December 19, 2009

My Brain is Going Soft

I don't know if it's because I haven't had a full time job in more than seven months, but I think I'm losing brain cells at a faster rate than is normal for someone my age. Or maybe it's because I recently read The Twilight Saga twice in less than two weeks (don't judge).

Either way, here is the evidence that my brain is going soft:

Exhibit A

A few months ago I started working part time at a retail store selling Christian and Christian-themed products. A few weeks into the job I got dressed for work and sat down at my computer--I'm sure to read something very important. Like trivia about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Rabbit trail: The boy who played Charlie is now a veterinarian and lives in Texas). Under the desk I had my pair of black flats for work, and the blue and white patterned shoes I wore to church that morning. When it was time to leave, I slipped on my shoes and went to work. A few hours later I got home, took off the shoes and for the first time all day, actually looked at my shoes.

One was black and the other was blue and white patterned. Yeah.

What's particularly ridiculous about this is that the shoes don't even fit the same. The black pair is loose and slides on and off easily, like fake leather often does. The blue and white pair are a smidge too small and made of canvas. And did I mention that one is black and the other blue and white?

Exhibit B
I just played Text Twist online and couldn't think of half the words for the game. This is a small thing, but in college I rocked that game out like it was my job.

Exhibit C
Tonight I decided I wanted to watch a movie that would warm the cockles of my heart. I pop open my DVD player and take out the disc that's already in there. But I don't own the DVD that's in the player--Netflix does. Which is fine, except that I supposedly already sent back this particular DVD to Netflix. But no, I did not. I sent back my DVD to Netflix. Netflix is now the proud owner of an extra Psych disc.

I called Netflix and the nice young man I spoke to said there's nothing they can really do, but he credited my account $10. So here's my question: Who out there has a DVD burner I can use to make a new disc for the first four episodes of Psych, season 3?

I think I'll start taking Gingko Biloba and doing crossword puzzles.

October 13, 2009

Dear Hiring Personnel: New Life Goal

I hope that at the end of this phase in my life, I come away with a lot of new-found wisdom. People will ask me a question and I'll pause for a second, look away at a distant point only I can see, and then quietly and deliberately say something sage. They'll be in awe and wonder how someone can go from being a girl laughing at Wayne's World, to a woman laughing at Wayne's World and saying such wise things.

I have, however, already learned a very valuable lesson from the last five months. I have since found a new life goal. I have a dream--something to work toward and strive for. It is thus:

After I find a new job, I hope and dream that I will never, ever, ever have to write another cover letter in my life. Ever.

I don't particularly agree with a lot of things about how the business world is run (Don't get me started on the fact that I can't wear Chacos at 99% of the jobs out there), but how people are hired is the worst of it all. Basically, the cover letter is pointless and yet still required. Here's how my mind works when faced with the prospect of writing yet another cover letter:

Sigh. Another cover letter. Okay, so I'm supposed to make myself sound good and sell my abilities. I'm a writer, so you'd think this was easy, except I'm not a business writer. Summing up the whole of my skill and abilities in three strict paragraphs is stifling. And I can't even use sarcasm. But I need to catch their eye with this letter. How do I do that? Every person is different--some hiring personnel might like someone who throws off the chains of a normal cover letter format, while others may insist on strictly adhering to the three paragraph layout. AND YOU NEVER KNOW WHICH TYPE YOU'RE DEALING WITH.

Also, what's with companies posting a job listing but not telling you who they are? Or who you're addressing? If I were applying to a design firm, that would certainly be different than if I were applying to work with real estate agents. But I often don't know. All I know is that they need an assistant.

WHY ALL THE SECRECY? Do they think it's cute? Coy? Maybe it makes them seem mysterious, like I'm applying to be the assistant for a CIA spy, thus making me want to apply even more. Because who wouldn't want to be the assistant for a spy who wears dark suits every day and can kill people 37 different ways?

But no, I apply for these jobs and spend 20 minutes trying to sell myself in three paragraphs, only to get an email saying one of the following:

A) Thanks for applying, but this position is filled.
B) Thanks for applying. Please fill out this questionnaire, so we can send you information on how you can earn $5,000 a month from home!
C) Nothing. Ever. They never send an email and I'm left with the feeling of rejection that isn't even acknowledged with a "We got your application."

And so, after months of pointless job applications and writing more cover letters than I care to think about, I have a new dream. A dream of throwing off the confines of cover letters. First, though, I'll go apply for more jobs, sell myself in three paragraphs, and sell my dignity and creativity to The Man so I can get a steady paycheck to pay my bills.

But at least I have a goal, right?

September 19, 2009

30 Second Ramblings: Sale Items

A few weeks ago I started a series called 30 Second Rants, for those rants that are shorter and don't take a full-fledged blog entry to explain. Now I'm going to start a 30 Second Ramblings series for those thoughts that are too long for Twitter, but too short for a full blog entry.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of a sale item must tell her friend about the deal she procured. This is especially true with clothes. As soon as she receives a compliment about the clothing item or accessory, she feels the need to let her friend know what a great deal she got.

“I love that shirt! I've been looking for a turquoise shirt but everything is either ugly or too expensive!” says friend.

“Thanks! You'll never guess how much I paid for it. It was originally $49.95 at Banana Republic. Guess how much I paid? $9.95!” replies wearer.

You see, men hunt for animals they can brag about (“I was out for three hours and didn't see one deer. The next day I saw three in less than 20 minutes, including the ten-point buck I shot. I'm gonna put him in the den beside the buck I got last year.”) and women hunt for deals. The thrill of the hunt for that perfect pair of shoes to match the blue top you got on sale at Anthropologie.

By the way, the other day I got a ridiculously cute top at Anthropologie for $19.95, originally $98! Booyah!

