30 December 2013

100 in 100

I'm not very good at following up on arbitrary goals I set for myself.  But I'd like to try to get better.  I'd also like to get back in the habit of writing for human consumption (even if it's only one person...hi Mom).  I'm going to try to write at least 100 words here every day for the next 100 days.  According to convertunits.com, 100 days from now is April 9, 2014.
I'm going to follow this self-challenge by its spirit and not by letter of the law - because, the letter kills but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor 3:6).  So, if I forget a day, it's not off.  Maybe I'll make it up with 200 words the next day...maybe not.
I'll also write about whatever I feel I can prattle about on that particular day...hold on because this could be a twisty ride.
According to the word count I'm already past 150...maybe this will be easier than I thought!  

15 October 2013


I have been on American soil for one year and two weeks.  The anniversary of my (hopefully semi-)permanent return to the US has stirred up all sorts of desires to dig out my passport, navigate public transportation in a language I don't know, spend extended hours in an airport, and listen to funny accents (funnier than Alabama accents, that is).

I miss traveling, I miss novel experiences, I miss diversity of peoples.  I miss the tension that resolves into satisfaction as one goes from feeling totally displaced to feeling comfortable - going from completely at a loss to being "in the know."  I miss eating ridiculously weird food just so I can say "This one time I ate jellied sheep's brains."  I miss being astonished at the unfamiliar beauty of a landscape.

They call it wanderlust.  I have it.  Bad.

I feel fairly confident that I will not only travel internationally again, but that I'll someday call another country "home" again.  And I not only recognize the value of the time I'm currently spending in the States, I am also thoroughly enjoying it.  And I'm definitely enjoying the fact that the whole country is obsessed with pumpkin for the months of October and November.

So I readjust the load, balancing wanderlust with rootedness, and journey on.

09 August 2013

If you get to North Carolina, you've gone too far

"If you get to North Carolina, you've gone too far."  Those were the final instructions in my mom's landmark-based directions to the secret woodland trail I was determined to find.  I laughed at the caveat, until we missed our first turn and crossed the North Carolina border.  Once we were on the right road, searching for the trailhead, we ended up in North Carolina again.  We turned around in the gravel driveway of a house that bore a sign: "Honk for service"  What kind of service?  You never can tell, with those North Carolinians.
We were headed back to the main road, having all but given up on finding the trail, hidden by years of memory, when the curve of a gravel side road caught my eye and I shouted, "Stop!"

My best friend and her husband were not only patient, but enthusiastic about searching for an unmarked trail I hadn't been to in oh, maybe eight years.  They are two people around whom I feel perfectly at ease being my genuine self, which is always a relief for an introvert.

Over a creek, hidden away in tall weeds, was an opening in the trees.  "This is it!  I think this is really it!" I crowed, and we piled out of the car.  We entered into the trail, enveloped by green and the patient words of the creek.

I'm not sure where the original knowledge of the trail came from, but my grandparents used to take us there in early spring.  We called it the Trillium Trail, partly because it didn't have a name we knew, mostly because the ground was covered in the elegant wildflower and when it bloomed, the forest floor was carpeted with fairy flowers.  On this cool Memorial Day, it was a little late for the trillium, but I had a deep desire to find the place and cement it in my mind as more than just a wispy, flowered memory from childhood.

Some trails have a solid feel, acceptable and approved places for human and nature to interact.  Ah, admire the wildflower.  Listen the birds.  Isn't nature a splendid thing for us to observe and enjoy?  Other trails, you feel as though you have stepped into a world quietly ignorant of you, a location out of time, not growing for our admiration but for the purity of its own existence.  You, the hiker, feel partly an intruder, partly a silent integration into the patient life cycle of the tangled woods.  Your words hang in the air when you speak them, then are hurriedly lost in the muffle of the trees.

It is those places that keep me going back to the woods.

Our discovery of a tiny spring house, green all over with moss, leaning permanently, confirmed that this was the place we sought.  I have a picture of my grandmother and my great aunt, in their older years but ever playful, pretending to hold up the leaning structure.  The spring house grows out of the hillside, over a tributary, as if it has always been there.  Looking up the hillside, we noticed one trillium variety still blooming: wine-colored petals hanging under a three-leaf umbrella.  I wanted to take pictures, because I always want to have pictures, but for all my wanting to have pictures I never can seem to remember to bring my camera.

