January 23, 2006
Ah, downtown living. Tonight I went to a poetry slam at Voz Alta (10th and Broadway), and I absolutely loved it. There's something about spoken word, raw emotions, people alone on a stage talking about what matters most to them- that appeals to me. Gosh, I sound post-modern. The night started with the emcee talking about being an atheist. It seems he went to another poetry show dominated by Christians, and one said that they'd pray for him. He said some super hurt things that bore from deep scars, obviously beyond a "I'll pray for you". I think sometimes I get in this groove where I forget about what's around me, the culture, the hurt and I hum and pretend that everything's alright. But there's people just like this guy, with spiritual questions and longings raging inside of him so much that he needs to take 5 minutes of our time while he's on stage and rant. Rant, he did. I sat back in my chair, I wanted to be empathetic and just listen to his words, rathering than write him off. In the end, I heard one word loud and clear- EMPTINESS. I'll pray for him, but I'll never tell him I am.
I wrote down little excerpts from different people throughout the night (after each period is a different poet, and I put them together in order) Together they make an interesting piece...
Comfort is birth to complaceny. Started, continued, and finished this race. To make it out of here takes blood, sweat and mountains of stress. A closed mouth doesn't get food. Damaged goods, baggage, bondage- we just need to visit the laudromat. The lightswitch of one-night stands- I have one heart and you're not invited. Liquid truth spills through my heart and my pores. The sunset sky screams like a sore red tonsil. Happiness is a beautiful theif- it is the whole world agreeing on one thing- for the first time- knowing what's true and what's not. Can't escape this sense of matter. Overtime under the thumb of time- work is a foul and obscene gesture. But LOVE, there's a difference between a handshake and a hug- no one talks about love anymore.
The guy they wrote about love captivated the audience, and he won. He deserved to win, from what I gathered, he does all the time, all over the city. Instead of sitting back, I sat forward. He flowed, he paused, he gathered the crowd, and then brewed some more. If he was a cup of coffee, he'd be espresso roast, no cream, one packet of raw sugar. It seems that my first poetry slam has had a funny effect on me.
On a completely different topic, I had an interesting conversation with some girlfriends this weekend about prayer. We went to dinner together and whenever Christians dine, there's the look around the table to decide who will pray. Depending on the crowd, someone will either volunteer or get volunteered by another, which isn't a true volunteer at all. Usually, that person shoots up a prayer thanking God for the food before them and the classic "hands that prepared it". Then the person praying says Amen and the rest follow with a nod and Amen, which means 'to agree'. But do we? Are we really thankful for the food before us? Or would we trace our thankfulness to our 25 hr/week job that let's us afford the meal? Or, for some, the parents that transfer money into the bank account every month? And the 'hands that prepared it'? If this is true, America is grateful above all else, for the restrauant chefs across the country. Do they feel appreciated? Have we told the guy or girl walking through the restaurant with the tall white hat and white buttoned smock (it's hard to miss them) just how grateful we are? They should know if most Americans talk about it with God every night.
Without over-generalizing, I would say that the average American doesn't pray regularly outside of 'grace'. I was raised with 'grace' and it was a memorized, rhythmic, recitation that we had to say before our fork was raised from the napkin. "Bless us, oh Lord, for these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ, our Lord. (Pause, long breath. Break into the AA prayer, because my grandfather was a recovered alcoholic) God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen." I said that same prayer for 19 years, every night with my family and I never thought about it. Even before I was a Christian, and prayed before 5pm with my hand on a fork, I loved when I went to a friends house and it was freestyle. There was something relational about it that made me wonder if God was relational.. and maybe, just maybe he was sick of me saying the same thing every night. Maybe he wanted me to just talk to him?
