Friday, January 29, 2010

Ask Ashley - Sympathy vs. Empathy

It has recently been brought to my attention that it has been many months since I have posted an "Ask Ashley" question. So here goes...

Dear Ashley,

Since you're good with grammar, I figured I'd ask. What is the difference between sympathy and empathy? I never know which one to use, so I never use either.


Ah, Katie, I sympathize. It's tough getting ensnared in the enigmatic English language. I will try to simplify it for you.

Sympathy is for when you are talking about feelings that you yourself have not or are not experiencing. For example, "I offer my sympathy for the loss of your mother." Or "I am sympathetic to the plight of the people in Haiti."

Empathy is better used when you've "been there" yourself. "I empathize with you--I had Professor Smith's class last semester and he's a really tough teacher." Or, "I empathize about how miserable wearing a cast is. I had to wear one last year when I broke my leg."

I hope that helps!

Gotta question? Email steppedonalego at gmail dot com.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pain to end all pain

I workout a lot. We're talking 5 days a week, sometimes six. I run, I spin, I lift free weights, I use weight machines, and yes, I yoga. I am fit.

But I met my match.

Tuesday, I took a Body Attack class. This is the kind of class I typically stay far, far away from because it's the kind of class where you have to be coordinated and jump around like a jelly bean until your sweaty, dizzy and perhaps about to vomit. Admittedly, it was a really great cardio workout. I made it through the class well enough, and even did a yoga class afterwards.

And then, the pain began.

At first, I thought I had pulled a calf muscle in my left calf. The pain began very shortly after I left the gym. Soon it spread to my other calf and I realized it wasn't a pulled muscle but muscle soreness. Rats.

When I do a new class, I expect to feel soreness to some degree or another. After all, using your muscles in a different way is bound to make you sore, even if you work out on a regular basis. But this? This I did not expect.

Tuesday night in my sleep, I was very aware of my calf pain. Wednesday morning when I attempted to get out of bed, the pain was so bad it nearly brought me to my knees. Obviously I took the day off from the gym, and spent the day shuffling around, barely able to put one foot in front of the other.

I was overly optimistic that I would be better today. Knowing full well and right that nine times out of ten you're more sore on Day 2 than Day 1, I was still hoping that today I would be recovered and be able to hit the gym again.


I'm a just as bad as yesterday. And it's miserable!

Seriously, I was not even this sore the day after the half marathon.

I discovered, sheerly by accident I assure you, that I can crawl faster than I can walk. If that isn't pathetic then I don't know what is.

The moral of the story is, never overestimate yourself, and never underestimate the reason the word "Attack" is in the name of the class. Cause I most certainly feel like something's attacked me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Bachelor

Hello, my name is Ashley, and I'm a Bachelor-aholic.

Hi, Ashley.

Don't ask me why, but I watch The Bachelor. (I've watched it since Season Two with Aaron Buerge--who is, incidentally, still single.) Each episode waits for me on my DVR every Tuesday, and every Tuesday I half way wonder why I still watch this ridiculous show.

And then it occurs to me--I watch it because it's ridiculous.

Jake annoys me. I hate his accent (I love southern accents, just not his), I hate his facial expressions, I hate that he stormed back like an ass on last season's The Bachelorette to tell Jillian secrets and lies. Assuming there were either secrets, or lies. Your guess is as good as mine.
But then, there are these girls. Or women, as Jake always refers to them. I'm sure ABC's casting call goes something like this:

Seeking gorgeous, shallow, catty women who want to compete for the heart of a pilot who is also gorgeous and shallow. Must be willing to be extremely nasty to fellow contestants. Desire to convincingly woo him and break up with him in a dramatic fashion shortly after the season finale preferred.

Last night he started with nine women who I can easily divide into two categories: Crazy and Crazier. I spent most of this last show cringing as some begged for him to keep him and others were literally throwing themselves at him. The lack of self-respect just astounds me...

I used to like Ali, but she is becoming increasingly, and uncomfortably bitchy, most notably to Vienna. I am no fan of Vienna's--by any means--but the only thing more disturbing than a catty bitch who talks about you behind your back is a catty bitch who talks about you to your face.

I have no idea who the heck Jake is going to pick, and my money is on their relationship being short lived. I don't know why people go on this show to find love since they have like a 3% success rate. AND you end up looking like an ass.

But last night, as I watched these desperate women do and say desperate things in an attempt to win over this desperate man, I had an epiphany.

Up until this point, my dreams for my daughter included her to be kind, charitable, smart, attend a good college, and to know the value of a hard work and perseverance.

I have simplified.

Now, my goal in life is for her to be smart enough to never, ever apply to be on The Bachelor. I feel that in this, I will have succeeded as a mother.