We passed an older fellow who gave us a friendly greeting.  He seemed to know the trail personally.

The trail ended in a hot meadow at a turn of the creek.  We waded in the very, very cold water.  A trip to the mountains is not really complete until you stick some part of yourself in an icy creek.  We swung around on an old knotted rope but decided we didn't really want to get wet past our knees.  We headed back to the car and ate a picnic lunch by the water.  More people passed us.  It didn't feel so much like a secret anymore.

Back in the car, warm and sticky, we made our way back to the slightly flatter parts of Georgia.  I slept most of the way, tired and content.  Later we had a Memorial Day dinner with Katie's parents.

I hold this day in my memory as a reminder that days of simple and pure enjoyment exist, respites for us in a rocky life.  On that day, the sun shines, we laugh, we marvel at the tangled beauty of a Cherokee rose, we get mosquito bites, we sit quietly by the water.  The world had not yet turned sepia.  Everything is fresh and green and innocent.  

04 June 2013

About Judy

My sister and I were blessed to know and have all four of our grandparents into adulthood.  We were the only grandchildren on one side and two of three on the other, so grandparently affection was overabundant for us and our cousin.  They doted, and we loved them all.

There were four of them.  This is about the last one.  I couldn't manage to speak at her funeral last Saturday, although there was a lot I wanted to say.  So instead I am doing something I'm much better at: writing in silence.

The three of us called her Judy, and I'm not sure why.  That was her name (short for Judith), and my sister, being the oldest, made the decision to call her that.  It worked out ok, though; it rolls off the tongue like other pet grandma names - Granny, Mimi, Nana - but it's unconventional, like her.  She later claimed she wished we called her GrandmaMA.  She was dramatic.

Judy and Daddy Earl (a good Southern name for a grandpa) lived 5 minutes away from us until I was in highschool and my sister was in college, when we moved to a neighboring town.  Consequently, they had a huge hand in raising us.  We were always at their house, being taught, nurtured, scolded, fed, and doing chores.  They built their house when my sister was a baby.  It was weird - it had honey-blond wood floors and ceilings, 20-foot-tall windows on the south wall, a fireplace of stacked stone they had personally dug up in the yard of their stony, wooded 20 mountain acres, and a swimming pool in the living room.  I kid you not.    It was always full of light.  It always smelled like delicious bread or oil paints.  She had a tinny-sounding piano that I played every time I was over.

Judy was a city girl from Atlanta.  She studied art at UGA until her friends introduced her to a boy from a farm in South Georgia.  She quit school and married him.  It was the 1950s.  Her parents didn't like him at first, because he was country, but she told them it was a "non-issue".  She was going to marry him.  I know this because, in the last few months of her dementia, she announced to me she was quitting school and getting married and there was nothing I could do about it - it was a non-issue.  Later, her parents loved him, like most people did.

She was quite naturally a teacher, and she had three eager granddaugthers to whom she constantly imparted both skills and strong opinions.  Like,

How to make French bread
How to paint a shadow
Never to wear white after labor day
The name of every plant that grows in the North Georgia woods
The best way to listen to music in the house is as loud as possible...while your husband is in the garden

She would praise you with one breath and criticize the way you did something the next.  Small things were a big deal, whether it was how the phrase of an aria crescendoed poignantly or how so-and-so did such-and-such and she just could not believe that.  She liked to have parties.  Dinner parties with friends or pool parties for grandchildren & friends.  She believed strongly in being socially tactful, which balanced nicely with her husband's introversion and bluntness.  Also, your shoes and your purse should never clash.  That was a piece of advice I never could manage to retain.

I can't block out how her personality began to change, first slowly, then dramatically after my grandfather died.  How her world got smaller and smaller as her dementia got worse.  I hate dementia.  In a way I lost her, one of my best friends, three years ago.  But now I'm given the chance to grieve.  A formerly central pattern of my life is gone.  A person who I loved, who shaped me, is not coming back, and she no longer lingers in a hazy state of confusion.  Praise God.

There is a time for everything under heaven.

22 May 2013

Checking things off

Presenting the results of the completion (ish) of my D.C. bucket list!

We have...

