Moving on.


This 82 degree weather is a little too appropriate for the last few days of living in this apartment. When we moved in, my mom described it as hot with “buzzard choking humidity.” You know it’s bad when buzzards are mentioned. I’m still not totally sure what those are. Oh, it’s a bird. Thanks, Google.

I’m not known for having a neatly organized space, but as I take apart the furniture and lamps and start packing boxes, all chaos has broken loose. Around 8:00 last night, there was much clanking of metal poles as I took apart my clothes rolling rack that was functioning as a closet, so the chaos has a noise dimension, too. If you multiply this picture by about 12, you’ll have the status of our apartment right now. Such is the nature of moving. (don’t multiply the toes in the bottom left by 12 though, just the mess)

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It’s interesting to inhabit a temporary space, to make something your own that has actually belonged to hundreds of other people. Maybe they even decorated better. Or named it something better than AL’s Pancake World (but I highly doubt it because Gilmore Girls references typically win). And more people will live here after you if the crack in the ceiling doesn’t bring the place down. We’re just here for a short time, receiving shelter from the elements and sometimes from responsibilities, sleeping in metal-framed beds with vinyl mattresses.

I’d like to know how many pancakes were eaten here, how many slices of pizza… (have I mentioned how much I LOVE pizza?!? Even if we only ate one pizza per week we were here, that’s still 256 pieces.) How many to-do lists were written in a moment of overwhelming stress? If I write it down, I can do it. How many times did the shower turn on us, switching to either a glacial or volcanic temperature? How many times did we smell smoke of the inhaled varieties wafting up from certain neighbors’ windows?

Then the real question: how many times did we walk up and down the three flights of treacherous stairs?

I guess the answer to all those questions is: enough. We did it all enough. We ate enough pizza (debatable). We made and completed enough to-do lists. And now it’s time to move on.

Saturday morning will see me and my parents rolling back on to Minnesota after we fit every last thing into the car with leg room to spare (cross your fingers, will you?). Moving right along to whatever’s next, both the things I’ve planned and the surprises God has in store.

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Bus driver trust.


Today I’m taking the megabus to St. Louis. It’s an experience all about efficiency, so I have two inches in front of my knees. It seems there aren’t too many people keen on going to St. Louis or Memphis today, though, so the bus isn’t full, and I have a row to myself.

Travel always brings on at least a little anxiety for me. It’s just normal, the questions of will my alarm go off tomorrow morning? And will the construction on the brown line keep me from getting where I need to be? And will I find the bus stop since it’s moved for construction? All these difficulties surmounted, I’m on the bus and can relax.

The megabus people, though not excessively friendly on the whole, are so impressive. No need for pleasantries, and these are the rules. No, you can’t check two bags without another ticket. Yes, we are boarding through the back of the bus. Answer the same question three times in a row, as three people come up successively to ask the same thing.

I’ve got my home for the next 6 hours. It’s a seat in the middle at the top with an outlet.

Affirmation and presumption.


I’m writing a memoir. I know, it sounds presumptuous that I have anything to remember in my 21 years of life. Really, it’s presumptuous to write a memoir at any age because it assumes that someone will find your story valuable.or interesting. Or both.
I suppose that reasoning also makes blogging presumptuous.
I’ll have to claim it.
I met with my creative writing advisor tonight at Starbucks. We get 15 minutes with her every month. You’d be surprised what you can do in 15 minutes.
I came to the meeting with trepidation about finishing, wondering if the story about family and loss I have to tell is even interesting. When you spend enough time with your own work, it starts to feel old and dull, like you’re pouring out mothballs instead of fresh new work.
She likes it. She had ideas and constructive feedback and thought I was doing well.
Sure, I don’t only write for people to like it and tell me they do, but gosh was that affirming. I left the meeting and looked through her comments as I walked to the train.
You see what I’m reading? I wanted to tell the people I walked by. This is my manuscript. My heart swelled a bit, thinking that maybe I was holding paper with some value. Better not let the wind blow it away.

Springing into break.


