My Thoughts Lately

Oh my gosh you guys I am so sorry it’s been over a month since I’ve posted….. I’m not on another hiatus, at least certainly not by choice, but I’ve been more busy than I ever have been between balancing the workload of school this year and then taking driver’s ed, too. Thankfully that is about over—I just pray to God I pass ***I DID THANKFULLY—UPDATES LATER IN THE POST***. But needless to say, a lot has happened since then, in my faith and in life. So I’m going to recap all of those things now as well as things I’ve been learning along the way… And then hopefully I can start getting back into all the other posts I’ve been planning, like my second letter to my future husband, and yeah, all that good stuff. ;)

First off, I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been hard, though over the last month, I’ve seen a significant change in my thoughts that God has helped me with, and I’ll go into that later. I’ve been trying hard not to be so stressed because life truly is short, and if there’s one thing that’s been evident to me lately, it is that God always works things out, but there have been some legitimate times that would cause any person stress. In terms of my extended family, we’ve been hit with one of the hardest trials I think any of us have faced yet. It’s led me to do a lot of reflecting on life as a whole as this trial is closely tied with life and death, and that puts things into perspective. Now it’s been a matter of seeing all the things I’ve previously believed about the meaning of life become reiterated on how true they are—and then living that out at a time where it’s absolutely crucial to do so. I know we all would appreciate prayers with this because it’s really hard, but I have been amazed by the faith of people like my grandparents, who are a couple of the people impacted most by this. They have been such a witness to people, as they are true definitions of people with authentic faith. You seriously can tell how authentic somebody is by how they respond to trials. I’m not saying they don’t ever have breakdowns or times where it doesn’t hurt because it absolutely does and would cause any sane person an excessive amount of stress, but it has not stopped them from pursuing their hope in Jesus or from witnessing to others. And they really have, especially to someone like me, where very little goes unnoticed.*

*That may be a half truth. I always thought I’m an observant person, but I went to my friend’s volleyball game, and evidently she tried to wave at me and I never knew, so! I apologize for all the times I’ve blown people off like a snob; my head is in the clouds far too much.

Upon reflecting on some of my own stress and still having to go to school and function like a normal person and meet constant deadlines, here is something God laid on my heart that I took note of:

You know you have the peace of God when everything around you should leave you crying hysterically and unable to function but instead you’re up and you’re not crying and there’s this sense of feeling good inside of you that makes absolutely no sense given the circumstances and moods. It makes no logical sense but it’s there and it’s undeniable.

You get it through humbling yourself, by reading His word, by talking to Him as often as possible. And then He works in your heart and it catches up.
— My note

I have been honestly amazed by the times it feels like any other person my age would lose their mind, and instead I’ve felt downright happy, almost on top of the world, even though my world could be crashing. But that abnormal feeling is exactly what God promises for His followers: it’s the John 14:27 peace He’s promising for anyone who is in Him, the peace that sustained His followers through their darkest times repeatedly throughout history. And even though my trials may feel insurmountable, they’re seriously nothing compared to some of the horrors that Christians before me have went through, yet they acted amazing and did not give into sin or pressures of the world. They are my inspiration, and my prayer is that my life can reflect that, too.

And you CAN obtain that peace. It comes from developing a relationship with God. So many people say they believe God gives that peace and that they personally have tried to find it but still feel incredibly stressed in situations—situations that I think, to be blunt, are just drama compared to what some people go through. And then I look at their walk with God, and I’m like, well, how serious are you, really? Because these are the people who go to church when it’s convenient and otherwise spend no time with God save for their prayers that are purely about their own problems. A) I am not saying prayers about your problems are always selfish, but I am saying when that’s all you pray for and the only time you give God attention and never just because of who He is, then yes, I think that’s selfish. B) If you are not dedicating yourself to God everyday, why would you have His peace? These are the people who just want to use God or use Christianity as a social label or insurance for heaven, and it doesn’t work that way. The very essence of Christianity and the whole purpose of why Jesus died for us is to connect us to God, so we can have a complete, intense relationship with Him. So if you give Him your time when it’s convenient or when it looks good or when it’s fun such as during retreats and games (which again are not bad but can be if that’s the only time you give God attention), then would you honestly call that a relationship?

