Wednesday, March 30, 2005

rent mr.right now

i just got forwarded THIS from a colleague who suggested i serve as a "wingchick" since she's under the impression i know a lot of guys, and why don't i ever introduce her to any of them? ha.

the website is for a company called "Rent Mr. Right Now" and provides single women or single men in the city with a date for an evening - should you and your significant other break up right before a friend's wedding or a work function, etc. no, she tells me, it's not an escort service, and in fact, the wingman or wingchick will actually help introduce you to those people at the event who you might like to meet.

it cracks me up. i can't believe it's come to this. ridiculous ...

i wonder if they're hiring ...

8 months

happy 8 month birthday to me!! oooh, i love monthly birthdays. even my boss celebrates with me. i think people want to celebrate more often than they do, and i am happy to give them my monthly birthday as an excuse.

so how should i treat myself today? cake? streamers? maybe some flowers? it's good to be good to me. i really do appreciate my own thoughtfulness.

more later ...

Monday, March 28, 2005

a fair trade

this is the 17th day i've been out of the office and it is by far the most beautiful. we've moved our computer out to the entryway, so i can enjoy the gorgeous afternoon sun pouring through our family room windows as i type. i've opened the windows, turned up delirious on the stereo, and have almost finished my piece of chocolate-amaretto layer cake. yum.

i'm happy today. joyfully happy. and, as i wrote in my journal this morning, happiness affects my ability to write. i care more to be understood when things are difficult, but when things are good, i care less what anyone thinks. so if this whole blog becomes junk, be happy for me.

my friend allan wrote me an email this morning and said, "regarding you and God, yeah, ride that wave as long as you can. And when it's done, paddle out again, coz there are always more waves." i like that picture. i think i'll hold onto it for awhile.

if you recall from an earlier blog, i began reading hinds' feet on high places before i left for china. the story - about a girl who follows the Great Shepherd up the mountain to the high places - relates snippets from her journey. when i first read it 3 or so years ago, i found myself identifying with her as she reached the places closest to the mountain peak. now, reading it, i find myself with her much lower on the mountain, walking much more slowly than before. and i'm seeing more here than i ever did the first time around. i can't wait till i'm 80 and i'm still discovering new things at the same point on the mountain i've ascended and descended a gazillion times.

i remember being about 8 or 9 years old and standing in the doorway of my pink bedroom i shared with my little sister paula, facing sarah's peach bedroom and the sun falling in that west window. my mom was looking at me, smiling, and telling me she sometimes felt i was an old woman hiding in a little girl's body. perhaps she spoke it into my life. because i've often found it easier to talk about the end of life than the whole "during" part. the pastor of the church i attended sunday talked about jesus coming to take away our fear of death. i laughed to myself. of all things, i fear death perhaps the least. so i did what i do best ... follow the bunny trail of my mind away from the pastor and start digging through scripture while keeping one ear open for pearls from the pulpit.

god, i asked, why am i so afraid of living? why am i so afraid to do it wrong? to mess it up? to do irreversible damage? to disappoint my parents? to disappoint myself? to become less than i think i was meant to be?

i dug through hebrews chapter 2 and chapter 5 where the author talks about jesus himself being here, being tempted, being subject to weakness, and then read in 1 corinthians where he says, "no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. and god is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. but when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." he's lived. he's been here. he knows.

immediately, i thought of shane's sermon at mad city a few weeks ago, the one where i argued every point he made in my head, where i rejected all of his notes about god's love, about marriage, about - well, all of it, and where i saw the sad and real state of my own heart when i told god to f@#* off. shane had ended his sermon with a note to everyone unsure about what to be hoping for, what to be waiting on god for, and said, "god hasn't forgotten you; he knows where you live." i told god in my head, "you don't know where i live, you have no idea what's going on in my life." my heart broke.

i digress ...

