Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Little Christmas-time Love

"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that.

It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion you'll find... love actually is all around."
~Hugh Grant as the British Prime Minister in Love Actually

Christmas is about one thing: love. God sent his only son so that we might not perish but have eternal life. God loves us, unconditionally, all of us, each and every one of us. I forget this daily, but Christmas is ultimately about one thing: Love.

and no, i don't know the people in this photo, i found it on someone else's blog. call me a creeper if you want.
Merry Christmas, Mele Kilikimaka, Feliz Navidad, Frohe Weinachten!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Merry New York Christmas

"Yeah I'm sending you a Merry New York Christmas
And a prayer for peace on earth
Within our time
Oh, the sidewalk angels echo hallelujah
And we understand them
Now more than ever
So call on your angels
Your beaten and broken
It's time that we mend them
So they don't fade with the season
Let our mercy be the gifts we lay
From Brooklyn to Broadway
And celebrate each and every day
This New York City Christmas"
rob thomas, merry new york xmas

Ah, New York City. Before Bonnie, Caitlin, and I departed for Manhattan, someone asked me if I'd ever been to the City at Christmastime. "No, you haven't? Well, you'll love it. Its magical!"

Magical? A city? I had my doubts. Certainly its just focused on spending money and buying gifts rather than kindness and love. I knew it would be fun but I didn't think the city would be any more magical than usual. Apparently I was wrong.

I follow a handful of blogs (in addition to my friends) none of the writers do I know personally - that focus on a handful of things - love, a few on interior design trends, and one on just randomness. They all in some way have recently paid tribute to the Big Apple, and one of them had DOZENS of pictures of Bergdorf Goodman's christmas window displays. BG is a store that is entirely too expensive and over-the-top for my liking. But its windows were spactacular, and since they didn't have price tags for me to find disgusting, I thought they were lovely. Caitlin's Mecca, Saks Fifth Avenue, was a wonder of twinkle lights, silver shiny decorations, and fake snow. It was, in a word, magical. So is spending the afternoon in New York City with good friends, no matter what time of year.

There were millions of Santas traipsing around Rockefeller Center for a "santa pub crawl." There was the guy dressed as Jesus in Dean and Deluca. There was the Egyptian cab driver who showed me photos of his kids as I rode in the front seat with him through the Lower East Side and Midtown. (Our new friend from Cali was with Cait & BonBon in the back seat.) I think my favorite moment was in Chinatown.

Bonnie muttering a few choice words as she got cash from the ATM. Me wheeling and dealing with the drug dealers. I mean designer bag dealers. Caitlin first not buying anything but then opting for some prada shades. (which she proceeded to wear as the sun went down and we attempted to find a cab in the 20-something degree weather.)

"Do you have an application?" A man with a thick accent and dreadlocks asked me.

"No." I replied rudely. I didn't have time to be ripped off.

"You don't have an application??" He asked again with a smile.

"For what?" I demanded to know.

"An application for a new boyfriend! If you have it, I will sign and approve."

Hahaha. Laughter all around, from my friends and his.

"Oh, well, I have kids..." (someone asked me if i had kids on friday night, before they asked if they could take me to dinner, so i was thinking this would throw him off.)

"Really, me too!! I have five kids! And two wives! I would like a third! Are you interested? Maybe your friends are too??!"
"Oh, well now you're just messing with us." More ha-has. More laughter. But we walked quickly away.

If I lived there, I'd probably be sick of the tourists at Christmas. I'd probably be wrapped up in the decorations and materialization of the holiday. I'd be enthused at the thought of buying a live tree from a nearby street corner, just like they do on the tv show "Friends."

But I'm allergic to Christmas trees. And I love the clean, simple subway system of DC. And I need trees and the occasional house with a yard. So, for now, New York City, we'll have to be long-distance acquaintaces. Don't think I don't love you. But for one more heart belongs to this district.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

red white & blue christmas

i love the city of washington, district of columbia. but i'm not sure that i would have ever convinced myself to move here for longer than just an internship if it hadn't been for the president and the wonderful people that work for him, who i met last spring. the pace of the internship, the quality of the people i worked alongside, witnessing actions and policies of the leader of the free world, the american president...i spent the four months of my internship in wonder.

i got to share that wonder with my mom this week. all political appointees got to take a guest on an east wing tour of the white house in all of its christmas glory. the theme this year is red white and blue christmas.

the president returned from giving a speech on changes in military strategy since 2001 at west point while we were in the WHITE HOUSE.

that's right. we weren't outside for the arrival, where you feel the wind in your hair and your face being ripped off by the blades of marine one, but we saw the three helicopters approach the south lawn (two decoys, one the real deal), one hover and land, the marines step off, salutes the president, and then, he walked out (the president) and waved to the peeps gathered behing the rope line outside.

i don't care who you voted for in 2000 or 2004, or if you think he has been incompetent as president - the majority still elected him and it is so cool to see democracy in action. i so wish my dad could have been there, and maybe my brother too, and everyone else i know and love.

my mom teared up in the blue room (where we watched the action) after the ceremony was all over. we were in the white house when the president walked thourgh doors one floor below us!! all that he has sacrificed, all the lives that have been sacrificed during his presidency, just to think about all of that makes it pretty moving to witness marine one landing.

enjoy the photos. merry christmas. and, as dubya always says with a smile, god bless america. and god bless you.

i call her mom. but you can call her crazy

"its cold here in dc. want laura to know i am texas girl when i meet her this afternoon. sixteen coats of mascara. mink coat. big hair. three pounds of jewels."

my mom has just left this district after three days of fun. she got in on monday evening and left this morning. (well actually her flight was delayed, sorry mom!) the above is a text message i recieved from her tuesday morning, sent to freak me out (as a joke ha) because i had specifically asked her not to wear her "fur" on our christmas white house tour that afternoon.

my mom and look exactly alike. see below.

on the street, in restaurants, in shops, wherever - people ALWAYS feel the need to comment "oh wow, i can tell you are mother and daughter." "oh my gosh, you look so much alike." "that must be your beautiful mom over there. you are the spitting image of her."

to most of the thousands of people, i always respond with a smile, a laugh, a nod, or a thank-you. but on the somedays, after hearing it 5 or 6 times, i just want to say -"thank you for pointing that out. we come from a society that does not use mirrors, so i never really knew i looked like my mom before today." ha.

it doesn't bother me as much as i act like it does. she's bright, bubbly, always smiling. but before i tell you about our adventures, let me pause to point out - we are different. despite my need to talk to her for at least a few minutes everyday, or my need to run all important decisions by her, we are different. for one, i don't call everyone (including the grocery stork cashier) baby doll or sweetie. i typically don't have problems balancing my checkbook. i don't look at a pile of absolute crud in an antique store and think "HMM! TREASURE!" i can't shop for longer than an hour. i do believe there is such a thing as an excess of hairspray. she finds my dad a lot funnier and cooler than i do. you might say she thinks he hung the moon. i think he's a big nerd who needs to realize that mack brown neither personally knows him nor can hear him while he is yelling at the television.

all that said, she's my favorite person in the whole world. my biggest problem is that she knows this, and uses it to her advantage. haha. but really - my mom is kind, thoughtful, and rarely meets a stranger. i do get my loud voice and obnoxious storytelling skills from her. this is why i think i am so frequently perturbed at her inability to control the volume of her voice or get to the point - its like watching a video of myself. awkward.

Monday night in DC we met at my house around 6 p.m. She got out of the cab looking glam - fur coat, big hair, etc. We went to dinner and, without the boys to rush us, talked and talked before we ordered, ate some shrimp and vegetable combination at a fun restaurant near my house, and talked and talked some more. We then wandered down Wisconsin and looked in some windows while freezing, grabbed dessert, and headed back to the T street and my harry potter room.

