Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In Praise And Awe Of Bad Boys Everywhere

Sometimes the things we want are the worst things for us. Case in point - there's a boy. Doesn't every story start that way? Isn't there always a boy?

This boy is a friend. Granted not a great friend, not the kind of friend you call when you're stuck by the side of the road or just need a guy you can count on. So really he's more like a good acquaintance. And though he's not the kind of friend I'd count on in a tight spot, I like hanging out with him nonetheless, because for all intents and purposes, this guy is like Kryptonite for my weak less than Superwoman nature. He's lethal, but in the most "going out with a smile on my face" kind of way. He's smart, crazy smart, and funny in a dry, witty kind of way. And he's charming, and knows how to make me laugh, and I can tell he likes to do so. He's cultured and we can talk about books, or music, or movies, or beer, or sports or anything really. Anything that is, except God.

You see, because for all of his good qualities, this guy just doesn't share a common faith, or any kind of faith with me, really. I'm not quite sure if he believes in God at all, but it's not just the belief factor that is a glaring difference between us. It's that he's opposed to the whole concept of religion and faith in general. He has the cynical dismissal that only comes from being burned by either church or church people. Ironically enough, I see so much of myself in his stubborn bitterness, because I was there once before too. I have to wonder if the more religion or faith is pushed at him, and the more he sees people who's empty faith only wounds with self-righteousness and ignorance, the further he's walked away from the concept altogether. And with experiences like that, who can blame him? Granted, when I was at that place in my life, I didn't have the same reaction as he did, choosing to get back in the ring and give my faith another try, then finding that choice justified in God's goodness and grace. But I can see his point, all too clearly, when it comes to this subject, and I would never fault him for the doubts and fears that he has. Sadly though, it still presents itself as a chasm between who we are, as two different people.

Now you might wonder what the problem with this lack of connection is? Why are his beliefs such a big deal? Well like I said, this guy is just like Kryptonite to me - in a very dangerous, very "bad boys are the hottest" kind of way. Yep, I've totally got a crush on him, and though we haven't seen each other that much in the last year or so, the frequency with which we have seen each other has increased a bit lately, and I can't get him out of my mind. I find myself wanting to see him more and more. And let's be honest here, I find myself thinking about him a lot, and sometimes that thinking is about how much I want to make out with him, just as much as how much I want to ask him if he's read anything good lately.

Now, I've never been the girl who goes for the bad guys! I've even gone so far as to defend, in male/female debate, the viewpoint that not all girls do like the bad guys, using myself as a case in point. Yet, for some reason, this guy, let's just call him C, gets under my skin, and sometimes for all the wrong reasons. His temper, his roughness, his plain old manly aggressiveness - instead of being great big warning signs, sadly these qualities are a huge turn-on. He's got the whole rough and tumble, devil may care, hockey player fighting up against the glass thing down pat. Yep, he's got it down good! And he seriously makes me want to catch a case of whatever he's got. Like right now!

Don't get me wrong though. Wasn't it Mae West who said "I generally avoid temptation, unless I can't resist it."? Well, that's not me. For as much as I am attracted to him in a primal, rush-of-danger kind of way, my heart and my conscience are winning the battle against my mind, and always will. The fundamental differences in our faith are overwhelmingly more important and more influential than any attraction ever could be. And the fact is, at the end of the day, it's only a little crush - and that's all it ever will be.

As far as crushes go, I've already been down the road of falling for the best guy I know, despite the fact that he never felt the same. At the end of the day there is no one I trust, respect or admire more than the best guy I know, nor is there anyone I would ever recommend with higher praise. But C, he's not that guy, nope, not even close. Sad though it is, he couldn't even hold a candle to the kind of honorable, kind man that is the best guy I know. And yet I still can see myself falling hard, and fast, and well dangerously hard for him. On paper there is nothing about him that would sell him, in comparison to the kind of guy that is the best guy I know. Matter of fact, when you put it all down, it's an easy win for the best guy I know. But who's looking at paper when you're strapped to the back of a motorcycle, wind whipping through your hair, throwing all your cares away, and riding away into the great big unknown? Paper, what paper?

Funny thing is, from a different perspective, from the viewpoint of a woman who's not at all concerned with faith or spirituality or God or virtue, this guy is a great catch, even for all his faults. Because, for all his faults, he's still pretty much an okay guy. He's got a stable job, is intelligent, and charming, and witty and talented and nice. He doesn't beat women, or rob convenience stores, or kick babies and he's not a total jerk. Yeah, he's got some issues, but really who doesn't? From any other viewpoint, women are probably out there looking at him and saying "Wow, what a catch" and they're absolutely right. I had a conversation with a mutual friend the other day, someone who's worked with both of us, and who knows him pretty well. I told her about this crush, and my attraction to him, and she said that he's definitely crush-worthy, and an awesome guy, and I should pony up and ask him out, and then make out with him. Oh how I wanted to take her ill-formed advice, but I digress.

Anyways, all this brings me to the question "What is it about bad boys?" Why do they hold such a deep, carnal appeal? For all their rebellious, heart breaking ways, why are us women so attracted to them? Moreover, if you were to line 'em up next to the best guys we know, despite the good guys being the cerebral, obvious choice, why is it that it's the bad boys that we want to run off with? They are not the best guys we know. Not even close. But in a hotness contest, could the best guys we know sweep us off our feet the way these bad boys do? Not likely.

Without getting too deep into the subject, I think a big part of it is that sometimes bad boys are willing to act. Willing to do. They are men of action - Straightforward, brave, bold, and brazen. The bad boys are the ones who will tell us our ass looks good in those jeans, and elicit a smile that we know we should probably hide. They're the ones who will dare us to follow our dreams (or sometimes theirs) leading us down a path - albeit even an unknown, scary and potentially dangerous one. They're the ones to do the things that the good guys just won't do, to take the action that the good guys just won't take, and to live the adventurous, exhilarating, thrilling life that the good guys just seem unwilling to live. Unlike the good guys we know, they're not paralyzed by some unnamed and unidentifiable fear or issue that keeps them just acting, well nice and good. They may steal their household paper products, but at least they don't have their mom buying that stuff for them still. Part, and this is just part really, of their great big appeal is just their willingness to do something, to put it out there and live with intention and passion, , and quite frankly that is just hot. Women like men who take life by the horns and ride it barebacked and bucking for 8 long seconds. Women like men of action, and of initiative, whether that's for the good, the bad or the ugly.

So, tonight, as I wrap up this post and head off to bed because the last of my White Russian is turning milky amongst the melted ice cubes, I raise a toast, no, a great big hearty "yeehaw" to C and all the other bad boys of the world. Without you guys our sense of adventure would lie dormant, our choices remain unchallenged, our raw womanly appeal would be under appreciated and our lives would be boring. Without you guys, we'd forget what it is to be desired, pursued, or to crave something we won't allow ourselves to have. Moreover, without you there'd be no standard to dare the best guys we know to live up to, no leverage to throw at them in a challenge to surprise us, nor anything to make us appreciate just how wonderfully reliable and nice they are. After years of denial, I can say truthfully I'm a fan of the bad guys, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. And that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Liesl - The Little Kitty That Peed

I'm at a loss today. I'm having a really, really, really bad day, in true Alexander style. There are a few factors, but the most worrisome, the one I'm having a really hard time dealing with, is Liesl, my kitten.

See, I can handle all the crap that's thrown at me, all the judgementalism, the quippy remarks, the misunderstandings and lack of support that I feel sometimes. Throw it at me world - I may cry at first, but I'm crazy strong, and can handle it all. You can't touch me.

But when it comes to this sweet little helpless creature that I believe that God has entrusted into my care, well, my heart and my most protective instincts come into play. My heart is literally moved within me, thinking that something's not right with her. You see, she's been peeing on everything she can get her four little paws on, most recently my bed, including my duvet and down feather mattress topper. She had been peeing on every magazine I have in the house, including all my Anthro catalogs, and after I threw them away, I saw that behavior end. But last night, with me in it, she just up and peed a great big bladderfull right on my bed. With me in it. My leg was waaarrrrrmmmm!!!!! Eeeewwww!!!!

Then this morning, she did it again, she peed on my duvet. I seriously think it's time for a new one anyways, but having to clean urine off it sealed the nail in that coffin.

The thing is, I know something can't be right with her if she's peeing on stuff. And I'm worried. I've scheduled a vet appointment for tomorrow, to coincide with my dentist appointment. I just want her to be ok I've grown so accustomed to her beautiful little face, and her incessant mewing. I find her charming, and adorable, and I want to take care of her and be the best owner I can for her. But let's be honest here, when she does this, I'm frustrated and angry, and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. Whatsmore, I don't know how to stop it, or prevent it in the future. I'm hoping the vet will have a solution for me.

