Friday, August 31, 2012

august.

to be honest, I'm glad August will be over tomorrow. Nothing against it personally, but I've just never enjoyed August much at all. Ever. And this year was no exception. That first week or so of the month spent re-acclamating to the United States (which took forever, btw, and put a damper on my otherwise smooth re-entry), trying to catch up on choreography for Bye Bye Birdie, a weekend trip to Saluda, weekly soccer games, heat, heat and more heat, political and election activity, and the back-to-school chaos. Not to mention emotional things - feeling let down by one of my oldest friends, letting go of some old ideas and dreams, struggling with decisions for my next few months, joy at the births of both  my cousin's daughter and another friend's daughter, anticipation for some trips coming up and my birthday, dealing with some unexpected firsts when it comes to relationships, a disturbing murder/suicide in our county, seeing friends who you love working through tough stuff, feeling like a failure, and confusion over pretty much everything.

It's been good for me, all of it, I think. at least, I pray it's been. Right now I just want to wake up and find out that all of this has just been an imagination, a dream, and the real, simpler life will be here when tomorrow comes....but the reality is, life is complicated and you can't just hide your head in the sand and wish you were nine years old again and life was about American Girl dolls and princess birthday parties and hair ribbons and gel pens.

and here's the thing: I know that God is and will help me through all this. I know that the fulfillment that I'm looking for can be found in Christ. I know that living in His will is the safest place. I know that our hope is Christ's final return, and I can't help praying that it will be soon. But it's hard to remember it all in the moment. So I pray for faith, and for peace. I pray a lot. And it's comforting, 'cause God's *actually there* listening to every word. Every word. Every confused, mumbled, lisped word. So I keep going.

and the reality is my life is awesome. It's just a little rocky right now. But I really have an amazing family, amazing friends, and above all, an amazing GOD. And this season will pass. And the fall will also be amazing. I mean, my birthday is coming up, how can that *not* make me just amazingly excited? I may have to do a blog party. After all, it's my eighteenth. And, good Southern gal that I am, tomorrow will be amazing because football season starts and we're going to the game :)

And of course there's my music. At the beginning of August I felt that I just *couldn't* play piano anymore. I was ready to give up. But praise God I didn't! And I'm actually getting gaining ground, meeting challenges and loving it again. And I blare my soundtracks with vigor and sing along, feeling my voice return. So that's something good to come out of this month *hehe*

thanks for listening to me unload. I try not to rant here...that's not really what blogs are for...but it's good to get my thoughts into words. Promise for perkier posts this week! It'll be lovely September then, and there's lots to share.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, or be dismayed, for the LORD  your God goes with you wherever you go." ~ Joshua 1:9

Monday, August 27, 2012

stories from nica - vol. ii // teresita








 
The nursing home was one of my favorite places to visit. I went with several different teams - each time was special in its own way. For almost eight years, my dad took all of us children to visit the residents at a couple different assisted living/nursing home communities in our area each Saturday - so this is something I'm familiar with and love. At "El Hogar de los Ancianos", the resident who became a favorite of mine was Teresita - the lovely lady in the red and yellow with me in the picture. Actually, she's probably everyone's favorite...but that's beside the point. She has a very defined fashion sense, and refused to let me paint her nails pink that day because it didn't match her outfit, until I pointed out that it matched her shoes, and voila! *grin* She also wanted us to take pictures of her "modeling"....oh, it was so fun.

The nursing home was also one of the hardest places to visit. While the nuns and nurses keep the place running smoothly, and give the residents very tender care, it's still a stark contrast to assisted living facilities here in the States.

