Friday, December 28, 2007

My Holidays Unwrappped

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a safe and fabulous time ringing in the New Year and rest of the holiday season. Its hard to know where to begin. It seems like I had about 3 weeks worth of activity packed into my last week! In true Me fashion I am a little behind on some things since Christmas- blogging, cleaning since I have spent most of my days and nights at the in-laws this week with my visiting brother and sister-in-law and nephews. and I am happy to report that I actually ordered my Christmas photo cards yesterday that will now be known as "Happy New Year" cards... or perhaps "Happy Martin Luther King Day" or "Happy Valentines Day" depending how long I procrastinate on writing the letter to go with them.

Paul and I had a great Christmas despite my previous anxieties. He loved his big mystery present which was a handmade wooden bookshelf that is actually big enough to hold his oversized architecture books.

And I could hardly keep from jumping up and down when I opened my graduation/Christmas/birthday gift from him - a shiny, new, incredibly fast MacBook Pro laptop. It is so wonderful not to have to delete a file every time I want to add a new one!

My mom was incredibly generous and went overboard with presents as usual, although she swears this will be the last time (we've heard that before but I think she actually means it this time) and suggested we all go to Maui for Christmas next year.

The arrival of Michael and Jenny (my brother and sister-in-law)'s Christmas card announced the upcoming arrival of a new niece or nephew! They came down for a week to visit around New Years and we re-enacted Christmas once again.

And I turned 29 last week (although it seems like a month ago!). Only one more year left until I enter the next decade, but for now at least, I am embracing my age. I've had a great 29 years. I have a great family and great friends and I am living out my career dream as a University teacher for International students and have been blessed with many opportunities to travel and see the world in out of the box ways and participate in the community around me. 29 is not so bad and I don't think 30 will be either.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tis The Season

...For everything Christmas and all of the parties and gatherings that go along with it. In the last few weeks I have been to both Paul's and my work holiday parties, a "Hootenany" Christmas sing-a-long,

Christmas cookie and fudge baking at my mother-in-law's (we managed to keep at least half of our original batches from burning or mistakenly using the recipe on the page before the intended recipe), a last minute get together with former co-workers and Christmas at my Dad's. So far Christmas 2007 has not been overly stressful, but I shouldn't speak too soon. We've still got two more Christmas celebrations to go.

I made the task of wrapping Christmas presents much more enjoyable by dragging my laptop upstairs to watch my old Sex and the City DVDs and preparing a very healthy breakfast plate of chocolate Christmas cookies, fudge, and cheese and crackers to nibble on between wrapping and trying to keep my cat, Shakira, from chewing all of the ribbons to death.

My biggest stressor this holiday season has actually been trying to find the perfect present for Paul. After looking in every conceivable place both online and in person, last week I started to freak out that I hadn't found anything. I did get a bunch of little things that I know he'll like but nothing big. And then I found it. Something he mentioned that he would really like. Something beautiful and unique and very good quality. And then I looked at the price tag. Yikes! Something expensive. I agonized over this decision for days and finally went back to the place where I could find it and found it was not exactly as it had seemed. Hmmmm. Return to freak out mode. Luckily, yesterday I was able to find something not only better, but also something that will take a little less of a toll on the pocket book. I just hope Paul will like it as much as I did. Want to know what it is? Sorry, you'll have to wait until after Christmas too.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Shaking Up the Routine

Travel is something that I can always count on to give me a new perspective. When I am stuck in a rut and can’t seem to get out of a nightly routine of sitting on the couch watching Tivo-ed episodes of Ugly Betty and the Amazing Race I sometimes get depressed. While I am comfy snuggled up under my blanket on the couch with the scenes flashing before me, sometimes I feel like there is so much more out there I could be doing. So much I could be learning, even small things that would greatly change my life and make a much larger contribution to my happiness than keeping up with Betty Suarez.

I think about the experiences I’ve had just a plane ride or car ride away when my routine is totally shaken up: stomping on a barrel full of warm squishy grapes that stained my feet purple for a week,

getting a glimpse of the actual John Hancock on the Declaration of Independence,

eating dinner with a Korean woman and a Brazilian woman in Spain who have somehow become friends without even speaking a common language,

picking up my feet and letting myself zip line across the rain forest through a cloud even though I was terrified,

choosing to walk across nearly the entire country of Spain for my summer vacation.

I think travel gives me back that childlike feeling of limitlessness. Before being saddled with all of the rules and social pressures of adulthood (“Don’t do that! You could get hurt, get messy, spend too much money, too much time, etc.”) dreaming the impossible and expanding our experience was our number one priority. Lost in a new place without the comforts and routine of my home life I feel free to take more chances, do the things I’ve always wanted to, be the person I’ve always wanted to be.

