Thursday, January 28, 2010

Quote discipline Day 11

Keep working your way through the maze. You'll know what it is when it happens, but you won't know until then. God grinds the axes he intends to use.

Keep working through the maze. Put one step after another, always moving forward unless changing directions become necessary - then the the turn that is obvious. But you don't know until you're there.

I love this! I have no comments to add because it speaks to me today - Yesterday I tweeted "am I too old to learn how to commit?" because I feel the "it" referred to in the quote is looming, but I don't know what "it" is, and I am a bit scared to take the wrong turn in the maze. But I forget that a wrong turn in a maze can always be fixed and eventually the right direction becomes clear. That is, I'm kind of pondering nothing as the turn to take will be obvious when it is meant to be taken.

Some of the comments I got to my tweet including the following tips:
- There is fear underlying hesitation
- It's about learning. And of course, learning is good.
- God can handle it if it's to be done
- I'm not the only person I know enjoying a free-floating life (that's a good reminder!)

Sorry I have nothing witty or inspiring to share today, I'm just going to post this and enjoy the fact that today's random quote hit the proverbial nail on the proverbial nose.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Quote discipline Day 10

In the state of nature...all men are born equal, but they cannot continue in this equality. Society makes them lose it, and they recover it only by the protection of the law.

I live a life in which not all men are equal, and the law only reinforces this inequality. Consider the following:

- When my Babci passed away last August, I was in Syria finishing up a summer of intense responsibility. I needed to buy a last-minute ticket to New York and wrap up my life in Syria two days early. Plus, I had guests coming to spend the day. And before I could leave the country I needed to add pages to my passport. So, emotionally distraught and stressed out, I headed up to the U.S. Embassy first thing in the morning, arriving 15 minutes after it opened. Because I was "late", the embassy employee made me wait an extra 3 hours to get my pages added. During those three hours I alternately thought about everything else I had to do that day, my visitors who had arrived early, and the fact that my grandmother would never call me "shatze" again. I couldn't keep the tears back and bawled for three painful hours waiting in the bland embassy waiting room. A 20-year old woman came up at one point to comfort me, asking me what was the matter. I told her the story, and she gave me a hug and emphathised. It was so sweet, and the sense of guilt I felt was overwhelming: she was there to apply for a U.S. visa, waiting much more than 3 hours, required to pay more than 100 dollars (added pages to a passport are free), and was most likely going to be denied the visa.

- In Timor Leste, it is said that a Timorese can rent a three-bedroom house for less than 50 dollars a month. A foreigner will pay 300-800 for the same house.

- When I went with some co-workers to participate in a Catholic youth camp, my Timorese friend and I were invited to dine with the bishop and the special emissary from the Vatican who were visiting - because I was a "malay", a foreigner.

- Since I arrived in Asia, almost every single time I have been in a car with other Asians but no other white passengers, I have been given the front seat. I'm exceedingly grateful for this offer and do not refuse, because I tend to get madly carsick in the back seat. But sometimes I wonder if one of the passengers in the back seat isn't feeling just as ill as I would be? At least one time, I found out a few days later that my very gentlemanly older colleague who had sat in the back so I could take the front had been nauseous during most of the journey.

- I get indignant when I am not granted a visa-upon-arrival. I'm used to being allowed into everywhere, and when someone makes me wait, not to mention turns me back(!), I get angry. But, wait a second, they do treat me kindly and offer me tea while I wait or arrange a taxi back to the nearest city for me. Do I even want to stop to imagine how my country's border officials would treat them if they were to show up without a valid visa already stamped and paid for?

- If I stay in my current career, my salary will probably be exponentially more than that of my colleagues. It's already more, but it's just going to soar higher. By Western standards, my wages aren't that much money, but in the countries where I work, my colleagues may be making 1/10 of what I make. In some cases, the only difference between me and them is the writing on our passports. I don't want to be a benefactor, always buying things for others, because that feels like a showy display of wealth. But is there any way to avoid a skewed relationship?

