Friday attitude.

Did you know that attitude is everything? Would you like me to remind you?
I’ve had a full week. Liesel and I spent our lunch time in Tuesday planning out when we were going to do all the things we need to in the next week, while eating pizza. We covered about nine sheets of paper with colorful Sharpies (and inhaled way too many fumes… Well, at least for me. Liesel likes the smell of Sharpies. She also complains that I always mention her in weird contexts here so I should also add that she likes the smell of bleach. Wait, that didn’t help. She cleans for fun? Nope, not that either. She loves pizza. There, that’s it. She gives great hugs, especially on days where I need it. She always hugs me for at least twenty seconds so that we’ll both get a release of her favorite hormone, oxytocin. See? She’s cool.) and posted them on the wall in our living room so we will be on top of all of our tasks.
Being on top of things, though satisfying, makes me tired. It’s like riding a bull to manage my schedule and responsibilities all day. I know I don’t even have as much going on as other people do, but the bull I’m trying to ride is hyper and angry and unpredictable.
So today I had class and work. And then more work. And I wasn’t looking forward to that more work, which I causing interacting with someone about their paper. Then again with another person and again.
I ran home from the train to brush my teeth and get the papers. Hi Liesel. Bye Liesel. Then proceed to spend two and a half hours in the library on a Friday. What else do I have to do? As I walked down the stairs to go to the library, I took a deep breath and asked Jesus to remind me why I love my job, to make it fulfilling.
And now I remember. I don’t always remember that I need to ask to remember (did that make sense?), but when I ask, I receive. This is one thing Jesus seems to grant on the spot, reminders that I’m doing what He has called me to do and that doing it with joy is important.
Happy Friday. May joy in your calling characterize your day.


Foreigners on Friday.

Oh baby. We’ve got some non-Chicagoans on this train.
“Where’s the exit for Union Station?”
“Just Google it. Literally, just Google it. It’ll tell you.”
Man stands up and gives one of the women his seat, she says, “Oh, I’m fine.”
Then sits down. “He probably thinks I’m pregnant.”

Then they talk loudly on a train where it’s evident that this is not the status quo.

No, they aren’t from here.

It makes me feel like I’ve morphed into Chicagoan culture pretty well.

In other news, it’s Friday. I wish I wasn’t always so happy when Friday arrives. I don’t want to live for the weekends, but there’s something fabulous about Fridays. Everyone is just a little bit happier.

Oh, gosh, these women did not get the do-not-yell-and-cackle-loudly-on-the-L-memo.

Today I’m thankful that mornings begin a new day and that sleep offers a hard reset. I’m thankful that I can leave crabby and tired in the previous day and start the next one with newness.

I’m also thankful that it’s been so beautiful all week. It’s basically been a sunny with a high of 75 week, which I can hardly complain about.

It’s payday. Can I get an amen?

Happy Friday, folks.

Mixed bag day.

What a Friday. It was one of those days that doesn’t have a category, but if it did, it would be something like “All Over The Place” or “Tilt-A-Whirl”.

The allergens here haven’t let up much on me, so even though I take my antihistamines, I wake up with a pretty, puffy face. So, naturally, my eyes want to stay shut since everything’s just a teeny tiny bit swollen. After I got myself up and going today, the swelling went down a bit, and once I’d talked to Jesus, had some bread and yogurt and coffee for breakfast, and put my clothes on, I felt ready for the day.

I carried my laptop with me in my backpack, which often feels like I have a papoose or a small furry animal breathing heavily on me since it adds so much heat. So, I arrived to print my paper with my friend Maggie rather sweaty since the day was already pretty warm. We printed off our papers for our history class and headed over.

Our final exam is coming up, and since this particular professor has a tendency to wax eloquent about nothing that seems like exam material and tends to be rather scattered in his lectures (with the guise of being a calm, organized, collected older man), I had emailed him the day before, indicating that I wasn’t sure what to expect on the exam based on what we talked about in class.

So he begins class saying that some of us seem to be afraid of the exam. Afraid? Who’s afraid? I just wanna know what the heck is going on. This class is 75% self-taught. Heck yeah, it is. You pick a monograph and write a short paper and do the readings – these texts are invaluable. Yeah, they would be if we had a skeleton of knowledge to stick them on. There’s no context, MAN. 

