Thursday, December 15, 2011

Puerto Rico Update #4

Thursday! Wow...this week hasnt really gone by fast for me and I think its because of several different factors. First, I am NOT used to waking up with the sun. It has, however, become my new favourite thing. I mean come on; sunrise over palm trees out your window while its 80 degrees? Chyeah! Of course getting up early requires me to go to bed early (which I really do not all) but its worth it. Its weird to me to have accomplished so much in the day that by 10am we take a break. Woah. I am going to have to get used to this. Most people wake up at 6 or before! eye-yeigh-eye. Another reason why the week has been long is because I have mostly communicated in sign language. I know sign language, but to think IN sign and to use it for everything you want to communicate, it is very challenging. Sometimes I work as my deaf roommate for the week's interpreter too when we are in big crowds. I dont want her to feel left out and most of the staff dont like to sign and speak at the same time because it makes for very awkward and choppy speech. So most of the time we just talk. And then when we finish a story, we'll tell her and some of the other deaf people what was said so they can join in. Its kinda exhausting. I dont know how hearing moms who have deaf kids do it. Its very challenging to be in a group situation. I cant really participate in the conversation either until I have finished signing what they are saying, too, because I am so focused on relaying the information. This whole deaf/hearing thing is much harder than I imagined. I suppose this is what you call "the real world" where the cushy educational interpreters disappear and suddenly you are the interpreter! Its a lot to take in. I understand why the teachers here say that they are tired all the time. Until you really know a language (and I mean you really dream in it, think in it, live in it) its hard to not only switch back and forth between them, but to use two different languages at the same time!

Anyways, school today was good. In the morning I was back in the high school classroom which was nice. Those boys are very funny and have great personalities. I was able to get some great language samples from both of the boys, plus from one of the 3rd grade girls. I am thrilled about that. I know next semester I will be taking a class on ASL linguistics as well as one on language samples and evaluations. Yay! Maybe this last semester will really start to prepare me to become a teacher. I am looking forward to it! We had a traditional PR'ian lunch which consisted of a stew of some sorts with peas, gravy, chicken, corn, and other various mixed vegetables, all served over some white rice. PR'ians are really big on white rice and all types of beans. Big shocker, eh? We finished The Nativity Story movie after lunch and then set up the chapel for tomorrow when the parents come to school for a small party and to hear the kids perform their hand bells. The kids were so noisy setting up the chairs in the chapel that afterwards, I really needed some silence. I asked Jen if I could go lay down and ended up taking a two hour long nap. It was much needed.

Today a new group of people arrived that will be staying at the school! College students! Who are hearing! Hallelujah! It was very exciting for me, but most of the missionaries said they dont like having them here. One of the teachers said she hates when these big groups come, but the principal said she loves it because it gives them a chance to interact with some fresh faces. This particular group is a "do gooders" club from the Uni of Charleston in SC. They are not a Christian group, so please pray, pray, pray that I would be able to witness to them tomorrow. They are really fun and its good to hear a Southern accent once more (oh dear did I really just say that!?) =) I am excited to have them staying in the dorms with me as it has just been me and my roommate in a 10 person dorm up until now. They're leaders are really interesting and they have 2 adult females and 1 adult male (who actually arrived on tuesday and went to dinner with us on tuesday night, etc.) One of the ladies works for the government and has lived and traveled all over the world! Wow! She's really cool. I am definitely a people person, but I also need my personal space. This trip has been a perfect combination of the two! Praise the Lord! I could not have asked for a better experience here. They are taking such good care of me that I am bound to go back to CA happy as a clam (well, I will be maybe a baked clam because it is so nice and warm over here! I'm so gonna freeze when I go back to school!)

This afternoon didnt really consist of much. I woke up from my nap and tired to read the last little portion of The Hunger Games books (only have about 100 pages left...if that many.) Each time I go to read it, no one is around, and then, of course, as soon as I crack it open, people appear! Its kinda a cool trick. Its like whenever I go to restaurants, if we have been sitting for a long time, I get kinda bored and excuse myself to the restroom. It is fool proof that by the time I get back from the restroom, the food will have arrived! I'm lucky like that =)
After we chatted with the folks, they cooked us dinner of hamburgers and hot dogs. I feel like I always say this, but by the time it was dinner, I was really hungry! Its weird for me to eat on a regulated schedule because at school I eat whenever I feel like it. Sometimes I will eat breakfast at 11am and then lunch at 3:30 and then dinner around 7. (actually, that's a typical day in my books lol.) I had a great time chatting with Jen and the new folks and learning a little about what they are up to here. The weather has cooled down considerably, so instead of just a tee shirt, tonight I had to thrown on a light jacket. Oh no! Well, cooler weather awaits me in CA and then I will go back to TN and freeze my little tailfeathers off in the snow. Yes. Thank you very much. I have LOVED being in the balmy, humid air! Ahh! Its like a renewed breath of life! Oh man...! My hair and skin are so happy here, but my allergies are not all that keen on whatever is blooming around here. I am excited for school tomorrow as we have a modified day and will go to the rainforest to play the hand bells! Woo so excited to see another part of this beautiful island!

That 2 hour nap is wearing off and I will sign off now. Stay tuned to an update tomorrow night! Tomorrow is my last full day in PR! I will be so sad to leave! There are wonderful people here!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Puerto Rico Update #3

Numero tres (y quatro since I skipped yesterday).

Tuesday was much the same as Monday, actually. I enjoyed my day, but it was a little more frustrating than the day before. I got to work int he 3rd grade classroom in the morning. There are three students in that class (two girls and one boy) ages 8, 8, and 11. They did a variety of different subjects and when we got to English vocabulary and sentences, things kind of fell apart. It was really frustrating to know both English and to know how the mind of these 8 year old kids works (well...I have a fairly good guess at how they work, anyways) but not be able to place myself outside of myself and explain it to these kids! Its like, how do you describe a "direct object of the sentence" to someone who has only recently learned about kangaroos who live in Australia? Its kinda mind blowing. Its so hard to not use "college words" to describe things that I know. I was totally at a loss of how to tell this one little girl I was working with why her sentence made perfect sense in ASL, but for English, she needed to add in a couple of more words. ASL doesnt have articles ("the", "a", etc.) nor do they have helping verbs ("is", "am"). So to write a sentence that says "The baby's name is called Joey" really turns out to be "Baby name Joey" in ASL (well, at least for the level of linguistics I was working with with this 8 year old. I eventually said "Ok look. You need the word "is". Trust me. I am a teacher and I am telling you write on your paper right here "i-s"." She did but she didnt understand why. That was the frustrating thing for me because I know that if they do not understand why, they wont be able to make these sentences on their own. AHH! Ok someone please teach me how to teach these kids!

After all that, we went into the "library" to type up the story about the kangaroos on the computer. I had both of the 8 year olds and I could not get them to stop messing with the fonts, etc., on the computer. Oh man. I got really mad. Let me tell  you; little deaf kid, when they get mad, their language turns on and they sing really fast and sloppily. Hearing teacher? When she gets mad, ASL goes out the window and all you can think is "stop! stop!" That was a crisis moment in my day because I thought I was really good at signing and then all of a sudden I have no signs to communicate to them their bad behaviour. Most of the problem was that I could not get the kids to look at me. I've seen some of the other teachers take them by the chin and force the kids to make eye contact because when these kids dont want to listen, they just look away. There's really nothing you can do to make them look at you besides holding their head with your hands so they will be forced to look into your eyes. I dont feel comfortable with that. So I simply told them if they dont stop, they wont be able to use the computers. They saw that I was mad and even if I couldnt express myself with myhands, they could read my face and could figure out I was dead serious about this. Thankfully, ten minutes later (of course this is the time when they are actually focusing and typing up their stories...) its time to go to lunch. Oh brother. Well, I did what I could.

