Check out my other blog: Arugula Addict! I'll be writing about my journey to becoming a healthier person.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Writing My Life Story

I walked in the double glass doors of the cafeteria and headed for the trays and silverware. Generous portions of thick fried noodles, fluffy white steamed rice, oily green beans, and sweet and sour tofu were ladled onto a plastic plate. A tug of sadness tinged my thoughts as I realized this would be the last time I came through line, ready for another $5 meal. As I headed to the pastries to pick up a slice of pie or two for Sabbath's dessert, thoughts jostled and elbowed to express themselves. After I pulled a pale pink cafeteria chair up to one of the thirty look-alike cafeteria tables, the thoughts began to coalesce.

We are each writing a book of our lives. Each of us chooses what to write in that book and when to start a new chapter. We hold the pen poised each morning as we faced with a clean white sheet that waits for us to continue the story. Will we follow a predictable story line or will there be unexpected twists and turns around the corner? Will today be one where an exciting change is clearly seen in us or will we be predictably dull? Will we laugh uncontrollably or cry inconsolably? Who will we declare our forever love to and who will be crossed out of our books with thick black ink? Will we be satisfied with the experiences scribed on the page at the end of a long day or will we wish it were not indelible ink and we could erase a section here, delete a section there?

R.D. Cumming said, "A good book has no ending."

Life is filled with letting-go-moments. . .another one approaches. . .

A feeling of nostalgia overtakes as I realize that today is the last day of everything. Six weeks seemed like forever when I first came, now I wonder where the days flew to, they weren’t supposed to go so fast. Good friends, acquaintances, and memories march across my mind, obliterating the down times, those times I wanted to go home. A week ago, two weeks ago, I vowed I would never return, now I am planning what I’ll bring with me next summer, anticipating reunions, new experiences, and returning to old haunts. I still remember that first day, half an hour late, a sea of strange faces staring back at me while I struggled to one of the ivory and metal desk-chairs, plugged my laptop in to an outlet, opened up a new Word document, and began to type. Completely out of my comfort zone, surrounded by unknown people, unsure how to handle uncertainty, I soon learned that regardless of where I am, I have the capability to adapt and that the place will quickly become my home. Strangely, this campus, with its people, has grown close to my heart.

I remember discovering Dexter Drumlin, hiking barefoot through marshy grasses, reveling in the freedom to be close to nature. The constant uncommon summer rains kept the humidity at bay that first month while spectacular thunder and lightning shows illuminated my nights, awakening reminiscence of a happy childhood, running barefoot through warm African rain. Lunchtime was a looked-forward-to event of the day, when friendly servers smiled as food that I didn’t have to cook was ladled onto a plastic plate, along with the daily fresh salad in a plastic clamshell.

I soon made friends with my roommate who enjoyed quiet as much as I did, stayed up late, and liked her own space. Joan set up her “office” in the lobby where an overstuffed couch served double duty as a comfy place to nap while I took up residence on my bed where I watched movies online by the hour. On the first day, Heidi caught my attention, a thirty-something Bermudian with a zest for life, an infectious laugh, strong opinions based on personal experiences, an amazing ability to read people, and a sarcastic wit that complimented mine. We had signed up for the same classes and suffered and sighed our way through the homework together, moaning and groaning when extra papers were assigned, relieved when the teacher forgot to bring a key handout to class, and laughing at the idiosyncrasies of our classmates. Sarai, her eight-year old daughter, and I bought identical Wacky Bears, played X and O’s and giggled together. “I like you,” she said one afternoon, as she smiled up in childlike innocence.

One weekend I splurged on a rental car that came with complimentary GPS and the four of us set off through jungles of highways to experience Massachusetts as summer tourists. More exhausting than classes, we packed three days with ferries, islands, tours, and the coast, returning late at night. Unexpected trips to the mall with Rosemary, another classmate, meant I could treat myself to a meal that wasn’t Richard’s fake-meat Loaf or rice with diced veggies from a can. Panera Bread’s sourdough baguette and vegetable minestrone soup became a favourite meal and I stuffed myself silly on boiled eggs, kidney beans, green olives and Thousand Island dressing from Chuck E Cheese’s fresh salad bar.

Hours of bioethical theory filtered through endless games of Solitaire, Minesweeper, Freecell, and Inkball. Break time meant trips to the snack shop where 35 cent mini bags of chips and 10 cent chocolates kept me awake for the final couple of hours and my stomach from grumbling at a scanty hurried breakfast. If I was feeling particularly hungry, I would hurry to the vending machine in the science lab where I would splurge 90 cents on a Reese’s Whipps.

There were the challenging moments that stretched my patience spider-web thin. An unexpected late-July rain sprung open millions of mosquito eggs and clouds hovered in our classroom while vicious females danced and dived, biting on top of still-fresh raised welts. The humidity soared over 90 percent and I resorted to a frozen water bottle to distract me from the thick heavy air. Sleepless nights blurred into each other as I stayed up till after midnight, hoping sheer exhaustion would make me unconscious sooner but to no avail. Class hours were spent in pointless discussions and my mind ached to be challenged academically. I struggled to learn how to work with different personalities and missed the friendly Californian culture. I wanted to go home countless times, yet knew I could not let myself down by refusing to “stick it out.” So I stayed and I learned how to wait for the next day or the next week to bring new experiences.

Life is a tapestry, they say, woven in time. Each memory unites discordant notes, pure melodies, strong chords, sweet tunes, and soul-stirring songs that weave themselves into a harmony of life. Today, as I contemplate the knowledge learned, the moments experienced, the friends formed, and the inner strength discovered, I do not see the difficult times. . .I see the beauty.

