Friday, December 31, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 25: A good attitude

I'm trying to imagine what beautiful thing could come from 2 hours of sleep, a 5:30am wake-up, a walk leading to a bus ride, leading to a train ride, on to a security line, to a flight cancellation, to a re-booking, to several delays and plane switches, to a flight to Arkansas, to a delay, to a flight to Denver, to another cancellation, to a long long wake in a blizzard, to a long long wait on the runway, to a de-icing, to a 22 minute flight, to lost luggage... you get the picture...
I think I'll go with the random people connections I had on the last flight.  Everyone was just laughing because of the hilarity (and terror) of the day's travel.  We ChaCha-ed a bunch of random questions while waiting nearly an hour on the runway for our 22 minute flight.  Such questions like "Why am I here?", "What's the point of this?", and "What harsh chemicals are used in plane de-icer?" were posed.
Anyway, it's nice when people in seemingly bad situations still have good attitudes and can have fun.  Pretty encouraging and beautiful.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 24: When siblings become friends.

Tim and I went to the Chicago Art Institute on Wednesday.  It pretty much confirmed that Tim is the most hilarious and wonderful brother.  It was a sweet time laughing at modern art, seeing some of the classics and singing the Bed Intruder Song.  I really really like my family.  I think I'll keep them around.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 23: Comfort Plus

On Tuesday, Annie took off work, and we went mattress shopping for most of the day.  It's hard to get a more relaxing day of shopping than testing our brand new mattresses. :)  But even more so I loved just how comfortable I was hanging out.  When I visit people, I don't necessarily like to be entertained all the time.  Sometimes I like to just tag along.  It's nice when you are comfortable enough with someone that you can do that.  That's it. :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 22: You are what you eat

So on Monday I left Houston and headed on to Chicago to spend a few days with my brother and sister-in-law.  Annie (the sis-in-law) decided she was going to make an "Indian feast" for dinner.  Now these words are exciting enough on their own, but when they come from Annie, you know that you are in for an incredible meal.  You see, Annie LOVES to cook and serve people good, wholesome food.  She didn't go to cooking school or anything.  In fact she is an awesome film editor and works really hard at that.  But she is really really passionate about food, which is so cool to watch and learn from.  I just love when people (adults especially) can get excited about things.  So many people settle for so much and don't try to better themselves or get the most out of life by putting a little bit of work into it.  beautiful.

Monday, December 27, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 21: Ben

Yesterday I said goodbye to Ben (my brother) again.  He is headed to Ecuador for the next 3+ months to lead mountain trips for Summit Adventures.  He is awesome.  He is sososo stinking encouraging to me and gets me like nobody else can.  This post is dedicated to my buddy, Benji.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 20: This is (sorta) Christmas themed.

It is so not even a question, I love presents.  Forget the ol', "I like giving gifts more than getting them" story!   I love giving them AND I love getting them.  I think it is just a super cool way to show love if it is not abused--as with any love language. 
So, what I am saying is, "give me lots of gifts.  Let them rain from the heavens.  I can has presents?"
Just kidding, but really.  If you ever run across someone that is a gift-person, don't be creeped out if they buy you random things at the Dollar Tree because they think it is funny... also, don't underestimate the power of doing the same for them.  It doesn't take a lot.  Just like giving a hug to a physical touch kind of person can reinvent their day.  Think about how to best love different people and you may jsut discover something beautiful.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 18: Emma

I have the best and most beautiful niece in the world.
"Crusty the Snowman is a jolly happy soul!" -Emmie

Thursday, December 23, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 17: Don't be a pig

So, my brother-in-law thought the perfect Christmas Break activity would be hunting feral pigs on the Texas countryside... Although the alternative of shopping for winter boots for Grandma Opal sounded like fun, I decided to join the men on their wild excursion.  Turned out the vast majority of the day was not so wild and entailed me curled up in the fetal position asleep on the floor of multiple hunting stands.  But, the day livened up when we called in locals Jeremy and Garrett along with their 7 lucky hunting dogs (best Speicher family pizza night movie ever:
As the story goes, we followed the dogs around as the scoured every last inch of the woods, and when they got to the last little section, blam-o!  The dogs found a pig, brutality (involving my dad, a knife and the repeated hollering of the phrase "coldpig" at the dogs) followed and we hauled the pig back for processing.
What could possibly be beautiful about that situation???  That is what I have been sitting here trying to think of for a good few days and here's what I came up with:
Growing up on a farm, my parents taught us kids how important it is to respect the lives that animals sacrifice for us to eat.  Nothing quite wakes you up to that reality as seeing an animal be hunted and killed.  I had to hold back tears as the dogs tore into the pig's legs.  I wasn't disgusted by the blood; I was just sad to see the pig in such fear.  True, Disney has taught me to personify the feelings of animals, but Simba and Nemo aside, a pig is still a creature designed to show humans a piece of God's character in whatever abstract way may apply.  It is cool to be able to appreciate what God has made, recognize it as so, and treat it with respect and an appropriate reverence for its sacredness.  That reminder is pretty beautiful.

I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food. -Bruce, Finding Nemo

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 16: Constancy

I am trying to find beauty in the unusual, but an airport at 5am a few days before Christmas is just scary.  I did get to watch the sunrise over the clouds about half an hour after take-off, though.  I'll include a picture once I get some motivation to upload the pictures from my camera.  I swore that I wouldn't include things like sunsets, flowers and double-rainbows, but sometimes (virtually always, actually) they are just so breathtaking.  It is incredible that something that happens faithfully everyday can still be such a gift and so beautiful.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 15: Words of Affirmation

Yesterday was my dad's 53rd birthday and also the day of his going away party after nearly 20 years as a St Joe ER doc.  I started off a little wary of going to the party considering I would be the only person under 30 and a bit self conscious of my vagabond life plans not measuring up to the expectations of a room full of medical field-types.  But, I decided to go anyway because 1) I had already bought a dress for the occasion, 2) I never turn down a meal at the Corndance, and 3) I would be supporting my dad in the process.
The party started off a bit awkward.  Forced, choppy conversations and empty introductions began to set the tone for the evening.  Beside that, my dress wouldn't stop sticking to my tights, I had a huge zit on my face, and I was dizzily hungry.  But, I figured I would suck it up and use the situation to work on my polite chit-chat skills, which paid off.  I ended up talking to the lady beside me (very possibly the next youngest in the room) about environmental education and camping for a while and a retired doctor about photography and Africa after that.  It was actually a lot of fun. 
My favorite and the most beautiful part of the evening, though, came when my dad gave his goodbye speech.  For those of you that don't know Dr. Bruce Wayne Speicher, I would compare my dad to a giant grizzly bear.  He is a large, usually quiet man with strength in both his gentleness and power.  His hugs are the absolute best because you are completely engulfed and protected, but he also somehow has the power to scare the goobles out of you when he is mad.  As he delivered his speech, his gentleness radiated through the room.  He spoke of how proud he was of the work he had accomplish while working at St Joe, how he treasures the friendships he made despite disagreements among the staff, and most importantly, how he couldn't have done any of it without the love and support of his wife, my mom.
It was so sweet and heartfelt and really made me so proud to have the parents I have.  The Speichers are not known for having impeccable communication skills, humility or showing of affection, but when we do, it is from the deepest, most sacred place of the heart.  It was really good to see and a great reminder of what is important about a family and relationships.  If only for a few choice moments, I am very. very glad that I went to that party and was able to recognize its beauty.

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” -St Francis de Sales

Monday, December 20, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Days 8-14: Finals Week and Recovery

So, I am very aware that I severely slacked over the past week.  I did however continue to meditate on what I found beautiful each day even if I did not write it down here, so I will give you the highlights.  I would write more, but I would rather start anew and give today's actual writing its due.

December 13: Day 8: The Silver Lining!
I booked my flight for Colorado Springs this day!  I can't wait to be surrounded by mountains, hang out with old and new friends and introduce more kids to creative problem-solving with a Destination ImagiNation camp at the US Air Force Academy!!!

