Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

This is my last post of 2009. How time flies! This past year has been full of a lot of things and changes for me. I graduated high school, started college, had a job, had surgery, and so much more. I woke up this morning thinking about the past year, and it was a pretty good one. God has been wonderful to me, and though it may have taken me a long time to realize His hand in certain areas of my life, I am grateful for all that has happened to me this past year. The good, bad, sad, and joyful.

One of the neat things that I have been able to be a part of is working on my church's new website. A couple of months ago, the pastor Fr. Christian asked me if I wanted a job. I said, sure. That job turned into being one of the parish webmasters. It is cool!

Our launch date was originally January 1, 2010. We finished things two days early (whoo-hoo!) so it was launched yesterday afternoon. As with any website, it will always be a work in progress, but I encourage you to go visit now and come back often! One awesome part of the site is the podcast section. What I am most eager to listen to often is the "Faith Seeking Understanding" podcast, where Fr. Christian answers questions about the Catholic faith.

Welcome to sthomaslc.com and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wisdom Teeth Are Great

Yesterday I had all 4 of my wisdom teeth removed. Never did I think I'd be able to be on the computer in such short a time. I know, the recovery time is way short, but being such the baby that I am, I had expected to be away from the virtual world for a long time.

All I remember about the procedure/oral surgeon visit from yesterday was sitting in the waiting room, silently stewing over my impending fate. Then another girl came in with her parents. She looked just as excited as I felt. Ha! Then after some silence, a drilling noise could be heard by all. I instantly looked up and met the other girl's eyes, and we both had silent, mini-strokes. It is amazing the bond you can share with a complete and total stranger. In times of trouble, we bond together.

Finally, it was my turn. As I was walking back, the nurse asked me how I was doing, and I sarcastically replied that I was great. Just grrrrreat. I'm a mean patient. I should probably write them a nice apology/explanation letter. I just don't like IV's, needles, the word surgery, and the fact that I won't be able to chew normally for a while. So naturally I take it out on the people who are involved with all of those nasty, terrible things. The good oral surgeon and his staff were very kind to me, the belligerent and whiny patient.

After sitting in the chair for just 5 seconds, I started to freak out. Then I started to hum one of my favorite songs, "Down to the River to Pray" by Alison Krauss. I just recently found out about it, and I love it. As I hummed, I said a few silent Hail Marys, and then I was calm. Doc came in, went over the checklist, and began to give me the IV. It wasn't as bad as my last IV experience, but it was enough to make me light headed. Then he said you'll start to feel funny. As I replied, "What kind of funny?" the nurse put the oxygen things in my nose, and I was out like a light. I came to in the recovery room. Now that I think about it, I wonder how they got me there because I couldn't walk without two people holding my hands!

The first day was brutal. It now seems that my body does not respond well to anesthesia or Hydrocodone. I could not stop getting sick for the life of me, even though I hadn't had anything to eat for at least the past 15 hours. That sucked really bad. I couldn't even keep a pain pill down long enough. Amazingly enough, I managed to keep Spaghetti-Os down later at night. Good ole Spaghetti-Os, the ever reliable food. I've been vomit free for almost 24 hours. I know, that was an over share.

Now I just look like a chipmunk, and I wish I could eat normally. It is kind of difficult to chew with just my front teeth. Not that you wanted to know my whole tale, but I had to share it anyway because writing gives me something to do! I would also like to share with you something that helps calm me down and put me in a prayerful state.

"Down to the River to Pray" by Alison Krauss

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way !

O sisters let's go down,
Let's go down, come on down,
O sisters let's go down,
Down in the river to pray.

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way !

O brothers let's go down,
Let's go down, come on down,
Come on brothers let's go down,
Down in the river to pray.

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way !

O fathers let's go down,
Let's go down, come on down,
O fathers let's go down,
Down in the river to pray.

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way !

O mothers let's go down,
Come on down, don't you want to go down,
Come on mothers let's go down,
Down in the river to pray.

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way !

O sinners let's go down,
Let's go down, come on down,
O sinners let's go down,
Down in the river to pray.

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way !

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sabbath Sunday: Fear and Faith

I've decided to stop numbering my Sabbath Sunday posts, so don't freak out! I did not forget how to count; I'm just doing something different.

This Sunday's post is from this past June. That particular Sunday's Gospel passage really spoke to me, and now I find it speaking to me again. Although this time, it isn't about big changes like beginning college. This time I am sort of freaking out about getting my wisdom teeth removed. Tomorrow I go to the oral surgeon! Yaaaaaaaay.

I'm not terrified of the surgery itself, I promise (okay, just a little). It is just the IV that I have to have for anesthesia that frightens me. I'm a fraidy-cat and absolutely abhor needles.

Pray for me! Hopefully I can post again soon before the New Year. Until then, read "Fear and Faith" here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Netherfield Day

I hope you all are having a wonderful day! I am, and it has been what I like to call an Arrival to Netherfield Day...and that is good my friends, very good.

A bowl of Cocoa Pebbles for breakfast while watching Kate & Leopold on one of the random movie channels made for an excellent morning. Then I drove out to visit my best friend Becca. We chatted and did absolutely nothing, and then we went down to the barn to see her new 7 month-old Tennessee Walking horse. Jazz is a gorgeous jet black boy, big for his age too. I always love visiting Becca and both her human and animal family. Her other horses, Moon and Smoke, are two of my favorites. Moon and Jazz are getting acquainted, and that is a show quite unto itself.

Becca and Jazz

I left Becca's house and came home to find the place to myself. I took the time to wrap presents for the family. Now my Dad and I are getting ready to leave and join the rest of the family at my grandparents' house. My aunt and uncle drove down from Indiana. It has been a very good day thus far.

May you have a Happy Christmas and may your family gatherings be filled with peace and love!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sabbath Sunday #5

I forgot about the Sabbath Sunday post last week. So here I am doing it now before I forget again. This Sabbath Sunday post is titled "Optimus Prime is My Hero." Yes I transformed my love of Transformers (ha! that was great) into a blog over the summer.

Read it here.

Happy 4th Sunday of Advent and have a Happy Christmas if I don't blog before then! :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Different Kind of Treasure

I found it amusing, meaningful, and helpful that the Scripture verse for a daily meditation seemed to speak to my pack-rat nature. Indeed I am one, but I am getting better at not being a hoarder.

"Do not be concerned about storing up treasures on earth...Store up treasure for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves cannot break in and steal." -Matthew 6:19-20

Now I am no theologian or Bible scholar, and even if the meaning of these verses does not pertain to pack-rat behavior, I think they would certainly help curb it.

Interestingly enough, this particular meditation comes in the month of December. In this season that more and more seems to be about consumerism and less about the importance of the birth of Christ, I find these verses helpful because I am reminded that in the end, material things don't mean anything. It is what I store up in heaven, what I give of myself and not of my wallet to God and my fellow human beings, that is really important.

