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:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Elegant" + Dawn

Well, its Tuesday night! You all know what that means! I had plenty of time to sit in my night class earlier this evening and create a story as the teacher droned on and on. So, FYE (for your enjoyment), dear reader, I give you "Elegant".

Mind you! It doesn't have an ending. Its just a snipped of characters who introduced themselves to me and said "write a story about me!" I was helpless to their powers, really, and was taken back to the scene of my high school in California. The story ends (or just stops, really) because class was over. Maybe I'll come back to this and work on it later. Maybe I won't. It kept me entertained and passed the time. Last time I was in class and wrote something, I wrote about my little glass ring (still have it! and wear it often...) and got lots of positive feedback. So, if you ever wonder what is going through my head as I sit in class and *look* like I am taking notes, umm, sorry, but I'm actually off in my own little world. The beauty of my daydreams is that I get to write my own characters, scenes, and turn of events. Allow me to introduce Holly Zor, Missy Sanders, Mr. and Mrs. Sanders (Mrs. Sanders' 1st name is LilaBeth), and Lisa Carroll.

"Elegant. I always aim to be elegant, you see." She adjusted the fringes of her Hermes scarf and pulled her shoulders up a little taller. "The first impression you want them to have is that you are professional, but still approachable."
Missy Sanders blinked her brown eyes and soaked in everything Holly Zor streamed at her. Missy tried to think of an elegant response, but nothing more than "yes ma'am" came to the forefront of her mind. Flustered, she poked at her fringe-like bangs. The grey nail polish she wore, while not chipped or unkempt, looked dull and steely compared to Holly's artificial french tips.
"Remember, if you have any questions or need help finding anything," a rehearsed smile that accented her neurtal coloured make-up and rose-tinted lipgloss stretched across her lips, "you can normally Google your question and find the answer yourself." It was not the answer she was expecting, but after the type of day she'd had, nothing surprised her anymore.
"Well thank you very much for your time and..." she paused, searching for the right word, "and information, ma'am." Holly merely smiled and tilted her head in response. Missy collected her leather shoulder bag and quietely stepped out of Principal Zor's office. A quiet sigh slipped out of her weary lips as she made her way across campus into the hot California sun.
As she dug her keys out of her over-sized bag, she thought of the students, her students, she would meet next week once school resumed for the long year ahead. She unlocked her maroon 1992 Honda Accord and slumped inside, arranging her thick legs one by one on the floorboards. A tiny prayer flitted across her thoughts as she turned the key in the ingnition, hoping her wornout car wouldnt be obstonant today. Thankfully, it greeted her with a sputtering roar to life. Her flip-phone vibrated in the passenger seat and at the stoplight at the entrance of Santa Rosita Elementary School, she checked the text message that gave her just the encouragement she needed this evening. It was from her mom, LilaBeth Sanders. The text message read "Your father and I were praying for you today, sweetheart. We love you!"
Missy knew that leaving her East Tennessee home would be difficult, but she never imagined how different life would be in Orange County. What would have taken her ten minutes in Tennessee to travel the fifteen miles to her rented room in Widow Carroll's house now took nearly 35 minutes in the evening rush hour traffic. One more thing to add to her list of "new experiences"; traffic. After living in California for only six days, she was second guessing her decision to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher in the land of the Golden Coast. California certainly held many golden personalities, however they were all gilded; hand dipped pieces of cheap metal glossed over with precious gold to give the appearance of luster and glamour. It actually was much like she expected, except for the rough people that called themselves her "neighbours". The only person who seemed to care about 26 year old Missy was Linda Carrol, the 70 year old widow who rented out an overly large room of her coastal home to the first year teacher.

That's it! Hope you enjoyed it.
Side note: I am from California and LOVE it. I have gone to school in East Tennessee since last August and wanted to write what it would be like for a small-town girl to go to the OC. Anyways, Californians, dont get offended- I think you are beautiful, genuine people...most of the times. Just some observations and stretches to make the characters come alive.

I'd love to hear your feedback!

Happy Tuesday!

