Friday, December 31, 2010

A Resolution

I looked at my first post of 2010 to see how many resolutions I actually stuck with and/or fulfilled. When I created that list, I purposefully added sort of silly and/or unattainable ones, like "Become a prolific writer" and "Master the Spanish language." Not that speaking Spanish is strictly out of reach, but it will be for awhile.

I did actually fulfill a few resolutions, like "Go to NPH El Salvador this summer", "Be able to chew food normally again" (*I wrote this right after my wisdom teeth were removed), and "Read more books."

I think the one that I am happiest to have worked on the most throughout 2010 was to simply "Pray." I know that at times, I neglected prayer. There were also many times when I wholeheartedly and fully embraced it. This past year, I have picked up the rosary more often. I've almost learned to pray it without the handy little how-to-pray-the-rosary sheet. Though I am easily distracted during Mass, I made more of an effort to be aware of what was happening, to be open to what the Holy Spirit had in store for me.

I didn't and still don't want my conversations with God to be just about fulfilling an obligation or when I want something to happen. This is probably one of the reasons why I made trying to pray more often (& more deeply) a resolution. In 2010, there were many events and people who unknowingly and knowingly conspired to help me with my resolution, and for them I am immeasurably thankful. I am thankful of what has happened in the past year: good, bad, happy, sad, etc.

Thanksgiving is the national holiday of giving thanks and of elementary school plays about pilgrims and Indians (though, the only reason the Wampanoag helped the pilgrims at Plymouth was to gain an ally and upper hand over their rivals, the Narragansett...just fyi). I digress.

I give thanks on Thanksgiving, but I find giving thanks on New Years Eve more spiritual. I get more out of it because to me, this day is a time for reflection, a time to literally think about the past year because tomorrow a brand new slate appears.

I had never gone to Mass for the feast of Mary, Mother of God before in my life. I'm being honest when I say that the only reason I went tonight was because I hadn't scheduled any altar servers other than myself. I didn't want to crash someone's plans, and I knew I didn't have any. But I know that, being true to my nature, even if I lacked plans, I still would not have gone to Mass tonight.

I am glad that I put my name down in the box when I made the schedule a few months ago. Tonight at Mass, I was able to pray and reflect upon 2010. It was a wonderful way to end the year, a fitting cap to my most favorite resolution.

See you next year. Oh, and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, from my favorite little candlelit village church to you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I wouldn't say that my Christmas season has been incredibly busy or filled with too many things to do and not enough time to do them.

I will, however, say that there have been days of complete craziness and funniness. Like the past two days. There must have been something in the air.

Two nights ago April and I made Kayla cry/whine over something silly. Kayla turned to Mom and said, "I wish I was the only child." So naturally a conversation ensued about being an only child as opposed to being one piece of a limited edition set. This of course happened while we watched the rest of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee on HBO.

Kayla wanted (wants) to be an only child because then no one would mess with her and be mean. Then in my best deadpan manner, I said, "Well I wouldn't want to be an only child because then I would have to do all of the chores." Throughout Kayla's entire monologue, April and I kept trying to not laugh whenever she looked up because seeing our laughter only made Kayla angrier (over nothing I might add!). When I thought my Mom was going to literally kick me off the couch because I kept laughing, I apparently made a terribly funny face. April and I started crying we were laughing so hard. Kayla had no idea what was going on, so she thought we were laughing at her and proceeded to cry even more. My poor mother just wanted to sit on the couch and watch tv, but she got the whole circus when my sisters and I came in.

Yesterday started with a few spirited games of Candyland and Spongebob matching. In both pictures you can see evidence of my winning prowess. I'm the yellow player and the tallest stack of cards is mine. In case you didn't know, getting the Princess Frostine card in Candyland is the quickest way to make my sister mad. It's also a lifesaver if you get a crummy character card that sends you back to the start/beginning of the game. And yes, the phrase "winning prowess" can be applied to children's games. Cause I'm the bomb!

We play a few games each day, but for some reason they were more heated and vicious with each win yesterday. Kayla got mad at me because I picked up the match that she failed to on her first try. This pattern continued, with outbursts of "STOP STEALING MY MATCHES! THAT ONE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE MINE." We played all of these games while listening to Arabic rap and Lady Gaga.

Our big chore of the day was to take the recycling that had been piling up for weeks in the garage. I knew that not all of the recycling would car isn't big enough to fit all the bins and three people, so we had to leave the cardboard behind for another day. No one likes to take the recycling alone, and we couldn't leave Kayla behind to make more room so we just piled it all in.

The drive to the center was fun. Emptying all of the recyclables into their respective containers at the center was sort of fun. It was more funny than fun, except for Abraham Lincoln's twin watching us the whole time to make sure we put things where they're supposed to go.

Once we were back home, each of us took a tub or two to carry back into the garage. Kayla tried getting into the garage first, but she tripped over the lip of the doorway and sort of kicked the door back onto her head. I still don't know how it happened, but I knew she hit herself with the door when she dropped her tub and grabbed her head. April and I just looked at each other, doubled over with laughter.

Luckily, Kayla didn't get mad at us. She actually laughed with us.

Though this season is typecast as being stressful and whatnot even though it should be the exact opposite, I have been mostly stress free. I thank God for that because it helps me prepare better for the birth of Christ. And you have to be thankful for those crazy fun days when you can't account for anything. I'm relatively sure God has a sense of humor. My sisters and I are here, aren't we?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Amazing Charlie Dog

Did you know that dogs can fly? At least, Charlie can. I caught him the other day practicing in his sleep...

I don't understand how he twists and contorts himself. Anything to get a good nap in, right? I mean, he wedged himself right next to the couch.

Oh and Charlie dog is excellent at multi-tasking. He can scratch his ear and yawn at the same time. Who knew?

Like his big brother Rocky in the background, Charlie likes to let loose every now and then. Before I was able to grab the camera, Rocky was laying in the same way as Charlie, but he decided to ruin my fun.

Such a hard life my boys live.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Ah, to be five again. The only worries my little sister seems to have are what outfits she will go through in a day, winning or losing a game of Candyland, and practicing her letters, words, and pronunciation.

Now that both of my sisters are officially on break, we'll be spending A LOT of quality time together. Haha! This week both of them went to school a grand total of one and a half days due to snow and icy road conditions. That was it! I can't complain about all of the city and county schools being off because I've been on break since December 7th.

So naturally, since we've already spent more time than usual with each other, we've already started pushing each others buttons. One thing that each of us does on a regular basis, whether on purpose or by pure accident, is starting arguments and/or fights with one another. What group of siblings doesn't?

Kayla likes to instigate the "which pet belongs to which person" argument. Now, I know that I could resist the bait and be the bigger person, but sometimes you just can't pass up an opportunity to start your own mischief. It goes like this. She'll waltz in to find me playing with one of the animals. She will then say, "Tink Tink is your cat" or "Charlie is my dog" or "Squeak is Mom's cat." In reality, they are everybody's pet, but there are a few of us who take more responsibility than others with the care of the animals.

Like, when the cats leave hairballs, I get to clean the mess up. Does Kayla? No. Yeah I know that she's five (almost six!), but if she claims one individual animal as hers, then I always counter with, "Well, then next time Tink has a hairball, you can clean it up. If she's your animal, then you have to take care of her and do everything." Kayla like clockwork responds, "Well, Tink is my cat and I play with her and love her while you clean up her messes and stuff."

Funny stuff. Anyway, this little diatribe always leads to the promise that she made me a very long time ago, which was that she would stop picking up Tink. I didn't like the way Kayla would pick the cat up...I always envision Tink's little life being squeezed out of her. I don't even remember how I got Kayla to make and keep that promise, but she has ever since then.

