Top 10 of Twenty-ten

This year has been a bit crazy. It has had its fair share of ups and downs. I did want to share my top 10 best of 2010. This list is a compilation of personal victories, goals reached, and just fun stuff that made my year.

#10: I started a blog!

How fun? I now get to share of this fun stuff with the blogosphere thanks to a couple college friend’s encouragement. I am so glad I did. It has been a fun way to challenge myself to do more stuff and try new projects. I now say things like “oh – I could blog about that!” It’s great and a fun way to look back at my year… well 4 months anyway. 

#9: Trying New Things

I am very proud to say that I have been less of a weenie about trying new stuff. Anyone recall the “self-grooming the pups” post? Yeah- a couple years back I would have never taken on an endeavor like that. Now the hubs has got me wanting to learn the piano, picking up my old clarinet from high school, and who knows what else is on the horizon. I am happy that Brandon inspires me and that I have grown to be more confident and willing to try new, interesting, and fun things.

#8: Exploring my love of Decorating and Taking on new Projects

I love, love, love to decorate. It has been awesome to be in control of my own our space to express myself. Even w/ a limited budget it has been fun and challenging to make new things, thrift stuff, and steal things from Nana and Papa and Cindy to make our space a home. I have seen a marked pattern towards going country in my tastes- which my husband will just have to deal with  He got me to move to suburbia- something I said I would never do, but I brought the country with me!

#7: New Ink

What a fun way to spend a day? Getting new tattoos w/ my sissies  We all got a symbol that represents The Three Sisters- faith, hope, and charity. We all got them in different places on ourselves and it was a fun bonding experience I will never forget. I love my sisters!

#6: Moving to a New Apt.

This was quite the debacle. Do we move? Do we stay? Can we afford it? I am so glad that we moved, regardless of the challenges. We love our new apartment. It feels so much more like us and it is truly home. And plus- I got to decorate it!

#5: Weekend in Wisconsin

This probably would have been higher on my list, but I was sick and Brandon was stressed. We did have a great time exploring The House on the Rock together. It was awesome for me to be able to share a fun memory from my childhood w/ my babes and he can’t wait to go back and really be able to enjoy it.

#4: Unexpected Promotions

As most of you know, I was becoming very unsatisfied with my job earlier this year. I had gone so far as to interview at another place. But, I love Tabor, and couldn’t leave. God’s hand was in that decision big time because a few months later I am sitting in a director’s position. It’s amazing the plans He has and I am so grateful. I love this job. I am excited about coming to work again!

#3: Having a Church Home

I have really struggled with not having a church community in my life for a couple of years, so I have been very grateful for being able to finally have a place to call home. When we moved we ended up 30 min closer to Brandon’s family church and I love it there! I was able to be in the choir and we both serve on the communion ministry team. I am so looking forward to the next year and being more involved.

#2: Amazing Family Time

The entire year has been packed with fun family togetherness. I love every second of it. I even love when I am annoyed at the fam, because that means they are really family! Haha It’s been so much fun, doing everything from segway tours to playing killer bunnies for hours. I love it. It was amazing to have my great-aunt at my apartment for Christmas and I just feel so blessed.

And, drumroll please…..

#1 of 2010: Brandon Graduating Grad School!!!

Really- what else could top this? Our entire lives have changed because of this! It is wonderful and I could not be more proud of my husband. It was a rough road, but he persevered and finished and did it well!

Ok 2011- What ya got for us?

Happy New Year everyone!

New Year's Resolutions

Let's face it kids- it's that time of year again. The time for New Year's Resolutions! Well- we all know what mine are:

1. Get Healthy
2. Get Out of Debt.

By the end of 2011, I want to be able to post a smokin' "After Ashlea" pic to redeem my "Fat Ashlea".

I won't lie. The holidays were hard. I didn't even attempt to watch my calories, make it to a gym, or pass up any opportunity to snack on anything. I really enjoyed and indulged. And now I am paying for it. Ugh. I have a stomach condition and my poor digestive system started to revolt the day after Christmas. I control my problems with my food intake, because no medication seems to be effective, and clearly, with the food I was eating, things have gotten out of control. It has take nearly a week for me to feel comfortable again. No fun.

