Wednesday, November 26, 2008

300 Miles To Go

Personality theory in relation to Myers Briggs says that an INFP operates primarily by the function of Introverted Feeling. In theory,
every type has a first and second function they use for understanding and deciding most everything.
It basically means my default mode of processing is to sift things through my head, privately, quietly, through the screen of my personal values and feelings, categorizing ideas and thoughts and decisions, figuring out what things mean, how I feel about them, and what I am to do about it. It can get irritating that my mind is never quiet... but not when I have a nearly five hour drive ahead of me.

To say that the past four days have given me lots to process is an extreme understatement. So, luckily, for this drive I've got my Bon Iver, enough rain to keep me contemplative, Christen driving her car in front of mine to lead the way, and plenty to feed my introverted feeling function for the exactly 300 miles I have ahead of me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rose Colored

During the month or so of my senior year of high school when I was thinking that I'd maybe like to go to UCSB instead of Westmont, which I'd been set on since I was a sophomore, one of the main reasons I wavered was that UCSB offered a degree in linguistics. Words, meanings, the root of words, how different cultures use language... all of that has always been fascinating to me.

I think it's so interesting when you're talking to someone from another country and as certain idioms or terms come up the conversation must pause since they need to be explained. There are so many roads that language can take, different ways to arrive at the same thing, and idioms are fun since they sort of take a shortcut to get to meaning. I find it intriguing to pick the words to explain what such phrases mean, and doing so can make you more aware of what you're actually trying to communicate.

See the world through rose-colored glasses.

They wear the pants in that relationship.

Wear your heart on your sleeve.

I smiled to myself as I broke down those phrases yesterday. Language is so fun.

And then there's also the times when your foreign friend knows why a certain word or phrase is used and what it's cultural meaning is, and finds it hilarious because of it's literal meaning.

Like, douchebag.

Or cougar.

And then there are the times when language is used similarly no matter what the cultural difference, and the meaning is direct and obvious.

Like, "so do I get to see you again?"

Those times are fun as well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

our mascot is the warrior

All credit goes to Emily for catching wind of this article and posting it, but I had to give it a post as well. It's a must-read!

It's about the Westmont Men's Soccer Team who played a game yesterday at Azusa Pacific, who let them postpone the game from Saturday to recover from the Tea Fire.

To have been able to attend Westmont is one of the biggest blessings in my life. It continues to affect me in profound ways, particularly in regards to the amazing community that I get to be a part of for the rest of my life. I'm so proud of how the students, staff, faculty, and alumni have come together to handle the fire devastation.

Until today, I've been a little emotionally detached regarding the Tea Fire, some sort of unshakable optimism got a hold of me early on, even as I watched the fire rage on from my backyard, even as I heard news of what had been lost at Westmont. But now in the aftermath the personal stories are coming out... the young agent in our office who is 8 months pregnant and she and husband lost everything, including the specially prepared nursery with tons of baby gifts and supplies...the family who had time only to throw some things like their silverware collection into their pool before they had to flee their dream home, which burned to the ground. I have watched flames attack my house before, but was lucky to have been spared from losing anything that mattered very much. I can't imagine actually having everything you own be reduced to ash.

Luckily, no one lost their loved ones, which of course, as one agent was reminded and shared with us at today's meeting, are the only thing you really need as you drive away to escape the wall of flame that looks to next engulf your home.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I'm supposed to be doing other things right now, more productive things with my alone time on the computer this quiet Sunday night.

Instead, I wander from thing to thing, idea to idea, song to song, on the internet. There's hardly anything I like doing more.

Wandering tonight on iTunes I came across the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack that I listened to nonstop for several months when I was 14 or 15. There was an anniversary edition released last year, and it included on it that song "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)". I think this song came out a couple years after the original soundtrack for Romeo and Juliet was released.

Do you remember that song??? I do... and like the song (spoken word?) writer probably guessed it would, it's more meaningful the more the years pass by.

[lyrics, trimmed down by me]

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be
it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by
scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
than my own meandering experience…I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not
understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded.
But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and
recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before
you and how fabulous you really looked….You’re not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as
effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.
Do one thing everyday that scares you. Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with
people who are reckless with yours. Floss.
Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you
succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements. Stretch.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your
life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they
wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year
olds I know still don’t.

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.
Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for
good. Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the
people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go,
but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography
and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you
knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live
in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel. Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will
philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize
that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were
noble and children respected their elders. Respect your elders.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who
supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of
fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the
ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen…

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ash Town

I went for a run yesterday after work. I've been lacking in exercise since the time change, so I arranged to get home from work early to catch some sunlight to start my run. I set out, with some newly downloaded music, and went around my neighborhood and along the edge of the golf course that's just a couple blocks away. It was unbelievably warm, unseasonably so, and I was delighting in it. I love warm nights, and in mid-November, no less! I had a huge grin during my entire run, soaking in my uplifting music and the feeling of a good workout. And, I noticed with pleasure, it smelled like camping outside. I love that smell! I wondered if there was a reason why or if I just usually didn't notice it.

