Barbie Cans


The husband comes home, surveys the  fort  of pillows the boy and I have made in the living room and correctly guesses that I haven’t bothered with dinner.

Me: “Nope. The boy needed to play after a morning of watching Jen and I can.”

Husband: “Let’s go out.”

I throw on a dress, heels to hide my summer ugly feet, comb out my hair and slap on lipstick.

Me: “Let’s go.”

As we walk into the downstairs of the converted house to restaurant, a fellow diner with bobbed hair, a perfect tan and a trendy t-shirt looks at me and sighs, “Here comes Barbie.” I stop and stare. She’s fifteen to twenty years older than me, attractive, dining with other women. I wanted to defend myself, say that beyond blondish hair, I look nothing like Barbie. If anything, I look like Barbie’s stumpy older sister. I wanted to say, “This Barbie spent her day canning and pickling zucchini.” Instead, I took a seat and mentally planned a phone call to my sister and mother.

I ate vegetable lasagna, the boy devoured a miniature pizza, the husband a salad drowned in salami and olives, and I fumed.  I fumed and thought of all the studies and theory I have read on identity performance, and yet, I consistently suck at performing identity, or at least, I am consistently read in a way that is at odds with my self-conception. Then, I asked for another glass of red wine and thought, “Screw it. I canned zucchini.”

And yes, canning evoked that much pride. To can, one must follow multiple steps and overcome the constant fear of botulism and third degree burns.  It helps to have a friend who will not shudder at expletives and not flinch at your blunders, like almost forgetting to add the pickling salt. If that friend is also a skilled technical communicator that is also thinking of revising the instructions to make them more usable, consider yourself blessed. I did.

Behold the fruits of our labors.

The cans sealed, but I am still waiting to taste  for pickling takes five days.  We used Bon Appetit’s recipe.

Jen brought pulverized grapes and made jam, delicious jam.

During the process, there were scares and squeals, but now that I know the process, I will do it again, and if all else fails, I will launch Beck’s Preserves, assuming that no one dies upon tasting the pickled zucchini.

By Big


Little: 30 day challenge update!


I’ve done well on somethings and not so well on others.

1)  Dr. Pepper –I’ve totally cheated with the Dr. Pepper thing, but I definitely do not drink as much. One every 2 or three days is much better than daily, right?

2) Exercise – I’ve done pretty good on this one! I haven’t done it daily because, well, some days I have a clingy baby and some days I have errands and some days it 1538793749 degrees outside. I have been exercising about 4 times a week though. Tracy Anderson is killer, but I like her and Jodi loves going on walks with me.

3) Photography –  I can honestly say I’ve been reading every single day! I asked two people today if I could take pictures for them. One will be in the fall, a maternity shoot, and the other will be anytime now, a newborn. 🙂 I am SOOOO beyond excited, ya’ll! Now if Big and In-Law would come for a visit I could have a family and a couples shoot too!

Here’s a picture I took of Jodi the other day. Just to show I’m working on it!

Cutest kid ever, huh?

In-Law: 30-Day Challenge — What am I doing?


So, here are the things I’ve challenged myself to do for 30 days….

  1. No more hitting the snooze button.  During the summers, we sleep in our guest room because it is so much cooler.  Unfortunately, it’s also quieter and darker which makes it so hard to get out of bed in the morning.  It’s not uncommon for us to hit the snooze bar 5 or 6 times.  So far, I’m about 50/50 on meeting this goal.  Just so you know, my track record would be much higher if my husband didn’t insist on setting the alarm for ridiculously early times.
  2. Clean the kitchen every night before going to bed.  We have 2 tables and lots of counter space in our kitchen and the bad habit of piling junk, dishes, and food on the open spaces.  Overall, I’ve been doing pretty good on this challenge.  It’s such a nice feeling to walk down the stairs to a clean kitchen in the morning and to come home to a clean kitchen after work.
  3. Respond to phone calls/texts/emails/facebook in a timely manner.  I love hearing from people but I rarely respond.  It’s as if I like to bask in the fact that I received some sort of contact from a friend and I’m just going to enjoy that feeling for a while before I respond (I equate this to wearing new shoes only around the house for the first couple weeks so they don’t lose the “new” feeling too soon).  Unfortunately, I usually forget to respond altogether.  I’ve actually done pretty well (for me) with this challenge.  I hope to keep it up.

