Friday, May 29, 2015

My First Solo Vacation

[This is slightly overdue considering I got back Tuesday night, but I hit the ground running Wednesday morning at school. Research won't do itself!]

I took my first solo vacation over the holiday weekend. Granted I went to Pensacola, Florida to stay with family, but I traveled alone and even rented my first car. 

I love Pensacola. It's like my second home. If you want to visit Florida but you don't want to go to your typical tourist-y spots, I suggest Pensacola. It's so full of life and history. Not to mention it's right on the gulf. 

So let's start at the beginning of the trip. I kept a list of things I saw from the plane because it was kind of fascinating.
1. Ft. Wayne (I flew over Indiana to my connection in Chicago. I see you Ft. Fun!)
2. Rush hour traffic (probably a few miles of nearly standstill traffic on an interstate)
3. Lake Michigan (kinda weird looking out and seeing just blue)
4. Chicago (way more widespread that I ever realized!)
5. Lowes (they have their name on the top of their building in HUGE letters - great for marketing I guess?)
6. Another plane flying below us (probably the freakiest thing ever)
7. Lightening (this was on my way home, but it was super cool)

I love flying and all that comes with it. Especially the people watching. I spent the majority of my layover in Chicago (nearly 4 hours thanks to a flight delay) watching people while drinking a big ol' margarita.
(The biggest margarita I've ever had...not counting Cinco de Mayo)

Because I'm in Florida, I immediately started packing for the beach when I got up on Saturday. Pensacola Beach is such a fun place! There's so much stuff to do on Santa Rosa Island - regardless of if you spend your time on the gulf side or the bay side, it's all gorgeous. They have parasailing, boat rentals, so many bars and restaurants, among many other things. My favorite place to sit is on the main beach right by the beach ball water tower. There's a bar/restaurant right on the beach there. Like you just walk up in your swimsuit with no shoes on and order food or drinks (or both!). I cannot get enough of this place.
(White sand, blue water, blue skies, perfection)

I spent Saturday and Sunday there because why not? I also had looked at the forecast and they were calling for rain and storms Monday and Tuesday. Naturally I had to soak up as much sun as I could! Going to the beach multiple times meant I got to test my knowledge of Pensacola roads. I've only ever driven down there once, so this weekend was really exciting for me! Almost all of the roads are in a grid pattern and there's signs everywhere (always helpful).

Other than spending time at the beach and learning the roads of P'cola, I hung out with my aunt a lot. She's fun and crazy and has the same sense of humor and outlook on life as me. Guess it runs in the family! After eating at Peg Leg Pete's (my fave restaurant probably ever), she took me downtown and showed me some of the best places in town. We even stopped by the Wahoo's stadium since there was a game going on. We didn't buy tickets, but the people were nice enough to let us in so I could see the stadium all lit up! Fun fact for my Ohio friends: the Wahoos are an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.
(My beautiful Aunt Karen)

(Oysters Rockefeller - the best oysters ever!)

(Shrimp, scallops, grouper, oh my!)

(We "went to a Wahoos game")

The last crazy thing I did on vacation was the craziest thing I've done in a while.

I colored my hair.

This is the during process. I've always had brown hair with natural highlights. But it's summer. And I want a change. Also my best friend got a new piercing so I felt like I needed to be equally rebellious! Everyone goes light in the summer, so to be a rebel I thought I'd go darker in the summer. But not just darker - redder. Yep, my hair has a red tint to it. 

It's definitely still brown (I'm not that rebellious), but I love the hidden red. One of my professors even noticed. "Did you put red in your hair?" "Yes I did." "Hmmm...weird." Thanks Dr. Sommer. I appreciate the enthusiasm. (We do really get along well, he just gives me a hard time.)

All in all, this was a wonderful vacation. Probably one of my more favorite times away from home!

A few shoutouts:
-Enterprise for having the lowest underage driver fee. Seriously y'all saved me so much money!
-Peg Leg Pete's for having my favorite seafood in Pensacola. No joke if you travel to P'cola, you have to eat there! And look for a license plate from your home state (if you go you'll get what I'm talking about).
-My cousin Trina for the wonderful new hair color. If you're in Pensacola and looking for a change, hit her up at Benjamin and Larry's!
-Cody for being a fellow Ball State alum who sat next to me on my last flight and kept me company. Glad we both got to experience running through the Charlotte airport - but praise the Lord we made our flight!


