Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Message from the Crosswalk Man

Today as I left my coffee-shop work meeting, I suddenly found myself alone at a set of 4-way crosswalks on a busy street. The street is filled with diversity, crumbling old buildings giving way to bright new ones, and the chaos of construction ruffling the feathers of the rich and poor pedestrians alike.

Punch that crosswalk button and wait for the little light-up man to say I can walk across. Why do I punch the button? I am almost certain, even if I don't, the lite-brite man is still going to pop up when it's my turn to walk. I think I look at the button like insurance. I don't want to be held in place one moment longer than I want to, and if I don't press the button, that might happen. So don't experiment, just do it.

Standing there waiting for my destiny, an un-profound thought was pressed in my brain that has teased me several times in the past. The thought was simply unrelated to anything that was happening in that moment:

Sometimes, we hold on to pain because it is easier, and it feels better, than letting pain go.

I think being in pain makes us feel alive. It gives us a sense of unique identity. It makes us feel like we matter. Pain matters. If bad things happen, it matters. And if something that matters happens to us, then we are truly important. Even if we keep our hurts a secret from the entire universe, nursing them close to our hearts.

Or maybe we hold on for another reason.

I have often remained in the dull throb of my painful experiences, because I hate hurting so much that I don't want to do the work that is required to get to the other side. I don't want to wait patiently and take the steps to process what is happening, what I've lost, how I'm betrayed, how I've erred so terribly. I shove it down to where the pain is no longer sharp, but it remains very dull and long-lasting. If I let it come to the surface I could pull it out for good! But then I might lose control of my emotions, and that must never be. Nothing must stop me from moving on or remaining in charge of my destiny, least of all, me.

Punch a button, get that insurance that I need to keep moving right along.

And just like that I moved on from my thought, but tonight I also know that even though the hurt is sharper for a little while to process pain through to its release, it's worth the sweetness of relinquishing what ails. These things that nag and linger deep down make my heart creaky, its joints achey.

It sort of comes out of the blue, because it's not as though I'm going through some dramatic suffering lately. But that's the message that the lite-brite man brought me to share with you tonight.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Long Live the Underdog! -or- how I vanquished the serial killer -or- my 7 triumphs for the week

Once you've been inspired by my 7 Triumphs of the Week, please go visit Jen for some more mature reading, book recs, and a giveaway.

Here are all the ways I triumphed this week:

1 - I didn't get serial-killed. This morning my friend Muriel sent me a forward about how girls can be safe. There were several bullet points on different topics, but the further I read the more they all seemed to be like tips for not letting serial killers get the upper hand. Anyone who's known me since I first watched Unsolved Mysteries in 2nd grade, knows that I learned as a young child that anyone can be a serial killer. And it's my responsibility not to help them kill me. 

So anyway, I read this email, felt sufficiently creeped out in the house by myself, and decided to jump in the shower. Once I had fully lathered the shampoo in my hair, I suddenly heard the dogs start barking like CRAZY. I knew I had locked the front door when the husband left to work, but I suddenly worried that the serial killer had actually entered via the sliding glass door. I knew we'd had it open the day before and couldn't remember if I locked it. I was like, "God, seriously?? I just read this email and now I'm getting serial-killed?? This scenario did not appear in the email." 


Well, the dogs wouldn't stop barking and something started banging up against the bathroom door. At that point, I resigned myself to my fate and decided to grab my phone and call 9-1-1, for which I determined to jump out of the shower and wrap myself in a towel. I figured I might as well call 9-1-1 before I got attacked, so maybe they'd use the GPS and show up just in time to catch the perp and stop his reign of terror from ruining any other lady's shower. Suddenly, the "serial killer," a.k.a., my wiener dog who was supposed to be kenneled due to lack of supervision, burst triumphantly into the bathroom, barking celebratorily. With soapy-suds hair, shower still running, I put the dog back where she belonged, and praised the other dog for not escaping -- he was doing his tattle-tale bark, so with the tattle-tale and celebrator combined, it definitely sounded exactly like a serial killer had intruded.

Checked locks and finished shower unscathed.

2 - for some reason, it's really important to me to make food for my husband. If I don't do that, I feel like I'm failing as a wife. For some reason, making food more than anything is what I focus on to make him happy. This week, I experienced a major triumph, in that I cooked him breakfast every day, sent him lunch to work every day, and cooked him dinner every night.

3 - I actually made something really, incredibly delish. It's lemon pepper tilapia, baked in the oven. I blame my success on using mostly FRESH stuff: fresh cracked black pepper, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and freshly pressed garlic cloves. This was a big hit.

