March 29, 2011

running errands [things that are my favorite]

I am not a particularly organized human when it comes to my personal life. I can do jobs and be successful and graduate from schools most of the time, but I can't find a correct pairing of socks on a daily basis to save my life. I do however, against the grain of my own personality, LOVE a good to-do List. I covet that wonderful feeling of scratching things off, of getting stuff done. Sometimes [if I'm honest] I feel a little put out that more people aren't applauding me for the major accomplishments that I am accomplishing. But it's ok, because at the end of the day, I know what I did. And I know I deserve a trophy. Whether or not you're willing to acknowledge it.

I do admit to occasionally doing that thing where I put things on my to do list that I've already done just so I can cross it off. But it's not cheating because it COUNTS. Just because you made the list as an afterthought to that particular accomplishment doesn't mean you didn't accomplish it. Get the credit. Write it on the list. I also write really inconsequential things on there so that at the end of the day I feel like I got more done than I actually did. "Check email" or "get dressed" probably don't merit a whole line on the List, but the longer the List, the better I feel when it's done. And don't judge me, because I'd be willing to bet you do it too.

Running errands then, you can imagine, is like the end-all-be-all of cross-it-off-the-list productivity for me. I love to spend a day running errands (which, if you think about it, is a highly ambiguous term that can mean actually anything I want). Yesterday was blissfully full of Errands, and today I was applauding myself in my head for all that I achieved. I gave myself a big huge pat on the back for getting my phone fixed. Why did my phone need fixing? I broke it. So was it an entirely counterproductive activity, a time-suck if you will, when I really thought about it? Yes. But did that stop me from feeling on top of the world leaving the Apple Store? It sure as hell did not. It's like how I feel when I purchase something and then return it. I feel great after the return, but could I have saved the time by not buying the non-essential in the first place? Quit raining on my parade, please.

Essentially what I'm saying is that I want to get special praise and acclaim for doing what all other grown ups do every day of their lives. I may never get used to being a responsible adult; I will always expect that someone should high-five me for paying my water bill, face-kiss me for returning the shoes I don't like to DSW, fist-bump me for filling my car up with gas. Is that too much to ask? I think it's really not.

March 25, 2011

you're not fooling anyone

what are you afraid of? she said &
I said, nothing & then I said
what are you afraid of? &
she said, people like you 
it was such a relief to know I wouldn't be able to fool her for long
[via storypeople]

I think when it comes right down to it, none of us really want to fool anybody
but I also notice that we go to GREAT LENGTHS to try and fool everybody

[I don't know about you,] but I'm pretty sure all I really want is to find somebody I can't fool

the moral of the story is this
we certainly are a counterproductive breed

are we not?

March 23, 2011

oh, and by the by...

check me out - I made it on The Well Blog!

 {thanks Julie!}

one topic guy [categories of awkward]

I first noticed this category of awkward in the seventh grade.
It's the guy who only knows how to talk to you about one thing. The one topic guy.

I give you exhibit A: James.

A seventh grader named James. For the entirety of the time we were in school together, which was like 6 years, I'd say we talked a fair amount. But we rarely [try never] deviated from the subject of Latin homework.

I feel like it's not a stretch to say that we could have been involved in some kind of gas station hold up together over the weekend and Monday morning he would still walk by my locker and ask me if we had any Latin homework. Or if I had done the Latin homework. Or if I could believe we had so much Latin homework. Or if I thought the Latin homework was hard. Sometimes I think he would just say, "Latin homework," chuckle to himself, and continue his trek to Ms. Kehoe's class to get new conversation ammo for our next encounter.

There have been others since high school, and I have continually been blown away by their consistency and persistence in talking to me about only one thing. A guy I work with switches topics every few weeks, but for those few weeks he is unrelenting. [I see what you're doing, guy. Switch all you want, but I know who you are under this facade.] Maybe the first time I met you we had a conversation about how I love jukeboxes, and now my love for the jukebox has stuck with you as my only definitive characteristic. Maybe once it rained when we were together and so now the go-to convo starter is always, "HEY! Been in any rainstorms lately?!" So very clever, friend. Now let's dance around the topic of rain for 3-7 minutes until one of us can come up with a reason we have to leave.

