November 12, 2012

Rush and Wait

The Family Surgery Waiting Room at Stanford University is a true sample of the population. Surgery doesn't discriminate, nor does it wait for a convenient time.  To my right are the cowboys, brothers I think, they sit in silence except for a few short, concise comments and a couple nods.  To my left is an Indian family- everyone has an Apple device and the younger generation has their headphones in.  There's the Chinese family that came prepared with plenty of snacks.  Their snacks are the imported kind...I can almost taste the rice cakes that I used to buy in Beijing and I'm convinced that if I stare a little bit longer they might notice and offer me one. The lady across from me is reading a romance novel, but she's so distracted that she hasn't turned the page in about 10 minutes.  I notice that her bookmark is for the Quality Inn down the street.

A couple days ago no one in this room expected to be here.  But here we sit together, and much like the culture of an airplane- with norms that help to guide the environment.  Whenever a surgeon in blue scrubs and a hair net comes through the double doors, everyone hushes, stops what they're doing, and waits for a name to be called out.  The surgeon gives the news to the family in a quiet tone to protect their privacy, but we all remain quiet and shift our bodies in their direction.  Humans are curious by nature.  We've been sharing this space together for hours and made guesses in our minds about why each person is here- Was it a gall bladder removal? A heart transplant? Removal of a tumor?  Is that the wife or the mother?

A man a couple seats down has just snored so loudly that he has woken himself up.  The comedy of this crosses every culture and we all look up to laugh and make eye contact, some for the first time.  The snoring man laughs heartily and acknowledges how little sleep he's had.  Everyone here looks like they could use some sleep.  When you get the call that your family member needs emergency surgery, you don't take the time to apply mascara.  You jump out of bed, into your car, and rush... you rush to the waiting room.

There's free Starbucks coffee around the corner, but the cups are only about 8 ounces.  The small cups give you an excuse to get up and refill, but more importantly, you can walk by the electronic board that says the status of your friend or family member.  Each person has a number and those numbers are color coded for the status of their surgery.  A couple minutes ago the lady with the Quality Inn bookmark got really upset when her husband's name turned red.  Apparently red means they're almost done... I would have chosen a different color.

We sit together.  We're in this together, kind of. And the waiting continues- a woman knits a red scarf, the cowboys appropriately gnaw on beef jerky, and everyone gives the kid wearing Crocs and playing a loud video game the 'stink-eye' hoping that he'll mute his Nintendo DS.  The double doors open and even the Croc kid knows it's time to pay attention.  The news is for the knitting lady and as the surgeon walks toward her I can see she's clenching the red scarf tightly.  After just a few seconds, her furled eyebrows have relaxed and she's nodding.  It went well, she can see her husband in about an hour. She's going for a walk...and the rest of us will sit here and wait.

September 26, 2011

hearts on the i's

Late one night in India my friends and I were going through customs at the New Delhi airport when I was pulled aside by a very tall Indian man. He held my passport picture next to my face and said with complete certainty, "This is not you." His head bobbled side to side and for a second I was distracted from the problem at-hand. He repeated himself, "This is not you." I was traveling with three friends and by this time they had already left customs and were making their way to baggage claim.

Back in 2001, I took a photo in a little store in Kerman, California and that picture has followed me around the world making a mockery of my face. "I was told not to smile. It was a bad hair day. My eyes are mid-blink! It was before digital cameras!" were the excuses I'd list off when my friends would laugh and point. The truth is, up until that point I had never taken such a horrible picture and I haven't taken one since.

But in the New Delhi customs line, that funny picture had just gotten serious and it seemed that the Indian man and I were now in a stare-down. He was studying my nose and lips for a match, and I was studying his thick beard. He called over a friend. They, too, were baffled. And for what seemed like 30 minutes, but was probably just 5, we stood there comparing my current face to the worst picture I've ever taken. To help matters, I tried to replicate a mid-blink. I laughed, but they didn't.

They spoke in Hindi for a bit and it seemed that they had reached a solution, "Sign your name", he said. So I signed my name. "Not the same", he said. "Whaaaa...Ohhh, you want me to match the passport signature? That was when I was 16..." He didn't say anything, but it head bobbled side to side again. (After 3 weeks in India, I came to know that as a nod.)

At this point I was distressed. It was late, my friends were gone, and I imagined myself getting put on the next flight back to China. I won't tell you how many attempts I made at recreating my 16 year old signature from memory, but I will say it came to a point when the man at customs was wanting to believe it was my passport. His friend walked away and he quickly flashed the signature to refresh my memory. I exclaimed, "There are hearts on the i's?! What was I thinking?" I signed again, dotted the i's with hearts and the man stamped my passport and let me go.

This afternoon I'll be taking new passport pictures. I will try my best not to blink and might even sneak in a smile.