Anything else will be a bonus.

Monday, January 25, 2010


My grandmother has Alzheimer's. She has, for some number of years now, been declining in health. A few months back, she sustained an injury which resulted in a MRSA infection and required her to have 24 hour nursing care. And so the story begins.

Unfortunately, she did not have a Power of Attorney is effect, although she did leave a will that she had drawn up through a lawyer a few years back. It was now necessary that she enter a full time care facility, the cost of which would total $80,000 per year, a cost that none of her five children were about to shoulder. More lawyers were involved, infighting amongst my disfunctional family peaked, and in the end my poor grandmother's care and her assets went under state control since the siblings couldn't agree. The state would come in and cover the costs once all her of assets were exhausted. She had only one thing to her name--her house.

She lived in a row house in Baltimore City. It was built and purchased nearly 100 years ago by my great grandparents. I think they paid around $3,000 for it, incredible that at the peak of the housing boom it was worth 100 times that. My earliest memories of life are in that house, with my great grandma Rose's cooking of everything from roast beef to ramen noodles. Her food was the best. The house was full of turn of the century antiques--things Rose had bought at that time that withstood the test of time and aged with grandeur. At the risk of sounding like an old person myself, they just don't make stuff like that anymore. Most notably in my memory are her mahogany dining room table and the two bedroom sets--four poster beds, chests of drawers with dovetail joints, the works.

When my great-grandma Rose passed away in 1989, my grandmother moved into the house. Little changed there, it still to this day has the same pale blue and white wallpaper that was there when I was an infant. The house was and is so special to me--special because my great grandparents were poor, but they owned this home. Special because my grandmother was never a rich woman, but then she owned this home. Memories, far more valuable than money, were made there. We were all raised in that house, in one way or the other.

When we lived in Maryland I had a lot of sleepovers at grandma's house. We had a special relationship and I used to love to go there, especially in the summer when we would walk to the corner and buy snow cones. It was on one of these weekends that I noticed a tiny china set in her china cabinet, what used to by my great grandma's china cabinet. My grandmother told me about her little tea set--a real, bona fide china little girl's tea set--and how it's missing some pieces. When she was a little girl she decided to have a tea party with her dolls and was hauling it down the basement steps, which were mere feet from where I was standing, and she tripped and dropped a couple of pieces. I can understand, those were some treacherous steps if I do say so myself. But all those years later, 60 years perhaps, and my grandmother still had the remaining pieces of that tea set sitting in the china cabinet, their place of honor. It was so special to her, and so it was special to me.

My mother came by today and delivered a bit of news... The state auctioned off her house. This house that's been in my family since it was piles of concrete and plaster was sold to the highest bidder. All because one woman didn't have the proper planning in place and her children couldn't find a way to resolve it.

The antique furniture inside? Auctioned as well. Because it was too heavy and too much of a bother for anyone to figure out how to move it.

And her china set? Gone too. My uncle removed some items, but my father didn't want to make the trip from Florida. And I can't help but think about that tea set. I can't help but wonder if whoever comes to clear the house out they will know the value of that little tea set. I think I know the answer...

It's hard enough for me to wrestle with the fact that for all intents and purposes, the grandmother that I know is gone. But hearing that her house, her furniture, her life's possessions, and yes, that tea set, are gone... just disposed of in such an orderly, unemotional fashion.... makes me feel like I've lost a part of myself, of my family's history.

I've lost that tea set. And with it, I've lost another little piece of my grandmother.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Miss Chevious

I love my daughter.

I really do.


But oh my golly if she isn't the naughtiest little 20 month old I've ever come across then I'm a monkey's uncle. Monkey aunt, maybe. Monkey's uncle, definitely not.

Parenting Lila has been a most humbling honor. With your third child, there is definitely a sort of "I know what I'm doing, this is old hat" mentality. Of course factoring in that each child brings different personality traits to the table makes this mentality absolutely mental. She might as well be my first baby, because I know nothing.

My boys, by comparison, were so much easier at this age. They liked me to play with them, but they were content on their own as well. It was a beautiful marriage of together time, them having independent time and me having time to take care of, I don't know, the rest of our life's pesky little nuances like dishes and laundry. And maybe a little online shopping in between.

But Lila, my dear sweet Lila, will have none of this. She's happy to sit, so long as her seat is my lap. She's happy to play, so long as I play along side her. Which is all fine and dandy until there's seven loads of laundry waiting to be folded, a pile of bills to be paid and flies are swarming around the kitchen sink (no, not really, but perhaps there might be if the windows were open).

I try to load the dishwasher, she gleefully slams it shut. After which she pronounces her joy at its closure by shouting "Yay!" in a most adorable, albeit frustrating fashion.