The issue is super prevalent among dads of kids I nanny for. They are maybe the most awkward demographic of people I have ever come into contact with in my entire life. Once in college I was babysitting and the dad got home before the mom [which I think, to be fair, he wasn't expecting]. He fumbled for his wallet, shoved some money in my hand, barked a quick "BYE" and abruptly left the room. I skedaddle out of the house so as not to drown in my discomfort, walk outside, and realize that he has no idea how long I've been there or how much I get paid, and he has just paid me about $40/hour. I mean I'm not complaining, that's for sure, but when your awkwardness is costing you actual money, I think it may be time to assess it as a legitimate issue.

There is also the kind of dad who talks to you EXCLUSIVELY about his child. That's it. We will broach no other topics. Try to divert the convo and watch him squirm as he tries to bring it back around to the kid. Then there is the kind who, like Latin homework guy, will pick one or two topics [weather & traffic, almost always] and run with them until the end of time. Which gets really awkward if you nanny for them a lot. There is only so much that can be said about the traffic on I-25, you know? I'm not sure how we manage to talk about it three times a week.

But really, you just have to love one topic guy. They're making an effort, they're just sort of debilitated by their awkward ways. I recognize now that James just wanted to talk to me in the hallway, so what if he couldn't think of anything thrilling to say when he walked by? And if we on the receiving end are equally persistent, I have hope that maybe one fine day we can break the chains of the one topic and talk about something crazy. Like, I don't know, the traffic on I-70. Or biology homework. Or other kinds of storms. Who knows what scintillating conversation lies ahead.

There are very few constants in this world, so in the meantime I will find comfort in the stability of this dependably awkward demographic. They are almost as consistent as that Bruno Mars song, Grenade. I don't listen to the radio very often, but I swear that song plays perpetually. I think it ends on one station and auto-starts on another. Anyway, constants are great.

That's not one, but TWO constants in a world of crazy. You're welcome. We can all rest easy tonight.

March 21, 2011

posers for good

Book Club was Wednesday. I have not read the past two Book Club books because I am a Book Club Loser (BCL). I wasn't always this way, really I wasn't, but recently it's been the case and I hate it. I'd be ashamed to show my face at BC this time having not read. So last Monday, 30 pages in to a 300+ page book, I sat down to tackle that sucker.

I do, however, watch a lot of crap TV. (And we wonder why I am a BCL?) Some of it is probably acceptable but I mean, The Bachelor? I spent roughly two hours a week for the past six weeks watching crazy people pretend like they are making legitimate lifelong connections with their future husband/wife by riding in a helicopter and talking over and over about how they're "in it for the right reasons" and "totally falling for each other" on national television. (This vice is justifiable by how hard I laugh at the commentary of the funny people I watch it with, but unjustifiable for pretty much any other reason at all) I am learning a lot about Mormons from Big Love... well, ok, no I'm not. When I sit down and think about some of the stuff I am wasting my time on, it's upsetting. Pretty much on the whole it is really not enriching my life in any way.

But it's so easy. Sometimes it's nice at the end of a day to sit and watch stupid TV. And I don't think it's always wrong to do it. It's sort of like being really tired and debating whether you should eat a pint of ice cream or go do yoga. Ben & Jerry's isn't always a bad choice and it is immediately satisfying, but you will probably feel sick after. It is a poser for good. Yoga requires a little more work but will make you feel limber and awesome after. I don't always make the right choice. I fall for the impostors more often than I care to admit.

I sat down to speed-read that book though and I couldn't stop. I got wrapped up in the story and the characters and I could barely tear myself away to attend small group for two hours. (I did, because I'm very holy.) After those fools left my house I grabbed a diet root beer, shut myself in my room and read until my eyes were starting to cross and it was after midnight and at last, I was finished. I love doing that. I used to do that all the time. I genuinely book-worm nerd-style love reading; I love getting lost in books and caught up in stories and not being able to stop until it's over because it's THAT good. I shut the book and I thought to myself, that was so much better than watching Desperate Housewives on Hulu. TV is fine I guess. But reading is real good.