May 19, 2011

The Eyes of a Writer

This afternoon I had coffee with a friend and former roommate at Krakatoa Coffee. We caught up on work, love, laughed through a couple memories, and generally just sipped cold drinks and chatted on the patio. Sure, a couple nearby had an awkward extended time of PDA, but it was a typical coffee date with a friend. Near the end, we talked about writing- a passion we both share. I've missed writing, but more than that, I've missed viewing the world with the eyes of a writer.
What do I mean? I mean stopping the routine of the expected and recognizing the fullness of the story- the smells, the subtle details, the unspoken understandings, and the magical thing that happens when all the right words are strung together.
Almost immediately, my mind shifted. I became more aware- aware of the setting sun and how the patio had cleared leaving just a few of us cold- with arms-crossed and poor posture, hunkered down to maximize warmth. I smelled the steak being cooked next door at the Turf Club and how it combined with the smell of mozzerella and ricotta cheese from Pizzeria Luigi to form what I quickly coined 'a sandwich in the sky'. I heard the small birds that live in the giant tree the gives shade to the patio, and I tasted a hint of lavender in the blackberry limeade I ordered.
The reality is that all these things were there before, but I think a writer takes note of them. A writer takes the time to think about their attributes and how they add to the experience. I think to some degree we put on the eyes of a writer when we travel. New places and experiences make us want to fill a journal. In the mundane everyday, we have a hard time seeing something 'blog-worthy'. But, our lives are full of rich experiences. Why were the busy streets of Beijing so much more noteworthy? Sure China felt foreign, but I think more than that I had a mindset of adventure and was more aware of the story around me.
To illustrate, months ago I was walking with my good friend Jen through downtown San Diego. We came to an overpass that crossed a major freeway. On one side was the city skyline, sun setting behind it, with the reflection turning all the buildings gold. Beyond the skyline was the Pacific Ocean, shimmering and beautiful. On the other side of the overpass, was an expanse of freeway, cars speeding in both directions, and dull in comparison. We took about 10 steps on the overpass before I commented on the beauty of the sunset. Jen looked west, gasped and said, "What have I been doing looking the other direction?!"
All that to say- I'm back. I will discipline myself to write, not because I'm in a culture that feels entirely foreign, but because life is more rich when I stop, take note, and fully experience it.

October 25, 2010

Too Close to Shore

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity.

-Sir Francis Drake

July 27, 2010

What's your website?

It seems that without a website these days, one can't be taken very seriously. In an age of the iPhone, I find myself immediately Googling companies (or people) to see if they're legit or not. No more waiting 'til I get home to check the phone book... or ask around to get my friend's opinions. We've got Yelp now! And boy, do I love and appreciate Yelp...

Just last week I was helping with a wedding in La Jolla. A groomsmen lost a button on his suit just minutes before the wedding was to begin. As I started on the jacket with needle and thread in hand he struck up a conversation. It came out that he was the VP of sales for a large (and impressive) company. You better believe that during the ceremony I Googled him... and he wasn't lying...

Which has me thinking about some areas of my life that need some web presence. The two that come to mind immediately are my swim lessons business and the project:Connect Thanksgiving dinner. This week I met a man that is a partial owner of a photo booth company in San Diego. As we got talking about his business it dawned on me that photo booth pictures would be perfect for the kids of Monarch School to take home. These kids are either living on the streets or in shelters- they don't have many pictures to document their lives or have a family portrait. The photo booth would be such an incredible addition to the event. And it was then that I wanted to give him a website to learn about the dinner. To see pictures of the kids. To hear stories from years before. To be inspired to donate a photo booth for the night!

All that to say that I'm going to start researching web designers in San Diego that might be able to help with a project:Connect website. Or I could just learn code and do it myself? Help! I need ideas and feedback!

January 12, 2010


A couple years, while living in Beijing, I had some great friends fly into southern China. I was so excited to see them, it had been a full year since we had spent time together. We had kept in touch with video Skype, but Skype just doesn't cut it with good friends. There's something about co-experiencing life, to being in China hanging out together. The timing of their trip was pretty crazy, I was leaving to head back to the States just 5 days later and had essentially packed up my life. I had my two 50 pound bags packed, sorted out give-away clothes and was living on the bare essentials.

I packed a carry-on bag for my short trip to southern China. And in that bag, I packed my very favorite things- favorite jeans, favorite shirts and sweatshirts, journal, Bible, makeup... if I really liked it, it was in that bag. And the bag itself- a graduation present, a Swiss Army rolling carry-on that could also turn into a backpack. So, I had 100 lbs of possessions to my name in China, and I put my favorite 15 lbs of those possessions into my hipster Swiss Army bag and headed for the airport.

Before jumping on the plane, I had lunch near the Israeli embassy with a friend. With some time to spare, he asked if I'd be willing to go with him to the local market to help with bartering for gifts to give his friends and family back at home. Bartering was (and I suppose still is) a source of joy for me. I love the thrill of the exchange, and at this particular market, I had decoded the vendors and the best prices for all the regular items like knock-off North Face jackets, real pearls, and even soccer jerseys. We grabbed a taxi in the embassy district and headed for the market, my friend put my bag in the trunk.

It's probably obvious by now, but I never saw the bag again. We arrived at the market, paid, refused the need for a receipt and stepped out of the cab. Seconds later, I turned to get my bag out the trunk and the taxi had merged into the sea of other Beijing taxis and drove away.

I was bummed. I'm typically a problem-solver so I jumped into “fix-it mode”. I looked into figuring out the name of the taxi company- there were 600 companies in Beijing! I left my name and phone number at the market. I waited where we'd been dropped off, hoping he'd just come back with my bag. None of those things worked out. I calculated my loss, and the biggest bummer of all was the lost journal. So many memories, prayers, ideas, that I might never remember again.

This reminded me of one of my favorite books, “The Pursuit of God”, where A.W. Tozer talks about the Blessedness of Possessing Nothing (Chapter epic). He tells the story of Abraham putting Isaac up on the altar, and how sometimes things and even people can be put on the altar of our hearts. I had to remind myself that ultimately, things are just 'things'.

