Friday, December 21, 2007

Overheard in a Coffee Shop

Scene: Coffee Shop at Christmastime, complete with flocked tree in the corner, lights around the windows, clientele in red sweaters, and Christmas-y flavored lattes.
A man and a woman walk in together. It is instantly clear that they are the kind of people who are irreverent, funny, sarcastic, popular, successful and depressed. They're clearly "just friends" in the way that middle-aged-several-times-divorced people are.

"Oh, Gaaaawd," sneers the man, running a hand with a large ring on it through salt and pepper hair. "The most wonderful time of the year, eh?"

The woman gives a laugh and fishes in her LV purse for lipstick and her wallet, avoiding his eyes. "I mean, I guess it's nice, but..."

"Nice!" The man seems indignant, and for a moment I think I might get to see what's really getting to him about Christmas. Quickly recovering himself, he lapses back into his lax, sarcastic tone. "It's just morose," he says, "I mean, it's a holiday for religious nuts and kids."

"Yeah," the woman agrees, "I'm not particularly religious, so it's not that special. I mean, whatever," she concludes, with a sigh that belies the season's lack of sparkle.

As the barista hands over their drinks with a flip of her Santa hat and a cheery "Merry Christmas!" both look at each other with a jaded laugh. As they walk out, the man says, "Like hell, it's Merry. I'm just going to drink all day..."

The woman returns, "Now that sounds like a holiday!" and they walk out of earshot, drinking their five-dollar coffee and laughing at the foolishness of the old women, kids and "religious nuts" who get joy out of this ridiculous season.


Why do people resist this holiday so much? Why is it more fashionable to be irreverent and hurried than touched and full of wonder?

I think it's because it reveals our mortality and the smallness of our strivings - and if there's anything that the upper echelon doesn't want to be reminded of, it's that they don't really matter.

Yearly traditions are admittedly a small thing. Twinkle lights, homemade nativity scenes, candlelit services and morning excitement can get tarnished by time. We grow up and are more than willing to trade the 6 a.m. gift exchange for a few more hours of sleep and a sedate cup of coffee at 9 before the wrapping paper starts flying. What is harder to get used to is what these traditions mean. Well-worn carols sung by everyone from Nat King Cole to 98 Degrees mean something that even the most jaded among us cannot shake.

For if the foolishness of 24/7 Carols on Coast 103.5, Holiday latte flavors, and children's excitement means more than that it's just December - then what value have we lost in the rest of life? If one month can hold the salvation of mankind, peace on Earth, goodwill to men - what do the other 11 hold?

This is the great truth that keeps people like the Coffeeshop Couple from embracing Christmas. They are reminded of what they've lost and they cover over their despair with success and sarcasm - plugging the growing hole in their hearts with the clever cover-up that they're too sophisticated for such things.

For me, I'm proud to be a religious nut, and to unabashedly soak up a season built around a profound joy and irrefutable truth.

So here's to Christmas and the discomfort it causes - may it drive those like the Coffeeshop Couple to "the good tidings of great joy, which shall be for ALL people..."

Friday, December 14, 2007

It's the mood, moodiest time of the year...

I love Christmas. Really, I do. It's easily my favorite time of year, (also because I get incredibly spoiled, as it's also my birthday month,) and I love the goodwill and cheer that oozes out of people about mid-December and lingers until sometime in the first week of January.

Personally, though, this season moves and excites me - and in the process, it turns me into a crazy, crying, laughing, moody girl. One moment I can laughing out loud for sheer joy in a parking lot of all places - all of twelve hours later I am in tears for my commute.

I think my poor little self wasn't built for such highs and lows of emotion, and so every now and then breaks down into either maniacal giggles or despairing sighs and tears. Although it seems like the type of problem that dutiful dads, brothers, boyfriends and guy friends leave strictly to the girls to handle, I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a reason for this emotional roller-coaster called Christmastide; as illogical and confusing as it may seem.

The crux is: I'm too finite. The highs of a season built around a concept that I am immeasurably loved by Almighty God, combined with the human lows of overdue bills and holiday traffic collide in a horrifying collapse of mixed emotions. The Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men that blares through my CD player, the love involved in buying the "perfect" gift and the fully-operational mistletoe that hangs from my ceiling make me long to laugh for the pure beauty of it. The flip side of this beauty - the frustration of not enough time, money or energy to celebrate something that should not be a chore but a joy, makes me cry.

I cry not because I'm crazy, even though I feel that way. I cry because I've lost something - we've lost something. Snuggling down with family to watch scratchy re-runs of claymation Christmas cartoons, humming carols in the candlelight, and baking lumpy homemade cookies used to be enough. As children we didn't think about what it cost for the magic - it was just there, leading us into belief and awe with every time-worn step. We drank in the beauty of the season without feeling foolish or analyzing the truth that it is a man-made tradition or just a time of year - we abandoned ourselves to it wholeheartedly.

So this year, rather than indulge in the crying/laughing craziness that tends to overtake me, I've resolved to try to soak it in. To gaze at lighted trees and crinkly wrapping jobs with the wide-eyed wonder I lost somewhere, and soak up the joy of memory without feeling foolish or wishing for things I can't have.

This Christmas, I want to kiss my moodiness good-bye, and grow up to be a kid.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Today, friends and countrymen, I turn 24. I can't really say that I feel older... but 24 definitely sounds older. (You're thinking, "Of course it sounds older than 23, learn to count!" But it really does.) I said that it sounds older to one of my friends who recently turned 30, and she gave me an "oh GOSH, you're KIDDING me, you freaking young thing, go back to the playground," look. And when I told another friend this who turned 24 a few months ago, he called me a jackass, which, although I'm sure it made him feel better, was not very nice. Anyways, I digress.

(Oh, one more thought. 24 also sounds cool because it has to do with Jack Bauer, who makes everything AWESOME.)

At any rate, in honor of being 24, I will now list 24 things that I learned in my 23rd year of life. Glean what wisdom you may.

  1. Go backpacking. In the woods.
  2. Always shop at Trader Joe's. Your tummy will thank you.
  3. Umbrellas are unneccessary. Enjoy the rain - we all know you're not made of sugar.
  4. A room of one's own really is important.
  5. In-N-Out after midnight is usually NOT a good idea.
  6. Hanging out with cool people after midnight, however, always is.
  7. Gmail chat is one of the greatest inventions ever.
  8. Speaking of Gmail, everything Google does is amazing.
  9. Write it down! You think you will never forget - but you do. Having those memories in black and white is so comforting.
  10. Worry less, live more. (No, I haven't figured this one out yet. I'm a work in progress.)
  11. To-Do Lists will keep you sane.
  12. When all else fails, when you're tired, or any other time of the day or night: go to the beach.
  13. Watch the sun set.
  14. No matter the span, time with your best friends is time well-spent.
  15. It snows in Texas.
  16. Guys get together primarily to eat beef and make wisecracks at Monday Night Football. Football is just part of the mix.
  17. Hip-hop concerts are a hard sell in Irvine. It's not quite the 'hood.
  18. Tyrone Wells. 'Nuff said.
  19. The Paint Mare remembers me. I love my horses.
  20. The Firecracker Roll at Mosun's is the best Sushi roll ever.
  21. Taking PCH from San Fransisco to So. Cal. takes forever. Pretty, though.
  22. Double-check your keys before you go into a very old, deserted warehouse - or at the very least, take a cell phone.
  23. Sing.
  24. Love people.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Signing Off

I have a hard time saying good-bye. I'm not much of a crier, but just those two little words are the magic tear-jerkers. I always feel funny saying good-bye, too - like "bye" doesn't quite cut it. Something in my old-fashioned soul swings more towards "Adieu" or "Farewell" - but I always chicken out and say something meaningful like: "See ya."

My idiosyncrasies aside, in my musings about good-byes, I've come up with a few fare-thee-wells worth sharing.