One day this week, our inevitable animal argument led to my favorite funny topic of conversation, picking up and holding the cat. With an exasperated look on her face accompanied by a huff, Kayla said, "I'm tired of keeping this promise. It's hard, and I don't want to."

After some deliberation, we renegotiated the terms of our agreement. All is well. Tink doesn't get the life squished out of her.

Though our situation was resolved, I kept thinking about what Kayla said. I wonder how many times that I have gone to God saying, "I'm tired of keeping this promise. It's hard, and I don't want to." Some promises are effortless to keep, others not so much. I find myself struggling all the time to keep promises that I made with God.

When I run out of things to say and get stuck, all I can say is, Father have mercy on me, a sinner. At times, I feel that I have nothing left to offer but my defeat courtesy of temptation, and my sincere sorrow.

Lucky for me and for all of us, though we may break our promises, God doesn't. I am thankful for that, though I know that I probably will never understand how He does it. Struggling to uphold our ends of the deal is a life-long lesson.

How can a five year old provide such bunny-trailing wisdom? Ah, to be five again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Waitlist Notification!

This email, my friends, is one of the most beautiful things I've ever received.

Waitlist Notification for 28850

Dear Ashley ,
        A seat is now available in 28850 ANTH 432 001 Anthropology Warfare/Violence  - a course for which you are currently waitlisted.   If you would like to register for this section, please go to MyUTK and add the section as soon as possible.  You have until 14-DEC-2010 09:43 PM.  Your opportunity to add will expire at that time.
If you have ever put yourself on a waitlist for a class that you really wanted and checked your email and online class scheduler like 100 million times a day, then you know how awesome it feels to find out that you did in fact get into the class! Dear God it is a beautiful thing.

I literally almost jumped off my bed out of sheer excitement.

Why in the world would I be so excited about an anthropology class about warfare and violence? I don't really know the answer. What I do know is that I enjoy cultural anthropology a lot. A lot, a lot.

Emails from the Registrar's Office are wonderful early Christmas presents.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Do you ever have one of those moments when you experience at least two or more emotions/feelings at the same time?

Well, that just happened to me. I was watching the news in silly hopes that the weather would lighten up tomorrow. And by lighten up, I mean warm up.

All of a sudden, I found myself incredibly sad that the low for tomorrow will be 10 degrees, with -10 to 0 wind chills. It's only supposed to get up to around 20.

Immediately, alongside the sadness and a yearning to give my extra unused blankets, jackets, and sweaters to the homeless people that I know are living on the streets, I realized that I had just tapped into a vast chasm of thankfulness.

I do have unused blankets. I do have "bottom of the dresser drawer" and "top of the closet" jackets and sweaters. There are people right now that are sleeping out in the cold and ice, though they may have tried to gain access to one of the local shelters.

I am inside my parents' house, with my warm jamjams and extra blankets on my bed, and two cats to keep me warm. The heat coming from the vent lies a foot away from me on the floor.

My heart aches because at this present moment, I can't do anything to help. But the first chance I get, I'm donating my unused coats and sweaters and blankets to the nearest shelter. I don't need them, but there are those who do.

I don't want the homeless, the cold, and the hungry to be left out this Advent, this Christmas season. So while I am being thankful for the countless blessings in my life, I also realize that there are people who have less than I do. I pray that they find shelter from the wind and cold, a jacket to keep them warm, food to fill their bellies. I pray that God will keep them safe tonight and every frigid night. I pray that God will guide me to do what He needs me to do for all my brothers and sisters.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. -Matthew 5:3

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nerdfest #3

Has the jury reached a verdict?

Yes, your Honor. We have.

The verdict is that my final grades have been posted! I received 3 regular old A's and a B+. A select few humans have given me crap about the B+, but if they only knew how hard paleobiology was...

Anyway, I'm super thrilled with the results of this semester, given all of the difficulties! I've been enjoying my free time these past few days...meaning I have done absolutely nothing.

It snowed yesterday and last night/early morning, so it was nice and white out today. Here's a link to something rather hilarious, but be forewarned, it contains words that you wouldn't use in church! So don't go here if you're bothered by bad words. It is a fitting description of the weather conditions yesterday. Now, though, it is just windy and cold, with rays of sunshine here and there.

I broke out the long johns today, folks. Long johns are awesome. They are in the top tier of my most favorite things list. I had to wear them mostly because my jeans have huge holes in the knees, and I didn't want to lose my kneecaps to the below freezing (wind chill included!) temperature today.

Seriousness will follow, maybe even later tonight. Who knows. I have a bout of the lazies, and it has to run its course.

And Nerdfests are always fun, especially if legal jargon and long johns are included.

We find the defendant guilty of nerdyness in the first degree.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dog Days Are Over


Okay, whew. I got it out of my system. If you can't tell, I am finished with my fall semester. I can't believe it, really. It took forever.

No more fossils, taphonomy, Raup's parameters, pleiotropy, synapomorphy, Uniformitarianism, Cuvier's Law of Coordinated parts, ancient marine sediments, facies, WYSIWYG, histories of newspaper, radio, & internet, public relations, book publishing, guest speakers, transition metal chemistry, electrochemistry, entropy, enthalpy, Gibbs free energy, colligative properties, molality, calorimetry, redox reactions, acid-base reactions, titrations, buffers, Malinowski's hypothesis, the 3 population demographics of American Indians, Windigo psychosis, Takonga society, wacipi, artistic styles of Plains Indians, requirements of being a federally recognized tribe.

Yeah, all that and more! Everything in the list above comes from one of my 4 classes that I took this semester. Though it is a complaining block of type, I actually did enjoy my North American Indian anthropology class. A lot.

The Communication and Information, not as much as anthro, but it wasn't too bad.

Paleobiology and chemistry = no enjoyment whatsoever...unless the professor made a funny. Which did happen often in paleo.

Interestingly enough, I have discovered that a lot of what I learned in paleo & anthro applies to more things than I realized. I've been able to read a few National Geographic articles with tie-ins to both classes, and I understood more of what I read because of my education. Now that is cool.

However, this semester was incredibly challenging in all aspects: physically, mentally, emotionally. I am glad it is over. Now I have over a month off.

Yes, over ONE MONTH OFF!

Now, if you need help identifying moccasins or dresses as Cheyenne, Lakota, Crow, Blackfoot, Apache, Kiowa, or Ute, you just let me know. If you need help with fossil identification, I probably won't do you much good, but I still like looking at rocks and fossils!

The dog days are over! Happiness has hit me like a train on a track...

Might I suggest you check out Florence and The Machine's "Dog Days Are Over" It's an excellent song.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Here's To You Paleo!

I'm sort of back after a week long hiatus. And no, I didn't fall off the face of the earth. I've just been trapped by notes, books, old exams, and awesomely made Excel charts because I have been studying for finals since Wednesday.

I took my paleobiology final today. For the most part, it was fairly easy. There was one question though, that I had absolutely no idea how to answer. You see, I missed the lecture on mass extinctions because I stayed up really late to go to the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 premiere. It was totally worth it, and I would do it again. Besides, it was just a 5 point question.

The question asked something about the significance of the Signor-Lipps effect and interpreting mass extinctions. I remember reading about it from my quick glance at my friend's notes (she sent me her notes from the day I missed, and I did the same for her).
But I forgot to reread them last night. And there was nothing about the Signor-Lipps effect on the study guide, so naturally I forgot all about it because I hadn't been looking at the material covering it.

When I started to b.s. an answer, I couldn't even do that. So I decided to be honest and wrote, "I'll be honest with you, I missed the mass extinction lecture because I went to the Harry Potter premiere."

I hope I at least earn a good chuckle from the professor. It would be awesome to get some kind of credit, but even earning 1 point doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell.