Along with the theme of this "snippet", which is also the title (Elegant), here is some elegant music for you to listen to while you read the story...or after you read it. Whichever.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In the Quiet, In the Stillness

All of a sudden this song popped into my head that opens with the lyrics "In the quiet, in the stillness..." and I thought it entirely appropriate for today. Do you ever have those days where you just feel quiet? Today was one of those days. I have been surrounded by people (friends) 24/7 for the past three and a half months. WOW! That's crazy to think about, but its true. I worked up at camp all summer long and was literally with people 24/7 for about 8 weeks. After camp, I went traveling with my sister and one of her best friends. Of course since it was just the three of us, and we were in foreign countries, it wasn't exactly like we got a ton of solo time. Add those 2+ weeks of travel time to the whole summer. I have been at school now for exactly one month and 4 days. So, yep, that pretty much adds up to 3 and a half months of being stimulated, talked to, interacted with, and generally aroused by people!

Don't get me wrong; I am an extrovert (if you know me in real life and haven't figured this out yet, you don't really know me...hahahaha!). I am a HUGE people person and actually draw my energy and happiness from being with people of all sorts. Lately, its kinda been like overload, though. Upon returning to school, there have been so many people to hangout with, reconnect with, and meet for the first time. I feel like for the first time in about 4 months my life has *finally* reached the point of "settling down". This might seem ironic because last week and these next two weeks are the first of two "hump periods" in the semester ("hump" meaning if you get over this molehill it'll all be downhill from here...yeah, like I said, there are normally two of these per semester. Can anyone say "welcome to riding on the back of a camel?") Schoolwork wise, for most people anyways, its been kinda nuts around here. Thankfully with my major (and minor) I am not required to take tests (like ever...except finals and possibly midterms); I just write papers all. the. time. Literally. I probably whip out an average of three pages double spaced per day. That's what you get for being a linguist, I suppose- lots and lots of paper writing! Some parts of it I love, some parts of it I hate (like my twice a week 8am Grammar and History of the (Old) English Language...kill me with an instrumental noun and call me Olaf. I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself *smile*).

Needless to say, its been a busy period of time in my life right now. For my current friends (whether near or far), thank you for sticking with me. Know that your calls and thoughts of keeping in touch and "just checking up" dates mean *the world* to me!! For my family: I miss you guys, but am having fun here at school! Thank you so much for praying for me and asking after me. It makes me feel loved when you check in with me.

More than connecting with people, as of late, I have found a deeper connection. No, not a boy! (I know that's where all your thoughts went. Puhh-lease!) But I have been falling in love; with Jesus (...ok you got me; he's *kinda* a boy...but he's not exactly human, so I don't think that counts). As much as our poor little apartment walls hear the four of us girls talking about boys (and believe me! its like a tri-daily occurrence) I think they are also gaining insight and a love for Christ too. Ok, that may be personifying the walls to an extreme degree, but nonetheless, there are so many challenging, and good!, conversations that I have had as of late that revolve around "spiritual topics" (bleach- hate that phrase. Sounds so "church-like").

With all this daily-- ok minutely-- interaction with people, there doesn't seem to be much quiet time at all. (Heaven knows there certainly isn't much "stillness" around my apartment). I must admit that when I was at camp, I would spend several hours in the woods/around camp reading my Bible and just having quietness. I think the Lord was preparing me for all the noise in my life that was going to be thrown at me once I returned to Knoxville. I always want relationships to be frozen in time and, of course, that doesn't exactly happen, so when I returned to school ( first ever experience of returning to a college/university, even though its my senior year...) I was thrown a little off balance. However, I know that my security and sense of identity doesn't come in the people that surround my life, but it comes from my Lover; from the Lord. It is so reassuring that "none but Jesus" will change; "none but Jesus" will every be able to figure out exactly what I am thinking; "none but Jesus" will ever satisfy me. I challenge you to stake a claim in Jesus as the anchor of your identity. The people around you will change and *you* will change big time (...especially if you are in college; keep a journal because by the end of the year you will hardly be able to recognize yourself anymore).

