Happy Birthday, Ashlie

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If you’re friends with me on Facebook or are a constant visitor here at The Luke Norris Experience, then you probably know that from time to time, I’ll post some pictures of myself with my intelligent and beautiful twin daughters, Ashlyn and Brooklyn. What you usually don’t see is the other intelligent and beautiful female that lives with me, and more often than not, she’s the one behind the camera getting those shots. She’s the birthday girl and the reason for this piece. She’s my girlfriend, Ashlie.

In the past when I’ve done some of these “Up Close and Personal” pieces, it’s been about my daughters, a friend, a trip, my “State of The Luke Norris” addresses, or the passing of my father a few years back. Sure, I’ve made mention of her here and there, but the truth is that we just don’t share a lot of our relationship publicly. We don’t have each other as our “relationship status” on the Facebook (we both love The Social Network) and you really don’t see that many pictures of us together. Seriously, the one you see above and the one that accompanies this piece are two of maybe ten good ones that exist that have both of us in it. Parading our relationship for the world to see just hasn’t been something we felt was necessary, but I started doing these types of pieces in order to give you a little insight into my real life, and the life that I have now doesn’t exist without Ashlie.

Before I say anything else, let me tell you that this Millennial Generation that gets bashed for not working hard and expecting everything to be handed to them does not apply to this woman. She turns 26 today and has one, if not the best work ethic I’ve ever seen of anybody at any age. She’s held multiple jobs since the day I met her and continues to do so. She not only drives an hour to work every day to teach music at two different schools, but also teaches private lessons here at our home and also at a music store in town. She works with an autistic child at his home and also sings in a choir at a local church. She waited tables to help with costs in college, which is actually where I met her, has done work with a local theatre company, and there’s probably another eight to things I’m missing. All I’m saying is that the girl works her ass off.

You’re probably wondering with all of that work she does when she gets to spend time with me and the girls. Well, she does that too. Is she here every single second that we are? Well, no. But do you know any family that’s together all the time? Probably not. But does she spend quality time with my daughters? Well, of course she does. They have their time together and even have their own bedtime song. Multiple songs actually. I still like to give her a hard time about her being a classically trained singer and having to open for me when we put the girls to bed. In case you’re wondering, I am not a classically trained singer. I can rock a mean version of “The Humpty Dance” for a cover band at some dive bar, but I’m not this.

Now imagine that voice singing “Baby Bumble Bee” or “On Top of Spaghetti” to two five-year-olds before I close the night with “You Are My Sunshine”. It’s pretty special. Just because you may not see it on social media doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. You’re not going to see every game of Candy Land. You’re not going to see every time she takes them downstairs so they can dance while she plays the Charlie Brown song on the piano. You’re not going to know about every time on the weekends that she brings them chocolate chip bagels and the countless other moments they’ve had. Look, my daughters love Ashlie and she loves them and that’s really all that anybody needs to know.

When it comes to her and I, there’s a lot that you won’t see on the surface either, probably because we don’t feel the need to take selfies every time we’re doing something. Do we spend a lot of time at home? Yes, we do. I’ll be the first to admit that I need to take her out a little more, but even that gets tough sometimes with the schedules we have right now and this crazy newfound fear I have of leaving my house, but that’s for another day. We’re very different people in that aspect, as she gets very anxious when she sits for too long. She’s not really a “let’s just hang out and relax” kind of person, and she’ll be the first to admit that, but somehow we still manage to make things work. There are things that we have in common and things about us that are so different, but I think that’s why it does work. We don’t have to be together every second of every day or doing the exact same thing that the other is doing at all times. But that certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t spend time together. Even if it’s something as simple as snuggling up on the couch watching Straight Outta Compton like we did over the weekend, it’s just nice when we’re together.  That’s right…I just used “snuggling” and Straight Outta Compton in the same sentence…deal with it.

But it’s not just that. It’s our walks with the girls to the store. It’s sitting out on the back patio or celebrating New Year’s playing Wii with the neighbors. It’s setting up two chairs in the garage so we can just have a drink while we watch and listen to the rain. It’s a night in Chicago at Phantom of the Opera or box seats for Daniel Tosh or Straight No Chaser (yep, we’re all over the place with our entertainment). Or it’s that family game of Candy Land or staying in on a Saturday night to drink champagne and play Scene It or Yahtzee before we break into duets while listening to Pandora or watching YouTube videos. And there’s “Hold My Hand” to close out those nights while we dance alone in the living room. There’s no pictures of those either.

But it’s not just all of those things that makes her so special to me…not even close. There’s no pictures from that first Christmas where I had to be away from my daughters and Ashlie held me while I cried for hours, or how every Wednesday when the girls go back to their mom’s, she makes sure I’m okay. There’s no pictures from the nights that she’s helped me get through what happened with my dad. There’s no picture that says when I decided to do what I’m doing now with this writing thing, that she was the single most supportive person in the world of that decision and continues to be right up to this very second. And things like that are pictures that I don’t need. Things like that are things I see every day that I want the world to know. Things like that are what make her part of this crazy little family I have. Things like that are why I am so crazy in love with this woman, even if I don’t say that too her as often as I should.

I’m not the easiest person in the world to be with and I’ve got no problem admitting that. I can be moody and sad and happy, sometimes all at the same time (I’m pretty talented), but no matter what, Ashlie is always there for me. I have well-earned trust issues, and I know some of that has hindered some of my ability to be the man I know I can be for her, and that’s a man that she can someday call her husband. Relax, I’m not proposing to her in this public forum, but recently I came to the realization that that is a real possibility now. It’s not going to be tomorrow, and she knows that, but for the longest time, she knew that there was a strong chance that I would never want to get married a second time. It’s just the way it was when we got together, but she took a chance on us anyway. And this is not a “she wore me down” kind of thing. If you’ve read even one word leading up to this sentence, or maybe you just already know her, then you realize what a kind, caring, loving person she can be. Who wouldn’t want to marry a person like that? Don’t get me wrong here, we’re not perfect and we certainly don’t pretend to be. We fight. We argue. But it’s how we deal with it that’s been different than what I’ve known before. We do our best to get past it and move forward. We try to compromise the best we can with the situations we’re given and we’re just trying our best….not to be perfect, but to be perfect for each other and the girls.

Listen, I could go on and on about all the ways I love Ashlie, but that’s just the easiest way to say it. She’s a big part of who I am and now you know a little more about her. I mentioned how kind and caring and loving she can be, but there are so many more words to describe her that may not even have been invented yet. She’s a unique soul and I’m so lucky to have met her…and myself, Ashlyn, and Brooklyn are so lucky to have her in our lives. She’s pushed me to do things that I didn’t know were possible and helped through times I didn’t think I could get through. She’s supported me when others may not have and for all of these things, I will be eternally grateful.

Happy Birthday, Ashlie.

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