At about 6:30, after my run and dinner, I got a text from Meg. "Are you watching the news?!" Crap, I thought. What celebrity had died now. I turned on the news, saw flames, and gathered that our hills were burning. I ran to my front lawn to see if our position on a small hill facing northeast afforded us a view of anything going on.

I gasped. It sure did. From what I could see, it looked like all of Montecito and the Riviera was burning. Tsunami-size flames billowed up into the night sky, smoke encircled the rising moon and turned it orange.

The Tea Fire turned Thursday night into a buzzing, eerie, and anxious few hours... and it's not over yet. Work is forgotten by many, most schools are closed, the fire is still not contained, and air quality warnings abound. Christen and two other friends had to evacuate, and the four of us squeezed into my little place last night and watched the news, snacked, and answered our constantly ringing phones. For most of the night the sound of sirens and helicopters overhead was constant. The air got even warmer as the night went on, and today it is 87 degrees apparently, by 10:00 am. Ash is everywhere; our cars are covered in white flecks, so reminiscent of the Gap Fire a couple months ago and the Zaca Fire summer of 07.

Westmont has had some buildings destroyed, but it will be okay. Faculty housing is devastated. Clark Halls have been hit hard... sections M, F, G and S are gone. That blows my mind, I don't understand how my beloved section K (where I was an R.A.) is okay... it's set right up against the hill along with J, and M is right in the center.

Anyway, check these out.

And then here, much less dramatic, and not given justice by my mac's photobooth feature, are two shots I captured standing in my backyard.

The Riviera, around 10:00 pm, after my view of the fire had subsided since it was slipping further into Montecito and closer towards downtown.

This is from this morning at 10:00 am, a view towards the same direction as above, and the cloud of ash and smoke is constant and dispersing out towards the rest of Santa Barbara. You'd think smoke clouds from major fires would be black, but since I've lived here and experienced major local fires, they've always been a grey-white. You can't see the flames as well during the day, its hard to know unless you're watching the news where they've gone.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Named Must Your Fear...

"Named must your fear be before banish it you can."

My fear is... doing it wrong. Being wrong. Going the wrong way. More succinctly, I guess, I fear failure.

I am hesitant too often, because I want to do something the most perfect way it can be done. To move too quickly, from my perspective, can too often lead to regret and/or a situation that could be way better had you waited to act. I sometimes don't act at all, because if I did I would come across in a way I don't want to... overeager, conceited, incorrect, dumb...

I have always known that my Spanish-speaking skills suffer because of this fear of mine. I don't practice with native, or even non-native speakers very often because I am rusty, and I'd be revealed as someone who really didn't earn her minor in Spanish or month of language school in Costa Rica. While I was in Costa Rica, Ryan, the guy at my language school who advanced most in his skills, despite starting at a level lower than mine, was the one who practiced with every single person he encountered. The guy selling coconuts on the beach. The cute girl working at our favorite bar, El Club de Banana. He just went for it, laughing as he stumbled over verb conjugations and his limited library of adjectives. Ryan did not do it perfectly but he would always come back to us after these conversations with improved skills along with a new knowledge of the world and people around us.

Yesterday at work I could hear over the intercom, "If there are any Spanish speakers, can you please come to the front desk?" Sometimes when our bilingual receptionist is out for lunch, this happens, and one of the agents goes to the front to help whoever is there. But the intercome paged twice. I was near the front desk instead back in one our offices, trying to get something mailed. I didn't answer the pages, like usual. I looked over and saw two young men, looking uncomfortable and anxious. They needed something and no one understood them. I swallowed my fear of "doing it wrong" and went over to ask them, in Spanish, what they were there for and after a bit, we figured it out and got a message to the agent they'd come for. I know I said some words wrong, and couldn't get straight a few of their phrases, but the interaction had been successful. And I felt proud of myself... as I do whenever I am forced to interpret, though I don't seek out such opportunities.

I hadn't realized how many agents overheard me, and later that day got a few compliments and some, "I had no idea you spoke Spanish!" comments. I replied, "I hope you don't speak Spanish, so that you don't know how many mistakes I made!"

Later I realized that this is no way to operate... essentially saying, "I hope you don't know it all, because then you would realize how little I know." It is usually good to know just enough, and to use it wisely and confidently, and to always be trying to learn more. And to laugh when I make a mistake, but keep trying anyway, like Ryan.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The days are shorter now...