  • "Go in God's grace, and have a great day." Ever since I was a little kid, my pastor has dismissed us with this blessing. When I came back to my childhood church some 12 years later, he was still saying it, every Sunday. It makes me ready for ham sandwiches on the beach, lunch with friends and mowing the lawn - in God's grace.
  • "Bye, bye." When my Dad hangs up the phone, he says "bye, bye." and hates it. "Why do I say 'bye, bye'?!" He would say. "Who says that?" The next time he hung up, though, out it would pop again: "Bye, bye." I think he finally gave up.
  • "LOVE YOU! MISS YOU! BYE!" My roommates and I yell this at each other when getting off the phone. I don't think we ever intended it to be a pattern, but I can't think of a conversation (since we went our separate ways) that hasn't ended this way.
  • "loveyoutoobye" This is how I know Adam is getting off the phone with a member of his family. It's a Nichols thing.
  • The sigh. Apparently my mom and I both do this when it's time to get off the phone. Just a little "time to go" sigh to prepare you for the knowledge that we're about to leave you and go do something else.
  • IM Goodbyes. Yeah, I know, it's pretty bad when you have trouble saying good-bye on IM, but I do. Mine usually go like this: Other person: "Ok, gotta go! TTYL!" Me: "Oh, ok, well, tell me (lists several unnecessary items of note)" Other: "Ok, well, yeah. gtg!" Me: "Ok! LOVE YOU MISS YOU BYE BUT WAIT I HAVE IMPORTANT THINGS TO SAY DONT LEAVE ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" It's completely ridiculous, I'm aware.
  • Flip phones are very satisfying when you hang up. It gives me closure.
  • Hugs. I'm a hugger. I'm leaving, I have to drive home in the cold, so you will give me a hug. It's how it works.
  • The coolest possible way to answer a phone call is with your last name, especially if it's "Bauer." ("Linthicum" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.) "Yeah." and a purposeful snap shut is the coolest way to sign off. I'm not yet awesome enough to employ either one.
  • When you don't know the next time you might see someone, it's always easier to just talk about general things like the weather and real Maple Syrup vs. Aunt Jemima's. This allows us to hold it together until the door closes, at which point we can both lose it out of sight from each other and not feel silly or bad for making the other cry - even though we both know we will. Or maybe I'm the only weepy one and everybody else is debating the maple syrup question for real.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christmas Time is Here, and so are the Surveys

In honor of the fact that it is after Thanksgiving and therefore officially Christmastime, and I am having desperate lack of inspiration, I will now fall back on the procrastinator's/uncreative blogger's closest ally: the email survey, this time with a festive twist. Enjoy.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Depends on what I'm giving and in how big of a hurry I am. Also, I would like to point out that non-traditional wrapping styles (i.e. paper grocery sacks, re-used shirt boxes and even bath towels, can be used in a pinch with great success. It's been done. That's all I can say.)

2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial trees are dead to me. Haha.

3. When do you put up the tree? As soon as humanly possible. I love decorating for Christmas, plus, then I get the Woods inside my house, which is a huge bonus.

4. When do you take the tree down? I dunno. Sometime after New Year's, when the bells stop ringing and the children aren't singing and the world is grey again.

5. Do you like eggnog? I like it in my coffee instead of creamer. So delicious and fattening. Perfect for Christmastime.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? I remember getting My Little Ponies, which was pretty exciting. I also got Samantha one year, complete with a trunk to keep her in, thanks to a woodworking Dad.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? My mom and dad have a Precious Moments one that's really cute. I'm beginning to feel that the Bower needs one of it's own, though.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My Dad, hands down. I'm a pretty good shopper, though, and an intense listener around holidays and birthdays, so I dig for hints and usually come out somewhat close to the mark.

9. Easiest person to buy for? Probably my mom. There always seems to be something perfect for her readily available.

10. Worst Christmas gift ever received? I think I was 16 when my grandma gave me the last baby doll I hope I ever receive. I think it smelled funny, too.

11. Mail or email Christmas card? Snail mail, all the way. I love opening letters, and I figure everybody else does, too. Mom and Dad were dependent on me to write their Christmas letter too, up until last year, and I have a feeling I'm going to get drafted for Linthicum Family News Update Duty again soon.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? It's a Wonderful Life, far and away. Elf also makes me laugh and think of House 9 Christmas, and of course I love the creepy claymation Rudolph.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Sooner than I probably should.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes. Everybody does. Don't look at me like that.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Wow. That's like asking a Valley Girl to name her favorite store at the mall. Or boy at the mall. Or shirt at the mall. Or... anyways. Right off, I love Pumpkin Pie, Christmas sugar cookies, my Mom's coffee cake, sweet breads, and ham and scalloped potatoes for dinner. Gosh I like food. Gosh I'm hungry.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? I like colors. Mo' color, mo' betta.

17. Favorite Christmas song? O Come O Come Emmanuel is my favorite hymn. Mary, Did You Know? is quickly climbing the charts, though.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? I travel to go home. Makes sense.

19. Can you name Santa's reindeer? When I read this, I thought, "No, because they're already named. I may think Blitzen is a dumb name, but who am I to mess with tradition?" I realize now what it really means, but my original thought is funnier.

20. Do you have an Angel on top or a star? I grew up with an angel up there. At House 9 we had a rather ramshackle foil star. I like it either way.

21. Annoying thing about this time of year? That I can't actually afford to buy all the gifts I would like to. Boo budgets.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Yummy Texas

I'm in Texas for the week of Thanksgiving. Last Saturday we loaded Bonnie with suitcases, golf clubs and dreams of queso and bbq, and headed East. 21 hours, several Starbucks stops, 5 tanks of gas and a few crazy jokes later, we landed in Fort Worth.

It's been terrific. Adam's family is terrific, my friends (Val and Megan!) are terrific, the weather is terrific, the food, of course, is terrific.

And that's what I'm here to talk about. Texas Food.

Texas Food is unlike anywhere else in the world. It's massive, delicious, and filled with beef. No, seriously. I haven't eaten so much beef and cheese since... well, since I left Texas. Texans are not as concerned with quality as they are with quantity... if there's a block of gourmet cheese at Tom Thumb or a tub of kind-of gourmet cheese at Wal-Mart, Wally always wins.

Texas Food is also all about being big. The drinks are veritable water towers of Dr Pepper - which is awesome for me, because I practically need an IV of Diet Coke just to maintain daily sanity. Route 44's are my best friend. :) Also, the burgers are huge, the fries are huge, the LouAnn platter at Luby's is for sissies, and the queso is so cheesy awesome good that I think I might need to go eat some. Right. Now.

Friday, November 9, 2007

I've been temporarily distracted by... anything.

I can be a rather staid person, sometimes to the point of being so responsible that I forget to have fun. (You're thinking: we know you're no fun, and now you're Captain Obvious. Wow, Dani, this is really boring. If I wasn't stuck at work, I'd leave this awful blog and never come back... Well, fine then. Nobody is making you stay. Shoo. You and your mean thoughts. Anyways.)

Lately, though, I am completely distracted at the slightest provocation. Actually, the above paragraph is a perfect example. I started out telling you that I'm very grown-up and responsible, and ended with a snarky conversation between myself and my reader's imaginary thoughts. This imagination thing takes distraction to a whole new level.

Because of my complete inability to hold one thought for longer then a minute at a time, (My hands smell funny. Is that the keyboard smell? Wait, blog? Ummm, yes.) Anyway, because of the short-attention-span that is plaguing my life lately, today's post is in bulleted points of whatever random thoughts fly into my head. Enter at your own risk. (Mmmm. Blueberry muffin. This is definitely blueberry muffin weather. I wonder if Starbucks still has those lowfat-but-not-really ones? That sounds so good right now.)

Oh yeah. Blogging. First Bullet. GO.