Treasure doesn't have to be gold or silver (try telling that to Captain Jack Sparrow!), an iPod or a Wii, a pair of $100 jeans or a gift card. Treasure is the family and friends that God blessed us with. Treasure includes all the non-material gifts that God has given each of us. Most importantly, this different kind of treasure is the remembrance of our Savior's arrival to this world.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Angels With Hooves

This little guy is Rudolph. He's a real gentleman, and he hammed it up for the camera.

This is Esperanza, which means hope in Spanish. I think it's an appropriate name given her circumstances! She is incredibly shy and spooks at practically everything.


Yes...it is another post about horses! In the last post, I told you about the arrival of Horse Haven's newest residents. Of the 84 neglected animals from Cannon County, Tennessee, HHT is now taking care of 15 horses and one mule.

I can't even begin to imagine how people can treat another leaving creature with such disdain. These guys and gals are emaciated, covered in rainrot, and some are a little people-shy. Their owners never took the time to feed them or love them. They were just something to have, like a yard decoration or knick-knack on the living room shelf.

To me, they are much more than those things. Every time I meet a new horse, with its own colorful story to tell, I am amazed. I think God sends us angels in many forms, and for me in particular, some angels come in horse form. They are constantly teaching me about life, even though they cannot speak. Surprisingly, they help keep me sane. I enjoy driving all the way out to the barn just to be with them.

Sure, sometimes one of the horses will drive me nuts because he doesn't want to come inside when he is supposed to. Some of them are little stinkers and nip and spill their feed on the ground. In spite of their silly behaviors, I think deep down, they know that they have been saved. Saved from a life not worth living. Saved from a slow and painful death.

I can't upload that many pictures. So here is just a sampling of my angels with hooves. I went out to the barn on Monday to help weigh, measure, and photograph the horses for our records. It was a lot of fun, and I know you're thinking...how could that possibly be fun? Just take my word for it, it was.

This is Shane. He is my shift's responsibility. As soon as I snapped the picture he closed his eyes! He is so sweet.

This is Cayenne. I affectionately call her the Mullet Lady because she has a horse mullet. Unfortunately, part of her mane had to be shaved because it was so matted.

This is Titus. He is such a nice guy. For the same reasons as the mare above, he had to have his mane shaved and part of his tail cut off.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chill Time

The lack of posts this week was due to the fact that I had a final every day and a paper due as well. I was finished with school and unpacked by bedtime Wednesday night. Then I sort of took a few more days of "chill time" and only checked email and Facebook. Hopefully I can get back into the blogging swing of things and give you some new posts next week.

Today I went to the barn for Adoption Day. It has been a little crazy for Horse Haven these past few weeks. A recent case out of Cannon County, TN involving 84 neglected horses has had the barn and our volunteers being super busy. We are now taking care of 16 of those 84, and they arrived this past Wednesday. Today I was able to go meet them. They are all so loving, some are a little goofy, some are stubborn as all get out, and a few are incredibly shy. We probably have 3 stallions but because they are emaciated it is a little difficult to tell. We also have a new momma and baby.

I don't have pictures of them because it was simply too cold to take their blankets off this morning/afternoon. Hopefully in a few days it will warm up enough. Did I mention it was cold? It was freezing outside! I had 2 shirts, 2 jackets, long johns, jeans, and Smartwool socks on...and I was still chilled to the bone!

This past week it is safe to say that I had a lot of chill time...literally. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Below are Beatrice and Skylar. This pair, mom and not-so-young baby, have been with HHT for a few weeks. I finally was able to take pictures of them. Skylar has the most gorgeous blue eyes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sabbath Sunday #4

Here is my Sabbath Sunday post for this fine, chilly weekend. It was originally posted in June. "Yes, I Am A Mush Pot" is my explanation of why I am emotional at times...or as I like to refer to myself, being a mush pot.

You can read it here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Brothers

Last night some friends and I went to a late showing of the movie Brothers. I am no movie critic, and this blog is no film forum. However, it encompassed so many emotions that I wanted to let you all know that it is out there.

My friend called me, asking if I wanted to see some movie about brothers. Well...let me at least check it out before I commit to going, I told her. So I found the trailer and watched it. From the trailer, I could tell that it was going to be a rough, intense film. I still wanted to see it. It stars Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Natalie Portman. I think I've enjoyed every film that I have ever seen all 3 of them in, so that was sure to help.

If you haven't heard of it, I'm posting the trailer below. It is an R-rated film for "language and some disturbing violent content." Why would I blog about something like that, you ask? Well, because this film shows a side of life that we don't know much about...and maybe some of us don't want to know what war is like, but I do. We can't be afraid of the things that we don't want to hear about.

I have a lot of favorite movies. Of the many, there is a small group that are my favorite favorites. They are ones that I can watch over and over and over and never find them old or uneventful. A good portion of those select few are war movies, and I use that term not in the political sense but just in the film sense. They are about war, not the politics of war. I cannot even begin to explain to you, let alone myself, why some of my favorite movies are war ones. I don't like blood, guts, gore, guns, and death. I don't in the least. They're just great films, and I am also fascinated by what goes on in the human mind when it is engulfed in conflict. It probably helps to back up this quirk that my favorite time periods are all centered around great wars in history. Everyone has their morbid fascinations, maybe this is mine.



I cried. I cried because of the movie itself and what it represents, which is reality. It isn't a war movie in the political sense, so don't get all political on me. An article from movieline.com accurately describes it as "a family drama, a study of grief, an exploration of the darkest reaches of human nature, and a remake." It also says that, "You could say Brothers reverses the standard war movie formula by featuring the war in the soldier rather than the soldier in the war, and for that reason alone it does deserve some degree of differentiation."

Maguire, Gyllenhaal, and Portman did a fine job of making this movie feel real. At some points, I forgot that I was sitting in the theater. It is both good and terrible. Good because it is a great film. Terrible because things like that truly happen to real people. While watching this, it also made me think of friends who are in the military...some of whom graduated with me. They're so young! I'm frightened to think of what could happen to them.

Brothers
, is in my opinion a very powerful and moving film. I recommend it, but, to quote that age-old saying, it is not for the faint of heart.

Lord have mercy on us all and bless our troops.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Marine Mammals and Finals

Indy waiting for more ice cubes

I've had a super busy week. Classes were officially over on Tuesday. Hooray! Posting will be light for at least one more week. I have 3 more pages to write for my final paper and 4 finals to study for. I get distracted very easily which is why it takes me forever to write papers. I am going to have soooo much fun. Not.

Anyway, I never told you about my awesome little adventure over the Thanksgiving holiday. My family and I went up to Indiana to visit my Aunt Jen and Uncle Dave. Every time we go and visit them, we always stop by the Indianapolis Zoo where my aunt works. It's a tradition in my family, albeit an atypical one especially because it's always freezing when we come up to visit. Who wants to walk around outside in 40 degree weather? We do.

