By day, and sometimes nights and weekends, Ashley Mason is the Executive Director of the American Heart Association, Kentuckiana Chapter. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Louisville and generally wears a lot of hats, including that of being an unscheduled homeschool teacher for her two preschoolers while working from home recently.
At work, Ashley leads a team of development-minded, relationship-driven extroverts like herself, and they are all committed to creating and sustaining equitable health and wellbeing for the community. “Being a female leader for a nonprofit organization helps me feel empowered (some days). Being a mom generally makes me feel anxious and doubtful, like I am getting it wrong (most days).”
Ashley says she lives and dies by her calendar and considers herself a daily routine type of person. “I am not a big fan of my cheese being moved,” she says with a laugh. She schedules in everything, from work meetings to kids’ activities, and is setting an example for her young daughter on how to take care of herself as a person while contributing to the community and working in a fast-paced society that always wants more.
“And while I am not sure my kids appreciate this now, I believe my time at American Heart Association has built me up to deal with conflict management that I attempt to use at home on my children—and my husband, if I am being honest—to have crucial conversations,” she says.
Self-care is key for everyone’s physical and mental wellness. For Ashley, self-care takes the form of yoga, indoor cycling, step aerobics, running three or four days a week, individual therapy every other week, cooking nutritious meals for her family, and enjoying the occasional cocktail. She says it’s White Claw these days.
“I know my kids are sick of hearing me quiz them on healthy snack choices versus unhealthy snack choices,” Ashley says. “Because of my work at American Heart Association, I believe now more than ever that if we instill healthy habits in our youth, they will have a healthier trajectory through adolescence and as adults.” She cites movement, exercise and eating healthy foods as top habits, as well as understanding signs and symptoms of heart attacks and strokes.
Ashley met her husband, Dan, when he was a groomsman in her sister’s wedding. They have a five-year-old daughter, Adalyn, and four-year-old son, Alex. “My favorite time of the day is first thing in the morning when they come downstairs,” she says. “I have a huge smile on my face and open my arms wide for a hug and tell their sleepy little faces ‘I am so happy to see you.’ I always want them to remember that feeling.”
No matter how she herself is feeling in any given moment, when Ashley sees the faces of her two precious children the only thing she can feel is joy and happiness.
“Dan and I lost twin boys at 21 weeks gestation to an infection called chorioamnionitis,” she recalls. She was on bedrest with Adalyn and with Alex, both of whom have two guardian angel big brothers and a nana looking out for them.
“My mom passed away four years ago from inflammatory breast cancer and since she’s been gone, she’s had this way of being there for me, giving me a sign when it gets really tough,”
Supermom Ashley has some go-to mantras that really help her throughout the day, at home and at work, like “Brace yourself,” “Stop being surprised by the unexpected” and, perhaps the most effective one of all, “I am doing the best I can.”
Another key component of mental wellness for Ashley is interaction. “Mamas who were already overextended doing it all and now doing more—I feel for them. I feel for me,” she says. ”I wish that every mama out there had someone in their lives who would take a moment this month, this week, today and let them know they are doing a really good job. Everyone deserves a hype squad. Words of affirmation go such a long way, and right now words and connection mean so much more.”