Words from Ashley

downloadI’m not a political person. I do not stay up on the news. I do not know what Donald Trump has or has not accomplished in the last 9 months. Yes, I see stories, and yes, I sometimes have opinions but I almost never share them because the division in politics across this nation is absurd. People unfriending people because of a political view or a political post is just plain dumb. Everyone is open to having their own opinions on any subject matter whether it be politics, the weather, or where the best vacation spot is. That’s what makes a democracy. Various opinions and ideas coming together from everyone and everywhere.

With this being said, I do have words on this ‘Roll Back of the Birth Control Mandate.’ And yes, I realize that some may not want to read this because of the personal content or their views on the issue and therefore, some may ignore it completely, but these are my thoughts and my views and I don’t regret putting them out there for a minute.

For 9 years I was the most regular woman on the planet. I knew within a 3 day span when my menstrual cycle would start. This was wonderful! That is, until it was no longer the case…

A little over a year ago my cycle became very messed up. I ignored it for a while and boiled it down to being under stress, a new job, a new state, and overall changes occurring. This was true until it lasted for 5 months with no improvement. I set up an OBGYN appointment and discussed with a wonderful doctor what was occurring. A few tests were done, a possible problem was seen, but the smartest thing to do was to be put on a contraceptive to see if this change could regulate things once again.

For the first two months, my new pill did just that, and I was beyond relieved. Having an irregular cycle is not only annoying, but there are side effects to a sudden imbalance in estrogen and progestin levels. After two months I was having break through bleeding once again, which was cause for concern. The regulation of hormones that I was receiving from the contraceptive should have prevented this, but it was clear that there was some other underlying problem.

Two doctors later from April through July and I was eventually set up to have surgery which occurred a week ago. They believed that they saw a benign mass on my uterus and that removal of this should stop this issue. Once they went to do the surgery though, no mass was found, which yes is annoying, but now I know what to be aware of. I have been put on a new contraceptive and am hoping that this all will no longer be an issue and it should prevent my irregularity from causing problems once again. But if it is then I know that I need to get back in to a doctor and determine other possible causes.

Now, why am I sharing this information with the world wide web? To make you feel sorry for me? To share TMI on a personal issue? Of course not! I just want to put information out there that contraceptives are not used simply to prevent pregnancies within a sexual context. Birth control is used for so many medical reasons. My employer or my insurance company should not have the ability to deny me coverage of my contraceptive simply due to their own belief system. I am not putting down any sort of religious affiliations; as I previously stated, everyone is subject to their own preferences within society; but I am saying that simply because an individual does not see contraceptive use as beneficial in any way beyond pregnancy prevention, which isn’t seen to them as something that should be covered, then they should not have the ability to deny MY coverage to protect MY health.

Birth control without this mandate could cost anywhere between $20-50 per month for an individual without health insurance and $5-$15 with a copay provided by insurance*. Currently, I pay $0 every month to help my body receive the correct amounts of hormones day to day. $0 is huge for a person whose body needs this regulation month to month. If the cost goes back up, then women will be less likely to have the protection of our health that we deserve!!

As the attached article** states “‘The government already engages in dozens of programs that subsidize contraception for the low-income women who are most at risk for unintended pregnancy.'” What about someone like me? I am fortunate to be under family health insurance, therefore I would not qualify for such a program, even though my small salary will be paying for the costs month to month. I do not believe that I am at risk for unintended pregnancy anymore than another woman, and I do not believe that singling out low-income women as being most at risk is the right thing to do. I don’t know! It all seems outrageous to me!

Anyhow, those are my views. Whether or not you agree is up to you. Discussions are welcome to occur as long as they are civilized. I would be more than curious to hear other people’s views on this subject matter. Have a good day blogosphere 🙂

** https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/us/politics/trump-birth-control.html
*Resource: http://health.costhelper.com/birth-control-pills.html

 

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So I did the thing…

… you know … the thing where people delete one or all modes of social media … Yea! That thing! Well clearly I didn’t delete all (since I’m posting here) but I did delete Instagram and force my way away from people who were not benefiting my life at this time. Instagram is filled with so many “picture perfect” individuals with “picture perfect” lives who experience the “perfect” things at the “perfect” times. And despite the fact that all of the above are placed between quotation marks, it is hard to get past this idea of perfection. These pictures are edited perfectly, taken umpteen million times to have the desired affect and then are posted with the caption that has taken hours to think of. Trust me … I know this cycle because I have always been a part of it too.

