Monday, November 22, 2010

The First Kiss... Again

Half of my heart is deployed.
Author Unknown

This blog entry is a bit overdue but I am nonetheless grateful. I think the most exciting day for a military family member is the day before he returns home from deployment. It's always a busy day but it's probably better than the day before Christmas. And the best gift of all--getting to have a first kiss... again.

Welcome home, babe!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's not easy being green: pt II

...A great educational lecture about plastic pollution. She cites recycling at 7% but I have heard it's as little as 2% that gets recycled.

Truths About Plastic Pollution

It's not easy being green

A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers but borrowed from his children.
John James Audubon

When I was a kid my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Buckingham had a passion for the rainforests and for environmental conservation. Eighteen years later and her lessons and passion have stuck with me throughout the years. However, in my experience, this passion hasn't spread with the world as quickly as it should.

Last month I went to Greece on a quick getaway with one of the missions. We stayed in Souda on the island of Crete. There was only one day where the weather was suitable for a little beach time so we spent a few hours on a little beach unknown to most tourists. Wind and stormy weather had left tide pools in the nearby rocks. And then I saw this:

Plastic bottles floating on the coast had been carried into these little pools to settle and degrade.

So here's my big question these days.  Why aren't more people environmentalists? Particularly, parents?

Is this the world we want to leave behind for our kids? A coastline flooded with plastic bottles, an ocean with floating garbage islands, an arctic with no polar bear, and vanishing rainforests? Some people shrug it off because it sounds hyperbolic but the sad truth is it isn't... and that's why I don't get it.

As the midterm elections finally ended which means all the BS about government debt, taxes, and immigration is kind of over, the argument some people make about the nation's fiscal direction echoes in my head. As some push for lower taxes and others quarrel over government involvement, people's argument centers around this idea that we'll be leaving a huge debt behind for our children... that would just be a crime. But what about the environmental debt we're leaving behind? Why is no one ruffling feathers over that?

After some thought... and some frustration with my own venture in being low-impact... the answer is simple--it's not easy. It's not easy being environmentally conscientious. Therefore it's not easy asking others to be. But I would think all the signs point to green. It may not be as self-serving as say cutting taxes... it's better than that. It serves oneself and every generation after. While the fast-paced, technoligically-centered society of today's generation is obsessed with single-serving instant everything... the problem is... the world itself isn't single serving. The world isn't here for us to just use and dispose of; the world is here for longer than we are and we have to keep it in good condition for the next group.

The world is a lot like a public toilet when you think about it. We all have to use it at some point. At the beginning of time, the toilet was pristine, filled with blue disinfectant bubbles to signify its cleanliness. Our era is probably something resembling the lunchtime rush-hour; waste output is starting to pick up and people are becoming more concerned with their own need to get in and out rather than consider who is using the toilet after them. But the problem is, the world doesn't have a janitor coming to clean up dribble spots or clogged drains. The next day's patrons will just have to deal with the overflowing drains and skidmarks. The next day's patrons are our kids though. Is that really how we want to leave for world for them?

My recommendation? Vow to reduce consumption (buy less, reuse more). Support products you do have to buy that biodegrade easily and come from recycled products. Watch lectures like Charles Moore's and read No Impact Man's book and be moved and motivated....

Why you shouldn't? It'd be slightly more convenient and easier in the moment...
Why you should? We only get one "toilet". Your children depend on it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dear little shit: Color on the walls

Anybody out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let them do it. It'll be OK. Don't worry about the resale value on the house.
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Dear little shit;

I've been questioning my route in life lately and I called your grandma for advice. Here are a few anecdotes she gave me about how my brothers figured out which routes NOT to take in life.

Your uncle Ben wanted to be an astronaut when he was a kid. We lived in Florida and had the opportunity to watch shuttle launches during school. Classes would take breaks and assemble on the lawns to watch the launches. In January of 1986, your uncle's class stood outside and watched the Challenger launch... and then they watched it smoke... and then he watched it explode.

He came home and said, "Mom, I changed my mind. I don't want to be an astronaut".

Your uncle Charles is in the Army and has spent two tours in Iraq so far. He was planning on volunteering for another tour but in Afghanistan. He was torn between a few options about his career and then decided he could make a lot of money if he went back to serve.

Your grandma said, "What if something happens to you? Yes, you'll make a lot of money. But if something happens to you, what good is that money? You could lose your life! You could lose a leg, you could be terribly hurt." Uncle Charles considered those options but didn't seem convinced. She added, "And after another year... your cats won't even be yours anymore. They won't remember you!"

He stayed home.

These past few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life and career. I've never felt so confused. Why don't I have a passion? Why can't I just have a passion to follow and be happy?

