“I Don’t Feel All That Guilty…”

My friend Jody of Thoughtful Scribbles wrote a fun little post talking about her twelve guilty pleasures. After sharing she asked what her readers’ naughty passions included. Here is my response:

One-Season Wonders
What I think is good television, some people don’t. That might be why one of my guilty pleasures includes shows that seem to only last a season long. Shows like The Gates, Secret Circle, Firefly, Red Widow, Hostages… Good thing Netflix isn’t so picky and I can replay these great one-season-or-less shows whenever I choose!

Medieval Strategy
I embrace my label of being a nerd with fairly frivolous grace. I am what I am, and I like what I like. And one thing I have liked since childhood are games dealing with medieval strategy. I would take Runescape over Barbie’s Hair Studio PC any day, Clash of Clans beats out Angry Birds every time, and Settlers of Catan is way better than Monopoly. I even go by a pretty awesome username on all those virtual games, a name which I found from an online elf name generator when I was in fifth grade. (Mmhmm, you’ve probably guessed, mage or archer is always my tactic.)

Faux-Starbucks
I don’t like coffee, but that doesn’t hinder visits to Starbucks or Biggbys during road trips, cold-weather days, or exam weeks (or long work days like today.) I get almost giddy walking around with a big coffee cup and sipping from it’s small pour hole all cool-like. If anyone were to ask, though, I might act coy saying, “Oh, it’s white hot chocolate. With whipped cream. And a dash of peppermint.” or “Well, I was really in the mood for apple juice, but I stuck with caramel cider instead.”

BuzzFeed Zombie-Strike
You know how some girls go into Pinterest-induced comas sometimes? That happens to me with BuzzFeed. Quizzes on which Disney movie my life portrays, 101 things every girl should know, relationships in the eyes of cute cats… I mean, holy goodness! It’s like a Lays potato chip. I. Just. Can’t. Stop.

Avid Print-to-Screen Activist
Nothing makes my heart flutter faster than knowing a book/series I’ve read is coming to the big screen. Even better are the known discussions I will have with my friends debating whether the screenwriters will capture the whole capacity of each work. No matter which side I argue for, though, I am always pleasantly surprised with every single print-to-screen version.

“Eragon was nothing like the series.” So what! Did you see Saphire as a baby?!

“Blood and Chocolate kills off the main love interest in the book.” Yeah, your point? Gabriel is frickin’ creepy in the movie; I would have killed him too.

Over Design
Do you like the design of my blog? I do, but that doesn’t stop me from redesigning it once a week. I also tend to design websites of local businesses or for friends just because. It’s not like I actually go and try to sell my creations, I just like the process and way to express my creative side.

Humming “Bad” Music
I say I like country music, but the truth is, I like everything. And it always seems that the worst song I’ve heard throughout the day is the one that gets stuck in my head. Problem is, I have this habit of humming. So I tend to get caught humming Barbie Girl, Hey Mickey, Throwdown Hoedown, or Bye Bye Bye. The catchier the rhythm and worse the lyrics, the better to hum…

Earth Porn
Have you ever visited earthporm.com? No? Visit. Now. You’ll understand…

Call Me Mrs. Hugh
My real guilty pleasure? Swooning over Hugh Jackman. I’m pretty sure I own every single one of his movies. And they may or may not have their own little area in my DVD rack…

Check List, To-Do List, Bucket List, Etc.
My name is Ashley and I like to make lists. Perhaps it is not obvious through this blog yet, but just wait.. I actually have a list of the lists I plan to make. There is nothing more rewarding to me than writing down everything I wish to accomplish, pack, see, say, write, travel, complete, etc. and being able to cross the items off one by one. Maybe you didn’t notice but even this post is composed of a nice list. They’re kind of everywhere when it comes to my life.

Palomitas Binge
Is it just me or has anyone else ever eaten a bag of popcorn before bed and woken the next day to see the scale reading less? If that’s not motivation to binge on those heavenly little buttery boogers, then I don’t know what is! When it comes to an unhealthy snack, my guilty pleasure usually consists of these tasty doves.

So, I’ve told a few of my guilty pleasures, I now challenge you to do the same… What are your guilty pleasures?

Standing Strong Against Life’s Uncertainties

I hide my fears pretty well; however, most of my decisions are made out of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. I have always been afraid of simply being myself because I fear that I might just not be enough.

I thought becoming an adult and doing “adult things” would fix my fear problem. It did not. Over time my life became a list of things I wanted to do but was too afraid to attempt. Years of listening to my self-doubt resulted in a small, deeply uninspiring life. I relied on those around me too much and thought of myself too little. I was terribly self-critical, I struggled with self-deprecating thoughts, and I was directionless. Uncertain of what I was good at and unsure of what I would become. I felt lost.