I raced back to my apartment in the suburbs of Beijing to grab a few things for the trip to see my friends. I called them as I was sulking back to my apartment and they were bummed with me, but said “Alli, it doesn't matter what you wear or if you have makeup on, we're just really excited to hang out with you”. That helped.

As it turns out, the only clothes I had at the apartment were the ones I had planned to give away. And so instead of my best clothes, I had my worst clothes. The corduroys I brought were so worn that they had holes at the pockets. No make-up, no hair products, no blow-dryer.

Despite the old clothes and lack of products, we had an incredible time. We visited the Stone Forest, explored caves, went on boat down a little river, and spent all night chatting face to face.

Fast-forward to last night at the Cheesecake Factory in Denver. I was having dessert with some great friends, Mark and Carrie Tedder. They knew I was at a conference in downtown Denver and drove from Colorado Springs to hang out and catch up... I felt so blessed. After dessert I walked back to the hotel and realized that I didn't have my iPhone. I called Cheesecake Factory from the hotel, and they didn't see it. And here's the best part- I wasn't devestated. One of my first thoughts was, “It's just a phone. Yeah, it was a gift.. and an expensive one.. but in the end, it's just a phone”. And I was reminded of the bag in the back of the taxi and compared my emotions then with the my emotions now. And I was thankful for the growth that happened over the years and how I find myself less and less attached with the material things of this world.

This morning, I thought it was a long shot, but I called the Tedders to see if maybe they had grabbed my phone. In the darkness of the Cheesecake Factory, Carrie had grabbed it.

August 22, 2009

All Things New

The other day my friends and I met for sushi at Ichiban in Hillcrest. As we updated each other on our summer adventures, my friend Bobby exclaimed "New house and a car? It's like I don't even know you anymore!". Of course his statement was hyperbolic, but it got me thinking how much my life has changed in just a few months.

New Job- I just started a position with Campus Crusade at SDSU. I was involved as a student in college, and now I'll be a staff member on my alma mater's campus. I'm still raising support, and excited to get on campus in just a few days! Here's a blurb if you want to hear more!

New Car- The car isn't actually new, it's 11 years old with plenty of miles, but Honda Civics are reliable right? After 4, count it, 4 years without a car, I finally have wheels! I have a very special relationship with my bike and the SD Metro system, but for now our daily hangouts have come to an end. I could write a book with all the fun and frustration of living in California without a car, but I'll just say that I'm so very grateful for my little white Honda.

New House & New Housemates- I have four new housemates- Kate, Rianne, Shawn, and Emily and together we have found an incredible Victorian craftsman home in Golden Hill. It's an older place, with wood floors throughout and loads of 'fix-it' projects but we're all equally ecstatic to move in and start the process. My room was once the formal sitting room, so I'm researching solutions for a small room without a closet. Armoires from Craigslist and IKEA are options, but I'm still looking. My favorite feature of the house is the fully equipped wood shop in the basement! I can't wait to make picture frames.

New Neighborhood- After a year in 92101 (Little Italy) and a year in 92103 (Mission Hills), I'm excited to be a 92102 resident on Golden Hill. We're close to Balboa Park and walking distance to Krakatoa Coffee Shop. The neighborhood has character galore and super friendly neighbors.

Amidst all this new-ness, some things remain unchanged. I still listen to Rod Stewart, I still eat oatmeal almost every morning, and I'm still a self-diagnosed narcoleptic. Everything else is different.

August 5, 2009

Safely Home

I read an article today on about Laura Ling and Euna Lee being released from a labor camp in North Korea, and I cried. I'm not really a crier, but this story has been one that I've made a point to follow. I wonder why this story out of the thousands has captured my attention? Perhaps it's the intrigue of North Korea- the fact that the little we know of the country comes from aerial images from Google Maps. Or maybe because I've been in a few hairy situations in Asia- ones where I wasn't sure how the law would fall, and who might be watching. I think there's a hope when you're an American traveling overseas that there'd be a diplomat on the other side of the pond that would work on your behalf, if something went wrong.

After seeing the movie Brokedown Palace (about two Americans in Thailand) in high school, I wondered what it'd be like to be in jail in a foreign country. It would take the language and cultural barriers to an all new level. I love that Bill Clinton was the diplomat and that when the two ladies flew back into the US, he had them go first to be reunited with their families. He silently followed, minutes later, and didn't say anything to the press. For all his faults, if I were in a North Korean labor camp with a 12 year sentence, I'd want Bill Clinton to be the guy chatting with Kim Jong Il for my release.

The article ends with journalist Lisa Ling discussing her sister's return to the States. From

"She said her sister was looking forward to eating fresh fruit and food for the first time in four months, after many meals of rice that often contained rocks.

"I can tell she has gone through a lot," Ling said.

"My sister has an amazing, amazing spirit, and she's a little bit weak right now, so I think it's going take a little time for her to gather up her wits and be able to talk about what she experienced."

No doubt that Ling will be writing a book in the next few months, among some counseling and plenty of media interviews. I'll be picking up a copy, and interested to hear about her four months in North Korea. Note to self: Don't get 'lost' in China and wander into a country that Bush labeled in his "axis of evil"... there won't be a warm reception.