In the meantime, I dread going home tonight, to a little creature that I can barely understand, yet adore thoroughly. I really am not looking forward to the fight that lies ahead, and I can only hope and pray that this situation resolves itself in a favorable way soon.

Oh Liesl - if you only knew how much I love you. And that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Grown Up Christmas List

When I was growing up, we didn't celebrate Christmas - Oh the joys of being an ex-Jehovah's Witness. But every December till the year before she passed away, my Grandma Dee would pull out the Spiegel catalog and let my brother and I choose an "End of the Year" present. We would bookmark the page, dog-earring it and circling what we wanted, and she would order it and it would get shipped to her house, where we could open it after December 25th.

I remember being so overjoyed at the thought of getting a present for no other reason than no reason at all. But the feeling I remember best is just being excited to take part in a tradition that somehow related to something we never got to take part of - Christmas itself. At a time of the year when everyone else got to celebrate holidays, go to parties, get presents, and just revel in all the fun that Christmas is for kids, us JW kids were constantly sidelined. If there was a Christmas assembly at school, we'd have to go sit in the principals office till it was over. If there was a holiday party in class, same thing. When other kids gave presents, we felt cheap and stingy, because we weren't allowed to give anything, even to our best friends. Being left out like that felt like the biggest thing in the world, to my childish heart.

Looking back, my Grandma's generosity of wallet and spirit, and her willingness to be a little subversive, at least as much as my grandpa would allow, did more for making me feel included and slightly normal than years of knocking on people's doors ever did. There was no more patient, kind or giving woman than my Grandma Dee, and this year, 20 years after her death, I still miss her with an empty hole in my heart. I wish she was still around so I could finally buy her something from the Spiegel catalog.

It's funny, but as a kid, the things you want are so trivial and basic. This doll or that toy, or this book or cd. And when you don't get them, it feels like the world is coming to an end. As an adult, my Grown Up Christmas List is so very different from anything I ever wished for when I was a kid, or could even imagine wanting, and disappointment is a feeling I've become all too used to. How very much we change.

I'm not going to pretend that I'm as deep and meaningful as Amy Grant, wishing for "No more lives torn apart" or that "Wars would never start". Yes, I want those things, but the cynicism of adulthood has left me no longer wishing for them with blind hope, and sometimes barely able to comprehend that I could, as one person, exact such change and peace in the world. My Amy Grant list today would look more like "stronger community focus on reaching the marginalized of society" or "the ability to truly love my neighbors without resentment at our differences" or "contentment amidst the dullness of day-to-day life as a single woman with a cat". But then that doesn't work so hot in a song, now does it?

In all honesty my Grown Up Christmas List does contain some of those things, but it also contains such vain and unachievable intangibles as "A whole year of good hair days" and "the joyful desire to get up every morning at 5 to go work out" and "finally finding that perfect buffet/sideboard/console for my living room, at the right price with free up-the-stairs delivery". I wish I could say I was as selfless a woman as my Grandma Dee was, but sadly I'm nowhere near the saintlike status that time and memories have given her in my mind.

As the years passed, and I moved from childhood into adolescence, the time I got to spend with my grandma lessened. Instead of sleepovers at her house every Friday night, our time together looked more like brunch once a month, on a Saturday afternoon, at Nordstroms Cafe, and shopping at the mall, till she would get on the bus to head home. Grandma Dee never drove a day in her life. I remember her saying once that any fool could drive, but it took a real genius to get her husband to drive her everywhere.

If my grandma were alive today, I know it would bring her great joy to grant me a Christmas wish. But the one that I would want most of all couldn't be found in a Spiegel catalog, or any other website/catalog/mall-store that she would frequent. I just want my grandma back, and for her to be proud of the woman I've become. I want to sit with her, at Nordstroms Cafe, as an adult, and know that this was one family member who loved and supported me wholeheartedly and unconditionally. I want more time to appreciate her, for her her quirks and eccentricities and for her goodness of heart, rather than for the things she bought me growing up. I just want my Grandma Dee back.

But in case you, for a moment, thought I was really gonna let it end at that (*cue violin music and single sad tear*), here is the rest of my Grown Up Christmas List. I'm not gonna lie and say it's all wonderful and beautiful and deep. But I do know that it's definitely not the list of a kid anymore. And yes, my Grandma's at the top of it, and always will be. The rest of it, however.... well it's a Christmas Wish list. Let's just leave it at that. So without further ado ...

... My Grown Up Christmas List:

1. Grandma Dee - 'nuff said

2. Someone in my family to come out and visit me at Christmas (or any time of the year really), at least once.

3. A really good hair day every day for the next year.

4. The knowledge of how to practically apply all I know about loving people and living a life of selflessness, and the motivation to actually do so.

5. Better teeth.

6. My cat to always, always, always use the litter box.

7. A non-judgemental housekeeper.

8. To actually lose weight when I work out instead of always... being... at... the... same... weight... year... in... and... year... out. Bleeeehhhhh!!!!!!

9. A boyfriend that actually likes short, goofy brunettes, thinks I'm smart and pretty and kind, is the best man I've ever met, will let me cook for him, and likes me enough to be able to tell me exactly what shade of brown my eyes are without using the words "baby poop" or "mud".

10. Or the ability to not desire #9 whatsoever, and just live in complete contentment with my life as it is.

11. All my youth group and Sunday School kids to grow up and do great and wonderful things with their lives, without making any of the mistakes that I ever made.

12. A blogmakeover.

13. A dishwasher.

14. The house on the NE corner of 39th and Washburn.

15. To escape the fundamental punishments of growing old - aches and pains, the inability to sleep in past 6, hearing yourself sound like your mother.

16. Peace and joy and laughter and sunshiney sparkly double rainbows galore for all my friends and those that I love.

17. To be an instrument of blessing in the lives of people around me this year, in a tangible and meaningful way.

18. A brand new Volvo SUV with leather seats and seat warmers and an automatic car starter and a rockin' Bose sound system.

19. To achieve the perfect balance for time management of time spent alone, socially with others, and serving my community.

20. Peace on earth and goodwill to all humankind!
And that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Saint Andrew's Day! Now Marry Me, Gerard Butler.

I'm not Scottish, not even close. Nor am I Scotch, which is what I hear the Scottish hate being called. But I have always wanted to go to the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, and I adore red tartan (to the point that if I ever get married someday, I want a Christmas wedding with red tartan and holly sprigs everywhere). Plus I think Sean Connery was the best James Bond ever, though Daniel Craig is suuuuuuch a close second.

In any case, today is Saint Andrew's Day. And because I respect all ethnicities and nationalities (unlike some of my MN friends whom you'd think had never seen anyone that wasn't Scandanavian, by the proliferation of Mexican jokes I hear all the time - I mean really, are we really this lacking in diversity around here, that I'm considered ethnic???), I would like to honor the Scots, and their patron saint, Andrew, and share with you the five hottest Scotsman I can think of. Oh, and also because I'm positively obsessed with Prince William and his lovely bride-to-be, Kate Middleton, who shares my affinity for wearing navy blue, and since England borders Scotland, and is pretty darn similar ... well, you get the point.

So without further ado (said in my best Scottish accent), for your consideration, Five Hot Scots!:

1. Gerard Butler – Of 300 fame? The most sympathetic, make-outable Phantom of the Opera ever? That crappy Katherine Heigl flick which was so awful that I don’t even remember the name of it (really, she should just retire, soon, please)??? He’s from Glasgow and eventually settled in Paisley, and I’m pretty sure he’s gonna marry me someday and we’ll raise adorable little dark haired babies with Scottish accents and open Paisley’s first American run confectionary and bakery, while we grow old together in front of a fireplace, him and me. It’s gonna happen.

2. James McAvoy – He made Atonement. And he was in Trainspotting. (But really, who from this country wasn't?) Originally from Port Glasgow, he was also in The Last King Of Scotland, and did I mention Atonement? His turn as the ill-treated Robbie Turner made me cry, both for how subtly he played the nuances of forbidden love and smoldering anger over his lifes' injustices, and for how shockingly blue his eyes were. And he’s done tons of theater work and won awards for it apparently. Lovely.

