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 guy...baby 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 seen...you 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 Ashley...now 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 urbandictonary.com. 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;
and
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.