Saturday, December 31, 2011
It really is a shame that I have zilcho musical talent, but for those of us who aren't athletes, we can be athletic supporters, right? [Name that movie.] There's a lot of pressure to list just 7 songs in a blog post when it's supposed to be a capstone post of sorts for the entire year. So I narrowed down my selections based on the fact that I had to have heard these songs performed live this year. Here goes:
1. The Once and Future Carpenter - The Avett Brothers
2. Ten Thousand Words - The Avett Brothers
Have I mentioned that I saw the Avetts perform for the third time this year just last night? [Well, I am actually writing this in advance but the plan is to see them on the 30th.] Love them. Their energy is crazy good.
3. Barton Hollow - The Civil Wars
4. Poison and Wine - The Civil Wars
I saw them just a couple of weeks ago, and I was absolutely entranced the entire time. Awesome. Even if Joy's weird awkward hand motions made me uncomfortable. She needs a guitar in her hands or something. Yet, they performed in a chapel so I feel like we were a tough crowd for them. The behavior of the audience was like people behave in church [you know, really quiet and reserved] so these two were getting zero reaction during the show. I felt the need to write a written apology afterwards.
5. No Means No - Striking Matches
The group formerly known as Common Thread. Their closest friends call them Justin and Sarah. I'm entitled because I endlessly humored half of this duo for hours when he was a mere toddler and I was a way too cool for school 4th grader. Y'all. If you haven't made it to one of their shows yet, GET THERE. I suspect that soon I will no longer be able to afford tickets to their shows so I feel the need to see them as often as possible. Because they really are THAT awesome.
6. Colder Weather - Zac Brown Band
I technically saw them on NYE, but the show continued into the wee small hours of January 1 so technically I saw them this year. I love a good technicality as much as I love a good song.
7. Waiting Here For You - Christy Nockels
She has the voice of an angel. Well, maybe not because I suspect that the angel Gabriel's voice is loud and booming and all sorts of intimidating. Why else would he preface all of his remarks with "Fear not!"?
If only I had been able to score tickets to Mumford & Sons when they played at The Fox in Atlanta this year, my year in music would have been complete. Darn those scalpers. Darn them all! I'll see them eventually though. Mark my word.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Now for those of you who know my family and how I was raised, this is kind of a big shift for me. By nature, we're night people. I always tell folks that I didn't have a bed time whenever I was a kid, and well honestly, I didn't really have a strict bed time. What? You mean it's not normal for a 6 year-old to stay up and watch 20/20 and then Friday night videos? Anywho...
Saturday morning is my time to recharge after a long work week. Previously that meant sleeping until oh, 11 or so. Now it means waking up by 6:45 or 7:00, walking the dog, making some coffee, and then spending a couple of hours reading and drinking said coffee. I love it. My inner introvert is coming out by talking about this. The sixth day of the week has definitely become my favorite for this very reason. And yes, I realize some of you are laughing at me because the definition of "early" pre-parenthood is much different than the definition of early when there are kiddos in the house. Unless it was my house because when you put your kids to bed late, they tend to sleep late!
So, what do you all do to recharge? Can you think of the last time that you've spent time doing this? We all need it. I think that not only do we feel better, we treat others better when we are feeling our finest. If you currently don't have a routine to restore your energy, then perhaps 2012 will be the year you find one. There's still time to make your resolutions!
Thursday, December 29, 2011
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." -Romans 15:13
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
How in the world have I managed to live in Athens for 4 (actually 4.5) years?!?! It's the town that I never really wanted to live in in the first place. When I left my little mountain town of Dahlonega for the big city in July 2007, I was only going to live there until I finished graduate school. Well, that whole ordeal ended up taking longer than I had planned for it to. Now that I've been done with school for a whole year though, what's my excuse for still being there? [Other than being gainfully employed in a job that I happen to enjoy, of course.]
As it turns out, I really sort of like Athens. In fact, I would go so far as to say now that I love it. What? Me? It's amazing how attitudes and perspectives can change when one isn't so bull-headed for no apparent reason. During this last year of not "having" to be there for school, I've done things like started volunteering at church. Which I happen to really enjoy. I've dropped the "as soon as I'm done with school, I'm out of here" mentality. And now given recent and exciting developments with my job effective January 1, it looks like that I will definitely be here awhile longer. How much longer? Oh, I don't know but there are certainly worst places to be.
Hmmmm..."to be". No worries I'm not going all Shakespearean here, but this year I think I've really begun to understand the value in just being. By that, I mean being completely there wherever I am instead of being so focused on where I'm not or where I think that I would rather be. A couple of months ago I was sought out by a company and had a couple of calls with the hiring folks. The opportunity sounded really exciting and really good and would have been pretty great. Except for I wasn't so on board with the location. I didn't even know there were states in the lower 48 with only a total of 3 Target stores in them, did y'all? Crazy. So that opportunity wasn't to be. In the meantime I'll stay in my little town of Athens with a Target store less than 2 miles from my home and all of those other creature comforts that I've come to really love in the place that I currently call home.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
...that has kept me from selling him to the lowest bidder in moments like this:
Had I read all the books that I read about raising Chocolate Labs prior to getting him, there's a 92% chance I would have gotten a hermit crab instead. Who knew that male Chocolate Labs tend to have the most energy of all the Labrador Retrievers in the land? "They" say that age three is when male Chocolates calm down and are usually okay to be left uncrated for long periods of time. My shoes and throw pillows would disagree with them.