the thing is, after reading these things again about him living here, about him knowing this life, i heard shane's voice in my head: "he knows where you live." and then my ears opened to the pastor up front: "perfect love casts out all fear."

my heart sighed. we do not fear living because He Himself has been there. He knows where we live. and because of god's mercy, we get to celebrate Easter, we get to celebrate the fact that He lives even now. and is active in our lives even now. and loves us even now.

it's an old revelation. but it's new in my heart again. and it's made me happy. maybe made my writing bad, but god, it's good for my soul.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

the big 10

with the wisconsin win over nc state (sorry, kat) and the mich state win over duke (sorry, dan) and illinois still in it, the big ten is owning the ncaa playoffs. i really miss being able to watch basketball with any kind of regularity, so it was a thrill to watch the games with my sister, brother-in-law and roommate at the globe pub on friday night. there's nothing like watching a game with fellow badgers as the wisconsin boys sail along to victory. ahhh, on wisconsin.

anyway, tonight, while out for pizza with erin and her ohio friends tom and nicole and their baby soren, we chatted a bit about the success of the big 10. my mind clung to that phrase, "big 10" and - as is typical with my overactive bunny trail brain - i started thinking about what the top ten things on my mind are right now. here's what i've come up with:

1. the joy of long, slow weekends
2. houses packed with visiting family and friends
3. babies
4. learning a second language
5. watching the wisconsin-unc game sunday afternoon
6. eating baby carrots and asparagus with maple syrup for easter
7. imagining heaven
8. visiting family in ohio
9. the possibilities of what summer 2005 will bring
10. dancing in the moonlight in the summer when you don't have to wear a jacket

hmmm, soren is about to go to bed, and maybe tom, nicole, erin and i will get to play cards. maybe some euchre ... ooh, which makes me think of ....

11. the necessity of starting a euchre night in chicago (of course, all euchre-playing milwaukee-residents are welcome to crash at our place for those nights - ahem, laura, jenny, rachel, and joe)

oooh, summer. i can hardly wait ...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

ask me about the acrobats

i woke up at 10:56 this morning after a full 11 hours of sleep. i don't feel much jet lag yet, but i suppose i've only been awake for 5 hours now. maybe it'll hit me tonight yet. in the meantime, i'm busy sorting through souvenirs, doing laundry and admiring street signs in english.

it's hard to believe i'm back already. i hadn't been anticipating this trip for months or even weeks before i left, so the trip to china feels like a little blip on the screen of my life. it's too hard to write it all down, and so i've decided to cheat a bit and steal some from my journal. i wrote more than i'd imagined i would while away. i think because i have that kind of personality that wants to share even the boring details of my day with friends, the first day was hard when i realized i couldn't make a phone call to anyone. so for those of you anxious to hear the fascinating details of my trek around china with 15 students and 2 adults (ooh!! ooh!! i can see the excitement in your eyes!!), read on ...

march 14, 2005, monday night:
i love beijing. i want to learn how to speak chinese. being here really makes me think about how BIG the world is. not so much just the culture, but the fact that millions of people live and eat and breathe 14 hours ahead of us. their day is done when my day is beginning! it's too weird. makes me understand on a very real level just how many people there are in the world. it's mind-blowing ...

this experience makes me want to travel again. how could i travel? what can i do that would allow me to see the world? i think i am a late bloomer. while everyone else was traveling abroad, i wanted to stay close, to build relationships. but now, i feel like i'm ready to embrace new cultures, new challenges ...

march 15, 2005, tuesday night:
okay, so i don't think i could live here. or maybe it's just that i'm afraid. i think i do really want to travel all over. everytime i'm away from work, i think i never want to go back again. i think i am jealous of erin and wendy, of how they can just pick up and leave and travel. i don't know WHAT i want to do. i don't want You to think i won't be available for You. I guess I just don't know how to be ...

