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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

An Insightful Train Ride

A few days ago I was riding the subway to meet Derek. It was right before the 5 o'clock rush so there were relatively few people on the train. An African American man who had been sitting across from me got up to exit the subway, but before he left he screamed as loud as he could, "I fu*#'n hate white people!" The incredibly loud declaration was filled with so much emotion, passion and force I took what he said at face value. As the doors closed I felt deep in my heart that he indeed did hate white people, maybe he even hated me.

I looked around at the other passengers. The vast majority, surprisingly, were white guys like me. With the exception of a few Latinos and two or three African Americans, we were all of Anglo-decent. No one else seemed phased by the hateful explosion (granted this is NYC and the masses don't get phased easily) but no one seemed the least bit upset by the event. Everyone went right back to their ipad, book, music or game after the shock of the man's explosive voice faded away.

I, on the other hand, felt my face grow red hot. I was surprised by my involuntary response, and because my initial shock was quickly morphing into embarrassment that border-lined on shame. I felt stripped of identity and arbitrarily reduced to nothing more than a meaningless social construct known as "skin color".

I looked at the African American man sitting across from me squarely in the face and wondered, "Do you hate me too because of the color of my skin? What about my son? Is someone so beautiful and innocent a symbol of disgust to you too?"  I quickly looked away and felt my face grow red hot again.

It's not just the hate that was so upsetting (although, as Derek knows, I have a very LOW tolerance for any kind of violence -- including hate. So yes, that's upsetting but that's not what shamed me). It was hating me -- or someone classified as being "like me" -- based on something I cannot control, something that is part of me but does no define me, my skin.

I thought about all the people who had been hated for the same stupid reason, and maybe I'm going too far here, but I honestly felt the tinniest  bit of understanding for some of the complexities and degrading properties of prejudice. I wasn't upset, rather I felt as though my eyes had been opened ever so slightly to a side of an issue that had been so unfamiliar to me before and for that I am grateful. I hope that particular encounter makes me a more loving, open and accepting member of society.

After I told Derek about the incident, he told me he wonders what someone has experienced in life to feel such a lack of acceptance for other members of the human race -- for people who are just like him. Indeed. I just hope for myself or anyone in my family, we will never be the means of propagating such intolerance and hate for the future generations.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Toilets, NYC and The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

I have a very abnormal and very real hate for the constant and inconvenient bodily urge known as “peeing”. Yes, I agree. It’s weird. I’ve often wondered how it’s possible that after 27 years I haven’t acquired a certain level of acceptance or even appreciation for the necessary and, in some cases, enjoyable impulse. However, the truth is I find the ritual one great annoyance.

I remember as a kid playing in the forest that surrounded my house (literally. Our house was surrounded by a dense central-Florida brush, and it was the perfect place for an adventurous imagination like mine) and I was too busy building a tree-fort, fighting perilous intruders or scouting my magical kingdom to be bothered by such trivial things as a “potty break”. After years of watching my brother’s fine examples, I would often find a little girl tree – do the deed – and get right back to my very vital playtime. That was until my dad caught me using my little girl tree. In no uncertain terms he screamed everything any concerned father would say if they found their daughter’s fleshy bum exposed to the bright, clear afternoon sky. He also managed to remind me with a fatherly growl that we drank well water – water that was drawn straight from the very ground I was peeing in.  After that, I somehow managed to find time for the toilet.

In high school I gained the reputation as the girl who could hold her pee all day. I learned if you simply ignore the impulse long enough it eventually goes away…only to be replaced by the more brutally inconvenient bladder infection. Needless to say, after a few of those beauties I was quickly cured of my propensity for high school toilet aversion.

Yet, I can honestly say that in the last 10 years or so I've grown accustomed to and even made time for the necessary lavatory breaks. That was until I became pregnant. The sheer number of visits alone would drive any normal person absolutely crazy, much less someone like me. Personally I thought I was handling the change quite well until my bladder somehow shrunk to the size of a kumquat. I would pee before leaving the house only to find the urge coming back 5 minutes later. WHAT? WHY?

This became especially complicated by the simple fact that I live in NYC – the city with NO public restrooms. If I walked into a store I could only hope the manager was a woman who understood the pains of childbearing, and who might be willing to show mercy by way of a toilet. Otherwise (and sadly, this was more often the case) I would have to hold it in hopes of finding a McDonald's or Starbucks en route to my destination. And I won’t even begin to describe the anatomy of NYC public restrooms. Let’s just say I have arrived at many a home, business or appointment bouncing in desperate hope and sheer anticipation of a clean toilet seat. I even became so desperate as to seek out research. There had to be a way to ensure I was fully utilizing my precious bathroom time. The experts suggest if you bend forward, lift a leg, close an eye and do acrobatics while on the toilet you’re more likely to completely empty your bladder. I've tried. It’s a lie.