Time to blog from a bus again. Brooke and I have been on here since noon, and fortunately the ride had been fairly uneventful. We’ve done some productive things, read a little, and I took two naps to bookend the trip.
Now we’ve got less than an hour left and are driving into the last little strip of raspberry sunlight at the end of the highway.
It’s almost all black now.
We’ve had sister time for the first time in a while this weekend. Of course it was mostly about the food and the book stores, but we walked all over Chicago to do it.

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We ate Chicago style pizza and enjoyed the thaw from the frozen windy barren land Chicago has been this winter. 5he sunshine lit our walks, and we bought more books than we needed.

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Well, you always need more books, but we don’t really have time to read them right now. I think buying books is like saying you believe you have a future with free time where you will read them. It’s optimism in action.
We just crossed the state line into Minnesota, so it won’t be long now.
I didn’t really do much on the bus, but I look like I’ve been on one for a while. It’s the strange, horrible power of buses that it gives you a look. Not an altogether desirable look either.
I’m headed into a week entitled, “spring break” with quite a few plans and to-dos. It’s less of a break than precious years have been, but there’s something to be said for being home. Someone else will probably feed me, the laundry will just be 14 stairs away instead of a billion treacherous ones, my bed won’t squeak when I move.
The excitement builds.
I think I only brought one pair of jeans, but I have creabelis, so that’ll be fine. I packed in such a scatter brained stupor after walking around the city all day (we topped 13 miles this weekend for sure) that I’m sure I forgot something important.
All I know is I’m leaving my winter coat in Minnesota. I’ll shiver as much as I have to. I’m not wearing it again til next winter.
Ah, homeland. The sights out the window are getting more familiar by the minute.
Let the spring break commence.

Jesus and the Trilogy.


I was going to take a picture to let you know what my train looks like right now, but every picture I framed wasn’t interesting enough to be the feature image. It certainly wouldn’t make you want to click on my post and read it. So we’ll skip the picture.
Shortly after I claimed my window seat in St. Louis, the sun streaked out of the sky, leaving pink and yellow clothes behind. For a while, it was the epitome of what I love distance trains. It was sparsely occupied, the lighting was peaceful, and I had the whole journey before me.
People always mess things up. Of course, the point of a train is that you travel with lots of other people. That’s why it costs so much less than taking a cab. For me, the train is a sacred place, much like a library or a church. You wouldn’t talk above a quiet tone in the stacks or the middle of a service, so why would you allow your children to run down the aisles and explain your life in a tone far louder than necessary to the person next to you?
Shhhh, it’s holy here.
But holiness doesn’t mean quiet. And it doesn’t mean taking people out of the picture. Jesus lead a holy life, right? And he spent most of his time right in the thick of people, righting wrongs – none of which was telling to to be quiet unless they were being oppressive with their words.
He wasn’t a pious shusher. He didn’t get stuff about his space. He put a towel on his lap and reached for his disciples’ feet.
I went to the cafe car because I knew I wouldn’t make it all the way home without sustenance. The lady manning the counter there called everyone one of three endearments: darling, hon, sweetie. But she asked my name when she told me it would be about five minutes and told me to have a seat. I sat down and pulled out my book while I waited for my pizza to get out of the oven.
“Are you a reader, Ashley?”
A connection point. I never sacrifice a moment to talk about books with people who seem interesting. And you’re likely interesting if you travel up and down the Amtrak for your job.
Eager eyes, smile, “yes, I am.”
“Have you read the Trilogy?”
Trilogy, trilogy , which trilogy? I haven’t read a trilogy called The Trilogy, but I have read a trilogy.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Shades of Grey?”
Oh, no, most definitely not, and it goes against everything I believe in about women and sexuality and God and the value of people and I sure as heck will not ever read it, and you wouldn’t catch me dead watching it.
Oh, no, I haven’t read that.”
“It’s real good. I’ve read them all, and I’m excited to compare it to the movie.”
Someone came to the counter wanting a beer, so she held up a finger to me, and I started on my pizza. A bad decision, really. I burned my mouth, but oh well. What’s done is done.
She got the man his beer, and she came back.
“Yeah, but the Trilogy is real good. Erotic, you know. You seem like a good girl, Ashley, so you probably haven’t read them.”
She went on, talked about how educational they could be for me, and the specifics of why she likes it aren’t really that unique or important. I swallowed my opinions and tried to make general comments that showed that I value reading and don’t judge her for what she reads.
Currently, she’s reading a Steve Harvey book; she tries to mix it up.
Then a girl scout troop came in with their leaders, ironically enough, wanting to hear about her job on the train, so she out up one finger to me and started telling them about her work.
I finished my pizza, and she was still educating them on the cafe car, so I quietly left the car.
I wasn’t thinking about what Jesus would have said to her about her book choices. I’m not sure what he would have done. Probably something of the “Go and pick better choices of literature” variety.
As long as there are people in the world, I’ll always have something to think about. As long as I interact with the world around me, the more I have reason to keep learning.
It’s not the idealistic train ride, but it’s much more interesting.

