Friday, October 16, 2009

Like lemonade

"At the door the girl suddenly remarks that science, at least, is founded on optimism. It boldly presses on, believing in a future, which, if not better, will at least be more enlightened. It is, perhaps, the only human activity that still refers to our future, to the future of knowledge and even of life. For science, no backward step is possible. It has to stride on ahead, sure of being better tomorrow and better still the day after."

Jean-Claude Carrière, Please, Mr. Einstein

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What's new?/100 Hotels for Under $150

A few weeks ago, won free tickets to see Elizabeth Gilbert speak as part of the Drue Heinz lectures. She was incredibly funny, poised, articulate, self-deprecating, and entertaining, definitely glad I went. She read to us from her new book, Committed and talked about going on set for the upcoming film, Eat, Pray, Love, based on her memoir of the same name.

CAPSTONE - what exactly happens to conductive polymers after you leave them in sun and heat for weeks at a time? That might be good to know, since they'll be used for solar cells and the like . . . so we take current-voltage measurements on Organic Field Effect Transistors (OFETs) in the basement of Roberts Engineering Hall, in the Dark, and listen to a Pandora station called "Transistors"

21 - two cakes! One was ice cream and one was chocolate mousse, delicious!, I guess friends come in handy after all. Haha

Family Weekend. I drank a lot of hot apple cider and talked to some parents.

It's gorgeous outside. I heart Pgh.

"100 Hotels for Under $150" - European hotels. Beautiful interiors. Let's go!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Happy birthday, Dad. Remember when I was four and you were unemployed, and I said you could do my job? "What's that?"


It still applies. I'm here for you, I'm glad to have you around, I hope you can find simple enjoyment in your day, even though/because you've supported me all my life.

Love you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I don't really know what I'm doing

I'm talking about my tree pods that I got from the Mattress Factory. They came in containers like those dispensable rings or toys you get next to the gumball machine at the supermarket. They've been sitting on my desk since I got back from Pittsburgh/Michigan. Along with guilting me into mailing a belated birthday card, my sister has been telling me I would never plant these things. Well, I finally got around to doing it tonight . . . The soil was pretty dry. Possibly beyond resuscitation. Are they supposed to grow into trees?

(I just skimmed the website, and I was supposed to plant them in Pittsburgh. Oops.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Making friends with old people

I'd never done community service at a senior center before last summer. And I get along with my own grandparents, but never got to know them, not all that well. I never found out the little details about their lives or heard stories told over and over again that I could repeat to someone else. Sure, they had all sorts of wisdom and know-how, but somehow I never summed it up into something that could follow "My grandpa always says . . . "

So those are all likely reasons to hang out with elderly people.

But the reason I volunteered last summer, the reason I started, anyway, was that I wanted something to write about. I thought, A senior center is a veritable goldmine for stories. Wouldn't it be great to uncover people's lives and write them down? I wonder what these people have been through, I wonder what they've learned.

Since I never got them (never remembered them) from my own grandparents, I wanted the stories. I wanted the "Do this, because from my experience . . . " and the "Wow, a long time ago, we used to . . . " and I wanted to finally want to listen and I wanted the stories to be in a language I understood and could respond to.

And since I had no job and all my closest friends did have jobs - in D.C., at summer camps, at the pool, in Pittsburgh - I felt inadequate. I felt like I hadn't tried hard enough to find work, and then I thought that maybe I had, and I just didn't have any of the qualities necessary to get a summer job. I felt like I was going to waste two and a half months being "unproductive" and this was going to be an insurmountable setback with long-term consequences, none identifiable because I didn't actually have long-term goals, but nevertheless threatening and panic-inducing.* My self-esteem occupied the area of a postage stamp, and I desperately wanted to be sent somewhere, out of my house, just get out somewhere and be useful. I wanted to help someone.

You know, whenever I'm desperate to help, it's usually because I could use some help myself.

What ended up happening? As I'm writing this, I realize I put too much faith in the infallible memories of old people. They may have experienced a lot, but after all that living, they deserve a break. It's okay if they don't want to or just can't retell the stories. I ended up volunteering in Senior Plus - that's the side of the senior center where they host activities for mentally degenerative seniors.

I got to work with the coolest people, energetic men and women who love what they do. Harriet, Janet, Joyce, Jackie, Jay, Tommy, Danijela (pronounced "Daniella"). The occupational therapists and volunteers were so bright and so purposeful about caring for others, even when I felt crummy and disappointed about being stuck at home, what could I do but imitate them when I was around them? We served meals and made crafts and sang songs and played bingo and did "exercise time" with the seniors.

