songwriting adventure.

I tried to find good songs about being nineteen this morning.  You know, songs that you can really connect with.  So that when they play “Dancing Queen”, and you’re seventeen, you feel like they wrote it for you.  Or when you watch “The Sound of Music,” you sing along extra enthusiastically with Liesl’s song because you’re sixteen going on seventeen, too.

There are absolutely no good songs about being nineteen. It’s actually pretty sad.  I feel like every age should have a song with its specific number in it.  So, my temporary solution is to listen to The Lumineers before class instead.

This makes me think that maybe no one else knows what it is to be nineteen either.  They get 15, because when you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you, you’re going to believe them (according to Taylor Swift).  They get sixteen, because when you’re sixteen, going on seventeen, baby, it’s time to think.  (Thank you, Sound of Music)  And Janis Ian learned the truth at seventeen, so we’re all clear that love was meant for beauty queens, etc.

But what about nineteen?  Apparently we don’t understand nineteen.  New goal for the year: figure out what it means to be nineteen and write a song about it.

I’ve written sonnets, short stories, essays, haikus, skits, scenes for plays, newspaper articles, blogs (duh), letters, sticky notes asking my roommate what the smell in our room is, text messages, emails, and grocery shopping lists, but I’ve never really written a song.  I mean, I sing things all the time because it’s so much more fun to say something like “we’re going to dinner” like it’s a musical, but I hardly think that counts as songwriting.

And I don’t count the song that I wrote in ninth grade about feeling like a cassette tape. It really doesn’t count, trust me.

So, I’ll do it.  It’ll probably be good for me.  I’ll probably learn something in the process, and if I do, I’ll share it with you.  It’ll be an adventure.

Also, we just hit 400 posts, which is cause for excitement!


Every time I have a birthday, I think of the vignette “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros.  Please, oh please, click on that link and read the whole thing out loud to yourself.  It’s not stupid to read stories to yourself.  It’s powerful.

I was searching for a copy of this online so that I could share it with you and happened upon a video of Sandra Cisneros herself, reading her story out loud.  She started, and as she read, I found a copy.

And I paused Sandra Cisneros and picked up where she left off.

I read the entire thing to myself like I was a third grader.

I needed to hear it again.  It’s one of those rare pieces of literature where you read it and immediately connect with the message of the story.  Aside from the fact that Sandra Cisneros inspires me, I’m about to turn 19, so this is pertinent.

I have a general idea of what each year of my life means. Every year except for 19.  What does it mean to be 19?  You don’t get any new, special privileges or titles.  They don’t take the red frame that says “under 21” off from around your driver’s license picture.  The digits of your age still start with 1, and you’re still a teenager.

You’re just slightly older than an 18-year-old.

As I get older, birthdays seem to be less of a big deal, just like a fresh, new year is less of a novelty.  I’d like to propose that we bring back big birthdays, to revel in the newness that is the next number you get to present to people when they ask your age.  19.  I’ll get to say.   I’m 19.  If birthdays are a big deal, then maybe they’re our time to take a good, hard look at who we are and who we want to be and where we should go and what we should do.  Let no birthday go by without examination.

That’s what I’ll be doing in these few days before I turn 19, thinking about what I want 19-year-old Ashley to be, who God wants me to be.  And I will very likely think about cake and going home, too.  I can’t just have nice, mature thoughts when there’s red velvet cake bellowing my name.

Snowy day.

It’s one of those days where everyone walks around with their hoods up (if they are so fortunate as to have one) and their faces facing down, away from the pelting, abnormally piercing snowflakes that are flying sideways today.  It’s one of those days where most people are inside.  Actually, unless you’re one of those people unfortunate enough to be in the pelting snowflakes, you are most definitely inside.

You’re probably praying that your shift at work will be cancelled tonight, too.

Maybe you’re also trying to convince yourself that when you say, “DANG, it’s cold outside,” it’s not really complaining.  And yes, the snowflakes ARE piercing.

