Sunday, September 30, 2007

How to Slice a Mango

One of the things I discovered in Africa-- besides what a lion's tale feels like-- is that I love mangoes. I practically lived off of them while we were there (Note: While eating fruit is good for you, a diet of only African mangoes does not always make a happy stomach...).

When I came home, I was delighted to find really good mangoes at our local Latin marketa (almost as good as the mangoes in Africa). One thing I discovered, though was that part of the reason I loved eating mangoes in Africa was that they were already sliced for me (just like everything else that was done for me while I was there!).

Have you ever tried to slice a mango?? It's impossible! There is a deceptively large pit in the middle that is stuck like glue to each tiny fiber of fruit. Every time I tried to eat a mango since we've come home, I ended up with a sticky, oozing mess all over my hands and the kitchen counter.

But today, I googled How to Slice a Mango, and learned the secret. I also learned that Bed Bath and Beyond sells a mango slicer for $12, but who needs one? Right now I am enjoying perfectly cubed mango that tastes like candy (in fact, I think I'm on a little sugar high!).

If you've never discovered the joys of mango, or (like me) have been intimidated by the weird skin & giant pit, you should definitely give it a shot. =)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Running on Empty

It seems like weeks since I've blogged. I am realizing that blogging is a nice creative outlet, but that it's hard to "outlet" when you're drained (there's nothing really pushing to get out when you're running on E). It's been a loooong week (maybe more-- I can't even really remember normalcy!)
I wish I could put into words why it has been so crazy.

Our Quarter-Schools are starting (Semester schools started weeks ago), and the first week of classes means driving out to campus every day (this particular campus is an hour away), dragging 100lbs of boxes and tables out to the Student Union, setting up a table with banners and fliers and goodies, and talking to students all day.

See what I mean-- putting it into words makes it sound like a nice day out of the office. But there is something incredibly draining about doing all of that. It's really an emotional & spiritual drain (although it's fun, it's very tiring). Add on top of that 5 hours in 95 degree heat, a sunburn, and possibly even a little heat stroke (I almost passed out at Target on the way home-- weird!). After coming home from tabling, one has to sort through all the contacts, print out fliers, arrange for activities the next day, buy more supplies, order food, and make a trip to Kinkos. Most evenings I was done by 10, 11 and even 12 at night!

Wednesday was our 3-year Wedding Anniversary. Chris & I were so exhausted that night that we canceled our reservations at the fancy restaurant, dragged ourselves to the nearest strip mall (Daly City) and enjoyed a romantic evening of Daphne's. The most pathetic part was that neither of us minded that we were having such a pathetic anniversary! Afterwards, we drove down to Pacifica and walked along the bright, moonlit beach, watching Gavin chase the waves.

Now that Saturday has rolled around, I feel much refreshed. It's been a wonderful day so far (more on that later), and I finally have the energy to "outlet". =)

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Stingy Sodomite

Part of my job is to be a champion for the poor.

I am supposed to provide opportunities for our college students to serve in the community, and to encourage & motivate students & staff towards compassion.

The other night, I was having this great conversation with this guy who is doing inner city ministry in East Palo Alto, and everything he was saying was right on-- exactly the kind of thing I would want our students to be involved in. But as I was listening to him and "Amen-ing" his efforts and telling him how passionate I was about ministering to the poor, there was a little pit in my stomach that didn't ring true-- not for him, but for me.
I was lying.

I've been thinking about it throughout the weekend, and I realized that somewhere along the road, my mouth kept talking, but my heart wasn't following. I've been sensing it for a while, and wondering, Why am I not excited about getting out there anymore? Why is it such a chore to even think about planning service projects? I thought this was supposed to be my thing.

As I reflected on these thoughts this morning, I felt a stinginess in my heart. I don't want to give up the things that I love. I don't want to get my hands dirty. I like college students-- they're so clean (comparatively!) and easy to work with, and it's so easy to shut off at the end of the day.

