Saturday, December 31, 2011

Traditioooon! TRADITION. (New Year's Eve Edition.)

Zoe and I used to be part of a New Year's Eve tradition with a big group of college friends. It has since kind of died for a lot of us (though I'd like to think that some day we'll all be able to bring it back) because we are all scattered across the country. But it counts as a tradition since we kept it up for over four years. Here's the run down:

Everyone met at the Nadlers' house. They have the most beautiful, peaceful, welcoming house on the West Coast, in my humble opinion. [I would like to second that motion.] Plus it's located in Danville, which is adorable. Danville has a tree. That's what they're most proud of. Isn't that precious? 

Not the least of the Nadlers' hospitality skilz is their amazing culinary art. All of them, even their dog Shadow. Ok, maybe not so much Shadow, though that sweet dog sure helped keep the floors a bit cleaner. The thought of New Years approaching just gets my mouth watering for tri-tip and my heart longing for great conversation around their kitchen island.

We played games. So many games: Telephone Pictionary, Catchphrase, Prince Edward Island Monopoly, Scrabble, and more. One time we played Apples to Apples for four hours. 

Yeah, I was serious. We have a Canadian amongst us.
Also, we watched movies. Sometimes at the same time as playing games. Two movie moments from these gatherings are particularly strong in my memory:

1) We were watching the opening credits to a movie, I want to say it was Juno, and Jeff, the theater artist of the group, kindly mentioned how he appreciates it if people not talk during the opening credits because of how important they are for setting the tone for the film. I believe I proceeded to attempt to launch a conversation on the importance of opening credits, as they rolled, along with Jeff's eyes. Sorry, Jeff! I was just trying to connect. Fail. 

2) One New Years, Manny and I had an awful awful stomach flu. So bad, we missed out on all our Christmas parties, but we could not forgo that Nadlers' house gathering, that would have been sacrilegious, so we dragged ourselves out to the East Bay. While we were technically present, we spent most of the time asleep in bed. Somehow, we managed to slump out of bed to watch the ball drop, all bleary eyed. Emily then so compassionately suggested the post-midnight movie selection be Amelie, because it was a favorite of the two sickies. I believe we fell asleep about 96 seconds into the viewing, but the memory of it starting is about the most vivid memory of that event.

One of my favorite parts of the evening was always the Baked Alaska. That, my friends, is dessert that you light on fire. What could be better? We'd turn off all the lights in the house and light that sucker up. It was beautiful and delicious.So beautiful. So delicious.

Our scattering afar was gradual and inevitable. I remember our last gathering, Emily was already on the other coast, as was part of the Nadler clan, but they still celebrated in parallel. When their midnight approached, we Skyped in and did the count down all together. Emily and company then proceeded to do a New Years Dance for us over Skype and that was awesome. 

Last New Years, the tradition had ended, but I got to see Emily and Jeff just before the year was out. Gathered together at a very very noisy BJ's, my belly great with child, trying to ignore the contractions, I heard Jeff say, "So, you're pregnant." I was getting this comment alot, and it was getting a bit stale. I thought Jeff was better than that. But I smiled and gave an obligatory, "heh, yeah." In response to which I got this very intense blank stare. The kind of stare that lets you know you've missed something. I think the conversation actually just moved on a bit awkwardly until a minute or so later, I realized I had not heard him correctly. "Wait, what did you say a minute ago?" "We're pregnant" "?!?!WHAT?!?!?" Not that anyone could hear my wild yelling and exclamation over that din. I've never been so embarrassed/shocked/thrilled all in one moment. And that my friends, is the story of how Eiley and Sofia first met, bumpin' bellies. And a new long distance friendship was born. Not a bad way to wrap up a good tradition, eh? At least for now . . . 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne!

Happy New Year's Eve, Lobsters!

Friday, December 30, 2011

one handed baby skillz

Like most babies, Eiley Grace loves to be held. Unlike most mommas, I am not very adept at doing things one handed. Often, I have to put her down and scramble to get things done while she whines or cries. Here are a few things I've learned to do well though:

  • Stir a boiling pot.
  • Type 29 wpm with the right hand and 27 wpm with the left.
  • Laundry.
  • Throw a ball for Buster.
  • Put eyeliner on my lower lash line (the upper line is way too advanced for me).
  • Pull things out of the oven (this ones terrifies me and I try not to do it often).
  • Take pictures with weird lighting.
Weird lighting and super pink wardrobe.
  • Wash my right hand (is washing your hand pointless if the other is still germy?).
  • Go to the bathroom. I realize that's kind of icky, but let's examine: unbuttoning pants, unzipping them, pulling them down, [doo dee doo dah], then pulling them up, buttoning, and zipping again. I admit that somewhere in this process, I usually use two hands and pin Eiley under my arm like a human clutch purse, but still. That's impressive stuff.
  • Dance to 10 Minute Solution Hip Hop or Dance Central for Kinect (even though I have to take it kind of easy so no one gets shaken too much). 
  • Play cards or dominoes or Bananagrams.
  • Eat!
  • Drink!
  • Be merry!
I have grown a new appreciation for Bethany Hamilton.

Do any other Lobster Mamas have special one handed baby skillz?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Regeneration Trees #4

[This is a fourth in a photo series exploring human trafficking through the imagery of trees. For the previous images, click here.]

Flame flashed bright darkness, yielding barren isolation, that was wrapped around with some small and fragile hope, and then . . . 