The rest of the afternoon went better and I didnt have anymore "communication breakdowns." I got to work with the kindergarten/1st grade class again after lunch. The teacher wanted me to work one-on-one with this one particular girl named "Z" (not her real name...but her name starts with a Z so we'll just call her Z). Z is 7 (she told me she was 8...dont know why still) and she is one of the girls I blogged about earlier who has a younger deaf sister, is deaf herself, and both her parents are deaf. You would think her linguistic skills would be off the charts, however, no. We had the book "The Grinch" and I asked her to "read" it to me. Well, of course she cant read that book because she is 7. I had NO idea what she was saying other than "decorations" and "place". She does not have very much vocab AT ALL so i was not at all surprised to just watch her move her hands. She wasnt signing. She was trying to imitate a language that she can barely speak. And she's 7. Sad. She understands nearly everything anybody says to her, but she has very poor expressive skills. It was not until today (wednesday) until I realized/came up with the idea that maybe she is autistic. Her sister ("N) is 5 and has very good language! Of course N says kid-like things like a 5 year old does, but she can hold joint-attention and has no problem making eye contact. Z on the other hand has me worried. I asked her teacher today (Wed) if she had ever noticed that about Z before and I asked her if she thought she might be a little bit autistic. Her teacher said she'd never noticed it before, but that she'd look out for it in the near future.

Its weird to me because here they do not have tests for the kids. This is a school for the deaf with highly qualified people, but when I ask them if they have ever tested them for XY or Z, they just say "Uhh no." I think PR'ian deaf kids would do so well with A) a school SLP (speech language pathologist) B) certified interpreters (they told me there was ONE woman who was a certified interpreter who worked in the school system, but she died two years ago...sooooo now there are no certified interpreters. WOW!) C) some SLPs who specialize in educational testing. All of these are needed. I say an SLP is needed very badly in the schools because some of the kids are HoH (hard of hearing) and want to speak and sign at the same time. The kids here at ESD are *extremely* willing to use their voice. In fact, all of them do! They know the teachers are hearing, so if they want to get your attention, they will just yell out and you turn around. Its really an effective system, actually. The only problem with this is that you have deaf kids screaming!!! at other deaf kids which will blow your ears out (especially when you are in the car...oh man!) That is extremely ineffective because they are both deaf...go figure...they dont get it. Ha!

Anyways, after Z tried to read me the Grinch (while making no eye contact whatsoever) she had warmed up to me in her own way and was willing to let me help her with her math homework. This kid was great at math! Many deaf people are because it is concrete and numbers are constant. Languages are clearly their weak point, but math and numbers and computers, normally they are pretty good with them. I was blown away because I have never done math with an 8 year old before, but I always imagined there would be a lot more teaching and explaining than what went on yesterday with my experience with Z.

After school, I literally had a headache. Jen asked me "Beach?" and I said "YES!" Betsy and some of the others joined us and we swam and played in the water for about an hour or more. It was great! The waves are huge here and really powerful! They also churn up a ton of sand...bleach.

I had told a couple people earlier in the week that I loved seafood so for dinner Tuesday night they decided I had to go to their favourite seafood restaurant place called "King Seafood". It was delicious! Very, very decadent and so good! I was starving by the time we ate dinner though, because it took them an hour to bring us our food. We were at the restaurant for nearly 2.5 hours. Apparently "island time" trumps all and they take their down time very seriously here. Dinner was great and I had leftovers for lunch on Wed.

By the time we got back to school, it was 9pm. I read for a little while but was too tired to blog. Went to bed at 10:30pm and started Wed!

Today we took the kids to do a hand bell performance in San Juan. It took about 40 minutes to get to the hotel where we played. The kids did great and were very excited to perform. I loved watching them smile and get nervous and congratulate each other. We left first thing after chapel and devotions, performed, and got back to the school at nearly 1pm. After lunch we continued watching part of The Nativity Story movie. I love watching it with the kids because they will say "Watch out because this bad guy will come up!" or "There's gonna be a snake soon! Dont be scared!" They're so sweet! =) There was only about 45 minutes left in the school day so I went with the 3rd grade class and helped them make macaroni angel Christmas decorations. For the most part, after school, I helped JJ and just relaxed a little bit. JJ made me fish and salad for dinner and it was very tasty. I'll have to try her recipe at home! After dinner some of us went to an evening church service. We went there on sunday night too. The service is completely in Spanish, but we have brought a deaf person each time, so Betsy will interpret the whole thing in ASL. Its like listening to an language you recognize and know vocabulary words from, but really would never be able to get the meaning of it (Spanish) and then watching it be translated in ASL at the same time (my 2nd language). ...It hurts my brain, but totally stretches my ASL skills. Actually, it stretches all of my linguistic skills! Its fun! I really like living in "America" for this week but being in such a different culture (I put "America" in scare quotes because PR is a US owned territory...but it feels like a different country just without the extreme 3rd world conditions most of the other non-US territories around here probably face). After church, I blogged and now bed! Goodnight!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Puerto Rico Update #2

Buenas tardes once more mi amigas/amigos!

Today was my first day to observe in the classrooms at the school for the deaf. I had a great time, but my brain is extremely tired! I now understand why all the rest of the missionary staff go to bed at like 8:30pm. This morning I observed the high school class which consisted of two boy students. One of them is HoH and the other is Deaf. It was really interesting to see their intelligence levels and their communicative levels. The Deaf boy, in terms of school work and just general "grade level appropriateness" was way behind. However, his language skills of "through the air" communication (AKA signing) were great! He used strong ASL and it was clear he has been signing for a while. The HoH (hard of hearing) boy was right there and with it academically, but his signing was a little lacking. Its so funny to be around these deaf kids because they are so noisy! Man! They don't realize they are being loud, so when they laugh, or if they drop something, they have no idea how much noise they are actually making. It's a kick. Its also a strange feeling when a siren will go by down the street, or a run shot will ring out and the kids don't even flinch. It is very, very sad to me to imagine living in their world. Puerto Rico is a place of amazing sounds! At night, there are the rain forest critters (tons of all kinds of crazy frogs, lizards, bats, crickets, etc.). During the day, when we go to the beach, the sound of the waves crashing on the sand is just beautiful! It is SO calming. I think it may be one of God's favourite sounds considering so much of the world is covered in water. Just a little biased thought. Its sad to turn to the kids and want to say to them "aww don't you love that sound?" but I can't. I don't pity them because these kids are wonderful people. They are individuals. But, they will always be a minority. They will have difficulties communicating with those in their main "hearing world" environment and trouble talking to their families. No matter how good cochlear implants and hearing aids become, they will never hear the world like I do.

As far as the events of the day:
Woke up early and went to observe the high school class until lunch. We learned about Paul Revere and the events leading up to the American Revolution. When I think about running my own classroom I think "there's no way I'm ready!" and then I jump into a class like the one I was in today and think "okay, sure. I could totally do this. I could read from a book, and make up fun activities, and have the kids act things out, and really get them enthuastic about learning!" It's a very exciting and encouraging feeling!

