Saturday, November 7, 2009

Entry # 9 --- Asking the Silly Questions

Ok, I admit it. I have not been good about posting in my journal. I have let myself become lazy about being dedicated to my writing. But because writing is in my blood, in my soul and in my heart, to it I will always return.

I have been reading my book about journal writing and it has really given me a lot to think about. One thing that jumped out at me while I was reading tonight was a question about looking at a room as if you were a child and to describe what you saw. It immediately took me to a similar conversation I had with David not too long ago. I was laying on the bed and letting my head hang over the edge. As I was looking up at the ceiling, I told David that I used to do that a lot when I was younger. I used to look up at the ceiling from the bed and imagine if the room were turned upside down, where the ceiling was the floor and vice versa. I used to think if that were true, the house would be so clean and simple. With no clutter and everything looking so pure, how unusual that would be. The memory in itself may sound silly, but it reminded me of how I don't think about things in life with that kind of curiosity anymore. I mean, I still ask questions and try to figure things out, but they are no longer of a simplistic nature. I just feel as though I have allowed myself to become so rigid and fixated on certain aspects of life, I have let the inquisitive part of myself diminish a bit. This has put some perspective in front of me. I want to start focusing on noticing the simple things. I want to ask silly questions, questions that may have no particular relevance to the "bigger picture." In some weird way, I think this new look will allow me to appreciate the "bigger picture" even more.

I think I will start by laying on the bed and letting my head hang over the edge... :)

Entry # 8 --- Thoughts on Life and Loss

Life is breathing, feeling, doing...... A gift, a chance, the only chance we have to do something meaningful... just inhabiting the earth doesn't make us's what we do while we're in it....the people we touch, the smiles we bring, the laughs we share, the hearts we warm, the lives we make better because we were here to listen, to talk, to inspire, to teach, to learn, to understand, to feel...... fear, pain, anger, loss are the curses of humanity......but we have to learn how to deal with those things....because, above all else, they exist and if we can make it through those things, we're that much stronger, that much wiser, that much more significant..... no one ever said life was easy or fair or not IS unfair, it is hard, and it is scary.....but it's also joy and happiness......and every time u lose a piece of any of those things, they appear again.....maybe not the way you want them to appear, but they are just have to make sure you keep your eyes open to those things....don't become blinded by the pain..... in time, you will find happiness again and you will feel a smile from up above and it will shine right through to your heart..... In this life, it's not what we lose that truly's how we react to those we react to anything that is thrown our way, good or bad, that's what makes us who we are. And that, my friend, is how we stand out in this world. Because everyone experiences loss in life....but not everyone reacts the same.....remember that.... maybe you don't think your life matters if you lose the things that you feel made you, you.....but remember that your life is constantly touching other lives....and as insignificant as you may feel, you might be everything to someone else....... the concept of 'you' might be clouded right now but i promise, you will be able to see you will catch glimpses of yourself from time to other people, in places, in sounds, smells, touches and slowly, piece by piece, you will come together just takes time..... But never deny any part of who you are because of the bad things that happen, because if you're not you, then it defeats your purpose and you owe it to this world, to God to be you, no matter how broken....

Entry # 7 --- Spirit Beyond the Pain

The pain I feel goes beyond words; deeper into the body, mind and soul than you or I could ever travel. Underneath the softness I have and the smile I wear is an agony that is indescribable. Layers upon layers of hurt, regret and sorrow plague my being everyday. What I show to the world is a mask, with a top layer that can be anything. But, when I am alone, the layers shed and I am once again, open, vulnerable, like a wound that doesn’t heal.

Despite all that, for one glorious instant, none of that mattered. I wasn’t playing my part, but the wound didn’t seem to hurt. I know it was still there, but never did I feel pain. What I felt was the part of me I tucked away so long ago, spring to life. I felt a joyous pleasure that I thought still remained untouched. It scared me, and it still does.

Today, I wore my mask again. And as I sit here alone, I still feel the top layer peeling away to expose that wound. My hope, my wish, is that I might once again feel that part of me that I gave to you. You hold it right now and I hope you will take care of it. Even if you never again use it, please take care of it. It is a gentle, yet fragile spirit that I once owned. I gave it to you, not knowing how or why. I am still unsure. Yet it rests with you. Thank you for breaking that spirit loose and letting me feel something real.

I may never again share that spirit with you, but I will never regret letting it go. Because for one brief moment, I felt like myself again and that means more to me than you could ever know…

Entry # 6 --- My Testimony (Re-visited)

