Month: July 2014

“I have something to propose to you…”

A little while ago, I called my mother. I wanted to take a break from the book I was reading, and she had asked me on Monday to call her soon. Oh, and I thought I’d tell her I got a B in Calculus. Well, as often happens, I didn’t get a chance to say what I actually called to say. As soon as Mom answers, she has a proposition. As soon as I say that I’ll think about it, she has to go. I love my mother, but I don’t know if she honestly thinks she respects me, let alone honestly expects me to believe she cares about anything I say when a) we can’t have a conversation without her interrupting me and b) yeah, I call her, and don’t even get to say anything! Don’t get me started on how she talks to me about my politics. Thank God she doesn’t try to preach to me against Catholicism.

Anyway, I love my mom. I do. But she’s difficult. Anyway, so her proposition is this: Since you’re going to Ohio in a few days, have you thought of taking a side trip to Indiana to see your grandmas? You know it’ll probably be your last chance.

That just makes me groan. I have different feelings about this. To be clear, my mom is talking about her mom, and her mom’s mom. Of course, there are some other relatives up there whose names I don’t know, who I’ve never met, and with whom I’m sure I have very little in common.

I never had grandparents in my life. My dad’s mom passed away before my parents even met, and I can’t say much about my paternal grandfather. I know some facts about his life. I know some of the events, choices, etc. that broke people apart in his family. Other people have told me what they think my dad felt (or feels) about my grandfather, but… he hasn’t told me. I don’t go trying to bring up things I suspect are painful to people. So anyway, I think I only ever heard my father’s father’s voice on the phone maybe twice. He has passed away now.

My mom’s dad I knew a little bit better. I knew him well enough to feel a little sad at his passing away. He had come to Florida twice to visit when I was a kid, and had sent cards sometimes, and called sometimes also. His wife was kind to me too. Still… not a big part of my life.

But to my mom’s mom, my last grandparent. Apparently she was in my life somewhat when I was a toddler, but I don’t remember it. I remember her visiting us in Florida once when I was still little, probably before I even started school. I remember being sad when she left. I remember a time or two talking on the phone. What I remember much more is how many times my mother has talked about her terrible childhood, my grandmother not being part of her life, etc. I’m not getting into details because this is the Internet and it’s pointless and tasteless.

The point is that things aren’t looking good for my grandmother health wise. As for my great grandmother, who I also don’t really know, she’s just quite old. Somehow my mother ended up going up to see them (for the first time in probably 30 years), and I guess there were some “arrangements” beginning to be made. Mother has told me to call the nursing home, and I’ve thought about it (but she hasn’t given me the number anyway).

But I don’t know what the Christian response to this is. Obviously I don’t have a particular desire to go. I want to respect my grandmothers for who they are, for the fact they are fellow humans. I pray for their souls. If I thought they honestly had a wish to see me, maybe it would be different. But how can they? It was probably before I even joined the Navy that I had any contact with either of them. Do they want a stranger to come visit? Really? And the other thing is… if I go, isn’t it rather out of the blue? I would not want my arrival to emphasize to them that “this is the last chance to see each other.”

I don’t get it. I don’t understand my mother’s relationship with her mother either. But really, what is the loving response to this? What course of action would DO GOOD? Let’s be clear: I’m sorry, but my grandmothers are strangers to me. If I go, I can’t say, “Thank you for all those memories! Thank your for the hugs and cookies! I love you and will miss you so much!” I can say, “I love you,” in the sense of charity, in the sense of striving to love every person God has made, but…

What is the edifying thing to do? What is right? What is the point of never talking to someone until they’re about to die?

I do regret not having spent my time by my uncle’s side before he died, although as a teen with no car and no money, I really didn’t have a choice. Still. It bothers me all these years later that I couldn’t tell him one last time that I loved him, fervently desired to live up to his expectations, and owed him so much. If I ever accomplish anything–my little victories–learning calculus–running a marathon, living in a foreign country–everything that seemed impossible when I was a child in unincorporated Pinellas County… everything, I wish I could tell my uncle. I wish I could feel that I’d gained his approval, done as well as he thought that I could–because he did always hold me to high standards! I wonder what he would think of my friends, of my husband, and other things.

So I don’t think this is a matter of not knowing that I’ll “regret it later.” If I had feelings to express to my grandmothers, of course I would want to go express them. I learned that much from my uncle’s death. In fact, I used that as motivation to tell my husband I loved him for the first time–because I didn’t want something to happen so that he never knew. So…

I just don’t know about a side trip to Indiana.