Training times two.


I’m on the CTA again, taking my first L ride of the new year. As dirty and crowded and unglamorous as the trains can be, I love it. I love having someone drive me around a familiar path while I read a book and feel the wheels churn on the track below me.
As familiar as this train ride from the northern end of the brown line to the Loop is, I’m venturing into unfamiliar territory today. First, I’m taking Amtrak to St. Louis. I’ve been there before so it’s not too unfamiliar, but my reason for going is a sales training for my job.
I know.
I packed for a sort of business trip yesterday, wondering if it was appropriate to bring my stuffed bunny with me.
I’m almost 21. God has brought me into a job during my college years where I have a reason to go to a sales training. How did that happen? It certainly wasn’t by my wonderful qualifications. I always marvel at how – even though I have a decent resume – the opportunities God brings my way rarely have anything to do with what I’ve already done. Not directly, at least. That means I’m nearly always unqualified.
Plus, I haven’t even finished my degree yet so that’s another part of it.
Last night, Liesel and I spent a solid five minutes having a fake argument in Italian accents, and this morning I got up before the sun (by about a half hour… Don’t be too impressed) to travel for work.
We probably shouldn’t make it sound that official. It’s just one sales training, and though I will feel out of place, I certainly won’t be the center of attention. It’ll go on like I fit there, like I am qualified to be there and not just a little upstart who doesn’t know what the heck she’s going to do with the rest of her life… Well, not for sure at least. There are too many possibilities at this point.
I’ve blogged about this before, probably a lot, about how I’m young and clueless, but God doesn’t seem to understand that I’m unqualified. Or maybe he understands better than I do.
This is why I can’t make a five-year plan, guys. Because I can’t even plan past five months.
So,  flying by the seat of my pants, and God is taking me places I didn’t know I’d ever go. Today, that place is St. Louis.

Smooshy season.


It’s that time of the semester where I get all smooshy about my family and home. It is now a perfect place where everyone basically hugs me all the time (I’m hug-deprived, especially family hug deprived) and there is lots of coffee (not coffee deprived, but it’s always better when my dad makes it) and love and conversation and happiness.

Also, I’m dying to get a haircut. My head is starting to resemble a Christmas tree, which is not the goal, believe it or not.

Nostalgia sets in. My family has been cleared of all faults or annoying habits. They are perfect people, whom I miss so much. I’ve got a countdown til I see them again. 17 days, just over two weeks. Then I’ll remember that though they are wonderful, they are imperfect, and it’ll be lovely.

Either way, I get lots of hugs then.

College provides so many opportunities – interning, learning around every corner, new people, new things to be involved in, growth galore, independence, but it doesn’t include much family for me. There’s a few phone calls per week and some “I love you! I miss you!” texts in the mornings, but it’s a poor substitute.

The farther I go and the longer I stay away, the more I’ve realized that home is where my heart is, and my family holds my heart.

Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Obsessions and tea.