Really listen to this song:

(forgive me- its nor exactly the style of music I like, but the lyrics and musical qualities are undeniably called Talent!)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You are the Salt of the Earth

I am sorry, but if you dont think this is funny, you probably wont get my sense of humor at all! haha so great. This clip is from the movie "Godspell"...if you havent seen it, go see it!!

The real part that I am highlighting in this blog post starts at 6:58...just watch what is before it though, because you will have a good little laugh =)

On a slightly more serious note (now that you are in a good mood), think about this:
Recently I have had the unpleasant opportunity of coming in contact with one movie (in particular) and one short story (in particular) that have been totally foul and obscene, in my humble opinion. I will not name the movie nor the short story, because some people may feel differently about these particular items and I dont want to start an online riot about these two "art forms" specifically. Moreover, it is the topic that I am concerned with. I hope that you, dear reader, will not see this as judgement, but will take it as my opinion and thoughts (as all of my postings should be taken...)

I actually auditioned for the play "Godspell" my freshmen year of college and did not make the show. As disappointed as I was, I still went around for the next 6 weeks singing all the music I had learned for the audition. This one particular line has always stood out to me (partially because of its cleverness and partially because it is the solo I learned for my audition) is the one that says, "If the salt has lost its flavour it ain't got much in its favour". Witty, I know. Nonetheless, the message rings true and comes from Matthew 5:13. And I quote, "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet (Matthew 5:13, ESV).

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with what the heck I am talking about, here's a crash course for you!
Jesus is the one who says this quote, directly out of the Bible, to his apostles. Jesus had an affinity for talking in parables (aka stories/allegories). He uses the idea of "salt" to represent Christians. We as Christians are told we live in a "dark world" ("dark" meaning full of sin and bad stuff) and are supposed to bring the "light of Christ" to all in this dark world. (See? The Bible is not only Theological, its also good literature! This is what we like to call, in English Major Speech, a foil. Christ's light and goodness and holiness are directly contrasted to the sins and yuckiness and unholiness of humankind on Earth. [Stick with me...there's a point here] When something/someone is portrayed in literature as a direct opposite of something/someone else in order to highlight either one of those character's characteristics, that is a foil (tada!).

Let me break it down even farther and move away from its literal meaning. With all this light and darkness and salt speech behind us, think of what Jesus is saying as a metaphor (...if you dont know what this is, please return to freshman year of high school English...)

Basically he's saying, "Look, during your life on Earth, I want you to live differently. I want you to stand out. Go against the flow. Suffer for my sake. (etc.) Why? Because the things that I have to offer you (aka eternal life and abounding love) far outweigh anything that the world could offer you. Thus, live in such a way that you reflect Me and God the Father. By living differently, people will clearly notice something different about you and will ask you why it is you live the way you do."

Starting to catch on? Jesus wants us, as Christians, to live our life so that people will notice us and because of us, be drawn to HIM! Salt does the exact same thing (in a way); it draws your taste-buds to the food so that it is more noticeable, more tasty, more salty. As we all know, however, if you use too much salt, your food will become ruined and overly salty. On the opposite extreme, if salt were to loose its flavour, you would be dusting your food with little pebble-y crystals that do absolutely nothing, in fact, you may as well just throw the salt outside and mix it in with your gravel.

As Christians (do you agree?) that we are supposed to be slightly overpowering? We are to be salty enough that people notice us. That means living outside our comfort zones and having difficult conversations with people. It means voicing your opinion in class even when you know you will be embarrassed because no one will verbally back you. It means reaching out to freshmen who have low self esteem. It *means*: reenacting Jesus in every possible way that you humanly can!

After living in the South for over a year now, I feel that mediocrity is a huge problem here. People have this air of "courtesy" about them and they dont want to ruffle any one's feathers. Me personally? I am certainly not looking to pick a fight or an argument that leads to no where, however, I definitely am out to ruffle some feathers. Folks, how else will we learn and grow and have our thoughts challenged to know if what we believe is true if we do not *talk* with others? If we do not *have* those difficult conversations that might make us feel slightly antagonistically towards the person who is calling us out?

