Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Back in the saddle again!

I am back at school. I signed up to take 2 summer school courses. I finished my first about four weeks ago, and I am almost done with the second. I was a bit rusty at it, and it took me about five weeks to get used to the pace of things. It is hard but good.

For the first time in my life I am in classes where the instructors are telling us that we can make a difference, we can change the world one student at a time. How empowering is that! I am so blessed to be in these classes. It is good that I decided to take these summer school courses now, because once the semester starts it won't be as idealistic, but more nose to the grindstone. It is a two semester program and I will be taking 19 units each semester. Yikes! So pray for me whenever you think of me. I will need the support and strength. I am a little nervous, but I am motivated by the students.

Which brings me to another point. Recently people have been saying, "Wow you really have a calling to work with this population" (I am studying to be a special education teacher) I don't really know what to do with comments like that. I am frankly offended by those words. The population I am choosing to work with are people, and aren't we all called to minister to people? For this reason I find this comment confusing. In the past, society has segregated this population and banished them, and the stigma of those actions still remains. They really aren't that strange or difficult. They are just different. Trust me I have interacted with all sorts of people, and I would gladly choose to hang out with some people with disabilities over some people without disabilities.

So is this a calling? I don't know. I don't think it is any more of a calling than the same urges I feel to give money to the homeless, shelter orphans, protect the abused, heal the sick, and feed the hungry. It is a calling to love those who bear the image of God. A calling to love those He loved so dearly He willingly died for. Yes I am seeking out a degree that will equip me to work in a particular community, but I see opportunities abounding around me to love. My neighbors, my peers, my coworkers. Is this not also a calling? And I am also ready and aware that at any moment God may lead me to Africa, England, or Latin America to love on people in His name. I look forward to it! So please understand the subtle insult aimed at those with disabilities that is embedded in those words "Wow you really have a calling to work with this population". They demand no more of me and you than any other group, and they are just as precious and valued in God's eyes.

I have not been called to work with the defiled and disgusting. I have been called to love a people who are worthy to be loved and to break down the walls of banishment and segregation. Weren't we all called to this? I have been called to fight for justice and truth! And I would gladly do the same for you if ever you need it.

Good News and Bad News...

Well let's start with the bad new, more like sad news...

So my container garden that I have been proudly updating you on, well something has gone terribly wrong. Let me remind you of the family I was growing. We had Ms. Strawberry, Ms. Tomato, Mr. Pepper, Mr. Cucumber, Ms. Okra, the twin Misses Basils, and Mr. Cilantro (technically I also tried to raise a Mr. Chives, but that was a failure I don't like to think about). Okay now you remember them all, right? So here is the bad news... I can't even bear to tell you! Just scroll down.

This was baby Basil. Now there is only one of the twins left. There used to be full green leaves on here! Can you tell what happened? Let me give you a hint.

Caterpillars!!!! It happened over night. One day I was commenting on how big the basil leaves were getting and how I would probably buy some pizza dough to make a yummy basil and tomato pizza (dairy-free of course! I swear they taste GOOD!) then the next morning I come out to water the kiddies and... the horror! Meanwhile the caterpillar just looked up at me and smiled! Can you believe that?!?!? He had the audacity to thank me for the yummy dinner! Now I know why farmers use pesticides. All that time and energy and resources, and it's robbed from you just like that.

I managed to save one of the basils, and she is doing fine now, but I have resorted to a caterpillar pesticide. I'm not proud to admit that, and I did feel guilty as I sprayed my leaves with the poison. It was a tough decision to make. The little buggers decimated my cilantro, so Ms. Basil is all I have left of my herbs. 

I wish that was all, but I have saved the worst of my bad news for last. Are you seated? Good. Mr. Cucumber is terminally ill. Oh it kills me to say it! He was flourishing, I mean really growing super fast! And big! And green! And lush! I was the proudest of Mr. Cucumber. Then slowly I noticed spots, and the leaves and stems began to die off. Through the process of elimination (I made many attempts to treat potential diseases) I have finally concluded that Mr. Cucumber has bacterial wilt. There is no treatment for it, he's a goner. It is depressing to walk outside and look at him. And three cucumbers were starting to grow too! But they also will be taken by the disease. I think I will remove him this weekend...So sad. 

But not everything was lost. The strawberry, tomato and peppers are still doing good. And the salvaged basil is doing better than ever.


Jonathan and I have been eyeing the tomatoes and eating them as soon as they become ripe. They are tiny but tasty!

What a learning experience! If not for the tomatoes, and Jonathan's constant encouragement, I would have given up. I still feel a bit like a failure. But I haven't thrown the towel in yet, and I have learned some tricks along the way. So maybe next year it will be better... one can only hope.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Still Alive...and growing!

