I started a post a couple days ago about how to be an empath without collapsing/crying all the time/shutting down, but I’m not totally sure how to answer that question yet. I just know that I am empathetic and have both shut down and started back up again. The words are still gestating, so that baby will be born later.

Today, Liesel and I wanted to go to a coffee shop that I told her has “plenty of seating.” Every single table was full when we got there, so we started walking.

It’s hard to go more than a block in Chicago without encountering a coffee shop, usually an independent one. But if you can’t find that, you can usually find a Starbucks.

It took us a while to find one. Perhaps we just were on the wrong street, but we just happened across one. Of course, this is their last day to be open… like ever, so it’s too bad that we’re kind of in love with it. Liesel especially likes it because they’re playing 80s music. She loves 80s music and hockey, two things that continue to surprise me.

I spent the first hour and a half here revamping a memoir essay about my time in France and learning about being a guest. And now I’m trying to come up with concrete words to describe my writing and my influences. For some reason, “cinnamon” keeps coming to mind. Also, words like “landscapey.”

You can do that kind of thing in a creative writing class. Seriously. No one will bat an eye.

So I’m going to spend some time looking through my posts and see what my writing reminds me of. If you happen to think of any concrete words that you think describe my writing and would like to share them with me – there’s this handy dandy comment feature that would help you to do that.

On to some reading on my own blog. Gosh, the narcissism.


Today’s a set-your-alarm-for-8-but-actually-wake-at-9 day and a -drink-coffee-pronto-then-eat-brunch-before-your-11:45-class day.

This semester I don’t have any classes before 9:50, so I tend to wake up just before 8… most days. But the mold count is really high in Chicago, which means sore throats and yuckiness for all of us who tend to react badly to that, so I decided extra sleep wouldn’t hurt.

I’ve been blogging less this week because I’m in three writing intensive classes and one not writing intensive class. It’s fabulous because it exercises all the writing muscles, but it’s also exhausting. My main project this semester is writing a 25 page manuscript that is in publishing condition. So, naturally, I chose to write a memoir about family and loss.

I can see why people feel like they need to write books about writing books. The entire process so far (and I’m barely in the shallow end) has been full of questions and decisions and strategizing about how to best organize this and where do you start and where do you end and do you change your family member’s names for their protection or put them in so they’ll feel like it’s about them (cuz it is). Where’s the best place to write? Should you have eaten before you write? Should you eat while you write?

Is it okay to write while you feel super nostalgic about your subject matter? Or should you give yourself a bit of distance first?

I might have to write a book about writing this manuscript. Then write a book about writing that book. And by then, I’ll have three books written about basically the same thing.

Or maybe I’ll just move on after it. Take down the process in a journal and move on.

In other news, I’m trying out a new natural deodorant because I don’t want cancer from putting aluminum and parabens in my armpits. Last time I tried this, it was freshman orientation and I felt like I smelled the entire time (miraculously, I still made friends).

This time, I need all of you who will be seeing (and smelling) me in the near future to be on high nostril alert. If you hug me and I smell, I want a report. Not kidding.


Jesus and the Trilogy.

