Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Four Favorite Christmas Songs:
1. O Holy Night - but only when it's sung well. A lady at our church always used to sing it in this horribly warbled operatic style, no thank you.
2. Silent Night
3. Happy Christmas (War is Over) - This song really captures the bittersweet emotions I feel during this season, reflecting on the past, and looking forward to the future.
4. Sleigh Ride - I used to gallop around the house singing and dancing to this song while decorating the tree :)
Christmas Songs I Could Do Without Hearing Next Year:
1. Baby, it's Cold Outside - I know it's supposed to be cute and flirty, but listening to 3 1/2 minutes of a woman saying no to a man pressuring her to spend the night just makes my stomach churn. "No" means "NO!" gentlemen!
2. Miss You Most (At Christmastime) by Mariah Carey - because Christmas is all about moping over your lost loves, right?
3. Christmas Don't Be Late by Alvin and the Chipmunks *cringe*
Four Favorite Christmas Movies:
1. Love Actually - Ok, I suppose I can allow a little romance into the Christmas season, just because this is one of my favorite films
2. It's a Wonderful Life
3. A Christmas Story
Four Foods I Eat Each Christmas:
1. Chicken Spaghetti
3. Brie cheese rounds with cranberries an pears
4. Homemade Fudge!
Four Christmas Traditions I Enjoy:
1. Christmas Eve candle light church service
2. Christmas Eve dinner at the Caver Clubhouse with my huge family
3. Hitching a ride to my grandma's nursing home
4. Singing Christmas carols with my aunts and cousins at my grandma's nursing home
Four Things I got for Christmas this year:
1. Stylish pants and shoes for my practicum
2. Once and Memento on DVD
3. 2 Books: one of Ray Bradbury stories and one about psychodynamic therapy
4. Pink bunny rabbit pajamas. I kid you not, and I'm wearing them on New Year's baby!
Alright, I look forward to reading your responses :)
Saturday, December 22, 2007
What other films have made me cry? The Lion King, Armageddon, We Were Soldiers, Crash. I'm sure there were a few others, but it's somewhat rare for me to cry during a film. It's usually scenes of extreme loss and grief that cause me to cry tears of sadness, but my tears during Juno weren't tears of sadness - at least not for the characters anyway. There was a sense of loss, but mostly I felt joy for the characters who had found something that they were deeply longing for.
What films make you cry?
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Like this professor, I also appreciate closing ceremonies. Having just written about saying good-bye, it dawned on me, "Good-byes are important to me!" I once said something to the effect of, "I don't believe in good-byes," but I think what I really meant was, "Good-byes aren't permanent." As I've recently transitioned and moved, I really haven't made a big deal out of saying good-bye since I truly believe that each of these good-bye will eventually be followed with another hello. I do believe in good-byes, though I sometimes downplay them, good-byes are important to me. I love the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of an experience or a relationship. I crave meaning.
Goodness, sometimes I'm the queen of closure. Frequently after a break-up, I'll write a long letter to the former boyfriend, because there's always something to say and some question that I want answered. They usually thoughtfully respond, and this closure helps. But what I most love to hear is, "You were meaningful to me. Though we didn't work out, you have touched my life in a special way and it was meaningful." And that's what I want to say when I say good-bye to anyone, "You were meaningful to me. Though we're parting now, you have touched my life in a special way and it was meaningful. God be with you until we meet again."
But sometimes you don't say this. Sometimes you just borrow each other's DVDs and say something awkward like, "See you in January, or not," laughing and smiling. Whether meaning is overtly expressed, or good-byes are downplayed, something is shared between two or more in these closings.
God be with you, until we meet again.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Saturday, December 08, 2007
So, should you even say goodbye? Maybe "good luck" would be more appropriate, but those two simple words completely ignore what is being lost, even when you don't completely know what you're losing.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Professor: For those of you who have seen this film before, what did you notice this time that you didn't notice before?
Me: This time, I noticed that there were several scenes with American flags in the background. Just kinda like, "This is our America, this is what it's really like."
Professor: Hmm, and what do you think of that?
Me: What do you mean?
Professor: I saw something in your face change when you said that. ***
Me: Well, I think the filmmakers were using this as a symbol, to remind the viewers that all the things they're witnessing really do happen right here, and to connect the actions with what us as viewers are also capable of . . .
I rambled on something like that, but what I wish I'd said, which is perhaps the true reason why my face changed, is simply, "I'm sad that this is our America."
One of my classmates had brought her Dutch roommate to watch Crash with us, to educate him about American race relations. He had showed us this video, and we all laughed, but explained that it would probably offend Black Americans, but he didn't really understand why.
(I tried to embed this, but it wouldn't paste everything)
I asked him after watching Crash what he thought, since he didn't parcipate in the discussion. With a look of shock and disgust he replied, "I sincerely hope that this movie was exaggerated." "I don't know," I responded, "I'm not sure if it was. All of these things happen, but I guess it is kinda overwhelming to see all of those packed into a two hour film." Then I turned to my classmates, "What do you think? Do you think any of this was exaggerated?" They all responded with an emphatic "No!" My dutch friend just shook his head, and all he could say was "Wow."
When he returns to the Netherlands in January, what is he going to think of our country? He loves our food, even though he sees how unhealthy it is and now understands why America is so obese. He buys a gallon of Blue Bell ice cream of different flavors every week. He bikes to his internship, and my classmate drives him to the grocery store once a week. We've taken him to movies like Dan in Real Life, and to the carnival, where we bought him funnel cakes and hot dogs. He came to the our pre-Thanksgiving dinner and we all talked about our different holidays and our countries' ways of celebrating. And then we showed him Crash. So, when he goes home, what will he say about America? That it's full of fat, racist people? He might not be completely off. But surely the good will outweigh the bad. He'll remember Blue Bell and his kind roommate and her grad student friends who were patient and caring enough to spend time with a 19 year old Dutch kid and answer his questions and buy him hot dogs and funnel cake. And that's the America that I hope we can be.
***Side note: It's really something else having psychologists as professors! They pick up on nonverbal cues a little too well. My first class this semester, I had a professor completely call me out, "Zach, you agree, but you, you're completely stoic. I can't read anything one way or another in your expression." Dang!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
And God’s grace is at work through this time. The scriptures I am reading are becoming so much more real to me. They’re not just things I think; they’re things that I experience. Somehow, for the most part, I feel at peace. I feel hopeful, and I feel that this is right where I should be. Though November has been lonely and sometimes sad, it’s better than the anxiety and confusion that was September and October. I can handle sad and I know that it will go away. Anxiety and doubts, I’m not really sure what to do with those. More tangible, external things are also happening. I have dear close friends and relatives who, while not here physically to take away my loneliness, have been only a phone call or email away, and have supported me, prayed for me, and talked me through my rough nights and mornings. While I’m new at my church and all of these people are new to me, I’ve started to become closer to them. I am starting to connect with them and feel at home. A couple of weeks ago, I shared with my small group the loneliness that I’m feeling, and they’re responding and I’m starting to experience through them this connection with others that I long for. I’m starting to really experience what it means for a church to be a community. It’s not perfect, these aren’t my new best friends just yet, but step by step, I’m experiencing the community that my heart desires.
I’m also trying to let go of my expectations of these new people in my life. I’m trying to not let my self-worth be determined by other’s approval. I do desire close friendship and connectedness, and I need more support here, but I’m trying to not be needy. When I go into situations when I’m around new friends and just release my expectations, and just try to love and enjoy them, well, it usually goes great, connections just flow naturally and I’m thankful for that.
I have been so focused on myself these past few months, but I want to love others more. I want to really, genuinely care about all of those around me. I want to step out from myself, step away from my trying to make myself better and happier and instead focus on giving to others and enriching their lives.
I have no idea how any of this sounds. However this comes across, writing this is more real to me than writing about being white. I have started writing a follow-up to my whiteness post, but today is not the day to finish it. I actually started writing this post Sunday evening, during a time that was probably a low point for the past couple of weeks. I am feeling better, and I know that in spite of the rough times I’m experiencing, I’m becoming more whole and more myself because of it.
