer Shape-Up comes with:

  • A 5 day meal plan
  • Daily workout videos (they’re short and simple but will kick your butt!)
  • Fitness tips
  • Support, and motivation.
  • Admittance into a private Facebook accountability group. This is where you can communicate with other people doing the challenge, ask questions, and provide support and motivation to keep each other going strong!

The details: It’s $5 to register for the challenge. Your registration fee will include access to the Facebook page, all the meals/recipes, plus daily workout videos.  I will email you the information for the challenge!

This is a great way to quickly clean up your diet, jump start your fitness, and break out of a rut.

We start Monday, September 8th!

 

I can’t wait for all of us to eat clean and train dirty!

If you are looking for more info on the program I did you can check out the 21 Day Fix and more about what Beachbody has to offer visit my website by clicking here!

You can also find me on Instagram for workout ideas, fitness tips, recipes, and motivation.  I would love to connect with you!

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Ok guys, the challenge has been issued! Join Nicole and I for 5 days of eating clean and training mean! I need friends to help me stay accountable!!