December 14: Day 9: Brain to the Grindstone
 God granted me the wonderful ability to memorize completely meaningless things--title, artist, date and history of 45 Renaissance art pieces, for example--in a very short amount of time.  On Tuesday I used this ability to kill my test for the next day.  Our culture celebrates talents such as athleticism and vocal skills.... I celebrate my memory.  Whew!

December 15: Day 10: theFinal theCanvas
As I have mentioned before, my main facet of church I attend is a laid-back, yet ruthlessly challenging bible study/conversation-based group called theCanvas.  Wednesday was our last meeting of the semester, and it was just really nice.  I've mentioned this before, but Canvas isn't kitschy; it isn't churchy; it isn't a free coffee break between studying.  It is hard to define apart from the stories that are made there.  Stories like atheists feeling welcome to sit at round tables, a leader admitting he learns as much from us as we do from him and inspiration being born before our eyes.  And, I only have one more semester to pour into it.

December 16: Day 11: Free at Last

The semester is over and I feel THIS GOOD!!!!

December 17: Day 12: Food for Thought
I am very thankful that I grew up with a basic knowledge of what constitutes good food and what constitutes bad food.  I lived on an organic farm for most of my life and many of my beliefs about food are deeply rooted.  I watched the movie Food, Inc. on Friday, which exposes the nastiness of the American food industry.  I am proud to say that although the statistics given were startling, I did not feel myself scared into changing everything about my diet.  Usually when people all of a sudden jolt themselves into a different lifestyle, it causes them to crash back to their old way of living just as hard.  I am taking a couple things into deeper consideration, but not in an unhealthy way.  I already make choices to eat more healthy and local, organic foods, but now I will try little by little to see what else I can do and what practices I can sustain.
this picture severely creeps me out.

December 18: Day 13: Growing Up
After seriously almost falling asleep driving from Bloomington to Bourbon, I jumped right back in the car to drive to South Bend and meet my Aunt and cousins for dinner at the Corndance Tavern. (Eat there it will change your life.)  Then we went to an art supply store and TJ Maxx to let my cousins pick out their Christmas gifts from my parents.  It was really nice to be able to relate more to my aunt now that I am getting older and to relate more to my cousins now that they are getting older.  It is interesting how that works... Like with many relationships, we seem to all be trying to play catch-up, but all along, without us knowing it, through investment we are growing closer all the time.

December 19: Day 14: JEANNA!
This day I got to hang out with the wonderful Jeanna Sell.  We have been best friends since fourth grade and she one of the first people I felt comfortable being completely goofy and weird around.  We watched Despicable Me together and it was like we were back in fourth grade.  It was wonderful and hilarious--both the movie and our friendship.
circa forever ago

Sunday, December 12, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 7: Change of Plans

Yesterday, the plan was to go to a Christmas party at my work friends' house where we were going to dress up in fancy clothes and be sophisticated.  But then I decided I would rather go to a more casual super awesome fun Christmas party near Lake Monroe with a bunch of my others friends.  But then by the time it got around to it, I realized I was still tired from the Christmas party the previous night and the weather was supposed to get hazardous.  Considering I have 3 8-year-old tires on my tiny truck, I didn't feel like chancing my life on the curvy Southern Indiana roads in the middle of the night in a snow storm.  So, Colleen, Katie and I decided to spend the night inside, eat fine cheese, drink some cowboy wine and watch Shrek 4.  Plan 3 was going along great until one of our other friends decided to come over for a study break.
The night turned into the four of us sitting around the kitchen table reading our own poetry or writing to each other for at least an hour.  It then turned into us talking about anything and everything for several more hours, adding another friend around 1 am and talking some more.  Finally around 4 am we hunkered down in the living room to watch Shrek 4 where I ended up falling asleep shortly after the opening credits.
It was a great night.
Don't be an ogre; be open to change!  Plans can be a lot of fun, but when you let yourself deviate every once in a while, you might surprise yourself with something really, really beautiful.

"Well, folks, it looks like we're up chocolate creek without a popsicle stick." -Gingy, Shrek 2

Saturday, December 11, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 6: Smoke Rings

Friday was our Canvas (bible study/church thing) Christmas party.  It was super fun complete with white elephant gifts, a massage train (haha can you feel the love?) and the hit if the party, the homemade pretzels Brian and I made (joke).  But, perhaps my favorite moment of the night happened after many of the guests left.  For some quirky, random reason, people that go to the Canvas seem to really love to smoke pipes... Gandolf-style, old man-style, Frosty-style... it doesn't matter.  So, at about 11 pm, everyone left at the party piled into the clammy garage to take in the sweet melodious aromas of motor oil, deteriorating cardboard and Joe's Blend tobacco.
I just find this so absolutely wonderful and hilarious.  I hate few things more than when churches do things a certain way based entirely on tradition or don't do things based entirely on taboo.  True, my grandparents might be mortified at the sight of the local youth group crammed in a garage blowing smoke rings, but at the same time there is something so incredible about a group of 20-somethings choosing to laugh, talk, and live life together in the name of Jesus Christ on a Friday night in Collegetown, Indiana. 
As silly of imagery as it is, I still find it quite beautiful. 

"What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing.  It also depends on what kind of person you are." -CS Lewis

Friday, December 10, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 5: Leading Lady

So on Thursday night, a group of friends and I got together to watch the best of all chick flicks, The Holiday.  One of the characters in the film is a British woman, Iris, that has been in a toxic relationship with the self-absorbed Jasper that doesn't show the same kind of commitment toward her as she feels to him.  She is completely enamored with him and measures herself against his impossible standards.  Shortly after giving him a Christmas gift (and not receiving one in return), it is announced at their work Christmas party that Jasper has just gotten engaged to another woman.  Iris is devastated and decides to run from her troubles by participating in a home-exchange program where she trades houses with a rich LA woman for the Christmas holiday.
It is here that she meets Arthur Abbot, one of the great Hollywood writers from the golden age of film.  The odd couple starts a friendship where in their own way they are able to help the other recognize their own worth.  In one scene Arthur explains that there are two types of women in a story.

Arthur: Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend. 
Iris:You're so right. You're supposed to be the leading lady of your own life, for god's sake!

How often do we find ourself in the same position, taking a backseat to what is best for our lives out of fear of change or uncertainty or letting go...?  On the contrary, how incredible are those moments when we just know that we are in the right place--not in control, but not thrown to the wolves either?  Not safe, but undeniably good.  I think, once you pursue that state of being and feel and recognize it, then you begin to crave it and soon live it.  Each person is made intentionally and beautifully with boundless potential to have a fulfilled, purposeful life.  If you can't be the Lead in your own life, then from what perspective is your story being told?
I'm trying not to finish this with cheesy inspirational gab about God and life and Oscar Wilde quotes... since that is near to impossible, I'll just leave it at that.
Be the Lead in your own life...
... because that is pretty beautiful.

"It's Christmas Eve, and we are going to go celebrate being young and being alive." -Miles, The Holiday

Thursday, December 9, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 4: Company

There are two types of company.  There's a company of body and a company of heart.  Last night I was able to have both.  Even though I had to work on a group paper through online (seriously, who decided a group paper was good idea?!), my friend Hannah came over to talk and hang out after church.  A lot of the time was spent with me sitting on the couch working on my paper and Hannah either trying to study for nurse school or coloring in our Christmas coloring book.  The only sound I was making was the tapping of computer keys and her, the soft rubbing of colored pencil on cheap paper.  It was good to just have someone else there, ya know?  It's like when you find someone that you can silently ride in the car with and not feel awkward about it, or you can gab and laugh all the way to South Carolina.  It's one in the same.  Company of body.
We did eventually get to talk and were able to just be really honest and open.  We realized that we have had a lot of similar life experiences and are able to relate in a lot of ways that we haven't found with other people.  It's definitely one of those kindred spirit kind of things that can't really be explained apart from God.  Company of heart.
And I guess that's pretty beautiful.