September 2, 2009

A Ph.D in Marriage Analysis

I should find a university that will let me develop my own special doctorate program. When I finish the work, I'll have a Ph.D in “Marriage Analysis.” I'd be an expert in watching my married and dating friends and learning about how different couples interact with each other, other couples and single people. What will make this program unique is that all of the doctoral candidates will be single. Singles watching couples. Bye-golly it's brilliant!

One of the largest parts of my study would focus on friendships. I'd study how couples make new friends and how they interact with old friends. My fear, though, is that the conclusions to this study would make a lot of couples angry or offended.

I read an article on the other day about singles and the Christian community. The bottom line is that single people (meaning not married or dating anyone) are often left out of the loop of friendship with couples or families. I don't mean being acquainted with each other and you all exchange “How are you?” or chit chat about the weather. I mean true and lasting friendship. The kind where hearts are laid on the line, advice is exchanged, and struggles are shouldered together.

The common behavior/reaction is that as soon as people pair off, they suddenly feel the need to only spend time with other couples. I can understand this to a certain extent―another couple gives each half someone to talk to. The man has someone to talk to, the woman has someone to talk to. The result is that the wife only hangs out with her female friends when her husband is having a guy's night. Rarely do the three of them hang out together.

This is not always the case, of course, but the rare exception is usually with someone who was friends with one or both halves of the pair before the coupling. So the girl's childhood best friend makes the cut. The guy's college roommate is okay to hang out with. But the new neighbor who is single will never become more than a casual acquaintance. Or if they do become a good friend, it will only be with half the couple, not both people.

I'm not saying a man should become best friends with the girl next door while his wife goes to make friends at the local truck stop. The bottom line is that single people benefit from spending time with couples or families and couples benefit from single people. The most obvious benefit is that it creates diversity. Diversity of experience, viewpoints, opinions and so on. Single people can learn a great deal about personal sacrifice from a married person, while a married person can learn a great deal about the importance of not relying on a person (like a spouse) to completely define who you are. (In other words―don't close yourself off from the world so that your spouse is your only friend.)

The bottom line is that I believe my study would conclude that the segregation between couples and single people is unhealthy for both sides. And yet it is more common than not for couples to disappear from the lives of their single friends. The fault lies with both parties, but that doesn't matter right now. What matters is that if we are to be people of depth, that depth should be carved from the experiences of many people, and not just those who are like us or who are in the same stage of life as us.

August 25, 2009

30 Second Rants: Inane Opinions

I'm what some would call opinionated. Okay. Fine. I'm incredibly opinionated and have one for just about everything. I know this is unusual, so I don't mind that most people don't have an opinion about every little thing. Or if they have an opinion, they don't necessarily feel the need to share it with everyone.

Here's my rant, though: People who only have opinions about the most pointless and trivial things. Like Facebook, Twitter or whether Seinfeld is a good TV show. I have an account with Twitter and enjoy reading the updates of others immensely. What burns my biscuits is when people who never give a second thought* to genocide in Darfur or health care reform have an opinion about how pointless Twitter is. Maybe Twitter isn't stopping wars or ending world hunger, but what's the harm? If you're going to use your time and brain power to argue about something, why not leave Twitter alone and stand up for something that matters?

*I don't mean they just think genocide is bad or that everyone should have health care, I mean they've actually read about it or have an informed opinion about what should be done to solve these, or any, crises.

August 20, 2009

In West Philadelphia Born and Raised

My paternal grandparents used to live in New Jersey, close enough to Philadelphia that you could see the city's skyline. I don't remember much about visiting them, but I remember a few things. This includes the pretzels, that root beer was available at every restaurant (unlike in the South, although it's becoming more common) and Friendly's restaurant.

One time we spent the week with them and did the touristy things around Philly. Again, I don't remember a whole lot, other than the buildings were tall and the Liberty Bell was small.

Philadelphia, like many large cities, often has a bad rap. I've heard it called Filthydelphia, among other things. But where they're lacking in some areas, Philly makes up for it in murals.

Graffiti is found in cities large and small. During the last several years, artists such as Banksy and Shepard Fairey have taken it mainstream and for many it has become a legitimate form of art.

So Philadelphia went about their problem with graffiti differently than most other large cities. In 1984 they established the Mural Arts Program. Rather than try painting over all the graffiti in the city, they embraced the idea of the city being full of blank canvases. Each year they work with communities all over the city and bring together artists that would have normally just created illegal art. Instead, they "provide opportunities for artists with a variety of skills to work together to create murals."

They now have more than 2,800 murals all over the city. And now we come to the reason I began this post.

One of their newest projects is named "A Love Letter for You." Throughout August, artists will paint rooftops and walls along Market Street from 63rd to 45th. The murals will be seen best from the elevated train.

Each of the murals will be words of love: "words of romance, your thoughts of relationships and your ideas of what love truly is. Comforting or troubling, passionate or past tense, even if it's 'hate to love' or 'love to hate'."

Sometimes I look around at what sort of art is being produced or becoming popular, and I wonder how long it will be before all art becomes easy-to-swallow nuggets of sugar-coated drivel. Then I dig a little deeper and look past what's on TV or the radio and realize that real art is still being made. Whether it's from the musician who will never make it to the radio or the photographer who will only ever be seen by their friends. I find art that took thought and comes from an imagination unhindered by what the world will like. Art that is beautiful even if I don't understand what the artist is saying.

For more information about the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia, go here. And for info on the love letter project, stop by this blog.