30 Day Challenge Update: New Vocabulary and Traitorous Fingers



Yesterday, was a day of failure. I spilled lemonade, dyed dingy white towels a deep fuschia instead of a deep red, failed to finish a book review, took darling pictures of the boy without a CF card, and only made it through thirty minutes of yoga because I have the attention span of a gnat. Yesterday sucked.

Then, I visited the blog and read In-law’s funny post and Little’s plaintive post, and smiled. We’re doing this. So what if every ant in New Mexico now calls my kitchen home, my bathroom looks like a bordello, I find it impossible to pen 400 more words, and I never master crow pose? We’re blogging together.

And, while yesterday was a failure, and I totally logged into facebook this morning, the first week of the thirty day challenge was not a complete blow out.

The Yoga

Day 1: Kiss the Edge of Challenge. I fell out of crow pose. Twice.

Day 2″ Transforming Fear. In every pose, I thought about facebook. Every pose.

Day 3: Core Consciousness. Yoga has a strange vocabulary: surrender, assimilation, lock.

Day 4:  Secrets of Yoga. I have never fully considered my armpits until told to “loop your armpits back.”

Day 5: Setting an Intention. My intention — focus.

Day 6: Power and Concentration. I failed to concentrate and only made it through the first thirty minutes.

Day 7: Find Roots and Establish Balance. Favorite quote: “Notice how your mind is not helpful at all.” I have been noticing this for much of my life.

Day 8: Totally skipped.

Day 9: Thirty minutes of Power and Concentration. Obviously, I do not have power and concentration.

Day 10: Balancing for Core Stability and Will. The instructor says  “Find ease through your efforts.” This has become my new mantra.

The Facebook

On day one, I have to stop my fingers from typing in the address, and I replace one addiction for another by rediscovering blogs I haven’t read in years like Here be Hippogriffs and Woulda Shoulda. By day two, I feel righteous. Facebook? Who needs facebook? Day three, four, and five are much of the same, but on Sunday, I have a breakdown. Little tempts me with a picture of the world’s most gorgeous baby. I cave. Today, I get up, pour coffee and type in the cursed URL. There are beautiful pictures of my cousin, so I justify it. I needed to tell my cousin she was beautiful. That’s what cousins do.

This week, I’ll do better. I’ll think transformative thoughts during yoga instead of snide ones. I’ll train my fingers to work, instead of type in the evil URL. This week, I’ll become an industrious human being.

By Big

Rain. Right Now, Rain!


I grew up and still live in a place where there is literally an ice storm every single winter that prevents most from walking outside, because if you go, you’re going to bust your ass on the ice and say things that are inappropriate for children to hear. Then, you get up and somehow have to find your way back into the house where, no doubt, there is no electricity because the pole snapped in half three miles away and they won’t be able to fix in until Friday. It’s Monday. Apparently, a lot of poles have snapped. Don’t worry, you won’t freeze to death because, thank God ,you have propane. Oh, and the food in the freezer will be fine – just put it outside.

This very same place is similar to hell in the summer time. This summer, in particular, has been awful. It has been over 100 degrees for 28 days now. I went to SW Louisiana a few weekends ago weekend and I’m not joking, it felt cool in comparison.

I’m in a very rural area. People are trying to cut hay to sell, or so that they have plenty of feed this winter, but we are barely able to get enough to cover the cost of cutting it.  My dad is a rancher, and my husband works on a horse ranch. Their jobs/lives literally depend on somewhat cooperative weather.  The common consensus is that we need rain.

About a week ago, we were looking off the back porch and we could see rain all around us. There was rain north of us, but I could tell it was too far north to be actually raining on my parent’s ranch. When you see the town, where they really don’t need rain because the don’t make a living off of their pretty green 12 x 12 yards getting a downpour, it does one of two things: 1) pisses you off 2) makes you think the world is out to get you.

I’ve thought about a rain dance – really, I have, but I Googled it, and apparently rain dances are pretty controversial. Who knew?  It’s cloudy out, so I’m going to keep hoping for rain. I have plans to go watch the guys rope at the arena tonight. Outdoor plans can usually prompt a rain. I’m going to take my camera with no protection, so surely that will cause a down pour!