And if you don’t have a relationship with Him, WHY would you have His peace? His peace comes from knowing and enjoying Him, from the faith when it’s hard, from the readings in your Bible even when you don’t feel like it, from the diligence of praying for things you already have a million times. THAT is when a relationship with Him is built, when good seeds are sowed, and that is when you really develop that relationship through good and bad that sustains you through anything. But don’t think you can give Him attention one day out of the week or between five second prayers about your problems and then experience that peace, because you don’t know God, so why would you know His peace? I know this from personal experience. When I am so stressed to the point where I can hardly think—which has happened to me about thirty different times over the past few months, no lie, about stupid things—it truly is because I haven’t been devoting myself to God. That’s the hard, honest truth, and I’ll be the first to admit it. But when I focus my attention on Him? It’s amazing, the changes that happen. It’s why I can’t stress this authenticity enough. People act so shocked when they fall apart during trials because they claim they had faith, but I’m like, well, if your faith was only as good as going to church every Sunday or talking to God when it’s convenient, that just isn’t enough as the purpose of being a Christian is that you’ve died to yourself and live for God—ALL OF THE TIME. And again, I’m not saying you don’t ever screw up, but your heart is right with God, and He helps you back on the right track because you feel that conviction.

We were blessed in spite of all this to still create some special memories, though, and get to do fun things. On one weekend, we went up to Estherville again (read all about that town here) to see my grandparents.

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In the meantime, I became addicted to these. I actually bought these thinking they’d be chocolate overkill and therefore disgusting, but no, they’re actually amazing:

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AND I got the most gorgeous (and most expensive ha) notebook to add to my expansive collection, BUT IT HAS MY NAME ON IT so what’s not to love?! This is actually my writer’s notebook, so it’s a comprehensive notebook consisting of everything from novel ideas to blog post ideas to character development ideas to song inspiration. I’ve been needing a notebook like that, and I’m certainly getting my money’s worth with how much I’ve already wrote in it.

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See, isn’t Estherville beautiful? I had fun getting to see some cousins of mine, and also I spent a majority of my time outlining this notebook, which was a tedious process as I’m a perfectionist and this is the prettiest notebook I’ve ever owned, so it has to be perfect. ;) This is the Swinging Bridge we were on that goes over the Des Moines River.

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There have been so many little things that have stressed me out where God has always remained faithful. I ended up being sick pretty early in the year for multiple days, and missing a couple days with my workload is like missing a month, so that had me stressed beyond measures. BUT there would be times where I may not know exactly what I’m doing, but somehow manage to get a high score on an assignment. I pray for favor, and I know my mom and grandma do that for me as well, and it just goes to show how God honors that. I’ve had to do a lot of reflecting on that because it’s turned into a pattern, where I stress excessively about something and somehow it works out. In fact, one day after learning how to park in driver’s ed (a huge stress for me haha), and it went way better than I thought, a verse I read in Psalms came to mind: “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all,” (Psalms 34:19 NIV). That has been so evident for me. It oftentimes feels like problem after another, and I just think, well, once I make it out of this, or that, etc. But then I am reminded of what God revealed to me in my prayer here, that life is a series of good and bad and the only joy that can be found is knowing and enjoying Him in the right now. He works the rest out. :)

The next weekend we headed up to the Cities for some much needed and cherished time with family up there. That visit was wonderful, and I loved having another opportunity to connect with my two cousins Kirsten and Amanda, who are like my sisters. Read all about them here in this recap of the fun things we did in Okoboji and the Cities last summer. We were leaving right after school for a weekend, so the downside to that is since it’s a five hour drive it made for a long night, BUT I got to do something I absolutely love: seeing city lights at night. I don’t know why that appeals to me so much, but it always has and always will. Going through Des Moines at night is my fave, too. But I’d never seen Minneapolis illuminated at night. I got some decent pics; what I really need is better camera quality haha. On our way up, we stopped and ate at Wendy’s by Cabela’s (of course the boys had to go there…whoever said men don’t shop has never been with them there for hours ha…).

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And I just walked around being conceited as always and trying to find photo opportunities and expensive clothes to buy and daydreaming about my future husband probably and if I’ll go through the same with him ha. You know, the usual ;’)

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Here are some of the best pics I could manage, even though they weren’t as great as they could be:

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All of that of course put me in a very contemplative and wistful mood because then I started dreaming about where I may live or what job I have, but the whole visit really put life into perspective for me, and I decided, while praying to God on the way there as we passed through the glowing city, that this needed to be my prayer through it all:

I pray that all the success I get in my life may be used to glorify You, God, and that I can have success for Your glory. And help me to have a positive attitude and know that You will use me, I just have to be patient.
— My prayer

We got to stay in a hotel, which thrilled me, because I just all around love the hotel/city life. A random side note is these flip flops I got—they were the only shoes I wore the whole weekend, and I absolutely love them. I picked them up super cheap at some JCPenney store I believe, and for the price they are very comfortable and add that sparkle I need to any outfit. :)

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Another random note is that I think it’s cool they have a Bible in the rooms like this. My brother asked me if I was going to read it, and while I didn’t get around to doing that, I think it’s nice that each room has that. It’s what people ultimately need, and cities often make me think of where different people are at in their lives. Everyone needs Jesus, though, and everyone needs the hope He alone offers, so it is appropriate that they have that. It also reaffirmed my dream to have a job where I can (a) travel to various cities and (b) stay in hotels. I think some job in business communications would be good for me if my dream to be a millionaire author doesn’t work out ;D Luckily an English or communications degree can open doors for both, something I definitely am going to pursue.