June 18, 2009

Congratulations Abundant

I feel like I've said the word congratulations more times in the last month than all the other times in my life combined. Graduations, engagements, weddings, promotions, new babies are all great reasons for celebration.

To the following incredible people/couples, I say "cheers, felicitations, hats off, and well done"!

To James and Laura, Ann and Beary, Kent and Rachael, Anya and Matt, and Jordan and Sarah on your recent engagements. Tis the month to get engaged! And from what I hear, there will be plenty of fall weddings to attend :)

To Ben and Megan, and Katie and Cody on your wedding day within the next week. Look forward to plenty of dancing at the receptions.

To Mikayla on your new job in Spokane, you're going to rock it.

To Cori, Daisy, and Katie on graduating from nursing, 5th grade, and grad school respectively.

To Denise and Dustin, Trisha and Sean, and Omar and Cynthia on the new additions to your families.

Huge congrats!!!

May 11, 2009

Almonds and Raisins for Rudolph

Today I helped my mom sift through old photos, scan them, and then put them on a digital picture frame. I did about 25 pictures to get her started and then step-by-step led her through the process. (I resolve to NEVER teach computer science in any capacity! Especially to a 50+ class, haha). She was a great sport and in the process we found this napkin that I left next to a healthy Christmas snack for Rudolph.

Transcribed for your enjoyment...apparently I knew the power of persuasion early.. using his (Santa's) name repeatedly. I dictated the words to my mom and then signed the bottom. I'm guessing I was around 4 years old.

First put out the toys. Santa when you're done with the toys, Santa you better bring Rudolph down if you have him. Santa, I've been good, real good. Wake me up I'll come out and I'll see Rudolph out there. (Previous sentence is crossed out.) Here's some milk and cookies for you. Sit in this chair and some almonds and raisins for Rudolph.
xoxo Allie"

Some observations: I had no problem bossing Santa around! I like that I decided against being woken up to see Rudolph...missing snacks was enough evidence for me. And despite correcting people for years that I had no "e" on Alli... I guess at one time I did.

April 11, 2009

I'm a little hard of hearing...

A cute dark haired guy kept passing the booth I sit at 8 hours every day. He'd wave or nod or smile.. or a combination of the three, but no spoken interaction for 5 solid days.

Then yesterday, he walked right up to me and said in a THICK Irish accent "What's the tame?" I smiled, "I don't know the tame, sorry. " He shook his head, "Do you have the tame?" If I don't what the tame is, how can I have it? I said "The tame...uhhh....?" He looked puzzled and said "Do you have the team?" Relieved I said, "Oh no! The team is in Centre Stage. (The band was leading worship in a building name Centre Stage). I was so happy to have figured it out. But I hadn't. He said "No, no, the taaame...." and pointed in the direction of the box under his arm. On the cardboard was written Christianity Magazine. The magazine team/tame?

Finally I said, "I'm sorry, I have no idea what you're talking about..." I spoke slowly and annunciated each and every word. In return he said "What... tame... is... it? T....I....M....E....tame"

That's right, he had to spell it. He wasn't pointing to the cardboard box, he was pointing to his wrist, the universal motion for the time.

I quickly turned around, grabbed my purse and cast my embarrassed face down to find my phone. "It's uhh, 4:11" I turned it around for him to see in case there has been any miscommunications. I think I said something lame like "Sorry, I'm a little hard of hearing..."

April 10, 2009

Love Actually...

As I stepped out of the International Arrivals of Heathrow Airport last week, I imagined I heard Hugh Grant's voice in Love Actually smoothly saying, "Love actually is....all around". The reality is: I didn't have anyone waiting for me, arms open wide, flowers in hand. Instead, a Costa Coffee held her arms wide open offering some caffeinated alertness despite the two Dramamine that ran through my system and allowed for solid sleep throughout the entire flight.
Speaking of which, I'm convinced that I should be hired for Dramamine's marketing team. Forget motion sickness! This product insures that I sleep through the night when I'm camping in the middle of the desert. This product allows me to board an international flight, eat dinner, and wake up as the Customs Arrival cards are being passed out. A wonder drug! The only side-effects are grumpy (and jealous) co-travelers that watched as you slept through turbulence/crying babies/boring movies.
While we waiting for a van to carry all of our luggage and instruments to Penge, London we were approached by a nice Jewish man with a kind "Shalom". We responded with "Shalom" and he gave us a glossy card with the 'messiah' on the front. He looked to be about 65, with salt and pepper hair. Unfortunately, I left the card on the table.
After a day of rehearsal, we took the tube (subway) into Central London for a whirlwind walking tour. We started at Westminster Abbey, walked to Big Ben, shoved 8 people into a red telephone booth, watched street performers by the National Museum and drank coffee in Piccadilly Square. We've eaten fish and chips, I've tried a Turkish Delight, and consumed more tea and salt &vinegar crisps than I thought possible.
At dinner one night, my new friends, Sam and Rich gave me a tutorial in British slang. When it was my turn to share California slang, I defaulted to Sean's lingo with words like gnar, shred, and steezy. The other day I heard Rich say "buckets of steez!" As a team, we've even made up our own slang and have fun defining situations of use and its figures of speech. The bass guitarist, Manu, is from Germany so we've been learning random German words. I now know the German for words like plumber's crack, swallow, and sweat. Instead of saying we're hungry we'll say something like "I'm ready to schlook (swallow) some breakfast."
With fake rats in backpacks, exploding Pringles cans, and salty coffee I find that I'm on the defensive with this group of pranksters. The other day a woman approached the CD stand. She was dressed perfectly normal, but when she opened her mouth she was (as the British would put it), "absolutely mad!" She started exclaiming, "Where's the celebration?!" in a thick Irish accent that was almost unintelligible. I started laughing and looking beyond her for our electric player Joe from South Africa or Manu who have become a tag-team. I was sure she had been sent by them. Turns out this woman was indeed insane and my laughing just made her more crazed. I don't know if it was even possible for me to help her find the celebration she was looking for.