Remember about a month ago when I posted about my herb and vegtable garden??? Well this is an update for you all. I am sad to say that the chives did not survive. Well they never actually started. I couldn't get those babies to sprout! However everything else is just exploding!

This is my cilantro. Can you believe it?!?! Compare to here for the full effect! I think I should start eating them now. But I am not sure. How long do you let these guys grow??? Anyone know? I am clueless. Maybe I should pick a few to see if they are ready...

Oh and look at my tomoato plant! It is sooooo tall! I can't believe it! Tomato is going through puberty right now. Growing fast and tall, towering over his siblings, and his voice is starting to change too. Pretty soon he'll be headed off to college. Again compare to the last garden post. The tomato plant is the pot to the right.

So here they are. My kiddies. The cucumber plant is a bit bossy! That was surprising. It is shoving it's way around everyone. I might have to trim it a bit back, because it is now hogging all the sunlight the strawberries get. Or maybe I will just have to reposition all the plants. Ocra is short and small, but I wonder if that isn't because cucumber has overtaked the pot (they share a pot). Tomato is tall and getting taller, it out grew the tomato cage. Strawberries are short but stubborn. The basil is slow to grow and it doesn't help that there is some kind of insect that keeps taking a bite out of my 2 basil leaves >:( Now I understand pesticided! Grrr! And cilantro has an unruly mane, but I think it is ready for a trim.

There you have it. Maybe next time there will be fruit and veggies!!! I can't wait!

Flowers and 6 more to go!

May 10th marked our sith month anniversary. Jonathan said that this is the only mid year anniversary we get to celebrate :oP And to celebrate he gave me money to buy myself some flowers. Isn't he sweet? Giving me another chore to do. Just kidding. It was WONDERFUL!!!

I went to the Flower District of Orange County in Santa Ana. It really doesn't compare to the LA Flower District, but it was a great way to spend my morning. I actually had planned to go to pick up flowers for all the mothers in my family. We were having a BBQ to celebrate Mother's Day. I chose the pretty little thing below for all the moms.

But we had so many left over I got to keep some. I picked out the ranculous above and also some white tulips for myself. They were so beautiful, and they made my home look beautiful, and they made my heart smile. Six months went by in the blink of an eye. I can't believe we are half way through our first year?!?! The older I get the quicker time seems to pass. Flowers remind me to slow down, smell the...roses (or tulips). So here they are for you, to encourage you to pause and take a moment to breathe and relax, and enjoy those beautiful things in life that too often go unnoticed.

Friday, May 16, 2008

What the heck??

Okay, I confess that this post will be a rant. But I need to get stuff off of my chest too, and you are the sorry fool who started to read. Bwa ha ha...

What I want to talk about is my Christian identity. You see, I think people assume that because I am a Christian I am a conservative (you know what they say about ASSuming). It is like the two words are synonymous, and that is unfortunate. Recently I have been receiving emails that from people who assume just this.

Here is an example. The other day I was at work and a co-worker sent me an email that, in short, was demanding the immediate deportation of illegal immigrants as they are terrorist threats to our country. What ever your view of the topic is, I respect your right to that view. I respect and love the fact that my friend has the right to believe that, just as I have the right to disagree. This is a beautiful thing. But reading that email, and seeing that my friend specifically sent it to me made me wonder, "Does she even know me?" I mean, duh, my last name is one the the most elegant Spanish names EVER! And when have I ever brought up a topic like that?

Another example happened today. Today I received an email asking me to join a petition for an amendment that would reverse the ruling that allows same sex marriages in California. I promptly deleted the email, thinking again, "Hello??? Do you even know me?" I think this amendment idea is stupid! First of all, the state of California recognizes a civil union, which grants the same rights to gay couples, but denies them the title of marriage. We will let people freely choose who they are and how to live, but we will not allow them to call it marriage??? Secondly, I think denying gay people the right to marriage is saying that we think they are lesser people and don't deserve the same privileges and rights as heterosexuals. I just can't agree to that. The spirit of it feels wrong. I believe if two willing and consenting individuals are in love and want to commit themselves to each other in marriage, who am I to deny them that. It is their life, it is their choice. Again, I respect anyone else's rights to disagree with me.

But why oh why do I keep getting these kinds of emails from my friends? Is it my fault? Do I not bring these topics up enough? Perhaps. I don't like to bring these topics up in group/hang out settings. They are kinda heavy topics. I am not afraid to share my mind though, and if you are ever trapped in a carpool with me and there is a lull in the conversation I just might bring it up (just ask Josh- poor guy has had to suffer through many of my soapbox sermons). But generally I just want to have a good time, and these are loaded topics.

