Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Reflections of Family: Those Who Have My Back

Posted By: Michelle Ashcraft

Team NKOTW Around the World
Greetings, and welcome to another weekly edition of Team NKOTW training! This past week found our team training all over the world! Personally I found myself doing 1 walk in Kentucky, 2 walks in Indiana, and 1 walk in Washington, DC … that’s 3 states in 7 days! Shawn took to the beach while Meredith trained in Ireland. (Jealous! I’d love to go back to Ireland. Check out my travels from summer 2008 here.)

I think everyone else took to their home trails while hoping that rain or extreme heat didn’t impede their progress.

Unplugged Reflections
You may remember from a couple of weeks ago that Jenn L. reminded all of us that we should “unplug” every now and then to observe and reflect on the world around us.

Well unplug is what I did this past week. When gearing up for Tuesday’s walk (in Kentucky) I realized that I hadn’t charged my iPod, so I took to the walking trail without it. Jenn was right; not only did I notice more around me, but I was also much more conscious of my thoughts. I clearly zone out with the earbuds pumping my latest music mix into my ears. In the haste of packing for the Memorial Day weekend in D.C. (for the lovely wedding of my friends Angela Hoffa and Ian Holloway) and Indiana, I forgot my walking iPod, which meant that I was music free for my walks around Seymour (my hometown) and downtown D.C. This prompted quite a bit of reflection, which calls for a bit of a longer blog this week. Get ready … get set … read!

Reflections of Family: Those Who Have My Back
On last Tuesday’s walk I was coming off of a great weekend visit with Mandie Thacker. I was thinking about the post that I would write later that evening about how inspirational she has been throughout the last few years of my life, and how inspirational her grandmother has been for my 3-Day journey.

As I was thinking about this just a few steps into the path that I travel every Tuesday, I was suddenly reminded of Sandra Bullock. Yep, Sandra Bullock. Now before you go on wondering how I possibly made the leap from Mandie’s granny to Sandra Bullock, let me explain … I SWEAR it makes sense. For any of you who, like me, like to watch award shows, you know that Sandy was quite popular this past awards season for her role as Leigh Ann Tuohy in The Blind Side. During her acceptance speech for the Screen Actors Guild Award, Sandra made a statement that has stuck with me ever since: “"[The Tuohy family] reminded everyone that a family is not just who you are born into ..., but who's got your back." It was this statement that occupied my thoughts for the remainder of my walks throughout the rest of week.

Most of you know that I am blessed with a fantastic family. But those of you who grew up around my house – particularly during my high school years – know that my family was always much bigger than the 5 of us who legally claimed residence at 581 Lasher Drive. It was never a surprise to me when I would come home to find cars lining the driveway and street, and a slew of friends sitting around the kitchen table with my parents. They all called them Mom and Dad, and my parents treated them like kids of their own. Over the years “extended family” has always meant something different to me than it does to most. I certainly have an abundance of aunts, uncles, and cousins scattered across this earth, and some of them have been great support systems throughout my life. But my extended family has continued to grow by leaps and bounds over the years with the addition of friends and colleagues who have become closer to me than any shared DNA could dictate. This blog is a dedication to many of those that form MY family. I realize that a post that encompasses all of my family would end up filling several books, so I can’t possibly write about everyone; but I hope that you will enjoy some stories of those who crossed my mind on my journeys this week.

Let’s start first with those that can be thanked for the reason why I am here.

Mom - There’s no question that my mother, Nancy Ashcraft, is the leader of the Ashcraft household at 581 Lasher Drive. She is the glue that holds us together, the motor that keeps us running, and the medicine that heals our wounds. My brother and father will attest to a very rough period of time when I was in the 5th grade and decided that my mother had absolutely no idea what she was talking about – on any subject. Luckily, for everyone’s sake, that period only lasted a brief time as I discovered in the 6th grade on several occasions that I did in fact need my mother, and that she was quite a bit wiser than I tended to give her credit for. She’s stood strong on the days that the phone has rang with me at the other end ready to explode about something that frustrated me, and she has been there to help me celebrate every success that has come my way (and never let on that she deserved much of the credit for those successes, though secretly I knew such was true). She has been one of the only people in my life to consistently support every decision I made no matter how crazy, and I truly appreciate her letting me find my way on my own when I needed too (and her being there to help pick up the pieces when things didn’t go according to plan).

Dad - While Dad will probably say that I am more similar to my mom, Mom will say that I am my Daddy’s girl. (I have been told on countless occasions that I look like a little Gregg.) I guess I am just a little bit of the best of both worlds. (And maybe a bit of the worst too, haha.) One thing I know for certain is that I could enter my dad into any “Best Dad” contest and he would likely come out the winner. I have never met a man that would go further to help people than him, and for my siblings and me there has never been a distance too far. It’s probably a good thing he’s retired now, because he spend a good chunk of his time driving back and forth between my sister and me doing the things that daddies do. (I am certain that he prays he will never have to move us again every time one of us moves.) We like to joke that he just comes to see us for the food that he gets to eat when he visits, but deep down we know that he’d come in a heartbeat any time we call, even if there is no pizza, pasta, bbq, etc. involved.

