Sunday, February 2, 2014

Keep Calm and Carry On


"Keep Calm and Carry On", we've all heard it, and it's become one of my favorite mantra's, as it was.  So when I saw a book labeled "Keep Calm and Carry On", by Andrews McMeel Publishing, I had to have it.  On the back of the book it says "Good Advice for Hard Times".  I also picked up copies of the sequels to the book, "Screw Calm and Get Angry: Resigned Advice for Hard Times", and "Now Panic and Freak Out: Bad Advice For Good People".  

I've always loved the story of where "Keep Calm and Carry On" came from, ever since my mom gave me a copy of the poster, and told me the story; and realize that most people don't know the story.  So here's the introduction to the first book, "Keep Calm and Carry On":  "Keep Calm and Carry On.  The British have never been terribly good at the more touchy-feely aspects of self-help and inspiration-the kind peddled so effectively in the United States for decades and now beloved in the rest of the modern world.  When the British have been stuck in a spot of bother in the past, such as the odd world war, they have tended to resort to more formal and restrained modes of address- "pull yourself together," "stiff upper lip and all that, old man."  This is the very world that spawned Keep Calm and Carry On

It was one of three posters produced by the British government's Ministry of Information on the eve of war in 1939.  The other two were "Freedom Is in Peril" and "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory."  Simple reassuring instructions, each topped with the commanding seal of King George VI's crown.  Two and a half million copies of the "Keep Calm and Carry On" sheets were printed, but they would be distributed only in the imminent threat of German invasion.  Thankfully they never saw the light of day and were almost all pulped.  So that might have been that, if one of the few remaining posters hadn't been discovered in a dusty box of old books bought at auction by British bookseller Stuart Manley.

Though they didn't initially know what the poster was, Mr. Manley and his wife liked it so much they framed it and hung it in their bookshop.  They weren't the only ones who found it's stark, simple reassurance engaging.  In fact, they had so many inquiries about it from customers that in the end they decided to have some copies printed.  It seemed that in the seventy years since it's first appeared, its very British soothing strength hadn't lost any of of its appeal.  The bookshop has gone on to sell tens of thousands of the poster, not to mention mugs, T-shirts, and tea towels, with customers including everyone from Top Gear presenters to Buckingham palace and Downing Street.  Its message, it seemed, was just as effective a tonic for those laboring under modern anxieties as for those who endured the Blitz.  But it wasn't until the uncharted waters of the economic downturn began to rise that the mantra really came into its own.  Since the autumn of 2008 it has quite literally become the pin-up of our current predicament, with even the BBC posing the question: Is this the greatest motivational poster ever?

So what yhou hold in your hand is the book of the poster-a modest attempt at inspiration for hard times, a restorative mixture of advice, entertainment, and inspiration to help you through.  In an age not just of recession but also of information overload, you need a source of wisdwm that doesn't hang about of mince its words, so these quotes have been chosen not only for their ability to echo the universal good sense of the original poster but also to echo the virtue of its brevity.  Drawing on over two millenia of common sense from home and abroad, from Cicero to Churchhill, Keep Calm and Carry On attempts to put its finger on the mess we are in and, moving forward from that sory mess, what can make life truly worthwhile.

Enjoy-and pass on the good cheer." 

So I'm going to do just that.  If I read a particular quip or quote I like, then I'll go ahead and share it.  Hopefully it will be an enlightening and inspiring thing to do.  We shall see!  

The first quote, at the beginning of the book, before the inspiration, it says,  "Wise men don't need advice.  Fools won't take it." - Benjamin Franklin

With thanks to Barter Books, Home of the original WWII poster www.barterbooks.co.uk

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Day 1, January 1st 2014:



I'm finally reading a book that I was given years ago.  A book that I've started many times, but never finished.  This year, I'm determined to finish it.  This is a book that I love, that has given me, and many of my friends much inspiration.  A book that I have given copies of to many others.  A book I NEED right now, above all else.  This book is "Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy" by Sarah Ban Breathnach (See also: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Simple-Abundance-A-Daybook-of-Comfort-and-Joy-by-Sarah-Ban-Breathnach/231289653623600)



Day 1 - A Transformative Year of Delight and Discovery.

For day one the book instructs me to me to, "carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand."  It also says, "But this year, instead of resolutions, write down your most private aspirations.  Those longings you have kept tucked away until the time seems right.  Trust that now is the time.  Ask the questions.  The Simple Abundance path brings confidence that the answers will come and we will discover - day by day - how to live them."

A friend, Kevin, from my old singles ward up in Farmington also posted this inspirational little tidbit on Facebook today:  "Day 1 was fun! Very meaningful and productive! Hey what're some of your new years resolutions? What'd you resolve to change in your own life this year? What are you making different? How will your life contribute more this year? What are commitments you made about this year and where did you draw the line? Tell me tell me tell me! I want inspiration! I need your examples in my life friends!"

So I've been pondering a lot today, thinking a lot about the past, especially the recent past.  I've also been thinking about the future.  I've finally pulled myself enough out of this hole that I can actually see a future for myself.  So what do I see?  What do I want to see?  What do I want to happen in my future?  Here's what I want, what I will strive to do over the next year, in no particular order.

I want to live life.  I've been doing this more than I have in the past, but I want to live my OWN life, not live it for others anymore.  I think this has been a great disservice to both myself, and to those who I've been "living" for, because I haven't truly been living.  I've just been depending on other people for, well, everything.  And in return I've been giving everything, and in the end, that leaves me with nothing.  I want to stop this vicious cycle, and start truly living, and living for myself.

So that leaves me to question, what do I need to do to actually start living my own life?  That's when I start to think about my priorities.  My family has always been my first priority to me, which I think is as it should be.  The problem is, we've become too enmeshed in ways, and too distant in others.  So what do I need to do to change that?