. . . looking at a light that was broken, whose shade is rusted all around, I slip slightly and see light enter the top of my view finder. Chilly with dawn air, I was out to photograph a door with peeling paint. A door aged, unused, reworked over and over, but still an opening, still accessible, still available. I sought out an image of hope. Instead, I found something worth hoping for. More than a glimmer of possibility, the sun rose up and burst its light on those branches. Yes. Some lights go out. Some trees get cut down.  And. And some Light shines forth like new day. Some Life overcomes. Some hope testifies to things we can not see in the darkness. True things. Lovely things. Powerful things. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in Idaho

I asked Jeff what I should write as a blog post. He suggested "Christmas in Idaho." I told him I didn't know what to say. This was his suggestion (or maybe I just transcribed every last bit of what came out of his mouth):

you didn't...type my laugh.
(glares at me.)
haha stop. this is a stupid blog post.
Christmas in Idaho is awesome.
I like it more than California.
Not really.
I like the weather in California.
We ride limos here.
The end.

Surprise! This limo was 40 feet long. Craziness.
So hopefully from all that you interpreted that we had a white Christmas, we went on a surprise limo ride to celebrate Jeff's parents' 30th anniversary, and we all had a lovely holiday full of laughter (see video below), loooove, Jesus, and music. And presents. In fact, my favorite part of the festivities was watching the kids open presents. We have two nephews and one niece, and all three are freaking adorable. Woooooo! 

I hope your Christmases were merry and bright, Lobsters!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Regeneration Trees #3

Previously in this series of Regeneration Trees, I have seen bright, flashy darkness; and I have seen barrenness opening itself to something slightly less dark; and then I saw this. 

This was a tree who could not stand the winds of a hurricane. It was broken, beaten, and bowed down with its upper branches touching the ground. It lay like that for some time. Bowed down, to what? The weight of its branches were too much, its bowed-down-ness had to be cut free. The sharpness of the blade that sliced its trunk and branches are evident in the splinters fraying from the base. A clean straight line that looks like death, it looks like an end, it looks like it has lost.  It is not just bowed down, it is taken. All but the very baseness of this tree is taken. A hint of the bright, flashy darkness is fallen beside it, the orange flame remains, not forgotten.

And wrapped around, a new root. So small, so insignificant by comparison. Wrapping all around. Reaching up. Reaching out. Taken down, emptied out, and wrapped around. New life springs forth. New hope extends itself, just barely above the line of death. Splinters of defeat are paralleled by twigs of hope, weak, small, fragile hope. It has a great trunk to overcome, the growing will not be without obstacles. It will not be without barriers. But it will be. Life will be again. It will be new. It will be renewed.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him…” Isaiah 11: 1-2

Monday, December 26, 2011

Movie Review Monday #32: That Funny Feeling

I was in a vintagey mood last week, so I found an old film on Netflix - That Old Feeling. It starred Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin. Basically, she's his maid, but he's never been home while she cleans so he doesn't know what she looks like. They end up meeting in a different way, and she is embarrassed about where she lives, so she takes him back to his own apartment and claims that she lives there. Thoughts:

1. Bobby Darin has an amazing voice. Smooth and rich. Like buttah, basically. But he's not that attractive, which I was going to say was weird for the male lead of a romantic comedy, but the more I think about it, the more I think the best male leads of romantic comedies look similarly odd. At least the guys who star in some of my favorites do. Tom Hanks, with his cartoony face and goofy curly hair, Hugh Grant with his crooked smile and occasionally buggy eyes, Steve Carell who looks a little like the sloth from Ice Age. Perhaps these odd qualities make them more endearing, both to the female character and to the audience.
2. Sandra Dee is just adorable. Absolutely adorable. Obviously I already loved her because she's the original Gidget, but she is adorable in this too. I think it's her big brown eyes. Or the way she looks innocent, even in a scene where she's supposedly drunk. I do not, however, think she was still lousy with virginity at this point.
Apparently they were married in real life at the time too!
3. There were a lot of genuinely funny moments in this film, which always impresses me in older works. This came out almost 50 years ago, and I still laughed out loud at some parts. Classic.
4. Donald O'Connor was also in this. You might know him from Singing in the Rain. He has the most beautiful blue eyes, and I'm wondering if he has ever been a leading man. If not, I am also wondering why not. I get that he was good at making goofy faces, but he seemed rather handsome too. What a waste. I wonder if typecasting was more intense then than it is now. 
George Clooney is a dog compared to this fine fella.
5. This is a really boring movie review. Sorry about that. 

In conclusion, one and a half claws up, Lobsters!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sabbath Sunday #32

It's Christmas! This is my first ever Christmas morning in Idaho, so I have no idea what's in store, but it's sure to be a wonderful celebration of the best gift of ever. (You know, that little baby Jesus who came to save us all. The promise of an eternity with the Creator of everything even though we've all messed up big time. No big.) 

May your day be Lobstery and bright!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Flashback! The second.