I was supposed to have a conversation with a friend a week or two ago about the topic of what type of media is appropriate for Christians to watch/read/see/hear but then decided against it. Why? Since I feel so strongly about this issue, I knew that this friend of mine would argue with me and support his answer and his point of view. I felt like it would have been stirring up conflict for the sake of saying "well! that was stimulating!" and then walking away exasperated and bemused by our thoughts. I am not saying that it is always appropriate to have these heated debates with friends when you know that you will have such different opinions that there is no point in learning from one another. (In case you can't tell, I am extremely stubborn and, whether it is a vice or a virtue, I don't like to be told I am wrong. If someone addresses me and points out my faults, I will more than willingly listen to them, but this case was a little different.) While you are (hopefully) taking my advice to change your corner of the world by sharing your opinions and sharing your points of disagreement with those whom you are closest with, please keep in mind that the reason for doing so is to "let your light so shine before men/ let your light so shine/" and it is not for the sake of winning intellectual/theological arguments (...I think I say this as much to you, reader, as I do to myself).

I'd like to know your thoughts and reactions.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

If Ya Liked it Then You Should Have Put a Ring on it

This post really has nothing to do with "single ladies" (which is actually the title of the song), but rather, its about a ring.
Remember a few days ago I said I have this bad habit of writing when I am in class? Well, you are in luck because last night's class was pretty sub-par. Thus, for your reading pleasure, I present The Ring.

I have this little ring that I got for free two weeks ago. It's quite an unusual ring as it is not made of silver or gold or even any kind of metal. It's actually made of glass. Unconventional, right? I love it though. It doesn't seem like glass because it is light-weight and feels like plastic- not glass.

You see? the ring is not what it appears to be and it kind of reminds me of me. Well, of people in gnenral, I suppose. Allow me to describe it to you:

I wear a ring size 7 1/2 or 8 (...not really sure, but I am assuming) and this little glass ring fits perfectly on my ring finger. I wear it on my right hand because it is comfortable enough so that it does not obtrude my writing. It is incredibly smooth; unnaturally so. It has this mysterious properity where it changes in appearnce due to the way you look at it. You know that waxy look that a red crayon leaves on a white page? Yeah, well that's the colour of the inside of my ring. The outside is transparent; it is glass, after all.  There are 12 lines of vertical colour. They are arranged in an A. B. C. pattern of repetition. Three colours four times over. Even though the colours go all the way in a circle around the ring, there is a definite start to the verticle lines. There is a gap between the white of the start and the green of the end. It continues, though, first white, then yellow, then green. It repeats. White. Yellow. Green.

The words "yellow" and "green" are fairly ambigious so allow me to elaborate.

The yellow is *almost* like the shade of a dandelion, but there is this element of "mac and cheese" that also nods at this yellow. So I suppose you could call it a "sunkissed orange". Yeah, I like that.

Now the green: Oh what an interesting colour, green. My sister's eyes are a beautiful, smokey green, but this green in my ring is completely different. Its a combination of a "spring green" and an "emerald green". Its lovely, actually, and reminds me of one of my favourite teas- Refresh Tea from the Tazo brand of tea.

Oh and the white, you ask? Well, it's what you would expect to see as the colour of heavy whipping cream. Very pure white, Not like a cloud, though.

You may be thinking, "Kate, it's a ring. What's the big deal?" Here's my "bid deal."

When you take the ring off, it's still a ring. In fact, it doesn't seem like it would change at all, but it does- ever so slightly. Remember I said the ring has this red inside, but a glass outside? Well, return to that mental picture. Got it? Ok, good. So when you take the ring off and tilt it on its side, you can see only the glass part and the red completely disappears. It's amazing because if I were to ask you when the ring was on its side "what colour is this ring?" you would answer "It doesnt have a colour; it's transparent glass." In this statement, you would be correct.

Isn't that so like us as humans? We see people only one way. Do you really know the many facets of that person you think you know so well? Do you only see the clear part of them? The allusive part of them that they allow others to easily see while hiding the most interesting parts of themselves?