Walking with my husband

Took some time to walk around Balboa Park with my better half this morning. Even though I stupidly wore a black shirt and therefore ended up baked, it was really nice. First of all, not too crowded because, I guess, everybody is at Comic Con. Also, my ankle didn’t hurt. I was pretty surprised I was able to walk as much as I did without pain– but very thankful.

Another thing was that walking around Balboa Park really reminded me of those first days of K.’s and my relationship, walking around Imperial Beach, Balboa Park, or the zoo. We always did that a lot, and through the years, we’ve done our share of just plain walking through the streets and trails of many countries. And here we are, back in San Diego, busier than we were back in those days, living further away from the nice walking spots, but… we made the time, and it was good. Soon we’re flying to Ohio, and even though I’m expecting some wicked humidity, I’m also expecting some highly therapeutic walks in the woods. I’m so thankful for K.


I’ve been feeling so down lately, and I know that comes through in my writing. I’m venting, after all, right?

Well, calculus has been destroying me. I really like it, and sometimes I feel like I “get” whatever concept I’m being taught… but still my best test score so far has been only 87%. I’ve spent 2.5 hours in class four days a week, and then another three or four hours per day studying, plus uncounted hours on the weekend. I dream about calculus. I doodle about calculus. Last night, I was having a glass of wine, and I even started thinking about estimating the volume of wine in my hand — because I’ve been estimating the volume of shapes like that all week! It’s safe to say I’ve been obsessing. My sleep has been disrupted, and–

Anyway, I was also bummed because I had to take ANOTHER break from running. Now, the first time I had to take a break wasn’t EXTREMELY bad, because I was able to work through it with the hope I wouldn’t have another injury for a while, and also by using other exercises like biking and swimming. Well, to be brief, I haven’t been able to bike or swim this time.

This time was also harder though because it is/was like the fourth injury I’ve had in fewer than two years. It’s always my fault too. My first injury was due to “mashing” on a spin bike, which I just didn’t know was a no-no (but people on biking forums online did know). The second was probably a mix of overuse, most of my runs being on hills, and getting new shoes that just didn’t fit like the old ones. The third was a little tendonitis due to running on hills too much, again. Now a different tendon is bothering me (but getting better) because I was running too much on uneven surfaces (slopes). All of this stuff I find out after the fact is not a good idea. I don’t know. I guess I’ve been looking at running in a too-primitive/childlike way. I run. I do make an effort to use an efficient form, but at the end of the day… I kind of have figured, why couldn’t I just run anywhere, over any surface, etc.?

To make it worse, I usually do at least two runs after pain comes up because I always think initially that, “Oh that’s just some weakness that’ll get stronger.” So stupid.

My latest calculus foible was also most painful because it was all my fault too. Things are more acceptable when you feel you can blame someone else. See, my latest quiz, I had the 100% correct answers, but then… I doubted myself, and changed the right answers to wrong ones. Who can I blame but me?

So on top of my “problems,” I’ve been dealing with the fact that they’re all due to my own foolishness.

But I’m trying to be more positive. This morning when I got up, I thought I heard some thunder. SHOCKING in San Diego, California. I pretty much dismissed it, although I did think to myself how hard I wished it would rain. And it actually did! It rained pretty hard (for here), and there was even some thunder. I took my breakfast and tea with me to the balcony, and enjoyed the sticky air and the sound and smell of rain. I finally forgot math for a little while. I just felt glad.

Eh, I have more to write, but I don’t want to spend too much time sitting here. Even if–heaven help me–I get a C in calculus, you know, I’ll get over it eventually. There are only three more class days left. I’ve got to move on. These days may be painful, but… shit, it could be worse, that’s all. There’s still a lot to be happy about. I’ve got to stop being insane.

Calculus 1 Day X, or Teachers make a difference

There are only six or so more meetings of my calculus class, and one of those is for the final exam. So… long story short, I’m PROBABLY getting a B. Unless I ace the final AND my professor loads on ridiculous amounts of extra credit opportunities that I’d also have to ace, an A is impossible this semester. I’m pretty sure to get a B though, unless I just stop working, or if in the next week, ol’ Prof serves up some wicked hard crazy impossible-to-remember shit.