I was going to take a picture to let you know what my train looks like right now, but every picture I framed wasn’t interesting enough to be the feature image. It certainly wouldn’t make you want to click on my post and read it. So we’ll skip the picture.
Shortly after I claimed my window seat in St. Louis, the sun streaked out of the sky, leaving pink and yellow clothes behind. For a while, it was the epitome of what I love distance trains. It was sparsely occupied, the lighting was peaceful, and I had the whole journey before me.
People always mess things up. Of course, the point of a train is that you travel with lots of other people. That’s why it costs so much less than taking a cab. For me, the train is a sacred place, much like a library or a church. You wouldn’t talk above a quiet tone in the stacks or the middle of a service, so why would you allow your children to run down the aisles and explain your life in a tone far louder than necessary to the person next to you?
Shhhh, it’s holy here.
But holiness doesn’t mean quiet. And it doesn’t mean taking people out of the picture. Jesus lead a holy life, right? And he spent most of his time right in the thick of people, righting wrongs – none of which was telling to to be quiet unless they were being oppressive with their words.
He wasn’t a pious shusher. He didn’t get stuff about his space. He put a towel on his lap and reached for his disciples’ feet.
I went to the cafe car because I knew I wouldn’t make it all the way home without sustenance. The lady manning the counter there called everyone one of three endearments: darling, hon, sweetie. But she asked my name when she told me it would be about five minutes and told me to have a seat. I sat down and pulled out my book while I waited for my pizza to get out of the oven.
“Are you a reader, Ashley?”
A connection point. I never sacrifice a moment to talk about books with people who seem interesting. And you’re likely interesting if you travel up and down the Amtrak for your job.
Eager eyes, smile, “yes, I am.”
“Have you read the Trilogy?”
Trilogy, trilogy , which trilogy? I haven’t read a trilogy called The Trilogy, but I have read a trilogy.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Shades of Grey?”
Oh, no, most definitely not, and it goes against everything I believe in about women and sexuality and God and the value of people and I sure as heck will not ever read it, and you wouldn’t catch me dead watching it.
Oh, no, I haven’t read that.”
“It’s real good. I’ve read them all, and I’m excited to compare it to the movie.”
Someone came to the counter wanting a beer, so she held up a finger to me, and I started on my pizza. A bad decision, really. I burned my mouth, but oh well. What’s done is done.
She got the man his beer, and she came back.
“Yeah, but the Trilogy is real good. Erotic, you know. You seem like a good girl, Ashley, so you probably haven’t read them.”
She went on, talked about how educational they could be for me, and the specifics of why she likes it aren’t really that unique or important. I swallowed my opinions and tried to make general comments that showed that I value reading and don’t judge her for what she reads.
Currently, she’s reading a Steve Harvey book; she tries to mix it up.
Then a girl scout troop came in with their leaders, ironically enough, wanting to hear about her job on the train, so she out up one finger to me and started telling them about her work.
I finished my pizza, and she was still educating them on the cafe car, so I quietly left the car.
I wasn’t thinking about what Jesus would have said to her about her book choices. I’m not sure what he would have done. Probably something of the “Go and pick better choices of literature” variety.
As long as there are people in the world, I’ll always have something to think about. As long as I interact with the world around me, the more I have reason to keep learning.
It’s not the idealistic train ride, but it’s much more interesting.


There are a lot of “firsts” in growing up. First steps, first words, first night with a dry diaper, first day of kindergarten (and yes, there is a lot of time in between the dry diaper and kindergarten), first friend, first enemy, first crush, first sports team, first softball to the face, first experience with cliques, first time wearing makeup, first heartbreak, first leadership experience, first letter from a prospective college, first diploma, first time living away from home…

And then you have your first business trip. I don’t know that everyone takes their first prior to their twenty-first birthday, but some do. Like me.

Does everyone laugh at the absurdity of their position at each of these forays into adulthood? Haha, look at me, driving down the highway in St. Louis on a business trip. Heehee, I’m going to a sales training where the instructor will wear a suit and use lots of acronyms… and even funnier, I’ll actually understand and benefit from what he says.

Does anyone else just slap the steering wheel of their boss’s car, which they are borrowing for the weekend, chuckle, and say, “God, what are we doing?”

Especially when you’ve gotten yourself successfully around the city for the first half of the day, but then your phone dies, and that’s actually when you needed that handy dandy navigation feature, and it’s dead now. No, really, God, what are we doing? And where am I?

My roommate started taking people’s blood pressure this week and got a big bag full of practice needles (*shudder*) and catheters and other fun, medical-y things. She’s taking a big foray into adulthood, too. And in a couple years, we and all our friends will have degrees.

Today, I got up at six for the second day in a row. Sign number one that this is an adult weekend. I parallel parked successfully and rejoiced at my abilities. But then I’d driven around so much looking for a parking spot that I couldn’t remember where the coffee shop was that I was actually going.

