Mom's Handwriting

This is also about my inability to throw anything with my name on it away.

I went through a couple of boxes full of holiday trinkets that i've been hauling from place to place since college. I found little heart poster board cutouts, a light–up pumpkin window decoration, a jump rope, silly putty, a string of heart–shaped lights, a black garland with shiny jack–o'–lantern accents, a small slinky. At one time, all these items were purchased by my mom, placed in a box along with a note and some candy, and mailed to my CPO box at Wheaton. CPO workers processed the box by writing me a precious PACK SLIP, and waited for me claim my parcel.

I loved it. I have a thing for delayed gratification, so sometimes I'd carry the Pack Slip around for a bit before redeeming it. Once I did, I'd take the box back to my room and wait for the end of the day to open it. If I had a great day, it was a reward; a bad one, a consolation prize. Sometimes a let a day or two pass before opening it just to have the unveiling to look forward to.

As fun as these little items were to play with, I hunted for the small note my mom left in the box. There was always a note. It usually wasn't anything too elaborate, just a seasonally appropriate greeting card with my name and "Love you," "See you soon!," maybe a happy face reminiscent of the illustrations she drew of our family when I was a baby.

I have all these cards tucked into a crevices I won't find until I decide I have too many ridiculous things.

While I was putting away Christmas decorations and going through boxes I've hauled from place to place, I found one. It was a square gift tag in Christmas colors, certainly from an item I've forgotten was a gift from my mother.

It hit me then that my mother knew this name would be mine before she knew who I was. It was a name crafted specifically for me and only me, and probably written on notepads in running lists of possible names for me, next to crossed out "Sarah" or "Jennifer" or whatever. She has been writing my name in her lovely handwriting longer than she's been able to speak its bearer.

And on whatever day it was that she signed that card with my name, just before she closed it, she put her little swashy heart on the bottom corner. It's not about the gift it was attached to, it's the care taken to remind me of my very first gift and that she loves me.

I stuck the card back into another crevice.


four years of birthday memories: a reflection

it is generally a mystery to me about whether this blog is for you or for me. this post is self-indulgent and i recognize that.

one month ago i spent my twenty-second birthday with alyssa, blade, josiah, charity, kevin, and nick. i had been priming my roll-top desk white, running errands, and helping alyssa put the finer touches on my burgercake, which came to her in a dream. days before, i had signed my first year-long lease, and was still making peace with the huge chunk of money no longer in my bank account. turning twenty-two with those friends around me, with a roommate who doesn't mind going the distance to create something as ridiculous (and delicious) as a burgercake, somehow has made me feel more grown up. i have friends, i have a place to call my own, i am going to a church i really like, i have a job to go to every day or so. while i'm still trying to figure out much about my future, i finally feel settled in the present.

a year and one month ago i was living in chicago. it had been an up-and-down summer: i love to be in the city, but my photography and drawing classes ended and i was lonely. i was doing round two of an internship with saatchi, but the character of the office had changed from round one. only a handful of people knew me, and i spent most days doing nothing but looking for images no one could really use. frankly, i hated it. for my birthday, my parents sent me a singing tin (not kidding: when the lid is removed from the tin it plays "happy birthday") of cookies and a little bouquet of flowers while i was dinking around at the office. i was overjoyed and shared a cookie with everyone i had learned the name of. i went out to dinner with a sorority sister of my mom's that night. we'd been reintroduced earlier in the year from our previous meeting when i was too young to speak or remember, and instantly warmed to each other. i ordered no alcohol, much to the confusion of both my host and my waiter. "you're turning twenty-one today! certainly you should get something." i just don't have a taste for it, i replied. i grew up around it, i have no stigmas about it, i just prefer water to the taste of wine. after dinner, i biked home, packed up a gift to mail to a friend in australia, and started to pack my own room. although it wasn't a birthday gift, it was my greatest joy to leave the apartment in the city for my hometown in arkansas.

