2016: the old year

"And it has been one hell of a year. I have worn the seasons under my sleeves, on my thighs, running down my cheeks. This is what surviving looks like, my dear." - Michelle K.

2016 has been a wild year. so heartbreaking for so many. maybe the dark spots stand out when you think back on it. maybe you had a major life change this year and maybe have been struggling to adjust. 

new years' is always an exciting time. it’s a benchmark, a time to reflect and start over. we all need second chances.

2016 has had some high highs and low lows for me. some very exciting opportunities, goals achieved, making changes for the better. but there are also things that hurt now that also hurt in 2015. and will maybe still hurt in 2017. 

and the thing is, that’s okay.  

i’m not saying that i’ll just stay complacent and wallow in the pain, but i am saying that i’m not going to beat myself up or feel shame for the sadness. all this would do is make the suffering worse and i could let it swallow me. 

so instead i’m going to say thank you. thank you for being patient with me while i adjust, for accepting me as i am, for encouraging me every day. 

so many of you lovely readers and people in my life keep me going every day. and you guys make me want to be better. 

i want these wounds to heal. i want to love myself. it’s a daily challenge, but i wouldn’t be where i am today without you. 

it’s important, when reflecting on the past, to have grace on yourself. to be aware of your downfalls and be determined to let them make you stronger. to accept the wrong things done to you, and to use them as fuel to love others better. 

if you’ve been reading any of my blog posts, the one thing i hope i have expressed strongly enough is this: everyone suffers. everyone has insecurities and aches and sadness. some people more than others, yes, but i think that suffering is a gift. 

pain is like fire in a kiln that creates beautiful, useful art. suffering can give your life a purpose, but that purpose is up to you. 

my goal has always been to learn from the hurt. when someone breaks my heart, i work hard to never do that to someone else. to love with a fierceness that each human deserves. 

so if you’re feeling defeated at the end of a long, heavy year, take heart. this year could be the fuel that drives you into your purpose. this suffering could shape you into the person the world needs.

2017 will be a year of love. it has to be. we’ve all felt the weight of terrorism, hate, loss, and what we all need is a soft, gentle spirit to soothe the wounds. 

be that person, and those people will be drawn to you. change is possible. you’re not broken. we’re in this together.

love & courage,


Listening to:


a day late

i wish i was stronger. 

truth be told, i barely have the energy to post this. 

my wednesday-blog-post-day breezed by me yesterday. it was thoroughly filled with boxing up and shipping hundreds and hundreds of secret midnight press orders. 

it was absolutely incredible. i truly cannot describe it. 

the support jesse & i have received has blown us away. we're beyond grateful. 

while gratitude is the most overwhelming emotion, there are still so many more washing over me like a hurricane wave. 

i feel both full and empty at the same time. it's wild. 

'smoke signals' is full of words i've been writing over so many years. so many heartbreaks and losses. so many bright days where the sun warmed my skin. 

for most of my life, writing has been the only way i've known to drain the sickness. 

i write to relieve the burden and i do it for me. but what keeps me going is that it means something to you. 

so i keep going for you. 

i wish i was stronger. 

there are so many days when the grey clouds feel like bricks on my chest, like it's hard to inhale and i'm upset at myself that i can't breathe quite right. 

i feel empty and isolated and yet full and warm at the same time and it makes no sense. 

all i can tell you is that you must press on. please. push through the dark days, find the light within you to guide others through the dark. it's an incredible circle of creating and emptying and being filled again that we can only experience with one another. 

so thank you. for being here with me. you have no idea how much i need you. 


Listening to:


on love & loss

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." 
- CS Lewis, The Four Loves

many of us have heard the famous quote, "'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

i find this to be one hundred percent true. 

loss is a part of life. a dark, heavy, lonely part, but a part that we all experience in many forms. 

it could be losing your favorite sweater, or losing your best friend. 

this past week we lost our family dog, winston. he was a part of our family for thirteen years, comforting me as i struggled through my teen years, always there to listen. i would take him on walks to the park by our house, and his silent solace made my volcano heart quiet. 

we got winston as a puppy, and we guided him into his old age. 

life is like a crescent moon, circular, but ending. we travel around the sun with an inescapable end in sight. 

i had a couple of conversations regarding the passing of our precious pup, on whether or not loving him was worth the pain of losing him. i said 'yes, it is' without hesitation. 

to love at all is to be vulnerable.

in opening yourself up to someone or something, you run the risk of shattering. but you're also opening the door to the joy that could be. a joy only fulfilled through requited love. 

the comfort that winston gave us all throughout the years made life more vibrant. his unwavering excitement when we would walk through the door and his constant companionship brought joy and light for thirteen years. losing him is hard, but not having him would have been harder. 

