Saturday, December 27, 2008

the "Been there, done that" list

I am currently in the process of setting life goals. When i say currently, I mean I interrupted my brainstorming to jot this down. I have noticed while reading about setting goals and living a full life intentionally that I have done a whole lot of really cool stuff so far and I haven't really celebrated that as much as I should. This isn't meant as a brag post, but i think for the sake of getting more wheels turning... I need to present a list of the many things that I have done that if they were not otherwise accomplished would be on my life goal 'to do' list... I have been trying to keep in my brain that I am 24 years old, and I should be proud of things I have done as well as looking forward to things I want to do someday. so here are some...

Learned to swim
Gone on a safari
Gone hiking in the Andes mountains
Bathed in a river in South America
Hiked the Appalachian Trail for 10 days
Gone on some of the top 10 roller coasters in the world
Seen a concert and ballet in the Sydney opera house
Become good friends with my parents
Had braces
Played a didgeridoo in the Australian outback
Visited Yellowstone
Have nieces
visited the Grand Canyon
Taught English in Africa
Taught swimming lessons
Poured bronze
Swam in an Olympic pool
Chased kangaroos
Gone deer hunting
gone canoeing
gone kayaking
been the president of something
Got married to an amazing man
Lived in a major international city (Washington DC)
Seen a Broadway show on Broadway
been across the Golden Gate bridge
Graduated from undergrad with honors
Been in a juried art show
been payed for singing
gone dancing in an old swing-era ballroom with a live band
ate bugs
drank absinthe
painted a series of cohesive paintings
taken a photography class
become part of a premiere singing group
saw the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in person
ate sushi as part of my weekly meals
Scored a soccer goal from half field during a game
volunteered with inner city kids
helped edit a college newspaper
gone to a Renaissance Fair
Eaten a whole turkey leg without silverware
built a piece of usable furniture
Held a salaried job for over 2 years
slept in a mud hut
sewed something that i wore more than once
played an instrument
sang with a live band
lived in a crappy apartment
made bread from scratch
learned to swing dance
learned to tap dance
hiked in the Blue Mountains
visited Yosemite
visited Donner pass
Visited Gettysburg
Gone to a world-renown night club
Got a US Capitol tour from a senator
Visited every monument on the National Mall in Washington
Sang Handel's Messiah
ate chicken and rice in Bolivia
was in a spelling bee
went on multiple mission trips
done street theater
had a lead in a musical
become great friends with my sisters
road tripped across the US
showed an animal in a county fair
seen the Statue of Liberty
got college scholarships for both music and academics
rode a horse
gone skiing
swam in three oceans

that is enough for tonight. It is just good to know I have actually accomplished some things an had some cool experiences. Some times setting goals makes me feel a little like a failure because I have so much yet to accomplish... but it is good to remember all of the things I have already accomplished.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I usually like happy things...

First off- I want to apologize for this half-done post. I wanted to get it out of my draft box though before we made our flight over the pond. Not as many links as I would like... but in reality how many people really follow this blog anyhow? Anyway...
I am more of a happy-things type of person. It's funny, because I wouldn't say I am a particularly positive person. I am married to a ridiculously positive person, but I am probably more melancholy than many. Me, myself, and I are quite an odd grouping sometimes. I like bright colors and surround myself with fun patterns, quirky movies, and melodic music with lively horn sections and deliberate vocal harmonies... and generally really funny and well humored people. I just simply like happy things and gravitate toward them. Soooo... when I get to really foreboding parts of scripture, like I did today in Matthew 24, i actually get really nervous. I'm all good when Jesus is saying "love one another.... you are blessed.... yielded a hundred fold..." and so on. I like happy-go-lucky-he-tells-nice-stories-about-plants-and-sparrows-Jesus, so when I am following him through the gospels and he starts saying things about all of these terrible things that will happen before the "Son of Man" comes back in glory, I get all nervous and like a little kid in a scary movie i start to pull my blanket over my head and peek very cautiously through the crochet florets in the afghan... don't pretend you didn't do that. "Good news?" I think "the HECK good news! More like foreboding-and-freak-out-worthy news! Jesus just said earthquakes and wars were a 'you ain't seen nothin yet' sort of thing... eek!" I have a terrible tenancy to kind of.. you know.. read as fast as I possibly can through these things and then move on including all of the "I will be betrayed and then they will kill me" parts. Move through it quick.. like a band-aid. Because obviously speed-reading through the 'icky' parts makes everything ok. *sigh*

