March 28, 2010

things I don't understand

A few times on this blog I have mentioned Zac Smith, a man I had a class with my first semester of seminary. I remember becoming his class friend, along with another friend of mine, because from far we thought he was so smart, interesting, and subtly funny. He was also really cool. Which, yes, is still a factor when you are a sort-of grownup and in Seminary. When he moved, I can't say we remained in contact, but we were Facebook friends and the impression he made on me was one that was lasting, for whatever reason.
I found out via his blog that Zac had been diagnosed with cancer last May, very shortly after we lost Audrie, my sister. Perhaps because of the timing of it all, I was infuriated by the news and became immediately highly invested in praying for and keeping up with Zac's story. I have been so encouraged in the past year by Zac's writing about having cancer, his journey through treatment, clear scans, and bad news. It has been a privilege to hear Zac's insight, wisdom, and incredible faith throughout his entire ordeal this year.
On the list of things I do not understand, Zac's unwavering faith in the face of cancer is up there towards the top. It's a faith I respect, undoubtedly, but it has not been my experience. The past couple years of my family going through similar turmoil has, if I am honest, produced in me a sad, angry, and sometimes bitter heart. While Zac has been open about the bad days too, his words have encouraged me and continue to encourage me more than I can explain.
I want to share this video not to make you sad, but to share with you a little bit of what Zac has shared with me, whether he is aware of it or not. I am blessed, albeit bewildered, by his story and by his faith and conviction. It's a story that begs to be heard. I ask that you would pray for Zac and his wife and kids in the coming months, and it is my sincere hope that you are encouraged, as I have been, by Zac.
I like when my first impressions of people are right. (that doesn't happen very often.) Sometimes you just get a sense, upon observing someone, that you'd be a moron not to introduce yourself to that person. I'm so thankful that Zac's coolness intrigued us to introduce ourselves in New Testament in the fall of 2007. I couldn't have known then how much he would affect my life.

The Story of Zac Smith from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.
"God is still God." I need to hear that every day.

though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pens and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17-18

March 21, 2010

if life is a highway, I do not want to ride it all night long.

Seriously though. Not even a little.

I spent the better part of Friday making the trek from Colorado to Kansas. Let me assure you: the drive across Eastern CO & Western KS, as it stands, is horrendous. Adding a blizzard into the mix, then, is absolutely unnecessary. Never again, weather. Never again.

but I digress.

I am pretty good at road trips. I don't love driving, though, not even a little, so I can't do it very often - but every few months or so I am ready for one. Its kind of like the extroverted version of introversion - 1 day of alone time for every 3-4 months of being with people perpetually. Like clockwork, I get antsy and sick of people and I crave 8 hours alone in my car.

But I have to keep myself entertained, so I have come up with some simple and fun games to play whilst driving across flatland. Like, for example, Phone Singing Chicken. Here's how it works. When I am in my car, unless there is another person present (and lets be honest, even when there is) chances are, I am singing. So when I call someone, I don't want to miss even a second of Kiss From a Rose or whatever, so I keep singing until they answer. The game, then, is to not get caught singing when the person answers the phone. It's tricky and highly entertaining. I know some of you do this too, because I've caught you before. Which I'm pretty sure by PSC rules means I win.

I also play the potty game. My mother always taught me that it was unladylike to say "pee." Among other things. I'm pretty sure it's unladylike to write publicly about potty, too, but that's neither here nor there. Ladylike or not, I am a card-carrying member of the IBBC (Itty Bitty Bladder Club), so road trips for me include a lot of pit stops. I realize this is stereotypical of me, as a female, but there's not a whole lot to be done about it. In my defense, if I'm not the one driving I can manage a lot better than if I am driving, thus requiring caffeine and cold beverages to ensure that I do not die in a fiery crash. But when I am alone, I make goals for myself. "I will not stop again until Colby, KS when I can go to the Oasis of the Plains (the best rest stop in the Sunflower State)." I must then pace my Diet Coke intake and inevitably end up holding it for a significantly long time in order to win the game. Against myself.

Speaking of rest stops, there are certain things that I only want to eat when I'm driving across state lines. I almost always eat Chex Mix when I'm driving, and I can honestly say there is no other time when I think to myself, "yes, I think Chex Mix sounds like a great choice. Now, Bold Party Mix, or Honey & Nut??" Not that there's anything wrong with Chex Mix; it just never happens. But put me in the car for 8 hours, and it sounds like the greatest thing ever. Now, when I was younger and we would take road trips, my snack of choice was what I now hold is one of the grosser options in any given convenience store: Combos.