My Testimony Re-visited: Trust, Faith and Prayer

I once wrote down my testimony, but somewhere along the way, I misplaced it. I looked in many different places to find it, but to no avail. I had no luck finding the original, so I thought, “why not just re-write it?” With everything that’s going on at the present time, I thought it might be appropriate. I feel that God has laid upon my heart some words that I can share with other people.
So, here goes. Growing up, I was basically a good kid. I did well in school, I steered clear of most major pitfalls, and aside from the normal scuffles, basically did good things. I decided to give my heart to Jesus after I attended youth camp one summer. I publicly admitted my faith through baptism. Time went on and I made it through the first three years of high school, untouched and unscathed. It was the summer before my senior year that tragedy befell me. I visited an ex-boyfriend, then trusted friend on a summer afternoon. That day, I was raped. My entire sense of trust for men was shattered in an instant. Afterwards, I couldn’t talk to any man. Even men I had known for years (my pastor, my brother, even my own dad!), I felt scared to turn to. It was difficult for me to comprehend what had happened. I never, ever thought that someone so close to me could hurt me so bad. It made me fearful to trust anybody. I pretty much shut down. I couldn’t sleep, I had nightmares, and I cried all the time. Something I want to try and convey to others is that rape carries with it very ambiguous feelings. On one hand, you want to run up and down the streets, telling everyone what happened to you. On the other hand it’s the single biggest vulnerability that you have, so it’s not easy to talk about. So, you see, I wanted to talk about it, but wasn’t sure who I could turn to.
One might question why I didn’t turn to God right away. Truthfully, I must admit I thought he might be angry with me. I mean, how could I put myself in that position? Not only that, but I was at a point in my life where it was hard to trust anyone. You see, my problem didn’t lie in believing; it lied in trust and faith. It’s easy to believe in God, but when something happens to shake your world, your faith and trust are put to the test. My faith had never been tested before. It isn’t until your world is turned upside down that you really have to rely on your trust in God.
I cried myself to sleep every night until I finally broke down and spoke to God. It was such a release to finally talk about my feelings. And the best part was that I really felt God was listening. I prayed that he might give me the strength I needed to get through all I had endured. It was a slow process, but I found that the more I prayed, the more I could trust again. God showed me that even though I was betrayed by someone I trusted, not everyone was like that. He was patient, gave me plenty of time to come to him with the weight on my heart and then gently lifted it. He was there to listen and because of that, I knew that there was someone I could always trust.
I still wish that I didn’t have to experience that, but it did make me a stronger person and it also strengthened my relationship with my Lord and Savior. I feel this is my true testimony. Anyone can believe in God, but I think a true Christian is founded when trials test their faith, yet they’re still able to trust in God.
I believe that I was able to make it through such an ordeal based on three key ingredients: 1.) my trust and faith in God, 2.) prayer, and 3.) reliance on God to take care of me. It is through these key things that we must live our lives as Christians. We must also convey these things to others and use our testimony as proof that these things truly work. However, even Christians are fallible and prey to losing faith when things get rough. God wants us to trust him that he will take care of us.
I am reminded of Peter and the night he walked on water. He saw Jesus coming toward the boat, walking on the water, and found that when he got out of the boat, he could walk on water as well. But, when he saw the waves and storm around him, he was frightened and began to sink. But God held his hand out to Peter and helped him. We must remember that, even when the waves surround us, God is there, extending his hand, taking care of us. This is why we must always go to him when we’re in trouble. He will take care of us; the promise is true.
We also have to trust the power of prayer. The Bible says, “God answers prayer” (Psalms 138:3). It doesn’t say that he only answers certain prayers. He answers all prayer. No matter how menial or daunting, prayer is answered. It may take some time, and it may not be exactly how we pictured it, but God hears us talking to him and takes care of our needs.
Lastly, we must trust and have faith that things will work out in the end. The Bible says, “You can be sure that even small faith can accomplish much” (Matthew 17:20). It also says that, “Trials may test your faith, but hang onto it” (I Peter 1:7). Faith and trust go hand in hand and in order to maintain our relationship with God, we must have both.
The bottom line is this: God is the sole person who can help us in any situation, trial or tribulation. Everyone and everything we know is this world will pass away, but God will always remain. Even in the grimmest of times, he is there for us. We have to trust and believe that things will be alright if we put our trust and faith in him. Because when our hearts and minds are set on God, doors open up and new solutions present themselves. I feel I am privileged to say this because I am living proof of what trust, faith and prayer can do. I survived an awful ordeal, and here I am now, a strong and successful woman. I owe it all to him.

Entry # 5 --- Shedding Light on Success and Happiness

Shedding Light on Success and Happiness: James 2:13-26

I love observing people. I enjoy watching interactions, seeing people’s facial expressions, and watching reactions to everyday encounters. It’s in these reactions and interactions that I’ve noticed what a self-absorbed society we’ve become. Everyone consumes themselves with how to make the most money, how to lose the most weight, and how to acquire the greatest (monetary) wealth. It’s within this self-absorption that we forget about other people, and often lose ourselves too. It’s no wonder that many of us end up in cycles of depression. When we get caught up in chasing meaningless dreams, and when the glitter of that chase fades, were left with an emptiness that we weren’t fully aware of and when we look in the mirror, we scarcely recognize the face that looks back.

How do we get to this place? What keeps us there? And what can we do about it?

I submit to you that we reach this state (this place) of self-absorption in a vain effort to become successful and happy in a worldly sense. If we were to take a poll, I’m sure there would be a consensus among all Americans that success is equated with happiness. Furthermore, the definition of success would include: having an ample amount of monetary wealth, being physically appealing, and having a position of power. All of these things are consistently reinforced on TV, in books, and in magazines. Basically, it’s everywhere, the status quo, so to speak. In essence, we think it’ll bring us happiness.