The National Zoo

The National Arboretum (I have an unusual affection for trees)

It would appear that columns are grown, not built

A repeat of an old favorite, the Air and Space Museum on the Mall

Annapolis, home of the US Naval Academy, on a very cool and somewhat rainy day

Featured but not pictured:

The National Museum of the Marine Corps
      - volunteering there was a veteran of the battle of Iwo Jima.  We chatted, and I learned he taught music at Stanford University for years.  "Go to the museum website  and look up my name," he told visitors, "Frank Matthews - they have a lot of old pictures of me in the war and my story.  I don't like to look at all those pictures.  It's depressing - I was so much better looking back then."

Not checked off the list:
A return to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum

What remains most important to me, though, is not the places that I visited, but the fact that I got to see them (most of them) with my parents.  After having spent a year in another country, getting ready to move 800 miles away, not knowing in which direction the next few years will take me - it was really lovely to spend time with my parents, enjoying our shared interests together (nature, history, being nerdy, etc).  I think we're all pretty confident it's time for me to move out, though!

Now there is a new list - Things I Must Do Today Before I Leave Tomorrow.

11 May 2013

You and you only, first in my heart

You have been partly privy to it.  You've seen the reflection of changes in my life.  How experiences - gifts from God - have shaped, redirected my life.

You can recap if you like:

Ok, I'm ready!  Except, I'm not...
Rewind: Israel
Israel Rewind Part 2
Hobbits, Koreans, and Courage
Middle East, Episode II

Over the last couple years, my desire to serve long-term for God's Kingdom has been growing, gradually but steadily overcoming my desires to do anything else.  When I got back from Wales, I had a swell plan: get a nice job with my nice degrees, make money for a couple years, then go.  Except, I was having a really hard time finding a job.  And my heart wasn't into it.  And the thought of doing the 9-to-5 for two years while my true desires were elsewhere was seriously depressing.

You see, I was approaching it wrong.  I thought 1) I need to be a " financially responsible and respectable individual" before I can be a crazy missionary, 2) I need to get my house in order before I give it to God, 3) Work is separate from mission.  I still wanted to go....I was just, well, sidetracked.

A few months ago I had the honor of fellowshipping (it's a word, ok?) with a leader of the Chinese house-church movement.  If you know what Back to Jerusalem is, you've probably heard of him.  A few of my closest friends and I got to have dinner and spend quality with him.  At the end of the night he put his hands on us and prayed for us.  This man, who has suffered for Jesus like the apostles, who laughs and emanates the Spirit, prayed for us.  Prayed for our service to the Kingdom, on the mission field.

And I thought, what am I doing?  If I feel God calling me, why am I still frittering away my life on "man's empty praise"?  It's time to be obedient.

When he walked the earth, Jesus didn't call only people with respectable jobs, people who had it all together, and he didn't call people to follow him part-time.  He called people out of their respectable jobs, he called people without jobs, he called people with menial or really terrible jobs, and he said, "Leave it all and follow me."  He called people to give up their old lives and live a new one entirely for him.  He still does that.

God has blessed me with the opportunity to get hands-on training in a city that I love with people that I love while doing a job that I love.  So that's what I'm going to do.  I'm moving to Alabama in June to start all this.  As a big dreamer, I do a lot of talking about the things that I'm going to do.  It's time to stop talking and start doing.

09 May 2013

Is it just me or does this tree look like a troll?

Ran across a troll recently.

Luckily he had already been turned into a tree.  Wouldn't wanted to have met him (or her) as a Real Live Troll.

Exactly two weeks remain of my stay here in the D.C. area.  Three weeks until I move back to Alabama.  That's three weeks of jobless, aimless fun (and some packing), still feeling like a student but without all the homework and the pressure of graduation.  Two years since I graduated from college, seven months since I came back from Wales.  Sheesh.  If I often ramble on about the passage of time on this blog, it's because I can never quite grasp its ever-fluctuating but never-ending march onward, as places, experiences, people slip behind me.

Which is partly why I aim to be a good bit more intentional with my time and my life from here onward.  I'm sure I'll explain a little more in-depth in a future post.

15 April 2013

The Books Strike Back

It's movin' time.

