LOVE HARDER.

The quandry:

We feel terrible. Just horrible. And oh so helpless… if only there was something we could DO for them.

The answer:

Ummmm. Did you forget that WE ARE THE INTERNET?!?!!??! And also, Yes We Can!!!

The result:

Brandy and your Hot Awesome Dude… this one’s for you. Love, The Internet.

Our Plea

Our friend Brandy is a brilliant writer, a wonderful teacher, and a generous friend.  And she is in love with a man who has just been diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

We are raising money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Fund in his name.  For the price of a cinnamon dolce latte, half-caf, hold the whip, you can be part of an effort to cure a disease that affects approximately 750,000 people worldwide.

http://www.loveharder.org

Every dollar brings us a dollar closer to a cure.  And every donation brings a sliver of hope to a girl who needs all the hope she can get.

Love Harder,
Ashley

What You Can Do

  • Give. Be part of a worldwide effort to cure a disease that affects approximately 750,000 people worldwide.  Every dollar helps.
  • Pass it on. Forward this story to five people.  Share this blog post.  Become our fan on Facebook.
  • Love harder. Life is short, love is unbending, and no one knows what could happen next. Tell someone you love them today.

Where Your Money Goes

  • The American Institute of Philanthropy recently named The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation one of the best organizations to give to in terms of their accountability and use of resources.
  • By working closely with researchers, clinicians and partners in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, the MMRF has helped bring multiple myeloma patients four new treatments that are extending lives around the globe.
  • The MMRF has advanced twenty Phase I and Phase II clinical trials. They need your support to advance these clinical research programs and accelerate the development of better, more effective treatments.
  • The MMRF’s Multiple Myeloma Genomics Initiative recently became the first to sequence the multiple myeloma whole genome in its entirety.
  • A whopping 98% of your donation to the MMRF will be used immediately to support high-priority multiple myeloma research.
  • With diminishing funding for early stage drug development and the next myeloma treatments not expected to be approved until 2011, the MMRF desperately needs your help.

DONATE: http://www.loveharder.org
CONTACT: theloveharderfund@gmail.com
FACEBOOK: http://facebook.loveharder.org
MORE INFO: http://www.themmrf.org

For more on Brandy and H.A.D.’s Story go here.

I could not be more proud of the internet than I am right now. We love you Brandy!

Clearing My Head

The sky was the kind of blue that only comes from the stark contrast made by five inches of pure white snow, gray branches and an amazing orange and pink sunset off in the horizon. It was the kind of night where I could really get lost in my thoughts as I trudged through the snow, trying to keep up with my brother and two dogs.

That’s the nice thing about going for walks with my brother: I’m not required to make conversation. Granted, for the first fifteen minutes I usually talk his ear off, not having anyone else to chat in person with during the day, but after I get it out of my system we usually just walk along in silence. Part of this is because I can never quite keep up and I’m usually several feet behind him, having much shorter strides than he. This always was a problem when traveling and at the end of the two weeks spent together, I grew to absolutely detest it and would be cursing his back as he slowly became a dot in the distance. On one occasion, he was so far ahead I lost him and ended up standing on a German street corner waiting for him to realize I wasn’t behind him any longer.

Anyway, I’m veering off course here.

I grew to really appreciate peace and quiet while living in NYC. When thesis would become too much I would walk in circles around the resevoir. When my job was driving me insane I would get lost in the ramble (or go all the way to Wyoming to walk around Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons National Park). When I got to Europe I would take long walks by myself to just clear my head.