I'm not done yet. More substance filled posts will come. All I have left is to study for chemistry and anthropology, knock out those finals which are tomorrow, and pack up for the Christmas/winter break.

Have a drink on me, for now. I am still underage you see. But the song by AC/DC is incredibly fitting for finishing off paleobiology. ONCE AND FOR ALL. I'm done with paleo! I'm done! I'm done!

Here's to you, paleo!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Whole Lotta Nothin'

At around 1:45 Wednesday afternoon, a small sampling of my looming freedom greeted me as I walked out of the chemistry building. My last class was over extremely early because we had nothing to do but course evaluations. As a bonus for showing up on a day when most people cut class and leave campus, my TA gave those of us who showed up 5 extra points on our lab final. Not to brag, but holy mackerel I made a 98. Not many people pass or even do well on the Chem 130 lab final, but apparently I pulled that out of the, uh, fire.

My Thanksgiving break was full of a whole lotta nothing. It was exactly what I needed too. I literally did nothing but lay around in my pajamas for most of the day, showered way later than I usually do, watched movies, and decorated the house for Christmastime. I did throw in sporadic bits of working on my only assignment over the break...a 5 page paper about radiolarians. I was on the 4th page when I got back to campus last night, and I finished at 11:45p.m. I couldn't print it in my room because I have no ink, so this morning I printed if off in the library and with 5 minutes to spare, showed up to class only to find out that my suspicions were confirmed. The paper was due ON TUESDAY. Not Monday. Tuesday. The TAs said the paper would be due on the last day of class. A lot of us were confused. Did that mean the last day of paleo or the last day of classes? Those are two different days: Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Anyway, now I can take today to really proofread my paper and polish it off. I essentially gave up towards the end mostly because I didn't care much about the morphology of radiolarians. I just pray for personal acceptance of whatever my grade may be.

Here are some shots of my break. It was wonderful for a lot of reasons. Family, especially quick visits from family members you don't see ever. Food. Rest. Movies. Dogs. Cats. Couches. Sleeping in until 10a.m. You know the drill...a whole lotta nothin'!

Our cousin Zack came by for an overnight visit. He was on his way home from his latest job trip, and his way home took him right by us! I can't remember the last time I saw him before this visit, and it was really nice seeing him again.

Cousins on the couch plus Charlie, who is the center of the universe. We're just missing 3 other cousins: Luke (Zack's younger brother...I'm older by 2 days!), Charlotte, and Matthew (the other Aunt's kids).

It's not the most flattering shot of either of us, but I love my Charlie dog!

While I have been away, Squeak has found a new favorite spot. I think she believes that laying on the animal print makes her invisible.

Tomorrow is the last day of classes. Then finals begin. I have one on Monday morning and two on Tuesday. So my last day of the Fall 2010 semester will be December 7th. I'm so excited that I don't think you can understand. It's not the usual, "yay you're done with school so of course you're thrilled." It's more than that, but that explanation will come in another post, I promise...I've been meaning to write it for awhile now.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


This is the view from outside/around my dorm. It's very yellow.

It was especially cool yesterday because it was windy. Leaves were going everywhere! It was like being in a yellow tornado that wasn't very dangerous.

This morning's weather was quite different as it rained hardcore. I left my dorm knowing it would rain later in the morning, so I am glad that I was mostly prepared for what was yet to come. It started to spit right before I got to my first class. During the test, it started to really come down. We could hear it loud and clear in the huge auditorium.

After my friend and I finished taking the test, we walked out into a deluge. She forgot her rain jacket but luckily had an umbrella. I have a rain jacket that is big enough to cover me and my backpack (thanks Fr. David, you'll never know how appreciative I am of your rain jacket generosity). I look like a turtle, but hey, it gets the job done. I hate wet backpacks.

What I did not have, however, were my rain pants. My jeans were soaking wet because it was raining so hard and the wind was blowing it sideways at some points along my journey home. Luckily I wore my Tevas, so when my feet got wet, I didn't care.

The only perilous part of my walk home was the courtyard full of leaves. Wet leaves are a sodden death trap for any who have the ill fortune of walking across them. I didn't bust it this time, but I know I will someday. Those wet leaves are also the only reason to not like all of the awesome yellow being everywhere in the courtyard.

I still love you though, ginkgo leaves. See you in the spring!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Yesterday was my golden birthday. I turned 20 on 20.

It didn't hit me that I was 20 until halfway through the day when I was on the phone with my Dad, while driving in the car with my Dad (more specifically, Fr. David). What? Yes, the fact that I have 3 fathers will be explained in a later post.

I mean, I knew yesterday was my birthday, and I knew how old I would be...I guess it just didn't sink in. On the phone, Dad said "do you feel old? You're 20 now. You're not a teenager anymore!"

"What?! Oh wow! I'm not a teenager anymore. I am 20 years old. Eww! That's so weird. I'm a big girl now." Or at least it went something like that. Meanwhile, Fr. David chuckled as I came to terms with my revelation. FD later asked me if I had any words of wisdom now that I have had two decades here on Earth.

At the time, I had nothing off the cuff to say except to recount one thing that I learned that morning. When I turned on the TV to find something to watch while I ate breakfast, Kingdom of Heaven was on. It is one of my all-time favorite movies, so naturally I watched the 45ish minutes that were left.

I started watching at the part where Jerusalem's army is being sent off to fight Saladin and his ever-encroaching army. Because the king is dumb and power-hungry and has an obvious lack of common sense, Balian knows that they will be riding to certain death. He stays behind to defend the people of Jerusalem. He sees his friend the Hospitaller in the line to leave, and they have the following conversation:

Balian of Ibelin: You go with the army?
Hospitaller: My order is with the army.
Balian of Ibelin: You go to certain death.
Hospitaller: All death is certain. I shall tell your father what I've seen you become.
[rides away]

What I had never realized before in the many times that I've watched this film is the true meaning of what Hospitaller says. Balian sees the futility and the risk of riding into battle, leaving food and water sources. He knows what will happen. And so does Hospitaller.

Balian knows that death is certain as he has seen enough of it. But I think he doesn't really understand. The wiser Hospitaller does know though.

All death is certain, for each and every one of us. No matter what we are doing...if we are riding into a predictable battle outcome or staying behind to defend the city or driving across the country or crossing the street. Death is certain for each of us.

Whoa. That is an interesting thing to finally understand on your birthday of all days. But as I see it, it is a good way to appreciate life.

In two decades (that is still weird to say!), I have been blessed with many wonderful people and things. So far I have had a pretty good life, and I am thankful. It was a humbling yet fun and excellent birthday.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I am almost finished with my 14th week of classes. I can taste the finish line (the 17th week), though its taste is tainted by mixed-citrus cough drops.

I've been in a schoolwork lull, so to speak, and other than having a cold, I have enjoyed my sort of free time. Judging by my calendar, the lull ends this weekend after my birthday. I have a chemistry lab final on Monday, a communication & information test on Tuesday, and then Thanksgiving break. I can't classify that break as a lull in work because I will most likely be working on my 5 page paper about radiolarians for my paleobiology lab. That, my friends, will be a ton of fun.

And that last sentence was thick with sarcasm.

So to finish this week and start celebrating my 20th birthday early (which will be my "golden" birthday!), I am going to see the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 tonight/Friday morning.

I am going to take a nap. Hopefully I will have more to blog about soon!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Being Thankful

Yesterday I found myself incredibly thankful for all of the many blessings God has granted me.

Every morning and night when I pray, and even during the day with my little random bursts of prayer, I always find something to be thankful for. Last night, I wondered if God ever got tired of hearing me say thanks all of the time. Personally, I don't get tired of hearing thank-yous, but I know that on rare occasions, I don't always enjoy hearing the same story over and over again.

