Friday, March 17, 2017

What's In My Attic

Hello friends, welcome back for the second vlog upload on youtube. I am so excited about this new adventure. Being able to share this with you here on my blog, Ashley's Art Closet, makes for a fun journey. Last week, I shared with you my first vlog. Click HERE if you missed my first vlog: What's In My Trunk Today's vlog share for the week is titled, What's In My Attic. Please join me, as I share alittle glimpse starting off my daily routine. Then moving into the attic where you might be surprised what I am actually up to. You may find it helpful for your own family life. Also, catch a glimpse of my turtle aquarium as the vlog ends. You can watch the video here from my blog, below. Or you can head over to Youtube. Where you can Share. Comment. Like. and Subscribe. on youtube as I continue this new adventure. Have a wonderful day! Shine. 

(watch the video here )

Saturday, March 4, 2017

What's In My Trunk: First Vlog

At the beginning of the year, I begin praying for the Lord to show me where I am at in this current season of life. I was looking for His guidance for outlets to just be me. Me as a child of His to shine love and creativity among everyday normal life. Aiming towards several different outlets, vlogging on youtube came before me. Something I'd not considered possible. So thankful for His guidance, see my first vlog below, comment, like, and or share the video. Check back weekly as I get in the groove of this new journey! I think you are going to like it. Remember you were made to shine. You are loved. You are His. Have an awesome day!

(watch first vlog here)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Overcoming Obstacles

"15 months after diagnosis, non-stop chemo, Y90 radiation and even a failed attempt at resection - constantly searching for a surgeon willing to operate again - he finally had his tumor resected on 10/31! We've been in NYC for the last 3 weeks - his (amazing) surgeon was Dr Tomoaki Kato at NY Presbyterian / Children's Hospital of NY. The procedure took 14 hours - the tumor was approximately 7" in diameter. My son did very well and was released in just 6 days. We are SO relieved that this beast is out of him, but know that there are many challenges ahead. We will learn more about the next phase of treatment within a few weeks. For now, we head back to Memphis and St Jude - just in time for the holidays - with MUCH to be thankful for. So many on this page have been incredibly supportive and helpful in this endeavor - thank you to each of you! Wishing you peace, love and health - Happy Thanksgiving to all!"     -an update from a mother in a liver cancer group

"Love updates! Thank you for sharing. Praying for your baby boy and your momma heart. May the Lord use this time to refresh your soul! Breathe. Big hugs."     -my response

"Thank you - I hadn't thought about that!! Guess it's time to stop holding my breath for a few days!"     -the mother's response

We can become so caught up in our pain we forget to breathe. The word breath in Greek and Hebrew means, "spirit". When Adam was created it was God who breathed life into him. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7 This reminds me our body is a lifeless shell until God brings it to life with the means of His "breath of life." Without His life-giving breath our bodies are dust. Therefore, our lives and worth come from God's Spirit. 

Jesus helped His disciples receive the Spirit of God by breathing on them. And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20:22 There is life in the breath of God. Man did not come alive until God breathed into him the breath of life. God's first breath made man different from other forms of creation. Through the breath of Jesus, God imparted eternal spiritual life. With the breathing came power to do God's will on earth. 

A few years ago, I walked through unexplained deep dark waters. This was a huge obstacle which caused me to be mad and anger. I wanted to go back to who I was before. I wanted out of the web of darkness. During this time, I found benefits of a breathing exercise. Some days it was all I could do to manage relaxing my body. My daily life began benefitting as I healed. My worship time pressed forward one day at a time. I found Him closer as a new season of spiritual growth was being planted.

Maybe you are like the momma at the beginning of this blog post not thinking about taking a breath. We all face obstacles of different shapes and sizes: staying home with three small children, walking through a tough spot in our marriagea hard day at the office, a cold which causes our child to run fever for seven days, a spouse away with military duties, last week of your college semester, days before a break from the kids in your classroom, tending to an aging parent, walking through grief of a lost love one, etc. My encouraging hope is you find Him too no matter which obstacle is before you. Breathe. Breathe His life into your lungs. Refresh. Relax. Grow. Be open. Take one day at a time. 