There’s a pretty fine line between complaining and stating the facts, but I think there’s a place for both.  In my estimation, complaining includes a little bit of a whiny tone.  You may look a little wistful or disgusted.  Or perhaps you rant for a bit.  Rants are always complaining.

Then there are comments, often said in a surprised tone: “Look, the snow is coming down really hard on that car outside.  I bet it will be unpleasant when we leave this warm building.”  Or in a resigned tone, “Well, I need to go brave the snow now.”

Today it’s cold outside, but it’s warm in the library.  I have a paper to write, but I’d rather write that than be forced to stand outside for more then half an hour while the snow continues to pester the world.

Oh Jesus, if you just wanted to bring spring…  Not that I’m complaining.  Winter kills the bugs.


What I should have given up for Lent.

I’ll just let the cat out of the bag right now: I should have given up complaining.  (In case you’re wondering, the cat is a tabby, and she is small, doesn’t scratch people, hiss, or rub up against your legs.)

I see complaining kind of in the same way I see alcohol consumption.  (just stick with me here, I promise there’s a parallel)  Granted, I complain but don’t drink alcohol since I’m only 18, so I may not actually be qualified to make this comparison.  I think I’ll do it anyways, though.  But people usually drink to be social, right?  It’s something to do with friends and makes people feel more at ease, apparently.  Personally, I don’t have to drink to feel at ease and have a good time, unless we’re talking water, coffee, or almond milk.  That’s always a good time.

But anyways, back to this comparison that will, eventually, make sense.

I complain to connect with people.  It seems a little weird, but really, that’s just the way it is.  I don’t mind taking exams much, but I can groan about it with people if that’s the only conversation we can have at the moment.

Okay, so maybe that isn’t the only reason I complain.  I also complain when it isn’t sunny outside and the wind blows so hard and cold that it makes me cry.  I also complain about the food in my cafeteria almost every day when it doesn’t live up to my high standards.  (Really, I should just lower my expectations.)

Either way, I should have given it up for Lent.

The great thing about Lent is that even though you’re supposed to start on Ash Wednesday, just because you don’t have your brain wave until almost 2 weeks later doesn’t mean that you can’t add it in.  Boo-yah.  Thus begins my endeavor to not complain.

You might have to help me be accountable with this.

Temporary home.

Photo on 2-24-13 at 2.36 PMThis is me, Ashley, in the library with my cup of coffee.  This is where I live now.  The library.

Not actually.  I don’t really live here.  I don’t think they’d let me stay overnight, even though that has always been a secret fantasy of mine: to spend a night in a library.  Secret’s out.

I spend a lot of hours sitting in this chair, sometimes being productive, sometimes blogging (which is only half productive), sometimes trying not to fall asleep.  I figure if there’s any time of life when you’re allowed to spend this much time in the library, it’s during college.  Or post-college studies.  Any time when you’re in school, really.

I might get to spend less time here and more time doing other things if I could just get down to business right away, but I always have to catch up on my emails first, say hello to far away friends through facebook, and write a little blurb about whatever’s on my mind.

On that note, the babies are still screaming (if you have no idea what I’m referencing here, scroll down to yesterday’s post), so I’d better go be a responsible student.

Because if there’s any time of life that you’re going to be slightly less than fun, slightly more studious, and slightly more caffeinated, it’s college.

Homework babies.

Today, I have a nursery of screaming babies around me.  It’s not literal – I’d actually prefer that.  Nope, my figurative homework babies are here in the nursery of my to-do list.  Lab Report over there is a toddler, so he’s been following me around asking, “Why?  Why?  Why?  What’s that?  How’d you get that, huh?  Why?”

Then there’s a Bible paper over there that’s crying from neglect.  She’s been laying in her crib for a couple weeks now, waiting for me to acknowledge that she’s awake and hungry for some attention.

My Philosophy paper has, thankfully, finally settled down for a nap, but it’ll wake up on Monday and ask for more editing.

