Saturday, September 3, 2011

The End

"...not with a bang but a whimper."

It is not without a touch of emotion that I at last arrive at the final day of this blog. But I'm ready. There is little to be said by way of a conclusion that has not already been said several times over. I was not very consistent. But I learned a thing or two about myself as a writer along the way.

A new blog will be starting soon. It is called Centaur and there's nothing on it now but there will be something on it soon. Not tomorrow (our originally planned start date has been postponed); but soon.

I could drag this out a bit longer, reminisce, pontificate, but it would only be delaying the inevitable. This blog has officially served its purpose. I'm ready to say goodbye.

Au revoir.

Do I get to make a wish on the candles if it's not really my birthday yet?

I often hear older people say that they still feel like a teenager. I wonder at what point in my progression through life will I stop feeling my age and begin to feel like I'm sixteen? The acknowledgment that my body doesn't seem to want to hold its former shape without a little extra coaxing on my part--that I have to actually work to keep the cellulite at bay--has come as an unpleasant shock, yet I definitely don't feel like I'm me ten years ago; I feel like I'm me now. I'm perfectly content to be at the stage of life I'm in and have no wish to have back anything I had in the past.

It's only in one aspect of my life that I approach the number twenty-six with some trepidation, and to elaborate requires that I touch on a subject I have traditionally and deliberately shied away from on this blog. But, since we are now approaching the end and the character of this blog has been developed to a point where slight deviations don't threaten to carry it off in an undesirable direction, I will be candid: I'm talking about love. Romance, to be more specific. I haven't been in a serious relationship in the last decade, and, though I really don't have the slightest interest in going on dates and assertively searching out a partner, I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a bit uneasy about this prolonged state of singleness. Especially at my age.

Today was not my birthday, but tonight I celebrated with my family, with enchiladas and presents and cake. They sang "Happy Birthday" to me and and I blew out the candles. No, I didn't wish for a boyfriend. But, okay, I did take it under at least flighting consideration before settling on something more altruistic. I don't know what the next year will hold as far as relationships are concerned. And, honestly, I'm not very open to responding positively to any opportunities that may arise. I know myself and know that I will anxiously resist anything and anyone that threatens my ideal for how romance ought to develop. But I do hope that, when the time comes for me to take a chance and make a change, I won't hold back on account of fear.

Friday, September 2, 2011

"The Best Twenty-five of twenty-five," part V

21. The best soul-searching experience
The last few days of my last week in France--the weekend I spent in silence at the international monastic community in Taizé, France--changed me. Since then, I have a very different attitude toward prayer, which, resultantly, reforms my entire outlook on life. In the oversight of one of the sisters in residence, I and seven other women decided to spend two and a half days in silence, committing ourselves to devoting three specific hours a day for listening to God through the reading of Scripture. At one point midway through, I broke my silence in order to speak privately with one of the sisters and receive her guidance in processing several of the thoughts and concerns I had been wrestling with both before and throughout the weekend of silence. She was very hard on me, and asked me to examine my decisions and reasons for making them from an approach I had never been willing to consider before. I felt exposed, and yet safe; a bit frightened by what I had learned, yet confident that God's loving faithfulness would guide me through. The entire weekend left me with a powerful sense of the freedom that exists within God's love. I entered silence with so many questions, only to find that the Holy Spirit was already speaking the answers within me.
22. The best personal purchase

My San Diego Zoological Society membership has proven a very valuable asset. Since I purchased it in January, it has provided me with countless hours of entertainment and pleasurable walks. Now that my savings has run out and I can't generally afford to go out, the zoo is a welcome escape from the humdrum patterns of home. Also, with the free guest passes that came with my membership, I've been able to entertain visitors at no extra cost!
23. The best new game
Cork stacking. Look out: it's gonna be big.

