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Sunday, May 20, 2012

How I Outsmarted My 14 Pound Dog (And Other Random Summer Musings)

I’m not quite sure where I want to take this blog. Writing is therapeutic and enjoyable for me, so I'm trying to get my feet wet in this whole blogging business. Some people blog about serious issues and perhaps that will happen here, but for now, I’m in summer mode. This is a space for random trains of thought to develop themselves, perhaps serious and worthwhile to read, but mostly random inklings that won’t change the world. The weeks are flying by, and I’m focused and busy and relaxed all at the same time. Commence random summer musings:

 That’s My Dog: Do you know my dog? If you don’t, here are the basics:
            Name: Mystic Miracle Hagen
            Breed: Norwich Terrier
            Age: 9. 
            Weight: 14 lbs.
This description may seem generic, but let me tell you, Mystic packs a punch. She’s got enough sass, feist, and stubbornness in those 14 pounds to get herself into big trouble. She's a ferocious squirrel hunter, a passionate barker, and still has the hops to get up onto my bed while I'm asleep in the morning. She’s a sucker for games of tug-o-war and loves a good belly rub. What she doesn't love: people hugging (unless she’s in the middle of the hug supervising).

I take her on walks every morning, like any good dog owner, but lately we've run into some difficulty. We’d be walking along and we'd get to this one house - she’d sniff like the important doggy detective she is, and refuse to leave the premise. She's practically pulling out her yellow doggy caution tape and investigating the scene. I’d try to pull her, but she just wouldn’t budge. Finally I really pulled her along, but after a few houses I was sick of pulling a dog that should’ve been prancing merrily along on her morning walk; so, I turned around and we went home. Repeat said process. Now, here was an opportunity for me, the true test of my character: am I smarter than a 14-pound dog? The answer: I hope so.

The next day, I was determined. We walked down Carnelian Circle towards the park only, being the sly individual that I am, I had us walk on the other side of the road, away from the sleuthing house. And you know what Mystic did? She just pranced along, like walking on the other side of the road was the best idea in the entire world! Either she’d solved the crime between her doggy naps, or she just sashayed right along, oblivious to the fact that I had outsmarted her. Emily: 1 Mystic: 0.

It’s been a while, EDH: It had clearly been a long time since I’d been home because I forgot which way to turn the mail key. I hopped across the street, the too-hot cement sending fast little messages to my receptor cells that I should have put on shoes, but I hadn’t, and I never do. The noonday sun is never forgiving and I always take the challenge. I turned the key and a second later realized it wouldn’t budge. Mystified, I checked to make sure I had the right box and yes, I’d been getting mail from this mailbox for 17 years and yes, we were always #2. But that little key still wouldn’t budge. Then I realized the very simple mistake and equally simple solution: I was turning the key to the right (like Westmont MS boxes) instead of to the left. A quick turn to the left and voila! Mail in hand and it was smooth sailing, followed by a quick dance over the cement and a hop onto my driveway, blessed relief for my feet. This act, as insignificant as it may have been, made me stop for more than a second. While I still call this place home, it is a different home, and I am a different Emily. Supposedly, our bodies replace themselves every seven years. We’re not the same people we were 7 years ago - literally. Weird, huh? My favorite color changes daily (true story), and so do I. The science tells me that I’m always becoming physically, and I’ve found I’m always becoming mentally and emotionally, as well.

Money Money Money: I found some rather bizarre things while tearing apart my room in my big summer clean. One of the craziest? Currency from 12 different countries shoved in a tiny planting pot in the back of a drawer I hadn't cleaned out since middle school. Yep, that’s 12 different types of money, folks! How did a middle school girl get currency from 12 different countries, you may ask? The answer: I have no clue. None. Zip. Zero. All I know is that I’m $14.18 US dollars, $4.93 Canadian dollars, 57 pence, 22.71 Singapore dollars, 50 cents Chucky Cheese money, 1 Euro 88, 6.5 Belgian francs, 2 marks, 20 centime, un peso, 10 f. Polynesie-Francaise, and 50 Italian lira richer. If the European Union decides to stop using the euro, I’m set. Otherwise…well, at least it was plenty of money to buy my Dad and I frozen yogurt. Add a Harry Potter movie to the equation and we were set for a quiet Friday night in.