First, I need to stop depending so much on my family.  I've been doing well with that in some areas, such as mentally and psychologically, I haven't been depending on them for my psychological health as I have in the past.  I want to repair the relationships I have with my family members, which I think I have been doing, but need to do more of.  So first I would like to contribute more to my family.  Some of you know my situation, while some don't.  I'm currently living with my parents, and have been for, well, way too long.  This has been out of necessity, as with my back problems, I haven't been able to work, and because of that I haven't had an income, and therefore haven't been able to support myself.  Because of this, my parents have graciously accepted me back into their home, and support me in every way possible.  I think I've become too comfortable in this situation, and need to change it.  I need to contribute more to hearth and home, as it were.  To do this I think first I need to first finish my application for Social Security Disability.  I think I've been putting this off mentally because it scares me.  It feels like the hangman's noose hanging around my neck, and that if I do get accepted for Social Security Disability, that's it, I'm done, I'm no longer part of a contributing society, I no longer support myself, etc.  I need to stop thinking that way.  I need to remember that I contributed a lot to Social Security when I was working, and that's why the program is there in the first place.  Second, I need to stop thinking of it as a permanent solution, or permanent situation.  I may have to be on it for a while, but that doesn't mean forever.  I can still follow my other dreams and aspirations, that will hopefully lead to a self-sufficient and independant life.  So goal number one is to complete my application for, and then file for, Social Security Disability.

While I'm doing this, that will bring me to my second goal.  I want to pursue my other goals and dreams, which are to become self-sufficient by selling my artwork, my crafts, crafts supplies, vintage items, and the jewelry I make via online websites and such. First I need to get a new camera, so that I can take pictures of my wares for sale.  So I need to save what little money I have, and set aside some of it for a new camera.  My dad also said that he wanted to buy me one for Christmas, one like my brother's, so I think with that money, and the money I set aside, I can get a decent camera.

That same goal must include my continuing to work on my various artwork and crafts.  I need to spend more time finishing projects, and doing research to find out things like where to get prints of my artwork made so I can sell them.  I also need to open more Etsy shops, shops on Artfire, and work on opening my own website and portfolio.

That leads me to my third goal, which is to increase my knowledge, and participation in the art community, and to continue to perfect my skills in artistry, crafting, jewelry making, etc.  To do this I'm going to participate in local events (I've already signed up to, and committed to do the Magic on the Sidewalk festival - a local sidewalk chalk art festival.  I'm really looking forward to that!).  I also want to continue to study and practice my skills, and learn more techniques, methods, etc.  So that's my third goal.

Fourth, as I talked about earlier, I need to live life for myself, and not for others.  I recently got out of a fast and furious serious relationship, and I don't want to make the same mistakes in future relationships that I did in that one.  I think this means evaluating what I want, and only dating people that fit what I want in my life.  That means dating people that not only have things in common with me, but have the same goals and values.  I think that's one of the biggest things that was missing from my last relationship.  Yes, we had a lot in common, but we weren't on the same page as far as life goes.  So I'm looking for someone that's looking for the same things that I am.  That includes someone who has goals and aspirations, someone that is successful in whatever they do, someone that is in it because they're looking for a permanant relationship including marriage and family, someone who not only believes in, but loves God.  Someone that respects themselves, and respects women. Someone that actually WANTS to be with me!  In my last relationship it felt like I was always having to force him to be with me, or to even want to be with me...that's not right.  He should naturally just want to be with me, and like doing so.  A good friend of mine recently said to me, "Anyone that would leave you is a fool."  That's what I want, someone who wants to be with me so much that they couldn't imagine leaving me, or not having me in their life.  I want to feel that way too.  So my fourth goal is to have successful and meaningful relationships with others, whether that be a romantic relationship, relationships with friends, or familial relationships.  I want to live my life for myself, and I want to be around people that have good, positive qualities; not the toxic people I've been around for so long.

Fifth, I want to get over my last relationship, and learn from it.  I don't know if I'll ever get the closure I want, but I pray that I'll get the closure I need.  I think I'm getting there, and having a good support system has been the biggest help I've had in getting as far as I have, as fast as I have.  I also want to learn from the good and the bad things that occured during my last relationship.  But most of all, I just want to move on with my life, and get over all the hurt and the pain that came with my last relationship, especially when it ended.  I want to let go.


Sixth, I want to better myself as a person.  This includes a lot of personal things that I'm going to have to go through, and a lot of things that I need to fix.  I want to continue on the good paths that I'm on, and end the bad ones.

Seventh, I want to renew, and strengthen my bond with my Heavenly Father.  I think my last relationship had a lot to do with me falling away from the Church, and I want to get back what I lost when that happened.  This is going to take a lot of work on my part, but I know I can do it, because I've been through so much worse, and come out the other side a better, stronger person because of it.  So in living my life, and in all aspects of it, I want my Heavenly Father, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be a part of it, and to be my guide in living.

Eighth, I want to continue to become healthier physically.  In the past year or so, I've lost the nearly 100 pounds I gained back over the past few years, and I want to continue this trend of being healthier, being more active, getting out more, losing weight, eating better, etc.  I'm on the right path so far, and want to continue, and increase my momentum in increasing my health physically.

Ninth, I want to become healthier mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  I've let a lot of negativity affect my life over the past several months, and though I've mostly gotten away from the main source of that, I want to cut it off completely.  I want to get back to my roots, to who I really am, and be true to myself and my beliefs and values.  I lost sight of that, but thankfully my spirit was strong, as was my testimony, and I didn't lose myself completely.  So I want to find myself again, and this time I want to keep myself, and not lose myself in another person, or in a relationship.  I'm definitely going to go back and get more professional counseling to help me in achieving this goal, because I know I need the help and expertise of others, and can't do this alone.  I'll also turn to my great support system, as well as my Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ to help obtain these goals.