At lunch time, we all (meaning the 8 staff members plus me, and all 10 kids that attend the school) gathered into the cafeteria. We had this delicious pasta lunch made and brought over by an American lady. It tasted like "American pasta" if you ask me...

After lunch, we went into the chapel to watch part of the Nativity Story (the movie). Then, all the students practiced hand bells. They do a great job and have it down to a science. The kids really enjoyed the bells (especially this adorable little 8 year old named Mizael who will talk your head off...oh my!) I just listened and observed and smiled at the kids. Its so fun to watch the kids interact with each other, too! They range in age from about 16 or 17 to 4 years old. Such cuties! They look quite a lot like Mexican kids (IMO) but they have less Native American looking features and look more like South Americans to me. By the time we finished bell practice, someone had brought presents for all the classes: books! The kids were thrilled and it was fun to watch them open their presents! I really wish I had thought to bring something for them all too! Next time. One of the books the kindergarten/1st grade class got was called "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats. I had to do a report on this book for my Children's literature class, so I was very familiar with it. I told the teacher that and she asked if I would like to read it to the kinders. Okay, let me tell you, best part of my day. Haha! It's hard to get deaf kids to pay attention and look at you because when they are looking at you, they are really trying to figure out what you are signing to them. Needless to say, I read them the story by signing it for them. Then one of the boys who was my little helper who turned the pages of the book decided it was his turn to read the book. He's six and can't really read, but can pick out a few words here and there (like any 6 year old I suppose). THAT was the best part of the day because half the time he would totally make up a story about what was going on in the picture, and the other half of the time, he would just ramble. (I had a hard time understanding him to be honest because you know how little kids like to say things that are totally unrelated to the topic? Yeah, well that was what this little guy was doing too. Very fun experience.) I stayed in the kindergarten/1st grade classroom for another hour and a half until school was over and just talked with the kids and with the teacher about each of the 3 kids in the class. There was this little boy, of course, and then two other girls who were sisters (both deaf). The little boy has a 4 year old hearing brother and an 8 year old deaf sister. He himself is deaf.

One of the missionaries told me that there are about 150,000 deaf adults and children on the island of PR. The total population is around 4 million people. When you figure it out, that means there are a LOT of deaf people here. There are about 8,000 deaf people in the state of Texas so...that kinda gives you an idea. Most of these deaf people live in the mountains in small, extremely rural communities. I would die to go up there because I bet their language is fascinating because they are so isolated and there is no one there to teach them. Wow. Maybe next time I will go visit them. I can only imagine that they would use a ton of gesturing, pigeon sign language and mixes of English and Spanish. There is a lot of inbreeding in general among the PR'ians (of course...its an island...) so there are a lot of issues with genetics. I have never known a deaf person to have deaf parents, nor a deaf person to have deaf brothers and siblings (or both!). There is one family at the school here in PR where both the mother and father are deaf and both of their daughters (the ones in the kindergarten class) are deaf as well. Can you imagine!? It is great, though, because these two deaf girls have grown up with sign language in their home from day one. They are fairly skilled communicators.

Sidetrack...anyways... directly after school was over, my missionary friend, JJ, and I had to take one of the HS boys home. He lived close to the beach, so Jen asked if I wanted to go for a walk with her on the beach we went to on Sunday. Of course I said yes! We were able to walk this empty shoreline for about an hour. Then we needed to go to the grocery store to pick up some bread, etc. for dinner tonight. Everyone at the school takes turns making dinner on different nights of the week. Tonight was not JJ's night, but since we were out, we got some of the ingredients. Dinner was this delicious pasta casserole (lucky me, right? pasta twice in one day! I love it!) and salad and bread. JJ told me earlier that we would go to a resort and go in their jacuzzi after dinner. Since everyone likes to go to bed nice and early around here, we went directly after dinner.

Now the resort: and the jacuzzi and pool:
Well, a while ago, JJ and some of the others on staff knew this guy who was head of security for a resort about 20 minutes down the road. (Oh btw, everything on the island is really far away because their roads are kinda crazy! Its an adventure!) =) Anyways, we get up to the guardgate and give them our name and tell them we will just be visiting for the evening. Since this is PR, they said "sure thing" and let us in. Ha! We walk in like we own the place and jump right in the jacuzzis that are right near the ocean! You can hear the waves crashing when you sit in the jacuzzi/pool. Guhhhg! Beautiful! We also saw quite a lot of stars (I miss them when I am in Knoxville) and watched the cruise ships sail on past and watched the airplanes overhead. The jacuzzi was really chilly (kinda unusual they said...) and of course tonight is the coldest its been in a long time (probably down into the low 70s! Burrr! Everyone, better break out the snowcoats! hehe) We were at the resort for about an hour and much to my dismay left to head back to the school. This resort was amazing! Think combo of the Hilton in Waikiki and the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, San Diego, CA. Just beautiful!

I know this has been super long, but its fun for me to write it all out and I hope you enjoy getting a bit of an update about what all I am doing here. I just realized after reading over the whole posting that I promised yesterday I'd write about Sunday...I'm not sure if that's gonna happen tomorrow or not...but I'll try to insert snippets.

Buenas noches!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Buenas Tardes! Puerto Rico Update #1

Hello! Hello! Hello! (...that is supposed to be in English, ASL, and Spanish for ya there.)
For the past 24 hours I have been operating on a tri-lingual basis. Holy cow...its ultra hard. I am fluent in English and ASL (American Sign Language) and can use them both at the same time and independently from each other. It comes in extremely handy around here. The third language is Spanish, which sounds *so* familiar and good to my ears to hear again, but alas, I really can't comprehend it orally. If its written down, I can get about 40% of what is trying to be communicated. Its not great, but its all I have. The official language of PR is both English and Spanish. The ASL comes into play because I am staying/working/visiting a school for the Deaf here in PR.

The school is very nice and I am staying in the girl's dorm. Right now, there is only one student who lives here (even though the whole school is technically a "residential school for the deaf"...go figure). I found this school because God wanted me to: there's no other way to explain it. Here's the story-- My grandparents have these friends named the Barnes. The Barnes love my mom and they love my whole family, actually, even though I've never meet them. Sometime around my HS graduation, they (somehow) heard I was going into deaf education. They wrote me this very nice, very long note of congratulations. In the note, they told me there was a school in PR that they used to support financially and that they knew several of the missionaries who worked there over the years. The crazy thing is that I read this letter when I graduated, but never, ever, remembered the school for the deaf. Well, about 2 years ago, at Christmas time, actually, I was deep cleaning my room and came across this letter. This was my sophomore year of college when I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. When I re-read the letter, the school for the deaf jumped out at me! I searched it online and immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of their mission. I contacted them and they put me in touch with a missionary named JJ. She is from CA and I knew that I wanted to support her. So, for the past two years JJ and I have been writing letters, facebooking, and even had one skype encounter (...not very successful due to both of us having bad internets). I am SO happy to actually meet the person I have been praying for on a weekly basis and that I have been supporting. Its been great, also, to jump inside her world and see what all she has/is doing down here and how intense missionary life really can be.