Then, as if to answer my wandering mind, last night's reflection said:

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's Will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Ingratitude is the enemy of our immortal souls. Ingratitude empties our souls of merit, scatters their virtues, and deprives them of graces. - St. Bernard

God appreciates many things, of this I am sure. Now I know that yes, even though to me it seems rather repetitive, God loves it when I say thank you. He loves it when we all say thank you!

Yesterday, I went to bed all happy and warm and fuzzy and thankful for many reasons. I know I said that at the beginning of this post, but I must reiterate goodness! I think the biggest source for all of that happiness started when I made a mixed CD for my friend. You see, about a month ago I promised Katie Ann that I would burn her a copy of a CD we listened to in my car. I totally forgot about it until yesterday afternoon when I had plenty of free time to do whatever.

I planned on dropping it off in her room on my way to the library. Where she lives now (not in a dorm), it is easy for me to just waltz in inconspicuously. My goal was to put the CD where she would find it and hope that she would figure out it was me. But to my surprise, she and our friend Genoa were in her room already! I completely surprised them when I magically appeared in the doorway.

It was funny, with the sort of cheerful shouts and "Ashley Siferd!" and hugs going on. I don't think they'll ever know how happy I was to see them and witness their reactions. It always feels good to know that you are loved.

It made my day, my year, made my life. I am thankful for wonderful friends, especially Katie Ann and Genoa.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Holy Heart

"The temple of God is holy, and that is what you are." - 1 Corinthians 3:17

When Christ came, He banished the devil from our hearts, in order to build in them a temple for Himself. Let us then do what we can with His help, so that our evil deeds will not deface that temple. - St. Caesarius of Arles

I have struggled as of late with the inability to keep my heart open and clear of obstructions. It wasn't until last night's reflection when I fully realized that, though it is not always easy to do, I must keep my heart, my temple, clean and full of light.

If I don't allow my heart to be open, then I shut out the Light that is trying to enter. It becomes not a temple of light for Christ but a temple of something dark for sin.

I went to bed the other night with a very angry, upset heart. I could not calm down. And I don't enjoy not being able to do so. I guess the other evening was just a breaking point for me (the millionth time this issue has come up, only this time it was magnified), but luckily for me and those involved that my resolve didn't crack.

It could have been very ugly, not just in words potentially said but in the feelings that I would inevitably harbor inside after the fact.

I have so much to be thankful for! Why let some dumb, idiotic, stupid, pointless issue cloud my judgment? My feelings? My very being?

My life is full of decent grades, an almost over semester, interesting fall weather, quirky yet lovable friends, a family that loves me no matter what, a car that works, a home, horses, dogs, cats, and visiting family members that I hardly see.

The issue will go away eventually. Until then, I will just have to work harder on keeping my temple clean and full of light. If not, Christ can't enter. I strive to have a holy heart.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nerdfest #2

I have basically had no life since, um, this Sunday. After I got home from Mass, all I did was study for hours. No joke guys, it took me 4 hours to do 2 chapters worth of chemistry problems. Can you say B-O-R-I-N-G? Yawntastic. Frustration-central.

My chemistry test tonight is over weak acids and bases (which is only half of the acid/base equilibria chapter), aqueous equilibria, thermochemistry, and chemical thermodynamics. I think I just died a little when I reread that. But I have been studying a lot, been quite the studious little Ashley every day since Sunday. Here is just a taste of what I will most likely see tonight...

Yesterday afternoon, however, a little of my resolve cracked. To an observer, I may have looked like a total jerk because I wasn't paying attention in chemistry discussion. The TA and a few students took most of the class period to do the SAME PROBLEM 3 different ways. After the millionth attempt at reaching the answer, I casually threw in that the exact problem we were doing from some random worksheet was in fact, in the book. "Yes, we know that, but..."

My poor TA was just having a bad day, and he misunderstood what the goal of the actual problem was. A few other students in the class only exacerbated the problem by asking repetitive questions. I had already answered the problem correctly, so I felt justified in tuning out.

I thought I was going to shoot myself. Instead of offing myself, though, I started doodling. At first, I just did this curvy little line, and then I realized that I could actually turn it into something cool...

Nerdfest alert! I turned a squiggle into a dinosaur. Then I went a step further and turned it into a "gaited" dinosaur. I only did that because for the first time in my life, I can finally remember what a gaited horse is. Not that you care, but whatever. To all of my horse-knowledgeable friends, I hope this answer is an adequate description. Gaited is when two legs on the same side of the horse move forward together. Like my right arm and right leg moving forward at the same time, etc.

But the fun doodling is not over yet! And the having no life part isn't over yet! I have an anthropology abstract due on the same day as our second test, which is this coming Tuesday. Here is the list of tribes that we have to have memorized. I'm thankful that he didn't make us learn all ~560 federally recognized tribes. This list only has 138 on there. I've got them all memorized by area.

Oh such is the life of a nerdy college student. I lead such an exciting life.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Have you ever been so paralyzed with fear that even though you want to stop, you can't?

A few days ago, as I was walking to chemistry lab, I had such an experience. I was almost in front of the entrance to a building when a bunch of people came out. My ill-timed departure from my dorm had me walking in a mass of students who were just let out of class.

That isn't the scary part. I don't have crowd-ophobia, I just would rather walk unhindered without being pressed in on all sides by foreign bodies. I like my space, you know?

Anyway, at the head of the burgeoning crowd was a small herd of rather large football players. I mean, it was like walking into a forest full of Sequoia trees or a tiny gathering of elephants or giraffes around a watering hole. Those boys are huge! I know they aren't twice as tall as I am, but it sure feels like it when I look up. And of course some of the linemen's legs are almost as big as I am wide.

Needless to say, I felt very small and squashable near them. Not having a very good escape route also added to my paralyzed-yet-still-moving moment. The guys had walked in such a way that there were tiny gaps between them. I could tell that I would barely be able to fit through them, but it would take some skill. I don't intentionally like bumping into people.

For a few seconds though, I was mentally paralyzed out of fear. I wanted to stop and be like a rock in the middle of a stream or a tree in the forest that every creature must walk around. I never actually stopped. I was more like, should I stay or should I go?

I hope you don't take this post as any kind of admission that I am afraid of big football players. I am not. I mean, I used to take pictures at high school football games and had to avoid being steam-rolled a few times (and yes I know, college players are much bigger than high school players). I have also watched one college football game from the sidelines with no problem.

A few weeks ago, I had a similar moment as the one above, only this time it involved a bicyclist. I was about to cross the pedestrian bridge when I heard the bike coming from the other side. I looked up and realized that we were on the same invisible line/path. Oh no! I was too close to the wooden rail to move to the right, and if I moved to the left toward the concrete pillar, he would have had no room to maneuver. There were too many people to my left and not enough time to get out of the way. Should I stay still and let him figure it out, or do I try to move?

I don't even know how it happened but I just barely moved in time for him to come through without hitting the concrete pillar, the other people, and me. As a side note, though, I should add that he was going entirely too fast over the bridge. It's common sense that foot traffic is rather high, and the width of the bridge can only comfortably accommodate 4-5 people, less if there is a bike involved. Basically, he was being a jerk. No consideration for the rest of us!

After my horrific incidents of terror were over, I experienced different emotions. It was more of a general sense of wonder after the football player moment, and I was just plain annoyed with the bicyclist.

There is no point to this post, other than to share my near death experiences with you. I hope you avoid bicyclists, and I hope that you find your way through a crowd of football players.

