Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Because the Big D did it...

If my brother (Denver, aka the Big D, aka Mountaineer Extraordinaire, aka Chelsea's Husband,) does anything on these here internetz, you know it's a momentous occasion. If he responds to what is the equivalent of family-created Spam, you should look up, because the moon is probably crossing with a star and a universe is colliding and crazy things are happening in the cosmos.

So, I had to fill this out as well, just to keep the family trend going. Mine won't be as entertaining as my bro's, but you can read that here.

Two Names You Go By:
1. Dani Lin
2. DC (Dani California)
Two Things You are Wearing Right Now:
1. My favorite khakis
2. Cute blue Hurley shoes - yeah Hurley outlet sale!
Two things you expect in a relationship
1. I'm going to assume this means romantic, so I'll say that he should treat me like I'm special... open my door, want to spend time with me, every now and then I'm up for a little spoiling... :) However, girlfriends, you don't have to get my door. WE can just hang out and talk. Preferably at Pei Wei over free refills. Some of my best girl-talks have happened there...
2. Great character
Two of Your Favorite Things to do
1. Ocean kayaking
2. Reading a good book while outside under the sun shade, or laying on the beach, or curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee, or while trying to tell myself that my legs really don't hurt that bad and I can go another 20 minutes at the gym.
Two Things You Want Very Badly at the Moment:
1. to go outside
2. a 16 oz triple-shot Almond/Vanilla latte from JC Beans.
Two pets you had/have:
1. Well, I've kind of adopted George. He's my neighbor's cat, but he likes my porch better than his own, and I don't mind. He likes to play with my feet as I come in and out of the Bower, and he likes his tummy scratched. Oh, and his name's not really George. It's Rusty. But I think we all can agree that George has way more character than that.
2. I have kitties and a dog in Oregon that are pretty dang cute too.
Two people you know will fill this out
1. I'm cheating. Jocelyn, because she sent it to Denver...
2. and Denver.
Two Things You Did Last Night
1. Went to Pei Wei with Donna and had girl talk.
2. Talked to Adam and had not-girl-talk.
Two Things You Ate Last Night:
1. Chicken Teriyaki Bowl from Pei Wei
2. Hot Chocolate because when I got home I had left my windows open and it was FREEZING.
Two People you Talked With Last Night
1. I already answered this, yo.
2. I did talk to George, too, though.
Two Things You're Doing Tomorrow:
1. Working from home (yay!)
2. Going to Fuel
Two Longest Car Rides:
1. Oregon to Abilene, Texas.
2. OC to Fort Worth, Texas.
Two Favorite Holidays:
1. Christmas
2. Memorial Day. :)
Favorite Beverages:
1. I always say coffee and Diet Coke, so I'm gonna get creative. Heineken.
2. OJ from the Bagel Shack

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hey Mr. Grumpy Gills...

"You know what you gotta do when life starts getting you down? Just keep swimming..."

I will openly admit that I'm grumpy today. I don't want to keep swimming, I don't want you to tell me it'll be OK, I don't want you tell me it won't be OK, I want to be alone, I want to be with people, I want chocolate, I feel fat. All of you Internet ladies, (and non-Internet ladies, too, but I can't really talk to you, no offense,) know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. Unfortunately, the Internet gentlemen don't, because guys are the most even-keel creatures on the planet, a fact that is currently very infuriating to someone who feels so very out-of-joint.

My day got off to an ugly start. I fell asleep to the soothing sounds of the Pilot episode of Lois and Clark - remember the one where the space station is going to cure sick kids but Lex Luthor wants to kill them instead and somehow make money on this nefarious plan while Lois tries to stop him by bossing Clark and his swishy man-hair around and pretending like she isn't bewitched by his adorable smile and big super-muscles? That one?

Anyways, I woke up this morning... Lois and Clark were long since vanished, my laptop having breathed its desperate last breath, begging for electricity, sometime in the night. The sunshine streaming in my window seemed awfully bright for 5:30, and I was just wondering why my light was still on when it hit me. IT'S 6:30. As in, a half hour after I was supposed to leave, and I yelled a grown-up word on my way to the bathroom. I got to work about a half-hour late, did not get to take Rocky to the shop before and so had to do so on my lunch break, and have felt crummy ever since.

But here's the good news:
Rocky will soon have fresh oil, rotated tires and a clean countenance, for which I'm sure he will thank me.
Work is just work, and staying a half-hour later tonight won't kill me.
I'm going to eat chocolate. Fat or no fat.

