The Long Awaited

It has been quite awhile since I last posted anything, but I've been sick so what better time to update? Sick seems to be the story of my life this past month. Between Halloween and now, I've had three different viruses. That's three weeks, three viruses. I can think of two reasons for this onslaught of illness. 1) My immune system hates me. 2) I started a new job working with homeless youth at a drop-in center that my boss so appropriately named "The Sick Box." But since I have so much time with nothing to do (the doctor deemed me still contagious which means no work and a lot of boredom to contend with) let's start the update!

I started a new job at the Homeless Youth Resource Center of Salt Lake City. The center is exists for homeless or at risk of being homeless youth ages 15-22. The youth can come in and receive our services that include, but are not limited to showers, laundry, 2 meals a day, food bank items, job assistance, case management, hygiene items, a safe place to hang out, etc. We are not a shelter, so they don't stay overnight at our facility, and unfortunately we are only open on the weekdays. I actually work for AmeriCorps, which is a government agency and they, in turn, placed me at the Homeless Youth Resource Center, which functions under the larger Volunteers of America - Utah. VOA is one of the largest nonprofit agencies in the country. My commitment to AmeriCorps/The Center is for one year. So far, I find the job both rewarding and tiring. It drains me emotionally to see where some of our clients are at and what they've been through, but fills me to see the good that the center does. And I won't lie, I don't miss serving tables one bit.

Next week, for Thanksgiving, Erin and Ron are coming to Salt Lake for a visit. This is SO exciting to me for a number of reasons. First, it's always good to see them. Secondly, because I can't go home or be with family for Christmas, it is so important to me that I get to be with family on Thanksgiving! I can't wait for Tuesday to get here.

In a couple weeks I, along with three roommates, will move into a house in the lovely Salt Lake neighborhood of Sugarhouse, more descriptively to those familiar with the grid system, 15th and 15th. I have loved, loved, loved living with the Rogers and am greatly appreciative, but as they get ready for big changes in their life (!) I am happy to move into my own place! I'm sure there will be pictures to follow.

And... it's been awhile so here's what's new in my reading world. Admittedly, I've been horrible at reading lately. I've been so busy with so many things (new job, middle school volunteering, small group, GRE studying) that I haven't had a lot of time to read. I finished Things Fall Apart. Throughout the book I couldn't decide if I actually liked it, and I'm still not decided. It is a dark, mysterious, fascinating, and tragic book. I would love to hear thoughts from someone who has read it. I am now on the fourth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. For some reason it doesn't hold my attention as the previous three did. I hope this changes because I don't want to be a Harry Potter quitter. I also picked up a random book that I haven't been able to put down called The Heretic's Daughter, by Kathleen Kent. It's a historical fiction novel centering around the Salem Witch Trials. Occasionally, I read the dictionary in preparation for the GRE. Not a fascinating read...

Well, there you have it!


When Sardines and Generally Clean People Collide

I really love, I mean love, hanging out with middle school students. They bring my heart so much joy even when they are yelling over you, trying to jump on your back... even when they throw sardines, ketchup, flower, sno cone syrup and chocolate sauce all over you while you're wearing a giant baby costume. Just in case you're thinking this is very difficult to imagine, I've supplied you with photographic evidence. Suffice it to say, it was not my favorite day at Vertical, but despite smelling like rotten fish and sugar all night, it was one of my favorite days!! For our fall kick off we had nearly 50 students come, many of whom I'd never met. It was a little crazy, but extremely fun, and I'm excited to see what God does with this upcoming year.

This Sunday K2 launches it's south campus and relaunches its north campus complete with an all acoustic service. I'm getting anxious to see what happens on Sunday. We've been inviting people to Question God, and some of the questions are pretty intense. In addition, we are launching a Sunday school type class for middle school students during one of the services, which should be an awesome way to connect with some of the students we don't get to see on Mondays. It is an exciting time in the life of Vertical and K2!



Wyoming Love

This weekend I went camping with the McHenrys. Now, when I say camping I mostly mean staying in portable Hotel de McHenrys. They camp in luxury! I've never slept better camping due in large part to the air mattress supplied for me and for the 0 degree mummy bag I recently purchased. So cozy! We traveled up to Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. I've never been to Jackson or seen the Tetons. They were incredible, and I couldn't have asked for better company. Here are some pictures. If you want to check out the rest you can click here. The big bummer was not spotting a moose. I guess that will have to wait for next time!

That's all for now.



3for5... just five dollars!

Some friends of mine launched their nonprofit this week. The name of the organization is 3for5. Check out their website! Their goal is to provide clean water in the developing world. The idea is simple: Donate $5 and then ask 3 friends to do the same. Then, before you know it a huge difference has been made. It is so simple, but we just need people to donate. I strongly urge you to check out their website, read about their vision and consider donating $5 to the cause. If you can't do that at least go to this website and vote for 3for5. Thanks!

What am I reading? Well, I blasted through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and am now on to Prisoner of Azkaban. Our first Harry Potter movie screening went well. Heidi posted about it on her blog and added some pictures of our snitch and lightning bolt cookies. You can look here. Since I finished The Much Too Promised Land (good read, interesting insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) I picked up another book called Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. About 50 pages in I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I like it, but the writing style is a little different after reading so much Harry Potter! The novel is about one man's life in Nigeria and how he and his family deal with the influences of British colonialism and Christian missionaries as they arrive in Africa. I've heard good things. I'll let you know how it goes.




I finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Great read! I'm halfway through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. So far just as entertaining and fun to read. Heidi and another friend have also just completed the first book so tomorrow we are celebrating the holiday by watching the first Harry Potter movie. Should be fun!