August 15, 2009

The Dynamics of a Two-Pet Household

Sometimes, I look at Cleo (the cat) and feel a little sorry for her. Maddie (the dog) gets most of the attention, while Cleo gets yelled at for pawing at the back door or receives looks of scorn for the cat litter strewn about. Then Cleo tries to walk on my face in the middle of the night, and I wonder if cats are God's way of keeping humans humble, while contemplating how much a steak for Maddie would cost.

Photo credits, counter clockwise from top left: dooce, MarthaK, For Me, For You and Soulemama

August 11, 2009

It's All About the Small Things

The following are things that bring small bursts of satisfaction in life, thus making the world better:

1. Finishing a book. Oh sweet mercy. I just love reading and getting to the point where you've read more of the book than you've not read, and then you've read three quarters. And then you can see the end in sight. And I love when I get to the last page and I have to use a sheet of paper to cover up the rest of the text on the page, so I don't accidentally see the last sentence before I get to it. And then, and then, I read the final sentence, close the book one last time, and it's finished.

2. Wearing new shoes. Don't you just feel more confident in a new pair of shoes? You walk taller and even the shirt you're wearing, the one you've owned for five years, feels newer and brighter. It's like on the first day of school, when you're loaded down with a new backpack, notebooks and pencils, and the all-important new outfit. But the outfit would not be complete without the new pair of shoes. Shoes that are so white they hurt your eyes to look directly at them. Or ballet flats that are still a little stiff, but totally worth the blisters.

3. Getting to your destination faster than Mapquest or Google said you would. This one is certainly silly, but don't you feel like you've accomplished something when it takes less time than Google said it would? It's like you've stuck it to The Man in some small way. Ha! You said 90 minutes and it took me 80! Take that computer-generated directions!

4. Super friendly employees. This is another random one, but I just love going to a restaurant or grocery store and the wait staff or cashier is friendly and talkative and seems to enjoy their job. It's just rare to meet people like that and it makes me wish I were super wealthy so I could give them an enormous tip.

5. Remembering a musician you'd forgotten. There's just so much good music out there (and no, the radio is not playing most of it―so turn it off and start scouring the internet. Start with All Songs Considered on NPR.), so I occasionally completely forget about a musician or group until I randomly see something about them. For example, I completely forgot how much I enjoy Elbow's music until I saw they opened for Coldplay a week or so ago. Or I'll put iTunes on shuffle and suddenly be taken back to college and my love for one of the Bens (Ben Harper, Ben Lee and Ben Kweller). Love it.

6. Great weddings photos. I love weddings and everything about them, but especially the photos. My friends own their own photography business and every once in a while I'll go to their site to see what's new. A couple weeks ago my friends got married and their photographers did an absolutely amazing job. I was blown away by their photos. I just love seeing two people completely in love and their friends and family that have come to celebrate with them. With so much unhappiness and restlessness in the world, it's always nice to take a break and look at unbridled love.

7. Unexpected phone calls from friends. I'm kind of forgetful sometimes about how many great friends I have. This usually happens when I've spent too much time by myself and haven't had enough person-to-person interaction. So whenever I'm feeling this way, it's always a pleasant reminder to receive a phone call from a friend who just wants to see how I'm doing. I should be better about calling people just to talk, but I'm as awkward on the phone as a cat at a AKC dog show.

What about you? What are some of your bits of happiness?

August 7, 2009

30 Second Rants: Not Accepting Gifts or Favors

A new series I'll be featuring is 30 Second Rants. These will be for those opinions that can be explained in a shorter blog entry. You see, I have a lot of opinions, and I'm sure you want to read about all of them.

I know America was built by a can-do attitude, full of independence and all that jazz, but I believe many of us have taken this too far. Why is it that every time someone wants to pick up the dinner bill or just do someone a favor, so many people try to refuse? Is it so wrong just to say "thanks!" and let them do something nice? Exactly when did we let our pride become so bloated that we couldn't accept a simple gesture of friendship?

All I'm saying is that the next time someone wants to buy me a coffee or pay for my dinner or give me a puppy, I'll be happy to say "Thank you! That's so nice of you!" and then return the favor next time.

August 3, 2009

Thoughts from the Road

I drove home from a wedding in Richmond on Saturday night (Congrats Paul and Becca!) and thought I'd share with you some rambling thoughts and ideas I had.

*If I were to open a gas station, I'd do it in either Virginia or South Carolina, really close to the North Carolina border. Then, just a few miles before you get to the gas station I'd have a billboard that said something to the effect of "Fill up your tank before you reach NC and its ridiculously high gas tax!" I'd be filthy rich!

*If I were pulled over for speeding, I wonder if I could convince the officer that I thought the sign for I-85 was another speed limit sign. And when they think I'm lying, I'll become upset because that's what my father always told me and I can't
believe he lied to me!

*Twizzlers are the most perfect late-night driving food. They magically keep me awake.

*The governing body of North Carolina that decides on speed limits should be given a swift hit in the head. Whoever thought it was a good idea to make the speed limit on a major highway 55mph must surely be on crack.

*The trick to determining if the gas station at the next exit is sketchy is to compare it to the restaurants also found on the exit. If it's a lone Burger King or Hardee's, keep driving. If it's a Cracker Barrel or especially a Chick-fil-A, you're golden. However, if it's a Sheetz gas station, then you don't even have to worry about the restaurants.

*By the way, I feel like I'm at an amusement park whenever I go to a Sheetz. There so big! And red! And you can order food right at the gas pump!

*I can't believe I ate that entire bag of Twizzlers.

*The best highways are those that have the huge medians with trees. Then you only have to watch for cops on your side of the highway, rather than both sides. Score!

*Best road trip musicians/songs ever: Nick Drake, Razor (Foo Fighters), The Winner Is (Devotchka), Rosie Thomas, Nickel Creek...who am I missing?

