Tuesday, November 30, 2004

cramming thoughts, spacing out plans

tuesday evening, 6:53 p.m.

there are quite a few things on my mind tonight. the thrill of recognizing the criticality (or criticalness, i just like the way criticality sounds even if it isn't a word) of an old friendship and how it got me to where i am, the joy of being busy at my job and feeling like i'm really earning my paycheck, the frustration of relationship tension, the consideration of what exactly 2 weeks of vacation back home is going to look like ... and then little things like, if you did put a mirror over your TV, what would your reflection look like while you were watching that little box? or, is anyone else realizing that the new U2 cd is just not that outstanding? and, why do i still have these really oddly timed desires to break out in an angry-with-the-world-but-loving-all-the-people ani/avril song? i thought that was just a high school phase ...

anyhow, my mind is full of way too many things. i tried to digest them all in my journal last night, but that just kept me up late. so late that my tall latte didn't do a thing to wake me up this morning. my colleague said today that it's considered relatively healthy to drink up to 16 ounces of caffeine every day. i figure i'm at about that. so i should be healthy. and i figure, i walk to the bus and home from the el every day and that's got to be about 30 minutes of exercise. and just because my dinner consisted of pita bread and hummus, chicken fingers with mustard and a piece of pumpkin pie, well ... i've covered the bread and beans food group, the vegetables, and fruit? hmm, if mustard comes from a seed, and fruits often have seeds, then that should count, right? as far as dairy goes, i'm lactose intolerant, so i'm forgiven on that account.

lame blog, i know. i had all these great intentions. ugh, i feel like that's so much my life. so many great intentions and such little follow-through. man, i'd probably make a really bad president. okay, so i'll scratch that off my list of "things to do before 40." all that's left, then, is to serve on a school board and to walk/bike across the states. not bad. 2 goals? i've got 16 years.

maybe we should start placing bets now ...

Saturday, November 27, 2004

at the crossroads

saturday evening, 6:39 p.m.

i am sitting at the computer dressed up for a night out at my friend sarah's house. i don't particularly want to be dressed up nor am i thrilled with the prospect of setting foot outside my own comfy house. but i love sarah and abby and courtney, so if tonight is the night we all get together, so be it.

this weekend has gone too quickly. we've had friends over every night since tuesday. wednesday, i finally watched "casablanca" (two thumbs up! really, i'm impressed with how much i enjoyed that classic), cooked my first turkey (a 19-pounder at that!), hosted my first thanksgiving away from home, threw two parties for work, and spent the better part of today reading my new anne lamott book, "blue shoe."

yesterday, in between the lunchtime pizza party and the evening holiday party, i found myself at home - alone - for the first time in maybe three weeks. i almost didn't know what to do with myself. so i cried. that always feels cathartic and good, no matter what the situation. i listened to jeff buckley's "satisfied mind" on repeat for over an hour and attempted to determine if what i have is a satisfied mind, or a contented heart, or plain old hopelessness, or pure joy. they all intersect at some point, i think, and i'm there at the crossroads. but can you pick just one way to go?

it's a question i can't delve into tonight. after dinner, abby, courtney and i are to head over to tyler's house for a little soiree. and while pajamas and chinese take-out and black-and-white classics may be calling my name, i've stood on my "intentional-community-focus" soap box long enough where i'm now actually required to follow through. why is it such a battle to go when i know i'm always glad after the fact?

ugh. here goes nothing ...

Saturday, November 20, 2004

"well, i believe that the children are our future ..."

this morning, i am in the office, having just registered the last Model U.N. participant in the Pit downstairs. that's one of the best things about working here - spending time with these kids. i walked in this morning to the loggia where all the chairs were meeting to discuss this first ever Latin School Model United Nations and received a very warm welcome.

one of our '03 alums stood up to greet me. "sean, how are you?!" i asked, hugging him. "you look great!" "hi," he said, blushing a bit, "you look good, too." what's nice about that comment coming from a 18-year-old boy is that it's in no way about how i really look; it's about learning to use these words and phrases adults use. had i told him he "looked good" last year, i feel an awkward exchange would have followed. but there's something about coming back home, coming back to the place where you were known, and being told, "wow, you've only gotten better!" that alleviates any of the anxiety you were nursing at the prospect of going home. i love him very sweetly.

ruthie, an exuberant and affectionate sophomore, ran up to hug me and tell me how much she loves me. ruthie is like this. i know she throws the word around with everyone, and i know her peers often feel overwhelmed by her clingy, bubbly nature, but how many people do you know who are willing to say they love someone? how many people do you know who hug, hug, hug? whether or not she notices anyone's annoyance with her, i'm glad she presses on. she reminds me of will ferrell in "elf." she just wants love. and you've got to love her for that.