24. The best reunion
This summer, Ashley Jones came home to America. After spending two years living in Indonesia, she has returned to us once again and, in July, came down to Southern California for a full month. I got to surprise her at the airport and spend a couple of days with her and it was wonderful: In-N-Out, Taco King, the works. She has since moved back up to Oregon, which is very sad but still much better than Indonesia, because now at least we are in the same time zone. I still secretly hope that we will one day live in the same city again and have so much fun.
25. The best thing I didn't do but will do soon
I started this blog off with a few concrete goals for the year: to write more (check), to get a job (check), and to either start graduate school or set the wheels in motion for me to do so ('ll get back to you on that one). It is still undetermined whether I will be able to attend Fuller Theological Seminary this fall, but, even if I can't afford to do it now, the experience of finally getting my act together and applying has been immensely encouraging in reminding me that, indeed, I can continue my education. Yes, perhaps I've been out of school long enough now that it doesn't feel like the most natural thing in the world, but I can adjust. I can change my life. I can keep moving forward. The possibilities are innumerable.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

"The Best Twenty-five of twenty-five," part IV

16. The best book
No new additions were made in the last year to my list of all-time favorite books. I read some good stuff, just nothing that wowed me to an exceptional extent. Still, of all the books I read for the first time this year, I enjoyed A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, the most. What caused it to stand out was a combination of the excellent narrative style and the insightful reflections on the process of writing and observing life in Paris in the 1920's. The fact that I was in Paris while I was reading it didn't hurt, either.
17. The best beat
If it weren't for the new song, "Maracas," by Mates of State, available to listen to on their website as a preview to their upcoming new album, I might have had to have gone with final track on Sufjan Stevens' latest LP, released in October. But now I'm giddy with anticipation of the other new tunes that Mates of State has created. Mates of State is just so good.
18. The best beet
This one:

Dad's "proud" face.
19. The best tomato
The verdict is unanimous: of the six varieties of heirloom tomatoes I grew in the garden this year, the Yellow Brandywine's seeds are the ones most worth saving. A bountiful producer, this monster of a plant outgrew its tomato cage while its neighbor plants were still reaching only about a foot high. The fruit is proportionately gargantuan, attractive in shape and color, and delicious.
20. The best baked goods
I frequently dabble, with mixed results, in creating my own recipes. This year, my greatest triumph was my recipe for strawberry-lavender muffins (muffins aux fraises et lavande), which I made several times throughout the hight of the strawberry season with consistently superb results. I am confident that these muffins will become a late-spring/early-summer staple in years to come.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"The Best Twenty-five of twenty-five," part III

After another late night at work, I'm grateful for this opportunity to assertively focus my attention on positive thoughts, specifically, the most positive things that have happened to me this year.

11. The best decision (possibly ever)
Going to France.
12. Best vacation spot
The South of France.

Is it logical that a place could make me want to have children, just so that I could bring them there and share it with them? In any case, I fully intend to return to the South of France, and the affordable, easy-to-use transit system, vibrant countryside, and warm-spirited people ensure me that, even if I have a family in tow, it would be an ideal travel destination.
13. The best language
14. The best new addition to my culinary repertoire
For some reason, I always assumed that quiche was exceptionally complicated and the method of preparation elusive to my present food-preparatory capabilities. After witnessing it made a few times in the kitchen of the family whose farm I was WWOOFing on, however, I was happy to learn that, with the help of a few eggs, some cream, some good cheese and chopped veggies, and a fresh pie crust, I could whip up the delectable dish and have it out of the oven in less than an hour. If it weren't for the sky-high calorie content, I'd make quiches nearly every day.
15. The best online community
I had heard from several friends who had tried it in the past that CouchSurfing was great, but I never got around to looking into it for myself until right before leaving for France. Though I was, admittedly, a bit concerned over the prospect of staying with complete strangers in their homes--generally, worried more about awkwardness than safety issues--I had nothing but positive experiences with my French hosts. And, since returning to San Diego, each opportunity I've had to welcome CSers into my and my parents' home has been fun, inspiring, and educational. I will never stay in another youth hostel again, if I can help it.

Recent CouchSurfers from Barcelona, Spain

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"The Best Twenty-five of twenty-five," part II

Tonight I continue my itemization of the the twenty-five best "bests" of my twenty-fifth year. Beginning with...

6. The best concert

Sufjan Stevens at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, October 23, 2010. It was unequivocally the greatest combined celebration of outer space and dancing I have ever witnessed. My experience was actually incredibly similar to that of my friend, Casey. She saw him perform in Phoenix the night before and shared her thoughts about it on her blog, here

After the concert, I joined several of my friends in enjoying some good eats from a local Korean taco truck. That's right: Korean tacos. You can get anything in L.A.

7. The best wedding
I attended four in the last year. All were good, but Mike and Lindsay's was exceptional. The ceremony, which took place on the cliffs of Point Loma, was simple, picturesque, beautiful. The reception, which took place at our home, was intimate, lively, and one of the best parties I've been to in my life.