Honestly, just googling the pictures made me a little nauseous. I really entered the danger-zone when I saw this:

I know. I'm sorry. I'll give you a moment. 

IN MY DEFENSE, I only liked the basic cheese-and-cracker varieties. I wasn't into all that weird stuff. 
But the truth remains that I unabashedly loved Combos as a child. I'm not proud of it. 

Another thing I love eating in the car is Mike & Ikes. Yesterday I was considering buying a little mini bag at the Oasis when I saw berry flavored Mike & Ikes. My rational brain knows this sounds disgusting, but road trip brain thought it sounded awesome. Rational brain was right. I should have known something called "peach berry" was not a good choice. It's never a good sign when they make up flavors. "Hmm. This doesn't really taste like berry. It kind of tastes like some weird fruit hybrid. But we've already produced it in bulk for the berry bags. I guess we'll just say its peach berry and call it good." G-ross.

In order to keep myself entertained (read: awake), in addition to playing games & eating weird snacks, I sing entire musicals. I do. I sing through entire show soundtracks. I am almost always lacking in vocal capacity when I arrive at my destination. I mimic Kristin Chenoweth, and I harmonize with Lesley Ann Warren. I am Cinderella, Aida, Elphaba, and Eliza Doolittle in a matter of a few hours. My repertoire is extensive, to say the least. I don't allow myself to listen to showtunes very often, except for on the open road. There may even be some acting involved from time to time. Because how do you sing Les Miserables without some emotion? I mean really. 

Thats just a little insight into my road trip habits. Have you decided to stop reading my blog because I'm so odd you can stand it no longer? Hope not. Because maybe someday we'll have to go on a road trip together. Then you'll appreciate my quirks.

March 13, 2010

lost arts, and the like

I don't feel like I really know a person until I've seen their handwriting. 

That might sound a little shallow to you. Allow me to explain myself. 
I received a card in the mail just the other day from a new-ish friend. After I contained my joy enough to focus on who had sent said card, because yes, any mail that does not have the "return service requested" mark (that appears on bills and junk mail) fills me with glee, I realized I didn't recognize the handwriting. Thanks to my masters degree, I looked at the return address and thus discovered who the card was from. Context clues. Try to contain your awe at my smarts.

[Now, I have been sitting here for minutes upon minutes trying to think of a way to describe my card-reception emotions in a way that does not make me sound like I'm a character in a Nicholas Sparks novel. Alas - I cannot think of one. I'm as distressed as you are, I assure you. I ask you for your pardon. Just this once.]

It warmed my heart. I mean a literal, actual warmth in the cardiac vicinity kind of situation. It was the grown-up equivalent of a warm fuzzy, if you will. It is no secret that I like words, and I like seeing words just slightly more than I like hearing words. (One might also call "seeing words" "reading," but that's neither here nor there.) I like emails, I like texts, I like blog comments, I like Facebook posts - I like all of it a great deal. But there is nothing I love as much as I love handwritten sentiments. 
Snail mail. A note on post-it. Or scribbled on the back of a J.Crew receipt. 
A quick & breezy thank you note (a lost art in and of itself, but thats another story for another time.) 
And oh, oh oh oh, how I melt at the arrival of a greeting card. 
Personalized stationary? Be still my heart. 

Just like I prefer Cary Grant & the classics over Brad Pitt in theaters any day, I am a traditionalist when it comes to written communication as well. I swooned at Dean Martin dancing in the park, and in a similar fashion, handwritten letters? I'm weak in the knees. Which is perhaps part of the reason why, inexplicably, seeing someone's handwriting makes me feel closer to them. Kind of like how you feel after a 3 am sleepover-style heart-to-heart, or meeting someone's family - its another piece of who they are. Its the kind of detail that, for whatever reason, makes you feel kind of special; a little bit like I've been let in on a secret. And I love secrets. Shocking.

Handwriting is a lost art, if you ask me. [And by coming to my blog, I would posit that you did, sort of, ask me.] While a friend can touch me deeply with an email, while friendships grow with a few casual posts to a Facebook wall, and romance blossoms (whether I approve or not, as it were) over the exchange of a few flirtatious texts --
handwriting is intimate
Thats the only way I can think to describe it. 