Or, at least, packin' time.  Movin' time is kind of complicated, and involves more than one car trip south.  What that means for right now is shuffling my stuff around, getting rid of the excess, and packing it all in a well-ordered fashion.  This of course is super fun for me.  I'm not joking, it is legitimately fun - I may misplace things on a daily basis, live in a constant state of disarray, and put off necessary tasks until the last minute, but I LOVE to arrange and organize things.  It's like a puzzle - how can we arrange and store these items with the most efficient use of space, with the accessibility necessary, in the most logical way possible?  (I should mention that my tendency to live in disarray means that, when I do organize things, they don't stay organized, which means later I get to organize them again.)

Sometimes, organizing or packing is like real-life Tetris.  Especially when you're packing books.  Yesterday, I fetched a few book boxes from the garage (they're book boxes because they're small and sturdy) and went Tetris-crazy trying to fill every inch of space with book.  And I did a smash-up job.  Filled a box top to bottom with books, with hardly any nooks or crannies left unused.  Then I tried to move the box, so that I could start in on the next one.

It didn't budge.

So much for the most efficient use of space.  I took out 10-15 books, tried again.  Still wouldn't move.  Took out a few more, a few more, until finally it was light enough for me to pick up with some effort.  By then it was only about half-full.  Resigned, I filled the other two boxes half-full.  I need smaller boxes, and more of them.  Or I need to get rid of some books - but we all know that's not going to happen.

I promise I did not arrange these books to make me look as nerdy as possible.  It just happened that way.

This is maybe one-third or one-fourth of my books.  MAYBE.  

11 April 2013

Suddenly, Summer

I have been complaining for months now about the cold weather.  "I haven't had a summer since 2011, I am so tired of being cold!" was my main complaint; you see, Welsh "summer" is significantly cooler and wetter than even the coolest Georgia/Alabama spring.  Even if I say I prefer cooler weather, the (not cold) hard truth is that I'm Southern deep in my blood, and it's going to take more than 12 months to acclimatize me to a cooler climate.
Therefore, up until last week I was bemoaning the Spring that yet to show its face, still wearing sweaters and scarves.
And then Summer came.  And now I'm melting.
But at least it's pretty.

This is not a cherry blossom.  But it's still pretty.

04 April 2013

Let's Have Dinner

 Sharing a meal is often at the center of socialization.  Eating out is often at the center of socialization.  Why is this a good idea?  Well, you have a lot of choices, you don't have to do any work, and within a couple hours you have an out if you decide you've had enough socialization for one evening.

What about eating in?  I appreciate a good meal out as much as anybody, but as far as spending time with friends goes, I'd rather have a meal in with friends rather than go out.  Here are my top 5 reasons.

1) Communication.  Restaurants are often loud, you're crowded around a table surrounded by strangers, your server keeps popping up, and once you've finished your meal you have a limited time before the server starts eyeing you for taking up a table.  It's no coincidence this is at the top of my list; maybe it's because I'm a big fat introvert, but I'd take a quiet, private venue with the opportunity for sustained, personal conversation over a noisy, public place nine times out of ten.  I like to really get to know people and enjoy their company, and I think that a private atmosphere goes a long way in fostering that.  I mentioned above that eating out is a good way to have a set end to the socialization if you need to bow out early.  That's still true - but hopefully your friends would be sensitive to time.

2) Comfort.  I think it's far more comfortable to chill out in someone's kitchen/living room than in a restaurant.  And you can pop in a movie or play a game.  Relax.

Soup is easy, cheap, and delicious
3) $$$.  Assuming we're talking about restaurants a bit nicer than fast food, if you get everyone to participate in the cost of food, it's going to be significantly cheaper to cook in than eat out.  Now, I'm not suggesting that you prepare a huge meal and invite all your friends over for a dinner party; there's a time for that, but what I'm talking about here is casual, like hanging out + food.  Share the burden - if you're not hosting, bring food, come early to cook.  It doesn't have to be fancy.  Spaghetti is good, and cheap.

4) Fellowship.  This is kind of connected to Communication and Comfort, but goes a bit deeper.  Preparing a meal with people, helping clean up, hanging around while it's all going on - you get to know people.  You're doing life together.  If you're trying to make new friends, inviting them into your home to share a meal can go a lot farther than meeting them somewhere.