Friday's Freedom

I sit on my roomie's bare mattress, facing a single window out which I can see a dreary Friday afternoon whose drizzle, thankfully, has reduced the heat and humidity to a pleasant temperature, a gentle farewell as I prepare to leave in 36 hours. As Trey Lorenz keeps me company on Pandora, I take a deep breath and let all the air out along with weeks of stress, uncertainties, late nights, and loneliness. In two days I'll be home!!!

I don't know what to do with myself with all this free time! I do know what I should be doing, which includes packing, vacuuming, doing some last minute spot cleaning, and maybe watching a movie or two. Maybe I'll even take a little nap! I've got a long list, as usual.

But for now, I relish the hours that stretch deliciously long. . .and smile. . .

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sleepless Nights

Last nite I tried a trick suggested to me by my very brilliant sister, Rachel and stuck a juice bottle into the freezer for several hours. After hanging out in the library till the very last minute, and then taking up residence on a couch in the downstairs lobby where a mosquito or two danced about but the air conditioning still kept me cool enough to think, I finally retrieved my now-frozen bottle and headed up to my perpetual sauna of a room. My roomie was fast asleep with the door wide open and the humidity poured out like a tidal wave, reassuring me that it would be yet another eternal night. Unfortunately the hallway lights are controlled by a central switch and are never ever turned off, and I can only sleep if it's completely dark, so I shut the door on what little cross-wind we could hope to catch and braced myself for the wakefulness that awaited me. Ever the worrywart, I didn't dare to fall asleep clutching the bit of Antarctica that I cradled in my arms, afraid that I would end up with frostbite or a patch of black skin on my arm. But I learned that if you hold a frozen bottle milimeters away from your face, it will actually create a sort of vacuum so that it feels like a tiny spot of airconditioning. It did help (and I'll be freezing two bottles tonight, maybe I should just pack my bed with frozen water bottles!!!) and thankfully I have only 2 and 1/2 nights left. Half a night because Saturday evening I have to be up by 2 am to get to the airport on time. Well, we can look at the bright side of matters: I'm getting adjusted back to Cali time by going to bed around midnight or later every night!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

boston in the summer

I wrote this poem around midnight last night as I was trying desperately to sleep and despairing that it would ever be cool enough to drop off. . .I'm actually not in Boston but it works with the rhyme better.

I think I know what hell is like
'cuz I've been there & I've been back
to Boston in the summer

Humidity is never low
though thunderstorms may come & go
in Boston in the summer

The East Coast is sure welcoming
as clouds of mosquitoes blow right in
to Boston in the summer

At night the lightning strikes around
as rain pours and pelts the ground
in Boston in the summer

A California girl I'll always be
and swear I'll never ever leave
for Boston in the summer

(c) maria Lombart, 7.28.09

It's 11:35 pm and I'm still up. . .

I've nicknamed the back stairs in the women's dorm "Skunk Hall" cuz I'm pretty sure we have a resident skunk who loves to liberally spread his perfume on a regular basis! We won our debate today. . .against the sale of live-kidneys being legalized. I realized quickly, though, that everything about a debate goes against my core personality. I am a peacemaker, and a debate centers around rebuttals and arguments and trying to prove the other side wrong, and I have spent my whole life around trying to make people feel like they are right! So I was highly uncomfortable during the debate, and we still have one to go. It'll soon be over though! I just hope this humidity is over soon too. I'm almost ready to go and curl up in the hallway. . .it's cooler than in here!

It's Tuesday (but why can't it be Thursday?)

I can't study. I have one position paper, one book review paper, 10 pages of reading, preparation for yet another debate, and my final bioethical term paper to do. Preferably all to be done today. And it's 3:15 pm and I'm trying to study but two long-lost friends are catching up on all their life-stories from the last 55 years about 20 feet away, and they're not using their "library voices" which is rather distracting to say the least! But at least I'm in a nice cool place, so I should try to focus on the topic of pro-life and stop surfing fun vegan blogs and finish everything so I can enjoy The Batchelorette finale tonight!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Once Upon a Blue Night

Today was not a good day. I was tired from tossing and turning the night before, I was hot from the 90% humidity the night before that abated somewhat during the day, I was hungry because I didn't want to eat supper before I finished my homework, and I was irritated because it took me seven hours to finish that homework. Most afternoons I've spent about 3 to 4 hours on homework, which is fine, but this afternoon we had to meet to discuss a debate for class tomorrow and you know how group discussions go. . .and go. . .and go. . . By the time we finally decided we had the issue covered well enough, I had had enough of "wasting my time" with irrelevant matters and personal opinions and tiddly things. But at least I got to call home for 50 minutes this evening, there is a slight breeze every now and then, and I feel prepared for tomorrow's class. Plus, it's only 4 days until the day I go HOME!!!! I shall absolutely not miss this place. I am more than ready to go home, to air conditioning, decent food, a clean kitchen that doesn't stink of other people's meat and fish, my family who cares, and smiling people who are always ready to take a minute to chat. I miss my family! I miss my friends! I miss Dr. Jensen and Sherry and LaVonne and everyone else I see when I step out of my back office to take a walk. I miss my car! I miss eating white pita bread with vegenaise and cheddar cheese! I miss shopping at Winco and Walmart! I miss seeing little bunny rabbits outside my front door! And I miss being home! I'll be there soon!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

90% isn't always an A!