Even though travel can be the catalyst we need to break ourselves away from our routines in order to try something new, these activities I’ve mentioned above all have something in common that I don’t need to leave my hometown to find. The rush of giddiness doesn’t come from jumping off of a high rickety platform and almost dying, but instead from stretching myself. Its seeing the line in front of me between what is comfortable and easy and what is risky and scary and dancing right over it.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop traveling. I love it way too much. (In fact I already have plans for a ski trip this February with a group of friends, and I am hopeful that we will get to take a trip to Macau and Hong Kong this summer). But in the coming years I want to bring some of the excitement and newness to my life at home. I really want to seek out ways I can participate in my community and live with that traveling spirit right here at home as well as on the road.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Writing on the Wall

The building where I teach 2 of my classes this semester is pretty old. Not beautifully old, made of aging red brick, rich in history with ivy crawling up its sides like you’d see at some New England University. Instead, this building is 1970’s mod style old, complete with peeling stucco. And like many buildings that pass their prime in Las Vegas, it is scheduled for implosion (well, at least destruction of some sort) and rebuilding in the coming years.

One of the interesting features of the 2nd floor ladies room in this building is the writing that covers the walls of the bathroom stalls. I don’t think it has been cleaned for years because I have some hazy recollection of seeing it when I was an undergrad at least 6 years ago. Reading through some of the strange comments the other day, such as a debate over whether or not Jesus was in fact black, I got to wondering what possesses people to write on bathroom walls and how they choose the subject of their bathroom stall graffiti.

The bathroom that sticks out in my memory as being the most actively filled up with comments was at my favorite college hangout Tom and Jerry’s. Sadly, the place is now a Laundromat or something like that, but during my college days, every Tuesday night it was bursting at the seams with underage college students with fake IDs for dollar drink night (perhaps that’s why it was eventually shut down). It was the first bar I ever went to. The floor was always sticky with spilled drinks and packed with everyone I knew at the time. Being thoroughly liquored up with a continuous stream of $1 Captain and cokes or beers, it seems like a brilliant and pretty obvious idea to write on the bathroom walls. Especially when so many other people already had. Most of the writings at Tom & Jerry's were to the tune of Anthony hearts Melissa 4-ever or Natalia is a skanky b**ch and she better stay away from my man. I’m pretty sure I added own my comments at one point.

However, I’m a little more curious about the people who scribble on the walls in the middle of the day at school. Are the authors bored? Are they looking for a forum to express themselves? Who are these people that write on the bathroom walls anyway? Are they rebels? Just ordinary, everyday students? Are they (gasp!) professors? I can just imagine Ira Glass doing an interview with the people who write these comments for This American Life.

There is one bathroom I refer to as the F*** Jesus bathroom. The dialogue in there goes something like this:

Jesus was black.

No, he wasn’t. Jesus was white.

What color is the sand when you wet it?

I have it on good authority that Jesus is purple.

Jesus was Jewish. Cleopatra was Macedonian. Stop rewriting history.

F*** Jesus. (This comment is now scratched out.)

Mmm-kay. I find it funny that their choice of topic for defacing public property is religion.

This made me think of something written in a bathroom wall in the University I went to in Spain. I wrote it down one day after returning to class because I thought it was funny. It said:

Nunca corras detras de un tio ni un autobus.
Llegara otro en un ratito.

Never chase after a guy or a bus.
There’ll be another one along in a minute.

Monday, December 3, 2007

I've Come a Long Way Baby!

My half marathon was yesterday and I am happy to report that I actually ran across the finish line to complete my 13.1 mile (about 21 km for my friends on the metric system) course. I kept thinking as I was plodding along, if only my high school gym teacher could see me now. I was that girl who was "sick" or suddenly struck with a case of debilitating cramps every time we had to run the mile in PE. If those excuses didn't work I would puff and wheeze through it, sure that death was imminent.

Yesterday, I didn't think I would die even once! That is not to say that it was easy, I think I just had a change of heart about the whole running = torture or death idea. I walked a great deal of it, but Ashley and I did the whole course together and talking and laughing about the running Elvi and the guy in the pink tutu and fishnets and the run -thru wedding chapel made the time and distance go by pretty quickly. We finished with a time of about 3 hours and 30 minutes which was quicker than I expected. Ashley, being the 4 time full marathoner that she is, who actually runs all the way through 26.2 mile courses, I would normally not be able to keep up with her speedy and well trained pace. Because of a calf injury she was taking it easy and went along with my slow and steady pace.

Even though I am extremely sore and shuffling around like an old lady today I am really glad I did it. I even got a cool medal and a t-shirt to prove that I made it through.
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