I am proud to report that I stuck to my goal of "Don't Do Lunch December" and only ordered a delivery lunch ONCE for the entire month!

I did not, however, make it to the gym for about 3 weeks ( I am so ashamed) and felt terribly guilty about it. I think that's good though, since it was a motivation for me to pack up my gym bag and take it to work on Tuesday and today. I am headed straight to the gym when I get off work. Do not pass Go. Do not go home. Do not collect $200. Go straight to jail  gym (Freudian slip).

I did read a cool article today on that I wanted to share with my readers- because let's face it - the #1 New Year's Resolution HAS to be to lose weight in this fat country we live in! So here:
I am coveting that Escali Nutrition Tracker! That's awesome- and it comes in red! haha

I did the math today on how long it would take me to reach my goal weight if I lose 1lb per week as is recommended... 7 and a half months. months? AH. That's a blow to my impatient, chubby little self. Maybe I can half that and try to lose 2 lbs per week. We shall see. I will need to develop some discipline and persevere... neither of which sounds very fun or easy. Wish me luck!

Best Gift Ever

I have to say- the best gift this Christmas was definitely this guy:
Having him present, in-the-moment, and not stressed over school was the best thing Santa could have given me!
The best actual gift I got is from that cutie above.
I know its blurry- go to :
Its beeeeeeautiful and I love it- he is SO good at picking this stuff out! Love love love it!

Christmas Joy

So- its been awhile since my last post and gosh- December is just the BUSIEST month ever! There is so much to celebrate and so many people to celebrate with!

As I look out my windows this morning and see this perfect light snow falling, I have to admit, this is the most content I have ever been in my life. God has been pouring out His blessings on Brandon and I and I can't really figure out why, but I am so thankful. I have a joy in my heart that I have been searching for since I was saved. It kind of snuck up on me, a little bit like the Grinch... when his heart suddenly grows 5x bigger! He was not expecting that and I was not expecting to be filled up with such joy.

We have had several Christmas celebrations already and each one of them has been so wonderful this year! We started out waaaaaay back in November with my mom's family. We had a great day of sharing, talking, eating, picture taking, and even a little bluegrass music (oh-except for the ones who had to run out and shoot these majestic creatures... you know who you are).

We had a great Progressive Dinner w/ some of Brandon's family and it was so meaningful to me to be able to share my home with them. Ours was the last stop for dessert and it was just heart-warming to have people over and to share our Christmas decorations with them!

I also got saddled with the hosting duties of the Heier Family Christmas! I made a ham, cranberry-raspberry, walnut salad, and attempted a fruit crisp which I forgot about in the oven and it turned more into a fruit-burn. Whoops! What was so special about this gathering is that my Aunt Helen got to join us. It was the farthest away from home she has been since she had her stroke a couple years back. It was such a joy to be able for her to see our home and spend the day out of the nursing home with us!

A day after the fun w/ my family we had church and I was privileged to be in the choir- which was an awesome experience! Worship is my most favorite part of church and to be up there on stage helping to lead it was an awesome and humbling experience! I wish I could sing well enough to really be on the worship team (maybe I will have to go brush up on my clarinet skills- Ha!) Then we all piled into a car and set off to Grandma Wilson's house to spend time w/ Cindy's family. It was a nice low-key day of talking, napping, football, and some fantastic spaghetti! It was also a more-special get together because Cindy's nephew was home for the Christmas for the first time in 8 years, instead of being halfway across the world in a war. I know everyone was so thankful to be able to share the special holiday with Kevin.

The most recent Christmas celebration was just yesterday w/ Grandma and Grandpa Derry- building ginger-bread houses! Grandma and Grandpa decided that this year they would travel to all of their kids' instead of everyone coming to them. So, the family spent the day eating, building houses (Grandpa and Grandma's were especially creative- I will post pics as soon as I can steal them from Cindy!), sorting coins, and just enjoying each others company.