It's 10:42 pm and I have a presentation in class tomorrow which means I need to be up at 7 am or thereabouts. Except it is so miserably hot right now that there is no way I can even consider falling asleep, unless one were to take great pleasure in lying on one's bed for hours, waiting for the faintest of breezes to tease and tantalize and knowing that it will be after midnight before sleep will mercifully claim consciousness. It's official. I looked it up online and the humidity is 90%. That is just 10% away from. . .well, I won't say it! But suffice to say that I am experiencing every single percent of that ninety percent!

The final week of classes begin tomorrow and I know it will fly by. I have only 5 more days and then it's the day I leave!!! I'm sooooo excited. To know that I'm going home is the most exciting part of the six weeks I've spent here :P I will be busy, though, with 5 position papers, 1 personal bioethics paper, a presentation on critically ill newborns, two ethics-in-the-news oral reports, and continued reports on the textbook we are slowly working our way through. It tires me out just writing it! At least I have a focused 9 or so hours after class in which to work on homework, though by the time I've eaten lunch, done necessary cleaning and shopping and laundry and cooking, caught up on my favourite TV shows and called home for hours, well, let's just say that my allotted time is drastically reduced!

I am feeling a touch of a breeze so I must take advantage of it and attempt to fall into dreamland before it passes! If you're bored like me, enjoy previous episodes of The World's Biggest Loser online. Go to www.nbc.com and click on Shows in the top left-hand corner, then select The Biggest Loser.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Havin' a Whale of a Time

Ah, I never did finish writing about my luvely weekend off, so I shall bore everyone with a few paragraphs or so!

Sabbath morning a week ago I woke up with a marvelous headache (due to lack of sleep and dehydration) so I skipped church and slept instead. Around 3:30, Heidi and Joan and I hopped into our cute red Chevy, set the GPS and headed east to the Atlantic Ocean. We followed a combination of map, GPS, and then map again to make it to the Winthrop Beach, avoiding tolls along the way. Free parking, a slightly polluted beach with gray sand and a lot of seaweed and broken seashells, and several hours of downtime made for a relaxing Sabbath afternoon. Then we headed back, stopping at a rest area to grab something to eat.

Sunday morning I was up early. Everyone else had other plans, so I found myself zipping down the Mass Turnpike into Boston's downtown as I listened to a country station and obeyed robotic commands to "turn left after zero point six miles." Even with GPS, though, I managed to miss parking on the first time around, and of course every other road would be a one-way, but I eventually parked, collected my tickets and entered the darkened aquarium. If you do happen to be in Boston, don't bother going to the New England Aquarium unless you have little kids, and even then it may not keep their attention long enough. I don't think I have ADD, but after about 45 minutes I had seen all the exhibits. Of course, being one who likes to visit any zoo, aquarium, and national park that I can get to, it could just be that I had seen most everything already. But I think the Monterey Bay Aquarium has more to see with more interactive exhibits and feeding stations. I did enjoy the Dolphins and Whales 3D movie at the adjacent Imax Theatre (and got a $3 discount using my AUC student card which I promptly used to buy popcorn and cookies!) and learned that there are many common species which are in danger of extinction right now, which is very sad. After watching a fur seal training demonstration back in the aquarium, I grabbed some lunch and got in line for the whale watching tour. The sun came down hot that afternoon so I was happy for my miniature sunscreen I'd picked up at Target before coming out to AUC. Once on the ferry, which seemed rather small to be heading all the way out to the open sea, I firmly ensconced myself at the front of the ship and held on tight to the railing. I had taken homeopathic travel-sickness tablets an hour prior and tried not to worry when they said we would be encountering 2-foot waves on a choppy sea and that if we thought we might be prone to seasickness we should take Dramamine immediately. It was a lovely trip out but I'm pretty sure those waves were higher than 2 feet, they felt more like 4 feet or higher, especially when we were going up and down in the midst of them! We saw several humpback whales but I was disappointed that 1) there were so many people on the boat that you couldn't see the whales each time they were spotted 2) the whales were usually quite far away and 3) we didn't stay out as long as I had hoped. But I did get a few good pictures, for which I'm happy :)

The best part of my afternoon was quite unplanned. After I ran back in to the gift store to buy one last thing (I know, I know, I love gift stores, and I know I could probably find similar things at some cheapy garage sale or in the free room or Salvation Army, but every now and then I like to treat myself with something that doesn't smell musty, dank, nasty and used!) I wanted to walk around Boston a little longer. It was only 6 pm and was too early to head back home, but I am not a very adventurous person and was hesitantly unsure whether it was safe to wander about as a single woman. I decided to just walk a few streets over from the parking garage and found myself in what looked very much like downtown London. Quincy Market, or Faneuil Hall Market Place, is a fun place where street artists, live theatre, funky stalls, and people mingle as skyscrapers tower above. Quincy Market itself is a long narrow building that must house at least 50+ fast-food sections with any food you could imagine available for a rather expensive fee. I paid $4.50 for 6 little pieces of avocado rolls but felt it was money well spent for the quality of the food. I bought a Napoleon pastry for old times sake, but had forgotten how much custard is in one and didn't find it as tasty as I had imagined. Elvis was doing a live show at a seafood restaurant so I enjoyed listening to "You Ain't Nothing but a Hounddog" and "Love Me Tender, Love Me True."

This Sabbath I am relaxing after a hectic week of classes. I am grateful for the quiet time to read, blog, look at people's pictures on Facebook, and listen to my favourite music on Pandora while a breeze keeps me cool and distant church bells chime out the hour with a tune or two. Maybe I'll go for a walk later, if the mosquitoes aren't too voracious!

