Parts of my heart.

I’ll be home in about eight and a half days. There’s a lot of cognitive dissonance behind that statement, partly because I still don’t understand how air travel works (ya get on the plane in one place and get off in another… what?) and partly because there are so many pages to be written and little tasks to complete before I can leave that I feel the time must be longer.

But it’s not.

I find myself breathing a little deeper and walking a little slower and gazing a little longer. I’m trying to soak up the “old world” feel and whatever other intangibles make Graz the place it is. I’m trying to figure out how the heck I can fit all my belongings in my suitcase again… and have it not be overweight.

I just wrote three paragraphs asking myself where “home” is, but it got rambly, so I deleted it. It seems to me that the more places you go and the more people you meet from other places, the more your heart gets spread out. I’m sure this is true to a greater extent for TCKs and people who live in more places for longer periods of time, but I’m 20. This is what I’ve got.

And you’re still a whole person, you just have to reach farther to feel parts of you. Oh, that part of my heart is in Costa Rica. That part is in India. I left that part in Budapest, even though I was only there for a weekend. I know. I fall in love quickly. That part’s in Panama. That part that’s shaped like a baguette in in France. That part’s in Upper Austria. That part’s in Salzburg. That part’s in Chicago. That huge chunk is in Minnesota. That part is in San Diego. That part is spread out on every mountain I’ve ever been on. That part’s in Graz.

I think this is good, even though there’s a sort of fragmented sense to it all, because you don’t have to look in just one place to find yourself. You can find yourself just about anywhere. You see your reflection in the people all over the place, and that helps you to connect.

That might not make any sense. As I’ve said earlier this week, I’m running out of words. I’ll have to get back to you on this later.

With that, I’d better fuel up and use my remaining store of words on my Gothic Fiction paper.

Bells and echoes.

The church bell rings every fifteen minutes here, a tradition carried on from the time of no watches or cell phones to check the time. It rings out and echoes into the quietly busy city, the sound waves rushing along cobblestones and bouncing off stucco buildings.

Do words ever ring like that for you? Bouncing through the synapses in your brain, thunking against one side of your skull and then the other?

I didn’t volunteer to read much in my creative writing class this past semester because I didn’t know how to share something I wasn’t sure was good – not just good but good in a new and exciting way. The whole semester was a struggle against self-doubt, an attempt to muster the confidence I’d felt at some point in my life… when was that? what did it feel like?

But there are words that ring in my ears to combat the doubts.

I sat in class like every other day, not volunteering to read what I’d just scrawled out in the five minutes we were given for an exercise. My professor asked for volunteers as always, only picking people if no one offered. I made unfortunate eye contact with her at that moment – only unfortunate because everyone knows if you make eye contact when the professor is  asking for volunteers, you’ve just volunteered.

“Ashley, will you read yours?”

“Oh, did I just volunteer myself?” slight laugh, slight blush, stirring in my seat to pick up my piece of paper sheepishly and read what I’d written.

“No… I just know you’re a woman of courage.” She said it like she was sure, with a friendly expression that almost put me to shame for not wanting to volunteer in the first place. Maybe it was she who had the courage.

I don’t remember what I read or what the reaction was (but it wasn’t tomato throwing or intense booing, which is always an encouragement), but I remember those words.

They echoed in my head.

On days where I didn’t think I could get up because getting up meant living and walking and moving and talking… and feeling. On days where my breathing is constricted and there’s something sitting on my heart that makes it beat more frantically. On days where newness causes wide eyes and frozen facial features and tight abdominal muscles.

I hear that over and over woman of courage… You’re a woman of courage. I know you’re a woman of courage. I know you’re a woman of courage.

I’m sure she has no idea how those words have buoyed me, how they’ve bounced around in my brain, reminding me of something I’m not always convinced of. Perhaps, in this case, someone else believing it (or saying they do) and hearing it over and over again has made it true of me. Perhaps, in this case, I have been courageous because someone told me I already was.


A few weeks ago, I sat at a soccer game with Liesel and Travis. Travis follows my blog and seems to like what he finds here. So, during the time we were at the game, he sat next to me and pointed to everything within view, “Hey, Ashley… you should blog about that.” “Goal posts?” “Yeah, it’d be great.”

Then somebody said, “facetious,” and Travis jumped on that. “Facetious, you should blog about that!” Of course, Liesel responded by reminding us both that it’s one of the few (or maybe the only) word where all the vowels are present – in order. Oh baby. And if you make it ‘facetiously,’ then the not-always-vowel ‘y’ is in there, too.





1. not meant to be taken seriously or literally: a facetious remark.
2. amusing; humorous.
3. lacking serious intent; concerned with something nonessential, amusing, or frivolous: a facetious person.
1585–95; facete + -ious; see facetiae
Can be confused: facetious, factiousfactitiousfictionalfictitious.
Facetiousness is on the same level with sarcasm, though The Common Parlance says this about the difference:
So, the difference appears to be that facetious is a comment that is cute and not hurtful, while sarcasm is irony intended to taunt. Of course, many mask sarcasm in the guise of facetiousness, so as not to offend (as much).
I wonder where facetious and sarcastic belong in my life. I wonder where I should put them. I’m sure a facetious comment about how cooperative our sink is being to the physical plant guys would be appropriate (but they’re too focused on fixing the sink for me to interrupt them). I’m sure a sarcastic comment to a random passerby about how much I love the fact that they’re wearing leggings as pants would not be a very Jesus-like way to act (even though leggings are NOT pants).