“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'”

-CS Lewis

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 2: Sanctuary

I'd be lying (I mean really, really lying) if I said I'm not a messy person.  There's usually a labyrinth of clothes on my bedroom floor, old National Geographics strewn across every surface and I don't even want to know what's under my bed... And typically, I'm okay with that.  If I don't want to tidy up and there's no real reason to, I'm just as well leaving sleeping sweaters where they lie.  But, occasionally I will be struck with the inspiration to clean, and I try to take advantage of such rare and fleeting impulses while they last.
I had such an inkling the other day, so I started the long, arduous process of bedroom archeology.  Now, my room isn't spick and span quite yet, but most of the clothes are now picked up and the desk that was once crammed into my walk-in closet is now set free and already littered in Nat Geos next to my bed.  What I love about it, though, (and here's my point) is that my closet is now a clean, quiet little cave that I can hide away in at anytime.  It is the perfect little sanctuary to think, write, sing or pray.
I think it is so important to have some sort of consistent sanctuary in your life--somewhere to get away and escape the messiness and just be still. Somewhere far from the world and judgmental eyes.  Now this can be a location, an activity or a state of mind, but it is all about just learning how to slow down, breathe and pray.
And that is beautiful.

"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
Matthew 6:6 KJV

Monday, December 6, 2010

60 Days of Beauty: Day 1: Warmth

Bloomington is currently sleeping under a blanket of snow.  This means insulated boots, snowball fights, (snowball shaped welts) and lots of general mirth and merriment.  Yesterday, my friend had a birthday hike out at Griffy Lake where an eclectic troop of college kids traipsed through the snowy woods in search of the elusive pavilion that promised a well-deserved break--complete with cake balls, hot tea and cucumber sandwiches.  We finally made it to our destination and were very thankful for the tasty vittles, but when all was said an done, we were all still pretty glad to be headed back to the cars and out of the bitter cold.  Several people didn't have gloves or hats and most had less than adequate footwear.  Perhaps it was my imagination, but I swear I heard murmurs of frostbite as we re-entered the parking lot after the hike.  In long and short, it was cold; we were cold.
After everyone had the chance to go home and thaw out, a lot of the group made their way through the snow over to the Hinkle Place (my apartment) for some good old study and conversation.  As the couches and living room floor filled with people, the apartment filled with warmth.  The cold seemed to melt away due to the glow of joy radiating from a bubbling melody of laughter, Nat King Cole Christmas and the steady beat of fingers tap tap tapping on the keys of overly-priced laptops.
Isn't it beautiful when a whole room can be filled with such different kinds of people, but the mere fact that they are all human connects them and makes something special?  There is such an energy created just by being around other people and accepting and loving them for their differences; it quite literally can warm you from the inside out.
And, that is something beautiful.

"The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and richness to life that nothing else can bring.
-Oscar Wilde

60 Days of Beauty: Intro

There is a group of people associated with my old church (Nappanee Missionary Church) that is doing something called the "60 Days of Beauty Project."  They will be posting daily about something beautiful that they witnessed from the day before.  There seems to be so much negativity around us everyday, doesn't there?  So, why not choose to focus on the beautiful things we see? 
I've decided to join in on this project too.  Granted, I am bound to miss some days, but I'm really going to try to stick to it.
For the next 60 days, feel free to join me, or just stop in every once in a while to get a glimpse of what I'm seeing.  Deep breath, and go.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

You have an Eagle personality.

I was rifling through some old stuff on my computer and found this quiz result I had saved.  Must have struck a chord:

You have an Eagle personality. These Birds of Prey are some of the wildest of nature's beings. Though they can be tamed they always retain some of their wild spirit. Most see the Eagle as a wandering spirit but it only seems that way to the untrained eye. In actuality you as an Eagle personality have issues being tied down in relationships and in places sometimes not because you want to be elsewhere just that you want the freedom to be elsewhere if you choose. You aren't the most trusting individual but you are the most well known. Eagle personalities are few and far between but they tend to stand out in a crowd as if they don't belong with them, mainly because they are fairly solitary: they might be the artist who sits in the corner and doesn't communicate, they might be the popular person who has lots of acquaintances but very few actual friends. Being an Eagle means you have an inner core of strength which you unfortunately have to use quite frequently since you are uncomfortable leaning on others and have difficulties sharing your personal and innermost thoughts. Eagles get along great with foxes and bears but should try to stay away from a wolf or horse personality.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Less-Wild Lovers: Standing at the Crossroads of Desire-By Brent Cutis

Copyright © 1997 Mars Hill Review 8 (Summer 1997): 9-23.

In all of our hearts lies a longing for a Sacred Romance. It will not go away in spite of our efforts over the years to anesthetize or ignore its song, or attach it to a single person or endeavor. It is a Romance couched in mystery and set deeply within us. It cannot be categorized into propositional truths or fully known any more than studying the anatomy of a corpse would help us know the person who once inhabited it.
Philosophers call this Romance, this heart yearning set within us, the longing for transcendence—the desire to be part of something out of the ordinary that is good. Transcendence is what we experience in a small but powerful way when our city’s football team wins the big game against tremendous odds. The deepest part of our heart longs to be bound together in some heroic purpose with others of like mind and spirit.
Art, literature, and music have all portrayed and explored the Romance, or its loss, in myriad scenes, images, sounds, and characters that nonetheless speak to us out of the same story. The universality of the story is the reason Shakespeare’s plays, even though they speak to us from a pastoral setting in England across four hundred years of time, speak so eloquently and faithfully that they are still performed on stages from Tokyo to New York City.
Someone or something has romanced us from the beginning with creekside singers and pastel sunsets, with the austere majesty of snowcapped mountains and the poignant flames of autumn colors telling us of something—or someone—leaving, with a promise to return. These things can, in an unguarded moment, bring us to our knees with longing for this something or someone who is lost; someone or something only our heart recognizes. It is as if someone has left us with a haunting in our inner-heart stories that will not go away; nor will it allow itself to be captured and ordered. The Romance comes and goes as it wills. And so we are haunted by it.
If this poignant longing were the only deep experience of our soul, then we should not lose heart. Though we may not have satisfaction yet, we would search for it all our lives. There are enough hints and clues and "tantalizing glimpses" to keep us searching, our heart ever open and alive to the quest. But there is another message that comes to all of us in varying shades and intensities, even in our early years. It often seems to come out of nowhere and for no discernible reason that we can fathom. It is dark, powerful, and full of dread. I think of it as the Message of the Arrows.
There are only two things that pierce the human heart, wrote Simone Weil. One is beauty. The other is affliction. And while we wish there were only beauty in the world, each of us has known enough pain to raise serious doubts about the universe we live in. From very early in life we know another message, warning us that the Romance has an enemy.
The psalmist speaks of this enemy and tells us we need not fear it:
He [God] will save you from the fowler’s snare
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day. (Psalm 91:3-5)
Yet we cannot deny that the Arrows have struck us all, sometimes arriving in a hail of projectiles that blocked out the sun, and other times descending in more subtle flight that only let us know we were wounded years later, when the wound festered and broke.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Excerpt: Rene Daumal

"You cannot stay on the summit forever;
you have to come down again...
So why bother in the first place?
Just this: What is above knows what is below,
but what is below does not know what is above.
One climbs, one sees.
One descends, one sees no longer but one has seen.
There is an art of conducting oneself in the lowlands with what one has seen higher up.
When one can no longer see, one can at least still know."
- Rene Daumal

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Excerpt: White, by Matthieu Tieler

If only we mortals all had the time and ability to write the words that rest upon our souls and likewise read those of others. Surely the world would spin a little less madly. Maybe that’s heaven: a place where all the words, that have so long been trapped in attics of hearts, are revealed, and a time when all understand and all give praise to Him who put them there sometime between our start and eternity. Indeed our lives are just a memory, stories to be told around the campfires of time; even now we stand on the brink of eternity looking back.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lists: Never have I ever....