"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Next Stop, Wedded Bliss

Over the last few weeks or so, I've been surrounded by "getting-ready-to-be-married-and-be-blissfully-happy-forever-and-in-the-
meantime-try-on-dresses-and-buy-flowers-which-is-also-fun." people.

I've been helping ne of my good friends (whose getting married in May in Malibu,) with her invites and decorations, one of my closest friends from college just got engaged a couple of weeks ago, and another dear friend just got engaged this past weekend.

I've been asked to be bridesmaid in Megan's (September in Dallas) and Kirsten's (November in California). It's Bunny Season. No other explanation needed.

Maybe some other time I'll post Phil and Kirsten's (lovingly called Phirsten) proposal story, because it's really very sweet and I love these kinda things and I really don't even know myself anymore because I cry all the time and am somehow old enough to have married friends. Plus, Adam took some sneaky video of the moment itself and it is PRICELESS.

But today, I'd just like to say what an incredible experience it is to be asked to be a bridesmaid for a good friend. When both Megan and Kirsten asked, I openly squealed and got emotional - I couldn't help it. Asking "will you be my bridesmaid?" is the question that sums up all the years of friendship and sisterhood, the moments of laughter and tears, the shared fears and "boy talks" that seem so silly now that you actually have a ring on your finger and a man that's all your own.

Being a bridesmaid is more than holding a bouquet, shopping for dresses or standing on a stage. It's a send-off, a gift of support and encouragement for a new life and love.

The most incredible gift imaginable for a woman is when a strong man promises to devote his life and strength to her, asking only that she partner with him in return. Us girls get teary (or maybe that's just me, like I said, this new Crying Dani plays by different rules,) at our friends' engagements because it speaks to our deepest places - those dreams, once awakened, strike chords in us we didn't even know were there.

I'm honored to stand by you girls and send you off. I'm honored that you would count me as a friend worthy of supporting you on the biggest day of your life. You are intoxicating, beautiful, alluring, Godly women whose moment has come and I'm so proud to be your friend.

Just for good measure, here's a picture to ease your curiosity. See what lengths I go to for you? Enjoy:

Kirsten and I in New Orleans, March 2008

Megan and I, playing with flashlights, Thanksgiving 2006. (We spent a few days together this Thanksgiving too, but neither one of us are good at taking pictures. Shopping and talking was really more of a priority. Sorry that the picture's a little outdated - new, fresh photos soon to come.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

"Somebody Hates These Cans!"

  • The other night Adam and I watched The Jerk, which is one of his all-time favorite movies. Now when he tells me that the "first day was like a week," or yells about the phone book, I get it. It's the little things...
  • Today, I bought a latte from JC Beans, my favorite coffee place. I got distracted at work this morning and let about half of it get cold, so I went to the kitchen to nuke it. I pushed "beverage" on the microwave and ran to the restroom while it heated. When I came back, my glorious 16-oz quad shot 1 % half-vanilla, half almond latte had EXPLODED all over the office microwave. Needless to say, I've been inconsolable.
  • Today we went out for a "team lunch" at work. I feel so young at those things. And not in like a "you're young and creative and fresh!" way, but in a "you're young and dumb and need a manicure" way. Work is weird.
  • Last night I did announcements at Fuel. I was so nervous and scared and miserable about it that I tried to get out of it and might have even cried a little. I did okay, though. I didn't fall on anyone or burp into the mic or say anything too horribly embarrassing about myself. So that's good.
  • I have a box of Girl Scout shortbread cookies in my desk. This is DEADLY, people. Don't do it. Your body will hate you.
  • Speaking of bodies, I have really weird man-related experiences every time I go to the gym. For instance, last night, I'm on an EMPTY ROW of ellipticals, when the Unabomber comes up to take a turn RIGHT NEXT to me. I'm not kidding - black hoodie sweatshirt with hood on, dark sunglasses, the whole bit. I guess doing shady things at night requires great legs. So that was weird, but if you're working out in a hoodie, your judgment on which machine to pick might be a little clouded as well. But then, Shady Guy leaves, and who comes in but Sweatband Guy - complete with nylon running shorts from 1986, a tanktop, and very hairy, sweaty underarms, which he feels the need to stretch in my direction. HONESTLY?! You can have a whole row to yourself, people. Explore the space! Also, can we maybe try to get away from extremes and just work out in something normal... like a t-shirt? Maybe that's too much to ask...
  • I got the second pedicure of my life last weekend. It was great. I'm a girl, and I like having pink toes in the summertime. There, I've said it.
  • It's Friday. :) :) :) :) :)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Power of "Hi"

Today one of my co-workers saw me eating pita chips at my desk and wondered how fattening they were. I declared that I can eat the whole bag while sitting inertly at my desk, and not gain a pound. He doubts me. However, I am determined to prove him wrong, so I will eat an entire bag of pita chips in a selfless quest for truth.