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That night I did some really deep thinking and deep writing; I’ll have to share some of that in a later post because this one is already turning into a book. I had an awesome visit with everyone, though, and got to see my two fave girls!

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Headed back to the hotel

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I do love working in hotels

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Except I always get distracted with shopping :’)

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My dog while I was sick

The good news is that lately God has helped me get my thoughts aligned with His, which I am so thankful for; it was something I prayed over here. For example, I’ll use body image. That’s something I started struggling with heavily since entering high school, but God has been showing me just the encouragement I need to combat that unhealthy mindset. I read Kylie Bisutti’s book I’m No Angel and have also looked into her blog and interviews, and God has used her to help me immensely. She was a former Victoria’s Secret model who actually left the modeling industry to pursue her faith. The advice she gives about body image and the insight she has on that horrifying industry is exactly what I’ve needed to hear—and essentially what people have been trying to get through to me all along. But it finally clicked, and I’m so thankful. I’m actually learning to have godly confidence—not to be arrogant, but not to always put myself down, either. Going off the example of body image, just because I see another pretty girl doesn’t mean that I am not, necessarily. And that could be with anything: writing, school, etc. God is teaching me not to be so competitive and just to trust Him with opportunities in life. I’m very grateful for that.

Another fun thing—well, fun for the time being—was getting to go to Iowa City to consult with my jaw surgeons. That is unfortunately going to get worse before it gets better, but I was thrilled to check out Iowa City since I’d never been before, and I got to go shopping, so for right now it’s all fun and games, and for right now, just let me stay in denial, thank you.

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So when it comes to the Hawkeyes vs. Cyclones debate, I’m personally a Cyclones fan, haha. Which is totally against, like, everyone in my family… But for whatever reason, ever since I’ve been little, I’ve wanted to go to Iowa State. My grandma and I have had some fun trips over there to this one bookstore I love and just driving by the campus, which I am convinced is the prettiest. But we’ll see… Iowa is known for its writing program, so I might convert… Might…..

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Kinnick Stadium, home of the Hawkeyes

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My mom and I walked around for a little bit after my appointment, which went very well. The downtown and traffic was actually dead for whatever reason, but I know Mom was in heaven because she had been terrified about the driving.

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Then we went to the mall of course :)

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I got these adorable stationary items my mom picked out for me that I can’t wait to add to my collection and a tee from PINK.

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So I suppose I should also talk a little bit about driving. Well, I was stressed to the max every single time, but again, God remained faithful. I did have one traumatic moment… All I will say is that I-80 sucks, but I passed thank God, so I’m more than happy for that part of my life to be over.

And here is Kylie’s book that I got signed!!! She is so sweet and such an inspiration in faith. I would recommend her book to any girl; it sheds so much insight on a world that is portrayed as being glamorous when the reality is far from.

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Another thing we did as a family was attend an Iowa Wild hockey game with some of the Minnesota Wild players in it. Unfortunately my fave Zach Parise couldn’t come see me but whatever… Oh my gosh I don’t even remember if I told you all this, but I actually got to see him!!! Last December, he came down to play with the Iowa Wild for a night to see how he was recovering from an injury, so of course we got tickets on a whim because Zach Parise coming to Des Moines is an opportunity one should never pass up. SO I GOT TO SEE HIM!!!!! <3 I went down by the glass with my brother, and we were so close to the players. He actually waved at this little kid next to me, but of course I got nothing… :’) And Mom with all her practicality of course was like “well he’s married so why would he wave to some teen girl?” Well, some actors have been known for teasing their fans even if they don’t actually mean it, so he could have still winked at me but again, whatever. ;D

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Zach Parise <3

Well anyway I hope he never reads that… The game was still a blast, though, as they always are, and I know Mom enjoyed me badgering her for food and to take my picture by this window I’m in love with because all.the.city.lights.

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This is really random, but I think this bridge would be a good place to be proposed to on. Maybe, I don’t know? I’d really like to walk it sometime, I know that much, and for whatever reason it just seems like an ideal location for that.