I think that because I am a Christian people think that means I am a conservative Republican. The thing is, most people don't fit nicely into any one box or category. I think people are lazy, myself included, and we don't take the time to truly get to know each other. And I think that people are so self-focused that we forget not everyone believes what we believe. Thank God for that! These differences are what force us to grow and progress as a species/society!

Meanwhile, I think I will just let these emails slide. Email is such a horrible medium for these topics anyway. And I respect the fact that my friends have different opinions than me. I celebrate it! Maybe one day I will get to share my own thoughts...or maybe I just did.

End Rant.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

First Legitimate Yarn Project

This is what my boss called my beanie. Well actually it is Jonathan's beanie. I made it for him. He asked me for a black beanie. It had been a while since I worked on a beanie so I wanted to practise. I had some extra brown yarn, so I started working a simple sc spiral beanie. I really liked the way it turned out. And so did Jonathan, so he asked if he could keep it. Now he has commissioned me for a red one and a black one. We haven't discussed payment yet, but a week or two of washing dishes may suffice.

I brought the beanie to work, and my boss was impressed. He is never impressed. This is really funny, because this has to be one of the most simple patterns I have worked on. But this beanie, well this beanie looks "legit" like it could be sold in a store, according to to my boss. In fact, he said he never wears beanies, he doesn't even own one, but if Jonathan didn't want it, he would like to have it.

I think the color is causing all the fuss. The pattern is nice, but nothing spectacular. Still it does look nice in this color.

Though I did make a beanie for my sister-in-law's husband two Christmases ago, and apparently he wears it all the time. It was the same pattern, perhaps slightly looser, but still a sc spiral.

Heck, if people like the beanies, then I am happy! I love making things with yarn, and it is so rewarding when people enjoy my crafts!

It all started with an urge for herbs...

My inner hippie is starting to get more and more bold. There was a time when I tried desperately to repress her. "You are not welcome here!" I would tell her. "I am a cynical sort of gal, and there is absolutely no room for you in my life! So get! Move along!" But you know the rule, the minute you deny something, that is the exact moment it becomes true. God has a way of proving us wrong. I love that saying "we make plans, and god laughs". This is certainly the case in my life.

About three weeks ago I planted my very first herb garden. I bought a small starter kit at Home Depot, which consisted of four small planters in a wooden box. The kit said that I would start to see the seedlings in seven to nine days. So I waited, and when day ten came and there was no sign of seedlings, I knew I had done something wrong. I failed! If I can't even grow a plant how can I ever have a pet or even a child?!?! What kind of a mother would I be??? I know I am a bit dramatic. And my husband, that wonderful man, put his arm around my shoulders and reminded me that it had been pretty cold that week, so maybe the herbs would just need a little more time. Thank god he was right! By day fourteen my cilantro had peeped his head above the dark dirt.

Everyday since has been a tiny adventure as I come home and see the subtle changes, noting the new height, or the new leaves and stalks. These are changes that only a mother would notice. Yesterday I saw mini-cilantro palms hiding amongst the rest of the stalks. My heart did a little diddy!

Encouraged by Mr. Basil, Mr. Chives and Mr. Cilantro, Jonathan and I went out to Home Depot yet again, this time in search of vegetables to adopt. I had some very helpful tips from a friend at work. He really encouraged me to consider container gardening, since I have limited space at my apartment complex. And thanks to him, I came home with a tomato plant, a pepper, an okra, a cucumber, and a strawberry plant. Below is a picture of all my kiddies. I am happy to report that they seem to be doing well and I haven't killed any of them...yet.

This is good for me. It is work, but it is rewarding. It requires diligence, but there is a bigger goal. It reminds me of my place on earth, my connection and dependence on this beautiful planet. It is humbling, and reaffirming. It reveals God's maternal traits as the nurturing voice that bears fruit. And dagnabit, it makes my inner hippie happy as she finally gets her place in the sun. Hopefully in a few months I will be able to have you all over for some salad featuring some of my fresh tomatoes, and I will formally introduce you to Ms. Hippie :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Right to Flee, the Call to Stay

I have been thinking seriously about something. I read somewhere about the idea that the American dream, you know, the house, the picket fence, the family, the yard and all, that this suburban destination does not coincide with building the kingdom of God here on earth. This is a very sensitive subject. And I would imagine that many people will be offended even outraged by such a thought. I am not writing to say that I have figured it all out, but rather that I have been thinking about this, weighing its validity and wondering what God would have me do.

I believe that I have been complacent in my faith. If I truly believe that I have the truth, and heaven and hell weighs in the balance, then why am I so reticent? What do I have to fear?

