Sunday, May 31, 2009

Waco's Best

Although there are many things I miss about California and the west coast, I have come to appreciate my Waco home. Some call this the Waco 'suck' factor. When you first arrive in Waco, it sucks! But then, it kind of sucks you in. I never, ever, in a million years, thought I would be staying in Waco for a 5th year. I mean, there is no ocean, no mountains, no big city, no true theatre, and frankly, not much to do after 8pm.

So what is great about Waco?!

1. No traffic/smog
2. Great people!
3. Cameron Park (2nd largest in city park in the nation, Central Park being 1st)
4. Altos de Jalisco (favorite Mexican food place in the area)
5. Diamondbacks (great desserts/happy hour)
6. Fireflies!
7. Lake Waco
8. Suspension Bridge (1st suspension bridge west of the Mississippi)
9. Close to Dallas & Austin
10. Woodway Park (newest favorite!)

Although these things are all great, many of them aren't things to 'do' or at least not things you can't do frequently. However, Woodway Park challenges this idea. It's a park located right off Lake Waco and offers a couple trails for hiking/walking/biking and probably the best place in Waco to watch the sunset.

One advantage of not having mountains is the fabulous sky scenes we get in Texas. Last night, I went to Woodway Park to journal and watch the sunset. Just as the sun was setting, I was joined by Meredith. Here are some pictures of the sunset we enjoyed!
After watching the sunset, we headed to the trail to find some fireflies. As we walked, Meredith inhaled a bug. Literally, she was walking and began coughing. I was laughing so hard. Mostly because this same thing had happened to Meredith the day before when she was walking the bear trail. Two bugs, in two days.

In her honor, I began singing this little jingle (modified from the musical RENT)

Goodbye bug, goodbye bug
Just came to say goodbye bug goodbye
Just came to say goodbye bug, goodbye bug
hello... disease

I'm sure if you eat too many bugs, you'd catch something.

Anyway. As we were walking, we saw a little cotton tailed rabbit. So being the late twenties young women we are, we followed the bunny. As we followed it down a trail, I began to laugh again. It wasn't long ago that we were watching Alice in Wonderland/Alice and the Looking Glass and commenting if we would be stupid enough to follow a rabbit down a hole. And look at us, what we were doing?! Meredith and I got a good laugh out of it as we joked about the Jabberwoky coming for us :)

As we approached a bridge on the trail we stopped to take in the beauty. There were hundreds of fireflies lighting up around us, about 30 every second. It was unreal. I got out my camera to take a video. After many attempts, I got the video below. Although it does not do justice to the scene, I thought I'd post it for a glimpse of what we experienced. You can only see about 7 in this video. I'm not sure how to get a video that does these fireflies justice, and maybe, again, this is just one of the things in life we are meant to experience once (or twice, or as many times as I decide to visit Woodway Park) :)
video

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A birthday to remember

On Thursday afternoon, while having lunch with some friends a discussion of my blog arose. Essentially, my blog title is 'Shannon's Randomness' but it isn't usually that 'random' so some suggestions were made.

An entry in binary code
Entries in another language
Expletives

Well, although I'm not actually going to do any of those, this post may be more random than usual.

Sarah's Birthday
Thursday was Sarah's birthday and to celebrate we went out to Diamondbacks for dessert. From chocolate towers to banana's floster, the choices are all delicious. Sarah had never been to Diamondback's before and I thought it would be a nice treat for her 25th, momentous birthday.

The Ultimate Chocolate Tower was the choice. Pound cake, blueberries, orange enduced cholotae moose, and whip cream all inside a dark chocolate bag. It was decadent! It also looked a lot prettier, before the waiter cut it open; however, still yum!


This happy ending to Sarah's day, unfortunately, wasn't the happy ending it was cracked up to be. On the way home, Sarah got a phone call from her parents and it wasn't to wish her a happy birthday. Sarah's younger brother, Richard, had passed away. As I drove Sarah home, I heard bits and pieces of the story through the tears and utter grief.

