Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'll be home for christmas

today I get on a plane and fly to ohio. back to my family and childhood friends. back to familiar and cozy, comfortable and warm. I love these people so much - they love unconditionally and make me feel known, which might be one of the greatest parts of relationship ever.

sometimes, though, I get that little ache in my heart when I see all those I love that have become a "we" rather than a "me". this tends to hit at christmas, even when I am content and happy with where I am. even when I am learning and growing and trying to live the best adventure I can.

then I read this article last night and it was exactly what I needed to hear before heading home. I highly recommend it, no matter what your stage of life.

I am reminded of all that I do have, rather than what I do not. I am reminded of fabulous family to go home to, friends that make me laugh til I cry, and the best gift of all, the unearned love and sacrifice of my Savior.

and I am SO looking forward to christmas eve.

eating a delicious, momma-prepared meal...

watching this movie...

going to candlelight christmas eve service at my little home church...

and coming home and eating a buckeye and milk with my wonderful fam before bed.

so blessed.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

measuring UP

in college, one of my best friends would write lists during boring classes. she would later read them to us and soon we began to enjoy the art of list-making as well. I don't know why I thought of this today, but it popped into my head and I got the urge to make a list.

ours back in the day consisted of things such as..."things that make me smile" or "reasons I love spring" or "must-haves in our future hubbys" etc. etc.

so to preface the list below, I recently stumbled across a site all about problems tall girls have. I "mmm-hmmm-ed" and "amen-ed" every single problem listed and thought to myself "ahh people who understand me!"

and then I got to thinking and realized short people probably have a site like that, too. heck, even average-heighted people might. I'm pretty sure that no one is happy with their height. unless they are making millions of dollars by dunking basketballs because they are 7 feet tall. we'll call that the exception.

so in the spirit of christmas and being thankful and positive, here is a list of why being tall is capable of not-sucking. so without further ado...

10 reasons to love being tall: (in no particular order)

1. you can help people without having a special talent. yes, I can reach behind your desk and plug in that electronic device, not because I am talented, but because I have extremely long appendages I didn't have to work at obtaining.

2. other people can hide behind you when needed. this comes in handy more than you'd think.

3. you get told you could be a model by complete strangers. nevermind they say this to every female who crosses the 5'10 threshold, whether they look like kim kardashian or resemble a sheep dog. it's a confidence booster, nonetheless.

4. intimidation factor. normally I would argue against this, because I don't want to be intimidating. however, I DO want to be intimidating to creepers. I dare you, oh creepy mccreeperson, to nab me from a dark alley or parking lot. I weigh more than the average bear, so dragging me to your car might be more of an undertaking than you originally thought. plus, I'm fiesty. I think this comes with all tall people, right?

5. let's go with the obvious one right now: sports. while the usefulness of this pro faded after high school, it can still be fun in pick-up games of volleyball (note: I did not say basketball - apparently you need coordination for that sport). if I had a nickel for everytime someone asked me if I played basketball, I wouldn't have to be in the WNBA to be rich.

6. you have a distinguishing characteristic. in college I'm pretty sure everyone's parents knew me as "your tall friend, ashley".  thus, you are remembered without even opening your mouth.

7. need to change a light bulb? no ladder necessary, simply tip toes.

8. you hear some of the most interesting/entertaining pick-up lines ever. blue because no one at that gathering/get-together/party is taller than you? maybe you will get cheered by a ridiculous line that throws you into a giggle fit for weeks to come. here are two of my most favorite:
dude: "do you want to retire at 40?"
me: "um...why?"
dude: "if we had kids, they'd be in the NFL"  (I have no idea why my children looked like they would be football players. looking back, it actually sounds rather offensive now)

dude (height - 5'1): "wanna dance? you would ensure our children would be at least 5'8"   (I'm sorry...our children?)

9. heels are uncomfortable. reasons not to wear them: excessively long legs.