Whenever I have things on my mind I need to get out into the fresh air and zone the eff out. It’s taken me a little while to figure it out, but being in wide open spaces, with nature surrounding me, is when I feel most balanced. A fresh breeze and the sound of birds does wonders to cure a bad mood (As do ocean waves). For a while, though, I had lost the ability to do that. There was job frustration layered with heartbreak and confusion topped with slight depression over the past year and even a run through the biting cold that hurt, at night in Central Park, couldn’t cure it. It wasn’t until around late September when I noticed something change within me. I believe I was in Norway, walking up Bergen’s second highest mountain surrounded by mossy greenness that I realized that, for the first time in maybe my entire life, I was in love with my life.  It happened over and over and over again, when I walked through a valley on the Isle of Skye surrounded by two beautiful mountain ranges; when I was walking through the streets of Seville, not caring if I got lost; when I was walking along the Seine in Paris at night, the Eiffel Tower all lit up in front of me. And those are just a handful of the many many moments when I felt my heart soar.

I just wanted to run up to random people and tell them how fantastic my life was. I wanted to tell the bartender who looked at me like I was crazy when I asked where the start of the trail was, standing in my lime green rain coat that was a couple sizes too big and shoes that let in the water instead of kept them out, that my life was too amazing not to experience this just because I might get a little wet. I got extremely wet but I didn’t care, I was in love.

Last night was bitterly cold, the kind that really gets into your bones but I didn’t care. I let my brother and dogs get a little ahead of me in the dusk, I kicked the powdery snow up in poofs in front of me as I went and I felt the peace settle over me. My brain, which can sometimes be a simmering pot of thoughts and can drive me a little insane, was cleared out and I could feel it smiling. You know that feeling. That feeling when things just are right in the world, even if it’s just for a moment. My life might not be perfect, but I’m still madly, passionately, in love with it.

I never want that to change.

{spectacularpieces.com}

Oh, Won’t You Be My (Blog) Valentine?

It’s that time of year again.

After everything that has been going on in the blogosphere, both good and bad, I think it’s the perfect time to unwrap my second annual Be My (Blog) Valentine. Last year was such a success and while it didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked (on my end), I think it’s worth a second shot!

What is Be My (Blog) Valentine?

Well, it’s sort of like Secret Santa. I randomly match up everyone participating with another blogger, you won’t know who has you, and your valentine won’t know you have them. You can send your valentine whatever you would like–a gift card, baked goods, a little carepackage (I got nail polish, lip balm and window stickers from my blog valentine, Maxie!)…whatever you feel your valentine would like. I’d advise taking the time, if you don’t already know your valentine, to look around their blog. You can always find inspiration there.

This is also a great way to discover new blogs so I hope you will join in some internet loving! Please feel free to use the badge above on your own blog (just make sure you link back to this post!), as well as pass this on to anyone you know who might be interested. This is open to EVERYONE!

Some basics….

To enter you must leave a comment on this post with your email address and blog link (if you have a blog, it’s not necessary! Just make sure you give me your email, some information on what you like, your interests, etc so i can pass that on to your valentine.), starting today and any time up until 11pm  January 19th. Also, if you have any food allergies, please let me know so that in case someone decides to bake you something, they know what to avoid!

I am moving at the end of this month and want to have everything taken care of by the time I leave. If you have any questions you can always email me at ashalahblogs@gmail.com.

Oh won’t you be my (blog) valentine?

I Got Drunk By Myself on New Years Eve. What About You?

Another holiday weekend has come and gone. Really, no different than any other day in the boring life of Ashalah except that we passed into 2010 and I actually left the house a few times.

New Years Eve Eve I went up to East Lansing to see my old stomping grounds at Michigan State and nearly caused an accident driving past my old dorm complex. They were in the process of turning the old box of a cafeteria that we had into this huge modern structure and I was openly gaping. I went into town to meet an old friend for dinner and drinks and wandered through the little town since I had some time to spare. It was like the old town had been torn down and a new one had been built in it’s place. I don’t remember it being this cute! And so many new restaurants and stores. Pita Pit was still there and so was the bookstore that stole all my money every semester but there was a shiny new Barnes and Nobles and the Steve and Barry’s was replaced by another school spirit store. It took a lot of willpower not to buy everything SPARTAN.

