Appreciation is the word of the week

Good morning!

A spirit of gratitude and appreciation has been brewing in my soul as of late.  As I continue to make my best attempt at balancing school, tutoring, dreaming big and being awesome, along with all of the demands of taking on a job with the University; I am often succumbed to emotions of doubt, confusion and defeat. While grinding and giving each project my all, there are often setbacks that seem to always arise.  Hurdles that include cancelled tutoring sessions, school tasks that often take up a significant amount of time, assessments that cost more than my earnings bi-weekly, study sessions that require my attention and precious students who are discouraged and need my heavy lifting. I often feel like my energy and spirit are drained at the end of a day and I take a bucket of discouragement home to dump on my kitchen table.  A warm bed seems like the perfect place to lay down my burdens. But my brain goes into overdrive, replaying what I could’ve done better. It is my nagging calendar reminder, preventing me from actually sleeping and is the gasoline to the fire of anxiety that swells.

Immediately after picking up mail from the post office this week, a car backed into my bumper causing minor cosmetic damage to the car.  The beloved Honda Accord now has Milwaukee war scars ‒ well more scars if I include the damage from babealicious plowing into a snow bank a few winters past. The driver of the other vehicle frantically walked up to my weeping Honda and began to spew her sob story.  What I quickly deduced was that this woman was stressed, overwhelmed, upset and slightly irrational. As I exited my vehicle to assess the damage, I peered into hers and saw two beautiful brown children, with fright all over their faces.  Her rapid fire yelling, turned into a muted whisper as my mind contemplated the emotions of these terrified babies. If you ever want to break me down, bring me a child or a puppy, YOU WIN. Before I could collect any of her information (she carried no insurance, the car had no plates, she had no license.  What info she was going to produce is still unknown to me) she’d ran to her get away chariot, jumped a curb as sparks flew from the underbody of her gloriously shitty Avalon and sped off! In shock I did the only thing a rational person in my situation would do. I stood there on the corner of Center and Teutonia and cried.  The Honda and I collectively wept. […]

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Good morning!

A spirit of gratitude and appreciation has been brewing in my soul as of late.  As I continue to make my best attempt at balancing school, tutoring, dreaming big and being awesome, along with all of the demands of taking on a job with the University; I am often succumbed to emotions of doubt, confusion and defeat. While grinding and giving each project my all, there are often setbacks that seem to always arise.  Hurdles that include cancelled tutoring sessions, school tasks that often take up a significant amount of time, assessments that cost more than my earnings bi-weekly, study sessions that require my attention and precious students who are discouraged and need my heavy lifting. I often feel like my energy and spirit are drained at the end of a day and I take a bucket of discouragement home to dump on my kitchen table.  A warm bed seems like the perfect place to lay down my burdens. But my brain goes into overdrive, replaying what I could’ve done better. It is my nagging calendar reminder, preventing me from actually sleeping and is the gasoline to the fire of anxiety that swells.

Immediately after picking up mail from the post office this week, a car backed into my bumper causing minor cosmetic damage to the car.  The beloved Honda Accord now has Milwaukee war scars ‒ well more scars if I include the damage from babealicious plowing into a snow bank a few winters past. The driver of the other vehicle frantically walked up to my weeping Honda and began to spew her sob story.  What I quickly deduced was that this woman was stressed, overwhelmed, upset and slightly irrational. As I exited my vehicle to assess the damage, I peered into hers and saw two beautiful brown children, with fright all over their faces.  Her rapid fire yelling, turned into a muted whisper as my mind contemplated the emotions of these terrified babies. If you ever want to break me down, bring me a child or a puppy, YOU WIN. Before I could collect any of her information (she carried no insurance, the car had no plates, she had no license.  What info she was going to produce is still unknown to me) she’d ran to her get away chariot, jumped a curb as sparks flew from the underbody of her gloriously shitty Avalon and sped off! In shock I did the only thing a rational person in my situation would do. I stood there on the corner of Center and Teutonia and cried.  The Honda and I collectively wept.

I am a highly empathetic person (on occasion).  So as I drove down the street, tears hanging out at the ledge of my eyelids, collecting into pools and kissing my cheeks with warm reminders of my sensitivity, I couldn’t help but think about the women who backed into the car.  My mind thought about the heartfelt monologue she delivered while standing outside of my door. I thought about the kids and how scared they looked sitting in the backseat. My sociologist brain thought about what situations led her to the point where she would operate a vehicle so recklessly with two small children’s lives in her hands.  I felt the tension, the weight, and the pressure she carried as she explained her situation and circumstances. That moment was when I started to be appreciative.

Appreciation blanketing my teary clouded eyes and I felt calm.  I don’t know what led the woman to her circumstances but what I know with certainty is that I positioned myself to be exactly where I am right now.  I made the conscious‒ and maybe even rushed, decision to leave a full-time job to chase a dream. I understood the magnitude of carrying a full-time graduate school course load.  I understood that tutoring was a business that needed to be built upon and that time was needed to nurture the business. I understood wholeheartedly that if you leave a job with little savings, money will deplete and require replenishment.   I knew that I would have to be consistent and prove my abilities for doors to open. While it may drain me and keep me awake, I am where I am, because this is where I chose to be. For that I have to be appreciative.

I am extremely fortunate.  My life and personal circumstances could be completely different.  I am climbing to my destiny and while it’s okay to acknowledge my blisters, cuts and bruises: I must not forget that I could very well be in a trench trying to dig myself out before the climb.  

