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Wonderings and wanderings from yours truly

"Don't adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. someone else always has to carry on the story."

Resurrecting Old Notes from the Nokia: Chicago Trip

(These notes are from a Winter Break Chicago trip with Nate and Tommy, 1-6-2016. My first time on an Amtrak train, and my first time going to Chicago specifically to sight-see.)

The train seats two people next to each other on each side. Tommy and Nate are sitting in front of me, because I have a book and thought I could keep myself occupied. But I’ve finished my book, and now I’m reaching a mild stage of boredom. There’s little to see outside because all of the trees have dropped their leaves in preparation for the winter, and the snowfalls up until now have left the landscape cold and brown. Two men beside me hold a rapid conversation in Spanish, which makes me wish I could speak more than basic, survivalist Spanglish. I’m going to text my mom and tell her what my plans are for the day. A day trip to Chicago to begin 2016: who would have guessed that I would become such a traveler after only a year “abroad” in Iowa?
I’m not coughing anymore, but there’s still something in my throat. I can feel it when I take a breath and when I clear my throat (as I frequently do, even on normal weeks). I don’t know whether to believe Ally that this is as serious as she thinks it might be (try diagramming that sentence), but in any case it’s getting better.
We should reach Union Station in a half hour or so. I don’t know what we’ll do when we’re there, but there’s plenty of opportunities to have adventures in Chicagoland.

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What to Do with Visitors Who’ve Never Been to Campus Before.

Note: This applies to me in regards to personal visitors: that is, people who come to campus with the specific purpose of visiting and spending time with me. It could be used for any purpose, honestly, but this purpose is my own.

 

Go to Lamars. Blue Bunny.

Go to Hull. Foreign Candy Company, little coffee shop beside the Subway (“Le Meiullers” or something much like that).

Go to Sioux Falls. Hibachi, Hu Hot, etc. All kinds of food places, anywhere you go. Get your ears pierced in the Empire Mall. Wander the mall hallways and take selfies with all the hats you find.

Go thrift-store shopping. Rock Valley has Nearly New Town, Sioux Center has Melissa’s Hope Chest, and more.

Go star-gazing. Preferably when it’s not late fall or winter: it can get really cold in Iowa during the autumn months. Bring a blanket, a dog, a friend…something to keep warm, or at least someone to complain to about the coldness of the weather. In the same vein, stay up late enough to watch the sun rise. In fact, that’s what I’m doing right now…

Take your visitor(s) bowling in the basement of the Dordt College Campus Center. It’s not so easy to let someone unfamiliar to the campus entertain themselves while you’re in class, but if you leave them alone then it is likely they will find the Game Room at some point during a few hours of intensive exploration.

Take a walk through the Prairie. This may fit with star-gazing, or sunrise-watching, or just as an opportunity to catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a while.

Skype someone. You may come up with ideas of things to do while you chat with someone else who may or may not have been to the state as well.

Go to the Fruited Plain. From personal experience, I recommend not making a new friend walk all the way there in the deep midwinter: it’s much colder and much farther than you believe!

Hike to “The Palisades.” Somewhere around here, I think. I’ve never been, so.

Reminiscing…

What was my favorite part of the summer? My favorite moment, the moment that I would use to sum up the entirety of these three months, and the moment that I would choose to remember if I was to forget everything else.

I actually have an answer for this one. Surprising, right?

To begin, I must explain the setting. A friend – Yannick – “housesat” for a family in his church for a week of the summer. The family was fairly well-off, and the house was huge: tall staircase, two floors and a big basement, and a stellar pool in the backyard. The pool itself wasn’t so incredible – rather small, actually, and no deeper than five or six feet throughout. But the best part is yet to come: it was heated.

Late one afternoon, Yannick invited his summer posse (under the permission of the vacationing family, of course) to visit the house and “party.” The important thing to know is that an engineering major international student’s version of “party” involves hanging out with friends, drinking tea, and telling stories. And to be honest, that’s how I spent most of my free time that summer. So maybe that’s my definition of “party,” too.