Monday, November 19, 2007
I just can’t contain my excitement about going home tomorrow! It’s been two long months since I was last home, two months in which I’ve poured my energy into readings, papers, exams, friendships, romance, church family, counseling sessions, cooking, cleaning, football games, laughter, tears, carnivals, shopping, long discussions, oh, I could go on, but now all of my energy is focused on going home, packing, loading up, and dancing. I can’t contain it, my excitement is leaking out of my body in the way I’m just letting go and moving to the music, swaying my hips, raising my arms above my head, accidently hitting the little chains from my fan not once, but twice, but still moving, not stopping . . . and tomorrow, I will work and hope the hours go by fast, pick up my dear cat, and drive north, listening to my music, talking to my friends, driving through rural farmlands, small towns that barely dot the map, through another college town about halfway through, stopping at the Czech bakery, loading up on carbs, and continuing north, to where the highway splits, until finally, the downtown buildings come into view to my left, it’ll still be light, but perhaps the sun will be setting behind them, perhaps their lights will already be on, and maybe my heart will skip a beat at the sight of them, but then I’ll likely be stuck in rush hour traffic, and wish it were moving faster, and the last hour will stretch out so long, but I’ll play my music louder, and sing, and soon be home, into the arms of my loved ones.
Well, now my car is loaded, sandwiches are made, In Rainbows has moved* into some slower tempo songs, and I think I’ve spent all that energy I just described. Now, I will relax and sleep and awake with great anticipation.
I sincerely hope that someday I will look forward to returning to my new home with as much excitement as I’ve just expressed.
*BTW, sometimes I love passive voice – APA can bite me. Not really, I need to submit a publication sometime soon!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I'm currently working on a paper for Multicultural Counseling class that is forcing me to examine some of these things. It's interesting yet hard because I don't think White Americans think about these things very often. Being a part of the dominant culture, our "whiteness" may seem so universal as to make it invisible. My culture has become the norm by which minority cultures are judged and examined. Sometimes, "deviance" is easier to define than "normalness."
When I finish this paper, I'll give some more thoughts on these things. For now, I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Dang, is this how I return to blogger after an almost four month hiatus? A brief paragraph and some questions that I hope are thought-provoking? It's not quite the "I'm back!" kinda post that I had planned on, but it's what's on my mind. Starting several weeks ago, every once in a while I started reading some of your blogs and leaving comments to try to slowly ease back into the blog world. There is a lot going on in my life that I'd love to write about, but I just haven't sat down and done it. I wrote one post last week that was merely describing a new experience that I had, but I never posted it because I wanted to edit it.
But I truly would love to hear your thoughts on whiteness. After that, there are so many things that I want to share with each of you, and I want to share in your lives as well. This may not be dramatic or poetic, but I have returned.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
1. College Station. I've already written some about the purpose of this trip and some of my emotions involved. The first day was exciting and peaceful, but the second day was exhausting and stressful for my mom and I. I know I said some things outloud that I should have just kept in my head, but I apologized eventually. The stress of the day alleviated around 6pm when we decided to stay another night, and drive around and look at the outside of more homes/townhouses/duplexes, and our exhaustion turned into giddy delirium. We spent hours sitting outside of McDonalds in our car to get cheap wifi, driving around, trying to find properties based on the computerized voice of my mom's GPS program. Towards the end of the second day, we recognized how ridiculous it was that we were following around the verbal instructions of a machine, so we named her Clarissa. "Clarissa will guide us, she'll tell us what to do and where to do. Clarissa, where do we turn next?" We spent the weekend chasing properties, realtors, wifi signals, Starbucks, Walmarts, and hotels. We often found our way inside properties accidentally - a painter working inside would let us in, or the rentor would arrive home and let us in just as we were about to leave, or one time my mom shocked me by simply opening a window and climbing inside.
We were driving along one neighborhood toward a house, when we noticed two young men riding a two-seated bicycle. My mom nervously asked, "Are they gay?" "No mom, they're just frat boys." "Are you sure?" "Yes, they're wearing polos shirts. That's just what fratboys do." "Really?" "Yup. There's probably a video camera somewhere." To our surprise, these young men were friend of the rentors of the home we were looking at! They brought us into their home, and apologized for it being completely trashed from their party the night before and warned us not to open the fridge. I noticed a broken window upon entering, and it seemed like every room went into had another hungover guy in it - seriously, there were probably at least 10 guys coming in and out of the place, all in various levels of stupor at 4pm in the afternoon. One of the tenants explained how they would replace the carpet and probably put in some new appliances. He said that the owner had offered to replace the carpet for them, but they told them, "No, we're just going to trash the place, don't bother." I love that. I love people who are so unpretentious, so unapologetically themselves.
2. Abilene. This was a true getaway, and I needed it. Two of my closest high school friends went to ACU and recently graduated. They are both going to continue living in Abilene for a couple of more years, one to wait for her husband to graduate, and another to complete her master's program. We had a great weekend, catching up, celebrating, drinking watered down Walmart margaritas, having meaningful conversations and asking and answering the questions that are somehow only asked by these girls. Not always even deep probing questions, but E asked if me and M were such good friends because we were both only children. We then started talking about all the things that we have in common because we're only children, and the things that we do differently from others who have siblings. I've thought about this a lot before, but this brought new insights into my understanding of my personality and my relationships with others.
Also, I greatly enjoyed going to E's "inner city" church, hearing the honestly of the people there, and praising the Lord with our voices alone. During the service, I had these thoughts that sound depressing but were actually very comforting to me: I could marry the man of my dreams, and he could die or we could get divorced or I could get some terrible chronic illness. I just thought about the reality of that, how all the dreams I have could completely change, and one thing could happen to alter the rest of my life. This thought drove me to think about how the one constant in my life is God. My husband could die or I could get a disease and it could be absolutely awful, but I would be ok. Life would go on and I would be ok, possibly more than ok, with the Lord at my side.
This weekend brought some good insights and revelations, but mostly it brought me peace. If you ever find yourself in Abilene, you must visit a sculpture at ACU called "Jacob's Dream." It's not really just a sculpture, it's a beautiful structure including a sculpture of angels climbing the ladder to heaven, and surround by large stones, grass, and a small pool used for baptisms. The artist (an art professor) continues to work on this since it was created, continuing to carve words from scripture into the stones. The messages on the rocks aren't always obvious, there may only be one or two words on each large stone, but you simply look to the right or below, and the phrase continues. Though we never did find the "Jacob" to end the phrase, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham, Issac, and . . ." but perhaps he hasn't completed that one yet. After following the messages in the rocks and taking many pictures, E and I finally just sat quietly for several moments, enjoying the peaceful setting. I prayed, I remembered God's presence, and I remembered these promises that were etched on these stones, from the word of the Lord which stands forever though heaven and earth may fall away.
I also found peace staying in E's home. They recently moved into a beautiful old home that they're renting, with hardwood floors, a moon-shaped window in the front door, and windows everywhere. My times spent eating, reading, watching the end of a movie with one of her roommates, or listening to the rain hit the tin roof that covered their back porch were so blissfully relaxing, I wanted to stay in this house forever. Indeed, after E left for work on Monday and I was about to head home, I was extremely reluctant to leave. I didn't leave right when she left because I was waiting for a CD to finish burning on her computer, but even after it was finished, I lingered. I walked around the house, checking to see if I'd neglected to pack anything, and sure enough, I found a book of mine sitting on top of their piano, but I still managed to leave my umbrella and a pair of shorts. I filled up my water bottle with the pitcher from their fridge, then refilled their pitcher, then refilled their ice trays. I checked the doors to make sure that they were locked. Finally, after loading everything into my car and not being able to think of any other duty that would give me an excuse to stay, I drove away.
