REPEAT AFTER ME: 

Now let me ask you an important question.  

Do you believe it when you say it?

It is totally ok if you say no!  Trust me, I spent years saying the words without believing them!  

I am so glad you are here and I can't wait for you to actually believe those words because once you do your entire world will be flipped upside down.  WHY? 

BECAUSE BECOMING A BIG TOUGH GIRL™ IS A WAY OF LIFE!

And don't you think it is about damn time?

I HELP THE "DAILY WOMAN" WORK THROUGH THE FIVE IMPORTANT STEPS:

Big Tough Girl™ really started as a journey find and overcome these 5 things for myself but as I have had the chance to talk with hundreds of women around the country I realize that I am not alone in this daily struggle.

I really could trace this all the way back to High School and my never ending journey to find and value SELF-WORTH but lets fast forward a few years and a divorce later.  (If you want the real relationship dirt you can read my LOVE STORY HERE.)

I found myself in an unplanned pregnancy at the age of 25.  HOW IN THE HELL DID THIS HAPPEN??  

Okay we all KNOOOOW how this happened but this could NOT be happening!

Those 9 months changed the course of my life forever in all the best and most tragic ways possible.  

When I made the decision to place my child for adoption I had no idea that it would literally change the very identity of who I was and what I would become.  Through years of grief and denial I was on a path leading straight to complete and utter destruction.  

After that decision I became very casual in my relationships, I became very dependent on alcohol and other numbing substances, I hated my own reflection in the mirror and I blamed everyone else for everything that was wrong in my life.  

 I did not want to AND could not face the pain and grief that I was feeling.  I started to recognize 3 things that kept creeping up in my daily struggle...  

I was pissed off at everyone.

I was in denial of what I was really feeling.

I was terrified.

Terrified that if I actually allowed myself to FEEL everything that I was going through that I would literally die.  Turns out I almost killed myself trying to do ANYTHING BUT face my reality!

HAVE YOU EVER FELT THAT WAY?

As we all know you can't run forever!  Shit will catch up with you and for me it did in a BIG HUGE WAY including a bottle of pills, a ride in an ambulance and 5 days on lock-down in a mental health facility.

It truly was the best thing that has ever happened to me.  

Sometimes it takes an overwhelming breakdown to have an undeniable and life changing break through.

That week changed my life. 

What I learned was that I was spending all of my time, energy and money fighting against myself instead of fighting for myself.  

If I am going to show up to the table and bet against ME, then I will never get ahead.

Sitting in that hospital for 5 days helped me realize those very 5 things we talked about.

As I started to do the work, as I started to feel everything in my life, as I started to bet on ME I learned so much about myself, my weaknesses, my strengths, who I really was and not what people wanted me to be, I started to talk to the woman in the mirror AND more importantly I started to LIKE her.

  10 years post placement of my son, 2 divorces, a move to Nashville and BACK, many failures and a few successes I am finally believing that I AM A BIG TOUGH GIRL™.

I believe that being a Big Tough Girl™ is a way of life.  It is a mindset and it is a CHOICE I make every single day.  

Standing with women around the world for being a BTG™ on the daily is one of the greatest joys of my life.

 What is a Big Tough Girl™ ?  Simple.  

Any  woman that gets up every single day and that fights the good fight.

THAT IS ALL YOU HAVE TO DO. 

JUST SHOW UP.

 
 

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED. 

The only things that truly matter in this life will not be anything that we can take with us when we die.  My family is EVERYTHING.  I can do impossible things.  No one that has time to talk shit about you and bring you down is worth a damn.  My children have brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined, that being said I have never felt more like a failure than I do as a mother.  I have a testimony of MY Savior and his atonement for me. I have a personal and close relationship to him...there are no relationships in my life that matters more than that.  My husband is the most incredible person that I have ever known, and NO I am not just saying that.  His name is 'Amazing Grace' for a reason.  I have had to let go of a lot in my life and I am learning that the more I let go, the more freedom I feel.  I have to fight for my life every single day.  I have great weaknesses but that does NOT make me a weak person.  I believe in community healing.  I believe that if you surround yourself with the right people they can lift you in ways that you never thought possible.  I am blessed with very dear friends.  I believe that you can and SHOULD create YOUR life.  I believe in inspiring and beautiful women.  I love my marriage and there is nothing on this planet that would convince me to sacrifice that.  EVER.  I OWN my shit.  Every single bit of it.  I am truly honored and blessed to have the ministry called upon me.  There is great work to be done and I pray daily for the strength to do this work.  

