Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sabbath Sunday: God's Will

Here is this week's Sabbath Sunday post, titled "God's Will." It was a nice refresher read this afternoon.

Happy Sunday, and I hope your February is significantly warmer and less snowier than my January has been!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Songs to Share

Having Spanish class canceled for today has opened up my afternoon. Now I can write! I had tried to get to sharing the following with you a few days ago, but homework did not allow me the time.

One of my favorite things about movies is the music. I probably listen to movie scores more than any other genre of music. Ask my sister or my friends, and they will probably tell you that they have jumped in my car only to hear strings and woodwinds playing instead of rock bands or whatever is on the radio. If my friend Katie Ann gets in the car, I pull whichever movie score was in the player and swap it out for something we can sing along to. She prefers words and singing along, and I like people to be happy.

It's not that I don't enjoy singing or rock bands, etc. I simply have more fun listening to movie scores and instrumental/orchestral type things. As my 7 Quick Takes for this Friday (haven't done this in awhile), I'm going to share just 7 of my favorite songs from movies. Jennifer from hosts this weekly event. I like it very much and hope to do a better job of keeping up with it.

Understand that this is no easy task. Some of these have vocals, but in my mind they still count. Interestingly enough, these are all (with the exception of Clash of the's not even out yet) my all-time favorite movies. I can watch them over and over and never tire of them. The order of the songs below does not denote the level of awesomeness. Sorry that you have to listen to them via, but it's the only way I know.

"The Bird and the Worm" (Instrumental) by The Used. This is just trailer music for the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans...

"Ibelin" composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, from Kingdom of Heaven

"New Moon" (The Meadow) composed by Alexandre Desplat, from New Moon

"He's A Pirate" composed by Klaus Badelt, from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

"Gathering All the Na'vi Clans for Battle" composed by James Horner, from Avatar

"Yekeleni, Pt. 1/Mia's Lullabye" composed by Hans Zimmer, from Tears of the Sun

"Like A Dog Chasing Cars" composed by Hans Zimmer, from The Dark Knight

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Yeah My Friends

Today for various reasons, I found myself being extremely thankful for my friends. God has certainly been very kind to me and has blessed me with some awesome people.

After lab I went over and had lunch with Katie Ann and Andi Marie. We worked on homework for most of the afternoon. I always love being around those two because they're crazy, funny, serious, helpful, kind, sarcastic, and just awesome.

Earlier my friend Becca and I chatted online. Becca is silly, smart, wonderful, witty, sarcastic, and awesome. She is attending a university in the northeastern part of Tennessee, so I don't get to see her very often. It was nice being able to laugh with her over silly and ridiculous things that are going on in our college lives. Yes we weren't in the same room, but it is very possible to type something that leads to hysterics.

Every now and then, wonderful things happen that make you stop and think. I am very grateful for the friends in my life. Sometimes though, when they can't be there or they are far away, you tend to feel a little blue or slightly lonely.

Yes, that has happened to me. When it did not so long ago, I found solace in the fact that Jesus will always be right beside me when my friends cannot be there for whatever reasons. I know, I know. Why didn't I think of that earlier? Of course He has always been with me. It just took the figurative bump on the head to realize it. I find comfort knowing that. When I feel alone, I really am not. None of us are!

I try to listen to what God says. Sometimes I just don't think I'm tuned in to the right station. Luckily He finds some way to reach out to me.

My friends, all of them: Jesus, Becca, Katie Ann, Andi Marie, and all of the others...they are so beautiful to me.

From "Friends" by Band of Skulls:
And my friends cause they're so beautiful
Yeah my friends they are so beautiful

They're my friends

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sabbath Sunday: Marveling in My Own Backyard

Here is my Sabbath Sunday post, called Marveling in my Own Backyard.

I find it comical that I picked this post to share again because it is raining cats and dogs outside today. While rain is still marvelous to me, I hate having to drive in it!