Taking Care of Business
Obviously, Sarah wanted and need to be with her family. So we started making plans. Sarah called her friend Holly to take Tuck, Sarah's dog. Sarah began packing. I notified some people on Sarah's behalf and we began making travel arrangements. Holly came over and started in, right away. She helped clean the kitchen, got Sarah packed, and was there to love on Sarah. It was a beautiful picture of the family of God coming together.

If Holly was doing all that, what was I doing you might ask?! Well, I spent 55 minutes on the phone trying to book Sarah's ticket home. There was a ticket leaving Austin at 6:15 in the morning and arriving at 11:51am in Louisville, KY. Gene, the woman on the other end, was apparently having issues with my credit card number and my address. Airlines have special grievance policies for situations like these. With this airline, you could book a flight with a return date up to 60 days later. Sarah can call and change the return flight at anytime for no additional fee. This is nice in the midst of the chaos.

After an infuriating hour long conversation, we had a confirmation number for Sarah's flight.

I retreated to my apartment, called my own mom, and changed my clothes. As I spoke to my mom, she expressed her concern for my ability to drive Sarah to the airport on no sleep. I assured her I would be fine, however, she asked I bring someone along for the drive back. After calling a friend, Meredith, who was surprisingly awake, she agreed to venture to Austin with me.

A quick nap, and a cup of coffee later, Sarah, Meredith, and I were on our way to Austin at 3am.

I hate Northwest Airlines
Hate is a strong word, and I was taught not to use it. However, in this situation, the word may apply. And if there was ever a post that could make me use expletives, this might be it. After spending an hour on the phone booking the flight and receiving a confirmation number, I thought we were all set to get Sarah on that plane.

We dropped Sarah off at 5am, hugged, and sent her on her way with her confirmation number. According to Gene, Sarah was suppose to go to the counter, give the confirmation number and they would print her off a ticket.

Meredith and I drove away.

A few miles down the road, we stopped at McDonalds for breakfast and a large soft drink. As I'm not accustomed to drinking soda, I thought the caffeine and carbonation would be a good idea in case I got tired :)

While in McDonalds, I receive a call from Sarah. She says the ticket counter wants the originally person who purchased the ticket to call their customer service line, talk to the originally person (Gene). NWA doesn't really say WHY, they want this but apparently there is some problem. Sarah let's them know that's probably not possibly and explains that they can call their own customer service people and find out what the issue is (go Sarah!).

After a few more minutes of talking, she says they are finally going to print her out a boarding pass. I wish her safe travels and we get back on the road.

At 6:41am, I get another call. It's Sarah. The conversation starts something like this.

Shannon: (Answers phone) Why are you calling me, what happened, why are you not on an airplane?
Sarah: Apparently, they didn't print me a real ticket
Shannon: WHAT?!
Sarah: I went to board and handing them my 'ticket' they said it wasn't a ticket.

Sarah then went on to explain that the ticket wasn't a true ticket. (How's that for security?!) And they proceeded to tell her that the information about the funeral home/phone number didn't line up. Sarah told them arrangements hadn't been made yet and that she would get that information to them at a later point. The customer service representatives from NWA then proceeded to ask her all sort of questions about his death. Did he die in a hospital, could we have the hospital's contact information to verify? When did he die? And other inappropriate questions. Apart from these NOT being their business, they were asked in such a way without any care or concern for what Sarah was experiencing.

Unforutnately, after all these questions, the jetway was pulled and Sarah wasn't on the flight.

A Northwest Airlines representative told Sarah that the flight had not been booked, but rather put 'on hold' thus they wanted the credit card information again. (Note: I gave that information to them over the phone 6 to 7 times, what to do you mean it was put 'on hold')

As Sarah was telling me this story, expletives began to come to mind... was this really happening?!