Speaking of talking, I don't really. Seriously. Up until the last month or so, I really didn't talk to anyone at work outside of the occasional "hi" in the kitchen or report in the weekly staff meeting. I'm coming out of my shell now, and it's kind of nice to have more to my day than just getting things done.

Talking in the office is always weird though. I think we all feel as though it's just a giant elevator, so nothing can get too specific or meaningful - but that's not really the point. The point is that it's nice to be noticed, even if it's just a "hi".

When we were in New Orleans, our team said hi to EVERYBODY. Even introverts like yours truly were breaking out of our shells and chattin' it up to the best of our limited small-talk knowledge. Granted, people in the South are easier to talk to. I was much more likely to ask the sweet-faced check-out girl in Abilene about her day than I am to strike up a conversation with the high-maintenance, skimpily-clad diva in front of me in line, buying something non-fat and playing languidly with her cell phone. BUT, stereotypes aside, I do believe that people often live up to our expectations. This week, I did brave the "OC girl" fear by saying something friendly while in line, and was surprised to be greeted with a smile and some chatty conversation in return.

I'm the worst offender, but it bothers me that we so often walk right by our fellow travelers as though they were a tree or a bush or... nothing at all. When did it become OK to just not see people - to the point where if, on a rare occasion, someone holds the door or an elevator or makes eye contact I suddenly feel so valued?

This is my new resolve: to brave the SoCal masks and try to see people. It's a silly thing, but it might make someone feel better - I know it does for me. "Hi" is a powerful little word.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How I Find Purpose, Fulfillment and a Reason to Get Up in the Morning

This email totally made my day. Right now, it's taped to my cabinets at work and highlighted in key hilarious places - an ever-shining testament to the IQs of our readership.

I like how he feels legitimately upset that his truck is not a boat, and his best insult is "stupid comes to my mind them".

E-mail, angrily entitled: "the public needs to know"

Hi my mane is Dave
I own a 2001 dodge ram 1500. lifted with off road tires, well I decided to go 4x4 ing with it last weed end well we went out had some fun in the mud, played for about 2 hours, well I got stuck in the mud and water imagion that. ?
as I was getting pulled out got muddy and wet had the time of my life playing in the mud.
I started to drive home it was about 2 hours home, my truck started overheating, and trannie oil started to spray all over my exhaust, needs less to say I barly made it home.
I sent the truck in to the shop to have it looked at well they called me back and said the hole system trannie transfercase differentials were full of water?? well to my suprise my truck is not water proof ??????
Who makes a truck that cant drive in a couple feet of water and mud , so I find out after 3100.00 dollars later I realize dodge trucks have vents in the tranny and transfercase to let out warm air, so I suck and what an idot I never though that the new trucks are not made for 4x4 ing?????
what kind of thinking dose the designers who make 4x4 trucks are they People that have no idea what 4x4ing can consist of .... stupid comes to my mind them for putting vents in to a place that can get water and me for not realizing that they dont know @#$% about what they are designing.
I am working on a design to fix that problem with the vent issue,, I am not mr know it all but is there an easier way to fix my truck to stop that water problem?????
by pluging or extending the vents some where , the water will not make it????
thanks for listing

Let this be a lesson to you, kids: They people don't know nothin', and watch out when you're 4x4ing on the weed ends. Oh, and my mane is Dave.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Different Kind of Hunger

When we set off for New Orleans, I was starved for community. Not the kind of gentle, unobtrusive, Sunday-morning community that gives wimpy hand-shakes and makes small-talk, but the kind of gritty, heart-felt community that knows each other on a deep, dangerous level. The kind of community that is entertained by bouncy-balls and air-guns, can make fun of ourselves and each other in love, and is real enough to admit when we've screwed up or when we realize something Big. In Dangerous Community, you have to be honest, because we'll call your bluff. We also know how to encourage you right where you need it most, because we've seen those achey parts of you in a personal way and we know your strengths and weaknesses.

Dangerous Community is terrifying, I think for everybody, but I know for me. My roommates used to tease me about keeping secrets from them, but I swear it's not intentional. I just don't tell people things. It's always been hard for me to share myself with others, but oddly enough, what I fight hardest is what I'm most hungry for.

