Goodbye Waves and Driveways

Posted: July 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s crazy to think that I’m at “that age.” The age where a lot of my friends are getting engaged and married. It seems so common.
But even more common are the couples I know in long distance relationships. Myself included. I know it happens a lot with college, people going home for the summer and what not.

I’m really starting to hate those drives to the airport. The goodbyes at the curb, where I’m sure the other drivers are like “can you please stop kissing so I can pull in?” Everything feels so rushed, just like how your week together flew by.

Long distance relationships have a lot of tears, a lot of texts, a lot of waiting around for calls, a lot of periods of silence followed by periods of extreme chatter and updates.

What you miss out on by being so far apart physically, you try to make up for in words. But it’s never quite enough. You can’t hold hands via Skype, and all the “I’m sorry’s” in the world cannot replace the long hug you need after a bad day.

Yet at the same time, Ben and I are making our relationship stronger in these seasons apart. I find myself praying for him a lot more when he’s far away. I take the time to make packages to send to him. I find myself longing for meaningful conversations instead of just cuddling.

Distance builds substance. It builds trust. And it makes moments together much more special.

And distance is only a season. Always remember that, friends. Being away from the one you love is not permenant. I’m resting in that as I wait to hear from Ben that he has arrived safely.

We are using our time apart to become the individuals God wants us to be, so that we are two whole people, making up one companionship.

I will see Ben again in about 3 weeks, and I know some days I will feel like Penelope, pining for Odysseus for years and years. But other days, my perspective will alter, and I will realize that we will one day have our whole life to spend together.

And that is worth the wait.

My Picks of the Week

Posted: July 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

So I have decided to start blogging about things that I like/find interesting/want to recommend. I will try and do so weekly, and as a result bring this long-forgotten blog back to life. ENJOY!

 

ASHLEY’S PICKS OF THE WEEK: JULY 9TH, 2011

Products:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Neutrogena Grapefruit Cleanser

As a 22 year old who still struggles with acne, I find it rather annoying to have to spend money on special kinds of face washes, lotions, and peroxides. The trouble with all of those products is that they smell like alcohol and all the other unpronounceable chemicals located under “ingredients.” However, this face wash is actually very nice. It smells, well, like grapefruit. I got the cream cleanser, and so far, it is very gentle on my skin. I may even get the scrub and the other members of the Neutrogena grapefruit family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Clean & Clear Morning Burst Body Wash–Pomegranate & Orange Zest

I love this stuff. Not only does it smell like a Jolly Rancher, but its scent really “wakes you up.” It has tiny scrubby beads and thus cleanses and fights breakouts. This is great if you get acne on your chest, back, or arms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bath & Body Works- Into the Wild lotion

And finally, in case I am worried that I may not smell enough like the fruit section of a farmer’s market, I give you the Bath and Body Works Into the Wild lotion. This line not only shares a name with one of my favorite books, but it has a delectable, tropical smell that has an edge to it. Like all B&BW lotions, it goes on smoothly and isn’t greasy. Into the Wild also comes in body spray, shea butter, and body wash. I’m a fan.

Movies:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Swings Kids

Starring Christian Bale and Robert Sean Leonard, this 1993 jitterbug film is actually really compelling. It tells the history of a lesser-known group of youngsters in Nazi Germany. These kids, known as the Swing Kids, opposed the Hitler youth, and were obsessed with American big band music. They held dances in secret, and tried to steer clear of the HJ’s. Very moving with some toe-tapping fun.

BOOKS:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Northern Lights by Tim O’Brien

I fell in  love with Tim O’Brien after reading The Things They Carried.  This novel follows a similar storyline, as O’Brien tells of 2 brothers–one who went to Vietnam and one who didn’t. O’Brien himself was in Vietnam, and his novels are basically historical fiction of what he experienced. A great read for gung-ho pro-military Republicans or social-justice loving Democrats. Just kidding. But really, it has something for everybody. Great discussion builder.