In hindsight, the battle of the Honda vs. the busted, emerald, Toyota Avalon was a blessing.  It allowed me to put my life and current positioning into perspective. While it isn’t necessarily the most comfortable chair in the cottage, it’s one of the steps between too hard, and just right for me.  Everyday can’t be a good day ‒ the queen of certificates can’t get a gold star everyday. This busy schedule and brain of mine, continue to extinguish the fantasy of a good night’s rest. But I could instead be worried about a laundry list of other things like basic necessities.  

To my provider, babe, I thank you for letting me figure out my path to greatness.  For without your love, support, JOB, and cruel sense of humor none of this would be possible.  

For my current journey, my struggles, the “no’s”, the no-shows, the letdowns, the small paychecks, the few bills, the humble pie, the sacrifice, for my beautiful struggle I am grateful – as I sip my warm mug of french pressed coffee, curated by my favorite barista at my neighborhood home, Coffee Makes You Black.

Welcome back Ashley!

To the loyal followers of the BPUM who have seen me and asked with puppy-dog-eyes, “when are you going to blog again?” This one’s for you! It’s been too long!  As I sit in my kitchen waiting for my first, hot skillet of homemade pancakes to bubble at the center; my fingers and soul itch to blog! How long has it been?  At least before Thanksgiving so that’s almost…November, December, January, February, March, end of March almost April. That’s A LONG TIME!

What have you been doing all this time?

I traveled a little in December and January (a long, long, long road trip from Milwaukee to Cali.)  After that I returned to Milwaukee and the grind of graduate school ‒ if someone would have explained to be at length the process of writing a thesis and conducting research, I would’ve gladly stopped after undergrad!  That’s pretty much what my life has been since mid January. The steady grind of my graduate school coursework (3 classes), thesis ‒ oh yeah and trying to build my tutoring business.

The tutoring business (if it can even be called that) is a constant struggle.  The curse of choosing a career path that leads to a soul overflowing this joy, does not offset a wallet full of air.  In terms of education as a business ‒ a profitable business, I’m not so good at the profit part yet. I have the passion, the skill set, the knowledge-base, the patience, and the drive.  I lack the marketing skills and iron fist. Iron fist? I envision sticking by my policies and expectations and slamming down my fist to depict my level of seriousness.

Scenarios where an iron fist would be useful […]

To the loyal followers of the BPUM who’ve seen me and asked with puppy-dog-eyes, the dreaded, “when are you going to blog again?” This one’s for you! I guess deep in my heart I appreciate the inquiry!  It makes me feel like an R & B superstar whose fans anticipate the new album release.  I don’t have any new amazing verse to drop but I do admit that it’s been too long!  As I sit in my kitchen waiting for my first, hot skillet of homemade pancakes to bubble at the center, my fingers and soul itch to blog! How long has it been?  At least before Thanksgiving so that’s almost…November, December, January, February, March, end of March almost April. That’s A LONG TIME!

What have you been doing all this time?

I traveled a little in December and January (a long, long, long road trip from Milwaukee to Cali.)  After that I returned to Milwaukee and the grind of graduate school ‒ if someone would have explained to me at length the process of writing a thesis and conducting research, I would’ve gladly stopped after undergrad!  That’s pretty much what my life has been since mid-January. The steady grind of my graduate school coursework (3 classes), thesis ‒ oh yeah and trying to build my tutoring business.

The tutoring business (if it can even be called that) is a constant struggle.  The curse of choosing a career path that leads to a soul overflowing with joy but does not offset a wallet full of air.  In terms of education as a business ‒ a profitable business, I’m not so good at the profit part yet. I have the passion, the skill set, the knowledge base, the patience, and the drive.  I lack the marketing skills and iron fist. Iron fist?  I envision sticking by my policies and expectations and slamming down my fist to depict my level of seriousness.

Scenarios where an iron fist would be useful

“I am unable to reschedule your session for the third time this month.  I look forward to seeing you at your regularly scheduled appointment” (slams iron fist).

“According to your service agreement, there is a late fee if you pick up your child late.  The late fee will be added to your bill” (slams iron fist).

“Unfortunately, because you cancelled your session 1 minute prior to its start time, you will still be charged for the session.  I will add the cost to your invoice” (slams iron fist).

Yep, iron fist.  I need it like I need a full snow suit to be comfortable in my house because babealicious keeps the heat on 65 or below

What else…

My hard-working hun-bunz is going great!  Winter is his “slow season”.  The quotations signify that the season is supposed to be slow, but it seems pretty ramped up to me.  Nevertheless, I’ve been enjoying daily snuggle sessions which basically consist of me sitting so close to or on him, that I suck up every ounce of oxygen within a foot of his face.  I like to describe my behavior as that of a puppy.  A new puppy.  As he moves around the house, I scurry behind him.  If I am cooking in the kitchen, I pressure him into joining me.  While he showers, I sit on the toilet and talk to him (well not everyday).  Basically I’m like his sweat, always near and lurking just below the surface.  

Healthy-eating habits

I’m slowly getting back into those.  I’m not exactly sure what happened, but umm… I’ve regained many of the precious pounds I shed while in Guatemala!  No worries, summer is coming and I will be some sort of ready.