My aunt is a Marine Mammal Senior Trainer. That is quite the title, don't you think? She works with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, Pacific walruses, polar bears, harbor seals, California sea lions, and gray seals. How awesome is that? VERY AWESOME.

I think it is one of the coolest professions on the planet. Some days I find myself wanting to be like Aunt Jenny. So since she works for the zoo, we get to go behind the scenes. It is always fun every time I go. I've been 4 times for sure, and it never gets boring! One time we were able to go and visit the elephants and see the new baby.

On this trip, we got to do a dolphin pet and some behaviors with Nova. My youngest sister, Kayla, has unofficially adopted Nova as "her dolphin" so we always play with Nova. She was being a little stinker, but she gave us high-fives and kisses and eventually she did the behaviors that we asked of her, like spinning in a circle, waving, and some sort of dolphin version of an acrobatic-gymnastic maneuver.

Then we went and visited the walruses Aurora and Nereus. I remember the first time I met Nereus when he was a little baby in 2004. It was also my first trip to the zoo and going behind the scenes. He's such a big boy now and he's not even full grown! He's such a little stinker, but you have to love him. Since the walruses had already been fed, we just visited with them.

Aurora (left) and Nereus

My Aunt Jen is the coolest. Period.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Why I Love Cats

I had to post twice in one day. I simply could not resist showing you this video of the "Surprised Kitty." I also don't like ending things on odd numbers, so I had to bump this month's total to an even number. Anyway...



How can you not love cats after watching this? As one person said, it makes you believe in humanity again.

'Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful'

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful -Luke 6:36

I never expected to come across a post idea during my usual after class routine. I check my emails, Facebook, and the news. On usatoday.com, there was an article that caught my eye: "Inmates assist ill and dying fellow prisoners in hospices."

Whoa, I thought. Some pretty powerful and wonderful things are happening...in prisons of all places. A prison was one of the last places I expected to be a house of compassion for others. Inmates were one of the last groups of people that I had ever expected to display and practice Christlike behavior. It's funny how God does things like that...blow your mind away and you find that all of your previously held expectations mean nothing. When it is a negative turning into a positive, I like it when that happens.

Anyway, the article is about hospice programs in prisons. Inmates, most of them "lifers", help take care of other inmates: the elderly, sick, and dying ones. They go through training and receive basic hospice care information, and then they take that knowledge and compassion for others and help out their fellow man.

Some of these inmates have committed murder. Some are in life for multiple armed robberies and whatever else constitutes life imprisonment. I know that what they did to end up in prison is wrong and they need to be punished. They also, however, deserve forgiveness. Doing good things to try and be good again isn't the only step to righting wrongs, but I'm not a judge. Only God can do that. I do feel that what some inmates are doing is beautiful, and I think God is pleased with the good work, love, and compassion that is very evident through these inmate hospice programs. Mercy is a powerful thing. If we could be merciful to others like the Father is merciful to us, the world would be a kinder place I think.

Prisoners are on the bottom of the societal hierarchy. Not many people care about them or even give them a second thought. I'm guilty of that too. So they can only rely on themselves and each other for help. Look at what has happened! I learned that prison isn't full of fights and shady deals and dark cells. There is peace, light, and compassion inside too. Sometimes the bad is bigger than the good, and the good is hidden away.

One inmate, Ted Durbin, "b
athes them, provides other personal care and often squeezes skeletal hands as their bodies succumb to shriveled livers or stomach cancer. It's the best job he has ever had, he said."

Durbin's quote ended the article. "'This program has brought me to my own existence, my own humanity. When I was young, I didn't care about nothing. This gives me something to care about.'"

How awesome is that? God sure opened my eyes today. Read the full, wonderful article here. After I read the article, I thought of the following Gospel passage from Matthew 25: 34-46. It is one of my favorites and a good passage to meditate upon:

"Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they will also answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sabbath Sunday #3

I hope that your Thanksgiving was wonderful and full of turkey and awesome stuffing. Mine was! In light of the recent holiday, my Sabbath Sunday post for today is about my second trip to NPH El Salvador this past June.

I was thinking of all the things that I am thankful for, and the children of NPH are very much a big part of my life. Here is NPH Reflections.

Monday, November 23, 2009

God is Bigger Than the...Leaf?

Have you ever heard that Veggie Tales song "God is Bigger Than the Boogie Man"?

God is bigger than the Boogie Man
He's bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV
Oh God is bigger than the Boogie Man
and He's watching out for you and me


I thought of that song while I started thinking of blog ideas, and even more so after I picked up a very beautiful leaf the other day.

Ever since the leaves started falling off the trees, campus has been covered with them. Blankets of yellow, orange, and red! Some places you could barely see the concrete beneath your feet. I don't know what kind of tree it is, but there is this really massive one with equally massive leaves. I had been harboring a secret desire to take one, but I still hadn't mustered the courage to endure the weird stares that I knew would come my way. On Friday I was on my way to meet a friend for my birthday lunch, and I remembered that I saw a girl walking across the street with a big leaf in her hand. I didn't think she was weird. I wanted to thank her for opening up the leaf carrying door for me, actually!

I probably went through a good 10 leaves before I found the perfect one. I know I looked ridiculous bending over every couple of feet, picking up and examining the monster sized leaves. I didn't care though. I met up with my friend, anticipating her reaction. She just laughed at me, said it was totally something that I would do...carry a leaf around, and all was well. Although I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to get in the cafeteria with my leaf, so I hid it under my jacket when I walked in.

I don't know why, but I'm very enamored by this leaf. I mean, it is bigger than my hand! You may think this is silly, but I can clearly see the beauty of God's creation and His love in this one leaf. And I like that.

In a way, it makes me feel good knowing that even though this leaf is at its end, I haven't forgotten about it. God hasn't either. So naturally, when we humans are coming to our ends, God isn't going to forget about us. The end, death, can come anytime and not just at old age. This realization has made me appreciate life more, especially coming off of the heels of my 19th birthday. It is, in the official lingo, my last kid/teenage birthday. I don't really like that because I want to be a kid forever! My friend said not to worry, you can make every birthday a "kid" birthday. Bless her and her wisdom and witty one-liners. I am getting older, but I am not going it alone.

"Do not cast me off when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength fails." -Psalm 71:9

"Do not wait for old age to offer yourself to God. Offer Him the flower of your youth, which will be pleasing to Him and which He will accept with the greatest of love." -St. Catherine of Siena

God is bigger than both the Boogie Man and my favorite leaf. Jesus conquered death, and so He is bigger than that too! A comforting notion, don't you think?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Leftovers #3

This is the third and final installment of the Leftovers series. Don't cry because it is over, smile because it happened. It was originally posted on April 23, 2009 at the old Blessed is the Kingdom blog.

In the first post I forgot to name the horses that are pictured. Bubba is the very emaciated Palomino just below. He did recover but his arthritis was just too bad, and he was humanely euthanized. I miss him. The other horse farther down is Cary Grant. He was a part of the group that was stalled for forever; he is Secretariat's son/grandson (can't remember which). He is now living in a loving home. I miss him a lot as well.