MUSIC:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Simple Math by Manchester Orchestra

I’m really proud of them for putting out a solid new album. Sometimes good bands have a bit of a fallback. But Simple Math did not disappoint me. I wish I were better at analyzing music and giving specifics, but all I can really say is give it a listen.

 

Art:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Mother and Child by Kurt Hasley

I’ve loved Kurt Hasley’s work since I was in high school. They used to sell some of his stuff at Urban Outfitters–not sure if they still do. But his drawings and paintings are always so cute. He does cartoons, mostly of couples and animals, and often adds cute phrases. I would suggest checking out his website and ordering some prints. His animal pictures could even be cute to decorate a baby’s room!

 

FOOD:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
String Cheese

It’s summer, we’re busy with activities, so we sometimes have to grab a quick snack on the go. String cheese is perfect for that. It’s healthy and easy. My personal favorite is mozzarella. I also enjoy pairing it with grapes or pita bread.

 

Hope you enjoyed my picks! Give them a try and let me know what you thought of any of them!

Black Swan Movie Review

Posted: February 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

I saw Black Swan last night, and as promised, I am reviewing it. I decided to make 2 categories- things I liked about the movie and things I didn’t like.

Disclaimer: may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it and do not want details, do not read.

Other disclaimer: I won’t be talking about the sex scene because I’m indifferent to it in the grand scheme of the film.  So do not expect a moral compass criticism. This is strictly concerning Black Swan as a film, a story, and an art.

First of all, I went into the movie having no in depth knowledge of the plot. I thought it would be better that way. I had a rough idea of what it was about, but that was it. I have seen other films by Aronofsky, so I knew I was getting something dark and intense.

 THINGS I LIKED:

1. The subject matter

I am thankful that someone finally made a film that addresses the physical and mental strains of ballet culture. The competition, the pursuit of perfection, the uncertainty and fragility of the career, it’s all there. We know that the filmmaker is trying to tell us something about life.

2. The execution of characters

I thought that everyone played his/her role very well. They looked the part and acted the part perfectly. Winonna Rider, for example, playing the washed up, retiring ballerina was very fitting 😉

3. The cinematography

With any Aronofsky film, you’re going to get a lot of shaky camera angles, short flashes of action, dismal colors, all of that. The thematic black/white contrast was present throughout the film, which I loved. I also like the way that the camera angles focused so much on the human body. I don’t see the choice as necessarily perverted. I think that it makes the audience look at the empirical, anatomical, biological side of this world, and how important it is.

4. The following of the story of Swan Lake

 Cliche or not, I appreciate movies that follow a classic storyline. The way that Nina’s story paralleled the story of Swan Lake set up the plot nicely. Nina’s evolution (or devolution) into the Black Swan was great. Even though we were told how it would end (“The Princess kills herself”) it makes an otherwise strange and twisty plot make more sense.

5. Psychological aspects

I liked how the movie addressed several psychological disorders and presented them in a very eerie, unexpected light. Ballet is so cavalier and refined, but there is this dark, inner world where the 2 selves are at war. If you are a psych major, see this movie.

THINGS I DID NOT LIKE

1. We could not trust the protagonist

Because Natalie Portman’s character was mentally unstable, she became a difficult character to root for, and eventually I wasn’t sure whether I was witnessing reality or Nina’s fantasy.

2. The mother’s character

It wasn’t her characteristics that I had a problem with. I just think that the buildup of the mother was very anticlimactic. The movie set her up to be a lot more psycho than she ever turned out to be.

3. The paintings in the mother’s room

I thought that they seemed a little out of place, and the fact that she painted was never really addressed or relevant (until the paintings started talking to her.) Still, it felt random.

4. The ending

I feel like the ending, while it followed Swan Lake, could have been done better. I wanted more of a twist, involving Mila Kunis’ character and her jealousy. For an Aronofsky film, I expected it to be darker. Instead, it was just tragic. It worked, but I would have liked something bigger.

I have decided that a blog updating my life is in order. For all of the friends and family members who want to know what I am up to but never really get to catch up with me, this is the post for you. I will try to cover as much as I can, and categorize happenings for your convenience.