March 6, 2010

I ain't gotta work at the mall again [i have so many jobs]

Job #2. J.Crew.
Yes. Yes I did quote Kanye West's "Kanye's New Workout Plan" just then in the title. Deal.
[Disclaimer: I am NOT complaining, not about a single one of these lovely people who give me paychecks. No way Jose. It is merely a social commentary, of sorts, about the ins and outs of working in these different jobs. It's humor, not discontent. Don't be confused.]
I don't get nearly as many funny responses to this job - it's pretty much a business-as-usual kind of deal. Well, that's not entirely true. When I called to tell my family I had gotten the job, my sister Audrie made ENDLESS fun of me. "You work at the mall, now, huh? So you're probably going to start hanging out at Orange Julius now too, right?" She never let that go, actually. The Orange Julius jokes were pretty much an ongoing sort of situation. But I feel pretty firmly that it's ok to make fun of me as long as its funny, which lets face it, Orange Julius? That’s funny. This is why everyone in my family makes fun of everyone else in my family all the time. Because we're also hilarious. 
So I've been working at this delightful place for nearly 2 years, & I've never looked back. Now, while board-folding, "Can I help you match a cardigan with that skirt?" and "Oh that looks fabulous, now just belt it to complete the look" are not, per say, my passions in life, I do genuinely like this job. Whether or not that has more to do with the sweet, pee-your-pants funny people I work with, who's to say. But I like the J.Crew.
Here is a list of things I have learned in my time with the mall. 
1. We're all about customer service here. If you, Customer, need a size 8, I will be more than happy to run to the back and do a stock check for you. We don't have it? Would you like me to call another store? They don't have it either? I'd be happy to help you use the Red Phone to order what you need. You'd like to yell at me instead? You're right. I can't believe I am so worthless that I cannot manufacture a pair of size 8 chinos for you right here in this moment. I'm not sure what is wrong with me. Oh, the other $600 of merchandise I helped you with for over an hour – you'd like to put that on hold for 4-6 weeks? Perfect. Lovely. Whatever I can do for you, Customer. Have a great afternoon! Yes, I suppose it is evening. Have a great one of those then. 
The customer is always right. 
Here is a secret: approximately 7.6 out of 10 Customers are not only right, but are also idiots. 
2. As sales associates, our voices get approximately 63% more high-pitched when we are talking to customers. Its actually kind of an amazing phenomenon. You could be talking (in normal voice) about how awful your life is, and how you’ve had the swine flu for 5 weeks, and the minute a customer is in sight, its “HI! How are you this evening! Great!! Let me know if there’s anything at all I can help you with!!!” Kind of like talking to a dog or small child. Or being a cheerleader. We all have separate voices for helping people than our real ones. This isn't something they tell us in training or anything, either. It is a naturally occurring phenomenon.
3. When you go into customer-voice-mode, sometimes you end up saying things you don't normally say. I end up saying, "If you need anything at all just holler at me!" WAY more often than I'm comfortable with. In no other setting would I say that. The fitting rooms are like a vortex for saying weird things. 
4. Using the sticker gun for markdowns is my favorite. The clicking sound makes me feel important.
5. My other favorite thing is during the holidays when we’re busy and we get to use the headsets in order to relay important messages to one another about stock checks and who is and is not on the floor. But if you are ever in a store and there are people with headsets, and one of them starts awkwardly laughing while they’re ringing you up, mark my words. Someone just said, “that’s what she said.”
6. The soundtrack. Oh, the soundtrack. Are you ever in a store and feel like banging your head against a wall because the music is so weird? Try working a 6 hour shift with it playing on repeat. And, my mind is like a venus fly trap where lyrics are concerned. So, said weird songs remain playing in my brain for hourrrrrs after my shift has ended. Then sometimes I end up knowing and actually liking some of the songs. Which is problematic & embarrassing on several levels.
7. The only place I have seen more women in their skivvies than the J.Crew fitting room is the locker room at the YMCA where old ladies freely roam around in the buff. These are the two magical places wherein women do not feel like modesty is necessary in any way, shape, or form.
8. Learning to buy clothes with a discount is a tricky sort of business. The problem is, everything is so grandiosely inexpensive in comparison that one feels as though one must buy every shirt that costs $10. I can talk myself into thinking anything is cute when it costs $10. Let me tell you something: $10 shirts add up quickly. And chances are, one won't even end up liking 3 out of every 5 shirts one purchases. I have more than a few things in my closet that we will call "poor choices." But at the time, the sticker shock of how much money one is saving is too much for one to handle. I'm proud to say I have gotten much better at this game, and buy only things I genuinely like (or that Jenny and Reenie tell me I can like.) 
So those are some of the many things I have learned whilst working this job. And a big shout out to the homeboys and homegirls I get to work with. They make board folding seem like dancing at the Tavern. They make cleaning out dressing rooms (where 60 year old women treat clothes like I did when I was 15) as fun as singing karaoke. They make coming in for a shift as exciting as going to a party where all the popular kids are. 
Ok. I'm done now. Point is: I like them. 
Peace, Love, & Cardigans,
Megan "selling machine" Greaves