He really is the greatest dog in the world though, and he has taught me so much about discipline, patience, and loyalty. As in, I need to exhibit more of all three of those traits. He is quite loyal to me, but sometimes I wonder if it's because he sees me as his source for three meals a day and the essential ingredient for seemingly never ending games of fetch. 2011 though was the year that he abandoned his first love, the tennis ball, for a new and improved model:
See that poor, dejected tennis ball off to his right? Once he was introduced to the greatness that is the orange Chuck-It ball, tennis balls were so last season. He "acquired" his first orange ball at the dog park. He's pretty much a thief. Thank goodness the original owners are friends and they were kind enough to let him have it. I can't say that I blame them though since it was covered in dog slobber and prying it out of his mouth would have been akin to prying it from a piranha. He did not put this ball down for days. Literally. I had to trick him at bedtime to get it away from him. [No comments about who is the alpha in our master/canine relationship, please.] Speaking of bedtime, they also function as a breadcrumb trail of sorts just in case he forgets his way:
The way the other two made their way into his life was at Thanksgiving when I had all sorts of baking to do. I needed him to be entertained and distracted because no one likes it when dogs serve as taste-testers for baked goods. Bleh.
Sometimes I feel guilty that he does not spend his days duck-hunting or swimming and all of the other things that his breed was bred to do. [Remind me to one day tell you all about the time he killed my mom's neighbor's chicken. It was quite possibly his proudest moment.] But as far as he's concerned, he's living his purpose each and every day. Sure, it's a simple purpose: chasing orange balls and carrying them around wherever he goes, but he does it with the energy and devotion of a Lab who spends hours on end hunting and swimming. Hmmm...that's one more thing that he has brought to my attention that I need to improve upon: living out my purpose with energy and devotion even if it's not the most "glamorous" purpose out there. However, if I forget my own agenda, then my purpose does contribute to something grand. And that is a good thing.
“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.” -John Grogan
Monday, December 26, 2011
When 2011 began I wasn't sure if and when I would be flying the friendly skies, but glory be, I took not just one but two plane trips this year. First stop - Ft. Lauderdale. I don't consider myself a beach person, but after this trip, I think I'm a beach person. I remembered to reapply sunscreen. I allowed myself to do nothing by sit and read. Or sit and nap. This relaxation mode was just what the doctor ordered because in the days and weeks leading up to the trip, my left shoulder blade hurt so badly that I seriously considered having it removed. Ok, that's extreme, but my left shoulder blade is the spot in my body where I carry all of my stress. So it's never a good sign when I wake up in the morning and my left shoulder blade is already hurting. I digress. To summarize...
I enjoyed green palm trees, blue skies and really blue water.
I made new friends who gave me great fashion advice.
I chased boys on the beach.
And I drank.
Just a typical week in July.
In November, I had the opportunity to head to Chicago to present at a conference for work. My initial thought was "Chicago in November...I'm going to be one big hive." [Because I'm so awesome that I break out into hives when I get cold as opposed to hot like the normal population of weirdos with unsightly skin conditions.]However, it was a great opportunity because I got to actually use my research from graduate school. It wasn't all work though as we did manage to make a little time for sightseeing.
It was really cool to see the downtown Macy's all decorated for Christmas.This is the only photo evidence that I was in fact there. I promise that I went beyond this one block in the city. If only I had thought to get someone to take a candid of me stuffing my face full of some yummy deep dish pizza. Y'all. That stuff is filling. Cold temps and deep dish pizza would be an inevitable lifetime membership to Jenny Craig for me if I lived in that town.
Now accepting recommendations for trips to take in 2012. Maybe NYC. I think it's kind of weird that I haven't made it there yet. That's probably why Lorne Michaels hasn't called to offer me a job yet. How can I live and work in a city that I've never actually visited?
Sunday, December 25, 2011
I've never really been a person who shows excessive amounts of emotion over anything. Even as a kiddo, I can remember numerous times when my mama would plead with me to yell because I was frustrated or jump up and down because I was excited, etc. I can't confirm, but I suspect that my only response was an eye roll. One Christmas in particular though I can remember being SO! EXCITED! I could not sleep because the anticipation over what Santa was going to leave for me in the living room was too great. Finally after mom and dad made countless trips into my room warning me that if I didn't actually go to sleep, Santa wouldn't deliver, I somehow managed to drift off because suddenly it was Christmas morning. And I was wide awake! I can't confirm, but I suspect that my poor parents had slept all of zero minutes thanks to little ol' me.
I still remember that feeling of walking into the living room and seeing all of my loot laid out before my eyes. Not one, but TWO Cabbage Patch Clown Kids! A stroller for my baby dolls! A million color stick crayon in my stocking! [Weird, I know, but that crazy crayon was one of my favorite things ever.] I could go on and on, but I won't. Let's just say that it was crazy insane and my expectations had been exceeded. I really could not grasp the concept that Santa had left all of that stuff just for me even after I had been such a pain by not going to sleep in a timely manner so he could get on with his Santa Claus business. I'm sure that there were other things on my list that I had requested that I did not get. [Let's be honest, I combed through the JCPenney's and Sears Wishbooks each year with the precision of a neurosurgeon in order to make Santa's job easy.] Yet, on that morning, and still to this day, I cannot recall those things. I can only remember the things that I did get. Why? Because those things surpassed my expectations. Santa knew best.