So this group of young ladies (cori, jen, misty and i) wondered aloud about prayer. We asked 'would it be unbiblical to pray after a meal? Could we pray once for all the meals for the rest of our lives, and then spend the rest of our life praying for something else? Would that be ok with an eternal God? Could we just, right then, pray for all the dinners until we're 87 (for some reason that's always the old age I pick for myself)? We drifted off the subject and began talking about other things. Jen talked about India and the poverty there, Cori talked about ministry around the world, Misty talked about Australia and encouraged me with China teaching. We talked about my father and his accumulation of possessions, only to leave a will to pass them on- and how we wanted to spend our lives. I love that we're so idealistic when we're together. At the end of all that, I suggested that instead of praying nightly for the actual food before dinner, we pray for a nation. There are children in Uganda captured in the middle of the night by militants and brainwashed for guerilla warfare... and I'm praying to Jesus that I'm so thankful for my Mexican food? There's teenagers in New Zealand with the highest suicide rate in the world because they have no hope. There's people in China that have never once heard the name of Jesus. Our hope in this idea was not that it would be an appetite-loser, but instead bring a broader worldview and, indeed a true petition and voice of thankfulness. If there comes a day when I can honestly say that I'm thankful for the food before me and the hands that prepared it, then I'll pray that. But I don't want to pray and talk to the Creator of the Universe and say 'Thanks for the spaghetti' when I don't really mean it. I prayed for Cambodia tonight.
January 18, 2006
Today was my last first day of college..maybe ever. I was, naturally 15 minutes late to my first class. I fully lied on the way to school. I rarely lie, I exaggerate (not intentionally, but because my memory always has the fish a few inches longer). I thought about my exaggerative memory a lot today, because my mom always says after I finish a childhood story, "Oh Alli, it wasn't that good." For example, I believed in Santa a little too long because my pre-school, Peace Lutheran, played a fun trick on a group of 4 year olds containing me. They played Christmas carols and then had some adults on the roof pounding their feet (my teacher said it was reindeer),followed by a classic Santa "ho ho ho" and more pounding feet, and finally my teacher flinging open the door and having presents for us. My memory- I saw Santa that day.. really I did.
So.. about today..I hate lying. It's not a practice I partake in- to be honest, I'm really bad at it. Today on the trolley, I got carded for a trolley pass and I showed last semester's and the trolley cop (whose only armor includes a walkie-talkie to call the real police) got really upset. I don't think I was the first person that day to pull the trick. So he demanded to know why I hadn't bought a regular pass. I explained that I was on my way to school to buy this semester's. Seemed valid to me. He looked at me and grabbed the only other thing on his belt armor, a ticket booklet. Now, this fine is not some lame $15 deal, I've heard from a couple people that MTS fines are over $100. I blurted out, "I was told it was alright." He squinted with his gray-haired eyebrows, and asked (as if we were in an interrogation), "Who said that?" At this point, I'm committed to the lie. I need to run with confidence in the direction of total dishonesty or take the big ticket. I thought to myself, "I have books to buy!" I said, "An officer at Old Town."
I'm shaking, it so obvious that I'm not good at this and that no officer told me a single thing. He wants a description- what color hair, race, pant color, age... he's now just toying with me. I looked up for answers, but instead I just wanted to admit that I'm a sinner. The guy across the way had gray hair, Hispanic, brown pants, and middle aged. That's my answer. I HATED the way I felt. This man had something to prove, so he takes his talkie and radios Old Town, gives the description, waits for response, etc. This bought me some time, and got me closer to SDSU. He came back to me after a bunch of "10-4"s and said, "I think you're lying." I said, "I have $2.25 here in my purse, I'm getting off at the next stop and I'll pay". The next stop was SDSU, he agreed saying that he'd radio (shock!) the Security Office and he wanted me to buy a pass and then show it to the office. I nodded. I got off and did as he said, but the Security Office was completely empty, so I waved it at some glass and got to class late. The $100 dollar ticket would have taught me a lesson, I think this was more humorous than anything else. I woke up at 6am and it's 11:15pm right now, so much has happened today in 17 hours. Legit, fun, exciting things that are newsworthy...and I chose to write about a lie?
January 13, 2006
"Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing. As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips.
Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in PLEASANT places; surely I have a delightful INHERITANCE. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore, my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."
January 12, 2006
Yesterday I got some really ugly news...ugly is the best word I can come up with. I was emotionally hurt by someone that I barely knew, my father. I was pretty upset for a couple hours, my boss at Aveda sent me home early. I called my mom on the trolley home and she offered some pretty solid advice, but it didn't feel sufficient. I called Cynthia and she spoke a ton of truth into my life, reminding me about my character and what defines me. Good friends here in San Diego came along side me and hung out. Their presence was so nice, but I knew that the only thing that would help in how I felt- was to pray, to give it up.