I am a self-proclaimed BTG™ and the greatest word in the English language is:

MOXIE noun : courage or determination

Through this journey I also discovered my LIFE MANTRA.

At the end of the day if the results are not worth the work then it is a big fat HELL NO!

 

THE FOLLOWING ARE MY RECENT BLOGS THAT I WROTE FOR A SERIES.

Enjoy these along with other writings.

 
 

10 FACTS OF RANDOMNESS.

  1. I truly believe that College Football is the greatest sport on the planet!  DA U.  One thing on my bucket list that I work at whenever I can is to have my picture taken at EVERY College Football Stadium in the country. People come to my house on a Saturday to watch ME watch the TV.  Oh to be Erin Andrews.   { be sure to follow me on Pinterest to watch these amazing intentions come to life! }
  2. I am a Netflix TV Series Junkie!  I am always looking for a new show to watch.  BUT I refuse to watch a show one episode at a time.  I will wait ALL year until the entire season is finished and then you can find me in my jammies, in bed, with a bowl of raw cookies dough for an entire weekend.  Some of my favorites include Grey's Anatomy, Brothers and Sisters, Sex and the City, Gilmore Girls, Sports Night and Smallville. SIDE NOTE ||  Our son Oliver aka Ollie was named after 'Oliver Queen aka The Green Arrow' from Smallville.  #swoon as my hubby is rolling his eyes...deny, deny, deny.
  3. I truly think that SNOW is the most magical and sparkly thing on this planet...yes, even while driving in it.
  4. My very favorite thing to eat is a big plate of bow tie noodles covered in shredded sharp cheddar cheese, a shake or 6 of Parmesan and salt.  A lot of salt.
  5. I am the cleanest "dirty" person that you will ever meet.  
  6. Off the record if you asked me what I want to be when I grow up, my answer would be a Super Model.  I have ALWAYS loved fashion magazines, celebrity dish, and the wings on the VS runway models.  This is actually really hilarious to know about myself and embarrassing to admit because if you have ever met me in person I am rarely with make-up on or out of my signature black BTG shirt and matching sweat pants.  {see fact number 5. } 
  7. I am ALWAYS down for a road trip.  I love to travel and I think staying in a hotel is the funnest thing in the world.
  8. I have mastered the art of walking in heels.  In fact, high heels are MY bitches.  I own that jank!
  9. I would have a Christmas Tree up all year round if my hubby would let me.  I have one in my bedroom. Next to snow, the lights on a tree are my favorite kind of sparkle.
  10. I believe in FAMILY TRADITION.  I grew up in a very loving and close family.  Over the years we have created some GREAT family traditions.  My heart has been broken time and time again when "things have to change" due to family living out of town, family not caring like they used to, time and energy blah blah.  EXCUSES.  My family traditions are at the top of my list of things that I value most!  I want my kids to value them and treasure them as I have and I will do every thing in my power to keep them alive!  { cue super hero music and the fan to make my cape fly! }
 

PRESS BIO:

(in case you need a fancy-pants version of my life in 200 words or less)

Ashley Mitchell and her story have been shared all over the country through nationally acclaimed writing series, award-winning service, television + radio interviews and hundreds of blogs + business sites. She is known for her vulnerability and realness through her speaking, writing, mentoring and advocacy work for the Adoption community.

She is the Western Region Leader for the Parent Advocacy Council in the state of Utah helping to bring tools, resources and voice back to the parents.

She is the owner of Big Tough Girl™, serving women world wide in their desire to live life as a Big Tough Girl™. She believes strongly in the power of sharing your story, educating yourself on the issues, and providing the resources so that women can feel empowered and successful in their journey.

Ashley is a mother of 2 and a birth mother of 1. She is learning daily how to navigate open adoption and how to create a life after placement.

She resides in Utah with her husband and small family.
www.bigtoughgirl.com

YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT WHERE I HAVE BEEN AND WHAT IS COMING NEXT ON THE PRESS PAGE HERE

In November of 2013 I had the great honor of being featured in the Acclaimed Series- Portraits of Adoption hosted by Author, Carrie Goldman and sponsored by Chicago Now.  

This is an edited version of my story, focused in the adoption and all that came with it.  One that will be shared in great detail in an incredible book.  

Big Tough Girl.  My Adoption Story.

They showed me to a private room, with about twenty chairs set up in a horseshoe shape all facing a television set.  I was one of the first people there.  As I sat there, I let my mind wonder, I couldn’t believe that I was there, alone.  The walls were empty and there was a small bookcase littered with pamphlets.    People started to trickle in.