two years and one month ago i was recovering from a cold in my fourth week of studies in sydney. in the two previous days i'd been laid up with a bum knee and a head cold that made me take whatever medicine my roommate brought and excessive naps on the living room couch. i don't get sick often , but the day before my birthday i believe i briefly passed out while trying to cross a room--one moment i was standing, the next i was on the floor and my arm hurt. most of my delirious and lethargic bouts passed on that day, by my birthday i was almost back to fully-functioning. my australian friend, who i would mail a package to a year later, made me a birthday cake. everyone who was home ate some with us, and our resident tuba-player burst in from the kitchen playing a big, brassy rendition of "happy birthday" while they sang. i remember wanting to smile bigger than my face, thankful for my new friends, for my recovering body, for bright colors and chocolate, for the tuba, for the comfort they all provided in my new temporary home.

three years and one month ago i spent the day in a car with my mom. i began sophomore year of college early, thanks to my involvement in the campus newspaper, the record. for some reason, they wanted the assistant layout editor to help with the freshmen orientation issue of the paper, set to come out when the freshmen arrived. so mom and i piled all my things into her car and set out north. to my memory mom and i had never made the trip together before, but we loved having all the time in the car to talk, to sleep, to sing, to fill me in on family events that aren't often spoken of, to muse of the coming year and all the things that might come of it. we reached wheaton in the evening, and decided to see little miss sunshine as a birthday gift. mom and i both loved it, and still think of each other and my birthday when we think of it.

four years and one month ago i turned eighteen, a pseudo-adult. i was in wisconsin, at honeyrock camp, on wheaton passage with fifty someodd other incoming wheaton college freshmen. the large camp was hosting multiple groups that week, and another organization had set balloons and colorful decorations on the tables in the dining hall for lunch. few knew me at that time, but someone orchestrated a birthday song for me, and while i'm certain i was a little embarrassed to have all the attention during the song, i looked at all the balloons and let myself believe for a moment that they were for me. even if they weren't by design, i took them as a sign that God loved me, and had arranged them Himself. i still believe this to be true.
my mother also had this foresight and decided my family should celebrate my birthday before i left for college. or, more accurately, before i left to become a freshman and my older brother brian left to be a junior in college. see, i was brian's second birthday gift, born on the same day two years apart. in our younger years this was a problem and we'd alternate who got to have his/her friends over on the actual day each year. as we aged and our friends and celebration styles changed, it was simply family tradition to celebrate us together. personally, i never minded. this year, there was cake, there were gifts, there were respective significant-others. brian would go on to marry his, while i would break up with mine less than a month later. i'm certain we watched a movie, i'm certain there was laughter and joy and smiles.
my best high school friends and then-boyfriend also saw my birthday absence coming. over our senior year, we'd started a tradition of celebrating each successive birthday in ridiculous, surprising, and thoughtful ways. i laugh while thinking of them now: nighttime canvassing a lawn with balloons secured with bags of sand, invading a home or car with hand-drawn, exuberant, and creepy signs of joy and love. frankly, we created a fun all our own during those plots of silliness in ways only teenage girls can. as the last to celebrate turning eighteen in our circle during a hectic time of planning and packing for us all, i remember worrying out loud to my boyfriend that i would be forgotten for sure. "i won't even be here for my birthday, i just wonder if anyone will remember." he remained stoic and reassuring. i felt selfish for wanting to be celebrated in such a way, but that quirky celebration of birthdays brought us together and solidified us as lifelong friends. i didn't want to be left out. despite my doubts, they remembered. i went out one evening with my boyfriend, giving my girlfriends plenty of time to create, decorate, and hang a dozen pieces of posterboard over the second story landing of my house. they hid behind it until we arrived home, all the while having faux-arguments about boy's and my ETA and giggling about things they'd drawn on the banner--all of them were explained to me when i arrived. "this is Bible-y! he's a mascot for the Bible!" "this is all five of us drawn as if we were characters from harry potter!" "this is a doodle i did because i was running out of things to draw!" i still own the piece and am thankful for those friends.

i wish i understood why i am enchanted with these yearly retrospects. i find myself playing them often, going backwards in my memory to draw some otherwise hidden conclusion about who i was, who i've become, or how i got here. there was a period last winter when i would tell myself the story of the last two years, over and over. as birthdays go, they are your own personal new year, time to reflect, make resolutions, drink celebration and smile with those you love.