1) ....played paintball.
2) ....been to Europe.
3) ....had a date to prom..
4) ....sang karaoke in public. (revision: done!)
5) ....skinny-dipped. (revision: done! haha)
6) ....gone to a bar-only establishment. (revision: done!)
7) ....been tubing or water skiing. (revision: did it!)
8) ....been in a tanning bed.
9) ....been TPing.
10) ....enjoyed a bite of green bean casserole.
11) ....been to a drive in movie.
12) ....rode a mechanical bull.
13) ....been to a haunted Halloween venue.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Music: Garden by NEEDTOBREATHE

Won't you take this cup from me
Cause fear has stolen all my sleep
If tomorrow means my death
Pray you'll save their souls with it

Let the songs I sing bring joy to you
Let the words I say confess my love
Let the notes I choose be your favorite tune
Father let my heart be after you

In this hour of doubt I see
Who I am is not just me
So give me strength to die myself
So love can live to tell the tale

Let the songs I sing bring joy to you
Let the words I say confess my love
Let the notes I choose be your favorite tune
Father let my heart be after you

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Excerpt: Lord of the Rings

"Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers!
I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.
A day may come when the courage of Men fails
...When we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship
But it is not this day
An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Man comes crashing down
But it is not this day!
This day we fight!
By all that you hold dear on this good earth
I bid you stand, Men of the West!"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

This summer:12: The Final Chapter


I am sitting in the Oklahoma City airport waiting for my flight home.  ahhhh... What a glorious feeling.  This has by far been the most challenging summer of my life.  But, just like I told the campers every week, it is in adversity that the largest potential for growth is found.  I learned so, so much, but first let's look back on what happened this summer, shall we? :)

May 16-19
Training-Cherry Hill, NJ

I had an incredible time hanging out with 11 hilarious, creative DI alumni and realized that even though I haven't been a DI participant for 7 years, I've still got the spark.  Destination ImagiNation was huge in helping me discover my passions at a young age and really developing a hunger for life.  Training made me wonder if I have a future in experiential education or even at Destination ImagiNation.  It was on the Wednesday of this week that I discovered I was selected to go on the Asia Tour with Charles.  I knew it was going to be a very significant time in my life, but had no clue what to expect beyond that.

May 20-22
Last Goodbyes-Bloomington, IN

I had 3 days to cram full with adventure, laughs, rock climbing and Redbox.  I got next to no sleep, but had an incredible time with my friends Javan, Broderick and of course Colleen.  We made a last second decision to go caving the night before I left for Globals, and tunneled deep into the ground laughing and singing Disney songs the whole way. :)

May 23-30
DI Global Finals-Knoxville, TN

16-hour work days could only be this fun at Global Finals!  I don't think I have stood up so much in my life!  I seriously thought my feet might just fall off or explode.  It was a good taste of what was to come in the summer and the amount of work it takes to keep a program like DI running.  This week, my new friend Charlie and I destroyed the town and hit up every dance party we could find. (If we could find one, we made one ourselves!)
This week also presented the harsh reality that I wouldn't be able to get in contact with friends and family at the drop of a hat like I am used to.  I had a friend hundreds of miles away in crisis and had to do my best to be there for her despite lack of sleep, crazy schedule and distance.

May 31-June 11
Waiting-Bloomington and Bourbon, IN

The next two weeks were spent painstakingly waiting to leave for my tour.  The first week was spent in Bloomington, avoiding cleaning the apartment, calling friends and rock climbing.  The highlight of this time was definitely taking a last paddle around Lake Monroe for a day with my friend Rachel.  We were able to just talk about life, eat our favorite healthy hippy foods, and take in the beauty of nature.  So lovely.
The second week was spent in Bourbon where I got to hang with my awesome parents and take a night out with my long lost friend Ben.  If not moderately awkward (haha), it was a wonderful time to see how far I have come since attending old Triton High.

June 12-19
Grand Forks AFB-Grand Forks, ND

This was my first taste of being on the road and Air Force life.  Charles and I didn't quite know what we were doing and ended up working 15-hour days all week.  We were both second guessing what we got ourselves into.  It all ended up being worth it though to see the incredible growth in our campers over only 7 days.

June 19-26
Minot AFB-Minot, ND

A new base.  A VERY different base.  The week before our POC was very present for every aspect of the camp.  At this base we sort of met our POC a couple times.  haha  This camp attendance was also compulsory and proved to be extremely challenging for most of the week.  Again, amazing growth was seen in most of the kids and the Youth Center Staff got a lot from our training.  Nearing the end of this week, I was getting so restless to get to Japan.  My hotel room smelled like smoke and the most appealing form of entertainment in town was a bingo hall.  Needless to say, I will not be moving to North Dakota any time soon!

June 27-July 4
"Free" Week-Minot, ND; Trans-Pacific; Fussa City, Japan
Now came our break week, which Charles and I have renamed "Hell Week."  It resembled nothing of a break.  We spent the first couple days of our week dodging tornadoes in North Dakota.  Then at 5 am Monday morning, we started out on our sickeningly long travels to Japan.  I actually loved the plane ride over there.  The guy next to me was really nice and helpful answering my questions, talking about life in Japan and giving me helpful hints.  ANA also has wonderful in-flight meals and adorable flight attendants.
Once we got to Japan we realized that we had lost another whole day on our way over.  Break week was already half-way over already.  Grand.  Charles got sick, and our next couple days were a fog of fighting off jet lag.  We did manage to spend a day wandering around Fussa City and a day navigating the Japan Rail Line to hang out in Electric City, Tokyo.  I was surprised how similar everything was to the US.  I expected to have a lot more "wonder" as I walked around, but no matter where you go, commercialism is commercialism.  Even the shrine we found had vending machines inside it's gates.  I also realized that the language barrier didn't really bother me.  It was even kind of fun.  What a world.

July 4-11
Misawa AFB-Misawa, Japan

We flew in through dense fog that barely lifted for the entire week.  Our POC met us at the gate, and we sleepily settled into our air conditioning-free hotel.  The whole base seemed to have an aversion to AC, but I didn't mind since the fog kept us cool enough.  Our POC was so nice and took us all around the area.  Misawa is located in the northern countryside of Japan and was my favorite place to visit.  Within an hour or two of driving, you could go coastal, flatwater or whitewater kayaking, surfing, swimming, rock climbing, bouldering, deep water soloing, hiking, rafting, snowboarding, cycling or just cruising around marveling at the vast array of local farms.  The people's faces were just incredible.  I wanted to just meet them and take their picture.  This was when I decided that I needed to take "Audrey Adventure Time" everyday to make sure I wasn't missing out on all that Japan had to offer.  My favorite experience of the summer occurred here as peddled to the ocean in the rain and danced on a black sand beach in the fog.  Wonderful.

July 11-18
Yakota AFB, Fussa City, Japan

Enter Patrina.  The nicest woman and POC ever.  She was so helpful and took Charles and I out to dinner several times.  She even celebrated her birthday with us!  What sticks out most about Yakota, though, is that it was here I realized how little effort so many of the Air Force people take to explore their new home.  Virtually everyone we talked to said that they don't really leave the base for much, if ever.  It makes me so sad to think about people choosing to just be content living their lives in a literal bubble.  The world has so much to offer, and endless opportunities are at your doorstep!  I know it is hard for military families that are constantly changing locations to be motivated to plant their roots, but I never want to be at a point where I am so content.
On a final note, I met one of my two favorite campers at Yakota.  His name was Jacob, and started out as the most rambunctious of the bunch... but he had spunk.  He ended up being such a great camper, and I teared up a little bit when I hugged him goodbye. 

July 18-25
Osan AFB, Outer-Seoul, South Korea

This was when I got sick.  Call it stress, call it weariness, I felt bad.  I was really tired all the time and nearly lost my voice.  I still made time to explore the city a bit though, since I knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime.  The streets were dirty and packed with little shops where you could barter over prices.  it was fun, and I felt like a really world explorer as I wandered through the tiny winding streets as shoppers buzzed around me.  My camera batteries died, and I had already lost the charger, so this is where my pictures stopped.
Our POC was incredible here as well.  Her name is Miss Lee, a tiny, feisty Thai woman with a hunger for living life.  She is around 60-years-old, a cancer survivor, skydiving enthusiast, and proud mother.  Basically I want to be her when I grow up!  When I visit Thailand (notice, WHEN) I am going to stay with her family.

