Archive for September, 2009

25th September
written by Michelle

In a little less than 24 hours I will be in ITALY with two of my favorite people in the whole wide world-my sisters!!! (you can tell, I am only a teeny, tiny bit excited)

It’s been a little stressful trying to make sub plans for next week, while also trying to finish up grading and planning and wrap up everything at work for this week. So, needless to say, I have not started packing (very uncharacteristic), and we don’t yet have a place to stay once we get there (not like me at all) and I would rather sit and watch the office tonight than try and figure all of this out (what is wrong with me?)

Regardless, I will, Lord willingly, get on a plane tomorrow afternoon and after three long flights and layovers in two different countries, arrive in Italy where my sisters and I will reunite. We decided upon seeing each other it is only fitting to jump up and down and make loud squealing noises…ya know, the ones that only girls and maybe small dolphins can decipher their meaning. Yes, these kind of events draw unwanted attention, but sometimes it’s just necessary.

For teachers, September is not exactly the best month to just pack up and take off for a week, but I am starting to feel that maybe this trip comes at a necessary time. Life gets busy, sometimes too busy and I can so easily fill every moment with unnecessary stress and pressure and a constant running list of things to do.

I want to listen more and create some space in my life. In fact I need to.

I love this quote from Henri Nouwen:

“In the spiritual life, the word discipline means, “the effort to create some space in which God can act.” Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.”

So on this trip to Italy I am going to create some space; some space in which something can happen that I didn’t plan on or count on. Some space to listen. and rest. and enjoy. I’m going to soak up slow mornings and sidewalk cafes with cappuccinos and gelato. And time with my sisters. Time to laugh. and talk. and simply be together.

Italy here I come.

But first, time to pack…and watch the office.

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22nd September
written by Michelle

Part of my trip to LA last weekend included an afternoon with my brother. And I think any trip to see my brother definitely warrants its’ own post.

My “little” six-foot-two brother, Andrew, is pretty great. And yes, I am biased. I mean for growing up as the youngest of three older sisters- three very talkative, loud and opinionated sisters-I think he turned out pretty good. And I have just come to trust that all the times we dressed him up, made him play school, and do choreographed routines in the living room are either repressed painful memories or he was simply too young to even remember. All that to say, I am quite thankful that he still lets me be a part of his life.

Andrew, more commonly referred to as BoBo, by our family, is a senior at Biola. (really, BoBo is an endearing term, despite whatever negative connotations you have attached to the word) He’s living in a cute, suburban neighborhood near La Mirada and last weekend he and his six other roommates opened up their frat-house style home for a BBQ with friends and family.

Now he and his friends are great guys…very upstanding, responsible citizens, but this is not a normal house. Take for instance the living room: there are 3 BIG (I mean huge, 62 inch) TVs all lined up next to each other, complete with 5 couches, and 2 coffee tables! I guess that’s a pretty good ratio 3:5:2. So you can sit on any of the 5 couches and face all 3 TVs at the same time, making it possible to watch the current football game, the espn post game show AND simultaneously play video games without having to flip back and forth between channels. My dad explained this is every boy’s dream.

And it continues- each bedroom has another TV and the “study room” as they call it, hosts all seven of their computers. Everything is about function, not form. There are no decorations. zero, zlich. no pictures, no frames, no cute magnets on the fridge, nothing. They do however have a color coated, rotating chore chart taped to the fridge (my mom would be proud). Oh, and what twenty-year-old male household is complete without the love sac. I will probably never quite understand why post-adolescent men gravitate toward this large, furry, over sized bean bag, but they do.

And my brother and his friends love it. The eat on it. Sleep on it. Read on it and wrestle on it. (see below)

But more important than seeing my brother’s new house with a gazillion TVs and a giant love sac, it was seeing him. My brother is only 21, but he has a wisdom and depth that I respect so much. He knows how to love people and love them well. He can fix and tinker with almost anything and he has more natural computer geniusness (yes, I made up that word) then I’ll ever have. He tries to give me dating advice, and I should probably listen, considering he has had the longest dating relationship in the family : ) And whenever he travels or visits another country he brings back thoughtful little gifts for my sisters and I- beautiful mugs or scented candles or handmade scarves and earnings. aww, so sweet, right?

The truth is I wish I got to see more of my brother. We’re not the best at talking on the phone. Conversations usually consist of no more than 7 sentences and maybe some text messages during the week. I am learning sometimes it’s just good to be together. in person. face-to-face. It’s just better that way.

BoBo, you’re wonderful!

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15th September
written by Michelle

Sometimes weekends come and go and I feel like there is either way too much to do or not enough going on- it’s feels like this ridiculous game of tug-o-war where there is never a happy medium. But, this weekend was an exception.

I needed a break. Something new. Some space to go and be away and see people I miss. So, I threw my bag in my trunk and Ingrid Michalson’s new CD in my stereo and headed down the 101. Now if you know me, you know that I hate, absolutely hate, traffic. It’s like my arch enemy. You think growing up in southern California I would just “get used to.” But no. Sitting in traffic is like sinking in quicksand…just when you think you’re moving faster and getting out. You brake. stop. brake again and sink further into the murk and mess of LA traffic. I think most people just succumb to it and put on music or sit there and make the best of it, but not me. No, I try to beat it. Or at least do everything in power to avoid it and get out quick.