Sarah then threw her credit card on the kiosk and told them to book her a flight, she needed to get home.

So Sarah headed to another terminal to try and board the plane. Only, as Sarah looked down at her ticket she realized they had booked her on a flight to Lexington, KY not to Louisville, KY. Heading back to the kiosk, Sarah informed them of their mistake. Fortunately, there was a flight on their sister airline (Delta) that arrived at 12:30pm which they were able to get her on.

I couldn't believe the mess of Northwest Airlines. Nor could I believe the treatment they gave Sarah, especially in light of her situation.

I will be calling them and complaining at length about both the experience booking the flight and on behalf of Sarah's experience with their representatives at the airport.

And, I will never, ever, fly with Northwest if I can control it.

Texas Sunrise
In a previous post, I mentioned my love of sunrises. On Friday morning, driving back from Austin, Meredith and I experienced one of the best sunrises I've seen in a long time (maybe ever). Words won't do justice to its beauty. The oranges, reds, blues, and purple were vibrant and filled the Texas sky. The clouds looked like snow capped mountains outlined by the radiance of the skies color.

What a beautiful reminder of the newness of the day, of the beauty that can be, of the awesomeness of our creator, and that life is meant to be experienced.

Randomness
So how's that for a random post?! It was a long day for me, and longer for Sarah. I cannot imagine. My heart aches for and with her family as they go through this terrible loss.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Memorial Day

I fought against the urge. It was difficult. I wanted to give in, but I didn't (at least not much).

I took Memorial Day off, from studying that is. :) So here are some highlights from the day.

8:30am: Woke up
9:30am: Actually got out of bed (I love lazy mornings!)
10am: Cleaned, laundered, etc
1pm: Errands
3pm: POOL! Sarah and I went to the pool for some fun in the sun! Although not too much fun in the sun as I'm on an antibiotic that says 'no excessive sun exposure' ;)
5:30pm: BBQ with friends!

Here are some pictures from the BBQ. I didn't take many; you know, trying to live the memory. :)

We had some particularly yummy food! I made a fruit salad w/homemade whip (it went fast)! Sarah made some sweet tea, and green beans and potatoes (yum). And lastly, Beth brought a marbled brownie dessert. Ohhh, it was good and I'm sure everything in it was all natural and had absolutely no partially hydrogenated oils.
I love BBQs! Look, we're excited about the BBQ.
Sarah's infamous sweet tea...yumm!
Here is a picture of Beth and Amelia. What a neat family, the Smarts! And look how artsy the photo turned out. It was a gorgeous day outside, fabulous weather, and wonderful friends!
I stole the photo below from Smart's site. It's such a cute picture, of Amelia. It cracks me up, we were trying so hard to get her to smile. Of course, she smiled a lot, just not for the camera!

Monday, May 25, 2009

GRE Madness

Update on the GRE:
I'm taking it in a month. Yep, one month and counting.
I've made over half the amount of needed vocab words. (I'm working through a book of 500+ words; I've made cards for words A-L, about 100 pages of words)
I have memorized (most) the GRE commonly used words from a-e

I still have a long way to go, but I'm making progress.

Here's to hoping for a great score....or at least one where I never ever ever again have to take this toilsome test!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Twilight & Buechner

With the title of this post, one might think I'm going to talk about my favorite books/authors. However, twilight will first and foremost always be a time of day. Not a book about vampires.

Twilight, or dusk, is absolutely my favorite time of day followed closely by sunrise, although I'll save that for another post.

So, twilight. I love the time of day when the sun sets and yet the earth, or my portion of it, is still lit by the suns remanence. Yes, part of it is spiritual for me, I like the symbolism behind the sun leaving and its effect is left behind. And yet part of it is simply the feeling I get at this time of day. Twilight doesn't last long, it's unfortunate lighting for photography, and yet I relish every moment of it. I seek to be outside and experience the fullness of what twilight offers. It's a beautiful time.

