Sunday, August 31, 2008

Spontaneous Non-Combustion

Nothing will get you out of bed at 2:12 AM faster than the smoke detectors going off. Holy cow. There's a smoke detector in every room, and they are linked to one another, so if the sound from one of them is ear-splitting, you can only imagine how lovely it is when the other nine chime in.

My first thought was to step into the hall to determine if I could smell smoke. Nope, not from my doorway. My bedroom is at the corner of an L-shaped house, but before I could set out in one direction or the other to investigate, the alarm stopped.

Sadly, the alarms in this house have a reputation for crying wolf, so while my gut reaction was to jump out of bed, my first conscious thought was "not again!!" No fire this time. Just another false alarm. In the middle of the night. Again. The false alarms are almost always in the middle of the night. After all, it would be so boring for a spontaneous fire drill to happen at 10 in the morning or during dinner when everyone is awake already.

It took about a half an hour before my heart decelerated to a point where I could think about falling back asleep. It sure felt early when the alarm clock went off at seven. I am really hoping there is not going to be a repeat performance.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Carpool

One of the best things about yesterday's orientation meetings was getting to meet a few of the people who are starting the same program as me. It turns out that one of them actually lives in the same small town I do, which is almost unbelievable, especially considering that home is 50 miles from campus. What makes this more unbelievable is that we are registered for two of the same classes, and have already discussed the possibility of carpooling one day a week. An auspicious meeting to be sure. Saving 100 miles (and three gallons of gas) every other week is definitely something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What a Day


[Orientation today. Not the first day of school, but kind of felt like it. It was all of the above and more. Tons of information that is both helpful and a foreshadow of the big challenge that is about to begin. College textbooks that cost more than my new iPod. (Holy $$$!!!) More decisions to consider about the specifics of my program. Trying to get my head around the critical factors with limited understanding. Suggestions for numerous things to do, associations to join, departments to visit right away to maximize the grad school experience. Did I mention "Overwhelming"?]

And just beginning.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Great Gift Wrap Idea

If there is one thing in this world I will probably never run out of, it is greeting cards and scrapbook paper. I don't know what possesses me when I am in the stationery section of the store, I am seduced by the beautiful color graphics and colors, and usually something comes home with me. On my last trip, I managed to bring home only four sheets of scrapbook paper, but they are for a specific project, I promise.

So anyway, I have all this scrapbook paper and I've been using it up quite a lot lately by re-purposing it into gift wrap. A 12x12 sheet is the perfect size to wrap a small gift, and these gifts always get comments about how pretty they are. So I thought I'd share my idea just in case there are any other paper-holics out there.

The trick is to place your item diagonally on the scrapbook paper, and fold each corner over on the back.

Then I take a strip of a contrasting paper to make a band around the package, add an embellishment or gift tag, and it's done. For this one, I used paper punches and layered the shapes, drawing the first letter of the recipient's name on the top one, monogram style. This little package contains a men's t-shirt, carefully folded. Since it's for a guy, it's rather masculine, but the gifts I've wrapped for girlfriends are much prettier.

----- * ----- * -----


I just did another one of these, and it falls into the cutesy category, so I thought I'd add it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Summer Olympics: Results

The closing ceremonies are over, and the Summer Olympics are done for four more years. One of my favorite bloggers threw out a challenge to readers to create their own Olympic events. I took full advantage of the opportunity to set some goals, and here are the results!


Results: GOLD
I made a substitution on one project, but actually completed at least 10 instead of the original 9.


Results: BRONZE
A bronze in this event represented maintaining my normal level of exercise and activity. That bum knee I've had kept me from stretching to reach a higher level. There's always 2012!

The Honeymoon is Over

Well, for literally months I've been completely enamored with Facebook, keeping in touch with far-away relatives, reconnecting with old friends, and spending spare hours playing word games. I considered it a good goal (why???) to reach 100 friends this year. Conveniently I have a lot of relatives, so that boosted my count quite a bit. I'm there now, no longer sure why that was important to me.

Now, I'm not so sure about this whole social networking thing. I mean really, there are some people for whom I'm perfectly content to wonder - or not - "what ever happened to them?" without ever needing an answer.

