All posts by ashleymcarmichael

How to Start a Quest

Step one: Recognize and Answer the Call to Adventure

My inner writer died. 

I’m not really sure when it happened, but I came to the stark realization that it did a few weeks ago. I’ve been trying to push past what some people I guess would call “writer’s block”, but it’s not a block—it’s a death. Life got busy. Priorities shifted. And I just did take time to breathe life into my inner writer. 

So I mourned her death. Struggled with a little depression…and then began the process of rebirth. 

“ None of us possess a life devoid of magic, barren of grace, divorced from power” 

Julia Cameron

Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

That’s the beautiful part about our creativity—as we grow and change we will often kill off the playful and inspired part of ourselves that wants to push limits and think outside the box…but we can get it back if we are willing to do the work. 

So, I invite you on my QUEST to resurrect a part of myself that I lost sight of. 

Step two: Get help–Assistance is always required to complete a quest

I mentioned in my last post how much I enjoyed Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way and that book was incredibly inspiring several years ago during my golden age of writing. So, naturally, I went back to Cameron and have found another installment that seems to be exactly what I need right now. I am starting my journey by reading The Vein of Gold, a book whose primary concern is healing the inner child. And let’s face it—I pretty much ignore my inner child. I’m sure she’s in there somewhere—probably sleeping. If I want my creative juices to start flowing again I’m going to have to wake her up. So I’m embarking on this quest with Cameron at the helm and one goal in mind: resurrect my inner writer and return to my golden age of creativity. I invite you to join me (through my blog posts, of course, but if you are feeling a little fuddy-duddy-ish, grab yourself a copy and take the journey with me literally!

Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash

“Something has changed within me. Something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game.” Defying Gravity—Stephen Schwartz—Wicked

Step three: Depart—and don’t let the valid excuses become reasons to avoid the Renaissance

“We are romancing our creative urges. Nothing kills a romance more quickly than a few broken promises” Julia Cameron

I started in several ways this week. First, I said yes spontaneously (me???) to an unexpected invitation to see Wicked with a friend—which just reminded me how much I really do love musicals…and the theater…

So I spent most of the rest of the week singing different broadway musicals at the top (and I do mean the top) of my ever-so-off-key lungs. 

And I realized that my mood journal took a huge upswing this week—so many more positives than negatives. Coincidence? Well, maybe. But it sure did feel good. Did I do a lot of writing? Not really, but I don’t expect the world to right itself overnight. And hey—I did a blog post 2 weeks in a row, so that’s improvement!

So stop fearing the worst, continue to hope for the best, and take a few leaps of faith along the way and you might be surprised by when and where the Lord meets you in your unadulterated neediness. 

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek” Joseph Campbell

Photo by Ian Chen on Unsplash

20 Goals for 2020

Sure, it may be cheesy.

It may be cliche.

BUT who can resist a good numbers game as we kick off a new decade?

And so, here I am, finally back into the writing groove and ready to set some goals, because next to godliness and cleanliness–goal-setting should always be a top priority.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Goal 1: Write More

I didn’t list these in any particular order, but I wanted to start with writing, because, let’s face it–that is what this blog is all about. I’ve always loved writing, but when I first started this journey, one of the main things I learned is that writers don’t just write when it is convenient, but they make it a priority. I have not been making it much of a priority lately–there are other things going on and I just kind of push the writing off to the side. I realized recently what a terrible idea that is, because writing is how I process and release. The other day I couldn’t figure out why the past couple of years have felt like such a backslide in personal growth–then it struck me: duh! You aren’t doing what you love, what comes as naturally as breathing, what helps you make sense of the world and express the emotions that you often find so overwhelming that you shut down, you turtle into something nearly unrecognizable as you shut people out. So I need to stop making excuses and make a concentrated effort to write more.

I know, that’s vague, so the next few goals are really kind of subgoals for this one.

