Playing Katniss Everdeen in Dupont Forest.

Fun thing about my going to Boston to study Broadcast Journalism? My interest actually stemmed from some experience working in background acting in the blossoming North Carolina film industry. (I even had acting lessons. Hard core, I know.) I had one of the best nights of my life in the same room as Mark Schwahn (One Tree Hill, anyone?) shooting a bar scene outside of Charlotte. Coincidentally with the same casting company that had also cast for The Hunger Games which had shot in North Carolina months before that time. I worked with a bunch of Hunger Games background actors and, like I already said, had one of the best nights ever.

Fast forward three years and I had upgraded to playing Katniss in my old friends’ movie––but in all actuality, I was just frolicking on one of the best WNC hikes I’ve been on in a while. On the natural set for a handful of scenes from the movie.

Dupont State Park

Photo cred: The lovely Sarah Bennett.

And my only qualifications at this point to play the part were actually that:

– I was wearing a braid.

– I had on fast running shoes.

– I have a degree in broadcast journalism now. So. . . I’m qualified to be on camera.

There were actually no tributes though. And no murdering. And for all that matter, the only camera was my iOS-5c.

Just beautiful waterfalls, gravel treks, families with dogs, spots for lunches on wide rocks and familiar sights from the big screen of years past.

Dupont State Forest It was an excellent way to pass a Saturday with Sarah. The teasing 50-degree weekends of North Carolina that fools you into thinking you can wear a t-shirt only for you to be cold–BUT realizing that it is still perfect hiking weather.

Dupont State Forest offers about four and a half miles of scenic views in Brevard, NC. A beautiful loop that takes you through some gorgeous woods and babbling water.

High Falls, Dupont State Forest

High Falls, Dupont State Forest

Seen above is High Falls. It is both gigantic and loud. Sarah and I trekked off the trail and out onto the rocks to grab these photos. It was delightfully fun and totally within the bounds of rules. But, still made us feel like risk takers. That said, it wasn’t a risk-taking hike by any means. If you’re looking for a moderately easy hike in WNC, this is one of your sure bets.

Five total waterfalls (that’s a lot) and a predominantly downhill hike. I’m not sure how much more you can ask for. Entertaining AND pretty easy.

Triple Falls, Dupont State Park

Triple Falls. This guy counts as three.

OK, Maybe an actual Jennifer Lawrence sighting? But you can’t have it all, they say.

This is the area where Katniss helps injured Peta. No sightings to report.

This is the area where Katniss helps injured Peta. No sightings to report.

It does appear that while the film industry in North Carolina has suffered since the high days of The Hunger Games, Dupont State Forest has profited from the increased tourism. There is a very helpful staff and new visitor center to point you on the right trail.

We ended the day with some tasty soup at Mayberry’s followed by a delicious American IPA at Brevard Brewing Company. Mayberry’s had a nice menu and very, very good biscuits with their soup. Brevard Brewing had a lot of brew options and at $3.75 a pint––again, I’m not sure what more you could ask for. I totally recommend the 10-minute drive to explore downtown Brevard. It’s the cute small town vibe in WNC that you’re looking for. I promise. The quintessential hike and brew Saturday that North Carolina gabs about.

Brevard Brewing Company

Post-hike brews with my Boston-to-NC bestie Sarah.

It’s days and adventures like this that really make me take a deep breath of NC. I’m so lucky for the time that I have here while I look for the next grand adventure. How lucky to have had the start here that has launched me on the trajectory that I’m headed.

Home is a very, very lovely place.

A new kind of adventure.

This is exactly how I feel some days.

The new year has started; but my “next chapter,” at certain minutes, can feel like it hasn’t. That’s what the gap time between grad school and that first job offer can feel like. If you let it–that is.

My last chapter, the Boston without Andy, the finishing touches of grad school, the readiness to move from security to new challenges––that chapter could have been called “The Push.” It resulted in me producing some incredible work in Boston. (If I do say so myself. Apologies for not being more humble, but I can’t even begin to count the hours that I put into this. And if I had it to do over again then I would be an even more educated perfectionist and fix so much….But I digress…)

Have I shown you the quick highlights? If not, take a peek:

In the month that I tied up loose ends and trekked back to North Carolina, I’ve been working on freelance video work and applying to jobs––but that chapter . . . “The Push.” It ended as we exited I-90 out of Boston.