We did our best to help everytime we went - dusting and mopping, serving drinks, washing dishes. A funny story: the last time I went, the AIM teams from Athens came too. Somehow I got designated (by a nurse) to mop the entire women's dormitory (which you can see behind Teresita and I in the pictures). I did do the whole thing - and was quite sore and tired by the end of it. I walked back into the courtyard with the dirty mop to wash it outside, and the others were just wrapping up their projects. One of the guys looked at me and said, "Wait, Liza, did you just mop that whole room yourself?" I wasn't sure what he was getting at, so I just smiled and said, "Yup! Sure did." They looked at each other, and then he replied, "Wow, 'cause it took three of us guys to do the men's room." SCORE! *chuckle*

Sunday, August 26, 2012

girls day out

This day has been long in the works - the girls have been talking about since before I left for Nica, and this morning we finally got to do it! Clara, her sisters, my sisters and I left from church, went and picked up the other girls and headed out for Christian's Pizza, a stroll on the mall and Sweet Frogs. Oh, and of course, we people-watched. You can't *not* people watch downtown, especially with all the new students moving in and their parents running around all that good stuff *chuckle* A splendid two hours of fun and fellowship :) I love my girls!
Amina and Marie at Christian's

Sisters! (Kiara and Clara)

Amina suggested we walk up and down for a while to let our stomachs settle and burn off lunch. Good idea. So we walked all the way to the pavilion and back - and of course then we were all tired and some of us had cramps. But it was all good *grin*

this is a free-for-all chalkboard/"graffiti" wall - everyone has to leave their mark! :D




And then the climax of the day: Sweet Frog - everyone's new favorite ice cream, pardon me, frozen yogurt place. :)


Khamilo and Shana

The handles were a bit tricky at this location...most of us ended up with more than we bargained for *hehe*

Khamilo got Bubble Gum ice cream with gummi worms...to each her own *grin*

choosing just three toppings...

.....can be sooo hard.

the whole gang (minus me, the photographer)
l to r: Khamilo, Amina, Kiara, Maddie, Catherine, Caroline, Shana and Clara

Just another lovely day in University Town! I love my life.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

roses are red, and...

There’s something unique about reviewing a book that you’ve watched develop from start to finish. A book that your own friend has been working on for over two years. Remembering back to the first time you heard that she was writing a book, to holding a published copy in your hands. It’s been a really neat journey, and I’m so happy that I can introduce to you today to my dear friend Elizabeth Rose, and her first book: Violets are Blue.

I'm not a "classic" book reviewer, I do each one kinda different, just to keep things interesting. Sometimes I do a chronological look, sometimes I summarize, sometimes I focus on a particular incident, or sometimes a particular person. The thing that stood out to me the most about this truly fascinating story was the development of the characters and how true they are to life. So, dear readers, that is going to be the focus of this review.


Actually, this is a book that was interesting for me to read since I really couldn’t relate to the main character, Violet, very much. I found that I’m more of a cross between Violet’s older sister Emma and her best friend Lilli. That said, I was particularly struck by one chapter that involved a conversation between Vi and her dramatic sister Helen. In the scene (forgive the theater language - I'm an actress, what can I say? *chuckle*) Helen opens her heart to her big sister in a moment of weakness, and Violet gets a rare glimpse into the "real" Helen. Vi learns in the brief interchange the mystery, if you will, behind Helen's sometimes obnoxious and overly hyper behavior - it was simply her way of dealing with change and sadness and stress. I personally felt convicted about my own behavior toward one of my own sisters. Which brings me to something I love about Violets are Blue - the family relationships are so realistics, from the happy dialogues to the home scenes to even the bantering - I appreciated the authenticity...almost as if the authoress is from a large family herself. *grin*
Also, the long-distance friendship between Lilli and Violet struck a chord in my own life. For the past six years, my bestfriend and I have been corresponding (for the first four years by letter, then by email, and of course phone) across the ocean. More than once I found myself smiling as Violet promptly responded to each letter of Lilli's, as well as feeling the urge to write about every important thing going on, and of course begging and pleading for looooong replies.
I did come away wanting to know more about Ethan, his personality, character, family, etc. and wishing I had gotten to know Lilli better. Ethan seems to be very gentlemanly with a good head on his shoulders, and the burden he carried for so long did not make him bitter towards other people. Did he learn these good traits from his father? or his uncle? What makes him happy? Those sort of things. Of course, he wasn't the focus of the story, but still - these are the questions I ask when I'm evaluating a character. And Lilli, she treated Vi much like I treat (or would it be more like torture? :P) my dear friends. And Emma...who I saw myself in as well.
I could go on. And on. I thoroughly enjoyed Violets are Blue, and now that I've read it twice, I finally gave it up to my sister to read - and she's enthralled. So I say, read it! And expect to come away very impressed. It's an enjoyable read, but it will also make you think - both very important elements in a book :D

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

two sisters. fourteen years. // part two


There's this thing I have that not many of my friends have in common with me. Many of my friends are homeschooled, many are Christians, many are swimmers, many are musicians, many are part of large families. But still, in my closest circles, I can only think of two of them who share this. And it may seem a little trivial, but it's something I've been wrestling with recently.