  • It's blueberry muffin weather.
  • "Blueberry muffin weather" is when it's the perfect blend of stormy and fall-ish and we all (my family) hung out cooking (and eating) eggs and muffins until late morning, at which point we all just wanted to go back to bed thanks to our distended tummies, but instead would foolishly go chop firewood or something.
  • Christmastime is here! Well, not really. But the mall and Starbucks are sellin' the Corporate Christmas Scene and I'm buyin'. I can't help myself. Something about the red ribbons, twinkle lights and eggnog just makes me happy...
  • Naps are amazing. I've taken to getting home around 4:30 and crashing for at least an hour before my nightly activities begin. It's one of the best things about my entire day. Which is actually a little sad when you think about it...
  • I need to work out more. Lately naps have had priority over sweat, so my fat has had priority over my muscles. Yuck.
  • Speaking of working out, I work on the 6th floor of my office building, and can often be found running up and down the stairs following particularly aggravating projects - it doesn't work so well in heels, though. Frustration management and traditional business wear don't mix. I almost tumbled to my death last week.
  • Hence, today I am taking advantage of the fact that it's Friday, and am in baggy pants and sneaks. I've already run the stairs twice and it's only 10 a.m.
  • Friday. Just the name brings a smile to my face and a sparkle to my eye.
  • I have to work this weekend though. Boo that.
  • Diet Coke doesn't have the polar bears on their Christmas cans anymore, and this is very sad. They've replaced caffeine-addicted fuzzy characters with generic holiday-ish patterns and I am not a fan. Way to lose your edge, Diet Coke. At least Original Coca-Cola stayed true to Saint Nick.
  • I got involved in an interesting discussion of facial hair last night. OK, so I wasn't really involved per se - I didn't have a whole lot to add as far as my facial hair growth patterns - but I was fascinated. How do bristles just sprout out of the side of your face? All six or so guys standing around had funny stories about shaving too often or with a wild boar tusk or something. That would actually make a great book. "Not by the Hair of My Chinny-Chin-Chin - Manhood, boyhood, the first shave and the quest for beardedness" Nobody steal this - I'm sensing a Bestseller here.
  • One of my good friends is having a black and white birthday party tonight. I realized I don't have anything black and white. Nothing. So I bought a white shirt and will get away with pin-striped pants, I hope. If I still lived with Val some serious closet-raiding would be happening tonight.
  • I cut my hair. Just cut it all off. Kirsten and I went to dinner the other night and were both complaining about our hair, so we decided to fix it then and there. We went to SuperCuts 'cause we're classy like that, and paid $18 for incredibly smokin' new wigs. Anyway, I cut about 5 inches off all the way around. Shorter in the front, longer in the back - but not a mullet. Just so we're clear.
  • White-Out is so fun. I've pretty much mastered the White-Out on Post-It Note art form. Wait, what? I don't know who that girl is. I'm working.
  • I bought a table at a garage sale for a buck and then spent $30 on paint and stuff to re-finish it, because that math makes perfect sense. Actually, though, "working in the shop" has been super fun, and I'm really looking forward to getting grubby again this weekend.
  • Speaking of the shop, we've transformed Adam's fun garage into a SUPER fun garage, with two kayaks, a mountain bike, fishing gear, body boards and now, woodworking projects. His neighbors love us.
  • Since the woodworking craze began, I call Adam's garage "The Shop", FYI.
  • And, he's building me a chest/home for a very small, very naughty person who needs to be locked up in a box. Actually, I jest. It's gonna be awesome and I can't wait to fill it with stuff and set my hot cocoa on it on a winter evening. We even found the perfect hardware for it.
  • I need to go kayaking.
  • I need to quit making a random list and get back to work.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


As I have now joined the proud ranks of road-raging California commuters, I would like to add my horn to the noise. Here are a few tips on driving on the California highways, byways (hat tip to Steven Moore) and side streets and on being a good driver/pedestrian/commuter, or at least not a completely comatose one, as so many apparently are.

The likelihood that anybody who shares the roads with me will ever read this is incredibly slim. I know this. But writing out my woes is cathartic, and you are stuck at work, blog-surfing, and thus a captive audience - so you will read this, no matter how dull the story of my commute may be.

  1. It appears to be a law that if there is one large, weighed-down, slow-moving, repair-man-type truck on the road, there will be another, taking up the other lane and slowing everybody down. Repair men of the world, listen to me. WE LOVE YOU. We do. You fix our plugged drains, unrattle our rattling doors, and fearlessly stare down the bad circuitry demons. However, our love fades every time you go 35 in a 55... and especially when you team up to make passing you impossible. We respect that your trucks are big and weighed down and you get paid by the hour. Just let the rest of us by... and our love will remain untarnished.
  2. Same goes for moms. I salute you, moms. You guys work hard and have some of the toughest jobs in the universe. However, I also know that when I am behind a mini-van with "Honor-Roll Student" stickers on the bumper and shades in the windows, I am in for a slow drive. Unless, of course, Junior spits up in a big way. In which case we must always be prepared for the quick exit to the nearest parking lot/bathroom/wherever moms go to make do. Not really having much experience with the whole kid scene, I can't really hold a grudge here though. Just... good job, moms. Keep it up, and... well, you could move into the slow lane now and then. If you think about it.
  3. Nobody in California waves. EVER. Megan and I perfected the art of "Dallas Driving" (one hand on the steering wheel, one hand waving frantically out the back window at everybody whom you're cutting off as you cross several lanes of traffic for an exit that you should have noticed a lot earlier, but were too busy jamming out to the sweet lovin' sounds of Plus One...) So I wave. I think as I get into somebody's lane and give a cheery wave, they must think "Aw, how quaint. She waved with her whole hand! She must be from the South." This, I assume, makes their day better because they start thinking about Grandma Hazel's Sweet Potato Pie and not the thousands of dollars in debt they racked up last night in South Coast Plaza. At least I hope so. They're probably just wondering what the heck I'm doing.
  4. STEREOTYPE ALERT. When someone is driving incredibly poorly, if I finally get up next to them, I always look to see what kind of person has been so blissfully wrecking my morning. 99% of the time they are women, and 80% of the time they are on cell phones - typically very bling-y ones with large jewels stuck in conspicuous places. Girls, girls. Throw woman-kind a bone here. Silence is golden. Or the radio. Or maybe just watching the road instead of discussing your eyeliner application with your girlfriends. Or maybe you could talk about driving, and that would keep you focused. Something has to change, though. Please.
  5. Pedestrians. Walking is good for both body and soul. I am completely in support of walking, and think everybody should walk and use cross-walks and all that good stuff. I would also just like to remind the foot-traveling population that crosswalks are kind of a favor on the car-bound people's part. Really. We have agreed that while you're walking in-between the white lines from sidewalk to sidewalk, we will not run you over. However, that does not mean that you can abuse the privilege. The cross-walk is not the place to begin deep discussions, check out your manicure, or drink in the scenery. I join your ranks almost every evening, and I KNOW that the street can be crossed before the light changes. Please endeavor to do so, and we will gladly continue not running you over.
  6. Honking. Really, guys? Honking is to driving what "How to Save a Life" is to music. Overdone. Overplayed. Worn out. Please stop.
  7. When people think they're being sneaky, they're really just being rude. There's a place right by work where you can get onto the 55 going either North or South. The southbound lanes are always clear, Northbound are always packed. So certain sneaky people think they can blaze up the Southbound end until just before it splits, then gracefully merge, with no one the wiser and their own selfish tushes a few hundred yards further down the freeway. It doesn't work. For reals. All that happens is the Southbounders get slowed down and annoyed by the unsuccessful merging attempts, the Northbounders get righteously indignant at "sneakers" lack of courtesy, and everybody is honking and tailgating and nobody is better off... and it happens EVERY DAY. Oh, dumb Californians.
  8. If you're a guy and you pull up next to me, this does not mean that the Freeway Gods have ordained that we are destined to be together. It does not mean that I think you're cute. It does not mean that my window is down in order to talk to random guys, including you. It does not mean anything. Go away and learn to not be creepy.
  9. If you tailgate me, I want to slam on my brakes. I have not done it yet, but be warned. No bueno.
  10. Finally, be NICE. I seriously believe that people get in their cars and assume their mean driving alter ego. Wave. Smile. Take a sip of your $10 latte. Commuters are people too!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

She was a small town girl...

