Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An unsettled settling.

There are a number of days I see who I am and wonder what happened to old me and when. I still have a long way to go in many areas, but there are several that are so strikingly different, I must take note.

Sunday I was going to make stuffed peppers because I had all of the ingredients, needed to use them, and yum. I looked in the cabinet for my nutritional yeast to make a tasty sauce to top the peppers. OMG, WHERE WAS MY NUTRITIONAL YEAST?! I got the ladder and pulled nearly everything out of the cabinet looking for it. Not there. Not even the huge tub of it. I had a bag at some point and 2 huge tubs and another container I'd moved some to. None. I pulled everything out of the lower cabinet that holds extra flour, sugar, oil, and what-not. I know I had stored a tub of nutritional yeast in there at some point. None. You do not even know how unsettling it is to not be able to find something when I always have a place for things and to realize that I'm this disturbed over Nutritional. Yeast.

Nutritional Yeast is this weird but tasty ingredient I began using during the strict vegan days. It's in a number of recipes I added to my repertoire and several I count as favorites. So, where was it? Scrambled around the condo and realized I had a bag in my bedroom that it might, just might be in. Yep. There it was. That huge, glorious tub of fish-food-looking flakes. I had taken it out of the cabinet one night when I couldn't find all of my groceries in there. (That's one thing I will have at my next place...more cabinet space!)

So, I go on gathering the ingredients needed to finish out my dishes and had no almond milk. I left my comfortable home on a day I did not feel great and needed to be working on a paper so I could go to the grocery store and get just almond milk. And I did it.

First, I went a little crazy about finding my nutritional yeast. Then, I went to get only almond milk, when old Andrea would have just nixed the sauce and made another topping. And these are a couple of the odd things that have changed in the past four years and the patterns, habits, and preferences I've settled into. I'll have more on this another day.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A privilege and labor of love

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of overseeing a memorial celebration and scientific symposium for my friend and former boss. I have so many thoughts, so many feelings. I have been somewhat numb over the last months planning this and dealing with the chaos of work, school, and several big unknowns. In some ways, this has been a great blessing.

In the last months, I have also spent time with his wife and daughters. It has been pretty amazing in such an unexpected way. They did not treat me as his former subordinate; they treated me as his and their old friend. They knew much more about me than I could have anticipated. They told me their side of hearing our long phone chats and knew about my various hospital stays, travels, and tattoo. They knew about my deliberation over the years in going back to school and what he thought of my work. They knew that Jesus is real to me, and that I'm an aunt. They knew a lot. I am surprised and flattered at how much he told them. They were amazing and so fun and though I had previously only met one daughter in person, I quickly connected to all of them. I sort of felt like I knew them too. Isn't it weird the connection to others' friends and family? One daughter apparently is also quite reserved, but with me, she blurts out questions and statements unashamedly. Another locked arms with me, and they all hugged me freely.

What a strange and beautiful privilege to be able to plan the Charlottesville and UVa service for him and them. I made sure the details were taken care of to appease the professional attendees, but I also added personal touches I knew friends and family would appreciate. It was a lovely time and very respectful and honoring. There is a bronze bust, a walkway plaque, and a memorial fund. Other than the details of renting equipment and the boring stuff that just makes things run smoothly, personal touches were needed for a meaningful memorial celebration. I ordered all of the food I knew he loved for the reception. No one really noticed anything particular about the food, but I knew and his family even commented about loving all of the dishes. Ha. I'm sure they share tastes. Meatballs don't say "nice reception" but they were one of his favorites. He also was obsessed with peanut butter cookies. We had more conversations about peanut butter cookies than we probably had about some work tasks. So when I ordered cookies, they were all peanut butter. There was a playlist of songs to play as people were walking up for the service and mingling for the reception...all upbeat very non-memorial service songs. All were songs and artists he loved. I created a slideshow to play during the reception, the service was outdoors, I lined up the speakers, and I also got to read a fair amount of nature writings and poems before to include a few lines in the slideshow or pass along to the chaplain and others to integrate into what they shared. There were other things too, but what I'm getting at is that this event has been shaped over the last 6+ months as a labor of love.

I thought about not sharing about this event, and even with what I have shared, I have left so much out. But in my seven years working in my current position, even with several really great events I have coordinated or the amazing score on the grant renewal, this is the one work I am most pleased with and proud of. I am not so proud of what I did exactly. I am proud that everyone in attendance, from professional to personal relationships, felt this event was exactly as it should be to honor him. I am proud that the little details I gave much thought to were acknowledged and appreciated. I am proud that the family was most pleased and really felt the burden of coordinating a service for him lifted. I am proud of how this made our Center and our Director look. I am just really pleased at how it went and think that as much as he would not want even a mention of his name, much less an entire event around him, he would have actually enjoyed the two days...if they weren't for him. It really was such a privilege to be able to honor him in this way.

I leave you with some snippets from John Muir I think really reflect who he thought and sought to be.
One learns that the world, though made, is yet being made; that this is still the morning of creation; that mountains long conceived are now being born, channels traced for coming rivers, basins hollowed for lakes...As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can…I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

It starts with hello.

About five years ago, a friend was talking about coming to an event I was hosting and the number of people I would probably have there. The friend then stated, "I ended up not coming because there would be enough people you wouldn't miss me. It doesn't matter so much who is there to extroverts as long as a good number of people are there." Ouch. Didn't my friend know me? Didn't he know that I am inclusive but selectively? Didn't he know that if I invite people over or am spending time with them, it is because I enjoy and appreciate them and want their company?

I may be an extrovert, but I am a somewhat shy, slow-to-warm-up one. I get anxious in mingling situations because small talk is awkward and there are so many people I can get overwhelmed. I would prefer to sit down with one or two people and move past the "What do you do? How long have you lived here?" conversations. Interestingly a friend with the same Myers-Briggs type enjoys awkward small talk. She rocks it actually. Awkward small talk makes me clam up. I usually fumble my words and say things that do not even sound like my native tongue. But awkward traveling makes her uneasy (alluded to in several travel posts and a comment from one of our conversations), whereas I embrace it. There is some anonymity in awkwardness while in a foreign land where I am not necessarily supposed to know the language and customs. In my own community, in my own organizations, with people who speak my language, it shouldn't be awkward. Or that's the message I have internalized.

I grew up attending a small church, lived in a small community, and went to relatively small schools. Everyone knew everyone. There was no way to hide or shirk from being seen. College was bigger, but I found a community. Grad school was bigger, and I struggled to find a community. I settled into a church with so many I could easily go unnoticed, which was lonely and freeing. The real benefit and issue with being seen is...being seen. Surrounded by many, I was definitely not seen. This aided in me becoming more shy or having a harder time with mingling. In the presence of many people, the chance of more awkward interactions was greater. The chance for not being welcomed or being judged was greater. It was safer to stand around the perimeter of rooms or not go to education classes with smaller, but still large, groups of people. It was safer to ask one person to lunch or coffee than risk getting to know the many. The awkwardness that shouldn't be there was and is. And maybe it should be. After all, this involves meeting people who do not yet know me and me meeting people I do not yet know. I don't know habits and preferences and how they laugh or what offends. There is a certain awkwardness that comes with getting to know someone.

For me, people matter so much that I want to get past the awkwardness to really begin getting to know one another. But once a friend, a friend for life. I do not take spending time with people lightly, which is why I was hurt by my friend's comment. People matter. Specific people, not just general people, matter. I notice when people do not show up. I notice when people are present. I believe in spending time with people who support, challenge, and encourage me. I believe in spending time with people I can do the same for. And that might just start with saying hello to one person in a room buzzing with chatter.