*Note - the UT football pictures I took are from "media day" 2 years ago (the last season Fulmer was head coach)...I'm not entirely sure who is still on the team! I'm a terrible fan, I know.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Room to Fall"

I don't know if I have ever really had a favorite musician. I mostly just have favorite genres. That was the case until Erick Baker, a Knoxville-based artist, came along.

Ever since I first heard Erick's music in 2007, I was hooked. It's awesome to say the least. His latest album, Holding the Pieces in Place, is incredible. You should check it out. Actually, you should buy it.

"Room to Fall" is my favorite song. If you want to hear it, you'll have to visit this link, which goes to his music Myspace page. In the music player, find "Room to Fall" which should be the second song, assuming the lineup doesn't change.

If you don't want to listen, just read the lyrics below. I think you'll see why it's my favorite.

Written by Erick Baker
Published by Two Left Feet Music (ASCAP) 

You can’t outrun your shadow
Believe me because I’ve tried
And a change in your reflection
Don’t change a thing that’s inside

I know its painful to remember
But the past is there to help us learn
Like the child who hurts his finger
Before believing that fire burns

I would not have gotten up
If you had not let me fall
No I would not have gotten up
If you had not given me room to fall

Sometimes the destination
Don’t mean as much as what brought you there
All the wrong turns I’ve made
Were the only way to get me here

I would not have gotten up
If you had not let me fall
No I would not have gotten up
If you had not given me room to fall

You picked me up by letting me fall

I would not have gotten up
If you had not let me fall
No I would not have gotten up
If you had not given me room to fall

Monday, October 25, 2010

Watched Empty Water Troughs Never Fill

You know that saying, a watched pot never boils?

Well guess what? Did you know that a watched empty water trough never fills?!

It's true. While I was at the barn, one of the water troughs in a pasture behind the barn needed to be filled. We were able to hook up the hoses, and they just barely reached. They just barely reached enough that someone had to stand there and hold the hose. I didn't volunteer for the job but just assumed the hose holder job position for the evening.

I've done it enough times that I don't even care anymore that I have to stay stationary for who knows how long. And people usually filter away, leaving one alone with the hose, empty trough, and what seems like an impossible feat to accomplish.

Depending on water pressure and the length the water has to travel from the spigot, you could be out there for a while. We usually just put enough hose into the trough so that we can walk away and do other tasks, but this time, that was not in the realm of possibilities. I literally could only place about 2-3 inches of the hose inside the trough. And like usual, I ended up standing out there in solitude.

Sometimes the monotony of filling/cleaning water troughs is broken up by friendly and always welcomed visits from whoever is in the pasture. This time, though, I received no such visit from Chester and Dodge, who were happily munching on hay that was on the other side of the pasture.

For the first time ever in my history of filling water troughs, I actually took my block of time and lack of distractions and did something productive. I just kind of meandered a prayer along, if you can imagine that. I don't even remember what it was about. But it was apparently a good time because God knew (though I did not) that I was listening. And then, smack!, I realized something. Rather, I learned something.

Patience is a really beautiful thing to have, to witness, to be. You also must put in effort if you want to have it and to be it.

I know that I have been given countless opportunities to learn this amazingly simple piece of knowledge, but it only really sunk in while I was at the barn. You see, before I had to fill the water trough, we had to bring in all of the horses for the night.

We went out to the pasture to bring in some of the boys. Two of them, Jessie and Frankie, were at the very back of the pasture. I purposefully grabbed the tiniest halter/lead rope because I knew who it belonged to. Usually I just grab whichever halter my hand lands on or whichever horse that I know no one else wants to bring in, but that night I deliberately sought out Frankie's halter as I walked up to the fence line.

Frankie is a little 6 month old colt. He is part of a group of 4 that came in about 3 weeks ago. The puzzling thing about this scenario for me is that Frankie's mother was nowhere to be found when Horse Haven went out to pick up the group. It's my understanding that she wasn't out there, that Frankie was probably taken from his momma very early. You can wean a horse as little as 4 months according to some, and I guess that's what happened.

Anyway, I learned that before I saw him. When I finally saw him, I couldn't believe that somebody so little was having to brave the world alone. He's just so tiny, so small. He hardly seems old enough to be alone. I guess I'm just used to seeing mommas and babies together when they come here, and even then they're still together for awhile. Frankie is very weak due to a lack of proper care and nutrition. Because he hasn't been eating properly, his whole growth situation is all wonky.

God, I hope that little boy makes it. I came home from the barn the evening I met him, and I cried while saying a prayer. It's not fair. He deserves a chance to live. And he has been given that chance now that he's with Horse Haven.

He's been with us for 3-ish weeks, and on the slow re-feeding program, he appears to be getting better. He's still "slow out of the gate" but he hobbles along. He is a very spunky little guy when his personality shows.

Which brings me to the reason I mentioned Frankie. When I grabbed his halter and saw that he was way out back, I knew that we would take some time getting to the barn. Frankie quite literally has to take those small, baby steps. I told the others to go ahead and walk down to the barn, that we would be a little slow and not to bother waiting for us. While we walked, I talked to Frankie, guiding him along, though I'm sure he would follow anyone of us just like puppies would. He's incredibly trusting, given his circumstances. "We're in no hurry little steps...good boy!...we'll get there when we get there, no worries."

And I really meant all that I said. For once, in what feels like a long time, I honestly was in no hurry. And neither was Frankie. We plodded along with not a care in the world. When we finally reached the barn door, most everyone was there waiting, all gooey/ga-ga eyed over the sweetest little colt we've ever know the drill. I walked into the stall, shut the door, and took the lead rope off. Then he whinnied at me! "I know what time it is go get my food please!" There is that personality I was telling you about.

My walk with Frankie was the epitome of a lesson in patience. I couldn't and wouldn't do anything to make him go faster. And I didn't feel like I had to. There was no rush. It felt incredibly good to just walk at Frankie's pace.

That night, I wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary, just the normal chores to do. Each time I go out to the barn, I walk away feeling like I did something good, that I helped the horses. This time though, they helped me. Frankie, specifically, was my teacher. I'm always in a hurry. Always have to get this done now, not later (for the most part anyway). Always have to be early, not on time, early. Always going faster faster faster.

Learning to be patient with Frankie was the real meat of the lesson. Standing silently and patiently filling the water trough was icing on the cake. It gave me time to think about the lesson God was teaching me at that moment.

Sometimes God teaches us invaluable lessons through the most mundane, mediocre jobs out there. I would know. It seems as if I learn a lot that way, actually.

I thank the Lord for empty water troughs that never seem to fill, hoses that just barely reach, and 6 month old colts. Without them, I would never learn anything.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Swagga Like Us

If you've never heard the M.I.A. song "Paper Planes", well, then you probably don't get the connection between the post title and song. It's not a song that your Granny would listen to, but I love it.

Towards the end of the song, she raps/sings this line: No one on the corner has swagger like us

The Merriam-Webster definition stinks, so I went to the always helpful Their many user provided definitions are quite helpful and obviously fit the present day, most common use of the word. Note that I typed in "swagga" instead of "swagger" because I like spelling the former as opposed to the latter. Essentially, they are the same word, but Urban Dictionary has slightly different definitions.

Swagga - how you present yourself to the world; the things that define a person's character; how someone goes about things; the way you carry yourself, the way your attitude is toward others

Sometime ago in the summer, I posted that song line as my Facebook status, which made me smile and a few of my friends laugh electronically. Yes, such a thing is possible. Anyway, I never would have thought to apply the word swagga to a serious situation in life.

As my friend and I were driving past the library and the pedestrian walkway, which is a haven/hot spot for all manner of protests and demonstrations on campus, I noticed that the "abortion people" were out again. The campus heaves a collective groan and plans out routes to avoid them.

