Friday, July 20, 2012

Progress on my 1001

So... I've figured out 63 things to add to my 1001 list.

Thanks to Texas Monthly.

Apparently they've done issues like this here and there in the past. And maybe, if I find the time and go through all of them, they can help me add to my list. I forgot I bought this one and just found it as I was packing and purging my apartment.

And reading through it again, I probably don't have 63 things on my list because while I do want to take the ultimate road trip from Dalhart, Texas to Brownsville, Texas (apparently nearly 850 miles!), I do not really want to play Chicken Sh*t Bingo in Austin. Nor do I want to eat calf fries. And since I don't like beer or Dr. Pepper, I'd be willing, but highly reluctant to drink a free beer at the K. Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner or drink a Dublin Dr. Pepper.

And then some things I've already done. Like visiting the State Fair of Texas in Dallas (duh, that's my hometown! or region... Fort Worth is really home). And while I don't entirely remember how to do it, I did learn how to two-step with Todrick in Huntsville some years ago. And I did go to the Art Car Parade this year! And since my fourth graders recited every morning, I have the Texas Pledge of Allegiance memorized. I have often driven the freeways in Houston at night.

One thing on the list seems highly unlikely, although I would want to say that I could scratch it off my list: Be on the cover of Texas Monthly.

Maybe I should settle for simply, be in a magazine. Any magazine. And I don't mean my byline... that's already happened :-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Last-minute Blessings

I'm in the process of packing up my stuff to get ready for my move in a few weeks and I've been unearthing quite a few things that have brought back tons of memories and tons of laughs. One thing I seem to have a surplus of is notebooks, notepads and journals. One I recorded interview notes from my active journalism days. Ones I wrote down plays or Biblical vignettes for church. And of course, the journals with all my thoughts and dreams.

I found my most recent journal. The last entry was dated a year ago.

It's incomplete. I'm not sure why I never finished it. Although, it doesn't really surprise me that I didn't. But reading over this last entry made me smile...

A year ago, I was offered my teaching job at YES. And much like with my magazine job, it all worked out at the last-minute. A blessing poured out when I was ready to give up.

The job at CURE came right on the heels of my internship with the Dallas Morning News. I remember, it was the beginning of my last week and I got a Facebook message from E-beth. Somehow she'd found me and she asked if I'd be interested in applying for the editorial assistant position. It was a job. In journalism. For a magazine. In Texas. Uh... yeah. An interview was set up on my last day at the Dallas Morning News. A week later, I had the job.

God knows I was thankful. I had been praying that something would come up. I had no clue what I'd do after the internship ran its course. Would I move back to Houston and bum around my sister's? Would I even stay in Texas? What would I do? As that last day drew closer and closer, I felt more and more desperate. But He stepped in. Offered me such a blessing at what felt like the very last minute.

And then I lost that blessing. There are days when I feel like I know what happened, what went wrong, and other days when I feel like it all doesn't add up. It's confusing. To know in some ways, it's your fault (and maybe all your fault), but also feeling the overwhelming unfairness. I remember starting this blog, trying to pick up the pieces, but also feeling like I wouldn't be given another chance. There would be no more last-minute blessings.

But I guess that's the best thing about serving a God full of mercy and grace. Because last summer came another last-minute blessing. Two really. First, the offer to work for Teach for America during its Houston Institute. Second, interviewing and getting my job at YES.

Thinking about it now, I'm surprised I didn't write about it here. I'm surprised I didn't finish writing about it in my journal. Because it really was such a crazy, out of nowhere blessing. It was, again, my last week. The Institute was wrapping up and I was ready to go back to Dallas. And all the same questions were there: What would happen next? Where would I go? Would I find something soon?

A friend mentions her school director is looking for a social studies teacher and offers to e-mail him for me. He e-mails me and sets up a casual phone interview. Which leads to me going to teach a sample lesson and have a formal interview.

God worked a bit faster this time. I didn't have to wait a week. Not even a day. I was offered the position within hours after making it home and replaying it all in my head, hoping and praying for the best.

While I hate the waiting process, and it can often be painful and frustrating, seeing that journal entry and being reminded of last year reminded me of this: The blessing might feel last-minute, but He's really just right on time.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Solitude

The short burst of fun and excitement,
bookmarked between stretches of infinite boredom,
a constant reminder of the loneliness.

