Journals and black coffee.


I always thought that I was a cream and sugar kind of girl, that I drank tan coffee, not the really dark brown stuff. Today, however, out of necessity (necessity being that I had no cream or even milk in my fridge) I drank my coffee black. Just a bit of sugar.

Finding that I rather liked it was a relief. It made me feel less fruity. Whenever I drink coffee with people who know my addiction and how much I adore the caffeinated substance – and scorn people who think that caramel macchiatos and campfire mochas are coffee – and they see me put cream and sugar in my coffee, I feel like a fake. I can see the confusion on their faces. They thought of me as a hardened coffee drinker, the biker chick of warm beverages. Then here I am, pouring half-n-half (which doesn’t actually exist in Austria) into my cup until it gets to the perfect shade of tan.

So I’m relieved to find that I’m not limited in my coffee drinking abilities. Heck, maybe some day I’ll be able to drink it without sugar, too – and like it.

We’ll see, I suppose.

While I discovered that I can drink coffee sans cream, I wrote the last page in my journal. March 31st, and I’m finishing up a journal. I couldn’t have planned that if I tried. This journal, now that it has retired, will be marked as the first journal where I could be honest. I don’t know about you, but I found it difficult to be honest in my journals after I read Anne Frank’s diary. They published them, and she wrote so well and about such honest things but without sounding stupid. I was quite sure that I would sound stupid in honesty.

Plus, it’s a struggle to be vulnerable at any time, even if it’s just with paper.

Going to counseling, however, required that I be honest in my journals. All the swirling thoughts in my head demanded to be written down, in crazy, neurotic form, without censorship. Then they would stop swirling. So, this journal is my first real, honest journal. It’s the one that will not ever be left on my bookshelf, just in case I die an untimely death and someone gets it into their head to read my stuff.

New journal day. New chapter. Blank pages. Black coffee. Goodness, what’s next?

 

Advertisements

Love and pizza.


I took the brownies to class, and they asked me to post the recipe in our class forum. So, I suppose they were a success. Just goes to show that vulnerability can pay off. Chocolatey vulnerability, that is.

Today, I was sitting in a pizza place called Zeppelin with my friends, as is our tradition after the class we have together on Fridays. It’s a place where you can pick all the toppings you want to have on your pizza for a pretty low price. So, there we were, sitting at our table talking about priests and our professor and everything else, when all of a sudden, I hear something familiar.

The place was noisy, and our group isn’t exactly quiet when we get going, but I still heard it: “o-o-oh-o-o-oh-o-oh-o-o-oh-o-o-oh-o-oh” And I knew exactly what song it was.

I’m trying to find where my place is
I’m looking for my own oasis
So close I can taste this
The fear that love alone erases

So I’m back to the basics
I figure it’s time I face this
Time to take my own advice

Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight

I couldn’t keep the smile from spreading across my face. One of the truly joyful ones. I slapped the table and stared at the speakers. “Guys, this is my favorite band!!”

And I never thought it’d come to this
But it seems like I’m finally feeling numb to this
The funny thing about a name is
You forget what the reason you were playing the game is

And it’s all an illusion
A 21st century institution
So I’m headed down the open road unknown

And we find what we’re made of
Through the open door
Is it fear you’re afraid of?
What are you waiting for?

Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight

“I have to tweet this!”

We’re only here for a season
I’m looking for the rhyme and reason
Why you’re born, why you’re leaving
What you fear and what you believe in

Why you’re living and breathing
Why you’re fighting it and getting it even
Let’s go headed down the open road unknown

And we find what we’re made of
Through the open door
Is it fear you’re afraid of?
What are you waiting for?

Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight

I have to laugh and just smile to myself because this is what Jesus keeps saying when he taps me on the shoulder. He keeps sending me notes and memos and telepathic messages that I was made to love. It’s why I’m here in skin and bones and muscles.

Here we are, here we go
Where the road is our own
Hear it calling you home
Here we are, here we go!

Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight
Love alone is worth the fight

Love is my home. Loving is my calling. Love alone is worth fighting for, not that we need to fight other people in order to love but that it’s worth a fight to keep loving. We do have to fight to love sometimes, don’t we? Other things get in the way, but it’s worth pushing past selfishness and prejudice and laziness and ignorance. It’s worth fighting for.

