Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Nuit por Leslie, tres bon, no?

Okay, don't think I'm crazy, but when one spends enough time on one's own, one gets ideas.
Tonight, I had a Leslie Night. Leslie Dickey is my good friend living in York, NE--though she is the kind of person one would imagine living in New York. To describe her, I would begin with words like edgy, creative, epicurious, aesthetic, funny, and intriguing. She is off-beat enough to test the limits of my life inside the box, but never so presumptuous to push me outside of it without my consent. There are certain small things Leslie had made me appreciate that, were it not for her, I would've passed up without a thought. So it was the least I could do when I decided to dedicate an entire evening to her. My agenda was as follows:
Come home and take off all the accessories that made my outfit fabulous, yet a little less than comfortable during my workday, made a real meal, poured a glass of chardonnay and turned on "Paris, je T'aime", at her recommendation that I rent it. I proceeded to cry through most of the middle, baked three chocolate chip cookies for myself, then ate them warm out of the oven and began to feel better immediately. Finally, after the movie was over, I made a mixed-CD to be proud of and flipped through Blueprint magazine she'd loaned to me before I left Lincoln. I wasn't reading it though, I mostly just flipped through looking at the pictures and imagining what motif she would decide on when she finally got her own place. If I had read the magazine, I imagine all the funky fonts would've read, over and over, "I miss Leslie". When she reads this, she will probably make some girly-cooing noise, then come to her senses and realize how hideously corny that last sentence was.
I'll put on my newly-mixed CD before I go to bed and let it run until it runs out or I fall asleep, whichever comes first, and include Leslie in my prayers because I am thankful for her and God deserves to know it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Personal goals, Personal best:

1) Read one book every two weeks, at least two of them in Spanish (26 books in 2008)
2) Develop some kind of regular schedule for doing devotions/having quiet time with God
3) Keep track of my "firsts", currently on the list: Making an omelette, negotiating 6 lanes of traffic, going to a movie by myself, learning how to spell croissant, working a 40+ hour week, drinking black coffee for a whole week
4) Learn yoga
5) By the end of this year, cook half the recipes from the NY bakery cookbook, Magnolia and perfect at least three of them
6) Walk/jog a 5k this Spring, jog a 5k this Summer, run a 5k end of Fall
7) Create at least one painting I can be proud of by the end of the year
8) Listen to Spanish radio stations to and from work every day
9) Make it through my "French for Dummies" CDs, master one of them
10) Save some money and buy a piano by Spring (finish mastering music from "Amelie")
11) Go to Mexico this summer
12) Write letters to loved ones once a month
13) MUST start drinking six glasses of water a day
14) Stop using cream in my coffee
15) Take a surfing lesson (one from my Great-Aunt counts, even if it is just boogie boarding...)
16) Draw
17) Find a fantastic church (pray about it)
18) Become a prayer warrior
19) Wear my hair down more often
20) Find new ways to introduce creativity into my life: take a different route to work, fill whole grocery basket with foods I've never tried before, doodle in the margins of books, ask others about who their favorite musicians are and find new artists to listen to.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Snapshots: Better than Better | Have a Good Day Sun! | Afraid of Heights | Cake

Me: Were you scared at all when you found out?
Rita*: Well no! When the doctor told me about it, I just told him, "That's stupid".
Me: Huh. I don't think I would have been able to say that.
Rita: Well, don't you think it's stupid?
Me: A brain tumor?
Rita: Yeah! I mean, being scared doesn't make something go away.
Me: So how did treating it with contempt work for you?
Rita: Pretty good I guess, it's not in here anymore anyway! (self-consciously smoothing down the back of her hair over the long scar trailing from the nape of her neck into her scalp)
Me: I'm glad you're better.
Rita: Honey, I'm better than better. No go get to work. Come back to my office for lunch sometime. We'll clear off my desk, put down a tablecloth and order in and have a picnic.
*Coworker, and survivor of a brain tumor diagnosed in December 2007
I watched my first sunset on the beach last Saturday night, "alone" in the La Jolla Cove. I'm learning that alone isn't a state of being, it's a state of mind. If that's true, then I shared the sunset with a father and son and here's what they were talking about...
Dad: See? There it goes! Say buh-bye sun! (or maybe it was "son")
Boy: (loud enough so the sun could hear him) BUH-BYE SUN! I'LL SEE'll seE YOU TOMORROW DAY!!
Dad: Yup, because right now it's going to bed.
Dad: A good night, you mean.
Son: (thinking, then saying with conviction) Sure.