July 24-July 31
Kadena AFB-Okinawa, Japan

Welcome to a beautiful tropical paradise!  What a wonderful place.  It again reminded me of an American resort town, but was a lot of fun.  I was unable to get an unescorted base pass here, but was determined to explore the island, so one evening I set out on my rental bike, rode along the sea wall, listened to beautiful street music, ate my favorite meal of the summer at a shack along the road and found my way back in the dark by light of my headlamp strapped to my handle bars.  I met Charles a sweaty mess at the gate after he had enjoyed a relaxing evening on base.  haha  I figured that I ended up riding 17-miles that night and loved every second of it.
All I wish could have been different was that I could have bouldered on this island off of a beach and gone snorkeling.  I love the ocean and was pretty sad that I didn't get to take advantage of it while staying in a beach town.
The last night was fun, though, as Charles and I spent the evening with our POC's daughters at an American-style boardwalk shopping center.  Charles got to participate in a street performer's act, and although he almost hit him in the head with a flaming baton, it was a good time.  I also got a close-up look at the MASSIVE Okinawan bats as they fed in the trees on the board walk.  I am surprised to hear myself say that they were actually pretty adorable!

July 31-August 7
Trans-Pacific; Tinker AFB-Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

July 31st was the longest day of my life... literally.  On the bus ride to the Tokyo airport I asked Charles when we were supposed to get to LAX, and he said, "two hours ago today."  Since we gained time on the way back, we saw two sunsets from planes and still arrived on the same day.  Craziness.  Life got unexpectedly more chill as we returned to the States and Oklahoma City treated us well.  Charles and I saw two movies (Salt and Inception), visitied a waterpark (where my swimsuit broke!), and had a wonderful camp.
My other favorite camper was met here.  Her name was Haley, and she was the sweetest, most graceful girl I have met.  I would love to have a daughter like her when I get older.  After our last day of camp, Charles and I got to go on the infamous Dolphin Slide that the kids had been raving about all week.  It is a 30-foot-high inflatable waterslide/fun machine.  This was probably my favorite camp of the summer.

August 7-14
Vance AFB-Enid, Oklahoma

Another great camp and great time.  We had our first group of teens, which made things more interesting and our brightest group of elementary-level campers.  I was SOOOO thankful to have a room with a kitchen in it and cooked most of my own meals.  Charles and I also realized that we are bowling naturals and took total advantage of the 75 cent shoe rentals and $1 games.

What I learned:

I learned that I am fiercely independent.
I learned that just watching families laugh together can bring tears of joy to my eyes.
I learned a new dimension of culture shock.  
I learned how essential serving through volunteerism is to my well-being.
I learned how intensely I love my family and friends.
I learned a new level of endurance.
I learned that I want to see more of the world.
I learned how important sleep, healthy food and exercise really are.
I learned that I don't mind hot weather.
I learned that I really enjoy riding bike.
I learned ways to empower kids to think for themselves.
I learned drawing is good processing outlet for me.
I learned that my hunger for adventure is not equally share with others, even with people choosing to live in adventurous places.

Whew.  This was a summer I will remember for the rest of my life, and I don't think it will be especially the good things or especially the bad things that I remember most.  I will remember how much I learned about myself and others and the world and how that has affected the rest of my life.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Music: Thank U by Alanis Morissette

how bout getting off these antibiotics
how bout stopping eating when I'm full up
how bout them transparent dangling carrots
how bout that ever elusive kudo

thank you india
thank you terror
thank you disillusionment
thank you frailty
thank you consequence
thank you thank you silence

how bout me not blaming you for everything
how bout me enjoying the moment for once
how bout how good it feels to finally forgive you
how bout grieving it all one at a time

thank you india
thank you terror
thank you disillusionment
thank you frailty
thank you consequence
thank you thank you silence

the moment I let go of it was the moment
I got more than I could handle
the moment I jumped off of it
was the moment I touched down

how bout no longer being masochistic
how bout remembering your divinity
how bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out
how bout not equating death with stopping

thank you india
thank you providence
thank you disillusionment
thank you nothingness
thank you clarity
thank you thank you silence

Monday, August 9, 2010

Excerpt: East of Eden, Timshel, תִּמְשָׁל

By John Steinbeck
“Do you remember when you read us the sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis and we argued about them?”
“I do indeed. And that’s a long time ago.”
“Ten years nearly,” said Lee. “Well, the story bit deeply into me and I went into it word for word. The more I thought about the story, the more profound it became to me. Then I compared the translations we have—and they were fairly close. There was only one place that bothered me. The King James version says this—it is when Jehovah has asked Cain why he is angry. Jehovah says, ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.’ It was the ‘thou shalt’ that struck me, because it was a promise that Cain would conquer sin.”
Samuel nodded. “And his children didn’t do it entirely,” he said.
Lee sipped his coffee. “Then I got a copy of the American Standard Bible. It was very new then. And it was different in this passage. It says, ‘Do thou rule over him.’ Now this is very different. This is not a promise, it is an order. And I began to stew about it. I wondered what the original word of the original writer had been that these very different translations could be made.”
Samuel put his palms down on the table and leaned forward and the old young light came into his eyes. “Lee,” he said, “don’t tell me you studied Hebrew!”
Lee said, “I’m going to tell you. And it’s a fairly long story. Will you have a touch of ng-ka-py?”
“You mean the drink that tastes of good rotten apples?”
“Yes. I can talk better with it.”
“Maybe I can listen better,” said Samuel.
While Lee went to the kitchen Samuel asked, “Adam, did you know about this?”
“No,” said Adam. “He didn’t tell me. Maybe I wasn’t listening.”
Lee came back with his stone bottle and three little porcelain cups so thin and delicate that the light shone through them. “Dlinkee Chinee fashion,” he said and poured the almost black liquor. “There’s a lot of wormwood in this. It’s quite a drink,” he said. “Has about the same effect as absinthe if you drink enough of it.”
Samuel sipped the drink. “I want to know why you were so interested,” he said.
“Well, it seemed to me that the man who could conceive this great story would know exactly what he wanted to say and there would be no confusion in his statement.”
“You say ‘the man.’ Do you then not think this is a divine book written by the inky finger of God?”
“I think the mind that could think this story was a curiously divine mind. We have had a few such minds in China too.”
“I just wanted to know,” said Samuel. “You’re not a Presbyterian after all.”
“I told you I was getting more Chinese. Well, to go on, I went to San Francisco to the headquarters of our family association. Do you know about them? Our great families have centers where any member can get help or give it. The Lee family is very large. It takes care of its own.”
“I have heard of them,” said Samuel.
“You mean Chinee hatchet man fightee Tong war over slave girl?”
“I guess so.”
“It’s a little different from that, really,” said Lee. “I went there because in our family there are a number of ancient reverend gentlemen who are great scholars. They are thinkers in exactness. A man may spend many years pondering a sentence of the scholar you call Confucius. I thought there might be experts in meaning who could advise me.
“They are fine old men. They smoke their two pipes of opium in the afternoon and it rests and sharpens them, and they sit through the night and their minds are wonderful. I guess no other people have been able to use opium well.”
Lee dampened his tongue in the black brew. “I respectfully submitted my problem to one of these sages, read him the story, and told him what I understood from it. The next night four of them met and called me in. We discussed the story all night long.”
Lee laughed. “I guess it’s funny,” he said. “I know I wouldn’t dare tell it to many people. Can you imagine four old gentlemen, the youngest is over ninety now, taking on the study of Hebrew? They engaged a learned rabbi. They took to the study as though they were children. Exercise books, grammar, vocabulary, simple sentences. You should see Hebrew written in Chinese ink with a brush! The right to left didn’t bother them as much as it would you, since we write up to down. Oh, they were perfectionists! They went to the root of the matter.”
“And you?” said Samuel.
“I went along with them, marveling at the beauty of their proud clean brains. I began to love my race, and for the first time I wanted to be Chinese. Every two weeks I went to a meeting with them, and in my room here I covered pages with writing. I bought every known Hebrew dictionary. But the old gentlemen were always ahead of me. It wasn’t long before they were ahead of our rabbi; he brought a colleague in. Mr. Hamilton, you should have sat through some of those nights of argument and discussion. The questions, the inspection, oh, the lovely thinking—the beautiful thinking.
“After two years we felt that we could approach your sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis. My old gentlemen felt that these words were very important too—‘Thou shalt’ and ‘Do thou.’ And this was the gold from our mining: ‘Thou mayest.’ ‘Thou mayest rule over sin.’ The old gentlemen smiled and nodded and felt the years were well spent. It brought them out of their Chinese shells too, and right now they are studying Greek.”
Samuel said, “It’s a fantastic story. And I’ve tried to follow and maybe I’ve missed somewhere. Why is this word so important?”
Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. “Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Don’t you see?”
“Yes, I see. I do see. But you do not believe this is divine law. Why do you feel its importance?”
“Ah!” said Lee. “I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time. I even anticipated your questions and I am well prepared. Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.” Lee’s voice was a chant of triumph.
Adam said, “Do you believe that, Lee?”
“Yes, I do. Yes, I do. It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, ‘I couldn’t help it; the way was set.’ But think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There’s no godliness there. And do you know, those old gentlemen who were sliding gently down to death are too interested to die now?”
Adam said, “Do you mean these Chinese men believe the Old Testament?”
Lee said, “These old men believe a true story, and they know a true story when they hear it. They are critics of truth. They know that these sixteen verses are a history of humankind in any age or culture or race. They do not believe a man writes fifteen and three-quarter verses of truth and tells a lie with one verb. Confucius tells men how they should live to have good and successful lives. But this—this is a ladder to climb to the stars.” Lee’s eyes shone. “You can never lose that. It cuts the feet from under weakness and cowardliness and laziness.”
Adam said, “I don’t see how you could cook and raise the boys and take care of me and still do all this.”
“Neither do I,” said Lee. “But I take my two pipes in the afternoon, no more and no less, like the elders. And I feel that I am a man. And I feel that a man is a very important thing—maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed— because ‘Thou mayest.’”

