Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Light Week

If there was theme for the past week, it would be light.

Monday I stayed up late (powered by a coma-like evening nap) and watched the entire lunar eclipse and a bit of the meteor shower as well. I switched off the lights in our back yard and waited as the moon got darker and darker. I've never seen the stars so clearly in Fort Worth and I don't ever remember seeing a lunar eclipse like that. The breeze and 65 degree weather were perfect, too. I sat listening to a random playlist of songs including the words moon/stars/luna/estrellas, drinking hot tea and just generally letting the last year and my future sink in. I won't say I had an epiphany, but I will say that out of the fog some shapes are starting to form. Which feels like a nice place to be.

Tuesday I basked in the glory of our 85 degree weather (in the shade!) by taking it to the park. I threw on a sun dress (on December 21st!) and went to smell the roses. Smelling the roses resulted in me barely being able to breathe by the time the afternoon was over, but it was worth it. Fort Worth's Botanic Garden is one of my favorite places and sitting in the sun after three months of cold rain was pretty close to perfect. THEN I got to watch some stars of a different kind--Dallas Stars hockey! I used to be a huge fan, and even though I hadn't seen a game in probably years, it was a lot of fun to be in the arena and see the guys beat up on one of the original Canadian teams.

Wednesday I got to get together with the girls from church and go look at Christmas lights. After the warm weather and busy last weeks, it was great to sing Christmas carols, look at lights and just generally get in the Christmas spirit.

And finally, to wrap up the week, I got to celebrate the light in a different way--in the form of celebrating Jesus coming as the light of the world. Christmas is always a big holiday for me, and a time of reflection. I love Advent, the time in the Christian calendar leading up to Christmas, which centers on hope and waiting. As a person who always seems to be waiting for the dust to settle so that I can see where the next turn in the road will take me, I can resonate a lot with a season all about looking toward the future with anticipation. And today, Christmas, is and isn't the climax of the waiting--it's both the now and the not yet. It's the day on the calendar and it's the baby in the barn two thousand years ago and it's also the reminder, or the hope, that God still cares today. It's inbreaking of the light.  It's the thrill of hope for which the weary world rejoices. After all, yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. 


Merry Christmas. And may you all be able to see the light on the horizon.


(Also, Sufjan Steven's version of Joy to the World might be one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Amazon Woman?


Each day a new country is on top. It depends on my mood and what I am reading and how tired I am.

The last couple days I have been fixating on Chile. I found nice bus company that offers a hop-on/hop-off service for backpackers that takes them around the country. It looked intriguing.

Today I keep coming back to Brazil and Colombia. Brazil doesn't make a ton of sense because it requires a visa, some shots and Portuguese. I've wanted to go to Colombia for a long time and still stand by the assessment that it is perfectly safe for travelers, but not everyone seems to agree with me there.  Apparently they haven't seen the videos, other wise they would know el riesgo es que tu queiras quedar (the only risk is wanting to stay).

Anyway, I was listening to Joe Purdy, and probably subconsciously still thinking over Mark Twain's journey from the West coast to the East coast of the US...by boat through Nicaragua (!), when I came across this article: An Amazon Cruise for $17 a Day. Hammock Not Included. How 'bout that for a relaxing adventure?

Vamos a ver...


(And seriously, if you have ideas, send them my way!)


{Photo cred: Seth Kugel for The New York Times)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Now What?

The only bad part about graduating is that everyone wants to know, and feels free to ask, just what exactly you plan on doing with the rest of your life. I might as well just put it out there that I don't know. Character flaw or not, I try not to get too tied down to any super specific plans.

I once read some statistics about how people of my generation no longer have careers. We will end up in, on average, as many as 5 different job changes throughout our lives. Whether or not that is exactly true, I like the sentiment and it makes me feel better about not having some giant life/career goal that I am working towards. Besides, I have always felt that the events/interests/opportunities that have shaped me the most are things that I have rather unexpectedly fallen into. (I mean, who would have thought I would live in Spain? I was the person that always had my Mexican friends help me do my Spanish homework in high school.) Anyway, I also change my mind a lot.

OK, all that to say, I don't know exactly what I will be doing in the future. I don't have details on the big picture. I've got some ideas in the back of my mind, but I'm just going to let them simmer for a while back there.