The seniors themselves were fantastic. There was fiery little Rosaria, who showed up each morning in J Crew-style print dresses, rattling her walker, demanding "agua, no ice," and babbling in Italian. Which I was still trying to teach myself how to speak at this point, so I brought my Italian book with me some days and Tommy and I would try to find some phrases that would be useful to say to her. The most that I understood of her life story was "ragazzo" - boy - I think at one point she may have been telling me something about her sons.

Joanna was boisterous and cheerful, very elegant-looking with big, alert brown eyes, and apparently she was Greek, because whenever she, Rosaria, and Gwen sat at a table together, it'd be called the "International Table." I remember she had a trademark cheer, which would get imitated a lot, and a very calm smile when she was happy.

Gwen was more graceful and aloof, very friendly and liked to talk to you. She was one of the first people I met. She was from England and liked to drink tea in the morning. I remember she was very proper about her art projects and word searches and always asked if she was doing it the right way, but not in a high-strung way or a seeking-affirmation way, more like she just wanted you to keep her company and encourage her from time to time.

I remember Ann, Thelma, and Dorothy, who were very gentle and quiet and had beautiful smiles. Thelma was from Virginia and told me she used to go to school in a one-room schoolhouse (dirt floor, or did I make that up?), several grades in the same place. She was kind towards kindness, I sensed resignation from her sometimes, like she was humoring my volunteer-self when I offered to help her with her word search. "I can't see it," because her vision was impaired.

Let's see. There were three Marys. I remember one never ate lunch, but was consistently kind and pleasant. Another Mary was sort of trapped inside her body, but still there, and we talked to her and did art projects with her. She passed away in July. The third Mary was sometimes grumpy - she'd pout and insist that the other seniors made fun of her, or say that an old ex-boyfriend, Danny, told her she was ugly - and sometimes cheerful - talking about her Croc shoes and her outfit and the dolls she carried with her, Bubba and Pearl.

And Rhoda and Nikki, who were playful and sassy and would make jokes with Jay. Rhoda was vaguely regal, a bit of a diva, but also a sweetheart, and Nikki seemed like she might have been an athlete when she was younger, energetic and kind of agressive, always faking punches.

And Mitch who would say "Yay!" when he got excited and loved to dance, who'd always wear a cap of some sort, who they were always asking to sit down and for whom you'd have to rush to get his cane, because he wanted to move around so much. Haha Joanna was so annoyed by him and would tell him to be quiet. Vince, who celebrated his 98th or 99th birthday (the secret was apparently all the vino). Mike, whose smile and glittering eyes looked pretty mischievious, when he wasn't putting his logic skills to work on that day's Sodoku puzzle. Frank, a friendly guy whose grandson was in the Olympic trials. And Mr. Raja, very demure, who always wore a collared, button-down shirt and carried a tote bag with him.

I catch myself wanting to edit parts of my past and being anxious about the future, and what I forget in those moments is how to live in the present and love whatever I'm doing. To just focus on where I am and the people I'm with and whatever God has given me. These seniors lived incredibles lives, full of worth and merit. But I learned from them the importance of cherishing the present. That's all you have after memories become a collective vagueness and long-term goals have been set and revised and achieved. Each day becomes something to look forward to. Why can't it be that way now?

We're all going to grow old. We're all going to have weakened bones and flabby muscles, de-elasticized skin and age spots. It's neither disheartening nor repulsive. And it doesn't need to take that long to be encouraged by what's around you, to start living in the present.

*(Wasting time is a choice and a matter of perspective.) It wasn't a waste.

A final point that fit nowhere above: I was proposed to twice last summer by the same man. That should be a huge plug for volunteer work at a senior center. If I said "Okay," does that mean I'm engaged?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rush hour is a good time to make phone calls

But I hit a lot of voicemails because I called around dinnertime - 6:30? I left lengthy messages on four people's voicemails and then got through to one friend, but she was at the grocery store and said she'd have to call me back. So beware, you might be next!

"Na-ma-ste" is Hindi for "Hello," "Good morning," "Good afternoon," and "Good night".

I'm learning to focus my thoughts based on my location, a very useful skill - i.e., think about work stuff at work and NOT think about work at home. And also be less distracted at work.

I'm starting to be okay with the fact that none of the skills God's helped me work on a lot this year - organization, tasking, planning - is really coming into play in familiar ways at my job, but in different ways, sort of as they apply to engineering. I have so little experience that sometimes it feels like I have none of the skills that would qualify me for what I'm expected to do (still figuring out what that is). I'm seeing that I still have a lot to learn about patience, time management, and self-discipline. I'm building from the ground up, but at least I'm learning and growing, for sure.