And it’s the only thing worth fighting for.

I need to be tapped on the shoulder on a regular basis, to have Jesus push me to love, to remind me that that’s why I’m here. Not just here in Graz but why I’m here  – on earth – at all.

Love alone  is worth the fight.

I made brownies.


I have no idea what these are going to taste like. It wasn’t a family recipe. I wasn’t even totally sure that I was buying flour and cocoa powder (thank goodness, I was).

DSCN5537

But there are about 285 grams of chocolate in these brownies. Plus 40 grams of cocoa powder. There’s almost no way that this could turn out badly. 185 grams of butter. Good ingredients should yield tasty results. Should.

IMG_20140327_203554I’d like to think that with my baking competency there’s no way it could go wrong. No way that my classmates will bite into one tomorrow and grimace or need their stomach pumped afterwards.

DSCN5546

These are an experiment, like so much of my life right now. Does this road connect to any other roads by which I can get home? Let’s find out. Is this a vegetarian dish? Let’s find out. Does that person speak English/understand bad German? Let’s find out.

IMG_20140327_204704

So tomorrow I’ll take a Prezi about Hemingway and my brownies and try to facilitate a discussion. Do Austrian students like brownies and sarcasm? Let’s find out. Will my professor appreciate what I’ve done? Well, if he doesn’t, he obviously isn’t a chocolate person.

DSCN5549

Sometimes you just have to double boil and chop and whip eggs and sugar and fold the chocolate into the eggy sugary mixture and pour it into a parchment paper lined pan and hope that it’s an acceptable offering. Sometimes it’s not that much of a risk but it feels like offering your heart. Sometimes it is offering your heart.

And sometimes it’s just chocolate.

 

Cappuccino afternoon.


This is how I pictured Europe, a place where you sit in an adorable coffee shop that has a chandelier and drink a superb cappuccino while you polish up a short story and munch on a cherry pastry. It beautiful. Oh so beautiful. They serve that cappuccinos in real cups, cute little cups, the kind that you want to slip in your backpack and take with you when you leave. But you won’t because the lady who runs this espresso haven is so sweet. Short, cute skirt. She speaks English well enough to tell you about the pastries, which is all you need to know.

IMG_20140325_132741

I think I’m living in a dream.

I mean, ask me on a day when I’m not figuring things out and haven’t encountered as many wonderful people and coffee cups, and I might say otherwise. I might say that I wish that I was back in familiar territory. But no, I won’t say that, because I will remember the days like today where I took my laptop to a coffee shop and wrote. And I’ll remember the days of wandering about the city with a pastry in my hand and a mix of confusion and bliss on my face.

I have to remember today. I will remember it.

I wish the cappuccino tradition was as strong in America. I wish that American cups of coffee came on silver platters with a glass of water and a cookie.

 

Tallies and today.


“Teach me to number my days…” so I’ve got 39 tallies on the back of a Spar receipt. They’re numbered. And in all likelihood, there are 102 more tallies to add to that. But just adding a number to the day doesn’t add meaning, does it?

Is it what we do with the day, with the hours? Is it how we feel? Is it what we learn? Is it what we eat? (please, oh please, let it be what we eat)

Is it who we love? How we love? How clean our house is? How short our to-do list?

Is it who we help? Where we go? Where we don’t go? What we say? What we think? What we don’t say or think?

Is it ‘D’, “all of the above (and then some)”?

Does today’s meaningfulness or lack thereof depend on yesterday or tomorrow? Or is it just about today? When did today begin? When I first opened my eyes and decided the day wasn’t ripe enough yet? What it the second time? Was it at the first sip of coffee or the first spoonful of yogurt? Was it the first smile I exchanged with a stranger on the street or my first footstep into the grocery store?

What makes today count?

I want today to count. To count as a day where I did something or said something or thought of something. A day where I didn’t just survive but thrived. What makes a day cross the threshold from a day where we existed to a day where we lived?