10. you can hide things from your short friends. especially helpful during the christmas season, clearly.

nutrition tip today comes from an email entitled "holiday eating tips":

If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge.  Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention.  They're like a beautiful pair of shoes.  If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

Monday, December 19, 2011

you know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn't really your home anymore? all of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your stuff, that idea of home is gone. 

you'll see one day when you move out. it just sort of happens one day and it's gone. you feel like you can never get it back. it's like you feel homesick for a place that doesn't even exist. maybe it's like this rite of passage, you know. you won't ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it's like a cycle or something. I don' tknow, but I miss the idea of it, you know. maybe that's all a family really is. a group of people that miss the same imaginary place.

-garden state

my dad sent us this picture of our tree after he put up our lovely pioneer train. and while I longed to be there - snuggled up on the couch, or giggling with my mom and sister while andy and dad watch sports, mash, or sleep in the living room - I couldn't shake the strange feeling of not calling it "home".

my hometown? yes. place I grew up? yes. near and dear to my heart? you bet. but the place I belong? nope. I don't think so.

that's hard to say, since I have always loved good old b-town. I have a gazillion amazing memories there. I loved my childhood, loved growing up there, loved high school (noticed I skipped middle school? yuck). but as much as I loved it, and even still do, I don't fit there anymore. there's not much for me there. I don't belong.

and so that quote from garden state popped into my head. I remember my sister saying this a few years ago and I remember that making me so very sad. how could b-town not feel like home? how could the house she grew up in, spent a majority of her life in so far - our house - not feel like home?

and now I sort of understand. and this makes me feel more like an adult in a strange, sad way.

on a less sentimental note, I'm taking recommendations for books and movies for my break from school. so far I have started reading searching for God knows what by donald miller and I want to read heaven is for real upon hearing really interesting/good reviews for it. I also really want to read this book, recommended by this excellent site.

I also really really really want to watch the documentary forks over knives.

does anyone else have any good recommendations of documentaries, movies or books? while I love non-fiction, I also love getting whisked away in a good story. I was remember that last christmas I found myself wrapped up in the hunger games. I'm kind of in the mood to carried away again but am unsure about what story/series.

health tip: I might have to stop these during the holiday season. this morning I brought an apple, carrots, and sugar snap peas to work. and while I ate them, I also devoured four snowballs (aka - oreo balls. however, I am convinced that the sweet lady who makes them at work puts crack in them. they are not your average oreo ball. they contain some sort of addictive substance).

I guess...during the holidays try to practice moderation. don't deprive yourself of all the goodies you don't eat very often, just try not to eat the entire tin. give yourself a little grace. and go for a walk. bonus points if you walk while you eat. as my friend would say, this negates all the calories.

oh my. christmas is in 6 days. craaaazy.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

1 year ago...

1 year ago today...

hankins got married and the five of us were reunited. note: taco bell does not deliver, and never ask your friends if they want to talk about the liver. they do not.

health tip: laugh a lot. it is by far the best way to burn calories. to help, get some friends like the above, they can aid in this.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

blessings, lessons and metabolism

I've been reading a lot of other people's thoughts on the year almost behind them. what was accomplished, what stood out, what they learned. this made me look back on my year and I realized...

sometimes looking back can be hard.

one specific conversation with a friend came to mind. we were discussing how God just seemed to be moving among us. we could feel God's presence and it felt like we were growing a mile a minute. blessings for us and everyone we knew seemed to be pouring down like manna from heaven. why thank you, God, we'll take it. we'll praise you for it. we'll shout with joy for all you are doing and have done.

our hearts overflowed with joy and hope about the first six months of 2011.

and then the latter six months hit. hope seemed to diminish as expectations were unmet. my own mistakes and weaknesses became evident. the brokenness and pain of those around me became evident. situation after situation came up, revealing sin's destructiveness and our humanity.

there were lots of tears, which almost goes without said being female myself. there were lots of tearful conversations on friends' couches. lots of friends crying on my couch. with gut-wrenching stories and pain. and I lot of me wondering how situations that seemed to be so wonderful, full of such promise, such blessings, could turn so ugly.

BUT... it was and is a time of learning. a time of refining. a time of lessons learned the hard way and lessons yet to be learned.

so here are a few things I've learned this year...and am still in the process of learning.