I have also been thinking about the hierarchy of needs. This theory speculates that people are not capable of higher thinking (what we might call philosophical thought, philanthropic desires, and morality etc.) until their most basic needs are met, namely food, shelter, safety, a sense of belonging, and community. Aside from a miracle, and I do believe in miracles, I think there is too much hurt in my own neighborhood for people to understand and receive the truth. It is simply easier to live in the lie, to rely on survival skills rather than to face the unknown, that being a new life in Christ.

So we find ourselves in these communities with broken and hurting people who need the truth but who need healing first so they can receive that truth. But sometimes it is hard to see that side of them when they are flipping us off, or cursing at their children, when the children are more worried about seeming "cool" rather than being innocent. And how do we love them when there is so much distrust and so many walls up? How do we openly reach out when the truth is we are afraid of them? How do you make yourself vulnerable and willing to be moved by compassion without seeming weak? How did you do it Jesus? How on earth did you do it?

I am not sure if it right to leave a community for a "safer" one in the suburbs, all for the sake of providing the safest place for your family. Aren't these broken and hurting our family also? Aren't we called to love the broken and hurting? How can we do so if it takes us an hour by car to get to them? I am not suggesting that all Christians should move into downtown urban communities, nor am I denying the fact that all people in all walks of life need Christ, even the home makers in suburbia. I am just wondering where the balance is. Did God mean for us to flee? I use that word because that is what appears to be happening.

When the same thing happens in another context, there is a certain repugnance and disgust, a sense of prejudice and injustice that prevails. When "white flight" occurs I cannot help but feel outraged and frustrated by the oppressive, destructive and unspoken rules of this world. Are we guilty of the same? Have we committed "Christian flight"? Are we fleeing the the broken and lost, in search of a safer place to call home? But aren't these the ones Jesus lived with, ate with, laughed with? He was not concerned with the things of this world. He trusted in the Father for His safety, for the outpouring of love, for anointed meetings, and for all his provisions. What faith! LORD, may I too trust, truly trust in you, and may I not be swayed or tempted away from the people you love, and who need you, who desperately need you. May I not flee from those, who, though rough around the edges, were still created in your image.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


The name of this park is Shabarum Park, but for some reason whenever I say the name I want to sing Shapoopi, from The Music Man. That was a really fun musical, both to watch and participate in, ( I was in the crew when my high school did that show). "Shapoopi shapoopi shapoopi, the girl is hard to get..." So silly, and innocent, I think that is why I love musicals. They are an escape, into a world of life and color and expression. Fun fun fun! Well not all musicals are as lighthearted and mindless, but the early ones at least were.

Aaaaaanyway, I wanted to tell you all about this beautiful secret, Shabarum. This summer a friend and I wanted to go for a hike. But where was there a trail in this asphalt jungle? I wasn't familiar with any good hiking trails, and walking the mall was NOT an option, so I called up my friend Rod, the local hiking trails connoisseur. He told me about Shabarum Park, a place he had recently discovered and was thrilled with.

Shabarum is located just across the street from the Puente Hills Mall. No wonder I never noticed this unlikely trail. Two seemingly opposite places sitting just across the street from the other. Yet there it was. And it was lovely, but only after you put a good 40 minutes into the hike. At that point the houses and businesses begin looking small enough to not be distracting from the view around you. In the distance (of the above picture) you can see rooftops, and this is also the point where the hike begins to get exciting!

Still no matter how high we got, and how small the city became, we could not completely forget it. These two towers were eerie reminders of the marks we have left on this world. They stood there as sentinels, alone and out of their element, but surveying the land nonetheless. I envied them, and the beautiful sunsets and sunrises they must see everyday.

These ghostly reeds almost made me believe we were in a different world. Like some place out of the fantasy books I read. I never knew places like this were so close. There aren't many, and you can imagine how many people we bumped into on the trail, still it was refreshing. There is something truly cathartic about exploring nature, and exerting your energy in the process. And as you sweat, the beads forming around your brow, your breaths becoming deeper and more calculated, your strides feeling more taxing than before, your mind and body at bay to the rigorous climb, your spirit is suddenly freed. Free to run around and play, to hide in the ghostly reeds, to explore the blue skies, and just rejoice in the realization that there is something greater at work here, and thank God for that.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Meatless Meals: Update

I have been having fun experimenting with my dinners recently. I already had a vegan cook book, Student’s Go Vegan, which I acquired when I decided to go dairy-free almost a year ago. But I never fully explored the recipes, until now.