*I listen to a lot of female musicians whose name begins with K. KT Tunstall, Kate Earl, Katie Herzig, Kendall Payne...

Alright, I'm done. Enough random ramblings.

July 29, 2009

Music that Moves

I have an excess of emotion and feeling. I like to call this passion, but sometimes it comes out as anger. Especially when it involves an opinion.

This excess of emotion (let's just call it passion) is often most prevalent in three areas: music, books/stories and movies. I cry when I read certain short stories and I even cried like a baby during the final chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I had a long piece of toilet tissue I used as a Kleenex and it was pulp by the time I finished the epilogue.

Movies are similar to books because they both tell stories. But added to movies are the beautiful visuals. Like the breathtaking shots in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It's a slow movie without a lot of "on the edge of your seat with excitement," but the movie is so well-made it makes my skin crawl. But the thing that makes me breathless at the same time as excited--the thing that makes me cry and remember times of happiness or sorrow--is music. Few things evoke as much emotion in me as music.

I've been called a music snob because I steer clear of the radio as often as possible (Don't even get me started on modern country music). I just don't think the radio is a good place to find real talent (most of the time). I went to a wine tasting a couple weeks ago and my friend was telling me that at a previous wine tasting he was taught that you should taste three sips of wine because each sip tastes different. Each time you notice something new about the wine and notice different flavors. Good music is the same way. During the first listen you're just becoming familiar with the general music. Then each time after you're noticing something different--the poetry of the lyrics (if there are any), the background instruments that enhance the major instruments, or the way your mood changes during the song.

I was actually inspired to write this blog while listening to the soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Such a great movie that is enhanced by great music. But perhaps my absolute favorite theme song of all time is the Forrest Gump Suite. Just hearing those first few notes reminds me of the great movie and the whole atmosphere of the film and its main character. The rise and fall of the music--the way it builds to a climax and then comes back down for quiet moments.

Just as soundtrack music reminds me of the way a movie makes me feel, albums or musicians I listen to repeatedly during a season of my life will inevitably take me back to the time later. Sometimes these pairings make sense, while other times it just happens to be whatever CD I'm listening to while reading a book. Listening to 100 Portraits will forever remind me of driving in the mountains to pick up river tubers at summer camp. Radiohead's OK Computer will take me back to the time I worked at a sing company because that's the first time I ever heard that album. And I'm sure that a few years from now, any time I hear Fleet Foxes, I'll be reminded of this past spring.

Here are some of my favorites that remind me of different times of my life.

- Enter the Worship Circle: Any summer at TVR Christian Camp
- Dive by Steven Curtis Chapman: Summer 2000 (Go Deep!)
- Mmmbop by Hanson: The summer before 8th grade when Amanda and I would spend whole days in the pool (don't hate on Hanson!)
- Joanna Newsom: Late summer and fall of 2007 while I was living in Cary, NC
- John Denver: When I was on my Lori Wick fiction phase in high school
- Smalltown Poets and OC Supertones: Riding in the car with Amanda and her mom in high school. Especially when we would go pick up Holly (Amanda's sister) from school.

What I'm listening to now, that will surely some day remind me of this past year:

- The Weepies: Hideaway
- The Joy Formidable: A Balloon Called Moaning
- Anathallo: Floating World
- Department of Eagles: In Ear Park
- She & Him: Volume 1
- The Welcome Wagon: Welcome to the Welcome Wagon

I'm sure the above list would be longer if I hadn't placed a moratorium on buying music right now. I miss buying music...So
what moves you? What music reminds you of a time in your life--happy or sad?

July 22, 2009

The Next Stage of Life

The Short Version:

I lost my job in May and have been looking for a new one ever since. For the last several months, my roommate Melody and I have been planning on moving into a house with another friend (Amanda E.) when all our leases are up. After playing musical chairs with different roommates, the final addition was Lindsey.

On Monday, Melody found out that we did not get the house the four of us had applied for. I was in Georgia visiting a friend when I found this out and as soon as I read the text message, I felt like God was saying this was my time to bow out. The bottom line is that this whole process has been incredibly stressful. Each house has required all of us apply and have background and credit checks. This means that I, without a job, also had to apply. As if life weren't stressful enough, there was the chance we wouldn't get a house because I was laid off. Wonderful.

So I called Melody and bailed out on them. I felt like a jerk, but I just don't think it would be wise to move into a house and stress even more about money. Instead, I'll move in with friends and save money.

My wonderful friends, Daniel and Amanda, have a house in Greensboro and they offered to let me live there for a while. A couple of opportunities are available in Greensboro, so I'm praying one of them will work out. And so, on Saturday, July 25 I'll be moving to Greensboro.

In Which I Quote GK Chesteron [AKA: The long version]:

When I was in high school, Amanda and I would often drive up to the summer camp where we'd worked. Our least favorite part of the drive was through Greensboro. I'm pretty sure they had been working on I-40 through Greensboro for 47 years. The traffic was horrible and always added 20 minutes to the drive. That's a lot of precious camp time to spend on the road.

With that in mind, Greensboro was among the few places in this world I did not want to live. Sanford, NC is also on this list. I apologize to any Sanfordians out there, but it's the armpit of North Carolina

So when Daniel and Amanda moved to Greensboro three years ago and began trying to convince me to move there, I laughed and moved on. I had a good job, good church and good friends. No need to stir the pot or take a chance with moving. Then I lost my job, couldn't find a new one and became concerned about what I should do.
Literally, I started applying for jobs the same afternoon I lost mine. I've applied for everything and anything in NC and all over the country. Anything with a job description I understood, I applied for. But no dice.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from GK Chesterton:

"An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered."

