Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter and Stuff

On Sunday, Jonathan and I hosted an Easter potluck. I was expecting 10 or 15 tops, but we ended up with about 25 people. If you've never been to our house, it's pretty small. The kitchen/living room was piled high with food and people. If anyone else showed up, they would have had to sit in other people's laps. It was good times. The potluck was complete with casseroles, Mexican food, deviled eggs, lasagna, fried chicken, cookies, pink salad dessert stuff, fruit, tea, veggies, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, and probably other stuff I'm forgetting. Needless to say, everyone got plenty to eat. I was struck by how great my friends, both new and old, are that live here in Abilene (of course, like a father loves his children equally, I cherish my other friends equally who live in AK and scattered everywhere else). I hope to make the most of my time and deepen friendships before our stays in Abilene are over. I know these are people who will encourage and affect me the rest of my life.

Other than that, I've been chuggin away on the Spanish, working on finishing up some song I've been writing and buckling down on my training for the Canada-to-Mexico ride with my dad this coming September. This is obviously a major training time in my life where I'm being equipped for the future, near and far. It's requiring a lot of self discipline, but I'm finding a surprising amount of energy to complete daily tasks. God's definitely pourin on the grace. It's been extremely helpful/motivating to feel a sense of purpose in my daily activities. Good seeds are being sewn, and surely there is a harvest of good fruit coming.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Oh Dogs!!!!!!!!!

Just to warn you, I'm not going to talk about anything important in this entry. I hope you will be mildly amused if you so choose to continue reading.

You would think that my daily 0.3 mile walk to work would be a nice, quiet stroll where I could mentally prepare myself for the imminent onslaught of salsa-crazed patrons. Ya, that's the expectation I usually start out with.... but then comes the dogs. Dun-dun-duuuun!!! I kid you not. On a good day (or bad day depending how you look at it) I walk by nearly a score (that's 20 if you're not Abraham Lincoln) of yipping, skipping, yapping and snapping little critters who have nothing better to do than interrupt my peaceful, little 3-block saunter. That's almost one dog per house passed! To me this seems a little disproportionate for a west Texas city block. I know you're dying to know about each moment of my day (you must be if you're still reading), so here's the rundown:

1. First comes Rightie: I have named him this because he lives to the right of my house and has no other distinguishing feature. I've actually never seen this dog. I only hear the occasional bark, sniff or shuffle. I usually forget him.

2. Next comes Leftie (Brownie to his friends). You guessed it. He lives to the left of my house and is a medium-sized chow-like animal. During the day hours, Brownie (that's right, I consider myself his friend during the day) lies dormant. I have come to discover he's merely saving his energy for the smallest noise to provoke him once I go to bed. I think Leftie thoroughly enjoys barking ceaselessly in the wee hours of the morning, especially right by my bedroom wall (Jonathan can verify this). While Brownie rarely directly affects my daily walk to work, I will sometimes remember my angst from the preceding night and glare in his direction as I pass by. That'll learn'em.

3. The rest of the way down my street is uneventful with only the occasional dog siting, and I only have my favorite dog trio coming into sight to think upon. As I turn the corner, an elderly woman releases the hounds. I'm totally serious. This lady waits for me to pass by every day and lets her dogs out to briefly keep me company. If her dogs weren't so sweet, I would resent this. Ok, I lied. Really only one of the dogs is sweet. The other 2 are pretty useless. As the door cracks, Puggie, Lil6 and Lil7 burst forth in all their canine glory. Puggie is a little scruffly pug. For literary purposes, I call the other two Lil6 and Lil7, because they're just little nondescript black things with no personality (I'm assuming Lil1 through Lil5 have already come and gone in the long line of Lil-dogs I presume this lady has owned). I usually don't give Lil6 and Lil7 much attention, because Puggie is putting on the real show. Puggie quickly scales down the ramp into the front yard and gracefully puts on the brakes just before running into the chain link fence. Puggie ferociously kicks leaves and grass backwards as he grunts and sniffles heavily. On a good day, he might get one bark out. He's an introvert. Lil6 and7 start off on a mission, but quickly lose resolve and train of thought and abate to wander around the yard in confusion occasionally attacking a helpless leaf. Take that plant! I'm pretty sure they're blind and senile. Make no mistake, Lil8 (and possibly Lil9) will be soon in coming. I laugh, give a wave to the old lady and continue on my way.