Displayed for your drooling pleasure, is a BBQ tempeh sandwich topped with fried red peppers and onions, and fresh parsley, a side of sautéed spinach, and a spring mix salad with strawberries, nuts, and carrots, topped with a soy based dressing from Trader Joe's. No dairy or meat were harmed in the making of this meal. :oP

Tempeh, and tofu are great sources of protein for vegetarians. You are probably familiar with tofu, and truth be told it isn’t my favorite, but I am learning new ways to cook it that aren’t bad (tofu scrambled eggs are quite yummy). But you may not have heard of tempeh. It is a grainy soy based patty. It takes on the flavoring of any seasoning or sauce. I used BBQ sauce to season the tempeh here, and it truly made a delicious BBQ sandwich. And you know I felt great about myself after that meal! I think I can do this. I like the challenge anyway.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wedding Details

Four months, and three days ago I married a charming and handsome man. Way out of my league! But I ain't gonna let him in on that. *wink* Anyway, he was kind enough to not only let me runaway with the wedding details, but he actually helped make most of them happen.

My wedding was a poster child for the D.I.Y. community. Well maybe that is an exaggeration. I didn't make my own dress, nor the dresses of my bridesmaids, but I made A LOT of things! There were two main reason for this: 1. We were on a budget and this was one way to cut costs, 2. I am pretty picky and finding things I liked became a nightmare. So after making the decision to go crafty for the big day, I went out to the local bookstore bought the current issue of Martha Stewart Weddings, (actually my friend Maria got it for me as an engagement present- Thanks Maria!) and pretty much slept with that baby under my pillow for the next nine months!

The boutonnieres at the top were inspired by the MSW mag. I used fabrics and foliage that supported my wedding theme (who knew there was such a thing, but apparently there is). The colors were orange, chocolate and turquoisey-blue-ish. As you can imagine my wedding was full of bright colors, and fall themed items, think fall on a farm and you kind of have an idea of what the big day looked like. With the help of my hubby, my pals, and my family we put together the wedding of my dreams! But can you believe it I forgot to take pictures of it all???

On the day of, and the days leading up to, I completely spaced out on that important detail. I guess I kept telling myself that I would take pictures later, and I lived that way all the way through to the Big Day. And on that day, well most women will agree, you can hardly remember to put your earrings on let alone document the day! That is what photographers are for, after all. And my photographers were amazing! But alas, I don't have a digital copy of their beautiful images, so here I present the few salvaged items I recently found.

These are the tulips we used as our centerpieces. We bought the tulips from the LA Flower District, and arranged them ourselves in glass milk bottles. The bottles were collected from the local grocer over a period of 6 months, and since I don't do dairy, my pals and hubby stepped up to the plate. The flowers were placed atop handmade fabric squares in fabric that also matched the color scheme, and the milk bottles were tied in coordinating ribbon.

These were the bouquets. No your eyes do not deceive you, there are indeed 8 bouquets. Yikes! The one tied in white ribbon was mine, and the other seven were for: 2 of Jonathan's sisters, and 4 of my pals, and one extra for the bouquet toss. We also bought these beauties at the flower district. My friend Paola, and my mom's childhood friend Karina put these bouquet's together. I actually copied Paola's wedding bouquets, which we also made ourselves, though she used deep purple carnations- gorgeous! So Paola was a pro at this, and I give her all the credit for making them turn out so lovely. They are exactly what I wanted!

For those who might be interested, Gerber daisies, and tulips are my favorite types of flowers! And I was so lucky that they came in orange, to match my wedding colors. These are just a few of the long list of things we made. If I can find more pictures I will post them, but that is all for now...Other handmade items included:
wedding veil
pew decorations
save the date cards
bridesmaid gifts
bride's evening shawl
tent decorations
pie/cake stands

That's all I can think of, but it is plenty! I am so glad I chose to go the D.I.Y. route, because now I feel more adventurous. I have learned that I really enjoy stamping, and scrap booking. I have learned that I can do much more than I thought with needles and thread. And most importantly I have learned that I really truly love doing these things. There is something so satisfying about working with your hands, and seeing your finished work. Just make something you really love, and the fun is therein. Go ahead, give it a try!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Birthday etc.

I turned 26 in January. I can round up to 30 now! And only I have 2 years left to try out for American Idol. Eeek! I better get my act together! Okay, not really, I don't have any inkling to try out for Americal Idol...well maybe a mild curiosity to see if Simon would tear me up. But that's it really, I promise. Still age is something that has been brought up to my attention recently. It sems the world around me is turning 30, consequently panic is setting in. Many of my friends have already crossed the milestone while some are on their last lap before they reach it. And it is apparently a sign that we are getting old(-er), and it forces us to ask those questions: What am I doing? What have I done with my life? My dreams?

The answers may not be what we imagined for ourselves, but there is still hope. I am so encouraged to see my friends struggle with these issues bravely, and stand up and say, "Life, you ain't seen nothin' yet!" I have friends making incredible decision to start families, friends who have decided to start their own businesses and to throw themselves whole-heartedly into it. Friends who are looking for love, and wondering if they missed their chance, but refuse to let that define them. And friends who are facing the truth, that maybe the dreams they had aren't what they want anymore, and have to fearlessly let those dreams go. You are all role models to me.