as i write this, my good friend liz is about to celebrate her birthday surrounded by friends and and playing a ridiculous song. then, my biggest brother matt will have his birthday on the fifteenth. happy birthdays.

i'm sorry

the night bugs are singing.


everything keeps moving (an open letter to july)

dear july,
i'll be honest: i didn't expect much from you. june, while having fun moments and adventures of its own, was kind of a letdown in the ways of "figuring out what do with my life." see, i found myself out of a job in may. when school ends, so does the need for an assistant administrative staff member at clapham. i told myself that i needed to find a sustaining job here this summer or i'd go home to arkansas. june gave me only one really promising interview as a receptionist/admin assistant/marketing and event guru for a chiropractic office, while that one interview turned into a second interview that both went great, i didn't get the job. so, july, when you came around i almost gave up entirely.
i visited home twice between late june and early july, celebrating the our country's independence day in a part of the country that has firework tents every few miles and many yards outside city limits where a big BOOM is success (home in arkansas). i saw mom and dad and matt and victoria, went to an old friend's wedding, an old friend's organ recital, congratulated good friends on recent engagements, lit off a few bottlerockets, and decided that coming home to arkansas might not be the worst thing for me. it still wasn't my first choice, but i have a home and friends and family there.
but, july, you surprised me. there were a few job interviews in there, one of which has lead to a possible freelance marketing work. my assertiveness got me a coffeeshop job in wheaton. it'll pay rent if i can persuade my boss to give me enough hours and not change the schedule at the last minute. even though the search for consistent employment is still the hunt for red october or ahab's search for the white whale for both me and alyssa, but what we learned toward the end of july has given us both enough steam to keep paying rent and living.

so, thanks july. you came and went quickly, but i'll bet the activity you provided helped that quite a bit. could you tell august to keep it coming?

speaking of rent, alyssa and i are moving out into a real apartment. real? you ask? yes. real. where we've been living is a small apartment over the garage of a main house. it's a nice-sized place, but compound two other roommates moving in and lack of proper kitchen, it was time for us to find something a little more stable. air conditioning and full kitchen don't hurt. we signed our lease this week and wrote very grown-up checks saying goodbye to big chunks of our savings, but here's hoping we earn it back. of course, we signed our lease in our new kitchen while i'm wearing a hand-me-down trogdor sweatshirt thinking:

pretty much.

the short version here is: i work in a coffeeshop. my manager is a little crazy, but you deal. i'm working on a freelancing gig, which is great because, well, you know, i'd like to do that for a portion of my life. if now's the time, it's the time. alyssa and i live well together, and we're moving out into a place with a KITCHEN. i turn 22 on wednesday, and there's gonna be a weird cake involved. i'm not going to promise to write here, because the idea of writing here is exhausting. but i'll do my best: the site is due for its yearly facelift and i'll be taking a web design class in the fall. yippee!

much love.


three fun ways to totally wear oneself out in a weekend

whew. thank goodness for sunday nights. this one finds me a little battered an sore, but not for lack of fun getting there.

on friday, i took my bike to the city on the metra (semi-illegally: the taste of chicago started this weekend and the trains aren't supposed to let on bikes to make room for all the people) to participate in my favorite chicago activity: chicago's critical mass. free, fun, outdoors, community-supported exploring. (for those of you new here, check out a little video i made documenting last may 2008's ride.) we biked for about three hours at a slow but steady 10-15mph pace. we went up and around that town! i met up with some old friends and made new ones, and ended up on lake michigan's beach trying to photograph friends as they jumped in the water. i didn't realize how sore i was until i got back on my bike to get home. ouch. i wasn't up all night with sore legs, which has definitely happened before.

on saturday, i set up a birthday party for my roomie alyssa. i've never been in charge of a party before, so there was a lot of self-confidence boosting, and proof that God will always keep me humble about the plans I make: we planned an outdoor-patio-evening turned into it-rained-so-let's-move-to-the-basement. everyone had a great time and the rain let up enough for late-night sparklers.