I hope to get back into the swing of blogging things, and I've got a few ideas squirreled away. Just stick with me friends, I promise I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth...yet.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Designed for Procrastinators?

Funny that I should be writing about a meditation that I feel is specifically designed for procrastinators. Funny because this is what I should be doing...filling in Statistics notes, redoing the Stats homework, memorizing symbols for Stats, learning the subjunctive tense in Spanish, reading the assigned excerpts for my English class, watching Nosferatu (1922) for English, and reading a chapter for Communication Studies.

If you didn't know already, I belong to that "procrastinate much?" group. Luckily I don't have any classes today, so I have all day to work.
"Why have you been standing idle all day?" -Matthew 20:6

"Water that does not flow and comes to a halt in holes becomes stagnant and filled with impurities. In the same way, the body that is worn down by prolonged idleness produces and fuels the fire of covetousness and illicit pleasure." -St. Bernard

Ever-creating Father, help me to work diligently every day of my life. Grant that I may always shun idleness as the devil's workshop, and do my bit to build up the world in accord with Your holy Will.
Of course I have other things in addition to school-work to do, like filling out the scholarship application to renew my current scholarships. Conveniently or maliciously, I haven't quite decided yet, I do not recall UT ever telling me that I had to do this. My roommate did and lucky that she did, or I would be out of quite a chunk of money!

I also have this massive pile of books that I want to get through. Doubt that I will get to the entire stack this semester. We'll see. I guess it helps that I have already read 3 of those books (1776, The Archer's Tale, and Stones into Schools), but they were in the stack for the photo shoot so they just stayed. I reread books all of the time.

I am also working on making a turtle sighting sheet. Across campus, there are these mysterious spray-painted turtles on the ground. I like them a lot. I have no idea what their purpose is.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti, Search, & St. Francis

The first few days of classes went well. I'm excited about this semester, but I already have a ton of homework! Hence, the lack of posts this past week.

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti was a terrible and sad event. I remember seeing it all over the headlines on the web after it occurred. At times like these, you have to wonder why such a thing could happen...especially to one of the poorest countries in the world. A country where the basic necessities are lacking for most of the population.

I learned much of what I know about Haiti and her people from reading the book, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. What I have come to learn over the past few days is that people can band together when times get tough. Hearts melt and merge into one giant, beating being. Generosity flows forth like you've never seen it before.

While it is a pity that large-scale relief and attention are only just now being given to Haiti because of the earthquake, I am glad and comforted by the outpouring of generosity. I am also comforted by constantly trying to live by this, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own prudence" -Proverbs 3:5

What I am most angry about, however, does not belong to the former inattention given to Haiti. My anger is directed toward the University of Tennessee football community and local media. The same day that the earthquake happened, UT's head coach resigned. All of a sudden, it was like Haiti and the earthquake never happened. People were so upset that they rioted on campus...burning t-shirts with Lane Kiffin's picture (the coach) and even mattresses! Yes! Mattresses. This is the 3rd time in only a few months where UT has made headlines for less than pleasant things.

Blegh! The next morning, the big local newspaper split the headline between Haiti and Kiffin. I couldn't believe that! The only thing of the entire sordid affair that I do understand is the betrayal that fans felt upon Kiffin's untimely departure. That was not nice of him to do. UT football is a way of life here in Tennessee, and I guess I just forgot about that. Anyway, I think my little rant is done. Let's all hope!

This past weekend was super busy for me as well. On Saturday I spent practically the entire day at a retreat called Search. See Father Christian Mathis' post here to learn more about it. The retreat, fully titled the Search for Christian Maturity, was one of the best experiences and weekends of my life. I learned so much about my faith and relationship with God. I was a "Searcher" last year.

I came back this year to help in anyway I could...the so-called college help. That consisted of cleaning up after meals and setting up anything the Search leaders (a few of them my good St. Thomas youth group friends!) needed set up. Unfortunately that was all I could do. Upon graduating, I entered the black abyss that is the age between however old you were upon graduating high school and 21. If you are in that age category, there is virtually nothing for you to do in the Diocese of Knoxville. Fortunately, there is something being done among the higher ups and Youth and Young Adult Ministry will have more available for people like me! Hooray!

