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 […]

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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

 

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!

Loved on by Black Queens in Albuquerque, New Mexico

I had the awesome opportunity to facilitate a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico  
No, I am not someone who has facilitated a conference in experiences past
But I’ve done similar facilitator roles
Like…
teach a lesson
re-teach a lesson
lead a meeting
train new hires using a curriculum
initiate uncomfortable conversations with ex-boyfriends
listen to their whack-ass arguments and use the asinine responses to build my case, come back with rapid fire, and ensure we never forgot my initial points
debate with my mother, in attempt to bribe or convince her with a scheme
Go back and forth, deliberating intellectually with teachers-in elementary school
Yep, qualifications of a facilitator if you ask me (shoulders shrugging as my head tilts towards the right) […]

I had the awesome opportunity to facilitate a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico
No, I am not someone who has facilitated a conference in experiences past
But I’ve done similar facilitator roles
Like…
teach a lesson
re-teach a lesson
lead a meeting
train new hires using a curriculum
initiate uncomfortable conversations with ex-boyfriends
listen to their whack-ass arguments and use the asinine responses to build my case, come back with rapid fire, and ensure we never forgot my initial points
debate with my mother, in attempts to bribe or convince her with a scheme
Go back and forth, deliberating intellectually with teachers-in elementary school
Yep, qualifications of a facilitator if you ask me (shoulders shrugging as my head tilts towards the right)
I am a participating member of MEDICC, an amazing organization focused on health equity in America through implementation of the Cuban public health model

Lil’ ole me was asked to facilitate because of my engagement with youth, youth development and health equity-sounds a lot fancier than it is, trust me.
I was as nervous as a thief in a Wal-Mart line as the “greeter” asks to see your receipt and the items in your bag to ensure you aren’t stealing Axe spray and Duracell batteries

I again had never played the facilitator role, and understood that I was going to be standing in a room of highly educated professors, researchers, attorneys, doctors, healthcare professionals, funders, community health navigators, a congressman, Ms. Navajo Nation, the Vice President of the Navajo Nation, funders, investors, and sweet baby Jesus himself.

I have always thought I was smart, but honestly (don’t judge me), I’ve compared me being smart to people who hadn’t been to college. Yes, I’ve suffered from the
I’m smart, you’re impoverished,
sling a fancy word here, or there
string together a well-formulated sentence
and say it in my White voice with a condescending “nanny nanny boo boo” tone

Boy was that attitude out of the window
These people were all smart FA REAL
The jig was up!
I had prepared for the conference by participating in planning meetings and being in constant communication with the committee, so I had a good understanding of the expectations.  Nervous I still was
I felt like I wasn’t good enough to facilitate such an event
I’m a baby, and grown-ups were gonna be in the room
Soaking up the same oxygen as peasant Ashley!
In true insecure fashion I went shopping for “grown woman, yet young and trendy business attire”
I went to Nordstrom Rack and picked out the most
“professional,
but look
-it’s young and has a flair of boho”
clothes I could find
I even bought a pair of grown woman business casual grey, suede-like slides with a gold accent on the heel
And to ensure I remained comfortable yet business casual, I splurged on a pair of Lucky Brand, leather black ballet flats
I was ready to SLAY-grownup addition

Because everything I do is at the last possible minute, I went shopping the night before my flight was scheduled to leave-and failed to try on any of the girl boss items I selected because I was too lazy to take my pants off at the store