miles, a rascally junior who got into trouble more often than once on the trip to england i had an opportunity to chaperone last year, has matured ... well, a bit, since then. miles has a hard time sitting still, runs off at the mouth too much, isn't innately gentle or kind or considerate, and honestly, possesses few of the qualities i'd ever want in a son. BUT miles isn't done yet. he's gonna be something. he's gonna be one of those boys who surprises you at your 20-year-reunion, who has mellowed in his manner, but whose zest, whose passions haven't yielded any of their drive. he may be an awkward looking kid now, but you can start to see glimpses of this manly face, this strong jaw, this wide smile, these glimmering eyes. you wait, i guarantee miles will be a name you'll someday recognize.

and there's julia, a junior who i see a little of my high school self in. seemingly quiet and polite and focused, she could possibly go unnoticed, except that when she lets you in to her own world, she's breathtaking. such poise, such grace, such wild love of life. high school won't be her time to shine, no. god's just working on her till she's ready.

richie, the younger sophomore brother of one of my favorite '03 alums, robbie, has an attitude. he's starting to realize that he's gonna be the real good-looking brother, the one who can have his pick of any of the girls, the one who's gonna go to the best schools because he's worked hard to earn it. i like richie. i wouldn't have liked him in HS, but when you grow up, you realize HS boys really never knew anything. they were just figuring life out for themselves, too. richie's gonna be a fun one to watch grow up.

finally, there's geli, pronounced "HELL-y," short for angelica. geli is a sophomore, a beautiful latina, short in stature, smart and determined and kind and curious and interested and thoughtful. though ruthie spearheaded this first-ever LSMUN, geli was the one to put it all together when ruthie got too busy. and still, geli gives all credit to ruthie. have you ever seen such humility in a 15-year-old? she's the kind of person who inspires you to make the world a better place. her kind of character, her attitude MUST be met with only the best. she deserves it.

well, it's 11:00 a.m. and i'm off to sprint to search for a new phone. i kind of wish i didn't have to go. i kind of wish we were at a boarding school and i could hang out with these kids forever. i can't wait till they're in charge of the world. they're gonna make it good.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

guide my sleigh

after brenda left this evening post-dinner, i was cleaning up and listening to the NOW that's what i call christmas music cd, and burl ives came on singing "rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer." what a pretty amazing reindeer. really, all his peers, all their parents, everyone humiliates him, outcasts him for his unusually bright nose and then in time of trouble ...

"santa came to say, 'rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight?
then all the reindeer loved him, as they shouted out with glee, 'rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, you'll go down in history!'"

i mean, the same people who shunned him are now singing his praises. and he's OKAY with that (i know, because i've seen the claymation story a hundred times, and rudolph is always really excited that these jerky reindeer are proud of him). really, c'mon. i definitely do not have rudolph's attitude. i'm glad we have a song about him. i'll sing it with more meaning next time ...

on another note, it's been fun to read my friends' blogs lately. both allan and paul wrote about dating recently, and it's hilarious to see the kind of reaction those topics get. people have all sorts of opinions (including yours truly) and it's neat to see the expression of those. cool, guys. good job.

and one more thing before erin and i hit the pavement for a little walk in this mid-november 60 degree warmth ... talking with brenda and erin tonight was wonderful. because i'm more convinced than ever that this community thing erin and i have been talking about is really gonna come to pass. instead of feeling like i have no clue why i'm here, it pushes me to believe that in the tiniest of ways, my time in chicago is gonna be of even a little significance. cool.

shoot, one more - and i promise this is the last - mark your calendars and save the date. the bosworth ladies will be hosting a holiday party on saturday, january 22. out of town? just give us a heads up, and we'll make you right at home for the weekend. can't wait.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

coffee and sugar and ice cream and cookies

a coffee and sugar overdose this weekend has driven me to drink ... soy chai. yum. and deceivingly healthy, too!

the weekend was incredible. friday night, laura, erin and jen came in from wisconsin. kat and i caught up with them over thai take-out and, later, beers at the hopleaf. it had been too long since we'd all been together last, so just knowing i'd have them for three days was a pleasing thought. late that night, erin's three friends - heath, matthew and jared - came in from ohio. nine of us in one house. it makes me really want to adopt a dozen kids someday. so many people in one small space makes a house really seem like a home. i love it.

