Monday, December 31, 2012

Misery and Compassion

I saw Les Miserables today. I knew very little of the novel or the musical, so I approached the music, story, and cinematography with fresh eyes and an open mind.
Photo from L.A. Times
It's one of those stories that changes you. I suppose you could name several different themes for it - the devastation of poverty, revolution and the power of freedom, the folly of justice without mercy. But for me, it resonated with a single message: compassion. That single act of forgiveness and love - a priest, robbed after showing kindness to a forlorn stranger, not only forgiving the deed but covering it up and giving more than was taken from him - changed not only a life, but a whole city.

In gratitude and confusion, the story's protagonist, Jean Valjean, (portrayed movingly by Hugh Jackman) pours out the hatred and resentment he's harbored for 20 years in prison, and allows himself to be filled instead by mercy. He grows into a compassionate businessman, leader, father and hero, and changes lives wherever he goes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A feline friend

Lily, my first cat.
I haven't told you about my cat yet, have I? About two months ago, I decided I wanted  a new cat. I was  unhappy and lonely and I remembered how much joy and comfort my first cat Lily brought. Lily was a beautiful, blue-eyed Siamese mix I took home from the animal shelter the year we moved here. She lived with us for 12 happy years and then one day simply disappeared. I thought she'd come back since she disappeared once before, so I wasn't really worried for the first month or so, then I began to be concerned and started searching for her, but there was no trace. Eventually I just assumed her dead. Cats go off to die sometimes. It's been over a year now and a catless home is...well, sad.

At first my mother did not want another cat in the home...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bed of Roses

At Glendale Shoals making new memories
A few years back, as I was thanking God for the rich, beautiful, blessed life He'd given me, I felt...almost guilty. I had known little real suffering (or so I thought) while others suffered so much all around me. I prayed that when God saw fit to change the tide of my life and bring me real pain, He'd also strengthen me to be able to face it. I prayed in the face of inevitable sadness He'd cause me to remember His joy.

Maybe my problems are still small in the scheme of things, maybe people all around me are still suffering so much more. But in the last 3 weeks of my life I've been unhappier than I can ever remember being. The beginning of September was so bittersweet but full of promise - seeing my love off to his new life, and embracing the 9 to 5 life of working adulthood. I knew it was going to be hard. I was right.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Van Dangs at Cribb's Kitchen

Two Saturdays ago I snuck into my office. My laptop had lost internet, I had taken it to the shop, and I was supposed to have something to show Robin (the CSA farmer for whom I am building a website in exchange for vegetables) the following week. I hadn't been sleeping much and my boss had just offered me a full-time salaried position at Converse - I told her I needed to think about it. Even though I had applied for the job as soon as I graduated Converse and wanted it ever since...once I started doing the work part time I was like "Holy mackerel! This is hard! They need at least a 3-person team to do they everything they are expecting out of a person and a half!"
But I digress. It was Saturday, I was supposed to be researching salaries and finding out how to haggle for my first full-time position, (and I had done some of that on my parent's flaky, virus-ridden internet) but I also was feeling backed into a corner, like I had to get this website finished this weekend OR ELSE. So I was mooching internet and air conditioning from Converse bright and early in the morning, working and praying and generally driving myself crazy, until about 1:30pm when I thought to myself, I HAVE HAD IT. I need to rest or something is going to break. The Sabbath officially begins NOW.
The Barbeque. Courtesy of Cribb's Kitchen via Facebook

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Renaissance Festival 2012

The daring grave robber meets the reluctant monk.Brother Matt never goes anywhere without his first edition KJV and copy of Martin Luther's treatises.Matt said I looked like a confused Victorian adventuress.God did not destine such good looks for a life of celibacy.Pretty fairies.These girls were the biggest fans of our costumes. Matt was actually very popular. He got more complements and photos than I did.
Brother Matthew is bemused by my enchantment with fairy music.I had to restrain myself from joining the fairy dance. Brother Matthew would not have approved.I recognized the Irish tunes these musicians were playing.Gargoyle.Fairy, or Pookah?Tired and happy at the end of the day.
Renaissance Festival 2012, a set on Flickr.
Matthew's mom won tickets to the Georgia Rennaissance Festival. He'd never been before. I told him I don't know how many times that he didn't need to dress up, but he was determined to impress me. I think he had a lot of fun. I certainly did.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer Begins, Matthew Visits, and Feist Sings

Hello! It's been a while.