Recommended reading: Once in a house on fire, by Andrea Ashworth and Daughter of China by Meihong Xu and Larry Engelmann.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sometimes there is no light at the end of the tunnel

"Have faith," people say. But what do you do when you have no more faith left? When your heart is so empty you can feel it? When the tears leave you gasping for air and you don't know if they will ever end? "God is in control," they say. But what if God is nowhere to be found? How do you reconcile haunting pain and uncertain fear with a "loving" Father? Who holds you close when there's no one there? "Don't worry and don't give up hope, you'll see, God will come through," they say. It's easy to hand out cliches like lollipops when you don't know what else to say. But sometimes all you need is a gentle hand reaching out and a word of understanding. Someone to sit in the darkness and cry with you.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sleepy zzzzz's

Listening to No More Tears, by David Nevue. I absolutely love his music, but of course on Pandora they always play music from CDs that are $14.99 on Amazon and usually not much cheaper used! I created a station with Fernando Ortega and it has the most relaxing tunes :)

I'm super tired. Even now, I could drop off to sleep right now, but I just ate a huge Napoleon (cake, not person!) and a bunch of other tiddly bits for supper at 9 pm and figured I should stay up a bit before retiring. It's been a lot of late nights, usually after midnight, for the past week or so because of the heat. It's impossible to go to sleep when it feels like 103 with 99% humidity and there's no a/c, no fan, and not even a breeze! Thankfully tonight it has cooled down significantly so I shall be able to nod off to dreamland much easier!

Friday was quite the adventure. About 3 days prior I had reserved a rental online with Enterprise just down the street from AUC and they were going to pick me up to get the car and everything, plus it was really cheap, so I was super excited. Until I was at the counter presenting my card and was informed that I needed to have a major credit-card to rent their car. I guess they have a pretty strict policy, so I found myself back at the dorm with no car, 2 friends ready for a day of adventure, and I'd already purchased a $55 ticket to the New England Aquarium online for Sunday. However, I am my mother's daughter, so less than an hour later I had booked another car over the phone from Hertz and they could pick me up even though they were almost 30 minutes away. Even though it was twice the price, the service was worth it! So slightly later than we anticipated, we pulled out into traffic in a beautiful red Chevy Cobalt '09 with GPS and great airconditioning, headed for Martha's Vineyard. (that is my next dream car)

The day was absolutely amazing. Not a drop of the 30% chance rain fell, the sky was blue, and clouds conveniently shaded the sun every so often so we weren't burnt to a crisp. With the extremely handy GPS calmly telling us where to go, we found parking, hopped on a shuttle bus, then took a ferry over to the island where we clambered on to our aging tour bus. The friendly tour guide was a native who had all kinds of interesting stories to tell (which I've forgotten now) and who also seemed to be best friends with Bill Clinton (former president) as he somehow worked Clinton's name into every other sentence! We toodled around the entire island, saw all six tiny towns, stopped in the town of Aquinnah for snacks and saw a little lighthouse, and saw the place where Jaws was filmed. After our ride, we wandered about the town of Oak Bluffs, going in and out of fun shops and eyeing handmade fudge that cost $18 for 3 pieces. The restaurants were outrageously priced and we'd just about given up hope of finding anything under $20 for one item, but Heidi, Joan and I finally stumbled across Linda Jean's restaurant, a family-friendly place with student-friendly prices and something for everyone to enjoy (hey, that sounds like a great advertisement!). I ordered the Portobello Wrap which came with such fresh grated carrots, shredded lettuce, and just-cooked baby beetroot slices that I realized I have been missing good tasty vegetables. The caf here is fine but it doesn't taste the same! Then we headed back on the ferry, enjoying a lightning storm on the ride back to the mainland.
I've started my final class for this summer, Christian Bioethics, and spent 5.5 hours on homework this afternoon. I was excited at first about this class because I think I shall actually be learning stuff and feel like I'll be challenged to stretch academically, but being tired, I don't quite appreciate it as much, plus I'm worried about getting in all the extra things that have to be worked on throughout the week. Oh well! It's only 2 weeks, and now it's even less, till I go home!!! I'm almost ready to go back to work. Almost. Give me another year or two, and then I'll be super ready!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

It's a Holiday!

Wow, what a day! Or rather, what a weekend! Shan't be long, it's late and tomorrow I have to be up by the crack of dawn (why do we call it the crack of dawn anyhow?) to rush the rental back to Marlborough (an actual town in MA) and get back in time for my 9 am class. Fun fun fun! (not!)

I shall write more later, but simply had to blog a little since it's been 4 days n' I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms!!! This weekend was exactly what I needed. No classes, nothing. Just 3 straight days of fun. I went to Martha's Vineyard, Winthrop Beach, Boston, and Salem (NH). The best part of it all? Still haven't decided if it's driving a cute little bright red Chevy Cobalt 09, seeing the amazing scenery, or enjoying my independence. I think, though, the best part would have to be getting off campus and getting away from it all. Now I feel fully rested and ready to start classes tomorrow. Not really. But it sounded good. Naw, I think I'll just stress out for the next 2 weeks about going back to work! Okay, enough with the wisecracks. I'll post a couple of pictures later but for now. . .g'nite!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Anyone Selling a Comfy Mattress?