Love One Another As I Have Loved You


I'm a volunteer with an organization called Horse Haven of Tennessee (HHT), and HHT's main reason for existing is to care for abused and neglected equine from all over East Tennessee. In the two wonderful years that I have been there, I have seen some pretty gruesome and terrible things. One horse was dragged behind a pickup truck because the owner didn't have a horse trailer. Another horse was left tied to a tree with no access to water for a very long time, and in the process of being tied up, he became blind. A group of horses were left in stalls, standing in their own filth for weeks. The stalls had no windows, so the horses literally never saw the light of day. While I never go out on calls, I do see the horses once they arrive at the barn. Some are so emaciated that I can count ribs and put my fingers in between them. Some arrive with rain rot all over, which is a fungus. A few have some behavorial issues.

My experiences at Horse Haven have not all been bad. I do see horses in their worst possible state. I do however see them recover, and they are happy and full of life. It's amazing what a little food, attention, and love can do to an animal that has gone without those essential things. HHT gives these horses a chance when they would have none otherwise. HHT's other goal is to adopt the rescued horses out to loving families. All of the horses eventually find a good home, but there are those rare occasions when some horses must be humanely euthanized. A handful have even been returned by the courts to their former owners.

The pictures I'm including show just how far they have come, how much they have improved. They are all beautiful animals, each with their own uniquely wonderful personality. This blog idea came to me when I was looking through my "before and after" pictures of the horses. If we can't respect other living creatures, how can we expect to respect our fellow humans?

Jesus said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Sometimes it seems that we aren't doing a very good job of this, especially now amidst war and economic troubles. I even have a hard time practicing this great commandment at school. It's human though. We aren't perfect. When we have a terrible day and all we want to do is be mean to that person who just gets under our skin, we should stop and think. Or, when we dislike someone just because they believe differently or don't look the same, we should stop and think. We should stop and think about that person as a person of Christ, a fellow brother or sister. Jesus came for us all, He loves us ALL. Why can't we at least try to do as Jesus did?

Just as old and sick horses need to be taken care of, so too do our old, sick, poor, and hungry brothers and sisters. We should love one another as Jesus loves us.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sabbath Sunday #2

In keeping with Blessed is the Kingdom's "no blogging and resting on Sunday" experiment, here is my second Sabbath Sunday post.

It's about my cat and her impressive mediating skills. Yes. The reason I chose this one to share is because I went home this weekend and got to see my cat! Simple enough!

Check out Tink Tink the Mediator.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Leftovers #2

Part deux of the lovely Leftovers series! First posted on Blessed is the Kingdom on April 17, 2009.


Simple Reminders

I know this is a week after the fact, but today I was thinking about the reading of the Passion during the Good Friday service. Being a member of the crowd means you have to read certain tiny parts. What I had forgotten from years past was that the crowd had to read, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" I remember how I felt the first time I said those words out loud, and it was not a good feeling. I felt terrible inside.

I kept wondering, why does this bother me so much? And then it hit me like a hammer. Even though we were not around for the actual Passion, we still take part in it every day. Every time we choose sin, we say the words, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Sometimes we don't even realize that we say them.

Now, when I feel temptation coming on or I know that sin is going to rear its ugly head, I remember what will happen. The words "Crucify him!" are going to echo through my thoughts. And I don't want to hear them. Hearing them is painful. It's like I'm standing there at the foot of the cross, throwing things at Jesus, or simply that I am condemning Him.

Fast forward to the Veneration of the Cross. I had been to the Good Friday service before, but I had never altar served during the service. As a server, I had to wipe the spot where the person venerated, which may have been a kiss or a simple touch of the hand. Because of where I stood, I could see everyone. Every person practically did the same thing, which was kiss the feet of Jesus. It wasn't until this one woman came forward that I really felt the power and passion of the emotions in the room. As she leaned forward I saw her say a little prayer, and then I saw the tears in her eyes. I couldn't believe myself, but I had to choke back my own tears. That woman's faith opened up my eyes to what was happening. It was powerful. After saying "Crucify him!", we were honoring His sacrifice. The gift of the cross. Through the veneration of the cross, we both remember and thank Jesus for what He did for us sinners.

Throughout the veneration, the congregation sang "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kindgom." I thought it was a very fitting song for the whole evening. The criminal who said those beautiful words while on a cross next to Jesus pretty much sums up how I feel. Especially how I felt after the Good Friday service. Even though I am a sinner, Jesus won't forget me. There will be a place in God's kingdom for me, for us all...if we but just ask and pray.

Remembering the words "Crucify him! Crucify him!" and the woman's tears serve as my reminders of what I do when I sin, and also remind me of the gift that was given to us all.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Leftovers #1

I am doing a very small series of posts. Actually, it is only going to be three. They are not related in the least bit, except for one small detail. They're all the beginning of my blogging adventure. My friend Fr. Christian asked me to be a guest blogger while he was hiking it up on the Appalachian Trail back in April.

So I happily agreed. These posts were only on his old Blessed is the Kingdom blog, and now I want to share them with you in the more than likely probability that you've never seen them before (unless you have ventured into his archives). If you have seen them, great and enjoy the refresher. If not, awesome! This series installment is titled Leftovers. (But they're not really leftovers, just first-time slash archive-ers). The following is from April 14, 2009.


Trudging...


A month or two ago, I came to the realization that I had never skipped a day of high school. Being a senior, it was weird that I had not participated in that right of passage. However, after a lengthy and comical conversation with my good friends Fr. David Boettner and Melanie Thomas, I decided that I had to skip school and do something fun. Fr. David suggested a hike, and Senior Skip Day was born.

Last week on Holy Thursday, the three of us hiked to a place called Huckleberry Knob, which is about a 30 to 40 minute drive from Tellico Plains. The higher and higher we drove through the mountains, the more snow we saw. We were absolutely amazed. Down in the valley it was 50 degrees and sunny. At 5500 feet, snow still blanketed the ground from the weather system from days before! We pulled off into a tiny parking lot and began our journey on foot.

The snow-concealed path was slippery and a few inches deep in other spots. We followed the path and some deer tracks until they both ended, and then the real journey began. No longer guided by man's invention, we meandered across a wide, flat, seemingly harmless field. All of a sudden, the three of us gave a little shout as we sunk down to our knees in snow. After we collected ourselves and stopped laughing, we kept going. What we had thought would have been a relatively simple hike had turned into one that really made us work our legs. We weren't walking easily across the terrain, we were trudging through snow. Quoting movie quotes is an obnoxious habit of mine, and while hiking, the following exchange from the movie
A Knight's Tale popped into my head:

William: Oi sir, what are you doing?
Chaucer: Uh... trudging. You know, trudging?
[pause]
Chaucer: To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on.

Merriam-Webster's definition is "to walk or march steadily and usually laboriously." Ironically, the example they gave was "
trudged through deep snow."