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I also want to go driving around at night in Des Moines just to see the lights, which may or may not be a good idea, who knows, but I’ll definitely be having someone drive me haha…

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I’ve loved the fall weather these past months, and one night we got to have a bonfire.

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Willy has also been doing a good job hunting. <3

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It’s also worth mentioning that I embarrassed my mom with this picture in the middle of the grocery store aisle. ;)

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And though you can’t see it very well in this picture below, over the summer I got this strawberry pink winter coat that I adore:

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AND these booties that Mom thought were quite obnoxious, but once I saw them I knew I had to have them… :) I am SPARKLES by Ashlee after all!

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I also want to start trying makeup haha. I bought a lot last year but never use it because I’m too lazy to get up in the mornings to do it. I’m also unsure of exactly what type of makeup I should use…like blush, foundation, bronzer…? I know a lot of girls are way more knowledgeable about this than me, so leave me recommendations please! :) My mom was trying to put some mascara on me in the below picture, but I can’t hold still because I thought my eye was going to be gouged out, so I ended up wiping it off and then taking this mirror picture like the conceited girl I am. :’) But seriously, leave me makeup recommendations that don’t break the bank please, and I’ll let you all know how that process of me doing makeup turns out…

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But I ALSO HAD ONE OF THE BIGGEST HAIR WINS OF MY LIFE… You know, God is very good at surprising me with the little things, and He totally did with this. I left my hair in that bun pictured above and slept in it like that, and then the next morning I pulled it out and got my dream blowout hair… It didn’t last long, but if I would’ve used hairspray then we might’ve been onto something… I took about two thousand pictures of myself with it, because oh my word, it made my day. I’ve wanted curls like this since I watched Big Time Rush as a kid and saw some blonde with curls like this…

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I also got a whole stash of pink ornaments I’ll be putting in my room eventually, because my room can always use some more pink as you can see! :D

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My mom and I also got to spend a nice day together for an appointment. We want to go to an Altoona outlet mall in November for some Christmas shopping, and I’m thrilled for that. Getting Mom to shop with me is a hard job but is always worthwhile!

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And so of course while we were in the city we did do just a little of this…

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And I think this recaps about everything. I would love to hear from all of you now: what have you been up to lately? What are you struggling with that I can pray about/write about? What future posts do you want me to write? I love and appreciate your feedback, and thank you so much for following along with my thoughts and adventures! xo

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Let's Catch Up Again

I am so thrilled that it's summer. The first few days have been lazy days for me, which I probably needed. I have been a bit productive though, especially in terms of my room. I've been blogging about the process of redoing my room forever: here, here, and here, just to name a few. It's been a slow process, but finally it's just about completely done!

I was able to find a new white dresser that was both affordable and in good quality. I was shocked at how many dressers weren't in good quality despite having an expensive price tag. Finally I found one I loved at a local furniture store, and they delivered it for free. That simple change has already made my room look much better.

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I also have a chair that I sit in for most of my days; it's furry and velvety and a crisp white like the rest of my room (despite the rosy walls haha, but some pink is an absolute necessity). And I got everything rearranged and cleaned—I think I have approximately twenty notebooks inside my nightstand. The life of a writer! And I use each one of them haha.

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I'm also finally getting A NEW MATTRESS!! The mattress I have is close to a million years old and has been killing me, so I'm thrilled to get a new one. The one I picked out is super plush, my favorite. I'll probably never leave it.

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I've been keeping up my usual diet of eating all the time and haven't done a workout since the end of PE class. I found these things at Walmart and have been eating them daily as a nutritional breakfast—they're wonderful ;)

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And we've also been to one race already at Knoxville. We tried something new; we went into the pits because evidently kids can go in there with parental permission, and we tailgated right by this fence nearby one of the turns. It was a new experience that I highly enjoyed!

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I also have a blog post on life lessons learned from the races, and you can read that here.

A Writing Update

I have something that I will be sporadically working on, and I'm going to announce it here as soon as I get it going. I've been talking about doing it for awhile, and I actually did attempt it once. Hint: you should follow me here. :)

I think that's about everything new going on with me. Next week I am going to see my grandparents because my family is going to Canada. I bailed on that; two years of the nonstop fishing life was plenty for me. I will blog as much as I can up there; I already have one post idea in mind because I did it up there a couple years ago. Hint? Read this post first. :)

What are you all up to? I'd love to hear! Remember, if you ever have any questions for me or any specific blog post requests or topics you'd like to hear my thoughts over, you can simply ask me on this page right here!

