Sunday, September 28, 2008


I've always wanted to be the cool, artistic type. Secretly, that's probably why I pierced my nose & dye my hair burgundy. Occasionally, I dabble at creativity: I tried my hand at knitting for a while, until it became trendy in the Christian circles; I embroidered a few funky shirts, but wasn't very good; and I've made a handful of necklaces, which is a fun-but-expensive hobby. Someday I hope to find my "niche", or really make a breakthrough and just become artistic-- I get spurts every now and then, but I need a little nudge.

My eyes are always open for new sources of inspiration, but I confess that few of my ideas are ever original. Usually I just see something cute in an over priced boutique and say "I could totally do that." Sometimes I try... but most of my ideas are usually filed away, never to be brought to fruition.

Today, I just happen to stumble across this website, and was filled with inspiration.

When I saw these brilliant lunch boxes, I gasped & almost fell out of my chair. Look! They hold little sandwiches, and fold out to make a plate! Have you ever seen anything so brilliant in your whole life??!

Or how about this embroidery?

I think I just might spend the afternoon with my needle & thread, experimenting with new ideas. I've been wanting to try my hand at embroidering again.

I might get to actually become an artist soon, in an art exhibit that our Abolition Workshop is putting on. I pitched my idea for an installation in our up-coming show, and hopefully everyone will like it & we'll actually do it! If not, I still get to rub shoulders with other creative types, and maybe some of their juices will come off on me. =)

Monday, September 22, 2008


A while ago, a friend of mine made a goal to be a "maintainer". I didn't really like the way that sounded-- so status quo, just "maintaining" something, rather than shooting for the stars, you know?-- until she explained a little more.

She said that most people either fall into the "maintainer" cat
egory or the "cleaner" category. Maintainers just work steadily at keeping things-- their house, their car, their figure-- in order; while cleaners wait until they've reached the "enough is enough" stage before taking action.

When it comes to house keeping, I definitely fall
into the latter category, usually waiting until the yellow caution tape has sectioned my apartment off, quarantining it from the rest of civilization.

Okay, it's not that bad, but I will admit that I remind myself a little of Sarah Sylvia Cynthia Stout, who simply would not take the garbage out. I confess that we usually have overflowing "recycle" bags lin
ed up across the kitchen before actually taking them out to be recycled, and that I have to clean up the stacks of dishes leftover from the previous meal(s) before I can eat/make most of the food I consume. I will also admit that we love inviting people over to our house because it forces us to clean up... but that if you peeked into our closet during one of those visits, you might not be able to find to floor.

It's not that I'm a total slob or that I love living in squalor. I really believe that part of it is having such a tiny apartment. In most places, you could come home from a bike ride, set down your bag or your groceries, take off your jacket, and not fill the entire living room/dining room/kitchen in one fell swoop. But not here. That one little activity can tarnish our whole apartment... and you know how it is: one little pebble can start an avalanche. As soon as a few things are out of order, the battle is lost.

Well, I share all of this to say "Rejoice with me, my friends-- I have reformed!". I have turned a
new leaf, and I am working hard to... take baby steps towards... becoming a maintainer. I figure that things like that have to come in baby steps, in order to tackle something so against one's own nature.

So here's my plan (and it's working pretty well, if I do say so
myself). Every night, before we go to bed, we set the timer for 5 minutes, and spend that time cleaning up the mess around us. No, all the dishes don't get washed, and the whole apartment doesn't glisten when we're done, but it seems to hold the chaos at bay for a little bit longer. And the nice thing is that 5 minutes is always doable-- it's just 5 minutes.

It's been about a week, and we've done a pretty good job of staying consistent. We actually came home today, looked around, and said with shock "It's not too bad in here!". What a wonderful feeling. I love waking up in the morning and actually seeing the counter top (again, this sounds horrible, but a few dishes completely overwhelm the poor little thing). I love going to bed and not having to fight a pile of clothes to get under the covers.

Its tough, as a woman, to admit these weaknesses-- like it would decrease my dowry, or something-- but I'm being vulnerable here. I thought I would share my victory & breakthrough just in case there are other non-super-human women out there who could use a little help "maintaining". ;)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Love/Hate Relationship

Cars. They can be so wonderful: getting you from A to B, acting as a little bubble that shields you from the rest of the world, while you sing along to your favorite 80's tunes. I'm one of those people that actually loves road trips-- eating junk food, playing "Would You Rather?" (as in "Would you rather have the magical ability to stop time, or never have to brush your teeth again?"), zoning out as the scenery passes by...

Yes, I am a great lover of cars. I've had some cars that I've adored: the Honda Accord I got in college that felt so luxurious & grown up at the time; my Isuzu Trooper that is big & comfortable & easy to drive. I've had some cars that I've hated: Diablo, the Volkswagen Beetle that was as evil as Cruella DeVille; the Buick LeSabre I had donated to me that was affectionately named "The Couch".

The recent bane of my existence has been our Jeep-- the little
Wrangler we bought before moving to San Francisco, so we could have something tough & reliable & easy to park. Well, at least it was easy to park. I'm going to miss parking that little booger.

