Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pasta, A Bean, and Some Ice


Wednesday, Feb. 25th
Ate dinner with Kim & Sam. Amazing food (pasta!), excellent (real and deep) conversation, and a thoughtful husband who sent Kim and I on a walk while he cooked dinner (aw! You're the best, Sam!).

Thursday, Feb. 26th
Had dinner with Georgia, the woman I student taught with in '02, and her family. I got to meet her two boys and see her husband again. So fun to catch up!

Friday, Feb. 27th
Colleen and I went down to the city and enjoyed a few hours in the Chicago Art Institute. The highlight was probably analyzing the painting "The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise" by Benjamin West. I said that I saw a horse and a lion in the corner, but C. didn't really see it at first. I started pointing at it and then set off the alarm because I got too close. Then she pointed at it and set it off. This was all after C. had set off the alarm at another painting in the same room.'s a wonder we didn't get kicked out.

After the Art Institute we walked over (through flurries of snow!) to The Bean and laughed a lot while we took pictures. Here's a few:

Saturday, Feb. 28th

This sweet family (minus the littlest who was napping) has grown since I saw them last!! Brian and Christina Hagedorn are friends from college who now live in WI with their three little ones. Olivia (to my left) and I have the same strawberry blond hair :) and Gabriel (between his mommy and daddy) has the cutest freckles you've ever seen.

I had a lot of fun being around these kids, especially since I miss the ones I usually see every day at the Richter house. Olivia showed me all her princess dresses and told me that if she didn't have to take a nap, she would be the princess and I would be the queen. Gabriel showed me his super cool room with his race car bed and all his books on tape. After an amazing lunch, I spectated as Brian and Gabriel had a sword fight, then Brian and I played a ping-pong game of sorts with 1-yr-old Anna as she toddled from him to me then back again. It was good to be with this beautiful, joyful family who clearly love each other and the friends who pass through their front door.

While I was in WI, I figured I should hop over to Milwaukee to find my friend Andrew. He and I used to be on staff with Urban Impact, but now he lives up in the cold country. Ice skating seemed a fitting way to spend some time together, so here we are, attempting a picture to show that we hung out on the ice (can you see the ice?! How about the skater in the background?!). Surprisingly, I did not fall on my butt, and neither did Andrew, though he did have a close call and a good recovery that got the applause of some middle school girls. :)

(And that's it. I realized that I used a lot of parentheses in this blog, which can be attributed to the late hour at which I create this entry. To bed now...)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Life at a Slower Pace


Today at noon I had the privilege of having lunch with my friend and former college philosophy professor, Dr. Clifford Williams. I climbed the familiar stairs to his office in the academic building and found him in his usual chair. After a warm reunion hug, I took my usual place in the old lumpy chair across from his and we began: Lunch, conversation, a return to friendship as it once was.

Cliff is one of those people who gives you space to be yourself, which I think makes some people feel a bit uncomfortable in his presence. He tends to lay aside social norms and expectations that most conversations hold, like saying the "right thing" or acting as adults must act--he's childlike, but deep. Life's pace is slow for him, in true philosopher form, and so conversations with him have quiet lulls to think and respond. When we talk I feel the freedom to ask him anything. He is gracious in his response, and honest: two qualities that seem rare these days. He doesn't seem pressured to be a certain way or say what he thinks I want to hear, and clearly doesn't expect that from me either.

It was good to be there--I felt refreshed and able to be myself. I heard about his travels in South America, thoughts on family interactions, and how when a student cheats he feels betrayed. I wish everyone could have an hour of time in Cliff's office. Here's a picture of us (eee, so off-center!) and a silly one I took on the sly of him adjusting the tripod. :)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friends, Fun, and LOTS of Happy Things


My day began in really the best way possible: sleeping in, and doing it in the most comfortable bed ever made. Seriously: Egyptian cotton 20,000-count sheets, a pillow that adjusted to my head, a firm but not too firm mattress, and just the right amount of blankets. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Love it!

I tumbled out of bed around 9:30 and went to find Colleen and Little Jayden, pictured here with his momma's big water glass. He and I are birthday buddies, with the same first two initials and similar belly buttons (to his mom's dismay--she used to tease me about mine... it's not that weird!!!). He's great. And so are his parents, who were amazing hosts last night during my visit, and who put me up for the night in their guest room (which I may decide to spend the rest of my LIFE in, or at least the bed). It was good to see them again since they moved away from New Orleans last summer.

The rest of my day (8 hours!) was spent at Jason and Bonny Walters' house, where they hosted a get-together of old friends from college for a game day. We caught up with each other's current life news, then dove right back into the past and played our favorite game, Mow. Game # two was really the best--lots and lots of laughter, PLUS we discovered a fabulous new food pairing: a piece of fresh pineapple followed by an animal cracker. I don't know, it just brings something wonderful out in the animal cracker that you've never tasted before. Seriously.