I have two sisters whom I love dearly and equally. In fact, you might even say that they are part of the fibers that make me a whole and complex ring...I mean person. No body from my school has ever met my sisters (due to the fact that they live 2,000 miles away) but yet people know my sisters. How? Because I talk about them. I allow others to see a little bit more about me by telling them about my two beloved sisters.

Beyond my sisters, there are many areas of my life that I never, ever expose to anyone. I feel like it makes life interesting and it makes me feel like I have something to talk to the Lord about that I cannot/ will not tell anyone else.

Back to the ring.

When I slip the ring on my finger, the red and the stripes are so domineering that you would be nuts to say that the ring is colourless and made only from glass.

The truth is, I dont really know of what the glass is made from. Glass, I know (only bgecause the place where I got the ring was a special artists' jelwlry shop that creates glass articles), but what else? Paint? Stain? Food colouring die? (ok, that's taking it a bit too far, but never know these days...).

My point in all this is to not assume that you know people on the surface level. You don't. Even if you think you know me deeply and intimately, you might be surprised to learn new things about me. You may know me very well and may love me, but can we really even know ourselves?

My freshman year of college my quest was to find myself and to answer this question: "can we really know ourselves?"

My conclusion? No, we cannot. Only God knows who we are. *We* might be surprised to find things about ourselves we didn't even know were a part of us when we are placed in new locations, new relationships, new living situations, etc.

Don't judge. Only God knows all aspects of any one person.

Oh, and go find yourself a little glass ring.

("Single Ladies" video)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Seven or Eight Things About Her; Fiction Writing Exercise

Well, this isnt the first time I've posted some of my academic work on my blog before (and I dont know if this is a dumb thing to think or not, but I hope no body steals my work!) and it probably wont be the last time either. In the meantime, enjoy this writing exercise I had to do for my Intro to Fiction class.

Inspiration: the character Mary Phagen from the musical "Parade"
Little tidbit of information: Four out of the eight details of this character's persona are actually me (or things that I do/would say/think). Can you spot which ones are me woven into this character?

From my textbook: "Goal: To "slant" at a character by coming up with small, odd details from his or her life."
(...yeah, they like to keep instructions vague for we creative folks so they don't smoosh our creativity...or something like that hehe)