5) Food.  It may feel like there's more food options at a restaurant, but as someone with food allergies, I can attest that finding a dish that's free of allergens can be a seriously big hassle.  More than once I've ordered a dish and pushed part of it off to the side - or I've had to send something back because I asked for it without dairy and it came out with dairy.  This has been getting better in the last few years as more and more people are jumping on food-craze bandwagons or discovering they have food allergies, prompting restaurants to offer more allergy-conscious choices.  But then restaurant food often turns out to be a lot worse for you than you'd expect - cooked in creamy, buttery, sweet, delicious sauces.  Sometimes eating healthy means getting a salad without dressing, and honestly that just doesn't always fill me up!  When you cook at home, if you distribute food responsibilities, you can a) know what's in the food, b) be sure that there's an allergen-free option for your friends, and c) easily have healthy options.  Also, some of us (cough, me) love to cook, and feel silly going all-out for one-person meals.  Having friends to cook for makes me really happy.  You can share recipes and ideas.

Half cheese, half no cheese - perfect for sharing!
Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting you never eat out with your friends.  I'm just advocating for swapping some of those meals out for meals in.  You might find it's more fun and more rewarding than you expected, and a little easier on your wallet.
Another perq to having spaghetti is the artistic possibilities

29 March 2013

D.C. Bucket List

I'm moving in a couple of months (again).  An important task remains.

To see as much of D.C. and the surrounding area as I possibly can.

Sure, I've seen the highlights - the monuments, the Capitol, the White House, Mount Vernon, various exhibits in various Smithsonians - but it's time to cover the nooks and crannies of this history-obsessed place.  Time to be a professional tourist.  

Part of the Berlin Wall
Today we went to the Newseum, which is, incidentally, a museum of the News.  News/media/journalism, etc.  It's not a free museum and maybe not as exciting sounding as the Spy museum (which is a pretty cool museum) but it's massive, contains a huge number of interesting, engaging, and well-laid out exhibits, and it's interactive (if you want it to be).  Highlights include an exhibit on G-Men (the FBI) and the most famous criminals they've pursued, part of the Berlin Wall and a guard tower from Checkpoint Charlie, and a huge gallery of hundreds of newspapers and headlines  - the actual documents themselves, not pictures or copies - from the 1500s right up into the 21st century.  Papers from the American Revolution, the sinking of the Lusitania, WWII, the first Star-Spangled Banner (the newspaper of the US Armed Forces), 9/11, etc.  

Maybe you can tell that I find that really cool.  Of course, you can't touch them.  But you can peer at them in their little glass drawers.

The also have an exhibit about freedom of press and censorship around the world, with this map you may have seen, or seen the likes of:

Red covers countries with heavy censorship, Yellow for countries with a moderate amount of censorship, and Green for those with the most freedom of press.  Norway is said to be the country with the most free press.  If the status of press in a country changes significantly, they change the color accordingly.

Those are just some of the exhibits, off the top of my head.  If you go to D.C., try to take some time to see this museum.  It's not some collection of facts about news media history, it's an examination of how we perceive events (and how they're allowed to be perceived) and how that perception in turn shapes those events and later ones.  It's also a refreshing break from the ivory-columned galleries of Important Dead People's Stuff. (Not that I don't enjoy looking at Important Dead People's Stuff.)

Sorry about the lower quality photos than usual.  I was using R2D2.  R2D2 is my phone.  Because it's a (An)droid.*

Does it bother anyone else that R2D2 is a "droid" but he's not an android because he's not human-shaped?  Kind of like my phone, actually...

*I named it after R2 rather than C3PO because it's white with a blue case.  Also because R2 is way tougher.

27 March 2013

A home

A home is full of places for people to sit.  

It's comfortable, clean (although maybe not always tidy), and lived-in.  

It brims with function and beauty.  If something isn't useful, it's meaningful

Love rests in the corners and quiet comfort sits on the pillows.  

Stories linger in the air.  

There is always food and tea.  

Extra beds and blankets are tucked in the closets, because well, you never know who will come to stay.  

Every one who enters belongs.

21 March 2013

Get Smart: A Sophomore Perspective

A recent quest for some missing books and files led me to a wadded stack of student newspapers from my college days.  From sophomore to senior year, I wrote a regular opinion column, and I saved the newspapers to have print copies of the articles.  Yesterday I finally took the time to cut out and file away each article (though not the ones from senior year; I seem to have stopped collecting the newspapers after junior year).  This afforded me the opportunity to re-read all of my columns and come to grips with the fact that I have a past as a major smartass.

