Monday, December 3, 2012

Chasing Sunsets

The first night week month in a new place is weird.  It doesn’t feel like home.  First off, cardboard reeks.  Attempting to function out of cardboard boxes: also undesirable.  Meeting new neighbors: fun but odd, especially if we meet as I’m hauling boxes on a 90 degree day.  [Well hello, dog living 20 feet from my bedroom window.  My morning is fine without events that spur (in)voluntary profanity and fight-or-flight spasms.  Thanks anyway.  #thingsiwillmisssomeday]

The first night, I was tired, but determined to be crowned victorious over all that is ‘moving’.  So I went on a walk.  Two things I knew I’d miss about the old apt: 1) my porch and 2) my 3rd story windows that faced West.  I’d see things like this every night:

I spy a hot air balloon off in the distance...see it?  Toward the left.

So ugly, I know.

 Leaving cardboard behind, I set off at dusk to navigate the neighborhood in hopes of finding a lookout like the one I was missing.  It was nice, warm, peaceful, and I saw the sunset, but no view compared to the fields and open sky from up high. 

view from new place + clouds MIA + self-fulfilling prophecy = mediocre sunset

I wanted to never miss the sunset, to always have it with me.  Taking that (impossible) wish to its logical (not feasible) end; the only way to have a never-ending sunset is to hop on a jet that flew fast enough and low enough to get it all ‘just right’.  But then I’d never be on the ground, I'd probably be motion sick, and likely terrified.

“Just let the sun set.”

I was chasing the sunset and missing the beauty.  I felt like I wanted something so big, like I was missing something so much.  I didn't even know quite what I wanted or what I was missing.  But dear Mr. Lewis, (a co-author of the site – you didn't know?) eloquently clarifies the angst and the next best step…

"The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. 
These things - the beauty, the memory of our own past - are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers.  For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited."

 Here’s to the Giver of the sunsets, the longing, and the glorious days ahead.   

Listen to this: it's a goodie.  "This Side" by Nickel Creek 
See, it's not so bad after all.  11/24/12

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Howdy Stranger

nope, don't want to leave your keys here
It was well after midnight and I was on my way up to my apartment.  As I passed by a door on the first floor, I noticed a pair of keys still in the handle.  I didn't know who lived there, but keys outside a door are never a good thing.

I knocked.  Nothing.  I knocked again and heard a woman whispering on the other side of the door.  Quietly and loudly enough, I managed to tell her there were keys in the door.  She cracked the door open, I gave her the keys, and went on my way. 

This incident began our friendly neighborship.  I love running into little Veronica (the couple’s 6 year old daughter).  We talk about her bike (she just learned how to ride with two wheels), her pink outfits, and her school. I was outside with friends playing lawn games, and at 9pm, the sprinklers came on.  Veronica was just getting home, and got a kick out of seeing us dodge the spray of water as we ran to pick up our things.  Last week I went to the pool, and saw Veronica across the way.  She tugged at her dad and pointed over at me.  Seconds later, there she was with wide eyes, a big smile, and a hug “Hi Katy!” 

*    *    *    *

Scouring the streets for a parking spot downtown the other night, we drove into an alley that was becoming a makeshift parking lot.  Another car pulled up the same time we did, and we all walked out of the alley together.  I asked the driver of the other car if he’d ever parked here before, and he laughed and said "Nope – we’re in the same boat.  Guess we’ll see you later if we’re towed!"

thankfully this bearer-of-bad-parking-news was not present.  no tow truck for us.

*    *    *    *
Too often, I forget that you, stranger, are a person just like me – you notice me, you want to be noticed, you feel, you think, you love to laugh, you have an opinion.  Maybe I’m afraid, or tired, or just need to be reminded: it is good that we are here together. 

If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.  Mother Teresa is a trustworthy source, I do believe.  As is C.S. Lewis...
One worth reading...and re-reading.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Shoulding All Over Yourself

I should have cleaned the bathroom today.
I should have called you back.
I should have returned the Redbox. 
I should have grocery shopped.
I should have said “I’m sorry.”
I should have been kinder.