Friday, August 6, 2010

Lists: Warm Fuzzies

adventure, Amelia Earhart, aprons, babies, banjo, bare feet, bare toenails, beards, Big Fish, blackberries, blanket forts, boardgames, bonfire smell, boulders, burnt orange, chinchillas, cookies, dragon flies, fake tattoos, fairs, family, floating, freedom, freeze pops, gangsta rap, getting lost, gifts, ginger, harmony, homemade jewelry, homemade popcorn, incense, letters, life, light, magpies, maps, melon, microscopes, multivitamins, Native American crafts, New Orleans, nightingales, Norman Rockwell, old trees, pancakes, peas, photo prints, picnic blankets, poignant children's movies and literature, polka dots, sanctuary, scars, singing too loudly, sketches, spiders, sunrises, surprises, Tae-bo, tasting new foods, tea, teal, tee-ball games, Tennessee scratch-offs, the smell of libraries, travel, understatement, unnecessary friendly competition, whispering, wind, wool socks, zucchini.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quotes: Lost and Found

I was looking through the e-sticky notes on my computer and found an interesting set of quotes:

“Love is saying 'I feel differently' instead of 'You're wrong.'”

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
Robert McCloskey

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Carl Gustav Jung

“Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”
Elbert Hubbard

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.”
Dale Carnegie

“Everyone hears only what he understands.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Monday, July 26, 2010


Hi Everyone!

FYI, I am a bit behind on my blogging because I am doing TOO MUCH AWESOME STUUUUFFFFF!!!!!
I promise I will update on what I have been up to in detail, but for now this will have to suffice. In the past two and a half weeks:

*A TON of good food has been eaten.
*Lots of bike miles have been logged.
*One dress and several gifts have been bartered for.
*One book (East of Eden) has been keeping me captivated past my bedtime.
*Three incredible POCs have been befriended.
*One rock island has been planned to be explored, climbed and jumped off of. :)
*100+ kids have been introduced to the wonderful world of Destination ImagiNation!!!!!
*I met the first camper that I actually miss.
*I have been nearly attacked by bats with 2-3 foot wingspans.
*I did some major "edgework" by sticking my (extremely ticklish) feet in a pool of tiny carp (I hate fish) to have them nibble dead skin cells off my feet.
*I danced in a bar to a cover band with a tiny woman from Guam.
*I rode through charming streets along the painted sea wall and saw stray cats, hippy musicians, kids playing soccer in the street, dogs on the roof, cute old men and gorgeous clouds on the horizon.

I like Japan. :)

I will be back in the States and accepting phone calls next week!
I love and miss you all!!!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Music: Can't Take It In by Imogen Heap

Can't close my eyes
They're wide awake
Every hair on my body
has got a thing for this place
Oh empty my heart
I've got to make room for this feeling
so much bigger than me

It couldn't be any more beautiful - I can't take it in.

Weightless in love...unraveling
For all that's to come
and all that's ever been
We're back to the board
with every shade under the sun
Let's make it a good one

It couldn't be any more beautiful x2 - I can't take it in x3

It couldn't be any more beautiful x2 - I can't take it in.

All that I wanted. All that I ever needed.
All that I wonder. So beautiful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Excerpt: East of Eden, Chapter 13, Section 1

By John Steinbeck

SOMETIMES A KIND OF GLORY lights up the mind of a man. It happens to nearly everyone. You can feel it growing or preparing like a fuse burning toward dynamite. It is a feeling in the stomach, a delight of the nerves, of the forearms. The skin tastes the air, and every deep-drawn breathe is sweet. Its beginning has the pleasure of a great stretching yawn; it flashes in the brain and the whole world glows outside your eyes. A man may have lived all of his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then--the glory-- so that a cricket song sweetens his ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished. And I guess a man's importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories. It is a lonely thing but it relates us to the world. It is the mother of all creativeness, and it sets each man separate from all other men.
I don't know how it will be in the years to come. There are monstrous changes taking place in the world, forces shaping a future whose face we do not know. Some of these forces seem evil to us, perhaps not in themselves but because their tendency is to eliminate other things we hold good. It is true that two men can lift a bigger stone than one man, a group can build automobiles quicker and better than one man, and bread from a factory is cheaper and more uniform. When our food and clothing and housing are all born in the complication of mass production, mass method is bound to get into our thinking and to eliminate all other thinking. In our time mass or collective production has entered our economics, our politics, and even our religion, so that some nations have substituted the idea collective for the idea God. This in my time is the danger. There is great tension in the world, tension toward breaking point, and men are unhappy and confused.
At such a time it seems natural and good to me to ask myself these questions. What do I believe in? What must I fight for and what must I fight against?
Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.
And now the forces marshaled around the concept of the group have declared a war of extermination on that preciousness, the mind of man. By disparagement, by starvation, by repression, forced direction, and the stunning hammerblows of conditioning, the free, roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged. It is a sad suicidal course our species seems to have taken.
And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for that is one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost.

Monday, July 12, 2010

This summer:10: Ahhhhdventure :)

FINALLY I got to get my adventure on. :)
People kept warning us that Misawa might be boring since it's so far away from anything. But I guess it's the country girl in me, because I absolutely loved it.

Picture mainland Japan as a banana.
Misawa is at the top of the stem.

Saturday: We flew in from Tokyo on the most nauseating plane ride of my life. Luckily no barf bag was needed, but man was I glad to touch ground. When we landed it was already pretty dark and the sea fog had rolled in, so after a tour of the base, Charles and I hit the sack.
Sunday: Sunday was pretty chill. There were some 4th of July festivities around base, but all in all, that day was pretty chill. I was hoping to watch the fireworks at the beach, but alas, the elusive sea fog spoiled those plans, and the fireworks were rescheduled.
Monday: We didn't have camp on Monday because of the holiday, so we spent the afternoon prepping for the rest of the week. After that, our POC Lynn invited Charles and I to dinner in a town an hour away, and of course we obliged. The drive ended up being 2 hours (!!!) but through the most gorgeous countryside. I loved to watch the breath-taking mountains, coastline, farms and faces pass by the window. Dinner was fun, and it was cool to watch the base's fireworks from the highway on our way home.
Tuesday: Camp began. I also decided to rent a bike this day. BEST DECISION YET. This was the first time I was able to get a pass that would grant me the ability to travel on and off the base by myself. HEAVEN. This was the first time I have felt like I was able to actually explore and be free.