Thanks Pensacola for providing me with a wonderful long weekend away from the Midwest! I can't wait to go back!

--

 photo BlogSig_zpsxyetefb3.png

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

This Hoosier just said "Go Blue"

I'm a born and raised Hoosier and a big IU fan. But when my dear friend Lindsay got accepted to University of Michigan's graduate school, I started seeing blue and maize. (This excites my best friend Katie to no end - she's a born and raised Michigander!)

We took a day trip to Ann Arbor to visit some apartments. I've never been there (in fact I can count the number of times I've been to Michigan on one hand) and I've gotta say: I LOVED it!! Ann Arbor is adorable. The houses are so pretty, campus is pretty, everything about it screams "quaint little town" but with a bigger city feel. I've always been a fan of Detroit (it's close to Canada, my favorite country, the Red Wings are there, and it's the only place in Michigan I've ever been), but Ann Arbor is only adding to the appeal of Michigan.

Here's a little taste of my experience:


First we need to talk about this place. It's called The M Den. I've never seen so much Michigan gear in one place. (I mean being from Indiana I never see any Michigan gear anywhere!) Two levels, all Michigan. From your typical t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, to oven mitts and phone cases. All Michigan everything. So naturally we picked out lots of stuff. I came home with a sweatshirt and a t-shirt. (Don't worry I still have more IU apparel!)

We got lunch at a little place called Zingerman's. You may have heard about this place if you watch the Food Channel. My oh my was it good! We split a sandwich and were still completely stuffed! The bread was amazing and the bacon on this sandwich? Perfection. If you ever go, I can tell you that the Peter's Peppered Pick sandwich is mouth-watering!


Of course we needed to eat dinner and after a day of touring apartments, what could be better than ice cream for dinner? And at Ben & Jerry's? Done and done! I've only ever been in an actual Ben & Jerry's store once and that was in Yorktown, VA. If you love their ice cream, I suggest trying it in a shake. You can't go wrong. 


I'm obsessed with cute downtowns and Ann Arbor hit the nail on the head. There's so much greenery and so many cute restaurants and shops. I can't wait to visit when it's a little warmer (I'm sorry but 58 degrees in May is just not okay) and we can sit outside and eat!

Naturally we got matching sweatshirts and put them on for the drive home. 

Go Blue (followed quickly by a loud Hoo Hoo Hoosiers in my head).

//

I know so many people either moving to Michigan this summer or already living in Michigan. From Ann Arbor to East Lansing to Detroit, it's safe to say I'll be making plenty of trips to the Mitten State in the future!

Where's a place you recently discovered that you can't wait to travel back to?

--
 photo BlogSig_zpsxyetefb3.png

Sunday, May 17, 2015

What is it they say?

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder"? Or wait. Is it "out of sight out of mind"?

I go back and forth on seeing which one applies more to how I live my life. I thought that once I graduated college and moved out of Muncie, I'd miss everyone I was around so incredibly much. But I didn't. Not that I don't enjoy seeing people I spent four years with, but leaving Muncie has shown me who really matters to me. Those are the people that when they're not around, my heart misses them that much more. And moving to Ohio has only amplified those feelings. 

Ohio has left me feeling very isolated from my life in Indiana. I find myself wondering which phrase do the people I care about apply to me? I hope that my absence makes their heart grow fonder! But that feeling of isolation allows for an onset of lies to take root. I'm afraid that they don't care about me - maybe they're more out of sight out of mind kind of people. And shouldn't I be able to live on my on? I'm an adult for crying out loud! It's not like I don't know how to take care of myself. And I'm only two hours away from everyone. But two hours is too far to drive for just dinner or coffee on a regular basis. That's a lot of gas that this poor grad student doesn't have the money for.