THIS SEMESTER:

School has begun, and I am taking 19 credit hours. It’s a lot, definitely more than I have ever taken in one semester of my college career, but I am confident that I can do well and hopefully get straight A’s again. I’m taking 4 English classes, a General Psych class and a science lab. I am also working part time at the writing center, so my weekday schedule is obviously very booked. The good thing about all of this though, is having class with the greatest professors ever and spending time with my awesome classmates and friends. It’s a cliche around here, but Vanguard is such a tight-knit community and I cherish the friendships I have here dearly.

WRITING:

All Christmas break, I slacked on writing overall. I have wanted to produce a new novella or short story or something for quite some time, but life happens and writing is always the first thing to go when things get busy. I am really excited for this semester though, because my classes are going to force me to write. I will have to write 3 plays (and/or possibly a screenplay), and many creative essays in my travel writing class. Outside of class I am trying to do some random stories when I think of them, and I make sure to at least journal on a regular basis. I am always finding inspiration, I just need to cultivate it more.

FRIENDS/RELATIONSHIPS

Like I said, I have the best friends here at Vanguard, and I couldn’t be more blessed. My roommate Vanessa is still the most fun, understanding, patient, hilarious person I know. And of course there’s Ben. We are doing really well, supporting one another as we journey on in our creative endeavors. He has his senior recital in March, so he’s gearing up for that, and he graduates in May. I’m really proud of him. We have a very fun relationship, and we love hanging out with friends. A note to everyone: we are always up for a fun double date, or an adventure with friends, or a quiet evening in a coffee shop discussing philosophy. We love third wheels and fifth wheels and we are regulars at the Irvine dollar theater so PLEASE hang out with us!

GOD

This semester is definitely going stretch my understanding of trust. With so many plans up in the air, I have to let go of certain things and give God control. That being said, I want to be very proactive in my relationship with him. I want to commit to doing devotions and really delving into what I believe. He really is the foundation and the source of everything in my life, and I need to acknowledge that more.

WHAT’S NEXT?

After this semester, I will not graduate, as many of you know. I am totally okay with that though. I love learning and I want to make the most of it. I do, however, care very much about getting my credits in. This summer I plan on taking a few classes at a junior college to finish up all of my general ed, and then hopefully I will only have 1 more semester at Vanguard and can graduate in December 2011. HOPEFULLY.
This summer I want to stay in California, gradually making my way into permanent residency I hope 🙂 Right now, I am a little stressed about finding summer housing and a summer job since the writing center is only open over the school year. I am trusting that God will open doors so I can find roommates and an apartment and a way to make money. Please join me in praying for this too.

As far as AFTER Vanguard, that is still a long ways away, but I have some ideas. All in all, I want to get a Master’s Degree. I’m just not sure yet if I want it to be in English. (Ahh! What?!) I know, I know. After last semester, I realized that yes, my passion is/has been/will always be writing and literature, BUT, I do not feel called to teach. And the biggest reason to get a Master’s in English is so that you can teach. But my passion lies elsewhere. Last semester, I took a Theology class that totally blew my mind. Since then, I have not been able to shake this yearning to learn more about God and everything in that realm. I would, ideally, love to get my Master’s in Theological Studies. I would still incorporate my English degree and writing skills though (incorporating theology into books, stories, plays, etc.) Vanguard has a good Master’s of Theological Studies, and incredible professors, so that’s an option, but Fuller Theological Seminary (which has a branch close by in Irvine) has a Master of Theological studies with an emphasis in the arts. So that would be my dream grad school. And like I said, this is all quite a far way away at this point, but it never hurts to prepare and pray for things like this. So please pray for my direction in all of these matters.

Hope this clears some stuff up. If you have further questions about my life, don’t hesitate to e mail me. I love you all so much and I am honored to have you all in my life. Thanks for your support. Continue to follow my blog. I promise the next posts will be shorter and more entertaining!