This comparison between myself and others is far from healthy and is so distracting at times. Here I am in such a huge transitional phase and it was all really taking a toll on me, which at first was hard to admit. How can something so small and meaningless as a social media platform really cause me to feel the things that I was feeling? Unfortunately so so many people feel this way as well, but don’t admit it to themselves or others, and the cycle of comparison is such a hard one to stop. As I scrolled down my feed there were pictures of graduations, weddings, and other people experiencing some amazing things as their lives were changing and evolving. Although I am nothing but happy for these people, my own life is changing in a different way. Currently I am in school for the first time in forever and trying to look towards my completely unknown future…

Where I’ve been spending my time…exhausting!

Without Instagram on my phone I have spent much less time on my phone and much more time focused on my studies, my current job, my health, and hopeful future job applications! I am 4.5 weeks through my first 5 week summer course, and so far I have 100%! I am not saying this to brag, but to simply feel good about my accomplishments! I was very unsure of how I would do when I began school again. It has been four years since I have been doing homework, reading textbooks, and taking quizzes, and although things went well in high school that didn’t mean it would be the same this time around. Yet somehow I have managed 30/30 on both of my academic essays thus far! I have completed all 6 parts of my final, and now just need to finish editing my 10 page research paper due on Saturday! Then I have a week break, and then begin the next course! In addition to school, I have started trying to take my health into my own hands. I have set up the appointments that I have been putting off, and trying to take measures to better my overall health. Hopefully a healthier life will also lead to a happier one!

 

I know that I am still on other social media platforms, so some may be asking how this has been so positively effective in achieving the goals that I want? To me, Instagram is the means to describe a picture perfect life; Snapchat is a good way to communicate; Facebook is a way to keep up with the honest parts of friends and families lives. I know that I have a lot to be grateful for and simply needed to pull myself away from the comparison aspect of social media. There were people who were creating unwanted feelings of jealousy that I knew that I needed to do away with. I had been in a bit of a slump and knew that to take care of that I needed to hold my finger down over the colorful icon, and push the ‘x’ in the corner. This is not goodbye forever, but a ‘see ya later!’ until I am in a better place of mind!

All in all, thanks to everyone for their kind words and encouragement always! I know that I am blessed with a loving family, a loving boyfriend, and such a supportive group of individuals in my life. I hope that this post finds you well and maybe some will understand my sudden disappearance. ❤

episodes, diagnoses, and a whole lot of sedentary “activity”…

Change. Changing routines. Changing dietary habits. Changing life paths. What ever it may be some people take change in stride; others are opposed to any sort of change. Different people view change as scary or an exciting obstacle. Sometimes change is mundane, other times it uproots your entire life, all of your plans and the direction of your future. Me? I tend to take change as a challenge. An exciting adventure ahead. Voluntary change excites me whether it be moving half-way across the country or just simply a new nightly routine to follow to improve my health. I’ve never really dealt with the opposite, involuntary change, such as parental divorce, a change of homes or schools, etc. that is until now…

Day 10 of my 15 day trip home landed me in the acute care clinic of Olmsted Medical Center. Words such as neurologist, pituitary gland, endocrinologist and benign growth in my brain (prolactinoma) were being thrown around while I was struggling to sit up without feeling light headed and nauseous. Not even 2 hours earlier I had woken up from a nap, walked down the stairs to eat a cracker, grabbed a glass of water and felt myself get really dizzy and my vision went black while near my kitchen table. Next thing I knew I could hear someone calling my name and I awoke lying on the living room floor. I was overheated and scared and confused as to how I had gotten there. Unfortunately this was nothing new to my medical history. I had had a seizure before…four to be exact. Two in 2006, one in 2007 and we just discovered that I had 1 more back in 2014. Although nothing brand new it was still scary when we thought that it had been pediatric epilepsy and I had ‘grown out of it.’

The doctor that I saw encouraged me to find care in South Carolina, since I was supposed to be flying out in 5 days. But I knew I would be more comfortable getting it all done in Rochester, MN. I requested appointments and the first available for both specialties were in a month and in July. Ha! Good thing I don’t want answers right away, right? Wrong!! I wanted answers and I wanted them now! After being referred to the Mayo Clinic I received diagnoses and plans and prescribed medications within 2 weeks of my episode.