Spain:  Week 3

1)  I am now enrolled in Salsa classes here.  I am taking Salsa classes from a Cuban guy named Giovani in Spain.  I am SO cool.  We´ve had our first two lessons already, and while I still can´t move my hips yet, Giovani says I follow very well.  I concur.
2)  We went to Cordoba yesterday to see the mosque that we´ve been studying in history of art.  That was pretty cool, but the best part was the Christian chapel INSIDE the mosque.  That chapel was chock full of majesty.  That´s right...majesty.  I can´t even begin to describe it, so if you´re curious about it please look it up.  (Also, while we were there, I witnessed Brian Olsen buying an amazing arab/spanish suit thing.  man, that kid is weird. :) (Hi Ashley!))
C)  We went to a flamenco tavern on Thursday, which was so cool.  There was one guy belting out the most unique and powerful songs I´ve probably ever heard, one guy was on guitar, and the audience seemed to be full of professional clappers.  Awesome.  I love clapping.  After we saw that guy, we went into the next room (slash cave...this place was old) and there was another guy playing piano.  Since I love piano so much, this entertained me more than anything.  He played so beautifully that I considered crying for an instant (but then quickly remembered my meman status), and then he played this super fast song, then continued playing the same song with his hands crossed - playing the same parts with different hands.  It was amazing.
IV)  We went to church last Sunday and it really struck me how famous God truly is.  We sang songs very similar to those we might sing at home, except in Spanish of course, and it moved me to know that our God can truly be found everywhere. I have also witnessed that Satan is everywhere in this world, as four Spanish clowns were working their evil right by our apartment a few days ago.  One was on stilts.  Unacceptable.  I made Lilit walk an alternate route home with me so we could avoid them. 

Point the last) Today two of my friends and I went swimming at the Hotel Alfonso XIII, which is a fancy-schmancy hotel that was built for a king a really long time ago.  We had to sneak in, and we even used their towels.  wo0t.

Oops...this is long.  Sorry, kids.

Love, joy, peace, and all the other fruits,


Wow Emily!! Wow wow wow!! It really sounds like things are picking up for you! What amazing amazing things you are getting to do!!  Wow wow wow!!  Should I be expecting a notebook coming my way any time soon?


Friday, December 23, 2011

Traditioooooon! TRADITION. (Christmas edition.)

I told you about my immediate family's Thanksgiving tradition. Now for Christmas!

This tradition started about five years ago, and I freaking love it: Every Christmas Eve, we go to a church service.

Oh, you want more than that? Okay. Then we eat at Denny's. Yes, Denny's. We like to keep things classy and well-greased.

Next we go to Balboa Island to look at all the crazily decorated houses. My favorite is, of course, the one that looks like a Christmas hoarder decorated - a motorized Santa on a unicycle travels from the roof to their dock, another Santa and a few reindeer travel in circles on the TV antenna, there are blow up things and stuffed things and lights, lights, lights. One year they even had real snowman out front. Out of control.

Finally, we go home to open presents. Unlike the other Christmas gatherings that we attend (there are usually three others), this is a one-person-opens-one-gift-at-a-time event. Last year, Jeff and I gave my parents photo albums with Eiley's sonogram in them, telling them they would be grandparents for the first time.

I think part of the reason I love this tradition is that it ends up being very late at night, and there's something magical about being up late with a few of the people you love most in the world. Add the magic of Christmas, and it ends up being straight up awesome. This year will be my first year away from my family on Christmas Eve. I'm certain that I'll have an amazing time in Idaho with Jeff's side of the family, but a part of me will simultaneously be missing my parents, my sister and BIL, Denny, and Balboa Island. 

I will try not to do too much of that face this Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting up, Standing up

In June, we started trying to get up. In July, we sat up fairly well. In September, we finally sat up on our own. And after much ado, in December, we can get up! Get up, Stand up, Sofia! I'm so proud of you!

Sofia is no giraffe (warning: slightly graphic):

. . . but after lots of months of training, she can finally do this:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

the dramatic return of the clock.

You may recall the saga of the clock. If you need a refresher, go here:

Well, Mikkele just got it back. She was starting a new job a few months ago, and she happened to mention someone she'd be working with, Cody. Cody had sent me a video for Mikkele's birthday DVD this year, and from he and his wife's performance there, I knew that he was the kind of person who might do the clock justice. Observe:

Turned out I was right. An excerpt from one of our facebook message planning sessions: "Let's take this clock prank up to the next notch and show Mikkele that simply mailing the clock in a box is not the caliber we are looking for!" Good plan, Cody. Good plan.

In the end, Cody wrapped the clock beautifully and had the owner of their company give it to Mikkele. Apparently Mikkele thought she was opening something super nice, like an expensive bottle of wine, and was acting extremely grateful as she opened the precious gift. Let's join her at the reveal:

End scene.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Day of 15 Dogs

I was recently having a rough week. Sofia wasn't into napping according to any regular schedule, or at all really. She was teething, she was sick, she was ready to run all over the place, holding my hand, whether or not I had the energy. Almost every night that week I had places to be and Manny had to work late to keep up with the demands of finals week. I was exhausted and strung out. 

But then there was the day of 15 dogs. After five straight days of this madness, Sofia miraculously re-learned how to nap - TWICE! That meant I got to catch up on all these projects that were dying to get done, like making the house presentable for people I was having over, trying to prepare for Christmas, having a moment of peace and quiet to recharge for the next bout of running all around. Don't get me wrong, the walking and eager learning is overwhelmingly precious, but it still takes energy to seep all that good stuff in! 