It's this thing of having a little sister who's 14 years younger than me. This thing of having a sibling (or two) who will always view you as a "grown-up". My cousin is 12 years older than me, and even though our age gap has closed as time goes on, I still remember thinking that she was an adult when she was our babysitter...before she left for college :D



As the past few months have unfolded, and God has shut doors and opened others, I'm starting to see that my time here with my family is probably going to look very different very soon.

 
So I'm very aware of how present I should be if I want them to remember me as a fun big sister - it's amazing what an impression those first few years of life have on the rest. So as I spin my towel-clad, just-about-thirty-pound, three-year-old baby sister around the room and hear her shriek "No, no, no!"and then laugh when I stop and she calls out, "Do it again!" I know I am making memories. Me and my baby :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

the importance of being earnest

Today is the first day of school for my siblings. And my first non-first day of school in about fifteen years. And honestly, it doesn't even feel weird. Maybe that's cause I'm used to doing nothing...haha. ANYWAY. This morning I had the luxurious pleasure of curling up on my bed in my jeans and a hoodie (it's a little cool over here today) and listen to my period drama soundtracks while reading a play on my Kindle.

I love reading plays. I LOVE it. Maybe because I can picture them being acted out, and so much is left to the imagination without wordy descriptions. Just dialogue. I love it.

So today I read "The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People" by Oscar Wilde. I chuckled the whole way through, and finished it with the feeling that I read something worthwhile that was fun. Sometimes classics make you work hard and you feel tired. But I only felt happy. *grin*

Here are some of the choicest tidbits from this hilarious play:

Algernon: As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life.
---
Algernon: My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwendolen is perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirts with you.
Jack: I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come up to town expressly to propose to her.
Algernon:I thought you had come up for pleasure?....I call that business.
Jack:  How utterly unromantic you are!
Algernon: I really don't see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over.
---
Algernon: Well, in the first place girls never marry the man they flirt with. Girls don't think it right.
---
Algernon: More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read.
---
Algernon: Yes. But why does your aunt call you her uncle? 'From little Cecily, with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack.' There is no objection, I admit, to an aunt being a small aunt, but why an aunt, no matter what her size may be, should call her own nephew her uncle, I can't quite make out. Besides, your name isn't Jack at all; it is Ernest. [....]
Jack: [....] Well, my name is Ernest in town and Jack in the country, and the cigarette case was given to me in the country.
Algernon: Yes, but that does not account for the fact that your small Aunt Cecily, who lives at Tunbridge Wells, calls you her dear uncle. Come, old boy, you had much better have the thing out at once.
---
Lady Bracknell: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
---
Cecily: Yes, you've wonderfully good taste, Ernest. It's the excuse I've always given for your leading such a bad life. And this is the box in which I keep all your dear letters.
Algernon: My letters! But, my own sweet Cecily, I have never written you any letters.
Cecily: You need hardly remind me of that, Ernest. I remember only too well that I was forced to write your letters for you. I wrote always three times a week, and sometimes oftener.
Algernon: Oh, do let me read them, Cecily?
Cecily: Oh, I couldn't possibly. They would make you far too conceited.
---
Lady Bracknell: who is that young person whose hand my nephew Algernon is now holding in what seems to me a peculiarly unnecessary manner?
---

And my inevitable film investigation proved very fruitful - turns out there's a very popular 1952 version, as well as 2002 remake with Judi Dench (Lady Catherine - '05) and Colin Firth (Mr. Darcy - '95). Both look fanastic - the clips I've found on YT have kept me in stiches. Maybe I'll get to be in this play sometime... #theaterproblems (oops, you don't use hashtags in blogger...oh well)

What's a recent favorite literary work of yours? Have you read anything by Oscar Wilde?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

stories from nica - vol. i // where?