If I sit down at the computer for five seconds, just five little seconds please to make contact with the outside world, she comes over, throws my hand off the mouse, shoots her hands in the air and says, "Uh!" (Translation: Up, she doesn't do the "p" sound quite yet.) I used to be able to hold her in my left arm and compute with my right, but then it dawned on her precious little blonde head that all those fancy buttons on the laptop actually do something. So that honeymoon is over.

Even trying to take a picture of her is not without its challenges, as now she like to reach out, grab the camera strap and try to wrench it from my hands. She finds this to be quite a jovial little wrestling match.

After a day of the gym, grocery shopping, a round of baby dolls, and hour of books, lunch, helping her try on every pair of shoes we both own, and playing a super fun little game where she pulled everything out of my bathroom drawers while I was in the shower, I finally sit down on the couch for a break. What does Lila do? Climbs up next to me, but instead of sitting down with me like Mason or Cole would have done at this age, she picks up the remote and clocks me in the head with it. Hard. Translations: Insolent woman, you are not done entertaining me! Get up!

And then, she reached down and with a look of positive glee on her cherubic little face, she grabbed a fist full of my hair. And as if she was a little vicious Gymboree wearing vice grip, she pulled my hair harder than it's been pulled since I lived in Baltimore and got into a fist fight in the street with the "Reverend Rickey's" daughter when we were 9 years old (and he wasn't a reverend, if you know what I mean).

I love her, immensely, but it's Friday, it's been a long week, and I'm two steps from crazy. Forgive me.

Lord help me now. Grant me the strength to raise this child to adulthood.

Preferably with both of us in one piece and with some hair left on my head.

P.S. One cute new trick? When she wants her diaper changed she fetches one and lays down on the floor next to wherever I am, and sticks her legs in the air. Well, I think it's cute at least.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Race Recap

As I posted on Friday, last weekend I ran Disney's Half Marathon. The entire week before I was worked up into a tightly-wound tizzy, not over the race, but over the weather.

What kind of weather you ask? Well, the start of the race was 27 degrees and what the weatherman called a "Wintry Mix" which I now know consists of a lovely trinity of rain, sleet AND snow. It was awesome.

I had assembled an enviable race outfit--a long sleeved Nike dry fit shirt, running tights, pants to go over top of them, a running jacket, a big Target fleece jacket that I planned to ditch along the race, two pairs of gloves (laugh if you will) a scarf, and a headband to cover my ears. I sounds ridiculous, but it kept me from freezing to death.

I woke up at 3am, necessary if I was to make it to the last shuttle from the hotel which was at 4am. I got to Epcot where the race started, checked my bag, and found a nice spot near a tent to block the wind while I tried to stay warm. That's right about when it started to sleet. As a horrified Floridian, I watched the little balls of ice land on my glove and roll around. Now I understand why the northerners look at palm trees like they're something special, cause ice from the heavens might as well have been a three-headed dog the way I was staring at it.

I made a friend by that tent, Vanessa, who happened to stop there to eat her bagel with the same hopes I had of keeping warm. It was all for not, but it did keep the wind at bay. But we started chatting, waited in the pre-race port-a-potty line together, went to the start together, and before I knew it we were at the finish line together.

Here we are at Mile 4.2 where we stumbled upon Rey.

Let's back up. I started in the last corral. Even worse, I started in the BACK of the last corral. This meant, I spent miles upon miles upon miles dodging walkers. You have NO IDEA how many people did this race intending to walk the whole thing. Walkers from the start! DROVES of them! And the ruder of the bunch would walk seven or eight across so it was impossible to pass. I had really taken for granted that in my typical running I am able to go in a straight line, one foot in front of the other. This was not the case here. I wish there was a way to calculate how much energy I expended and how much extra length I added to the race with all of this bobbing and weaving. Next time I think I'll turn on my GPS to see... I think Disney should reserve the whole last wave for walkers, cause they were a total pain in my ass.

I started running on the grass because then I didn't have to dodge the walkers, but there was a whole new obstacle there--thousands of articles of discarded clothing. Jackets, shirts, hats, gloves, ponchos and even trash bags.... it was however the lesser of the two evils and as long as the ground was flat enough I was pretty much on the grass. But all the bobbing and weaving and jumping over people's crap, my hips were screaming.

I decided to chronicle my journey with some high quality iPhone pictures. It was fun to run through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, and I couldn't help but think about how many times I'd been in that same spot, except in a vehicle.

Rey, bless his heart, was running from point to point on the race with my camera like he was the paparazzi. I admit it was really fun to see him in random spots on the race, kinda like a Rey version of Where's Waldo. And I handed him a bunch of layers of clothes at one point too so I got to keep the cheapo jacket I bought intended to discard on the race. I became rather fond of it.

