Elastic Basket for my Peaches

I also have a website: www.lizhightower.com

Monday, August 31, 2009

Travel Tips from someone who needs to take her own advice

I was thinking about what I might want to write in my next blog entry. I have been doing a lot of traveling so I thought I could write about some of my traveling tips as a seasoned veteran. But of course, life doesn’t always go as planned. It’s pretty ironic that just when I am feeling confident enough in my traveling prowess to give others advice, that I would make a rookie traveling mistake that would prove to be a big hassle.

As I begin to write this, I am sitting in a comfy lounge (literally what it is called) at the DFW airport. And I will be here until early tomorrow morning. I flew from Calgary to Dallas earlier today. I went to my next gate, checked the time of my next flight on the ticket and went off in search of food. I got some BBQ and sat down at a nearby gate to charge my laptop. When it was about 5 minutes until time to board (or so I thought) I headed to my gate. I realized there were not many people around so I asked the man at the counter about the flight. He asked me where I had been and told me that I just missed it. What I had thought was the boarding time, was the departure time. I felt so stupid and unseasoned. He issued me a standby ticket for the next flight, which unfortunately turned out to be sold out. And thus, I am sitting in the airport until my flight leaves at 6am tomorrow morning.

Thankfully, I am not being charged for this ticket and I have found this comfortable lounge to hunker down in and watch Dexter. Despite my latest foible, I do want to share some of what I’ve learned in my travels. These are things that work for me… well, most of the time.

I like to wear specific clothes when I am flying. I have noticed many different airplane clothing philosophies from the many hours I have spent at the airport today. Some people wear shorts and flip flops, others seem to dress as nice as possible with lots of make-up or a business suit, and some women wear those monochromatic velour sweat suits. I must admit that the sweat suits do look comfortable but I don’t think I am New Jersey enough to pull it off. Not even the Victoria’s Secret kind with “Pink” written on the butt. I prefer long pants of some kind; jeans are good. I have found that shorts are unacceptable due to the fact that airports and airplanes are kept at roughly the same temperature as the penguin area of the zoo. Some people like flip flops but I prefer close-toed shoes because they provide warmth and protection from the elements that may be found on the floor as you walk through security. Who knows where their feet have been and you don’t want to get athlete’s foot. It’s best to have shoes that slip on and off quickly to facilitate going through security quickly. Taking a long time or getting flustered will make you look like a dork. I don’t know why they are still making us take off our shoes. I am afraid at some point it will be acceptable to make us strip down completely naked to walk through the metal detector. We won’t be able to complain and it will just become the price you have to pay for traveling. I hope I am wrong because there are plenty of people at airports that I do not want to see nude. Ever…

In addition to jeans and closed toed shoes, I also bring a light jacket or sweater. This helps to insulate me from the above mentioned chilly airports and frigid planes. For entertainment, I always carry a backpack with my toys. As an adult, it is no longer Barbies I need to entertain myself but things like my laptop with DVDs, a book, Bible for when I want to be spiritual, iPod and sometimes my Nintendo DS. Though I don’t normally use all the play things, I do like to have options. If I am going on a long flight or an early morning flight, I like to bring a full-size pillow. No puny travel pillows for me. I also like to put a sheet or thin blanket inside the pillowcase. This provides an optimal sleeping arrangement as the large pillow can be squeezed and molded into a good sleeping position. This works best in conjunction with the window seat, which is the one I always choose. If you are in a big plane, you may have those headrests you can adjust to prevent your head from flopping from side to side. Those work well too. I am pretty much a professional at sleeping while traveling on a plane or bus. On rare occasions that I fear I will not be able to fall asleep, a little Benadryl goes a long way. Sleeping is my preferred activity on a plane since it is what makes time go by the fastest.

I was glad to have my full size pillow and sheet during my overnight in the Dallas airport. The sheet I brought was for a full size bed so I was able to cover myself and all my luggage with it as I slept. When I went to sleep, there were four other people who’d also found the comfy lounge. When I emerged from my yellow sheet cocoon, those four people were gone and there were about ten new people napping. It was a little disconcerting.