I met up with Alex and her boyfriend and went to the Peanut Barrel for dinner. It was nice to catch up; she now lives in LA and I hadn’t seen her since I left SEVEN YEARS AGO. Seriously. How is time passing this quickly?! I had a grilled chicken (I was *going* go to for the greasy cheeseburger but decided to be “healthy.”) and continued to slather it in Mayo and Ketchup (see? “HEALTHY.” Some habits die hard.).  It started snowing before I left and I walked through town a little, my heart getting all nostalgic. I had so much fun at MSU and had forgotten just how much I loved going to school there. I definitely miss it.

New Years Eve I was still undecided on what I wanted to do: do I stay in and be lame or do I spend $65 dollars to go out in Detroit with my married friends? Since I didn’t really feel like paying money to be reminded that I’m single, I opted to stay in. I ended up in bed with my mom, a bottle of champagne between us and Ellen’s standup routine on the TV. Five glasses later….

…the clock struck midnight, we toasted to the new year and then I went to bed. As soon as I stood up I was all ohhhh so THAT’S how drunk I am. I think I even tweeted about it. I tried to be all nonchalant and not let on to my mom that I was pretty effing hammered, and I think I got away with it but that may be because the door to the room was five feet from where I stood and I successfully cleared the doorframe so I think I’m good.

Friday night (New Years Day) I met up with two more married couples, my best friend Steph, her husband and my good friend Joe and their friends Janelle and Sean. Steph was my neighbor at State for two years–funny enough, a girl we initially started hanging out with told us nasty stories about her and tried to get us to hate her. In a  twist of fate, we ended up best friends with Steph and wouldn’t talk to this other girl. Some old high school rivalry or something. ANYWAYS. We went to dinner at Mongolian BBQ in Ann Arbor, which I had never been to before. It was pretty good, and I liked that service was so quick–since we WERE serving ourselves, basically.  We sat there for 3 and a half hours, drinking, chatting and having a good time.

Steph and I at dinner

Sure it was a lot of baby talk and breast feeding stories and such (Janelle and Sean just had a baby) but we did talk a lot about travel so I will give them credit for not making it ALL about marriage and babies, subjects that are completely foreign to me. At one point they did try to figure out who they could set up with me and apparently when I move out to Seattle/the west coast (which I eventually will), I will have four different suitors.

Steph and Joe

Joe & 20 toothpicks jammed in his mouth. This was right before he asked the Starbucks lady if they had any toothpicks. Just in case, you know, COFFEE got in his teeth.

The rest of the weekend was pretty uneventful, unless you count my  mother acting like a five year old because I won’t add her as a friend on Facebook. Have I mentioned that she doesn’t even HAVE a Facebook account? Also, did I mention that Facebook failed in keeping my profile private from my aunt?? Yeah I put her on limited profile and apparently that did nothing because when talking to my mom, she said she already knew what I was up to thanks to Facebook letting her see my wall. So now my mom isn’t speaking to me and my dad wants me to be a nice person and just add her.

Family. Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them.

I do have some good news: I am getting a car!!!!!!!! Living in Boulder is going to be a lot easier now. Did I mention I’m moving to Boulder at the END OF THIS MONTH!!?? Squeeeeee!!!!!!!! Colorado HERE I COME.

I also updated my About Me page, gave myself a fanpage on Facebook. Oh and if you didn’t know? I have Twitter too!

2009: A Year in Pictures

A picture is worth a thousand words right? Well here are the pictures that best capture 2009. (Inspired by Princess Pointful)

January.

I went and saw the Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera with these lovely ladies:

I miss my coworkers!

The great decorate of 2009 of my new apartment

February.

In my bathroom trying on my newly reacquired ski gear for the work ski trip I took

Pearl and I discovered the most amazing Hungarian pastry shop and I promoted..sugar?

Better than sex. ALMOST.

March.

I was reacquainted with the step stool that caused me to break my toe the year before. This was during our massive send off of the project we worked for three weeks on at the office:

The assembly line in full force

Returning to my Teeny Bopper roots at the Britney Spears Concert

April.