Facetious is like the diplomatic cousin of sarcasm. It’s the sweeter, less bitter version. I think I like facetious.

This post is dedicated to Travis, for all his support and goofy inspiration. 

Reading backwards.

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 9.52.25 PM

I looked all over the word search for the words listed.  They were all sports words, and most ended with “ball.” It should have been easy to spot them.

Granted, I was trying to make phone calls simultaneously, but, still – I’m almost 19.  I should be able to handle a sports words search.  It wasn’t even that big.  The letters were all in English, my first and best language, the one that I know and love.

Turns out, not all the words are written left to right.  Sometimes, you have to learn to read backwards in order to solve the puzzle.

Tricky, tricky.

Backwards reading isn’t a common skill for people to develop.  They don’t teach that in elementary.  It isn’t a perspective that is typical (unless you read in Hebrew, in which case backwards reading is totally normal.  Keep on doing that.) or really even accepted.  If you went around speaking backwards or reading signs and books backwards, you would have a path of life that was radically different than other people’s.

But regardless of whether you learned how to or not, sometimes you have to read backwards.  Sometimes you have to flip your brain around and think differently.

That is, if you want to find all the words in your word search.


Words I like.

Trying to remember how Photo Booth works…

Oh, right.  We just press the button in the middle.  This, folks, is my new phone.  He/She will be helping blog on-the-go (apparently mobiley isn’t a word) and helping me moderate comments faster!  Hooray!

He/She needs a name, however.  And I would like to request your help in naming him/her.  It’s just so boring to refer to it as “my phone.”  And I want him/her to be personalized, to have a gender, to be my friend.

Suggestions thus far: Gigi (since she’s a samsung galaxy s2 skyrocket), my mom suggested naming her after the female astronaut…. but then we couldn’t remember her name, Charles – after my favorite author

That’s all I’ve got so far.  Comment with your suggestions and why you think it fits!

I’ll leave that alone for now.

I was in church yesterday – twice, which makes me a super-Christian, obviously – and during the evening service, I kept hearing words that I liked.  Maybe you can relate to this, hearing a word and thinking ooooh, yes.  I like that one. Because of meaning or sound, or how people never use it.

Some of these words for me are:

authentic – because it means real, and because it makes me think of being in an antique shop or art gallery. (post coming on church  about that!)

submerged – because it gives me a picture of coming out of a swimming pool as kid.  Being completely soaked, dripping water all over everything while I looked for my towel.  Also, it brings back fond memories of vacations and summers spent at the community center pool without a care in the world.

intentional – because it indicates purpose

uncommon – because that’s what I want to be.

I particularly love the last one.  Every time someone uses it, I feel my heart pound a little harder, like I know it’s my calling to be uncommon.  The word common just has such negative connotations for me, thinking about things that are called common: houseflies, the flu, cold, man, wealth of the bahamas…  Other than the commonwealth of the bahamas, those are all pretty undesirable or negative things.  Uncommon connotes creativity and ingenuity and innovation.

I think I would like that to describe me.  Feel free to use it if it applies.


I was going to have a mouthwatering picture of the cookies my mother has been tempting me with this afternoon, but, due to circumstances that are too dumb to recount, the picture is not here.  So, I want you to use your imagination with me.  You know those puffy sugar cookies with the thick frosting (usually colored in a bright color according to what holiday is coming up) that are sold at Target and Cub?  They’re the ones that kids love to bring in for their birthday treats, the ones that leave you feeling happy and fat.

Well.  My mom made those.  Out of a white cake mix.

I just polished off three of them, and I’m still waiting for the regret to sink in.



Okay, so maybe I just regret that I’ve already eaten my allotted amount of the top triangle of the food pyramid for the day and can’t indulge again later.

And now, in an effort to get my mind off of the container full of those delicious tempters, let’s reflect on failure.  It really isn’t a “nice” topic, per se, but I’ve been realizing how much of a failure I am the past couple days.  Now, don’t go feeling bad for me; don’t start thinking that I have no self-esteem and am going to go around hanging my head and always be on the verge of tears.  Healthy people are the ones who know that they are inadequate.  Even healthier people are the ones who see those inadequacies as ways for God to show how good He is.  To show that He redeems us in the places where we fall short.

Here’s an effort at being relatable: does anyone else have days where they feel like 90% of what they said was

a) pointless

b) seen as random by the person to whom it was spoken

c) incoherent or just not well though out

d) all of the above

That has been my week.  I’m sure that my late bedtimes and early wake ups weren’t helping me either.  I look back on how many things I said that were either a,b,c, or a combo of the three and just want to take a nap, to take a break from being conscious for a little bit.  If I’m not conscious, I can’t say stupid things.