More than just a tally, but a tally with memories and accomplishments. Accomplishments? Maybe not a certificate but a new muscle or a train of thought, new pages read or written. Old pages revisited, old muscles re-strengthened. Memories? Maybe not in picture form but in character shaping form or paradigm shifting form.

Oh, God, let Today change me. Let me live today fully, whatever that means. Let me thrive and accomplish, not by the world’s standards of checklists and paychecks but by making some progress on your scale, to go further into what you’re doing in and with me.

Let it be more than my 40th tally.

Rain work.


I’m watching raindrops dance on the manhole cover in the yard right now and letting the sound of raindrops breeze in through my window.

Something about steady dripping calms my heart and mind. It’s the consistency of the noise, like it replaces the steady thought churning in my skull with a predictable pitter-patter. It drowns out anxiety and thoughts of stopping my reading to google something unrelated and frivolous (like, “what would I look like with brown hair?”). Even though part of me wants to just stare as the rain falls, the greater part wants to keep reading while the weather cleans my brain and keeps me inside.

Let the rain fall as long as it likes. I’ll be in here, thinking solely about some branch of American literature, be it Gothic, Hemingway, Moby Dick, or The Last of the Mohicans.

I will be productive today, accepting the gift of a schedule-free afternoon and the gift of literature classes.

In my British Literature class last semester, we read Paradise Lost and talked about how in both Milton’s account and the Biblical narrative, there was work in the world before the Fall. Work wasn’t a curse until after sin, when it became hard. I suppose that’s when it became a drudge to concentrate on something, when it was an effort to have to produce an essay or study for a test. But initially, work was a gift just as much as the Garden or companionship or the many fruit trees.

And it really isn’t that hard to see work as a gift, if you don’t leave it all for the last minute.

With that being said, I will continue to make progress on my work, reading as long as the rain falls.

Tapes.


When I was younger, from toddlerhood til sometime in elementary school, I listened to lullaby tapes as I went to sleep. I’m not sure they always served their purpose because I remember listening to the whole side of the tape until I heard the click that signaled the end. Often, I’d creep out of bed and flip the tape over to hear the other side before I succumbed to sleep.

It was more about hearing those familiar songs, listening to the words and wondering what they were talking about. James Taylor, Carly Simon, the Carpenters, the Chordettes, these were the voices I heard as I went to sleep – and our family friend had a tape of his own songs that I particularly liked.

Julie through the glass, looking up at me…

There is a young cowboy; he lives on the range…

Listen to the song he sings. Can’t you see his music brings her crystal sleep…

Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream. Make him the cutest that I’ve ever seen…

I heard these tapes so many times that later on in life when the little people I babysat would ask for a lullaby, these were what I would sing. Those songs were the ones that came to mind whenever someone said, “lullaby”.

I play other tapes now. Different words bounce around inside my mind, some that others have played for me, some that I’ve told myself. Some are true, some are not. And sometimes I’m not paying too much attention to who’s running the jukebox in my head, because some of those tapes are warped and ugly.

Some of the tapes are just a repetition of those lies that we all tell ourselves – you know, the ones that say we’re both not enough and too much at the same time, the ones that say we love too many people and are loved by too few, the ones that lie and lie and lie.

But I still let them play.

And sometimes, that’s what I sing to other people. The warped inside warbles out.

I want to run my own jukebox. I want to play the good tapes. Listen to the song He sings… over you.

Questions and flowers.


Sometimes the inter-webs disappoint me. I clicked “publish” a few minutes ago on a lovely post about waffeln and walking, and I got an error message.

Oh, WordPress, why do you do this to me? Why didn’t you save my lovely post? In it, I justified my excessive sugar intake for today with my many kilometers of walking and explained that I did so much walking because I’m afraid of wiping out on the tram tracks, in which my tires have a tendency to get caught. I have not had said wipe out yet, and I’m unwilling to have it.

As lovely as it was to write that post once, I’m not inclined to do it again. Let’s try something new.

The season of blooming is officially in Graz. Green keeps popping up everywhere, and I keep finding new bits in me. Do you ever look at yourself and see something totally new? Or do you ever see the same weeds you thought you already pulled cropping up again? Does the whiff of a flower that used to be familiar but hasn’t been around for a while ever come back around?