Should should should should should.  For the love, stop shoulding all over yourself.  Should is spoiled and rotten.  Seriously, STOP that.  You won’t be any worse off, I promise.    

Shoulding is particularly obnoxious because in response to all your own shoulding-around you can even think “I should be doing something instead of just shoulding.”  And maybe you mean it.  But really…

Nike was onto some serious hoopla with the JUST DO IT push.  As difficult as it can be, for whatever reason you’re shoulding all over yourself, you just need to DO something.  Or realize that you already are doing something.  Important.  Really important.  You can do one thing.  Right now.  God gives you enough time every day to do His Will. 

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.  God can’t steer a parked car.  We need you and your wonderful self.  Get a move on, my friend.  You’ll enjoy the ride.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dear Memory

doesn't this just look like a swing that would bring back memories?

It seems there are certain memories that will be there forever, for better or worse.  They are stunning, and have great power.  It's most impressive, at least for me, when someone else brings up a memory that catches me off guard.  How did they remember that?  It’s almost not fair that those we love should remember so much about us, bringing us back to who we are.  And even sounds and smells can surprise us, bringing us back to home, hardship, new beginnings, or sudden endings. 

there are always memories along with these bad boys
Accompanied by pain, joy, longing, or laughter, memories are just plain rich.  But not all memories arrest our mind and heart...only the special ones.  What I had for dinner last night, where I went grocery shopping, or the route of my run yesterday…not so much.  This means that some memories are still very much alive - stirring up thoughts, feelings, desires, dreams, aches, questions, peace, or hope.  While they don’t give us the permission (or ability) to live in the past, they do mean that God has more to say.  He wants to remind us of who we are.  He wants to bring us back to delight.  He wants to heal us in our hurting.  He knows the depths of our mind and heart.  He wants to reveal more.  So we’d be smart to let Him show us.  Sometimes this is not all.  But He is faithful, and He will bring to completion the good work that He started in us.  

Our memories are things of goodness, truth, and beauty.  Keep them close to your heart.  They don't mean less because they've passed.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dear Little Chemist

Dear little chemist,

For a week, you have the joy and frustration of performing qualitative analysis.  A few days ago I gave you your very own vial containing ‘unknown’ crystals.  You were given possibilities of what may be inside, but you must figure it out armed with a keen eye, chemicals, and a handy book of instructions.  Not too bad…right?

Former students do a wonderful job of providing intimidation and anticipation so that you become understandably nervous, excited, and slightly terrified to begin. 

looks like koolaid...but I promise you won't like it
didn't they tell you to never trust white powders?

brought to you by seafoam green

The quote on our board on Day 1, from Yoda, was “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  That’s a grand piece of advice, don’t you think?  So exciting (tongue in cheek)…unless you’re actually expected to begin something you’re unsure of.   You’re doing things you’ve never done, and don’t know what to look for next (onset of panic: check).  I’m serious when I say that it is quite terrible to begin something that will likely fail on its way to success.  I told you there was a chance that you'd walk up to the counter to tell me your guess and you'd be dead wrong.  Today, that happened to you four times.  I saw your eyes get big and tears well up behind those goofy green goggles.  I could barely take it.  You're a smart guy, but those crystals wouldn't let you commit identity theft.

It seems you did all that work for nothing.  What’s worse is that you have to turn right around and march back to your lab bench, back to the same rotten vial, and figure the stupid thing out.  To make matters unbearable, it seems that your peers are clipping along at interstate speed while your map blew out the window.  (Although I know you won’t believe me, half of them are in your shoes, little man.)

no I do not take pictures of students in the peak of frustration...but this comes close to  what I see 

I knew you’d get frustrated.  I knew you would doubt yourself, and you knew it too.  I even told you yesterday, “I know you will struggle with this, and that's okay.  When you don’t trust yourself, trust me.  You’ve just got to keep going.  Trust that you have everything you need.”  Another nice piece of advice, but oh-so-tough to follow when the rubber meets the road and you have to move though you know not where or why. 