3. Sir Sean Connery – He’s a Sir, did you know that? As in To Sir With Love?? As in, Yes Sir, if I was 85 years old, that’s one crush I’d have. As in, Sirtainly the best part of the SNL Jeopardy spoofs are when he wisecracks dirty "your mama" jokes on a flustered Alex Trebeck. Originally from Edinburgh, his turns as James Bond more than forgive his turn robbing the cradle in that horrible spy movie he made with Catherine Zeta-Jones awhile back. Plus he's done a lot of other stuff too. He may be old, but back in the day, he was hot!

4. Dario Franchetti – With a name like Dario Franchetti you’d think he’s gotta be Italian, right? Nope, he’s Scottish. He’s originally from Bathgate, with Scottish parents of Italian descent. He is the current, three-time IndyCar Series champion after claiming a third title in 2010 in addition to his 2007 and 2009 titles. On May 30, 2010, he won his second Indianapolis 500 race. In 2001 he married Ashley Judd in a castle outside his hometown in Scotland. Cute! And with a little much-needed eyebrow grooming, he’s not a bad looking guy. My guess is it’s probably nice to be him.

5. Dougray Scott – My second favorite Scotsman on this list, Mr. Butler aside, Dougray Scott is most notably remembered for his role as Prince Henry in Ever After, the Drew Barrymore Cinderalla tale that I saw, I’m not kidding you, 13 times in college (it was the only good thing at the cheap seats for about a year). Originally from Glenrothes, Fife, he’s also starred in the crappiest made-for-cable version of the Ten Commandments as none other than Moses, as well as in an early season of Desperate Housewives. Obviously Dougray Scott either has really bad taste in roles, or needs a new manager and casting agent. I’m available, Dougray, in case you’re shopping around.

Honorable Mentions:
1 Paulo Nutini – Nutini made the list because of his beautiful voice and music, though I don’t think I’d necessarily want to kiss him. Yet I’d gladly kiss any of the above (well except you, Grandpa Connery) to his song Last Request, which is so sway-to-the-music-pretty. If you haven’t heard it, which I’m sure you all have heard, then go download it and find someone to make out with, seriously. It’s that good. Nutini is also from Paisley, though you’d think he was born in the same little Italian town as Franchetti, named as he is (you don’t see too many Scotsmen named Paulo). But nope, he’s Scottish, as are both his parents, though his dad is of Italian descent.

2. Susan Boyle – And here you thought she was Brittish? Nope, she’s from Blackburn, West Lothian to be exact. And though she’s a woman, she gets an honorable mention for two reasons. #1, best makeover ever!! #2 – Well, for my girl Michelle, who just bought the new Susan Boyle Christmas album, and endured massive amounts of ridicule from both her husband and myself. There's not much "hot" about her, but here for you, an honorable mention shout oooouuuuutttttt for Chelle!!!!!!!!

3. Kevin McKidd – you know, if you like the Gingers. Not everybody does, though I can kinda see it. But he was great in Rome, really. From Elgin, Scotland, he has a strong theater background, and was also in Trainspotting, with the below mentioned McGregor. More recently he’s done some work on Grey’s Anatomy and Made Of Honor (he must have the same craptastic agent as Dougray Scott. Seriously you guys, message me!)

4. Ewan McGregor – he’s not exactly my type, as I think he might weigh something close to 102 lbs. But if you like that kinda thing, definitely he’s the hot Scotsman for you. Born in Crieff, he did pull off a wonderful turn as a young Obi Won Kenobi in some of the Star Wars movies. Whatsmore he was fantastical as a lovestruck Bohemian in Moulin Rouge (who knew he could sing??? His version of Your Song is, in my opinion, better than Elton John’s original, and I tear up when he sings the opening lines of Come What May), and he also produced some documentary about riding his motorcycle across the entire planet or something extraordinary like that. All that definitely deserves an honorable mention.

So you can keep your Irish, what with all their Bono's and green beer. Me, I'll take a Scotsman any day of the week. Between the two (well three, if you throw in the Brittish), I think the Scottish might be the sexier bunch. And that's not just me blowin' smoke up yer kilt, either. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday, Monday, So Good To Me??

Every once in a while I get a big head, and I think I can pull it all off pretty well. I may even gloat a little. Usually about halfway through thinking like this, though, I do something stupid like spill on myself or say something really gullable, and all my classy-worldly-coolness is shot to pieces in one fell swoop. Today is definitely one of those days.

It all started off with a pretty sweater, the fact that my pants aren’t as tight as they were last week (no Cranberry Bliss Bars or Soy Gingerbread Lattes in three days though), a great hair day and some rockin’ awesome Chicken Tortilla Soup. Oh, and a kitten. I guess what’s interesting about the above mentioned list is that it doesn’t take much to make me feel good. Seriously, some soup and a cat? I’m easy to please.

Anyways, you could start this great and self assured mood off on Saturday, when my new kitten Liesl came home. Making a date of it, I took the faux-niece & faux-nephew to pick her up, and then to McDonalds for dinner. Nothin’ says quality time like encouraging responsible pet ownership and irresponsible dietary habits. We had a great time, and even J, who was in a snit when we left the house, softened up as soon as we saw the kittens. His usual ear to ear grin and machine gun style of laughter were confirmation enough for me that we were having a really good auntie/kiddos date. Matter of fact, on the way home, as A kept talking to the kitten, saying “We’re your cousins. Do you love your cousins? We’re gonna go meet your Uncle J & Auntie M now, little cousin kitty.”, I knew J was back to his old self as he said “Aunt Trinette, if Liesl is your daughter”, (umm, sidenote, she’s not – she’s my pet, but try getting a 7 year old to comprehend the difference between parenthood and pet ownership), “if Lisel is your daughter, and you’re not married, then you’re a single mom. You can’t have a daughter if you’re not married. You better ask Santa for a husband this Christmas.” Another sidenote – my singleness seems to be quite the popular topic of conversation for these two, but especially him. He brought it up three times on Saturday, and if I had a dollar for every time he suggested I marry a good friend of ours, based on the fact that we both prefer Honey Mustard on our Chicken McNuggets, well then I’d be a rich, rich woman. If only it were that easy.

Anyways, I digress.

So, I took these two to pick up the kitten, and we had a rockin’ good time. There was no better way to spend my Saturday afternoon then with these two, and bringing home my darling kitten. Still riding the high of spending time with them, and enjoying every waking moment (and the ones where we’re asleep together) with my kitten was a huge contributing factor to my joyful outlook this morning.

Also on Saturday, in addition to picking up a kitten, I picked up some new hair products. And. I. LOVE. Them!!! I had tried the Living Proof line this summer, when I wanted to try and keep my normally wavy hair frizz-free. I was kind of impressed with their No Frizz line but it still didn’t address my number one hair concern, which is that I have significantly less of it than I used to years ago. Battling Celiac Disease for a few years has left me with hair that falls out full strand at the drop of a hat. I used to have enough hair to only be able to wrap a binder around it once, or maybe twice. These days, I’m lucky if I can claim it only wraps three times. I miss my thick, full, luscious head of hair. And yes, I’m vain about it, and I don’t care. Hair is a woman’s crowning glory, and having had everything from Katie Holmes bob short to touching my elbows long I can say that I really, really like when my hair is long, and thick, and glossy and Texas big. And for the past few years, that has not been the case. So in my quest to return to a semblance of my hair’s former glory, I decided to try a new product line from Living Proof called Full. The amazingly thick, voluminous, shiny and touchable/not stiff results were the second contributing factor to today’s great mood. Seriously it was a great hair day. Thank you Living Proof.

Fast forward to some soup I made. Last night, in a fit of domesticity (blaming the kitten for making me want to be home more), I made Chicken Tortilla Soup Of Liiiifffeeee!!!!!!!! as Jen would call it. Really, it’s the most basic, simple soup you’ll ever make, but it tastes so good, and I was craving something spicy after all the Thanksgiving leftovers. So I whipped up a batch, and I don’t know what I did right this time, but it was even better than ever before. I brought a container of it for lunch, and was sitting in my cube, quietly “MMMMMM”ing to myself, enjoying the third reason I thought I was pretty much awesome today. When…. Disaster struck.