I have an art habit... this includes making and viewing art. I love art museums.. I fell in love in Jr. High in Dayton, OH in front of some of Andy Warhol's soup cans and haven't really ever looked back. I can happily spend all day in a good museum. In college as an exchange student in Sydney, Australia I would spend every Wednesday from about noon to 9pm chilling in the Art Gallery of New South Wales visiting some of my old buddies like Picasso and Rothko and then making new friends like Lin Onus and Dadang Christanto and Lawrence Weiner. Viewing art is something I really enjoying taking time at the vast majority of the time. I studied pretty hard in my Art History classes and memorized slides and dates (most of which i struggle to remember now... but... oh well..) and took time with my ten-pounds worth of text book studying the pages and looking at the images of the past and the present. It was some time in one of my many readings in my beloved Gardner's Art Through the Ages that I happened upon a rather gory altar piece that smacked me in face. Crucifixion from the Isenheim Altarpiece is pretty serious and very 'not happy'. Grunewald painted this particular piece for the chapel of a monastery.

The thing that got me with this piece was how really gruesome it is. Check out Christ's writhing fingers bending in unnatural ways... his gangrenous skin with sores.. not to mention his mother Mary white as a ghost, fainting at the sight of her son in such a state. This is NOT a pretty picture. Not happy... but I found it fascinating. I'm not the only one... it become quite an icon later in the 19th century when expressionism really took off in all of its' angsty-ness (not a word.. i know!).

I have to admit that I have a hard time making it through rough parts of the gospels and the crucifixion is no exception. It scares me and my heart sinks into my stomach... but I don't think I completely understood how good that is until my exploration into religious art which finally gave me the opportunity to slow down and give these frightening stories a second glance.. with a little help from my art history book of course.

A lot of people get real pissy about the Catholic church and the dark ages and Renaissance and get all huffy about how they did absolutely nothing to help people come to know Christ. Well... I would have to beg to differ. For one thing- the Catholic church commissioned some serious art with the ability to transcend time and class to communicate the story and heart of the gospel.

Grunewald made me a believer in this area. His Crucifixion was one of the first times i really 'got' why this whole death of Jesus was a big thing. I mean... my mind had sort of gotten it before. I'd heard plenty of talks about the horrors of torture in Christ's day and plenty of "come to Jesus because he died for you" altar calls, but on the flip side I had also seen a lot of Jesus holding baby sheep paintings, and a ridiculous amount of mass produced crucifixes that feature a remarkably peaceful and very squeaky clean looking Jesus. These two things weren't really connecting for me. That glow in the dark Jesus hanging on my vacation Bible school bookmark didn't really look like he was working too hard. He was just chillin' there on the glow in the dark cross ready to take my sins and let me into glow in the dark heaven... what?!

As I mentioned, this piece was made for the chapel of a monastery. More specifically a monastery known for hospital work geared toward people with skin diseases. If you can imagine yourself as a 16th century peasant for a second and bare with me... take another look at that painting and what is happening. You are a peasant who is at this monastery because you have gotten leprosy or some sort of skin disorder that has made you a serious outcast. The people around you are becoming disfigured to the point that your stomach churns. You don't understand why God would ever let this happen and you are pissed off and are pretty sure that God hates you.. BUT you've decided to take a chance and pray in the chapel.

You get down on your knees at the altar with a lack of words, and eventually look up through your folded hands and there is the Lord with disfigured flesh, skin that is diseased surrounded to his left by his mother and his followers. Peter (red cape) catching Mary who just can't handle it and Mary Magdalene freaking out still toting her alabaster jar and weeping. On the right John the Baptist (yes I know.. he wasn't at the crucifixion and they knew it too..but they didn't have a dream sequence option in oil painting so this is what you get), like an apparition, points symbolically reminding us that the prophets have foretold that this would happen.. that God would take our place, our diseases and suffer worse than anything we would suffer so that we would know peace and be with God forever. You find yourself, your situation as one of these characters and a realization that you are not alone and God 'gets it' can happen. This painting is tipping the 16th century viewer off all over to place to recall that story of Christ in a new way that is relevant to their place and situation. It is crazy. To me this is awesome because God's word is communicated visually so specifically to meet people where they are and bring them in. These monks and clergy are commissioning works that are using the media of the day to transcend barriers to communicate the sacrifice and understand of God.