Eventually, I found my way to the mocha and mocha almond fudge ice cream (new favorite…. If you’re ever in St. Louis, Coffee Cartel has good stuff) and to some emailing and web content creating.

Another adult-y thing: adults have business cards. This is something I’m going to get. If I’m going on business trips, I’m gonna get the cards. I’m not sure what they’re going to say, but I’m getting business cards.

At the end of a long day, which ended with dinner with my friend and boss at Red Robin, where we both forgot to get the petite burgers and ended up a lot more stuffed than we intended to be, I’m left feeling grateful. I have jobs, and the one I’m traveling for is meaningful and allows me to grow. And God just threw it at me without warning or any qualification.

He’s bringing me into the places He wants me to be, the places that will help me to grow and to serve. I guess we could say I’m becoming – which will probably be a constant in my life. I doubt I’ll ever have become. Here’s to growth!

Oh, and just so you know, I totally brought the stuffed bunny with me.

Training times two.

I’m on the CTA again, taking my first L ride of the new year. As dirty and crowded and unglamorous as the trains can be, I love it. I love having someone drive me around a familiar path while I read a book and feel the wheels churn on the track below me.
As familiar as this train ride from the northern end of the brown line to the Loop is, I’m venturing into unfamiliar territory today. First, I’m taking Amtrak to St. Louis. I’ve been there before so it’s not too unfamiliar, but my reason for going is a sales training for my job.
I know.
I packed for a sort of business trip yesterday, wondering if it was appropriate to bring my stuffed bunny with me.
I’m almost 21. God has brought me into a job during my college years where I have a reason to go to a sales training. How did that happen? It certainly wasn’t by my wonderful qualifications. I always marvel at how – even though I have a decent resume – the opportunities God brings my way rarely have anything to do with what I’ve already done. Not directly, at least. That means I’m nearly always unqualified.
Plus, I haven’t even finished my degree yet so that’s another part of it.
Last night, Liesel and I spent a solid five minutes having a fake argument in Italian accents, and this morning I got up before the sun (by about a half hour… Don’t be too impressed) to travel for work.
We probably shouldn’t make it sound that official. It’s just one sales training, and though I will feel out of place, I certainly won’t be the center of attention. It’ll go on like I fit there, like I am qualified to be there and not just a little upstart who doesn’t know what the heck she’s going to do with the rest of her life… Well, not for sure at least. There are too many possibilities at this point.
I’ve blogged about this before, probably a lot, about how I’m young and clueless, but God doesn’t seem to understand that I’m unqualified. Or maybe he understands better than I do.
This is why I can’t make a five-year plan, guys. Because I can’t even plan past five months.
So,  flying by the seat of my pants, and God is taking me places I didn’t know I’d ever go. Today, that place is St. Louis.

For sale: one high horse

FOR SALEIf you’ve watched as many 18th century British dramas as I have, the scenes where the heroine sails through the English countryside on the back of a noble steed while she processes her thoughts about the rich stud who is currently making her life miserable but will eventually be her husband probably appeals to you. There’s an air of freedom in those wide-lens shots where you see the sunlight filtering through the trees that surround the clearing where our heroine gracefully gallops.

Also, can we just envy her that this is her workout? I mean, I know it’s not easy to stay on a horse, but let’s get real – it’s the horse’s workout.

Though I’m not an avid horse fan every day, this image makes my heart swell. It’s probably the closest you can get to flying on the ground without an automobile, and the romance and drama of it all is thrilling.

Sometimes we let our horses serve a different purpose though, don’t we? And when I say we, I mean: mostly me and possibly you.

Sometimes we ride our horses through the throngs of people who just don’t know what they’re doing – but we do. We hold our noses high and keep our eyes half closed in snottiness and wave our hankies at the huddled masses who just can’t do anything right.

Sometimes we even smack them with our riding crop – get your act together. You see this horse? They don’t just let anyone ride these babies. You’ve gotta know what’s what.