Truly, I was a smartass, and I reveled in it (and I think I would be lying if I said some smartassery didn't still linger within me).  I was sure that I had some special insight into intelligent, rational thought, and my column was my means for the enlightenment of others.  I was a fair epitome of the term "sophomore", i.e., someone who thinks they are much wiser than they actually are.  My column was actually called "Get Smart."

The day we took pictures to printed with our columns, we took "serious" and "silly" photos, and like any normal college students, picked the silly ones to print.  I was wearing aviators in mine and making a "wry" face.  My (affable and forthright) philosophy professor said to me once, "You know...you kind of look like a pothead in this picture!"

My column was fairly popular and sparked discussions in some of my classes, at least, and I don't necessarily disagree with most of what I wrote.  It's hard to articulate and back up an opinion in 400-500 words (just look at my posts here), and I favored the blunt, witty approach.  Towards the end of my time there I had already begun to change, though; my topics turned from political to philosophical & theological, I renamed my column "Truth in Fiction", and I requested to write less frequently.  Apparently from that point I didn't care to save the print copies.

I truly enjoyed writing the column, up until the end when I just got tired of everything college.  I enjoyed being a fantastic smartass.  Yet, while I wouldn't mind writing regularly for publication again, I think I'm going to (try to) leave the sophomore me in college and instead make clarity and perspective my bywords.

17 February 2013

On Physical Health, from a personal experience

I fear that what I am about to write is going to make me seem like a hypochondriac - and maybe I am, just a little, but if I am, I was made into one by experience.  I'm not writing to gain your sympathy, but rather to encourage.  You are more than your physical limitations, and to demonstrate that, I'm going to tell you about mine.

I always had a lot of colds and sinus infections growing up, stubborn sinus infections that took a few weeks to knock down.  A favorite book of mine as a child was A Child's Garden of Verses. Reading this book and learning about the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, I learned that Stevenson had been a sickly child and had to stay in more often than play outside.  I wasn't sickly, but I got sick often enough that I missed a lot of lovely spring and fall days and felt like maybe Stevenson would understand my frustration.  One year when we went for a week in the mountains, I was sick the whole time.  Being sick is lame.  That's my official opinion and you can quote me on it.  After having chronic bronchitis for two consecutive winters as a teenager, I was treated for a weird and not particularly serious immune deficiency (IgG Subclass Deficiency, if you want to look it up).  And you know what?  I got better.  No more bronchitis, and only a couple of sinus infections a year.

While my family has never been particularly athletic (except for my great-grandmother, whose shortness I inherited but not her skill at sports), they've always been pretty tough.  My dad runs 4-5 miles a day, my mom has always been surprisingly strong, and we used to call my granddad the Energizer Bunny (like from the battery commercials) because he seemed to never get tired.  Although I did get some of my mom's physical strength, when I get sick or my endurance runs low, I feel like I'm being cheated out of my genetic inheritance.

Freshman year in college, I had to take the dreaded, required "Concepts of Fitness and Health."  The two options were running and swimming.  Since I'd been swimming since I was a wee babe, and running was seriously the most miserable thing ever, I took swimming.  Only, I suddenly found that I couldn't swim for very long without getting completely out of breath and feeling like it was all I could do to just tread water.  Curse your sudden betrayal, swimming pool, you had always been my friend!  I didn't know what was wrong but I tried, and I guess the teacher felt some sympathy (I did really well in all the written assignments) and I finished with an A-.  The following summer, I found out I had asthma, explaining why swimming was suddenly so difficult.

I have always loved hiking, and in late high school, I discovered I really enjoyed climbing, too.  They were ways I could do physical activity, be outdoors, and build my strength without triggering asthma.  I got some Five Fingers Shoes to hike and climb in.  Toward the end of college, I found that the more I walked and the more time I spent on an elliptical machine, the better my breathing got, until I stopped using daily medication for it.  I was feeling pretty good about myself and pushing myself harder and harder, not allowing myself to feel weak, until I fainted at the gym shortly after graduation.  I spent the whole summer feeling lightheaded and dizzy and fearing I would faint again, until the doctors finally said I had orthostatic hypotension and gave me daily medication to raise my blood pressure.  I was really afraid that if I pushed myself, I might faint again.  I stopped going to the gym, and I moved to Wales to get my Master's degree.  After I'd been there a week, I got a cold, that turned into a sinus infection that didn't really go away, that turned into bronchitis.  I felt like I'd come full circle.  I discovered that running in my Five Fingers was not as uncomfortable as running in regular shoes, but I couldn't run for more than a couple minutes.  I resigned myself to this limitation and didn't try often.  When I moved back to the US and back in with my parents, I put on my Fives and took advantage of the dry weather and nearby cemeteries, walking with bursts of jogging several times a week.  One day, I started running and kept going; when I stopped and checked my watch, it had been 7 minutes.  The next week, I jogged for 11 minutes; the next, for 14.  When the weather got too cold, I went to the gym to use the treadmill, telling myself I wasn't going to push myself so hard this time, that I was going to listen to my body, and aim for 30 minutes without stopping.  I ran for 15, 20, 25, until a couple weeks ago I finally reached 30.  Yeah, I went slow, but I kept going, and I did it without using an inhaler.

