Just Go Left

Lessons from Under the Microscope

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A note before we begin:

Today I'm being featured on one of my favorite blogs: Ember Grey! Emily is one of my favorite ladies in blogland: she's inspiring, she's funny and she doesn't take herself too seriously. Click here to read my post. If you're joining me from Emily's blog today, WELCOME!! I'm so glad you're here!


I've found one bad thing about moving home: having to get a new doctor. Specifically, having to get a new "lady doctor".

Yeah, we're going there today. But not in the way you might think....so please bear with me.

I'm sure there are way more vulnerable situations one can find themselves in on a Wednesday afternoon, but for me, going to the "lady doctor" was it. I realize I'm 32 years old but yes the "lady doctor" still makes me nervous, anxious really. Having to divulge all that personal information to someone I don't know, answer ALL the uncomfortable questions....among other things......ugh, it's so awkward.

I had a knot in my stomach all morning leading up to my appointment. I walked slowly into the office and reluctantly stepped on the scale (did not like what it said, in case you were wondering)....and then I waited. And waited. And waited.

......and then I waited.....again.

IS IT JUST ME OR IS THE WAITING THE WORST PART!?!

By the time the doctor walked in I had worked myself up into a full-blown tizzy. I hate this part, the "hi my name is Ashten here are all the personal things that only like 2 people know about me" part. She pulled out my folder and started "getting to know me". Nervously I played with the gown, quietly answering each of her uncomfortable questions to the best of my ability. With each answer I felt myself getting smaller and smaller on the table, my legs swinging nervously back and fourth, my eyes darting back and fourth. It's an uncomfortable thing; being so vulnerable with someone you don't know. You find yourself wondering what the other person thinks about you; whether their opinion of you changes the more questions you answer. Being vulnerable makes you feel "oily"; like you want to slide out of your own skin....like it's not yours and it doesn't fit all of a sudden.

I think the doctor must have sensed my nervousness (it was incredibly obvious) because suddenly she asked: "so, do you have any pets?"

"Yes ma'am," I said, glad we had something else to talk about, "his name is Gatsby and he's a Lab/Great Pyrenees Mix."

Want to make things less awkward? Ask me about me dog.

And then she started telling me about her pets: two cats and three dogs, to be specific. We started talking about my cross-country move, how she's moving into a new home after a break-up and how stressful moves and break-ups are. Suddenly, I wasn't the only one being vulnerable. Suddenly, the appointment wasn't as nerve-wracking and awkward anymore because I wasn't the only one sharing uncomfortable, personal things. 

No one ever wants to walk into a "lady doctor" appointment (if you're me) or an uncomfortable situation feeling alone. No one wants to feel like they're the only one going through something or the only one who is scared. Sometimes, having someone there to say "here's what I'm going through, and sometimes I'm scared too" can make all the difference or bring some light to someone in darkness. I've learned that not everyone can relate to my struggles, and sometimes I can't relate to theirs, but I can be the kind of person who listens and empathizes, just like my new doctor did for me. I've learned that sometimes, just having another person say "me too" is all the help I need.

Vulnerability is best met with kindness, understanding and a whole lot of empathy. It thrives in "me too", it grows in love and thrives in whole-heartedness.

So, when someone gets vulnerable or shares something hard with you, be kind.

Or, if you're me, just ask me about my dog.

I guess I could have called this post "Gatsby Saves the Day". Damn it, another missed opportunity.

Celebrate Anyway

Ashten Loves Local, Adventures, Choosing JoyAshtenComment

A note before we begin: 

I just want to say something to everyone who wished me a happy birthday on Thursday. Whether you texted, called, Tweeted, Facebooked or Instagramed you made me feel really, really special. From the bottom of my heart, thank you: you all made my day.


We were supposed to go to Yosemite over the weekend to celebrate my birthday. The plans came up last minute, but I jumped in to them with zealous enthusiasm. It was going to a short trip: drive up Friday night, spend all day Saturday, drive back Sunday but it might as well have been the vacation of the year as far as I was concerned; partially because it was my birthday (and I LOVE birthdays), partially because I have been itching for a camping trip for awhile and partially because S'MORES. Kyle and I started pulling out all our camping gear, making a shopping list for a CostCo run and planning which trails we were going to hike. We were so, so, so excited.  

On Friday morning our plans got cancelled. 

It was something out of our control; something we couldn't have planned for or seen coming but I was super bummed. Not only was it supposed to be my birthday celebration but it was going to be such a fun adventure. Our cancelled plans put me in a funk, I'm not gonna lie. I had worked myself into a little tizzy over taking this trip that not being able to go totally ruined my weekend.