So let's look at this story from a grown-up perspective. Don't get me wrong, I love Santa, and I believe that he absolutely has a place in the magic and wonderment of Christmas. Let's replace Cabbage Patch Clown Kids with experiences, opportunities, and relationships and Santa with Christ though. After all, He is the reason why we are all gathered around our decorated pine trees that we annually bring inside for the sake of fighting a losing battle against falling needles. Aren't our expectations surpassed? Doesn't Christ know best? Yes, and yes.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the gift of salvation through Christ. Yet, just as I could not understand why oh why Santa chose to leave all of that stuff for me on that Christmas morning, I will never be able to fully understand and grasp why oh why God sent his one and only Son for all of my sins. But I do believe that it's important not to get hung up on the understanding of it because there are some things we are not meant to fully understand. As children, did we take the time to think "Now I really need to know why this toy was given me" before we started playing with it? Nope. We received those toys willingly. Why is it so hard for us to willingly receive the greatest gift of all?
There are people who are much more gifted at communicating this than I am so I would encourage you to check out Andy Stanley's series called "An Unexpected Christmas" here or Louie Giglio's series called "Anticipation" here. Don't get me wrong, they are people just like we are so it's not their word but God's word. But don't just take my word for it.
"...I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." -Luke 2:10
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
For those of you keeping score at home [first of all: if you're keeping score about this kind of stuff at home, for the love of Pete, get a hobby] I have blogged a total of 12 times since July. This means that while I've set the bar high, I am also setting the bar pretty low as to the actual content of these pending posts. Hopefully though the 12 days will be a little encouraging, a little inspiring, somewhat informative, and a little bit of a look back at this most recent trip around the sun. Hopefully. But don't get your hopes up.
So. All of that to say "Merry Christmas!" "I hope you are enjoying this season!" and "I'll be back here in a couple of weeks!" In the meantime, if you need me I'll be in Santa's Workshop hammering out a dozen or so posts. ...Or maybe I'll be tied up in traction once I finally work up the nerve to advance to Level 2 of The 30 Day Shred.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
What makes the fall so great? Let's start with the perfect weather that doesn't include suffocating humidity or 1/16" of ice on the roads that equally keep us holed up in our homes for days on end. While I'm on the subject of nature, let's not forget the changing of the leaves in which they transform from bright green to vivid shades of red, gold, and orange. The leaves in the fall is one of the reasons why I especially miss living in Dahlonega during this time of year. Speaking of Dahlonega, another reason why the fall is tops in my book revolves around a little annual festival each year called Gold Rush. It's not so much the painted gourds, lacy toilet seat covers, and seasonal hand-made clothing that makes me look forward to the third weekend in October, but the people you are likely to run into on the streets and the best baked potatoes you'll ever find this side of Heaven and fudge covered apples that are worth the calories and embarrassment of having chocolate all over your face that gets me there.
In fact, I had to put my apple down for a nanosecond this year just long enough to snap this photo. The Square is prime real estate for people watching on this particular weekend. Especially for two gals like us:Oh how I love this picture. It makes me giggle every single time I see it. We are quite comfortable with our dork status. And it doesn't really take a sign to state the obvious. I am so glad that Katie and I were able to spend the afternoon together catching up, lunching, snacking, and shopping. Let me just go ahead and clear up any rumors or speculation as to the contents in Katie's shopping bag. It does not contain a painted gourd, lacy toilet seat cover, or cardigan adorned with wooden shapes of Christmas trees and angels. There are some really good finds to be found there too. Especially the pottery selection! Other good finds include Shelley:
It did my little heart such good to catch up with her and her family while sitting on the sidewalk and eating our Holy Spuds. No, it's not a religious festival only Southern Baptists flock to each year. The Baptist kiddos just sell baked potatoes to raise money for missions. Her girls are so much fun and growing up so, so fast. They will be fantastic babysitters for my little Korean children that I'm going to adopt one day. There was time spent with other dear friends that weekend too, but once baby E christened my shirt there were no more photo ops. Baby E is just cute and sweet enough though, that I didn't mind the christening one little bit.
Speaking of cute and sweet babies, there is another one who will be joining us in January. Earlier this month, we were able to celebrate Katie and the pending arrival of baby #2. Kristen and I discovered that we had not seen each other since Katie's last baby shower a couple of years ago. Looks like Katie is going to have to keep having babies in order for Kristen and I to keep seeing each other!
Yes, as a matter of fact I was wearing my Easter dress in early November. Remember my previous statement about perfect weather? Fast forward just 4 short days and I found myself in C-O-L-D Chicago wishing that I had remembered to pack my ear warmers. It was a nice trip though despite the sub-arctic temps. Sure, there's a chance that I'm being a teensy bit dramatic when I refer to the temps as sub-arctic but what little time I have spent in the Midwest during the cold weather months gives me new understanding as to why so many of them gravitate to Florida after retirement. I enjoyed seeing the Macy's downtown all decorated for Christmas and I was able to get in a quick conversation with Santa to discuss a few items on my list for this year.