Now, you may be thinking that this is the way any twenty-something should feel. However, I’ve always prided myself on being a relatively “more mature” twenty-something than my peers. I wanted to know where my life was heading so I could quicken my pace and get to that point in my life. I wanted smooth sailing, but that’s not how things seemed to be panning out.

College was a whirlwind of fears for me. I questioned my major, I questioned my relationship, I questioned my faith. There was not a single aspect of my life that was where I wanted it to be. I feared change. I feared stepping off course, even though I questioned the path I was following anyways. I was beyond confused, and this confusion caused a multitude of troubles.

It was not until my life hit rock-bottom that I — without really understanding the significance of doing so — checked off the first item on my Bucket List and finally stood up to a fear in my life: I began blogging. I began putting myself out to the public and allowing my thoughts and my emotions to be scrutinized by complete strangers. Coming from someone who found it hard to talk to the closest people in her life, this was a huge step. Although I had no way of knowing it at the time, this one small simple decision was about to change the entire direction of my life; I was beginning to take hold of who I was and stop spinning. I was about to pick a direction and begin the trudge of self-discovery…

I think all of us are affected by fear, and doubt, and difficulty. I know I am still and will be for some time. There are so many things in our lives that feel impossible and unchangeable. Thinking about these things makes me feel overwhelmed most of the time. But what if I decided these overwhelming feelings were no longer enough? Life was no longer enough with fear biting at its edges? What if I chose to stand up to those fears rather than be tempted to stay laying down?

I want to begin viewing the confusing, discouraging, and overwhelming obstacles in my life as opportunities for growth. I want to look back in a year and discover that I have become strong in some area of my life where I always assumed I’d be weak.

I have started to believe that fear in my life has a purpose: it is meant to be overcome. I mean, think of like this: When something scares us it is often because we should do it rather than we shouldn’t. If you end up facing the fear in front of you, you will soon reach the other side and that little victory is just enough to push you past the next obstacle. I plan to begin ignoring my fears and live the life I want. With this new outlook on my life, I feel a sense of guarantee that the doors I never dreamed of will now be open for me. I feel more content with my life, and that is all want: to be content and to be happy.

I will now begin to face my fears every day, and I will share them with you in hopes that you will too. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned firsthand, it’s that there is no greater freedom than the freedom of fearlessness.

This blog is the story of my journey and it’s a piece of myself being written for you. I want to encourage you to stand strong against whatever frightening dream lies before you. You are not alone. We’re traveling together to become the best versions of ourselves. We’re traveling to simply become… more.

If you have a story that you think would be inspiring for other readers of Peonies ‘n Mint, please feel free to share! Either comment in the section below or email peoniesnmint@gmail.com — I am always open to guest writers!

Free Fall Out Into Nothin’

I have always had a fascination with flight and being in the air. As I child I could spot any airplane in the sky. I ran through the yard with my arms spread out like an airplane, jumping from my front birch tree while simulating weird engine noises. Well, yesterday my dreams came true: I got to fly.

I’m not going to lie, I was pretty terrified of what I was about to do yesterday morning. I hadn’t slept well and I found myself looking at the ground to avoid any thoughts of my future plans. Skydiving has always been of interest to me and I have always wanted to do it, but never thought that I would until a few months ago. My father has always wanted to skydive as well, so for his 52nd birthday my mom and I decided to help out. After discussing with him when and where he wanted to jump, he made the comment that he didn’t know if he could go through with it without having me along as well… so I agreed.

When we arrived at Skydive Allegan, I met some of the other people who were diving, signed a form saying I wouldn’t sue the company if I was injured and that no one in my family could sue them if I died (great…), and walked to a back hangar with one of the instructors for a short description on how to actually perform the jump. I was skydiving in tandem, meaning that there would be a strange man strapped to my back who would monitor all the necessary data: rate of our fall, control of the descent, deployment of the parachute, accurate landing. I still had to know a few basic procedures, though, as to make my partner’s efforts a bit easier.

After meeting my tandem partner Travis, we climbed our way into a Cessna 182. If you know your planes at all (which I did not), then you know very well that this particular plane has no kind of area meant for people. The entire cabin had been hollowed out to allow room for five people: four jumpers — meaning my dad, his partner, Travis, and me — and the pilot. It was a cozy ride up.

skydive6

With it being such a small plane, talking was pretty limited. Travis, obviously knowing I was experiencing a mix of excitement and nervousness, attempted to make small talk. I learned a lot about his various tattoos… By the time we reached 8,000 feet in the air I sighed out of relief. There was no going back now, so why not enjoy it? I continued to watch the ground disappear beneath the pile of clouds we rose through and waited for the next step in the process.