By Little

A Birthday ‘Surprise’


There are no secrets in this household.  Nothing.  Yes, we do trust each other and talk about everything but the primary reason is that my husband is just not capable of keeping a secret.  The pressure gets to him and he tells me everything.  Case in point:  It is the eve of my birthday and, oddly, I arrived home before my husband.  Guessing that he may have made a last minute birthday stop, I decided not to comment when he walked in the door at 6.  About 20 minutes later we were discussing the weather (aren’t we interesting?) and Shawn mentioned that the thermometer at Corinth Square (a shopping center that is nearby but definitely not on his normal route home) read 107 degrees.

Ashley: “Oh?  What were you doing at Corinth Square?”
Shawn (long pause): “Um, I don’t remember.”
Ashley (trying to change the subject): “By the way, remember that you were going to buy a trash barrel for the garage (wow! Thrilling conversations at the Campbell household). “
Shawn:  “Yeah, that’s what I did. I went to buy a trash barrel.”
Ashley (not pointing out the fact that he didn’t come home with a new trash barrel): “Shawn, did you just give uncover yourself?”
Shawn: “No.” [long pause] “And even if I did happen to go there, they didn’t have what I was looking for.”

Later in the evening…
A: “Why do you have glitter all over your face?”
S [very matter of fact]: “Well, sometimes I get stuff on my hands and then I put it on my face.”

Even later in the evening, on the patio of a restaurant in Corinth Square…
S:  “Can I tell you about your birthday card?
A: “No.”
S: “Well, I really want to tell you about it.”
A: “I don’t want to hear about it, it’s not my birthday.”
S: “I just think you should know that it’s not a lovey-dovey card….and it’s not pretty either.”
A: “Great, I’m really looking forward to this card.”
S: “But it does have glitter!  And it’s funny.”
A [looking around the shopping center]: “I don’t see any place to buy a card here.”
S: “Of course there is a place to buy a card, CVS.”
A: “You went shopping for my birthday present at a drugstore!!”

When we get home…
S: “Can I please just give you your card now, even though I haven’t written anything in it and it isn’t signed?”
A: “No, it is not my birthday and you must sign the card before you give it to me” [I will pause here to let everyone know that I received a blank card in my Christmas stocking. No signature. Not even an envelope. He said that he liked what was already printed on it.]
S: “Then give me your pen, I feel inspired.”

Just a couple moments later [coming from the other room]…
S: “How do you spell ‘aforementioned’?”
A [to myself]: Why would a birthday message include the word ‘aforementioned’?
10 minutes later…
S: “Here is your card. Open it” [the card is actually in an envelope this time with ‘Ashley C.’ written on the front]
A: “No, it’s not my birthday. Give it to me in the morning.”
S: “Ok, how about I put it somewhere where I know you will see it?”  [He opens the refrigerator door] “What do you think you will have for breakfast tomorrow?”
A: “Please do not put my card in the refrigerator; just leave it on the counter.”

Later that evening, when I went to close the garage door, I saw that he had hidden the card [it’s not like it a secret or anything] in the cabinet with my car keys.

I must say that when I opened the card this morning, it did not disappoint, all the way down to the glitter.  It was very funny and the handwritten message inside was very sweet.  And it was even signed ‘Shawn C.’ – you know, in case some other Shawn were to sneak inside my house and put a non-lovey-dovey, not pretty, but funny and covered with glitter card inside my cabinet.

He makes life fun.

Of Frogs and Polliwogs


Our favorite creek sprang polliwogs in early summer, every summer. We could, but did not, count on it. We trusted in reliable pools of polliwog and the whole she-bang, the place, our family, ourselves.

Fat, black bodies color the water. My brother and I pulse with glee as we try to scoop them up with pop cans we found along the creek banks. We want a frog hatchery in the bathroom, or if mom protests, maybe, we can take a shovel and build a pond in the backyard. My brother offers his tonka trucks for the project. Their black bodies are slimy but solid, like smoked oysters.

They’ll transform into croaking frogs. We’re children. We don’t want to be much more than we are right now. We want to be here at the creek catching polliwogs, being children.

We run those pop cans the mile home. Shawn’s legs can’t keep up with mine so I wait under the Valley Oak. Becky, don’t run. He yells. You’ll hurt their bellies. I tell him they don’t have bellies. They have torsos. We walk the rest of the way, sneak the cans in the house and dump the polliwogs in the bathroom sink. My mom never said a word.