Tenth, I want to find myself again.  As I said, I want to remain true to myself, but first I have to get back to myself (if that makes sense).  Again, my biggest goal this year is to find myself again, live my life for myself, build happy and healthy relationships, and follow my goals, hopes, dreams, and prayers.  I know that if I stay true to myself, I'll be much happier, and that will make those around me all the happier as well.

Well that's it in a nut shell, as it were.  That's by no means the end of my long list of goals, hopes, dreams, and prayers for this new year, but it's a basic outline.  I think it's a good starting point, and well, I can only go up from here!  Sometimes we have to reach the very bottom before we can rebound back up to the top, and I'm in the process of doing just that.  So here's to looking up, going up, moving on, and moving forward!  Happy 2014, everyone, may it be a blessed and truly happy year for us all!


Kindest Regards,
Ashley Merrill

Saturday, December 28, 2013



Debate Vs. Argument Vs. Fighting

So some of you may know that I'm in a relatively new relationship.  My boyfriend Joel Bruce is great.  He makes me happy, he makes me feel good, he makes me smile, all that good stuff.  There's just one problem.  He's an Atheist.  Now that isn't, or wouldn't be a problem in and of itself.  I've dated Atheists before, many of my closest friends and family members are Atheist, it isn't a problem for me.  Or wasn't until now.

Like I said, my relationship with my Joel is great, or would be, if it weren't for that one thing.  Why is it a problem?  Because we make it a problem.  We're both intelligent, passionate, and stubborn.  We're set in our beliefs, and neither one is willing to compromise.  The question is, should we?

For those of you who aren't aware, I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, aka Mormon.  I've always believed in what are referred to as "The Articles of Faith" (see: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/a-of-f/1.11).  I've always especially been fond of the 11th Article of Faith which states: "11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."  I truly, and with all my heart believe that, and in doing so, I also respect people's beliefs, non-beliefs, etc.  I respect people religions, spiritualities, or lack thereof.  Again, I believe in letting people "worship how, where, or what they may."  So I'm good where I am, with what I know to be true (why I know it to be true is another long story for another day, but I'll elaborate if asked to do so), and I'm good with my boyfriend being an Atheist.  So the question is, why does is cause such turmoil in our relationship?

I have some ideas as to why, and I'd like to elaborate my ideas, or hypothesis' now.

First, the problem with me (or is it just a problem with me, for my boyfriend?) is that I'm an emotional person.  When I get into a heated debate or conversation, if I'm honestly open with that person, I wear my heart on my sleeve, so to speak.  Sometimes I get upset, sometimes my buttons get pushed, sometimes I get sad, sometimes I cry.  This is a problem for my boyfriend.  He doesn't seem to be able to handle my emotions, even though he expects me to handle his.  That's a problem.  I feel like I allow him to have his feelings and emotions, but I feel that I'm not allowed to do the same.  That's problem number one.

Second, the problem we have is that my boyfriend is very logical, rational, and scientific in his thinking.  The problem lies in that in a theological debate, and in matters of God, things aren't always what we currently understand to be logical, rational, or scientific (even though I believe they are, and that we just don't understand them, or don't yet have the capacity to understand such things).  My boyfriend wants scientific proof of God, proof via the scientific method (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method).  The thing is, if God could be proven to exist, we wouldn't need to be here.  We're here to test our faith (see: http://mormon.org/beliefs/plan-of-salvation), and if God gave us all the answers to the test of this lifetime, what would be the point of our being here?  There wouldn't be one.  The purpose of this life would be null and void.  So can the existence of God be proven?  I believe so, but I believe that we're not meant to find out that "proof" until we've, well, passed the test, as it were.

The next problem is, that about once a week or so, we get into some sort of existential debate, which most often turns into an argument, which turns into a fight.  Then we start slinging accusations and blame at one another, until the next thing you know, hours have gone by, and we're both emotionally exhausted, and broken.

Why does it have to be this way?  I don't want it to be this way.  I don't think my boyfriend wants it to be this way.  So why is it?  My boyfriend has often accused me of "thriving on drama".  He's not the first one that's accused me of such.  So I don't know, perhaps I do?  I don't mean to, I don't want to.  By no means is it an excuse, but I do suffer from mental illnesses, including Bi-Polar Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified [meaning I don't fit into type one or type two]).  I've had this illness, which involves clinical chronic depression, for most of my life.  It's controlled (for the most part) by medication and therapy.  For the most part, considering what I've been through (a boat load of more stories, for another time), I would say I do pretty good.  I'm very high functioning, and for the most part a happy person.  I've especially been happy lately, particularly since I met my boyfriend, and those that are close to me have noticed this as well.  Now my boyfriend, on the other hand, says that he wants someone that will take away from and relieve his stress, not someone that adds to it (which apparently I do, a lot).  Personally I try to focus on the 99% of the time that we have together that is good, whereas he seems to focus on that 1% of the time where things aren't very good at all.  Now I understand that this is human nature, that most people remember and focus on negative events over positive ones (they seem to make a deeper impression in our minds), so I understand why he does this.  I just want him to stop focusing on the negative, and focus on the positive.

I think perhaps it all boils down to a communication problem.  We both accuse one another of not listening to the other.  I've come to realize that I don't think this is actually the case, that we are listening to each other, we're just not focusing on the things that the other person wants the other to focus on, and it seems like we're not listening to each other because of that.

So how can we remedy this situation?  Because it needs to be remedied.  It's gotten so bad, that we've almost lost one another because of it, and I, for one, don't want that to happen.