Last Saturday morning I got up blissfully late (it’s sad when 8 a.m. is sleeping in nearly 3 hours, but such is my great job,) and wandered down to the local coffee house. It’s called J.C. Beans (although for a long time I thought its name was “Coffee House” as that is what’s emblazoned most prominently on the side. It wasn’t until I heard a barista answer the phone with a perky “J.C. Beans, good morning!” that I realized the truth.)

Being a small-town-ish girl, I’m always endeavoring to do small-town things, so J.C. Beans is the perfect scratch for my community itch. The baristas are friendly and remember their regulars, the decor is perfect mix of C.S. Lewis’ earthy leather study and eclectic girlishness, and everything reeks of fresh ground coffee and hot apple strudel.

Leaving the coffee house, I continued walking down PCH, savoring my hot triple 1% vanilla latte and the foggy morning air. I smiled at the jogger with her high-maintenance pooch and was quickly reminded that is still Orange County after all, as she looked at me with a “what do YOU want?” glare.

A couple of blocks later found me in Dana Point Plaza, a little grassy park in between Hennesy’s Tavern and the Chevron station, where the Farmer’s Market appears every Saturday.

There’s one booth there that I love - and it’s mostly because of the lady who runs it. I don’t know her name, but I imagine it’s something romantic, like “Rose”, but I’ve never asked, just in case it happens to be quite the opposite, like “Pat” or “Marge”.

She always has a variety of fruit and hand-written squares of cardboard telling her customers that it’s “Very Sweet”. She is probably in late fifties, with long, wavy gray hair and a soft Latino lilt to her voice. She obviously loves her job and her customers, cutting large wedges of Asian pear for her favorites and smiling gleefully as they bite in, waiting for the happy “mmmm” that inevitably follows.

“It’s so good, yeah?” She says, already offering a bag and another sample. “Try the peaches, kind of small, but so sweet, too, honey. Yes... and you want a plum? Here, I give you one.”

Of course, probably 9 out of 10 people who stop end up buying fruit from her, partly because it is incredibly good and partly because she is so captivating herself. As I wander away, licking peach juice from my fingers and carrying a few pounds of fruit in my hand, I hear her, happily offering her wares to more Saturday looky-lous:

“Here, honey, try this. So delicious... good day for fruit, yeah?”

I wander by the flower stands and the bakers, only stopping because it most certainly is sweet bread season and I can’t resist. (Okay, so I stopped by the flowers, too, but firmly told myself “no” before-hand, so I was safe.)
My latte was almost gone and the fruit was feeling heavier, so I started back for home. On my way up the hill, I saw a sign for a “Giant Plant Sale” and knowing a Certain Someone’s wanna-be green thumb, I had to peek in. A crusty old fella was smoking a cigarette and lovingly trimming a fern when I walked up. A couple of palm trees and a some other tropical-looking plants sat on the curb with him - so maybe “Giant” Plant Sale was an exaggeration.

“Hey there,” he said, smiling at me as though I were a good friend. “Need a plant?”

I chuckled a little - I need a plant like I need a hole in my head - but I still reached out to touch a giant palm leaf.

He turned his mouth down and gave an approving nod. “Yep.” He pulled in a hefty draft from his cigarette. “That’s a good choice.” He squinted at me from under his bushy gray eyebrows, waiting.

We chatted a little about the price - and it became pretty clear that he was just a lonely old guy who loved growing things. He nursed plants back to health or grew them from little shoots in his alley, and every now and then he sold them to clueless people like me in “Giant Plant Sales”.

I told him I had a pick-up and would be back. “You’d better hurry,” he urged. “There might be a run on these babies.” Looking down the sleepy street, I doubted it, but I hustled home anyway.

I came back a few minutes later and he was petting a palm tree as he set in the back of a blue mini-van. “Take good care of him - found that one on the street on trash day a few months ago...”

As the van drove away, he turned to me. “Hope that wasn’t one you wanted,” he said, shrugging.

I assured him that it wasn’t, and as he loaded my chosen beauties into Rocky, he told me that he considers himself an abused plant shelter. “People just don’t take time to care about anything anymore,” he said sadly. “If it ain’t a video game, or computer somethin’, it ain’t worth their time.”

After we chatted for a few minutes, I started to get back in my truck. “Anything else catch your fancy?” he said as I turned to go.

“I only have $30.” I said, thinking he was just loathe to let such a silly girl out of his sight without taking some more cash off her hands.

“No, no.” He said, putting a fern and lacey-leafed plant in the back of the truck. “Here’s a couple more. Take ‘em and love ‘em... and bring ‘em back if ya need any help with ‘em. I’ll nurse ‘em back to health for ya or give ya tips if ya like.”

“Okay, thanks.” I said, looking happily at my truck-load of greenery.

I pondered as I drove away how I find it so much easier to strike up a conversation with these older characters then with my own generation. I think it’s because we’re not in competition. When I see a woman roughly around my age, we automatically size one another up - who’s more beautiful, who’s more successful, who’s got the best jewelry - whatever. It sounds so horrible and shallow when I write it down in black and white - and it is - but it still happens, subconsciously and constantly.

With “Rose” and the Plant Guy - it’s easy to talk and connect because we’re not checking out each other’s bling or body or boyfriend - we’re just understanding one another at the most rudimentary level. We connect because of a common love for good fruit or plants or foggy mornings in Dana Point.

There are so many surprisingly beautiful things in the small slices of Life. The world is cast with a broad spectrum of characters - interesting because of their beauties, quirks and imperfections. I hope that I can learn to look into people rather than past them - to see their soul rather then their stereotype. The fingerprints of God cover all of us - even the guy who cuts me off or the stylish woman who makes me feel inferior for a moment.

I need grace to see and appreciate these divine smudges, and to savor the moments rather than rush through them. So here’s to sweet peaches, “Giant Plant Sales” and Saturdays - and to the Roses, Plant Guys, and small-town folk of the world.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Walkin' in the Woods

We went to a costume party on Saturday, and allow me to clear a few things up. No, we are not Adam and Eve, no, we are not Ents.

It's an inside joke, and we are basically WAY too clever for our own good. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

California in Flames

I'm gonna go ahead and state the obvious: there are about 15 wildfires blazing throughout Southern California - considerably closer to home than I like thinking about.

Last night, Adam and I drove the 5 South a few miles to see the Camp Pendleton fire. Giant flames leaped up into a eerily ruddy night sky, throwing red and orange shadows as they chewed up the hillside. We stared in frightened fascination, watching the instant destruction of countless acres, and imagining our homes in its path.

Funny; how I've been so focused on "nesting" and making a cute little bower that could easily be gobbled up in minutes - thanks to hot winds or an arson's match. It makes me feel so small now, like all of my striving doesn't really mean much in the big scheme of things. When faced with disaster, we start thinking about the keepsakes we would grab and the people we would call. Our legacies and relationships are so much more valuable than the meaningless "stuff" that "moths and rust (or fires) destroy."

It's easy to get distracted with everyday worries, bills and to-do lists until the moment of truth; when I find myself looking at a blazing hillside - feeling in awe of my insignificance and thankful for what I do have.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hell in a Handbasket

I've taken to listening to the news on my way to work in the morning, but I'm thinking about stopping; as I'm either irate, depressed or wanting to move as far away from idiots as possible by the time I get to work. Here are a few lowlights of how far we've fallen:

Drugs are OK - in fact, let's provide a "safe" place for you to de-rail your life

80% of City Workers in Orange are illegal. ILLEGAL. Yet we're supposed to feel bad when they explain to a translator that they'll have to move.

Child abuse, anyone? No one else seems concerned by the fact that in order to need Birth Control, you must be sexually active. These girls are 11-13 years old.