You may even like to try the breathing exercise. This exercise can release the feelings of being overwhelmed. If so, open one of your hands, it does not matter which one, stretch all your fingers out. As if, you are going to trace your hand on a piece of paper. Turn your hand over so your palm faces you. Use your pointer finger from your other hand. Start on the outside of your thumb. Using the pointer finger trace up the side of your thumb, then down the inside of your thumb. You will continue doing this on each finger. Each time you go up, breath in through your nose - smell flowers, and each time you go down, exhale through your mouth - blow out a candle. This can be done anytime you think about it. No one has to even know you are practicing this exercise. Do it sitting at a red light, before you go to bed, in a waiting room, at your desk, lunch, walking through the park, etc.

The feelings of being overwhelmed is not of the Lord. It causes our bodies to hype-up which increases our heart rate causing us to breath fast and shallow. Our body then tries to escape the threat of danger by sending unmanaged amounts of blood from our brains out to our limbs looking to escape the challenge of danger. Stress hormones flood our body causing stress and tension-headaches, back pain, indigestion, depression, etc. 

When we practice this exercise, it provides balance. A chance for our bodies to respond redirecting rational thoughts safely with self-control, Galatians 5:22-23, a fruit of the Spirit. This then slows the heart rate with focus providing sensory feed back to our brains. Our bodies gain oxygen, a healing "breath of life"-strengthen the heart, tone muscles, slow down effects of aging, increase energy, improve digestion, alleviate some emotional problems, etc.

positive outlook                          
fresh start                                     

bad stuff
the past

For a moment of worship, listen to Kari Jobe's song Here.

Happy Thanksgiving friends! Remeber to breathe this holiday season. I am thankful for you, my readers, more than you will ever know. Share This Post Tabs are located at the bottom of this post for easy sharing. 

Have you practiced this breathing exercise before?
Do you classify your problems as different then others?
Are you overwhelmed?
Are you breathing?

Thank you to the mother who agreed letting me share this portion of her families’ story. She has already touch my heart. I hope others are touched as well. May you be inspired regardless what you are walking through to breathe. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Let Our Green Voices Shine

Our family blue Ford LTD drove in the school entrance. As my 6th-grade body leaned against a slender chocolate color pole. When the Ford circled the pickup lane, I stepped towards the edge of the curb. Mother’s hands gripped the stirring wheel as she drove us back to her workplace.

She parked and I grabbed my book bag. On one shoulder it draped as I walked in her workplace behind her. In the corner, I nested for a landing of homework while she finished a day's work.

In a swivel hairdresser chair across from mother’s station, her boss sat.

The week before mother told me, doctors diagnosed her boss with breast cancer. It was the first as a child my ears heard the words "cancer". My mind did not recognize the meaning. Until mother explained it the best she could.

We later left her workplace heading home for dinner with the family.

Months later, mother told us her boss fought the breast cancer leading into remission. Life carried on as usual. A short two years later, her cancer struck a second time. This time she peacefully lost her battle here on earth.

Since then, breast cancer awareness has grown and survival rates have increased.

Moving on years later, at the young at of 23, I was diagnosed with Fibrolamellar, a rare liver cancer. Of course mother’s boss was the first person I thought of and second death flashed in my face. My cancer was detected at an early stage during other medical concerns. Because of this, a resection was performed with no additional treatment and no reoccurrences -to date. This particular cancer is not usually found until it is too late. Meaning, once it has progressed, a liver resection is not a suggested treatment plan.

Fibrolamellar is one out of five types of liver cancer:

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC-hepatoma)
Fibrolamellar (rare type of HCC)
Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct)
Angiosarcoma (blood vessels of the liver)
Secondary liver cancer (liver metastasis, spread from other parts of the body)

Fibrolamellar is common in teens and young adults. 1 in 5,000,000 are diagnosed with as little as 1,000 each year worldwide. Fibrolamellar was first detected in the early 1950’s and named by John Craig, MD. Dr. Craig currently is on the board of directors of the Fibrolamellar Foundation. So few are diagnosed most have not heard of it. Even in some towns medical personnel have not. Families have traveled far from home, even moved states, to seek treatment with doctors familiar with Fibrolamellar.

Most are not aware, Liver Cancer and Breast Cancer awareness both share the month of October. 

Each October the liver cancer community is a tiny crumb of green on a chopping block of pink. It is not about toning down the pink. More about spicing up the green letting others hear our voices too. There is no need for a green wash out of soup cans, mixers, etc. Yet, the acknowledgment, our lives matter too. Until our voices are heard, effective treatment plans and early detection plans will stay non-existing. I speak on behalf of all liver cancer types, there is more to life than “think pink”.

