Fishies in the sky with cubic zirconia

September 25th, 2011

So this will mostly be a picture post recounting a few highlights of the past couple of months. I bought a few Groupons back in the spring and, of course, procrastinated the day of their redemption until it was almost everlastingly too late. Fortunately I realized this just in time and managed to schedule several of them for August/September.

For the first I only have one picture:

In case what I’m doing isn’t immediately obvious, I’m skydiving. Inside. (Outside skydiving is also fun, but I haven’t seen a Groupon for it yet this year. If I do, I’ll definitely go again.) It was cool to experience the power of 90-mph winds about 18 hours before Hurricane Irene was due to slam into us; I hadn’t had a reference for what really strong winds can do. I went home and moved the grill, all the trash cans, and everything else that could have been used as a projectile into the basement, just in case. (As it turned out, Irene was just a tropical storm when she blew into Boston, and we just got some wind and rain where I am. Our power didn’t even flicker. But I’m OK with that.)

Irene was kind enough to sweep all clouds out of the area as she left, so when I went for a sunset hot air balloon ride two days later, the weather was just plain beautiful.

(See the blue sky behind the balloon? I was IN that.)

Waitin' for the inflatin'

Did you know New Hampshire is over 80% forest?

The camera is pointed down, not up, in this picture.

I personally thought that a “splash and dash” (the technical term for letting the balloon basket hit the water before rising again) would have been wicked awesome, but the owner explained that the basket wouldn’t have time to dry out. So we had to be content with staying about three inches above the lake. Bummer.

A week and a half later, the sky above New Hampshire was again an incredible cerulean blue as my friend E?S and I set off into the wild blue yonder above Lake Winnipesaukee (wih-nih-puh-SAW-kee) in a gorgeous biplane (!!). The plane was built in 1991 using 1930s-style materials (yes, that propeller is made of wood).

We were told not to touch anything.

Battle of the Blues: the Sky vs. Lake Winnipesaukee

The last aeronautical adventure took place yesterday, when I (kind of) got to help fly the smallest helicopter you’ve ever seen:

It’s basically an escape pod with a couple of propellers and a tail. Notice that there is no door. This was true during the flight as well, which was a little disconcerting at first.

Fishies the Pilot!

I just got to move the cyclic (think of it as the “joystick”–what makes the helicopter go up, down, left, or right) a bit. I wasn’t very good at first and kept accidentally pointing the helicopter at the clouds, but I got the hang of it. We flew over Gillette Stadium, which will soon be filled with fans of the New England Patriots:

I admitted to the pilot that I don’t know anything about football, and she was amazed–especially since I’m from the South. It’s true. I honestly have no idea what happens (or is supposed to) in most of the game. Touchdowns are good, as are extra points, and sometimes a team can score something that gives them just 3 points instead of 6. Beyond that I know nothing (please don’t try to enlighten me; on this subject I remain contentedly benighted).

Despite the clouds, it was a lovely day to fly over the lakes and forests south of Boston:

This was my last aviation-related Groupon; I went on a Groupon fast back in the spring, when I’d already bought a whole bunch of them and knew I wouldn’t have time to redeem any more. So my posts for the next while may be boring. In which case, my imaginary readers can peruse my weblog as a cure for insomnia…

Fishies out of water (or, ISFJ FTW)

September 19th, 2011

Sometimes, when I’ve been feeling happy for a while, a feeling creeps in that says I’m in danger of becoming complacent. You’re becoming boring, it says; you’re not living up to your potential. So I decide that I need to change things up a little bit–meet new people, try new adventures. Maybe try to fit in a bit more with what I see as culturally desirable; try to become the sort of person who can “work a room,” or at least not stand frozen with a tight feeling in my chest and my mind spinning blankly as I survey a large group of people. Sometimes I even forget who I am and think that I’m making or have made great strides toward extroversion.

And so I go on a tri-ward campout with 200 people.

And spend the subsequent few days recovering.

It’s frustrating, sometimes, not to be able to do the things I see others doing and even enjoying. Surrounded by people who thrive on camp competitions (this year’s events included the Monkey Launch and kind of a human Boggle) and standing awkwardly amid throngs of loudly cheering teammates, it’s easy to forget that other introverts do exist, and to feel like the whack job with no sense of humor or team spirit. (I’ve since figured out that other introverts may, in fact, be there–but they’re so overwhelmed by the chaos and noise that they don’t feel like talking to anyone, either.)

