A Midsummer Night’s Flu…

Good Afternoon and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

So, like most things in my life- I like to keep my blogging/blog posts on a semi regular schedule. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are typically the days I share content while en route to my office for my full-time job, unless there’s a holiday or something- in which case the posts are delegated to Tuesdays or Thursdays.

Last week, after I had posted my tribute for my late father commemorating several years since his passing- I had already started drafting my content for Friday morning before I left for the weekend and I braced myself for the heatwave that was scheduled to blanket New England until late Sunday night/early Monday morning.

But then I started to feel a little funny. It wasn’t too alarming- not at first- I just felt unusually fatigued and I kept losing my voice at the strangest times. I spent my Thursday and Friday in a bit of a pre-cold fog and, frankly- forgot to post all together. All I could do was sleep in-between grabbing dinners and seeing a couple of movies with friends (“The Lion King”, which was excellent- and “Rocket Man”, which was… Well.. It was something?)

By Saturday afternoon, after I’d left the Indie617 station and was trying to protect myself from triple digit temperatures outside- I had a full-blown, Midsummer’s flu. Coughing. Sneezing. Fever. The works.

And while fevers are problematic on their own- fevers during a severe heatwave are a major cause for concern. I just couldn’t cool down, and on more than one occasion- friends and family were considering taking me to the hospital since I was borderline delirious and nothing was working at lowering my temperature and making me feel better.

Of course, I had to keep working during all of this- between my office job, volunteering for the Pan-Mass Challenge, and my work with PaintBox Theatre– so I was essentially running on fumes until Monday evening when I could finally rest right and properly with the A/C on, the blinds closed, and an ice pack on my head. No worries, though- I kept my mouth/nose covered and slathered antibacterial gel all over my hands on what felt like a ten minute routine.

Thankfully, the fever has since broke- and I’ve been on the mend and getting better and better since Monday. Today, both my “Work From Home Day” and mercifully a half day as well- is the best I’ve felt since right around this time last week. I’m up, moving, talking, and taking plenty of medicine and getting a ton of fluids. I’m even considering braving the outdoors today for some much-needed fresh air and even more needed coffee!

Volunteering for Pan-Mass!
My favorite volunteer at Pan-Mass.

Of course, being sick had me in a bit of a funk/depression- especially when bedridden and all I wanted to do was scratch more things off of my “Summer 2019 Bucket List”- but I’m resolved not to waste what’s left of July and cram whatever is left into August. Being sad and sick is the worst. Being said and sick during a heatwave is torture. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

All that being said- thanks to everyone who heard through social media I wasn’t well and touched base. It meant a lot!

I’m excited to get “Blondie Birdie” back on track and savor the last few days of July!

I’ll be back – bright and early – on Friday morning! Until then, enjoy what’s left of your Wednesday!

xx

– Ashley –

Seven Years Strong…

Seven years ago, in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 15th, 2012- my father, Michael- died abruptly and unexpectedly.

My dad, who was also one of my best friends- was one of the funniest people you could ever hope to meet and also one of the most generous- with his time, his energy, or money if he had it on him. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it and make you laugh while he handed it over. He had a wild, rebellious streak- and he could tell the most fascinating stories about his upbringing, his travels and the people he’d met for hours without repeating any of them. He lived a life and a half in such a short span of time.

My dad was also one of the hardest working people around- up at the crack of dawn to go to work every day and make money to pay for dance lessons, school functions, family vacations/trips, nice clothes and good food. Despite long hours- he never missed a recital, a practice, science fair or picking any one of his kids up from school or a function.

As my brothers and I got older, and started getting into the typical teenage/early twenties trouble- my dad was the voice of reason and understanding because he’d been there and had made those mistakes long before us. “If you’ve been drinking and you need a ride- you call me. Anytime of the day or night. I will come and get you.” And he did with me. More than once. And not once did he ever lecture me or yell at me for it because I had done the responsible thing. Instead, he’d stop to get me something to eat so I wouldn’t feel sick. That was the type of father he was.

When I tell people I was there when he died, their initial reaction is one of sympathy but also relief. The assumption is always the same. People knew my father had been diagnosed with stage four cancer. They knew he had undergone a serious, intricate but successful surgery to remove the cancer- and they knew he was going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments post-op as a precaution. The assumption is always that he died peacefully- surrounded by loved ones in a warm and semi-comfortable hospital bed. Maybe with a sweeping score playing as we all said our tearful goodbyes.