Last week I had my first ever experience camping in a yurt. Our yurt looked something like this:

The camping event was a retreat for the leaders of Vertical, the middle school ministry at K2. It was really fun to get to know the leaders better and have some great bonding moments. We fell out of a canoe not only once, but twice. Good story. Anyways, it was great to just sit around a campfire, undistracted, eating s'mores, and talking about what we see God doing in this upcoming year in regards to Vertical and our students. Let me tell you, we have high hopes and BIG dreams and we know that God is more than capable! Next week is our fall kick off at Storm Mountain where we will enjoy another campfire and eat more s'mores. I'm pretty excited!!

Other than that, I'm more than ready for fall to take over Salt Lake City. We've had a couple of cool, breezy days. And nothing says fall like college football and overpriced Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks! Before we know it Halloween will be here! And I'm pretty excited about my costume. But you'll just have to wait for that one...



Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

I am still not through the other books on my list, but my sister recently sent me the first in the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. In under 24 hours I made it through almost half the book. I know I'm years behind in the Harry Potter craze, but this summer my cousin and his girlfriend took my sister (who has read all the books) and I to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The movie was good, but I was really interested in the characters and it made me want to read the books. So my sister, being awesome and everything, sent me first one. I'm hooked...




Apparently, living in Utah has had some effect on the frequency of my blog posts. So here's one for you...

First of all, being back in Salt Lake has continued to be wonderful. I moved into Heidi and Daniel's home the Tuesday after I got here. Getting settled into a place, hanging up clothes, unpacking boxes was pure joy! Living out of a suitcase and being shuffled from one bed to another for a month is just not fun. I am so grateful. I also started working at PF Chang's again. I am happy to be back with my coworkers. I missed many of them very much.

Secondly, as I had predicted, I've been reading both The Much Too Promised Land, by Aaron David Miller and No Man is an Island, by Thomas Merton. Both are excellent reads. The first time I sat down with No Man and dug in I was taken aback. Merton just goes for it. He speaks a lot of truth. There's one passage in particular that I've made quite a few people read so instead of hunting some of you down to share it with you, I'll just post it here. As Heidi put it, it is the best description of how to love someone.

"It is clear, then, that to love others well we must first love the truth. And since love is a matter of practical and concrete human relations, the truth we must love when we love our brothers is not mere abstract speculation: it is the moral truth that is to be embodied and given life in our own destiny and theirs. This truth is more than the cold perception of an obligation flowing from moral precepts. The truth we must love in loving our brothers is the concrete destiny and sanctity that are willed for them by the love of God. One who really loves another is not merely moved by the desire to see him contented and healthy and prosperous in this world. Love cannot be satisfied with anything so incomplete. If I am to love my brother, I must somehow enter deep into the mystery of God's love for him. I must be moved not only by human sympathy but by that divine sympathy which is revealed to us in Jesus and which enriches our own lives by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

"The truth I love in loving my brother cannot be something merely philosophical and abstract. It must be at the same time supernatural and concrete, practical and alive. And I mean these words in no metaphorical sense. The truth I must love in my brother is God Himself, living in him. I must seek the life of the Spirit of God breathing in him. And I can only discern and follow that mysterious life by the action of the same Holy Spirit living and acting in the depths of my own heart."

Since not much more can be said to follow such powerful words, I'll end with that.



I'm baaaack!!!

After sitting in the Detroit airport for 2 hours, sitting on a plane for seven and a half with a stop in Chicago, a stop in St. Louis, entertainment from an 8 year old named Macey (who drew me a picture of an ice cream cone and adamantly believes in the Tooth Fairy and the omniscience of the Easter Bunny), I finally arrived in Salt Lake. I'm home!!!

Last night, Laura took me to K2's softball game where I got to see a lot of people that I had dearly missed. Today, we hung out for a bit, went to lunch at Cafe Rio, got my car and some belongings from the Rogers home, went to RoCo and went to watch So You Think You Can Dance at the McHenrys. All in all, I've really enjoyed my first 24 hours in Salt Lake. It feels good to be back. Tomorrow is Pioneer Day. If you have no idea what Pioneer Day is then you need to spend more time in Utah... I'm just excited because I get fireworks, one of my favorite things...

Laura and I did compose a list of things to do before the summer is over. Here are some of them...
. LOTS of hiking
. Park City
. Lazy day at Sugarhouse park
. Farmer's Market
. Air conditioned dollar theater
. SLC Library
. Summer concert series at the Gallivan Center
. Tea Grotto
. More hiking...

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and love during this crazy transition. It's good to be home!!



So close, yet SO far away

Well folks, here we are... Down to TWO WEEKS before I'm back in Utah as a permanent resident. The end is in sight, and what a beautiful end it is. It's strange to think back to my first post on this blog. I would say my attitude has changed considerably since then and these past six months have felt long, but have been good for the soul.

So as we arrive at the final countdown (cue Gob from AD), here's what's been happening on the moving side of things and what the next two weeks will look like:

July 3rd: My cousin, Brandy and my Uncle Keith arrived in California to help pack us up and move us out.
July 5th: Last day at Moorpark Pres, lots of tears over my mom leaving and goodbye party with church family/friends.
July 6th: Sequoias. Those trees are really, really, really, big. I had forgotten...
July 8th: My mom's last appointment at UCLA medical center. She has appointments lined up in Ann Arbor, MI, but the good news is that her cancer is in remission. PRAISE GOD! Brandy and I went to Santa Barbara in the afternoon. Brandy got to put her feet in the Pacific and we walked the pier, had ice cream, looked out over the water. Very relaxing and a part of California I will definitely miss.