I give this talk often on God's Heart for the Poor. I always start with this startling comment "I am a Sodomite." After a few moments of silence and shocked & confused looks, I go on to explain that often the sinful city of Sodom is associated with homosexuality. In Ezekiel (16:49), however, it says that Sodom's sin (the reason God destroyed it) is that "She an her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." Then I explain that it is so easy to be overfed-- caught up with what we have-- and unconcerned about the poor around us, but that God's heart is for the poor, and that we need to follow Him in that. It's a great talk... I just hate living it out.

What do you do when you've fallen out of love? What do you do to re-create passion? My mind tells me Just go out there and do it, but nothing in me wants to-- especially out of obligation, or because its my job. I want to want it, but I don't. I'm comfortable. I like my things-- I don't want to give them up. I like my free time-- I don't want to loose it. I know what it takes-- it takes everything, and I only want to give what's comfortable.

God, please change my heart.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Exploring the Classics

This last week, I watched (for the first time) two of those classic movies that kind of define American film: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Rebel Without a Cause.
I was so impressed with both movies! So often, I watch classic films and think "That was so good, for it's time", or I have to suspend my criticism or hold my giggles and tell myself, "This movie was made 60 years ago-- of course it's going to seem a bit cheesy or overdone."
But these movies were nothing like that. Both were deep, honest, insightful, and had amazing acting. They were both really entertaining and left me guessing through the whole movie ("Where is this going?"), without disappointing me at the end.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest dealt with life in an insane asylum-- both for those who are insane, and those who have a grasp on reality. The lines get blurred back an forth, and the result is so funny and sweet and saddening all at the same time. Plus, you get to see Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, and Christopher Lloyd all with hair. It's awesome =)

Rebel Without a Cause was even better. It was so honest in the way it dealt with broken suburban families in the 50's (much more American Beauty than Leave it to Beaver), and despite how raw and open it was, it managed to be sweet and innocent with a real sense of truth. I thought it would be glamorizing the tough-guy image (a-la Grease), but it was all about becoming a man and standing up for what's right (not what's cool), as well as coming alongside the lonely & broken. It was really, really good.

**Side Note: One really interesting extra at the end of the DVD was an interview with James Dean where he almost prophesied his own death. It was pretty surreal. I did a little research on each of the main actors in the movie, and they all died young in pretty tragic ways. Very sad.

Next on our Netflix list of classics: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Some Like it Hot (Marylin Monroe and Tony Curtis & Jack Lemmon dressed in drag? Sign me up).
Any other suggestions?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Being a Super-Model

I am an official hair model now!
I went in today for my slightly scary sounding haircut from the apprentice at Dekko Salon.

On the phone, she had told me that she wanted someone who was open-minded, willing to change, & open to something creative, fashion-forward, and asymmetrical. Now, those could all be good words for describing hairstyles (except that asymmetrical one-- I really got stuck there!), but they could also be describing one of those scary run-way hairstyles that no normal human being actually wears.
Needless to say, I was excited for my $20 high-end haircut from the super-posh salon, but also a little nervous!

Oh, one other thing to mention is that I did a little research on my new apprentice, and found a rather frightening sketch of her (unfortunately, I can't get a direct link on the sketch, but if you click here, and scroll down to Joni, you'll see what I mean. It's worth a peak...). When I got there, though, I found a really fun, cute punk-rock, tattooed Asian girl who instantly made me feel comfortable & happy.

The whole procedure took about 2 1/2 hours, but Joni was so fun & easy to talk to that I felt like I was making a new friend, rather than being a guinea pig. The owner came over a few times and gave advice as the cut went along, but other than that (and the amount of time-- and money-- spent), it was just a normal, fantastic haircut.

