Archive for December, 2008

31st December
written by Michelle

I did something yesterday that I have never ever done before.

I went to see a movie by myself.

And I don’t mean the-rent-a-movie, curl up on the couch, kind-of-see-a-movie. No, I actually I took myself to see a movie in a movie theater. gulp. I don’t know why this was such a big deal. I will gladly sit in a coffee shop by myself for hours or go to dinner by myself. Heck, I’ll even travel to a foreign country by myself. But somehow the unfamiliar terrain of going to a movie by myself felt like the epitome of awkwardness.

I know people do it, but this was a first for me. One of my friends swears it’s the best experience to sit by yourself in a big theater and be completely absorbed into a movie. I am not sure if I buy into that just yet. Perhaps one of the main reasons is because I am a “verbal processor” (yes, you can insert the word talker if you like). I like to talk about the movie- before it starts, during and after its over. This probably breaks some common social norms (especially the talking during the movie part) and annoys my friends and family, but its true.

After standing in line to buy a ticket, silently praying that I wouldn’t see anyone I knew, I walked into the theater. I had tried to time it just right, so the previews would have already started and it would be dark by the time I walked in. Low and behold, the previews has started (phew) and it was dark (yessss!) but it was also almost completely full (oh, crap.) I had not prepared for this. I paced back and worth in the back, trying to decide which row of people looked the smallest so I could gracefully squeeze by them without making a scene. Scanning the audience in the dark I found a row in the back corner, and I not so gracefully climbed over two elderly people and nestled down into my seat against the wall.

For the next 120 minutes I was thoroughly entertained and impressed by one of thee best movies I have seen in a long time; Slumdog Millionaire. I loved it. It captures the typical rags-to-riches story, but with a beauty and depth set in modern day India. I tend to like these somewhat intense, dramatic films that trace pieces of the human experience in a culture and language different from my own. It’s definitely worth seeing. Maybe even by yourself.

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23rd December
written by Michelle

Rancho Cucamonga. It sounds better if you emphasize the syllables Ran-CHO CUCA-monga, almost like you were yelling into a bullhorn. Thanks to Hollywood and classic movies like Next Friday and Bring It On most people have heard of this sprawling suburbia city. According to our reliable friends at Wikipedia, Money magazine ranked Rancho Cucamonga as the 42nd best place to live in the U.S. Hmm, not bad for a place with a 6-syllable name.

I honestly have nothing against Rancho Cucamonga. It’s where I grew up. Our front yard was for bike riding, roller-skating, slip-n-sliding and pulling the neighborhood kids around in our red wagon (I must have somehow convinced my younger siblings and friends that this was fun). I grew up with my brother’s little league games, Santa Ana winds, and getting McDonald’s (gasp. unbelievable, I know) with Dad. I grew up with family brunch on Sunday, coffee dates with mom on Tuesdays and watching TGIF every Friday night.

It’s where I started….

And it’s where I come back to.

Obviously, the majority of people go ” home” for the holidays, and to be honest there isn’t anyone else I would want to celebrate Christmas with. I love my family. They remind me of who I am and where I come from. I left Santa Barbara on Sunday, driving down the familiar stretch of the 101-the part that bends and curves and feels like you’re literally overlooking the Pacific on your right and hugging the hills on your left, and I realized that for 26 years I have celebrated Christmas in the same place, at the same home, going to the same Christmas Eve Service, at the same church…and even sleeping in the same bedroom!

There is nothing wrong with sameness or doing things they way they’ve always been- nothing wrong at all- so long as there is room for some difference, some room for things to grow and change. Sometimes when I come home to be with my family I think I regress about 8 years. I feel like an eighteen-year-old again; an insecure, whining, demanding teenager who isn’t sure how to take on the world or even if I want to. I feel stuck in this in-betweenness of being a responsible, independent, 26-year-old adult in Santa Barbara and yet coming home and feeling like a kid who never totally grew up.

Maybe this is how life is supposed to feel. Like the subtle tension on a rubber band when there is a pull from two ends, I often feel pulled in two directions. The tension of wanting to be “grown-up”- on my own, celebrating with my own family and having my own traditions and yet simultaneously there is a gentle pull from the other side. A pull that reminds me that I need my family; I need encouragement to remember where I came from and support to become who I am meant to be.