I find myself believing that they don't care about me like I care about them. And when the communication between us is suffering, those lies only take a deeper root. I'm definitely at fault for not reaching out first. But another lie that plants itself in me is "You reach out all the time! You're the one who always goes to Indiana - why don't they come to Ohio? You reach out first more than they do. It's their turn to come to you." That's definitely a dangerous place to be. Because I don't want to reach out first, I'm not going to tell them how I'm feeling. And if they don't know I'm struggling, they don't know to speak truth into me.

That leads into another lie: my feelings don't matter. Refusing to reach out first, not telling them how I feel, and then thinking my feelings don't matter. Wow. Talk about a dangerous cycle! It's definitely a hard cycle to break. And it's never easy to admit I've been believing lies. It's even harder to come back from those lies and accept and believe the truth. Funny how lies are so awful to us yet so comfortable at the same time?

This has been an underlying theme for the last two years. Not only with friends but with family as well. I know I need to just suck it up and tell people how I'm feeling. The Lord has been so sweet by giving me understanding friends who extend so much grace. It's something I continue to work on all the time. And something I don't think I'll ever be done working on.

//

Thanks for bearing with me with the back-to-back serious posts! There's a lot of change happening in my life right now and I don't always deal with change the best (understatement of the year). And this place is a great way to get my thoughts in order and written in a cohesive way. Sometimes I just start writing and then I figure out what's really going on instead of thinking about what I want to write and then writing it. I think that's God's way of talking to me though. My fingers will just type away and then I type something, stop, re-read it, and go "Huh. So that's the root of that problem." It's pretty sweet!

--
 photo BlogSig_zpsxyetefb3.png

Friday, May 15, 2015

Wholeheartedly

I love being single. But really, it's more that I'm very selfish about my time than anything. I love my time. I love being able to take a weekend and visit friends back in Indiana, take an extended weekend and fly to Florida for a mini-vacay, or take a day and drive to Ann Arbor with a friend. I love my time.

That being said, I still want a husband. I'm that girl who has had her entire wedding planned since she was about 8. It's something I think about every now and then, and even more now that a lot of my friends are married. I'm in a place where I don't want to casually date. I want to date to marry. If a guy isn't someone who I could see myself marrying, then bye Felicia! I don't think there's anything wrong with me wanting that. God gave me desires - one of mine happens to be that I want to be a wife and mother.

Where it gets not-so-great is when I start doubting His plan for my life. I'm almost 25, I should be getting engaged soon! At the rate I'm going I worry that I won't become a mom until after I'm 30. And that scares the crap out of me. I'm anxious about my future. I tell God, "It's not that I need a man right now, but will it happen?" And when He doesn't answer like I think He will, I get mad. Instead of getting "Yes, you'll meet your future husband next Wednesday at 5:23 PM", I get "Ashley, I am and forever will be enough for you."

I'm also a huge planner. I'm taking a trip to Ann Arbor with a friend to look for apartments for her next week. I mapped out where each apartment is, how long it takes to get from one to the other, and exactly what time we need to leave each place to be on time for the next appointment. I would absolutely die without my calendar. It was a glorious day when I learned how to sync the one on my laptop to the one on my phone (thank you iCloud). So this whole not-knowing-when-I'll-get-married thing is hard to grasp. What if I meet Mr. Ashley at a time when I wasn't planning on fitting someone else into my life? What if I meet him right before I move away from the city he's in? What if I meet him in a city that I didn't even plan on ever living in? What if I'm finally fully at peace with being single and then I meet him?! All of these what ifs are really challenging my need to plan out my life. So instead, I am daily learning how to trust in God's timing and not my own.

Thankfully I'm not alone in my singleness (even though it feels like it sometimes)! I follow this woman (Alyson Haley) on Instagram and she posted a picture of this new devo she got that's all about being single. Feeling like it was God saying "Here. You are angry and anxious and I really need you to stop.", I immediately ordered it. It's called Wholeheartedly - A Devotional For Singles. (She has a twin sister who makes and sells prayer journals as well (here's the link if you want to explore for yourself).) I am beyond excited to dive into this. I finished the first devo this morning and all I wanted to do was to keep going and finish the whole thing in one day. I could have, but that would have taken the fun out of listening to the Lord's voice on the daily devo. Not to mention I wouldn't get any work done in the lab.