Due to the intensity of the clouds, the pilot decided to drop us at 10,000 feet. As the door swung open and the cold wind hit me, I was struck by temporary paralysis. I watched as my dad stepped out onto the small platform and held on to the plane’s wing. He gave me a thumbs up before him and his partner back-flipped into nothingness. I didn’t realize until that moment that Travis must have scooted us up to the edge. Now it was my turn!

skydive4

My legs didn’t seem to want to work. I had that tingling feeling in them as I stretched out and squatted on the platform. My hands were a whole other story… they couldn’t let go of the plane. The wing, which is where I was told to hold, had scratches all over it from people I would assume were much my afraid than I. This made me feel a bit better. For what seemed like only a few seconds, I rested on the outside of the plane, beneath the wing, surrounded by white clouds. The wind was amazingly forceful and I wondered briefly how birds can move forward in such power. Then I received the tap on my shoulder, crossed my arms, and began to fly.

Let me take a moment to describe the process of this particular kind of skydive. Standing on the outside of the plane on top a small 8″x 8″ platform is not the traditional style, I guess. Back-flipping into the sky on your first dive is not normal either, but this is how my experience went. The wind hits you at about 120 miles per hour as you begin to free fall. You are flying through the air end over end for the first five seconds of this fall. When your partner is ready for you to be in the correct free-fall position, he slaps your shoulder and you immediately arch your back and flair your extremities out. The free fall lasts for about 30-40 seconds, so you fall for about 5,000 feet at 120 mph.

When the barrel rolls ended, I looked out over the ground some 7,000 feet below me. It was amazing. The ground was a quilt-work of green trees, farmers’ fields, lakes, and street paths. I could see the tops of houses and buildings speckling the countryside like pepper, and a horizon covered in slow-moving clouds.

I’ve always wondered what a cloud tastes like, and I quickly found out. I think that was my favorite part — falling through a cloud. It was cold and wet and indescribably horrifying. I was falling so fast that the experience was over in a second, but for that one second I couldn’t see where I was going and the fear was breathtaking. I felt so alive.

skydive

At that moment, I owned the world. There was no anxiety and no tension. I was utterly devoid of pain, grief, and worry. I felt no affliction of the mind or the soul. Looking out over the beautiful earth, I was at complete peace with myself.

The fall itself seemed to last a whole five seconds before Travis deployed the parachute. We began a slow descent to the earth which took about seven minutes. There are two cables that run down from the parachute with strap handles on the end of them, both used for steering. Travis had me slide my hand into both and steer us. Having mentioned my love for roller coasters, he told me to pull down hard on the left. We immediately went into a tight spiral dive. I tried it the right and the same thing happened. That stomach-clenching feeling hit me just like going down the first big hill of Millennium Force and I laughed with joy.

skydive2

The landing came far too soon and was much softer than I imagined. You cruise into the grass with your legs lifted in front of you and land on your butt. I earned some grass stains on my backside, but otherwise I felt like a child going down a slide. It was fun! More experienced instructors met us on the grass to knock the chute behind us, and Travis and I took one more selfie before departing towards my parents to hear about my dad’s experience.

skydive3

I was given a certificate to show that I had completed my first skydive and I drove away from the little hangar with the pulse of life rushing through me. Skydiving is an experience that I hope to undertake again, just for that small time of absolute peace. It is an experience I shall never forget.

The Worst Personality Trait

“Everyone will go through some hard times at some point. Life isn’t easy. Just something to think about..did you know the people that are the strongest are usually the most sensitive? Did you know the people who exhibit the most kindness are the first to get mistreated? Did you know the ones who take care of others all the time are usually the ones who need it the most? Did you know the three hardest things to say are I love you, I’m sorry, and help me? Sometimes just because a person looks happy, you have to look past their smile to see how much pain they may be in. To all my friends who are going through some issues right now–let’s start an intention avalanche. We all need positive intentions right now. If I don’t see your name, I’ll understand. May I ask my friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all of those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just needs to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the walls of all my friends just for moral support.”

-A Friend’s Facebook status

Continue reading “The Worst Personality Trait”

20 Things Not To Do After a Break Up

If there’s one thing that we all know, it’s that breakups suck. The hardest part is, no matter what side of the break up you’re on, the effects will eventually hit you and it won’t be pretty. It’s up to you how you choose to handle your sad feelings, and there are many options from which to choose. In hindsight, I may not have chosen the best options every day after my break ups, but now I’m all the wiser and able to provide some insight (along with the helpful suggestions from conversations with my friends) on 20 things you definitely should not do while navigating a break up.