As I was coming to the bottom of my bowl of soup, I noticed there was still some cheese left unmelted in those remaining mouthfuls and so, thinking of my darling kitten and wondering how lonely she was home alone, I absentmindedly walked over to the microwave, and popped it in for another minute. Then I, again absentmindedly, pulled the container out of the microwave when it was done and walked back to my cube, where I proceeded to tip my head back to drink it down, sans spoon, slurping up those last few bites. As soon as it hit my tongue though, I felt like my mouth had been set on fire. IT WAS SOOOO HOT!!!!! My gut instinct was not to swallow it discreetly, nor to spit it out back into the container, but to spew it out like a whale coming up for air and spewing chunky red soup out of their blowhole, while simultaneously throwing the container up in the air. Now the last action, in all honesty, had no rhyme or reason. It was my tongue that was being burnt, not my hands, but for some reason, my hands also reacted, and before I knew it, soup was in the air, and the bowl was coming hurtling down from space like a Tupperware comet, heading straight for my open bottle of Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi. Before I knew it I was covered in liquid molten tomatoey chicken goodness - Full hair, pretty sweater, well fitting pants, desk, monitor, keyboard reports and all – everything was covered in soup. What wasn’t swimming in soup was now covered in pop. It was quite the mess, as soup and pop mixed on the desk, rapidly streaming off onto the floor. I hurried to upright the pop bottle, but as I reached for my napkins to stop the flow downward onto the carpet, I took it down again with my elbow. It was at that moment that my new coworker decided to peek over the cube and ask “Are you ok? What’s going on over there?” Oh man dude, you really couldn’t have just stayed sitting down and emailed me? Really??? That’s what IM is for!

So, I stood up, threw some napkins down on the mess to both hide and abate it, and managing to avoid eye contact with him mumbled out an “I’m fine”, which with my newly scorched tongue probably sounded more like “Ahhm Paaawmmm”. Then I rushed off to the bathroom, where I caught a glimpse of myself, and wouldn’t you know it, in addition to being covered in red soup, my hair was wet and sticky, and I had a big chunk of chicken on my shirt. Chicks for the chest.

Anyways, I’m cleaned up now. My hair is greasy and flat and I’m pretty sure it smells like cumin and queso fresco now, but hey at least it’s drying. My sweater is splotchy where I’ve wiped the soup away with paper towels, leaving behind the telltale white paper towel lint trails that practically scream “Look at me, I’ve spilled something and tried to clean it up in the ladies room!”. My pants are also splotchy, with more snowy little tattle-tales, all the more obvious on black than on olive green. And my tongue may never be the same. I think it’s the size of a Porterhouse Steak right about now. My desk is wiped up, but slightly sticky and smelly, and I’m scared to talk to the IT guy and admit that all my electronics were baptized in a healthy dose of Chicken Tortilla Soup, though if I offer to bring him some tomorrow maybe he’ll show me a little mercy.

I guess it just goes to show, both to myself, and to anyone else who may suffer from the delusions that I’m a classy broad – no matter how hard I try, I will always be more Lucille Ball than Martha Stewart. I am not a graceful, debonaire, cool as a cucumber type AT ALL. Nope, you’re talking to the kind of girl you just can’t take anywhere, unless you’re in waders and really want a good laugh. Pride comes before a fall, but the fact that I have any pride left after a lifetime of mishaps, spills and blunders is either a miracle or a testament to the enduring nature of human vanity. Really, who did I think I was???

I used to be a girl with good hair, a pretty sweater and a delicious lunch. Now I’m just me again. And that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thoroughly Thankful For A Week Of Thankful Things

There's a lot going on this week, but I can't think of one bit of it that's not lovely. Well except the fact that I have to come into work on Saturday, but even that is overtime, and I'm ok with that too.

Let's run through the week and I'll break it down for you:

Monday - I got to watch the FBC kids - a lot of them. I had one of them on my shoulders and two of them on my lap at one point last evening, as we watched a movie. I accidentally taught S the phrase "Squishy Butt" which in her tiny little two year old voice was the cutest thing ever. And I remembered, as I often do when I see these kids, how blessed with community and love I really am. How could I ever be lonely or sad in my singleness, when it affords me the opportunity to spend time with these kiddos and love on them?

Tuesday - Dinner with a good friend, and finally the long anticipated showing of Harry Potter 7.1. There are not a lot of people I would wait to see this movie for or with. I almost caved last week and went by myself on Friday. But it will be worth it to watch it with the only other person who's a big of a HP geek as I am. And drinks & happy hour apps to start the evening off doesn't hurt either.

Wednesday - My sixth favorite day of the year (1. Christmas, 2. Fourth of July, 3. My birthday, 4. New Years Day, 5. Thanksgiving, 6.....) the day before Thanksgiving, which translates into Hymn Sing & Pie Social at church!!!! I am so blessed to be part of this church, and after years of running, years of feeling like I love God but am not so pleased with His Bride, I can finally say and see that He has brought me to the place I belong. I have fought it, and still cringe at the thought of commitment to being part of a church body (commitment to anything freaks me out really, but especially commitment to a church, when it was church that burned me so bad last time around). But I cannot deny that I love this group of people and their heart for the Lord and each other. And when we get together and sing hymns in the church basement, tell what we're thankful for and then eat pie together, I not only feel transported back about 60 years, but I feel full of love and gratitude and joy as I look around at the beautiful, shining faces of people I love and look forward to seeing and doing life with.

Thursday - Thanksgiving. With the J's. And all the fun and love and comfort and tradition that entails. I am thankful to the Lord all year long for bringing me these friends who are closer to me than my own family, and who embody all that I ever wanted but was never blessed with. But I feel it most succinctly at the holiday season as we gather together and love Him and each other in a way I have never found anywhere else. It only serves to remind me that He answers prayers in a big, giving way sometimes that exceeds our wildest expectations or dreams. I couldn't ask for a better fake family than them.

Friday - The 2nd Annual FBCYG Black Friday Girls Breakfast & Shopping Extravaganza. Or another term for why I must be out of my mind. Last year another female youth sponsor and I took the Youth Group girls out shopping and to breakfast at Perkins the day after Thanksgiving. It. Was. Chaos. I do not expect that this year will be any different, as a matter of fact, seeing's how I'm the only female youth sponsor, and we have more girls coming this year than last, I imagine it will be nothing less than sheer madness. Yet, I love these kids, and they got really excited last week when I reminded them about this event. I know they're going to have a good time, and I know I will too, despite the raging migraine and aching feet I anticipate. I do love them, and am looking forward to spending time with them, and that makes me really happy. And here you thought I was going to say the shopping, didn't you?

Saturday - Well yes, I have to work. But Saturday will be the apex of my week, and the one thing I've not been able to keep my mind away from for the last two weeks. My kitten comes home. Yep, It's Kitten Come Home Day!!! Come home kitten, it's time for you to come to your new home. Come on home kitty-cat-kitten, home come you. If it were a football game, it'd be Kitten Homecoming or the Kitten Bowl! I'm so excited I can think of nothing else. Every day I look forward to it with new anticipation and impatience, and I feel like a kid before Christmas. I have to work, yes, but as soon as I get out of there, I'm hauling ass over to St. Paul and gettin my kitten. And he's comin' home!

Sunday - Well in all honesty, I really hadn't thought about it. But I'll probably take a nap, and after the week I've had won't that be the best activity of all?

So you see, I have a lot to be thankful for this week. And a whole lot to look forward to. It's gonna be epic, and I am ready to dive right in! And that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Final Countdown - Da da da dum, da da da da dum, da da da dum, da da da da da da dum!

Despite the ginormous proliferation of mass consumerism known as shops & radio stations ushering in Christmas before Thanksgiving has even got here, I can honestly say that this year, Christmas has snuck up on me.

It was only just today, on my way into work, as I scrolled past George Michael bleating about Last Christmas, that I realized that there are only 7 days left till I can officially break out the Christmas decorations and start playing decent Christmas music (none of this overplayed Christmas Shoes crap!). Which is weird, because I have been aware that Christmas is approaching - to be more to the point, I even bought a new ornament the other day and have been thinking about my game plan for decorating my new space. Yet, it's rapid approach, and the fact that Black Friday (which really ought to be renamed Red & Green Friday) is just a week away, has caught me so offguard that had I realized it, I would've been counting down when we were still in the double digits.

I must say, I am so excited to have my own little place, yep all my very own, to decorate for Christmas! Though I miss the beautiful flagstone fireplace and mantle that I enjoyed the last two years, not to mention the large space that was perfect for entertaining (A sidenote: One of my favorite Christmas memories of all times was when Jen & Kitty & the girls came over on a Sunday afternoon, and we built a beautiful roaring fire, pulled our armchairs in front of it and over steaming mugs of cocoa they wrote the now infamous MN Max rap, while the girls watched Rudolf downstairs. But I digress), for the first time in a long time, I can bust out ALL the ornaments and garland I want, and pretty much make the place look like Buddy The Elf threw up a HoHoMocha inside my apartment. This thought does more than excite me, it inspires me to new and obscene levels of anticipatory Christmas decorating.