anyhow, saturday we woke up slowly and left the house around noon to take the el down to chinatown. joy yee's - chinatown's best pan-asian offering - hosted the nine of us for a lunchtime smorgasbord. i liked everyone being together, learning about each other, sharing stories and jokes. i felt SO comfortable all weekend, never like i needed to bridge gaps between folks or pull teeth to get someone to talk. to have 9 skilled conversationalists - or what's more, 9 ready lovers (and by that, i mean, open-hearted, no-pretense, it's-just-me-and-you-and-you're-at-home-here people) - all together seems a rarity and an extra special blessing.

so we took the el back up north to millennium park and played outside in the late autumn warmth, enjoying the open spaces of the park, the "bean," the pseudo-maze of trees and the bridge/slide (see http://elknowles.fotopages.com for pics). we were in no rush to be anywhere yet, so we walked down michigan to the john hancock, rode the ear-popping elevator to the 96th floor, and checked out the view from the top. beautiful.

erin and co had a concert to check out (www.inmuseworld.net) at 7 p.m., so my girls and i parted with the others and went to my favorite spanish restaurant for dinner. sangria and tapas consumed, we returned to wrigleyville with designs on meeting the others at guthrie's tavern for drinks and games.

halfway there, erin and i touched base via phone about a coffee vs. beer preference which re-routed us back home. it couldn't have been better.

now down to eight (jen - you were missed!), we poured coffee with cream - bailey's or coffeemate, to each his own - and pulled out cranium. i love board games. i wish i played them more often. and even though laura and i should have won (i'm sorry, but WHO can hum bob seeger's "old time rock 'n roll"?), heath and jared fairly and graciously emerged victorious.

sunday afternoon, laura and erin took their leave of me. i know i'll see them again soon. i love every moment with them, love seeing who they've become, who they want to be, how their desires have changed - all that. they're incredible women. i am glad they still like me after all these years. i really am.

kat and i enjoyed a few hours of quiet that afternoon, giving me a chance to write notes to friends - some joyful, some heartbreaking, but all with love. i wish handwritten letters would come back in style. i'm gonna add that to my list of new year's resolutions. i don't care if it's 2 sentences or 5 pages or just a little something wrapped up in a ups package. it says "i love you" all over it. and more people need to hear that. need to hold onto it. need to see it addressed to them.

erin and the boys returned that evening and seamlessly joined our quiet evening. reading, listening to music, drawing, you name it. those boys - jared, matthew, heath - there are few in the world like them. please understand how i intend this - i fell in love with all three of them. it's like snuggles the teddy bear landing on a soft pile of freshly cleaned laundry, like falling into a warm place, and their spirits wrap arms around you, and you feel ... you feel content. boys, you're welcome at our home anytime.

we watched a "b" movie that night - the new stepford wives - and were more than happy when it ended. but the night was not a disappointment at all. much to my delight, we played "catch phrase" till 1 a.m. (and not because i begged, but because someone suggested it! ah, what rapture!) i'd gladly do it again any night of the week.

this is a bits and pieces blog, sure. but those bits and pieces made up one yet another memorable weekend. god, i am lucky.

Monday, November 15, 2004

phlegm interrupts a hearty laugh

my roommate said she's been having a hard time blogging lately. me, too. i'll stare at my fingers on the keyboard, waiting for them to punch out something really beautiful, but they just feel heavy. heavy and dumb.

and then my mind lingers and i wonder if my fingers are fatter than they once were, or how many more years i have before my veins bulge beneath the skin on my hands to tell me just how old i've gotten while i've been staring at my fingers, waiting for them to write something beautiful.

it's hard to believe i'm 24, still a kid and yet so much a grown up. i still plant my feet up on the chair, squatting in front of the computer, my chest against my knees to stay warm. but the things i write about - or wish i had the guts to write about - aren't easy anymore. it's like milk. there you are, after a long day, enjoying some chocolatey oreos and a tall glass of milk. and it's delicious. you and your friends are there around the table, talking and eating. all the cookies are finished and the last of the milk is downed. you're still at the table, talking and laughing, when you notice that you've got something in your throat. you try to clear it inconspicuously, making little cough noises when the conversation gets loud. you think you've taken care of it and embrace the liveliness of the conversation, allowing yourself a full belly laugh, which then loosens up the rest of the nasty phlegm and turns your chuckle into an awkward choking fit.

right, all i'm saying is that sometimes when you least expect it, some nasty stuff works its way into your day-to-day merriment. but that's not all i'm saying ...

if you suffer from any kind of lactose intolerance, you know that once you're in the clear, you're quite thankful to enjoy the mundane. even if apple juice and graham crackers don't look as enticing as milk and oreos, you begin to warm up to the idea. and, unsure if graham crackers could even compete in the same ballpark with oreos, you taste a little bit and mmm, yes, taste that hint of honey in those graham crackers. and, mmm, you savor the sweetness. you tilt your apple juice glass back, and oh, how quickly the memories of apple-picking in the sunshine on beautiful autumn weekends return to you.