They show up periodically throughout the academic year. Sometimes they put up a massive display of photographs depicting bloody fetuses and slogans like "Abortion kills", "Abortion is wrong", etc. One time last year, they erected a huge cube with gigantic, 1/3 billboard sized photographs of bloody fetuses and the like. They handed out little pamphlets, and they preached about how abortion is wrong, repent!, God doesn't like it, blah blah blah.

Because of where my classes are located this semester, my route to class doesn't take me by the library or the pedestrian walkway. So yesterday was the first time that I saw them at all this semester, if but for only a few brief seconds. The gray-haired woman was holding...guess...a picture of a bloody fetus. The impact still lingers.

And I am hurt. And disgusted.

The anti-abortion people's swagga, to apply my word of the day, is not like mine. As a Christian, as a human being, I was hurt and appalled that they thought they could "bring people to Christ" by holding pictures of lifeless fetuses.

My friend aptly stated, "Please stop making the world hate Christianity. Abortion pictures don't bring people to Christ." She's right. It doesn't lead people to Christ. I think it would lead them away. I'm slightly led away from their message. Okay, not slightly. I'm at the other end of the world away from them. That's what Christians are all about? Surely not.

It is in my opinion a stupid way to try and bring others to Christ. Love and peace and prayer bring people to Christ. Not depictions of death and insults and condemnation. Fire and brimstone! Fire and brimstone to you college kids! The way they are presenting their beliefs to the world seems completely insane. Asinine.

I rant as if I am perfect, and I know I am not. I just know that I would never do such a thing. My swagga isn't the best at times, but no one on the corner has swagger like them, for sure.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nerdfest #1

I have known for years now that I am what you may consider a nerd. I don't think I am the Merriam-Webster definition but to varying degrees I am a nerd.

And I like being one. It is who I am. Believe you me, though, it isn't always a walk in the park. When I'm affectionately made fun of for the little or big things that I do, I 99.9% of the time enjoy it. I don't know if I can even accurately describe the feeling, but I'll try.

Being affectionately made fun of actually makes me happy. What? Yes. Because the person who is doing the making fun of usually identifies with me...or they're just as nerdy in that aspect! Take Harry Potter as an example. Yesterday I was lamenting about writing my lab outline. Lab outlines are not hard, but they're boring. They are required because the lab instructors & TA's want proof that we read the lab beforehand. I also wanted to take a nap during homework time instead of doing homework. I said to my friend Jade, who was also working on some laborious assignment, "Potions would be more fun than writing out this lab outline."

Teehee! Cue giggly nerd laughter. But wait!!! I don't even know how we jumped from me whining to making a list, but by God we did. We suddenly found ourselves trying to find the Hogwarts/wizarding world equivalent of our classes here at UT.

You may respectfully and/or playfully disagree with our list, and we may take your suggestions into consideration. It is a work in progress. But this is legit guys. It's the real McCoy.

  • Ancient Runes = any foreign language
  • Potions = chemistry 
  • Divinations = a combination of philosophy, religious studies, & astronomy 
  • Care of Magical Creatures = animal science
  • Charms = physics 
  • Defense Against the Dark Arts = a combination of criminal justice & forensics

  • History of Magic = medieval studies (or any history class really)
  • Muggle Studies = anthropology

A few weeks ago, I also had another Harry Potter moment with some other friends. This is from Facebook: "Hey that's just like the Unbreakable Vow scene. I'm Bellatrix Lestrange, Tim is Snape, and Sarah is Narcissa Malfoy! Only they used their pinky fingers, not wands." If you don't know anything about that particular scene, well, read the 6th book! Or you can watch it here.

Anyway, our little situation wasn't nearly as dire, rainy, black, and creepy as the scene from the movie. But you get the idea. I said the aforementioned quote aloud, and then posted it on Facebook. My sister April commented, "And you and your friends always thought that I was the one who was a wee bit looney." My Dad "liked" my sister's comment.

See? I'm just a barrel of nerdy laughs wherever I go. I still laugh when I think about it all.

Which brings me to a few important announcements:

1) I did not mean to post about Harry Potter two times in a row. It just happened. Making up for lost time, I guess.
2) I'm going to try to do a "Nerdfest" series. By acknowledging my nerdy attributes/qualities/gifts, I am thanking God for making me who I am. Because I am happy with me. I want to share my thanks with the world.

Monday, October 18, 2010

HP Trailers!

Okay, obviously I'm not doing anything productive. Unless you count doing things that make you happy productive, well, then I'm on a roll!

I just looked to see if I had ever posted about Harry Potter, and I found that I haven't! Shame on me. Such a grievous crime have I committed.

Because I LOVE HARRY POTTER. I'm so excited! Part 1 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows comes out the day before my birthday (wink wink...). I can't tell you how many times I've seen the trailers, of which there are two "theater length" ones that I have come across so far. TV shmeevee spots. I like to see more than 30 seconds!

It is my goal to reread the 7th book before the movie comes out. I've only read Deathly Hallows once, so I definitely need a refresher. I daresay that rereading the 7th book is more important than studying or doing homework! Not really...but that statement is pretty close to the truth.

I think my favorite book in the series is either the 4th or 5th one. It's probably the truth because they're the ones I've read the most. Though, nothing can compare to the first book where we first glimpse Harry's world.

I'm sad that I didn't get my letter to Hogwarts. But I'll take a college education too.

I embedded the two trailers below. If you haven't seen them yet, watch them! If you already have, watch them again!

On a side note, if the movie score is anything like the trailer music (sometimes it isn't the same stuff), then I will definitely purchase the score.

Trailer #1

Trailer #2

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You Learn As You Go

I haven't been much of a country music listener since, oh, maybe the age of 10 or 11. I grew up with it, and I like it okay. My professed musical tastes include a little bit of everything, but I probably have less "modern" country than everything else. Actually, I know I have less country in my iTunes library. The country music that I grew up with, I still enjoy listening to. In fact, I think it was (still is?) better than what is out today.

Why am I talking about country music? Good question. I have the answer, but even now I still am puzzled that I even thought about it this morning.

While I was in the shower, a verse from an old (1992 - okay, it feels old) John Michael Montgomery song randomly popped into my head. The words and the music were very clear and distinct. Odd, I thought. I haven't heard this song in years.

Why would I suddenly remember part of a song that I don't know all of the words to?

Ding! A little timer/light bulb/whatever went off in my head. God was telling me something. And I was actually listening and paying attention to catch it.

Okay then God. What is it exactly that you're trying to tell me? Then the verse sounded clear and distinct again (in my head).

Life's a dance you learn as you go
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don't worry 'bout what you don't know
Life's a dance you learn as you go

Yes. I see now. All along I have been cognizant of sometimes leading, sometimes following. Only I feel silly that I just now truly grasped the significance of the following. While I don't dance, I do understand the concept of leading and following.

There have been and will be times when I must lead. Times when the task at hand to be in charge of is something that I don't want to do, something that's unpleasant, something that's challenging, something that feels just out of reach for me to accomplish. Oh and then throw in having to make sure that others who I'm leading are following along, well, jeez, makes life more difficult at times. Or easier depending on the situation and the people.

Then there are times when I will want to lead, when I am excited about being the leader, I know I can be a good leader for this particular thing, or when the task/situation/people involved are just so awesome and worthwhile that I am thrilled at the possibilities...sometimes I don't get to be leader at all of those times. That's when I have to be a follower. In those times, being a follower is harder than it would be if I was a leader of a crappy brigade of whatever-ness.

Of course there are instances when I have to be a follower in craptastic situations and tasks. Sometimes a good leader is present, other times not so much. It's all one big cyclical yet random blob of confusion and clarity. At the base of it all is simply not always knowing what is going to happen next. I may be fortunate or not.