In terms of a little bit of an update--
I left TN yesterday morning very early. Made it to Miami around 11am and had a layover until 1pm. [Insert awesome stories from chatting with fellow travelers/airport strangers here...there are some interesting folks in airports these days...let me tell you. you'll have to ask me in person for some of the "goods".] Trying to explain why you are a quarter of the age of all the retired folks heading from Minn. and NY for some warm weather is a little harder than you might think. HA! I slept almost the whole plane ride to PR and when I arrived I was worn out! JJ was running around San Juan and Betsy (the principal/director/linguist extrordinaire!) picked me up from the airport. There were five other people in the car with us; all missionaries at the school. San Juan is about an hour's drive from Luquillo (where the school is) so the whole team came into the city to pick me up. We went first to this really expensive Italian restaurant. Long story short, JJ and 2 others met us at the Italian restaurant and we decided that the prices were too high. Betsy was still parking the car. She called and said she was having car trouble and we all made our hasty exit (sorry to our waiter, whoever you are!) We ended up going to this awesome pizza place that was a lot of fun and had great food. After dinner, we walked around the city and looked at Christmas lights. Ok, let me explain. PR'ians really love Christmas. Like really! There are nativity scenes all over the place and the three kings are more of the focus than anyone in the nativity scene. They have Three Kings Day (another story to follow about that later...) and that is celebrated in the beginning of January. Once we finished walking around downtown San Juan, we headed "home" to the school. I got settled in, took a shower, and went to bed.

Tune in tomorrow for the update about today, Sunday!

Thanks for the prayers! I am doing well and am in great health (which is great seeing that I had been for the past 10 days with a cold...) Everything is running smoothly so far and the missionaries are taking good care of me! =)

Friday, December 9, 2011


(Yes, I do realize that my order for completing my 101 things may be driving some of you bonkers, but I never was a 1-101 type of girl. I prefer to be all over the map [or blog].)

#100 reads "be the first person to tell someone exciting new". 

Well, about three weeks ago one of my two best friends from back home told me she was engaged! I am thrilled for her since she has found such a wonderful man. I was surprised that he popped the question so soon because last time I was talking to her, she said it would be a while before they were engaged. But, apparently he felt differently! Since he is in the Marines and will be deployed (not deported as I kept saying...geesh) in a year and a half, they want to get married now and have a little time together. And by "now" I mean NOW! If I have calculated it correctly, they will be engaged for 5 weeks! They plan to be wed a week from tomorrow. One of the bummer things about having a wedding planned so quickly is that you dont know if everyone will be in town. I am heading out to Puerto Rico for a mission trip and get back the night they are supposed to be married. Unfortunately, I will not be able to be in the wedding or able to attend. 

But I diverge... 

One of the best parts about getting engaged is that you get to tell everyone! Well, I certainly wasn't the one engaged here, but I did ask my BFF if I could have permission to tell my family. She said of course. (This is where #100 falls into place...) I called my parents and then my two sisters and broke the news to them. They all were shocked and it was SO much fun to be able to relay such good, happy news to them (and, of course, to be the first one to break it to them!) 

I cannot wait to get to know my best friend's new husband and to see them when I go home for Christmas break! Congratulations to you both!

Date completed: November 19th, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Ice Cream Monday"

"Ice Cream Monday" is officially finished! Yay! After a total of three months of work, and three drafts, it is complete! If you would like to read it, please comment below with your email address. Thanks for all the support!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

#46 Visit the Biltmore

46. Visit the Biltmore in Asheville, NC

This past Saturday I got to check #46 off my list. I decided it would be a fun Christmas present to give my boyfriend, and it would be equally fun to turn it into a double date with his roommate who is dating a friend of ours from church.

The house was terrific and we had a wonderful day! Unfortunately, I got sick a few days before we went to visit the Biltmore so I was feeling rather crummy that whole day. Nonetheless! Let me tell you a pretty darn good story!

The tickets to go to the Biltmore are way more expensive than what they should be. Thus being the case, I searched around online to see if any fellow travelers/tourists had any tips. Some smarty said to check on Craigslist and see if anybody in the area had posted some tickets for sale. Sure enough, I found a lady who was selling six tickets at a very good price. She was going to email me a picture of the tickets and I was going to send her a check via snail mail and she was going to send me the tickets via equally slow snail mail. She hadn't send me the email with the picture of the tickets by the end of the week, so I got nervous and called her. Well, my nervousness turned out to be a good thing, because when I called, she said that she had already sold the tickets to someone else! I was really upset because had spent a couple of hours online trying to find tickets and finally found this six-pack. Anyways, I returned to square one of searching on Craigslist. I found someone who had five tickets for sale at a cheaper price than the ones Lady-Who-Sold-Our-First-Set was offering hers for. Lady #2 is named Leah and turned out to be quite the character.

Leah works at a bar in Asheville and I didnt even want to know how she had acquired these special tickets that were good for two years. They turned out to be employee comp tickets and the four of us all made up stories as to how we thought she wound up with these tickets. Anyways... Leah and I made an agreement that I would pick up the tickets from her when we came over to Asheville (where she lives/works). I was extremely nervous about this arrangement because if something went wrong, then we would already be 2 hours away from school with no tickets and no date ahead of us! Well, we did get the tickets, but not from Leah, but from Rich. (I know...stick with me).

Leah told me the address of the bar she worked at and said that she would leave the tickets with Rich (one of her co-workers) and we could just give him the lumpsum of cash. We would just trade off, and that would be that--we would have our tickets and go on our merry way and Leah would have an envelope of cash waiting for her when she came into work later that evening. Before we left on Saturday morning, I googled the address and found directions online to the bar. I also google searched the name of the bar so we would be able to spot it from the road (and also so I knew that there actually was a legit bar at the address she had given me). We drive for two hours, get to Asheville, and I spot the sign for the bar (called Westville Pub). We dont bother to double check the address of the bar, because I thought it corresponded with the information I had looked up online. Well, we walk into the bar (mind you; this is at 11am...) and its not quite open. We ask the bartender in the back if she knows Leah and if Rich is working. She said she didnt know either one of them! (*Begin panic attack here*) She asks an other co-worker who says he knows Leah who works across the street as the bartender at University Pub. (*Inhale big sigh of relief*) It turns out that the name of the bar and the address of the bar didnt correspond like google said they did. We simply showed up at (what I thought was the right NAME of the bar, but) the wrong address. So, we mosey our way to the second bar for that morning, and sure enough Rich is standing behind the counter, gives me the envelope, we give him the money and head to the Biltmore!

Ahh mission accomplished! I just think its comical that we had to go through this whole ordeal all for the sake of saving (quite a few) bucks. Its very appropriate because my sister Amanda and I encounter these types of wild and heart-rate-raising adventures all the time. Nonetheless! We got a fantastic deal out of it and there is no way we would have been able to afford going if the tickets were full price.

When we arrived, we walked around the indoor botanical gardens (greenhouses! yay for warmth!). After that we went into the mansion and walked around/took the self-guided tour for several hours. We really enjoyed ourselves and I would definitely recommend going to visit to anyone! (Just...dont pay full price when you can get them for cheaper online.)

Date completed: December 3rd, 2011

Song of the Day

Its been a while since I've posted a song of the day, so here you go!

Put Your Head on My Shoulder

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Teaser for "Ice Cream Monday"

Its almost done! My short story is about to be completed. Whether I like it or not, the deadline is Friday. I am hoping to finish it by this weekend so I can go back and make some changes if necessary.

In the meantime, here is the first page as a teaser for the rest of the short story. If you would like to read the whole thing, please send me an email at

Thanks to all for the support and encouragement!