The thing is, it’s so much of a bummer. I don’t recall ever having worked so hard on something, and then getting such lackluster results. The curse of being a “gifted child,” I guess? Sure, I’ve failed tests and even courses in my day — but not after trying to pass. I only failed before because I was truant or lazy or just didn’t pay attention…

Now, I’m not FAILING calculus. But I am trying really hard to do well, and I’m not meeting my goal! It’s depressing. Do you know what a 5.0 unit ‘B’ does to a girl’s GPA? 😦

God help me not get a C! I don’t even know what I’d do in that case! Maybe quit college and go back to the Navy.

So I’m bummed, but still trying to at least correct myself enough that I feel semi-prepared for Calculus II next month. And I thought it would be worth talking about speech class today, too:

I only have ten minutes between math and speech classes, so I hustle, use the little girls’ room, and mow down an apple and maybe some nuts on the way to the latter class. Usually I arrive with a couple of minutes to spare, so I stand outside, eating my apple. Why? Because I’m seemingly the only person at my school who a) doesn’t eat in buildings/rooms where you’re not supposed to eat in the first place, and b) realizes that nobody wants to hear me eating! Ugh!

Anyway, so today I was eating my apple outside of class as usual, when the teacher came out (I call her a teacher, not a professor, because that’s what she calls herself).

“To what do I owe the honor of having you in my class?” she asked.


To be honest, yes, her class is annoyingly cake-like sometimes. It’s easy, and frustratingly so at times. Some things I’m just good at, experienced at, or “get.” (Calculus apparently ain’t one of them!) I know this, but I don’t like talking about it. I don’t want to seem arrogant to anybody, but even more so, I don’t want to BE arrogant. That’s not who I want to be. Humility is great, plus, no one knows everything… so even if I were the world’s leading authority on speech, I’m sure I could still learn things from people in this class I’m taking.

So anyway, I felt a little awkward because once people identify/label you as “smart” in some way, they just look at you differently, and sometimes treat you differently. I don’t want that (though yes, I did when I was younger, but that’s another story).

So Ms. R. elaborated on what she was asking, and asked me about my previous courses and things. It made sense to her why I am one of her top students. She asked me my major, and I literally laughed at myself when I answered, “Physics.” I’m sure a lot of people hear that and think, “Whoa, smarty smart smart!” but when I say it (more like confess it), what I’m thinking inside is, “Yeah, that’s what I want to learn about, but am I going to be able to hack it?”

My teacher thanked me for being a model student (her words), and I thanked her for what I took implicitly as a compliment. Now that I’m writing, it makes me think about the different times we thank people. When I was in Japan, it seemed like there was always a contest to see who could be the last person to say “Arigatou gozaimashita!” But that’s another post for… someday when I’m not devoting most of my time to thinking/studying/practicing/lamenting over calculus.

The point is that my calculus grade is bumming me out, but my speech teacher did add just the touch of individual attention and kindness to my day that really makes teachers wonderful. Not all of them of course. But some of them. Yeah. Did Ms. R. know she would at least get me off thinking about my calc grade for a minute? No, but she did, and she’s evening brightening my day a little bit right now, as I think about the fact that she really didn’t need to go out of her way to talk to me. Teachers have no idea sometimes.

Does Jesus want excuses?

When I was a kid, I had excuses for everything. Why I didn’t do a chore, why this or that wasn’t my fault, etc. Maybe it’s growing older, or maybe it’s my military experience, or what I don’t know, but I really don’t care for excuses anymore. I feel ashamed for giving them, and so really I am more likely to just say, “I didn’t do blah blah blah,” or “I’m sorry I did blah blah blah,” than either of those followed by an excuse. Why? Because I’m an adult. I have responsibilities. If I gave my word, I gave it. If I couldn’t keep it, I shouldn’t have given it. There are plenty of reasons.

So what about being a follower of Jesus, and not just a fan? (I didn’t think of this, my priest wrote something like that in last Sunday’s bulletin.) What excuses am I going to say to the Lamb of God when he asks me why I turned my face away from the poor? Am I going to lie and say, “I didn’t know what you meant,” when he asks me why or how I was hard-hearted enough to look past people as though they weren’t right there?

There are many, many instances in my life in which I did one of those things. Arguably, my entire lifestyle is evil because I don’t give all that I have. I do live in excess. I don’t always give even when I have the ability. Sometimes people have called me generous, but I’m not; it’s just that a lot of people have a low standard for generosity.


Today I didn’t want to go to school. I was tired. It’s ordinarily a gym day (after school), but I decided I wouldn’t work out after all, or if I did, it would be this evening. There wasn’t any question about going to my math class, but I did consider more than once just skipping my speech class so I could go home early… but I didn’t.