Trudging became the motto of our hike. Anytime we stumbled into a particularly deep snowdrift, we would simply "trudge on." Our hike was slow, slightly weary, but definitely not depressing. While surrounded by God's boundless beauty and amidst faith discussions, we most certainly found that we had plenty in life to keep us moving forward. The difference between us and the Chaucer character was that we were trudging with God, and not alone.

There are times when the only thing we can do is trudge. Times when all we feel like doing is trudging. Trudging can be a miserable experience. We may want to give up, throw in the towel; there may be nothing to move us forward. However, when we trudge with God, it can be a pleasant experience. Because of Him, we have something to "soldier on" for, we are able to move forward. When we feel like giving up, God is right beside us, helping us through our difficulties.

So with God at your side, trudge on my friends.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Keep Breathing

Today has been full of a myriad of things. Happy and depressing at certain points of the day. This post probably won't be very coherent. I'm just sort of writing whatever comes to mind, with no intent to make it fit together. It's just one of those days where order isn't a priority, know what I mean?

I just listened to a song that I can always count on to help me out. Help me when I just don't understand anything in the world. Why do we do the things we do to each other, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? Why do we think it is our right to judge? Only God can do that, and yet here we are condemning each other with hateful words and sentencing people to die. I know I'll never be able to understand everything in the world, much as I would love to be able to do that. I guess that's all a part of the mystery of God.

This song helps me when I just feel crummy, like no one cares...like a lost child in a big crowd. In reality I have beautiful friends and family members that constantly do things to show that they do care.

Today it rained. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world sploshing around in puddles. Feeling it hit my face, drop after drop. Most everyone else around me whined and complained...Boo rain. I reveled in the wetness. I even enjoyed the leaf mine field.

If I sound blue, it's probably because I am. I've just accepted the fact that sometimes I have those days. Don't worry though, tomorrow will be a better day. I just have to stop moping around and remember that while life sucks sometimes, it doesn't do good to dwell on the negative and sad things in life. It does good to pray, to love, to laugh, to keep breathing, and to remember that there is a God out there who loves us in spite of our sinfulness and brokenness.

It also does one good to listen to a little Ingrid! She's great!

"Keep Breathing" written and sung by Ingrid Michaelson

The storm is coming but I don't mind
People are dying, I close my blinds

All that I know is I'm breathing now

I want to change the world
Instead I sleep
I want to believe in more than you and me

But all that I know is I'm breathing
All I can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing now

All that I know is I'm breathing
All I can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing

All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing
All we can do is keep breathing now

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sabbath Sunday #1

My friend and fellow blogger Fr. Christian Mathis over at Blessed is the Kingdom has come up with a wonderful idea. It is a way to help those of us in the blogging sphere to more fully celebrate the Sabbath Sunday.

By choosing not to work on a new post and instead linking to an old favorite that deserves a second run through, I am freed from the pressure to write a new post. I don't get mail saying "Ashley write a new post NOW" but sometimes I just feel this inherent need to write one all the time, but I know that I can't force something to come out of my head if it isn't there or ready to begin with in the first place.

So here is my first Sabbath Sunday post: Prayers Close to the Heart. It's about a gift from a friend that helps me remember to say my prayers. I chose this particular post because it is still very much relevant to me. It was also in the first month of my blog so not many (I assume) have ventured that far back in the archives.

Enjoy your lovely Sunday!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Home

It's a Friday night on campus. It is also Homecoming here at the University of Tennessee. What did I do? I watched a movie with friends, and now I'm holed up in my room with a cold. I sneeze and cough every couple of minutes. Living the life, right?

My windows are open, and I can hear everything that is going on on the strip. People are sure excited about Homecoming and football here. It is so bizarre. And I love to people watch, don't get me wrong, but even these silly characters are throwing me for a loop.

When I swiped my card to get in the dorm, there was a girl standing in front of the elevators. She walked over and pushed the down button as opposed to the up button. In my building you can't get to the basement unless you are a maintenance guy or staff. She obviously wasn't. Plus, there are no dorm rooms in the basement!

Hmmm. I wondered, she is quite a character with her brown paper bag and wrong button pushed. We walked into the elevator together, and she still had yet to recognize my existence even though I was 3 or 4 feet away from her. Then the doors closed, and I could smell the alcohol. She was also on the phone with some dude who apparently hung up on her a lot. She gave him an earful in the short elevator ride that we shared together. She got off on the 3rd floor and I on the 5th. I'm sure I'll bump into her sometime again.

Obviously she was inebriated. Intoxicated. Wasted. Whatever word you would like to use, I'm sure it would fit her current state just fine. College is a very interesting place to say the least. While others enjoy booze, I'm enjoying Nyquil. While some (but certainly not all of campus) is out pre-game partying, I am inside blogging.

I am by no means normal, but tonight I sure feel normal. It's a nice feeling sometimes, normalcy. Here at UT there is never a dull moment. I am glad to call this place home. It's filled with interesting characters, sketchy elevators, pointless assignments, good cake, and awesome friends.

I would like to share another music video with you. I'm only posting it because of the song and less about the video itself. Once again I was foiled by the no embedding police, so you'll have to click on the link.

I bet you didn't think that sound would come out of his mouth, did you? I sure didn't the first time I heard just the song and then watched the video afterwards. With a cold, I think I sound an awful lot like him when I sing in the car! Enjoy Marc Broussard's "Home" here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NC1v5trmB1E

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Arrival to Netherfield


Today has been a very good day. It was filled with much laughter, happiness, silly things, good food, and great friends.

Increasingly I find myself becoming inexorably happy with the tiniest little thing. And I like that feeling. In spite of the crazy world that we live in, happiness abounds. Some days you have to work to find it, and other days it is a constant flowing entity, enveloping you in its warmth.

I'm not sure what lingo to use because my day is not yet over for me. At least the 4th of November is but I am still awake in the wee hours of November 5th. So this day, loosely using the word day, is still moving at a sluggish pace now as I try to write this all out before my head hits the keyboard.

Some new-found friends and I stayed up to celebrate my best friend's birthday. At midnight she finally turned 19! How did a bunch of college kids spend the evening? Well, we watched a part of the movie Luther and had a discussion (in lieu of the usual Wednesday Bible study), followed by evening prayer, then we just sort of chilled in the chapel at the Tyson House (the home of Episcopal-Lutheran ministry on campus).

The best part was just learning more about these new friends of mine and sharing stories with them, lying in the pews or on the floor. The two guys played the piano while the three of us girls listened and talked. As I was walking back to my dorm, I kept hearing this particular song from one of my favorite movies, Pride and Prejudice.

"Arrival to Netherfield" has essentially summed up my day, and that's when I realized my state of inexorable happiness. God is good. God is great! How can you doubt the existence of such a wonderful Creator? I know that there are plenty of reasons that people have, but I can't find one today. I actually haven't been able to find one for a long time. It makes me feel good, maybe I'm finally doing something right.