And where do I land in all of this? Well, I am headed back to school, while my friends are grappling with these decision, almost as if I were doing things backwards. And yet I too feel the weight of that number 30. As a woman it seems to mean more, it is a ticking clock reminding you to hurry up if you want that family. Because no matter how young I feel, my body will not wait for me. And I hear the words, "We had a miscarriage" "We are pregnant" "We bought a house" but, you see, I just am not ready for those words to come out of my own mouth. Now is not the time. Like in all other areas of my life, I am a slow bloomer, taking my time, discovering myself and my God as I go. And right now it seems I am to make some backward steps and head to school, and papers, and homework, and studying once again. And I feel a bit foolish about it, but my friends have been so supportive and sweet to me, encouraging me that going back to school is an investment in the future. So really they are steps forward, not backward. I know they are right, but I feel kinda left out nonetheless. Oh you damn emotions, will I ever master you!?!

So when I turned 26 I thought I should have been more panicked about it, but I wasn't. Things were definitely different, there was no big party, no balloons, not many presents, but the few I got were very special! One of the best presents ever was from my bestest bud Denise. She sent a package filled with special things that in the past I told her I was interested it, or things she thought I would love. She has spent the last couple of years hunting these things down for me, and this year she had it all ready in time for my brithday. NOTE: Getting a package in the mail is seriously one of the greates gifts ever! You feel so special, excited, just like a little kid!

So what was in the package? Can you tell from the image above? ... Give up? ... In no particular order we have:

Flight of Dragons- an animated film that has permanently affected Denise. Can't wait to be tranformed myself!
Waking Life- a film that Denise really liked, and that I have always wanted to see.
Their Eyes Were Watching God- a book that was spoken of highly in my American Lit class at CSUF. Also a staple in high school lit classes, but I never got to read. I am ready for this one, I have a journal picked out and everything, so I can fully experience the story!
Passing- another book that was highly recommended, about the life of an African American woman and her struggles with segregation. Why am I drawn to these heavy ones? Don't know but I can't wait to read her!
Debut- Bjork's first solo album, I stole this from Denise for a few years then gave it back to her last year, and now she got me my very own copy. She knows me well!
Penguin card- I love this card. The inside reads, "I love you this much!" Awww...go on!

How many did you guess right? Wasn't that just the best present ever?

So I guess 26, isn't so bad, and going back to school isn't so bad. And I just got married, so I am not ready for all the grown up stuff yet. Don't know if I ever will be. I have no idea what I would name my first child, haven't even thought about it. But I do know what I would name my first dog, Euky. Maybe this is a very telling thing about me and my future, maybe not. Meanwhile I got a lot of reading and movie watching to do...and if you need a break from all the grown up stuff, pull up a chair, there is always room in my home for you!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Life in a Fish Bowl: Reviews.

Last week I had my evaluation. All employees at my work have one. It's a time where your supervisor tells you how you have improved and how you can improve, then lets you know how much of a raise you get, if any. Our performance is rated on a 5 point system, 5 being perfect. Since no one is perfect, no one gets 5 points EVER. So the best we can shoot for is 4. This must be maddening to the perfectionists out there. Last year I was so upset by my score. I had only been there for a few months with pretty much no training, and I accidentally transferred 2 calls to the wrong person and for that I was docked. I earned a pathetic 2.6 points. And this really irritated me, for a long time. This year I am happy to say that I improved, I am now at 3 points. Big whoop!

Everyone assures me that this is a respectable score. You see 4s only are given out very rarely, and no one ever gets a 5, so 3 is practically a perfect score. Now I ask you, does this make any sense? Aren't we just asking our employees to be mediocre? Aren't we telling them that they will never be perfect, and that great is unrealistic, so good is good enough. What it all really comes down to is money. If I am given a high score, then the bank concedes that I am a valuable employee. If that is true then, I deserve to be compensated accordingly, which translates to $$$. So in an effort to save the company some money, the scale has been shifted slightly, 3 being good, 4 being for the exceptional employee, you know, that person who works 12-hour days, never takes a lunch and comes in on weekends. In this way we are trained to be happy with our meager points, and accept the lie that we aren't mediocre, but rather good or even great, though our raises reflect otherwise. Meanwhile the accepted fact is that everyone gets a 3, so it really doesn't matter if you are decent, okay, good or great because each of these is rewarded with a 3.

