If I wasn’t certain of it before, I am now. Not only am I human, but I am a bookish human. The word “bookish” seemed offensive to me at some point in my life, because it seemed flat, like oh, well, you’re bookish, so you’re like a book. You sit on a shelf and only get down when someone specifically requests you. You smell like paper and feel smooth and flat, and people have to care to read you. 

Now I’d like to redefine “bookish”. I currently have eight books sitting on the floor beside my bed. Three of them I am currently reading, and five of them I anticipate starting in the next few days.

Then there’s the bookshelf at the end of my bed: half full of books I’ve read and loved from all stages of life and half full of books I have yet to read. Venture to the living room to “my couch” (apparently Liesel and I have our own couches… we naturally gravitate towards different ones), where two other books sit. On the bureau, there are two more books.

In the quantity that some people keep boxes of tissues or lip balm or air fresheners, I have books. And they are as useful as lip balm, tissues, or air fresheners, though for different uses.

Bookish: (adj) sees books as a portal to living a meaningful and full life, possibly wishes for glasses in order to look more intelligent, feels at home in a library or bookstore, may quote books or paraphrase interesting readings without prompting or invitation.

I’m bookish. Man, college really is a time of self-discovery.

Show me your scarf.

This is not a “clap for me” post. Oh, please, don’t clap for me.

Today, I wore a scarf on my head to stand in solidarity with a friend of a friend who has alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that has caused her to lose her hair increasingly over her life. She’s had to go through the hair loss process not once but twice in her life, so far.

I can only imagine the heartache.

No, I’m not being sarcastic. Hair is more central to our identity than we realize. Watching your hair fall out is like losing a part of you. What do people say when they describe you to other people? “Oh, yeah, she’s tall, has blonde, curly hair…” If it’s not the number one descriptor, it’s number two.

And for me? I’m a healthy, happy, natural hair fiend. I take so much pride in treating my hair well and even more so when it results in a good hair day. I actually love my hair, though over the past few days it’s been all flyways because it’s hot and I sit in front of a lot of high-powered fans.

So though wearing a scarf on your head is a simple enough request, it seemed like it would be better to not do it. I can still support people without covering up my hair. I can still do that. Yay for you. You are courageously going bald. Woohoo. I’m so with you… except I’m not.

I don’t know why, but it struck a chord within me, maybe because I don’t think I could ever give up my hair for good. Shave my head? I’ve considered it. I would need a good reason, but I could do it, because it’ll grow out again. But watching it fall out, bit by bit, and knowing that I’m going to struggle to have enough hair even for a thin ponytail for the rest of my life?

Call me shallow, but that makes me want to cry.

You know I have an identity crisis every year when my hair stops being blonde in the winter. My identity, though this isn’t good, is so wrapped up in my appearance – particularly in my hair. Who am I? I’m a writer who looks like this.

So that little, stubborn, unsupportive resistance was my hint that I needed to do this. I needed to understand what it felt like, in a small way. I needed to take a small step in courage as she takes a big one. Yay for you, Katie. And yay for me, too. I think we’re both learning something here.

There it is. That picture makes me think of how my ears stick out, and well, at least I’ve got a nice smile. My roommate (in a loving manner) told me that I looked like a mystic.

Good grief, Ashley. Haven’t you been told time and time again that it doesn’t matter what you look like? So why did you feel so conspicuous and unusual and not yourself? It’s just hair. You don’t have this crisis when you shave your legs. (though you might when you don’t)

Who are you?

I’m Ashley. I’m a writer. I’m learning that my identity has little to nothing to do with what I look like and more than everything to do with who I am.

I’m 20, and I’m just now putting this into practice.

Salty and more


There’s nothing quite like a nice little panorama of anything remotely ocean-related. That mesmerizing blue and the consistent waves just command your gaze.

I think I’ll be reading some more of Moby Dick tonight since I’m in the salty seawater mood. I don’t think there are whales off the coast of the Bretagne region of France, but the sea is the sea is the sea.


For the past few days, I’ve been enjoying Rennes with one of my childhood playmates and nearly lifelong friends. We played with beanie babies together as children, had sleepovers for birthdays, played until our parents dragged us home. Now she’s a professor here, and I’m a college student studying abroad.