Whenever she felt boys looking at her longer than they should have, she became nervous and would always twist the earring in her left ear with her left hand. Most of the time, said earring was what they call a “post” earring, not a dangly one, and was a small, golden orb. Whenever she found herself in this situation, she would be conscious of her actions, and always wondered why this helped her feel more at ease and like the boys would stop looking at her if she did something as mundane as fixing her jewelry.  
         First Criticism
One time, when she was only three days old, her mother pushed her in her buggy while strolling outdoors. During their walk, they came across their mailman who said, “My! Ain’t that chil’ have the prettiest dark hair you ever seen in yo’ life?”
 She loved the pictures more than anything in life and dreamed of one day being on the silver screen. Seeing that she lived in Atlanta, over 2,000 miles from the Golden Coast, she knew she was without even a possibility. But that’s why it’s called a dream. She loved the way the glamorous actress’ gowns twirled around their slender calves when they danced in ball scenes and would think of her own party dresses trimmed with lacy collars that framed her thin, square shoulders. As she sat in the theaters watching the silent films, she knew, deep down, that the way things panned out in the movies never actually worked like that in real life; that’s why everyone paid the big bucks to watch the movies anyways, even where there was so little money to go around.
  The Jar
On her dresser sat an old jar that once contained mayonnaise but had long-since been cleaned out and now held her button collection. Whenever she sewed, she would first find a button from her jar and find the inspiration for her design contained in that single button. Regardless of whether or not the garment actually needed a button was beside the point; the buttons in the jar were her world of wonder. She rescued the jar from being returned to the store and traded in for its five cents recyclable value and decided from that moment on the jar would have a very special job. When she was eight years old (one year after the jar’s rescue) she heard of a woman who would pick up buttons whenever she saw them loitering in the sidewalk cracks, or freshly fallen from a waistline, and kept them in a collection so that the next time she needed a button, she would have a little piece of someone else’s life sewn into her clothing. The girl thought this a brilliant idea and did the same. However, she cheated every once in a while and also begged her mama to buy her buttons for special occasions when they went to town. Before long, she had enough buttons to need a place to keep them and suddenly remembered the mayonnaise jar that was lovingly wrapped in her pajamas in her dresser’s bottom drawer. Since the time she was eight, she has displayed her buttons in the jar on top of her dresser.
         Listening In
 Overheard by one of her co-workers her own age: “Please don’t make me work so hard. My hands are chapped.” Marx Pencil Factory; Atlanta, GA.
         The Pine Grove
She hated pine trees individually, but most of all she hated the Pine Grove. When she was thirteen years old one of her co-workers was mysteriously murdered and placed in the basement of the pencil factory where they worked. The murdered boy was a pauper and his family didn’t have the money to lay him in a decent coffin so she and some of the other townsboys went to the Pine Grove to fell a tree in order to construct a coffin. Afterwards, every time she walked past the Pine Grove all she could think about was the aching lump she felt as they lowered the dead boy into the pine coffin that had come out of that very same grove. Whenever possible, she avoided the Grove entirely, even if it meant taking the extra long way around to get into town. The sap from the trees reeked of morbidity to her, and no matter how many times she washed her hands, it was as if a phantom stickiness remained sploched on her palms. It seemed to her that even the pine trees were crying out tears of sap in remembrance of the young boy whose life had been taken all but too swiftly.
“The one thing I always tried to be when I was in my teens and twenties was ‘elegant’. I wanted a poise that made me seem like I was made of rose petals and if too strong of a wind blew, then I’d just fade right into the swirls of air. Of course, I never was elegant. When its 1913 and you are eleven years old, how can a protruding collar bone be considered elegant? How can hair as dark as espresso and a wiry body as thin as a metal clothes hanger be considered elegant? Well, at least I tried my best. Sometimes!, though, sometimes I really did feel a spark of elegance weave itself into the fibers of my shoes and then I would walk around on it for days until I wore it though, and it would be gone. Then I would return to trying to be elegant once more.” 
         Listening In
A friend now well advanced in years, who had once been her wooer when they were teenagers said in remembrance of her, “When she smiled you swore you’d never cry again.”