The assumption used to make me angry. “How DARE they,” I would think to myself. “They have no idea!” But with time and age comes wisdom and perspective- and I don’t get angry anymore because I know it’s what they *wanted* for him. They *wanted* it to be peaceful and painless and for my family to have some semblance of closure.

The reality of the situation was much more grim.

My father died from complications from chemotherapy and radiation- which had weakened his body to the point where his heart gave out. When I say I was there, what I mean is that he died on my bedroom floor after collapsing. Moments before, we’d had a brief but wit-filled exchange (as we always did) after I’d come home obscenely late from a night out with friends.

After his diagnosis- I’d opted to both come back to my family’s home and stay there to help take care of him and my mom- running errands, taking him to/from Doctor’s appointments, sitting up and watching late night TV and movies with the two of them on the couch. Quality bonding despite the fact that one of us was very, very ill.

That night- he’d been awake, alert, and wanted to know everything and how everyone was doing. He was excited that I had been out with my friends for the first time in a long time. It was the most energetic I’d seen him in days.

And then, in an instant- he was gone.

The strange thing about trauma is that we never get over it- but we find ways to process it and live with it in a way where we can function like a semi-normal version of ourselves before whatever happened to us, well- happened. The human mind, spirit and body has such a fascinating way to self-preserve itself for survival.

There are some parts to the night I cannot remember and honestly- I probably don’t want to- while other parts are as clear to me now as they were that night. My mother screaming and crying on the phone with paramedics after I’d told her to talk to them in order to keep her out of the room. My dog cowering in the corner because of the commotion. For some reason I remember how awful the bedroom lighting was. It made everything look yellow and antiquated.

I performed CPR on my dad since he wasn’t breathing and I couldn’t feel a pulse- the way I’d learned years and years earlier during a babysitting course where they had taught us as a bunch of young teenagers how to stop a kid from choking, or what to do if they have a seizure, etc. etc. I’d only used what I was taught once before when a toddler I was responsible for tried to swallow a Lego block.

She was fine, by the way.

There was a moment where my dad, having been unresponsive to my attempts, suddenly coughed up a weird black-colored fluid and I thought for a second that I’d been successful in my efforts. It was not the case. That was, from my understanding- when he actually died. The guilt and the image haunted me for years.

I didn’t realize the fluid was all over my clothes until later on at the hospital when a nurse- coming out to sit beside me in the waiting room- quietly offered me some scrubs to put on while I stared at an unfortunate-looking painting on the wall. I don’t remember if I ever answered her.

I burned the still-stained clothes weeks later.

Those memories are vivid- but I do not remember the drive to the hospital. I don’t remember calling my best friend to tell him what had happened (he does, of course.) and I don’t remember calling my boss to tell him I wouldn’t be at work the next day- although apparently it was something I did in my foggy state of mind.

I write all this not to illicit sympathy or make anyone feel uncomfortable- but to talk about how seven years has past and I am, in many ways- still traumatized. Although I no longer have daily panic attacks, dizzy spells, uncontrollable sobbing fits or punch-the-wall-bouts of rage- there are still some things that trigger a good cry out of me: A song. A movie on TV. Finding old cards or letters. Writing this- which I’ve had to stop doing more than once to shed some tears and wipe my nose.

The last thing my father got to see me accomplish before he became too ill to really go out and about was my graduating college- the first of his children to do so. He beamed with pride and had me take no less than 300 photos holding my degree alongside him.

But, seven years later- and he’s missed so much change and growth in our family. I wonder what he’d think of my new apartment, of my new neighborhood- of the friends I’m making and the work I’m doing. I wonder what he’d think of my brothers and I and the way we sit around the dinner table with my mom and how we all have such different personality traits but some that are clearly and most certainly inherited from him. I wonder what he’d think of my niece- his granddaughter- and how she acts exactly. like. my. brother did when he was that age.

And I wonder if he’d want my mom to carry on his dream of moving somewhere in the Carolinas and never having to shovel snow ever again. I’d like to think he would.

