Like many of you, my heart is heavy this week for our country. It has been heavy for months. Division, hate and ugliness take over the headlines. It is tempting to believe that is the truth – that our country is radically divided and each of us must pick a side. I don’t think that is the truth though. I’ve looked into too many eyes to believe that.

If I did have to pick a side, it wouldn’t be a political one, it would be the side of love.

For months I’ve listened to friends and family from both major political parties passionately express their fears, their hopes, and their hurts. It seems like the uglier the words on both sides, the more viral they get. Those that speak out of love seem to be drowned out by those controlled by fear. I have my own hopes and heavy concerns about what the coming years will look like for our country. I lie awake a night wondering what it will look like for my neighbors whose race is different from mine, for my Christian neighbors, my Muslim neighbors, my LBGT neighbors, and my immigrant and refugee neighbors.

I wonder how to communicate to my kids behaviors and words spoken by those in leadership and my fellow citizens that I can’t wrap my mind around. As I teach my kids to be slow to anger, slow to speak and quick to listen, I pray that I can be an adult that sets that example too. I think about the future when I sit with my kids and we talk about this time in American political history – what will I tell them about how I processed and responded to our current national climate and the rhetoric on all sides?

I keep coming back to love.

I will love my neighbor – the one who looks like me and the one who doesn’t, the one born on US soil and the one who wasn’t, the one who holds my views and the one who doesn’t, the one who worships the same God as I do and the one who doesn’t. I will love by showing up in their lives, by listening to their hearts, by owning my own ignorance and indifference, and by extending my hand of friendship because that is the kind of country I want to live in.

I’ll begin this week with my kids watching documentaries about Martin Luther King Jr.. We will end this week together watching the inauguration of the next U.S. president. And in the midst of both we will talk about what love in action looks like.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m a big fan of Kid President. So much wisdom in such a young man.  “I believe you should treat everybody like it is their birthday.” You can be sure my kids and I will be talking about that simple thought…treat everybody like it is their birthday!

Update: Because it was brought up in the comments, I want to firmly state this post is not about one candidate, supporters of a particular candidate or about a particular party. This post is about how it feels (to me) like the ugliest words and actions seem to be the loudest and as a result it all feels so heavy to me. I hear the cries and concerns from dear friends in both major political parties. This is not an ‘us’ verses ‘them’ post.  Instead of listening to all the ugly and responding with more ugly – I’m want to be quick to listen (to all), slow to speak and slow to anger. I choose love and I chose to walk in relationship with my neighbors.

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  • Sara Thoele - What a great read to start my week! Thank you!

  • Tiffany Nelson - How can you look/listen to Kid President and not smile and wanna be awesome. Thanks for sharing today!

  • Barbara Janaina - Dear Ashley, don´t you worry! you will notice that there are LOTS and Lots of good people, I know that, Here in Brazil, things are realy hard in politics, but we always find people that belive in love, in helping others , in doing the right thing! even that our politics are horible! Kisses from Brasil and lets pray together!

  • Tammy - It isn’t Trump supporters who are dragging people out of their cars and beating them, or luring handicapped people off to torture them.

    McCain and Romney supporters did not take to the streets to destroy and wreak havoc when their candidate lost, nor did they go around lying about being victimized.

    Love and tolerance needs to come from both sides of the aisle.

    My gay nephew voted for Trump. My Hispanic neighbors voted for Trump. The hijab-wearing Muslim barista at our favorite coffee house carries a picture of George W Bush in her wallet and couldn’t wait to vote for Trump.

    You might need to adjust your opinions of what a Trump voter looks like. And the judgement you hold about them as well.

  • Cynthia - As usual you nailed it. I echo your sentiments wholeheartedly! One thousand AMENS!!! ~HUGZ!!!

  • Tatiana Manessi - https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2v_Vtjo1kUg

    Zwigniew Preisner’s song about love that your touching words reminded me…

  • AshleyAnn - Tammy – Thank you for you comment. I do want to clarify this post is not about Trump. I did not name any specific individuals because I see it coming from both sides. I have dear, dear friends and loved ones that voted for Trump, Clinton and independent candidates. This post is exactly what you said – a desire to see love come from both sides.

  • Tammy - I need to apologize to Ashley and everyone who read my comment. It didn’t sound that strong in my head. I’m sorry!

  • Christi S. - You so eloquently put into words what is in my head! Thank you for sharing. Love is what matters, and embracing and loving our differences is what will make our world a better place.