3. Atlanta. Not Georgia, but Atlanta, Texas is the small town where both of my parents graduated from high school and the majority of my dad's family still lives there - my grandad, both his brothers, and two of my six cousins and their families, and a third cousin lives about 45 minutes away from there. I enjoyed seeing my family, we had our traditional fish fry, but I also had more fun than I usually do being there. After dinner, my dad, stepmom, aunt, and my cousin's friend from boy scouts, all went bowling. We had heard that the local bowling alley was under new ownership and had been renovated somewhat, so we decided to check it out. Whatever renovations had been done, my aunt said it looked exactly the same as when she had gone there in high school. This place was so great and retro, my cousin's friend commented that it felt like "we're in an episode of That Seventies Show." After bowling, we went to Walmart and bought a movie, and stayed up until 2:30 watching it. Seriously, most of my friends here don't ever stay up that late with me, and I found myself tiring out before my parents and aunt did! I guess I had a little age stereotype that was dispelled that evening. Shortly after finishing the movie, there came a knock on the door. It was my grandfather who had woken in the middle of the night, got up and seen that our car was gone, and thought that someone had shot us and taken our car! Had it not been for his extreme worry, I would have laughed at such a paranoid idea. Shortly after returning to my grandfather's house, I overheard him chastising my dad, "What in the hell?" and my dad explaining why we were out so late. Even at fifty-five, a man can still be responsible to his father.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
I looked at Photobucket, but couldn't figure out how to upload multiple photos easily unless I download a new type of internet browser, which I'm definitely not planning on doing at internet cafes. I also looked into Webshots, but it only allows 1000 pictures for its free version. That sounds like a lot, but it's really not considering that I took over 200 pictures at New Orleans, and at least that many at Chicago, and I'm sure I'll be taking lots more pictures over the course of three weeks in Europe. Hmm, maybe I need to be more picky about which pictures I post, or just suck it up and pay a subscription fee for premium services. But, if there is another good free site that I'm overlooking, please bring it to my attention!
On another note, I went to a midnight Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix showing and absolutely loved it! While they don't compare to the books, I've enjoyed all the films. In preparation for the latest film, I rewatched Goblet of Fire the other night and realized that as much as I love that story, the film version really wasn't all that great. Aside from the awkwardly sexual moments that were just odd and distracting, it just moved way too fast, jumping around from scene to scene, hardly developing subplots and new characters, and barely giving the viewer any chance to have an emotional reaction to what they're viewing. However, this latest film seems to flow much more naturally, and while you have to cut a lot from an 800 page book to fit it into 2 hours and 20 minutes, it didn't feel hurried nor did I really miss the things they cut very much. In slowing down the pacing somewhat, I actually was able to feel all the different emotions the book brought out while watching the film. And I was surprised at all the little details from the book that made it into the movie, especially within the first half hour. I hesitate to say this having not watched the first three films in a couple of years, but I really think this might be the best film of the series so far. I hope that if you read this before you see the film that you're not expecting something so spectacular that the actual viewing disappoints. It's a fun film, but it's not going to win any Oscars, and you probably won't love every part of it. I've tried to just give an overall opinion and not mention any specifics. So, please see this film soon, form your own opinion, and let me know your thoughts!
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I've had lots of worries and fears lately. I'm excited about Europe and A&M, but I feel anxious because time seems to be going by too fast for my liking. And when it comes to moving to College Station and starting graduate school, there have been so many unknowns that I've been starting to feel fearful. I think it's just natural (I hope) to worry when things are unknown. Will I like the place I'm living? Will I make friends? Will I find a good church? Will I do well in my classes? Will I like my assistantship? Will the professors like me? Will I have time for myself, or will I constantly be busy? Will I be able to keep up with my friends and family here? Will I get lonely? Because to be honest, I sometimes already find myself feeling lonely. That's probably one of my biggest fears. Being lonely in a new place. Wishing I was somewhere else, with other people, not being able to connect with the new place and people. Not feeling at home. I also fear getting in over my head, the doctoral program being too hard, and me getting burnt out. I pray and I try to trust, but the worry is still there.
Still, the unknowns are starting to slowly become known and God is starting to spare a few dollops of peace. I have decided to live in C's house, at least for the first year. I have my reservations, but I'm starting to get more excited about it. It's likely it'll just be the two of us, which means I'll have a big bathroom to myself, we have a two car garage, and she invited me over to her house for dinner. I imagine that her parents wanted to meet the girl who will be living in the home they just bought, but nonetheless, I take an invitation to someone's home as a very welcoming gesture. We had a good time tonight, her parents are really nice, and I stayed over there for three hours, drinking coffee, discussing decorating (we like the same colors!), who's going to bring what, playing with her golden retriever puppy who will be living with us, and looking at the floorplan. I had told her before about wanting to adopt a cat and she said that it'd be fine, but her dad told me about one caveat - he's allergic to cats but long-haired cats like Maine Coons actually don't bother him that much and he'd like to be able to visit his daughter without feeling miserable. Something about the dandruff that people are allergic to is worse on short-haired cats than long-haired ones (for him at least). I haven't started looking at cats right now, and he could have said, "Do you absolutely have to get a cat?" but instead he said, "Could you try to find a long-haired cat?" which I think is doable. The idea of a big cuddly Maine Coon type cat sounds really wonderful :) As I type that, my precious Russian Blue is rubbing his head under my foot, asking for attention. I wish I could take him, but he is now my mom's cat and she won't part with him. That's ok, I'm sure there is another wonderful cat out there who needs a home and hopefully Rouble will understand and forgive me :)
Ok, I went off on an unexpected cat tangent. Another unknown that has been made known is my graduate assistantship assignment. I've been assigned to assist with the test library in the on campus Counseling and Assessment Center. It doesn't sound terribly exciting, but I think it is an answer to prayers and will be something that I'll enjoy. As much as I'd like a position that I can learn from, I worried about finding myself in an extremely challenging and tiring position, and I regretted that my current job might be the last one that I'm overqualified for. Thinking about it a couple of weeks ago, I remember hoping that I'd find something working with people, since good customer service is my greatest strength in my current job. Reading my supervisor's description of my duties, it sounds like this position has the qualities that I desire -
"The job has several functions. First, you should check out, maintain, and secure psychological tests that are required by our training programs. Students will come to you to check out the tests during your posted hours in the clinic. Second,
you are to inventory the tests and order any tests that we need to order. Finally, the last function is to serve as a receptionist for the CAC-Heaton if clients are being seen. (This duty requires greeting clients, letting the graduate student know they are there, and collecting payment for their testing when they leave.)"
It doesn't sound mentally or physically exhausting (knock on wood), I should be interacting with a variety of people, and I might even learn a thing or two about psychological testing which I could use in the future :)
God is using the external to bring me more peace, and he's also using the internal.
I've been reading Gilead, a wonderful Pulitzer Prize winning novel written as a memoir of a small town preacher diagnosed with a terminal illness, trying to tell his family history to his young son, and reflecting on his impending death and current personal dilemmas. Listening to this book, I've been impressed with this fictional character's knowledge of scripture, and I realized that it's probably been over a year since I've attempted to memorize any scripture. I've chosen Luke's Sermon on the Plain to try to memorize.
I've also been reading Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline, a great book with a chapter devoted to twelve Christian practices that should cultivate spiritual depth - Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Simplicity, Service, Confession, Worship, etc. I wasn't sure if I should just read it straight through and then select a discipline here and there to further develop or read it slowly and attempt to incorporate what I'm reading into my daily life, but halfway through the first chapter, I'm realizing that this will be a slow read. Which is ok, I want time to put things into practice and really soak in what I'm learning. So now, in addition to just memorizing the Sermon on the Plain, I'm trying to meditate on it to better receive the gift of my Savior's words. The other night, I let my imagination run, and imagined Christ speaking those words to me and his other disciples, picturing his facial expression - a big smile, but with compassionate and understanding eyes that speak to us, "I know what you're going to go through because of me, but someday you'll see that this suffering is a blessing."
"20Looking at his disciples, he said:
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22Blessed are you when men hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man."
I imagined experiencing each of those emotions as best I could. I don't really know what it is to be poor, but I know hunger, satisfaction, weeping, laugher, and being hated. And I knew - not just head knowledge, but really knew deep inside - that the Son of Man knows all those feelings too and cares about what we experience. And just for that "knowledge," I feel blessed.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
I come from an incredible family.