march 16, 2005, wednesday morning on plane from beijing to shanghai:
i am a little disappointed that this group lacks the dynamics of the Project Week in the UK. Kyle is like our Miles only Kyle has so many of the same character and physical characteristics as James' Spader's snotty character Steff in Pretty in Pink that i have a hard time looking at him without prejudice. he has a poor attitude - by this i mean he thinks HE knows best, or he shouts out of turn, or is otherwise indescribably rude. i imagine what goes around, comes around, and i take an evil comfort in that. maybe i should bless him instead, maybe pray that his heart be softened, that he spend a year learning humility and respect. Kyle seems like he'd be an interesting young man to travel with and get to know if only he'd be kind.

of course, jessica and karen and gabrielle i love. and jim and charles are too sweet for words. jessica feels like a little sister to me. we'll talk about our dreams and she tells me that if i want to be an author, she'll send me on all my booksigning trips around the world. it's not easy for me to pick out jessica's character traits and tell you what i like best about her. it's jessica as a whole that the world should rejoice in knowing. she's gonna be good to the world. i hope we will be as good to her.

i do feel really thankful for this opportunity to travel. in fact, though i suppose my boss would like me to realize that the school has given me such incredible opps so i should STAY, i rather feel like God has used the school to give me such incredible opps to show me i should LEAVE. i feel sorry that it's taken me so long to figure this out ...

a few things about yesterday - we went to the Way of the Spirit and the Ming Tombs, the Jade Factory, and a government-sponsored "Friendship Store" for souvenirs. but definitely the highlight of the day was the Great Wall. i climbed all the way to the top and my legs shook all the way down. but, God, what an amazing feeling! really, it was quite possibly one of the top three most exhilarating experiences of my life. when i looked at everyone else's pics of the great wall, it seemed like the wall sloped gently but i could never spot staircases of such heights. incredible. i think we must have climbed the sears tower. unforgettable ...

maybe i am meant to be the real life diane lane-character in "under the tuscan sun." maybe i'll go buy a cottage in italy and finally write my book. all these experiences make me feel like anything is possible.

hmm, i wonder if they sell crystal balls in china ...

march 17, 2005, thursday night:
today we left shanghai for zhouzhuang, the most famous water in china. the food has been getting progressively worse which is a sad disappointment. our meal tonight in suzhou was so awful that the kids begged us to take them to the city center to get pizza and mcdonalds. we gladly obliged. even i was starving but i promised myself that i wouldn't eat american junk food while i was here. but i did allow myself a chocolate-covered ice cream cone. oh my god, it tasted so good.

anyway, i've decided i've been reading too much anne lamott lately. she wrote a whole chapter about feeling unattractive amidst a gathering of teenage girls, and i feel i'm now noticing this. it's being around all these young, beautiful teenagers whose lives are so ahead of them that i get jealous and wonder if my time has passed. that's why it was nice today when our tour guide, sam, told me i looked like a famous Hollywood movie star. he told the other tour guide, Cindy, who agreed, but couldn't think of who. Much, much later, Cindy snapped her fingers and said, "You look like America's Sweetheart!" which, after much guessing between me and a few of our students, we discovered was Meg Ryan. well, i look nothing like meg ryan, but god bless the chinese. sam and cindy have allowed me to be pretty again ...

march 19, 2005, saturday afternoon:
sam has decided to play this obnoxious hong kong girl-band music on the bus, but i've put my headphones on and am wielding patty griffin against him. how long must this last???

so far today we stopped in hangzhou for a relatively western lunch (the only meal in china which has made me sick), visited the gorgeous gardens by the Buddhist University, and went to the green tea center. they say that hangzhou and suzhou are the paradises on earth, and it's evident why. the lakes, the greenery, this is not at all how i imagined china. it's so peaceful here, the air is so clean, and everyone smiles easily. perhaps this is the place i will someday call home. so beautiful ...

