Saturday, August 27, 2011

The dog days are over

In two days my summer officially ends. Work at the computer store will kick into overdrive (especially from losing a day to the hurricane) and after the weekend rush during which I will definitely want to stick my head in an oven, then school will start. And the insanity will heighten. (I'm a little bit over-committed. NBD.)

Still, I managed to jam some happiness into this busy summer. For posterity.

Two weeks in Dearborn! Where I ate Arabic food every day, went to an art museum for the first time, crossed a language barrier, and saw the light shatter darkness. A week at "libertarian camp"! Where I experienced my first ever college party, wandered the streets of Philadelphia, talked to strangers, and had my enthusiasm for free market ideals was revived.

I raced around Boston, and then around Providence. I went to my first ever Waterfire. I sat on a sailboat and experienced Gasby Days. I watched spectacular fireworks and braved apocalyptic subway conditions. I gave blood under the most bizarre of circumstances, in a successful demonstration of getting-together-ness. I saw two, three, four friends off to college, the quintessential experience, and I managed not to die of jealousy. I drove home in the middle of the night so frequently I went pro.

I made a different cookie every Friday I went to work. I learned how to (not) drive a golf ball. I had free frozen yogurt at 10pm in the pouring rain. I planned a photo scavenger hunt downtown. I had periodic movie nights with the best of friends, and chill Sunday afternoons with beautiful people. I explored Boston and aired the curtains of my mind with two boys who are teaching me so much. I had soul-cheering chats with girls I see so rarely. I saw the Breakers well-photographed.

I said good-bye to summer and "hello, hurricane" with my family this afternoon. With octopus ramen and wandering around in the drizzle. Tomorrow will be filled with back-to-school preparations, and then maybe I'll be able to come back up to breathe when the semester ends.

And I count all this fullness as the richest of blessings.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Do they see Jesus in me?

Do you love Jesus? Do you? Do you really love Him? Then prove it.

Prove it not just by what you say, not just by who believers far-off think you are, not just by an image or perception. Prove it not just in that worship service, or on that missions trip, or at that conference. Don't just prove it when it's easy. Prove it not just in the checklist, not just in the clothes you where or the people you associate with, not just in the catalogue of the Christian image. Prove in a way that strikes cold and hard and true. Prove it sincerely.

Give evidence. Give testimony. (Be changed.)

Pray for your pastors. Encourage your brothers and sisters. Speak up for those who have no voice. Attend to the small stuff. Remember the forgotten. Practice faithfulness in every sphere of life. Sacrifice. Suffer. See past the sin to the sinner's beautiful soul. Be long-suffering, patient in God's ways and God's plan. Love the Church, love the lost, love your enemies.

Love Jesus through the power He gives in loving us.

You know what these skeptics say, these people who think we're crazy, who think we're so painfully naive. They say that there is no proof that Jesus was Lord and Savior. (Does he really change anyone?)

Prove them wrong. Prove them wrong by how you speak and act and love. And when you fail? For the hypocrite who comes home and for the haughty who are humbled, there is forever grace, that we may love Him still more.

Simply to the Cross I cling.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This isn't about law school at all.

When it comes out to people I know very well that I have plans to go to law school, maybe even become an immigration lawyer, the look on their faces cuts like a dull, heavy knife. Their expressions inadvertently say what I'm thinking:

"Really?" That mild surprise. "I suppose I can see it." The half-shrug, both permissive and dismissive. "Little bit of a delusion of grandeur, isn't it, though?" A condescending nod. "Nice idea, but it'll never happen." Mouth set in a noncommittal smile.

It's fair, what they think, all of it's fair. Me? Law? Immigration? I don't know enough, care enough, work enough to possibly make it. I am spinning a future for myself in the theoretics, and it will never makes its way down into reality, partly because the world doesn't work like that and partly because I'm not enough.

I always bite off more than I can chew.

It's like that getting into college all over again! I'll pour myself into a goal too big for my abilities, and when it doesn't work out, I'll wipe the egg off my face and move into something more manageable, more Hayley-sized, and dabble away at that until the next insurmountable goal comes along. I think too big and too small, at the same time!

And the only rest for my listless and wearying soul is that eventually I will be the person I was meant to be. Who does what they're supposed to do. Who doesn't struggle in doubt and indecision, but walks forward in faith.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I feel twelve years old in the very best way

This weekend has been glorious. I've never looked forward to a weekend so much! And in memorandum of my final day of the weekend tomorrow (Rhode Island, in all its tackiness, is the only state that still observes . . . VJ Day. Yeah. Awkward.) here are the three things I would like to do.

1. I would like to make stuffed French toast. Actually, I would like to eat stuffed French toast. I suggested that for her sixteenth birthday, Maggie have a little party at a tea garden, and I reminded myself of my aunt's engagement party some years back, when I had stuffed French toast for the first (and last) time and didn't finish the whole thing because it was so rich, and I'd like to recreate that experience.