Picnics in the park with my besties were the highlight of my spring

Gotta love remaking Disney Classics.

May.

Fist Bumping for my birthday weekend in Vegas

Celebrating my 27th birthday with Pearl, another May baby!

Spent a week goofing off in Wyoming with Kira

June.

Twister in the office

Lions, and Tigers, and Jess, oh my! A day with Jess and my wifey at the museums!

And who can forget my night out with Maxie and Cavy which ended with me and a to-go container of alcohol?

July.

I had the 2nd July 4th appearance of the Green Man

The family reunion by Lake Michigan

Watching my dad fall out of the sail boat was pretty entertaining.

Looking through old photo albums of my ancestors provided hours of entertainment and laughs. We have some FUGLY relatives.

August.

The first print I sold off of Etsy!!

So if you remember, I quit my job. I then had my going away party. These are my two crazy ladies who always bring the fun. Miss them!

At another going away party for my bff Lauren aka Noren (the person who officially gave me the name Ashalah) These are my wonderful FIT friends Ray, Min Young and Monika

Rawr. Maxie and I at the NYC Blogger Meetup!

Breakfast in bed with Doni and Rachel

On the Brooklyn Bridge with Doni

Laughing with Phampants and Doni

And then I get to Europe!

September.

After successfully climbing to the top of Priekestolen in Norway

The site of the horror movie I almost starred in thanks to the Messenger. We then proceeded to make out all over London, on a ferry to Amsterdam and ALL over Amsterdam.

Isle of Skye where I couldn’t stop obsessing over how gorgeous Scotland was.

October.

I fell in love with Spain.

This guy helped me learn how to loosen up and have fun. He also happens to be The Messenger.

I rode a camel in Morocco into the sunset.

November.

I stayed with a nudist stoner in this gorgeous town.

Hiked out to an abandoned monastery in Granada with a group of Canadian Boys

Discovered the nutella et banane crepes are a food group that I could live on and DELICIOUS.

Had a love affair with the Eiffel Tower.

December.

I came home from Europe, I ate a lot, and I became boring.

I hope everyone has a wonderful, fun, safe and glamorous New Years Eve!!

Here’s to 2010 and a billion more pictures.

Always Remembering

I only listen to this song once a year, December 29th. It’s the only time I can listen to it and be ok to sit and cry hysterically. Eleven years later and tears still fall. My heart still hurts.

Tonight, just past midnight, I realized what date it was. I realized this around the same time I last talked to her, eleven years ago. It was just before midnight and we were talking about our plans to go shopping the next morning.

The next morning I got up. Got dressed. Got ready for the day, like I normally do. I signed online before leaving the house to head up to the mall and the message I received found me on the floor in the living room, sobbing hysterically, screaming unintelligibly, unable to move.

My precious, beautiful Caroline had killed herself overnight, just past midnight. She was only 16 years old.

I remember telling my mom on the phone. I had been alone in the house and was desperate for someone to be there. Someone to take the horrible pain away. It took me ten minutes to be understood. My mom screamed and dropped a bottle of something or other and abandonned her shopping cart in the middle of Stop N Shop.

Everyone loved Caroline, she was a shining spirit and when the depression hit it knocked her off her feet, but that didn’t stop the caring. The love she had for everyone and everything. She always put her friends and family first, even her little sister who drove her nuts sometimes.

She would joke about how she wanted to get a nose job until one day on Oprah, she saw an Indian princess (she was adopted from Colombia) with the same nose as her own. She began announcing how she had a regal nose and no one was going to take that away from her.

I highlighted her hair one summer on her porch, in a three hour attempt that didn’t go as well as planned. We made pudding and failed at that too, burning it and I can no longer eat vanilla pudding because of the smell and taste. We would lie in her twin bed during sleep overs watching midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, our hips knocking as we danced along to the time warp.

Angel was played at her funeral. The week leading up to it was hard; I went to grief counseling at her church, went to friends houses just so I wouldn’t have to be alone. My parents would check on me every night and morning while I “slept.”

