"Before you can search for truth, you must be interested in finding it." -Miroslav Volf

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Spring in Pictures

I’ve been rather silent here lately, feeling a lack of time and “space” to put up any kind of content. But it doesn’t mean I/we haven’t been having fun! Spring, according to my calendar, is nearly over; here are some glimpses (swiped from Joann’s FB page) into what we’ve been up to in this season of new life.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m crying. Joann made me laugh so hard I was crying and even having a little trouble breathing. That’s really all I’d better say in this venue. It was funny.

I blogged several weeks back about the Dragon Boat race preparation and implied some broader applications to the principles of effective dragon boat racing. You can see some of Joann’s extended family in the bottom shot, come to cheer us on, and one of the actual races in the top photo. That’s our team in the back—in last place. We raced three times against three competitors each race. We lost every race. Once we were way behind and caught up; another time we were in the lead, and then must have gotten overly giddy and lost focus, as we ended up in last. If winning is everything, then we did not experience “everything.” We did have fun.

Joann’s so good to me. She’s very tolerant of my obsessive Mariners fandom. I don’t usually watch the games, though we occasionally go to El Sarape to catch one (she usually brings something to craft or grade). I guess this is my game-watching face. I’m not sure what’s going through my head, or if I’m just kind of entranced, not really thinking about anything. If there was a thought bubble with this picture, it’d probably say something like: “Oh no…I’m simultaneously aware that we’re probably not going to score that runner from third, and that I forgot to ask for guacamole.”


And a real game! Thanks Mom, for a great birthday present. They lost. The weather was nice. I drank expensive beer.

Baby clothes and toys! Joann and I have an ongoing lighthearted feud about the value of acquiring baby clothes, especially so early. She, of course, feels it to be VERY important. Don’t worry, I know I’m wrong.

Our now-preferred branch of our favorite Olympia coffee, Batdorf and Bronson, next to the Farmer’s Market. And amazing, homemade oatmeal cookies Joann made later that day.


Out with the old, in with the used-but-new-to-us. My parents, concerned for us but more for the well-being of their coming grandchild, decided we needed a vehicle upgrade. We’re now driving an 03 Saturn Vue. It’s been a lot of fun…so many little conveniences that I didn’t know I was missing, including the ability to put down the back seat and take naps. We actually took our second car nap today, driving over to the marina and parking for an hour or so.

We continued (and likely concluded) a now two-year tradition of a Memorial Day trip to Ocean Shores. Here we are outside and inside the car, parked on the beach, likely waking up from our first nap in our new toy.

It’s official! I had been accepted a few months ago, but had to send this official document in as an “acceptance of my acceptance.” Been spending a lot of my free time apartment/rental house shopping in the bay area (heavily considering Alameda) and doing some preparatory reading to ready myself as much as possible for the program. My excitement for the move and life change has been a bit overshadowed by my emotions surrounding that other big life change happening…but…I’m ecstatic. It’s really a dream come true. Two dreams coming true. Actually…three dreams. My third dream is that pregnancy would end as soon as possible, so that my wife can return to some kind of normalcy. I’m sooooooo over pregnancy. J

My pregnant cutie.

My cutie again, doing something that she’s not as good as me at. Not to brag or anything.

I thought we’d miss them but we didn’t! My grandma’s lilacs were in full bloom during our last visit to Woodland, with their wonderful aroma and variety of colors. Joann made me do the muscle pose. I’m really not normally a muscle pose guy. I swear. I’m more of the frolic, jump-in-the-air type. Those bottom two shots were my creative choice. J

We did it…all six seasons of “Lost.” Started at the beginning of Spring, just finished a few days ago. Fun to take the “journey” again; definitely a different experience watching it all in about two months rather than six years.

So proud! Joann’s play—The Pirates of Penzance—was nominated for several awards by a Washington State awards program organized by a professional theater company (5th Avenue). More significantly, she herself was recognized with a nomination for best direction. Because, she’s awesome at what she does.

Some of my guests at the show—my mother, and a group of my English students on a “field trip.”

An early spring jaunt to Portland, down at the waterfront. I like this picture a lot.

Prom! We didn’t go to Tumwater’s prom; it came to us. Our early evening picnic at Capital Lake received a welcome interruption from a group of Joann’s theater students. We didn’t dress up, so…we…ate each other’s sandwiches.

My latest, favorite food discovery—Quinoa. Which I’ve been pronouncing like “Kee-oh-na” like an idiot. That’s not even a reasonable mispronunciation, given the letter order. It’s of course, “keen-wah.” And it’s one of the healthier things you can put in your body…and versatile!

And finally…tree-climbing. I whimsically climbed up the tree, enjoying a moment of nostalgia. Until I began to distrust both the tree and my flip-flops and proceeded to climb back down. I’m really intrigued by the way we perceive people and how that’s different from how we perceive ourselves. A co-worker today was shocked to discover how messy my desk was (WAS…I gave it a good tidying today and it now looks pristine) with papers unorganized and haphazardly stacked—it didn’t fit her polished image of me. I wonder how many people I know would feel a bit of cognitive dissonance at knowing I climb trees. Or, differently, who would feel the same in discovering I’m pursuing a PhD. Or that I love to cook. Or that my desk was so messy. Or that I support gay marriage. Or that I love baseball statistics. I guess it’s a fascinating thought—the possibility that every person who knows me has a slightly different picture of me, just as I perceive you, if I know you, differently from how others perceive you. I don’t know what it means…maybe nothing significant. I just find it interesting.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Watching Tides and Mourning Brevity

Growing up we used to make a two hour drive up north to stay at a cabin on Hood Canal (west Puget Sound) that belonged to some church friends. One of my most vivid memories of those visits was tide watching. With the help of a tide guide/booklet, I would take frequent jaunts down to the beach to see how much the water had risen. I made seeing high and low tides a priority.