P.S. In terms of the shopping world, I have been doing my research and finding good deals on things I need. I don't think I've mentioned this before, but I've been desperately needing a new swimsuit for a year now. The last swimsuit I had bought had been for my trip to Florida, and then in spring 2017 we went to a hotel to spend a couple days swimming for spring break, and I needed a new one because I had obviously outgrown the other one. So when we were up in Des Moines at that time, we stopped at Scheels to find one and were not so pleasantly surprised at how expensive they turned out to be. I got the cheapest one there, which was $60. And it was cute in its own way, until I actually wore it. Then its functionality seemed to disappear, and plus I didn't care for the way it fit on me. It was a two piece, and the top kept floating up, which I didn't like because that's not comfortable when you're swimming. Plus, every now and then I go with my grandma nearby us to some swimming classes that are a blast, and so I've been wanting a new one, all of this is to say. And so I did research online, only to find that the vast majority of swimsuits are, on average, $100! I have this dream swimsuit here (it's called the One Way Ticket and is a one-piece) that I fell in love with after I saw it on a fashion blog, but at almost $120 I knew I wouldn't be getting it anytime soon.

Plus, I generally prefer one-pieces. I'm not huge on bikinis due to the modesty (or lack thereof). I know there are modest bikinis, but I just lean towards wearing a one-piece because if they make them and they look cute, then why not? Plus I think they're more functional anyway and can be worn as a cute bodysuit if you pair them with jean shorts over it. Anyway, when Memorial Day sales were going on, I saw that J.Crew was having special discounts on their swimwear. I decided it couldn't hurt to look as I was almost out of options, and I wanted a new swimsuit badly. I was shocked to find this swimsuit here, that looks nearly identical to my dream swimsuit and had only a regular price of sixty something—I probably would've payed that—but then it was on sale for thirty something. It's mainly sold out now, but I was thrilled. It was also backordered when I bought it, so I hope I get it eventually. I actually had it shipped up to my grandparents' thinking that maybe it will arrive when I am up there—hopefully. It'd be fun to wear when I go jet skiing at 'Boji!

All of this to say that it definitely pays to do your research. I have this Wishbin account that lets me keep track of all the items I want or need, and periodically I go through and check for good deals. You'd be shocked at how many you can find if you just give it time.

I'll keep you updated on any more deals I find and will also let you know when I get this swimsuit, haha. :) Maybe even I can be a fashion blogger? Haha, we'll just have to see.

Thanks for following along! ♥*♡

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Reflections on Freshman Year

I am officially a sophomore now, guys! I finally don't have the freshman stigma surrounding me anymore, which is a relief. :)

So each year of school, I like to do a post covering everything I learned and how it went. I did one large post over each year of middle school and what I learned that was really fun to look back on for me; check that out here.

Freshman year, to be honest, kind of felt like a repeat of eighth grade, and my mental state pretty much stayed the same from then but sometimes even went back to my sixth grade mindset, yikes (read this post to find out why). So I really needed to be conscious about how I thought and, really, I flunked at that. I'm actually working on a blog post right now that talks all about patterns of thinking, because if there's one thing I figured out like seriously only two mornings ago, that would be it. Nevermind the fact that it had been drilled into my head all year. That was when it finally clicked for me. So stay tuned for that; it accidentally ended up being a book, so I have a lot of editing to do on that post.

Anyway, this year went by at rapid speed. Holy heck. I can vividly remember myself in eighth grade being bored to death, waiting for high school, waiting to get more opportunities, etc. I can remember being at a doctor's appointment, and when my mom set a date for the next one, it was sometime in the fall, and we were like, ooh, to think I'll be a freshman then! And now I'm a sophomore haha.

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To be completely honest, for awhile I wondered what I would even put in this post. Because freshman year didn't seem to carry with it any new life lessons since it felt like another repeat of eighth grade. Plus there was something about my mental state that was just lacking this whole year, which may have made me less openminded to learning new lessons. I was so ready to be done, though. Maybe it was because I had such high expectations of it, I don't know. But it did make me more aware of not wishing my life away. I don't want to be somebody who wishes everything away because they think they can't be happy until they're in high school, or college, or married. Because none of that can truly fix your happy state, that's between you and God. But I do have a sense of restlessness in me, and I don't think it's all because of me just choosing not to be happy. Oh, I'm sure that's some of it—the biggest thing I learned this year was how to take control of your thought life again, and I'm writing a blog post about that.