I am a strong woman. My mother is a strong woman. My aunts are strong women. My grandmother is a strong woman. My great-grandmother was a strong woman. They all have faced incredible hardships - deaths of sons, husbands, fathers, divorce, mental illness, betrayals, financial problems. They are success stories. By God's grace and their faith in Him and in themselves, they have overcome these things to survive and thrive. They are raising children who will be lawyers and doctors and psychologists and museum curators and businessmen. Every Christmas, we come together and all sing hymns. We sing because we are free, and joyful, and loved, and thriving. We sing because we have overcome. We sing because God is good and He gives us strength. We sing because no matter what happens, we have love to give. We sing our strengths.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Today, Girl receives card -
"Thank you for being part of our special day and thank you for the Battle of the Sexes. We remember how it was really all your fault that we're together! Of course it's a fault in a good way :)
[Man and Wife]"
Girl smiles. A lot.
PS - Girl still has mix tape somewhere.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I promise the next poem I post won't need such a long preface.
My Mr. Blue
I’m sorry, Mr. Blue,
But today I’m leaving you.
No matter that you left first
In my mind, I can still leave you
Like you left me
Those years ago,
Don’t cry, Mr. Blue,
Not this time.
(If you really did before)
Take the hand of grace
And break free
To become Mr. New.
Then you will love again.
Mr. New, where are your tears?
Still behind your eyes.
So, it’s still you, Mr. Blue
Sitting in prison to your fears
Not yet ready
To become someone new.
I’m sorry, Mr. Blue
I truly am,
That I had to leave you
But I needed something new.
Don’t you know?
You need it too.
Monday, June 11, 2007
The rest of the College Station visit went well. The stress did come, but I'm feeling better about things. There are lots of silly stories from it that I want to share, but I'm rather tired right now. And hopefully next time I post I'll have made a decision and I'll have some news about where I'll be living soon! In the meantime, please pray that things will all work out. I've found some places closer to campus that I really like, but it all depends on if roommates pan out. So far, all my roommate leads are becoming dead ends. Living in the friend of a friend's house has become my second choice, but still a really good option. Pray that if I've meant to live in one of these places that are more of a first choice for me right now, that roommates will work out. If I'm meant to live in C's house, please pray that I'll feel more at peace about it. I know that whatever happens, it's in God's hands and He'll work things out better than I could. And even if things don't work out perfectly, I can always find something else for next year.
Also, my friend Anton is currently filming in London (lucky) and has just posted a pitch video for his series, "The Great Commission." Check it, yo!
I promise, it's up there. Just click the box!
Thursday, June 07, 2007
But you know what's nice? I'm not really stressed out about making this decision. Today has been physically and mentally exhausting, but I feel like I'm making progress and it's been exciting to walk into a couple of places and immediately know that I could be at home. It's fun being down here, knowing that this is where I'm going to make myself at home in just about 2 1/2 months. The only other time I was here, almost four months ago for the interview, I spent a lot of time thinking, "Could I be at home here?" Now, there's no question. I may have my doubts, but my decision is made - this is my home and I'm enjoying this little preview :)
On another note, I've been thinking lately about how different colors affect me and how I interact with those colors. For example, I while I love wearing bright, fiery colors like orange and red, I prefer living in rooms with cooler colors - especially blue. I also noticed that I love drinking coffee from black mugs. My mom thought this was strange, and said that she preferred white mugs because she can see her black coffee better. I realized that since I drink my coffee with a little cream, the black mugs provide a beautiful contrast to my caramel colored drink. A couple of days ago, I summarized these musings into this little poem/ditty/whatever.
The Colors of My World
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white.
I notice red.
I carry orange.
I admire yellow.
I wear green.
I relax in blue.
I bleed purple.
I drink from black.
I drive white.
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white.
I notice redheads.
I carry orange bags.
I admire yellow flowers.
I wear green to work.
I relax in my blue room.
I bleed my alma mater purple.
I drink coffee from black mugs.
I drive white cars.
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white.
These are the colors of my world.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
She felt her right pocket. Was it still there? She thought she felt a small lump, but what if it was just a fold in the fabric? She didn’t dare reach into her pocket, fearing that the wind would tear the gift away from her. It would be lost into the night, breaking the spell.
She walked more briskly, arms at her sides. She tried to imagine him, remembering every detail. Her family and friends had warned her not to fall in love in New Zealand. She laughed to herself – perhaps fate didn’t care for warnings? But who knew if it would be love. It could be a fling, a friendship, or nothing at all. Still, she pictured him, his smile, his strong arms, the way his hair fell on his forehead, and most importantly – his eyes. She remembered the way his eyes squinted and wrinkled when he laughed, the glint in them as he suggested wild deeds, and the way those playful eyes turned soft as he listened to her. She saw so much in those eyes – compassion, adventure, wisdom.
She couldn’t take it anymore. She had to know if it was safe. She reached her right hand into the pocket. There it was, that tiny slip of paper. It felt so thin and fragile, as if too much handling would cause it to fall apart and disintegrate.
Safe in her room, she dared to remove the treasure from its keep. There it was, on the back of a receipt - a number scribbled next to a name that would become dear to her lips in the coming months.
Martha's Prompt: Imagine a coat. Imagine the pocket of the coat. Imagine what's in the pocket.
Friday, June 01, 2007
I'm also really excited about being such an awesome city on July the 4th. It's probably my least favorite holiday, not that I'm unpatriotic, but most of my 4th of Julys have either been bad or just uneventful. I'm sure I had some better ones in my childhood - I remember Laura being in town once and us going to watch fireworks all together. The best 4th of July by far was celebrated two years ago in Mexico. Yes, I know, they don't celebrate on that day, but we were a bunch of American kids studying abroad so we had an "American" party/birthday party for our professor. So, until we planned this trip, I was hoping to work on July the 4th and get time and a half pay, but someone said we get time and a half for Memorial Day this Monday - hurrah!
All of this got me thinking - where, what, and when are the events/holidays that I dream about celebrating? Here's my list, in approximate chronilogical order -
1. Kite Flying Festival in India. Modi told me about this once, though I'm not sure which city he attended this. Everyone flies kites from their rooftops, and the sky is filled with color. But, these are fighting kites - their lines are made with glass and sharp for cutting down other kites. Sign me up! I'd also love to go to an Indian wedding here or there. Modi tells me that it's traditional (at least in his family) for all of the guests to smash food and cake into each other's faces and always ends with a big food fight :)
2. Chinese New Year in (duh) China. The Chinese invented fireworks, and that's reason enough. I've seen pictures of Chinese New Year's parades and they look incredible. Maybe if I don't make it to China, I can settle for celebrating New Year's in Chinatown in San Francisco.
3. St. Patrick's Day in Chicago. I'm sure that whatever Chicagans do on the 4th of July doesn't even compare to how they celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I want to see the river dyed green (which my mom says is naturally slightly green already), watch the big parade, and drink some green beer with friends and strangers.
4. Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Crowds of drunken revelers partying and exposing themselves has never appealed to me, so I'm surprised this makes my list. Having survived and enjoyed Bourbon street a month ago during Jazz Fest weekend, I'm feeling brave enough to tackle this city during its craziest. The floats will be spectacular and I'm sure this will be a memorable event to experience once - if never again.
5. Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Mexico. I witnessed one religious procession while in Mexico two years ago, and would love to be a part of another, bigger one. I want to go to mass and pray with everyone, witness the processions, see a passion play, and crack confetti eggs over the heads of my friends :)
6. The Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain, aka The Running of the Bulls. I think almost every Spanish class I've taken has mentioned this festival. While I would not be running, I'd love to witness this event and take part in the dangerous excitement. I'll bring some Hemingway to read on the plane.