(if you're wondering how we fit into my 5x9 room, its easy - her suitcase became the new rug we walked on, and katherine let me sleep in her wonderful sleeping bag in her room, all this while she was studying for finals. as a thank you, i apparently talked to her in my sleep, but have no recollection of that.

tuesday was the big white house east wing tour. but i have lots of photos and a good story so i might just save that for another post, since this is turning into a NOVEL. sorry.

the rest of our trip was great - tuesday night we drove out to mount vernon, only to find that their website lied and the lantern-lit christmas tours are weekend only. but we went to target to grab a few things and had fun in the aisles. of course my mom thinks its okay to sing loudly in public when there is no music playing. later that night we distracted/disrupted the doctor (katherine) from her studies and had funny convos.

wednesday mom had lunch with our fun family friend lisa parcells (the parcys live in mclean, we were good friends in houston 3rd - 6th grade before they moved) and i cut out of work a little early. we went shopping at a downtown christmas market - while she was waiting for me some dude came up and asked my mom if he could take her to dinner. she politely declined. earlier that day someone had approached her and told her she was what a real American woman should look like, beautiful. ew. creepy. and probably not 100% true. haha i crack myself up.

wednesday night we had dinner with all my faves in dc - katherine, caitlin, bonnie, lauren, emma, and charles joseph caulkins. i miss the days when groups of peeps hung out at my house talking with my mom and playing pool with my dad into the wee hours of the night. i don't so much miss her telling people where my nickname "lolly" came from.

it was so easy to say goodbye to mi madre on thursday. i'll be seeing her in exactly a week! normally i've only seen her for two or three days, not nearly long enough, and have say goodbye for another month or six weeks or so. knowing that i'll be home for two weeks in a week from now? it's like, okay, mom, peace, see ya, bye.

yep, i call her mom. but you can call her crazy.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Here if You Need Me" - great book

Here if You Need Me, by Kate Braestrup

True Story - a woman living in Maine with four children dealing with the sudden death of her husband, a state trooper who died in a car accident. She goes to seminary to fulfill her husband's wish for himself, and becomes the chaplain for the Maine Game Wardens. It winds numerous stories of death together as her family moves on from their own experience with it.

It is not a Christian book, per se, because Kate is a Unitarian Universalist - there is one point in the book that i literally closed it and was thinking "WHAT!" because -her son had asked her what it meant to follow jesus, and what would his life look like if he did that, and in her head Kate is thinking "Oh please, please dont do that..." I was shocked. Turns out Unitarians believe all kinds of things - and she believes that God is Love. She believes in Jesus, but not that he is God. At least that's what I've gathered from further reading about the Seminary she attended.

Anyways, it is a marvelous book if you are dealing with death or not. Its short and moving and funny and more light-hearted than you would imagine. It is beautifully written and will tug at your heart. For me, i walked away from it clinging to my faith and aware of the need of God's grace to understand why people die.

Kate doesn't avoid the fact that death SUCKS. But she also doesn't give in to the modern day mentality that death can be avoided. At the end, I felt as though the author was really my friend, someone I knew and trusted, who was ready to grieve by yourside at any moment, or to just share a laugh and a story from the woods of Maine.

Read it!! You can borrow my copy anytime. (Added incentive: the cover is really pretty.)

Book Club Round Two

6) Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
Recommended by a friend, it is really funny. and really bitter. and drops the F bomb alot. But I'm not not recommending it. If you need a beach read, its pretty good, and isn't so bitter the second half.

7) American Poems, Compiled
400 great poems, both famous and not so much. Some favorites: "If" Rudyard Kipling, any Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson. I checked it out from the library, so sue me.

8) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
by Betty SmithApparently an American classic, I had to force myself through the first 100 or so pages. But the writing is superb and the characters are memorable - but the book is somewhat sad. Definitely points out the need for good teachers and kind-hearted people. And paints an ugly picture of early 20th century low-income life in New York City. All that sad, you should read it. I give it 3 1/2 stars.

9) City of Glass, Paul Auster
I borrowed this from roomie Katherine. The author is brilliant in a twisted, this book is off its rocker sort of way. I read it right before I spent the day wandering around New York City, so it was perfect. And its a quick read, if you're into mystery/detective stuff, read it. Someday I plan to read the other two books in the trilogy.

10) Marley & Me, John Grogan
My mom read this book when it first came out 5 or 6 years ago, and quickly passed it on to several friends, so I had never read it. Good timing though, to read it a few months after Sam died. Helped put my hurt into perspective - dogs really can teach us invaluable lessons. Don't call yourself a dog lover and tell me you haven't found time to read this book. Two thumbs way up!! (ps movie coming out christmas day with jennifer aniston and owen wilson, so you better read before then...)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Beat the Hell out of Al Qaeda

I have a bit of a crush on Bob Gates. I mean President of A&M Gates. Or Secretary Gates. Anything but Bob. We're not really on a first name basis.

When I transferred to Texas A&M University, I could not have told you who was President of my new school for one million dollars. But, after I read the Texas Monthly cover story on him (published immediately prior to the annoucement that he was the President's nominee for Seecretary of Defense in Nov. 2006) I developed a huge soft spot in my heart for him.

Unassuming. Non-political. Respectful of tradition. Honorable. Inspiring. Brilliant. Loyal. Determined.

Most students that I knew at Texas A&M followed his nomination and clearance process extremely closely. I read an article in our school paper about how he took the weekend to think about accepting the position from President Dubya - Gates said he had to talk it over with his wife, and he wasn't sure he was ready to leave a place he loved so much: TEXAS A&M. He admitted to walking the campus late at night with tears in his eyes, knowing it was his duty to serve his country as the Chief of the Pentagon, but not wanting to believe he had to go to Washington.
In an emailed letter to all students, Gates had this to say:
""You already know that I am leaving this incredible university reluctantly and with a heavy heart. By the same token, Aggies more than anyone else understand why I must do so."
I saved that email in my inbox for the rest of my tenure as an undergrad. I can vividly remember standing among the crowd at his farewell "yell practice" (read: pep rally) with my roommates as we sang the fight song one last time with President Gates. A&M has a familiar, somewhat crass, chant- "Beat the Hell Out of ___(insert opponent here)!!" Good Ole Bob yelled out, several times, "Beat the Hell Out of Al Qaeda!"

The only reason he was leaving this university he had helped and loved so much was to fight a much bigger fight. He announced this past Monday, December 1st, that he will continue to serve in the Obama administration. What a brave man. He is a registered independent but has worked closely with both President George Bushes. He worked at one of the most conservative schools in the nation. (I googled this to make sure I wasn't exaggerating. Princeton Review listed TAMU as #8 on its list of "Socially Conservative" colleges for 2009.)
To get to the point- the great Robert Gates is definitely a middle-of-the-road type of guy. He'll be sitting next to Barack Obama, with Joe Biden on the other side, and across from the likes of Bill Richardson and Hillary Clinton in the cabinent meeting room. Certainly harsh words and opinions will be cast around the room as quickly as you can say "Yes We Can!" Again, he is a brave man. I'm proud of his decision - and I'm proud of Obama for asking him to stay. I will say this: the cabinent meetings in 2009 are going to be ROWDY. In all caps.

Can I just take a quick second to ask - is Obama going to count this REGISTERED INDEPENDENT as his token "Republican" cabinet member that he promised the American public during election season?? Oh, wait, was that just fancy election-season rheotoric?
On behalf of Texas A&M, we're proud of ya, Bob Gates. We'll be watching. (Along with Al Qaeda.) Send us an email every now and then, would ya?

Oh- and a ps - found this quote, pay attention Dad:

"Were we to become a top ten university and lose that spirit, those traditions, our culture, we would be nothing more than another giant education factory. A big brain with no heart. Hell, we might as well be in Austin." -Gates 2004

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

reading list (round one)

Understatement of the year: I love to read. Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, Cecilia Ahern, the big names. And random authors you come across while hanging out at your local Barnes & Noble.

Our President (George Dubya, hail to the Chief) keeps a list of the books he reads each year, which in 2007 was more than 90. His critics doubt this is true, citing as evidence his many blunders of the English language. However, he says that he gets the reading done because he never watches TV, with the exception of the occasional sports game, and he enjoys reading.

So, I decided in 2008 I would keep a list of all the books I've read. And, why not blog about them? Great. Stop reading here if the idea of reading about my reading bores you. I totally understand.

1) My Sisters Keeper - Jodi Picoult
If you haven't read anything by this phenomenal author yet, start here. Her characterization will suck you in - and all of her topics are obscure and extremely well researched to be as believable as possible. My Sister's Keeper deals with tough topics - a child's battle with cancer, stem cell research, parents vs. teenagers, etc, but it is not too dark. It has its laugh out loud moments, and it left me crying as I closed the back cover. Were they tears of joy? Tears of sorrow? I'll let you discover that on your own.

2) The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls
I found it shocking that this book is based on fact - its a memoir of a women who grew up in a poor, rough, hurting family surprisingly surrounded by love. Walls writing allows the reader to travel right along with her through childhood - only stopping along the way to appreciate the comforts and simplicity my parents gave me that I never even noticed. Read it, read it!