Hi there. Last time we talked, I was hoping I didn’t have a cold and had drunk about two cups of tea already that day. Well, the next day I upped the number to six and kept it up on Saturday to basically just drink tea all weekend.
I also gargled apple cider vinegar. So now my cold is on its way out of town. Funny thing is that I had just been telling someone about how I had a great immune system now that I’d actually started eating other forms of protein in my vegetarian diet.
Pride cometh before a cold.
So, the cold is on its way out, and I’m on my way back to normal.
I tried to get up earlier this morning as a start to a commitment to spend more time alone with God. I ended up snoozing until ten minutes before my normal alarm.
Well, it’s a start.
This is real life. Maybe I’ll make it to twenty minutes earlier tomorrow.
My roommate and I also have a severe obsession with pizza. I use those intense words because it really is that dire.
We talk about pizza almost every day. And when we don’t have a frozen pizza we have both been known to admit that we’ve both been fighting the urge to order it all day.
Yesterday, Liesel made pies. While the oven was preheating, I could smell the pizza cheese burning on the bottom of the oven.
“Oh, it smells like pizza.” Hear the desperation in that tone.
Liesel laughed. “Oh, this sweatshirt smells like my ex-boyfriend. No, it’s ‘Oh, the oven smells like piiiizzzaaaaaa.'”
It’s a big deal.
We think frozen pizza is underrated and that thin crust and slightly spicy sauce is next to godliness.
In other, unrelated news, the guy sitting next to me on the L (who can hopefully not read my screen), is carrying a teenage mutant ninja turtles mug and a banana.
I’m sure he’s a fabulous person.
That being said, I wish you a happy Monday full of pizza, tea, and interesting encounters.

No one else can play your part, a prayer on suicide prevention day.


We’ve wondered why we hurt, Lord. Some of us more than others.  And there have been days where we thought it might be better to leave it all behind. God, we’ve been in darkness.

Bring us your light. Meet us where we are. Remind us that you knew us before we were even thought of, pre-utero, before our parents were born or met each other, you knew us and had a purpose for our lives. Remind us of that, because sometimes our vision gets short-sighted.

Let it be now that you carry us. Send us your people to show us how valuable and needed we are. Send us someone to remind us that you are present in pain and that your power is made perfect in weakness. Touch our hearts with hope, God.

If there’s anything we can’t manufacture ourselves besides salvation, God, it’s hope.

Press into the pain, Lord. Bring light to darkness. Bring hope to the hopeless.

You’ve done it before, and we ask you to do it again. Remind us that no one else can play our part.

Chicagoan.


I’ve taken a step this year to be more of a Chicagoan: taking the L to work. I and hundreds of my closest friends do this every day via the Brown line. Others do it on the Red line. The thing we all have in common? We’re paying $2.25 for a seat on a train that may or may not leave on time and may or may not give us a communicable disease.
Little is certain when you use public transportation. Oh, you changed the bus routes just for today? Oh, this train is an express to somewhere I don’t need to go? Oh, this station is closed?
Oh, we’re stopping for “signal clearance?”
At least the view out the window is pretty constant. There’s nothing quite like the Chicago skyline and all that surrounds it.
I and my commuter friends rarely talk, except for that time last week when I sat next to a chatty woman who happened to be a fashion designer. She gave me her card. And sometimes we joke about the strange things that happen or how packed we are when you have to stand shoulder to shoulder on the red line on the weekend nights.
But most of the time, we ignore each other. And it might be okay. We’re letting each other have our quiet, peaceful commute in our less than comfortable seats on this slightly jerky train.
It’s a gift, most days.
Sure, I’m always at least five minutes late to my internship because that’s just how the train schedule works, but it’s not a bad ride.
It’s an initiation into the city people group.
Welcome, the first step in membership is to have sirens around you all the time. The next step is to always feel like your hands are less than clean. Third step : take the CTA multiple times per week and assume the correct posture and behavior. You are on your way to becoming a bona fide Chicagoan.
Considering this is only week three, I’m guessing I’ll have many more moments like this. Yes, I spent a year and a half here before I went abroad, but I think Chicago makes you start over.
Here’s to readjusting.