And my inspiration is really from one of the best people I can even think of - my greatly missed MawMaw Jo-Jo. Now this is a woman who knew how to decorate for Christmas! One of the things I loved most about her was that when it came to the holidays and her personal grooming, the woman didn't do anything halfheartedly. Boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations were brought out, including her beloved collection of Macy's Christmas bears, which were posed lovingly in a corner of the living room. PawPaw Kenny was set to string lights from every available surface, inside and out. I can just see him now, big bald head and a red Christmas sweater, climbing the ladder. There were snow globes and picture frames and tchockies and garland and red and green everywhere.

And every year she'd bake pan after pan of Christmas cookies, wrapping them lovingly in red and green tissue and nestling them inside round tin after round tin, gifts for her friends and neighbors. My favorite holiday treat of MawMaw's was Sausage Balls, and I intend to bring those back with a vengeance this holiday season. I remember they used to give me a wicked case of heartburn, but oh man they're so good going down. MawMaw also had a son who worked at the White House and every year for Christmas he'd send her the official White House Christmas ornament. She had loads of them, and every year they sparkled from her tinsel decked tree, glittering prettily in their crystal charm.

I can barely think of MawMaw and not cry, I miss her so much. But especially at the holidays (and during any Lakers game), I think fondly of her, miss her like crazy, and am inspired to carry on in the gung-ho-ness of her traditions. There will be nothing little about my Christmas decorating this year, and like MawMaw, I will make no apologies for that fact.

But the other thing that MawMaw taught me, and that I cherish as a truth of who she was, is that Christmas isn't just the time to celebrate the Lord's birth, but to spend reminding the people in our lives how important they are to us. Even when PawPaw got sick, and MawMaw and him could barely afford their prescriptions, she always had a present for the ones she loved at Christmas, even if it was something of sentimental value to herself, that she was passing on. She always wore a smile, and a red turtleneck, even when she herself was wasting away to skin and bones. Remembering her smiling like that, and the love in her heart that shone like the lights on the tree might just be my very own Christmas Shoes/Hallmark Movie moment. The lessons of love that MawMaw and PawPaw shared with me at Christmas, and the unabashed love that they showed me will forever be buried in my heart, treasured as dearly as frankincense, gold and myrhh.

One of my favorite bloggers, Centsational Girl, wrote this, this week, in her post about throwing a stress-free Christmas party:

"You know that scene at the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ when George Bailey looks around at all his friends and family and Harry toasts, "To my big brother George, the richest man in town!’ It chokes me up every single time! You too? The moment in the film is about the importance of friends and a purpose filled life, but here’s what I always get from this classic: it doesn’t matter how elaborate or modest your home or your lifestyle, the best moments of the holiday season come from the togetherness and good spirits felt from surrounding ourselves with the ones we love. It has nothing to do with money."

I think MawMaw would agree. So as Black Friday approaches, and I think of all the people out there braving malls and fighting crowds, one thought makes my heart skip a beat. It's not a sale, it's not a discount, or the thought of presents under a tree. It's the memories I have in my heart of time spent with them, and the knowledge that there are only 7 more days till I can officially break out my Christmas decorations, put on some Nat King Cole, and serve myself up a serving of peppermint hot cocoa in a tall Christmas mug while looking through pictures of the good old days, spent in MawMaw & PawPaw's living room. I know it will be with a tear in my eye, for missing them, that I hang my lights alone this year (well me and the kitten that is). If you're reading this and all this nostalgia and romance of spirit appeals to you and you wanna come over and lend a helping hand, then friend, let's celebrate friendship and Christmas together. Just know that I might make you wear a red sweater and climb the ladder for me, is all.
And that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

10 Things I'm Loving Right Now!

They're random, varied, and all of them have me a little bit excited.

1. HP7.1: Words cannot describe my level of excitement at the soon to be released first part of the final chapter in Harry Potter history. Can. Not. Describe. Let's just say I've never dressed up for a movie premier before, but I started planning my costume for this epic night a month ago. Yeah.

2. Sahale Snacks : I love nuts. Especially when they're glazed, such as candied pecans, or maple roasted anything. Sahale Snacks take this slight culinary obsession to a new level, with their imaginative and gourmet blend of glazed nuts. The Soledad blend is my absolute favorite - it's glazed Almonds with apple, flaxseeds, balsamic vinegar and crushed red pepper. And it's absolute addicting. If you can find any of the Sahale products, get them - I've only seen them at certain Starbucks and at Lifetime Cafe. It's worth stocking up when you find them, trust me.

3. Water Bobble calls this the best water bottle ever invented, and I'd have to concur. Well maybe it's not the absolute best, but it's pretty darn close. With a built in, replaceable carbon filter, it's also BPA free, made in America out of recycled materials and has a ton of fun different colors to choose from. And it's under $15. Water Bobble is a good thing.

4. ExfoliKate: I'm an exfoliating junkie. I know most estheticians would probably tell me I shouldn't, but I exfoliate almost every single day. And when I don't, I feel the difference in my skin. That being said, this is by far the best exfoliating scrub I've ever tried in my life. Seriously, it's like no other. When I first tried it, I'd been on an allnightgirlfunbingebender with my good friend J, where we'd stayed up all night, wearing lots of funky tranny makeup, drinking too much wine and pretty much doing things that made my skin look like the dullness fairies took a crap on it the next day. I had crows feet I'd never seen before. So tired and depressed I went to Sephora, and sensing my mild desperation this is the remedy they prescribed me - ExfoliKate. Even though they said that creator Kate Sommerville was known as the facialist to the stars, and that ExfoliKate is just like having a session with her in office, I was a bit skeptical at first. But for $20 I was willing to give it a try. Now I worship this little tube, and would probably cry if someone broke into my home and took it. After the first time I used it, my skin glowed, and had a baby soft texture. Even better, the effects lasted well into the next day, and I've seen a dramatic increase in smoothness, texture and glow, as well as pore reduction since using it. You can choose to stick with your $3 tube of St. Ives Peach Pit Scrub, but take it from a woman who looks years younger than she really is - ExfoliKate will change your life!

5. Tights With Open Toed Pumps: I used to think I couldn't pull off this look, and now I just don't care. It's that devil-may-care attitude that actually pulls of this funky, artsy, fashionable statement so well. But for those of us who need a cheat sheet, this Lucky link helped me out a ton too!

6. All the new youth group kids: They're weird, they're loud, they're kids and I love them!

7. The Bird & The Bee - Diamond Dave, remember that song? Well, turns out that the Bird & The Bee aren't just responsible for that one awesome song, they've made many. Including, get this, a tribute to Hall & Oates (you knew it was just a matter of time, didn't you?). But my personal favorites happen to be their Bee-Gee's tribute version of How Deep Is Your Love and their version of Sara Smile, Rich Girl and Love Letter To Japan. Seriously, they're lovely and wonderful and catchy, and are on my daily playlist.

8. Ideas from Centsational Girl - I think I need to credit my friend KA for finding this blog, but ever since I discovered the link to it from her blog, I check it probably twice a week. It's seriously a DIYer's dream. Not only does she post great DIY ideas but walks the reader through some of the nuances of recreating and refinishing old furniture into great, one of a kind pieces, including various options for the same piece (kind of like those Choose Your Own Ending books liked in grade school). Her taste is Manhattan classy with a vintage twist, and she posts great photos, both of her finished projects as well as pieces, places and things that she gathers inspiration from. Great site for the decorating gal on a budget!

9. Martha Stewarts Winter Squash Dip - I'm definitely making this for Thanksgiving, and then I'm gonna grab the bowl, a box of FlipSide crackers and go hide in the corner eating the whole thing and watching football. True story. It's so good, and the chipotle peppers give it a great kick that really makes the dip! Don't leave them out, even if you're tempted to, it won't be the same without them!

10. Owls - I feel like I hopped on this trend wagon a little late, since I'm starting to see them everywhere. But seriously, those huge saucer eyes are so retro cute. I'm really loving adding them to unexpected places, like a subtle brass owl ring from Target, or this adorable umbrella holder from Two's Company!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

A Change Of Scenery

I'm in a flipping great mood today. I can't pinpoint exactly why, though I can name off a few or ten things that might be contributing to it. Thing is though, they're not exactly anything new, and so I'm left wondering what it is within that has changed. No doubt about it though, something has, and I'm in a much better mood and perspective for it.