And though the thought of just wanting to escape is enticing, the thought that God can redeem my speech to make it useful and powerful and glorifying to Him is much more inspiring.  That gets my heart pumping blood faster.  It makes me want to take care of my brain better to enable it function on a higher level, to go to sleep when my eyes plead with me to make a day of it.  My calculus teacher has the philosophy that “you can sleep with you’re dead!” — as an exhortation to us to stay up late doing our homework instead of skipping the extra problems for extra hours of sleep — but I think that if you don’t sleep, you’ll die sooner.  Which is, perhaps, the objective of those who refuse to sleep.  It isn’t mine though.

I feel like I’m sitting here, holding out my worthless or inappropriate words in my cupped hands, waiting for God to put His words in my mouth.


Realizations: 1,2,3

I stayed up til 12:30 last night, having realizations about curly hair.

This probably sounds ridiculous to you if you don’t have curly hair and don’t understand how it can be an enormous (literally) pain when it decides that it will succumb to the pressure of heat, humidity, and barometric pressure.

It’s temperamental to say the least.

But I’m learning how to tame it and make the most of my curls in this book (shameless promotion coming up) called Curly Girl.

And it even matches my purse.

and this book tells me to clip up hair that doesn’t want to curl by itself, so I did that…  with clips of the classy colors of silver and pink.

By the time everything settled down hair-wise, the effect was pretty good.  I’m just hoping that it doesn’t take this long every time I do my hair.

Realization number 1: I don’t want to straighten my hair anymore because it damages it too much.  Plus, God gave me curly hair – so I will learn to love and take care of it.

Today is calendar day.  I filled out my dry-erase calendar with all my existing commitments for September so I  don’t end up double-booking myself for anything.  Then I went to town on my planner and put every relevant event from the school calendar on it.

how’s this one for relevant?

This isn’t just a graduation that I will attend and sing in the choir for.  This is the one where my classmates and I will wear the royal blue robes, walk in to Pomp & Circumstance, and receive diplomas.  We’re the ones who toss our caps into the air for the cheesy picture afterwards.  We’re the ones that everyone will want a picture with because they don’t know if they’ll ever see us again.

Oh, goodness.

Weren’t we just learning to write in cursive together in third grade?  Didn’t we just have our fifth grade musical where some of the boys had to rap and I wore an angel costume?  Wasn’t it just a couple years ago that WE were the little sixth graders sprinting to classes because we were terrified of being tardy (whatever that meant)?  I’m pretty sure that I just got my braces off, not years ago and that I first went formal dress shopping much more recently than ninth grade.. three years ago.  And I’m not starting my seventh season of volleyball now, am I?

Time has sprinted on faster and faster every year, but those events do seem far away in some ways.  I was an awkward, gangly sixth grader who was taller than everyone. That seems far away since I have now learned to embrace my height.  Those braces added a metallic sheen to my smile and made flossing a horror that I never wish to repeat.  I barely remember how to use those flossers.  And now I’m taking that periwinkle dress from freshman year to consignment since the sentimentality has finally worn off.

I’m a different person than I was in those years in many ways.  You can measure the inches I grew until I stopped growing after 8th grade; you can count the pairs of shoes I grew out of (even though it’s a pretty high number); you can compare differences in makeup application, hair care, fashion sense, and orthodontic treatment, but the internal changes aren’t visible – at least not directly.  “MORE MATURE” isn’t written on my forehead. “MORE SECURE” isn’t on any of my t-shirts.

I still hope that the difference is stark.  That the change is apparent.

Realization number 2: I will graduate in May.

I’ve been thinking some more today.  (can be a dangerous thing sometimes)

You know how people say, “oh, I just really want to make this person feel loved!” or “I want to make them feel welcome!”  or “Let’s make that person feel valued and important!”

Make them feel.  Give an impression that makes them think we care or value or welcome.

Honorable as it is to want those around us to have high self-esteem and feel loved, there’s a slight issue that can pop up: is that genuine?  It’s fine and dandy to do things that make someone think you care about them, but if you don’t, really, does it do any good?  It may boost their self-image or make them more joyful for half an hour or as long as it takes for the comment to wear off.

What if I honestly, truly loved people?

Loaded question, right there.

Because I can’t truly love anyone without a heart change.  Without the transformation that God makes in my heart, my affection is worthless.  And along with that, then I have to figure out what true love looks like.  So it’s a good thing that Jesus came to earth and lived a life of love.  Call me cliché for saying it, but what if I really lived like Jesus did?

Realization number 3: Genuine love is more valuable than well-intentioned good deeds any day.

Now, I have to share some lovely photography of my breakfast with you.

It’s French toast, made with French bread and topped with cream cheese and strawberries.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s my half-birthday?  You don’t have to bring me gifts – just subscribe or comment and I’ll be a happy girl.

I’ll probably be happy even if you don’t because my mom’s making half a cake tonight.