Amateur Artist Blogs About It

So I paint canvases. This is a part of my life. Just one part. I am many things just like all of you. I also go to the gym almost every day and still almost die doing anything more than 10 push-ups so you should know I can be very dedicated to things I’m not technically great at. 

The painting stuff is something I don’t think I’ve shared much about in this space. I think it’s always been something I haven’t quite known how to own. Imposter syndrome has been a lousy passenger. 

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My childhood was a dabbling in all things creative. That part of my story is not unique unless, to you, painting rocks to look like the faces of animals is not your definition of a normal pastime. Bright Indian bracelets. Baking clay beads to look like flowers. Selling jewelry. And following Bob Ross along in his happy way to learn a few things. This was my zone. My mom was a ninja of supplying things to inspire my creativity and then pulling back silently — no cheap praise or helicopter prodding. 

I always kept my paint supplies. Same clear box—cracked at the side. I refuse to replace it. It’s got starving artist written all over it and that’s a message I can get on board with. From time to time in college and after getting married, I would pull the box out and mess around on a canvas. This was purely therapeutic. I would delight in the colors coming alive. It was the one thing I could get so ridiculously absorbed in that I would forget time, eating, and even where I was. I’ve never had any delusions that I was even remotely good. I just felt better from doing it. Like centering myself. 

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One day two years ago, after sharing a painting on Facebook, a friend asked, “hey, can I buy that?” The thought of someone buying one of these things genuinely blew my mind. Another thing that blew my mind, about a week later while standing in the UPS lobby in a state of abject horror, was shipping costs for a painting. But it was the spark (I needed) that lit a weird and wonderful fire. In six months, kind friends and family (and even a couple strangers) bought 17 paintings from me while I tried to churn out anything that someone might want. 


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I’m 34 now. And to catch us all up to speed in what is quickly seeming like the most grotesque display of narcissism to ever make it’s way to a blog post— I would like to take up painting with more intentionality and devotion and that means I have some work to do. 

  1. Study. I have absolutely no training beyond Art I from freshman year in high school where I learned things like “shade even darker” and “never use black in a painting”. At 34 I’m going to need to loop back and learn the fundamentals. There are so many things I’m curious about and want to try. There are things I see—but don’t have the vernacular to describe. I used to practice drawing and I want to do more of that. I want to have a repertoire of basics to pull from and I just lack all that right now. It’s never too late to be who you might have been. Isn’t that how the saying goes? The me who I might have been knows things about art and has words for those things.

  1. Time. Blocks of time. I’m using them. This is how the magic happens with anything. Show up consistently. Stay curious. Keep at it. Stop painting right before I actually want to. That’s what I’m currently doing. I’m not just going at it in waves anymore. I’m steady this time. Paint—-and then back to my other responsibilities. And then paint—-and repeat the cycle. Essentially, I’m not painting when I feel like it anymore. I’m painting because I’ve witnessed that time in is almost entirely the answer to growth in any other area of life. I’m putting in the hours. 

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  1. Connecting. There are a few new things I would like to do. The 1st one is what I’m doing right now. Flushing out thoughts on this topic here on the blog. The 2nd one is getting connected with other artists in my area & having my art actually viewed and/or displayed rather than just online and in my home. I’m clueless about how to get connected to other artists but I’ve been clueless about all of the rest of this so far and that has yet to stop me. 

Something that is really important for me to say is this next thing. 

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Every single kind word, generous praise, comment of encouragement and painting purchase—as well as all those supplies my mom has gifted me & the completely underserved admiration from my husband who has been found hanging up my paintings on our walls when I’m not around and can’t tell him no…

You all have brought me to this place. A place where I can share of myself and feel connected to others. You are helping pave the way for my training (non-trad student—what what!) and fueled me for the journey. 

So thank you for all of the positivity that has pushed me on. I think you guys have seen something in me that I still can’t see. I’m pretty sure of that. But I want to keep going. And I’m so deeply grateful that the generosity of others has allowed me to do so. You have breathed life into me in so many wonderful ways. 