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17th December
written by Michelle

This made me laugh. If I was the kind of person who sent out Christmas letters I might just put this front and center.

Merry Christmas!



12th December
written by Michelle

Mornings are not my favorite time of day. My roommates and family can attest to this. For me mornings are usually accompanied by a consistent snooze button, some whining, and (I am embarrassed to admit it) some occasional moaning. Somehow I came to believe the fallacy that once you’re an “adult” you will naturally and happily just wake up, bright and early every morning. Oh, was I wrong. I feel like by most measures of adulthood I count as a “real” adult, but I have yet to figure out how to wake up early in the morning and enjoy it. I mean who really wants to get out of bed when it’s dark and cold?

Because I tend to sleep in as late as possible, this means that my mornings tend to be a bit rushed. I feel this looming pressure (i.e. the 1st period bell and 20 sleepy-eyed faces) to hurry. So I scramble around the house, leaving cupboards open, throwing clothes on my bed and using one hand to put on make-up and another to blow dry my hair (yes, I am an incredibly good multi-tasker : )

Finally, with my 2 bags slung over my shoulder, my keys in one hand and my to-go cup in the other, I make it to my car. phew. In a weird way sitting in my car brings a sense of comfort. I have almost no interruptions. I don’t talk on the phone. I don’t even listen to music. For those 12 minutes on the way to work I sit and think and pray and….my favorite part, drink my tea.

This morning I was in a hurry (no surprise) so I grabbed a tea bag from our smorgasbord of tea assortments in the cupboard and dropped it in my to-go mug. In a quiet moment once inside my car I noticed the little red tea tag dangling from my mug. It read the word “JOY.”

Hmm. I wish it were always this easy to have joy in the morning.

Tazo Tea makes a Joy tea that only comes out during the Holidays. I love it. I think it seriously increases my joy and happiness in the morning. Who knew?

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8th December
written by Michelle

Recently a friend asked me if I had read any good books. I wanted to answer, but I was stuck. I quickly tried to imagine the stack of books by my night stand:

-a friend just loaned me Steinbecks’ East of Eden (but I’ve only made it to page 3),
-my grandmother gave me a memoir about a teacher (and my goal is to finish it over Christmas),
-Mi Voz Mi Vida (I skim a chapter every now and then with hopes of improving my Spanish),
-I just bought two new books by Donald Miller (but I haven’t even opened the cover)
-They Like Jesus, But Not The Church (I borrowed it from a friend months ago and I am still not done with it!)
-I read Real Simple magazine regularly (but that doesn’t exactly counts as a book)

Then it hit me, I have not finished a book in a long time. I mean I have not read a whole book, from beginning to end, without skimming or jumping around to “interesting chapters,” in a really, really long time. I am notorious for starting books and never finishing them. Sometimes I literally read half of the book and then put it down because I want to start a new book. I admit this is odd, especially because I am someone who likes to finish things.

I like to get things done. Cross ’em off. Finish. Complete it. Done.

I like when my laundry basket is empty because all of my clothes are clean. I like when I can thrown away a post-it note because the task is done. I like the feeling of finishing grading a stack of English papers. And I like when I can walk away from a day with a sense of completion.

If I am honest I sometimes wish I could finish navigating the world of being in my mid-twenties. I want to check off trying to figure out what to do next or how to make the right decision. Sometimes I wish I could be done with dating and wondering what will happen next. I know deep down that life is about enjoying the process and being grateful for where God has me, but I am finding its hard for me to live with things undone, uncertain, and incomplete.

One of my favorite college professors used to give us permission in her class not to finish the assigned reading (imagine that?) She would literally tell us if something grabs your attention-pause, listen to it, re-read it. This seems counterintuitive, I know! But my professor wanted us to go slowly, rather than plow through something for the sake of finishing it. She had the wisdom and foresight to introduce me to the art of incompletion.

I think I can readily embrace the “art of incompletion” when it comes to my book-reading habits, the harder task is learning what this looks like in the rest of life.