And now, I have a sinus infection.  Nobody's perfect.  Our bodies are limited.  But I can tell you, when I reached that 30-minute-mark, and I didn't feel like I was going to die, I praised God.  After 20 years of feeling physically inferior, it was a huge gift to make that slow 30-minute jog.  I have never been seriously ill, so I can't comment on that.  What I can comment on is feeling like somehow, intrinsically, constantly, you can't do.  I felt like that...but I did something that, just a few months ago, I couldn't fathom doing.  I know I'll never be an athlete, and I don't intend to be one.  I do intend to strive constantly to surpass my personal best, and to be able to manage my health without frequent doctor's visits (props to doctors, though, because they're awesome).  I want to be healthy enough for God to use my life in whatever way he sees best.

My life - not just my physical health - has been a series of "I can'ts" and "I would never's" that God utterly reversed.  I hope that continues, and I hope that by sharing it I can encourage you to believe that he makes all things possible.  Have faith!

19 January 2013

Sometimes I Think Too Much

Hmm...hello...you again, I see.  Well.  I haven't actually finished any books in the last month.  I have started plenty, though.  Some I didn't even know existed, until they caught my eye with tattered glory on the crowded shelf of a used bookstore...Well.  I'll tell you about them when I finish them.

I have mostly been doing a lot of mental processing (which sounds lazy, and maybe it is) and a good bit of job applying (and then job not-getting).  I think I would rather share with you some of the mental processing.

But first, I have to stop and say how disappointed I am in the weather.  In the last few days, it has snowed in every place I have lived, except here.  Nice going, D.C. Thanks.

I went to Georgia for a week.  I arrived in the midst of some really unfortunate circumstances that I'm not going to go into right now.  I'm just going to share a few thoughts that I had about roots, change, and cities.

First, cities.  Without realizing it, I've become accustomed to significant population density.  Not Mumbai or Beijing population density, but enough population density that there are a lot of people everywhere you go and public transportation is not only viable but really convenient considering how bad traffic is.  I took the estimable MARTA train in Atlanta from the airport, and even inside the Perimeter (that means we were technically in downtown) it wound slowly past block after block of abandoned-looking building.  Once I got a car, driving was a breeze, because there were so few drivers.  We went to see The Hobbit at 8 PM on a Thursday night and were the only people in the theater.  These phenomena used to be normal to me...now they are odd and echo-ey.  Which brings me to my next reflection.

I spent some time in both the city I grew up in and the city we moved to when I was in high school.  I went to our house, empty and cold, and rummaged around the storeroom looking for some missing books.  It's a really nice house, with a lot of really lovely memories.  Most of the people I encountered had strong, unabashed Southern accents (as it should be).  I was reminded how much I love not only my friends there (few though y'all are, you are more precious than gold) but the region itself; slow, balmy, friendly, mountain-surrounded N. GA.  Struck by the contrast between N. GA and D.C., N. GA and Cardiff, I remembered why N. GA is and always will be a part of what made me and where I am really from. But I also remembered why I don't live there anymore; why, at this point in my life, slow, balmy, and friendly are not what I need or desire.  If I could pick up that house, with its screened porch, pick up the lopsided little mountain I grew up on, pick up my friends and sweet tea and good grits, and have them with me everywhere, I would absolutely do it.  Because, even though I crave change and excitement and newness, what makes change difficult for me is the things I have to leave behind.

My poor computer is blowing out hot air like a politician.  So I think I will turn it off and maybe do some of that overdue reading.