But I do think my personality has a need for deep connections, for meaning and purpose, to help and inspire people, and I just don't think I'm getting any of that right now. I still feel pretty stifled. I have a lot of dreams I get incredibly impatient over, which was probably the most challenging thing of this year. It just felt like it dragged, and I hardly did any writing the whole year, on this blog or on my book, and that's horrible, because they say if you want to be a good writer you should write everyday about anything—just to practice and perfect your craft. And now it's extremely evident how I've hurt myself by not doing so; my writing on my second novel has been so sloppy, I've already rewrote it once. And I don't know why I didn't write at all; I think, honestly, I get so lazy and worn out mentally from school that I just can't put anything into it. Because I'm not super busy; I have plenty of time to write; in fact, that's why I'm hardly involved, is because I want to devote that time to writing. But gosh, it just gets tough.

I would often find myself growing jealous of the juniors and seniors because they were able to start planning for college, sending applications, going on visits, etc., haha. One day when I'm their age I'll probably look back and wish I had these days of doing next to nothing, but who knows, I guess? Even as a kid I've always wanted to grow up faster. I can remember seeing my cousins or older relatives when I was a lot younger up at my grandparents' house, and I remember crying to my grandma because I would get so upset that I couldn't engage in the "big girls" activities—I don't even remember what, exactly, those were, but I know I was upset about something—or just the fact that it seemed like I couldn't fit in with them. Even back then I always hated being thought of as more immature, even though I know I was, haha. I've always been impatient, because even then I would get frustrated that I couldn't DO anything. And I think that's how I felt a lot this year.

My hopes are that now with summer I can somehow find the motivation to get going on my book; in 2014 I managed to get halfway through my first novel, and then I was only eleven years old, so there's no reason why I can't do it now! I'm sure some of it is just my perfectionist way of thinking, too, that everything I write has to sound perfect. But it doesn't—especially not in only a first draft. So I actually have the hopes to complete my second novel this summer; I feel like that's doable, but we'll see!

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The one good thing about this year, though, is that I did make some good connections and have a lot of special people who encouraged me when I thought I couldn't go any farther. For awhile, I would get frustrated because in many ways I thought that sometimes I was doing all of the pursuing and initiating in any relationship I wanted. And I don't mind doing that, but it gets old when many people don't reciprocate it. But I finally got the message that people do care, and I learned to quit being so cynical about that. It also showed me that no matter what, I want to be one of those people, too, who checks in on other people and goes out of their way.

This year mainly consisted of required courses unfortunately, but next year I get a little bit more freedom to choose courses in my areas of passion. This year, though, I got to take a college course! I didn't know I was able to do that as a freshman, but I was able to take an online course that I really liked. It was over current problems in our world and was a sociology course, so I definitely enjoyed it. I felt like everything I learned was transferable to all of my other classes, and I was thankful to have the opportunity to take it. I already got to see my schedule for next year, too, and I was thankful I got all of the classes I signed up for to fit into my schedule. Sophomore year has a lot of required classes, too (physics being one of them...banging my head against a wall already). But I got the electives I wanted, and I'm thrilled for them. I'm taking two online college courses again—one each semester—over philosophy and ethics. I think I will like philosophy; it seems like a deep subject that would be aligned with my personality. And I'm almost positive I will like ethics; I blog about morality all of the time haha. And then I'm taking a creative writing class (yay!) and Advanced Placement Psychology (can't wait!!!). I've never taken a psychology class in my life yet have somehow already decided that I think I would like to major in it one day hahaha, but my cousin has taken some psychology classes, and I remember from what she told me being fascinated by it. And as my obsession with people keeps growing, I think it'll be a good class for me to take haha. I'm looking forward to all of those things, so hopefully they will turn out good.

The other interesting thing that happened that I wasn't entirely sure how to think about? I got glasses. Don't even get me started on my eyes. Over the last couple years, I have been so worried about them as it feels like funky crap keeps going on in them, and I've been worried I'm going blind or have some brain disease on way more than one occasion. I sincerely feel bad for my eye doctor, because I kept making lists of things wrong with them and keep calling even though I've been told I'm fine. But at my last appointment, my focusing wasn't as good. It wasn't horrible, but they thought by me getting glasses just to have when I do work or am on the computer could help ease the strain. So I got them. I was pretty picky about which style I was going to get because believe me, I was less than thrilled, and I had no idea that big name designers made glasses! I probably sounded like such a snob rattling off all their names—Jimmy Choo had gorgeous sparkly frames that were expensive to say the least haha—but I honestly had no idea that they made them, so that made me feel a little bit better, ha. I actually did not pick out mine until the very end; I was indecisive about some simple black pair I believe, and then the lady helping us came out with this pair that wasn't on the wall, and I guess it was love at first sight because I knew I wanted them.