With that in mind, I will now be considering this surprise move as an adventure. I'll meet new people, in a new city and hopefully have a new job. I'll also get the chance to live with my best friend and her husband. Their generosity blows my mind, especially considering that this is a new house and life is stressful enough without an extra roommate.

The grand and fabulous news is that Greensboro is 80 minutes closer to the mountains and 80 minutes closer to my dear friends in Georgia. Heck to the yes. The sad part is that I'll be leaving other wonderful friends in Raleigh. The last two years have been a roller coaster and I've come to the end with great friends.

I'll keep everyone updated about what's going on in my life. You'll know about my next great adventure.

July 16, 2009

Hogwarts, Jane Austen and Handing Out Flowers in the Valley

Inside my brain is a part of my imagination that sometimes wishes I were born with magical powers and could attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This is the same part of my brain that wishes I were in a Meg Ryan movie from the 90s or a heroine in a Jane Austen novel.

Most of the time, however, I beat that part of my imagination into submission and force it to only come out on special occasions. Like Wednesday afternoons. Or while I'm drinking a Diet Dr. Pepper.

But honestly, I do have to try not to focus on fantasy and fictional happiness very often. Imagination is a wonderful thing, but left to its own devices, it can end up being a way to escape from reality and turn into a crutch that turns into a wheelchair that turns into a bed where you never get up and do anything real.

It's especially easy to fall into an imagined world when you're in one of life's valleys. Until recently, whenever I imagined the ups and downs of life, I pictured it to be like a roller coaster. You have fast ups, followed by fast downs. But as soon as you hit bottom, you go right back up. I'm realizing that life is not like that. Ups and downs are much more gradual and the downs often last longer than expected. Life is made mainly of plateaus. Plateaus in the good parts of life and the bad parts.

I've been in the down part of life for several weeks now. Now, I realize that my down is nothing compared to the majority of the world. I've had it pretty easy. It's easy for me to fuss at myself and wonder why I'm whining--but then I remember that pain and suffering is relative. But then I also remember that the valleys are where soil is the most fertile (I heard that in a movie somewhere I think. Cliche but true.).

So this is where the imagination comes in handy. Yes, life has its down parts. But I like to imagine that I'm driving a 1968 red convertible Mustang through the valley. I'm blaring happy music as I drive. And the passenger seat is full of flowers of all types and in every color.

As I drive by others in the valley, I hand them a flower and we listen to the music together and talk about what brought us to the valley. When we part ways, we feel a little better just having someone to talk to. And who wouldn't feel better after receiving their very own flower?

So I guess that the imagination can be helpful. But like all things, in moderation. Always in moderation.

July 14, 2009

Oy Vey

You'd think (You'd think...) that with all the time I have had on my hands lately, I would be blogging up a storm. But I've discovered that I am not one of those writers who works best during hard times. I like happiness. I'm inspired by happy and carefree things. So this economy is stifling me.

With that thought in mind, I've decided to spread the happiness with links to uplifting and fun things:

Check out these mysterious letters.

Quite possibly the best Craigslist ad ever.

"Crayola Doesn't Make a Color for Your Eyes."

The official White House photo stream on Flickr.

Speaking of the White House, this is one of the best photos ever.

Rice paddy crop art. So weird. So fun.

Also a little weird, but so good: Dirty Projectors-Stillness is the Move.

The Miller High Life Innovations. Hilarious.

Flickr set: Getting Dressed Each Day is Hard.

God Help the Girl (Good music--can't wait to see what else they do).

June 16, 2009

Simple Pleasures

When I worked at a summer camp in high school and college, the only place nearby to go shopping was the Wal-Mart. One Saturday I was standing in line behind an old married couple. They had gray hair, were stooped over with age and never said a word to each other while in line. The husband was giving their merchandise to the cashier while the wife stood a few feet back, holding a single red rose in her hands.

The entire time she was in line, she kept smelling the rose and then looking at it with the most content smile on her face I have ever seen. Her look was full of memories. Memories of all the roses she had been given in the past. From the first rose her husband gave her at a school dance, to the roses she received when their first child was born, and the single rose he buys her on occasion "just because." Those memories and the simple pleasure of the single stem in her hand made her face glow as though she had been given a dozen roses with a diamond ring in the center of one. But it was just a single rose.

Her husband took the rose from her so they could pay for it, but then gave it right back.
I don't know whether she picked it up herself or not, but the pure joy in her face makes me think that her husband picked it out just for her. My imagination (and not-so-hidden romantic side) likes to think that she was holding just one of the hundreds of roses he had given her over the years. And no matter how many more she'd be given, she would always show that much pleasure in a single rose given to her by her beloved.

I love flowers more than just about anything in the world. I hope that someday I meet a man who will buy me flowers for special occasions and "just because." But even more, I hope that no matter how many flowers I'm given, I never lose that look of pleasure like the woman in the Wal-Mart checkout lane.

June 15, 2009

The Drunk Dial's Cousin

I submit that the close (very close) cousin of the "Drunk Dial" is the "Over-Emotional Facebook/Twitter Update."

Drunk Dial:
You've had too much alcohol and your judgment is impaired. During said time, you call someone and leave a ridiculous or embarrassing voicemail. This (I hear) is especially bad if it's someone you are not on the best terms with.

Over-Emotional Facebook/Twitter Update:
It's late and you're tired. Or maybe you're having a bad day and someone yelled at you at work. Or maybe you're just emotional all the time. But this excess of emotion spills over into your online updates. Example: "I guess I just don't have any real friends. None of them ever call or ask me how I'm doing and I'm pretty sure someone (who shall remain nameless but you know who you are) stole the last box of macaroni and cheese, even though she knew I wanted it. Maybe I'll just stop calling them like they've apparently stopped calling me."