  • P Koziol - So well said…and clearly from a place of love. Your kids are going to grow to be great leaders—whether of their own families or their communities or even beyond—because they are being raised in an environment of compassion and justice.

  • susie - Great post like always! Your blog has been one of my favorites for a long time, since about the time you brought your youngest home from china. I comment sometimes but probably not as often as I should, I can imagine you like getting feed back! I was wondering if you have ever heard of the company Life Vantage, its a MLM company I belong too, the have a good product called Protandium. Today I was going through the webpage articles and they had an article on the best 10 mommy bloggers and you are one! I wanted to share it with you, great job! I can imagine it feels funny to be well known on the web because I feel like our lives are similar, moms at home trying our best to raise kids. Life vantage may have told you already, but in case they didn’t, here is the link. You should tell them they owe you some of their Axio drink! its good, but all of their products are. http://www.lifevantage.com/blog/10-mommy-bloggers-who-prove-you-can-do-anything/

  • susie - Its fine if my post does not get published with that link, I don’t care if anyone else sees it but you. I didn’t put it on there so people would look at lifevantage, I am sure you get all kinds of people wanting you to sign up for their MLM.
    I read your blog this morning, hope you didn’t get any bad comments, because I saw your update. I sometimes look at social media and people can be so harsh online, it’s crazy.

  • Melanie - Thank you for your open words. Even as I live in a country far away (Germany) I’m really concerned about what is going on in the US.

  • Carrie Hageman - If I had to guess, you might already be familiar with Ann Voskamp. Thought you might like this :)…http://annvoskamp.com/2016/11/when-you-want-the-messiness-of-things-to-pass-america-meet-america-people-meet-people-1/

  • Rachel - Beautiful post,thank you for writing it. I keep coming back to lines from one of my favorite Cat Stevens’ songs, “Love is better than a song. Love is where all of us belong.” So important to remember.

  • Tiffany Gardner - My thoughts exactly. LOVE.

  • Mindy - Ashley, your words really resonate with me. Could I share this post on Facebook? Even within my “friends” group there is so much hatred for the “other” side. A house divided cannot stand. I am praying for unity in our country in spite of our differences.

  • AshleyAnn - Mindy – Yes, of course, you can share it. I am praying for unity too.

  • AshleyAnn - Thank you Susie for sharing that with me! So odd to see my name on that list 🙂

  • Meaghan - This was exactly what I needed this week! I’ve been so frustrated at all the anger and general meanness – I even stopped looking at Facebook because it was so depressing (on both sides). I love what you said about picking sides – it seems like when someone says or does something we are expected to take a side and we can’t be in the middle. I love choosing the side of love and am going to try my hardest to love and respect everyone.

  • Sushant - Hi Ashley,

    Must have been five years that I follow your blog from Mumbai, India. Reading and seeing your story unfold here is a truly joyful thing and got me through some tough personal times, filled me with hope and brought out a lot more positivity in me.

    I have never commented before, but this post seems to be resonating with what is happening here in India too ! Simple yet powerful words you have and that gives me hope that we can make it better.

    Thanks for sharing! Loads and loads of love to you and your family. Stay Blessed !!!!!! 🙂

  • Jill - Thanks for this Ashley. You always manage to convey your perspective in such an inclusive, loving way.

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - Wonderfully said. I feel the same.
    I see people fighting and complaining and saying it in Christ’s name on both sides. I’m an Anabaptist and we, for the most part, don’t even vote and are the peacemakers who show love to all and see Christ as our president/king/leader/ruler. It truly is sad to see people so filled with these emotions of anger and hatred instead of showing the fruits of the Spirit. Much love to you.

While I was down and out with my kidney stone, my mom and sister took the girls ice skating. Well, ever since that day, the girls have been asking to go again. I convinced them to wait for a warm day. It is Oklahoma – I knew a warm day would randomly pop up.

The day arrived this week and they ran to their dad’s office, pulled him off his phone and out the door they went with a brother in tow. I followed along with my camera and a few lenses. I’m usually in the middle of things, so I rarely take more than one lens with me. It is fun every now and then to get to stand on the sidelines and watch them through my camera lens.

It has been a while since I shared photo settings. Since I used several lenses, I thought this would be a good post to share those again. I noted which lens I was using for each picture. That 70-200mm lens I bought back in my wedding photography days still comes in handy every now and then!