I wish this post could have been funnier to distract all of us from the disgusting navel gazing. My sincerest apologies. 

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Patricia, if you are reading this —thank you for nudging me to put some thoughts to this whole thing. You rock.

Some thoughts on the day Thomas turns 9

I’m up. It’s blessedly quiet here. 4:30 in the morning. In a couple hours I will have to answer for the time I stole from my own sleep. 

What woke me initially was the urge to write down all my tasks for the week ahead. Not least of all would be to kickstart that whole konmari process here since I recently binged the show after an argument with Paul—He, midway through instillation of a new sprinkler control board and donning a headlight, searched for a mini screwdriver high and low last week while I urged things like, “IT’S NOT IN THAT BOX” and “JUST GO TO THE STORE AND BUY A NEW ONE.”

But now I’m sitting here thinking about Thomas—-nine years old today. 

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Paul and I are in what I so often refer to as the golden stage of parenting with all 3 of our kids (ages 9, 5 & 5). They aren’t young enough to dice up our sleep mercilessly or old enough to do the same for other reasons. It’s delightful. Small hands set tables. Little boys ask for snuggles and one more book and we are still living fully in the season before Thomas’s pocket has a phone in it.

One thought dominates my view of Thomas on his birthday today: time. 

I’ve had time to read to him.  Countless picture books. Nursery rhymes. Harry Potter & the Chronicles of Narnia. Winnie the Pooh & Ralph books too. Dozens of chapter books.  Loads of poetry, history, science. Aesop’s fables and so many short stories. We’ve spent untold hours reading together. 

I’ve had time to listen to him. I’ve fielded questions about abortion and the atomic bomb as well as how to handle a girl whose got a crush on him. He talks lots. He jokes all the time. Even with all our time, I can’t always take it all in, but I’m glad I’ve caught a lot. 

I’ve had time to teach him.  Phonics lessons. Ancient history. Memorizing poetry and practicing math. How to form his letters and put together his thoughts. Etiquette tips and how to include others. How to navigate a recipe and how to learn through chemistry, especially when you fail. 

I’ve had messy time with him. Time to argue. Time to apologize. Time to cry in front of him and tell him we have to do better. Time to ask him for help and do the same for him. Time to discuss things respectfully. 


I didn’t set out to be so greedy in my claim of his young years. I worked as a teacher when he was little and that was just fine. Then I came home to be a stay at home mom when the twins were born and he was 3. And somehow, fast forward a few years and we are here, new state but same bubble— still surrounded by picture books and, to Paul’s distaste, gold glitter on the dining table. 

Time with kids seems to be like that tricky relationship we also have with humility wherein the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know. And in my experience, the more time I’ve had with my kids, the more I treasure that time. Now, more than ever (and admittedly, maybe because I’m in an easier stage, more seasoned, or just worn out), I am crazy in love with spending time with my kids. I’ll blame Ellie in part, by way of driving a wedge between me and all my loves (peace, routine, seeing my kids in their element and not being driven upstairs by a dog eager to bite…) of which I have mostly reclaimed. 

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This isn’t to say I don’t ever need a deep breath in Target or to send them to face a screen so I can collect myself from the bottom of a coffee mug. But I genuinely cherish our time together. With a blink, it will be gone and ghosts of Lego messes and dance parties past will haunt me with such longing—uncaring that I spent every waking moment with them. It won’t ever be enough… 

What if I hadn’t had this time with him? What of that? (Other than more digits in our retirement and likely a more polished look when I step out in public.)

I can speak of making smart use of snippets of time with loved ones too. Paul and I, after years of grinding work and swaths of absence from each other, are learning to reclaim one on one time together through small walks, porch chats, and laughing together at the end of the day. An argument for time well spent is not to be missed. And really, I’m not making an argument at all but only urging myself and maybe you too: let us return our attention to those absolutely closest to us.  

People farther out of reach have thought better of me. They might set praise to my (presumed) success at (fill-in-the-blank) area of life. They amuse me by laughing at my jokes (much appreciated, guys). They are generous with social media likes and hearts. But my family knows better. They know as well that I forget to close drawers, am not calm nearly enough, say things like “shit” [a lot] and “so help me if I…”, and that I don’t always put things back where they belong. So sorry about that screwdriver, Paul. 