3) Lost & Found
A great beach read. Not earth-shattering writing but a wonderful story that left me in tears. I'm either turning into a sap that crys real tears at the drop of a hat, these books were exceptionally good, or I had an emotional spring. Perhaps just a combo of all 3. To sum up- a brave woman, her deceased husband's dog named Lloyd, and an island of the coast of Maine. There may or may not be a hunk thrown in there somewhere.
4) 3 cups of tea, Greg Mortenson
WHY HAVENT YOU READ THIS BOOK??? WHY? I first heard of this from Justus Anderson, an Aggie friend who spent half of 2008 in Africa. He read this book on the way over there, and then I saw it all over the tables of B&N, so I bought it. WONDERFUL story that we all need to hear/know about. Anyone want to go hiking or build schools in Pakistan? Let me know. (I mean, I probably won't actually go with you, but I'll be glad to assist in the funding of your trip.)

5) Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
Wonderful book. If you haven't heard of it - a professor found out he was dying of brian cancer gave a "last lecture" on all the accomplishments of his life. Its a short, inspiring read that I recommend to anyone and everyone of all ages. I will warn you though, you may find a tear or two in your eye before the end. A good reminder that death is inevitable. (Apparently so are taxes, unless you live in a hut in the middle of nowhere Montana.)
6) Nope, I think that's enough for today. What a wonder that we live in a day and age where you don't learn to read based on the color of your skin or if you're male or female or if your parents can afford wealthy tutors. (for the most part) Yeeaaaaa Reading!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Teach For America!

what crazy person thinks i should teach young children!?

Its official!! I'm moving back to TEXAS in February 2009!!!

I found out last week I was accepted to Teach for America and will be teaching elementary school in HISD for the next two years!! WOO HOO!!I know that me applying for TFA is uber-random, but living in D.C. has opened my eyes to alot– that I want to make a difference in someone's life, and be able to pass on the blessings that have so filled my life. I'll recommend Teach for America's website to learn more in replace of me rambling, but their mission -to bridge the education gap between low and high income schools, the "haves" and the "have-nots"-is so inspiring!

I discussed in my application how living in D.C. has opened my eyes to the hypocrisy of America's education system. Within walking distance of the Capitol building, schools have insufficient resources and astoundingly high drop out rates. The problem can't completely be solved by the government, the schools, or TFA – some of it will have to happen at homes, in society. But TFA is making huge strides towards education equality, and I am THRILLED to be a part of the movement.

If I can reach one student during each of my two years in the classroom, I think my experience with TFA will be worth it. And, chances are, I'll reach each of them, some of them in big ways, most of them in small ways. I can't wait to meet these kids, to love them and teach them.

I do not want to wake up twenty years from now and wonder what I've done with my life, what kind of difference I've made. I look around and I see this great need for passionate teachers and for reform in the entire education system – and in society, too. Teach for America calls its applicants to TAKE ACTION! Not wait for the next opportunity that may come along.

I'm aware that TFA teachers/alumni can appear at times to have a "better-than-thou" outlook. In by no way am I judging people who aren't doing TFA and work 9-5 jobs. Obviously, I've been working a 9-5 job for the last year. And I applaud teachers that are not teaching in an inner city, poverty stricken school. There are certainly abundant challenges in middle-class schools, and if every motivated, knowledgeable citizen taught in a struggling school district, who would teach kids that were just like me? It's not the answer to completely forget the "haves" while we focus on improving the education of the "have-nots."

This is what I know: in all my life, I have never felt more sure about doing anything. I first heard of Teach for America in middle school, and learned more in college from recruiters. It was something I immensely respected but never personally considered. In June 2008, Patrick Connor, an Aggie who is in his second year of TFA in the D.C. area, told me stories from his classroom. It was the night before the last day of the school year, so he certainly was focusing on funny, positive stories due to his excitement at the thought of summer, but I was beyond inspired. I thought, oh my gosh, this is something I have to look into. This is something I could (maybe) handle. Later that night I told my mom about the program and some of Patrick's stories. Over the summer, I read every inch of the Teach for America website and anxiously waited for the application to come available online in August. I know it will be hard; I will be frustrated, disenchanted, disappointed at the end of a lot of days.

But I also know that I have never felt more at peace about making a decision like this. Not the White House internship and coming to D.C. Not transferring from TCU to A&M. In life, God has made a lot of things pretty evident to me, and I have walked by faith. Teach for America, though, feels like something God has smacked me in the face with (in a loving way) and said: "Hello! I want you to do this!" It has been my prayer that if it was His will, I would somehow be accepted. I know I will need to rely fully on Him to get through the next two years, and I know the ride will be bumpy. But I am so excited, so thrilled, and so blessed beyond belief to be a part of this program. Friends, family, cyber world - thanks for your words of encouragement through this process. See you sooooon!

"For we walk by faith, and not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7

Thursday, November 20, 2008

there were ninjas on our beds, true story

We sat there, the oldest of friends, me on one side of the booth, them on the other, margaritas and salsa on the table between us. We talked about jobs, guys, roommates, and family. We talked about anything and everything, both meaningful and silly, as if it had only been a week since we'd seen each other.

In reality, we're not the oldest of friends. Stephanie and Renza had only met twice before, but with as much as I talk about the other, I feel as though they know each other very well. And they definitely act like it. Having friends from totally different parts of your life that get along so well is so fun.

Stephanie and I met in 7th grade German class, and we found out we both went to the same church and starting doing youth group stuff together occasionally. Eventually our friendship grew into the know-everything-about-the-other, loud-and-obnoxious, we-can-argue-and-still-spend-24-hours-a-day-together friendship that it is today. She's currently in Dallas and after I was in Oklahoma City for work,I spent two days/nights with her last weekend.

Renza and I became friends the summer before high school at Camp Longhorn Indian Springs. Two summers later we were practically inseperable, and we spent the five years after that at camp for five weeks at a time attempting to be counselors, but I think we had more fun than the campers. We've had some crrrazy adventures, both domestic and international. (Como se dice cebolla??) She lives in Oklahoma and came to Dallas just to see us! YEA!

Saturday night I was exhausted but trying not to act like it. My mom, punk that she is, insisted that we stay at Hotel ZaZa the night that all three of us were in town. I felt like a ridiculous over the top spoiled kid staying there, however. It was extremely fun and Renz & I reminisced about the time when we stayed there sophomore year of college with her mom and family friend. At 18, hanging out in a bar that has a translucent dancefloor on top of a pool was pretty cool. Okay, it was still cool at 22...

"There are some scary ass ninjas on our beds!!" -Stephanie
(Apparently there were ninjas in the fabric covering the headboards in our room, and Steph was majorly freaked out.)
After our mandatory appearance at the "Dragonfly" -bar mentioned above- and hanging out with fellow ag William, we jumped on the beds, sang songs, took silly pictures. S&R pretended they were going to watch a raunchy movie (i immediately thought of infamous KKG advisor Mrs. Hoyle) and we fell asleep still talking i think.

The next morning there was a) a bird in our room chirping on command or b) the smoke detector was trying to alert us to its low battery. Correct answer: B. Renz called the front desk, and after fifteen minutes of no one coming with a ladder to solve our problem, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Sometimes Renza is too sweet for her own good.

I called the front desk. They said someone was on their way and should be there immediately. "Okay, thank you!" I cheerfully said, forgetting to yell or be aggrivated.

From the other bed, sleepy Stephanie rolled over. "Oh, yea, way to be a hard ass Courtney!She imitated my voice: 'Oh, thank you so much. Have a blessed day!'"

So the laughing began at 7:24 a.m. We pretty much laughed all of Sunday. Had a wonderful brunch, got semi-lost on the way to Love Field (but I knew the correct way), gave Renza a quick tour of Highland/University Park, blasted great tunes with the windows down. The only thing that would have made the weekend better was if my great-grandparents hadn't been out of town. The one time I'm in Dallas we miss each other!

How blessed am I to have such funny friends. Seriously, if I wrote down half the stuff they said I could write a bestseller. And, they put up with me, which either means they are incredibly smart or incredibly dumb... :)

I'm glad to have friends that see each other so little that so naturally get along together. It would be great if we all lived in the same city for a month. Or forever, whatever. Regardless, I'm so glad to know them. Until next time...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

great light of the world

so i have this thing about quotes. i have a whole journal that's dedicated to quotes only. (it desperately needs to be updated.) i don't know how to describe it, but there's something about when someone goes before you and says what you're feeling, or says something inspiring, or meaningful, or funny. even if they're not famous. even if they're "unknown."

sometimes, a few words thrown together in the right order can mean so much. i'll share a quote i found today:

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004, doctor, counselor, educator)

"This is the message we have heard from him [Jesus] and declare to you:

God is light.
In Him there is no darkness at all."