I arrived home from tutoring and errands around 9pm that evening and was ecstatic to star in a Wendy Williams “classy women” makeover.  I was pumped to model off my new look for my hilarious-yep uh huh looks good-or laugh at you if you look stupid-babe a licious.
Dress #1
Bright Coral, sleeveless with a lace applique of the same tone.  Knee length, classy.  Just classy (whips out church fan and waves it while crossing one leg over the other and bouncing my foot) The dress was a-line with a conservative v-neck.  Did I really like it?  Nope.  But it rang, “listen to me, I’ve got myself together, may I have your attention please” on the rack.
Tried it on in front of the boo; looked horrible
Did not compliment my shape AT ALL and I couldn’t for the life of my figure out who it did look good on.
I even spun the front, to the back, hoping that the tags were just sewn to the wrong side
Nope, it looked even stupider
“Babe how does it look?”
-“Ok”, he lied.
1 dress tossed in the “this isn’t gonna work” pile
Dress  #2
Navy blue, peek-a-boo shoulders with navy blue bows, accenting the sleeves that ended just above the elbow.  The dress had a nice fit without being formfitting.  It relaxed against my curves while having structure and was also knee-length.  The dress was grown up, yet adorable.  It was giving me, “I’m adorable, innocent and a grown up-look at my bronzed shoulders though” vibes
It was literally adorable.  Not my style though
1 dress in the “this is cute, but not for Ashley” pile
At this point my lip pout was forming and I was feeling disappointed in my selections
Like getting a booster (translation: a professional apparel shoplifter-a personal shopper with a hell of an employee discount) who showed up at Christmas with dork clothes instead of the latest fashions you thought would be in the bag
Dress #3
Black sleeveless, scooped neck with thin white lines that ran both vertically and horizontally to form squares, with a busy, pink-toned floral print that ran along the bottom on both the front and back sides and grazed my knee caps
The dress was literally shaped like a rectangle
But the pattern was cute and uh, classy
Tried it on, it swallowed me
I started to cry
Babe laughed
“Ashley did you try any of this on?”
What kinda question was that? “No”.
“Baby what am I gonna wear, all of this looks horrible”-this is not verbatim I used lots of adult choice words as I kicked the ugly clothes around
Traumatized.
It took me back to when I was young, and my mom made me wear the
“Ugliest,
Old-ladyish
rob you of your youth,
I’m trying to embarrass you and make sure you have both no friends and no boys looking in your direction”
clothes, she could find for church.

This downward spiraling trend continued for the remainder of the failed try on haul.
I was in full-blown panic mode, naked and crying that I had nothing to wear
Boyfriend was still filling the role of Mr. Chuckles
“You have a room, turned closet (a full bedroom), you have clothes.  Be you, it’s not about what you have on.  The stuff you bought isn’t you anyway.  Stop over thinking it”, he says.  As if it was profound.
I left my mess and went to bed, woke up and packed comfortable, regular Ashley clothes and was happy
The 3-day conference was amazing
I looked like me
I spoke with confidence
I listened to each person on the program
I listened intently
I kept the room focused
I made sure there was equity of voice
I ensured that the youth spoke and were heard
I kept time
I challenged participants to be engaged
To share
To listen, and answer what was asked
To be open to being uncomfortable
To talk about the things we needed to address but we tip-toe around as a society
To be action oriented
To leave with a clear objective
To listen
To connect
To think critically
To be honest
To trust the process
It was hard.  One of the hardest tasks but I loved it
At one point, I was struggling to keep the group moving forward in the direction we were trying to build towards together
I appreciated that strong, brilliant, supportive black women lifted me up
One of my sistahs/co-workers stopped the process and re-centered the room with her energy and guided meditation
It was needed and I thank her
She protected me
She covered me
The spirit in the room was shifting and I was reignited
Facilitating a collective planning session is a challenge when you have people from all over the US
From different backgrounds
Who serve in diverse communities with their own unique needs
Using differing methods to reach their target population

I needed to be lifted to continue cultivating the space and she saw that need
At the end of the conference, another beautiful black woman came up to me and encouraged me
The message she poured into me was truly for me
She praised me, she hugged me,
She watered me
I needed that
I received
She affirmed that I belonged in that room, commanding the space
She blessed me

I also connecting with a woman I love deep in my soul who I hadn’t seen since before leaving for Guatemala
She too supported me
Helped me
She gave a worry doll that she carried because I was on her mind while in Guatemala exploring
She doesn’t know this but I thank God for her
She is humble, brilliant, youthful, vulnerable, educated, poised, honest, real and beautiful.  I am so fortunate to have a relationship with this Queen!  To stand in the sun next to her feels amazing.

I met who I think is my soulie (translation: soul sister)
She too is black, beautiful, genuine, intelligent, humble, vibrant, radiates confidence, humorous and has a beautiful smile.  She reminds me so much of me, and we are on the same journey of finding self.  While listening to and engaging with her, I saw me.  I didn’t have to try with her; no countdown, no “I think I can” speech.  My connection with her was genuine.  It was real.

It felt amazing to be in a space with black women who possessed so much magic.  Magic they let spill over into my vessel.  Into the vessels of the rest of the women & men of different backgrounds and races in the room.  No competing, no tantruming, no stepping up onto rungs of the latter above the crowd to look down on anyone else over flared nostrils.  We lifted one another.