Equality? What equality? Perhaps if the laws were taken away and only culture remained, we could uncover a bit of equality. But for now, the law only gives the inequality a clear framework to follow.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Quote discipline Day 9

In wildness is the preservation of the world. - from Walking

Here are some of the pictures that have occupied my mental visual realm in the last few weeks:

- Rain. Rain pounding on a tin roof so hard that you can't hear the thunder pounding right on top of you. Rain filling the street, then the parking lot, then the little pond in the garden, then the whole garden, then seeping under the doors into the house. Rain leaking through the concrete walls. Rain that soaks you to the bone as you run from your car door into the local shop two metres away.

- Light. Light streaking through layers of clouds after aforementioned rain. Light reflecting on water to make a rainbow. Light shining on the sea as far as the eyes can see. Light going to bed for the night, but not before it makes one last statement of brilliance in the form of magenta-coloured clouds. Light streaming through curtains during an afternoon nap.

- Force. I drive in my car by former-house after former-house after former-house. Now I see houses with enormous cracks down the middle and piles of rubble. The other day we walked over a threshold that had split completely in half, in order to enter a corner shop. I'm told it took less than a minute for more than 100,000 houses to crash to the ground. I try to imagine what it was like standing on the street watching and feeling such enormous force, completely at its mercy.

Does the wildness of the rain, light and force preserve the world? I don't know. But it tells me there's a God and reminds me that we're at his mercy. It resets the clock on a crazy day, and sometimes it resets the clock on the life of an entire nation. Wildness is holy.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A cockroach story

I need to record this for posterity to warn myself and anyone who reads this to AIR OUT ROOMS AFTER KILLING LARGE INSECTS.

Here's why.

The other day I was sitting, as I am wont to do, on the white tiled floor in my room chatting with a friend on skype. A scurrying movement across the room and against the wall caught my eye. As much I as desperately do not want to know about any rodents in my midst, if I see one I can't very well pretend I didn't notice.

So I turned around and focused on the brown mass that had caught my eye. Not a mouse: sigh of relief. Nope, it's just a cockroach that is the size of a mouse and runs like a mouse.

Wait a second - a cockroach the size of a mouse just wandered under my bed! I asked my poor skype friend to hang on because something very important and urgent had come up. I crawled up near my bed to investigate. It was wandering around the corner of the room, under my bed. Out of my reach. How could I beckon it out to kill it? I hesitated to take my eyes off of it, because I kind of wanted to know exactly where that creature was. More specifically, I wanted to know it was NOT climbing into my sleeping perch.

Oh how I was relieved when it continued its journey around my room and popped out from under the bed. It was now within attacking range. I put on my shoes and prepared to stomp.

Lifted leg, aimed, and when I started to pouce, the thing sprung wings and flew! This was not good. It landed two feet away and I tried again, but flying cockroaches are hard for shod feet to defeat.

But glory be, it flew into the bathroom. So I slammed that bathroom door shut, checked the crack at the bottom and determined that the roach was bigger than the crack. Either it was going to crawl down the sewage where it came from, or it was going to wait for me there. But eventually I was going to have to use that bathroom, so I needed to find a way to kill it. All I'd done was buy myself some time to think.

Bug spray was the answer. Spray that bathroom full of poison and the guy will faint, shudder and decease. Too bad I didn't have any and hadn't seen any lying around the hotel. So I decided I'd better start knocking on doors. And I lucked out: the first colleague whose door I knocked on had a can.

I marched back into my room and staged a bit of a military sting operation: rapid yet slight open of door with left hand, spray with the right hand reaching in.

Failure. The mouse-sized flying cockroach was still there, wandering around the bathroom floor. And completely unfased by the spray. Then it hit me: it's too big and buff for this little spray to have any impact. Must... spray... more...

And so I did. I emptied half that can of bugspray on the bugger. Finally, after pushing it a few laps around the bathroom, it jumped back out into the room, but I could tell its defenses were getting weak. It was not as perky as it had been. It was time for me to try the shoes again.

Stomp - landed square on the target, who shook a bit in response. Stomp 2 - again perfect aim, this time the target's legs seemed to sprawl a bit. Stomp 3. Stomp 4. That did it. Wait, no, still moving. Stomp 5 and grind that baby into the floor. Finally, it was over. Throw a tissue over the corpse and ask the hotel guy to help me clean up tomorrow.