7. Austin City Limits. The lineup is always incredible. There are almost always at least a few performers that I've been wanting to see in concert by themselves, and then several more that I know I would enjoy immensely, making a list of at least 10 performances. This year was no different, and a couple of friends and I started talking about going. Unfortunately, another close friend scheduled her wedding for that weekend - which isn't terribly unfortunate, as I'm excited for her and eager to be a part of their special weekend :) But someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, I neeeeeeeeeed to make it to ACL or a similar music festival.
8. New Year's Eve Down Under. Heather's been telling me what she's heard about the kickass New Year's Eve party that occurs in New Zealand. Forget Time Square, Australians and Kiwis are among some of the first to reach the new year and they go all out to celebrate. I'm not entirely sure what goes on, but it's BIG.
I left out some significant holidays. To be honest, I have no idea where to spend the Fourth of July - Washington, DC? Or Halloween - Mexico? New Orleans? But for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'm sure there are many enchanting places (New York City comes to mind), but Dorothy was right, there's really no place like home.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Tonight's close was going awful. We were short a closer, and kept getting slammed in the cafe and drivethru and things were going very slowly. We were all in poor spirits and could see no end in sight. Our shift supervisor Elliott (who's barely a year older than me) was giving us instructions, when Amber, a new barista sarcastically remarked, "Oh, you want me to make mochas and whip creams at the same time? Ok, I'll pick the winning lotto numbers too." Something sparked in mine and Elliott's heads. "Wouldn't it be fun if we bought lotto tickets? What if we won? We'd split it four ways and then just leave the store!" We decided to give it a shot, each pitch in a dollar, and buy four sets of numbers. Immediately, our morale improved and the former heaviness of the air lifted. We each chimed in with out lucky numbers, then picked numbers from our partners numbers. We then used numbers from our evening's milk count and put together four combinations. "If we actually win," Amber commented as she stirred the mochas, "I'm going to dump this stuff all of the floor!" Having already eaten before coming to work and never having bought a lotto ticket before, I volunteered to head to the gas station during my lunch break and try our luck.
I felt like I was in a movie scene. Driving through the rain, listening to Muse, my heart pattered with excitement. Fear crept into my mind. There was a little bit of danger to this. What if we actually won something? Aren't most lotto winners bankrupt within a year or two of their winnings? And what about the cursed numbers from LOST that Hurley picked for his winning lotto ticket? Rain beating down, bass thumping, guitars soaring, I pressed on. While filling out our numbers, I noticed a sign something to the effect of "7-11 number blah blah blah sold a winning ticket for the amount of '1,918'" Wow, so someone had won something from this same spot, picking 3 or 4 of the lucky numbers.
I returned with the ticket, and renewed vigor. As I told Elliott, "This was more energizing than a shot of espresso!" Even after we checked the numbers and discovered no winnings, I still felt ten times better the second half of the shift. We decided we'd try some scratch off tickets next time. We worked hard, we laughed, we told stories, and even sang a little. We got everything done and didn't get out too late.
I keeping our losing lotto ticket to remember the connection myself and my fellow partners had this night, and many nights past and future. No large amounts of cash to show for it, but tonight I did get lucky.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Yesterday I felt jealous, but today I don't. How did I fight this jealousy? I employed love, reminding myself that I loved the friend I was jealous of, and that I shouldn't feel a sense of competition with her. I prayed, remembering the cross, remembering the one who humbled himself, and asked for the jealousy to be taken away, and asked for His humility and love. I used reason, and told myself that in this case, there was no logical reason to feel jealous, that she didn't even have what I wanted, that I was being irrational and emotional. I tried contentment, I remembered my blessings and was thankful for all the wonderful things in my life and for the place that I'm in. And today, I feel content and I feel at peace. Mostly.
I hate that this isn't the first time that I've felt jealous of this friend. I hate that when I'm around her, I often compare myself to her and feel that she's my competitor. I hate that I let her little comments against my appearance or abilities get to me so much. I know she loves me as I love her and I know that she doesn't mean any harm. It's all playful jest, but it still hurts me. It doesn't hurt me in the typical way, I don't want to run and cry, it makes me want to stand up and prove myself. Prove that I am beautiful, successful, smart, and all that. But why do I feel like I should prove anything to a friend? It's not her, it's me. But maybe it's not. I don't feel this way around other friends. I feel unconditionally loved and accepted with all of you, and I have nothing to prove and nothing to hide. Maybe it is her. Maybe I either need to suck it up and try not to worry about proving myself, or maybe I need to talk to her about it. I have no clue how to start a conversation like that. It scares the shit out of me.
Monday, May 21, 2007
1. no holds barred... tell me about your dream life. GO!
No holds barred, wow, ok. I would be living in California with my family - my compassionate and respectable husband who is either in some sort of scientific or helping profession, but who also writes music, our three children, a boy, and twin girls. I would have an active but flexible private practice as a counseling psychologist and on a daily basis be making a difference in others lives. We would all be actively involved in our church ministries and in our community. Our neighbors and coworkers, be they Christian, atheist, buddhist, whatever, would all feel loved and accepted by our family and see that we all carry with us a joy and confidence that can only come from Christ. I would be friends with all kinds of people, from all walks of life. A homeless man and the mayor of our city would feel equally welcome to visit my home, which would be spacious, two stories, have an amazing view of the ocean or mountains, and be on acres of land where our horse and german shepherd thrives. The inside of my home would be occupied by a grand piano and a couple of cats :) Since California is far from my family and friends in Texas, we would have some kind of connection to an airline in which we have unlimited free flights, so we could frequently visit Texas and bring our Texas loved ones to enjoy our home. And we would travel often. We'd go on mission trips with our church, and take our children to see all the sights of the world and introduce them to different cultures from our own. I will take my mom to Egypt on her 65th birthday. My kids would all be in scouting, and maybe take music lessons or do theatre or something. I would read lots of books and ride my bike often. I would have an enormous amount of energy, and often awaken before my children are out of bed to ride my bike up a mountain (ok, forget the beach) and watch the sunrise as I read my Bible and drink my coffee.
2. if you could author the biography of anyone (alive or dead; famous or not), who would it be and why?
Ooh, this is a hard choice. The first person who came to mind was Rich Mullins, but I think that I would have to choose someone closer to home - my maternal grandfather, who died when my mom was 12. Since I never had the opportunity to meet him, writing his biography would be a great way to get to know him. He was a math teacher and then a principal. As a young man, him and his father built their house themselves. He went to Texas A&M and earned his way through college by working summers in Illinois at some pipe company. One summer a pipe fell on his leg, and he was hospitalized with a massive infection. This was pre WWII, before penicillin was widely used. The doctors had to amputate his leg, and doubted whether he would live through the night. The Catholic nuns at the hospital stayed up all night praying for him, and he survived. Because he was an amputee, he wasn't able to enlist in the war efforts. His younger brother Bobby did, and was killed when his plane was shot down over Germany. I don't know how he met my grandmother, someone introduced them, but his younger sister thought she was so grown-up and sophisticated when he first brought her home. When he was working as a teacher and raising his family in East Texas, he would send frequent checks to his other younger brother who was going to dental school in Dallas or Fort Worth, who thirty years later still felt so grateful that he refused to let my parents pay for my braces that he put on. I know that this question didn't ask me to start writing the biography, but from these and other stories, he sounds like someone who was hardworking, determined, loyal to his family, sacrificial, and valued education. Maybe this is idealistic to say, but I hope that a part of me is living out the legacy that the left our family.
3. if you could have been born a child prodigy... what would you want your remarkable gift/talent to be?
The ability to easily learn any language. I've studied Spanish for years, but it's so frustrating that I can barely hold a conversation with someone. I once heard of a savant who within a matter of weeks or days could learn any language. I picked up some Spanish tapes from the library today to attempt to refresh myself.
4. if someone were to make a movie about your life, who would you want to play you? why?