Which finally brings me to the climax of my story and the point of this blog post: For Thanksgiving my husband and I decided to join our friends at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan. We were loaded with cinnamon rolls, hot cocoa, blankets, chairs and the customary parade surviving tactics. We had found the right spot, we had saved the right amount of space for our posse and now all we needed to do was wait for the glorious festivities to begin. Fully aware of the city I’m in and the pathetic size of my bladder, I cautiously drank 1 cup filled ¾ of the way with hot cocoa and a few desperate sips of water. That’s itThe irony of pregnancy is that you’re thirsty all the time and therefore you have to pee all the time.   Yet, I was willing to sacrifice my thirst on the altar of The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and to the city with no public restrooms. Then it hit me…the clear urge to find a toilet. I looked at my watch. The parade would begin in a half-hour. I rationalized that I would be too excited by the miraculous sights and sounds of the parade to be distracted by my bladder. I could wait. I looked at my watch. It was so close…I could definitely wait.     

I looked at my watch again. Oh no. It had only been 30 seconds! I thought I had been holding on for a solid 5 minutes. That’s when I knew I had to do something. I couldn't last a half-hour.

A friend nearby suggested I do the mother-tested towel tent trick. If you ever went to a swimming pool or beach as a child I guarantee you either did this or saw this being done. The towel tent trick involves 2 very trustworthy individuals who hold-up a towel (or in my bigger bum adult situation, a blanket) around another person while they change from their bathing suit to their street clothes. Unfortunately, I was not at a beach, I was not 4 years old and I had no clothes to change into – only a cup to try and pee in. I’ll save you the logistics of our tactics. Let’s just say it involved someone thrusting an iphone next to my ear with emitting water sounds; singing from nearby friends to cover up any sound me or my pee might make; and literally thousands of people walking or standing next to me as I tried to lower my trousers in order to pee – all while wrapped in a canopy of inconspicuous blankets held by my husband and a friend who couldn't look me in the eye.

Then I froze. My muscles wouldn't budge, nor would they listen to my brain’s silent command to work! I had extreme stage fright. I could not do it. I tired breathing deeply to relax: nothing. I tried focusing on the iphone’s water sounds: nothing. I could not do it! Giving up, I reasoned I simply didn't have to go bad enough. When I did, I would be able to go without a hiccup. I looked at my watch. The parade was about to begin in less than 15 minutes.

I stood around, chatted, laughed about my exploits and waited. When I realized I refused to move because of the pain I felt with a single step, I decided to try the blankets again. This time I told no one, except for my trusted tent-blanket holders. Assuming the additional privacy would help in the transaction, I lowered my pants, positioned the cup and got ready to let her flow. Then a young family stood, literally, right next to me. I couldn't believe my luck. I knew there was no chance of it happening now. Dejected and defeated, I called our mission quiets.

I surveyed the situation. We were right next to central park. The other side of the street might have a public restroom somewhere but I had no idea where that might be and we only had about 10 minutes until the start of the parade. Plus, if I crossed the street there was no guarantee I would make it back to my group of friends. The cops regulating the parade route where no joke, and if the parade had started before I got back there was NO way I could cross the street again. My only real option was central park. I could see the floats approaching, and I knew the parade was about to begin at any moment.

I grabbed a wet-wipe, my husband and a blanket. I was on a mission and this time I wasn't going to fail. Heading into central park we ventured off the beaten path toward a large bridge. I broke through the metal barricades and slid next to the wall in the center of the dome-shaped bridge.  I could see people on the other side of the bridge clear as day. My only hope was that the looming floats down the street would distract them and no one would be turning around to view me in all my glory. My husband stood to my left, the side of me facing central park – where a few stragglers were still walking in hopes of seeing the parade for themselves. Throwing a blanket around me, I lowered my pants and let it come. And it finally did! Hallelujah! Yet, my muscles had been so tight from before that the stream was agonizingly slow. No matter how much I tried to push, it stubbornly remained as slow as maple syrup on a cold winters morning. I asked my husband if anyone was coming. Patiently, yet strongly, he urged me to hurry. That was, however, the one thing I couldn’t do. I could not make it move any faster. What was worse was that it was still coming! There was so much that it seemed to have lasted an entire minute. I couldn't believe it! Suddenly, my husband with slightly less patience and more urgency told me to hurry up! I couldn't see but I could hear footsteps. Someone was definitely coming. I had barely enough time to seal the deal, pull up my pants and take a few steps before an entire family walked right past us.