I’m no more clear about what the future holds for me than I was in Guatemala!  Graduation is in May and I don’t have sequence of next steps yet!  It’s honestly difficult to even start to think about the next when I have loads of things to focus on in the now.  I now know that I am NOT a multitasker.  I am that person who sees tasks piling, and runs for a warm place to snuggle (maybe this is why I’m a newborn puppy).

Juggling is a skill I haven’t acquired, but I can carry one egg on a spoon across the finish line.  As I juggle my egg I anticipate getting back into the blogging world.  How I miss it so!  Blogging was my journal, my meditation, my reflection, my safe-space.  Today I make my return!

Pancakes, a fail but done ‒ they taste perfect but crumble between the slits of the fork before they meet my lip!

Until next time, I promise it won’t be another 6 months!

Refrigerator Prepping: Mission “Eat These Groceries”

Since returning from Guatemala my eating habits have been horrendous.  Just plain gross.

I ate so healthy in Guatemala, the land of daily farmers markets and cheap produce-Hey, did you know that all the local goodness at the farmers market in Coban is not all grown by the farmers selling?  Did you know that some of the people selling aren’t farmers at all?  Shocking right (as I clench my chest struggling for air).  I looked back on photos taken while exploring the market and some of the bags of apples had PRODUCE TAGS ON THEM!  Like the tags they scan AT THE GROCERY STORE as you stand at the register!  Or could the vendors also sell to local grocers and whatever they don’t sell at market, they just send to the store?  Nope.  Doubt it. […]

Hello!

If you’re one of my amazing followers/subscribers you are probably looking at the notification or email thinking wow, another post so soon from the infrequent blogger?  Why yes.  I’m on a roll.  For the time being.  A few months ago I fake committed to an overly ambitious challenge.  To blog every day for 30 days.  Stupid, right?  I blog when I feel motivated and have something I think is worth sharing.  

I initially started blogging with the thought that everyone was going to read my amazing bodies of work.  Companies and brands would fall out of blog heaven and send me free stuff.  Collaborate.  Pay me.  Love me.  I was gonna be in bloggy bliss and a fan favorite.  YouTube makes it look so easy (as I think of the video titles I’ve seen this week; “Look I bought a house, My first Range Rover, How I make $5000 a week on YouTube”).  

I’ve come to realize that I enjoy blogging.  A LOT.  My site is where I share my struggles, my life, my journey, and the quirky side of Ashley the world doesn’t get to see.  I’m a pretty awesome, brave, goofy girl on my blog!  

“Okay Ashley, great job and… CUT!  Roll to the next scene”

Since returning from Guatemala my eating habits have been horrendous.  Just plain gross.

I ate so healthy while in Guatemala, the land of daily farmers markets and cheap produce-Hey, did you know that all the local goodness at the farmers market in Coban is not all grown by the farmers selling?  Did you know that some of the people selling aren’t farmers at all?  Shocking right (as I clench my chest struggling for air).  I looked back on photos taken while exploring the market and some of the bags of apples had PRODUCE TAGS ON THEM!  Like the tags they scan AT THE GROCERY STORE as you stand at the register!  Or could the vendors also sell to local grocers and whatever they don’t sell at market, they just send to the store?  Nope.  Doubt it.

I have enjoyed many, many, many delicious Oreos-both the mint and original kind

Xtra Xtra hot Flamin’ Hot Cheetos (and several other variation of Frito Lay hot chips)

Sour Skittles-lots of sour Skittles

Fast food

Ramen Noodles-but I make them seem fancy with a homemade broth, savory veggies, sesame oil, and soy sauce

I also scarfed down plenty of other CRAP!

As a result, my stomach is upset with me

Very upset-like brown stew factory galore in the toilet, upset

I hear my intestines communicating with me.

We’ve come to the understanding that I need to get back to eating better before I implode

Deep down inside, I appreciate stomach bugs

I see the opportunity as a free detox, a jump-start to eating well. The kick in the butt I need to springboard me into action!

I went to the grocery store and as always, bought groceries like I was someone else-the person I long to be deep down inside

The health conscious woman

It fascinates me to fill up my cart with leafy greens, shiny-chemically glazed apples, organic grapes, avocado, real juice, and other pretty vegetables.

The looks on people’s faces when you stand in check-out with no meat and a cart full of skinny people heaven is priceless-especially if you are standing next to someone with an oxygen tank pushing a cart full of hot dogs, Pepsi, tv dinners, chips, and the “chef’s special” meat, looking super grody (translation: gross) is the white cellophane container it calls home.  Animal blood oozing through the plastic wrap used to contain it.

Makes me feel so accomplished.

The problem is, I get all this glorious food home and it sits.  And sits and rots.  This is a pattern.  Throwing the stuff out is a bi-weekly bingeing session

Well this week it won’t be!

I decided to prep my refrigerator!

And that is…..