Minutes later, you came and asked for a piece of hydrion paper (this laboratory wonder is used to confirm a certain chemical…little did you know it was going to reveal your unknown!).  You had no clue you were so close.  I did, and it was agonizing to keep a straight face.

I knew it would be unfair to you if I celebrated before your time had come.  There is more to this project than just getting the right answers.  It’s called bolstering your backbone.  When – not if, but when you get the wrong answer, I don’t want you to crumble.  With all my heart, I want to see you rely on memories, resources, creativity, encouragement, and above all Trust.  Trust that your time will come; Trust that revelation will happen as you take risks to try new tests and techniques. 

this illustrates your face the best: half shock, half victory.  

On April 6th, I accepted a job to teach chemistry at another school.  Yes, I am excited, but I meet my new students on August 15th.  So for four months it seems like all I’m doing is leaving…leaving students I love, leaving a school I love, leaving activities I’m involved in, leaving a city I love.  Not many signs of new beginnings yet, you know?  

I was taken aback by how clearly my situation matches that of my students.  There is an anxiety that arises in the face of the unknown, and stays until fears are resigned.  Sometimes it seems that my fear can be relieved by an answer, but I know answers don’t provide the deepest relief.  Deep peace comes from being in this with someone: Jesus Christ.  He has been to Hell (fear, loneliness, angst, darkness) and triumphed with His light.  I’ll stick with Him.  In the midst of our "unknowns", He wants us keep going, walking, loving, doing although we do not understand the ‘why’ and ‘where’ of it all.  And to have Faith in what we know through memories, thoughts, desires, and promises that our joy will be complete.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ain't no sunshine

I had one of those days.  That turned into a week.  Insert a little foot stomp and crossing of the arms.  

Rewind to a Sunday Mass in college; the priest shared that one time in Seminary, he was feeling awfully ‘on top of everything’ with prayer and things of that sort, so he asked God to let him suffer for those in need.  He thought he could handle it, you know.   As luck would have it, the next day he started feeling sick, and a couple hours later really sick.  He told us “Just hours before, I asked to suffer, and now I was sitting on the floor, miserable, begging God to take it away…now!”

We all laughed at the story.  Probably because it’s sooo true.  

I love the sunshine, and when it's in front of me, I promise I'll never forget it.  But when the gray actually rolls in (literally or metaphorically), I forget how the sky looks when it’s blue.  Especially the high-of-45, windy-and-can’t-decide-if-it’s-really-raining days.  Those get me.  I try to remember the blue skies, but they’re just too easy to forget when the sky is printed in grayscale. 

It’s a toughie.  And I’m not sure if it gets much better with least not on my own.  But I am quite sure that it gets better with company.   Especially the kind of company that knows how to stick it to the gray skies.  Those people are the best, yes?  Indeed.

Read this on a gray day…or a sunny one.  camp patton  Enjoy the company.  

 the nice sunny day
said cloudy day.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cashing in on the Green Arrow

I get to have a staring contest with this little gem every day.

The left-turn arrow doesn’t really care who you are.  Or how long you've been there.  Or how long everyone across the intersection has been waiting.   You show up 10 seconds before the lights change, and viola, you win.  Pardon you as you go on your merry way.   

It ain’t fair.  Wait.  Unless it’s me who gets to turn left.  Then it’s a different story.  Point for being the first out of the gate.  

There’s a story of a bunch of people who show up to work at different times during the day, yet all get paid the same amount (whaat?).  Understandably, the ones who worked the longest are peeved, and they complain.  As I was reading, I wanted, and expected, some retribution for the slackers, or correction of a miscalculation.  However the employer  simply says “It’s my money; am I not free to use it how I wish?”  Touché.  But really?  Seriously?  Yes. 