Yeah, right, Ashley. You know what you’re doing and what you should be doing and what’s going on about as much as a baby. (And Liesel has informed me that although babies learn quickly, for a while after they’re born they can’t see anything clearly that isn’t right in front of them. Also, they can’t speak or communicate through any other medium than grunts and wails.)

The pastor at my home church spoke on Philippians 2 yesterday, where it talks about Jesus, God Incarnate who didn’t consider “equality with God as something to be grasped.” Grasped meaning, something to cling to or hold over people’s heads.

So, if Jesus is the highest and didn’t consider his position – as the actual authority over all – as something to flaunt, what do he do?

He took the form of a servant.

So… if the one being who actually could say he had it all together didn’t use his position as a self-made pedestal, what am I doing?

I’m selling my horse. You probably shouldn’t buy it unless you just really need something to ride to work. It’s easy to get stuck on there, looking down and neglecting to see that you’ve been parading yourself around dressed in dirty clothes with ketchup on your face and branches in your hair.

If I’m doing to do any horse riding, it needs to be to hurry to someone’s aid, to offer a lift, to give the horse some exercise and love.

Here’s to a new semester.



Taylor and me, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.58.54 PMHello from Minnesota, Taylor!

It’s been a while since I’ve given any formal type of communication. Sure, I made some desperate attempts at going viral, like dancing around my living room and my parents’ house, but that was mostly for fun.

In recent events:

– I celebrated your birthday with you. I thought about telling people it was my birthday because they so often issue the doppelgänger comment as “You ARE Taylor Swift”… but I thought that might be taking things a little far.

– I did a lot of baking around Christmastime and thought about how fun it would be if we were friends since we have a lot of the same hobbies. We could swap recipes and sneak around leaving sweet treats on all your fans’ doorsteps. Oh, it’d be great.

– Speaking of being sneaky, I watched you give thoughtful presents to all those fans and was so touched. I know people can say it was a publicity stunt, but publicity stunts usually look like scandal. And that was just plain sweet. Well done, Taylor.

– I rang in the new year an hour early and went to bed. Sorry I didn’t watch you on TV, but I had pressing, quiet, introverted matters to attend to.

That’s the gist of my life, other than working my three jobs and looking forward to a new semester in a few days.

We both had good years, you and me. I studied abroad and got a new job and got straights As last semester. Your album did, like, super well, and you made, like, a lot of money. We were both single all year, which is fine. (At least, I think you were single – it’s hard to tell because the magazines put up pictures they sneaked of you with a guy and frame it that you’re dating… but then they do that every week and are never right.) We’re strong women. It’s all good.

What will 2015 bring for us? Will we meet this year? Will you go on tour? Probably. Will I go on tour? Probably not. Will you come to my college graduation? Again, probably not.

No matter what the year brings, I promise to keep in touch. I’ll keep you apprised of when people tell me I look like you. (Update, I got that about 7 times last week. One time, the guy just said, “Taylor Swift” as I passed him to see if I’d look… which I did. It’s a habit from people at my college who don’t know my real name.)

Happy 2015, Taylor.



2014: Ja, das ist gut.


I was thinking last night about how the past seems more certain than the present. It is, isn’t it? It happened. It’s done. We know the events. But then as time goes on, the events change in meaning, don’t they? We realize that this particular event didn’t really mean what we thought it meant at the time, so it takes on new significance to us.

It seemed certain, but maybe it’s changeable – not in physical events but in what the represent and in what they do and have done. The past continues to change us as we relive it and rethink it.

So, maybe it’s just as certain as the future. Since the future is partly determined by how we think about it and how perceive it, perhaps it’s nearly as certain as what we’ve already lived through. Perhaps there’s nothing to fear.

With that in mind, I’m going to relive my past year because when Facebook tried to sum 2014 up for me, it failed miserably.View More:

In 2014, my sister got married and changed her last name. View More:

All these people stood next to her and Alex as they committed to love and honor each other for the rest of their lives. I cried. And I still cry sometimes because change is hard, and she doesn’t live across the hall. But we knit together and meet up for lunch and bake and still are sisters. Marriage, with all the changes it brings, cannot erase sisterhood.