July 9th: We're going to Disneyland tomorrow. I'm not sure what to expect from the Happiest Place on Earth. It hasn't always lived up to it's name, but despite my extreme exhaustion, I'm thinking positive! My Uncle Gary arrives tomorrow night to help move us out to Michigan as well.
July 10th: I finally get some down time. The introvert within is having some serious over-stimulation problems with so many people around. I'm eagerly awaiting being alone in the house for a bit with boxes to pack...
July 11th: We get the U-Haul and WE PACK
July 12th: WE PACK
JULY 13TH WE MOVE!!!!!! And our first night will be in Salt Lake City dropping my car and all my stuff off at the Rogers (who, by the way, are AMAZING people. If you don't know them... you should... And I'm not just saying that because they read my blog!)
July 14th-16th: We drive long, arduous hours across the country to Monroe, Mich.

See you in SALT LAKE!



Pacific Northwesterness

This weekend I went to Washington to see two of my dear friends get married. (Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Chris Teitzel!!) Their wedding (in Gig Harbor) was picture perfect. In true Shahbaz style (Phil -pictured- was the officiant and did a stellar job at marrying those two) Chris and Kelly faced the guests as the ceremony took place in front of a beautiful waterfall. Their wedding was truly a celebration of their love for one another and love for Christ, and it was a pleasure to share that day with them. Not to mention, it was one seriously sweet party dancing the night away and visiting with APU friends!! The girls and I got 1.5 hours of sleep last night, woke up to pack our bags and head to SeaTac airport. Thank goodness I was able to spend the rest of today sleeping!

On Friday Laura, Jess, Hannah and I spent the day in Seattle. (This is my "Happy to be in Seattle" picture.) I had high hopes as everyone told me that if I loved Portland, I'd love Seattle more. That's saying a lot because Portland was love at first sight that didn't disappoint. In Seattle's defense, I've seen far more of Portland. I wish I would have had the opportunity to spend more time bummin around downtown and checked out the outskirts of the city. We mainly stayed around Pike Place. (The first Starbucks was pretty cool, but it pretty much tasted just like every other Starbucks and definitely didn't have a restroom...) I enjoyed Pike Place a lot, but I found it slightly ironic that a place that prides itself so much on being all about localism is overcrowded with tourists. But it was delightful. I often found myself thinking, I could do this. I could live in a little apartment downtown and bring fresh produce and flowers home from the market at the end of the day... So we walked around til they closed up shop and went and watched the sunset over the water slash behind a building, much to the chagrin of Jess. We were spoiled by amazing weather this weekend. I wonder if I'd feel the same way about the city had it been nonstop raining. Probably not. And at the end of the day, I'd say Seattle makes my list of cities I could live in, but Portland still has my vote for favorite pacific northwest spot.

Well folks, two weeks to go before the big move. Have I started packing? Negative. Thank goodness my mom is on it! Uncle and cousin arrive Friday and then it's pretty much nonstop until we leave!! Yikes!



Swing it like you mean it

I was out for my jog this morning, ran past a park, and suddenly felt the impulse to hop on the swing set. Doing something so childish really made me feel like a child. I literally laughed out loud. I highly suggest that the next time you spot a park you stop whatever you're doing and have yourself a little swing. You won't regret it. And if possible, listen to "First Time" by Lifehouse while you're doing it. Happy playing!



Faith or Politics? What next?

I finished The Faith Club. Overall, I enjoyed it. It challenged my worldview for sure. I think interfaith books are always interesting, but it's important for the authors to recognize and to make sure their readers understand that they speak on behalf of their personal spiritual journey, and they do not have the authority to speak on behalf of their entire religious community (unless they are the Pope or the Mormon prophet). I'm torn between wanting to be accepting of other religions, and remaining firm in the extensive contradictions that I believe are non-negotiables between Christianity and other faiths.

What's next? Well, I'm more than halfway through a book called Bergdorf Blondes, by Plum Sykes. Now, most of you know that my reading taste is usually exclusive to "thinker" books. Let's be honest. Books like 100 Days of Silence or The Cost of Discipleship aren't exactly easy reads. So yesterday I picked Bergdorf Blondes off the shelf to give myself a little break. (It's like watching a chick flick when all you've been watching are documentaries on Al Qaeda. Or something like that...) I'll be through with it by tomorrow and then I'm debating between No Man is an Island, by Thomas Merton or The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search For Arab-Israeli Peace, by Aaron David Miller. The latter would be interesting in light of having just read The Faith Club and reading about Ranya and Priscilla's views on Zionist theology and Palestinian oppression. I'll probably end up reading both...

Well that's all I have for now.


P.S. Less than one month and then it's PEACE OUT California!!



Remember that whole "self-assessment" thing I blogged about last? Yah... that's still happening. No longer painful, it is a blessing, a gift, and a part of my spiritual growth wherein God is ever present in every aspect of my day. Here are a few things these last weeks have taught me.

1) Invest. I have been plagued with an unwillingness to invest. I feel like these past five and a half months have been a waste of time by my own fault. I've refused to invest in new relationships, in my church, in another church, etc. because I felt like investing would mean accepting that I live here. And I desperately did not want to accept that. I was angry that I was "stuck" in California. I lost sight of the fact that God gave me choices, and I made this one. So while my relationship with my parents has grown and flourished, I've missed out on new relationships that could have made my stay here considerably more enjoyable. I don't feel like I'll leave worse off for not investing, but I believe I could be leaving better off if I had.

2) Grace. Not to be annoyingly over spiritual, but these last few weeks have been a crash course in grace and the recognition of God's immense love for us. His grace is a gift, and the ability and strength to accept it is a gift unto itself. The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning has opened my eyes to so much about my connection to God and how easy it is to fall into the mindset of a legalist by putting on my very best Christian self and running my mouth about grace, love, freedom, redemption, but not truly understanding how it applies to my life. Ouch. I read Galatians 5:1, 4 the other day: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery... You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace." Keeping my mind focused on those last words, and the desperation of not wanting to be alienated from Christ or fall away from his grace, has made me fall prostrate before the throne of God and be fully dependent on his mercy and grace. I'm in awe...