The green light was engineered the same way.  Whether a car has been waiting there for 2 minutes or just 10 seconds (maybe even shorter, it seems), the green arrow lights up just for them.  You can even swing it that you can roll up to the turn lane and cash in on everyone else’s time (they’ve been waiting) and you still get the dignified passage.  Nope, not fair, but I suppose fairness isn’t the goal of the green arrow. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

This Weather is Out of Control

“How’s the weather?” 

Even in the dog days of summer (named such because of a star -Sirius in the canis major constellation - that appears during the summertime in the northern latitudes), the topic is an icebreaker.  People record the weather, try to predict it, and write songs about the wind, blue skies, cold days, autumn, storms, rain, and sun.

taken on mah birthday.  no digital enhancement, just beauty...and a good thunderstorm later.

awesome.  unless you took this from the window of a plane.   

     Tornadoes have been lurking around these parts.  Even this afternoon, I hear feel the wind pommeling the 3rd story like it’s not even here.  A little part of me wants to locate the specs on my windows to be sure they can stand the gusts.  But barring a break-in by the west wind, I’ll keep writing. 

the smoky mountains of tennessee.  
     Yes-sirree, the weather is easy to talk about.  It happens to all of us.  Bad, good, or somewhere in between, the weather can beautify, destruct, taunt, and control.  Whatever it can do to us, we can do nothing to it.  Come what may, the only possible thing we can do is let it roll through, beautiful or otherwise.  [Well actually there’s this thing called cloud seeding.  We may be onto something, but so far it hasn't made a huge dent.] 

my evening view.

     I used to* dress for how I wanted it to be outside.  You betcha.  My college degree has paid off.  Yours truly still thinks this works…kidding…kind of.  Bottom line, as frustrating as it can be, I/you/we can’t really change the weather. 

     Secretly, I think this is why people are continually fascinated by it.  It’s all at once terrifying and relieving to have things out of your control.  It puts us all in the same boat.  The weather plays no favorites and has no predetermined enemies.  It reminds us that we belong to one another.  I think it has something to do with this:

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  - Matthew 5:44-45

And thank God for that!   

*as recently as march…2012…little miss smarty pants right here.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Power of a Group

I teach chemistry (yes, I love it), and we do lots of labs. 

Behold: the Bunsen Burner.
We play with fire all day...or so they wish. 

     Thing is, during a lab, sometimes students need a hint.  I've tried to give directions by speaking loudly to the entire class, but that’s nothing special.  You see, after some time, my voice blends in with the hum of the AC, and students just aren't too concerned.   

    So one day I started talking with just two students.  I began describing some tip or technique for the lab.  All of a sudden, other students nearby started to listen in.  I saw them stop, glance over trying to be sneaky, a little envious that ‘we’ were moving on.  They tried not to make it seem like they wanted an extra bit of help.  It was pretty cute, to be honest. 

    Cute, yes, but bottom line also a very effective technique.  They were awfully concerned.  They saw a group of us, and they wanted to be part of it.  

     Lest you think their motivation was just to ‘get it right’ and ‘grab the grade’, I’ve also seen this happen before class when we’re shooting the breeze.  If a couple of us are laughing or having a good conversation, I see heads turn, eyes light up, and an ache to be included...and brilliance when they are called out by name to join in the fun.

So my new technique?  Talk with just one's motivation for others to listen in.  

Friends from Peru.
They make you want to join in the fun.
     Truth is, the need to be included is super basic.  It’s deep within and it's here to stay.  I've heard that the best way parents can love a child is by loving each other; children would much rather be caught up in the love of their parents than doted upon to an odd degree. 

     *Ding* this is old news (or timeless news?).  The Trinity.  It's three in one.  Not 1-in-1 (boring).  Not 2-in-1 (a friendship…good, but it's just two-ply).  It's 3-in-1.  To be invited into a dynamic friendship, a love that has been around and inviting before you came to be, yes that’s so much more real.  It's relieving, and wonderful to be along for the ride.  It makes you want to stop what you’re doing and listen in.   

[ Have you heard of the power of the first follower?  Click here for the dance. ]