John 1:5-6

my prayer for you today is that you see the light that's all around you. happy day!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

falling into winter

I'm from Houston, where most people say there are two seasons: summer, and a mild winter. But I like to disagree- we have a brief spring, a few cooler days with falling leaves, sometimes snow, and certainly - summer.
Washington certainly has four distinct seasons, and fall is all around us. Every time the seasons have changed while I've been living here, I've thought - "Oh, this is my favorite season!" The wonderful flowers and sunshine that came when spring rolled in. The longer days and warm tempatures to bake outside in. But the leaves changing color, the extended weeks of brisk nights and warmer days... fall in D.C. is like nothing i've ever experienced before. Its wonderful.
'Member that girl that i talk about alot, Caitlin? Well she and me and bonnie, our wonderful fun friend from georgia, roadtripped out to shenadoah nat'l park this weekend. I've been reading about this park literally since last November when I found out I was moving to D.C. and began researching cool things to do.
I could ramble on and on about our adventures - Bonnie (wonderful driver, really) making multiple wrong turns. Caitlin scolding me for wearing a scarf. Me trying to throw myself out of the car to feel the wind in my hair. Our hike to...nowhere. Our picnic with Middle Easterners. I could describe the colors of the leaves to you- but I'll just show you.
They say that fall is a reminder of the cleansing we need in life - trees shed their leaves each year to make room for new growth. Its a metaphor for our lives - to cleanse the stress from the last year, the hardships, the pain - to recognize the trials for what they are and prepare for: christmas!! the birth of a savior, time with family, and then to start it all over again - new growth in the spring.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

a sucker for starbucks

I was sitting in the starbucks at dupont circle this morning at a quarter to 8 a.m. i was sitting in the starbucks on wisconsin avenue in georgetown this evening at a quarter to 8 p.m. thats right, i've turned into one of those weirdo coffee junkies that walks in the door of the commercial starbucks every 12 hours.

except, i don't even drink coffee. and normally i'm running late and haven't even left my house at 7:45 a.m.

i had to be downtown extra early this morning and getting out of bed at 6 a.m. was so worth it, to sit with my chai tea gathering my thoughts and looking at dupont circle and the interesting people that frequent it.

tonight i went to the starbucks two blocks from my house and found that it closes at 7:30 p.m. i just wanted some hot tea and a place without distraction to work on my bible study. so i walked a few more blocks in the wind (its 40 degrees here, whew) and entered the next starbucks.

Yep, there's one on every corner, its true. I avoided the coffee altogether, and loved my time at starbucks both this morning and tonight. God is so good to me, for so many more reasons than providing me with warm coffee shops playing music.

in between my sbux indulgences, i had a pretty comical afternoon.

I went for a long walk on C&O canal after i got home from work - bundled up with my scarf, hat, fleece, leggings, mittens, it was a little ridiculous. I'm enjoying the cool weather and looking at the Potomac, when a high school girls cross country team comes sprinting past me. I could see a girl grimacing and talking with her coach as I approached. I figured he was criticizing her for being slow or something, but then, the coach says:

"I told you to stop if its your hip that's hurting. You know not to run on that hip. We'll just have to ice it down and rest tomorrow."

And the girl kind of nods, grimacing more in pain and clearly hating that she was fighting an injury. I, on the other hand, had to put my fingers in my ears and try not to listen to the coach.

"No, no, this is not what I need to hear! I need a coach telling me its all in my head, get over it, suck it up..."

Don't worry, it gets better. The JV team passed me about 15 minutes later on the trail, sprinting and talking at the same time. Fine. On my right at exactly the same time, there were three kayakers, the kind that kayak in a lunge position in super slim boats and it requires a ton of strength. Here I am thinking I'm out for a five mile walk, being healthy, and then... these people all show up and make me feel like an idiot.

I hadn't checked my gmail all day, so i come home to find several hilarious emails, one from caitin about an article regarding a guy looking for love in the district. and one from my uncle that he's stealing my dog.

Then, i was heating up some soup in the microwave, and after 1 minute in the microwave...

the bowl labeled microwave safe exploded. i'm not kidding you. its not even my bowl, its a roommates, its the normal fired-pottery bowl you'd buy at target or pottery barn.

and part of it just exploded right there in the microwave. awesome.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

when you give an empty nester a dog...

This is Tres, the new eight-week old member of the Robinson family. I went home last weekend to meet the little rascal, and have tons of cute pics that haven't been uploaded yet.
Most of you know that Sam, the most wonderful golden retriever there ever was, died in June. I know he was only a dog, but sometimes I still expect him to be there when I come home from DC for a weekend. Tres is in no way a replacement, but he has already brought a lot of joy and fun into my parents' lives. I know two things about Sam - he would want us to have another bundle of fur in the family if he couldn't be around forever to be our friend, and he would want us to be sure and love that next bundle of fur just a little less then we loved Sam, our pookies.
A lot of articles are written about dogs, and pets in general. What they can do to lower your bloodpressure, how they can bring comapionship to single people or elderly people, how they can make your heart happy, bring relief to sick patients, etc.
I haven't seen a lot of news coverage lately on what happens when you give an empty nester a puppy. Let me tell you.
Tres is precious, absolutely wonderful, very furry and cuddly as all golden retriever puppies tend to be. But he is also incredibly rambunctious, full of barracuda-like teeth, and starving for attention. When I came down the steps to the baggage area in the Houston airport, I immediately saw both of my parents - with the ten pounds of yellow hair - waiting for me. "He's soooo cute!" I exclaimed as I picked him up. He was so docile in the airport, just letting me love on him... and then in the car he attempted to attack my scarf, my skirt, my arms, my watch, the seatbelt, my hair, and then proceeded to collapse on the seat next to me snoring. He's so nice when he's sleeping...
In two weeks, my parents have become quite attached to Tres. I don't think my mom let him out of her sight the first week they had him, everytime I was on the phone, there he was, in the background barking or chewing on something. On Saturday my parents and I went to grab lunch, so I was walking down the hall carrying Tres to his "room" and my dad said "Wait, wait let me just tell him goodbye! Wait!"
That was when I officially knew: Houston, we have a problem. They had warned me that he was an ankle biter. Well. That was quite the understatement. He runs at your ankles and grabs on for dear life as you cross the room. He would stop for me because I would pick him up or swat him lightly on the nose or grab his atention with a toy. Not my parents though. They simply watch him while yelping in pain, thinking he's so cute and they couldn't possibly tell him no.
Tres is an explorer. During playtime outside, I would put him the fern bushes and he would burrow into them. He shakes them with his teeth, and then he stops to look at them, but they're still moving from his shaking. He thinks this moving is a sign that they are actually alive and fighting with him, so he then barks and attacks the plants again, starting the whole cycle over. Finally he will tunnel out of the flowerbeds and collapse on the grass. I took him on a walk one of the mornings when it was still early enough to have dew on the grass. Tres thinks that every yard is giant doggy slip in slide built just for him- he will prance along on the sidewalk beside you, and then he leaps off, running for a few feet and then throwing all four legs out so that he slides on his tummy through the grass for a few more feet, then stops and rolls over on his back, all feet in the air. He is impossible not to love.
The empty nesters of course have bought the dog a new bed at Costco that he never uses. I say never because he sleeps in the bed with them. which is totally ridiculous because when he's huge and takes up half the bed like same used to, he won't know that he has to get down eventually.
Saturday night my mom and i kicked my dad to my brothers room for the night and watched chick flicks late into the night. i had worn the little dog out all afternoon and night because i just can't NOT play with him, i mean come on people, he is cute! exhausted, he was very snugglyand peaceful all night. until around 6 am. when i woke up to find him playing tug-of-war. WITH MY HAIR. growling and running the in other direction on the bed, as if my hair would come unattached from my head easily. so cute, yea, uh huh.
when you give empty nesters a puppy, they think you should let it in and outside at anytime the puppy would like. after all, the empty nesters think that the puppy is in charge, because "he's so cute" and "he'll only be little for a while" and therefore he should be the king of the place.
well, i don't enjoy cleaning up presents from the puppy, however cute he is, so i put him outside from time to time. for a while he will fight with the plants, sniff around the fountain, and then he wants to come inside. well, unlike most dogs who politely whine and sit at the door waiting, he will claw at the door, jump for the door knob, and then he gives up. well, you think he is giving up. actually, he is just running away from the door to get a running start to body slam the door. he literally, all ten pounds of him, runs at the three full length windows and leans in with his shoulder to bodyslam the window. not so much that he hurts himself, he's still smiling at you through the window, but just enough that you notice him.
the empty nesters think its hilarious. they race to the door and let him in. "oh, he's like a butterfly flying against the glass..." my dad has been heard saying.
the empty nesters haven't completly lost their minds. they've just lost a little bit of their control... i mean the puppy is really cute. but not cute enough that you just let him bite the heck out of you and chase you around the house growling at you and clinging to your pant legs and sliding along beside you... maybe they have lost their minds.
but at least the empty nesters are having fun.
for a minute there, i was worried they were going to just sit around for the rest of their lives and do nothing... not.
tres, see you at thanksgiving!! i already miss the biting...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

just five more miles...

all photos courtesy of eugenia t. thompson. my kkg sister for life.