Because I am a member of a Fibrolamellar group, I witness others lose their battle. This year alone, we have lost the most from our small group. Husbands, wives, moms, dads and siblings say goodbye until eternity.

The scar etched between my breasts to my belly button is only a physical marking of my cancer journey. The emotional pain no matter if I cram it in the back cobwebby corner of my mind it still surfaces. It does not go away. Similar to if you lost a parent or a child, fought in a war, or suffered another type of traumatic event. It’s part of my life story. It reminds me to speak up. Not to turn a blind eye on you or me, nor our families -future generations. Even on the hard days, I do not want to share or days panic attacks from old emotions flare posttraumatic waves.

My dreaming passion is one day there will be better detection and treatment plans for all liver cancers. Just like there has been over the years for breast cancer and other types of cancers.

Therefore, I leave with you these words “think green,” “think liver cancer awareness” too this October. 

Let us fight for all. Honor. Support. Advocate.

Let us shine a ray of hope in the cancer community together. 

This October, banners like such, were hand created by Ashley for Facebook profiles.

Portions of this blog post were published earlier this month on

Join Ashley's silent art auction this month as she raises money for liver cancer research.

“You are the world’s seasoning, to make it tolerable. If you lose your flavor, what will happen to the world? And you yourselves will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the world’s light—a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:13-16

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

One Hundred Days

On Christmas morning growing up, my Dad would lay long ways on our couch.

The couch was brown and green plaid found pushed against the white wall in our living room. While he laid there, I'd stand with my back end pressed against the edge of the couch. My eyes would circle the living room with all the Christmas excitement in view. Red dangly curls lined each cheek in most of my childhood pictures. As I am certain they did on those Christmas mornings. The other day, I looked through old Christmas pictures for one showing me standing against the couch. Let's just say some pictures linger only in our minds never making them to a print version.

Now, thinking about those days, I smile.

Smile at the memories etched in my precious mind of Christmas morning spent with my family.

Those curls grew out. Turned colors in shades of light reddish blonde. My guess from the amount of time spent in the sun. The curls evidentially formed a different shape of curl along the way as well.

I grew up moving on starting a family of my own.

Christmas then triggered new traditions for my married mothering life.

My oldest daughter is now 20. She left 3 weeks ago to attend college away from home. My mind spins in the reality what Christmas will look like this year following the years to come. There's no surprise realizing our kids grow up and move on. Even when slips of empty linger, we must remind ourselves it's a season. They are doing what they are supposed to be doing. We did it. Our parents did it. Their parents did it. Our kids will do it. Their kids will even do it. MOVE. ON. While thinking of my "new" Christmas, I jotted down a few traditions we've formed while she was growing up with her sister who is eight years younger to whom still lives at home.

In a relaxing manner, I would like to share some of those traditions we've accumulated over the years. Pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee or relaxing tea, I know this will be fun. Take time out for you. Let's knock the edge off the approaching holiday season together. Relax. See. You feel it? This time of year is going to be fun. No. More. Pressure. Be. Free.

Let's get started:

Christmas Cards- I promise the Christmas picture card frenzy was started by me. When I was a child we did not send family Christmas picture cards. Nor do I remember friends sending them to us. It was not until I had a child, way before all my friends and when she was about 4 years old, I fell in love with photography. So the next Christmas, I made a Christmas photo card of her. I sent the card out to as many addresses I had at the time. From then on Christmas picture cards became the big tradition for most families. I know I started this! Funny thinking, I know. Christmas picture cards have become very popular over the years. Although we don't send a full family picture card, it's only of my kids, I am always on the hunt for a new outlet to purchase those cards where we can add their picture. This year, I found Paperless Posts, click on their name to see their recently updated site. They even have really cool Christmas cards not intended for pictures. Here is a little insight from our picture journey last year, Let this be your year. It will give you a peek into when we plan our Christmas cards. Also, it provides encouragement for those who might not make it to making cards.

One Tradition Shared From Childhood- A Christmas eve box holding matching pajamas. One of my favorite, I actually started this for my kids years ago. Not really thinking about my mother did it too. Because I think the older my sister and I got she no longer did it. Not a hundred percent sure, but thinking my memory is correct. When looking through Christmas pictures the other day, I found one of me and my sister holding matching pajamas. This picture was from when I was real little. Little with those red curls I mentioned at the start of this blog post. Ah, I do have a tradition going my mother did also. We can get so busy not realizing how much we do things like our mother's.