I cleaned all the fruit, stored it in Tupperware

Washed and prepped all the vegetables

Stored everything is clear containers so that it is all easily identifiable

And stored them on shelves in the refrigerator in a way where I am able to visualize everything at a glance

I bought lots of food, so this took time

Here’s the list of what I did (because I am proud of my accomplishment-remember, I’m a millennial, praise me)

  1. Washed and cut collard greens-stored ‘em in the crisper.  To preserve them and keep them crisp I laid the greens on dampened paper towel
  2. Washed and cut all of the sweet, bell, and jalapeno peppers-stored them all in separate containers
  3. Washed and sliced mushrooms-stored those as well
  4. Washed and sliced onions-found a plastic temporary home for them too 
  5. Washed and cut carrots, stored ‘em
  6. Washed, chopped and stored green onions in a container
  7. Washed and stored grapes-even organic grapes need to be washed!  I just learned this yesterday, I was eating them straight out of the bag!  I have been doing this FOREVER! If there are no pesticides, why wash, right?
  8. Stored strawberries in a container-I learned NOT to wash them because they get mushy
  9. Chopped cantaloupe- you guessed it, put them in a container
  10. Sliced 2 WHOLE PINEAPPLES!  Store those too-after pratically eating half of one in the process
  11. Stored blueberries and cranberries
  12. Washed the cilantro and put it in the second crisper drawer
  13. Washed brussel sprouts, but put them back in the bag they came in because at this point, I was out of containers (I didn’t want to invest in buying more, knowing that commitment and I struggle to see eye-to-eye).

I left the grapefruit and mangoes in the produce bags and stored them in the fridge because they weren’t quite ripe yet and I wanted to speed up the process.  I would’ve also prepped the avocado, but they too need more time.

I stored coconut flakes and chia seeds in small containers that allow me to take what I need with ease.

Now this was no quick task.  It took me about 3-4 hours

But my refrigerator looks so organized!  All the food stored inside is un-intimidating (I don’t think that’s a real word).  Everything is inviting!  Open me, eat me, enjoy me!  Thank God it is all healthy and not just containers full of Flamin’ Hots and sour Skittles.

The prep time on the front end, relieves me of prepping when I am ready to prepare a meal.  Everything is basically already done, I just have to add ingredients to the skillet or pot!

Much of my cooking obstacle has been the lack of time.  With this method, I anticipate grabbing things that are already prepped and getting straight to the fun part

It was actually kind of therapeutic to be in my own little chopping world for an afternoon.  

We will see how effective this strategy is and hopefully it will become a part of my “you better eat those freaking groceries” routine.

Try it out, let me know how it works for you and your family!

So far so good, I ate pineapple and sautéed vegetables for breakfast and the time from refrigerator to table, was less than 10 minutes!

I think I’m onto something here (happy “Lord let me return to the land of skinny” dance)

May your refrigerator become more organized and you never lose precious food items in the belly of the “back of the refrigerator” monster.

26 hour journey to Atlanta: We ate at Old Lady Gang

In commemoration of the new season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta (no, I do not watch this show or any other show for that matter-we have a Firestick and internet only.  No, not a fully loaded, or even partially loaded one, just the basic one where you pay for add-ons and subscriptions.  Let me back track, I did pay for the last 3 seasons of being Mary Jane because I LOVE MARY JANE PAUL.  She is me, I am her, we are Pauletta (in my soul at least).  Okay, and I have paid for the past 2 sessions of How to get Away with Murder but haven’t committed to splurging on the current season).

Back to the matter at hand!  I didn’t blog about it, but I spent two weekends in a row in Atlanta this part September-can you believe that it’s already November?  Let’s hear it for Thanksgiving.

Euphoria rings through my food-loving flesh at the thought of dressing

With cranberry sauce

Collards

And cornbread baked to golden brown perfection in a cured, cast iron skillet […]

In commemoration of the new season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta (no, I do not watch this show or any other show for that matter-we have a Firestick and internet only.  No, not a fully loaded, or even partially loaded one, just the basic one where you pay for add-ons and subscriptions.  Let me back track, I did pay for the last 3 seasons of being Mary Jane because I LOVE MARY JANE PAUL.  She is me, I am her, we are Pauletta (in my soul at least).  Okay, and I have paid for the past 2 sessions of How to get Away with Murder but haven’t committed to splurging on the current season).

Back to the matter at hand!  I didn’t blog about it, but I spent two weekends in a row in Atlanta this part September-can you believe that it’s already November?  Let’s hear it for Thanksgiving.

Euphoria rings through my food-loving flesh at the thought of dressing

With cranberry sauce

Collards

And cornbread baked to golden brown perfection in a cured, cast iron skillet

Yams

Cooked to amazingness, and generously spiced with the perfect combination of sugar, nutmeg, vanilla extract, cinnamon and butter

Baked macaroni and cheese with crispy edges-although I am definitely lactose-intolerant and aware of the fact that my stomach will be bloated and I’ll be the one sneaking around letting off little stink bombs wherever I stand

Fried corn-like only my adorable dear (translation: grandmother-the matriarch of the Smith family) can prepare it

Lasagna-my mom makes this dish (she can’t really cook for real, so she has mastered this one thing)

Savory sweet potato pie with my secret ingredients-ginger and a hint of cayenne powder, only because I SUCK at keeping secrets

Of course there is turkey, ham and whatever other meats are prepared, but I love the sides and fill up on them, with several helpings, and have no room for meats

And a consolation prize for all of the random, “you should’ve left that at home” items people waste their time cooking and carrying to my grandmother’s, as if anyone except for them and their sad children will eat it when you have dears food as the alternative.  You get a heartfelt thank you

Back to Atlanta.  I accidentally drove 13 hours (one way) to Atlanta to attend a conference that wasn’t until… the following weekend.  So of course I had to return the next weekend for the originally intended trip.  During weekend one, to avoid it being an epic fail, I visited Old Lady Gang with my mother (who took the waste of a trip with me).  

Upon arrival, we joined the line of about 15 other people-we arrived about 15 minutes before they opened.  