2014 was my mosts caffeinated year yet. Here’s to many more.

I spent a significant amount of time playing with buttons with these two and enjoying their funny shenanigans.IMG_20140214_070542

Then, I boarded a plane and headed to the land of schnitzel, müsli, and dirndls (which you don’t eat). This was my first encounter with müsli and the enormous spoons that Europeans seem to like. I was trying to identify the fruits in here at 3 in the morning in a new country, while also trying to fit this huge spoon into my mouth with my sleepy, uncoordinated hand.

I attended school here. I sat on this grass a lot and listened to German being spoken all around, waiting for my next class to begin.

I saw this view many times – never too many. A hike up the Schloßberg was always a joy, especially when we got ice cream on the way down.IMG_20140403_161323

I sat here, in the perfect little lakeside town and marveled that I got to be there.


I attended mass here in German, not realizing that you aren’t supposed to take Communion if you aren’t Catholic.IMG_20140302_100557

Whoops. 1932206_10152643390323584_2048097247304214259_n

Back home, my mom turned 30 again. 10380557_10201958896789866_1765142068901202645_o

And my brother-in-law graduated from the University of Minnesota with his mechanical engineering degree.10294288_10152838526218298_7885028267258499097_n (1)

Then some familiar faces came across the pond and explored Austria and Slovenia with me.DSCN5907

We spent time relishing sunshine and walking… and walking… and walking…DSCN5747

We took a few pictures of ourselves, most of the time not too successfully.


Then they left, and I jetted off to France, where I tried new cheeses, one being Babybel. (but also conté, camembert, brie, and more)IMG_20140424_191313

I spend a delightful week being shown the most Beauty and the Beast town that could ever exist by Elizabeth, who taught me a few key French phrases as we went. I could remember them at one point.

I saw this. It was real.IMG_20140510_174049

I took the train eleven hours to spend a couple quick days with one of my dear friends in Germany, a most refreshing weekend.IMG_20140705_090556

I met this wonderful friends who ate with me and talked about priests and international relations and politics and Bobbit and MI5 and the OSS (all we know is they parachuted).


I saw this. It was also real. IMG_20140614_192505

I attended my first ball and witnessed waltzing, mimes, lots of German being spoken, and saw expensive food I didn’t want to buy.

Good end to a classy evening.

So we fed ourselves much more cheaply at McDonalds in all our ball finery.


Evelyn and I made it a point to frequent McDonalds.1001969_10154178117110241_4525028199620324965_n

Then I went to Budapest in a carpool with Hannah and spent some of the best hours of my life in the Szechenyi baths.wpid-wp-1400412735827.jpeg

We walked a lot and saw incredible views and ate new things.


I went back to Graz and enjoyed this street as much as possible,


coveted dirndls,


and ate more with friends.


I traveled north to Vocklabruck to meet Tiina and Wolfi, to marvel at the mountains, and… eat more. This is a pattern.IMG_20140607_192122

Zwiebelkopf – onion head. This is what that thing on the building is called. Fun fact. Also, I wore Creabelis in Austria, which was cool – foreshadowing a later event.


I left feeling blessed to have made new, wonderful friends.


I came back to my home home, where I saw this sunset over a lake. This was also real. Sometimes pictures are just a little too perfect, but I swear, this is what it looked like.IMG_20140830_190308

I was reunited with my roommate, who traveled in South America while I was in Austria. IMG_20141017_140307

I spent my fall break with the CEO of that pants company, my friend, who offered me a job on the spur of the moment. I accepted.wpid-img_20141126_142543.jpg


I went back to MN for Thanksgiving and celebrated finished the year with a new family, well, sort of new.

And now I welcome 2015 with open arms, excited for the picture perfect moments and the unphotographable, ugly ones. May the highs and the lows each create something that will shape who I am in the years to come into more of a godly, thoughtful person.