As Sofia woke up from her first nap, my friend came over with her baby girl for lunch. She is calmer and wiser and more delightful than me, so she was welcome company in a hectic week! But perhaps the most precious thing was the site of our girls together. Her little one is only 6 months, and Sofia is about 11 months now. They're not supposed to be too aware of each other or wanting to interact until they're like 5 years old. But I have a friendly baby. She is super into kissing and affection lately. But her kisses consist of opening her jaws as wide as possible, beaming a huge smile with her eyes, and leaning in for the kill. "Kill" here means placing her open, slobbery mouth on the target, such as the top of another baby's head. It is a little bit terrifying and a lot a bit hilarious and I can't get enough. Neither could Sofia's new little friend. There were big kisses followed by long trills of laughter from the both of them. And it just wasn't just one sided. Sofia has had some weight gain issues for a few months, so she's pretty tiny for her age. Tiny enough that she's smaller than her younger little friend, who is not quite as mobile as Sofia is now (though more mobile than Sofia was at that age). So while Sofia was crawling all around, pouncing on her friend with kisses, her friend was sitting up, a bit helpless to control all the excitement. But every now and then, when Sofia would get close enough, her little friend would come in with a good strong lean, both arms spread wide open, and collapse on her with a huge hug. Awesome.

After lunch, we took a few minutes to be quiet and recharge before we headed out to the woods for a walk. I have been taking her out for two walks a day for months, which has been great exercise. But the more active she is becoming, the less patient she is to just sit while I get to be the one moving around freely. Also, have I mentioned that Sofia loves dogs? So here we are on our little path through the woods, and we haven't even seen a dog yet, but she hears them barking from afar. So she orders me with her own little bark to let her out of the ergo to walk around and use her own legs for a change. We step from the wooded path onto the field and she's off, running all around in circles, still holding my hands, dragging me along behind her. Then one of the dogs notices the little person and heads our way. Even though the owner called him back, it got Sofia's attention, and she just had to see that pup. She started tearing off in the direction of the dogs, to find that it was not just one, but about 5-8 all congregating with their owners, enjoying the fine day. And there was little Sofia, in the middle of all of them, just about their same height, sometimes shorter, barely knowing which way to turn around and look, because in every direction, there were more dogs. 

Apparently this drew some attention, and all the other dog walkers out on the path or around the woods responded to the sound of the barking and fun and began to congregate. Sometimes multiple owners walking together with their one dog, sometimes one owner walking two poodles, and then the doggy daycare lady who had about 8 all strapped to her waist. I figure in the end, there were at least fifteen dogs Sofia got her hands on. 

These people don't introduce themselves, but they learn each others' dogs' names, and so Sofia also got introduced all around. One person's dog was 4 months, another was 12 years, and mine was 11 months - I mean . . . Everyone kept asking, "What breed is she?" heh heh - just like all the men at the grocery store that ask me which isle I got her in. 

All the dogs wanted to give her huge licks on the face, and my open-mouthed-kissing-Sofia just wanted to slobber them right back. To be honest, I was picturing in my mind the potential trip to the ER after five of them tackled or bit my daughter, but I was trying to play cool so that Sofia wouldn't learn to be afraid. And if I was showing signs of fear, she sure didn't pick up on them. She got along swimmingly well with her furry friends. She was in Sofia-Heaven! I wish I had had a chance to document this with pictures, but my hands were a bit full. It was amazing and totally worth the hives I broke out in later due to my dog allergy. 

That night my Manny came home with a Calculus exam off his back, and I closed out this wonderful day with the last session of an Esther bible study with some girlfriends. What a wonderful day! Praise God for joyful grace like this in a hectic season!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Movie Review Monday #31: Debatable Christmas Movies

Like many other events and seasons, I like to get in the mood and emotionally prepare with some good movie watching. This includes Christmas, but in my home, this always becomes quite controversial. While there is an endless slue of movies clearly created only to take advantage of people's desperation to get away from their families during the Christmas season by watching other people's families experience disaster/heartwarming/heartbreak/hilarity, (or maybe just healthy nostalgia and sense of tradition - our little family loves It's a Wonderful Life, Family Man, Elf, and A Christmas Story) apparently there are several movies that have become traditions in my heart around this season, but are not necessarily universally considered "Christmas movies." So I present to you a list of some of my Questionably-Christmas-y-Regulars, and ask you to tell me, do they count? Here I make my case(s):

1) Little Women
Emily, are you laughing at me yet? Thought so. Ok, honestly, I'm just always in the mood for this movie. But there are multiple Christmas scenes, so as the days get shorter and lights twinkle a little brighter, I love using the season as another excuse to watch a film I love.

2) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
"It's always winter, and never Christmas." But, **spoiler alert**, St. Nick eventually breaks through and everyone gets presents that help them win the day. Also, when you grow up in Texas and never see snow except in Christmas movies, movies with lots of snow kinda count at Christmas movies, regardless of other aspects of their content.

3) Nightmare Before Christmas
Ok, it's got Christmas in the title. Probably, it is more of a Halloween or just general "holiday" film, but Christmas is definitely in there. Also, my husband really appreciates this one, and needs a good reason like holidays to make sure it doesn't just get dusty on the shelf. But due to it's somewhat in-between thematic nature, sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle. Sorry, Honey! Help us out - if you call it a true Christmas film, it might climb up the priorities ladder.

4) You've Got Mail
Again, a bit in the category of Little Women. I was disappointed with this one when it first came out, but I've watched it while snuggled up with my hubby enough times that it has quickly climbed to the top of my list. Again, like with the snow in Narnia, I think there's something about the emphasis on the beauty of the seasons changing that makes me feel like I should watch it around Christmas time.

side note: Oddly enough, with all these associations of Christmas being white, I finally live in a state where that is possible, but we're flying away for the holidays, so if it is white, we'll miss it.

5) Serendipity
Honestly, this film bugs me a bit, just like "The Holiday," and yet, Christmas rolls around and I'm just itching to watch it. Manny is adamant that this is not a Christmas film. But I saw it in theaters while on Christmas break, there's the whole scene of them picking out gloves as a Christmas present, so . . . maybe?