I think we know what is good and what is not as good but just sort of looks good. But it's super easy to forget and instead of going for what is good (because usually good takes a little more effort) I go for what is easy and sort of looks like it might be good. I go for the imposters. For me, reading a great novel is life-giving and enriching and makes me feel limber (sure, why not) and awesome. I know that. I know that reading does that for me. I know what is good and what is a poser but I often choose what is not good anyway.

I like being reminded of what really is good. I'm going to work harder at doing those things because I think in general they make me a better, more pleasant, limberer and more awesome human. Even if it seems like it might take a little more work, I'd rather feel limber than sick, I think.

March 13, 2011

gratitude [three ash wednesdays later]

[I will boast only in the Lord]

I discovered two things as I wrote this: (1) that [scripture] spoke my heart better than I could.
Also (2) that if you feel a twinge of deja vu, it's not your imagination. I've said a lot of this before. 

[let all who are helpless take heart]
In March of [2009], I was a hot mess. And much as that phrase delights me, I do not mean it delightly; I was grieving a loss, fearing another, and feeling so broken I could barely stand. I walked into Ash Wednesday service at DCC, [very] alone, needing something and expecting nothing. I felt desperate. I wanted answers, strength, I wanted to understand. With my then limited understanding of Lent, I felt sort of silly looking for all of that at this service - how was giving up caffeine or whatever going to give me what I needed to survive?

[I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me - he freed me from all my fears]

But it was that night that I learned about Lent. I learned that Lent was a season to sort through mess and debris that life had left in the way. Through sacrifice and surrender we learn to depend on God again. I learned that we take on the ashes as a symbol of our repentance, as a statement and acknowledgment of our brokenness before God. Before each other. I read these words: Ashes are a prerequisite for Easter. Brokenness for healing. Death before resurrection. Our ancestors have given us Lent to help us find our way.

[in my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened]

Brokenness for healing. There was an exchange possible here. Brokenness, even my own, wasn't nothing after all. There was a way to be found, and Lent could help. Maybe there wasn't hope just yet, but for the first time in a long time I had hope that there could be hope. And that, right then, was enough. 

[the Lord is close to the brokenhearted; 
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed]

A year later, [2010] I learned that in the ancient church, only the worst sinners were adorned with the ashes [sort of like a scarlet letter] so everyone could see that they had sinned. As the years passed the church began to see that they were not superior to these penitents, that their sins were no better, and they began to wear the ashes as well. And that, I think, is amazing. It's community: desperate and in need and humbled, each of us no worse or better than the next, standing together in our brokenness before God. What an incredible shift - something that once filled hearts with shame has become something that draws us close to God and to each other. Shame is transformed into joy, right before our eyes.

[those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces]

I sat in church a few nights ago [2011] and I was flooded with familiar emotions and thoughts, comforts and pains. I was crying and I couldn't figure out if that was good or bad or if it just was. I listened. What resonated within my whole self was thank you.
Thank you for my community, that I am not alone. Thank you that broken isn't all there is, that death is nothing. Thank you for [ashes and] Easter [and brokenness] and healing [and death] and resurrection. Thank you for taking away the power of shame and putting something beautiful in it's place. Thank you that two years later, in the wake [and, at times, the midst] of hard and scary things, I am hopeful. For: helping, answering, freeing, listening, being close, rescuing, taking shame, giving joy, for never not being faithful: thank you. Thank you for proving me so very wrong. 

As much as it may hurt, I don't ever want to forget that place:
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
Because it brought me to this place. 
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, 
for his compassions never fail. 
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
We are not consumed. 
[let all who are helpless take heart]

I don't understand everything. I still don't have answers. But I have hope. And that, for now, is enough.

[Scripture from Psalm 34 and Lamentations 3]

March 8, 2011

a guest post [milestones]

Drumroll please...

Today I am a guest poster. In my (sort of secret) quest to become a legit member of the world of bloggerdom, this feels like a big deal. Really it's just a post that could easily be found here being found somewhere else, but I don't know, it feels exciting.

Head over to my great friend Sarah Ann Noel's brilliant blog - check out some of her beautiful writing as well as pictures of her beautiful new baby, Iris Ann! Sarah has a way with words unlike many people I know, plus she is a great friend and I have no doubt she's already a wonderful mama. I am thankful to have her in my real life as well as my blog life!
It should come as no surprise that I knew I liked Sarah almost immediately.