Favorite Christmas Breakfast- 
Sausage Balls
3 cup Bisquick
1 cup water
1 lb. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 lb. ground sausage
Mix all together. Spoon into balls placing them on a cookie sheet. Cook on 350 until golden brown.
We started this tradition almost 15 years ago. A friend at work shared the recipe and it quickly became our favorite.

Family Time- After my sister and I married, we agreed to make arrangements with our families to alternate holidays. Especially when you toss kids into the mix. It can be hard. This is how we do it. One Christmas Eve we are with my husband's side of the family and Christmas of that same year we are with my family. Then the next year on Christmas Eve we are with my side of the family and Christmas Day with my husband's side of the family. My sister worked it out with her husband's side of the family therefore, we are synced on the same holiday schedule. Meaning when she's with her husband's side of the family, I am with my husband's side of the family. And when she's with her side of the family, I am with my side of the family. It's work out best as we know. Holidays can be hard for all. Hope this is helpful for someone. We started this many of years ago. So it's been long standing.

The Worst Christmas Gift- If you were to ask my kids what's the worst present they've received. They would tell you in a heartbeat. A box of Christmas tissues. You know one of those tissue boxes with cute decorations on the side you see around the holiday season. This could've been one of those Jimmy Kimmel moments, worst Christmas gift. Their response was just what he's looking for. Only, I didn't know I'd get the response I did. Nor was it my intent. So, I did not video. This took place several years ago. I tried to find small fun things so they could open gifts leading up to Christmas. I mean what kid doesn't love to open early gifts. Be precaution what you give my friends.

The Best Christmas Gift- From a mother's eyes, the best Christmas gift my kids received is advanced payment for college tuition. Hands down. Tell the grandparents to your children. Make it a creative adventure. So it's fun. Worth their wild. A jar with balloons with a sign on it, maybe, for them to drop their deposit in for their precious grandchildren.

One Thing I Wish I'd Done Different- Throughout the years, I wish I'd given 3 gifts per child. 3 gifts, as in, like the wise men gave Jesus, gold (of great value), frankincense (something spiritual) and myrrh (something for the body). Although it's not too late to start. My encouragement if you are not already doing this at whatever the age of your children 3 gifts each is plenty. Save the money you spend on the senseless stuff which ends up in the trash or donated. You will be ahead in the long run. Less clean up on Christmas. Less clean up on a daily basis. Less clean up decluttering your home. More money saved for college.  

Favorite Christmas Food From Childhood-
Sweet Potato Casserole
3 cups mashed sweet potato
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup oleo
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter
topping: 1/2 cup oleo
1/3 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Boil & mash potatoes. Add other ingredients. Put in casserole dish & top with topping.
Bake 350 for 30 minutes
My grandparents always cooked this recipe. I cook it now for our holiday season.

A Favorite Christmas Candy At Our House- A go to pick up candy is candy canes. Hands down. My kids love a good candy cane. Sounds cheesy. I know. It's a fact around here though.

Christmas Movies- Home Alone is our family favorite Christmas movie. We also enjoy watching the ABC Family 25 days of Christmas series.

Christmas Lights- A tradition since I was a child. My mother would drive me and my sister to a certain street near our home. It was a short street with a culdesac at the end. One house lights lined both sides of their driveway. We now as a family driving looking at lights as well. Even one year at our last house, my husband decorated our house covered in lights. It was awesome. Lots of hard work but it was fun back then. That's been over 15 years ago.

The Best Item I Bought For Winter Season- A snowman kit from a fundraiser magazine my daughter's school had. It has a hat, eyes, nose, pipe, and a scarf.

Wrapping Paper- A thick wrapping paper is a must. Sally Foster school fundraiser got me hook years ago. Now Hobby Lobby selection of thick Christmas wrapping paper is pretty awesome. One of my favorite things to do is limited the wrapping paper patterns for each Christmas season. Then wrap the kids presents stacking them on top of each other. The paper left from the year before goes to my mother. One year, I got thick brown paper. Mother helps me every year wrap their presents. This particular year she expressed how hard it was using the brown paper, like a brown paper bag, but it was a roll of it. I got crayons that year letting them decorate the paper themselves. It was fun watching them.

September 15th marks 100 days until Christmas. I hope you enjoyed hearing some of our family traditions. Please feel free to add some to your holiday season. Or simply drop how many you've created for your family. It's okay to say no.

What is one Christmas tradition you remember from childhood?
Do you have one you created for your family now?