However, when I am so unfortunate to be stuck in traffic I call my dad. My dad is like my personal google map. You see my cell phone is ancient, probably comparable to the infamous Saved by the Bell cell phone that Zack carried around in the halls of Bayside High. Ok, not that big, but close. I do not yet have a modern, fancy touch screen machine that signals when to turn left and announces what to eat for dinner…but I do have my dad. No matter where I am, on any freeway, anywhere in the greater LA or Orange County area, my dad can tell me in an instant where to go. He must have a grid of all the freeways spinning around in his head. Usually the conversation goes something like this:
M: ugh, dad there is traffic again!
D: ok, hun. where are you?
M: sitting on the 405.
D: well you could get off at the 10 or the 22. Or take the 101 to the 605 and then get on the 710.

Seriously, somehow my dad just knows all of this- like where the 91 meets the 241 and where the 57 ends and the 5 begins and when it’s better to take the 210 or the 126. I mean who needs an iphone, when you have all that within a phone call to dad.

Thanks to the google-like-efficient advice of my father, I avoided the 405 and cruised down Highway 1 en route to Seal Beach to see my good friend. She and I have never been roommates, actually we’ve never even lived in the same city, but we connected (rather randomly) 5 years at a conference. We bonded because we both didn’t fit. She was searching for something new. And I was aching for something that was lost. And somehow instead of finding what we were looking for, we found each other.

Five years later, we’re still friends. And it was one of those weekends where it was just so good to be together. We just laughed. Laughed a lot. We barbecued with her friends. Told silly stories. Walked down Main Street with no real purpose or destination, just the wonderful aimless wandering that takes you right where you should be. We played fishbowl. And ate watermelon. And did yoga in the family room. Went to church. And sat on the beach and talked about life and teaching and dating and God and insecurities and love and loneliness and the importance of good friends.

Sometimes I feel like I breathe a litter easier when I’m somewhere new. It’s refreshing. I inhale deeply. It’s not that air is any better in Seal Beach than it is in Santa Barbara, but it is different. And sometimes when life feels stagnant and dull, new air is needed.

Dee-anna, thank you for a refreshing weekend. It was a breath of fresh air. Love you.

6th September
written by Michelle

no, no. not that f-word.

the other one.


ok, I realize the word feelings and other four letter f-words are not exactly on the same playing field. But just go with me. I have been kind of mia from the blog world these past four weeks. And I could list a bunch of very valid reasons for not writing sooner- the school year started and with it all of the craziness of new students and papers to grade and post-it notes with to-do lists scattered on my desk. And then I was in one of my best friends’ weddings and with it came the celebrations, rehearsals and preparations that make weddings both wonderful, and a lot of work. And somewhere between saying good-bye to my little sister before she left for Italy, garage sale shopping for household essentials like, umm, say a table and planning the final details of a new Saturday night service at church, I realized maybe I am also avoiding something.

yep. feelings.

It’s not that I think feelings are bad, its just that I am just not always in touch with what I am feeling. When I was little if I were upset or angry I would often storm off to my bedroom crying and collapse onto my bed, as tears soaked into my pillow case. My mom would patiently sit on the edge of my bed and pat my back. In her caring and most nurturing voice she would start asking me a slew of questions.

Are you sad? Did something happen? Do you feel left out? Did someone say something? Are you angry?

These were not complex, philosophical questions. I think most seven-year-olds would be able to answer with a simple, whimpering yes or no. Because that’s what kids do. When you’re sad or hurt or angry and someone asks “Are you sad?” it makes sense to say yes or no, right? Well, for whatever reason I couldn’t. I mean I really couldn’t. I would lie on the bed and shrug my shoulders. I knew that I was feeling something, but I didn’t know what. My mom would ask “Did something happen at school?” shrug. “Are you upset at someone?” shrug. “Are you sad?” shrug. And this question-shrug-question-shrug routine would continue for 15 or 20 minutes. And my mom with all of her patience and compassion, just sat there. trying. waiting.

I realize this sounds like some annoying, manipulative game that a kid plays to get what they want, but it wasn’t. I really didn’t know how to express or talk about my feelings….well, because I didn’t always know even what I was feeling.

Now, I have come a long way twenty years later. I am a tad more self-aware and introspective. I know when I am feeling frustrated or envious or disappointed or hurt. I can usually pinpoint why and yes, I can even talk about it- sometimes. But I am learning that when I am busy and distracted and thinking about what I have to do the first thing that I neglect are my feelings.

I think this is one of the main reasons I write- to have a place, to name and acknowledge and give space for feelings. I think my only blog readers are probably my mom and a few close friends who silently blog stalk me. But that’s ok. I am not writing for them. I am writing for me. And maybe with the slight hope that someone else, somewhere may identify.

I learning to listen to my feelings and let myself feel them- even though at times it would be much more convenient and efficient to put them in a box on a shelf instead of letting them roam free in my tender heart. But I guess I am trusting that there is probably something very healthy and whole about letting feelings have their rightful place.

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