Search was held at the local Catholic high school. In one of the wings, they have a bench with a statue of St. Francis of Assisi sitting in the middle. There is just enough room on either side of him to sit next to him. Father Christian and I were on "patrol" duty, so we took a side trip and hung out with St. Francis for a few minutes.

This picture of me and Francis is for all those naysayers who think that my blog and foundational St. Francis quote "Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words" are just a bunch of hullabaloo. Lately I have been invited to comment on a blog and received an email asking me to explain what I think about the quote. Basically what I have been told is that I am wrong and you can't do what the quote says. "It's impossible." Then Scripture verses were thrown at me and essentially my beliefs were belittled. Things like that aren't very nice. The funny part of the situation, in my opinion, was that these were fellow Christians behaving hypocritically. They preached openness and understanding, but they weren't very open and understanding with what I had to say. I felt very sad and hurt by what they said.

The positive from these recent events is that I have found a way to become better and not so vulnerable to approaches/attacks/situations like that. I guess in a way, that is one of my crosses that I will bear. Fortunately for me, I do not have to walk that road and carry that cross by myself. Jesus and I had a good heart to heart, and He said that He will help me.

These monsters of anger and frustration that are buried deep inside of me won't have a place to hide if I only let Christ in to banish them. I think we would all do well to let Him in.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


If you are like me, then that song by Peaches & Herb pops into your head when you read the title. In fact, over the last week or so I heard the word 'reunited' twice and a line from that song popped into my head every time.

Reunited and it feels so good

I moved back into the dorm yesterday. It feels good to be unpacked and have a tidy room. Let's see how long that lasts. I enjoyed my time winter break was a little over one month long. Towards the end though, I started to miss college.

What?! You ask me? Yes, yes I did miss homework, papers, staying up too late and waking up too early, walking to class, and even cafeteria food. It does feel good to be reunited with the University of Tennessee.

This feeling doesn't negate the slight case of new semester nerves and "holy crap I have to take a speech class" feeling. I'm also not excited in the least bit about my Statistical Reasoning class. The professor told us to print out 4 documents before class on Wednesday, and I think I killed an entire forest. I even double-sided the pages but still used quite a chunk of my printer paper. Then what killed me was what was on the notes! Math language. Symbols. Numbers. I DON'T SPEAK MATH.

This morning I went textbook hunting at the University store. I bought 3 books. I dropped $192.40 of my scholarship money on them. One of them was even a used copy. Lord have mercy on my wallet and my soul. Luckily I already have my Spanish book (same as last semester), and I probably won't have to buy my Environmental Geology book because the professor doesn't use it! He just goes with lecture notes that he puts up. There is no lab manual either, so I just print off the labs online and that is it.

Earlier my friend and I had lunch and then went to find my classrooms so I don't have to scramble and look lost tomorrow. That was relatively easy, but it was so cold outside! I'm still defrosting.

In spite of the things that I worry over, I still feel pretty good about being back. I felt even better after I read the other day's daily meditation:
"Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own." -Matthew 6:34

"Let us strive to make the present moment beautiful. Let us especially regret the smallest amount of time that we waste or fail to use in loving God." -St. John of the Cross

Lord God, help me to remember that yesterday is gone forever and tomorrow may never come. Let me live in the present and strive to do Your will.
So I will try to not worry about tomorrow or any "tomorrows." That is in itself a challenge, but I've got some great help from the Big Man himself.

I would like to think that UTK is just as excited as I am to be back. (If a humongous campus has feelings akin to those of a human being anyway). Ask me in a few weeks how happy I am to be doing homework and papers, and my opinion of "yay college" will probably be vastly different!