The second question is why we stay in that place. I think we stay there because it’s a comfortable place to be. Other people notice you, appreciate you, even admire you. After you’ve been in this place for awhile (false sense of happiness), you wonder why these things make you happy. You realize the chase is nothing more than looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Essentially, it’s all an illusion; namely, because the thirst for success is never quenched. Once you’ve lost the first fifteen pounds, then you’ve got to lose fifteen more. Once you earn that first million, then you have to earn another million. And once you’ve become President of the company, then you’ve got to become the CEO. The chase leads you nowhere and then you’re left to try and understand why you’re still unhappy.

This leads us to the final question, what can we do about it? We must come to realize that it’s not about doing what pleases us, but doing what pleases God. God wants us to understand that although faith is a necessary component in our walk with him, “faith without good deeds is dead faith (James 2:17).” We have to look beyond ourselves towards the greater good. We can’t see God, yet we believe in him with all our hearts. However we see, (with our own eyes) our fellow brother/sister suffering, we walk right on by. This happens all the time and we’re all guilty of this, including myself. How many times have you been late to work and you’re stuck in traffic, and refuse to let someone in front of you? How many times have we seen someone try to walk into a building, overloaded with things in their hands, and not held the door open for them? How many times have we simply just smiled at someone for no reason? God isn’t necessarily asking us to move mountains. He’s just asking us to live our lives the way we proclaim to be. He wants our actions to match our faith. This is such a small and simple thing to do. Jesus died on that cross for each and every one of us. It was done selflessly. We must learn to live the same way. And, in doing this, we will find the ultimate happiness. It’s a happiness that no fame, fortune, or power in the world could ever buy.

I present to you today, a challenge. My challenge to you is to create a new definition for success and happiness through doing good deeds. Challenge yourself to become successful in a godly sense, as opposed to the worldly sense. I challenge you to one good deed a day. These deeds don’t even have to be complicated or hard. Something as simple as smiling at someone else will do. Once you’ve accomplished this, raise the stakes. Eventually, the challenge will change to habit, and these are habits that will ultimately lead us to divinity. These habits have the ability to change the world, but will also change you in the process. The change will shine through and people will know you believe by the things you do, which makes you become a better witness for God. What better tool to witness to someone than personal experience. If you need proof, you have it in yourself.
This happiness I speak of, my friends, is a happiness that cannot be bought, sold, or traded for it comes from within, from above. This is the complete happiness we all strive to attain. And if this is ever difficult to remember, just think about what Jesus has given to us---the ultimate good deed, his death for our life. So, make use of that, people. Make a deposit into your account with God by living through him. See if it doesn’t change you. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Entry # 4 --- Structure, Definition and Order

We are constantly forced throughout our lives to order, structure and define everything that comes our way. We define things that happen to us, situations we find ourselves in, we structure our activities, our schedules and in all that, we come to find a certain order to how we do things, say things, act upon things. Well, recently, I've been approached with the idea of doing things with no definition, structure, anything. This has me completely freaked out. I've always been the kind of woman to plan out everything to the last detail, and over-analyze everything thrown at me. But, even putting all that aside, I was still weirded out. So, I've been making it my mission to figure out exactly why structure and definition is important to me, or anyone for that first, I was stumped. I was really forced to look at things from a different perspective and I have go to be honest...the conclusion I have come to, I did not arrive at here goes....we as humans need structure, need definition for the simple fact that we experience emotions....if we do not define things, do not structure things a certain way, we get scared, confused, etc....essentially, we experience disequilibrium....when we experience this, we can easily become insane.....structure and definition is what keeps us out of the crazy house....even now, I am proving this point...I have to DEFINE why we need definition so I can feel everything I'm doing is for a reason...the question that remains is....what is so wrong with being a little insane sometimes?? I have always been surrounded by a certain amount of 'crazy' so I don't know why I'm so terrified of it.....I think it all boils down to one big conclusion I am trying my best to avoid....and that is, if I allow myself to live without definition and structure, that would mean I'm taking a risk....taking a risk means that I would become vulnerable, and thus exposing myself to being what to do????

Entry # 3 --- The Meaning of Life (according to me...)

The meaning of life is….there is no meaning of life. Rather, we create meaning in everything we do, or everything we don’t do. I think meaning is subjective and personally defined. Let’s assume someone thinks the meaning of life is to sit back, drink beer, and watch TV all day. Who am I to say that that’s not meaningful (to that person)?

We will never arrive at an ultimate conclusion about what life is really all about. We were all created so differently that everyone is able to shape and form their own meaning of life. And what if there was only one conclusion about what life’s really all about? We would all be like robots, with no imagination, no creativity. We’d have nothing to strive for personally, our lives would be laid out for us by the time we were old enough to talk, read, and write. I can’t imagine living without being able to live on my own terms, create my own being, etc…

In essence, life can be whatever you want it to be. It can be as simplistic as working a 9-5, coming home and spending time with the family to exploring outer space to winning a Nobel peace prize. The important thing to remember is that creating meaning is up to you and to find the answers you are looking for, all you have to do is look within.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Top 25 Memories of High School

Top 25 Memories of High School
(Thomas Jefferson Patriots)

25.) Mornings in the auditorium. This place was the first stop of my mornings. It is the place where Tina, Susan, Gladis, Jeanette and I (along with a bunch of our other friends) would catch up, joke around and basically get ourselves into a good mood for the day that lay ahead of us. And while I don’t remember all the things we chattered about on those mornings, I remember lots of smiling and laughing and that’s why it sticks out in my mind.