Around 11pm last night I got home from a long walk with a friend, he went with me to throw a 'forgiveness letter' into the San Diego Bay. I laid down on my bed and didn't think, I just stared at the ceiling. I had that restless exhaustion of emotions, where all you want to do is fall asleep, but you can't. Then I prayed. I prayed about the way I felt, about how my future could be affected if I didn't let it go, about forgiveness, and about ultimately who I am.
I woke up this morning totally refreshed. I went to the gym and ran 3+ miles (I'm starting small and training for a marathon in June). I read a chapter of Revelation, showered and got ready for work, only to realize I'm not supposed to be in until 2pm today. I feel great and I realized that if I truly believe that the sick can be healed, the blind can see and the lame can walk, then I can also believe that I can make it out of some ugly news. I don't need to dwell on my father anymore, I have a lot to look forward to.
January 11, 2006
Four months ago (to the day actually) I got the news that my dad died. My mom called as I walked out of work. I never got a call or any information from anyone else. Although, I knew it was real, tonight I finally found an obituary online. I was cleaning out a box the other night and found a letter from him, talking about his travels flying his Lear... and I decided to follow-up a little more. I asked my mom for more information tonight which helped to narrow the search. And a couple minutes ago, I found this. Seeing the news in writing makes it so much more real for some reason, like the scab was reopened. I'm not listed as a survivor, maybe not of his memory, I don't remember all that much.
Ricks, Robert Richard, 63, formerly of Fort Lauderdale, passed away peacefully Thursday, September 8, 2005, at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne. Born in Francesville, IN, he was retired as a highly regarded corporate Learjet pilot. He was formerly the Director of Aviation at Vincennes University in Vincennes, IN. Survivors include his companion of 30 years, Diane Barthel of Mims; one daughter and her husband, Marcie and Christopher Spurgeon of Vincennes; grandchildren, Luke and Emma Spurgeon of Vincennes; stepmother, Bonnie Ricks of Francesville; one sister and her husband, Judy Fairchild-Roberts and Stan of Holland, IN; three brothers, Mike Ricks of Francesville; Mark Kuntz of Fort Lauderdale and Marty Kuntz of Waterveliet, MI; and one sister, Lana Kuntz of Berrien Springs, MI. He was preceded in death by his parents and one sister. No service will be held. NORTH BREVARD FUNERAL HOME in Titusville handled the arrangements.
Published in the Sun-Sentinel on 9/13/2005.
January 9, 2006
I will graduate from SDSU next semester, so naturally I'm bombarded with the same question over and over again, "What are you going to do now?" It's a natural question to ask, I know I've asked it before. I went home for Christmas with family and childhood friends asking and this is what I said- "I'm moving to China." The comical thing is that I got the same response everytime- the chin is pulled in, eyebrows transformed from nice arches to scrunched lines on their face, followed by the drawn out, "Whhhhhyyy?" Do I have friends I'm going with? No. Do I speak Mandarin? Not now, but I'm going to be tutored. Now make your face look normal, I'll be alright.
I'll be teaching University English for 10 months. I'm excited about the adventure of the unknown, the thought of teaching 200+ students English and having American teammates to share life with. I leave in late August for Beijing.
Speaking of sharing life in a deeper sense, my best friend is getting married in September. Cynthia Querin will soon be Cynthia Reynoso and I couldn't be happier for her! Our conversations have changed from funny work stories, embarrassing moments, and daily happenings...to wedding dress shopping decisions. I'm a bridesmaid that will be in China in September, so I'm working on the flying back for the wedding portion. I hope it works out- this is going to be one amazing wedding.
January 7, 2006
When I moved to San Diego in late 2002, the freshman dorms were full. Where does a freshman that knows no one live? I was willing to move in with complete strangers, but then another offer came from my friend, Anya. She had a cousin that lived in Vista (40ish miles north of SDSU) that had a spare bedroom that she'd rent to me. So as a freshman I commuted to school and lived with Denise (a newly single mom) and her two little girls Kaitlyn 2 and Emyle 5. I was only supposed to live in Vista for a few months, but we got along so well, that I spent my entire freshman year there. The girls could not be more different in terms of personality- Kaitlyn is fierce, bold, and hilarious. Emyle is graceful, gentle, and thoughtful. I was there for Kaitlyn's first words and Emyle's first dance recital. When I finally did move down to San Diego into an apartment of 4 college girls, I missed my Vista family. It felt like moving to college all over again. Denise and I kept in touch- she'd check up on me and 'get the scoop' about my personal life.. offering advice and funny anecdotes of the recent happenings in Kaitlyn's and Emyle's activities. I'd drive up to their house often for a homecooked meal and a reality check; bringing friends with me to share the fun. My friend Josh came with me one time a couple years ago and has been coming ever since. They love him.