Then I was hungry. It didn’t help that I drank coffee at school, which sort of gnarled up my stomach… but after all these things, I eventually decided to just go to both classes, then go to the grocery on the way home. Was it fate? Was it the will of God?

I don’t know, but — and I don’t feel like I’m boasting, because nobody I know in real life actually reads this — when I went to the grocery store, I saw a man with tattered clothes, and a bike with bags on it. You know, almost certainly a homeless man. What do I do? Always I think this. I don’t always have cash, and when I do, I still can’t say with certainty if it is better to shell it out or not (I do believe in giving money to charities, for example, but I think doing this sometimes allows us to utterly ignore people who need, perhaps more than money, to be regarded with dignity by Joe Middle Class).

Anyway, I parked, and went in Albertson’s. Now, I’m not a poor person. First thing I grabbed was some veggies and organic bananas. Organic because the regular bananas weren’t ripe, and I figured, Hey, I can afford organic bananas. It’s worth it to me. I’m buying them. Then I go get a pound of salmon — not at all the cheapest meat.

Then I was moseying over toward the big packs of chicken because I actually do try to shop frugally. I get the big packs of chicken breasts because they’re cheap, lean, easy to prep, and will provide my husband and me with several meals. But… just a few yards down, looking at some prepared meats or something, was the homeless man I’d seen outside. “Can I buy you some food?” I thought immediately. Was it the Holy Spirit? Because it’s not like I reflected on that. The idea just came up, and seemed overwhelmingly right and necessary.

But I guess I am somewhat — SOMEWHAT — shy, so I decided, Okay, I’ll go get the last thing I need, then I’ll ask him. And I went to get my tortillas, then stood in that aisle for a minute to psych myself up. I went back to the place where I’d seen the man, and he wasn’t there. Oh no, I thought, I’m not going to say, “Oh, too bad.” I looked for the man, and found him, looking at something else, with nothing in his hands. No doubt he had little money, and wanted the biggest bang for his buck. I’ve been in that situation before. So anyway, I did approach him, ask if I could buy him some food, and did so. I tried to talk a little by offering my name, but he only said his name back, then averted his eyes. You know… there are those people in the world who just take and take and take, shamelessly. One of my friends has a sister like that! But many people find it extremely difficult to ask for or receive what they need from other people — because “charity” is like a dirty word. My dad is like that. I think part of it is that many generations of men have been conditioned that they don’t have needs, or they’re not to be acknowledged. Anyway, the man’s name was Aaron.

I bought him food. I went my way, he went his. And now I’m at home, and I totally forgot how hungry I was when I went to the grocery store. I totally forgot what a pain in the ass I think it is that my school would schedule a class over 10:35 until 1 pm — which covers pretty much every American’s lunch hour, and then some. (Ten minutes to change classes AND use the head AND shove food down one’s throat is really pretty stupid.)

Now I’m thinking… I did something small for Aaron. I didn’t know what else to do. He doesn’t have a fridge (I asked), so buying him a week’s worth of chicken wouldn’t help. I can’t bring him here because even if I really were faithful enough to do such a thing, I’m pretty sure my husband would… well, I actually don’t know what K. would do because I’m sure it’s just totally unimaginable to him. He wouldn’t be happy or comfortable, and I don’t think it’s okay for me to just do whatever I want in a place that is not MINE, but OURS. I can’t give Aaron a job. I don’t even know where homeless people can go for food or counseling or shelter. I’m sure there are places, because this is southern California… but I’m pretty ignorant.

I don’t know if there’s a point. I guess today, reaching out a little to a man I saw who looked like he was in need, you know, maybe that sort of thing does more good for my spirit than it does for the man. Or maybe the whole thing was part of a plan God had. Maybe by saying Aaron’s name, telling him, “I NOTICED YOU!” that did something for his heart. I don’t know. God knows I hope so. God knows all of my complex feelings and hopes and questions and doubts.

But I was just thinking that we shouldn’t make excuses not to help people. We shouldn’t say, “Most homeless are drug addicts,” as an excuse not to help them. Even if 100% of the homeless were drug addicts, does the love of Christ not extend to them too?! I can say little with assurance, but I can say that much! It does! The love of Christ extends to everyone, and indeed, transcends every evil idea so many of us humans have of who is deserving or not.

We have to love everyone, and it has to be a walk, an action, not just a word. Isn’t that what the epistles of James and John say? BE YE DOERS OF THE WORD, NOT HEARERS ONLY. And FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD. And so many other things. Not to mention Chapter 28, I think, of Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus separates the sheep and the goats, and explains why.