When I am flying, I also try not to drink much so I don’t have to use the airplane bathroom. Contrary to what Jerry Seinfeld thinks, those things are awkward and gross. It never fails that during the rare occasion that I do not have the window seat, my seatmate at the window will need to use the bathroom. This is always awkward since the person has to wake me up and then I can’t go back to sleep until they return, which always takes way longer than I’d like. At that point, at least in my mind, they no longer deserve a window seat because they can’t hold it. I’m tempted to commandeer their seat and fall asleep and hope they settle in mine understanding it’s the price they pay for having to use the restroom.

I always use the restroom right before and right after a flight and try not to drink too much in order not to use the bathroom on the plane. I can probably count the number of times I have used the bathroom on a plane in my entire life, on one hand. The system works, people.

These are just some of the things I do when traveling. They really do work for me. I broke one of my travel rules at the DFW airport and it’s why I had to spend the night in the comfy lounge and not in my comfy bed. My rule is to find my gate as quickly as possible during my layover as to assure that I don’t miss my plane. Then I double check the time before going off to find food. Then I return to my gate to wait so I can’t possibly miss my flight. This time I was charging my laptop a few gates away and could not see my gate. If I had been at my gate, I would have realized my mistake and not missed my flight. It looks like I need to stick to what works so I don’t end up spending the night in another airport that may or may not have a comfy lounge.

Monday, August 24, 2009

My friends need a vacation

My friends, Sarah and Michael Musselman, are trying to win a luxury weekend away from their two young children. They are quality people and definitely deserve this. Please go to the following website:
I voted and it took me literally three seconds. It's called "Doctor Dolce's Reconnection Cure for Weary Parents."

And on another note, I met a really fun girl on my mission trip this summer who has a blog. I find her pretty amusing, so you might want to check it out. She's a bit more popular than me, as you will quickly see and has as many as 50,000 people who read her blog. Basically she's my idol.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Astros Game

Today I went to my first Astros game of the season. I try to go to at least one per season, though I pretty much only go when I can get free tickets. Luckily I have some friends with free tickets from time to time so it works out well.

I am no baseball fanatic, though I have dated one. I don't get into all the stats and technical stuff. I don't even pay very close attention to the game. I do like the experience of going to a game. Unfortunately the Astros always seem to lose when I go to games. Clearly the players can sense that I am in the stands and in their extreme anxiousness to impress me, they get nervous and lose the game. I don't know how they know I am there (maybe from my facebook status) but this always seems to happen. Luckily I am not a diehard baseball fan because I can still have a good time when we lose. (This does not at all translate to Longhorn football. We lose, I am pissed.)

Today I went with my friend, Bethany (the procurer of the free tickets), her dad and then we were later joined by our friend, Bronson. We got there late which wasn't a big deal since we managed to get free parking. It was the first inning when we arrived and the Marlins scored right as we came in. I figured this was my curse at work again. We found our seats, which were in the club level and retailed for $50. Cha-ching! In the club level they have waiter-type people who take your order and bring you outrageously expensive tasty treats. I ordered the only real deal on the menu. It was a kids meal for $4 with a hot dog, juice box and animal crackers. Not enough food for a grown man but perfectly sufficient for me. I later bought cotton candy for $5 negating my savings on my meal.

Bronson arrived late and right as he sat down, the Astros scored a homerun. Apparently he is the opposite of me. Somehow he gives the Astros some sort of comfort by his very presence in the stadium and they perform well for him. The game was actually really fun to watch. There were homeruns, great catches and good pitching by our guy. It was good cheap fun. Apparently I need to go with Bronson more often. It is more fun when the Astros win.

One funny thing at the game was a sign in the outfield that said,
"www.astrosextrabases.com" I don't know about you but my friends and I saw one thing when we saw that sign... sex. It's right there in the middle of the web address. I tried to take a picture but didn't have enough zoom.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hangin' with Halle Berry and Ricky Bobby

It's 1:48am and I am still awake. Ever since I got back from Colorado, I have been staying up late. This is not really a problem because Maui time is five hours behind making it only 8:48pm there. And who goes to bed before 9? I am watching Forensic Files. It's this 30 minute show where they go over how they solved a violent crime with the tiniest pieces of evidence. People get convicted on fingerprints, tire treads, footprints, etc. It's pretty interesting and pretty creepy. I think it makes it a little more creepy that I am watching it after midnight. My parents were gone the last few days and watching Forensic Files didn't help me to feel at ease.