To be completely honest, reader, I’m pretty sure they walked right through my little puddle of pee. Pretty gross, right? Well, if you've read this far than you deserve to hear the moral we walked away with on that Thanksgiving morning: don’t ever judge what a pregnant lady has to do to survive in NYC, and the shoes you wear in NYC should never, ever be worn inside your house. 

However, the parade was AMAZING and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Sure, I had to get up at the crack of dawn and fight the crowds, but I will never forget how I felt as I watched the parade or the way the city looked afterwards: I felt at home. It was truly a family-friendly, morally clean and uplifting event for which I was THANKFUL.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Note to Luca: Power of Names and Nicknames

Luca C. Hervey. That's your name little one. Sometimes I daydream of cute little nicknames we might call you: "Luca Bug!" or "Luca C. Bean" but maybe your nickname won't be remotely connected to Luca. None of mine are. To your Aunt Trina I'm Beebes 90% of the time and the other 10% of the time I'm Ashley (usually the given name is only used when she isn't to happy with me or in a formal setting like an introduction). To your Papa Williams I'm Muffaleupagus or Muff for short. I have no idea how he came up with that. My best guess is it's a derivative from the Sesame Street character, Snuffleupagus or "Snuffy". I do remember being an AVID Sesame Street fan as a child so the connection is possible. There is no sweeter sound than hearing him say "Hello Muff"or hearing Trina say "Hey Beebes". It's as comforting as a mouth full of macaroni and cheese, a blanket pulled up to your chin or someone you love holding your hand. I hope they never stop. 

Let's not forget your dad. Your dad's nickname from his mom is "Bucky" (not nearly as cool as Muff or Beebes, right? Kidding. None of these are very cool, but that's not the point. And yes, there is a point and yes, I'm getting there).  Apparently he loved to rock -- and still does -- in a rocking chair when he was younger. So much so, that she gave him the nickname. 

Names are incredibly powerful and meaningful. From nicknames that make us feel safe and loved, to Biblical stories of men and women receiving new names to reflect their new position with God and in society. Names have the power to change people and to incite in them a desire to be more than themselves -- to be worthy of the name they bear. (Alma 23:16 - 17). 

When your dad and I were newly married we talked about possible names we might like. Unlike most couples we had a relatively easy time coming up with something we felt would be unique, meaningful and worthy of a child of ours. :-) I told your dad I really liked Biblical names because they hold  special meaning to Christians everywhere and in the same breath I said and I really like Luke. Now your father, being the red-headed Italian that he is, instantly suggested the Italian form for Luke, Luca. I fell in love. It was unique but not weird. And you'd always know how important your dad's mission was to him and how much he loved the people he served. I thought it was a great first name. For the middle name I wanted a family name. If the first name was not to be a family name then the middle name MUST be. The C. comes from your great-grandfather Williams and your Papa Williams. Both of them are and were Godly men who have made this little world of ours a better place by their mere existence. I couldn't think of better men to have influence your life. A life I have loved, protected, fought for, waited for, hoped for and believed in -- even more than my own.  

So that's how you became Luca C. Hervey. We hope you love your name. We hope you find honor in it, and will allow yourself to feel the symbolism and deep meaning that is yours to carry. We love you. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


My excuse for neglecting my blog has been, "At work I write all day. The last thing I want to do is come home, stare at a computer screen and write some more." (Side note: I'm beginning to question the virtue that you should turn your hobby into a job.)

The truth, however, is that I do not write. I blog.

I use too many corny phrases (that my boss just eats up by the way), and post too many exclamation marks that even I'm beginning to cringe.

Usually I come home, numbingly exercise, talk about this and that, eat some kind of dinner and sleep.

Sadly, there's not enough quit and inactivity for blissful reflection. That is until tonight.

Right now I should be on mile 2 of my 3 mile run. Instead I took a bath and ate tortilla chips -- alone.

It was in my solitude and delinquent revelry that I began to think. It was rich, deep and comforting. At first it was superficial thoughts: what should I make for dinner? Is that another hang nail just waiting to happen? I should trim it, but instead I think I'm just going to bite it. Then my hands dropped into the water and I sat back. I closed my eyes, and broke the dam of pent up thoughts. I let them rush over me, cover me, warm me and then be acknowledge by me.

I picked one up. I wondered a little and dropped it. I picked up another thought. This time it stuck. I wondered, do people think of me as often as I do of them? Am I some freak? Some anomaly that hangs onto people, memories and feelings longer than others -- or perhaps longer than I should? Is it wrong to look back and think often on the men and women who I may never see again, but who are forever in my heart? Is it inappropriate to waste time wondering what they're doing, and if -- at that very moment, even -- they're wondering about me too?