It was a hot day in Atlanta, however being from Milwaukee (where it had started to cool) I didn’t complain about having to wait in the sun.  As my mom and I basked in the sun rays that caused sweat beads to trickle down my spine, we could hear others complain about how hot it was.  I personally tried to ignore the griping because a) I’m from Wiscansin, home of 8 month winters and b) I was trying to stay positive-Charlie Brown womp, womp discourage me NOT!

Finally we were inside and seated.  

I won’t waste time on decor because… it looked like a restaurant, it was clean, I didn’t go there for decorative inspiration-really it was hot outside and by the time we got in my vision was half blurred and I could barely make out where I was.  NO. JUST KIDDING about the last part.

We were sat by a friendly host and immediately my eyes were glued to the menu.  By this time, it was after 10:15 am.  I had not eaten breakfast.  My stomach was giving me verbal reminders that we needed nourishment to sustain.  

Seated next to us, two hilarious women who I’m assuming had just come from church.  How can you make that assumption?  They had on makeup and church clothes (translation: Sunday’s Best, they were suited and booted, looking rather fancy, dressed to impress, a step higher than job interview fashions) but again, I was in Atlanta and it almost seemed like Black people there only had closets full of Sunday’s Best.  Not a casual Fashion Nova Netflix & Chill set in sight.

It was Sunday. Late morning.  You know what that means…BRUNCH!  millennials and nay (they) mommas love brunch-Mimosa me please (requested through puckered, semi-sophisticated lips).  

Because we were in ATL I knew the brunch would be “southern inspired”.  No problem.

I ordered

Fried Chicken

Collard Greens

Macaroni & Cheese

And as an appetizer, the fried deviled eggs

Mom ordered

Chicken and Waffles

Along with Mimosas, we ordered sweet peach tea.

In the section we were seated in (closest to the bar) the seats are placed within close proximity to each other.  Unless you are a turtle, you are seated so closely, you’re almost forced to communicate with your neighbors.  I saw this as a plus.  As a little caterpillar still peering out of my cocoon that’s disintegrating because it’s time for me to come out, I saw it as a helpful nudge towards social engagement.  

I laughed and conversed with my neighbors and vuala!  The deviled eggs appeared.  

They were beautiful, golden, and hot!  It was clear that whichever chef was at that prep station was playing no (clap) games (claps)- I introduced this manner of speech in an earlier blog, feel free to hit the link to read it and acquaint yourself. Clap explanation

The problem is, I am a young foodie.  

I can cook.

I do cook.

I do cook well.

I go to restaurants, savor the flavor of dishes I enjoy, go home and recreate them, adding my own touches to take them to what I think is the next level, and keep practicing until the dish is incredible

Deviled eggs, I have already mastered.  The fried factor was something new to me and I was ready to experience it, then replicate its goodness at home

I tried my best to lay my preconceived notions aside and fall in love with the dish

It didn’t happen.

IN DEFENSE

I am Black

Black people, eat soul food

It’s a treat and a stable

Most Black people in Milwaukee are migrants of the south by way of the Great Migration

Our grandparents and great-grandparents moved to Milwaukee when it was booming with manufacturing jobs

With them they carried gleeful southern spirits, and the recipes that kept them close to Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and other southern states.

When soul food is made at home with love, patience, a good story and a football game on TV, it is hard to top

While White people eat average (or just below) soul food and marvel, salivate and go on and on about it (we have a couple of basic soul food joints in Milwaukee in the suburbs, where the clientele doesn’t know better); Black people call bulls** and can only be got, that one time.  

Fool me one time, shame on you.  Fool me twice can’t put the blame on you – J. Cole

I wanted to be taken back to my dear’s circular, wood grain kitchen table

I wanted to rest my bum comfortably in the cushioned seat I always sat in just in front of the window

I waited to feel the gust of the breeze on my shins as I swung by little legs back and forth, in food heaven, excited about how good the deviled eggs were

It didn’t happen

While the yoke was whipped beautifully, the fried exterior added nothing to the dish.  It was bland. As if the egg was dipped in white, all-purpose flour and dropped in hot oil until it looked pretty.  For me, it added only a slight texture variation that compromised the addition of flavor and I could have done without it.  

Of course I shared it with my table mates to my right who agreed.

Next up

Hot corn muffins with honey

Corn muffins/bread

the staple of a soul food dinner

My dear is from Mississippi

She can cook in her sleep

Cornbread being a centerpiece that she’d perfected

The corn muffin at Old Lady Gang was again, gorgeous

It was apparent to me that they weren’t in the back setting off any smoke alarms

Not that it was a bad thing, but, the corn muffin was sweet

Jiffy sweet

It was discussed among my small crew (they were promoted from table mates, to my crew by this point) and the verdict was

The chefs simply doctored up a batch of Jiffy cornbread mix with cornmeal and plenty of sugar

Now for the record, I didn’t totally agree with that call

It could’ve been Glory Day’s (another brand of soul food fixin’s that can be purchased at a local grocer)

What I didn’t understand, was what I was supposed to do with honey

I was already eating cornbread cake, how much sweeter did it need to be?!

I ate one muffin and let my mom enjoy the rest

The main course was placed in front of me and again, I thought it was (you guess…) beautiful!  

All of the food was pretty, at least at my crew’s table.

I will admit ret now (right now), I do not like fried chicken

Why would you order it then?

I like the fried skin of fried chicken

YES, enough to order it!

So, being that the skin is the most important part to me, it was good.  It housed every ounce of the seasoning.  