Today will be another busy day - Christmas Eve service and choir again (yay!), dinner with Brandon's family, Christmas pajamas, and then an EPIC nerf gun fight- per Derry-Family Tradition!

I am sure tomorrow will  bring another wonderful Christmas morning, filled w/ sleepy Derrys, way too many Christmas packages, yummy pancakes, and family togetherness. I don't know why God chose to bless me with an amazing husband and family, but He did, and I am so grateful.

Remember the reason for the season- Jesus was born to love, teach, and save us. Merry Christmas!

Mini-Reading Interview and Keturah and the Lord Death Review

I am stealing this fab idea from Bloggers Heart Books for their Blogoversary they let readers submit questions and bc they are awesome- they answered a bunch of mine! So I am picking and choosing a couple of the questions to answer about myself and my reading habits. Then I am going to tack on a mini-review about Keturah and the Lord Death which is a book that was recommended to me by my roomie Liz!

How many books do you read a year?
Errrr.... This depends, I go through phases. Some weeks I will get through half a book and others I can read 3-4. If I had to guess I'd say at least 50. 
Who are your current favourite heroines/heroes?
I love Katniss Everdeen- she's my girl right now and Lisbeth Salander!
I used to love Anita Blake too (total kick-butt vamp executioner) but she has been failing me lately- losing her morals and such. I liked her better when she had more boundries and less men in her life.
What was the most disappointing book ending you've encountered this year?
Gah- the trilogy of A Great and Terrible Beauty. Any book that has the heroine in tears on the LAST page of the THIRD book with NO hope of resolving the issue is a disappointing ending. I was so mad when I finished that book. *grumble*

The least disappointing?
Mockingjay. Yes it was a bit heartwrenching for various reasons, but man, I think she nailed it with the ending of this trilogy. I have so much love for these books! 

What are your top five books of all time?
This is super hard, but I will try.
I will always love The With of Blackbird Pond and have read it like 50 times.
Twilight (cheesy, but life changing:)), 
Hunger Games (new, but amazing), 
Harry Potter series (no matter that there are 7 books here),
Anne of Green Gables series (no one is counting the multiple books here either) 

Keturah and the Lord Death:
When Lord Death comes to claim sixteen-year-old Keturah while she is lost in the King's Forest, she charms him with her story and is granted a twenty-four hour reprieve in which to seek her one true love. 

This has to be a mini-review because I will be long-winded and give the plot away otherwise. I'll be honest, it took me 60 or so pages before I actually cared about what was happening in the book. I think I had to get used to the writing style, but after that, ohhhhhh boy- I was hooked and finished it within a couple hours. It took me several days to get through those first 60-70 pages, but man, after I was committed to the story, it was all over. I think this book is a great, quick read and the story will stick with you. I found myself thinking about the lessons in the book and Keturah often after finishing it, I think because it is so relatable. Everyone encounters Death at some point. I also like books that focus on Death as an actual character and he is one complex dude. (Another great book which Death actually narrates is The Book Thief - HIGHLY reccommend it). I liked the relationships in the book between Keturah and her grandmother and her 2 dear friends. I also liked her spunk! She was a solid character and I felt her turmoil at different points in the story. I ended up really liking this book. Thank you Ms. Liz!
So I would say, 4/5 for Keturah and the Lord Death. It doesn't get the full 5/5 because it took me a while to get into and I hate the name Keturah (I mean how do you even say that?!)

New Mantle!

So, as promised, I am posting about my fabulous new mantle that Papa made me! It came about as me complaining to Nana that I had a fireplace, but no mantle. She in turn, reported the conversation to Papa, and -genius that he is- figured he could make me one out of some scrap materials he had just laying around. So- here's the BEFORE shot, which you may recall from last week:

And AFTER!!!

Isn't it awesome!! And the price tag on this baby is a whopping ZERO! Papa made the entire thing- plus the two candle holders, completely out of scraps! He is awesome!

And for the decor: Nana gave me some old garland she had laying around and I threw in some pine cones that I had left over. Then I hit up an amazing sale at Kohl's over the weekend and for less than $15 got the two picture frames and 4 little place-card holders! Kohl's rocks my world!