I'm so excited to go through this with the Lord. I think this is a struggle that the Lord has always been pushing me to hand over to Him, but I just have never been able to. So this is my way of taking those steps to letting go of my fear of the future and letting go of my inability to plan my future.

If you're like me and you love music, the only song in my head the entire time I wrote this was Christ Is Enough by Hillsong. If you're still like me and have to listen to a song as soon as it's in your head, here's the song: 


Christ is and always will be enough for me.

--
 photo BlogSig_zpsxyetefb3.png

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Currently Obsessing Over...

I'm that person who buys new shampoo/conditioner/makeup/lotion/whatever before I run out of what I currently have. Then, I don't finish using my old stuff because I'm too excited about what I just bought. I mean I feel like there's worse things in life, but it's a small problem because I have bottles of almost-but-not-quite empty products.

Either way, I love getting new things. Here's a few things I'm currently loving:

1. TRESemm√© Perfectly (un)Done Conditioner
My hair is really awkward because it's kind of straight, kind of wavy. But this stuff makes it more uniformly wavy. My hair is also super fine (even though I have enough hair for 4 people) and this conditioner gives it some texture and hold without needing hairspray.

2. Revlon Colorburst Balm Stain
If you must know one thing about me it's that I love lipstick. Hot pinks, nudes, berries, you name it I'll wear it. But I'm that person that when I'm wearing lipstick I'm always rubbing my lips together to make sure it's still there. Sadly, I've found that doing that makes it fade a whole lot faster. Here's where the balm stain comes in to save the day: I can put this stuff on in the morning and the color lasts literally all day. I keep some plain chapstick with me to keep my lips moisturized but the color is still there.
My current favorite color is Sweetheart (025).

3. Maybelline Baby Skin Pore Eraser
I have huge pores. No matter what I do they're large and it annoys me. I've tried a couple different primers/moisturizers/face washes and nothing has made my pores look smaller - until this stuff. It also makes your skin soft and smooth - meaning your makeup goes on a lot better.

4. Mary Kay TimeWise 3-in-1 Cleanser (combination/oily)
I've recently fallen back in love with Mary Kay face wash. I swear it's the reason my skin looks so great without any makeup. I have really oily skin and this stuff (I kid you not) keeps my skin from getting as oily throughout the day. That's quite a feat because when it gets warm I get hot really easily (okay I get hot easily even in the winter) and my face is 10x more oily.

What are some of your current beauty product obsessions?

--
 photo BlogSig_zpsxyetefb3.png

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Reflection (by Christina Aguilera)


(Just in case the title of the post had you reminiscing)

It's finals week at Miami. I turned in my only final of the semester yesterday so other than proctoring two exams, I'm done. Done with my second year of grad school. Crazy! I've learned so much the last two years - here's just a short summary:

1. I need a Christian community. Even though I spent my entire undergrad surrounded by Christians does not mean that I'm now able to spend my entire grad school career surrounded by non-Christians. God created us for community and fellowship - things I lacked my first year. But thanks to the graciousness of the Lord, I have a wonderful community now.
2. School does not define me. Being judged based on my performance on exams that are either pass or fail (no in between - you either pass or you fail) has caused me to believe that I'm not good enough for grad school. Thankfully, I have family, friends, and even a boss who encourages me and remind me that results of exams do not define me.
3. I really love wine. Not in like a "maybe I should get help" kind of way. But I never really liked a variety of wines until I came to grad school. I'm partial to chardonnay and red blends, but really I drink almost any kind.

We need community. Regardless of how strong your community once was, you cannot thrive without it.
Exams, grades, school, performance does not define you. You are always enough for God. Always. Nothing you do can make Him love you more. Nothing you do can make Him love you less.
If you're having a bad day, have a glass of wine. If you're having a good day, have a glass of wine.

If you feel like you aren't enough or you aren't loved, give this a read. And remember: you are enough and you are loved.