march 21, 2005, monday night:
(there are so many details here about the shanghai experience, i'll just have to tell you in person) ...
i've had a blast here. never did i dream i'd be in CHINA this year ...
i've had such limited access to email and no access to my phone, so it's easy to forget about life back home. don't get me wrong, i miss being in on the details of my friends' lives, but it's like i've been living another life here. i wondered today as i wandered around the shanghai museum, could i really do this on my own? another city? another culture? ... LIFE? yes, probably. i'm not saying it wouldn't be hard, but i feel less and less like my life is my own. the things i thought i wanted, well, none of that is happening. and i think, ok, if God wants my dreams, He can have them. what new ones does He have for me? if God said, "Mary, move to Shanghai and become an English teacher," i think i would say ok. if He said, "Mary, take a year off and write while you travel around Europe," i think i would also say ok.

anne lamott may be a bit cooky at times in her theology, but i hear her when she says she thinks we'll discover in heaven that the things we thought were most important here will be of much lower ranking on God's scale. Amen. she writes, "i know two things now that i didn't at thirty: that when we get to heaven, we will discover that the appearance of our butts and our skin was 127th on the list of what mattered on this earth. and that i am not going to live forever. knowing these things has set me free."

you know what? i do think this trip was divinely orchestrated. "seek Me and you will find Me," that's true. but maybe so is "let Me push you blindfolded into an unknown and wait for you to find Me there." thank You. thank You. thank You.

china has been good.

Monday, March 14, 2005

first 50 hours

so here we are in china. 10:00 p.m.

it's hard to believe that i left only about 48 hours ago and yet we've done so much! the 10-ish hour flight to beijing wasn't so bad, though i think i felt motion sickness for the first time in my life. after the 8th hour, i began to wonder if we were ever really going to land. and with little in my stomach (we weren't sure when you're supposed to eat - and really, air china does not carry good plane food - and i like plane food), i felt compelled to lay my head on the tray table in front of me, clutch my stomach and mumble instructions to myself: "you will not barf, you will not barf, you will not barf." i sat next to jessica, my favorite student on the trip, and she went through all of her teen people and teen vogue and cosmopolitan magazines to give me each and every quiz she had taken while i was sleeping. i'm glad now to know that my theme song is something by avril lavigne, when it comes to dessert, i'm an oatmeal cookie, and that i play it cool when it comes to revealing who i'm crushing on. all very good to know.

anyhow, i have really fallen for this city. i know it's not as "real" an experience as so many of my friends have had, but it's been wonderful. we went to the temple of heaven this morning and it helped me make my mind up to retire in beijing. seriously, where else do you see old women playing hackey sac (sp)? or the dancing or the tai chi? i loved it. it's been gorgeous all day, too, with the sun shining and the temps hovering around 50-55 degrees. we went to tiananmen square afterwards, and then to the forbidden city. i guess i never imagined beijing to feel so OPEN. our tour guides are wonderful - the one from beijing keeps saying beijing is so much better than shanghai, so much more open and green; the one from shanghai keeps saying beijing is so old school and shanghai offers so much more life and atmosphere. i'm sad that our time in beijing will end on wednesday morning so i am making a plan to come back here soon.

this afternoon, we visited with the school year abroad students studying at beijing normal university's affiliated high school. it was incredible. the program director there first came to china when he was 26 and stayed until '91. he came back to madison, wi for 8 years and then has been in beijing ever since. i think you get around people who love something so much and when you're there, you just start to take it all in, you know? and the people are so encouraging! i can't say thank you to save my life (but c'mon, they ALL say it differently), but everyime i try, they say, "yes, yes! you speak chinese so good! you will become fluent" and i think, "okay, yes! i will learn chinese! i can do this! i will do it for you!" they have a way of making you feel like you are very good at everything you do. i like these people :)

so tonight we went to lotus lane with the program director, jeff. the students went to host families' homes for dinner and so we had a quiet moment with just the chaperones and jeff. our meal was delicious - i am enjoying chinese food much more than i thought i would (although the tea does smell like band-aids. i'm trying to get over it by drinking lots and lots of it, but the initial smell is quite a bit to take in). all the kids are using "bu yao" (don't want any) which has come in quite handy. they've literally been chased through the streets by vendors offering dragon statues and postcard booklets, t-shirts and rolexes). they're bargaining pretty well and the tour guides are giving them tips on what they SHOULD be paying. i have yet to get anything (i've never been big on knick knacks), but plan to do some serious shopping in shanghai.