So last night Josh and I went up to Vista again. I haven't been able to visit often because I'm without a car this semester. We walked into the biggest welcome, attacked with hugs and a revolving presentation of new toys that we could play with. Josh immediately grabbed a play phone and pretended to call Emyle's boyfriend, JJ. She laid on the couch, blushing with a face over her pillow- oh, 8 year old love. We had dinner, played Disney's 'Scene It' (streaming tears of laughter throughout the night), and left pretty late.
I realized on the drive home last night how grateful I am in that whole situation. When I found out the dorms were full, I was devastated. I didn't know how the situation could be positive- but I couldn't be more excited to watch these two girls grow up.
January 4, 2006
It's the halftime show of the Rose Bowl and I thought I'd take this opportunity to write out and admit how much of a hypocrite I am. First let me say that at this juncture, Texas is up and performing wonderfully. James owes me a chai if Texas beats USC.. I'm betraying my state and "the Longhorns are going down".. we'll see.
Today I left pretty late for work and when I was a block away from the trolley stop, I saw it pull up. They only sit at the stop for about a minute and I've learned my lesson since my slide and fall a couple days ago. The trolley comes every 15 minutes so I knew I'd have some time sitting on the shaded bench so I pulled my new book, 'The Ragamuffin Gospel' out of my purse. At Aveda I have to dress up for work which strongly contrasts with those that hang around trolley stops, sitting and waiting there I usually get a lot of questions. I had the couple from Kansas asking for directions, the old man who smelled so heaviliy of urine saying 'Good morning, young lady!' and looking at my new heels and finally the middle-aged man that proved I'm a hypocrite just like everyone else.
As I focused on the pages of my new book, I could feel someone looking at me. I kept reading about grace and our depraved state, as someone stood to my left just staring. I wasn't in danger, I didn't feel threatened, I just didn't want to be bothered. He asked, "How long does chicken last without being refridgerated? A couple hours? Or do you think it needs to be refridgerated right away? I know people that leave roast beef out all night." I said, "Hmm.. I don't know exactly, but I think it should be alright for a couple hours." My face went down into my book immediately. "Well, because I don't have a 'fridge. I bet you don't need to know that because you have one. You don't need to wonder how long chicken can stay out. I bet you don't cook that much. I bet you're busy all the time." I looked down at my book, and glared at what I had just read,
"Here is revelation bright as the evening star: Jesus comes for sinners, for those as outcast as tax collectors (referring to Matthew 9:9-13) and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams. He comes for corporate executives, STREET PEOPLE, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used-car salesmen. JESUS NOT ONLY TALKS WITH THESE PEOPLE BUT DINES WITH THEM.... We think salvation belongs to the proper and pious, to those who stand at a safe distance from the back alleys of existence, clucking their judgements at those who have been soiled by life." (ch. 1)
I looked back up and realized that I underlined that excerpt agreeing and not believing I was guilty.. but I most definitely was. When I looked back up I didn't need to say a word, that fact that I was making eye contact was enough for him to continue. He talked about being homeless, and how he's lived on the streets for the last 10 years, and that he thinks he'll find work because the police keep harassing him for begging. RIght now he does Labor Ready construction under the table 5-6 times a month to buy trolley passes and some food, and begs for the rest. He told me that he had nothing to do today so he thought he'd ride the trolley route all day and get off to walk around when he felt like it. I just nodded.
The last thing he said, was a perfect parable. This middle aged homeless guy said, "You know when you have something safe in your pocket, like money or something and you know it's there, but you just can't find it? I mean, you know you have it.. that's it's yours and was in your pocket just a minute ago.. you're sure of it.. and then it's gone and you don't know where it went? I hate when that happens." I knew exactly what he was talking about- where the heck was my grace? I knew it was there, I just couldn't find it.