*when I feel gloom and glum, serving others is the place to be.

*another person's happiness does not and should not detract from my own.

*sometimes when a friend is suffering and I'm a loss for what to do or say, I just need to get on the ground and cry along with them.

*it can be infinitely easier to forgive someone who has wronged you than it is to forgive someone who has wronged someone close to you.

*school is important. studying is important. but quality of life, relationships, and sleep are important, too. find a balance.

*time really does heal. when I feel like the wind is knocked out of me, I need to remember that in a month or two, it's going to hurt less.

*apparently I'm picking up a strange southern accent (ok maybe this is more of an observation I've heard from others rather than a "lesson" per se).

and the biggest lesson learned?

hope placed in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ is misplaced.

sometimes it takes a bit longer for my heart to catch on to what my brain is saying, and such is the case with this lesson. but here's hoping it sticks.

and finally, another nutrition lesson for 2011 -

(I stumbled across this last night whilst studying for a final and it surprised me a tad.)

when individuals restrict their caloric intake, their RMR (resting metabolic rate) can decrease as much as 15% in two weeks

well if that isn't an excuse to keep eating hearty, I don't know what is.

let the learning continue.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

speaking of...

speaking of the company I keep...

went to see the nutcracker ballet on saturday with these lovely ladies (aren't my friends purrrty?). and in case you were wondering, as a friend and I were, male "ballerinas" wear something called a "dance belt". curious? look it up. wikipedia has a lovely photo to accompany the description. (read: if you have a strong gag reflex, it might be a better idea to stay away)

anddd a health factoid: caffeine can boost endurance. not strength or timing, but endurance. interesting, eh? I thought so.

my calendar says there's only 12 days til christmas. can this be true??

Monday, December 12, 2011

the company you keep

do you ever realize you're not a child any more? you have a moment where you know you have crossed the threshold into adulthood? that your problems no longer revolve around who will ask you to homecoming or if you'll get an A on your calculus test, but have become real, adult problems. that you have real, adult responsibilities, and people treat you like a real, live adult.

I've been learning a lot about what it looks like to be a friend - what it looks like to try to be love in living form to people who are suffering. it's a hard lesson. a lesson that I'm not sure I'm getting, that I know I definitely don't have down, and one that I think I will learn throughout my entire lifetime. how do you help carry another's burdens? how do you help them with their real, adult problems? problems your naive little self didn't realize really existed outside of movies and story plots.

I don't have any concrete answer. I don't know much at all, actually. but I do know that last night as prayed about all the hurt and brokenness that I've seen and heard about, I felt a strange, strange peace. I saw an image of a person carrying a yoke. a heavy yoke that was so burdensome the person was about to collapse. and then I saw others get under that yoke, too. I could see the strain lifted from the original bearer as the team pressed on, bearing that yoke together. the image brought me to tears. I feel so incredibly and overwhelmingly grateful to have such great people in my life that help me carry my burdens and the burdens of others. after feeling bogged down, a conversation with a friend so very dear to my heart uplifted me. I could feel her slip under the yoke and nudge it up. thank you, dear Lord, for Godly friends - compassionate friends. and I pray that you would help me to be one of those friends to those who so dearly need it.

and I am reminded of the ultimate-burden-carrier.

"come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - matthew 11:25-30

Thursday, December 8, 2011

yes, I'm five

there are a plethora of topics that could fall under this title. I'm five because...after a long hard day sometimes all I want to do is call my mom. because I still love disney channel original movies, hsm, and hannah montana. because a few minutes ago I was singing this song in my head - I've got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart. where? down in my heart. where? down in my heart!

and the list could go on...

but what I meant was...I have a confession.

I love children's books.

no, but really. I really really love them. I have kind of a small obsession. a special place in my heart.

when I was younger, my momma would always read to us. arthur, little critters, berenstein bears, amelia bedelia, is your momma a llama (don't recognize this one? that's unfortunate) and the list goes on and on and on.