Probably we weren't ever that great of friends anyway. Or we happened to walk the halls at the same high school, but because you dated someone for a while 15 years ago that I'm still actually friends with, does not make you my friend. Being an ex-boyfriend... well, if we had pulled off "let's be friends," I wouldn't need Facebook to tell me that. Being a friend-of-a-friend that I met once 4 years ago does not make you my friend.

So if you are already my friend on Facebook, that means I am actually interested in knowing what's happening in your world. If it's been a long time, I regret not having been in touch. I am grateful for your friendship during a phase in my life, however brief or long ago, and hope that just maybe we'll be able to keep in touch better now. So I don't regret hopping on the bandwagon. It has been a lot of fun. Maybe I've reconnected with you there. And that was definitely worth it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lost and Found

Lost: 3-year old boy, blonde, fair, last seen wearing a green "Daddy's Helper" t-shirt and khaki shorts near lifeguard tower 7 at Huntington Beach on Saturday evening... an unknown number of minutes before one of the grownups asks, "Where's M?"

Uh, oh.

A period of time passes, relatively short in minutes but VERY long on worry.

Found: Above 3-year old, taking a relaxing walk on the beach. He is 100% unconcerned, and is definitely not looking for any of the more than 10 people who are looking for him, including the lifeguards. He's somewhat uncooperative when his rescuer insists that he come back to the fire pit where the rest of the group will eventually return to be thankful he's been found. Upon reuniting with his very worried mommy, M receives a new name: "DON'TYOUEVERDOTHATAGAIN!!!!!"

Our extended family was enjoying a family reunion at the beach, partly because M's family has joined us all the way from Wisconsin for their summer vacation.

I'm not a mom, and I won't pretend I understand exactly what my cousin and his wife were feeling and thinking in those minutes where we were looking for their son. M has a great mommy, by the way, only one bit of evidence of that being the obvious happiness and relief when she had her little boy in her arms again. Watching her hug him like she would never let go, I couldn't help but think of a loving God who warmly welcomes each of his lost children when they come to Him.

This morning I went to church, where as if by divine orchestration, the sermon was about the parable of the prodigal son. Honestly, I don't remember very much of the teaching. I just kept thinking about how grateful I am that this real lost and found story ended well. In my mind, I couldn't help picturing the image of M and his mommy in that moment when she raced across the beach to her son, wrapped him in her arms, and wept in gratitude and relief that he was not lost after all... but found.

Someday, I hope M's mommy can tell this story and smile. I smile already because I know I will never forget this example of a parent's love for her child, and how it spoke to my heart powerfully about God's love for me. When I dwell even for a moment on how God's love for each of his children is even greater than that of an earthly parent for their child, a big lump forms in my throat, and I am moved to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. I am unable to conceive of any other sufficient response.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thankful Thursday: All Better

You know when you were little and skinned a knee or fell off your bike and mom would kiss it and make it all better? Those little injuries that seemed so magnificent suddenly and magically disappeared, just because mom said so.

Well, mom didn't decree it this time, but my bum knee is suddenly and inexplicably "all better." As suddenly as it came on, the pain is gone. Earlier this week, my knee "cracked," like a knuckle cracks, and after that I haven't had any pain, so something must have snapped back into place. Woo-hoo!!

I consulted my nearest medical professional, who also happens to answer to "mom," and she speculates that there might be some loose cartilage rattling around that just got stuck in a random place for these last few weeks. Weird!! I really was about to call the doctor to make an appointment because it was starting to impede my life, not to mention my 5K training schedule, and mom definitely recommends I do that if it happens again. Which it might, because this is the second time in two years.

But for now, I'm glad to be back in action! I might not feel the same when the alarm goes off tomorrow at 6:30 so I can resume my 5K training... but I'll just have to convince myself that I'm going to feel really great after I've done my workout for the day.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rotten Tomatoes

Otherwise Titled:
Why Groceries Are SO Expensive These Days

I'm heading home from my vacation today, and I've split the return trip into three legs so I can stop off and see some relatives along the way. Today's route took me from the southeast San Francisco Bay Area east to California's central valley, then south to my aunt's house. The central valley is prime agricultural country, and has been for probably as long as people have lived here.

I had noticed on my trip north through the valley that I was passing a lot trucks just full of ripe tomatoes. They were also heading north, just at a slower pace, which I'm sure will surprise no one who's been in the car with me. HaHa. Today as I headed south, I noticed that even more trucks full of tomatoes were headed north. I didn't think much of it, other than the fact that it must be tomato season.