1. Date just because everyone says you should

Just because your friends and family are constantly asking when you’re going to “get back on the saddle” does not mean you have to start dating again. No matter the pressure, date only when and whom you want; don’t let the free dinner and drinks get in the way. Maybe you’re simply not ready or maybe you want to spend time on other things.

2. Be depressed in public
No one wants to be seen with someone with visible tear stains on their cheeks and a frown that could make Droopy cringe. There’s a big chance that your friends invited you out to get your mind off everything so don’t let them down! Smile, flirt, throw your head back and laugh; be confident and irresistible no matter the war raging in your head.

3. Stop caring about your appearance
We’ve all seen the movie with the heartbroken girl sobbing into a gallon of ice cream, right? So cliche, but also so true! I know just how tempting a pint of cinnamon roll Ben & Jerry can be, and hey, go for it every now and then! Enjoy wearing those sweatpants and not having to suck it in with Spanx. Just make sure you don’t host ice cream socials on a daily basis. You might be hating your ex right now, but those feelings can quickly become self-loathing thoughts after too many binges.

4. Care too much about your appearance
In the opposite scheme, it’s a good thing to be lazy and disgusting every now and then. Lounge around the house for a day, forget to comb your hair, don’t shave your legs, because guess what? No one cares! Everyone has their own lives to live and no one will be completely focused on you and your appearance 24/7.

Find a balance for yourself: hit the gym, eat healthy, binge appropriately, relax and enjoy life. There’s nothing wrong with you and the way you look; you’re one damn good-looking single individual and you know it!

5. Lower your standards when you do decide to date
Take this newly found “you” time to raise your standards in a future mate. Don’t date someone who is damaged, a player, or a potential project. You have neither the time nor patience to actually settle for such a person, so why not aim for the moon?

6. Drunk text your ex (or text your ex in general)
I am a known supporter of the statement, “Nothing good comes from texting.” A person cannot hear the tone behind a text which can result in unwarranted fights, some texts don’t send right away causing a whole mess of potential scenarios, and texting can even kill behind the wheel. I much prefer hearing another person’s actual voice. But no matter the circumstance, nothing good ever comes from being drunk and owning a cellphone.

Whether you’re drunk or not, just don’t converse with your ex. He/she could end up saying nothing, but they could also say something you don’t want/need to hear, or say the perfect thing and get you right back into a chaotic web. Leave them alone for awhile so you can familiarize yourself with your singleness — you might actually find out that the break up was for the best!

7. Casually hook up with your ex
Ladies and gents… Just. No. Hooking up will not convince your ex to get back with you. Instead, it’ll only leave you feeling worse than before. Respect yourself and don’t go back to someone who didn’t fight for you in the first place.

8. Innocently (but not really) think your ex and you can still be “just friends”
Here are a few reasons why it is virtually impossible to be friends with an ex:

  • You honestly think you’ll be happy when your ex starts dating again? No way, and unfortunately real friends want each other to be happy.
  • There are too many memories, inside jokes, and emotions in the past to allow for a fresh start. You’re more likely to fall into old dating patterns even when not romantically involved.
  • Admit it or not, attempting to be friends with your ex leads to false hope in an already-failed relationship.
  • Think of it this way: your ex and you broke up for a reason. You’ve had your heart broken because you’ve discovered this person is not right for you, even though you wanted them to be. Why not invest your time and energy in the people who make you happy, not the ones who have hurt you deeply?

We all know the line “Let’s just be friends” is easy enough to say, but is simply meant to ease the pain of a broken heart. It is not supposed to be taken as a promise.

9. Rebound into a serious relationship
Coming straight out of a long-term relationship and attempting to enter another is means for disaster. You’re bringing a lot of baggage with you. It’s unfair to the new person who is interested in a happy ending. Work through your issues first and then look to devote your heart to someone else.

10. Seek revenge
Revenge is a petty action. Don’t be a petty person — don’t get even, get over it. Focus your time on yourself not on the waste who left you.

11. Drive by your ex’s home, friends’ homes, place of employment, baseball field, etc.
For those of you who read the above and hung your heads: be not ashamed! Such undeniably crazy behavior is one that a lot of heartbroken individuals find themselves participating. I’ve done it (in the form of borrowing a friend’s car and driving past my ex’s regular hangout at the time he usually arrived while drinking an actual-hot-chocolate-but-in-a-coffee-cup-for-coolness-factor and pretending I was an out-of-state tourist lost and confused while circling the block), my hard-ass best friend has done it, even my independent and self-declared asexual ex-roommate has done it. Be crazy once or twice, but then stop.