Our troops are fighting and dying for our freedom - and President Bush's personal amusement? What. The. Hell. This is one of the most asinine and unjust statements I've heard in a while.

Speaking of asinine, AAAAAAHHHHH!!!!
Since when do we have a "right" to a "healthy future"? Why do our fellow tax-payers owe us our health care? Since when does making ANYTHING government-run make ANY situations better?

{huff, puff...} This is why I'm done with the news. For today, anyway - God save us all.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Life's Just a Vase of Flowers

There's a bouquet of Sunflowers on my windowsill that grin cheerily at me every morning, brightening my bower with inherent sunshiney-ness and the recollection of the great guy who gave them to me. I love sunflowers and daisies - they're so uncomplicated and friendly. They don't need a large portion of my paycheck or long talks or anything other than a little water and a stem-trimming every few days. Sometimes I wish my life had the same simplicity as my short-lived bouquets.

I'm a worrywart. Anyone who's known me for any length of time knows this. I have a tendency to over-think and take too much responsibility, assuming that my every step out of line indicates a uncontrollable downward spiral.

Lately I've been feeling particularly weepy and last night, I realized just how far I'd gotten. After a good night of Small Group and Monday Night Football, I got home and instead of feeling joy, was overwhelmed with worry for the umpteenth time.

Some of this is normal, I know. New job, new apartment, new expenses. But what is truly at the root of this worry? Why do I isolate myself in my own misery and assume I'm alone in this?

"And who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" This reminder I scrawled on a Post-it and stuck to the side of my monitor in a particularly lucid, desperate moment this week. But I fight every day to remind myself of it. I think what really gets to me is my powerlessness. That I can't add hours or turn things around.

So today I am "seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness," and clinging to the promise that all other things will be added. I am wadding up my Kleenex and accepting my life for what it is - for the beautiful things I have been given and the challenges I don't face alone.

So, please, next time I start whining and worrying about what I will "eat and drink, or what I will wear..." remind me that my Heavenly Father knows what I need. “But if God so clothes the grass (Sunflowers and Daisies) of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown away, will He not much more clothe you?"

Maybe my life could be as sunshine-y and worry-free as my Sunflowers, if only I would let go and trust Him.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Haunted Thoughts

This week I went to Knott's Scary Farm with Adam and some friends from work. I've never been a big haunted house fan (I'm a total wuss about scary movies too) but I was willing to try it. Adam said he'd protect me from any monsters, so I felt adequately brave.

I started to wonder about the wisdom of this plan as we stood in a mob of people for nearly an hour waiting to get in the park. No one said "Excuse me" or stepped to the side, no one had anything pleasant to say. A thousand lost souls awaited impatiently to get tickets, every man for himself as we fought to get in and sufficiently terrified.

When we finally got inside the park, I realized that the cute name of "Knott's Scary Farm" was hiding something very different - but I couldn't put my finger on it.

"The actors can't touch you," Adam assured me as a bloody corpse growled at me menacingly. I laughed nervously and just grabbed his strong hand tighter, telling myself it was all just for fun, so what was I getting so worked up about?

Our friends wanted to go to a Haunted House, and I held on to Adam even tighter as we entered "Axe Murderer's Mansion". Typical Haunted House stuff leered from the darkened corners, and I squealed at every boogey man who jumped out at me.

"It's just a guy in a mask," Adam gently assured me, but he couldn't help laughing at my inability to walk more than a step without a shudder. I started to feel rather foolish for my anxiety, but I couldn't shake the feeling. It just wasn't right - and the little voice in my head was begging me to listen. We snuck past a silent banquet table of mutilated manikins, through a bloody child's room, all the while peeking with morbid curiosity into corners filled with traces of violence.

By the time we came out the other side, my skin was clammy and I was feeling foolish for being so adversely affected; by an event treated trivially by literally thousands of people. It was all fake, right? Just people in masks and make-up having innocent fun at our expense - right?

The little voice in my head was screaming by this point. No, it was not innocent. No, it was not fake. In this imitation blood and plastic gore, there was a sinister reality that I couldn't shake. At the time, I couldn't explain why I felt so strongly. When our friends went toward another Haunted House, I just stood and shook my head, feeling foolish but resolute. Adam gently tried to coax me, but I stood my ground. I think he was vaguely surprised that his normally easy-going girlfriend was suddenly so unyielding, but after a second of indecision he told our friends we were going on a roller-coaster and would meet them after.

We went on the ride, and all the while I was warring with myself. Why was this so disturbing to me? I'd like to think that I'm not a complete wuss, but this was one area where even my typically competitive nature was not overriding the voice in my head. It didn't matter what anyone thought or how I was perceived. My spirit was not letting me rest, and it was battling my ego for every inch of ground.

"Just try to be brave," Adam advised. "It's all just for fun - it's fake."

I couldn't explain then, so I just stayed quiet and thought about it. What was getting to me, was not the lack of spiritual things - the fakeness of it all - rather it was from the presence of something deeply spiritual. For why are we drawn to these things anyway? Why do normal people - grocery store clerks, software engineers and steakhouse waitresses - paint their faces and come out in black for a night in celebration of death and dismemberment?

My argument is that people are drawn by the thousands because it speaks to the deepest, darkest parts of our souls. We are spiritual beings, drawn to either darkness or light. We come out in droves to see carefully engineered depictions of death and torture because there is an evil side to us that craves it.

But, Dani. Seriously? You're taking this a little far. It's Halloween. You're just too chicken to enjoy a good scare and understand that it's strictly for entertainment. What's the matter with Knott's Scary Farm? Sounds innocent and fun and a little frightening - but everybody needs to get their blood pumping now and then. Lighten up.

OK. Granted. And I don't take issue with a decent "boo!" or even pranks pulled on us more timid types. There's nothing inherently wrong with that. Here's what really scared me: there is something inherently wrong with the celebration of evil. The combined efforts to get every actor in makeup to appear like a tortured ghoul, every stagecoach in the park to appear as a hearse, every place we turned to be filled with the fog and cold of an unholy fear, took hours upon hours. Innumerable talents and skills - God-given gifts - used for creating representations of violence and dark forces at work.

In Phillipians 4:8 it says:

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." -NASB

The King James version tells us to "think on these things," and Webster's translation calls it "cherishing the thought".

The Tyndale New Testament puts it: "Furthermore brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things pertain to love, whatsoever things are of honest report, if there be any virtuous thing, if there be any laudable thing, those same have ye in your mind."

These words are powerful descriptors. We are told to dwell on, cherish the thought of, and have on our mind anything "pertaining to love, beautiful, true, honest, just, of good report..."

The only thing at Knott's that even came close to being a part of this list was Adam's arms around me when I jumped and his graceful attitude when I announced I was not stepping foot in another haunted house.

A couple of weeks ago our pastor gave a sermon on calling bad things by cute names. He talked about how we rationalize the dark parts of ourselves - simplistically accepting our vices as "perfectionism", "exaggeration" and "shopping a little more than some, but less than others..." rather than a lack of Grace and Love, lying and greed.

In God's Law, however, I have yet to see any "cute-ifying" of sin and ugliness. It is hard for us to see such awful hatred of evil coupled with such beautiful love. We are not accustomed to a power equally given to two opposing passions - so we ignore His anger in favor of the warm fuzzies granted by a loving Savior. While His grace is beyond what any us of deserve; His hatred of sin is also far past our imaginations.

So we flirt with our dark sides, calling them by cute names (Knott's Scary Farm, anyone?) and under-estimating their grip on our spirits, while He cries from heaven, begging us to see the evil around us for what it is and not wallow in our own complacency.

Hebrews 10:19-24 says:
"Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds..."

It's hard to seem like a wimp at Halloween. It's hard to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Romans 12:2) It's hard to live in the "new and living way" when the old, dead one is so titillating and widely accepted.