We have to love everyone, and we do not decide who is deserving or not. Either everyone is deserving of love, or no one is. And considering that Christ died and was resurrected “while you were yet sinners,” I think God’s message is that EVERYONE is deserving. If the Creator, Maker, and Judge of all chose to also become the Savior of all, then where do we humans, who can’t even stick to our diets, let alone live without sin, get off saying one of our brothers doesn’t deserve love?

God is so amazing, really. And I can understand why people who don’t believe can turn away from the needy, but I can’t understand how we Christians can turn away. Our God does not turn away. He did so many miracles, came and saved us for eternity, and then he said, “Okay, you guys do it until I come back.” He did! That is what he said. You feed my sheep. You comfort those in prison. You care for widows. You shine my light in the world.

I feel ashamed if I imagine giving excuses for not doing the simplest things to care for my brothers and sisters, because think of the Judge. It’s Jesus. Someone who did much more than provide food and water. Someone who did much more than perform miracles, actually. How can you offer an excuse to someone whose love was so great that he accepted torture, ridicule, and death for us?

Last Sunday at Mass I prayed for help to DO what I WANT to do. Paul talked about that. I do what I don’t want to do, and I don’t do what I do want to do. I am better at not doing what I don’t want to do than I am at doing what I believe in and want to do. But today I did what I wanted to do for Aaron — well, much less than I would like, but as much as I knew how to do — and… may it bless Aaron, may God bless Aaron, and may it please the Lord.

A five minute speech about an art/communication topic


Here is the mind map I have. I have no idea what to talk about because I hate to be too generic… “Artists can communicate through painting, sculpture, or even recycled trash!”

But I hate to be too esoteric… “Let’s explore whether art can shape a society’s values, or whether art is simply a reflection of values that are already established.”

But I hate to be random… “Let’s talk about the message being sent by Rococo style art, just because I recently saw a really cool Boucher painting in person. Doesn’t matter that nobody cares! I’m giving the speech!”

See, I don’t want to give a speech no one wants to hear. That’s why I didn’t talk about calculus or running in my first speech — even though I was allowed to pick any topic that I already had some knowledge about. I picked the Navy instead, because everybody in San Diego is in/was in/knows somebody who is in/was in the Navy… or Marines Corps, at least. Close enough. But most people don’t like calculus or running.

Or Rococo art.

School can be such a pain in the ass. I accept that oral communication is important. I accept, and know from experience, that you never know when your employer will want you to talk about some shit in front of a bunch of people. It’s tough to be a shy person out there, kiddies! But, ya know, having to come up with *some* topic will never happen in real life. Even if I were to become an art history professor (I’ll try if the whole physics thing doesn’t work out), I’m pretty sure I’d have a curriculum guiding me.

Not trying to complain, but this speech class I’m taking is the worst. It’s really not that demanding, but it does require me to waste a certain amount of my time that I’d rather waste some other way — or spend productively, on calculus or running. Heck, or sitting in front of that Boucher painting at the Timken Museum.

Calculus 1 Day 14

I have only a tiny, tiny bit of computer programming knowledge, but I think it’s really helped me with some mathematical concepts (also my background working on electronics helps now and then).

But today as I was looking at average speed v. instantaneous speed v. acceleration, I thought what I’m sure many people have said over the centuries: math seems like a language. It seems like an explanation of things. But it’s not fluent (at least not yet to me) like a spoken language. It seems more like an instructional, logical computer language.

Then I was thinking about our world, I don’t know, like The Matrix or something like that. The world, existence, all of our movements, the movement of the particles smaller even than electrons… like an incredibly written and executed computer program written by God. Honestly, just thinking how technology has progressed just since I became aware of it in my life, it doesn’t seem crazy to me to think about existence in this sort of way. Maybe a long time ago, I’d have thought the world was too complex to be written (and its complexity is part of the reason I do believe and feel awed by God). But now I feel like infinite complexity…

Well, I actually don’t have time to be writing anything lengthy. My point is that I’m being reminded of the things that made me want to become a mathematician probably eight years ago. I think it’s pretty lame that so many people think of math+engineering, math+economics, math+concrete. To me, it seems so abstract, and always makes me ask questions that would really only be welcome in a philosophy class. Yet it is incredibly applicable to the physical world. Is it the code underlying our reality? Or is it a language we’ve created to describe our reality? The beautiful concepts suggested by math — are they simply expressions of what is otherwise less clear in our physical reality?

Ugh, I have no time. Really, I love it though. I truly do love it.