Then I began to overtake a truck heading south, and when I got closer I noticed that it, too, was full of . . . tomatoes. Is it just me, or is that just a little crazy? No, I'm sure it's not just me. I'm sure there is some reason why semi-truck loads of tomatoes are passing each other on the freeway, going opposite directions. Some reason that supersedes the common sense idea that if they traded destinations, it might cost less for that tomato I need at the supermarket.

Thankful Thursday: Vacation

This has been a wonderful week. Quiet, relaxing, and surrounded on all sides by God's creation. I took walks every day, enjoying the views of the ocean and the sound of the ocean crashing on the sand or the rocks, a sound I love. I got to take pictures of this photogenic place, so I can enjoy the memories when life is not so peaceful.

The book I'm reading right now, Captivating, talks about how beauty is important in our lives, that it somehow speaks to our souls in ways that nothing else can. Everyone sees beauty in different things and in different ways, but it has the same effect on us. I have always enjoyed being near the ocean, it's simply one of my favorite places on earth, a place that I can soak up beauty. And a place where I feel closer to God that just about anywhere else.

I like it because to sit in the sand and see nothing but ocean means that for a time, I can turn my back on the world, tune it out and just be. It's as if the shoreline really is the end of earth, and somewhere beyond the horizon where water and sky meet is the heavens, and God is there. His hands created everything I can see and touch and smell in that place.

This week had no agenda, no deadlines, and plenty of time to just be. Soon, my life will moving ahead at a pace I'm not sure I'm capable of grasping. So these days were a gift I treasure.

There are two things for which I am specifically thankful...
First, I thank God for the beauty of His creation. For us to live on earth, it needed only to be functional, not necessarily beautiful, but God gave us beauty to enjoy.
Second, I thank friends who generously shared their home with me to make these few days possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Last Vacation Sunset
~ Sea Pine Beach ~
Sonoma County, California

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wednesday at The Sea Ranch

I went to the tidepools today and found a few more critters...

Sea Anemone


(I can't resist...)

One fish,
Two fish,
Orange fish,

Now I'm off to catch one last sunset before I head home tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday at The Sea Ranch

No worries about being lonely...

I counted about a dozen wild turkeys hanging around and pecking for some breakfast this morning.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday at The Sea Ranch

Walk Along the Bluffs ~ The Sea Ranch
Just south of Gualala, California

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday at The Sea Ranch

I'm out of town this week in a remote, quiet, peaceful place. Just my bag of groceries from Trader Joe's, an internet connection, and a hot tub (vacation is hard work.) No TV, no Olympics, no noise or busyness, just lots of God's amazing creation to enjoy.
So I guess there's some noise, like the ocean pounding against the shore, and the crickets serenading me... and the surprised sound I made when I found a frog hanging out by the hot tub.

For the next few days, I'm planning to post some pictures of the amazing outdoors, as seen through the eye of my humble digital camera.
Here's one for starters... The sun is setting behind me and to the right, and the white spot in the upper left corner is the moon.

Pebble Beach ~ The Sea Ranch
Sonoma County ~ California

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Joy

Today I met with my friend to study chapter four in our Bible study on grace. By the end, I felt like I was on cloud nine. My heart was bubbling over with joy just from spending time with a good friend to read and study God's word together. There were some trickier questions in this lesson, and unlike in previous weeks, we had to re-read a number of passages and really think about them to feel like we had a clear understanding.

As I think about it now, I would say that I experienced what it was like to be fed by God's word. I felt full, like after a good meal, and it was so meaningful that it just exceeded the capacity of my mind and bubbled over. Probably not surprising considering that this week's topic was "Delighting in Grace" and specifically addressed joy and rejoicing.

While studying this chapter, I not only experienced joy, but I was also challenged. In citing scriptures like I Thessalonians 5:16, "Be joyful always," and noting that God commanded his people to set aside times for rejoicing, the book suggests that joy is not optional but rather a discipline to be practiced in all circumstances. Even hard ones. Even ones that we would never choose. Even when we absolutely don't feel like it.