When I saw this sign, it all clicked:
I realized just how important it is for me to have this kind of freedom. I was going nuts being stuck on the base or right on the side of Charles or our POC. It was so wonderful to just ride around Misawa and do my thing. I need balance between my job and my me-time. This makes me so much more like myself and much less like angry monster Audrey. whew! Luckily, Charles and I were able to talk about this and both decided "Audrey's Solo Exploration Time" is a good idea to allow each day. Bring it on!

Wednesday: This day Lynn and her husband John took Charles and I to a shrine where we were able to walk around and take pictures. It was really beautiful and quiet--much better than the temple in Tokyo we went to before that was so commercialized. Then we went to the super market, laughed at the funny English translation on tshirts, and had the most tasty dessert of all--crepe cones. Observe the creamy deliciousness complimented by kiwi, strawberry and banana:

After the supermarket we went to the SUPER market... That's right, we went to the fish market. It was seriously a piece from my perfect day. We just walked through the market, and I tried SO MANY crazy foods. Every stand had multiple sample bowls where you would take the chopsticks and drop the bizarre food into your other hand before eating it. I ate squid ink pastries, tons of dried fish, dried fish skin chips, several types of salmon eggs, chewy tentacles and much, much more. haha It was so awesome. The vendors kept laughing at me because I was so excited to try everything. One woman that spoke English told Charles that I could travel anywhere with the enthusiasm I had eating that food.
The funniest thing was after eating so much fish, I wanted something sweet to wash the taste out of my mouth, so I bought what looked like a fruit roll-up. Yeeeaaah... It turned out to be a squid roll-up. So nasty, but I ended up eating the whole thing so that I didn't have to smell it in the car anymore. haha Why on earth would they put squid candy next to the gum at the register?!? Silly Japan.
Thursday: This was our Family Camp day. It was so perfect! Honestly, this was the Family Camp I look forward to having in Heaven. It just went so well. We sent our RSVP invitations at the beginning of the week, and ended up having a great turn out. The night was full of non-stop laughter, and even the Lieutenant Colonel cracked a smile. :) It really makes me look forward to our future Family Camps now that we have a seemingly successful formula.
Friday: We finished up camp and staff training then headed to the Oirase Gorge. I was really hoping to get a little bouldering (rock climbing) in, but alas, my climbing shoes stayed in by bag. It was alright though, because we got to see some really cool waterfalls and mountain sights. I was surprised how much the forest looked like the woods in southern Indiana and Kentucky. The ridges were a little steeper, but for the most part it was a good reminder of home. :)
On the way home from the gorge, we stopped at a Two Turtles. This is one of those conveyor belt sushi restaurants that you see in the movies. It was so, so fun. I would just see some funky-looking thing roll by, and I could grab it and eat it! haha As usually, you get some stinkers and some gems, but the experience always wins out over the flavors. :)
Saturday: This morning we had to leave at 9am to catch our plane, but I was determined to visit the ocean. So, I woke up at 6am, hoped on my rental bike, and rode through the rain on my search for the sea. A girl at the youth center told me all I had to do was drive out the gate and keep going. I rode and rode and rode for half an hour and still didn't reach the ocean. It was still such an amazing ride though. I passed by tiny farm houses with chickens clucking from their barns; I passed a secluded shrine tucked in a patch of tree; ...I also passed a man peeing in the street. ha It's socially acceptable for a man to just go for it right in the street, which I found rather shocking, but mildly hilarious at the same time.
I was about to turn around and head back when I thought I heard waves crashing over the sound of rain! YAYAYAYAYA! I made it to the ocean, but I had to keep searching to find an access point that wasn't covered with threatening looking signs. Eventually I found one that at least looked like no one would be able to see me going back to the beach. I remembered hearing how expensive it is to own a gun in Japan, so I figured I would chance it and take that path. I walked though what looked like a Christmas tree farm and wound up on a beautiful dark sand beach. It was stunning. I took a few minutes to run around on the beach and sing and laugh and twirl in the rain. Then I realized some people were watching me, so I gave them a wave then high tailed it out of there. :)
The perfect end to a great week.

Well, that was last week! Keep it here for updates on this week at Yakota Air Base back in Fussa City!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

This summer:9: The Strange Happenings of Week 3

Monday/Tuesday: Lots and lots and lots of flying. Refer to previous post for details.

Wednesday: Charles was sick, and I did not have access back onto the base without him as my escort, so I decided to explore within the base gates on my own. My travels were short-lived due to my jet lag sleepiness, but I did manage to explore the huge Community Center which included the Commissary (grocery store), BX (K-Mart), several gift shops, fast food restaurants, antique stores and my favorite, the 100 yen store. I bought myself some sushi and pink ginger ale for lunch and some fruit, rice, milk and honey for breakfast.
BTW the milk here in Japan is heavenly. I kept looking for the secret ingredient that makes it taste so strangely wonderful, but alas, it was listed as only including milk. It has a sort of creamy nutty flavor, so maybe the cows eat a strict diet of cashews. ha

Thursday: Charles was still a little on edge health-wise so we decided it would be best to stick around Fussa City (just outside the base gates) for the day. Fussa (population 60,000) is an hour train ride from downtown Tokyo, but is still considered part of the city. It comprises mostly of little day-to-day shops, restaurants and apartments. There are random little gardens spattering the city, which I was told have belonged to families for many generations as the city has been built up around them.
Much of the day was spent searching for the allusive temple we saw on the train station map but to no avail. A very nice woman with a name something like Ayuku and her friend Akiku (or something like that) actually gave us a ride to a shrine in the middle of the city, but it was kinda nasty. I did really love walking around the mausoleum-style cemetery there though. Many of the graves had ornate gravestones with tea cup offerings set upon them (one had a beer can. ha) as well as a bowl full of burning or burnt incense.
We also had our first Japanese restaurant experience, which was an experience indeed. I had a super delicious fried fish/veggie/rice/miso soup/weird stuff meal, and Charles had beef stew with mashed potatoes. The beef was actually just beef fat, so needless to say, I made the more appeasing choice. haha It was at the restaurant that I also got my first look at a bidet. haha hilarious. The Japanese love these things. Some are complete with "Powerful Deodorant" buttons, fake flushing sounds (to muffle spraying sound) and temperature controls! I haven't used the spraying features yet, but don't think it won't happen sometime in the next month! The bathroom also had a toilet seat cleaner dispenser, rice paper for oily faces, mouthwash, mini toilet paper packets, and a myriad of other complementaries that I can't recall. Yeah, the bathrooms here are great.
Fussa City showed us our first mega arcade too. Charles and I had an epic photobooth session, and we found out I am a natural at first person shooter arcade games. I then spilled half a Nalgene of water and 3/4 of an ice cream cone on the floor (which I cleaned up with massive wads of toilet paper from the, again spectacular, bathroom), and we decided it was time to move on.
Just when we were about to give up on our search for the temple and our feet were about to give out on us, we spotted some kids venturing out into the Tama River to have some fun. Considering it was about 5 million degrees Celsius, we though, "what the hay?" and decided to join them. How refreshing! The water felt so good on our feet, and the kids were of course adorable. Then they started to jump off a ledge into the water, which looked like way too much fun to pass up. Charles made the decision to jump first considering he had packed extra clothes, and these things always seem to be easier for guys to pull off. But, my adventurous spirit wouldn't let me stand by the wayside, and despite wearing light colored shorts (I just decided to wrap my jacket around my waist for the rest of the day) I took the plunge. This was a good way to end the journey.
From there, Charles and I walked back to the base, grabbed some dinner from the Commissary, watched GI Joe and went to bed exhausted.
I am very glad for the experience that I had that first real day in Japan, but I know that I did not make the most of it. A lot of the time I was wishing that the experiences I was having would be more like my high expectations I had envisioned, and that cheapened the experiences that I did have. I will learn from this in the future.