I had it in my mind that 2015 would be a new chapter in and of itself.

The first job. That would be the new chapter.

As I look at this time in between though, and I feel the temptation to feel like that GIF. . . a blinking type prompt. A story in waiting.

I simultaneously realize and recognize that “The Push” has ended and “The Search” has started. This in-between is definitely the next chapter. Sure, maybe the job starts another new chapter––but this time is just as important.

If my life were a night at the symphony the conductor would have played a vibrant, fast, intense composition and now we’re in the fluid, softer staccato, weaving different instruments and making you listen to the pauses that fill the song. This chapter, “The Search,” is like a palette cleanser in a seven course meal, where the next piece is going to be extremely flavorful.

But you have to be ready.

One of my favorite things about “The Search” is that I’ve been able to reconstruct my diet and health. I’ve been running again. And after suffering a stress fracture over a year ago, I’m still having to be delicate about the structure of my new half-marathon training.

You can’t run your longest run on a Tuesday and then start your next longest run on Wednesday.

You have to have a cross training day in the middle.

And that day doesn’t “not matter.”

It’s not a “non-day.”

It’s essential.

Each chapter with a purpose. Each phase building on the next.

My 2015 isn’t a blinking type prompt. In fact it’s already well started: With cooking dinners for my family. With savoring the time I have with those I haven’t been able to see as much. With a running calendar. With some freelance videography work. With research of jobs and locations. With constant news watching and the daily allowed FRIENDS binge (I won’t try to hide it….Netflix is definitely on with FRIENDS in the background right this minute).

This time is a huge gift and, while granted it’s not easy every day to sit down and write a blog post about soaking in the quiet times when you’re someone who draws on energy, I understand that this chapter is in perfect timing.

So, if you’re like me and in between the major action––don’t feel like your next chapter is waiting to begin. Embrace the one you’re writing now.

3 Weeks A.B.: Life After Boston

I’ve been back in North Carolina for close to three weeks now. Three weeks of a grad school graduation, moving, family, friends, holidays, visitors and readjusting sleep cycles. There is a lot percolating on my job search front; but nothing ready to write about quite yet. In the meantime, I’m holding this quote above close to my heart.

Searching for a new job (whilst looking all over the country, mind you) is quite scary in so many ways. At the same time though, I embrace knowing that it’s the only way to go. You can’t follow up Boston with going right back where you started.

Adventure should precede adventure.

The funny part of looking for a job though is the normalcy that creeps in from being back home. A car that needs to be inspected. New tires. Trips to the bank. Cooking dinner for mom and dad. There’s almost a sense that this is actually a Twilight episode where adult Ashley goes back to a parallel dimension from when she was 17 years old.

After living a thousand miles from home and seeing my family approximately two times in 12 months, I’m embracing it.

One of my favorite parts of life is seeing how you have exactly what you really need when that time is present. Today may have been full of some preparatory job work, but it was also full of soaking in my cup of coffee and looking around my parents living room grateful to be in the one place that provides the best springboard for “next”:

h.o.m.e.

It amazes me as I look back at “New Years” posts of yesterday. I was always quick to make a long list of hopes and goals and accomplishments to tick off.

This year I have a mental list of things to do; but most of what I want to accomplish in 2015 is a feeling. I want to feel my heart operating full time at that bursting capacity. The way your heart feels when you adore what your job consists of. The way your heart operates when you’re embracing and appreciating the small moments with people you love.

I have been so focused on the tedium of accomplishment for the last two years (perhaps that is inevitable when you’re in school), that in 2015 I want to focus on the emotion of it. When I’m fully feeling my work is when I actually finish it to the very best quality. When I’m breathing and relishing my relationships is when I act like the very best friend, daughter, sister, girlfriend and co-worker.

Full heart and full steam ahead. A good mantra as I go into this next year.
For all of my rumblings about how, for me, change is truly hard––I’m getting to be quite the accomplished ‘transitioner.’ For me, if 2015 were a road sign it would inevitably be: “Curve Ahead.”

The art of being alone.

Every single personality test in the world will tell you that I’m an extrovert.

Lately I haven’t really played the part though.

“Why couldn’t you just go to a bar to watch the Panthers game?” Andy asked me tonight as we chatted about the Panthers nauseating loss to the Seahawks.

