Monday, August 24, 2009

this has never happened to me before

The amount I had remaining on my Starbucks giftcard was exactly the amount that my drink cost today.

Seriously, when does that happen, when you have a giftcard and don't owe money and don't have money remaining?

This reminds me of how my grandmother would give me giftcards that included the tax in them. Which is genius, because inevitably one has to spend some kind of money on tax when using a $5, $10, $25 etc giftcard. My grandmother was one of the most thoughtful people I've ever known when it came to things like that. She knew that I didn't like nuts, and whenever she made a recipe with nuts (brownies, elk salad, etc), she would save a special portion without nuts for me to enjoy, and chide others who tried to eat the non-nut section that was saved specially for me. Most of the time this was great, but sometimes it obligated me to eat foods that I don't like. How can I tell my grandmother that I don't like jello salad when there's a special small container of jello salad without nuts made just for me? At least I can tolerate bad food without nuts making them completely unbearable.

It's hard to believe that it's been three years now since she died. Since that time, I've come to tolerate and even sometimes enjoy more nuts in more recipes, without the woman who remembers my preferences. Three years sounds like such a long time, but it doesn't feel like she's been gone three years. Not that the pain of losing her feels fresh at all, but it doesn't feel like she's been out of my life that long, and I think this is a good thing. The woman who kept nuts away from me feels like a recent presence in my life, not someone who is far away in my past. I want to model her thoughtfulness in my life, in my relationships with others. In the gifts I give, in the words I say, in the questions I ask, in the concern I display. In the ways I use my time, money, possessions, words, and gifts. I want to give to others in a variety of ways, and I want to do it thoughtfully, not scattering out kindness haphazardly, assuming that all kindnesses are the same or that the things that mean the most to mean will also be meaningful to others, but really seeking to know those that I am called to love and giving to them thoughtfully.

And for those of you who know me as friends and family, as brothers and sisters, I'd appreciate help in this endeavor. If I do or say something toward you or another that isn't kind, or that just isn't as thoughtful as it could be, I'd appreciate the feedback. If you ever feel hurt or dismissed or underappreciated by me, then maybe you're right to assume that I didn't mean it that way, but it doesn't mean that you have to ignore it. I tend to have a rather kind nature, which is great, but it also could make it easy for me to become complacent and to not think about my need to strive to be more giving, more loving, more sacrificial, in the ways that Christ has modeled for me, in the ways that the Spirit enables me to be.

Wow, all that from a Starbucks receipt? She does move in mysterious ways.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

earning some initials

Tomorrow, I become Ms. cracker and cheese, M.S.!* Earning a Masters' on the way to a doctorate degree is something that most people in our program achieve, and tomorrow I will receive that degree. To be honest, it's felt a little anticlimactic, and something that I've underplayed. Any other time I've graduated, I've ended one chapter of my life to begin another. This time when I graduate, things stay the same. I've been a doctoral student for the past two years, and after tomorrow, I will continue to be a doctoral student. Many of my classmates received their masters' and never attended the graduation ceremony. I decided to attend the ceremony and walk the stage tomorrow, mainly so my parents could come down and celebrate with me. A few weeks ago, when I shelled over some money to purchase the cap and gown and rent my masters' hood, I almost regretted that decision.

Fortunately, my apathy toward graduation has subsided and my excitement has grown as graduation grows closer. I've started to share about it with others, and it's been easy to feed off of their excitement and pride for me. This is a big deal! Maybe this won't be a life-changing event, but it's a significant accomplishment. I've worked hard in this program for the past two years, and it's great to have an achievement like this to celebrate.

So tomorrow I'll fix my hair and make-up, put on a pretty dress, don my cap, gown, and hood, walk across that stage, text message friends during the 2 hour ceremony, and greet my family, taking pictures, and celebrating this step!