Yesterday I went for a bike ride on a trail near my house. There were a ton of people on the trail and at the nearby park. I saw a big group of people who seemed to be celebrating a family reunion. In the middle of the group was a circle of people doing the Halle Berry dance. I've included it below if you aren't familiar with it. Seeing this made me sad about leaving Houston. I don't think Hawaiians are really up to date with the latest dances. Without my Young Life kids how will I find out about dances like the Ricky Bobby, the Dougie or the Stanky Legg? Maybe at least this time when I am in Hawaii, I can learn the hula.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

From Riches to Rags

I am definitely going through a transitional time right now. The weird part about this transition is that it seems to come in phases. Right after school finished, nothing felt much different since I'd had the summer off last year. I traveled for Jesus and pleasure and hung out with friends just like last summer. One big transition during this time was moving into my parents' new house with them. It's been good overall and definitely a money saver but we all still relearning how to cohabitat.

Now it seems like am in a different transitional phase. I think it began when I got my last paycheck. One of the best parts of being a teacher is that you get paid in the summer when you are not working. They divide your paycheck up and spread it out over 52 weeks. Now I have received my last paycheck and no longer experience the joys of a steady income. It feels a little scary. I have done the whole missionary living on support thing before and I know it will all work out in the end. I think this time is harder because I just quit a job where I was making far more money than I ever have. My cost of living wasn't high and I was able to do just about anything I wanted to do without feeling the financial crunch. I learned to live more frugally the last time I was in ministry but I feel like having a "real job" made me unlearn some of thos lessons.

I've been raising support for my upcoming projects this summer and it's gone pretty well. But everything felt a lot more secure with the promise of future paychecks. Now that this is over and I feel I have lost a bit of my security. In the end I know the truth. Christ is my security and through Him and His people I will always be provided for financially for doing His work. Yet, He doesn't deposit a check into my account every two weeks like my teaching job.

I am about $1000 away from my fundraising goal of $6000. That's not too far at all. People have been super generous and for that I am so thankful. There are also several people who pledged support but haven't sent anything yet so I know more is coming. I am not where I want to be with monthly support at about $175 of the $400 I need for my time in SBFM. But from my previous experiences as a missionary, I know monthly support is something that builds the longer you are out in the field so I am confident it will increase over time. I'd hoped to sell my car before I left to give myself further cushion but apparently since I just paid it off, I won't get the title for about a month and at that point I will be gone.

So, I am trying my best to be frugal and not spend much money. It's not easy. I find the busier I am, the less money I spend. Well, with most of my friends at work all day and me with no job, there's really not much for me to do. I try to fill my time with free activities; in ways that are productive like spending time with God, working on my Chinese, reading books and working out and unproductive like watching TV and playing on the internet, esp. Facebook.

Even though I get frustrated that I can no longer just buy what I want , I think this time of more extreme frugality is good for me. I am learning to depend on God more and to seek out activities that are free or inexpensive. By the time I build up my support and feel less strapped, I will be wiser with my money.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Secret World of Mexican Snow Cones

Today I went back to the school that I worked at for the last two years. To work?, you ask. No, I went for the same reason I went to school as a teen, to see my friends. Today was a teacher work day and I went up to the school to help out where I could but also to catch up with my teacher friends. It ended up being a lot more fun than I thought. I've always enjoyed joking and socializing with my co-workers and this time I didn't have to spoil it by constantly thinking of the work I should have been doing in my classroom. I don't have a classroom!

Despite the freedom it provided, the fact that I didn't have a classroom made me a little sad. As much as I am excited for my next steps, I am still mourning the loss of things like school supplies, co-workers and funny comments from my students. It was a little weird to see someone new in my classroom. To combat the weirdness, I decided to avoid going past the room or talking to the "new me." Denial has always worked for me in the past.

All day I helped with random things like putting up bulletin board paper, setting up desks and chairs and hooking up my friends' computers. For a girl, I am better than average at the techie stuff so I was glad to be of service. It was also a lot easier to do the before school tasks knowing that I really only had to do what I felt like doing and there wasn't a huge list of things I needed to accomplish.