It felt good to be loved on by women whose traits and knowledge I aspire to attain and build.
Black girl magic potion was in the air
With my arms outstretched
Head tilted back towards the heavens
And with a smile on my face
I twirled in it

Dreaming is the easy part

Finished breakfast.  If you follow me on Instagram, you probably guessed that it was a combination of
collard greens, onions, jalapeno, soy sauce and teriyaki with a side of fruit that I generally finish while in the process of slicing it.  
I have pretty much enjoyed the same breakfast for the past few weeks-that is, when I’m actually in the city.  Now that breakfast is done, I am sitting in my kitchen, blessed by the sunlight that warms my tanned shoulders, back and spirit as it beams through my windows.  
Jhene Aiko’s latest album, Trip is blaring through my Iphone speakers and my fingers, gleefully type away. […]

Finished breakfast.  If you follow me on Instagram, you probably guessed that it was a combination of
collard greens, onions, jalapeno, soy sauce and teriyaki with a side of fruit that I generally finish while in the process of slicing it.
I have pretty much enjoyed the same breakfast for the past few weeks-that is, when I’m actually in the city.  Now that breakfast is done, I am sitting in my kitchen, blessed by the sunlight that warms my tanned shoulders, back and spirit as it beams through my windows.
Jhene Aiko’s latest album, Trip, is blaring through my iPhone speakers, and my fingers gleefully type away.
The album is melodic, relaxing, and is speaking to me this morning.  As my head sways from side to side, my breaths are calm and relaxed.  The scent of warm ginger turmeric tea fills my nostrils and belly.
I’m learning that dreaming is easy; activating my dream is the hard part.  I am an expert at curating ideas; implementation is where I run for the hills.  My mind churns beautiful visions.  When I meditate and spend time reflecting, I sit in awe.  Ashley is still happier than ever before.  I continue to be in a space of peace.   But turning my dreams, hopes, and fantasies into action is… complicated.
When I try to compare this dreams-deferred space I linger on something, I compare it to an artist.  In the studio.  Creating beautiful pieces of work, escaping life’s woes in their own tranquility and energy.
I’m in my studio, refusing to leave.
My dreams are in the dream phase and frozen.
I am struggling to move them forward.  No one else can marvel, appreciate my artwork and I am certainly not getting monetary compensation for dreaming.

I have entrepreneur jitters

I can’t say that I am scared to live my dream; however, I am reluctant to work my dreams because I fear that others may not believe, or invest in them.
I am in love with literacy, and teaching.  Teaching brings me happiness and takes me to another place.  Building and exploring the curiosity of youth, while exposing them to new things is invigorating.  Ask any teacher who isn’t burned out.  The feeling keeps you lingering in the doorway, anxious to enter the room and experience the challenge and high of teaching.  Teaching makes me happy.
Trying to carve a new role for myself is challenging.
While everyone values education, I fear that if I ask parents to invest in it outside of the traditional classroom, I may be rejected.
Sounds ridiculous right?  I’m afraid of the “no” that leads to the “yes”.
The confidence I house is still being nurtured.  Watered.  I don’t know that she is ready for any fatal blows.
Like a parent at the park holding their child’s hand.  Afraid to let them play.  Not necessarily afraid of what your child can or can’t be, but afraid of the cruel world around them.
The happy space feels so good, I’m standing, basking and setting up a tent in this space.  Cementing my soles in this place.
This morning I am going to challenge myself to attend a meeting where I am promoting my services in hopes of securing a contract for my literacy and art services.
Saying it, makes me nervous-the smooth, relaxing tone of Jhene’s voice singing harmoniously over the soothing, captivating track brings me back to a tranquil place.

I, Ashley Valentine am scared as hell to work my dream and think almost daily about just getting a job because I don’t quite yet believe that my dream will generate income.

I don’t have any motivational message, or answer to my own dilemma today.  I figured I would just be honest and open.

Dreams don’t become reality because I want them to.  Do I want my dreams bad enough, or am I a bigger fan of just dreaming?
What I do know is that I am going to reach out to a few women and begin to surround myself with a force field of goddesses who inspire and encourage me.

In this past, this aura and energy made me envious, jealous and I lusted after the success they had attained.  I have successfully worked through that and know where that energy comes from.
This connecting with beautiful women is also hard for me, but challenges worth the rewards are never easy.  Although I continue to water my self-confidence, the devil still rests on my shoulder from time to time and whispers that I’m not good enough.  I continue to work at self-love.
Being honest, vulnerable and authentic helps.
Now that I am actively using social media on almost a daily basis, I do feel an unspoken urge to compete with others.
I have to be mindful that not too long ago, I was unable to even interact on social media because these emotions consumed me.  I have decided that aside from blogging, I will pull back from social media.  I am reminded that everything is not an absolute necessity-caring for myself is.

Eyes shut slowly, as a smile parts my lips and greets my dimples.  I vibe to the album as it hypnotizes and embraces me-is it exactly what I need to hear right now.