I think I found a new hobby. Selling books online. Seriously! Okay, so I've only sold one so far, and my other attempts at selling outdated 3-editions-too-old textbooks didn't work out so well in the past, but I have sold one!!! I'm super excited! See, I bought my research methods textbook off www.half.com and got the current edition for 1/3 the cost because the entire spine came off, but all the pages still stuck together so the seller said it would be just fine. This morning, during my last class session, I went to www.amazon.com and listed the textbook, for $10 higher than I paid for it. It's the current edition, and my price was still $20 below anyone else's price. And hours later, I checked my email to find that it was sold! Already! So I'm happy and now I'd better make sure I send it off first thing in the morning so it gets there on time and the buyer is happy :) I wonder. . .if I were to find a way to get books for low cost or free. . .I could make a ton of money. Maybe I should take up dumpster diving? Nah, not that desperate yet! But garage sales. . .now that's an idea!

Today was a difficult day. It's been getting hotter and hotter this week and I think the all-time heat wave has struck. I discovered the exciting world of yahoo messenger's webcam with mic at about 10:30 last night and started happily talking away to my family. I don't know why it is that when one is on camera, one feels the need to make weird and amusing faces, but I saw sides of my family I had never seen before! (or would you call them angles? hmmm, maybe dimensions or perspectives. anyway!) When we signed off an hour later, I was still not sleepy so I wasted more time on Facebook and watched America's Got Talent. Oh yeah, if you're super super bored, you can watch it on www.hulu.com. So after seeing a man who "made salad" by having someone throw cabbages at a running lawnmower that was balanced upside down in the man's mouth, and hearing a judge try to sing "When you walk through the rain" except it sounded like he was walking on sharp nails, and he couldn't sing to save his life, and after watching a bunch more people who had absolutely no talent to speak of, try to convince the judges that they were the world's next best act, I finally decided it was time to try and sleep a bit. . .after midnight. . .and it was closer to 1 am before I nodded off. As I've said before, I have a bed that could rival Noah's wooden board in the ark and it's probably been around as long! This makes for rather uncomfortable sleeping quarters, especially when my feather pillow looks so perfectly fluffed, but as soon as my head hits the pillow it flattens to a thread and I find my head bouncing off the military-issue puke-green mattress.

Suffice to say, with an 8:30 am class, I was seriously lacking sleep today. Class was worse than usual and by the time break came around, I had had enough and I was ready to go home, straight away! I headed for a walk, scrolling through my limited friend list on my cheapy cell-phone but realized that with the time difference I would have to get someone out of bed to hear my frustrations and decided I would spare my friends and family, for the moment at least! But God is always there and He is always ready to listen, for which I am most grateful. Then at lunchtime I called home and my dear mom got to hear all my gripes! The older I become, the more I realize how important it is to treat others with respect, to show oneself friendly, and to think of how I would like to be treated and treat others accordingly. The Golden Rule.

By the way, the humidity is 71% right now with 77 degrees F. And at Weimar it's 17% humidity with 97 degrees F. I'll take the 97/17 any day! Plus there's airconditioning at home. Here, not even a fan dares to show its face in the building for fear of being mobbed!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fulfilling His Purpose For Me


Today is one of those perfect summery days when the sun is out but is hidden behind companionable clouds, a breeze keeps it cool, and everything looks extra crispy clear after being washed by late-season storms. As I walk a now-familiar path, I contemplate the grasses waving about carefree and a thought comes to mind. All of my life I have been an overachiever. I'm always obsessing over whether I've done something right. In my last class I got 103% and was frustrated because I could have gotten a higher score if I hadn't been tardy the first day (and that was only because no one knew where I was supposed to be). When it comes to my life, I worry that I'm not doing enough, going far enough, becoming enough, or living enough. Then I look at a single blade of grass. Here it is, bobbing back and forth in the wind, and it appears to be doing absolutely nothing. Maybe it does serve a purpose, maybe it helps keep the soil in place so the hill doesn't wash down into the valley, or maybe it helps provide a spot for a little bird to sit or a hiding place for a field mouse. But mainly, all it does is wave about and hang on tight. And maybe that is all that God is asking this single stalk to do. I'm sure that if God gave beetle legs to the stalk and asked it to wheel on over to another stalk and help hold it up or to cover up a bare spot on another part of the hill that the stalk would be happy to do so. Until then, however, all the blade of grass will do is hold on tight, serving the purpose that God created it to complete.

Experiences in the Grasslands

The other day I headed for Dexter Drumlin, eager to get in a bit of exercise before I lost my nerve and ran back to my room to hide away, watching movies online for hours while eating junk food. As I headed up the grassy path towards the top of the hill, sandals in my hand, I glanced over my shoulder repeatedly to make sure that no one else was set on the same walk. The sun was beating fierce, as summer was finally peeping around the corner, and my steps slowed as I trudged along. I looked around once more, starting to feel uneasy and wondering whether I should head back. Several cars had arrived and people with their dogs were preparing to enjoy the sunny day and I wasn't so sure I wanted to be around a bunch of noisy bouncy dogs. It was then that I looked down and saw a flash of movement as a small 8 to 12 inch black snake slithered off the path into the tall thick grasses that surrounded me. I shivered, then immediately stopped to slip my sandals back onto my feet, not relishing the thought of stepping on one of its cousins barefoot. After another ten steps or so, I decided it was time to turn around and did so, at a slightly faster pace, and headed for home.

Here's a clip of Dexter Drumlin (listen closely to the birds and other insects)



video

Ever Thought About Becoming A Teacher?