My old principal asked me why I wasn't helping the new teachers. I laughed her off and said it paid to be my friend. Seriously, though. Why would I help teachers I didn't know? I am certainly no saint and my primary purpose was not to lend a hand. My main reason for being there was to hang out with my friends and help them out a little bit. Let the new teachers fend for themselves. I know I had to.

After work, I went for snowcones with a couple of my co-workers. I was introduced to this particular snowcone place by my friend, Belinda. It felt a bit like the episode of Seinfeld where George goes to the club with all the models and gets in only because he's with one. Belinda's Mexican so she took me to a Mexican snow one place. I felt like I was only allowed to go because I was with Mexican people. This was a different snowcone place than I was used to.

After living in Austin, I felt confident in calling myself a snowcone connoisseur. Snow Beach, formerly located on Lamar near Barton Springs was the standard by which I measured all other snowcones. (You know you are at the right place if you see a white trailer with a fake purple snowcone wearing sunglasses on top.) The red rasberry with cream is to die for. The place is so popular that they furnish umbrellas for the people in line to hold to shield themselves from the sun. You feel stupid but it works. A snowcone there costs between $2.50-$5.00 depending on size and amount of cream.

I'd lamented that Houston did not have a Snow Beach equivalent. Finally this summer, some people put up a snowcone stand in my neighborhood. The ice is not as finely shaved as Snow Beach's but it decent and similar in price. It's also about 179 miles closer. And because my neighborhood is trendy, they even have a snowcone for dogs. Who buys their dog a snowcone? It's probably the same people buying the dog appetizers I saw advertised on TV.

Now back to my Mexican snowcone experience. This place was pretty big and pink with a little covered patio area with ceiling fans. (Note to snowcone place, in 100 degree weather like today, ceiling fans do not work.) Belinda said the place is hopping at nights and on the weekends with a long line of cars at the drive-thru. Yes, there is a drive-thru! I was shocked when I saw the price. Their snow cones ranged in price from 75 cents for a small (that's less than a dollar) to 2.50 for a giant one. This means I could get three small snowcones at this place for the price of one at the honky snow cone places. I was getting ripped off! The quality of the snow cone was good though the pointy top was disconcerting to someone who is used to a rounded top. I quickly adjusted, though. At 75 cents, I felt I was getting the deal of the century. Apparently I need to spend more time in the Mexican parts of town. I knew from the Wal-Mart parking lot that they had cheap puppies, tamales and fake Gucci purses, but cheap snowcones...that's something I could really get into.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Self-induced anti-social hibernation

I am just coming out of what I have dubbed my "self-induced anti-social hibernation." I enjoyed my back to back week-long trips but they left me a little starved for alone time. Because of my need to just chill out and avoid human contact I have been making no attempt to hang out with anyone other than my parents, who I can't avoid since I live in their house. Tonight I went to church and was social without feeling like I was going to die or punch someone in the face. I feel this is a good sign that I am ready to return to being social. Overall I am a pretty social person and would almost always prefer to be with people than to be alone but I guess I just got a case of social overload.

I have a little over a month before I leave for Maui and not much planned other than a trip to Calgary at the end of this month. I am trying to figure out how to spend my days and how not to spend a lot of money since my last teacher paycheck was yesterday. I have decided to try to read my Bible/have quiet time, workout and practice my Chinese on Rosetta Stone everyday. So, far I have done it for two days. I am on a roll! I will be super spiritual, super hot and bilingual in no time!

I am also trying to read a lot, which I really enjoy. I am currently in the middle of several books that I just need to buckle down and finish. The most interesting to me right now is one called, "Doctors from Hell." It's a pretty harsh title, I know but an accurate one. It was actually written by a woman my grandparents know from their retirement community. She was a court reporter for the medical trials at Nurenburg. These were the trials for the Nazi doctors after World War 2. The book is very interesting and very sad. It's hard for me to believe that these atrocities could have been committed on human beings and that they were called Science. I find the whole Nazi regime fascinating and even used the Diary of Anne Frank in my third grade class. It gave me a lot of hope to see how strongly my students reacted to injustice. They just couldn't understand why something like that could happen and neither could I.