Then you have to step back and look at the whole garden all over again. Are there more weeds? Did that one invite friends? Where does this flower fit in the grand scheme of things? Do I need to move it to make my garden as beautiful as it can be? How did that even get here?

Do you ever have more questions than answers?

My food people.


I wrote an article for RELEVANT, kind of hoping that they would snatch it right up and declare it the best piece they’ve ever had submitted. But alas, they already had an article on the same subject ready to go.

Oh well. Better results next time, perhaps.

So, instead I read my eyeballs out for American literature and wrote a short story while sitting on the deck on the third floor of my building. It’s sunny and in the high 60s today, which is a welcome introduction into spring weather. I think I got a little pink while I sat out there with my laptop, typing away about two old guys who are regulars at a coffee shop.

It’s probably not an amazing story, but sometimes you just have to sit down and write something that you might know a little something about, even if it’s mediocre. Because if you try to write something you know nothing about, then it will not only not be amazing, it might really stink.

Here’s the other news: we’re talking about what an American is in my American lit class. It’s funny because most of the people in there are European, so there’s a very different lens than I’m used to. Also, I’m realizing that I’m not sure what an American is. I’m not sure what we are historically or if you can even put a label on what is really “American.” I like what one of Dickens’ character who traveled a lot said; rather than being from a specific place, he was “a citizen of the world.”

I also like cookies. So I decided to bake some, because baking feels like home, even though all the tools and ingredients are foreign.

DSCN5515

Meet Austrian ingredients. Can you read any of that? Kudos if you can. Also note the recipe with grams as a measurement. WHAT?DSCN5519

The lovely dough balls, waiting to have a chemical reaction in the oven.DSCN5520Mother dough lump.

The after picture of the cookies is basically the same shape as the before picture. They weren’t anything particularly beautiful, but my flatmate said that they were “soooo good.” And I think I agree.

On the list of great food items of the past 24 hours: crêpes. Yes, crêpes. Made by a French person and eaten with French people. And a Canadian. And a West Virginian.DSCN5528

Photographic evidence of friendships. I think true friends eat together, and this group embraces that. We hadn’t even gotten up from the table before planning what we were going to eat together next.

Oh, I like food people.

 

Addicts and daily bread.


I’ve been doing a lot of silent (happy) screaming today. Lots of hand twinkling, ecstatic smiling, eye widening, toe tapping, and seat dancing.

I applied for an internship this morning. You’d think we were made for each other. And we just might have been. If it get it, I’ll tell you about it.

Oh baby.

Excitement central over here.

Today was another French Toast morning. Also a ginormous mug of coffee morning, but when isn’t it a ginormous cup of coffee morning? As I contemplated my possible addictions to cream cheese and coffee (we all know that my addiction to coffee isn’t just possible though… it’s certain), I thought about God.

We talk about going to church in terms of being fed. And I’ve heard people say that we should be at a place in our lives where we crave God and want more and more of Him.

Something about the metaphor bothers me. Is God a hit? A dose of some substance that I need to stop the shakes and the demons in my head? Is he a temporary satisfier, something that tastes good, but I’ll need more of it later?

Somehow, that doesn’t fit to me. I think God would rather be my daily bread, something that I make time for on a regular basis and enjoy deeply. Something that I need to live, desperately but not like an addictive substance. I’m not addicted to God. I run on God. There’s a difference there. Addiction indicates unhealthy dependence, that it’s something that we have a love/hate relationship with. Daily bread is something we can’t live without and are still dependent on, but it’s something we eat as a means of living well. It’s empowering rather than creating an obsession.

I don’t think God wants us to be obsessed with him like a stalker or an addict. I think he wants us to respond to him as you would to someone who loves you deeply and is fulfilling your needs, not your cravings.

Perhaps in the end, it is God who changes our cravings so that instead of wanting single hits of his presence, a strong wave to last us til we’re ready for the next one, we want daily doses, a consistent presence in our lives that changes us continuously and keeps us healthily seeking Him.

 

There is absolutely nothing that I can’t relate to food.