Alright, Lobsters, what do you say? Am I just off my rocker? Do I get a few allowances here? Any movies you have to watch around Christmas that are questionable?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sabbath Sunday #31

This Sunday, we will be going to church as a family and probably spending the rest of the day attempting to recover from a sugar coma. This Saturday, we took advantage of another long-distance friend's tradition of hosting a Christmas Cookie party. I baked 3 batches of cookies, and one savory treat, and we had over 30 people RSVP. That adds up to a LOT of cookies. Pray for us, Lobsters. Pray for us.

How are you spending this Sabbath today, Lobsters?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Flashback! The first.

Saturdays will now be devoted to a series of flashbacks, mostly from Fall 2004, when I was in Spain and Zoe was [spoiler alert] about to get engaged and was finishing up college. Zoe and I think they're interesting, but it's really hard to tell since we're the ones who wrote them. If you don't like them, please feel free to leave an anonymous comment of "STOP" and a suggestion for a different Saturday subject. Okay, disclaimering over.

. . . wait, not just yet. Can I make a disclaimer about how I don't mean to offend anyone from Stanford? I've since met plenty of lovely Stanford folks, I just had a couple off putting experiences on some visits to friends there during college - a San Francisco scavenger hunt gone wrong. k. That's all. proceed . . . 

 Ready? Go!

Subject: an email just for you

ha.  tricked you.  group email.  (learned that one from the great nick baer). 
so i´m in sevilla.  woooo.  mostly i don´t like it and i want to go home, but
i´m pretty sure that could change.  things i like about here:

1.  SIESTA.  required nap time.  thank you, Jesus.
2.  meeting cool new people that are also on the program.  (although people
from Stanford scare me.  i sat next to a Stanford guy on the 8 hour plane ride from chicago to madrid and i was overwhelmed by his freakish intelligence). 3.  i saw three Spanish guys jump off the bridge outside our school today...right next to the sign that says "no swimming".
4.  there is a mcdonald´s next door to the school.  not down the street or a
few doors down...NEXT DOOR. 

well that´s all i can come up with for now.  please write or call or do both. 
love you all!



Hey chica!
I'm sorry you don't like it much, but I totally feel ya.  I hope things become comfortable and not too exhausting to participate in.  Yay for Siestas!! I strongly feel that the entire globe needs to institute that policy!!!  Are there people there not from Stanford?  I told you they were freaky!!  And it makes me so happy that you are next to McDonalds, what a relief to have some "comfort food" so close!! That just makes me so happy for you! :)  gotta run, write more soon.


thanks for your email!  i have been blessed with an abundance of emails each time i check it, and i always get SO excited!  i hope it continues throughout the semester! 

things here are already getting much better. yesterday our lola told us all about the students that have stayed with her before and i understood about 3/4 of what she said, which was thrilling!  
love lahve lurve


Pygieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee -

My guess is you'd hate that as a nick name - I'm just following the "zoeeee" example, which I in fact do like - I love off shoots of zoe, keeps things exciting, but "Pygieeeee" probably has too much association with "Miss Piggie" and although you believe muppets are cool, I doubt she is the muppet you would want to be associated with.  So, the real question is, which muppet WOULD you like to be associated with? 

Right right - grown up talk now.  I'm so glad things are looking up!!  You probably won't even really notice how good your spanish is getting, but when you come back and realize how bad all of us are at it.  :) 

Have an awesome time!


Friday, December 16, 2011

what the...

Recently, I've noticed that there are things that I like about living here in Virginia. I hope that, due to my many posts of disdain against this place, you just audibly gasped. But I have to be honest that I really like the following:

  • The weather has been mostly delightful this month. Today it is 67 degrees with clear skies and a cheerful sun. I simply cannot complain about that.
  • Last night, Jeff and I took a couple of friends to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens to drive through their Christmas lights exhibit. At first, we were just mildly impressed. It was kind of like riding It's a Small World without the creepy dolls and obnoxious song. And in a car instead of a boat. And everything was made of lights instead of clapboard decor. Okay, maybe it wasn't like It's a Small World at all. Anyway, we started getting very impressed when we passed the dragon who was breathing lights in the shape of fire onto a tree and then they had some cool lighting on the tree to make it look like it was on fire. And then we approached the section that synced with the music on the radio. We drove up right as Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas Canon" began. It BLEW OUR MINDS. Please read that aloud and yell, because we sure were yelling in the car. (A note: Botanical Gardens, even lightless, are always something I love about Virginia. They're a delight.)
  • This year, I haven't been able to participate in a volunteer day at the Salvation Army that Regent goes to. I went the last two years, and I didn't realize just how much I love that day until I missed it this year. It was awesome to get to miss work to serve in the community while simultaneously getting to know new people from Regent. And it also tricked me into exercising for a day. 
  • This year, I also missed Regent's Christmas party. The last two years, this has consisted of a kind of variety show in the main stage theater followed by delicious appetizers and a raffle. My first year here, the variety show included a performance from VIP, the Varsity Improv Players. I was fairly new at Regent, and most of my office referred to me as "the quiet girl." So it was double awesome when they asked for a volunteer and without thinking, my hand shot up - I got to perform (ehhh, it counts) on the main stage before Jeff, and my co-workers started to realize that maybe I wasn't as quiet as they originally thought.
  • I love my church and the friends that we've made here. But I've said that all along. 
  • We obtained these here: 
  • My sister got this here:
(She got married. Or she got a husband. Or she got photographed by Sang You.)
FYI, this isn't like some hint that we're going to stay here or something. California has about a thousand percent more appeal to me still. I'm just saying that maybe it's not all bad here in Virginia. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Regeneration Trees #2

I recently shared the first in a series I'm calling "Regeneration Trees." More walks have revealed more images and more reflections. Here is image number two:

Not exclusive to victims of human trafficking, when we feel broken, we often feel incredibly isolated. I think of a young girl kidnapped from her home. Separated from her family. Subjected to a life that buries her in shame. She feels stripped of happiness. She feels robbed of support and comfort. The sky feels grey and ominous. Her heart feels barren and numb. 