I was scared, though, I have to admit. I loved everybody going on the New Orleans trip, but what if they found out things about me that made me unlovable? What if I take too long in the shower or say something awkward or fail at a task and they decide I'm not worth it anymore?

By 24 hours into the trip, I was starting to thaw. A week in, and I was choking back tears in front of 16 people who I had finally let in. It wasn't so much that I hadn't cared for them before, or that they hadn't tried to get close, it was more that my hunger for Dangerous Community overcame my fear of it, and I finally stopped trying to achieve love and just let it happen.

This has happened before. I remember "giving in" to my Roommates, Oxford schoolmates and wrangler buddies, some with more grace than others. Maybe someday I'll learn not to fight it, but embrace the thrill of Dangerous Community in all of its scary, satisfying glory.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


"I had so many things to say, and no one to listen." - Jerry Maguire

However, my dear readers, that is why we have our good friend, Internet. Here I can blab to my heart's content and comfort myself with the thought that perhaps my ramblings entertained someone in their oppressingly gray cubicle or lonely boat at sea (hooked up to Wi-Fi of course, who isn't these days?) or.... something.

I have more to tell you about New Orleans, too, but today I'm too scatter-brained, and it's too close to Quittin' Time to write anything of any real importance, so we're left with whatever pops into my head, which today, as with most days, is food.

I have a few signature foods which I have loved since college (when I started shopping for myself and learned the hard way that Oreos for dinner do not a happy tummy make).

Here are a few, along with whatever memory is associated first.

Cheez-Its and Diet Coke - a classic pairing. This will do for any meal of the day, in-between meal snack, late-night snack.. you name it. I've eaten this so many times that a specific memory is difficult, but I do recall one time at the Opinion Desk at the Optimist with a 20 oz Diet Coke and 16 oz box of said crunchy cracker, and eating myself into a cheese-induced haze. Jaci and Sarah ate some too, and I'm pretty sure their contributions saved my life.

Mother's Frosted Circus Animal Cookies - probably my favorite cookies of all time. They also taste better when they're red, white and blue for Fourth of July in August, because then they're on sale. I had just finished a bag of these a while back, and had not gotten enough pink and white goodness. I decided it was a great idea to pour the remaining sprinkles and frosting dust in the general direction of my face. (Note that I did not say mouth. That didn't happen.) I'm still picking up sprinkles off my floor. Sexy, I know.

Teddy Grahams - This is all the reason you need to love Teddy Grahams. Also, they come in those great Travel Sack things, and I used to stick them in my backpack and eat them... well... every few minutes until they were all gone. One time I tried to get into the bag quietly while in class. Oh, not just class. Comm Law class. The hardest class of a journalism major's dreary college career. I don't know why everybody stopped and looked when I finally got it out and started munching. I think they were just jealous.

Black Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuits and Pepper Jack Cheese* - Probably the best wheat and dairy product combo ever created. It's like the fields and farms of Iowa got married and produced a delicious, spicy taste sensation just for us. Adam and I ate an entire box of these crackers and a whole package of cheese somewhere in the New Mexico desert on our 24-hour haul from California to Texas, and we still devour it as often as possible. Last weekend we also paired it with some quality summer sausage, and our mouths did little dances of joy.

*Word to the wise - this combo, though delicious and totally worth it, will wreck your breath for at least a day and a half. Either get your significant other hooked also, or indulge yourself on nights alone with American Idol.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Bruce (A Portrait from New Orleans)

He's a large man, with thick, muscular arms and legs that seem better suited for a bouncer at a Bourbon Street bar than a humble volunteer cook. As we walk into the BridgeHouse, (an alcohol and drug recovery center) he greets us with a smile and an invitation into the "Cage" where food is kept for distribution.

"This's where ah live," he says with a wink, as he pulls the chain-link gate open. As we walk in, we see boxes of crackers, granola bars, canned goods and countless other food items stacked from floor to almost-ceiling. He explains to us that BridgeHouse receives far more donated food than they can use, so they share with the churches and shelters in the community whatever they can.

"That's what y'all'r here to help me with," He says, leading the way into an enclosed room in the Cage. As soon as we walk in the room, the smell of old milk and the disorganized jumble of food containers assaults our senses.

"Ah've gotten a lil' behind," Bruce says, somewhat shamefacedly, leaning down to pick up a can of tomatoes off the floor.

Like most "Big Easy" natives, he likes to talk, and as he tells stories about BridgeHouse and New Orleans, we set to work on the disarray. He openly shares that he made some bad choices, which is how he ended up in BridgeHouse. He's been here five years off and on, and is proud of his sobriety and management of the kitchen. He talks almost nonchalantly about his old "using" lifestyle, saying, "I'm allergic to Cocaine, I break out in handcuffs."