But we are called to "hold fast". To "cherish" the noble thoughts. These would not be commands if they came easily. It takes courage to call bad things bad, and I am as guilty as any of wanting to fit in - to shut off the voice in my head and just throw myself into the moment. It's hard when these words come up: "perfect," "honorable," "praise-worthy" and those uncomfortable ones: "evil" and "sin".

However, I think it's worth it to abstain. I think it's OK to seem a little wimpy and get a couple of weird looks for the reward of obeying the little voice in my head. Besides, when I get scared, I squeal too loud anyway.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Bullfrogs and Comfort Food

Yesterday I woke up with a bit of sniffle, a slightly hoarse voice and just enough sickness to make me feel adequately sorry for myself on my way to work.

Today I sound like a very unhealthy bullfrog and got sent home after three hours of moaning at my desk. After a stop at the store for the necessary sick day items - (O.J., soup, and graham crackers) I came home and crashed.

Honestly though, I have an incredibly hard time with sick days. It feels like such a waste to get a day off to sleep and eat runny food and wish you could do something more interesting besides think about how sick you feel. I have to say that having a nest made it a great deal better though, and I was able to really enjoy having a place all my own to come in and recuperate.

Why is it that we have "sick food" anyway? For me, my comfort food is graham crackers dipped in milk. Whether I'm sad, sick, lonely or just have the munchies, that always sounds good. I'm not usually a big soup eater, but when I'm sick it always sounds good, which is kind of weird. Wouldn't you think that you would crave things that you normally like when sick, instead of reverting to a nasty menu to make being sick even nastier?

I don't get sick that often, but when I do, I'm a total wuss about it. I don't know how to go on with daily life and a sore throat. Really. It's actually quite pathetic.

So there's my running commentary on sickness and Dani and how the two intertwine. Aren't you glad you tuned in?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Danger of "Nesting"

A lot of things have changed in my life lately. I started a new job, moved into my own apartment after nearly a year living with my grandma, and played flag football all in the space of one week. (OK, so I know that playing football isn't really life-changing news, but every good writer knows the "list of three" concept, and football was all I could think of on the fly. Sorry.)

I'm here to discuss the "nesting" concept. Somewhere in-between the fascination with play houses and her first burnt batch of cookies, every girl realizes her overwhelming need to "nest". We are drawn into the Home section of Target without trying, buy cute homey things that we neither have room for nor can afford, and are constantly attempting new concoctions in the kitchen. And buying soap. ...or maybe that last one is just me.

Anyways, I have my own place now... as in, MY own place. As in, no roommates, just me. As in, paradise/kinda scary at night/very creatively stimulating and nice to come home to after a long work day.

It's a gorgeous little studio in Dana Point, about 20 miles south of where I was living. I have an itty-bitty kitchenette, bathroom and "common area" which will eventually be organized to the point of cuteness. Right now I feel like I'm sleeping in the corner of a storage shed, but I have only lived there for three days. Shelves, sunflowers, and horses will all soon be in their places, never fear.

And after it's "cutified" I will post pictures. Promise. :)

But anyways, now that the details are out of the way... about nesting. My brother Denver says nesting is dangerous, because the next step is "baby fever". I think I'm safe on that front. However, I can definitely agree that nesting is the girlie version of when a guy walks into Home Depot with a project in mind and a list of "but I need this to do that...". Shark-infested waters, baby.

I have wandered dazedly through countless home stores, sighing over adorable hutches to keep all the dishes I don't own, and agonizing over my sad lack of cash. I hold ceramic dishes in my hands in the store, wishing I had an excuse to take them home, idly pet hanging curtains and try out couches that would take up roughly 60% of my apartment if I was stupid enough to give in and buy them.

I get warm fuzzies just by sitting on the couch (thanks, Adam,) and looking over at my kitchen, itty-bitty edition - complete with toaster oven for baking tiny things, (thanks for that, too, Adam, :) a four-cup coffee pot for half my daily consumption, and a microwave to heat up all that my tiny, delicate appetite can handle. (Haha...)

When I'm at work, all I think about is going home, folding clothes and putting up pictures, and when I'm at home, all I do is fantasize about how awesome my bower will eventually be.

So maybe nesting is dangerous, but what's life without a little risk? So what if I spend a little too much on the perfect curtain or buy another mug that I don't need? Give a girl a break... at least I don't want a baby.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Running Observations

So I run almost every day. I say "run" because it sounds so much better than jogging and panting. I usually run the same route, because I'm a creature of habit and I like it, so why change a good thing. Here are some random things I notice along the way:

  • There are two cute little houses on Tustin Ave., that when I first started running here about 10 months ago were nothing more than foundations. Now they are live-in-able. That's incredible to me, having spent the better part of a decade building my parent's house in Oregon. Guess things move faster when you have more than a part-time contractor (my dad) and a couple of teenagers (my brother and I) working on a building.
  • Open garages are funny to me. I like to peek in and see what people like to do with their spare time. Some people, apparently, just like to clean things. There's one garage in particular whose shop-vac I am constantly tempted to run away with. It's very big and industrial and it even has rollers for the easier rolling up the street and using to clean my car. I'd return it, I promise.
  • Another open garage that intrigues me is the Woodworker's. This old fella is constantly sawing, hammering, sanding and talking to his cats. It smells like sawdust and sweat and childhood memories. He always waves at me, and it's one of my favorite houses along the way.
  • I don't understand people with large yards and no flowers. Why would you waste a yard with concrete or crab grass or anything but flowers?
  • I also don't understand people who keep their blinds closed all the time. How can you stand to be in the dark on beautiful days? And don't you know that looking in is how we get entertainment when we run by?
  • Eventually I get out of the neighborhoods and into the Back Bay Wildlife Preserve. This is where I spent much of my childhood, imagining that I was exploring unknown wildernesses, rollerblading, bike-riding and rambling to my heart's content. I still get deja vu sometimes.
  • There are a few wealthy people on the hill above the bay who own horses and ride them down the trail. Smelling the distinct horsey smell and hearing the clop of their hooves raises a longing in me I can't describe. Sometimes it makes me homesick and lonesome, sometimes it fills me with euphoria. I always watch as they go by and I'm sure they think I'm just another "slicker" staring out of idle curiosity.
  • Men are friendlier joggers than women. They almost always nod, women almost always glare.
  • Whenever I see someone running with their dog, it makes me want one. Until I see them stop to clean up said fuzzy pet's business. Then I'm glad I don't have one.
  • I think being pushed in a stroller must be the most relaxing thing ever. I have yet to see an even halfway alert baby on the trail. I really wish I could go back and try it, because every little chubby face I see looks supremely content.
  • I love my iPod shuffle. Best $75 I ever spent.
  • When I finally head back towards home, I run by a house wherein resides a misbehaving little boy named "Danny". His mom is always yelling at him, and I feel like I'm in trouble. Every time.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Muddy Waters

I have fought with myself long and hard over this. I’ve never thought of myself as a work-a-holic, but the strange stagnation of unemployment has assured me that I am one.

When I look through my old journals and into my dreams, I see so many longings. Some that could have been allayed by simply doing something rather than staring misty-eyed into the dusk - some that are just vague longings that I still fear to capture - lest they poof away like a spritely fairy in my hand.

I am always thinking that something should change - that I would be better, more creative, that I would be more beautiful, if only - fill in the blank. As I look back at my life, these mere 23 years, I’m increasingly convinced that all of my blanks have much less to do with my success than I give them credit for.

I have also realized that I am far too focused on my success in the first place. Greatness is not to be grasped. While I suppose it’s accurate to refer to myself as a work in progress, am I relishing the work or just hanging on, hoping, straining and longing for progress - the end result?

I am always gazing around the bend, never content to drink in the joys of this moment, this sunlit stream, these pauses for laughter and reflection. Without even realizing it, I heartlessly rob myself of today because of my lust for tomorrow, and don’t grant myself the pride of a job well done because I always think I could have been better.