He has led me to beautiful places and introduced me to beautiful people that have truly brightened and enriched my life. For that, I am more thankful than mere words could ever say.

I'm going to go all cheesy on you and coin my new favorite phrase. "It's been one of those Arrival to Netherfield days." I hope you have one too. Maybe you'll have a shorter name.

Happy Birthday Katie Ann!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Treadmill-Dance Skills

What better way to start off my favorite month than with one of my favorite music videos of all time? I was not able to embed it from mtv.com, vh1.com, or from any of the good quality versions on youtube.com, so you'll just have to click on the link below. Please do.

The link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTAAsCNK7RA

OK Go is an awesome band, and their video for the song "Here It Goes Again" just makes me happy every time I watch it. I wish I had the treadmill-dance skills that they have. Then I would be cool.

I'm tempted to try this out at the gym.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Heart of Life


The advent of fall has brought many things forward for me this year. First and foremost, it is my favorite season. I think it always has been. Most everyone likes summer, not me. There is just something wonderful about the changing colors and the crunch of leaves under my feet. The crisp, chilly morning air that morphs into the pleasant sit outside on the bench and do homework air never gets old.

Another thing that I had never really given much thought to was the fragility of life. I don't think that many of us realize our fragile states until we witness something that throws into shock relief how vulnerable we really are.

Yesterday I watched a horse struggle to walk. Poppy's steps were agonizingly slow, for both her and me. It hurt me to watch her. She couldn't bend her left hind leg at all, and it just literally dragged behind her as she hobbled along with us to a stall. While a few people were taking a cursory glance at her leg, Poppy started to tilt to one side. There were about five of us around her sides, just trying to give her some semblance of support with our feeble (in comparison) human arms, when she fell. Luckily we all made it out of her way as she went down.

Then, the inevitable "gotta get back up" struggle happened. That is when it became rather hairy for her and us. She couldn't use that leg to get back up, so she flailed around trying to get back up. Meanwhile, the five of us were in the back of the stall watching helplessly while also aware of the all too real possibility that she could accidentally hurt one of us. She ended up on her side, and we rushed over to calm her down before she tried to do anything more. By the time I left the barn after some chores and other miscellaneous tasks, she had managed to stand back up. As of right now, she's doing better.

Driving home, I kept thinking of how helpless we were to do anything for her. Sure, we surrounded her and tried to help her stay standing while we looked at her leg. But once she went down, there was no feasible way for five girls (women...) to get a one-thousand pound animal that is injured back up on her own three (instead of four in this particular situation) feet. Every living creature on this Earth is fragile. Vulnerable.

We humans are physically, emotionally, and spiritually fragile. It doesn't take much to snap your leg bone. A tiny virus can incapacitate you for a good week. One harsh word or action can cut you deeper than the sayer or doer could know. An unexplainable event has the potential to shake one's spiritual foundation...God, why did that have to happen?

The heart of life undergoes many tests. We are continually tested. It is up to us to practice those practices that benefit our heart, that strengthen our fragile selves. It is up to us to do those things that will help us grow and to avoid those things that will only hold us back. John Mayer says it well in "Heart of Life":

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around

No, it won't all go away, it should

But I know the heart of life is good

God is our trump card. Peace and love conquer all. In the end, the love that was so graciously given to us by Christ saves us. Our fragile and feeble selves are taken care of, even if we don't realize it. By the grace of God, I now know that in spite of everything, the heart of life is good.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

You Are Awesome!

Two awesome friends of mine recommended this video to me. I love it. Sharing is cool too, so here you go. It's long but well worth the time. It's a short film called "Validation."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Random Thoughts

Over the course of this week, I have encountered or have been given things to think about. They are serious, funny, and whatever words fall in between those two. A few of these I could probably turn into decent posts, but I don't have much time at the present. So for now, here are some of the many thoughts swirling around in my head to ponder:

1) What is it about Secret Service and/or private security guys that make them so cool?

Today while I was walking to class, I came across a horde of men in suits, all by the bus stop. There were even more sitting in two parked cars that you just know belong to somebody important. After class, there weren't as many visible, but there were just enough to make those around me say, "What the @$!% are these guys doing here?" I for one didn't say that, but I was just as curious. I noticed that there were two kids huddling under an umbrella that was clearly not meant for two just off to the side of the bus stop. The suit guys said you all can come stand under here with us. The kids replied, no thanks. I found myself wishing, out loud, that I wanted to be one of the Secret Service/private security guys. I wanted to ask why they were here, but the chicken in me won out.

Is it the fancy ear pieces? The shades? The suits? Their good-looks (because believe me, they were easy on the eyes)? My friends, we have ourselves an enigma.

2) I just finished the book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder. It took me awhile to read it only because of homework and studying, but it was a very good read. It's about a man named Dr. Paul Farmer and his life story, which consists of curing "infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most." Farmer's story is one we can all learn from, and possibly even find some way ourselves to help make the world a better place for the poor and down-trodden. Here is my favorite quote from the book. Think on this one for a good while:

"...and the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that's wrong with the world."

3) And lastly, why do my female collegiate peers think that it is acceptable to wear leggings in the place of pants? If you know the reason why or have some inkling of understanding this idiotic and ridiculous practice, please share it with me. What I abhor more than the leggings as pants practice is when I hear them complain that they're cold. They're cold when it's 40 degrees outside. Hello?! I wonder why...because you don't have pants on! That's why! Leggings go under short skirts and dresses or with long tunics. They are not a substitute for pants.

The end. Enjoy my random thoughts. I know I sure did rehashing them out for you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Good Times

My fall break is over. So I should be sad, right? Well, I'm not. It has been a few days since my last post, and that is because I have been a busy little girl. Here's a recap:

After I did my laundry on campus and finished homework, I headed home late Wednesday afternoon and spent the next few days with my family. It was nice being able to be home. No homework! Food only feet away instead of in the cafeteria! My cats! My dogs! My family! I caught up on some much needed movie watching and book reading time. I finally got a hair cut as well. The last time I got a hair cut was December 23, 2008.

Before:
After: On Saturday my friend Fr. David and I went hiking to a place called Max Patch. It's in North Carolina, just across the border from good ole Tennessee. We did the Max Patch circuit and then jumped onto a part of the Appalachian Trail. Success! Until then I had never been on the AT.

We almost didn't go because of the weather. It was supposed to rain and be cold. Guess what? It was rainy and cold, but once we were up in the mountains it was snowing! It was 31 degrees outside. You could see, but it was mostly white unless you looked at the trail, which was all muddy. Bundled up in layers and wearing my new boots made it all worthwhile. I'm extremely glad that I didn't chicken out of going because it was so much fun. It seems that every time I've ever gone hiking, it has precipitated in some form or fashion.