This summer, after dropping yet another thousand dollars into The Money Pit, Chris & I finally decided t
hat enough is enough. Our conclusion was that we would never find that magical moment when the Jeep was finally "fixed", because as soon as one thing started working, it seemed like we would turn around and find something else rattling & squeaking & leaking oil.

But tomorrow-- tomorrow, our sorrows will finally be over, and all will be right with the world. Tomorrow, a wonderful woman (who hopefully has better karma than we do) will buy our adorable little Jeep & drive off into the sunset. Huzzah!

I honestly hope & pray that it will never cause another problem, never leak another drop, and never make another "uh-oh" noise. Over the last several weeks, it has been behaving beautifully-- almos
t tricking me (yet again) into thinking that it was the perfect car for our city lifestyle. But I'm wise to it's game. Just when it was behaving its best, looking its prettiest, and parking in the smallest spots imaginable, we sold it off to the first buyer. I will not be fooled.

So what's next? For now, we are a one car family, with too many bikes to count, and public transportation nearby. Our plan is to start researching the Toyota Matrix and the Honda Element, and hopefully trade in our geriatric Trooper for something a little peppier in the near future.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Skeletons in the Closet

I got some news the other day that has weighed me down ever since, bringing tears, anger, sadness, fear & compassion along with it.

But before I share the news, I want to tell you about my church-- not my church in San Francisco, but the church I grew up in; the church I call Home.

From the time that I was a little girl until... well, it must have been sometime in college... the word "church" wasn't so much a theological term or a concept, but a building on the corner of Oso & Marguerite Parkway. I knew that other people went to other churches, just as other children had houses that they called "home", but to me "church" was
that building, that set of people, and that pastor.

It was in that church that I came to know who God is, that I learned hymns, went to VBS & youth group, and first decided to be a missionary. My parents have been deacons, elders, Sunday School teachers, volunteers & choir members there. I was married there. Part of coming home & visiting family is going to that church, where people have known & loved me since I was 8yrs old.

Although I have never been close to the pastor-- Michael-- he has always somehow embodied that church. I can perfectly hear in my mind the way that he prays, his transitions from a pithy story to the way it applies to our faith, the tenderness with which he baptizes babies & the way they always look up at him adoringly. I think we all looked up at him adoringly. His deep, rich voice that spoke with such confidence, his smiling, crinkly eyes and the warmth that he exuded when he talked about our Father, God. He was the type of person you wanted to be around, just to glean a little wisdom and peaceful centeredness.

Which is why the news that I got a few days ago left me shocked. This father of our church, this man we have all looked up to for so many years... confessed that he had been having an affair.

Obviously, there are a lot of details-- some I know, and most we will never know. It's not the gory details that I want to dwell on (although, I admit, they haunt me: How long? How did his wife find out? Who is she? The questions never stop]. I'm not even sure that I am at a place to fully process what happened.

What I do know is that my heart aches-- for our church, and especially for his darling wife. And in some strange way, my heart hurts for God, too-- as though I can feel the pain that He feels on our behalf, on her behalf, and on his behalf. So much hurt & confusion... the ripples of his actions go out farther than he will ever know.

One thing it has done for me is given me a healthy fear of myself. I am not above any of this.

I have always had a desire to live my life out in the open-- to be real with people (and especially my students) about my struggles & fears & shortcomings. Watching this great man fall lights a fire under all those desires for transparency. I am no better than Michael, and I am reminded of how desperately I need my Jesus.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Rice & Beans: Two Old Friends

One of the best parts about being back home again has been cooking. I realized, once again this morning, as I basked in the glow of the yummy dinner we made last night for some neighbors, just how much joy it brings me to feed people. It must be that Guatemalan woman in me.

I may have
mentioned before that I ate my fair share of rice and beans while we were in Africa. We had rice & beans almost every meal for 4 weeks straight. As you can see in this picture, our food was lovingly prepared in a wheel (no, that's not a pot), and while they might have been higher in iron (yuk, yuk, yuk-- that joke was for you, Dad), they were definitely lacking in flavor.

Ironically, one of the "pieces of Africa" that I brought home with me was my appreciation for rice & beans. They're nutritious, cheap, yummy (when made right), easy to prepare, and can last you through the week. I've decided that every couple of weeks, I'm going to make a huge mass of rice & beans, and eat them for those busy weekday meals. They're the perfect microwave dinner =)

Every woman in my [Guatemalan] family has their own take on rice & beans. This is mine, born more out of a forgetfulness of how my mom always makes them than a creative cultural flare. Try some this week-- you'll be so glad you did!