When I was in junior high and high school youth group, we'd go on annual summer canoeing trips. These are still some of my fondest memories from my pre-teen and teenage years. I loved sitting in the front of the canoe, paddling away, the first to see the bends or choppy water coming up along the river.

Some of the most exciting moments in these 6 hour paddles would be when you were heading towards some sort of change in that Russian River. If your paddling skills were average to quite average, like mine, you'd look towards these changes with a bit of trepidation mingled with mostly anticipation. A bend in the course brought new scenery, but maybe a sharper than expected turn and a collision with overhanging tree branches. Rapids brought laughter and refined your skill with each one, but sometimes you flipped over. When the river split in two, you hoped you ended up floating down the way that your friends had already gone or would follow, or that had a surprise rope swing hanging down to pause at and make use of. Then there were the currents that could sweep you away, with little to be done but try to paddle to keep your course somewhat straight. Those moments of change made the trip. Just sitting around in the water is fun, but the transitions made the whole thing glorious.

My metaphor is obvious... such is life. Filled with regular, expected transitions, like the seasons; and new and/or surprising path-altering transitions, like going off to school, having a baby, or someone turning from a friend to a boyfriend to a husband. With transition happening all around, its been on my mind. It gets darker earlier now ... I don't like that change usually, but I'm adjusting, and every year my lamenting-the-sun period is shorter.

And then there's the change that Tuesday brought... the end of anticipating, debating, should we put our paddles in to the right or the left, what's around the bend... we transitioned. The direction has been picked, the churning reached it's climax.

To my own intuition and observation, this change will be, more than anything, good. Memorable. On Wednesday I had lunch at my new favorite cafe downtown, and looked at the president-elect's beautiful family on the front page of the newspaper, and felt settled and hopeful. That night at a soccer game, the national anthem was sung, and there was a giddy reverence in the crowd. I was looking through a book of quotes at an open house, and saw one by a Barack Obama, who was titled as being a Chicago Democratic Politician (book published in 2005). On nearby pages, past presidents were quoted many times. I had the feeling of our history literally being written out before my eyes, taking a different direction, as I mentally wrote in under his name instead "44th President of the United States." Each time I see him now, the transition forms more fully in mind towards him... from what he was and what people hoped him to be, to what he is now and what will be entrusted to him.

I'm grateful that I get to canoe along this particular stretch of the river of history, to come of age into the 21st century, to have witnessed so much and get to say that I journeyed over the rapids and bends and capsizings of this time at an age where I will be able to remember them vividly and know they've had a tremendous impact on me... both in my worldview and my paddling skills.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Your Answer is Requested

I ripped this beginning bit of an article out of a recent Oprah magazine I swiped from Mary's recycling pile.
Writes Oprah...

*****It could be considered among my most embarrassing moments. The first time I ever heard the question "What do you know for sure?" I was doing a live television interview in Chicago with renowned film critic Gene Siskel. We had been doing the usual promotional chitchat for the movie Beloved and he concluded the interview by saying, "Tell me, what do you know for sure?"

"Uhhhhh, about the movie?" I asked, knowing he meant something more but trying to give myself time to think. "No," he responded coolly. "You know what I mean- about you, your life, anything, everything..."

"Uhhhhh, I know for sure... uhhh... I know for sure I need to think about that question some more, Gene." I was clearly thrown and went home and thought about what he'd asked for two days.

I've since done a lot of thinking about what's certain, what's real, what's true. And Gene Siskel's question has inspired me to ask it of many others. Sometimes people (like me that first time) are caught off guard. But usually... they rally with thoughtful and profound responses that reveal the essence of who they are.*****

Now I write...

What do you know for sure... what do you know... for sure. What are you certain of. What can you stand behind 100 percent.
Absolute truth, according to you.

This question is hard. I like to see the world in shades of grey, and I hate being wrong, so I'm hesitant to state absolutes.

Election season reminds me even more of what I don't know for sure...policies I don't really understand, even as I explore them further... what exactly is the role of government... what is the right reason to vote for to express myself on certain topics.

I know for sure, especially after a weekend like this past one, that I have wonderful, creative, thoughtful, hilarious, and loving friends and that I am lucky to have been able to go to Westmont and find these people.
I know for sure that I live in one of the most beautiful towns in the world, and that there is no country I'd rather live in and be a citizen of.
I know for sure that my family loves and supports me.
I know for sure that I am very selfish but care intensely about others, more than they know.
I know for sure that I will love having a family someday. I know this for sure.
I know for sure that the best way to vote is through your conscience, informed by reason and fact.
I know for sure that there is a God and that He loves me.

This Election Tuesday of November 2008... what do you know for sure?