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.

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.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Earthquakes, A Bishop, and Fall

Today has been a pretty good week! Here are my 7 Quick Takes...take 2:

1) My Spanish teacher said she enjoyed talking to me. I can't say the same for the rest of my classmates...oh well! Why was that a highlight? Well, it just was. It always makes me feel good when you learn that you are appreciated and that your opinions matter.

2) The past few days we have been studying earthquakes in my Geology 101 class. I especially enjoy volcanoes, but earthquakes are pretty cool. The study of the earth and rocks and minerals may sound incredibly boring to you, but I've always had an undefinable interest in the ground beneath my feet. One of the many reasons that I like college is that I have the opportunity to explore various paths of interests.

3) One cast member on this season of Survivor that I wanted gone was voted out last night. Success! Now there is only one more guy to go and then I can watch the show without throwing up a little every time I hear him talk.

4) Bishop Stika came to the Catholic Students Association meeting on Wednesday. It was "Ask the Bishop" night. There were silly and serious questions and silly and serious answers. In the few times that I have met him, but more so this past week, I have learned that he is a really awesome guy. I'm glad the Pope (and God, of course!) sent him to the tiny little Diocese of Knoxville.

5) My favorite season seems to be in full swing. The past week (excluding today because it is raining) has been absolutely gorgeous outside. I even did math homework sitting at a picnic table. Cool breezes, nice temperatures, and a sunny sky all make for a happy me.

6) I missed Compline last night, so I improvised instead. I made up my own little evening prayer service. I read some Scripture, said a rosary, and well...prayed. It was quite nice, and it also made me feel good that I can do stuff like that on my own. While I enjoy prayer with others, it is also nice to be able to take a few minutes of solitude and spend it alone with God.

7) I don't have to work today! In fact, I quit my job yesterday. More to come about that in the next post.

Have a great weekend!