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I would write more in depth about how I've learned to control my thinking again—which was the major takeaway from this year—but seriously, I have a lengthy post already in the works covering that, so stay tuned. I would say that freshman year for me was one of those years you just have to get through. It was one of those years where you do a lot of waiting (my favorite years haha...NOT), and so for me I just had to endure it and get through it. And I'm thankful God helped me through! It actually did go by fast for a year that dragged, so I'm glad. But of course I want to be thankful for each day and do the best of my ability to work on my dreams for God's glory. My first few days of summer, I have literally done nothing. I have been so lazy. Last night was the first time I took a shower since the end of school that was on Friday. ;)

I've been doing a bit of journaling, though, and put together a list of the things I want to do this summer and that I need to get done, so hopefully I can start being productive.

And if I had to give advice over freshman year? It would echo a lot of my middle school advice that you can read here: don't give in to peer pressure and stay true to who you are (being as quiet as I am, you wouldn't believe some of the conversations I overhear in my classes of things kids are already getting into...so it's very important to stick to your convictions). It's one of those years where everyone wants to establish themselves, and there's a lot of drama around that. But seriously, know that that crap means nothing. Focus instead on your academics (which begin to count this year and don't SLACK OFF like I heard some kids do just because it's freshman year—do your best and do the right thing anyway!). Focus on developing your passions and what you want to do with your life for the glory of God. I've had a blast doing that, and it's just those reminders that, once again, the petty crap—prom, cliques, to name a few—is just that, petty crap that no one will care about in ten years. So don't let that be your fixation.

Also, it brought me back to my sixth grade year that you can read more on here, where I just have to remember to trust in God's plan and not get sucked into the worldly expectations of society. It's tempting to do, but it's not worth it. And unfortunately, it basically took me all year to figure that out. But hopefully this summer I can get a fresh mindset and be better prepared mentally for tenth grade.

As far as my summer goals go, I'm hoping to write everyday about something and to begin working on some short stories, too, to keep my writing diverse and interesting. I also am going to go jet skiing at Okoboji this summer, which I can't wait for, but hope I don't kill myself while driving it. :D What are all of your plans for the summer?

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Details on My Second Novel

Okay guys—I finally want to share a little bit of info on my next novel before (a) I forget to in the midst of a disorganized mess of blog post ideas I have and (b) so that if I become a little less active on this blog from here to the end of school, it's probably because I'm devoting more time to working on it. It's really hard to balance writing both a blog and a novel while also having school to do. Let's just say I'm counting down the days for this school year...

We should probably start with how I selected this next story. It's kind of funny, really. I planned on writing a completely different story than this one for my second novel but eventually decided against that one for the time being, just because I thought it had themes that were redundant in literally tons of books and were too cliche. I CAN think of themes that nobody has hit on that I'm dying for them to, or if they attempted to try and address a theme I wanted them to (and I have read stories that tried) I wasn't satisfied with it. Mainly because I thought they could go way deeper, which it seemed like they were afraid to do. Well, lucky for you all, I'm not afraid to go really deep in my writing (because I promised I don't write fluff...), so my stories may be quite depressing. ;) No, just kidding, kind of. I try to have a balance. Like anything I do, I want my stories to be authentic. But you have to be willing to dive deep to make that happen. To ask the hard questions that you may not even have answers to.

But I never planned for this grand, deep novel when I wrote a scene for it. Actually, I wrote the first scene for it—which was actually the beginning of the climax in the plot—on my way up to Estherville for Thanksgiving in 2016, and yes, I blogged about that! I even blogged about me writing on the way—it's all in this post. At the time, it seriously meant nothing to me. It was just a short scene I was doing because, well, I was bored, and I was taking an online writing class, so I wanted to get some practice in, and then remember how in that post it said the rain was relentless and my mom was having a fit about it? So I just wrote a scene about that. When Mom found that out, she wasn't the happiest at being in my book, but I assured her that it wasn't really her, just the hot male lead, so she had nothing to worry about!

That's where it began. I didn't have any intentions of continuing it. But then we had a big writing project in English class (!!! my faves !!!), and for part of mine I did a short story. I decided to elaborate on what I'd wrote, but go back to more like the rising action. I think our word target for the short story was somewhere around 700-900 maybe? So I created a plot outline just for a chunk of the story, thinking it would just be a short story. I think I planned out nine chapters, and then I saw the word count for my plot outline was over 1000 words... So I wrote out all the chapters into a continuation, which my teacher also read and left me much appreciated feedback, and honestly that was what inspired me to turn it into a whole novel. I knew there was a lot of themes I could pack into just a single story, and they just kept coming to me with time. So here we are.