A year to the date after she died, a year filled with heartache and pain and friendships lost, I went to sleep. I dreamt that I was picking her up from the airport. It was so vivid, I still remember it to this day in painful detail. She greeted me as she was prone to: a running hug that would practically tackle me to the ground. Still in a half hug she told me how she was happy to see me, she’d been having so much fun and that we had so much to catch up on. Whatever we did during the course of my dream didn’t matter. She told me she was happy. At the end of the dream I dropped her back off at the airport and we hugged goodbye. She told me not to worry about her. I woke up hysterically crying.

You’re in the arms of the angel now, may you have found comfort there.

Love and miss you every day.

July 7, 1982 – December 29, 1998

Office Funnies

If you know me, you know that things at my last job weren’t…spectacular. There were many reasons behind my quitting in August but this post isn’t about why I quit my job. This is to remember what a great time I did have with my coworkers (the ones I liked, that is!).

In the summer of 2008 we lost all our projects so we had a lot of time on our hands. It was the first of what would be many hard blows my firm would experience during the length of the recession. I worked with all young women my age and we all got along famously. We were constantly making each other laugh and supporting each other through whatever shit our boss threw at us. We went out for drinks at least once a week, and dinners just as often and when invitations went out for a party, I knew they would all be there.

When preparing for presentations we would all rally up around each other and put forth an assembly line of boards and materials like you’ve never seen. When my boss would leave on presentations he’d have 15 girls in dresses, fancy tights and high heels escorting him out to his car, laden with boxes of spec books and large material boards. (Every guys dream right?) This camaraderie helped push through the stress of every day life in the office. Late nights were commonplace and the nights we were there til past midnight we’d have a big dinner in the conference room where we’d kick back, eat really greasy food and relax for five seconds.

When things got slow we often had to find ways to entertain ourselves without looking like we were entertaining ourselves with things outside of work. Things we pulled off included: cell phone races, twister, salsa dancing, a political debate around the time of elections last year, trick or treating in our cubicles last halloween and haiku wars. I kept a file in my outlook mailbox of Office Funnies and when I quit, I went through them and laughed at what a good time we all had together, even when things were shit.

The best office funny, as we called them, happened last february.

We had worked three weeks straight without a day off. Working with 15 girls you are bound to have very different personalities. And boy, did we have them. We had people from all over the world and sometimes we clashed but the majority of the time we enjoyed the entertainment that was bound to happen when you put two Russians in close proximity. One of these Russians was a very loud girl, who would constantly accuse us of things we didn’t do. After 3 weeks of not getting a break from one another and her coming downstairs to ask me or one of the other designers who took a fabric/tile/etc sample off her desk, we were getting a little…annoyed.

She was a little possessive, to say the least. She had this ENORMOUS rolodex with every contact in there that she’d ever talked to over the past two years at the job, and it was her baby. So one afternoon, after having to endure another of her searches of our desks for something we hadn’t taken, we get the genius idea to take her rolodex and hold it hostage.Give her something to really bitch about.

While she was out of the building on a meeting, I snuck upstairs, grabbed it off her unprotected desk and put it in a drawer. Someone else set up a fake email address to start harrassing her, and another coworker photoshopped together a random note (what good thieves would we be if we didn’t?):

A hilarious email exchange ensued and luckily she was on a different floor so she couldn’t hear us roaring with laughter. She pointed fingers at everyone but me and at the end of the day, I went upstairs and left the rolodex right outside the elevator door, her none the wiser to who took it from her. The next day she did bring us breakfast pastries (not QUITE cupcakes, but we were willing to substitute) and we all enjoyed more laughter when we all admitted it was me who had taken her rolodex.

In my job search I’m often reminded how much I loved my coworkers and I really hope that this wasn’t just a one-time-luck deal, that I can find a job where I will be surrounded by as many funny, talented and intelligent people as I had been at my last job.