Midland Valley, California was all a-buzz as it prepared for its annual Christmas parade. The parade wasn’t so much a fan-fare event with millions of dollars poured into it by the city council, but rather, it was a way for the neighbors to support each other. Each year, the whole town burrowed out of their toasty homes to watch members of their community strut down Main Street all for the sake of being “in the Christmas spirit.” Children bundled up to their eyebrows in heavy down jackets would marvel at the way their breath hung in the air and then vanished as they sat, freezing, waiting for the parade to begin. Jill Golden, age nineteen, saw the memories of past parades play in her mind. It was a bit like looking into a shadow box; the setting always remained the same, as did the people. Jill’s shadow box of last year’s 2001 parade did not look much different from the parade of 1951. Despite fashion differences that occurred over the ages, Midland Valley’s one and only high school band still played their same medley of Christmas tunes, the volunteer firefighter brigade still blared their wailing siren, the classic cars, though different each year and ever-changing in style, still revved their engines, and the Fox Hunter’s Farms beginning riders class still rode atop their aged lesson horses. This year, however, was different for Jill. She was in charge of 27 young riders all within the ages of four- to nine-years-old. She was responsible for organizing which rider rode which of the stable’s 42 lesson horses, and had to make sure each child knew how to control his or her horse. All the while, Jill would ride her Appaloosa gelding, Arrow, at the front of the herd for the duration of the parade.
If it weren’t for the horses, Jill might not be so keen on sacrificing some of her precious study time in order to help out with the novice group of students. She was a student at Midland Valley Community College, and she rarely had time for anything besides studying, sleeping, and slinging around English training saddles. Jill had lived in Midland Valley all her life and knew the characters of the town like she knew the entire cast of her favorite television show Friends- intimately. Most of the people who lived in Midland Valley were either newly married with a baby or two, or were what they all called “old timers”, like her grandparents. Jill lived with her cousin, Melinda, in a comfortable two bedroom apartment in the “college district” of town. With three more final exams still to be taken, and four days until the annual parade, Jill had much she needed to accomplish.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Heart, Soul, and Self Psalm

Another psalm! I originally didnt want to post these because I am writing them to the Lord and they are me talking to him out of our quiet times together, however, I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from others who say it brings them closer to God, so I decided I will continue to post them.

Inspired out of Psalm 52

Why, Oh Soul, must you run and hide?
Do not be ashamed.
Turn to the LORD, the Everlasting Giver of mercy.

Why, Oh Heart, do you not trust him with every beat?
Like a young vine, wrap yourself around His promises.
Let the fibers of your pulse-maker intertwine with His great love.

Why, Oh Self, do you disappoint?
Come cleanse me, God, so I may be yours!
Remove the spots of my sin, black like a Dalmatian’s, from my mind.

For surely, evil will not prevail in me!
My soul, heart, and self are captivated by your beauty, Oh LORD.
Allow me not to look away from your great face.

Friday, November 25, 2011


This entry has no music for it IS the music of my soul tonight.

I have been writing and reading all week...mostly writing. My short story is less than ten hours away from being completely d-o-n-e. (I am ecstatic!)

My inspiration to write this tonight comes out of a heart that is in love; in love with my Creator. I have been reading the book "Captivating" by J and S Eldridge and it has been "heart changing" (you know, like "life changing"...but "heart changing"). It has given me SO much to think about. Its one of those books where you can only read about 4 pages at a time because I would be in tears otherwise because of the way the Lord speaks to me through it. I love it. I've been reading it all semester, actually, its just that this week (4 and a half day weekend!) I've been on a little retreat with the Lord and we are having a delightful time. I am not at a camp, in fact, I am in an unexpected situation to be having a retreat, but it could not have come at a more perfect timing.

Anyways; my psalm to the Lord (inspired after reading Psalm 46 and 47)

Run, all you people.
You who are about to faint and die of exhaustion.
You who have no hope left in the world.
Run into the arms of God the Father,
The one who is our Refuge; our Fortress and our Tower; our Saviour.

When you are sick with anxiety and stress, run to Him.
His eternal love will fill your heart.
He will heal your soul and will revive your life.

When the door to your heat is falling off its hinges and so badly tattered,
Sleep with Him. Let His warmth spread through you.
Allow His heart to moisten your soul with His dewy words of deep adoration for you.
For you! 
You individually. 
For you, Oh sinner. 
For you, Oh redeemed child of the King.

Cast off all of your own strength and abandon your old self.
Your sins do not matter, for He loves you so.
Why do you continue to sin, though? Run with all your might away from your temptations. He will enable your feet to have jet packs and will deliver you away from your sin into His broad and caring chest.

God is one who provides. He is our Rescuer; our constant Lover; the One who will never harm us.
Run to Him, all you feeble and needy people.
Return to the One you love for His love will surround you like a blanket of humidity on a warm summer’s night.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Writing and Raindrops

Yes, writing and raindrops. It describes my last two weeks of life here in TN. You (who don't really know me at all) might think I would be sick of writing, but its not true. I love to write! Now, I need to say that this "writing" is creative writing, not essay writing. I do enjoy a good research essay because I am a nerd and love to learn. However, synthesis essays where your professor gives you the thesis and says "prove my thesis true/correct" come on, those are annoying.

Creative writing! My short story (yes, the allusive "short story" that many of you all have heard about). It is not "Elegant" (for those of you who have read that post in the past); its called (drum roll please!) "Ice Cream Monday". Yeah! My professor gave me the title and I said "I'll take it!" At first, it was awful. Simply awful. I had no idea what to do about it. Lucky for me, my story (like everyone's in the class) was distributed to all my classmates. They read it, wrote reviews, gave me feedback, and really helped me out a lot. I decided to completely change my male character and change the narration from limited third person POV to omniscient third person POV. I like it much better now. Needless to say, I spent 12 hours on the first draft and I'm working on the second draft and am about 4 hours into it. The first draft was 15 pages long, however, I feel like the second draft will be closer to 20-22 pages long. Hey, I had a lot to revise!

The "raindrops" part of this post is the least simply has been raining quite a bit here in E. TN. Yesterday, while I was walking to the caf, I noticed some moss growing on a stone wall. I thought it was fake. Then I remembered that moss is real and does grow in real places such as TN...simply not in CA...and certainly not along any old stone wall! I took in the image of the vibrant green juxtaposed with the steely grey of the stone wall and returned to that image several times throughout the day. It was beautiful, really. I am not sure what to do with that image, but I would like to at least sneak over and take a picture of the moss and that way I can remember what it looks like for forever (and then I possibly could have moss in sunny SoCal).

On memories/images getting stuck in your head:
Is there a certain image that has fingerprinted itself onto your memory and you will never get rid of it? I have one. Its quite pleasant actually and I like to think about it. I once dated this boy who wore this cologne that drove me crazy; it was phenomenal. This memory involves this particular cologne. It was about a year ago and I was freezing in my dorm room (...we didnt have heat...our room was about 42 degrees all winter long. Burrr!). This particular young man had just gotten off work and came over to see me for just a quick minute before heading home for the day. I don't really remember much more other than the fact that I was wearing several layers of clothing and a bright red pea-coat. Every time I remember this image, this pea-coat stands out staunchly in my mind. The image is simply that he gave me this awesome hug, we talked for a minute, and then he left. The idea here is  that the image in my mind that has stuck is the red pea-coat and his cologne. Its strange what your brain will pick out in a moment of everyday life.