At first, I was skeptical. I may have been well on my way to getting to know this group of people, but was I really one of them? Would I really enjoy myself at this gathering? But truthfully, I could find no real excuse. And with no real excuse and a self-diagnosed “fear of missing out,” I agreed to go. 

The next few hours can perhaps be described in sounds rather than images: meeting the dog (aw); house tour (ooh’s and aah’s); in-pool volleyball and swimming (splash splash, maybe a few drippy hair flips courtesy of Gomes Uno); practicing flips on the trampoline (thuds, bounces, and a few victory shrieks); star-gazing with Ellen-chan (more ooh’s and aah’s); brief discussion on the financial crisis in Greece (huh); more swimming (brr’s and more splashing, some threats to Yannick’s life and future); setting a fire in a little metal firepit (crackle crackle); quick dinner courtesy of Gomes Uno (yum); suitable beach-mood relaxation music courtesy of I-Brad; and a few episodes of Band of Brothers (gunshots and screams). All-in-all, a beautiful evening; the most beautiful and memorable evening of the summer.

Alright, so maybe it wasn’t so comfortable being half-in and half-out of a room temperature body of water in the chilly air of early fall. Maybe I couldn’t watch every scene of Band of Brothers without closing my eyes through the gory shots. Maybe the dog was a little annoying, with a habit of following you into the bathroom and refusing to leave even as it tilted its head and lolled its tongue adorably at you. 

But every blue day has a cloud or two, or three. The best part of learning to appreciate life is looking at the good through the bad, staying positive and seeing the best in the worst. At least, that’s the most naive part of my philosophical interpretation of life.

Resurrecting Old Notes from the Nokia: Road Trip Reflections

 

(These lines were written on the road to an English Education conference in the Fall 2015 semester of my sophomore year.)

On the road with three English majors and two English department professors. It’s dark, very dark, outside. Too dark to do much but sleep. Or, if you’re me, you drop in and out of a dozy kind of sleep as you listen to the two talk in the front seat and shotgun.
The funny thing is, they’re making me reflective. So very reflective. As they rant and rave over snow tires and cars that they’ve fixed up time and again, they remind me more and more of my father. The way that they talk over each other even while they’re listening to the other’s conversations and following each other’s train of thought. The way that one clears his throat after every other sentence. Even the way that one laughs, with a kind of “Ah-heh-heh-heh” sound bubbling up from inside his throat and squeaking through nearly closed lips.
I miss my dad sometimes while I’m out at Dordt. I miss my family once in a while, honestly. I really do. Do I ever tell them that? I hope so. But not that I can remember.
They discuss cars like I discuss theology, or linguistics, or English. They discuss cars with the depth of knowledge and experience that they discuss English with, as well! My father is probably one of the smartest men that I know. Ask him to solve a math problem and he’s stumped. Tell him to find a website and he’s lost as a deer in headlights. But give him a practical problem, give him a mechanical issue, give him a broken anything and he’ll fix it. He’ll fix anything he can put his hands on. In his own time, of course.
He didn’t go to college. He didn’t get married right out of high school. What was his life like? Did he love before my mother?

Suddenly, one brings up the topic of conversation that they began with, nearly two hours ago. This is beautiful, simple and wonderful and complicated all at the same time.

They talk about their children. How their children call them sometimes even though they’re all married now. “His wife makes him call, we know it. Talked to him on the phone for an hour and ten last week.” The pride in their voices. “They’ll call me and tell me exactly where the sound is coming from, exactly what lights are on in the dash…” “Makes you proud, doesn’t it?” “Yep.” Insert chuckling here. You ever hear the phrase “Get a parent started talking about their children and they’ll never stop”? It’s true. And it’s wonderful.

To-do Blog Ideas: Beginnings

If I’m really going to be keeping up this blog by publishing as much as possible, then I need inspiration and motivation. Aaaaand that’s where Pinterest comes in. Well, Pinterest, and this reminder post. When I have nothing else to write but I really feel the desire to work on my writing skills, then I’ll do my best to use these ideas and pieces of advice to keep me on track.

Thus, in no particular order, behold the inspiration! Behold the guidance!