Grill Master: During the summer, we grill like nobody’s business. Salmon, tri-tip, basically anything we can put on the grill, we do. This summer, my title is The Official Asparagus Griller. Add a little EVOO and pepper to a foil boat filled with asparagus, slap that puppy on the grill for 6 to 8 minutes, and I'm my own Rachel Ray. Summertime, keep the good food a comin’.

Blank Walls: I’m still deciding how to decorate, but for now blank blue walls are feeling real good. Clean, simple lines, nothing crazy. It’s a good reminder that plain and simple are just fine by me.

Happy parade: If I told you that coming home wasn’t a transition, I would be lying to you. It’s a big, big change going from communal dorm life to private family life. I love breakfasts in my pajamas, soft water, and cooking in a real kitchen, but I miss all of my Westmont friends and chapel. I really, really miss chapel. And sometimes, my mind starts to spin in unnatural figure eights. My mind forgets that it’s okay to have a bit of a hard time, to feel just a bit out of place, to struggle. It’s normal and it’s healthy.

I tend to forget that all of life is a growing process. Lucky for me, I feel the stretch of growth quite often, reminding me of this fact. And after I announce to myself that yes, coming home is a transition and yes, transitions take time, and yes, transitions are tough, this huge weight is lifted off my shoulders. The simple act of speaking those words, announcing, even if just to myself, that all of life is a balancing act, I snap out of a fog and into my own happy parade. I taste God’s grace on the roof of my mouth. And let me tell you, it tastes really, really good.

Weave in faith, and God will find the thread. Fun Fact: I’m 764 blessings in! I’m on a journey to count 1,000 blessings in my life – inspired by Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. It's an intimidating challenge, but it has 100% changed my outlook on a day. More to come about that journey. Thanks for sticking with me this long.

Here’s to another week of opportunities, gifts, and grilled asparagus. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Farmers' Market

Somewhere between the organic salt-cured lemons and the sugar snap peas, between the spicy garlic cheese and the sweet apple pie, my heart heals. It’s a weekly reminder, a small act, but it keeps me sane, makes me whole, and reminds me that God is very good.

In scientific words, the farmers market is a coping mechanism: a precaution against the competitive, perfect Westmont world. The farmers market allows me to step away from the bubble, showing me that there are still babies and awkward middle schoolers and lovely old grandparents in this world. The famers market represents all walks of life, from the millionaire Montecito residents to musicians to friends without homes. But no matter how different we are, we all show up at the same time, in the same place, to shop for fresh spinach and homemade trail mix and organic honey. The farmers market is a triple threat treat for my senses; it wakes me up, helps me see clearly, and breaks the fog of academia. I stop conceptualizing and analyzing and instead see real, ripe, red tomatoes and taste sweet summer peaches. Colors are brighter at the farmers market, and a train of adjectives chugs through my head, describing the colorful summer squash and ripe green avocados.

The farmers market is a reminder to thank my body, and think many, many nice thoughts about it, because all too often I am my own worst critic.

Going to the farmers market is a confession. It’s me admitting that the go-go-go pressures of Westmont are a little too much to handle every second of every day; it’s me admitting that I’m just not strong enough. The farmers market allows me to wander aimlessly among the bouquets of all white and bright pink flowers, among the lilies and spray roses, the dahlias and avocado wood. It’s the best of the best. I talk to Barry the grape man and buy plump, freshly-picked-that-very-morning red grapes. Every week I see the Solvang Pie Company, with their apple rum raisin streusel and strawberry rhubarb crumb pies, and (sometimes) work up the will power to not buy a $2 square. I see the almond butter and avocado blossom honey and imagine all of the wonderful salads I could make with the arugula and spinach and fresh cabbage, the still earthy carrots and golden dried raisins. Among the cherry tomatoes and dried white peaches and juicy limes, I lose track of my papers and readings and worries.

It was at the farmers market that I found out, after weeks of insecurity and worry, that my dad didn’t have cancer. It was at the farmers market where I would talk with my mom as she walked the dog or check in with friends back home. The farmers market has a spark, an earthy, meaningful charm. There's something about the farmers market that sticks, it sticks to my soul and stays there forever. I went to the farmers market every single Tuesday of sophomore year. That’s 30 farmers market trips, give or take. I will be abroad in the fall, and I will miss this. 