Distant friends, and nearby strangers.
Unshared sorrows, broken heart.
Hollow laughter masking hidden sobs.

Solitude is overrated.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Not-So-Secret Addiction

I own a lot of books. The four bookshelves in my apartments are almost completely full, and this does not count the ones I have stacked on my desk, the piano or the floor. These also do not include the five bookshelves I took to my classroom, or the half a dozen or more milk crates I've converted into book storage. In both places, I've run out of space... and I just keep buying more books.

I can't help myself. It's like an addiction. When I'm feeling blue, the best pick-me-up is going on Amazon and with one click, filling my basket. It's even better to walk into an actual bookstore, flip the pages, and take in that new-book smell. I've had to ban myself from both in recent weeks. While my bank account is thanking me, my habit isn't.

The funny thing, perhaps, is that I actually haven't read all the books I own. I'm like a collector that way, I suppose. I buy books just to have them... although, unlike a collector, I actually do want to read them. I just collect way too many to keep up sometimes. I never buy only one book, there's always two. Like shoes, they are better when they come in a pair. And generally, I buy a couple of pairs.

I despise owning incomplete series (I currently own four at the moment, and it's killing me. If anyone wants to send me the first two books of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (hardback), the final books in both the Inkheart and Peaches series, as well as Gallagher Girl #5, I'd appreciate it), and since it seems everybody writes series these days, buying one book usually means I'm buying 10.

And, I supposed, it doesn't help that I'm a pretty regular patron to the library. Even if I've just bought a book, I often find myself inside that book trove, pulling a few books of the shelf to borrow. And when I return them, I can't help but check out another. I own the ones piling up on my bedroom floor, I can always read them later.

Plus, I like to reread books and will often shun a new one to curl up with one that has been tried and found true.

To make matters worse, I was given a Kindle for my birthday. And the danger there is that there are tons of free books to download. Which, of course, I do.

Books are the easiest, and the most common gift from family and friends. And when people are purging theirs, it doesn't occur to me that I should do the same. Instead, I collect their rejects and add them to my growing library. During long winter or summer days, I pull them from their place on the shelf and discover them for the first time.

I'm sure one day, I would have read them all. And if not, it doesn't really matter. I find joy in simply having them.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

There is a Well Here Somewhere

I haven't been to church in what feels like, and probably is, months. I just got tired of church hopping. After living in Houston for almost a year, I had been to at least eight different churches. And while there were a few churches I went to for weeks at a time, I hated the awkward, out-of-place feeling I had while there. I just wanted the whole thing to be over with. I just wanted to belong somewhere.

And then one Sunday, there was an excuse not to go visit a new church or go to an old one. Can't remember what it was. But oh, what a slippery slope that became. Suddenly there was an excuse for every Sunday. I was out of town. I didn't feel well. I was going to be late. And then the day came when I decided, why bother until I know where I'm going to live next? I was ready to put an end to the church hopping routine and settle down, but I couldn't do that until I was settled, right?

If my dad ever reads this, I know he'll be appalled. As would probably my sisters and some of my closer friends. Even I'm a bit appalled. Although, while this may bring little comfort, I must defend myself and say that I was not entirely a heathen. There were Sundays where I'd break out my Beth Moore Breaking Free Bible study, and once or twice I dragged myself to sit in the back pew of a nearby church. I'd put Pandora on a Praise & Worship station and spent the morning in prayer.

And then I was struck with the idea of live-streaming. Except... I never actually did that. What I ended up doing was listening to sermon archives from Oak Hills Church in San Antonio. The sermons were good and the series were pertinent to my life. I'd found my "out" for a while.

Excuses, however, only work for so long. And now that I know where I'm moving to, I know the church hopping is about to begin again. Others may think not going to church isn't a big deal. But for me, deep down inside, it's a very big deal. Having a church home is such an important steadying constant in my life. I feel lost without a place to meet and hang out with other believers, forge spiritually edifying relationships, and simply serve a God that I love.

I woke up this morning with all intention of going to church. But... first, I woke up late. And then, while I was in the shower, the skies started showering, too. If God is trying to test how much I love Him with this rain, then I fail cause I'm staying at home, I thought. Cause this wasn't just a drizzle. It was a wind-blowing, thunder-growling type of rain.