I have fought for inspiration for months now. What was once a clear-flowing stream has become a muddy trickle, so full of weeds and contradictions that I’ve grown tired of even looking for the source, the spring-water, but have simply turned my back, leaving my fields to parch and my soul to burn.

I feel so inadequate, even admitting to people out in the world that I aspire to write. “I think I’m kinda creative,” I say with a shrug, and think condescendingly of the many nights I have sat and stared at a blank sheet - or worse, given up completely and zoned out to the mindless blare of the TV.

Every night that I have failed to create I find it harder to go on. I recently read somewhere that men most of the time already know what they are thinking or feeling, and talk about it only to communicate if they feel it’s necessary, where as women often don’t know why they think or feel something and talk about it to figure it out. I suppose I do this from time to time, ( I was recently informed that I talk a lot - I suppose “a lot” being relative.) But I think the deepest part of my “self-discovery” to use a disgustingly narcissistic word, comes from a deeper place than my tongue. Writing and art - for all its challenges and the self-loathing that it inevitably produces - reach the deepest parts of me. I can find places there, with my journal or trusty laptop, that I couldn’t find without sitting down at the blank sheet and opening a vein.

Because of this infernal desire to be perfect, to succeed at the cost of contentment, the blank sheets have piled up and the simple joys of doing what I was meant for has dwindled down. The blank sheet pile has gotten more and more daunting, the water’s gotten muddier, the parched field is looking increasingly desert-like and I am blaming every circumstance and my own ineptitude for what really amounts to a lack of courage.

I don’t have the courage to sit down and write something less than amazing. I am afraid to dip my hand into today’s flowing stream and not compare it to yesterday’s or tomorrow’s, or to bask in the joy of “my best” - at this moment, anyway. No, I cruelly hold myself to the best ever - my best ever. I have to do more, be more, write more - and when my longings are more than my capabilities, or a little more mud gets into the stream than I was hoping for, I lack the strength and courage to dive in anyway. Why can’t I create something a little off-balance? Why can’t I spend an hour writing and let it amount to nothing more than this?

This is not the stuff of great novels. It is not even something that is particularly lucid or inspired or even well-written. But it is awakening.

Something within me has stirred in these last few months. I have realized my inability to live up to my own expectations, and after several wrestling matches with my personal angel, I have learned this:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
~John 15:1-6

Isn’t that beautiful and freeing? It’s not my responsibility to be great, I have no one to impress, no future or past to live up to. I am abiding. To abide is to reside in, to sojourn. These are words of rest and peace and contentment, not contention and perfection.

So today I make a promise. I am abiding. Today. This day’s sunlit stream, this day’s tasks, this day’s challenges, this day’s creativity. Knowing that as a lone branch, all of my striving is pointless, but as a branch connected to the Vine, I am of great value.

All of my blank pages, all of my hopes, fears, and longings are connected to that Vine. That is where I find my contentment and the courage to face the less-than-perfect - the muddy waters.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Tale of Two Jobs, wait, it's been more than that...

Ah, college. When you're in those dear old halls of higher learning, all that seems to matter is the getting of great grades and getting out. We are assured regularly that as soon as we step out, beyond our campus - with our funny-looking black hat and hard-won diploma in hand - we shall want for nothing. Great jobs will fall from the sky, and employers will be dying to hire such bright and shining new grads, with a gleam in our eyes and the world at our fingertips.


So maybe nobody ever said exactly that to me, but subconsciously, however much I talked the tough talk of a hard-knock life, I expected something awesome to just kind of... well... happen.

So I packed up my little couch and endless pictures and punching bag and memories, and waved a tearful goodbye to House 9... knowing that as much as it hurt, something great was just around the bend. A year and a half later, I'm still straining to see around the bend, and still hoping against hope for something great.

Today I am stuck in the middle... in-between my heart and my wallet, my dreams and what makes sense, the idea of a career versus being fulfilled in daily life. None of these questions have been answered for me. I have found with certainty what I absolutely do not want to do with my life, (Thank you, LA Times...) but beyond that, I swing strangely between the desire to do something great and memorable, and the simple desire to get off early enough to go kayaking before sunset.

This week I'll be making a choice about which direction my life goes. I know that I'm being rather dramatic, but I believe that all of our little choices affect the big picture. I also know that He hasn't led me this far to leave me... and no matter how many other jobs I take, or where this bend leads, I can rest in knowing that, ultimately, I'm not really in charge here.

And once you get past the scary part, that's actually a comforting thought.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Wonderful Thing That Is Escapism

The TV blares the evening news from the next room, informing us all of the earth-shattering new discoveries that exercise is good for you and politicians lie. My cell phone goes off, again, reminding me that I am not as hard to find as I wish, I hear the teenage girl next door giggling to her boyfriend, and the neighbor’s dog lets out a lonesome howl that was rather pathetic a month ago and is now just annoying.
When I leave the house, I am reminded, (as though I could ever forget,) that I share this place with a gersquillion other people, and some of them aren’t very nice. They honk and do the one-fingered “California wave” (haha) in the car, glare at you in line at the store, and talk loudly on their cell phones in public places, as though you really want to hear about their “f***ing ex”.
I’m a country girl at heart, so sometimes I get a little over-stimulated by so much noise. Sometimes I just need to get out and away... which is why Monday (Labor Day) was the best day EVER.
As the aforementioned country girl, I am also a total morning person, so I was really excited to start my day relatively early with a big travel mug of coffee and a pretty drive to Dana Point. Adam and I loaded up his kayak and went to Dana to rent one for me... and proceeded to spend the next couple hours kayaking from Dana Harbor, out beyond the Jetty (and into some pretty big swells, mind you - Thanks, Henriette.) and back in. A couple of guys from Adam’s work and small group came too, and it was beautiful, sunny, idyllic... and balm for my poor over-stimulated soul.
After having our kayaking itch sufficiently scratched for the day, we had to have fish tacos. It was just the thing to do, after having been on the ocean all morning, to feast from it’s bounty. :) And oh holy jeez. Pedro’s Fish Tacos might just be the best I’ve ever had. After a full tummy and the lull of the FedEx Cup... (Adam likes to watch golf, which to me is the equivalent of watching grass grow - but nice to nap to.) I promptly fell asleep.
However, we couldn’t sleep for long with the knowledge that the Pacific Ocean and its accompanying sandy beaches were waiting all of a block away - soon we had towels, magazines, sunglasses and a body board in tow and were headed for more sand and surf.
After enough hours in the sun and salt on our bodies to make us human jerky, we headed back home for showers and clean clothes and the Bourne Ultimatum, which was a fantastic finish to one of my all-time favorite book/movie storylines. Thank you, Robert Ludlum, for being a genius, and thank you, Matt Damon, for being insane. Wow. I had been waiting for this for a while, and it was so very worth it.
So that was my Labor Day. Probably the best 12 hours of the whole summer.