It had a quiet ending, this farmers market business, no fireworks or spectacular shebang, but it was perfect. Tuesday, May 1, 2012: I caught the 3:30 shuttle from Armington, on to pick up the freshman from upper campus, then down the bumpy hill, hitting the speed bumps a little too fast, zipping through Montecito, then along the ocean to State Street, always taking the extra 4 minute detour even when we didn't need to. I got all of the normal samples that final afternoon: smoked jack cheese, an apple pie square, plump golden raisins, half a mandarin. I bought my avocados and a pie square, enjoyed the music and the people, catching bits of conversations and smiling at babies and letting the freshness of the market soak deep into my skin. Then that familiar walk back to the shuttle stop, grabbing a youthberry tea sample from Tevana along the way, and it was over. That was that.

This is my thank you letter to the persimmons and red peppers, the fresh beets and garlic roasted peanuts of the State Street Tuesday afternoon farmers market, written in my very best, most beautiful handwriting. Thank you for helping me thrive this year. Thank you for the smells and tastes you so generously gave, for allowing me to walk out my stress and worries, my anxiety and doubt. Thank you that each week as I wandered between the stalls of eggplants and cauliflower and asparagus, my blindness was lifted, my papers and tests and stresses weighed out on the scale of life, until I was left with myself, my Yogurtland (which I realize is an oxymoron, frozen yogurt at a farmers market, but it’s just what I do), and my sanity. Thank you for reminding me what a joy and a privilege it is to fill my body with fresh, nourishing food. Thank you, farmers market, for binding me together each week, for giving me the ultimate pep talk. I am forever grateful.

Here's to those little blessings God puts into our lives and, if we let them in, the joy and healing that they bring.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blueberries, Dogs, Reorganization

I breathed a sigh of relief as we pulled into the driveway Sunday night: home. Home and it feels so good. Westmont was so, so good to me this year. I learned a lot, laughed a lot, was challenged a lot, and generally a lot just happened. I’m thankful for the growth and learning that happened there, and am equally excited for all that this summer has to offer.

I’m ready for a summer in the valley. I’m ready for hot summer days and the sound of the whole house fan at night. I’m ready for sweet strawberries and barbeques and Sunday mornings back at church. I’m ready to take the dog on long walks at dusk and listen to country music in my car and go to kickboxing classes at the gym. I’m ready for trips to Target and $5 movies. I’m ready to rest, take a step back, and enjoy these next few months before a whirlwind semester traveling to 11 different countries in Europe. I’m stoked, 2012 is turning out to be a crazy, wonderful year.

Some happenings since coming home:

Nesting: I decided that my room needed a little revamping. It’s been the same for a long time, so moving some furniture and changing up some decorations is giving me fresh perspective and motivation. I’ve been in the therapeutic deep cleaning mode these past few days and have made some surprising discoveries, including a bag of half a dozen toilet paper rolls from my TPing days and enough dust to make a hypoallergenic sneeze.

Reading for fun: What a concept! I’m already deep into a book, Learning to Swim by Sara Henry, and will soon supplement fun reading with summer school textbooks. Lets hope I’ll be as motivated to read textbooks as I am these fun books (a girl can dream, right?).

On our own: A few hours after my dad left for a business trip today, my mom and I encountered a little plumbing emergency involving lettuce and a temperamental garbage disposal. The situation got worse as the water level in several sinks rose and we were suddenly bombarded with calls from telemarketers. It was comical, but I must say, we handled it quite well. And by handling it well, I mean we erupted in fits of laughter and watched transfixed as the problem magically fixed itself. We decided the disposal just had a little hitch in its giddy-up.

Blonde moment of the week: Due to my great ability to accumulate belongings, we borrowed a car to move me out in. The symbols on the car’s clicker had worn off, so when my mom asked me if I thought the red button was the lock button, I of course answered yes. The lock button is always red, isn’t it? Well, as you might imagine, that was the panic button and the car alarm went off as I stood doubled over in laughter and my mom tried to turn it off. Priceless. Note to self: red button = panic.

Here's to the first week of a sweet, sweet summer.