tomorrow is the great wall, the ming tombs, the peking roast duck dinner, the opera, and a karaoke bar to finish off the night. can't wait! this morning, miracle (our beijing-born tour guide) gave us a preview with her version of a backstreet boys song. i can't wait for our kids to get up there - ha!

okay, all for now. hope to write more later. in the meantime, someone look up ticket prices for a visit to china this summer ... who's in?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

soul music

i know i should go home. it's 4:37 and technically, i'm not being paid to sit here any more. but it's cold and gray and snowy outside, so i know katherine and i won't be heading to the Y tonight for turbo kick. and i've got my iTunes here which i'm enjoying too much to turn off. indeed, according to my iTune technology, i've listened to one particular song on repeat today 49 times. that may be a new record.

i'm also waiting here for inspiration to strike. i leave in 2 days and though i'll have access to the internet in china, i don't have quite the same amount of time to sit, digest, and discuss the thoughts of the day with you. so i want to get as much in as i can before the plane takes off.

i'd like to write about the ache in my soul today, but i won't. and i'd like to tell you about the excitement for china i'm starting to feel, but i won't do that either. what i will tell you is how much i wish i were alicia keys right now. how much i wish i had braids swinging down my back, how much i wish i could pound the ivories, how much i wish my voice would carry down the hallway and back ... man ...

if you sing like alicia keys, or if you play the piano, or if you play any instrument and can play it in a way that will make my soul leap, or if you even just have braids, i'm extending you an invite to my house tonight. and then you and i can sing real loud and oh! perfect. the guy downstairs just got a drum set at midnight last night (he was practicing his skills with green day last night - many, many, many times), so we can invite him up too. that's good; my roommates and i have been looking for an opportunity to get to know our neighbors.

so it's 5:00 now, and i'll be shutting down the computer here in a few minutes. it'll take me about 30-40 minutes to get home. meet me there, ok? i could use some good soul music company tonight.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

like we weren't in a rush

yesterday night, i took my stuffy nose and pounding head up to the swedish american museum, found a spot on the floor, and examined the jacket of the new anne lamott book while about 150 of us waited for anne to present "plan b: further thoughts on faith."

a long pink scarf hung loosely on her shoulders as anne sauntered up to the podium and opened to chapter three. her dreadlocks were not only beautiful, but seemingly quite useful as well that evening, since she never had to pull them back while her head was bowed reading. she read the way a schoolkid reads a paragraph of his 8th grade sex ed textbook when called upon - real fast and almost embarrassed, in a way that says "miss jones, you're asking me to read about menstruation in front of the class? you do understand that i'm a 13-year-old kid who just wants to fit in, right?" it seemed right that she would read that way. after all, it's honest non-fiction. it's one thing to send a book along to someone about your life, but it's quite another to read what you've written to an immediate audience. while she spoke, i wonder if she heard those little voices ask her what in the world she thought she was doing reading all these private things out loud to STRANGERS?

i'm so glad she did.

the night's audience was vastly female. all ages. and judging by the laughter during the night, there were a lot of mothers and a lot of menopausal women. i like that. i don't know what other people say feminists are, but being in that room, i felt like a feminist. like i love being a woman. like i was sitting in a room with these brilliant and beautiful, wise and wonderful, hopeful and hampered, sensitive and steadfast souls, and how incredible is that? i think it's that the city makes you feel alone; it encourages isolation, segregation, desperation. but then here, god comes through and provides an oasis in the desolation and it satisfies in a way nothing else can. like a generational hug.