And to the other line, yes, I need to stop worrying about what I don't know. That statement applies to many facets of life, but it's hard sometimes to not want to know everything all of the time. It's consumes too much time and energy that could be positively spent elsewhere.

Sometimes I dislike lessons (both in school/class situations and in life itself) where the only way I can learn is by simply going. I'm human and impatient so I like getting what I need to learn right now. Boom boom done. Lesson learned! On to the next one...

But this morning was a pleasant wake up call. I think I'm going to start hating less on learning as I go and just embrace it.

Of all places to have an epiphany of this magnitude, the shower? God really does work in mysterious ways. Obviously He knows what I don't. Perhaps I was just in tune to the right frequency this morning. Of course God is going to say something if I'm listening, even if I don't realize it at first.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Boys Will Be Boys

Oh Charlie dog, this is a flattering picture

Among the many reasons I enjoy Fall Break, these photographs are a few reasons why. It was excellent weather outside yesterday afternoon. Kayla and I went outside to play, and naturally the boys (Rocky and Charlie) came too. Oh yeah, and TinkTink the cat did too, but once the dogs started rough-housing, she fled under the pool deck.

Rocky found this beat up lamb stuffed animal, and once Charlie saw it, all craziness broke loose. There was all manner of grunting, barking, snapping, growling, and general frivolity going on the backyard yesterday. At one point, Charlie actually wrestled the toy from Rocky and took off. Both boys did laps around the yard, chasing each other.
If you won't let me have the toy, I'll just sit on your head.

After all the running around, Charlie wanted a drink. The way he drinks out of the water bucket is a little less than conventional. He didn't think I was looking.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Go Away Annoyance!

"A person who is patient is better than a warrior; and one who controls his temper is better than one who captures a city." -Proverbs 16:32

Human beings must have patience with one another. And the good people are those who bear the defects of others in the best way. -St. Francis de Sales

Long-suffering God, help me to have patience with others and with myself in all circumstances. Let me imitate Your long-suffering in whatever may befall me every day.

This reflection was both surprising but needed. I do suffer from lack of patience issues and often don't control my temper. I feel that some of my rants that I've had lately could have been better managed by yours truly. The way I see them, reflecting on them now, is that they are smaller forms of temper control problems.

I know that I'm not the only one suffering from this. I know there are others who are trying to turn the other cheek, to be more patient when others don't understand us. I honestly am just trying to good, not make someone's life miserable. If someone has an issue with me, it is probably because they aren't taking the time to understand where I am coming from (I know that has happened to me - being the one not understanding the other person).

But whatever, I will just let go of the reins and stop trying to do so much because my efforts are proving fruitless. I can only handle so much annoyance. I'm going to try harder to not let dumb little things get to me. I don't want to go crazy!

Thank the Lord for fall break. Hello freedom and rest.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Happy Feast Day!

Happy Feast Day to Saint Francis of Assisi!

If I had thought to ask my youth minister and Confirmation teachers if I, a female, could have a male as my Confirmation saint, I would totally have picked you St. Francis. Now my honest question is, would I have been able to at all? I have not the answer.

Next to Jesus, Francis is my favorite. Nothing against St. Katharine Drexel, whom I chose. She's a pretty wonderful lady.

It was and sort of still is a chilly morning, unless you stand/walk in the sun. It's a beautiful day! I'm off to lunch with a friend who returned from Kuwait safely. Yay! I just have chemistry lab lecture and lab, which I hopefully will not be late to, God willing.

So to enjoy this wonderful fall and St. Francis of Assisi's feast day, here's a few of my favorite quotes:

Even though it is uncertain whether or not he actually said the following quote, I still like to think it's something he would have said. It fits. I like it: "Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words."

No explanation needed: "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."

I love love love the "Peace Prayer of St. Francis" as well, even though it wasn't written by him:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand, to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Here also is a link to all the posts where St. Francis is mentioned. You'd think that since his quote was the inspiration for the blog that I would talk about him more...anyway, click here. A few of them are actually some of my favorite all-time posts.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Faith is Precious

So this weekend I had an Ah-Ha Moment. If you aren't familiar with my terminology, I suggest you read the post that I put the link up for.

My Ah-Ha! moment came during Communion, only now I'm pretty sure it had been building up throughout Mass on Saturday. You see, it wasn't the "ordinary" Mass that I usually know, where the music is Mass of Creation style and everything is in English.

This Saturday, Chaldean Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim came to Knoxville to meet with Bishop Stika and to celebrate a Chaldean Mass for the many Chaldean Catholics in the area. I was very interested in going, but I was also hesitant. For some reason, I had this idea that it was a members-only type deal. Luckily my friend let me know that it wasn't and, "absolutely you should come. Mass starts at 12."

I braved horrific game day traffic and almost getting boxed in at a gas station on campus to make the 5ish mile drive to the cathedral. That was an ordeal. I mean really, what business thinks it's okay to let people PARK in front of gas pumps for the duration of the game? Yes, you do make money from people who pay to park there, but don't you lose more money from patrons like me who actually need to get gas? Just a thought...jerks. And to think, I might not have had my ah-ha moment if I got stuck at the gas station! Sorry, rant over.

I got to the cathedral 20 minutes early, so I enjoyed a bit of silent prayer alone in the pew. Then out came the bishops, a priest who came with Bishop Ibrahim, and one other guy. Mass was for the most part, entirely in Arabic. And I absolutely loved it. It was due to many reasons. One part may be because I was excited to finally hear Arabic, because other than a few songs from movies with Arabic vocals, I've never heard it otherwise. I like the way it sounds, especially sung. This Mass had a lot of singing! Another part results from my love of sometimes just not understanding anything that's being said. Weird, I know. When you're immersed in another language, it's very humbling and for some reason it makes things clearer and more beautiful for me. You know what it feels like to be on the other end of the spectrum, which is not being able to understand what people are saying to you.

I think though, ultimately, that the reason I enjoyed Chaldean Mass so much is that I learned something so essential for living. During his brief English summation of his homily, Bishop Ibrahim said that "faith is precious." In reference to many Iraqi immigrants, it is often the only thing they may have with them when arriving to a new place. It's true for all immigrants really.

I kept chewing on that phrase, "faith is precious." I never really thought of faith being precious before. I always considered it something to have, something that I needed but even then it still felt like I didn't actually, physically need it.

When it came time for Communion, I kept soaking in the whole experience of revelation and excitement of something different. When I kneeled, folded my hands, and then closed my eyes to pray, it finally hit me. Tears welled up at the wonderful realization that yes, the only thing that I truly have is faith. The only thing that I truly need is faith. Everything else is just material, and it won't be with me forever. Those things won't sustain me the way God can.

If nothing else, I have faith. And I feel blessed knowing that. I will always have God and a Savior who won't forsake me even when I fail and the Eucharist and a community where no matter what language we speak or what country we are from, we love Jesus all the same.

I prayed often and will continue to pray for more Ah-Ha Moments. I'm not a very patient person, God and everyone else knows that. I'm just beyond happy that I finally had one. There's nothing quite like that warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

I came home from Mass to find this as the reflection for the day. How cool is God, I mean, really? It totally fits with my Ah-Ha Moment lesson.

"May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith." -Ephesians 3:17

"Bear Christ in heart, mind, and will. Bear Him in your mind by His teaching. Bear Him in your will by your observance of the Law. Bear Him in your heart by the Holy Eucharist." -Pope Pius XII

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thankful for the End!

I am very thankful for the end of this week. I just checked my calendar, and assuming that nothing changes, I will not have a week like the one I just had (you know, filled with exams) until finals week. That's a given though.