In the end, I love my new hair, and it's nothing crazy, outrageous, or (thankfully) asymmetrical! In fact, I'm a little disappointed that I don't look a little wackier. But I guess cute is a great alternative ;)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wonderful New Discoveries

I have recently either discovered or re-discovered several new things to love. Here are a few:
  • Listening to podcasts of Mike Erre's sermons
  • Getting free ice cream from Cold Stone on your birthday (or, even better, sharing your husband's free birthday ice cream!)
  • Dyeing my Hair. I love the color, and I love how well behaved it is right after I've dyed it.
  • Coconut flavored boba (milk tea with large tapioca) from Quickly
  • Fasting. Okay, this one's actually a love/hate thing. Last week, I fasted & prayed, and it was an incredible day-- I felt so full of life & joy. Today, it sucked. I couldn't concentrate & I felt deflated & emotional all day. Next time will be better, though!
  • Yoga. I've already shared about my new love for yoga, but I just have to say it again: I love it!
  • Chateau St. Michelle 2003 Merlot. It was definitely my favorite at the wine tasting party-- yum! And, great news-- its only about $10 at BevMo! We can drink it about once a year =)
  • Picnics with cheese, bread & chocolate (even better with wine!). Oh, and the Opera!
  • Gavin's new dog park. We recently stopped going to the local park (affectionately called Crack Park) across the street from the Projects when we discovered another park almost as close. The people are friendly, and the dogs are wonderful-- plus its well lit at night, and no drive-by's (a step up!)
  • Peet's Coffee. Chris got a an ice blended mocha there yesterday, and it was the best I'd ever had! They also make one with Scharffen Berger chocolate (you mean, it get's better?!)
  • Panera Bread. I spent hours there today, and it was wonderful (and delicious!). I brought home a loaf of bread to go with dinner, and bagels for breakfast tomorrow, too!
I could go on & on! It just seemed like I got to experience so many great things in the last week that I really wanted to share them with the world. You should try at least one this week =)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Action-Packed Weekend: Posing as an Adult

Chris & I pretended to be grown-ups this weekend.

We were invited to a friends' birthday party-- a wine tasting party-- Saturday night. Each gues
t brought a bottle of wine, which was wrapped in a brown paper bag and marked with a number. We were supposed to sample each of the wines and pick a favorite-- the winner getting a $50 prize (we were motivated!).

All night long, some of the more experienced wine drinkers (i.e. tho
se who, unlike us, actually drink wine other than 2 Buck Chuck) were teasing about bottle #4. Number Four was kind of the brunt of all the jokes that night.

Well (of course), it turned out that #4 was the bottle I had brought, and although my cheeks were already rosy from the 14 different bottles I had sampled, they turned a much darker shade when I was awarded the booby prize for the worst bottle of wine. **Let the judges note that we actually bought a faulty bottle, which was corked, and that, really, I got robbed. Number Four could have taken us all the way to the $50 prize. =)

Sunday after church, we carted our picnic of bread & cheese, salami, grapes & chocolate (along with our pit bull-mutt) to Golden Gate Park to watch an opera. That's right, an opera.

Every year, the opera comes to Golden Gate Park and gives several hours of free performances. It's quite an experience.

We sat with our picnic, and enjoyed the opera, while a group of homeless teens behinds us called out "Spare any change? Anyone have leftovers?". A spandex-clad cyclist sat in front of us, sketching the event in his sketchpad. Next to him, an old man in corduroy pants, a tweed jacket and golf hat lay on his back soaking it in. A family sat to our right on a blanket with their designer picnic basket, while their designer dog (a puggle) wearing a pink designer collar played with their toddlers in designer clothes. Where else can you experience that kind of diversity while listening to such a performance?

It really is something worth experiencing. And I can't remember the last time Chris & I went wine tasting & visited the opera in the same weekend (oh, wait-- that would be never). It was great.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Yoga: Welcome to the Club

I just finished my first-ever Yoga workout. For years, I've heard my friends talk about doing yoga, and it just never appealed to me.

I confess, I'm rather behind the times, still doing the formerly-trendy kick-boxing (although I've graduated from Billy Blanks and Tae Bo) on my TV at home. Except for my brief love affair with the elliptical machine at USD this summer and my weekend hikes with Chris (and Gavin), I rarely ever stray from my living room routine.

But today I discovered that I can download movies off of Netflix, and I thought I'd give a yoga workout a try...

It was amaza-zing! I'm such a believer. I just feel healthier (as well as tired, sore, and a little stinky) after having spent 30 minutes with Ellen (my new pink-spandex-wearing friend).