Goal 2 (or 1a): Do Your Morning Pages

A few years ago, I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron with a group of writer friends. It really opened up some passionate ideas and projects, so I’m going to rewind and go through this again (I did some posts about it on here too #TheArtist’sWay). I cram a lot into my mornings as it is, but this was always a successful way to start the day–not exactly journaling, but just getting thoughts and ideas on paper. I’ve never been a good journaler, but filling up notebooks with ideas was a useful way to start my mornings back in my writing prime, so I want to get back to that.

Goal 3 (or 1b): Set aside a least 15 minutes per day for writing

Sometimes I complain that I don’t have time for anything, and then I realize I spent time on an electronic device, or staring at the TV that I could have easily spent on something more productive; again that is cliche. I don’t love how much screen time I use–my excuse has always been that I am so tired of thinking by the end of the day I need something mindless to relax. On some level, that’s still true. On another, it is just an excuse for laziness. And that’s not okay. Especially when I have such big goals that have yet to be accomplished.

Goal 4 (or 1c): Finish What You Started

At the moment I have 3 books completely written, but I haven’t taken the time to gut and edit them–or I’ve been putting it off–or I’ve been busy and overwhelmed with other things in life. But now is the time to finish what I have started and stop with all the meh.

Goal 5 (or 1d): Find your Niche

I moved to SC a few years ago and it was absolutely the right move, but I miss the writing community I had when I lived in NC. I’ve tried a couple of different things here, but I haven’t been able to find the right fit yet. So, I’m going to make a concentrated effort to find that community again.

Goal 6 (or 1e): Don’t abandon the blog

Blogging is not my passion, but I think the public sharing of my writing is kind of an important step that I took a few years ago, so I want to keep maintaining it. Sometimes, as you know, I will go months without posting. Not on purpose, but just because, you know, life. Putting it on the priority list, will help me ensure it doesn’t fall by the wayside. I hope.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Goal 7: Read More

I read a lot. Trust me, I do. But this can always be a goal for me, because even when I read a lot, I can always make time to read more–or maybe what I really mean is to read more diverse things. I read a lot of fiction. I need to balance that with a healthy dose of non fiction and books I might not have chosen for myself, but that open up something new for me to learn.

Goal 8 (or 7a): Read at least 75 books (Goodreads)

Last year the goal was 60–so I’m upping the ante…

Goal 9 (or 7b): Of the 75 books at least 25 will be non fiction

That sounds pretty silly, but that’s saying a lot for me, so it’s attainable, but challenging.

Goal 10 (or 7c): Write reviews for at lest 50% of the books I read

Sometimes, I’m re-reading so the 50% accounts for that, and also for the times I read series and have pretty much the same thing to say for each of the books and don’t want to be redundant.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Goal 11: Monitor Emotional Health

I bought a mood journal, and it was a good move. It’s a planner, but it always asks great reflective questions at the end of the week that help me focus on the good and process the bad. I know, at 34 you’d think I’d have this all figured out, but I’m a work in progress. So yeah.

Goal 12: Be Ready for God to Move

God is mighty and powerful. Sometimes though I underestimate just how powerful He is. That is dangerous. So, for my 2020 word, I chose (with a little prompting from the Holy Spirit) a Hebrew word: Hinneni. This roughly translates to Here I am or I am Ready, but the connotations take it further and deeper–it requires an enriching trust, a bond between father and child. This is what I want to build this year on.

Goal 13 (or 9a): Seek after God by spending more time in His Word

I think the Bible is beautiful. In addition to a weekly Bible study and morning quiet times, I want to seek to organize what I learn in new ways, which interestingly enough helps with goals 1 and 7 and even 8.

Goal 14 (or 9b): Don’t just say you are praying–spend more time in focused prayer.

One thing I know about relationships is they don’t grow unless you spend time conversing–and that requires a sacrifice. Those times when I feel like I need to escape into mindlessness are a great place to start.