Love Ashley

Since my last post was a little cynical and annoyance-driven, I’ve decided to yin the yang and make a list of Christmas songs that I find enjoyable.

10. Silver Bells
I’ve always liked this song, because as someone who has always lived in the “country,” I’ve never experienced Christmastime in the city. This song makes it sound so much fun though. The “old-timey” feel of the song is really cool too. Vintage. 😉

9. The Little Drummer Boy
As a learned scholar of the New Testament, I know that historically, the little drummer boy did not exist. (Taking a NT class greatly crushes the Christmas story for you. You find out that there was not a inkeeper, there were not just 3 magi, and that Jesus wasn’t even born in a manger.) HOWEVER, I love what this song REPRESENTS.  It shows how we can come to Christ with humility and give him something of worth, even if it is not “material.” It brings to light how our attitude should be during the holidays when giving gifts.

8. Do You Hear What I Hear
I didn’t like or care for this song much, until I heard my favorite band Copeland perform it. After that, I loved it. I just love how it shows the way that news of the messiah’s birth traveled so quickly. Listen to Copeland’s version here if you haven’t yet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKmthzqn_LE

7. I Saw Three Ships
I love the tune of this song. It’s so original. It reminds me of a children’s book. It’s so simple and easy to understand. Sufjan Steven’s version of this song is really pretty too.

6. The Carol of the Bells
I’m sure everyone likes this song. It can be done so many ways and it always sounds so beautiful, whether it’s an acapella choir or an electric guitar. It’s sung quickly, but if you listen to the words, they’re genuine.

5. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
I’ll use 2 of my friends’ reasoning to tell you why I like this song. First, my friend Sean once said that some of the most beautiful theology can be found in Christmas music. I agree with that here. This song tells of why we celebrate Christmas. It’s a good reminder if you ever need one.
My other friend Kyle said he likes this song because it’s in a “drinking song” tune. And it really is. You can hold a mug and swing your arm to it. I like the idea of old, burly men in a 16th century English tavern happily singing this song on a snowy night. I just do.

4. Handel’s Messiah (The Hallelujah Chorus)
I love this song simply for its lyrics: “Hallelujah.” Hallelujah is a word that I have recently come to love and revere. I want a tattoo of the word somewhere. Its meaning is simple- Praise God. Worship is something that I am always trying to deepen and “master,” and this word, though sung over and over in this song, never loses its power for me. It’s the perfect response for God giving us Jesus.

3. Baby It’s Cold Outside
Though overplayed, I really do enjoy this song. The Vanguard Barbershop/Beautyshop quartets did a great job singing it at Christmas Fantasia, by the way. I love guy/girl duets and I think this one is just fun to sing along to.

2. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
I love this song A LOT because it’s different than most Christmas songs. It’s a Christmas song that has an eerie, darker feel, as opposed to an uplifting optimistic message. It’s a plea for God to ransom captive Israel. It addresses the world’s need for a savior. If you want to hear a truly beautiful version, watch/listen to it here, done by the Franz Family: http://vimeo.com/8321379

1. O Holy Night
O Holy Night has been my favorite Christmas song for a while now. I just love the tune and the words. I get chills every time I hear it performed. It’s a hard song to sing, and the high parts sound truly divine.

As you all have experienced, radio stations, shopping malls, church services, and other public places have been playing holiday tunes since Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong, there are many Christmas songs that I find gorgeous. I am by no means a Grinch or a Scrooge, but after hearing the relentless carols everywhere I go, I can’t help but to focus on the negativity sometimes.

With that, I give you my list. 10 Christmas songs that I absolutely cannot stand, and why.

10. Santa Baby
Okay, I’m not sure if I’m just old fashioned, but last time I checked, Santa is an old man. A mythical man. An endearing, father-like figure. Thus, any and all suggestively sexy songs about mistletoe action with Old St. Nick are hardly appropriate. Let’s not forget the fact that this song is overplayed and almost always sung by a woman with an annoying baby voice.