I'm kind of craving green tea and tofu now, too...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Bad Hair

Right now, I hate my hair. I had this vision of letting it grow out so that we could save money on haircuts, but its just not happenin' for me. I think I'm just destined to have short hair.

I have tried a few places in San Francisco, and have been disappointed each time-- especially because I've paid between $70-$80 for a mediocre haircut from a cooler-than-you stylist that just makes me feel bad about myself.
I've lived in SF for over 2 years now and (except for those previously mentioned over-priced haircuts in the City), I have waited for a trip down to SoCal to get my hair cut from Beth-- who I love as a person & for what she does for my hair =)

Since we don't have a trip to SoCal planned until Thanksgiving, and since I'm about to shave my head myself, I realized it's time for a change.

So here are my options:
1) Try a newly recommended posh & stylish salon that will probably charge about $70
2) Get my bangs trimmed for a few bucks and hold out until Thanksgiving
3) Become a "hair model" and get a haircut from an "apprentice stylist" at a super, super fancy salon.
Right now, I'm leaning for option #3.
Any advice?

Foggy Day, Wonderful Night

Yesterday, I was in a sort of a fog all day. I am catching a cold (again!), and felt lethargic & sleepy all day. It didn't help that our worn out puppy (who I'm convinced has a cold, too) shivered in his bed all day with bloodshot eyes, and made the room feel even more sickly & sleepy. And because we had a "virtual staff meeting", I stayed in my PJ's until after lunch. All those factors add up to a drab sort of day where one never quite feels like they have accomplished anything.

I was supposed to go to a friend's for dinner, but canceled because of my cold (she has a newborn). As the evening rolled around, however, I started feeling a little better, and decided to go with Chris to a hang out with some of his SF State students at Starbucks. What really turned my day around was when Chris asked each of us to share a little bit about our stories-- our spiritual journeys-- and how we got to this place.

One student shared about how her life was "trash" when she arrived at college, until she met Chris, and began exploring faith. She talked about finding meaning & hope.
Another student from Taiwan shared about her spiritual journey, and how she now wants to go to Kenya & serve the poor there.
Still another student shared about living in Botswana, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Canada, and now San Francisco, and how the tsunami in Sri Lanka devastated her life. She found hope again on an inner city missions trip a few years ago that turned her life around and introduced her to a relationship with God.

All their stories were so beautiful, so different, and so meaningful. There was this sweet little moment where they were telling me how much they admired us for being "missionaries" and for sacrificing so much for God. I laughed and told them, "My job tonight was sitting in Starbucks & listening to how God changed your lives. I don't feel like I've sacrificed anything."

And even though my cold has definitely suffered from staying out late, I am so glad I had the privilege of hearing those students' stories, and that I get to do what I do.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Labor Day Camping Trip

Chris & I spent the long weekend camping out at Ice House Reservoir (just West of Tahoe), along with two other families from our staff team (and, of course, Gavin). It was so restful, relaxing & beautiful!
I think we brought everything we own (including our queen-sized air mattress!), and definitely didn't miss any of the luxuries at home. Some call it car camping-- Chris called it Glamping. =)

A stone's throw from the campsite is this beautiful reservoir, as clear & clean & blue as you can imagine. We went down there in the afternoons to cool off & watch the dogs fetch sticks out of the water. We discovered that Gavin has an almost super-natural ability to pull objects onto shore that weigh 10 times as much as he does (as seen in the picture, where he is literally pulling a tree onto the shore!)

One day, we all hiked up to Desolation Wilderness, which was like nothing I had ever seen before-- miles upon miles of rock, and at the top 3 beautiful lakes so cold that my toes were numb after resting them in the water for a few minutes! It was a great (and tiring!) hike.

While we were up there, I felt the heaviness (mentioned in my last "posting") lift off of me, and not having a cell phone was actually really freeing. When we came back down the mountain, a bit of the sadness & heartache came back, and was heightened when we watched Little Children (which arrived via Netflix while we were gone). Great movie, but really depressing. Talk about brokenness.

This morning, I'm a little sore, a little sunburned, and the dog has literally been passed out since last night (his eyes are bloodshot, and he looks hung-over). Chris & I are resolved to go camping as much as possible from now on =)