March 1, 2010

sonic the hedge fund [i have so many jobs]

As many of you may have heard, I graduated in December with a Masters in Counseling. While I apply for jobs like a crazy person and simultaneously try to ascertain what I'd like to do with said degree, I have been working whatever part-time jobs I can get in an attempt to cover as many of my bills as possible until I score a big girl j-o-b. I decided it might be a good idea to document what this has been like.

We will start with my job as office peon at the Hedge Fund. 

[Disclaimer: I am NOT complaining, not about a single one of these lovely people who give me paychecks. No way. It is merely a social commentary, of sorts, about the ins and outs of working in these different arenas and piddly jobs. It's humor, not discontent. Don't be confused.]

First of all, lets discuss the reactions I have gotten to having this job:
"What's a hedge fund?" - every single girl
"Do you even know what a hedge fund is?" - almost every guy
"Like, landscaping? That kind of hedge?" - anonymous
"Wait... the hedge fund... is that like, where your [counseling] internship is?" - Kim
lady at church, excited: "Kenneth told me you got a sweet new job! Congratulations!"
me, confused: "um, no, not yet, what is he talking about? ... oh. you mean the hedge fund."
"you really do work at a hedge fund? I actually thought that was a joke this whole time." - Cristy

In all honesty, its a very simple job. I mean, very simple. Just last week I said to a friend, "I'm pretty sure if Timmy could read, he could do my HF job." Timmy is my nephew. And he is 5. Probably a smart monkey could do it, too. All you really have to know is the alphabet. So, while my counseling skills are becoming dormant due to lack of practice, my knowledge of the alphabet is really sharp. So, there's that. (There's also the fact that they pay me ridiculous amounts of dollars to get good at the alphabet. Thus: I do not complain.)

I spent a solid 5.5 HOURS on Thursday ensuring that 4 full file cabinets of files were in alphabetical order (still not even half done, by the by). As in, I pulled each file for every month of 2009 and 2010 thus far and ensured that the business tickers were in alphabetical order. By date. Getting praise for doing this job well almost feels like a thinly veiled insult.
"Wow, Speedy Gonzales! Done already? You are good!" (This is an actual quote.)
[internally]: Really? Thats impressive to you? I mean, it's the alphabet. I guess I have been familiarizing myself with it for years, so I'm pretty good... wait a second. Are you making fun of me?"
Sometimes, when I am literally unpacking and stacking copy paper in the places that the higher-ups like it to be, I feel like yelling, "Ummmm, hey everyone? I have a masters degree. Stacking your paper is not a career goal of mine. I just wanted to remind you. Hey you, guy, quit trading stocks and bonds and dealing with bajillions of dollars and acknowledge that I am smart, please! Ok. We're good here. As you were." Thankfully, while my counseling muscles slowly atrophy, my social skills are still really top notch, so I can restrain myself from saying such things.

So, there you have it. A day in the life at the HF. I really don't mind it, to be honest. Even though I feel like I'm getting gold stars for tasks that a kindergartner could master quickly, lets be honest, who doesn't like gold stars, regardless of where they come from? Not to mention, it's incredibly gratifying to start a project, finish it, and then just be done! That doesn't happen so much when you're dealing with people's emotions.
Actually, it never happens. Not ever.
In truth, counseling another human is 87% messier and more stressful than collating, stapling, trifolding, and sending a monthly statement to investors. I rarely cry over data entry, and its hard to get secondary trauma from a project that entails making new labels for an entire file cabinet.
Hmm. Perhaps I've made a career mistake?

I'd go for a full time gig with the HF, embracing the world of finance as my home, but I doubt that would work out.
Mostly because I'm still not entirely sure what a Hedge Fund is.