It's a gorgeous fall day, the sun is shining, the sky is clear and the air is crisp. I have a brand new pair of Minnetonka Moccasins in a rich jewel shade of purple to wear, and the suede is soft as butter (PLUS, they were on sale, for only $23.90 at Nordstrom's Half Yearly Sale - who doesn't love sale shoes, right?). I taught hospitality class this morning, and the lesson I wrote was a keeper - deep in the rich theology of opening our hearts, lives and homes to those in need, and showing Christ's love to a world around us. Plus we made a delicious Winter Squash dip that had just the right hint of roasted garlic, olive oil and chipotle peppers. I'm snacking on the leftovers as we speak. I got to spend a few minutes this morning kissing on the kids I love, and rocking little babies as they slept. And later, I get to take a Costco trip with Michelle - which I don't just love for the samples, and the $1.50 hot dogs, but for the time I get to spend with her, just warehousing store browsing. Yesterday I started my new job, and I like it, and see great potential in it, for growth, being challenged and feeling productive. Oh, and there's a paycheck in there somewhere too, that's not half bad.

All of these things are great, and good in themselves, and shallow as it may sound, sometimes these things make me happy (yes, shoes make me happy!). But my mood today goes far beyond just happiness, into a soul-blessedness that is permeating my very mood and causing me to hum songs to myself. This is a feeling I haven't experienced in weeks, nay almost months, and I'm so grateful for it I could just squeal.

I know I said I don't know from whence it comes, but I do at least know how to identify it. I am blessed. And as I learned this week, blessedness is a joy of spirit that comes not from the things in life that make us happy, but from the work of God moving both in and through us. Joy is something we can't get or make for ourselves, it is the result of this blessedness, and blessedness itself is a gift from God. I'm learning that though there are things I can do to make myself happy, shoes, babies, books, naps, beautiful fall days and remembering the smiles on faces of friends I love, blessedness comes only from God. And it is a result, a consequence even, of living in His mercies, His characteristics of mercy, grace, humility, peace and love. I can ask Him for these things, and seek and pursue them in my life, but unlike finding a pair of shoes on sale and snatching them up, being blessed is a character of our spirit, not something physical that we can own or lay claim to or even stumble upon. It is a choice, just as we must make the choice to mourn with those who mourn, be pure in heart, seek peace and pursue and hunger and thirst after righteousness. And unlike the things I do in life to make myself happy, it is eternal in value, and is something I can share with the world around me. Or at least I hope that my joyful little spirit today is contagious, and rubs off on those I see.

Today is a good day. It's a day wherein nothing has really changed. Yes, a few life circumstances are different - finally having a job for instance. But overall, my life is the same in content as it was yesterday, and the day before, and the week before that. What's different is my heart, and my realization that to embrace true joy, I must be willing to make the decision to live in a mindset of hungering for blessedness today. I've asked my God for it, I've tried to open up my life to being a conduit for it, and today, I'm actually feeling it. It. Is. Such. A. Good. Feeling!!!

Now, there is a $1.50 hot dog with my name on it somewhere up in Maple Grove, so I better get to it. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Declaration Of Independance

I'm kinda pissed off, and here's why - it has to do with relationships. You see, I've heard a lot of talk recently about people being set up. I've heard it from single friends, who are being set up (and sometimes frustrated by it) and I've heard my married friends talk about it, as in "Who can we set up So&So with?", and I've just been hearing it around a lot lately. And I'm just saying, right here, right now, that it's time to get something straight people:

Being single is not a disease. It's not an affliction. It's not a curse. It's not a drag. It's not a bother. Being single is a gift. It is a privilege. An opportunity. And I'm here to write the Singles Declaration of Independence! For me, and for all my awesome single friends out there who are tired of being considered second-class citizens in the social hierarchy of relationships, for every single person out there who's tired of hearing how being single must suck so badly, this is for you!

A few weeks ago, a conversation I overheard got me thinking about this subject, of how we view and treat the single people around us. I happened to overhear a conversation between one of my good friends and one of our mutual friends' mother. Said mutual friend happens to be a great guy, and happens to be single. The mother of the mutual friend was singing the praises of her son, and my friend was concurring, as well she should, that he is quite the catch. They were going on and on about how any woman would be lucky to get a great guy like him and how they can't believe he's still single. Then they started to speculate as to why he'd never tried online dating before, and my friend actually made the suggestion to his mother that she get him a subscription to a Christian online dating service for Christmas. At which point I think I audibly choked. Now, I'm friends with this guy, and I'm pretty sure that's the last thing he wants in his Christmas stocking this year, but I could be wrong. But I'm pretty sure I'm not.

Here's the thing folks, what started off as an innocent enough conversation, praising a praiseworthy guy, slipped down a treacherous slope pretty quickly. It went from innocent, to speculative, to manipulative, all within about 5 minutes. And the guy they were talking about, well he's none the wiser, and now a little bit at their mercy, since they're choosing to take his relationship status into their own hands. Grrr!!!!

But that's not the real travesty of the situation. I think one of the saddest things about this situation was the utter lack of regard for this guy's feelings that were being displayed. It was bordering on disrespect. He is choosing to be single, and instead of upholding him in his decision, they were trying to find ways to get around it. By doing so, they were implying. whether they realized it or not, that his decision isn't the right one, and that he must not really be happy or satisfied in it. After all, who would choose to be single, right? You know, I'm 250% sure that this guy, if he wanted to, could go out and date anyone he wanted to right now. But the fact that he's not dating anyone says to me, well that he doesn't want to date anyone. And shouldn't we all respect that?

And the point that my conclusion makes is this - any of us single people, if we wanted to, could be dating someone right now. If. We. Wanted. To. It's a sad fact that I could dial up any number of low-life ex-boyfriends and say the right words to worm my way back into their lives. If I wanted to. I could go online and meet some guy who's booklist is limited to Guns & Ammo or who feels that the three things he can't live without are "Guns, Sports Bars & Makin' Love" and say the right words and flash the right smiles and get me a date or two or three right now. And I'm not even that cute. Think about those men and women who are actually considered a catch by popular standards!

What's really going on here, is that for the first time in a hundred years, we're encountering a generation who knows deep down that it's really better (as in quality of life better; more fun, more enjoyable & rewarding) to be single, than to compromise their high standards to date someone for the mere sake of being in a relationship. It's just that our mothers and their mother's mother's and so on and so forth may not have had the freedom of that choice, in the way that we do now. Being single 50 years ago was such a social stigma and personal dilemna of constraint in all areas of life that hardly anyone would have chosen to remain unmarried. Women who were unmarried had a much harder time financially, socially and in numerous realms of life. It just wasn't a feasible or pleasant option. Not if you could help it. And for those who couldn’t manage, for whatever reasons, to even snag someone to like them, well they were labeled with such disparaging terms as spinster, old maid, or even (shudder at the thought) crazy cat lady. They were looked down upon, as deficient, or lacking.

Yet here were are, our mother's daughters, and for the first time in decades, we don't need a man to be accepted as an integral or contributing member of society. We don't need a man to take care of us financially, or emotionally, or physically anymore. Nor do our men need women around for the mere sake of keeping a home, or bearing children. We have progressed to the point that as a generation, we feel the freedom of not needing to be in a relationship to feel fulfilled in any part of our life (well other than sex, but that's a different story for a different time). We are capable of gleaning all the greatness out of life in our existing relationships and this is fulfilling enough that we can find contentment in our life without compromising our desires or wishes. Dating is obsolete as a necessity to having or doing the things we want to do or living the way we want to live. And the beauty of that situation is that it affords freedom. And freedom insures that we view relationships as a gift, and a blessing, rather than as an insurance policy.

Ideally, I’d much rather enter a dating relationship with someone knowing that they’ve swept me off my feet. I want to meet someone who's charm, laugh, intelligence, heart for the Lord, sense of humor and kind eyes remind me why it was good that I waited. I never want to be with someone only to make excuses for them, both to others, or to myself, and to live knowing that I have chosen a life of settling for mediocrity, rather than facing my own fears of being alone. Frankly, I love being alone sometimes, so why would I give up the devil I know, for the devil I don't? Why would I ever want to compromise the standards I’ve built up through years of solid friendships with godly people, for anything less than what I've learned is best? I don’t know one accomplished, content man or woman of today who would purposefully choose mediocrity in other areas of life. We aim high in our education, our careers, our spiritual growth, so it stands to reason that we should be able to choose to aim high when it comes to our love life as well. By choosing to be single, rather than date for the sake of dating, we're aiming high, shooting for the moon, and hoping to land in the stars. We are choosing to hold out for a perfect gift from God, someone who truly deserves our patient years, rather than trolling in a constant state of desperation or resigning ourselves to the well-meaning but often blinded set ups of prying relatives. And I think that is an honorable and noble thing.