Clint - My older brother Clint is 2 things: my biggest supporter and my greatest inspiration. Clint (27) has Down’s syndrome and lives at home with my parents, but don’t let that make you think that he’s incapable of anything. In many ways he’s infinitely more intelligent than I could ever hope to be - you’d be AMAZED at the memory he has. He is also the epitome of infinite love. Clint has never met a stranger, nor an enemy. He truly sees good in everybody, even when they refuse to see the good in him. There’s an article that explains why the world would be a much better place those with Down's syndrome ruled the world, and I certainly agree. I know that I will never grow short of getting love from my brother - his final words with every goodbye are always “be careful, I love you, and I’ll be praying for you.” I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Becca - Well, perhaps I should say that my sister (23) and I are where we are today in spite of each other rather than because of each other. Anyone else who has had daughters who are 17 months apart in the same household can probably sympathize with my parents. Though we may look alike (according to most), in many ways my sister and I are polar opposites; and we didn’t always see eye to eye growing up. We played hard, but we fought harder. There have been a few broken chairs, broken doors, black eyes, pulled hairs, and even a dislocated arm to prove that. (I’d love to know how many of you are thinking “you’ve got to be kidding!” right about now. Yep … Bec and I both have a little bit of fight in us.) My freshman year of college, however, my sister became my best friend. Twice that year and many times throughout the next few years of my life I faced a few traumatic experiences, and when I needed someone to stand by my side to defend or support me, it was my sister who ended up being there every time. With distance we grew closer and even ended up living together when she came to Purdue. Now our fights are few and far between and, as our friend Leanne would tell you, we have them down to a science - scream for a few minutes and then move on like it never happened! We have a lot more in common than we originally thought, and our differences perfectly balance one another. And the two of us together = unstoppable!

Now on to my extended family …

SOC 2006 (plus P-Staff and the extended BGR family) - It could have been a season of the Real World. For 1 year I ate, worked, studied, played, and slept with 7 strangers (err … sort of) nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was arguably one of the best years of my life. Kyle Sloan, Leslie Massaro, Nathan Duff, Joel Baughn, Katy Franzen, Bre Rayl, the late James Thangarajan, and I made up SOC 2006 - the Student Orientation Committee for Boiler Gold Rush, Purdue’s orientation program. Those 7 comprise the nucleus of my Purdue family (now including the BEST guardian angel), and taught me what it really meant to have one another’s back. Our BGR family is HUGE and spans continents. With a growing number of P-Staff and 500+ student leaders involved every year, we reach far and wide. I admit that I didn’t know everyone that I worked with in 2006, let alone all those that came before or after me; but I do know that I am forever bonded to thousands in a family of people who live (and die) by the principles we learned through BGR.

Phi Sigma Rho - There are a lot of pros and cons to being Greek. I’ll be the first one to tell you that. And everyone has their stereotypes about our community. Some are true; some are not. I think that a quote one of our pledge class’s t-shirts explains it best: “From the outside looking in, you could never understand it. From the inside looking out, we could never explain it.” We’re sisters. We’re a bit (ok maybe a lot, sometimes) dysfunctional, but we are sisters. One of my sisters described our bond best at her senior night when she said something along the lines of, “I may not have been the best of friends with everyone, but I would give any one of you my kidney if you needed it.” One thing is certain - we’re there for one another when times get tough. Anyone who is Greek has seen the power of what we can do when we are needed by one of our own; we mobilize. I’ve seen it and experienced it firsthand - even by sisters who graduated long before and long after me; even by sisters from other chapters. No matter what, in the end we always have one another’s backs.

My University 101/NRC Brothers and Sisters - When I went to school at the University of South Carolina I entered a long bloodline of University 101 graduate assistants. Shove 4 GAs in a closet together, and there’s bound to be some bonding! As we came in twos, Mandie and Misty served as older sisters to K.Pei and me, just as K.Pei and I became older sisters to JP and Spence. It was with these people that I celebrated accomplishments with, drowned sorrows with, analyzed students with, and shared secrets with. For the first time in my life I could truly share the same interests and goals with this group of people. Over in the NRC and in class, Reed truly became my brother from another mother. At times he may be an annoying brother who purposely likes to push my buttons (Reed, I know you are thinking about cheese right now …), but I truly believe we are two souls who were destined to find one another. These people are my soul mates and always have my back.

Team NKOTW - Finally, my family has grown again. Some of them are already my best friends, and others, I am certain, will be best friends come October. I am so honored to be walking with Kim, Katie B., Jenn D., Katie H., Jenn L., Meredith, Shawn, and Karen in this journey. I know throughout the 3-Day these ladies will have my back!

Fundraising Update and MANY Thanks
Many thanks goes out this week to my Uncle Tom who’s donation brought me to $1,645.00, which is 72% of my goal! (And that doesn’t include the Insider Pages money, which hasn’t cleared yet.) That means that with 21 weeks of training left I have less than $655 to go!

Our team also passed the 20% mark. We’re at $4,192.00 which is 23% of our team goal. Congrats goes to my teammates for their outstanding efforts!

Breast Cancer Fact of the Week
"When caught early, breast cancer is one of the most curable cancers. Women diagnosed with cancers in Stage 0 or I experience a 95 percent cure rate" (Sutter Health). Remind the women in your life to perform routine self-checks every month and to stay current on mammograms as they get older. A little time and discomfort is worth being healthy and/or cured!

The Numbers
This week I walked 16.8 miles in 3 states (see pictures from DC below) for a total of 48,519 steps. That brings my grand total to 42.04 miles and 121,474 steps!

Happy walking to you and your family this week! Celebrate those who have your back.



  1. Jenn makes me laugh every week, and you make me cry! I love your heart so much!!!!

  2. That is why we make a good team! If Michelle would give me a heads up that this kind of stuff was coming, I could step up the funny a little bit. Sheesh!

  3. Thank you for all the wonderful things that you wrote about our family! I have always told you that you walk with a number of strong women beside you. I watched you from the window take off for your two walks in Seymour and it touched my heart to see you with your head held high and your shoulders back training for this worthy cause. Bless you all!

  4. Mandie and Jenn - I don't mean to bring tears! But, glad that Jenn and I balance each other out. I'll try to insert some "funny" along the way!