The other night, as the sun set, I was walking around part of Baylor's campus. Baylor is a beautiful campus, green (mostly), red brick which echos prestige, and many large shady trees. As I was walking around, I rediscovered another reason for loving dusk. Fireflies or what they call, lightening bugs in Texas. Having my camera with me, I desperately attempted to capture their magnificence on film. Although I caught 4 or 5 in a minute, the video doesn't do justice to the moment.

I read something about 2 years ago that challenged me to think about life a little differently. The article or book spoke about how we, particularly as Americans, take lots of pictures (guilty) in order to remember the moments, but often get so caught up in the taking of pictures that we forget to live the moment.

I was reminded of this truth once again in another book, the Alphabet of Grace by Frederick Buechner. He says,

Forgot yourself in the dream of daily life, Tolstoy says, and forget myself, yes. To forget myself in the very process of being myself, I ask no better. Perhaps there is no gift more precious than the gift of spontaneity, the ability of certain men an animals to act straight and fresh and self-forgettingly out of the living center of who they are without the paralyzing intervention of self-awareness. But the dream of daily life, no....I don't want to dream this day out. I want to live this day out. I want to live this day out as though it were the first day of my life because that is of course what it is....Live a day of it and see. Take any day and be alive in it. Nobody claims that it will be entirely painless, but no matter. Live this day out.

So I sat. And I listened. And I watched as the fireflies danced around in the cool air of the evening.

I love these moments!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

It's over!

Well, another academic year has come to a close. In the last week, I've done over 300 walk-thru's, lowered 62 beds, charged students for damages, moved mattresses, and...it's over.


My last CL (community leader) checked out today. It's bitter sweet to see the students leave. I love what I do. I love the relationships that I build. I love that I can challenge students, encourage and develop them, and foster learning, but I love that there are seasons to what I do. As I've just finished one of the craziest seasons, I'm looking forward to summer! And I love that my work has a fairly distinct beginning and end to it every year.


Below are two videos I created for end of year celebrations. The first is/was for my staff of Allen/Dawson 2008-2009. :)


video

This next video is one I created for the end of year celebration for ALL the CLs, chaplains, and hall directors. Megan helped me pick out the music. It was a hoot and most people really enjoyed it. You probably won't understand all the music selections but each was chosen with the specific staff in mind. Enjoy!


video


It's been a good year, and it's bitter sweet to see it end. However, I am looking forward to some much needed rest! Summer, here I come! woohoo! :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

RENT (part II)

The scene: It's Sunday afternoon and I'm studying at Starbucks for the GRE. The time is close to 4pm.

The dilemma: Megan is up in Dallas and has asked if I'm interested in attempting to get tickets to see RENT (again).

The backstory: Jonathan Larson, the man who wrote the story and music of RENT wanted to write a musical about life, death, the struggle of being an artist in New York in the 90s. Consequently, he died the night before the musical opened on broadway. In his memory, honor, the show RENT has sold front row, orchestra level seats for $20 for every performance. Two hours before the performance, one can submit their name for up to two tickets. All those in attendance are then entered into a lottery and names are pulled an hour and half before show time.

For me, I wrestled with the idea of 'attempting' to see RENT, again. On one hand, if mine or Megan's name were drawn...well, we would have amazing first or second row seats. If our names weren't drawn, then I would have wasted three hours driving to and from Dallas.

In this case, I decided the potential pro, a once in a lifetime opportunity was worth the odds.

So at 6pm, on Sunday night, Megan and I anxiously filled out our lottery forms and submitted them into the grey bucket that would soon decide our fate.

Shortly after 6:30, they began drawing names.

The rules were such that they gave away the 'best' seats in the house first. They had 52 seats to auction off and asked that if both you and your partner had their names drawn that you pass on the second set of tickets.

We waited patiently, or not so patiently, for them to begin drawing names...