Soon Its Gonna Rain

Today, here in East TN, we are having quite a storm! Its pouring down rain and this weekend we got our fair-share of thunder and lightening. Saturday evening was "the game" (UT football is like no other...well, maybe it is like many other places in the South...I wouldnt know...I havent lived here long) and about 20 minutes before the game started (while everyone had already made their way to their seats and were smooshed quite nicely inside the stadium) the sky turned all nasty-like and began to spark with lightening! Woo!
You see, I am your true-blue definition of a "fair weather fan". No really. One of the reasons I decided not to go to the game in the first place was because I knew that it was supposed to be 96 degrees (with at least 30% humidity because that's what it tends to be around here in the "summertime"). Also, I wasnt able to get tickets with my group of friends due to not knowing the specific time regulations that are required in order to "request" tickets...its a bit of a complicated system if you ask me. Anyways, needless to say, I was not planning on attending the game from the get-go and I am SO glad that I didnt! For me, sitting in the bleachers soaking wet while watching football late into the evening does not sound attractive. For all you hardcore fans? Good for you! (Hey, somebody's gotta be there to watch them, right?)
While everyone was heading TO campus, I was getting myself OFF campus. I have needed to go shopping for a long time and get some new shorts since I've lost about 20 pounds since the last time I wore shorts. To my delight, I have dropped two pant/short sizes! Yay! That was definitely an added bonus to this shopping spree!
Once I finished my shopping, I went outside to wait on my bus. Well, as soon as the automatic doors slid open, I turned right around and walked straight back indoors to wait on my bus. The storm had come! Now, granted, I dont ever watch TV (although we do have 2 in my small, 2 bedroom apartment...) and I figured the weather on this fine Saturday would be much like how it had been this entire past week. Wrong. The weather had completely changed in less than an hour and a half that it took me to shop.
While standing waiting on the bus (outside) for the last 10 minutes before it was due to arrive, I struck up a friendly (and very animated) conversation with three freshmen girls. It is very comical to me to now look at students and pretty much automatically recognize who are the freshmen. Nonetheless, I asked, just to be polite, and they confirmed that they were, indeed, freshmen. (I mean, who else takes the bus and shops on game day and then asks for directions on how to get back to campus?)
These particular young'ins were from Memphis and had extremely heavy accents! It is not rude to say this because I studied it in my linguistics class, but the Black folks in the South speak an entirely different dialect than I do! I try my best to understand them and not laugh because they seem to work themselves up so much when they are talking to one another. I cannot tell you how many times I heard "mmmm Jeeeezus!" in the 10 minute conversation we had. Very great! I love the personality and animation these girls added to our (seemingly) ordinary conversation about the weather and bus schedules. I was laughing very hard by the time we got back on the bus.
We made it just in the nick of time! About 2 seconds after we pulled out of the parking lot, the ran began to POUR down! It was one of those "drench everything in its path" type of rains. I felt sorry for my fellow citizens who were waiting with great anticipation at the various bus stops along our route as they boarded the bus soaking wet. By the time I got back to my bus stop, about 50 minutes later, the rain had lessened QUITE a bit, but it was still sprinkling. As I took my groceries and new (small) clothes inside my apartment all I could think about was how glad I was that I didnt live in a cardboard box like many of my African and Mexican friends. I think we take "shelter" for granted WAY too much in this ritzy ole country of ours...especially in the South where there seems to be a strong divide between the rich and poor, black and whites, Southerners and non-Southerners. When I say its a bit of a strange world here, it really is different from the one I am accustomed to in Southern California. I am not saying that I grew up in poverty or that I even helped those who DID live in poverty while living so close to the Mexican Border. Now, however, I feel quite differently and wish that I had helped out more.
This summer my sister Amanda, and I, and our friend Gail went traveling in Europe for 16 days. We love to penny pinch and the trip was extremely inexpensive for the amount of time we went  and the things we were able to experience and enjoy.
If you havent heard of couch surfing, listen up! Couch surfing is this wonderful deal-ie-o where you sign up online, message a bunch of hipster 20 year olds, and then go spend the night on their couches. You can do it internationally and when you return home, you can return the favour. While in Europe, we couch surfed a few times and you have no idea how much that helped with keeping the cost of the trip down. Not only that, but we got to jump into "a day in the life of a European Citizen" and see what life was really like for these people. I know this is far off the subject of crazy weather, but I have a point. Hold on.
These Europeans we stayed with lived in relatively small-ish apartments with many other roommates. Its not because they are poor or need tons of people to help pay their rent (not at all) its just that living in a mansion like we have in CA and in the South especially is totally unheard of. The Europeans have everything in "mini" size. They go to the stores every-other-day to get fresh food because they dont have room to store 2 weeks worth of groceries in their flats/apartments.
What if we lived a little less extravagently? A little more like the Europeans. It sounds like a contradiction because the Europeans have it pretty well off, but no one would listen if I said "Hey! Sell all your things and make a house out of palates and cardboard and you'll be happy as a clam!" like the Kenyans. It wouldnt exactly work like that. However, when people come over to our apartment and see that it is pretty decently sized, they say "Wow, this isnt bad at all!" It kind of bothers me when they say that because, sure, we could afford a larger apartment, or even a whole house, but why? Why live in extravgant comfort when others have so little? We could even have 2 more people stay in our place seeing that we have a couch and a futon in our living room. Sometimes I wonder if we are living life all wrong.
Days like today make me especially thankful that I have a little cave of an apartment where I can bury myself inside and not have to leave (seeing that today is a holiday and I dont have school...nor do I have a job right now). Days like today also make me a little pensive because I think of the 200 homeless people in my city that dont have a place like mine to go. As I watch the rain falling in sheets from the top of my window pane, I wonder how it would be to have 2 or 3 homeless people (or travelers, or couch surfers, or poor people, or anyone without a place to call "home" at the moment) sitting on my lovely couch and futon.