All this silliness. Corporate America, isn't it grand! And I am such a sheep to it all. I was happy that I improved, "Yeah! I'm a 3. I'm special!" But now that I think about it, the review was pointless, I didn't learn anything, except that I am better at transferring phone calls (well after a few months of self-training and trial and error, I hope I have learned how to do at least that!) and I got a small raise. I am grateful for the raise, I really am. And honestly, I should be. The truth is, they only need me to man the phones, and if not for that, they could do away with my position. I know this, and I was also reminded of it during my review. It makes me laugh, that it was brought up at all, but there you go. "You are a 3, you are great, btw, we don't really need you. Did I mention you are great?"

So all this rambling, has lead me to really consider my career. Are there areas that I excel in? Areas where my talents, skills, and passions all combine resulting in a more efficient and productive employee/career. Can I find a place where I might be more useful? More relevant? I am not sure if that place exists. Perhaps in the scale of things, that kind of job is a 5. No one EVER gets a 5, but I gotta reach for a 4, because a 3 just isn't cuttin' it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Flexitarian? Wha' happen?

So I have been on a journey for the last year, trying to figure out my diet. I am trying to be intentional about what I put in my body, why I eat the way I do, and what effect does it all have any way? I really can't explain this sudden minute interest in something that, up until recently, has rarely been a concern, except that I do have some free time at work, and free time leads to thinkging, and thinking leads to all kinds of Trouble, with a capital T.

So about nine months ago I cut dairy out of my diet. Not completely, but mostly. I do make exceptions every now and again, but for the most part I live a milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, and butter free life. This was a really hard adjustment to make, and I have had to resort to the vegan friendly item on most menus, because the vegetarian item is a cheesy dish. This decision was purely for health reasons, and I am happy to report that since the dairy boycott I don't use nearly as many medications as I used to. Hooray!!!

Having conquered the dairy dilemma, I felt I needed a bigger challenge. So now no meat, and when that gets boring I will try to live solely on AIR!!!! Just kidding. But I did make a conscious decision to try to eat less meat. Why?!?!? Well the answer could potentially be discussed for several hours as I map out for you the spiritual, social, and physical reasonings behind the decision, but to sum it all up for you, I feel bad about how animals are treated when farmed in mass production. So I want to avoid these meats, which pretty much means I will eat free range meats, sooooo I won't be eating meats a whole lot. To quote a friend who was mocking me, I will only eat animals that were "happy" before they were slaughtered. Isn't that just ironic of me. But there it is. This makes me a flexitarian.

Go ahead, make fun of me, mock me, stare at me incredulously. It's nothing my closest friends and family haven't done already. And while you are at it, go ahead and tell me your story of how you tried to live a vegetarian lifestyle only to fail miserably. Those stories are meant to encourage me, right??? I am in a place right now, where I feel convicted, and I feel that, thankfully, I can do something about it, or at least I can try. So I'm gonna.

Last night was the first night where I intentionally made a meatless dinner. We made rice and bean burritos, with grilled onions, peppers and sauteed mushrooms. We topped them with fresh vine tomatoes and avocado, all atop a flour tortilla. YUM!! Jonathan liked it so much, he said I should open a restaurant. I think I better try a few more dishes before I go that far, you know put the horse before the cart and all. But I am definitally encouraged. This will be hard, but not impossible.

But come on, don't you wanna bite? I call it Burrrito ala Guatemalan.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

How do you express yourself creatively?

So a few weeks back Jonathan's friends were visiting from Alaska. Since they couldn't make it to our wedding, they wanted to take us out for dinner to celebrate. I was a wee bit nervous, because I always feel like such a kid around some of Jonathan's friends, like this couple. I know it's silly, they are only around five years older than I am, it really isn't that big of a difference as far as the numbers go, but it is more like they are older than in me in stages of life. See I just got married, they have been married for five plus years. They have two girls, I have have two plants. You see what I mean? There is a stage of life that they have entered that suddenly makes them more mature. Like when my little brother had a son, suddenly he was the sage elder imparting wisdom on my life. Maybe I am too synical, maybe in these life stages so much growth happens that you really do mature exponentially. I dunno. Still I can't help but feeling like a high school kid, happily reading comics, and researching new bands, and living with relatively few responsibilities, while people around my age are buying houses, having babies, or planning on having babies. I don't regret my life, I am happy with it, but I can't explain this sense of inferiority when I interact with these "adults". Ah, silly girl, you are just a slow blooming flower, and even when you do bloom, you will likely be a bright orange in a mostly lavender field.

Well on to the the dinner. The dinner was YUM! We went to a British Pub and I had a cornish pasty, with mashed potatoes, and steamed veggies. So good. And we were all so stuffed that we shared a sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Yes, I broke my dairy fast for this tempting dish. So worth it! We didn't want the night to end, so we went to a nearby jazz bar and had a few drinks, and chatted the night away.