8. The best feminine hygiene product
For a considerable time I had been interested in finding a more eco-friendly alternative to tampons and maxi pads. After researching several brands of organic cotton tampons, cloth pads, sea sponges, and menstrual cups, I decided to order the Diva Cup. Excellent decision. Though it's a bit pricey, the fact that it can be reused for over a year indicates that, in the long run, it's a more economical option than disposable menstrual products. As an added bonus, I've noticed a significant decrease in the severity of my menstrual cramps since I switched to the Diva Cup. I'll never go back to tampons, and I would be remiss if I didn't share this revelation with any friends who are looking for a means of dealing with their lady times that is gentler on the environment and, ultimately, on the wallet.
9. The best new skill
Skills Month was a bust, but I still managed to pick up some helpful new knowledge and abilities this year. My favorite by far, however, is my newfound ability to milk a goat. During the week and a half that I spent WWOOFing on a goat farm in France, I went from barely being able to eke out a few drops from the poor goat's utter to filling a whole bucket with frothy milk in ten minutes flat. Though I took great pleasure and satisfaction in several of the tasks I was asked to carry out while on the farm, milking the goats was, without a doubt, my favorite chore.

10. The best Eastern European cuisine
It was so good. Since the evening that I visited Pomegranite Russian-Georgian Restaurant with Mike and Lindsay, I've been dreaming of going back. I've made several attempts at replicating their amazing borscht in my home kitchen, but I've yet to concoct anything remotely as delectable.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"The Best Twenty-five of twenty-five," part I

For this last week of twenty-five, I would like to take some time to highlight some events or discoveries that might not have gotten much--if any--mention on this blog, but nevertheless played a formative or otherwise interesting role my last year of life. Each day, for the next five days, I will highlight five "Best Ofs" from my twenty-fifth year, comprising, altogether, "The Best Twenty-five of twenty-five."

Here goes:

1. The best birthday gift
This is way hard to choose, actually, because I had so many amazing birthday presents last year! Ashley Jones gave me a skirt that I love and the best key cover ever. I got a beautiful sweater and some great books from my sisters. And Josiah, in his usual custom, gave a hand-made greeting card, complete with personalized coupons to be redeemed for special outings and fun activities. In the end, I guess I have to say that Josiah's present would be the best, because there's no greater gift than time.

2. The best (and by "best," I mean worst) near-death experience
I'm not exaggerating. I really could have died. Back in September, when Josiah, Jared, and I took a two-night backpacking trip in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, the weather was less than kind to us. The first morning, it started to drizzle. With hopes of climbing nearby Madera Peak, we eyed the sky hopefully all day, casting furtive glances at the southern horizon, where dark clouds persistently loomed over the mountain tops.

Finally, at mid afternoon, the clouds in the south still showing no immediate intention to move our direction, we decided to just go for it. Armed with water and snacks, we began to scale the steep, granite slope. Once we cleared the tree line, the going became especially difficult, with loose rock shards slipping out from under us as we climbed higher and higher, our gaze remaining cautiously on the clouds in the south, ready to detect the slightest hint of threat.

A clap of thunder sounded so loud and so close you could feel it in the ground. Immediately, we realized our folly: we had been watching the clouds in the south so intently, we had entirely failed to notice the storm advancing on us rapidly from the north! We were absolutely exposed and standing on the side of one of the tallest mountain peaks in the vicinity, nothing but loose granite beneath our feet.

Fully aware that a scraped knee or even a twisted ankle would be preferable to being struck by lightning, we began to descend as quickly as possible, running and sometimes sliding down hillsides of sharp stones. As incautiously as we hurried, however, we were no match for the rolling black clouds, which advanced on us rapidly, releasing terrifying cracks of lightning. I moved as fast as I could, but both Jared and Josiah were far ahead of me. The clouds were finally right overhead. And then I was passing trees and shrubs and, as the rain began to fall, my hiking boots touched soft dirt, and I knew I was probably going to live.

3. The best thing I got in the mail
A letter from a student in Japan.

4. The best job
I genuinely loved working for UPS in December. I never thought it would be possible to love a job and occasionally, specifically on the days that it rained, it could be a little bit miserable. But I loved the feeling of working hard and doing something physically exerting while being outdoors and interacting with lots of different people in a positive setting all day. What was there not to love?

5. The best thing I crocheted
In late 2010 and early 2011, I crocheted several fun little things of which I was quite proud, but my favorite would have to be this guy right here.

He's an iPod sleeve.