Oh, and I guess while you're there, 
read my guest post about my against-all-odds first best friend

I have included a visual aid for your viewing pleasure.

please take a moment to soak in the gawky awkwardness of the picture on the lefthand side.

A few final thoughts: A big congratulations to Ryan, first of all, on his recent engagement! Hard to believe we are this old. A very special thanks to my first best friend for giving me permission to write about him and the magical story of our first meeting. Thank you for your friendship. And for walking me to the bus stop every morning. 

here it is:

This is the story of the first time I met my childhood best friend. And about how before I had even learned his name I burst into tears, turned around, and quite literally fled in terror.

I spent the better part of my childhood standing at the very edge of the grass [I wasn't allowed to leave my yard] begging anyone within earshot to come over and play with me. Catalina Way was a veritable smorgasbord of playmates–even creepy Jeremy would occasionally look up from whatever insect he was dissecting that day and respond if I beckoned him. 

When I was about 5, a new family moved in one cul-de-sac over. Here is how the story goes: the new kid showed up in my backyard with the Dixon sisters one day. (In my defense, to preface: at present, Ryan is 6’8”. He was an extremely tall child. And I was 5. Give me a break.) The way it is explained to me, I saw two things and two things only: he was a boy, and he was a giant, and I was not ok with either. Utilizing my most theatric theatrics, I turned around and ran inside, sobbing, terrified.

Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve changed that much since then. I think if it were socially acceptable, when faced with new people (probably especially new big scary boys), I would just run. And as a brilliant friend once asked: aren’t we all just kids who got old? Even when we were kids, relationships required risk. And we’re still scared. We’re still vulnerable. Maybe by now we’ve even risked and we know for a fact how much it hurts to be hurt. Scary people invade our swingsets every day and in very mature, grown up looking ways, we head for the hills. I wonder what and who we miss out on because of it.

Back to 1990. Somehow, my parents convinced me that my life was not in imminent danger, and I reluctantly tippy-toed my way back outside to give the giant boy a chance. Inexplicably and against all odds, Ryan and I were almost immediately inseparable. Every summer day when the garage door went up, Ryan was on the driveway waiting for me. When my mom had to go back to work, I ate breakfast at his kitchen table every morning before school. He walked me to the bus stop every day, and I collected X-Men cards for about a year just because Ryan told me that was cool. While I will never know for sure why he scared me so very much at the outset, what I do know with absolute certainty is that I adored that little giant. 

When I met Ryan I was nothing short of terrified. And honestly, he probably should have thought I was nuts and fled himself. (But he was 5. And I did have a really killer swingset. Give him a break.) But we both took a risk that day–I went back outside and he decided to give the deranged screaming girl a chance–and because of it, for the entirety of my time on Catalina Way, that boy was my very best friend. Because of it, I learned about love. The thing is–and this is the catch – I wasn’t wrong about the risk. In fourth grade Ryan got made fun of for having a “girl-friend” and wouldn't sit by me on the bus anymore. It may have been my first little glimpse of heartbreak. We aren’t wrong to be scared, but risking it is so worth the gift of loving and being loved.

I am so glad I didn’t stay inside. If you find yourself fleeing, give yourself a pep talk and go back to your swingset.  

People are worth loving. Even scary giant boys.

March 7, 2011

the only place for emoticons

I think emoticons are almost entirely a useless entity. If you like them, I mean, no judgment (maybe a little judgment. I'm just being honest). But really, it's your personal choice. Here's what I think it comes down to: I passed a copious amount of notes in my middle/high school career, and undoubtedly I was all about the :), ;), :p. You name it, I used it in excess. I think I just peaked early where the smiley is concerned. But really, to each his own. Use emoticons all you like. I won't de-friend you on Facebook over it or anything.

