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Shades of White

I’ve been back from Guatemala for 2 weeks and I always feel a bit disoriented upon returning home- which I realize sounds a bit ironic, but it’s true. Santa Barbara welcomes me with open arms and ocean breezes, but sill some part of the coming home process, even with all its comforts and conveniences, feels hard. But maybe that is not such a bad thing. Maybe there is something to learn in those seasons or days when it feels like nothing really fits or seems to makes sense.

In an effort to accustom myself back to life here and not spend too much time sipping coffee and dreaming and journaling about life in Guatemala I decided I need a fun and easy home project to complete before school started (side note: I am learning that fun and easy do not belong in the same sentence as “home project”)

My vision was to re-plant all of our potted plants, trim the hedges and basically make our side patio and front yard a bit livelier. Now, I am no gardener- I dream of being one of those people who grows my own tomatoes and bell peppers and carrots, but in the mean time my specialties include, well…herbs and succulents. Both which are quite resilient and forgiving of neglectful owners who forget to water them on a regular basis.

Within two afternoons and one trip to Ace Hardware our patio had a new herb garden, some blooming flowers and a few succulents to add to the ambiance. The project was complete and much to my surprise it wasn’t all that difficult.

Then came the painting project. My roommate and I decided that our old futon with chipping black paint would look better if the frame was re-painted with fresh coat of white. So I went back to Ace Hardware (again)…this time with the intention of staying clear of the garden section and instead focused on buying a can of paint.

I should clarify that I actually really like hardware stores. But the problem is I walk in and immediately get distracted. I see things I think I should have in our house- things adults have in their homes, like WD-40 and carpet stain remover and really cool flashlights-those kinds of things that somehow signify adulthood in my mind. I walked by the wood and shelving unit and saw the door handles and power-drills and I got all kinds of ideas about how to change and re-do and add stuff to our little house. Mind you all of these ideas are just that, ideas, because in reality I don’t think I am that well skilled at do-it-yourself home projects.

I finally made it to the Paint Department where I expected to pick up a can of white paint, some brushes and be on my merry way. Imagine how shocked and overwhelmed I was when I found out that in fact there are 32 shades of white! I stood there dumbfounded as I flipped through the samples of white. There was <span style=”font-style:italic;”>bone white, dusty white and quiet white. Not to be confused with new canvas, pita bread or heavenly sand. My favorite: gentle bluff! Really, I mean what color is a gentle bluff? For the sake of making a decision, I finally settled on distant white.

And then the helpful man with the long, gray ponytail behind the counter asked me:

“What sheen do you want?

Huh? I just stood there and stared at him. What the heck is sheen? Obvious to him now, I had never purchased paint before. He patiently explained the differences between high-gloss, semi-gloss, satin, egg-shell, etc. I reluctantly settled on satin (not really having a preference). I purchased my sandpaper and brushes and 40 minutes later made my way back home.

Now, this project is not yet done. I am learning that sanding and painting and re-painting take a long time- not exactly fun or easy. But I have been thinking a lot about all those shades of white paint. It’s interesting to me that I just assumed white paint is white paint. I don’t really ever notice different shades or pay attention for that matter. And I wonder how often how I approach my day or my life in the same way? I wonder how often I make assumptions, and look at people and buildings and bus stops and cars and only see what’s right in front of me, instead of seeing what’s underneath the surface or the story behind someone or something.

It’s funny, I was in Guatemala for less than 2 weeks, but something about being away helps me see more clearly and live more holistically. It helps me see the shades of life that may go unnoticed sometimes. Those subtle differences and nuances that you can only appreciate when you stop and slow down and really, really look.

I sometimes wonder what it is like to see things and people through God’s eyes. In all his creativity he must see every detail on a tiny ladybug and appreciate the wrinkles on a weathered face from years of working in the sun. And I bet that He sees more than 32 shades of white, too.

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New Uses for Old things

I get really excited when I can find new uses for old things! I don’t know exactly why- some thrifty and resourceful part of my dad must have worn off on me. But I seriously feel like I accomplished some fantastic feat or at least beat the capitalistic consumer market for a day when I discover some new use for something that could have been thrown out.

I am partially inspired by Real Simple, (probably one of the only magazines that I faithfully read cover-to-cover) because my favorite section is their New Uses for Old Things. I am convinced they should hire me, but they have yet to come knocking on my door to seek any great ideas. So, in the mean time I will share them with you.