This summer is about stretching, I think. Well, glancing backward, they've all been, at least a little bit.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cyclone Aila

"Cyclone Aila tore into the southwestern coast of Bangladesh on Monday, wreaking havoc in ten coastal districts and killing more than 150 people. BRAC staff have been working around the clock since before the cyclone hit to evacuate people and immediately launched relief efforts. The storm, with tidal waves caused by winds of up to 100 kilometers per hour (Reuters), has rendered hundreds of thousands marooned homeless, and many are still missing."



Monday, May 25, 2009

Red flags and crazy cardinals

We all struggle, so I guess I shouldn't launch (immediately) into rescue mode when I sense that someone else is having a hard time spiritually or just searching. I should kind of feel out the situation and pray. I found this library book in my house after I got home on Saturday:

The Power of Soul: The Way to Heal, Rejuvenate, Transform, and Enlighten All Life (Soul Power Series)
In the twentieth century, mind over matter was emphasized. In the twenty-first century, soul over matter will transform all life.
The Power of Soul reveals divine soul secrets, wisdom, knowledge, and practices to transform the consciousness of humanity and all souls, and enlighten them in order to create love, peace, and harmony for humanity, Mother Earth, and all universes.
The Power of Soul teaches soul healing, soul prevention of sickness, soul rejuvenation, soul transformation of every aspect of life (including relationships and finances), and soul enlightenment. It offers you practical soul treasures to empower you to apply all of these teachings. This is the divine direction for the fifteen-thousand-year Soul Light Era, which started on August 8, 2003.
The Power of Soul is the leading authority for Dr. Sha's entire Soul Power book series. The divine soul secrets, wisdom, knowledge, and practices in this book will lead humanity and all souls to the universe of soul over matter. This book shows humanity and all souls the way to heal, rejuvenate, transform, and enlighten all life.

Whoa, whoa, whoa

So if I'd read this two years ago, even a year and a half ago, I wouldn't have been as unsettled to have this book in my house as I am now. Coming back from a retreat where my own faith was pounded and extruded a few different ways, I'm convinced of the need to swear by the cross and by Christ's sacrifice, even if I'm not quite at the point where I'm actually, you know, doing that. My mom's been borrowing books from the library on Buddhism and spirituality for years. I think she's been looking for concrete principles, something to reaffirm her, something to give her direction, something to hold onto. Something that sounds true and virtuous and will give her new purpose for living. It's never struck me that the places and texts she sought for answers might be leading her further astray, or that her mind and heart might be in urgent need of love and intervention. Not even intervention. Just someone to listen to her thoughts. Someone to walk with her and a human voice to say, You know, God's walking with you everyday.

I was really bad about reading my Bible during Finals Week. Unguided, erratic, . . . unfocused. One thing I became convinced of last week was the authority of Scripture and how if you let it heal you, if you believe that it is true, it can accomplish amazing, uplifting things for your outlook and your approach to life. The opposite also shows when you let your self-discipline slide. I'd become distanced and damaged - and was surprised and hurt by it, all self-inflicted - and I'm still dealing with the consequences. But the ways we confuse ourselves and the times we walk away don't stop God from working. It didn't stop Jesus from loving and it didn't stop Him giving up a beautiful life just so we could stand closer to God.

Mom, it's all in the Bible. Look there. Be renewed.

And, well, I guess there's also this: My mom bought "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper. (If that's not a red flag, I must be color blind.) We read this in Cell Group this year. Great book based on sound theology and written with a good amount of self-examination - well, maybe that's to be expected from the title. I have no idea anymore where my mom is spritually and whether or not the Scripture references or sometimes-"Christianese" will speak to her, but I pray that it'll beckon her heart and open her mind to something more solid than "Soul Power."

Which - okay, this is for a separate post, but - makes me pause and "tsk tsk" myself because I need to learn how to grow in my faith while being tolerant of other people's beliefs. Love others without necessarily loving their lifestyles. I don't know how to do that. Okay, that's Not true, but I think it's becoming increasingly difficult for me, as well as negotiating the point at which I try to talk about spiritual things. Maybe it shouldn't be a switch, like "On/Off," but a natural outpouring, honest and up front about faith from the start. Gee, I've heard that a lot before.

This makes me think of something I mulled over with friends last week, "needing to do stuff" and feeling obligated to grow yourself a certain way, like you're a botanist grafting and hacking at your own messed up tree of life, and when you're unhappy with the way it looks, disciplining the branches into shapes, one way or another. Sigh.