(here's when my audience comes to mind. i know i'm a little "my cup runneth over" but i don't mean to isolate my glass half-empty readers. certainly, there's a cheerleader inside of me, turning cartwheels in my heart the way i only wish my legs and hands would have done themselves in 2nd grade when my ballet counterparts were showing off on the mats, but there's a realist in me like you, too. please understand that there are probably 32 flavors of me - just like you - but i like this scoop the best.)

anyway, not really much else to say. i'll get around to writing about my weekend one of these days soon. it was wonderful. like apple juice and graham crackers. or, if lactose intolerance isn't an issue for you, like a tall glass of milk and a fresh plate of oreos.

Friday, November 12, 2004

i can

i've been thinking a lot about public transportation. i don't have a bike in the city and i don't think i'd dare ride it anywhere near these crazy chicago drivers. but i've got two working legs. so i walk as far my legs will take me and then hop on p.t.

this morning, i was almost skipping to work. i think my energy is being renewed. ah, so good. listening to india.arie this morning made me feel alive. and slipping my sockless feet into comfy clogs made me feel alive. and walking outside into the brisk, beautiful autumn air made me feel alive.

see, i've been questioning some big things lately. and it's been suprisingly scary. but for as big as i feel these things are, my mind has been faithfully drawn to take joy in very small things. which i realize are very big things in and of themselves. like working limbs. what an unbelievable blessing! if god's given me no other gifts besides working limbs, man, that's awesome. i've got them to use. i can walk through the city and enjoy god. i can shake somebody's hand and make a friend. i can write letters to friends i love dearly. i can climb a mountain, climb a hill. i can sit cross-legged on the floor. i can flail my arms about when i dance (hmm, i can and i DO).

i know death is inevitable, right. but at 8:06 a.m. this morning, i'm alive. and enjoying it.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

satisfied mind

still trying to find my own words ... in the meantime, thank God for song lyrics.

satisfied mind - jeff buckley

how many times have you heard someone say

if i had his money, i would do things my way
but little they know, that it's so hard to find
one rich man in ten with a satisfied mind

money can't buy back your youth when you're old
friend when you're lonely, oh peace to your soul
the wealthiest person is a pauper at times
compared to the man with a satisfied mind

my life is over and my time has run out
my friends and my loved ones, i'll leave those no doubt
one thing's for certain, when it comes my time
i'll leave this old world with a satisfied mind
i'll leave this old world with a satisfied mind

my life is over and my time has run out

my friends and my loved ones, i'll leave those no doubt
but one thing's for certain, when it comes my time
i'll leave this old world with a satisfied mind
one thing's for certain, when it comes my time
i'll leave this old world with a satisfied mind

Monday, November 08, 2004

Kevin John Kendall

"Kevin J. Kendall, Appleton, age 23, died early Saturday morning, November 6, 2004, as a result of an automobile accident in northern Langlade County."

When I first read Kevin's obit, I stopped at the word "died." I spent forever at that word. I still have a hard time letting that verb follow Kevin's name.

I won't write much about this because I - like many others - am unsure what to say and what not to say. For his full obituary, visit my friend Paul's blog at www.marcoe.net.

One more thing - the last time I heard from Kevin was when he sent me the Anne Lamott book, Traveling Mercies, about three weeks ago. When I heard from Allison that he had died, a story Anne told about the death of her friend, Pammy, came immediately to mind:

"I tossed a handful of Pammy's ashes into the water way out past the Golden Gate bridge during the day, with her husband and family, when I had been sober several years. And this time I was able to see, because it was daytime and I was sober, the deeply contradictory nature of ashes - that they are both so heavy and so light. They stick to things, to your fingers, your sweater ... We tried to strew them off the side of the boat romantically, with seals barking from the rocks on shore, under a true-blue sky, but they would not cooperate. They rarely will. It's frustrating if you are hoping to have a happy ending, or at least a little closure, a movie moment when you toss them into the air and they flutter and disperse. They don't. They cling, they haunt. They get in your hair, in your eyes, in your clothes ....