Lenses used: Canon 50mm, Canon 85mm, Canon 70-200mm

85mm lens, ISO 500, 1/1000, f/2.8

iceskating-0170-200mm lens, ISO 640, 1/250, f/2.8 ~ 70-200mm lens, ISO 500, 1/1000, f/2.8iceskating-02

70-200mm lens, ISO 500, 1/500, f/2.8 ~ 70-200mm lens, ISO 500, 1/800, f/2.8iceskating-0470-200mm lens, ISO 500, 1/320, f/2.8iceskating-0670-200mm lens, ISO 640, 1/320, f/2.8 ~ 70-200mm lens, ISO 640, 1/320, f/2.8iceskating-0770-200mm lens, ISO 500, 1/500, f/2.8iceskating-0950mm lens, ISO 100, 1/320, f/1.4iceskating-1070-200mm lens, ISO 100, 1/320, f/2.8 ~ 50mm lens, ISO 250, 1/125, f/2.0iceskating-1150mm lens, ISO 250, 1/125, f/2.0iceskating-1350mm lens, ISO 250, 1/160, f/2.0iceskating-1450mm lens, ISO 250, 1/200, f/2.0iceskating-15If you are considering a camera or lens purchase, I wrote a post full of my recommendations. It is a good jumping off point before you invest in equipment you may or may not use.

CLICKHEREphototips

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  • Michelle - Tell you son he would make an awesome goalie with that flexibility! 🙂 My oldest daughter plays competitive hockey so I spend a lot of time at the rink, but it’s MUCH colder.

I shared the following story on Instagram this weekend and was asked about the recipe…below is both.

Last week my 8 yr old challenged me to a pancake eating contest. There was a bit of smack talking all week between the two of us. I’ve spent my life downing pancakes (my Great Grandma’s buttermilk pancake recipe). I didn’t train this week. Didn’t prepare. I was a shoe in for the victory. 

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetPride comes before the fall my friends. HE WON by 3 pancakes. The contest was just for quantity, but he was going for speed and quantity. He would take 2 pancakes, put a slice of butter in the middle, fold them together and stuff them in. Moms – let my defeat serve as a warning. If you continue flipping those pancakes and letting your kids eat them first, only leaving you a couple – you will one day know the bitter taste of defeat too. Save some batter for yourselves, keep those eating competition muscles strong.

If you need a delicious pancake recipe – I highly recommend my Great Grandma’s. It is a simple traditional buttermilk recipe and is my very favorite. I like my pancakes thin but you can easily make these thicker if you like them that way. We pour the batter into a Wilton cake decorating bottle and create various designs on the griddle.
buttermilkpancakes-03As a little girl my dad taught me the value of stacking round pancakes and cutting out the center to fill with syrup. It is still my favorite way to eat them.
buttermilkpancakes-05
buttermilkpancakerecipe

Sources:

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  • Steffany - Question. Do you like your griddle? When my husband and I got married we received an amazing griddle as a gift. When it wore out, we bought a new one, thinking they were all equally as good. So. Not. True. Ours burns the 1st batch of pancakes and then takes forever after that. It doesn’t heat evenly. Just isn’t a good griddle. Do you love this one? It’s a good price…seems easy to clean…so I’m curious. And we cannot wait to try your recipe. We are a chocolate chip pancake family, usually Saturday mornings 🙂 And yes, mom is always left to eat the burnt, odd-shaped, too weird pancakes! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • AshleyAnn - Steffany – I’ll be honest, I didn’t have super high expectations for this one because it was so cheap. So far, I’ve been really pleased. I had to learn what temperature to use so things didn’t overcook or undercook. I don’t have to use any oil on it…nothing I have cooked so far sticks and it is really easy to clean. We’ve only had it a month. I feel like we break griddles all the time, so I went cheap and this has been my favorite one so far.

  • AshleyAnn - I should also say I’ve never had a super nice griddle, so I don’t have that to compare to. BUT the ones I’ve had (more expensive than this one) I didn’t like as much.

  • Debbie C - Cut out a hole for the syrup! Your dad is brilliant!

  • Byron - So why not just make your pancakes with a hole in the middle on the griddle? The joy of food surgery, perhaps? 🙂

    I would definitely try this if I had a griddle. And ANY of the ingredients you listed in my kitchen (I may have milk…)! I may have to try them anyway!

  • Stephanie - My kids requested pancakes today so we are going to give these a try!! My mom’s pancake recipe is similar and it’s what she has made for 35 years:

    1 cup self rising flour
    1 cup buttermilk
    1 egg
    1/4 cup vegetable oil

    give it a try and let me know what you think! I have a feeling after we try the “hole for the syrup” my kids will never have them any other way. Brilliant.