This is tough! I love Meg Ryan and used to say that she would play the older version of me, but I'm still pretty young so I need to pick someone else. Most of my favorite actresses (Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett) just seem too serious for the role of me, and aren't that much younger than Meg Ryan. I tried to think of other actresses that I enjoy who seem to just be completely full of life and can play someone who is engaging and enthusiastic without coming across as obnoxious. I thought of Emilie de Ravin and Anne Hathaway who are fun on screen, but I think that I'd have to pick Kate Winslett because she has that spark that I want and also comes across as very genuine. Plus, she deserves as many roles as possible and maybe one of them will finally win her an Oscar! Also, a movie about my life starring Kate Winslett would get better reviews :)
5. what is the greatest gift you've ever been given? what's the greatest gift you've ever given to someone else?
Greatest gift that I've been given - This is really hard, as I tend to first think of the moment when a gift was given - opening the present, feeling the surprise and delight and excitement, turning in gratitude to thank and praise the giver, gushing and beaming, all completely natural reactions to a gift so great. I can think of a lot of these types of gifts that I have been given, but I don't know if I can pick the greatest gift just based on that one moment. Instead, I'll pick a gift that has endured, past the initial moment, past the friendship of the giver even - my stuffed rabbit Reeves, given to me by my childhood best friends at the age of 6 or 7. Fifteen years later, I still treasure this gift, my comfort object, whom I sleep with, whom is so precious to me that I won't dare bring him with me on vacations anymore. It seems silly to pick a raggety rabbit over a laptop, special scrapbook, a digital camera, or many other wonderful things that others have blessed with me. But I picked Reeves because while it would be awful to replace a lost digital camera, I would be completely devastated to lose this little toy who has been my silent companion for most of my life.
Greatest gift that I've given someone else - The scrapbook that I made my mom for her 50th birthday. I emailed all of her sisters, their children, and my friends and asked them to write a birthday wish for her or something about what she meant to them. The responses poured in, and I was able to give my mom a scrapbook showing not only what she meant to me, but to so many others who are blessed to know her. She read the whole thing at least twice that night, and keeps it in her office so she can look through from time to time. I often see it sitting out on her desk :) To be honest, my mom doesn't have a lot of close friends, so I wanted to show her that she has made an impact in the lives of her family and my friends. I wanted to show her that she loved and cherished.
Phew! Thanks Martha! These were good questions, and I enjoyed answering each one of them. Some were easier to answer, others I had to let stew in my mind, others I thought were hard to answer, but once I started writing, everything just flowed! I've noticed that I probably spend half an hour to an hour writing my blog entries. Seriously, there's no way I can keep that up forever at this rate. I often want to sit down and write something, but then I worry that I don't have the time. I need to start writing shorter entries.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
I'm so happy to be single and completely unattached. It's been so good these past few months to think about graduate schools and not have someone else's plans to consider as well. I met a girl at one interview who decided on where to apply based on information from her fiance's HR department. Ouch. That sounds stifling. And I remember last summer, my recently married friend and I were talking about their plans for the next few years - she has been anxious to return home to this city after graduation, but he still has at least another year until he graduates and has been offered a scholarship that could cover a master's program for him. They both want to come back to this city, but they don't want to pass up an opportunity that in the long run would be good for both of them. Almost a year later, things are working out well for them, they still want to eventually come back to this city, but are happy and enjoying life where they're at. I remember after that conversation thinking how thankful I am that I don't have my current decisions complicated by someone else's. I don't think that I'm ready for that kind of compromise. I like making my own choices, between me and God, and I'm not ready to start being selfless and allowing my choices to be combined with someone else's.
And yet, I want a companion to stick with me through all these choices and changes. I am blessed with intimate and beautiful friendships, but we're all soon heading in different directions and this fact is becoming more real to me lately. I'm so excited about our different opportunities that we have before us and look forward to all that will happen in each of our lives, but the change is hard. I do, but I don't really want to make new friends in College Station. I don't want to go through all the uncertainty of being in a new place all alone as I did four years ago. When my recently married friend first told me of her engagement, I was surprised that they were choosing to get married before their college graduation and I told her that I thought it would be hard for them. She confidently replied that they had talked about it, they knew it would be hard, there would be a lot of changes, but they wanted to go through the changes together. At the time, it sounded crazy. Two years later, it sounds appealing. It seems like these changes would be a little easier if I just had someone by my side to go through them with me. It doesn't even have to be a husband, right now I don't care about the romance or the sex, I just want a companion. I just want the commitment. Unfortunately, friendships , as lifelong as they may be, aren't designed for those kinds of commitments. While it would be beautiful to have one close friend beside me, there's no way that I would ever want to tear one of my close friends away from New Zealand, her dream college, her dream company, or anything else to be with me.
Re-reading these past two paragraphs, I realize how lopsided this imaginary relationship sounds. I don't want to worry about someone else's decisions; I want someone to follow my decision. I don't want to compromise for someone; I want someone to compromise for me. I want someone to commit fully to me and my plans, while still retaining my freedom of action. I want a wife! This may be how I honestly feel, yet I laugh at how ridiculous it all is. Maybe this is why I'm single. Maybe I don't want a mature, two-sided, give-and-take, loving, giving real relationship just yet. And yet, if I had a friend or husband who was so spineless as to not want to make any of their own decisions and just wanted to stay by my side, I'd never be attracted to them! Though Say Anything is one of my favorite movies, I would never, ever, ever want a Lloyd Dobler. I hope to someday have a companion who loves me and is willing to compromise for my well-being, but I will also love him and be willing to compromise for his well-being. No, we will compromise for our well-being. Though it's probably not as simple as that. We'll probably both be a little giving, and both be a little selfish. It won't always be pretty, but we'll have each other and know that we're not going at it alone.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
After looking at dozens of programs, applying to seven, interviewing at four, officially being accepted to two, recommendation letter requests, endless personal statement revising, transcript requests, countless visits to the post office and FedEx, five minutes of cursing a dead president, phone interviews, in person interviews, tours, margaritas, meeting dozens of fascinating persons, torn pantie hose, tears, laughter, lost hours of sleep, hours in the car, a few hours in the air, requesting advice from those I love and admire, and many, many prayers, I have been chosen by and have chosen to attend the Counseling Psychology PhD Program at Texas A&M!
I'm excited (and a little scared) about my decision and happy about how all these things have turned out :) As excited as I am now about A&M, six months ago I would have never imagined myself becoming an Aggie. Thinking metaphorically, if that school that had first rejected me was the heart breaker whom I had pined for, what was A&M? This program was the nice acquaintance whom I had always thought well of but never had made my heart pound. Then, unexpectedly, the acquaintance wanted to see me more and started showing an interest. At first tentative, I accepted the invitations and began to get to know this prospect. Surprisingly, this once almost overlooked suitor and I began to find more things in the common and start to hit it off - and along the way, my heart began to pound as excitement grew.
When I first made my decision about where to apply, I chose A&M simply because it was another program in Texas and I wanted to apply to a roughly even amount of instate and out of state programs. Before I'd really looked into the program and worked on my application, I thought of A&M as a back-up. When I began working on my application, I was happy to read about their emphasis on multiculturalism and delighted to see that a few of their faculty's research areas were genuine areas of interest for me. During my phone interview with them, I was surprised at what a great time I had talking to the first professor and how laidback and comfortable it felt. There were still some things about the phone conversation that made me feel uneasy, but I felt much more apprehension at the other schools where I interviewed. I enjoyed my interview with A&M, loved meeting the faculty and students, and was surprised to see that College Station is a more happenin' place than I had first imagined (please don't laugh, it's no city, but it's not completely podunk either) and that I enjoyed seeing the campus and learned that not all Aggie traditions are as weird and cultish as I had once thought. However, the more I hear about that dog Reveille, the more strange that tradition sounds.
Fast forward, and I declined offers from two other programs to attend the school that I originally thought I would only accept an invitation to if I was denied everywhere else. Perhaps in the months leading up to my move down to College Station I will write more about the many things that I'm looking forward to, but for now, I just want to reflect a little on the irony of it all. As much as I love to plan and want to have things figured out and have constants and feel some sense of control, retrospectively, I love life's surprises that keep me on my toes and remind me that I'm not so much in control.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Then, I tried to write about the beauty of the world that I noticed around me. I tried to write about the vivid colors of the clouds, sky, and grass, and I wanted to tie it into recent thoughts about how colors affect me. I think I just got tired when I was typing and couldn't keep my thoughts together. Maybe there's still a good post in there somewhere.