3) Simplify. Yesterday, I woke up, went downstairs and ate breakfast, watched part of The View (yes... The View) with my mom, brewed some coffee, went upstairs and sat in my bed, in my pajamas, with my coffee (in the K2 mug I got my parents for Christmas a couple years ago, might I add), and read. I wished I was sick so I could, with good reason, stay in bed ALL day and read. June gloom has its benefits!

Ohhh there's so much more, but it would keep you reading for hours. There is so much to learn, so much to realize about the world we live in, so much to see, and so much mystery that is perfect in its mystery. I hereby dedicate the next 36 days I have left in California to learning more and investing more. So even though the first five and a half months were kind of a bust, I can make the next 36 days full of life.



Free time, la dee da

Once again I got called off of work. When I say "called off" what I mean is that the manager calls me and asks if I want the day off. Even when I don't want the day off, I still oblige because I'm a pushover. I know that it will help them if I don't come in, and I want to be helpful. But it doesn't help me because I'm poor. Anyone got a backbone you can lend me?

So as I drove to It's A Grind for my cup of joe (addicted) I thought about the fact that I have an over abundance of free time. How did this happen? When I moved to Utah I immediately started working at both K2 and PF Chang's. About 8 months later I picked up job #3, working for Calcutta Mercy Ministries. Then my internship at K2 ended, giving me some free time although I still volunteered. Then... I moved to California. Job count: ZERO. February rolled around, no Israel, no money so I started working at PF Chang's out here. But then again... can you really call it work? I don't.

Hmm, I thought, what could be the meaning of all of this? I've been blessed. Blessed with a lot of free time to assess myself. Painful, but then again, God answers prayers so despite the discomfort of self-assessment, God is good. Sure, sometimes I want a break from figuring out my life and I get a little bored, but I'm reading three books right now, I write letters, I cook, I clean, I get to go to Oregon this weekend, and in an hour I leave for the Dodgers game. Not to mention, I am a Su Doku master. And, no, I am not ashamed. I'm happy today.


P.S. My mom was admitted to the hospital today for an infection in her foot that they need to treat through IVs. Sheesh, when will that woman get a break? What are my marching orders? "Catherine, if you do not go to that Dodgers game and get your Casey Blake bobblehead I will be sorely disappointed in you. Don't even think of coming to visit me because I want to see that bobblehead. Do you understand?" Yes, ma'am. Did I mention we're big Dodgers fans? Anyway, prayer is always good!! Thanks!


More on Things I Read

"We must have global vigilance. And never again must we be shy in the face of the evidence." - President Clinton's apology in Rwanda, 1998

I finished reading 100 Days of Silence: America and the Rwanda Genocide, by Jared Cohen. When I began reading it, I thought most of the book would be lost on me. It's written in the manner of a text book and there are more acronyms than you can shake a stick at, all in reference to government departments or positions. Because of this, I was surprised to find the book truly interesting. The subject matter fascinated me, and perhaps such interest is a prerequisite for reading and enjoying the book. There was so much information readily available to the American policy makers that it astounds me that nothing was done in regards to Rwanda until after the genocide was over. Excuse after excuse was made for the delays: bureaucracy, not appreciating the magnitude of the violence, and so on and so forth. I really thought Cohen did an exceptional job at writing an honest record about what really went on in the US government during the Rwanda genocide. Anyone who is interested in this particular subject should read it if for no other reason than to understand what was happening in Rwanda in 1994.

I'm now reading two books. A Mind Awake is an anthology of C.S. Lewis. What a brilliant man.

The other book is called The Faith Club, written by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner. Ranya is a Muslim, Suzanne is a Christian and Priscilla is Jewish. I'm about 100 pages in and am captivated as I sit in on their weekly meetings and listen to these women dialogue about their religions and their own personal faiths. A focal point of their discussions is viewing all three of their religions as having the same roots. I also realize that I don't know how I feel about all the things that are being said in the book, but having never had a Muslim friend, or a practicing Jewish friend, it's very interesting to me to read what Ranya and Priscilla write. Particularly, I was surprised to read Priscilla's reaction to Suzanne's description of the crucifixion story. I would really like someone else to read this book so we can discuss it. Any takers?

Sorry for the long post.



An overuse of the word "Amazing"

My best friend, Jo, came to visit me this week. Thank you Allegiant Air for $9 plane tickets (yes, it's true). No thank you Allegiant Air for trying to charge Jo for her water.

This week we:

We went to the Fashion District in LA. It was hot and smelly, and I felt really bad for the little turtles. I also was not a fan of having to pay 50 cents to use the restroom. But Jo and I had a good time. I'd say one of the highlights of the trip was making it back from downtown LA, during rush hour, in one hour and ten minutes. Amazing...

We spent Wednesday in Pasadena enjoying a perfect day. Got a little tired (shopping tires me out), but a little caffeine and the smell of books at Barnes & Noble and I was up and running again in no time. Add to that Matt James joining us for amazing food at amazing prices, amazing weather, and an amazing server at McCormick and Schmick's Happy Hour, some Pinkberry frozen yogurt, running into Dr. Hodgins from Bones at Ikea in Burbank, and you've got yourself a great day!!

Yesterday we went to The Getty Villa in Malibu with my mom. The art was incredible, but we all agreed that the building that housed the art was almost more amazing. It was beautiful! If you're in California, go check it out. You just have to pay for parking. The Getty Center in LA is awesome as well, but definitely not as aesthetically pleasing.

Jo left today, which was sad, but she left chocolate on my pillow. What a great friend!! Also, those of you that know Jo will appreciate that she smuggled Chipotle back to Medford, OR by wrapping it in aluminum, putting ice over it, and putting the lid on it. I hope it worked and Todd is satisfied.