I felt reprimanded and completely justified at the same time. The class was actually a bit more coherent than normal, and afterwards, as per our Friday tradition, my friends and I got pizza.

I was sleepy in my next class and slightly annoyed at the way my professor seems to see Americans, but the annoyance might have been due to my sleepiness.

On my way home, I just kept telling Jesus, I feel like I can’t connect today. It’s too much work to bridge the culture gap. It’s too hard to communicate. I don’t like Austrians. Just kidding. I love Austrians. I love Austria, but it’s so exhausting to constantly be filtering meaning in communication. Then, what should happen but that I would run into a fellow exchange student from my class. We had a nice little chat as we walked the same way, and as we parted, I felt buoyed.

I took the tram (an unusual happenstance) to an English-speaking gathering of believers and met some nice Germans en route who needed directions. I can’t tell you how satisfying it was to not be the one needing directions for once.

The gathering was lovely, and I decided that since it was such a nice night, I would walk home (though it’s like a 35-40 minute walk)  and soak up all the Graziness. (not a real word… forgive me)

I’m always slightly trepidatious when walking past groups or pairs of men, just because they so often give me a you-are-an-object or a you-female-must-gawk-and-make-you-feel-awkward look. It’s not a compliment. It’s unsettling.

So, I’m walking alone, on a well-populated and well-lit street (don’t be worried, Mom and Dad). There’s a guy in my way, and he says “Entshuldigung.” (trans: excuse me) I don’t intend to stop because I’m alone and don’t want to talk to him, but he’s in my way, so I slow. “Eine Frage” (a question), he says, waving his pack of cigarettes in the air.

Then, here’s what made my blood boil.

Jerkface (I would use stronger words, but I don’t use those words) points to the lingerie store next to me and asks me if I would wear the mannequin’s outfit for him.

I wish I had punched him somewhere that he would have understood my response. I know violence isn’t the answer, but I’m still mad as I type this. Instead, I answered a calm but firm, “Nope” without making eye contact and continued to walk.

As I walk away, he says, “Why no?”

Ohhhhhhh. You will never have a fulfilling relationship with a woman, ever. And I should pity you for the erroneous image you have of women. I should pray that Jesus will touch your life and change your heart. But I really just wanna punch you and tell you that I’m not a piece of meat. Not eye candy. Not a thing. And I don’t owe you, so you have no right to heckle me.

Okay, rant over.

Because the story does end on a happy note.

Remember that group of Germans I met on the tram? Well, since I chose to walk home, I was about 15 minutes away, at a stoplight, when I thought I saw them.

Yep, it was them. Turns out they weren’t sure how to get back to their hotel. And I got to walk them back since it was right by my dorm. I had a lovely conversation with the one who spoke English, and it redeemed the night for me.

Quite a mixed bag of a day, wouldn’t you say?

Carpe-ing the diem

Today I hit the eleven week mark in my stay in Austria. That means that I have nine to go. Nine weeks left to live outside of the US, to see all that I can see, to have loads of free time, to pour myself into some of the most interesting classes I’ve ever taken, and to invest myself in some incredible friendships.

Here’s the honesty: twenty weeks is long. It’s a month longer than my normal semester and more than double the longest that I’ve ever been away from home. And as long as it is, I know I’ll look out the window at Graz as my plane ascends and wonder how time could pass so quickly.

So, today I decided to seize the day. I ate semmel for breakfast, because I don’t think those exist in the States. I spent two hours talking to friends on the deck, succeeding in getting a bit sunburned but not enough to be concerned. Just a lil pink. (I intended to get a bit of homework done then, but I didn’t get around to it)

I drew a picture based on this picture:

253360_10151935964438298_276445077_nbecause I’ve always wanted to be good at drawing.

This is what I came up with… and obviously, I’m not a skilled artist yet. But at least I tried.


Yeah. Our faces are a little bloated. We kind of look caricatured. Something with the noses… I’m still not sure what I did wrong. But it’s okay. You learn by trying again, right? Maybe next time I do something with more straight lines…

Then I made dinner and edited a couple short stories, because sometimes people pay me to do that.

Then I practiced my German on Duolingo. I got rusty over my two weeks off of my diligent studying. Then, just for the heck of it, I refreshed my Spanish.