Maybe it's a good thing that I haven't been posting. Maybe my writing has been dry, but my life certainly hasn't been. Maybe it means that I've been busy living, making decisions instead of agonizing over them, being there for my family, working plenty of hours, preparing and giving a presentation, visiting my cousin, spending lots of time with friends.
Maybe next week I'll feel inspired to write something. Or maybe I'll post a poem that I wrote about a month ago.
Until then, hey, isn't this kind of expensive for a piece of pi? This was too clever not to photograph and share :)
Saturday, March 31, 2007
There's been so much on my mind lately, I don't even know where to begin. Why do I think of the worst case scenarios when I think about those two schools? I start with one question, "What about this aspect? Do I like that?" and then my mind has begun a downward spiral and suddenly I'm stuck in a graduate program that makes me miserable. Is that really the case? I should be much more excited! I have been excited, during the interviews and applications, and I will be excited again, when I finally make my decision. I felt this same way when I was trying to decide when to graduate. I vacillated and labored over that decision, but as soon as I turned in my intent to graduate - there was no looking back! I was filled with excitement and did everything I could to achieve that goal. I hope that will be the case this time.
Something I am very excited about is mine and Britt's trip to Europe this summer. I bought our Eurail passes today! It's actually happening and it's becoming more and more real to me. It started off as something we began talking about last summer, and now we're actually doing it! Over three weeks in Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
Among the turmoil and excitement, I've still managed to enjoy many simplicities. Some things that have made me happy this past week include - red wine and pizza in the botanic gardens, riding my bike, seeing the streets and grass glisten as the sun shines on them after the rain, couples older than my parents holding hands, blue eyes on men, iced coffee, and friends who are honest to share - when it hurts me, and when they share their love.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly
round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking
on them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well."
- Walt Whitman
I am an incredibly relational person. I think that we are all relational, but people vary on this. Some people need more alone time, whereas others need more people time. I am one of the latter. Alone time is great - I love being alone in my car with nothing but my radio or my prayers; I love reading by myself. I even loved traveling to Kansas City by myself because there was such a freedom to observe and carry out all my thoughts on a myriad of paths that being with others halts. As much as I enjoy those times by myself, there is nothing that gives me more pleasure than being in the company of others. I truly am an extrovert, not just in the way that we typically define extroverts and introverts based on their observed behavior, but also in the way that I experience energy. Being with others renews me. Too much time alone, and I start to wither away slowly. I grow apathetic, tired, depressed. But time with another, and I feel alive again. Sure, days straight of no time to myself wears on me, but most of the time I feel as though I could continually soak up the company of those I like, always satisfied, never over saturated. These past couple of weeks, I have felt so blessed by the company of some of my closest family and friends. I lack nothing; this is enough.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
All of these people, traveling for different reasons. They could be anyone. Any of these people might be interesting to get to know. But the airport is a horrible place to meet someone. Everyone is on the go, somewhere to be, this is just a means to an end, not a place in and of itself. Even if you do meet someone, sit down and share coffee or breakfast and chat for 20 minutes, then what? You’ll never see that person again. You’ll go your way and he will go his. Maybe if you both travel a lot, by chance you’ll meet again in another airport. No, the airport is not a place to meet someone.
As soon as these thoughts were complete, I noticed a young bearded man, Middle Eastern looking. Five years ago, every passenger here would be needlessly scrutinizing this young man. As we came closer, recognition hit. “Reza?” It was my lab mate from a freshmen level psychology class, now bearded. He hugged me and we chatted briefly. He was traveling home to Chicago for spring break, and I told him about my interview in Kansas City. We parted, and I was astonished to run into a familiar face at all places, the airport this strange hub where people are shuffled off from one destination to the next.
Boarding the plane, I was disappointed with how empty it was. Having never flown by myself, I wanted to strike up a conversation with a stranger. We might just make some smalltalk and read our books and magazines, or he and she might be a talker. No such luck.
On the flight, I finished the second novella from Michael Cunningham’s Specimen Days. Since reading The Hours a few weeks ago, he is quickly becoming a favorite author. This book is inspired by Walt Whitman poetry, with three novellas set in New York City’s past, present, and future centered around variations of three main characters – a man named Simon, a woman named Catherine, Cat, or Catareen, and a boy named Lucas or Luke. Finishing the second tale, I watched the plane descend into Kansas City. The first thing I noticed where the trees.
Trees, everywhere. Even without leaves, you can tell this is a beautiful place. No wonder people say that Texas is flat and ugly. I could make a life out here, outside of Texas. Not in New York City or California, but somewhere like this area. I could live among the trees, in that house with the big yard, outside of a city where I would commute to work. I could raise my children in a house like that, and read them Walt Whitman, and there would be snow in the winter for them to play in. Yes, I would be far from family, but I could fly them home to Texas every three months for them to see their grandparents. Flights aren’t as expensive to places like this as they are to DC or New York or Chicago. A couple of thousand dollars a year. And friends and family would come visit, of course. They’d love my house among the trees. They’d love seeing the life that I’d make in a place like this.
From the airport, I hopped aboard a shuttle to my hotel. There were three other passengers, a silent young business man working away on his laptop beside me, and a talkative Arizonan man and a woman who was on my flight in front of me. I listened to bits and pieces of their conversations. They were both teachers; he taught high school graphic design. I could marry a teacher and we could live in that house out there among the trees. I’ve always hoped that my husband would also be in a helping profession, a doctor, or teacher, or something. Not a businessman or a lawyer. Yet I’m often attracted to musicians, artists, poets, writers. Do musicians help others? Not in the way that teachers and doctors do, but they bring art, creativity, and expression to the world.
The driver asked if this was anyone’s first visit, and I told him that it was mine. He began pointing out different sights as we passed them. “Here’s the first glimpse of the downtown skyline; you could see it better if it weren’t hazy today . . . here’s the Missouri River, and on the other side is Kansas . . . we just passed the Folgers Coffee Plant. Can you smell it? They don’t grow it here, but they roast it and grind here . . . that monolith there is the country’s only World War I memorial, and that newer building next to it is the IRS headquarters . . . we’re now in the oldest part of town, where all the old trails out west used to intersect this town, the California Trail, the Oregon Trail . . .”
Kansas City could be any city. Parts of it remind me of Dallas, New York, San Francisco. Yet as a whole, it is none of those familiar places. Texas is Texas, but Kansas City is America. Kansas City is trees and hills and Walt Whitman and agriculture and Western expansion and the Industrial Revolution and skyscrapers and factories and monuments and two story Victorian homes with basements and the taste of steaks and the smell of coffee. By itself, Kansas City is completely unremarkable, but it represents the whole of America, or maybe just white America, the America we were taught in history. Kansas City could be any city, but today, for me, it is Every City.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
When loving God meant giving up something.
When the right decision was always the hard one.
When surrender was only defined as sacrifice.
During most of high school and the beginning of college I lived in black and white days. I acted under the beliefs that being a Christian was supposed to be hard and that a narrow set of actions was God's will for me. If I truly loved God, I had to be like Abraham and be willing to give up that which was most precious to me - whether God had demanded it or not. Surrendering my will to the Lordship of Christ entailed giving up my desires and needs. Even as I write this, I still find some truth in these ideas, yet I know that those statements are incomplete without the joy and freedom that Christ offers.
I remember those black and white days as a freshmen in high school, when I felt convicted to make God my greatest priority and give Him my time and energy. In order to do this, I felt that I needed to drop my Pre-AP Biology class, because the course load was so much more demanding than most high school classes and it was sapping away my time and energy. If I wasn't working on our lab notebooks or studying for exams, I could spend so much more time reading God's word and reaching out to those around me. I wanted to be in that class and I wanted to excel in it, but that was prideful. Dropping the class would humble me, as it would go against all the expectations I have for myself and my schooling. I even imagined the dramatic statement I could make with this. People would wonder, "Why did she drop this class?" and I would tell them how I didn't want to do it, but I needed to for my commitment to God. Though I contemplated these things, I never did drop the class. I worked through it and made an A. Looking back, I think I was very sincere but rather misguided. Why would God want me to forsake the talents that He created within me?