These are the moments when I’m thankful that I only have three children…. wait, I mean classes.  Classes, not children.  And I’m thankful that one of them asks me to go in-depth with the Bible.  I mean, really, it’s a blessing to be asked to write a paper about a Psalm of your choice.  It requires time and work, certainly, but it’ll yield good things when it’s done that I can directly apply to my life, right away.

Now, it’s high time that I helped Bible out of her crib and showed her a little loving.  Please excuse me.


I pulled a muscle in my back this week, doing homework.  Isn’t that anticlimactic?  You expect to hear that I was training for a weightlifting competition when I suddenly pulled a muscle and had to be rushed to the athletic trainer.  Nope, didn’t happen.  I don’t lift weights.

Or maybe it’s more fitting that I was just doing homework for too long in a straining position.  (aka, sitting cross-legged on my bed and practically folding myself in half to be able to write stuff down… I don’t recommend it)

I was thinking about the verse that talks about how great God’s love is: higher than the heavens.  And His faithfulness?  Stretches to the skies.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t typically measure love in inches, feet, or miles.  Maybe I should though.  It seems like it’s more quantitative than the way people typically measure it.

So despite the unconventional measurement (isn’t God usually unconventional?), it’s a great picture.  I’m picturing God’s love like a giant  wad of something like silly putty that stretches when you pull it.  Maybe like a giant lump of pizza dough.  Except since this is divine pizza dough, it doesn’t get holes in it when you stretch it and always stays the perfect thickness.

Then there’s my little lump of human love next to it.  Let’s try stretching that one out first, shall we?  You pull it a bit, and I pull it a little in another direction. Oh look, this is big enough to make two pizzas now.  What love.  Look how far it’s stretching!  We’ve got about 4 feet of dough, enough to feed lots of people.  Oh, maybe we should stop pulling now; there’s a hole.  I guess we could pull a little farther – oh, another hole.

Pretty soon it looks like swiss cheese in dough form, and we’re realizing that we don’t have enough for everyone.  And if people have sharp edges that could make more holes in it, it certainly can’t cover them.

So, we reluctantly stop pulling on my love and step over to God’s.  We pull and pull and pull until we can’t pull anymore, but then we notice that it’s still stretching upwards and out, all by itself.  Where my love dough stretch possibly to the size of a small adult, God’s is already past the height of the Sears Tower.

And there are no holes.  No gaps.  It covers everything. And keeps going.  Forever.

That’s the kind of love I want to live for.

Messy Thursday

I’ve been a faithful magazine subscriber over my almost 19 years of life.  (*pauses time to reflect on turning 19 in 10 days*) I used to devour the Highlights for Kids magazines when I was younger.  As I got older, the subscription changed to American Girl magazine.  Then, when I joined the U.S. Figure Skating Association as a skater, it came with a subscription to Skating magazine.  The main purpose for those magazines was to get the scoop on how my favorite skaters had done in their recent competitions.  I cut out all the pictures of Michelle Kwan, Kimmie Meissner, Evan Lysacek, Tanith Belbin, Sasha Cohen, and their contemporaries to put on my notebooks and folders in middle school.

Then, for a short tint, I got Entertainment Weekly as part of the My Coke Rewards program.  At the same time, my piano teacher had gotten my sister and me a subscription to Smithsonian for a Christmas present one year and had kept renewing it for us.  Needless to say, Entertainment Weekly didn’t last long compared to Smithsonian.  Half of the articles in there went over my head, but what I understood was some of the most interesting reading I’ve done.

My magazine subscription history isn’t really the point of this post though. I was just thinking this morning about how much I love quizzes.  No, not academic quizzes.  I don’t mind those too much, but I’m talking about the ones with the titles like “Which Disney Princess Are You?” or “What Type of Friend Are You?” or “How Do You Cope With Stress?”

And I think I know why I love them so much.  Even if they’re wrong, they offer answers in as little time as I take to tally up my score.  And they seem like legitimate answers because I did answer a whole bunch of questions and add up all of my points and figure out which of the possibilities I fit.  They’re a no-stress, no-overanalyzing way to learn about yourself and maybe discover how you should be.  I mean, if I’ve been living like Cinderella is my Disney princess, but it’s really Belle, then my whole world is going to look different.