my improv friends take part in something we call "free love," which is an opportunity for players of all development levels––workshoppers to alumni–– to come together and just play. this summer, free love happens on sundays after lunchtime. we meet not far from my house and i usually just walk. today i decided to take the longboard i inherited when i helped move a friend out at the end of the year. while i've putzed around on it enough to be comfortable, today was the first time i tried to use it to actually get somewhere. today that somewhere just happened to be down a slightly moderate hill. on my way down this hill, i encountered a phenomenon known as "speed wobble," in which the rider of a steerable object (such as a longboard) over-corrects a small steering flaw which makes the rider over-correct that flaw until the rider is wobbling back and forth until she finally loses control. i encountered an early stage of the wobble and tried to bail, but i was going too fast and my feet couldn't keep up with the velocity of my body. CRASH. i hit the pavement and somehow skidded to a halt near some improvisers i was trying to "look cool" in front of. hah. my friend kevin ran to pick up my board after seeing me get up while everyone double checked to see if i was okay. i don't know how i got out of it with so few scrapes and bumps, as my ankles got the worst of the scrapes (honestly, who scrapes their ankles when they fall?, and my right wrist, hip, and shoulder are a little sore. i was up and walking almost instantly after falling.

point of interest: i'm not sure if i have a really great adrenaline system in my body (and my big brother chemist can tell me that falling doesn't have much to do with adrenaline), or if it's growing up with boys, or sheer mental stubbornness that lets me get up pretty quickly when i fall. i just do. today's little spill made me think of when i tried to jump a curb while on a bike ride last year. i didn't make it, and ended up landing pretty hard on my side (and the sweetest bruise developed on the inside of my arm a few days later), i got up very quickly and as soon as i had my bearings i was back on my bike, peddling with everybody else. i don't know. i just find it curious.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

could folks be in prayer for me this week? i have a second interview at a chiropractor in wheaton for an office assistant/marketing position, and i would love to get it. i imagine that competition is pretty steep, and i seem to be in the midst of a confidence slump. so. prayers around 9:30 am on tuesday would be great.
also! congrats to my biggest bro and sis-in-law on the purchase of their first house! i hope i get to help paint a wall sometime.

much love to all: may God remind you of his faithfulness as He reminds me to be humble.


"the economy" in light of Jubilee

i recently participated in a Bible study covering Ruth and the idea of a kinsman redeemer. the crux of the study connects the ruth-boaz relationship with humanity-Jesus, but not without a stop over in Leviticus 25 to talk about Jubilee.

this is the part where i need to tell you (again) that i am neither a proper theologian nor anything that would make my perspecitve more than just an opinion. considering it said, let's move forward.

Jubilee is, for the uninformed, an Old Testament festival based on sabbatical observances. put it simply, every fiftieth year the whole economic world would turn upside down: any land you've bought must be returned to the original owners or their heirs, and every person who's had to rent himself out as an indentured servant must be released. things you've bought and had use for are now to be given back. o'course, the Bible makes sure that you don't cheat your brother: when it's close to Jubilee-time things get a little cheaper like a going-out-of-business sale.

the theological reasons for this practice are debated, as all things theological are, but it's generally accepted that the land was important to the Israelites because God gave it to them. i'm sure it also was a reminder that they are more like tenants on the land, because God is the one who really owns it. personally, i think of it as a lesson that economics are designed to wax and wane and adjust, but God and His authority do not. i also love that Jubilee comes once every fifty years. now, i'm admittedly not yet 22, an adolescent at the time of millennium, a moment in time prepackaged for looking simultaneously backwards and forwards. i'm pretty sure that i can't fully comprehend 50 years.

i still think there's value in this fifty-year-switcheroo. in fifty years, the provisions that once made the way for businesses to flourish are now ruts and crutches needed to limp along. institutions are clearly not paying attention to history to think themselves immortal: the world changes so quickly in our age. it should only make sense that at some point God, like a game of boggle, picks up the whole game and shakes.

i'm not saying that the tough times we're going through was a direct act of God, nor am i saying that i really get what has caused "the economy" to be the way it is. i am amazed at the Lord for laying down such specific rules about what happens during Jubilee and how it can be planned for and expected: i'm sure that if modern citizens planned on chaos every fifty years or so, we'd be in a much better place right now.

all that is to say: the only thing eternal is the Lord. not your bank, not your insurance, not your president, or even your democracy. when things go awry, blow your horn. dance. laugh. shout hymns at stoplights (or whatever outlet you so choose).