I do however have some relative plans for the next six months or so. Ever since I started my Master's program (ok, actually even before I started it) I knew that I would need a break when it was finished (and oh-boy do I ever!). I started a travel fund. I ate rice and beans for 3 years, worked sometimes 2 and 3 jobs, and set aside a little sum.

And now it is sabbatical time (alternately known as my pre-tirement or quarter-life crisis). I'm taking the plunge and letting my bank accounts lie fallow.  It's time to rest, and travel, and just live for a bit. I'll figure out the rest later.

Now, my only problem is that I have been so busy and generally too singularly focused on finishing my degree that I have not had much of a chance to even begin planning my trip. Did I mention that I was planning on leaving just after the new year? Oops. So I have spent the last couple days holed up in coffee shops and bookstores trying to plan. I've got some general ideas, but the possibilities are so enticing and endless that I'm swinging back and forth between overwhelming excitement and mini-anxiety attacks. All this to say, if you've got ideas--send them my way! Nothing is (totally) out of the question.

Which is kinda how I like things.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Go West Young (Wo)Man

I never planned to actually go to Abilene, much less make it my home (on and off again) for six and a half years. I swore I would never go to college there and then once I was there I swore if I ever did grad school I would go far, far away. We all see how that turned out. I won't lie though, it wasn't all easy: I spent a large chunk of time hating the place, the Mesquite trees, red dirt and ridiculous wind. Eventually though, I came to like the place. I even miss it when I'm gone. 

This past week I drove out and was busy both catching up and saying goodbye. It's tough cramming a semester's worth of socializing into one week, but I think I was lucky enough to touch base with just about everyone--from classmates and professors to friends, old roommates and former students who are now speaking English and holding down jobs with the best of them. On top of that I got to take in a few Abilene institutions like La Popular for breakfast one morning and The Paramount for their Christmas showing of It's a Wonderful Life. It was good week, so good in fact it even had me considering staying and taking a job there. 

Abilene I tell ya, it sucks ya in. 

I thought it through though, and I know I can't stay. So finally I got to say goodbye to Abilene (maybe) for good. 

A few pictures from the week: 

Driving out I remembered just how amazing west Texas sunsets can be. 



My friends also threw me an "engagement" party.

Thaaanks, guys. 

It was also time for our second annual Christmas cookie decorating party. This year thankfully Krystal made sure Abby didn't steal any of my cookies.  

Krystal's

Mike's 

Mandi's 

Mine

Abby's 
And, Cody's. Which are always a little special.  

Yum! 

Krystal's airplane cookie 

I also found this guy hiding away in my master's hood (which, I wore all weekend by the way). He came into our possession when we all worked in the Williford/Ellis suite at Logsdon. Some undergrad made an extra-credit 3D map of Paul's journeys with this lovely little guy standing in as Paul. Somehow we decided it would be fun to hide it in each other's bags/gas caps/furniture/desks/etc. Apparently it was my turn, but friends beware: I found him before I left town, so there is no telling where he is!

I also got to spend a lot of time with this little lady. 

Overall, it was a great week (even if I didn't make it out before my allergies exploded!). A big thanks to the people who made this week (and the last 6.5 years) great!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Free At Last, Free At Last

This morning I got a text early and panicked thinking it was my alarm. I get a bit antsy because I have a habit of only oversleeping things...when they are vital. Final exams, trains, you get the picture. But I won't lie, once I was up I was too excited to go back to sleep. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. 

Why?

Today was graduation day!!!!!!!!! (As an aside: I have been trying to lay off my addiction to exclamation marks, but when it comes to graduation, they all seem merited!)

This is my third graduation (after high school and undergrad) and I was really thinking it wouldn't be much of a big deal. I even debated, when organizing things for Brussels, over whether I should come all the way back in time to graduate. I figured, if you have graduated once, you don't have any new excitement to look forward to. 

Boy was I wrong. Third time must be a charm, because I was so much more excited about this graduation than either of the others. I got there an hour early and got to see and catch up with some of my favorite Logsdon people. And I won't lie. I was getting a bit cocky. I looked over at the undergrads, having been in their position 3 years ago, and at the others graduating with grad degrees much shorter than the grueling 90 hour Masters of Divinity degree and felt that we somehow deserved our degrees so much more than everyone there. 