I've also been known to visit the children's section of barne's and noble on my lunch break.

my favorite stories? yep, you guessed it - tales of the christmas variety.

I blame this on my mother as well. every night during the christmas season she would let me choose a book out of our large christmas collection, sit on my bed, and soothe me to sleepyville by reading a story. I may or may not have chosen the polar express at least 50% of the time, but I'm also a fan of little critter's christmas, merry christmas strega nona, the year of the perfect christmas tree...etc. etc.

oh, another reason I'm five? I may or may not cuddle up on my parent's bed and beg my mom to read me a christmas story even now. still touches a place in my heart and warms me from the inside out.

cookie-making two years ago at the wolf  household. cookies and children's books = christmas bliss.

fun health fact: cranberry juice can help with a urinary tract infection (in women)

getting closer to christmas and spending time with fam jam!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I like to move it...usually

I have always been one who likes to move. I enjoy physical activity - it clears my head, makes me feel better about life and gives me a sense of accomplishment. and those endorphins don't hurt either.

I've also been lucky enough to typically have a good friend who enjoys moving as well, and that makes even more enjoyable. (note: I do not talk when I run. excuse me while I try to breathe. I enjoy the company while trying to catch my breath post-cardio.)

in addition to all the great mental benefits, physical activity is also mega good for you physically. here are some health benefits of moving:

-prevents or slows atherosclerosis (aka - the buildup of plaque in your arteries. aka - cause of heart attacks, etc.)
-increases your HDL (which is your good cholesterol. and goes hand in hand with the above point)
-helps you maintain a healthy weight (durrr)
-lowers blood pressure (always good!)

I won't even go into why maintaining a healthy weight is good for you on soo many levels.

yes. hi, my name is ashley, and I like to exercise.

except for lately. lately I have wanted to do the opposite. lately I have wanted to:
-ignore my alarm when it goes off at 4:50 a.m.
-sleep until noon (hello, college self...nice to have you back. except not really.)
-wear bundly, warm, cuddly clothes at all times of the day/night. bonus points if the pants have an elastic waist.
-stay inside. preferably on the couch. preferably by my christmas tree, in the above outfit, under a heavy blanket.
-eat christmas goodies, like peppermint bark and christmas cake, while wearing the above outfit, in the above scenario.

ok you get the picture. it has been chilly (yes, I realize this is a relative term since I live in the south now), rainy and glum, and I have no motivation. zero. going on a run when it's 75 degrees and sunny outside is much more pleasant than bundling all up to travel to the YMCA to run a treadmill. fact. and, to top it off, my amazing accountability partner is out of town. yes, my physical health is at risk.

but then I remember how good it felt on monday morning to be drenched it sweat after spin class, and I want to go back.

motivation, I am summoning you. come. now. please. my waistline and overall health beckon you.

does anyone else have trouble with working out motivation in the winter? I want to hibernate. ok, I'm done now.

and to finish -

christmas photo of the day:

some things make me want to punch crazy christians in the face. this is one. more of these things are found here:

my paper chain says that there are 18 days until christmas. woohoo!

Monday, December 5, 2011

when bad things happen...

here's another contemplative thought that has been considered by pretty much every person who has ever walked the earth. yep. pretty sure.

why do bad things happen? and whats more, why do bad things happen to wonderful people?

'cause we live in a broken world, there's sin, blah blah. I've heard and said such things many times in the past few months while wondering about these questions.

because it seems just downright awful that the most generous, giving, selfless people get the most rotten luck. why does one of the nicest men I know become horribly injured in an accident? why are the lives of young people taken unexpectedly? why do super amazing people become the victims of abuse and poor treatment?

do you ever think that someone else's pain somehow helps you? I know that sounds quite horrible-hear me out. here are three ways (of many, I think) that pain/suffering/strife can have even small positive effect:

1) calling out the lie that one specific thing means life is perfect from here on out. whether it's weight loss, marriage, a dream-job or whatever - none of these things equates to a perfect life. as I recently read in a nutrition article, "there are many happy size-zeros. there are also many unhappy size-zeros." the point? whether it is being a size-zero, finding the person of your dreams, or becoming an olympic athlete, none of these will fulfill us and actually make our lives super wonderful 24/7. thus, seeing someone deal with a tough situation when they have what we want can make us re-evaluate that lie that our life will somehow be perfect once we attain said goal.