12. Stalk social media
So you think you’re too smart to stalk your ex physically, eh? But what about social media? In a world of constant contact, this no-do is one of the most obvious, but also one of the most destructive.

Don’t go probing into what you ex has been up to. Don’t self-righteously unfriend them just to type their name into the search bar, flip through as many pictures their privacy setting allows, and count how many likes/comments they have made to members of the opposite sex (“He went where with who!?”)

My advice? Block your ex, their closest friends, and their family. It is simply way too easy to track your ex through these outlets and you don’t need that! And honestly, just avoid social media completely right after a breakup. There is nothing helpful with seeing another engagement notice, or baby announcement, or picture of you with your ex.

13. Spontaneously reinvent yourself
Whether it be a drastic new hair-do, moving across the globe, or not remembering how you acquired that full-sleeve tattoo and nipple piercing, everyone goes through the phase of wanting to become someone completely new after a big break up. The problem? In most cases you’ll end up with a lot of regret and cringe-worthy pictures splashed all over the Internet.

Instead of making small changes in yourself, work towards something larger. Become Mister/Miss Determination. Choose to become super successful in your career, pick up interesting and unique hobbies, or work on your physique to make your ex know exactly how much they let go.

14. Become a floozy
If there’s anything worse than being the depressed friend, it’s being the group whore. It seems the longer the committed relationship, the less likely a person will be ready for anything too serious right away. Instead, some people decide to have no commitment with anyone and just let it all hang out. Not a good idea, folks. Stay away from the potential STDs and pregnancies and come to terms with your life. Respect yourself and you’ll respected by others. I may or may not be thinking of a specific friend in this instance…

15. Share “your love story” with everyone you meet
Everyone likes gossip, but no one really need to know how you’ve been wronged. Talk about a snooze fest! Save your heart-to-hearts with your best friends, mom, dog, or journal. The longer you keep holding onto “your story,” the longer it will take you to move on.

16. Answer “I’m fine.” to every question directed at you
(This is probably the #1 uh-oh on my list…) Even though it’s no one’s business, people will ask how you are doing and what happened in the break up. Here’s a secret: you are not obliged to give them an answer! You don’t have to lie, saying you’re okay and you’ve moved on and you couldn’t be happier. You’ll only be hiding a problem and giving yourself false reassurance. Simply tell people you’re working on you and don’t feel like talking about anything yet. Only say “I’m fine.” when you truly are!

17. Wallow forever
Like I mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with going through the acceptance phase and crying your heart out a few times. However, don’t sit in this phase forever. Listen to Miranda’s mama and go fix your makeup and start actin’ like a lady. The world isn’t quitting for you — might as well take it on and save yourself in the process.

18. Spend all your savings for self-discovery
With break up comes an entourage of new friends: self-help books, trending mediation exercises and yoga poses, and inspirational movies. Don’t take your solace in the form of emptying your savings account though! Unlike Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love, why not take a short weekend and go camping or to a spa? You’ll find your alone time, indulge in the finer things of life, and not break the bank. It’s a win-win!

19. Hold on to memorabilia
I’m not saying to dump all the keepsakes, but put those memory-triggers out of the public eye. Just like with anything unhealthy, now is a time to detox.

In my own experience, I felt much better after the memorabilia was absent. I found a slightly-abused box to put all my pictures, notes, and various memories and asked my father to place it in our attic. (I’ve lived in my parents’ house for 22 years and have never ventured up there…) I want to be able to show my future children who my first love was, but I didn’t want the temptation of crying over our past so soon after the break up.

20. Focus on the relapses
Relapses happen. Especially around anniversaries, birthdays, half-anniversaries, family holidays, annual cookout events, etc. You get the picture. The key is to remind yourself that you are not with your ex anymore for a reason. Choose to keep moving forward and live a happy life without that person.


Enjoy being single. It’s an adventure! Revel in the freedom of being able to make decisions without having to include someone else. Surround yourself with people who make you happy and enjoy being around you. Start doing things for yourself, like traveling, reading a novel, or going to the spin classes you never had time to do before.

Keep yourself together. Don’t lose yourself in the heartbreak. Respect yourself and present yourself with poise. Know that you are perfectly capable of being alone and are happy to do so, because ultimately, you will want to love and be loved again. In order to be loved, you have to love yourself first.