Now that I've been home almost as long as I was gone, I think it's time I started downloading some stories and pictures onto you all. *grin* For safety and delicacy's safe, I won't be share everything, I but I do have several posts lined up to give you all a picture of what I was doing down there.

Today I'm going to introduce you to the lovely city I was staying in: Granada, Nicaragua. I felt so at home here, because the atmosphere of the town and the people and everything reminded me so much of my own hometown. Something of Granada is part of me now - such a neat feeling.

Now for some specifics. This building below is the church that our missionary friends started. The front is pretty normal, just a normal house/complex on the street. Oh, the countless times I rode my bike up to the gate and one of group of boys sitting on the front steps would jump up to carry my bike up for me! And there were also the many times there was no one there, and the inside gate would be locked so I'd call "Buenas!" into the seemingly empty recesses of the building and one of the smiling faces of the cooks or jicaro workers or guards/custodians would come up to let me in.

[note: all pictures on this post were taken by my new friend Claire who came down with one of the AIM teams]

This picture was taken from the back of the compound, looking towards the main building (with the gate in the picture above). You can kinda see the street off to the right. That white tent thing is the working headquarters of the Jicaro Project on Mondays and Thursdays.

The House of Prayer. I'm thinking of one particuarly beautiful night sitting in here with my Dad, my friend David, and two visiting teams. We spent about an hour just worshipping with the guitar, singing through song after song. It was so peaceful. You could feel the Presence there.

The dormitories. Guys on the left, girls on the right, the bathrooms in that red metal structure down the path. I didn't stay here, but I hung out here *alot*. Countless hours in the hammock or sprawled in the rocking chairs talking about life with interns, friends and teams alike. This is the location of many a deep spiritual/life conversation, as well as one evening that rather shook up my view of modern teen Christians...I grew up quite a bit on this concrete "front porch" *wry grin*

Another view of the dormitories - like this one cause it shows the grassy spot where a couple of the "El Guayabo Team" members and I taught everyone else how to play Star Trip one night :)

Outside the walls of El Puente, there is the city itself. The streets of Granada. Full of cars and bikes and people and horses and dogs and everything inbetween. I biked down the road below everyday on my way home :) That yellow bank was quite a helpful landmark as I learned my way around :)

The cathedral across from the central park. I love the colonial architecture here. There are many, many churches in Granada - each very beautiful in their own way. It makes for pleasant background. Oh, and the bike shop is one of the shops under the slanting brown roof behind the cathedral.

Oh, yes. The animals. Roaming around. You have to get used to it really fast - I actually rather liked it, the idea that streets are for any creature, not just us :P Ha. It does have it's drawbacks though....

[the following pictures are from Pinterest]
This is "Gringo Street"...it actually has another name buuuut I don't remember what it is. *oops* Basically this is where the touristy Americans go to eat, drink and be merry. While I didn't do the former, I was quickly informed that this street is home to THE BEST gelato place I have EVER eaten at. THE BEST. Consequently, I ate more gelato than is healthy to in a three week period. In fact, it was one of the very last things I did while I was there. More on that in another post :)



So that's a little look at *where* I was - more posts coming on the who's and what's and why's *grin*

Monday, August 13, 2012

the swimmer.

You glance at the back of your hand, checking the black sharpied numbers there for the hundredth time. There's something reassuring about them - even though you know you're too old to forget your events and you have the numbers memorized anyway. Absentmindedly you swing your right arm around in a full circle or two, then your left, and then both across your chest a few times for good measure. This is nothing new, but still you're just a little antsy.

Then it's time. You glance around to see if any of your friends have already started over, grab your effects, and head for the clerk. You give the finger to your slightly stressed coach so they know that you know what you're doing, and then settle in for that all-to-short-yet-eternal wait on the benches. Your heat begins to fill in around you, you alternate between sitting and standing and stretching, teammates tap you on the shoulder, "cap me?" and through it all the constant hum of the spectators, the buzz of the starter and the splash of the heat in the water keep up an energetic background noise.