This is a rookie mistake when frying chicken

Although I don’t enjoy chicken, I do know that you must season the chicken, as well as the batter used for the skin.  That’s chicken 101!  

Maybe the favorite ingredient of the chef was sugar, so other seasonings were pushed to the back row.

I bit into the chicken thigh that was juicy, tender and bland

On to the next item, the collard greens

I love collard greens

I eat them for breakfast

I have sautéed them and prepared them for lunch

And of course I can hook up a mean pot of them for dinner

The greens in my shiny white bowl smelled and looked amazing

Forest green with chunks of pork throughout

I anticipated the flavor marrying my tongue and went in to say I do…

The chef was two favorite ingredients

Salt & Sugar

My crew warned by that several reviews talked about how salty the greens were

At that moment I decided, that was the taste they were going for and moved on

But first a few sips of my intro to diabetes sweet tea (it was good though)

Next, macaroni and cheese!

I love baked macaroni and cheese!

My favorite part is the outer crust that forms along the edge where the cheese meets the baking pan.  That’s nirvana in a baking dish

This mac & cheese was cheesy

Yep and that’s that, that’s all I recall about it and I only had about 2-3 forkfuls of it

Old Lady Gang (possibly because of its newness) brings out and joins people from all over

It was great sitting next to women from Atlanta, talking to them about the city, the changes, the positive things that are happening and authentically showing pride for their home

It was great to smile and laugh with black women over a sub-par brunch

The restaurant was clean

The staff-were staffing the place (I personally wasn’t impressed with our server, the manager on duty or the other staff she stood in the corner gossiping loudly about)

Kandi Burruss is a several million dollar, millionaire

With that, my expectations for a restaurant she claims proudly as part of her brand

were high

My expectations for a staff hired to represent her brand

were high

Instead, I got Real Housewives of Atlanta messy

Staff that seemed to be competing with each other in a good ole’ crabs in a bucket fashion

It was sad to see the manager tearing down a staff who needed development and support.  It didn’t make her look better, as she must have perceived it did by the way her voice gradually grew louder and louder, showing no shame in her own ignorance as it relates to building a staff and maintaining a business (note taken for my little entrepreneurial self).

But I also am aware that the restaurant is still in its infancy stage and everyone is still learning

The best part was the socialization, laughs and warm fuzziness I felt while bonding with beautiful black women over a meal

Old Lady Gang,

Thank you

 

Shaking off the funk: Ashley we are not a princess

I’ve concluded that the Vtine (theBpum as you know me) is a spoiled, fortunate, truly privileged young whiner!  Yes, it is true, I am one of those people who is so blessed, so favored, that when things don’t go exactly my way I crumble.  “That sounds completely insane right”, I ask with my legs crossed as I sit at my comfy kitchen table.  Drinking my $1.06 Arabian bean, partially burnt (I swear) Mcdonald’s coffee, complemented with six teaspoons of sugar and three Coffee Mate original creamers.   

Being favored and loved deeply is a blessing and a curse!  It has created a little Frankenstein and the more I am favored, the more the little monster inside me feeds and grows bigger (clearly Halloween is still on the brain). […]

I’ve concluded that the Vtine (theBpum as you know me) is a spoiled, fortunate, truly privileged young whiner!  Yes, it is true, I am one of those people who is so blessed, so favored, that when things don’t go exactly my way I crumble.  “That sounds completely insane right?”, I ask with my legs crossed as I sit at my comfy kitchen table.  Drinking my $1.06 Arabian bean, partially burnt (I swear) McDonald’s coffee, complemented with six teaspoons of sugar and three Coffee Mate original creamers.   

Being favored and loved deeply is a blessing and a curse!  It has created a little Frankenstein and the more I am favored, the more the little monster inside me feeds and grows bigger (clearly Halloween is still on the brain).

From the time I was a child, I recall being adored.  First by my parents and family members, then by my incredible church family, and later by those whom I encountered who rooted for my success.  I have been blessed with so many opportunities.  Opportunities that I did not always deserve, but others saw otherwise-millennials are crybaby “give me this, give me that, where’s my trophy” beasts because society has made us this way!

I’ve become so used to doors opening and people yelling from the frames, “come this way” as I’ve stood clueless looking up at the sky, counting the clouds and looking for marshmallow-shaped figurines to glide by in glee, from the hall leading to the door, where the person stood with a bullhorn and neon sign, waving for me to enter and receive.

I am uber blessed you guys.  I have a boyfriend I almost don’t deserve (because he is just that awesome), a family that adores me, a grandmother who is wise and my number one cheerleader, an uncle who loves me like a daughter, a cousin who is an amazing example of what it means to be selfless, while navigating how to also nurture her own dreams and aspirations, siblings who look up to me and appreciate all the things I accomplish while supporting my goals and ambitions, an expansive slew of relatives who are successful entrepreneurs, a flock of Milwaukee leaders who are truly my friends, and still I manage to find a corner to sit in and complain about having to put in the work to be a BAOS (translation: a boss, not just any boss but a woman who is recognized for her great work ethic).  Yes, I want the crown and the glory, but I just want it to fall into my lap and fit my head perfectly, frame my face well and accentuate the golden undertones of my brown skin.  “The nerve,” you think, as you shake your head and roll your eyes at me.  But boy, in this world of instant gratification, THE DEVIL THAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA, and the “participation certificate” I have been groomed to want it all simply because… I desire it.