Time with those closest to us is not … easy.  What’s easy is grabbing validation and attention elsewhere, distracting ourselves well from the work of developing intimacy and forming habits rooted in kindness. But where we experience some of the greatest fruit is in the deepest pain—-of being known fully and still fully loved. 

Today we will make Thomas’s day special. I will give him a letter that lets him know of all the particular and wonderful things that I see in him. I will hand him a few wrapped presents from us and grandparents, and while he holds up a box with whatever hundreds of pieces to put together and I look at those big brown eyes and wonder what else there is behind that smile, inside that brain, buried within this one soul that I’ve been placed in brief care of—- I’ll be praying, praying, praying that I know, that I will know, how to make best use of the rest of our time together.  

We Got a Dog

The last thing I would have ever thought to possibly bust up my hiatus from blogging would be the words “we got a dog”. 

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Alas, we got a dog.  I, long time proponent of feeling nothingness around every dog I’ve ever met… caved and said yes. What the heck? Something new! Life was getting a little… comfortable. 

Her name is Ellie. She is a mini golden doodle and is adorable. She is also magical in that she doesn’t shed whatsoever.

I have cried much. 

I have cried all the cries. 

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I have called my husband while he was at work and (rage) sobbed for fifteen minutes (I’ve never called him while he is at work for more than a 60 second question in the entirety of our ten year marriage). 

Were these tears of joy, Ashley? You were so moved to love an entity so much? You were caught off by your new found affections for your puppy? You realized that dog really is man’s best friends and you were grieving the 33 years you wasted not seeing this truth???

No! No, no no.

These were tears of unrelenting, deep, deep, turtles all the way down regret. For the poop clean-up. And the deodorizing. And the child defending. And the bite training. And the standing in the cold and rain in the middle of the night for the dog to do her thing. And the nonstop checking on her that was making my brain short circuit into a billion fragments and rendering me a useless, unproductive husk of a woman. And depression!! Depression! Puppy PTSD! Something I was delighted (only in the sense of being validated online for something I had sensed due to, among other noted experiences, a feeling of dark despair to the core of my soul) to find confirmed by others who also shouted into the void (Reddit) things like “I just want my life back” and “What the hell was I thinking? I mean, really!! What was I thinking??!!”

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Oh and also for that one day she bled in her poop. Then she diarrhea-ed all over my car. And then waiting politely until I had cleaned all of that up to also vomit all over the inside of my car. 

Tears. Lots of them. I like a tidy life. This was ——ha!!! Hahahaha…

One day I cried in such a way that I didn’t even know that I was capable of crying like that.  Like finding out you can roll your tongue to make a W and you were just walking around all those years not knowing. Not knowing! 

One day I scrolled through Instagram because I just knew this one family got a dog some time ago… I knew it. And like the crazy person I had become, I scrolled down down down down to see yes! They did have a dog!! But where did that dog go?? The dog disappears from the Instagram feed with not a mention. Did they send it away silently?  Saying nothing of this online? Did that mom also cry, gripping her living room rug one day while saying “Go away kids. Mommy isn’t okay right now” and decided the very next day it was time for puppy to be kindly sent off. Something like that? Just a hypothetical. 

I can say that things are better now. I look at her and think okay. 

I walk with her around the neighborhood and sometimes smile and then think she’s poisoning my brain and then she looks up at me so cute and I know that she is. 

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Here are a few signs that life with puppy is not going well:

  1. You listen to a friend recount the string of dogs she has owned. Between accident and sickness, (you are listening while also doing math) the average life span of her dogs so far equals one third of how long you were told your puppy will live and you think: what luck!

*Actually, I think I’ll spare you from the rest of the signs. If you have never had a puppy before and are considering getting one—-Also, you ARE NOT A DOG PERSON but are happy to do so for your family—-message me and we’ll chat. 