I was reminded of those black and white days when listening to Jars of Clay's first album in my car -
"Can I be the one to sacrifice
Or grip the spear and watch the blood and water flow
To love you - take my world apart
To need you - I am on my knees
To love you - take my world apart
To need you - broken on my knees . . . .
. . . More and more I need you now,
I owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse my pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
the sin-soaked heart and make it yours
take my world all apart
take it now, take it now"
Listening to this song, I cannot help but remember those black and white days when I first heard this song and prayed that God would take my world apart and strip me of all the things that were hindering my love for Him. I wanted to be the one to sacrifice, not the one who held the blood and water soaked spear. God had done so much for me, and I owed him.
Did I really think that during those black and white days - that I owed God for his sacrifice? It almost seems unbelievable right now. I know my intentions were sincere and my passion was real, but how could I possibly give God anything to make up for what He has given me? Eventually, I felt convicted to break up with my boyfriend, who wasn't the one for me and who was robbing my heart from God. Maybe, so I believed at the time. When I broke up with him, I felt that was the sacrifice that God demanded. As if breaking up with a boy would ever come close to sending my only son to the cross. I could go on and on with more stories from my black and white days, but I think those two convey it well. Looking back I wonder, "Did I even understand what grace was?" I still don't comprehend it and don't fully know how to respond to God's grace.
I still believe that sometimes God demands sacrifices, but it's for our own good as well as His. Imagine how Abraham must have changed after being commanded by a heavenly angel to stop as he held the dagger over this son. Imagine all the emotions he could have felt at the sight of the ram he was to sacrifice instead. We are given a hint about how he must have felt -
" 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." Genesis 22
The LORD Will Provide was what he called it. What a title of gratitude and praise! From this we learn that God will provide the sacrifice, not us. The LORD Will Provide the ram, his Son, and all that we need.
As thankful as I am to be moving into a greyer world where God's grace is becoming more apparent, I sometimes miss those black and white days. In those days, decisions were easier. Pick the harder option, the one that requires the most sacrifice and that will bring the most glory to God. This is still my temptation when making decisions - turn down that great offer the world gives, ignore the desires of my heart, because surely the world and my heart are wicked. But this is the battle in finding wisdom in a greyer world - sometimes my heart speaks from the flesh, but sometimes it speaks from the desires that God has given me. I pray for the wisdom to tell the two apart and to accept the grey.
Monday, March 05, 2007
"What happened?" Neeta yelled down. I must have screamed or made some noise that alarmed her.
"I fell down the stairs."
"Oh my god! Are you ok?"
"Yes, I'm fine," I assured her, as I pulled myself back on my feet, wincing. "Are you sure? Do you need anything?" I inspected my leg. Quarter sized spot of blood on my knee. Nickel-sized on my shin.
"Yes, I'm ok. Don't worry about me, just go to your interview, I'll be alright." Though I wanted someone to be there with me, I knew I could handle this by myself. The last thing I wanted was for Neeta to miss her interview on account of me. Survival of the fittest. Leave the injured behind, don't look back, just do what you have to do.
I remembered the bandaid in my purse and found a first-floor bathroom. I ducked into the handicap stall and stripped off my hose. After placing the bandaid on my knee, I inspected the beautiful textured hose that I had bought for my friend's New Year's Eve wedding. There was a huge hole ripped into the left knee. Dangit. Oh well, there were more important things to worry about now. I almost lost it right there. On any other day, this wouldn't have been such a big deal. The scrapes wouldn't have hurt as much, and I wouldn't have been as frazzled. But today, on interview day, with my heightened anxiety and my need to make everything go perfectly, this could have been enough to break me. The tears welled up in my eyes. I wanted to break down right there in the stall, and just start sobbing.
"Having some hose issues?" Another student had walked in.
"Not exactly. I fell down the stairs, and I needed to put on a bandaid."
"Oh no! Are you alright?" No, of course I'm not all right. I want out. Just let me run away to somewhere small and dark.
"Yeah, I'm fine, it'll be ok. I have an interview in a couple of minutes," I stated as I put my hose back on.
"Oh, ok. Well, I hope it goes well."
"Thanks, yours too."
I exited the bathroom and was greeted by smiling Carlyn, the second year student who had helped plan this day.
"Hey Kelly," her North Carolina accent rolled off her tongue, "How's it going? Anything I can do for you?" Finally, an appropriate person to show my anxiety too.
"I'm alright. I just fell down the stairs, and I feel stupid, but I'm really frazzled." The smile lines around her eyes disappeared as her brow furrowed with concern.
"Oh no. Do you need ice or anything?" Ice, I hadn't thought of that.
"Yeah, ice would be good, but I have an interview right now."
"Ok, let's get you to your interview, and I'll bring you some ice."
"Thanks, I really appreciate it."
Carlyn guided me down the hall to the small interview room, which on most days is probably used to see clients. The adjunct professor who works for the counseling center hadn't arrived yet, so I sat down in a cushiony chair as Carlyn disappeared. I was thankful for the quiet moment before the interview started, thankful for Carlyn and her motherly concern over me. Deep breaths. Inhale through the nostrils, fill up the chest. Exhale slowly through my mouth, feel my chest deflate. Mike, a third year student who was also helping run the interview day, arrived with ice and said that Carlyn was on her way with bandages. I thanked him, and placed the ice on my still slightly throbbing wounds.
My interviewer arrived. He asked how I was, and I told him about the fall. "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear about that. How about we start chatting a little while we wait on those bandages? Tell me some about yourself." I began talking and he began asking questions, as if this was a normal getting acquainted conversation and not a high-stress interview. This was probably the best thing for me. I just needed someone to acknowledge that I had been hurt, and then to carry on as if nothing had happened. As we talked, my leg stopped hurting, my breathing became normal, and I felt much more at ease. There was something comforting and familiar about this professor. Though we had just met, I felt like I could be open and vulnerable with him. By the time Carlyn had dropped off the bandages, the explanation for this familiarity hit me. He had many of the same mannerisms and speech patterns as one of my ex-boyfriends. Bizarrely, here he sat, legs crossed, fingers linked over his knee, that thing he does with his lips when he's thinking, the tilt of his head when he's really engaged and listening, his rate and tone of speech, my ex, thirty years older and now a therapist, come back from the future to interview me. I tried not to let this futuristic doppelganger intimidate me, but the similarity was hard to shake.
"Now, how would your friends describe you?" Whenever I'm asked this question, my memory immediately travels to a xanga entry that Cara had written about me two years ago, in which she described me as compassionate, inspiring, skookum, bohemian, and keen.
"Well, my friends have said that I'm very empathetic and caring. They've also described me as inspiring, quirky, bohemian."
"Bohemian, huh? What exactly do they mean by bohemian?" Hell if I know. Dangit, why did I say a word that I don't even think describes me? Because it sounded impressive and unique. Because I want the professors to remember me, "Oh yes, that was the bohemian girl that I interviewed." I muddled through some answer about having unique interests, unique tastes in fashion and music, and that made me bohemian. Bee-ess. Even if other people say it, I'd never want to say, "I have a bohemian style." Except that I had just said just that. Oh well, I answered the question, "How do others describe you?" Bohemian was an honest answer.
The interview continued with questions that I answered much more smoothly. The second faculty interview went even better, and the pain actually disappeared, and I didn't even have to distract myself by examining the mannerisms of the second interviewer. By the end of the day, I was actually having fun. I went to happy hour with the other interviewees, current students, and two faculty members. I talked and laughed with the current students and felt like I connected with most of them. As I was leaving the restaurant, I spilled a cup of water all over my legs and feet. For a brief moment my emotions flashed back to the fall down the stairs, but I quickly threw my hands into the air, "Whatever, the day is over!" and we all laughed. I smiled.