I just really liked this...

...and wanted to share it with you.

"Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy mountain?

Those whose walk is blameless,
who do what is righteous,
who speak the truth form their hearts;
who have no slander on their tongues,
who do their neighbors no wrong,
who cast no slur on others;
who despise those whose ways are vile
but honor whoever fears the Lord;
who keep their oaths even when it hurts;
who lend money to the poor without interest
and do not accept bribes against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
will never be shaken."

-Psalm 15

I would like to be a person like this.

Caramel Apples, Mountains, and Sun

Wow... I've been back from Utah for a couple of days and I finally feel like I'm over my self-inflicted sleep deprivation. The cure: sleeping 12 hours in one night. That's right. Twelve. I won't lie... I can sleep, but even that is a little excessive for me.

Utah was amazing!! Thank you to everyone I got to spend time with! I had a blast, felt so incredibly loved, and I'm even more excited to get back to Salt Lake. I'm so thankful for such great friends, an amazing church community that feels just like family, and my old roommates who are so giving, loving and prayerful. I had so much fun being back by those awesome mountains, playing Wii with Heidi and Daniel, being outside in the beautiful, sunny weather (I really miss places like Liberty Park and Park City...), going to K2 and getting the chance to surprise a couple of my students, hanging out with the middle school group for a night. It was better than I could have predicted, imagined or asked for.

God willing, I'll be home (that would be Utah for those of you who are a little slow on the uptake) in three months! I can't wait to see what God has in store!


Enjoy some pictures from the trip:

Chimay and sweet potato fries at The Bayou is tradition

My awesome roommate

Hanging out with the Vertical leaders

Things you only see in Utah


Did video REALLY kill the radio star?

Or does the radio just suck??

What is up with horrible music on the radio today? Due to difficult economic times I've not been able to buy many new albums, so I've resorted to using that ol' thing called the radio. But there is something just wrong about what people are putting out these days... Let me just give you some examples of some horrible lyrics I've had to listen through recently:

1) "All my single ladies (all my single ladies). All my single ladies (all my single ladies). Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh. Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh. If you like it then you should have put a ring on it." (By the way, does Beyonce really have the right to sing this song? After all, Jay-Z put a ring on it. What's she complaining about? All of us ladies who are actually single thank you for rubbing it in...)
2) "P-p-p-p-p-p-poker face. My p-p-p-p-p-p-poker face." Now, granted I don't know why Lady GaGa is singing about her poker face. And I really don't care to find out. Plus, I think it's tasteless that her other song "Just Dance" is about being so drunk you don't know what club you're in or where your keys are (you shouldn't be looking for keys if you can't remember where you are Miss GaGa) and even more tragic for the rest of us is that "Just Dance" is just so darn catchy...
3) "Blame it on the Goose, you're gettin loose. Blame it on Patron, you're in the zone. Blame it on the a-a-a-a-alcohol, blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-a-a-achohol." Really? I mean, really?? Nuff said.
4) For my last example, I can't remember the actual words (thank goodness), but it's something to the effect of "I won't cheat on you as long as you remember that I can have any girl I want, but I chose you." Wow... Well if that's not true love I just don't know what is...

This leads me to ask the question: Is there really any good music on the radio? Sure, I'll admit it. I like Ne-Yo. I even like that new Black Eyed Peas song "Boom Boom Pow" (although twice I've turned the radio on and three of LA's radio stations were playing that song at the same time). And even a little Britney never hurt anyone... maybe... But I would prefer more Miley Cyrus on the radio. Good, wholesome music. Miley's a girl singing songs that are appropriate for a sixteen year old. Unlike Kelly Clarkson, who currently sings a song entitled "My Life Would Suck Without You." Really deep I'm sure.

So... what kind of music do you like? I'm all ears...


I Try to Read

I read a lot. And I hate leaving a book partially read, but there are some books I just cannot get through. Love In The Time of Cholera was like that. Really, I tried. I put forth a significant effort to trudge through the slow parts, but to no avail. I just asked my friend, Crissy, how it ended. Months ago I picked up The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards. I wanted to know how it ended, but I just couldn't get through it. I picked it up a few days ago once more and could not put it down because the ending was really intriguing. I guess sometimes it pays to finish a book. So The Memory Keeper's Daughter, not bad, but definitely wouldn't recommend it to everyone. Next on the reading list is 100 Days of Silence: America and the Rwanda Genocide, by Jared Cohen (author of Children of Jihad). I'm really interested in this book because it explores the Rwanda genocide (which began exactly 15 years ago today and lasted for about 3 months) and America's response to it: why it wasn't a priority, who was really to blame, etc. I've read a few memoirs from the genocide, but not the politics. Should be an interesting read. I'll let you know how it turns out.

By the way, tonight the Ryono household mourned Michigan State's loss to North Carolina for the championship. Next year... The good news in sports is that baseball season is finally here, and the Ducks are still in the running for the playoffs!!!



The Joke's On You!

When I was in second grade, my teacher played a good hearted prank on her coworker. We spent some time in class making some icky goo (flour, food coloring and something chunky were among the components) that could pass for a seven year old's vomit. We spread it all over one of my classmates and sent him wobbling off to the unsuspecting teacher. After giving her a good scare we all yelled, "APRIL FOOLS!!!" It was funny. Everyone laughed and had a good time. Oh to be a kid again...

I learned somewhere in my later teens that I am horribly gullible. Every year on April 1st I throw my guard up. I am aware of, careful and attentive to potential pranksters. The problem is, it takes me at least one good one until I get that guard well enough up. Last year, Jill managed to convince me that she was converting to Jehovah's Witness. I'll give it to her... she was good. She waited until the end of the day when I was least suspecting, had a whole background story and then laid it on thick. I was panicked in the fifteen minutes between her and I dropping her "conversion" conversation for more lighthearted chat and her telling me "APRIL FOOLS!!!" I was relieved and perhaps a little bit irked.