There's a chance you may have heard the story of the time my friend Caitlin & I decided it would be a brilliant idea - and an easy adventure - to ride our bikes together to Mount Vernon, where George Washington lived and is now buried with his dear Martha. The 38 miles round-trip were extremely difficult, full of sweat and strained muscles, but lots of laughs. I like to alteast think that the difficulty was in part due to our bicycles - they are "cruisers" not meant for speed or endurance. (much like myself.)
Well, you'll probably think I'm crazy when I tell you about how this past Saturday I rode roughly 30 miles with 3 other friends in the opposite direction outside of DC. If you have a moment, I'll tell you the tale... Genie Thompson and Lauren Simpson came to visit my roommate Katherine for Colombus Day weekend here in this district. I was lucky enough for them to let me follow them around for most of the festivities. (Dinner at a gay sports bar on Friday night-that's a whole different story.) They all were close friends growing up in Memorial. And - Genie is my "big" - big sister in kappa from TCU. She is absolutely one of the top five funniest real people I know in the WORLD and she's currently teaching middle school in Houston.
Lauren I didn't know as well (before this weekend) but we also went to high school together. I remember two things about her: 1) we had a few math classes together and i hardly got any work done because she, like genie, is very entertaining and 2) she was obsessed with LSU. apparently not much has changed...
So, Dr.Katherine, Lauren, and Eugenia and I went to safeway saturday morning for gatorade/picnic grub. We then headed down to the potomac river where the 3 of them rented bikes and I got on my craigslist deal of the century bike. i call her "eleanor." We took a quick picture, the four of us and our bikes, and decided we must send it in to the Kappa Kappa Gamma alumni magazine - we're 4 kappas from 4 different schools! we're sure to get in...:)
We rode for about 30 minutes when Katherine, being the smart med student that she is, realized we were on the wrong trail. I uttered a four letter word, we told Genie and Lauren, and we turned around. The six mile detour wasn't that bad and we were quickly back on the correct path - gravel "towpath" along the C&O canal that parallels the Potomac river. We thought we had about 10 miles to reach our destination: Great Falls! (Good sized waterfalls on the Potomac north of DC.) Seriously my abs have never hurt so much from laughing. By the time we reached the falls, my cheeks hurt from constant laughter. (no, not those cheeks, get your mind out of the gutter.)
After being on the trail for a few miles, Lauren was ready to turn around. "I'm sorry, I'm not
trying to whine, but this suuuucks. How much farther?" We pulled over for some water and quick break. When I asked an older couple walking by how much farther, the man said "ONWARD!" and pointed his hand in the direction we were headed. Yea, but how far? He told us about five miles, and seemed to know what he was talking about. Then we rode for 45 minutes and had been at least five miles. We asked the next sane looking person. "Five more miles," they said. We trudged on. After 2 hours total on the canal path, we asked a third passerby. Of course their answer was... "Five more miles!" Lauren's reaction was priceless.
The view was beatiful, tall trees leaning over the canal, no cars or city noise. Red leaves, orange leaves, the crunch of gravel under our tires, the occasional view of the Potomac to our left. When I tried to point this out to Lauren, she responded. "oh, yea, gorgeous. Breathtaking. I could be seeing stuff like this on TV right now."
At one point we stopped for Genie to trade bikes with Katherine - Genie's bike seat was pointed towards the sky in a very uncomfortable and unadjustable position. As we were getting back on, Lauren was like, "Okay, once we make it to the falls, i am NOT kidding you, i'm taking a cab back. or calling a helicopter." and Genie said "I'll just pray for some angels to come flap their wings and carry you back." Lauren: " They better be some big freaking angels. And you better start to pray now." So Katherine, smiling, starts to pedal off in the lead. Then Genie starts off, yelling, "I will pray. I will pray to Jesus. JESUS! JESUS! We need your help." And then she began to sing the Lord's Prayer Opera style. (she has a beautiful voice.) Next came Lauren, grunting and yelling and singing in a not-so-nice voice "God Bless America" at the top of her lungs. I brought up the rear, trying so hard not to fall off my bike from laughing so hard.
Eventually, we made it. The views were great. The falls were awesome. Sitting on a rock by the river eating lunch was awesome. Seeing Menonites was awesome. The ride back was awesome - including a lecture from a national parksman about how we had crossed over the orange caution tape where they were repairing the trail and put ourselves "in very real, very serious, danger. you could have died." lauren later said, "don't worry man, i will NEVER do this again."
apparently long bike rides are good for my abs - i laugh ALOT. these three were hilarious. katherine calmly directing us onward, genie providing lots of "oooh, my leg!" and "oooh, lord jesus" outbursts, and lauren saying "i don't hate you, i just hate my body. this sucks. i hate this." and at the end saying "well, that was fun. lets' go home." then we went home and collapsed on the couches. eventually we made it to the showers and out to capitol hill for dinner, drinks, and some LSU football. (they lost, but lauren was too exhausted to be really mad.) fall leaves and good friends - probably one of the funniest and most beautiful days i've spent in this district!
thanks for reading and hope your day is full of laughs, too!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Into Marvelous Light I'm Running

this photo is stephanie and i in the hill country, summer 2007. i heart her.

Gosh, I'm blessed. Not a day goes by that I can't see the evidence of God's blessings in my life. And, I know, that I still take so many things for granted. Like health, the roof over my head, good friends.

Tonight I had the most random group of friends over for dinner - girls I met through friend's of a friend's, former roommates from PPIP last semester, current roommates that i went to high school with and now love, former fellow interns/staffers from white house days. How funny that last April I had a mini-meltdown after agreeing to stay in DC for the remainder of 2008, thinking I would be so lonely and alone. Instead, I am immensely blessed and have learned the value of quality friendships, not quantity. (And I've also learned that if you offer dinner, they will come...)

In sixth grade I was such a loser, never asked to sit at the cool kids table, made fun of for my "miss piggy" nose. My freshman year of college I felt alone and like a misfit alot of the time. I've moved thousands of miles from home and many moments of desperately missing wonderful friends back home.

All this to say, I hope that I live my days reaching out to as many people as possible, not who are exactly like me or who i would be drawn to necessarily. It means so much to me when people are nice to me and are great friends to me. (ie the wonderful kkgs at tamu who let me in on their 1/2 birthday celebrations at IHOP, or katherine mcclellan taking me to church in dc, or numerouos other people and instances.)

Nancy Simpson and Susie Gold were mentors of mine through a small group at my high school. (mustangs for life.) They were friends to so many young girls and brought so much joy to our lives on Thursday mornings. I miss them bunches. Nancy said on numerous occasions that if you go through life and can count the number of true, great friends on one hand, you are truly blessed. To think of that, and to think of all the true, loyal, great, fun friends that have really known me and not run the other way screaming... wow. What a incredible, joyful blessing!

"to the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world." -unknown

i fall short so many times to be do what God so simply commands of us - "love your neighbor as yourself." i need to strive on a daily basis to do for others what i do for myself. i'm so thankful for all the people have loved me as they love themselves. so thankful.

and thanks especially to all of you who read this crazy thing!! seriously. i know you have about 1000 other things to do with your time and i appreciate you.