January 2, 2006
In my condo there is a super fast elevator. Before I even moved in this summer, my friend Becky and I rode it for the first time. It takes you from the first floor to the eleventh in less than a minute (although I've never timed it.) That feeling of moving upward so fast is hard to describe, but as the elevator door opened on the eleventh floor Becky exclaimed, "That felt like falling in love!". I've never been in love before, but I trust Becky. Some background on Becky Stout- everything is tons more fun around her. I strongly dislike moping and doing dishes, but I wouldn't mind doing them with Becky. She's a dance and Spanish major, studying abroad this year in Spain. She said the love comment because this summer she had a giant crush on her San Diego salsa instructor. Typing about her right now makes me miss her dearly. We've been to New York, Boston, Maine, and Mexico together. We both love theatre and singing aloud to Mariah Carey... which got me thinking... although I've never been in love, there are things and people I love. I'm going to start a running list of things that I love..
1. Sitting on my balcony with coffee super early in the morning
2. Watching rain fall
3. My study snack: gummy bears and sparkling cider
4. When the Padres beat the Giants and Jordan Harris avoids my victory phone call
5. Kettner Nights, the Little Italy art galleries stay open and the artists come to talk about their art. I love going with Lisa.
6. Thursday morning coffee at It's a Grind with Lisa- where no subject is off limits.
7. Riding my yellow beach cruiser
8. When my grandmother, trying to get your attention, says everyone else's name before finally arriving at yours with a sigh and a grin.
10. When Cynthia and I laugh so hard that tears well up, eyes are squinted, body is bent and shaking, and all is silent and finally the 'ugly laugh' emerges, which just sends us into more laughter
11. Down comforters
I started this blog as a New Year's resolution to journal my thoughts/reflections more often... here it goes..
Tonight I was on the trolley home from work. I was tired and when I get tired, I think about the most obscure things. Tonight I realized that I feel like I'm in a music video when I'm riding home, I have my iPod in my ears, my elbow on the window, and I find myself staring out the window at the San Diego coast. Lights blur as the train speeds up, the music is familiar and I relax for my 20 minute ride. It's all very poetic until I get interrupted. Interruptions are a common occurence because the downtown trolley is full of homeless people- and homeless people, I've come to find are very lonely. Normally I don't mind interruptions, I can enjoy a fun conversation with a complete stranger, but I find myself being selfish for my 'music video moment'.
A young homeless man saw me take a drink of my bottled water and tapped me on the shoulder. I took out my headphones and made eye contact. With a near-toothless grin he asked if he could buy my 2/3 empty water. No one is going to barter a 1/3 bottle of water and name a price.. of course I handed him the bottle. He grinned and said 'Thank You'. Immediately he finished off the bottle, put his feet on the seat and fell asleep. He held the bottle tightly like a greedy man would hold a bar of gold. What would it be like to get to that point that you ask for a used bottle of water?
Now that I live in downtown San Diego, I'm faced with the realization of poverty more often. This morning as I ran to the Little Italy trolley stop in the rain, I slipped on and did an ever-so-graceful slide followed by a full fall on the sidewalk. It's in those situations that you have to laugh at yourself. I pictured my mother at my side with one arm in the air, shaking her head, and exclaiming, "Seven yeeeeeaaaaars of balllllllet!" (Yes, I was in ballet from the ages of 5-12, performed in the Nutcracker every year and it did nothing for my posture or grace. Ballet's expensive and I feel bad that she spent so much money for 7 years with no improvement. I try to sit up straight around her and walk like a ballerina, but this is unnatural and awkward for me, so I trip more often in her presence and she always catches the slouched shoulders. Every single time, without fail, she says, "Seven years of ballet!" with a long dramatic announcer voice. It's funny to behold.) When I passed that same spot of my fall, I was prepared to chuckle at myself, but instead a young homeless woman lay asleep in the same spot, under a wet awning in the rain. That's not funny, so I didn't laugh.
I feel like I'm coming across that I'm inconvienced by my homeless neighbors- like they took away my 'moment' or my 'laugh'. That's not it at all. What I struggle with is how I'm supposed to respond to their need. It's complicated because I walk through the streets alone at night and my interaction is sometimes daily. Maybe I'll find out their shelter/soup kitchen schedule and help out that way?