Life is good. I am out of school for the summer. I'm working 25 hours a week at Converse. I am loved by an amazing Godly man, and a wonderful family, and awesome friends.
I've been sick this weekend. I got it from Daniel, Grace's 2 year old. I should have known better than to share my food with him and let him drink out of my water bottle, but he just looked so miserable and pitiful that I wanted to take care of him! That was Monday. Grace came over to help us plant a few rows of green beans. Daniel was feverish so we took turns coddling him while the others worked the garden. Saturday morning I started getting a sore throat and headache and then it just got worse with aches and chills and nausea. I could barely move, I felt so weak. No wonder Daniel looked so miserable.
Me and Pam at Milliken Park. (from Pam's blog)
But after 2 days of doing absolutely nothing, I'm starting to feel a little better. Besides getting sick, I've been having a great summer so far. I hung out with Pam on Sunday. It's good to have a friend to frolic with.
Monday I planted green beans with Grace. Tuesday and Wednesday I hired my young neighbor, Soline, to help me de-vine the front bushes and haul brush. Friday, Pam and I went to an Indian market, where I bought some Indian music videos. Those videos were the perfect thing to watch while I was sick, trying to stomach a little chicken soup and jello. Romance, dancing, costumes, and Shahruhk Khan helped me forget my misery. Saturday, before I started feeling really miserable, I got to study the Bible and pray with Kinsey at Chic-fil-A. She invited me to a cookout yesterday, but unfortunately I was too weak to go. Didn't even make it to church. Missed the church's Memorial Day cookout today as well.

Matthew's visit, stockings photos, and a video of Feist in concert after the jump.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Good" Christian music

Happy internet jaunt when I should have been finishing my overdue paper.
It started off with a blog post by Paul Angone on Christians claiming musicians as "one of us," a tongue in cheek look at some common self-deceptive behaviors among young Christians. Great discussion in the comments, which led me to this fascinating blog post by Michael Gungor likening the Christian music industry to "zombie propaganda." He makes a lot of really good points, especially about drinking. Funny how a Christian will feel nothing morally wrong with one beer among non-believer friends, but put them with brothers and they're suddenly a teetotaler.

Last night, a newlywed couple I adore but don't see very often came to Bible Study. They taught me a few great new tunes to old hymns and new hymns that could pass for old ones, next thing we know we were talking about the Welcome Wagon and exchanging band names to check out. Ryan said "I'm always on the lookout for good Christian music." A telling remark. Me too.

Here's a list for my readers of favorite "good Christian music."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

IA Summit New Orleans 5 - The Festival, the City, & the Way Home

Home. And exhausted. Exhilarated and changed for good. I'm determined to write the final three days of my journey before I collapse into bed for the next week ten hours to be up at 6 for the return to normal life.

Read about awesome ideas below, or, skip to the adventures, pics, and video.

A couple sessions stand out to me from Saturday at the IA summit. No actually, I guess one was on Saturday and one was on Sunday. They are starting to blend together in my mind. One was two Australian dudes who I'd been noticing the entire weekend because of their awesome hats. They were like Indiana Jones hats, fedoras with broad brims, and these two guys were the only people at the conference wearing hats. Until Crawford came, but that's a later story. Their names were Paris Buttfield-Addison and Jon Manning, and their workshop was called "Clutter is King." It was all about how people do not live in these pristine environments we tend to design for, nor do they particularly want the "paperless office" the so-called tech visionaries have been heralding for years. They researched hundreds of people about their office organization habits and came to some realizations. We like our clutter, our mess. It works for us. It reminds us of things we need to do and sparks innovation as "unrelated" things are juxtaposed in our field of vision. With few exceptions, those who take great pains to organize their working office documents into highly-structured systems are more stressed and less productive. Often we try to force ourselves to organize in a way that is unnatural to us and really all it does is create more work for ourselves.
Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, in his natural habitat - Diana Walker

They then applied these observations to how we design digital spaces.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

IA Summit New Orleans 4 - New ideas, new friends, & Bourbon Street

I don't know where to begin. My mind has been blown so many times the pieces are still all just shifting around, trying to come back together to make a new sense of the world.
I'm just going to start with pictures and go from there.

Donna Spencer teaching "IA Theory and Practice"
 The Thursday workshop was a mixture of enjoyment, disappointment, and affirmation. It was my first opportunity to meet people and I very much enjoyed getting to know my table mates over the course of the day. The teacher was also very personable, knowledgeable and well-prepared. It's amazing that 8 hours flew by with no fatigue, concentration loss or antsiness - for me that is a huge accomplishment and it is to Donna's credit that she kept us all engaged by mixing theory, case studies and hands-on application. The disappointment was in not learning as many new things I expected to. But on the other hand it was very affirming in that I knew more about the field than I realized. A library education is a real asset in this industry because it gives a lot of theoretical basis that people picking it up on the go don't get.