to be honest, i haven't much liked my 20s. perhaps i'm alone in this. i know a lot of people who've experienced their 20s much like thrill-seeking children at amusement parks. each ride is bigger and better, and easily catapults them to the next. they don't care how long the wait is or if they barf afterwards or if their legs burn on the molded plastic.

but my 20s haven't led me to any sort of amusement park. i've heard it talked about, but i kind of have no desire to go. my friend liebe takes me to a real amusement park up in gurnee where i get to eat funnel cake and fly like superman once every year. that's fun. and also, enough.

i suppose i don't know what kind of venue my 20s live in. but it's definitely not an amusement park.

that's why it was nice to hear from the folks last night that their 20s were certainly not the best days of their lives. they applauded anne when she said 43 felt like really late youth. in your 40s and 50s, you stop tolerating so much BS and you learn that "no" is a full sentence. and you get to enjoy life in a way you couldn't when you were 20-something.

that's when it hit me that many of my generation may forever live in an amusement park, an isolated carnival that calls to you with thumping pop songs and glo-sticks and happy clown faces. and some of them will never leave, no longer racing from ride to ride, wondering if maybe they bought tickets to the wrong show.

i digress. but being with all these older women, hearing them laugh real deep belly laughs, seeing the character wrinkles in their faces, identifying with each other, catching the looks of agreement and understanding between friends and sisters, mothers and daughters, i laughed fuller and lighter, too. life felt fuller and lighter.

anne said last night that she gets by by taking leaps of faith, by praying all day long those little prayers that give god the freedom to answer how ever god wants: help me, help me, help me. "i pray all day," she said, "because left to my own devices, i'm full of judgment, blame and worry. i pray to get out of my head. and i take deep breaths.

"breathing," she concluded, "is the secret of life."

she moved away from the microphone after her 60 minutes up front were up, but it felt like she had been with us for hours, like a mom who wasn't too busy to sit with and enjoy her kids, like she wasn't in a rush to do anything, go anywhere, be anybody. and we embraced it. because for an evening, we, too, felt like we weren't in a rush.

Monday, March 07, 2005

wax on, wax out

this morning i had a doctor's appointment to get my Hep A shot before i leave for china on saturday. i haven't been in to see a doctor in maybe 3 or 4 years, so i took great delight in the little things. my blood pressure is excellent, i'm an inch taller than i thought, and i weigh 3 pounds less than i enter in on those workout machines at the Y. i take pride in the fact that i've only been to the hospital post-birth once for a broken finger and am happy to report that i'm not allergic to any medications. i glowed as i responded to the doctor's questions.

"besides this little stuffy nose," i remarked gaily, my feet swinging against the chair, "i'm feeling great. all i need is the needle and i'll be on my way."

"little stuffy nose, hey? why don't we take a look at that ..." she said as she scurried for her little doctor devices. i don't remember it very clearly, but i'm sure she laughed sinisterly under her breath.

turns out she couldn't see through my left ear because of wax blockage. she suspects it's from my november trip to key largo during which i spent an entire day listening to shelly like she was talking to me through an empty paper towel roll. the salt could have aggravated it. essentially, i've spent 4 months with poor hearing. sweet.

she emptied a bottle of liquid mixture down my ear while i rested on the right side of my body. i had to wait 10 minutes until the wax was soft enough that she could suck it up. as i waited there, she took my strep culture test to the lab. "we won't know before you leave today," she said when she returned, "but i'll give you a call when the results are in. i'm guessing you don't have strep, but since your body shows the early signs of ear infection, flu and the common cold, we might as well double check."

while she counted down the remaining minutes till suckage, i carefully managed to pull off the left side of my shirt so the shot nurse could come stab me with the Hep A needle.

she took what looked like a craftsman drill to the side of my head and told me to hold a cup by my ear to catch the wax piece (seriously, is this really the latest medical technology?). i don't know exactly what the drill did except slosh the water around a little in my head, but on the third attempt, a stubborn little piece of wax fell out. sad that it's passe not to keep it like you do a tooth ...

for as unexpected of a morning as that was, i really enjoyed my visit to the doctor's office. all the stabbing and draining and drilling really makes you feel like your body is alive, you know? i think i'll try to go back again soon.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Interview Game

Well, Teresa, Jem and Melissa have done it. And I couldn't resist either ...