it's scary to open yourself up. but if you don't, you risk the chance of missing out on experiencing true beauty. 

i'll never forget a metaphor i heard once about suffering. it's like we are lumps of clay on the potter's wheel, and when we suffer, when we grieve it's like the potter is pushing into our clay, pushing, pushing and we can't understand why. but the deeper the potter pushes, the more room we have to be filled. to be filled with joy, light, love. 

so, in essence, the more we hurt, the more depth we're given to experience true joy. 

to love at all is to be vulnerable. 

life is so precious, and we must hold things in the open palms of our hands, so as not to crush them. so that they can leave when it's time. 

it's never easy to lose someone, to lose something that you love. but please take heart in knowing that i'm here with you. let yourself mourn for a time. be gentle with yourself as you heal. 

if you'd like, please feel free to leave in the comments the name of the person, place, or thing that you've lost. this can be a sign of acknowledging your pain, but also your gratitude for having them in your life while you did & know in your heart that you made their life better as well. 

healing takes time. but it is truly better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. 

take heart. the best is yet to come. 


Listening to:


this is for you

maybe this is the first time you've found yourself at this emotional, moody, beauty-seeking side of the internet. or maybe you stop by once in awhile to see if something sticks, if some of the words i type out resonate enough to fill in some of the empty spaces within you. maybe you've read these post before and think, 'this is nice for someone, but not for me.' 

but if we're being truly honest, words are always for you. either you reject them or you accept them as truth in your own life, but either way, examining art shapes you like a whittler slowly shaves away at the wood to create the softest curves.

this precious message i received recently may resonate with how you may feel when someone opens up to you. like you can't quite relate, but maybe...there's a piece of you buried that needs to be dug up, to be dealt with, so it can fully heal. 

here is a lovely response i received to last week's post:

"I am about to graduate from college and I feel woefully unprepared for the real world and the vast waves of emotion and reality checks that come with it. And yet I must admit, when I first read your recent blog post it's weird, I actually told myself, 'I don't need to hear this. I'm not depressed. I'm not anxious.' And I know that sounds harsh, but it was my first reaction to reading your beautiful, vulnerable words. And I reacted that way because I, unlike you, am not a professional feeler. I am a professional un-feeler, if that exists. I struggle with emotions. I love people and I love life, and I love deeply; but it is very difficult sometimes for me to acknowledge and work through those feelings. It wasn't until the very end of your post upon reading the quote below that I realized God led me to your blog tonight. 

'Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.'
- Unknown

I've heard that quote before, but for some reason reading it in this context, in this moment, made it mean something different. When I first started college, I was in the middle of an unhealthy, emotionally abusive relationship that I thought was love. Once I finally had the courage to end it and set myself free, I thought I could move on with my life and start fresh, unscathed. But I was wrong. I had been hurt, but rather than acknowledge that I was hurting, I began to cover up that pain in my heart with a shield of apathy and hardness. I refused to allow myself to feel, even for my family and friends. I became closed off. I, like Alice as you mentioned, began spiraling out of control in my own twisted version of wonderland, all because I refused to deal with the incredibly painful emotions I was feeling. 

I actually called it a box. I am a creative writer as well, and during this time I began to write a lot of poetry. I wrote one poem entitled the box about the exact method I would use to emotionally detach myself from reality whenever things felt too painful to endure. During that time, I lost myself even more than I had when I was in the midst of that difficult relationship. And although things have gotten better since then, if I'm honest with myself, I still haven't really dealt with some of the deeply rooted pain that still rests in my heart. And I'd put it out of my mind until I found your blog tonight. 

So thank you, Ashley, for having the courage that I have lacked for so long to not only acknowledge your emotions, but also to embrace them and to share them vulnerably and unselfishly with others. I may still be broken from this past relationship, but your words reminded me that in time and in faith, those wounds will heal and become less of me than they are now. Your words also gave me hope for the real, honest, true love that I long to experience in a future relationship, whenever that comes along."

and this sweet soul went on to encourage me to stay strong, to dig deep into my spiritual self and that hope is always just on the other side of prayer.

so maybe you don't deal with a mental illness or maybe you don't consider yourself an artist. maybe you're not spiritual or maybe you go the long-way in attempts to escape emotion. you run, you hide from your past. but your past, my love, is you. it is a thread in the tapestry that is beautiful You.

so, dear one, this blog is for you. it's for you because it's a piece of me that i'm handing over with shaky hands; this fragile piece of me i'm trusting you to keep safe. it's for you because we're all mosaics of one another, small pieces of everyone we meet come together to make you whole. it's for you because i'm for you. and you're for me. 


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