(More irritating? The game was blacked out in Boston––for what, I thought, was no good reason. Usually I love some home shopping TV but please don’t try to sell me a pressure cooker instead of showing me the game I need to watch. I digress.)

“Well, I wouldn’t want to go to the bar alone,” I said.

“You could ask someone to go with you. . . ”

Haha, I just laughed and shook my head. In total rare form, I was completely and utterly alone practically all weekend and it was exactly what I wanted.

For the first time. . . in a long time . . .I had an apartment to myself and no commitments for deadlines or people breathing down my neck. It seemed 100 percent appropriate to sleep too late, watch Lifetime movies, cook comfort food, go on some runs and embrace no make-up for almost 48 hours.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 11.46.40 PM

Isn’t Boston just beautiful? This is one of the best parts of this Sunday.

Honestly, it seemed to be the only logical way to spend the last two free days that I’ll likely have for the next 12 days. Starting tomorrow I enter the outer rings of torment . . . All leading up to the summation of all of my graduate thesis work on Tuesday, November 4th. For those of you outside of Bean Town and out of ear distance from all my talk of politics, my thesis is to produce a three-hour live results show chronicling polling updates and coordinating live reporters across the East Coast. To say that it’s an ambitious project is to put it lightly.

Extroverts typically get energy from being around other people and socializing. I completely, entirely do just that. But for this size of project and the amount of focus needed––it seems only reasonable that I took it quiet. I hunkered down. And I feel ready now for the marathon that starts tomorrow at 6:30AM.

Prayers that “The Midterms 2014″ goes off without a hitch!

8 Days Until My Thesis is Done….

19 Days Until Katie Visits….

31 Days Until Seattle….

55 Days Until I Move Home….

….Holy Crap….

…Blink……Blink…..Blink….

…Signals of back to life….

I won’t belabor you with the reasons or how “crazy busy” (but for real) my grad-school life has been. Instead, I’ll share with you my thoughts and lusts and happinesses on this Friday night.

In things I want, pencils that make me write in my Journal again. I have all the feels and too little time to write them. Related, y’all it is HARD to live 3000 miles away from your boyfriend who you both love very much and also are used to pretty much seeing every waking moment of the day.

In other things that I’m missing: home. For some reason, perhaps it’s being busy or maybe it’s my second autumn away from home, but I’ve been really craving time with my best friends and family. It’s odd to not be able to have “birthday weekend” with Brooke. It’s not fun to see all of the Instagram photos from Appalachian’s Homecoming and not be there. Meh! I need to make a serious point to schedule trips home next fall so that I can join in on the fun again!!! PS: Someone buy me this, also.

Imma get a dog. A dachshund dog. Shhh, don’t mention it to my Mom. She doesn’t realize that she’s actually going to get it. Well, she’s going to get two. In all of my “I miss home,” “I want to be comforted,” “I’m entering a new, stay at home more, little bit lamer stage of life and am now magically ready for a dog” — well, I’ve decided that I’m ready for a new dachshund or two. My obsession has resulted in too much Pinteresting and daydreaming about a little fellow named Franklin.

I’m ready to start running. Yes, I realize that writing, NC, dachshunds and running are old news when it comes to Ashley — but stick with me. I haven’t ran normally in SIX months again. I re-injured my stress fracture in April and since then it’s been a frustrating path of getting fluffy. But I ran twice in the last week to no visible after effects on the leg. That means tomorrow I will try to run one mile. And then I’ll walk a lot. But if tomorrow is one mile it’s maybe one more mile closer to be being back to six. Part of my stress craze comes from not running regularly. I just know it. Side note: Check out “16 Breathtaking Runs Across The Country” by Buzzfeed. THIS is my front yard right now, basically. I need Andy to take me on the Seattle run this Thanksgiving.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.43.02 PMAll of this missing home, looking forward to what comes next stuff aside? Living in Boston is perfect for me. This city, every day I’m reminded, is a perfect place for my personality. It’s vibrant in an old, quiet, subtle way. The brick, the brownstone, the people. I really love living here. How many people can say that they walked past the lights of Fenway Park on their way home every night this week? I love that this week’s errands took me through the Boston Common, by Copley Square and constantly around the shadow of the Citgo sign. Boston is good. And while, foremost right now Boston feels brief. It is still, continuingly, a sweet goodness. I still know that this is just where I’m supposed to be.