So sometimes it's dry for spells and other days it pours and today is one of those pouring days. As in, I have a ton of stuff to say, some of it which has been swirling about in my mind for the past few weeks, so get comfortable, grab a glass of water and an apple, and enjoy!

I've discovered that I could become a teacher. Okay, when I was small I decided I was going to become a missionary-doctor-nurse-teacher when I grew up so I could heal people and tell them about Jesus at the same time and of course I would teach all their little kids about Jesus too. Now that I've "grown up" I no longer want to be any of the above, naturally, but I do remember those teen years when I was trying to decide which career to pick and everyone thought I should become a teacher. Being a good teenager, I rebelled against the thought, and to this day, reply vehemently in the negative when people ask what I studied in college/am studying now and ask ever so sweetly, "Oh, and are you a teacher then?" I don't know if I exude "teacherness" or if I just look like a teacher or if perhaps it's my natural bossyness that comes from years of practice as the oldest of three, but I do know that being a teacher has usually been one of the farthest things from my mind. Until today. Now don't get all excited and go running to the next person and start exclaiming loudly that Maria is now going to become a teacher, because it is still not #1 on my list of things-to-do-in-my-lifetime! But let me explain.

This week we're sitting in Research Methods (thankfully it's almost over!) and as a practical example of how to do a research project, we are hearing from 4 different students who completed a project over the last year. The presenter today, a Mrs. Smile, got up and started her PowerPoint presentation, and while she was rambling on about differentiation and inclusion in a grade two elementary school, my mind began to wander. About three quarters of the way into the presentation, a light bulb went off. I could do this! Not a research project (which I could do if I had to, but it isn't required, yay!), but be a teacher. I could be a teacher. I could even be an elementary school teacher. All I have to do is teach. It is that simple. See, I'm not one to talk about something unless I'm absolutely sure that what I'm saying is correct. So I always thought I could never become a teacher because I would have to do know absolutely everything about the subject(s) that I was teaching, especially if someone asked a question about the topic. But here was someone who was just getting out there and teaching. She may not have been the world's authority on every single area that grade two inquisitive minds are eager to probe, but she was a willing teacher, learning right along with them.

Definition of a teacher: someone who is organized, loves to share knowledge, cares about people genuinely, and is determined to help others discover while learning. I can do that.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Um. . .

. . .okay, it's 11:28 pm and I'll admit it, I'm still up!

Here is an awesome clip from America's Got Talent, Kevin Skinner singing a Garth Brooks song. Skip to 2 minutes if you don't want to hear the intro, but listen to the song, he has an amazing voice! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lzul5rxd-i8&feature=related

Oh and by the way, I got 103% in my first class this summer (Christian Marriage & Family). Yaaaay! (I would have gotten even higher except I missed the first 30 minutes of class on Monday rushing madly about trying to figure out how to register). Hopefully I'll do as well in my second class—fingers & toes crossed!

Fancy A Slice of Cheese, Anyone?

Okey dokes, it's been a bit since I've written, namely because I haven't quite felt up to blogging and because nothing really exciting has happened, but it's time to get back into the routine :)

I think I need more sleep. This morning, in a rush to get to class on time, I flew down the stairs and into the kitchen, hurriedly pulled a pita out of the fridge and grabbed a mini spreadable cheese. You know how the individual slices come pre-wrapped? Well, I rushed over to the disgusting trash can that houses multitudinous fruit flies along with all kinds of unmentionable and unsmellable garbage, and in one swift movement I unwrapped the cheese, pushed open the trash can and flung into the depths of grossness. . .my cheese. I looked and there, in my left hand, was a now-empty cheese wrapper. In my right hand was nothing but in the trash can was my once-tasty Garlic and Herb slice of La Vache Qui Ri. Needless to say, I was a little more careful as I unwrapped a second slice!

In case you haven't been there lately, head on over to http://instoresnow.walmart.com/In-Stores-Now-Free-Samples-And-Trials.aspx and pick up free fun samples.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Black and White? Or is it Gray?

What a week it's been! It flew by (I'm still somewhere in Tuesday!) but was not without its share of challenges. A few down days, a rather frustrating class, and now trying to decide whether or not I should stay for the last two weeks, whether it's worth it. But as I walked up the stairs this evening, rubbing at a rather itchy mosquito bite I had picked up when I dashed out to look at the last bits of sunset, I smiled to myself and said, "at least there are no mosquitoes in my room! Or ants! Or even cockroaches or centipedes." So there is always something to smile about :)

Today Heidi and Serai and I walked in to town to pick up some groceries. I had a few things on my shopping list, of course buying about 50 more than I really needed. Then Rosemary called Heidi and said she'd take us in to the Market Basket, a cheaper store. I absolutely loved it! Found some prizes, like a 99 cent English cucumber (this one's gone in the vegetable bin where hopefully it won't freeze!), La Vache Qui Ri (the laughing cow spreadable cheese), apple sauce with no added sugar, ramen noodles!, my fav TLC soft granola bars (splurged and bought a box for $3), and Near East Couscous. My best find was a tub of hummus and soft "baladi" type of bread (like the kind we get in Holland!). I was super happy about that. Now I can eat a baladi with hummus and cucumber rolled up in it. Give me a sandwich of any kind (salty of course!) and I'm happy :)

Here's a question for you: if you're in a place where you are starving and all you can eat is unclean meat (eg. pig), what will you do? Will you eat it or will you abstain?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wednesday's Post, July 8 (posted on Friday!)