World War II makes me think about war in general. There are a lot of people who are outspoken in their hatred for all war. I feel that this is just ignorant. I know some of you may be strongly anti-war and I respect your right to an opinion but I just cannot agree. I am not for all wars or injust wars and I don't think the God of the Bible is either. But I think it is extremely difficult to argue against a war like WWII as a Christian or non Christian. The Bible is certainly not anti-war with Jesus commending a soldier's faith without condemning his profession as well as all the fighting in the Old Testament. But what the Nazis did was an afront to God's chosen people, the Jews. I can't imagine God wanting us to stand back as His chosen people were being slaughtered like animals.

I don't know how anti-war people believe we can stop horrors like the holocaust or the genocide going on today without violence. Peaceful protests and logic don't work on people who kill others in that way. I don't feel educated about the current war to say one way or another if it should have started and I know that with my brother being in the Army, it is hard for me to be unbiased. I do trust Andrew and support him in what he does. Right now a lot of what he is doing is helping rebuild areas that Saddam has destroyed and working with local leaders to help them get back on their feet. It sounds more like mission work than war. I wonder why the news doesn't talk about that stuff?

Sorry to be so randomly political. Maybe this is what happens to me when I seclude myself. I will stick to the funny stuff next time.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

An out-of-country experience

I have pretty much spent all day vegging and sleeping. After two back-to-back weeklong trips, I am just pooped. I feel I deserve an unproductive day.

I want to share a little bit about my trip to Q-ba. I feel like I learned a lot more than I did but I know that this is important as well. The purpose of our trip was to help with a Young Life type group for high school students there. All the students go to boarding schools so it seems like peer pressure is intensified since they are with each other day and night. The students told me about how they and their Christian teachers are persecuted at their schools.

Many of the students traveled hundreds of miles by hitchhiking or cramming into vans to get to our camp. I know my Young Life kids would have complained a ton. They complain enough about traveling in lavish vans with DVD players and air conditioning. We have short Jesus talks once a week for our Young LIfe kids and it can take half the time just to get them to be quiet and pay attention. These kids, who were the same age, could listen attentively for three hours +.

I love my Young Life kids but I really wish they could see and really understand what sacrfices other kids their age make to be Christians. I think they would learn a lot. I know that I did.

I also found out a lot about the country. Most of which, would not be prudent to mention on such a public forum. I'd love to talk to you about this place sometime, if you are interested.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Ice blocking or how I got grass down my pants

I have been meaning to update this thing for a while now. I mean, I have been to Qba and I haven't mentioned how the trip went yet. Unfortunately I don't really have time to go into it right now. I also want to be very careful about what I post on the web. I have also been having some crazy adventures in Colorado that I don't have time to fully go into. So, instead I will have to go into detail about those things later and just tell you about tonight.

Ashley and Josh are getting married tomorrow and wanted to have a night 'o' fun with their friends. We all went ice blocking. This is when you buy big blocks of ice from the grocery store and then ride the blocks down a hill. I had heard of people doing this before in Houston at the Miller Outdoor Theater. In fact, I had always wanted to try it but never actually followed through with it.

So, we bought a bunch of ice blocks from the grocery store. In fact, we bought all the ice blocks at that particular grocery store. I also bought an issue of People on impulse because the cover said "Saved By the Bell" Reunion. Who could pass up that gem?

We took our ice blocks and towels to a nearby hill next to a baseball field. It was pretty dark but we could still see. After a short demonstration,(Put towel on ice, sit on ice, slide down hill and try not to die), we began sliding down the hill. It was a blast. I think we all underestimated the fun factor. We went down on our butts, on our stomachs, in ones, twos, threes, fours and mores and it was just hilarious. I think there was only one time where my ride ended without me sprawled all over the ground. This was painful but fun. I probably went up and down the hill 20 times. It was exhausting! One of my most memorable falls was when I was in a four person train that inadvertantly broke into two separate trains. Rachel Cordy and I were going super fast and somehow turned backwards and then rolled into a ball together. I imagine us looking a lot like one of those cartoons where someone is skiing and they turn into a big snowball with legs, arms and skis flying about.

At the end of our adventure, we took a big group picture. This was a good idea until the little wall we'd made of the ice blocks fell on Josh's head. At least it was ice, right?

The whole thing was super fun. I am already feeling sore, my clothes were stained brown with dirt and my pants were filled with grass. These are all signs of a fun night. And we didn't even have alcohol. Fun times!
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