Some days I feel cheated- deprived of all the things a daughter should have with her father. He’ll never walk me down the aisle or dance with me at my wedding (if I ever take that plunge.) He’ll never come along on spontaneous road trips or try hole-in-the-wall restaurants with me anymore. He missed my turning thirty and he won’t be there to rag on me for turning forty, either.

My father will never get to see me become the woman I was meant to become- and that is the most heartbreaking realization of all.

But, as life goes on- as I move forward with the help of therapy and good friends and my tight-knit family- and time begins to heal some of those wounds- I know that the only thing I can do is live the life he wanted me to have and make it as adventurous, fun, successful and filled with as much love as he envisioned. I cannot dwell on the past- on my sadness or my anger or the “what ifs” and “what could have beens.” That is time wasted and all I have is right now, these moments- and the moments that follow.

Additionally, it’s worth repeating a lesson most of us know but sometimes need reminding of: be good to the people in your life that you love and care about. Cherish your time with them. Love them openly and unapologetically and make sure they know it and feel that love every day. We never know how much time we or the people in our lives have left here- and losing each other is inevitable. Make the most of the time you have with one another while you can.

It has been seven years and I miss my dad every single day. I would give anything to have him here- but I’ve made great strides in my recovery and in my personal/professional life- and for that I think he’d be proud. Maybe even more proud than he was when I graduated college. Prouder than 300 photos could convey.

This past Monday was rough- but it also marks seven years since I’ve moved forward from a life-shattering trauma- and I’m still here. So that’s saying something.

Love you, dad.

xx

– Pumpkin Pie –

June 2019: In a Nutshell

Good Morning and Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you’re all having a great weekend so far!

It’s always a little weird posting on a weekend- especially a Sunday- since mornings like this are usually reserved for coffee, laundry, and trying to squeeze something fun or entertaining to do in the hours between now and when I return to work bright and early tomorrow morning. But. it’s the last day of June- and a day like that needs some acknowledgment!

I will say that I am excited to head into July. It’s the height of Summer, I’ve got some vacation days coming up- and now that I’ve got the last of my furniture in my apartment and am feeling a little more “at home”- I can cook, decorate, and blog more freely and comfortably than I could a few weeks ago when I didn’t really have much more than a mattress and a desk while I was waiting for the things I’d purchased on back order to arrive and be delivered.

It’s nice to finally and really have my own little piece of the Pioneer Valley to come home to every day.

Looking back at June- a month that has, historically, always had it’s share of troubles and woes for me over the years and for whatever reason- can be a bit difficult at times. Is Mercury in retrograde? Are my brief moments of stress, inconvenience, and/or sadness some sort of annual sacrifice for the Summer Solstice? Am I just consistently unlucky for this one month every year?

I’ll never know- but June saw my full-time job become overwhelming at times, one of my part-time jobs here in the Valley become absolutely chaotic with last-minute changes, departures, and poor preparation leading up to major deadlines and milestones- and one of my dearest friends fall victim to a malicious rumor and subsequent gossip that has essentially robbed him of his livelihood and joy as he struggles to overcome it and get back on his feet.

It was, well- a LOT– to deal with these past few weeks. But, the month also flew by relatively quickly so at least it was quick? Silver linings?

I digress. June wasn’t without it’s nicer, calmer moments as well. I spent a really beautiful weekend showing my best friend around when he came to visit me, my blog celebrated it’s second birthday, I dove headfirst into one of my favorite immersive theater companies and experiencesand naturally I got to eat at some really, really terrific Summer shacks in the area, too!

So what’s in store for July? Well, my usual recipes and OOTD posts, of course- but I’m also going to be doing a little bit of traveling in the coming weeks, as well! Not anywhere super far away or anything- but I’ll be crossing more things off of my “Summer 2019 To-Do” list with trips to my favorite beaches, outdoor attractions, local hot-spots, etc.

And I’ll have plenty of photos and updates along the way, of course!

So all that being said- here’s to June- a month that was not without it’s ups and downs. I truly hope all of us who need it have a better July!

I’m off to get a few things done and set off into this hot and humid day. See you all again tomorrow!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

xx

– Ashley –

Making a House a Home…

Good Morning- Happy Friday- and Happy First Day of Summer, everyone!

While I was in a full-Summer state of mind weeks ago when the temperatures first began soaring and I started wearing shorts outdoors on the weekends- I actually haven’t participated in any of the usual early Summer activities I’m typically diving into by now. There have been no beach trips, no lobster rolls, and no poolside hangouts- although there has admittedly been more than one ice cream cone in recent days.