Friday, August 31, 2007

100 things about me

The whole point of lists like this is to tell people things that they don't already know. Seeing as my best friends will probably be the ones reading this, that will be tricky. I'm sure you know most of this already, so hopefully I'm either entertaining enough to keep you reading, or it's just been a long day and you're bored. I'll take either one.
  1. Electronic publishing was one of the worst classes I took in college. I hated it. I mean, like fire-breathing hatred oozing from my pores. Now it's what I do for a living, and I actually enjoy it. Weird.
  2. Every morning, I drink about 4 cups of coffee, read my Bible, and journal in my little nook in the corner of the living room. Start the day off right.
  3. I really miss my punching bag.
  4. Daisies and Sunflowers are my favorite flowers.
  5. Early morning is my favorite time of day.
  6. I drink obscene amounts of coffee and Diet Coke daily... so much so that it's possible for me to have a splitting headache by 10 am if I'm deprived.
  7. I copy edit everything. Church bulletins, billboards, newspaper ads, emails from less grammar-crazy friends...
  8. Never thought I'd say this, but sometimes I really miss Texas.
  9. I knew I'd say this: I miss Oregon.
  10. I hate horror movies. Honestly, I really don't see the point.
  11. My favorite drink from Sonic is a Diet Vanilla Coke. Close second is a Strawberry Slushie. Sometimes I dream about it...
  12. When I've gone rock-climbing, coming down is way scarier than going up.
  13. I still like it, though.
  14. Horseback riding is probably my favorite thing in the world.
  15. Swimming in the ocean is a close second.
  16. I hate text-messaging talk. OMG! r u gonna b ther 2? ya! bff! lol! ur cool! i cant spell!
  17. I love country music.
  18. The Adobe CS3 package is probably one of the best things I've ever owned.
  19. My laptop's name is Clark.
  20. His Hard-Drive is "The Fortress of Barnitude" (If you don't get this, you should watch Smallville and than read Television Without Pity. Fantastic.)
  21. My removable HD is named Mac Daddy (aka Bo Duke)
  22. My Flash Drive is named Sneaky Pete (are you getting the sense of theme, here?)
  23. I name everything, even things that aren't technically mine.
  24. My pick-up's name is Rocky.
  25. My iPod shuffle's name is Mickey, because he's my trainer/work-out buddy. He's never told me that I'm an Italian Monster, but we're workin' on it. Baby steps.
  26. My phone's name is Enrique. I'll stop with the names, now, as you either already know all of this, or are incredibly bored, or both.
  27. I lived with my best friends for almost 3 years in college.
  28. I hate brussels sprouts. It's the only veggie that I can honestly say I despise.
  29. I have a Superman fetish.
  30. I'm a great kisser.
  31. But a horrible test-taker. However, all things considered, I'd rather be the former. ;)
  32. Three Musketeers is my favorite candy bar.
  33. Followed closely by Baby Ruth.
  34. I love Golden Spoon frozen yogurt.
  35. I spent a semester in Oxford, UK.
  36. My biggest regret from that semester was never going to Austria and Germany.
  37. I've never been to New York, but I can't wait to go.
  38. That goes for DC, too.
  39. Speaking of DC, I have a song named after me. Well, not really, but I'll claim it anyway...
  40. I love Philadelphia.
  41. I'm a good cook, but not as good as my mom.
  42. I love pictures, but I never remember to actually take them.
  43. I love hiking/backpacking/camping/adventuring.
  44. I've wanted to buy a kayak since I first went down the river. I still don't have one, and it's getting rather desperate.
  45. I'm currently co-leading a hip-hop event called the Son of Man Soul Jam.
  46. It's kinda taking over my life.
  47. I'm scared of riding bikes. I haven't ridden one since I was 14 or so.
  48. I hate bananas plain, but I like them chopped up on cereal or baked into things.
  49. My favorite store is Nordstrom Rack.
  50. Close second is REI or Barnes and Noble
  51. I love Lucky Jeans. They are the only jeans I will pay over 30 bucks a pair for... and they're worth every penny.
  52. I've wanted a Spyderco knife for years, and I finally got one this spring.
  53. Which I almost lost a couple of months later. I bounced over a large rock in an old pick-up with some Wranglers in Training in the back... oh, never mind. Anyways, thanks again for finding it, Adam.
  54. I'm addicted to Craigslist. "A desk for $25 in Fullerton!? No way!" It's garage-sale-ing for the 21st century.
  55. I was in AWANA as a kid, and I still remember many of the verses.
  56. I took piano as a kid, too. Too bad that didn't stick quite as well...
  57. My first mare was a tiny 15-year-old Quarter Horse/Arab cross named Majesty. Whoever named her had an ironic sense of humor, because she was short and fat and not majestic at all. Good horse though.
  58. My two favorite books of all time are Les Miserables and Jane Eyre
  59. I love magazines. I love looking at their page lay-outs, reading their articles, critiquing their designs, editing their copy, paying their ridiculous newsstand prices and imagining myself on their staffs.
  60. My favorite magazines are Real Simple, Backpacker, Equus, and Los Angeles.
  61. My hair is not that thick, but whenever I use bobby pins to hold it I have to use about eleventy-jillion. Okay, so maybe more like 50, but still. One time I made the mistake of wearing my hair that way through an airport... I would've probably been better off to put a bloody Koran and a bomb in my pockets.
  62. I know how to operate most tractors. I have also gotten several stuck, but that's a story for another day.
  63. I don't know how to drive an ATV. Or a motorcycle. I'm not opposed to learning, though.
  64. I love popsicles.
  65. I hate having a dirty car.
  66. Or a dirty kitchen.
  67. I love sending and receiving Snail Mail.
  68. I love playing cards and board games with my friends.
  69. Probably my favorite is Speed Scrabble - especially with a House 9-esque twist. :)
  70. Robin Hood is my favorite cartoon. I love the hotttt fox.
  71. I just snowboarded for the first time this March. Actually, let me re-phrase that. I strapped a wide piece of plastic to my feet and careened down a snowy mountain, causing large amounts of bruised-ness to my rear and soreness to my limbs, for the first time this March.
  72. I hope someday to write a book. It's currently in progress.
  73. I love poetry.
  74. When I was little, my dad would read stories to my brother and I, and he always changed his voice for each character. One time he got so into it with a gravelly old man voice that he made his real voice hoarse for a day or two.
  75. I've worked in Christian camps, horse-based and otherwise, for a total of 5 years. 4 as a cabin leader, 3 as a worship leader, 4 as a wrangler, 1 as a program director, 2 as a horse instructor.
  76. I love working on a ranch. It's hard and satisfying in a way that few things are.
  77. Someday I want to own my own coffee house.
  78. I did own a drive-thru coffee place as a teenager. It was called "Dani's Coffee Cottage" and was probably the best job I've ever had.
  79. I am Eowyn of Rohan.
  80. Leading worship is one of my passions.
  81. Star-gazing is an under-rated and awesome activity.
  82. When I worked in downtown LA for the Times, I walked about 10 blocks every day at lunch-time to go to Subway. Every day, someone commented on why the hell I would do such a thing when the over-priced and bad-smelling cafeteria and gossipy co-workers were right there to enjoy - right there within the building. They didn't get it. Every day since I quit I'm glad I did.
  83. I've only had one pedicure in my life... and never a manicure.
  84. I didn't start wearing make-up consistently until I was 22 years old. I still get bored or forget about it a lot.
  85. The entire time I lived in Texas, I fought against saying "y'all". Now, I don't even try to hide that I use it way more often than necessary.
  86. Dr Laura is my homegirl.
  87. Jesus is not my homeboy, as much as the cheap lousy t-shirt industry would like me to believe. He's my redeemer, lover, savior and Lord.
  88. I vote for Kate and Sawyer on LOST. I think they get each other.
  89. My favorite beer is Carlsberg, followed closely by Sam Adams Boston Lager and Heineken. I need to branch out and try more kinds, though. I have a tendency to stick with the safe old faithfuls.
  90. I milked Nubian goats twice a day for a year in high school.
  91. I know how to frame a structure.
  92. I can use a chainsaw.
  93. I'm a pretty good shot, although I've never killed anything bigger than a ground squirrel.
  94. I'm very affected by smells. Old, bad, good, clean... my mood can change with one whiff.
  95. I hate being late. I'm usually late at least 25% of the time, though.
  96. My favorite old hymn is Come Thou Fount, followed closely by Be Thou My Vision.
  97. Sports fascinate me. However, unless theres people in my life who care, I eventually lose interest as well. If there's nothing else on, I will watch SportsCenter though.
  98. Home stores, like Pier One and Pottery Barn, hold a weird fascination for me. Maybe it's my thwarted nesting instinct, who just wants to make a mad grab for candles and dishes and pillows and homey things...
  99. I've hauled and unloaded about 4 tons of hay in an afternoon by myself.
  100. My right eyelid droops a little more than my left, and I have a scar there - thanks to hauling hay and the accompanying hooks involved.
Annnnnnd.... we're done. I tag Val and Julie, because I like to read their responses to stuff like this, and because I can. Haha.