I would be lying if I said that being single is always fun. It's not always a walk in the park. There are questions to answer, like the one the other night from my dad, when he asked me if I had a boyfriend, and when I said no, then proceeded to ask me if I had a girlfriend. I'd rather not face ignorant relatives who can't comprehend that I would choose to be alone, and would rather accept me being homosexual, than as being picky.

There are times I wish I did have a husband around. Like last night, when the Nyquil I had taken to abate my cold was kicking in. I realized my legs were like leaden bricks and I was too tired to even get up from bed and grab a glass of water to quench my cottonlike mouth. I just wanted a glass of water, but was lingering between sleep and wakefulness, and couldn't get up. Would a sweet and loving husband have done it for me, got me that glass of water? Yeah, probably. There are times when I really get the urge to write nice, encouraging little notes and put them in somebody’s lunch sack. Or drop in at work with a plate of cookies for that special someone, just to make their day. Could I do that for a boyfriend or husband? Heck yeah. Knowing that we’re created to be relational creatures, by a loving God who paired up pretty much everything here on earth, makes it easier to deal with those feelings as they arise. But if you're thinking of lecturing me on how God said it wasn't good for us to be alone, please try to remember that though we are blessed in our singleness, we don’t always need you to be out crying against it, for us. We can do that pretty decently on our own. If we wanted to.

And really, any minor and fleeting challenges’ aside, by and large being single is truly the gift that the Apostle Paul described it as. Only recently has the realization of what the freedom of singleness looks like occurred to me. Some of this realization comes from more time spent with my married friends. I applaud them in their dedication to a life of self sacrifice, discipline, compromise and hard work. They ones I spend the most time with do it so well, and so beautifully, that it too shows a side of God's relationship with us and Himself that brings Him glory.

Yet, as I look at the time and energy and devotion they spend, I also take a look at my life, and know that it is my singleness that buys me the freedom to do all the wonderful things I get to do in it. Singleness buys me the time I get to devote to the youth group kids and Sunday School kids I love, outside of Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. Singleness buys me the time to read fifteen books on hospitality, to prepare for the class I get to teach. It buys me the time to sign up for every dance class I can take, and to do so with other single friends who have the time to boogie along with me. Singleness buys me the time I get to spend on friends' sofas, whether they're married or single, or on my own chair just spending time with Jesus, who is always the best company of them all.

This is time I would never have to spare if I were in a relationship. Not because it robs me of freedom, but because relationships are hard work, and they require attention. That time, energy, devotion and attention are items that single people have the luxury of choosing where else they’d like to spend it. There are so many opportunities and chances we get to take, that our married friends don’t, and that is truly a gift. And while we recognize that they are blessed in their own ways, we too, contrary to popular belief, are blessed. And most of the time, if you take a second to ask us, we're pretty darn content about it too.

I'd like to make one thing clear here. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not dissing marriage or my married friends or anyone who's dating or in a relationship. What I am doing, or trying to do, is #1, compare apples to oranges, to show you, the reader, that, in all fairness, two distinctly separate and different things should not be compared to each other, and #2, send out a cry that it's high time that those of you who are inclined to matchmaking as the solution for all our problems, might consider upholding us single people in our decision to be single as a better alternative.

So, next time you are inclined to set us up, please stop and think to yourself, are you words better spent praising the work we’re doing with the free time our singleness affords? Next time you’re tempted to feel sorry for us, because we’re in our 30’s (or however old we may be) and still single, step back and look at our faces. Are we smiling as we serve? Are we fulfilled and joyful in our friendships? Are we really bemoaning the state of our relationship status on Facebook, or are you? Most of the time we’re not the ones who are so unhappy about our present state of affairs, for those that truly are, usually go out and do something about it, and don’t remain in our ranks too long. I would like to urge you, next time concern for our lack of dating strikes you, instead of offering to arrange a dinner between us and your eligible 50 year old, basement dwelling nephew, invite us to dinner with yourself instead, so we can get to know you, and more importantly, you can get to know us more. I think you might be surprised to find that we’re a pretty decent bunch, just the way we are.

And that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pretty Things

Sometimes I just like to look at pretty things. Ok, that didn't sound creepy at all.

What I mean is... I like pretty things. I like to wear them, I like them in my apartment, I like to see them in museums, and on postcards, etc. Yeah, I'm all girl, all the way. I think I have totally feminine taste, and I'm not apologetic about it.
It's awesome being a woman! We get to wear all the good stuff, like vintage jewelry, and cashmere sweaters in fruit-pop colors, and headbands with feathers on them and russet colored suede pumps. Guys get what? Khakis? (In all fairness, you guys get ties - and ties can be so pretty and fun, and sometimes I envy that you get to wear them, and I hope that if God ever brings me a husband, he'll let me buy ties for him, even if he never wears them, but bonus points if he does.)

Till then, this is the ring that made me sigh with the contentment of being a woman who can enjoy pretty things. It's a style dating back to 1890, and is Amethyst, which is my favorite gem (used to be garnet, but people change). Vintage is awesome. Rings are awesome. Pretty is awesome. And being a woman - well that's super awesome!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thoughts On Hope, Faith & the Fine Art of Panicking!

Hope versus Faith has been a huge intellectual and spiritual journey/battle for me this past year. As I've come to terms with a lot of let-downs, things that I've wanted for my life that have not happened, I've been wrestling with the smoky, hard to catch notion of hope and trying to balance it with the idea that faith is tangible, in its own way, and never a let-down.

As I've been thinking and praying and reading on this concept, no good answers have come to me, till last night. Last night, an old verse hit me in a new way, and I found my answer in something that feels like it was always in front of my face. Romans 5:4. It was there all the time, I just didn't see it, even though I read this verse in my quest for answers, many a time. Maybe I just wasn't ready.

See, Romans 5:4 says "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, who He has given us." Well it's more like verses 2-5 but....

.... You see, every time I had read it this summer, I was focusing on the whole building of character through sufferings and perseverance, and how the outcome is hope. But the question I was asking myself, nah, the statement I was cynically telling myself, is that when we suffer, and persevere, our outcome is empty, because hope is empty. What good is suffering if the reward we get is an empty hope, a promise of "Maybe"? I was skipping the next part, verse 5 where we are told why hope doesn’t disappoint, because I didn't want to believe that hope could comfort me. It is after all an intangible. Hope, for me this year, has been nothing but a big, fat let-down, so it's no comfort at all!

I turned 35 this year, and it was a difficult birthday. I've had to come to grips with the fact that I'm pushing 40, and the only thing I've got going for me is that maybe I can still pass for 29. I've wanted things in my life, heck I've wanted my life to look a certain way, and it has ended up looking and being so very different than what I could have ever hoped for. This here is my life - the life of a plain jane, a loudmouth, a single woman who toys with the idea of cats, but is too allergic, who's nice enough to be everyone's friend, but not pretty enough to be anybody's true love, who can't keep her foot out of her mouth or both feet on the ground, who must be content to hold other people's babies, and sing other people's children to sleep at night, who is frightfully unemployed, and can't find a job I'm excited about that wants to hire me, for my life! Who writes one heck of a run-on sentence! Where is the hope in all of this? This is not what I hoped for in my life.

For months I've been ignoring verse 5 and stubbornly looking God’s word in the face and saying "No God, you're wrong, hope does disappoint, because I am disappointed that the things I have hoped for have not come true." In my mind and heart, I’ve been able to be honest with myself, and say that faith always comes through. But that’s only because faith is something that I’ve believed to be grounded in God alone, unlike my three-wishes-from-a-genie misinformed notion of hope. Nowhere in the bible are we told to put our faith in the things of this earth that we want. We only put our faith in God and His goodness, as verse 1 of Romans 5 starts out by telling us. The only reason faith ever pans out is because it's always in God, and not in the things that we think will make us happy. Unlike what I’ve believed hope to be.

And that has made all the difference. You see, last night, as I was reading, I realized that the reason hope really doesn't disappoint, is because the hope we are called to have has it's basis in God, and the pouring out of His love in the Holy Spirit, into our hearts. Hope, as the bible explains it, isn’t for things. And it’s certainly not in things other than our heavenly Father. Paul doesn't say that we should have faith in finding love, or having babies, or getting a great job, or just not being a loser. That’s not what faith is. Nor does he say that we should hope for these things either. Really, in this context, the only thing he is saying about hope is that it’s born of suffering, is the result of great character and won’t disappoint because of God’s love. We hope, because we have seen His goodness. We hope because He's strengthened our faith. We hope not for things, but in Him.