Now as I said, my boyfriend is a very logical and scientific-minded person.  He tagge me in this "Debate Flow Chart" on Facebook the other day, and I "liked" it, and he took that for me agreeing to "debate" following those rules.  The problem is, when the time came for another theological discussion, I didn't have the flow chart in front of me, and apparently didn't follow the rules.  But then again, should I HAVE to follow any rules when it comes to conversing with my boyfriend?  Should I?  I don't know.  Take a look at the flow chart, and see what you think:

(click to enlarge)

Now on most occasions, and for most topics, I would agree with this flow chart, and how it works.  The problem is, when it comes to certain things, I just can't follow those rules.  Theological matters are one of those things.  At the first part of the flow chart is where I get stuck.  It says, "Can you envision anything that will change your mind on this topic?"  The thing is, my answer, if I'm being honest, is no.  That leads to the rule on the flow chart that says, "This is not a discussion. I will not talk to you about this topic.".  Now is this fair?  I don't think so.  I think we can still have a discussion even if I can't envision anything changing my mind regarding the topic.  And for the most part, in the past, we have continued the discussion anyway, which then leads to debating, arguing, fighting, etc.  So lately I've noticed that my boyfriend has been avoiding such conversations, perhaps in effort to avoid confrontation.  The problem is, he still continues to bring up subjects, then I want to talk about them, but he refuses to.  Case in point, the other day my boyfriend tagged me in a post containing this article (http://www.salon.com/2012/06/01/but_im_a_good_mormon_wife/), "But I'm a Good Mormon Wife".  He didn't make any comments about it, but since he tagged me in it, I figured he wanted me to comment, so I did.  This is what I said in reply to the article:

I'm sad when I hear stories like this.  Don't people realize that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's Church, NOT Joseph Smith's Church?  Even if what anti-Mormon media says about Joseph Smith is true, don't people realize he was HUMAN, and as such, a fallible being?  The only thing he, as Joseph Smith, The Prophet?, and President of the Church couldn't do was lead the entire Church astray.  That's all that God said.  He didn't say he was perfect, infallible, unable to be corrupted.  In fact, it says in the scriptures that were a Prophet to lead the Church astray, He would be taken from the Earth.  Maybe that's why Joseph Smith died?  I don't know.  However, that said, I still don't believe what I know to be  lies about Joseph Smith, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  I would encourage people to learn both sides of the story, instead of just one, and then earnestly pray with a sincere want for knowledge and ask God if it's true or not.  A lot of the information in this article is incorrect, and subjective, not objective.  It's a personal story, by a person (again, people are fallible, corruptible, imperfect, and all that).  There's some things that she talked about as though it was Church Doctrine, that isn't.  That God should come before your spouse?  Actually, as far as I've always been taught in the Church, it's the exact opposite.  As for the Urim and Thummim being a stone in a hat?  What, has she been watching South Park?  It even describes here, in Extracts from the History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1.35?lang=eng#34 exactly what the Urim and Thummim are..."35 Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book." Nowhere does it talk about a stone in a hat.  So that point right there tells me that the author of this article is misinformed.  Anyway, I could go on, and will, if anyone would like me to, but I think I've gotten my point across.  This blog entry is just that, a blog entry, a personal story, etc.  It doesn't make it true, objective, or right.

Later that night I was talking to my boyfriend online and I said, "So you never replied to my reply about the article you posted."  "What article?," he asked.  "The one about being a "Good Mormon Wife", I replied.  "I don't want to talk about it," he said.  Now this upset me.  Here he had clearly been the one this time (we've argued over who started the conversation in the first place many times), and now here he was refusing to talk about it.  This didn't seem fair to me, or right, and so of course it upset me, and I got a bit confrontational with him.  Once again, it turned into a fight, and it wasn't pretty.  I accused him of not being willing to follow his own rules, but forcing me into it, and he accused me (once again) of thriving on drama, and needing help.  That of course didn't go over well, with either of us.

Eventually I gave up trying to get him to talk about it, and tried my best to smooth things over.  But the tension, even though we were online, was palpable.

Things have gotten better since then, and we haven't gotten into a fight since, but things are still strained.  I'm trying my best to make it work, I even posted the following "10 Commandments of Rational Debate" to him, as a sign that I was willing to follow such rules:

(click to enlarge)

So the questions I have now are, where do we go from here? How do we fix this problem?  Can it be fixed?  Are we willing to change or compromise regarding this subject?

Anyway, if anyone has any insights, suggestions, or words of wisdom, I could really use them right now.  Even if you just tell me what you think about the situation, I would appreciate it.  I don't want to lose my boyfriend.  I love him, and I want him in my life.  So what can we do to resolve these issues?  Thank you for any insight or knowledge you can provide me with.  That's all for now...until next time, I hope all this finds all of you well.

Kindest Regards,
Ashley

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Boyfriend



So before I go any further, I'd like to introduce a rather new, yet very important part of my life.  I know, this is a big shocker, but I have a boyfriend now!  Yeah, me, I've escaped the seemingly eternal depths of being single, and I've allowed my heart to belong to someone else again.

So you're probably wanting to know how it happened.  Well, the story will expose the nerd that I am, but so be it!

So I've always wanted to go to a Comic Convention (Comic Con for short).  The problem is, they've never had them anywhere near where I live, and I hadn't ever made it to one (particularly California's)  Comic Con, like I'd always wanted to.  Then this year they announced that Utah was going to have it's own Comic Con, the Salt Lake Comic Con.  When I heard about it, I was so excited!  But then I realized it was probably going to be expensive, and something I couldn't afford.  So I gave up my wishes of attending, and hoped there'd be another one next year.                                                                                           Then the week that the Comic Con was to occur, I was talking to my parents about the Salt Lake Comic Con, telling them about what it was, and how desperately I wanted to go.  Later that day I was standing in the kitchen, and my dad walks in, and hands me a $50 bill.  I looked at him wondering, and asked him what this was for.  "It's for your thing," my dad replied.  "What thing?" I asked.  "Your Comic thing," he said.  Oh!  I was so excited!  I threw my arms around him, and thanked him for being such an awesome dad, and for affording me this opportunity to attend the first ever Salt Lake Comic Con! 