"into marvelous light i'm running,
out of darkness, out of shame.
by the cross you are the truth, you are the light, you are the way.

lift my hands and spin around
see the light that i have found
oh the marvelous light, the marvelous light
sin has lost its power, death has lost its sting
from the grave you've risen...victoriously!
into marvelous light i'm running..."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bring Your A Game (better is one day in your courts)

Better is one day in your courts, better is one day in your house, than a thousand elsewhere.

As good as life is for us down here on earth, time in the presence of God is promised to be thousands of times better. Literally, thousands. Something I can’t even grasp and something we’re not designed to understand. If we understood God’s plan, God’s will, God’s thoughts, then faith would not be something difficult. We wouldn’t grow, we wouldn’t learn things about God. He wouldn’t be a wonderful mystery and we wouldn’t be drawn to get to know him. Just as the couple who learns something new about each other after years of marriage, our relationship with God is designed to be ever-evolving, and if we knew everything up front about how life worked than we wouldn’t have to -or get the chance - to live life.

Our friend Jay Chenoweth is in Heaven. It’s so hard to sum up Jay in a sentence, but for those of you who don’t know him, he and my dad grew up together, my mom met him and his wife more than 25 years ago, and we’ve gone on numerous ski trips and new years eve trips during the past decade. If I could hand-pick my in-laws, it would be mary and jay for sure. (cathy & jim have always been off the table because they don’t have sons.) 8 years ago, jay and I started calling each other homie. (it has to do with jay watching mtv. Story for another day.)

For some reason, God decided that it was time for Jay to leave our world. Jay had been fighting cancer for a while now, bravely, courageously. So weird to type that he’s gone. I can’t dwell on it or I’ll just throw this computer right out the freaking window. I know homie is dancing in heaven, praising god and playing golf with the disciples and doing whatever we all do when we arrive at the thrown of the King. I know that God completely planned this, and that good will come out of everything God does. But I’m still hurt, confused, and stunned. More so for others than for me. Homie has a younger brother and older brother, wonderful friends, his rockstar wife Mary, and two fun sons John and William who I really consider brothers, or at the very least cousins. He was only 45? Why die now?

Homie was so fun. He skied like a mad man. He was HILARIOUS. I told my dad – I never would have told homie this to his face, it would have gone to his head too much – but I could make a list of all his qualities and if I found them in a guy, I’d marry him right there on the spot. He was faithful but not in your face about it, he was hilarious (did I mention that), he was loving and kind and gentle and so patient. Then when he lost his temper, he was, again, hilarious. He was full of adventure and life, planning a trip for our two families in RVs to Colorado. He was hardworking, generous, and so dedicated to his boys. His family was his life.

The quality I was inspired by most was homie’s devotion to mary. He was completely in love with her – if she was in sweats or a cocktail dress, if she was happy or grumpy, he loved her with his whole heart and was not afraid to show it in front of anyone.

Jay lived life to the fullest. Over a thousand people came to his memorial service, clearly showing how much he touched others lives, and how blessed he was during his 45 years on earth. I will be forever thankful for knowing Jay and getting the chance to be around him. I know I will hang out with john and William and mary for years and years to come, they can’t avoid the Robinson family. My plan from here on out is for all of us to pick up slack that homie has left us while he flew up to heaven: to live life on the edge, full of humor, love, and adventure – just as he did.

Homie always had one liners and sayings ready to fly out of his mouth. He always had hip music on his ipod, cooler than me for sure. Always knew at least a few of the latest rap songs. On several occasions I tried not to literally wet my pants during his antics with Mary, my dad, or anyone. One of my favorite memories is just me and him on the ski slopes in steamboat, I don’t know how we ended up just us the two on the lift, but the ski lift operator called him my dad. I quickly corrected them - “he is NOT my dad” and after that he would tell strangers he was my dad and be as awkward as possible – such as blowing his nose really loudly on the ski lift with strangers.

We’re all trying not to be sad around my house. Homie would want us to keep on living, honor his memory. It’s sometimes so surreal to me. Is he really gone? This is so weird. But I know something: what an inspiration that our lives are soooo short. I have new motto now that my homie’s gone up to the room that Jesus told us he was preparing for us: Bring your A game!

Ski fast, live life, love with abandon, give it your all. Jay gave his family his all, was hilarious with friends, I’m starting to repeat myself. I could go on forever.

I wish we’d had longer with him. I wish that more for Mary and the boys and his brothers and my dad and his countless other friends than I do for myself. I’ve certainly realized - this is one life. That’s all we get. It could end tomorrow. Seriously.

Better bring your A game.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rock Me Mama Like a Wagon Wheel

Charles Dickens is famous for saying, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That's pretty much the story of my life right now.

This week started off with a state arrival at the White House and me stalking the POTUS as you see in this picture. It ended with a day of kayaking with the best roommate in the whole world, the very best turkey sandwich i've ever eaten, and a live rockin' concert with three of the coolest people in this district.

In the middle were a lot of tears. We'll start with the bad news first. Tuesday night I was supposed to have a tutoring orientation for this program for kids living below the poverty line and struggling in school, but I had the nights mixed up and it was actually Wednesday. So, I grabbed a bite on Capitol Hill, did some reading, and made my way to the steps of the Capitol facing the Washington Monument and the sun setting behind it. It was glorious, the sky skattered with pink streaks and a blazing orangefireball sinking below the horizon. It was a breezy cool night, one of those that is just so physically obvious that there is a God and he is very real. Sitting outside enjoying great weather, whether at camp in the hill country, on the ski slopes of Colorado, or here in the capitol, i am hit with the reality that God is so around us all the time, and I am just too busy or naive or unwilling to see Him.

I prayed to God that night from the steps of the Hill, thinking how blessed I am to have so much going right for me in life: health, job, friends, happiness, connection to Him - and that he is so in charge. But I also felt very alone, very much that it is me and God and that's all we've got in this world. Which in a way for everyone, even married people or people that have huge families, etc. But the aloneness didn't last long and it was a very enjoyable Tuesday, watching the sunset in a place I never imagined I would live for at least a full year.

Then Wednesday came. Long conversations on the phone, loud bursts of crying, moments of anger and confusion and sadness. My Homie, Jay Chen, is really struggling in his fight with that disease called cancer. Its trying its best to take over his body. And I know that God has his hand on Homie and is very much aware of his hurt, but it doesn't make it any easier. Of all the books I've read, college education I've recieved, you would think that I could use an extensive vocabulary to describe how my dad, Jay's brothers, wife, sons, my mom, all those who adore him as much as I do, feel. But I can only say that this completely and totally SUUUUUUCKS!

ugh. gross freaking cancer.

So that covers the worst of times part. I thought I'd rather start with the negative and end with the positive, but I don't feel much like talking about the positive right now.

I will tell you that my roommate, Dr. Kathy, and I went kayaking today - about 2 miles from our house is this place called Fletcher's Cove, and you can rent double kayaks for $15 an hour, so we did, and its so close to the city yet you can't see any of it. just massive amounts of trees and green and beauty. it was wonderful. then we went home, i rode my bike to a renowned sandwich place around here that i had never tried. i took my book and ate outside - it was so great. my sandwich was delish - wheat bread with carved turkey (think thanksgiving) - stuffing, cranberry sauce, with a little herb seasoning. seriously, it was like one of the sandwiches on friends that joey would risk his life for. the bread gets soggy with all the wonderful ingredients as you near the end, cranberry sauce is falling out everywhere, hmm. i talked to my grandmummy, honey, and she's going to start making them. we'll call them the georgetowner.

then tonight caitlin & patrick connor -aggie figi doing teach for america in DC- & katherine and i went to see old crow medicine show live. great place, not too huge, lots of people watching and singing at the tops of our lungs. they're old school tennessee/alabama style, they play banjos and obos and fiddles and violins and sing about drinkin and women and the union. most famous/fave song is "rock me mama like a wagon wheel."

they sang one of their new songs about no do overs. the lyrics brought big tears to my eyes - they were talking about the line between fear and faith, life in this world don't last forever, we aren't going to get any do-overs, you can't do better in the next go 'round.

so here's to making the most of each day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We Will Never Forget (Or Conspire)

Living in DC makes September 11 a little more realistic to me. What a terrible day. I know God works for good through all things, but this one was hard. I can remember going with my mom to the prayer room at Chapelwood Church the night, or maybe it was the night after, September 11. I remember the fear and sorrow I felt for those people. I can remember the President’s address to the nation the Sunday after Sept 11, and that churches and synangogues were packed to the point of overflow with people searching for comfort, peace, refuge.

