Monday, November 22, 2010

In three days, I'll be eating Turkey.

Holy Cow.

November 22. Really?

I'm exhausted today. So tired that I could crawl under the desk and sleep all day. I was this tired on Friday, Saturday, yesterday, and again today. I think the semester has finally caught up with me. Luckily, in two days, I'll be headed home to get some much needed sleep.

So what am I thankful for this year? I'm not sure where to start. I mean, I try to make a list of a few things every day that I'm thankful for. I think that I'll look back on this year and say "It was the best of times, It was the worst of times." But I know I've written that before. It seems like we can look back on every year and say it was the best of times and the worst of times. That's probably why they let Dickens be considered a classic writer.

Right. Thankfulness.

1. Dirhk. At the beginning of what was quickly looking to be a crappy summer, I got a little pick-me-up. Dirhk is my 1990 Acura Integra. My grandfather and my uncle invested a LOT of time into fixing it, and for under $1000 bucks, I had a perfectly good car for zooming around in. It had 42k miles on it when I got it. I've made a few trips back and forth from Ohio, I've been back and forth from Knoxville to home several times, and I go between Knoxville and Oak Ridge at least once a week. Then, the car was able to provide for me even further when I was able to hock the title so I could afford a new laptop when Boomhauer made an untimely exit.

2. Cousins. Boat loads of them, it seems. And by boat loads, I mean 11. At times this summer they stressed me out and had me hiding in dark rooms, but I love them SO much. I played cards and video games with Aunt Christylee's boys, and I cuddled with Olivia until she couldn't stand me anymore. As for Uncle Chad's brood? I actually kept an eye on them a few times, and we did things like hide and seek, playing in the woods, watching a show about people in prison, 3 straight hours of America's Funniest Home Videos, ghost stories on the History Channel, cereal for dinner one night. And then there were Aunt Michelle's three. The older two and I went shopping, watched New Moon, ate at the World's Most Magnificent McDonald's, and gossiped. They remind me so much of Hannah and I. And then, there was Arianna. We played kitchen a few times, and then she helped me pack to come home and she tried on my clothes. I wish I had a picture of Arianna wearing the top to my "baby suit".

3. Chad. Where do I start? This chapter of our story started about this time last year and came to a close in August. August 27th marked a new beginning for the two of us, and I am so thankful for a second chance at us. I mean, I don't even quite know what to say.
Somewhere I lost him, but he came back to me, and I thank God for that. I love him, and I always have. He and I are going to see Skillet with Toby Mac, and also Relient K in the coming weeks. He says he wants to go to Dollywood and see the lights. We've been to Norris Dam; we went hiking in the Smokies. We've been swimming, we laid around at his place. We've visited our families and eaten at a little out of the way diner. We saw Harry Potter together and tried to pass out Halloween candy. We make each other laugh until we cry. And sometimes, we sit on the couch, drinking coffee and watching Castle. I don't need much more in life.
I hope you don't mind, that I put down in words, how wonderful life is when you're in the world - Elton John
4. The family. No, seriously. I know that everybody is thankful for their family. But honestly, mine basically rocks. It's like a three ring circus. We make each other laugh, and we're super close. Somehow, it seems like my mother's running a comedy club and an advice column from the same place, and I wouldn't trade this sitcom-ish life for anything.  Even though it's different now since Hannah is in Jackson and we're sort of spread out, we're still close. I can't wait for all of us to be together in the next month. There is food to be eaten, board games to be played, laughs to be had, movies to be watched, and presents to be opened. I love the holidays, and they're quickly becoming more precious each year; it won't be long and it will be one of the only times we're all in one place.
4a. Nana. Yes, Nana gets her own paragraph. She's like the funniest old lady I know, whether she means it or not. She doesn't consider them cuss words until you've taken the Lord's name in vain, she spies on her neighbor, and talks about the most inappropriate things at dinner. Then, she sends Papa home to his apartment (a stone's throw away) when she wants it quiet again. I love that old lady!


Back to work, there's stuff to complete!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sometimes, God just jumps out of the bushes.

What a day. Most of my best days start with me tweeting about having a ton of stuff to do, being stressed and unreasonably tired and overworked....and then something happens and the day turns out more amazing than I thought.