I still need a lot of help with red meat. The big problem is that I don't want to eat it, so I have no idea what I'm doing to it. It could be good, bad, OR ugly. I feel like I'm wearing a blindfold every time I try to cook red meat. Do any vegetarians have clues to share? Do any cooks have tried-and-true red meat rules to apply? Does anyone have a key for what the heck to do with all the different cuts of red meat? The main reason I don't eat cows: way too complicado. But also, cause the baby ones are really cute and they like have big brown eyes, like my puppies. 

4 - the Word of God presided over most of my days. We just found a church that we love, and I joined up with the ladies Bible study on Tuesday nights. The study in which I partake involves memory verses and daily homework (well, 5 days worth). It's been great so far, and really challenging in a good way. The more you get into the Bible, the more you want. So rich ... and I don't know how to explain it, but it makes the biggest difference in my daily life moments.

5 - my job has not clobbered me emotionally. This is definitely a change within my spirit, moreso than a  change in my actual circumstances. My job has only gotten more challenging, and my self-evaluation has not really given me any reason for pride. It's just that I know that I've been put in this place for a reason, and I know that my main purpose is tied up in my job performance, but in being what I was created to be, so I don't sweat the small stuff. I'm going to learn a lot, and accept each situation as it comes. Like it or not, the people I work for/with are going to be bathed in prayer, and I will evaluate every moment with a certain spiritual detachment that keeps me from asking my job to provide me with my personal worth. At least, this is where I am this week. It works a lot better than workingworkingworking with desperation, hungry for success, devastated by hiccups, and so intensely affected by the ups and downs of the approval coming from others. 

6 - I did not kidnap any babies. I saw the most precious infant, who was born at 6.5 lbs. Each little breath you could watch as it filled her belly and lungs while she slept. Every inch of her was tiny and perfect and so brand new. Her tufty hair was awesome. When she woke up to ask for something to eat, her brand new vision was so alert and focused. What a little angel! But I held it together and didn't snatch her. In fact, I kept my arms folded behind my back (thanks, yoga!) and looked with my eyes, not with my hands.

7 - I rooted for the right teams. I love the Orioles. I don't follow them like I did 5 or 6 years ago (until the moment Rafael Palmeiro broke my freakin' heart), but they will always charm me like crazy. So proud of them for making it to the 2012 playoffs, for the first time in so many, many years. Their record never dissuades my love. I love them for who they are, not for the benefits they bring me. LOVE those O's! They have actually spanked the Yanks (New York Yankees) 2 out of 4 times they've met in the playoffs. At the moment, things are not looking too good in game 5, but it's no matter. Yanks may win the battle, but ultimately, they lose the war, wherein the war = being charming to Sydney. 

PS -- on my way now to watch game 5 between Nats and Cards. It's not very patriotic of the Cardinals to try and beat the Nationals, so if they win tonight they should probably all be tried for treason. I now live within a few miles of the Nats stadium, so I've adopted them as my tied-for-second-favorite (with the Rangers) team, and I reeeeeally hope they win tonight. It's also many years coming for them.

Long live the Underdog!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Working Wife

I was born without a talent.

I am not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me, to throw a pity party, or to bore you or repulse you. I am just telling you the truth. I was born talentless.

When it came to sports, I had two right feet, and negative-one hand-eye coordination.
I'm not a singer. I can't naturally harmonize (see my sister for that skill).
I cannot create visual beauty through painting, drawing, photography, etc (see my sister, again). 
I am not hilarious.
I am not fashionable.
Musical talent, playing the piano by ear, learning to read music -- right out.
I am not smart --  math and science mystify me. I can't understand the process and I can't understand why anybody cares! (But I'm certainly glad they do, because thanks, Doc.)
I have bad taste in music and movies. 

What I can do, and I believe I've done, since the day I was born (okay, exaggeration allowed), is work. Yes, I made that word emphatic.

Now that I'm an adult, I have gone through your typical courses of study, completed a bachelor's degree, gotten married, and it still seems I'm a dunce in the natural talents arena. I'm not a great housekeeper or decorator. I don't seem to have a knack for cooking or grocery shopping. I'm terrible at organization. But what I do well is work.

At work, even when I feel bad, when I want to hide, when I want it all to go away, I want to be there. I want to be there because even when I mess up, I know I can. I can accomplish tasks. I can cross things off my list. I can make things happen.

Often I wish my husband or my family could know me at work, because sometimes I think I am a different person there than he will ever know. I feel like I am the best of myself at work. People always want me, even when it's for bad reasons. What do they call it? Kickin' ass? Check. Takin' names? Check. Hugging people? Not very much, but sometimes. 