So, consider this a dip of the toes.

I’m ready to be writing again.

And I’m ready to be talking about where this adventure is going next.

Perhaps all of the distractions above? Writing. North Carolina. Dachshunds. Running. Those distractions of comforts will keep me distracted from the anxieties that keep reminding me that change is … again … right around the corner.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.40.04 PM

We call this my “drama tiara.”

I can’t help that I was born with a type-A personality.

Symptoms include overactive planning, over-thinking small details and needing to feel entirely in control at all times.

Sometimes, when the planning is going wrong, I have no control and the small details are overwhelming—my feelings decide to take the reigns.

And I put on my “drama tiara.” Aptly named by either my mother or bff Katie. I can’t remember.

Amen.

I get extremely worked up and everything is just, for lack of a better phrase, well…it’s all going to hell!

Then the second phase of this 3-year-old-style meltdown begins–which is the inability to move on. I have to dwell and sulk and freak out until something magical happens that neither I nor anyone else can forecast that alleviates my anxieties.

I’m, admittedly, kind of a nut job.

This is what I really need to be telling myself…

Over the past year it’s been too easy for me to get into these funks and forget that the thing that makes me feel better is pretty simple.

It’s Jesus.

This past week I’ve been constantly working on finishing SIX final packages for my internship. (Y’all that’s like 60 hours of work, likely.) Not to mention I’ve been working on that whilst saying goodbye to Andy as he moved away from Boston (just goodbye for a week—but in my full drama, I’m acting like it’s goodbye forever) and also packing up my first Boston apartment.

Somebody get me a piece of pie or something.

It’s just moments like tonight on a Saturday night feeling sorry for myself and looking at my to-do list and the empty spot next to me on the couch that I kind of have to pinch myself. And remind myself that I control my feelings — they don’t control me.

So, y’all — maybe some prayers over the next week while I get my life re-situated!?

In the meantime, I’m hanging out on the REVO Church Podcast page. Feel free to join me, :).

^^ That.

Two Weeks ‘Til . . .

1 - My summer internship is finished. I will have produced 24 three-minute stories over the course of 12 weeks. WOAH. You can check out the archive of me behind the desk and then also out around Newton, MA here: newtv.org.

2 - Finally my new reel <key word> should be up on reporterashleydavis.com. Which means, I’m on the cusp of being ready to apply for my first full-time reporting job.

3 - The first Boston apartment that I called home will be packed up into boxes.

4 - I will be on the verge of hiring my replacement to train for my graduate assistant position at Boston University. :-O!

5 - Andy’s days in Boston are coming to a close. It’s okay though. We’re up for tackling the seemingly inevitable long-distance challenge. (But maybe send some nice prayers our way, since it’s not going to be as simple and happy as being in the same city.)

In the way of the universe, change comes with buddies. So a lot happens all at one time. But at the end of two weeks of hard work I will be greeted with: a) a strong mimosa. b) multiple benedryls or c) a very very strong mimosa. Any of which will HAPPILY get me through a bi-coastal flight from BOS -> SEA for me to finally visit and spend some time with my Andy in his hometown. For eight whole days. It is guaranteed to be the best.

Seattle was on my “things I’m dying to do” list way before I even moved to Boston. It’s even more now it’s so meaningful. It’s the whole side of Andy, who I feel I know so well, that I haven’t been able to see yet. Your hometown, when you love it as much as Andy and I love our own, makes up a big part of who you are.

After Seattle is moving into Boston apartment number two. In about 12 hours.

And then immediately hitting the road for North Carolina.

And then a Labor Day weekend with some best friends and my Braves in Atlanta.

Suffice to say that August may be one of the best months of 2014.

Imma be a Navy SEAL. Or something like that.

This post brought to you by the new VS bathing suit I ordered yesterday……And a desire to conquer looking good in it….

#INeedATan. Stat.

#INeedATan. Stat.

Cliff notes for those out of the loop: Ashley loves to run. Ashley’s leg(s) are fractured. Ashley can’t run right now. Ashley’s being creative at how she can stay active and not turn into a walrus.

This week was not the best.

My parents are coming next week! (!!!!!! I haven’t seen them in six months. This is exciting.) So that’s meant some serious advance working on other deadlines. It’s been coming together, but suffice to say that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week you might as well have called me Murphy.