There was an old man about 4 feet away from me who eased himself down on the low wall along the walkway and sat with such a hunch that his eye level was even with top of the cane he used, held erect and steady with his hand atop it. He looked sooooo lonely and it ached somewhere beneath my collarbone to watch him sit there alone waiting for the sun to set. I'd almost decided to go over there, but rethought the action; not all those who are alone are lonely, just as not all who wander are lost. Then it occurred to me, that it was I who was a little lonely and I got up and sat beside him.
Meg: Excuse me, I'm watching the sunset alone, and you didn't look like had any company either and I figured... (I sort of started to lose my nerve a little, though not usually shy)...
Man: Are you afraid of heights?
Me (caught a little off guard): A little, why?
Man: I'm pleased with myself, because I am afraid of heights and this is the closest I've gotten to these cliffs by the beach before.
Me: That's pretty good! (looking over the side of where we were situated safely and really not that far up at all) I'm impressed.
Man: Well thank you, but you shouldn't be. To be honest I was just tired and didn't want to go any farther so I stopped here.
Me: Still counts.
Man: I s'pose. (smiles)
Me: Would you like to watch the sun set together?
Man: I'm sorry, I'd love to, but I'm meeting my wife at a restaurant a little farther down the way.
I was surprised that he had a date waiting for him; I'd misjudged his situation. He got up, smiled, and started walking away and I felt a pang at being the one left. I sadly watched him walk away but after he took a few shuffling steps away from me, I couldn't hang onto my self-pity another moment, so pleased was I to know that he had someone and somewhere. The ache let up and I smiled to myself. My ocean sunset was, as you can imagine or have see for yourself at one time or another, marvelous. It burns red just before it dips down to the water, I imagine that were I closer to it, I could hear it sizzle as it hit the water; the white light reflecting on the water just below the sun moves to-and-fro as if it were simmering, making the metaphor more substantial.
Why one should never underestimate the power of the chocolate and coffee bean to remedy a situation.
I went to a crowded coffee shop appropriately called "The Living Room;" it was furnished with old chaise lounges, velvet parlor sofas, and mismatched dining sets. I claimed a table and began to write letters to close friends and family. Soon after, two older ladies came in and settled just behind me. No sooner were they there than they began to complain about the overly-trendy crowd, lack of space, and shabby furniture. As one of them incessantly bemoaned her surroundings, her friend had enough sense to take some kind of action...
Lady 1: I'm going to go buy us some dessert
Lady 2: It's 10:00 in the morning!
Lady 1: So what? What would you like?
Lady 2: How should I know?
Lady 1: Would you like to come to the front and look?
Lady 2: No, just pick something you think I would like.
Lady 1: Something with chocolate in it?
Lady 2: No.
Lady 1: What about pie or a tart or something?
Lady 2: No.
Lady 1: A danish, croissant, muffin?
Lady 2: I don't KNOW! I'll just have whatever you get.
The first old lady got up to make her purchase, mumbling a little as she went, and returned five minutes later carrying two (mismatched) plates with large pieces of chocolate cake and forks sliding precariously on each. She set down the plates, and wordlessly they began to eat the cake. I got up to get a glass of water in order to better view the scene, I got the cup and glanced over. They were sitting straight, just as proper ladies should, I smiled and looked down to focus on what I was doing. Once I'd filled my glass, I squeezed a wedge of lemon into it and started back to my table. When I took in the ladies a second time, their faces were significantly closer to the plates and their forks scraped against their dishes as they collected the final morsels of their morning dessert. I stifled a giggle and sat back down to listen...
Lady 2: The lighting isn't very good here, is it?
Lady 2: Though, I'd say they make up for it with their food. I always say that dessert should precede a meal, that way if you run out of room you don't miss the best part.
Lady 1: I like the music. (it was classical, maybe Wagner)
Lady 2: Yes, it's actually very good (I hear her fork clinking on the plate again, though I know the cake is no longer). They should still replace the furniture in here, but my chair is surprisingly comfortable.
Lady 1: How have you been feeling lately?
Lady 2: (ignoring the question) Thank you for the cake.
Lady 1: I ordered coffee too, but I forgot to make it decaf.
Lady 2: (threatening to relapse into grumpiness) Oh, well I'll never get to sleep tonight, the last time I drank...
A server approaches the table and says
Server: Here are your coffees ladies, and I'm sorry but we just ran out of regular so I brought you decafs until we get another pot of regular brewed.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sweet Anonymity