Fortunately, God watches out for me. Someone I didn’t know all that well followed a prompting and asked me to go on a walk to a beautiful, quiet place by the lake when it became obvious that the environment was too much for me. For the rest of the time I was there, I enjoyed the wonderfully understanding company of several introvert friends who, knowing their limits, had wisely arrived much later than I had and thus hadn’t yet been overstimulated to the point of meltdown.

So as I mentioned, I’ve been convalescing for the past couple of days. I’ve re-read Jonathan Rauch’s brilliant essay Caring for Your Introvert and had some great talks with some terrific friends. I’ve promised one of these friends that I won’t attend the campout next year. 🙂 I’ve caught up on sleep. And God has reminded me that he loves me for the ISFJ that I am, that he doesn’t want me to compare myself to others or fret that I’m going to miss out on something because I’m not outgoing or interesting enough, that I really do love my life these days, and that, though maybe I don’t have a vast circle of party-person friends, the ones I do have are absolutely wonderful.

Summertime… and the living is busy

September 11th, 2011

Nothing insightful to say this evenin’, dearest imaginary readers.* I just wanted to explain, in just over 20,000 words,** why I’ve not written much for the past few months.

In June I went to Philadelphia with some friends. We did the usual touristy stuff, which was fine, as we were all in fact tourists. (We also took an impromptu tour of the Hood in Camden, NJ; I took no photographs of that adventure, as we just wanted to get ourselves out of that area without suffering high-speed lead poisoning, ifyouknowhatImean.)

In the City of Brotherly Love I got  some good advice from a bumper sticker (the fountain of all true wisdom):

Later that night we got ice cream from a real old-fashioned eatery with a real old-fashioned sodie-pop fountain!

Independence Hall was under construction, but Philadelphia didn’t want to deprive its visitors of photo opportunities:

The Liberty Bell was also in need of repairs, but Philadelphia didn’t try to fix this one for the tourists:

We also visited the Mütter Museum, which everyone in my family, at least, would find…

No pictures were allowed in the museum, unfortunately, so you’ll have to go yourselves. One of my favorite exhibits had two skeletons; the one on the left was a normal skeleton; the one on the right was the skeleton of a woman who had worn a corset all her life. SRSLY–who thought corsets were a good idea?! I bet the inventor had a Y chromosome; nobody with two X chromosomes would be that insane.

We went to the Cubs vs. Phillies game. The Phillies won, so the (non-authentic replica of the) Liberty Bell in the background rang:

The weekend after Philadelphia I had tickets to 6 Flags over New England, so I rustled up my awesome friend A?T and we set out to wait in interminable lines enjoy some roller coasters.

This was the first thing we did:

Bizarro was one of our favorites:

Note to future amusement park attendees: The best time to ride roller coasters seems to be in the late afternoon/early evening, when everyone else is eating or has already gone home. The lines were much shorter. Would that we had been privy to this information before our trip, but hey, now we know, right?

July then arrived, featuring, of course, Independence Day. Some friends came up from DC and I played Ultimate Boston Tour Guide Extraordinaire. Fortunately Boston makes performing such an office relatively easy. First off, we ran into some unexpected visitors while we walked the Freedom Trail:

Honestly, we had no idea this was going to happen. We were in the Park Street Church when we heard the drums and fifes outside and came out to find the parade. Have I mentioned that I freaking love this place?

On Sunday we went to the (free) Boston Pops dress rehearsal with 300,000 of our closest friends. We got there relatively late but managed to get a decent spot thanks to one of the extroverts among us (they’re so useful sometimes!). (And yes, a seat this far back definitely counts as a “decent spot.”)

One of my 300,000 friends (actually, she’s in the top 50,000):

We rowed out in a canoe to watch the fireworks from the river, which I had never done before, and which was AWESOME. A couple of other people had the same idea, so it took a few minutes to return our canoe:

Shortly after the Fourth of July one of my other favorite people came to visit from Finland, along with his wife. It was good to have part of the ol’ gang back together again, if only for a couple of days.

A few weeks later I moved. Moving is one of the most thoroughly un-fun events in the world, but someone did brighten my new apartment anonymously:

I went for a walk the week after I moved in, and found that Cambridge has a delightful array of randomness:

I always jump in this circle with both feet when I walk past it, which happens frequently as it’s very close to my apartment:

A week later I went with some friends to Tanglewood–it was Film Night and John Williams was conducting the Boston Pops, with Morgan Freeman guest narrating one of the pieces. Look reeeeeeally closely at the lighted area. See both of them, in front of the orchestra?