"IA Theory and Practice" card-sorting exercise
 Card-sorting was probably the single biggest takeaway for me. Well, besides knowing more than I thought I did. This is a very flexible exercise to conduct with clients/stakeholders where you represent pieces of content with cards, then ask them to categorize the cards, and create labels to describe the groups. You learn more from the discussions about why things do or don't belong together than you do from the actual sorted stacks.
Then, with that knowledge and user research all sort of rattling around your brain informing you, you construct an information architecture to organize a website. This step is best done alone. Then the IA is extensively tested, discussed, and revised. And, when you're not a freelancer like Donna, but rather, stuck long-term with a site like me, periodically revisited.
Scott Root
 Scott was at the IA workshop with me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

IA Summit New Orleans 3 - Rain on My Parade

This day did not turn out as I was expecting.
It started out promising. I got a good 8 hours of sleep and laid in bed for another hour and a half before doing anything. This is a rare luxury in the life of Lydia. I read a little and looked up song lyrics and versions for some songs Woody the busker and I were trying to remember yesterday.

As much as I admire Billie for being mother of the blues, it's swingstress Ella who continues to be my inspiration. Her range, her tone, her utter musicality, her sparkling stage personality...what's not to love? Listen for yourself.

After a brief incident involving a certain hotel door refusing to open, I got my continental breakfast and by 11am I was on my way into town. I've about given up on the bus. It confuses me even at home when I'm familiar with the area. And I always seem to get to the bus stop right after the bus leaves. So I took a cab. The cab driver alone was worth the money. She was real chatty and told me the best place to get a muffuletta ("muffle-AH-tuh") (They're better here on the West Bank, she said) and a po-boy (Mother's po-boys are apparently world famous.) She also told me where to go for music and took me through the Warehouse district. I'm going to have to check out the "Hollywoof" (Howlin' Wolf) - maybe next trip when I'm not on business. I think she may have taken me the scenic route to rack up a few extra bucks, but I'm not complaining. She cued me in to Mother's after all. Best meal I've had since I got to New Orleans.

So about the time I finished up my debris & gravy ferdi and turnip greens (rather, reached the three-quarter mark and decided to call it quits) it starts beating down rain. I mean, seriously storming. Thus began a serious of rather poor decisions. Armed with my new umbrella, I decided I was invincible so I sallied forth.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

IA Summit New Orleans 2 - French Quarter Buskers

Glorious afternoon! I am now in that happy, delirious sort of exhaustion.
Teens performing in Jackson Square
 These kids were cool. They came from Oklahoma and are spreading the gospel through dance. One of them also approached me and asked if they could pray over me. So we prayed for the Chic-fil-A Bible study. So unexpectedly uplifting.

Guitarist holding my Long Purple Bike card
 This guy's name is Woody. He was playing in front of the Cafe Du Monde and he's the first musician I found. He's from Vermont and came to New Orleans five weeks ago seeking fame and fortune through music, or something like that. He's got a great voice. He picked up trombone a few days ago. He invited me to play and sing with him. We had a blast.
  Woody told me there were more musicians on Royal Street. Sure enough, there were two fantastic fiddlers. But I had a problem. No more small bills to tip them! So I popped in the nearest door intending to ask for change for my ten. Boy was I surprised to see all of these exquisite paintings!

IA Summit New Orleans 1 - Getting There

Packing as Art. Next to my laptop are my spiffy new business
cards, a lint roller, & the Great Dalmuti for game night.
I am writing this on my phone on the Megabus on my way from Charlotte to Atlanta. This is the second leg of a 15 hour trip taking me from Spartanburg, SC to New Orleans, LA for IA Summit 2012. I'll be blogging my adventure all along the way. Read about how I found out about the IA Summit and what it is.

I've been prepping for months - talking to folks who'd been there & picking up tips, revamping my portfolio, getting spiffy networking cards, finding a roommate, booking hotels and planning bus routes.

...five hours later...
Lydia the Traveller in Atlanta
I am now in between Montgomery and Mobile, AL. I still can't pronounce Mobile right. Mo-BEEL. I've seen and met some interesting people. A lot of wierdos hang out at bus stations. People who rock, stare at you, and wear funny wigs. People who talk to themselves, and people who have cardboard signs about Google being "HOSTTOTHEDEAD" whatever that means. But the people who actually get on the bus seem sane, and relatively nice. I met some students on their way to or from Spring Break, and a Mobile native who was quick to give me safety tips. I forgot hand sanitizer and sunscreen. Oh well, my mom gave me a pretty new umbrella. I'll just pretend it's a parasol.
A 15-minute layover becomes 1 hour.
It's been a fairly pleasant bus trip. I have probably gotten more schoolwork done than I would have during the same amount of time at home. I've also gotten a lot of great ideas to take back to Converse already. I'm reading a fabulous SEO book and can't wait to apply some of this stuff to the Converse website. Next step: create a Mentions of Converse dashboard in iGoogle. Whenever people are talking about us, anywhere on the web, we'll be alerted. Eavesdropping made simple! An excellent way to stay in touch with perceptions of our brand.