Your daddy and I are the results of two very different pasts and influences. Thus, your daddy knew what he wanted to do in life, strove to achieve his goals, and is happily on his way. Your mommy is running in circles, questioning every other decision, and just figuring out in life how to be happy. I don't want you to go through this... nor when you're 28 anyways.

I want you to find your happiness in life. I want you to find your passion.

I'm not sure how I'll help you do this but I want you to know, success is not about a bank account. Success is not about a title. Success is living the life that fulfills your passions and aligns with your values. Success is coming into who you want to be. I want to help you figure out your passions in life. I want to guide you as best I can.

Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon. In the last year of his life, he wrote a book about how to achieve your childhood dreams. He reminisces about his childhood and describes how his supportive parents encouraged his creativity. They saw the excitement in his face and rather than stifle his ideas, they encouraged them. They let him draw on the walls.

I plan on being right next to you, paintbrush or colored pencil in hand, putting ideas onto the walls (hopefully in our owned-outright home and definitely not with acrylic paint). I don't want you to go through life as a succession of decisions based on what you don't want to do; I would rather help you figure out your passions and then guide you along the way until you know what you do want to do. I want you to live life bursting at the seams because you are so excited about becoming who you want to become; I want you to live life with contagious smiles that inspires others to do the same; I want you to live life never knowing what it means to settle--don't just draw on paper, go for a good bright fuchsia on the wall.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Future gradtitude: For looking so young....

The soul is born old but grows young. That is the comedy of life.
Oscar Wilde

Well Oscar, my soul must be taking my body along with it because I was definitely born with an old soul and my body seems to be getting younger... or at least my face is. I can't seem to handle liquor the way I used to but I still get carded at the movies.

Last week I was hit with a freakish desire to shop. I'm not really a shopper and I can't really justify the purchase of new clothes when I have a closet-full of perfectly wearable items. However, the events last night lead me to believe deep down I wanted a makeover—an I-want-to-look-my-age makeover.

I spent the entire day on base yesterday. I decided to get a good workout in the morning before my Red Cross meeting which was followed by a doctor's appointment and then capped by a photography class in the evening. I decided to dress comfortably and in clothes that could keep me warm in the now zero degree weather. At 3pm, I had a few hours to kill before my class and decided to spend that time doing homework, checking email, and perhaps finally borrowing Harry Potter from the library to read.

So picture it... no makeup, hair up in a bun, big hooded sweatshirt and some stretched out jeans, a backpack hiked up to my ears full of textbooks, some awesome cystic acne on my forehead (thank you hard water), a bag of Clearasil product in one hand, and a copy of Harry Potter in the other at 3pm in the afternoon.

I happen to be at the library along with 20 other hoody-wearing, acne-prone, baggy-jeans-wearing, loitering teenagers who just got out of high school. When I give the librarian my ID card she gives it a double look, analyses it a few moments and hands it back with a big, "HMM".

"What?" I ask.

"Well, you just don't look that old".

In my head: "How the fuck old do I look??"

So I guess it's time. I need a makeover. I need to look my age. How do I do that? Perhaps a drastic hair cut tomorrow will help (my last drastic haircut left me looking like a J-Pop rockstar though, so I'm scared. My mother even supervised the haircut, perm, AND color (purple) and she never bothered to stop me and say, "Hey.... you look ridiculous".)

Maybe digging up some sheeker looking digs and wearing them instead of waiting for a special occasion (like warm weather) will help. I don't know if I actually care how old I look—after all, being carded isn't a big deal and age is a matter of spirit more than biology to me. But now that 30 is rearing it's big ugly head around the corner, perhaps I should take advantage of being only 28 by actually looking 28. So, a big thank you to the librarian and the dozen or so teenagers who probably thought I was a classmate. I am reminded of my commandment to make the most of every moment... and if that means making the most of my twenties by looking like I'm in my twenties to avoid those second-glances and awkward stares then by Buddha, I'll try.

My Facebook diet: Living in the present

Social networking sites satisfy that basic human need to belong, as well as the ability to experience instant feedback and recognition from someone, somewhere, 24 hours a day. 
The Daily Mail

I started using Facebook back in 2002 or so when my friend Eric moved to Ohio. For a long time he was probably my only friend on Facebook and we used it as a means of keeping up with each other's lives. He was one of my best friends in the dorms but at the time the Facebook whirlwind hadn't yet caught on and I checked it, at most, once a month or even once a year. Now he is one of my 418 Facebook friends.... 418? Honestly? I'll venture a guess that 10% of these folks are high school classmates to who, if I saw on the streets of Walnut Creek, I probably wouldn't even say "Hi". I am not discounting our high school friendships--it would be great to see how everyone is doing now--but half of these FB friends didn't speak to me in high school, would they want to break the trend now? The other half sends me promotional emails and I know they just need to expand their networking, not reconnect.