A neighbor talked to me about how it was going with Ellie at a Christmas party. She said she’s never wanted one. Her family does. But still she just doesn’t want to do it. I urged, “Good. Go with that.” 

I took Ellie to get groomed last week. The groomer is just a couple blocks from my house. It’s quaint and convenient in a way that could only be one-upped by a bookstore cafe, should it be within walking distance of my front door. The groomer explained to me how to start brushing Ellie’s fur, and after some basic paperwork said they would call me in a couple hours. I walked home high as a freaking kite. 

I strolled in through the doorway and greeted the kids. “TWO HOURS! TWO HOURS! We can do whatever we want for two hours, guys!!!” They weren’t as enthusiastic as me, but I was enthusiastic enough for all of us. I got more done in those two hours than I had since we brought her home. My decision making and task completing engines were firing at an alarmingly magical rate much like a machine gun only if that machine gun threw out bullets of undiluted happiness and joy of every imaginable color God had ever created. 

So, I have learned something. I like getting things done.  This explains why the transition to motherhood was hard. Both times. And why I felt like getting a dog was death. There’s me. There’s getting things done. And when someone/something/whatever gets in the way of me and getting things done an ugly monster of embarrassing proportions rears its head. I’m working on it. 

So it’s all gonna be fine. I’m just going to sleep a little less. Cut back on gym time since I can’t figure out, try as I might, how to duplicate myself. Walk Ellie a lot since we both appear to onlookers stupid happy about that. And take her to the groomer more than socially acceptable or fiscally responsible. 

I realized having a dog is just another way to die to self, so in that context, my Catholic sensibilities are pretty pleased.  I don’t think that’s the clincher for why other people get dogs though. There’s got to be more to it.  I see some of you with your dogs and you seem pretty darn pleased with yourselves. It’s a mystery unto my soul. 

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I let Ellie lick on my knee this morning where my jeans are faux torn. There’s an animal in my house. Why is there an animal in my house? And why am I letting her lick me? 

But she looked so happy and content and loving. We are getting really great at tolerating each other.  

She’s definitely poisoning my brain. 

When you are interested in homeschooling and would love some direction! 

We are wrapping up our 3rd year of homeschooling. What a happy thing to celebrate! It calls for some doughnuts and maybe an Anderson family collective cannonball into the pool. 

I really can’t believe we are still living life this way. It’s equal parts crazy and amazing. I really genuinely love it despite it taking some grit here and there. I treasure my time with my kids, and I am so grateful I have the freedoms to teach them at home. 

 

I’ve had quite a few people reach out to me recently about homeschooling, so today I’m sharing a few things that will be helpful if you (or someone you know) is curious about homeschooling and would love to know more. 

Pull up your sleeves and pour some coffee or tea. Let’s dig in.

  1. Start with why.  I promise there is more than enough information you could ever want about how to homeschool and what to teach. What I urge you to do first though is to simply do a brain dump on why you are interested. Do it on paper or type it up. You might surprise yourself with your reasons. I keep my list on my computer and review it each year. It has been immensely valuable.
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       Here are just some ways that your list of reasons can help:

          + guide you in picking out curriculum 

          + help structure your days to reflect values

          + unite you and your spouse in your mission

          + provide peace & resolve when things get tough (and they will)

          + kickstart your confidence 

2.  Check your legal requirements.  A simple Google search will help you navigate these requirements. Some examples of requirements include: compulsory school age, school hours and days needed, documentation specifics, testing or evaluation methods, etc. 

Once you review them, call and ask the appropriate representatives for clarification and assurance you’ve got all your bases covered. You should feel very clear about these legal requirements, so if you don’t, definitely ask. People love to help, so chat around until you’ve got them down.

3. Get acquainted with different types of homeschooling. Now that you are aware of the absolute basic requirements from your state, branch out your understanding of how it all works. Classical. Traditional. Unschooling. Charlotte Mason. Jefferson. Montessori. Eclectic. Waldorf. Heck, maybe you’ll find some I’ve never even heard of. The homeschooling movement is huge and growing all the time. 