(this is a picture of me in my red pea-coat) 

To give you some more images, we did this little "exercise" in my creative writing class today that involved sitting and thinking of the best simile for the word/concept "white" and "black". We carried on in silence for about 3 minutes and I think everyone was amused with what their clever brains had come up with.
A few of my favourites that my classmates came up with were: "white as a nun's stomach", "white as memory" (...not one hundred percent sure what this means, but its one of those things that goes without explanation...abstract) and mine was "white as newly budding Magnolias".

Here are a few I came up with for black:
"As black as..."
A Nigerian's braids
A mourner's wail
A piano's "c" sharp
The bottom of the sea
A Dalmatian's spots
Fresh acrylic paint
A thief's motives
A sinner's soul
A button
A zipper
A black man's pupil
two-day-old coffee grounds
lake sludge
A tuxedo (or bow tie...I couldn't decide which one worked better in my mind...I like both, actually.)

So, if you are ever in need of similes for black or white, feel free to snag one of these. The hardest part of this assignment is that you first have to conjure up an image in your mind's eye before you can create a simile. Close your eyes and try it. (If someone can create an effective simile for cologne, I'll love you forever.)


Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Little Bit of German

For my History of the English Language class were required to write an etymological paper on one of our three names (first, middle, or last). I chose my last because I think it is by far the most interesting. Take a look at what I found! Its really fascinating and maybe this will help you gain a little more insight into yours truly: me.

I have grown up always hearing stories about my Amish relatives with the last name Zook. In fact, Zook is a very popular name in the Amish community, and over the course of my life, many people have given me fictional books about the Zooks and the Yoders (along with Esh, these are the three most popular Amish names). Before writing this paper, I did not, however, know why Zook was such a popular name among this religious community.
After doing research both online and by interviewing family members, I have discovered that the original Zooks can be traced to the Zouggenrids who lived in Bern, Switzerland. There is a record of this family in 1380 in this region of Switzerland (Harry D. Zook). The Zouggenrids were also commonly called Zouggs (pron. [tsowk]) as an abbreviation of their last name. This abbreviation remained and fractioned off to many other last names such as Zaugg, Zogg, Zug, Zuck, Zouck, Zook over the course of time ( During the time of the Reformation, the Zouggs suffered great religious persecution. As a result, they fled to Germany. “When the Zaugg’s fled Switzerland and migrated to the Palatinate area of Germany, the spelling of the name changed to Zug” ( Their religious ties were with the Anabaptists who, of course, are the parent group of the Amish and Mennonite sects.
Years later, my direct relative Moritz Zug (pron. [zux] where /x/ represents the “ich” sound in German) traveled from his home in Germany to England in order to travel by ship to America. This journey took place with his two brothers (Christian and one other) in 1742 (Harry D. Zook). When these brothers moved to America, they settled in Eastern Pennsylvania. Moritz Zug is the founder of the first Amish church in America. Moritz had a son named Johannes. Johannes had a son by the same name, Johannes Jr. When Johannes Jr. was born, the last name Zug (pron. with a very “hard /g/”) was changed to Zook. The reason for this orthographical change is because the Zugs wanted an English spelling and pronunciation of their last name. Thus, with the birth of Johannes Jr., the Zug last name was changed to Zook as the /g/ in Zug was really pronounced more like a /k/ which is reflected in the modern, English spelling of this last name. To this day, there are many Amish in the regions of Pennsylvania and Indiana with the last name “Zook”.
My uncle, who has read Harry D. Zook’s 900+ page book containing history about our family and family’s name, told me many reasons how and why my relatives split off from the Amish church. To briefly explain, with the expansion of individual Zook families and their descendents, they began to intermarry with non-Amish women. The Zooks did, however, retain their conservative religious beliefs. My paternal grandfather considered himself “Old Mennonite” meaning he retained many of the religious beliefs. There is a close theological connection (yet not a strong life-style connection) between the Mennonites and the Baptists. My grandfather belonged to a Baptist church and my father is also Baptist (as am I). My grandfather, father, and I uphold the Amish/Mennonite belief of nonresistance (also known as pacifism), among others.    
Literal Meanings
There is no direct meaning associated with Zouggenrid or Zougg, however, the last name Zaugg is a derived last name from Zougg. According to, the etymology for the name Zaugg is as follows: “Swiss German: from an Old High German personal name Zougo, perhaps related in meaning to ziehen ‘to pull’” ( When the Zouggs/Zauggs moved from Switzerland to Germany, they took on the name Zug. To this day the word “zug” means “train” in German. The etymology for the name Zook comes as a “Respelling of Swiss German Zug, a habitational name from the city and canton so named in Switzerland. This is a frequent surname among Amish and Mennonites in the U.S.” (               Essentially, my last name is an Americanized version of the word German word “zug” which means “train”. I asked my uncle if he knew any reason why our family would be associated either with the terms “to pull” or with “train” and he said he did not know why as he never found information that lead him to believe our ancestors had any connection with the train industry.

So! There you go! Just try to picture me (nose ring and all...) decked out in full Amish garb and you will get a glimpse of my past. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

#17 Run a 5K Race

Well, after nearly a whole semester of training (plus a summer of walking up and down mountain hills at camp), I am finally going to complete #17: run a 5K race!

You see, I have run one 5K before, but I was not able to run the entire thing without stopping. My goal for this race has been to run the entire thing, and I know that I can. I have successfully run the distance of 5K in training, but only once (this past Tuesday night) did I actually run the whole thing without stopping. Since I have done it once, I know I can do it again tomorrow morning. Take a peak at the course I will be running:

The most concerning part for me will be to run back over (and completely uphill) the bridge that stretches from the Ag. Campus back to the main part of campus. It will definitely be a challenging run and I am going to push myself to run the whole thing!

I am very excited! Wish me luck! I am hoping to complete the race in 34 minutes flat. On Tuesday night, I ran the whole 3.2 (...or 3.1...not sure which) miles in 35:28. We'll see! 

UPDATED VERSION! I completed my whole race by running the entire thing! There were two hills that were tricky, but I was able to finish strong with a time of 34:40. I reached my "within the 34 minute" goal that I had *originally* set, but I did not accomplish my goal of 34 minutes flat. Oh well! I still ran the whole thing and am super proud! Thanks for the support and a special thanks to my running buddies!

Date completed: November 12th, 2011

Graduate School

I really do not have a song that relates to this topic of "graduate school", and for that, I am sorry.

However, to give you a brief update, I am currently in the process of applying for graduate school! For those of you who say "Whatever happened with Puerto Rico?" let me explain. But first, for those who are saying "Puerto Rico? what?!", I'll back up a little bit.

For the past couple of years I have been supporting a missionary friend (JJ). She works at a Christian school for the Deaf in Puerto Rico. I have always wanted to visit her and see the school and meet her students. When I heard that JJ was getting married this summer and would not be returning to teach for the 12-13 school year, I thought "Hmmm! The school will needing a teacher, and I will be needing a teaching job!" After much communication, thought, prayer, and many conversations with my family, I decided to inquire about their teaching position that JJ would be vacating. The school said they would love to have me and that I was "highly qualified" (...debatable in my mind, but I suppose you get what you can take when you are a Christian school, right?). They responded saying they wanted a three year commitment. I felt like that was God's way of "closing a door" because I had decided I only wanted to take one year off of school in between my undergraduate and graduate work. This three year commitment, pretty much single-handedly, made me decide that I did not want to take so much time off of school before jumping into a masters program.