I hate when things go wrong. I absolutely hate it, especially when things go wrong at the last minute. It infuriates me when I have to sit out because of something entirely out of my control when it's something I've been looking forward to (albeit for 24 hours). By now you know I'm super Type A, super organized and when it comes to plans I like them to be well thought out with several back-ups in case something goes wrong. My initial reaction when things don't go right is to regress into a negative way of thinking; to pout, to fuss, to shut down and accept my fate. I am preconditioned to think of the negative before anything else; I am preconditioned to think the sky is falling the second something doesn't go right. Sometimes I even take these things personally; like I'm not good enough or worthy of good things happening to me.

After letting our cancelled plans ruin my Friday, I woke up Saturday morning, pulled out our camping chairs and drank my coffee in the sunshine and read on our porch. I made my favorite breakfast, took Gatsby for a long walk and forced myself to make the best of it. There will always be other birthdays, other camping trips but nothing is worth ruining a perfectly good weekend of gorgeous weather. My birthday was still celebrated and joy was still chosen. We spent Sunday in Carpinteria, 20 minutes from our house, splashing in the waves, eating burgers and walking around the little town. We clinked our post-beach ice cream cones together and toasted to another year of choosing joy and celebrating even when things don't go right.

Life doesn't always give us a perfect 10. Sometimes we're dealt a 3 or a 5, but even though it sucks, there are always reasons to celebrate and always, always something to be thankful for: it's our job to find it and celebrate accordingly.

I'm Feelin' 32

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I had make an emergency run to the grocery store over the weekend (I didn’t buy enough wine for my Fireball Sangria; first and last time I make that mistake!). I was the definition of a “hot mess”: hair thrown up in a messy bun (emphasis on messy), old yoga pants, no make-up and flip-flops I’ve had since 2010. After a morning of cleaning the apartment for our guests, I was also sweaty and possibly woozy from inhaling all the cleaning supplies. It was a gorgeous sight to behold. I bee-lined for the wine section (a section I’m no stranger to, mind you), grabbed the goods and made my way to check out. The cashier was a lady maybe in her mid-forties who, after scanning the wine looked up at me and said “ID please?”

 I pulled my ID out of my wallet and gave my usual “please don’t judge me on my awful photo” spiel and thanked her for carding me, as all women do once they’ve passed the age of 30.

 “There is no way this is accurate,” she said, looking at my ID skeptically, “your birth year has to be incorrect.”

 “No, it’s correct. I had bangs in that picture but I’m trying to grow them out now. And my birthday is on Thursday the 16th. I’ll be 32.”

 She looked back at my ID, then back at me. She stared at me with judgmental mom eyes. Then she bagged up my wine, took another look at me and said:

 “I need to know your secret.”

 I smiled the kind of smile only a woman who has just been told she looks younger than she is can smile.

 “I guess I’m just young at heart,” I joked, “you made my day, though. Thank you.”

 “I thought you were about 24 years old,” she said, “Have a nice day, young lady.”

 I left the store with a little extra pep in my step. When I got home I told Kyle all about how I was mistaken for a younger woman, to which he replied “yeah but did you get the wine?”

 Men, they don’t get it.

On the eve of my 32nd year, I’m feeling very Taylor Swift-ish. Like I might wake up tomorrow morning and starting singing “I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU BUT I’M FEELING THIRTY TWO!” I didn’t feel like this a week ago…..I may or may not have laid in bed in the fetal position bitching about how 32 felt like such an insignificant age and how I was feeling the sting of smile wrinkles and a metabolism that is slower than traffic on the 101 South on a Friday. But I had a change of heart on Saturday as I stood in that check-out line and that wonderful woman told me I looked 24.

 When I was a little girl, I always wished I was older. When I was 13, I wanted to be 16 so I could drive a car. When I was 16, I wanted to be 18 so I could excuse my own absences from school. When I was 18 I wanted to be 21 for obvious reasons. At 21, I wanted to be 30 because it sounded cooler and then I turned 30 and I was like “whoa, where did the time go?” I was so busy trying to rush through life to get to the next chapter that I forgot to embrace the here and now. Now I’m officially “older” and I’m wondering where the time went; wishing I could go back and do it all over again. I’m learning to be fully present in my current chapter I’m in, even if that chapter means smile wrinkles and metabolizing last Thanksgiving’s dinner six months later.   It’s about finding the good in each year, learning new lessons and embracing personal growth.