Megabus > Greyhound. day...
I made it at last. The last bit of the bus trip yesterday was less than pleasant thanks to a migraine and a bout of bussickness. I never get sick in the car, plane, or boat. Wierd.
Oh, and the bus was an hour late. Between that, general disorientation, and the Google Online Marketing Challenge pre-campaign strategy being due last night, I did not have a very restful evening, though the Ashbury Hotel was surprisingly nice. And Matthew and I got to pray over Skype which was doubly nice.

Read about the creepy bus station mural, the Hyatt-Regency, and the local grocery after the jump.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Matthew in Seminary

Matthew got accepted to Princeton Theological last week! Hooray! He's got some time to think before he makes his final decision. But I'm really proud of him that he got accepted. We are praying a lot. Of course Princeton, NJ is a lot farther away from here, so we wouldn't be able to see each other as much, but we are no strangers to Skype. The main thing is that he ends up where God wants him to be.

Here are pictures of us at the Cottonwood Trail last time he came to visit.
Matt is ready for an adventure!

View from the pulpit.

He looks entirely too at home there.
That was a really happy day.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Doodle Blog

Let me know if my life illustrated is any less boring than my life in text.
February 18, 2012.[Drippy nose.] I have a cold. This morning, I dreamed that my best guy friend got really angry and kissed me on the forehead. [angry guy with pouty lips] When I woke up I didn't want to do anything but play Enya songs on the harp. [Harp.] My mom didn't want to do anything but get me to watch Enya videos on Youtube. I ate a biscuit. [biscuit.] I drank soup and alka-seltzer and felt slightly better. [cup with fizzy alka-seltzer] I spent a good two hours writing a paper and almost as long researching the new Facebook meme. line. Doodle Blogger: [swirly, star, smiley face] my friends think. [Heart, XOXO, 'Lydia hearts Matt.'] my boyfriend thinks. [house, stick figure, 'lol its pix now yayness'] my mom thinks. [Starry night by Van Gogh] I think. [Drippy nose, 'blah blah blah'] really. line. I prayed with Kinsey. I ate froyo with Katie. [Twisty's yogurt cup] I was too tired to eat dinner. I wanted to create something strikingly beautiful and artistic. [woman's eye with decorations] Instead I made this.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

IA Summit in New Orleans!

Today was my last day at Chick-fil-A. Boy am I glad to be done there. I was doing way too much between Chick Fil A, Converse, and classes, and it was taking a toll on my health and the quality of my education. I am paying good money for this MLIS. I want to squeeze every drop of learning from it I can.  Now I can focus those eight hours a week on career development, and being better prepared for class.

This week, I have been preparing to go to IA Summit. I am really excited about this - someone at InfoCamp told me about it - it's the event where User Experience and Information Architecture professionals gather. Information Architecture is basically the structuring of information on the web so it makes sense and people can find what they're looking for. You could think of Information Architects as "web librarians." User Experience is about looking at your website (or any product, service, or place) through the eyes of the person using it - What are they trying to do? What do they notice? How does this come across to them? Then you can design or refine your thing so that it really serves the end user, and gives them a positive total experience. If you're curious, you can listen to the 30-second explanations on my Prezi, or visit the Information Architecture Institute, Usability Professionals Association, or Interaction Designers Association.

So  I registered and got the early bird rates, researched transportation and lodging (I love Megabus - round trip to Mobile for $4!!) made a budget, applied for funding, and started beefing up my professional presence online. I have the beginnings of a professional portfolio I made for class last semester. Check out my portfolio! (and let me know what you think...)

Oh and I'm also just excited because it's going to be in New Orleans. I've never been there before! I'm gonna get there a day early and do a little sightseeing. And I will definitely be blogging about it. I love writing about my travels! Just for fun, I dug up my old college blogs about Spring Break '08 in Athens, GA.  You can read them here and here.

Re-living some of the fun of InfoCampSC. Here are some pix.

IA Summit in New Orleans ||  1 - Getting There || 2 - French Quarter Buskers || 3 - Rain on My Parade || 4 - New Ideas, New Friends, & Bourbon Street || 5 - The Festival, the City, & the Way Home

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Prayers for Matthew

I finished reading Praying for Your Future Husband. It was excellent. Like Pam said, it is definitely geared toward teen girls but certainly of value to unmarried sisters of any age, even if they have someone in mind at the time.

A long time ago, I made a silly little pact with God. I wanted to pray for my future husband, whoever he really was, but I didn't know how. I could only pray in vague generalities. Then my affections locked onto a particular brother. Rather than exhausting my mental capacities in fighting it, as my stoic tendencies and the church culture seemed to dictate, I decided, instead, to pray for him.
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