And I seized the opportunity to watch some television because there’s no time to catch up on Parenthood like when you’re in a foreign country without your family and with free time.

I think I’ll seize tomorrow by getting as much homework done as I can and possibly visiting the Kunsthaus (modern art museum) to see how real artist draw.

It’s good to be alive.

Some days it’s really easy to count your burdens, and you’re tempted to do that because the dishes stacked up in the sink, and you haven’t cleaned your bathroom in a while, and there are forms and papers and yogurt containers on your desk. And you have a test today about Plato, which is a little bit daunting since you only met him a short time ago.

That’s when I need to stop and remind myself of all the reasons that it’s good to be alive today.

  1. We’re talking about and writing metaphors today in my creative writing class. If you haven’t realized that I love metaphors almost as much as I love coffee, you probably haven’t been here for very long. (In that case, welcome!)
  2. Oatmeal. It happened this morning.
  3. It’s Freedom Friday (the day of the week that I set aside to pray for people who aren’t free around the world), which always reminds me that I’m a part of what God is doing to break chains. He could do it Himself, but He wants to use us.
  4. Forecast for today? RAIN.
  5. It’s only a week until payday.
  6. I get to see my family again in 26 days.
  7. No matter what happens today, Jesus walks with me.

What’s on your list today?


How long?

Here’s a little confession to get your Friday started off right: I’ve had a tab open on my computer for almost a week with the guitar chords for ‘My Heart Will Go On’ on it… just waiting to have time to try out Celine Dion, acoustic style. Whew, so glad I got that off my chest.

So, I like to pray for people, but I can’t pray for everyone everyday. I mean, I could, but I think my prayer life would get pretty stagnant. So, I divide them up by category and pray for different group every day. Today is Friday, the day that I pray for freedom for the captives around the world.

Today, I found myself asking God to be present with every woman, child, and man who are enslaved today. Then I got on a small thought bunny trail, That’s a big prayer, but God is a big God. He can handle that. He can be present with everyone who has been oppressed at the same time. He could set them all free right now if He wanted to… wait. He does want to. 

Then the thought that I get ashamed of every time if pops into my head came back, doesn’t He want to? Why hasn’t he, yet? Why has this gone on so long?

Here’s what I think. 1) Faith without any doubts probably isn’t very strong because it’s never had to survive the fires of uncertainty. So this whole doesn’t God want to set the captives free? thought is a good thing. 2) God could set people free all by himself, right now, but I think He’s using us instead.

Think about that. God could do this independently. He could loosen all chains right at this moment. He could have done it ages ago, but He’s using the church. He’s asking us to be a part of it. He’s saying, Here’s something that is so horribly wrong, this injustice against My children. It breaks my heart, but I want it to break yours. I want to break your heart for them and use you to set them free so that your heart and the hearts of captors and those who were ignorant of this injustice before will see how horribly people have been treated and never let it happen again. 

I don’t have a scripture to back that up, but I have this sense deep down in my soul that God isn’t acting with his mighty power to break the chains instantly because He wants to partner with us, so that we will learn how to treat each other, not abusing our power or gaining power by hurting other people.

It isn’t because He’s not good, because He is. It isn’t because the problem isn’t massive and urgent and incredibly important, because it is.

How long will it take? How long will we live comfortably while other people live in chains? How long will we say that it doesn’t affect us, even though no country in the world is unaffected? How long will be allow other people to be oppressed? How long will we be the oppressors? How long will it take for us to care and take action?

How long, church? How long?

Jesus and the hormonal woman

What does Jesus say to hormonal women?  Or anyone else with self-pity/emotional issues?  I’m kind of wondering if he supports wallowing, because sometimes it’s 5:30 and you’re fine.  But then 5:31 comes around and you’re both crying and laughing at the same time, crying for sadness and laughing because you’re crying so suddenly (and you really are perfectly sane).  Then we hit 5:32, and you decide that the cure is to slice the mango and eat as much as possible.  And you kind of think it might be a good night to just eat and watch Smallville.

But then there’s that little voice in the back of your mind that says, I wonder what Jesus thinks about that. And you just want to slap your brain for trying to ruin what could be a very relaxing evening.

Because you aren’t totally sure what position Jesus takes on self-indulgent evenings when you’re feeling like it might be nice to not do anything productive.  There’s the guilt for being unproductive, of course, but that might subside.