Later, as I went online to order my ticket to attend the Saturday events of Salt Lake Comic Con 2013, I saw that they were also having an event that Friday evening.  It was, as they described, a "red carpet" opening and celebration of the Comic Con.  It was to be a somewhat formal affair, and costumes, of course, were recommended.  I told my mom about it, and she said, "You might as well go!"  I agreed, and as it was a cheap addition to my ticket, I decided to go.  I ordered my ticket, and got to planning what I was going to wear.

"Hmm," I thought.  "What kind of costume to wear to a red carpet affair..." My mom helped me find my box of formal dresses, and we started going through them, and my costume accessories (I have a lot of them...I love to dress up!), when I came across a dress that I hadn't fit into since I was about 17 years old.  Well, with having recently lost quite a bit of weight, I tried it on, and ta da!, it fit!  It was long, black, with sparkly silver thread  running through it.  Simple but elegant.  I knew exactly what I was going to do with it.  I quickly found my black angel wings, and got to work putting my costume together.  It came together beautifully, and I was transformed into a "dark angel".  I felt like Cinderella going to the ball.  


So it was Friday night, September 6th, 2013, and I was ready to go.  I knew that the Salt Lake Comic Con was being held at the Salt Palace Convention Center, so I figured that's where the red carpet event was going to be held as well.  This is where fate stepped in.  It turns out that evening in Salt Lake City, that a man named Joel Bruce had assumed the same thing. 

When I arrived at the Salt Palace, I parked, and started walking inside.  There were some people leaving from that days events, but it was pretty empty.  I wondered about this, but thought nothing of it.  I made my way inside, and looked around, and to my surprise, though there were a few people there, there was no event going on.  I spotted an information desk, and made my way over there to ask the people at the desk where the event was going on.  That's when I felt a presence behind me.  I looked over my shoulder, and saw a man standing there.  He was dressed nicely in a dark red shirt, and dark trousers, and I found him attractive, but then wasn't really paying attention, as I was still inquiring about the event.  The man behind me piped up saying that he was looking for the same thing.  The people at the information desk told us that the even actually wasn't being held at the Salt Palace, but at a club called The Depot, down the street.  I asked them for directions, and they told me, and I turned and walked back out of the door I had come in.  As I made my way quickly across the sidewalk in the dark, I heard footsteps behind me, and someone call out to me.  "Miss!"  he said.  It was the man in the dark red shirt.  "Miss," he called,  "do you want to look at my phone and see the directions, and walk there together?"  Immediately my walls went up.  You see, I'm used to the creeps the perverts, the no-so-nice people in the world being attracted to me, as if I had a sign post on my back indicating I was looking for such people (I never could figure that out), and I figured this man must be one of those people, if he was talking to me.  Quickly I replied, "No, that's okay, I'm just parked right here, and I'm just going to drive over there."  As I quickly turned and walked away, I heard his disappointed, "Okay.", and something in me told me to turn around.   Now just a note here, usually I don't do things like this, nor do I recommend that anyone else do them, but like I said, something told me to, even prompted me to do what I did then.  I stopped, and turned around, and said, "Hey, would you like to ride with me?"  He brightened up and smiled, and agreed to do so.  


We made our way to my car, and as we drove to The Depot club, we introduced ourselves.  He told me that his name was Joel.  I introduced myself as well, and I was truly glad to meet him.  

We found a parking spot near the club, and he escorted me to the entrance.  They of course (this is Utah) asked for ID, and though I didn't know it at the time, Joel thought I was only a young teenager, and wouldn't be allowed into the club.  Of course that not being the case, I produced my ID, and we were let into the club.  That's when the magic of the night began.  Joel once again escorted me inside, being the perfect gentleman.  He asked where I'd like to go, what I'd like to do, etc.  We made our way inside, and I was surprised to see a station set up with a bunch of art supplies, artists, and models posing for drawings to be done of them.  I noticed a sign that said "Draw With Us", so I decided to do just that, being the artist that I am, and not being able to resist.  


Joel came and went, but we always seemed to end up back together.  Finally we ended up on the dance floor.  There we touched for the first time, and the chemistry and sparks were immediately flying!  An 80's cover-band called The Spazmatics (see: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Spazmatics-Salt-Lake-City-UT/128819650527729) were playing a bunch of old hits, and Joel and I danced the night, and talked the night away.  I completely let go of my inhibitions, and allowed myself to enjoy myself like I never usually would.  I found myself wanting to be near this man, with this man, wanting the night to never end.  Then he kissed me, and I was hooked.  I couldn't stop grinning.  Things like this just didn't happen to me.  I wasn't Cinderella at the ball, this couldn't be real, could it?  At that point I just didn't care, I just didn't want it to end.  But eventually it did come to an end, and I figured that was it, and I'd probably never see my Prince Charming again.  Boy was I wrong!  


Joel and I ended up exchanging phone numbers, and he later texted me.  I still have the text..."Hi Ashley, this is Joel.  I really enjoyed myself tonight."  The feelings were mutual, and I told him so.  We talked about how we were both going to attend the Salt Lake Comic Con the next day, and he asked if I wanted to meet up with him.  I quickly agreed, and couldn't wait for the next day to come.  After such a perfect night, I wanted a perfect day for the next. I got my wish.  

I dressed up all sexy (in red, because I knew from him telling me how much he liked the color), and enjoyed getting dressed up again, this time just for HIM.  

And so our courtship began.  We spent the next several days together, every waking hour.  I enjoyed every minute of it, and just couldn't believe it was real.