So now I'm all caught up to the present where I find myself still recovering from my Thanksgiving hangover. And by hangover, I mean the kind that comes from too many helpings of mashed potatoes and servings of pumpkin cake. Once again, I am overwhelmed at the thought of counting all of my blessings because I have so very much to be thankful for in my life. I hope that the truth does not get lost in the triteness of that statement. These three are at the top of my gratitude list. [Even though the feeling may not be mutual with Micah since I chose to post the better picture of me than of him. :)]
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Poison and Wine - The Civil Wars. They were supposed to be in Atlanta back in October, but JP (that's what his closest friends call him) caught a bad case of the funk. The show has been rescheduled for December 10. Personally I hope that they are staying in quarantine until then because I have tickets and I don't know if my little heart can take the disappointment of a second cancelled show.
Beautiful Day - U2. Confession: This is probably my least favorite U2 song ever. However, I heard it on the radio the other day and there was a line that just stuck out to me: "What you don't have you don't need it now." -So. Very. True. I wonder if Bono would believe this if he lost his sunglasses, though?
World Spins Madly On - The Weepies. Why am I discovering The Weepies so late in life? I love them in spite of their melancholy moniker. Even though, technically it's not a moniker, but their actual group name.
Broken Glass - Mayaeni. I think I heard this on a TV show recently. Which one? No clue. If I had to guess it would be Parenthood or Grey's Anatomy. Speaking of let's take a television time out: Why is Adam Braverman smooching the young hot adminisntrative assistant when his wife is raising his autistic son and newborn daughter? So disappointing, Adam Braverman. So disappointing. You are better than that. And you will pay for those actions.
Clean Getaway - Maria Taylor. I swear I'm not as gloomy and depressed as this playlist might imply. I just listen to mellow music at work as opposed to oh let's say Rage Against the Machine or System of a Down because listening to those tunes would create an attitude in me contrary to the state of Georgia customer service initiative.
The Beat - Ben Rector. Who is Ben Rector and why did I decide that I like his music? No clue, but this was catchy so I decided that I liked it.
Faster - Matt Nathanson. I love how Matt Nathanson opens for Sugarland. And that's all I have to say about that.
Shake It Out - Florence + The Machine. Not to be confused with shakin' it like a Polaroid picture. I heard this on SNL last week and I think I like it. Flo is a little bit of a fiery and intimidating redhead who makes questionable fashion choices, but who am I to judge? Not me because my house is made of glass and hers is probably made of crystal now that the dog days are over for her.
Shelter - Ray LaMontagne. I. Love. Ray. I wish he would sing me lullabies at bedtime every night. Clarification: I don't want to marry Ray. I just want him to sing me to sleep.
How Great Thou Art - I love the Charlie Hall version, but they are all fantastic. Why? Because it reminds us of this: "And when I think, that God, His son not sparing / Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in / That on the Cross, My burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin." And that, my friends, is something that I am so thankful for during this season of giving thanks.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Fact: The airport is one of my favorite places on earth. I love to fly. I would travel somewhere every week if my job (and salary) allowed me to do so. I especially love super busy airports. Lucky me that the "world's busiest" is also "my" airport!
As I write this, it is 9:55 a.m. I've been here since 7:15. I knew that something was amiss when I settled in at my assigned gate with my freshly brewed Seattle's Best and blueberry muffin and instead of Chicago, the destination posted was Valdosta. [Who flies to Valdosta?!?] It turned out that my flight was cancelled. I do not love cancellations, but that is a matter absolutely beyond my control. [Someone's life lessons in control are paying off, aren't they?]
Now that I've had a couple of extra hours here, I've had the opportunity to make and note a few observations:
When going through security with an infant in a car seat, please don't kick said infant carrier to move it forward. I'm not a parent, but my gut instinct tells me to kick the bag and carry the baby instead of vice versa.
When using a public restroom, please close and lock the stall door, m'am. My eyes have seen things this morning they were not prepared to see. Ever.
When flights are cancelled, the nicer you are to the cranky ticket agent, the nicer she will become and the harder she will try to get you on an earlier flight.
One should not spray rose scented perfumey stuff one moment and then proceed to cough all over fellow travelers sitting in close proximity to you when waiting at the gate.
Is there a place in the airport that sells fried salmon patties? What is that woman across from me eating and why does it smell like fried salmon patties?!?! Isn't 10:06 a.m. a wee bit early to be eating fried salmon patties? I wish that whatever this food that she is consuming would be banned by the TSA.
I have no idea how all of these people are going to fit on the plane. And why did the guy on the speaker just say that we are going to Pensacola? I'm far too overdressed for a trip to the beach.
All of these important and nicely dressed business folks who are looking at their phones with furrowed eyebrows and furiously typing on their touchscreen phones? I suspect that it's not business, but a mean game of Angry Birds or Words With Friends.
A fun game that I like to play when waiting is to try to guess where people are going based on what they are wearing. Something makes me think that the guy in plaid shorts and flip flops will not be on my flight.