Today wasn't anything too out of the ordinary at first: I had class, I needed to speak with professors, etc. I also was wanting to go cover a story about a newspaper for the homeless. It's call the Amplifier, and it's sponsored by Redeeming Hope Ministries here in Knoxville. Each homeless person who is registered to be a vendor buys the paper for 25 cents each, and then turns around and sells it for the dollar. He pockets the 75 cents plus any tips he might make.

After scheduling meetings with professors for tomorrow, I came back and called the ministry so I could speak to the pastor in charge of the Amp, Eddie Young. I drove over there and began talking to him about how the paper came to be in Knoxville. Eventually, they hope to have the paper be primarily written by the homeless community.

Oh right...How did God jump out of the bushes?

I've always wanted to do some homeless ministry, always. I've just never had time or didn't know how to get involved. Last night I dreamed of a homeless person in a wheelchair. Today, I saw a homeless person in a wheelchair. I'm telling you, the Lord throws us huge hints. The homeless and journalism? Holy cow. It just got dropped into my lap. They need people who know how to write and edit for now. They need people who might be able to do some work with inDesign and other graphic design. And the homeless themselves? They just want to share their stories, to have somebody treat them like people. They just love to talk.

Sitting in that minister's office with the homeless (he called them "our friends") hanging out in the next room, I felt God urging me to volunteer my time. What time, God? You know I'm stretched thin. Needless to say, I told Mr. Young that I'd like to get involved over Christmas break since I'll be in and out of Knoxville through December. I can write if they need be, and I can edit, and I can teach the writing to anybody who is willing to learn....I can go all the way back to third grade grammar if I need to. I just want to help them meet a need. I want to know their stories.

I talked to a man named David, who grew up in Greenback. His family is long gone now, it's just him and his sister, both of them homeless. David was perched on a rock wall outside the church, drinking a coffee. At 48, he's been homeless for two years after a back injury left him unable to hang drywall, a job he'd been doing for 28 years. After the injury, the doctors wouldn't clear him for work and he had to sell his house. When it was all said and done, he had 800 dollars in his pocket. David wore a gray jacket and a Coca Cola T shirt, and beneath his weathered skin and bearded face, brilliant blue eyes looked back me. He told me that he hopes people know that not all of those homeless people are lazy. He said he'd work every day if he could find a job. I believe him.

So that's where I am. This dropped into my lap today. I once prayed that I would honor God with my written words. I'm almost without words over the sheer awe I feel right now at the Creator who introduced this to me at the right moment. Oh Lord, I don't want to let You down.

I think sometimes that we're afraid serving God means that we'll immediately be sent to a hut in Zimbabwe to eat gross food and be sunburnt all the time.  I think He wants us to serve in an area we're passionate about.

Sometimes we're walking along and we're not even paying attention, and God jumps out of the bushes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Life, like a good book, often comes full circle. - Richard Paul Evans

This feeling doesn't have a name.

I can't call it PMS because it isn't. I'm not sad. I'm not disappointed. Maybe this is angst. Yeah, I think I'm going to call this one angst. It itches. I think.

I haven't had much time to write any fiction lately, which makes me sad since it's almost National Novel Writing Month and I'm simply too busy to keep going. That makes me sad. Amy and Fletcher still have so much ahead of them. I've had a year to mull them over and think about them, and there's still so much to tell.

How can it be that I turn 21 in just a couple months? How can it be that it's already been two months since Chad and I got back together? He makes me smile. And I could try to talk about how he really makes me feel, but it won't do it justice.

In April of 2009, I wrote down an idea for a story that  I had....basically a guy and a girl were going to be split up for the summer, and through a series of misfortune, they were going to realize that they were right for each other after all. I knew something big would have to happen to get that guy and girl back together. Fast forward a year and six weeks. Chad and I were about to break up. I had to turn in a final story for my fiction writing class, and I wrote a story of a guy and girl who break up and it takes him until right around Labor Day to know he'd made a terrible mistake.

Fast forward to August, two months ago: Chad and I began spending more time together, and really talking things out. By Labor Day, we were back together.

I don't believe in fortune telling, but sometimes I think God gives us hints about the things to come.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

There are things that drift away, like our endless numbered days

What a day yesterday. Things went all wrong, I was cranky, in a foul mood and out a good chunk of change by the time I finally dropped myself into the recliner at Chad's yesterday afternoon.