Now that I'm married, being good at work isn't enough. My husband gets home first and he's waiting for me. It's so strange that I work, and my husband gets home from his job before me and he waits for me. My talented husband, who's good at working AND cooking AND cleaning AND sports. My wise husband, who has a worthy piece of advice for everyone, and yet somehow chose to be with me, a blundering silly-sweet girl who loves hard and works hard and somehow makes up for the void of talents and passions by just putting in the effort.... This is so different than how I thought it'd be, when I grew up with a stay-at-home-mom who was an excellent cook and made coffee and lunch for my daddy every day.

At my wedding, my dad said some beautiful things, while I was wrangling my 3-year-old nephew-turned-ringbearer, so that he wouldn't set some lovely tablecloth aflame. He said that Husband and I will figure out what it means to be US, to be Me-and-Him. He said that we will find that there are unlimited answers to this question. And he said to save some of the generosity that we share with the rest of the outside world, and lavish it on each other.

Lastnight I got home late. I was supposed to leave 45 minutes earlier than I did. This might've been less of an issue if I'd communicated, but I got lost in the adult temper tantrums, the people who needed me, the deadlines. The pile of work that's never even close to done. My husband was left waiting and I failed him.

The whole drive home I was thinking about the Proverbs 31 woman. I used to think -- no biggie. Just get married. I'll be good at that, at least. Wrong. Proverbs 31:11: "The heart of her husband trusts in her." This sounds so huge -- like, he knows she won't cheat. But what about when he's waiting for her so they can go running together? What about when he gets through tough days, treasures coming home to her at night, only she fritters away precious moments without even telling him she's going to be late? The heart of her husband trusts in her. But lastnight, I failed at being that trustworthy woman. And I haven't even been a missus for two weeks.

Maybe I just don't know yet -- I haven't learned. I haven't taken the course of study or done enough homework to know: what does it mean to be a working wife? What does it mean to be good at work, and great at being a wife? I love both, but one is surely more important.

All my blog-roll models that I talked about, they are wives, but their work is in their homes, with their kids and husbands. My work is outside, with a team of spirited staff and a huge field of unknowns to plunder in order to be successful. 

I am a woman. Can I do both? Can I learn and grow into a new kind of balance? 
I applaud the blogger Mamas -- and O! how I wish I could be one of them -- tomorrow.
But for tonight, I want to tell the Working Wives that I am joining them in a quest to be the best we can be, practically, at the place we are called. Where is our blog support community?? Let's get it going.

Wherever you are -- be all there. Live to the hilt of every situation you believe to be the will of God. -- Jim Elliot

You're a Wannabe Whatcha Read

Allow me to 'splain.

[And once you're done, go see Jen for more reading!]

Several weeks ago, sometime during the Summer of 2012, I read something from one of my bloggers that was about finding one's true calling in life. She mentioned that I should take note of what kind of blogs I read (assuming I was a blog-reader, which was accurate, and I gave her a clue by reading her blog I guess), because that would show me wherein did lie the desires of my heart for my life. Thanks for the direction, Modern Mrs. Darcy. I'm sorry I didn't remember all the other things you said on the subject, but I promise that someday in my life I will carve out the time to actually read some of the books you recommend! (No deadlines, please.)

I really took this to heart and started analyzing the blogs that I read. There are some noticeable themes.

1) Family-focused.
Most of my favorite bloggers are married, with children, and several of them also seem to be pregnant right now. [This also means that most of my favorite blogs happen to be written by women, but that's beside the point. Obviously I want to be a woman. Or if I don't, I'm not talking to you about it.]
The only problem with this is that until a week and 2 days ago, I was single. Or maybe it's not a problem and what that means is now it's really happening for me, because after a couple years of blog-reading, I'm finally living up to my Blog Models. I still can't quite relate with all the toddler-stories or parenting advice swaps, but it's not for lack of trying.

2) Sexy.
If you're pregnant, or have children, you are/were sexy fairly recently, to someone. This is a given. If you have more than one child, you are obviously a repeat offender in the "being sexy" department. Sexiness also comes from being creative, which you must be if you maintain a blog which I read regularly. Then there are experts in this field, such as Moxie Wife, who gives advice on keeping romance and love alive in the marriage, even after years, even after 5.5 kids, and even when you most likely don't have a lot of spare change lying around for pricey date nights. She's brilliant. I should add that all this sexiness is real and genuine and organic. This "Whole Foods" type sexiness -- no bondage or 50 Shades of anything. All home-brewed.