You may not (we definitely don’t) fall exactly into one category. You don’t need to. But you should know a little bit about different methods or styles so you know what’s out there. We consider ourselves classical/eclectic homeschoolers. Even then, I’m influenced greatly by Charlotte Mason and teach more that way each year. 

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4. Assess your situation.  

You’ve got a basic idea of how different groups design their homeschool whether it be a boxed curriculum or a Charlotte Mason approach that strictly follows the schedule provided on Ambleside Online. But before you pull the trigger on buying stuff, you’ll want to take one more look at yourself, your kids, and your home. 

    + What is your temperament? 

    + What sort of environment do you thrive in? How about your kids? 

    + What motivates you most? And them? 

    + What sort of set-up would ensure things actually get done? (That one is very important). 

    + What do you anticipate will be some of your greatest challenges? (Creative solutions?)

    + What are your strengths & how could you make those work for you for the best possible outcome? 

    + What are you already doing well, and what is the next thing you need to keep building on that? 

    + Alternatively, what is not going well (either at home or current education setting), and what is the next thing you need in order to amend that? 

    + What kind of space would you like your school area to look like and how would you like it to function? What will it realistically look like? 

    + What kind of money are you working with? Budget time! 

Address each of these thoroughly. With a little research, some creativity and some grit, you can create a vision and execute on it. It’s very important to remember that each home is unique. Someone might just glow and glow about a certain book or program or resource, but if it isn’t a good fit for you and your kids, it probably won’t lift off the ground for you. 

5. Connect with others, read books, and listen to podcasts. 

It’s time to cast your net for great ideas and fantastic stuff. 

Facebook groups abound for homeschoolers and for just about every type of niche you can imagine. You can always visit local homeschool groups in person as well. And chatting with a homeschool mom there or over the phone can be incredibly helpful. I’ve done it & highly recommend it. They will help you connect with local resources and programs, give helpful tips you didn’t even know you needed, and happily answer any questions you’ve got. I promise. 

Some helpful podcasts: Wild + Free, Schole Sisters, The Homeschool Solutions Show, Brave Writer, The Homeschool Snapshots Podcast, The Morning Basket, A Delectable Education, and The Mason Jar. 

Some helpful books: The Well-Trained Mind (I’ve used this for years), Home Learning Year by Year (I peak at this a few times every year), Teaching in your Tiara (great for getting started), For the Children’s Sake (pure gold) Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace (Sarah also leads the Read Aloud Revival podcast—great stuff), How Children Learn (this shifted by educational philosophy and outlook dramatically), and then there’s the whole Charlotte Mason series as well. 

6. Purchase curriculum. 

 

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A few basic tips about curriculum or purchasing resources that I feel strongly about:

  • Nothing is perfect but a lot of good, great, or almost perfect resources can shine with the creativity and positivity of an enthusiastic and faithful teacher.  Have peace that you will be able to teach your child well. Your enjoyment of learning, your charisma, leadership, etc. will be the most powerful tool you’ve got. Be wary of switching resources at the slightest hiccup or frustration. It can be so tempting to associate a purchase or signing up for something as the necessary means to succeed. But really, homeschooling is primarily a lot of steady dedication. And a lot of times that can mean being resourceful with what you’ve got even when it’s not shiny, new, or noteworthy. 

 

  • However, if you have the money and are intentional about it, supplementing your schooling in smart ways can be quite life-giving! I have seen this in small ways (buying a couple workbooks for the twins so that they would sit and have structured time in order for me to teach Thomas) and in big ones (this year, purchasing lots of supplemental history reads so they would be here and I wouldn’t have to hunt them down at the library every couple weeks—-such a blessing!). Were these things absolute must have, can’t-do-school-without-them needs? No. But they also weren’t feverish, frantic, or from a place of fear. Simply put, they made my job easier & I’m so glad I’ve splurged here or there for some things to make what we do more enjoyable, peaceful, efficient, etc. 

 

  • You can buy things used, so remember this if things are adding up quickly and your budget needs some breathing room.

 

  • Check out reviews on YouTube. You’ll want to be careful of ads, sponsorships, etc., but if you can weed through that, you can often find some helpful demonstrations, explanations of how homeschools actually put the resources to use which will make you more confident in your purchases. 

