today we headed to richmond. the not so humongous but nevertheless big capital of the great state of virginia, and, more importantly if you ask some certain peeps - the capital of the old confederacy.

it was a superb summer day - hot, but not humid, a lot of sun, a bit of clouds. fabulous day for a road trip to see uncle matt. aka uncle giant. or, as some around richmond know him, the prolific composer and director of Fight the Big Bull. (and the fact that i even used caps should communicate the importance of that band)

i love my brother. seven years younger than me, we have always had a great relationship. well, maybe not always but you get my drift. we don't need to bring up the incident at home depot when he may or may not have incited me to such anger due to his inability to talk to a stranger that i let forth in speech similar to that of a sailor at which point he decided he would be so kind as to alert the parentals of my vocabulary and therefore see me banished to my room for such a length of time that i had ample opportunity to plot revenge.

however, due to an amazing ability of mine to forgive the utmost grievances, i do still love him and thankfully we live close enough to see each other fairly regularly. i wish he would be so kind as to make the 1.5 hour drive to teach AC piano lessons each week, but so far my amazing cooking talents are not convincing him to do so. have to work on that.

but we made the drive and landed in richmond for the day. moe's for lunch (best chips, ever.) to start the adventures. and then we headed to some sort of park thing. super random - in the middle of the big city is this huge piece of land with animals all over it. half zoo, half park. but not really a zoo. i don't know. great place, just random. for instance, we trot down to see two black bears playing with each other just feet from us. in a safe area, but close. see, it's random. then up the hill to the petting zoo where there were no animals, so back down the hill to the japanese gardens. see, random. japanese gardens? next to black bears? with a bald eagle thrown in the middle? and urban row houses surrounding it all. random.

now it was beautiful and peaceful. or at least would have been had every five seconds not been interrupted by, i'm tiiiired spoken with incredible emotion by the boy with the big brown eyes.

but nevertheless, very nice. i do have to confess that at one point i thought to myself, "now, why would anyone choose to do this? i am hot. i am sticky. i am tired. i would like some air conditioning please. and a cold drink. but instead, i am tromping through a random park, sweating, watching black bears (whom i could see very nicely on the discovery channel, if i in fact had cable) and looking at bamboo gardens (which i am sure they also have on the tv. somewhere. if i was interested.)"

it fascinates me. do people actually enjoy doing things like that? i mean don't get me wrong. great day with uncle giant. love seeing him. love having time with the kids where not an electronic item is in sight. i personally prefer the outlet mall, or a couch and a diet coke (with a 72 degree thermostat close by). but seriously, there are people in this world that get energized with a day like that. me - well, i think it went sort of like this...

"come on, micah! you can do it. keep walking and then we'll go get ice cream."

"ICE CREAM! really? why?"

"cause mommy needs some."

and so, we capped our lovely day off with some yummy ice cream from a very trendy place in the ubber cool capital of va. i got mint chocolate chip, wished i had gotten black raspberry. you know, to go with the black bears. or maybe i should have gotten coconut brownie. cause that's seriously random.

a day like today makes me thankful for many things. a great little brother for one. and that he lives close. and that he loves my kids. and doesn't mind spending 5 hours with us with maybe 30 minutes of adult conversation thrown in the mix. he is patient and kind. and single. (however, there are explicit requirements of any new sister-in-laws which i will go over before the 3rd date)

i am also thankful for great kids. who are healthy. and can walk. and talk. and eat ice cream. and enjoy random black bears in the big city of richmond.

i am thankful for a superb husband. who loves my brother, and our kids. he initiates time with them and loves having fun. he doesn't care about hot and sticky. he knows we are making memories. and he forgives me when i correct his driving (even though he did almost maul a brand new black mustang)

and i am so thankful for air conditioning. and a comfortable place to lay my head. for great memories. and dreams to replay them.

thanks God. what a great day.


a little game

i wish that i were not so critical. i wish i could turn off the part of my brain that silently commentates on way too many things. i wish i could just love people and not imagine the conversation i would have if they asked, "what do you think?" (of course, i would never actually tell them because i don't talk; but i might use them as an illustration in my book...) i wish i could not be so arrogant as to think i can possibly understand the situations people find themselves in. i wish i could truly believe that i might not have the best answer. because let's face it, most of the time i think i have a pretty good one.

just for fun, so you can rest easy knowing that ashleigh has a long way to go in her righteousness, we'll play a game. you know, because i love to be real.

let's play a game of get-in-ashleigh's-brain. (warning: explicit thought life revealed)

situation #1 - talking with someone and they mention that they do not have enough money for a (fairly inexpensive) plane ticket for a once in a lifetime family experience.

my silent commentary, the pastor's wife version - really? you don't have enough money? HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? you both work, you have good paying jobs, you have no kids at home? you are telling me that with a double-income-no-children family you cannot come up with enough money for a plane ticket? do you know how much money my husband makes? do you know that i don't work? do you know that we have 4 kids? and i could come up with money for a plane ticket.

my silent commentary, unedited - what the hell are you doing with all of your money? you have not one crap of a second to complain about not having money. try managing it.

situation #2 - a lovely round-bellied woman agonizes over how uncomfortable she is. pregnancy is horrible, she says. and she can't wait for it to be over.

edited commentary from ashleigh's brain - you have nerve, my friend. you, the one with the miracle being performed within your body, right this very second. do you know how many women, many who stand silent around you, would give anything to be in your shoes? do you know how many tens of thousands of dollars couples have spent to be where you are? do you know the pain that infertility brings upon lives and the havoc it wreaks on marriages? just close your mouth. just be quiet. cause you don't have one single excuse for your complaints.

unedited version - you selfish jerk (okay, that's still a little edited). how could you be so heartless? how could you even think about complaining about a miracle? so what, you're uncomfortable. so are a lot of people in this world. and their discomfort doesn't end in new life and cute smiles. nope, they just suffer. how can you be so focused on your self that despite knowing the pain of infertility is present around you, you continue to frown and groan of the awfulness of the miraculous. just shut up. don't even open your mouth. your self-absorption and insensitivity make me want to vomit.

nice, huh? you never knew i was filled with such graciousness and mercy.

i don't know. part of me wants to hold on to my commentaries. i find them true and honest. i mean seriously, take those two very real scenarios in my life and tell me how i am not supposed to have an opinion?

and yet, i wrestle with knowing that a critical spirit is not what God wants from me. and i would love to replace criticism with joy and be one of those people that is so full of happiness you walk away wondering what magic pill they put in their fruit loops. you won't find me being accused of strange amounts of happiness anytime soon.

is it who God made me to be, maybe an unrefined part of discernment or compassion? a good thing that hasn't quite been perfected? or is it a nasty part of my soul that needs gutting.

i don't know. i feel like i am not comfortable in who i am, but don't know who i am supposed to be. i'm conflicted. i'm frustrated that negativity and criticism are my most faithful friends.

sometimes i want to crawl in a hole and not be around anyone. maybe then i could turn off the brain, leave the commentary on pause, and just be. just be.