Three years people! I could build a moderately sized log cabin with all of the books I have read. I have written more papers than probably 100 average people write in their entire lives. I can (and do) use words like concretize, cogent and hermeneutical in everyday sentences. And I've drunk enough coffee to fill up Lake Superior.

Today has been a long time coming. 

Overall it was fantastic. I got to sit next to one of my favorite feminist friends during the commencement, the speech was good (and brief!), and I couldn't wipe the perma-grin off of my face throughout. My parents and lots of my lovely friends were there to share the moment with me, and I got the chance to say a final thank you to so many of the professors who have tortured taught me so much over the last 3 years. What I thought would never come, did in fact come. And, what I always generally assumed was an oncoming train, turned out to be the light at the end of the tunnel after all. 

And, let me tell you, I am enjoying being in the light!

The Lowden Ladies

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Home

It's always good to be home after you have been gone for a while. There's all the things you have been missing, along with all the things you missed without ever realizing it. It was good to see family, especially my niece and nephew, and it was great to see my church family yesterday. It was good to bask in the sunshine (even if it wasn't 72 like I was hoping for). It was great to go without socks for the first time in 3 months. Nice to walk on carpet.

It was great to drive again, and to laugh with my best friend. And, of course, it was good to eat all the nice things Texas has to offer: a big salad with ranch dressing, fajitas still sizzling on the plate, and the traditional after church lunch of roast with all the fixings (Squash casserole? Fried okra? Oh yes.)

A few other things:

Dr. Pepper

Folgers!

With powdered creamer!


Mmm, and my mom even made homemade biscuits and sausage gravy. 

Needless to say, it is good to be home. Today I am headed out to Abilene to make sure everything is in order for graduation on Saturday. And of course, to take in even more of the things I have been missing!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Week in Review: Au revoir Belgique--Hello Texas

Four different countries, lots of snow, goodbyes and reunions--What a week. Some snippets:

  • My flight to London yesterday was cancelled. The computers needed to rebook us all were broken. Fuuuun. Eventually it got worked out though and 22 hours later I made it back to my house in FW. Hello lovely Texans!
  • With early flights, jet lag, and lingering migraines, consider yourselves warned that I am feeling pretty filter-free at the moment. 
  • British Air rerouted me onto two American flights. Hello downgrade. And BA owes me 50 bucks for the bag American made me pay for. I think they should give me a voucher for the trouble. I'm crossing my fingers...
  • You know what I realized I missed without ever knowing it? Carpet. This morning I was walking around the house and thought, wow this is nice! So warm and soft. 
  • Monday morning my mom and I made our way to the train station and took the Eurostar through the English Channel to spend most of the week in Bath and its surrounding areas. Roman Baths, Georgian squares, Saxon churches from 600 AD, ancient stone circles and Christmas markets. It was a fun trip. 
  • Mom left from London and I was going to take the train back through the channel to Brussels. Except my train was cancelled due to snow. They decided to rebook everyone who had train tickets for the whole day on a first come, first serve basis. The line stretched from one side of the train station to the complete other side--but I did make it on the last train to Brussels. Snow in Bath, snow in London, snow in France, and when I got to Brussels? Snow. 
  • Yesterday when I landed in Chicago? Snow. 
  • A long train ride is the best way to think. 
  • When I took the metro home from the train station I was almost relieved to be surrounded by all Arabs. There are so many white people in England that it is almost unsettling. 
  • The day we went to Stonehenge we had the place almost entirely to ourselves, which was fantastic. Except for the fact that it was FRIGID. With the wind coming through I am pretty positive it is the coldest I have ever been in my life. 
  • Today it was great to go to church in English. I would usually try to sing along rather futilly with the French and then just hum my way through the Arabic (except when we sang the "lalala" song...) so it was nice to sing in English today. 
  • I won't lie though--3:30 PM still seems like a much better time for church than having it in the morning. Also, can we get on the Moroccan tea before church bandwagon?
  • Did everyone give their kids steroids while I was gone? It was only 3 months, why are all these kids so big?
  • I also didn't remember everyone having such strong accents. 
  • I had fajitas last night and they were tasty! And I drove for the first time in 3 months! 
  • Time to for the cap and gown in 6 days. Whoop!
  • Also, now that I have a little time and some stable internet, I'll try to get up some pictures and catch up on all the fun stuff I've been seeing/doing. 
The end.