4. The next block or so is a little sketchy in my mind because of what dominates the balance of my walk. Looming a few houses down on the left is "The Pack and Friend". Oh dear. More than filling the presence of their 1000 square foot yard, Collie, Grayie, Blackie, Labbie and Spottie prepare for full-auditory assault with their across-the-fence friend, Yippie in tow. Collie is a medium-sized collie, Grayie is a midrange, shaggy gray dog who's shaved in weird places, Blackie is an averaged-sized, black post-puppy, Labbie is a black lab, Spottie is a small black dog with gray spots and Yippie is a tiny brown dog who has a really high pitched bark/yip. Here's how it starts: From a long way off Grayie will spot me and start barking to alert "The Pack" of pending danger. Ya, I'm pretty dangerous. Then, from the four corners of the globe, the rest of "The Pack" rushes the fence in hopeful expectation of ruining the peacefulness of my walk. This alerts Yippie who, without haveing a clue of what's happening chimes in with his painful yipping and starts bouncing up and down. All the dogs give it a good bark, except Blackie. Blackie is the only good dog in the mix. As I walk by, I usually say, "Blackie, you're the only one I love." After I pass by, most of the dogs give up the dream and let me be, expect Collie and sometimes Grayie. They continue barking at me until I am completely out of sight and/or earshot. I have different strategies for dealing with "The Pack". On somedays, when I'm feeling a little feisty, I'll act like I'm not paying attention, and then out of nowhere, I'll quickly turn to look at them and pounce toward the fence. That really sets them off. I then proceed to quickly glance around to make sure no one saw me provoking the dogs. On other days, when I'm feeling a little more annoyed, I'll just simply stare them down and shake my head in disapproval. When I'm feeling a little apathetic, I'll just walk by slowly and stare off into space thinking they'll lose interest.

5. In the heat of "The Pack's" attack, I get caught off guard by Scrufflie and Scrafflie. They're 2 small, gray rat-dogs who give a yelp or 2 and quickly back down when I look in their direction. Domination.

6. After that I'm home/work-free and quickly navigate by a few uninteresting dogs and enter the safety of Los Arcos.

It's as exciting as it sounds.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Where the Mop Hits the Tile

The last few weeks have been great. I've again learned how important it is to work and have some semblance of structure in my life. It enables me to be so much more productive in everything. One of the biggest things has been motivating me to learn Spanish. I've settled into a nice little routine M-Th which usually goes something like this:

1. Wake up at 8:30 or 9:00 a.m
2. Check my email, play guitar and eat breakfast
3. Work the lunch shift
4. Play more guitar
5. Go to the library to study Spanish for a couple hours (I'm 1/3 of the way through La Quinta MontaƱa)
6. Workout/run/ultimate frisbee.

As you can imagine, I'm learning a few things working as a server. I won't go into all of them now, but being that I'm a server, I've been thinking a lot about serving, both in and out of work. Despite what you may or may not think, I don't naturally just love to do stuff for people all the time when it gets in the way of what I'd rather be doing. When I'm enjoying a conversation with someone, I don't want to go do the dishes. When I'm resting after a hard day, I don't want to jump up and take out the trash. Shocking, I know. I've recently been making a point to read through the gospels repeatedly for some help in that area (since Jesus dominates in that area (and in just about everything else (that's worth doing))). I'm learning the beauty of being the least, the last and the lowest.

One of the biggest places the rubber has been hitting the road has been interacting with one of my coworkers who can be a bit, shall we say, unpleasant sometimes. She is eager to give advice (whether you want it or not), but not so eager to take it. I started to find myself, during and after work, getting stuck thinking about how annoyed I was with her and about what I was going to say the next time she told me to do something again. I was reminded to pray for those who persecute you, so I started praying for her (I know there are much worse forms of persecution). I was reminded to do to others what you would have them do to you, so I helped her out knowing the favor probably wouldn't be returned. I was reminded give to the needy in secret so that I would be rewarded by my Father, so went out of my way to do things for her and not even hint that it was me who had done it if possible, because I didn't want my reward to be her approval. I was reminded that he who wants to become the greatest must become the least, so I started to intentionally take the worst jobs and keep her from having to do them.

It has been so incredibly freeing. My attitude has changed so much. Through an ample supply of grace, I'm starting to judge the success of my day not only by how much I make in tips, but also in how much I was able to serve those around me. Today I finally felt these labors taking root in my heart and become pure and life-giving. I can feel my love growing for the rudest, dirtiest, cheapest, and hardest-to-get-along-with coworkers and customers at Los Arcos. As if that wasn't enough satisfaction, I'm even starting to see small, positive changes in the behavior of my aforementioned coworker. Man, Jesus knew what he was talking about with all that foot-washing stuff.