It was long after we'd had dinner, but shortly after Jeopardy went off that my phone rang.

Darien was calling. That's a fairly odd occurrence. Normally he just texts me. I answered.

"Where are ya?"
"Oak Ridge," I answered.
"Oh. Well, Chase is leaving tomorrow, we're down here in Knoxville."

How had I forgotten? I'd known for a while, but somewhere in my craziness that is my life, I forgot about Chase and the Air Force.

"I'll be there soon," I answered.

I found them in a lower level of the State Street parking garage, behind the Regal Riviera theater. Chase's curfew at the hotel was 11 last night, and he, his family, Darien, and their friend Derek had already been downtown for while. They'd been to dinner, walked around Market Square, so on and so forth.

I pulled up and they were mostly piled into the bed of Darien's truck, shooting the breeze. If we had parking garages at home, they would surely do what we did last night.

I joined the crew in the bed of the truck and for an hour and a half, we proceeded to laugh until we cried. It was as if it was still just another day in high school, or middle school for that matter, just like lunch time and pretty soon the bell would ring and we would go back to class and have to wait and finish our frivolity after school or over the weekend.

How was it that last night, the boys I've been friends with since the seventh grade are suddenly men? Do they see me now as a woman? Weird thought, especially since I've always just been one of the guys. We used to stay up too late and sit around at somebody's house. But it was okay, we could go home and sleep late and life would be the same. Last night we stayed up too late to say goodbye to Chase on the last night before he left for basic training. Tell me that isn't the mark of being adults.

.... No, instead, tell me that Chase will always be okay.


It's 1:30 in the afternoon now, I'm sure the bus or plane or whatever he was riding in to go to Texas is now long gone from Knoxville. Chase told me that his recruiter says that if he graduates on time, he should be able to get home for a couple weeks around Christmas. That's a good thing. We'll need to round everybody up for some board games or lighter fluid burgers...or perhaps the harassing of a bag pipe player. Darien and Chase have always been my BEST partners in crime.

Our lives are so different now. I wound up here in journalism, Darien wants to work for the TBI, and Chase is on his way to the Air Force. Somehow, we grew up, and it didn't even hit me until we were sitting in the bed of the truck last night.

And there it was, a brief moment in time, for things to be like they'd always been, before we had to split again and go back to our real lives. Go well, my friends, both of you. I love you both as brothers, as much as I loev my own brother.We may not get together often, but know that I still laugh out loud when I think of our (mis)adventures. Not many girls get the chance I did. Growing up was bound to happen, but I'm sure glad I grew up with you.

“Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what's to come. But that night, I think we knew it was time to let go of what had been, and look ahead to what would be. Other days. New days. Days to come. The thing is, we didn't have to hate each other for getting older. We just had to forgive ourselves... for growing up.”   - The Wonder Years
 

Friday, September 10, 2010

September

It's been two months since I blogged last. I went back to Ohio, stayed longer than I expected, things came up, I came home, I moved back to Knoxville and was immediately up to my eyeballs in life.

I'm doing well. Actually, I'm doing about three trillion times better than well. I am fantastic.

God provided. My prayer all summer was that if Chad and I could be happy, that I'd keep him. Of course, I also told God that His plans are better, and to ignore me if I was fixing to walk into a trap. There was no trap. Things are slow-going for now, but maybe it's better that way. We have a lot to rebuild.

I'm the assistant news-editor for www.tnjn.com. I'm also involved in a class blog that is most likely going to link itself back to here. I was at first hesitant to let that happen because of the possible ramifications of people finding out you're a person of faith. I've heard it argued toward other people, "You can't believe a word they say! They're dumb enough to believe in God!" Hopefully that will not happen to me. If it does? Well, so be it. Following Christ was never going to be an easy thing. We were never promised that. But hey, if you're here and you've got questions, hit me up. I'll answer them the best I can.

I'm still working in the library. If journalism were to ever fall through, I would be a librarian. This job is awesome in many ways, and I am thankful for a job that allows me to pay the bills and put food on the table.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Old Paths - Photo Text Assignment from English 364

This is a photo text, inspired by Wright Morris. An English professor assigned two of these last spring in which the instruction was to find a photo, and then write about a character based on the photo. I knew immediately what photograph I wanted to use. This is a picture of an old store in Sharps Chapel, Tennessee, on the Union County/Claiborne County line. This store has also been on WBIR's Heartland Series at least once. 