*Most of you know who I am, so just insert my full name in there!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

a suburb is a suburb

Overall, the trip to California was all that I'd hoped it would be - a fun time to celebrate the marriage of my friends and spend time with family in a beautiful area that is a welcome escape from Texas. The three days of wedding activities were better than I expected. One of the other bridesmaids is one of my best friends, and we all hit it off with the others, who I'd never met before. The brides' family completely pampered us. I ate some of the best food of my life that weekend. And I slept. On. A. Boat. I've been in many weddings, and this was one of the most fun, probably because by the time the wedding rolled around, we'd spent three days together and so the wedding itself was the culmination of a days of celebration and preparation with old and new friends. I know I've been in the weddings of some of you reading this post, and believe me, every wedding I've been in has been fun, exciting, memorable, and special, but there's just something a little different about having a "destination" wedding of sorts that allows everyone involved to just escape into wedding land for a few days.

Unfortunately, I woke up the day after the wedding sick with a bad cold, caught from one of the other bridesmaids who had been sick prior to the wedding. Fortunately, my cousins took good care of me, and I took it easier my second half of my time in California but still managed to have fun. Monday, I drove my cousin's minivan (a frightening experience on LA freeways) and battled parking meters in Pasadena to spend a few hours shopping and enjoying art collection of the Norton Simon Museum. Tuesday my cousin, her kids, and her brother and I spent a few hours at Knotts Berry Farm, which I still managed to enjoy in spite of fatiguing more easily and experiencing more nausea on the roller coasters than I would have had I not been sick. In between, we enjoyed good meals, Animaniacs, frozen yogurt, Theraflu, playing farkle, and antics with my cousins' 5 month old daughter and almost 3 year old son. We tried to teach him how to say, "Hellooooooo Nurse" when he see "a pretty lady who looks like Mommy," as some of the Animaniacs characters do. He managed the phrase sometimes, but sometimes it turned into, "Hello Nana."

It was somewhat prophetic that I titled my previous post "California Reality." At the time, I intended it to be a play off of "California Dreamin'" because I wasn't just dreaming about going to California, I would actually be there in my reality. The title has taken on more additional meanings as I realized that prior to this trip, I had idealized California. A beautiful state of almost perfect weather in the southern coast, and a variety of natural beauties (beaches, mountains, forests) within driving distance of anywhere in the state had made it seem like a paradise compared to Texas. Fortunately, ever since my first visit, I had been aware of the high cost of living in this state, but I would still find myself telling people, "I would love to live in California if it weren't so expensive." After this visit to Southern California, I'm seeing now that even if you have a lot of money in this state, the suburbs of LA may not be the ideal paradise that I imagined, mainly because the region is so darn crowded. Houses are small, and yards are smaller. Traffic is horrible, with my cousins urging me to leave Pasadena before 3:30 if I wanted to make it back in less than an hour. Honestly, even with the great weather, the suburbs of LA seem just like the suburbs of DFW, but with a higher population density and greater urban sprawl.

Living in a smaller town these past two years, I've come to enjoy the conveniences of being able to drive wherever I need to go in 10-15 minutes. When I visit my home in the DFW suburbs, I get annoyed with the traffic and just how spread out everyone and everything is. I spend 20 minutes to an hour driving each way to go see another family member or friend. I'm annoyed to see the suburban sprawl, miles of houses as far as the eye can see. I've come to appreciate living in a smaller town without such sprawl and traffic. I don't know where I'll live in the future, but I'd prefer to live in a small to medium-sized city or the downtown of a large city with decent public transportation than a suburb. Wherever I may make my home, I'd ideally like to live close to wherever I work to minimize commuting time, and hopefully that will also be close to necessary amenities and a community of people that I love and care about.

Just as my Southern California fantasy bubble was bursting, I saw the amazing film 500 Days of Summer, set in LA. Seriously, go see it as soon as possible if you haven't already. One of the many great aspects of this film is that it manages to make downtown LA beautiful in a way that I've never seen in film or in person. Somehow, in this film, LA looks like an East Coast city, plus some palm trees. The protagonist, who studied architecture, appreciates the beauty of old buildings amidst modern parking garages. I've never seen this side of LA before. Maybe I haven't been to the right place, or maybe it takes just the right eye.