There is one exception to the rule though - one instance in which I am extraordinarily thankful for that little two (or three, depending on your preference) character magic trick: when they act as a buffer. It's very useful in any situation wherein your tone can't be read. A well-placed emoticon can be the perfect safeguard alongside saying something that is potentially a little bit questionable. So if I'm saying something that COULD be interpreted as offensive (but of course I don't mean it to be), maybe I add a little smiley guy to diffuse potential reactions. Not sure someone will pick up on your sarcasm? Wink that sucker. As a person who can barely go six seconds without saying something smart-alecky, I have to be honest, I require a lot of emoticon buffers. [This is not to be confused with the person who actually says something offensive or hateful and then adds a smiley so it looks like a joke but everyone knows it's really fully true. I'm not trying to rationalize an intentional jab, just a harmless sarcastic comment. To recap: the emoticon buffers sarcasm, not being a big jerk.] So I soften the blow of my brilliant wit with the occasional emoticon. I may have said something iffy, sure, but hello, I added a smiley face. So, what? You're going to get mad at me? How could you have possibly misread that... I used a smiley face. There's nothing confusing happening here.

I could just stop being so sarcastic. But probably I won't. So in the meantime I will continue to use emoticons as my life and humor necessitate. And likely shun them at all other times.

March 2, 2011

we need no longer fear the closet monsters

Love > Fear.

I feel like in a roundabout way I've been writing/thinking/talking/living about fear a lot lately, so I was excited when at church a couple Sundays ago our pastor talked about this equation and really brought things full circle. He discussed that the world is scary and unsure (long story very short & far less eloquent) and as a result we are often engulfed by fear. He discussed the story where the disciples are with Jesus out on a boat and as a storm surrounds them, they find Jesus sleeping. In the darkness, amidst the turmoil of the storm, Jesus sleeps. The disciples - I can only imagine feeling the sting of what looks like betrayal by the one they thought would protect them - wake him and say, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" [how often do my prayers sound just like this?] But then: "Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" And the wind died down and it was completely calm." From the safety of my chair, I thought of my own storms. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Remember being convinced as a kid that there were monsters in your closet (or if you're me, that Corduroy Bear was going to come to life in the night and eat my face)? Maybe you ran to your parents' bedroom and found them, sleeping. Here you are, in mortal peril, your very life hanging in the balance, and they who are supposed to protect you have the audacity to sleep. But maybe now you are a mom or a dad (or a nanny or an aunt) and you know the other side. You know that even though the shadows look gigantic, they are nothing. That even though your child's fear feels huge, the truth is that there is no monster. Corduroy Bear will remain a stuffed toy when the lights go out. We sleep not because we are heartless, but because we know better.

The world was (is?) looking for a Messiah who would come in power, with force and might and strength. When the disciples were caught in that storm, I imagine they expected Jesus to be at the helm, steering their boat through the rough waters, conquering them. Instead, he sleeps. Think of it this way: if every night of my childhood my parents had taken turns holding watch outside my door to ensure that Corduroy Bear didn't slit my throat, it would have done only one thing - it would have validated my fear. It would have confirmed a danger that wasn't real. In the same way, had Jesus made a great show of steering through the storm, if the disciples had found him furiously bailing water from the deck, it would have done nothing but give power and credence to their fear. Fighting at all would imply that fighting was necessary in the first place. Which (spoiler alert!) it wasn't. It's still not.

And yet we pray: Jesus, don't you care if we drown?

I think the point is not that the world isn't scary or dangerous, because really, it sort of is. As grown ups, we sleep through the night because we don't fear the threat of monsters. But if the kid calls for me, I will go. I will double-check the closet. Even though we know better, we don't ignore their fear; we calm it. As grown ups we are afraid too, but of much realer dangers than closet monsters and demon toys. Jesus sleeps, but he doesn't stay asleep. In the face of the storm, as we cry out, if we listen carefully I wonder if we can't hear amidst the chaos: Quiet! Be still! And then? Calm. Instead of any big show of brute strength, the gentle Messiah calms the storm with a word. And seriously - how much more awesome is that?

"Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

To quote my pastor, 
"The God of love, who sovereignly sleeps through our greatest fears, silences them with a word."

I am so tired of living in fear.

Even when the evidence points to the contrary - 
even when the storms seem like they'll destroy us -
the fact of the matter is this: fear is nothing. 

Spoiler alert! 
Love wins.