The Old Paths
 
            Jack Kennesaw was born in the country, worked and lived in the country, and swore he’d die there as well.
            He owned 20 acres in a valley between two hills near Norris Lake. There’d been more in the family before that damn TVA came in, but that’s another story. He’d had offers of over half a million dollars for his 20 acres, but he wasn’t selling it. Contractors and developers wanted to put subdivisions near the lake. There wasn’t a chance in the world of that. Jack had worked that land too hard to give it up. He’d praised and petitioned the Almighty for just enough to provide for the family, and there wasn’t enough money to convince Jack to sell.
           Time marched on and technology advanced, but he fought tooth and nail to preserve a way of life that was quickly being replaced. “Stand ye in the ways,” the Good Book says. “And see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” The old paths are the ones Jack lived on, but he hated to admit that his soul was not always rested. Tourists coming from every which way to visit the marina meant carloads of sightseers tearing up gravel roads they couldn’t drive on. Out in town, the shopkeepers complained of increased theft and the rudeness of people who couldn’t understand that the country just runs a little slower.
           To his disappointment, Jack’s children didn’t want to stay home and work the land. They left and got jobs in the city, urging Jack to go too. But he wouldn’t have it. Until the last breath left his body, he’d be keeping the old paths.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Welcome back, July.

It's been 7 days since my last blog. Summer creeps in even though the days are technically getting shorter. June is gone. Welcome back, July. Life's a lot different from the last time you were here. "Five hundred, twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes"...How do I measure a year? Good question, Jonathan Larson. I don't know how I'll measure the last year. I know I laughed a lot. I prayed often. I spent too much money. I worked too hard. I wasn't in church enough. I loved with all I had; I was too naive. I drank a lot of coffee. I didn't drink enough water. I studied more than I ever have in my life. I've been closer to God than ever before.

Was it a waste? I mean, praying and laughing never hurt anybody. But what about the rest? There are some things I considered to be concrete that just weren't. There's a song that Jewel sings called Stephenville, Texas. She says "Everything is temporary if you give it enough time." That's the truth.

Where am I now? Well. I've got tons of time to think about everything under the sun. I've decided that I don't like Nicholas Sparks anymore. It's like I told somebody the other day... I only hate Nicholas Sparks because I never pictured myself as the one who gets left out in the cold. The other part of that, is that sometimes our best writing springs from the worst pain. Would I trade my words in for an easier go in life? I don't even know.

All in all, I have become even more aware of the fact that God has provided for me perfectly these last two months. I'd been saving money to spot Chad any he needed to help get settled in an apartment until he got his first check. Obviously, that became a non issue, but I still had a good chunk of change. Dirhk (that's my Acura's name) was dropped into my life. And by the grace of God, I had enough money to purchase, license, and fix the car. Then, I still had the money for insurance and the cell phone bill with a little left over for gas. Praise God. Then, it occurred to me that I didn't have the money to buy the parking permit or groceries when I get back to Knoxville. I was thinking that I'd have to wait until excess aid came out before I could take the car to Knoxville, and I still wasn't entirely sure what I'd do about grocery money. God saw that though.

Friday, Darien called and said they needed help in the fireworks tent. While they've not needed me this week, I worked about 12 hours last weekend. That's earned me enough to get groceries to carry me from August 16th until excess aid distribution on the 25th.

What about the parking permit? As it turns out, my Vol Card can be used to purchase the permit. I'll just need to tell them to put enough into my Allstar account to pay for the permit. I'll have access to Allstar funds on August 16th, so that's when I'll move back to Knoxville. Class starts the 18th.

God provides. Satan still tries to destroy. Ya see, I look at what I've been given, but I also look at what I've lost. And there's a part of my mind that wonders "Well, look at what I lost. God took care of me in other ways...but what else am I gonna lose? I can't just take a consolation prize for everything, God. I can't do it!" Steal, Kill, Destroy. Satan wants me to be afraid of what God might have me to do. I think it's too easy to forget that God wants us to be blessed and happy. He tests us, but he doesn't mean for our lives to be miserable. Taste and see that the Lord is good, says the psalms. Satan wants me to be afraid of what God's doing. I believe that God has greater plans than I ever dreamed of.

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:24