Sunday, May 27, 2007

feeling lucky?

Have I mentioned how much I love my coworkers?

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

someone wash away this green

Yesterday, I found myself attacked by jealousy. Attacked probably isn't the right word at all, as I don't think of jealousy as some external enemy that preys on us. I think of jealousy as something that each of us hold within us, something that we must fight within ourselves with love and contentment. It's so crazy to feel such an irrational jealousy rising up toward one of my closest friends. Feelings such as that remind me that as nice as I am to others, as much as I want to make others happy, I'm really rather selfish deep down and usually want my happiness over others. I'm not a Calvinist, but I sorta do believe in the total depravity of man. I don't agree with Anne Frank, I don't think people are all good at heart. I think just about everyone wants to do good, but I think the natural tendency is self-satisfaction over sacrifice and love for others. Whatever the natural state of man, I hate these feelings of jealousy and selfishness and possession within me.

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

martha's interview

Martha's Interview Questions

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

some thoughts on marriage that came to me over the course of the past hour(year) or two

Saturday night, while at a wonderful Tex-Mex/El Salvadorian restaurant celebrating my birthday a little early with a few friends, I received a call from a close high school friend announcing her engagement. I'm absolutely thrilled for her, was completely surprised, and yet had been expecting such a call for at least the past year. When telling my mom about the engagement and upcoming marriage, she commented that half of the Fab Four (myself, and three close high school friends) will now be married, then added, "Don't let yourself feel any pressure." I laughed and told her that there was nothing to worry about, I don't feel any pressure to be the next one engaged.

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

conclusion and introduction

There's a few things that I can write about tonight, but I feel that my decision about graduate school deserves an entry. Looking back at the past several months, most of my entries have been about my applications, interviews, and decisions - and all the frustration and excitement and pain and joy that this process has brought me. Even though I have already shared some about this with my most faithful readers and friends, this application and decision saga deserves a conclusion. And the PhD program that I will undoubtedly write more about in the years to come deserves an introduction.

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.