I returned the spray and went back to my computer. My room smelled of bug spray, but that was normal, right? So for a few hours I typed and websurfed and went about my business. Then I was about to get ready to sleep, so went out to the kitchen to put my dishes for washing. When I got back into my room, I realised that the smell was still pretty awful. Yuck. That bug spray makes some strong lasting odour - and considering how much of it I used, it could be toxic. But it was bed time and the hotel was quiet. I wanted to go to sleep. So I sat out in the lobby and read for 10 minutes while I left my door open, but it made little difference. I decided I'd better go ahead and toss the cadaver, as it was certainly drenched with the stuff. Then I fell asleep with the sheet wrapped around my nose so the smell wouldn't keep waking me up.

The next morning I woke up nauseous and with an awful headache. And my eyes were all watery as if I were crying. I guess bug spray really is poisonous.

But then I mentioned it to a colleague as I stumbled through the work day, and he reminded me that dead huge cockroaches emit an odour, and that it was probably as much dead cockroach smell as it was bug spray fumes that poisoned me.

So just remember. Killing the bug isn't the end of your responsibilities. Clean up after yourself.

Friday, January 22, 2010

sunsets, oh...

In a couple of recent posts I've mentioned how much I love the sunsets here in my little West Sumatran town of Lubuk Basung. Every evening I try to escape the office for at least a few minutes to walk down the highway and commune with God by experiencing a moment of the setting sun.

This is what it looked like today. I'd say today's specimen was not quite as perfect as it sometimes is, but still, it was not too shabby.

The reason I was incited to take a photo of this lovely view today was that, in the other direction, we had another special treat:

This photo doesn't start to do justice to the rainbow that arched right over us in full technicolour, from the bright yellow on the outside, all the way to the deep purple on the inside edge. Standing on the other side of the highway, we could see it pop out of the palm trees behind our hotel, swoop over us and the entire population of Lubuk Basung, and plunge back down behind the mountains and low-resting clouds in the distance.

There it is popping out from behind our hotel. As we watched and took pictures of this divine wonder, my two friends and I hopped across the highway, danced a little bit, laughed and posed. Something like that can truly wipe away all tears.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quote discipline Day 8

If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is thank you, that would suffice.

Today I got into a circular argument with a friend that went something like this:

"You gave up!"
"I suppose you could say I gave up. It was time to give up."
"But you should never give up!"
"I see it as faith, trusting God has something better."
"Where in the Bible does it say we should give up?"
"Well, the Bible talks about surrender as a good thing, doesn't it?"
"This isn't surrender. It's giving up."
"Well, then giving up is good."

I think ultimately what we were disputing was the question of gratitude. When life isn't the way we want it to be, how do we express gratitude? Are we grateful that we have the tools to try to change it? Or are we grateful for what we have, even if it's not what we want?

After that conversation I went for a walk. It was beautiful out and I was perfectly content. The sunsets in our little Sumatran town leave little room for discontent. And yet, pondering these questions filled me with a profound sadness. I found myself in the strange condition of joy combined with tears of sadness.

What does a prayer of "thank you" sound like coming from a little Haitian girl who just lost her house and her baby brother? From the Timorese mother of 6 whose burnt shell of a house was just flooded? From the Palestinian university student who believes the only hope for his family's future is to fight today? From the American father who has been unemployed for a year and recently had his house repossessed?

"Thank you, God, there are still people who love me. Thank you I can be with them"

"Thank you, God, that I still have my strength and can try to make a difference"

"Thank you, God, that tomorrow is another day"

"Thank you, God, that I could see your wonder in a powerful earthquake/raging flood/beautiful sunset"

How is that my own desires and concerns seem to be becoming increasingly petty?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quote discipline Day 7

Opportunity is often difficult to recognize we usually expect it to beckon us with beepers and billboards.

Today and yesterday I have been thinking a lot about my career. It's that time of year when I'm supposed to start thinking about what's next. Last week was my performance review at work and this week started the thinking.

Among other things, I have been wondering, Should I madly network, contact everyone in the organisation (and others, too, for good measure), apply for everything? Or should I sit back and wait for the call to come to me, wait until someone appears who really wants me on his/her team?

Just as I was pondering this question, I got a call. Someone was knocking on my door already! I'm a bit doubtful it will work out, but it pretty much convinced me that this is a season in which I might be able to wait for the beepers and billboards.

