Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thankful Thursday: With Friends Like That...

You know the rest: "... who needs enemies?"

I'm thankful for more friends than I can count, none of whom fall into this category. (Because those people are now enemies, haha.) Not so much Job, who's story I've been reading this week. Just when the guy is down and out, you'd think his friends might attempt to share an encouraging word. Or at least one of those platitudes that tend to make the friend feel better, but not so much the sufferer. You know, like "this is all part of God's plan." Absolutely true, but sometimes hard to swallow when in the middle of a terrible experience.

Instead each of Job's friends (and there are several) explain at length that Job must have an incomplete faith or a hidden sin in his life, and that is why God has allowed him to suffer. The best friends will be brave enough to confront you when you need to straighten something out in your life, but these guys were relentless; they couldn't point out Job's shortcoming and they didn't believe him when he said he was right with God.

Tomorrow I'm reading the end of the book, where God finally speaks after 35 heartbreaking chapters of silence. I don't think I've ever read through this entire book before, although I've certainly heard the Sunday School highlights many times. I'm glad that I already know that Job has a happy ending.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Welcome to San Diego State!

I just got off the phone with San Diego State, and the word is: I have been officially admitted for the Fall of 2008. I'm going to grad school!

Back on May 9, I had already received an e-mail with the same subject line as this post, with a qualification attached: that I had been recommended for admission by the School of Business but that official admission could only be granted by the Division of Graduate Affairs. It went on to say that I could expect a further update in about a week.

Having not yet received that update, I called the Business School a few minutes ago. They are re-sending my paperwork to the Graduate Affairs office, and explained that this final step is a formality, and that I can plan to begin classes in the fall.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

I Kid You Not

A week ago today, our church had a potluck outside and it was well over 90 degrees. It felt that summer had arrived in full force. By Tuesday it was overcast and cool. Thursday, the freeway I used to drive on every day was CLOSED because a semi truck blew over. On the train tracks next to the freeway, a train was blown off the tracks. Now we get high winds now and then, but this was actually due to a tornado. Seriously. Less than 50 miles from my home.

Toto, I'm not sure we're in California anymore!

So here's a couple funny stories related to this. Thursday, I heard the radio announcer discussing the area that was under a tornado warning. The announcer went on to describe what one should do to be safe during a tornado warning, including the suggestion to go to the basement. A great idea, but it is a rare home that actually has one of those around here. Guess the bathtub will have to do.

Technically, I was probably within the warning area, but assessed the clouds in the distance and just went about my business, because after all, we don't get tornados in California!! The lightning and thunder a few minutes later did rattle my nonchalant attitude... momentarily. By this time, I'm at the store, talking with the sales person helping me, and she mentions that with all this crazy weather - I kid you not - we were sure to have an earthquake next. I couldn't help it, I laughed.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Book: Into Thin Air

This book is a first-hand account of a successful climb to the top of Mt Everest in 1996, a climbing season that ended as one of the deadliest on the mountain to date. Krakauer's tale was both compelling and tragic, as several of those who died on the mountain were teammates who had become friends in the many weeks they had prepared to make the ascent to the peak.

The author joined an Everest expedition as both an experienced mountain climber and a journalist, intending to explore the "commercialization" of the mountain. In years leading up to his trip, many had been critical of those who "bought" their way to the top, but were perhaps not physically fit enough to meet the rigorous demands. His tale is interspersed with researched facts about the “business” of climbing Everest, the environmental impact, the history of the mountain, and the social, spiritual and political issues in Nepal and Tibet that have had influence over access to the mountain.

I will say that if I had little inclination to attempt such a feat myself, I have absolutely none now. The author explains that those who make this trek do so knowing that to do so is to risk one's life... but do it anyway, admitting there is some irrationality to the decision. For the privilege of enduring two months in a hostile climate with no guarantees of reaching their goal, climbers pay up to $60-70,000 or more.* I was more than fascinated to simply read the story, enjoying immensely the opportunity to "visit" Everest through Krakauer's words and photos.

Into Thin Air
by Jon Krakauer

* Cost mentioned is at the time of the 1996 season – use your imagination to determine what the cost might be today….

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Book: Shopaholic and Baby

This is the fourth installment in the Shopaholic series... all equally fun and entertaining. What's not to like about a girl named Becky who loves to shop... even until it gets her into trouble? Her bent for the dramatic leads the reader through all kids of adventures, some real, some just figments of Becky's wild imagination.

A fun read, to be sure... and the perfect book to read on vacation (like I did!)

Shopaholic & Baby
by Sophie Kinsella

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Home again

Oh, I love vacations. Seriously, it's those times away from the routine that make me wish for 2-day workweeks and 5-day weekends. I'd be broke but happy. I need to find work I can do from a laptop on the beach. That's the ticket.