It’s easy to forget it happened. Easy to forget those that died, the children and families and jobs and hopes and dreams they left behind. Easy to pretend no Islamic extremist spent years training – on our soil – to fly planes into our building and kill innocents because they hate the freedom and prosperity those buildings stood for.

Then I go through an airport, where I pay an extra security fee, and take off my shoes because of those crazies. I want to call them harsh words, refer to them as bastards, cuss and curse them, when I think of the lives they attempted to ruin.

Yet almost worse than them are the cynics living here in America. These people in Washington, Texas, California, anywhere, that walk around with misguided thoughts about America. Read “Three cups of tea” and get back to me on the fact that we don’t need to be spreading democracy.

Also get back to me on this: Joe Biden was quoted in 2005 as saying, “Americans need to know we are sending these troops over there to stay in Iraq for ten years, maybe more. They are needed there.” Now that’s not word for word but when I find the link I’ll get back to you.

The people who I want to kick in the shins the most are these people wearing t-shirts and bumper stickers about how September 11 was an inside job. I don’t care if you think the President is a red-neck who is a terrible speaker that trashed our economy or if you think “No Child Left Behind” is a terrible policy or if you think he attacked Iraq because he wanted to finish the job his father set out to do. Fine, whatever, all of these points are at least debatable. However, if you think or say or imagine that the President planned, premeditated, dreamt up this horrendous attack on our nation, you could not be more wrong or more deserving of a kick in the shins. Listen to the President for one second talk about his faith in God or humanity or in America. Listen to him as he talks about AIDS killing Africans and look at the number of lives he has saved through pledged US dollars and simple things such as mosquito nets. (It’s a record for a US president.)

President George W. Bush did not set up those attacks. He hated that they happened, hates the terrorists responsible for them, hates any country’s government that was not going to hand over those terrorists, that was going to let them find a safe hiding place within their borders.

I’m not saying this war is great, the lives we’ve lost are meaningless, etc. My point is that the President of this country would not let an attack our country happen that hurt lives, economies, our way of life, our security. They would do anything in their power to prevent attack, let alone plan it. I don’t think that President Clinton would plan September 11 and I disagree with most of his policies and all of his morals. So why can’t people just shut the hell up about September 11th being an inside job? I am INFURIATED every time I see those protestors or hear people discuss it. The people that should be most offended are the people who lost a loved one in those attacks: these speculators, conspiracy theorists, are belittling the murder of their friend, spouse, parent, relative, neighbor, colleague.

Enough of my rambling. Tomorrow they’re dedicating the Pentagon memorial in Virginia. The President will stand at the very spot that an airplane, hijacked by Islamic jihadists, loaded with American citizens, crashed into the nation’s defense headquarters. I’ve been to the very wing in the Pentagon that the plane crashed into. I’ve stood there and seen pictures of the two grandparents that were on their way to see family in Florida when their lives abruptly ended, and for what? As part of the President’s grand plan? No. As part of an attack on our freedom, of religion, thought, expression. I’ve heard the story of the family of four that was on their way to Disneyworld for vacation and then burned to death in that plane crash. Their lives are OVER because of the terrorists wanting to kill us because American is our nationality.

Writing about this helps prevent me from lashing out on a conspiracy theorist on the metro or on the street, from grabbing their shoulders with my hands and shaking them until I can get some sense in them.

All of this to say, tomorrow I will remember. Remember what class I was in when we heard of the attacks. (American History, Coach Kemble.) Remember my mom coming up to lunch at the high school and being fully relieved to see her. Remember not fully grasping that this was NO accident while watching the news that night with my dad, so thankful that he hadn’t died, thankful that he wasn’t in an airport waiting to get home to Houston, like some of my classmates’ Dads. Remember feeling compassion for all of these New Yorkers and others who lost loved ones. Remember falling in love with Rudy Guiliani and the President as they handled the crisis with bravery and sincerity and compassion.

Most of all, tomorrow I will remember that we have beaten the terrorists. I may take off my shoes at the airport, I may think twice while riding the metro from time to time, I may get nervous at packed football stadiums that could easily be targeted with a bomb or air attack. But they have not been able to strike again.

We still stand for freedom over here. I may hate putting up with them, but the cynics can complain all they want, they still have the freedom and the right to voice their opinion. They can shout from the rooftops about the President’s inside job attack on the World Trade Center. And they can thank their lucky stars they still have the right to shout. We will know what they are shouting is wrong. I know they are wrong because if the President had the will and the power and the cruelty in him to plan an attack on our soil, he would also have the will and power and cruelty to make this into a Putin-style democracy, where he could stay in power as long as he choose. Or he could run us over like North Korea runs over their citizens. Or he could turn us into communists like the Chinese.

The President used to have an 80% approval rating after he attacked in the Middle East. We needed him to feel safe; we clung to the security he provided. We’re comfortable again, and we’ve turned our back on him.

Newsflash: September 11 was not that long ago. For most of us, though, we didn’t lose a loved one in the attacks. We weren’t gasping for oxygen as we ran down those stairs praying to make it out alive and wondering what had just happened. We aren’t haunted daily by the reality that was September 11.

I know that God works for good through all things, Romans 8:28, but I sure hope he doesn’t have another 9/11 in those plans. Tomorrow, I won’t kick anyone I see protesting or arguing about 9/11 in the shins. I will wear my red, white, and blue with pride and say a prayer for all the victim’s families. And I will say a prayer for the conspiracy theorists: that their hearts are softened, their minds enlightened, and their lives protected if another attack should come.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

we need you, johnny mac

watching the obamas/bidens leave the stage, i can't help but wonder:

aren't they wealthy? arent they attractive? arent they well to do? they may have come from nothing, but. pretty much the same story as the mccains/most republicans out there. for every kennedy and bush there is a selfmade politician too.

the difference between the michelles and the cindys, the baracks and the johnny macs is that one supports strong, heavy handed government with "benefits" for all. the other supports strong, hard working people with benefits for those willing to earn them.

change change change. i know hes sincere about chanting it, but how can really bring it about? he can't. because hes just like the rest of em.

i'll tell you who i love. jill biden. shes gorgeous, seems down to earth. sincere. cries real tears. loves her husband for who he is, not for where he can take her.

i can tell you i will cry real tears if b.o. is elected. because i will pay more taxes, american borders will be insecure, and russia will possibly nuke our asses. because gays will be married in all states that ratify such ammendments, abortion will be legal, and our supreme court bench will be filled with people who are crazy. not to mention that health care will become even more frustrating, with situations like canada where you drive yourself to the next big city if your city's hospitals are full. because lobbyists will rule dc, schools will be even more focused on "teaching to the test," and we'll fill afghanistan with troops currently stationed in iraq and call it a draw-down. because a god-fearing, america loving, eager to serve man like george w. bush will be bashed and trashed for the next four years.

we need you john mccain. step. it. up.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tour de Mount Vernon