I know I'm writing in abstracts here, and that's not the point. But all I can come up with is that sometimes opportunity knocks and other times we have to run after it. You know those people for whom it always just drops in front of them like a gift from the pelican? Well, I'm not usually one of them, but would like to think that it's my turn - just for a little while, anyway.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Quote discipline Day 6

Ideas are the beginning of all achievement.

Apparently this is a quote by Bruce Lee. Wasn't he the guy who did like two dozen kung fu films that were all pretty much identical? What can he possibly mean by a statement that seems to be promoting creative ideas?

Bruce Lee fans, speak up! Was he really actually brimming over with ideas?

My own experience is that achievement too easily drowns out ideas. Creativity is squashed by success, because success is too often accompanied by business.

I follow a number of blogs, and there are some people out there who don't stop having ideas, and sometimes it seems that the ideas flourish the more successful they become.

But there are others whose ideas are rare, because they have too little time to develop those ideas. But when the creative thoughts have an opportunity to emerge, they are a real gem. These ideas may or may not be the stuff that achievement is made of, but I choose the good ideas over the achievement.

And I sometimes dream of those days when I had nothing to do, no achievement to speak of whatsoever. Because I miss the ideas I had on those days.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Quote discipline Day 5

A person's mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.

Oh, how true is that...

I went to Sydney, Australia over New Years weekend. It's a long story how I ended up just spending a weekend in a place that's so expensive and far away from everything - but it was more than worth it. Most of my time there was spent sleeping, playing with a rambunctious and brainy 5-year old, and catching up with dear friends. I also met some of their Arabic friends who live there, and ate yummy food. A perfect weekend getaway.

What I did not do while there was tourism. I got to know my friends' flat very well, saw their car and the freeway, explored their neighbourhood one morning. But I didn't really see Sydney the city, with the exception of one afternoon when my friends decided that a first-time visit to the famously exciting and glamourous capital merited a bit of sight-seeing. We took the train into downtown and walked around one of its premiere harbours.

Since my friends had only recently moved there, it was their first tourism jaunt in Sydney as well. They, like me, have seen a lot of the world and their minds have been stretched almost beyond recognition. So as we wandered around the world-famous harbour, we couldn't help but look at each other and nod. We were unimpressed. It's a city.

Oh, to be able to spring back the mind to the tight and fresh, unstretched mass my mind was when I was just a babe. To visit Kuala Lumpur and be fascinated by the existence of this exotic fruit Durian and eager to taste it - to have that new experience even if it does smell like dung vomit. To hear the music in Bali and just sit back and soak in its exotic soothing massage to the ears. To devour, and then beg the recipe of, each new food made by a coworker from a different region of Indonesia. But my mind just feels a bit too stretched. The beautiful things I've seen have made it hard to appreciate more and new beautiful things.

I once heard a Ravi Zacarias message in which he talked about how God has the heart of a child. If you do something pretty-nifty and show a 5-year-old kid, she or he will ask you to do it again. Then again. Then again. They're mesmerised by each awesome thing they see and do. God is like that: he created this beautiful thing called a sunrise, and he loved it. So he asked for another. Then another. Today, countless sunrises later, he still hasn't tired of the beauty of that moment.

Oh, how I want this quote to not be true. With God's grace, perhaps it can be negated.

And while I'm not big on sunrises (on account of their happening so early in the day), I do never tire of beautiful sunsets. And here in Agam, West Sumatra, those come almost every day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quote discipline Day 4

The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.

I'm tempted to not comment on this quote at all today, except to say that I intend to put it in practice during the next few days.

But I will share the following: As I feel like I am just now emerging a long session of standing next to the pitching machine in a batting cage, and since I realise that I did not always react graciously to the balls that whacked me, and in fact even my responses to the near-misses weren't always something to be proud of... I am at a point where I need to acknowledge those who handled me kindly. The ones who gave me that great gift, a debt that can't be paid, of pure attention.

Thank you, and may I learn to be more like you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Quote discipline Day 3

A man that should call everything by its right name, would hardly pass the streets without being knocked down as a common enemy.

Honesty... oh dear sweet honesty. Is it really so bad that we'll convert a truth-teller into a public enemy?

If so, my end is probably nigh - I've been realising lately that I'm a rather honest person. Generally more honest than diplomatic. And most of the people I know err on the side of diplomatic.