A nurse walked in, did not make eye contact and dumped a VHS tape into the television like she had done a million times before, stated that she would return after the video and walked out.  The video started with some bold text that flashed on the screen and it read: What you need to know about Abortion.  And so my story begins.

When I was growing up and planning my future, becoming a birth mother was NEVER discussed with my guidance counselor.  I would talk with friends about what we would “do” if we ever got pregnant.  Abortion was never an option; raising a child would be hard but maybe adoption would be a good choice.

I have learned a few things since those days, the simpler days.  First is that you NEVER know what you would be willing to do in time of serious crisis and second is that being a birth mom is not an occupation, it is not who I am, it is what I am.  My life has developed into so much more than that experience.

In 2005 I found myself pregnant.  I was not a kid; I was 25 years old.  I was an adult, I had a job; I had responsibilities, but I was pregnant, and alone.  I was off again in my “on-again-off again” relationship with a boy, a boy who at the time I thought I could not live without.  We were toxic together but I was in a place in my life when I didn’t know what that meant; I didn’t know the difference.  I suppose that most of my relationships in my life had followed that same toxic pattern, and I was a little self-destructive. But this boy, this boy I couldn’t let go of.  So we continued to be toxic together for four years.  It wasn’t until we were off again and I had moved back home to Utah that I discovered I was pregnant.

I knew I was pregnant several months before I could admit it to myself.  I was in total denial that this was happening to me.  I was raised in a good, happy and supportive Latter Day Saint home and this kind of thing just didn’t happen, and this kind of thing was NOT talked about.  In denial that this was happening, I continued to work a full time job, go to the gym, went tanning, went out drinking and dancing with my friends, and carried on relationships.  I was determined to will this pregnancy to not happen, prayed around the clock for a miscarriage, and did unspeakable things to force the hand in that direction.

When I couldn’t ignore it anymore I forced myself to take a test.  In secret, I watched as that stick revealed what I had known for months.  At this point -- desperate, embarrassed, scared and alone -- abortion seemed like my only option.  I was going for broke.

I waited and waited.  It was an eternity.  Time stood still.

They finally called my name, and I stood and could feel every eye in the room watch me walk out.  They took me back to get an ultrasound.  I was in a “community” room.  No privacy.  No secrets.  We all knew what we were doing there.  I was going to see my baby for the first time; and then I was going to terminate this pregnancy.  I was out of my head.  I couldn’t think, breathe, or feel.  I was blank. Empty.

As the nurse performed the ultrasound, she kept focused on the screen.  There was no polite chit chat.  She glanced at me over her glasses, hesitated, walked out of the room and returned in a matter of seconds.  She very quietly told me to get dressed.  I did what she asked, but my expression was very confused.  And then she said something to me that changed my life forever.

“You are too far along to terminate this pregnancy.  I am sorry.  We cannot help you.”
I walked out, received $500 cash refund, and I never looked back.

Somehow through all the fear and pain, lack of faith and weakness and the Grace of God, adoption became my only option.  There was a greater plan for that precious, amazing little boy and for the family that was waiting for him.

That was an incredible day.  A day that changed my life.

Even though I knew that I would choose adoption, I still continued life as normal.  I was still unwilling to admit, embrace or accept what was happening, and I still could not tell those closest to me.  As time started to get closer and closer, I started to panic.  This baby was going to come whether I was willing to accept it or not, whether I wanted it to or not (it was still an “it” at this point).

It was now time to “choose a family” for the baby boy.  It was a boy.  I had about a month and a half before delivery.  It was all becoming very real.  I knew that picking a family would help with the emotional detachment and was a necessary step, but I will tell you, there is nothing in this world that is more stupid and crazy and unbelievable, and ridiculous and unfathomable than to sit down with fifty scrapbook pages and bios and have to pick from the pile for who you want to raise the baby that will forever be connected to you and your heart.

Seriously?  How do you even begin to work through that process?  I remember it clear as day.   I received a phone call as the process of elimination was about to begin.  It was my sister, tears in her voice.  We want to adopt him.  Let us adopt him, to give you some time.  As a mother, she knew what I was about to go through and knew that I had no clue.

She knew the instant connection that a mother felt with a child at the time of birth, how quickly that maternal instinct kicked in.  Knowing what she knew and the love she had for her children, she didn’t think this was something that anyone could survive.  She wanted me to have options.  I could never take her up on that, so there I was at the kitchen table, a staple meeting place for my family.

I was joined by my mom and dad and brother.  We spread out all the pages and started looking through them, pouring over them, studying them, laughing at them, crying at them.  Creating the NO piles and the MAYBE piles and STRONG POSSIBILITY piles.  Going through piles again, changing our minds, debating on likes and dislikes, deal breakers and requirements.  Hours passed.