So here we are. Contemplating the meaning, or sometimes meaninglessness, of life. Okay, don't worry, I'm not going to get all philosophical about deep things or anything like that. I'm just sitting in class, for which it is true, I paid 1/3 of the cost to take it than at any other college (except for community college!), but I still feel like I am wasting my time. Plus I'm bored. And I just spent 5 minutes replying to inane questions that drive me up the wall! "There seriously must be more to life than all of this, " a thought that has been hounding me for some time now. We spend our lives doing what people expect us to do, graduate from college, get married, go for further education, buy a house, get a car, have kids, travel to Europe or Hawaii, and retire in style. Or you have those who spend their lives "rebelling" by doing the exact opposite of what they are expected to. There should be more, though. More than sitting in a classroom, listening to people rehash the same old same old stories. More than sitting in an office, or in a committee meeting, listening to people rehash the same old same old stories. Or maybe there isn't more. I don't know. I just know that I'm beginning to lose my patience, I'm getting antsy, and I'm not sure how much more of this I can take.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday's Post

It poured again today :) Research methods class isn't very challenging so far, we had to read one chapter and then the teacher reviewed it in class the next day, so I amused myself with reading the day's headlines online! Maybe I have ADHD, tehehe. Spent the afternoon watching movies, I guess I need to resign myself to the fact that I'm on a very expensive vacation in rather crummy quarters and just deal with it!

Till tomorrow then,

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Square Hole

Pondering the concept of marriage & companionship today (I just finished a 2-week class on the subject!) a thought came to mind. You know how people say, "You need to let God fill that hole inside you." when someone says they are looking for a spouse, or for a father/mother figure? Well maybe God created us so that while He can fill that void, it isn't quite the same as when a person fills that place.

Kind of like a square hole. You can put water in it or you can put a square peg in it. One fills it; the other completes it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Smilin' & Icecream

Today was tons of fun :) Actually, this whole weekend has been fun, and it's primarily because I'm making FRIENDS!!!! and I'm really happy about that. As always, I choose all kinds of interesting friends, so here at AUC so far I've befriended my roommate, Joan, my classmate Heidi and her daughter Serai, and another classmate Rosemary. We all click and since there's five of us and Rosemary has a car, it's just perfect! We toodle around town, driving here and there, and having a blast. Friday we hopped from Panera Bread to the mall to the circus and today we tried the most delicious homemade rich and creamy icecream and picked up cheap movies at Blockbuster. I also got to do laundry today (yaaaaay!) so now I can relax for the next two weeks :P What was really neat today was finding out that Joan was also worried about having a roommate and she prayed that God would give her someone quiet and God answered both our prayers! Tomorrow starts another class, I'm trying not to stress out about it until I know how difficult it will really be, but I do hope it's slightly more mentally challenging than the last one. Ah well, we shall see! 'Tis almost 10 pm so I shall sign off for now. Remember to always show yourself friendly, and in due time, you will make the best of friends :)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

True Religion Is This. . .

"But You, O God, do see trouble and grief; You consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless." ~Psalm 10:14 NIV

In the last five minutes 20 women were battered in the United States and 1050 children died from abuse or hunger around the world. What are you doing about it?

As I reflected on the tiny things that we obsess about, and read the statistics about how many women and children are being abused daily, every minute, it made me take a step back and think. Here I am, complaining that the bathroom isn't clean, that it's raining when I wish it would be dry, and that I can't sleep because the door keeps banging from the wind, when people are struggling to take their next breath or to find the basic necessities of life like food and shelter.

In class yesterday, a group shared the following clip from YouTube that hit home. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvBKlBhfgPc I was shocked first, then angry. Now I'm trying to figure out how to channel those emotions into positive actions to help educate men and women so the cycle will stop. I realize that as long as we live in this sick world, it can never completely stop, but one cannot give up hope and say, "oh well, since I can't save the world, I might as well not try to help one person, or two, or more." I have a responsibility, I cannot turn a blind eye and pretend the problem isn't there, and now it remains up to me to decide whether I will choose to stand for right and condemn evil.

I believe that if every single person out there who had a conscience were to do something about it, abuse could be eradicated. Everyone may not be going about it the same way, but we can work together for a needed intervention. One can write articles, one can open up a homeless shelter, one can raise funds, one can be a counselor, one can volunteer, and another can pray.

One of my favourite ministries http://www.adra.org/ helps provide for basic needs and education. There are other ministries out there who are active also; we do not have the market on helping others and we cannot do it all. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming, I know I want to do it all and I worry that even the small things I can do now aren't enough. But God doesn't ask that we do it all. He says,

si tu donnes ton pain à celui qui a faim et si tu pourvois aux besoins de l'opprimé, la lumière luira pour toi au milieu des ténèbres, et ton obscurité se changera pour toi en clarté de midi, (French)

Geef de hongerigen te eten! Help mensen, die in moeilijkheden zitten! Dan zal uw licht vanuit de duisternis schijnen en de duisternis om u heen zal zo helder worden als het licht overdag. (Dutch)

你 心 若 向 饥 饿 的 人 发 怜 悯 , 使 困 苦 的 人 得 满 足 , 你 的 光 就 必 在 黑 暗 中 发 现 ; 你 的 幽 暗 必 变 如 正 午 (Chinese)

si te dedicas a ayudar a los hambrientos y a saciar la necesidad del desvalido, entonces brillará tu luz en las tinieblas, y como el mediodía será tu noche. (Spanish)