  1. ADVICE! Okay, so to be honest, I’ve sat uninspired at this number for a good few minutes. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that I’m also watching Youtube videos while I write this. Hmm, perhaps that’s it. So maybe the first piece of inspiration for the future me should be, “When writing, stay focused. No music, if the music is distracting. No watching anything else, if the writing is important and on a deadline. Keep your mind on one thing at a time.”
  2. IDEAS! Look up writing prompts and write stories to fulfill them. This will develop my creative writing abilities by experience, as well as offering a good start to building a portfolio kind of thing. Every author has a distinct style, and often a distinct diction, of their own. By grinding out writing prompts, I’m bound to eventually discover my particular style of writing and wordplay.
  3. IDEAS! Yesterday, I found a little red book on my shelf that I must have bought some time ago. It’s called “What If,” and it’s really just a bunch of “what would you do” questions all put together under themes and sub-themes. If I’m ever starved for ideas, I could always open the book to a random page and answer one of the questions. I wouldn’t necessarily have to make my posts long and wordy, either: on a journal blog like this, my posts can be as long or short as I like. It’s more of the thought that counts…

So, that’s not much of a post, but it’s a beginning…for now. I may come up with new ideas and create new posts on this topic later. Only time will tell! Until time does tell, here’s to wishing you a blessed Sunday and a magnificent 2016.

Puzzles, Bruises, and Benedict Cumberbatch: How to Properly Begin 2016

My first notable act of 2016: finishing a 500-piece puzzle that I began yesterday. Of a gazelle. It was a rather nice gazelle, indeed.

My second notable act of 2016: finding out that the elbow bruise I sustained a few days ago by slipping on some ice onto a concrete barn floor has turned many lovely shades of purple and blue (lots of prepositions make for very long sentences). I’ve never had such a magnificent bruise, nor such an unimpressive story to attach to an “injury.”

Perhaps my last notable act of January 1, 2016: Watching the latest episode of my favorite modern detective show as it premieres across the country. Sherlock: The Abominable Bride premieres tonight. Right now, in fact. At this moment in time. As I write these words, I’m watching and listening to the show intently and Skype-chatting with a good friend as she “fangirls” with me about the wonderful that is this show, this series, and Benedict Cumberbatch. So many incredibly talented costume designers, actors and actresses, etc etc. The references to the other episodes hit me right in the fangirl-feels part of my brain every time. And the quotable quips in every scene…beautiful stuff. I can’t wait for this to be on Netflix so I can watch it again, at least twice and perhaps more, in time. I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect for this episode, more than a year after the prior one, but I am enjoying this immensely. Quite honestly, I am SQUEAKING at parts of this premiere. IF Moriarty appears, I shall very likely keel over and curl up and fangirl intensely for a few seconds. Also, more than likely that I will be talking with a faintly posh British air for the next week or so.

Other memorable moments of today, perhaps more suited to a Facebook status than a journal blog: Discovering a fruit tea that I actually don’t like. Watching and critically narrating a movie that was more of an allegory than it meant to be, and more trippy than any PG movie should ever be. Wishing a Happy New Year to a a new-old friend. Writing my first blog post in ages. Doing the first bit of writing that I’ve done in ages. And so many tiny, short moments that may not have been so memorable to me, but may be memorable to others in this crazy, complex, emotional world of ours. A look, a smile, a “thank you,” the smallest sign of recognition or respect. Anything can mean something to anyone. Too vague of  statement? Perhaps, but perhaps not…

Words of the Day: Prance. Cloud. Confinement. MORIARTY.

Why I Won’t Miss 2015

Perhaps not so strangely, I don’t usually listen to the radio. The most radio time that I’ve gotten in the last few months has been a few good weeks of binge-listening to Welcome to Nightvale. A good non-country radio station is pretty scarce in Iowa, especially in the small towns like mine. Besides that, most radios these days are in cars, and I don’t usually drive while I’m on campus. (One nice thing about the small towns is that nearly everything is within walking distance, but that’s the beginning of a list for another time…) It would make sense, then, that I’m not really used to radio hosts.