I knew that I had to pick a family from that first stack of profiles given to me.  I knew that I could not look any more.  At the end of the night we had narrowed it down to two very different families.  Finally I went to bed with these two profiles debating in my mind over and over the pros and cons of each, not knowing them but knowing everything about them.  They were being judged.

I was going to deem one family worthy of a child and one family not.  I did not want that kind of power over the life changing events for any person.

I was praying for a different perspective in the morning.  To see things in a new light.  I found that really unlikely given the circumstances.

Something happened to me the next morning that I was not expecting.  I was dreading the decision that was placed before me, and I did not want to face the day.  But I got up and looked over at the nightstand at the pictures, the faces, the lives of these strangers and I knew instantly.  One family was picked; the other was put back in the pile.  He had a family, I was carrying their child.  The perspective had shifted, just like I had asked it to.

A few days before delivery, I sat down with my case worker and we went over in great detail the paperwork involved in relinquishing my rights as the parent.  I am so grateful for the time that I spent with her in the office.  She was an amazing support to me.  We did not continue our relationship after our time in the hospital.

It was too painful to see her again as a caseworker after what I experienced in the hospital, but I am grateful that she took the time that she did to go over all the fine print of that paperwork because she was right.  I didn’t hear a word that she said at the hospital and I needed to be of sound mind to understand what was about to happen.

Nothing could prepare me for the reality, but I was glad that I knew what I was signing before I was in that moment under so much pressure and emotion.  The birth father had signed his papers a few months before, so I was literally the last thing holding the parental rights in my control.

I sat nervously on the couch in my parents’ family room waiting for the hospital to call, to tell me that they were ready for me to come in to deliver.  I was hungry and scared.  I wanted to talk with my mom about what was about to happen to my body, my emotions.  She didn’t look at me, didn’t talk to me that morning.  We all had to deal and process this in our own way.  I knew she loved me and she was going to be there at the hospital but that was all she could do.  I don’t blame her for that.

For weeks I had been telling myself that I did not want to see him after delivery.  That as soon as that baby was born, I needed to be able to pass him along to the loving arms of his mother....or I never would have been able to let him go! I was very glad that his family was going to be there. They were all SO HAPPY, and they are an incredible family!!! I couldn't have picked a better family for this baby boy, but I was dying inside and it was so hard.

I sat in the delivery room alone for most of the day.  A few visitors in and out but everyone left me alone for the most part.  Either they were trying to be respectful or they couldn’t handle the reality of the situation.  I would have given anything to be pacing the waiting room with them.

I learned something so sacred and special that day.  There are very few things in this world that are more precious and more amazing to a mother than hearing their baby cry for the first time.  The second he came into this world, I wanted him close.  They placed my son on my chest and he cried.

That sound, that precious, sacred sound filled the room. My heart was breaking.  I knew that I was sharing that very first cry with someone else.  That cry wasn’t just for me.  I knew that out in the hall, listening and waiting through that door was his mother.  I know that when she heard the very first cry of our son, she wept.

I am a birth mom.  I have owned my story, I get up every day and DO IT ANYWAY even when I can’t even breathe from the reality of it all, I rise above the prejudice and judgments, I love with all my heart, and I know that I can’t do this alone.

I rely on my family, my husband, my community of Big Tough Girls™ and most important my Father in Heaven.  He knew there was a boy, a special boy that needed to live and to grow and love and serve and become a great man of this generation.  That boy was once my son, he is now the son of another and he is becoming a great man.   I am a birth mom, a self-proclaimed Big Tough Girl™ and I am thriving.

I know with the deepest belief in my soul that when adoption was put in my sights and became the only option that there was a bigger plan laid out for my life.  I know that I was inspired to pick the family that I did to raise that boy.  I know that he is becoming the man that he is because of his mother and her daily commitment to him and to me, making sure that he never wants for anything.

People always ask about him with them and what that is like.  I just smile and say “he looks like his dad.”  He belongs in that family; he is a part of their family.  I carry him in my heart but he is all theirs -- body, mind and soul.  I gave him life, and they are helping him live it.  I am eternally indebted to them for saving me, for saving him.  They are the true heroes of my journey.

 My name is Ashley Mitchell.  I am the owner of Big Tough Girl™.  I am a wife and a mother.  I have survived so much in my life.  I am so blessed because of the trials and challenges in my life, they have become great teachers.  I love my husband and would not be doing the work that I love without his daily support.  I believe that snow is the most magical thing on earth.  I am a self-proclaimed Big Tough Girl™.  This is my story.  www.bigtoughgirl.com