I'm kind of torn when it comes to airport chit-chat. Like, when people make general statements to no one in particular, but I obviously hear them, am I obligated to respond? I vote no.
There's a man on my flight who looks just like Ted Kennedy. Except I know it's not him because well, Ted has gone to glory and this gentlemen has the last name of Briggs and needs to make a reservation for December 12, 13, and 14. So I've heard him shout between curse words at least eleventy-dozen times. I hope he's not my seat row buddy, but I would choose him over Miss Salmon Patty, I believe. [Fun fact: The ghost of Ted Kennedy, Mr. Briggs, was my seat row buddy!]
After one cancelled flight, and three more delays and sitting on the plane for 30 minutes, we are finally on our way. Phones, laptops, electronics are all powered down. Oh, what's that you say, Mr. Pilot? We've traveled no less than the distance of a football field, and we're going to sit here so it's ok to turn on our cellular devices? Got it.
You know how some pilots are all business and some pilots need either a dog or a therapist based on the amount of chatter that comes from the cockpit? The pilot on today's flight was chatty. He proudly informed us when we flew over Kentucky and into southern Indiana. I admit, that I don't mind when they point out landmarks or give a little update so I can get an idea of where we are in relation to where we're going. However, when we were about 60 miles out, Mr. Delta, announces over the intercom that we've been put into a holding pattern. He then starts all this talk about our vector and how the tower is flipping the runway because the wind has changed so they have to change the direction of the incoming and outgoing flights. So, that's all well and good and really cool if you think about it. BUT as I looked outside of my window, there was nothing to see but fog. I know, I know, their instruments see for them, but what happens if a pilot was checking his Facebook status or texting while flying or changing the music on his iPod and missed the whole announcement about rerouting all traffic in one little circle of a holding pattern? I would have regretted the will power I exercised to resist eating a half-dozen Krystal burgers after spending what amounted to half a work day in the airport, for one thing. What screams "perfect last meal" better than a bag of teensy tiny fake hamburgers? Obviously that didn't happen and these people are pros at this kind of stuff, but I couldn't help but to giggle just a little bit when he was talking because I felt a little bit like I was living the Seinfeld stand up routine that he does about pilots.
My return flight was equally as entertaining. I sat next to an airplane mechanic. As in, when I boarded the plane and sat down beside him, he was pouring buckets of sweat and eating his sandwich like he was due back down there to tighten one more bolt before take off. He was super tall and reminded me very much of my dad (minus the fact that dad always swore he would never fly and this man has to fly in order to get to work some days). We had a very interesting and educational conversation about the frequency in which the tires on a plane are changed as well as the distance allowed between planes when in flight. Any guesses? I focused on that information instead of his statement about how he had been working non-stop without any sleep for a day and a half. I think that when I make my recommendation to the TSA about banning airport foods that are noxious to the olfactory nerves, I will also recommend that the people responsible for fixing the metal capsules that shoot us through the air at fast rates of speed get a full eight hours of sleep each night.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Today is about so much more than six 1's lined up when we write the date though. It's about recognizing that as a child, I was free to fill my mind with things like choosing my favorite number for the back of my softball jersey. In fact, I am still free to fill my mind with such trivial matters into adulthood. I've written about the significance of this day before here. It's a day to think about why I was fortunate enough to live a carefree and peaceful childhood that has carried over into my older and wiser years.
Earlier tonight during my drive from the airport to home, I was thinking about what a terrible news week it has been. Babies are missing and their mothers are suspects. Heinous and cruel acts against innocent boys that could have and should have been prevented have been brought to light. There are people who desperately want jobs so that they can feed their families when there is another group of people who are walking around with an over-inflated sense of entitlement and their response is to simply do nothing until someone does something for them. Countries are on the brink of defaulting on their loans which puts world markets at risk of just toppling right over. All of this is enough to make those of us reading about it feel like we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Yet for others, it's their present reality and it's a never-ending nightmare. I sometimes have the tendency to get so overwhelmed in all the negative, it's a challenge to remember and celebrate the good. I believe in the importance of striking a balance between the two.
I still do not, nor will I ever, understand why God saw fit in his infinite grace for me to be born in the United States versus some other part of the world that does not have the first-world problems that I am accustomed to. Yet, I am so thankful that I have been given the opportunity to live in this great nation. I will celebrate that. I am also going to celebrate the men and women who love this country so much that they put it and its citizens above themselves and their own families time and time again in order for this great nation to remain just that: great.
Earlier today when I was still at O'hare, I saw this man holding his baby boy before he handed him back to his wife as he said good-bye. So on this 11th day of the 11th month in the year 2011, I celebrate the family members too because it is truly a family sacrifice when mom or dad isn't at home to see the first steps or ballet recital or simply share an evening meal together.
While Veterans Day is a day to honor and celebrate our Veterans, I think it's also a time for the rest of us to look inward to discover ways in which too we can serve our country. The burden of responsibility does not lie solely with those who wear the uniforms. We all have something to give because we all have been given so much.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
This morning I asked the question "How old do you think the oldest student at the college I work at is?" A student from the back exclaims: "37!!" Awesome. [The real answer for those of you playing along at home is 84.] I don't really know what happened next, all I know is that suddenly, one student informed me that I was "middle-aged". Really? From the current outbreak happening on my face, I can see why someone might confuse me for a 16 year old boy, but middle-aged? I think not!