So the next time you're thinking: "Just you wait, people-who-made-me-mad! The next time Facebook asks me 'What's on your mind?' I'm going to answer them--honestly! And boy will you all feel the burn and wrath of my carefully chosen passive aggressive post! You'll feel so guilty for not being nice to me and walking on eggshells around me that you'll immediately want to buy me a puppy!" Please, just take a few minutes to stop and ask yourself if it's beneficial or healthy or constructive to continue on the path over Over-Emotional Facebook/Twitter Updating.

Together, we can eliminate the embarrassment of out-of-left-field accussations and conclusion-jumping.

May 14, 2009

An Open Letter to the Creators of LOST

Dear Creators of LOST,

Why do you hate me? Seriously, what did I do to you? Did you think I didn't have enough mystery in my life? Do I look like Nancy Drew, in search of mystery around every corner?No, I do not. I have brown hair and drive faster than Miss Drew. I also don't like wandering into dark spaces with nothing but a flashlight and a sense that something is amiss.

But I digress.

Here's the thing: I don't really like the sensation of my brain melting and flowing out of my ears. It's just not pleasant. You'd think it would be a warm, tingly sensation. Nope. Instead it's just painful. And yet for the last five seasons you've become increasingly antagonistic and insisted on making things more and more difficult for your viewers. It's like you enjoy torturing us with your wild twists and turns and dead bodies piling up. Or maybe you enjoyed dissecting animals in school—poking and prodding the brains of innocent animals. And so now you do that with television viewers. You poke and prod our brains with an ever-increasing maelstrom of ridiculousness.

And can we please talk about the decision-making skills of your characters? Don't these people know how to make a decision and stick with it? Whatever happened to commitment? Sure, trying to get back to where you began sounds like a good idea, but why not just let the chips fall where they may? And oh my goodness—just pick a partner, people! What is with these men and falling for the manipulative woman who lies and steals children and has beautiful hair even when she's in the jungle and hasn't showered in three months? And I'm not just talking about romantic partners. What about picking sides in this war between the Oceanic survivors, the Others, the Hostiles, the Dharma people, the Ajira people, Jacob, the other Oceanic survivors that disappeared a while ago...did I miss anyone?

But seriously—someday my children and their friends will look at me with pity and wonder what happened to me. They'll call me a Lostie and wonder why I greet everyone by saying “Namaste” or why I refused to celebrate their birthdays when they turned four, eight, 15, 16, 23 and 42. It will be your fault that my children will be named Kate, Jack, Sawyer, Hurley and Juliet. But that's okay. I don't take it personally. It's my destiny, right?



P.S. Please don't let Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Sun, Jin or Miles die. And it would be awesome if Sayid, Juliet, Charlie, Claire and Libby weren't really dead and they've just been on the other side of the island enjoying mai tais and a nice selection of island delicacies. Just a thought.

May 6, 2009

Lying Ads

You know when you visit a website and they feature ads based on other websites you've visited? For example, if you visit a lot of websites about perfect pickle recipes, you'll see a lot of ads about pickles or Mt. Olive or great episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. They use their interwebbiness power to figure out who they think you are and what you need, and then based ads on that. So what is MSNBC trying to tell me by putting up these ads?

You know what MSNBC? There's only so much a girl can do! Quit holding the whole "not married" or "not a mom" or "doesn't have perfect teeth" thing over my head. Also, why is the internet so obsessed with yellow teeth and Rachel Ray's amazing diet? It's like the new cranberry*--get your teeth whitened or you'll be doomed to a life of sorrow and gnashing of [yellow] teeth.

*Whoever markets cranberries is a genius--they're in 95 percent of the fruit juices I see.

April 28, 2009

Living Somewhere Between Logic and Cynicism

I was once standing in a prayer circle and the guy I was holding hands with said he could feel the cynicism from holding my hand coursing through him. He was being somewhat facetious, but I’m fully aware that I have been labeled cynical by others. I’ve also been called pragmatic, logical and pessimistic. I don’t mind pragmatic or logical, but these things still bring to mind a couple questions:

Where is the balance between logic and cynicism? Is it possible to be a hopeful cynic?

My natural inclination is to be a hopeless and over-emotional romantic. I get my feelings hurt and my self-esteem gets a daily kick in the face. I want to meet my own Mr. Darcy (or Miles) someday and I wouldn’t mind if it all happened like one of my favorite romantic comedies. I’d like a cottage in the mountains with a garden, a nice breeze through open windows, and a bike to ride into town. But experience has taught me that this is highly unlikely.

Somewhat jokingly, I have said that my mantra is to have low expectations for everything. If they’re met, then I'm not disappointed. And if they’re surpassed, then I'm pleasantly surprised. Is that cynical or logical? Pessimistic or realistic? I hope all my expectations are surpassed, but I’m fully aware they probably won’t be.

I know that true joy comes from the Lord and He will fulfill my needs. But what I’m talking about is not necessarily joy. I think it’s completely possible to be joyful in the here and now, while being logical about tomorrow. And I guess that’s what I’m trying to find the balance of: Being joyful now, while striving to steer away from cynicism about the future. Learning to actually be joyful right now, and not let cynicism about the future taint the present.

I absolutely believe that God has my best interests in mind and He will give me everything I need in this life to be joyful and do His work. But I believe we often get this confused with thinking God will give us everything we think we need, and thinking we need it because we really, really want it. And most of the time, these things aren’t bad things to want or feel like we need. I’m not talking about 72” flatscreen TVs or a new MacBook. I’m talking about marriage or children or a job you don’t hate. As someone in her mid-20s, I’m surrounded by people getting married and having children. So the common phrase I hear is that it will happen someday for me (and my other single friends). Says who? Show me where it says I am guaranteed a husband and children. It’s common to see women much older than I who are still waiting for a family (why this is true could be a whole other blog entry, but I’ll abstain).