Unfortunately, Rey is completely clueless on how to function my camera. He took tons and tons of picture--all on "Close Up" mode. So the majority are blurry messes. I will have to give Rey some rudimentary lessons before we try this again.

Somehow he got a good picture of this guy, running along in a surgical mask and rubber gloves, like he's about to perform surgery in the middle of the race a la M*A*S*H (which I now know stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, thanks to last night's Quiz Night).

It was so cold that my Gu packets were in a semi-frozen state. That was really freaky. I'm used to being able to shoot them, swig some water and go, but I daresay I had to chew the buggers. And my Carmex was definitely frozen. And everyone knows how I can't live without my Carmex. The fact that I'm in Flordia, running, and small packets of things are freezing... well it's just not natural.

After 6 miles, we got to the Magic Kingdom, which was really a lovely sight. I had to pee since almost the beginning of the race. It was either stop at one of the water stations and wait in a ten person deep port-a-potty line, or stop somewhere in Magic Kingdom. Which would you choose? Tomorrowland it was. But I still had to wait in a line, and it was painful, painful to watch the walkers going by that I would have to start dodging again.

Then I saw Buzz Lightyear. And I thought I should take a picture of him, the boys would get a kick about it when I recapped my race to them.

Except then Buzz sorta charged at me. In a freaky, scary, serial killer kinda way.

So I took a picture of that, too.

And just like that, you were out of the Magic Kingdom. The race was roads, roads, more roads, five seconds in Magic Kingdom, then some more roads, roads, more roads, then five seconds in Epcot, then it was over.

To say I was cold afterwards would be a complete and utter understatement. It was below 30 degrees, I was sweaty, I was down several layers of clothes, and it occurred to me only then that I was soaking wet. When I took off my gloves my fingers were bone white and shriveled up like prunes. My feet were even worse. It took me over an hour to warm up, most of which I was shivering so bad I could have dang near bitten my tongue off.

Cold is one thing, cold and wet is a kind of pure torture.

Despite all that unpleasantness, I had a fun time. I met so many people it was amazing! It was like we were all banded together in this insanity of running a race in what can only be described as horrific conditions. I love meeting people, so it just added to my fun factor.

I am glad it's over, but I would totally do it again. I could only hope it would be minus the "Wintry Mix."

Friday, January 8, 2010

Goin' to the Mouse's House

The time has come.

Tomorrow is the Disney Half Marathon race that I stupidly signed up for.

I am a nervous wreck. 50% of that is because of the race and 50% of that is because of the weather.

The forecast? 27 degrees and rain. Some bold weather folks are even reporting snow.

Snow in Florida? It must be the apocalypse.

My question is this--when did the weather become a bigger obstacle than running 13.1 miles in this scenario?

But I am going, and I am running. And I will finish, because after all, I finish everything I start. This will be no exception.

In the meantime I will invoke the phrase used by a little train friend of mine:

I think I can, I think I can!

And when I DO, I hope I haven't lost any toes to frostbite in the process.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Last year, I posted my resolutions.

The first on the list was to read one book a month. I have always been an avid reader, just waylayed by the birth of too many kids, so this was a safe bet. It just took me 75% of the year to get started... Yep, about September I started reading about one book every two or three days. So I guess without realizing it I have kept that one. I never have yet read The Hour I First Believed yet though.

The second was to get Mason to get a better diet. Um, yeah right. Them's pipe dreams.

The third was to finish potty training Cole. He is of course potty trained now, but I can't take credit really. It was bound to happen. How many kids go to college still wearing a diaper? He's almost four for crying out loud.

The fourth was to cook dinner four times a week, which I promptly amended to three times a week. Honestly, it's the stuff of miracles if I cook three times per month.

Then, a few days later after a few days of mulling, I came up another.

This last minute inclusion was to take more video of the kids. Well, this year we purchased a Flip Video Camera, and that certainly assisted with the cause. More video was most definitely taken in '09 than was taken in '08. Is there still tons of room for improvement to catch the kids doing cute things of having important moments? You betcha.

So out of five resolutions for 2009, I can say I kept one of them, defaulted into keeping another, and barely eeked by one keeping a third. The other two were lost causes from the get go.

In light of the fact that people don't typically keep these wretched resolutions, and I being included in the category of "people", these are my resolutions for 2010:

1. Gain a lot of weight and be really out of shape.
2. Have unruly, undisciplined children.
3. Sleep very little.
4. Maintain a very untidy household with tons of takeout food.
5. Learn gymnastics.
6. Never allow words to fail me.

Here's to 2010!