Calling everything by its right name can build up and strengthen, or it can brutally demolish. Why is it that we're told to avoid its demolishing effects at all costs, when really calling things by a "kinder" name can completely backfire?

I think of the people in my life who are good at being honest when honest is edifying. And being diplomatic when honest might hurt more than it's worth. They draw a fine and a dangerous line between encouraging and coddling. Yesterday I had a long chat about a situation in which people were dishonest with me because they were looking out for my well-being and didn't want to trouble me with unnecessarily painful details. If everything had worked out as they'd anticipated, their diplomacy would have been a lovely relief and many people would have lived joyfully as a result. But, as it was, their choice caused a potentially irreparable breakdown of relationships.

But I know that they have no regrets. And I'm quite sure I would have had trouble doing the same in their situation. I would have wanted to tell all, to all. I've now had to lodge a complaint against them, and as I talked through it in my meeting, I realised that calling the situation by its right name was exactly the issue at stake. So now I've formally complained because the truth was not open before me to read and interpret as I please. And they don't think they've done anything wrong - they see the hurt, but blame it on circumstances outside of their control.

Scream. Wouldn't life be easier if we all shared the same exact value systems?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Quote discipline Day 2

Trust men and they will be true to you treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.

Laughing Out Loud At Myself! I opened this quote and the first words I saw were: "TRUST MEN AND..." Was this going to be some sarcastic quote about how us woman can't and shouldn't trust men? My first reaction was to laugh and half-agree, half-disagree.

Then I realised that's not what the quote was about at all. Of course it's something much deeper. Something I'm not sure I can unpack. It's really two separate statements, and I'm especially intrigued by the second statement: "treat them gently, and they will show themselves great."

Is there really a connection between gentle treatment and greatness? Yet again, I find myself pondering the afternoon in Timor Leste during which I was not sportsmanlike. That wasn't the first time I spoke sternly (read: shouted) at a colleague. Twice, I reprimanded my co-workers like a mother might her naughty child, the way I learned to do when I was a teacher. I treated my colleagues like deviant subordinates. (Which they kind of were, come to think of it, but still - it wasn't professionally ok.) In other words: I did not treat them gently.

But it worked. In both cases, they came back (literally - the reprimanding took place over the phone) and did their job. And they did their job very, very well - perhaps they had done their job that well some day in the past when they were less exhausted by life and less scared of life. But they hadn't done their job that well for a while. But after I let loose, they did what I'd always suspected they were capable of doing but not yet been able to confirm. They showed themselves great.

Meanwhile, I felt like a lump of feces, thoroughly broken down by how awfully I had behaved. Others heard my scolding and their respect for me fizzled. I was wrong. It worked, but I was wrong.

I told a friend what happened after each of these incidents. In the first instance, getting him to deliver the goods was important enough that she affirmed my roar. But I could tell he and I would never be on good terms again, not like before.

Then the second incident happened, and she said she'd seen this before. He may have been great on this day, but he would never work well with me again. I think she was right. I lost his trust - but if that was the price to pay for his greatness, then how do I know I was wrong?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Quote discipline Day 1

One player practicing sportsmanship is far better than fifty preaching it.

This is a lovely statement to start off a new discipline! Naturally, this statement applies to ever so much more than sportsmanship.

Oh, how easy it is to fall into the habit of preaching without practising, I'm learning. At work, I admire my supervisors who demonstrate sportsmanship, because as I take on more and more responsibility, I'm discovering that it is so easy not to. A tragic afternoon my last week in Timor Leste, of which I am much ashamed, comes to mind. I was not sportsmanlike to the colleague I was supervising. And my own supervisor was so thoroughly gracious to me (she writes with head bowed).

On the other hand, this quote is making feeling pretty good about my new quote blogging experiment! Ten years ago (groan), I was a newbie high school teacher at an inner city honours school - Baltimore City College, the castle on a hill with the (un)inspiring schools colours of orange and black - just like the city's baseball team.

My teaching mentor had taught me to always start class out with a silent writing activity - it was good for discipline, she said. I thought it was also a great idea for getting some writing practise under my students' belt, and for inspiring creativity. So when my students arrived at class each day, a quote was waiting for them on the blackboard. Students were supposed to write a minimum of [I-forget-how-many] sentences in their journals, inspired by the quote.