Cause I was living Murphy’s Law.

EVERYTHING was going wrong. The worst. I haven’t had stress quite like that in a while.

When things go wrong, what does Ashley typically do to feel better?

Run.

Since that wasn’t an option, I was really blessed to have my rooms Sarah invite me to her Pilates class. She’s invited me a couple of times, but I had resisted because:
a) I thought my school gym pass was better than I have now learned that it is (no classes, what!?)

     b) I was intimidated to try something new

     c) I thought I liked other exercises more.

But let’s face it. “Man that ride on the gym bike just made me feel SO MUCH better,” was said by no one ever.

So Tuesday I squished myself into some Pilates clothes and went to what I thought was going to be mostly a mat workout.

That turned into actually being THIS:

That’s not me. I think my butt maybe got 1/4 of that high during this move.

I have officially been to my first Pilates TRX class.

Let’s just say “Whoa.”

I have never in my life sweat so much from staying in a 2-foot radius. It was pretty crazy. Actually, scratch that. Insanity made me sweat riiiiiidiculously. This was working on par with that though.

The focus on breathing and my muscles was exactly what I needed to stop thinking about everything else that was stressing me out. Not to mention that the way I felt the next day told me that it was a good workout. (My armpits were sore? I don’t know how that happens.)

When you Google TRX you get:

UM. It's serious.

UM. It’s serious.

I alternated between thoughts of:

– If this strap breaks, I’m breaking my face.

– It’s impossible to do this as gracefully as the teacher.

– I wonder if anyone notices I’m doing half of the sets?

– Thank goodness I squished myself into tighter clothes. Otherwise this would be a show in here.

– How in the world is that tiny girl on the other side of the room so good at this?! I don’t see muscles.

It was very hard. And a lot of fun. And now I’ve found another way to spend money and think I’m going to sign up for a month of classes.

I think it may be the just right thing to get me through this injury funk. Not to mention, there are regular pilates and yoga classes at this same studio that I can take advantage of.

Have any of you tried TRX? Anyone in Boston interested in signing up and going with me? It’s only $30 for unlimited classes for 30 days! I’m thinking about signing up at the start of July to get the most bang out of visits given I’ll be out of town a lot next week.

“Lucky?” He said. “Oh no, we’ve been a lot of work.”

One of my favorite parts of being a reporter carrying around a television camera is that some people are very inclined to talk to you. It’s not necessarily that they want to be on TV. I think maybe they just see me and recognize that I’m going to appreciate hearing their story. Last weekend I was covering a community event and an elderly gentleman walked up to me.

“Guess what,” he said.

I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me, so I kind of stared for a second.

He repeated himself, “Guess what.”

“What’s that?” I obliged while smiling and thinking he looked like he was probably in his upper-80s––no telling what he was maybe going to tell me.

He lit up in a smile and said “June 13th. June 13th will be mine and my wife’s 60th wedding anniversary.”

How do you not smile back to that? I immediately offered my congratulations. And a couple of “wow”s. And I perhaps unwittingly said “You two are so lucky!”

“Lucky?” he said. “Oh no, we’ve been a lot of work.”

I had to ask the question you’re crazy to not ask:

“So, what’s your secret?”

Charlie gave me three bits of advice:

1) It’s all about the communication. You have to be able to talk to each other all the time about every thing. Even when you don’t want to. You should always want to.

2) None of those, she goes with the girls all the time, he goes with the boys all the time. Take a trip together every year. You need adventures together.

3) Spirituality is important. Your hearts need to be on the same page.

Sixty years of experience. And I cherished every bit he had to share.

His advice harkened to this study recently posted on The Atlantic called “Masters of Love.” It’s a fascinating study highlighting how kindness, in the ways you don’t think about, is very important for a relationship’s success.

“There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work.”

The kindness “Masters of Love” talks about and the kind of communication Charlie talks about, they’re both forms of work you put into a relationship. They’re the parts of a relationship that come easy in the first three months. And the parts of a relationship that become the choice to love someone later on.

It’s not always easy.

And it’s not luck.

And it’s what separates the 60-year relationships from the rest.

That’s what makes love so special.

On this Monday, cherish love a bit. What happier a way to start the week? Especially if you’re somewhere in the earlier days of your own 60 years.

Do you have any “relationship rules” with your significant other?

PS: Happy Belated Anniversary Charlie!