The adventures are much more real now, even though our beanie baby stories had a touch of reality to them. Even though our beanie babies had names and personalities (and actually still do… can’t look at them without some feeling of recognition), in the past few days we’ve visited sites significant to the French revolution, French history, and her life for the past 8 months. It feels more real. Probably because this is now.

To remember Elizabeth as a nine-year-old when I first met her and to think that I’m her guest in her studio flat in France where she’s been living, and to think that I came from Austria, where I’ve been living, feels so foreign. That nine-year-old and that four-year-old feel like other people, different lives, but they’re part of us.

We’re still us. We’re still the same but totally different. This whole aging process is quite the enigma. I’m 20 now. Five times more myself than I was when I was four. Or, perhaps, I’ve made five times the mistakes and have had five times the amount of life.

Can you be five times more yourself than you were before? Was I less me as a fairy-loving, whimsical, platinum blonde four-year-old? I suppose the idea of “me” is always evolving. That perhaps I was fully who I was at four, but there was more to explore. Perhaps we simply color in the parts of our personality that we’re willing to discover, like a 3D version of a paint-by-number drawing.

No matter where I land on that thought, I like France even more than I thought I would. French food was NOT overhyped, and even as a vegetarian, I’ve had so many exciting new things while here. Looking forward to three more days of the loveliness.

Things you should bring to Austria

We all know how much anxiety I had over packing, how long it took me, and how messy it was. Yes, it was a long, drawn-out process. I have most of what I need, and the other things I’ve been able to either buy here or live without. It’s okay to be a vagabond in some ways.

I’m realizing that some of the things I brought are invaluable, and some things – had I known to bring them – would have been fabulous to have here. So, I’ve compiled a list.

1. Peanut butter – thank goodness someone told me before I left that Europeans aren’t crazy about the sticky, nutty substance. I packed a jar in my suitcase, so I have been just fine with my Skippy. You know how in America we have at least 5 different brands of peanut butter at the grocery store, and a few different varieties between them? Well, at my Spar down the street (and the other one I went to), there was one brand. You could pick chunky or creamy, but there was one brand, in small jars.

Nutella, on the other hand, has multiple sizes of jar, off-brands, and knock-offs.

2. Your self-deprecative sense of humor, for use when you have to communicate in English with people who speak German.

Real life example:

*Enters cafe*

“Grüss Gott. Something in German we can’t understand?”

Every single time, I’m sure I flush. “Uh, sorry, I speak English.” Make that face that you would normally reserve for when your parent or small child is doing something slightly embarrassing, but you want to make sure you’re spared the judgment of the other person. It’s the I’m-on-your-side-sorry-about-them look. I use it to apologize for my non-German-speaking side.

*Proceed to ask a stupid question about something that’s right in front of me. Make the face again.*

“Danke Schön. Tschüss!”

Ahh, a word I know. “Tschüss!”

Sometimes, if you can laugh at yourself, it makes things a lot easier. Then, as soon as you leave the cafe, apologize to yourself for acting like the part of you that doesn’t speak German is embarrassing. You do other things well.

3. Liquid vanilla extract. It’s unheard of. I’ve already asked at least three Austrians if it exists here. Twice, I got a confused, “Liquid vanilla?” and once I got a, “Oh, we don’t have that here.” Welp, that settles it. I’m going to ask my parents to bring some with them when they come. And another jar of PB.

4. Good walking shoes. I know people typically plan to bring good walking shoes with them when they travel to Europe, but really… bring the shoes with the most support and comfort you can find. I’m so thankful to have Superfeet insoles in my little sneakers, so I had little trouble walking a few miles around the city today. I walked to school, and I purposefully got lost after orientation so I could see another part of the city. If I didn’t have good shoes? None of this would be possible.

5. Your Bible. I mean, that’s such a gimme. Really, why would you go to a foreign country for 4.5 months without the holy Word of God? For one, it’s usually pretty heavy. For another thing, it’s not really light reading.