I love instant answers.  I would love instant food, too, if it actually had real ingredients in it.  But unfortunately, most instant food is full of nastiness.  I guess I don’t mind instant oatmeal, though.

Instant is nice.  It’s rarely messy, and it’s quick.

But there’s a place for messy.  It’s probably not necessary for me to mull over if I’m Belle or Cinderella for too long, but messy has a place. Just like I sometimes need to have muffins and papers about study abroad and a cup of coffee and textbooks and a calculator all over my desk in order to figure out what I should write my philosophy paper about.  Messy is good sometimes.

Just a thought for Thursday.

New paths.

This morning, I’m thinking about paths.

This is the forest through which Jesus and I walk on my journey.  I really can’t imagine a prettier place to walk.  The sunlight filters through the trees, and as I gaze up at the juncture where the sunlight is trying to break through the canopy of leaves, I feel small.  It’s not a common feeling for a gal just under six feet, but these trees are so tall.  They stretch upwards with branches outstretched, like they are growing perpetually but invisibly.

Sometimes, the trees are beautiful and enhance the journey.  Sometimes, they just make me feel small and insignificant.

Jesus and I have been walking along a path that winds around the trees for a while now.  To me, it seems like we have no destination, but I’m sure He knows where we’re going.  We never pass the same trees twice, covering new ground every day.  I feel like I’m going to stroll around this path in the forest for my whole life.

Then, Jesus nudges me and points to a spot where the trees are closer together, where there’s quite a bit of brush on the ground.  I have no idea why He’s pointing there.  There?  You want me to walk there?  Wait, you’re coming too, right?  Can we really walk there?  It looks more like we’d have to crawl.  I think that might be a little bit too much work, Jesus.  I don’t think I fit there – look at how the tree branches come down to where my waist is.  That’s not a path, Jesus.

But He keeps pointing, so we walk over. He goes first, holding my hand and showing me how He walks.  He ducks and steps over the brush in the way, effortlessly, and pulls me with Him, to walk as He does.

I do it less gracefully and with less certainty, but I follow.

I don’t know where this path leads.  I thought I’d stay in the forest for the rest of my days, strolling on the path with Jesus, but maybe we’re not even staying in the forest.  Perhaps this way leads out.

It shouldn’t matter what terrain faces me.  Though I cringe at the thought of deserts to maneuver or mountains to climb or cities to get lost in, I follow.  Because I want Jesus to walk with me.



Live from the library: a message for February

Someone is drumming in the air vents today in the library. du-du-du-du-DA-du-du-du-DA-du-DA-du-DA.  At least their drumsticks are lightly tapping.

It’s writing and  editing in the library.  I’ve got a window seat in a yellow arm chair, so the only thing missing is a cup of coffee.  And that’s only because it’s too cold for me to run across the street to get some.

Or maybe I’m just too lazy to put my big, down coat and warm scarf back on, pack up all my stuff, and get the java.  I’ll stick to my one-cup-a-day mantra for now.  Mantra subject to change without notice.

February is one of those months that I always forget about.  I actually forget that it exists.  I mean, it’s slightly shorter than all of the other months, and this time of year always feels like it’s in fast forward.  I think I typically wish February away.  It’s the last of the winter months, sort of.  February is ALWAYS cold.  March is typically pretty cold too, but there’s at least a little bit more hope for a bit of sunshine and more rain than snow.  Plus, there are family birthdays to look forward to (namely, mine and my sister’s), which means cake.  And cake means that the cold seems less awful.

It’s almost over, isn’t it?  February, I mean.  I feel so bad, February.  I neglected to appreciate you while you were here.  I got busy and didn’t even get out the fine china (aka, my “Keep Calm and Rule Britannia” mug).  I didn’t even offer you a cup of tea.

My apologies, February.  You’re just kind of like a step-child in comparison to the newness of January and the cake that March offers me.  Not that step-children can’t be loved and adored just like biological children.

I suppose I should appreciate February more.