So far, our family has marked 2012 with shiny board games, lots of fresh air and paper.
Loads of shredded paper.
After holding onto records from my at-home business for the requisite time, we’ve fired up the new shredder and given her quite a work-out.
Customer “care cards” and triplicate order forms in white, yellow and pink enter the shredder’s teeth whole and exit long, spongy strands.
Until this week, until all the shreds, I’d nearly forgotten about this phase of my life.
Being an entrepreneur never held any attraction for me, but while pregnant with my second daughter, I inspired to start my “at-home business.” Soon I began filling foot tubs with warm water and sparkling marbles, speaking over wine and laughter at ladies’ nights out to describe the ingredients of scrubs, masks and lotions.
Trying not to appear too insecure (and sweaty, with pregnancy and nursing hormones coursing crazy), I walked women through skin care and makeup regimes. I took orders for products. I made follow-up phone calls. I bagged lipsticks and shampoos and delivered them with hand-written thank you notes.
While pregnant and when J was little, I worked through nap times and then left our little nest a night or two each week to host in-home parties.
When I was small, my mom worked nights as a beauty product consultant, applying makeup and “doing colors” for ladies. Draping them with various shades of fabric, she’d create for each woman a palette with her best colors, small enough to carry in a purse.
I loved gazing at the one Mama made for me filled with my “summer” colors. Overlapping pinking-sheared squares stuck to cardboard were tucked beneath a protective plastic sheath. It was lovely, and I never tired of holding the magical rainbow rectangle in my hands.
These were my colors.
Mama’s work seemed a little magical, too, and glamorous. I knew she worked hard, but through my young eyes, she seemed a natural fit for this career — with her beautiful fuschia cheeks, dark thick hair and warm, lilting voice.
I imagined her hands flowing with color, people clinging to her every word, as I did.
In my grownup life, wisened eyes did not see beauty consultant as my logical next step. I certainly never imagined colors dancing from my hands or a voice extolling like butter the virtues of “our Africa Spa collection.”
I’ve been a slow bloomer. Not ultra-savvy in the ways of makeup and pampering and all the mysterious things women are supposed to know how to do.
But I felt the leading to grow in confidence. To build and to learn. To teach about something I was only just learning myself. To make a little extra money to pay toward our credit card balance.
And when I shredded those papers this week, I remembered not only my own growth during this time, but the faces of those who surrounded and supported me, nodding heads as I gave speeches from notecards, while trying desperately to sound natural.
I remembered my sister (lovely in every way) who’s so much better at all this beauty stuff than I, inviting a house-full of people, and my mama and her friends under the tall wood-beamed ceiling, and my mother-in-law and her girlfriends around the fireplace, and my dear friends inviting people from their worlds to come. And I remembered the orders from people who could easily have purchased products elsewhere.
I remembered memories closer to home. Like my three-and-a-half-year-old girl giving her little kitty and dolly a foot soak, making pretend calls to her friends and asking if they’d like to host a “Girls’ Nite Out.”
And I remembered my husband, helping me pack up the car with supplies, waving goodbye with little ones in arms and cheering me on every time I made a sale or scheduled another party.
I recalled this week the layers upon layers of support that were — and are — expressions of security and my settled place in this world.
For me this week, those shreds of paper reminded of the strands that made up our nest in that season.
Cozy nests are assembled bit by bit by small castaway pieces. Found by flying away from home’s comfort into risk and unknown.
But nests are made comfortable by the threading and weaving pieces of fuzz, string and feather into this home of our bodies and these hearts, this family.
Our nests are our own.
Here is our nest with all the pieces of healthy risk and outright fear that we’re doing things wrong, but look what we’ve learned, and everyone is doing OK and nobody lost a limb.
Here is our nest cupping joy songs lilting, and the seasons and years and feet growing bigger and voices deepening, and hugs and winks across the room.
Here is our nest always changing. A new string here, a new shred there.
Here is our nest filling with stories and people like birds flocking close. These feathered fleshy ones need each other.
Here is our nest woven through by the was and is, and yet always new.
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aahhhhh…what a beautiful way to start my day today! Thanks, Ashley!
Thank you, Martha!
Ashley! What an incredibly beautiful piece of writing! I feel like an old vinyl record with a deep scratch in it, repeating over and over the same bit of lyric. So forgive the words that come again and again, looking much the same as the last words I left. You know I couldn’t be more sincere. I adored this piece! It should be published. (oh, it is, isn’t it?) It belongs on paper though, bound together by string and soft, smooth leather. It belongs by someone’s bedside, or in their purse or on their lap. It’s simply Beauty-full. And like all your work (and all your words) it clearly springs from a lover’s and an artist’s heart. Thank you so much. You do bless me again and again!
ps – I love the inspiration that gave rise to this piece, and how you followed it. And I love how you have shown us what our own nesting material may look like. And I love the photo of shreds.
Ma, thank you. I so delight in how God teaches us to see, really see, the inspiration that is everywhere. And wow, how I love that imagining of some woman with a leather-bound book of mine in her purse. It’s no color swatch card, but that would be something.
Oh sis! I love reflecting on all these memories with you! The personal color charts were the best-mama can we get an updated one?! :) Sis, you are so beautiful, on the inside and out, and in every way that counts! And by the way, this takes my “nesting” to a whole new level! Thank you!! Xoxo
Thank you, Sis. And yes, we need color chart updates! So would we be early winters now? Late summers still? Oooh, this would be a fun date for the three of us. Let’s plan it. And I love that connection you made between your baby nesting and this nest of experience, change and beauty in all the pieces. When little guy #3 comes into the world in all his wrinkly glory, it will be so good to hold to the beauty in the shreds and fuzz. I love you.
Ash…this is a beautiful reflection. Spoke to me in so many ways.
Thank you so much, Jen.
Such beautiful perspective of a life that is ever changing and what things we cling to that are solid…..our home (nest) does not always look the same…..too deep and too many things to process but beautiful. Thank you.
Thank you for your comments, Tiffany. Yes, it is deep and mysterious and beautiful, isn’t it? Ever-changing and solid at the same time — how good when we can hold both those parts in our hands.
Loved the theme of growth and how what was once will in the future be the ties that bind. Truly beautiful, Ash.
Thank you, Don! I always appreciate your comments.
Donald said it all “How what was once will in the future be the ties that bind.May they always bind us together.
Would also like to go back to the color chart. Seems like ages ago that I had mine done many more wrinkles, sun spots,hair color, etc to take into account now.
Thanks for your thoughts, Mom. Let’s do an updated color analysis! What fun! :)
You are a color for ‘all’ seasons. You provide us with the spectrum of your intellectual and heart-felt musings. I gain much being challenged by your observations and feelings. Love,Papa
You are so clever. :) And thoughtful. Thank you so much, Papa.
This bit of “history” brought me much joy.
Thanks, Deb. :)