February 16, 2009

Accidental Photography

Real photographers scoff when I mention that I use iPhoto. They're appalled that I've never used PhotoShop or Aperture. They roll their eyes when I ask about exposure, lenses, and shutter speed.
I used to take compliments about my pictures in stride and say "Oh, thank you." But I have this fear of being found out. I picture the complimenter and I in South America when I pull out my little 'common' camera. They would turn to me, jaw drops and they'd say "You're not a photographer!"
The truth is, I've had the opportunity to be in situations that would be a photographer's dream and I take my little Canon Elph, point it in the direction of something interesting and push down the button.
So, I appreciate your compliments lately, but I really am below amateur status. Someday, I'd love to take a course and find out what all your terms mean and how to take a picture that was more than an accident. Here are some that I have up in my house and a bit of history behind them.

I was riding on a the back of a motorcycle in Cambodia, heading to Angkor Wat. My motorcycle driver was behind this guy in traffic, we sped up and passed him. I held on with one arm and raised the other one to take a picture. I love that the speed is captured...but not on purpose.

This is what Thailand looks like. There's no enhancement needed when it's paradise. In the distance you can see Burma.

After some pad thai on a small island named Koh Phayam, my friends and I walked to the pier to see all these fisherman mending their nets. I love that the lights from their boats casts such dramatic shadows. It's rare to get a picture in Asia without someone looking at the camera. I took this before they realized 4 American girls were standing next to them on the pier.

This picture comes from a day with the Panga tribe in the mountains of Orissa, India. The Panga women tatooed their faces and wore dozens of earrings for decades. It dates back to when India was British India, and British men would come take tribal women from their families. Panga women in an effort to be less desirable to the British men tatooed their faces. It worked and they were able to stay with their families. The tradition has continued. This is the tribe leader's wife and son.

I took this picture in Xi'an, China (the home of the TerraCotta warriors). We were walking down a back alley looking for a cheap restaurant for dinner. I saw a woman reaching into a giant burlap bag and grinding peppers. When she bent down to pick something up, I reached over and snapped this. I expected it to be blurry, but my trusty Canon pulled through again.

January 27, 2009

Aliens and Santa

On Sunday afternoon, I found myself in Orange County, book in hand, laying on a blanket, watching a church soccer game. Nearby a 5 year old and 8 year old were impatiently waiting for their parent's game to end so they could go home and get warm. It was overcast and I was cold as well.
After a couple minutes of attempting to read 'The Weight of Glory', I invited them over to the blanket to hang out. We played paper, rock, scissors and the hand slap game. Then we played duck, duck, goose... the game just isn't fun with 3 people. After about 10 minutes of being the goose, little Eden (the 5 year old girl) suggested that we switch games and play 100 Questions. JT (the 8 year old boy) joyfully agreed. It seems that this is an expanded form of 20 questions, minus the pressure.
Eden started the game. A person... kind of, dead... no alive, poor... no rich. I thought, "This is going to be such a long soccer game." Finally JT asked, "Is he brown?" A nod from Eden. "Jesus!". Wow, I should have known...
JT was next. About 15 questions into the game, he could see the frustration from Eden and I, so he offered, "He's imaginary.. he's not real." Without thinking I blurted out "SANTA!" I was so proud of myself, I got it! Their reactions were raised eyebrows, with their big brown eyes staring back at me. Confusion, utter confusion.
I backpedaled, I said "Just kidding", I laughed, and then said "Leprechauns?" They had never heard of them before. I filtered out the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny to avoid any further damage.
Finally, JT just shrugged his shoulders and said, "It was an alien".
As a peace offering and to get their minds off of Santa, I offered them each a piece of sugarless gum. As we chomped away at our minty gum, Eden gave me princess stickers and JT showed me his slinky crazy eyes glasses. I wonder what the conversation that night at dinner looked like?

January 14, 2009

Here's my card, call me.

On a crisp Monday morning at 7am, I rode my bike to the Washington Street bus stop. I put my bike on the rack, and stepped onto a fairly empty bus. The bus driver greeted me with a "Good mornin' dah-lin!" Great first words of the day, right?

A couple minutes later, iPod in ears, a guy sat next to me. He said something but I couldn't hear him through my morning dose of Phil Wickham. I removed one small white earphone. "What's that?"

He said "Would I offend anyone if I sat here?" "Um, no." Slight smile.

"Do you mind if I talk to you?" "Uh, no." Bringing purse closer to my body.

"It's just that you're really beautiful." Oh stop. Really, stop.

"I'm a musician, I pay all kinds of music all around San Diego." Pulls out business card. It has his name, the word "Musician" and his phone and email. He tells me that the best way to get a hold of him is "just to call".

"Can I take you out for a cup of coffee?" I say, "I'm headed to work." He chuckles and says, "Well not right now..."