I woke up today thinking, “Ashley, damn, black people do really get sunburn (my forehead is peeling from an amazing 6 day birthday trip to Key West, FL).  What am I going to eat for breakfast?  Don’t check Instagram, don’t check Instagram-5 minutes later I was on it for AN HOUR!  Are you really 100% committed to this tutoring thing?  Did you honestly think it was going to be easy-to be completely honest, yes I did (puffing out my chest).  Now that you see that it isn’t, what are you going to do?  How can you create a market?  Do you really want to work a job?  Are you going to get to said “job” and start acting entitled and like you don’t want to be there?-No, I don’t want to work a job.  Yes I am going to act like I have a sea salt covered saltine on my shoulder because I’m not using every ounce of my energy to grow my own dreams.  Are you in a position to continue building without making a consistent, livable wage income? (Long hard reflection).  No. Ash, we aren’t in a position to continue at this rate and maintain.  What chu gon’ do Ash?  1. Get off of Instragram-I am honestly considering a hiatus from social media because I am not controlling it, it is taking over (I am melting, melting).  But really, I am not getting depressed and jealous as I did in the past, it is just a trap and I feel pressure to keep up with maintaining it and growing a following.  It doesn’t feel healthy and contributes to my decline in happy hormones 2. Get out of the bed 3. Take a bath 4. Go get coffee 5. Blog 6. Find that Beyoncé Album, turn it on, REPEAT, crank up the volume, all your neighbors are AT WORK, MAKING MONEY (sad face-mentally slapping myself out of it) 6. Make another set of flyers 7. Call Digicopy, get them printed 8. Go to the coffee shop, ask to post it 9. Follow-up with potential customers-crap my forehead looks worse now that I’ve washed my face 10. HOMEWORK!  11. Keep reflecting on how blessed you are 12. Find a meditation or yoga class-I need intrinsic motivation.  I keep relying on other things or activities to motivate me and this could be why I dip between happy and “the world is crumbling around me”.

It is so easy to get down about things not going according to plan.  Worrying about money will put you at the lowest of lows and you start to lose focus (at least I do).  I can’t produce good work, stay true to my product and the brand I am building, or even appear content if I’m worried about a bill.  But if I don’t work this dream until the wheels fall off, I won’t be able to make money.  We all have highs and lows, but I was sitting at a low and setting up furniture in a space of funk.  I can’t be succumb to  feelings of worry and doubt.  I must continue to WORK for what I want because contrary to what I have internalized, I am not owed favor.  

Good morning!

A fresh 30 year old’s letter to her 20-something self

Ashley, young, glorious, courageous, curious child
You have grown
Grown into a confident, honest, humble, vulnerable being
Twenties were fun, spontaneous, reckless, painful, disappointing and full of meaningful experiences
You made it and now stand on the other side, reflective and grateful
You’ve learned patience, understanding, compassion, love and how to walk away
You’ve experienced heartbreak, shame, sorrow and forgiveness
Been uncertain about who you were and your worth
Allowed others to define you
That doesn’t work so well young dreamer […]

Ashley, young, glorious, courageous, curious child
You have grown
Grown into a confident, honest, humble, vulnerable being
Twenties were fun, spontaneous, reckless, painful, disappointing and full of meaningful experiences
You made it and now stand on the other side, reflective and grateful
You’ve learned patience, understanding, compassion, love and how to walk away
You’ve experienced heartbreak, shame, sorrow and forgiveness
Been uncertain about who you were and your worth
Allowed others to define you
That doesn’t work so well young dreamer
We partied, Patron your equivalent to water
Walgreen, your MAC counter
Foundation never matching quite right
Eye shadow reminiscent of a Halloween costume
Thank God for YouTube, minimalism and your late twenties
More shots than we can recall
We worshipped the porcelain God, visited the throne faithfully
Paid tithes of vomit like a committed member
Lived with no regret
Regret but you convinced yourself that it was all a part of the journey
Love
Damn you loved
The idiots, the abusers, the promiser, the leech, the jerk, the prince charming, the ones you didn’t deserve
The one who saw more in you than you saw in yourself-swallowing the lump of guilt
You love hard young romantic
Love was painful, a high you constantly longed for, sat in, fought for and went chasing again
Love, the drug of choice
Breaking hearts and collecting pain to carry along and savor later
Your badge, young sweet savage
Your worked hard V-tine
Graduated from undergrad after a few academic probation threats
Worked twenty-’leven job
Quit ‘em all
But you’re a millennial-it’s normal
Now you thirst for more knowledge and seem to be on a path of fa eva’ schooling
Your dreams are being painted into existence young genius
You were fire
Tongue a torch
Attitude of a young diva
That was a lot of work huh?
Apologizing after reflection sucks
But the cloud moving from overhead, revealing the warmth of the sun absorbs well
You were generous
Giving
Giving every piece of you until you were left with fragments of what you wanted to be
Selfless fool
Honesty
Honest, your strongest attribute
You wave it like a white flag
Warm water to wash away the damage
You’ve grown so much, yet still stand in between doorways trying to figure out what next look likes
Waiting for signs
Signs you struggle to identify and listen to
30-year-old Ashley hugs you
Deeply
Embracing all of you
Loving the pieces of you, you hated
Loving the wounds you licked in the dark, hiding from the world
Loving the hurt you sang and hummed away
Smiling as we recall inside jokes
Grinning when we look at old pictures
Cheering when we win
The glorious twenties, led us here
We have traveled
Fell in love with exploration and thirst for the next adventure
We have taken the road less traveled
We have committed to being true to Ashley and living intentionally