Last week was wonderful! There was even some decent weather to be had, with temperatures in the 70's some days, and the rain held off so we didn't get wet on graduation day.

In Grinnell, Iowa, I visited friends Ben & Janice and their children Katie & Luke. We spent a lot of time playing in the park down the street from their house and in the backyard. The kids enjoyed riding their bikes, too. We squeezed in a quick visit to Pella which was still bright with blossoming tulips from the Tulip Time festival the previous weekend.

Then it was on to Rochester, MN to visit Dave, Sarah & Ella. Dave had to work, but we girls shopped until we dropped at the Mall of America, and we all made wishes when we threw pennies in the fountain. Rochester is home to a traditional Dutch Pannekoeken restaurant, so we tried that, too. Yumm!!!!

Last, but not least, I traveled to Sanborn, IA where our family stayed for the weekend so we could attend Dordt College's graduation in nearby Sioux Center. All 15 of us stayed together in a big 4 bedroom house, making for lots of fun family time, great food, card playing and relaxing together. It was great fun to see some of my far-away cousins and their little ones who are growing up WAY too fast. Thank goodness for blogs and e-mails and digital pictures.

Speaking of which... I'll keep this short on actual words, and let these photos do the rest of the talking.

Tulips in Pella, Iowa

Playground fun in Grinnell, Iowa

Make a Wish!

Pannekoeken Restaurant in Rochester with Sarah VB

Smarty pants is the one with the silly hat. Me with my cousins at graduation. (From left, Jane, me, David and Gina)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho...

... you know the rest! I started working part time today for a friend from church. He has a new company he's started, importing custom manufacturing projects from China, Thailand and Vietnam. Sounds interesting! And I can't help but acknowledge that this work opportunity was providentially arranged... it got around the church grapevine that I was laid off and looking for work, and I got a phone call inviting me to learn more. The hours are flexible, so it should be a great arrangement for the fall, when I hope to start graduate classes.

No official word yet from the university, but I hope to hear sometime this week. Now that it's been 4 weeks of the 4-6 they estimated, I'm beginning to get anxious. I'm not so much worried I won't be accepted at the moment, I'm just eager to have it decided so I can make plans for the fall.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Vacation Edition

Just a quick post - I am having a wonderful week visiting friends and seeing some of America's heartland. On Tuesday I drove for 3 hours and saw only a handful of towns between destinations on my route. It was beautiful! It helped that it was a perfectly clear, sunny day. Today I head to NW Iowa for my cousin's college graduation tomorrow, which will be celebrated with a large number of extended family members present.

Way to go, Dave! Congratulations!!

More details on my trip (and maybe a few photos!) next week when I'm home.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Thankful Thursday

When I acquired my first car, I was a senior in college. Gas hovered just under the $1 mark most of that first year. All of us knew where to fill up so the number of gallons of gas we purchased was less than the number of dollars we spent. It was a great game, and I know when I tell my kids about this some day they are going to roll their eyes like I did when dad told me gas used to be 25 cents.

Gas is officially over the $4 mark in my town; $4.03 to be exact. Yesterday on the evening news I heard the national average is now $3.60. But rather than wonder where it is that I can get some gas for $3.20 (and sure that it is much farther than reasonable to drive for a fill up) I have a few things to be thankful for....

First of all, I'm not driving 600-700 miles a week anymore, just one more reason why losing my job was not such a bad thing. One time, I actually went out to lunch on a sick day, spending the $10 I'd "saved" not driving to work that day. I know you're wondering why I went out to lunch if I was too sick to work, so for the record, I'd twisted my foot and could barely walk, so driving was out of the question.

I also don't pay full price for gas, I get a discount by buying it with my gasoline company credit card. Getting 5% off makes a big difference when gas is $4 a gallon, so when I see the price on the sign, I just subtract my discount. A word to the wise - if you decide to try this, please note that to make this worth it one has to pay the bill in full and on time so those pesky late fees and interest don't cost more than the savings.

Then there's my car, which I love, and which has great MPG. I would absolutely LOVE to be driving a small SUV or pick up truck, but I couldn't quite sacrifice the dollars it would take to fill the tank, so I picked a compact car instead. I still nearly passed out when it cost me $48 (well, actually it cost $45.59) to fill my 12 gallon tank, but then I remembered I only have to do that about once a week these days. THANKFULLY!

So, I'm fortunate to have some ways to cut costs on gasoline, but gone are the days when I started the car without considering the cost. So, what are you paying for gas? This won't be a scientific survey, but I'm just curious. If you want to play along, post a comment with your city, state and gas price.