Thus, the search for graduate schools began.

The worst thing about deciding what school to apply to/where to attend is the fact that I have to decide where I want to apply/attend. With a masters program that feeds into a state teaching credential (such as the programs that I am looking at), I would be certified to teach in that state, and normally that state alone. CA, being the hob-nob island that it is, says that you can only teach with a CA teaching credential. TN, being the laid-back-welcome-to-all place that it is, says you can teach in 12 other states with at TN teaching credential (including Florida...think: "sun"). This being the case, I am forced to decide between TN and CA. AHH! Its been grueling and I have been having an awful time deciding where I want to live for the next 5-10 years after I finish my schooling. (Talk about a big decision!)

This semester here in TN has left me homesick and missing my family like crazy. Slowly, but steadily, the Lord has been drawing my heart away from TN and the Southeast and back to CA. I love living here in TN and am so glad I still have about 8 more months to live here. Nonetheless, the idea of returning home to CA has been pressing on my mind and I cannot ignore that there are 2 nationally-recognized schools for deaf education in my home state (one in my home-county, even: San Diego).

So, the choices have slowly been narrowed down. When I applied for undergraduate school, all in all, I applied for 26 different colleges and universities. I have attended two universities and one community college all within the 4 years of undergraduate coursework. (You can see why the idea of choosing a graduate school is slightly frightening and overwhelming.)

Thankfully, because deaf education is based on many different philosophies, it makes it a little bit easier for me to decide on which school solely based on their school's philosophy on educating the deaf. I am only interested in a "non-oral" approach to educating the deaf (ie: I want to use ASL with my students vs. spoken English). I was looking at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN but then found out that their method is strictly oral. Woops! Won't be applying there. 

After a few conversations with one of the deans of the deaf education department here at UT, these are the schools to which I have decided to apply:

University of California at San Diego
California State Univeristy, Northridge
Gallaudet University, Washington D.C.
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN (where I currently attend for undergrad.)

I would appreciate your prayers over this (lenghty) process of applying, playing the waiting game, and making a decision about where to attend graduate school.


Friday, November 4, 2011

#93 Starry, Starry Night

93. Star gaze in the Smoky Mountains (TN)

Two weeks ago I had the privileged of going to visit some friends who live in the Smoky Mountains. Seeing that I do not have a car, and am from the other side of the country, I don't get the opportunity to get off campus very often so this was a real *treat*. I grew up amongst the avocado trees of my family's small grove in a rural part of San Diego County (...ok so its not Middle-of-no-where, Kansas, but its still rural). I absolutely love spending time outside and have taken up running out-of-doors in order to get off campus and be outside (my theory is the faster you run, the more of the city you get to explore farther away from campus).
All this to say--I completed #93 on my list--star gazing in the Smoky Mountains. It was a crisp October night and me and several friends stood around a home-made campfire ring while being overwhelmed by the vastness of the heavens and the stars. Someone had a smart-phone and you can use an app. to identify the constellations you see; that was pretty amazing. I don't know anything about stars or astronomy, but I sure do love to look at them! It totally brings me back home to my avocado groves when my sisters and I would lie on our trampoline and look at the stars on chilly summer nights. 

I fell in love with this song last year when my then-roommate Natalie introduced to to me. I personally love the Josh Groban version better than the original, so that's why I chose to post this particular clip. 

Starry, starry night... 

#80 Creamers and Lattes and Boys (oh my!)

#80 learn how to make really good coffee drinks:

Well, after all these years (...meaning nearly 4 years) I've discovered the key to really good coffee! 
1. Its all about the creamer
2. If you don't have fancy creamer, Starbucks is normally just a few blocks away 

Now, some of you may be thinking "that's the cheater version", and I agree, however, it is my secret to really good coffee. My roommate and I love the "International Delights" creamers because they have all different flavours like "cinnamon bun" and "dulce de leche" and "white chocolate mocha". All you have to do is a) brew a pot of coffee (Hayley and I like to use these flavoured samplers of coffee such as "gingerbread-man roast" and "bold cinnamon") b) add about 1/8 cup of sugar to your cup c) pour in the creamer d) stir and e) enjoy!! 
Pretty good, eh? 
My body responds really well to coffee and will keep my blood pumping well past midnight if I drink it anytime after 2pm. If I know I have a paper to write or a large assignment that needs to be completed, I will follow steps a-e and be good to go for several hours. ...Its an awfully good thing that rich, brown, liquid keeps me going because I have an 8am lecture on "The Grammar and History of the English Language". Let's just say, for the past two weeks we've been studying 18th century English dictionaries (*YAWN*!!!!!).

If all else fails, like I said, whip out your smart-phone and use the "coffee finder" to locate your nearest Starbucks =) 

For your musical enjoyment and entertainment, Kristen Chenoweth has a little something-something to say about "Latte Boys". Check it out. 
(Kristen Chenoweth is a famous Broadway star who played the original part of Galinda/Glinda in Wicked)

To hear what Taylor the Latte Boy thinks about all this, listen up:

Date completed: November 4th, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday Night Post

Hey Folks,
Its been a bit of a bumpy past couple of weeks over here, so that's the reason for not having many posts as of late. I am training for a 5k coming up in about a month. I can run two miles no problem and it's a great feeling! I am determined to continue losing weight this semester/school year until I reach my goal weight (still about  22 pounds away...)
In the midst of training and running, I have also been involved with writing and analyzing tons of short stories (thanks to my creative writing/intro to fiction course).
Take a peak at this article. I thought it interesting enough to repost and I agree with their conclusions just from my own experience of training and running.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Not a Song, But a Poem (or Two or Three)

October! Don't you just love it? If is officially fall in TN and the poor little leaves are starting to dry up and fall from the trees. Here, everything seems to be warm and gold and red and orange; simply lovely. Here are three of my favourite poems about October.

Happy Fall, everyone! 

"O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away."
-   Robert Frost, October

"October" by John Updike 
The month is amber,
Gold, and brown. 
Blue ghosts of smoke
Float through the town. 

Great V's of geese 
Honk overhead, 
And maples turn a fiery red. 

Frost bites the lawn. 
The stars are slits 
In a black cat's eye 
Before she spilts. 

At last, small witches, 
Goblins, hags, 
And pirates armed 
With paper bags, 

Their costumes hinged
On saftey pins, 
Go hanut a night 
Of pumpkin grins. 

"Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley 

O WILD West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being
  Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead 
Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, 
  Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, 
Pestilence-stricken multitudes! O thou         5
  Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed 
The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low, 
  Each like a corpse within its grave, until 
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow 
  Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill  10
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) 
  With living hues and odours plain and hill; 
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere; 
Destroyer and preserver; hear, O hear! 

Thou on whose stream, 'mid the steep sky's commotion,
  Loose clouds like earth's decaying leaves are shed, 
Shook from the tangled boughs of heaven and ocean, 
  Angels of rain and lightning! there are spread 
On the blue surface of thine airy surge, 
  Like the bright hair uplifted from the head  20
Of some fierce Mænad, even from the dim verge 
  Of the horizon to the zenith's height, 
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge 
  Of the dying year, to which this closing night 
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,  25
  Vaulted with all thy congregated might 
Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere 
Black rain, and fire, and hail, will burst: O hear! 

Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
  The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,  30
Lull'd by the coil of his crystàlline streams, 
  Beside a pumice isle in Baiæ's bay, 
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers 
  Quivering within the wave's intenser day, 
All overgrown with azure moss, and flowers  35
  So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou 
For whose path the Atlantic's level powers 
  Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below 
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear 
  The sapless foliage of the ocean, know  40
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear, 
And tremble and despoil themselves: O hear! 

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
  If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee; 
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share  45
  The impulse of thy strength, only less free 
Than thou, O uncontrollable! if even 
  I were as in my boyhood, and could be 
The comrade of thy wanderings over heaven, 
  As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed  50
Scarce seem'd a vision—I would ne'er have striven 
  As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need. 
O! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! 
  I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! 
A heavy weight of hours has chain'd and bow'd  55
One too like thee—tameless, and swift, and proud. 

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
  What if my leaves are falling like its own? 
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies 
  Will take from both a deep autumnal tone,  60
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce, 
  My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! 
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe, 
  Like wither'd leaves, to quicken a new birth; 
And, by the incantation of this verse,  65
  Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth 
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! 
  Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth 
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, 
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?  

Friday, September 30, 2011

How Great is Our God; Insight into My Mind, and HIS

There has been SO much going on in my life right now! Let me give you a brief snapshot of what all is happening in good ole Knoxville, TN.

Two weeks ago I took some very important ASL (American Sign Language) proficiency exams. These exams would enable me to graduate on time (as apposed to waiting another semester and taking the classes I was trying to be exempt from). Well, I got the results yesterday and I got A's on both of the exams! I was trying to test out of ASL level 3 and ASL level 4 (basically 3rd and 4th semester of ASL classes at the college level). This now means that I have 17 units (they call them "credit hours" here in TN; we call them "units" on the west coast...) to take next (spring 2012) semester plus 12 units to take over the course of summer school (yikes!!) This means tons of work and probably hearing the words "deaf", "hearing", "linguistics", and "English" more than I would ever care to hear! Nonetheless, I am so thankful for my education! My grandparents (on my dad's side specifically, but both sides of grandparents highly value education) really supported the idea that all of their grandkids go to college. They set up a trust fund for me and I have been so blessed to have my grandparents (and parents) pay for my college! It has been a long road (to be suuuuure!) that has literally lead me across country in search of my BS degree, but I almost have it!
Once I passed these exams, the finality of "senior year" began to sink in for me. This semester I am in a fiction/creative writing class. It is always interesting for me to see what my classmates have going on in their lives by reading their short stories/assignments. Let me just say; its frightening. I go to a secular, major university (UTK) and I feel the non-Christian environment around me daily. You would think that being in "belt buckle of the Bible-belt", as some people like to call Knoxville, there would be more hope and more light being spread. The other day I heard a girl say "This is God's country here in TN!" and I couldnt help but laugh.

I feel like I am growing up. I am making my own choices. I am free to be whomever I want to be. Especially with my family/parents so far away, I feel like I dont have anyone to be accountable to. Yesterday I decided I wanted to go shopping. (I love to shop! ...especially at thrift stores, but yesterday I stuck to the West Town Mall.) While I was walking into the mall, I looked at the movie theaters and thought "Gee, I wonder if I would like to go to the movies! Self, what do you think?" My Self reminded me that I am trying to (somewhat) save my money and that the stack of textbooks that I abandoned earlier in the day would be incredibly envious and give me a rough time if they knew I'd sneaked out to go to the movies. I decided against it. But you see, there was that freedom. No one would have cared if I went to the movies or not. No one would have told me I couldnt go and see a movie. On a more serious note, no one would have told me I couldnt walk into a bar, or go get a tattoo, or go do anything else that I could possibly think of.
It made me think (an action which I never can seem to get away from...especially on a long weekend like this). I began to think about the way I want to live my life. Who am I living for? What am I doing to myself by staying up all hours of the night pouring over textbooks about left and right hemispheres of the brain and gestural languages and communication?

Sometimes my life becomes so overwhelming and when I think of all the hurt I see in the lives of people around me, I understand why college kids turn to drinking so much. Sometimes I think it *would* be easier (way easier) to take a swig of this or than and make reality disappear for a few hours. But then what? Then you wake up in a state where you are worse off. Your reality still haunts you and you now have a splitting headache no thanks to your silly attempt to escape reality. You have to face your life at some point in time. If you dont think you do, please just go ask some of the women who wound up in the halfway house I worked at. Go and ask the 20 year old girls we saw in Amsterdam selling themselves in the Red Light District. Go and talk to people who have acted brashly and in the moment who are now locked up for the next 25 years.
...doesnt sound too promising, does it?

With the day and age that I live in (we all live in) where your life is instantly archivable and instantly changeable (- think about it: Facebook makes it SO easy to post and share your life in. the. moment. and it also makes it so that you can go back and edit out photos you dont want people to see-), you are constantly on display. You can feel hurt one minute and be flying of the handles and then the next day simply tell someone you are sorry. Our lives are public! I dont think people understand the significance of the idea that whatever you are feeling or doing or seeing can be shared *internationally* with any other of the 6-point-something billion other people on this planet.
THINK, folks. Think.
Your actions eventually get around. Your secrets come out. Your lives get exposed one Facebook picture at a time.

This week has been really, really rough (emotionally). There has been so much school work to do that I can barely remember what it felt like just two months ago to have nothing to learn about; to have nothing to try to soak into my brain all for the sake of "learning". I dont like this kind of learning. I was homeschooled and its not the way homeschoolers learn. No wonder these kids at my university are sucked dry! They didnt have "History Dress-Up Days" where they ran around in homemade costumes out of Wal-Mart material fighting the Revolutionary war. I had it good; no, I had it great! The education my mother (and father...he helped a little bit too...) instilled in me and on me made the world come to life. She taught me the significance of books and stories and wholesome literature.

I know this is really long (I could go on for hours, really...) but there is a point.

For as lousey as this week has been and for as many lies that my heart and Satan have thrown at me this week, it doesnt really matter. A friend shared this youtube video of a (famous) Christian speaker named Louie Giglio that rocked my world! It talks about the cosmos and the great expanses of the universe and gives all these impressive scientific facts about how big the universe and stars are. The impressive part is this: Folks, we live in a world full of so much pain that it brings tears to my eyes to even think about how much pain is coursing through (my) so many hearts right now. Let me offer you a snippet of hope. Jesus is the Starbreather. You dont understand. He literally created the stars. Not only that, it was his idea to even have something called "star" in our reality. When you *really* put your life into perspective, and you look at your life, your one, small, meager, little life here on earth, you will begin to understand how glorious and magnificient God really is. Its hard to explain, so if you'd like to experience the awe of what I am talking about, go outside tonight and look at the stars (for those of you in CA, in the cities, I know they are in scarce supply, but take a drive to the beach) and just check out. Mentally, let go. See where your mind takes you. Think about you. Think about the stars. Think about the possibility of Jesus as the Starbreather; the one who out the universe into motion; into existence.

If that still doesnt convince you, check out this video. Its not overly "Christian"; in fact, its very scientific. The evidence of a God who is so powerful that he could flick us off the planet with as much ease as it takes to flick an ant off a picnic blanket is overwhelming, and humbling, to say the least.
Here is the lecture:
And here is the song of the day, How Great is Our God, by Chris Tomlin: