Am I a morning person?


I’m going on two weeks of living at home, and I’ve been doing very little other than reading, reorganizing my life, getting rid of things, searching for jobs, and trying to create structure where there isn’t much. So naturally, there hasn’t been much to say for a while. What would I write?

Today, I read for a long time on the couch. I had a couple fleeting moments of guilt, thinking I should be doing something else, something productive, but then I realized that I don’t have anything to do. Also, reading is a contribution to my career in publishing. So I went back to my book.

That would be less than post-worthy. Not that I haven’t posted many less-than-earth-shattering things before, but it just didn’t compel me to my keyboard.

But the question that has brought me here this morning is, am I a morning person? Or maybe the question is, have I been deluding myself into thinking I’m a morning person, and is it okay to lie to yourself like that?

I’ve considered myself a morning person for a few years now, meaning that I enjoy mornings. I don’t sleep in much anymore, and I like being awake before the rest of the world wakes up. But it’s a specific type of morning, meaning:

  • You can’t talk to me. It doesn’t matter who you are or how I feel about you other hours of the day. When I first wake up, we don’t have conversation before I begin drinking my coffee. The only exception to this is if you are the one providing me with the coffee. Then I will talk to you. My dad can attest to this, as many mornings in high school and this past summer we were the only two up, and we basically just exchanged “good morning”s. He knows I love him. Just not before my coffee.
  • It has to be quiet. That’s the best part of mornings, that there’s no noise or music. Just the sound of the coffee brewing and the heat kicking on.

But if these conditions are met, I happily enjoy the morning with my warm, caffeinated brew, my Bible, and sometimes a lot of staring out the window. There’s no time like the morning to just stare out the window at what’s going on outside. Today that’s snow. It can be early. It can be a little dark out (as long as the sun comes up soon). Granted,  it’s usually around 7 that this morning starts, which I know some people will say automatically disqualifies me because it’s not early enough. I have a feeling that as I get older though, the time will get earlier.

Does that sound like a morning person? These ponderings were prompted by Julian Smith’s new video, “I’m a Morning Person”. And I am NOT that person. I will not sing to you before 8.

But when people ask you if you are a morning person or a night owl, I definitely am not a night owl. I can barely stay up til midnight. I lose most of my coherence at 10. I’ll probably toast at 11 with my parents when the clock strikes 12 in New York tonight and happily go to bed, knowing that 2016 will come whether or not I’m there to see it. And if it doesn’t come, I’ll be happy still because I’ll have gone to bed early.

So, have I been lying to myself? I resorted to taking both Buzzfeed quizzes on whether and to what extent one is a morning person. Both reported that I am, in moderation.

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So, I haven’t lied to myself? Here’s the thing, there are a lot of labels we can give ourselves. I think about this a lot when I practice answering interview questions (this I do out loud in my car, involuntarily, whenever I’m driving alone: “Why do I want to work here? Well, let me tell you, steering wheel.” Yes, it’s involuntary. It’s an anxiety thing, preparing for everything!) and whether or not the words I use for myself will mean the same thing to the person I tell them to. Like when people tell you they love to read, but then they hate libraries or haven’t actually read anything in the past year. Or when they say they’re not self-disciplined but you see them walking to the gym everyday.

It’s about honesty here. Am I being honest with myself, and am I using the common definition to determine whether or not I fit into a category?

Not that anyone will ask me in an interview whether I’m a morning person or not. It’s just been a concern since you want to know yourself as well as possible in entering these things. They might ask you something like that on the fly, and it’s up to you to know yourself well enough to reply.

Sugar cookies and public libraries


I’ve been home a total of two days and already had one crisis about the future. Welcome to the post-grad life. All that confident talk about waiting to see what God has in store for me, how I’m willing to follow and be obedient and be faithful until things start to happen is true, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to have small meltdowns every once in a while.

We were making cookies, my mom and me. The short days make everyone sleepy, and we’d both been fighting sleepiness more than usual. Also, it turns out that yesterday was the shortest day of the year. Yes, this does make people more melancholy and woeful than usual.

We were cutting out sugar cookies, because those are the most sentimental of all the Christmas cookies for me. She was holding the parchment paper while I rolled out the ball of dough right on it. Then we’d cut out the cookies and peel away the extra dough instead of moving the cookies. It was making for fewer fallen angels and dopey trees.

It had only been one day of not having purpose and not knowing what’s ahead.

“I’m just feeling like I need hope, like I need perspective about what’s coming.”

She got it. “It’s only been one day. You’ve got lots of things coming up. Christmas is coming. You’ll go back to Loft and work. You can follow up with the places you applied.”

She’s right. It helped a little. Sometimes it’s hard to fight how you feel though. My mind was starting to agree with her though.

“You just have to act yourself into a better way of feeling.” That works. She’d know, being a former counselor. If I act with purpose and create some structure where there isn’t much, that’ll help.

I still felt the melancholy though.

It didn’t help that my dad came in and told my mom about their plane ticket reservation. She’s going with him on a business trip. Over Valentine’s Day weekend. Somewhere warm. It makes sense – someone should actually enjoy the warmth while he’s in meetings. I just graduated. I don’t get vacations yet. I wouldn’t spend Valentine’s Day with my parents anyways. It’s not like it’ll be much different that they aren’t there.

We kept rolling out the cookies and putting sprinkles on some. Rolling out cookies is a process. We’d only made a half recipe, but it took a couple hours to get them all cut out and baked.

Today I ran errands, created purpose in a day where the only thing I had to do was go to church for a short rehearsal for Christmas Eve. I braved traffic to the post office, went to meet my new boss and offer all my hours, grocery shopped with everyone and their grandma, and went to the library.

I went to print something, but when the printer was busy, I found myself looking at the books. And then looking for books I’d heard recommended.

And ended up walking out with all of these.

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Even though I’m already reading two books and won’t be able to finish these in just two weeks, most likely.

Well, maybe I can.

I told my dad that this is why I graduated college a semester early, to read whatever I wanted in larger quantities.

He laughed, but we both know it’s a little bit true.

Reading is a contribution to a future in publishing. And it give purpose. It’s like traveling to a warm place with someone you love but less expensive and more sedentary.

This is what I’ll be doing until I start working full-time. Thank the good Lord for public libraries.

Blinking and missing.


It was August, and my parents and I were eating pizza at Lou Malnati’s at the start of my last semester of college. We moved in my things to my house, set up my room. I put my things in the cupboards.

And I blinked.

Then I took all the things out of the cupboards. I packed everything up. We ate pizza again. I put on my cap and gown, walked across the stage to get the piece of paper that promises that my diploma will come in the mail soon, and went back home, where I dumped all my things on the floor.

A lot happened in that blink.

It was the fastest semester. No, not just that. It was the fastest three and a half years of my life so far. I know it’s supposed to be grossly accelerated from here on out. If the past 16 weeks were any indicator of how fast the rest of my life will go, I’ll be 30 in a couple blinks and 75 pretty soon after that.

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My dad and I drove the car full of mugs, cheap Ikea furniture, secondhand pots and pans, and memories back to Minnesota today while my mom and sister and brother-in-law stayed to explore the city more. Well, there wasn’t room for them in the car. They’ll fly out tonight. 12360323_1242163975799098_3339200538979599758_n

In some ways it was easy to leave because I’m interested in sleeping longer and not feeling like I have 1400 projects on my mind all at once. And knowing that I am headed into a life with no homework is beautiful.

But I left behind good friends, like the one pictured above and the ones below.12370815_916864838390791_2212852046981748676_o

And too many others. Housemate friends, co-worker friends, professors who became friends and mentors, even the friendly cashiers at the neighborhood grocery store.

My mom asked if I wished I had another semester left last night. There’s a part of me that wants to keep learning in a group of students with a professor and to stay in my campus house. Sometimes my eyes start leaking because that life is still part of me and wants to be lived, to some extent.

“You should feel sad. Of course you’ll miss it. It’s better that way.”

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I will miss college, though I know just a few months ago I was ready to be done and move on into a fully adult life.

I’ll miss the community where it’s better to not know the answers than to give them confidently. It’s better to ask and ask and ask. I’ll miss the conversations in the philosophy and English departments over writing and ideas and stories.

I’ll miss the atmosphere of spontaneity and public transportation, being able to be in a part of the city I’d never seen before (or had seen a hundred times and still loved) in less than an hour without having to brave any traffic.

I’ll miss being able to leave for work five minutes before I needed to be there, wearing whatever ! felt like wearing that day. I’ll miss working with students and the connections that came there, even when the students were working with me by force and making it apparent that they weren’t interested.

I’ll miss the three flights of stairs to my advisor’s office, not because those stairs always make me out of breath but because I always came down them feeling like I had something new to think about and feeling affirmed either in what I was working on or in my choice of major. I’m thankful for all the conversations in his office and knowing that I can always go back.

I’ll spend a little grieving time. That’s important. I’ve got to know what I’ve left to transition well. (BIG SIGH BECAUSE I HATE TRANSITIONS) And I’ll look forward to what’s ahead.

Tonight, that’s mostly sleep.

Waiting to testify and balloons


Yesterday I came home from the senior philosophy thesis defenses to find my bed full of balloons. You just never know what’s going to happen around here. I needed a nap, though, and balloons weren’t going to make that easy, so I put them in the crib with all of Mia’s little stuffed animals that have been there for when you’re stressed and just need to hug a small stuffed guinea pig (Webkinz, if you’re familiar with those). It’s a happy crib.

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My housemates were celebrating with balloons because that was it for me. I defended my thesis that morning, turned in my last paper, and boom, undergrad done. One minute you’re having a controlled panic (maintaining an only half terrified look on your face while your stomach and brain dance around in a frenzy) about this hour-long defense of your work, and the next you’re done with all of your college work.

By some miracle, all of my housemates were free last night. So we went out for pizza (naturally). And then after that Kristin came downstairs, “Oh, we forgot something! This is the second half of your surprise.” Then she hung four Mardi Gras necklaces on me. “We’re so proud of you.”

I’m done.

So today I’m unanchored. Nothing is due today. Nothing will ever be due again, not here. The only thing on my schedule is graduation rehearsal this evening, and picking up my regalia. I have to pack, but nothing else is going on.

These are the strangest days, the transitional ones. There’s a new reality to wrap my mind around. Going homeGetting a job (someday soon).

Maybe no transition in my life has quite compared to this. I’ve been a student since I was 5. The last 16.5 years of my life have been progressing from one step of education to another. I know everyone has a moment when their education is “over” (but it’s never over when you can read), but is it always this strange?

I’ve introduced myself for the past three and a half years as “Ashley: English and Philosophy major, student, North Park, intern, writing advisor…” Now I’m “Ashley: person.”

It’s not quite an identity crisis, but I wonder when I stop telling people what I majored in. When does that stop being relevant? Probably a few years into career work.

I’ve been sort of dreading this transition for a while now, thinking about the uncertainty and having to answer all the questions. People ask because they’re curious and because they care, not because they want to pressure me into having a plan, but I’ll still have to say that I’m not sure what’s next.

This is the part where I tell you that I know God has something good in store. But it’s also the part where I tell you that I don’t know what and I don’t know when and I don’t know when I’ll know anything for sure.

This is the part where I start to testify. I remind myself (and you) of all the strange ways I’ve gotten employment and been called to things in the past:

  • through a freelancing website
  • through my mom’s friend who had all the connections
  • by asking on a whim if someone needed me to work for them
  • when I friend asked on a whim if I’d work for her
  • through a random job posting that sounded cool
  • when someone approached me and asked me to replace them
  • through an ex-boyfriend’s mom
  • by having someone refer me to all the people they know

It’s always through people, and it’s always not exactly what I expected. And it’s ALWAYS been good (though in different ways and doesn’t always feel like it right away) and right on time.

So this is the part where I remind myself (and you, if you’re here, too) that something good is on the way, and it’s worth being faithful for. It’s worth telling people that I’m hopeful and confident that God is going to provide the right opportunity, and until then I’m just applying and making connections. Then, when he does, we’ll all see that it was worth it.

When the world tells me that I need to be stressed and worried about this, and when my own body and mind tell me I need to be anxious and fret over this, I remember how little that has ever done for me. I acknowledge the legitimacy of the feeling and remind myself that God is for me. And for you.

For Genovia


I have papers to keep working on. Oh, the papers never stop. They are important and good, and I’m going to do them soon. I’m not procrastinating… not really.

These things are important, but I’m graduating in one week. That brings with it lots of feelings, so I’m taking some time to be sentimental. Space for the feelings. These things are important.

Of the things I’m most going to miss about college is my house. Not just the physical house, although I’ve grown accustomed to its slanting floors (it’s about 100 years old), strange lighting, scary basement, and squeakiness. It’s a lovely place to live. Really, though, the girls who live here are what I’ll miss and the sassy, spirited nature of the place.

The house I live in is called Genovia, after the made-up country in The Princess Diaries. This is for a number of reasons. 1) We possess a Princess Mia.

Here she is, taking a walk with the cardboard cutout of Mr. Bean that she and her sister Zoe brought with them to our house. Yes, those are Santa Lucia candles and braids on his head. He’s perpetually ready for Advent.

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So, yes, we have a royal Mia. Also, we would like to be a sovereign nation. Mia’s the aspiring filmmaker of the group, the one who filmed our house music video (still to be edited… cough cough, no pressure there) and has a fabulous appreciation for bright articles of clothing like shorteralls with sunflowers on them. We affectionately refer to her twin sister, Zoe, as Mr. Robitussin, fictional Mia’s gloomy writer neighbor who sighs a lot, but really, Zoe’s much more sunny and pleasant than he is.

wp-1449862001517.jpgSee? Look at that smile. Zoe and Mia comprise the most creative part of out household. They’re the artists, the ones who paint portraits of cultural figures that decorate our living room. Also, they made that ear of corn. So talented. Zoe also makes glitter pasta (defined: covering pasta with glitter… pretty self-explanatory) and models beautiful hair styles.

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There is an empty liter bottle hidden in her hair there. She’s also taken over 1,000 Buzzfeed quizzes. I have so much admiration for this girl. wp-1449860872087.jpg

There’s a slight difference in height between us. But no matter. We appreciate each other’s heights.

Our household has a unique affinity for wearing all gray, commonly known in millenial communities as a “groutfit” (gray + outfit = groutfit). In fact, our Christmas picture exemplifies this:

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(I AM wearing gray. It’s just charcoal.) Note Kanye in the background with the Santa hat. Cred to Zoe.

These girls have become so special to me over the course of the semester. You’ve already met Liesel, who was already special because she lived with me for a year and a half before that and shared all those memories that you can only have with someone you live with. Our roommatehood has only gotten more rich by the addition of the other four girls.

Here she is, still making fabulous faces for the camera as always.wp-1449862447539.jpg

Liesel and I realized recently that many of our best moments have happened in a kitchen, often while doing dishes together, which shows you that we use a lot of dishes and that we bond over strange things. It makes it a special friendship though, which I like.

That picture introduced you to Kirsten, whose nickname is Pansy because she gets cold way before most people (went to a soccer game in September wearing three pairs of pants) but can really take stress like a champ. So she’s tougher than we usually give her credit for. She has so many wonderful talents, like being able to wear Mia and Zoe’s grandma’s old wig and looking marvelous, practicality, witty social commentary, and taught me that avocado in stir-fry ain’t bad.wp-1449860858880.jpgOur house has this thing called THE CRIB, which is the best thing we ever thought of. It’s two love seats put together into a giant nest of couchiness. We do just about everything we can in it.

In fact, look, we all fit in it together, all six of us!

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Yes, that’s a selfie stick in employ there. But “who’s the lovely lady in the gray bathrobe?” you ask.wp-1449860849068.jpg

This is Kristin, our Britain aficionado. She’s our tea drinker. She’s the type of girl you expect to just be sugar and spice and everything nice (which she is), but then she surprises you with a fabulous snarky comment at just the right moment. It keeps me on my toes. We’ve been watching (and generously criticizing) cheesy Christmas movies this past week.wp-1449860837638.jpg

Christmas in Genovia has been so joyful. Kirsten and I tried to make snowflakes one Friday night. Hers kept ending up in multiple pieces when she unfolded them. We’re still not sure what went wrong. But she did eventually get some whole, beautiful snowflakes.wp-1449860811033.jpg

Zoe’s glitter pasta in progress in the background there.

We started out this semester by taking this picture out in our yard (featuring Mr. Bean in the window, where he stands sentry). Since then, we’ve kept our house remarkably well cleaned, thanks for our chore chart, we’ve eaten so many cookies/cakes/pies, endured fruit flies together, come up with secret hand motion greetings, added a massage table to the living room, supported each other on hard days, celebrated each other’s accomplishments, taken ALL the Buzzfeed quizzes, put our assignments on the fridge, shared the milk (which almost no one in our house actually drinks), laughed over everything, fangirled over Adele… and Enya… and Josh Groban…, oh, and so much more.10458014_369321243277689_1954141538538575038_n

Yes, this is that chore chart. You know how those craft things that would allow those two wheels to spin independently if placed in the center is called a brad? Well, we took it to the next level. We named our chore chart Brad. So then Brad’s the one telling you to do your chores.

But then it went a step further, and we all became famous Brads.

And we never actually used a real brad to hold it together. That’s a twisty tie.11908589_10154155101028066_145061068266792457_o

Now chores are called Brads. 12109770_890853834325225_5248503989298033863_o

Three of us are from Minnesota and three from Illinois. This cookie originally was shaped like a boot with a spur, but then magic happened in the oven, and this came out.11951208_369321043277709_333203359514223251_n

We’ve taken typical prom pictures with Mr. Bean. We’ve moved him from window to window and heard countless stories of his presence scaring passersby (mission: accomplished).

And we’ve surprised each other with food, multiple times. It’s the best kind of surprise.12360299_394123060797507_6366327293415970261_n

This picture is probably how I’ll remember this semester.

Laughing. Together.

When your studies and the world in general and life circumstances are enough to make anyone sigh in despair or stress, it’s been the biggest gift to have this house of girls who laugh and can make each other laugh. We can be serious, too, but there’s been so much joy and humor in our lives that it tempers the sadness or disappointment well. It’s been a safe place to cry… and laugh until you cry.

To Genovia: you’re all my favorite. Thanks for making this semester pretty much the best.

On taking it.


I’ve been working on a big paper for a while now, my senior thesis for philosophy. Those words are an understatement. Substitute ‘big’ with ‘time-consuming, confusing, frustrating, and important’ and substitute ‘a while’ with ‘three months’, and you’ll have a better idea. It’s not the be-all and end-all of papers. People write dissertations all the time. It’s not the hardest thing people have ever done, but good grief. It’s hard enough. And it’s lonely because it’s hard to bring people in on concepts you barely understand that are complex and basically in another language.

I’ve been wading through the philosophers I chose to write about and questioning whether or not I’m capable of writing anything of value on them. So many deep sighs. So little understanding. I didn’t get a single thing out of that entire chapter. I have to read it again. And again. And again. Okay, now I think I understand the basic premise. Implications? No idea. Probably aren’t any. I didn’t know it was possible for something to be so abstract.

I sent it to a classmate for peer review. That helped. My peer had questions, and he pointed out some spots where things in my paper made sense.Writing was never meant to be a solitary process. Sure, you may write in your closet, but coming up with a quality product needs other people.

I talked it over with another student… for about an hour. That helped. She had questions. I had a few more answers than I’d had during peer review.

I thought I had an epiphany. I think I sort of did. I wrote more. I edited what I’d written. Gosh, this is like sending my messy room to someone. But I sent it to my professor anyways.

He saw where I was going and helped me come up with an outline. *Deep sigh of relief* The light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter.

Then, as I was about to take my paper and leave his office, he said, “You’ve done good work on this.”

Was that good work? It was work, I think. It took work. It must be good work if the product is a little bit good. Maybe it shows the work. This brought relief, too. Maybe I won’t disappoint all my professors!

I sent the paper to my friend who is also a writing advisor and asked her to point out any parts where it didn’t make sense. You need some sort of initiation to these kinds of papers–not that it’s too smart for anyone, you just have to have some sort of exposure to the language to be able to follow the philosophical arguments. It’s foreign lingo.

When she responded, she told me she was impressed, that I was intelligent.

I’d like to think so. But there was a voice in the back on my mind when she told me that that said, “It’s not that you’re smart. It’s that the language is fancy. It’s that she hasn’t had time to read this kind of stuff because she’s in freaking nursing school. She’s just being nice. You have such nice friends.”

I often think that voice tells the truth. (Well, it’s right that I do have nice friends, and she’s one of the best.) The voice feels like it’s keeping me humble. It’s keeping me on earth, where if I let myself think I was intelligent, I might get a head too big to fit my graduation cap on. (and now it’s too late to get a different size. Not good. This could be disastrous)

But that’s not humility, is it?  Humility doesn’t require that I downgrade myself or deny what others have said in efforts to build me up. Humility asks that I think of myself less, that I look for ways to build other people up, and that I accept the praise offered me when it is given with grace.

I’m just going to take it.

I’m going to accept what she said, file it away in that file of things people have said about me, and decide if it’s true later. Maybe it will be true some days and in some cases and not in others. I’m going to accept that my professor says I did good work, to file that away in the file of tasks that others have affirmed and keep trying to live up to the affirmation.

This seems like a healthier response. Also, it’s finals time, so let’s face it, genuine affirmation is always a lovely thing. And when I can accept it, I bet it’ll be easier to give.

Burned toast saves the day.


It was Kirsten’s birthday yesterday. You remember how we celebrated Kristin’s birthday (don’t get confused, look at the spelling of those two names again) by creeping into her room in the dark with breakfast?

We haven’t had another in-house birthday since then, but we also celebrated the end of cross country for Mia and Zoe with a surprise party. We like surprises here, especially when they mean food.

So naturally, Kristin got the idea to make Kirsten an ice cream cake about two months ago. She’d been plotting for weeks to make sure we would have enough people home when Kirsten was at Zoology.

We baked a cookie in a cake pan first and put it in the freezer to cool before we could put the ice cream layer on top.

Then we had a problem.

“It smells too good in here! She’ll be home in ten minutes”

“She’s going to know! She can’t know”

We sprayed febreeze, but that wasn’t enough to get rid of the delicious cookie smell. The surprise had to wait until 10pm, when the majority of people would be home, so the house could not smell. Mia and Kristin had washed and put away all the dishes related to cookie baking, so that part was taken care of. But what to do about the smell.

Zoe suggested warming up some of her super sharp cheddar in the microwave, but we weren’t sure it’d be smelly enough to cover it up.

So we burned toast.

Not only did we burn toast, but to make sure that none of the first floor would smell of delicious cookie, I took the toast in the tongs and waved it around. Burned toast smell reigned supreme.

We were so concerned about Kirsten coming home and catching us putting the ice cream layer on the cake and smelling the cookie, but it turns out she didn’t come home when we thought she would. We even had Zoe stand on a chair while Kristin and I hurriedly spread ice cream around and crushed Oreos. But no Kirsten. She came home much later, after all the evidence had moved.

So technically it was all for nothing. But it wasn’t all for nothing. We made memories.

And she was surprised by the cake.

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