I got dressed and as I crawled back under my sheets and grabbed my Bible, the light bulb went off. I can actually try that whole live-streaming thing! Can I just say that I am so glad that the Lord sent the rain this morning?

Today at Oak Hills, the group Selah led the worship. If you know who they are, then I don't even need to explain how much of a blessing that was. But then, to add to that blessing, Selah's Todd Smith brought his wife, Angie Smith, along. Now, I've never been to a Women of Faith conference or anything like that, but after hearing her, I think I just might need to. She was real, she was funny, she was sincere, and her message on Fear was such a beautiful thing... I discovered my eyes were unexpectedly leaking sometime during the prayer.

I'm afraid of a lot of things. And most of these things aren't even ones I can control. The problem with being afraid is that I often let the fear dictate how I live. And my biggest fear lies in the "What if..." What if he breaks up with me? What if I don't get into graduate school? What if I don't find a job? What if we can't break our lease? What if I don't find a place I like? What if? What if? What if?

It's quite silly, when you think about it. I'm so wrapped up on what if it does happen... but what if it doesn't happen?

I'm not sure if I have it in me to eloquently explain all that Angie shared, but my heart dwelled on Genesis 21: 19, "The God opened her eyes and she saw the well of water..." (emphasis mine/Angie Smith's). The "her" here is Hagar, and if you know the story, she's in the desert with her son Ishmael and has walked away and turned her back to him, sure of his impeding death and not wanting to watch him die. And then God opened her eyes...

It's so easy to let the fears of "What if?" led us to cower to a fate that God hasn't imposed on us. I wonder how many times I have turned my back and closed my eyes and completely missed "the well" God has provided for me. So simple, yet so profound.

As I listened to Selah close out the service singing "How Great Thou Art" against the backdrop of actual "rolling thunder," I let out a prayer that I hope I clinge to for the rest of my life:

Lord, open my eyes to see Your well. Don't let me be overcome by the fear of "what if?" In my moments of fear, remind me that there is a well here somewhere. And help me drink deeply from it. Amen.

 I am so thankful the Lord sent the rain this morning.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ideas for the Bathroom

I still have weeks before I get the keys and can move into my new place... but that doesn't mean I can't dream of all the things I'll do to it once I get there!

Headboard is Big Project #1. But another thing I'll definitely need to work on is the bathroom. Cause, it's tiny.

Yup... that's it. Super narrow and not a lot of space for anything besides what's already in there. There is a small linen closet (which you can't see), and there is a little bit of storage space under the sink, but that's more or less it. So, I'll need to utilize the wall space as much as possible.

bathroom bucket Solution #1: Creative and Space-Saving Storage

I have tons of little buckets already, and tend to buy more from the $1 aisle at Target all the time (they are just too cute to resist!). And since there really is no counter space in the bathroom and the vanity/medicine cabinet isn't really usable, I thought this was a fun and cute solution. That fits my style, too.

bathroom shelf
Solution #2: Shelves!

Cube shelf
This is actually a plywood box wrapped
in newsprint. Spoke to the journalist in me :)
Adding some shelving is going to be a must. I wonder if I'll be able to find cute, decorative shelves for cheap at thrift stores. I probably don't want anything as girly as the picture... in fact, I might even be good with some plain or distressed wood. I'll have to start keeping my eye out for shelves I like (cause I plan to put some up in the kitchen, bedroom and living room, too).

Solution #3: A shower curtain with pockets!

I love pockets. They are the best... especially when they come with dresses (or I guess it's really the dresses that come with the pockets, but who cares). So I thought the idea of having pockets on my shower curtain would be amazing! But after seeing the picture on, I'm not so sure. But who knows, maybe my crafty friends can help me figure out how to make this idea cute enough to actually use. Any takers?

 Solution #4: Use the Door...

behind the doorAs Better Homes & Gardens was quick to point out... the bathroom door has so much storage potential. Will I be putting this much stuff at the back of my door? Heck no. But a few towel racks to hang stuff from would be cool. And since I am allowed to paint, I loved the idea of using magnetic paint!  
Solution #5: Bring in something from the Kitchen

Specifically, a pot rack. Fits in a corner, and can be used to hold toilet paper, among other things.  Quite genius...