After hiking, I went to the barn and took care of the horses. We now have three pairs of mommas and babies. Fancy and Wild Fire are my favorite, but Onyx and Shadow are now tied for first place. Jenna and Royal are, well, they're growing on me. Anyway, I threw hay over the fence for Onyx and Shadow, and little Shadow came over and was nosing around. I walked along the fence line as she followed me. Time to play? You better believe it. Then we ran along the fence line together. Oh she is so much fun! Then Onyx joined in, and it was one great big, running, nickering, legs in the air kind of party. Except for me, I just ran. I love horses, especially the little ones. Thanks God.

I was a lector at Mass on Sunday morning. It is one of my favorite things to do for the church (and for God!). Although being a vimp is quite fun. I noticed during the Psalm that I kept having to clear my throat. It was problematic because I can't do that daintily or ladylike, usually, but I managed. I thought I was in the clear, and then halfway through the reading my voice started to crack. It didn't stop. It was a little embarrassing, but hey, what can you do? I laughed about it later with a good buddy of mine who planned on being funny/embarrassing me even more during Communion. Wisely so, he chose not to. I know people who know people.

The only sad part about my break was finding out that Birdie, see her story and update, had passed away. She was down in the field and could not get up. The call was made to humanely put her down Saturday evening. She fought a valiant fight, and she will be greatly missed.

So far, I've been able to return to the college routine just fine. It has been a pretty good week so far. Beth Niquette over at Angel Stories found my post on Elizabeth Mahlou's Blest Atheist site, and she put it up on hers! How cool! Yesterday I went back into town to visit my best friend, Becca, who is at college a few hours away in Johnson City. We had lunch together and then visited our senior friends at school. It was a good day.

It would appear that Fall has decided to skip Tennessee this year, which makes me sad because Fall is my favorite season. It's freezing in my dorm room, the hallway, even the elevators, and of course it's colder outside. The heat doesn't get turned on until: a) sometime next week or b) we have six consecutive days of below some number x degrees Fahrenheit...I'm not sure which theory is correct. I look forward to blow drying my hair in the morning because I warm up that way. I've never enjoyed that girly task, which tells you something if I actually want to do it now. Luckily it warms up in the afternoon and feels quite nice out.

Friday, October 16, 2009

According to My Car...

I recently added two new bumper stickers to my car. When I stepped back to admire the final view, I thought to myself, these really do describe me. At least, they help other drivers know a few things about what I believe in and what I like.

One excellent day, I grabbed my camera and proceeded to wander around in the courtyard, snapping shots that captured fall weather on campus. When I finally made it to my car, I had to stop once again to admire the best parking spot I have ever had. It was the first one, right next to the handicap spots on the ground floor. It was right by the entrance! I can't describe to you how thrilled I was when I pulled around the corner and saw that beauty...waiting for me.

Anyway, back to the real reason for this post. Sure the fall weather and the sweet parking spot were reasons enough to photograph; however, I want to share with you a little bit of who I am. When I realized that my car decorations revealed a lot about me, it was sort of a mini epiphany. I don't know why I didn't figure it out sooner. I just like my bumper stickers, license plate, and rearview mirror hangings. I hope you do too. Click on the pictures to enlarge them for a closer look.

Rearview things: The Bumblebee that says "Bee-otch" is from Transformers...which is one of my favorite movies of all time. The multi-colored yarn necklace looking thing is called a Warm Fuzzy. I received many Warm Fuzzies at SEARCH 87, a peer led retreat for Catholic youth. Then there is my rosary, graduation tassel, UT non-commuter parking pass, and Batman dog tag. Two things that I didn't photograph are my Saint Christopher and Our Lady medals that clip onto the visors.
Sticker fun: Obviously you can read the stickers. They're taped up inside though because of the "no sticker on back of car policy." The man in "Freedom isn't Free" graduated from my high school long before my time there, but I did a little something for his family, so they paid me a visit and gave me this awesome sticker. I love pirates...obviously! It's a problem I have. Do I really need to say anything about Gandhi's quote? Didn't think so, but it is one of the new additions. Before I had fully decided (on the inside anyway, on paper I had made the decision) to attend the University of Tennessee, they gave me a free sticker in the mail. Maybe that's what did it. The "Tolerance" sticker is also new. The bottom part is cut off, which says "Believe in it." Again, need I say more? Don't forget about Horse Haven and Stop Litter. They rock too.
Saving the best for last: The latest rendition of the Bat symbol. I love it. A lot.
According to my car, Jesus is numero uno, faith is pretty important, and I value respect and love towards others, human and animal. I have an unhealthy obsession (maybe...) with Batman. I graduated and now attend college. I love pirates and things that let me get away with saying bad words. Oh and I just have a lot of stuff.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blest Guest Wednesday!

The amazing Elizabeth Mahlou of Blest Atheist has asked me to be a guest blogger on her "Blest Guest Wednesday" segment. I happily accepted! I'm up this week, so check out my post here. It's about my guardian angels.

Also if you have never been to Elizabeth's blog, I highly recommend it. So check it out!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Out With The Old, In With The New

I know we've all heard that age-old adage, out with the old and in with the new. It was very fitting for the latest chapter in The Life of Ashley Siferd. Today marks a new beginning for my feet. I am saying goodbye to an old, sturdy, reliable pair of tennis shoes while at the same time welcoming my first pair of boots to the small but practical Siferd shoe family.

I would like to think that this is a fitting eulogy for a great pair of shoes:

L.A. Gear Size10
-Good old, reliable, trustworthy, sturdy, green and tan L.A. Gear. You proved that beauty is only skin deep, especially when people said you looked crummy, terrible even; while in reality, you were the most wonderful shoes a girl could ever ask for. You've been around for at least 2 years, if not more than that. Ashley has a tendency to wear shoes until they fall apart. You haven't fallen apart yet, but you're pretty close. You've gone to high school and to other states. You've faithfully mucked out smelly stalls, tramped through snow, mowed the lawn until you were green in the face (literally), and you went to your first job ever at the bagel shop where you then proceeded to pick up seeds and other mysterious t
hings that never come off your bottoms. The hole on your left side showed off the wonderful collection of socks that Ashley has squirreled away in drawers. You made it all the way to college, way to go kid! You will be greatly missed and never forgotten. Funeral arrangements were not released at time of press.

Why am I just now getting rid of my crummy looking tennis shoes? Well, they turned into work shoes, and I had to wait until I was officially no longer an employee at the bagel shop...just in case I had to work one more day. Now, I must find a respectable trash can to have the funeral.

In order to become a legitimate, serious hiker, I had to get official footwear. I went hiking boot shopping with a friend, and I am now a proud owner of a pair of Vasque boots. They look pretty awesome. I also now have a pair of Smartwool socks. I always make fun of my friend for wearing them, but I'll have to admit that he was right. They are comfy and practical! I don't have any fun things to say about my boots yet because we haven't gone anywhere, so for now...Welcome to the family, Vasque Size10!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Birdie Update

For those of you who don't know Birdie's story, see One Tough Old Bird. For those of you who are familiar with Birdie, I'm happy to tell you that she is doing a bit better. She is still in that gray area of uncertainty, but the UT vets said that she improved just enough to give her another 30 days! Yay!