You'd think this would have been pretty obvious to me at the beginning of this year, of this quest. That I could just read the verse, and get it. And maybe you readers have had this figured out the whole time. But I'm not the brightest light on the tree when it comes to this hope thing, or deep spiritual issues in general. It’s a good thing I can hope in a beautifully caring God who will never let me down, even if I do end up a crazy cat lady – I need all the help I can get! But the fact is, because I had been hoping for things, and not hoping in Him I just didn’t get it. I was looking for a magical wish granting quality, something to give me what I want, when truly, the thing I’d been looking for is a result of not getting what I want, it’s the beautiful result of a suffering heart. In which case, after the rejections and disappointments and failures of this year, well frankly, even of the past 35 years, I might be first in line in 2011 for a big heaping spoonful of hope.

So now I think I can go into whatever comes next with a changed, and better, perspective. Yes, I still hope everything turns out alright. I still hope to have my life slightly resemble the white picket fence vision I always wanted it to be. But I am not placing my hope in hope alone anymore. Hope is no longer than end, but more the means to get there. As for the end, well last night I saw God change my viewpoint and strengthen my faith through providing me much desired answers. I can rejoice today in a God that loves me enough to show me His goodness and how to walk with Him. And I know that He will be faithful to continue to do so.

In any case, this coming new year (yes, its right around the corner folks!) will be a life-changing one for me. I took a huge leap of faith yesterday, and the surface water of this step was, at first, exhilarating and exciting. But this morning I ended up in the deeper waters of panic! You see, after months and months of being unemployed, and after the past few weeks plunging me into a very real bout of depression over the state of my life, I realized I couldn't just sit still waiting for something to happen anymore. So I took action and did something to move forward and realize a dream of mine. I applied at a local college, for full time classes starting January 10th, and am going to go back to school to get my degree to be a High School English teacher.

It's a long story how this all sorta came about, and I could blog about it.... but let's just say for now, that taking this step was the rope that was thrown to me as I wallowed in a great big pity-party for the last three weeks. Funny, how if I look at it, the rope was there all along. This action was borne from meeting with a friend this week, who is, in a real and tangible way, letting God use him for His Kingdom. He's someone who, after being unemployed for only a month, himself took a leap of faith and decided to go into full time ministry, and now is support raising. There I sat, across from him in Starbucks, feeling horribly convicted, and asking myself "What am I doing to serve the Kingdom of God? Or even to make my own life better?" I go on job interviews, I wait and I hope. But I wallow in the pity party that my all too long list of life failures has thrown for me. And I wanted to be more like him, more like the active, dynamic and seeking daughter I know God wants me to be.

So, I remembered the goal I set for myself, that if I hadn't found a job by the fall, I'd go back to school and do what it takes to pursue something I really loved. And there's not much I love more than high school kids and books and writing, so it seems like a natural fit. Plus, I want more than anything to impact the young people of today for the Lord, and to drive them towards His goodness and a closer walk with Him. And 18 years ago, a wonderful woman by the name of Diane Martinez was my High School English and Journalism teacher, and she impacted me in such a way that almost two decades later, I'm still inspired to follow in those footsteps.

But I gotta tell you this is one great big leap of faith. I’m gonna need a whole lotta faith that God will provide, and give me the means to provide for myself. Things that weigh on my mind, even on day 2 of this decision are student loans, financial aid, and the fact that I’ve never been the best student. I may tease a dear friend about his 7 years of college, but after this move, I’ll have him beat with a whole lot more than that! I'm downright panicky today, and I know that I will have many more days like this to come. About four years of them.

I am scared. But I have hope. And a new understanding of it. I have hope that God will come through and take care of the details that strike fear in me. I hope that He will make me a good student, and an even better FAFSA applicant. I have hope that no matter how crazy a step this may seem, that He will honor my desire to do something better with my life than sit around watching Dawson’s Creek reruns and hanging out at Jon & Michelle’s all day. And that sometime during these next few years in my life, as I seek a new career, I hope that in His goodness, He might see fit to fulfill some of those other hopes and dreams too. And even if He doesn't, I have a stronger sense of hope, and faith, that my life will still be alright. After all, in His faithfulness, through the pouring out of His love, by the Holy Spirit, for the first time in months, I can say that I have hope, and I'm darn glad about it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Art Of Hospitality

This weekend begins the first incarnation of the Art Of Hospitality class at Faith. And I'm crazy nervous about leading it, but so fired up that I can hardly wait. I can't wait to share all that God has put on my heart with an amazing group of lovely women, all who bring joy to my heart in one way or another.

I first learned of the Art Of Hospitality class when a friend of mine taught it at my old church. She asked me to guest-teach one of the cooking sessions, and a few months later I was leading the class with her, and eventually took it over from her when he schedule got so busy she couldn't do it again. She had developed a curriculum that touched on the subject, but never really got in depth about it spiritually.

Since that time my understanding of the true nature of hospitality has grown exponentially. This isn't the same old lesson plan I taught years ago, about setting a nice table, and preparing a nice meal, and having some nice people over, with a few scripture references thrown in for good measure. Hospitality, I've learned in the time since, is a dirty deed, but somebody's gotta do it. And that somebody is the Bride of Christ.

You see, our culture, both secular and contemporary Christian, tries to tell us that hospitality is the same thing as entertaining, and that they are for all intents and purposes interchangable. This paints a picture of lacy tablecloths, and folded napkins, having your friends over for dinner and making sure the guest room has fresh sheets. Which maybe on some level hospitality includes. But when I say that hospitality is a dirty deed, it's because what it truly means is making ourselves vulnerable as we minister to, and care for, the physical needs of others. Others who may be on the fringes of society, undervalued, marginal, and lost. And yet, isn't that what we all have been spiritually, at one time? Sinners, fallen and forsaken, lost and alone. Yet taken in, and accepted into God's heavenly family.

For nine years now, I've been alone in a strange city - say what you want, coming from the warmth of a Latin-infused culture, the frigidity of the midwestern/Swedish experience can be really be intimidating at times. I've learned through both personal experience during that time, and through research as my passion on this subject grew, that true hospitality is the opening, not just of our homes, but of our lives, to others, and in an encompassing, nonjudgemental and generous way. This includes not just having them over for dinner, but having them become part of our lives, baggage and all.

As I've lived here, without family of my own, I've made friends, all of which I'm grateful for. But one couple in particular stands out in my heart and in my life, as being truly accepting, generous of heart, spirit and home, and have embodied the true spiritual nature of hospitality to me. They have truly become family to me - The J's. They've taken me in when I've had nowhere to stay. They've put up with the fact that I leave books and shoes and clothes everywhere, I come in late and I sleep in later. Yet they've given me a warm bed to sleep in, a hot meal, and a long hug, at the times I've needed it most. Some of the most meaningful, loving, and comforting moments of my past few years have been sitting with PJ, in her breakfast nook, just chatting about what God is doing over a cup of her delicious coffee. She and her husband have welcomed me, like my Father has welcomed me, into their family, and into their lives and have shared with me what they have. And in that, they have painted a warm, candlelight-glow-picture of spiritual hospitality and of my Father's heart. They've brought to life a concept that goes beyond entertaining, and includes so, so much more. That includes love.

As I get ready to teach this class again, I want to impart this message to the people who would honor me by showing up on a Saturday morning: That hospitality isn't about making the best or fanciest dishes. It isn't about knowing which fork is the salad fork, and where to put it when setting a table. It's not about just opening up your home on a Sunday afternoon. It's about opening up our lives to those who need their dignity and worth recognized, and who could use reassurance, love, respect and some physical, creature comforts. If there is anything I hope God graces me with being able to share, it's that.

And if we happen to make some killer Beer Cheese soup, or a phenomenal example of Beef Wellington in the meantime, all that much more fun. But this aspect of hospitality, making delicious food or making things pretty, I believe ministers to us. Sharing those dishes with others and experiences with others, is what we are truly called to and is what ministers to a lost, and hurting world in need. So, though it may not be much, this is my small gift, and I hope that when faced with someone who too is alone, lonely, hungry, cold or hurting, I can answer with a prompt and heartfelt "Here am I, send me". And then I want to send them home with some homemade Chicken Noodle Soup. Cuz true hospitality, the kind that the J's showed me, that our heavenly Father has shown us every day, is like Martha Stewart says "a good thing".