That was almost exactly three months ago, and things have been pretty great so far.  We spend almost every weekend together, and sometimes other days.  I just love being with him, and miss him so much when I'm not.  

So you're probably wanting to know more about Joel.  Well let's see.  He's 32 years old, a year and a few months older than I am  He's originally from California, where his immediate family still lives, but he moved here to Utah in 2006 to go to school for Computer Science.  After he graduated with a bachelors degree, he started, and continues to work as a computer programmer.  He's absolutely brilliant, and definitely one of the most intelligent people I've ever met.  He's even quite the scientist, and I'm constantly learning new things from him!  (Which I really enjoy.)  We have so very much in common.  We both enjoy things like gaming (yay, a boyfriend that games...it's so much fun!  We've been playing Diablo 3 together, as well as Skylanders, which he has an entire collection of, and we recently started playing World of Warcraft: Mists of Panderia together.  I bought him the collectors edition for an early Christmas present, and it's been so much fun playing WoW again!), we're both total computer nerds (though he's far more advanced than I am in that area).  He's a scientist, and loves to both learn and teach.  We both love to read.  We both love movies (we even love the same kinds of movies, how cool is that?!)  The first movie we saw together was Riddick: Rule The Dark with Vin Diesel.  It was my first time watching a movie in D-Box, and it was so awesome.  It was especially cool because Joel looks like Vin Diesel, particularly when he shaves his head, and well, is incredibly hot!  
We also both love music (he plays the drums), and has a great singing voice (I don't know that he knows, but I love listening to him when he sings).  We're both totally OCD (I think he keeps me around for my tissues and hand sanitizer, which I never leave home without LOL).  He's a complete gentleman, and always compliments me on the way he likes the way I do my makeup, or what I wear, etc.  He's so sweet!  He's also very chivalrous, opening doors for me and such (which I absolutely adore).

Now everything isn't completely perfect (nothing is), and we have our issues, and both come with our own emotional baggage.  Particularly theological ones.  As most of you probably know, I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormon), and he's Atheist.  He used to be very religious, and even studied to be a pastor.  But I guess several years ago, he gave up his faith in favor of science and logic, and no longer believes in God.  That's the one thing we've had a lot of problems regarding.  We get into a heated debate, that turns into an argument, that turns into a fight far too often.  I'm actually working on a blog post regarding this exact subject, so that's all I'll say about it for now.

But other then that, we get along great, and really enjoy each other's company.  (At least I enjoy his, and well, he must enjoy mine as well, either that or he's a complete masochist, or perhaps a little of both, LOL).  I've completely fallen head-over-heels for him, and I love him with all of my heart.  

Anyway, that's it for now.  More to come very soon, so stay tuned!  Thank you for reading, and I hope all of you are well.  

Much Love,
Ashley

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Blogging Again





So I think I'm going to start blogging again.  I used to do it quite a bit, and have always found it quite cathartic.  I've always written in journals and blogs for myself, but for other people as well.  I guess I have hope that someone wants to hear my stories, or that people are interested in my life, my opinions, etc.  So I wonder who will read this?  If you do, I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions regarding my post (good, bad, whatever, as long as it's the truth), so please feel free to respond if you so desire!


I've always loved the written word.  I love reading (I'm a professed bibliophile), and love storytelling (which I've finally done professionally, yay!)  I also love to write.  In fact, in college, before I dropped out, I was in the process of becoming an English/Writing major.  So that tells you how much I love to write.  Whether I'm any good at it or not, well, that remains to be seen.  LOL.  

Anyway, I've also had a lot on my mind lately, and sometimes it's easier for me to express things via the written word rather than verbally communicating them.  So it's my hope that perhaps I can express my various thoughts, emotions, feelings, opinions, etc. here, in hopes that others might understand them better.  Again, how successful that will be remains to be seen.  My fear is that if I get too personal, that I might upset people involved in whatever I happen to be writing about.  If that does happen, please let me know, and I'll be happy to edit my writing and/or not write about that particular topic in the future.  

So here I go, off on another adventure.  I hope it's a fun one, and I hope that you'll enjoy it with me!  Either way, here goes nothing, as they say!  (Though I never really did understand that saying...it should be "here goes something", but whatever. LOL.)  


Thursday, October 6, 2011

BOOFest!…What a Nightmare!



First a little background information, for those of you who don’t know. I used to be pretty involved in the virtual world called Second Life, which is basically like the real world, but online. You interact with other people via avatars, (my avatar’s name is Lilia Quinnell), and you can do pretty much anything you can in the real world, but so much more. One thing I really got into, which became a great love and passion of mine was storytelling.

I was a storyteller at a library in Second Life called the West of Ireland Library. Storytellers there would read stories in voice, and real people would come and listen to us. One of the best parts is that people would donate real money to us, which we in turn donated to a charity called Project Children, which was a charity that helped children in Ireland learn how to live together in peace despite differences.

Anyway, because of some problems I was having with some people in Second Life, as well as some personal problems I was having IRL (In Real Life), I decided to take a hiatus from Second Life. So I took a break for about a year and a half. During that time, the one thing I missed the most other than my friends in SL was storytelling. So about a month ago, I decided I was going to go back to Second Life, and try to become a storyteller once again.

Now my first go-round as a storyteller was wrought with problems. Some of them were my own fault, some of them were just life getting in the way. This time, I was determined, was going to be different. So I got back in touch with the storytellers from the West of Ireland Library, which had now become the Seanchai Library. Also different was that instead of benefitting just one charity, the Seanchai Library benefits a new charity every month (so awesome!).

The people in charge of the Library were understandably hesitant at letting me come back as a storyteller, because of all the problems that had occurred the first time around. I could hardly blame them. But I assured them, and myself, that this time would be different. And though this time around, there would be problems, how I handled them would be very different.