I have often had a hard time applying scripture when I can't apply the lesson to the situation I am experiencing right this very moment. And right this very minute, I am pretty joyful. I'm in a great place, and it's as easy as breathing to be joyful and praise God for the blessings He's poured into my life. However, having joy in all things is, well, not one of my gifts. It's something I need to work on.

I know that life will not always be roses and sunshine, but that there are inevitably peaks and valleys on the road of life. The lesson for me this week is found in the fact that each passing day brings me a bit farther down the road, so I need to prepare for the next time I hit a pothole, or find myself heading down a small hill, or suddenly realize the road is already in one of those long, dark, winding, seemingly endless valleys. Because even the smallest of valleys appear endless when I can't quite manage to spot any sunshine.

So the challenge is to begin preparing now by practicing joy and making it a habit that becomes a part of who I am and how I relate to God. Oh, to be able to rejoice in God "no matter what." This is a gift of His abundant grace, because even when I can't muster joy on my own, I can turn to God and ask Him to help me. Philippians 4 says this is the solution to anxiety, a definite joy-zapper, and further it says that when we bring our worries to God, He will give us a peace that "transcends understanding." I know for me a heart at peace is much more inclined to be joyful... so that's a promise I plan to take Him up on.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Educationally Blonde

Someone asked me today if I was ready to go back to school. In reply, I asked if she remembered the scene in the movie Legally Blonde where Elle (Reese Witherspoon) arrives at her first class unprepared and is promptly asked to leave despite her polite explanation that she wasn't aware of an assignment. That is my worst nightmare... I only hope that should it come true, there is no *itchy Vivian (Selma Blair) to add insult to injury.

Side note: for true fans like myself, don't worry (as if you would)... there is ZERO chance that I'll show up to anybody's cocktail party dressed as, ahem, a bunny. For those who haven't seen the movie, I'll just mention that she wasn't dressed as the Easter bunny.

On the other hand, no one could fault Elle's sense of style when it came to her back to school fashion choices or her school supplies. When she realized her heart-shaped notebook and fluffy pink pen weren't going to cut it for law school, she upgraded to a Mac laptop. I cheaped out and got a PC. But I have already told people I might get non-prescription glasses because it will make me feel smarter. (I know someone who actually did this in college.)

I did pick up some school supplies last week. It's the season for great deals, as anyone with kids in school will tell you, which means that one might be able to keep the arm and only sacrifice the leg to get the kiddos outfitted. Being the one who now pays the bill for school supplies, I understand why mom may have dreaded the back-to-school shopping: "But mo-om!" - always two syllables when it's life-or-death - "All the cool kids will have folders with Hannah Montana/CARS/Spiderman on them!!! I have to have it!" I was tempted by Hannah, but in the end opted for the loss-leader 5-cent spiral notebooks. I wonder what the cool grad students will choose?

And don't even get me started on what to wear. I can't decide if it should be designer jeans or business casual for the first day of classes. Probably I'm going with the dressier option, assuming it will be better to be over- rather than under-dressed in this scenario. Besides that, I'm sure the cost of designer jeans these days means I'd end up delinquent on tuition payments.

So, am I ready? No idea. But only one way to find out... pray a lot and leave home really early on day one - so I'm not late to class over finding a parking spot. The $135 I forked over for a parking permit does not guarantee a place to park... only that I may park in an empty space should I find one. A topic for another day.

Friday, August 1, 2008

14 weeks, 33 minutes and 3 Miles

Finally! I did it! I felt like doing a dance of joy and shouting really loudly, but I held back. The golf course where I do my jogging is pretty quiet at 7:45 in the morning, and I didn't want to disturb any residents or hotel guests. The last 10 days or so, exercise of any kind has been an iffy proposition, as my knee has been bothering me. I don't think I injured it, but it's been painful off and on. Oddly, it doesn't hurt to walk or run, but I've been taking it easy in general to try and allow it to get better.

So, now that I know I can endure 3 miles if I want to and I'm feeling good and the stars are aligned and it's not too hot or too foggy or too humid and I wake up on the right side of the bed... I have 12 weeks before I actually run a 5K race to improve to the point that I can tackle the race with confidence. I'm not expecting to place or anything, I just want to finish. I've been saying for several years that "next year I'm going to run in this race," and it feels really good that this year I'm finally going to be ready to do it!