As far as the actual writing process with this one, it's been a pain, to say the least. I don't know why. I don't remember having this much trouble with my first novel, maybe because I knew that was my first one, so I didn't have expectations? But it was GOOD that way—it created one of the rawest pieces I've ever wrote, despite its seemingly endless imperfections (ugh...querying...don't ask...we're a long ways from there). But now with this one, I am overthinking it so badly; it's driving me insane. I'm trying to drill it into my raging perfectionist mind that rough drafts are supposed to suck, but I don't know if it's working. I started the rough draft sometime around the beginning of freshman year, and then somewhere around the new year, scrapped the whole thing—all 30,000 words. And I started over. But that is good, because I could tell I was trying too hard, and it was killing my story—it didn't have the authentic, easy flow to it that it has now. I have 10,000 words currently—this last trimester of school has been killing me, so I'm hoping this summer I can take off with it.

It's funny because I just took a shower and am pretty sure I just thought up the entire ending to this novel now—because normally I wait to come up with my endings. Oh, the life of a writer.

For right now, this is all the details I can share, but if you have any questions about this book or my writing or process or anything like that, then feel free to leave a comment below, or you can ask me on my FAQs page or contact me here, if you prefer. I'm happy to answer questions and may do more blog posts along these lines in the future if that's an interest! Thank you all!

Ashlee Mae

14

Wow, long time and no writing on here unfortunately. I miss writing on this blog, and more than that I miss all of you!! Well today, seeing as it's been over a month since my last blog post, I thought I'd just make sure you all knew I was alive and all that good stuff.

Why haven't I been blogging? Well there was a week towards the end of January where I did almost die thanks to the lovely sickness that never fails to catch me during winter. And being an eighth grader, that means when you miss a week of school, you get a year of homework. So that's what I've been trying to catch up on.

How has your 2017 been so far? Mine has been going really well so far. There's already been challenges, and there have already been days where discouragement creeps in, but I am so thankful for God's unfailing love. No matter how I feel, He never changes. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

I've read a lot of great books, done a ton of schoolwork (it's almost the end of the trimester and things are crazy), bought a lot of things (some great investments and some not-so-great), wrote a lot (on everything except this blog haha), taught my dog some amazing things, made some dumb choices, seen God provide in some awesome ways, looked at a lot of exciting things when it comes to the future, had lots of doctor's appointments (I'm not dead yet), learned a lot already, watched some awesome movies, had some great conversations, learned to forgive myself, turned 14, ate a lot of great (and unhealthy) food #helpme, shopped, went to a hockey game (yay!!), walked my dog a few times, and so yeah, it's been a great year so far.

I've been reading through Karen Kingsbury's Baxter family series, and I definitely recommend it. It's hard to believe I read that series for the first time back when I was in fifth grade. It taught me a lot then, and I understand it even better now. Her books truly inspire me, as a Christian, as a writer, as a person.

In February I turned 14 (yikes), so I got to go shopping and spend money which is always great! Unfortunately I spent $60 on an Instax camera earlier in the year, and honestly I don't think it was worth it. The first time I heard about them I was interested in buying one, but the more I looked at them I decided to hold off. There was a reason for that. But then one night on a whim I was like, I'm going to buy this! Ugh. Think through the decisions you make. While the camera is definitely super cute and fun to use, I just don't think for me personally it was worth it. Film is EXPENSIVE, and you'll always have to buy that. My phone takes better quality pictures, is so much more efficient to use, that and I can upload photos. So yeah. If anyone wants it and the remaining film I have just let me know. . . .

I actually have wrote a lot in terms of my writing books. I was looking back at my first novel I finished in 2014 at my revisions, and I just really hope I can publish that book this year. It was so cool to see what God taught me just through writing that book. Now I just pray He'll use it in your lives too!

As for teaching my dog amazing things . . . I taught him how to jump up on our kitchen island, and Dad taught him to join us for supper. ;D Mom was super happy about his academic progress.

I've been talking with my cousin about bucket lists. I have mine listed here on my blog! I want to focus on breaking down some goals and working on them this year. I'm so excited for all this year will bring. I've found so many new Bible verses as I've gotten into my Bible more, and it's hard to determine what is my favorite nowadays. Either way, Proverbs 3:5-6 is dear to my heart, and if you just follow what it says. . . . No matter what the rest of the year may bring, with God, you can and will get through it all. He has a good plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11). He's faithful even when you fail. He loves you.

I pray that each of you has a great 2017! And here's to me writing on this blog more hopefully haha :)

Lots of sparkles,

P.S. I'm 14 now and legal. So watch out. I failed my first driving test though so don't worry you'll have a few more days of safety ;)