They scheduled me to take part in a group reading of scary stories to start out October, an event called BOOFest! I was very excited, as horror has always been one of my favorite genres, especially to tell aloud. So I started prepping.

I spent hour upon hour, pouring over books of short stories, trying to find just the right one for my audience. I finally decided on “The Mournful Cry of Owls” by Christopher Golden, which I had read last year in the book “Many Bloody Returns” which is edited by Charlaine Harris, writer of the famous Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) vampire novels. Once I had my story, I started practicing reading it. I read it to myself out loud, and I even recorded it on my computer to make sure that it sounded good. I knew that I was going to be great this time!

When I had the story down perfect, I started on the other aspects of the reading. I found the perfect costume for my avatar, Lilia, to wear. A dark outfit, of course, to fit the mood. A black-lace corseted top, outlined in jewels, with matching fishnet and lace thigh-high stockings, which were held up with a black-jeweled garter belt. On her feet were knee-high black leather high-heeled boots. Tied around Lilia’s waist to form a skirt were old rags of damask-patterned dark velvet in shades of black. Arm-length gloves in fishnet and lace to match the stockings were held in place with more velvet rags. Black feathers were tucked in around the waist and arm bands. Around her neck, a black ribbon choker from which hung a single black feather to lie upon her décolleté. Lilia looked perfect!



When I had my avatar looking great, I moved onto the scenery. It had been a while since I had built anything in Second Life, so it took me a lot longer than it used to, to create the scenery I was building. I spent hours searching through my inventory, finding just the right props to go with what I had created. When I was finished I had created a floor and background that looked like a “haunted” forest. I found a few spooky looking trees in my inventory, so I put them out. Then I found a great bench to place beneath the trees, for my avatar to sit on while telling the stories. Then, for my pièce de résistance, I created a cute, yet slightly spooky owl, to perch in the trees above Lilia’s head. It took a while to make, but in the end, it looked great, and really fit the scene.



There were other odds and ends I had to finish up. Caledonia, the storyteller that was running BOOFest, had asked for a few things. One of the things that I took a while was a headshot photograph. Caledonia asked for a headshot of Lilia to post on the Library’s blog, as all the photos she (and I) had of Lilia were old. So I had to find a photography place in SL, and then me being the perfectionist I am, it took me a while to get the perfect photo. Once that was done, I got it, as well as all the information Caledonia had asked for sent off, and I was good to go, with plenty of time to spare.



Caledonia scheduled me for 3PM on Sunday, October 2, 2011. Unfortunately, this interfered with my church schedule, and I informed Caledonia of such. I didn’t hear back from her though, so I figured I’d just have to leave church early. (It wasn’t until later that I realized that it was General conference weekend, so I’d just have to miss a bit of the Sunday afternoon session.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

In the meantime, my friend Andrew from Washington was staying with my family and I, and so of course I had to attend to him as well. Unfortunately Andrew has really bad allergies, and when he got to Utah, they hit him hard. It seems that he’s deathly allergic to something we have here, and it didn’t help that during the week he was here that the pollen counts were off the charts. As it turned out, he must have been carrying some sort of dormant virus or bacteria, and with his immune system being weakened from his allergies, the illness (we now refer to it as the “black death”) attacked.

It started out with a sore throat, and then attacked his sinuses. I’ve never seen so much sinus discharge (sorry to be gross, but yes, it was disgusting). Then it was in his lungs, and turned into a cough. At one point he couldn’t hear out of one of his ears. The poor guy was in misery.

Not only was I worried about Andrew, but I was worried about my family and I as well. I didn’t want any of us to get sick. I tried to take precautions, but in the end, it was all for not. Whatever this illness was, it was highly contagious. First my brother got it. Then the next day, despite all my precautions, I came down with the “black death”. I was horrified. Here I was, less than 3 days before my grand return to storytelling, and I was sick in bed. I felt absolutely awful. The Black Death hit me HARD. I could barely crawl out of bed to get food, or use the restroom. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to read a story out loud, when every time I tried to talk I would go into a fit of coughing. I think it hit me a bit harder because of my asthma, which acts up when I’m sick. Ugh. I was in trouble. But I was determined not to bail out of storytelling like I had in the past. So I stayed in bed, rested, and tried to get better.

In the meantime, Andrew went home (though his eardrums almost burst on the plane, causing him horrible amounts of pain, and causing him to throw up a couple of times, poor guy), and then my mom got sick as well.

Now BOOFest! was supposed to last two days, Saturday, October 1, through Sunday, October 2, 2011. I was scheduled to read at 3PM on Sunday the 2nd. When Saturday rolled around, I was still half-dead, but half awake and watching LDS General Conference (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) on TV. It was about 2:50PM, and suddenly I got the feeling that I should go check on things for tomorrows reading. So I turned on my computer, and went to the website that had our story times listed (http://storyfestsl2011.blogspot.com/), and I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was my avatars name, but instead of having my story time as being listed for Sunday at 3PM, it was listed for SATURDAY at 3PM, which was in exactly 3 minutes.
I sat there for a moment, dumbfounded. Why was this happening to me? Why did these things ALWAYS happen to ME? So I logged into Second Life as fast as I could. Then I realized that I still had my headset hooked up to my computer, the headset that had been having issues. I had planned on borrowing my brothers headset for the storytelling, and would have had it ready beforehand, but didn’t now. So I hurried and IM’d Caledonia, informed her that I was having sound issues and asked her to cover for me for 5 minutes. She said, “Okay, we’ll cover for you for 5 minutes, but then we’re going to move on. I wish you would have logged in earlier and worked this out.” Boy how I wanted to say, “no, duh!” But instead I ran to my brothers room, unplugged his headset, ran upstairs to grab a drink and a new box of tissues, because I knew I wouldn’t make it through the hour without them, then ran back to my room and my waiting computer. At this point I was completely out of breath, shaking violently, and almost in tears from what was going on.