Often, the quote was related to the subject matter we would be discussing that day. Just as often, it wasn't. My favourite days were when I put a quote up in Portuguese, or some other indecipherable code. Students complained, and I insisted that the important thing was that they take some inspiration and write.

I made a milllion and ten mistakes during my two years of teaching, but I stand by that pedagogical call. It was a good idea, and finally, a decade later, I'm not just preaching it but I'm practising it.


I need to write more here. I need to do it for myself. It's good for me. But it requires a degree of mental and emotional energy that I just can't muster to come up with things to write. I loved my season of portraits and would love to keep doing that. I continue traveling to new lands and discovering new people created in God's image. And I always want to remember them.

But I'm finding that I can't remember them at the end of a busy day in the office. I kept trying for a while, but it's just not going to happen right now. Sometimes I also wonder if after a season of meeting such incredibly memorable people, it's just a bit harder to be impressed. Tragic, as we are all equal human beings, isn't it?

Nonetheless, today I recognise my human failings and will stop trying to think of things to blog about - not that it's working anyway! I came across a website called - everyday I'll just go on there, take the first quote and blog about that!

Starting now.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2009 in numbers

There was a month or so this year where it seemed that every single day I received news of another happy couple tying the knot, or else moving from happy couple-of-two to family-with-baby. Though it's slowed down a bit, the news still keeps coming. So much so that, during this past Christmas season, I opened with great trepidation every email and annual newsletter that was sent by someone who was in a position to transition into wedded or parenting bliss. I am not exaggerating when I explain that, with each of these letters, I skipped through to the end looking for an announcement. And as often as not, I found one.

It's making me feel a bit overwhelmed. I want to be happy for everyone's great news, and really, I am happy for them. But I am finding it very difficult to resist the temptation to ask them all to slow down, to take a break from life's transitions. I feel like I have fallen hopelessly behind and if I want to keep living in their universe I need to rush to catch up. But I don't want to sprint to keep up with them, so I want them to slow down.

This has been an eventful year for me, too, but in a very different way. I'm sure all my ring-donning and baby-hatching friends think my life is very exciting and full of promising, and perhaps even enviable, developments. But if you know me, or if you've read this blog before, you're well aware that these types of transitions are not new to me. But still, I decided to put things in perspectives with some numbers.

Katiek's 2009 in numbers:
  • Countries graced with my presence: 16
  • Of those, countries which hosted me for the first time: 8
  • Mobiles lost/stolen: 3 (one lost, one stolen, one is a mystery)
  • Languages I attempted to learn: 3
  • Languages I forgot, then re-learned, then forgot, then re-learned again: 1
  • Airplanes flown on, number of airlines given my business: not worth counting. However, I will point out at this moment that there is a fierce competition on between Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines for my heart. They are both so worthy of my affection. Meanwhile, Turkish Air has made my black list.
  • Pages stamped in my passport: again, not worth counting. But I haven't actually been to a single embassy this year to request a visa for myself. As much of an embarrassment as my passport sometimes seems to be, it does make my life easy.
  • Non-profit organisations affiliated with, professionally-speaking: 4
  • Job titles held: 5 (but one is "writer", which kind of took the place of "unemployed", so I'm not sure it counts)
  • Actual paid positions held: 1 (but it does encompass 2 of the job titles)
  • Gorgeous pairs of earrings received as thank you gifts for volunteering: 2
  • Gorgeous pairs of earrings received for other reasons: 1
  • Friends (couples) who have married*: 6 (three of these were somewhat unexpected, or at least the timing gave me a bit of double-take)
  • Friends (couples) who got engaged*: 10 (three of these were holiday season proposals)
  • Friends whose first baby was born*: 8
  • Friends whose first baby is on the way in the coming months*: 8 (these include my best friend from childhood, and both of my girl cousins)
* The last four items on the list were a result of a perusal through my facebook friends. I didn't include people I don't know that well, these only include friends. And not all my friends are on facebook, so chances are I missed a few. While doing this exercise, I also came across two facebook "friends" - people I've met recently but don't really know very well - who have met AND wed in the past year. On the other hand, though, I was reminded that I also do have many other friends who have not had these transitions during the past 12 months.