At eight years old, I didn’t know, didn’t believe that I had any limits of energy, of imagination, of courage. That anyone or anything did. Now, at 32, I fear the edges of my efforts. That I will not cobble together something good, a thought worth pursuing for the dissertation, the next article, the next project. The moments of my life, washing dishes, reading theory, grading papers, pulling weeds in the garden, folding my son’s clothes feel frantic, like I must hurry, I must rush, for it’s not enough, my efforts will not suffice. I can’t scoop up the polliwogs fast enough and I do not trust they will return.

I’ve been trying to stand on my head all summer. I’ve spent hours kicking my feet into the air, trying to hold head stand, to take deep breathes with my body suspended, to rest upside down. Half a second. On a good day, I can hold it for half a second. My husband laughs at my yoga practice, not a laugh of derision, but of admiration and wonder. “You? Sit still?” he says. “Hold a pose?”

In garland pose, an obscene spread-leg squat where my chin touches my knees and my rump my ankles,  I resemble nothing more than a squatting frog. Sitting, resting in that effort, I don’t think about much more than my screaming thighs and how I really hope no one comes to the door. I can’t hurry garland pose, I can’t beat it with a frenzy of energy. Garland pose says sit. Garland pose says breathe.

By Big

Written during the BWP Summer Institute

30 day challenge starts now.


I just watched the video. Now I’m inspired.

I have three 30 day goals!

1) As soon as I finish this absolutely wonderful tasting Dr. Pepper that is sitting on my desk I will not have another one for 30 days. I hope that this challenge will permanently break my habit. It will be a hard habit to break.   A ten year habit, actually. What the heck? My parents let me have soda? Shame on them! Kidding Mom! 😉

2) I want to do some sort of exercise everyday. It can be taking Jodi for a walk or suffering through P90x. It doesn’t matter – just do something.

3) Actively work at learning all the ins and outs of my camera and start taking pictures of things/people other than my husband and my daughter.

By Little

Big’s 30 Day Challenge: No Facebook, Lots of Yoga


It’s summer. I’m a mom, a Ph.D. student, a wife. I want to loafe, but I have work, much work, work which if I do not do now will haunt the school year, curse my family time, and in short, ruin my life. Thus, today begins a thirty day challenge, inspired by the lovely Maggie Mason of Mighty Girl, who was inspired by this TED talk (Go. Watch. It’s short.).

  • Challenge No. 1: No Facebook. During the two hours I have allotted for writing, I’m checking Facebook every five-ten minutes. Facebook checking is taking up thirty minutes of actual time, and much, much more of brain processing time. I do not have time to waste. If I use those two hours this summer, I will not need to become acquainted with 4 AM. I will not need to inject coffee into my veins. I will not need to haul a laptop to the boy’s soccer games and practices. No more Facebook — at least, not for the next thirty days. However, I am going to allow myself to post news articles to Facebook, as long as I don’t actually enter the site. Hey, I’m weak, and I do use it as a warehouse.
  • Challenge No. 2: One hour of yoga every day. Yoga has some things to teach me, things I need to learn, like how to sit still, how to rest upside down, how to pay attention. I want yoga to be part of  my day, like reading and cooking, so I’m authorizing a yoga binge before school starts, in hopes of creating a habit. I have a head start on this challenge, I’m four days in.

Sisters? Mom? Join me.

By Big

People I like and you should like, but not more than us.


I’ve been a little blog obsessed since Becky started her first blog (I don’t really know that it was her first, but was the first that I read) about 6 years ago. She would link to all these different blogs and they would link to more blogs and pretty soon I’d be so lost in blogsphere I wouldn’t know where I started. Throughout the years I’ve found people I love reading, I visit these two multiple times a day every now and then:

Rebecca Woolf – She’s the definition of cool. She is a mom to two kids (one two) and is pregnant with TWINS! I kind of want to be her best friend, but instead I just frequent her website.

DOOCE! (I guess we can use her real name Heather Armstrong) – Her website is fun. She’s totally Blog Queen of the Internet. I don’t really agree with much of what she thinks about the world and/or who’s running it, but I still visit her site every single day. She’s one of those people that can insult you and you still think it’s funny. I like that. If nothing else you have to go see her ridiculously beautiful girls and her dysfunctional canine family members.

Equally as fun and interesting are:

Not blogs per se, but fun!

I think we are starting our kitchen remodel this weekend. I’m excited to leave the 1920s theme and venture into today’s world. Pictures soon!

By Little