Is Jesus like some of those really touch coaches who make their athletes play on sprained ankles without ice or anything?  Or is he the one who lets you sit it out at the hospital and doesn’t guilt you for it?  Or does he fit in neither category?  (maybe that isn’t a good analogy)

I’m not sure what Jesus says to hurt athletes, but I bet he says to people who want to wallow: Come.  I bet he wants to heal the wounds (even though hormonal wounds aren’t really wounds… they’re like diseases) or at least administer some holy ibuprofen. I bet he’s not into quick fixes like movie nights… not that those are bad, they just don’t need to be the medicine.

You know when you’re sick, and you think that watching Mary Poppins and drinking the Coke slushy from Burger King that your mom bought you after they told you that the strep test was positive (again) are what makes you feel better?  But it’s really the amoxicillin that you picked up at the pharmacy and they tylenol your mom gives you every few hours.  Nothing from Burger King can cure strep.  And nothing cinematic heals anything else.

Jesus doesn’t do band-aids.  He does open heart surgery.

What you do on Fridays.

Sometimes you don’t blog for a couple days because you just finished your freshman year of college, but you don’t want to say anything cheesy about it before you’ve had some time to process it.  So you put it off, because you know you want to write about it, but you want to do it well, you know?

So, you wait and think and wait.  And you start a food blog because it seems like it would be a good idea.  And you leave campus, not to return for a few months – waving goodbye to freshman status, dorm life, and cafeteria food.  You hug good friends and wish you could combine your life at home with your life at school so that you never had to miss anyone.

Then you climb in the car that is filled to maximum capacity of all the things you had in that little dorm room of yours and bring a friend with you to help put off at least one goodbye.

And you quick write a blog post while it’s still Friday so that you can blog without feeling annoying on Saturday as well.

Simple Fridays.

Photo on 4-19-13 at 1.40 PMThis is my “it’s Friday and I just got an email that I get to be a Writing Advisor next semester and live in a two-person apartment with my best friend and I need another cup of coffee and just took a ten minute nap” face.

So, now there’s another cup of coffee brewing.

That’s Friday for you, simply put.


My new friend.

I was just going to rush over to Starbucks this morning (since I’m out of coffee in my dorm and have a gift card) then hurry over to the library.  But then I stepped outside and saw that it was snowing.  And I decided to see it as beautiful, since the wind isn’t blowing super hard, and the flakes were coming down lightly.  (remember, I’m not complaining anymore, so this is pretty much my only option)

Then, when I walked into Starbucks, they were playing The Lumineers, and there were lots of tables open.  And I had been wanting to blog, so I sat here, by the window.

It was like they invited me in, specifically me, to drink coffee and share words with you.

It’s moments like these —  typing at this table by the window with my liquid caffeine nearby and acoustic music playing while the snow drifts down outside  — where I take a picture in my mind. (and, let’s be honest, sometimes it ends up on Instagram)  It’s peaceful even though the baristas are flying trying to keep up with the line of people who want their morning fix.

It’s a lovely little bubble here, in this world of mine where I’m enjoying my pseudo-solitude with my coffee, but I can’t help wondering about the guy sitting at the table adjacent to mine.  Not that there’s anything weird about him, I’m just wondering what his story is.  He looks a little despondent.  Granted, so do I, before the caffeine cheers me up.  He’s probably in his forties, maybe fifties.  I’m a horrible judge of age, so I suppose he could be anywhere from thirty-five to sixty.  He hasn’t taken off his jacket, hat, or gloves, so I guess he’s planning on leaving soon.  Or maybe he’s just cold.

He has a venti drink in a hot drink cup with a straw sticking through the hole through which you usually sip coffee.  That’s curious.  He alternates between staring through his thick glasses at his drink and out the window.  I can’t place his expression.  It could be anxious.  Maybe just sad.  Or tired.

Well, my friend, I hope that whatever is keeping your gaze downwards today moves upwards.  I hope that the coffee drink that you’re sipping right now helps with that.  I pray that you see God today, my friend.

Right after I finished typing that, he got up, seemingly without any catalyst for his change in position.  Then he took his drink and walked out the door.

I’ll probably never see him again, but I hope that if I do, he has a smile with him.