It was during this time of conversation that the question posed in the title was asked of me. We had been discussing the musical career and endeavors of my husband, and then of his sister, both talented songwriters and musicians. I also have dabbled in music, and to this I believe the friends were hinting when they asked me, "So, Susanne, how do you express yourself creatively?" And I , in my most sincere tone, replied, "Oh, I crochet, and I craft." Their expressions quickly moved from interest to confusion. Noting their perplexed countenances, I realized, my reponse was unexpected, and dare I say it, even unbelievable. Crochet??? Can that really be considered a form of creative exression??? Admittedly it lacks the glamour that acting, dancing, or songwriting maintain, and it might even evoke images of granny sitting in a rocking chair watching day-time soaps, BUT that was my honest initial response.

After this flub, I tried to defend the craft, and show them how it is a valid art form. But that was going nowhere, so I cleared my throat and said, "And I write songs and sing too." And there it was, the response they wanted. And we then were able to have a short discussion about my creative endeavors, you know the legitimate ones.

Funny thing is , I really believe that crochet and music are wonderful creative outlets for me. I love them both. I enter seasons with each. There are seasons when, if I have any free time, I have my guitar in hand and I belt out songs that make me cry, much to my neighbor's dismay, I am sure. And there are seasons when I just can't stop crocheting, and I am adventurously trying new and more complicated patterns, adjusting them here and there so that they suit my fancy, and loving it! Both are true forms of creative expression, for me anyway. How about you? How do you express yourself creatively? I promise not to judge. *wink*

This is how I expressed myself creatively this week:

Not bad, huh?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New Year's, Seattle and Nicolas

This year for New Year's we celebrated in Seattle, WA. It was Jonathan's third trip to the Pacific northwest in 2007, and my second. Last time I was there, it was for our honeymoon in Oregon, and it was during a wind storm. It pretty much rained the whole time. And it was forcasted to rain our whole trip to Seattle also, but it was surprisingly dry. It rained the first day and then not again until after we left. Granted it was a short trip, so it was really only 2 and half days sans rain. But I still appreciated it.

We went up to meet Jonathan's new nephew, Nicolas. I guess he is my new nephew too now. Anyway, it was kinda of like a mini-reunion, since Jonathan's parents were also visiting. Isn't it amazing how babies can unite people? I have seen this in my own family. The different generations gather around the tiny person being cradled, waiting for their turn to hold him, or just watching in wonder at how small the child is. This trip was an especially uniting one because of Nicolas.

Isn't he cute!! And he loves to be held. And there certainly wasn't a lack of arms waiting for their chance to hold him. The family was split between two homes. The Van Essen home, where my mother and father-in-law were staying, and the Nascimento home, where Jonathan and I were staying. But no matter the two different locations we all gathered together to spend time with Maile and Nicolas. And that is the magic of babies. Oh little one, you can't possibly know how loved you already are, and what a difference you have already made in this family.

I could go on and on about Nicolas, but I think you may have had your fill. So onward we go. Though this was my first trip to Seattle, there was a bit of pressure on me to like it. You see, my wonderful traveler of a husband has an itching to move out of sunny SoCal and he has his eye set on the Pacific northwest. Seeing as how I couldn't see myself in Portland, he was really anxious about Seattle. Now, aren't you curious to see how I felt about Seattle??? Perhaps these images may shed some light:

Such a pretty view. Wanna See what we're looking at?

Urban culture?? He he he...

Pike's Place: Don't I just look like a Seattle-ite?

Set of Howl's Moving Castle. Doesn't it kinda remind you of that?

Beautiful lake/park.

Beautiful family.

So what is the verdict? Well I really had a great time in Washington. And I really enjoyed Seattle, and yes I could see myself living there. Maybe someday in the future. There are some things I want to take care of here before I move. But for now, SoCal is my home, and though there are elements of being here that drive me crazy (refer to smog entry) this desert land has it's own beauty. We had a few rainy days recently and the skies were clear, and it was so beautiful. I stare out in wonder and dream of what this land must have looked like before the sprawling cities. There is definitely something attractive about it, something that beckons people to come and stay.

So I started January 1st, 2008 in Seattle, then boarded a plane and spent the evening that same day in Los Angeles/Anaheim. My parents say that whatever you are doing on new Year's is how you will spend the rest of that year. So who knows, maybe there were will be more trips up north or maybe I will be traveling. Maybe Jonathan and I will spend more time than ever with his family. Only time will tell.

It was a great trip. I absolutely love that little boy, Nicolas, and for the first time, I felt like I might actually be a part of Jonathan's family. Both Nicolas and I are new additions, and we will have to find and carve out our place here. But it is a good family, and we are lucky. Aren't we little one?