This song is from The Fantasticks, Broadway's longest running musical ever, and I fell in love with this song about 3 years ago for its beautiful piano arrangement. It's called "Soon Its Gonna Rain" (ok ok so it already IS raining at this point in time) and talks about all the things 2 imaginative teenagers (who are in love with each other) will do when it's raining. Have a listen for yourself; its quite lovely.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Don't You Remember by Adele + Thoughts on Journaling

This is such a beautiful song and I simply love the lyrics combined with the soulful sound of Adele's voice.

I have been dabbling with writing fiction lately and some of it is fairly good, some of it is awful and really unpolished. I have always had this idea that I will someday become an author and have started working on a novel. I am hoping that through this fiction class I am taking at University I will be able to better hone my skills. I know some friends who are journalists and get their things published online or in our school's newspaper from time to time. Since I am not a journalist, but more of a "free spirit" writer, I use my blog to think that my words will be published and people might find some small bit of enjoyment out of what I think and have to say. I know not many people follow my blog, but for those of you who do, thank you! I love to update you with things going on in my life and different topics that stand out to me. Sometimes these topics come in the form of words, and other times they come in the form of a song (or two).

Today's song reflects my heart and I wish I had written it myself and could sing it as well as Adele does. but since that is not the case, enjoy.

On a side note, the other day my beloved roommate and I were talking about our days and I told her that when I get bored in classes and simply cannot bare to concentrate on what the teacher is rambling on about (doesn't happen often, but when it does, its quite terrible!) I have this bad habit of writing class...yes I know. See (?), I love to journal and I have thoughts constantly running through my head. I don't understand people who are "quiet natured" (...actually, they fascinate me and scare me all at the same time...I don't really know what to do with them! haha!). I think its true that I can strike up a conversation of some sort of significance with just about anyone (hellooooo high school teaching job...) and LOVE to make people feel comfortable when they are thrown into new environments. Anyways, back to the poetry: If I had my way I would probably journal and write down my thoughts and process everything that is brewing in my brain for at least an hour each day. When I do my quiet times with the Lord they normally last for about 45 mins-an hour because I have just so much to say! (and he's always willing to listen...thank goodness!). That being the case, when I go to class (or sit in any type of formal situation where I am limited from talking and sharing my opinions) I want to write. I feel like my thoughts are crowding out my brain and are telling me to listen to them as opposed to listen to someone who I don't care to listen to at the moment. Well, while I am in class, I simply cannot journal because I would look like a crazy-person with pages flying into thin air and my pen noisily dancing around my page. So, I write poems about my thoughts that I want to journal. Its actually more challenging than journaling (obvs...) because I am forced to think of what exactly I am feeling and then to try to capture that with succinct words. I told my roommate all this and, although she looked at me like I was a nutcase, she said she wanted to read my poetry! Well, well, well, folks! I now had an audience who wanted to hear my thoughts! Not only that, but my roommate is a bit of a song writer and plays guitar and piano. While I play piano (a smidge-smidge) only according to what is written in the sheet music, my roommate likes to play around with the music and add her own vibes into it. She asked me to read the poem with emotion so she could know how to write the song and then, about 2 hours later, I had my poem written into a song! It was amazing! I almost cried when I heard her write it because it was just so stinkin' cool to have that experience where I had something to express and if I *could* have expressed it in a song it probably would have been a lot better than just as poetry. Well, here we had the best of both worlds combined (I dont know how our apartment stays in tact and doesn't blow up with all these creative brains flowing through our heads and surrounding our apartment walls! eyeyeigheye!). We are unsure if we will post a youtube video of ourselves singing/playing the song, but its a possibility.

Give it a try sometime. Even if you don't think you have an ounce of creativity in your veins, just put your pen to paper and see where your mind takes you. It doesn't have to be good, by any stretch of the imagination, just write what's on your heart and keep it a secret. You'll feel much better once its all written down and you have closed the front cover of your journal, I promise. So many tears have sprung-a-leak from my eyes only after I have begun to journal and feel my emotions come to life. Its super freeing and so true that the pen truly is mightier than the sword.