 I’m entering the 32nd chapter of my life, and damn it I’m excited. This is going to be a full year, which will add to my already full life. So tomorrow I’m going to throw some confetti on the bushes outside my house, have a couple of dance parties, eat some hibachi and spend the next 365 days embracing this new year.

 ….and also celebrate that I still look 24. Nope, not getting over that any time soon. 

Our Housewarming Party

Choosing Joy, PersonalAshtenComment

I believe in celebrating the little things in life. I'm a cheerleader for little victories, I'm someone who revels in the day's otherwise insignificant moments (aka: my coffee was extra delicious today). Sometimes, the little things are all we have. Sometimes the little things are more important than the big things. 

Sometimes, something as little as a 728 square foot apartment is worthy of celebration.......

Speaking of 728 square foot apartments, we threw a housewarming/early birthday party in ours on Saturday. 

And yes I realize it's a 728 square foot apartment.

And yes I realize we don't own it, which is one of the sole purposes of throwing oneself a housewarming.

I don't care, I wanted a housewarming and a housewarming I got.

It was glorious by the way.

I started planning this party before while our apartment was still a little glimmer in our eyes. If you know me, you're not surprised by this, just like you won't be surprised when I tell you I might have overdone it. 

There were five important takeaways from our Saturday celebrations that I want to share, in case you find yourself wanting to pack over 20 people in to YOUR 728 square foot apartment someday.

ONE: AIN'T NO SHAME IN THE PINTEREST GAME.

I am in no way ashamed to admit that I Pinterested the shit out of this party. I mean, the party had it's own Pinterest Board, that I started back when we lived in Atlanta for goodness sake. I went a little crazy making my vision come to life: from cocktails (Fireball Sangria, Sparkling White Peach Sangria and Watermelon Cucumber Lemonade) to decor ideas I got it all off Pinterest.....and got a lot of compliments on it too! And truthfully, it was so much fun taking the great ideas I pinned so many months ago and make them come to life. 

TWO: YOU CAN NEVER OVER PREPARE...FOOD THAT IS.

Our party was from 3 - 8 PM, so I knew people would arrive hungry and expect to be fed some sort of dinner. So, I wrote out a menu that would not only be filling, but inexpensive for Kyle and I. I broke out our menu by category: apps, main dishes and desserts, then wrote out each item we would need to buy from the store. We broke the food out into servings: one serving for dinner and one serving for after people started drinking and got hungry again. Our menu was: salad with assorted dressing, chips, 2 kinds of salsa and my famous guacamole, vegetables and hummus, sandwiches and BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders on King's Hawaiian Bread. Dessert was cakepops made by Nicole of Nicole Hagy Fit and cupcakes made by my childhood friend Danielle. Everyone had plenty to eat and left full! 

THREE: BE KID FRIENDLY.

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Almost all our friends have kids or are having kids in the near future. Despite the fact that we live in an apartment, we wanted to make sure the party was kid-friendly so our friends wouldn't feel like they needed to rush home to relieve a sitter. We bought chicken fingers for the kids (the adults loved them, too!), had juice for them to drink and brought out the corn hole for them to play with and they all had a blast. Not only that, but our friends appreciated being able to bring their kids and loved that we were so prepared for them! All in all, we had 6 kids in attendance, ranging from 7 weeks to 12 years old....and all of them loved Auntie Ashten and Uncle Kyle's house!

FOUR: ADD PERSONAL TOUCHES.

Above all, we wanted the party to "feel" like us. So, we added little personal touches were we could: I made my famous guacamole, Kyle made a playlist, we bought an address book and asked our friends to fill out their addresses for us. We also gave everyone candles to take home, thanking them for warming our home and telling them to now "warm theirs". It was a fun, creative way to make our party memorable and make it very "Ashten and Kyle".

FIVE: YOU CAN THROW A GREAT PARTY ON A BUDGET.

We all know I'm a baller on a budget (see this post). We wanted to have a great party, but not spend a lot of money. We bought all our food/booze in bulk at CostCo (we have some leftover for meals this week, winning!), bought our cute decor from Target and used the Cartwheel App to get discounts on all of it. I even bought all the serving trays and vases you see I this photo at the thrift store (except the white vegetable tray, I got that at Target for $10 on sale) for less than $50!

After this weekend I’m a little emotional. Like, emotional in a good way. Like, my heart is overflowing just like my coffee cup was come Monday morning because I was so tired from the weekend’s events. My cup runneth over, literally and figuratively you could say. It was a weekend filled with love, laughter and new life (my friends Jenna and Rachel gave birth over the weekend!). Kyle and I are still talking about how much fun it was and how amazing it was to have most of our friends in the same place. It might have been the celebration of something small but to us it was the party of the year!

Here are some more pictures from our party!

Season Two

Choosing Joy, On My HeartAshtenComment

I watched the first season of Bloodline in 4 days. I was a woman obsessed: as soon as one episode ended, I couldn’t pick up my remote to push “play” on the next episode fast enough. I love nothing more than a multifaceted plotline, suspense and Coach Taylor (I will call him that forever, even though I know his real name is Kyle Chandler. #ClearEyesFullHeartsCantLose).  I would lay in bed in Atlanta every night, Gatsby by my side and we would try to piece together the plot, episode by episode. When it was over, I was eager for the second season to start….the waiting part seemed to take FOR.EV.ER.

Does anyone else watch this show?! It’s so freaking good. I won’t give away any spoilers but if you like suspense, this is a show for you.

When I discovered season 2 had finally hit my Netflix queue (albeit 3 weeks after it allegedly premiered, harrumph) I was thrilled for the next chapter of the story. Armed with wine and way too many snacks I eagerly got to work plowing through the next part of the plotline.

Apparently I was one of the few who got excited about this new season.

Several of my friends were extremely hesitant to start the second season, fearing it wouldn’t be as compelling as the first.

“What if it’s a letdown?” they said, “I don’t want them to ruin season 1 by following it up with a crappy season 2.”

“But what if it’s good?” I asked them, “you don’t want to miss out on the next season because you’re scared of ruining the last one.”

Never mind that I love a good TV drama and would probably jump off a cliff if Coach Taylor told me to (#TexasForever) but the idea of staying in one season because you’re scared of the next one seems like such a missed opportunity to me.

 Also COACH TAYLOR DOING THINGS.

I guess it’s natural to tune out something that no longer holds your interest or keeps you on the edge of your seat. I felt that way about The Office once Michael Scott left. (But really, didn’t we all?) I can’t help but think though: what if you’re in a season you’re entirely happy with, but other people in your life might not be? Are we allowed to tune out? How much time do we give until we allow ourselves to tune out?

It’s no secret that 2012-2014 were hard years for me. I battled depression and intense social anxiety after a traumatic personal experience. I was living in Atlanta and feeling like I didn’t fit in. Warner got sick and I was just trying to survive. I was in a new relationship after being the “single girl” for so many years and learning how to be a long distance girlfriend. It was a myriad of emotions to feel at once and writing was the only way I could express how I was feeling. It was a season of chaos and uncertainty but mostly it was hell. And I feel like I survived it all because of the amazing blogging community I met along the way; people who suffered and celebrated with me, who I bonded with through writing out how life was keeping me on the edge of my seat. Truthfully, I’m really glad season 1 is over: it was almost as intense as season 1 of Bloodlines. (Sorry, that was a little too dramatic….I in no way compare to season 1 of that show.)

Things are so, so, so different now.

Season 2 is a more mellow season. A settled season. A season of enjoyment and living on a more even keel. And sometimes, I don’t know how to write through that. Sometimes, I feel like I’m tuning out of my own show because there is no struggle, no heartbreak, no hardship to make sense of right now. And really, how many times can you hear someone be all “woo, woo” before you want to slap them? (The answer is not many.) I’m in a place I didn’t know existed: one filled with peace, lots of happiness and unconditional love.

My season 1 and season 2 might be different but I am the same. I still have so much to share, so much I’ve learned about mess and survival and the sheer bravery it takes to get out of bed when you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. I still want to connect over how life can toss us around like a rag doll and how you can still come out a brave, badass bitch. I still wonder what will happen next, and if there will be a season 3 to my story but for right now, my season 2 is worth tuning in to and I plan on embracing it, even if Coach Taylor isn’t a main character in my story. (A Gatsby will have to do.)

I’m learning it’s okay to give a new season a chance, even if it might let you down or not look like the season you knew like the back of your hand. I’m learning that I can’t write chaos if chaos doesn’t exist but I can still empathize when chaos exists in someone else’s season. I’m learning not to discredit where I am because where I was seemed so much more interesting.

What’s the moral of this story? More wine and more Bloodline.

Okay, fine. More embracing where you are, less wondering why you’re not where you used to be. Less trying to create a season that doesn’t exist in your life right now….even if it means more “woo, woo” than you’re normally used to.

 And, always more Coach Taylor.