Luckily, we didn't have to wait long. My name was drawn fourth. And frankly, I'm not sure what seats they gave out before us, but we definitely got the BEST seats in the house. Second row. Center stage.

After we got our tickets, we went outside to grab my camera. Camera's are STRICTLY prohibited from being inside. The people who work at the Dallas Music Hall take this VERY seriously and WILL confiscate your camera if they see it. Anyway, this is us VERY VERY excited about our second row, center stage tickets!
And this is Megan very excited that she got both Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal's autographs!
It was a great experience! But as we were walking down to the front, I kept waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and tell me I didn't belong in the front row. But no one did. And I enjoyed watching all the uniqueness' that you miss when you're in the second balcony. I smiled the entire show as I sat in my second row seat. :)

Oddity: I will say, it is a bit odd when you are siting that close that you can make eye contact and keep it with the actors. ;)

Maybe the best $20 I've ever spent?! :)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

RENT (part I)

I love musicals! And how many opportunities does one get to see a traveling musical with two of the original cast? Well, on Thursday night a group of us went to see RENT in Dallas. With two of the original cast from Broadway, Mark and Roger, played by Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal. It was a wonderful time with friends and great music! Below are some pictures of us, car buddies.




Monday, May 4, 2009

Facebook

My friend Sarah has decided to take a facebook hiatus. It's something I've been thinking about recently, and with her conversion, I'm more strongly considering this. Here are some of the pro's and con's:

Pro: less wasted time
Con: inability to connect with friends/family whom I rarely see/talk to
Pro: more time to study for the GRE
Con: loss of word twist against friends
Pro: less time feeling emotionally connected to people I have no true friendship with in real life
Con: overall social networking
Well, it looks like the cons would have it, however, my lack of discipline in this area tips the scale in favor of the pros.

Why is it that discipline in this area is so difficult? Why is it I can be extremely disciplined in some areas of my life and not in others? For example, I am a good budgeter, and usually adhere to my budget. In 2006, I made a 5 year budge (through 2011). Crazy, I know. But it's great, and I've been able to accomplish a lot of things, fiscally, and am fairly disciplined with my money. Additionally, I'm pretty disciplined when it comes to TV (which I watch rarely), exercise (which I do rather consistently), and food (gotta watch those partially hydrogenated items).

However, when it comes to the internet and particularly facebook, I have little to no discipline. I looked through my history and from April 9th until today, I've visited facebook 1169 times (on my mac). Now this includes changing between individuals profiles, photos, etc; however, that is still ridiculous. And this doesn't include the number of times I've visited on my pc (at work). Now I would love to say that I'd be disciplined enough to do a hiatus like Sarah, but I'm not sure it's possible.

For me, it's all or nothing. So I'm contemplating deactivating my account. Permanetly, you might ask? I'm not sure. It is a fabulous tool for social networking, but it has clearly taken up way too much of my time. If each time I visited facebook, those 1169 times, I spent only 30 seconds on it, I wasted roughly 10 hours of my life...in a month, less than a month.

Wow. Some serious decisions need to be made. ;)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Joys of Spring Cleaning

I enjoy cleaning. It probably has something to do with the instant gratification. Something is dirty, then it's clean. Now I know may people don't like the process one undergoes in getting those things from dirty to clean, but I do. Usually they are pretty easy, especially if you keep up with them, and the product is both rewarding and enjoyable.

The GRE, however, has no instant gratification. Studying for it is arduous and frustrating. I am going to try and devote more and more time to it as this school year comes to a close, however, I would much rather spend my time doing other things, like...spring cleaning.

At least once a year, I go through most, if not all, of my earthly possessions and make piles; 1. keep, 2. give away, 3. donate to the landfills (or recycle if it's possible).

So today, on this Sunday, when I've spent a good chunk of my afternoon cleaning and organizing, I'm tempted to spring clean. Knowing, however, that this process entails far more time than I should devote to it, I'll save it for another day.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Blog Layouts

Wow. Too much time can be wasted updated ones blog. You can change colors, sizes, shapes, and headings. I have spent far too much time today playing around with the heading.