The very strong ones can shift their perspective oh, so slightly. In our barrenness, our hopelessness, our isolation, sometimes we can sense that the cloudy, grey, ominous sky might have patches that are not quite so thick and dark. Not quite silver linings. Not quite hope. Just a little less grey. Even if we don't quite have the strength to really reach towards hope, we might tilt just enough so that we are open to it, should it deign to reign on us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nathan Matson, we think you're grand.

Lobsters, today is our friend Nathan's birthday, [Happy Birthday Nathan!] and we felt that he deserved a post of his own. He is a super loyal friend, a fun, goofy guy, and an all around wonderful person. Nathan is one of the first people I think of when I remember college, which is interesting because we only ever had one class together. Some favorite Nathan memories:

[btw - as we try to do with our posts, but may be confusing here without stating it out right, Emily writes in this font, and Zoe writes in this font, so you know the difference between us]

In my first week at Westmont, I was going stir crazy on that tiny but beautiful campus because I only knew one guy there and I hardly ever saw him. So I decided to hop on the shame shuttle (the bus provided for those of us without cars, which was all freshmen) and go downtown just to explore. When I got on the bus, the one guy I knew was there with his roommate, Nathan! They invited me to hang out with them, and we had a blast eating at Ruby's and wandering State Street.

Nathan was super intense about his studies from year one. But almost every night freshman year, he would blare Run DMC's "It's Tricky" and completely spazz. I'm talking flailing, standing on his desk chair, jumping around like he was a one man mosh pit. Impressive stuff.

That reminds me about how addicted to coffee Nathan was/is. He would pound espresso like there was no tomorrow. I'll never forget the day someone told him there was such a thing as caffeinated soap. His responding look of extreme excitement was a little bit terrifying. 

We used to hike. A lot. And always to the same place. We actually went so often at one point that we named a pair of frogs that we'd hear along the trail (Frida and...crap, I forget the other).
The arches!
I also remember hiking up to the arches with Nathan, and hearing a rattlesnake in the bushes just off the path on the way up. It freaked us all out, and we ran past. On the way back down, the snake had ventured into the path itself, and we did not know what to do. Nathan, being the only guy in the group, bravely marched off, found a big rock and was about to lunge it at the snake, when mercy overtook him, he held back, watched the snake retreat, and guided us all past safely. The Texan in me was a little disappointed not to get to kill something that night, the me in me was a little bit ashamed of that disappointment and glad Nate was there to control the situation.

Nathan once took me to lunch and to see Hitch, just because.

Junior year, a bunch of girls wanted to surprise their boyfriends, who all happened to be good friends, for Valentine's Day. Nathan was part of that group, so I got to be his date that night! He tried to get me to eat sea cucumber. I declined. And Senior year, Nathan gave me a bouquet of flowers on Valentine's Day with the sweetest note about how much he valued our friendship. 

Senior year, as a last hoorah for college, a few of us went up to Yosemite for spring break. This shot of Nathan is one of the most memorable and happy moments of that trip:

Nathan and our friend Aaron took me to The Press Room for the first time. That's all I'll say about that.

One night, I was out with a big group of girls at a club. I got super uncomfortable and claustrophobic, so I left. But I was on State Street late in the evening without a car. Somehow, I remembered Nathan's cell number, called him, and found him and a big group at a restaurant nearby. You may recall my post on Comfort Friends - this was another perfect example. I felt instantly at ease when I found Nathan, Aaron, and the others that night.

One time, Nathan made me climb the giant boulder between our dorms.
Was that the boulder right outside my window? There were always topless guys on there, strange site to see at odd hours day and night! Glad to see you two had your tops on! That's awkward, Zoe.

I remember getting together with Westmont friends after college. Nathan, being a great long-distance friend, worked hard to make these occasions frequent. I remember a particularly fun get together, flying kites at Cesar Chavez park in Berkeley [the location where the happy kite-flying scene of Kite Runner was filmed, btw]. Nathan has a tendency to bring out the fun-crazy side of my husband, and I love it!

Manny & Nathan go fly a kite 

I remember when Nathan brought his girlfriend down from Seattle to the Bay Area to come meet some of his Westmont pals. To get to know each other and investigate whether we all approved of this stranger stealing away our Nathan, we all went to see a Harry Potter movie. I have blocked out which one it was for reasons that will momentarily be obvious. Within moments of the movie beginning, a drunken punk-face behind me vomited right on my head/shoulders. Everyone else was so grossed out and wouldn't get near me, but Annie, who works with little kids for a living, was entirely unfazed, dare I say, bored, by my little incident. I was impressed. I am glad we chose to give her our vote of approval, thankful for Nathan bringing her into our lives, and impressed at who she has helped Nathan grow into. 