I  found some $1 ribbon at Big Lots and tied it around the candles so it could match my ornaments.

I also made the NOEL letters w/ paper plates and leftover fabric from the ornaments I covered. It went a litte like this:
I made these letter out of card stock and construction paper and they just didn't do it for me (and you can probably see why).

So then I decided to break out the tacky glue! I free-handed the original letters and then used them as a template on the paper plates.

I then smothered the paper plates in tacky glue and placed the material on top. I let them dry over night and then did a rough cut around the letter and Voila! I think it turned out really cute!

I was inspired by a homemade sign we used to put up in our front porch windows when I was a little kid that said NOEL in red letters. Too bad I do not have any old pictures of that to show. :) But for you viewing pleasure- I did torture the pups and made them sit through a mini-Christmas photo shoot:

Birthday Reflections

Since today is my birthday I was doing some reflecting. I think people tend to do that when they realize they are another year older and mortality starts to become a little more real. So, at the ripe, old age of 24 I am going to share my life-reflections with you (most of which are from this past week)

This has been a week of huge ups and downs, an emotional roller coaster if you will.
I thought this was a really funny pic- and festive! 
Sunday night I barely slept. I was terrified of going into work and facing my first week flying solo.

But, the worst thing that happened is that I ALMOST lost my donation of Christmas decor. No worries! I got it all back! :)
Then, Tuesday, I had a face-to-face conversation I was dreading with a co-worker. But hey- that went well too! God has really been blessing me work and guiding me through everything.
Tuesday also reminded me of why I used to hate the holidays. Family "Stuff" always comes dredging up - I am not sure why things are a big deal in December, when it doesn't seem to matter the other 11 months of the year.
Wednesday - hump day! - Was a pretty normal day- was feeling a bit headache-y at the end of the day and went to leave work when I got some really sad news. Our receptionist, Carolyn, had been very recently diagnoses with lung cancer, and yesterday she passed away. She was fairly young, in  her 50's, and this all went incredibly fast. She was so well-loved by families and residents and had a huge heart and caring spirit. She will be missed.
So- now we are up to Thursday. My birthday. It was a strange mixture of celebration, mourning, connection, disappointment, inadequacy, and surprise.
Celebration: I felt very loved via the electronic world- phone, email, and facebook blew up with many well-wishes.
Disappointment: Thought some relationships I had with people were more than they are, but then again, I often expect too much. (That's cryptic, I know, but there are some things the world doesn't need to know- if you care, ask and I can share)
Inadequacy: At 24 years old I am the head of an entire department. Every. single. person. in that department is older than me. I learned a great philosophy about managing people back in my landfill days. My boss there said that he always tries to be the type of boss he would want to have. I really want to apply that philosophy to my management. My staff has been very gracious about overlooking the fact that most of them are old enough to be my parents or even grandparents. But I feel like I could be walking a thin line here.
Surprise- My darling hubby sent me flowers at work AND I got to share dinner with him tonight at a restaurant. It was amazing to be able to actually spend an itty bit of quality time with him. 
And finally:
Mourning and Connection: We had a memorial service scheduled at work today for staff members to gather and talk about residents that they have cared for who have passed away. With the news of Carolyn so fresh and shocking, the service really evolved into something else entirely. I sat in this service with people I see nearly every day and watched them cry, mourn, and share some incredibly personal stories of loss. My eyes were really opened to the journeys these people have been on. I see some of them in a totally new light after today and I know that they are looking at me through new eyes too. I did open up about my mom a bit, but several of the staff came up to me and were like "I had no idea and your story touched me". One woman was impressed that I was able to stay composed and not cry while sharing.... but I felt weird that I was so emotion-less in a room so full, brimming over, busting at the seams with emotion. It was a safe place to let go and I just really appreciated that I was able to be a part of that today and share grief with others. It was not exactly celebratory for a birthday, but it was special.
So I leave you with this video of the song that my amazing mom chose to have played at her funeral. This is probably going to be the one thing that does make me shed some tears today :)