So at the end of my presentation, I once again opened up for the floor for questions about going to college or my job, etc. Big mistake. Huge. Because here's how that went down:
Question 1: "Are you married?"
Just Me...HP: "No."
Question 2: "Well, do you at least have any kids?"
Just Me...HP: "No." [In my mind I'm thinking "thank heavens" when I answer this one considering my answer to #1.]
Question 3: "Don't you get lonely?"
Just Me....HP: [as I'm wiping the tears from my eyes and curling up into the fetal position...oh, kidding!] "Nope, I've got plenty of time still for marriage and babies."
Little boy who earlier reported that one of his favorite activities is eating pork chops, collard greens, and cornbread: "Well, my mama, she 33 and I a whole lot older than yo' babies gonna be when you finally have 'em."
The whole thing is really quite hilarious. I don't feel a minute over oh let's say 24, but the truth is, I'm getting older. But here's a fun little fact: When I started the 6th grade, my mama was also 33, and I thought she was o-l-d. [Hi, mom! Love you!] It wasn't until she had a baby at the end of my freshman year of college at the age of 41 though that I actually point blank told her that she was old. What's that they say about karma?
Monday, September 12, 2011
However, this year I have been thinking a great deal about the day (and all the other days) that followed. When I woke up on the morning of September 12, 2001, I was a little shell-shocked. Sure, I was safe. All the people that I loved were safe. But for the first time in my 22 years on this earth, I woke up with the understanding that there were no guarantees that this would always be the case. There was the possibility of a "next time". Not only that, there were still so many unknowns about "this time". For the families who were directly impacted, that Wednesday was simply a continuation of the seemingly unending nightmare that began on Tuesday. For the rest of us, it was our first "regular" day in a post-9/11 world. We rolled out of bed, we brushed our teeth, we fixed our breakfast, just as we did the day before and the one before that. I am so glad that we did. Sure, there was pain in our hearts and anger and confusion brewing just below the surface, but we got up and met our new day.
It has become my belief that our response to events in life define us even more so than the actual event itself. What would have happened if on that morning, we as a nation had simply pulled the covers back over our heads and stayed in bed because we were frozen with fear? What would have happened if that initial anger we all felt remained lodged within us? Would it have eventually evolved into sheer hatred that creates nothing but hardened hearts? Who would have those folks with missing and lost loved ones have looked to for strength had they not had our prayers or had we not rallied around them with compassion in their time of greatest need? Not only that, what if we had remained in our little silos of safety and solitude? What would we look like today as a nation? Some may argue that we are a dismal sight anyway given the economy and the this and the that, but when I read the "World" section from any news website or hear first-hand my international students talk about conditions and the way of life in their home countries, I am reminded that I am still going to sleep each night in the greatest place on this planet.
I am sorry that our world and way of life that we had always known changed so dramatically beginning with the day after that day. I am sorry that I have to say to my international students more often than not "well, since 9/11..." It is a standard phrase that I have always known in my entire working career. I am sorry that each time I get on an airplane I scan the faces of my fellow travelers. I do it almost subconsciously now, yet I still do it. More than anything, I am sorry that a handful of people made the decision to participate in a horrible plan that took away the freedom and lives of thousands of innocent people.
Yet the thing that alleviates my sorrow over all of those things is the pride that I have in knowing that on the day after that day, those of us who were able to, got up and met our new day.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
So. Now that you all know this about me, I will continue with today's post.
A couple of weeks ago, some pals and I went to one of those places that are the current trendy rage. You know what I'm talking about...you go with your favorite gal pals with a bottle or two of wine in tow in order to drink and paint the night away. In theory, each artist is supposed to walk away with her very own canvas creation that closely mirrors that of the instructor's. Rarely do theory and reality ever mirror each other though. But it wasn't about the actual artwork...it was about the fun and good memories to be made with my people. When the day o' fun arrived, I called one of those two pals in the afternoon prior to meeting. This particular friend is a bit Type A. And she loves a good set of clear instructions. Plus, she likes to be really good at the things she does. [Sometimes I wonder why we are even friends...it's like we cannot relate to each other at all.] In our conversation I confessed my heightened anxiety level over having to paint something in front of complete and total strangers who would for sure be comparing their work to my own work. I knew immediately that I had made a wise choice in calling her because instead of talking me down from my unnecessary ledge, she too confessed that she had created a mantra of "it's just circles, it's just circles, how hard can it be?" in order to prepare for the evening. After a couple of minutes, we checked ourselves before we wrecked ourselves and decided that of course we could do this because after all, according to the picture on the calendar we were just going to be painting circles so it really couldn't possibly be that hard.
Y'all. Have you any idea how difficult it is to paint circles?!?!
Look at me ruining the end of the story. However, it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me even a little bit that I struggled with painting a bunch of circles. Especially after I tell you all that no where in the place was a finished version of the creation we were supposed to paint. This means that I could see no further than the canvas right in front of me. Sure, the instructor was painting at the same time we were, but I like to see the ultimate goal of what I am trying to get to and then work backwards in a sense to try to get there.