Even after college, Nathan and I remained close. I'll never forget him opening one of the doors for me to walk down the aisle when Jeff and I got married. He said "This is your moment," which was so cheesy, and so perfect. I'll also never forget seeing him look so joyful the first time he saw his beautiful bride, Annie, on their wedding day.

Proof of beautiful bride, Annie, stolen from facebook.  Isn't she pretty?!
Not only did Nathan prove to be a great buddy throughout college, but when he moved to the Bay Area while Manny was doing grad-school at Berkeley, it meant we got to go to the same church together and have him as a good neighbor [you realize, Nathan, that you need to keep up this trend and move yourself and Annie out here to Maine now, right?!]. We got to be leaders for our church together, serve together with the nonprofit, Project Peace, visit the Vivarium and watch Nate geek out over lizards, visit nurseries and watch Nate geek out over cacti, play hours upon hours of Carcassonne/Mexican Train/Bang!/etc. [where Nathan almost always won], cook dinner for each other [once, he spent at least 3 hours preparing a rabbit stew for us - be impressed!], and generally enjoying one another's company. At the end of Manny's and my spring-break-staycation one year, an afternoon around Rockridge with Nate and Annie was a great way to end a great week. Here they are enjoying some affogato, remember how I mentioned Nate is obsessed with coffee? 

I was actually only pretending to take a picture of
Nate and Annie here to look smooth
 while trying to capture Danny Glover walking past.
It was a fail that turned into a cute picture nonetheless. 
I remember when Annie and Nathan allowed me to crash at their awesome pad for a week while I was homeless in the Bay Area finishing up my PPSC credentialing and Manny started his job down in San Diego. That week was filled with good talks that went into late nights, and a pleasant casual hospitality that exemplifies the great couple these two are. One moment in particular that stuck out to me was when they handed me a cute little gift for my baby Sofia [I was about four months pregnant]. Nathan was SO excited I was afraid he was going to pee his pants. I opened up to find a smattering of really sweet presents, mostly picked out by Annie. But it also included a "baby's first otter" Nathan had picked out himself at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Seeing him so thrilled to love on my child that he didn't even know yet was pretty darn precious. Sofia loves that otter, btw!

Nathan, I am real grateful you were born! I hope you're enjoying a fantastic day today! Happy Birthday!

Nathan, I am proud to be your friend. Happy birthday, buddy!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lobstering: The Social Animal

If this whole blog is about cultivating long distance friendships, and/or strengthening relationships, might we, in this context, refer to "putting intentional effort into our relationships, be they near or far" as "Lobstering"? eh? What do you say? I think it'll become a thing. 

So I recently finished reading an awesome book called The Social Animal by David Brooks. I really try to be open minded about what I read, and no matter how I feel at the start of a book, I really push myself to finish it to give it a fair try - holding out hope for those bad ones that there will be a redeeming twist at the end. Sometimes, I'm better off just letting the book go, telling it, "I just want to be friends." Other times, I really don't agree with all that the book has to say or all that it purports, but overall, I might find it sufficiently edifying or at least thought provoking that I am still likely to recommend it to the right person who might also appreciate it. In other words, I actually do want to be "friends" with those books. VERY very rarely, (or ever?) do I come across I book that does not include a disclaimer, "I don't necessarily like everything s/he has to say, but . . ." I simply can NOT find such a complaint about The Social Animal. It does not start off too slow, it does not end poorly, and I don't think I can disagree with him on any idea he seems to be trying to promote. I think I have found a book with whom I am no longer content to just be friends. I am in love. Consider me stunned.

In this quasi-novel, Brooks is pulling together lots of neuroscience research he finds interesting into the form of a story about two people who manage to have a happy life. I love stories, I love research-digests. Win. win. Throughout the story, he manages to touch on romance, extended adolescence [apparently this is now a life stage called "odyssey"], parenting, vocation discernment, politics, fidelity, morality, learning, nature, religion, creative processes, memory, living the good life, and the integration of the subconscious with reason, all topics I'm regularly energized by. He also, by the way, put forth his own interesting explanations about adults being single into later stages of life, a topic I obviously ponder on a bit (see pages 188-189 of the book for yourself). 

A few of the big take-away's for me were:

1) How much neuroscience is now reinforcing the more feminist viewpoint that who we are and the quality of how we live is strongly determined by the number and health of the relationships we maintain. Furthermore, that I am living in a life stage and era where this is particularly difficult due to our transitory generation:

“Cities have become the career dressing rooms for young adults. They have become the place where people go in their twenties to try on different identities. Then, once they know who they are, they leave. Thirty-eight percent of young Americans say they would like to live in Los Angeles, but only eight percent of older Americans would. Harold’s friends would show up in San Francisco one year and then Washington, D.C., the next. Everything changed except their email addresses.” (p. 188)

2) Martin Luther was right when he said that "Reason is a whore." We can manipulate logic and even science to produce whatever point we want to come out with. Without something more than reason, without acknowledging the power, importance, and value of morality and our emotions, we can not live life fully and our communities will be diminished. Here's a quote I loved:

[p. 286]

3) The questions we ask and the memories we make are going to be the key things that give our lives value as we look back on them.  Here's a great snip-bit along those lines:

[p. 364]

If you have or do check[ed] the book out for yourself, I'd love to know your thoughts. I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, the sentences that speak most clearly to the importance of "Lobstering," my Lobsters.