The coming and going of the water fascinated me. And, I’ll confess, I’m proud of my youthful self for so deeply appreciating something like this. The rhythm, the predictability, the naturalness, the connection between moon and water…I don’t know what it was that primarily captivated me, but something did.

I was thinking about this memory today because the rhythm of tides—the water coming in, the water going out—is an image connected with some of my emotions stemming from the season I’m in. Given the impending transitions coming for Joann and I, I’ve entered that final phase where I really start to prepare for the end of an era—if just under two years can be considered an era—and reflect back upon it.

My grandma’s lilacs have already come and gone, I hear, and I wasn’t able to get home for a visit to see them this year. Also, as I took off my running shoes yesterday to find cherry blossoms stuck to the soles, I realized that as quickly as spring has come, some elements of this season are already passing away. Even the sun today reminds me that as quickly as such nice weather comes, so quickly will it leave, this time of year in the northwest.

As Joann and I watched her last show at Tumwater High School this past Saturday night, I was a bit baffled at how quickly two years can pass by. I think about our initial reason for moving to Olympia—to start a church—and how what once seemed a significant part of my story feels now more like a blip, a moment that certainly packed a punch in the way it shaped who I am today but which also now seems only brief event in my story.

I think about all of my international students. Over my 20+ months at EF, I’ve seen hundreds of students come and go. That’s the nature of our school, with some students staying a whole year and some only two or three weeks. Lots of turnover, lots of goodbyes. Lots of people walking into my life and then swiftly walking out of it.

I cope with it by telling them I’ll see them again someday, or that Facebook will be a source of contact; and I do kind of believe that I might see them, given my love of travel and the increasing smallness of the world and my relentless optimism that makes me tell myself little lies, from time to time.

Moreover, part of how I understand Christian hope is that it is a hope that I really do have all the time I could ever need to see those who walked the earth with me. Still…it’s a coping mechanism, a reflection of my grieving over the numerous goodbyes I have to say and have said to me.

And I always begin to think a similar thing at this point when the “tide” begins to shift and recede: have I savored this time? How much time did I spend thinking about what’s next? How much time did I spend not thriving but simply enduring? How lightly or even indifferently did I consider and feel toward the precious souls who blessed my life simply by their presence in it?

It makes me a bit anxious…though I want that pressure, I think. Part of living well, in my opinion, means taking as much of my life as possible as seriously as possible—seriously in the sense of gratitude, awareness, appreciation…not in the sense of being uptight or humorless. But when I get to the end of something, I start to feel that pressure—have I loved this part of my life? Am I aware of its richness, of the greatness of these opportunities, or did I miss it?

I got a little preachy last Thursday to a roomful of 200+ students at a lecture/presentation I gave, and told them the value of “ending well.” Sometimes students leave our school disappointed by something about their experience, and often go out with negative feelings, eager to be rid of “rainy, boring Olympia” or whatever their lament might be.

I strongly suggested to them that a much better way to live life is to end well—to be grateful for whatever it is that’s ending, not because it’s ending but because it contained beauty, goodness, people that mattered, experiences that shaped you, invaluable learned lessons. I suggested that ending well is an important ability that will increase your overall happiness in life.

I’m hoping to feel the same. To do the same. To end well. To be grateful for these memories, but not feel anxious about how quickly everything seems to have passed, nor feel regret that I didn’t do this or that “more” or “better.”

A lot of things come and go quickly. There’s a balance I want to embody: to enter in as deeply as possible to temporary, passing things, yet not anxiously try to hold on to something when its time has come to an end. To both celebrate and mourn the end. To realize that life is full of ends, yet also of beginnings.

I tend to think that after I die, none of the precious events of my life will be forgotten, and that whatever the afterlife looks like, I’ll be afforded the opportunity to be aware of and grateful for all that’s happened in my life. That makes me feel better about letting things go in this life, knowing that they are preserved and cannot be totally lost nor forgotten.

I pray I’d have the capacity to do what I’m talking about. To savor, to embrace the comings and goings without anxiety and self-doubt but instead with gratitude and peace. The virtues of various religious traditions, including my own, come to mind as potential tools: the “mindfulness” and “attentiveness” so valued in Buddhism; the “discipline” I see modeled so well by many of my Muslim students; the “tolerance” and “respect” for everyone and everything and the way of the universe so sought after in Hinduism; the joy, peace, and hope Christians seek after.

Much of life follows this same rhythm of tides: coming and going, ebb and flow, presence and absence. I suppose knowing this is half the battle of coping with a season such as this. The other half of the battle is actually handling this reality well—both mourning it and being at peace with it.

I’m a generally joyful person, contagiously so at times, I’m told. :) But in my heart, I grieve times like this, and must work through the melancholy induced by this very natural part of life.