There's probably another 10% who were dorm friends or acquaintances in college and another 10% who aren't even actual people but groups or organizations I support. I could continue this breakdown of FB friend composition but I don't really want to analyse that and I don't think either of my readers care.

Since Clint left for deployment, most of my time at home is dedicated to homework. I barely even cook anymore... I think I ate spaghetti for 4 straight days which is fine with me. At some point during the third week, I realized I was barely getting the same amount of homework done as before Clint left--how is that possible? I rarely turn the TV on and except for when I workout on base, I'm home with the books cracked open. But the laptop is also cracked open... and like a zombie with only a body and no soul, I freakishly and mindlessly manage to logon and zone out while reading status messages or thinking of silly things to put as status messages. Before I know it, an hour has gone by and I'm only 3 paragraphs in to Chapter 1 of my text. I think to myself, "SH*TCO**SUCKMOTH***UCKER where did the time go?!". Besides getting behind in studies, the time consumption on Facebook means less time spent doing other things--studying photography, practicing French, cleaning the house, interacting with real-life people, being productive. And when I'm not being productive, I turn into an unhappy beast. So that's when I realized... I need to get off Facebook.

One of my commandments is to "be in the present" and one of my resolutions is to "make the most of every moment". I only have a shallow understanding of what it means to "be in the present" and I think the two ideals are similar and interconnected because in order to make the most of every moment, you have to be mindful of your surroundings and your presence first. Being in the present doesn't just mean being interacting with the present. It also means being mindful of the present and being HERE--aware of what is around you, taking advantage of the opportunities near you, and making the most of your time in that moment. When people are on Facebook, they are not in the present--their minds are in a virtual, socially-dysfunctional playground of acquaintances and status messages while their bodies sit catatonic in front of PCs and macs. When I think of my happiest friends (Sunny, Lisa, Amanda, Natalia), they conjure up images of women who are productive in their lives, happier with who they are, and always PRESENT. They are also, as far as I know, rarely on FB. So maybe this is a hint of how to be present in life and thus happier?

I have been on a FB diet now for about 6 days. This means I am on FB less than 5 minutes a day and for the past 3 days, I only logged on to send FB messages to people of whom I don't have emails. So far I have been more productive, happier, and well, still behind in homework. (But with a new professor who assigns 12 chapters of reading a week, how could I not be behind?)

For the sake of any future children, I hope this becomes a steady trend. I want to be a good role model of how to live in the present and to make each moment worthwhile so that they can too.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Gratitude for the Spirit of the Game

In the city's Castro neighborhood, rowdy residents tossed toilet paper over the Muni lines...boys kissed boys, other boys booed George W. Bush and three beefy barmen stripped off their shirts and yelled, "Yeah!"...
Local San Francisco Newspaper

When I was seven years old my dad took me to my first ball game. AT&T/SBC/PacBell Park was known back then as Candlestick... (a much cooler name than AT&T Park.) On a Thursday evening we sat in seats so far away from the game that the flies buzzing around looked bigger than the players. But it didn't matter, it was my first game and I was with my dad and well... I was bored out of my mind.

But I was only seven. A couple years later I had matured. We were living in Walnut Creek and a neighbor and his dad took me to my first Oakland A's game. Our seats were so close I could feel Jose Canseco's arm hair tickle my nose when he slid home. We walked down to the third baseline and Mark McGwire walked right up to us in his number 25 green-trimmed white uniform and signed autographs. (He didn't sign an autograph for me, just so you are aware--I had neither a souvenir nor a pen. But he stood right in front of me and ignored me the whole time. I felt like I was standing on Mt. Olympus next to Zeus). A clip of sports life during that time: the A's had just swept the Giants in the 1989 World Series a few years prior, they played in the World Series again in 1990, and I just joined my first little league team. I was a die-hard A's fan ever since.

But the A's went to the playoffs only a handful of times since then, losing the division series successively. And both the Giants and the A's have had rocky seasons these past few years. But it doesn't matter... win or lose, I'll always love the A's. And the Giants will always be... ya know... okay.

The Giants brought it all home this year though. They finally won the World Series. While I'm not exactly jumping out of my pants for them, I have really enjoyed the excitement it has caused back at home. I love sports. And being here in England opened my eyes to just how much good ol' American sports mean to me--the unification of complete strangers on railway cars hollering their team name; drones of people walking towards stadium entrances all wearing the same colors; the acceptance of total idiocy while grown adults paint their faces and chug on $8 pints of shitty beer. I love what sports does for people and I freaking miss it. So while I'm not a Giants fan per se (I'll support 'em but in a Battle of the Bay game, I hope they burn)... the energy and hearing about all the updates and festivity make me happy. So thanks Giants--I'll always think you're a team of old fogies but I'm really glad you won the World Series and got my sports mojo jiving again.

Dedicated to the A's, the Cal Bears, and the GS Warriors. I hope my teams start winning again.