There's no kind way to put it. "No, thanks." He says, "It's been a pleasure, keep the card."

This is the 2nd time this has happened. The random business card pick-up... only the first time it was name, "Mattress King", phone and email. I wish I were kidding.

When will things move beyond Mattress Kings and Musicians?

Just moments after the musician moved back to his seat, an old Chinese couple boarded the bus. I offered them my seat in the front. The old woman responded with a confused face and "Wo ting bu dong." (basically "I don't understand"). I responded in Mandarin, which resulted in 5-7 minutes of excited conversation between us. I looked back at the Musician mid-way through the convo and he was wide-eyed and staring. The old Chinese man ended our conversation with "I like the look of your teeth".

All of this happened before 8am on a bus in San Diego. I'm convinced that if you want a foreign country experience, get out of your personal car and take the bus. You, too, can get great morning greetings, coffee offers and practice your Mandarin.

December 20, 2008

We've Met Before...

Last night I went to a Christmas party with my roommate. It was hosted at a beautiful home, finger foods were abundant and eggnog was readily available. About an hour into the party, I realized that I was one or two age brackets too young for the gathering. I'm confident I was the youngest person there. Here are some pointers that lead me to that conclusion. First, my SDSU media management professor was in attendance. And when I told him so, he responded with, "So, you're what... 21?" No! I'm 24, almost 25...thank you! Second, I was introduced to a woman who immediately said "We've met before, at another party...". Nope, I'm pretty sure we haven't.

This happens often. More often than you'd think.. and I'm starting to find the two most common sources of 'connection'.

1. I have been on your friend's fridge for two years. My face with Tracy (my Chinese student), and something to the affect of "Serving in China". Every time you went to the fridge at their house, and you swung the door open, our eyes probably met. You think you know me, but you don't, we've only just silently stared.

2. I told you which shampoo was best for your oily/dry/curly/straight/uncontrollable hair. I recommended a bottle of $62 shampoo and $54 conditioner of Aveda goodness. You also got a body scrub, hand lotion and an eyeliner. I gave you a hand massage, showed you some blush and we chatted a bit. We felt like friends because I wasn't pushy...there was no commission on the line... just genuine concern for your dry hair and skin. You think you know me, and you do... but not from a party. I know you're not a natural blonde, and that's more information than you'd relinquish in small talk at any party.

Last night, it was the latter. I knew the crowd and it was full of Aveda junkies. Their radiant skin and silky hair told me so. When I said, "I worked at Aveda in college, maybe I helped you there?" She exclaimed, "YES! I love Aveda! But, I'm still mad that you discontinued Curessence!"

That was my cue, I silently slipped out and went to Cori's house down the street.

December 16, 2008

Tour de la Tundra

I'm sitting in a winter wonderland. Eight inches of snow have fallen today and more is expected overnight. Tomorrow I'm supposed to fly out of O'Hare at noon and had grand ambitions to take the El train the whole way, but those have been changed, instead Rachel will give me a ride to the airport in the morning. Apparently, it wouldn't be easy to roll my 50 lb. suitcase through a foot of snow. I recently learned that El is short for Elevated...I think someone misguided me in saying that the route was shaped like an L.

While sitting comfortably in warm California, I've heard of long delays at O'Hare, and from what my friends here tell me, tomorrow I'll become one of thousands looking at the flashing 'Delayed' and 'Cancelled' next to my United flight number. We shall see...

This trip to the MidWest has been much needed. I started in Colorado (is that technically the MidWest?) and worked for 3 days at the Tedder's dining room table. We worked, took a walk, worked, drank a latte and played ping pong, worked, ate Mexican, worked, then watched America's Funniest Home Videos. I can't help it, I love that show. Call it slap-stick, but I just can't get enough of the montages of falling people. The Tedder's view of the Rockies, their hot tub in the snow, and Mark's barista skills always make for an enjoyable time. It's honestly a pleasure to work for them and I'm excited to be a part of The Door project. I can't help it, I had to post the's my job.

From Colorado Springs, I went to Denver and was able to spend some time with Ryan and Amanda. They're newlyweds and a great compliment to each other. To know them is to love them. Amanda took me to the airport in the morning, and from there I flew to...

Chicago! What a city. Rachel, my China roommate for a year and an aspiring writer, picked me up from the airport. I secretly hope to be in one of her books someday. She assures me that traces of my personality will be found in a character, but I'm lobbying for more. In the morning we met a group of friends at Egglectic in downtown Wheaton. I mistakenly called it Eggcelent a couple of times, which made Rachel chuckle. And it was there that I was reunited with Mikayla. I had never used the cliche of "you're like a sister to me" until I met Mikayla. We somehow turn the most mundane activities (lesson planning, waiting, performances, bus rides) into laughter and pure joy. She shares my love for accents, for the world, and for odd topics. I spent every day for a year with her and hadn't seen her for a year and half! In that time she had gotten married, and I was able to meet her husband Erik. Also at breakfast were Kathy Kastner (music professor extraordinaire and culture junkie!) and Nita Martindale (the Beijing hostess with the most). We talked about Tibet, about Twitter and updated each other as we ate our scrambles and crepes. As I walked away, I wished that we could all meet at Egglectic weekly, I have so much to learn from everyone at the table.