24.) Getting caught cutting through the field during the TJ mile. I don’t think very many of the cheerleaders actually enjoyed the TJ mile, but it was one of those things that had to be done. I can’t remember exactly who it was, but I think it may have been Christy who decided we could cut across the football field and get it done sooner and that no one would notice. Boy was she wrong! Somehow we got caught and I remember for a few times after that, Ms. Cadigan would follow us in her car to make sure we ran the ENTIRE mile.

23.) Singing in the choir. Whether it was singing in show choir with Ms. McIntyre or the women’s choir with Ms. Kiefer, there was something magical about being surrounded by music. Music has always been a big passion of mine and being part of a choir was an awesome experience. Hearing everyone singing in harmony would send chills down my spine. I sung with the choir at two graduations (one of which was my own) and even got to compete at UIL one year. However, my favorite performance was always the Christmas show.

22.) Spirit Week. Hawaiian Day, Twin Day, Tacky Day, etc…seeing everyone show their school spirit during homecoming week was fun, but breaking the dress code was even more fun! Sadly, because the dress code changed so drastically when I was a senior, we did not get to celebrate that week as we used to. *tear*

21.) Finding out crazy or funny stories about other people. It was always fun to listen to stories that happened either before I started at TJ or just the things I never got to see with my own eyes. For example, I heard from someone in my newspaper class that Leslie Lewis once called 911 on Ms. Blakely’s classroom phone. Perhaps the most infamous story that preceded me was the Nina Castro incident and how she fell during a stunt and broke one (or some) of her teeth. Somehow stories like those always made me feel less awkward.

20.) Breaking my tailbone. While I am on the subject of awkwardness, I might as well bring this incident up. The story of how I broke my tailbone (or “broke my butt” as some so delicately put it) isn’t very interesting (I fell down the stairs at home and my backside broke my fall, if you will), but what followed has its place in my memory bank. I remember that the doctor told me there wasn’t really any way to cast that area so I was supposed to sit on this donut-shaped pillow. Needless to say, this was pretty embarrassing, and although I was in excruciating pain, there was no way I was going to lug that pillow around school. Instead, I took a small square shaped pillow to school and used that. I was still teased about my broke butt (although, in my mind, not as badly as if I had chosen to use the donut pillow) and it even won me an award (“Person who broke her butt bone and lived to tell about it”) in my newspaper class.

19.) The crazy, kooky teachers at TJ. The teachers I had at TJ (and even some of the ones I didn’t have) will always hold a special place in my memories. Just to name a few: Mr. and Mrs. Vasquez, Ms. Lowe, Ms. Turek, Mr. Speer, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Trevino, Mr. Summers, Ms. Cadigan, Ms. Gay, Mrs. Distin, Mr. Hughes, Ms. Hinds, Mr. Roberts, Mr. Trevino, Ms. Bryan, Ms. Watkins and many others. They were all amazing educators and you could see they all truly cared about us students, even on a personal level. I will never forget any of them.

18.) The rivalry with W.T. Who? This rivalry was one of the many things I loved about TJ. I remember they burned down our guardhouse one year and spray painted some of the portables another year, but the one that sticks out in my mind the most was when we stole their Longhorn banner and painted it TJ colors and hung it up in front of the school. Even though Ms. Wilson was mad, you could tell that Mr. Dupree thought it was funny although he did make the seniors take it down. W.T., W.T., W.T Who! Who!

17.) The Holocaust studies class. Ms. Cadigan taught this class beginning my junior year, I believe. It was an elective that I decided to take because I honestly didn’t know much about it. It always seemed as though it was but a mere blurb in our history books when discussing World War II and I wanted to know more. Although it was not easy material to take in or digest, it was an eye-opening experience. I learned so much about tolerance and the power of influence on people. I feel as though I learned a much deeper lesson than the simple facts and tidbits that most people learn of. I will carry those lessons with me forever.

16.) Walking on air stunt. I am unclear on all the details of this memory, but I believe it was during the time I had just made it into the JV Cheerleading squad. I think we were practicing a stunt and Sabrina Sariles was the flyer. Something went wrong, however, and she fell (I think she may have even hurt herself). But, being the kind of person Sabrina was, she joked about it and called it her “walking on air” stunt. I think this sticks out in my mind because Sabrina was someone who I looked up to when I was just starting out in cheerleading.

15.) Lipids. When I had Ms. Mitchell for Biology, Jerome Williams was in my class and every answer for every question asked was always “lipids.” It always used to crack me up and actually it still does. Ms. Mitchell probably thought he was crazy…hmmm, maybe she hit on something there.

