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The New Year.

New year, you’re saying? Ashley, it’s March.

Yes, but on the Ashley calendar, March = New Year. I return to life when daylight savings begins (although having ACTUAL SUNLIGHT is helpful, Kansas). Add March Madness plus opening day = all is well in the world.

And for the last 10 years or so, my Marches have been marked by milestones.

  1. Nine years ago this month I received my cancer diagnosis and began treatment.

  2. Eight years ago this month I interviewed for a spa director position at Natural Body Leawood.

  3. Five years ago this month I flew to Natural Body corporate offices in Atlanta to hear they were ceasing Leawood operations and proposing I take over the Kansas business.

  4. Four years ago this month we were prepping to move from Leawood into our spa home here in downtown OP as Milagro.

Phew. That’s a crazy decade of Marches.

I imagine there are a few of you (or maybe a lotta you) out there who read my writings and think, “this is the weirdest non-spa-related spa blog ever”. Understandable. Milagro and the way we do things here are certainly not textbook.

When I graduated with my sociology degree, I planned to use my fascination with people and their stories to fix the KCMO school system (ambition has clearly never been a problem). My first job was at Operation Breakthough (shout out, 31st & Troost) where I quickly discovered I was passionate about the cause and horrible at the actual work (all y’all non-profit fundraising folks are AMAZING; that s*** is HARD).

I fell into a part-time job at a local salon/spa, not knowing what I was going to do with my life, but knowing I loved my spa visits to the fantastic resort spas in Arizona (where I attended college). This’ll be fun for awhile, I thought. One thing led to another and I found myself in spa management, then esthetics school, then in skin care sales (yep). And then I got cancer.

As I recently recounted to an old friend, cancer was like stepping outside of my life briefly and then returning as a changed person into a world that hadn’t changed. Reentry was difficult.

I took the job at Natural Body because it was familiar to my old self. While I had never been a “day spa” gal (for me, they couldn’t compare to the resort spa experience), spa work was fine. When the opportunity came (almost exactly four years to the day of my cancer diagnosis) to take the business and run, I had to. Before cancer, I’m not sure I would’ve had the guts. Or the determination to live life without regret.

They say it’s our job to create the thing we wish existed. So that’s what I did. I set out to build the spa I would go to. {Around my birthday I was investigating Chicago spas for a possible visit and one of the treatment menus was FIFTY (50) (50!!) pages. And while trying to help my sister select a treatment at an Arizona spa, I needed a translator for all of the aura reading, sacred stone, sage cleansing they wanted to include. Can I just get a body scrub without having to convert to a new religion, please?}

Milagro is simple. Milagro is comfort, Milagro is quiet, Milagro is honest. Milagro is contentment, hospitality, and warmth. Milagro is where we go to check out, take inventory, adjust perspective. To remember who we are, why we’re here, and where we’re going.

This may be the strangest line I’ve ever written:  I hope Milagro does for you what cancer did for me. I hope it forces you awake (in a much more gentle and enjoyable way) to the reality of your life. Its beauty and its awfulness. Its gentle ease and its ridiculous struggle. Its brevity, its irrelevance, its intensity, its potential, its power. I hope you hold it tighter and more loosely. I hope you’re regularly overwhelmed with gratefulness for fun folks who are easy to love, but also for difficult, prickly souls who challenge your ability to love.

And because life this way can be tricky and uncomfortable and requires a willingness to be weird plus a wicked sense of humor, I hope Milagro is where you’ll come to catch your breath. To remember why it’s worth it.


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