A lot of my time, when not working- has been getting situated in my new apartment- where I’ve officially been for a month now! I’m still finding places for my things, still exploring my neighborhood and surrounding communities- and up until this this past Wednesday- I was still waiting on the last of my furniture to arrive. That’s not to say I didn’t make do without a bed frame. I’ve never been one to be too high maintenance to sleep on a mattress on the floor for an unknown length of time, after all- but this apartment never really felt like “home” until I had an actual bed and a couch in it. Now it feels more like “mine”- and I’m absolutely loving it.

There’s still a lot to do, of course. I need to get my TV mounted, actually decorate a little and organize my things- but I’m a lot more comfortable and cozy here and excited to see how my space develops over the next few weeks/months.

I digress, the point of this was also to say that now that it’s *officially* Summer and my life has a bit more stability in it- I can get started on catching up on that list of things I’m typically doing this time of year! The first thing is absolutely going to be eating a lobster roll, by the way.

Although prior to the arrival of my furniture on Wednesday-  I did have an opportunity to drive one town over to a little farm in the area where people could pick their own strawberries. I’d never done that before, but let me tell you- it was FUN– and I got some really, really good pickings!

So, so delicious!

This weekend I’ll be on indie617 from 12-4 (Saturday) and then I may catch a performance in Turner’s Falls Saturday night. Then on Sunday, with lobster roll in hand- I might venture out to explore MASS MoCA for the first time. Or, if it’s hot enough- take a dip in one of the local lakes or rivers around here!

Regardless of where I end up and what I end up doing- you can count on plenty of photos on my INSTAGRAM and here on the blog when I return on Monday morning!

Enjoy that Summer Solstice, everyone- and the weekend ahead! See you all next week!

xx

– Ashley –

Father’s Day in Hampshire County…

Good Morning and Happy Monday (yuck…) everyone!

While I had absolutely *grand* plans for this past weekend in anticipation of lots of sunshine and soaring temperatures- Mother Nature threw all of us here in the Valley a curveball and turned a beautiful and breezy Saturday afternoon/evening into a positively chilly and rain-filled Sunday. It wasn’t just an occasional shower or sprinkle, either- but big, fat cold droplets that seemed to last all day.

My scheduled strawberry picking at a local farm and an outdoor brunch unfortunately had to be rescheduled for a later date this week/month- but I did my best to make do with my afternoon after I finished some early morning errands.

Of course, yesterday was Father’s Day- which is always a rough day for me to get through ever since my dad passed away unexpectedly in the Summer of 2012. I’m usually able to distract myself or keep myself occupied so that I don’t feel too sad- and living in a new area where I’m still getting acclimated and familiarized is definitely a BIG distraction these days. I took the opportunity to drive a little further West than where I presently live to do some exploring and try to find a Father’s Day present for my mom.

To explain: After my dad died- my mother and I made a pact that for every Father’s Day and for what would have been her and my dad’s wedding anniversary- we’d celebrate it together. This could mean having dinner together, buying each other little gifts/cards, etc. We have a family dinner scheduled later on this week, of course- but I wanted to get her something special, too.

My mom loves anything Americana or kitschy, farm-related things- so my living in the Valley is a dream come true for her because I’m essentially surrounded by that stuff on all sides. As I was passing through Williamsburg yesterday- a charming little town Northwest of Florence- I spotted the Williamsburg General Store and knew I’d find something perfect for her there.

Sure enough- I came across this bumble bee watering can and immediately thought of my mom- who spends a lot of time outside tending to her yard and would probably use this for it’s intended purpose AND for decoration.

I’m excited to see her reaction when she opens it. I think it’s adorable- and don’t worry, she doesn’t go online much so unless someone shows this post to her before I visit her later on this week- my posting about it isn’t going to spoil the surprise!

I’ve actually got a short work-week this week, having taken Wednesday off to be present when the last of the furniture I ordered arrives and is finally delivered to my apartment. So, as much as I don’t want to be at work right now- at least I’m not technically here a full week.

But I’ve still got lots to do this morning- so this just about does it for me today!

Enjoy the start of your week, everyone. Let’s push through to Friday together!

xx

– Ashley –