As a visual learner in the 21st century art like this is an amazing opportunity for my faith and learning to collide. Saints of the past take my hand and walk me through the anguish and the pain and the majesty of the story of scripture. Nativity paintings of this era from churches show Jesus over and over again on Mary's knee wrapped as a child in a blue robe with a red sash... blue for heaven and red for flesh and earth. Divine wrapped in flesh. Visual cues that the people of their time, while illiterate to the written word, gain understanding through a visual language of colors and symbols and emotions. Jesus being cast to death with my leprosy to die for my sins. MY disease. MY situation. MY Christ.

Wow I like art.

So.. the bar should be set really high. How am I communicating for my culture the story of Christ? How are the creations of my heart and mind reaching people where they are? Am i communicating with excellence and innovation? Have I informed myself culturally? Have I built in a literacy for multiple intelligences in how I communicate?

Lord! Help me take a cue from the history of your story being illustrated! Let me approach your story with intelligence, excellence, intentionality, creativity, compassion and innovation. I don't want to hand a hurting person a plastic, happy gospel. I want to hand them something dynamic that connects the dots. I want to strive for a museum worthy witness.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I had an imaginary friend. I am guessing that for those of you who know me personally, this is not much of a surprise but i was thinking about the illusive and mischievous "Scat Cat" and thought I should share. I think Scat came to be part of my life on a trip to California when I was 3 (i think...). I was still an only child at the time, and my mother was pregnant with my sister Rachel and we were taking a road trip across the USA with my grandparents on my father's side in their motor home when this particular purple cat made his way into my life. As I recall we stopped in the Dakotas at the Corn Palace and got some serious sesame street gear and possibly a Gumby and Pokey figurine set and this is the first time I recall making sure that Scat Cat had a place to sit in the motorhome.
None of the adults I was with were very good at playing pretend... so of course... I pretended that there was a large purple cat wearing a trendy hat (think a mix between Disney's Cheshire cat and the cat that plays the trumpet in Disney's Aristocats.. also named Scat Cat) that was excellent at playing pretend. Makes sense to me. I pretended to have someone to play pretend with.
OK... I promise this is coming from somewhere. It is a little disjointed.. but oh well.
I was poking around my usual online haunts and came upon this little video that was posted on A Print A Day (which if you haven't checked out is fun... what a talented gal). I just noticed that they are raising money for a library in Mongolia via this little gal's stories. This little girl just killed me with her stories. What imaginations children have! My favorite part of ths whole story is the hippo's allergies. OMG. Adorable. Why have I never thought about that? The most wonderful connections happen in the minds of kids and I would pay good money to have that back. Maybe i need to sit down and have a cuppa with Scat Cat and catch up on old times.

Here's a little definition from Webster's online to get the gears moving on this:

Main Entry: imag·i·na·tion
Pronunciation: \i-ˌma-jə-ˈnā-shən\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin imagination-, imaginatio, from imaginari
Date: 14th century
1: the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality2 a: creative ability b: ability to confront and deal with a problem : resourcefulness imagination and get us out of here> c: the thinking or active mind : interest imagination>3 a: a creation of the mind ; especially : an idealized or poetic creation b: fanciful or empty assumption

Is it just me or the root word "imaginari" one of the greatest sounding things you have heard this week? It sounds like some sort of ancient Chinese type of warrior that uses telekinesis. I think that is who I want to be when I grow up. The Imaginari.

I guess this leaves a lot of questions for me. What does one do in order to become the most creative an imaginative that they possibly can become? How can one learn to think outside of the box? How can you make the connections that are absurd and beautiful? How can one stimulate the imagination and live in a life that is guided by a God-given creativity? I don't know... but let me tell you my heart is racing just thinking about it.