This morning, I (albeit momentarily) could not believe my eyes!!! Was Sojourner's really telling me that Rush Limbaugh was joining Jim Wallis to be a keynote speaker for Sojo's Mobilization to End Poverty, that Wallis and Limbaugh were *GASP* friends?!??? When it got to the part about Limbaugh giving half his possessions to the poor and quoted him saying, "The way Kathy Lee needed Regis, that's the way y'all need Jesus" - well, that's when I finally caught on. Kudos to you Ryan Rodrick Beiler. You got me. And I'm woman enough to admit it...

I hate April Fools Day.



Strawberry Fields Forever

I discovered another reason why I think Southern California isn't so bad! I live in Ventura County and strawberries are one of our top crops! This means that come early spring strawberry stands pop up all over the sides of roads so you can buy strawberries picked that day on one of the many farms in Ventura County. Plus, every year we have the California Strawberry Festival. I'm sorry, but you can't get freshly picked strawberries in Salt Lake City. So today on my way home I pulled off into the dust on the side of the road where someone was selling delicious, juicy, sweet, organically farmed, freshly picked strawberries!! I sampled one (yummmmy!), exchanged some conversation with the vendor and got myself back on the road with a flat of strawberries filling my car with fruity fragrance! I chopped all the tops off of them tonight (to make them easier to eat) and then dunked some in some chocolate and put them in the refrigerator. They should be ready jjjuuussst abooouttt............. NOW! I'm off to enjoy!



Simon of Cyrene

For those of you who may have missed the news, we opened escrow on the house. Michigan, here we come! I’ll be helping my parents move to the Great Lake state in mid July and then I plan (but we all know how my plans tend to go) to return to Utah shortly thereafter! 4 months and counting!

My pastor gave a really interesting sermon this past week on Simon of Cyrene. You can check it out here. He showed us a clip from The Passion of the Christ. It has been a long time since I’ve seen that movie. I can remember the intensity of it, the eerie feeling of leaving the Felix Event Center at APU with nearly 3,000 of my peers in complete silence. Many moments of that movie remain etched in my memory: The scene where Jesus is praying in Gethsemane; Peter’s denial of Christ; the moment where Jesus’ resurrection takes place and Satan is defeated. One moment I didn’t exactly recall from the movie was the clip Pastor Dave showed on Sunday of Simon of Cyrene being forced to carry the cross of Jesus. I noted on Simon’s face the definite resistance and near annoyance of being forced to carry this criminal’s cross. This man, that Mark 15:21 says was just passing by, picks up the cross and comes face to face with the Savior. I left church that morning wondering what it would have been like to look Christ in the eye and carry his cross. To watch as he is beaten, bloodied, mocked and murdered for my sake. We, as believers, know that it happened. But can you imagine actually being there? And moreover, can you imagine being Simon of Cyrene and carrying the cross side by side with Jesus? I cannot put my finger on exactly why this moved me the way that it did, but I find myself hoping beyond all hope that what my pastor suggested may have happened, actually did happen. That the moment when Simon carried that cross, that maybe he really did look Jesus in the eye. And maybe in that moment he felt something powerful, unearthly, and divine. And maybe when the rumors began to circulate that this Jesus of Nazareth had conquered death, Simon of Cyrene knew he had carried the cross of the one who carried his sin. Was it coincidence that Simon happened through Jerusalem at that exact moment, or was God interrupting his life so that he could save it? And how many times does God do that? Interrupt our very own lives for the sake of saving them?

Peace in this Lenten season.

(The picture comes from this website.)


Why I Love Cadbury

Oh, sweet bliss... Spring is (almost) here and those delicious, sweet, tasty Cadbury Creme eggs are once more gracing the shelves of every grocery store, drug store, convenient store, any store really! Recently, I've done a fabulous job at frequenting the gym and kicking my work out routine into gear. So you may ask me, "Cat, is it really worth it to indulge in some chocolatey goodness and derail the hard work you've been doing?" My answer is: YES. This year, Cadbury has given me, and every other chocolate and fondant loving soul, more of an incentive. So Jo, start the stockpiling. Friends, get ready for Easter. This is... Why I Love Cadbury:

Most people don't know that 35% of the world's chocolate (used in a lot of the chocolate that we eat) is made from cocoa beans harvested in Cote D'Ivoire, Africa by child slaves. Stop The Traffik is committed to bringing justice to all children exploited by the chocolate industry, and Cadbury has announced that they are going traffik free!!!!! Now, admittedly, their chocolate won't be guaranteed until the end of the summer, but hey, this company is actually in the works to make sure that all of their products are fair trade. So if any chocolate manufacturer is going to get some business this spring Cadbury is definitely most worthy of our dolla dolla bills. And let's face it people... It's Easter. So unless you are among the brave souls foregoing chocolate for lent, you're gonna eat it! So thank you Cadbury for committing your company to justice and change. You've definitely got my business!



Materialism vs. Religious Predominance

I think I’m experiencing reverse culture shock or some version of it. Growing up in southern California, things around me always seemed normal. I was minimally aware of the materialism surrounding me, and only in certain cases did it become annoyingly obvious. When I moved to Salt Lake City I was so mentally prepared for such an extreme change in culture that what I actually did witness was not that difficult to get used to. I quickly grew accustomed to seeing references to the LDS church be it temples, wards, missionaries. There were also the witty LDS references: Hookah 10% off with temple recommend. All of these reminded me that I lived in a state, a county, a city where one religion in particular was inescapable. As I said, one assimilates at a surprising speed.