And I’m not just talking about marriage, but smaller everyday things. When someone suggests something like going on a road trip, I’m fully aware it will never happen. People (including myself) rarely follow through with their ideas, no matter now enthusiastic they are in the beginning. So when someone comes up with a brilliant and fun idea, or they promise to do something, I file it away and never bank on it happening. I certainly hope it will happen, but aware that it probably never will.

So am I just being logical and realistic, or am I a cynic? Is this attitude perfectly fine and I just need to stop dwelling on it and let life happen? Or should I let my natural inclination run wild and start buying wedding magazines, move to the mountains and apply for a loan to buy a bookstore? Even as I type that sentence, I can’t help but feel I’d be setting myself up for disappointment.

In the end, I cannot know what the future holds for me. I can only strive to do God’s will for my life and learn to be the person He wants me to be. But does anyone out there have any thoughts to add? Do you think it’s possible to be too logical and miss out on the joys of life? Is cynicism a sin, or just a safe attitude to keep disappointment at bay?

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
~Psalm 16:11

April 8, 2009

Days With My Father: Beautiful and Heartbreaking

It's been quite a while since I posted anything. I have something in the works, but I wanted to go ahead and share this website.

Days With My Father

Phillip Toledano's mother died in 2006 and just hours after the funeral, his father had forgotten that she'd died. It was then that Phillip realized his father had no short-term memory. Eventually Toledano began telling his father that his mother was in Paris and this would satisfy his father.

On this site Phillip chronicles his time with his father, along with beautiful photographs.

February 14, 2009

The Other Five Love Languages

It's Valentine's Day and that means people everywhere are expressing their love with roses, candy and the exchange of conversation hearts that say "Fax Me." To commemorate the most fun of all the made up holidays, I'll be discussing the other five love languages.

In the book The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains the most common love languages and how they are expressed. The love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service and receiving gifts. But my friends and I have talked and decided that these five don't fully encompass the ways in which people can feel loved. Thus, I have developed a list of the other love languages:

1. Facebook Interaction: Do you write on their wall often enough? Do you tag them in notes? Have you sent them a piece of flair lately? If you're not communicating with them often enough through Facebook, then you're not loving them. And never, ever, ever forget to write back on their wall after they write on your wall. I can't believe you'd even think of doing that.

2. Picking on them: This is pretty much the opposite of words of affirmation--words of insult with a laugh. Don't you feel warm and fuzzy inside already? Have you made fun of the way your friend snorts when they laugh? Last week, when they told you that their favorite television show as a kid was Dallas, did you make fun of them and ask them who shot J.R.? Not teasing them is basically ignoring them and their idiosyncrasies. Don't you love your friend enough to make fun of their abnormally large toes?

3. Lack of physical touch: I have a few friends who do not like to be touched. At all. Most people think the side hug is a pansy's way out of a real hug, but people with this love language think even the side hug is too much. With friends like this, the best way to show the love is to keep the hugs to yourself. And remember: there's a reason couches have cushions. Your space is on your cushion. Don't cross the cushion.

4. Proper movie and television etiquette: This one is important on Valentine's Day. Couples across the land will be spending the day watching sugary-sweet movies or (if she can talk him into it) marathons of bridal shows on cable. So don't even think about talking during these movies or bemoaning the stupidity of women who wait by the phone for a guy who is clearly a jerk. Don't ever voice your predictions for how the movie will end or point out the faults of the dashing and handsome leading man. And it's also a good idea for the ladies to return the favor and abstain from voicing your opinion of Brad Pitt.

5. The gift of silence: I don't really need to hear how you were once in the exact same situation, except not really because it was a llama that ate your money and not a boss that ran over your puppy. Really, your friend just wants you to listen without comment. An occasional "Oh my!" or "No way!" or "What a lily-livered jerk face!" is permissible and even desired. But most of the time they aren't looking for advice--they just want you to listen to their plight.

That's the list I came up with. What would you add to the list of love languages?

January 28, 2009

The Funniest Letter of Complaint Ever

A passenger on Virgin airlines was not very happy with his meal, so he wrote what has to be the funniest complaint letter ever. Go here for the full text. Here's a sampling of what's in the letter:

"I’ll try and explain how this felt. Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it’s Christmas morning and you’re sat their with your final present to open. It’s a big one, and you know what it is. It’s that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about.

"Only you open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing. That’s how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this: [see image 3]."

Maybe if we all took that much time with letters of complaint, companies would make a few changes. Apparently Richard Bronson personally called the passenger to apologize. I think I might write a letter of complaint to Anderson Cooper...

January 27, 2009

And They Will Know Us By Our Suffering

I was in Richmond this weekend visiting some friends from college who moved there to start an inner-city ministry. Part of their ministry is actually living in the inner city and becoming involved in the lives of those they meet. To do this, they go to a community church that was started by two other churches in the area. I don’t know all the details of the church or its people, but as I walked into the service on Sunday afternoon, I saw a picture of what the Church should look like: Not just one color and not just one economic demographic and not just one age.

The message was given by a camp director and something he said really stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing, but he said “The world will not change when they see Christians prosper. The world will change when they see Christians rejoicing through suffering.”

Most Christians agree that the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is a bunch of malarkey. But how often do we buy into our own version of the prosperity Gospel? We feel entitled to the American dream of a nice home, two kids and a steady job. It’s our right to be able to eat every meal and to be healthy and live until we're 99. And when any of those things are tested, we begin to wonder “Why me?” We’ve bought into the American mantra that living the easy life is the right of every person, rather than remembering that we were told we would suffer—it comes with the territory of being in this world but not of this world. Paul even tells us to suffer for the Gospel (Romans 8:17 and 2 Timothy 1:8) and in 1 Corinthians we are told to bless and endure suffering (4:12-13) even when we are hungry and clothed in rags.