14.) Winning 3rd place in the science fair (9th grade). Everyone always assumed I was this goody-two-shoes nerd who loved doing homework and assignments, but in reality, I was a huge procrastinator. I absolutely hated doing science projects and as per my habit, I put it off until the very last minute. The day before the project was due, I was at my boyfriend's house, furiously typing away as well as trying to create my graphs and charts. I stayed at his house until I had to return home, and the project still wasn't complete. By this time, I was supposed to be heading off to bed, but I still had to affix everything I had typed onto the board. So, there I am, sitting in the closet with the light off and the door slightly ajar (so I could have some light), permanent marker in hand, putting the finishing touches on my board. When I got to school the next morning, I looked at everyone else's board and suddenly felt extremely embarrassed because they had decorated their boards so nicely. Mine, on the other hand, was black and white. Black type, white copy paper and black permanent marker, with crooked and sloppily written headers. At this point, I was hoping to simply receive a passing grade on this assignment. At the end of the day, imagine my surprise when they announced my name as 3rd place winner for my grade level. All I can say is that it must have been extremely well-written or I was just a master at BS'ing my way through that because I was certainly not expecting that. In fact, would you like to know a secret? I procrastinated so much that I never even had time to do the actual experiment! What do you think of this nerd now?

13.) Code names for crushes. This may seem a tad bit goofy, but then again, so were my friends and I so I guess it's pretty fitting. We were a loud bunch (to say the least) and we figured if anyone ever overheard us or if our letters to each other ever fell into the wrong hands, they wouldn't be able to figure out whom we were referring to. So, we came up with code names for our crushes, usually relating to some event we saw them at or associated them with. For example, there was a football player that I had a crush on who was a white boy. And seeing as how there weren't many white students at TJ, he became known as "White Boy" (hey, I never said we were very imaginative). There was another guy who was a band member that one of us had a crush on and we called him "Nacho Boy" because he worked the nacho booth at the Cowboy games. I know I will remember these nicknames always.

12.) Working with the special needs students. This is probably one of my fondest memories of high school. There was a group of the special needs students that liked to watch the cheerleaders practice and perform, but one girl who loved it more than anybody. Her name was Hai Tai and she thought the cheerleaders were the best. We watched her, day after day, watching us and decided to invite her to practice with us. She practiced some of our cheers and I think we may have even tried a simple stunt with her. She had so much fun and we loved the energy and spirit she added to our squad. We had her perform with us at the pep rallies and she even got her own TJ cheerleading uniform. We garnered enough attention that the Dallas Morning News even did a story about us. When they asked me why the students at TJ seemed to be so accepting of her when a lot of other schools might have turned up their noses at her, I simply replied that we were such a diverse group of students, accepting her was simply a natural reaction for us. I will always cherish this particular memory because she brought out the best not only in myself, but in everyone at TJ. I have never been prouder.

11.) When the JV football team was better than the Varsity team. When I was a sophomore, I was a JV cheerleader and didn't know much about cheerleading or (honestly) football, either. I learned a lot from the JV footballs players and was able to finally understand a sport I enjoyed. What was most fun about being a JV cheerleader, however, was that our JV football team was spectacular. While it wasn't really recognized at first, by mid-season, we had a lot more people showing up to support the team at the games. The funniest thing was that there were a couple of Varsity cheerleaders who were envious of us JV cheerleaders because our football team was doing better than theirs. When I think about how much I wanted to be a Varsity cheerleader, it made me grin from ear to ear knowing that they wanted to trade places with us. Sure, it was because of the guys, but hey, it was a good feeling anyway.

10.) Bus rides to the football games. Eventually, I did make the Varsity cheerleading squad and one of my favorite things about it was riding the bus to the football games. We shared the bus with the Liberty Belles (drill team) and we always had so much fun together. We would sing silly songs and joke and talk, get ourselves fired up to do our "thang" when we got to the football field. It's such a wonderful feeling being part of a team and there was always a sense of togetherness and excitement on those bus rides. We even sang to the bus driver! How much fun is that?!

9.) Meet and greet with the opposing team's cheerleaders (going to the other side). The cheerleaders were definitely a fun and goofy group of girls and we always had tons of fun at the football games. One of my favorite things about the football games was going to visit the cheerleaders of the opposing team. To add to the fun, we always gave each other "alter ego" (if you will) names. They were supposed to be names that were either stereotypical "white girl" or names that couldn't possibly be ours. Anyway, we'd go over to their side and we'd do one of our cheers and then we'd take them to our side and they would perform one of theirs. I thought it was exciting meeting other cheerleaders, but what I loved most was the song we would sing on our way over to the other side. Normally, we would link our arms and start walking and singing (the captain would start it off and we'd all echo afterwards), "O-la, O-la, A! Roll now, roll to the beat now. I don't know...just what is...cheerleaders are crazy...they be wearin them daises! (cheerleaders are goofy...cause their hair is so poofy...cheerleaders are can throw em and toss em...cheerleaders are spastic...they can stretch like elastic...cheerleaders have come on let's hear it!) So, the first part would repeat and we'd change the ending (I put all of the ones I could remember in parentheses). It was a funny song that I won't ever be able to forget, but I love it!