I am in the seventh largest city in the U.S. where 1.3 million San Diegans crowd 6-lane freeway lanes, dine in posh restaurants along the boardwalk and flood the beach when the surf is high. Only about 13 of them know I'm even here, probably fewer than that remember my name; my supervisors, my landlady, my great-aunt who is probably landscaping her backyard with a swimming pool in her new hilltop abode overlooking the city as we speak, and a handful of coworkers who barely caught my name today between sips of corporate coffee and retrieving faxes.
I make a point of smiling at cashiers, produce vendors, and fellow residents in my apartment area and try hard not to convey the sentiment, "will you be my friend?" behind the grin that comes easily and, so far, is somewhat effective. I chat pleasantly with the check-out guy at Trader Joes, ask the farmer selling produce on the corner, "¿como se puede saber si un mango es maduro o no?" (how can you tell if a mango is ripe or not?) and he responds warmly in Spanish and smiles back. I met a woman in the apartment a few away from mine who works in the cancer clinic on the UCSD campus. She was dressed in a pretty sundress but looked a bit tired and told me her name was Katie. I hope I'm spelling it right and that her day wasn't too hard.
Coming home to an empty apartment isn't all bad. I no sooner do I latch and chain the door behind me, and I wriggle out of my stuffy work clothes and leave them in a heap in front of the door. I proceed to the kitchen, wearing what's left and assemble a salad made with the produce pictured here, some baby mixed greens and thai peanut dressing I concocted last night.
I know I will go to bed without having anyone to whom I may say 'goodnight' to and wake up with no one to whom I may greet with 'good morning'. That is the strangest part.
But I have no one telling me when to do something or how best I might proceed, no one to interrupt my thoughts in the coffee shop as I write letters or read (presently, am enthralled by Jane Eyre) except to ask me, "are you going to use this chair?". "No, please feel free", I reply, mentally adding, "who would I know that could occupy it?".
Perhaps some sadness will creep in later, but for the moment, all this I take in with a sort of wide-eyed consideration and am fascinated to learn what it is to be on one's own. I feel very calm and content. I feel that if that peace were disturbed, I can drive all of six minutes to the beach and watch the ocean's undulating waves licking the sand, inhale the sea scent that no man will ever succeed in bottling: the sweetness of the flowers that bloom here even in mid January, a hint of salty fishiness, of wet sand (it sort of smells like dirt but different), and that unnamable agent that distinguishes it from all other perfumes.
I miss you all, dear loved ones. Your phone calls, emails, messages, posts, and letters mean more than I can say. I don't have to be there to be "here for you", and thank you for returning the sentiment.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Being more pacific...

Hello from sunny San Diego! I've been in San Diego for almost a week now and will start my job tomorrow. I confess, I'm pretty nervous to go to work, my editing skills are well below par as I've had a summer and a semester away from my training in that field but I'm prepared for a real challenge (finally, since last semester proved arduous though not stimulating).
I hope this entry finds you all well and off to a great new year so far. Know that I miss you all very much.
Posted are some shots of my apartment as taken with my webcam on my mac, so you'll have to excuse the quality. I left my camera cord in NE so once retrieved, I can post some quality photographs.
Today I'm going to make my way down my lengthy to-do list, catch some sun (it is SO beautiful here, it feels like the very best pre-summer day at 68 degrees and breezy) and settle into a cozy seat at the Starbucks located about 100 yards from my doorstep and write some long overdue thank you notes to family and friends for all their support and generosity this winter season.