So what does this all have to do with change? I mentioned that I’ve had seizures before so how is this time around any different? This time I am 21 years old. I can drive. I can drink. I live away from home. And the time between seizures is increasing. It had been 7 years, and now it’s been 3. With that being said, I am officially on anti-epileptic medication. For the rest of my life. This may not seem like much, as many people rely on various medications to deal with problems that they have, but I have never dealt with any of that. I had slight allergies as a child, but otherwise the only medication I’ve relied on was Advil to get me through tough dance days/weeks/performances! I don’t know if/when I would have another seizure in my future…possibly never, but everyone would rather be safe than sorry, right? Although I do agree with this mindset it’s a hard concept to wrap my head around. Last time when I was diagnosed little to no precautions were really taken. Just to be aware. Now, I am on medication not knowing if I would have ever had a seizure again if I were off of it, I can’t drive for the next 6 months, I can’t go into a pool by myself, I can’t consume more than 1 alcoholic drink in a night and apparently I NEED A BIKE!!

These changes aren’t the end of the world, they’re just restricting. 1 in 26 people develop epilepsy at some point in their life. That is a high statistic and means that I’m not the only one needing to make these changes. The hardest part is that they’re involuntary changes  and for that it is difficult. I went from dancing and working every day to being cooped up in a camper all day for the next six months. I went from enjoying exploring and seeing cities by myself, to being scared to do these things alone. I am unable to even just head to the grocery store by myself because it is a 3 mile walk in both directions….doable? Yes. Ideal? Far from it especially in the heat of South Carolina and when the majority of the trip would be along a busy County Road!

Change. The world around us is ever changing. With each change comes new experiences and new lessons learned. I am lucky that I had already been planning on attending school online starting in just three weeks. I had already been planning on finding work online and have been half-way successful. Although this is the case it’s still challenging to look beyond diagnoses, restrictions and medication.

I am used to living an active lifestyle but at this point the most active part of my day is walking the loop around the campground various times while people drive by me and stare…great fun. Really… I know that it’s ‘only‘ six months, but it’s been four and a half days and I’m already sick of it! I feel like I’m wasting so much of every day playing on my phone, browsing the internet, reading and watching Netflix. How thrilling?? Right? I just have to keep reminding myself that things could be much worse. I could have needed surgery. I could have a brain injury. I could be unable to attend school. So so many things could have been worse. I was lucky to be with my family when it did happen and throughout the entire medical process. Now it is my time to find some new passions! Something to get me out of bed every day and motivated to get work done! If anyone has any suggestions that’d be great 😉

On The Pursuit of Happiness 

Well I’ve been afraid of changin’

‘Cause I’ve built my life around you…

{Landslide — Fleetwood Mac}

2017 will be a year of change and I am so ready to embrace whatever it throws my way. I say this because I am finally coming to terms with how I’ve been feeling for the past year. When you’ve done one thing your entire life, it’s hard to know when stepping away is a healthy decision vs. just feeling that you’re giving up…now is the time that I healthily and happily step away from ballet. I know…shocking…but it’s been a well thought out decision and I can’t help but look on to the future.

38212d8d-ec70-4cca-b0ac-a33f8a8297d3.jpgBallet has been my life since I was a toddler. Ballet is all I’ve ever known. I’ve loved ballet. I’ve despised ballet. It’s made me happy. It’s made me frustrated. It’s taught me so much about life and given me so many life long friends and mentors that I can’t be anything but grateful towards it as a whole. But over the past year it has brought me little to no happiness. I’ve been happy in the places it has taken me and the people that it has brought into my life, but the passion and the love has not been felt in quite some time. It has consumed me with self doubt and criticism. It has made me cry countless tears and feel so lost and confused in this world…so I will be stepping away.

I will not be doing the audition circuit this year. I will not be signing a contract for next season. I will not be attending summer intensives. I will not be taking umpteen million audition photos and videos and staying up all night editing and critiquing.Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Instead I will be seeking happiness! Happiness in myself and my life. I wish to travel and see the world. Not just the world that contains ballet but the world that contains adventure! I will be attending school. I will be seeking a degree and finding passion in new things. I will be working each and every day to create a positive self image. Instead of fearing how I look in a leotard and tights, I will strive to love my body and love myself as a whole. It will be a big change and each day will be filled with different circumstances and new hurdles to jump, but the closer my final day has come, the more excitement that I feel.

Today I sent in my “I will not be returning” email. In a few short weeks the season will come to a close. In April I will be heading home and guesting in my final planned production (CDT’s “Jungle Book”). I may return to the dance world, but at this moment in time I look forward to taking a step away. I still wish to pursue teaching ballet in the future and I want to start doing dancer photoshoots, so I will not be saying goodbye entirely. I will attend open classes when I wish and for all I know I will take up some guesting’s as well. I just am not scheduling any of these things at this time. Taking it day by day and seeing whProcessed with VSCO with p5 presetere this new adventure brings me!