8.) Making Varsity. When I first tried out for cheerleading, although I would have loved to be on Varsity, I was simply hoping to make the squad, period. When I made the JV squad, I was ecstatic.I enjoyed cheering and I learned so much from the other cheerleaders. All in all, it was a great first year. However, the second year I tried out, I had my sights set on Varsity. Unfortunately, I just couldn't pull it off to make the Varsity squad and I was devastated. After a few tears and a few pep talks, I was ready to make the best out of what I had been given. You see, although I didn't make Varsity, I was the top JV cheerleader so I had done a lot of improving since I first made the squad. That gave me the confidence boost I needed to go forward. I did catch a break, though, when one of the Varsity cheerleaders had to quit the squad. Since I was top JV, I had the opportunity to join the Varsity squad, if I so desired. Of course, I made the decision to join in and it was one of the happiest days in high school. I know some people may think it's silly, but I loved the uniforms, loved the other cheerleaders and couldn't wait to partake in the perks of being a Varsity cheerleader. That was one time I can always recall that I felt as if I was floating on air.

7.) Pep rallies. By nature, I am not a morning person, but there was always one morning that I was more than happy to hop out of bed for. That day was pep rally day. Since most of my high school memories involve cheerleading, this should be a no-brainer. The thing I loved most about the pep rallies was the energy and excitement in the air. I never felt as invigorated than when I was in the gym getting ready to cheer my booty off. Something about the entire school body (give or take) getting hyped up for the game that night (or weekend), the band playing the national anthem and the competitiveness between the upper and lower classmen never made me feel so alive.

6.) Homecoming. Homecoming week was one of the most awesome weeks of the entire high school year. And it wasn't only about the dance either. There was spirit days, decorating the halls, the big pep rally and of course, the game and dance. It was amazing walking down the halls that were lovingly decorated by the student body and having the pep rally in the auditorium, not to mention that it was during the last period of the day! I was weighed down by the mums I wore and got to perform special cheers reserved solely for homecoming week. And at the game, you got to see past graduates, which was always fun. I think that if you ever participated in any of the above activities, I don't have elaborate much more than that.

5.) Helping Tina with her captain audition. My best friend in high school was Tina Gomez. While I was in cheerleading, she spent her time in the Flag corp. It was sad not being able to share that time with her, but we always cheered (excuse the pun) each other on. She told me that she wanted to try out for captain of the Flag corp and I was super excited for her because I knew she would make it. She asked me to help her come up with a routine and while she needed no help with tossing that flag around, I helped her to come up with some moves. What we ultimately decided on was a few dance moves and used a chair as a prop. I even remember the song we used for the routine (an NSync song called, "It makes me ill")! It turned out to be absolutely fabulous and of course, she made captain! Even though this memory involved someone else's joy, for me, it is an interchangeable feeling. Her joy was my joy. That's the way it was and the way it will always be.

4.) Prom. I have no doubt in my mind that this would make the top ten of almost anybody's list of high school memories, but it definitely sticks out in my mind. It was a night I will never forget. The first component of this magical evening was my dress and his tux. I went shopping with my mom prior to the event and was having a hard time finding something I liked. I didn't want to have a dress like everyone else's and I also wanted to make sure it was flattering on me. I ended up choosing this black dress that had beautiful lacing on it and some sparkly, shining pieces on it as well. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it and it was a perfect fit! I knew that I had found "the" dress. My date's tuxedo was a simple, yet elegant black tux with a silver vest. The most fascinating thing about our choices was that the colors of the prom were black and silver! Our pictures were stunning and I loved how we matched perfectly with the background. The second component was the company. I had such a wonderful time dancing with my friends, laughing and enjoying some of our last moments of high school. The last component to a practically perfect evening was the last song played at the prom. The DJ choose K-Ci and Jo Jo's "All My Life" and that was our (me and my date's) song. I don't think I could have planned that evening to be more wonderful than it was.

3.) Football games. Yes, another reference to my cheerleading days. But, honestly this memory holds so much more for me than that. I could probably list a stockpile of things that I loved about football games. The excitement in the air could be felt as soon as you stepped off the bus. You could hear the band and the football team warming up, the air was usually crisp and cool and there was "just something" about being there. I will never forget the performances of the Liberty Belles, the band, the Flag corp or Mr. Summers providing the energetic and colorful introductions. I loved helping to get the crowd pumped up, performing the cheers and chatting with friends & teachers a little during halftime. At the end of the evening, even though I would go home completely exhausted, it was always well worth it.

2.) Graduation. You would think this would be my number one memory of high school, but it just isn't so (you might be surprised at what is actually my top memory of high school). I don't think this needs much of an elaboration, but it was definitely a monumental day for me. I was awash of so many different feelings. I was, of course, happy to be graduating from high school, but I was also sad at what I was leaving behind. I accomplished so much during my four years of high school (personally and academically) that I didn't want to see it come to an end. The graduation ceremony was such a spectacular event that by the end, I was in tears. I was so excited for everyone and the opportunities that lay ahead of us. I will certainly never forget that day. It will live in my heart for the rest of my life.