Music has a way of grounding and soothing me.
Until tomorrow

Bullet Note booking

Since I’ve been home I have been busy doing, honestly a lot of nothing (in my God honest opinion).  Aside from continuing to travel within the US, I have been private tutoring and struggling to finish my final year as a graduate student.  I am presently pursuing a dual Masters in Exceptional Education and Reading.  I can admit that I am struggling with my graduate studies because I’m not organized.  I struggle because I can’t juggle and am pretending to know how to with my eyes closed while balancing on a unicycle and uploading the video to my Instragram Story.  I am trying to balance

Since I’ve been home I have been busy doing, honestly a lot of nothing (in my God honest opinion).  Aside from continuing to travel within the US, I have been private tutoring and struggling to finish my final year as a graduate student.  I am presently pursuing a dual Masters in Exceptional Education and Reading.  I can admit that I am struggling with my graduate studies because I’m not organized.  I struggle because I can’t juggle and am pretending to know how to with my eyes closed while balancing on a unicycle and uploading the video to my Instragram Story.  I am trying to balance

building a brand

blogging

private tutoring- both seeking and maintaining clientele

traveling

keeping a house clean-it Guatemala I was spoiled and cleaning was NOT my responsibility

and being a domesticated girlfriend (I’m trying babe-a-licious)

My life is a complicated snow-globe and right now I keep shakin’ it up

To help my snow-globe settle into organized compartments I started a bullet journal/notebook

A bullet notebook is a simple way to organize life on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis  

Now, I just started using it and it is still new to me but I’m having fun creating templates that work for me

I am a sucker for art supplies and visited by local art supply store

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Art supplies are my oxygen, my water, my coconut oil, my Urban Decay setting spray, my Nair hair depilatory cream-I live for fine point, vibrant color pens

Durable, overly priced notebooks

Multipurpose, rainbow-hued sticky tabs

Silver, shiny heavy-duty rulers-that I honestly shouldn’t have bought since I’ve learned that I am incapable of drawing a straight line

Gold duct tape that I had to have in my overly ambitious moment of thinking I could embellish the black leather exterior

Fancy shamsy paper and PVA glue that I thought I would be using to further accessorize the gold “look at me” cover

Let me walk you through the process

I duct taped the cover and backing

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I then covered the duct tape in PVA glue

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I covered the duct tape and glue with the fancy shamsy paper

I allowed the artsy looking sales associate at the art store to convince me that I could do a project that was over my head.  She looked so artistic and I thought her art vibes would rub off on me

I get too excited about a task, heart rate increases, glitter chamber in my brain pulses, palms perspire and my wallet opens willingly

On top of the fancy shamsy paper I applied hella (translation: lots of) layers of PVA glue-this may be where I went wrong

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I then set the notebook out to dry

FOR SEVEN DAYS

It dried to a tacky finish

Epic fail

I used my new creation to rip off my leg hairs-literally

As my eyes swelled with tears and my lip trembled-intro to poking out

My heartless-compassion deprived-babe-a-licious commenced to chuckle at my pain

That gave me courage to wipe away those defeated tears and readjust my lip

I decided to simply rip off the tacky, hairy mess of a cover and stick with the classic leather black binding, thank God it wasn’t disturbed by my horrible Frankenstein-ish creation

Sometimes simple is the best way to go

After wasting a week on a failed DIY, I was ready to put some content in this bullet journal

Again, doin the most

I decided I wanted to use stencils and stampers to create a traditional monthly calendar

This is how I concluded that I don’t know how to use a ruler to make a straight line

I started out marking plots, then trying to connect the plots with a straight line

Line, not straight

I figured it didn’t work out because I was too anxious and excited

Attempt 2

I went a little slower

Result

I slowly drew a crooked line

Now I started crying and throwing things around

the genius-of course I can-babe-a-licious showed me a demo after laughing the tears back into their ducts

Attempt 3

I drew triangles at the points and connected the points of the triangles

It was looking hopeful

Result

Fail- Another

Crooked

Line

I concluded I was doing too much

After ripping out 5 pages of expensive, quality, artist fantasies paper

I went back and decided to keep it simple

I did what was comfortable for me, basic bullet notebook format

It slowly started to come together

I’d finished a basic monthly calendar

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Weekly calendar

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And stopped there because it was midnight

I’m off to a good start bullet notebooking!

Glitter is settling successfully into categories that  make sense and will promote by productivity!

Graduate school is kicking my tail!  But getting organized is making tasks do-able and gives me a clear visual

I’m off to a good start, for now!

Yes, I am aware that I haven’t written for two days, but I have been traveling and am in Atlanta.  Wanna keep up with my whereabouts? Follow me on Instagram @ashmvtine

#theBpumwrites