Please keep praying for her. She still has a long road ahead.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Humble Step

"For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." -Luke 14:11


As I said a few posts ago, I quit my job. I wanted to explain why, especially because in times like these, why give up a perfectly good job?

I didn't actually need a job in the first place. However, the opportunity presented itself. I had never had a job in high school, and I thought that I might as well get my feet wet in the working world.

Being the typical teenager who thought she was invincible, I started college and a new job days apart. I thought that I could dive into both worlds. I quickly discovered that I could not. I was working part time and had (or should say still have) sixteen hours of class. While I had time to study, it ended up not being enough time. I know some people who do work and go to school full-time, and I think that it is truly awesome that they can do both.

There were also other reasons why I quit, but none that I feel the need to mention. The gist of the story is that studying time and school are important. Thinking back on it now, I see that it took me awhile to realize that I needed to cut the job. I guess it was the innate "invincible teenager that thinks everything is possible" that kept me from realizing what I should ought to have done sooner. Having a job was a humbling yet gratifying experience.

Life gives you a lot of hurdles, challenges, tasks to complete. I've either sailed or stumbled my way over those hurdles and completed those tasks. With each end to a problem, no matter the route that I take to get there, I climb a step. Each step is a little victory, a little thing to celebrate.

A few weeks ago, in lieu of the elevator, I took the stairs to the fifth floor. As I walked in, I looked up and thought that the view was really cool. After I made it up all 67 steps, I grabbed my camera from my room and went back to the stairwell. These pictures seem to sum up that each step climbed or overcome equals a victory. Only notice that the last picture is a view looking up.

I know there will be more steps, but now I know for certain that with God's help, I can climb them all.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

That's My Job!


"Do you want to know one of the best ways to win over people and lead them to God? It consists in giving them joy and making them happy." -St. Francis of Assisi

When I came across this quote the other night, I laughed out loud. I laughed because it is very true. For me anyway. This quote is just one more reason why I love St. Francis of Assisi. He's just awesome like that.

Apparently I do a lot of things that make people smile and laugh. I can bet you that 9 times out of 10 I don't do those things on purpose. I find joy and laughter and the comedic side of everything. EVERYTHING. So naturally I accidentally (or purposefully) share the funny things. I was at work one day when someone said, "Ashley, you're so funny and cute. That was funny" I responded, "That's my job!" I've discovered that that is in fact my job in life, to bring joy and laughter to others.

The picture above elicited an interesting response. What was I doing? Is there something wrong with me? I was in the car waiting for the light to turn, and my friend happened to take that picture of me. I love it, and I'm not sure why because I look a little ridiculous. If you know me, then you know my disdain for sitting and waiting at lights, being in traffic, driving around people who can't drive...that is what the super frown face represents. And yes, there is something wrong with me...

-The other day, my roommate and I were getting ready for class early in the morning. I was standing next to my bed, and I turned to face her. In the process, I got closer to my bed and didn't realize how close I was until I hit my head on the little shelf that sticks out (that holds my alarm clock). I said ouch and tried to back away from the shelf only to hit/get my foot caught on a box of books that was on the floor. It was a commotion of sorts. I looked up at Jade, and we both started laughing at my failure to do whatever it was that I had originally set out to do. I still laugh thinking about that.

-How do you make holy water holy? Answer: You burn the hell out of it.
You better believe that I crack up every time I say that.

-I'm not making fun of other people's laughs because I too have an interesting one (I think anyway), but I love laughing when other people do. Especially if they have an interesting, not normal laugh.

-Recently, a lot of the things that make me laugh, I can't really post here. So we'll leave it at that.

-Seriously, every little thing has the potential to make me smile and possibly laugh. I get the church giggles very easily, and it is usually difficult for me to stop laughing.

Today I had the giggles. It was just a very good, hearty kind of laugh day. I really haven't had one of those before. It was surprising at first but nonetheless great. Laughter is the best medicine. I now believe that God does have a sense of humor, and I think that He wants to share that with us. Or at least provide us with the means to laugh.

"Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before Him with joyous song." -Psalm 100:2

P.S. -This is my 50th post. Whoo-hoo!

Monday, October 5, 2009

One Tough Old Bird

If you thought that this blog was not going to be about a horse, you are crazy. You're probably thinking, man I wish she would stop talking about those horses. Sorry but I'm not going to!

I would like to share with you Birdie's story. Birdie came to Horse Haven just a few days ago. Because there was no adequate fencing, Birdie got out and was walking along the road at night. She was struck from behind by a car. She was surrendered to HHT.

When the director and others from HHT arrived to the owner's barn, the intent was to take away Birdie's pain and suffering and send her to a better place. However, Birdie had other plans. She had been lying down and her owner could not get her up. When HHT arrived and backed the trailer in, that old girl stood right up. She was loaded onto the trailer with just a little help, but the amazing thing is that she stood all the way to the vet hospital. This is why she is one tough old bird.

Because she has suffered damage to her muscle reflexes, Birdie is unable to urinate or defecate on her own. She has a catheter, and volunteers must go in manually and remove her poop. And you probably just spit out whatever food or drink you were ingesting, but I want you to know her situation, including all of the less than pleasant details. Birdie's prognosis is still in that unknown gray area. Hopefully by the end of the week she will be able to recover those reflexes.

Why give her a chance in the first place?, you ask. Well, how could you say no to her when she stood up with that fire of life still glowing in her dark eyes? That horse has more strength and tenacity than some people do. I put a band-aid on tiny insignificant paper cuts and whine when I stub my toe. Birdie can't say where it hurts. We can.

The most beautiful thing about her situation is that there are people out there who are willing to stick their hands up a horse's behind, just to take care of her. It is this love for her. They are giving of their time to help a horse.

A horse. Can you imagine that? People are taking such good care of an animal. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we took as much care and love into relationships with others, especially with those whom we do not want to help? Those who are in need of help, love, and understanding who may not receive those things from anyone?

Think about this:
"If we love one another God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us." -1 John 4:12

"The love that we bear toward creatures must be a spiritual one and founded on God alone. Then the love of God will grow in our souls to the same extent that our love grows. The more our hearts remember our neighbor, the more they will also recall God. These two loves grow side by side." -St. John of the Cross

The more our hearts remember our neighbor, the more they will also recall God.

The Scripture verse and St. John's quote are some of the most beautiful things that I have read in a long time. If we invest love in our neighbors, both human and animal, then that love is instilled and invested in our own hearts by God.

Love can start out as a tiny seed. If we just leave the seed be, nothing much happens. Maybe it is able to break through the soil and see sunlight for a short while, but then it withers away. If we nurture the seed, something grand and incomparable happens. It grows. Love can spread if we but just put a little effort into all our endeavors and actions.

Pray for Birdie. She can't make it on her own, and by the grace of God, she will have more years on this earth. If not, I feel happy knowing that she will be welcomed into a kingdom where pain and suffering are nonexistent.