Does this mean we can’t be sad or upset when we suffer? Of course not! Read the Psalms and you’ll find it’s full of the cries of people who are suffering. The problem lies in expecting to never suffer and then being upset and affronted when we do.

As I chewed on what the speaker said, I was reminded of the incident a few years ago when a man entered an Amish school in Pennsylvania and murdered several children and then shot himself. A few girls who didn’t die suffered injuries that will affect them the rest of their lives. Most people would take this chance to become angry and the world would say they are justified. Instead, that Amish community used the funds that people donated to help the family of the man who did this horrible thing. They offered forgiveness and reached out to others, and that’s what the country remembered.

Shouldn’t that also be the testimony of Christians? Even though we suffer, we rejoice. Even when we live in a world going through an economic crisis, we praise God for His blessings. And then, the world will know us by our joy in Christ and our joy in suffering.

January 21, 2009

Polaroids are Saved! (For real this time!)

I stumbled upon this article on another blog. Some excerpts:

"If all goes to plan, the Polaroid factory in Enschede, Amsterdam, will soon be making film again thanks to its new owner, an eccentric Austrian artist and businessman named Florian Kaps."

"'The project is more than a business plan; it's a fight against the idea that everything has to die when it doesn't create turnover,' said Mr Kaps."

I love it! I love that Kaps realizes not everything is about money--especially art. Just because it's not the newest technology doesn't mean it's irrelevant or useless. Just look at the resurgence of vinyl records.

January 20, 2009

Jon Favreau: Making Twenty-somethings Everywhere Look Like Slackers

I love words. I love how you can write a sentence, then re-write it over and over again, until you've found the perfect combination of words to convey your meaning most accurately. I'll probably come back to the previous sentence later and re-write it before I publish this. I love doing that. But most people seem to have given up on speaking with eloquence and choose instead to speak quickly. They look for the fastest way to get their point across, even when there's a better way--a more vivid way.

My love of the written word extends to an appreciation for a good speech. A speech that not only explains a point, but does so in manner that goes above and beyond the normal spoken word. I always thought that political speeches had to be dry and delivered as though the speaker was reading a recipe. I thought speeches like those of President Bartlet were only found in the writing of Aaron Sorkin. But as I listened to President Barack Obama's inauguration speech, I was reminded of my love of words and reminded that inspirational political speeches are not just a Hollywood creation or a thing of the past. Whether you're a fan of Obama or not, you have to admit he has a way with words. His "soaring oratory" could inspire Dr. House to volunteer at an orphanage. I can't wait to hear his speeches during the next four (possibly eight) years.* I realize President Obama is not the first president to deliver a speech with panache, but he's the first that my generation remembers with clarity.

But here's where I begin to feel like a slacker, even though I make an effort to choose my words well. The speechwriter (and Obama's head speechwriter throughout the campaign and on to the White House) is Jon Favreau. And Favreau is 27 years old. According to this article in The Guardian, Favreau began his career as a speechwriter for John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign after graduating from College of the Holy Cross as valedvictorian.

I have two years to become a speechwriter or at least a published author. If I can't be a drool-worthy speechwriter, at least I can aim to be a twentysomething author of outstanding novels. I should probably start right now.

*This is not a snarky way of making fun of President Bush's lack of remarkable oratory skills. I'm just looking forward to seeing Obama put his above-average public speaking skills to use.

January 8, 2009

Print it Like a Polaroid Picture

Good news for all the Polaroid picture lovers out there: The Polaroid camera is back, in digital.

"It produces 2-by-3 inch photos by selectively heating spots on specially treated paper. It has nothing to do with the old chemical Polaroid process, but the prints convey some of the same Pop Art charm: They're grainy and the colors are slightly off, with faces tending toward a deathly blue-green."

When Polaroid announced they are stopping production of the Polaroid instant film cameras, people began hoarding they're film and buying it up whenever and wherever they could. And the hipsters rejoiced! (at the announcement of the new camera).

January 7, 2009

Question to Ponder During the New Year

A few weeks ago I did an email interview with a missionary in Uganda. She's been there for just under a year and living with three other missionaries. Some of her insights, along with the general atmosphere of the world and culture today, brought to mind a series of questions I've been pondering. Let's just dive right in:

If you stripped away all your hobbies, interests, favorites (including television shows, books, movies, flavor of coffee, etc), tastes (in clothing, decorating, music, type of vehicle...)--what would be left? How would you define yourself and how would others define you?

How would people describe me if they couldn't include that I'm a fan of the Green Bay Packers, I drink lots of Diet Dr. Pepper and I enjoy reading and writing? What if all the opinions and preferences from the last 25 years were stripped away and I was simply left with who God made me?

Would I be happy with what was left? Perhaps I would be left with nothing, because who I am is based on the very things I've stripped away. Or perhaps I'd find the real me--the one created by God for His glory and I've let the world and its distractions taint the real me.

In the interview with the missionary, she said something that really struck a chord with me. Before leaving for Uganda, she had in mind what she would be doing in Uganda, but when she got there she discovered that it wasn't about what she "brought to the table." She went to Uganda expecting to reach others through art and teaching art. When she got there, she discovered that they didn't need or have time for art. We're raised to believe we all must bring something to the table--to have something to contribute to make the world better. Or just something to help make our mark on the world.

But is that what we really need? Don't we just end up defining ourselves by our hobbies and preferences, rather than as a child of God? A creation of God, made in His image? And when all is said and done, isn't that what really matters?