The Lord reigns. It is Jubilee.


"so what are you looking for?"

i haven't written in three months.
i haven't written in three months because, well, not much has changed.
well, that's not even true. things have changed, but not so significantly that the earth is shifting. um, let's recap.

in march, my mom, aunt kelly, and cousins katy and emily visited me in chicago. it was great! we went to the field museum, the hancock tower, north michigan avenue shopping, and one of the very first performances of broadway-in-chicago mary poppins!

i have since come to affectionately call it "mary poopins," but of course i'm the only one who says this. my cousins and i did get a kick out of "bringing tappance back," which is a musical number we made up in the car. it was the first time i'd really seen them since my brother's weddings two and a half years ago. it was greatly, greatly overdue.
(if they read this, they will probably hate me for posting this picture. remember i love you two!

a few weeks later, clapham had its spring break, so i went to visit brian and lindsay. we had a great many adventures, including a star-crossed snowboarding session during my first day. brian tells this story best, but i'll sum up here:
see, i have this annoying habit of boarding just behind the people i'm with. brian turned his head to check on me at the wrong moment, and what would have been the easiest part of the easiest slope on the hill became him catching his board funnily and fell really hard. i didn't see it happen, but we ended up at the emergency room and poor guy's left arm was in a sling for the rest of the week.

we went to see watchmen, visited disneyland (DON'T BLAME ME FOR NOT HAVING PHOTOGRAPHS OF THIS. brian and lindsay are supposed to get them to me.), visited mary kate and saw her in her last USC musical, brigadoon.

i understand this picture gives almost zero context, but if you want more of mary kate, her blog is linked in the sidebar. we failed to take any photographs together (emkay, how could we have been so foolish?). but. whatever. she's awesome.

i do have some pictures of brian and i's afternoon in hollywood, which included lunch at made-famous-by-american-graffiti mel's diner:

where they happened to be filming some tv pilot! i don't recall the name of the show, but i think we were actually in the shot, and they kept telling us to be quiet on the set for half the meal. we also visited "ripley's believe it or not" around the corner, and well...

it looks like we're still related.

we also went to mann's chinese theater

and it looks like we're still related.

(brian took this shot. i asked him why–– he said, "someday you'll want a picture that says "nomads welcome." i've taken it to mean that i was welcome back on their couch any day.)

before i knew quite where march was going, it was april. claire and i were blessed when jessie, jenny, and david (all of us high school buddies) visited for easter. we cooked, biked, danced at rez's Easter vigil, and i even lured them into serving baked goods on easter morning. we also got no pictures of all of us (come on, guys), but had a blast.

as all my friends finished classes and took finals, i did my best to sort out what i was doing next. as it would turn out, my good friend and improv buddy alyssa (also in the sidebar) needed a roommate for the summer. i couldn't find any good reason to go home just yet, so i've moved out of my house with the funny polish landlady and into a small apartment with her. here we are at graduation:

oh! and i walked with my class at graduation on mother's day. mom has most of the pictures from this (send them...?). since then, it's been trying to find a new job (as the one at school ends with the summer) and settling into the new place with alyssa. friends have been around but slowly peel off as they begin their summer adventures.

i hate job hunting. my first post-collegiate job was gotten far too easily and has given me really unrealistic expectations for what getting another job would really be like: lots of resum├ęs, time, noes, and no responses. it is exhausting: i'm someone who doesn't quite know how to market herself yet and has trouble believing in that marketability with every rejection. it is exhausting.

all my interviewers want to know, "well, what are you looking for?" long term? short term? hourly? part time? full time? i hate having to say that i don't know, having to explain that i'm booked here for at least the summer, but if i can find a job that i don't mind working that can support me, i'm happy to stay longer. it's complicated and frustrating at this point, but i think that's how it's going to be for awhile. i like that i have more time to figure things out.

so. that's what i've been up to. tell me your stories!