Black Beans:
  • Quarter a large onion
  • Quarter a large bell pepper
  • Peel about 3 or 4 garlic cloves
  • Rinse a bag of dry black beans under water, checking for rocks or dirt
  • Throw all those ingredients into a crock pot & cover with lots of water and a fistful of salt
Cook until the beans are soft and most of the water has been absorbed, about 4-6 hours

The beauty of this "recipe" is that it takes less than 5 minutes to prepare, makes more beans than you can shake a stick at, freezes really well (I usually freeze half), and you can prep it in the morning, leave for work, and come home to dinner! It works on a stove, as well-- just cook on low for several hours

  • Chop 1/2 an onion
  • Chop 1/2 to 3/4 bell pepper
  • Mince 3 or 4 cloves of garlic
  • Thinly slice about 1/4 cup carrots
Sautee all those ingredients on medium/high in olive oil until soft & fragrant.
  • Add 2 cups white rice, a little more olive oil, and sautee for a few more minutes, adding a tablespoon or so of chicken broth
  • Add 4 cups chicken broth and one diced chipotle in adobo (pictured, right) and salt
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 10-20 minutes, fluffing once or twice, until rice is soft and liquid is absorbed. Salt to taste.

The rice is a little spicy, so if you want to tone it down, just put in 1/2 a chipotle pepper. It's amazing how flavorful this rice is, though-- it rivals risotto in taste & texture.

Serve the rice & beans with sauteed red peppers & onions, some sliced avocado, and a little crumbled cotija cheese & lime wedges (like I did in this [slightly blurry] photo!). You've just spent about $6 on food that will last you for weeks! Yum!
More recipes to come-- I've made so many delicious wonders this last week that I simply must share ;)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Labor Day: San Francisco's Best Kept Secret

I realize that it might seem a little late to be writing about Labor Day weekend, but that's only because it was so great that I can't stop talking about it (and because I've been really busy since then).

It turns out that Labor Day is the best thing that ever happened to San Francisco. Chris & I discovered this for the first time because for several years, we've been out of town camping during our long weekend. It turns out that every other San Francisco resident also leaves town-- and they must close off all the bridges to tourists, because there was a shocking lack of them as well. It was a little bit like Left Behind, only with really great weather and no Kirk Cameron. We literally found a dozen parking spaces, coming home late one night and wondered if we were stuck in the Twighlight Zone.

On Saturday, we woke up and made the most amazing oatmeal cinnamon raisin pancakes (I'll have to post the recipe-- yum!). Then, I made a metamorphosis that I've been wanting to achieve for several months: I became a cyclist. That's right, I did the whole spandex shorts (with capris over them!), jersey and helmet thing and rode a [sadly] exhausting 15 miles.

We drove North on the Golden Gate Bridge to Mill Valley, parked the car and rode our bikes along a lovely bike path into Tiburon, overlooking the Bay and beautiful rolling green hills. It was like a little slice of heaven. On the way back, we stopped in downtown Mill Valley, sat in the town square, watching dogs chase pigeons & children play while we shared a tiny cup of ice cream.

After a long nap back at home, we rode our bikes a few blocks away to an old house-turned-music-center and met some friends for a [free!] classical piano show. The pianist was an old childhood friend of this couple, and she was touring with her boyfriend, who accompanied her on the double bass. It was truly incredible. She looked as though she were dancing when she played-- like she was experiencing the music through her whole body. I think her fingers had three more joints each than mine do, because as I watched them fly across the keyboard, I knew that her hands were not made of the same matter as mine.

When the show was over, we had the privil
ege of going out to ice cream with the talented duo, and found them to be funny, witty, normal people who were adorably in love. (Okay-- they weren't that normal, considering they studied at Julliard and live in Amsterdam and England!). It was a double privilege because we went to one of those little San Francisco gems that I eye with envy every time I pass, but had never actually experienced: Bi Rite Ice Cream. Although it was a freezing, windy San Francisco night, we all huddled inside the tiny store and savored every bite of our gourmet ice cream... mine was salted caramel, and was the most decadent thing I have ever tasted.

On Sunday, we had a BBQ in Dolores Park for our students (only a few showed up, but it was a great excuse to spend the day in the sun!). Now, Dolores Park is one of those interesting, truly San Francisco experiences, where places like Orange County seem imaginary and time slows to a Woodstock, hippy, free-loving crawl. Several years ago, when we we went there for the first time, we were offered "French Chocolate Marijuana Truffles" by a very flamboyant black man, swinging a gold chained pot around like incense. There was also a whole gang of hula-hoopers, swinging to 80's techno music, blasted through stacked speakers.

Last Sunday didn't disappoint, as the park was filled to capacity with young picnicers, drinking beer, smoking pot, playing with their dogs, and listening to spoken word poety & music being performed on a makeshift stage. We grilled & ate, got sunburned, and were even offered french chocolate marijuana truffles by the same guy that we saw years ago (he was making some pretty good money that day!).

Later that evening, we went to some friends' house for yet another BBQ, and got to catch up with all the young church-folk that we hadn't seen since leaving for Africa.

Needless to say, I spent all of Monday in bed, with a really bad sore throat and a fever (I guess I over-did it the rest of the weekend!), under the delusion that I was still in my hammock in Africa. I've spent the rest of this week trying to recover from my weekend and my cold, while juggling work & ministry... but am still smiling over my Labor Day adventures.