In spite of the hellish awakening to my most likely poor performance on my paleobiology exam, I feel pretty good about this week. It was hard because I needed to study but I also didn't want to! There was just so much material for all 3 exams. Now I can focus more on my chemistry exam on Thursday, which looks like it will be tons of fun.

There were a few missed opportunities for some things, but I have a feeling they will be presented again. And hopefully, I will take notice of and act on those opportunities. This week I was able to watch some of my favorite TV show premieres and still see my friends and study. I know I should have done more studying, but I can't change the past!

For the rest of today and this weekend, I plan on chilling. I do have work, homework and domestic, to accomplish. Like doing laundry...which I haven't done in almost 2 weeks. And grocery shopping. College kids got to eat. I might try to slip in some blogging too.

I'm just so excited that I am done with 3 exams!
And seeing my best friend Katie Ann (whom I haven't seen much of even though we live a block away)!
And running into people I know!
And for an awesome, thoughtful sister who was able to get my favorite local artist's autograph!
And for the weekend!
And for barn chores and hanging out with horses!
And for a clean room! Like legit clean, not just things put away...but dusted, Cloroxed, and vacuumed.

I'm excited for many more things, but I'm directing my excitement to a foreseeable nap.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blegh #2

I've just decided that any time I feel like whining or ranting, the chance of the post being called "Blegh" increases exponentially.

Still not enough time to write legitimate, serious things. But I am going to tell you that my paleobiology exam totally bombed.

Mostly because I just forgot how to read today. I emailed my professor and explicitly stated that I WAS NOT looking for pity points, only that I wanted to explain to him that I do in fact know the difference between vicarience biogeography and dispersalist biogeography. When I read "...explain vicarience biogeography...", I honestly read "...explain dispersalist biogeography..."

My test grade won't reflect that, but when the moment of realization hit, it was too late for me to turn around and fix it. I was already out of the building.

I feel like a loser! So to honor my pathetic attempt at pity gathering (not pity points, just pity), I decided to write this just so I could share one of my favorite songs with you. It happens to be called "Loser" but singing it makes me feel better about my paleobiology exam. This song by Beck makes no sense whatsoever, but that's why I like it.

I'm almost done with this exam filled week. One more to go. But then I have one next week!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thy Will Be Done

When I have the time to tell you the entire story, I will. For now though, I hope that this will suffice:

"Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven." -Matthew 6:10

"We must carry out the Will of God rather than our own. This is what we pledge to do in the "Our Father," which we recite every day. What a travesty it would be if after praying that God's Will be done we should carry out that Will halfheartedly and only because we are obliged to do so!" -St. Cyprian of Carthage

God has our interests at heart. We may not realize it at first. In fact, it could take forever for us to realize that what we are doing may not be what we really need to be doing. God has something better in mind for me, and I just couldn't see. After going through some difficulties, I finally saw the light and the error of my ways.

What I had in mind for many years was upturned in a matter of 1/4 of a semester. I'm glad I finally got hit over the head, figuratively (and literally, but that was my doing...stupid lofted beds).

Enjoy the weekend. I hope that UT beats Florida!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Study! Study! Study!

I have been hiding in my dorm room for a while now, and I will still be under a rock until next Wednesday. I have 4 exams coming up, starting this Friday and ending with the 4th one next Wednesday. I have my 5th exam (chemistry) on September 30th, but I get a short break of just regular class days before that one. Last year I never had all of my classes' exams in the same week-ish. This semester my professors just all thought that the 6th week of classes was an excellent time for our first exams, I guess. Jerks.

I have all of these, what I think anyway, fun ideas/things to post about, but I just don't really have too much time to write them down. And I just received a few more responsibilities, but those will be over within this week too.

This is what my test is over Friday. My paleobiology fossils exam consists of being able to identify 25 fossils/critters from the following notes. I never thought my handwriting could be so small, but I didn't want to type them up, and I like professor's organization better than my crappy notes.

Now do you see why I'm bordering on insanity. Also, if you don't make at least a 70 on it, you have to retake it until you do. The fact that students have taken this multiple times makes me oh so excited about taking it. If you never pass the exam, you basically fail the entire class. Or was it just lab? No se. The only other memorization I have left is to finish memorizing a sheet of Native American tribes and their original geographical know, before the white man forced them off their lands.

I also am faced with the decision, if given the opportunity, on whether or not I should go to the UT vs. Florida game this Saturday. It's the biggest team rivalry that I've ever grown up with. Now that I'm a student at UT, I should probably go to the game, but I have an awful lot of studying to do! Decisions, decisions. I'm sure I would enjoy myself, even though the possibility of our football team getting slaughtered by the Gators is very likely. I had the wonderful chance to go to the UT vs. Oregon game and watch it from the sidelines last Saturday. I got to see the media/sports reporting/journalism side of football, and that is almost exciting as the actual football game.

So there's my sort of pointless post of the week. If I'm being honest with you all, I was just looking for an excuse to show off my paleo fossils notes.

Now I'm going to do something responsible. Like lunch.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Middle Ground

Two nights over the past few weeks, I basically cried myself to sleep. I didn't have bad days at all, in fact they were pretty awesome days.

So why the sudden sadness? What did I cry about? My dog, Duke. Right before I went to bed, something I read or had seen or thought of triggered the sadness surrounding his untimely passing. Last night it just happened to be a little blurb in a magazine about a woman who was suddenly faced with the decision of having to put her cat down. Earlier that day I also found out that one of the ladies from Horse Haven had to put Kip down, who was a rescue. I remember when he came to HHT, and I remember being pleasantly surprised when he came back for a visit, all beautiful and alive with an energy I had never seen before. Now he's gone, so very sudden.

The memories of finding out that Duke had a virtually inoperable tumor, the weekend we selfishly kept him alive, and the visit to the emergency vet's office to put him to sleep. All of those just kept flashing in my mind. I couldn't stop them.

When I was able to think of happier times, like laying on the couch with him sprawled at my feet or sleeping on my legs, or just sitting outside with him, scratching his belly. Even those bright moments weren't enough. Because I immediately began to ache to hug him and hear him snort and bark.

One thing I realized is that my homecoming isn't the same as it was last year. When I came home and the boys were outside, I could always count on Duke for a signature Duke howl, yawn, and tail wagging. Rocky and Charlie both have their own way of greeting me when I pull up in the driveway or walk up the stairs, but it just isn't the same as Duke. It doesn't mean the same thing. And I miss that terribly. Fiercely.

I was mad at myself and my memories last night. For a split second, I wanted to forget them all, good and bad. I quickly banished that thought, because I would never ever trade the time that I had with Duke just so I wouldn't be sad anymore. I just want to know why for some reason, I wasn't able to think of happy Duke times without crying. I've been able to do that for the most part, not be sad I mean, about the happy times.

I know that grief comes in waves, most often unexpectedly. This morning, walking back from class in the rain, I realized that there is a point that I am trying to reach. I think it's the middle ground between the good and the bad memories. It's finding a balance between the times to cry and the times to smile and laugh, maybe even both at the same time.

One of my favorite songs, "Rain" by Jon Heintz, has a more than beautiful way of summing up loss, grieving, and life in the same breath. To me at least. This verse in particular, I think, speaks volumes.

Well, we're given these moments
We're given this time
And we do what we must just, just to get by
Just to stay high and dry
And as sure as these blue skies, well they're gonna turn grey
You've given your angels all of your days
Oh but you can't stay
Duke gave us all of his days. I know that no one gets to stay, but it sure would be nice. Life would be easier. That's not the point of living though, is it? If life was easy, I don't know how much I would learn.

For now though, I'm happy knowing Duke is safe and with God. I both can and can't wait for the time when I get to be greeted by him when I arrive home.