"More than anything else on earth, I do not want [my son] Sam to ever blow away, but you know what? He will. His ashes will stick to the fingers of someone who loves him. Maybe his ashes will blow that person into a place where things do not come out right, where things cannot be boxed up or spackled back together but where somehow he or she can see, with whatever joy can be mustered, the four or five leaves on the formerly barren tree."

Thank you, Kevin, for letting your ashes stick to me. I love you.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

makin' the grade

before the semester ends, let's take a look at what's earning a 4.0 and what "needs improvement":

voting was fun this morning. first time i'd done it in person. exciting. satisfactory marks for wait-line time and low marks for cramped conditions. excellent marks for the number of people in our neighborhood who turned out to vote that early.

cafe avanti and the friendly lawyer owner lady get high marks for atmosphere and latte quality.

erin gets high marks for braving the early morning and joining me and kat for some quality time.

high marks also go to my college freshmen alumni who politely call me ms barga and rsvp as requested on their pizza party invitations.
in fact, let's give excellent marks to everyone who rsvps to anything as requested. it's a lost art, people, and it's time to bring back some decorum.

low marks to my red sweater for shedding all over my clean black pants.

high marks to kat for temporarily fixing the hem on said black pants.

the cafeteria staff receives satisfactory marks today for the ham and cheese croissant which was a little too toasted, but receives excellent marks for yesterday's green bean and sauteed mushroom medley.

hilarious marks to ryan beiler, on staff with sojourners, who writes a wicked election day satire (don't get sojo mail? email me and i'll send you a copy of his article today).

high marks also to new order for the song "bizarre love triangle."

finally, high marks for vacation days. florida, here i come.

what's making the grade in your world?

Monday, November 01, 2004

beat it

i love the day before a vacation. it's so close you can taste it. when i close my eyes, i'm already at the beach, breathing the salty air, holding my book and towel in hand, drinking in the rare moment without constant phone ringage or faxes passed over cubicles or fluorescent lightbulbs drowning out natural light. just dreaming about it might keep me up all night.

i will not, i promise, be nervously anticipating my turn at the voting booth. i know which way illinois will vote for the presidential election, for the open senate seat. i know enough to understand that melissa bean will easily win the 8th congressional district spot. i know it matters. and i will watch the votes come in and be counted tomorrow. and the next day. and god knows, we'll probably have a president come christmas just in time for half the country to celebrate their candidate's cheap triumph.

blah. i think if you want change, it's done on a grassroots level.
but i didn't come here to get all political ...

i came here to talk about vacation. respite. holiday. leave. breathing space.

i remember as a kid getting ready to leave for a vacation to the East Coast and being so restless with excitement that i couldn't sleep and walking downstairs to find my mom going over the last minute packing essentials. i loved the anticipation of a van vacation. we'd bring our little suitcases out at the crack of dawn, and my little sister, paula, and i - still small enough to walk around inside the van without having to hunch over - would nab the far backseat, leaving our older sister with a middle bucket seat and what paula and i could only assume were her own assumedly-bizarre pre-teen thoughts (thanks for putting up with us, sarah).

each road trip necessarily began with michael jackson's thriller album in the tape deck, the three of us girls singing "beat it" with an irish accent (don't ask ... because i honestly couldn't tell you why), and ending with a little foot-to-foot bicycle action during the mj/paul mccartney "the girl is mine" hit. to this day, i have vivid recollections of traveling through the mountains in pennsylvania on a sunny day, cycling in the backseat with paula, and taking turns on the ever popular duet:
"Michael, We're not going to fight about this, okay?
Paul, I think I told you, I'm a lover, not a fighter
Because the doggone girl is mine ... "

*side note: name one song that has speaking in it that's NOT a hit. seriously. that's what music is missing these days ... someone get pharrell and chad on the phone*

i loved riding in that van. i loved every minute: when mom would come move to the back and teach us how to play euchre, when we got to take turns riding shotgun so we could keep dad company while mom slept, when we'd stop at mcdonalds for egg mcmuffins (i swear, the ONLY time we ever got mcdonalds - besides fish filet fridays in lent) and take "naps" afterwards at 7 in the morning. i loved it.

and now, well, there's no van, no family members, and i certainly don't think ATA will allow me and shelly the freedom to sock cycle. but at least one thing will be the same ...
at least one song playing through my headphones will be sung in my head with an irish accent. because, i promise you, it's not a vacation without a little irrrish. otherwise, you're doing it all arseways.

off to pack ... and find that thriller tape.