Next, we headed into the city. Rachel, Mikayla and I took the El into the heart of Chicago. We took pictures at the Bean, watched people ice-skate, went shopping on State Street, and had a late lunch at The Walnut Room in Macy's. The day ended with The Blue Man Group. We ushered the show to get in free, which was a genius move on Rachel's part. Mikayla and I intended on speaking in British accents, but it seemed the tables were turned on me. An interesting BMG employee would come near me and politely ask, "How's it going?" and then in a raspy voice "Hellllo preeetttty". At first I thought I was hearing things. But just a couple minutes later he came to get a booster seat for a child. He said nicely, "I'm just going to grab this..." and then in a deep grunt "Hiiiii Dolly." I signaled to Mikayla across the room that he was talking strange and gave her an awkward face, but she just waved and danced to the music playing. After cleaning up all the paper towels used in the show, we went to Giordano's. We reminisced and laughed our way through a deep dish pizza.

The next day we drove to Mikayla's house in northern Wisconsin. It was at this point that I felt as though I entered another country. I wish I could pinpoint why Wisconsin felt so foreign. Perhaps it was the large metal cows? Or more cheese signs than gas station signs? Either way, I felt the need to take pictures and document the culture.

Mikayla and Erik were gracious hosts and we were even able to see them sing in the choir of Handel's Messiah. An interesting fact, the reason that everyone stands during "Hallelujah" is because in the first performance the King of England stood. Such an educational trip this has turned out to be. Katie Wilson drove all the way from Minneapolis and we were reunited. Ah, how I've missed Katie. She drove 5 hours to spend a day with us, and I felt so loved. We all played Balderdash late into the night.

I could keep listing the fun things we did together, but I think I'll end here. The point is, I needed the MidWest. I needed the microbrews, the long talks, the cheese curds, the cross-stitching of ornaments, and the late night Balderdash. In many ways, being here with these good friends in the middle of snowy prairie land has felt more like home than California. I had no idea that the MidWest could be And I feel like an ignorant fool for the way I've judged it in the past. Seriously though, Wisconsin feels like another country. Trust me.

Just some of my family...

When Grandma Jo turned 80, she took a picture with her grandchildren at the party. I'm related to all these kids. This isn't including aunts or uncles or those distant relatives that show up at Thanksgiving.
Please note that I'm one of two brunettes in the entire bunch. Dominant genes...

November 29, 2008

November 25, 2008

India, I want my $395 back.

Nation of India,

Last year I visited your vast land, and although I wouldn't call my time with you a 'vacation', it was most definitely an 'adventure'. I spent time with your tribes (I'm a huge fan of the Panga tribe), spent 3 weeks eating with my hands, and tipped everyone including the lady that pointed a finger to the paper towels in the bathroom. You took more of my money than I budgeted, and you made me cry in the face of complete poverty, but in the hills of Orissa you afforded me the clearest starry night I've ever seen. Thanks for that.

A rift has come between us, and we both know the root of it. I took something from you, however small, it was significant to you. Your nation's greatest treasure, had a very small portion 'under construction', and I took a tiny momento. In hindsight, it was a mistake.

That being said, I think you've overreacted. You made my co-conspirator Jev so ill that he had to spend a week in a Thai hospital and now a year later you've stolen my identity in credit fraud. That's right, I know all about it! One of your people opened a credit card in my name and spent $395.

I'm really sorry about all the things in our past, but this vengeful attitude has got to stop! I want this $395 resolved immediately and, in turn, I'll stop gossiping about you. If the opportunity arises, I'll even return your little gem to your soil.


November 19, 2008

Sunsets at the Embarcadero

While other cities give a cold shoulder to their residents, San Diego remains warm and inviting.

November 11, 2008

The Power of 1.

It might be November 11th and Veteran's Day here in the States, but today a billion people are celebrating the Chinese holiday of Single's Day.

11-11, four 1's in a row, for all the single people to have a day. Perhaps it's a Chinese protest to it's 3 month older cousin, Valentine's Day?

Today, if you're young and single (or old and single for that matter...sorry for the age discrimination)'s your day, and you didn't even know it.

Pat yourself on the back, toast yourself for a great year, and then tuck yourself into bed tonight! It's your day!

October 29, 2008


Last night, my friend Cori and I were having gelato in Little Italy next to some classic old Italian men. I'm talking gold chain, chest hair, Aqua-Net hair, and thick accents. With a week until election day, politics eventually came up in their conversation. The guy with the biggest gold chain said, "Yeah, well that Bak O-Rama is going to...."
Go ahead, say it out loud in your best Italian accent. CNN is a lot more entertaining when you mentally insert some O-Ramas.

October 15, 2008


I want to be a grace guerilla
no longer a chameleon of karma
the time has come to stand out from the crowd.
I want to give forgiveness a fighting chance of freeing me
I want to live in love
and live it out loud.

I want to drink deep of the foolishness of wisdom
instead of swallowing the wisdom of fools
I want to find a source in the deeper mines of meaning
to search out the unsearchable
to invoke the invisible
to choose the truth the TV hypnotists aren't screening.

No camouflage
no entourage
no smoothly fitting-in
I want a faith that goes further than face value
and a beauty that goes deeper than my skin.

I want to be untouched by my possessions
instead of being possessed by what I touch
to test the taste of having nothing to call mine
to hold consumption's cravings back
to be content with luck or lack
to live on water as well as on wine.

I want to spend myself on those I think might need me
not spend all I think I need on myself
I want my heart to be willing to make house calls.
Let those whose rope is at an end find in me a faithful friend
Let me be known as one who rebuilds broken walls.