Maybe I missed my calling, graphic design?!

Or maybe I'm just a recovering perfectionist. :)

Still in love


with my coffee pot. Yes, that's right. I purchased my coffee pot about 2 years ago, and I'm still in love with it! What's so spectacular about this coffee pot, you may ask. Well...

everything.

I began drinking coffee in grad school. At that time in my life it was a necessity for survival, however, I was partial to Starbucks lattes and the like. Well, a few years ago, and many cups of coffee after grad school, I decided to make the commitment and join the world of adulthood by purchasing my very own coffee pot.

Knowing nothing about coffee pots, I sat in Target dazed by the choices. Do I want 10 cups or 12? Do I want a timer? Why would I need a timer? Do I want a delay setting? What's the difference between glass and thermal chrome?

For those of you who know me, I make very purposeful, deliberative decisions. And...it often takes me forever to finally decide, especially on something as important as a coffee pot.

Well, I did what any young adult would do. I went home, got on the internet, and called my mom. :)

After doing all the research, evaluating the pros and cons, and my mom convincing me that the cheapest isn't always the best investment...I splurged and bought my very own, cute and functional, coffee pot!
This sucker comes with all the bells and whistles, but my two favorite features are the delay brew and the thermal carafe. The delay brew lets you set it up your coffee pot 24 hours in advance. I find this especially useful on early mornings. I set my coffee maker to brew in the morning and when I wake up, my coffee is a friendly greeter! My second and most favorite (but don't tell the delay brewer function; it's like Christa finding out she's not the favorite), is the thermal carafe.

On mornings like today, I love brewing coffee and heading back to bed. I can take my carafe with me, read a book in bed, and know that my coffee is warm and waiting for me to drink in my carafe on my nightstand. It's fabulous!

You may mock, but you're just jealous. :)

But really, I do love mornings like today with little to no agenda for the day. A lazy day of sorts. And it's on days like this, I especially value my investment in my ever so smart, self cleaning, beautifully designed...coffee pot. :)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Jugular of the Jabberwoky!

So my friend Megan (who I also work with at Baylor), has a netflix subscription. I am often the beneficiary of her generosity in this regard. Many times, we have sat and watched new (or newish) movies because of this lovely subscription. I've even thought about getting one, but at this point, I need to be doing other things then watching movies (or at least not too many as I would be privy to on a netflix site).

Last week a long awaited movie arrived. Megan and I had been talking about this movie coming for awhile, and I was ecstatic that it finally came in the mail.

This movie brings back childhood memories. This movie provides educational moments for children. This movie scared the snot out of me when I was a child. And after having watched it last night, it still deserves that recognition.

Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088693/) was produced in 1985 and was a made for TV movie. It was a two night special, Wonderland being first and following it up with the Looking Glass.

I remember enjoying the movie and hating the Jabberwoky. The same would be true today; I was surprised how creepy and disturbing the Jabberwoky was, even as an adult.

All this to say, a group of us watched the movie last night, ate cake in ice cream cones, and reminisced about our childhood favorites. Additionally, I stayed up way past my bedtime, which I suppose could be remnant of my childhood as well.

So the instructions said to use cupcake tins and then put the batter in the ice cream cups and turn them upside down in the tins. Maybe this works?! But I chose the less complicated method and simple filled them and let them bake standing up. You will see, however, that a few in the back are a bit deformed (and overflowing). Just means more to love/eat!

I didn't want to wait...My icing was a little melty because the concoction was still a bit warm. Yumm!

Megan and I had gone to the store to pick up dessert items when we thought these could be a great idea; a childhood movie with a childhood favorite dessert! The dessert was a hit!

Meredith didn't even realize she had frosting on her nose :)

What fun memories we shared, and built!