So over the course of a couple of hours on that particular evening, I had the opportunity to ruin a perfectly good blank canvas. But not really. Now that I have an advanced degree in adult learning theory, I'm always looking for the meaning in my experiences. What I lack in painting ability I make up for in analytical prowess.
The truth is that painting a canvas full of undefined circles is one of the best exercises that I could have participated in. Why? Because I have an aversion to the abstract. I love symmetry. I love clearly defined lines. They are even. They are clean without jagged edges. Clean, symmetrical lines look even better on a black and white canvas. Oh, how I love things to be black and white. Why do color printers even have a "gray scale" option? Who needs gray? Not this girl.
I know what some of you may be thinking because I've thought it multiple times in the last 2.5 years: How in the world did this poor girl ever make it this far in life? [Answer: Grace. Not my own, by the way.] Painting a picture of circles without having any circles to look at and go by took me completely out of my comfort zone. I mean...I didn't have a protractor so my circles were not perfect circles. And then I got all sorts of caught up in trying to make the circles within the circles even and the same width. Don't even get me started on color selection. Yes, as a matter of fact I should have drank more than one glass of wine because I would have been much less concerned with symmetry and circle width and color selection.
Nope, this is not some big epiphany that I experienced for the first time in my 32 years. It's yet another reminder of what I've known for quite some time: Life is not black and white. It is not symmetrical with clearly defined lines. There really can be no finished product and pattern to work from because we are all unique individuals. Even when we model our behavior and make decisions based on the influence of others, it looks a little bit different than it would look if another person behaved the same exact way and made the same exact decisions. We never really know what the final product is going to look like until it's done.
When I really think about it, as much as I love lines, they just create a box. Boxes are constraining. Once full, there is no room for anything else in it. Because I'm human, I'm ultimately going to want more than what there is room for in a box. And regardless of whether I want it or not, I'm given things on a daily basis that I would have never even have thought about making room for in my little limited-vision box in the first place.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
It seems to me that as humans, we love to identify ourselves according to our habits, preferences, styles, beliefs, etc. For example, you're either Team Edward or Team Jacob [and don't act like you're above knowing who Edward and Jacob are]. There are night owls and early risers. There are beach people and mountain people. Sure, it's a bit presumptuous of me to make such a claim since I represent only one member of the six-billion plus population, but that social psychology class that I took in undergrad totally qualifies me to do so. For the purposes of this post, it's appropriate that I identify myself as a night owl who would live in a valley surrounded by mountains on all sides [with Edward Cullen, but that's beside the point]. So knowing these fun facts about yours truly, why in the world did I subject myself to the torture of waking up day after day before sunrise while on vacation? Because I was looking for this:
When I was at the beach last September, I took this picture of the sunrise on my last morning there. Some of you may remember that I even wrote about it here. I was inspired. I was wowed. Quite frankly, the weeks leading up to my recent vacation were full of stress and long hours at the office and all of those other things that everybody else deals with on a daily basis in this little rat race that we call life. These factors helped me to develop an inflated sense of entitlement and led me to believe that I was overdue for another "wow" moment. Therefore, I set off in search of one. On Wednesday the sunrise was well, eh. Hakuna matata though because we still had a few more days at the beach. Thursday morning, I cursed my inner need to experience sunrise on the coast of the Atlantic as I stumbled out of bed, put on my best pre-dawn beach attire, found my glasses, camera, and phone and began my two minute journey from hotel room to sand.
Here is evidence that I was up and at 'em at an absurd hour because y'all, you can see the moon in this picture. [It's the tiny little silver sliver in the top center if your eyesight isn't 20/20.]
Much to my dismay, more evident to me than the presence of the moon was the presence of the clouds along the horizon.
I was quite certain that the sun was going to come up directly behind one of those big clouds. What? No, my glass is not half-empty, thankyouverymuch. It's just that I'm a realist. Oh look, there on the left...there's some pink on the top tip of that big cloud.
What's that I spy with my little eyes? More pink?
Oooh...the pink is bringing along some orange with it now. I suppose it could be worse.
But hey, look at this junk that's literally right here in front of me. I wonder if that bird has avian flu? Probably, it looks weird. Hmmm, what's the turquoise thing right there? That's shiny. Ugh, why is seaweed so weedy? If only the sand could be this cool in the middle of the day as opposed to burning the skin off the bottom of my feet hot like it was yesterday. Wait? Why am I out here during the 6 o'clock hour in the first place?
That's right. I remember now. I'm in search of a breath-taking sunrise. Speaking of which, what's that tiny orange dot that I see illuminating the clouds and is beginning to crest on the horizon?
And then over the next few moments, what I had already decided was going to be a poor performance by mother nature, evolved into the center of our universe [for those heliocentrists out there] revealing itself so clearly that the brightness burned my eyes to the point that I finally had to stop looking directly at it. This sunrise happened 4 weeks ago. Yet I have thought about it almost every single day since then. In fact, I started writing this post on August 11, and I had to take a break until tonight because often my simple little mind takes its sweet time thinking and reflecting and processing the "big" stuff. I feel like it would be a waste if I didn't record the "big" stuff [I'm a wordsmith at work, blogosphere.] here for the sake of posterity. I never know when I'm going to need the reminder. Twenty minutes spent on a beach in South Florida one Thursday morning in late July has reminded me of the following:
I do not have the ability to predict outcomes. No matter how clear and obvious it seems in the beginning, my human eyes do not have the ability to see beyond what is right in front of them.