 

7. Dive in.  

Execute. Evaluate. Adjust. Repeat. (x about a billion.)

You’ve got this! 

 

If you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned in this post or anything I’ve failed to include, or about anything else related to homeschooling or how we do it, let me know! I hope this was helpful. Homeschooling can be an intimidating undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be an experience that leads to lots of joy and success. I hope I can be of some assistance, so do not hesitate to message me or comment below. 

 

~Ashley

South Carolina

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We moved to South Carolina September 1st, 2017.  Same job for Paul — just in a new locale. 

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In these past five months I’ve grown quite accustomed to pine needles and friendly neighbors.  We’ve enjoyed blue skies, warm days, nights on our screened-in back porch, and even the occasional sweet tea—-because “if in Rome”.  We miss family & friends and yet have been blessed with their generosity of time in visiting us. Christmas with Paul’s sister, Moira. A too-good-to-be-true Charleston trip with my sisters. A weekend with my brother, Matt, my sister-in-law, Jessica, and their charming brood of kids. And one of my all time favorite memories of last year—painting with my parents and Paul. 

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We are all the time grateful for new experiences, whether difficult or wonderful or a mix of both. Adventures with the kids tramping across new parks. Dinners, brunches, and clinked whiskey glasses with friends. And the bad? Well, mostly just that the ceiling quite literally fell down in our rental. That and I can’t find a salon I like to save my life.

Things most missed back in Springfield: walking my neighborhood, seeing my sisters (gah),  seeing my sisters’ kids hang out with my kids (can’t let myself think about that one), Andy’s (frozen custard), being close to everything, our backyard, our YMCA branch, and our homeschool co-op.

But there are so many wonderful things here (just as there are everywhere).

Here’s one. When I looked up Catholic churches in Columbia, there was only one even remotely close and upon further peeking online seemed to be… not even a traditional building… just kinda…temporary? I had my doubts. But from sliding into that padded pew for our very 1st mass, I was in love.  Father Jim’s style is so wonderful. He speaks plainly, directly, practically— without watering a single thing down. He seems to be circling around one core message: come as you are.  I look forward to mass every week in a way I haven’t felt in such a long, long time. It will break my heart if/when we move away.  

Homeschooling has been difficult since the move. Rather, homeschooling was difficult. For the 1st time since embarking on homeschooling, I completely doubted what we were doing. I felt so anxious, angsty & confused why we were doing something so confoundingly difficult. It feels light again. And steady. And good in just the way it did, or maybe better, than before the move. I will hopefully write more about this when I can. 

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Moving has an incredible way of sifting things out ‘till you’re left looking down at a few glints of gold. It helps us see us as we are—at our core. Going through all those possessions. Pulling even less possessions out of boxes. We can’t un-know what we finally grasp during the climax of a move. Who we love. What weights we were happy to toss. It’s been (at times) a difficult process I’m endlessly glad to have gone through. I pity the alternate version of myself who said no to the move. 

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I’m painting steadily again. And working out. And reading. All things I would love to share with you here once again. This is all to say, all is well. Now that I feel on firm ground, my heart is swelling up with new ideas, goals, and plans! 

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Plans. I’m so excited for so many things this year. I want to pack in as many adventures with the kids in as we possibly can! Playing at the beach. Camping. Hiking. Discovering!! And we have family visiting & we’ll visit family, and I could not be more excited. I’m such a planner and seeing things on the horizon to look forward, to benchmark time with, to anticipate—-ah, it’s the greatest joy for me! Mostly, I feel very open to that vulnerable, quiet, exciting space of being new to a place and learning so much as we meet new faces & spaces. 

I’ll stop there and save some more for another day.  Say hello if you’re here. I’ve missed you guys. 

~Ashley 

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P.S. If you are reading this and you are one of the many, many friends and family members who have helped us transition (either on the MO end or here in SC), thank you, thank you, thank you!! The advice, messages, tips, hugs, calls, and just everything will always mean so much to us.