We both are so excited
'Cause we're reunited, hey, hey

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sabbath Sunday: The Dorm and College...So Far

Here is this Sunday's Sabbath Sunday post. It is from August 2009 just after I moved into my dorm room and started college life.

I have a different perspective now. I'm not as nervous as I was in August. My schedule is basically the same general eds type stuff, but this semester's set up is different. I have all 5 classes on Mondays and Wednesdays...spread out the entire day. On Tuesdays I have a 2 hour environmental geology lab and that is it! I have a day off on Thursdays! Whoo-hoo!

I chose this post because tomorrow my winter break is effectively over, and I will be moving back to the dorm in the morning. Classes start on the 13th. Wish me luck!

You can read "The Dorm and College...So Far" here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snow, Movies, and NPH

Well folks, it snowed here in the valley. Why is that so significant? It is only "news-worthy" because it actually stuck to the ground and created hazardous road conditions, not to mention that people freak out. That's why!

Snow here is practically a state of emergency for some people. One day my mom and I went grocery shopping because we had to have food because our cupboards were bare. We also needed bread, but so did everyone else in Lenoir City. The expected snow fall sent everyone running for bread, milk, cigarettes, and gasoline. Guess what? That expected snow fall never happened. After living in Idaho and Iceland for a number of years, my family just laughs when snow is predicted for Tennessee.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the movies with a friend, to see Avatar in IMAX 3D again. That was awesome! Even better the second time around! If you haven't seen it yet, I hope you get a chance to see it in theaters. Maybe not in IMAX but at least see it on the big screen. James Cameron did a good job. A very good job. Sometimes I find myself wishing that Pandora and the Na'vi people were real...just like I want Harry Potter's magical world to be real too. I never did get my letter to Hogwarts.

At 2 in the afternoon after all the schools let out early (and after I rounded up my sisters and dropped them off at home), the roads weren't bad on the way to our meeting point. After the movie at 7 in the evening, the roads were considerably different but not all that bad. The four miles from church to my house weren't bad, but later at night I heard from people who said their normal 15-20 minute commute home from work took from 1 to 3 hours. Crazy stuff!

Today is NPH week at Blessed is the Kingdom. You should go over there and visit if you haven't already. I'm up today with a guest post. You can read "NPH Expectations" here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cats and Dogs

During the process of cleaning out my inbox, I rediscovered this little gem. I changed the pictures to my own animals. Whoever the author is, I thank that person. The following seems to be an accurate description of one of my dogs and one of my cats (Rocky and Squeak, respectively).

What Pets Write in Their Diaries

Excerpts from A Dog's Daily Diary...

Rocky: the ever annoying, hyper, clutzy, bear of dog whom we still lovingly call Puppy Boy. Definitely fits the below diary entry.

Duke: the good old boy, likes to stay outside all the time, has his own distinct odor, loves his belly rubbed. Not so much the description below, but a few things hit the mark.

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk Bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Excerpts from a Cat's Daily Diary...

Squeak: formal name=Pebbles, moody, has an evil stare, will let you know when she has had enough of you...which involves claws but I love her all the same. Definitely fits the below description.

Tinkerbell: has many nicknames, sounds like Fran Drescher in cat form, loves tuna, a "lap kitty," occasionally drinks out of the toilet and your water glass. Not so much the description below but a few things hit the mark.

Day 983 of my captivity...

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.
They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets.

Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape.In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am.


There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Stones into Schools

I wouldn't quite call this a book review. It is more like a...please for the love of all that is good and wonderful in the world, read this book...thing.

If you are familiar with the book Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, then this new book Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Greg Mortenson is right up your alley.

If you are not familiar with Three Cups of Tea, I'll do my best to give it justice. In a nutshell, it is the story of Greg Mortenson and his journey to build schools in Pakistan. While attempting to reach the summit of K2 (one of the highest peaks in the world) in the remotest part of Pakistan back in the mid 90s, Mortenson couldn't complete his journey. Instead he wound up in the little village of Korphe. One day, he observed children having school out in the open air, doing their lessons in the dirt. Before Mortenson left, he made a promise to the village elder Haji Ali that he would someday return to build them a school.