When one of our team - still overwhelmed by the stories we're hearing - fails to smile, he points a meaty finger her direction with a playful grin. "That was funny!" He says, chuckling at his own joke. His laughter is infectious and we all join in.

He decides that since we're "from the big city in California an' all," we probably like hip-hop rather than the country radio station he had playing. Soon, scratchy hip-hop beats is blasting from his ancient boom-box, and we laugh. He's constantly being called away for questions and advice, and deals with everyone who comes by with grace and dignity. When he comes back to the cage from one such call, he is shocked to find us sweeping up rat droppings, hauling boxes and throwing away bad food, every now and then taking a few-second dancing break when the mood strikes.

"Whoa!" He says, trying to imitate some dance moves and laughing at us good-naturedly. "Too bad they don't got this piped through Naw'lans, or y'all'd 'ave the whole city rebuilt."

Bruce is trying to get his cooking certification through a local culinary arts school, and these dented, donated cans mean much more to him than someone's leftovers. He taps the labels, planning menus out loud for the residents of BridgeHouse and the homeless community they feed every Tuesday and Thursday. "We eat a lot o' that," he says, waving a case of peanut butter back onto the shelf. He comes over with a case of canned peaches. "Take this'n out, ma'am," he says to me. "They need these at that church."

Within a few hours, we've loaded two church vans and a small school bus with food, cleaned the cage and taught Bruce some sweet moves as an added bonus. He gives us (and anyone else who comes by) some cold bottles of Sunny D-type stuff, and we take a break to cool off and talk, sitting around on cases of green beans and lounging against metal shelving.

Like most people from New Orleans, Bruce is a drawling storyteller with a wealth of life experience and colorful characters to liven it. We're drawn into his tales, not just because they're interesting, but because he shows such a depth of faith. His stories casually reveal that he's had some tough times, but we don't hear bitterness or "why me?" - just a desire to keep others from the same mistakes.

Before we know it, it's time to leave the Cage for lunch. It's touching to help the men of the BridgeHouse serve a hot lunch to the homeless men and women - who are daily, flesh-and-blood reminders of where they come from.

Bruce is a gentle giant and seems to be everywhere at once. He's kind and caring to those whom he serves, greeting everyone with hearty handshakes and easy-going generosity, but willing to throw his weight around if necessary. When he feels one of the BridgeHouse guys gets "fresh" with a girl on our team, it's clear that he doesn't take any guff.

Redemption is a running theme with Bruce and those at the BridgeHouse. The homeless who are there for a free lunch, the men who have checked themselves into BridgeHouse to "get clean" the church volunteers who come to pick up food, all have a story of how the old is gone and the new has come. In this place, Christ is not a pie-in-the-sky, unreachable, church-nut God. He is here, making red beans and rice, handing out fake Sunny D, in our "how are you, sir?" and our smiles.

It takes courage for us to bridge the age, cultural and racial gaps that seem so broad at first. There are moments when I don't know what to say or how to feel. When we're done, Bruce gathers us, with bear hugs for the girls and strong handshakes for the men.

"Y'all come back anytime," he says, giving us each a stern look in the eye so we know he means it. "I had so much fun with y'all..."

We take a picture together and he insists that we send him a copy, telling us that he has a few, and they help him remember to pray for people. I don't feel worthy of his praying for me.

As I write this, I want to go back. I feel like I don't do enough in my everyday life, like one trip wasn't enough. I want to see people as valued children of a living God, no matter how they've squandered that gift (in my oh-so-holy opinion). I want to look into people's eyes and really listen to them. I want to look at my pictures and pray for the people I love. I want to use these moments for good. I want to never forget how a burly ex-alcoholic made me feel.

L-R: Adam, Me, Bruce, Kenny, Christina. 2nd Row: Holli, Kara, Becky.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I'm baaaaaaack! (you know you missed me...)

Hey peeps.

New Orleans was great. Beyond great. Fantastic. I'll tell you more as my thoughts swirl around in my head and finally make it out on paper, but until then, here's a couple of pics to tide you over.

This picture says: "New Orleans is pretty and we're tired!" Which about sums it up.

Honestly, though, it was a life-changing trip and I can't wait to share my still-getting-figured-out thoughts on all of it. I just wanted to post something and let you know that I'm back and my heart didn't stop from too much Creole.

More to come! Stay tuned...