--
 photo BlogSig_zpsxyetefb3.png

Monday, May 11, 2015

There's plenty of fish in the sea


Top: Old Navy (sold out but here's a similar one) // Shorts: Old Navy // Shoes: Converse // Earrings: Wal-Mart (they aren't online, but they're $5 in the store)


Jacket: JCPenney (similar - and on sale!)


Here's more of a close up of the earrings. Wal-Mart had them in almost every color imaginable. And they were only 5 bucks!! 


Uhb-sessing over these fish shorts. They're so fun!


I love bargains. If I can find something at Walmart or Target that looks similar to something from Nordstrom, you can bet that I'll buy it at Walmart or Target.

 I'm very fortunate that I'm being paid to go to school on top of having my tuition mostly paid. On my student stipend, I'm able to pay all my bills. The only things I don't pay for are my health and car insurance - my parents are gracious enough to cover those for me. So I'm kind of an adult right now!

But after paying all my bills, I'm not left with a whole lot each month to spend on expensive things (like this Kate Spade bag that every fashion blogger seems to have that I secretly covet). That's why I love Walmart, Target, and Old Navy. Working in a chemistry lab (with chemicals of course) I don't want to wear an $80 top only to leave with acid holes in it. So, I buy my shirts for $6, maybe a little more. That way, when I do get holes in them from something leftover on the benchtop (because it will always happens), I don't feel as bad about it. Also, I still look fabulous while rocking my safety glasses and gloves!

So rock those shorts from Target! Own that top from Wal-Mart! Wherever you get your clothes shouldn't define you. Buying clothes for less money does not make you less stylish or less cool. If it's comfy, it works for you, and you like it, then don't let anyone make you feel less for buying your clothes from Wal-Mart!

--
 photo BlogSig_zpsxyetefb3.png

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Once upon a time...

There was a chemistry graduate student who had this crazy dream of documenting life as she navigated life in southwest Ohio. She had dreams of writing about God and his glory, the ins and outs of grad school, the few times she wore something other than workout clothes to work, and anything else that happened to be on her heart. She had hopes of reaching at least one person who could relate to her. If you want to know how this story ends, keep coming back.

So the "she" in that story is me! Hi, my name is Ashley. I'm currently a graduate student at Miami University (in Ohio, not Florida) studying chemistry. This blog is hopefully going to be a way to keep me accountable in my walk with the Lord while also providing me a creative outlet that is the total opposite of what I do for a living.

If you just want the short version of who I am, head over to the About section! If you'd like the longer version, stick around.


So about me. Here's some of the most important parts of me:

- Again, my name is Ashley. I'm a 20-something that's navigating life as a grad student living in Oxford, Ohio. I'm a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a pet parent, and a born and raised Hoosier.

- My family is everything to me. We're kind of a melting pot of people. I have one brother, three step-brothers, and two half-sisters. I have more nieces and nephews than I have fingers because I'm the second youngest. 

- I grew up in the country where I loved to always be outside or in the woods exploring. I was involved in softball, choir, and musicals while in high school. I was never part of any one clique - instead of bounced around and knew pretty much everyone I graduated with (not all that hard in a small town). 
(That's me in the middle as Mrs. Potts in my senior year musical. Brittany (the dancing spoon) and Meghan (Babette) were my two best friends in high school. We frequently were referred to as BAM.)

- I attended Ball State University (chirp chirp!) for my undergrad where I majored in chemistry and minored in Spanish. I was super involved in Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru) as a Bible study leader and discipler. This is where the Lord really pushed me, and I grew quicker than the weeds in my mom's flower gardens.
(Two of my roommates senior year, Katie and Elizabeth. Science majors unite!)

- I currently live in southwest Ohio where I'm finishing my second year at Miami University pursuing a graduate degree in analytical chemistry. I attend Oxford Bible Fellowship and hang out with people whenever I'm not at school.
(This is Hughes, the building where I spend my days researching, teaching, and learning how to fail and succeed.)



If you made it this far, thanks! I appreciate your endurance to keep reading. I tend to ramble, so if you just barely made it to the end, keep up with me. My rambling will help build your reading endurance!

--




Subscribe to my mailing list for exclusive content, recap of recent posts, plus other fun and exciting things!

* indicates required