And now we come to the end, number one. Well, actually it isn't the end at all, at least not for me. To get to my number one memory of high school, I have to rewind back to the beginning...

1.) The first day of high school. I like to think that back then that I had an advantage when I began high school. You see, my brother was a senior and I knew a bunch of his friends who were also seniors at TJ. But, you know how sibling relationships are usually when it comes to school. I wasn't allowed to speak to my brother or his friends while at school because I was a lowly freshman and he was a "senior." Pssh. Whatever. Due to this, I was back at square one again. I took it all in stride anyway because I knew I had to go, so I put on my bravest face and ventured into Thomas Jefferson High School. I couldn't believe it when I made a friend the very first day. It was a major sigh of relief for me because I was terrified I wouldn't make any friends at all. However, I was saved...saved by none other than Tina Gomez. We both ate lunch together and had a few classes together as well. She was my angel of the first day of high school. Who would have known that this girl would become (and remain) my best friend? Certainly not I, but that's exactly what happened. Who would believe that two freshman, on the first day of school and a random encounter would lead to an inseparable duo? Sounds like a plot for a sitcom, but it really happened to me and that's why it is my number one memory of high school.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Entry #2 --- My Past...and Forgiving Myself

My past seems to haunt me on a continuous basis. It’s not everyday, but I get these flashes in my head that are like instant replays of the past mistakes I have made. And when I think about all of that in the context of who I am, I truly begin to wonder how I ever did those things. I have never arrived at a solid conclusion of the reasons for doing the things I did. I could blame it on a million different things…the alcohol, my mistrust of men, my rape, the state my life was in, my relationship, etc. And yes, I finally changed and reclaimed that good part of myself, but I don’t know if I have truly forgiven myself for everything. And somehow, I don’t think it’s because I can’t; I think it’s because I haven’t truly allowed myself to see the things I did and the people I hurt in the process (including myself). It was only today when I had another flashback that I finally saw the awful transgressions I made. So, I wrote a list. I didn’t read it as I wrote. I only read it when I remembered all that I could and finished writing it down. Looking at that sheet of paper was one of the most difficult things that I have done lately. When I saw it, in my own handwriting, I was deeply ashamed. I was ashamed of my behavior, the way I treated those I loved, the way I treated people I didn’t even know, the way I treated myself and the way I turned my back on God. It has never been in my character to do things like that and I realized I had lowered myself to a place I never wanted to be. I don’t think anybody would purposefully choose to be at the bottom of the barrel like that. What’s funny is that I have been having a lot of dreams lately that seem to symbolize that there is something in my past that I need to let go of. I have just assumed that the dreams were referring to my miscarriages and the deep desire to have a baby. But now that this has come up, I am beginning to wonder if my dreams refer to this particular part of my past. It would actually make a lot of sense because when I did these things and even for a time afterward, I never acknowledged my part in all that I did. I mean, I knew that what I was doing was wrong and I did feel bad about it, but I still continued my actions. I can’t say for sure why I kept doing the same things, even though I knew in my heart they were wrong. Looking back, I remember telling myself that what I was doing was justifiable because I was being treated so badly in my relationship, but I do not feel justified in doing those things. The more these thoughts and images continue to plague me, the guiltier I feel about my actions and myself. I can no longer make excuses or pretend that it never happened. So, here goes: the actions I committed in my past were my fault; they were not responsible or mature decisions and I accept full responsibility. I cannot and will not make any excuses for my behavior. It was wrong and because of my carelessness, I hurt a lot of the people who love (or loved) me. I do feel that I am a different and better person today and because of that, I need to forgive myself and let this go. Although I will not ever forget it, I feel that if I don’t let it go, I may fall prey to making the same mistakes again and that is the last thing I want. God has seen fit to offer me a second chance to do things the right way and I intend to do just that. I am blessed beyond anything I could have ever expected as far as this is concerned, and I will not forsake that blessing. And I do not want these memories to continue to haunt my soul anymore. Everyone makes mistakes in their lifetime and mine were huge. I am glad I learned from these mistakes so early on because I will carry the wisdom I gained for the rest of my life. It is ok to forgive myself because the past is over and done. Nothing in the world I do will change what I did back then so I can’t keep persecuting myself. Change is an ever-present force in my life and I just need to “keep moving forward.”

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Spiritual Journey --- Entry #1