But I also assimilated to the good things: a slower paced lifestyle, healthy living (for the most part), living in a real city that still remains clean and user friendly, people smiling at you just because you’re a person, being downtown and seeing people you know going for a quick jog or studying at your favorite coffee shop. Most of all, I desperately miss the community of believers I was a part of. These people became family instantaneously. These people knew that when you are a minority you have to make a choice: live recklessly for what you believe, or don’t. There is no room for lukewarm Christianity. There is no room for complacent Christianity. However, there was also a group comprised of those who hated and resisted against organized religion in any form. Another minority though they may be, there is no short supply of them in Utah’s metropolitan area (or ya know… as close as Utah gets to a metropolis). Bottom line: You can’t live in Utah and be apathetic towards religion. Everyone has an opinion and will most likely offer it unprompted.

Change scene. Wow is California different! People truly are apathetic towards religion. They genuinely don’t care. Worse than that is the existence of Christians who don’t care about the people who don’t care. “Live and let live” is the mantra it seems. I can accept that when I go out shopping I’m not surrounded by one religious group. I can accept that if I want to eat something on a Sunday I won’t have to weed out the places that are closed. What is harder to accept is that when I meet someone who goes to church, I’m not necessarily meeting someone who has an active relationship with Christ. Harder to accept is that finding out someone goes to church doesn’t mean that I’ve just met a brother or sister. The occurrence of this (twice since I started working at P.F. Chang’s) makes me feel sadly out of place; I’m the naive new kid who isn’t accustomed to the way things are. But wait… Didn’t I grow up here? Shouldn’t I be used to this?

Equally irritating is the reminder that in this particular area of southern California resides an over population of yuppie, self-entitled, high maintenance suburbanites. When I work, I don’t get smiled at because I am a person, I get barked at because I am a service. I admit, this is a sweeping generalization (and I have had some amazing patrons and have met some quality people), but any server in the Thousand Oaks/Westlake area is more than likely to agree. I know I can only say so much seeing as how I am a product of this culture, but maybe that allows me to better assess it having been gone for well over a year. Maybe…


Love and Politics and Oscar Romero

I'm serious... go listen to some India.Arie.

I am loving my time spent in Oscar Romero's The Violence of Love. I personally think it is a must read for every person of faith (whether or not you are a political activist) or political activist (whether or not you are a person of faith). This is not my first read through his book, and each time I find something new. His words are so expressive of his love for the El Salvadoran people that he was serving, but remain so powerful for every Christian even years after his death. This impresses me because so much of what he writes about is political, and the politics of his day came in the form of an oppressive government. Today, some may argue that we face the same problem. Whether that is true or not is up for debate (and I don't really care to engage that discussion), but in the aftermath of so much political tension caused by a historical election, I thought I would share some words of his that I recently read. Pay close attention if you (or better yet, someone who knows you) label yourself either "conservative" or "liberal." Moderates can just nod along...

"The church is a lamp that has to give light, and therefore it must involve itself in tangible reality and thus be able to enlighten the pilgrims who walk on this earth. This concern of the church does not mean that it leaves its own sphere but that it perseveres in its difficult duty of shedding light on concrete affairs.

"Out of this concern, the church defends the right of association, and it promotes a vigorous activity of raising consciousness and of organizing among the poor in order to bring about peace and justice. The church, from its commitment to the gospel, supports the just objectives that the organizations likewise seek, and it also points out the injustices and the instances of violence that the people's organizations may commit. Therefore, the church cannot be identified with any organization, even with those that call themselves and feel themselves Christian. The church is not the organization, and the organization is not the church.

"If both faith and political vocation have grown in a Christian, concerns of faith cannot simply be identified with a specific political concern. Still less can the church and the organization be identified. And no one can say that only within a certain organization can the Christian demands of the faith be developed. Not every Christian has a political vocation, and political activism is not the only activity that implies a concern for justice. There are also other ways to translate one's faith into work for justice and the common good.

"One cannot insist that the church or its ecclesial symbols become instruments of political activity. To be a good political activist one need not be a Christian, but Christians involved in political activity have an obligation to profess their faith in Christ and to use methods that are congruent with their faith. If a conflict arises in this area between loyalty to the faith and loyalty to the organization, genuine Christians must choose faith and demonstrate that their struggle for justice is for the justice of God's kingdom and no other."

Does anyone see where he is going with this? I, for one, love it. Thoughts, musings, notions anyone?

By the way, I finished Persepolis, and am presently resisting the urge to go buy all sorts of current affairs books regarding the United States' relationship with Iran. Not because I don't care, but because I am broke. Thank you very much Marjane Satrapi and Jared Cohen.



Love and Politics

Everyone needs to go buy India.Arie's new cd; Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics. Her music just speaks so much to my soul and so far I am LOVING: Pearls, Yellow, and A Better Way. K... that's all for now!



Israel - or lack thereof - update

Israel update anyone? Well, I've decided not to pursue Israel at this time. In June, about the time my life started to go haywire, I really felt that God was speaking to me through his word. I read Psalm 37:7: "Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him." When I first started to pursue going to the Middle East, God was opening doors like crazy! It was amazing to see what was coming my way. The second I arrived back in California, all those same doors were shut pretty swiftly. In light of understanding - or trying to understand - what it means to be still before God and wait patiently for him, I've decided to wait. And when God makes it as clear as he did the first time around that I should be going to Israel, I will go. In the mean time, I don't have a peace about it, and I don't have not a peace about it.