(Virginia Woolf has very little on me by way of syntax.)

2. I would also like to make it through the stack of library books I've been blowing through. See, okay. I've been in quite a desertland in my literary explorations, haven't sat and read in such a long time, but, oh, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but Harry Potter brought me out of it.

This is how it happened. I got pre-showing tickets to the last movie, and on impulse I went, just so I could say I saw the most talked-about movie of the year two nights before everyone else. (Because I have great strength of character, and all.) Never seen any of the other movies, never picked up one of the books, a veritable Hogwarts tabula rasa! Funny enough though, when I wasn't whispering to the people on either side of me, "Who's that? What's going on? Why--" I was actually quite enjoying the movie. The final straw was when my neighbor brought over the first movie the following night, and at its conclusion I was essentially hooked.

On my longish ride to Pennsylvania I listened to The Sorcerer's Stone on tape, and the following week I worked through The Chamber of Secrets. I'm finishing up Prisoners of Azkaban now, and, I almost look forward to driving long distances now, because it means another dose of this bizarre fantasy land. That's what I love about reading. That's what I've missed. And it's a pity it took something like the Harry Potter franchise to get me back into it!

But that's the great part, right? Since I only have the tapes, not the books, I've had to fill my thirst of stories when I'm not in the car. I've breezed through three books these past few days, ah, it's just like old times! Not just fiction either, not just twoddle reading, but also some thick tomes giving me advice on my future, and some witty essays on Winnie the Pooh and the dignity of normal, everyday language. I'm branching out in my old age!

Of course, this will all come to an end with this month and the start of school, as I'm certain I will be working when I'm not sleeping (sleeping?! I meant studying, I can sleep when I'm dead), but I'm hopeful I can ride this rejuvenation straight through till December, where I can resume my booklist where I left off.

Oh, oh, continuing with my list of sundry things. 3. I want to cuddle with my brother. Because today, finally, and oh how I've been waiting for this day . . . ! Today, my brother smells good. There is indeed hope in this world!

I totally get Rebecca Black. I love the weekend.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The place where dreams come true

I feel like such a shmuck every time I mention I've been to Disney World. I mean, it's so quintessential American, the epitome of indulgent entertainment consumerism, rife with an elevated pricetag and overly entitled patrons. It's practically a symbol of everything that's ridiculous about Western prosperity, while simultaneously acting as a powerful actor in American media. Bleck. Not hipster-halal at all. No sir.

But, oh! While it certainly our family's most expensive vacation ever, it was truly worth every penny. I kind of feel like Disney is the Apple of the theme park business; their customer service cannot be topped, and their innovative approach to their industry makes them champs at what they do. I look back at the experience with such fond memories, a small part of me even pines to visit again. I love what I desperately want to hate, because deep down, even though I know it's so evil, I also know it's so awesome.

And you know me: categorically opposed to any entertainment outlets that are not at least in part educational. (I'm going to make a great mom, you know.)

The very best part of it all was really the anticipation. We had a promotional video that we watched over and over. We compared it from the ancient one we still had from when my parents went before we children existed. We checked guidebooks out from the library and strategized about when we would see what. Would we book it to Space Mountain first thing through the gates, or would we hit up Adventureland? The guidebooks told us we'd be walking an average of twelve miles a day, so we started "training" by walking around all the neighborhoods each night. I even did a "practice packing" the night our parents told us we were going, which was hilarious because the trip was six months away! My family was so hardcore about the whole thing. I think we planned for every detail, which is a rarity for our family trips to this day.

We had decided to fly down, and this was Big News because it was our first time on an airplane ever. I didn't really know enough about flying to be terrified, though I remember having butterflies in my stomach, but in level-headed rationality I steeled myself against the novelty. I folded my hands tightly in my lap as we ascended, chewing madly on a piece of Juicy Fruit, until we surfaced above the clouds. I guess the flight was three hours, but I didn't even notice because I looked out the window the whole time, spellbound by the clouds that looked like a carpet. The whole experience was so smooth that I was caught completely unaware the next time I flew, which was in a thunderstorm. And yes there was lots of turbulence, and yes I cried. But anyway.

Once we landed we got on a bus, a Disney shuttle or something, and we drove for a looooong time. Despite passing the outlines of various resorts and parks on the horizon, I was entirely discombobulated by the time we reached our hotel, which was Disney's All-Start Movie Value Resort. Or something. All I know is there were giant statues of the 101 Dalmations. We girls got our own room that adjoined the room my parents and Cal were staying in, and being on our own meant . . . watching the Disney channel until midnight every night. [/cable deprived.] Eddy's Million Dollar Cook-Off? Still my favorite Disney channel original movie!