For all the reasons you might not bring it, definitely do. I brought my smaller copy so that I would be able to carry it through all the airports in my backpack. There’s just something about being in a completely different place and reading the same words and truths that changes how you see it. I’m here, and I feel different. And everyone else is different than I’m used to them being, but this is still how I’m supposed to live, this is still how God sees me. This is still true and relevant. 

I need to be reminded every day that God is for me and with me and that He’s called me higher. It’s so easy to forget that when I almost feel like I’m on vacation from my regular life. So few things are as they were last week that I could so easily leave my God behind as well. So easily. Without much effort at all. But the efforts to invite God into the newness and unknown make me feel more alive and more like myself.

Or maybe just more like who God wants me to be. I wonder if that’s why we feel such peace in obedience – because we’re one step further into our Godly identity? That’s where I want to be. That’s who I want to be. Funny how it sometimes takes a journey to think of these things.

Who I Am.

I keep looking back.  The rearview mirror is perpetually before me, asking me to look deeper into it, to tell everyone what I see.  I have a few blind spots into the past, but as I get farther from it, the easier it is to see what I left behind.  Then I can evaluate and let it continue to shape me.

The only problem is that I shouldn’t do that.  The only problem is that when you’re driving through life looking in your rearview mirror, you don’t look ahead.

It’s not all dark in the past, and that’s the problem.  I’ve been blessed with many bright spots in my life, though I’ve certainly had a portion of grief that has made the journey a more formative one.  Sometimes I’d like to be defined by who I was, by what I did.  When you’re a college student, studying all the time and having time for just a few extras, sometimes you want to lean on who you were.  Well, yeah I’m working for my degree and doing little else right now (except trying to find a place that hires just for the summer, do you know any?), but this is who I was.  I’m proud of that girl.  I did this and went there and cared about that and knew about that before you, I’m sure.  

Chris Tiegreen has words for me:

“Our lives will be shaped not by our past, as the psychologists insist, but by our future, as our God insists. We will grow into the image He has given us.”

He’s talking about my future, the kingdom of God coming to earth, Jesus reigning.

He’s talking about a place and a purpose that makes who I was of little importance.  It’s who I am today that matters and that I’m holding tightly to God’s hand as He leads me to become the person He wants me to be.  Sure, the past is certain – though the perspective about it may change – but the future is the unknown, the determinable, the part that should shape my life.

I think God wants me to dream, not about where I’ve been and how proud or ashamed I am of that but about where He’s taking me, to let Him put His dreams on my heart and in my mind.  I think He wants me to set aside any thought that I have that who I was matters and to take up the state of mind that it’s who I am that is my concern.

Coming to terms: hair edition.

I think I may have to come to terms with the fact that I’m not a blonde anymore.  It’s really disappointing, but whenever I refer to myself as blonde, people tip their heads to one side and looks at my head.  Then they squint one eye and say, “well…  kind of really dark blonde.”  Then I try to defend my blondness by saying, “It’s WINTER, so it’s darker than usual right now.  It lightens up a lot in the summer.”  That being said, let’s take a trip into the history of my hair, shall we?  (It looks dumb now that I type it out, but I’m going to go with it.)

I was born with a full head of dark hair that soon lightened to platinum blonde.  And it stayed there for quite some time.  Around middle school, it started getting darker in the winter and lightening less in the summers.  And the progression has continued to this day, the day when I start to wonder if I can identify with the blonde crowd at all.  It’s a small identity crisis.

I’m not sure why, but the discovery that I’m not really blonde anymore just makes me want to dye my hair.  Well, if I can’t be blonde, then I’ll be a REAL brunette.  I’ll go chestnut or auburn… or purple!  You’ll see, you people.  I was almost blonde, but all these comments about whether or not I was blonde sent me into a tailspin.  And now I’m hair-dye lococrazy!  It’ll be the equivalent of a psychotic breakdown, but only on a hair level – not on the brain level.

I suppose I’ll just have to come to terms with it, to realize that I’ve been brought to this new identity where I’m not really blonde, more like golden brown.  (that might even be stretching it)  I’ll come to terms with that right along with the other changes in my life and my thoughts and my habits that have been a part of the college growing process.

And I suppose I’ll be okay.  Don’t be surprised if you hear about a hair-dyeing adventure coming up though.  It might still happen.