I know that I am excited now, but I also know that life without ballet will bring struggles too. As I have said before: this is all I’ve ever known. All I’ve ever looked for in my future is dance dance dance. It will be a big adjustment and it won’t always be easy. So in those tough times I will be looking for support and love. I am blessed with some of the very best people, friends and family in my life. My support system is all over the country and for that I am forever grateful. Love to all my family and friends today and always and I thank you in advance for those that will help me when the days get a little rocky. ❤

2016 Is Coming to An End

2016. 52 weeks. 366 days. 8,784 hours. Did you use that time wisely?

I know for me it flew by. The days were long but the months sped past so quickly. There were ups…there were lots of downs. People came into my life and people left. I was fired from a job. I left a job. I moved halfway across the country. I applied for 40+ jobs. I started two new jobs. I loved. I said goodbye to influential people. I struggled. I cried. But I made it to the other side of every difficult and trying time. Every year there are challenges, hurdles to overcome, and of course some years bring more than others. At this point, 2016 was definitely one of my harder years (if not the hardest thus far) but I have many more years to come. Many more hurdles to jump over. Each year will bring its low points, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t positives to balance them out!

In 2016 I stayed in my first AirBnB. I flew on a plane alone for the first time…and then proceeded to go on 14 more (plus an additional 2 today!) I took my first über. First taxi. First New York City subway ride. First Greyhound bus. You could definitely say it was a year of travel and adventure! 16 hotels/apartments. 12 airports. 10 states. Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC, NYC, California, Iowa, South Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida and home sweet home back in Minne! All places that I stayed at least 1 night in the past 12 months. It has almost been more travel in this year than I’ve done combined over the rest of my 21 years!

Aside from travel and job struggles, this year taught me a lot about friendship. Which of my friends are lifelong vs. which leave when one of us does. When one decides to pack up and move with about 5 days notice, and that move is 1200+ miles away from anyone and everyone they know, it becomes quite the effort to keep in contact with people. Schedules collide. Out of sight out of mind. Reason after reason to say ‘it’s not worth it anymore.’ But then there are those that I do talk to. I text. I receive texts. We FaceTime. We snapchat. We support each other simply through social media. Whatever it may be, it is an effort put in on both sides and that is what makes the friendship real and active. I am blessed with many friends like this in my life, but many have phased out of my life for this reason too. I look forward to the new relationships that the next 12 months will bring, and year to year as they ebb and flow I will continue to be grateful for all those that come in and out of my life. All have helped shape me to be the person I am today. I have felt loved, and loved in return and that love and support gets me from one day to the next, and year after year keeps me going! ❤

Travel. Friends. Work. All lead to Love which leads to happiness! At the end of 2015, beginning of 2016, I made a list about how I wanted to lead a healthier and happier lifestyle for the year. I titled it “New Year – Healthier Me,” and I am proud to say that I actually did stick to most of these goals. Not all were achieved to the fullest extent, but I did put in an effort. I look forward to 2017, which is only 2 weeks away…I am excited for what it has to bring. I have no idea what lies in my future in terms of work, location or relationships, but I do know that I can continue to strive to be healthier and happier each and every day. Eat better. Take care of my body. Love myself. Love my friends. Love my family.

As I get older, the years pass by quicker. The time flies (even when I’m not having fun, ha!). You blink and it’s the end of the week, month or year and all I hope is that I continue to put my best foot forward day after day. No matter what is in my future, to just know that I am trying my best and working my hardest towards whatever goal I have set at that time is enough to bring happiness into my life! Thanks to all that have offered support through hugs, comments on social media, calls and texts. I am grateful for everyone who is in my life and look forward to what this Holiday season and this next year has to bring. I can’t wait to be back in the frozen tundra for a white Christmas! Although the heat down South is nice (it was almost 80 degrees yesterday as opposed to the -21 in Rochester, MN!) it hasn’t really hit me that it’s Christmastime! When I get home though the first blow of wind will hit me hard! But bring on the snow!! Love, hugs and blessings to all!

 

Payday=Food=Recipes

Friends! Family! I feel like it has been a long time since I’ve checked in to this blog. And now we are welcoming November… usually accompanied by fallen leaves, crisp air and the fear of snow in the near future…but for me, things are taking a new route. Today the high was in the 80s, people are still comfortably wearing shorts and there has been no sight of winter coats, scarves or Uggs! So crazy! Living in the South is like a whole new world, but I am continuing to try and accept the change and keep on living life.

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state fair in the fall: that’s how the South does it
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the haul.