But maybe not. Perhaps the people who have left a mark on me, also have a mark FROM me. And when they see an outrageously funny seinfield episode they'll think of me. Or when they drink herbal tea, they'll wonder what I'm up to. Or when they hear something about women's rights, they'll wish they could share their nugget of information with me. Better yet, when they decide to drop the tv remote and pick up a book, they'll wish I had seen the act of brilliance and that I could applaud them for it.

Hopefully I am right and that I'm not alone. I think we could all use a little more of our memory to actually REMEMBER the people, places and times that are bunched together in our hearts, brains, personality and experiences.

A shout out to my man, Oscar Wilde, seems appropriate, " the diary that we all carry about with us." I am obsessed with books and addicted to reading. It's no wonder, therefore, that I love my memories too.

Thank you, Oscar.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summers were made for love.

Are you still there? Do you remember me - your once faithful friend and writer? I have not forgotten you. Tonight my head and hands itch for the keyboard, my blog and you.

It has been too long since I have sat down and forced my mind to mutate from private inner musings, to public utterances of sound and sentences. Forgive me for my hiatus. You see, I fell in love.

Is it cliche, dear reader, to tell you that my heart has finally and completely been captured in the most unlikely circumstances? Is it mere cheesiness to admit that in a matter of days I knew that I had met a man who had stirred my soul in a way that I had never known before? That in his eyes I saw simplicity and honesty, both keys perfectly formed to unlock my heart to once again hope, believe, trust and finally love again.

If it is all "hosh posh" to you then I say do not read on. For my head and heart are full tonight with the beauty that so many ignorantly shy away from, or foolishly take for granted: that beauty is love - the deep, lasting sort that changes a person from mediocre to the extraordinary as life encompasses more than a "me" but rather a "we".

But before I begin, let me describe the very object of my affection. I read once that the reason books are so meaningful and powerful is that they resemble real people, real events and real life more accurately than any other medium. In short, we see ourselves and those around us in literature. I agree with this principle whole heartedly, and as I began to match my friends and family with the names of so many characters dearly loved the thought popped into my head, " Derek is just like Mr. Bingly! Post needing the approval of Mr. Darcy and his sisters." You know, the Mr. Bingly who decides for himself that Jane is the only woman he wants, despite her low position in society and the scoffs of nay-sayers. Mr. Bingly, so kind, optimistic, good natured, generous, and happy finally grows up to be a man. This is my Derek. Only add a few more important virtues: charity, a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, integrity, gentleness, a deep spirit of service, hard-working, great communicator, spontaneous, intelligent and aware of the important things in life -- all of that and still it is a mere fleeting glance into the heart and soul of Derek. He is deeper and more beautiful than my flimsy words have power to express.

I feel already that Derek's influence has softened my edges and created a more beautiful and complete me. He is my match. Together, we form a more perfect phase of being and living. We transcend the earthly and touch the eternal as we commit, covenant, sacrifice, serve, cherish and love one another. My connection to Derek is far beyond anything I have ever shared with anyone before. He is the first person who actually SEES me. He sees and understands all of me, and he loves me for it. Despite my shortcomings, he sees vast potential in the person I am and will eventually become. In his love, I will become more than I have ever imagined.

God has offered me a gift and a miracle.

I have no more fears, only dreams.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Audaces fortuna iuvat

I’ve tried writing one poem and three blog posts to you. I write a line or two and scrap it, knowing you would laugh at my foolish attempts. I feel completely inadequate to address you in verse, preferring instead a long drive where words fill the space between lost glances and undiscovered feelings. Yet the beautiful person you are and hide is blooming and alive in the words on your pages. So I’m trying something new; communicating with you in your medium. I only ask for your patients as I try to navigate my feelings to the page.

You were the perfect person to join me and Jane Eyre. I could spend days, weeks, or months in a bookstore with you as my teacher. I love that you find beauty and magic in a town that stands as the epitome of American embarrassment, and remind me all over again that I know nothing about the world I’m living in. Thank you for helping me let go and say goodbye to the JSFB along with the fully stocked fending machine muffins, costing exactly $1.20. I pull out my cell phone a million times a day wanting to send you a message just so I can get my fill of your witty humor. Inevitably, however, I talk myself out of the idea until the next impulse comes, and I know before my hands reaches inside my pocket I’m giving in this time.

Monday, May 2, 2011


"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

We look just like the terrorists: rejoicing in death and murder. I don't mean to say I'm not glad he's dead.

But, I had hoped we were better than this...