Here are the official rules of the interview game:

1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying "interview me."
2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person's will be different.
3. You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
6. I will answer reasonable follow up questions if you leave a comment.

Here are my answers. Enjoy!

1. If you could sum yourself up in only three words, what would they be?

Energetic, emotional, honest

2. What is one favorite line from each of your top 3 favorite movies of all time? And why?

"I will find you" - Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) to Miss Cora Munro (Madeline Stowe) in The Last of the Mohicans
Why? (warning: if you hate girlishness, turn away now) because there's so much passion between them and then he has to leave her at this part, and it's so awful, it's like ripping two souls that belong together away from each other. but his one line - oh! and it's coupled with the way he looks at her, like he would never take his eyes off her, like she's his very heart - when he says "I will find you." Oooh, shivers up my spine. I have to stop writing about it now before I get myself all worked up.

"Double or nothing?" - Q (Omar Epps) to Monica (Sanaa Lathan) in Love and Basketball
Why? It's more the music at this scene in the movie that pulls everything together. It's this tough guy, Q, who knows at his core that he loves this woman, Monica. And you see - in all his toughness of 'yeah, I'm fine without her' - that he finally shows this side that honestly expresses how scared he is to live his life without her. Up to this point in the movie, Spike Lee makes you feel like Monica, like your own heart is on the line, and then Q's words ... *sigh* I mean, the movie is incredible. There was a point in my life that I really identified with this movie, so maybe that's why I love it so much, but it's so incredibly poignant, so fully engaging. This is a must-see.

"Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane." Red (Morgan Freeman) to Andy (Tim Robbins) in The Shawshank Redemption. And later, in a letter from Andy to Red, "Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies."
Why? Everyone loves Shawshank, I think, so there's really no reason I'd have to explain it, but these two lines together I love the most. Not only does it show how well they've listened - really listened - to each other, but it breathes life on what has been considered dead. I love that.

3. What moves you? i.e. What are you passionate about? (Loaded question, I know.)

Wow, and I thought #2 was hard :) Well, in a nutshell, I'd say I love people (love the depths of their hearts the most, love what makes them laugh with so much joy their tummies hurt, love what makes them cry even if people are around) and music (the kind that makes it feel like the notes just grab your soul, make you lose yourself) and civil rights rhetoric (esp. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I've been to the mountaintop") and, yep, God - for reasons words will fall short of.

4. Regular socks or toed socks?

Regular!! And the more unique, the better.

5. If you won the lottery (say 1 million) what would you do with it?

I swear I'm not trying to cop out on an answer, but I'd honestly have to pray about it. But I'd probably have to send it out of the country where it can do more ... but I'd also want to invest it in the Chicago neighborhoods that need it ... but at the same time, I really would like to pull up the tile/linoleum crap in our kitchen and put in wood floors ... decisions, decisions.

Want to play? Leave a comment and let me know. And thanks for the good questions, Teresa!

far east

here's the scoop ... one of the teachers on the school trip to china had to suddenly back out, so i get to go. do i speak a lick of chinese? no. have i ever been to the far east? no. but i'm going. i found out yesterday that i leave on the 12th for an 11-day adventure with 2 other chaperones and 16 kids. i have to fill out an emergency visa, get a hep a shot, and remember not to brush my teeth with the water from the faucet.

if you've ever been, please send me some advice, tips, hints, you name it. this is crazy!