I took a class in college called "Juxtaposynthesis". Oddly enough this made-up word looks like the most impressive class I took in all of college... well Physics looks decently good as well... but i still think the class taught by Prof. Steve Heilmer takes the cake. We had a bit of a rough ending to the course, but besides some unfortunate mishaps of burglary in the art building that winter, this class ranks as one of the more life-changing experiences that took place in my college years... and I am sad to say that for how often i think about it I have yet to go back and bother Steve for a syllabus to look through once again. Juxtaposynthesis was all about making those unlikely connection
s by placing two things side by side or, even better, integrating them in a way that created a new experience and a new meaning.. think Rauschenberg sort of (peices at left). This blew my mind at the time, and still kind of does. We were asked to do some 'crazy' and possibly borderline sacrilegious (at times) exercises that pushed my boundaries on how to think of the world. We were told to make crosses. Some ended up being made out of dismembered baby doll parts, some antique printing press letters, some out of Triscut snack cracker boxes. Each time something new was born. I made my first piece of clothing out of packing material that winter... a jacket out of bubble wrap. shoes of lost puzzle pieces. I folded paper cranes out of pictures of aircraft carriers. I was introduced to Annie Dillard's literature which changed my life again. I was transformed by seeing things differently... my trying to make the unlikely connections that lead to the redemption of objects or images that would otherwise go unnoticed. This process stole my heart... especially when paired with the idea of redemption. This has just recently been rediscovered in my vault of memories this Christmas season when listening to the story of God.
Holy creativity... Holy juxtaposition.
I have been struck by the creativity of the Master Creator for some time. Having had a number of experiences in "the church" and with "the church" that make me ill, I have never been able to turn my back on the God of the Bible in part because of a story of the Ultimate Creative. I mean, look at giraffes.
HILARIOUS. What other things leave us in awe, wonder, or just rolling in stitches because of the absurdity of it all.Flounders make me laugh. Brilliant.. they have both eye on top of their bodies... they are like pancakes of fish.. squished by nature's steamroller to the bottom of the ocean floor. Or sloths. Sloths are funny too. Mountains are brilliant and beautiful but deadly.. as are small things like poisonous tree frogs. Let us not forget snowflakes and the CRAZY reality that no two are alike!!! IN-FREAKING-SANE. Something we can barely see that is so intricate that we will go along without noticing it before it melts to oblivion. Don't get me started on marsupials. But it isn't just natural wonders that inform my affection and awe for this Ultimate Creative. But the stories of scripture. Women leading people groups... prostitutes all over the place ... shepherds turned to kings...that's like the trash man becoming the next president of the US. It's CRAZY and WONDERFUL.
But most of all, in this season is the ultimate story of juxtaposition... that of a baby born among livestock that came to save all man-kind. I know we have heard it over and over again and it loses its' crazy-factor... but i was stepping back and putting it through my brain again this morning. The people say "we want a Messiah who will rule in power" and God says "yo- no prob. Here is myself as my son born to an unwed teenager near some cows and sheep
and raised as a carpenter. There you go." I mean really... God? What the heck? Can you push the unlikely-connection factor up another notch? "Sure" says God... "Let me throw in a man that lives in the woods who eats bugs to tell you He is coming." Oh sure. It is flat out weird.

It's hard to explain how strange that is to me right now. We all love a surprise ending... we love twists in movies and unlikely turns in the plot but somehow we got bored with the Christmas story. Maybe that is another reason why we must be 'born again'. I know this is a stretch... but somehow this implies to me that we start over.. and that makes me want to start over including starting over on how i believe things... how connections are made and say "of course hippos have allergies to magic... of course green eggs and ham sounds delicious... of course a baby in a feed trough is God incarnate." (Giotto. The nativity and Adoration of the Shepherds. 1304-1306. Fresco)

Why? Why is this lost on me?

Lord! Heal my damaged imagination. Heal me of my human logic. Renew the mind of a child and let me live in the absurd and glorious promises of unlikely connections made by you, my Ultimate Creative. Please. I want to live in full color.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas drool

I have been drooling a little bit over these TOMS Shoes wrap boots. Man! I have been looking for a good versatile boot for a while and I think this might just be it... I'm hoping to find a way out to a store that carries them to give them a try-on. Really! Great idea!!
In case anyone wanted to know I wear a 7.5 in womens although i should probably check my other pair of Toms to see what they are :)
If these really are as versatile as they are being advertised as... I am in! Not to mention that the inspiration for their design came from the leg wraps for Polo ponies.... pretty neat. And as always, I love how responsible TOMS is as a company. They are providing shoes for children all over the world through the sale of their shoes... buy one give one... and these particular ones happen to be vegan. So interesting and cool. Now i just have to decide if it is worth my investment......