Interestingly enough, when I was reading through my journal last night, I ran across some entries that seem very appropriate. A couple: Isaiah 64:4: "Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him." And on December 2nd I wrote, "Jerusalem is so surreal. People ask me how I feel and I feel almost apathetic because it doesn't seem like it's actually gonna happen. It seems like something is in place to thwart my plans. But Lord, You are faithful and so I believe you will bring it to completion in your way - whatever that may be... Beyond going to Israel, I don't know what you're asking of me, but I pray that you would bring clarity and light to my desires and yours. Open doors, shut them, please get my attention so that I can really, really hear you." Be careful what you pray for!

In other news, I am so grateful! After many, many bouts of phone tag, the server manager at the Thousand Oaks PF Chang's and I are meeting tomorrow to get my paperwork done and get me up and running on the schedule. I can't even begin to explain how wonderful it will be to a) have some cash flow, b) have something to do, and c) potentially meet some people my age in the area!

Lastly, I just finished a book called Illegitimate, by Brian Mackert. It's about a guy that grew up polygamous and became a Christian. So interesting and such an encouraging work. If this subject interests you, I definitely encourage you to pick it up. I'm also almost done with Children of Jihad, by Jared Cohen, which so far I really like! And I just started Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. It is a graphic novel about Satrapi growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. I'm especially interested in reading this in light of what Cohen had to say about meeting youth in Iran. Good reading material these days!

Well, I guess that's it for now! Off to watch some Biggest Loser!



Incredibly random...

I went to my local PF Chang's whose manager told me with no remorse, "We're all maxed out on servers, but you can try calling us back in a few days..." then practically shoved me out the door. Great. I didn't even want to work at Chang's out here, and now I have to beg for the job. We'll see what happens.

I realized last night that everything I've planned out for myself since last June has fallen through the cracks. Seriously, everything! I know all you God fearing friends of mine will remind me of Proverbs 16:9. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." I know... I get it. But allow me just one moment of frustration. K, there. I had my moment.

Chin up, I'm remembering that God is sovereign. And guess what? I'm fresh out of plans! This is good because I'm actually going to try to open myself up to what's coming next, whatever that may be. My pastor stopped by the other day and advised me that I should just keep moving because "God can't steer a parked car." Man, I really hate that metaphor. But I get what he's saying, and I think he's right. So I'll keep moving even though I don't know where I'm going.

Because I've been griping to everyone about how much I miss Utah I figured I'd make a list of things about California that I really, sincerely LOVE: my parents, sunny weather, my extended family (cousins, aunt, cousins' babies, dad's cousins, etc.), the pool and hot tub down the block, H&M, Golden Spoon, In N Out, daddy long legs instead of wolf spiders, my very own bathroom, not paying rent or utilities (thanks Mom), unlimited supply of Diet Coke (thanks Dad), cable (and those House, Psych, Man Vs. Wild and What Not To Wear marathons that come along with it - man I love Stacy and Clinton), Trader Joe's, the beach, Ducks hockey, and last but not least the occasional nostalgia that occurs when I visit APU or drive by my high school; it's strangely comforting.

I'd like to end this post with a shout out to Robyn: I've been sick all this past week, but my Hannah Montana tissues are taking good care of me! Thanks!



What I've been doing

Well... welcome to the blog. Some of you have expressed interest in staying updated with my Israel plans - or lack thereof. I think the best way to keep you updated on my life is to start the blog thing again. I'll try to end those annoying mass emails. For those of you who have my old blog address, please update it. I'll be using this one from now on. New year. Clean slate.

Here's the general update in chronological order. If you've heard it a million times feel free to skip it.

June 2008: I am presented with the opportunity to go to Israel for 2 months and nanny for an American family with two boys and a girl on the way.
August 2008: I meet the family while they are in Salt Lake City for a vacation. They are great, and their boys are amazing! They officially invite me to come stay with them in Israel January through March so I buy my ticket and start getting excited.
December 21st, 2008: I pack up all my stuff in Salt Lake City and move back to California so as not to pay rent in Utah while I'm in Jerusalem.
December 22nd, 2008: I receive an email from the family suggesting alternatives to coming in January due to unexpected health related issues with their newborn daughter.
December 27th, 2008: Israel launches an attack on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
December 29th, 2008: I cancel my ticket to Israel.
Presently: I live in Moorpark, California with my parents.

Some things to note: I plan on going to Israel eventually. The question is when. At present, I do not feel that it is the right time to go. The daughter of the family, Anavah, remains unstable in her recovery after 3 heart surgeries. Please continue to lift her up in your prayers. This precious little girl needs a miracle.

Some other things: It's been pretty miserable being in California away from friends and community in Salt Lake. I want to get back ASAP! I plan on coming back by the end of the summer, but I've been realizing that God has his own plans and his own timing. I just really miss home. Coming back to help take care of my dad has not been the easiest task. I think I underestimated the emotional toll. I have very few friends in Moorpark, which makes living here difficult. And it gets expensive to drive an hour or so to see everyone when there's no source of income. So I think I'll be applying at my local PF Chang's and resume serving delicious Chinese food. Not my dream job, but a job nonetheless... I've been toying with the idea of studying for the GRE (again) and applying for grad school in the fall (like I had originally planned). I just want to be sure that I'm ready for this endeavor before I actually begin. The good thing about both my mom and I being unemployed is that we get to do fun things. This past weekend we went to Bend to visit the sister in Oregon. Not to mention I got to see Jo and her new house in Medford! Tomorrow my mom and I are going to the Japanese American Museum. The last time I went for a class assignment the docent engaged me in a conversation about my ancestors' plight in Manzanar - an interesting conversation, but time consuming, and we were still talking when the museum closed so I didn't get to see the rest of it. And the best part of all is that my mom just bought us Phantom of the Opera tickets. I can't wait! So things aren't all bad while I'm waiting to figure out what God's plan is and how mine fits with his. I just wish he'd be a little clearer.

So that's it... there's my update! Hope you all are well, and I can't wait to get back to Salt Lake SOON!