We have sat in quiet spaces and listened to the soul speak

You will forever be a part of what makes me Ashley
The twenties were lived, exploited and enjoyed to the fullest
I rest a kiss on your forehead and walk into 30 ready for the next chapter
Appreciating and never forgetting the many lessons we’ve learned
Good-bye twenty-something

We had an amazing run kid

You will forever be a piece of who I am

Millennial “my life is hard” rant

Why didn’t anyone tell me life as an entrepreneur was so hard!
Nobody speaks about the adversity of struggling to build a brand and a business
Nobody is on Instagram with a sad face and a bank account statement with a negative balance
No one is making the tough decision between going to dinner and staying home to eat the same dish you’ve been making with slight modifications for the past month.
No one explained to me that the money I had saved up was actually NOT going to be considered savings once I quit a full-time job.
The warmth and comfort of a full-time job is soothing. Familiar. Going to bed knowing that a check will welcome you every other Friday whether you deserve it or not is like sniffing heaven. […]

Why didn’t anyone tell me life as an entrepreneur was so hard!
Nobody speaks about the adversity of struggling to build a brand and a business
Nobody is on Instagram with a sad face and a bank account statement with a negative balance
No one is making the tough decision between going to dinner and staying home to eat the same dish you’ve been making with slight modifications for the past month.
No one explained to me that the money I had saved up was actually NOT going to be considered savings once I quit a full-time job.
The warmth and comfort of a full-time job is soothing. Familiar. Going to bed knowing that a check will welcome you every other Friday whether you deserve it or not is like sniffing heaven.
My locs hit the cold entrepreneur pillow at night and my brain goes into “get this money mode” trying to figure out how to navigate this inflatable raft (with a hole in it)
THIS CAN’T BE LIFE!
The internet is not my friend
I’m still learning how to market my business and attract customers who are interested in PAYING FOR MY SERVICES!
Education is important right? Why isn’t my phone ringing with anxious parents? I’ve been a teacher and seen the tragedy that is a report card, soaked in tears as I explain what we can do to support the student and what shared responsibilities we need from them. Do I have enough money for the bill? Is it not ringing because Sprint has decided that I’ve requested one too many payment arrangements?
Is this healthy? Should I always be contemplating when I will get my next check? That’s it, I need another source of income.
Yep, I’m going to find another steady source of income while attending graduate school full-time – barely able to maintain my sanity as it is, while trying to run a functioning business in the evenings and on the weekends. But it isn’t really functioning all that well so can I even use the word functioning to describe it?
Interviewer for a new job: When are you available to start?
Me: Well…. I can start in two weeks, however I can’t work past 3 PM
I also am unable to work on the weekends
I also need time off to travel throughout the Winter months
so can I just come in when it is convenient for me? Maybe once or twice a week?
I look at jobs online almost daily.
I try to find positions that aren’t too demanding (where I can leave work, at work-and do a little homework while I’m there). Then I get excited when I see positions that fit my skill sets and fulfill my desire to do what I’m passionate about. Excitement quickly turns into a sad faced emoji, the one with the tear. Sad face-with a tear because if I take on a commitment that requires all of me, I can’t pursue my own dreams with the same level of enthusiasm.
(falls out onto the cold, ceramic-tiled kitchen floor next to a spaghetti stain. The floor needs to be mopped as I type this complaint letter to the God of spoiled millennials; but who has time to mop when you’re struggling to do the things that are a necessity like shaving my armpits-a free activity I enjoy, it’s like a free trip to the spa).
It’s crushing to want something so BAD and have to work at it! Why can’t I just have impressive ideas that become reality. Can’t I just go viral and have a highly successful private tutoring company in a fully stocked and highly attractive children’s bookstore and art studio, with a super smart, highly productive, hyper educated and helpful staff (as I squint my eyes, wiggle my long, unmanicured fingers and yell TADAA!) I think I’m working at things but I don’t really know what I’m actually doing, and figuring it out is HARD! Where is the answer key dammit!
No really. I feel overwhelmed, tired, and like I slowly am going to morph into Eeyore. I am starting to feel slightly discouraged, like an ugly troll is sitting in my belly slowly blowing out the flame that burned inside me a month ago. It stops to take a breath once a week or so, then continues to blow and spews drops of troll saliva with each newly recharged breath. I bet this troll would be awesome in a gospel choir, it could hold all the long notes.
Can I just go back to Guatemala and start all over again.
What I need:
A check in the mail
A mentor
Clients
Clients that pay not just clients who enjoy what I can do
A network of support
A check
Another check that can pay for a marketing campaign

And another check for a printer and office supplies
Can these things just show up in the morning under this cold pillow that won’t let my weary brain stop planning, worrying and worrying some more? I have jury duty in two weeks and am elated! Jury duty equals a check! Pick me please! Yes I am highly conservative, no I’m not black, yes I think that criminals need to be punished to the furthest extent of the law. Did I win? I’m going to be the juror that drags it out so I can continue to get paid. This is that steady source of income I was talking about.
It sucks that my first blog after a short hiatus is this. But this, is life. So often we dress up reality. Turning over the burnt biscuit to expose it’s golden flaky side for the Instagram post. Well my shit is burnt and I’m showing it to you. Plus, I can’t afford my therapist right now so you guys will have to suffice.

Until next time!