I can’t even begin to say how long it has been since I have written down my innermost thoughts and feelings. It used to come so easily to me, as if done by second nature. And it’s not like I haven’t attempted to get back into the swing of things…I truly have. But those attempts have either been shallow and lacking any real insight or they were just never completed. I have had to stop and ask myself what the reason for this might be. I haven’t arrived at a solid conclusion on this just yet, but I do have several theories. The first is that over the past several years, I have been through a couple of transformations, one of which I feel as though I disconnected from myself and that reflective aspect lay dormant. The other is that I have been through so many difficult times I just cannot bring myself to face the depth of those feelings. Perhaps I’m afraid that if I begin digging into this part of myself again, the part of me that transformed may regress back to a darker time. On the other hand, there is probably no better way to finally release that darker part of myself than to write it down and get it out. So, this is where I find myself. I must ask myself what the draw has previously been to focus myself into doing this in the first place. If I think back, I can honestly say that my journaling or writing in my diary began when I was in the 4th grade. When I first started writing, it was simply an account of the things I had done during the day or upcoming events in my life. And then there were times I would write to release my anger or sadness over something that happened. It was a great tool for me because it always made me feel better, although I must admit (like many kids in elementary school) I didn’t have any major problems. The diary mostly consisted of childhood crushes, fights with my siblings or issues with friends. That’s not to say I haven’t used other methods of expressing my feelings. I have always been a writer. As soon as I learned to put words together, I was writing constantly. I have written plays, poems, stories, even tried my hand at song lyrics. It does seem, however, that when life started to get complicated, my writing shifted from journaling to writing more poetry. And it’s not that the poems are not a form of expression; they simply don’t reveal as much as this freehand writing does. In my poems, there is a certain structure and order whereas when I write in this manner, I don’t necessarily have a specific theme or concept. And when I truly allow myself to think about that, I see that I can sort of hide behind myself in a poem. The structure of it allows me to pick and choose what I want to express and when I journal, the words simply flow and I do not try to stop my hands from saying whatever they feel empowered to write (or type) onto the paper. In other words, this type of writing takes me out of my comfort zone. In my world, structure and order are fairly dominant forces. It takes the more courageous part of me to do anything spontaneous or free spirited. Maybe I’ve hit on something here. I just noticed that I’ve said that this was second nature to me when I was younger and that as I got older and life became more complicated, this was harder for me to do. Aren’t we all a little less inhibited about pretty much everything when we’re younger and become a little more structured as we grow older? I’m hoping I can reconnect with that younger spirit and reclaim this part of myself. The one thing I remember about why I loved to do this so much is this is the only place I can go in my life where it’s just me, where I’m just me. My entire life I have lived with other people. I cannot recall many times in my life where I have truly been alone. When I was younger, I lived with four other people. There were always at least two people in the house and I shared a room with my sister. Essentially, the only place you got to be alone was the bathroom and if you took too long there, there was always someone beating the door down, demanding you hurry along. And even when I moved out of the house, I had a spouse so “alone” has always been more of an abstract concept for me. But on paper, it’s just me, just Ashley. Here, I am not a daughter, a sister, or a wife. I am simply me and that is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Not to say that I don’t love and cherish being all of those other things because I do, but when it’s just me, I don’t have anyone else to worry about and I can truly contemplate the essence of my being. To help me along in this process, I have bought a couple of books about journaling to give me inspiration and keep me motivated. It should be a very interesting journey and I’m anxious to see what things I will learn about myself in the process.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I don't get it....

**I wrote this on 06/11/2009 reflecting on some personal issues that were going on at the time**

Why is life so unfair? Why do so many good people have to endure pain while wicked people seem to go unpunished? Where is the justice for the 'Good Samaritan'? Why are so many people corrupt and ugly-hearted? Why can’t people encompass compassion and love instead of being selfish and hateful? Why do young people die? Why do infants and the unborn, which haven’t had even a remote chance to enjoy life, perish? I just wish that life could be a little more even-handed about things. I mean, sure bad things are going to happen in life; that goes along with the territory. But, is it necessary to have a string of unfortunate circumstances happen to some while another experiences a roll of lucky punches? Furthermore, even though it’s said that sorrow brings forth compassion, (most) people are so self-absorbed that they can’t even begin to try and “feel” anything for anyone but themselves. It’s a very sad world we live in today and very depressing.

All I ask is justice for the good guys of the world. Too many people these days have ulterior motives and are self-serving, and the people who are giving and loving are passed over for the glitter…………

I say, don’t follow the glitz and glamor. Life is too short as it is and you should attempt to surround yourself with people who value the important things in life, such as love, compassion, generosity, empathy, sympathy and other virtuous traits. And although it may seem like the flashier people are this way, please know that it is only an act. These kinds of people are too unhappy in their own lives to give a care about yours. So, while they are wonderful people when talking about themselves or what is important to them, when it comes down to your own personal triumphs and tragedies, they are nowhere to be found. They provide an empty sort of companionship. As long as the subject matter revolves around them and their world, they are animated and lively. Once that changes, they are apathetic and aloof. And this leaves you feeling even lonelier than if you had no friends at all.

In short, go for substance, not appearance. As it had been said, “Things aren’t always what they seem.”

The Very 1st!

This is my first blog.

I am mostly writing this for myself so I can collect my thoughts and get them out of my head, but if anyone cares to read my incessant ramblings, they are certainly most welcome.

If you know anything about me, you know that I'm pretty much an open book. There aren't many things I keep to myself because I'm the kind of person that has to get their thoughts/feelings out in the open; if I don't, my entire world is chaotic. I enjoy the feedback as well as the sympathy, reassurance, encouragement, and advice that follows letting go of your feelings. Even if nothing is resolved afterward, I always feel better, as if a weight has been lifted off of my chest. That's basically why I like the idea of a blog...a special place for me to come to vent about my life. :)

So begins my introspection into....I don't know, life maybe? Or myself?

I'm ready for whatever direction this blog leads me.