 I can also bring in a kitchen utensil rack to hold stuff in the tub.
corner pot rackHanging metal shelf

Solution # 6: Baskets

Above the toilet is a little bit of a shelf/window ledge that I can definitely use for storage. And trust me, I will. Can't decide if I want to go the wicker basket look or the fun, funky storage boxes route. I guess we'll see...

I can't wait to put some, maybe all, of these solutions into action!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lost Time

It's so easy for me to put things on the back burner in my life. Even if they are important to me.

It's what I've done with playing the piano. Off and on lessons since I was six, a whole year of lessons in college, some months in grad school... and now I'm in group lessons. Am I any good? I wouldn't say so. Which is what frustrated me. And why it is easy for me to put practicing on the back burner. I mean, I'm never going to be a prodigy pianist and I'll probably never wow anyone with my skills with Tchaikovsky. But... I miss playing. Which is why I'm taking lessons again. And while my longing to play might stem from nostalgic memories of Mrs. Potter's home recitals, that longing is still there. Now that I'm taking classes again, I still probably don't practice as much as I should though. Having a roommate made me nervous to play and make mistakes in her presence. And even making mistakes on my own is frustrating and I feel angry and ashamed that I'm not doing better, that I'm not further along. Which is silly, considering if I didn't practice, I'd have to face the rest of my class and be ashamed that I'm the only one who is still making mistakes. If I don't practice today, I'll be just as ashamed, if not more, tomorrow.

I miss singing, too. Growing up with my dad as my pastor meant that my siblings and I were pretty involved in the church. Our biggest contribution was probably through music. My sisters and I sang a lot in church. And at some point led the children's choir and youth choir. We once were a part of a "group" and we'd perform at summer camp, or for every graduation, anniversary, or holiday party thrown. Outside of church, I was in choir. Definitely wasn't the star in the classical trained world of high school choir. But it was fun. I loved it. In college, I went for gospel choir... which was interesting since African and African-American are not synonymous and I was culturally a fish out of water. Again, no star, but had a blast. The biggest problem, I realized, was that I'm painfully self-conscious. With church, I was a shoo-in. I wasn't being judged or compared to others. I felt no pressure to impress. Outside of church that pressure crushed me. I remember Todrick forcing me to audition for Sound of Music and Godspell in high school. My name wouldn't have been on the audition list without him. And post-college, having to audition for praise teams at churches scared the crap out of me. I just wanted to worship... and even though I know I'm good, having to prove it suddenly makes me doubt that. So within the last few years, I've more or less stopped singing. Which is silly. And which sucks. Cause sometimes it actually hurts to listen to other people pour their hearts in song, while I stay mute and hiding.

Writing is another thing I've put on the back burner. Stories have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. From the paper dolls my oldest sister used to draw out for us so we could play our very elaborate version of "Life," to my cousins, sisters and I acting as "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiago?"-esque detectives as we sought to capture Mad Mr. Moody-Doody. We'd type up stories on the computer, and once we even wrote out a fairytale that my sister illustrated. I've begun countless stories on my own, and unless they were for class, they have almost all been left unfinished. Which isn't necessarily a problem... until I began hiding behind school and being "too busy" to write. Not busy enough to edit other people's work and provide detail feedback, but somehow too busy to give my own stuff a chance. As much as I love reading and love editing... I used to love writing just as much, if not more. And that's a love I've definitely placed on the back burner. I'll be the first to admit that I don't write out of fear. But as one of my cousins once told me... if I never put myself out there, how will anyone be be able to tell me if I'm any good or not?

I may have wasted a lot of time on both of these things. And that time will forever be lost. But that doesn't mean the talent, the drive, the desire has to be lost. Or, at least, I've decided I won't let it.

I plan to make up for all that lost time.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Too Extreme, or Not Extreme Enough

I grew up in the church. My dad was my very first pastor. He gave me my first Bible. He baptized me. Most of my childhood was spent living in (or very close) to a seminary and therefore between home and church, I was surrounded by other Christians. In fact, it probably wasn't until I hit high school that I had any close friends who didn't believe in Christ and didn't go to church every Sunday (and most likely on Wednesdays, too).

