Our November Possibility Model: Ashley Hackshaw

 Ashley Hackshaw, photo by Lynn WalshPhoto by Sarah Mattingly

We had a meeting today, Maya and me and the dog, Lola. We voted on our new Possibility Model. I nominated Ashley Hackshaw, aka Lil Blue Boo.

We met in person this weekend at Patti Digh's Life is a Verb camp. She had been a fan of our Type Rider project and I had been a fan of her blog. Well, more accurately, I had been a fan of her approval of us (she mentioned us in a blog post once) and we kind of sort of knew a little bit about her. Like the fact that she is super crafty and she shares a love of typewriters. And that she had moved her family across country to live in the Hemlock Inn in Bryson City, NC for a year and was writing about the experience. (Come to think of it, we probably passed each other on the road this summer.) And then there was the fact that she had had cancer. So we didn't really know Ashley. But now we do, and we've chosen her as our November Possibility Model. 

I nominated Ashley because she talks about things that are embarrassing - well, beyond embarrassing. They are painful and debilitating and dehumanizing. And she does it with incredible exhultation of spirit and compassion for herself and for the people around her. And she also does it with a profoundly powerful sense of humor.

I spent some time this morning (okay about 3+ hours) digging into her blog archives and re-reading a few of the posts on her blog that I had read previously, and then daring to read The Cancer Chronicles. I nearly peed my pants when I read the post about her faux hawk causing a ruckus at airport security. Ashley makes you laugh and then she breaks your heart. So many of her posts made me cry. I cried when she wrote about "nuking" her remaining eggs, knowing she wouldn't be able to have another baby the traditional way. I cried when her daughter, Sienna, told her she was afraid of Ashley losing her hair. I cried when I saw the photos of her without those blonde curls. I cried when Ashley's mother shaved her head in solidarity with her daughter. I cried the hardest when she beat cancer. She's been through so much. She has weathered a very big storm. I wrote to Ashley when I was finished stalking her blog this morning and I told her this: 

I am sitting here in my living room thinking about how brave you are. And how hilarious. And how generous you are to share your story with us, even those of us who don't have cancer but might have cancer and just don't know it yet. (Because sometimes it feels like we're all gonna get cancer, doesn't it?) You make me feel like I could battle cancer and win. And then go fix a belt in my truck and bust out a Christmas tree with all kinds of tiny handmade ornaments.

I know there are other people out there in the world who get through things the way she did. Lots of them. I've met them. I've always admired people like Ashley who write so eloquently about the bittersweet nature of life. And make me laugh until my belly hurts. If you can make me laugh while you're breaking my heart, then I'm hooked forever. I, myself, am not really one of those people. I weather my storms very privately. But I've always thought sharing them more often would make me feel so much less alone. So when we voted for our Possibility Model, I made Lola vote with me, just in case Maya was going to be a swingvote for someone else.

 Photo of Lola by Maya Stein

Thank you, Ashley, for showing us all what is possible. Thank you for reminding me what is possible with my writing. Maybe it's time to dust off All Buttond Up. (The irony of my long-obsolete blog making a comeback just as we are selling off the last of my button collection is not lost on me.)

If you want to share stories (hopefully while laughing) and create with us this month, we have some new classes coming up the rest of November:

This Friday night, November 14 BraveGirls with a Twist 7:30 - 10:30 PM. Creative fun and a twist on self-expression for adult women $45 (all materials included). BYOB

Tuesday, November 18 10:30 AM - 12 noon EST and Thursday November 20 9 PM - 10:30 PM EST. The first sessions of our brand-new 4-week, online writing class, Writing the Collective. Join us in this live, online workshop (through OoVoo, an easy-to-use online platform). We'll use simple prompts to jumpstart our writing and develop and expand our stories by sharing publicly with the group. $149 for 4 week session. Go here to learn more and register: /e-courses/

Sunday, November 23 Mom (or Dad) and Me, 2 PM - 5 PM. A creative workshop for kids and their parents. We'll spend the afternoon getting to know each other better and simple creative writing prompts and creating crafts that will be perfect holiday gifts. $45 per person (all materials included)

We hope you'll join us and find out just how amazing it feels to be part of a community, to dig into your own creativity, and let yourself get visible with all of the stories and gifts you carry inside you.