2) seeing that it is possible to get through a difficult situation. it is very encouraging for me to think of friends/family that have been through difficulties similar to those I am experiencing at a particular time and then see how happy they are now. obviously, this is not always the case, but a recent situation and how God redeemed it for a friend of mine has really shown me that we really can't see everything He has planned for us.

3) how people handle painful situations can be the most powerful testimony of all. there is a louie giglio video that talks about this exactly. he makes a brilliant illustration. when you are given a really difficult situation, you are being handed a megaphone. all eyes turn to you to see how you will handle the horrible hand you've been dealt (whether a loved one just died, you received a bad health diagnosis, you lost your job, etc. etc.). you have the opportunity to scream your testimony into that megaphone for all those eyes (or ears rather). so true. I think of all the times my mega-phone message is less than positive and a horrible testimony that I hope nobody was listening to. but true nonetheless - awful situations breed wonderful opportunities to broadcast a message, loud and clear.

obviously I think there are so many unnoticed/unseen pros that can come from pain and difficulty that we may never be aware of. and when I'm in a great deal of pain, the last thing I want is a peppy little talk on how to use my pain for positivity. but stepping back and re-evaluating the way I've learned from those who handled suffering in a Godly manner has really made me think about the bigger picture and the ways God uses the horrible, ugly things of this world for his glory, too.

I stumbled across this in ecclesiastes a few weeks ago and I thought these words are so wise (obvi since they're divinely-inspired I suppose)...

"When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other." - ecclesiastes 7:14

just my musings for tonight. happy only 20 days til we celebrate baby Jesus's birthday!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

a little perspective

going to school for dietetics lends itself to many, many lectures and discussions on the obesity epidemic. how we live in a "toxic environment' and the wide variety of factors led to this epidemic. but then we have weeks like the past few where one of my classes has discussed food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition. statistics on those who don't know where their next meal is coming from and an excerpt from one who tried to ration a collection of seven peas for two meals is incredibly eye-opening and gut-wrenching. how is it that I always seem to have TOO much food, whether or not I am trying to "budget" and save money for tuition? seven peas. that's all I can say.

so after being tested on all this information this week, I went to the salvation army canteen last night. I was humbled by those who were so grateful for a hat, scarf, or gloves. at one of the stops I started talking with a woman I've seen there numerous times before. she began telling me about all the books she's read and I became mesmerized. this woman knew so much. she could tell me the life story of several presidents, whose biographies she'd recently read. she could tell me the true story about a shipwreck that occurred due to a 10 degree directional mishap and how that shipwreck changed laws and standards about such things. she told me about inspirational stories she's read on those making differences in countries around the world and how these touch her heart. bring her to tears. about social injustice and conditions that upset her. and I just stood there listening, flabbergasted. this woman had just told me how she didn't like to check books out of the library for fear she'd ruin them if it rained, as she was homeless. and her heart could break for the less fortunate?

a dose of perspective.

I went on to a friend's house after that and enjoyed wonderful conversation, delicious food and warm place to do so....

in one of my very favorite book series' ever, one of the character states, after a near-disaster: "we could've been killed! or worse...expelled!"  the next scene flashes to another character whispering under his breath, "she seriously needs to sort out her priorities."

I'm not sure if I really have a point, but I don't want to have a skewed perspective. I don't want to focus on what I don't have rather than what I do have. I don't want to forget those less fortunate. because it seems a huge injustice to have so many with too much to eat and huge houses with too much space while others walk down the streets in the winter with their five bags filled with all the possessions they own, in search of a safe place to sleep. I don't want to forget that. I don't want to become comfortable when so many are not.

on that note, I am thankful for this wonderful family (picture: christmas 2009).

nutrition tip comes from this audrey hepburn quote that is mega-convicting to me...

"For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of each of your arms.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others."