I don't really remembered the day I definitely asked Christ into my life. Although, I do remember something about a 5,000 piece puzzle. Walking into our bedroom and watching sunlight filter onto the unfinished piece, illuminating it in a way I thought was beautiful. Somewhere in that moment, I knew. There definitely was a God and I wanted Him to make me just as beautiful.

Whether that's a figment of my overactive imagination, or how I really came to "accept Christ," I really don't know. But I do know that over the years, as I've grown older, my faith has transformed. It's become more and more about the relationship I have with God and not the relationship I have with my dad or the Church. Not that neither are important in my walk. But ultimately, it is solely my walk. Simple as that.

Now, since it is my walk, I have to admit that I'm not the perfect Christian. I've gone from dressing up on Sundays for church to simply making sure my jeans don't have holes in them and my t-shirt isn't wrinkled. I'm a pretty sucky prayer warrior (although I do tend to have a pretty good heart-to-heart with God in the shower. And can't help by send up a prayer when I pass accidents or see an Amber Alert on display). I once did, but no longer do not read my Bible every day.

And all of that, along with much more, makes me feel... guilty. Especially when I read articles or books by "perfect" Christians. Now, I can argue that there is no such thing. And I guess, there really is none but Jesus (who I guess, when you think about it, wasn't a Christian). But in comparison to some of these people, I often feel like I'm definitely a "bad" Christian.

For one thing, I don't necessarily dress modestly. Don't get me wrong... I'm not showing off my boobs (not that I have anything to show off), or wearing super short skirts/short that display my butt cheeks. You won't catch me dead in a bikini. But, at the same time, I don't have a problem with spaghetti straps or strapless dresses and shirts. I think they are cute. I like my collarbones... they are probably among my best features. And I don't mind showing of some leg, as long as I know I can bed over comfortably without worrying about flashing the world around me. Yet, after reading an article that completely condemns those clothing styles as "tools that lead your Christian brothers to having impure thoughts," I think, "crap... maybe I should clear out my closet." Too extreme? I don't know.

Is it wrong that I went galavanting around San Antonio wearing a halter-top romper that exposed a good portion of my back? Or that I wear skinny jeans or a form-fitting dress because I know they show off what little curves I have? I don't know.

Or... Rated 'R' movies. I don't have a problem with them. Personally, I am against scary movies. But that's because I don't like being scared. And I know that while it's "fake," in that moment it feels extremely real to me and I don't like the idea of being in fear at all. But if being scared didn't bother me, I'd say, "bring it on." I'm also not really into too many sex scenes... it's just uncomfortable to watch. My friends will tell you I'm an easily embarrassed by such things. I can't even talk about kissing without getting a little bit red-faced (figuratively, not literally). And as a Christian, I will say that I would prefer not having some of those images stuck in my brain. Cuss words make me cringe, and I'd rather do without them, but as long as it isn't basically every other word, I can handle them. But then, I have friends who have completely cut out any movies with the "R" rating out of their viewing spectrum. Their reason: The content of those movies don't glorify God. Too extreme? I don't know.

I mean, would it be wrong for "The Notebook" to be my favorite movie even if it more or less promotes pre-marital sex and adultery? (It is NOT my favorite movie, but I do like it.) Is it wrong for me to love the Harry Potter or Twilight series since they both are tales that "glorify" the occult? (Harry Potter is among my favorite books; I've yet to crack open Twilight.) I don't know.

I remember one year after youth camp, watching one of the girls break all of her non-Christian CDs in half and tossing them in a gas station trash can. No more junk was going to filter through her ears musically. How noble of her, I thought. And there was a time when all I did listen to was Christian radio... and I felt good about myself. But do I feel any less "good" when I'm jamming out to Jessie J or the Blackeyed Peas? I don't know.

What I do know is that what I wear, say, or do, isn't what makes me a Christian. It's my commitment to Christ. To follow Him. To love Him. And hopefully because of my love for Him, His love is reflected in everything I wear, say, or do. So... does me wearing short shorts or reading Harry Potter mean I don't love Him enough?