Goal 15 (or 9c): Let go of the doubt, Embrace the promises

I have a hard time, sometimes, seeing past the tangible and trusting in the intangible. Especially if it isn’t the plan I expected or wanted. Those doubts can choke the life out of me. I need to make a concentrated effort everyday to choose what I will serve: doubt or truth.

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

Goal 16: Drink more water

I know, health goals are cheesy. And honestly, I make this a goal most weeks–sometimes I stick to it; other times I don’t. But writing it down, that’s what helps make it more of a probability rather than an afterthought.

Goal 17: Move more

I’m constantly moving from about 8am to 3pm. After that I have no desire to move. That’s not very healthy, so I’m adding it to the goal. Yes, I know this is vague, but saying “I’ll exercise at least 30 minutes a day” is pretty unrealistic for me (I’m just being honest), so I’ll keep it vague and see where it goes–then if needed, the goal will be adjusted.

Goal 18: Eat more vegetables

Fruits are easy. Vegetables are hard. Enough said.

Goal 19: Take an “artist date” at least 6 times

This goes back to the book, The Artist’s Way. I used to do these all the time and had such fun, so I’m going to add those back to my goal list.

Goal 20: Seek out real connections, even when (or maybe especially when) it feels uncomfortable.

Social events make me anxious. Partly because I struggle so much with feeling unwanted–making small talk is so hard for me, and that is half of what a social event is all about. After I attempt it, and kind of fail, I feel an irrational sense of contempt from others, even though I know it is really just that annoying voice in my head that wishes I didn’t have any failings–but this is a big one. So the goal, even when I’m uncomfortable or worried about feeling unwanted or ‘weird’ or overlooked or whatever–I will still strive for those connections.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Your turn! What are some of your goals? List them in the comments! I love to learn from you

One Voice

Election cycle is upon us, but don’t worry, this post is not political. However, this time of year reminds me of a conversation I had during the last presidential election. We were talking about the candidates and I said something to the effect of:

“I’m researching the Libertarian candidate right now. I like to know all my options”

The other person scoffed before replying with:

“That’s throwing your vote away.”

I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but I do remember feeling hurt and angry because that statement is simply not true—but it is shared by a large portion of the population! That’s a shame because the way change happens in a nation, government, institution, and society is always the same. All it takes is one voice. One person who is willing to go against the established norm. Sometimes, exciting times, that one voice catches like wildfire and society shifts.

Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash

And sometimes it doesn’t.

Regardless, things CAN’T change if people aren’t will to at least look for alternatives, and they certainly CANNOT change if we keep perpetrating the LIE that our singly voice is TRASH!

Currently, I am in the midst of the Night unit with my E2H kids, so we talk a whole heck of a lot about voice and speaking up when something is not right. One of my favorite diagrams is the pyramid of hate.

Students are asked to study the pyramid and decide where one person (presumably the individual reading it) can stop the upward movement. In other words, where can one voice pipe up and stop society from reaching the zenith? There is a lot of mumbling, but not a lot of confidence here. So I ask this question:

How many of you have heard a racist, prejudiced, or stereotyping joke lately?

They squirm. No one raises their hand, but there is a lot of murmuring, indicating that it was probably 20 minutes ago in the hallway. So I ask a second question:

How many of you have laughed at or made one of these jokes lately?

Now the squirming is uncomfortable and all eyes are looking at the floor because they know that I know. Earlier that week a kid made a blonde joke, you know all in good fun, but I called him out on it. I asked why it was so important to him to make the girl in question feel bad about herself?

And that’s where it (hopefully) hits them: jokes at others’ expense lay the foundation for hate. Your voice, speaking up when others are doing wrong, matters. It doesn’t have to mean putting your life on the line like the thousands of unnamed heroes who saved as many lives as they could during the Holocaust. Speaking up starts with your own sins, then your friends and family, then your school. Our voice matters because it can have a ripple effect.