3) Hilarious.
This is huge. Most, if not all, of my favorite bloggers are tear-jerking, knee-slapping comedic women writers. Oh Jones is one of the funniest, but she has some stiff competition from Jen @ Conversion Diary and Grace @ Camp Patton.

4) Ultra-Smart.
Not that they beat you over the head with boring nerd stuff, but these women are great writers, they're well-read, and they have real opinions on things that matter. They have done the research, and they will make you think from time to time, inbetween your tears of laughter. Something that goes hand-in-hand with this is that they share their opinions candidly. They aren't scared to offend you by being politically incorrect. Jen @ Conversion Diary probably comes out on top in this category, but she has competition from all the others aforementioned. Something that I love is when women talk about what they're reading, and you can get this from Modern Mrs. Darcy (whose blog is linked above and is basically all about books), and I also recently enjoyed reading *about* the recommendations of a friend of mine, who blogs over at Logan and Janelle.

5) Self-employed.
For the most part, these women stay at home with their children. This is not to say that they don't work, because obviously maintaining their blogs, writing their ebooks, giving speaking engagements, and all the rest just doesn't happen by itself. Still, they are the masters of their destinies. They can prioritize their husbands and children and design their work schedules to fit their own personal preferences and convictions. The thought of such a life makes me drool, and I hope for goodness' sake that I can one day imitate. Haven't figured out how just yet.

6) Faith-filled.
Almost all of these family-focused, sexy, smart, hilarious and self-employed women are women of immense faith. Their blogging mission is driven by a purpose to follow their Creator. They write about their faith and they are honest and very unique in their spiritual pursuits. I want faith that is authentic, deep, and genuine. So many of my favorite bloggers exemplify this type of spirituality, and they inspire me every day. Of course, I am a - regular reader of some of the well-known greats in this category, such as Ann Voskamp and Beth Moore. Vastly different styles, very different from my own personal style, but greats, for good reason.

7) Fashionable.
They each have a unique sense of style, but it has to be said that most of my fave ladies frequently make posts about their wardrobe choices. Often it's getting creative with modifications, or planning how to look cute on a budget with a tight schedule, but always it includes vivid photos. Natasha at Little Pink Monster always seems to be trying a new crafty accessory or wardrobe piece for herself or one of her darling daughters.

BONUS: I love juicy photography. I get this from Grace at Camp Patton, and one of my personal besties, Little Llama. Interesting that one IS a med student and the other is married to a med student ... science and art strike again! Together!

Someday, I want to be like all o' them when I grow up. Tell me about YOUR Blog-roll models. Who do you read? What do you want to be when you grow up?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Meet the Missus

It's been almost two months since I posted, and a wedding surely took place between then and now. One of the oddest yet certainly best days of my life. 

A few days before the *outdoor* wedding ceremony of very humble means, a cold front moved in on us. There was some debate for a few days about whether or not the clash of the fronts would take place on the day before, or the day of my very own wedding. 

3 days before the wedding, it looked like it was going to be the DAY OF scenario, and I was envisioning horrific nightmares-come-true of all our guests sitting in the reception hall at assigned seats, watching us wed.

My poor, stressed husband-to-be listened to my desperate cries about how it would simply be the worst thing I'd ever endured if it rained. I wanted the weather to reflect my feelings about the event, so therefore I wanted sun rays, fluttering butterflies, gentle breezes elevating my veil ever so slightly, and euphoric waves of fresh air and rustling leaves. Not to mention photographs with a backdrop of wild loveliness. 

My ever-so-sensitive husband-to-be told me to pretty much suck it up and deal with the fact that I am a grown woman, not a Disney princess, and the most important thing to me should be "getting married," not getting married in beautiful weather. And there was nothing we could control about the weather, so stop stressing and move on to the "controllables." My groom was so right. 

. . . . . . .

And the day of my wedding dawned one of the most beautiful this girl has ever lived through in her 28 years. I walked my dogs in the morning and cried choking sobs over the absolute GIFT that was the beauty of the day that the Lord had made. I felt like God, the Father-of-this-bride, handed me that beautiful day wrapped up with a bow on it. Breathtaking. 

I urge you to LIKE Scott Henderson Photography on Facebook so you can see the photographic evidence of this fairytale weather. 

I'm so happy we are married now, and so thankful for the day that went by faster than anything ever, but simultaneously felt surreal and perfect and fit-for-a-Disney-princess. 

Now for the nitty-gritty of learning to be a Wife, even when it rains.