The life and words of Ashley, Erin, and Michelle

Writing Prompt March 22, 2010

Filed under: Journaling,Writing — ashleybarrett @ 11:04 am
Tags: , , , ,

Hi everyone!

I’m still doing the Spring Cleaning Challenge at Nourishing Gourmet but for me, the challenge this week did not merit a post.

So here’s a new writing prompt. This prompt is somewhat adapted from From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler. I’m about two-thirds of the way through the book and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to write excellent fiction.

Take some brief anecdote from your life and write it the exact way you would narrate it to a friend. Let it sit for two weeks. Then pick it up again and try to make everything as concrete as possible, don’t name emotions, show them. Ruthlessly edit generalizations. Wait another two weeks, do it again.

Here’s my first-time results:

I didn’t learn to drive until I was 18 and I probably still wouldn’t have a driver’s license if  various members hadn’t taught/forced me to drive. One night in the summer, I was hanging out with a two of my cousins and a group of family friends around midnight, everyone decided that I needed a driving lesson and we went to the parking lot of a nearby middle school. My cousin, Amber* had her car, a Chevy Impala and her friend Lucy, had a blue Saturn. I started off with Amber in the Impala. She showed me stuff like how to change gears and how to put my foot on the pedals and stuff. I was puttering around the parking lot at about ten miles an hour, things were going pretty well, but I was still terrified. My other cousin Tim*, was driving Lucy’s Saturn. He was two years younger than me and had just gotten his license. He was showing off by driving circles around me, honking and flashing the lights.

Amber yelled at him out her window, “Stop it, jerkface, you’re scaring her!”

After a few more minutes of puttering, Amber thought I might do better if we switched cars, the Saturn was a lot smaller.

Riding in the Saturn felt much safer. The car was smaller and less powerful, so I felt less likely to crash into something. I could even accelerate to twenty miles an hour. After puttering around for a little bit Lucy said, “Ok let’s graduate from the parking lot. Turn onto this dirt road up here.”

I wasn’t exactly sure what she was talking about, but I turned onto what looked like a dirt road.

Suddenly, the car thudded and the front end dropped several inches. I thought Lucy was going to yell at me but she didn’t. Her and our other friend, Sarah just busted out laughing at the same time.

Kelly said, “Lesson Three: How to back out of a ditch.”

So I got out of the ditch and drove around a little more, I did eventually venture onto the road. As I was confidently circling the middle school, we passed Amber and Tim who were stopped and standing beside the Impala.

The Impala was stuck. It had been a long, wet summer and the car sat up to it’s bumper in mud.

At first we all cheerily tried to help. Some pushed from the back, others pulled from the front and visa versa. The mud was slick and thick. It sucked out shoes off our feet as we tried to push the car. Then we tried digging it out, it took forever and our moods turned sour. We were all covered in mud, except for Amber who wouldn’t help us dig because she had worn her flip-flops with the big red flower. I wasn’t allowed to help dig, my cousins said if I came home with filthy clothes my mom might not ever let me see my cousins again. So I stood by a tree and tried to boost morale by commenting on the irony of the two licensed drivers getting the car stuck. Few were amused and Tim threw mud at me.

We called multiple people for back up. Amber’s brother came with a pull chain but no one had a hitch on the back of their vehicle. Sarah went back to her parents house and got a van which had a hitch, but the Impala was in too deep. Finally, it was like two in the morning by now, Amber called her friend Chelsea who had a big yellow F150 and rescued the Impala.

We were relieved, but tired and dirty. Amber took her car to an automated car wash. One of the ones with the hoses and washed her car again and again. Underneath and everything. Tim and I were quiet while we helped her. Then we went back to the apartment and everyone cleaned up. Stephanie’s bathroom was filthy by the time we were done, but no one cared. We were all happy to be clean and dry and we fell asleep eating Cheez-It’s and watching infomercials.

*Names changed to protect the guilty, but you know who you are. 🙂

Your turn, feel free to share your early drafts and how they progress!


Fruitless Envy November 1, 2009

Filed under: Life in General — Erin Joy @ 9:00 pm
Tags: , , , ,

There are certain people in my life who seem to have exactly what I want:

  • the comfort of a great (non-temporary) job they are passionate about,
  • the adoration of a loving husband,
  • the creativity that can spark awe in the dullest of imaginations,
  • impressively productive will power,
  • the cute kids,
  • means to support so many different good causes,
  • world-wide travel,
  • an adventuresome nature that goes beyond “what if”.

And those are just a few of the things.

Sometimes those people spark me as inspiration, like when Katie came up with the reason and the means for us to dress as ninjas and slink through the night to spy on a suspected statue thief. There’s no way I would have done that on my own, and that’s become one of my favorite memories, largely for that reason alone.

There are other times, however, when I become envious of the people I hope would have inspired me. For instance, I see no relationship or children in the near future. Yes, I steal other people’s children on occasion, but I’m repeatedly told that it’s not the same as having your own.

I’m fully aware of the fact that the Bible describes envy as “unclean” (Mark 7:22) and “meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 4:4), and that it says it “rots your bones” (Proverbs 14:30). It’s true. No matter how much motivation envy brings about, you never really achieve what you were aiming at. You never truly are satisfied with what you have.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary puts it this way:

Pronunciation: \ˈen-vē\
Function: noun
Date: 13th century

1 : painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage

Clearly, that pain is not going to be comforted by some sort of effort on our part. The pain only leaves when “the desire to possess the same advantage” leaves. We need to learn to be thankful for where we are in life and for what we have. As I’m repeatedly telling the preschoolers in my Sunday school class, we have many, many things that God’s given us to be thankful for. We just have to take the time to think about them.

So, as I sit and look at that list, I wonder, How can I turn that around?

  • the comfort of a great (non-temporary) job they are passionate about, I have a job, one that has potential to become permanent.
  • the adoration of a loving husband, I’m not so old that this could never happen. I know someone who found love at 80 years of age.
  • the creativity that can spark awe in the dullest of imaginations, God has given us resources to inspire us on our not-so-creative days.
  • impressively productive will power, God gives me the strength to get done what needs to be.
  • the cute kids, I steal everyone else’s kids . . . and I get to give them back!
  • means to support so many different good causes, I can pray, and I know firsthand that God answers those prayers.
  • world-wide travel, I learn something new about where I live on a regular basis, and I have traveled far more than the average Joe.
  • an adventuresome nature that goes beyond “what if”. I am inspired and challenged by friends around me, even if those friends are only two to five years old.

How can you take your list of things you envy in others and turn them into reasons to be thankful?


Introduction: Ashley April 28, 2009

Filed under: Introduction — ashleybarrett @ 8:53 am
Tags: , , , ,

Today is my 24th birthday, which is a pretty good time to be answering the question, “who am I?” My name is Ashley (despite my many attempts throughout middle and high school to come up with something cooler, thankfully, none of them stuck). I am a newlywed, so this is my first birthday as Ashley Barrett and it feels a world apart from all my other birthdays.

This year, I’m looking back on my life and thanking God for all the different stages of my existence marked by birthdays. Like two years ago, staying up all night with Erin in the publications lab at Bethel College, eating baked oatmeal, sleeping on the couch at Sufficient Grounds for 45 minutes waking up, smoothing out our hair and giving a presentation final in Portfolio Completion. It’s very different than where I am now (I’ll probably be in bed by 9:30 tonight) but I’m so glad for it and all the other memories I’ve accumulated.

So tell me, what are your birthday rituals? How do you mark stepping out of one age and into a new one?