New Uses for Old Things-a few of my favorites:

#1 Patron Bottle or Flower Vase
Confession, I do not even like Tequila, but I have walked up to my fair share of bartenders to ask for empty patron bottles. After the initial awkwardness of the bartender’s confusion,“what did she just ask for?- it is not really a big deal. Most bars just recycle these bottles anyway so they are happy to give them away for FREE. Just soak it in hot water and take off the label and behold— a perfect vase!

#2) Old Contact Case or Perfect Travel Size Advil Case

If you’re like me and you have 5 or 6 contact cases lying around the house from the eye doctor, don’t throw them away. They’re the perfect size to hold advil, vitamins or any kind of small pill. You can keep it in your purse and they don’t get lost or crushed in plastic baggies.
#3) Tea Strainer or Powered Sugar Sifter
A few weeks ago I was making a chocolate bundt cake and the final recipe direction said “dust lightly with powered sugar.” How do you “dust lightly” when you don’t have a sifter? I thought about taking a spoon and shaking it but I have memories of trying that when I was kid making Christmas cookies and basically you end up with piles of powered sugar instead of evenly dusted sugar cookies. So, I decided to take an old tea strainer and fill it with powered sugar. And I was quite impressed that it dusted the bundt cake quite evenly, thankyouverymuch.

#4) Old Sheet or Perfect Beach Blanket
Everyone has an old sheet that either doesn’t fit your current size bed or has been washed too many times that you can’t remember what it’s original color was. Well, don’t throw it away. Old sheets make the perfect beach blanket. For one they’re big—lets be honest towels that are 24 inches wide and 5 feet long are just not adequate—and two, sheets are thinner and easier to fold up and carry with you instead of some thick beach blanket. And you thought you would never have a use for your old college sheets, hah!

More to come….

Do you have any good uses for old things? please share.

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Back Where I Started

Rancho Cucamonga. It sounds better if you emphasize the syllables Ran-CHO CUCA-monga, almost like you were yelling into a bullhorn. Thanks to Hollywood and classic movies like Next Friday and Bring It On most people have heard of this sprawling suburbia city. According to our reliable friends at Wikipedia, Money magazine ranked Rancho Cucamonga as the 42nd best place to live in the U.S. Hmm, not bad for a place with a 6-syllable name.

I honestly have nothing against Rancho Cucamonga. It’s where I grew up. Our front yard was for bike riding, roller-skating, slip-n-sliding and pulling the neighborhood kids around in our red wagon (I must have somehow convinced my younger siblings and friends that this was fun). I grew up with my brother’s little league games, Santa Ana winds, and getting McDonald’s (gasp. unbelievable, I know) with Dad. I grew up with family brunch on Sunday, coffee dates with mom on Tuesdays and watching TGIF every Friday night.

It’s where I started….

And it’s where I come back to.

Obviously, the majority of people go ” home” for the holidays, and to be honest there isn’t anyone else I would want to celebrate Christmas with. I love my family. They remind me of who I am and where I come from. I left Santa Barbara on Sunday, driving down the familiar stretch of the 101-the part that bends and curves and feels like you’re literally overlooking the Pacific on your right and hugging the hills on your left, and I realized that for 26 years I have celebrated Christmas in the same place, at the same home, going to the same Christmas Eve Service, at the same church…and even sleeping in the same bedroom!

There is nothing wrong with sameness or doing things they way they’ve always been- nothing wrong at all- so long as there is room for some difference, some room for things to grow and change. Sometimes when I come home to be with my family I think I regress about 8 years. I feel like an eighteen-year-old again; an insecure, whining, demanding teenager who isn’t sure how to take on the world or even if I want to. I feel stuck in this in-betweenness of being a responsible, independent, 26-year-old adult in Santa Barbara and yet coming home and feeling like a kid who never totally grew up.

Maybe this is how life is supposed to feel. Like the subtle tension on a rubber band when there is a pull from two ends, I often feel pulled in two directions. The tension of wanting to be “grown-up”- on my own, celebrating with my own family and having my own traditions and yet simultaneously there is a gentle pull from the other side. A pull that reminds me that I need my family; I need encouragement to remember where I came from and support to become who I am meant to be.

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