I give The Social Animal by David Brooks a hearty two claws up!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Movie Review Monday #30 Redo: Muppet Christmas Carol

I've mentioned my love for Muppet Christmas Carol several times now, but I've never given my reasons for the love. Since we're in the Christmas season, here's my top ten reasons for obsessing about those yuletide Muppets:

1. They follow Dickens' classic impeccably. I recall reading A Christmas Carol in high school, and since I had memorized the Muppets' version years before, I had an impressive understanding of the book already.
2. Gonzo and Rizzo were excellent additions to Dickens' work. Gonzo truly knows the book like the back of his hand, and Rizzo...well, Rizzo's basically the best rat in the world. "Hello, welcome to the Muppet Christmas Carol! I am here to tell the story." - Gonzo "And I am here for the food." - Rizzo
3. Sir Michael Caine sings with Muppets. Legit. Also, he somehow sneaks very natural, moving moments in. I think natural acting in the presence of Muppets must equal genius.
4. The Ghost of Christmas Present makes me happy. "You're a little absent-minded, Spirit." - Scrooge "No, I'm a LARGE, absent-minded spirit!" GoCP
5. Beaker flips Scrooge off at one point. Sure, he only has four fingers and some might say that he's pointing. But I say he's flipping off the camera, darn it. 
6. The music is so catchy! I do, however, loathe "The Love is Gone." Why did that girl flare her nose SO MUCH while singing? Out of control. All the other songs are delightful though.
7. Tiny Tim is freaking adorable. So is Bean. So is the singing produce. So are the meeces. I could go on, but I won't.
8. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is terrifying. Still. Which is what they were going for, so good on you, director.
9. One of my favorite moments is when Sam the Eagle says "It's the American way!" and then gets corrected and says "'s the British way!" For some reason that cracks me up every time.
10. Oh man, I'm at number ten already. I love Fozzie's contagious joy, the heckling from the two old dudes after Fozzie's short Christmas speech, Rizzo climbing over a dangerously high gate then slipping back easily through its bars, Miss Piggy's inability to tell the difference between her daughters, the accounting rats feeling that heat wave that comes at the prospect of unemployment, and Kermit's unwavering dependability. 

Happy Christmas, Lobsters! Again, I offer two fuzzy felt claws up!

Movie Review Monday #30: Christmas Cupid

Oh my gosh. Just...don't, okay?

Seriously, watch It's a Wonderful Life, Muppet Christmas Carol, or Elf for the 500th time instead. Or take a nap.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Hero

Imagine for me, if you will, four children, two girls (one ~5, the other ~2 years old) and two boys (same ages). It's a warm summer day. The girls are entering the boys' back yard, where they are filling up a little swimming pool in the yard with a hose. The little girl steps right into the kiddie pool, quietly watching the rest of the kids play. The older girl is a bit more hesitant. She's seen what little boys are all about and she is not so ready to trust that this is a good scene.

Sure enough, the older little boy, who is apparently hyped up on pounds of sugar/caffeine/maybe something a little illegal? grabs the water hose and is dancing around in and out of the pool, screaming like a banshee, flailing his arms around and generally launching full scale attack on the older girl. Water is spraying in her face, which is also occasionally getting smacked by the hose itself or his arms/hands/feet. The sound of his screeching voice assaults her ears and she simply does not know how to respond to this offense.

Having barely put one toe into the pool, she promptly stomps right out of it, stands on the edge, crosses her arms under her arm pits in a defiant "hurumph!" and launches a furious scowl in his direction. Needless to say, the scowl does very little to slow down this possessed creature who seems capable of occupying a multiplicity of spaces at once, coming at the helpless pouter from every angle. Every now and then she ads a shake of her head to emphasize the scowl, an extra "humph" to her crossed arms, an occasional little stomp of her foot, but nothing phases him, even as the frizz in her hair grows to an unsightly scale. The spray of water gets broader, the cacophony from his lungs gets louder and more shrill, this loop of chaos and perturbedness [yes i did just make up this word] may go on into infinity. It seems that there is no hope for the helpless little bathing beauty.

But lo! We have forgotten. In the background is the younger girl. Younger, smaller, and completely forgotten to this rampant bully, she is seemingly inconsequential. But no. As his frantic movements have caused him to move on from his firm grip on the hose, the little girl calmly takes hold of her opportunity. She picks that hose up, she fixes him in her sights, and she sprays that boy like he is chipped paint that needs to be power washed off the side of an old house. Without an ounce of malice, there is nothing but delight in her eyes as david-et chases off goliath, and his crony. She doesn't stop until he is entirely out of the picture, and she celebrates her triumph with an exuberant and joy filled laugh that arches her back and brings out the worlds most adorable dimples.

Very slowly, the arms come uncrossed, the scowl softens into a pleased little grimace, and ever so gracefully the older, more helpless and irritable sister steps lightly into the pool where she and her more heroic sister can now safely enjoy an afternoon in the sun.

And Scene.

This is my best attempt at narrating a clip from some home videos of my sister and I we got to watch together as a family over Thanksgiving break. I can not do it justice. I have to say, the real thing left us literally rolling on the floor. I do not know how Sofia stayed asleep through all that laughter.

I was humbled by this little scene, how much better she handled that creep than I did. It gave me the most exhilarating sense of triumph of good over evil, over having been protected and rescued. Power and grace and laughter all wrapped up into one very little person. That little person has grown into a gorgeous, thoughtful, talented, smart and successful young woman. She has grown into one of the very best friends I ever could have wished for. I am so grateful for her and want to wish her the happiest of birthdays today!

I love you Sissy/Mine Tonight/Coffee/Aunt Nina/Laur Bear/Ta La/Lauren Noelle Stewart!