Today at some time of the day, I found myself driving down some highway on my way to somewhere, with some pop-and-indie, Bieber-heavy station playing on my car radio in the background. Suddenly, a voice cut through the lyrics. A radio host, announcing her list of “Why I Won’t Miss 2015.” I tuned in (puns are always intended here) for the time it took for her to list five fairly vapid, uninteresting reasons that 2015 was a year to be crossed off the books and forgotten. Her reasons consisted of pop culture references old and new, such as “So we won’t ever have to see anyone do the Whip ever again” and “Because we can finally say goodbye to Taylor Swift.”

Well, as useless as her list was, it did inspire me to write my own list, as the first (perhaps the first of many) of my “journal” entries of 2016. And so, without further ado, my list of reasons that I won’t miss 2015:

  1. What’s to miss? Seriously, why would I miss 2015 when there’s so many new, exciting, unknown experiences to be had in the year of 2016 that is to come?

In other words, I may think back on the memories. I may wax nostalgic every so often about the experiences I had, the people I met, the classes I took, the books I read…you get the idea. But I won’t miss those experiences, because I’ll have the memories. That’s the purpose of memories, after all: something to keep, to hold, to share when you feel like “missing” things.

I don’t wish that 2015 would happen again. I don’t wish I could go back and do it over. I don’t wish that my 2015 experiences would happen again, because I’m too busy living in the present day of 2016 and too busy thinking about the 2016 experiences and memories to come.

So, perhaps you have a different definition of “missing” than I do. But I don’t miss years gone by. I live in the now and the what-will-be, informed by the once-was and the what-has-been.

“Today I don’t feel like doing anything…”

“…I just wanna lay in my bed. Don’t feel like picking up my phone (even if I could, because my phone’s been having major issues recently), so leave a message at the tone (beep)…”

So goes “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars, also known as today’s song of the day. Because, to be quite honest, I really don’t feel like doing anything today. This just might be the first Saturday of my whole sophomore year when I haven’t had something to worry about, or something planned for later for which I should be preparing. It’s a magnificent feeling, but strange.

Sometimes, I have the need for days of just chilling with my roommate and doing nothing except sitting around, listening to odd Spotify playlists, watching movie trailers for movies that have already come out, and letting her make Snapchat stories of the odd way that I type (hunting-and-pecking style – sorry, 6th and 7th grade typing class teachers).

Life is hard, and living productively can take a lot out of a person. Everyone needs unproductive days.

Even this blog post is too short to be considered productive…

This day is mine, for doing nothing. When’s yours?

Continued reflections on why I bother blogging.

Blogging about things makes me feel better about them. This is such a strange phenomenon for me. I’m not the kind of person who shares me feelings freely and openly unless you ask me to. If you ask me how I feel about something, I’ll be honest. Brutally, refreshingly honest.

But a computer can’t ask me to share my thoughts. A computer can’t say, Oh, Ashley, please do tell me and the entire internet how your day went and what you felt about that situation and the most recent guy you’ve fallen for. A computer can’t care.

Then why do I write? Why do I put my thoughts down on the metaphorical paper of a personal website? Why does it matter to me to express myself here, when I know there are people around me who would love to be there for me when I need to rant and rave?

I’m not alone. I’ve never been alone in my life – not really, even when I feel like the whole world is against me. I have friends and a family and faith in a God who listens to my prayers. Why do I need a blog?

Maybe that’s what writing is for me – a prayer. Maybe these blogs are opportunities for me to speak with God without closing my eyes and folding my hands.

Maybe I leave most of these posts public because I feel there is something to learn from them. Maybe it’s just easier. I don’t know. Maybe this blog is a replacement for the emptiness of being single – because, yes, I am a happy and healthy single person, but sometimes I feel like there is something missing in my life.

Honestly? Your guess is as good as mine. I like to believe I have a blog so I can practice my writing, but we both know (because if you’ve found this blog, you must either know me pretty well or you must think me worthy of stalking – Hello, yes, how are you, I’m alright and you must know that I’m flattered, but seriously just ask me if you have any questions about me because that’s what face-to-face communication is for) that’s probably not the whole truth.

There’s always something deeper, and there’s always some purpose just below the surface.

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