Speaking of right in front of me, all too often I get distracted with the junk that's in my direct line of vision. When I look at the junk, my view never changes. And while that view never changes, there is a whole world changing around me. I was reminded that my focus is so important to my perspective and outlook. Sure, the junk is sometimes shiny and pretty and tangible and more appealing and more immediate than what I'm waiting on. Yet when the shiny and pretty and tangible becomes used and less appealing, all too often I act surprised and find myself wondering why I wasted so much time staring at junk. Junk could be television or drama among people in our lives or that Facebook friend's that you haven't seen since middle school vacation pictures from 2009. When it comes right down to it, I don't want to get so distracted with the junk that I miss what I'm looking for in the first place. Kind of like I almost did on that Thursday morning at the beach when I was waiting for the sun to rise. Recently I read this C.S. Lewis quote from The Screwtape Letters. Typically I avoid Lewis because his writing makes my brain hurt. But I do love it when seemingly unrelated events [sunrise and random book reading 2 weeks later] weave themselves together so I am going to share this quote. Don't be afraid to read it twice, or four times, in order to get it. "Let his inner resolution be not to bear whatever comes to him, but to bear it "for a reasonable period" -and let the reasonable period be shorter than the trial is likely to last. It need not be much shorter...the fun is to make the man yield just when (he had but known it) relief was almost in sight." This quote is from the perspective of the antagonist, by the way. In other words, don't get so impatient and frustrated waiting for a pretty sunrise, Heather, that you give up and get distracted by the insignificant stuff right in front of you.
Just as I cannot predict outcomes, I am incapable of timing events to the nanosecond. Sure, I used my handy smart phone to get a general idea of when the sun was supposed to rise that day, but what exactly does that mean? Is it daybreak? Is it when the sun first peeks over the horizon? Is it when it's fully visible over the horizon? The picture is different at each of those stages. Oh how I would love to be able to predict timing of events. I am a planner to the Nth degree. Yet, if I knew the precise moment and could plan my life accordingly, then I would have literally rolled out of bed 4 minutes before hand just in time to throw on my glasses, shoes, and get to the beach. I would have missed those pink tipped clouds. I would have missed the sliver of moon still visible in the sky. The blinding sun would not have been as glorious because I would have not known those dark clouds that came right before it. The end of a book doesn't really make that much sense unless we've read the chapters leading up to the final sentence.
Try as I might, I cannot control the final outcome of events. Yes, I realized that I mentioned outcomes initially. Yet, obviously it deserves another mention because I am challenged (ahem) when it comes to relinquishing control. I went to the beach looking for and expecting a sunrise like I witnessed last September. On Wednesday, it was boring, but I knew that the sun was going to rise the next day [good Lord willing, that is]. So I went back with the hope and expectation that it was going to be a good show. And it was. Not like I would have predicted, not even like I imagined in my "ideal" sunrise, yet it was glorious. It was new. It was unique to that day. I am glad that my imagination is no better than my eyesight because it sure does make the final outcomes much sweeter.
The view changes quickly. I have been reminded of this more than my little imagination could have ever imagined over the last week. Once the tip of the sun rose above where the sky meets the ocean, it seemed like only seconds until it was fully revealed. If I had taken my eyes off of it for even a second, I would have missed a significant part. I have learned that I must be ready for the view to change because once it starts, it's not going to stop. Then again, perhaps it does. Not so much stop, but just sets like the sun. Fortunately, where I'm at now with this particular situation, it's about 11:00 in the morning which is a pretty good place to be. Life and experience have taught me that if the sun sets or the ship sails or whatever trite analogy you want to insert here happens, then another opportunity or option will come. Not comparable to the one we have held onto from our memory. Different. Better. Brighter. Yet the source is always the same.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I must admit that these kiddos were the highlight of my day. Perhaps it's because we are only in the second week of school and the 6th grade group is still doe-eyed and excited about all things related to middle school. Or perhaps it's because I didn't give them enough credit. To my surprise they were full of questions which is a nice change of pace from the high school seniors who know all there is to know about everything that typically fill my normal work day. A few questions included:
- "How old do you have to be to go to college?"
- "How old were you when you went to college?"
- "Are you married?"
- "How old is the oldest person to go to college?"
- "Who are New Kids on the Block?" [Just go with it.]
His question was in regards to this:
As my introduction, I included slides that explained that it was 1990 when I was their age, George H.W. Bush was president, etc. And then I included 3 pictures of myself from my 6th grade year. This move would have been complete social suicide 20 years ago. Fortunately my peers are no longer 11, and I wore my hair straight today as a means of boosting my confidence when I showed the pictures.
Why did I look so sad? Let me count the reasons:
- I was wearing glasses that both Sally Jesse Raphael and Steve Urkel would have beaten me up in a dark alley to take for their own.
- My hair was 4 times bigger than my actual head.
- I was wearing a blazer. With shoulder pads. At the age of 11.
- And pantyhose. Why in the world was I wearing pantyhose at the age of 11 underneath pants?