My family bought a bird feeder about a month ago, so now we spend half our meals watching for birds and commenting on the wildlife flying outside our bay window. My sister said there's cardinal who comes back to the window repeatedly and hovers outside our kitchen, like he'll run into the window sometimes and then he'll do it again a day later. She says she's pretty sure it's the same bird and she thinks he remembers the window's there. And she says he's a crazy cardinal. I said, Let's name it. I chose "Richelieu," nickname Richie, for the backseat driver to the French monarchy, trusted advisor while France had a child king - Crazy! But I've just looked up Cardinal Richelieu on Wikipedia, and he doesn't seem as crazy as I remembered.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"This I Believe"

I'm excited about our RA summer reading! It's called This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women. I just picked it up from Angie (Housefellow) at SDO and it looks really good. I skimmed the table of contents and people's essays look kind of quirky but truthful, and that should be cool and thought-provoking. Then I randomly opened to something by William F. Buckley, Jr., who's been on my reading list for the last year (, and his piece is on something very dear to me, "How is it Possible to Believe in God?" I can't wait to see what else people have written about and size up their beliefs next to my own, and am definitely going to try to read with an open mind, with my own beliefs ready to be shaped.

It'd be cool to do this with residents, someone talked about "six-word memoirs," asking people to summarize something very important to them (like a principle or guiding piece of wisdom or something they learned from an experience) and maybe put it on their doors, then get together in small groups and share stories.

Yes, I have something to read on the way to Michigan!

Okay so I wasn't kidding about wanting to learn Hindi, and it turns out my library back home has Hindi language CDs! I'm going to spend a lot of time driving back and forth from work this summer, so I decided I want to do something with it, either invest in good music or maybe learn a language (a couple people have also suggested books on tape, which could be cool). The library has the Pimsleur Language Program CDs, which I just looked up, and the reviews for Hindi aren't so hot, but maybe I'll at least be able to translate "Jai Ho" for you!

Ooh I could also spend the time praying.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Rock candy's melted, only diamonds now remain

I can't wait to go home.

I needed something beautiful to look at, so I started looking at family photos and vacation pictures.

I don't even know if we're going on vacation this year. I don't even know if I'll be able to go if we do.

But I can't wait. Summer at home. I feel so at peace just thinking about it. And excited, but right now, just serene.

I feel rooted in time, somehow. The last wave of stress has ebbed away and now I'm just here, neither looking backward at something unchangeable nor peering into the future at things to be done, sitting on the shore and not moving. I'm just basking in the idea of my sunny Maryland summer and memories of my family hanging out together. I love them. I love the four of them as individuals, but I love spending time with all of them at once. My dad plays jokes on my siblings and my mom makes the room light up when she's having a good day. My sister and I sing songs at dinner and my brother and me do voice impressions. We're kind of quirky when we're around each other, but interdependent and mostly functional. I'm idealistic and think we're better when we're together. And even though we change and learn and grow over time, God makes a way for us to still relate to one another and want to support each other. It's incredible and makes me smile.

Friday, May 8, 2009

relational evangelism

"i carry your heart with me"

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

ee cummings

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A risk, a chance, an opportunity for adventure

There's no better time than the present. If there's something you've been meaning to do or dreaming to do, go for it!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


dec. 24, 2008


you're the guy who, three and a half years after i thought you broke my heart, i can imagine meeting in a coffee shop twenty years into the future, and, if we were both still single and searching, laughing about where it went wrong and falling in love again. i fell too in love with things you said online - too many of our conversations were via the internet, too quickly; that was one of the problems - and even though i knew it altered the presentation of things and the time you had to deliberate and place each crafty, flirtatious remark, thought you were so funny and intelligent and profound. so much of it was speculation, i thought you were interested, our mutual friends told me and told each other they noticed something different about you, you behaved like you were making up your mind (but that the odds of us dating were good). what was up with that? you were a confusing guy. when you call someone out on playing mindgames, you should do it in person (my mistake), but it seems like i accused you of not being straight with me many, many times. and you just couldn't seem to get it together. i knew i was attracted to you. i was so frustrated when we had one-on-one conversations, three of which i remember distinctly (and i now realize they were all at or within 100 feet of my house), and you wouldn't look me in the eye, and you spoke figuratively and unclearly, and i couldn't understand what you meant, and you talked about things that were plain infuriating (talking about indulgences and the crusades and the ludicrousy of the catholic church). you really pushed my self-righteous side, i thought i was so great for putting up with you.

you know what? now i'm just annoyed. two things i've learned since going to college: one, a great conversation - great conversations, plural - cannot be the sole basis for a relationship (my frequent mistake). two, if a man really wants to be with you, he will muster up the boldness to confess his feelings. by sheer necessity to prove that he has male hormones, he will say that he likes you or devise some plan to spend time with you. if not, he may be dense, he may be nervous, he may be shy; but most likely, you, the girl, are misguided.