We had carefully crafted the order we would visit the parks in, and naturally we started with EPCOT, because it looked somewhat educational and would be a docile introduction. We geeked out over the new Test Track ride, which we rode twenty times in a row because there was no line. (We went in late September, the "off-season" and it was glorious. Who would go at any other time?!) A lot of the science stuff was tempered with constant warnings from our parents: "Of course, guys, dinosaurs lived at the same time as people," and "The complexity of the human genome is a credit to our Creator and not haphazard evolution." I'm not dogging this, I'm awfully glad my parents were so faithful, but it's funny in retrospect how I looked at things through double-lenses, a perpetual cognitive dissonance when it came to the modern interpretation of science. Also, the rose garden was fantastic, particularly by the light of fireworks.

That night we went to a buffet-style dinner with "character dining" and I ate a lot of corn chowder, because I had never had it before, and I thought it was just delicious, and I felt ill the rest of the night. Which is maybe why I came to dislike character dining, but generally it's awkward to have silent people in giant costumes coming up to you and pantomiming actions intended to be adorable. Sarah and I thought we were too old for such things, and Maggie and Cal were basically frightened, and it was generally, just, yeah, awkward.

The next park we visited was MGM, which I had anticipated would be my favorite but ended up being my least favorite. The eerie shadow of The Tower of Terror loomed everywhere you went in the park, and it was the very first ride we rode. Which is in itself a story. Maggie had a meltdown in the holding room after the lights went out and she grabbed a stranger's hand. Cal was tall enough to ride but too small to appreciate the fun, and hence refused to ride anything remotely unsettling the rest of the trip, not even the Bear in the Big Blue House show. Sarah and I emerged from The Tower crying. (The drop was fun, but I had nightmares about the accompanying storyline the rest of the week.) Dad had to ride it by himself, and the post-ride photo showed him apologizing profusely to the gentleman sitting next to him, whose arm Dad had grabbed on the way down. Mom thought it was fun, but couldn't convince anyone to go near it again.

Our benevolent parents had also set aside another treat for us: a day spent at Blizzard Beach, one of Disney's water parks. We had never been to a water park (and so for future visits to Water Country the bar had been set impossibly high) and we went out of our minds with the thrill of it all. We almost drowned. Repeatedly. And were totally okay with that. They also squeezed in a timeshare pitch, landing us a free supper at one of the resorts. We were treated like royalty (you know, before the pitch :P) and it was totally crazy town! It turns out Disney gets lots more posh than our value hotel, which even in my memory was preeetty nice.

It makes me sad that I can't remember more about the trip, just snippets here and there. Getting the high score for our batch in the Buzz Lightyear ride. (You know, after we convinced Cal to ride it.) Watching Beauty and the Beast while sipping grape juice in the AAA lounge. Playing in the fountains in EPCOT and sampling Norwegian pastries. Hide-and-seek on Tom Sawyer's island. Sarah and I getting separated from our parents after the fifth time around on Splash Mountain. Laughing at the automatronics that had been cutting edge in their time. The friendly squirrel outside of the Star Wars ride. Oh!-- standing outside of each 3D movie with a sheepish look on my face, praying that no one would try and abduct me. Babysitting Maggie and Cal in a giftshop while enduring the cross-examination of a clerk who wanted to know where our parents were and why my brother kept trying to play with the bouncy balls. Turning beet red in my seat as Cal screamed bloody murder at each attempt to enter a faintly dimmed ride. Sitting on the display porch outside of the Haunted Mansion with Cal, nodding at passersby who looked perplexedly at us. Lots of happy fun times, but I remember the interactions (dramatic, controversial, and otherwise) with my family the best.

Yeah, there were a lot of meltdowns. I think we each had several apiece. Sarah's bathing suit got lost in the laundered towels. Maggie was easily downtrodden by the heat and humidity and hunger and walking. I freaked out when we didn't stop to look at an exhibit I had really wanted to see. Cal was a quaking ball of fright after the Tower of Terror incident. And my parents are . . . my parents. All of us getting ill on the Body Wars ride. Annnd, the classic "The Making of Me" exhibit featuring Bob Saget. Definitely some bad attitudes associated with sitting through that one, for obvious reasons. But we were a family! Even though I remember a lot of the things that went wrong, I remember how funny or exciting those events were, any in many ways, those parts were the best parts.

It's funny. My parents decided to make the trip shortly after my dad's brush with death (oh, he's been silver-haired ever since!) in an effort to make the most of our time together as a family, and, maybe to indulge because they were always so frugal. I think that's one thing that made it so special, we'd never done anything like that before. We've been a bit more spoiled since, but Disney is still a hallowed memory, that once-in-a-life time family vacation, one I'll hopefully always remember.

Yeah. I still feel like a schmuck. (Seeing as how I managed to talk so much about it all this time!) But it was fun. Sue me!