9. All I Want For Christmas Is You
I want to meet the person who told Mariah Carey that it would be a good idea if she did a Christmas song. All I want for Christmas is for her to stick to mediocre pop songs, and leave cliche love lyrics out of the holidays.

8. Feliz Navidad
Relax, I’m not making a racist or ethnocentric comment. What I don’t like about this song is the fact that Americans sing it like they are suddenly so open to Spanish culture. I think it’s equally annoying that the song stoops to the level of ignorant Americans in its chorus by switching to English (“I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart”) Jose Feliciano, if it was really coming from the bottom of your heart, it wouldn’t be so patronizing.

7. Have A Holly Jolly Christmas
Does anyone know what a “Holly Jolly Christmas” actually is? Does anyone know what a “cup of cheer” is?

6. Jingle Bells
Besides this being a cliche song to sing and play on the piano, I have a hard time believing this song. Is it really FUN to dash through the snow in a one horse open sleigh? Because I’m betting it’s really cold and bumpy.

5. All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth
This song may be cute, but wait until you are a child who just happened to lose her two front teeth around Christmas time. Relatives will sing the song to her until her ears want to fall off.

4. The Christmas Shoes
I’m sorry, I know this song makes mothers cry when they hear it. But honestly, I could have written this story when I was in elementary school. It’s not that touching or revolutionary.

3. Last Christmas
This song is basically about a guy who needs to get over the girl who broke his heart last year. If I wanted to hear that, I would just creep Myspace blogs of sixteen year olds on Christmas eve.

2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
This song wouldn’t really be that annoying to me, if it weren’t for the ECHO parts. I’m not sure who started this trend, maybe some girl scouts around a campfire, but I cannot stand it. I have a physical reaction when I hear people sing along and shout out “like Monopoly!” I actually cringe. Can reindeer even play Monopoly? Good luck picking up that dog game piece without an opposable thumb, Blitzen.

1. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
As a grammar nazi, I am immediately put off by the verb in the title. But I can move past that. What I cannot move past is the fact that a guy (with a really annoying voice) decided that the Christmas genre needed a song dealing with death. This is an upbeat song about a (rather ridiculous) accident in which the grandmother dies. I am bothered by the storyline of this song on many levels. First, the only “lesson” that these people have learned after all of this is that there IS such thing as Santa. (Not caring for the elderly or mourning a loved one.) Second, the only thing the family members seem concerned about is what to do with Grandma’s now useless presents. A closer look at the lyrics shows that this family is rather dysfunctional, Grandpa especially, who seems to take his wife’s death a little too well. Finally, it always bothered me that no one walked or even, I dunno, DROVE Grandma home instead. Aside from all that, this song takes a good two weeks to get out of your head.

Bittersweet Symphony

Posted: December 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

Today was the “debut” so to speak, of my short play, “Timberline.”

I wrote it about a month ago, and for my final for Creative Writing, I had it staged.

It’s about 2 quarrelsome brothers, “Reeve” age 21 and “Oliver” age 16 (if you get the reference, you have good music taste!) who go to chop down a Christmas tree.

The whole process was new to me, but I loved it.

What I enjoyed most was watching the play actually come to life. Finding actors, watching them rehearse, and then actually seeing them perform it.

My 2 actors, Jacob and Josh, did such a great job. I am really proud of the end result.

The audience gave positive feedback overall, and people loved my concept.

Now that it’s over though, I’m sad.

I think I see “Timberline” as my first child, in a way.

It was my first experience in writing plays, it broke me in. I have a love and special place for it in my heart. It will always be the first. But then I am planning on writing more. I’m taking Playwriting in the spring, so I know there are more to come, and I will be better at writing them because of the experience I had with Timberline.

Here is an excerpt recorded from an iphone. It doesn’t do justice to the experience of actually BEING at the play, but it gives a little bit of an idea, so check it out! (Plus, my actors are such cuties. Josh plays Reeve and Jacob plays Oliver.)

This shows the really revealing/dramatic point of the play, and Jacob nailed his monologue.