Me: "If I called my mom right now, I would say, hey mem, its me. I'm with Caitlin. Well I guess that goes without saying."
Caitlin: "Yeah, that's like saying, "I live in DC."
Well, we had another adventure again this weekend. Full of lots of pain in our muscles, silliness coming out of our mouths, and a little bit of George and Martha Washington.
I've been planning in my head of biking to Mount Vernon since last January - just waiting for a warm weather and good company. Found. So, Caitlin and I met at the Memorial Bridge that links Arlington Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial. According to guide books, the Mount Vernon trail is a wide, smoothly paved, flat 18-mile stretch that takes riders from Georgetown through Alexandria, Virginia out to the gates of Mount Vernon. We rode 17 miles together outbound to the mansion, and if we had been filmed, it surely would be the next great reality show.
We stopped after the first 45 minutes or so, making it roughly 12:45. We had already passed Reagan National Airport and were near a marina with sailboats, where we watched a solo sailor trying to right his sunfish boat after it had capsized. (it took several attempts, which was perfect entertainment while we ate crackers, guzzled water, and talked about how we were going to be sore when we got to our destination.
Little did we know. The next 12 miles or so were full of me laughing alot about how difficult it was for me to make it up a hill, which didn't help because then i would be more out of breath from the laughing. My dad left me a voicemail after hearing of our endeavor saying "well, i'm sure y'all had fun but your's just not meant for riding more than a few miles in a neighborhood. Not that i don't like your bike, i know it was a great find, but the way the handle bars and seat and peddles are aligned, i don't know how you would ride up a slight incline for a litte ways, let alone miles..."
In short, it was hilarious. We passed some pretty houses and a marsh and LOTS of interesting characters out on the packed trail. I had my handy bell that reads "I heart my mom!" on the top to warn anyone that we were coming. Once, I fell behind due to a traffic jam on a bridge near the airport, and a biker passed Caitlin ringing his bell. She thought it was me, and so she turned and said "ding ding!" he looked at her like she was crazy and said "ding ding" right back.
We made, it finally, to Mount Vernon. Soaked in sweat and starving. But it was great to see the mansion that our first president had built. He was definitely a more noble man than me, (partly because I'm not a man) - in the museum it talks about how he was offered the position of King on multiple occasions, but he always declined. He clearly loved Martha immensely, and they talked of how no one was allowed in his library without specific permission - except for Martha, who could go in whenever she wanted. We saw the last set of teeth that he used, and the very bed where he died.
Oh, I'm leaving out a few things. On our way out there, I was behind hodge podge and thought my chain had come off. So I stopped, looked at it, then sloooowly was trying to catch up. I shouted "Hodge PODGE!" so she would know where I was, and this racer dude passing me just heard me yelling but didn't know I was talking to anyone so he was like "c'mon, you can DO IT!!" i wanted to punch him. And, Caitlin told me several stories of bike crashes she's been in during our third mile or so. Like, when she rode into a ditch off a bridge. And how she still has a scar from one time she flipped over the handle bars. And then five minutes later she almost crashed into a bridge...
My chain came over at approximately mile 36. But, he-women that we are, we got it on in no time. Greasy blackened hands to prove it, too. When we got to mount vernon, prior to food and fro-yo and water and caffinated beverages, we were contemplating how to get back to this district - ferry? hitchhike? metro in the last 10 or so miles? pay some kids to ride in for us and we'll ride in the car with their parents? but WE MADE IT all FORTY miles door to door. and today i'm not quite as exhausted as i thought. but, in the guidebook, we're going to put "prepare to have a sore hiney and some curse words along the way to the symbol of American freedom and prosperity that is Mount Vernon."
To sum up, I'll leave with two final short stories. One - as we sat on the back porch of the mansion overlooking the Potomac thinking of colonial days, a six or seven year old boy asked his dad, "Daddy, were the dinosaurs around when this house was being built?" Yep, you betcha. So were those cows in that field over there, said Caitlin.
And today, leaving church in Chinatown, my wonderful roommate Katherine said to me:
"Who has been kicking Caitlin in the calves?"
"What?" I said, as I looked over at Caitlin crossing to the opposite street with our friend Joe.
"Those bruises! Who's been kicking Caitlin in the back of the legs?"
"Oh," I said. "No one. Those are from her bike pedals smacking her whenever we get off our bikes and walk."
gig em & god bless ya!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Things I Learned from the Commonwealth of Virginia

Last Thursday I came home from work, grabbed my bags, climbed onto my scooter, (which i have named Merriweather Lewis, because he was awesome for a number of reasons. He was the personal secretary of Thomas Jefferson, he got to live in the East Room of the White House for a few months with his laundry spread everywhere, and he explored the American Frontier with his buddy Clark.) Anyways, Merriweather and I rode across the Key Bridge -at sunset, it was beatiful, into Virginia.

When you ride the metro in VA, the driver always says, "next stop ___ blah blah, final stop in the commonwealth of virginia" or "next stop, "pentagon station, first stop in the commonwealth of virginia." i don't know why its not a state, probably because of thomas jefferson's handiwork, but anyways, i was dog/house sitting for a lady from our office who was going to texas. I kept her two fun, big dogs from Thursday through Tuesday morning. Five days. Long time. She lives in a cute townhousey neighborhood out in Virginia. It takes 10 minutes to get there in no traffic from the USDA/downtown DC, but not on Merriweather. So it was annoying being that far out there but all the money I made is going straight to the Europa Fund, which erases the annoying part. Plus, as i told the infamous caitlin hodges, its adventures like this that give me more material for my book. (hitting newstands, TBD)

Anyways, I won't bore you with alot of the details. But I'd like to share some of the wisdom I acquired while out in the green suburbaness that is Alexandria/Arlington, Virginia.

a) i learned that homesickness is right at the edge of life in dc, waiting to suck me in.

Scootering out to my weekend home, it was great to see all the cute houses with their steps up to the door, and the fun-colored front doors and shutters, and all the trees and yards bigger than a sandbox, but. I was hit with the feeling (along with a few bugs in my teeth) that living in a real city would be hard. DC is so unique, and my purpose is so clear. Its the capitol, I'm here because what I'm doing can't happen in any other city and because I'm learning and experiencing things vastly different from Houston/home. I think that if I lived in a house with a regular sized room and a queen bed, in a city with no metro transportation, with no smithsonians and weird things to do on every corner, i'd be sad and wonder WHY AM I HERE when i could be in houston/not thousands of miles from most of my friends and family. (don't worry though, i'm back in the district and all is well.)

b) that houston isn't the only large city with mexico built right in.
so i took a wrong turn on my scooter on saturday, while i was making my way into the city to watch the olympics with dear friend/roomie katherine & holly. and all of a sudden, two blocks off the route i had google-mapped, i am in mexico. seriously. people speaking spanish on every corner, soccer being played in parking lots, mexican import food market, guys whistling at any blonde they see, regardless of if she's actually attractive. it was like i was driving down longpoint in the 77057. i'm not trying to judge or be degrading, i'm just saying - apparently immigrants make it further than houston and create their own version of home right here, not 10 miles from el capital.

c) that my moped is probably the best tangible thing my parents have ever given me, and if i die on it it will so be worth it.
I LOVE MY MOPED. it is ssssoooo fun. (in case you don't know the details of merriweather, he is a ghetto version of a moped. as in, the rearview mirrors don't work because they aren't located in a position that a person taller than 3 feet 5 inches can see out of. except for the left one, but the bolt is loose so it spins forward when you hit a bump. so people from the front of merriweather can see their reflection, great. he also is currently getting 85 miles per gallon. i'm totally getting one in the next city i live. i'm not very gracious at accepting gifts nor do i like to spend money when unnecessary, and this was not necessary, but it is so convenient and fun. and i promise i'm safe, because the last thing my dad said to me about merriweather was "if you die on that thing, that i suggested we get and that i paid for, i will never forgive myself." thanks for the uplifting message dad. now i never veer through traffic or speed through the tunnel on K street. okay, only rarely. but seriously, thanks mom & dad!!

d) i wish there was a soundtrack to my life. (good morning, baltimore!!)
friday morning i made the bus from the virginia house right on time - literally walked up the hill and there was the bus, pulling up for me to jump on. it dropped me off at the pentagon - yes, the one in the movies. i've been there! i told myself - and i metroed over the potomac river. then, i came up out of the escalator on the national mall with blue skies overhead, a light breeze, marine one flying straight over my head over to the white house to pick up the POTUS. perfect timing or what?

e) dogs are a lot of work. especially dogs that shed.
whew, the dog hair. i sure miss pookies/sam and if i could have him back for just one day i would NOT complain about his dog hair or fish breath, but. these dogs aren't pookies. and they had a lot of hair. just like babysitting is good birth control, dog sitting is good don't-run-down-to-the-humane-society-just-to-rack-up-a-five-hundred-dollar-vet-bill-unless-you're-really-really-serious-about-getting-a-dog control.

f) i like trees and art museums and living in the capitol.
the trees in virginia and the winding long streets with cute houses were AWESOME. i miss fresh air and no crowded streets with alleys hiding trash cans. but being in the national gallery of art museum with hodge podge was awesomer. capitol, you win for now.
g) people in the commonwealth like to GET IT ON.
seriously, i went running three days in a row out there, and on sunday night i probably saw five VERY pregnant women out walking with their hubbies. or couples with two kids in a stroller and another two or three on bikes with training wheels. (not a lot of cars on these streets.)
cute, but seriously. babies don't grow on trees. these people are busy.

h) dc, if i hadn't officially told you already, i've fallen for you. good thing we have least 5 months left to continue our relationship.
dear readers, if you've made it this far - sorry this post has turned into a novel. i can't believe its the end of August already!! i say that at the end of every month, i know it's annoying. well, life is great up here. if i keep coming back to texas i may just stay here for a little while longer. (shh, don't tell caitlin. or my mom. i don't want to get either of their hopes up. plus, they'll both be fine without me, they just talk a big game to make me feel loved.