إِن بَذَلْتَ نَفْسَكَ لِلْجَائِعِ، وَأَشْبَعْتَ حَاجَةَ الذَّلِيلِ، فَإِنَّ نُورَكَ يُشْرِقُ فِي الظُّلْمَةِ، وَلَيْلَكَ الدَّامِسَ يُصْبِحُ كَالظُّهْرِ، (Arabic)

und wirst den Hungrigen lassen finden dein Herz und die elende Seele sättigen: so wird dein Licht in der Finsternis aufgehen, und dein Dunkel wird sein wie der Mittag; (German)

주린 자에게 네 심정을 동하며 괴로와하는 자의 마음을 만족케 하면 네 빛이 흑암 중에서 발하여 네 어두움이 낮과 같이 될 것이며 (Korean)

if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. ~Isaiah 58:10 RSV

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Still Up @ 11:13 PM

If you're bored, check out http://www.keirsey.com/ and take the personality test there. I found I'm an ISFJ (think my personality is changing, haha).

Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzmnTnMCODU for an excellent clip on cross-cultural marriages.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Breaking the Silence

We watched a powerful documentary in class today titled "Scared Silent: Exposing and Ending Child Abuse" and hosted by Oprah Winfrey. Several incidents of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse towards children are presented, both from the children and the perpetrators' viewpoint. I felt disgusted that people can even think of such horrendous acts, let alone carry them out, and if justice were left to me, every one of those awful people would have a "millstone tied around their neck" and would be "thrown into the bottom of the sea." Innocent children suffer. . .and for how long? We need to educate and carry out consequences instead of turning a blind eye. In class we hear about how the church, how society, and how parents enable abuse over and over, until it seems there is no morality left in the very fabric of our existence. It is sickening. And the voices of millions of children are crying out. . .is anyone listening?

Greasy Fries On An Empty Stomach

Feeling slightly frustrated after sitting in class all morning and then sitting in an office working on homework most of the afternoon, I walked back to my room, changed into capris, slipped my canvas sneakers on, and with Ipod in my pocket, headed down the back stairs to walk out some of the emotions swirling around inside of me. It had been a dreary depressing day with sporadic pouring rain, so I decided to stick to the sidewalks and began a loop around the main campus. After passing the guys' dorm and the science lab, I caught a glimpse of my favourite hiking grounds and knew that, rain or not, Dexter Drumlin was calling my name. Minutes later I was slipping off socks and shoes and squishing wet mud between happy toes as I headed up the knell where tall grasses now lay low after being squelched by the rain. "It wasn't such a bad day after all," I thought, "because here I am, in my most favourite place in the world." Yup, one of these days I'll probably get some serious disease or they'll find a 9-foot tapeworm inside of me because I insist on tromping barefoot through marshlands and grasslands, but there is nothing as therapeutic or as soul-filling as walking barefoot in thick new grass, so I continue on!

Today was not one of my good days. It started out okay, the weather had cooled down and there was a lot of fog, we had class as usual, and then right after class Rosemary, an older lady and classmate, invited me out for lunch. We went to McDonalds (fries and apple pies are about all I can eat there), then back to main campus to work on our group powerpoint presentation for tomorrow. I ended up staying there 4 hours while we worked on finalizing and refining it. After a rather greasy lunch (sorry Michael, I really didn't have a choice on where to eat!), I was feeling slightly queasy, plus I'd missed my regular after-lunch walk and had spent those 4 hours sitting on a hard wooden chair, so I was also feeling a tad bit grumpy. We finally finished and I headed to my room as quickly as possible. I contemplated watching a movie, for about 10 seconds, but realized I needed to get walking. . .and soon! It was the best thing I'd done all day.

Being here alone has really taught me a lot. When I went to Korea in 2005, my first time away from home for an extended period of time (10 weeks!), my mom told me one thing. She said, "Remember, wherever you are, we may not be able to be there with you, but God is always with you." I took that simple advice to heart and always went to God with my frustrations, fears, and joys. This summer has been no different. I am truly a homebody and the day I leave on a trip, I'm thinking about the day I will be coming home again (you understand, LaVonne!). I like having time to myself. I think I am actually at a stage in my life where I need hours of alone time each day. I used to think that I was so sanguine, I always had to have people around me, but strangely enough, I find myself relishing quiet time, time to rejuvenate, time out in nature, even just down time reading a book or watching a movie, because it's "me time." I realized today that I'm an overachiever in everything except when it comes to me. I am learning that I love to learn, I need time to get to know people, and I am happy in nature when it is on my terms and I don't have to go hiking up hill and dale or rushing around in wooded forests teaming with mountain lions, rattlesnakes and bears! I would also like to know the answer to one question: why do all the needy people come to meeeeeeeeeeeeeee???? And why does everyone feel comfortable enough to spill their life story within the first couple of weeks? Maybe because I am not afraid to tell them mine, so they feel comfortable?

Anyhow, the journey continues, and I can't believe it but tomorrow is Thursday already which means only two days left of this class. I'll admit, yesterday morning I was tempted yet again to go online and find a ticket home, and right now, the only thing keeping me here for the full six weeks is knowing that I can't go back and face everyone (plus I really don't want to go back to work yet!). Next week we'll probably, hopefully, have a more challenging class, but it's also not in my realm which may be why this last class wasn't as difficult, because I'd read so much about the topic before coming. Well, you'll be happy to know that I have a 110% overall score so far in the class (in 2nd place, 1st place is 113%) so I'm keeping my straight A average. The goal is to graduate Summa Cum Laude. . .we shall see!

Here's to hoping tomorrow is a brighter day. . .and that I get to eat in the caf for lunch. . !