You look up from laughing awkwardly with your competitor on one side only to realize that you've finally made it to last bench and that you have just a minute or two before it's your turn. Your hand goes to your head to make sure you've got your cap on, and you snap your goggles out from under your shoulder strap. For a second as you tighten them on your head, you think, "what would happen if they came off?" and then you move on. It doesn't help think that way - even though it does always comes to mind.....

[from my guest post today over at libri - lost in words. to read the rest, click here]

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

shoot bullets through me...i love you!

My grandmother's birthday was yesterday, and as a way to celebrate, my mom, all four of my sisters, my aunt and my cousin all went to visit her at her mountain home for the weekend. It was a short and sweet stay, full of excitement :) I'd never been to her mountain house before, so that was neat too. It's little and quaint, and wonderfully decorated inside of course. It was a bit of a tight fit sleeping wise, but that just added to the fun. I believe Titiana ended up sleeping on the screen porch :D



My grandmother lives in a sweet little town right on the border of North and South Carolina. We were within walking distance of the "center of town" and enjoyed exploring the different shops, stopping to get ice cream one night from one of the stores (which was half an ice cream parlor, half an antique store - go figure :P), and strolling the streets. It was beautiful weather too, I might add.



these were in one of the stores...soooo funny!

 For me, the real highlight of the trip came that first night, when my grandmother surprised us with an evening performance of Guys and Dolls at the Flat Rock Playhouse. The cast was made up of professional, real-life Broadway actors and actresses...part of the time I was just sitting there thinking, "I'm only yards away from folks who have *made it* on Broadway...." :) Needless to say, it was amazing. Some pictures of the show [all credit to Flat Rock Playhouse]
 "...Luck, if you ever were a lady to begin with/Luck be a Lady tonight..."

"And the people all said sit down, sit down you're rockin' the boat!"

the crapshooters' dance - these guys were amazing.

singing "Follow the Fold"
the actress who played Sarah had a beautiful, vibrant voice. it was a pleasure listening to her.

"Why it's good old reliable NATHAN!"

"It's the oldest established, permanent floating, crap game of New York!"

I came away spoiled rotten, I think, since I can't picture anyone else being a better Sky Masterson than the guy who was at Flat Rock. It'll be a tough act to follow...but I've found that's pretty much the case with any musical - the first cast you see live is always your "favorite" :D

Oh, FYI, the title of this post comes from the song "Sue Me" from Guys and Dolls. Nana, you probably already knew that, but in case anyone else was wondering :D

So on Saturday we were off to Biltmore for most of the day - great fun. That house is so grand, so huge, so beautiful - I only wish I could've seen it when it was still a private residence, in the peak of it's greatness. All the hustle and bustle, all the people, all the noise, but the quiet beauty of the mountains keeping it a retreat. 



oh, this reminds me SO much of Nica...

The kitchens reminded me of Downton Abbey - just because. Same time period. Different country. But still.

We ate lunch there - I got a delicious sandwich from the Bake Shop - and of course had to explore every single one of the giftshops in the carriage house. :) I didn't buy anything, but it was great fun. Actually, in the book store, they still carry the exact same pocketknives that my sisters and I bought last time we came...almost four years ago *grin*


The gardens are beautiful too - just we always seem to do them last, and I'm plumb worn out and so tired of walking that it's hard to enjoy them entirely.

We drove home on Sunday morning - leaving an hour earlier than scheduled due to Titiana and I pushing to get out so we'd be home in time for rehearsal that evening :) We stopped for lunch at Bojangles and I got a HUGE Cheerwine that I actually nearly finished. Scary :P And then another stop for McFlurries in Amherst....where, for some reason, the signs around the McDonalds and the menu were both in English and Spanish. Unusual...but I felt right at home :)

In case you were wondering, we *did* get home in time for a quick turn-around to rehearsal (my aunt so graciously dropped us off on her way home) and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my director and show-buddies for the first time since before Nica, and started the rather exhausting process of catching up on choreography. :S All good! Another rehearsal tomorrow....it's starting to pick up now that the show is just about a month away!