In the quest to fulfill his promise to the people of Korphe, Greg uncovered an unquenchable thirst for education, for literacy, in the rural and most remote parts of Pakistan. Three Cups details his trials, troubles, and triumphs of school-building in Pakistan (and his later expansion into Afghanistan). Visit the book's website here to learn more.

After founding the Central Asia Institute (CAI) in 1996, a nonprofit that promotes female literacy, Mortenson and his band of merry friends, coworkers, and advocates for education (especially female literacy) has grown immeasurably. There are currently 131 schools for impoverished children in some of the most desolate and neglected areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. That number is rising as I write.

As a follow up to the first book, Stones into Schools continues Mortenson's journey. In 1999, Greg met with the Kirghiz horsemen of the area in the Wakhan region of Afghanistan known as the "Roof of the World." The purpose of their visit was to request that Greg build a school for the community.

This book chronicles the beginning of the CAI and Greg's entrance into building schools in Afghanistan. As a country that has suffered from war for the past 30 years, the people are in need of many things. The one thing that may surprise you, as it did me, was their thirst for education.
Said by Wohid Khan, "In our country, our people have suffered through three decades of war, and as you know, many of our fellow mujahadeen have died in these hills and mountains. We have fought hard and we have paid dearly.

A wise man from my home once told me that these mountains have seen far too much suffering and killing, and that each rock and every boulder you see represents a mujahadeen who died fighting either the Russians or the Taliban. Then the man went on to say that now that the fighting is finished, it is time to build a new era of peace--and the first step in that process is to take up the stones and start turning them into schools.

Having fought for so long under the shadow of war, I believe that the finest service that a mujahadeen can now perform is to build schools and promote literacy. The opportunity to participate in this effort is one of the greatest honors of my lifetime."
After reading both books, I realized that of course the people of Afghanistan (and Pakistan as well) want their children to learn. Education and literacy is the way to combat violence and bring peace to our world, not guns and bombs.

The CAI and members of the affectionately named "Dirty Dozen" staff in Pakistan and Afghanistan also have built and continue to build vocational centers, literacy centers, and co-ops for women. One of the staff members, Wakil Karimi, started a few centers in Kabul, Afghanistan. Those few centers unexpectedly rose to quite a large number in order to accommodate the number of applicants. Women were on fire about learning! Mothers brought their children with them. Working women found time to come learn how to read. The surprising explosiveness of the programs caused Greg to think, "there might well be a second Afghan insurgency bubbling away beneath the Taliban's uprising--a quiet and hidden revolution of female learning and liberation."

My friends, this is a wonderful story. It is beautiful because it isn't fiction or fantasy. It is real life, and there are people out there making a difference in the world. I firmly believe that ignorance and intolerance of both countries and their people can be vanquished if we all just pick up these books and read. Let's help promote peace with books! Let's help children learn how to read! Click here to learn more about Stones into Schools.

"When you take the time to actually listen, with humility, to what people have to say, it's amazing what you can learn. Especially if the people who are doing the talking also happen to be children."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A List

Leo was a nip-happy guy, so I headed him off at the pass. Now we're smiling.

I know it is a day late and a dollar short, but I figured I'd give it a whorl anyway. Here is a list of my goals for 2010. I'm sure that it will continue to expand because nothing is ever really finished and complete with me.

-Become a prolific writer
-Master the Spanish language (ha! yeah that'll happen)
-Study more for my mid-terms and finals
-Be nice
-Go back to NPH El Salvador this summer
-Read more books. (It seems that last year I didn't do much of that)
-Wash my car and vacuum the inside more often
-Increase my patience reservoir
-Find a cool tie-dye shirt
-Be able to chew food normally again
-Be around horses even more than usual!
-Pick a place & program to study abroad
-Go outside more
Josue and Leandro, from NPH