Friday: The day we braved the train. I think we both built up the complexity of riding the train much more than it was worth. Since most of the train stations are connected to downtown Tokyo, they incorporated both English and Japanese, which was a huge relief. Once we figured out the color system (our map was black and white), it was a big help too.
We took the train to the neighborhood Akihabara aka Electric City. This is the comic book/anime/nerd capital of the world. There are tons of arcades and pachinko palaces, computer stores and maid cafes. Our first stop, though, was a temple just outside of this area of town. Once again, my expectations were challenged when we entered the temple gates. I was hoping for a very serene atmosphere where I could just be still, but I realized this wasn't going to happen when I saw the vending machines, Tom Hank's Big inspired fortune machines and a gift shop. Yes, there were people paying their respects to the statues, but I found all the crap along with it interesting but a big turn off. I guess you get that a lot of places you go though. I mean, most churches I go to have a doughnut and coffee bar, which many people would find disgraceful. To each is own, I guess.
My favorite part of Friday was definitely dinner. We went to a famous "maid cafe" in Akihabara, which is a modern play on the Geisha. Sickly cute girls dressed in maid outfits serve you over-priced, mediocre food while occasionally singing, dancing and having you pay to play games for discounts and prizes. I asked our maid what she recommended and got the dish called "Cheep cheep cheep rice". It included a main dish of seasoned rice with an over-easy omelet that the maid drew a ketchup anime bunny on. Then there was a dollop of potato salad and a couple pieces of iceberg lettuce. haha hilarious and mildly gross, but totally worth the experience.
Charles didn't realize the extent of the "Japan runs mainly on cash" rule and spent most of the dinner running around town looking for an ATM that took Master Card. Meanwhile I had a ball with the maid and watching the creepy dudes that actually believed the maids liked them and didn't just want their money. Unfortunately, they didn't allow photographs (you could buy one for 700 yen), so you will just have to imagine the ridiculousness. :) It was called @home-cafe

Saturday: This was travel day. Since we have 500 million pounds of luggage we had to take the circuitous route to the airport. Instead of being about to pay 1200 yen to ride the train from Fussa City to Haneda Airport in time for our flight, we had to ride a shuttle first to Narita Airport and the Haneda, which took 4 1/2 hours and cost 8000 yen. Then we had to wait in the airport for 4 more hours for our plane. Oh well. I got the chance to eat a bizarre bento box and a sort of Japanese flan. I also got to use a "Japanese style" toilet, which basically means peeing into a hole in the floor while a sensor beside you makes fake flushing noises. (again to muffle the sounds. haha)
The plane ride nearly made me vomit, but we made it to Misawa unscathed. Our rooms don't have internet or air conditioning, but it is alright. Charles says that that is the biggest culture shock he has experienced so far. ;)

Okay, I am off to discover the base's Fourth of July activities. I think I am going to go to the beach tonight for fireworks, so I'm sure there will be pictures and stories to come!

The Internet is too slow here, so you'll have to wait for pictures until next week. Check facebook if you're interested!


This summer:8: Big Fish and Brainwriting Reflection Week 3

I wouldn't say that I have many favorites. I like a lot of things... a lot. But, picking just one and sticking with it just isn't my style. Where this trend dissolves, though, is in the category of movies. My favorite movie of all time has to be Big Fish. I am constantly finding ways to relate this movie to my life. Much of the film comprises of the tall tale memories of Edward Bloom's life. Bloom's life was one big fish story. He grew up the "biggest thing" his town had ever seen; he was the smartest, the best athlete, the most ambitious and so on. He was a goldfish in a tiny bowl that longed for the sea, a place more suited for his size.

"It occurred to me then, that perhaps the reason for my growth was that I was intended for
larger things. After all, a giant man can't have an ordinary-sized life."

He decided to leave his town, ready for the adventure of a lifetime. But, on his first adventure (taking a scary, mysterious short cut instead of the wide, long road with his friend Karl, an actual giant) he managed to get lost, be attacked by giant spiders, and end up in the Utopian town of Spectre.
Upon being greeted at the town's entrance, the mayor looked at his list and told Bloom that he wasn't scheduled to arrive in Spectre for many more years, but they were glad to have him anyway. Now in Spectre there are no streets or sidewalks, just a pristine bed of grass perfect for dancing, so there is no need for shoes. In fact, all residents of Spectre throw their shoes over a power line at the entrance to the town because there is no point in wearing them because no one ever leaves Spectre--no one except Edward Bloom. He decided that Spectre would be the perfect place to settle down... eventually. But he was only at the beginning of his adventure and had so much more to explore and discover. He fought back out of the treacherous path shoeless and eventually made it back to Karl on the main road.

Karl: "Friend, what happened to your shoes?"
Young Ed Bloom: [Looking down at his feet] "They kinda got ahead of me."

This past week, I think I let my shoes get ahead of me.

I have such great expectations for my life and the travel and adventures that I am going to experience. I have detailed pictures mapped out in my mind of me concurring the world, one big fish story at a time... but there are still seasons to life. Not every ambition and every goal is meant to be met now.
This week, my expectations did not match up with reality, and this left me feeling wrongly disappointed and incomplete. It wasn't fair of me to expect to be wandering the streets of Japan, eyes filled with wonder, following every impulse that tickled my spirit. It wasn't fair for me to long to be sleeping in hostels, befriending the locals, and not having a care when the last time I changed my clothes was. (I know to many this sounds strange, but to me it sounds magical :) )

Why? Because this trip is not just about me. I am traveling with another person with quite different expectations and desires for a week in Japan and with a completely different worldview and set of values. It isn't fair for me to selfishly disregard his experience and place my own before his. That's not how life should work.

Would I prefer to take on the roll of a rouge world traveler for a week in another country? Heck yes; without a doubt.
Is my time for that now? Perhaps not.
Will I get my chance eventually? Lord willing, yes.

Right now is the time for me to be introduced to my first foreign travel experience. It is a chance for me to slowly get oriented so I am better prepared for my future, more adventurous travel; travel where I am not staying at a secure Air Force base hotel complete with armed guards; travel where I do not have an itinerary and my direction is decided by the roll of a die; travel where I am responsible for me and not the desires of anyone else.

Needless to say, this week was very difficult for me. I felt very restricted and did not feel at all like I expected to feel. Jet lag sure didn't help my emotions either.

And that's okay.

What have I learned this week?

1) Take things as they come with an open mind. I need to do a better job at just lightening up when reality doesn't line up with my expectations. I am a big fish that sets my expectations extremely high. Sometimes life has different plans and wants me to wait for the right time for my big dreams to come true.

2) Be nice and embrace teachable moments. I admit that I got rather short with Charles this week because I felt like the two of our expectations for the week didn't match up. He was experiencing a lot of things for the first time--things that I have learned to take for granted--and it frustrated me to have to wait for him to have those experiences. That was selfish and unfair. Truth is that there are things that I have to learn from him and things that I can eagerly teach him.

3) Application, application, application. If I don't apply what I have learned from this difficult week, the rest of my trip in Japan will just keep getting harder, and I will eventually breakdown. If I do enter the rest of this trip with a fresh step and new attitude, the only way it can go is up.

So, I am going to choose to keep my feet in my shoes and my head on my shoulders. I am going to embrace the pace that this trip presents and look at everything as a learning experience for the future that may be applied to my life beyond this summer.

Above is this week's Brainwriting (an activitiy we usually do with the kids to reflect on things learned over the week). The picture on the right is an illustration of the grand expectations that I set for myself--cliff jumping in an exotic location complete with bonsai tree and sunny skies. The picture in the middle illustrates a rather cool experience Charles and I had where we were able to swim in the Tama River with some local youth. It wasn't exactly how I would have liked it to be, but it was still fresh and new. The picture on the left illustrates where I let my mind go after being poisoned by my unrealistic and unfair expectations. I might as well have been standing in a puddle in the rain with the sour attitude I had. The shoes and footprints at the bottom show how I let my shoes get ahead of me.
I have learned a lot, and am going to make the most of the rest of my summer.