On a completely unrelated note, today was payday which meant that I could go grocery shopping and stock my fridge back up with yummy food! All good things! Knowing that I had the evening completely free of plans I decided to cook an actual recipe for the first time in forever. I found something that I had pinned on Pinterest months ago: Black Bean and Butternut Squash Enchilada Casserole. And let me tell you it was everything fall and more. There may be vProcessed with VSCO with hb2 presetery few leaves on the ground, I may feel dumb wearing a sweater come the middle of the day when it’s still 70-80 degrees outside, but this was fall in your mouth minus the pumpkin! It sort of just looked like a pile of melted cheese atop veggies, but it was colorful nonetheless and tasted beyond delicious in my opinion (and my roommate’s! Thanks Katherine for trusting me and trying it out!!)

I definitely recommend all to try this recipe and experience the greatness! I missed the sour cream on the ingredient list while writing up my own grocery list, but it was still delicious nonetheless! I will be making it again in the future, that’s for sure, but for now I will just enjoy it for the next week or more, because it made so much!


Processed with VSCO with kk2 presetFor those that are wondering: Life here in Columbia just keeps on keeping on…There are good days, bad days, good weeks, bad weeks. It ebbs and flows cause that’s life! More than anything though I just can’t wait to head home! I fly back to Minnesota in just 47 days :)) And I can not wait! I miss my family, my friends and just home in general. December 19th cannot get here quick enough! To not be home/with family for Thanksgiving for the first time will be very strange, but it makes me even more grateful for a full 12 days to be home around Christmastime ❤️ So here’s to the next 47 days, 6 Nutcracker performances and lots and lots of work and rehearsal and glorious food!

(recipe: http://juliasalbum.com/2014/11/black-bean-and-butternut-squash-enchilada-casserole-recipe/ )

Expect the Unexpected

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

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Of recent when people ask me how I’m doing my response has been: “well, life is absolutely incredible and insane!” because there aren’t more accurate adjectives to describe this past month. Exactly a month ago was when I last posted on this blog. This post was about my unknown future and how I was stressed about life and not having any plans and feeling as though I have failed. Although that stress (or is it different stress now? How is one to know?) has not fully subsided, I do officially have plans for the 2016/2017 dance season and am beginning to settle into them and for that I am grateful.


Back when I lived in Rochester I was constantly seeing the tagline “Expect the Unexpected” all over billboards, radio ads and posted throughout the RCTC (Rochester Community and Technical College) buildings. For years I never fully understood what that meant. It seemed counter intuitive and didn’t make much sense to me. Now I get it. Now it has become how I live my life (whether I want it to be that way or not…). Everything that has occurred over the last few years has been 100% outside of the direction that I had pictured my life heading. Three years ago when I graduated high school I knew that I wanted to heal my various injuries and I wanted to pursue dance, but I didn’t know that it would take me 1200+ miles away from home within 3 years to a job that I knew very little about before signing a contract. This is not what I had expected, but I am taking it as it is and looking onward and upward with excitement for this new adventure!

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road trips. rain. sunsets.

Just two weeks ago I flew home from California and began packing up my apartment in Bloomington. In two days everything I owned in the Twin Cities was boxed up and stuffed in vehicles to haul it back to Rochester. The following day I embarked on a 1,200 mile cross country road trip with my mom and a car filled with about as much stuff as it could hold. By Saturday night we were in town and by Monday I started my new job in South Carolina. Had you asked me two months ago where I would be living this season, my answer would probably have been: there’s a chance San Diego but most likely somewhere in Minnesota.

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Columbia’s sunsets have not disappointed

Now I am on the opposite coast and on the unexpected route. I look forward to a successful season with Columbia Classical Ballet and am excited to perform and learn and grow as a dancer. What will next year bring? I have zero idea! But for now I plan to focus on the present and be in the moment. Get as much out of every day as possible and continue falling in love with the art form that I have chosen to push hard to pursue day in and day out!

Life…it’s crazy each and every day. I get through the challenges reminding myself that God has a plan for me, He is directing me and putting me on the path to lead to a successful future. His plan is much greater than my own, and His timing is something that I cannot fight against, but instead have full trust in. I’m not saying that this is easy, but it is reminders such as these that make this crazy journey called life a little more bearable day in and day out.


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twinkle lights are always the best part of my room

In other news, I have found myself an awesome and accommodating roommate. My room is getting more and more settled each and every day. I am still searching for a job and currently broke as can be (eeek!!). It is a little lonely, as it is tough to make friends in a completely new situation, but I know that that will come with time! I miss my friends back home. I miss my family. But I am happy to be able to say that I am chasing my dream and really going for it! I didn’t take the easy way out, but instead am pushing hard to struggle through the bad to get to the good. If anyone wants to become pen pals please message me your address or message me for mine! ❤ Love and blessings to all!