No camouflage
no entourage
no smoothly fitting-in
I want a faith that goes further than face value
and a beauty that goes deeper than my skin.

I want to be centered outside the circle
to be chiseled by a different seam
I want to be seduce by another story
and drawn into a deeper dream
I want to be anchored in an undiscovered ocean
to revolve around an unfamiliar sun
a boom box tuned to an alternate station
a bullet fired from a different gun.

No camouflage
no entourage
no smoothly fitting-in
I want a faith that goes further than face value
and a beauty that goes deeper than my skin.

-Gerard Kelly on The Door CD/DVD (released 12/1)

October 4, 2008

The Farmer's Walk

I can't count how many times I mumbled under my breath, "China, you win! You always do!" over the last couple years. Today was no different, and for an entirely different reason. I'm not talking about the nation that holds 1/4 of the world's population, the land of Mao, tai-chi, or incredible eggplant dishes. I'm talking about actual dishes...porcelain plates, bowls, and cups (also known as china).

The day started off wonderfully. I further explored San Diego's mass transportation and took the Coaster train from San Diego to Oceanside, then the Sprinter light rail from Oceanside to my friend's house in Vista (about 40 miles away). On the agenda today: 8 year old girl's birthday party. And it had all the essential ingredients: stickers, scavenger hunt, and sugar. We partied hard for 4 hours and just before I left my dear friend gave me a gift, two big 12 piece sets of dishes for my new house.

I was thrilled and thankful, and then I realized that I had many mass transportation adventures ahead of me and 24 new items for the ride. The Sprinter, the Coaster, the Trolley, and then the Walk. There's no 'the Walk' mass transit system, I'm capitalizing it because I'm feeling like it deserves it. In the same way that that we capitalize the Fall (of man), the One (we'll marry), the Boss (pictured above).

We double bagged the boxes with sturdy Trader Joe's bags, and it seemed like an easy plan. I hoped that a friend would be able to pick me up from the Old Town Station so my shoulders wouldn't disconnect from their sockets.

If you think I'm being dramatic, the next time you come over and enter the kitchen, I'm going to hand you our 8 plates, 8 large bowls, and 8 mugs and encourage you to take a 12 block walk including uphill portions and stairs!

I have great friends. But they're important, busy people. They're invited to parties, weddings, or BBQ's on Saturday afternoons. They don't have time to transport my new plates to their new home.

So I did the Walk...all .6 miles uphill, no joke. (GoogleMaps says .6, but it felt like at least 2 miles). Rainclouds loomed above and I threatened heaven with a "Don't you DARE!". Can you picture it? I'm walking home, it's pouring, the brown bags get soaked, the porcelain falls through, shatters, and I collapse on someone's yard to laugh/pout.

Instead I had a moment when I felt like the world (well maybe just the weather) revolved around my little life. As I put my key into the lock, exhausted and kind of shaky in the shoulders region, I felt a raindrop hit my forehead, and just as I had both of my feet on the hardwood floors of my house, the downpour began! How I wish someone was there to witness the poetry of the timing with me...I really LOL'd by myself in an empty house. If it has been just 5 minutes later, you'd have found a mysterious and troubling scene involving a 24 year old standing in an intersection- breaking, throwing, and juggling 24 pieces of dishware on the evening news. Caption at the bottom of the screen: SoCal Residents React to Rain.

The best part: Katie just told me that there's a CrossFit workout called The Farmer's Walk, that's basically the same thing. You have to carry dumb-bells around the gym. I was thinking about signing up for CrossFit, but my life lately has been a series of interesting workouts. And it seems that no matter how far I get away from little ole Kerman, I'm still called a farmer.

September 27, 2008

Sure and Shir

"Suuuure." That doubtful delivery of the word 'sure'. When your cheapskate friend says they'll pay you back you think "Suuuure". When your "Always Late But Worth the Wait" bumper sticker friend promises to be on time..."Suuuure". When the lady at Trader Joe's says that Fat Free Half and Half tastes REALLY good...

The Mandarin word for "yes" is shir. Pronounced just like "sure". Often times it's used like we would use "yeah". For example, if someone gives you instructions or tells you facts, you'd say "shir" to confirm you understand.

To find a common word that means the SAME thing in both languages is exciting, but moving back to America it has made for some funny interactions.

For example:
When a homeowner is showing their home that's up for rent. They say, "The hardwood floors are in great shape, we've taken good care of them." "Shir/Suure". They side glance, Katie gives me a look, I'm confused. Ohhh, I sound like the skeptic tenant, doubting the hardwood floor maintenance.

When I'm interviewing for a job and I observe the very 'laid back' culture of the office. During the interview the interviewer says "And we pride ourselves on the work environment, everyone gets along really well here". "Shir/Sure". He responds, "Really, no one has a problem with anyone else". I nod, and realize I sound like the pessimistic new girl.

For the record, landlord with the Victorian home, your hardwood floors do look great, I agree.
And new employer, I'm excited about the work environment, I noticed the laid-back atmosphere when you weren't wearing shoes as I came in the front door. I can't wait to kick off my shoes and work really hard for you... really. Thanks for hiring me, despite what appeared to be a doubtful attitude.

September 8, 2008

Chew on this...

"Forgiveness flounders because I exclude my enemy from the community of humans and exclude myself from the community of sinners." -Miroslav Voth