I'll admit that sometimes I'm jealous of the Christians who seem to abandon "normal" for Christ. Who spend days in prayer before making any decision, who surrender every moment up to Him. But sometimes, they seem so... alien. Because that's what I'm trying to do... surrender every moment to Him... but I am in no way that "radical" or "on fire."

Christians do come in all different shapes, sizes and personalities. And I think that's the beauty of life in general. But that doesn't mean that God doesn't have a standard that we should all attempt to daily strive for and live up to. Is the standard of purity about what you wear (or don't wear), how you date (or don't date), what you eat (or don't eat), what you watch (... you get the picture)? Or is it simply about a purity of heart?  And while I do think it is definitely the latter... what then does having a purity of heart even look like? Would it not be reflected in what you wear, how you eat, what you watch, what you listen to, how you date... in every single aspect of your life?

I guess this is what the Christian journey is about, huh? We know we are called to a higher purpose. We know there is some calling on our lives. We know that His will is the best and we should seek to follow it. But... it is a journey

I just hope I'm not taking a walk that'll make me happy, but one that will make Him happy.

101 in 1001

I have a friend who keeps an ongoing "bucket list." Her name is Lizzie. She's quite eccentric for barely being over 25, but that's one of the things I love most about her. In her life it seemed that every day was a dream being lived out and fulfilled. She made plans... and she executed them.

I always got a slight chills whenever she'd pull out her journal full of things she planned to do before she died. And I'd love listening to some of the bizzare things, as well as the mundane ones she had written down. The chills came whenever she was checking things off.

I noticed a similar "bucket list" of sorts on a blog I follow... allison writes: 101 in 1001. And now I really want to make a list of things I'd love to have done by the time I'm 30, or 40, or just before I'm dead, haha.

At the moment, I can't think of much. So... wanna help? Leave me a comment with some things you think I should add to my list. Adventures. Travels. Creative undertakings. Whatever you think I might enjoy... even if (and maybe especially if) it pushes me out of my comfort zone!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

New Place, New DIY attitude

In exactly a month, I'll be getting the keys to my new apartment. And I can't wait.

It's in the Heights, which is one of my favorite neightborhoods in Houston. The houses have such old charm and I love the bright exterior colors. There are some newer builds, too, but even they have quite a level of charm. I drove some friends around the neighborhood over the weekend and we "oohed" and "ahhed" at the wrap-around porches and the stately exteriors.

Example of a Heights Home

My little home lacks the same level of charm on the outside, but once I saw the inside I was sold. It's hardwood floors throughout, which are old and in some parts a little uneven, but obviously in good condition. And while the bathroom is kind of tiny/narrow and there isn't a lot of cabinet space in the kitchen... it's a place I can make home. And home isn't something I've had... well, since 2006.

The other day, my brother compared me to a Fulani. I'm the nomad in the family. I've moved every 6 months to a year since finishing my undergraduate at Texas A&M. Whether it has been for an internship, a job, graduate school, or family... something has led me to never stay put in one place for more than a year. Dallas was the longest at two years, but even then, the longest I was in one apartment was 15 months.

While there is no guarantee that I'll be staying in the little house I'm renting for more than a year. I'm kind of hoping that this is where I'll settle for a while. And since I have permission to make whatever improvements/changes I'd like, I plan to go crazy and really give it my stamp of ownership. I'm already envisioning the kitchen island I'll bring in. And how I'll add towel racks to the back of the bathroom door. The gorgeous rug I'll use to set off the living room. The art work I'll hang up.

Mostly, I'm kind of excited about possibly trying my hand at some DIY projects. The first on my agenda is making a headboard for my bed. I've found some ideas on Better Homes and Gardens that I really like.

Headboard close-up
One of my favorites, using old dresser drawers, and it'd definitely help take care of some of my book storage issues.

Shutter headboard with green fabric
Headboard from fireplace screen
A fireplace
Curtain panel with words
blue bedroom with cushion headboard
Another one of my favorites, and I might already have all the materials for this one available.

Letter Perfect
This speaks to the geek in me, and while I actually
don't like it as a headboard, I think I might end up with
a wall of letters somewhere.

I'll keep you up-to-date on what I decide to do. And post before and after pictures, etc. I'm just so excited and can't wait until August 3rd when I get the keys and can begin!
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