Meanwhile, while writing this blog…my room, and the room next to mine flooded. I’ll post another blog entry about that. Ugh…one nightmare after another…will my bad luck never end? But to continue with my BOOFest! Nightmare…

My avatar was still dressed in normal clothing, so I tried to quickly change her into her costume as I was teleporting to the storytelling venue. (I wouldn’t know until after the reading that I would screw that up royally.) I knew I wouldn’t have time to set up the set I had planned for the reading, so I quickly scrapped that idea.

As my avatar arrived at the venue, I could hear someone talking, but I figured I should see if my headset worked. I turned my voice on, and asked if anyone could hear me. At first, no one answered. Finally, I realized I was disrupting a story that someone was telling to cover my butt, and just as I shut up, Derry, the head librarian came on over voice and said that I could be heard, but asked the current storyteller to continue. I apologized for the interruption, and also asked the current storyteller (I don’t even know who it was, that’s how out of it I was), to please continue, and that I was sorry for the interruption. In the meantime, I tried to catch my breath, and prayed that the current storyteller would be long-winded. He wasn’t. Before I knew it, he was finished, and the stage was mine.

My heartbeat tripled, the violent shaking increased ten-fold, and what I thought of as not being able to catch my breath before was breathing easy compared to what I felt now. I started to mumble some sort of introduction about my story, introducing it from the book edited by Charlaine Harris, and muttering something about her, and the True Blood series. I really don’t know what all I said. Then I shakily opened my book and started to read from “The Mournful Cry of Owls” by Christopher Golden.

I gasped out about 3 paragraphs, noticing as I did so that I was getting an ear and window full of IM’s, and knowing that as I did so exactly what they would say (telling me to relax, asking what was wrong with me, etc.). As I struggled on, a kind voice came on over my headset, calling me by my avatar’s name, “Lilia, Lilia, relax, relax…you’re a good storyteller…take a minute, breathe, catch your breath.” My savior, Derry, the head librarian at the Seanchai Library. “Thank you, Derry,” I sputtered, “I just need a minute to catch my breath…I’m sick, and I didn’t know that my reading time was today, and I just found out.” I tried to explain what was going on, and she just kindly encouraged me to take a deep breath, and take a minute to recover, which I did.

I turned off my microphone, closed my eyes, and just breathed. In chat people were typing kind words of encouragement to me, which really helped. They were all saying that they all needed a break after a long day of storytelling anyway, so they all too a few minutes break as well.

After a few minutes recovery time, my heartbeat slowed, as did my breathing, and my thought process. I knew I could do this. I just needed to relax, and focus. I turned my microphone back on, apologized for the delays, and thanked everyone for waiting.

I opened my book once again and took my listeners with me on a journey along with Danika Ristani, a newly turned 16 year old girl who would find out that she was something more, something darker than she thought she was.

In the end , though my voice sounded stuffy, and I had to take moments to blow my nose, I think that my reading went pretty well considering all the problems at the beginning. I didn’t get to display the scenery that I created, nor the pretty costumery that I had found (I realized afterwards that I had left a t-shirt on my avatar that said Woot! across the front of it, and that it looked completely stupid with the rest of the costume), but in the end I was proud of myself for enduring through to the end, for not giving up, or just not showing up (as I probably previously would have), but in toughing it out, and doing the best that I could. Now if I can tough out this whole flood business, I’ll be set…

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lonely

Ugh...going through some really tough stuff right now. 2010 has officially been one of the worst (if not the worst) years of my life. I'm glad it's nearly over.

Friends keep disappearing off of my Facebook friends list. Is this happening to anyone else? Is it a Facebook glitch, or am I really losing my friends one by one? Perhaps I'm just being paranoid. I hope so.

I'm in desperate need of friends right now, and over the past year-and-a-half I seem to have lost my closest friends one by one. I guess it's a true test of friendship when you see who sticks around during the hard times. I feel so much sorrow over the friends that I have recently lost, because they were the ones I thought (and hoped) would be there through thick and thin. I'm tired of being the one that stands behind my friends, especially when they need it most, only to be dumped when the tables are turned and I'm the one in need.

Or, as the case is recently, having not stuck by me during my times of need, then betraying my trust and our friendship time and time again until I seriously question my sanity at having let such a so-called "friendship" go on for so long. I question my motives for having stuck it out this long. Do I stand beside this friend on principle, because that's what friends are supposed to do? Do I stand beside this friend because that's what Christ would do? Do I stand beside her out of habit, because I always have? Or are my motives selfish ones? Do I stand beside her because she's the only one that always comes back? Because she's the only one that will put up with me and all the baggage I come with?

If I stand by such a friend, what price will I pay? The consequences to myself, my family, and those around me could be dire. Is such a friend, or friendship, worth it? She has collected her 10 pieces of silver many times over; if I walk away now, will I be guilty of the same?

Do I give her my love, my blessing, my best wishes, and walk away? Do I do and say nothing, as she has done to me? Do I wait, bide my time, and react only when she acts? This last is what I have been doing. Waiting. It's been over a month now...she's had plenty of time to contact me, but has not. I decided a month ago that I would wait and see what her actions would be, and then I would decide what to do. Now that she has not acted one way or another, what do I do? Do I just wait here, in limbo?

I feel so lost, so alone; so friendless. Is this my own fault? Perhaps. Is it because the people of the world (or at least those whom I come in contact with) have lost the ability to be a true friend? I don't know. Either way, the result is the same; I wallow in my sorrow, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, and now, year after year, as the world, and all those I once called 'friend' pass me by.

;;