They’re there. Really they are.

Some other really great adventures began the next weekend, but as those adventures are themèd and one of the themèd adventures remains to be had, AND as this post is ridiculously long, you, my dearest imaginary readers, will unfortunately have to wait another couple of weeks. Perhaps in the meantime I can recount the story of a truly EPIC rejection that occurred when I summoned the courage to attend a midsingles conference in Washington, DC in July.  (I have been definitively crossed off a list, henceforth and forever, amen and amen; thus far I’ve been able to bear the disappointment quite cheerfully.) Watch for it…

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*Neither of hit counters for this site works, which is kind of frustrating for me (but could be nice for stalkers, I suppose).

**1 picture = 1,000 words.

 

 

Putting off the natural Fishies

September 6th, 2011

Mosiah 3:19:

19 For the anatural bman is an cenemy to God, and has been from the dfall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever…

Were this written specifically for, say, me, it would read, “For the natural Fishies is an enemy to everyone.” When I succumb to myself, I’m an enemy to God, of course. The natural me wants to think that this doesn’t matter—after all, I don’t have to interact with God directly on a daily basis; I’m not trying to impress Him. (The subconscious thinking goes, So what if God thinks I’m a jerk? He’s not in my potential friendship/dating pool.) The thing is, though, that when I’m an enemy to God, I’m an enemy to everyone else, too.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’ve moved into a new apartment, as I’ve had an incredibly painful conversation with someone I cared about very deeply, and as a new roommate is moving in—a roommate who already has multiple graduate degrees from Ivy League universities and is a noted scholar in her field. The natural Fishies does not respond to new or potentially stressful situations (“stressful” defined as “anything that she doesn’t like”) with much equanimity. The natural Fishies is fraught with insecurities that engender prideful resentment; resentment builds walls faster than all the trumpeters of Israel can tear them down (with or without the six days of pre-musical marching).

Thus there’s little hope for the natural Fishies. However, the verse goes on to say that the natural man/Fishies  can overcome this enmity toward the world at large if he (or she) “yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” Of these qualities, I tend to zero in on “humble” as all-encompassing. Someone who is humble is submissive, meek, patient, et cetera.

So, to be humble = kill multiple birds with one stone. Great! I can totally do humility. I think I suck at a lot of things. Drawing, for one. (Except cartoon rabbit heads, at which I am very very good.) Math, for another. And I can’t fix anything.

But the problem is that this isn’t humility. C. S. Lewis defines humility not as a “low opinion” of oneself but “self-forgetfulness” (see Screwtape Letter 14). The natural me rails against this idea; after all, if I forget about myself, who’s going to take care of me? (Or, rather, who’s going to make sure I get what I want?) Or worse—if I forget about myself, does that mean I’ll have to, like, pay attention other people? To see them as real people, with real feelings, who are just as important as I am?

It’s a tough order, to be sure. Humility as applied to daily living is really, really hard work. Pride creeps in everywhere—when someone else makes my brilliant comment in Sunday School and I become frustrated; when the conversation turns to international travel and I feel the need to mention visiting Zimbabwe; when a less-popular ward member strikes up a conversation and I desperately start thinking of ways to escape. If I want to have humility, I’ll have to actively seek the Spirit so that I can catch feelings and thoughts as they arise. I’ll have to remember to relax during church—do I really think I’ll miss out on a life-changing friendship or relationship because I missed my one chance to make an impressive comment? I’ll have to remember not to drop names of people I know or countries I’ve visited unless the conversation actually calls for them. I’ll have to actively change my train of thought from “how can I get out of this conversation?” when I’m talking to someone I don’t particularly like (or “yeah, but I bet she can’t do x” when I’m talking to someone more educated, talented, or attractive than I am) to “how can I show God’s love to this person?” I’ll have to forget about myself and seek to help others.

Holy cow, this will take a lot of work. Which means that the most humble people I know have probably worked extremely hard to become so. I don’t know if I’m that diligent, or sometimes if I even want to be. But these are also the happiest, and, not a-tall coincidentally, the most Christlike people I know—which helps them to serve others effectively. In my better moments, that’s what I most want too.

 

*One of my favorite quotations is from Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead:

When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me… you are free to act by your own lights. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person. He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it.