i'm a sucker for guys with dimples. there, i said it. now you know!



it's been a while. i'm negligent, but in my heart always promised i would come back. here i am.

last year when i blogged regularly, i said i thought i could write 50 love letters. i toyed with the idea of writing them all and then posting them intermittently as filler posts when i had nothing interesting to say or time to spend making my thoughts decipherable. i finally started writing them over winter break but only managed to write two of them. they're really short.

singleness and marriage and dating and relationships have been stirring around in my head a lot lately, and i've finally reached a satisfactory view on them (for now), namely that the middle two aren't a given and shouldn't be treated as such, and that a person isn't deficient for not having experienced them or for not having them presently. i'm not in a place where i'm consoling myself or bitter towards men (men are great!), just finally able to dispel this weird value system i've had for so long where i placed so much weight on the relationship - that kind of relationship - i could have with another person (and all this never having had a significant other). it's strange, i feel kind of hollowed out or sedated, like someone dipped my neurons in glue or molasses. i swear, i used to get so worked up thinking about this. now when i think about being single, i feel a little lonely, but not because i actually believe i am alone. i am loved and appreciated and recognize this - and i love and appreciate so many people in my life. the speck of loneliness is a curiosity about the unknown and how my life would be changed if i was special to someone "in that way." it's a pang of discontent that i don't know yet how that could fit into my life if i had it, and it's me wondering what that different kind of happiness would be like. i mean, i was able to articulate long ago that your emotions should never hinge on one person, but i haven't completely ruled out the possibility of dating. sometimes i just wonder

so i'll be posting the letters by their numbers. i miss writing and being written to.
i feel like i'm sending messages in bottles or talking into an empty room - not expecting to be found or overheard, but completely open to possibility of being discovered.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

7. do five things i have never done before

1. Play a lead role in a play

2. Make friends with old people

3. Surprise someone on her birthday

4. Vote

5. Drive a rental car

Friday, January 2, 2009

First resolution of the new year: Remember my resolutions

From: Sharon
Subject: phrase-a-day
Date: Thu, January 31, 2008, 11:57 pm

chere stacy,

quelles sont tes resolutions pour le nouvel an?

i didn't make any . . . but i think i have a few (or possibly just things to give up over lent):

1. stop fidgeting (playing with earrings, necklaces, rubbing my eyes, running my fingers through my hair, swinging my legs, tapping my pencil, fussing with things on my desk while i'm talking . . . basically just SIT STILL, especially when i am speaking! i just took my earrings out because i was doing it - the big pink jewel ones with a little clasp, do you know which one i'm talking about?)
2. procrastinate less
3. read 19 more books this year, maybe more!
4. appreciate people more
5. let them know!
6. relax
7. do five things i have never done before
8. learn to figure out what went wrong when things go wrong, and then learn from it, but not agonize/constantly recall what went wrong

probably more, but . . . i will think of them later! i like doing new year's resolutions on the last day of the first month :)

love, sharon

(The only one I thought about vaguely throughout the year was No. 7.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

We spent New Year's Day cleaning house

Behind my dad's back.

My family hoards junk. Truth undeniable. We let years pass before we go on major cleaning sprees, and even then, the questionable pricelessness of some of the stuff we find means that we put a lot of it back into closets and cabinets to chill some more. And to avoid my dad rescuing "memories" from the trash, my mom has skipped wastebins in the past and set stuff straight out on the curb. But then, "Why did you recycle these newspapers? These headlines were historical, we should keep these!"

Mmhm, packrats are us. (It really is all of us.) But Dad was surprisingly cooperative today! Since my cousin and her family left on Sunday (fussy two-year old in tote), we've been itching to revamp our household organization. So today we recycled/threw out old drinking cups (plastic, from the kiddie days), candy, glass jars (the uses are endless when they're lidless, with the salsa washed out), homemade candles that smelled like crayons, old (empty) cookie tins, boxes, old bath toys, and things from our freezer that my mom had completely forgotten about. Dad stepped in the kitchen towards the end and approved the discard pile/pitched in.

I'm glancing at my bookshelf and thinking I may continue tomorrow - I have years of school papers that I actually will Not reference or remember the contents of. Ever. And a lot of paperbacks that no one in my family will read, I should figure out where to donate those. I also have sweaters that I haven't worn in years that my sister probably won't want. They say you should get rid of anything you haven't used or worn in a year, and I have a lot of those.

I love decluttering. A great way to start off the new year.