Photo by Kai Dahms on Unsplash

I have been teaching for 13 years now. At approximately 6 classes per years (a couple of. Years I only had 5–I miss the 7 period day…), that’s 78 classes of students. Most had at least 25 (sometimes as many as 36) individuals. That makes for 1,950 students, give or take, who have come through my classroom over the years. Have I changed every one? NO. But I have impacted some and they’ve gone on to do amazing things in the world! So, I have to believe that one voice matters, because if I don’t, every day of my adult life has been a complete waste.

Which is where I challenge you to find your voice and use it to make a real difference. No, I don’t mean posting a rant on social media in which your opinion is meant to make other people feel bad, I mean a real difference. First in yourself, then in others around you.

Because who knows? Maybe your voice is the spark the world needs.

Companions

Travel Ashley is very friendly.I don’t know what it is about traveling overseas that makes me want to talk to the people around me more, but whenever I am in an airport I get overwhelmingly curious about where people are going and why.When I first arrived at the Charlotte airport I sat down in a little restaurant accross from my gate and made myself comfortable. I ordered a sandwich and a glass of wine and started reading. I chatted with a group of older gentlemen and helped them figure out how the wireless charging worked (I am so totally down with the young people still). A few minutes later a woman sat next to me, chatting away on her cell phone and I went back to my reading.But not for long.Talking to strangers can be kind of cathartic. You know you’ll never see them again and you just start talking.Or in this woman’s case, confessing all your sins like a teenager at Mass the day after returning from beach week.I won’t air her laundry here, but I learned a lot about this single mother in the hour we spent conversing. And maybe I learned a little about myself too, because let’s face it. Traveling is fun, but the real point of it isn’t to simply see new things, but to experience life and become better for it.At least that is how I feel about good travel.And I hadn’t even truly begun yet.My flight to Florida was pretty uneventful. I had a middle seat but at 9:30, everyone was travel weary so there wasn’t a lot of extraneous conversation…unless you count the flight attendants. Young, hip and flirty. Not that I blamed them, one of their comrades was traveling on the flight and he was quite a nice looking young man, so these young women made sure he knew it, rather loudly which distracted me momentarily from the intoxicated woman behind me who laughed like Fran Fine (Drescher) from the Nanny.In Ft. Laiderdale I was picked up by my actual traveling companion, Aunt Vicki, and Uncle Ira who ushered me to their home in a whirlwind of hospitality and love.The next day we made our flight to Chicago and one harrowing bus ride (more to come on this) later we were in the international terminal ready to board the plane to Copenhagen. We settled in to our economy plus seats…and then down plops Paige in between us. And though we were still on the ground, this girl was already higher than the 30,000 feet we would climb.Through the “that’s so lit, ya’ll” and “I dunno why I’m going to Croatia, just seemed like a good idea” conversations she managed to spill wine all over my arm and blanket throughly soaking me through so as I disembarked I smelled like I’d had quite a good time on the flight, proving that looks and smells truly can be deceiving.And through it all I smiled because this is life. Its messy and filled with unusual, sometimes obnoxious, character whom God created and lived, just as he loves me, which makes each journey worth all the trips along the way.

Leaving on A jet Plane

Sometimes I marvel at the opportunities life just tends to sling my way. I am blessed with terrific family and friends. The most beautiful nieces and nephew and let’s just be real, I have one of the best jobs—sure I complain from time to time (who doesn’t), but I have a rewarding profession that isn’t just about what I do, but who I am.

And I get to travel!

I love to travel. Seeing new things, experiencing new things, and (oddly) talking to strangers is one of life’s surprising joys. I’m not really the kind of person who jumps for joy, but if I were the next two weeks would send me to Mars. Or maybe Jupiter.

My aunt invited me on a cruise that will take us all over Northern Europe and even to Russia! And let me just tell you I’m about as excited (and nervous) as a six year old set loose in a candy store with a hundred dollars in her pocket.

And so, I’m off. As per usual expect some updates (I’m a writer, I just can’t help myself), and hopefully some good stories (I’m eavesdropping right now…this is why I love airports) and some GREAT inspiration for my upcoming projects.

Because life is a Cabaret.