I left the Walters' feeling healthier from all the laughter. What a joy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Woke up at 5:30 am because my butt was lower than my head. Stupid air mattress plug... that I forgot to put on tightly...
Journaled and read until 7 am.
Went to SB's sanctuary of a house.
Ate breakfast.
Called Nate.
Took a 3 hour nap (does it count as a nap if it's only 9 am?).
Read the first 6 chapters of Hebrews.
Ate pizza.
Read the first two chapters of "The New Friars".
Cuddled with Linus the cat.
Took another nap (so did Linus).
Went grocery shopping.
Drove home in the beautiful snow (the 3rd time since I've been here!!! I love it!)
Cooked dinner.
Ate with my lovely sister, Liz.
Unpacked all my stuff at Liz's apartment (ahhhhh. I don't have to live out of a suitcase for the rest of my time here. Sweet.).
Looked a pictures of the Bogen kids and missed them.
And now I'm going to bed. :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

After Two Days in IL

The bitter cold of Chicago jolts me every time I walk outside, and its crisp bite thoroughly wakes me up into winter. I love making it find me buried deep inside my coat, hat, scarf, and mittens (loaned ever-so-lovingly to me by SB). I love how it brings me snowflakes that surround me in a winter wonderland, that fall on my eyelashes and shoulders. And I love how it drives me inside to warm mugs of tea with friends I love.

The time I’ve had with friends has been so rich. I absolutely have been away from them too long. Rediscovering Kim has been one of the best things about my time so far. A lot has happened in the year and a half since I last saw her, the most significant being motherhood. So I stand nearby and watch her, taking in her movements of this new role, and just feel glad. There she is with her husband and baby, and she’s no longer just Kim. She’s fuller… richer. She’s herself, but more beautiful, and surrounded by rich layers that add to her self (give me a paintbrush, baby, and I’ll paint out the description in my head). I celebrate her and feel more alive myself for being near.

SB and I have, as always, settled quickly into living life together. Our friendship is perhaps the deepest and richest I've ever experienced. A history of 9 1/2 years says a lot about how well we know each other, especially because 6 1/2 of that has been spent in different states/time zones/countries, which means it has required intentionality (book discussions, letters, care packages, thousands of wireless minutes!). Her direct, knowing questions and responses to my out-loud thoughts humble me. I can get away with nothing. She gives me good space for resting, playing, and reflecting.

And so it all begins, this time with community and friends so far away from home. Though this used to be my home, my heart is clearly now in New Orleans, and I do miss it. Miss the southern sway of Life's gait down there and the hospitable smiles of the neighborhoods I once walked through. Ah, if only I could have both worlds...

The beginning

The drive itself was releasing. I had all these thoughts of leaving New Orleans on some great musical number—my first CD choice felt really important. But as my distance from the city increased, so did my anxiety, and the music was only mixing in a sour taste. By track 12 I had turned off the noise and began to drive in silence. The sound of the road was the only soundtrack I had (though Louisiana roads aren’t very quiet :) )—I needed to clear my head.
With A LOT of road time ahead (60 some odd hours total over the next two months), I felt panicky that this anxiety would be the norm for my alone time. I felt isolated, and forced into it, and those same uneasy feelings also associated with flying, riding on public transportation, and sitting in tight quarters with strangers crept in… this would never do.

Why do I fear isolation so much? And why does change make me so uneasy?

The changes ahead in my two month road trip are unpredictable. I expect that I’ll have to rely on other people a lot, and with that comes a lot of unknowns. What will my bed be like (my first question of course, because a good night’s sleep is the most important thing)? Will I eat balanced meals? When will we eat dinner? Will it be later? If so, when should I grab lunch? Will the shower be clean? Will I have a safe place to put my toothbrush? These logistical questions continued…

And what about my interactions with people I visit? They are friends, yes, but will I need to feel “on” all the time? Will I get alone time to just be? Will they feel shafted if I do? …Why do their feelings and opinions about this matter so much? Am I projecting unfair assumptions on them?
These thoughts were traffic-jamming my mind as I drove, creating a reaction of acidic anxiety inside me as I got farther and farther away from my controlled, semi-predictable life.

STOP. Just stop: “Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that passes all understanding will guard your minds in Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:6]

“What good is worrying about tomorrow when today has enough worry in itself?” [Matthew 6:34]

And there it was. Yes, these anxieties contained valid questions, but really, where was it getting me? And the feelings of isolation in the car were real, but as I’ve learned from dealing with them on planes, buses, and strange public places, I am not truly alone. EVER.

I started fighting for peace, claiming truth for my uneasy mind, and slinging mental rocks at my unproductive worries about the future. Slowly, as I spoke out against the anxiety, it subsided. I was able to turn the music back on and just be. May the road trip begin!